Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Addicted to Social Media

 It's true. It's my outlet during a solitary day. It's my early morning coffee break. It's my "after school" hang-out. It's my go to comfort zone, at home or on the go. Sadly, it's even girl's night out sometimes. (But fortunately it's never date night!) Sometimes the quiet is interrupted only by one more check on Facebook and one more search on Pinterest. I am seeking out interaction in the loneliest place in the world. The Internet.

But I find you there, too. I find long lost friends, neighbors, virtual connections, and relatives that I have grown close to over the last couple years solely because of the magic of fiber optics. I feel overwhelmed by the support I receive through sharing and quick little messages posted to my domain. And I feel lucky to be able to reach out when I know I am needed.

Social Media has sucked away hours of my life, but the joy of finding you there daily gives me a solid reason to keep coming back for more. So, Mr. Zuckerberg, though I am sure you have created the giant of all social media for monetary reasons, and my rights may be infringed upon regularly, I still thank you for our modern method of staying in touch. I am glad to have Facebook and I don't know what I would do without my daily fix.

This has been the best week ever. I have used social media to share my art and I have loved brightening everyone's day with new art, How exciting. Here are a few other ways I have enjoyed the benifit of social media:

  • I have a virtual collection of lovely things right here on Pinterest. It's been great to save recipes, holiday decorating ideas, and even a massive art collection all on my pinboard in the sky.
  • You Tube has a video for almost anything you want to know. Change a tire? Play violin? Watch a friend's movie? And especially for me, art lessons galore!
  • Google+? What's that? I have one of those, but I don't know why....
  • Wet Canvas and Absolute Write chat boards have been a great resource to meet writers and artists from around the world.
  • I'm on Twitter, but I still don't know how to tweet!
  • And then there are all of those blogs with millions of inspiring ideas and fabulous new ways of connecting with one another through innovative projects. Yes, bloggers are putting a piece of themselves out into the world wide web hoping to nab just a bit of your attention.
When is it all too much? I'm sure there will come a time that social media will need rehab, but for now I am sticking with it and look forward to seeing you there, too!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Before the Sunrise

I haven’t seen this many early mornings since we had a newborn keeping us up all night. But now that we have one in high school, the alarm wakes us before the sun illuminates the sky. I thought 5:30 would be impossible, but have found it’s quite nice…once I have my hot French press coffee in hand, anything is possible.

I’ve always loved mornings, even the early ones. I love knowing that the whole day is in front of me and I can make anything happen. I can accomplish anything. I can check things of my list or set out and explore. Anything is possible when the day has just begun. Not every day ends on the same note, but I am comforted that another morning is coming and hope starts again bright and early. Yes, I love mornings.

This has been the best week ever. I have enjoyed many early mornings and managed to accomplish a lot in the span of seven short days. Here is a quick recap:

·         I have been painting every day with my Countdown to Autumn project. I even had one painting accepted into my first juried show!

·         Soccer every night keeps us on our toes, but keeps us active. The boys can play!

·         My husband and I have successfully navigated 14 years of marriage.

·         I have donated a painting to a big fundraiser. It’s exciting to be involved in the art community.

·         The weather is perfect, and if you know me, that is always a bonus.

How about you? What made this your best week ever? What filled your mornings with hope?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Savor the Moment

The long, hot days are falling quickly behind us. I’ve soaked in every last golden drop of summer. I would if I could, wish for a never ending summer of lazy days by the pool, snow cones in a rainbow of colors and late night visits with family and friends. I want to sit forever on the evening porch, making out the sounds of summer’s nightfall; crickets and cicadas in their musical chorus. And I’d continue to enjoy the affection of my children who have nothing better to do than be kids all day long. This was the best summer ever. I have savored every moment.

But the seasons are changing and it is time to welcome fall with open arms. Sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, forest walks, hay rides and apple pies…the best of the new season is here and it makes saying good bye to the summer of 2012 a little bit easier. I’m looking forward to leaves of red and orange, when the hills of the mid-Atlantic look like they are on fire. I enjoy the crisp air and blue skies and catching sight of my breath in the early morning. I love the bountiful harvest and cinnamon scents that fill the air. I want nothing more than to re-live my youth through the enthusiasm of my boys jumping in piles of fallen leaves  or going door-to-door in search of sugary treasure. I am going to savor every moment.

It was the best week ever as I wrapped up the season’s end. I have started a new art project: COUNTDOWN to AUTUMN. I hope you follow along as I produce twelve new pastel paintings as a celebration of the change of seasons. How are you celebrating the change of seasons? How are you having the best week ever?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Countdown to Autumn

There's nothing like a new season to make me restless and and on edge with new ideas. I had a long dry spell through the summer, but with the kids back in school and cooler air outside, my creative desires are back in full force. In honor of my favorite season I will dedicate the next twelve days to painting every day. That means twelve new pastel painting to share with you every day until Autumn has arrived! It's always a big task for me to stay motivated and challenges are a good way to keep me focused.

Will you follow along? You can find me on FACEBOOK where I will post the new painting every day. And check back to the blog when I upload them all to this post. I love links and sharing, so go ahead and share my pictures on your favorite social media network...just remember to link back to this site! Thank you for following me on this journey. I'm so happy to have you along again!

*ETA* All Autumn paintings are now available as noted for SALE. These all come unframed and range in price from $100 to $270 plus shipping. I can take credit card payments through PayPal. Thank you for your continued support!
 Please contact me at for more information.

"Grey in Belgium" 12"x18" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE (framed)
"Belgian Storm Rolling" 11"x14" Pastel Painting, SOLD

"There are Blue Skies" 9"x11" Pastel Painting, SOLD

"Red Rock 1" 9"x9" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE

"Red Rock 2" 9"x9" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE

"Early Winter's Morning" 9"x9" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE
"Autumn Arrives in Belgium" 12"x9" Pastel Painting, SOLD

"September Harvest" 8"x10" Pastel Painting, SOLD
"Poplars" 8"x10" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE

"Frozen Morning" 9"x12" Pastel Painting, AVAILABLE

"Poppies in Aix" 9"x12" Pastel Painting, SOLD

"Angels of Beloeil" 9"x11" Pastel Painting, (temporarily on hold)

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Have the Best Day Ever

Another week has come and gone and another chance at having the best week ever. And EVERY week is the best week ever because every week is another chance to love, laugh, live and breathe. But it takes work! Effort must be made every day to make it the best day in order to live your best life.

Have you taken the Friday Happy Hour Challenge? I think everyone could use a little nudge, so today I am introducing “Best Day Ever”. These are six simple things to make your day a better day. If you have a happy day today, by the end of the week you’ll have a bunch of happy days and end up having the best week ever. Soon you will find you’ve had a few great weeks and before you know it you’ll have the happy life you’ve been looking for all along….simple mathematics.

But it starts with just one day. Let’s start today, Okay?

1. Be in the moment. 
Every morning is an opportunity to wake with a fresh start. Let go of yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrow’s worries; you have a chance to get it right today. This is a new day full of possibilities – be present for it.

2. Approach others with objectivity. 
Scientists are responsible for putting aside their biases and beliefs to see the world as it really is. Rather than being irritated, easily offended or judging others, choose open mindedness. Aren’t we all just trying to make our way through a chaotic world?

3. Accomplish something meaningful. 
You’ll feel better when you cross at least one thing off your to-do list and even better about the day if you make it meaningful. If you have goals and dreams, see yourself closer to them by doing something with purpose today.

4. Share the love. 
Take time to connect with the people in your life. The more love you give, the more love you have.

5. Go with gratitude. 
Say thank you, thank you, thank you for this day. When you focus all your thoughts on what’s right, even if it’s the smallest of goodness to be found, you cannot help changing your whole outlook. Gratitude will create a beautiful life.

6. Laugh often. 
Laugh out loud. Laugh until you can’t breathe. And don’t forget to smile while you’re at it….

This was the best week ever. So many laughs and things to be grateful for. Did you have a great week? Did you have the best day ever?  Thank you for joining me on this great journey!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Share the Love

Have you signed up by email, joined the blog or follow on facebook so you don't miss one moment on this entirely awesome blog! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Every week is the best week ever at My Life With Monkeys (even when it's not). Last week I called on you to take action for yourself and join the HappyHour Challenge! This week I am calling on you to join my site and share the message with everyone you know! These images are for you to copy, paste, post and put out into the world.

Paste them on Facebook! Tweet them! Pin them! Link them! Stumble, Tumble, Reddit, Google+ it! Print them and put them up around town! Just share the love!

Before you know it we will have a Happy Hour revolution. Not necessarily the drinking kind, but the feeling good about life kind that can spread like a wild fire and make everyone a little happier. The more followers that join me, the more the idea will spread that everyone can have "the best week ever".

Here is to another great week. Another best week ever! Are you with me?



Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: It's Your Turn!

It’s finally the end of the week. Finally Friday. It’s time to shed the week’s work and take a breather. If you are just joining this regularly scheduled post, I have to inform you that it is less about half price well drinks and more about celebrating a happy life. You see, for me, it’s always “the best week ever” no matter what the week brought. Some weeks this is not an easy task, but I drive on with purpose because I know there is only one way to look at the days I have been given. Attitude is everything.

Find great examples of Friday Happy Hour Posts of the past HERE or HERE or HERE.
Today I turn it over to you! Today I am asking you to do more than read my thoughts every Friday, but start staking your claim in a happier life with this one simple action: Take the Friday Happy Hour Challenge with me and see if you can’t make every week the best week ever, too.
Step One:
Breathe. Take a big breath and let it all go. You know, the frustrations, the disappointments, the things that got you riled up and anything else that did not serve you well. Go on, take a second breath if you have to!
Step Two:
Reflect. This is the moment when you review all the big and little things that made you smile this week. Some weeks we have to look harder than others. Do you need to meditate? Pray? Go for a run? Listen to music? Take a nap? Employ whatever method works for you, but now is the time to focus on what really matters in your life. I have no doubt that something good happened this week!
Step Three:
Write. Now you get to make a list. The physical act of writing down all the wonderful things in your life can transform the way you think. There it is staring right back at you – proof positive that something good happened. Irrevocable evidence that you are having the best week ever. Are you having a challenge looking for the positive? If you are stuck, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to fetter out those important moments?
·         Did you share a meal with someone and enjoy either the meal or the company?
·         Who did you meet along the way that shared a big smile with you? (the grocer, someone on the street, your baby, a client?)
·         When did you laugh? A funny show or commercial? Your pets (kids) acting silly?
·         Did you look up at the sky and wonder? Big clouds, stars, a full moon, a sunset?
·         What task did you cross of your list that relieved your burden? Pay a debt? Clean a toilet? Write your novel or paint a masterpiece?
·         Who did you take the time to help?
·         When did you learn something new? In the news, in a book, about a loved one, at an event, on the radio, etc.
·         Where did you go and what did you see?

Step Four:
Repeat. Now do it every week. You’ll notice before long that you are making the list before Friday ever arrives. That it becomes second nature to look at every week as the “best week ever” because it serves you well to be a positive thinker.

So, are you in? Will you have the BEST WEEK EVER?
Are you going to take the FRIDAY HAPPY HOUR CHALLENGE with me?
I’m so excited to have you onboard and I hope you will connect with me on FACEBOOK because I’d like to know you better.
And I hope you SHARE this message with your friends and family. They’d like to have a better week, too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: At the End of the Day

The days zip by us so fast. One more wake up and one more sunset. One more chance to do it all. One more chance to sit back and soak it all in. Morning is filled with possibility. But when night falls, it’s only the hours that remain behind us. What have we done? Where did we spend our time? Who did we love? Who did we forgive? What did we let go? When did we give thanks for all that we have?

The sun is setting. It’s one more perfect day. We breathed. We laughed. We cried. We held on tight. We sat idly and rushed around like mad. We learned something new. We spent time caring for others. We shared a bit of ourselves with someone else. We created something that brings a little more joy to this life. When the sun slips out of view tonight will we be grateful for all we have? Good, bad, and all the little moments in between?

The view from here is spectacular. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have been lucky enough to enjoy another day. And tomorrow is another chance to begin anew and make right anything that fell between the cracks today. There is something glorious in these final moments of the day, knowing I am part of something larger than myself and yet these simple few minutes I have are significant enough to last a lifetime. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am blessed.

This was the best week ever. I lived a full and wonderful life. How was this your best week ever? When the sun sets tonight will you remember to be grateful for one more amazing day?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Do I Stand For?

When I shoved off into this world, I left with little knowledge of who I was and what I wanted. It was a chaotic time and much of what I had learned about life up to that point I was ready to challenge or dismiss altogether. The branches holding the family nest seemed to be breaking and all that I once knew to be true was unraveling. I had always identified myself through religious dogma, sibling bonds and family life and now it was pushed to the back of my heart as I relearned all that I valued and all that I believed. It was up to me to decide where my moral compass would take me.
Flash forward twenty years later. All that I thought was insignificant or unrelated to my step into adulthood turned out to be the very foundation of who I am turning out to be. Words like integrity and good works meant little to my inexperienced thirteen year old self, but real world experience changes Sunday School rhetoric from formulaic learning into something real and important. The world is vast and complex and navigating life means digging in with all your acquired knowledge, all the lessons you’ve learned along the way just to keep from sinking to the bottom.
The most important things I learned in childhood came around full circle and presented itself to me again this summer. I surprised my family by showing up to the family reunion at the last minute when I had thought all along I would not be able to attend. The day before we were to meet I woke up with a feeling that was like no other; a deep need to be there for this once in a lifetime opportunity. This was a chance for seven of eight siblings to be together in one place for the first time ever. So I bought a plane ticket, told no one and showed up the next day.
All I know about life I felt in these two minutes:

(Forgive the poor quality and odd angles, it's the moment that counts!)

I am part of a family and our bonds cannot be broken. Not with time, distance, hardship, or major misdeeds and wrongdoings. These are the people that planted the first seeds of my life. This is where I started.  This is how I grew up to learn the most important lessons in life. This is how I know that what I feel for my husband and children is an even deeper love. This is the reason I continue to grow. This is my history and this is what I stand for.
What do you stand for?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: What's Your Word Again?

I’ve had an epiphany. But it was fleeting. I’ve set goals. But I can’t find the list. I’ve been inspired and then shelved the whole thing. I’m all organized, I have the tools for success, and I’ve even been given generous time. Oh, I’ve had good intentions, but complacency came creeping in the back door again, followed closely by excuses and idle distractions. My intentions were good and plans rang with sincerity, but I confess; I have lost FOCUS.
One word, one little word to direct the course of one year. 365 days. And somehow I’ve managed to forget all about it. Come mid-summer I need a gentle push or a BIG SHOVE to get back on track. How about you? Do you remember what was inspiring you to make a fabulous re-start as we rang in the New Year? Do remember when I proclaimed valiantly to live a more meaningful life? And I asked you to join me? (Yes, right here in this post!)
I guess when I think about it I do live a full life. In fact many may say I am living an overabundant life most of the time with all these Vikings underfoot. And while they know how to pillage and plunder daily, there is no shortage of a life well spent in this house. But there are things I set out to do when the clock struck 2012 and I know I am falling behind. I know I could do better still. I know I have hopes and ideas that ten me’s couldn’t finish and yet I’m half-assing it most days solo. So, let’s get going! Let’s you and me together pick up what’s left of this year, nearly six good months, and finish what we started.
This was the best week ever because I am inspired to stay focused on a few great things:
·         We have a summer to-do list and I am focused on crossing each and every last thing off.
·         I am lucky to have friendships with inspiring women who keep me focused.
·         All the summer produce stands have inspired me to cut back on the ice cream and focus on healthy eating again.
·         Family members are visiting this summer. They keep me focused on what is most important: relationships.
·         I took a break from blogging, but now I am focusing on new ideas and content to keep inspiring my readers.
·         And today I am focusing on that list of goals I made with the intention of realizing my dreams, one step at a time.
I hope you’re still with me on this journey and making great plans of your own. What was your word this year and how will you use it to inspire you to have the best week ever?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: Sweatin' in the Suburbs

I’m obsessively checking the weather reports again. I keep thinking there must be a mistake and they will revise the forecast from 106 down to 86 so that we can leave the house without getting heatstroke…but alas….it is hot, hot, hot on the East Coast. And the boys are beginning to bounce off the walls! Ahhh....this is summer.
It’s also the time of year that I have to stop kidding myself that I am going to have plenty of time in the studio. I think kids have radar and as soon as I have washed the last dish and sat down to work on anything at all creative, a fight breaks out or someone comes to me dying of hunger. (Never mind that I tell them to go figure out how to solve those problems on their own!) But the interruptions are one more excuse I can claim as to why I have not painted one picture or written one story in the last few weeks.

Digitally edited photo of Jellyfish from National Aquarium
It’s on my mind. An artist will find inspiration in even the slightest of moment; a sparkler, a jellyfish, a ship in the harbor, a fabulous meal or a wicked storm. The mind doesn’t stop thinking about the next great idea even when we haven’t made time to act on any of them.  I know there are certain hurdles I have to overcome if I want to accomplish anything. Like the heat, I guess I have to face it if I am going to do anything outside my front door. Or as an artist I must go to my studio, shut the door, and face the blank canvas and let the kids figure out how pour a bowl of cereal!
But despite it being hotter than Hades, I still managed to accomplish one thing – I still managed to have the best week ever!
·         We saw the Orioles in Camden Yards win an intense game in the blazing heat. We survived with cups of ice to pour down our shirts and stayed to see the grand finale fireworks show. It was followed by a sudden intense storm that dropped the temperature 25 degrees, brought winds of 75mph and wiped out the power in much of the Mid-Atlantic.

·         We did not lose power. That was a gift I will always be grateful for.
·         We made it back to the National Aquarium for the first time in half a dozen years and my youngest and middlest sat amazed at each exhibit and my oldest was not entirely bored.

·         We made tie dye tee-shirts. Lots of them. Maybe we got carried away and started dying anything we could get our hands on in the end, but they turned out better than expected.
·         We had the best barbeque meal for Fourth of July thanks to my Viking Chef husband that will cook anything on the grill that he can get his hands on. On the menu: Caribbean jerk chicken, peppers and onions, clam fritters, rum butter pineapple and coconut rice. Yes, we eat well!
·         We have been lucky to have Nana here to play games, give hugs and reconnect for more than two weeks. We’re having fun together, even in the heat!
So, though we’re melting like crayons on the sidewalk today, we can still make something out of the melting rainbow of wax. How about you? Are you surviving the heat of summer? How was this your best week ever?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Happy Hour: I {Heart} ______

The Beach
Good Books
Fine Art
New York City!
What is summer but adventure? A time to seek out new horizons, taste life, get your feet wet, jump right in and explore…you know, do all the things you didn’t have time to do while being too busy the rest of the year. But like the Europeans taking the month of August to lounge at the beach, I feel like it’s time to take off and enjoy life on a different level than I do during the other nine months.  And since I don’t have the ability to stay at the beach for a whole month, I have found many other ways to make a great vacation out of the local attractions. Lucky me to live where there is always something to discover!

We will have visitors for the next couple months and will not find it difficult at all to check off every one of the things on our to-do list. Besides lots of swim time and family time, I have been extraordinarily lucky to take a mini trip to New York City this week. Yes, I love it as much as Paris and I have come home intoxicated with the sights and sounds of this great city. It has inspired me and I will carry the heart of NYC for a few more days before I return to our own Charm City and fill my dreams with new stories to tell.
This was the best week ever. What more could I possibly ask for?

New York City, Time Square, by Kellee Wynne Conrad

New York City, Highline Park view, by Kellee Wynne Conrad

New York City, 5th Avenue, by Kellee Wynne Conrad

New York City, Highline Park view, by Kellee Wynne Conrad

New York City, Empire State Building, by Kellee Wynne Conrad