Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Coping with Daily Pressures…..Children Allay These Stressors!

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5a (NIV)

My father, G-Daddy Jim Cartee, Jr., recently said that some individuals might consider my many responsibilities, professional tasks, and personal endeavors to be impossible with so much on my plate. Of course, the perception of the impossible comes with a lot of stress! 

Many readers personally know that I am a dedicated graduate student, working on my Ph.D. in Communication. While enrolled in this Ph.D. program, I also try my best to support my family in any way necessary, which often means stretching myself beyond a normal workload. A 40-hour work week sounds alluring. In fact, it sounds like a luxury I have not yet experienced for most of the last two years.

For those of you who attended a traditional graduate program, you understand what it is like to be in my shoes. It can be all-consuming if you let it!

Before I entered my Ph.D. program in the fall of 2020, Lisa got pregnant with Annabelle. A few college professors and researchers cautioned me about the doctoral workload while having children…like it could not be done…almost like it was impossible. One colleague I highly admire frankly said, "That is a stupid idea!" In other words, it was not advisable to have children while in the program. 

However, I think some of these individuals, especially those who do not have children, miss the reasons why parents cherish these blessed tiny humans.

While life experiences can be extremely hard, my children, Annabelle and Jace (who will soon be born) are the reasons Lisa and I work so diligently. My kids are not a burden just because I am a father in a Ph.D. program. They are the reasons why I push myself so hard!

Annabelle and Jace bring unspeakable joy that helps me manage the Ph.D. program along with other major life responsibilities. They often provide a much-needed distraction. My children are the coping mechanism that makes a Ph.D. program doable!

Of course, Lisa is a champion life partner and spouse! She holds our beehive home together by working full-time and taking great care of Annabelle, and soon she will do the same with Jace. If I did not have her support, I am sure the Ph.D. and my other work commitments would be much more difficult. Lisa warrants all the credit when I actually graduate with this degree. 

If a parent’s heart rests in the right place, I believe they will feel the same way we do about our kids. We cope with the stressors of life because children allay those pressures through their very existence. Kids create shared, magical moments with parents.

For example, on a few occasions recently, Annabelle picked up my shoes and brought them to me when leaving the house. In another instance, she has often tried to help Lisa and me clean the house. She vacuums with the smaller dust buster while we vacuum with the larger adult vacuum.

And of course, when Annabelle sings and dances to her favorite songs in the Encanto movie, my heart springs with smiles! These are just a few of the memories that make living with a parent’s purpose worthwhile….to remember those moments that will truly last a lifetime.  

Please enjoy the following maternity photos recently taken by Audrey Stephens.

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

When in Trouble, Parents Say “I Love You!” – What does that phrase mean?

Growing up, in terms of staying out of trouble, I would say that Allison, my sister, and I were pretty good kids. We were rarely spanked or given a serious talk for offenses where our parents needed to correct our wrongful ways. However, on occasion, we were reprimanded with lessons to be learned and explained why we were in trouble.

In one specific instance, Allison drew all over the walls in the entryway of our house with colored markers. She blamed me, her brother, who at the time could barely speak complete sentences for her crimes. Therefore, my parents spanked me as the declared culprit only for Allison to later confess her wrongdoing in tears of mischief. She did not receive any type of discipline for her con artist graffiti behaviors.  

These were the most feared words my mother could speak – “Wait until your father comes home!” I would beg Mom to keep temporary problematic actions just between us. Sometimes she would practice mercy and keep small infractions a secret; other times, I would sit alone in my room, waiting for my father to come home, which often resulted in a spanking. Those few times were the longest waiting periods of my life!

One day, I imagine that the same warning declarations will be spoken to my two children, Annabelle and Jace. The fear of Daddy coming home….I still experience chills with these frightening thoughts as I remember my childhood.

As I grow older, I now understand that respect for my father triggered these disappointing thoughts, yearning for his approval. In other words, I knew I was in trouble, that I did wrong, and most importantly, that I could be better than my troublesome behaviors suggested. Naturally, I wanted my parents to be proud of me, rather than cause problems from misconduct.

After a spanking or a serious grounding, my father would ask me, “Why do you think I reacted in this way to your actions?” I would usually think of some smart-aleck response, angry in my own way for my father’s discipline. My Dad’s explanation usually carried the same themes about an honorable upbringing and affirming that he loved me. I would think, “Yeah right! How does loving someone lead to or relate to disciplining them?”

Then, as I have raised Annabelle, I understood that love from a parent often serves to protect and teach a child, sometimes even safeguarding the child from themselves. For example, Annabelle often needs to stay out of the kitchen when the oven gets hot and grease boils to cook food. For another instance, Annabelle likes to stand up while taking a bath. In order to keep Annabelle from falling and potentially causing serious harm in the bathtub, I tell her to “sit down!” Even though she does not yet understand these incidental reasonings, I caution and speak sternly so that Annabelle listens and obeys the correction rendered. Then inevitably, serious accidents are avoided.

I do these things because I love my daughter. I desire to protect her. I wish to keep her from physical harm. At two years of age, she does not comprehend the warning messages that my wife, Lisa, and I speak to her, although one day she probably will. Like myself, she will appreciate and even be grateful that her parents cared for her in the way my parents have cared for me. It builds a foundation to understand right from wrong.  

In modern-day U. S. culture, it is rare to have two caring parents in a stable home environment with sound ethics being taught. I remain blessed to have two parents who are both still very much involved in my life, and I will carry on the traditions they taught me through discipline, correction, and respect for others.

Hopefully, Annabelle will understand that my love for her is strong and secure for as long as I live.

In the pictures below, Annabelle socialized and even entertained her Great Grandfather, Jim Cartee, Sr. While sometimes strict, my Grandfather practiced many of the same principles discussed in this blog entry when I was younger, therefore providing another father-figure to directly learn from about discipline and parental love.

(Annabelle was easily entertained by feeding Granddad blueberries! These interactions were priceless!)

(Annabelle recently enjoys snuggling with large stuffed bears and “puppies.”)

(Annabelle would probably say, “No tickling!” However, her giggle makes us smile and brightens the day. I think she likes the attention.)

(Sometimes it is hard to get even a small smile from Annabelle, but we successfully attained a photo with Granddad, despite her expressed moods.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Creativity Expressed in Poetic Fashion - My Swan River Daisy

(At the bowling alley, Annabelle enjoys adult horseback rides on Mom's shoulders.) 

My last poetry collection, titled All His Gifts: Poems on Love, Life, and Loss, paid tribute to my wife, Lisa, in her honor. Therefore, in the same light, I also seek to create a poetry anthology that will also honor my daughter, Annabelle. As I continue to write and entertain my own muse, this poem, My Swan River Daisy, struck a chord of heartstrings for this new special collection to now come forward. Read and enjoy the love expressions for my daughter.

My Swan River Daisy

You are my swan river daisy!
For your fond smiles, I stand amazed.
Graced with your giggles and affections,
Daises sprinkled in sundials,
My love for you is crazy!

You are my swan river daisy!
The light pours in through the shaded trees.
Roots glisten in water that flows
From rain-shadowed clouds of blessings.
You are my swan river daisy!
Unexpected surprises teach me to flourish,
Even though my heart feels malnourished.
My mind no longer remains hushed.
You are my swan river daisy!
Turn towards my arms to encompass my love.
Raise those hugs surrounded by hope.
My fatherly voice will guide your way.
You are my swan river daisy!
I mix the soil for a simple rush of joy,
Especially with thoughts of a brotherly boy
Whose happiness will soon annoy.
You are my swan river daisy!
Turn towards what is good, what is calm,
What is peaceful, what is right,
Toward the valued wonders of this world.
You are my swan river daisy!
Choose the path of selfless yet esteemed.
Stand confident yet stellar in lights beamed.
After seconds asleep, your face shines dreamed.
You are my swan river daisy!
For your fond smiles, I stand amazed.
Graced with your giggles and affections,
Daises sprinkled in sundials,
My love for you is crazy!

Here are the latest photo captures of my dearest daughter and darling!

(Annabelle giggles and interacts with river otters at Grandfather Mountain State Park, although she calls them "puppies.")

(Annabelle plays peek-a-boo with Daddy's ball caps.)

(Annabelle finds a large egg during her Easter egg hunt.)

(Annabelle says, "Ooooh, I found a special egg that I really like.")

(While Mom loses at the claw game, Annabelle poses for another cute picture.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #poetry #poem

Friday, April 15, 2022

Perfectionism Is Overrated! The Good Friday News Is Here!

(Annabelle loves driving her cart through the grocery store.) 

“He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.”

1 Peter 2:24 (New Living Translation)

If you tend to be a perfectionist like me, you probably also tend to set high standards for yourself, sometimes with expectations that may not even be humanly possible. Modern U.S. society promotes excellence in all things, sometimes even overlooking the health of an individual in the pursuit of professional and personal success. You might see these high standards often exhibited in professional sports, where putting your body at risk has become a common practice in order to win.

Sometimes Easter passes by quickly without me giving the holiday the proper respect it warrants. When the tomb boulder rolled aside to uncover the grave of Jesus, it was revealed that He had been resurrected on Sunday morning. He disappeared, and some feared this sudden disappearance of a missing body, perhaps someone stealing Jesus’s body out of the tomb. However, in Mathew 16: 21-28, Jesus reminds followers, even rebuking Peter, that he will be killed only later to rise again back to life.   

There is good news that remains evident in the title of Good Friday! Many Christians reverently celebrate this Friday two full days before Easter. This day is often described as “good” because of the holiness of the occasion when Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of man.

When I feel pressure from society or even within myself to perform at heightened levels, Easter gives me a glimmer of hope to let it all go. Perhaps I still reach for perfectionism, which is obviously impossible. I try to still remember that God loves me where I currently am in my own journey with Him. It relieves my soul knowing that Jesus paid a price so that I would not have to. In other words, I try to be perfect and sometimes beat myself up for not being perfect or for not attaining certain goals in a given timeframe. These loathing self-transgressions are very much counterproductive.

Let’s be honest with each other. That impossible pursuit of perfectionism only leads to disappointment in results that will never fulfill the individual who seeks these insurmountable standards. While the Christian doctrine of the forgiveness of sins sounds so simple by principle, it still prevails that many individuals find it hard to accept. The gift of salvation is free in faith by simply believing in the dear name of Jesus and the sacrifice that transpired on Good Friday.

While there is sadness in death, there is freedom in this case. Christians are no longer bound by the performance of perfectionism in a task list or recorded goals not yet achieved. We are free from the bondage of records and self-imposed standards! We do not need to be our own worst enemy.

This devotional text does not mean to undermine the goalsetting ambitions of driven individuals. Rather, the intention serves to remind readers that God has given us the freedom to enjoy the journey in the pursuit of higher aspirations. Perfectionism is not achievable, however, appreciation and gratefulness for the price paid in the times before us sets the stage for a life well-lived in the goodness God gives us through His Son.

There is no need to be more, to do more, or to become more when God already reached the apex of sins forgiven. The best we can now do for ourselves is to enjoy the blessings and moments we have with those who cherish and love us most.

Enjoy the freedom that Easter provides in the reminders of a symbolic resurrection. There is goodness to experience this Friday. Like myself, do not forget the good in front of you. For me, that goodness is often experienced in the smiles I daily see in my wife, Lisa, and my chosen beloved child, Annabelle.

I hope these pictures remind you of the true meaning of Easter and that God is easily accessible to you in the words of a self-expressed prayer.   

(Annabelle was actually interacting with my brother-in-law, Bryan, during a recent visit to my parents' house in Franklin, Tennessee, near Nashville, Tennessee.)

(While you cannot see Bryan in these photos, he is actually playing with Annabelle and poking her lightly in the belly. She is obviously enjoying these interactions.)

(We recently visited Morristown, Tennessee for a day, including the Briarwood Ranch Safari Park. We had a very good time exploring the area.)

(Mr. Tim Webb gave Annabelle her first lollipop, and she thoroughly enjoyed his tutelage on how to eat the sweet treat.)

(Annabelle discovered "Kiki's Sugar Shack" but thankfully could not open all the packages to eat as much sugar that Mrs. Kathy Webb stored in the goody drawers.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Christmas #HappyEaster #Easter #GoodFriday #goodness #lifelessons

Sunday, March 6, 2022

An Amazing Announcement – Baby Jace Is on The Way!

As some of you already know, Lisa is approximately five months pregnant with a healthy baby boy named Jace (at least all signs indicate the baby is healthy). Jace will be named as the fourth generation of James Louie Cartee's. In other words, he will have the same name as me, my father, and my grandfather. This idea is meant to honor the men of our family in the generations before his arrival.

I discovered that Lisa was pregnant in early November when I noticed she was not eating Annabelle’s Halloween candy. If you know my wife well, hence before this pregnancy, she cannot resist certain candies and sweets, specifically with her dark chocolate cravings. I immediately asked, "Are you pregnant?" She looked at me with large sulky eyes and said, "Yyyyeeessss!" While she experienced tears of joy, there was a slight panic in her voice as well, hence the reality of this news and the arrival of another tiny human to greet us.

We are both excited and a little nervous about these new stages of life as our family grows. Since I have become a father, I have learned so much about myself and fatherhood because of these tiny humans – Annabelle and Jace.

The following spiritual lessons come to mind when I think about Jace’s arrival….

1.) Be okay when the unexpected arrives. I was not anticipating having another child in the middle of the most stressful year of my Ph.D. program, however, God has different plans for my family. I must learn to be okay with myself when these unexpected life events transpire. As the popular saying goes, “Do not sweat the trivial things!” Let go and place your faith in God.

2.) Do not let fear get the best of you. If any internal force unsettles your inner peace, it is often fear. No matter what you do, try your best to not let fear bring you down. For me, I try to remember this Bible verse when I am feeling on edge in this context.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

3.) Embrace the moments as they are in front of you. I am a purposeful person, meaning the future often consumes my attention, rather than just being present. Children help remind you what matters right now. It is the small moments that pass quicker than a racecar at the Talladega Superspeedway. Like the previous lesson, I come back to Scripture to practice centeredness in my own spirit. You cannot get those past cherished moments back when they have already happened. This Bible verse reminds me how precious life is when the days pass by so quickly. 

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

James 4:14 (NIV)

4.) Practice gratefulness before gloom. While this principle may explain itself, you can always be thankful for one more thing in your life. In other words, abundant blessings pour upon us as individuals in more ways than we know. We should not take these many privileges for granted. Gratefulness will overshadow gloomy thoughts if you simply say “thank you” enough times for all the good in your own life. Grateful, positive thoughts bring forth more grateful, positive thoughts.     

These lessons have often been my focus throughout this season of my life. I must remember to be okay with the unexpected, not let fear get the best of me, to embrace the present moment, and to practice gratefulness before a gloomy attitude. Perhaps you should follow these same observations if you find yourself on shaky ground when surprised by life-altering changes.

For your enjoyment, please see some of the latest ultrasound pictures where Jace swims in the spotlight and portraits where I try to hear and feel Jace’s movements in Lisa’s belly. 

Many thanks to the talents of Jack Horsley for the wonderful portrait photos of Lisa and me!

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #firststeps #babylife #friends