1. On The Mockingcast this week, our intrepid trio open the show by swapping their school plans for their kiddos. Sarah Condon shared that, even with a whole history of pot-stirring social media posts, she’s extremely hesitant to post her kids’ back-to-school photos. Claire Cain McMiller in the New York Times says Sarah is right to be afraid in her article, “Why Parents, With ‘No Good Choice’ This School Year, Are Blaming One Another.” In particular, it seems to be a problem that mothers are wrestling with:

“Moms are feeling acute and crushing guilt,” [sociologist Caitlyn Collins] said. “We think of families as a private and personal responsibility, and in the face of a global pandemic, it means this work falls on women’s shoulders. There is no good choice, and instead of blaming larger structural forces, women in American tend to always blame themselves […]

La Tosha Plavnik, the mother of a second grader in Clifton, Va., has stopped talking to most of her friends about her family’s plans for the school year, because she felt too much judgment. Remote learning during the spring was very hard for her daughter and for their relationship, Ms. Plavnik said. So for the fall she has formed a pod of three children and hired a tutor to teach them supplementary material one day a week. The other days, her mother-in-law will help with remote school.

“Every little thing I say I’m doing, that I’ve decided is best for my daughter, there is this wave of backlash to the point where I’ve stopped telling people about my decisions,” she said.

The burden of being presented with two or three options and being asked to pick the “less bad” option is weighing heavily on us all. Judgment is, after all, an attempt to control other people by the use of shame. Since we can’t exercise control over the virus or public policy, falling back on interpersonal judgment is equally understandable and futile. To all the parent readers out there, especially the mothers: God be with you this fall in whatever method of schooling you deem best for your kiddos!

2. An oldie but a goodie — a throwback to 2017 that’s as relevant in 2020. I Tried Being Hygge for Five Months and It Nearly Drove Me Crazy from Country Living is the cautionary tale against trying to ride out the COVID pandemic with everyone’s favorite Danish lifestyle zeitgeist. After a number of failed attempts at candle lighting, baking, interior redecoration, and comfy chair selection, writer Lyndsey Matthews turns to a happiness expert from Denmark to see what she’s doing wrong:

But what really hit home to me was his emphasis on how hygge is actually about relaxing enough to accept your imperfections. “It’s about not being perfect in the company of others,” Wiking told me. “If I’m having people over to my house I’ll leave dirty dishes on the counter to make them feel more relaxed.”

I’m the first one to know how “perfectly imperfect” I can be, especially when it comes to doing the dishes the same day, or the next day, or um…you get the idea. But after working at Martha Stewart for two years and later as Hearst’s resident “Pinterest Guru,” I’ve always felt the need to at least present the idea of having a Pinterest-perfect home. But after talking to Wiking for just 15 minutes, I realized I needed to start cutting myself some slack.

“You’ve been focusing on the candles, the nice chair but not the core values itself. It’s adding stress,” he said after listening to my hygge crisis.

So how was I supposed to fix my ways?

“It’s probably better to start with the values and ingredients, such as relaxation and indulgence,” Wiking said. “It’s about giving yourself a break.”

My aspiration for domestic perfection has almost crippled me. Instead of just going out and deciding what I like and want, I spent hours obsessing over the coziest candle scent and combing through Pinterest boards without taking action. Will finding the perfect blush pink reading chair make me truly happy? Who knows? But it surely stressed me out for several weeks until I realized that the light gray IKEA chair that cost less than $300 was just as comfy and got the job done.

So if you want to make your life more hygge, don’t feel the need to buy a bunch of candles and light them every time you want to relax. Instead, only light a candle if you feel the desire to do so.

I imagine that for those who have already embraced the values of forgiveness and imperfection and rest, the hygge will eventually manifest. As Martin Luther supposedly said: the quest for hygge is not satisfied by achieving it, but extinguishing it.

3. This humorous invention is a sure-fire way to stir up marital discord. Buyer beware!

4. In a parallel universe without the COVID pandemic, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are wrapping up this week. The medals would be distributed, the baton would be passed on to Paris for 2024, and the athletes would be headed home in a mixture of exhaustion and existential dread. So explains Michael Phelps, whose new documentary The Weight of Gold on Olympians and mental health is now showing on HBO. The most winning Olympian of all time has a lot to say about his time in the water, his own mental health, and the psychological sacrifice of being an Olympian:

Now, in his retirement, the question Phelps often receives is: Would he want the Olympics for his kids? “Honestly, in a perfect world, I’d say no,” Phelps says. “Just because I don’t want them to live in my footsteps. And I also know everything about — I know the ins and the outs, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, you know, as a parent, it just — it frightens me.” […]

These sentiments [from other documentaries about Olympians] dovetail with the heartbreaking experiences shared in The Weight of Gold. Gold medalist skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender laments missing the death of her father while training. Figure skater Gracie Gold notes that if she needed surgery, she’d be on the operating table the next morning with the best surgeon in the business, all organized by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, but that when she asked about seeking therapy, she received shrugs. Three-time Olympian Lolo Jones describes devoting her body to Team USA for more than a decade, only to lose health insurance the moment her career ended. The mother of the late skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, who died by suicide in 2011, speaks frankly about how even winning a gold medal couldn’t save his life.

5. In humor this week, the Onion calls it like it is: As If Things Weren’t Bad Enough, Snakes Still Slithering Around Out There. Doubly insightful if you read and listen with Eden in mind. Also, I was today old when I learned you can’t wear a band’s mask to that band’s show.

Local music fan Kyle Hartley was ridiculed at an outdoor Words Are Wind show yesterday for wearing the band’s COVID-19 mask he purchased on their website last week, multiple show attendees who mocked the man confirmed.

“I just wanted to support the band I like — I didn’t know there was some unwritten ‘mask rule.’ [Dr. Anthony] Fauci hasn’t said a single word about this,” Hartley explained, his cloth Words Are Wind mask soaking up his poser tears. “Now everyone’s telling me that you have to wear the mask of an adjacent band, or some old school band. But most people here just cut up their patched denim jacket to make their mask, and it looks incredibly uncomfortable.”

Over at the New Yorker, I did actually laugh out loud at The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog, Across Genres.

Fantasy

Quick and brown, Ser Fox levitates over L’azy Dog, just as it has been foretold at the Council of Font — but only after fifteen introductory pages of hand-drawn maps.

The American Canon

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog and tragically dies, to make a point about the futility of the American Dream.

Religious Self-Help

And the LORD replied: “My precious quick brown fox. I love you and would never leave you. When you see only one set of paw prints in the sand […] it was then that I carried you over the lazy dog.”

See also the very creative pastor who went one step beyond roping off pews at church this week:

6. In this Planet Money story on underground gyms, #Seculosity and the powerlessness of the law overlap. The unintended consequences of economic prohibition are a parallel illustration of St. Paul’s admonition that The Law increases the trespass.

Welcome to the COVID-19 Prohibition era, when gym rats have gone underground.

Governments can legislate all they want, but prohibiting stuff with eager buyers and sellers is super hard, says Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard University who has spent three decades studying prohibitions. Miron, who these days is legally working out in his basement, says there’s a simple lesson that emerges from his studies: “Prohibitions don’t eliminate things. They drive them underground.” And that comes with a whole host of unintended consequences.

Take the case of Christina, a paralegal and gym enthusiast from Tucson, Arizona, who asked us not to give her last name for fear of being labeled a snitch. In mid-April, about two weeks after Arizona’s governor shut everything down, she got a text from her gym’s owner. She was a regular there, and the gym only had about 40-50 members, so she was friendly with him. He told her the gym was still open and she should come back.

Christina knew the gym was ignoring state orders. But, she says, “one of the few things that keeps me sane is going to the gym.” She had tried to buy equipment for home, but she found it was either too expensive or impossible to obtain because everything was backordered. She’s in her mid-thirties and fit and doesn’t interact with high-risk populations, so she decided she was willing to take the risk and go back.

In late April, Christina drove to the strip mall where her gym resides for the first time in weeks. She used her fob to get in the gym’s doors, and “there’s over ten people there that I’ve never seen before in my life,” she says. Her gym is tiny, about the size of a “one bedroom apartment,” and this, she says, was over double the normal gym traffic.

“And these are the typical gym bros,” she says. “And they’re grunting and using all the equipment, taking selfies in the mirror, flexing their triceps. It’s bizarre.” The worst part, she says, is none of them was social distancing, wearing masks, or sanitizing their equipment […]

Christina learned that these swole, maskless bros were refugees from big chain gyms like the YMCA and Planet Fitness, which had followed state orders and closed. The bros had somehow learned that there was still a gym open in town. In just a few weeks, Christina learned, the gym had more than doubled its membership. And, as the owner later told her, the gym was charging them all a higher membership rate.

7. Hard news from the CDC: by their research, nearly 25% of 18-24 year old Americans have contemplated suicide in the last month or so. Those numbers are absolutely staggering. Much has been made about the benefits of prayer for our mental health, and so I thought this week we’d give the final word to our friends at 1517. Here’s Michael Berg with a word on prayer:

Your prayers are not what make you acceptable in his sight. You have already been made acceptable through the blood of Christ. The first words of the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder of your status before God. He is Father. More than that, he is your Father. You already enjoy a relationship of forgiveness and love. You are already his daughter or son. You are already cleansed in the blood of Christ. You are already a part of the family. You are already heirs of the riches of heaven.

So just let it out. Forget about your piety. There is no need to impress him. Forget about the grammar. Just speak. Don’t worry if your requests are right or not. He’ll give you the answer you need. Don’t worry about how the prayer sounds. You are not a street corner Pharisee showing off your righteousness to the world. Words of prayer are intimate words between Father and child. The problem with our prayer is not that we ask for too much, but that we ask for too little. As if God is too weak to handle our big concerns or as if he is too ignorant to know what we really desire.

And do not be afraid to lament, even complain. Again, he already knows what you are thinking anyway. Tell him that you are frustrated. Tell him that you are disappointed. Tell him that you are mad, even mad at him. He can take it. Like a child sitting on her father’s lap, pound your fists on his chest and scream, “Why?” And then feel his big burly arms wrap around you. Feel your face slowly pressed into his chest to muffle the cries in compassion as he tells you that it will be okay.

Strays: