Finding a New “Normal” and Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies #CopingWithCOVID19

This week has been full of feelings and emotions all over the world as we practice social distancing amid concerns of COVID-19. I wanted to share some of the emotional waves I have ridden with my family in our home.

Triumph when we all sat down on Monday morning to our new distance learning routines (my high schooler, my elementary student, and me in community college).

Melancholy when we changed the original pizza and Xbox birthday party for our middle schooler to a family dinner with a copycat Panda Express orange chicken and a homemade key lime pie. We were not his chosen party-goers, and we let him know that that was okay to be sad about.

Delight at the beautiful spring flowers in Phoenix that we have the time to really enjoy this year. My daughter and I walked in our backyard to pick all the wildflowers growing.

Fear when my ketamine clinic let me know that my regular appointment is postponed because the clinic needs to evaluate safety precautions for staff and patients.

After I suffered a severe depressive episode in 2017, I realized that I wasn’t very good at feeling my emotions. I tried to keep my head so full of busy thoughts about the future or the past. Now, I am learning to sit with those emotions, to breathe them in and out, and to accept both the happy and uncomfortable ones. When I find myself vacillating between despair and acceptance, it has been helpful for me to remember a Buddhist idea…that feels are like the clouds in the sky, they change or dissipate often quickly. I am the sky, I am anchored, and I can observe them and become curious about them as they occur.

I love this quote I read in the book by Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart, “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

There have been times these past couple weeks when my emotions have been so all-over-the-place that I hardly know if I can stand them. The clouds move so quickly. I see it in my spouse and my kids. I have no idea how to comfort these older children who don’t find much from a hug from Mom. How can any of us find our anchor?

But, there are times when I see the Divine. I see the Holy Ghost work through us. I look at my messy kitchen, and I am inspired to make Katherine Hepburn’s brownies, which turn out to be just the thing we all needed one particularly difficult evening. And, I think of Roman Catholic priest, Richard Rohr who wrote, “The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection—and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth. ”

I am working on seeing my God in the disorder of this uncertain time, to find small joys and to feel the uncertainty and grief we are also presented with.

Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies
The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichel

8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 8×8 square baking pan, knocking off excess flour.

Melt butter with chocolate in a two to three-quart saucepan over low heat. Remove heat and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla, then beat until well combined. Stir in flour and salt until just combined, then stir in walnuts.

Pour batter into baking pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Then, cut into 16 bars (or 8 if you’re my people…1/16th is way too little of this goodness).


EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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1 Response

  1. Heather says:

    This is lovely. Thank you. I appreciate you sharing both sides of this situation. One side does not cancel out the other, but it is helpful to see them both. Great analogy about the clouds. I’m going to think on that for a bit.

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