Friday, September 12, 2014

5 Question Friday with Diane Bronstein

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5 Question Friday - The Colorful Edition

Where I ask friends and interesting strangers to answer the same 5 questions, and it happens on Fridays.

I met Diane about four years ago when I was self-employed. At the time, I was a regular at the Starbucks on Rush Street and sat next to Diane's husband Jack every day. Jack and I were office-mates, Diane would pop in and visit but she was far too energetic to sit in a coffee shop all day. It wasn't long before I became close friends with both Jack and Diane. Coincidentally, I am sitting next to Jack at the coffee shop as I type this post. 

Watercolor painting by Diane Bronstein

Diane Bronstein
A classically trained artist with a degree in fine art. Diane has studied in France and Germany and under Giani Cilfone in the United States. She paints beautiful watercolors and sketches of landscapes, she is a photographer and also recreates live events and bridal gowns through her artwork. Diane is responsible for my professional headshot (which you won't find on my blog), you can see more of her work on her site here.
When I was little I drew a very creative picture of the house I lived in on Addison close to Southport… My parents thought it was great.  The rest is history.  Love family… friends… nature and architecture… beaches.. sand water… travel.  Believe that our thoughts are important, found that out late in life. Believe in it is more important to work as a community than to own the latest greatest whatever… if your community is thriving, fun and loving - than your life is thriving fun and loving…

1. What defines you? (Be descriptive, is it your job, family, a certain skill or talent you may have?) 

If I look at what defines me as a place.. its hammock in a garden close to water…… with pen and paper close at hand. If I look at what I do and feel… it would be my family… Jack, Barton and Cara… and Fefe… Parents and siblings and of course the special Aunt Mary.

My friends aren’t many but they are wonderful.. they are supportive and loving, and make me laugh.
My work is like being a child … getting to play with with art supplies and making and recording all the beautiful moments in the world.

2. What song that energizes you when you are looking for motivation? (maybe it is more than one depending on what you need to get motivated for)

Happy… I mentally try to start the day with that wonderful song... Seal - Bring It On… when I’m driving. I used to have a convertible and loved driving down Lake Shore Drive playing that song. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to paint to... Anything Motown to dance to…

3. If you were to show up to a potluck, what would you bring? (and why? And what kind of potluck is this?) 

Something good from a restaurant …. I’m not a cook.. or if forced to cook … Brussel Sprouts...

4. Describe your perfect day. 

Waking up in a beautiful room with great sheets, and a yard to step out on. Having coffee with Jack at a little neighborhood coffee shop and listening to the conversations while doing quick sketches of the patrons. Meeting up with my kids for a great walk on the beach and grabbing a light outdoor lunch.

Painting… drawing… looking at architecture … taking a drive thru Montecito .. my son and husband love doing this too.

Then dinner at another outdoor venue… and sitting by a fire on the beach with my family and our friends… And getting that great call from someone saying, “ I will pay for you to travel all over the world creating sketches of people going about their business and their life.”

5. What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery? What would you do if you won $100 million? 

If I won $1 million, I would open up an art studio / gallery where I could paint and teach classes… it would have giant windows and sky lights and an outdoor area where you could paint… the classes would be free and guest artist would come and talk.

I would also share some money with both of my kids … one is a fashion and fine art photographer and a studio would be perfect for him. The other is a mom who wants to be a photographer shooting baby, child, and pregnancy photographs. I would also create a wonderful creative coffee house attached to my studio / gallery for my husband. He is the perfect guy to own a place like that … he loves people and hearing their stories.

If I won $100 Million... I would give money to Solar Roadways. It can change the world.

Learn more about Diane
@dianebronstein on Instagram 
@stopandsmile on Twitter for her work

Here is a sample of Diane's commissioned work... custom sketches and drawings of bridal gowns.

Bridal Gown Sketch

Read more 5 Question Friday posts. They're all pretty awesome. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

6 Life Lessons from Paddleboarding - Control Freak Learns What's SUP!

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6 Life Lessons Learned from Stand Up Paddleboarding 

Paddleboarding at Chicago SUP has become my favorite summer activity, if I could go every morning I would! I love paddleboarding because it is calming and gives me a chance to escape. Paddleboarding is a lot like life.... keep reading to find out how this control freak learned to let go on Lake Michigan.

Chicago Stand Up Paddleboarding

My first day on a paddleboard was on North Avenue was about five weeks ago. The guys at ChicagoSUP asked me if I wanted a lesson. I said, "Lesson?... It's a board, right? You stand up, right? And then you paddle, right?" The answer to all three questions was "Yes", so I grabbed my paddle and hit the beach. I never looked back! 

Life Lessons Learned From Paddleboarding 

1. Go With The Flow 
Much like life, in order to stay afloat, you must go with the flow. It's harder than it looks, and it's easier than it looks - it all depends on the flow. If the current or the winds are strong, you have to adapt and, dare I say it again, go with the flow.

2. Don't Try So Hard
Remember when you were a kid and you started at a new school, or you went to camp, and you just wanted to fit in? You tried really hard, but what happened.... you sucked, that's what happened. You tried too hard. Paddleboarding is the same. If you try too hard, work to hard, think about it too much, you're going to bite it. 

3. Look Straight Ahead 
You've heard the saying, "Don't look back, you're not going that way" - yeah, it's true. If you don't want to fall, don't look back. Look straight ahead in the direction you're going, find a spot to concentrate on, and keep your eye on the horizon and you'll get there. 

ChciagoSUP North Avenue Beach
Photo Bombed! 

4. Don't Be Afraid to Fall 
My first time, I was pretty cautious, I worried about falling in because I didn't want to get wet (even though I was standing on board in a large body of water). My second time out, it was choppy, and I was in the water more than I was on the board. I was angry and reluctant to get back up. But then I asked, "What is the big deal?" I fall in, I get wet, I get up and I keep going. Bring it lake... because I'm not afraid to fall!  

5. Winning Isn't Always About Control - Sometimes, It's About Letting Go 
This is the big lesson, so pay attention. That second time I was out there, the water was choppy and the current was strong, but with each ripple, I'd brace myself with my legs fully engaged. I fought those waves so hard my legs were shaking, my toes were digging into my board, my arms were tired from gripping my paddle, but I was getting nowhere. I'd weeble, I'd wobble and I'd fall right in. 

Eventually, I had to sit down on my paddleboard because I was so tired. I'd shake my legs out and pound my fists onto my thighs and yell, "COME ON NOODLES!" I realized nothing I was doing was making a difference, this was bigger than me and I wasn't going to win... I take that back, I was going to win, but not by fighting it. I had to keep soft knees, I had to breath, and most of all I had to let go.... just let go. 

6. Stop, Take in Your Surroundings and Be Happy  
The reason I love paddleboarding so much is because I find it meditative. I usually hop on and paddle as fast as I can to the brick shit house (the farthest spot that the guys from ChicagoSUP will let you go - a brick "house" that's a bathroom on the lakefront - or brick shit house as I call it). Once I get to the brick shit house, I paddle east and get as close as I can to the (david) buoy. And there I am, right in the middle. 

The physical activity of paddleboarding is forcibly engaging, it keeps your mind focused on the activity while daily preoccupations slowly dissipate. In the middle of the lake, I sit down on my board, sometimes I lay down (if there isn't a boat close by that could potentially decapitate me), I look back at the gorgeous skyline and I think about life. Out there with no one to talk to, no noise and no distractions, I think about all the things I love, all the things I am grateful for and all the things I am hopeful for in the future.  

Finally, there is one last thing about I like about Paddleboarding with ChicagoSUP on Lake Michigan -- NO SHARKS!!!!

leyla ChicagoSUP
My awkward "oh god, they're taking my picture in a bathing suit" smile

Learn How to Paddleboard with ChicagoSUP 

P.S. I received absolutely no compensation in return for this post! I wrote it because I enjoy every minute of my time out there and I hope that you will try it out for yourself too. Just don't come out there before 9AM, I like my morning peaceful time - alone. Thanks! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Question Friday with Jon in the Digital World

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5 Question Friday - The Long Overdue Edition 

Where I ask friends and interesting strangers to answer the same 5 questions, and it happens on Fridays. 

I met John in dingy basement bar somewhere north of North Avenue back in '08 - an unlikely setting an digital marketing workshop. I knew little about digital marketing back then, but I was eager to learn, so eager that I dared to ask the speaker about backlinks from MySpace. That speaker was John. Since that time, John has been an incredible resource, a helpful adviser, and most of all, a good friend. 

Jon Geletka 
John Geletka is a painter, sculpter, designer, technologist, and marketer. He’s a Chicago native who’s always looking for something awesome to do. John is the CTO at CentUp, a tech partner at Avenue, a startup advisor, and a UX/Programming teacher. He’s the worst sysadmin ever.

1. What defines you? (Be descriptive, is it your job, family, a certain skill or talent you may have?)
My friends would say… I’m a hard worker. I’m a pain to deal with, I’m a bit flighty, I’m a always there to help. My enemies would say…I’m hard to deal with. I forget everything. I’m full of myself. I’m not as good as I think. My colleagues would say…I know my discipline. I deliver great work. I drive them crazy. My wife would say…I’m the best looking smart person she knows.

2. What song that energizes you when you are looking for motivation? (maybe it is more than one depending on what you need to get motivated for)

Graceland by Paul Simon. I listen to this song once a day, every day. Secret to life.

3. If you were to show up to a potluck, what would you bring? (and why? And what kind of potluck is this?)

Wine. I hate cooking. I stopped at Hugo’s Frog Bar on the way to the last potluck I was invited to and purchased a large plate of pan fried frog legs. Yum. The potluck was a French theme. I took the warm legs, plated them on one of my finest IKEA dishes, put foil on top and severed them to my friends.They were convinced I had made them myself until the host outed me.

4. Describe your perfect day.

A perfect day for me is one that’s different from the day before. I don’t have high expectations of fine dining, travel and wine, but I do hate doing the same repetitive thing over and over again. I like surprises, good or bad. I look for the new and generally this outlook has made everyday perfect. Yes, I’m that asshole who loves everyday…as shitty and hard as some can be.

5. What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery? What would you do if you won $100 million?

Isn’t this a 90’s song? If I had a million dollars I’d pay off my house and my parent’s house. I’d by a new computer, take a small vacation and invest in some sustainable companies that help the world. Like Centup. Sorry for the shameless plug. 

If I won 100 million, I’d do the same things for myself, make sure all my friends were out of debt, invest in sustainable companies, and invest/fund non-for-profits focused on new ways of teaching. I hate our current education system, and I’d love to get kids exposed to problem-solving disciplines like art and computer science. I might also setup some sustainable artist communities.

Learn More About John

Read other 5 Question Friday posts here. P.S. I listened to Graceland while posting this and I might make it part of my daily routine too.