The coronavirus pandemic has been defined by so much loss. Of lives, jobs, relationships. Of normalcy.
But amid that upheaval, there have been occasional moments of hope, small positive changes borne from the chaos of the past three years.
Hundreds of you wrote to us about the ways that pandemic disruptions surprisingly reshaped your lives for the better. Some of you found time to start a new business venture or fall in love. Lockdowns allowed you to spend more time with your children or parents, or prioritize your own happiness through daily morning walks, new recipes or oil painting.
In June 2020, I adopted a sickly kitten, a responsibility I wouldn’t have been able to take on had I not been newly working from home. Now she’s almost 3 years old and a lovable companion for whom I feel immensely grateful.
Reading your pandemic silver linings genuinely improved my week. I hope you enjoy them, too. Here’s some of what you shared, lightly edited for clarity.
“In the spring of 2020, my husband and I offered to read to our 3-year-old niece on Zoom to give her parents a brief break. Some days during those first dark months of the pandemic, knowing that soon I’d be reading picture books to our bright and cheerful niece got me out of bed in the morning. Three years later, we still read to her for an hour every week — and sometimes now she reads to us!” — Caroline Grant, San Francisco
“I was able to stop and breathe and pay off debt. I became debt-free and bought my first home at 50 in January 2023.” — Kristin Stout, Sacramento
“My son was in the middle of his junior year of high school, and the stress of it all, especially the shelter-in-place, was wreaking havoc. One day he just pinned up a tarp on the side of our house in the backyard, put up a large blank canvas and just started to paint. We were amazed at what he was creating. We have over a dozen of his works of art, and he is now a sophomore in college and is deciding if he will pursue an art major in college. If it wasn’t for that Covid quarantine, we would not have had the opportunity for him to find that gift of his.” — Elizabeth Harvey-Guedes, Belmont
“I come from a family of nine kids, six of whom are still alive. With the pandemic, we started a weekly Zoom meeting that we all religiously attend. Before, we maybe talked just a couple times a year.” — Bill Masco, Indio
“I got a new hairdo. For a woman in her early 70s, that’s a big deal. After decades of short hair, I grew it out. When I could not access my hairdresser for months on end, I decided to go for the long haul and get a new look. I never would have been brave enough to do that had it not been for the pandemic.” — Heather Prescott, Ahwahnee
“My 25-year-old son’s partner moved in, to avoid him going back and forth from place to place. We live in a 1,000-square-foot cottage with a studio out back, so you would think all hell would break out. Instead, we spent a harmonious five months together, until they found a nearby apartment. It was really quite lovely, having dinner together every night. Every six weeks or so my son and husband, both professional musicians, played front yard concerts for the neighborhood. A few weeks ago my son said he was thinking about that time together and missed it, and I realized, so did I.” — Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Corona Del Mar
“Although the pandemic and stay-at-home order brought anxiety and fear into our lives, it also gave us the unexpected gift of time together. The combination of reduced school hours because of remote learning, and the cancellation of all extracurricular activities, gave our family an extra 34 waking hours together per week. Over the course of 2020, we spent our gift on leisurely meals, spontaneous board games, aimless conversations, whimsical cooking projects and glorious hikes with no destination. And though I know that our teenagers are better off now back at school with kids their own age, I sometimes look back at that time with selfish nostalgia. I hope my children will never have to receive almost two thousand extra hours with their own kids under similar circumstances. But I would never trade memories of my gift for anything else.” — Jenny Raj, San Francisco
What you get
For $1.6 million: A midcentury-modern home designed by Cliff May in Long Beach, a 1918 Craftsman house in Oakland and a three-bedroom bungalow in Sierra Madre.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Nancy Butala, who lives in Stillwater, Minn. Nancy recommends Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:
“It is nature at its finest. There are many hiking trails, beautiful vistas, the unique little town of Borrego Springs, and in years with adequate rainfall the wildflowers are spectacular. I am a snowbird from Minnesota and spend four months of the winter in Palm Desert. I always make a point of visiting Anza-Borrego several times when I am in the desert.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What foods do you consider quintessentially Californian? Almonds? In-N-Out Burger? Cioppino? Artichokes?
Tell us your favorite Golden State dish or snack, and include a few sentences about what it means to you. Email us at CAToday@nytimes.com.
And before you go, some good news
A few of you wrote to us about the success of businesses you started during the pandemic. One of those was Shorebirds Brewing Company, which opened in Sacramento last year and was written about in The Sacramento Bee.
Randall Echevarria, the co-owner, told The Times why he considered the venture his pandemic silver lining:
“My husband and I started home brewing hard kombucha during the pandemic and immediately fell in love with the fruit- and botanical-forward flavors we created. After a year of recipe development, we decided to take the plunge and converted our cold brew coffee manufacturing business into a hard kombucha brewery and taproom called Shorebirds Brewing Company. We are excited to celebrate our first anniversary at the end of April!”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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