The Magpie Diary: March 3, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop

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Elizabeth Gilbert has a one-line writing prompt (discovered via Leslie):

Dear love, what would you have me know today?

On Monday, I sat down to the words, and these fell out:

A few years ago, I was in an intense situation with a friend. I could not make heads or tails of it: I experienced a groundlessness in which I questioned myself, my heart, my motivations. I sought the counsel of my most trusted, and heard many well-intended things that seemed to only further complicate my vision–a mixture of unreconcilable “care for yourself first” and “let it go” messages. Somewhere in there, a dear friend wrote to me and said: “Trust yourself in these situations. Keep that in mind when you’re ping-ponged between pleasing everyone. And know that it is absolutely not your job to please everyone, despite the fact that you do it with grace and smarts.”

Even now, the words wrap me like a hug. (Maybe you need to hear it today, too.) The notion of “trusting myself” had not come naturally. I had in fact sought the imprimatur of other people that I trusted because I was so certain I was misreading the situation, mishandling myself. It felt unnatural to stop and think: “But what, underneath it all, do I really think? When I discard those guard petals related to meeting the expectations of persons A and B? What is at the tender center?” The exercise was terrifying and then empowering because it forced me to recognize how clouded-over my thinking had been with concerns for how others are receiving a situation and my role in it. It is not in my nature to toss something out without careful forethought, or to trot out a truth that has even a small chance of wounding someone. But how often had the impulse led me to contort, diminish, or even erase myself?

At the end of the day, this is my one wild and precious life, and I do not want to experience it as a watered-down version of myself. I want to live it at full-strength. I am working to build up that muscle.

So when I write: “My girl, what would you have me know today?”

I hear back: “Remember to trust yourself.”

What would love have you know today?

One footnote I adored from Gilbert’s prompt: “Another way to tap into your direct line to Love is to use endearments for yourself. It is human nature to create sweet nicknames for people and animals we love but so rare that we apply them to ourselves. In the first few days of this public exercise, I was delighted to read letters here in which people referred to themselves as: my little pebble, my pal, my sweetest baby birdie, little piglet, my little pot sticker, honey, pookie, my little humbug, my Valkyrie, sweet pea, my little boy, my anxious little squirrel. Have fun with your endearments — try to be truly open without fear or embarrassment. In other words, let your guard down, my anxious little squirrels!”

How charming?! I chose the endearment “my girl,” because this is what my mother has always called me (“how’s my girl?” being her routine conversation starter on the phone), and I now use it with my own daughter. It always makes me feel closely held.

A little grid from the week:

01. Tilly’s new perch on my desk. I shared this photo on Instagram and had so many questions about the frame — a lucky Amazon find! The price is for a set of two! I put the second one in my daughter’s bedroom with a framed photo of Tilly she’d chosen.

02. On Sunday, I went for a three mile run in the cold, took a hot shower, and then applied Clarins’ Cryo-Flash Cream Mask, which I know many of you adore just as I do. It feels like ice when applied — chills the skin! — and leaves it rejuvenated. I’m addicted. The combo of cold-hot-cold was a delightful sensory triumvirate, too. Clarins has been running a Friends & Family promo that I hope will still be live at the time of publication — up to 25% off sitewide, plus free shipping.

03. Making my way through the Rita Dove anthology, but more importantly, able to do it outside with the slightly milder temps we’ve been enjoying! Here I am, sitting on our little wooden lawn bench, watching my children scoot, reading. I am wearing the Frank and Eileen Aspen set and my Sambas — I love the pastel combo.

04. Zara has the cutest finds for little boys right now! My son was in need of some more casual bumming-around-the-house-and-playing-outside clothes, so I picked up a bunch of pieces for him: dog leggings, “fun dude” tee, Keith Haring skateboard tee, plain pocket tee, joggers, striped tee.

05. Sweetgrass Home sent me the most adorable tissue box cover for my son’s room! I love finding ways to invite different playful patterns into his room. Sometimes it feels like girls get all the fun patterns! You can see more of his room, slowly coming together detail by detail, here. I also picked up this Amazon tissue box cover for my bedroom this week — the pattern looks like Schumacher!

06. I’m usually a color/pattern gal (you know my Lake obsession), but I have been loving this all-black ensemble from Lunya (pajama set + robe), too. The material is divinely soft. For some reason it makes me feel fabulous to wear after I’ve just blown my hair out?

07. A new nook in my writing studio, brought to you by this $119 wicker side table and this cute Anthro tray. I like to keep whatever I’m currently reading on its top — it’s first thing I see when I walk into the room, and it always invites me to read, or to think about what I’m reading.

08. Another gift from Sweetgrass Home: absolutely perfect spring napkins. The ric rac trim! These are the inspiration for my Easter tablescape. I’m imagining a confetti of differently colored tulips for the occasion. The green stems will go perfectly!

A final little shopping note: I have this dress in utility green, this tweed jacket, and this Mille tunic en route to me now. Also selected these jammies for my children for Easter! Now I must figure out what we’ll be wearing for the actual occasion…

And! Appointed is offering 20% off sitewide with code ANNIVERSARY. You might recall these are my favorite notebooks for hand-drafting, note-taking, list-making. They’re gorgeous, and you can have them personalized. The paper has a great weight to it — no bleed through.

P.S. Treat yourself to a mai tai!

P.P.S. What are we reading next?

P.P.P.S. The stove works for you — and other perspectives and secrets from a well-loved kitchen.

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10 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: March 3, 2024.

  1. My high school English teacher at Stone Ridge got his masters at UVA and would tell a story about working at the Walmart in Charlottesville when Rita Dove came through is register. He congratulated her on being named Poet Laureate and he thought about how surprised (and thrilled?!) she must have been to be recognized by a Walmart cashier. He was my favorite teacher and died far too young from cancer. I love remembering that story 🙂

    1. I love this story – thank you so much for sharing it, and for honoring his memory! Beautiful!


  2. Jen, I have been so remiss in not offering my condolences on the loss of Tilly. To no longer have a constant companion and friend is so, so hard.
    I also wanted to comment on the way you and Landon approached this heavy situation with your kids… I was moved. As a pre-K teacher, I pride myself in knowing the details of my kiddos lives…. J had a soccer game this weekend, L bravely had his first vaccine… and I definitely know all of their pets. So it surprised me when mid year K says Oh my dog did that. I said K! How did I not know you have a dog? K: Oh… well, we don’t anymore. He passed away. Me: Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that. I bet he was a wonderful friend. K: Thsts ok. He was a really nice dog. I was struck by his tone (somewhere between mournful and matter of fact), and his words… passed away… really nice dog. Though I give lots of credit to my 4 year olds themselves, it seemed clear that someone had spoken to him about his dog’s passing in a way that allowed this open, mature, nuanced response in him. I know that you and Landon did something similar for your kids, and that is no small or easy thing.
    I know Tilly has nothing but good days as part of your family, and I pray you are all comforted by your memories. Sending big, big hugs. XO

    1. Thank you so much for the generous note. I love the story about K in your classroom. It reminded me of when my sister’s dog passed away, and my nephew said: “We found him on the stairs, and we were too late. He was gone.” I still cry when I think about it — the matter of factness, the mature “ache” for wishing he’d been there when he passed. Kids are so amazingly blunt and earnest in the face of death, and the things we are sometimes scared to talk about. It really is a gift.

      Thank you for the note.


  3. Jen, please tell me what size you purchased in the Mille tunic dress. I am normally a small. They only have two sizes available. It looks large, but their sizing guide says differently.

  4. That striped tee is so excellent! Almost a lightweight sweatshirt. I’d bought the red but ordered the pale blue stripe too since my son loved it so much.

    The kids and my husband have a bad cold, so I’ve been run ragged this weekend.

    My old heart, what would you have me know? I’m made of strong stuff.

    1. “My old heart” — I love this. Old in the sense that you’ve been together for so many years. You are made of strong stuff!! Hoping this week brings reprieve / recuperation / etc.


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