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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
Summer/Fall 2008

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.

Celebrate Your Life Every Day

"What's there to celebrate?"  Have you ever heard that response to someone else's perkiness and insistence that everything is fantastic?  Maybe you’ve even offered it yourself.  I know there have been times (that I’d prefer to forget) when I’ve said that myself.  Fortunately, as an adult, I’ve come to realize that there is always a reason to celebrate, and it is our responsibility to seek out those reasons.  I hope you’ll agree after reading further.

For much of my life, I have been happy and peppy, always seeing the positive side of the world around me.  I earned the nickname, "Pollyanna" in grad school because I was annoyingly optimistic ... "Let's play the Glad Game!"  Sometimes I was merely experiencing “blind” optimism and hope that things would be better, and sometimes it was true happiness and joy, and sometimes it was both at the same time.  Fortunately, feelings of true happiness and joy have held sway for the last 15 years, and I am grateful, and always eager to celebrate that transformation.

As a child and teenager, a variety of circumstances taught me that putting too much emphasis on any one single day or event could lead to severe disappointment.  Alas, there isn't much a child can do but "go with the flow" (or maybe "roll with the [verbal] punches" might be more apt).  However, once I left home, I could create my own traditions of celebrating every day as a unique entity.  That is exactly what I did.

Certainly, in the mainstream world, there are individuals who frown on everyday celebrations, who believe in the concept of "special occasions."   That's fine.  Everyone has a right to celebrate any way he or she likes.  But, let me give you some concrete examples of why a "special occasion" might be a less ideal focus for celebrating than a goal of everyday celebration.  Perhaps you can relate to similar versions of these examples in your life.

Example #1:  Birthdays have often been a huge letdown to me, especially during my childhood and adolescence.  In my case, this was mostly due to having a volatile father who couldn't understand why there would be ANY event that didn't center on him, and when he realized he wasn't the star, he'd become a unholy terror.  When I was twelve years old, I began to become interested in fishing, camping and canoeing.  My parents shared these interests, and we had a family canoe and often took vacations related to these interests (each was quite an adventure, I assure you).  For my thirteenth birthday, they thought I'd enjoy having a canoe of my own.  So did I!  Wow!  What a cool present!  My very own canoe!  Imagine my shock when my birthday came around, and I discovered that they had given me a "canoe kit" that they expected my father and me to assemble (and that they informed me cost MORE than a pre-assembled, ready-to-use canoe).  Since everything had to revolve around my father, I let him decide when we would assemble the canoe ... four years later, he had not made that decision, and I no longer had time to go canoeing due to school and working, so we sold the raw materials to a neighbor for $20.  Happy Birthday!  Now, any day can be a celebration of my birthday and my accomplishments, and I do celebrate accordingly.

Example #2:  When I graduated from college with my BS with honors in geology and general honors, I wanted to skip the ceremony.  I wanted to just get away from school and relax a while before starting grad school.  Alas, my parents wanted to 1) see the ceremony and 2) move me out of my apartment.  I had no choice but to agree.  The ceremony was disappointing for all, and my father thought it was my fault somehow.  My mother was simply saddened because it was so impersonal.   After the impersonal ceremony, my father helped me move out of my apartment; this has caused me to associate that day with anger and frustration.  He seemed to think he knew which of my belongings we should pack into the car, and which ones should be abandoned.  He thought easily replaceable wooden planks and concrete blocks (for board and block shelving) should be retained, while an old (read:  antique, mid-century) chair should be abandoned.  That was the most comfortable chair I've ever owned.  It's gone.  But I had those damned concrete blocks.  All of these emotions and experiences are tied to a single "special occasion" that should be one of the happiest of my life (my college graduation), and they are toxic.  Fortunately, I no longer experience anger as I continue my search for another comfortable chair.  When I find it, be certain that I will celebrate!

Example three:  I love wine.  I enjoy it socially, and I enjoy it alone, and it often features in my various celebrations.  In general, I prefer it with meals, and that pretty much restricts my wine consumption to when I entertain, or when I go to dinner parties, or when I visit a BYOB restaurant, since I rarely eat dinner (side note:  I eat when I'm hungry, not when society tells me I should).  I recently brought three decent bottles of wine ($25 to $35 each) to celebrate my vacation in California with a friend.  I have a fair bit of wine knowledge and experience, and had been properly storing these bottles for several years in my wine cellar, and they were from 1999 and 2000 vintages.  Imagine my shock when we discovered that one of the bottles was less vibrant than it should be, and the other two had completely lost their flavor.  Upon returning home, I started checking other bottles that I had, in most cases, saved to share at home-cooked dinners with specific beloved guests.  I realized that time had flown, and that I had been saving some bottles that did not need to be saved/aged, and others that SHOULD NOT have been saved.  A bottle of pinot noir from the Lake Erie North Shore Viticultural Area of Ontario, near Windsor, had become corked, and ended up down the sink; a bottle of pinot blanc from the same area was oxidized, while a pinot noir/baco noir blend from the Niagara Bench of Ontario had simply faded away.  I'm going to now find more reasons to celebrate with the wines in my cellar so that they are enjoyed in their prime, and not hold them for a special day that might be made less special by a faded wine.

The upshot of all of this is that there are some things in life that we simply cannot control once they’ve happened.  As they allegedly say in New York City, "Fuhgeddaboudit."  Emphasize those things that you CAN control in the present and future.  And when you DO control them, and they turn out well, then celebrate that success, because it is something that YOU accomplished.

Given that philosophy, you can well imagine that these days I'm a celebrating fool!  And I like to associate with people who are celebrating fools.  Two dear friends, Carolyn and Rachel Collins, the dynamic mother and daughter duo who created and operate the best American caviar company in the US, Collins Caviar, are great celebrators.  I interviewed them recently, and one of my favorite lines in the interview comes from Rachel when she said, "My only wish is that our beloved caviar clientele were a little more receptive to using caviar at all times of the year, rather than only the holidays. Why not celebrate the fact that it's a Thursday night in August? One ounce, less than a $20 investment, can garnish caviar pasta for four. That's less than a decent bottle of wine (which will accent the caviar pasta really well)."  Yep!  Why not celebrate because it's a Thursday night in August, or a Monday night in April, or any day that you are breathing and upright?  Now THAT is worth celebrating!

Something else that I have found worth celebrating is my twentieth anniversary of living in Chicago.  I have grown so much as a human being since I’ve lived in Chicago that I knew I had to do something to celebrate.  But what?  Well, the solution was instantaneous once I realized I needed to celebrate:  Start visiting as many venues as I could in the Chicago area that I had not yet experienced so that I could continue to grow as a human being.  I’ve been eating at a variety of new restaurants, cafes and other dining venues throughout greater Chicago, and have been enjoying it immensely while learning new techniques and cuisines.  I’ve been visiting architectural sites throughout Chicago and its many suburbs to see the work of grand master architects (like Frank Lloyd Wright) and lesser, but still interesting, architects to broaden my knowledge of design.  I’ve been visiting art exhibitions, attending lectures, seeing a variety of garden shows, and exploring parts of Chicago that I never knew existed, all to enrich my life.  I was so amazed by the artistic and architectural wonders visible from the El train through Chicago’s Loop that I’m currently writing an article about that very experience to help others share these experiences.  Had I not pushed myself to consciously celebrate my twentieth anniversary in Chicago, I might never have experienced all of these wonders!  I urge you to celebrate anything that you can possibly celebrate (one year in a city, two years on a job, 3.5 years in a relationship, whatever, just celebrate your life mindfully and intentionally every day!).

We are the cumulative product of our entire lives.  We are each unique.  We are each special.  Let's get into the daily habit of celebrating that we are the only one like us in the entire Universe.  My examples above may have sounded like whining to some (and wining to others), but I want to emphasize that I am happy and grateful as I look back with 20/20 hindsight for each of those unique events (and the millions more unique events that I'm not citing as examples), as it is the sum of those events that have contributed to making me the unique man I am today, and I would not change a thing.

That is, I wouldn't change a thing that I haven't already changed, like initiating daily celebrations.  Maybe I’ll celebrate meeting a deadline by treating myself to a glass of champagne or sparkling wine.  Maybe I'll celebrate purging and donating unwanted possessions by buying a truly desired antique dish for my kitchenware collection.  Maybe I'll celebrate a full day of helping clients by allowing myself an hour to watch some television.  Maybe I'll celebrate finishing the laundry or taking out the trash by spending some extra time playing with Lugh (my male white Persian) and Muscat (my male Seal Point Ragdoll), since they are both love sponges.   Maybe I’ll celebrate having a socially responsible cell phone plan by phoning a friend.  Maybe I'll celebrate dropping a few pounds of winter weight by finally getting around to opening and sampling some artisanal cheeses I picked up a while ago.  And maybe I’ll celebrate the upcoming growing season by preparing a variety of delicious recipes from what is stored in the Magic Freezer in order to make room for the new seasonal treats.  It doesn't matter.  It just involves living in the present and celebrating that living!

This column is also a celebration of the life of Luna, my beloved 10.5 year-old white Persian shown in the picture that accompanies this column.  Probably due to Chinese pet food contamination, Luna developed renal insufficiency, and despite my giving her regular subdermal saline infusions, she lost her fight for life on September 28, 2007.  I could choose to focus on her absence, but instead, I choose to remember and celebrate her joie de vivre:  How her first action upon arriving at her new home was to run down the hallway into the living room, leap onto the ottoman, then up onto the back of the lounger, and finally onto the mantle of the fireplace, I think to establish herself as queen of this new roost!  How she loved to sleep between my legs, or curled up next to my head.  How she loved to sit ON my hand as I used the computer mouse to do work, showing her annoyance by sneezing right in my face, or maybe on the monitor, or both (she was a very good sneezer!).  How, even at her tiny 6.5 pounds, she still had such spirit and force of personality that she kept her 9 pound brother Lugh and the 18 pound newcomer, Muscat, in their places. Thank you, Luna, for sharing my home!  I raise a toast (or maybe a catnip mouse) to you!

As I finish writing this, it's Wednesday.  Time to celebrate!  Will you join me?

© Copyright 2008 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.

Lifestyle Management and Seasoned Living

Read Past "Seasoned Living" Columns:

Winter-Spring 2008 - "Your Personal Power Can Save the World"

Spring-Summer 2007 - "Spring Forward and Connect"

Winter 2006-'07 - "The Awe of Autumn and the Wonder of Winter"

Summer-Fall 2006 - "Tis the Season to Be Courageous"

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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