Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Mountains Are Calling, and Annabelle Must Go!

“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir

At the university I currently attend for my PhD. in Communication, leadership removed all holiday and/or spring breaks to reduce travel with the student population. Research suggests that students perform better with exercise and recreational activities with semester breaks, in addition to receiving much-needed rest and quality time with family members. Due to these unfortunate situations, my wife, Lisa, and I recently traveled to take a long weekend in Ellijay, Georgia so I could have a short break from reality and responsibility. Ellijay is located in North Georgia along the Blue Ridge Parkway and near the southern route starting point of the Appalachian Trail.

Of course, Annabelle accompanied us, which really made the trip all the more enjoyable with some of her first moments in nature. Over the next few months, we will continue to involve Annabelle in outdoor pursuits. Some might say parents inspire children by what they say. Perhaps, better said and even more impactful, parents inspire children by what they do. If travel and outdoor recreation remain a natural priority for Mom and Dad, then perhaps that love for these activities will also become a priority for their kids.

Ellijay encompasses a small mountain community with a centralized town square that the Cartecay River flows through and vineyard country surrounds (Cartecay Vineyards, Ott Farms and Vineyard, Ellijay River Vineyards, etc.). Backpacker culture and nature lovers inhabit the town with a common enthusiasm for the great outdoors. The main street and township square comprises of unique clothing boutiques, locally-owned restaurants, outfitters, and other small shopping establishments.   

As a family together, in rainy weather, we hiked with Annabelle against my chest in a knapsack carrier. We ate on two occasions in a tavern bar in downtown Ellijay (River Street Tavern), both visits Annabelle happened to sleep through. We also visited a microbrewery where a live band asked me to rap with a pure beat of the drum (Cartecay River Brewing Company). I politely declined. We drank wine fireside with an acoustic set at a vineyard, making new friends with a couple from Savannah, Georgia. My family experienced a few adventures in this beautiful town with our daughter involved the entire time.

The mountains of Appalachia continue to teach and remind me of some valuable life lessons. First, one cannot always be in a rush. Today’s society pushes for a go-every-second mentality. You will miss the very moment in front of you if not careful to stop and catch your breath. On a beautiful hike, soak in the scenery around you. Absorb the stillness of nature. Stand in awe of your surroundings.

Second, let go of the dead weight. You will often hear serious backpackers mention their ultralight gear or their total weight carried on the trail. In fact, many adventurists get rid of things they realize are not needed on a long thru-hike. Sometimes you have to let go of the bad things in life. Rid yourself of the pressing unimportant things that we give too much attention to. It might be a negative relationship. It might be something materialistic. That dead weight might be the constant self-nagging in which you beat yourself up for no reason. Drop the dead weight! Continue on your journey and keep moving forward!

Third, embrace the journey and forget about the destination. Most admire attained goals, reaching for finish lines, and seeking long-sought-after accomplishments. However, the present minute you live in realistically defines who you are at the end of the journey. Our destinations often change. The hard moments define our grit to persevere when challenges come our way. Then, like endurance athletes, we eventually reach that destination, and then we become ready for the next adventure. Make the moments count because all the little moments along the way ultimately define the journey itself and whether all the sacrifices made were worthwhile.

Yes, the mountains speak to us! We just have to listen to remind ourselves of the simple truths we may already know down deep within. Even though the semester has been greatly altered compared to a traditional college calendar year, I received a break, and I am grateful. Most importantly, I created memories in the common passions I hope, over time, Annabelle also develops a love for. When the mountains call her, I, indeed, hope she will go! 

Here are some of the latest Annabelle pictures including our recent getaway when the mountains called me home.

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Rest - Taking Time to Appreciate the Time We Have….

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." 

Exodus 33:14

Rest is an essential part of life, and rest necessitates our personal attention as a priority for mental and spiritual health reasons. How many times have you ignored your body’s natural signs to take a break? I know I have. For some reason, I often feel a strong need to get one more task on my to-do list completed when it can probably wait until the next day. I put that pressure on myself. I am the only person who can alleviate this stressful, overbearing feeling by taking a moment to rest.

I can decide to center myself one more time for rest and recollection of what matters most, or I can stress over the completion of one more task. Through prayer, meditation, writing, taking a walk, and sleeping, I try to remember what truly is important to me. Those first strong reminders would be my own family, especially Lisa, my wife, and Annabelle, my baby girl, and additionally my relationship with Jesus.

With quality family time, several jobs, four courses full-time as a Ph.D. student, church activities, and exercising regularly, I struggle to keep up with everything I think I "need to do." More often than not these things can wait. They do not need to be done right this second.

Sometimes these things should wait so I can rest right now. Then I will recharge and perhaps have more energy to focus on the tasks at hand, thus completing them faster than originally intended.

In my last moment, when I die, I am probably not going to remember when I finished that last tedious difficult project. Typically one does not say, “I sure am glad I got my grocery shopping done.” Or perhaps, “Man, I am glad I took out the trash, so my house does not stink.” No, you will remember times with family, spiritual break-through moments with God, and once-in-a-lifetime trips around the world. No one says, “I am glad I got my chores done before this final second.”

Holding my daughter while she sees bison gallop across the plains of Yellowstone for the first time will be what I remember. Perhaps it will be the first time she feels, tastes, and plays in the snow, or a blog entry that touches the lives of my readers. It probably will not be my latest academic research study I am bragging to angels about when I go to heaven. I think you get the idea.

I challenge you to relax for a moment. Take a deep breath. Thank God for the present moment you currently live in. Drink your favorite microbrewery cold beer and chill out on the beach with toes in the sand. Show yourself grace because grace in the God-sized memories will be what you remember when you go home to heaven, not those regular mundane everyday tasks. Remember what you truly believe matters right now. What matters to me is that Annabelle also creates her God-sized moments. Focus on these things in the present. What truly makes you happy in your most joyous times today? Remember you have a legacy to live and a legacy to leave behind for those who really know you. What will others say or remember about the person you are? What will your own personal thoughts be on your final day?

Here are some of the latest Annabelle photos for your viewing enjoyment.

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