Monday, December 31, 2012

Welcome, 2013

Well, it is the eve of a new year.  I've never been much for resolutions, or even for staying up until midnight, to be honest.  I think, as a teacher, my new year really happens in August.  And, for the past several years, the NYE holiday has been clouded by stressful attempts to fit all my Christmas presents in a suitcase totaling 50 pounds or less.  But this year feels different. After The Best Year Ever (2011) and The Year of Provision (2012), I'm looking forward to discovering what 2013 has in store for us.

It's not a surprise to anyone who knows me that my new teaching job hasn't been a blast.  In August, excited to have my first grown-up job in America and bursting with a desire to make a difference for the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, I felt slapped in the face by the U.S. Public Education system.  Nearly every negative thing I'd heard or read about our schools I was experiencing.  Teaching to the test.  A school culture centered entirely around test scores.  Bare classrooms. Bureaucracy.  Ridiculous demands on my time.

I wallowed for a long time.  I cried every day for the first several weeks.  I didn't eat well.  I got mad at Daniel, even though he did nothing wrong.  I missed Pinares and my former students so badly it hurt.  I doubted why we ever decided to come back.  I was sad all the time.

Then I started adjusting.  I didn't love it, or even like it, but I was getting a handle on what was expected. I was doing a good job. Administrators seemed to like me. I started teaching adult English classes, which was fulfilling and provided a little extra cash.  At home, Daniel had acquired two jobs and we started renting our guest room through, so money wasn't such a struggle.  Things started looking up.

No, it hasn't been the best year ever, like 2011.  I like to think of 2012 as the Year of Change.  Our lives at this moment are so different than they were in 2011.  But I'm sticking the title I chose back in April--the Year of Provision. God has provided for our every need. In every way.  I'm awed by it.  It seems like I should have had to work a lot harder to get all of this to work out.  An international move. New city. New jobs.

Gratitude is an understatement.  I am sitting here, ready to go celebrate the dawn of a new year, and so humbled by the realization that I wasted so much of the past few months mourning what we left behind, instead of living in the present.

So I am resolved not to waste any more of my life in 2013. I will focus on the good things happening, even amidst any crappy situations I may face.  I will work hard, and know that it's not in vain.

Here's to the new year!
 But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 13-14.

Friday, December 07, 2012

This One's For Mallory

Things You Should Know About My Sister

She is, without a doubt, the fun one.

She bakes wedding cakes. 


She takes charge.
She's the kid that teachers picked to be the lead actress in the school play, to participate in special activities (such as appear on the show What Would You Do on the Nickelodeon field trip), and to represent the student body.  Now that she's all grown up, she is still making waves as this amazingly awesome engineer who isn't afraid to take on responsibilities that would make me run away and hide.

She's so pretty.

"What can I say? I'm adorable!"
In the past, she didn't know how to smile. Fortunately, she outgrew that problem. 
Oh how I wish I could post a picture of one of Mallory's terribly fake, strained, 8-year old smiles... The poor girl somehow came to believe that smiling for a camera was like some bit feat to attain.  You can imagine, perhaps, what it looks like when an elementary-school aged, thumb-sucking tomboy who believes that smiling is a lost art gets stuck in front of a camera and told to "smile."
Now look who's smile is fake!  :)

She cares for the environment and social justice and especially H2O. 
And so do I. We keep each other in check.
And she can build things like...this... which, I'm sure, does
very good things and is very helpful to both people and water.

She's the coolest nerd you'll ever meet.  I mean, really.
nerdy qualities: knitting socks, math, engineering, reading, book clubs, baking
cool qualities:  running, biking, marathons, triathlons, looking hot, ex-cheerleader/surfer.
Somehow she mushes up all those qualities into one very awesome (pretty, strong) body.

She's an excellent eyebrow plucker. 
The first time I convinced Mallory to groom her face, I thought her unibrow was so out of control that it required chemical removal before successful plucking could even be achieved. Then, the first time I brought tweezers to her face, you would have thought I used them as a torture device.  She screamed with each and every pluck.  Yowzers. I still remember it.
I really don't know when or how, but she got over that phobia. Now she's my favorite eyebrow artist.  She knows what she's doing.

She gets along very well with my husband. 
And that was always the highest requirement in the search for a spouse.


She's joined me as a Master. 
(Well, on December 14th, officially!!!)
This, times two.  
She's my best friend.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's New Pussycat?

Yes, I am still here.  It was touch-and-go there for a while, but I think I'm ok and almost back to my former self.  We've been in the States now for four incredibly full, exhausting months.  Here are a few updates....

1. We now have a cat. 

My friend at work told us about this kitty that needed a home. Her previous family had to move back to the U.K. somewhat suddenly and were looking to either give her away or take her to the pound.  Well, we hemmed and hawed for about...oh...a few hours, before we decided to take her.  We renamed her Bonnie Blue and we are having a lot of fun living with a quirky, kitty diversion.

2. We now both have two jobs.  

Daniel is an audio visual technician now for both Nickelodeon Resort and Leu Gardens!  

I picked up an additional gig teaching adult English classes twice a week to parents of students at my school.  

3. We now have fall decor.

Ok, so this isn't really a new event or anything, but I wanted to share the pictures.  I made a wreath. :) And, Mallory sent me some lovely fall leaves from Tennessee

4. We joined a lifegroup with our church. 

Well, we attended twice.  But, we like it and it's nice to be hanging out in Christian community again. 

5. Daniel carved his first pumpkin.

This isn't it...(I couldn't find a picture...), but this is what we brought to share at the party. 

6. We seem to be smiling more lately. 

7. {just one more thing}

I spiced up my classroom wall with pictures of previous classes.  (I'm just missing a picture of last year's class... I didn't have one printed out).  It makes me very happy, which is something I need help with some days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I heart libraries

This afternoon we took a quick trip to the public library.
Sometimes I forget that I'm back in the trusting country where free book-lending is available!  I can't even begin to tell you how happy a public library makes me.

Here's the book I can't wait to crack open:

Christopher Paul Curtis is right up there with Jerry Spinelli on my list of life-changing-I'll-read-anything-you-put-on-paper authors.

I'm going to go get started.

<3  Happy Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Motivational thought of the day: Good things can come from the seemingly not-so-great.

Paint Truck Spill
(image from

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Power is Made Perfect in Weakness

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul starts talking about boasting, and then how he was given a "thorn in [his] flesh" to torment him.  He said,
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Do you remember chain e-mails? They were so popular back when I was in high school it seems.  It's when you get an e-mail from someone you know, asking you to send something to someone at the top of the list of e-mail addresses, and then move the order of the names around and forward it on to a bunch of people you know.
Well I got a chain email, asking me to send my favorite verse to the person on the list.  If I had gotten the e-mail from anyone else but one of my very best friends, I would have probably deleted it and felt no remorse; what overworked teacher has time for chain emails?  But, I did get it from my bff, so I sent on a verse, and the instructions to ten friends and, yay!, got a verse in return.  It was the verse above.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
It came to me from a friend's mom.  She doesn't know me.
She doesn't know that the past four weeks of teaching has been more stressful than anything else I can remember facing.
She doesn't know that I lost 5 pounds after the school year started.
Or that stress gives me so much tension in my back that sometimes I can't sleep.
Or that many days I just come home and cry of exhaustion.
Or that weakness is basically all I seem to feel lately.  I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak.

So today I'm grateful for the times God works like invisible strings connecting the whole world together, bringing me exactly the right words from a mom who's not mine and who doesn't know what I'm doing.
I'm grateful for a friend who blogs about joy, and asks how often we've walked past opportunities for joy. (I wonder...)
I'm grateful for a list of ways to fight for joy, and for renewed strength to do so.
I'm grateful for friends who don't live too far away, who find the time to keep me sane.

Friday, August 10, 2012

States Survival Kit

Today, after working in my classroom (more on that later), and lunch with dad (he gave me a huge TV--!!!), and a trip to IKEA (needed something to put the TV on), I had the added surprise of three packages sitting in my mailbox. 

Thank you Caroline,  Mal, and Mom!

Let me tell you a bit about this girl, Caroline.  She was my roommate my second year in Honduras, she writes a pretty amazing blog [ here ] , and she lives out the gospel--loving people and God--like no one I know.
Take a look at the States Survival Kit she made me, and you'll understand just how special she is.

A Care package from my friend, Care.
This is what she wrote:

States Survival Kit
  • Party Snacks Recipes - I know it's hard, but press in to new community--your life depends on it! (So HOST PARTIES!)

  •  Heart Bracelets - for those moments you miss your hondy students and want to dress like them.  


  • Celebration Candles - notice these are NOT birthday candles.  Find something to celebrate and then light these babies! 

  • Razzles - for you to smile when you're 30 :)

  • Batman Roller Stamps -  So you'll be a hit with new students.

  •  Thank You Cards - being grateful does wonders for your soul!

  • Love Cards - to keep and give as reminders

Now, Stay Alive!

Thank you, Caroline!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Happy Birthday - Bank

Dear Wells Fargo, 
Today I hated you.  I drove all over my side of Orlando, looking for an ATM (thanks for the check Grandma!), chasing misleading GPS directions to two incorrect locations until I dead-ended in the employees-only entrance of Lockheed Martin and had to ask the security guard for directions.  Wells Fargo, why do I have to pass approximately 14 banks before reaching one of yours?  I appreciate that you understood my frustrations and, when I finally made it to your downtown branch after dinner, wished me a happy birthday.  How very kind of you.  


The Birthday Girl

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Off the Radar

Hi friends.  Remember me?  I'm that girl who used to blog fairly regularly in Honduras... but has since lived a whirlwind of speedy, American life and hasn't had the time, or motivation... or something.... to keep people updated.  (I blame some of it on the Olympics).
Here is what's on my mind at the moment.

Everyone asks me if I miss Honduras.  They've asked since, like, Day 2 of returning to Florida.  So, sometimes, my answer was, "no."  Do you miss something you only just left?

Now, however, it's different.  It's August now.  I thought that the incredible blur of job hunting and finding, apartment hunting and renting, moving and decorating would mask all thoughts of going abroad.  But things have slowed down this week and last.  I can't go work in my classroom and I don't have enough money to go out and buy the things I want/need for the apartment (or my classroom).  So, perhaps for that reason, I'm dwelling on the fact that many of my friends are packing their 2 suitcases in order to head back for another year.  Some of them are going to teach my very own babies.

I want to take my mind off it by working, but I'm mysteriously not permitted to go to my classroom early.  I had a dream last night (one I have often before a new school year) that it was the first day of school and I had NOTHING ready.  yikes. So I fill my time on Pinterest and teacher blogs, filling up my brain with all kinds of to-do lists... but that ends up making me even more stressed out.
I've been making pennant banners to decorate
my classroom.  Useless?  Maybe.  Cute?  For sure!

Tomorrow is my birthday.  My last birthday in Florida was in 2008.  It feels weird.

And that is... the end.
 Sorry if it's a downer.

image credits go to,, and 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Love and an Author Letter!

Hello to whoever is out there reading my random posts.  You'll be pleased to know that I haven't had a meltdown since Friday.  I'm making progress and working on getting my ducks in a row for our move to Orlando and my new job.
Insurance forms, Experience Verification paperwork (to
send to two countries, banking information, OH MY.

On an unrelated note, I read a good book on my road trip. It was one I picked off the "new books" display shelf at the Library, called "Same Sun Here" by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.  

It's hard to tell if it's more of a children's or a young adult novel, but I'd say it's for the 10+ crowd.  I'm no good at book reviews or descriptions, so let me borrow the brief overview:  
In this extraordinary novel in two voices, an Indian immigrant girl in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner’s son find strength and perspective by sharing their true selves across the miles.
It's a pen-pal book, written entirely as letters from the Indian girl to the Kentuckian.  I've always loved books written as letters (i.e. Dear Mr. Henshaw, Love That Dog, etc...) and this was no different--I really loved it.  It helped that it has environmental activism, as well as immigration, as central themes.
Well, when I finished the book and read a bit more about the authors, I discovered that Silas House, the man who writes the Kentucky side of the story, lives and works in Berea, Kentucky--an Appalachian artisanal  town my family frequents when we visit our friends Lori and Mike. Since I thought that was a neat little connection, and I loved the book so much, I shot him a little e-mail.  And guess what?  He wrote back!  I just had to share:

Dear Tara,Thanks so much for your kind words.  If you ever decide to use SSH in class please let me know and I could Skype or visit your class.  There is a great printable discussion guide available online at .  Thanks again for picking up the book!
All best,Silas
I learned a valuable lesson--write authors!  I think that's my new motto.  :)  That's all for now.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Meltdowns and Promises

Something I should remember more often...

It has only been two days (and approximately four meltdowns) since we returned from our Tennessee-Kentucky-Pennsylvania-South Caroline-Georgia road trip, and already much has been accomplished.    Thursday and Friday were a whir of pre-employment orientation and apartment hunting.  As much as I'd like to say that all has been achieved in a calm, collected, and professional manner, it's simply untrue.  For easy reading, I decided to create a list of the meltdowns that took me through my Thursday and Friday as we began the process of establishing ourselves as Orlando residents. 

Tara's Meltdowns
listed chronologically

1.  PreEmployment Orientation meltdown (well... more like prolonged whining...) :
Did you know that some senate bill was passed recently which prohibits teachers with Masters degrees from earning more money unless her teaching certificate is specifically in what her Masters is in.  So, essentially this means that although my masters in Curriculum and Instruction (sp: Language Arts and Children's Literature) is directly related to teaching Elementary education, I will not be compensated for it.  I'm pretty furious, and expect to call everyone possible to see what can be done.  So, I actually did and learned a lot at the orientation meeting--but that's what stuck with me....

2.  "Oh-Lordy-Have-I-Acted-Too-Soon?: Meltdown :
Daniel and Mom came to Orlando with me on Thursday and spent my orientation time driving around apartment-hunting.  Afterwards, while waiting for Mom to finish up at a doctor's appointment, I got a call from another Orlando school asking if I wanted to interview; to which I had to respond that I'd already accepted another position.  The meltdown happened when I went home and realized that the school that called me was the technology rich, high ranking, dual-language (only 1 of 2 in the county), A school that I'd really hoped to work at.  When we got home that night I literally had a physical reaction to the anxiety I felt about having potentially accepted too soon and stuck myself into something I might regret. After my clamminess subsided and my jello legs firmed up, and I really gave in to prayer, I remembered that my God gave me peace about accepting my first offer.  He also gave me a passionate desire to serve those in need while living in the U.S., and the job I work at will give me daily opportunities to do so.  Oh how quickly I forget.

3. "I-Miss-My-Babies" Meltdown :
On Friday, Daniel and I drove back to Orlando to see an apartment we were interested in.  On the way there, a song came on the radio that my students from last year sang at the Father's Day program.  When I mentioned that to my Oh-So-Sensitive husband, he made what he thought was a funny remark about them being my "ex-students."  You should have seen me.  It was like he released a month of built up tears and pent up grief that I hadn't let flow.  I sobbed like a baby right there amidst the I-4 traffic, and I couldn't stop.  I actually want to cry right now, thinking about it.  I sometimes hate the idea of teaching third grade again this year because I know it won't be them.
Easier said than done, doc.
4.  "Oh-Lordy-Have-I-Acted-Too-Soon?: Meltdown Number Two :
Without going into all the details of our exhausting apartment search, I'll say that we ended up signing a lease with the very last place we visited.  We gave up our desire to have a first floor apartment (we had hoped to move in mom's piano), for a second-floor apartment with a much nicer interior than any we'd seen so far.  Having lost all of my checks to the black hole (i.e. the storage unit all of my belongings ended up in while I was in Honduras this past year), we had to leave to get a money order to pay the application fee.  Once I left, I freaked out and thought we'd made a terrible decision with the second floor unit.  All I could think about were the hundreds of other apartments we hadn't been able to see--what if there was some undiscovered gem out there?  I feared we had rushed into it.  I cried after the dumb 7-11 ATM rejected my card because I'd inserted it incorrectly three times.  And I was blessedly reminded that I've got a husband now and I don't have to make al the decisions alone.  He felt very comfortable and pleased with our choice, and his excitement helped me perk up a bit.

I can't believe how incredibly packed and non-stop my time in the States has been so far.  It's hard because when I get caught up in all of it, I forget to stop and breath and remember my God and all that he's promised me.  He promises that he knows the plans he has for me; he promises to stay with me, to strengthen me, to give me rest. He promises to satisfy my needs.  And, best of all, he promises to fill me with a divine peace that is beyond all understanding.  Enough with the meltdowns.  It's time I started clinging to the promises.

images found on

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

independence day

Some reasons I am grateful for America on her birthday:

Thank you for:

Law Enforcement
Well Maintained Roads
Good Education
Freedom to Worship
Free refills

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home, Sweet Home

We're "home"!
So much has happened since we left Honduras on Sunday, so I'm going to try to make this a brief catch-up post.  Here you go:

Easy Travel
I pictured something more like this....
We were warned that, due to Daniel's visa status and the need to have a meeting upon arrival in the States, we could be in customs for hours and hours.  We purposely bought a ticket with Copa Airlines because it allowed us clear customs in Orlando, and not worry about making a connecting flight.  But it did not take hours.  Not even one!  Exactly one hour after our plane touched the ground, we were done with the "meeting" and had luggage in hand.  Thanks, God!

Real Life

On Monday, our first day back, I lined up a job interview with a school that had called me a couple weeks ago (on my U.S. phone...).  Then we went to the bank to change my name (Espinoza!!) and get Daniel a bank account. After that we headed to the Social Security Office and changed my name once again. Other events included buying a shirt to wear to interview and visiting family.

First this....

Then this.....
I wore similar pieces to my interview...
But I'd have LOVED that red bag!
Tuesday started with me taking my car in to get it's oil changed and tires checked before I drove out to Orlando for my job interview.  It turned out that my radiator was leaking and they fixed it (quickly, thank the lord) (for half a month's pay in Honduras).

My interview was at a school that initially scared me, but later inspired me.  It is in a poor, transient community, in which I saw no white people before entering the school.  The top languages spoken are Spanish and Creole, and 100% of the students qualify for free breakfast and lunch.  That's a Title I school if I've ever seen one.  They also have bilingual and ESOL sheltered classes.  It's a very neat place.  I left with positive comments about my interviewing skills and a promising request not to accept any other job offers before hearing back from them.
But then I heard back from a school I deemed my "dream school."  The principal let me know that a fourth grade position would be posted soon and that I should apply!  Awesome, right??  Only downside... it's not in Orlando, where Daniel can potentially find employment.  It's in the Sebastian/Vero area (actually called Fellsmere), where we have yet to find anything that Daniel could do.  Why, oh why??  I applied anyways, and will interview anyways, and will pray pray pray that God directs us to the right place.

Images from Wikipedia and Pinterest

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Serve God, Save the Planet"
This is the month of take-action books for me.   All borrowed from my lovely friend, Twana.  The latest book is called, Serve God, Save the Planet, by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD.

Having read several environmentally-focused books, I will admit that this one is not my favorite in terms of juicy, eye-opening content. However, the Christian tilt of this  particular "save the planet" book is exciting.  What I've always believed--that if God created birds and trees and water and nature, then surely he wants us to protect it--is explicit in this book, and is backed with scientific reinforcement.

Another reason this book is different from others I've read, is that the author is a medical doctor.  His background in medicine allows him to offer not only the global and societal reasons for leading an environmental responsible lifestyle, but health reasons as well (such as the incredible recent increase in asthma and cancers).

I like how this author contradicts common Christian debates to environmentalism.  Many Christians argue that it's our duty to take care of people, not animals.  Many Christians believe that since Christ is coming back, the earth will be made perfect soon enough (so, essentially, we can do with it what we want now...).  But Sleeth says, "Being pro-stewardship is not a case of valuing forests more than people; rather, it means valuing human possessions less, and God's world more." (p. 35)

This is what I needed to hear as I pack up and prepare to return to Florida.  I constantly have to remind myself that I have a sin nature--one that is obsessed with consumerism when left unchecked.  As I donate most of my clothes here, my mind wanders to the new clothes I hope to fill my closet with.  As I hung the laundry out to dry this morning, I automatically thought about the ease of owning a dryer soon (instead of thinking about the money and energy saved without one!).  Twenty times a day I ponder how much better life will be when I have __x,y,or z _.   I hate that.  I don't want to be that person.  Instead, I want to live a radically simple life in order to better serve those God loves.  If my energy bill is half as expensive as everyone else, that means more money to potentially give away.  It also means taking care of people's health.  Take a look:  "If every household changed its five most used bulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, the country could take twenty-one coal-fired power plants off-line tomorrow."  Isn't that insane??  And that's just America.
A compact fluorescent lamp for general or home use
A compact fluorescent bulb
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are so many quotes I'd like to share here, but I don't even know if that's legal.  Here's just a bit more...

You probably know I gave up all meat (except for seafood) over five years ago for environmental and health reasons (the final decision came after I read The Omnivore's Dilemma.)  Even though I knew that my one small, insignificant decision not to eat what most other people do eat wouldn't change anything in the grand scheme of things, I knew that I just couldn't, in good conscience, buy into a product I so wholly disagreed with.  However, the food chapter in Sleeth's book enlightened me to the fact that our decisions about what we eat in America can directly, negatively affect the lives of others.
Check it out:
Sleeth starts by explaining how much of America's beef comes from Central and South American cattle farms, which clear large forests in order to contain so much cattle. "The loss of rain forests in South America means that the clouds they once made no longer blow across the Atlantic to drop their water on Africa.  As a result, the Sahara grows by the thousands of acres a year. What is the bottom line for Africans?  More starvation.  And the bottom line for Americans?  Cheap burgers and growing waistlines."  (p. 133)
World map depicting Africa Esperanto: Mondmapo...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We might think that by recycling, buying "green" products, and remembering to unplug our chargers means that we are doing our part to help the planet.  But what do all of those actions have in common?  They all are about acquiring and consuming.  I'm utterly convinced that caring about the environment and wanting to see change is all about buying less, and not about what we buy or what we do with it after it's ours.  We are brainwashed as Americans to believe that we need so much.  But we just don't.

"A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated 
in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash 
and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand." 
- Dorothy Sayers

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."  Psalm 24:1

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