14 September 2011

And then the rains came

It’s hurricane season on the east coast. Every week or so the news outlets start mumbling about the next storm brewing off the coast of Florida or in the Caribbean. Most of them pass by without event, or even precipitation. The highly anticipated Hurricane Irene, which did serious damage further north, only brought some wind to Central PA. A few trees were toppled in the surrounding neighborhood. They landed on some power lines and we lost our electricity for a few hours.

But the greater, more lasting, impact so far came from an unassuming tropical storm named Lee. This weather system brought rain that sat on us for days. On Tuesday we had some mild leaks in the basement. We remedied the damp cement floor with fans.  Twenty-four hours later the water was dribbling with enthusiasm through holes we didn’t know existed. The storm water drains in the city were beyond capacity. Manhole covers were blown off and the excess water couldn’t be contained. The water had nowhere to go, but up. And it did, into basements, garages, homes, and businesses. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated in York and the surrounding counties. Roads closed, or had sections wash away.

Our basement took on a very small portion of the storm drain’s excess. Because our sump pump have given up the ghost years ago and was slowly decaying in the corner, we used our shop vacuum to suck the water off the basement floor. (I ventured out into the rain once in search of a replacement pump, but so did everyone else in the city. There was not a sump pump available for purchase within 75 miles.)

We rested the vacuum on the corner of the washing machine, sucked 16 gallons at a time into it, and then drained the water into the washer. After three vacuums full, the washing machine was at capacity. A quick turn on the spin cycle drained the water. After 10 hours of sucking and draining, we were just barely able to keep up with the flow.

Our neighbors were not so lucky. They had open drains to the sewer lines in their basement floors. When the storm drains overflowed, thousands of gallons were pushed up into their basements. Our two neighbors to the north got over three feet of water each.  While they lost most of their stored belongings, we mostly just lost time. Not a bad deal overall.

On the positive side, our basement floor is very clean now. We dumped half a bottle of bleach into the standing water to prevent mold growth.

08 September 2011

Help Tastes of Africa

Earlier this year I put together a sound piece about Tastes of Africa, a beloved catering company that has been a part of the Upper Valley community in New Hampshire and Vermont for 20+ years.

According to Friends of Tastes of Africa, "the company recently expanded their kitchen to accomodate a huge new contract to deliver their delicious food to West Point,  and to universities and hospitals around New England.  The flood happened literally days after completing expensive new electrical work on the new space, which was gorgeous and is now in ruins.  They are still working to assess their losses, but they have sustained heavy equipment loss (equipment they own outright) and will need to be replacing things as quickly as possible to fill their orders."

They are looking at the steep number of $150,000 to begin again.

Please feel to write to this e-mail address ( with suggestions, contribution questions, or  leads!  If you would like to make a financial contribution, it can be sent by check to: Taste of Africa; 52 Bridge Street, White River Junction, VT 05001
Or contribute via Pay Pal at the following web address:
Thank you for your support!!

If you are not familiar with Tastes of Africa, and the owners Mel and Damaris, please listen to the sound piece as an introduction.

07 September 2011

Neotropical Rainforest of Panama

Thanks to Annette – Richard’s sister – Richard and I got a unique view of the Canal and the rainforest of Panama. Annette’s current research with Princeton University and the Smithsonian Tropical ResearchInstitute (STRI) has brought her to the Central American rainforest multiple times. This time, she spent her summer studying nitrogen fixation on small, remotely accessible islands, in Lago Gatun – a manmade lake created during the Canal construction to cut down on length and dredging needs. All the islands in Lago Gatun have only been there for a hundred years, but STRI scientists have made them the most intensively studied areas in the neotropics, says my Lonely Planet guidebook.

 Isla Barro Colorado (BCI), which houses STRI’s world-renowned research facility, is where we took a ferry early on our second morning in Panama.

From there, Annette donned her captain’s hat, and piloted us from BCI to another island where her field plots are growing. To be on a small, private boat in the Panama Canal alongside huge oil tankers and cargo ships was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. The sun was bright and warm, the breeze cool and swift. The half-hour boat ride could have lasted forever, as long as I was concerned.

At Annette’s sites we helped her distribute nutrients and then explored the island. There were lots of other sites speckled around the island, put there by other STRI graduate students, all looking at different, yet very specific, slices of the neotropic rainforest.

“It always surprises me that the rainforest isn’t that lush,” said Annette as we wandered along a muddy trail. On a dry, sunny day the forest floor looks not unlike most temperate forests I’ve visited, just with different flora. The rain can change that. But so can a trip to the canopy. Since we didn’t get rained on until the end of our trip, my opinion of the lush-factor changed the next day when we visited the Rainforest DiscoveryCenter in the Canal Zone. We climbed their 30-meter tower to be at canopy level. Up there, lush was the only word to describe it.

Fog sat quietly in patches on the dawn horizon with brightly colored flashes of feathers weaving expertly through the treetops, resting on occasion for a brief respite from the morning’s activities.

Three-toed sloths hung languidly in the sun. A howler monkey mother let her newborn climb all over her with its boundless energy.

The whole ecosystem was overflowing with life, from the birds in the trees to the epiphytes growing on their host plants to the millions of ants, cutting and harvesting leaves to march proudly home.

But this lively place was not free from human impaction. The most prevalent type of trash we found was shoes – in pieces or whole. They were floating in the Canal, scattered along roads, and covered in mud in parking lots. Like most countries in the last 100 years, Panama had not yet figured out waste management. This country’s economy has grown rapidly over the last few years, and with growth comes waste. According to the Latin Business Chronicle, Panama has the fastest growing, and best managed, economy in Central America.

 Boating in the Canal.
 Annette at work in the rainforest.
 Epiphyte in the canopy.
 Toucan in flight.
 Butterfly on Birds of Paradise plant.
 Tree defense strategy.
Leaf cutter ants.

As my first taste of the tropics, I was very happy with my visit to Panama.

23 August 2011

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!

I wholeheartedly believe that we should ban DihydrogenMonoxide.

Well, not really. This compound is vital for all life forms. Without it, I wouldn’t exist to write this on a computer that also wouldn’t exist. So I hereby admit that the stuff is pretty nice to have around. But that which giveth life can also taketh away. I actually find it to be the scariest, most powerful, and intimidating substance in the world. (We all know that I am talking about water, right?)

My first experience, that I can remember, with water involves only outwardly benign encounters: baths of warm, soapy bubbles; glasses cool and wet with condensation on a hot summer afternoon; jumping through a sprinkler in the backyard; exploring the creek at the bottom of the hill. Happy memories, right? Sure, but no one warned me that missing my esophagus for my windpipe when downing that refreshing glass of H2O could be the end of me!

I don’t mean to be melodramatic here, but a lot can go wrong around water – drowning being the first one that comes to mind. But the thought of death from drowning doesn’t cause me to hyperventilate as much as losing the battle of control over the forces that power water. I’m talking about giant ocean waves and currents, white water rapids, frozen lakes and rivers that break beneath your feet. These forces are hard to interpret, tough to control, and beyond most of the population’s understanding - I don’t get plumbing, let alone the physics behind hydraulics in a class five river rapid.

My most recent freak out caused by water was a couple of days ago at Playa la Barqueta in Panama. What I thought would be just another fun afternoon of our tropical vacation turned into Stephanie getting beat up, thrown around, and altogether dominated by the Pacific Ocean. Those waves were down right mean. It probably didn’t help that I was nervous as soon as I got in over my knees, but they didn’t make it any easier to get a handle on things. The goal was to play around and body surf. I only got as far as a painful sunburn and a sore ass. One wave picked me off my feet and threw me down on the ocean floor hard enough to cause abrasion, a brief limp, and a flash, ultimately speculative, of fear that I might have injured my spine.

After some perfectly toned urging (a combination of seize the day, don’t be such a wuss, and you’re so close to getting it right) from Richard – who was having a great time in the water, I might add – I tried again, and again. All attempts ended in me running, swimming, or crawling for my life from the next unpredictable wave that I was convinced was directly behind me ready to swallow me whole.

I survived – duh – but only because my preservation instincts to get-out-while-you-still-can trumped my prideful impulse to get-it-the-F-right-or-die-trying. Fear is a great motivator.
But I’m not the only one who has experienced the terror that water can inflict. Take, for instance, the recent scare that the “brain-eatingamoeba” has caused. That single-celled pest swims up your nose when you’re just out for a dip. Or cholera in Haiti, giardia in streams, or botulism in canned foods. Even mosquitoes use water to breed. This stuff is bad news.

In all seriousness, far more people will die this year fromcar accidents than all of the aforementioned water borne illnesses combined – PSA, always where your seat belt – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be chilling.

Basically, what that means for me is that because I wear my seat belt, I will always be scared of water. If you don’t follow that logic, don’t worry; it's just the fear talking.

15 August 2011

Eat, or Be Eaten

For the past four years I have moved three times to three different cities in two states. I have also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and started and completed graduate school. Amid all this change and growth, one thing has remained reliable and constant: every time I open my kitchen cabinets, no matter what state I am in, I get a face full of moths.

While their numbers have risen and fallen depending on the season, and their food preference is remarkably diverse, I am always able to find at least one soft-winged bastard (or its poop) in my house.

In 2008, when the initial infestation began, I can’t say I was surprised. Richard and I were living in a budget apartment that was frequented by multiple residential pests. With the occasional cockroach scuttling across the counter, and houseflies venturing in from the all-too-near compost pile, what’s one more winged invader? Their original interest was brown rice. They chewed through the plastic and had their way with my future dinner.

My first thought was to get rid of whatever they had managed to penetrate. But when you live with a person who believes that food waste is what will really send you to hell, dumping food with some bugs in it is not an option. (Side note: Richard is so opposed to wasting food that I got chewed out when I washed a room temperature, half-full cup of tea down the sink instead of reheating it and consuming it.) So we kept the rice, and they flour when they expanded and upgraded their accommodations.

When it came time to pack up and move to another part of the country for school, we brought along the dry goods from our pantry, and inadvertently, the moth habitat. While our rice and flour supplies had been consumed and replaced with better-protected contents, the moths had moved on to our sesame seeds, dried fruit, and corn meal. They particularly took to the gallon bags of dried apples that we had harvested and preserved from our own apple trees.

By the time we made it to our current city, we had permanently relocated some of the pantry contents to the freezer in an attempt to rid our selves of these pests. Unfortunately, it is summer. And they love the heat. In the past few months I have found them in unopened granola bars, cracker packets, and backpacking food rations. They have chewed through every plastic and paper bag that holds food that not too salty and not too sweet. They seem to stay away from hot chocolate mix and tortilla chips, but I have found larvae cocooned under the lip of the peanut butter jar lid. That’s not including the times when the adults flutter drunkenly around the house exploring their boundaries and testing my nerves.

Mediterranean Flour Moth and Larvae (Source:

Indian Meal Moth (Source:
As best I can tell from a quick look on, we’re dealing with the Mediterranean Flour Moth, or the Indian Meal Moth. Either way, I kill on sight.

I have tried to eradicate them as best I can without completely violating my partner’s food waste ethics. As of now the plan is to wait until winter and then move all our dry goods outside for a day and freeze any lingerers. I have also vowed not to take any more pantry contents on the next move. Eat it, or donate it, Richard. I’m not giving those guys any more free room and board.

07 August 2011

Which came first, the chicken or the guilt?

When I go to the grocery store, two items on my list bring me to a complete stop in the aisle: ice cream, because it’s one of my major food groups, and eggs, because they completely confuse me. When the organic food craze swept over America, buying eggs went from simply checking for cracks to interpreting the complex language of labels designed to lull the consumer into thinking they’re choosing the “happy chicken” eggs. Labels like “natural”, “cage-free” and “free-range” sound nice and evoke images of curious hens scratching at worms and flapping their wings in the sun. But the lack of regulation in labeling means that those pleasant words can be used to describe a variety of realities.

I know that I am voting with my dollar in the grocery store, and I don’t want to support huge factory farms where the chickens are abused. So I shiver in front of the egg section long enough to read over every option and usually end up choosing the one that makes me feel the least guilty. I try to find a compromise between price, distance the eggs have traveled from farm to grocer’s cooler, and animal welfare labeling.

I completely ignore anything that tries to grab me with “natural”. Well duh, eggs are natural. That means nothing to me. “Certified Organic” can mean a few things. According to The Humane Society of the United States, this describes uncaged birds indoors, with some sort of outdoor access – the likes of which is undefined. “Certified Organic” eggs were laid by chickens fed an all-vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and pesticides. But “free-range” is the one that makes me frown. The United States Department of Agriculture, which determines an egg producer’s organic status, has no standards for free-range egg production.

The United Egg Producers have been battling against the concern of high cholesterol levels in eggs for the last 40 years, says ScienceDaily. Now the market is shifting to include consumers who want to know that chickens are being treated humanely in the warehouses. Ninety-five percent of chickens used in egg production in the U.S. live in tightly packed cages that limit movement and natural behavior. The industry, however, still permits “cage-free” labeling to describe that living condition. Sheila Rodriguez, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, explains this inaccuracy in her article "The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels."

After years of guilt-plagued grocery shopping, mooching eggs from friends with small flocks, and getting the occasional carton from the farmers’ market, I have finally made a real commitment to my own happy chickens. Today I welcomed three Americana hens into my backyard. At three weeks old they are not yet ready to produce eggs, but I know it will be worth the wait. 

I give you Sarah Palin, Liz Lemon, and Cindy Lou Who.

30 July 2011

The Reluctant Gardener

The thing I like best about gardening is eating. I am an ever-grateful, ever-praising recipient of meals prepared from fresh ingredients grown thirty feet from where I am typing this. Stepping into my backyard, I can always smile at the sight of eight-foot corn stalks, a jungle of green beans and rows of herbs. I get a little thrill to see the progress of the eggplant and wait impatiently for the tomatoes to ripen. Yes, watching a garden grow is very satisfying.

But there ends my motivations as a gardener. Getting my hands dirty, cultivating for months and then preserving the inevitable excess for storage, I could pass on. If gardening were a book, I’d rather just watch the movie.

Like most food consumers in modern America I have to go through remedial produce school to remember that the picture perfect products at the fruitage fashion show that is a supermarket fresh food section are manufactured merchandise. I can muster appreciation for the end product, but it’s the nurturing, tending, and encouraging that I feel only obligation towards. Not until the weedlings outgrow the seedlings do I get down on my hands and knees to gain back some ground for my future meals.

I’ve always heard that gardeners that talk to their plants see increased growth and generally healthier specimens. This theory was first recorded by the German professor Gustav Fechner in his book Nanna: Soul-life of Plants, printed in 1848. This idea is so still so popular that Adam and Jamie of Mythbusters tested the theory in 2004. Their results suggest that it’s “plausible.” Research conducted by scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology found that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light – rcbS and Ald – were turned on by music played around 70 decibels. “This is about the level of normal conversation,” said Rich Marini, head of Penn State’s horticulture department, in an article on

I’ve been known to talk when weeding. I say things like, get the bleep out of here, I’ve been out here a bleeping hour already, and bleep-bleep it, stop biting me. (That last one is to the mosquitoes that prey on me while I prey on the vegetative garden invaders, as they are affectionately known in my house.) I can’t argue the tone conveys inspiration for the vegetables, but they're still growing so it can’t be all bad.

I want to be more involved in gardening, which is why I told Richard I would be in charge of our plot this year – a responsibility that I have all but reneged on. I’ll make it out there when my guilt jacket gets too warm, but I’ve seen evidence that my tolerance to heat is increasing.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of reasoning. Once I connect the dots in my head between food and where it really comes from, my inner MichaelPollan shows up for a bit. I just have to hope that happens with enough frequency to keep things growing.

26 July 2011

Cents and Sensibility

As soon as the conversation started I thought, I knew this was going to happen. After mooching off my partner, Richard, for just over a month, and though I hate to admit it, pretty much taking advantage of his generosity, we had “the talk.” “The talk”, when you’re unemployed, covers your motivation to get a job, your worth without one (ex. willingness and competency at doing chores around the house), and your general deterioration of time management skills. For me, this talk concluded that I was spending too much time getting nothing done. And while I couldn’t deny my loafing bout, I argued that some of what Richard viewed as time wasted was, to me, time spent researching. I may be sitting idly at my desk jotting the occasional note, but my brain is churning. If I was getting paid, the process would still be the same, I just don’t have that luxury yet.

When discussing “the talk” with another writer, we identified an acute difference in perception of work. Richard, a fellow who views sleep as trifling, qualifies work on product – how much is done. While I find value in a completed job, I feel the process – particularly creative – is more important. All our modern innovations like computers and software have undeniably increased the speed of production. But the process inside the head of the artist still sifts, gathers and molds at the same old clip.

After an hour of frustrated comments, sighs and tears, I think we came to a conclusion that will suit for the time being: I will try to find a part-time job to help funnel my time spent at home according to both Richard’s definition of idle, and mine; he will try to remember that we move at different speeds in the production line; and we will both try to acknowledge the others' efforts.

Idle, I mean, research mode.

Afterward I spent some time researching “process versus product” and found discussions spanning from toddler development to business models to spirituality. Whether or not I self-identify with either group, I will always be curious about the specific decisions that progressed into elements of the finished product. I want to know why an author chose a particular word; what interview strategy the journalist used to question their source; and how many times the writer rewrote a sentence. Deconstructing the creative process is an enduringly fascinating journey that I find interesting and inspiring. If idle time makes the product I want, then idle I will be.

21 July 2011

Dementia Dog: My Introduction to Canine Alzheimer's

The first time I noticed a change in Henri (pronounced Henry, I’m not fancy about it) was after we had leashed up to go outside. Instead of standing, nose at the corner of door where he knew it would swing open and release him, he rushed to the hinge. His posture was the usual one, shaking with anticipation of what fun waited on the other side, but he had the layout backwards.

I figured it was just that we were at a new house and he hadn’t gotten his exits figured out yet. But similar actions continued. I noticed it next on doors that he had been using for a decade, like his crate and at my parent’s house. Then he started missing the door altogether, ending up in the closet or lost in a corner.

A few months later another new behavior began. Henri took up nighttime pacing. Instead of sleeping soundly, a talent he had always possessed in spades, he would wake up around 2 or 3 a.m. and pace from the door of my bedroom to the opposite wall. The patter of his paws on the carpet would wake me up too. If I turned on the light, it would startle him. He would see me in the suddenly lit room and react with excitement as though he had been looking for something and had finally stumbled upon it. Then he would settle down, at least for a few more hours.

By this point I was curious, but simply attributed my observations to the idea that Henri had never been an especially bright dog. He was getting older (I started noticing changes when he was 13), and maybe hearing and sight loss were making him disoriented. Then I heard a Fresh Air episode on National Public Radio where Terry Gross interviewed animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman about his lastest collaborative book Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Healthy, Happy and Comfortable. One of the topics covered in Dodman’s book was Canine Alzheimer’s. He recommended an online test you could complete if you were suspicious of dementia in your dog.

I instantly pulled up the website and put Henri through the test. Although he didn’t get full marks, his newly acquired habits were all on the list. Symptoms like soiling the house hadn’t shown up…yet. The website recommended a medication such as Anipryl, similar to human treatment of Alzheimer’s, that would help to slow down the degenerative process and plaque buildup in his brain. But like all preventative treatments, it’s best to start early and Henri was pretty well on. A February 2011 article in USA Weekend Magazine recommends regular moderate exercise to help slow down the effects of canine dementia. So I have made it a priority to walk Henri a couple of times a day. For the time being, I feel better about this treatment than giving him a pill. I reasoned that until his appetite changed, something that has yet to happen, than he’s still the Henri I know and love.

I will mention here that since the day I got Henri over 10 years ago, he has only refused food of any kind once. That time he had gotten a hold of a couple pounds of pure deer fat the night before. To my relief, after he regurgitated the fat the following afternoon, he was back to his normal, voracious self. So while he may not always come when I call, partly because he can’t hear me and partly because he doesn’t always seem to remember his name, he still knows that I’m the keeper of the kibble.

Henri still requests time in my lap on occasion, but now that dementia is changing him, it’s more often that I seek him out. After hours at my computer, body stiff from inactivity and brain depleted from over-activity, I look for Henri. I usually find him on the cushion of the old chair that was once my grandfather’s. When I got it, the upholstery stank of cigars. Now it smells of dog as I’ve formally donated it to my aging, four-legged friend. His long body is curled in a tight ball and rumbles with snores. So not to disturb him I mimic his shape and curl around him. Wrapping my arm over him, I bury my hand under his warm chest and my nose in the nape of his neck. Breathing deeply I am comforted by his scent, sweet and nutty, just like always.

18 July 2011

Hiking: a great opportunity for some fracking research

It was a beautiful day in the Pennsylvania woods. So perfect that every description seems cliché: blue skies, birds chirping, calm breeze. It all applies. Beneath my feet was the Quehanna Trail (QT), a 75-mile backpacking loop in Moshannon State Forest and Elk State Forest. Out for an overnight hike to get away from the city and explore our new state, (and to take advantage of the most rare scheduling phenomenon in medical resident life: the three-day weekend), Richard and I set out from the trailhead at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

Less than a mile from the car, we cross a clear-cut swath of hillside running 50 feet across and as far I can see up and down. Similar to space made for power lines, but sans towers, the first thing that I think is: ski hill? Wrong. Welcome to the great state of Pennsylvania where the Marcellus Shale natural gas race has been underway since 2007. It was a pipeline, the first of three pipelines that we crossed eight times in 23 miles of trail.

Not virgin to the concept of utilizing natural resources for public benefit and government profit, I thought little of the pipeline and kept walking. But less than a mile from the pipeline, we found a notice stapled to a tree that said, “Attention Quehanna Trail Hikers: There has been an industrial incident in the area. It is recommended surface water (springs and streams) not be used for potable use.” No date, no specifics.

When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2009 I saw many similar signs from natural resource managers warning of bears or water quality. They all gave a vague message including just enough information to warrant curiosity, but not enough to change one’s plan mid-hike. If nothing else, I would request that dates be added to these signs. That way if the sign is cautioning occurrences from over a year ago, as I would later learn the QT sign was, I could make a decision for my circumstances whether to heed the warning or not. While I understand the logic of leaving off the date so to avoid people disregarding the message because they’ve reasoned the content is too old, if you really want to warn people it’s probably best to give as much information as possible.

Dates aside, this QT notice didn’t mention the type of “incident”, what substances might be contaminating the surface water, and what other options backpackers might have. It is reasonable to assume, I believe, that a hiker would begin their trek with a couple of liters of water. But it is also reasonable to believe that they will need to refresh their supply at some point along a 75-mile trail. After a few miles of hiking, we found a matching sign facing the opposite direction on the trail and concluded that we were exiting the contaminated area. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that the area of potential harm finite and you will eventually pass through it?

The number provided on the sign is for the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry. As we didn’t have cell service at the time, the number wasn’t much help. When I called the following Monday I was told the “incident” was a natural gas mine blow out from June 2010. The Forestry Department was concerned of contamination, but after extensive testing found nothing in the water along the QT. I was also told the signs should have been taken down.

Since little information could be gathered from the sign, I did my own research. A 16-hour, uncontrolled flow of fracking fluid and natural gas spewed from a well operated by EOG Resources. While the PA Department of Environmental Protection claimed that no polluted water had reached a waterway, they did find the operators at fault for the accident. While this incident is uncommon in its lack of severity, it is most definitely common in the natural gas industry that has exploded in Pennsylvania in the last few years.

According to a report from This American Life that aired on July 8, 2011, Penn State’s Professor Terry Engelder estimates 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under Pennsylvania and the surrounding states. Since the announcement of his calculation, industry, politicians, and the universities of the state have banded together to get the most out of this resource as possible. But at what cost? There are very few government regulations on Marcellus Shale drilling. By putting so much effort into extracting this fuel we could be delaying the more pressing issue of developing more renewable resources for the future.

So much for just a taking a walk in the woods.

14 July 2011

Unemployed or Mooch?

To summarize: I’ve had my Masters Degree for one month, my job search is ten applications deep with no leads, I’m in the middle of my first round of bills paid with a savings account, and the prospect of staying under the covers all day rather than facing my circumstances would sound better if it wasn’t 95 degrees every day. I’m not yet to the point where it would be more useful to burn my diploma for fuel, but I can see it in my future.

Like most recent college grads I have very few opportunities to score a job. Last month’s unemployment numbers hit me in the gut. Nine-point-two percent is sad, but for college grads that number is 12.1 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Every job description I’ve seen states that a qualified applicant will have experience, years of experience. I don’t have experience I have an education. But I know what would get me experience…a job. I should probably work on that.

While my lack of employment means I am living off of a rapidly dwindling bank account, I am fortunate enough to have avoided the move back to my parent’s house. This is not because I am independent and solvent. I would be living at home mooching off my parents if I wasn’t living with my partner mooching off of him. I don’t believe this is any better for my self-esteem. Parents, for the first stages of life, are legally obligated to care for you. And by that I mean pay for you. So by the time you’re finished with school and ready to get a job they’re in the groove, they’ve done this for years, you’re still a part of the budget. But a partner is supposed to pull equal weight, not weigh you down. I should be helping to pay the bills, not merely contributing to their growth.

The moral support is nice, though. “Take your time,” he says. “Help around the house and stuff. We’re not desperate yet.” Sweet, right? I’ve spent the last decade of my life, and enough money to buy a house, trying to educate myself so I could land a job that would raise my self-worth above cooking and cleaning for a man. I don’t want this statement to claim that I see no value in caring for your family by making sure their needs are met. But I do firmly believe that one’s personal needs are just as important. And what I need is a job.

But until that happens I will tend the garden, clean the bathroom, do the laundry, cook dinner, and email out another application.