My Word Nothing like a catastrophe to renew one's focus

Howard County TimesFrank Hazzard

Posted 12/31/09

In the wee hours of a freezing morning last December, Jennifer Stukey, an acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and yoga teacher, received a startling phone call from a colleague. The space under her second-floor Little Patuxent Parkway office was on fire.

By the time the sun rose that day, the building had been destroyed and all that remained of her successful acupuncture practice was a list of loyal clients.

"The sights and smells and experience were both devastating and amazing. It was a true moment of being present. I couldn't be anywhere else," Stukey, 30, recalls.

As she climbed in her car with a few sooty belongings and her emptiness of mind, Jennifer recalled a line from a Buddhist haiku by Mizuta Masahide that one of her acupuncture instructors was fond of quoting; "Barn's burnt down/now I can see the moon."

"Out of worldly calamity sometimes comes clarity," Stukey explains.

But gaining clarity can take time.

There was a period last January when Jennifer's circumstances threatened to overwhelm her. Not only had she suffered losses from the fire, but the tumbling economy seemed to be conspiring against her.

"I didn't know what to do or even where to start," she recalls. "I think I was in shock."

Jennifer says it took her a few weeks to realize that she had only two options, give up and withdraw or rally and move forward. She rallied.

"Jennifer has tremendous drive. I watched her will herself back on track," remembers Jennifer's friend and fellow acupuncturist, Christine Bennett.

By the end of January, Stukey had established a temporary home office where she could practice. At the same time, she began searching for new office space. With encouragement from her colleagues and clients, and the full support of her husband, Brian, Jennifer allowed herself to dream big.

"I wanted to establish Columbia's first comprehensive wellness center," she recalls. "My vision was to create a fitting place for practitioners of the healing arts. You know, more than a gym or a day spa."

Plenty of people cautioned Jennifer about the risks that the economic recession posed, but her entreprenurial spirit and characteristic tenacity won out. She acted on her dreams.

"I'm definitely all in," she says, seemingly without trepidation. "On the plus side, we got our choice of office space," she adds with a grin.

On Nov. 1, 10 months after the fire, her vision came to fruition. Awaken Wellness opened on Mistral Way near Lake Elkhorn, combining acupuncture, therapeutic massage, yoga and Chinese herbal medicine under one roof.

"In this time of economic struggle, now more than ever, the community needs a safe place where people can let go of the stresses of everyday life," Bennett explains. "It's too early to tell for sure if Jennifer will be financially successful, but she is already successful in terms of purpose."


Frank Hazzard is a Baltimore firefighter and lives in River Hill.