Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

Did you write resolutions this year?

Despite the fact that I often find it more helpful to reflect on what I’ve learned in the year prior, I usually do — informally, oftentimes enumerated briskly and non-verbally as I am en route to pick up fixings for New Year’s Day lunch, which has, for the past ten or twelve years, always and invariably been reubens toasted in a cast-iron skillet with pickles and chips, on rare occasion featuring corned beef that Mr. Magpie has himself corned at home, and more than a handful of times accompanied by a gin-based Bloody Mary with all the accoutrements, which remains one of the best cocktails ever.

Occasionally, I elect a nebulous “mode” for the year in lieu of formal resolutions. I have gone with “gentleness” in multiple years past, with the goal of going easy on, well, everyone–myself included. (I have a thing for the word gentle, I guess.)

Almost always, I keep the intentions list brief. It’s too difficult to keep more than a handful of priorities or “modes” in mind–something I learned firsthand from being a manager to many, many employees in the course of my more traditional career. Anything prolix will be too dilute and inactionable, shuffled away in that drawer that houses old remotes and expired batteries and the take-out menu from a Chinese restaurant two homes ago.

When well-written, resolutions feel to me like doorways — entry-points, thresholds, intentional movement.

This year, I thought I’d share my resolutions, in part because saying them out loud makes me feel more accountable to them. I’d be curious to hear yours, too, if you’re not too private to share. Whether you do or

1 // As a parent, be present and patient. Major corollary to this objective: keep cell phone out of arm’s reach as much as possible. I have fallen into horrendous habits caring for a newborn, when so many of my responsibilities are repetitive to the point of perfunctory and often handled while an infant is in a state of half-repose. (In fact, handled while I as a parent am in a state of half-repose…ha!) As an example, I nearly always bring my phone with me while feeding my boy his five times a day — because, well, I treat those 15 minute feeds as opportune times to tick things off the list. But then that 15 minutes spills over or could be better passed engaged in dialogue with my inquisitive toddler who just this past weekend asked to take her phone (one of those noisy plastic v-tech ones) with her to the grocery store when we were dashing out to buy eggs to make blueberry muffins. I hesitated. Do as I say, not as I do flashed through my mind. And I resolve to do better. To spend more time sitting there in the dark in silence, no phone, with my boy. To get down on the floor and play with my daughter, phone free. I have struggled with this since mini was born, and so I know I will be a work in progress, but for the past few days, at least, I have made a point of stowing my phone far enough away from me that I won’t grab for it at the first sign of quiet.

Patience, too — oh Lord, how the toddlers will try your patience. Mini’s lollygagging can occasionally make me feel I will blow a gasket if I don’t exit the room and take a deep breath and preferably a large swig of wine. And the whining! Mini is not particularly bad, but the occasional bouts of whininess are knee-bucklingly challenging to muscle through…

So, presence and patience. Those are the modes for the year.

2 // Be an adult. Rather vague and ambitious, but this is rooted in my recent adoption of the “do things to completion” mentality. I am trying to do things as my mother and my mother-in-law would — that is, spot clean stains immediately; hand wash delicates rather than rolling the dice in the washing machine; sweep the floors with regularity (ideally, nightly, but that’s a bit far-fetched for me right now); wash hands upon entry into the apartment; place shoes in closet rather than letting them pile up outside; break down boxes fully; etc. The basic idea is that I feel like I’m too old to leave things in disarray, to be handled later.

3 // Cook more for mini and micro. Mr. Magpie and I eat very well and widely but I have long struggled with variety in mini’s diet, in part because she’s just getting through an irritatingly picky stage and in part because it’s been challenging syncing up our dining schedule so that we all eat at the same time and so I often cook for her separately. I am trying my hardest to sit down and map out her meals in advance so that I’m not resorting to buttered noodles and fish sticks and sliced cucumber for dinner as often as I have in the past. I am also trying to be better about feeding micro what we eat — trimming a small piece of steak to puree with mashed potatoes or feeding him the soupy part of chicken pot pie or what have you. I am determined to be more on-the-ball about this, because food is important to Mr. Magpie and I, and I need to see that through with our children. It takes time and energy, but honestly, there are other areas I can trim in my life to accommodate their nutrition and I continue to remind myself that time is a tool to express my values

4 // Take more risks with my writing. I have been deeply encouraged by occasional Magpie inquiries as to whether I will write a book and the generous responses to more memoir-style posts like this. More to come…

All of these resolutions are despairingly diffuse. After all, the cardinal rule with goal-setting is ensuring measurability — and none of mine are easy to assess. In fact, they are wildly ambitious and I am likely doomed to disappoint myself BUT — Mr. Magpie had a clever contrivance that I’ve been exercising: before bed, pause and ask whether I’ve done anything in each of the categories. He encouraged me to think of it as a pulse check — a diagnostic or even mnemonic rather than a rubric, though I already find myself grading my own actions. So far, so good. Keeping an optimistic outlook on 2020.

What about you? Please share if you’re feeling loose-lipped…

Post Scripts.

+A tech detox worth trying.

+And a daily check-in worth testing.

+Tres chic and tres functional. I am stuck midway between the practical navy and the fun peony pink.

+I know I’ve been talking about a storage bench for Hill’s room forever, but I think I’ve finally found a winner: this. Versatile enough to be used elsewhere…I came across it while scouring The Real Real the other night; did you know they also sell furniture? Too bad the bench was sold out already…but seriously! Great new resource for “vintage” home scores.

+You will never ever regret buying this sweater in either the cream or heather brown color. (On super sale!)

+Only a handful of this beautiful dress left in stock (on sale!) — OBSESSED.

+Love a good leopard print. This is an easy way to add interest to a sleepy-feeling work wardrobe.

+Mr. Magpie is in love with his new kitchen gadget — a gift from my generous soon-to-be sister-in-law. He used it to make our NYE lobster! (More favorite kitchen gear.)

+Must-haves for fellow oyster lovers: oyster glove, oyster knife, and a very peppery mignonette sauce.

+OBSESSED with the fit of these jeans.

+Love the look of this top. I own one very similar in shape by the Brock Collection that I die over.

+Love these for a little boy’s room.

+Fun for a nursery.


+And these bloomers…! Too cute.

+Gave this as a gift and was super impressed with the quality…I think I need one, too…

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

11 thoughts on “Resolutions.

  1. I’m so late to the game here, but for fun, I’ll add my resolutions as well:

    + Save more money — I have some financial goals I’d like to hit by the end of the year, so this means really trimming back my shopping & dining out habits and really sticking to my monthly savings goal (which I let slide in the fourth quarter of 2019). It will be hard but I know I can do it!

    + Exercise regularly/take up running — I am decent about getting to barre classes, but I’ve let yoga slide. I want to get back into that practice, and also start running a couple times a week (to start, and I’ll ratchet up from there!) The idea is that this is an easy way to exercise when I’m traveling, which I do a LOT.

    + Reorganize our apartment — the current setup of our apartment has been in place for nearly 6 years and it’s time for a shake-up, mainly where our office/third bedroom is concerned. Looking forward to tackling this in the spring.

    + Read 25 new books — self-explanatory, and I’m hoping I can exceed this!

    + Journal more consistently — because I’ve always loved keeping a written record of my life & my therapist agrees that this is a great use of my time 🙂

    Looking at these goals, they seem somewhat basic — haha! I think your resolution about less phone use/being more present is something we could all take to heart. It’s so hard to escape these devices in our current era! Also: curious to see how your goal of risk-taking with writing will pan out, and keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to read the fruits of your labor at some point down the line!


    1. These are fantastic resolutions and as I read them, I found myself nodding — yes, I need to do that! I was too practical to add a resolution around exercise as I just don’t see how it fits in my life right now with any regularity. I know that’s horrible but there it is. I need to ease back into it though…I’m too old not to be getting my heart rate up at least a few times a week. Thanks for the nudge.

    2. “Exercise more” seems like the most basic/trite resolution! Haha. I know physical activity is important, as humans, but on the other hand, I think it takes wisdom to see your own current situation & be realistic about what you will & won’t be able to fit into your lifestyle. Also: I imagine that running after two young children burns a LOT of calories 🙂 Don’t beat yourself up about it!


  2. I love your resolutions. I’m not a parent but I could take on board your intentions regarding your phone!

    Instead of resolutions, I’ve chosen to have focus areas, which sounds similar to your approach. I find that resolutions often set us up to fail, and while goals are of course worthwhile, sometimes heftier life goals can’t be achieved in 12 months regardless of how determined we are. For 2020, my focus areas are consistency and going a little easier on myself – ie, being gentle with myself! Instead of exercising hard twice a week, I’d like to exercise 4 or 5 times a week which means being less intense in each work out. Instead of working really late once a week, I’d like to get into the office a bit earlier every morning so I’ve got the same amount of time at my disposal over the course of a week, but less disruption to my lifestyle – kind of like earning compound interest on time. I’d like to get up earlier in the morning. I know that vowing an hours earlier wake up time won’t work, but maybe I can get up 15 or 20 minutes earlier each day. And I’d like to write more in 2020 and tend to my lovingly neglected blog but instead of waiting for a whole afternoon free to write, perhaps I can find half an hour a few times a week and accept that I’ll never be 100% happy with any piece of writing (what writer ever is?!)

    The last couple of years have been years that have asked (I often think of that post of yours!) 2018 was a very challenging year personally, 2019 was a huge year professionally, and I’m hoping 2020 will be a year that answers through consistent focus, calm, and some kind of gentle balance.

    1. These are fantastic and I like the way you are setting yourself up for success by being practical and specific. I would do well to follow your lead.

      Hoping 2020 is a great year for you and will be joining you in your intent to be GENTLE with everyone, most of all myself.


  3. My word this year is less:
    – Less time on my phone. Goal is to put it down between work & kid bedtime
    – Less plastic use. I need to reduce and reuse just as much as recycle
    – Less snacking to help lose those ever present last 5 pounds

    (And a few other mores! More writing, more travel, and more babysitters for more date nights)

    1. Brilliant – love all of these. I can also really get behind the more general idea of “less.” Simplify, de-clutter, make more of less. We are really trying to be better with food waste in particular in our house.


  4. Since you’ve first written about this idea of doing things to completion it’s been on my mind. Mostly because I do things to completion almost always, and maybe to a fault? Clean up before we leave, fold laundry and put away immediately, pick up as I go about my day – until at 6:00 PM I am stressed and can’t pinpoint exactly why. I think it’s because when does doing things to completion end? It doesn’t. Especially with four kids. So maybe I need to figure out how to do things incompletely? Or calculate my own downtime into the day and let some things wait?

    Just a tip about toddler meals which may or may not be helpful since it sounds like you and your husband eat later. I make sure to feed the kids whatever we are eating and then 1-2 familiar foods (cut up fruit or a vegetable or a cracker I know they like). I read somewhere that it’s overwhelming when they get a plate made up of entirely unfamiliar foods and they will exhibit more pickiness/control over what they are eating in response. So this method has always worked well for us. A couple new things or grown up foods and a couple familiar, simple things and that’s the dinner and they must try everything. Helps them to slowly expand their palate with less argument.

    1. Hi Amy — Such an interesting point! There’s always an extreme. Probably aiming for middle of the road is best here — do as much as you can to completion but let go when you just need to let go…I’ll be struggling alongside you from the opposite end of the spectrum.

      Such a good point about toddler meals! I read this when you first posted it earlier and have been putting it into practice, always ensuring that there are some “comfort” foods on her plate (i.e., she will ALWAYS eat green beans, cucumbers, any fruit under the sun, crackers). I now always include at least one of these things with her dinner. Great tip!


Previous Article

Next Article