A Quarterly Column
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
Living. 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
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
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
Read Past "Seasoned
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"
2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"
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 email@example.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.
BACK TO "SOULFUL