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

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