Musings + Essays

The Years That Ask Questions; The Years That Answer.

By: Jen Shoop

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

This quote made me sit upright in my chair: wow.  It brought to mind Alison’s response to my jagged musings on 2017: “Some years pass kind of quietly and others you come out at the end a completely different person than when you started. It’s clear this one was the latter!”

Last year asked a lot of questions.  Come to think of it, last year asked a lot of me, full-stop.  It was an intense, unwieldy, incessant series of swoops and dips into stress, emotions, and challenges I’d not anticipated.  I became a mother, I recovered from a c-section, I closed a business, I moved cities, I bungled through a botched move, I parted ways with a home, I metamorphosed into an entirely new kind of work.  I did not always handle the turbulence elegantly.  I remember stepping into the glass-walled shower of our old Chicago home about eight or nine days after mini was born, turning on the water, and sobbing for no reason and every reason.  I am a crier by nature, but this was different: I could not give a name to the intensity of what I was feeling.  “Why am I crying?” I wondered, groping for the familiar shapes of disappointment, or frustration, or hurt, or tenderness and emerging empty-handed.

Now I know: it was the agony of change, offset by painkillers and hormones from mini’s delivery, shot through with the thrill and potency of new parenthood.

I wouldn’t say that 2018 has presented me with answers, exactly, as I still have only the haziest idea of what the future will hold.  But 2018 is an answer, even if I haven’t yet discerned its meaning.  It has the feel of resolution, of a page turned.  “Here, then: the next chapter.”

What about you?  Is 2018 a year that is asking questions or answering?


I absolutely loved listening to Sarah Jessica Parker on the Goop podcast.  She is whip smart, deeply kind, ambitious, and self-effacing.  Her vocabulary is sterling, too — she uses “circumspect” where I might use something banal like “cautious” — and she talks a bit about her love of books, her relatively new imprint with Hogarth, and the first book she published through it, which I now am desperate to read.  (Listening to her marvel over the book was delicious.)

I adore the brass crab figurine in the snap above.  I think I need one for my bookshelves — a nod to my Mid-Atlantic roots.  I also love that it’s nestled alongside a vintage Cecil Beaton New York book!  #COVET

These are at the top of my beauty lust list.  I’m currently using and loving this — hint, hint, I will be gifting this to basically every woman I know at some point this year — which seems to fill a similar beauty niche, but…glow drops?!

I am absolutely obsessed with Jonathan Van Ness from the re-boot of Queer Eye.  (Can another season come out ASAP?)  My father recently chided me for my overuse of the word “obsess,” but this circumstance merits its use.  He is hilarious, self-deprecating, thoughtful, modern, and this interview was a delight.

I love the simplicity of these K. Jacques sandals.  Thinking they might be my go-to next summer.

I need to get out of my candle rut.  I am contemplating this, this, or this.  (PSSST – check out the copywriting on the Goop candle description.  Outrageously stirring and provocative!  Who writes for her?!  Get that woman a book deal for her first volume of poetry.)

Thinking I might snag a bottle of this for those weeks in between Tilly’s baths.

My mom gave me one of these in my stocking one year, and I use it every day after getting out of the shower.  Genius because my hair gets really tangly.

A fancy version of sun-in!

Has anyone tried Outdoor Voices’ relay shorts?  I’m inclined to give them a whirl in that cheery pink or sweet lilac.

I use these clear pouches when traveling — they’re TSA approved for all of your liquids and much chic-er than a baggy.  Also, on sale RN!

Speaking of travel, Paravel is offering 20% off orders over $75 with code OUTOFOFFICE.  I have long been eyeing their chic weekender and crossbodies, both of which can be personalized with hand-painted lettering and emojis!

I’m intrigued by these gorgeous turquoise AB sandals, which boast a heel far more manageable than the pair I usually wear of theirs and a price tag that is pretty darn impossible to turn down, but — what to wear them with?!  I’ve never worn turquoise in my life…

I have a major crush on this bag by Naghedi, which looks like Bottega Veneta to me.


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13 thoughts on “The Years That Ask Questions; The Years That Answer.

  1. I recently found your blog and have been enjoying going back and reading other articles you’ve written – thanks to your gift of linking, which is how I landed on this one in December (at least it’s the same year?)!

    One thing I wanted to say is that I’m about 98% sure you also would have used “circumspect” in a discussion. Your writing makes me think more than any other blog I read/have read. I routinely google words that you use that I do not know. I LOVE this aspect. I used to be an avid reader and thus had a wider vocabulary that has since dwindled a bit. Reading your posts has definitely upped my game a bit, so thank you!

    1. Ahh Jessica! What a compliment. Thank you so much. I love filching words from others — have slyly worked “avuncular” into my vocabulary after some strenuous exertion. (Kind of like jump-roping as a kid, your shoulders rocking back and forth until you find the right moment to jump in — that was me. “Now can I use it?” I’d ponder, taking in a new sentence. “Now? Now? NOW!”)

      Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. I’m so flattered — and happy you are here. xo

  2. I’m so behind on my blog reading but tickled to see my lil ol’ comment mentioned in the same sentence as that very smart observation by ZNH.
    I feel like I’m on year 2 or 3 of the question-asking and am really ready for a question-answering year. I try to look on the bright side (I’m learning something, I’m sure! It’s good to be uncomfortable sometimes!) but it wears on me sometimes. Le sigh…

    1. Oh man — I feel you! Sending you good vibes and hoping that 2019 is full of big fat answers.


  3. Originally, I followed your blog because your style selections / aesthetic, appeals so much to my taste. You are very talented with respect to style.

    Now, I feel like I sit down everyday and have a really interesting conversation with an incredibly intelligent person, it’s a lovely part of my day. Your writing is as beautiful as your sense of style. Keep it up

    1. Oh my gosh – thank you so much for this incredibly thoughtful and generous note! You’ve absolutely made my week. Thank you thank you thank you. So glad we’ve found each other! xoxo

  4. I just finished reading SJP’s “A Place for Us” and was absolutely blown away. One of the best books I’ve read in years (and I loved the symmetry of this amazing novel being my book #30 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2018!). I highly recommend this book! 🙂

  5. Coming here to say something similar to what Taylor said — the OV Hudson Shorts are far superior! I have them in three colorways and LOVE. THEM. I wasn’t keen on the fact that the Relays didn’t have any lining whatsoever! Love OV in general, though — I think it’s just a personal preference.

    I’ve always loved that quote from Zora Neale Hurston (ever since I read TEWWG in 8th grade!) and love your musings around the topic as well. For me, 2018 is a year of asking questions (related to my relationship and to my career). I’m excited to see what the future holds, though, and to find out when I might have answers to the questions I’ve been pondering!

    Those Clarita sandals are too cute, but I agree re: turquoise — it’s never been one of my go-to colors. I think they could look super fetching paired with a navy dress, though!

    1. Cheers to a year of asking — those can be the most challenging, limbo-like years, but can also be thrilling. Hang in there!!

      Thanks for the insight on the OVs! I hadn’t noticed they were unlined — that’s gonna be a no for me.


  6. I have tried the Relay shorts, but sent them back. I would say they are the athletic short equivalent of men’s boxer equivalent – loose fitting, lightweight. I thought they were overpriced given that there’s no built in runderwear. I preferred and kept the Hudson shorts instead, whose waistband was much more comfortable than anticipated.

    1. Thanks for the heads up! Had not even thought about that. I’ll look into those Hudsons instead! xo

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