26 April 2020

THE Famletmonthly

Dear Family:

​​    Vol. 23, No. 4

This month's photos.

(Click any photo on the page to see all of it and view captions.)

Forty-seven days have passed since I last went to the office. And 44 since the girls set foot in school. I can’t speak for the four other people living here, but I don’t yet sense that we’re getting on each other’s nerves. (They don’t get on mine, at least.)

It probably helps that we like to watch a lot of the same shows. I continue to be surprised by how socially interactive watching TV can be. Especially with Grace, who makes that teenage-girl gagging/vomit suppression sound in response to every cringeworthy moment. She’s pretty good at it and it greatly enhances the experience.  

Crystal and I watch a lot of the same things but have also taken to making fun of one another’s YouTube habits. Actually, she’s been rolling her eyes at what I watch on YouTube for years. It’s only in the past few weeks that I’ve been responding in kind to her steady diet of yoga, Jimmy Fallon, more yoga, and John Krasinski.

Really the only resident of the house I find annoying these days is the cat, and that only because he has taken to peeing in my closet, on my bed, and in other unapproved places. The vet hypothesizes that neutering will curb this behavior. But sadly, this is not currently deemed an essential service. I beg to differ under the circumstances, but people in authority traditionally don’t care much what I think.

Hannah is now a graduate of BYU and holder of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. With no event to mark the occasion, it’s hard to say for sure whether or precisely when this happened. But for Covid-19, Crystal and I would be flying home from Utah today after having attended Hannah’s commencement ceremonies on Thursday and Friday.

But alas, Hannah’s Thursday was marked solely by a congratulatory email from the president of the university and a phone call from her parents and sisters. (Or maybe she called us—I don’t remember.) Canceling the trip was surprisingly easy notwithstanding my budget-conscious proclivity for booking not just non-refundable flights (like most people, I think) but also non-refundable lodging.

I actually paid in advance back in January to secure four romantic nights at a luxurious Days Inn near campus for $288. (Not $288 per night -- $288 for four nights, including tax and breakfast!) In contrast, I paid $322 for one night at a crappy Days Inn in Cambridge, Md. (population 12,285) on the eve of Ironman Maryland two years ago. (They were kind enough to open the breakfast buffet at 4 a.m. for the competitors.) I figured Provo innkeepers would similarly jack up rates for BYU graduation, but I guess they’re just too gosh-darn friendly out there.

So anyway, I’d mentally written off the 288 bucks, but I figured it was at least worth a trip to the website. Clicking on the “Cancel Reservation” box brought up a screen informing me that my reservation was non-refundable and non-changeable (I knew that). But the screen also contained a text box in which I could explain my reason for canceling. Supposedly, if I had a good enough reason, they might be able to get me a refund anyway.

And so I (truthfully) typed in the box, “The governor of Maryland has asked that I not travel outside the state unless absolutely necessary.”[1]

I received an email a few minutes later telling me my cancelation had been “approved.” Two days later the refund had posted to my credit card.  
Perhaps you think 300+ words excessive for explaining my amazement at receiving a $288 refund, and you’re probably right. But what else am I going to write about?

Back to Hannah. She’s actually been working as a licensed practical nurse for the past year. Once her BSN degree officially posts, she will be eligible to sit for a licensing exam to become a registered nurse. Then, the next time you see someone at the hospital with “BSN, RN” on her badge, you can think (as I do/will), “Hey, Hannah’s one of those!”

Covid-19 for now seems to be sparing the rehabilitation/nursing home facility where Hannah works. They’ve had just one case. At some point they thought they had a second, which would have required cordoning off an entire floor and having Hannah work a bunch of 3-day shifts confined to that floor. But the second person was a false alarm and so they just shipped the first guy off to some other facility. Times like this make me even prouder than usual to have a daughter who’s a nurse.

Remote learning seems to be working for us. I recently caught a glimpse of Sophie’s laptop screen split down the middle. On the left was an essay she was working on for Philosophy. On the right, a season-one episode of “Community.” I don’t know how she does it. I need silence or white noise to write—talking throws me completely off-kilter. But I guess it works for her.

The seminary class Crystal teaches has been back in business for about a month. They meet via Zoom every weekday morning at 8:00. Surprisingly, the 8:00 a.m. Zoom class is attracting fewer attendees than the 6:15 a.m. in-person class was. For us I think it’s been a good way to give the day an official-feeling start, as opposed to sleeping and lazing the entire morning away.

Few things demoralize me more than wasted mornings. It’s the only time of day I feel like I’m any good. For those of you closely monitoring my mental health, I stopped taking my ADHD medication a little while ago. I’m not sure it was doing anything, and I wasn’t loving the side-effects. The doctor now has me on an anti-depressant. We’ll roll with that for a while. It could just be that I’m vainly seeking a pharmacological solution for laziness. But my motivation varies so dramatically from morning to afternoon (before sometimes rebounding in the evening) it’s got me thinking there’s probably something chemical going on. We’ll see.

Lucy’s classes have resumed as well. They’re back to running a bit (mostly on the treadmill—sometimes in the woods) but they really miss mermaiding. We all miss the pool. My swimming fitness plummets if I miss so much as a week. (A work colleague told me that, for him, missing a week of swimming is like missing a month of running. I think I’m the same way.) Now that all the pools have been closed for a month and a half (with no end in sight) I can only imagine what the forced layoff is doing to everybody.

If triathlons ever get going this year, I feel like we’re all going to be better cyclists and runners than we were last year. But we might drown before we get to those legs.

The latest controversy seems to surround whether I ought to wear a mask while running and cycling. I don’t—and won’t until either somebody in authority or somebody smart who doesn’t get their science from Facebook tells me I should. The law here is to wear them in stores and other public indoor places. I wear mine outdoors[2], too, just not while exercising. I feel guilty when I see other cyclists wearing them and dumbfounded when I see the occasional runner wearing one. I have no idea how they get enough air in and can only conclude that they’re not working very hard. The grass on either side of the Sligo Creek trail has been completely worn away in spots as strangers continue going to absurd lengths to avoid so much as making eye contact with each other. You might be happy to learn that I’ve (mostly) stopped spitting when I run—at least when people are around.  

For now, the people trying to guilt runners and cyclists into masking up are by and large the same self-righteous busybodies who took photos of a small group of boys shooting hoops last month and circulated them on the neighborhood listserv asking if anyone knew the parents of these awful miscreants. It’s all moot now that the parks commission has removed all the rims from all the backboards on all the playgrounds.

Crystal—a diligent mask wearer when walking the dog but not when riding her bike—has expressed concern that her hairstyle doesn’t complement mask wearing. I don’t see the problem and hope she changes her mind. But it doesn’t really matter since no one’s figured out how to give a haircut over Zoom yet. It’s only a matter of time. I haven’t searched for a YouTube video on cutting your own hair, but I’d bet $288 you can find one.

It’s been an eventful month for Sophie who turned 18 and danced with John Krasinski at his prom. She also launched her wildly successful YouTube channel (Kaylub92), which is up to 33 subscribers despite not having posted anything in two weeks and several of the videos having been shot in portrait mode.

And finally, we thoroughly enjoyed watching Peter Willis (my nephew, not my brother) and his two teammates from Blake High School (a public school) mop the floor with the team from Bullis School (annual tuition: $40,000) and BASIS Independent McLean (annual tuition: $30,000) in the quarterfinal round of “It’s Academic,” a Saturday-morning television quiz show that’s been running on our local NBC affiliate for 59 years. Peter’s team was crazy-fast on the buzzer and often had the answer out before I had fully processed the question. They were fun to watch, and it was a total beat-down. The final scores were Blake 715 — Bullis 455 — Basis 350. I almost felt sorry for those rich kids. (Not really.) He’s a handsome fellow, that Peter. The show ran on April 11th but was taped on January 11th. I’m not sure when the semifinals were to have been recorded, but apparently not before Covid shut everything down.

As someone who prefers getting takeout to eating in restaurants, who prefers watching movies at home to sitting in theaters, who prefers working from my personal 90-square-foot corner office (which I share only with three of my bikes) to working anyplace else, and who generally requires an extraordinarily compelling reason to attend any social gathering in the best of times, this has not in any way become an ordeal for me. Assuming I finish today’s, I’ll be up to a 24-day New York Times crossword puzzle streak.

And so I’m fine—we’re fine—but we’re also unbelievably fortunate. Whenever I’m inclined to dunk on people who are clamoring to start re-opening everything, I remind myself that I’m not any smarter than they are. I’m just lucky enough (for now) to be getting paid and finding contentment with things as they are. Sheer dumb luck.

Stay safe (whatever that means). Don’t take medical advice from a president who believes McDonald’s is healthy and exercise isn’t. Don’t drink bleach.   



[1] As anyone who cares to follow me on Strava knows, I’m actually in the habit of leaving the state virtually every time I get on my bike. (I’m down to about 3 rides per week now that I’m not commuting to work anymore.) The governor’s office subsequently clarified that I don’t need to quarantine for 14 days each time I return to Maryland so long as I don’t leave the capital region.

[2] I wear a mask outdoors for the same reason I sort my garbage and recycle. I don’t think it’s really helping, but I also don’t want people thinking I’m a monster.