Friday, August 20, 2021

Annabelle's First Birthday Celebration....A once-in-a-lifetime occasion!

 “Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift.
That is why it’s called the present.”
-Master Oogway, from the movie, Kungfu Panda.

On August 14, 2021, we celebrated Annabelle’s first birthday party. She was blessed in many ways by close friends and family, including several presents, some of which were very fancy. In addition to my parents (a.k.a. G-Daddy and CeCe), my sister, Allison, her husband, Bryan, and their two sons, Ayden and Brogan, attended the celebration. Their presence made for a wonderful occasion! Times like these only come once in a lifetime. While Annabelle will have more birthdays, she only turns one once.

As Annabelle gets a little older, she has become more conversational with baby talk, even though only speaking a few consistent words. Therefore it was amazing to see my nephews interact and play with her! Rather than just holding a baby, they were involved in the moment, like acting in a community theater with three stars of the show.

Allison and Bryan bought a baby sports center for Annabelle that involved a miniature basketball goal and soccer net, which speaks with an enthusiastic voice and shines disco lights for successful points scored. Annabelle was all smiles as the family cheered her on with each basket and goal scored. Ayden was her biggest fan!

Annabelle recently learned to crawl approximately around the time of her birthday. Becoming more mobile has certainly shown her incredible, developing athletic skills! Annabelle has also started dancing. She raises her hands in the air and twists her hips from side to side. These moves especially occur when she hears Baby Shark or the introduction song to the television cartoon, Clifford, The Big Red Dog.

The first crawling of a child and the birthday celebrations with family make occasions worth remembering to cherish now and in the future. Master Oogway reminds us that today is a true gift of wonder, not to be taken for granted. Therefore moments like these necessitate the utmost focus to realize just how magnificent life can ultimately be, even if occurring in the middle of adverse circumstances.    

My mind often tends to ponder all sorts of business and responsibilities, but for these special moments, I try to solely focus on the activity at hand. This is not an easy task but is essential for the enjoyment of now. Two big-picture realizations have helped me stay in the present of my current moment. First, one must not take oneself (our internal voice) too seriously. This idea includes self-compassion. I, for one, struggle to show myself grace, however if God shows all Christians who claim the name of Jesus grace, then we should also do the same for ourselves. In other words, be kind to yourself, even when you make mistakes.  

Second, one must also not take life too seriously. One truth we know about the future is that many outside forces remain out of our control. Therefore, why give those future worries and concerns all the energy drawn forth? If a person stays serious all the time, it destroys the joy of the moment in front of us. Life goes by in the blink of an eye, so fast, so quick. Part of me cannot believe my little girl was born a year ago. Points in time flash before our eyes. Let's not miss the most important occasions, like birthdays to be celebrated. Those moments are meant to be cherished.   

When I sit, breathe deeply, and try to clear my mind, I bring my own current space that I am occupying into my present reality. Whether through prayer, meditation, or just sitting still, I would challenge you to do this for a few days and see how you feel. Perhaps then you will be reminded not to take life or yourself a little too seriously. Moments won't just pass by. Those precious seconds, making memories with those we hold dear, will be the most meaningful elements of your life.  

For your viewing pleasure, here below are the latest pictures from Annabelle’s recent first birthday weekend.

("This cake is so yummy!" -Annabelle)

(Annabelle and Mama Lisa opening gifts.)

(Annabelle plays with her cousins, Ayden and Brogan.)

(Annabelle looks beautiful in her special birthday dress.)

(Annabelle with grandparents, CeeCee and G-Daddy Cartee.)

("I am really considered twelve months old, not one year old, hence the sign." -Annabelle)

("G-Daddy, stop tickling my feet!" -Annabelle)

("Man, my cousin is so tall! I can never shoot the ball over him!" -Annabelle)

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

Monday, August 9, 2021

Going Through the Motions? How Children Remind You of More….To Live Like You Were Dying!

Going Through the Motions? How Children Remind You of More….
To Live Like You Were Dying!

"And he said....'I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying'
And he said
'Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying' "

-Tim McGraw, lyrics from the song, Live Like You Were Dying

You might sometimes catch yourself thinking, “Is there more to life than just this routine?” Or perhaps you might even say to yourself, in going through the motions, “Why am I here when none of this really matters?” We have all been subject to roles and responsibilities that cause us to simply walk through the motions and live in the doldrums of dryness and monotony.

While one might be able to argue if a job matters or, on the other hand, does not matter much at all outside of a paycheck, the principles of parenthood, mentorship, relationships, and community remain paramount both now and tomorrow. Small moments with loved ones signify the times that make you want to “live like you were dying.”   

When a situation seems bleak, do you remember the most important things in your life as opposed to the daily burdens of responsibility that make one question everything? For example, I sometimes feel frustrated when people make decisions for me, on my behalf, that do not make sense for all that are affected, which directly influences the role I play and thus my enjoyment of that role. Those scenarios  impact me and those who must follow the specific policies in place, often for the self-interests of those who implement them. In other words, the interests serving the whole group are not the primary reasons or motivations for the decisions being rendered but rather only the self-indulgence of one or two people. 

I get caught up in my disappointment with unmet expectations of what could be better. Emotions of anger, disappointment, and frustration can become misleading, even when so much good exists in the possibilities right in front of us. Positive thoughts lead to positive words that then lead to positive actions.

As Lisa and I are about to celebrate Annabelle's one-year birthday, my daughter’s smile reminds me to stay present in the moment I currently live in. Her positive vibes dancing to Motown music at Singo nights (Bingo with popular music titles) in a local Knoxville restaurant, hands in the air, waving them like we just don’t care, could certainly be the focus of my attention over the bore of a routine. Memories of her smile, much like Peter Pan and his son, Jack (plot from the movie, Hook), take me to my happy place, and it becomes essential that I do not forget that. And so, Annabelle has taught me some valuable lessons when I start walking through the motions of a routine, without focusing on or living for the moments that truly matter.

First, we must learn to focus on the joy of the incredible days more so than the disappointments of organizational wishful thinking. We cannot control the actions and decisions of others, even when those circumstantial compromises make no sense whatsoever.

Second, every time a negative thought enters our mind, we must make a legitimate effort to temper that negativity with seven positive notions of good things, those good things that bring you effortless joy. The obvious entity here would be Jesus. Try declaring how much Jesus rocks or how much God loves you seven times for every minute that looming negative sentiment comes forward. 

Third, remember when and where God has shown up in the past, especially during those times of defined miracles in your life. We are quick to forget these blessings when our gloomy feelings get the best of us. God must have done something miraculous and good in your life. Jog your memory. Dig deep within and write it down. Remember the good He has done and the good He continues to do.  

I will be the first to admit that life is not always super exciting and that I sometimes catch myself walking through life without much appreciation or acknowledgment for the intangible gifts blessed upon me. Life then becomes routine. It becomes uneventful. It becomes a walk through the motions of boredom and obligation. Try to catch yourself in these times of redundancy. Remember the three lessons Annabelle has taught me with consistent reminders. Focus on the incredible days. Counter mental negativity with internal positive statements. Remember when God showed up in your life and miracles were abundant. Then, eventually, joy will come again along with a sincere smile on your face. Yes, even though there is a time of waiting, joy eventually comes again.

Below you will see evidence from some the most recent Annabelle moments that remind me to "live like I was dying." This journey called life only comes once. Try to enjoy the path while you have it good, sometimes better than you might even realize.

(Annabelle with G-Daddy at the Townsend Gateway Inn, celebrating James's birthday.)

(Annabelle with Mommy and Daddy at Riverstone Restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee, celebrating James's birthday.)

(Annabelle with G-Daddy and Cece at Riverstone Restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee, celebrating James's birthday.)

                             (Annabelle loves eating at Riverstone Restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee.)

                        (Annabelle enjoys her round full belly at Riverstone Restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee.)

(Caption: "I like to eat donuts in the morning.")

(Caption: "My hair looks best when I wake up in the morning.")

(Caption: "I bet you just want to hug me!")

(Caption: "Man, you better give me a hi-five!")

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