Jason Linde’s family.
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
The pandemic has been one of the biggest tragedies of our time, though its darkness has also shed some light for some. Meet five Westchester residents who have been able to find new possibilities in their lives in the era of COVID.
When the pandemic hit, Elina Furman became overwhelmed from her 24/7 lockdown with her husband and two boys, ages 8 and 12. “One of my goals was to stop running and be with my kids — but not all day long,” she laughs. Furman decided that relocating her family from their Dobbs Ferry home onto their boat in Stamford would help them recharge. “We moved to the boat because there was no [regular] camp, and the kids were going stir-crazy in the house with no pool,” she says. “So, I registered them at CT sailing camp, and we lived on the boat because it gave them the chance to go to camp and enjoy kayaking and the marina’s pool. It made for a more enjoyable summer. Once we were on the boat, we realized we only wanted to be close to water, where we could live a more nautical lifestyle.”
The family had launched the nautical lifestyle they had fantasized about (despite the boat’s 350 square feet of living space) while finding new schools that suited the boys better than their public school did. Simultaneously, a breathtaking house right across from where they docked went on the market. Even though its price tag was somewhat beyond their reach, they decided to go for it, so they made an offer, which was accepted.
Furman, who previously owned a marketing agency that drained her, knew she wanted to chart her a professional trajectory. She was always passionate about helping new mothers, so she became a certified infant-massage instructor. She also began developing a product called Kahlmi, the first handheld baby massager, which will be available in this fall.
“It’s so easy to coast along, but COVID put a magnifying glass on our lives and gave us pause to look and analyze what wasn’t working,” says Furman. “As soon as we started making changes, the universe started aligning, and everything moved so quickly. I was so grateful that this time forced us out of our comfort zone. COVID made us bolder. We realized that the world could change on a dime, so if you don’t go for your dreams, it’s never going to happen.”
Prepandemic, Marcus Geard played the bass in the six-piece band called The Slackers, touring America and the globe, doing at least 100 shows annually. Geard says life on the road was fun, but he desperately missed his family, which included wife Tiffany and 3-year-old son Charlie. In March, when the pandemic started to impact concert-going, Geard braced for disaster. Instead, he was surprised to discover that his life improved dramatically.
“What shocked me was how we were able to carry on,” says Geard, a Hastings-on-Hudson resident. “We found we could do many things online, like doing live streams and selling old records and merchandise. We just scrambled and hustled.” The Slackers got creative and internet-savvy, and began to attract a substantial online audience.
He admits the band lost some money, about one-third of his income. But the loss didn’t impact them severely, since their touring expenses went down about 90%. Also, he cut back on daily expenses, like going out to restaurants and indoor attractions.
Now that he isn’t on the road, the benefits are fantastic. “Spending time at home has been amazing. It’s been a big life change,” he says. “I hadn’t been home for three continuous months for about 25 years. It’s allowed me to embrace a totally different lifestyle, and it’s awesome.”
Geard treasures his new work/life balance and hopes he can do less touring in the future. He adds, “I like some of the changes we’ve experienced, and I don’t think I want things to go back 100 percent to where they were.”
On March 20, Patricia Estatico came down with a serious case of the coronavirus after arriving home from the Tarrytown salon where she worked. “I didn’t think I was going to survive. I couldn’t talk or lift my legs,” she says. “It was scary and lonely.” She recovered after three weeks, but her professional life was about to change. Since 1996, she had been a hairdresser at the Barber Pole, run by owners John Vaccaro and Enzo Morales. When COVID happened, the shop had to shut down, so business tanked. In March, the owners were not able to keep the business going and made the decision to retire early.
It was then that Estatico was given a surprising opportunity. Vaccaro and Morales decided to give the shop to Estatico, hoping she could bring the salon back to life.
Estatico was extremely thankful that she could own a business. “If I was to try to go into business and raise money to open up my own shop, it would never have happened,” she explains. “It would never have been possible.”
With vaccinations on the rise, Estatico has seen more people visiting the shop again. The business had also earned a high rating online because of safety measures she had put in place, such as extra vents. Estatico also expanded services to include perms, hair color, basic manicures, and pedicures. She renamed the shop Soaring Cuts & XYZ, choosing the name because of her intention to soar into the future, through COVID and beyond.
Says Estatico: “COVID gave me a new light and made me realize that anything can be taken away from you instantly. As horrible as COVID was, it also gave me a brighter future.”
Lauren Hurwitz was working an exhausting schedule as a public relations professional for 10 years, leaving her family on their own during many nights and weekends. Shortly after the pandemic began, Hurwitz was laid off. Her husband asked if she was going to apply for new PR jobs, which she didn’t want, or finally make a change in her life.
The New Rochelle resident always knew that PR was not what she was meant to do. “For years, my husband and I talked about me selling real estate, but it was hard to walk away from a biweekly salary, and I never took the leap because I was too scared,” she says.
COVID gave Hurwitz the perspective to look inward. She saw people pass away from the pandemic who were too young and asked herself: My life can be short too. Am I going to sit around, doing what I don’t want to do or what I’m here to do? Her husband also reminded her that no one would question her gap on her résumé if things didn’t work out.
At the same time, Hurwitz’s 4-year-old son was home from preschool due to COVID, and there was no way she could continue her fast-paced NYC job while caring for him. The pandemic set some priorities for her and made her question if she wanted to be a slave to Corporate America or find balance with her family life while still working hard.
Three days after she got laid off, Hurwitz took the leap and enrolled in a real estate license course and never looked back. Now she is extremely happy, working when she chooses for the real estate company Compass. Hurwitz shared that after less than a year, she is also contributing substantially to her family’s finances.
“I was too scared to make the move, but life made the move for me,” says Hurwitz. I feel like I’m finally living the life I saw other people living, the life I craved. It’s no longer just a dream; it’s my reality, and I’m happy I seized the moment.”
Jason Linde was a design director for one of the largest architecture firms in New York City, but COVID put an abrupt pause on his industry. With a mortgage and family to care for — which included two children under 5 — he was panicked.
But Linde, a Hartsdale resident, turned his fears into action and quickly changed gears. He began working on a startup concept to merge his passion for luxury design with his passion for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Called Ashford Fitness, Linde designed a fitness-and-wellness solution for the home. The core of the system is a rope-and-pulley mechanism that facilitates traditional cable-based exercises without the need for cumbersome equipment.
“I originally designed and prototyped this years ago, while living on Ashford Avenue in Dobbs Ferry. The time was perfect to take a fresh look at the idea and put 100 percent of my energy into launching it,” says Linde. “With everyone stuck in their homes, unable to go to a gym, and many tethered to digital screens all day, I just had to get this to the market to help offer a solution for this new era.”
At the same time, Linde launched his own architectural firm, which, in less than a year, has grown into a sustainable business. “Although I am working more hours than before,” Linde says, “I am so much happier. The two and a half hours a day I previously spent commuting is now spent with my family and to work productively.
“When we had our first child,” he continues, “I would see him on Saturday and Sunday only, as I was gone early and home late. It was not sustainable. I now see my young children growing up while working harder than I ever have. I can take a break at any point in the day and see them, eat breakfast with them, take them for a walk. It’s been amazing.”