Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

Shortly after I was first married, Mr. Magpie was finishing up his MBA program and applying to jobs.  I was preoccupied with my own career and shamefully ill-attuned to the internal strife he was enduring as he put himself out there in interviews and fretted over where he would land, itching to contribute to the family and also anxious to determine the next step.  Would we move?  At what cost?  I have since discovered that there are few experiences more damaging to the ego than interviewing for jobs over the course of a couple months.  What’s wrong with me?  you start to wonder.  You agonize over your responses.  You obsess over whether you misspoke, whether you should have tossed in a comment about your depth of experience in xyz.  And living in limbo is emotionally arduous.  At the time, though, I hustled through the door after work and barreled into my evening routine.

I wrote about this incident elsewhere, but one day, I came home and found a rabbit’s foot on top of Mr. Magpie’s cell phone, a talisman I’d never seen before.  He’d hunted it out of a small cigar box of personal memorabilia, along with letters I’d written him and miscellaneous medals and other trinkets acquired over the course of his three decades on this earth.  It had been his father’s.  He’d placed it on the phone in the hopes of channeling good energy, coaxing a favorable phone call from a potential employer.

My heart fell through my body when I saw this.  He brushed it off, smiling.

“All ballplayers are superstitious.”  But I saw it for what it was: the extent of his agony, his heart on the table, on top of that cellphone.

I mentioned to my mother that the interviewing process was wearing him thin.  A few days later, she handed me a small blue booklet: a guide to saying a novena to Saint Mary.  I was not nearly as devout then as I am now, and I will admit to pocketing it warily.  It felt old-world, almost voodoo-like, if I am being frank.  I hid the booklet in my nightstand, unsure of how Mr. Magpie would receive it.  But I said it.  Every night, for the full nine days.

Mr. Magpie got a job offer from Groupon almost immediately after, and we moved to Chicago within a month.

I believe in Mary.  I believe in the power of prayer.  But even if you don’t, I believe there is a kind of grace in the ritual of repeated intentions.  There is something at once soothing and empowering about returning to a particular intention night after night, of exerting spiritual and mental effort to change your outlook on something.  It’s about making space for your aspirations.  Squaring off a bit of time in your day to think about something head-on.  Taking the time to water and prune and shift your budding dreams around in their little claypots.

One thing I realized from this post and my reflections on the countless comments and emails I have received in response to it (even now, weeks after publishing it, I receive the sweetest notes about it — if it weren’t an infringement on your privacy, I would love to publish the many beautiful but heart-aching stories you have shared with me) is that the delta between our expectations and our realities can be quietly devastating.  And that many of us lay in our beds at night and brood over what could be, what could have been — often to the detrimental exclusion of recognizing the good in what is now.  I am the guiltiest of this despite writing prolifically on the topic.  And so I thought today I might offer up the novena.  Whether you pray it by-the-book (there are many versions available online) or simply use the notion as a jumping off point to build a nightly sanctuary in which to reflect on the weight in your heart, I have always found that it yields quiet in tumult.  And, if we are very lucky, a job offer from Groupon.


+There is an insane shoe sale happening at Barney’s right now.  I love these statement Miu Miu slides (epic — this is the kind of extra shoe I’d never buy at full-price but then will rock all summer long; imagine with white jeans and a breezy white tunic?  Or a simple white tee?), these shearling trim flats ($118?!?!), and these cha-cha-cha Manolos, which are just ITCHING for a dance floor.

+I have seen a couple of street style starlets in this leopard Ganni dress and I unabashedly copycatted — it’s been sold out for a LONG time but was recently stocked.  I’ll be wearing mine with my suede kitten heel booties.  You can get the look for less with this dress or with this turtleneck and the coordinating skirt — or dial it back by pairing the turtleneck with a black skirt.  Leopard is so in R.N., but if you’re not into animal print, this floaty ankle-length dress achieves a similar vibe and would also look fantastic with booties.

+Already eyeing this for next spring.  I LOVE IT.  I LOVE IT.  I LOVE IT.  Did I mention I love it?

+Polo is running 40% off a spate of fantastic, traditional gifts — especially welcome for gentlemen in your life.  In my cart: this cashmere beanie in navy (Mr. Magpie would look so handsome in it!), this washable cashmere sweater in the light brown or green (washable!), and these ski socks!  And for minis: this coat in ivory, which I was literally *thisclose* to buying mini this year; any of their incredible cashmere sweaters — all 40% off! — and I especially love this in gray or this in pink; and this cotton sweater in great colors (for boys or girls).

+My cardigan sweater went on sale!  I’ll be wearing mine in the heather brown color with winter white denim.

+These fun slingbacks are 50% off.  The red would be such a treat with your Christmas dress!

+OK LOVE this BR dress — it’s sort of Lanvin with that black-on-gunmental situation, but a little more reserved.  Might be good if you’re going to a corporate holiday party?  I’d doll it up with big statement earrings in black.  Also love this metallic pleated skirt.  Just the thing with a silk blouse or tank.  (Would look phenomenal with my new Everlane bow blouse!)

+Just bought this.  Looks like Missoni or something!!!

+This plaid puffer coat is EVERYTHING.  So in love!

+I like to try new scents but I almost always fall back on Narcisco Rodriguez’s For Her Eau de Parfum.  It’s both soft and sophisticated — floral but with a kind of spice to it.  Sephora is currently running one of its tiered promotions — $25 off $75 purchases — so it’s a great time to purchase perfume at a rare discount.

P.S.  This post reminded me of my musings on the inner monologues of women.  Also, unrelated, but how to get a seriously good blowout at home and what to say when words fail you.

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8 thoughts on “Novena.

  1. I am quite superstitious by nature, which I credit to my mother (she’s the same way) and also to my Catholic upbringing. I’ve been musing over getting back in touch with my faith and this could be a good jumping-off point. I, too, find it refreshing how you write about your faith — it has certainly inspired me to think about my relationship with religion.

    That Ganni leopard dress … rowr, love it! I recently bought a slinky leopard midi skirt (Three Dots) that I love, but I haven’t worn it yet! I have also had those Ganni red slingbacks on my wishlist for a few months. They would have been perfect for the holidays, but I’m sure I can work them into a spring outfit or three. xo

    1. Red is one of the few colors that works in ALL seasons 🙂 I say go for them.

      Thanks for the sweet note, too, on religion/faith! Sometimes it takes a little push to start thinking about these things. xoxo

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I recently found your blog and have been loving it as a Catholic mom to two girls who also loves fashion. Thanks for sharing about your faith! It’s refreshing.

    1. Hi Shannon! Thanks so much for taking the time to write in and let me know. Happy to have you here 🙂 Sounds like we are kindred spirits! xoxo

  3. I’m saying my first novena right now (The St. Andrew Christmas novena – also for my husband’s job situation!), so this rang so true to me. I’ve always felt like novenas are a little superstitious, but I have found the practice of it so calming. Who knows what will come of it, but I so enjoyed this piece and hearing about your experience.

    1. Hi Megan — Yes! That’s the word I was searching for: the novena felt superstitious. So glad this resonated!! xoxo

  4. I caved and bought the Ganni slingbacks. I really wanted them in pink velvet, but that is not at all practical, so I got the red (which someone seems more practical??).

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