The Magpie Diary: Feb. 11, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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Above: I have a few of the beautiful decoupage trays and plates from John Derian. Such a great gift and way to add depth and whimsy to a shelf or console. And, my little fuzzy Birks sticking out.

I don’t want to write more about Tilly, but of course she was at the top of my mind this week, a cloud that followed me everywhere. That cloud was not always of the Eeyore-variety, though. Did you know there are whole practices (Maranasati meditation and probably others) that involve proactively reflecting on death as a daily habit? The idea is that accepting death enables us to live fully, with more urgency and mindfulness. The notion is alien and possibly distasteful to most of us because we are socialized to avoid talking about death, at least in Western cultures. (I was reminded of this, rather gruesomely, while watching “Saltburn” a few days ago…) Anyhow, my awareness that we are walking towards the end of Tilly’s life has left me more grateful, less flappable during this time.

It also helped me bring new energy and love to my daily household devotions. I’ve written on and off about the amorphousness of “the jobs” of our lives — how sometimes the little tasks that feel like interruptions, distractions, chores are in fact the real pith of life. I find this especially true in motherhood — on days I feel I’ve not done my best, I remind myself that still I packed the lunches, and read the bedtime stories, and asked after their days, and told them not to use toilet language, and urged them to eat, and wiped their noses, and folded their sweatshirts, and all of these things, all of these little nothings, are actually the real meat of motherhood. The tiny, almost invisible repetitions that stitch together into a pattern of care. The showing up in a thousand fractional interactions day in and day out. It’s all the job. It is the job. This, I am finding, is my trap door out of mom guilt.

The other day, I was sitting at the kitchen counter, shooing mini upstairs to get ready for bed, and she pressed her face to my shirt and said: “Just one second to get that magnificent smell.” Where she learned the work “magnificent” is beyond me, but I was struck by how much of who I am — the perfume I wear, the way I tie my hair, the jilty singing of her lullaby — are already endeared to her, permanently. I had not known she even noticed my perfume! And so, yes, another way of saying that the tiniest, most pointillist details of our lives add up to meaning, or connection, or identity. This makes me want to bring my whole self to every single moment, every decision. How you do anything is how you do everything. My children are watching and they notice the way I neatly stack the papers (or don’t, because does it really matter?), and everything is adding up to the woman I am.

Adjacent, random thought that I keep circling back to: physics tells us that we are not solid masses but actually empty space demarcated by electrons that are held together by electromagnetic energy. I choose not to reflect on this too much because it makes me feel the same way I do when I contemplate the vastness of outer space — unpleasantly disoriented, slightly unhinged — but there is a mimesis with my previous point, on how we are defined by all our tiniest interactions and repetitions and idiosyncrasies. We are not monoliths of motherhood, wifehood, creativity, etc — we are instead made up of these moving, evolving nodes of personality. I find this deeply reassuring. We are not one thing; we contain multitudes in constant motion.

Is this too much for a Sunday morning?

Onto some smaller matters:

Bodega blooms! We no longer have access to actual NYC bodegas, but I still consider these grocery store flowers the same. Amazing what fresh cut flowers can do for your mood. Treat yourself. Likewise, treat yourself to colorful leggings. Instant mood elevator. I just ordered these in the pastel pink. I stick out like a sore thumb in my gym, a sea of black and gray, but why not bring color to the drab?

Bodega blooms, repositioned. I love the waywardness of tulip. Go your own way, honey! Stick that out neck out there. Earlier this week, I received an email from the owner of Indian Springs Resort — we stayed there while visiting Calistoga, CA last October and I guess I ended up on their mailing list, a subscription that has proven to be a tremendous joy. She emails sporadically, but always with moving vulnerability and thought. This is not a standard hotel mailing — it’s not remotely promotional except for the fact that I am now permanently endeared to her and will absolutely be staying there when we return. A poet’s soul running a hotel! Anyhow, in this week’s email, she talks about the time her husband (now deceased) “went and gathered some flowers (some weeds too) and put them on the copier in a very artistic arrangement. He then wrote on the copy next to the flowers…Forever Flowers for Pat. I always have flowers and the romantic gesture stays with me. Sometimes the simplest gesture is the one we most cherish.” Can you even?! Just the handwriting on the paper is such a gift. This was one of the things that nettled me when my co-worker Nate passed away: I had already forgotten what his handwriting looked like, and it was at one point as familiar to me as my own. We sat so close to one another, and he was a prolific note-taker, doodler, list-maker. I probably could have forged his penmanship at one time. The absence of this small part of him hurt. One of his friends sent me a photo of a note in his hand, and I treasured it. So, yes, the smallest things — write them down! capture them! Pat goes on to say something adjacent: “Show your love to someone by doing something unexpected but simple. Write a short poem, draw a picture, bake a cake, make a special meal. Put yourself out and show someone you care. The gesture can have such deep meaning beyond the moment.” Amen, Pat. And thanks for the nudge.

P.S. A moment of appreciation for my vase, from Half Past Seven. Several Magpies asked after it this week on Instagram — it’s the absolute perfect size for a standard bouquet, and I love how the scalloped rim makes for easy arrangement. The flowers just fan out naturally. It’s available for pre-order now, and I strongly rec you do so — they do sell out of this frequently and it will be your most-used vase. Also a great gift for mother’s day, not too far out in the fields.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, and small gestures of kindness and care: I snapped this photo on the way to lunch with my mother this week and was reminded how lucky I am to live here, so close to her, in this season of my (and her) life. While at lunch, my mother told me that she had been so impressed with the Salvation Army team that had coordinated and picked up some items she wanted to donate that she called the manager up the next day “to thank them properly.” This is so my mother. May I one day become an extension of her ever-kind gesture. Her story, shared entirely absent of self-aggrandizement, just sort of “ho hum, what you do,” has me challenging myself to really see and thank the people who are doing great, or kind, work. I started with my son’s teacher, and my nail technician, but there are so many people who routinely help me, and I am determined to take a beat to let them know how appreciated they are.

A small thing, but if you’re from the Mid-Atlantic, you’ll get it: I could drink this. My favorite condiment for fries. I feel sometimes like the Mid-Atlantic is overlooked for its regional culture. We’re sandwiched here between the drawly South and the clipped North, with their attendant caricatures, but there is such originality of cuisine, and marine culture, and history, and topography here. There is nothing more beautiful to me than the rolling Virginia hills with the Blue Ridge backdrop, or the marshy wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay. We’re heading back to Charlottesville just for a night in a few weeks, rooming at Keswick, where we stayed the weekend Landon proposed to me!, and I can’t wait for the panorama.

Still loving (!) these little sticker tags from Joy Creative Club. So nice not to fuss with tape for tag/card, or the worry that your card will slip off somewhere in transit. I swear I am always wrapping a gift for a birthday party! Some of my go-to gifts for children here, and my gift closet must-haves here. Above: a personalized pouch, Ooly scratch art activity, and Usborne sticker book for a cute ballerina we know.

Ending on a bright note: these rainbow brite running sneakers are the definition of happy feet. Nike does the best colors. More of my recent Nike picks here, and more BRIGHTS for this mid-winter time here.

OK, before I branch off into another dense tributary of thought, let me conclude with a few shopping finds…

+Doen generously reached out to send me an item from their just-launched spring collection, and I spent a good hour hemming and hawing over what to pick. I think I would get a ton of wear out of this striped dress (mix, match, layer, wear with sandals — it’s a year-rounder!) but I’ve been feeling a kind of “life is short, wear color you love!” energy so I went with this spectacular floral dress. I couldn’t resist the pattern. Actually might tuck it away for Easter. Cannot wait to wear.

+All the cool girls are wearing Ossa phone wristlets. I think I need this little cutie.

+I’ve been contemplating carpenter jeans (yes, you read that correctly) ever since I saw them on the ultra chic Nicole Cassidy. Veronica Beard has some great pairs that are making a compelling case. Also kind of taken by this pair from Banana! Ooooo!

+VB also just launched handbags! The Goody style is, well, really good.

+I have this very specific vision for a fabulous beach/resort look on my mind: these pants, this suit, these sandals. Oo yes! The sandals are just the best. I reached for these more often than my Hermes Orans last summer. I feel like they look a tad dressier with dresses, but can also be easily worn with casual attire, too. I love the barely-there-ness. Very Greek Goddess.

+Speaking of warm weather wear: I think matching printed sets are going to be a big thing this summer. Zimmermann and Alemais always have great options (but spendy) — you might consider Farm Rio (top, shorts) or Lamare Gold for the look for a little less.

+Really love this belted “big shirt” from Gap. Wear to work with trousers, wear on the weekend with leggings. Chic and polished.

+Updated my Shopbop hearts with some realllll good finds.

P.S. The hard, jadeite places.

P.P.S. Spinning ourselves into the mothers we want to be.

P.P.P.S. The magic and mayhem of traveling with young children.

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6 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: Feb. 11, 2024.

  1. Interested to hear how your stay goes at the new Keswick. I live in cville and love Marigold (Keswick’s restaurant) but have heard mixed reviews on the hotel. If you need restaurant recs, I highly suggest Tavola, Public, Oakhart Social, Conmole, Bebedero…too many great spots to list them all!

    1. Will absolutely report back! Thank you for the restaurant recs — it’s been a minute since we’ve been there so appreciate the insider intel!


  2. Just another note on books about dogs (after recommending Dog Heaven earlier this week), I was reminded of how much I love and treasure Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs. A few of the poems show up in Devotions, too, but there’s something so comforting about an entire book of poetry dedicated to dogs. Would recommend 🙂

  3. Oh, I am just so so sorry to hear about Tilly. Pets are family, full stop — I cannot imagine a heaven without them. Sending much love your way ❤️.

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