Musings + Essays

What Song Do You Secretly Love?

By: Jen Shoop

The other day, I was driving on 495 (a topic for another day, but it’s been…an adjustment getting back behind the wheel after four years of never driving, and I am trying not to make my newborn fear of highway driving “a thing” but YIKES! How do people drive 495 and 270 daily?! Horrifying!) and Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time” came on the radio. I was immediately transported to summer in Chicago, circa 2015, zipping down Wacker with Mr. Magpie and our best friends, the windows down, the air warm and wild around us. We’d just finished one of those architectural boat tours of the city which are, in fact, a fantastic way to see Chicago and much less cheesy than you’d think. There was alchemy afoot between the girlishness of Ariana’s song and the carefree frivolity of the day and the feel of Chicago in the summertime and the windows down and the music up. I was young(er), and happy, and unencumbered. It felt natural to sing at the top of my lungs over the roar of the wind.

Or at least that’s how I remember that time but I am certain there were heavinesses on my mind and heart at that age, or if not heavinesses, questions and everyday stressors. A lot happened to us in Chicago. Not all of it bad and none of it so unique or trying that it sets me apart from any other woman in her late 20s. There were losses and embarrassments. It was mainly a coming of age. We arrived wide-eyed newlyweds and we left somewhat burnt out, but wiser and scrappier and with the tremendous blessing of our beloved daughter. Still, it took until a magical meal a year into living in Manhattan for us to fully emerge from that headspace. Then came Hill, a true and thorough joy — but also the dawn of a sustained period of exhaustion that in turn drew us straight into COVID, and, well, the first few months of the pandemic were pretty dark. Though it bears noting that the sun still rises everyday, and that we made it, and that there are so many families that have been through hell and worse and sometimes not back during this same time period. Soy bendecida, soy bendecida, soy bendecida.

Anyhow, Ariana’s song feels emblematic of those early, halcyon days in Chicago — pre-children, pre-entrepreneurship, pre-COVID. Still laboring under the apprehension that the world was our oyster. I’m sure this algebra will change as I age, but at the moment, I see my life drawn into four segments along an x axis, and some of these segments overlap: 1) pre-Landon, 2) with Landon, 3) with children, 4) with the pain and insights that came of closing our business. What I mean by #4 is that at some point in 2017, we closed a business we had built together, which is a lot less straight-forward than it sounds. Closing that business together was painfully drawn out, sort of like removing ten thousand porcupine quills from your skin one-by-one and very slowly. There were the early rumblings that it might be something we should consider. Not-so-frank, then-very-frank conversations with our funders. The trimming back of plans, the loss of staff. The million little, impossibly excruciating details — contracts to consider, accounts to close, people to tell, associations to quit. And behind all of those logistics laid bare a gaping wound with no doctor to treat it. Oh. Those were hard days. I write that and I feel compelled to qualify: but we ended up fine! we learned so much! we landed on our feet! I wouldn’t be here without being there! we were lucky to have the space to start that business together! at least we had the companionship of each other! this is all small potatoes compared to the travails of so many others! However, I still look back and absolutely freeze. I have the sense that when I look back at this x axis, I will forever consider the end of our business a turning point in my life, a phase somehow on par with other major shifts, like puberty, and matrescence, and becoming a wife. It was identity-changing: a collision of outlandish expectations with gut-wrenching realities.

Oof. A bit heavy there, but perhaps the broader tableau explains why I have a profound affection for that Ariana song, which is really not that great (though some of her other early songs were!), and whose lyrics mean virtually nothing to me (“baby come back,” in so many words). It is breezy and catchy and the opening chimes bring to mind steel drums and island time and the uniquely spectacular and old-timey joy of summer in Chicago. Maybe I am giving the song short shrift, though — there is something in the rise of her voice in the chorus that feels perfectly synchronized with the way I felt in 2015: in hopeful ascent. Which is not to say that the past many years have been a downslope, nor that I would change anything, nor that I would like to go back to that time. (I need my babies around me.) I have come to a place where I am “perplexed and awed / by how every little thing / added up and brought / [me] somewhere wonderful — or /where [I] always wanted to be.”

Still, that song. It draws me to a good place.

What song do you secretly love? Or rather — what unexpected song holds special meaning for you?


+Another song I really related to a few months ago.

+And another.

+On our botched move from Chicago to NYC, Part I and Part II.

+Prayers for uncertain times.

Shopping Break.

+I mentioned recently I was going to start using hand soap dispensers in our kitchen and was leaning towards this inexpensive but elegant style. I also came across two styles that have won awards for their slick designs: this one by Danish company Zone and this one by German company Blomus.

+Y’all are loving this smocked top for fall, and I think it will be perfect with jeans but also layered underneath some of the nap dresses I’ve been seeing on preview from Hill House! I saw one that is very similar to this Emilia Wickstead style (<<only one size left here) I have been dreaming of for years now.

+Recently read that this Chanel lipstick in the “Boy” color is a fantastic nude on many skin tones. Intrigued…have definitely been in the mood to play around with cosmetics now that we are seeing more friends and have more on our social calendar.

+Oo! This is pretty for a date night this fall.

+It’s interesting — this post didn’t get that many comments, but I received so many emails and messages of solidarity around “the witching hour” from you lovely fellow mamas.

+5-pack of boys t-shirts in great colors to add to your fall shopping list.

+Massive sale at Farm Rio — this dress is SO good.

+I would secretly love to play this game.

+We searched high and low for a Haws watering can a few weeks back and couldn’t find one anywhere! I just found some in stock here in the 1-gal size. FYI! You can also get the look for a little less with this under-$30 one — love the green and copper combo.

+Had to get these socks for mini. Love the retro styling!

+Running out in and out of the backyard all the time makes me realize how handy clogs will be this fall. Just slip on and go!

+These mules are super similar to a popular pair by Loeffler Randall — but under $40.

+Love the vibe of this herringbone blazer with distressed denim.

+OMG these hand-embroidered tees and bows!

+Love this dress in the bold fall print!

+Can’t stop thinking about this cardigan. Also love this one with the velvet bows!

+Eyeing this body oil for myself. This brand is pricey but the products are so elegant!

+These little boy sneakers remind me of Gucci! Also love this $25 khaki colored pair. So chic!

+Only a few sizes left of this darling kilt from Bellabliss’ precious new arrivals!

+These cosmetic bags frequently sell out.

+Cute sherpa vest for a little man.

+Fox jammies!

+Still can’t get over this cocktail dress…Thanksgiving?!

+Thoughtful and chic gifts.

+It doesn’t have to be the blue iris.

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17 thoughts on “What Song Do You Secretly Love?

  1. Such a fun prompt! I keep a ‘nostalgia’ playlist full of hundreds of songs that are imbued with meaning, so it will be hard to pick just one (!) Looking at it now, a lot of the songs are more of “secret” faves, too. Haha! I just looked at recently added songs … “I Swear” by All-4-One, which reminds me of my first slow dance with a boy (!) and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”, which I would hardly admit to liking but which is a pretty pretty pretty good pop song and also reminds me of dance parties during college. Haha! The kids have also recently discovered Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA”, which also reminds me of ironically using it as a party song in college. I’m cringing but only a little bit 😉


    1. Oh yes to all three of those songs! “I Swear” — are you kidding me? Middle school dance all over that one. You took me right back to my elementary school gym with that, which then reminded me of the time I performed a tribute to Selena with the rest of my seventh grade class in front of the entire school wearing a tie-dye tee, butterfly clips, braces. I still remember some of the moves. “Late at night when all the world is sleeping…”

      OMG. Serious cringe, but also — now that I’m in my 30s — kind of amazing/cute. Standard awkward preteen stuff.


  2. Loved this post. I spent my years right out of college in Madison, Wisconsin, which, not unlike Chicago, has glorious summers. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Taylor Swift’s Red album take me back to those (relatively) carefree days, when I imagined my adult life would be a frictionless, linear path. 🙂 Of course it sounds naive to say now, but I say it with compassion for recent-grad me, who “knew” the Bad Romance dance including the floor segment.

    1. “I imagined life would be a frictionless, linear path.” Yep. Oh man, such an accurate statement as to how I felt at the time!

      Thanks for sharing this — I also loved Lady GaGa and TSwift!


  3. Songs I not-so-secretly love: not for any profound reason other than that it’s absolutely hilarious: “Fixer Upper” from the first Frozen movie! I crack up every time we listen to it in the car, which is often as my daughter requests the Disney playlist all the time 🙂 It’s so cleverly written!

    Seasons of Love from Rent
    This is Me from The Greatest Showman
    For Good from Wicked

    I realize that it’s a lot of musical theater, but outside of that:
    Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake — when my 3 year old and I are having a rough day, sometimes I just turn this on and we have an impromptu dance party, and it turns things around!

    1. Honestly, some of the songs in Frozen are REALLY good. I actually love that Weezer cover of “Lost in the Woods” from Frozen II. Landon and I belt it out at the top of our lungs constantly!


  4. DJ Sammy, Heaven. Hearing that song takes me back to sophomore year when my friends and I were getting our licenses and spent our time driving around aimlessly. Forgive me if you find yourself singing baby you’re all that I want! over the next few days 🙂

    1. I totally remember how important getting my license was to me — it was paramount, bigger than anything else! A small token of freedom as a young adult…

      I will happily sing this song for the next few days 🙂


  5. Oh, I love how this post went down a path I wasn’t expecting. So many songs come to mind, here, but I might go with Allison Kraus’ “Foolish Heart.” It’s the ultimate low-key back deck summer song; it’s also one my father played on repeat (on the back deck, naturally) the summer after he’d remarried. And so I associate it with being 10 years old and restless and starting to pick up the moods of adults. It was a simple back deck song, but it was also IMBUED with meaning (or I was foisting meaning up on it). I still listen to it, and it never ceases to feel like more than it is.

    1. Oh I love this context, and I love that song, too! She is such a talent. Thank you for sharing this!


  6. Oh MAN I have so many terrible memories of Beltway driving during college… piloting a giant box truck to put my stuff into storage for the summer…driving a friend to BWI right after the 2010 snowpocalypse and having entire lanes just suddenly disappear because they gave up on plowing them, leaving a backhoe on the road….spending so long stuck in traffic one time that I heard the same NPR program twice….memories indeed! I do believe I am a better driver for it, though. Good luck!!

    1. Ugh – the absolute worst! I was just telling Landon that there are just way too many inputs…too many spurs/exchanges/lanes/exits, too many people switching lanes, too many people slowing down or speeding up, speed limit changes AHHHHHH


  7. Great post today! Wanted to share that the Chanel Boy lipstick is on my all time best makeup list. The color, consistency and finish are perfect. It’s very moisturizing too. I use it with their #119 gloss! Must purchase!

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