I like to think of myself as a fairly good conversationalist. My wife likes to say I could carry on a conversation with a tree. Honestly, unlimited minutes were invented for people like me. I took a public speaking course in college, and my assignment was to discuss the qualities of a pocket comb. I found so many things to discuss my instructor just gave me an "A" and told me to sit down. I had utilized most of the 50 minute class.
So, imagine my surprise when I was asked a question at a recent job interview that had me stumped. I was asked, "What have you done to improve yourself while you've been out of work?" Thankfully, I avoided my typical smart-ass remark, "what's to improve?" But seriously, what have I done to improve myself over these past several months?
The best I could come up with, at the spur of the moment, was some inane response that I've been taking daily walks with my dog, reading, and playing on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe Proctor and Gamble would call that "New and Improved," but by my standards I fell short. Really, what have I done to improve myself since I've been out of work? The most obvious answer is I've looked for work. Constantly. That's not really improving myself; it's more of a survival project.
But the more I think about it, the more I realized an opportunity to recognize several things that have been happening while I've been sitting at this keyboard each day. I've learned how persistent and determined I am about finding work. I realized how fortunate I am to have a wife, children, and friends who offer constant and uplifting support (not to mention a free meal every now and then). I have a dog that is content to spend the day in my office while I impersonate Sherlock Holmes and search for openings. I have faith. I don't know if I've improved, but I am certainly more aware of the blessings in my life.
I volunteered to help a wonderful group help rebuild homes in Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston. And yes, I have been reading more. To the point where I'm feeling guilty about the trees I've destroyed with all my hardcover and paperback books. Perhaps we should consider a Kindle, or a new iPad. I have a friend who sells the new "Nook" from Barnes & Noble. Maybe he could get me a deal, so I could read as much as I want and never kill another tree. Except for the one in my yard which I cut down thinking the winter freeze had killed it. But that's another story.
I've learned I really can stick to a schedule when no-one is saying "the work day starts at 8:30." I've learned I can be positive and upbeat when disappointment happens. I've fallen in love with my wife all over again, because I see how hard she works, without the benefit of a support group, to make sure I stay positive. I've been reminded life is too short to be small. I think those are improvements. And, I've learned there are ways to cook besides grilling. While I've avoided the TV talk show queens, I have fallen for the Food Network and Travel Channel. Thankfully, I have the willpower to only succumb to their charm in the evening. Shows like Man vs. Food, Diners and Drive-Ins, & Dives, inspire me. Not to make a twelve pound burger; but to make something besides grilled chicken. Did you know there are other spices and seasonings besides Cavendar's and Accent? At least once a week, I'll go online, or pull out one of my wife's cookbooks and try something different. I've even clipped recipes from the Chronicle! Not necessarily complicated, but different. I made a mango salsa. Ok, I used canned peaches instead of mango, but I did put in parsley and other green things I wouldn't normally touch. I don't know why, but I also added jalapeno, though it wasn't in the recipe. The heat of the pepper, the cool of the peach … no kidding, gives it a try. My wife liked it so much she went and bought a mango and made her own version of the salsa, complete with jalapenos.
Of course, when I get inspired, throw things into a rub or a marinade, and create something wonderful I have no way to duplicate the recipe, because I really have no idea what I'm doing. I'm reminded of when my mother would say "a pinch of this and a pinch of that" when I asked how she made something. When I watch the Food Network, I see great chefs saying "a little of this-a little of that" and they just dump handfuls of spices into their recipes. I doubt anything they make comes out the same way twice. So if my mom could make it up, my wife can make it up, and these chefs can make it up, I can, too. So, I've learned to cook.
Now, ask me again, "what have you done to improve yourself while you've been out of work?"
Nothing. What's to improve?