Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Matters Most*

If you were to ask me what matters most to me, you'll get an earful. Beauty, aesthetics, appearance, historic preservation, individualism and learning how to make do are high on my personal agenda. Being a "Renaissance woman" (someone who's good at a lot of things) is not.

I think looks counts because I have a hearing loss in both ears. At an early age, I had to learn how to read other people’s lips. I also became really good at body language - even to this day I can tell when Hollywood couples aren’t getting along! I was also artistic as a child. I loved to draw, paint and make macramé. Even now I like things to “look pretty.” When objects look harmonious, I can relax and enjoy.

Saving old buildings is also a huge value for me. I think we should do more to save the old structures that define our neighborhood, town, state and country so that youngsters can see that there was a time when people didn’t shop at the local chain store, and not all high-rises were fronted with glass from the first floor to the pinnacle or even that all gas stations looked alike from coast to coast. This is also important for architects - they need to study the past so that they can create the future.

Even as a child I saw the need to save old buildings. I was distressed when I learned about plans to tear down the local hardware store, which played a significant role in the development of my hometown, Glenview, Ill. I was almost ready to get out there and picket the teardown. Even now I can still see the second-floor fireplace made visible by the bulldozers destroying this important place. A significant local landmark became a parking lot!

I’m also fascinated with an individual’s qualities, especially those have led to great success. For example, I found it fascinating that WBEZ jazz host Dick Buckley lost numerous radio gigs throughout life because he has narcolepsy - he’d fall asleep on the job and get fired! Still he has huge respect from a lot of Chicagoans for his radio show, which broadcasts every Sunday afternoon. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about all things jazz. Those kinds of anecdotes make for great journalism. It also keeps me going when I’m having a bad day.

I am a ‘go with the flow’ now person who takes things as they come and discovers future one day at a time. I think I’m an adaptable person largely because my father was an alcoholic. You didn’t know if he would show up on time to pick you up after school, so you had to find a Plan B even a Plan C just to make sure you got home. So I became a very independent person.

I also learned to make do with what I have and I know how to pitch in when the going gets tough. Growing up, I wasn’t sure I would have enough money to go to college, because my dad couldn’t get a job at one point for years. My mother worked full-time, and our family lived on food stamps and the goodwill of our local church for a while. Getting by was the name of the Klatt game, and I still take that approach years later, even though it’s been more than a decade since my father died. It’s certainly been a helpful attribute in the newsroom when there’s a murder or another catastrophic event. I’m quick to step up to the plate and help get the news out on time.

So perhaps it's not a surprise to hear that I am an achiever. I always have to be busy. I have a bottomless source of energy. There’s no sleeping in until 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings or taking the leisurely way to work. I walk fast and you better be able to keep up with me! That constant work-mode is a source of stress to be sure, but it certainly means my life will never be dull or I will lack for something to do. When I was working at the newspaper, that meant that writing anything less than five stories a week led to me feeling like I was a slacker! I’m certain that when I’m 120 years old I will be arranging and re-arranging my nighties in my drawer just for something to do.

Consequently, I like make something strong even better. It’s essentially taking a beautiful swath of chartreuse silk shantung, cutting and sewing it, turning it into a stunning wrap-around dress. The fabric was gorgeous before I cut it up, but it has become even more lovely because now it’s a wearable work of art. I like to do the same with words, especially when I’m editing. Few things excite me more than when a writer turns a great profile that needs very little editing. At the most, all I need to do is write a headline and drop the copy into layout. I don’t enjoy having to heavily edit an article for several reasons. I don’t want to disturb the writer’s voice but introducing my words or errors into it.

I also enjoy hearing that an interior designer or an architect got work as a result of a story I wrote. Or that story strengthened the opposition toward the demolition of a local building.

Finally, I avoid people who want to “fix me” like the Bubonic Plague. I have no interest in being a well-rounded person. I’m not going to learn how to fill out my income tax forms in this lifetime even though there are umpteen computer programs that supposedly simplify the task. I’m not going to buy an automobile right now even though many people think I’m odd for not owning one. Furthermore, I don’t want to waste my life bemoaning my lack of a car, a husband, or even a decent tube of toothpaste. I rather capitalize on those gifts I do have: to see beauty in all things, even the spilled vase with scattered flowers. Besides, it’s much more fun and productive to focus on my blessings. What do you think?

*The picture above doesn't relate to the post except that this is the fabric that I used to make my latest dress. More on that when the weather warms up for some outdoor photography.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Ahhh, a writer. That explains your extremely entertaining reviews on PR! Bravo to you for all of your achievements and your sense of style!