Tag Archives: Northern California

Rainfall washes away much – just not memories

Rain showers soaked much of Northern California the other day. It was not enough to cause serious problems beyond localized street flooding, but it was a nice, steady, wet change of pace for a region that regularly sees summertime temperatures above 100 degrees.

The showers washed away dust and soot and grime and brought with it that cleansing smell that comes with the first real rainfall of the year, the smell that reminds us of childhood things. It permeated the air for much of the day.

It was nice.

It was refreshing.

And beyond the gray skies, it was illuminating.

Stockton needs a good washing from time to time. Stockton is a dusty, crusty, musty city and dusty, crusty, musty cities need washing on a regular basis. Otherwise, they turn to dry silt and blow away on the winds of indifference.

The water gurgled through the drainpipe just outside an opened balcony door and the sound of raindrops hitting the leaves just beyond was audible. A ping, ping, ping came from the stove vent as the drops crashed onto the vent’s hood on the roof.

Cars splashed by up and down the street. With ample time since the last major rainfall, oil and dirt had built up on the street surface. California drivers very likely had forgotten that the water from first real rainfall of the year loosens that oil and dirt from the street, causing slippery driving conditions.

And many people abandoned outdoor adventures for the comfort of homes and HD televisions and the National Football League or a movie classic.

The rain reminded me of my childhood spent in the North Woods of Maine. Why wouldn’t it? Mark Twain – or someone else – wrote about the weather:

“If don’t like the weather in New England, wait 15 minutes. It’ll change.”

Or something similar, at least.

The point is that New England weather – especially in Maine – is a fickle thing and occasionally a very harsh thing.

In the North Woods of Maine there is plenty of precipitation and there is much time spent bundled up against the weather – rain, sleet, wind, snow, and more snow. As a child growing up in Aroostook County, it seemed that rain came nearly any time of the year, even in winter if it was warm enough to turn snow and ice to sleet and then rain.

Despite being well-suited for the weather, Mainers make a sport of grumbling about it. If it rains too much, it’s bad. If it rains too little, it’s bad. If the wind blows, curses!

But we worked in it and we played in it and the forest grew green because of it. And rivers flowed and lakes rose because of it.

And the National Weather Service and the local weathermen – they were all weathermen then – were slandered and their manhood questioned whether their daily weather prognostications were correct or not.

I recall a childhood memory in which my mother is driving my sister and me north to Eagle Lake or Fort Kent or Saint Francis to visit family. Outside the very bright red Chevrolet Cheville it is raining – the windshield wipers slapping back and forth and the wheels splashing along the roadway. My sister and I are arguing over which of us will be Mom’s “co-pilot” on the trip north, along the way imagining that the car is a plane and the ornamental buttons on the passenger door and dashboard are plane controls.

Truly, neither my sister nor I were “pilots” of any kind; at the time, our young legs could not reach the car’s floorboards.

Later on, in a newer memory, I recall camping on the shores of Perch Pond with the rain coming down hard for what seemed like days. Part of the memory includes playing games in the Cormier’s sprawling family tent, part of it includes being perpetually damp, part of it recalls the thin thudding sound the raindrops made as they hit the canvas tents, part of it recalls the heavy, clinging, soaked clothing.

A memory from about the same time recalls a trip into the woods to pick fiddleheads, raindrops hitting the hood of a windbreaker I wore for the trek into the woods not far from Portage Lake. The forest was drenched. Each step brushing against the ferns and grass and small trees brought an even more thorough drenching, soaking shoes and socks and pant legs and the human legs under those pant legs.

I remember watching the splash the drops made – millions upon millions of them – in the nearby river and the sound of the drops slapping the trees above and the accumulated water tumbling from saturated leaves to the saturated ground beneath. It seemed prehistoric.

Still later, while in high school, we practiced soccer in the rain – and occasionally in the snow. The rain then did not seem to cleanse things, but to make them simply sodden and muddy and heavy from the weight of the water. Soccer shoes and socks became heavy, sweatpants and sweatshirts clung to shivering teen boys, and baseball caps worn in practice and on the sideline in a futile attempt to ward off the rain became soaked. Water and mud and grass stains infused in the clothing and the body by the rainfall.

Other memories of New England rain abound, of course, because rain is so much a part of the history of the place – the forest and the land and the water and the air – and of the people.

But rain washes away dirt and grime and occasionally flushes away things made by man and Mother Nature, but rarely does it wash away memories.

After all, memories are merely refreshed by a good rainfall on a fall day.

Police probe death of Mainers linked to California pot growing operation | Bangor Daily News

Police probe death of Mainers linked to pot growing operation – Bangor Daily News.

Learning a few things about being unemployed

First – and probably always – do as I say, not as I do.

My parents used that – “do as I say, not as I do” – on my sister and me while we were growing up in Maine. We didn’t always get the context, but we got the idea.

And I use it now because I’ve learned a few things in the past nearly year that I’ve been unemployed, some of the lessons have come from failures rather than successes.

I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a job in the newspaper industry. I had been in the industry working as a staff writer, copyeditor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant metro editor, and as a staff writer for a newspaper website. I have some pretty varied skills and broad experiences.

Unfortunately, while I was working and achieving results for various small- to medium-sized newspapers in Northern California, I was centered on those tasks and results and not looking far enough ahead in updating skills for the future. I’m paying for that now, but I accept (nearly) full responsibility for that. The rest of the responsibility – and full and complete responsibility for the current crisis in the newspaper industry – falls squarely on the shoulders of publishers, media industry officials, and media stockholders.

I started off with the old “do as I say, not as I do,” simply because I’ve learned what I’ve learned more out of trial and error rather than trial and success. At least, not yet.

Here are a few of those things that I have learned after having been laid off:

1) Do not act rashly. It is demoralizing to be laid off, to be told that your services no longer will be required. There is a practice in human resources that says a firm should carry out firings and lay-off notices on Friday. That gives the person fired or laid off the weekend to cool off and it is supposed to cut the chances of violent retaliation. I think it may be more important for the person fired or laid off to consciously take advantage of that sort of cooling off period to consider what you want to do and what you can do. Take a couple of days to consider your options before moving toward finding a new job, shifting to a new career, or moving to gain the training and skills needed for that new career. But for goodness sake, don’t retaliate; layoffs are, unfortunately, a part of business.

2) Cut spending immediately, as in NOW, and assess your personal financial situation. Know what resources you have in savings. Know what severance you have. Know what other accounts you can access in a real pinch. That said, stay away from dipping into the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for as long as possible. Such withdrawals typically are subject to steep penalty and may not worth the short-term gain and long-term detriment.

3) Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as you are eligible. The eligibility differs slightly from state to state, but typically it is a week or two after being laid off. The application can be done online. It takes some time to fill out the application and you will need financial information, such as salary, severance, and other asset information.

4) Exercise the body. Being laid off is demoralizing. It is depressing. Physical exercise does several beneficial things, including fending off depression. It reduces stress. It makes you feel better because you are healthier. Unless you have health issues that prevent you from physical exercise, get out and walk, hike, ride a bike, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Do something.

5) Exercise the mind. Trust me, the mental stimulation resulting from working everyday and interacting with co-workers and others does a world of good to keep the brain working the way it should. Read, take tutorials for things you think you might need for the future, do puzzles. Do something. I already know that despite doing what I can to stimulate my mind every waking hour, I do not feel as sharp as I did when I was working and regularly interacting with co-workers and others. The situation would be much worse if I did not read and write everyday.

6) Eat right. This is vital to keeping your energy level high enough to do the things you need to do to get your life back on track. Empty calories should be avoided. Eat fruit and veggies. Whole grains. Take the time immediately after being laid off to get your eating habits back in line to help jumpstart your career.

7) Cut the booze. Do not crawl into a bottle. It will reduce quality sleep. It will jeopardize physical and mental wellbeing. It will make you mentally sluggish.

8 ) Remain as positive and optimistic as possible when possible. This is difficult. Hope always should be at a person’s core, but being laid off can be extremely demoralizing and stressful. And the feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. But remembering a mantra such as “everyday a step forward” or “something good will happen soon” can help keep you moving toward recovery after being laid off.

9) Be grateful and thankful. Be gracious and supportive. What do you have to be grateful for? Thankful? Gracious, why? And supportive? You may think that there is nothing for which to be grateful, thankful, gracious? And support, you probably feel you are the one who needs the support. But there is plenty for which to be grateful, thankful and gracious. You are alive and living in a great – albeit flawed – nation with a system in place to help people like you and the others among the 15.3 million unemployed in this nation. People understand that times are tough and there seems to be less “well, he’d have a job if he tried hard enough” or “she’d be back at work if she wasn’t sucking up the unemployment insurance.” Very few people want to be unemployed. It just doesn’t make sense to willingly be unemployed. So be grateful and thankful for that system and the support system you have in place, family and friends. Be gracious to those who were laid off at the same time as you, but who are back to work before you. They deserve to be back at work. Not more than you deserve it, but sometimes that is just the luck of the draw. Understand that. Be supportive of those who have been laid off and supportive of those who are in more dire situations than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or kitchen. Volunteer to help disabled veterans or the elderly. Do something with the skills you have to better someone else’s life while you have a little more free time. Do something.

10) Negative feelings are not always completely negative. There will be times when you will not be able to bring yourself to be positive or optimistic. That is OK. No one has the strength to be positive and optimistic 100 percent of the time. It is OK to take a break from being positive and optimistic. As long as you learn from the down time and the down time does not last too long. You can use what you’ve learned from the negative feelings to make the positive and optimistic times last longer. While it can be healthy to vent from time to time about your own situation, remember that there is a limit to how much your family and friends should be subjected to negative statements. Sometimes you are going to have to live with your own negative feelings and ride them out until you can feel more positive and optimistic. The negative feelings will pass. And then use them to motivate you for positive action.

11) Reconnect and stay connected. You are not alone. There are 15.3 million Americans out of work. That is a lot. And most people who are laid off are not at fault. It was not my fault I was laid off from my job. It was the result of an industry in convulsions. So it is important that people who are laid off to remember that they are not alone and that it is not our fault. It is very important that a laid off person does not cut themselves off from family and friends. Stay connected. I joined the social networks Facebook and LinkedIn and started blogging, all to reconnect and stay connected with family, friends and former co-workers. I have even reconnected with high school and college classmates. Staying connected does wonders for maintaining mental wellbeing.

OK, those are 11 things that I have learned in the past year or so. I started off saying “do what I say, not what I do.” I won’t reveal exactly which of these I learned through my own personal failure, just accept that some of these were learned through painful experience rather than painless epiphany.