From left, Lizette Cortez started her own law firm, Adrienne Shubin lost over 80 pounds and Brandon and Robert Schulz-Koller became a family of three.

As pandemic lockdowns swept the US, here's how some found the silver linings

Updated 8:03 AM ET, Wed March 10, 2021

(CNN)Many of us are looking back through our phone's camera roll right about now, reminiscing on where we were this time last year.

We all have a photo or video of that last time we gathered with friends at a crowded bar or had a family gathering indoors. A time before mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and social distancing became second nature to us as we tried to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy from the novel coronavirus.
And ever since, we've all been trying to adjust to a new way of life and finding a "new normal" that makes sense to us.
The United States has over 28 million coronavirus cases and over 500 thousand have lost their lives to Covid-19, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
But with so much loss heavy on hearts and minds, there's also been a lot to gain. Some have welcomed new life, started new careers and businesses, moved cross-country, spent more time outdoors, found love, lost weight, the list goes on.
CNN asked you what your pandemic silver lining has been and here's what we heard:

She parted ways with her law firm, so she started her own

Connection and trust bring Lizette Cortez, 31, closer to her clients.
The immigration lawyer from Texas told CNN those have been some of her guiding principles throughout her career and ultimately, what pushed her to open her own law firm in the beginning months of the coronavirus pandemic.
And though opening up your own law firm is no easy feat, after parting ways with another firm, Cortez knew that one door closed so that another door could open. Literally. And so, with the support of her husband and her mom, Carolina, she started taking on clients of her own remotely from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"I had already been thinking about branching out on my own, so I'm really thankful that it happened," Cortez said.
With the world shut down and with the couple saving money from not traveling, eating out, she said they really had time to plan and research how she would make her next move.
"I started working remotely and it wasn't working," she said. "Immigrants don't like to work remotely, the Zooms, they just don't work, they like to see you face-to-face and in person."
"Immigration is such a connection ... they're (immigrants) just not very trusting and our culture very much is all about your gut feeling and really meeting somebody is so important to them."
And who better to understand the immigrant experience than Cortez herself. Her dad started working for US Immigration and Customs and Enforcement in 2003. Her mom Carolina entered the US by claiming asylum after the civil war in El Salvador and got her green card through her dad in 2005.
"I grew up very, very poor, we lived in a 300-square foot, public-assisted housing (in Texas) with five brothers and sisters," Cortez said. "At the time, there were six of us total in our house, my two brothers, my sister and myself and my parents."
Lizette Cortez, right, pictured here with her mother, started her own immigration law firm during the pandemic.
Cortez said her family lived a fairly comfortable life after her dad started working for ICE, but money was still tight.
"You never cry over money, money comes and goes, we will find a way," Cortez's dad used to tell her.
Those words have followed Cortez throughout her journey which is why now, as a lawyer, she says it's really not about the paycheck. Instead, she focuses on being able to help and give back to the immigrant community.
"I am that person who will answer your questions," she said. "I am so much more effective by myself than I ever have been with staff because it eliminates the confusion and the anger."
Cortez opened a physical office in Grapevine, Texas, and is exploring a second office in Fort Worth to reach a wider net of clients. Right now, she has about 55 cases on her plate and her first client was her own mom. She helped her with her citizenship in August. It was approved in January and her oath ceremony was on February 6.
Carolina Cortez, left, and her daughter Lizette right after her US citizenship oath ceremony on February 6.
Last week, Carolina moved to Dallas to join her daughter's firm as an administrative assistant and will be her first and only employee.

They waited years to become a family of three

Brandon and Robert Schulz-Koller know the heartbreak that comes with waiting for an adoption opportunity to pan out.
The couple of nine years said they've always wanted a child and in November 2018, they finalized their paperwork and began the adoption process to turn that dream into a reality.
The Schulz-Kollers waited for three years and had about 20 heartbreaking opportunities that didn't pan out, according to Brandon.
"You go from your high of highs one day and low of lows the next," Brandon said. "Your hope kind of started to dwindle. You don't get your hopes up anymore."
On March 11, 2020, their luck changed. They got a call from their adoption agency about another opportunity. Brandon said he knew something was different. This time, the birth mom picked them.
Their dream finally came true proving their patience paid off.
The child's birth mother chose the name Kobe for her son. She was pregnant during the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
Baby Kobe was born in Tampa, Florida, and the Schulz-Kollers were living in Buffalo, New York -- more than 1,200 miles apart.
Rob and Brandon Schulz-Koller's first Christmas with their son Kobe.
Brandon remembers the adoption agency calling and warning that due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a possibility that state borders could shutdown. The agency said if the couple couldn't get to Florida, there would be nowhere for Kobe to go and they'd be forced to find him another family.
Despite the daunting reality, the dads-to-be packed up their car and headed to Florida.
"I was just emptying the drawers of the nursery and the baby had the biggest suitcase possible in the car," Brandon said. "I was taking everything because we didn't know how long we were going to be in Florida." For weeks, the couple lived in their friend's living room in Florida waiting for their son to be born. During that time, the Schulz-Kollers met Kobe's birth mom and finally, on April 7, they welcomed Kobe into the world.
As for the name Kobe, Brandon would be the first to tell you his family doesn't watch sports, except for the occasional Buffalo Bills game.
And although during this time of quarantine so may have been staying indoors, Brandon said he's cherished this time with their happy baby who is now learning to crawl.
Brandon, who works in health care, says coworkers frequently ask him for pictures of Kobe. He enjoys sharing photos to bring joy to others, especially those who've felt isolated during 2020.
Rob and Brandon Schulz-Koller celebrate their first Halloween with Kobe.
"2020 has been such a hard year for so many people; I see it in coworkers' eyes. I see it in nurses' eyes that I worked with on a regular basis, on what they've been through," Brandon said. "Really, Kobe has just made 2020 the best year for us."