Love in the Big Ways and the Small.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image via.

A Magpie sent me a lovely direct message in response to my post on the extraordinary gift of being a daughter to my parents in which she said:

“My parents are the type to show love but not express if verbally, and your post was a reminder that there are many ways to express and receive love.”

Her insight here reminded me of UA Fanthorpe’s poem, “Atlas,” which I’m sharing in full below —


There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

-UA Fanthorpe

When I first read this poem, I thought of the people in my life “who store the WD40,” and how their ministrations are, in the end, permutations of love. As Fanthorpe articulates beautifully, these tiny acts of service are different ways of saying “I love you” — equal in worth, perhaps even more valuable, to the verbal expression, which can occasionally feel more easily-gotten anyhow.

I also thought, somewhat out of the blue, of a handful of excellent teachers I had at the University of Virginia and then Georgetown University, and especially the ones who arrived at class with obvious preparation, as though birds of flight settling into meticulously-crafted nests. I romanticized these professors at the time because I longed for their discerning erudition and shorthand, but there was another kind of love afoot: their dedication to their areas of expertise suffused the room with a kind of tingling energy and seriousness. I can remember one who would bounce on the pads of his feet as we’d file in, scarcely able to contain his excitement to get into it all. College students are notoriously flip in the face of decorum, but it was damn near impossible to lampoon or otherwise subvert the earnestness of a faculty member who ran electric while talking about Fin de Siecle literature or the representation of physical space in the Gothic Novel. Even the Doubting Thomases abandoned their grievances, and the James Deans dropped their postures. Those classroom experiences felt like a grand beneficence I did not deserve, as though I was the unworthy recipient of a love born far upstream. By this I mean I could see in their enthusiastic care with the matters on docket the ink-stained pages, the midnight oil, the oral examinations, the marked-up drafts, the hours of labor and commitment, the times they felt intellectually small and then charged in their labors. And I was standing blindly in the door lintel, as though receiving a painstakingly crafted trinket I hadn’t ordered. Still, I received it, grateful for the unexpected windfall. I’ll collect love wherever it finds me — the kind that holds the sky intact, the kind that reminds you to check the weather, and the kind that is almost atmospheric, a meteor shower trailing the lifelong work of a devoted professor.

Many years ago, when I was studying abroad in France, I wrote a letter to Mr. Magpie in which I said: “I love you in the big ways and the small ones.” I was so young at that time; what did I know about the widths of love? And yet, I think, I am lucky to have known at nineteen that love can shape-shift, can hide in lent sweatshirts and post-it notes just as easily as it parades around in engagement rings and “I just had to see yous,” slicked with rain and romance in the midnight hour.


+Sometimes, love is also a salad.

+Part of my love story with Mr. Magpie took place in France. I wrote about it here and here.

+Wild, how you can be falling in love and feeling like you are floating in space while the person next to you has no clue.

+What’s your house music?

Shopping Break.

+This convertible dress is a wardrobe wonder — love in either black or white, and can’t believe it’s under $100. Such a great, timeless shape and the pleating at bodice makes it interesting.

+Finally caved and ordered a pair of Adidas Sambas in their new chalk green color, which just launched and is selling fast. So different for late summer/fall! The two other new colorways are fab, too. Neutral one would be chic with anything!

+VERY sad I missed out on this brown dress in my size. It’s perfect. PERFECT. Exactly what I want to wear to a fall cocktail party.

+Don’t sleep on the denim/pants from both Old Navy and Gap. I have the BEST luck and they are rolling out surprisingly on-trend styles — great way to test a trend before investing, or without investing a ton of money. Love these high-waisted wide leg jeans from Old Navy.

+The kind of top you’ll never regret purchasing. (Or this one, from Jenni Kayne.) I like the way Julia Amory has been styling this kind of white swing top with skirts, pareos, etc, but also amazing with jeans or shorts.

+Ordering one of these adorable inexpensive waste baskets for my office!

+These versatile woven ballet flats are giving Loeffler Randall (comparison) for a fraction of the price. Great pre-fall buy. Imagine with dark-wash denim or a denim dress?! P.S. Found that exact denim dress on sale here, but then you have to pay international shipping, so you might do a price check comparison.

+Speaking of denim, these Citizens’ “gaucho jeans” are having a moment. I love the color Chrissy Ward bought (see her in them here). They look like a slightly more wearable take on the barrel jeans of last year.

+Zara steal. LOVE.

+My husband just bought himself some new head covers. The driver cover looks a lot like this and the putter cover is needlepointed Smathers and Branson (<<not this exact style, but similar)! Great gifts for men.

+The Great is offering 30% off tees, knits, and sweatshirts. Doesn’t this look like the perfect layer? Also love this cut of this sweatshirt. Very into forest green R.N. if you can’t tell!

+Speaking of green…this Prada bag in the pistachio!

+This Tory Burch column dress is beyond spectacular. I can’t. SO good and so different from everything else on the market.

+This woven envelope clutch is perfection.

+Still some good buys at Nordies’ Anniversary Sale, which wraps up soon. I actually ended up ordering both the Skims bra and the True & Co bra (part of the sale) after hearing conflicting opinions from Magpies — will report back on what I liked.

+For your inner Swiftie. BTW, I was listening to “Taylor’s version” of “Dear John” and OMG! John Mayer really did a number on her!

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22 thoughts on “Love in the Big Ways and the Small.

  1. i I have purchased it least ten of those True and Co. bras. they are comfortable, but i lost my patience with them at the wash stage. they have pads that are inserted in the bra, at the sides. no matter what you do, those pads come out during the wash. even with a lingerie bag. i think my OCD overtook these situations. i tossed them all.

      1. P.S. Why is washing such a pain for some items?! It’s like the washing process was never considered. I feel that way about pajamas that say “hand wash only.” No!!

      2. For what it’s worth, I have never used the pads with my True & Co bras (I have around 8 of them and I’m a 34D) I really can’t stand that type of pads, though, so take this with a grain of salt 🙂


  2. Would love a Mr. Magpie edit/commentary on golf gear! I can pick out polos… but am not confident about my choices for much else.

    1. Yes!! I’ll get his intel. I can tell you that I did a lot of recon on his clothing and he especially loves the golf shorts from Rhone —

      They look really boring/weird on the model here but they have a very stylish tailored fit. He owns them in this forest green:

      My favorite polos on him are from Holderness and Bourne. The fit is classic but elevated? Can’t describe but sometimes these polos look so boxy and boring, and this one looks refined. Again, pics on model are almost irrelevant —

      In general, he’s a Taylor Made club guy! Will ask for more details tomorrow!!!


      1. Thank you! I love that this polo is mostly cotton, too.
        Will be so grateful for any future recs/edit! Also if he has fav resources for advice/good info if he is picking out a new piece of gear, etc.

  3. Hi Jen. I look forward to your posts daily. Your eloquent writings on the daily business of life are truly reflective, whether you’re talking about the joys of motherhood or handling grief. I often want to save your writings for future reads or try to refer back to past posts on specific topics. Do you have a suggestion on how to save your posts? I’m always looking for efficient ways to keep myself digitally organized. PS.. my favorite bra is Natori Feathers underwire, part of Nordstrom Ann Sale & favorite cleanser is Peter Thom Roth anti-aging gel- smells like peaches and green tea so refreshing and works like a charm.

    1. You are SO kind — thank you so much for letting me know, and for your generous words. Let me think on saving posts. The way I typically do that is by emailing links to myself with an email headline that will make it easy to discover in my inbox eventually (e.g. — MAGPIE GRIEF or MAGPIE MOTHERHOOD). That way I can just search my inbox when I want to find it. If there is something I want to refer to frequently, I will bookmark it in my browser so I can easily get to it frequently. Another option: do you use Pinterest? You can pin my posts there and refer back. Otherwise, of course, you can always search for things on my site. I will keep thinking on this. There must be easier ways.

      Thanks also for the Peter Roth rec!


  4. The poem reminds me so much of my husband, who announced “I fixed the issue with the mortgage” as I came downstairs, not knowing there was an issue at all.

    Lucky to have the “need for gloss and grouting” seen always xx

    1. This is so beautiful. I find that particular kind of love so…comforting. My husband will often do that, too — he’ll tell me after the fact, not wanting to take up any of my emotional/intellectual/logistical bandwidth with something he feels he can completely own. I don’t know how much I return the favor, so this is a good reminder. I feel like I’m always jibber-jabbering about everything I’m doing — ha! Maybe need to try to do something to completion next time.


  5. I can’t seem to get all my thoughts down in one comment, so one more P.S. here — I chuckled at the mention of WD40 in the poem. That is me. Sometime after I got married, I surprised my new-at-the-time husband because I had WD40 (that I had moved from my apartment) and knew exactly where it was when something needed fixing.

    Such wonderful truths in this poem though! Recognizing those many “permutations of love” underlies gratitude for the many ways our loved ones care for us (and others). I still can’t forget how my husband would scrape the snow off the windshields of cars beside him in our apartment parking lot, back when we used to live in the Midwest (we had a a lot of senior-citizen neighbors at the time). How he cleans and fills the humidifier night after night every fall and winter. Among many other things. I feel so lucky that he is steadfast in all those little things.

    1. These ministrations are so loving and sweet! Thank you for sharing.

      Also, love that you BOTH give one another love in this way — Ms. WD-40! So beautiful.


  6. I haven’t tried Skims so I can’t compare, but I LOVE the ones by True & Co . I’ve had mine for maybe 2 years — I think ideally we’re supposed to replace undergarments after a year (?), but they’ve held up well. I machine wash on delicate in a mesh bag, then line dry. It feels “barely there” in the best way. Although I much prefer molded cups over removable pads (which is what True & Co has), I overcame my dislike for it because they are simply so comfortable.

    1. OK, I am currently wearing my True&Co and I do get what the fuss is about. It’s SO comfortable, and the material is fantastic. I get it!!!

  7. That Tory Burch column dress!!!! What a showstopper! The red lining (which peeks out when she walks in the video) is such a thoughtful detail that just MAKES the dress. It reminds me of Princess Catherine’s red coat with the blue lining that peeked out as she walked — I think she wore it to one of the coronation week events, if I’m not mistaken. Stunning!

    1. I know exactly what you’re talking about! So chic. And yes, similar vibe with the TB dress!

  8. That brown dress is back in sizes 2 and 4 if that’s what you’re looking for (one remaining of each)!

  9. Hi! I ordered the Sambas in the neutral color. Yay! I have no idea how to style them? Socks or not? Help!
    Thank you, Kim

    1. Hi Kim! Yay — twins! I will absolutely style and share photos once I receive, but some street style inspo to consider now:

      I’m leaning towards wearing with midi/maxi length dresses to see how that works! I’ve seen them styled with just-at-ankle ruffle socks but would rate that vibe “advanced fashion” — it’s intimidating for me even! I think I’ll start sockless and see if I can level up.


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