Focus on What Matters

Time seems to be passing more quickly with each given year. It is already mid-November of my oldest child’s senior year. How did that happen so fast? There are so many exciting things going on and I want to be sure I’m choosing to focus on enjoying life at this moment to the best of my ability. My mom is aging and has recently started peritoneal dialysis (at home). Alex will graduate in May of 2020, Lilly was talking to me yesterday on our way home from the State Dance Competition in Hot Springs about how she only has 2 1/2 years of high school left, Maddie is a 7th grader already and Trey is 2 1/2 and recently potty trained.

focus on what matters

Seriously, how does it all go by in a flash? I remember when I was the 30-something mom with three daughters who were 7, 5, and 2. Now I’m the 40-something mom with a 17-year old, a 15-year-old, and a 12-year-old and a 2-year-old. Wowzers! That was fast. It was a decade full of laughter, tears, pain, surprise pregnancy, prayers, trips, memories, and love.

The other day I was talking to my dear friend and wellness coach, Tharwat Lovett. I said, “I hope I’m enjoying it all enough. Am I truly taking the time to soak in all the awesome that is today…right now? I want to consistently choose to focus on what matters. I know it will all change again, probably quicker than I’m ready for.”

We discussed how all we can do is wake up each morning and choose to focus on the good. Be deliberate and choose to see the positive in every situation. Choose to embrace each moment as it comes, even the difficult ones because these are the ones we learn the most from. Don’t squander precious time, but choose to show the ones we love how much we love them. Call or go visit your parents and loved ones. Reach out and take a friend to lunch. Send a sweet note to someone on your heart. We have to do all we can at this moment to show the ones we love how much we care. Tomorrow is not promised. All we have is right now.

In the last few years, I have friends who have been diagnosed with cancer, who have lost a parent suddenly and those who have stayed in relationships that hurt them on the inside for years. Friends, we have the ability to make choices to build one another up, to love each other, and to forgive ourselves and others for the pain they have caused us. But, we must also choose to let go of those who harm us. Wish them well, then move on because taking care of our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health.

I made excuses for not writing for too many years. I’ve had this blog for over 5 years and every time I sat down to write I would feel overcome with fear of rejection. I’d ask myself, what if no one likes what I have to say? Why would anyone read what I write because I’m not important or significant? Who cares about me or my life and thoughts? What if people judge my truth. Well, all of the above is simply self-doubt and insecurity talking. I have a gut feeling that I’m meant to write and I’m ready to be brave and vulnerable and do just that.

As long as I speak my truth and I write with these four things in mind, is what I’m saying pure, positive, powerful and productive? Coach Bob Samara teaches, that if we are in this frame of mind then it doesn’t really matter what other people think. If we are sharing our truth then all that matters are the people who we could impact in a positive way. I have so many wonderful things going on and so much love for my life and the people in it. I’m ready to share my thoughts, observations, and stories that may help just one reader. Even if they simply feel less alone. We all struggle. I feel I’m here to help others, to learn how to be the best version of myself, and to love and be loved. We are all human after-all and we can learn from one another.

Alex signs with Industry Management – Miami

In November 2018, Alex decided to pursue professional modeling and we (she’s 16) signed a contract with Model Scout in Orlando. They are a minor mother agency who scouts for models and then work to get them bookings. Last week, Alex, Lilly and I went on a four-day adventure in South Beach – Miami with Ward Cottrell, owner, and Cobb Jones. Alex worked for two full days, meeting with 8 agencies along with 13 other models. 

She had five offers to sign with an agency in Miami and today she agreed to sign with Industry Model Management – Miami! We are learning very quickly about this high fashion world. Alex can have representation in all of the major markets – New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, Milan, etc. This is the first major agency she has signed with. 

If you have spent time with Alex then you know she is a sweet girl. She is intelligent (4.0), kind, generous, attentive, loving. This profession requires many interviews and last week Alex knocked them out of the park. She is respectful, professional, articulate, and a natural people person. This is a huge asset for her in this industry. 

We will see what this next year holds as she wraps up her Junior year and starts her Senior year at Jonesboro High. Michael and I are very proud of the young woman she is becoming and we pray for wisdom as she enters this line of work full-time next summer (at 18).

Kristie Stokes of Jonesboro, AR

Since I heard the news of Kristie’s passing yesterday morning, I haven’t stopped thinking about her and her precious family. Kristie left to go home to the arms of Jesus around 1:45am on December 30th. Her husband Russell and sons, Jackson and Wyatt, were her greatest loves. 

Kristie battled breast cancer this year and the chemotherapy (chemo) severely damaged her lungs. Last week she was transferred to Memphis for additional lung therapy. She was put on a ventilator during the treatment to allow her body to rest and heal. During this time God decided to bring this angel home. 

I have known Kristie for over a decade now. We were not close friends but we parented alongside one another at International Studies (IS). Her boys are around my girls’ ages. There is nothing anyone can say bad about Kristie. She always had a smile on her face and was eager to serve others. We volunteered together at IS for years and she had a servant’s heart. She worked at First Baptist Church (FBC) in downtown Jonesboro for over a decade where she was the Children’s Minister first but most recently she was the Missions and Community Outreach Pastor. She also volunteered for neighbors in need at the FBC Care Center and led numerous mission trips and Bible Schools at the church. 

The last few times I saw Kristie she had lost her hair and either had on a wig or a wrap or a hat. She ALWAYS had that gorgeous smile, even through the most difficult and painful parts of the chemo treatments. The chemo left her weak and tired but she always showed up anyway. 

She told me she felt poorly but yet there she was, at school walk up to get Wyatt, at PTA meetings, at the JHS Homecoming parade, just to name a few of the last times I had the privilege to interact with her. Women like Kristie inspire me to be a better person. I pray that if faced with a difficult battle as she was, I would also fight as honorably as she did. I want to emulate her faith and perseverance. She rarely complained and I never saw her feeling sorry for herself. I only saw her out and about and being there for her boys, her husband, her friends, her church and her loved ones.

I don’t understand tragedy like this. It makes no sense why God would take her precious soul this early. But, I’m not supposed to understand why God does what he does. I’m here to trust Him and His unwavering love for all of his children. I am shaken to the core by this unimaginable loss. 

Many will never be the same because Kristie has left her earthy body and is now in the presence of our Savior. I believe good comes from bad things and I trust good is happening right now as I type because her passing has affected so many in our community. 

I know that I will choose to be more like Kristie. I want to smile more and be a better servant of God. I want to help others by being more loving and giving to those less fortunate. 

I want to be more selfless and not worry so much about what is going wrong in my life and focus more on the positive, the joy all around me and be grateful for everything, even this pain. We are all here for a reason friends. I want to spread love like Kristie did. I want to be strong like her and stand tall even in the face of adversity. 

This was Kristie’s last Facebook post on November 27th. Her words are soothing, powerful and reflect her love for our Lord and Savior.“So this is our 2018 family ornament. When we added it to the tree we talked about how breast cancer has changed our lives this year- in tough ways but always with blessings surrounding us. I’ve needed the reminder of that morning, after a really tough few days. What I thought was fatigue from the end of the end of chemo actually turned out to be some serious damage to my lungs. It’s good to be home from the hospital now, but I’m also facing a new reality of being on oxygen, a recovery that will be weeks, not days, and a delay in my other surgery until my lungs completely heal. Was this my plan? No. Have I seen blessing? An overwhelming Yes. The tribe of family and friends who have carried our family in love, support, and prayer just don’t quit. And I’ve seen that Christy Amaden Johnson,  Beth Williams Murff, and Laura Halford Wood rock in a medical emergency and sure know how to help a friend in need. But above all, I know without a doubt that the God who gave me this promise continues to carry us… ‘Even before I speak a word, you know all about it. You are all around me, behind me and in front of me. You hold me in your power.’ His promises sustain, and that is always enough.”

God, thank you for allowing us the time you did with this precious woman. Thank you for giving her a heart of gold and a smile that brightened any gloomy day. Thank you for allowing me to have known her even a little. She was such a blessing to me by being a wonderful and faithful servant to you. Her passion and strength and her fierce love of her family was such a blessed example of an angel right here on earth. Lord this loss is too great for me to wrap my mind around. I don’t understand why you took such a gift away from us. But, I do trust you and your perfect plan for all of our lives. May her sweet family and friends have the peace that surpasses understanding of this significant loss. May we all strive to be a little better each day and honor her memory by striving to be more like Kristie Stokes until you decide to call us home as well. Always faithful, even on days like today when I just can’t stop wondering, why. Amen. 

Everyone wants to do something for the family in times like these. I’m sure they would never ask but I know there is a PayPal account set up. I donated for Russell to use the money in any way he deems fit. If you feel to the desire to help, please send to :  randkstokes@gmail.com

Encouragement

Thanksgiving 2018 was last Thursday and I ate waaayyyy too many calories and grams of sugar. I’ve been going to the Trim Gym 3-5 days a week consistently for most of this year. I’m down 17 pounds since the first of the year and I’m stronger than I have been in a very long time! The last couple of months I’ve had a trainer, Anna Lane, program my workouts for me. I have to be careful with my knees, low back, and neck, so working with a trainer who creates my workouts with this in mind, is fantastic!

I was at the gym today, for the first time in a few days. I don’t like to miss more than 2 days in a row, so I was excited to get back into my routine. I started with cardio on a stationary bike. I was listening to Stin Hansen from MyThoughtCoach.com in my headphones. She provides an excellent 20 min workout where she tells you when to exert energy at different perceived levels of exertion. You start at 5/10 then go up to 9/10, while increasing a level each minute. Then on the fourth and final round, you go for 9/10 and 10/10! Each interval is only for one minute and you can do anything for a minute! The best part is that as you get stronger, you go a little farther, a little faster, naturally. Your perceived level of exertion changes as your body changes. It’s the perfect 20-minute cardio workout!

So, I’m working my ass off on this bike. It’s my 3rd of four level 9s and I was next to a guy in his mid to late 40s. He was working hard too. I noticed he was on his bike for about 15 minutes when I got there and he seemed to be riding at a decent pace up a steep hill. When he was done he cleaned his bike and as he finished wiping it down he could hear I was breathing hard, as I was a really tough part of my interval training (9/10 in intensity). I stopped peddling for a second to breathe and let my burning thighs rest for about 15 seconds because if I rest longer 30 seconds then the bike’s settings reset.

As he walks by, he pats me on the back and says, “You got this. Keep going!” Awwww. Isn’t that all any of us needs sometimes? Some encouragement from a kindred spirit who also knows what it’s like to push yourself? We are all in the gym together, all people with a common goal: to take care of our bodies and move them the way they were designed to move. We all want to be a little better tomorrow than we were today.

It meant a lot to me for him to care enough to tell me, a complete stranger, to “keep going!” I want to encourage all of you to take the time to tell someone in your life that you support them. Maybe it’s just what they need to finish that project or go that step further to complete the task at hand. Be kind and encouraging to those you love and even strangers; you don’t know what they are going through and your kind and supportive words may be just what they need to hear.

Pregnant after an Essure Procedure at 40 Years Old

ultrasound picture, profile, sonogram

A few years ago (August of 2016) I thought I was dying. I felt so horrible and literally thought I had some form of cancer that was making me tired and sick. I went to the doctor for my annual check up and told him I thought I had something seriously wrong with me. He asked when my last cycle was and I told him and said it was due any minute. He decided to do some blood work to rule out infection and then a couple days later, his nurse called and told me I was pregnant. How could I be pregnant after an Essure procedure at 40 years old?

I was in shock and disbelief. I said, “that’s not possible. I can’t be pregnant. I’m fixed.” The nurse said, “well your HCG is elevated and the doctor wants you to come in for an ultrasound on Monday to see if this is a tubal pregnancy since you had the Essure procedure.” It turns out that pregnancy symptoms are very similar to what I think dying feels like. The nurse said, “You aren’t dying Juliana. You are creating a new life!”

It was Friday, and I cried as I told my husband I was pregnant. He laughed and said, “you’re kidding, right?” I assured him this is not something I would joke about and we processed the shock together. We called immediate friends and family so we could all share in this shock together.  I took an at home pregnancy test )and we just stared at two bright pink lines in disbelief.

The following Monday we had an ultrasound to confirm the baby was in my uterus.  I sure enough was pregnant after an Essure procedure at 40 years old. I was in shock for months. 

After our third daughter was born in 2007, Michael and I decided our family was complete. Having never had surgery (besides a tonsillectomy when I was 16 years old), I didn’t want to be admitted to the hospital and have a surgical tubal ligation. Dr. Hong, my OBGYN, who has now passed away, told me about a new (at the time) in-office surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy called Essure. The procedure had minimal downtime (a few days) and I was only given a Valium before to relax me. Metal coils were placed in both fallopian tubes and the goal was for them to scar over and any block eggs from being fertilized and dropped into the uterus.

We had three healthy daughters in 2009 who were 7 years old, 5 years old and 2 years old. That seemed like enough responsibility for us at the time. My husband and I own our own business (he is a bankruptcy attorney at Crawley Law Firm, PA) and anyone who is self-employed knows the financial ups and downs that go along with this career choice. He sets his own schedule and doesn’t have a boss, but we have also taken a lot of risks and there are no guarantees of pay. The business owner is always paid last.

I went to the doctor a couple of times the first trimester and had several elective ultrasounds. The first doctor’s visit was at 4 weeks and 4 days and we found a gestational sac in my uterus and ruled out a tubal pregnancy. On our 15th wedding anniversary, September 1, 2017, we went to an elective ultrasound at Sneak A Peek to see the baby for a few minutes during what the owner calls a reassurance scan. We saw the baby’s heartbeat for the first time and then it all became more real. I was really making my fourth and 100% unexpected child at 40 years old.

I started with nausea and vomiting around 6 1/2 weeks pregnant and it is finally started to ease up at 11 1/2 weeks, but did not end until 19 weeks. At 9 weeks I had my first OB/GYN appointment and the blood work we did all came back normal. We opted to get additional blood work called Panorama to look for chromosomal abnormalities. We did not plan to terminate the pregnancy, but we wanted to be as informed as possible. I got a call from the nurse a week and a half later (at 10 1/2 weeks pregnant) that the test came back all low risk and there is no need for additional testing!! She also confirmed that we were having a BOY!

I actually already knew he was a boy because I ordered an at home blood test through Sneak Peak Home Gender Test to prepare for my gender reveal party on October 1st.

I took my daughters to see our baby boy for the first time live at Sneak a Peak in Jonesboro at 11 weeks and they loved it! He did not disappoint! After we woke him up, he wiggled around and stretched and was just adorable. His heart rate was 175 and he looked perfect to me; he was relaxing in there. Ha!

9 week ultrasound, sonogramGrowing up, 40 sounded really old. My 14, 12 and 9 year old daughters (at the time) also told me that it’s an advanced age. At their ages, I thought the same thing. I vividly remember when my mom turned 40. I decorated my grandparents house with black balloons and “Over the Hill” signs. In hindsight, that was cruel. Sorry mom! But, I was 10 years old and she did seem “old”.

But now that it’s me, I don’t feel old. I do however feel more mature and wiser. I feel like my purpose in life is to love others where they are and to be kind to everyone. I felt  physically stronger at 40 years old than I was at 30 years old, healthier, and more active too. I take my Juice Plus+ every day which ensures we receive 30 different fruits and vegetables in our body daily. This allows us both to thrive on nutrients we may not otherwise get on a daily basis. I worked out regularly and made sure I stayed active with the girls.
ultrasound picture, profile, sonogramThe anatomy scan at 21 weeks showed a strong heart, we saw him urinate, swallow and hiccup. It turns out that being pregnant after an Essure procedure at 40 years old is not so terrible after-all. This little miracle was born on April 21, 2017 and Michael Edward Crawley, III (Trey) has forever changed the course of our lives. We love him immeasurably!

Juliana and Trey’s First pic

Choosing Faith Over Fear

faith over fear

Choosing faith over fear. During the last few months, I have heard this phrase several times in books and articles I’ve read and therefore it has stuck. I heard it recently while listening to Jen Sincero’s audiobook, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.” 

There is a choice aspect of fear. Jen Sincero says, “It’s so simple. Fear will always be there, poised and ready to wreak havoc. But we can choose whether we are going to engage with it, or turn on the lights, drown it out, and crawl past it. Drowning it out is easy, we have just been conditioned otherwise. We have made fear a habit.” Continue reading “Choosing Faith Over Fear”

Make Choices with Intention

I always have ideas of some kind floating around in my head. It’s the process of putting them on the page that takes intention and focus. It requires scheduling uninterrupted time when I’m motivated to write. It is also pushing past the vulnerable feelings as I share my thoughts with you. I’m thankful for my friend and Personal Coach, Tharwat Lovett, for reading this over before I posted. I’m blessed with loving and supportive friends to nudge me along when I need it.

I sat down last Sunday to write and I saw there was a stack of mail to open next to my home office computer’s keyboard. There was a bill, some junk mail, and a very small package with my name on it. I don’t order a lot during the year, but I do most of my holiday shopping online and LOVE IT, so I wasn’t sure what it was at first, then I remembered! I ordered this precious bracelet for myself from Cindy Sebastian at tShe believed she could so she didhe Juice Plus Regional Conference I attended in Branson, Missouri the weekend of January 22nd. What perfect timing that I would put on a bracelet that reads, “She believed she could so she did” just as I was settling into my desk with water and coffee at arm’s length to share my heart with you.
Continue reading “Make Choices with Intention”

Kevin Jumper: Always Positive and Optimistic

On Sunday, January 17th, a sweet friend who had battled cancer for the last 3 1/2 years is now at peace and watching over us all. The loss of Kevin Jumper is a tremendous one. He was always kind and loving and he knew how to bring a smile to my face. I only knew him a few years but I spent the last 9 months messaging and texting him regularly and we became friends.
optimistic, positive, cancer
As I write I can only think of how selfless Kevin always was. He never complained about his condition. He only focused on the battle ahead and how to beat his cancer. I remember the last time I hugged him tightly at the Brickhouse Grill a couple of months ago. He looked swollen that evening from his chemo treatments and his voice was raspier than I remembered. I love how he always looked me right in the eyes and it felt like he was looking into my soul while pouring out love. I told him I prayed for him often and that he was loved.
 
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Brickhouse Grill again to hear a couple of ridiculously talented friends and local musicians, Oz Cullum and Nathan Crouch play. I asked Nathan if he heard that Kevin was diagnosed with pneumonia. He said he had and we talked about how we admired Kevin for his consistently positive and optimistic outlook.
 
Kevin shared an article on Facebook on October 18th, 2015 written by the Jonesboro Sun by staff writer, Staci Vandagriff titled, “Jumper’s best advice: Always keep a positive attitude.” She wrote about how Kevin was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in September of 2012. At the time the article was written, he had experienced 35 rounds radiation and 20 rounds of chemotherapy.
kevin jumper, positive, optimistic, cancer
He never complained and always focused on staying positive throughout his long days of treatment. He shared with Ms.Vandergriff, “One of the hardest things is the fact that you’re losing friends because people don’t know how to react to it (cancer). But then again, you also realize who your true friends are.” Kevin was a faithful friend to everyone, regardless of their condition.
 
Kevin and I were a lot alike in that we both love to give back. There is something about a giving soul that is filled up more by giving than receiving. He loved to give back to the community by assisting feeding the hungry at the Helping Neighbors Food Pantry on Huntington Dr. in downtown Jonesboro, Arkansas. Kevin was always gracious and thought of others first.
 
As a believer, he said he never questioned God. He advised others battling cancer to “stay positive; don’t ever get down on yourself. To stay positive and keep a positive attitude is part of the best medicine. I don’t look at it as I’m dying of cancer; I have to live with cancer.” This is great advice to us all. It’s important to be grateful and to remain positive and optimistic no matter what we are facing at this moment.
 
Now as I mourn the loss of a man loved by many, I can’t help but think of what he would want for me. He wouldn’t want me to cry. He wouldn’t want me to be sad that he is gone because now he is flying high with the other angels just like him.
 
Kevin Jumper was a great man. The best way to honor greatness is to carry on with a smile on our faces, love like he loved and be grateful for the time we were blessed to have with him during his 42 years on this planet.
 
Fly high sweet friend. You will not be forgotten and you will remain forever in my heart until we meet again. Arrangements for Kevin have been made at the Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro, AR.
 
The funeral service will be at 2 pm Thursday at St. Timothy Anglican Episcopal Church with Father Ron Martin and Dr. Glen Putman officiating. Interment will directly follow at Old Bethel Cemetery with Emerson Funeral Home in charge of all arrangements. Serving as pallbearers will be family and friends. Honorary pallbearers will be the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Visitation will be Wednesday evening from 5-7pm at Emerson Funeral Home.
 
In Lieu of Flowers the family request that you consider the Helping Neighbors Food Pantry, PO Box 19182 Jonesboro, AR 72403, or 870.935.7298; American Cancer Society PO Box 22478 Oklahoma City, OK 73123, or 1.800.227.2345; and St. Timothy Anglican Episcopal Church 419 W. Highland Dr. Jonesboro, AR 72401 or 870.932.8818, in loving member of Kevin Jumper.

Tower Garden Harvest Shared with Local Soup Kitchen

tower garden, vertical garden, urban gardener, harvest

On Thanksgiving, while sharing a meal at my in-laws, my mother-in-law (Rosamond) mentioned her tower gardens had a lot of lettuce to harvest. I too had extra to harvest so I contacted my friend Amy who told me her church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, hosts a soup kitchen on Saturdays for lunch. They usually serve around 50 people each week. She was glad to receive the bounty, rinse it, chop it and serve it to the hungry in our area. tower garden, vertical garden, urban gardener, harvestThe photo on the left is one of Rosamond’s three towers. This one is on her screened in porch, inside a tent to protect it from the elements of fall and winter. She has lettuce, cabbage, and different herbs growing happily this fall!

The photo on the right is of heads of lettuce she pulled out of the tower. There are many benefits of owning a tower garden, but the gift of sharing food with the hungry is my favorite!

I asked how having a salad this week was going over with the soup kitchen attendees. Amy replied, “It was very well received-thank you! I took it up there this morning and chopped it for serving. Tomatoes and dressing were added..” She then sent me this note from a volunteer, “Thanks to your neighbor for the greens—and thanks to you for bringing them. People seemed really happy to have a green salad and we had so many people that I kept tearing the leaves up to make more salad and we used it all.”

This makes my heart smile! It is a great feeling to provide garden fresh lettuce to my family, but also to those less fortunate. I encourage you to pay it forward to others this holiday season!

Be Fearlessly Authentic

Be Fearlessly AuthenticI am a firm believer in the fact that everything happens for reason. Everything from the people you come in contact with, the smiles you share with a stranger, the kind words you share with a friend, and the choices you make that are based on the experiences you have had. By being fearlessly authentic, we allow ourselves to be open to the good and the bad as it comes.

Every day we each make 1,000s of decisions. What to wear, what to buy, what to say when asked a question, what to eat, whether to laugh or cry? The list goes on and on.

In the past, I struggled with buyer’s remorse/decision remorse. I would second guess myself. Well, not anymore. I decided that making an educated decision about something and then going with it, is the better way for me.

Burning all that energy worrying or wondering if the decision you made was good or bad is just simply that: a waste of energy. It’s best to make a decision and go with it. I’m not saying that you can’t make a different decision down the road if more information or experiences lead you to change your mind. That’s fine.

I believe we all share this space together on Earth in order to learn and grow and my goal is to become better each day. Also, I feel my purpose is to educate, inspire and enrich the lives of those around me. I am intentional to be fearlessly authentic with those I meet and share a conversation with.

My friend and Pastor’s wife, Susan, who is one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met in my life, told us a “secret” one day. She does not sugarcoat her challenges or the fact that life isn’t always easy. She is real and she is a truly genuine being.
Continue reading “Be Fearlessly Authentic”