Living Care-ingly.

By: Jen Shoop
"Attention is our proper and ceaseless work." - Mary Oliver

Earlier this week, I had a lovely conversation with Willa Callahan, one of the founders of Poppy Gifting (a gifting concierge service), and one of the things we talked about was how Magpie covers “both the freighted and the frivolous” — and intentionally. Sometimes we’re grappling with “the saltings” of motherhood, or the throes of grief, and sometimes we’re talking about the best ironing starch (this) and trendy sandals (these). I lean into this undulation between the substantive and the trivial because — well, a woman contains multitudes, and it feels natural to me to toggle between the two, as I’m doing it constantly, minute-to-minute, in my own life. I might be packing my children’s lunches while unpacking a novel I read, or a tough emotional moment from earlier in my day. I also sometimes feel that this blog is a protracted answer to that instance in high school where a friend dismissed my preferences as “lowbrow.” I think about that comment all the time. I don’t fault my friend because I think all high schoolers are in search of footholds from which to boost themselves into feeling like real and discerning people with meaningful opinions, but the response spurred navel-gazing that has ultimately led me to the conclusion that: “You can have a meaningful conversation about anything.  The subject itself says nothing about the reader — it doesn’t implicate or incriminate.  If anything, someone’s meaningful reaction to something I’ve written off as vapid or “lowbrow” can make me second guess my own analytical abilities.” Which is to say: why can’t we talk enthusiastically about cocktail dresses and baby gear? I think female joy is often trivialized, relegated to pin-cushion and frippery status. But damn that arbitrament! Life is short — certainly too brief to submerge an interest in needlepoint or plate-collecting or rock tumbling or dad sandals in the name of “what seems highbrow.” (!) There is nothing more fascinating to me than a woman with deep, peculiar interests, one who knows herself well enough to plunge after her own joy.

But there is something else that jumped out at me as I chatted with Willa: a discernible through-line between the disparate subject matters with which we engage here at Magpie, and it has to do with living careingly (a Mary Oliver-ism). It has to do with “the proper and ceaseless work” of “paying attention” (also Mary Oliver). It brings to mind that Bourdain anecdote my husband loves to bring up: steer clear of restaurants with filthy bathrooms. Meaning: bathrooms are easy to clean; if you can’t keep the basics tidy, you probably have bigger problems in the kitchen. I mean this less in the incriminating way Bourdain intended and more in the sense of: “begin as you mean to continue,” or the way you care for the small things in life can shape the way you care for the big things in life.

So cheers to paying attention, whether we are bringing that diligence to bear in our styling habits, in the way we design our days, in our mothering, in our vibrant inner lives.

On that note, I did want to share an interesting exercise I came across earlier this week, which has to do with designing your week, or reclaiming your time: sit down and write out what a great version of a realistic week would look like for you. Meaning: don’t write down “spend hours walking in nature” if that’s not feasible for you with your job and other responsibilities. Rather, jot down the things you must do each day (drop-offs/pick-ups, work hours, etc) and then think about what you’d ideally do with the balance leftover. Is it exercising? Socializing? Reading? Cooking? Rock tumbling? (Ha, I can’t get rock tumbling out of my mind after the “Shrinking” show — did anyone else watch?) How adept are you right now about blending these interests into your life? What are you “losing time” doing? Are there any activities or down periods that you could trim, reassign, defer? Be discerning with the additions and subtractions. It may be that you realize you are spending an hour or two every few days running errands and could group these in one Saturday morning outing to save time, or it could be that, with your current schedule, you simply have no time at all to read despite the fact that reading brings you profound joy. There must be something you can trim or adjust in its pursuit. Time is a tool to express your values. What does your daily routine say about those priorities? (Writing that pointedly, to myself.)



+Two other ways I’ve “reclaimed” parts of my day to recalibrate: “the 15 minute buffer” between work and motherhood and eating a proper lunch (e.g., not at my desk) each day.

+More on “the architecture of my day.”

+Onward! This is not a dress rehearsal!

Shopping Break.

+J. Crew is currently offering an extra 60% off sale prices (!). I always get the best deals on kids’ stuff during these promotions. Don’t miss these seersucker pants ($17!), these dock shorts, this rugby shirt, or this rollneck sweater — Hill owns all of these items and we get a lot of wear out of them. For girls: this Liberty floral swimsuit and this striped tee.

+And, for home: this Liberty floral tablecloth is on sale for only $20!

+The S&L bistro chair look for much less.

+Obsessed with this embroidered cover-up — the white would be so sweet for a bridal trousseau, but the orange is fun and punchy, too.

+Have my eyes on these grilling prep trays for Mr. Magpie, a charcoal grill enthusiast. One of the set is deeper so you can keep marinating meat / veg in it, then use the top tray for cooked food once off grill.

+Has anyone tried Lululemon’s Align bras? I love the leggings but am generally skeptical of their bras…however, if it’s in the Align fabric?!

+How pretty is this just-launched print from Mille?

+Random utility buy, but our little powerful-but-mighty Vornado fan has come in handy more times I can remember during hot months, whether circulating air when it’s just a tad too cool for AC, keeping mosquitoes/flies at bay while eating outdoors, etc. They also have more attractive retro-style options.

+This $90 dress is the perfect thing for a child’s graduation / awards ceremony. Not too precious, fussy, or dressy, but still celebratory.

+These champagne coupes are beyond gorgeous.

+This star-print dress is spectacular. Like, for a fabulous Fourth of July fete?

+My favorite denim silhouette at the moment.

+Cute linen pull-on shorts in great colors.

+This duffel looks like the perfect gym or travel bag — I love the compartment for shoes!

+This linen mini strikes me as a sweet bridesmaid or wedding guest dress option for a casual/garden-style wedding.

+Cute, affordable everyday pieces for little girls: these ribbed shorts and this button-front cherry-print dress.

+Stanley water tumbler look-for-less.

+Chic house number.

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4 thoughts on “Living Care-ingly.

  1. “Time is a tool to express your values.” LOVE this observation and such a valuable reminder to be mindful of how and on what we spend our time. I’ll be thinking about this for a while… Happy weekend! xo H

    1. Yes!! Whenever I repeat it to myself, a shiver goes down my spine! A good way to get perspective on the things that matter / what I’m letting into my life that does not.


  2. Some of the best friendships I have are with people that are equally down for weighty conversations about grief, love, friendship, the “big questions” AND conversations about the perfect socks or new bathing suits or even celebrity gossip. Magpie is so special because by your design of discussing both the freighted and the frivolous, it mirrors that sort of both/and friendship, I’ve read some of the best reflections on LIFE on this site, and I’ve also gotten numerous recommendations for soap, clothes, shoes, stationery. That is all to say — thank you!

    1. Oh gosh – thank you so much, and the conversations/insights couldn’t happen without this community, so right back at you! Learned so much from you all.


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