Californians Share Their Pandemic Silver Linings

People waiting at the intersection of Seventh and Figueroa Streets in Downtown Los Angeles in May 2020.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

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

More on California

  • L.A. Schools Strike: The union representing 30,000 education workers reached a tentative deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District, following a three-day strike that had closed hundreds of campuses
  • Mansions at Bargain Prices: Wealthy home sellers in Los Angeles are slashing prices and sweetening deals, eager to move their properties off the market before a new “mansion tax” goes into effect on April 1.
  • Plane Spotting: Plane spotters are everywhere in the world, but dramatically so in Los Angeles, where one is primed to view the everyday cinematically.
  • A Rare Phenomenon: An inlet on Lake Tahoe has frozen over for what appears to be the first time in three decades, leaving some locals in awe.

“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

A gender neutral public restroom sign in West Hollywood in 2015.Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • Bathroom bill: A new bill would require public schools in California to have easy access to gender-neutral bathrooms for students by 2025, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Another storm: Heavy rain and mountain snow returned to the state on Tuesday, continuing a relentless, dangerous, deadly and disruptive weather pattern.

  • Gun violence: Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee for voting against gun safety laws as Nashville reels from a deadly school shooting, Politico reports.

  • Minimum wage: Labor activists in California and other states are pushing to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, The Associated Press reports.

  • Bank failure hearing: Federal regulators faced more than two hours of intense questioning from lawmakers on Tuesday on what caused the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.


  • Overcrowding: Three inmates died during a nine-day period this month, as jails are operating over capacity, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Disney living: The first details of Disney’s venture into real estate were revealed last week, including a social club in the community that will be inspired by the home in “The Incredibles” movies, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Reservoir refills: Persistent rainfall this winter replenished Diamond Valley Lake, the largest reservoir in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Los Angeles education budget: The Los Angeles United School District changed its ending balance to $5.12 billion from $4.93 billion while saying that there may be less money available for raises, The Los Angeles Times reports.


  • Farming solutions: The practice of on-farm recharge requires farmers to flood their fields with rainwater to restore underground water reserves. It has attracted broad support amid extreme weather conditions, The Associated Press reports.


  • Office flight: Office vacancies in San Francisco soared to nearly 30 percent in the first quarter of 2023, nearly eight times the level before the pandemic, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Homelessness spending: The state is looking into how San Jose is addressing homelessness after an eight percent increase in its unhoused population from 2019 to 2022, The Mercury News reports.

Credit…Sterling Reed

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.

Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

What we’re eating

Cauliflower piccata.

People gathered on an overlook above the Borrego Badlands in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 2022.Credit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Nancy Butala, who lives in Stillwater, Minn. Nancy recommends Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

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 [email protected].

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:

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 [email protected].


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