Musings + Essays

Let the Time Tick By.

By: Jen Shoop

Do you ever have a day where you feel like flinging all of your responsibilities across the room? Where you bristle at even the most lightweight of tasks, like emptying the dishwasher, or taking your pooch out for a walk at her appointed time, or switching the laundry? Most of the time, these insubstantial duties are so engrained in the rhythm of my life that I scarcely think about them. It is in fact highly common for me to forget which child I put to sleep the night prior (Mr. Magpie and I trade off) or whether Tilly has already relieved herself on her walk or if I switched on the dishwasher, and I must strain to retrace my steps, as I can hardly recall the details. It’s as if I glide through the day in a groove, automatically flipping on the dishwasher and switching off the lights at certain appointed times, all muscle memory. In other words, those tasks are so routine as to feel effortless, or if not effortless, reflexive.

So I am often mystified but the materialization of these “off” days in the middle of an otherwise nondescript week. “You’ve done this every night for the last two years — why is today any different?” I will ponder.

These days are always, however, canaries in the coal mine. It is as if my mind, heavy with the weight of other things, can no longer hang onto the marionette strings that keep my little world in motion, and suddenly lines run slack, then taut, in a jarring and bizarre dance.

On these days, I have learned to tend to myself with particular care. It is not possible to totally clear the deck and, say, lay down in bed with a good book or head out for a two-hour walk or go to bed at 7 p.m. I have children who need bathing and bedtime routines, and a dog who needs to be walked, and a business to tend to, and a dishwasher that still needs to run tonight in order for there to be enough clean milk cups for the children tomorrow. Instead, I make tiny little clearings in my schedule. I move small tasks on my to do list from today to tomorrow. I close up my work day an extra 10 minutes early to just sit with myself. I listen to music, or nothing at all, while walking Tilly, rather than using that time to call loved ones, a corner of my day I normally cherish but that sometimes needs to be elided from the schedule. Sometimes it feels good to just let time spool out, empty and inviting. To not over-clutter, or over-optimize, or multi-task. On these days, I need a few pockets of daylight to let the time tick past me, unmarked and unclaimed. I wonder on occasion if this is An Introvert Thing, as if these days appear when I am too drained by others. But I think it might just be A Human Thing, to counterbalance the strain of bigger frustrations or anxieties by standing still, feet planted, hands empty. It’s as if I am squaring off.

And then the next day, I wake up, and I lunge into the day with my usual verve, and the world feels righted again.

Just to say —

That off days will happen, and there is always tomorrow, and in the meantime, in can do the soul good to let a few minutes pass you by, empty of demand.


+Another big wellness lesson from COVID living: creating a formal buffer between the end of the work day and the start of the evening hours.

+”I felt as though I was waiting for life to happen to me for much of my teens and early twenties — angling for even the slightest brush with drama, or good fortune, or fiasco…I can’t remember when I stopped thinking that way. Was it a moment? An incident? One of the many losses or challenges or even beautiful happenings of the past many years? Or was it a gradual slackening, a loosening of my grip on the notion that life had not yet begun for me?” More of this thinking here.

+Musings on turning 35 and musings on turning 36.  Not sure I will have much of interest to add when I turn 37 in a few weeks.

+Things must end to begin again.

+How’s this for interesting companion piece reading: “I don’t want anything to change” and “I am change” and “Are you ready for this change?” Guess I’ve done a lot of thinking on change.

Shopping Break.

+Love the idea of this jumpsuit for poolside/beach lounging or just running after the kids in the backyard.

+Y’all loved these mules!

+Speaking of cute shoes — the best sneakers to wear with dresses.

+I mentioned discovering these personalized heishi bracelets too late to order them for mini’s classmates on their last day of school, but we made our own using this kit (which arrives the next day!) It was a fun afternoon activity for us both.

+Love that Ganni brought this dress back this season. So fun.

+This anorak comes in the greatest blue color!

+The Nordstrom semi-yearly sale is still going on…!

+Cute initial hat for a little one for under $15.

+This dress just brings the party.

+Adorable sandals for an older girl.

+OMG this rainbow sprinkler!

+More fun pool/backyard finds here.

+This little pink mini is too cute.

+Designer-looking finds for under $125.

+These would be such a great pool / beach sandal — they are a jelly material but so sleek and non-clunky!

+I think I need this mommy and me look for my daughter and myself!

+A random thing to get excited about but I actually discovered this spinning mop/bucket system while watching a house cleaning tip video on TikTok. Haha! I am such a luddite. I just joined TikTok the other day and am just getting the hang of it. Only a 37 year old woman would be looking for housekeeping tips there…

+In case you need your dog to match your look in your family portrait.

+Easy breezy summer dress.

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4 thoughts on “Let the Time Tick By.

  1. 100% agree, Jen! I often think that it’s easy to idolize busyness, that taking the time to do NOTHING is an indicator of laziness. Thank you for the reminder that it’s a matter of wellness instead!
    Also, the little bracelets! Thinking the kit would be a sweet little 4th birthday activity for my granddaughter and me next month! Happy summer! xo H

    1. Hi Heidi! I LOVE the way you phrased that: “nothing is not an indicator of laziness…it’s a matter of wellness instead.” So true. Enjoy those bracelets! It was really a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon with my girl.


  2. Jen, I can so relate to this!
    Some days when I find a free moment, all I want is to sit on the couch and stare into space for a few minutes. This morning, after dropping off my daughter at day care (hooray for help!!!), I drove home in silence. I typically use that time to catch up on a podcast, and I realized how refreshing it was to simply drive. I have to remind myself that not every single minute has to be accounted for! I can take a break from my mental load and allow myself to just… be.

    I LOVE that light blue anorak! The black accents add so much to the design.

    P.S. Do you think you could possibly do another post with a week of meals in Chez Magpie? I’ve found myself in a cooking rut lately and gotten tired of the same old recipes on our rotation, and would love any fresh ideas! Merci!

    1. Oh Mia – you NAILED it. The solo car ride sans music is exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes I do the same thing on foot, i.e., usually I try to make calls or listen to an audiobook while picking up lunch or running out to CVS but every now and then I say “No — no air pods, no nothing” and it’s nice to just sort of spectate idly.

      Isn’t that anorak great?!

      I will put some thought into more weekly meal ideas. Landon has done 100% (yes, 100%) of the cooking in our home for at least since the beginning of COVID, and he seems to have only upped his ante with time in terms of complexity. It truly is such a luxury for me. Not sure if I’ve shared these in the past, but some of my favorite “on repeat” meals are: fajitas prepared the American Test Kitchen way, orechiette with broccoli rabe and sausage (prepared the Oretta way), and a good old fashioned roast chicken served with orzo or oven fries and a fresh vegetable. Let me put some thinking into this. Maybe I will just track what Mr. Magpie makes over a two week period and share it all!


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