Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 18

Dear Old Blog,

The novelty of quarantine is starting to wear off.

We're blessed to be safe and healthy, of course. But, I do miss regular life.

I finished the "Modern Love" series on Amazon Prime tonight. It's an anthology series based on the popular New York Times column of the same name.

A few of the episodes made me cry. All of them made miss New York.


Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 17

Dear Old Blog,

On March 16, Paulist Fr. Ricky Manalo was verbally assaulted and subjected to racial slurs while walking in my beloved New York City.

Fr. Ricky writes at America Media:
I was out for an evening walk on Monday, March 16, the very first day President Trump used the term “Chinese virus” to describe the new coronavirus, Covid-19. An enormous, black pick-up truck pulled up beside me. At first, I ignored the pulsing and blaring radio that sought to defy its closed windows. The air was thick and cold. I tried to focus on my walk, but within seconds the side window lowered and, over the deafening music, a man began shouting at me, “Virus!... Asian virus!” More words followed, but they all jumbled together in seeming slow motion as my instinctive fear took over amid the racial slurs being hurled my way. At first, I froze. Then, as the man continued to taunt me, I ran into the closest shelter I could find, a nearby liquor store. 
Somehow, I felt the need to justify my sudden presence to the person behind the counter, so I asked a question, one I still cannot remember. On one level, it didn’t matter what I said, as the loud music and angry voices continued to penetrate into the shop. I stood in silence for what seemed like 10 minutes, but was probably only 30 seconds. At last, the truck drove away. I began to breathe more fully. With the truck finally gone, reality set back in: I was a victim of a verbal assault and the target of racial slurs, words I never imagined would be hurled at me. ... 
What is happening in our country?


Sunday, March 29, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 16

Dear Old Blog,

Today, March 29, was the earthly birthday of my mom, Diane.

If she had lived, she would have been 62 today.

She died on November 12, 2019, from lung cancer.

I miss you, mum. You left too early.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 15

Dear Old Blog,

Here in quarantine land, the days run together. I spent the morning thinking it was March 29 when it was only March 28.

Tonight, Eric and I broke down and logged into the free trial of Disney+.

We watched "Rogue One" after dinner. It our first time seeing it.

Loved it. I regret not seeing it in the theater.


Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 14

Dear Old Blog,

Pope Francis brought me to tears today with his words and prayers in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican:

From the pope's remarks:
... In this storm, the fa├žade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!” ... 


Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 13

Dear Old Blog,

During most times of national crisis, there are good ways to volunteer.

But, in this time of COVID-19, the current best way to help (for someone with no medical experience) seems to be to just stay home — and help stop the spread of the virus.

From the couch, there is one way to help, of course. And that's opening up the wallet.

Here are the three worthy organizations to which I've donated this week:

Actor's Fund

Washington Health System Foundation (in my native Washington County, Pennsylvania)

NYU Student Emergency Relief (my alma mater)

These donations were not large. But, I hope to do more. As Thornton Wilder said in "The Matchmaker":

"Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.”


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 12

Dear Old Blog,

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 26), a "stay-at-home" order goes into effect here in Orange County in Florida.

With that in mind, even though we haven't been out of the house in days, Eric and I went for a little ride in the car late this afternoon — reasoning it might be our last chance to do so for a while.

We didn't plan to get out of the car.

We thought about going through the local Starbucks drive-through. But we passed on that after seeing the long line of cars already there.

We then went to the bank. (I'm thrilled that Pittsburgh's own PNC opened a branch here in Lake Nona a few months ago.)

Finally, we swung by Eric's office. He ran in and watered his 12 orchids there. (Yeah, he's into orchids.)


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 11

Dear Old Blog,

Tonight, I attended a virtual party on Zoom to celebrate our friend Matt's 36th birthday.

More than 50 people took part.

The party had a circus theme. There was singing, including performances of tunes from "The Greatest Showman." Spoken word, video tributes, acrobatics and magic tricks also were part of the night.

The news today was not good. Among the hundreds of deaths was that of legendary playwright Terrence McNally. He died from coronavirus complications at age 81.

I bet Terrence would have loved Matt's party.


Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 10

Dear Old Blog,

I used Instacart for the first time today to have groceries delivered. It seemed safer than personally going to the grocery store.

It worked out well. But, our grocery store (Publix) was out of some items, including eggs.

The Instacart shopper erroneously delivered us four green peppers. We'll have to think of a recipe for those.

This evening, my old book club from NYC met via Zoom. It was awesome getting to chat and pray with all of them. I really miss my old crew.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 9

Dear Old Blog,

In these days of COVID-19, Sundays are work days for me.

I spend Sundays sharing Facebook Live videos and tweeting to promote the Paulist Fathers' many online Masses around the United States. By the end of the day, I am really familiar with the Scripture readings of the day. And I hear lots of homilies. I probably should develop a homily scorecard.

For Catholics, today was the Fourth Sunday of Lent or "Laetare Sunday." It's known for the pink or rose vestments worn by priests celebrating Mass on this Sunday.

"Laetare" is Latin for "rejoice." Laetare Sunday is meant to be a day for joy amidst the somewhat somber nature of Lent.

It's hard to be joyful during a pandemic that is killing thousands of people.

But ... today also is composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday.

So, maybe we need a Sondheim tune to bring a bit of joy, or at least inspiration.

Here is "No One is Alone" from "Into the Woods":

Saturday, March 21, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 8

Dear Old Blog,

Saturdays are less fun when every day looks like a Saturday.

But, with the COVID-19 death toll rising and hospital supplies running low around the country, I'm not going to complain about being bored or being stuck in the house.

Eric and I are happy and healthy in our house in Lake Nona, FL. The weather has been beautiful. We're blessed.

A boring Saturday is just fine.

I made my Great-Grandma Vincenti's risotto for dinner tonight. It's a recipe she learned from her mother-in-law, an immigrant to America from northern Italy.

For the risotto broth, I used organic, no-salt-added chicken broth out of a box instead of the old-school salty canned variety. It was fine. Fine like a boring Saturday.

But salty tastes better.


Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 7

Dear Old Blog,

I wrote an obituary today for work. But, it wasn't related to COVID-19.

I also had pizza on the brain. So, that's what we ordered via Door Dash for dinner. (I'm still hoping food delivery isn't too dangerous right now – for the delivery people and for us).

Eric and I attempted our regular Friday "date night" at home tonight. After dinner, we shared a pint of Ben & Jerry's (cannoli flavored). We watched "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." Didn't love it. Didn't hate it.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 6

Dear Old Blog,

Eric and I just came in from a little walk around our neighborhood, Laureate Park in Lake Nona, FL. It was a beautiful warm evening.

We went for a walk last night, too. That stroll was after dark around the big retention pond about a block from our house.

Going for walks is pretty much the only acceptable outing these days.

We still get food deliveries to the house (Mexican yesterday for lunch. Japanese tonight for dinner). I wonder about how much exposure to the virus that presents.

This morning, I learned that an acquaintance in New Jersey (a fellow NYU College of Arts & Science alumnus) has tested positive for COVID-19. He's treating the virus from home.

This evening, a friend in New York shared that a friend of his died due to the virus.

Yes, it's close to home.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 5

Dear Old Blog,

That dry cough seems to be almost gone.

I write that with a great deal of gratitude. I've begun to read about the immense lung pain and breathing trouble for some of those who have contracted COVID-19. It sounds awful.

I now have two acquaintances in New York City who have confirmed cases of the disease. From their social media posts, one seems to be doing fairly well. The other has been hit very hard.

Today was the first day that Eric worked completely from home. That's going well. It's nice to have him home with me.

At the current moment, my magnum opus is the the page on the Paulist Fathers website with the listing of online Mass broadcasts (since public Masses have been cancelled). It's nice to help provide a resource for anyone during this hard time.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 4

Dear Old Blog,

Today's big decision was deciding whether or not to go to the poll and vote in Florida's presidential primary election.

I am feeling good today. The dry cough is minimal (without the benefit of any cough medicine for 24 hours).

I was loathe to sit out this primary election as it was my first opportunity to vote in Florida since we moved here last July. I missed last year's general election in November as I was in Pennsylvania with my mom during her time in hospice.

So, Eric and I went to our polling place in the lobby of the auditorium of Lake Nona High School. (The high school students are on spring break so there was no worry with that.)

I am pleased to report there was no line at all. In fact, Eric and I were the only voters in the space while we were voting.

Upon arrival, I spied a container of hand sanitizer on the sign-in table. I did apply some of the sanitizer to my hands.

We stayed back from the poll workers and marked our ballots easily and quickly with pens we had brought from home. 

Then we exited. Easy-in and easy-out.

Technically-speaking, it was breaking the self-quarantine. But I think it went ok. I'm happy I voted.


Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 3

Dear Old Blog,

It's the third day of the self-quarantine. (That sounds so dramatic.)

The dry cough is still present but is currently masked by cough medicine. No sore throat today.

I thought that I felt a little warm this morning but my temperature reading was 98.5. So, no fever.

I didn't sleep well last night. But, honestly, I haven't been sleeping well for much of the past 10 months.

Last July, we moved to Lake Nona, FL, for Eric's new gig. And, for our house here, we bought a new Tempurpedic bed. I thought I was going to love this bed. At the store, it seemed so soft and luscious. Truth be told, I bullied Eric into spending more than he wanted to buy it.

But, the bed has turned out to be too soft and squishy, especially at the edges. It's hard to maintain a comfortable position for a full night.

But it's not just the bed. It's also the anxiety.

The anxiety comes from multiple places: figuring out how to successfully work remotely; the horrible state of our national politics; and the recent deaths of my mom and one of my sisters.

My mom, Diane Hertzler (pictured) died in November at age 61 after a short bout with advanced lung cancer that was diagnosed in August.

Last fall, I spent several weeks in Pittsburgh to be present during her time in hospice care.

The second death was that of my half-sister, Amanda Snatchko (pictured). Only 34, she died in January at her apartment in Hawaii. Amanda died following a struggle with alcoholism throughout her adult life.

The deaths of my mom and Amanda resulted in a level of grief I had never experienced before.

Grief like this is so weird. It comes in unexpected waves. And sometimes those waves come in the middle of the night.

I pray that my mom and Amanda are now in God's warm embrace.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 2

Dear Old Blog,

Live from the house in Lake Nona, FL:

The thermometer arrived in yesterday's mail. (Husband Eric was very happy about this.)

My temperature last night was 99.8.

My temperature this afternoon was 98.7.

So, no fever.

The dry cough is somewhat present but not bad at all. Still popping Ricola drops.

Masses are cancelled in many parts of the country this Sunday, but not here in the Diocese of Orlando. But, due to the dry cough, I'm staying clear of folks.

It might be the first time I have missed Sunday Mass since I was a kid.  :-(

Spending the day promoting the broadcasts of Masses by the Paulist Fathers.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 1

Dear Old Blog,

Yesterday, I began to have a dry cough at our house here in Lake Nona, FL. The cough is on-and-off today.

Lungs feel a little strange.

Potential of a sore thought addressed by two Ricola drops.

I do not have a fever. But we have ordered a thermometer online.

Psychosomatic symptoms? Will they be difficult to endure?

I guess the 14-day self-quarantine begins now.