Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Martha’s Vineyard Is Unexpectedly Memorable!

(Me on South Beach, Martha’s Vineyard)

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Martha’s Vineyard (MV), Massachusetts, this summer in July. With preconceived notions, I expected to see fancy cars and rude, rich people everywhere. However, I experienced the exact opposite. The blue-collar workers and business owners presented pleasant encounters with normal people (not rich vagabonds) – kind folks trying to succeed in a place of paradise. I will elaborate on these cordial meetings throughout this blog entry.

Politicians have given MV a stench where even the original residents have grown tired of their visits by reputation. The notoriety of the island’s name created a pop culture trend for celebrity tourists that caused prices and living costs to rise. Locals are irritated by the fame and attention of a select few individuals who broadcast that they live at MV. On the other hand, the generational residents and seasonal workers warmly welcome sincere personalities and unpretentious visitors.

I often wondered why Martha’s Vineyard is called Martha’s Vineyard. MV is historically associated with the English explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold. Gosnold named the island in honor of his daughter, whose name was either Martha or Mary. The term “Vineyard" is thought to have been used because of the abundant wild grapes on the island. Gosnold was an early English explorer who visited the island in 1602. He established one of the first English settlements in North America on MV, although this dwelling was short-lived.

Before European settlers arrived, MV was inhabited by the Wampanoag people, a Native American tribe. The Wampanoag relied on fishing, hunting, farming, and gathering as their primary sustenance. During the 18th and 19th centuries, MV became a prominent center for the whaling industry. The island's location was an ideal base for whaling vessels. The profits from whaling contributed to the island's growth, reputation, and prosperity.

On the day of my adventure, I drove from Boston to Falmouth, where the ferry then took me to MV. We landed in the small town of Oaks Bluff. It is a beautiful coastal town with the whispers of ocean air, tasteful cuisine, local coffee shops, several green spaces, and New England colonial homes. I arrived on the island at about 10:00 a.m. ET. The original ferry ride from Falmouth to Oaks Bluff lasted about 35-40 minutes. This ferry ride only included people and bikes, no motorized vehicles. I met an older couple named Barry and Bernice who also planned to visit the island for the day. They were from New Hampshire. They brought a two-person bike to ride together. For the long boat trip, they were wonderful company! They provided valuable information about the Vineyard and tips on what sites to see. We mostly talked about our families. They showed me pictures of the grandkids on their cell phones. I showed them pictures of Lisa, Annabelle, and Jace on my phone. I actually saw them throughout the day on different parts of the island, sometimes passing each other on our bikes.

I rented an electric bike from All-Star Martha’s Vineyard Bike Rentals. Robert, the owner and manager of this business, outlined my entire day of where to go and what to see with the local island sites. Before my self-tour began, I walked across the street from All-Star Bike Rentals to discover Vineyard's Best Ice Cream and Coffee Company. While not advertised, this business served freshly made bagels. For five dollars (a reasonable price for MV vendors), I bought three bagels to fuel my day. Those bagels sustained me throughout the day under a brutal July summer sun. I had not originally planned to bike the 37 miles I covered in this one day. 

I started riding down Seaview Avenue alongside Alley-Waban Park and Inkwell Beach. Alley-Waban Park was a large open field park with several sidewalks with people walking dogs and enjoying the sunshine-filled day. The previously described colonial homes surrounded the park. Many of these residences had balconies with ocean views on the second or third floor. 

From Oaks Bluff, Robert directed me toward Edgartown. This road hugged the seashore with breathtaking coastal vistas. The ride along these beaches and waves felt refreshing. I am about to begin my fourth and final year of a Ph.D. program in Communication. While very enjoyable, the workload in a doctoral program can sometimes be intensive and all-consuming. The gust of ocean air melted these workload worries away. There was an enchanting essence to this island. It became evident within my first few miles of riding why so many people from all over the world ventured to visit this paradise. The bike ride on this coastal road from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown was six miles to begin a long day’s journey.

MV is extremely accessible by bike. In fact, by mid-afternoon, the traffic is bad enough that bikes move faster than cars sitting in traffic, depending on where you are on the island. About halfway to Edgartown on Seaview Avenue, I rode across a short bridge titled the American Legion Memorial Bridge. Locally, this bridge is also known as the Jaws Bridge. Many scenes in the first movie of this series were filmed at MV. 

Many young adults and even parents with kids were jumping off this bridge into a canal that linked marsh and open ocean waters. The jump into the water below was probably about 12-13 feet high, and several individuals leaped without hesitation, sometimes several times. I admired the youthful energy of these daredevils. However, I decided ultimately to stay dry. I prefer to avoid testing the strong ocean currents. In local newspapers, concerning Jaws Bridge, I read that one person died in 2023 after jumping off the bridge. Two others experienced the same fate in 2022. I doubt these eager divers researched these facts before their stunts. On the bridge, a warning sign cautions people not to jump off the bridge since the activity is considered illegal. I heeded this advice closely. I took some photos of these valiant jumpers and continued my bike journey.

After the six-mile stretch on Seaview Avenue, I arrived in Edgartown. First, I visited the Edgartown Harbor Lighthouse. As mentioned in previous blog entries, I am fascinated by lighthouses. Lighthouses offer photogenic portraits amidst beautiful beaches and landscapes. The lighthouse was shorter than some of the other lighthouses I visited in the past. The building includes a museum and the opportunity to climb the stairs to the top of the lighthouse. The views at the top were lovely. It was a nice place to reflect on life, with a small beach on a peninsula surrounded by water. After appreciating the moment and reciting some short prayers, I descended the lighthouse and admired the marvelous features of the Harbor View Hotel. The hotel had a wraparound porch with scenic views in all directions, including the lighthouse across the street. The building resembles a house that might be considered a mansion. The hotel reminds me of a place you might read about in a romance novel. Like an interesting person, the hotel knows viewers admire its beauty, almost like the hotel possesses a personality within itself.

Compared to my first ferry ride, I encountered a second ferry that connected Edgartown and Chappaquiddick Island (CI). This ferry was much smaller than my previous ride as a passenger from Falmouth. The boat could hold three cars and ten people with two to three bicycles. The small ferry ride intrigued me. So, I paid a small fee and walked my bike onto the ferry. I was unfamiliar with MV, CI, or any of the surrounding islands in the Cape Cod area. For the day in MV, I was on vacation to enjoy the scenery without a defined schedule. I was exploring for the sole sake of exploring.  

After reaching CI, I rode my bike from the ferry another four miles to East Beach. Then, I had to ride another four miles to ride the ferry back into Edgartown. It was evident that CI was the quieter side of this paradise. One small convenience store and deli existed on CI with some souvenirs and light groceries. I stopped at this local business to buy some cold refreshments. I also encountered a Japanese Garden that was small but quaint.

After getting off the ferry, I stepped into Old Sculpin Gallery, an upscale store of splendid artwork. Many pieces of art were available for purchase, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. Honestly, I sought relief from the sun in an air-conditioned building. I was soaked in sweat like I had just worked out at the gym. Of course, I had just biked another eight miles across CI. However, two nicely dressed women greeted me cordially, asking me where I was from and if I was enjoying the Vineyard. I commented on the fantastic works of photography in the gallery. One of the two girls inquired about my poetry and photography books. She asked me to write down the titles of my books and published photos. This demeanor is generally what I encountered in the Vineyard throughout the day. People were exceptionally polite and genuinely wanted island visitors to enjoy their experiences there.   

In addition to discussing my poetry books, I conversed with the art gallery sales clerk about local bookstores with regional authors, including some that might have lived at MV during the entire annual year or at least during the warm season. For weather reasons, many local residents live at the Vineyard during the warmer months of the year. Then they retreat to southern regions of the United States during the harshest months of the winter. The winter conditions at MV can be quite severe.

The sales clerk recommended Edgartown Books, a locally owned business and independent bookstore. A coffee shop restaurant named Behind the Bookstore literally sat in the back of Edgartown Books. You could walk through the bookstore into a courtyard garden between the two businesses. Several people sat at tables in the courtyard, eating food and drinking their lattes from the coffee shop. It was a charming setup! I bought two books by authors from MV who wrote about experiences at the Vineyard. I still felt somewhat overheated from the sun and the long-distance bike ride. I sat inside the coffee shop for a good hour, drinking several glasses of water, a cold brew coffee, and eating a peach muffin. I glimpsed through my two purchased local reads. Again, like the art gallery, the coffee shop was air-conditioned! I really enjoyed the local beach town feel of the bookstore and coffee shop. I quickly observed that both tourists and permanent residents of the island enjoyed these two businesses.

From Edgartown, I rode my bike to Katama and South Beaches. Barry and Bernice advised that these beaches were the most scenic on the island. I took their advice to heart and walked on South Beach to soak in the splendid views. I rode past the Katama Farm, which encompassed many acres of crops and other greenery. Again, I was surprised to observe these fields in the middle of the island….a working farm with barns, silos, animals, and machinery. 

It was getting later in the day, and I knew I had about 12-13 miles to return to Oaks Bluff. Rather than taking Seaview Avenue along the ocean beaches, I took roads on the interior of the island through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. This route permitted me to see other parts of the Vineyard that I had not witnessed earlier in the day. The interior marshes and woods possessed their own natural wonders. While I knew I needed to head back to Boston eventually, I would have enjoyed camping on the beach at MV to truly soak in the moment and spiritual essence of this gorgeous place.

Perhaps I was more tired after baking in the sun and riding several miles across the island to visit all the mentioned landmarks. The last leg of my biking journey was very challenging! I was hungry and ready to rest with a beer in my hand. I eventually returned to All-Star Bikes, where Robert kept calling me "The Professor." Robert inquired about my higher education teaching and research interests. I informed him that I was close to finishing my Ph.D. in Communication. One of his summer seasonal employees majored in Communication and asked me some questions about the discipline. Robert and his staff provided an excellent example of positive customer service experiences. Beyond the day’s adventure, they tried to know more about my life beyond the surface-level small talk. All-Star Bikes employed workers with great attitudes who genuinely wanted to serve visitors of the Vineyard.

I asked for Robert’s recommendation for a restaurant where I could eat some of the best local cuisine. Robert directed me to Lookout Tavern, just around the corner from his shop. He further recommended that I order the lobster tacos. His insights proved to be delicious! This restaurant has ocean views, located next to the water. I also ordered a couple of local beers made by microbreweries on the island. After dinner, I quickly visited some souvenir shops for last-minute purchases and gifts. On the return trip with the ferry, I was blessed to enjoy the company of Barry and Bernice once again. I had hoped to see them again. We conversed more about each other’s families and sat on the upper deck of the ferry. Together we savored the sunset over the island silhouette of the Vineyard in the background.

I arrived back at the docks in Falmouth at about 6:30 p.m. ET. I took the remainder of the day to drive around downtown Falmouth and observe the early evening nightlife. I drove by Aquatic Brewing Company. I decided to turn around and check out the inside of the microbrewery. Rather than drinking full-size pints of beer, I tried a sampler order. These servings allow a patron to try four to five beers with about six ounces in each glass. You take time to enjoy the taste of each beer rather than only drinking beverages for consumption reasons. I was impressed with the tastings. While enjoying the atmosphere, I sat next to a group of young men who appeared to have just gotten off work from a construction site. They wore construction clothes and told me about their many carpentry projects on both residential and commercial properties. It sounded like Falmouth and the surrounding Cape Cod towns were growing faster than residences could be built. I appreciated the friendliness of local conversations. I soon got back into my car and made my way back to Boston, where I was staying at a close friend’s residence.

For several days to come, I knew I would feel the positive vibes of the Vineyard long after my ferry returned to Falmouth. MV was much larger in square mileage than I initially speculated. I am still reminiscing how magnificent the Vineyard’s natural wonders were. While maybe a pop culture fad to visit, Martha's Vineyard greatly exceeded my expectations! It was clear why so many people visited the island every year and paid the absorbent prices to stay there overnight. Like a Taylor Swift Eras concert, the experience of island adventures might be worth the abhorrent prices to marvel at the Vineyard’s vastness and majestic grandeur.  

(Edgartown Cinema)

(Busy Main Street in Edgartown)

(Despite the warnings, people still jump off Jaw’s Bridge.)

(This sign serves as a warning not to jump off the bridge.) 

(The Harbor View Hotel)

(Lighthouse Beach, near the Edgartown Harbor Lighthouse)

(Edgartown Harbor Lighthouse)

(The sunset greeted me as I departed Martha’s Vineyard.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #travel #traveling #MarthasVineyard #VineyardLiving #TheVineyard #adventures #escapades #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #JamesCartee #goodness #lessons #CapeCod #Boston #adventures #beaches #lighthouses

Friday, July 21, 2023

Jace’s First Birthday and The Townsend Adventures

(Jace eats his first birthday cake with a family audience.)

Lisa and I have many reasons this year to celebrate meaningful events and remember our family’s blessings. For instance, Jace’s first birthday occurred on July 1, 2023. The simplest blessings sometimes possess life’s most powerful messages. My children, Annabelle and Jace, are safe and healthy with two married parents who deeply love them. Sometimes I take these luxuries for granted – safety, good health, and a fruitful marriage. Not every family happens to be so lucky.

While sitting down, Jace often sways to music with his two hands in the air, waving them like he just doesn’t care. These sways might be interpreted as his form of dancing. He especially enjoys dancing to the music of movies and cartoons, such as Frozen’s "Let It Go" or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song (the latest version of the show). As such, we decorated our home for Jace’s party with Ninja Turtle adornments.

My sister, Allison, has two children, Ayden and Brogan. My father, Jim Cartee, Jr., is known as G-Daddy by Ayden and Brogan. Annabelle has since named G-Daddy, JayJay, for reasons unknown to me. The new nickname seems to have taken hold…. Annabelle and Jace say “JayJay” much more often than "G-Daddy." It is endearing when Annabelle constantly asks, "Where is JayJay? Where is CeeCee?” Annabelle has developed a strong sentiment toward my parents.       

CeeCee, JayJay, and Allison attended Jace’s party. In doing so, they traveled from Nashville to Knoxville, a decent drive of approximately three hours. During the occasion, Jace had his first taste of birthday cake. At first, Jace seemed hesitant, like, "What do I do with this food sitting in front of me?" He then wrecked the cake with his bare hands by stuffing the delicious dessert into his mouth. Jace’s reactions to sweet flavors were entertaining, to say the least! 

After scouring the birthday cake, our family shared dinner together. Then Jace opened his presents. Of course, Annabelle was extremely helpful, eating as much cake as possible and then playing with the gifts…all the things a big sister should do. Annabelle now constantly reminds us that her birthday is approaching in August. As a once-in-a-lifetime event in Jace’s journey, turning one, it was wonderful having the family together. These times together used to be more frequent. So, I cherish the few moments a year we are all together.

As I grow older, I have realized how difficult traveling becomes with two children under the age of three, especially on long road trips. We stayed close to home for a summer vacation to keep things simple. We traveled to a small mountain town named Townsend, close to Knoxville, Tennessee. Before our trip, Allison left after the party on Saturday, returning to Nashville.   

Townsend is nestled in the heart of the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains and offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and historical prominence. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Townsend experienced a logging business boom that fueled its economic growth. The dense forests surrounding the town provided abundant valuable timber, attracting logging companies and sawmills to the area. Townsend now serves as a unique tourist destination on the quiet side of the Smokies, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

For six days, my parents rented a cabin for our family in Townsend. I wish I had taken more pictures of this residence. The house was built by the grandfather of the man who owned it. The craftsmanship was awe-inspiring! The layout of the cabin included one bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. CeeCee and JayJay slept downstairs while Lisa, I, and the kids slept upstairs. There was a comfortable space for socialization and watching television on the main level. Another similar smaller space existed in a loft area upstairs with furniture and another television. The cabin felt homey with candescent lights and the fresh smell of mountain wood. The residence occupied property across the street from the Little River, a waterway where thousands of visitors tube every summer in Townsend. I could have stayed several more days in this beautiful home!

On our first day, with the company of my parents, Lisa and I wanted to take the kids to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. We also visited a local moonshine establishment called Sugarlands Moonshine Distilling Company. My parents were soon tired of the July 4th crowds and the midday heat. So, CeeCee and JayJay left Gatlinburg a little early. At the same time, Lisa, I, and the kids enjoyed an arcade, some light shopping, and the Ole’ Smoky Candy Kitchen. This candy store existed in Gatlinburg since 1952, and this establishment has made homemade taffy since its opening. Their taffy selection consists of thirty-three flavor choices. If you ever visit Gatlinburg, you must visit the Candy Kitchen. Our first day in the mountains was definitely full of action!

On Tuesday, July 4, we all took the kids down by the riverside to swim. Annabelle and Jace would sit in the shallow parts, throw rocks, and enjoy the cool water. At first, both kids were intimidated by the current, but eventually, both seemed to acclimate to the river. At night, the town leadership of Townsend planned a Fourth of July fireworks event. Before the fireworks, there were food trucks and live entertainment with local bands. Annabelle and I threw a Nerf football on a nearby field. When Annabelle and I returned to our chairs, Annabelle wanted to involve CeeCee in throwing the football. Annabelle can throw pretty hard if close enough to your face. She did just that! Annabelle hit Mom in her mouth, knocking her glasses off and messing up a glamorous hairstyle fit for the occasion. I laughed vigorously for several minutes, thus frustrating Mom even more. Annabelle joined in on the laughing escapade as well.

Unfortunately, we might have been too close to the fireworks launch site. It was very loud! While Jace seemed unaffected by the noise, the fireworks scared Annabelle. She has since declared that the fireworks are over and that there will be no more fireworks this summer. The event and celebratory spectacle were phenomenal!

We visited The Dancing Bean coffee house on Wednesday and a few more local country souvenir shops. This coffee shop sits in a large log cabin, close to other shops and a winery. The interior of the Dancing Bean is quaint and homey, with a few tables and chairs. For coffee alone, this is our favorite spot in Townsend. However, if you desire both an excellent coffee and a dessert treat, we also thoroughly enjoy The Chocolate Bar.

We then ate at Townsend's newest restaurant, The Peaceful Side Social Brewery and Craft Kitchen. The eatery includes a microbrewery and a solid food selection. The beer was good, and the food was tasty. The Peaceful Side had a large patio outside and a small playground for young children with slides and a tunnel on what resembled a small hill of greenery. The area's layout was well-designed with families and outdoors enthusiasts in mind. Because Annabelle and Jace enjoyed the river so much the day before, Lisa and I took them back to the same shallow river spot as before. This time, we stayed longer than our visit before, so the kids could soak and swim leisurely. Mom and Dan decided to go home rather than take another swim in the river.

On Thursday, Mom and Dad left to go home in the morning. Lisa, I, and the kids stayed one extra day. While a little challenging with Annabelle, we decided to hike on the West Pong Trail in the Smokey Mountains National Park. The trail is wide and relatively flat with a steady incline, ideal for families with kids. We hiked approximately one and a half miles on the trail before Annabelle wanted me to carry her. We continually try to acclimate the kids to the outdoors; however, kids will be kids. They quickly grow tired and then want to be carried.   

After our three-mile hike (1.5 miles in and out), the kids took a one-hour nap in the car. The Peaceful Side restaurant has a taco bar from Thursday-Sunday during the spring and summer seasons. Lisa and I were eager to try this specific cuisine since we thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant the previous day. The food tasted like traditional Mexican street tacos with delectable spices and ingredients. We again enjoyed being with the kids outside, with the mountains surrounding us on all sides.     

On Friday morning, Lisa and I wanted to visit The Dancing Bean one more time for a last-minute coffee. Townsend has several miles of paved walkways, including alongside the Little River. We walked another three miles with the children in a stroller. Before returning home to Knoxville, we visited the Foothills Parkway, which has some of the most beautiful Wears Valley and Townsend vistas. It is a relaxed road through the mountains without much traffic, so one can pull over and soak in the scenery. It was a solid note to end the trip on! 

Because of Jace’s first birthday and our trip to Townsend, I was reminded of some valuable life lessons. For example, swimming in the river and savoring the taste of moonshine again taught me to find happiness in life's simple pleasures. Life is full of everyday moments that can bring joy if we are present and appreciative of them. This trip reminded me of the importance of living in the present, fully engaged in each moment, just as I was fully present in nature's embrace.

The memories I created with my family during this trip are precious. They reinforced the significance of nurturing and cherishing connections with loved ones, as these relationships enrich our lives.

Nature operates on its own terms, reminding me that there are aspects of life beyond our control. Sometimes, the best approach is to let go and trust the journey, just as I have trusted trails that led me through the wilderness while hiking.

(Jace loves playing with balloons!)

(I kept laughing at Jace shoving the cake in his mouth.)

(Annabelle loves her Aunt Allison!)

(Jace enjoys the river with JayJay’s assistance.)

(When we hike as a family, Jace rides and enjoys the scenery.)

(One of the viewpoints on the Foothills Parkway.)

(Annabelle plays nicely with her brother, Jace, in the river.)

(Annabelle smiles and snuggles with CeeCee during the 4th of July event in Townsend.)

(Jace likes holding the markers more than actually drawing with them.)

(Jace thinks, “Is my second birthday here yet? I need more cake!”)

#JacesFirstBirthday #FamilyCelebration #PreciousMoments #Blessings #BirthdayCake #SiblingLove #FamilyTime #MountainTown #TownsendTN #GreatSmokyMountains #CabinLife #NatureBeauty #RiverSwimming #GratefulHeart #LifeLessons #Contentment #SimplePleasures #AppreciatingLife #AdventureAwaits #MakingMemories #DaddyDestinations #Daddy #Dad #Blog #Family #DaddiesAndDaughters #Destinations #Memories #Story #Narrative #Inspiration #JamesCartee

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Pop-up Camper Maiden Voyage – New Nature Adventures Begin!

(A video tour of our pop-up camper)

About nine months ago, Lisa and I bought a 2000 Coleman Fleetwood Westlake model pop-up camper. This pop-up model includes an indoor toilet and shower. While we will probably use the indoor bathroom sparingly, the potential option might work to our advantage with our two tiny humans. I took the camper on its maiden voyage this past Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully, to support me with the new hobby endeavor, my father (now known as JayJay with Annabelle’s nickname) helped me with this brief camping trip. We camped at Panther Creek State Park on Cherokee Lake near Morristown, Tennessee. Panther Creek covers approximately 1,444 acres with seventeen hiking trails. Annabelle was fascinated with the playground at the state park, which continues to be one of her favorite recreational activities, specifically with the slides and swings.  

My mother (known as CeeCee by the grandkids) hosted a picnic for the entire family on Saturday. Annabelle was fascinated by the new toy (the pop-up camper) that she self-proclaimed was "Annabelle's." Her favorite words these days are "No" and "Mine." A two-year-old's life can be confusing and turbulent for a new parent. Concerning the camper, Annabelle was most intrigued by the door with all of the modern-day features offered. 

While I do not mind the labor involved with the pop-up camper, it involves a lot of work to set up. You practically unfold the machine like an accordion. The roof rises. The beds slide and extend outwards. The camper reminds me of a transformer robot (the weaponized machines in cartoons and movies that turn into common vehicles). While many new RVs involve a button that balances the trailer without much labor-intensive work, everything on this trailer is manually geared. There are no shortcuts or easy fixes.

The campground was covered with luxurious, multi-thousand-dollar RVs. There was only one family with a traditional car camping setup. Perhaps they were the only real outdoors enthusiasts who knew what “roughing it” truly meant. In a few conversations, some of the supposed other outdoors enthusiasts looked down on pop-ups by saying negative comments. It gave me the impression that the less expensive rig was beneath their standards. I never saw some of the millionaires even walk outside. In other words, many people visibly stayed inside their RVs without ever taking advantage of the many amenities at the state park. This observation seemed a little sad…. maybe you should watch television in your real home and save yourself the hassle and investment of an outdoor recreation vehicle.

I want Annabelle and Jace to enjoy the outdoors and grow accustomed to activities in nature. I desire for them to grow up without being glued to a screen for every waking hour of the day. Being outside is fundamentally beneficial for children, whereas inactivity through technology usage seems rampant in society these days.

The one major downside of a pop-up camper involves rain. If rain appears and you fold up the camper, it can quickly build up mildew and easily damage it. This impact factor does not affect a traditional enclosed RV, where rain bounces off these vehicles like driving a car through a mellow storm.

I plan to take the camper out three to four more times this year. Hopefully, the kids will be sleeping under the stars in the beauty of nature soon. While a pop-up camper might be another version of glamping, these nature activities become an excellent opportunity to spend time with my family and make memories we will cherish for many years to come.     

Please enjoy these pictures from this camping trip and other miscellaneous cute moments of Annabelle and Jace.

(I stand proudly by my pop-up camper for her maiden voyage.)

(Annabelle loves to eat various types of meat with protein and her daily vegetables. I sometimes wish these details were a true reality.)

(Jace loves to eat more than his sister and will ingest anything in front of him.)

(Jace is such a handsome boy!)

(Annabelle swings on the playground at Panther Creek State Park.)

(Jace enjoys swinging on the playground at Panther Creek State Park.)

(Annabelle sneaks a peak through a crawl tube at the playground.)

(Annabelle and Jace interact with this monkey at the Knoxville Zoo. The monkey was very interactive as if participating in a real conversation.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #lifelessons #nature #camper #RV #popupcamper #camping

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Creation of Life versus the End of Our Journey – Miracles All Around

 (Annabelle and Jace hang out in the crib together.)

As I read previous blog entries about the births of my children, the creation of life is a beautiful memory! Many years ago, I vividly remember visiting my grandmother, who at the time suffered from cancer, coming to the end of her life journey. Put simply, I have often come to the extremes of individual life spans…the start and the end. I see the newfound energy of Baby Jace, my son, with his cuteness exposed in his plush red cheeks. Each family member cuts in line and argues over who will hold him next. This imagery of Jace is a drastic comparison to the grandmother I saw run a marathon for almost eighty-five years until diagnosed with cancer. She clearly struggled with the challenges of the illness. As I have experienced miracles in my life through my own survival, I have become a miracle by persisting to live. I choose to get up each day, and I choose to keep moving forward. If I can live daily without giving up the fight, then anyone who believes in this same positive mantra can do the same.  

If I am not feeling happy all the time, I sometimes look down on myself. This is neither healthy nor productive. In my day-to-day routine, I do not always feel like the character, Tigger, from the famous cartoon, Winnie-the-Pooh. In fact, I sometimes feel drastically different than how Tigger is portrayed in the show. Some days I am definitely not bouncing off walls with contagious enthusiasm.

Recently, I have witnessed that my lows are really not that low at all. Many exist in worse predicaments than all of us, even if we face adverse circumstances. I expect my daily moments to constantly feel like holding a newborn baby, fresh and exciting. This perpetual feeling thus becomes never-ending with good days every day. However, for most of us, that is not life or our own experienced reality. As the reader, please do not mistake the feeling of being down versus choosing your daily attitude, especially in hard times. These mentalities are distinctly different. Those who feel down may also choose the attitude they personify, positive or negative, for better or worse.

Most believers consider the birth of life to be a miracle. Much like birth, God consistently performs miracles for those who need healing from diseases and serious injuries. I believe the occurrence of a miracle transpires from a prayer request and in the confidence that God will answer that prayer request.

I recall asking for past miracles of healing that God may or may not have answered. These prayers resulted in emotional pleas of sorrow, confusion, and frustration. On the other hand, in the next moment, I experienced the miracle of birth that resulted in emotional prayers of gratefulness (a healthy baby). On one hand, the dualistic relationship serves as a spiritual high through the creation of life. On the flip side, I then experience down feelings of what eventually becomes inevitable for every human, death. The celebration of life mixes with a sad feeling to see one eventually go to a heavenly home.

As I have seen many times in my journey, life comes and goes with miracles through the in-between periods. Some miracle prayer requests are answered, while some remain unanswered.

If you experience misery and loathe each day, life may pass you by. And amidst the grief, you become discouraged as I have in my own past experiences. One might consider these feelings normal for human beings at certain times in life. In other words, we all feel these mixed emotions.

When you give your very best to change whatever creates this experienced misery, the miracle of God's Glory becomes magnified. If you do not give in, if you do not give up, if you do not quit, your spiritual heart knows that God has more for you. In the daily decision a person makes to get up and never give in, good things will start to come. Give God everything you got in the goals and directions that you pursue, and a favorable blessing will eventually emerge. In this pursuit, enjoy the breaks to create, celebrate, and dedicate time to those you love.

This mentality becomes vital at the beginning of one life with birth and the end of another person's life with death. Even if you do not enjoy what you do in your day-to-day routine, you will at least enjoy these precious moments with your loved ones. That may be where the real joy always lies – encountering those cherished few people you leave in the morning and those you return to in the evening. The in-between times during work hours may only serve one purpose for now - to pay the bills. Then even in a day's time, we realize that miracles come at both the beginning and the end of our days, much like the birth and death of a life.

With the experience of these beginning and end miracles, we can all become a Tigger! We can glorify God with the attitude we choose to possess by observing the good around us at the beginning and end of a hard day’s work.   

These tiny humans bring me daily joy at the beginning and end of my many hectic days. Enjoy more pictures displaying their incredible cuteness.

(Jace’s smile brightens my day.)

(When asleep, Jace is so quiet. He is not quiet most of the time while awake.)

(Annabelle rides the rhino at the Knoxville Zoo. Much like her mama, Lisa, Annabelle loves animals!)

(Annabelle was seriously tired after a half-day at the Knoxville Zoo. She clearly had a good time.)

(Jace’s feet are still so small. I try my best to cherish these moments.)

(While visiting the grandparents, G-Daddy reads Annabelle a book before bedtime.)

(Annabelle drives the firetruck at the Discovery Center Children’s Museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.)

(Annabelle places G-Daddy’s famed headband on Jace’s head for a photo opportunity.)

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