Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dr. James L. Cartee, III – A Journey of Pursued Endurance and Resilience


I recently graduated from a Ph.D. program in Communication at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). In athletics, UTK is the home of the Volunteers. Go Vols!

This video shows the graduation ceremony when my advisor hooded me, thus representing the official title of being called, “Dr. James L. Cartee, III.” The tradition of the hooding ceremony originated at European universities during the 11th or 12th century. These customs were designed to recognize and celebrate students as they embarked on their scholarly journeys. Initially, hooded robes were worn for warmth in the cold, unheated medieval libraries and served as a practical uniform for scholars engaged in study and writing.

During my four years at Tennessee, I had a wonderful experience with the dedicated support of many involved faculty and staff. During this graduate journey, I learned multiple lessons about endurance and the vitality of balancing many life responsibilities, including employment and family priorities.

Managing a demanding academic schedule while raising two young children required me to master effective time management, prioritize tasks, and lean on a strong support system. These experiences taught me that endurance develops through finding harmony amidst chaos and ensuring that mental health self-care receives the attention it deserves. Balancing my many life responsibilities involved thriving through a strategic allocation of my time, resources, and energy to excel in all the necessary commitments of a Ph.D. program. Research, teaching, colleague relationships, publications, and active service were just a few of those core commitments. Concerning learned endurance, I maintained focus on persistence through challenges, growth through hardship, the power of support networks, long-term goals, and the benefits of self-care. I elaborate on these valuable self-observations with the following explanations.

Persistence Through Challenges

Endurance, for me, meant pushing through obstacles and setbacks. There were moments when the challenges seemed insurmountable, whether it was a tough academic hurdle, personal struggles, or moments of doubt. Yet, persistence and determination became my guiding objectives. Every setback was a lesson in resilience, and every challenge overcome was a testament to my commitment. This relentless pursuit of my goals, despite the difficulties, highlighted that persistence is key to achieving long-term success and personal growth in higher education and future careers.

Growth Through Hardship

Every challenge I faced during my Ph.D. program contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. Endurance isn't just about reaching the end goal; it's about the transformation that occurs along the way. The hardships I encountered—whether academic, financial, or personal—forced me to develop new skills, adapt my strategies, and become more resilient. These experiences shaped me into a stronger, more capable individual, prepared to tackle future challenges with confidence in myself and my abilities.

The Power of Support Networks

Enduring a rigorous academic program while juggling other responsibilities underscored the importance of a strong support network. Family, friends, colleagues, and mentors played a crucial role in my success, providing encouragement and relevant honed perspectives when needed. Their support reminded me that endurance is not a solitary journey but one that thrives on the collective strength and wisdom of those around us. Leaning on my support network helped me persevere and enriched my journey with meaningful connections and shared achievements.

Maintaining Focus on Long-Term Goals

Endurance requires keeping sight of the bigger picture, even when immediate challenges seem overwhelming. Throughout my Ph.D. journey, maintaining focus on my long-term goals was essential. This focus kept me motivated and driven, reminding me why I started this journey in the first place. It was about more than just the degree program; it was about advancing my career, contributing to my field, and setting an example for my children. Keeping my long-term vision clear helped me navigate the ups and downs with a sense of purpose and direction.

The Value of Self-Care

Sustaining endurance over an extended period necessitates taking care of my physical and mental well-being. Throughout my Ph.D. journey, I learned the magnitude of self-care practices, such as exercise, adequate rest, and stress management. These practices were crucial in maintaining my stamina and effectiveness. My habitual self-care tendencies concentrated on ensuring I had the energy and mental clarity to meet my commitments and achieve my goals. This lesson reinforced that taking care of oneself is a vital part of enduring any long-term challenge.

While these lessons can apply to almost any adversities in life encountered, they are especially pivotal in the graduate program experience. I learned a lot about myself in my journey to graduation. While I absorbed new knowledge, I became stronger by staying the course to accomplish each defined objective centered around a dissertation committee. I self-examined my own character and legacy in hopes of changing lives through quality instruction, effective teaching, and sound research exploring the mental health help-seeking behaviors of young adults.

(One of my closest friends, Mathew Calhoun, traveled from Birmingham, Alabama to attend graduation. He is an amazing friend!)

(This is one of the family portraits taken during the graduation photo session.)

(Annabelle rewarded Dad with a kiss in his “funny costume.”)

(Jace wondered why he must stop playing with his ball in the grass.)

(Lisa was my champion in the Ph.D. journey! Her support helped me balance work, family, classes, and research.)

(The Torch Bearer is a classic landmark on the University of Tennessee campus.)

(In many capacities, my immediate family supported me through the four-year degree path to earn my Ph.D.)

(Graduation occurred in the Thompson-Bowling Arena on campus, which is where the men's and women's basketball teams play home games.)

(This is my advisor. I could not have completed my dissertation without her help! I really enjoyed working with her, especially in the last years of the program.)

(My family and friends sat remarkably close to where I was located on the arena floor. My advisor and I waved to the home crowd.)

(This is the graduation program with the title of my dissertation listed.)

*Please note that the outdoor portrait pictures were taken by a talented photographer named Jack Horsley from Knoxville, Tennessee.

#graduateschool #PhD #masters #highereducation #Communication #ABD #dissertation #mentalhealth #committee #research #changedlives #daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #lifelessons #memories #story #inspiration #JamesCartee #goodness #lessons #motivation #legacy 

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Healthy Church Mindset…Foundations of Humility, Goodness, and Service

(My family and I visit our former home church in Franklin, Tennessee for Easter Sunday.) 

In the summer of 2019, my wife, Lisa, became pregnant with what we imagined would be our firstborn child. While I will not go into the vivid details about the circumstances, we experienced a miscarriage and lost what we thought would be a healthy baby girl. It was a challenging time for me as a potential father, trying to support Lisa, but honestly, I could not truly comprehend what it was like to be in her shoes. I could not place myself in the psychological distress of a willing mother who lost the child she desperately wanted and prayed for. In some ways, we expected to have a healthy child in a seamless pregnancy without any major complications. All I could do was be there for Lisa when she called my name for spousal support.

For this season, we decided to postpone my enrollment in a Communication Ph.D. program. I received multiple assistantship and scholarship offers from graduate programs around the United States. However, the timing was just not right. I contacted the schools I wished to defer my acceptance to for one year, including where I currently attend, The University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK).   

When our church community heard about the tragic news, many individuals responded in unexpected ways I had not previously experienced in other Christian communities. In the past, church participation has sometimes felt cold and distant. People attend church in their fancy clothes. However, service work seems secondary in many churches where entertainment takes precedence over real relationships. People come and go like a New York subway station without any real conversations or connections.

In the church we attended, the pastor and his wife had personally lost a child of their own. So, the pastor immediately reached out to me as a potential future father. The pastor’s wife immediately communicated words of encouragement to Lisa. When both the pastor and his wife expressed, “We understand what it is like to be in your shoes,” we took solace in knowing these sentiments were true. It was not just what a person was supposed to say to another person in tragedy. The pastor and his wife had been there. They knew what we were going through via firsthand experience.

So, we decided to remain in Franklin, Tennessee for one more year before venturing toward my dream of pursuing my Ph.D. Thankfully, my mother and father lived exactly 3.7 miles down the road from our small apartment. I am not sure they liked me stopping by three or more times a week, often unannounced and late at night. I am, however, confident they were blessed by my positive energy and presence, which obviously included visits with Lisa as my sidekick.

For this year of unsaid turbulence, Lisa and I grew close by getting to know one another as a newly married couple. We learned to better communicate and work through an occasional interpersonal conflict. We mourned our loss together in different ways, encouraging one another in the best ways we knew how.

Regardless of how Lisa felt about losing her firstborn child, she would not let me give up on my dream to attain a terminal degree in the field of Communication. So, just one year later in June, Lisa and I planned to relocate to Knoxville, where I would begin my Ph.D. in Communication Studies at UTK. We became Tennessee Vols enthusiasts when the Vols decided to become enthusiasts of James Cartee and his future scholastic achievements. Vols is short for Volunteers, which is the mascot for the University of Tennessee.

Lisa was pregnant with Annabelle who would soon be born in August that same summer. After a cruel summer the previous year, we felt relief when our healthy daughter was delivered at Covenant Hospital in Knoxville on August 14, 2020. Annabelle’s middle name is Merci because we knew our second-chance miracle was a merciful gift from the Lord. Just two days later, safe and sound in a secure environment, Annabelle was coming home with us!

Before leaving our Franklin community in mid-July, our church hosted a baby shower for Lisa and our new tiny human. Some of my coworkers provided a venue for the party. After the baby shower, a week later, seven male friends from the church showed up early on Saturday morning to pack a U-Haul truck before our departure to Knoxville. Some of our friends even helped me pack boxes several days before loading the truck. I never hired anyone because our friends from church showed up when I requested their presence and needed their support.

Recently, when Lisa and I went home to Franklin for Easter weekend to visit my parents, we attended the Easter church services in our old faith community. It was as if nothing had changed. Since I am now graduating this May with my Ph.D., several friends checked in on my degree progress, possible relocation, and the looming job search. As I was leaving, the pastor chased us down to say “Hello” to Lisa, me, and our two children, Annabelle and Jace.

Based on their actions and supportive words, this specific Christian community resembles a vibrant church through the representation of three classic virtues: humility, goodness, and service. In these described experiences, I realized that a healthy church embodies these three ideals that are often mentioned throughout Scripture. When Lisa and I lived in Franklin, our home church personified these characteristics, which I will further elaborate with the following observations.

Finding a church community where one feels connected and supported can indeed be a challenging journey. It's not just about attending a place of worship; it's about finding a family of faith where one can grow spiritually and thrive in their relationship with God and others. In this search, the qualities of humility, goodness, and service for others within a church body play a crucial role. In my Christian journey, this kind of church community has been a rare occurrence.

First, a humble church recognizes its dependence on God and acknowledges its imperfections. Humility fosters an environment where everyone, regardless of background or status, is valued and respected. In a humble church, there is an absence of pride and self-righteousness, replaced instead by a spirit of openness and acceptance. Members are quick to admit their faults, extend forgiveness, and offer grace to one another, creating a safe and welcoming space for all.

Philippians 2:3-4 reminds Christians to consider the following: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (NIV).

Related to these verses and a welcoming church body, a humble church fosters an environment of vulnerability and authenticity. Its members are unafraid to admit their struggles and shortcomings, knowing that true growth and healing come through honesty and transparency. This vulnerability creates space for genuine connection and support, as individuals can share their joys and sorrows without fear of judgment or condemnation. In embracing vulnerability, a humble church cultivates a culture of grace and understanding.

Second, a church body characterized by goodness radiates the love and compassion of Christ in every interaction and endeavor. Goodness goes beyond mere adherence to religious practices; it permeates the atmosphere, creating an environment where grace and mercy abound. In a church body marked by goodness, members are known not only for their faith but also for their genuine care for one another and the broader community.

Galatians 6:10 states, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (NIV).

The goodness of a healthy church body is evident in its commitment to living out the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a place where individuals are inspired to embody the virtues of kindness, generosity, and empathy in their everyday interactions. Whether through organized outreach programs or spontaneous acts of compassion, members of a good church actively seek opportunities to alleviate suffering, uplift the downtrodden, and spread the message of God's love.

Third, concerning a healthy church body, service to others is a joyful expression of love and commitment to following the example of Jesus Christ. Service permeates every aspect of the church's life, from its worship gatherings to its outreach initiatives. Members are encouraged and empowered to use their unique gifts and talents to bless others and make a positive impact in their communities.

The service within a healthy church body is characterized by selflessness and humility. Rather than seeking recognition or accolades, members roll up their sleeves and get involved in meeting the practical and spiritual needs of those around them. Whether it's preparing meals for the homeless, visiting the sick and elderly, or mentoring youth, every act of service is done with a genuine desire to demonstrate the love of Christ and make a difference in the lives of others.

1 Peter 4:10-11 declares, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (NIV).

The service within a healthy church body is marked by collaboration and unity. Members work together as a team, pooling their resources and talents to accomplish shared goals and objectives. There is a spirit of mutual support and encouragement, as individuals cheer each other on and celebrate the successes and victories of their fellow believers.

Conclusively, the service within a healthy church body reflects the heart of God, who calls His people to love and serve one another as an outpouring of their love for Him. It is a tangible expression of the gospel message, which compels us to reach out to the marginalized, the oppressed, and the hurting with compassion. As members of such a community, we are called to be salt and light in the world, shining brightly and seasoning the earth with acts of service that bring glory to God and draw others into His kingdom.

For some of the latest pictures of the Cartee family, here are some of our most recent memories.

(Annabelle is still intimidated by mascots. Jace gladly jumps into the arms of the Easter bunny.)

(Annabelle eats cereal with her Daddy and a little milk on her chin.)

(Like Annabelle, Jace loves going down the slides with Lisa at any playground.)

(Annabelle smiles before sliding down.)

(Jace pets a puppy at the Big Ridge State Park campground.)

(Annabelle hiked about two miles with Lisa and me at Big Ridge State Park. I was very proud of her efforts to keep up!)

 (Jace actively wakes up a tired Mommy on a Saturday morning when sleeping in no longer exists.)

#healthychurchbody #BodyofChrist #Goodness #Service #Humility #Inspiration #daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #lifelessons

Note: Many of these pictures are often taken on a cell phone. Therefore, their quality is lacking compared to my real DSLR model cameras.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Hosanna! - Songs of Adoration in the Easter Story

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Mathew 21:6-9 (NIV) 

Step into the vibrant scene of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where the atmosphere bustles with excitement and anticipation. The crowds press in, waving palm branches and laying down their cloaks as Jesus rides in on a donkey. Amidst the throng, the air echoes with the fervent cries of "Hosanna," a word poignant with meaning and emotion. It's more than just a jubilant shout. It's a profound declaration of praise and surrender, encapsulating the hopes and dreams of the people as they welcome their long-awaited Messiah.

Understanding "Hosanna" as Praise:

The cry of "Hosanna" reverberates through the Easter narrative, carrying centuries of longing and anticipation among God’s Chosen People. Derived from the Hebrew "hoshia na," meaning "save us, we pray," these titles of praise began as a plea for deliverance. Yet, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds infused new meanings – an adoration for the One they believed would bring salvation. This shift reflects the evolution of faith itself, from a cry of desperation to a song of triumph.

In our lives today, "Hosanna" serves as a reminder to lift our voices in praise, even during life's hardest challenges. Just as the crowds hailed Jesus as their Messiah, as Christians, we also acknowledge His sovereignty and goodness. Therefore, we offer Him our heartfelt worship and reverence. Through songs and prayers of thanksgiving, we align our hearts with His purposes and declare His Lordship over every aspect of our lives.

The Vitality of "Hosanna" in Easter:

As Easter approaches, the cry of "Hosanna" takes on added importance. It becomes a symbol of Jesus' ultimate triumph over sin and death, as He rides into Jerusalem to fulfill God's redemptive plan. His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection pave the way for our salvation, offering us the promise of new life in Him. This Easter, let us join in the chorus of "Hosanna," exalting Jesus as our Savior and King, who reigns victorious over death through the resurrection.

In interactions with others, we can share the joy of Easter by proclaiming the good news of Jesus' resurrection and inviting others to experience His love and grace. Through acts of kindness and expressions of compassion, we can embody the transformative power of "Hosanna" in our communities, bringing light and hope to those in need. Thus, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in these expressed acts of sacrifice!

Surrendering in Praise:

The cry of "Hosanna" underscores the profound connection between praise and surrender. As the crowds welcomed Jesus with decrees of amazement, they laid down their cloaks and palm branches before Him, symbolizing their willingness to surrender all to His Namesake. In a similar manner, we are called to surrender our lives to Jesus, trusting in His unfailing love and grace to guide us.

In our daily walk with Christ, let us surrender all to Him, trusting in His unfailing love and grace to guide us through life's many uncertainties. Through prayer and meditation on God's Word, we can cultivate a spirit of surrender, laying our hopes, fears, and dreams at the feet of Jesus. In doing so, we find true freedom and peace, knowing that He is faithful to fulfill His promises and lead us into an abundant life now here on Earth and in heaven’s future place.

Eternal Joy Through "Hosanna":

As we embrace the truth of Jesus' victory over sin and death, we are filled with a deep and abiding joy that cannot be shaken by the trials of life. This joy becomes a beacon of hope to those around us, shining brightly in a world darkened by despair and uncertainty.

As we meditate on the profound meaning of "Hosanna" this Easter season, may our lives be a living testament to His redeeming love. Easter then becomes a time of renewed commitment to worship and surrender, as we exalt Jesus as the one who saves and reigns forevermore. In Him, we will find true fulfillment, eternal joy, and everlasting hope.

We can embody the spirit of "Hosanna" by starting each day with a prayer of gratitude and praise, acknowledging God's goodness and faithfulness. As families, we can create intentional moments of worship and praise together, whether through reading Scripture, singing hymns, or sharing testimonies of God's faithfulness. We can model surrender and humility in our interactions with one another, practicing forgiveness, grace, and compassion, just as Jesus demonstrated on the cross. Additionally, we can extend the joy of Easter to our communities by serving others in visible ways, such as reaching out to our neighbors in need.

Happy Easter to everyone who reads this blog entry! I pray that you soon experience the hope and joy of shouting “Hosanna” in your own lives.

You can view many sources of my own personal joy in these pictures of my family this Easter season.

(Annabelle and Jace laugh hysterically about sharing each other’s food. We are still working on teaching them to share toys.)

(Jace poses for a picture with the Easter bunny at a local church egg hunt.) 

(Annabelle and Jace love to pretend-wrestle with their parents. Each child is starting to get heavier.)

(Jace enjoys taking pictures with Chilly Bear, the mascot for the Knoxville Ice Bears hockey team.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Hosanna #HappyEaster #Easter #GoodFriday #PalmSunday #risen #resurrection #goodness #lifelessons

Note: Many of these pictures are often taken on a cell phone. Therefore, their quality is lacking compared to my real DSLR model cameras.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cultivating Positivity in a World of Negativity: Gratitude with a Family Touch

Much of the constant media and professional landscape breeds and even advertises negativity. Some news outlets thrive on bad news, rather than celebrating inspirational stories and triumphs. Politics is a prime illustration of dim-witted criticism and unproductive messages of deprecation. This continual barraging of never-ending cynicism can take a toll on viewers. Therefore, a cure can prevail amidst these virulent chains of antagonistic prejudice and discourteousness. The answer for opposition to these forces incorporates a formidable antidote – the constant practice of gratitude.

The Authority of Positivity:

The idea of happiness is fleeting when one experiences strong emotions, which sometimes include both positive and negative feelings. At the peak of a mountain, one naturally feels exuberant about life. In the valley, one naturally feels deprived of joy and pleasantness. As human beings, the ups and downs of memorable experiences come to us all. Positivity is a mindset that drives the transformation of heart and will. If proactive through an intentional commendatory mindset, mental health thrives. Professional work, even if just to pay bills, seems less daunting and perhaps even less boring.

Recently, the burdens of life have felt somewhat draining for me. I realized these negative feelings emerging. So, I decided to take a break. On what could have been a busy day of tasks accomplished (being busy to feel good about being busy), I ventured to Corryton, Tennessee. This town is about thirty minutes from Knoxville, which is where my family and I currently live. I ate breakfast at a local establishment called The Backwoods Restaurant. In this small edifice, there were four tables and a window heater built into the wall. However, the meal and the price were excellent! Like the title, in the middle of the country, it was a backwoods experience.

After breakfast, I took a hike to the summit of House Mountain, a natural preserve that stands as the highest point in Knox County. I must admit the five-mile hike was rather difficult, but the views were breathtaking. More specifically, the one-mile trek up the mountain to reach the peak was very strenuous. I kept wondering when I might see flatter trails to catch my breath. The uphill climb finally plateaued into another trail that spanned about two miles on the top of the mountain. There were vistas all around from atop the plateau trail, making this part of the hike worth the rigor to reach the peak. Without my usual checklist in front of me, I felt some clarity being able to sit in the natural silence, admiring these views. On a few occasions during my trek, I took about ten minutes to sit down, be still, and rest my mind.  

Amidst a chaotic routine, it was refreshing to take this much-needed midday break without having to stare at a screen. Unlike some, binge-watching Netflix or another television program does not always feel relaxing to me. Clearing my head in nature provides a momentary release. I prayed, exercised, and summited a mountain in the half-day spent in Corryton.     

These breaks and moments of thankfulness function as anchors to a positive mentality. I would encourage you to take a break and refresh if it has been a while since you did so.

The Role of Family in Positivity:  

My wife, Lisa, and my children, Annabelle and Jace, serve as my pillars of support, especially on hard days. Plus, if I focus my attention on my family or someone else, acts of affirmation for the sake of enhancing another person’s life empower positivity. My family’s presence, love, and shared experiences fill my heart in ways the surrounding world cannot.

For instance, for a full day, Lisa and I recently took the kids to Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. For lunch, we ate pizza at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company. Of course, a couple of beers or ciders, whichever you prefer, certainly seem to mellow any rising stressors about life’s many responsibilities. The restaurant was a vibrant environment that welcomed families with young children. After our delicious lunch cuisine, we took the kids to a medium-sized flea market to shop for some inexpensive toys (something small for the kids to enjoy).

Jace acquired a white teddy bear with a Coca-Cola theme and apparel. Annabelle picked some inexpensive squishy animals and slime that lasted about a day before being thrown away. It was these simple pleasures that made the day enjoyable. After our flea market excursion, we hiked two miles at Seven Islands State Birding Park. There is a rather long bridge in the park that leads to some short trails on an island in the middle of the French Broad River. The mountains and sunset shined in the background of spectacular scenery and cool weather. I am still savoring the contentment of these hours spent together. Annabelle and Jace thoroughly enjoy running through nature parks of this kind. They seem to savor any activity that involves the outdoors.

Visiting Sevierville and the surrounding sites was an intentional act to do something we enjoy together. Nature again provided an outlet away from computer work, tablet apps, phone calls, and watching Paw Patrol (Annabelle’s favorite show) on the television. Again, appreciation for the still moments in nature with family becomes touchpoints for experienced and expressed gratitude.  

A New Gratitude Ritual:

Lisa and I have placed a plastic jar near the kitchen table with small pieces of paper. Sporadically, we will write reminders of blessings and sources of gratitude on these slips of paper. Six months down the road, we will read and review these reminders of good moments as a family together. This simple idea reinforces the good things in our shared lives. It takes attention away from the negative to thrive in thoughts of positive things. In my internal process of thinking, thoughts of consistent positivity often lead to more thoughts of consistent positivity. Thus, my mood feels elevated in a healthy mindset with an intentional focus on evident blessings, rather than what sometimes feels like daily burdens.

Word of Caution in A Call of Action:

I would caution you to be mindful of the people you are around and the media outlets you watch. Sometimes, negative messaging only represents senseless topics for the sake of ratings and maybe even shaming people to feel bad for no necessary reason.

(This is a picture of the Backwoods Restaurant in Corryton, Tennessee.)

(This picture is inside the Backwoods Restaurant.)

(House Mountain provides some brilliant vistas of the surrounding mountains and countryside.)

(At Seven Islands State Birding Park, the kids marveled at the width of the French Broad River while crossing the bridge.) 

(During our hiking portion of the trek at Seven Islands, I carried Jace in what Annabelle calls "the elephant carrier.")

(The sunset gleamed on the French Broad River at Seven Islands.)

(Jace enjoys the ride of someone carrying him through the state park.)

(Annabelle snuggles close to Mommy in a photo op as the night air gets cooler.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family # gratitude #positivity #nature #hiking #mountains #timeinnature #adventures #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #goodness #faith #legacy #travel #JamesCartee #JamesLCarteeIII

Saturday, January 6, 2024

The Anti-Villain Poem – My Own Worst Enemy…

Randy Johnson is a famed baseball player who pitched for twenty-two years in Major League Baseball. In 2001, Johnson played for the Arizona Diamondbacks who won the World Series. The champions of the World Series must win four games out of a seven-game series to claim a title. Johnson won three of the four games that year against the New York Yankees. Johnson also led the league in strikeouts for nine seasons. I have long admired Johnson for his many professional accomplishments.

Johnson once expressed the following testimonial – “When I was younger and inexperienced, I was a very animated pitcher. I pitched with a lot of adrenaline. I was my own worst enemy when things weren’t going well.”

This quote resonates with me because I often feel the same way as Johnson. The only person who typically stands in my way is the person I see in the mirror every morning. I wrote this poem recently on December 29, 2023 to express these sentiments. I am my own worst enemy, or I am my own best friend. When I think too much about everything, negative thoughts about myself and my future tend to flood my mind. This original poem, The Anti-Villain, reminds me to be kind to myself and live in the present moment. Instead of focusing on myself, I should focus on the needs of my children and spouse. I desire to take the attention off myself in living out this mentality.  

Going into 2024, this poem illustrates a purpose to accept redemption through belief in Jesus Christ. I am the anti-villain in the race of my own thoughts. I seek to step out of my own way and see today as the obvious blessing it is. In my spiritual heart, I yearn to treasure and remember moments with my children, Annabelle and Jace. The annoyances of future responsibilities can wait, so that I allow my family to absorb my full, undivided attention. Most times, the anti-villain mentality is a waste of energy anyway. I much rather concentrate on today and what is happening right now. Therefore, I will not miss the many blessings present today in front of my eyes. Read this poem carefully and seriously contemplate the wisdom of these poetic words.  

The Anti-Villain

I play the worst enemy

When I look in my mirror.

I stir the struggle.

All agree looking inside

Outside out playing in.

Depression works third shift.

The frenzy frantically

Plays the lunacy of fruitlessly

Starting a new mutiny

Rooting for the anti-villain.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The fable prevents amnesty

So apathetically

Without keen strategy.

Tired of the scheming

I see the rearview mirror

Tranquilly and gallantly

Yet still thankfully.

I grow older and wiser

To grab the baptistry

Without increasing atrophy.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The past is not me.

The present is me.

The future becomes me.

I stare directly

Into the magnifying

Glass of this mystery

To realize grace exist

So patiently and kindly.

Why have I not realized

It’s me?


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


I no longer pull

For the anti-villain.

I drink my Papst

In this Blue Ribbon

To let go a long sigh.

This marks the last time

Life loses meaning

I’m weaning

Off that voice demeaning

To embrace my redeeming.


I was the problem.

It’s no longer me

Because it’s me

I appreciate and see.


- 12/29/23 –

*Please enjoy the following pictures of my family in recent good times we experienced and shared, including some holiday scenes.

(We sometimes have a little trouble getting Annabelle to smile for a family picture.)

(On the other hand, Jace smiles in several pictures. He is a happy baby!)

(Lisa and I attended a Christmas party in Knoxville, where we proudly represented holiday lyrics from the Taylor Swift song, Lover.)

(Jace enjoys interactions with our wooden Christmas moose and tree.)

(Jace often hugs the moose during these interactions.)

(Jace sat on Santa’s lap at our favorite local Chick-Fil-A restaurant.)

(CeeCee, also known as my mother, blessed all of us with Santa bags filled with thoughtful gifts.)

(JayJay, also known as my father, fully decorates his house like a Hallmark commercial. It is quite extravagant!)

(CeeCee and my family posed for this Christmas tree photo at the FrankTown Festival of Lights, located at the Ag Center in Franklin, Tennessee. Annabelle stood outside the group. At least, she looked at the camera this time.) 

(Our friend, Michaela, hugged Jace during a cordial visit. We thankfully see Michaela fairly often.) 

(JayJay has a toy train set around the Christmas tree that Annabelle and Jace love to watch in wonder.) 

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