Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Give 52 Week 21 - Laugh until you cry

Give 52 Week 21
Cheryl Houston 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my friend, Kristi. Her home was my second home growing up. Well, I spent so much time at her house that her younger sister, Johnanna (also known as Pearl), became one of my best friends.

Let me tell you about Pearl. She has never met a stranger. People are drawn to her like a magnet. Like bees to honey. She will make you laugh until you cry.

The stories I could tell you! There's a book there somewhere. I mean, when you're shoving your friend in a window in the middle of the night because she's been locked out- you know that's just the tip of the iceberg.

She's living far away in Colorado in the snow and I love seeing her two kids on social media. It just always looks like so much fun.

Her birthday was yesterday. I think. I always get confused on which day it actually is because we celebrated it for about two weeks each year!

Happy birthday my friend! Keep living your beautiful life! It makes me so happy to see.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Give 52 Week 20 - You're Longest Relationship

Give 52 Week 20
Cheryl Houston 2015
Your longest relationship in life is your relationship with your siblings. I am the youngest of three and my sister, Leigh Ann, is six years older than me though everyone thinks I'm the older one. I blame it on my height and try not to get too upset about it. Hey, I'm the worse about gauging peoples age. In fact, I just assume that everyone is around my own age which is great if you're older than me but not so great if you're younger than me.

So, for my whole life, I've known this lady. My sister. My friend.

It's around my sister and my brother that I feel the most carefree to crack jokes and be stupid and opinionated because hey, I'm the little sister and they accept me as I am.

We haven't always got along but I think that's the natural way of siblings. I appreciate what she's done for me through the years and I just wanted to tell her that I'm thankful for her presence in my life and her presence in our parent's life.

I moved away but both my brother and sister have chosen to stay nearby my parents and there is comfort in that for me.

Her birthday is on December 27th and I always felt like it was not as noticed as it should be because of Christmas. So happy birthday, seester! I sincerely hope it is as wonderful as you are.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Give 52 Week 19 - Siempre

Give 52 Week 19
Cheryl Houston 2015
Week 19 goes to another long time friend of mine, Kristi.

Her childhood home holds so many of my best childhood memories. Her family feels like my family and it all started in Mrs. Strauch's 3rd grade class.

There are so many memories I don't even know which one to tell you about. We invited each other to our family beach vacations, we stayed up late watching scary movies, we regrettably seemed to like the same boy too many times, we played the french horn together, and I could go on and on and on.

Siempre is the Spanish word meaning always. And as I've said before - once you're my friend, you're always my friend.

Kristi has become an avid runner and I love seeing pictures of her with her running buddies and knowing she's finding great success in her passion.

Kristi's birthday is on the 17th and I hope this piece of artwork will let her know she will always be my always friend.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Give 52 Week 18 - Beautiful Friends

Give 52 - Week 18
Cheryl Houston 2015
Time is so sneaky sometimes. As I was getting ready this morning, I was thinking about how it was Thursday and I couldn't remember if I had posted week 18 of Give 52 or not. Is it week 18? Yes, it is week 18. And, while I did get the artwork in the mail on Sunday, I did not get the blog post up here.

Excuse me while I give myself some grace.

I don't have a good excuse either other than I just didn't do it. I had the time but I chose to focus that time on helping with homework, preparing dinners, journaling in the mornings, and watching television at night.

But, with all of that said, week 18 is no less important to me than any other week. Week 18 was sent to my beautiful friend, Cassie.

Cassie has been my friend since the age of 2? 3? I don't know, forever! We lived across the street from each other. We wanted to be twins. Cassie and Cherylz (that's what her dad called me). When one of us cut our hair, the other one cut their hair. We dressed alike any chance we got. When she moved away to Conroe and I went to visit her we fussed at her sweet mom for not lying and telling the store clerk we were twins when asked.

Cassie is Luci Lemon and I am Tina Tomato. Characters from shirts we wore when were about 5.

She is a beautiful momma of four of the most handsome boys I have ever seen. You should see the mane's of hair these boys have.

And sadly, the theme I am noticing in participating in this quest is that I don't see my friends and family near enough. Or at all! But, friends, that does not stop my heart and soul from loving them. They have touched my life in their own special ways and I hold them with me always. I hope this piece of artwork reminds her of how beautiful she is and how much she is loved.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Give 52 Week 17 - Birthday Flowers for My Aunt Sue Beth

Give 52 Week 17
Cheryl Houston 2015
Do you know how you just know someone loves you? You just always feel their love?

That's how I feel about my aunt Sue Beth.

Growing up, I got to spend my holidays with her and summer trips to see her and so on.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of a time when my mom and I went over to visit my aunt, uncle, family and friends at a house they were renting in Rockport, TX. I wasn't ready to go when my mom had to leave so my aunt said I could say. All I had with me was my bathing suit, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops but I had all I needed.

I don't remember  how many nights I stayed with them but I do remember we got up early one morning, I wore someone else's shoes and we went crabbing. We were able to just scoop up crabs in hand held nets and scooped them into the ice chests. It was amazing.

Afterwards, one of the teenage girls staying with them and I cleaned the crabs and got them ready for dinner. Too bad I was such a picky eater back them and I didn't eat any of it.

That's just one of many memories of times with my aunt Sue Beth and her family. I loved when I got older she would say, "Okay, Cheryl, I've had my two drinks now I can ask you about your love life." She doesn't have any daughters of her own but I have always been her girl.

I always look forward to seeing her though those times are few and far between.

Chris and I got married on her birthday 3 years ago this December 8th. I didn't plan to get married on her birthday it just happened it that way but I love something special on the same day.

Happy Birthday early, Aunt Sue Beth!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Give 52 Week 16 - Sweet Ball of Smiles

Give 52 Week 16
Cheryl Houston 2015
I have found myself, my friends and my family in a season of life where our parents are aging and we're starting to lose them. It's a sad season but not an unexpected one. No one lives forever but we'll take as much time as granted.

My sister-in-law, Lori, lost her sweet mom, Myra, last Saturday evening so I wanted to share something with her to let her know her mom will always be remembered and loved.

Lori is this bubbly, curly, blonde hair, sweet ball of smiles that makes me laugh. We can have deep conversations about life or laugh over taste tests to see if we can actually taste the difference between fat free or full fat whip cream. I just knew for sure I would be able to taste the difference but no, I could not.

She's an encouraging coach to hundreds, a wonderful wife to my brother, a super mom to my niece and nephew, and I know her mom and dad think she's the best daughter in the world.

I'm looking forward to seeing her and my family today.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Give 52, Week 15 - Make Everyday Beautiful

Give 52 Week 15
Cheryl Houston 2015
I woke up at 2:45am on Tuesday thinking it was Wednesday and was kind of panicky feeling. I hadn't written week 15's post! Oh no! I almost got up at 3:00 to write it.

Wait a minute! I remembered it was Tuesday and I still had time. And, really, if I didn't get my weekly post up until mid morning on a Wednesday, the world would not come crumbling down. Not yours. Not mine.

I met Katie when she moved to Dallas for the summer and we both participated in House of Shine shenanigans. We walked in the Susan G Komen together many years ago along with our friend, Heather. You have a friend for life when you share a small pink tent together after walking 20 miles for 3 days. Just saying.

Katie now lives in Florida and works at Florida State University in housing. Katie is pretty young herself but she works with even younger people getting their start out at college. An important job. She trains Resident Assistants on creating community within their halls. Freshman students! Get involved with your school community!

I just love being around Katie when I get the chance because she just has a positive spirit about her and I want to steal it from her! I want it to rub off on me. The students that get to work with Katie are truly blessed people and it just goes to show you that not all your mentors have to be someone who has already done it all. It can be a much younger person living out their authenticity that inspires you to do the same.

I know from following Katie on social media she's already making everyday beautiful.

It's her gift.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Give 52 Week 14 - Child of My Heart. Sweetface.

Give 52 Week 14
Cheryl Houston 2015
The Give 52 Project has me realizing that I have a thing for authors.

I love diving into a book and really feel like I'm learning something new. Or finishing a book that has inspired me to change my way of thinking and/or taking steps for improvement.

This quest of Give 52, for example, is inspired by Chris Guillebeau's, The Happiness of Pursuit.

Austin Kleon is another one of those authors. His books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work  have shaped this project of mine. For example, Chapter 6: The Secret: Do Good Work and Share it with People. Uh, hello? Give 52 is all about me attempting to do good work and sharing with people.

I read Austin's books in 2014 during my Year of Purpose. I was struggling with feeling like my job and my art had no purpose. His books have helped shape my routines of being creative and have opened my mind to new possibilities. Austin's books give artists the permission and validation we need along with some really helpful advice in creating your work. I don't know why artists struggle so much with needing permission and validation but I find it to be so true.

My husband thanks you for the advice- keep your day job.

I follow Austin on Instagram and he has two sweetfaced boys which I totally love. They make me miss that time with my own boys. This piece is similar to the work Austin does with blackout poems and the little boy kind of reminds me of his boys.

This piece is a little different than other pieces I've created here and was started in an online class I took with Lynn Whipple called Word Play. We created art in books. I was skeptical about drawing in books at first but now no book- new or old- is safe from my paints.

Austin has a new book out called Steal Like an Artist Journal and it's a lot of fun. If you're looking for inspiration for creativity check out all of his books. You won't regret it. Thank you, Austin!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Give 52 Week 13 - Hello!

Give 52 Week 13
Cheryl Houston 2015
I lived in Park City, Utah for about 9 years.

I worked at Jess Reid Real Estate for about 6 years.

A couple of years after I started, the office was remodeled and my desk was situated next to my friend and office mangers, Diana.

Diana is this fun and spicy red head who likes to drop the F Bomb- just like me! I mean, it just holds so much weight and is just plain necessary sometimes.

Not only do I have so many great memories working with Diana she shares her birthday with my son, Drew- Halloween Birthdays! Happy Birthday!

 I always loved making her laugh- like the year I put the decorative angel on my head and told her "Merry Christmas, Diana."

Or after her husband passed away, I would pick up the phone and say, "Hi Mike. Yeah, Diana's here. Okay, yeah, I'll tell her." and then I would hang up and say, "Diana, Mike says hi."

We cooked these huge casseroles of chicken spaghetti for an after conference dinner and we didn't defrost them soon enough so they were still frozen when we were done and all that work- down the drain.

My desk cubicle had both a front and a back and we would put this big umbrella up over it, called Chica's Cantina and hosted many of happy hours.

I miss that camaraderie at work. It was such a fun place to work and Diana was such a good friend to me so I just wanted to send her a big HELLO! Miss you, friend!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Give 52 - Week 12: Love Never Dies

I grew up in a small town. The majority of my classmates that I graduated with in 1987 were the same classmates that I started Kindergarten with in 1974. Not only were you friends with your classmates but you became friends with all of their siblings too.

DeDe was a freshman when her brother, James and I were Juniors. We were friends in high school and our friendship grew stronger after high school when we shared an apartment together in Corpus Christi during the college years.

We watched soap operas together, drove up and down Highway 77 about a kajillion times looking for trouble, talked and talked and talked about the boys du jour, went to I don't know how many dances together and drank about 1,000 beers too many. Life was good.

DeDe has a contagious laugh and a welcoming hug and I'm lucky to call her my friend.

I had planned on sending DeDe a Give 52 piece in January to celebrate her birthday but DeDe's dad made his journey to heaven this past week so I wanted to send her something now.

I'm thinking about you, friend. I'm praying for peace in your heart. I know you're smiling thinking about ol' Larry up in heaven singing with Elvis.

And, yeah... we still need to plan that girls trip. Just saying.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Give 52 Week 11 - An Interesting Justice

Give 52 Week 11
Cheryl Houston 2015
Can I be completely honest with you?

Well, you can't stop me so I will proceed with my truth. The last couple of weeks have been emotionally challenging.  I let circumstances and others hurt my feelings and make me angry. These are small things. But, a lot of small things that I let add up and add up and then become very heavy.

In the grand scheme of my life- life is good. All is well and I have all I need but it doesn't make these small things any less hurtful and heartbreaking and very heavy to carry around. Is a little bit of decency and consideration too much to ask? Is a little bit of fairness and justice too much to ask? Cheryl, put them down! "Just tell yourself, Duckie, you're really quite lucky!" - Dr. Seuss.

These challenges are showing up in my creativity as well. The saying, "Many are called, but few are chosen" rang through my head as I finished yet another less than encouraging piece of artwork. I have people picked out that I know I want to include in this project but I don't have a piece of artwork that I want to send them or I have a future date set for them. So here sits week eleven- distressed.

On Saturday evening, Chris and watched a Football Life: Alan Page.

He was a great football player- I'm told one of the greatest defensive linemen to play the game - but what I got from the show is that he is a great man. One that other men should aspire to be. While he played in the NFL, he attended The University of Minnesota Law School. He was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992- the first African-American to serve on that court and served on it until his 70th birthday when the law states he must retire.

"What an interesting, intelligent and caring man this is," I thought. How encouraging his life is.

He likes Dr. Seuss and has been known to quote him. He and his daughter co-wrote a children's book, Alan and his Perfectly Pointy Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky. And he does have a perpendicular pinky!

He played the tuba in school and he goes out and plays it at the corner of Knox and Douglas during the Twin Cities Marathon route to encourage runners on their race. I'm not sure he's bursting out any tunes but enthusiastically belting out notes.

He feeds the park dogs treats and he knows all their names. And they know him.

He and his wife Diane founded the Page Education Foundation in 1988 where they provide financial and mentoring assistance to students of color to pursue post-secondary education.

Justice Page and his wife don't need a piece of artwork from me but honestly watching his story on Saturday was one of the brightest spots of my week and it just feels right. So...

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Give 52 - Week 10: All Smiles

Give 52 - Week 10
Cheryl Houston 2015
Smiles are universal. No matter what language you speak, a smile conveys friendliness and happiness.

I am so entirely grateful for modern dentistry and the people that work in this field.

26 years ago I was involved in an automobile accident that damaged my two front teeth.

I had one dental implant done all those years ago but in 2006, after I moved back to Texas, my new dentist gave me the news that I was going to lose a tooth. "It's mobile," he said. Delayed trauma.

My dentist gave me the name of a periodontist, Dr. William Grover in Grapevine and we proceeded to perform a second implant. All went well.

And, then last year, as I have become a periodontist veteran, I noticed another mobile front tooth so, back to Dr. Grover's office I went.

I told Lisa that I was probably going to cry because as nice as they are, you don't really want to hear that you need a third dental implant. It means months of wearing a flipper and no tooth while your jawbone heals to be able to accept the implant. If you have any amount of vanity- and I do- you don't really want to turn to your new husband at night with the Grand Canyon of gaps in the front of your smile, lisping to him "good night".

And, I did cry. More than once. I cried a lot.

But, I was so well taken care of by Dr. Grover and his staff. They are such wonderful people that even when you're in their office getting extra gum tissue lasered off they're making you laugh and you actually do want to be there in their presence. And, having extra tissue lasered off ain't no bit of fun.

After every procedure I had, Dr. Grover was calling me that evening checking on me, making sure I was okay and giving me his cell number in case of any problems.

They gave to me their gift of caring for my smile and there aren't enough words in any language to express the amount of gratitude I have for them.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Give 52 Week 9 - Where Serentripity Leads You

Follow Your Curiosity
Give 52 Week 9
Cheryl Houston 2015
On Sunday, September 20th, my friends and I set out on annual trip we call Serentripity. We meet at 8:00am at Starbucks, load up on caffeine and get our first clue of where we're going. We have no idea where we will wind up or who we will meet throughout the day but the goal is to have an adventure doing random acts of kindness spreading shine and wherever we land at 2:18pm, that's where we were serendiptiously meant to be.

I'm not going to recap the whole day but we wound up in DeLeon, Texas. At 2:17pm Claudia was panicking in the back seat (as she does every year) about us being on a dirt road in the middle of no where. That is one of my favorite parts of the day- Claudia freaking out that we have one minute to be wherever it is we're meant to be.

As we're driving down the dirt road we see people in a backyard so we pull into their drive.

They have a B on the front of their house. Claudia's last name begins with B. They have a 3 foot metal chicken in their front garden. If you don't know that a metal chicken is a sign for me than read this.

So, the four of us pile out of our car, walk around the side of the house and pounce on these poor people! Well, anytime you walk up on people and want to do a kind act for them, they get very wary sounding asking things like, "Now, what are y'all doing? And, you want to do what? And, why?"

We met Breanna Barnes and her family.

They had been dutiful working on adding a back deck onto the house (thank goodness they were done lest they ask us to help!) and we wanted ice cream so we asked if we could bring them some ice cream, too.

After a funny exchange, we finally got their order, picked up their order and we returned we promptly sat down on their new backyard deck and proceeded to visit. Who are you? What do you do? All that business.

Breanna is an elementary science teacher. We asked her who she found to be an encouraging or inspiring person and this is when the magic happened. Breanna started to tell us about her principal, Lori, and her voiced cracked and her eyes welled up about how supported she felt by her principal. I can't even really remember what she said but it was that feeling, you know? She was talking about someone who was truly special to her. So special that she became overwhelmed with emotion. That's special.

I recognized that moment and I have a strict "no-one-cries-alone" policy so I welled up and told her Lori would be one of the recipients of Give 52. Now, Lori hasn't encouraged me in any way. Or inspired me. I don't know her one iota. But Breanna knows her, and Breanna is encouraged and inspired by her and that deserves a gift of Give 52.

And in the end, that is what our Serentripity day is about. Floating around, not knowing where we will land or who will meet but we trust in the process and in the universe to take us somewhere we can connect with good.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Give 52 - Week 8: A Father's Love

Give 52 - Week 8
Cheryl Houston 2015
July 16, 2015, I get a text from my sweet husband saying that Darren has invited us to dinner. A friend that they use to work with was in town. Our dinner party consisted of me, my husband and 5 other men. When we walked in I thought, "Oh! I'm the only girl." but I was reassured that I was invited.

The gentleman that was in from out of town is Pete.

Pete lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Jen, his son, Dylan, and his daughter, Elliana.

Pete gave me the usual speech I hear when meeting someone for the first time that knows my husband. "Chris is a great guy! I love him." My response is always, "I know! I love him so much I married him!"

We teased Pete about living in Pennsylvania and how could you even think about not living in Texas. Isn't it cold in Pennsylvania? Ew! But he went on the explain that his wife has family in Pennsylvania and she loved being near them. Ah, sweet.

Pete told me about his son and how he loved race cars. Now, I could be making this part up but I'm pretty sure he told me that he wanted to be a race car driver. Is that right? Cool ambition, right? I like it.

And then, Pete started telling me about his daughter, Elliana, and how she has her own business with her own bank account and business cards and the whole works. I asked how old she was and I think I remember the age 12 being thrown out.... is that right, Pete?

Well, I was intrigued. A 12 year old girl with her own business? I asked what kind of business she had and he told me she was a balloon artist. I don't know if it was just me connecting with another artist, or the beer I was drinking or if it was actually the pride busting out of Pete's voice that touched my heart. No, I do know. It was Pete.

Sitting before me was a father beaming about his daughter being a balloon artist. Beaming!

Elliana wanted to perform in the school talent show and taught herself from the good ol' internets how to make balloon art. She continued mastering her talent and her parents recognized those talents and encouraged her by setting her up at a table at a party they were at and,  of course, what kid can resist balloons? I heard the kids flocked to her and I guess the rest is history- they started a business, Take It Up A Twist.

Of course, I went home and checked out Elliana's work, and people! It is so AMAZING!!! These are not just your regular swords and flowers and little poodles that some old guy made you back in 1970, though, I'm sure she's very good at those. Elliana is making reindeer, Santa Claus, Brides and Grooms and Pirates with treasure chests! Check out her Facebook page for the photos.

And as amazing as Elliana's work is, what touches me most about this story is the act of  her father sharing her story with me in a way that was so authentic and genuine that you couldn't help but to see how much pride and joy he has in her and her talent.

I'm sending this weeks artwork to Pete to gift to Elliana. Elliana, I don't know if you know this but your father has a great big warm spot for you in his heart.

Pete, thank you for sharing your story with me. I will never forget meeting you.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Give 52 - Week 7: S I N G

Give 52 - Week 7
Cheryl Houston 2015
Is it bragging if I say I completely love the way this piece turned out? And friends, this weeks art piece didn't come easy. I prepared something else and I could hear one of my art teachers saying, "Many are called. Few are chosen."

The original piece was not to be chosen. It was fine but it did not sing! So, I was starting from scratch Sunday evening, wrapping up Monday evening, and mailing yesterday. Just under the wire!

I've sent this 6 x 8 inch piece off to Valley Creek Church's worship leaders, Ben and Rachel Moreno. They lead Valley Creekers in worship most every Sunday and it's so, so good.

I can't tell you how many times that I have been singing along with them and become so overwhelmed by the presence of God that tears just start streaming down my face. It's embarrassing, folks! But, it also feels really wonderful.

I was able to spend a little bit of time with Rachel in a creative group gathering this past spring and she is so encouraging. Genuine love and  fun oozes from them both.

I'm so grateful to go to a church that emphasizes the importance of worship and that part of the service resets my heart to be able to face another week of the world. And, if that isn't enough to be grateful for, the worship team also put out albums for us to listen at home.

The newest album, By Cloud, By Fire is available now on iTunes. I Have Decided is one of my favorites. You should totally check it out. Like, right now. Go!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Give 52 - Week 6: Funny Friends

Zentangle Flower
Give 52 - Week 6
Cheryl Houston 2015
Confession: I am not a good friend.

What do I mean by that? 

I'm not good at planning events, or gathering people, or even just calling the women I consider to be my friends. In fact, other than the friends I work with, I probably haven't spoken to, texted or emailed many of my friends in a good long while but once I consider you my friend, I pretty much always consider you my friend. No matter how much time has passed.

I met Leah at work. We share a lot of the same 12 year old boy humor. 

One of my favorite stories of Leah is of a time when we working out in the office gym. She was doing side shuffles and she was supposed to put down and pick up a medicine ball at the end of each pass. Our trainer was trying to explain to Leah that she was supposed to pick up a ball every time not just put it down.

As she was shuffling by me she said, "I am picking up a BALL every time!"

I said, "You're not holding a BALL right now."

She looked down and to her surprise- there was no ball in her hands and the three of us busted out in laughter.

"Leah said, 'Balls!'" 

You see? 12 year old boy humor.

Another tidbit about Leah is Leah loves Jesus. And she has a talent for sharing her love for Jesus in way that is respectful and welcoming . I know she did a lot of praying for me when I was busy pushing all-things-God out of my life. She never once preached at me or made me feel offended or put off. She just lovingly talked about how much she loved Jesus.

I hope I can model that attitude and message in my life for others to see. I'm so grateful for the abundant life God has graced me with and people like Leah that He throws in my path. I guess he knows I need them.

I'm so grateful for Leah's love and laughter in my life no matter how many days there are between today and the last day we talked. Here's to good friends and laughter!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Give 52 - Week 5: Do You Believe?

Believe in Yourself for Heather Snow
Give 52 - Week 5
Cheryl Houston 2015
One of my other House of Shine buddies, Heather, works for the University of Texas - Arlington. She works in Student Affairs where she and her staff help students be successful by encouraging community on campus.

Heather contacted me late in July or early August, asking me to create something for her to put on her office encouragement wall. When I asked her what she was thinking she wanted she said that she wanted something to encourage her students to believe in themselves. She told me that her students come in so discouraged and hopeless.

Well, I knew right away that I would include Heather and her encouragement wall in my Give 52 project but I didn't tell her that. If we're encouraging students to have hope and to believe that they can achieve their dreams then I'm in!

How can I do more? That's what we should all be asking ourselves.

And, for me, this is what this project is about. Doing more. Sharing my artwork. Encouraging others to be all that they are. Do more of your thing that makes a difference in this world. In other words: SHINE! That's what Heather and I do when we participate at House of Shine.

Always keep dreaming. Always keep learning. Always stay curious. Always be kind.

And, never ever say never because I believe in you and all that you are!

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Give 52 - Week 4: Salt and Light

Salt & Light for John & Colleen Stickl
Give 52 - Week 4
Cheryl Houston 2015
When I met my husband in 2011, I was pretty much on the outs with God.

Well, I was out. God was faithfully waiting on me to open. Open my eyes. Open my heart. Open my mind. Open the door.

Chris had been attending Valley Creek Church for a couple of years and while at dinner on a Saturday night he invited me to go with him the next morning.

This was the moment I was dreading- the moment of invitation but I knew it was important to him so I held on to my open heart and said okay. I think my exact words were, "Okay, but don't expect me to be all churchy with you every week. Me and God have an understanding- stay out of each others business."

Okay, I was the only one in on that agreement.

Pastor John was in the middle of a series called Favor and talking about grace and gratitude. Quietly, my heart responded: "If someone had taught me about grace 20 years ago, it would have probably saved me a lot of heartache and frustration."

And, just like that I was hooked.

When I wasn't able to go with Chris, I was watching online. When he wasn't able to go, I was going by myself. Three years later, I found myself in a baptismal tank getting baptized and we rarely miss a week in the presence of God and our church.

(If one of my family members is reading this and saying, but Cheryl, "You were baptized in 1997 at St. Michael's Catholic Church! I saw you!" I can only say to you that I argued with God about the same exact point for about a year when asking God what my next step was. I would say, "I already did that, God!" But what I came to understand was in 1997 I got baptized to join a family. A family I'm no longer a part of and this time- I got baptized to follow Jesus. And it was pretty wonderful.)

Pastor John and his wife, Colleen, are awesome. Colleen has delivered the Mother's Day message for the last two years and I love it! My whole spiritual journey has been set on lighted path because of the work they do with the church. I've been to a lot of churches throughout my lifetime and the presence of God is so strong in this community. From the worship to teams to the serving teams to the leadership. Top to bottom and in the smiles of everyone's faces.

Our marriage is blessed to be in such a loving, honest place and while I could go on and on about all the different messages that have been spoken directly into my heart and changed my life this really isn't about me. I suggest if you're looking for some spiritual leadership that you join us at Valley Creek Church in Flower Mound. Not in Flower Mound - join us online. They live stream the service every week and have past series in the media archives.

Because of the gift that God has given to Pastor John, I have been blessed and I trust in the good plans that God has for me and my family.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hello Week Four!

Give 52 Week 4
Going to the post office.
Week 4 already! Say what?

Be sure to join me tomorrow to see the latest piece of artwork and who I sent it to.

They're so awesome!!

I've added some new prints to my Etsy shop and hope to add some original drawings soon, too.

My designs are also at RedBubble where you can order lots of fun products like stickers, tote bags, coffee mugs and spiral notebooks.

Links are in the right side bar. Over there -->>

If you ever see an image of a drawing that I've done (check out Instagram) and you want it for a gift or project, drop me an email and let's make that happen for you.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Give 52 - Week 3: Love

Love for Arielle Ford
Give 52 - Week 3
Cheryl Houston 2015
Late in 2010, I found myself in another failed relationship and honestly, at that time I was shaking my head, thinking what is wrong with me? I wanted and needed to take a good long look at myself and own up my part of the failures of these past relationships. What was I doing wrong? And, believe me, I was doing plenty of things wrong.

I had misguided thoughts and ideas and perceptions and I was holding on to these old agreements I didn't even know I had and so much more.

I named 2011 my year the Year of Love and the only thing I knew to do was dive into any relationship advice I could find. If it was about relationships and dating, I was reading it. But, I was also learning more about myself.

I found Arielle Ford and her book Soulmate Secret.

Friends, if you are looking for love and find yourself struggling, please do yourself a favor and pick up Arielle's book. Read it with an open mind and an open heart. One of my favorite bits of advice from her book is this: It's not your job to know when you will meet your soulmate. It's your job to be ready.

Are you ready? Because, I was ready. I wanted nothing more than to be able to meet someone I could share my love with on a daily basis. I followed her advice. I listened in on her Soulmate Summit featuring relationship experts. I even got to go see her here in Dallas at an event she held. And, I held out faith that God (whoever God was) and the Universe were preparing me for someone and preparing someone for me.

And, guess what! He found me! We found each other. Chris Houston is the love of my life and I don't know if I would have been open to receiving his love if I hadn't have embraced the teachings of Arielle Ford.

My heart is so grateful that her words found their way into my heart and my world. Even today as I continue to work on my relationship with my husband, her wisdom has made all the difference in my life and my relationship with him.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Week Three Mail

Week Three's artwork went out into the postal world on Saturday.

(You meet some interesting people at the United State Postal Service office! Funny people. People with no shoes on their feet! Helpful people.)

I'm still trying out different packaging trying to figure out what I like best.

I prefer the white envelopes but they have a coating on them that doesn't soak in the ink of the markers I use to decorate them but, as long as the artwork gets to it's destination without a bunch of folds in it I guess that's all that matters.

I hope you will tune in tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Give 52 - Week 2: Quest

Love is Kind for Chris Guillebeau
Give 52 - Week 2
Drawing by Cheryl Houston 2015
I don't know Chris Guillebeau. The only connection I have with him is me reading his books, The $100 Start Up and  The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest that Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.

The post I originally wrote is below but that all seemed not to be as important after I read this post written by Chris. Chris lost his brother Ken this year and the story he so bravely shares makes my heart ache for him and for everyone who loses someone too soon. I never know what to say in these times of mourning other than I'm thinking of you and praying for you. 

Chris' post talks about wanting to be kind like his brother Ken and how he believes that he wasn't as kind as Ken. I didn't know Ken so I can't compare and again, I don't know Chris either. But, I don't believe for a minute that Chris isn't kind. He writes books encouraging and inspiring others to believe in their dreams and to seek greater meaning and purpose. His kindness in authoring those words of encouragement have touched me to create this blog and this one year quest. It's a small thing. But, it's my thing. It's my hope that my art will encourage and lift up others.

So, Chris, I'm so sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and my prayers. May you find peace and know that there is a world of readers that believe you are kind. I'm one of them. Thank you for sharing your gift with me. 

Now, back to the original post...

2014 was my Year of Purpose and just like in my Year of Love, I dove into books about purpose. It wasn't that I necessarily needed more purpose but I just felt like something was missing. My home life was good. My job was okay but I just wanted something more. I'm not sure where I heard of Chris' book The Happiness of Pursuit but I immediately thought I had to read it. Except, I didn't read The Happiness of Pursuit. I listened to it on audio, to and from work everyday but same thing, right? And, then I listened to it again.

Chris' book is full of encouraging stories of other people's quests. I particularly like when he quotes Carrie, a hospice care worker speaking about patients under her care. She says, "when you're at the end of your life there's no time for bullshit."

One morning I was journaling and I wrote:

My God! I need a quest! I need a quest just like Chris describes in his book.

But what would that quest be? I don't have the travel bug like Chris does. I'm not going to go to every baseball stadium in the US or cook meals from countries around the world or knit 10,000 hats like the people in book did because those are not my things but drawing and painting and creating art. That's what I do. That is what I cannot not do. I don't know why I'm drawn to create art. It's just who I am. 

Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying: The meaning in life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. 

If I had not listened to Chris' audio-book, I may not have ever been thinking about finding my own quest and Give 52 would have never been born and my artwork would be molding away in a drawer. So, thank you Chris Guillebeau for sharing your shine with me and the world and encouraging us to live a better life following our dreams.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Give 52 - Week 1: Claudia Shines

The Alchemist Quote for Claudia Beeny
Give 52 - Week 1
Drawing by Cheryl Houston 2015
Way back in 2007 I met my friend, Claudia, at a neighborhood bunco party.

When I asked her what she did, she told me she was writing a blog.

"Funny," I said, "I read blogs!"

I had a lot of time on my hands at my job at that time and I would fill it by reading blogs.

I began participating in the fun that she created on her blog and a friendship was born. At that time, her blog was called Highlowaha and we did a ton of fun stuff! Claudia has an idea producing brain and she was always coming up with something fun and it was an honor to be able to participate in so many good projects.

Some of her projects included: Cookie Cutter Challenge, Creative Olympic Decathlon, Super Bowl Challenges, Serentripity, drawing Ray Wattson, Taste of USA, fun Holiday crafts and celebrations and a whole slew of fun stuff I'm leaving out. Seriously. There was so much more.

Through this friendship, I was able to redefine and rewrite some of the dreams I had for my own life. How could I not when I had found such an encouraging friend who sees the good in everyone she meets? And boldly encourages the good out of them!

The blog was renamed House of Shine and she really started putting a focus more on personal development. There is the The Yellow Envelope Project, The Year of Project, DO52, Box of Shine Party and Shineworks just to mention a few.

There are so many areas of my outlook on life that have been changed for the better by directly being a part of House of Shine and I will always appreciate these days and the growth that I have experienced by being a part of it.

Being a part of Claudia's world has truly reshaped my attitude about abundance and gratitude. I will always be grateful for the experiences and outlook that she shares with me and for what I have learned by taking part in the House of Shine and simply by being her friend. It only makes sense for me to give my first piece of Give 52 artwork to my friend, Claudia.

So, thank you, Claudia. For sharing your Shine with me and for encouraging me to share my Shine with the world. Give 52 can be linked directly back to your influence on my life. I look forward to so many more adventures with you.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Friday, August 7, 2015

How do you live your life?

The Sound of Heaven - from the journal of
Cheryl Houston ©
Do you wake up every morning ready to celebrate your day?

Do you focus on the good things that are evident in your life?

Are you grateful for another day here on this earth?

I know I am because consider the alternative. The alternative of not being alive isn't something I'm ready to experience.

Someday I want to go to heaven and celebrate but not for a very long while still. I have too much to do and too much to experience here in this life that has been so gracefully given to me.

I want to live this life in a spirit of celebration not a stoic, woe is me way. How about you? Let's bring the sounds of heaven down to earth and those are the sounds of celebration! Focus on what is good in your life and be grateful for the everyday small things that we so often take for granted.

Here's what I'm grateful for today:
My sweet husband, our wonderful children, our safe and cute home, our overall good health, the fact that we have jobs to go to that provide financially for our family, for the beautifully hot days of summer, the cool blue water of our pool where we enjoy floating and listening to music, and the songs of the cicadas in our neighbors trees.

What are you celebrating today?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Give 52 - What, Who, Why, When

What is Give 52?
Give 52 is a gratitude challenge that I've created for myself. Once a week for 52 weeks I will give away one piece of my artwork and blog about it here.

Who will I choose?
I have some personal heroes that have inspired me through their work. I have some friends and family members that I want to be sure to spread some love and encouragement just because I love them. To those people that I have witnessed helped my friends and loved ones to whom I want to express gratitude on behalf of my loved ones. I will know some of these people personally and some of them I've never met.

Why am I doing this quest?
In February, I told myself I was going to take the 29 Gifts challenge again where you give one gift everyday for 29 days but I was being all rigid on the start date. I wanted to start at the beginning of the month on day 1 so it was easy to track. March 1 came and went and I didn't give a gift to anyone. I told myself that I would start in April. April 1 came and went. No gift to anyone. I noticed the pattern.

2014 was my Year of Purpose and 2015 is my
Year of Curiosity. While searching for purpose and following curiosity, I have read a lot of different books, taken online classes, began journaling on a regular basis and creating a lot of art. On April 2, 2015, while driving on Oak Lawn Avenue on the way to work I had this idea to give away 52 pieces of artwork in 52 weeks. It gave me breathing room with a longer commitment.

The persnickety side of me said, "Well, you'll have to wait to the beginning of 2016!" But the logical side of me, "Whoa, friend. How about we start on your birthday? That's coming up soon."

So, I started planing. I have been thinking about the people that I want to give a piece of artwork so I can show my appreciation and share my gift. Give 52 is my small way of making a difference and sharing my gift of creativity otherwise, why do I make all this art?

Why do I make it? I know many people view this as "just a hobby" but I wish I could explain to you that it is so much more than just a hobby. I feel as if I have to create. I have to. Drawing, painting, whatever it is and if I'm not creating something, I feel the loss of it. More than any other label that I attach to myself, Artist, is what defines me most. I'm called to make art, good or bad, and then I put it neatly away in my drawers at home and there it sits.

That ends with this project. Now, I'm called to make it and I'm called to share it.

When will Give 52 it begin?
 My first Give 52 recipient is scheduled to be announced on August 12. I hope you will come back on the 12th to see the first piece and to read about why that person moved me to gratitude.

This is my gift. I give it to you.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Love Fiercely

Love Fiercely Through Gratitude - From the Journal
of Cheryl Houston ©
I used the Cutout filter in Photoshop in the image above. I love the Cutout filter in Adobe Photoshop. I love playing with the different settings and watching the image going from completely legible to completely abstract. Like this:

Love Fiercely Through Gratitude altered in Photoshop
using the Cutout Filter. Cheryl Houston ©
I see a heart. I see a fox. I see buildings. Fun stuff, right?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Because she believed...

...the stars fell to her.

From my daily journal. Ink sketch filtered in Photoshop.
Cheryl Houston Art ©

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Prediction

I  predict that this quest of Give 52 is going to help me fly and that's why I'm so excited for it to begin in August.
From my daily Journal. Cheryl Houston. ©

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Let Love Grow

Let Love Grow - Ink drawing by Cheryl Houston 2015 ©
This image has been altered in Photoshop.

Friday, June 12, 2015


So excited the way my cards and stickers turned out. I will be using these products when I mail artwork to the Give 52 recipients.

First recipient set for August 12, 2015.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Wonderfully Made

You Are Wonderfully Made by Cheryl Houston © 2015
8x8 inches, ink on watercolor paper.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rich or Poor

No one has
ever become
poor by

             - Anne Frank

Friday, May 15, 2015

Living & Life

We make a living by
what we get, 
but we make a life by 
what we give.

                       - Winston Churchill

Friday, May 8, 2015

Meaning & Purpose

The MEANING of life is 
to find your gift.
The PURPOSE of life is to
give it away.

                                                -Pablo Picasso

Friday, May 1, 2015

Love & Giving

Love grows by giving.
The love we give away 
is the only love we keep.

                                                   -Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, April 2, 2015