My Little Brother

This is entry No. 5 from the Tributes series, Father’s Day Edition.

It is 7:00 PM on Father’s Day. We’ve had a nice day celebrating as a family. Now, Juan is taking a nap and the kids are hanging out at the coffee shop, and all I’m burdened to do is write about this incredible man: my little brother.

As children, we were very distinct and independent. We enjoyed different things; we processed information differently; we dealt with life issues differently. We were not the closest of siblings, but were not indifferent to each other either. I loved playing my guitar and singing, while he spent hours on end flying pretend airplanes. I stayed indoors and played board games by myself while he preferred riding his bike with his friends. We grew apart during our teenage years, especially as I moved out of our home, came to the States, and enrolled in college. Not too long after that I was a married woman while he was in high school, and our priorities and paths of life looked drastically different. But I loved him deeply and he loved me.

I am so delighted to see the adult my brother has become. My heart beams with pride, for he is truly an amazing person. When we moved to the United States (he came a year after I did), we had nothing. My parents had lost their business and we had no possessions or money. My brother arrived in Florida knowing very little English and signed up in a public high school. It was a sink or swim type of situation. And he swam. He really, really swam. He got a job as a busboy and later became a very good server. He waited tables while attending college. He worked hard, saved money, and became very business savvy. He graduated, bought a house, got married, and had beautiful babies. He is now a very successful executive and works extremely hard for the good of his family. He is determined, hard-working, ambitious, and steadfast. I admire these qualities in him.

My brother loves his family. He is a committed husband and father, not only wishing their well being, but working hard to attain it. He values time with them, he knows their struggles, he helps them the best way he can, and he would unreservedly lay down his life for his wife and his kids, if necessary. Carla is an amazing woman and his children are fabulous humans; a testament to the love and dedication he has for them. He is also a good, faithful, and fun-loving friend. He continues friendships he started when he was a child, and his friends know they can count on him if they need him.

Peter is the most competitive person I know. He hates to lose. I am competitive as well, so our card or board games can get pretty heated and often times highly entertaining. But aside from the desire to win in trivial activities, my brother possesses an un-quenching desire to do things well and fully. He likes to live life to the fullest and with no regrets.

I love my brother and I know he loves me. If and when I’m in trouble, I want him by my side, because he has my back. Even though our lives have looked and felt very differently for many years, I know that age, experiences, and relationships have unified our priorities and goals in life. Despite our heated games and conversations (which we are learning to laugh at more and more), the truth is that I love spending time with him and his beautiful family. The single, hardest part, for me, about moving to VA, has been missing spending time with him and the Vargas clan.

Thank you, God, for giving me my brother. It is truly a gift from you.

Wasn't he a total cutie?

Wasn’t he a total cutie?

Oh his plane, with Lizette in the back seat

Oh his plane, with Lizette in the back seat

A die hard Ecuadorian fan

A die hard Ecuadorian fan

Clearly he won and Juan lost

Clearly he won and Juan lost



The clan at Jamestown

The clan at Jamestown

For Laura

Entry No. 4 from the Tributes Series

I have so much to say about my dear friend, Laura. I’m having a hard time condensing it all into one reasonable post. She is just that amazing!

I met Laura many years ago through homeschooling. She was the one who introduced our family to speech and debate, which ended up becoming a huge part of our lives. Laura is persistent and persuasive when she really believes in something; Thus, she insisted that we attend a conference. We did, and the rest is history.

Laura is one of those women who seems to know everyone and loves to connect people with people, as well as people with causes. I discovered this early on in our relationship, so whenever I organized a speech and debate tournament, I delegated all the PR to Laura. Let me tell you, no one can recruit judges like Laura can! The politicians who came to her door promoting themselves for the next elections, had no idea they would end up judging a round of debate the next day. But she had her way of persuading them, and sure enough our beginner debaters were being adjudicated by congressmen and mayors!

Laura has strong convictions and pours herself out wholeheartedly for the things she believes in. She is a strong believer and loves Jesus passionately. She believes that the Gospel saves and that people need to hear it. She unashamedly pursues unbelievers in order to share her faith with them. She was a missionary in Guatemala many moons ago, and now a missionary in her own city. I just love that about her.

Her love and service of others is simply outstanding. Yes, she is a loving mom and a wonderful wife, but more than that, she befriends anyone in need of friendship and nurses anyone needing care (oh yeah, I didn’t mention she is actually a nurse and she has helped me a bijillion times with all my health consultations 😉 )

If I ever need a friend, I know Laura is just a text away! She will lend me a listening ear, and she will also tell me her opinion plainly and simply. She’s a no-nonsense, down to earth counselor, and she’s not afraid to speak the truth. Her love is evident, and she follows through with much grace.

Laura endures hardship with strength and optimism. Auto-immune disease, loss of job, career change, and other difficulties she face are not enough to sway her from her steadfast joy and hope in her God. She doesn’t crumble under pressure but becomes a problem solver. She is not only self-motivated, but creative and resourceful. And when she finds something good, she gets everybody to join her! She can’t eat wheat. No problem! She finds a million recipes for delicious gluten-free foods. She discovers a fun way to exercise and soon enough her entire neighborhood joins Zumba classes. She can’t practice nursing any more, so she becomes a great salesperson (something she thought she would never be able to do) and she recruits like a pro! And hey, why not do some Uber driving on the side?

I admire you, Laura. I deeply appreciate your friendship and I love you very much. When we are old and… OK, I was going to say wrinkled, but with that Nerium you sell, that may never happen to you ;). Anyway, when we are really old, let’s move to the same community (Cristen, Leslie, and Carmen, you come too!). You can make your amazing chips and salsa, we can go to adapted Zumba-with-walkers classes or stroll together every morning, like we used to do at the lake, except a lot slower. Then we can visit in the afternoons and I can help you practice Spanish so you don’t forget it. Our kids all love each other, so when all 7 visit, we can have parties with lots of Ecuadorian/Guatemalan/Japanese/Cuban/gluten-free food. It will be a blast, I tell you 🙂

2 years ago when she visited me in RVA and we went to Maymont

2 years ago when she visited me in RVA and we went to Maymont

At Les Miserables :)

At Les Miserables 🙂

Laura with her man :)

Laura with her man, at my house, in some sort of a party…

Laura and Cristen cleaning the house I was moving into

Laura and Cristen cleaning the house I was moving into


Ode to Joy

A friend on Facebook shared how she is going to pay tribute to meaningful people in her life, not after they die, but while they are still alive. I deeply appreciate this reminder to give words of gratitude and encouragement to those who have blessed me throughout my life. Therefore, I am purposing to write a tribute a week. If I keep up with this goal, I will have expressed my appreciation to 52 of the amazing people in my life, by this time next year 🙂

The first person I have decided to pay tribute to is my friend Joy Osborn. She is my boss. And she is a keeper.

Joy is enthusiastic, and her energy and positive attitude are infectious. In spite of pregnancies and babies, Joy doesn’t skip a beat. She compliments me every time I wear my yellow jeans and she answers my emails at 2:00 AM (I mean, really, does anyone else have a boss who does that)? She greets me with a smile every time I see her in class and her bit of sarcasm suits me well ;). She wears miss-matched socks to camp, comes up with crazy games for the kids, and bends over backwards to make sure everything is well planned and delivered. Joy has helped me when I didn’t know what to do, covered for me when I dropped the ball, and even sewn costumes for my students… because God knows that me and the sewing machine do not get along all that great.

Thank you, Joy, for your love for God, your commitment to integrity, and your passionate dedication to your job and the people in it. You have influenced me way more than you probably are aware you have. In fact, I have subconsciously adopted your way of communicating, by often ending my sentences with “You know what I mean?”

I’m gonna miss you when you move away. If it weren’t because your equally awesome husband is waiting for you elsewhere, I would try to sabotage your departure…. somehow.

I couldn’t find a picture of you and me, but I did find this one from the day you made your way into the hair and makeup room to help with Elise’s “White Witch” hair extensions.

This is not my picture, but has been all over the internet. I just “borrowed” it from you, Joy lol. This picture says it all!