My Sis and I

My Sis and I
Summer on Alpena Street
One of my favorite sayings from the show Emily Owens, MD

"We make all these plans of how things will turn out; but life happens, plans change, so we adapt. We draw on strength we didn't know we had; we give up any illusions of control, and we deal head on with problems that come our way."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Summer of 2017

This summer, I had all my family home in one place for a couple of weeks.  In the middle of that, my husband's family came in for a reunion and memorial of the passing of his mom.  What a great time!

When my girls and their family were here, we used every room in my house.  Now, my house isn't big - a tri level.  Do I wish for more rooms, more space?  You bet I do.  We made it work though.

Our family has not been together in one spot for four years.

The weeks prior to this gathering, I scheduled the cleaning of my house.  Since I have a tri-level, I cleaned one floor a day thoroughly.  I haven't cleaned like this in some time, since it's only my husband and I in the house now.  Needless to say, I was exhausted after all this cleaning.

"Wait!  I need to make freezer meals and prepare a menu for the first five days."  Why the first five days you might ask?  Because my oldest daughter was bringing a friend she had been seeing for the past year and a half to meet us - that's why.  I needed to be prepared and not look like I was wracking my brain for a meal to prepare.

Thus, I prepared freezer meals and a menu for Thursday to Monday when he was here.

We headed up to the lake cabin after this, and I didn't prepare one meal.  My daughter's and son-in-law cooked. My hubby and I watched and played with the grand babes.  I may have washed dishes one night.

Was I exhausted?  You bet!  I think this was a good kind of exhaustion: seeing family together, cooking, preparing, playing, watching, laughing, talking, eating together, cleaning up spills, comforting children, reading books, diffusing tantrums, hearing "again Yia-Yia, again PaPa" as we played the same game over and over.  This is truly living.  This is a good kind of exhaustion.

I'm very blessed with my family.  Has it all been rosy and easy?  No way!  We've had our fair share of troubles.  But I look back on those times and think "God got us through that.  Look what He has done."

Everyone has gone back to their own homes.  I still hear my four-year-old granddaughter Analiese say:  "I miss my house mommy."  As soon as she arrived home, my daughter said, she went into her bedroom, sat on her bed, looked around at her surroundings and promptly fell asleep.  She was content to be home, her safe place.

Good memories were made.  A lot of pictures taken.  I will never forget this wonderful summer when all my family were together for two weeks.

I hope it happens again.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Lisa’s Story

The Beginning

My experiences with sin and rebellion against God and my parents began in high school.  Being raised in a strict Christian home with many rules and restrictions, I began seeking independence and freedom away from following rules in my senior year - away from the “Christian girl” choices of obedience. 

Meeting a boy I liked very much, I became pregnant my last four months before graduation.  We stayed together for six years – working together and living together, until I became a very jealous and insecure person.

These infectious emotions stayed with me to haunt and destroy me as a person.  I was physically abused on several occasions only to find out he had cheated on me.  We were both very young and naïve.  I left the relationship and moved back home with my father and sister.

There, I would start over and begin my life as a single mom hoping to raise my son in a Christian environment.  I found myself back to the roots of Christianity.

Seeking For Love

After several years of growing in the Lord, I was still seeking a Christian man for love in all the wrong places.  I became naïve and gullible becoming interested in a Christian man, who was going to church, becoming friends with his mother and two sisters.  Little did I know I would fall back into temptation, and the thought of getting pregnant again never crossed my mind.

I repented every time we slept together.  He told me he was careful and not to worry.  Well, sure enough, after only a few months of dating, I was back at the doctor’s for regular checkups only to find out I was pregnant.

I stepped down from the choir, feeling shameful and embarrassed, but staying in church and continuing to serve the Lord.  Never did I imagine that he would leave me to take care of this child on my own.  He didn’t want to be a full-time dad.

Nine months later, I gave birth to a beautiful girl.  He did not want anything to do with her.  His words to me on the phone were “she’s not a boy”.  What?

At this point, I have faced both physical and emotional abuse. 

On My Own

Raising two children, working two jobs and going to college off and on, I’m thankful I had my parents who supported me and helped me every step of the way.

My mom was a rock.  She never judged me or looked down on me.  She was always giving and loving.  This encouraged me to fight harder and stand on my own feet.

As the years went by, I began to attend a church in downtown Flint where my mother and step-father attended.  I sang specials in my new-found church enjoying every moment.  Singing was where I felt close to Jesus.  I felt healing and deliverance.  When I sang, all my pain, guilt and shame would just vanish and melt away. 

After a year of attending my church, I was asked to be the praise and worship leader and begin a choir.  I accepted the position.  During this time, I had only a pianist, a guitarist and a drummer.  Needless to say, the drummer and I began seeing each other.

We began talking and hanging out.  I thought my life was coming to a completion thinking “could he be the one?” Deep down something didn’t feel right.  I ignored all the possible signs that the Holy Spirit was tugging on my “love strings”.  I went along with this man.  After finding out I was pregnant for the third time, he convinced me to leave this church and attend the church he was originally from.  I wanted to make things right and hopefully things would work out in my favor.

I left leading worship and directing the choir, which was God’s calling on my life, for a man I barely knew.  Once our son was born, we decided to move in together.  From then on my life was changed, and not for the better.

I decided to get on birth control to prevent another pregnancy.  What was I doing?  What was I thinking?  I was foolish and naïve.  Why does this word follow me with every decision I make?

Struggling Again

I struggled with jealously and insecurity with every relationship I was involved in.

During my pregnancy with our first, the physical abuse started.  This man that I only began to wish I could actually feel some form of love for thought he would handle my jealousy with abusive behavior.  I was choked to becoming unconscious on the kitchen floor, only to be coughing up blood.  At one visit to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, he pushed me down a flight of stairs while I was carrying his baby, but I stayed with him.

He repeatedly told me he was sorry and that it would never happen again.  There were nights he would leave and be gone for three days.  I had no clue what he was up to.  Jewelry, a microwave, and different items from the house were coming up missing. The neighbors were trying to tell me he was using drugs.  “No! Not him”, I thought.  I didn’t want to hear or believe this was going on.  He forced me to drive him into bad areas of Flint, only to tell me to stay in the car and wait for him.  I had my children in the car sitting in the roughest parts of Flint.  I was terrified; more terrified though if I left him there because of the beating I would receive.

We went together to counsel with our pastor.  Every time we met he was remorseful.  Later, I found out I was pregnant with our second child.  I thought “how could this happen? I was on birth control.” 

During this pregnancy, the lying, cheating, stealing, controlling, manipulative and physical abuse escalated.

One afternoon, I was in the bedroom with my oldest daughter.  Pregnant with my last child, he came walking into the room yelling at me, grabbed chunks of my hair, forcing my face into the floor making my face hit the floor repeatedly.  Pieces of my hair were being pulled from my scalp and into the air.

My daughter witnessed the abuse.  I remember one evening my oldest son, who was no more than 10, helped me move all the furniture in front of the door to block this man from coming in.  We bolted and boarded the back door.  After several attempts of him begging and pleading to come in and apologize, I let him in, only for more abuse.

He did not allow me to have a telephone.  On one occasion, after I confronted him about having three numbers of one woman, I came near to death.  In front of my three children, he beat me and took his open fist and thrust the palm of his hand into my nose.  The force led me to the ground where I laid hearing him screaming at me.  I literally looked like a piece of pulverized meat. 

After several of my family members, co-workers and his parents saw my face, they begged me to leave.  It was the doctor who told me if my nose would have shifted two more centimeters, I would not be alive.  I stayed.


What motivated me the most was the fact that my daughter was just born and I walked in on this man seeing him smoking crack.  He was, in fact, this whole time using drugs.

Enough!  No more abuse, no more lies, no more stealing, and no more defeat.  I was determined to get my four children and myself out of this dangerous, unhealthy and toxic stressful lifestyle.

With much humility and shame, I called my father, who was there for me.  He never stopped praying for me. It was only by the love and grace of God that today I am living and breathing. 

I never once looked back or turned back for what had almost ended my life:  self-absorbed, naïve, gullible and looking for love in all the wrong places.  The only true love is that of the Father in heaven.  He brought me through this.  My struggle, my shame, my sins, my selfishness, only by the blood of Jesus I have been saved.

Another Chance

God gave me another chance to be a loving, nurturing and caring mother.  He led me straight back to Him.  I was in the lowest and weakest times that Jesus was reaching for me the whole time and I was rejecting Him.

He never let go of me.  He loved me all the way back to victory.  I live with a red mark on my nose, but it reminds me every day that Jesus loved me enough to spare my life, to help others.

My heart’s desire is to tell Christian women in this situation that there is hope.  You can’t turn back your life but you can control it.  Please get help.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sue Dobos-Paradise

Our life as we knew it forever changed one day and we found ourselves in an unexpected struggle – first just to survive and then to move forward.

When our son P.J. was in third grade, he let us know that he was going to be a Marine.  Being a patriotic family, we were thrilled yet filled with some apprehension thinking, “this is my child.” Keeping his promise, our son joined the Marines and trained here in Michigan with a group of guys all set to leave for boot camp in June of 2010.

PJ was incredibly smart.  When he tested for the Marines, he tested so high he was told, “you can do anything you want P.J.  You can go into the Air Force.”  His answer? “I want to go on the front lines.  I’m not coming in here just to push paper.”  He always wanted to be a hero.

 We had no idea the devastation that was to come.


His first kidney stone incident occurred in December of 2009 followed by two more in the spring of 2010.  We had no clue this was a problem until a week before he was set to head out to boot camp.  The Marines requested his medical records and were given the hospital reports.  He was blindsided, as was his recruiter, when he was discharged from the Marines never entering boot camp.

At the age of 18, my son’s life-long dream was shattered.  

The discharge destroyed him.  He continued going to doctors asking for letters stating he no longer had kidney stones. PJ wanted to be a Marine more than anything, but to no avail.

Experimenting With Drugs

Prior to signing up for the Marines, as a teenager in high school, P.J. messed around with drugs some, like his friends. I received a call one day from the police station.  P.J. and his friends were stopped by the police for having marijuana in the truck.  “This can’t be P.J.’s”, I thought.  I was devastated when P.J. admitted that it was.

Life changed that day for us.  From this point on, we had him drug tested, worked with him and even got him counseling.  We took the initiative and worked with the police officer who had brought him in to the station.  This officer later became one of P.J.’s best friends.

Life After Discharge

Because of the prior experimenting with drugs in high school, setbacks began to happen after his discharge from the Marines. He was drinking, doing drugs and started using prescription Xanax.

PJ was a leader, had a ton of friends, never spoke back, but always seemed a little bit sad.  I think because of this sadness he began to self-medicate abusing Xanax within the year.

Downward Turn

Bigger issues arrived when P.J. turned 21.  He began to go to bars and even got a DUI.  Being a close family, working together in our concession business, we always kept an eye on him, but he now began to tell us only what he wanted us to hear.

Finishing up our summer concession business in October, we returned home from Indiana. At this time, P.J. was seeing a probation officer because of his DUI.  Coming back from checking in, he said, “everything’s good, everything went great.”  I got very angry with him because I knew he had been drinking.  I had hoped he would be honest with me, but he wasn’t. 

Sitting him down on the couch, I proceeded to read him the riot act.  I talked about his integrity, telling him that I loved him but I didn’t like him.  I didn’t like his attitude, his dishonesty, and his avoidance of the issues in his life.  I talked to him about not doing anything for his fellow man or his community.  We had a long talk. This conversation hurt him badly because he always wanted our praise.

The result of this: he packed up his belongings and left.  After spending time with his girlfriend that weekend, he went to his best friend’s house, whom he had grown up with, spending the night there.

The next morning, the friend’s mom called me and said, “PJ was supposed to work today, but he didn’t get up and go to work. I think you need to give him a call and tell him to go home”, she said. 

When my husband picked PJ up, he could tell something wasn’t right.  He was very tired, not able to get himself together and wake up.  He seemed confused.  My husband, Paul, called me and said, “meet me at the cop shop.”  Arriving at the cop shop, we met there with Archie, the aforementioned officer and friend, who counseled him.  Being a concerned mother, I said, “PJ do we need to go to the hospital?” PJ said “absolutely not. I’ve got a meeting tonight.”  We went home.

PJ showered and went to the meeting uptown at the Rock Church.  Coming home very excited, it looked like things might be on the verge of changing.  After doing a six-week rehab stay at Sacred Heart, PJ was going to work with Archie, the police officer, riding with him and getting his help to enter the Police Academy.

We had no idea that PJ had drugs on him.

The Devastating Loss

Seeing the effect Xanax had on PJ after his DUI, I called the doctor and said “take him off that Xanax.  Get him off that stuff”.  She took him off Xanax, but then he started buying it. 

Coming home from the NA meeting one evening, PJ was happy, even playing Nintendo with his dad downstairs.  We had gone to bed but PJ stayed up, not feeling tired.  Apparently he had been texting and talking to friends until 4:00 in the morning, according to his phone.

We had no idea, until later, that PJ had been looking to get more Xanax that day.  He had asked around finding a girl he knew whose mother had Klonopin.  “It’s just like Xanax”, she said.  PJ went to pick up the Klonopin and took it – not knowing the risk of mixing Xanax and Klonopin together.  Xanax stays in your system for three hours and is gone.  Klonopin, however, builds up and is time-released.

Not feeling tired at 4:00 a.m., PJ took more Klonopin.

It’s the craziest thing, I get up every morning at 9:00, but this particular morning, I woke up at 7:00.  I believe the Holy Spirit woke me up.

Getting my morning coffee, my husband came upstairs and said, “what are you doing up at this time?”  My reply, “I have no clue.”  “Well, you’ve got to see how PJ is sleeping.  It’s so cute”, he said.

Instantly, I felt a wave of panic sweep over me and knew something was wrong, even before I took the steps downstairs.

Sitting Indian-style on the floor was always the way PJ would sit, and this is how I found him.  Close by he had some things scattered on the floor that he had been looking at.  Coming up behind him, I said, “PJ wake up. You need to go lie down.  Wake up.”

Wiggling him a little bit, he didn’t wake up.

Coming around in front of him, I immediately spoke to my husband “call 911.”

He just fell asleep.  I’m very blessed that he fell asleep.  I never would have imagined that an accidental drug overdose would happen to one of my children.  We were devastated, of course, as a family.  PJ was the youngest out of four children.  He left behind a family grappling with the overwhelming loss of a beloved son and a brother who passed away at 21 years of age, November 5th, just seven weeks before his 22nd birthday.

Our Life After Death

The day after we lost PJ, our pastor from The Rock church came over to our home.  He read from the Bible the passage about there being no tears in heaven and no mourning.  This was one of the first things that saved me, helping me tremendously to know that he wasn’t suffering anymore. There was no crying, no pain in Heaven.

At PJ’s memorial service, mothers would come up to me and just hold me saying “I lost a child too.”  What a lifeline for me but also thinking “how are you still here?”  I was positive I was going to die or wind up in the hospital insane.  These comforting words spoken to me gave me hope because they went through it, survived and were now passing that hope back to me.

Through Facebook, more women contacted me telling me their stories of how they lived through the loss of a child.

Three weeks after PJ’s death, I was sitting in my home office wanting to do some banking on my computer.  I couldn’t remember my password.  My husband walked into the office and said “speaking of passwords, did you figure out PJ’s?  Maybe there’s something we need to read in his emails.”  Putting his password in, I proceeded to read his emails, mostly to girls.  “This is not my son”, I thought.  Having my first doubt, I said to my husband, “what if he’s not in heaven?”  I completely broke down.

I’ve always been strong, not crying a lot.  When I pulled myself together, I suddenly thought to look in the top drawer of my dresser for my password.  There was no reason I would have it there, but I searched anyway.  Reaching towards the back of my dresser, I found a letter folded up.  I don’t usually put letters in my dresser but in a cedar chest or my Bible, but here it was.  PJ had written a letter to himself in the eighth grade.  Within this letter, PJ writes “I go to church every Wednesday and Sunday.  God is my Savior and I am also saved, which means I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.”

Confirmation - strong and sure.  PJ was saved and knew what it meant.

Calling my younger sister, who is a strong believer, I asked her how this could happen that I found this letter.  She said “God works upstream” – meaning that all these things were done and put where they needed to go for me to find later and help me get through this.

Grieving is a good thing.  It’s the way we get through the many changes in life. 

Two days after I found this letter, these grieving thoughts continued – “what if PJ is all alone and he misses me?” Walking into my bedroom, I found a picture of my dad, my grandma and PJ together.  My dad and grandma are in heaven. “Why didn’t I see this picture before now?” I thought. “How could I have missed it?”  Again, I understood that this was God working upstream, assuring me that PJ was not alone but surrounded by love.

My Passion

I want to tell other women who have lost a child that God works upstream.  If they will look, they will find these little things as well to bring them hope.  Don’t doubt them when you see them.

Every time I found something of PJ’s, it gave me hope to keep going.  They were stepping stones for me.  It still is happening.

I started collecting these little things I would find – a card, a letter, just little miracles I found.  I am now journaling about it and maybe one day will put them together to help other people.

It is my hope that a grieving mother will read our story and find the courage to look for the signs left for her.  In allowing our God to work upstream, she will find much needed comfort and assurance. 

It is God's promise to help us in our time of grief, if we will but let Him into our grieving heart.

In memory of P.J.

Interviewed, written & edited by Sharon Garner

Thursday, November 5, 2015


My visit here in Minturn, Colorado will soon be coming to an end.  I leave November 14th to return to Michigan.

My arrival here was uneventful, thankfully.  It's usually an all day travel for this wanderer.  I leave Flint Bishop Airport and arrive at an appointed destination to again board another plane for Denver.

From DIA I wait to board the shuttle they provide to drive me across the mountains into Vail.  It's a two and a half hour trip with 10 other people and our luggage.

Once I arrive at the Vail Transit Center (VTC), I wait for Kelly and Ana to come pick me up.

I'm pretty tired after this long day of travel.

While I'm here, I take care of Ana Monday's and Friday's and do whatever I can to help Kelly and give her a much-needed break.

Minturn is a small community town where like Cheers "everybody knows your name".  Many people here have small businesses in town - some may work in Vail, Avon or Edwards as well.

Kelly's apartment building is older with six apartment units that face the mountains.  There is a river that runs through a quaint park across the street where I take Ana to play on the playground.  An amphitheater in the park is used throughout the summer for concerts.  It's a beautiful place with the mountains surrounding you on every side.

The mountains.

The centerpiece of this valley.

There are tons of mountain ranges to ski, hike, and bike.

I've been here so many times that I forget to enjoy the mountain scenery. When I drive or ride with Kelly, I forget to take it all in - the mountains.  You won't find this in Michigan.  So today.....

I'll take it in and enjoy the mass of mountains surrounding me, enjoy the winter wonderland and cold, enjoy God's beautiful creation.

Psalm 95:4 "In whose hands are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are His also."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Here in Colorado

I've been here in Colorado visiting my daughter Kelly and granddaughter Analiese now for almost two weeks.  My daughter is a single mom with a 2 1/2 year old daughter, soon to be 3 in January.

I'd forgotten how exhausting it is to handle the 2-year stage of life.  Kelly is doing this all by herself - that's exhausting in itself.  No one else to give her a break.  It's all on her every day.

Analiese is a strong-willed, determined, focused-on-her-wants toddler.  She resists getting dressed in the morning because "I don't want to mommy".  She gets up way too early for Kelly's sleep-deprived body and mind.  Every morning is a tension-filled struggle to get her clothes changed, socks and shoes put on and out the door to daycare and work in a timely manner - which most days doesn't occur.  This too shall pass....right?

There are lunches to pack as well.  What does a 2-year-old want in their lunch?  Who knows.  Every day is different.  One day they might like cheese and crackers with fruit - the next day it just might not be so.  

What does a 2-year told want for dinner?  That's a good question. You just cook something and hope they want to eat it too. Mostly, Analiese will refuse to eat something put on her plate but sees it on mommy's plate and wants to eat from mommy's plate.  Who knew.

Don't get me wrong though - it's not always this way - just most days for now.

Ana loves her mommy and Kelly loves Ana.  They have a special bond. The nighttime ritual can be exhausting for Kelly (since she's put in a full day at work), but when I hear them reading books together, laughing with Ana on her lap, it's a precious memory and cuts deep into my soul.

When I hear Ana say "I'm sorry mommy" when she's not cooperated or cried about mommy saying "no", it's a good feeling.

Ana loves the park and the cartoon "Justin Time".  She loves her friends at daycare and prays for them every night.  She loves frozen fruit bars and most recently her Halloween candy.  She loves it when her mommy comes home from work or picks her up from daycare.  As Analiese would say "mommy, you're my best friend."

Yia-Yia is secondary to mommy.  I'm here to give Kelly a much needed break.  She's making time while I'm here to take walks, hike with a friend, visit with friends, do her devotional at a coffee shop, learn how to make pies from Tracy down the street here in Minturn and whatever else she wants to do.  

I love to see her interacting with Analiese: playing with legos building towers, tickling, reading books, watching a cartoon snuggled up under a blanket on the couch and playing at the park. It does this mama's heart good.

I'm leaving in a few weeks for home.  I will miss them and I know they will miss me.  There will be some tears shed and sad good-byes given.

Kelly has much on her shoulders, but I know the strength of her God is greater than any struggle she may face.  There is a good community here for them both, a wonderful church family, and a good job.

God will always supply everything Kelly and Ana need.

Many moms have said to Kelly "this stage will pass.  The best stages are 3-7.  It will get better." Raising a strong-willed, determined-to-do-my-thing toddler is difficult, but as Kelly has said to me "mom, I'd rather have a feisty, lively, opinionated daughter who will stand up for herself than one who is not."  Well, this she does have.

Ana is well-liked by her friends and is a leader at daycare.  She speaks her mind and knows what she wants.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Analiese grows.  Kelly is doing a great job.  As all moms do, she wonders if she is making a difference or teaching Ana well.  I can say she is doing well. There are no perfect moms or ever will be.  Just keep on doing what is right, keep re-enforcing good behavior, keep praying at bedtime, keep attending church, say you're sorry when it's needed, give lots of hugs and kisses and just be you.

Each child is unique.  Go with it.  Don't try to make them like someone else.  Accept their personality. 

God is the one who wraps his arms around Kelly and Ana every day. He sees. He knows. He provides. I can be assured of this as I pray for them every day.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."