His, Hers and Ours

Our Favorite Spot: Islamorada

If you are going to follow the adventure of two people and their dog, you likely want to know about those people and not just the superficial side you see everyday – the real people and how we got to where we are.

His Story

My life began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, moving to Marathon, Florida and on to Delray Beach with college stopovers in Greenville, SC, Gainesville, FL, Columbia, SC and ultimately back to the state of Florida for full time employment.

 

That is where time has taken me but that's not my story. Mine can be summed up in three words- redemption and second chances.

 

After a typical childhood and a fairly successful college freshman year of cross country and track I decided I had enough of running after just three short years. I left Furman University and transferred to the University of Florida. From there and through graduate school at USC, I found meaningless relationships along with drugs and alcohol to be the main focus of my life. That quickly spiraled downhill and on September 6, 1988 following yet another night of partying until all hours, I checked myself into a treatment center for my addictions. By the grace of God I just celebrated 28 years of sobriety prior to leaving on this trip. 

 

Sobriety has been a blessing but it didn't correct all of my character flaws. I still had much work to do. Three years after starting recovery I found myself married and soon to be a father. I love being a father to my son, Ashton. We have a tremendous relationship. Unfortunately, the marriage to his mother wasn't as successful and ended in divorce. 

 

Two years later I walked into one of my cardiology offices and met a woman who would change my life and give me another second chance. This time it would be the ability to have a successful and thriving marriage. I've truly learned about selflessness and commitment to making that person feel loved and protected while filling the voids in your own life with their strengths.

 

The love of running that flamed out after my freshman year in college was reignited in 2011 after Sonya began running and ran her first race. That pilot light has not gone out since. So, again I have a second chance; this time to perform in a sport that had been very good to me early in my life by competing in the masters division (not all sports have a masters division). So, the new chapter begins with us taking a cross country trip to three classic running Mecca’s in the western United States (complete diary of trip found under the "More" tab). I couldn't imagine this adventure four years ago and now the reality is here and I get to enjoy it with my best friend in life - A life that isn't perfect but is in progress. 

My faith which has always been there but has only blossomed in the past several years, again largely urged on by Sonya, has taught me that we all for short but we can be redeemed and He will give us a second chance. I hope that His love for me shows in my actions to be better as a person and how I treat and love others. I couldn't imagine my life without Sonya and without Jesus. I have truly been blessed by His redemption and the second chances he has afforded me. Onward we go. 

 

 

 

Her Story

I was born and raised in New Orleans, where my parents lived for 26 years. I grew up in a Christian home, active in youth group and attended a small private Christian School, Clifton L Ganus, which was sadly lost in Katrina. Most of the other side of my mom’s family lived (and still lives) in West Monroe, LA. I was truly raised by a southern mom, who followed the “southern handbook” closely. She was a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) who maintained a very clean and structured home. I said “yes mam and no mam”, rarely wore pants (an ironed dress was preferable), no white after Labor Day and faithfully attended church every time the doors opened! I was an only child until the age of 8 when my parents made the decision to adopt my brother, Damien. Wow! What a life-changing event! He had been severely abused for the first 18 months of his life but by God’s plan, my mom found her way to him. My parents knew there would be some underlying disabilities but the extent would not be known until later years. He was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome and finally Asperger’s autism. Years ago autism was a rare disease with very few treatment options – but that did not stop Sherry Miller (mom!). She home-schooled him, brought in speech therapy, physical therapy and learned from them so his therapy could be given many hours per day. She taught him social skills – standing in a line, shaking someone’s hand, waiting patiently at a restaurant. He is now 37 years old and volunteers at St. Francis hospital everyday and 2 years ago was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the state of Louisiana. He is an amazing man. He is witty, extremely intelligent, knows every song ever written, knows every part of every motorcycle every built and most importantly really sees people for their inner qualities. No one is abnormal or old or weird in his eyes – he just loves everyone, a true example of Christ’s love. 

I was blessed with a good mind and organizational skills which helped me excel in school, along with amazing teachers who prepared me for college. I attended Harding University initially but then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi when my parents made the decision to relocate to Hattiesburg, MS. This is where my story gets interesting, or maybe sad... it depends on your perspective! When you are 20 years old you know everything… and I thought I was raised by strict parents and it was time I lived a little. Despite my strong Christian roots, I found it very easy to dismiss God, because after all, how much fun can a Christian girl have at a state school? God was not tangible, seemed unneeded and served no purpose for me, so I left him in my past and partied on!! When you don’t have a captain of your ship, bad decisions tend to be made and you tend to steer right into the storms. I did a lot of partying, but amazingly kept an “A” average in undergraduate school, with plans to apply and attend medical school (this was always my plan since about the age of 5… now you see what type of focused personality I was blessed with). I had a boyfriend the 4 years I attended USM, who was fun, charismatic, and president of his fraternity, but really had no future or plans for the future. I planned to say “good-bye” when I moved away to attend med school. Now with that being said, it appears he wasn’t a “serious” boyfriend for me, but our relationship existed as if it was serious and bad decisions were made. Suddenly my life changed forever…it wasn’t a stomach virus, it wasn’t food poisoning – I was pregnant. How did this happen? I had plans, specific plans – how do I attend med school now? Do I really want my boyfriend to be my child’s father? Guess I should have thought about all those things in the beginning! But the real issue was how to tell my parents that I was going to be an unwed mother? I sat in my car in the parking lot of the local abortion clinic to think these things through – this was one of the lowest points in my life; pregnant, without God, rebellious and utterly lost. In my 5th month, I developed the courage to face my mom. That drive to their house was the longest 10 minutes EVER! I had practiced what I was going to say and I was ready, or so I thought. When I walked into the kitchen, my mother started crying and I just knew somehow she had found out, but instead she announced that she and my father was divorcing after 32 years of marriage. It was not the right time to drop my bomb! My parents divorced in February 1995 and I finally announced my pregnancy shortly after that, with Kristyn being born in June 1995. 

Kristyn’s birth changed me – truly changed me in a way that I have a hard time putting into words. Even though I left God, he never left me. I now see his perfect plan even through what appeared to be a sad, hopeless situation. I was now a mother, responsible for this little life that God allowed into my life. I came home from the hospital and dropped to my knees with fear, remorse and a humble spirit asking for God’s forgiveness and to please become the captain of my ship. The rest of my story can only be the work of God, I promise you can’t hear my story and not believe that something greater was at work than anything humanly possible. Single, with a newborn, my hopes of medical school vanished. I sat with an advisor, sobbing, as I said over and over “what am I going to do?” The field of nursing was suggested, but I just couldn’t envision myself in that role – I wanted independence, ability to make decisions and use my skills to develop a patient’s plan of care, not follow someone else’s plan! Applying to a nurse practitioner program was suggested – I knew nothing about this role, but with the word “nursing” I knew it wasn’t for me, but I was urged (a small voice, the right guidance counselor, GOD) to give it a try and felt compelled to follow. Two weeks later I was moving to Birmingham, AL, alone with a baby because I had been given immediate acceptance to the BSN program at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. I will never forget, truly never forget how this molded my life views and my faith in God.

Our first Sunday in Birmingham, I walked into the door of Homewood Church of Christ and forever changed. Two women met me at the door and immediately offered to take the baby to the nursery so I could just “rest and enjoy the service”. Not once did they ever look upon me with judgment, they immediately loved me. I soon became part of a family group in that church with couples that took care of Kristyn and me over the next few years. The struggle was real, I had to work, attend school full-time and take care of a baby. Money was more than tight and some days I found myself watering down the milk to make it to the next payday when I could buy more. Now here is the God part – never once did we do without. When I wondered what we would do about food, someone from church would call and invite us over for dinner. When I was struggling with bills one month (which was not public knowledge), one of the families at church paid for our electricity bill “just because I felt compelled to do something for you and your daughter”. The church daycare allowed Kristyn to attend for a reduced rate and women always volunteered to babysit if needed. I graduated from UAB in 1998 and applied for early acceptance to Samford University to begin my MSN degree and complete the nurse practitioner program. I was told “no one” gets accepted to the program until they have worked at least a year. Honestly, I didn’t have a year, I needed to begin providing for Kristyn, but I did start working right after graduation as a RN in the cardiac cath lab, which is how I found my passion for cardiology (by the way I started as the unit secretary and my boss believed in me so much, she “made jobs” for me so I could work and finish nursing school). I began to pray about this next stage in life and Samford granted me early acceptance (remember, “no one” gets early acceptance – coincidence? No, God) and I started the program just 3 months after graduating from nursing school! The next years of life consisted of working, school and clinical rotations at night with about 2-4 hours of sleep each day, sometimes I would go as much as 48 hours without sleep. Only God giving me strength those years can explain how it was possible! Close to time of graduation from Samford, my close friend Beth McDowell chatted with me about relocating to Florida so our girls could grow-up with each other. Sounded perfect- I had always wanted to live near the beach, Kristyn loved the water and having a close family friend near was icing on the cake! The only problem was there were no job openings anywhere in Tequesta or surrounding area for a nurse practitioner without experience. Beth faxed me a copy of a page in the phone book that listed cardiology offices in the area and I made a call to Stuart Cardiology Group and inquired if they were possibly looking for a nurse practitioner and explained my cardiac background. It was a pleasant call, but I was informed no openings at that time. About 2 days later the office manager called back and said the doctors have decided that a second NP would be a good idea for the practice and asked if I was still interested. Of course!! I had a phone interview and was offered the job! Now where to live? My friend Beth located a beautiful townhome for rent in about 24 hours – looks like I was moving to Palm City, FL! I graduated in May 2001 and started with Stuart Cardiology Group in July 2001, where I still work to this day! This is where God gets really good – he sustained me through undergraduate and graduate school, and placed a job in my path all to get me ready for the second most amazing blessing in my life. God had a plan, He knew what we needed and He provided. My second or third week in the office, I met a pharmaceutical representative, who introduced himself as the contact for Merck pharmaceuticals and welcomed me to the practice and invited me to an educational dinner. Mike Fronsoe was the sweetest, kindest, most sincere man I had ever met. Our friendship developed over the next few months and this is where my story turns to our story.

 

Our Story

Our marriage mission statement: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Mike and I developed a close friendship, spending time talking about our children, hobbies and our Christianity. However, I was homesick for the South, I missed my family and I missed Birmingham where I left a dear friend, Amanda. I was considering moving back. I discussed this with Mike and what do you know? He finally asked me out on a date! Our first date consisted of him meeting me and Kristyn at the movies to see “Sweet Home Alabama”, followed by sitting at the kiddies’ tables talking while Kristyn read books in the children’s section of Books-A-Million. This was followed by many more dates, some romantic, some consisting of concession stand food at the baseball field (he was Little League President when we met) and many hours on the boat! We learned about each other’s “baggage” and it was still okay! We grew closer romantically but also over that first couple of years we also grew in our Christian faith, which truly solidified our bond and I had no doubt I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man. Unfortunately, Mike didn’t seem as sure. He is a very selfless man, always thinking of others and he feared how our children would react in a blended family, he was concerned about my feeling burdened with us needing to care for his terminally ill mom or if he was “marriage material” given that he had already experienced a failed marriage. He assured me that he loved me and could only see me in his future, but that where we came to a halt! I waited, but lost patience and decided that if he couldn’t commit then maybe we needed to move on. Then it happened…we attended a Kenney Chesney concert for our birthdays, taking a limo down to the concert. Both of our children were placed in our lives unplanned, so we always shared how this impacted our choices and shaped our adult years. We both really connected to the song “There Goes My Life”. During that song at the concert, he presented me with the most gorgeous engagement ring and of course I said “yes”. We married on a boat, with a dinner cruise as our reception and had a story-book honeymoon in St Lucia, followed by a few days with the kids in Atlantis to begin blending our families. Let me stop here- thus far this sound like a perfect, FaceBook story, painting the picture of roses and smiles – don’t be fooled! Blending our families was a difficult road to travel and still presents with many hurdles, but we are committed and know that an example of a Christian marriage, based on a life-long commitment no matter what crosses our path is what our children need to witness. 

After a few years of being married, Mike had really come to dislike my sleeping habits, or lack of! The years spent as a working, single mom in school helped me develop the need for very little sleep, so I had trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, going back to sleep – actually just sleeping at all! I had taken medication nightly for about 8 years and it was time to make a change! I also developed very bad eating habits that consisted of 4-5 Mountain Dews per day, Snickers candy bars for lunch and little appetite for dinner! I met with a physician who declared that it was time to make a change – so he suggested I start exercising, namely running! Was he nuts? We live in Florida and its 100 degrees; I’m not a big fan of sweating and running seemed like the worst choice! Amy Eversole was also a driving force to start running – she had been running for years and was part of a running group that she was always saying “You would love it, start running with us.” So I started running. Day one was a nightmare – by the time I reached the end of the street, I knew I would need the assistance of EMS. Mike, however, had a strong running background (college scholarship for cross country, running a 5K in 15:15, yep that’s 3.1 miles in 15 minutes) but had an injury a few years prior, lost motivation and left the sport of running. Mike motivated me, pushed me and cheered me on, so I kept running. It became a need for me – a time of focus, anxiety relief, prayer/worship and planning what I would label/organize in the house next. My sleep miraculously improved and I no longer needed medication. Now that I was a “serious” runner (meaning I could run 3-4 miles straight without feeling near-death) I needed to also feed a runner’s body with nutritious food, not snickers and Mountain Dew so I also began drastically changing my eating habits. I also set a goal and ran my 1st race, a local 10K, Cherish Life, and was then hooked. As Mike stood on the sidelines of my new found hobby, his inner soul longed to hit the pavement again, and so he did! Mike returned to the sport he once left and this opened a new door in our lives. We began running together and this brought our relationship to a completely different level. Mike renewed friendships with old college buddies, we developed new friendships and we became each other’s cheerleaders! I have now completed 3 marathons, numerous half marathons, and created an amazing bond with a group of women (known as Team Tutu, or The Tutus). Mike battled some nagging injuries in the first 1-2 years but remained focus and has now found his “sweet spot”!

To an outsider reading this post or someone from the outside looking in, running may just seem like exercise, but it is so NOT! It was the seed that turned into the reality of an amazing RV adventue…visiting the running Mecca’s of Boulder, Eugene, Portland and Flagstaff. Running creates friendships, builds community, strengthens a relationship and of course, improves your health. Running has been the catalyst for Mike and me to seek new adventures and push ourselves to new goals. Running has been my “salvation” over the past few years when life storms began to blow hard – hitting the pavement (in a cute outfit) can give you a whole new perspective on life.

Over our 11 years of marriage, God has also grown us in many ways. Together we realized that doing life wasn’t about our career or getting “stuff” but about our relationship with God and where we wanted to be when this life ends. We made a decision that we wanted to live a life of generosity, kindness and love, just as Christ would want of us. Mike really grew in his faith and actually stepped out of his comfort zone and became a Sunday school teacher for our adult bible class – he is amazing! Our family life group has really been blessed by his leadership. I say all this to really say, life in our house is joyful, but not always happy, and far from perfect, but God has provided some life lessons these past years that have forced us to trust Him 100% and stay in prayer with Him. I have studied more and prayed more these past 3 years, with God looking down in love, saying “I needed you to trust me and get to know me, so you could truly see my greatness in every stage of life.” Our daughter, Kristyn, has struggled and continues to struggle with the demon of addiction – this is a painful, destructive force for any family. Her addiction has resulted in many hard life lessons and physical scars. Only God could have given us the peace and the hope through some of the darker days. Our marriage could have easily crumbled and Kristyn was saved too many times to count from possible situations that could have ended in death. Ashton had four very successful years of college baseball. That unfortunately ended and since then life has been a day to day struggle for him to find purpose. Even in the storms, we realized He is good all the time. He has a plan. We believe is his timing, trust Him and know what the human eye perceives as failure, is the potter creating a beautiful masterpiece. Isaiah 43:2 and Psalm 27:14 have become our themes. 

So we set out on a 30-day journey in September 2016 that had been in development for two years. We realized life was too short with no promise of tomorrow. The journey was also the catalyst for our new life-plan to own a running store! We were convicted to begin living for today, instead of constantly making future plans. The door was opened to go out and experience God at his fullest! We encountered some amazing, beautiful scenery and enjoyed running on healthy legs (which we have learned to never take for granted) through some awesome landscapes. I hope through our story you can see that life is good even in the dark and maybe our story can potentially be the catalyst for someone else to see life through a different lens. Thanks for taking this journey with us.