My giving tree


Five years ago I was house shopping with my friend and realtor, Kat. I drove around this particular neighborhood so often I was afraid someone would call me for cruising! I had my eye on this very house but it had a sign on it that it was market pending, which seemed for like, ever.

Then, the night before an appointment with Kat to see probably the 50th house, my parents were in town from California, and I logged onto my computer and up popped THE house on MLS. It had JUST hit the market that night and the next day was it’s first full day that it people could tour it.

We were one of the first people to walk through the home the next morning. I found the inside workable, but when we stepped outside, that’s when I fell in love – look at this beauty.


A citrus tree! I had seen them throughout the previous homes, it was a huge desire. On our way out, another realtor was on her way in, and I knew the house was going to be a hard one to snag.

And so, the bidding war began.


I obviously won, and I swear no one could have ever loved this house more – just ask my husband and any of my girlfriends. It’s not just the 1952 brick home, but the 65+ year old grapefruit tree – it could perhaps older, who knows. (We just guess since we know before the homes were built in the 195o’s, these citrus trees were all over, it was a former citrus grove.)

I realized the trees were dying off in our neighborhood. I soon learned fruit trees don’t live as long as normal trees.

I also told my dad I had a hybrid tree – it was a lime/lemon tree! I later realized those were baby grapefruits that were green and the current yellow grapefruits were old ones left on the tree.

“Who told you that it was a hybrid tree?” asked my dad, when I told him.
“I told myself that,” I answered.
“Well that’s your problem right there,” he said.


We had parties around her, celebrations with my best friends, photoshoots with clients, she made her debut in all our memories and photos over the years. I loved her so much I put a swing on her. Friends pulled up picnic blankets under her and held their babies, this was the giving tree – shade and grapefruits!

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Last week we ordered an oak tree, one that changes colors from green to red in the fall. A worker from the nursery came out to our home to help advise us where it should go, before our delivery and planting date.

We talked about our grapefruit tree and discussed she’d probably make her exit in 5 or so years, so we should prepare for her departure – you know, plant a tree so by the time she passed away, the new tree would be significant enough to give us shade. We even discussed pruning one of her limbs to make room for the new tree.

We settled on a very large California Sycamore tree to put almost right in front of her, to time it just right. In 5 years she’d be gone, and in 5 years we’d have a very large shaded tree that would be the new center of our backyard.

Later that night, Benjamin called me outside alarmed of a smell of smoke – we never figured it out.

As always, even in the dark, I peeked to see the tree, out of habit –  every time I walked by the window I would sneak a peek look at her, she was my scene of comfort. But that night, in the darkness, I saw something strange.

The middle of the tree is gone, as if a dinosaur, a T-Rex, took a large bite out of the top of my tree. A big chunk of her was on the ground, and it was significant I that I thought, oh no, this could be the end.

See photo here. *cry*


Do you think she heard us that morning about cutting off one of her limbs that it hurt her feelings and she immediately just started to give up? It’s like she tried to commit suicide!

Now I’m not a tree hugger, though I might be becoming one. When you want to spend time with something, give it care, take photos with it creates memories, it’s difficult to not fall in love with something that brings you happiness and be sad when you realize the memories stop – this can be a person, thing, chapter in life.

I have a hard time letting go and moving onto new chapters, especially when the previous chapter was just so good I wanted to stay in it.

Like college.

My dad and mother-in-law think the tree can be kept, for a little while longer anyway. Until I’m ready to let it go, or she’s calling it quits, who knows which will come first. I can still photograph parts around her, she’s just – Getting older. Losing it. Her body is changing.

Ah, sounds like a life lesson, right?


On my to-do list this week was to film a backyard tour. I know, I should stop going on because I’m twisting the knife. I should’ve pruned the branches, picked more grapefruits to disperse the weight. Shoulda-woulda-coulda. How can one gain a life lesson from the dissolve of a senior grapefruit tree? Let me tell you.

You learn that it’s OK to admit a tree/said thing could bring you joy. You recognize you can fall in love with everyday scenery and even a zillion photos doesn’t feel like it was enough when it’s gone. Then you wish you laid under the tree more, enjoyed the shade, spent more time outdoors, ate more grapefruits, the list of feelings goes on – and regret comes, as it always does in life when good things start to come to an end. Suddenly the tree lesson seems interchangeable with the way we feel about people, and other things that hold significant value in our life.

Then, you give yourself permission to cry a little because you realize it’s OK to be sad because you’re just not ready for tomorrow to be the start of a new chapter, but you know, that’s life and sometimes an even greater chapter awaits.

Diana Elizabeth, Phoenix Lifestyle Blogger and Photographer drawn by Inslee. /

I’m so thankful for photos – these taken by my dearest friend Melissa Schollaert, and the fashion shots Kokoon by Melissa Louise. With that said, go on and hug your favorite tree – and talk nice to her, they’re listening.

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Salt water is the best medicine


As I was walking down to the beach and snapchatting, I caught this goofy smile on my face. It was pure joy, that I decided to take a photo of just how happy I was – so I wouldn’t forget the feeling of a breeze in my hair, a crispness in the air, and the sound of the ocean waves getting louder and louder. It wasn’t posed, I just took a photo while I was walking.

I don’t need any salt water to cure any sickness I have mentally or physically, but the ocean sure does something. Vacations too – I realize how I can easily stay behind a computer screen working, typing, planning, that I long to live – to get out and see the beauty God has created. I do this through traveling and I expressed myself through writing and more recently, photography, and now back to writing.

People who don’t identify with the love of travel think that those who do are running away from a life they don’t love. I find that far from the truth – I chase adventure and love travel to chase after God – to see the beauty He has created and to feel completely surrounded by His presence.

I know God is everywhere, and I can find him anywhere, but we all are created differently – what moves us, what we long for, and what brings us joy.

A few thoughts I wanted to share –

  • I never embraced traveling until I fell in love with photography
  • Getting older is a privilege
  • Never pass up an opportunity to shut up
  • Apologize without an excuse for why you acted the way you did, because it’s still inexcusable
  • Acknowledge and pay attention to any idols in your life, do something about it. Smash it, cut it, tear yourself away from it so it no longer owns you. I did this with Facebook (disabled my account for 2 years) and my hair (cut it so short and dyed it black). I feel neither are my identity or own me that it’s so freeing
  • When you’re super happy, take a picture of yourself, because why the heck not




The Forbidden City + Tiananmen Square – Beijing


After Thailand, we had a layover in Beijing for 8.5 hours. To me, that’s really like 4 hours considering the time it takes to get in and out of customs. Rachel and I discussed what we wanted to do during that time – do we chance it and go somewhere? Where do we go?

She wanted to head to the Great Wall of China, while I was more hesitant about it since it’s further than the Forbidden City (the Great Wall of China – Badaling is 43 miles northwest of Beijing and rebuilt in the 1950s). After discussion, Rachel and I decided on the Forbidden City.

Visiting the Forbidden City meant a lot to me because my great grandfather on my dad’s side was one of the tutors for the Last Emperor of China.

Have you seen the movie The Last Emperor? It’s a fantastic movie about the final Emperor of China, sad but a great drama and I highly recommend it, it is almost a 3 hour movie just FYI.

If you stop in China, you have a free 72 hour Visa. You don’t have to apply for it, you just need to show you have an outbound ticket within the 72 hours.


When we made friends during our Thailand trip, we head about Beijing Layover Tours and people were going to the Great Wall. I would suggest doing a tour after what Rachel and I experienced – getting ripped off by our taxi who wasn’t really a taxi with a real meter, and mass confusion. I suggest going with a legit taxi with a taxi sign and meter or a desk that offers taxis – do not go with any man with a sign or printed card with his rate, you will overpay at least 3x, like we did.

I’d like to brag that my child level Mandarin got us places, and it did for a good while. Rachel said there was no way she could have gone anywhere or survived if she were alone – but remember, we decided to do this with no help. If you have a tour, you’ll be fine. There was an opening to the Great Wall (we truly didn’t believe they would get back in time and in fact many of them had to run to the gate but they all made it!). Rachel said the choice was up to me, go with the group or go on our own to see the Forbidden City and when I didn’t know what to answer, she said, “Let’s go to the Forbidden City, I know that means more to you,” and I am so thankful for her willingness to do that because I know she really wanted to see the Great Wall.

We were dropped off at Tiananmen Square – a large city square in the center of Beijing.


We weren’t quite sure where we were going, so we just continued to walk toward the Forbidden City –


We just kept walking with the crowd not know where to get tickets, and then we went in, and then saw the ticket line, there were many open windows which was great – short lines. Cost was $10.


I was so excited and happy to be here, I had so much wonder and just love knowing more about the culture of my ancestors. I’m sad to say that I didn’t embrace who I was until I was in college and since then I’ve never been ashamed to say – I’m full Chinese! I love my roots and I’m proud to have the Chinese traits of hard work, efficiency and being ageless. Haha!

Of course the actual culture in China is very different than America, it’s just different – it’s Asia after all and it’s a different country and people have different life experiences here. If you can’t accept that everywhere outside of America isn’t America, you might be uncomfortable traveling.

Here’s the first really big entrance of the Forbidden City.


You actually couldn’t go through it, you could only see this –


A throne – in the Hall of Preserving Harmony.

Let me just show you how big the Forbidden City is –



It is 3,153 feet x 2,470 feet, that’s 778,791 square feet, that’s almost 18 acres. There’s 980 buildings with almost 9,000 rooms. Imagine how many cleaning ladies they had to have!

Here I am in the garden, had to take a picture of course!


Then I found a gift shop – there are many on the grounds, there have to be when you think about it.

I came across an artist who paints inside glass jars and beads! A large vase like the goldfish one you see below on the right can take 20 days!

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I had him make an ornament with a dragon and rooster since that’s Benjamin and my Chinese zodiac sign and write our names on them. I love gifts made by local artisans, they are perhaps my most favorite gifts to purchase.

We spent two hours in the Forbidden City and had to head back.

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A taxi from the airport to the Forbidden City should cost you around 120 yuan. If there’s one offered for 180 by a private taxi with an English speaking driver, just go for it, if it’s at one of those trust worthy booths with people and you pay ahead of time. It’s worth the layover trip – or book it through the layover tours site – our friends made it to the Great Wall and back, but I’d suggest you have more layover time if you can help it (10+ hours).

Thanks for coming along with me on my 8-hour layover excursion!

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