Friday, July 17, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 126

Dear Old Blog,

Here is another offering from Landings International's special video series "Reflections for a Troubled Age."

The photo used for inspiration is from Soundscape Park in Miami, FL:

 

Love,

Paul 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 125

Dear Old Blog,

Here is another installment in the "Five Questions with a Paulist" series.

In this video, Mike Hayes chats with Paulist Fr. Stuart Wilson-Smith, associate pastor of Old St. Mary's Church in Chicago: 

Love,

Paul

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 124

Dear Old Blog,

"How do I practice compassion?"

That is one of the reflection questions in this seventh video from Landings International's "Reflections for a Troubled Age" series:

 

Love,

Paul

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 123

Dear Old Blog,

As I have mentioned before in this space, managing the Paulist Fathers' "Five Questions with a Paulist" video series has been part of how I have spent my time during the pandemic.

Our old friend Mike Hayes is on the front end conducting the interviews. I'm behind the scenes helping to select the interviewees and then, when completed, executing the social media shares.

Here is the third video in that series: "Five Questions with Paulist Fr. Charlie Donahue":

 

Love,

Paul

Monday, July 13, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 122


Dear Old Blog,

Serious questions:

Would you hire Donald Trump to be an intern in your office?

Would you trust Donald Trump to babysit your child?

Would you leave your pet in the care of Donald Trump?

Would you trust Donald Trump to water your house plants?

If the answer is "No" to these questions, why would anyone vote for him?

Family and friends, please support Joe Biden for president.

We need to put a trustworthy adult back in the Oval Office.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, July 11, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 120

Dear Old Blog, 

 Mitt Romney is spot-on in this tweet about Trump commuting the sentence of Roger Stone:

Love,
Paul

Friday, July 10, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 119

Dear Old Blog,

Trump commuted the prison sentence of Roger Stone today.

It's one more in the endless list of reasons why Trump must be soundly defeated on November 3.

Respect for the rule of law must be restored.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, July 09, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 118

Dear Old Blog,

On June 24, I wrote in this space about the "Five Questions" series that I have been producing for work during these quarantine days.

Here is the second video in that series: "Five Questions with Paulist Fr. Rich Andre" (hosted by my buddy Mike Hayes):

 

Love,
Paul


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 116

Dear Old Blog,

The great composer Ennio Morricone died yesterday at the age of 91.

Like so many, Morricone's wonderful music for the film "The Mission" touched my heart, and brought tears to my eyes, many times.

In fact, Eric and I had "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission" played for our assembled guests prior to the beginning of our wedding service in 2013. It was performed by James Mobley, who then played oboe at our parish, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, in New York City.

Here is James playing "Gabriel's Oboe" again in 2014:

 

Love,
Paul

Monday, July 06, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 115

Dear Old Blog,

I'm sorry this has to be spelled out:

Donald Trump is a racist.

He says racist things. He supports racists. He has racist policies.

There are people in our own families who support Donald Trump.

Those people enable his racist statements. Those people enable his support of racists. Those people enable his racist policies.

So, those people are also racists.

The Trump supporters are racists.

I'm sorry if they are members of your families. I'm sorry that some of them are members of my family. 

But, bottom line:

If your sweet grandma supports Trump, your grandma is a racist.

If your Wall Street-working brother supports Trump, your brother is a racist.

If a cousin of mine supports Trump, that cousin of mine is a racist.

This is how it is.

And, racists should hang their heads in shame. They should repent and turn away from Trump before our country is damaged further.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, July 05, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 114

Dear Old Blog, 


We need you to stay alive to vote for Joe Biden in November.

Social distance and wear masks, dammit! 

No parties! Go home! Stay home!

Love,
Paul 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 113

Dear Old Blog,

Happy Independence Day!

I spied this video about "Strawberry Pretzel Salad" on Facebook today. It made me homesick for summertime picnics in Western Pennsylvania:

   

Love,
Paul

Friday, July 03, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 112


Dear Old Blog,

Eric and I watched "Hamilton" on Disney+ tonight.

It was superb.

It was our first time seeing the musical. At the time we moved to Orlando, we thought the tickets to the Broadway show were still too expensive. We were waiting for the price to go down a bit more.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (our one-time neighbor in NYC's Washington Heights) really is one of the great talents of our time.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, July 02, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 111


Dear Old Blog, 

This evening, I finished watching Season 3 of "The Handmaid's Tale" on Hulu.

That means I binged all three seasons in 14 days.

It is a very compelling but very disturbing story. The spot-on cinematography enhances both of those qualities.

It disturbed me as a person of faith. Watching the abuse of religion in "The Handmaid's Tale" makes me want to be more genuine and authentic in my own religious practice.

"The Handmaid's Tale" has stirred me a desire to never let religion be a tool for hurting women or anyone.

This story also makes me want to be even more political, to do more to stand up to the affronts to our democratic republic happening in our own time.

Now, where to start?

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 110

Dear Old Blog,

Today is the one-year anniversary of our move to Lake Nona, a section of southeast Orlando, FL.

Here are two photos I took on July 1, 2019, as we moved in:

Exterior of our house in Lake Nona

Eric at our front door

Love,
Paul

Monday, June 29, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 108

Dear Old Blog,

Thanks to Eric's green thumb, we have three plumeria on our front porch here in Lake Nona.

A glimpse:


Love,
Paul

Sunday, June 28, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 107

Dear Old Blog,

Donald Trump is a racist.

This morning, on Twitter, Trump shared a video of one his supporters shouting "white power."

He thanked that man.

Donald Trump is a racist.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, June 27, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 106


Dear Old Blog,

While we have been totally distracted, problems in the rest of the world haven't stopped.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) At least 81 people were killed in an attack on a village by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria, the Borno state government said in a statement released to CNN Wednesday.

Residents said the men attacked the village in armored tanks and trucks filled with guns, according to the government's statement.

Seven people, including the village head, children and women, were abducted from the Faduma Kolomdi community, described as a nomadic town in northern Borno.

Residents reported that the men gathered the villagers on Tuesday morning and started shooting in the incident which lasted several hours.

Love,
Paul

Friday, June 26, 2020

Thursday, June 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 104


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

Eric and I have been watching "Instant Hotel" on Netflix. We started with the second season. Now, we're on the first season.

It's a reality show contest among Airbnb-like operators in Australia.

The personalities of some of the contestants are tiresome. But, it's interesting to see the homes and locales. We're also learning quite a bit about vacation spots in Australia.

Oh, to be able to safely travel internationally, again! May God inspire the scientists working on a vaccine!

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 103

Dear Old Blog,

In April, as part of my work for the Paulist Fathers, we began a "Five Questions" video series. It has been a good way to keep the Paulists connected to our parishioners and friends during these quarantine days.

I also think the series will be a good historical record of life and ministry during the pandemic.

I asked our old friend Mike Hayes to conduct the interviews.  Mike, one of the founders of the Paulists' Busted Halo media ministry, has deep experience in both ministry and communications.

Here is the first video in the series: "Five Questions with Paulist Fr. John Collins":

 

Love,
Paul


Monday, June 22, 2020

COVID 19 Diary: Day 101



Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

We've been watching "House Hunters" and "House Hunters International" on Hulu.

It's predictable and a little repetitive. But the episodes are compelling enough for background TV while cooking and doing other chores.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, June 21, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 100


Dear Old Blog,

When the quarantine began, I didn't expect I'd be blogging about a Day 100.

But, here we are.

About two weeks ago, things were looking hopeful with much talk of "reopening."

Now, at least in Florida, the numbers of new COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high.

The reality of it all can get depressing.

What is the end game of this?

I pray for the scientists working on a vaccine. May it come quickly!

Love,
Paul

Saturday, June 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 99

Dear Old Blog,

Eric and I paid our first visit this afternoon to East Lake Tohopekaliga. It's south of our house in Lake Nona and north of St. Cloud, FL.

We ate a simple lunch on a park bench in St. Cloud's Lakefront Park.

A few glimpses:




Love,
Paul

Friday, June 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 98


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

Eric and I have started watching old episodes of "Designing Women" on Hulu.

Dear God in Heaven, quickly guide the scientists to a vaccine! We've regressed to 1980s television other than "Golden Girls" (which, let's admit, we never stopped watching).

Love,
Paul

Thursday, June 18, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 97


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

Today, I started watching "The Handmaid's Tale" on Hulu.

Eric thinks I'm crazy to start a dystopian series right now.

His argument: "Isn't living during the COVID-19 pandemic during the Trump administration bad enough?"

But I love Elisabeth Moss from her years on "Mad Men."

And, if we're going to pay for Hulu, we should watch the service's signature program, right?

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 95


Dear Old Blog,

Eric was briefly on the local news tonight, speaking about Florida's spike in COVID-19 cases.

There have been thousands of new positive tests here. It's really depressing.

Love,
Paul

Monday, June 15, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 94


Dear Old Blog,

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary.

Eric and I were married on June 15, 2013, at St. Paul's Chapel on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. Our wedding reception was held near there, in the Assembly Hall at The Riverside Church.

Eric has been such a blessing in my life. There's no one else in the world with whom I'd choose to be quarantined. :-)

Love,
Paul

Sunday, June 14, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 93

Dear Old Blog,

For Catholics, today was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ ("Corpus Christi").

Hence, today's ear worm from the music ministry at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in NYC:

 

Love,
Paul

Saturday, June 13, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 92


Dear Old Blog,

Despite the alarming rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, Eric and I ventured to a store today. It was our first time doing that since the quarantine began.

But, it was only an outdoor store – the garden center at Lowe's. We bought flowers, soil and pots for our front porch.

It was not crowded there. And, most of the other shoppers were wearing masks. It was good to see that.

Love,
Paul

Friday, June 12, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 91

Adam Woomer (1981 - 2020)

Dear Old Blog,

Word came today via Rew Starr that Adam Woomer has died at age 38.

His death on June 5 was confirmed in the Altoona Mirror. According to another contact of his writing on Facebook, he died of complications from leukemia.

Adam was a friend of Eric before I met Eric.

A sometime photographer and visual artist, you might have called Adam a latter-day bohemian when I met him in 2010. He lived in a walk-up on the Lower East Side. It was not unusual for him to restore items he found on the street, or use them for art.

In November, 2010, Adam created the nicest headshot of me I will probably ever have:


His signature move was to photograph big guys from above. :-)

In 2011, Adam also took beautiful photos at my birthday dinner and Eric's birthday brunch:








This shot captured by Adam at Eric's birthday brunch in 2011 became the photo we used on our wedding website:



Adam and I had Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania in common. He grew up in Hollidaysburg.

A few years ago, thinking life could be easier back in the country, Adam moved back to that part of the world.

Except for Facebook, we lost touch with him then.


At some point in the past year, Adam returned to New York. He was starting over.

Adam, I pray that you are now in God's warm embrace. Earth is a less interesting place for your early departure.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, June 11, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 90

Dear Old Blog,

She is right ... especially the Monopoly metaphor:

   

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 89


Dear Old Blog,

I learned today that Fr. Edward Trzeciakowski entered eternal life on June 4, 2020. He was 90.

Fr. Ed was the pastor of my hometown parish, St. Alphonsus in McDonald, PA, from 1994 to 1999.

He was a solid priest and a good man. His years at St. Alphonsus were good ones.

I will always remember how Fr. Ed, in his homilies, would speak of Jesus going about "teaching and preaching."

Fr. Ed, I pray with confidence that you are now in God's warm embrace. Thank you for giving your life to the work of "teaching and preaching."

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 88


Dear Old Blog,

The waves of grief that I first experienced last November when I mother died have returned. They come on hard. Then they leave.

I'm sleeping very poorly, up every few hours through the night.

My desire to make chit-chat has disappeared again (like it did last November). And, I'm usually very good at small talk.

Then there's the news. Ugh. I don't even know what to do with what's going on in the world. I'm praying America is still a democratic republic at the end of the year.

I need to get out of the house more. Eric and I went for a drive in the late afternoon today. We went through the drive-thru at the local Culver's and got fruit smoothies. 

Yes, I'm at the stage of grief where I'm doctoring with sugar ... no bueno.

Love,
Paul

Monday, June 08, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 87

Dear Old Blog,

Landings is the Paulist Fathers' parish-based, small group ministry for Catholics who are returning to the Church after a time away.

This year, the Landings team has been creating short video meditations called "Reflections for a Troubled Age." They are nice and quiet.

Here's the first video in the series:

 

Love,
Paul

Sunday, June 07, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 86


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

A few years ago, Eric and I became fans of Mary Berry while watching "The Great British Bake Off" on PBS.

So, we were tickled recently to discover Mary on "Britain's Best Home Cook" on Hulu. We binge watched the first season in a few days and have started the second season.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, June 06, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 85


Dear Old Blog,

The wonderful life of my friend, Paulist Fr. Richard Colgan, was celebrated today prior to the final placement of his remains.

Fr. Rich died of complications from COVID-19 on May 25.

Watch Fr. Rich's funeral Mass:



Watch Fr. Rich's vigil service on Friday afternoon:



In the vigil service, there was a wonderful tribute from Rachel Maddow.

Fr. Rich was a news hound. From a new heavenly vantage point, I bet he loved it:



We miss you already, Fr. Rich. Pray for us!

Love,
Paul

Friday, June 05, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 84



Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV / Bereavement TV report:

This week, I caught up on some Netflix.

I finished both "Special" and "Unorthodox."

They both were compelling coming-of-age stories about a young adult discerning their place in the world. I'd recommend them.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, June 04, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 83


Dear Old Blog,

Apologies for a practical observation in a time of national crisis.

But, I've had this on the brain lately:

Due to hurricanes, tornados and civil unrest, why don't all windows have a protective element that can be activated when needed?

You would press a button and a shield would descend over your windows?

Or, perhaps all windows could be protected by actual, functioning shutters with tremendous strength. The kind that could be activated by remote?

So, if I am traveling, and I learn a hurricane is coming close to Orlando, I could press a button on an app, and instantly protect all of my house windows?

Overall: Instead of having to board up windows with temporary plywood, why not have a built-in, permanent solution? Even make them interesting and beautiful from a design perspective?

Love,
Paul


P.S. I first posted a version of this on Facebook. Head over there to see some helpful comments.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 82

Photo by Christie Hemm Klok
Dear Old Blog,

This evening, The Atlantic published a statement from Gen. James Mattis denouncing Trump's erratic and dictatorial behavior.

It's spot-on:

IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law. 

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
Love,
Paul

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 81

Dear Old Blog,

Today, Eric and I went for a drive AND we went for a walk.

That was a first of the quarantine. We have done one or the other on a given day, but never before both on the same day.

In the late morning, we took a short drive to the local Starbucks and went through the drive-thru. It was the first Starbucks run of the quarantine.

We took our walk in the early evening around "the lake" a few blocks from our house. (We still need to do that more often.)

Love,
Paul

Monday, June 01, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 80

Dear Old Blog,

My maternal grandmother, Dolores Vincenti Hoag, was buried today at Robinson Run Cemetery, on the hill east of my hometown of McDonald, PA.

Her two sons decided to not have a viewing or a Funeral Mass for her. 

So, with that, as well as the COVID-19 risk while traveling, Eric and I stayed here in Lake Nona, FL.

I did watch the short prayer service conducted by one of the priests of our hometown parish at the funeral home prior to her burial. The funeral home was kind to provide a livestream of that.

But it broke my heart not to be there for her.

She deserved such a better send-off.

Two notes:

Grandma Hoag was buried on her wedding anniversary. She and my grandfather, John Hoag, were married 67 years ago today on June 1, 1953.

And, for Catholics, today is the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It's a relatively new memorial, having been instituted by Pope Francis in 2018. The name "Dolores" comes from the Spanish phrase for "sorrows of Mary."

Goodbye, Grandma Hoag. I miss you already. I will never forget all that you did for me throughout my life. 

Love,
Paul

Sunday, May 31, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 79

Dear Old Blog,

Note to self:


"We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us.

We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us.

We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us."

Love,
Paul

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 77

Dear America,

A friend of mine (Paulist Fr. Rich Colgan) died on Monday night from COVID.

My grandma died on Wednesday night (not from COVID).

Listen, could we not fall apart and descend into anarchy right now?

It's not a good a time for me.

Maybe we could pencil in some major social upheaval late next week?

Thanks,
Paul

Thursday, May 28, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 76

Dear Old Blog,

My maternal grandmother, Dolores Vincenti Hoag, entered eternal life on Wednesday night, May 27, at Townview Health and Rehabilitation Center in Canonsburg, PA.

She was 87. Her death followed multiple small strokes (or stroke-like incidents) in the past few weeks. These strokes came after a fall and a broken leg a few months ago. Grandma also had lived with drug-induced Parkinson's disease for at least the past 10 years.

There is no indication her death was related to COVID-19.

When I was growing up, Grandma Hoag was my rock. Everything that I will ever achieve in life is because of the care she showed me as a child and teenager. It was grandma who took me to Church. It was grandma who encouraged (and enabled) me to go to New York University.

Because of COVID-19, Grandma Hoag died without any family or friends at her side. I was blessed to have spoken with her many times over the past few weeks. Our last call was on Monday.

Also mostly due to COVID-19, Grandma Hoag will have no public funeral arrangements. She will be buried Monday without my being present. This breaks my heart. She deserved so much better than this. 

But, many memorial Masses will be celebrated for her.

She was my last living grandparent.

Grandma, thank you for being there for me every day of my life. I will never stop praying that you are in God's warm embrace.

Love,
Paul


P.S. Here are some glimpses from Grandma's life: