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Maryland life amid coronavirus: reader stories | COMMENTARY

Weeks into a stay-at-home order from Gov. Larry Hogan to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of us are getting more used to the idea of only going out when it is important. More people are wearing masks, and streets are emptier than ever. People have also lost their jobs and wonder how they will feed their families and pay bills.

It hasn’t been an easy time, and many of us are itching to get back to the way things were, but this may be the new normal for the foreseeable future. We have all found our ways to cope and bright spots in such a dark period.

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We’ve asked readers to share their stories of how life has changed and how they are coping in 450 words or less. They’ve been lightly edited for length and clarity, and more can be found online at baltimoresun.com/opinion. Submit your own at talkback@baltimoresun.com, with the subject line “coronavirus story.” We’ll edit and compile our favorites for later publication in The Sun and share them with the Maryland Historical Society for potential inclusion in their “Collecting in Quarantine” initiative to preserve for future generations how Marylanders are living through this unique moment in history.

Mia Grinage, 7, of Windsor Mill takes a virtual ballet class with the Maryland Academy of Dance.
Mia Grinage, 7, of Windsor Mill takes a virtual ballet class with the Maryland Academy of Dance. (Nicole Nichelson)

A virtual dance school

When Gov. Hogan initially announced that schools were closing, my two main concerns were how to continue to teach ballet, tap and hip-hop ensemble and still interact on a daily basis with the beautiful students and families that come to the Maryland Academy of Dance. And how to ensure that my team of instructors and other staff could continue to earn steady incomes in what had become the new stay-at-home normal.

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Empathy, honesty and integrity lead my decisions. I tried to take into account all view points and do what was best for our school, teachers and families. I simply had to keep business going during this pandemic. That meant turning into a virtual dance school.

My administrative team and I immediately sprung into action to transition our two buildings, which includes seven dance studios, 375 students and 17 teachers, into one virtual training facility — all within just two days. By the time Monday classes began at 5:30 p.m., March 16, we were officially The Virtual Maryland Academy of Dance. We set up our classes through the Zoom app, which every family has downloaded and is able to use for live instruction.

Not only have we been able to keep the business alive, but we understand now more than ever that seeing familiar faces and connecting with other people is good for the soul and everyone’s well-being. Listening to the kids socialize before class or brighten up when they see familiar faces on their screens has been priceless. In the nine dance seasons we have been in business, the academy has truly become a family. Not being able to see one another was going to take a toll on all of us.

Seeing how important that social aspect was, we’ve added other activities in addition to dance instruction to keep the camaraderie the school was known for and encourage our families to continue to interact with us and one another. Through our virtual classroom portals, website and social media pages we have implemented dance challenges and movie nights, where we all get together on Saturday nights to log on as a virtual family and watch the same movie. There are also opportunities for students to have one-on-one chats with the director and access free online dance videos, classes, memberships and other fun activities that can be implemented into their daily home-schooling curriculum.

As we move into the next realm of the quarantine, the students continue to be dedicated to their craft and eager to learn. We will continue to adjust to this new normal and enjoy and appreciate the simple things that keep us connected.

Darby Iva Pack, director of Maryland Academy of Dance in Baltimore County

Orlando Barnes is doing all he can to keep life active and positive for his kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. From left to right: Olivia Barnes, Braylynn Barnes, La’Mya Chandler, Nasir Barnes and Dayki Jenifer.
Orlando Barnes is doing all he can to keep life active and positive for his kids during the COVID-19 pandemic. From left to right: Olivia Barnes, Braylynn Barnes, La’Mya Chandler, Nasir Barnes and Dayki Jenifer.

Faith and resilience in pandemic job loss and work injury

Our story has been about resilience. I, my wife and five kids have to be strong, creative and have faith to not let our minds become idle during this pandemic. We manage by organizing egg hunts, educational hangman games, reading time, school work, family movie time, dancing and arts and crafts projects. Keeping the kids active and positive helps keeps us as parents active and positive as well.

But it is sometimes hard as I deal with a shoulder injury I suffered on the job. My wife was laid off from her job as an EMT so she isn’t working. It can be stressful to think about the financial hardship we face while trying to take care of five kids. We have turned to faith in our home and resilience. We rely on food banks to feed our family. We thank these organizations greatly for their help.

Life has definitely changed in other ways as well. We can’t imagine going out in this world every day without mask, gloves and hand sanitizer — just like we carry a wallet. There are no more high-fives or hugs when we see friends and family in public. No Sunday dinners with extended family, church, date nights or weekend parties. Malls and shopping centers are closed. It feels like we are living in a science fiction movie. But it’s reality.

But we are resilient and we will get through and overcome and surpass this pandemic called COVID-19.

Orlando Barnes, Columbia

Lynn Cripps, (left) and friend Mary Semel take walks and pick up trash for exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns have cut off activities such as tennis.
Lynn Cripps, (left) and friend Mary Semel take walks and pick up trash for exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns have cut off activities such as tennis.

From tennis to trash walks

I am a 76-year-old woman who, prior to the COVID-19, found exercise on a tennis court. Now I take daily “trash walks” for exercise and a sense of purpose. Equipped with a face mask, gloves, a large plastic bag and a grabber (a helpful device left over from knee surgery), I walk 3 to 4 miles grabbing debris from sidewalks and gutters.

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I am joined by one of my tennis partners and together we pick up 200 to 300 pieces of debris (our specialty is plastic) per walk that otherwise would have ended up in storm drains and the Chesapeake Bay. Our walks began in our own neighborhood of Bolton Hill, but the thrill of the chase to grab one more bottle or can has led us up and down Charles Street, Eutaw Place, St. Paul Street and Maryland Avenue. We always take note of where we can empty our catch into city trash bins.

We welcome any fellow confined citizens to come and join us.

Lynn Cripps, Baltimore

Virtual college reveal

We’ve been friends with three other families forever. Each family has two or three kids. My daughter is the oldest of all of them. Last spring, when she was finishing high school, we decided to host a college reveal party. Sort of like the now popular gender reveal parties, but instead of baby blue or pink, the reveal would be the colors of the college she planned to attend. Going in, I had limited expectations, but it turned into a really positive time to celebrate her accomplishments, pray over her and wish her well in this scary and exciting new chapter.

This spring, the second oldest (a boy in one of the other families) was up. He too planned to attend college, but what would that look like this year? The final part of his college search had been curtailed and family finances were suddenly less secure. Given the uncertainty, would he and his family want to make such a commitment? And would there be any opportunity to honor him, like we had my daughter?

We soon found out. In late April, one week before the college decision deadline, we received an email from his mother with the subject line “College Reveal Ready.” It was on! We were asked to guess the winning college and to make a “Go XXX!” sign to support it. Then, on the day of, we received a knock on the door. When we opened it, no one was there — just three small homemade boxes, wrapped with string and with a “no peeking” sign on top.

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That evening for dinner, we joined the four-frame Zoom call, one window for each family. We all scrunched together and waved our signs. Then at the designated moment, we ripped the box tops off. Inside were red velvet whoopie pies and cupcakes, with yellow butter cream frosting. In an instant, we knew he would be going to Calvin University. There was much clapping and hollering. I sunk my teeth into a cupcake and thought what a sweet moment it was, despite all the uncertainties.

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Barnaby Wickham, Baltimore

Gardening my way through the pandemic

Working in the garden has both given me a way to fill up the dull days of the shutdown and to cling to a promise of better days ahead.

When the wind isn’t blowing and my knees are willing, I ride my bike from my Bolton Hill home to the plots I rent in the community garden in Druid Hill Park. There is not much traffic, a few joggers and dog walkers but we all keep our 6-foot distance. The only tight space is on the Wyman Park Drive overpass that crosses the Jones Falls stream. More often than not, a photographer or two is planted on the overpass sidewalk aiming a camera at the nest a night heron has made in trees above the stream. Nature attracts even in a pandemic.

In the park, crews have taken down the basketball goals and the ball fields are empty of teams, yet the roads are alive with exercisers. Runners, cyclists and parents pushing strollers are regulars. In March, no one wore masks. In April, they are common.

There are 70-plus plots in our community garden, but crowding has not been a problem. Sometimes I am there alone, with just the wind, the mockingbirds and the worms.

When human company does arrive, conversation breaks out at a distance. We discuss gardening routines and disruptions of normal life. Munching on an apple, I talk with Tom a respiratory therapist with the Veterans Affairs who installed a drip irrigation watering system in his garden plot. At his request I toss him my apple core which he deposits in a buried jug, home for a colony of compost-eating red worms. He tells me that at the hospital he had become so accustomed to wearing a mask that he accidentally tried to eat a sandwich while still masked. It did not go well.

Jamie, a woodworker, has fashioned raised-bed wood boxes as well as an elaborate trellis for his crops. He reports that his work routine has changed. Lately he has been busy making coffins for funeral homes.

Teresa pauses from turning over the soil in her plot to say she recently chose not to attend the funeral of a relative because it would mean too many people would be gathered too close together.

Spring is a time of anticipation, especially now. Like many gardeners I can’t wait for uncertain weather to yield to familiar warmth. I know some of the seedlings — tomato, eggplant, fennel — nursed under my basement grow light might shrivel when they are soon exposed to the harsh realities of garden life. But some will make it. And the prospect of enjoying the salad days of summer keeps me going in the gloom.

Rob Kasper, Baltimore

After getting laid off from his job because of cuts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg Dunlap of Baltimore has pursued his dream of starting a full-time insurance agency.
After getting laid off from his job because of cuts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg Dunlap of Baltimore has pursued his dream of starting a full-time insurance agency.

Turning a job loss into opportunity

I had worked in the automotive industry since 1995; where I became accustomed to the ups and downs of the business. But I always wanted to work in a field that gave me a sense of higher value and more stability. So, I decided to become a part-time independent life insurance agent, which I’ve done on and off since 2012.

Then in March, I was laid off from my full-time automotive job due to COVID-19. This was the second layoff in my field of work since the 2008 financial crisis.

Maybe it is out of fear, or just determination to make a legacy for myself and my family; I decided to launch a full-time business. I am now the sole proprietor of Dunlap Financial Services, an independent life, health, travel, and Motor Club of America agent.

I was once a young, black, male, unintentionally heading down the wrong path. I am now 47 years old, engaged to be married for the first time on May 9 (our wedding plans have changed due to the virus), and I am excited about turning another negative (layoff) into a triple positive and overcome the past and build the future.

Greg Dunlap, Baltimore

Philip Harris gives his dad a haircut in the backyard of the house where he grew up.
Philip Harris gives his dad a haircut in the backyard of the house where he grew up.

Backyard haircuts and coming home during a pandemic

Where I grew up, there was (and is to this day) a charter bus garage adjacent to our backyard. I fell asleep to the sounds of idling engines and the ringing of singing tools as mechanics burned the midnight oil.

To me, it was a beautiful place. Of our property we could boast two things: the first, our noisy, but arboreal backyard; and the second, our father’s presence, which earned us the distinction of being one of the few two-parent households in the neighborhood.

When I was 4, my father began to take me to the barbershop. It became a tradition. I would sit for hours, intermittently listening to the din of shoptalk. Once we got our fades, we would go to 7-Eleven, where my father would buy Slurpees.

This would continue until my adolescence, at which point I realized that my cut grew antiquated. I would also realize that I was too afraid to speak up about it.

One day, I decided otherwise. A new barber had rented a booth in the shop near where the younger clientele would congregate. I leapt at the opportunity, telling the junior barber what I wanted.

I sat in the chair, excited and confident, and was promptly taken for a fool. My fade had ended up becoming a completely bald head.

In light of this, and in the middle of my parent’s breakup, I had decided to break the tradition I had shared with dad for 10 years. It would be the last time I visited the shop.

He couldn't understand. His disapproval of my growing hair and my growing disdain for barbershops culminated in a yearslong tension between us.

Eventually, enough years passed for my hair to stretch past my shoulders. With those years also came healing and reconciliation.

My father became not only accustomed, but fascinated by my new hair. I would maintain my distance from barbers, instead coming to own a pair of clippers for the sake of trimming my hair.

My father and I are close. That one decision set me on the path to earn my autonomy and his respect.

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My father and I laugh together, perhaps more now than in my childhood. I love him, unconditionally.

After a decade, during a pandemic, I came home. Dad called, asking a favor. We met up the next day. At almost 24-years-old, my hair, long, copper and coiled into locks, falls between my shoulder blades. For Dad, age 60 approaches, and his hair, like mine, is largely bereft of the dark ebony coils that I remember growing up.

Our yard is no longer the verdant garden it once was. No longer do humming buses lull me to sleep.

The bus company grew tired of our ‘arboretum’, which encroached upon their property. Their heavy-handed pruning killed the trees. Mom and dad are no longer together.

Yet, somehow, in spite of COVID-19, our family reunited, our yard became a barbershop, and I was holding the clippers.

Philip Harris, Baltimore

Paul deKowzan and his wife Linda deKowzan with their granddaughters Natalie and Kelsey deKowzan (brown hair) on Grandparent's Day last year.
Paul deKowzan and his wife Linda deKowzan with their granddaughters Natalie and Kelsey deKowzan (brown hair) on Grandparent's Day last year.

Theater productions with my granddaughters

As an involved grandmother, I have been lucky enough to have become a significant part of my two granddaughters’ lives. From the time they were infants, creating lasting memories with them has always been a top priority for me. This was relatively easy when they were babies and through preschool, even though they lived an hour away. However, once they started first grade, it became harder to see them.

Before the pandemic, we had sporadic sleepovers, because they live so far away and have activity-filled schedules. Since the virus has made this method of interaction taboo, I had to find some other way to communicate and engage them. Enter the widely popular FaceTime and Zoom apps. Since the kids weren’t in school, I have been able to connect with them on a daily basis using the technology.

Initially, I started reading them children’s classics, like “Little Women.” Ironically, the book about a family coping with a profound loss after the Civil War proves very appropriate to the current times we are now facing. After reading each chapter, I asked the girls the moral (there usually was one), and they were able to describe it accurately. For instance, being happy with what you have as long as you are around those you love. I called our daily readings, “Nonni’s Book Club.”

As Easter approached, I became more creative and directed a play with the girls acting all the roles. The Easter play was comprised of two parts; one was religious and the other was a musical with Easter songs. Each part included costumes and choreography put together by the girls. The “Easter Parade” number was replete with floppy, flowery, beach hats as bonnets and umbrellas as twirling parasols.

During one performance, the older granddaughter scolded the younger one for kicking too high. To which the younger one replied: “What do you want, I play soccer!” The hardest part was insuring the number of lines in the “play” were equal — those munchkins even counted how many words each had. (I don’t know how Spielberg does it!) Rave reviews proclaimed it was a smashing success, even though they were from biased family and friends.

I must admit, that I really miss my granddaughters’ warm hugs, sweet kisses and precious little arms around my neck. Unfortunately, like everyone else, this is our normal until a vaccine can be discovered. In the interim, I will relish this daily interaction with them, that I never had before the crisis. So even in the midst of all the devastating tragedy, I found this opportunity that would never have been possible otherwise. It is the highlight of my very long day, and oh, the memories we are creating.

Linda deKowzan, Lutherville

I survived war, I can survive COVID-19

Seventy-five years ago my family joined another family in a covered wagon and fled from the Russian army only 35 miles away advancing toward our home in East Germany. Our group consisted of two mothers with three children each and a French POW who drove our wagon pulled by two big horses. We headed west into the unknown.

Everyone was scared, many had lost family members and no one knew how or when the war would end.

The fear and the unknown are somewhat similar to life today. However the danger was much greater then. We were not allowed to flee and thus were afraid of fanatical Nazis, who might stop us, and foreign airplanes overhead that were dropping bombs. We just hoped to get out alive and were lucky that we did.

Today, I’m in my comfortable home. In good weather I go out and garden and feel very lucky. And best of all, I am looking forward to the birth of our first great-grandchild later this year.

Bettina Jenkins, Baltimore

Linda Rains Allman thought she'd be reading books and working on her novel during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is instead sewing face masks.
Linda Rains Allman thought she'd be reading books and working on her novel during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is instead sewing face masks.

Forget reading; I’m sewing face masks

If you told me six months ago that while under a pandemic-induced government order to remain at home, I would spend my time making face masks, I would not have believed you. I have always been a voracious reader and a compulsive writer. My answer would have been that I would dive into my reading and make more progress on writing my young adult novel. But that is not what I do.

What I do is sew face masks. This opportunity fell into my lap. When I heard that there would be no in-person Easter service or Preakness festivities, my heart sank. I enjoy sewing, but there was no point in making my annual Easter and Preakness dresses and hat like usual. I felt sad and sorry for myself. Then someone asked for face masks. I had an abundance of fabric scraps, elastic and seam binding. I was off and running.

To date I have made approximately 15 dozen face masks for friends and family and neighbors, as well as health care facilities like Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland Saint Joseph’s Medical Center, Gilchrist Hospice, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and our own Jacksonville Senior Center. I also made some for veterinary workers.

With all that sewing, I eventually ran out of supplies. That is when the magic started happening.

I have received the most beautiful fabrics from generous people in our community. Beautiful animal prints came in via a connection on the Nextdoor social media service. My friend from college sent an entire box of batik cotton in glorious prints. My neighbor dropped off a large box of ribbons and spools of thread. Others contributed seam binding and elastic which has become as valuable as toilet paper. My own grandson, Luke, age 11, sent a check for $20 for supplies. In an ingenious stroke of parenting, his father distributed his work bonus among his three children with a caveat. They had to research charities and make a presentation to him to explain their choices. My face masking enterprise, quite literally, made the cut.

I think the pandemic has made many of us more self-reliant. I know I have unjammed my sewing machine several times. Before I would have just taken it to the shop. I also am keeping it well-oiled and maintained when before that task may have lapsed. In many ways this unfortunate pandemic has brought out the good in many people.

People tell me I am noble for doing this work. No. I just enjoy sewing. I love choosing the fabric, threading the machine, even ironing the mask when it is completed. It is a tactile experience. So, you will excuse me now while I get back to my face masks.

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Linda Rains Allman, Phoenix

“Everything is closed because of breaking news”

“Everything is closed because of breaking news.” That is how my son with autism describes COVID-19 and the closures that are in place because of it. For people with autism, routine and structure are vital. In one day he lost his job and his day program. His schedule for weeks has been reduced to home activities and walks. It’s is difficult because we cannot tell him when this will end. We cannot show our fear and anxiety which would set off his anxiety.

He has self-imposed food restrictions so, yes, we frantically purchased as much of his particular food in mass. If you could not find Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese you can blame me. My husband and I could eat grubs as long as he has macaroni and cheese. Since his schedule and obsessive compulsive disorder dictate that we shop for his food one week at a time, extra food has to be hidden from him. Thank goodness for friends with extra freezer space.

Social distancing isn’t something we can explain to him. When we go to a store we wipe everything and remind him to “stay close and hands in your pockets.” I’m pretty sure I scared a family at Wegmans grocery when I yelled, “Andrew STOP!” when he got too close to them. In my defense, they didn’t appear to be taking this seriously, so I think they needed to be frightened of me if not the virus. We always joked that eating dirt during his formative years gave him an amazing immune system and we hope it will protect him, and in turn us, from getting sick.

We are over age 60 and live alone with him. Concerned about what would happen to him if we became ill, hospitalized, or worse, we updated our will to protect him. He could not be left home alone and out-of- state family would not be able to help him. Not exactly a highlight of our captivity.

On the flip side, he is oblivious of the seriousness of the pandemic. So we put on a happy face and live in “Andrewland” with games, Disney movies and drive-thru french fries. We look forward to no more breaking news.

Paige Pape, Towson

At home looking after my parents

I am stuck at home in Brooklyn Park with my parents while COVID-19 has everyone on virtual lockdown. I usually work overseas in Iraq as a contractor doing information technology work in a surgical hospital, which I have done for 17 years. I also was a soldier for 13 years. I had to come home in January due to the unrest which was going on in Iraq. I wait at home to one day go back, but thankful my company is still paying me as I can do remote work for all the people who work for my company around the world.

I am already used to staying at home because I normally work on a compound and cannot go anywhere. So this is easy for me. I am really glad to be home with my parents whom I can take care of and make sure they are doing well, as I think we are in this for the long haul. I don’t leave the house much except to walk the dog in the yard. I cannot take a chance of going anywhere because I do not want to pass this on to my parents.

My day is spent working out, watching Netflix and walking the dog. I have got mail patrol also. I am the only one allowed to initially handle any mail that comes in. I wear gloves, Lysol wipes and do not bring the letters and packages through the house. Instead, I walk around back, clean it off and hold it up to the window so my Mum can see and let me know if it stays or goes.

We have also been ordering groceries to have them delivered about every two to three weeks so that I am not going out to the store and maybe picking the virus up. The hardest part of all of this is going to be mental, but you have to stay as busy as you can and have a plan whether it is to get in better shape or clean the house.

Jerry Parsons, Brooklyn Park

Grocery shopping like its 1973

As an elder trying to outwit a virus, I’ve said goodbye to easygoing and spontaneous food shopping. Stripped shelves and frantic competition now force me to stay in the fast lane and plan my every move.

I’ve reverted to the mindset of my mid-20s. Then, shopping was made hectic by: a tight budget, reliance on public transit, and a menu dictated in part by deliveries from a food co-op. If they sent goat milk, I had to plan accordingly, and not forget the right ingredients.

Suddenly, 2020 feels like 1973.

Baltimore-area food stores began offering early-morning slots to reduce the risk of coronavirus. Hence, at 6:30 a.m. on March 20 — the first day that one local chain provided sheltered shopping for seniors — I arrived at a supermarket in Columbia. Dozens of early birds were already there, jostling with personnel who were resolutely restocking.

I pulled my turtleneck nearly up to my eyes and went directly to the meat counter. It was picked over, yet better-stocked than would be likely later that day. I secured my prize: a corned beef brisket, to mark St. Patrick’s Day (just three days late). Next, I bee-lined to the bread aisle. Success! Pumpernickel, to make brisket sandwiches from the leftovers.

I saw a friend from church and we chatted, quite briefly and at a distance. When the senior-shopping slot ended at 7 a.m., I was in line for self checkout. My 7:10 a.m. receipt was for $59.69.

Next stop, an organic grocery store, where I had learned that at-risk customers could shop prior to the store’s 8 a.m. opening. One catch: I found the carts chained together outside and had to settle for a basket.

I selected a 2-pound bag of carrots. Among staples at home, I already possessed cabbage, potatoes and sauerkraut to go with the corned beef. But I also wanted Swiss chard to prepare with poached eggs for breakfast. A produce manager was replenishing the chard, and I kept my distance as he helped me find my preferred rainbow variety.

I still had a long list: cage-free eggs, nuts, pickles, power bars. Also, my favorite sparkling water was on sale, in bulk. But where to put it? I grabbed a cart from a worker doing inventory and tossed in my shopping basket and water. Time was growing short. As in my youth, when I watched the clock to avoid missing a bus home, I rushed to the cashier. My receipt, for $40.11, read 7:58 a.m.

I exited, feeling stressed. I might have eluded the virus — but not the bad old day

s of treating the grocery store like a racetrack.

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Patricia Fanning, Columbia

COVID-19 gave the family of Bella the dog more time to spend with her before she died.
COVID-19 gave the family of Bella the dog more time to spend with her before she died.

COVID-19 gave us quality time with our dog in her last days

“Every cloud has a silver lining” is an expression that has been around probably as long as pandemics have. Our family has taken the social distancing guidelines very seriously. Three out of four of us have not ventured out into the world since March 13th — 47 days and counting. And while that has seemed to be our cloud, I have realized that we experienced a silver lining during this time as well.

Our 12-year-old black lab Bella was a little confused about the sudden 24-hour company she now had. She was having episodes where she struggled to breathe, and when these occurred, we surrounded her like a little tribe, encouraging her to stay calm and work her way through it. As these episodes increased, we realized that her quality of life was rapidly declining. But how lucky were we that we weren’t rushing off to work, to school, and to sports practices? How lucky were we to be able to cuddle with her, to feed her treats and to shower her with our love and affection all day long?

And when the day came, we weren’t distracted by meetings or homework or other obligations. Our world shrank until it was just our family. On a sunny day, at her favorite spot on our Bush River-Park Beach, we spent two hours focusing just on her. Time we never would have had if it weren’t for the social distancing guidelines we were following to fight COVID-19. We reminisced about Bella’s adventures near and far — from our neighborhood to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We told her how much we loved her, how much we will miss her, and how sad we were that dogs can’t live longer.

So now it’s quiet around here. We stay in our house for our safety and the safety of others. But now it’s just a house — a place to in which to shelter. For our house is not truly a home without our dog Bella in it.

Shelley Mezan, Aberdeen

Jalea Dodson,a licensed esthetician and owner of BrowoloJy skincare and eyebrow salon had to temporarily close her business because of the state's state-at-home order, but has sold beauty and wellness products from home to keep the business going.
Jalea Dodson,a licensed esthetician and owner of BrowoloJy skincare and eyebrow salon had to temporarily close her business because of the state's state-at-home order, but has sold beauty and wellness products from home to keep the business going.

Business is shutdown, but not for good

It was a surreal feeling when Gov. Larry Hogan announced the closing of nonessential businesses. I had heard the words, but in that moment I had so many questions. I am self-employed and the BrowoloJy eyebrow, skin care and makeup salon is my main source of income. So what now? Can I work from home? Can I provide mobile services? How long will this last? Do I have to pay the salon’s rent? So many questions!

I had just invested a large amount of money into learning a new semi-permanent makeup technique for brows and had only done one client before this all happened. This service was to be the addition I needed to take my business to a new level and I was excited to start. COVID-19 put an immediate stop to that as well as all other services in an instant.

After hearing the news, not processing it fully, I immediately went to the salon, which is located in a building of over 100 other salon suites. Mondays are typically stylists days off so there weren’t many people there. Those of us that did show up were there to take our products home with us. I didn’t know what to take or how much to take because I wasn’t even sure how long this was going to last. My thought process was to let myself have at least a few of each item so I can still sell products and possibly offer mobile services if any clients contacted me. As things continued to escalate, I realized that it wasn’t safe to enter their homes and later it had been decided that mobile services would not be permitted.

As we approach week 6 of the shutdown with no sign of when we will be allowed to reopen I have been through all of the emotions. Happy that I am safe and healthy, and so is my family, uncertain and frustrated, but also having a sense of calm that I can appreciate through this process. Sadness comes in when I look at my appointment book and see all of the networking and social events, proms and weddings that I would have provided services for now canceled.

Slowing down and having time to do all of the things I never have time to do has been the bitter sweetness in this situation. I am able to maintain business through product sales. I also have a home-based business that provides health and wellness products, which has been perfect with so many of us dealing with stress and anxiety right now.

Most of all, my clients have been so amazing and sowing monetary gifts into my business as if they were receiving their regular monthly services. That has been the most unexpected and touching gesture and I am so grateful for them. It feels good to know that they are with me during this time and that when this is over they will still be there. COVID-19 has taken away many business opportunities but it has not taken my business. BrowoloJy is still alive and will come back even stronger when this is all said and done.

Jalea Dodson, Lochearn

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