Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Greatest Christmas Miracle Possible – Annabelle Merci!


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 

-Luke 2:15-19 (NIV)

Having my firstborn child with me to celebrate her first Christmas was the best part of my holiday. Even though only four months and probably unable to comprehend the significant meaning of Christmas, Annabelle still made the days special with her own unique smiles and smirks. The holiday season becomes even more meaningful when you have a wonderful wife and child to share those moments with. 

Spending time with close loved ones and friends, especially your own children, create stand still moments that remind us to cherish the present reality in front of us. The captured photograph grows into the essence of a thousand heartfelt words. Annabelle smiles, and it literally feels like time freezes in that instance. The worries of the world melt away, and not much else seems to matter other than that specific cherished memory. My baby girl is happy, and the pressures of tomorrow seem a little less stressful.

Like a shepherd protecting his herd of sheep, Jesus speaks of His children with fondness in Mark 10-:13-16, which states the following: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

On Jesus’s birthday, the natural feeling of stillness in the midst of joy through the eyes of a child is the message of Christmas. Understanding the world from the perspective of a child reveals simple truths in complex circumstances.

(1.) For instance, life is short. So appreciate each moment as if your last.

(2.) The stressors of life are probably not all that important in the first place.

(3.) Be grateful for the blessings in front of you. You might miss the bigger picture if pinpointing one negative focused detail you obsess over.

(5.) Life is just too short to be stressed by the small stuff. Except for the concerns of our children and immediate family members, everything else is small stuff.

There are many other good truthful reminders Christians should celebrate when living in the presence of the Holy Spirit. By staying focused on the here and now, we take on the mindset of a child. The external cares of this world matter not. The enjoyment of today matters most.

Feel the soft blanket that keeps you warm in the comfortable home around you. Smell the bonfires in the coolness of the winter air. See the beauty of a white Christmas in the snowflakes that fall. Witness the miracles standing in front of you. Find joy like a child experiencing her first Christmas days. Then every moment will feel like a first, and newfound meaning will invigorate your heart. You will remember what made Christmas the greatest miracle of all time with a baby found in a manger because your own child will remind you of this reality. Annabelle is the best Christmas present received in the miracle that sits before me in my very own arms.

You can view the latest pictures of my beautiful daughter here below. 

#daddydestinations #daddy #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters 

#destinations #memories #story #narrative

Thursday, December 17, 2020

“There Ain’t No Party Like the Cartee Party!” -UNCLE CALHOUN COMES TO TOWN! Meeting Annabelle….

Upon his arrival this past weekend, arguably my best friend, Mathew Calhoun started singing his favorite tune, “Ain’t no party like the Cartee party because the Cartee party don’t stop!” Mathew possesses the joy of a thousand sunny days, and his good vibes positively rub off on the people around him. Mathew’s natural disposition to smile and laugh all the time provides a contagious feeling that makes one feel warmth in the current moment. 

While Mathew often travels just to spend time with Lisa and myself, his main intention with this trip was to meet Annabelle. My daughter instantly cuddled up against Mathew’s chest as he held her in his arms for the first time. As Annabelle expressed her usual big smiles, instantly she seemed comfy in Mathew’s grasp. Annabelle obviously has an excellent intuition about good people.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Mathew is consistency. Mathew consistently stays present in our lives. Besides family, thus far, he is the only friend that visited us in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not that our other close friendships are not as equally important, Mathew just shows up, and there is honor in being present at important moments in the lives of friends and family.     

We, as a society, live in an unusual time where relationships and community remain pivotal. While health and safety linger as a priority for our given families, I prefer that my daughter, Annabelle, does not live with continual fear in the midst of overexaggerated media claims and inconsistent political leadership. I hope that Annabelle lights a fire in her own path to successful outcomes, achieved dreams, and newfound aspirations. Therefore she must live to leap. She must be inspired to take a chance. She must persevere when the storms come. And Mathew Calhoun will make sure she does just that. That is kind of legend this man lives, large shoes to fill, consistently there when you need him to be.   

Uncle Mathew will show Annabelle what true joy looks like. He will show her how love serves. And perhaps most importantly, he will show her how to live courageously in the wake of fear, regardless of what the rest of society chooses to do. 

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

-Joshua 1:6-9 (NIV)

Here are some of the latest photos of Annabelle, including Mathew’s visit.

#daddydestinations #daddy #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative

Monday, November 30, 2020

Homage To My Wife and The Mother of My Child, Lisa

This holiday season I am especially thankful for my wife, Lisa. It is very easy to take every blessing in life for granted, especially when you expect the luxuries many of us receive daily, weekly, and monthly. We should rather count our blessings instead of expecting them as if we deserve it. Those luxuries are not forever guaranteed. So be sure to appreciate the blessings while you can. Make it a priority to let loved ones know how much they mean to you. Every gift comes from above, including family, however there is no guarantee of tomorrow.

Mothers have a special connection to their children, and Lisa continues to show this deeper relationship with Annabelle. Sometimes, when I cannot get Annabelle to stop crying, I hand her over to Lisa, and instantly she is a different baby, calm and settled. Like I said, it is a special bond.

I could not be all I am and do the things I do without Lisa’s presence in my life. She is an angel from God! While working her own job, Lisa takes good care of me and our daughter while I often focus on my PhD. studies and work several jobs myself. With Lisa’s service to our family, she makes many things possible for me – the opportunity to travel, earn an advanced degree, learn new languages, and follow my many passions, just to name a few. I cannot think of enough positive details to tell you about my wife, including that Lisa is a phenomenal mom. When I am not around, I know Annabelle is in excellent hands!     

When I first met Lisa, I must admit that I thought she was a little weird. Her appearance depicted that Girl with The Dragon Tattoo vibe. I was honestly a little scared. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined on my first date with Lisa at The San Antonio Museum of Art that she would birth our first child approximately five years later. God, indeed, works in mysterious ways! As a wonderful mother, Lisa becomes more and more attractive everyday she continues to nurture Annabelle. Of course, Annabelle gets her beauty naturally from her mother.

Lisa has a natural disposition to serve others and also to quickly forgive. She does everything within her efforts to make sure that Annabelle and I are happy. Perhaps the greatest virtue of a mother is thinking of others before one’s self. I am fortunate to have a remarkable child and an incredible spouse! Perhaps family in community is the best blessing a man can have after all.

This holiday season, rather than focusing on what I do not have, I should be focusing on the clear blessings before me in mom and child and other relationships around me. Perhaps you might also want to do the same.

How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 31:19 (NIV)

*Please see some of our most recent Annabelle pictures below. 

#daddydestinations #daddy #daughters #blog #family 

#DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories

Monday, November 16, 2020

First Week in Daycare….It is too quiet in this home. – We Miss Annie!

It has been a little more quiet than usual as I continue to work from home virtually. There are no cries for attention from Annabelle, and Lisa no longer comes into my office every twenty minutes to tell me “something really important,” which usually are matters that can wait. However, with silence, I definitely miss the company of the joyful noises previously heard with my family in residence. During the holidays, depending on your life situation, the laughter and smiles present can often outweigh the evident hardships in front of you. 

Annabelle started her first week of daycare on Tuesday, and my wife, Lisa returned to work four days a week. While I was apprehensive about the transition, giving my daughter over to a stranger we kind of know, there have been some silent tears since not having Annie home every waking moment. The streams of tears mainly involve Lisa but maybe me a little, too. Lost in the luxury of being home full-time for three months, Lisa has been a little distraught to say the least. Graduate school and my jobs, while trying to build new relationships, keeps me consumed in this new transition in Knoxville, just recently moving from Nashville. After starting a new job, moving to a new city, having a baby, and starting my doctorate degree all in the same month, small changes seem a little less intimidating. It is now more a matter of adjustment when those small changes come my way. We also miss our community of friends and family in Nashville as well.  

I definitely miss my little girl, especially the sweet smell of her bald head just below my chin when holding her. When someone special to you is suddenly around you a little less often, then perhaps you realize just how dear that special someone is to you. Unfortunately, some individuals have to learn this lesson the hard way when someone is gone forever. Thankfully, my daughter is just taking a day trip to her daycare school during the weekdays.

Life often develops into what a person chooses to focus on, for better or worse, based on how you view your own circumstances. While Lisa or I could complain about certain situations or things we do not like, constantly missing our little girl, I would rather remember each blessed second, minute, and hour I get to spend with my daughter. If I keep viewing life as a journey of what I am missing, rather than the grateful moments I am getting, then I will probably turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge myself. In other words, you become what you focus your attention on. 

Rather than diminishing those hours Annabelle is at daycare, I am thankful we have good people looking after her so Mom and Dad can work. While my personal time with Annie is a little less than previous weeks, that recent change also makes me value the moments I have with her that much more than before. I am not losing anything, per se. My routine is just changing, and dependent on how I choose to see that change, it can be a positive or negative experience.

God granted Lisa with three full months of maternity leave and some real quality time with family. That obvious truth is a fact and blessing I choose not to ignore, and I am convinced with Annabelle present that we will have the best Christmas season ever experienced. The focus will not be on me, as it often is. It will be focused on our little baby girl. I will not be Ebenezer Scrooge! Instead, I will be a Santa version of a Turbo Tail Tigger, the popular cartoon character from Winnie The Pooh. So, let’s sing the following song, together, shall we?

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers (Song Lyrics)

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Thier tops are made out of rubbers
Their bottoms are made out fo springs
They're bouncy, trouncy, founcy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
I'm the only one
The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful chaps
They're loaded with vim and with vigor
And love to leap in your laps
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
I'm the only one
Tiggers are wonderful fellahs
Tiggers are awfully sweet
Everyone else is jealous
And that's why I repeat... 

(Lyrics website source:

#daddydestinations #daddy #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Smell of a Sweet Baby – Missing My Little Girl, Annabelle

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.-John 16:21 (ESV)

I write this message on the eve of Halloween while I sit my parents’ house in Franklin, Tennessee. To celebrate the holiday, we had a Harry Potter party with my two nephews who are now actively attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In other words, they played fictional games from The Goblet of Fire book and movie, which was probably more fun than the online formats of public Chrome school or Zoom University. Annabelle, as an infant, is obviously too young to know the significance of the holiday, however with all her small giggles, she seemed to enjoy time with the family, especially with CeeCee and G-Daddy (grandparent nicknames).   

My wife, Lisa, left Knoxville to come to Franklin a few days early, and while I plugged away at graduate class projects and conference paper deadlines, I obsessively missed my daughter, Annabelle. It was probably the strongest feeling of missing my family since her birth. In fact, it felt extremely lonely without the background noises of Annabelle’s cries or Lisa banging pots and pans in the kitchen. The lack of presence with things that sometimes drive us crazy makes us realize we would be crazy without those very same things in our lives.

I truly love my wife, Lisa, and my daughter, Annabelle. I spent several moments smelling Annabelle’s clothes to savor her scent, so she was missed a little bit less. Like the sound of crashing waves and the savory smell of sea ocean waters, that childlike baby scent of laundry freshness and clean soap is heavenly. Now I understand why some people save the clothes of loved ones who pass away. The aroma of a sweet smell remains the most potent sign of a memory for cherishing a loved one.

Annabelle smells so good in my arms, and when I cannot be with her in presence, the smell of her clothes and baby blankets helps me feel just a little bit closer, knowing she will be home soon.

The laughter and grins of our children changes us forever, and when those sounds and sights disappear, they are surely missed by the parent who hears them in powerful dreams and memories, knowing they will one day return, hopefully sooner rather than later.       

*By the way, Annabelle was a Baby Yoda for Halloween. Please see the pictures below.

#daddydestinations #daddy #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories

Friday, October 16, 2020

Relying on God Time and Time Again, We Celebrate Camille’s Arrival!

-Guest Blog Entry by Manny Negron 

My name is Manny Negron, and I have two children, with one being recently born, which I will tell you about through this entry. When James approached me about writing a guest blog entry, I was not sure what to think, however I was honored. James and I have been friends for several years now, first meeting during our time together working for the American Cancer Society. Both James and I have strong bonds with our newborn daughters. Perhaps these daughters will also one day meet.

Wow! I never imagined that my family of three would soon become a family of four, especially during the current pandemic. The joys of being present with my wife at doctor visits, taking one step at a time side-by-side, was taken from me in early March because of COVID-19. She had to go at it alone. I was temporarily able to join my wife for the first sonogram to see our daughter, but that would be the last time I was with my wife until our daughter was born on September 10th. Even then, at the actual birth, I was not sure I would be in the delivery room with her due to present restrictions. It was a play-by-ear scenario.

After experiencing two miscarriages, this father worried every time my wife went to an appointment, and I wanted to be there for her. I have come to a place in my faith with confidence that God was with my wife and our daughter in her womb, no matter what happened. From the middle of the second trimester to the delivery date, my wife battled gestational diabetes and had to give herself insulin. My wife was therefore considered a high-risk pregnancy. There were many times that we would end up going to the emergency room (ER), which often turned into some false alarms. Because of our history and the high-risk pregnancy, we would go to the ER just to be cautious if anything appeared to be out-of-the-ordinary. The pregnancy challenged my wife in many ways. She experienced extreme nausea during the first trimester. There were times I felt so bad for her because everything was beyond our control. However, one must remember that God is always in control!


We arrived at the hospital at 5:30am because we were not sure if my wife would need a C-section or not. She could also potentially deliver naturally. Throughout the pregnancy, our little girl was a mover, wiggling in the womb. She would be in the correct position, a diagonal position, or wiggle into a transverse position. The day before delivery she was in the correct position, but within 24 hours, she had moved into the diagonal position (flipping somersaults with force). C-section it is then! They took my wife back to prep her before surgery. I waited for the nurse to come get me. I am extremely grateful I experienced the opportunity to be with my wife during this procedure. I could finally stand by her side and show my spousal support. I sat up near my wife’s head as I noticed her body move. The doctors pulled and pushed on her body in every direction, eventually delivering our daughter. Finally, at 2:53 pm on September 10, Camille Elise Negron was born. When we heard that first cry, I also cried with butterflies in my stomach and joy in my heart.

After our daughter delivered, we still faced COVID-19 policies. Due to these restrictions, I was not able to follow our baby into the nursery area for her first bath and first initial exams at the hospital. I made my way to our room, where I would sit alone and wait for my wife to come out of the operating room. Then our baby girl would also soon come to us. Finally, after one hour, my wife was brought into our room for rest and recovery. Shortly after my wife’s arrival, our daughter also joined us.

We are home and still having to face precautions with present COVID-19 conditions. When some friends came to drop off presents for the baby, we were actually exposed to these individuals who tested positive for the virus. Bringing a new life into the world is definitely scary in the current conditions, and we must make sure our children stayed protected against this illness. In these moments where worries arise, I rely on my faith time and time again. I believe and know God is with us and that He protects us always! Like the birth of every child, my life changed in the moment I met Camille, my new daughter, for the first time.   

-       - Manny Negron

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Poopy and Pee Explosions – All I Can Do Is Laugh!

Before you read this latest installment on my blog, please know if you have a sensitive stomach when talking about bodily fluids, peeing, and/or defecation, then this entry is probably not for you, the faint of heart. If you think burps and farts are hilarious like me, and maybe even cute with a baby, then read on, my friend. Please also be sure to watch the humorous baby song spin-off videos at the bottom of this blog entry as well. 

While Lisa, my wife, was attempting to take a shower this morning, I was assigned with the simple task of watching Annabelle, holding her in my arms. Before Lisa even stepped into the shower, Annie suddenly started grimacing with this unusual vocal grunt as her shoulders pushed slightly upwards, “Eeeeeerrrrrrrghhhh!”

Annabelle proceeded to fart several times with squeaky sounds, like she might be having fluid diarrhea. I decided to wait a few minutes before changing her diaper because I speculated this changing might lead to a large eruption. Little eruptions kept peaking as I felt movement in the booty section of her britches. I have learned that you wait until the relieving process is complete before taking off her clothes and exchanging the dirty diaper for a clean one.

Bowel movements seemed to end, and Annabelle was no longer frowning with passionate groans. As I unfolded the diaper, the Brown Nile flooded these holy plains, and liquid diarrhea covered the bottom portion of her clothes outside of the diaper. I needed backup, and I was screaming for Lisa’s motherly touch. “Help me! Help me! Help me!” Since her birth, I have never used as many wipes as I did today. Lisa was about to hop in the shower, and in the wake of my cries, she thought something abruptly tragic had happened. I startled Lisa with my shaken gasps of trying to hold my breath, so I did not smell the stench, feeling an upchuck vomit reflux come into my mouth.     

As we both wiped up the mess and got all hysteria and panicked shouts under control, Annabelle clearly needed a bath even after utilizing all the wipes in a local Wal-Mart’s inventory. As Lisa was filling up her small plastic bathtub, I held naked Annabelle in my arms where she snuggled up against my chest and immediately seemed to be calm and relaxed. Within a minute, something wet drizzled down my clothes. Annabelle had suddenly peed on me with a puddle forming on the floor. The cool nature of the air around us must have made her feel very comfortable to release herself now from the front end. As Lisa took the baby to begin her bath, it appeared that I had been the one who peed on myself as the front of my t-shirt and pants suddenly stained wet from Annabelle’s relieved bladder.

Even in that moment, Lisa and I laughed hard. How could one be upset with a baby who has only lived for seven weeks thus far in her lifetime? This moment was going to be a memory long remembered. These present junctures represent good times of lessons and laughs to be experienced as a new father. Blessings can be found in the laughter we had today and in future moments like it. We can choose to enjoy the day we live in right now, no matter what happens in these present times. We can laugh. We can cry. And we can rejoice with the healthy baby we now know whose digestive track clearly works just fine.

If you found this blog entry humorous, then I also think you will enjoy these funny YouTube videos of babies singing about a baby’s life and the bodily functions that follow. 

(#daddydestinations #daddy #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories)

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Volatility of Cuteness – Annabelle Bombs Away!


While recently holding Annabelle in my lap, sitting at our kitchen table, her diaper seemed fully secure however was not securely working. She peed an unusual amount through the diaper, thus leaking onto my shorts and making it look like I peed on myself. All I could do was smile in the moment.

In addition to my wet pants moment, Lisa has been the victim of multiple projected vomits of milk. Honestly I laugh almost every time unless Lisa appears more perturbed than normal. The scene above from the movie, Four Christmases, further illustrates these unforeseen occurrences. Perhaps my reaction is sometimes the same as well.  

Babies can cry and cry and cry, only wishing one could get some quality rest, however in the same hour, a supposed grin still melts your heart (if infants can even scientifically grin). The cuteness of her baby face suddenly melts away the volatility of a panic attack moment. There is truly something peaceful in the quiet place of that still face that smiles up, looking into a father’s eyes.

Learning the art of prayer without ceasing eventually permits a father to let go. One can constantly worry with the unhealthy defined what if’s in life, questions that usually never come to fruition with fictional tragedies portrayed in the mind.

While Lisa, my wife, has been on maternity leave, it has been wonderful having her home, hugging a husband and holding a new baby in her arms. From day to day, we make fresh new memories with each hour that passes. I keep hearing the old saying that time goes by fast. Therefore, when I rest from working for the college or studying for a doctoral class, I surely try to sit still in this new place we call home, located in East Tennessee.

The season of fall is coming while leaves begin to fall from surrounding forests in these Smoky Mountain hills. The temperature is dropping. The wind is flowing with cascades of sound near my own ears. The chill of a new October month dawns on the dampness of wet leaves crashing onto the grassy roots below.

Annabelle stops moments standing still with her never-ending cuteness. Even when frustration begins to arise, that innocent face obliterates any negative feelings that come only to realize how fortunate I am in these very promising moments. Annabelle woos my soul into submission so that maybe, just maybe I can begin to fathom how much a Heavenly Father truly loves His children. Perhaps that realization is where the most important miracle lies.

For your viewing pleasure, please see the most recent adorable Annabelle photos below.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

God’s Guardian Angels in Our Daily Routine


Toxic thoughts often enter our mind and then those toxic thoughts enter into our emotions, altering our perception. Perhaps we then believe the false claims of these toxic thoughts. As one might say, we are our own worst enemy, however I believe there is a bigger enemy at play.

Parenthood can be intimidating for anyone, however when you really look at an innocent baby, one might wonder, “How does this little human being scare the pants off me?” While there are many elements in life beyond our control, God is much bigger!

We try to fill our lives with self-accomplishments when Christ paid the price to give us ultimate freedom from our to-do lists. A young child-like faith is an exemplary standard of personal freedom to be experienced. We strive for perfection, and when I really think about it, I ask myself this question - “Why am I striving for a goal that one person in human history has already achieved?”

Jesus came down from the heavenly realms to become perfection so that we could live through him. The sacrifice has been paid, and while this truth seems so simple to understand, it is, indeed, hard to live out. Annabelle reminds me that we are not alone. We are surrounded by clouds of eternal hosts so that we may live our lives in the protection of God’s guardian angels.

Here are some of Annabelle’s latest photos to conclude this blog entry on another good note.