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Maryland life amid cornonavirus: reader stories | COMMENTARY

The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for everyone. Social distancing, or staying 6 feet away from others, is the new way. And that means people are working from home, and parents are learning to become teachers to their kids. Socializing has gone virtual, and worshipers are attending church from their computers. Group exercise classes at gyms have turned into solo runs on the treadmill or workouts in the living room. People have also lost their jobs, which means dealing with financial pressures, as well.

Along with the physical changes have come the emotional challenges of being so isolated from life as we once knew it.

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We’ve asked readers to share their stories of how life has changed in 450 words or less. They’ve been lightly edited for length and clarity. Submit your own at talkback@baltimoresun.com, with the subject line “coronavirus story.”

Keith and Megan Biddlecome decided to get married now, without friends and family, rather than postpone their spring wedding a year because of coronavirus. They raided their closets for appropriate clothes and pulled it off in two days. Next year, they'll do it all over again, but Megan will wear a ballgown.
Keith and Megan Biddlecome decided to get married now, without friends and family, rather than postpone their spring wedding a year because of coronavirus. They raided their closets for appropriate clothes and pulled it off in two days. Next year, they'll do it all over again, but Megan will wear a ballgown.

Love (and marriage) in the time of coronavirus

Last year, we started planning our wedding for April 25, 2020, at The Belvedere. Just a few weeks ago, we were sure coronavirus would just “blow over,” but on Thursday, March 19, we realized that wasn’t necessarily the case when the 10-person limit took effect. We had to reschedule our reception for March 6 of next year, which seems so long away. To say we were devastated is an understatement.

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We didn’t want to wait that long to get married. We wanted to get married now! The courts had closed, but luckily, I had pushed for us to get our marriage license early, and we had everything in place. Last minute, we contacted St. Ignatius Church and asked if they would be willing to marry us in just two days. We called our florist, Floral Impressions, and Teresa agreed to throw us together a last minute (gorgeous) bouquet and boutonniere. My fiance’s parents and brother are local, but my parents and sister are not, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to make the decision to get married without them there. However, we didn’t know when we would have the chance again and wanted to storm the crazy together, as a married couple. We raided our closets for appropriate clothes and rushed to inform our extended families.

On Saturday, March 21, using Facebook Live, we got married in the most beautiful church, with just three guests, and started our forever. Our families around the country huddled together around smart TVs, got dressed up with us, and tuned in to the ceremony remotely. It was intimate, yet everyone was there.

It’s not the princess wedding I dreamed of, but now we’re married, and I couldn’t be happier. And a year from now, I’ll trade in the dress from my closet for a gorgeous ballgown and walk down the aisle to my husband with our closest friends and family watching, celebrating our love that was able to overcome anything — including a pandemic!

Megan Biddlecomb, Baltimore

Dealing with the stress of nursing

Working as a nurse in the hospital preparing for the outbreak has been stressful. I realized I had to find ways at home to disconnect and check out from hearing the same headlines and information over and over again.

I have gotten into the routine of, after coming home, working out and going for a walk with my boyfriend, putting the phone down. In the midst of the chaos we get to catch up and talk about things other than COVID-19. Disconnecting from my phone and social media is allowing me to reconnect with my life. I am certainly making time for things I’ve been putting off and finding different ways of coping with the stress of a job in health care during a difficult time.

This coming weekend, my boyfriend and I plan on having a bonfire together at our house, sharing happy hour by video call and using Zoom to play games online with other friends. It’s really about trying to make the best out of a not ideal situation.

Kristina Lerman, Baltimore

For Salvation Army volunteers, this is our moment to shine

My husband and I are officers for The Salvation Army. On a good day, that means that we are the pastors of The Salvation Army Church in Annapolis. During these crazy times, that means that we are the social workers, the food bank volunteers, the child care workers and janitors all at the same time.

With grocery stores running out of items and people not being able to go to work, our services at The Salvation Army have increased greatly. We are having to figure out how to help our fellow man and also keep people safe in the same space. As pastors, we had to find a way to stay in touch with our congregation while still keeping our distance. We, as a people, have never faced anything like this before in modern times. We are learning as we go. Trying to stay safe and still trying to do our job and serve our community.

We have been blessed by the surrounding facilities who have helped us in our efforts as well as taught us some ways to provide help in a safe way. Our food pantry is now done as a drive-up transaction. Our church services have been suspended, but we are delivering “church in a box" to the people in our community so that they can still feel connected and loved.

We love what we do, and we love our community. It’s an honor that they know that no matter who they are, if they need help, they can find it at The Salvation Army.

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Emily Vincent, Annapolis

Senior living in lockdown: It’s not easy but we are grateful for the care

Life at our hilltop residence, North Oaks Senior Living in Pikesville, was truly life at its fullest for us septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians.

Then, in March 2020, everything changed with the pandemic, COVID-19. With a strict no-visitor policy and an absolute social isolation rule, all public rooms where residents can gather have been closed. This resulted in no physical training, an end to continuing education, no legislative updates or current events discussion groups or book club meetings, art, writing — all gone, even bridge games. No movies and no live entertainment. The gym is closed. The dining room is closed. Visiting friends’ apartments discouraged.

Social distancing was complete.

Only residents, North Oaks employees and professional caregivers can enter the building after being screened, including taking temperatures and donning masks.

But we still have our beautiful window views. My wife’s caregiver still comes. We can walk the long hallways for exercise. The U.S. Postal Service still delivers the mail. We’re still in touch with the world with the internet and cable television. We are advised not to go to stores, but we can still get food, supplies, prescription refills and whatever, ordered on line and delivered to our apartments. Chef Nate and his cooks still prepare delicious dinners and our young servers deliver them to our doors, always with a smile. We still can see our families via video chat, and for those who cannot, North Oaks has added a new video calling service. Also added are a daily complimentary breakfast and puzzle and trivia challenges.

Despite the changes, we’re alive and well. Still blessed to live here at North Oaks.

Marty Waxman, Pikesville

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Left to right Mary Paramore, David Paramore, Joseph Paramore, john Thomas "JT" Paramore and Joe Paramore. Puppy is Atlas.
Left to right Mary Paramore, David Paramore, Joseph Paramore, john Thomas "JT" Paramore and Joe Paramore. Puppy is Atlas.

How does a family survive sudden job loss? With a lot of help and kindness.

Ours is a family of five with four of us living in Edgewood. Our patriarch, Joe, is a retired Army staff sergeant. We aren’t as worried about money as most paycheck-to-paycheck families, since he gets retirement and disability funds. He is a truck driver who works nights. He has already received an employer letter allowing him to travel and work when isolating becomes mandatory.

Mom Mary — that’s me — was the first to lose a job, my part-time job as a street advertiser. That was on Friday, March 13. I’m not eligible for unemployment.

John “JT” Thomas, our 18-year-old son who works as a YMCA lifeguard and is a full-time college student, was laid off two days later. His classes recently moved online. He’s already tried to apply for unemployment online, but the site kept crashing. One day, he called 59 times and finally got through. The representative was amazingly patient.

Joseph, 22, a fast casual chain restaurant pizza maker, was laid off on Tuesday, March 17. He applied for unemployment on a Sunday morning and had no issues.

David, 21, a self-supporting full-time college student and telecommunications salesman, has been driving all over the coastal South on spring break. He decided to mosey back to Harford County, germs and all, on March 22. He is the only one who is not taking this crisis seriously. I hope he’s right because he aged out of our Tricare for Life health insurance at 21, and cannot re-enroll because he took a semester off after graduating from Harford Community College. Although he has been accepted at Towson University, he cannot schedule classes until he attends orientation this summer, and he can’t get back on our insurance policy without a schedule. Other insurance is cost-prohibitive for him, so he has decided to risk going uninsured for a few months.

Thanks to food giveaways at the Epicenter community center, Mountain Christian Church and Bel Air Methodist Church, we have plenty of food. We have six neighbors over 60, one in cancer remission, one recovering from surgery and one with diabetes. Three adults from our house go to each giveaway, then we give our homebound and other neighbors their share.

Our neighbors reciprocate. For his calculus class, JT must now print out a quiz, fill it out, then take a phone snap or scan it, to turn in within one hour. We don’t own a printer since the college and the local library each do. With both now closed, JT was out of luck. We asked a neighbor if he can email them the quiz each Wednesday at 2:40 p.m., run over and grab it, then do his part. These lovely retired pharmacists said yes, of course.

We are allowing another neighbor to use our washer and dryer, so she does not have to leave home for the communal laundromat. She's diabetic and had her hip replacement surgery postponed due to COVID-19.

We are working together and I think the experience is good for my boys.

Mary Paramore, Edgewood

A ‘progression in technology if not pedagogy’

I have been using my time alone at home to get rid of nearly 40 years of teaching materials. I taught high school in Baltimore City from 1968 until retiring in 2006. Into six sturdy paper leaf bags I have thrown out some 30 binders worth of lesson plans, laboratory activities, tests and quizzes, notes from workshops I attended, presentations I made, grade sheets, plans for how my students and I would celebrate the first Earth Day, etc.

I have carefully sorted out the paper for recycling from the acetate overheads I made for use on the overhead projector and the binders themselves. It has shown me a real progression in technology if not pedagogy. The earliest papers were typed on hectograph paper, later came my electric typewriter and the mimeograph machine. Then came my use of an early Apple computer and finally a later generation computer. Early grades were all done by hand (and the students did all their lab calculations by hand), then calculator and finally a computer grading program. Multiple choice questions were graded by hand. Later a grid was typed and I used a razor blade to cut out around each the correct answer to place over the student’s sheet and finally machine graded tests.

I will need a new project soon. I came across my old macrame materials!

Sally Levin, Columbia

My mother is 86, and Covid-19 scares me

As I write this, today is Sunday, my birthday and I have been home for 10 days. I have been out of the house once to go to my office to pick up a P.C., so I can work from home and twice to pick up some groceries. Each of these trips elevated my anxiety about bringing home an infection that would likely kill my partner, who is recovering from a saddle embolism which hospitalized him for three weeks in January.

My mother is 86 years old and is relatively healthy, but she works every other weekend in a nursing home greeting visitors at the front desk. She has been working since she was 16 years old. Her work ethic is stronger than anyone’s I know.

I called her on Thursday, the day before my self-sequester began. And I told her I thought she should stay out of the nursing home. I would shortly decide that I should stay at home to protect my partner. He suffers from diabetes, which compromises his immune system. Diabetes paired with his slowly dissolving blood clot leaves him vulnerable to the devastating effects of the Covid-19 virus. It would severely affect his health, if not kill him. I need to stay virus free so that he can live past this pandemic.

My partner’s parents are both retired. They do not cook at home, and until the restaurants closed, were going out to eat every day. Now, they are ordering and picking up. They have refused an offer from us to buy them a microwave oven to make (in our view) their life easier.

Although it is important to respect my mother’s and my in-laws choices about living their lives, it is difficult to understand why some people simply will not protect themselves.

My true fear is that I will be hearing about three deaths in the not-to-distant future without the ability to attend any of their funerals.

All I can say to all three of them is I love you and I will miss you when you are gone.

Mark Patro, Dundalk

Jessica Crowder's children attend "Mom School" in Oella.
Jessica Crowder's children attend "Mom School" in Oella.

It’s 9 a.m. Welcome to Mom School

Three years ago, I left my job as a paralegal and return to school to pursue an education in public heath and epidemiology. I must say, it’s rather ironic to have my education in public health interrupted by a public health crisis.

Prior to COVID-19, I was a mom, wife and student. Since COVID-19, I am wife, mom, student, and full-time teacher for my children. Right now, my greatest priority is ensuring my children continue with some continuity and structure in terms of their schooling. Ensuring this continuity is also, perhaps, the only thing I have done well this week.

“Mom School” begins promptly at 9 a.m. and we spend the next several hours gliding through topics of reading, writing, math and science. Science is their favorite subject. Dad handles the physical education portion of the day with soccer drills in the backyard.

Once their schooling is done, I try to focus on my own schoolwork and productivity levels swiftly decline. As soon as I open my laptop, I find myself distracted by the newest headline, the latest shutdown or statistics. Usually, I’d be frustrated with myself for being so scattered. However, I recognize this is a loss and just as with grief, the adjustment to our new way of life will take time.

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So, in addition to social-distancing, I am actively learning and practicing patience and kindness to oneself.

Jessica Crowder, Oella

A ‘Walton’s style’ check in with neighbors

Tired of dining alone, my wife and I invited a neighbor couple over for dinner on our deck the evening of Friday, March 20th. Each person served themselves, and we sat far apart around a large table, like the newscasters who deliver us the latest statistics at 7 a.m. each morning.

Discussion centered around how much life had changed in just one week, who still had jobs, and what to expect by Monday. Another neighbor had just distributed a colorful flyer with the contact information of volunteers willing to assist seniors or sick residents with deliveries, pharmacy runs, home schooling and similar tasks; I am happy to say there is still no need, but we are prepared!

As we finished our meal, we could hear other neighbors unwinding on their porches. Everyone “checked in” with a Walton’s-style shout out to one another. One turned up some music. Another sent their son out to the yard to light a few fireworks. The peepers chortled in the 75 degree breeze as the osprey made one last pass looking for dinner in the creek. After a period of quiet reflection, those assembled so far apart offered a group “distance-toast” to the beautiful sunset, and my wife and I reluctantly retreated to the family room for another night with no March Madness, video streaming by ourselves.

R. Watts, Pasadena

The sound of silence

Today, Saturday, I found out what Paul Simon may have been thinking about when he penned The Sound of Silence. Right now, the only sound I hear is the clicking of my keyboard as I write this. There is no sound from the airport. The traffic on I-97 must be really light as I do not hear a sound from that direction; even when I stepped out to get my daily dose of junk mail I heard nothing. There are no children outside playing, not even the six or seven youngsters from the houses in the court across from my home or the children who live next door and are always on their trampoline squealing and shirking as they bounce toward the sky. If I am trying to nap on my deck it is occasionally a little annoying but still enjoyable watching them try to turn somersaults.

The silence is strange, almost ominous. There is not much if any movement outside. Usually on Saturday the street is rather busy with weekend gardeners headed to Lowes or Home Depot or pickup trucks loaded with branches, leaves and other yard debris headed for the landfill. It’s strange how I miss sounds I usually don’t really hear or pay any attention too. Quiet is normally a good thing in this age of eardrum shattering music, loud cars and motorcycles and people on cell phones in every environment. Honestly right now I would like to hear these annoying sounds again.

Among the remedies that are being tried and tested for this virus maybe we should include some prayer. I know I have. I would rather go back to listening to Paul Simon sing his song instead of experiencing the “Sounds of Silence.”

Patrick M. Lynch, Glen Burnie

Outbreak is a once-in-a-lifetime moment and it’s weird despite modern conveniences

In a word, this is eerie. We’ve never experienced anything like this pandemic in my 70-plus years. In one respect, though, it might have some of our generation wondering how we would have coped 50 or so years ago while dealing with today’s mandated and self-imposed constraints.

I read a lot — books, magazines and newspapers. There were a number of daily, weekly and community newspapers to choose from, offering various perspectives. The news of the day somehow didn’t include as much about murders, drugs and rampant malfeasance. Wonder why? There was less pounding of our leadership by the media leading to a feeling, perhaps naively, that the ship was headed in the right direction regardless of who was at the helm. Somehow, the president, congressmen, governors and the rest navigated their way through the times without assistance and advice offered hourly from the mass and social media.

This pandemic is very serious and unprecedented. It reminds me of the horrific polio epidemic that afflicted thousands of children leaving them paralyzed or crippled, and resulting in death too. Many of us knew a victim — a family member or a friend who had been stricken. A vaccine was developed and offered widespread in the mid-50’s. It took almost two decades for this virus to be eliminated in the U.S. Hopefully, the wait to end the COVID-19 won’t be as long.

Peter Schlehr, Bel Air

This cat doesn't actually require reading glasses, but shares space with Stephanie Teagle and her adult daughter.
This cat doesn't actually require reading glasses, but shares space with Stephanie Teagle and her adult daughter.

Trying to keep things normal with my daughter and my cats

At 7:30 a.m., I’m up. I start my morning ritual and prepare for work. Although I’m now on telework as an employee in the Baltimore mayor’s office of employment development, I still dress for work daily, make my coffee, eat my fruit and yogurt then head in to my home office. I follow this routine to keep a sense of normalcy.

Some mornings, I do my exercise before I start work, other days I do it after work. I am one of those people who is in the danger zone. I am over 60, and I have lupus. I am terrified of getting the virus. Because I have so many health issues, I don’t know if I would recover. I am home with my adult daughter, separated from my significant other as well. When my work day ends, my daughter and I start dinner. When that is done, we are avid crafters, so we either work on some of our projects or watch a TV show. Tonight, we will have a bowling championship on the Wii.

We have four cats who love going outside or for car rides. Because they’ve said that animals can contract the virus as well, I let them out for short terms and then wipe them all down with pet wipes when they come in (they have gotten used to it now and stand in line for their turn).

Stephanie M. Teagle, Baltimore

Just moved to Maryland

I just moved to Wye Mills in Queenstown, Maryland, from New Jersey on Monday, March 16th, and so far I have spent every day at home other than to go to work. My boyfriend, Nick, and I have been spending the time cooking, setting our house up and playing games together, including Scrabble. It’s been hard self isolating because it’s so beautiful outside, especially coming from cold New Jersey. We want to go see the cherry blossoms, but know that self isolation is the way to go to help out the community and prevent the spread. We’re even trying to ration our food as well to minimize even going out. I’m praying for everyone and their families and can’t wait to eventually get to explore the beautiful state! (Once this gets better, that is.)

Elizabeth Cray, Wye Mills

Strong, resilient and stubbornly optimistic

I write from the perspective of a senior, who owns her own business and works from home. My husband, Dave, is an essential worker at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. He used public transportation for years, but now he drives to and from work as a precaution. Our eight children are spread out around the country. As of today, we’re all doing great.

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I’m 67, have multiple sclerosis and am on an immunosuppressant drug. All three factors put me at high risk of infection and even death. I’m careful to follow a strict protocol to stay healthy — one that’s not much different from what I did before.

I take an array of essential vitamins and supplements, eat good food, get a lot of rest (eight to nine hours of sleep each night), exercise almost daily (in my home and neighborhood), and drink a lot of liquids, including hot herbal tea. What’s new is washing my hands a lot, wiping down surfaces as per CDC guidelines, not going to the gym, not going to church, not visiting in person with family and friends, and not hugging my husband when he comes home from the hospital until he properly “disinfects.”

Thankfully, much of my work is online. I stay in regular contact with my colleagues and clients through Zoom, social media and phone calls. Since I can’t network and collaborate in person, I’m moving my Meetup events online as well. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I also keep up with the news; check in with friends and family by phone, text and Facebook; watch one or two “shows” with my husband in the evening; and pray intermittently throughout the day.

My dog Cowboy and guinea pig Jitterbug entertain me immensely. My daughter Brett (a USNA grad and naval officer who’s currently working from home in Portland, Oregon) FaceTimes me often, so I can visit with my “granpuppy” Bonnie. Brett’s twin sister Jana (an actor and entrepreneur, who’s now working from home in Atlanta) sends me short videos of cute animals she finds online. We laugh a lot. My husband and I laugh a lot too, making sure we intersperse the news and action movies with comedies and comedians. Laughter is good for the soul.

I’m strong, I’m resilient, and I’m a woman of faith who is not afraid of death. Though I remain stubbornly optimistic that my husband and I will get through this pandemic just fine despite our being vulnerable, we know we will live even if we die. We will live in the hearts of our children and friends. And we will live forever with our Creator.

Jory H. Fisher, Bel Air

Backyard grilling is still possible for the Weiskopf family of Chincoteague, Va. despite the economic slowdown at the Atlantic Ocean beach resort town.
Backyard grilling is still possible for the Weiskopf family of Chincoteague, Va. despite the economic slowdown at the Atlantic Ocean beach resort town.

On the Eastern Shore, life goes on but please don’t come visit

Hello from Virginia’s Eastern Shore! We send wishes that everyone on the western shore stays safe and well during this pandemic. Here in Chincoteague, my husband Bill and I are practicing social distancing, reading, watching old movies and taking good care of ourselves including preparing a healthful evening meal on our outdoor grill.

Like us, most islanders are staying home as much as possible. Grocery stores here are doing a good job of staying stocked. Many small businesses have, however, closed which is hard for our small economy.

Finally, we want to get the message out that visitors to our resort are currently encouraged to stay home.

Vicki Weiskopf, Chincoteague, Va.

Even an outbreak can’t stop the nonviolent battle against political oppression

These are perilous times for all. However, as a long-time peace and justice activist, it has been difficult for me. All face-to-face meetings are on hold, along with protests and lobbying in Washington, D.C. Rev. William Barber’s Poor Peoples Campaign has changed its June 20 protest in D.C. to a virtual protest. I am not sure what that means.

The Baltimore Nonviolence Center has continued its Tuesday protests at 33rd and North Charles streets against Johns Hopkins University’s weapons contracts. We do respect social distancing as we gather.

As a basketball player and fan of the cinema, I am without those enjoyments. I do go to an outdoor court to exercise and to shoot baskets and now watch films on television. On March 23, I watched the excellent documentary on Maryland Public Television: “Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story.” She was the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. The Viva House Catholic Worker on South Mount Street has been going strong for 51 years.

I have been emailing friends and family around the country to find out how they are handling this crisis, maybe the worst since 1918’s worldwide flu epidemic. As of this writing, I do not know anyone who has tested positive for virus but for the celebrities. Maryland is not a hot spot.

I am greatly concerned about the Trump administration’s mismanagement of this crisis. And, of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to provide benefits to his corporate donors to the detriment of the working class. I have a responsibility not to forget those most affected by the crisis or allow them to be left behind. I will challenge the rich and powerful and not let them profit from this crisis. I will try to do what I can to promote equality for all, healthcare for all and the protection of civil liberties. No one can predict what condition this city, this state or this country might be in six months. Regardless, I hope to continue to act on behalf of the oppressed and against the 1% and the politicians getting their donations.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

For teachers, working online can be fun - and taxing

Teaching high school personal finance online is fun and different but exhausting at times answering emails, handling issues, getting students to follow through on their side, etc.

But it's a great learning experience as life changes in the education field. I am ready for the first snow day where teaching goes on and school doesn't need to be made up in the summer.

Teachers around the country are really trying to help each other.

My wife and I are both teachers. My daughter is in from New York City and working online for an accounting company. My youngest daughter is going online Monday to resume her college education via the University of Maryland.

Julius Prezelski, Baltimore

At the Bluhar household of Ellicott City there was concern about a shortage of facemasks but not a loss of humor.
At the Bluhar household of Ellicott City there was concern about a shortage of facemasks but not a loss of humor.

To perk yourself up, try using a ‘coughy’ filter

My son and brother are medical doctors and both struggling to have enough masks. My son, who works in Boston, was asked to use the same mask two days in a row! Fortunately, he managed to procure a fresh “mask” somehow. Never underestimate a doctor’s sense of humor.

Antonia Bluher, Ellicott City

Practice kindness when you social distance

In the troubled times in which we live, I still try to walk five miles a day, bad knee and all. Last time I checked, this is fine with health officials as long as I keep my distance.

Sometimes my walks take me down to the lake near my house, where I encounter other people. I am conscious about my distance but always wave or nod when I make eye contact with other members of the human race. Normally I get a positive response but that is not always the case. Sometimes the response is one of abject horror as if I am “Typhoid Tom” and that I am certainly going to spread the virus — even from six feet away.

I find that disappointing. If someone is that worried about coming into contact with humans, why go outside? Or if you do, there are certainly other places one can go and have very limited contact.

I will be the first to admit that I am by no means “St. Thomas” and my wife says I should not be bothered by the actions of a small group of people. But social distancing does not mean social rudeness, does it? In the words of the late balladeer Liam Clancy, “No fear, no envy, no meanness.” In these troubled times, a little bit of kindness can go a long way. (Of course, in any time, kindness is always a good thing).

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We are all in this together. Be humble and kind.

As John Prine sang: “So if you’re walking down the street sometime. And spot some hollow ancient eyes. Please just don’t pass 'em by and stare. As if you didn’t care say,“Hello in there, Hello.”

Tom Ponton, Columbia

A safe cocoon at Charlestown retirement community

We’re practicing social distancing; our clubs, classes and group activities are canceled, and we can’t have visitors. But residents at Charlestown, the Erickson Continuing Care Retirement Community in Catonsville, are making the best of a very bad situation.

Charlestown’s administration took control of the COVID-19 situation very early in the game and closed our rehabilitation, assisted living and continuing care buildings to all visitors (including spouses who live here) almost as soon as the pandemic showed its face in the United States. Independent living residents haven’t had outside visitors for over two weeks; the administration subtly discourages us from leaving the campus and is making it easier to stay home.

Meals are delivered directly to our apartments. Newspapers are delivered to our building lobbies and brought to our apartments by staff. Our two general stores are offer concierge service and deliver free toilet paper, laundry soap, shampoo and other necessities to residents who need them.

And while the staff is taking hard steps to keep us safe, residents are stepping up to the plate too. Many of us make several phone calls each day to residents living alone, just to say “hello” and offer an opportunity for a little conversation. Others knock on doors, step back to a socially-acceptable distance and offer a smile and “hello” to neighbors. We make special comfort food — homemade rolls, chocolate chip cookies, spicy pecans, bark candy — and put the lion’s share into plastic bags and drop them on the shelves outside other residents’ doors.

One resident who re-purposes and makes greeting cards has put an array of “thinking of you,” “you’re my friend,” and other such complimentary cards on the shelf outside her door for residents to send to friends, inside or outside of the community.

We miss our children and grandchildren and pray that they are safe and healthy. But we keep in touch through Skype, Facebook messaging and ecards — thank heaven for the technology that lets us stay in touch with the outside world.

We reach out to old friends, contemplate the lives we’ve led and are eternally grateful for the administration and hundreds of Charlestown staff members who maintain this cocoon we are living in right now.

Dayle Dawes, Catonsville

Tim Wolf of Ellicott City attends St. Bartholomew’s church from his dining room in Ellicott City using Zoom video conferencing.
Tim Wolf of Ellicott City attends St. Bartholomew’s church from his dining room in Ellicott City using Zoom video conferencing.

Church from the dining room

My husband Tim Wolf and I attend St. Bartholomew’s church in Catonsville from our dining room using Zoom video conferencing. We can see a picture of the alter on our computer screen and follow the service responses and hymns that we download on a cell phone.

Connecting to our church community through prayer and song during these scary times has been a spiritual and psychological comfort to us and to the parish at large. We will be resilient, and in community, we will hang on to hope and light.

Veronica Clarke, Ellicott City

Been down this road before, but with cancer

The first two days of our pandemic-driven routine were full of angst, frustration, fear and inconvenience. Scrambling to get groceries, keep my son occupied, cancel upcoming travel and events, and generally dealing with the fall-out from no longer being able to go about my daily life. By Wednesday something had shifted, and I realized it was the muscle memory kicking in from my year spent fighting cancer. I felt myself letting go of personal expectations and relaxing into my new normal.

I’ve done this before. Put my life on hold. Lost my sense of well-being. Given up control over my future. Been socially isolated to mitigate infection risk. Lost the ability to do simple things for myself that I used to take for granted. Faced down an ever-shrinking list of “safe” activities. Felt the fear of death looming over everything.

Certainly things are different this time around. I don’t have the sense of being singled out; the anger and resentment at seeing my peers going on about their lives while I go to endless rounds of appointments and endure painful and invasive treatments. This time we’re all in this together. And in some ways that makes it worse. Cancer treatment had breaks. Days where I learned to live in the moment and pretend everything was OK. There’s no break in our current situation; and there’s no end in sight.

Treatment came with an end date. Sure, there was (is) always the fear of reoccurrence, but I had a milestone that would tell me if my fight was effective. And there was a life to resume, a world to rejoin. This time the fear is greater than my life; our entire society hangs in the balance.

So I’m being gentle with myself. I’m loosening the rules about screen time, meals, exercise and work. I’m letting myself enjoy spontaneous moments of laughter, sleeping in longer, eating when I feel hungry instead of when the clock dictates, going for a drive when I need space. And I’m using the heck out of Zoom video conferencing to stay connected with friends, both near and far.

Leslie Toussaint, Ellicott City

Unity and kindness will get Baltimore through the coronavirus

Downtown. Almost dark. I was driving on Fayette Street, approaching Colvin Street near the main post office. Traffic slowed. As I neared the intersection, I saw a young man on the ground lying smack dab in the middle with his smashed motorcycle lying beside him. Another young man was there, unsure of what to do.

Instinct said: “Pull over.” I thought: “Surely, somebody’s already called 911.” Instinct said: “Call 911 anyway.”

I talked to the women on 911 (bless her calm voice), the other young man (bless him) talked to the motorcyclist. He was in pain and I won’t describe what his knee looked like — there are reasons I’m an artist, not a nurse. In less than 10 minutes the ambulance arrived (bless them too) and I was no longer needed.

As I returned to my car, I looked around for the first time since this all started. I realized that the driver of the car behind where I’d stood on Fayette had stopped with her flashers on to block traffic in that lane. So did the man in the car on Colvin. (Bless them both). I bowed to that woman, got in my car and drove on.

I woke the next morning with the realization: “That woman, she literally had my back!” It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought to myself: “This is how we’ll get through this virus, each person just doing their part, each person doing what they can to help others; no big deal — it’s just what ordinary, decent people do.”

Say what you will, gripe all you want about Baltimore, but remember — we also live in a generous, kind, amazing city, full of caring human beings. Many are doing their jobs right now; many have lost their jobs. Just like bullets, kindness knows no race, creed or class.

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In this moment, let’s not stop at the common farewell: “Be careful out there.” Let’s try: “Take care; let’s watch out for each other.”

Cinder Hypki, Baltimore

Fabric that Towson resident Patty Mochel bought to make masks for medical workers, who are facing a massive shortage.
Fabric that Towson resident Patty Mochel bought to make masks for medical workers, who are facing a massive shortage.

Sewing face masks for medical workers

My daughter is a neonatal intensive care nurse in California and she says they will begin to run out of supplies in 10 days. I have a friend whose daughter is an intensive care nurse in Delaware, and she was very upset because her daughter said they were in the verge of running out of face masks.

I read an article on a Facebook page about a Chicago deaconess asking people to sew face masks, and I sent it to my friend. She began a closed Facebook page to help Delaware hospitals. This was on a Friday.

On Saturday, when I got up, I found that a hospital in Delaware had told her that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issued new guidelines that bandannas could be used as face protection.

So it was a go.

I went to the Joann Fabric and Craft Store in Cockeysville and discovered four other people who were also making medical face masks, all for different hospitals. We all had different patterns. I was told to get 100% cotton, but someone else was told to use a poly cotton blend. Another group was apparently making masks with a filter in it. We all decided we would do the patterns we were told to do, and that they would probably all be useful.

We feel sure they will be used, in any event.

Patty Mochel, Towson

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