A January Reminder.

By: Jen Shoop

“After drop off today, I drove by the house of neighbor whose husband is getting a kidney tomorrow. I literally thought to myself: from the outside, with the snow and toddler toys, you would never know what they are going through and reminded myself it holds true for probably most people we meet.”

-A Magpie Reader

The world softens, as though a line run slack,

when I remember that many of us are privately nursing broken hearts and invisible griefs.

If I can look beyond the sunny Instagram posts and perfectly-packed Bento box lunches, or the de rigueur smile and wave from the neighbor, or the unexpected outburst from a stranger —

if I can see past the stipules, be they thorny or decorative,

I so often find a tender center.

Today I am challenging myself to ignore the guard petals,

and, equally, to be unafraid of looking sadness or hardship in its Janus face.

Years ago, I plumbed for meaning: “what does it mean to be a woman of substance?” At the time, I doubted myself. Career transitions and a string of years that asked instead of answered had left me wraith-like with worry and insecurity. I was straining to sketch out a dress form I might eventually fill. If I could only identify its dimensions, perhaps I could model myself against it.

I now believe that a woman of substance is someone so at ease with herself, she can give herself to others without self-diminishment or self-projection. She can be happy for friends, and sad for them, too, without losing anything of herself. She can listen without interjecting her own story; she can marvel without battling jealousy; she can endure unkindnesses without questioning herself. She does not need the last word, the biggest laugh, the adulation, the apology: she is full without the feedback. She stands still in her center.

I work to be that woman.

What I mean to say to myself this January morning:

Find ease today — both in your dealings with others and your personal comportment.

As always, onward —


+On looking squarely at grief.

+Life somehow compensates for our losses.

+On giving myself a soft landing when I need it.

+Grace, in action.

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate linksIf you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+The Great is running a big sale — I’m using it to finally test their sweats and tees (both about 50% off!), which many of you have raved about over the years!

+New/fun Sambas colors, restocked.

+This bag…!!!! I’ve been wanting one of these bags forever.

+Obsessed with the silhouette / details on these under-$100 cords.

+Been on a big and satisfying cleaning kick — Mr. Magpie and I have both been exercising the same “bit by bit, corner by corner” mentality since January 1st, where we’ll just tackle a little nook of the house as we encounter it (versus going room by room in any strategic way). This makes it feel so manageable! So, for example, the other day I pruned my top cosmetics drawer to just keep my everyday essential makeup favorites on hand in these, and put the rest in these drawered compartments beneath the sink.

+This brand has some really fun tees.

+Love the fit of these off-white jeans.

+These suitcases look like Away, but cost less.

+Cute ribbed trouser socks.

+I wrote about my daughter reading books that were a bit too thematically advanced for her — her librarian pointed her in the direction of these “little sister” baby-sitter’s club books to accommodate her interest in the baby sitter’s club at a more age appropriate level, and they’ve been a huge hit! We’ve also been listening to the audiobooks of the Magic Treehouse series, which has in turn re-piqued her interest in the series. Such a relief to have her reading books that are affirming/comfortable for her!

+It’s been COLD here — I asked a very fit/active girlfriend who excels in winter sports how she keeps warm while running, and she insisted that a neck buff is the way to go! She recommended the ones from this female-founded Vermont-based business. They have a few different styles for different sports/climates, but these are the ones best-suited for my every-other-day runs. If you prefer a solid one, I also found good options from Tracksmith, Smartwool, and Stio.

+I’ve been spotting Timex’s utility watches layered into the arm stacks of many a chic-pea lately!

+This $40 sweatshirt arrived and I’ve barely taken her off. A really nice, heavy weight for the cold days.

+Kitchen/office/desk/junk drawer refresh with these trays and fresh scissors for each one!

+A great white top.

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10 thoughts on “A January Reminder.

  1. Such beautiful sentiments! <3

    I wanted to mention that if mini likes the Little Sister series, you may want to check out eBay for copies of the out-of-print (non-illustrated) Little Sisters from the 80s and 90s! I did this for my stepdaughter — it was one of the first series she really got into as a young reader, and then I continued with the regular BSC books as she got older (she especially loved the Super Specials — remember those?!)

    My stepdaughter has never cottoned to graphic novels so finding the “vintage” versions was a great solution for us! Just thought I’d mention it since there are TONS more books available in the original formats 🙂


  2. “I so often find a tender center.” beautiful phrase – even the way the words go together: “tender center”.. May we look for the tender center in ourselves, and in others, too.

  3. I needed to hear this today. I got some very unexpected and IMO very baseless blowback from someone in a work context today and rather than try to refute/defend, I just let it go. It seemed to say a lot more about them than it did about me, and the 1:23am timestamp on their email suggests their circumstances were less than ideal. I just didn’t want to spend any time and energy on correcting them, I just wanted to move ahead with the work itself.

  4. Happy New Year, Jen!

    “many of us are privately nursing broken hearts and invisible griefs” — So true. In many cases we really only see what is on the surface, or what people choose to show to the world. I am reminding myself of this after a strange interaction not too long ago with some friends of ours. At that time I decided to let it go and offer a wider berth, not knowing exactly what they are going through. I realize that in doing so, I feel lighter, more at peace.

    “She stands still in her center.” — oooh that gives me goosebumps, Jen! I’ll be carrying this thought with me as a 2024 mindset.

    1. So impressed with you and Anna for greeting those moments of undue turbulence with such grace. Can be SO hard to “just let something go.” Ahh! You’re inspiring me!

      Happy new year!


  5. I am in the final stages of editing my personal statement for my grad school applications (applying for my masters in counseling). In my essay, I talk about how I loved school because class expectations were clear and relatively easy to meet. Therefore, it was easy for me to be successful in school. Once I entered the “real world” I realized that it’s up to me to define expectations, or “criteria for success” to guide my own life. A daunting challenge.

    You wrote that a former version of yourself was “straining to sketch out a dress form [you] might eventually fill. If [you] could only identify its dimensions, perhaps [you] could model [yourself] against it.” In next paragraph, It seems to me that you have since clearly defined your own criteria for success, or the “dress form” you might fill.” Curious if you feel this way, or if you would argue that you have grown away from needing the defined criteria your younger self sought.

    1. Such a good catch and provocation. I do think I have a better vision (that I’ve arrived at more organically, over time, navigating various situations and observing the interactions and models of others VERSUS, as I was doing back then, sort of free-handing it) of what it means to me to be a woman of substance. I’m not there yet, but I know what she looks like.


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