Tag Archives: holidays

Vowing to be a better blogger … I promise

I seriously thought when I started “Letters From Away” that I would be able to update the content every day – something new every single day. I mean, how difficult could that be?

Pretty difficult lately, it seems.

It truly was my intention to update this blog daily with Maine news aggregation, commentary on Maine happenings – at least through the filter of newspaper websites, blogs and hearsay – and stories from my childhood growing up in Maine’s North Woods. There is plenty to write about.

Maine was in the middle of the same-sex marriage debate last year, its two U.S. senators are experiencing growing influence in Washington, the Maine Troop Greeters were the subject of a great documentary film, there were pretty exciting political races, and Maine continues to be a leader when it comes to alternative energy, especially land-based and offshore wind power generation and wave power generation. The scenic beauty – and the effort to keep it that way – also has given me fodder for this blog.

And that does not even touch on lobsters, lighthouses, moose, bears, mosquitoes, Moxie, weather, whoopie pies and Stephen King.

So, yeah, there has been plenty on which to write. Too much, in fact.

Two things have stood in the way lately – the continuing job search and the holidays.

Returning readers will remember that I have been a journalist for more than 22 years and that I was laid off in March 2009. I have been looking – so far unsuccessfully – for work ever since. I continue to search in the newspaper field, but from the start I also branched out to hunt for a job with nonprofits, green industries, government, and elsewhere.

Still nothing. Yet.

But I keep looking. And sending out cover letters and resumes and references and filling out applications. Even for jobs for which I am not exactly qualified and for jobs for which I am overly qualified.

Scanning dozens of job websites and bulletin boards takes time. Crafting cover letters and massaging resumes takes time. And with the way the congressional debate was going on the extension of unemployment benefits tied to the Bush-era tax credit, it seemed time really, really was running out. I felt the pressure to churn out more and more cover letters and resumes.

And that did not leave much time for blogging.

I still am not completely sure I qualify for the extension, so I have a despicable option in mind – cash out every piece of “retirement” funding I have left. Even at a 30 percent to 40 percent cut for taxes and fees, it might give me another couple of months for finding work. And there will be no retirement at all if I cannot find a job soon.

Holidays always jam up things a bit. I did not get presents for my family last years. There just was no money to spare.

There was even less money to spare this year, but I did not want to go without getting presents for my family for a second year in a row. That would be just too demoralizing for me. So I did what I normally do not do – I pulled out a credit card for my holiday purchases.

So there was time spent shopping for Christmas gifts. And there was time spent standing in lines that were longer than normal. And there was more time stuck in holiday traffic. And time spent wrapping gifts. And time spent standing in line at the post office to ship Christmas packages to Maine.

And around major holidays, job websites do not post jobs nearly as frequently as they do normally, which hampers the jobs search. It is a tale with twists and turns.

But the holidays soon will be a memory. And the job search should settle down to the same brain-numbing grind that it has been for nearly 22 months.

And hopefully I will be more diligent in updating this blog on a daily basis. Let’s make that my No. 1 resolution for 2011 – be a better blogger.

OK, make that 2011 resolution No. 2, because getting a meaningful, suitable job is the No. 1 resolution.

So, until the next time I see you in the blogosphere, see ya.

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Christmas Past Part 1: ‘Holiday spirit takes off’

Truly the most satisfying part of being a journalist is coming up with timely, meaningful topics about which to write passionately. Journalists take great pride in finding an issue – homelessness, hunger, corruption, for examples – and writing or producing a product that sheds light on that issue and positively affects the people in their audience.

This is not one of those instances.

Instead, this is a case of a journalist recycling a handful of holiday columns, because, well, he can. Over the next couple of days I will present those holiday columns I wrote years ago. These are not particularly poignant tales of redemption or reunion. For the most part, these were columns I wrote on deadline to fill a hole on a page. (There! I admitted it!)

But there may be nuggets of wit here and there, so I urge you to read on just for fun.

Holiday spirit takes off

Editor’s note: The author was the opinion page editor of The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this column was first published on Dec. 10, 2003.

By Keith Michaud

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas around Vacaville – the Christmas tree downtown and garland on the lampposts, holiday decorations at every turn, and the throng of holiday shoppers have arrived from parts far and wide.

Yep, there’s nothing quite like seeing grown folks wrestling in the aisles of local department stores pitted in battle over an $8.99 toy or a $2.99 Christmas ribbon.

Ah, even I’m beginning to feel that holiday spirit growin’ inside me. Or it could be heartburn from my breakfast burrito.

At any rate, I’m thinking about perhaps possibly beginning my holiday shopping list to be checked not once, but twice. And I might actually get to the actual shopping by, say, Christmas Eve. Boxing Day at the latest.

I’m not one to rush into such things. After all, I’ve had all year to plot my holiday shopping strategy. I don’t want to blow it now by rushing it at the end.

Of course, first on my holiday shopping list will be my Mom and sister and her family. Shipping packages back to the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine requires planning and timing. It also requires knowing plane, train and stagecoach schedules in order to get the packages there on time. But after living in California for the past 20 years, I think I may have mastered the technique. I think.

More on that later …

 * * *

California lawmakers should feel fortunate. They only have to deal with a state budget that looks much like Swiss cheese and a governor the size of a Swiss, er, Austrian mountain. They don’t have to deal with a Christmas tree scandal.

The speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Tom Craddick, put up a plastic, made-in-China Christmas tree in the House and now has the state’s Christmas tree farmers up in arms, according to a Reuters story.

“I think people can deduce for themselves about what it means to have a plastic Christmas tree from China in the Texas State House,” the story quoted Lanny Dreesen, a Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association spokesman.

Hm, Mr. Dreesen seems to have a Texas-size temper.

I’ve been in this business a while now and I deduced a couple of things – don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas Christmas tree farmers.

If I had my choices, I’d want to deal with budget woes over fending off an attack by Christmas tree growers. Imagine the political clout these growers have, especially at this time of the year. Imagine the lawsuits they could bring.

Yep, I’m getting that holiday spirit.