There are a lot of new readers here — welcome! I am so glad we’ve found one another. You can read a little bit more about me and TheFashionMagpie as a whole here, but the TL;DR is that I am a mother, wife, and writer who took a circuitous route to land where I am now: authoring a literary lifestyle and fashion blog sustained by the passionate, thoughtful, and intelligent women who read and comment along daily. (Some spectacular reader gems here.)
An advisor once told me that many entrepreneurs “take a squiggly path” to success. As it turns out, “squiggly” was wildly euphemistic. I started my post-college career in an offshoot of government consulting (the most excruciatingly boring year of my life), then earned an advanced degree in literature with the intention of pursuing a life in academia before taking a wild left-hand turn into the non-profit world, working for two start-up organizations focused on educational access for underserved communities. Both of those organizations were led by young, enthusiastic social entrepreneurs determined to use technology to level the playing field for disadvantaged youth and I somehow found myself leading product strategy and innovation for both. Those professional experiences were humbling, ambitious, challenging, inspiring, and in many ways undeserved. I had the opportunity to meet, brainstorm, and collaborate with leading minds in the worlds of technology, design, and philanthropy; learn how to pitch, sell, and speak publicly (with formal training!); discover — trial-by-fire — how to manage a team and navigate countless complicated workplace dynamics; and spend many afternoons in classrooms on the South and West sides of Chicago, observing idealistic college students teach bright-eyed teens from low-income, under-resourced, and gang-riddled communities the basics of personal finance using technology and programming I had a large hand in designing.
I learned a lot about the many complex barriers to educational attainment in America, the nuts and bolts of technology development, and — mainly — leadership. My biggest takeaways from those six years of hard work? No matter how visionary the mission, success rests on the strength of the team, culture flows from the top down, and — in direct contradiction to the age-old “it’s not personal, it’s business” adage — everything is personal in business.
In 2015, I decided to take what I had learned about management and product design, much of which had been absorbed boots-on-the-ground style but some of which had been accessed more tidily from an excellent executive MBA course I took at Stanford focused on social entrepreneurship, in order to found an HR technology business with my husband. Building our business, which aspired to streamline and mitigate bias in the performance review process by providing real-time employee feedback, was probably the single-most transformative thing I have ever done in my life. We ran it for two years before shutting it down in 2017, not long after the birth of our first child, Emory Lucia. We had built a small team, raised capital, launched multiple releases of our product, secured customers, participated in accelerators, pitched on many a dais, and generally lived through the highest highs and lowest lows of our lives. I remember clinking champagne glasses and dancing around our kitchen in excitement — and also suffering from heart palpitations, months of sleepless nights, and what I can only describe as absolute heartbreak and burnout. I am frankly still coming to terms with the building and then burying of our business. It was the hardest, most meaningful, eye-opening, and exhausting undertaking of my life. I did not emerge unscathed. I am far more circumspect and risk-averse, occasionally jaded, and I still feel sick to my stomach when thinking back on nearly any aspect of those two years of labor. But I have learned to “take the long-view” (as my Dad puts it) when reflecting on it and can already see the many ways it has made me a better thinker and writer.
I feel impossibly fortunate that I had the opportunity to build that business with my husband and best friend, Mr. Magpie, who has handily earned the starring role in the re-telling of my life experiences. He is my counterbalance, my anchor, my shield, my cheerleader, my instigator — the man who “isn’t doing a thing that I can see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” That is: he is everything and I would be nowhere without him. I love him wholly, entirely, from his astounding thoughtfulness right down to that irritating and occasionally gutting stubbornness of his, and I love him also for the life he has given me, which rotates around good food, good books, good conversation, and — principally — our two beloved children, Emory Lucia (three going on thirteen) and Landon Hill Shoop, Jr. (whom we call “Hill” — born just a year ago).
Motherhood is my deepest privilege and joy, and I write about it — a lot. In general, I have found that parenting for me is more about being the branch that bends versus the mighty oak that breaks in the storm. I am constantly adapting, learning, listening, tinkering, trying something new. In some ways I feel that I know close to nothing about raising children, even with two of my own, three years into the project, but I do know this: I love them with both fierceness and tenderness that know no bounds. And so I remind myself that I am a human, I will make mistakes, but that I will also wake up tomorrow and try again, driven by an ineffably intense desire to do right by them and for them. At night, I ask myself: “Did my children feel loved today?” If I answer “yes,” I tell myself that I’m on the right path. And so far, my answer has always been yes. There is far too much else to write on this unwieldy and all-consuming subject, so let me interrupt myself here with a couple of my most-read posts on the subject:
As you may have gathered by puttering around here or reading this post, this blog covers a lot, from the freighted to the frivolous. I talk about marriage, self-care, fashion trends, cultural phenomena, grief, parenting, books, cosmetics, home organization, words, “adulting,” relationships, sale scores, children’s gear, happy times and tough times–and the prayers, prose, and meandering trails of thought that get me through it all. Collectively, TheFashionMagpie is a manifestation of the varied and imbalanced bric a brac of my emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual lives.
Yet that is only half of the equation.
The other half is, of course, you.
If you are new here, I think that part of what will make this blog remarkable is its readership. There are meaningful and intelligent comments on nearly every single post, many of which I pocket and think about for weeks and weeks to come, your words materializing in the depths of parenting despair as well as the glass-clinking of personal victories–and even in these off-kilter, limbo-like days of quarantine, where I would do well to remember, as one of you put it just earlier this week, that it is “enough to lie outside in the grass sometimes.”
In short, the community standards are high here: you have created a space for positive, highly articulate, civil, and intelligent discourse about the many things that make up the life of a modern woman. And I’m here for it.
So welcome, welcome, welcome — and onward we go!
P.S. Might be fun to introduce yourself here!
+I should have mentioned this in my most recent roundup of honest product reviews, but I just ordered one of these much-buzzed-about Artis makeup brushes, which is curiously much cheaper here than anywhere else on the Internet (usually retails for $60). People claim that these brushes absorb no product (!) and therefore extend the lifetime of your foundation/tinted moisturizer but a lot. Will report back…
+These are the absolute cutest garden stakes I have ever seen.
+This simple and elegant suit feels like what I should be wearing at the age of almost-36.
+This dress (on sale for around $60) is PERFECT. Love the easy breezy vibe and the bow in the back!
+OMG THIS BLOUSE.
+Another amazing sale find — I usually avoid black, but this is really good.
+One of my all-time favorite pajama prints for children. I love that many of their prints can be worn by either boys or girls — great if you have multiple children, as the quality of these pajamas are second to none. Just get softer with time!
+I continue to stand by these inexpensive glycolic acid pads — they’ve made my skin so much clearer!
+The best snack catcher for little ones. Easy enough to get uncoordinated little hands into and out of, but keep puffs from spilling everywhere.
+Mini has owned several of this exact dress style in various prints, but I think we need to add the latest pattern to her collection!