Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Grateful for the Scars in Hard Times…. Happy Thanksgiving!


Through this song, titled Scars, by the band, I Am They, the expressed lyrics represent gratitude from a unique perspective. Read the following verses. If you have time, you can also watch the video included here as well.  

“Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn't trade it for anything
'Cause my brokenness brought me to you
And these wounds are a story you'll use
So I'm thankful for the scars
'Cause without them I wouldn't know your heart
And I know they'll always tell of who you are
So forever I am thankful for the scars"

We do not typically thank God for the challenging times in life. However, this song reminds us that adversity builds character, kind of like the old saying goes. One might even say adversity has the potential to strengthen a person’s relationship with God and with other people. It depends on how we react to these hardships as individuals and in our relationships with others.

My past mishaps remind me to really appreciate when times are good. Count the blessings. Even more importantly, love those individuals who supported you through calamity when times were tough. Hug them. Kiss them. Celebrate with them. Laugh with them. Give thanks to them. Pray for them.

The last three years have been a real struggle for many people for varied reasons. If you find good in the created scars of past turbulence, you are stronger for it! These hardships were (and are) not easy, however, God can use them for good if you let Him.

If you have survived some grim times, celebrate those memories this Thanksgiving with loved ones and dear friends. When you rise above harsh circumstances, that is no small feat. That achievement is honorable! That deed is worth remembering! The scars symbolize our narratives of gratitude and the journey of getting to know God personally.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-James Cartee 

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Thanksgiving #HappyThanksgiving #goodness #lifelessons 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

New Destinations, New Memories, and Our Finest Farewells


(Annabelle and Jace dance at Dry Falls Brewing Company.)

“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)

My family often ventures for a weekend away to spend time together as a family. Lisa and I recently visited Easley, South Carolina, the hometown of my grandfather, James Louie Cartee, Sr. As many of my acquaintances know, my grandfather was an avid fan and supporter of the Clemson University Tigers sports teams. Easley is located very close to the Appalachian Mountains and some of the most beautiful state parks in the United States (i.e., Table Rock, Caesar’s Head, Paris Mountain). Easily is also positioned between the cities of Greenville and Clemson.

In addition to stopping in Easley, Lisa and I had long been wanting to visit Brevard, North Carolina. This small mountain town is known for white squirrels, mountain biking, waterfalls, and is the home of Brevard College. Brevard involves an active Main Street scene with family-style restaurants, art galleries, and other quaint shops. Our family ate lunch at the Brevard Diner, and I ordered the grilled trout as my lunch entrée. It was delicious! It tasted as if it had been freshly caught that morning in the cold mountain streams. Our waitress was fantastic! I drank all the water and coffee my bladder could hold. The décor of the restaurant was a classic diner like you might see in a movie, simplistic but still local.

We spent most of the afternoon on Main Street, including a visit to Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop, where we were treated to delectable ice cream desserts. Rocky’s is a known establishment that has resided in Brevard since 1941. I ordered my usual two scoops of two different flavors. Lisa, on the other hand, ordered the largest ice cream Sunday on the menu. Annabelle (two years old) has not yet learned the crucial lesson of sharing. She claimed Lisa's Sunday as her own, however, we limited her intake of sugar. As a youngling, Annabelle loves ice cream, a treat she might eat once every few months.

We arrived at our Airbnb in Easley late Friday evening, where we quickly prepared both kids for bed. It was a long day traveling but a good one for many reasons.

The next day we slept in as long as Annabelle would let us. We drove to Greenville, South Carolina, another beautiful area that incorporates an active lifestyle in the residential scene. For example, we decided to visit the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery. In a utopian mindset, Lisa loves grocery stores! This place was the most extraordinary grocery store I have ever been to. Everything is locally sourced in South Carolina from other family businesses. On the grounds, there is a café with several wonderful fresh offerings that make for a good lunch. A nearby building was an old bicycle shop, which had been turned into a community space with ping pong tables and arcade games. Imagine a large green space that resembles a beer garden for families, friends, and couples. This establishment neighbors a city greenway where bikes run rampant.  Riders often take a break from long distances at the Swamp Rabbit. Among multiple outdoor picnic tables, over a hundred people hung out while enjoying the pleasant weather. While the grocery store carried unique gifts, like candles and labeled t-shirts, the amount of fresh produce and selection of beers was immense.

After stopping at the Swamp Rabbit, Lisa and I wanted to visit the Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, North Carolina, situated about an hour from our Airbnb. The orchard was massive and resided on the top of a mountain where you could see local views in every direction. Apples were still being picked here in mid-November, which is typically a little late in the season. Lisa drank apple cider. I drank an apple slushie and ate several apple donuts. Like the ice cream Sunday, Annabelle possessively claimed a half donut from me, stating “Mine.” All four of us took a tractor ride around the orchard. I also shot an apple cannon at targets across a lake on the property. The canon was loud and resembled the force of a potato gun. These products and services were available for a modest price. The orchard provided a place for families to have a good time in a safe environment.

After another lovely day in these beautiful surroundings, we decided to eat and drink at Dry Falls Brewing Company in Hendersonville, North Carolina. On another previous trip, I visited the area just before Annabelle was born. At the time, the owners of Dry Falls offered the opportunity to pre-buy a drink for a police officer in order to honor these public servants. I sponsored one beer like several other local customers. When off duty, a police officer could enjoy some beverages on the tab of others who supported their services. So, I immediately had respect for the business!

A food truck named Heidi Ho on The Go supplied our dinner with some gluten-free, meatless options for Lisa. I had a few beers, and Lisa drank blackberry cider (also gluten-free). We both agreed that the food and drinks were flavorful. Most importantly, Dry Falls encouraged families to enjoy the atmosphere with an emphasis on tiny humans, meaning Annabelle and Jace. The residents of Brevard, Flat Rock, and Hendersonville seemed especially patient toward young children. Annabelle can sometimes test the nerves of customers close to us. During the week before our trip, I had completed and passed four six-hour comprehensive exams in my Ph.D. program at The University of Tennessee. So, we used the occasion to celebrate this momentous accomplishment! Dry Falls provided a great environment to do so!

On Sunday morning, Lisa and I ventured to my grandfather’s gravesite in Liberty to pay our respects. Called Jace for short, James Louie Cartee, IV is named after my grandfather. Since Jace did not get to officially meet his Great Grandad before his passing, we took a few pictures of Jace next to the tombstone. Lisa was not surprised that Grandad’s tombstone looked the “biggest and shiniest” in the cemetery. Grandad certainly possessed a BIG personality! Watching Jace and Annabelle, Lisa was not able to attend the actual funeral services. As a result, Lisa wanted to see the gravesite. We said a prayer and made our way home.  

Lisa and I enjoyed Brevard so much that we decided to take the same route back to Knoxville with a few more stops along the way. We would drive back through Brevard from Easley, which unfortunately involved many curvy mountain roads. We first stopped at Connestee Falls, a landmark we wanted to see Friday, however, rainy weather prevented us from doing so. Brevard borders the Pisgah National Forest, where several more beautiful waterfalls add to the scenery. In this national forest, we next visited Looking Glass Falls. Both these waterfalls are easily accessible for those with families and troublesome toddlers who have strong personalities. When I walked down to the bottom of Looking Glass Falls, Annabelle decided to lie down in a huge pile of leaves, like she was sleeping in a bed. She was blowing a gasket in her collision with nature. Thankfully, she had no spiders or ticks on her body afterward. She did not seem like her usual joyful self. I wondered what was wrong. Lisa and I would soon find out.

On the final leg driving up the mountain from Brevard through the national forest, Annabelle’s face turned a little greenish. After crying with a moan, she proceeded to vomit all over herself and her car seat. We stopped the car to clean up the mess and change Annabelle’s clothes. It was probably about forty degrees on the top of the mountain with a strong gust of wind. This freezing weather made Annabelle cry even louder on the side of the road. Lisa decided that Annabelle must be hungry after literally losing her lunch in our Honda Civic. No more than twenty-five minutes later, Annabelle threw up again with the recent crackers and goldfish Lisa decided to give her. We stopped again to change Annabelle’s clothes a second time. I had to unpack the entire trunk to get clothes out of the suitcase for this next change. While Annabelle was obviously carsick, we still had another twenty miles to cover before reaching Waynesville and straighter roads ahead. Annabelle’s hair was styled with vomit and leaves from wrestling with the dirt at Looking Glass Falls.  

While our last adventurous afternoon was eventful, I still found myself grateful for these messy spillovers. While probably cussing under my breath at that exact moment (especially after going through the vomiting scenario twice), I realized that God gave me a marvelous tiny human to clean and care for. In my younger days, God also gave me a dedicated Grandfather who often cared for me in some difficult situations. Lisa tends to be the champion with our kids and quickly cleans up decorative puddles of puke quicker than a transformer.

Annabelle gets sick occasionally. However, in a positive light, she cries a sweet quiver when she thinks Lisa or I plan to suddenly leave the apartment. She desires the family to always be together with her Mom and Dad by her side.

When I pick up Annabelle from daycare, she runs into my arms. When going to bed, Annabelle eagerly requests kisses for her and all the stuffed animals that accompany her nighttime sleep. Jace even now smiles when you kiss his cheeks fervently, caught between the love given by Lisa and me. If framed in a positive mindset, the frustrating moments still lead to smiles and remembering these mentioned blessings. Emotions might take over in the seconds of messy situations. However, God instills joy through these tiny humans, even amidst the grossest of moments in a vomit-filled car with a filthy kid who needs a bath. The following Bible verse reminds me of this observed truth.

“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.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.”
 -Psalm 127: 3-5 (NIV)

*Please view these pictures from our recent weekend getaway. 

(Dry Falls Brewing Company was converted into a microbrewery with what was once an automobile body shop.)

(Lisa and Jace eagerly await the orchard tractor ride.)

(Sky Top Apple Orchard near Flat Rock, North Carolina)

(Connestee Falls, near Brevard, North Carolina)

(Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina)

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Dedication to Jim Cartee, Sr. – “My Grandfather and My Friend”

As some of you may already know, my grandfather died last week….kind of unexpectedly for me. He was almost 94 years of age. Sometimes, when you have someone in your life for so long, you take it for granted that they have lived such a long time. You hope that person will continue to be around forever. However, eventually, the day will come when that streak of good health and longevity ends. It might hit you in the stomach like a ton of bricks punching you in the belly.

I still have mixed feelings about the situation because I did not yet have the chance to introduce Granddad to my son, Jace. Now only three and half months, Jace is named after my grandfather as the fourth generation, James Louie Cartee, IV.

The funeral transpired in Easley, South Carolina this past Saturday. I opened the funeral ceremony and service with the following prayer below. I think it surmises many of the happy and sad emotions felt through the occasion for me.

My grandfather lost his mother when he was six years old to pneumonia. When Granddad was twelve years old, he lost his father to a heart attack. He spent most of his teen years living in the YMCA and working while also trying to finish high school. He eventually graduated from Clemson University to later have a very successful career with Shell Oil Company. He and my grandmother, Dorothy “Dot” Cartee were wonderfully married for sixty-four years!

Please read this prayer as a dedication to my grandfather’s life, for all that he stood for, and for all that he meant to me. He will be greatly missed! I love you, Granddad!


“In the name of the Trinity, God, Son, and Holy Spirit; thank you for this day that you have made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thank you for 94 years with a man that forever changed my life and many of the lives here today. Rather than times not had, please help us to remember those times we celebrated together, as family, as friends, as four generations named James. Thank you for Jace. Thank you for Annabelle. Thank you for Lisa. Thank you for parents. Thank you for grandparents. Thank you for family – both family of the Cartee bloodline and friends we consider family here today.

The beach, the sports games, the graduation ceremonies, the times we took for granted that we perhaps now long for more of, the Crown and 7, the good food, the tailgating, the tipsy nights on the dock of the Fripp Bay, the laughs, the tears, and the bad times that eventually turned into good.

The Father tends His sheep. The Son saves mankind. The Spirit tends the Garden. I ask that we learn how precious life is in the three roles of this blessed Trinity. Rather than walk alone, please teach us to walk alongside Jesus.

Please help us to appreciate the living breath in this very moment, right now, in the heartbeat we feel within our chest. The youthful days are gone. The grandkids are no longer the babes. We are the next of kin, and please give us the courage of a thousand David’s, the wisdom of a thousand Solomon’s, and the endurance of a thousand Job’s.

I once might have considered a comparison to Granddad to be a bad thing. I only now consider it to be an honor. I stand before you today as a better man, a better Christian, a better father, a better student, and a better worker because of the person we celebrate today.

My name is James Louie Cartee, the 3rd. Over here, we have James Louie Cartee, Junior. In Knoxville, Tennessee, we have James “Jace” Louie Cartee, the 4th.

Some may say it’s just a name, however, four generations started with one name…and one to be cherished.

In his memory, may we live with honor, joy, and kindness for the rest of our days. Please bless each and every person in this room abundantly and without limit. Please watch over them. Please protect them. Please anoint them.

In the famous words of Mathew Calhoun, “Ain’t no party like the Cartee party because the Cartee party don’t stop!”

Yes sir! This is a celebration. This is a party! This is a dance! This is an awesome occasion!

So, please help us to celebrate until we can dance no more. Help us to grieve if we must. Help us to remember all we can with good memories. Help us to laugh until we can laugh no more. If in sorrow, help us to cry until we feel better. Some may ask me, “Who is Jim Cartee, Sr.?”

I will answer, “He was my grandfather. He was my hero. He was my friend.”

Let’s remember Jim Cartee for the rest of our days!

We ask all these many things in the precious blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. Forever and ever, Amen!”


*Referring back to the prayer, “Crown and 7” is one of my family’s favorite alcoholic beverages, including Granddad. “Tipsy nights on the dock of the Fripp Bay” is a reference to our many wonderful years of memories at Fripp Island.

I have posted some of my favorite recent and past pictures of Granddad below for your viewing.

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #babylife #friends #baby #JaceCartee #Jace #expecting #Annabelle #Granddad #JimCarteeSr #JimCartee

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The Engaged Grace of Gratitude

(Annabelle and Jace relax on the couch with full tummies and maybe full diapers.)

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.”

Psalm 95:2 (NIV)

Almost every night I enjoy my daily cuddle times with Jace (now two months old) as I watch the CBS television hit, Blue Bloods, on Paramount Plus, starring Tom Selleck as New York City’s finest Police Commissioner, Frank Reagan. Jace now smiles at Daddy with some gentle coos of “Oow’s” and “Awe’s.” Slowly, Jace falls asleep in my arms, and he just so happens to snore with a pacifier in his mouth. The pacifier acts like a musical instrument as Jace whistles a song inhaling through his mouthpiece to then let out a huge sigh through his nostrils. When I embrace Jace in my arms on the couch at this moment, I pause the greatest cop show of all time. Then I imagine the gentle feel of my son’s skin and his stellar small body protected in a moment of solitude. We sit there in stillness with expressed thanks to God for these fleeting thoughts of a young father’s real-time joys.

In the quivers of a woodwind musical symphony quartet, the sounds of a baby’s whispers settle into my own breathing patterns as my heart practices songs of gratitude. There is grace in the practiced presence of stillness that a busy society so often neglects to pay bills, thus orchestrating the false identity that more of everything brings some form of satisfaction (i.e. more money, bigger houses, luxury cars, etc.). This endless pursuit of more busyness pushes the threshold of sanity only to take away from the relationships that bring true sanctity to the meaning of fulfillment.

Children naturally bring gracious moments of gratitude into a parent’s life because these previous memories seem few and far between. I only have time to focus on my two tiny human children rather than the selfishness that pursuits of grandeur usually bring, meaning self-accolades of accomplishment to pat myself on the back. While career goals and the personal achievement of success warrant their own merits of fulfillment, these aspirations compare little to the moments previously described.

I experience gratitude by taking the time to remember the preciousness of today. I seize the moment by sensing where I am when the Spirit moves me to do so. I choose to engage in conversations with my son and daughter rather than typing one more research dialogue that incorporates a reading audience of five people.

In other words, I enhance my feelings of gratitude through the taste, touch, smell, and sounds experienced in the miracle of being alive and knowing I am human right now.

On another facet, if I forget the blessings before me, I make it a mental point to remember previous hardships and how God provided the grace necessary to survive those lowland adversities. By remembering the bad times, I further appreciate and embark on the good times of today.

On a final note, I try to share my gracious thoughts of gratitude with others. By speaking good into existence with familiar friends and family, positive vibes thrive into future positive feelings of remembered and celebrated goodness. That is the true nature of the fall season and the destinations we journey to with our Thanksgiving holidays. Being preemptively proactive to affirm the blessings received, I end this year and begin the new with a fresh outlook that keeps my soul youthful, fresh, and wise.

Jace and Annabelle make me a better person when their needs far outweigh my own. There is no time to complain about the small worries of my own nothingness. There is only time to celebrate the small wins of the present victories of musical snores, sleep, and slumber while Tom Selleck quotes some of my favorite inspirational words of fatherhood in the background.

Below you can witness some of my favorite memories I daily reminisce and dream on.

(Lisa and Annabelle enjoy the high and very long slides at Unity Park in Greenville, South Carolina.)

(Annabelle smiles in the marvel of the splash pad at Unity Park in Greenville, South Carolina.)

(We tried for a successful family portrait of CeeCee and G-Daddy with the four grandchildren, however, Jace snoozed the entire time.)

(Annabelle crashes with cuddles for nap time on G-Daddy.)

(Jace is such a cute baby with those precious smiles!)

(Jace is, indeed, the cutest Tennessee fan of all time!)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #familylife #sons #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #goodness #lifelessons #Jace #Annabelle

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Annabelle Turns Two Years Old and Dares To Be Bold! (A Proud Father)

On Sunday, August 14, Annabelle turned two years old. Older generations, including my Grandfather Cartee, remind me that “time flies by” and that “you must treasure these small moments with your children.” There will be a day when my little girl does not always jump into my arms with a hug when I pick her up from pre-school. She may not always want to wrestle with Dad on the floor or ride on my back as her favorite horse. I will not always be able to watch Frozen 1 and Frozen 2 one hundred more times with her request to “sit down” next to her. The moments are fleeting, and if not careful, we can miss the joyful ages of our children in front of us.

With an industrial personality, I tend to thrive on being busy and productive with completed tasks in an overwhelming fashion. I truly get lots of stuff done! While this trait might be good for a Ph.D. program, a job, or owning a business, it can also sometimes be detrimental when I miss the obvious blessings in front of my face. Family matters most! My time with Lisa, Annabelle, and Jace (a.k.a. James Louie Cartee, IV) remains limited, and they truly will be my source of lasting joy and fulfillment. For the layperson, as I grow old, it remains vital to remember the difference between the fleeting matters of business and the relationships that make life worthwhile!    

I am proud of my kids simply by their existence in my life and how they have taught me to be a better person and father. If you are a parent or one day become a parent, you will understand what I mean when I express these words. There is no better feeling than the satisfaction of being proud of a child for doing good and for being good, just as God created them to be.

Remember to sit still with your precious loved ones in the present hour. Enjoy the moment. And count your blessings!

You can view some of my favorite moments with Annabelle’s second birthday below. Maybe not surprising to some, we had a Frozen-themed party. I love watching Annabelle's reactions when she opens gifts!

(Aunt Allison meets Baby Jace for the first time, and she was also present for Annabelle’s birthday party.)

(Ayden meets his cousin, Jace, for the first time. These smiles are contagious!)

(I am not sure this seat is made for a grown toddler to sit in. We’ll give it a try anyway.)

(Notice a proud father’s facial expressions!)

(Annabelle enjoys Mom’s homemade cupcakes.)

(Annabelle loves her slides at the many playgrounds we frequently visit.)

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

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Baby Jace Arrives in Style! (Future Lessons from A Father)….

James Louie “Jace” Cartee, VI, was born on Friday, July 1 at 12:33 pm ET. As a family, we had a wonderful experience with the meticulous care from the professionals that worked at the hospital.

Jace and my wife, Lisa, are now home safe, sound, and healthy in recovery. Thus far, Jace has been a sweet, cuddly, and cute baby.

As I continue to see turbulent societal conditions around me, I have thought long and hard about some life lessons I hope to instill in my children, Annabelle and Jace. Unfortunately, I sometimes firsthand witness people practicing ideologies that negatively impact others. I hope to teach my children to stay the course in the fundamentals of Christian idealism, without saying words and acting in ways that bring other people down. As a father, I desire to teach my children these standards.

First, when you make a commitment, follow through on what you commit to! Your word will only carry you so far if you cannot fulfill the promises you make to vital individuals in your life. If you fail to keep your word, it will hurt both personal and professional relationships, which then become affected by this failure.

Second, just because you are alive does not mean you need to act entitled. No one likes being on a team or in a group with an egocentric personality. Be a team player. And treat others the way you would also like to be treated.

Third, all people and their inclusive paradigms matter! In other words, if you disagree with someone on sensitive topics, that does not give you the right to treat the other person badly or to talk down to them. If a conflict arises, sometimes it is better to walk away, rather than to react harshly in fluster and fury.

Fourth, let it go! You must be able to recognize situations, conversations, and even written texts where it might be better to stay silent than react in a negative capacity. Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” There are often unforeseen consequences for what you say and more importantly, for what you do.

Fifth, amidst any struggle, have faith that things will work out because God loves you. While His plan for life may not be your own specific plan, God “works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

If you seek God, remember that He will “never leave you nor forsake you!” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV). As long as we live, Lisa and I will try our best to set an example that exemplifies these five important lessons.

Please see some recent photos of our delivered tiny new human. Today I am an immensely proud father to Jace (and Annabelle)! Lisa was a champion and rockstar at the hospital in labor and delivery. Our family has been blessed with two beautiful children! We are extremely fortunate! 

(Annabelle meets Jace for the first time. She continues to act like a helpful big sister.)

(“I am proud to wear my new name, Jace! I am now a blog star. So, you can Google me.”)

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