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Adjusting My Focus

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching as things start to open up more in the next week/month. I love my job, and I miss it…I miss you all. But right now, even though I am allowed to go back to work, I can’t seem to find the brain space for it. While a lot of America seems to be jumping right back into normal…I am finding myself not ready yet. So much is up in the air for my family right now, and I have to figure all of that out before I can properly focus on JSP. We don’t know yet whether Mike can continue to work from home or whether he will have to go back into the office…there are implications to address either way. The girls are struggling with the loss of our summer routines and activities and the emotions surrounding the end of school, even in this strange, virtual state. I am all they have, and I want to give them my all. We haven’t seen my parents, who are frequent, important fixtures in our lives, for nearly 4 months. That’s the longest the girls have ever gone without seeing them by A LOT. Our biggest priority this summer is how to reunite with them safely.

I also just can’t get my head around what sessions would look like right now. I don’t want to lose the heart of our sessions together, which is connection and comfort. And I can’t see that being the same when I’m showing up with a mask, anxiety, and crazy gray witch hair!

So, with all of that in mind, I have made the difficult decision to stay closed this summer and focus on my family. I will open back up again in August for a limited amount of fall sessions, and I will be in touch with everyone who has reached out to get on my waitlist, then.

I really appreciate all of the support and understanding through this strange time. I hope you are all staying safe and sane. And I hope to see your smiling faces in a less stressful, safer time this fall.

The Eventual List

Here we are, friends, entering week 7 of lockdown. Stay at Home Orders have been extended through the end of May here in Illinois. I hope you and yours are all safe and healthy, and as sane as possible during this very strange time. My family and I are doing OK. I’ve been focusing on the many positives in my life instead of giving into the anxiety swirling around the “what-ifs.” We have our health, our safety, and each other, and I am so intensely grateful for all of that.

So, JSP. Although outdoor, distance photography has been cleared as OK in May, after a lot of thought and soul-searching, I’ve decided it makes the most sense for me and my family to keep JSP shuttered until Orders lift (hopefully) in June. We are all in this together, but everyone has their unique situations when it comes to how best to cope as individuals and families. I have a lot of reasons for this decision, but a big one is the thought of having to tell any one of your kiddos to keep their distance from me when they are running in for a hug makes my heart hurt. The greater amount of planning on the front end that would be required on both of our parts, the distance during the session, the fact that salons are closed and a lot of us would have to figure out how to hide our roots (I jest…sort of!) all point to more stress than it’s worth right now. I’d rather we wait and have the fun, lighthearted, friendly photo shoot experience we have all grown accustomed to. It’s the soul of JSP and I’m not willing to compromise that X factor.

What I am going to do is start “The Eventual List.” A waitlist for scheduling once Orders have lifted. You email me and let me know you’re interested in photos sometime in the remainder of 2020. I will email you back once we get the “All Clear,” and we will find a weekend date that works. (Since all of my plans for the rest of the year have been wiped clean, I will have ultimate flexibility!) Sound good? If you’d rather just wait and see, and contact me once things become clear, that’s fine, too. This has definitely been a growing experience in letting go of planning, control, and A-retentive tendencies!

From the bottom of my heart…I miss you all so much. I feel privileged that I have been able to be there for my family during this difficult time, but a big piece of me has been missing since I’ve had to put aside my camera. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel lost in all of this. I can’t wait for the day when we can meet again safely and comfortably and we can catch up, friends. Thank you for sticking with me through this. I can’t wait to see your smiling faces again soon.

God, Grant Me the Serenity…

I know I’ve been quiet on this blog lately. And I know that is strange for me. I just haven’t had the right words for everything we have been experiencing. We are all overwhelmed…this feels necessary but insane.

Jen Soares Photography is officially closed for business until at least May 1. At this time, I won’t be scheduling new sessions, and I won’t be participating in the new trend of “drive by photography” that you may have seen on social media. For those of you already on my calendar for May and beyond…we will figure it out. Let’s wait and see what happens as we near your dates…we can always reschedule as necessary based on the climate out there and your comfort level when our Stay at Home Orders have lifted. In the meantime, I am here if you have print/album/editing needs for existing photos. Or if you just want to reach out to talk. Because we are all friends, after all, and I care deeply about your families. I hope you are all well, and I miss you all more than you can imagine.

I realize I am fortunate to be able to put down my business and commit my focus 100% on my girls, and making sure they are healthy and as comfortable as possible through this time of fear and confusion. As someone who has lost a child, I can tell you with my whole heart that my daughters (who sometimes drive me out of my mind!) are not my burden, they are my biggest privilege. But, am I sad and worried about the future of JSP? You better believe I am. I built my business from nothing, and have grown it over a decade. I love and cherish my job, and I feel like an important piece of me is missing when it has to take a backseat.  But it has shuttered before, for three challenging pregnancies and two bed rests and the loss of our daughter, Hannah. JSP has weathered some truly tragic times with me, and so we are both prepared to get through this very strange moment in time together, too.

What I hate about this situation is the discord I’ve watched it create in an already divisive society. Working mothers against stay at home mothers, bored and lonely young people against families struggling to balance a million needs at once, harried parents against scared and pent up children. The single most important thing to remember here is that there are a lot of different situations out there, but we can only control ourselves. We might disagree with how others are handling their situations, and that anger and frustration is real. But I hope in the next month, we can all take a deep breath and realize that we are all doing our best to cope, and have a little more grace with each other. That is one of my own ongoing personal goals.

As a Christmas gift last year, one of my best friends sent me a Gratitude Journal. The goal is to find something positive in every day and focus on that. Writing has long since been a source of comfort to me, and searching out and focusing on the positives during this 2-month period might be one of the most important and profound things I can do for myself and my family. But I did have a good laugh when I flipped to these pages this morning. Last month, I had written my goal for March was “to slow down, and make a conscious effort not to overload our calendar. To have less of a split focus.” Ha! April Fools indeed! It’s dig deep time, guys.

I hope you all stay healthy, and can find your positive outlets during this time of fear and challenge. I hope you hug each other close, count your blessings, and persevere. And I already can’t wait to see all of your smiling faces someday soon, in the sunshine and warmth, when we can give each other a familiar hug in greeting.

Welcome Baby Bree

This was the last session I shot before everyone in town started to social distance and the whole world went into isolation because of the Covid-19 pandemic. (I will write more on that later. For now, let’s revel in the normalcy of a happy family and a sneak peek blog post). I am really thankful that I had the chance to meet Kimbra, Andrew, and their darling children, Steele and Bree, when I did. This was Bree’s newborn session, and by the time we are all allowed back out and about again, I have a feeling the baby will have changed quite a bit! I am also happy to have had these photos to work on and bring a smile to my face during this very tense, strange time. Steele and Bree were both natural top models…look at those smiles! Two little charmers, and so sweet together. It was wonderful to meet you, Kimbra and Andrew! Thank you for having me over to capture these special memories for you. Take care of yourselves, and I will see you around town when the craziness has subsided once again.


Celebrating Jayme

I was honored when Mark reached out a few months ago to see whether I could take photos at a party he was planning for his wife, Jayme. Jayme and Mark are long-time clients who have morphed into friends…we have seen each other through multiple pregnancies, and loss, and moves, and I have watched their three boys grow up. They are wonderful people, and I was thrilled to capture these special memories for them. The party was perfect: elegant, lovely, and sweet, just like Jayme. The room at Stella Barra/Summer House was soon not only filled with balloons and sunshine, but with friends and family and catching up and laughter, as everyone gathered to celebrate Jayme. Happy Birthday, Jayme! I hope that 40 is your very best year yet.