Tea Breaks & Clay Days

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We ventured to another time, where people were one with the clay. Entering the classroom was to know that nothing else would exist for seven hours. Just you, your hands and mind wrestling with the clay.

The struggle was real, and it was beautiful.

We made tea when our hands could no longer understand the signals from our weary minds and when the body was too exhausted from spiraling, wedging and throwing the clay.

We’d sit outside on the wooden benches drinking slowly and breathing even slower to try and attempt it once again.

Here we all were, each with a quiet fight all our own.

I grew frustrated.

I cursed at the clay in my mind and thought, ” how do my hands and mind keep missing one another?” Like star crossed lovers never to kiss. So close, yet so far.

And she told us of Japan. Artist in residence for three months, when all she thought every morning as she cast her sheets aside, gazing out to the grey shackled rooftops-“No, I’m not home I’m still in Japan. Way too early to begin to craft something so fragile. So earthly.”

And we all marveled at her stories, and her wisdom. She breathed art, and Arita porcelain and spoke wonders of the ceramist who taught her everything she knew. Now here we all were attempting the very same craft that takes two years to master in Japan. Naively attempting to do it all in just two weeks.

I felt broken each morning.

Not wanting to get up. The silica had taken its toll on my back, hands, fingers and forearms.

“Not again.” I thought. But the beauty in the struggle was too wonderful. I had to beat it. I had to make something. I had to keep creating. Fighting to do at least something. Anything. My hands grew desperate. Only finding solace in her words…

“Art is a process not only a thing.”

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And thats the crux of it isn’t it? As artists in the Western world we are defined by the number of pieces we create. By a finished product.

Yet, here was something so pure, so true, so innocent setting me free.

“Art is a process not only a thing.”

There’s beauty in learning. There’s beauty in the struggle. Growth as artists only happens as you learn new things. Taking different snippets of the various arts there are and mixing them all together to become an entity,  an aura all your own.

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Yes, I was impatient. But I learned not only from the clay but from the many talented colleagues around me. Colleagues that taught me patiently different aspects of creating, so patiently as I was on the verge of tears.

We humbly made tea for one another, and fed one another.  Each afternoon we’d all take a break and listen to each others stories and our instructors oracles of Japan. Of the grey roof tops, the beauty of community, China on the Park and breakdowns at Narita airport.

We sipped our tea, immersed in the clay on our shoes. Growing more as artists-if I dare call myself one-and cheering one another on, even when our pieces were warping into other worldly things.

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My hands will not be the same after this class, my muscles, my creative process, my mind.

There’s an honesty, an immersion that happens when you all are in one same creative spirit.

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Go out and DO. Do something that you wouldn’t typically do. Because its only stagnant things that die. I may be far from pleased with my finished pieces, but this time it wasn’t about the outcome it was about the process.

 

All my love,

-Diana Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

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Firebolt Whiskey & Gallery Hangs

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We laughed and laughed as the country music rose at Texas Roadhouse, the peanuts finding their way into our shoes and socks. He was excited to be celebrating his 20th birthday in the U.S. and we may or may not have lied to our server and got him a shot of firebolt whiskey. We got fat off laughs, good company and Texas cooking. We raised our glasses to him and friendship and we made our way to our friends gallery as the night grew long and the moon danced bright. And we all felt full bellied. 

And for the rest of the night till’ the clock struck 2 a.m. we drank beer and vodka at our friends art gallery. We watched the master artist hang his amazing photographs, and we laughed, and danced hysterically and talked about life. We gathered on some blankets on the cool floor, ate left-over peanuts, and popped open some more bottles- the light was warm and low and he held my hand and lay his head on my shoulder, and none of us dared to change the moment.

The birthday boy sang songs in his native Aziri tongue and it was magical, calm, delicate and slow, as we all watched quietly and listened intently-taken to a distant land, marinating in each others company.

These are the moments when we remember we are alive. When we remember we are young, free and slightly infinite.

-Diana

Photo cred: to my bloke Jonathan Gamboa & friend Kanan Mammadli

Swallowing the Sun: For you the Creative Folk

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Here’s the thing, I love my job.

There are moments that it hits me, I’m a photographer, or to state it in journalist lingo-a photojournalist.

It is weird to call myself this. Its hard to roll this around my tongue and let it spew out into the world, as though uttering it will cause the world to stop spinning on an axis-because I haven’t accepted it myself.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking back toward my car after dropping off my pictures in the newsroom. I don’t know what it was about that day but something crept inside me and told me, “You aren’t good enough.” That’s all it took to unravel me, shake me, and strip me of what little confidence I held, as what do you call it?-oh yeah-as a photographer.

I was so rattled that when a homeless man stopped me I had to ask him to repeat his question.

“Excuse me, sorry what did you say?”

“I said are you like a photographer?”

I looked down at the Canon hanging around my neck, and stroked the lens, “Yeah I guess you can say that.”

We talked, it must have been like half an hour. Mostly, on his hardships and the sadness he felt and I felt it too. He had dropped out of law school, and he believed he wasn’t good enough to go back.

And that’s the crux of it isn’t it friends? We quit halfway through something because we don’t believe in our capacities, because we compare and believe the other guy is better than us.

When this homeless man stopped me and asked me if I was a photographer, I couldn’t even admit it myself. You see, we examine ourselves too closely. Living a creative life-or in other words to have a job that requires even the most remote of creativity fills us with paralyzing fear. Fear because there is no formula to creativity, art, photography, writing. All of these forms are so subjective- the beauty found in the eyes of each individual beholder.

What made Andy Warhol famous won’t make you or I famous, we are not Andy Warhol.

We push ourselves too hard, and give ourselves impossible standards, its like asking ourselves to swallow the sun. Impossible.

Or like Elizabeth Gilbert says:

So when I heard that story it started to shift a little bit the way that I worked too, and it already saved me once. This idea, it saved me when I was in the middle of writing “Eat, Pray, Love,” and I fell into one of those, sort of pits of despair that we all fall into when we’re working on something and it’s not coming and you start to think this is going to be a disaster, this is going to be the worst book ever written. Not just bad, but the worst book ever written. And I started to think I should just dump this project. But then I remembered Tom talking to the open air and I tried it. So I just lifted my face up from the manuscript and I directed my comments to an empty corner of the room. And I said aloud, “Listen you, thing, you and I both know that if this book isn’t brilliant that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal. O.K. But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it. I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”

It might seem strange to think of her yelling at an empty corner, but you know what friends she has a point. Let me explain:

You see, we have an amazing God who has placed these massive dreams and talents in our lives. Every creative individual has been in the shoes of, “this project/book/I/ are not good enough.” No one is immune. Yet, there are times we need to tell God,

“you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this.”

There will be moments when you have no idea what the heck you are doing, just keep showing up.

Because showing up means you haven’t given up. Because showing up means that no matter what you are too passionate to quit. Because showing up is telling the enemy that you will not let him win. Because in showing up you put your hope in God, and ask him to breathe and work his mysterious ways on what you cannot.

Keep showing up. Keep doing what you love, because there is no one that can do what you can, and remember God is right there with you, no matter the outcome.

Art is beauty, art is yours… and like Charles Pierce says,

To lead a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.

And remember that its okay to push yourself, but by no means can you swallow the sun, and learn to be brave and call yourself what you truly are an artist,

photographer, writer, innovator. 

Best,

-Diana

The Blue House on Bourke Street

I would  sit in front of the big blue house, sometimes with the occasional bag of M&M’s or a steamy flat white. The afternoons were colored dark grey by the stormy clouds of Sydney winters the only vibrant color coming from the pale blue house. I’d sit and look at its mosaic stained glass thinking about life and retrospection, counting the days for the plane ride back to the familiar place.

I don’t know what it was about that blue house. Maybe it was the bohemian interior of colorful throw pillows on the couch, the wooden floor boards or the grand piano. But all I knew is that every time I felt homesick or melancholy I’d wonder to the familiar bench and stare at the big blue house. So much so, that its residents took notice of me and accepted me as part of the interior.

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I left many things on that bench. Mostly the load of an unwounded mind for the next traveler, and an indention of myself now just a memory to that street.

I’d sit beneath the cascade or barren leafs of the massive tree reading Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, with my bright pink Leuchtturm and pen at the ready marinating in the little pleasantries of everyday life; counting every falling leaf as a small guarded blessing, and finding inspiration all around me.

I watched strangers pass by, each absorbed in their own world, fighting their own battles, and having people to love, and dogs to walk. It wasn’t a lonely street, but it was quiet and charming and aligned with town houses I could never afford.

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In the winter the leaves from Autumn were illuminated by the rain, the blue house more vibrant than all the rest, the barbershop humming peacefully, a circadian rhythm of familiarity. In the spring this street was breathtaking. The purple Jacaranda trees in full bloom, the house also blooming with delicate and fragrant Jasmine-everyone strolling cheerfully in bright colors.

I miss the big blue house. Maybe because those were my fondest memories of self, of observation and reflection. A repose in hues of blue and a reminder that home is where the heart is. It would be mistake to think that this place wasn’t my home, for there is where I felt more at home.

That old squeaky bench, the patch of grass, the European architecture, each an uncovered secret I made my own. In this place it always felt like something grand was around the corner, a new discovery to be made a new café to try, and a life to celebrate.

Yes, I miss the big blue house. With each coming of seasons there it stood the same as ever-grand and beautiful.

-Diana

Michigan: Crisp, Magical, Delicious

*I will post the new travel photos of Michigan very soon under the travels page section of my blog, and more on blog posts soon.

A week in Michigan turned out to be the breath of fresh air and escape that my body desperately needed. Michigan picked me up, squeezed me, and gave me a great big hug. I was reunited with my best friend after exactly a year a part. She showed up at the airport with a big welcome sign, we embraced in tears and excitement, and she even brought me soup! (Since my stomach was in knots after 17 hours of travel).

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I was welcomed into the home of four extraordinary girls who taught me so much in the very little time I was there. Their kitchen wall was painted yellow, suiting the bright personality of everyone there. Nothing says home like yellow right? I felt cocooned in warmth and in fertile soil, and I was reminded that there are people out there in this world that fight to make each day count and embed it with magic, I was reminded that there are people out there who are genuinely interested in hearing the stories of strangers, and offer a glimpse into their own world while loving God so fully, like a never ending all you can eat buffet. 

I ventured around the nestled town of Traverse City and was enamored at the cordiality and kindness of a small town and its people. I ventured to the peninsulas and was amazed at the beauty of what is Michigan, lush green vineyards overlooking the lake and kissing it’s shores, while trees stand like giants soaking the sun.

I would wake every morning to a view of the bay, I felt the water brush against my toes and almost cried at seeing something so blue in such a long time. The blue expanse whisking me back to wandering days at the beaches in Sydney.

The heart really does grow fonder in absence of something-and my absence had been oceans, lakes and sea.

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We were invited into the home of a great-great-grandmother who told us the story of her Christmas farm, as her great-great-granddaughter gave us a tour of the farm her enthusiasm revealing to us a secret that left us in awestruck wonder (blogging on this soon). We hiked a secret trail and ended at the very edge of Lake Michigan, the mist not allowing us to see all of its grandeur yet awakened our imaginations.

We ate ice cream in freezing weather, and watched Walter Mitty as all five of us squeezed into a couch cast into a story of adventure, sweeping mountains, and risk. The nights were late and the mornings lazy and everything in between nothing short of perfect. It was incredible to be reminded of what it means to live with people who speak life and yet are honest about their lot in life. Wine bottles were opened and we spoke about how things don’t always feel ideal, but these little “cracks” are what make the story and the character great, and how else can light stream in?

I was licked and loved profusely by a very dark and large lab that filled my heart with so much love, at the absence of my brother and dog-hope resurrecting after a long absence and defeat. Slowly creeping back into my heart in colors of yellow, and a lick at a time.

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I made freshly pressed coffee every morning and imagined someone’s hands in a small remote village somewhere picking those very beans that had found their way to my coffee mug each morning. And all of a sudden this world didn’t feel so big at all, and coincidence was something lost to the wind. I explored the “Blue House, Mouse House,” backyard and found a small creek and picked fresh pinecones, as the brisk bay air came in wrapping me in giddiness and crisp nostalgia.

And these were all a billion little things-miniscule things- that if I dared to blink I would quickly miss them; but these small (or not so small) things are what I knew were from the hands of God, because they were all the things that bring to me the greatest joie de vivre…

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Michigan was magic, light, bright, crisp, delicious, hope-filled, sunny, cold, green, yellow, and a perfect shade of dark blue.

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

All my love friends,

-Diana

Ramblings: Thank God for Seasons…

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Life is a beautiful fragile thing. It has the power to make us laugh so hard that we cry, and it holds the power to take away and leave us feeling barren. Yet, what I believe is the most incredible thing about life is that it comes in seasons. Seasons that are ever changing and (luckily) do not last for ever- because each season offers an opportunity to learn and grow and to marinate and delight in the depths of that which makes us human.

What would life be without the crunchiness and falling leafs of Autumn? The fireplace and warm hot cocoa laden nights of Winter? The warm caress of a Spring breeze? Or the coolness of the ocean against your feet in the Summer? If it weren’t for the changing landscape of each season we would either be stuck in endless cold weather (sorry Canada), or be scorched by the beams of an  ever awake ephemeral sun (sorry South California). However, each season teaches us to appreciate the other.

Thank God for seasons.

The first year/season of my college experience is officially over, and it has taught me so much about life, God, people and most importantly of myself.

I met individuals who restored my hope in humanity, and who became dear friends when I felt no one understood. We would eat more donuts than we cared too, and drank inordinate amounts of Starbucks in Dane Smith Hall, and laughed more than we learned during our “study sessions.” We’d sit on benches beside the duck pond in the coolness of autumn afternoons and watch the leafs fall as we encouraged one another and talked crazily about The Hunger Games.

I got my heart broken by a guy who changed his mind, yet, who taught me a lot about myself. And because of this learning experience I am learning to heal “well”-and attempting to not let bitterness swallow me- rather, to send him love and happiness every time I think of him. Because a broken heart means I’ve tried for something, and because I don’t think we intentionally hope to hurt someone.

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I met individuals who told me a bit about their stories-their transparency so poignant- that I was reminded that there is beauty in being human. We are complex creatures all with the need to love and be loved. Our stories binding us closer  than we might believe.

I’ve pushed my limits further than I thought possible. I’ve unexpectedly fallen in love with running, and ran seven miles. More than I ever cared to. I pushed myself in my writing (school wise) and written about a vast array of subjects (ask my anything about Pre-Colombian art) that have diversified my capacities.

I’ve learned that God doesn’t love me any less because I’m not camped out at church. I’ve learned what it means to have a “bride-groom” spirit and be happy for everyone else’s milestones. Which has been especially hard in this May month-wedding invites, babies, couples, graduations, new beginnings- I have begun to learn that just because someone else’s highlight reel is impressive, that mine isn’t mediocre. It’s just a season.

But above all in this season I am learning not to feel guilty about my life.

Guilty as in ashamed because my life is so different from those around me. Its okay to do that which makes me happy.

Life is beautiful, am learning to cherish it.

Thank God for seasons…

Because no matter how unconventional it all may seem, hard seasons (or good ones) don’t last forever. And that my friends is a beautiful paradox to hold on to. Because it demands that we live in the present, move on from the past, and embrace what is, and is to come.

All my love,

-Diana

Amidst the Frozen Tundra

If there is one place in this whole world that makes me gasp in wonder is the arctic. There is just something magical about a place that is uninhabited and blanketed in white year round; an infinity of stars panning out in the frozen expanse, the cold vapor of ones breath as the only sign of life, caught in a calm circadian rhythm of stalled time and cold suspended air.

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Of course when your lost in the tundra this beauty takes a back seat.  All you wish for is a steaming hot cup of anything, warm blankets and fire. Lots of fire.

That’s what I want. Fire. Right now when its seems that everything and everyone is gearing up for the holidays, and the Christmas movies make your real life feel like broken glass, the cold can wither you down even more.

Now that school is over for the first half of the semester (words cannot describe how fast that went)  I have almost five weeks of repose  and I find myself shaken.

What to do in the silence? What to do when the cold air feels to pierce right through your bones? And everything around you is beginning to grow real quiet. Like someone has thrown a party that you weren’t invited to.

If there is something I have learned is that to carry Christ in our hearts does not make everything easy. It doesn’t take away the pain that comes when you have lost a friend, a family member, or dear ones are far away and all the heartache accumulates towards this holiday that’s found in the middle of December. A month that  by default consists of frozen drive ways, icicles and sunless afternoons.

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I’ve learned from Mary and the Nativity story that to carry Christ is not only a blessing but it calls for an expansion of self, an expansion that does not come easy. We have to loose things we thought we needed and let him touch the corners of our tender wounded hearts. It comes with sacrifice and pain. Maybe it is like Ann Vosskamp says, “This season of Advent may hurt. I may feel weary. These days may not be easy. This is how God may be growing within me.”

And maybe just maybe this is why Christmas is smacked down in the middle of December, maybe we needed a little hope to emerge in the midst of a cold, dead frozen season. Maybe we just needed a remainder of what is good and where true hope and life comes from.

Perhaps we need to be like the mountain avens, (one among a few flowers that has the capacity to grow and thrive in frozen temperatures). Maybe we need to let this coldness saturate us… not defeat us… a balance between learning, moving forward, and allowing it to have its effect yet be free of bitterness.  We need to be smugly burrowed beneath the frozen ground, yet have a hope and warmth that will catapult us above the frozen ground. Growing, flourishing  from the very solid earth that threatened to destroy us. As Christ expands us and resurrects healing and newness.

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Christ is found amidst our tundra. He is ephemeral warmth and fire that is nestled around our hearts, there he whispers and reminds us of his immovable promises and his plans for the future. So lets let go of  fear friends, and may we in this advent season pray for healing in which ever form it may be needed, and lets be mountain avens together.

Lets believe that God will build something beautiful from our frozen tundra… and know dear friends that I am growing and fighting alongside you.

May this advent be warm, and filled with the joyful love of Christ and all our beloved friends and families.

-Diana

Unconventional

N E W Z E A L A N D 1666

If you look up the word “unconventional” in the dictionary chances are this is the definition you will encounter, “Not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed: “His unconventional approach to life.”

Whoever this “he” is that the dictionary is referring  to has a lot in common with me: we are both indeed unconventional, or rather our lifestyle’s are.

For some reason I did not realize how different my life was/is to others before my return, but upon my return viewing and seeing my friends lives play out in front of me or via social media I realize I am what they call a “late bloomer.” I am by no means on the track of marriage, receiving my degree, or about to step into the career of my dreams. Rather tomorrow I officially sign up for my classes for university and I can’t help feel a little unconventional. I am twenty years old and starting off as a freshman. Yup. Where some of my friends are in their penultimate year of university I am barely beginning my bachelor’s degree.

I am finding that unconventionality can be both a bitter and sweet cup to drink. On one hand I am humbled in realizing that I have had the privilege to live and have studied in a foreign country and get to travel to some pretty amazing places, but I am also finding that I find myself feelings displaced and floating along feeling like a fish swimming upstream where others are going down stream.

I feel as though I am a sailboat in the midst of a murky ocean colliding with some pretty merciless waves, and suffering from salt water dehydration. My life looks like no one else’s and although sometimes its hard to realize the strangeness of having to be settled for four years here is tough- I also learn a great lesson of “accepting” my life, embracing my “unconventionality”- because I know deep down God is in control of the greater scheme.

I trusting and believing that these waves that I view as chaotic-if I let them, and merely float in them-will carry me somewhere worth struggling for. I am believing that these very waves will leave me along the shore of an island brimming with golden sun and mango troves.

I am hoping and believing in unconventional because that is what I’ve chosen and what -life- or something like it has dealt me, I am believing that unconventional is where I will be. And I will embrace it like a long lost friend, I am embracing my life and its many shades, and calling it painstakingly wonderful.

Be blessed friends,

-Diana

Cereal Aisles & Reality

People keep asking me, “What does it feel like to be home?” I’ve tried to explain it in more ways than one but I think the picture that comes to mind is that of being awoken from a deep sleep, jumbling awake and once awake poking everything to see if it is real. The transition is happening all too fast and home feels like everything BUT home.

Another image I get in mind is of this scene of Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, upon his return from Afghanistan. (If you haven’t seen the movie DO SO). In this scene Jeremy Renner is restless with the monotony of civilian life, reality and is suffering from slight culture shock (I felt the same way on my first trip to Walmart).

I by no means disabled bombs in Australia, but I honestly felt like I was a part of a bigger purpose there with all that I was involved with. Of course that can happen here at home with time, but right now I just feel overwhelmed walking down the aisles of Walmart and seeing a 24 pack of Capri Sun be sold for $1.28! And in a way I feel like I am walking around aimlessly trying to find my legs or the aisle with the fabric softener. 

Many things have changed around this arid city, and in most part I am glad, because it would really be devastating to return and see the Lowe’s grocery store still be the same gaudy color that it always was, but its also hard to see that Lumpy’s Burgers disappeared (it’s a lot better than it sounds) along with Rico’s Tacos! I am glad for ten dollar movies instead of eighteen dollar movies, but I hate that I have to witness the people closest to me go through some of their hardest seasons yet. My best friend with a weakened health condition, a homeless friend, and situations with close family members. It sure has been a great welcome. But I think the worst part has been the giant dose of reality;  from health cover, to eye insurance to dental appointments to university applications to the possibility of a new church… I know that its all a season and in the right time these broken overwhelming pieces (both physical, and emotional) will all find healing in God.

Right now though, I have to take a deep breath and take it all one day at a time. I will learn and grow from this season, and I pray to God with all that I am that bitterness does not become a companion. I will learn to give myself grace when I expect more of myself, and when I try to adjust into life at 100 mph. I will learn of the places here that have the possibility of wonder and awe… Albuquerque is good in that sense, it’s a home for the explorer or the gold miner, because you have to dig and rub on the dirt to find the good in it, and  I will learn to love almost every piece of it; and maybe even discover good coffee shops.

I will re-learn the stop lights (as I almost got killed TWICE) and I will remember what it feels to love the long thunder filled rainy nights. This season is a time to re-learn, give grace, and not be afraid to let things grow. It’s a season to just sit and wait and believe for God’s best to unfold, even when it feels like I am rowing on muddy water that’s stagnant. It’s a time to love on the people on my life and meet them where they are at.

It’s a time of being.

A Small Change

Hey there! In case you didn’t notice my IP address has changed from “Sunny Dee-Light” to “The Simple Writings”  it was somewhat hard to depart from the old familiar name, but more on this change could be found in the “About Diana” right underneath the header. 

The good news: I’m still here and still writing… well not lately the culprit: Writers Block. 

In case I do not write anytime soon: Happy Holidays to all of you may it be one of the most amazing holiday season yet for you and your loved ones.

 

Warmest regards,

Diana