The Magpie Diary: March 10, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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Earlier this week, a former colleague of mine sent out his annual birthday email, in which he reflects on what he’s learned over the prior twelve months. These words leapt out at me: “Be the parent that has the slowest heartbeat, the most relaxed body, the emptiest mind.” He goes on to explain that achieving these psycho-physical states of calm enables him to “co-regulate his children,” but I thought — these are good, and concrete, north stars for anyone living a modern life, parents or not. Ever since, I’ve been checking in with myself at odd moments: is my heart racing? am I hunched over? is my mind overflowing? and attempting to make micro-adjustments not too dissimilar in ethos from the ones derived from my reflections on yutori earlier this year.

When I focus on practicing yutori (finding spaciousness in my life), I find myself…

+Leaving a few minutes before I need to so that I have time to look around, and walk — not sprint — to the destination.

+Rounding up — on parking meters, on the windows of time I estimate between errands, on how long it will take me to finish a particular task.

+Putting my phone away while getting my nails done, and finding other places and times to not multi-task. Sometimes this is as simple as not calling someone while I’m driving somewhere.

+Instead of racing through a chore like folding the pile of discarded clothes that seems to materialize on my closet floor every few days, looking at the clock and telling myself, “Take the next 15 to get that done.” It’s always too much time, as though I’m using a too-big box. There’s lots of elbow room. It feels far less stressful to be operating in a designated time slot versus viewing the chore as an impingement on or obstruction to my long list of “sanctioned” to-dos. (In other words, this, too is the job — the errands, the laundry, the putting away of dishes — and so why am I treating it as if it’s marginal?)

When I focus on finding my colleague’s proposed psycho-physical states of calm, I find myself:

+Changing the audio landscape around me — this sometimes means turning off the music, and other times turning it on. Sometimes I want my noise canceling headphones with no music playing — just muffled silence — and other times I want nothing on my ears. Still other times, I walk outside seeking birdsong and breeze.

+Taking slower breaths, releasing my tongue from the roof of my mouth, stretching or moving my body.

+Looking carefully at what’s around me — the flowers now in bloom alongside our driveway, the budding cherry blossoms across the street, the way my son runs across the cul de sac to retrieve the baseball, the cardinal on the branch outside my window. A friend of mine told me that seeing a cardinal is a sign that those who have passed are with us. I was terribly moved by this, as a family of cardinals lives in the arbor vitae in our backyard, and I routinely spotted them on the branches from my studio, but hadn’t ever given them much thought or careful notice. Now I make a point to watch them when they alight nearby. Profound visitations, easy to miss.

+Giving my husband or children a hug. I miss Tilly for many reasons, but this is a particularly hard pill: sitting on the floor by her dog bed, giving her some love at 2:02 in the afternoon, instantly settled and re-centered me.

Yutori is more conceptual — how might I manage my time differently to avoid the feelings of distractedness and overwhelm? My colleague’s approach anchors in the body: what might I change in my posture or position to relieve stress?

Both remind me to live where my feet are.

The necessary pre-op for all of this: what can I let go of? What does not matter today? The time I’m claiming for myself displaces other things — and I must make careful peace with those tradeoffs. After all, time is finite, in both liberating and terrifying ways. Molly Sims recently interviewed time management specialist Oliver Burkeman on her podcast, and he captured this duality well when he talked about the fact that the average human has about 4,000 weeks on this earth. He explained: “What’s so terrifying about a week is, on the one hand, you don’t get very many of them — 4, 000 or so is not a large number. But on the other hand, it’s kind of incredibly easy to wonder where the last week or two went in your life. So I just think that calls attention to the preciousness of it.”

A good tune to carry into the week ahead: “Let me call attention to the preciousness of this day.”

The words carry extra ballast this week, as my daughter turned seven — and how? Finding umbrage in the words: “Omnia mutantur, nihil interit” (“everything changes; nothing is lost”) and the sentiment that we carry all the ages of our children with us. We put on a big Taylor Swift to-do for our girl, singing “You Belong to Me” in a recording studio with 12 other little girls and a devoted brother, too. The favors were friendship bracelets and scrunchies tied together with these personalized tags — my favorite detail besides the Taylor Swift face cake (!!!). Live and learn: you can have any photograph imprinted on a sheet cake at Harris Teeter. I also personally thought these iridescent and disposable tablecloths made the tablescape, especially as we tacked this sign to the wall. I live for a detail! We spread the tables with heart sunnies and loads of Taylor Swift stickers and it’s funny how crazy the girls were about them? I remember loving stickers at that age, too – what is it about them? Something material that you can imprint on the world? After the recording part, we had cake and made friendship bracelets. All of the photos of my daughter at the party involve lots of her other little girlfriends so I don’t feel comfortable posting but they were in seventh heaven, as was her abiding brother Hill — giving mini Elton John vibes as he looks on below.

On her proper birthday, she requested pancakes, bacon, and strawberries for breakfast, and pizza for dinner — and we obliged. Her favorite gift was the karaoke machine Mr. Magpie bought her (a Wirecutter rec for kids)! She is on that thing at all hours of the day, belting out Taylor Swift. I think it’s thrilling to have the microphone, the words, the disco ball. (You sync to an iPad so all the lyrics come up.) This gift was following closely by a new pair of Nike sneakers — she’d specifically asked for one “in a cool color.”

What else? I already shared some of my budding thoughts on our quick trip to Charlottesville here, but this Miranda Lambert song came on the radio and it captures a lot of the feelings, or adjacent ones. The sensation of getting back to some earlier state of life, self; the sensucht for something simple. I love the lyric “Right where the dirt road meets the asphalt // Meets the real world and says goodbye // I’m always driving back there in my mind.” It’s good line writing, especially the fixed “right where” in friction with the vaporous “says goodbye,” and the visual of dirt meeting asphalt as an imaginary distinction between “the old world” of memory and the “real world” of now. Good driving music, too — turn her on, turn it up, and see what you think.

A few other notes on the Charlottesville trip, most inquiries from readers: we stayed at Keswick and thought the experience was exceptional. Beautifully appointed rooms, friendly and hospitable staff, gracious common areas, thoughtful details. It does not feel much like the Keswick we knew back when we were engaged (15 years ago, oh my God!), but I’m not sure that change is an obvious demerit. The place still feels “soft around the edges” (a Magpie reader’s turn of phrase!) — slow, easy — just as the rest of Charlottesville does. We had drinks at Crawford’s (the bar in the hotel, seen below with my $10 shades) and then ate at Marigold, a beautiful dining room on the Keswick property with prompt and courteous staff. As with the hotel, there isn’t much that feels “old Virginia” about it. In fact, the restaurant — perhaps the entire hotel? — could easily be in Napa Valley. This felt interesting in the ambient cultural focus on the hyper-local, as it made us question that imperative, or the narratives we presume around authenticity. The photo at the top of this post is from the front courtyard of the hotel, and could easily be in Europe!

Final note on the trip: we had a beautiful time visiting a small winery called Gabriele Rausse. It is atypical of the Virginia wine scene — you aren’t in lush, rolling hills, emerging from a pillared building. The winery is set back into the side of a rocky hill, and the structure is modern-rustic. (Mr. Magpie and I joked it’d be the perfect house for a thriller.) The wines were solid, and they serve you crusty complimentary baguette with delicious olive oil as you taste. The real charm of the place: you’re sitting at picnic tables and slatted chairs nestled into foliage and gravel path, and you hear birdsong — and frogsong (!) — and nary a car. The owner’s dog meanders from table to table. We felt as far from the rush of our daily life as we could get. The winemaker is something of a darling in the Charlottesville wine community — he’s worked for Barboursville, Blenheim, White Hall, Afton Mountain, Kluge, and I think I saw he’s still head groundskeeper at Monticello, or has some prominent affiliation with its botanics. The wines are more old world European style (he is Italian!) than you’ll find at other Virginia vineyards. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area and looking for something new. Besides Gabriele Rausse, I’d recommend Early Mountain and Barboursville — I think those two have the best Virginia wines.

Final few notes:

+A Magpie asked for spring dresses (“think Derby”) and I had so much fun coming up with options. My top picks: this flirty and fun Rixo, this striped Rebecca Vallance (she deserves a julep), this happy yellow Simkhai, and this under-$200 ray of sunshine. I’m always drawn to “structure” / err on the side of preppy for horse race type festivities, but I also think you could run in the other direction with this floaty floral from Doen. And my polka dot dress from last weekend is giving Pretty Woman vibes — an iconic horse race moment to consider.

+Another reader question: good crossbody bag for a European summer trip. I recommended my Paris64 prismatic bag, seen in the photo at Crawford’s bar above! She goes effortlessly with a cocktail dress or jeans, zips all the way around, and carries just enough (phone, keys, wallet, lip gloss). I also haven’t seen her on anyone else, so I like that aspect. For the price, it looks much fancier than it is IMO. The leather is gorgeous. Comes in lots of colors.

+These jeans from La Ligne arrived and I’m dazzled by the fit. They work with my curves and are deeply comfortable — I wore them all day at my writing desk. I can’t say the same for all of my jeans. (Aside: the thought of ever wearing a low rise jean again sends shivers down my spine.) La Ligne also sent over this cropped denim top and this denim jacket and I cannot wait to style both. I usually err on the side of feminine/polished, so I like the challenge their more dressed-down-androgynous-leaning denim pieces present me with. I find I like to balance out with a ladylike ballet flat, cropped jacket, or bag. You can see me in the first outfit I wore them with below: Leset pointelle tee, macrame jacket (restocked!). Note that the jeans are olive green — a trending color at the moment (more on that here). Also, a little reminder that you can get 10% off at La Ligne with code MAGPIE10.

OK, off we go into the week ahead! Wishing you calm seas.

P.S. It’s Sunday! Mix up a Mai Tai and throw on the Oscars!

P.P.S. It’s OK if you don’t have it all figured out.

P.P.P.S. You can change who you are at any time, and with no one’s permission.

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4 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: March 10, 2024.

  1. Are the La Ligne jeans cropped on you like the model or longer? I have no problem hemming, I just am having the hardest time figuring out the right lengths for my jeans these days!

    1. They are not cropped on me – I’m 5’0 and I can wear without hemming but they are more full-length on me.


  2. Recommendations for Derby dresses for those of us over 50 who don’t want a maxi, a mini. Nothing low cut, nothing sleeveless and it MUST be comfortable to wear all day long. And to make this even more difficult, I am 5’3 and 98 pounds. It is REALLY difficult to find something without spending $1000. Ordered an expensive Tory Burch silk dress to try. Love Adam Lippes but too expensive. Found a few on sale that I love from Saks but I cannot return so I am not risking. Think Roland Mouret (but suspect not comfortable to wear 12 hours and move in all day).

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