Our neighbors share their stories – the good, the bad, the real
Stories have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
‘Smiling and laughing helps lighten the load’
Dr. Jeff Furman has practiced family medicine in Chapel Hill since 1985. He lives with his wife (“and high school sweetheart”), Janet, off Old Greensboro Road. His grandson, Adam, lives nearby. “He calls me Zayde. I am in heaven.”
Difficult times bring out the best and worst in us.
During this pandemic, I have been most impressed by the best parts I have seen. While reaching out to patients to be sure they are OK, I have been humbled by the concern they have shown for me and our staff. They ask how we are doing and if there is anything they can do to help. Some have shared personal supplies and protective equipment with our office. The increased expression of gratitude and concern has softened the harshness of how our lives have changed.
I greatly enjoy the humor people are unleashing within messages and Facebook posts. Smiling and laughing helps lighten the load. I admire the creativity of people in the face of change and disruption of routine. Dealing with change, uncertainty and chaos is definitely stressful. I worry most about those more vulnerable – those who are alone, and especially the children. Seeing a child playing or hearing them laugh is great medicine for me!
Our lives are fragile, and many of us take much for granted. I am lucky – I have a loving wife and family, a grandchild who lights up my life, dear friends, and music to strengthen and support me. My blessings are not lost on me! I hope all of us can find and cherish the blessings in our lives, and we will come through this difficult time stronger, wiser and even more caring.
‘All things considered, we feel blessed’
Tiffany Griffin and husband Dariel Heron, owners of Bright Black candle company, live in the University Estates neighborhood in Durham with Elena, their 2-year-old. Here, Tiffany shares some reasons for her gratitude:
We have shelter. We have safety. We have food. We have our health. Our business still exists, and we have each other. But this is not normal. All of our spring markets were canceled, and [we rely] on social media to get the word out about [the] company we are so passionate about. We’re also still very much in the midst of finding our routine, trying to carve out mental and spiritual downtime. Elena has gone from screen time being a weekly call with Grandma, to 30 minutes of something educational each day and video calls to stay connected with our friends and family. Most meals are home cooked (with Elena’s help!) except once a week we get delivery/takeout at restaurants like Zweli’s, Alpaca Chicken, Only Burger and Saltbox Seafood Joint. Daily walks. Teaching Elena how to ride a bike. Lots of chalk and bubbles and tantrums. Overnight work sessions. Traversing SBA loan land. Water, coffee, pinot – wake up, repeat!
‘We plan on making it to a lifeboat’
Chas Pippitt is the founder and CEO of Baseball Rebellion and Softball Rebellion on Bennett Memorial Road in Durham. He and his wife, Megan, and two sons, Bryant, 6, and Tyson, 3, live in Durham’s Grandale/Fairfield neighborhood. The outbreak is taking its toll:
January and February were the best months in the history of Baseball Rebellion. Then, the virus.
Now, we’re in the same boat as restaurants, barbershops, nonessential retail. That boat feels like the Titanic.
My small business is in lockdown. The social distancing from my clients has me feeling socially distant [from my family]. I want to be a great husband to my wife, and great dad to my two young boys, but my mind wanders often to payroll and payments. Working 70 hours a week to 15 hours a week overnight. … Wow.
Watching my business struggle to stay afloat is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. When I can sleep, I wake up scared. I often catch myself wondering how long we can wait for the “lifeboats” of government bailouts and how many passengers they can really hold.
Some small businesses will go down with the ship. We plan on making it to a lifeboat and bringing others along with us.
‘This is the good stuff’
Kris and Scott Selig live in Durham’s Surrey Green neighborhood where they raised their four children: Kevin, 30; Anna, 28; Sam, 27; and SarahBelle, 23. Here, the couple shares some of their discoveries brought about by sheltering in place:
In this new era, the good stuff tastes better. Take the time to savor the flavor. This is what we are doing.
Order the tortellini alla panna from Pulcinella’s, our Woodcroft treasure. Pair it with your best red wine. Share it with your housemate or online with your Zoom freunde. Experiment with pimento cheese (it’s good with chopped dill pickles on fresh Guglhupf bread or melted over a steamy baked potato).
Start your workday routine a little slower than normal. Notice the change in the light and the quieter world. Doesn’t this year’s spring colors seem more vibrant? Sit on the porch. Wave at your neighbors and see if they don’t slow down a bit and stop to chat from afar.
Get a start on summer. Create great yard art. Plant flowers together in a pot or the yard (being a little dirty is fun sometimes) and appreciate finding just the right sprinkler from Triangle Ace Hardware.
Turn off the news early. FaceTime your family or friends to see how their day went. Take the dog for a late-night walk; listen for the crickets and frogs.
This is the good stuff.
‘We have been crushing our TV shows’
Colin Starnes and wife Jessica Starnes live in Chapel Hill’s Kings Mill-Morgan Creekneighborhood with their children, Ginevieve, 14, Finnegan, 11, Ezra, 9, and Beaux, 7. Colin runs Grey Star Woodworks and Design LLC, and Jessica works for UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School while managing Grey Star. Colin shares how this has affected his work and family:
At Grey Star, we have been humbled by this whole pandemic. Seeing how strong our community is has once again reassured my family that we are raising our four children in the right town. This community has come together in an overwhelming way over the past four weeks. Our suppliers at Fitch Lumber [& Hardware] have rearranged their whole operation, and that keeps us moving forward. I love Chapel Hill, and I know that we will come out strong as ever.
[On a personal note, our family has been] eating lots of meals together. We have been crushing our TV shows. Lots of playing on the trampoline and hikes to Morgan Creek to let the kids swim. I have also been doing some work on my 1963 Mercedes-Benz Unimog.
Our older two kiddos have helped me do some work on our property near Camp Clearwater. I have been doing all of our shopping solo wearing nitrile gloves and a bandana face mask. Ready for the light at the end of the tunnel, for sure.
‘We decided to elope on our apartment roof’
Nicole Cogan and now-husband Gregory Cogan met after they both moved to the area three years ago. After proposing during a trip to Asheville last year, the couple planned to host their wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains in October. But with the outbreak, they opted for a sunset ceremony on the rooftop of their apartment in the Old Bull building at the Apartments at American Tobacco. Nicole recalls the reasons behind their decision:
It was the one occasion we thought would bring our loved ones under one roof, or rather, onto one dance floor. In the midst of uncertainty in so many aspects of our life, whether that be health, the complexity of crossing country borders on a work visa, or the thought of putting our dearest friends at risk traveling to celebrate with us, we decided to elope on our apartment rooftop. Our tone for the day was summed up in our vows: “I look forward to being able to celebrate our lives together with our loved ones one day, and to travel together again. But until then, I am just thankful that I get to spend my days with you. Happy, healthy and full of hope for the rest of our lives together. I love you, now and always.” Our dog, Max, stole the show, laying on my dress for most of the ceremony.
‘I am mad’
Bill Toole is the director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Durham near Duke University. He lives in North Raleigh with his wife,Cindy. They have two children: Son BJ, 25, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and daughter Laura, 21, recently moved back after her senior year at Purdue University was cut short. “She is mad, too,” he says.
I almost feel callous using a business situation to describe the issues of the last three weeks. People are sick and dying. However, the economic pain of this event will go on for quite some time. Having been in the hotel business more years than I would like to count, I thought I had seen it all. Ours is an industry used to the ups and downs of a fickle economy. We learn to ride it out.
This was different; in 72 hours, we went from a thriving, busy hotel with more than 100 fellow associates, to watching my co-workers leave our facility one by one, not knowing when they were going to come back, not knowing how they were going to pay their bills, not knowing how they were going to keep their health insurance and not knowing what the future holds.
I am in charge of sales and revenue. I have always known that if I want to slack off and ignore what needs to be done, that there are people on the line who might not get their hours next week or the week after. I am now more dedicated than ever to helping get my fellow associates back to work. It is not because I have been cleaning rooms; it is because I am mad. I am mad at this situation, and I am mad at this virus. Until three weeks ago I was quick with a joke … a happy sales guy. I can’t wait to be that person again. That will not happen until I see every one of those team members back to the jobs and the hotel that they love.
‘Doing our work … in very comfy clothes, sans makeup’
Jodee Nimerichter, executive director of the American Dance Festival, and husband Gaspard Louis, founder and artistic director of Gaspard & Dancers, live in the Trinity Ridge neighborhood with daughter Dahlia, 12, who attends Durham School of the Arts, and Preston, 9, who goes to Central Park School for Children.
Life at [our house] has gotten very cozy these last few weeks! We are, for the most part, hunkered in doing work … me with American Dance Festival, Gaspard with Gaspard & Dancers, and Dahlia and Preston with school. We each have our favorite location for doing our work, in PJs or very comfy clothes, sans makeup. The highlight of our day is when we go for a 90-minute walk as a family. We are all loving the ability to stay up late – we are night owls – and easing into our daily activities. I’m cooking more than ever, Gaspard is creating dances in the living room with the kids, and all of our screen times have gone up to a crazy level. But we are safe and healthy and finding blessings in being together during this terrible crisis.
‘I’m an alcoholic and an addict’
The author asks to remain anonymous.
The only reason I’m not using and drinking today is because of a 12-step program of recovery, which requires daily action – usually that means meeting with other alcoholics and staying connected. COVID-19 is all about social distancing.
Overnight, our normal recovery program was stood on its head. There are no more 12-step meetings like before. Prior to coronavirus, meetings were where we shared our experience, strength and hope with other alcoholics and addicts. It meant a lot of face time.
At first blush, social distancing is incompatible with recovery and sobriety. As it turns out, the two are coexisting.
Zoom enables meetings to continue, with the added bonus of being able to “attend” meetings all over the world. Texting, social media and phone conversations keep us connected. While those were available and used before, they are now essential tools in this new normal.
Well, it took me a while to thank my higher power for this experience, but I have.
Turns out the principles of the 12 steps do not change with the times, and one of the program’s many promises is we will face calamity with serenity if we maintain our spiritual fitness. While our method of staying connected, which helps fuel our spiritual growth, has changed, maintaining contact with other alcoholics and addicts is what keeps us sane and sober. How we alcoholics and addicts in recovery live now is different in form, but not in substance.
‘I got to teach my son how to ride a bike’
Shannon Healy is the owner of Alley Twenty Six and a co-owner of Crook’s Corner. He lives in Durham’s Duke Park neighborhood with his wife, Andrea Edith Moore, a classical singer and voice teacher, and their son, Michael, age 4.
Yesterday, I taught my son how to ride his pedal bicycle. It was a big day for Michael … and me. It wasn’t without challenges. There was that mailbox that snuck up on him when he was looking the other way. But he got back on the bike. Later, his back tire slid out from under him while he was making a turn and sent him to the ground, but he got back up on his bike. I was proud.
I could write about how it felt to furlough almost 60 people: Shitty. Or the creditors that I have had to ask to defer payments to until … well … who knows when? It is one thing to have that conversation with a utility or some larger financial institution, it is another to have that with a small business who depends on your prompt payment for their survival. Or [I could write on] the confusion about the avalanche of acronyms the government has sent to help us – SBA, PPP, QIP, EIDL, PPE, NCDES – and the quicksand of changing rules or understanding of each.
I deal with all that, but how I live now is … yesterday, I got to teach my son Michael how to ride a bike. He faced something new, it was challenging, he kept getting back up, and I was there. I am so proud of him.
‘Each day seems a little bit easier’
Melissa Chappell is the executive director of the Durham Technical Community College Foundation. She lives in Durham’s Woodcroft.
Each day seems a little bit easier to integrate structure and variety into the stay-at-home life. On the work front, it’s been encouraging to see how well the community has responded to support our students with technology and food. Personally, I’ve used the extra time and beautiful weather to work more in my yard – it needed some TLC. I found handmade fiber hearts embedded with wildflower seeds on Etsy, and I’m planting them and sharing them with friends by mail!
‘The work expands to fill each day, not that I have any idea what day it actually is’
Dana Gelin lives in Glen Lennox with her kids, East Chapel Hill High student Atticus, 15, and Culbreth Middle student Sawyer, 13. Dana works as associate director of UNC Athletic Communications, most recently from her living room.
It seems like this would be a great time to get stuff done – no commutes, no carpools, no sporting events, no social events, no dentist appointments, no last-minute scrambles for the missing ingredient to complete the project that’s due tomorrow.
And yet. Finding the time to write a few paragraphs about life in a pandemic while navigating said life did not prove to be easy. “WFH” for me and “remote learning” for a middle schooler and a high schooler all feel like those pellets you put in water and watch slowly grow into dinosaurs or cows. The work expands to fill each day, not that I have any idea what day it actually is.
As many cope with incredible sadness and loss, I recognize how fortunate I am to be navigating mere inconvenience. It’s mind-boggling to think about the ripple effects of this time, but I’m determined that some will be positive.
As we ease back toward normal – that is to say, when I wear something other than sweatpants and my kids watch fewer than four episodes of “The Office” per day – I vow to appreciate in-person conversations from closer than six feet (but also keep up the Zoom happy hours with far-flung friends and family who have been a genius bright spot in this bizarre time). I will savor the return of my kids’ school sporting events, even when it feels stressful to leave the office early enough to get there on time. And I will never again take for granted the luxury of buying toilet paper any time I choose.
‘I fear restaurants will be given last priority’
Daniel Sartain owns Durham’s Bar Virgile (“Which will hopefully turn 6 this year,” he says.) and co-owns Annexe (“which was five days old when we shut down”). He’s a single father of Naomi, 9, and JoJo, 5. They live in Forest Hills. The following is a Facebook post (“It’s a snapshot of my emotions.”) that Daniel is allowing us to reprint, with his added comment: “I stand by my words, but I feel it’s important to note: Cuisine and dining are a huge part of a society’s culture, and I see the places that house this form of art as being essential. We are giving it a go – we are problem solvers – and people seem to be really grateful that we are.”
I don’t think bars and restaurants will be able to reopen in 2020. Man, I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think it will happen. I fear we will be considered high-risk areas and will be given last priority in reopening. This will decimate the industry. I read of someone saying that this is OK because there will be a second wave of entrepreneurs ready to take on the new challenge. Umm, what? Who? The people who own quality dining establishments have dedicated the majority of their lives to this craft. You don’t take classes for this. Sure, there are business classes and culinary school, but the real-life chops that are required to sustain a healthy business and quality work environment are intangible. It’s not like other businesses, not by a long shot.
I’m not groveling or pouting. I’m deeply concerned. I’ve come to know and love so many great bars and restaurants. To think that they might not be there on the other side of this is gut-wrenching. To think of all of the spokes associated to the hub that is the hospitality industry is mind-boggling.
The so-called second wave might be handbooks on how to build and operate an Applebee’s or a Bojangles’. No ingenuity, no culture, no artistry. No offense to those who appreciate Bojangles’ once in a while. Applebee’s can take a hike.
I hope for the best and have all of my friends and colleagues in my heart.
P.S. I’ve worked in restaurants my entire life, starting as a dishwasher, and worked my way up to busser, waiter, bartender, manager, owner. It’s literally all I know how to do.
‘We’re an at-risk family, so we’ve been in total isolation’
Rebekah Miel, creative director at Miel Design Studio, and husband Shayne Miel, director of software engineering at American Efficient, live in Duke Park with their twins, Emeline and Henry, 7. Rebekah describes their life in insolation:
The most challenging part of this transition is feeling disconnected from my community and family. We’re an at-risk family, so we’ve been in total isolation for a couple weeks longer than most folks. It was surreal to not be able to help other people transition into this new reality. I’ve been checking in with individuals impacted by the [April 10, 2019, Durham gas] explosion to ensure that they have what they need and supporting other causes where I can. Still, the reality is, I can’t do much.
As a family, we’ve been in isolation before, so we have a system, but this time it’s different because we have kids. We expanded our garden, got baby chicks, and I’ve had more time to teach the twins how to cook. I jokingly refer to our house as “The Little House on the Beaver Dam.” I tell my kids I’m going to replace their Switch with a rag doll or a pig bladder balloon; instead we’ve been doing silly things like kitchen dance parties and making party hats for our baby chicks. I’ve been trying to keep some sense of normalcy for them.
We’re privileged to not only be able to work from home, but we’ve both kept our jobs. It’s not easy balancing work with homeschooling and finding groceries and sustaining a small business and showing up for our community. But that is an OK problem to have. I know so many in our community are suffering.
We are lucky.
‘I guess I needed a bit of Halloween’
Lindsay Gordon-Faranda, senior public relations specialist for Duke Children’s Development, and husband Jon Faranda, a dental hygienist at Carousel Dentistry, live in Boone Place and have been Durham homeowners since 2017, “though we like to say that we have been Durhamites in everything but address since 2010 or so.” Lindsay describes their “Quarantine-O-Ween:”
This was a social media movement organized by Halloween lovers on March 31. Participants staged mini Halloweens to bring some much-needed magic to this uncertain time. My husband and I are Halloween devotees – we transform our home every fall and host elaborately themed Halloween parties – but when friends told me about Quarantine-O-Ween, I wasn’t feeling it. Like many people, my mood and energy have been low these past few weeks.
But when March 31 rolled around, I pulled together a quick Halloween scene around our fireplace and mantle. Put on the soundtrack to “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Threw on my cat kigurumi. And it was amazing how much better I felt. I guess I needed a bit of Halloween enchantment on the last day of March to make these safe-at-home days a bit brighter. For now, we’re keeping the fireplace decorated; it reminds us of spookier and, hopefully, happier times to come.
‘Acts of kindness … make a difference’
Sondra Komada is the director of community relations and special events at the SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals. She recently moved to Henderson Woods from Lake Hogan Farms with her husband, Mike, and their two pet goldendoodles, Sophie and Hallie. They have three kids – Leah, 25, Alex, 23, and Anna Grace, 18.
March 29 was the birthday of our son, Alex, and our daughter Anna Grace. Alex came home from Charlotte to quarantine with us, and Anna Grace has been quite bummed that her senior year at East Chapel Hill High School has been cut short with no prom and probably no graduation ceremony or Project Grad (of which she is the student co-chair). To top it off, both of them had to cancel birthday plans due to quarantine and social distancing orders. However, a few families from our old neighborhood did stop by (observing social distancing) and broke into the birthday song from the sidewalk while dropping off cookie cakes and treats (all containers disinfected). It made their day! These acts of kindness in a time of crisis and uncertainty make a difference.
‘Artists are essential for our well-being’
Heather Cook is the executive director of NorthStar Church of the Arts. She lives in the Colonial Village neighborhood with her husband, Phil Cook, and children Ellis, 8, and Amos, 4.
Time feels like science fiction right now, every day a little more warped and webbed than the one before.
The adrenaline is wearing off, the long view is coming in, and my eyes are too strained from staring at checklists for my own relief applications to make any sense of it all.
There’s a lot of talk right now about what is essential, and I believe that artists are, and have always been, essential to the well-being of our community. We look for their poems, their songs and their interpretations of the moment to help us contextualize what is happening. We look to them for comfort and inspiration, [which] are vital right now. We need to be investing in them accordingly.
For the past three weeks, I’ve lived in a parallel universe where I felt extremely clear on how to show up for my family and our community. At home, Phil and I created a daily schedule. I set up a work desk on the front porch, we planted seeds and spent more time together as a family than we have in years. On March 12, I launched the Durham Artist Relief Fund through NorthStar and began planning a telethon with my co-conspirator Kym Register [of The Pinhook], hurling us both into a crash course in millennial-level interneting. We hosted “What the Hell-a-Thon” on April 4 and raised more than $8,000 for the fund.
It’s 4 p.m., and despite it being a stunner of a day outside, [my children] have been playing video games for hours while I catch up on work. We’re having leftover Pie Pushers for dinner; I’ve got a John Prine record cued up and am headed for a glass of wine. I’m counting my blessings and recommitting to rest so that I can continue to show up for the long game.
‘Dance has helped offer some routine to her day’
Torey Mishoe, executive director of Hillsborough Arts Council, shares how To The Pointe (TTP) dance company has brought joy to her 8-year-old daughter, Lila, via virtual dance classes:
Lila has been dancing with TTP for three years now. They are very focused on encouraging skill building and supporting the kids’ growth as dancers.
The recent social distancing order meant closing the studio to dancers, and she was pretty devastated to be missing her favorite weekly activity – in addition to everything else. I was thrilled whenLauren Bolick, the owner and one of their teachers, announced that they would be offering classes for free on Facebook. Lila often tunes in to them live or will go back and watch a replay later. While [adults] are all trying to navigate this strange new life we’ve all recently found ourselves living, I’ve noticed that our kids are struggling to settle in. Dance has helped offer some routine to her day, as well as a glimpse of her “normal” life that was upended.
‘Looking for reasons to smile’
Maggie Healy, a personal trainer, shares how her neighborhood organized a stuffed animal scavenger hunt. She is married to Kevin, vice president of regulatory affairs and quality at Enzyvant, and together they have four children: Baylis, 10, Elizabeth, 13, Margaret Ann, 15, and Taylor, 18.
Adults and children alike jumped at the opportunity to join in a neighborhood bear hunt in our Placid Valley neighborhood in North Durham. Residents were asked to place teddy bears in their windows or other visible places of their houses during a week in April. Families toured the neighborhood searching for furry friends. Bears were not the only creatures to appear – garden gnomes, dinosaurs, monkeys and tigers also adorned the neighborhood. Baylis found 80 friendly faces on her first walk. We’re all looking for reasons to smile.
‘I pray and say thanks for our leaders …’
P. H. Craig is a UNC School of Law graduate, 26-year Navy veteran, born-and-bred Orange County resident, former president of the Chapel Hill Rotary Club and recipient of North Carolina’s highest award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
He also owns “about 20” classic cars.
After realizing how tragic and sad everything was, I decided to act.
I’m staying busy on projects in the house or on my hobby, restoring classic cars. Fortunately, my home, office and hobby are located in one place. I organize my office, sweep my shops and try to keep my vendors and contractors who really need work employed. [A contractor I hired] who has two small kids did not even have money to buy gas to get here. Do you need landscaping, tree work, grading, cement work, deferred maintenance on house or car? Hire someone.
I don’t think I’ve ever been busier in my whole life. I am prepping cars for the North Carolina Transportation Museum. I just sandblasted and primed a ’56 Chrysler. I walk much more, I pray and say thanks for our leaders, first responders and medical teams. I sit in my car in the sun, I enjoy the beautiful scenery.
‘I lift my oar and do my part’
Joanne Fiore is a vice president at American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She shelters in Carrboro with her wife,Deb, a school nurse at East Chapel Hill High. Their three adult children, Tommy, Molly and Emma, live in the area.
I am fully here, in this moment. Not here or there, doing this or that. It makes me appreciate it here. The beauty and safety of this place, and my place in it. With my co-shelterer, whom I seem to love more with each day of doing less.
Here and now, I rise early for an hour of spiritual perspective-getting and gratitude-giving. Next, a run through streets full of closed stores. Main Street. Franklin Street. The birds, rabbits and foxes have claimed them for their own. Till we return.
Work is more meaningful these days. We are stripped of our armor and artificial emotion, embracing community and people-ness. It’s as if a force of good picked us up, put us in an ark, pointed in one direction and said, “Start rowing.”
I lift my oar and do my part. My family and friends are healthy, safe and taken care of.
In my confinement, I find freedom and a new lightness in being. I laugh more easily, care less about the little stuff. I Zoom in, reach out, lend an ear and connect to those I love but rarely talk to.
My spirit soars from a sense of spaciousness inside.
‘We converted our driveway into a patio’
Joan and Kin White have lived in the Carolina Meadows retirement community since 2015. Kin was a professor of educational psychology at UNC for 34 years, and Joan was a stay-at-home mom at their Briarcliff and Stoneridge homes in their early years here. Joan taught at Ephesus Elementary School while the children were growing up and then was a real estate broker for 30 years. The couple shares their recent efforts to stay in touch with neighbors:
Staying socially connected in the time of a pandemic when you must stay at least six feet apart has been interesting, challenging and sometimes a little scary. We have stayed connected with family and friends using the now-traditional virtual connection methods – FaceTime chats, playing online games with children and grandchildren, working the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle together with family members across town via video. But we have also looked for ways we can stay socially connected with friends and neighbors.
Our patio is at the back of our villa and faces the woods. When we sit there, we interact with the birds and squirrels – a great setting for reflection and calming the soul. But in our current situation, we need more than ever to be with people. So, we converted our driveway in the front of our villa into a “front-of-the-villa patio.” We can sit on our front-of-the-villa patio and chat with friends and neighbors as they walk by, wave at delivery drivers and have outdoor picnic lunches six feet apart. With our front-of-the-villa patio, we stay connected with people in our neighborhood, reaffirm community and feel that our social world still exists.
‘I needed to pick it up a bit’
Randi Emerman moved to Chapel Hill in 2016 to launch Silverspot Cinema at University Place. More recently, she co-founded the popular Film Fest 919, an annual showcase for films. “I found a community here that had a similar passion for the arts and cinema and wanted to create a new event experience that would give them access to the best films of awards season and the chance to connect directly with the artists,” she says.
This one-time social butterfly has been organizing, cleaning, and I even made a mean seared tuna. Is it possible that I can become a domestic diva?
For the past month I’ve been self-quarantining, which has had its challenges. I have been extremely lonely, sad, confused, frustrated, worried, terrified of getting sick and, like everyone else, worried about losing my job.
I needed to pick it up a bit. My beloved Film Fest 919 needed my attention, and a confession – sitting on the couch watching endless TV was starting to drive me crazy. A voice inside me said, “It’s time to get to work, be productive and be creative!” In fact, each day that little voice grew louder, and as it did, my creative juices started working.
So now that I’ve had my spin at the domestic goddess thing, I needed a plan to stay in shape, keep my mind working and our movie-loving community engaged. With the gym closed, I started to walk. Which is a great time to ponder and stop stressing over all these grants and loans that are impossible to secure. Hence, our Social Distancing Film, Song & Photo Festival was imagined. Something that gives everyone a chance to have some fun by simply posting their work on our social platforms. Next, calls to a few friends, and we have our first virtual film series.
So, what’s next? I stay home, stay safe and continue to figure it all out and maybe keep up the cooking thing. I’m actually getting good at this.
‘The new normal is a constant push-pull’
Carrie Blattel lives in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood with her husband, Gregg Wagner, and their 20-month-old daughter, Camille Wagner. Carrie is the owner of Semaphore Marketing and a board member of Nido: Coworking + Childcare.
Last night I stayed up past midnight browsing Netflix and eating popcorn. I needed a moment of solitude to brood about sleep deprivation and missing my friends. Earlier yesterday, I was breastfeeding our toddler in the bathroom when my spouse walked in and surprised us.
Which of these challenges are the ones that normally accompany new parenthood? Which is the result of forced isolation and increased anxiety during the current crisis? The many doubts and insecurities I carry with me as a new parent have now snowballed – and are compounded by the loss of childcare and the community of coworkers and friends we normally rely on.
The new normal is a constant push-pull of emotions and obligations. Spend extra time with our toddler or cram work into stolen minutes? Enjoy the outdoors or feel anxious about social distancing? Practice mindfulness or engage in unhelpful thought spirals?
I know we are incredibly lucky – we have financial security, a supportive community and our health. I can’t control the uncontrollable, but I can control my actions and choose to follow health and safety recommendations, provide support to loved ones and, above all, make time to poop alone.
‘Making breakfast feel special’
Stephanie Haines and her husband, Alex Caterson, live in Chapel Hill’s Colony Woods neighborhood. Alex, a photographer, snapped this photo of a recent breakfast at home, and Stephanie explains:
Working from home the past few weeks has been a strange experience. The days start to blend together. So, when I had the day off for the [Easter] holiday weekend, it kind of took me by surprise. I would have normally made plans to take my two stepkids, Sevi, 11, and Amália, 7, to a science museum or around the neighborhood to play with friends, but our options are so limited these days.
This morning, without any particular idea of what to do today, I woke up to the smell of … doughnuts! I walked into the kitchen to find my husband and the kids ready to make home-decorated doughnuts from Rise. The kids were excited to make (and more excited to eat) the doughnuts, and had a fun time doing both! It was a great way to make breakfast feel special and give the kids a treat before heading down the street to go egg hunting at their grandma’s house.
‘Reading and cooking’
Food writer and cooking teacher Nancie McDermott is the author of 14 cookbooks. She and husband Will Lee live near Timberlyne in Chapel Hill.
I’ve been doing two daily Facebook Lives – one cooking, and one reading aloud – since St. Patrick’s Day.
I started with cooking Irish Soda Bread and reading aloud from “Charlotte’s Web.” Have since read “Everything on a Waffle” and finished “Stuart Little” last night. Tonight, we start “Because of Winn-Dixie.” This keeps me focused on a daily action, doing things I enjoy doing: reading and cooking.
Carrboro architects Doug Pierson and Youn Choi of pod architecture + design and their kids, Oscar, 18, and Sora, 15, live in a temporary townhome on Smith Level Road while they wrap up on a custom-built house they designed in Carrboro near South Green. Doug writes:
We are expecting our certificate of occupancy for our new house in a couple weeks, but it has been a challenge to finalize with the pandemic and stay-at-home requirements in place.
So, as we prepare for our eventual move, we are using our property as a “stay-at-home” retreat where we have family outdoor time. Activities include working on the house and site; checking out fish in our stream; walking to the old 1930s community Sparrow Pool ruin in our woods; having a picnic; homework; bike rides and walks.
‘Balloons for business’
Suzanne Evans lives in Carrboro’s Claremont South neighborhood with her wife, Melonie Orr, and their 3-year-old son, Adrien Evans, pictured.
Once the crisis began to affect our community, I wanted to find a creative way to help local businesses that went to zero income overnight. My wife, Melonie, and I ordered almost 60 balloon bouquets to tie to every porch in the neighborhood. This instantly brightened up our community and provided some much-needed cheer.
This neighborhood surprise was fulfilled with the help of Balloons & Tunes in Carrboro! Families around the neighborhood enjoy going on balloon walks, and I hopeare inspired to get creative on how to help small businesses!
‘Our community surprised us by pouring love back out to us’
Ashley Sherman is the counselor at Ephesus Elementary School and helped plan a staff car parade that drove through neighborhoods of students and their families. She lives in Durham’s Pope’s Crossing neighborhood with her husband, Matthew, facilities director at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.
It was important to us that the route we took covered all areas of Chapel Hill zoned for our school. We sent out parent communications with our full route so that families could plan for when we were driving by their area. I invited my husband and some YMCA youth staff members to participate in the parade on a YMCA bus, since the Y programs also serve many of our students. We have all missed seeing our students and families every day, so we were excited about a way to safely see them while maintaining social distancing.
It was fun decorating our cars, and I was anticipating that families would wave at us from their porches or windows. When we came around the first curve, and we saw that very first family on the sidewalk holding up a huge sign that said, “Roadrunner strong,” I was overwhelmed with emotion. As the route continued, families were out with sign after sign showing their love and support. All of the staff thought we were creating an event to give back to our community, and our community surprised us by pouring love back out to us. The parade was beautiful and emotional.
‘The gratitude board’
Renee Bosman lives in Chapel Hill’s Kings Mill-Morgan Creek neighborhood with her husband, Peter, and their kids, Isaac, 13, Laurel, 11, and Naomi, 8.
We’ve been taking advantage of proximity to the creek daily. Also, the gratitude board – a chalkboard [where] anyone can come write on it – was started by neighbors Laura and Bob Moore. There is a Tupperware of chalk next to it, or people can feel free to bring their own chalk if they don’t want to touch the communal chalk. There is hand sanitizer in the box.
My daughter Naomi came with me – she attends Glenwood Elementary. She wrote the name of a friend of hers, Carina Ann, who also lives in our neighborhood. We visited the board with Carina and her mom (walking at a safe distance!), and Carina wrote Naomi’s name, too. It was very sweet. I wrote that I was grateful for outdoor exercise.
The gratitude board has made a positive impact on our neighborhood; visiting the board and contributing has given folks a way to come together.
‘I thought I was going to deal with my 50th birthday in a real COVID-y way’
Lauren Rivers lives in a neighborhood off of Franklin Street with her spouse and their two kids, Olivia, 14, and Lachlan, 9. Lauren is the founder and owner of Rivers Agency, a 40-person advertising, design and public relations agency based in Chapel Hill.
This month I am especially thankful for my surprise driveway party. I thought I was going to deal with my 50th birthday in a real COVID-y way – no dinner with friends and certainly no party. When close friends and family began gathering in my driveway that evening, I realized that fun can still be figured out, even in these strange times.
‘Just decided to throw a mask up there’
Lance Sawyers is the owner of Studio 71, a framing shop and pop culture art gallery on South Churton Street in Hillsborough; he recently added a mask to an original mural on the side of its building. Lance lives in Hillsborough with his wife, Janet.
With my wife being immunocompromised due to C. diff and rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve really taken mask-wearing seriously, both in my home and at our business. We started wearing masks over a month ago. I was hanging around the shop one day with [employee] Kylene Babski Figle and [intern] Morrigan “Mo” Mancour, talking about it, and just decided to throw [a mask] up there. We cut a huge piece of foam board into the mask shape, and then we added metal duct tape to create the nose clip.
The original muralist, Wes Flanery, did a phenomenal job on the [Bride of Frankenstein] mural, and we’ve got folks from the town who really love how we’ve changed this space since moving in. It’s been pretty fun – we’ve seen a bunch of people stop and take a picture in front of it, including a few motorcyclists. And we did do it for fun, but also to bring attention to the need for all to wear masks during these times. We have to be careful and follow the suggested protocols, so we can protect those who are most vulnerable.
‘We made social distancing a real party’
For their son Richard’s 40th birthday, Patty and Rick Kreiselman had planned a trip to Hawaii, the last state on his U.S. travel checklist. Patty shares how they turned canceled plans into an unforgettable front yard celebration in Durham’s Heather Glen subdivision:
We needed to celebrate. Rick got on Amazon and ordered a few gifts. I sent an email blast to encourage a birthday greetings barrage. Signs were painted on cardboard encouraging honking and placed in the yard at night. April 2 – the weather was fantastic. Richard woke to signs outside every window, and the FedEx truck honking all the way around our corner! Families walked up and chalked on the driveway. Richard sat and waved from the front yard all day. Even the mail carrier had fun with it! We made social distancing a real party. At the end of the day, Richard’s comment was, “this was the best birthday ever!”
‘Our fitness trackers seem impressed by our daily steps’
Sage Rountree is the co-owner of Carolina Yoga Company. She lives in Carrboro’s Lloyd Square neighborhood with her husband, Wes, who works as a biostatistician at Duke Human Vaccine Institute, and their children, Lillian, 19, and Vivian, 16.
The studios are closed, and my business partner and I have been busy navigating the resources available to support small businesses through the shutdown. It’s more time consuming than the regular work of running the studio when it’s open! We have a robust library of professionally recorded classes online, and many of our teachers are offering livestream classes, too. All the proceeds go to the teachers.
Meanwhile, I’ve started working on updates to my [recorded] online courses for yoga teachers. I had planned on recording in my older daughter’s room after she returned to college. Now she’s home through the summer, so I was motivated to clean up my home office for use as a video set.
I’m glad [my husband’s] and his colleagues’ [talents] can contribute to finding a solution. We are walking [together] a lot every day, mostly in the Carolina North Forest, near our home. Our fitness trackers seem impressed by our daily steps.
‘A silver lining to this’
Magan Gonzales-Smith is the executive director of the Durham Public Schools Foundation. She lives in Durham’s Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood with her husband, Ryan Smith, and their daughter Sophie, 10 months.
DPS Foundation is organizing meal delivery to thousands of families weekly. This is possible because of incredible partners, including restaurants, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, KidBright, Book Harvest, Student U and hundreds of volunteers. The biggest learning curve for me though has been working from home with my 10-month-old assistant, Sophie! Working from home with her – while hard! – is a silver lining to this all.
‘I have to give myself space and grace’
Nicole Oxendine is the owner of downtown Durham’s Empower Dance Studio and founder of her own nonprofit, the Empower Dance Foundation, in addition to numerous other entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors.
As an entrepreneur, I manage a lot and have very organized systems to get things accomplished. The past three weeks have been disorienting. I have to give myself space and grace to not feel anxious. The dance studio is closed, but we adapted quickly, moving to online classes within five days. My greatest joy was giving a 3-year-old a virtual hug because she couldn’t understand how dance class was going to be in the computer! Seeing the students enjoy class and the teachers thrive is so exciting. I have prepared content for our YouTube channel and will be launching it soon!
My hardest challenge is the decisions I must make around contract workers due to low enrollment and tuition decreases. I find that I have to invent/reinvent ways of connecting that are kinda old-fashioned, like a phone call or a letter. During this time, I appreciate the “checking in” messages and emails I get.
‘We canceled the surprise party, but …’
Michelle Snyder Honeycutt planned a surprise car parade to help her parents, Jack and Barbara Snyder, celebrate 50 years of marriage. On April 11, 70 people showed up for a car parade around their cul-de-sac. Friends and family cheered while Barbara and Jack sat together at the end of their driveway.
My brothers and I didn’t want [their anniversary] to pass without some serious celebration! They met on a blind date back in college and were so in love that my mom skipped her college graduation ceremony to get married and follow my dad as he began his career in the Navy. Not only are they great spouses, but they are also phenomenal parents, grandparents and friends … all of whom were invited to come celebrate their 50-year love story! We had to cancel the surprise party we had planned for them, but we tried to get creative as to how we could still do the event justice. We came up with a surprise parade in their Durham neighborhood, Treyburn, simultaneously held on Zoom so that others unable to come could still attend. It was amazing … my parents were so surprised! They didn’t expect to be able to celebrate at all, so it really meant a lot that so many came out, decorated their cars and made signs all to honor them!
‘The outcomes of a few have consequences for all’
Sheldon Mitchell is the executive director of Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) and has lived in the area for seven years with his wife, Cassandra, and their children, Justin, 22, Wesley, 18, and Isaiah, 12.
The past few weeks have been challenging. I am thankful that UMD leadership took this virus seriously early on and began to plan for how our agency could effectively provide food, clothing and shelter to 140-plus residents. This emergency has again demonstrated that homeless and low-resource individuals are at a significant disadvantage when faced with crisis situations – and often more adversely impacted.
I feel the pandemic has highlighted the value of UMD’s work. It has also shown just how fine the line is between having sufficient money for housing and food and suddenly having your life upended by unforeseen circumstances.
Once this crisis recedes, it is my hope that the community will continue to work together – I believe it is clear that we are in this together, and the outcomes of a few have consequences for all.
‘I was still determined to run 50 miles’
Lesa DePeal and husband Thomas live in Bent Creek/Woodberry Forest in Durham. Lesa is a social work case manager at the Durham VA Health Care System and was supposed to run her first 50-mile race at Umstead State Park in early April, but the race was canceled.
I was devastated because of all the training I put in. However, I was still determined to run.
I hatched the idea [that the race would continue] with my husband, Thomas, and coach Faith Raymond Strafach of Run Long Run Strong Endurance Coaching. We settled on the American Tobacco Trail, with several out-and-back trips to get my 50 miles. I was fortunate to have five friends support me in my efforts at various points in my run – Tracy Cox, David St. Laurent, Kristen Gulish, Robin Buhrke and Shawn Glidden. We were apart during the run, but in the spirit of the event, everyone helped create something truly memorable.
As with every race, the medal at the end is the crowning achievement. My husband reclaimed an old cymbal. He put the medal around my neck (it was ungodly heavy), and upon close examination of it – it says, “Made in Wuhan”! Oh, the irony! So, while the actual race didn’t occur, my running tribe banded together to help me achieve my goal. While we were cautious to keep socially distant, we were able to share an experience like no other.
My body is a bit sore, but my heart is full.
‘Recently a young man appeared in court … visibly struggling’
Mark Kleinschmidt is clerk of superior court and judge of probate for Orange County and former mayor of Chapel Hill. “I lead a troop of essential personnel keeping the justice system open and operating. I live at the top of Shady Lawn Road in Chapel Hill with my partner, Matt DeBellis, and Ellie, our dog, who’s very confused now that she has virtually no alone time anymore.”
Being present to observe the variety of human responses to threats to one’s life, liberty and treasure is the everyday experience of working in a courthouse. The stakes here are profound.
But something happened when COVID-19 arrived. These threats, previously experienced mostly by criminal defendants and civil litigants, were now present realities for the professionals who worked here. The confidence – OK, the ego – of legal professionals suddenly no longer insulated them from the threats previously faced only by those involved in the justice system.
We are all living in a new world.
In the old world, clerks were the behind-the-scenes utility players on the courthouse team. But we have a commitment to be kind and to care, especially in these troubled times. Recently a young man appeared in court, keeping his social distance and wearing a mask. He was visibly struggling with the recent death of his mother and complained about the failure of a local bank to recognize papers I had issued. He was confused and upset. We understood and took our time. We intervened. We found a way to make the world work for him again.
Scientists may not have found the cure for COVID-19 yet, but courthouse clerks have had the vaccine for the psychological symptoms for a long time. Admittedly, I’m not quite as good at administering it as those I work with, but we’ll keep distributing it here. For free. Until this is over. And beyond.
‘I have seen Durham’s best’
Matthew Hickson is the assistant principal at Neal Middle School and has been a Durham Public Schools educator for six years. He was the 2016 Durham Public Schools Beginning Teacher of the Year. He is also the founder of Bull City Schools United, a project aimed at equipping teachers and students to create safer schools for LGBT students. He lives in Croasdaile Farm.
I was home sick out of caution when I heard the call that Durham would be closing schools for at least three weeks back in early March. As I sat home that day, my mind immediately shifted to every educator’s first priority – my students.
I lead a community of 287 sixth graders as their assistant principal, and I had questions. I wanted to know what options families had for child care and food, what support systems they would need to get through this period, and whether I would be healthy enough to responsibly be there to wish students well before our last day in the building. It turns out that I, and many of us in the weeks since, have encountered more questions and fewer answers.
One answer came from the Durham community. People from all over our city have answered the call to support families by donating countless dollars and signing up for nearly 1,000 volunteer shifts with the Durham Public Schools Foundation. During the first week of this program, I scheduled volunteers who wanted to be drivers and safely deliver meals to families of DPS students. I had more than 800 people to choose from. In these 800 were two of my former students who wanted to give back.
While this crisis is far from over, I have seen Durham’s best in our response. We are coming together as a community, even as we are physically apart.
‘Just taking care of my family’
Kristin Pearson is the director of development at TROSA and has been working there for almost five years, helping to raise funds to promote its work in the community.
I am seeing everyone at TROSA come together in ways we never have before in order to make sure our 500 residents and staff remain healthy … and also to ensure everyone feels valued and connected. Individuals with substance use disorders are especially vulnerable right now because of the need for social distancing and self-isolation.
Our senior staff leadership are members of the Task Force who implement new policies with guidance from our on-site health providers and health officials, but as a peer-driven program, it is our TROSA residents modeling these new behaviors and procedures for one another. Residents are looking out for one another and leading by example. We implemented the TROSA Clean Team to model proper cleaning protocols, and it is co-led by a TROSA graduate who is now a staff member. He views his new Clean Team role as “just taking care of my family.” He also shared with me: “It’s our job as staff members to make sure the residents are well taken care of … but that’s not our only job. As staff, we have to also set an example of what it takes in a challenging situation, so that our residents know they are safe.”
A resident shared these thoughts in an email to staff and peers last week: “The procedures and protocols that have been put into place in a relatively short period of time, during this difficult time in the world, is nothing short of amazing! I’ve always said that we are some of the strongest, smartest, gifted and resilient people on the face of this earth. We are viewed, at times, as outcasts of society. If society could only catch a glimpse of exactly what we are capable of, then perhaps they can see that we are more than our mistakes. More than our shortcomings. More than they realize.” It’s heartening to know our residents feel safe, that they recognize their self-worth and that they have the security and confidence to know they can make it through this challenging time.
‘Officers jumped at the chance to participate’
The Chapel Hill Police Department found a fun way to connect with citizens, filming a video of officers reading a children’s book in various Chapel Hill locations that was then posted on its social media channels. Lt. Johnnie Britt says:
Officer Kay approached me with the idea. We knew we found the perfect book in “Goodnight Carolina” [by Missy Julian Fox and Marie Myers Lloyd, illustrated by Elaine O’Neil]. Passing the book across frames let us include many officers and added some visual interest. Filming the officers was new to me and a huge learning experience. Officers – including Sgt. Bell, filmed at Sutton’s Drug Store (pictured); Officer Gim, in front of Gimghoul Castle; and Investigator Wright-Quick, at Coker Arboretum – jumped at the chance to participate in this project for our community.
‘My students are now both closer and more distant’
Kevin Foy and his wife, Nancy, have lived in North Carolina for more than 30 years. He was mayor of Chapel Hill from 2001-09 and teaches law at North Carolina Central University. “[We’re] staying inside and taking orders from Sophie, our 15-year-old standard poodle.”
Shutting down daily life in order to slow the spread of the virus has required adjustments, which create new concerns. In my world, I teach law students, and all classes are now online. My students are now both closer and more distant; closer because when we discuss the law, they are each front and center on screen, while obviously physically separated. Nobody knows how students will learn, as they learn differently; in what ways teachers can teach better, as they communicate differently; whether some students will gain unanticipated advantages over other students.
I’m particularly interested in the third possibility, because natural disasters like this pandemic disproportionately impact people who are already at a disadvantage. Take a
look at Hurricane Katrina: Socioeconomic status directly correlated not just with the ability to survive but also with resiliency afterward.
From my relatively protected place in an economically privileged community, I am able to carry on life nicely, although in an adjusted form. Not everyone is as fortunate. Who will and who will not suffer dire consequences from the pandemic was determined long before the virus came along.
‘Working hard to stay connected at Immaculata’
Cara Ragusa is the director of communications for Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, which has 535 students from pre-K to eighth grade. She lives in South Durham with her husband, Kevin, who works for Duke, and children Nathan, 9, and Anna, 8, who also attend Immaculata.
We’ve all been home together since March 14. There’s a lot of coordination that goes on, juggling school work with two full-time jobs. I ordered a white board and some visual-schedule magnets to help my kids know what to expect for the day. We just try to check everything off our daily list and don’t assign times to anything – I have great intentions to do things in a certain order or by a certain time, but then I’ll have to jump on a time-sensitive project or my husband has to take a work call, so it becomes an impromptu recess for the kids. My daughter has special needs, so that throws another element into the mix, but we’re lucky that her resource teachers and therapists have been doing one-on-one video calls with her several days a week.
I’m an introverted homebody so I don’t mind all the secluded at-home time, but it can also be incredibly stressful some days just trying to manage it all (my house is a mess!). My kids have adjusted surprisingly well, but I think they miss the routine and their teachers and friends, and just getting out and about to playgrounds, restaurants, etc.
Like most schools in our country, Immaculata has transitioned to a distance-learning platform. We look forward to returning to campus as soon as possible but are working hard to stay connected as a community through virtual office hours with teachers, online prayer services, family-led morning announcements and even a virtual spirit week – families sent in photos like these each day.
‘Our time to slow down and have fun together’
Mike Mackey and wife Christi Mackey’s kids, Reese Mackey, 8, Rowen Mackey, 4, and Riggs Mackey, 7 months, have made the switch to taking yoga class from their home living room while their family practices social distancing. They use Growga, which offers live and pre-recorded yoga classes for kids and families ages 2 and older.
We love Growga because it’s a fun way we can connect together,” Christi says. “My kids love being able to learn fitness in a creative way and I appreciate that they are learning mindfulness. Being able to do [yoga] at home has made this season of life manageable. We use it as our time to slow down and have fun together.
‘A day to remember forever’
Emily Skidmore is an intensive care registered nurse at First Health Moore Regional Hospital, Moore County. She lives with her partner Cody, who is active duty in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Bragg. The couple has been together for about three years.
I remember picking our date over a year ago and thinking, ‘March, a month that no one has much going on, all of our friends should definitely be able to make it,’ and, boy, could I not have been more wrong. The anticipation of the wedding was one thing, but the anticipation two weeks before not knowing if it was going to happen or not was devastating.
We decided the Monday before our wedding that if we couldn’t have all of our friends and family there as planned, then it would be best to postpone. I give a ton of credit to Kelley Deal, our photographer, who texted me and said, ‘If you want to elope, I’m there.’ That was the push I needed to say, ‘Hey, we can still do this!’ I had thought for so long that our anniversary would forever be 3/20/20, and I couldn’t imagine the day of our wedding coming and going without some sort of celebration. I asked Kelley if she had any suggestions for private ceremony places, and lo and behold, we settled on the Morgan-Rigsbee parking deck. She brought a rug from her dining room; Elizabeth Flake, my event planner, found some beautiful flowers left over from a styled shoot. I brought a handful of close friends (10 to be exact) and a cooler of Corona. Turns out that’s all you really need to have a day to remember forever. Looking back, I think the ceremony was absolutely perfect for us. It was intimate and beautiful and more than I could have imagined for our wedding day.
Returning to work as a registered nurse working in intensive care at our local hospital has been truly humbling. I have directly seen the effects of this virus and how quickly it can turn your world upside down. While this virus has been devastating to so many, on so many levels I truly feel that we will get through this together. Words can’t express how important it is for people of all walks of life to stay home, be patient and be kind to one another. We will get through this together but everyone needs to do their part.
‘Helps us keep our sanity’
Judy Wright, 75, and husband Mark Wright, 81, are long-time retirees who are “excited to encourage others in our age group to stay active.”
My husband and I recently downsized to a new home. We had set aside some money this year to do a bathroom remodel, were about ready to start the planning process, and the whole world changed. The recent turn of events motivated us to change our priorities. We decided the bathroom could wait while we turned our attention to our increased need for a healthy way to spend time outdoors. We had read that many RVers are turning to electric bikes for exercise and transportation. Mark wears a brace on one leg and can’t walk great distances, so the idea of electric bikes appealed to us. Here was a way to stay active, experience a wonderful spring and keep our social distance from others. Pedego Triangle had just what we needed, gave us a wonderful introduction to riding on the American Tobacco Trail, and introduced us to a new near-daily activity that helps us keep our sanity during this time of pandemic. We love riding our new electric bikes, look forward to exploring more trails and can’t wait to take them with us on our motorhome when traveling days arrive again.
‘Lucky to be able to stay home’
Lesley Stracks-Mullem, owner of Taste Carolina, lives in Forest Hills with her husband, Jeremy Mullem, who is the director of the Legal Writing Program at Duke University School of Law. Their son, Zeke, attends Morehead Montessori.
I grieved food tours for weeks leading up to all the closures, knowing that Taste Carolina wouldn’t be able to continue to operate for a very long time. Over and over I thought to myself, ‘Why did I ever think shared dining experiences was a good idea?’ Once my business stopped running in mid-March, I took what was perhaps a much needed break, and now I’m working on new ideas.
I’m proud of the restaurants that are currently open, and I’m proud of those that are temporarily closed. Everyone is being thoughtful about their operations and decisions. My thoughts are with everyone on the front lines of food and other essential services and health care right now.
It’s strange but comforting to have time to cook dinner for my family, tutor my son, walk in my neighborhood and get a good night’s sleep. My family is lucky to be able to stay home, and I’m very grateful for that.
‘Struggling like just about everyone else’
Terry Pannick is the director of thrift store operations at Durham’s Pennies for Change Thrift Boutique. Terry lives in the Anderson Street-Wrightwood Park neighborhood and has a daughter, Anna, who is currently a student at N.C. State.
[This] community-based small business is struggling like just about everyone during this pandemic. Most of our overhead costs remain due, but the more significant loss is the revenue we generate for our parent nonprofit, Durham Crisis Response Center (DCRC). DCRC is [a] provider of comprehensive shelter and support services for those in need of help in the aftermath of domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and family violence.
Typically in April, DCRC hosts a variety of community education and fundraising events to support Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, we have had to make the difficult yet responsible decision to cancel these events. GivingTuesdayNow is now May 5. Please mark your calendar to donate at durhamcrisisresponse.org.
Before COVID-19, our donors and sponsors would be looking forward to the camaraderie of these programs; the main office at DCRC would be filled with activity and excitement, and busy shoppers would visit the boutique to fill their new spring wardrobe or browse home accessories. This year, events are canceled, advocates are working remotely, and doors of Pennies for Change have been closed to shoppers and donors.
‘I’ve never been more grateful to have a table’
Josephine McCrann is one of the founders and co-owners of Threehouse Studios, a mindful movement studio near downtown in Lakewood. The studio offers yoga, as well as conditioning and dance classes daily; she is also the yoga director. She and her dog, Bella, moved to Lakewood in 2015. Her roommate, Josh Estabrook, has lived with her since October 2019.
When my roommate moved in with me, one of the deciding factors was whether or not I planned to get a kitchen table. Or just, a table. Anywhere. Before we met last year I had converted my “dining room” into a studio space and never considered an alternate. When he asked, it didn’t seem important to me but I told him, ‘Yeah! I’ll get a table!” We were already close but each had busy schedules and little time for meals together anyways. I didn’t get a table.
On March 16, my business partner and I chose to cancel all in-person classes at the studio. On the 18th, we released an online live-streamed class schedule. A week later the Durham stay-at-home order was issued, and everyone started teaching from home. That week was a lot of hurry-up-and-change-it…now-change-it-again. It felt hectic and overwhelming. Within that same time, Josh’s work closed up too.
We joked about the possible outcomes of sheltering together: getting closer or parting ways. We started grocery shopping together, cooking together, walking together, doing handstands together. We expanded our living space outdoors. Part of the yard is the gym, part of the yard is for lounging. The porch is the dining room. We eat most meals together on the Habitat for Humanity ReStore table with side-of-the-road chairs.
In these spaces, we have each cried, been anxious, been scared and lonely. We have been giggly, sassy, kind and supportive. Amidst a full range of feelings, this home is nourishing friendship. I’ve never been more grateful to have a table, shared.