Brain Food
The Dog Ate Our Stress-Baking

Day Whatever and Two







I am the bulging eyes emoji right now, even though I thought I'd fully resigned myself to the idea that schools aren't going to reopen at all. Next fall, if we're lucky and our entire species hasn't been wiped out thanks to a couple dozen idiots throwing coronavirus parties and/or licking toilet handles for a TikTok video. Four weeks is actually more optimistic than that! And yet...this was a lot to take in this morning, especially since the announcement happened right while I was pretending that letting Ike watch PBS Kids cartoons counted as homeschooling. 

I'm coughing a lot. I'm sure it's just allergies, because it's late March and I am being personally attacked by my backyard. I don't have a fever and feel fine otherwise, except after every cough I am compelled to assess myself for any shortness of breath, which OH HEY, I get that from anxiety, sooo...

Snort some Flonase, pop a Buspar, wash hands, rinse, cough, repeat. 

I haven't been 100% isolated long enough to be solidly in the clear, mostly thanks to the logistics of trying to find a job during this mess. I was down in Virginia at a ghost town of a WeWork just last Tuesday, balling my hands up inside my suit jacket sleeves to summon elevators and wrestle with door handles. 

As of yesterday, agencies can virtually onboard, so I was allowed to take photos of my passport and driver's license and digitally sign a few forms. I have no idea what to expect from this point on, however. I have to wait for a background check, get fingerprinted and photographed for a badge, and I've been given wildly different timelines on how long that will take. My position is allowed to work remotely two days a week, but not until after working full-time on-site for 90 days, and the campus is currently still open because...well. It's the Food & Drug Administration. Kinda pretty essential right now, no? 

(I'm still technically going to be a contractor/consultant, not a direct federal employee. But my position is part of an existing, fully-funded [and desperately understaffed] contract, so it's a pretty safe, sure thing. I just don't know if or how this will impact my start date. Which is awesome because a vague-ish sense of financial uncertainty is my FAVORITE.)


In other news, Jason started a little sourdough starter lending library, for anyone who wants to come pick up a jar or two from our front steps and wave from a socially acceptable distance. Just doing what we can for our fellow stress-bakers out there. That discomfort you're feeling is grief. Have some bread, it might help. Even just a little. 




OUR SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED THE REST OF THE YEAR. SIX MONTHS OF THE FIVE OF US IN PERMANENT TOGETHER TIME. I said, through tears, in my prayer last night -- I know at age 90 I will look back and be grateful for this time, Lord, but how can I get through it NOW?!?! Also I hate working from home. Also I hope your job starts right on time -- still really excited you got it!

Joanna Moore

Oh Ontario our schools were supposed to reopen Apr 6th and they just cancelled that and said they don't know when they will reopen. I have a 2yo and a 4yo home while my husband and I try to work full time :s. Maybe I'll bake some stress bread tonight.


Congrats on the new job! And how nice of Jason - he is doing the lord's work, truly!


Do you feel that Buspar can help as an adhoc treatment ? i.e. i was prescribed it to take for my PMDD only, not daily. But not sure it's effective that way... just curious of your experience with it.

Sarah S

Oh my gosh. I can SO relate to the cough. and shortness of breath (likely due to my anxiety - I've just recently upped my buspar dose because - hey, I was just starting to feel better when covid hit. oh, and also a 5.7 magnitude earthquake last week). and I'm feeling run down. Is it COVID or is it because my 2 year old decided that he needed a private party 3 hr party with mom at midnight two nights ago. I spent most of yesterday being talked down by my husband from calling the doctor requesting a test. Last night I got a lovely 8+ hrs sleep and guess what? I don't have much of a cough and I have energy and no shortness of breath. Guess my husband was right. Thanks for the updates. I need reminders sometimes that we're all in this together. (and it's nice to know I"m not the only hypochondriac with anxiety and allergies)


@Jennifer My prescription is 15mg twice daily, morning and night. I've occasionally cut that in half, phased it out completely or just taken it only as needed, depending on how I was otherwise managing shit. But for when I'm struggling with GAD (like nowwwwww), I find it's most effective after a few days of the sustained daily dose. (Kinda like Zyrtec!)


1. Grief and worry/anxiety/stress are reasonable at this time. So is crying, but then your feet come right back down and we keep on. Honor and admit our emotions so we can move forward.
2. Someone in an important office said normal by Easter. For some reason this instantly made me assume maybe normal by Christmas .... may be not. Then I took big breath and let it out. And reminded myself that when we are a few more weeks into this lockdown we will have way better prediction abilities.
3. Having you at the FDA sounds really wonderful for all of us. Wish I thought you were going to be in so much power that you personally would be able to improve our food chain ... but all improvements that you do bring will be appreciated.
VERY best wishes. Stay careful and super excited to hear all the non-confidential stuff you can share (i.e. probably the color of the sky and chair upholstery fabric and if you get a personal cubicle or if you share one.)
Please keep writing, those of us on lockdown really need your posts.


I was ready for Hogan until I wasn’t ready, and I homeschool in AA Co! Trust me, even we veterans are putting on Crash Course on YouTube and calling it a day.


Today our governor ruled:
1. Massachusetts schools, private AND public, are officially closed until at least May 4.

2. We can not longer bring reusable grocery totes to the market.

3. Those of us 60 and over, or with immune compromised systems, will have grocery and pharmacy hours from 7 until 8 a.m. 6 days a week.

I still cannot understand, however, how the car dealerships are allowed to be open. Oh well, at least I don't have to worry about going there unless my car gets totalled again.

Be well, all of you!

Tamara K Lang

I wish I lived near you. I want to start a sourdough starter but am terrified of it at the same time.

First rule of working for any government's slow and everything takes forever. (almost 20 years of working for my state has taught me that, then add in a military spouse. It's truly hurry up and wait for everything.) But it's amazing how many things are getting waived quickly right now. Good luck on starting soon.

And finally yes to the is it allergies, a cold, anxiety or am I going to die?


Yup. Fellow Marylander and I felt the same thing. It was like I expected worse but still hearing those dates was exhausting and I have been working full time from home so its not like I have really been homeschooling. I take that back e have been doing lots of home economics type classes and reading and talking about viruses and antibodies. So maybe some learning is happening.....


We're in NY (upstate, not downstate thankfully) and our schools haven't officially said yet if we're closing beyond the initial "end of March" date. I know it's coming though and I'm dreading it. I fully understand the importance, and it's why we pulled our son from daycare and still pay them even though they're technically "essential" and still open, but... a 5yr old and a 2.5yr old in a small house with 2 parents who are still expected to work full-ish time, now just remote, and a giant dog who barks at every conceivable opportunity...
I've had to start just taking loooooonnnggggg walks once a day to escape and preserve some mental sanity.

Good luck to everyone in this same boat with us!

Rachel A Beto

We just started a sourdough starter today, too. Next week, we are going to make our cheese. The following week we're going to churn our own butter. (I'm only lying about one of those.) The quarantine is throwing us back to pioneer days!


So I picked up a jar of starter yesterday, split and fed it when I got home. Then woke up at midnight asking WHAT HAVE I DONE? I CANNOT HANDLE ANOTHER LIVING THING THAT NEEDS ME RIGHT NOW! Seriously, I spent an hour googling sourdough management, an hour trying to read a novel, and another hour doing crosswords on my phone. Finally got back to sleep. I fed the starter again this morning but warned her not to get too comfortable because she's the last thing on my priority list. Gah.


@Lauren You can feed her every couple days vs. daily...she'll withstand some benign neglect. You can also send her to her room (the fridge) for up to a week if you just cannot deal. Just give her a couple days to wake up before usiing. Jason routinely forgets about his sourdough children but I swear has only murdered maybe two or three jars.


We're under shelter in place restrictions here in TX. Our daycare is still open to "essential workers" and they've been taking everyone's temp, every morning. I took my son (3yo) and daughter (3mo) this morning and they turned my son away because his temp read 99.7. Which, I get. I understand completely. Of course he can't stay.

But. He also just runs hot. He's one of those kids who's always sweaty in summer, never needs a jacket during winter. His allergies have hit him hard, so by now he's probably battling a bit of a sinus infection (judging by the gunk coming out of his nose holes - EWE I'M SORRY). And that was just enough to push him up to 99.7.

So now I'm in like the seventh circle of parental guilt. I am supremely busy at work right now; I need him to go to daycare. I think it's just a little sinus infection. I'm oddly thankful his coughs are wet (EWE). But then again, do I really want to send him to daycare battling a sinus infection so that he can be side-eyed by every care giver there?? I want to tape a sign to his back saying "it's just allergies." Cause it's just allergies. Right?

[Don't answer that.]


Just wanted to chime in on the allergies (cough, drippy nose, phlegm) and anxiety combo. I have been constantly checking for a fever (none!) and my chest feels tight from worry. I'm squirting the Flonase in addition to Zyrtec. Also, my kids are grown and live in other states (one is just outside of NYC !) and I can't stop worrying about them being out in the world with Covid-19. All this to say, I get it.

Shawnee Frederick

So I have a dry cough (!) that has settled in my lungs (!!), causing shortness of breath (!!!), which has sent my anxiety soaring . . . although it should be noted that I am prone to bronchitis, and I have the exact same symptoms at least three times per year, every year of my life. And also, no fever. And also also, I've been isolated at home with my husband and 5-year-old twins for over two weeks. (17 DAYS BUT WHO'S COUNTING?!) I've finally accepted that I do not, in fact, have Covid-19. Woo hoo! However, the coughing has made my chest hurt, and the anxiety has caused frequent heartburn and the occasional panic attack, and now I spend a good part of every day Googling "symptoms of a heart attack in women". So that's fun. Nice to know I'm not the only one!


We’ve had our starter for maybe 4 years now? It’s survived a move from Boston down to Annapolis then EC, and periodic regular life interruptions where we forget about it. In those cases we just feed it an extra day before I make bread, and it’s fine. Most of the time ours just lives in the back of our fridge.


If I still lived in Frederick, I would drive over for some sourdough starter. (Never mind that I haven't reintroduced anything close to a traditional flour to my diet. I've had einkorn, but sourdough starter...)

The fact that you did paperwork means you DO have a job. They're not going to find anything in your background check that would exclude you. I know you want to believe it, but as someone who has gone through rigorous background checks right after financial hell wrecked my credit, you will be FINE.

The worry about every sniffle, cough, or that pain underneath your right boob? They're with us for a very long time. Two weeks of excessive medical leave-return to work anxiety as COVID-19 shit all over the world had me taking the Xanax prescribed to deal with the boss from hell. I wasn't even back to work yet and the brand new Fitbit I got for tracking my sleep and movement so kindly tells me my pulse is in the cardio range, despite sitting at my desk for 3 hours. Maybe the next two months can take a break in your neck of the woods, because the pollen here is INSANE.

Last point: My profession is about to experience an explosion in jobs, so the recruiters are coming out of the woodwork. Two have now told me 'yes, the job is 4 states away, and you would be allowed to work remotely after 6 months, but COVID-19 has now changed it to an online orientation and work from home. The government is slow to embrace those things in normal times, but it is the FDA and they need their peeps healthy.


I have an extremely mild, light, dry cough. Increasing verrrryyyy slowly over the last four days. Like, the first day I had this kind of scratchy feeling in my chest, like I might be about to cough, but never actually needed to cough? The second day, I had tiny coughs less than 5 times, didn't even need to open my mouth. A little more frequently the next day. Today, that's happening once an hour or so. I'm pretty certain I have this thing. I don't get coughs as part of my allergy symptoms. I'm not prone to respiratory stuff. I have a husband with OCD who is useless for shopping, an 11-year-old child, and am doing the shopping for both sets of parents who are in a 20-minute radius of us. And I'm scared. And it's mild, so far. And I'm doing everything possible to protect the people around me except stop functioning, because I have to function. There's only me.

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