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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
A Quarterly Column
Summer-Fall 2006

by Bret S. Beall

Seasoned. Adj. 1: flavorful, zesty, interesting; 2: cured, tempered; 3: improved or enhanced via experience; 4: colloq: of or pertaining to the seasons.

. Noun. Maintaining life in a particular manner or style; vitality.

'Tis the Season to be Courageous! (or “I’ve Got To Be Me”)

Last issue's Seasoned Living column briefly mentioned some “unconventional” and ”unorthodox” dining room table decor that I employed during the holiday season.  Specifically, I had started the autumn with white bowls full of huge gourds (bought for $2 during a trip to southern Indiana) on top of some wicker mats.  Later I added some dried colorful autumnal leaves among the gourds.  In December, I switched out the wicker mats for a red and green fabric runner (bought for $1 at a yard sale, with the pattern consisting only of leaves and berries), and added some red and silver holiday ball ornaments (bought for $2 at a thrift store) and some colorful squash from the organic market; a few 30-cent candles rounded out the effect.  I see neighbors spending hundreds of dollars to celebrate their respective holidays.  I am saddened not only because they could decorate far more beautifully and affordably, but also because this financial expenditure is antithetical to most spiritual traditions.

It's now spring, almost summer, and my decor is still unconventional.  The dining room table is laden with plant cuttings in water in clear glasses, with tea lights and candles scattered between them.  My goal?  Believe it or not, it's a "space" issue.  I need to take cuttings annually to rehabilitate my plants, but have run out of space, so instead of sequestering them to the corner of my mantle (where cuttings usually go), I decided to turn them into a functional tablescape.  Now, I wouldn't do this in the autumn, unless I wanted to sacrifice the cuttings.  Cuttings need to be taken in the spring so that they will have sufficient time to root, and then be planted early enough to become established plants before the days shorten and the temperatures drop in the autumn.

As you can see, I find seasonal living to be a matter of common sense and practicality.  Just like there is ONE time when a table top full of plant cuttings makes sense, there is only ONE time to decorate the dining room table with a platter piled high with brilliant oranges:  late January!  That’s when I often receive a gift of about 24 oranges from a dear friend from my undergraduate days.  He sends them as vitamin bullets, but I see them as flavor enhancers for my experimental cooking.  I don't have room in the fridge for all of these oranges, so they become a dramatic and beautiful display while I whittle away at the supply.

Essentially, I have learned to do what I like, without ANY regard for what others might like, at least when it comes to my personal life.  I practice this year-round, guided by seasonality in specific details but not in significant substance.  But how did I get to this point?  I hope my years of being "seasoned" will help you!

I'm an only child, the product of a very protective and proud mother, and a very emotionally distant and jealous father.  My mother wanted me to be her little prince, and she wanted me to dress "properly" ... her good intentions were appreciated, as they gave me something to rebel against.  I was basically a "good" little boy, being smart enough to never get caught at anything "bad" I might do.  My mother never could understand how I kept "losing" clothes (maroon slacks and a pink shirt?  Sure, this was the 1970s, but it just did not go with my ruddy northern European complexion).  She also thought it was appropriate to cut my hair herself; that stopped as soon as I got a job and a driver's license so that I could drive myself to a professional stylist.

In terms of couture, I went through my decade-long collegiate period without much focus.  As an undergrad, jeans and flannel shirts during cold weather, jeans and t-shirts during hot weather, were de rigueur for geology majors.  This bi-seasonal "uniform" continued through graduate school and even much of my academic museum life.  However, once I left academia, remaining in Chicago, I entered the business/corporate world and started hanging out with some slightly more "stylish" people, so I started paying attention to fashion.  I started learning the seasonal style rules (though I didn't really understand them ... why do you have to wear white socks with tennis shoes?  Why no socks with sandals?  Why are white pants verboten between Labor Day and Memorial Day?  Why must you wear brown shoes with a dark blue suit?  These were all arbitrary, and therefore, stupid, by my evaluation.  What would I do?).

As a child of the sixties, I think that I am hard-wired to question authority if that authority is unable to defend its position(s).  As a former academic, I know that "question anything unsupported by data or evidence" was firmly conditioned in me.  Therefore, I started to truly question the fashion world.  I'd see people making statements, "Beige is the new black," or "Orange is the new red," or "Stripes are the new polka dots," and they made no sense.  After all, do we really need a new "black," or "red" or "polka dots"?  I think not.

The straw that broke this camel's back came when I was browsing through a GQ (formerly Gentleman’s Quarterly) magazine in about 1992.  I had thought GQ was THE publication for the stylish male.  I was particularly concerned about hems, cuffs and pleats at that time, as I was acquiring some new suits and slacks and wanted to make sure they were tailored properly.  So, as I browsed the pages of ads and articles, pictures and prose, all of the pieces fell into place:  ANYTHING GOES!  Cuffs or no cuffs:  both are OK.  Many pant pleats or a few pant pleats or no pant pleats:  they are all OK.  Button down collars vs. free collars:  both OK!  Wide ties versus narrow ties:  any tie is OK as long as it is color coordinated (and properly tied).

Once I realized there were no absolutes in fashion, I realized that this entire industry of trends, celebrity watching, and what's "in" and what's "out" could be ignored.  Mr. Blackwell’s annual list of the “Ten Worst Dressed Women” has absolutely no socially redeeming value (laughing at other people's clothing is not a mature type of entertainment ... think of the pain that Britney Spears must be enduring to dress the way she does).  The fashionistas in newspapers and magazines and on television are all making their livings by making arbitrary decisions and announcing them to that fraction of the world that is listening to them.  Now, if the advice is how to appear slimmer, or more voluptuous, or taller, or something objective, then these subjects can be easily addressed with real, tangible ideas.  Let's encourage tangibility, and discourage bitchiness!  That's an adage for every season!

My own profession of lifestyle management is beleaguered by lemmings and those who would lead them.  Whether it’s disastrous décor declarations or catastrophic culinary concoctions or mountains of misinformation, I am astounded that some of these people have audiences.  There are always those looking for "new" colors, for decor "trends," for something new and different to cite as the beginning of yet another trend.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll stick with the issue of “trendy colors.”  Did you know that they are picked by a bunch of people in a room shucking and jiving with each other?  They take two approaches: 1) some make observations of the world around them and from those, select "hot colors, while 2) others just make decisions by fiat.  Either way, it's irrelevant.  Who cares?  I provide my décor clients with color recommendations without any consideration of current trends ... THAT takes courage in today's climate.   The only consideration is what looks good to my clients and to me!

Speaking and writing publicly against "trends" also takes courage, but not as much as you might imagine.  I remember when I paid attention to "What's Hot, What's Not" lists ... I was a teenager in a small town in southern Missouri, and I thought paying attention to such lists would make me smart, cool, sophisticated ... even hot!  I've written previously of the horror I experienced when confronted with a list indicating that houseplants were "not hot" and "out."  All I could think was, "How is this possible?  Houseplants provide both physical and psychological health benefits; being "not hot" isn't an option; Health is ALWAYS hot!"  Every day, every month, every season, every year ... Health is HOT!  Health always trumps style.

Living with an independent, free-thinking mindset requires following the courage of one's convictions.  THAT is the take home message:  Have the courage to follow your convictions!  Be true to yourself.  If your value system involves being yourself, and ignoring trends, here are some of the positive ramifications (presented in a slightly different format at http://www.god-dess.com/webhintsOctober03.html as “The Seven Rs of Sensational Livingâ):

1.  Save money:  If you aren’t dashing out to buy the latest “thing,” or repaint with the hottest color, or make changes just for the sake of making changes, you’ll have more cash in your pocket at the end of the pay period.  Create your own style.  Don’t allow others to dictate to you!

2.  Save natural resources:  If your clothes, furniture, cooking utensils, anything around the home are still perfectly functional, there’s no reason to dispose of them.  I still have some wearable clothes from my high school days (that was about 30 years ago!).  I have furniture and housewares that date from my childhood.  I have a steel bladed knife that my mother grabbed at a yard sale for maybe 50 cents; I’m a culinary professional, and I don’t need a $100 chef’s knife to do my job when I have this old knife in my hands.

3.  Save landfill space:  if you don’t throw something out, it won’t fill up dumps and landfills.  Reuse and recycle to the best of your ability! 

4.  Save time:  If you aren’t infatuated with shopping for new “stuff,” or with following the magazines for trends, or watching TV to find out what the celebrities are wearing these days, just think of all of the time you would have to do fun, productive, positive activities!

5.  Save storage space:  How often to we acquire without “de-acquiring.”   I used to work in libraries; periodically, libraries deaccession out-of-date books because they have a limited amount of space, and that space is needed for current, useful materials.  Your home also has a limited amount of space, and chances are that it is currently filled up with unnecessary stuff.  Don’t add to the problem with new unnecessary stuff when your existing stuff is more than satisfactory.

These are just a few ideas to consider as rewards for being yourself!

Back to the current season:  June is Gay Pride Month.  I don't think this is as much about pride as it is about courage:  the courage to be yourself, the courage to live without regrets, the courage to love without concern for what others will think.  This interpretation makes this month's festivities applicable to EVERYONE!  Doesn't everyone really want to just be himself or herself?  Doesn't everyone really want to live without regrets?  Doesn't everyone really want to love (and be loved) without concern for what others think?  Focus on these values, and see if you have the courage to practice them, whether you are gay or bi or straight.  Start this celebration this month, in June, but continue it year round.  That's what Seasoned Living is all about!

© Copyright 2006 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.

Lifestyle Management and Seasoned Living

Read Past "Seasoned Living" Columns:

Jan-Apr 2006 - "Life is a Lesson in Every Season"

Oct-Dec 2005 - "Honk if You Love Silence"

July-Sept 2005 - "A Recipe for Balanced Living"

April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"

Jan-Mar 2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"

Bret S. Beall
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS, I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time, effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and logic, with global cuisine, décor, lifestyle concepts, indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com, or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at bret@god-dess.com.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. I was born in California’s San Francisco Bay area and lived there until I was seven. During this time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my environmental interests (including growing houseplants). When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our neighbor’s pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce and I first learned about preparing and preserving food. It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my interests in art, design and esthetics.

I did my undergraduate work in geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia, graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my coursework included a typical array of liberal arts courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology, biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the framework of proper scientific methodology.

Ann Arbor has a terrific Farmer’s Market, which inspired me and helped me to act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining; this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and international meetings, and at various clubs and organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I had not experienced previously as I shared the information and data that I had collected. “Sharing” was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of GOD-DESS were planted.

I left Ann Arbor for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to accept a position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum responsibilities and my own research required living both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend the rest of my life within the academic world. I had already experienced a high level of international success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful (including making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about my research on The Tonight Show). I eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.

I spent the next decade in the field of not-for-profit healthcare association management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization, streamlining, prioritization, customer service, budgeting, organization, communication and simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific training to the needs of my clients. My clients experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.

Although my salary was better than it was in academia, I still practiced my cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in my various roles (including organizational representative, event organizer, executive manager, and lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my travel planning skills. On my own time during this decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.

After more than a decade of helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.

I believe we are always in the right place at the right time. Because of that belief, everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and everything it can do for you. I am grateful.




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