Lakeland Writer Daphne Tarango by Donna Kelly

Lakeland Writer Daphne Tarango: Journaling Through the Seasons
By Donna Kelly

Forget the lemonade. Daphne Tarango has a better idea of what to do when life hands you lemons.

Pick up a pen.

A former consumer research analyst, Tarango turned to her life-long love of writing and began journaling several years ago to help her cope with several of life’s more sour realities – separation and divorce, chronic pain, a need to please others, and debilitating perfectionism.

Today she is not only a published author and sought after inspirational speaker, but a happily married mom of three adopted children. She is also the president and co-founder of Lakeland Christian Writers, an affiliate of American Christian Writers.

Tarango is the person she is today, she says, because of her faith, the support of family and friends, 12-step recovery programs, and journaling her thoughts.

“When I started to be more thankful for the things that happen, even the negative things, I started to see things differently,” says Tarango.

She began sharing her story on her website,, and in such publications as “Mentoring Moments for Christian Woman,” “Inspired Women Magazine,” “Ruby for Women,” “The Gabriel,” and “Living Better 50+.”

Last year, Tarango wrote and published, “Dragonflies, Ketchup, and Late Night Phone Calls: 31 Days of Journaling God’s Blessings,” a book based on her experiences and her own journaling practices. She chose the title to reflect her gratitude for everything in her life. The 143-page book walks the reader through the journaling process for approximately a month. Each chapter offers a day of journaling inspiration, including:

• A bible verse about thankfulness

• A general prayer about thankfulness

• Spaces to note specific blessings at different times of day

• A notes page for extra writing

• An inspirational quote from a well-known person

“I hope to help someone else through a difficult season,” she says. “I’m an inspirational writer and an encourager.”

About those lemons

Attractive, vivacious, and driven to succeed, Tarango was born 37 years ago in Bronx, N.Y. and moved to Tampa when she was in third grade. Although she grew up in a loving Christian family, Tarango developed a strong need to prove herself. On her website, she writes candidly about her insecurities and publicly traces them to childhood, when she felt uncomfortable around lighter skinned relatives, transferring to a different school each year, and dealing with her mother’s battle with cancer.

She became a performance-driven perfectionist. Married at age 20, Tarango earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee and a Master of Arts degree in mass communications from the University of Florida.

Tarango was close to finishing a doctorate when her house of cards fell. Her husband asked for a divorce. She floundered and battled depression, eventually letting go of her doctorate program as she fell behind in her studies.

In attempt to begin understanding her emotions, Tarango returned to an outlet she first discovered as a child: She began journaling her thoughts. “It was my therapy,” she says. “I had so much inside of me that it was a good way to empty my feelings,” she says.

Healing began when she moved to Lakeland to take a job as a research analyst with Publix. Tarango found satisfaction in her job, a sense of belonging and a church home at First Baptist Church at the Mall, and self growth through 12-step programs. Now she leads these programs and writes about them for several different publications.

In 2012, her life changed again when she married Luis Tarango. Before celebrating their first anniversary, they instantly went from being childless newlyweds to parents of three adopted children – two boys and a girl – between the ages of 5 and 9. “It’s not what we expected, but God had other plans,” she says. “We’ve had a crash course in parenting.”

But Tarango soon learned that even positive life changes present challenges. “I was enjoying my work as a research analyst but I wasn’t seeing the kids as much as I wanted to.”

Their finances took a hit when she left her job, but smart planning and penny pinching enabled the family to manage just fine – until Luis was laid off from his job as a pipe fitter.

Recharging with gratitude

Although happily married and thrilled with her new family, stress began to take its toll. To make ends meet, her husband took temporary work out of state when available. She battled flare ups of chronic neck and back pain and fibromyalgia while taking care of her children. And she missed Luis.

“It’s hard. It’s difficult to drive around, to go to church, the grocery store,” she says.

She began journaling again and it helped her sort out her feelings. Her journaling became focused on gratitude when her friend, Terry Capps, mentioned keeping a journal of three things she gives thanks for each day.  I thought I needed to start focusing on the good things again. When you are going through trying times, you need to look at things differently and see the little important things,” says Tarango. “Terry planted that seed.”

And it not only grew into a healthy personal habit but blossomed into a way to help others.

Capps, a 52-year-old software tester, says “Dragonflies, Ketchup & Late-Night Phone Calls: 31 Days of Journaling God’s Blessings” is different from most inspirational books. “You get to learn about Daphne’s life and journey, which provides encouragement, as well as the devotional part of it,” says Capps, who describes her friend as a very sweet, intelligent, and outgoing person. “There’s the journaling and then there’s also the encouraging part that comes from her story.”

The book, says Capps, offers inspiration for those who are experienced and beginners at journaling.  “It could be a really good introduction to journaling to get them in the habit,” she says. “I like to try anything possible to get anybody into journaling because it makes such a difference.”

Novice writer Pam Fuller admires Tarango’s transparency in her books and on the website. “She’s real. She’s going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about herself. She doesn’t hold back from the ups and downs of life and how God has carried her through,” says Fuller, who co-founded the Lakeland Christian Writers group. “What you see on paper – that is her. She did not floss it up and make it pretty just for the editor. That is the essence of her.”

Fuller stresses the healing power of sharing the hardships of life with others and this is what enables Tarango to be so forthcoming in her writing. “It is a conduit for healing. When you have been healed and are still walking through difficulties and circumstances, sharing your story helps you and it helps others, and it solidifies your relationship with Christ,” she says.

Although her husband is still not employed full-time and she still battles health issues, Tarango practices what she teaches. She’s thankful for her parents, who moved close by and spend time with their grandchildren, and the support of her in-laws. She’s grateful when she fixes dinner, leads her writer’s group, spends time with friends. “We’re meant to support each other. When you don’t have that support system, it’s difficult dealing with things on your own,” she says.

And she’s grateful to be a help and inspiration to others.

“When I started to be more thankful for the things that happen, even the negative things, I figured other people needed that help and a little guidance getting through the tough times,” she says. “I’m comforted to give comfort to others.”