Forget Your Perfect Offering.

By: Jen Shoop

On a long and cold morning run the day after Thanksgiving, I conducted a post-mortem of the holiday’s festivities:

Food — excellent, thanks to Mr. Magpie.

Logistics — could be enhanced by designating trusted guests to help with two specific just-before-mealtime tasks: a) a drink-filling (to circulate the room and make sure everyone is set with beverages just before we sit), and b) a plate-filling (to help with transferring items to their serving dishes).

Other — My son refused to wear the $80 sweater I’d purchased him; the magnolia leaf garland I’d ordered in lieu of a centerpiece did not arrive in time; we were not able to get a family photo for our Christmas card; and my children ate forty-five Ritz crackers, a begrudging bite or two of turkey, and absolutely none of the side dishes we’d lovingly prepared, and then went to bed hungry. I also generally forgot the kids would need to be served (I’d set up the children’s table in a different room because our dining room was packed with 12 adults), and this created a bottleneck of sorts. By the time all of the adults had been served, family-style, around the table, my sister and I were scurrying around trying to fill the children’s plates in the other room, and then there was the requisite “I need more milk / I don’t like turkey / can I have pasta?” conversation that waylaid me on my way back to my seat. After dinner, Mr. Magpie pointedly asked, “Did you enjoy your long, leisurely dinner?” as I think I’d sat in my chair for a grand total of ten minutes between errands.

As soon as I found myself lingering in the “other” category, these words materialized:

“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”

-Leonard Cohen

Forget your perfect offering. In my haste to assess the imperfect presentation of the event, I’d neglected to think about all the light we let in:

My daughter, without any direction or suggestion on our end, lovingly drawing Happy Thanksgiving cards for each attendee, including my brother-in-law’s parents, whom she’d never met before. (You can see a small corner of one in the photo at the top of this post.) Each card included the message: “I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving with me.” The fact that she anticipated her central involvement (“with me!”) in the Thanksgiving experience of twelve adults moves me deeply.

My father reading the same simple and moving prayer he has read every Thanksgiving for decades now. I love his oration: firmly, with intent, as though (maybe, Dad?) he needs to muscle his way through its poignancy to get it out.

The silhouette of my husband and my father-in-law crowding around the turkey fryer in the backyard, tampering with the temperature, assessing doneness. Father and son around fire: bonds primordial.

My children running amok with their cousins, blind with glee — a blur of corduroy and fair isle and little swoopy bangs and shrieking laughter. Core memories in formation.

My mother presenting me with a gift at the doorway: a silver chafing dish from her own collection. Its bestowal felt like an anointing, or a passing-of-the-entertaining-the-family torch. Mother and daughter, warming ourselves around the role of keeping the family together, maintaining its traditions and togethernesses.

So yes, Jen —

Forget your perfect offering.

Let the light in wherever it may this season.

(Including in our sans-family-portrait Christmas cards.)


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+The above thoughts also reminded me: are expectations the enemy?

+An essay on the wonderful, empathetic mother my mom is.

+Things I have learned from my mother.

+Focus and the fibers of motherhood.

Shopping Break.

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

+The gal sitting next to me at the nail salon the other day was wearing this J. Crew sweater/jacket situation. She looked SO chic and polished — she’d clearly come straight from work. The woman on the other side of her clearly agreed with my assessment, because she asked where she’d bought it! So cute layered over jeans, too.

+A cute holiday dress for a little who doesn’t like the smocking/ruching/sashes/etc. Pima cotton but still traditional and polished. Obviously perfect for The Nutcracker!

+Really good velvet trousers. The color is amazing. Also obsessing over this feather-trim velvet blazer!

+These personalized gift bags for kids are great for oversized gifts from Santa.

+My mom bought all the men in my family these Faherty quilted pullovers (more colors here) a few years ago and they are heavily worn by most of them. Mr. Magpie has this exact color and it’s so handsome! He wears casually but also as a top layer for golf.

+Another great gift from my mom to all the men in our family from another year: Smathers & Branson belts.

+Love this silk dress — so 90s chic.

+I just added these faux-bois coasters to my collection. They are so handy (wipe clean!) and chic!

+Cute toy storage option – you can personalize with things like “cars,” “books,” “Barbies,” or the child’s name. This truck book storage situation is also adorable (and heavily discounted).

+This is so random, but this enormous Stoney Clover pouch is one of my favorite possessions. It is BIG and I find it helpful when traveling with the kids (toss all their haircare, dental care, medicines, etc) in it. Also like for stowing beauty products I’m in the process of testing.

+And these gingham personalized pouch is SO cute. Imagine buying for a new mama for diaper bag organization!

+Adorable faux fur vest for a little love.

+Cute idea: buy a holiday ornament to commemorate a special trip you’ve taken each year. Like this one for a trip to Paris!

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8 thoughts on “Forget Your Perfect Offering.

  1. As always, your words resonate deeply and eloquently, and remind me of the concept of Kintsugi (which I understand to be the Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with metallic dust (gold, silver, etc). The cracks of light and slices of glimmer are reminders that life (and all of its aspects, occasions, events, etc) isn’t perfect, but it’s all the more worthwhile and beautiful for that reason alone. I’m sure that all in all, your Thanksgiving was enjoyed by all in attendance, and at the very least, you made memories and mental notes to cherish and heed next year!

    Speaking of pouches – both of those linked are awesome! – I was wondering if you had suggestions for things to fill pouches with for gifting? Maybe things that are a bit more practical, but still feel a little elevated and delightful? Thank you for sharing, as always – your words are always so thoughtful and therefore are so appreciated!

    1. Hi Jess! Thank you so much. I love the Kintsugi reference — so beautiful and the sentiment so profound, and resonant. Thanks for sharing that.

      For filling the pouches — I like things like eye patches ( or French soaps ( — love this brand), which can fill up the space a bit without being too expensive, especially if nestled in among tissue. Another idea would be to fill up with a few of your favorite desktop items — a parcel of pens (my favorite: wrapped up in ribbon; these incredible pocket scissors (; adorable mini highlighters (; or fancy pencils (


  2. May I commiserate just a bit? Our 8 hour travels turned moot when the family hosting us woke up on Thanksgiving morning with a stomach bug. Dinner was canceled and we were on our way back home at 7am. My son cried hard and we arrived back at home just in time to cobble together a late afternoon dinner of all the mashed potatoes I’d made as my contribution to the original, larger, dinner. I leaned into the lemons make lemonade stance, dragging our Christmas decorations from the attic and putting on Home Alone. All was well by the time we went to bed. I patted myself on the back for rolling with the punches, and I think we’ll laugh in the years to come at the memory. Light through the cracks, indeed!

    1. Oh Jenn!! I’m so sorry but SO impressed with how you made the best of it, and the fact that you’re already looking ahead and knowing you’ll laugh about this one day. You definitely let the light in! Home Alone and Christmas decorations to the rescue.

      Thanks for the inspiration — but sorry it happened!!


    2. Jenn – we are that host family, too. Ugh. Except the stomach bug hit us the morning AFTER we had hosted 18 family members for dinner. Cringe. Super fun to text everyone “Heeeeey…hope you’re not feeling sick…etc.” This is in addition to finding mold (really minor mold, thankfully) in our basement while replacing carpet the week before. Due to the delay, we weren’t able to get furniture back in place until Wednesday. Nothing like cutting it close! Sorry to hear that you had a wasted trip but kudos for making the best of it.

      1. Oh Stephanie!! So sorry to hear, but it sounds like you navigated it all with a great sense of perspective and humor. When it rains it pours??


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