Rhythms + Love.

By: Jen Shoop
I think, then, how a life led by love requires so little, and gives so much.

I have been learning to play golf this summer, and during my first few visits to the range, I would reach the top of my swing and experience a mild sensation of panic. What am I supposed to do now? Am I even going to hit the ball? I feel out of control! Do I stop the club here or keep reaching back? An instructor advised me to slow my swing: “Even professional golfers swing the club at 80% capacity.” To my surprise, once I drew the club back at a more measured pace, the top-of-swing turbulence disappeared, and I was better able to consistently connect with the ball. I felt less like I was forcing the ball into the air and more like I was letting the ball connect with my swing. The movement unfolded more naturally.

A reminder, of course, to begin as you mean to continue, a sentiment that has been on my mind the past few weeks, as I’ve been consistently returning to two quotes:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

“How we do anything is how we do everything.” (Unattributed)

So the question is, of course, how do I want to spend my life? (No big deal.) And what are the chief attributes I want to bring to bear in my daily ministrations to the people and things I love (and even those I do not)?

The words that continued to surface were, to my surprise, not nouns — not accomplishments, not pastimes, not values — but adverbs: slowly, gracefully, with intention.

In my creative life, and also — I believe! — in my marriage, I have been focused on finding slowness, grace, and intention for a long time, and feel I am in the presence of good rhythms. There is always room to improve, but I have been aware and underway for a long while now. Every morning, I sit at my desk and shake hands with the empty page, no matter how inspired I feel. I take notes all day long — in notebooks, on my phone, via the collage of post-its that dot every surface of my office. I know how to pause and unpause my writing, how to move slowly through language when it matters, how not to force my own hand, how to find my way “into the pocket.” I know nothing of the quality of my work, but I attend its practice daily, with care and optimism.

I have found similar flow in my marriage. Parents of young children understand that it often feels like you only have the scraps of the day to share — that by the time the children are tended to, you have meager little time to yourself, let alone your relationship with your spouse. But we have found wafer-thin ways to connect throughout the day, making careful use of the offcut: we eat lunch together at the kitchen counter, usually texting mid-morning to confirm when he’ll be off his call and I’ll be done with the bulk of my writing; we huddle around a board game in the morning or during happy hour; we share two pints of ice cream on the couch after the children are in bed; we whisper to one another at night. And we clip into shared pastimes together: that summer we hiked every Monday morning; the month we spent touring the erotic thrillers of the 80s and 90s; our erstwhile obsession with the indoor bike and the way we’d compare notes on the instructors; and now, our fledgling interest in golfing together. All of these trivial engagements are ways of saying I love your company, with the added bonus of slowing time, making it fall slack around the two of us. I think of nearly nothing at all while we are playing Azul or swinging our clubs next to one another. But there is, always, the slow and pleasant thrum of companionship. “You crushed it,” he’ll say, absently, shuffling his driver out of his bag, and “That one sounded good,” I’ll return, without even following the ball with my eyes, and the words mean almost nothing except the impossible wideness of the implied I love you.

I could do better to live out these attributes as a mother, though. I feel I am still clipping through my days with my children at breakneck speed. There is so much to do! Plates to clean, hair to brush, snacks to pack, paper and crayons to fetch, bandaids to smooth over skinned knees. There are piles of shed pajamas on the kitchen floor, and a puddle of milk on the dining room table. But I don’t want to lose their magic to these minutaie. I am especially fixated on improving my marching bedtime manner. For a long time now, I have begrudged bedtime. I know many parents love that time of day, when the children are winding down, and snuggles abound, and the same books our parents read to us are shared with our own babies, in their fresh pajamas and their love-worn coverlets. But I struggle, routinely, to find the joy in it. I am usually tired, and preoccupied with ensuring teeth are brushed and toys are away, and fatigued by the routine delay tactics. There is, however, one tiny and recurring moment of joy amidst the nighttime footslog: after I have said prayers and affirmations, and have read a chapter of a book, and have sung my son his lullaby, and have watched him take a long drink from his water bottle (a crucial step my miniature tyrant insists I not miss — I must have my eyes open and upon him), I tuck him beneath his quilt and tell him the sweet things all mothers say to their sons: the I’ll love you forever and the Nothing you could do would change how much I love you and the You are perfect just like you are. And my four-year-old son, who is, at the moment, a riot of toddler emotions and a ping-ponging boy energy and an incessant bearer of toilet jokes and a loud talker (my husband and I call him “All Caps,” as he ONLY SPEAKS LIKE THIS AT ALL TIMES OF DAY), will lay his head on his pillow and adopt a visage of pure serenity while I lay my love litany at his feet. His face is composed, absorbing. And I feel that deep, abundant surge of maternal pride, and I think how good life is, how pure and simple. For a moment, I think how loving my son is like feeling the sun on my face, and the warm sand underfoot, and the arboreal dampness of a walk through the woods: just as natural and profound.

I think, then, how a life led by love requires so little, and gives so much. How the smallest expression of love can stretch time and sweeten its passage, asking for nothing at all in return.


+Another way of saying “How to stop time: kiss.”

+On being weird.

+A love letter to my husband, which shares both: “I swear he spent half of his twenties waiting for me to get ready, draining Heinekens” and “We were together — I forget the rest.”

If you want more Magpie, you can subscribe to my Magpie Email Digest for a weekly roundup of top essays, musings, conversations, and finds!

Shopping Break.

+Somehow, this Doen dress is under $100. So perfect for fall.

+Cutest reusable sandwich bag.

+The whipstitch trim on this sweater reminds me of Toteme.

+Elegant boss lady bag.

+This paisley skirt is in my cart.

+If you’re traveling soon — this set of blockprint packing cubes (monogrammable!) is so cute, and this clever toiletry case (keep all bottles/tubes upright in their own separate compartments!) is discounted in select colors.

+THE sweetest fall jacket for an itty bitty baby girl.

+A perfect fall flat. As you know, I love furlanes! I lived in them all last winter.

+Chic cooking utensil set. Ideal if you’re prioritizing aesthetics but don’t cook as much — because we have our favorite brands/styles for all cooking implements! (Some of which you may not have.) A more recent addition to our crock: a spoodle! It’s SO helpful for when you’re cooking pasta, potatoes, veg, etc, and you want to isolate one small piece to test for doneness.

+SO curious about this portable hair tool (Tymo) that a Magpie shared with me recently. Has anyone used? It’s marketed as a travel hair straightener but in some of the videos I watched, women are using more as a way to tidy/neaten up/refresh hair after, for example, a day of travel or a workout.

+This sweatshirt is straight-up cool. Love the washed fabric effect.

+Chanel-inspired flats.

+Magpie intel: this body scrub is out of this world. A reader wrote to say it completely resolved her issue of bumpy skin.

+This fall floral dress is legitimately perfect.

+Autumn isn’t that far off…!

Leave A Reply

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

12 thoughts on “Rhythms + Love.

  1. Catching up on a block of posts and would love a future post/small snippet on games that you + your husband play together. We are similarly in the deep thicket of young-child-raising and during the small slivers together (aka 20 minutes before we pass out with exhaustion every evening), often revert to reading side by side and/or consuming some sort of show together. While it’s often a necessary rest for our minds, I’d love to get a bit more creative/connected during these slices of time together… we play chess from time to time, but the vast majority of games in our cabinets require larger groups. Would love some recs!

    1. Hi! We do the same at night – it’s almost too much exertion after bedtime to play a round…BUT, on the weekends and during the summer, we like to play a round during/after breakfast, while our kids are semi-self-sufficient/preoccupied with playing. Our favorite two-player games are: Azul (our fav fav fav), Jaipur, Patchwork, and Hive. We used to play Scrabble but I was too contentious! Ha 🙂


  2. The lump in my throat is throbbing -if I wasn’t in my office right now, I would give into it and sob big tears of gratitude for this writing. How blessed are we to experience the smallest expressions of love? This resonates on such a deep level. First, your words on marriage. Before our daughter, my husband and I were very intentional about our time together. We had season tickets to the civic center, loved dining at upscale restaurants and spent many long weekends in glamorous boutique hotels. Those days seem like a lifetime ago. We don’t live near family, so reliable evening/overnight childcare isn’t easily available. Not to mention, I have no desire to leave our little one for long stretches of time…when does this get easier?

    It does feel like we are left with the “scraps” of the day. I often worry that we aren’t “dating each other” (advice shared with increasingly regularity since becoming a mother two years ago). Are we putting enough work into our marriage?

    But like you, we always find our way back to each other though those “wafer-thin” moments. Thank you for reminding me that the smallest expressions are often more beautiful and treasured than the grand ones.

    Lastly, this line stopped me in my tracks-
    “loving my son is like feeling the sun on my face, and the warm sand underfoot, and the arboreal dampness of a walk through the woods: just as natural and profound.”

    So beautiful. So true. Thank you for bringing these feelings of gratitude to the surface today.

    1. Oh gosh, Brittney – thank you so much for letting me know how much this piece meant to you! I’m so glad I’m not alone in these thoughts/sentiments. I do think it gets easier as the kids grow up to prioritize our relationship — we’ve been able to get away just the two of us a lot more lately, to play golf, to go out to eat, etc. It does get easier. But rest easy, anyhow: you are making the most you can of the offcut and I totally agree that sometimes it’s the smallest act of love that means the most. I remember nearly crying when my husband would bring me oatmeal in the mornings while I was nursing my son in those very early days of newborndom. It was the sweetest gesture, not to even make me get out of bed or wonder what to eat.

      Thank you again for the lovely note.


  3. I too am going to try the Tymo – I have three trips to Europe this fall! I do a lot of work travel especially over the past two years and my crazy, turning grey, dry and frizzy hair is always a disappointment,

      1. Ok – I tried it and it seems fantastic. I was a bit confused when I turned it on (it takes a bit to heat up so I didn’t think it was working as it doesn’t feel very hot at first.)

        I’ll have to try it on not-air-dried-in-the-humidity hair to be really sure – but it still made a big difference!

  4. Loved this writing today. It brought back so many fond memories of raising my children. Thank you.

    The statement “I know nothing of the quality of my work, but I attend its practice daily, with care and optimism.” stopped me in my tracks. Your quality of work is just amazing! Please know that you wouldn’t have all your daily following Maggie’s if you weren’t worth reading everyday. I read countless comments where people say they look forward to reading your blog daily. I too find it the very first thing I open when I sit down each morning. You have a very special gift of pouring your perspective into your work and rounding the sharp edges of the content with love and grace. Such a talent!
    In short, you are a trasure!
    I ordered the TYMO Porta styler for its smaller size, ease to handle, battery operated (no dang cord to limit my movement) but especially now because I am recovering from a broken elbow and wrist and need all of the flexibility this provides. I will definitely let you know my opinion, since I too love the newer Revlon, but it is very bulky. Hope to find the TYMO a nice sleeker version. Fingers crossed!

    1. Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for the lovely words. I’m so flattered you invite me into your day – thank you for the compliments, and for the compliment of your loyal readership!!!

      Yay!! Please report back on the TYMO!


Previous Article

Next Article