A caveat today: This is an intense week. I wanted to give you a heads up that I will not be discussing the results of the election tomorrow, as is consistent with the set of principles I set for this blog many years ago. One thing I have been reminding myself over the course of 2020: look for the things that fill my cup. I hope you consider the same today — and that may mean that you turn elsewhere for the reassurance, conversation, release, coverage, etc that you need at this time and that you hit snooze on the distractions and musings I provide here. Thinking of you all and hoping you are taking good care of yourselves.
The other day, my sister called and asked: “What’s going on with you? What’s on your heart?”
How to even begin? My heart is full with residual gratitude for making it through such a tough time earlier this year and the joy of raising two healthy and happy children with my other half and the delicious honor of writing this blog for a living. I am obscenely lucky. Whenever I check in with my father about how things are going for him given the pandemic, he says: “Oh, Jen. No complaints here. We’re the lucky ones.” Yes. This year has been unbearable and ruinous for millions of Americans. We are the lucky ones.
At the same time, my heart is heavy with…well, the weight and uncertainty of 2020. Like all of you, I find myself toggling between the staggering slap stats on the news and the functional concerns of quotidian life in the grip of COVID-19: “Where can I perch my three year old on this subway car so as to keep us as far as possible away from anyone else?” “How do I remove this glove without touching the exterior with my hand? Should I put sanitizer on my glove?” Etc. The result is a slow and continuous application of pressure. And I still grapple with anxieties over my COVID diagnosis. I can’t quite square any of it away — the guilt, the fact that I recovered and others did not, the fear, the unbearable pause at the end of the line when I told my mother I could no longer smell or taste anything, the way my husband muscled through the entire thing — caring for me, exposing himself in the process, while also parenting our two small children. It is a darkness.
But the only thing I could say at the time to my sister was: “We’re hanging in there. We’re in a good groove.”
Which also happens to be true, and which also happens to be the reality I prefer to focus on. We have somehow managed to eke out a little channel of consistency in our Upper West Side apartment amidst the chaos of 2020. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to discern the line between a groove and a rut. Most days, Mr. Magpie and I march on through our days with something like determination, or maybe it’s resignation? No — determination is too imperious-sounding, and resignation reads overly downbeat. We just know the ropes and get it done. We’ve defined our roles and responsibilities and we dance around one another and our respective routines with the deft and practiced footwork of two people who respect each other and have been married for ten years and together for nearly twenty. That is to say — there is no question as to where the saran wrap belongs, and there are often silent, obliging transfers of responsibility when one or the other needs to tap out for a second.
As with all parents the world over, the hours between 6 and 9 a.m. in the morning and 5 and 8 p.m. in the evening are clustered with chores, instructions, carefully-drawn timetables, and what feels like an infinity loop of the same exact movements: the endless clearing of small plates and refilling of small milk cups, the monotonous dragging out and folding up of the mat for mini’s dining room chair, the repetition of the same muted directions (“you may do one more thing before bedtime,” “you have two minutes until you get into your pajamas,” “this is your final warning…”), the same prescribed movements and pauses around our home (we retreat to the green chair when getting dressed in the morning; we station mini with her iPad on the floor of micro’s nursery while he is in his crib so I can prepare dinner at night; etc.) We know which steps we can trim and when to expedite based on where we are in our routine versus the time on the clock. We have it all down to a science.
Most days, I would classify all of this as “a good groove.” And when mini was first adjusting back to school in September, I remember desperately wanting to “just be in a good routine.” The dislocations and adjustments were challenging, especially with the stress of COVID at the door. (Are we doing the right thing? What’s the safest and most reasonable way for us to get to school? Etc.) And I was anxious for normalcy after my own illness and the many ways it temporarily upended our day-to-day. So I am grateful for what feels like “a good groove.”
But there are also days where I really have to dig deep before barreling into the 5-8 p.m. time slot in particular. Days where I just don’t know if I have it in me to negotiate my toddler through the bedtime routine one more time. (How does she continue to engineer new ways to dawdle and balk at the same exact things we do every single day?) Days where I am frustrated to no end by my 1.5 year old flinging pieces of chicken all over the dining room, his eyes wide as saucers at the apprehension that he is not supposed to be doing what is he doing, but he is doing it anyway. Is this where we are now? I wonder. Now I have two recalcitrant toddlers to contend with? But mainly, it’s the sameness of the routine that can feel downright overwhelming. “Baths are the worst,” my friend said the other day. “It’s vaguely dangerous, it’s uncomfortable because you’re bending over, and you have to do it every day.” I knew exactly what she meant. We were both at that moment seeing a rut where we normally see a groove.
But, you know what? That’s OK. I trust myself enough to know that I will still manage to get my children into their beds with brushed teeth and clean pajamas and somewhat-full bellies at some point between 7 and 8 p.m. in the evening, and that we will still arrive, on-time, to school in the morning no matter how many tantrums happen en route. I know because in spite of the occasional moment where I have looked, helplessly, at Mr. Magpie in a gesture that says “I don’t know how to get her out of the apartment this morning,” we have successfully made it to school every single day, come hell or high water. I also know that at some point after my children have fallen asleep, I will lay in my bed and scroll through pictures of them, and that even as I am straining through the nightly ritual of two performances of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the dark of my daughter’s room, my heart will swell when she tells me, as she always and invariably does just before I leave: “God bless you and good night, I love you and good night, and I will see you in the bunny morning.” A litany all her own, a patchwork of phrases she stitched together after hundreds of nights hearing similar proclamations from yours truly. (We still don’t understand what “bunny morning” means, but we don’t mind it either.) And you know what that says to me? Sometimes the routines and recitations aren’t so bad after all. And just like that, I’m back in the groove.
Post-Scripts: Comfy At Home Attire.
Whether you’re in a rut or groove, you’re probably spending a ton of time at home right now, and who doesn’t want to be comfy at home? One secret to feeling more pulled-together than sloppy is to go monochromatic — wear shades of camel/beige/tan, or gray, or all-blue-everything. Below, a few recent casual, cozy home finds:
PATTERN FOR KNIT SOCKS (SEEN ABOVE!) — OR IF YOU DON’T KNIT, THESE CULT-FOLLOWING CLOUD SOCKS FROM BROTHER VELLIES
ALL THE NAP DRESSES (THEY ARE RESTOCKING THEIR POPULAR TARTAN COLLECTION IN NOVEMBER, FYI)
OUTDOOR VOICES JOGGERS (MR. MAGPIE OWNS THE MALE VERSION OF THESE AND LOVEEEES THEM) — I AM INTRIGUED! I ALREADY OWN AND ADORE BOTH THESE DREAMY JOGGERS AND THIS RECLINER SET THOUGH THOSE ARE BOTH “INDOOR/PAJAMA” PAIRS WHEREAS I THINK YOU COULD RELIABLY WEAR THE O.V.’S OUTDOORS FOR ERRANDS
ALSO LOVE THE COLOR/STYLE OF THESE UNDER-$30 JOGGERS, ESPECIALLY IN THE LINDEN AND SULPHUR COLORS
SUPERSOFT CROPPED CARDIGAN (LOVE THE IVORY COLOR)
THIS HIGH-COLLAR SWEATSHIRT (FRANKLY, I LIKE THE ENTIRE LEWK…WHICH READS INTENTIONAL VERSUS SLOPPY)
DREAMING OF A PAIR OF RIBBED CASHMERE SOCKS
I’m writing this while shivering at my desk (despite wearing slippers, a turtleneck, a heavy cardigan, and jeans!), and wishing I had this throw over my legs.
P.S. Sweatshirts I love and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, thoughts on what to wear when dressing up for Thanksgiving.
P.P.P.S. Nightly affirmations.