Monday, December 19, 2022

Escapades in Ireland and the UK with Calhoun (Part One of Two Blog Entries)


Located in Howth, Ireland, this monument is titled The Lost at Sea Memorial. This monument originally honored the five killed crewmembers from The Geraldine, a non-military vessel sunk by a U-boat on March 30, 1918, during World War I. The statue now commemorates all individuals lost at sea for any reason. The picture states the following inscription. The second verse below is written in the native Irish language.

“The Cross represents the Love of God,
The rope edge and shell motif, His nets.
The anchor reflects our dependence on Him,
The rock…the safety of the land,
The swirling stones…the dancers of the sea
The 12 sides…the months of the year
The hooped railing…the rise and fall of the waves.

Ag Chíost an mhuir
Ag Chíost an t-iasc
I líontaibh Dé go gcastar sinn.

Christ of the sea
Christ of the fish 
May we be gathered in the nets of God.”

Mathew Calhoun and I were touched by the monument previously mentioned, especially with the symbolic Christian motifs from the etched verses. I will emphasize more details about the Irish fishing village of Howth and the elegance of this memorial later in the blog entry.

Mathew and I began our recent adventure overseas in Dublin, Ireland, arriving on a Tuesday during the last week of July. We booked a red-eye flight and were therefore very tired when we first arrived in Ireland. An unexpected blessing occurred at Egan’s Guesthouse, the small boutique hotel where we stayed. The hotel staff permitted us to access our room at 10:00 am in the morning, so we could rest to eventually enjoy the latter half of the day after staying up most of the night on the plane. We stayed in this guesthouse twice during our travels. We thoroughly enjoyed it each time, especially with these excellent acts of customer service.

While slowly waking up in the late afternoon, we got ready to take a leisurely stroll through the city to enjoy our surroundings. We made our way to the Jameson Distillery at Bow Street. While I do not typically drink a lot of liquor, I enjoyed the décor of the distillery and the history of the company, especially the information about the family who started the business. The distillery was first named The Steins Family Bow Street Distillery in 1780. John Jameson first served as the general manager and then eventually took over ownership of the entire operation. This entrepreneur's last name then became the company's title, Jameson Irish Whiskey. The Jameson tour reminded me of the bourbon trail in Kentucky, where you can similarly tour multiple distilleries.

On this first day in Ireland, we also climbed the Skyview Tower, adjacent to Generator Dublin, an uptown hostel with contemporary decor and hipster travelers spending time together in the lobby bar areas. The tower provided a brilliant glimpse of the city skyline and some landmarks we hoped to visit in the first week of our trip. From there, we walked a short distance to the Temple Bar, a riveting riverside community with quirky boutiques, live music venues, and crowded restaurants, filled with visitors from all over the world. You could hear various tunes in the bars, including pop, Metallica, and traditional folk Irish music. It was a diverse scene of celebration for individuals drinking, eating, and generally enjoying themselves. We ate at the Temple Bar Pub (a restaurant in the Temple Bar community with the same name) and then walked back toward the hotel, still a little tired from our red-eye flight the day before. 

On Wednesday morning, we scheduled a historical walking tour through a company named Sandeman’s New Dublin. Instead of an upfront fee, the tour guides on these walking ventures live off the tips tourists give them if they enjoy the experience. Our stops on tour included Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Museum, the Dubh Linn Gardens, Trinity College, the Spire of Dublin, and the Molly Malone statue. John, our guide's name, constantly described various parts of the tour with references involving the word, “craic.” “It was a craic’in good time last night.” “That is a craic’in good club that gets busy around midnight.” “That was a craic’in good memory when Queen Elizabeth delivered her speech in the Dubh Linn Gardens.” I asked for an explanation since this term is most often associated with illegal drug consumption in the United States. John replied that “the craic” referred to “having fun” or “having a good time.” After our tour, at the recommendation of the guide, we visited a restaurant near the Temple Bar district named Mulligan and Haines. Both Mathew and I ordered the famed Irish dish, fish and chips. Given the late afternoon hour, there were few people in the restaurant. The food and service were exceptional, and the restaurant's décor was simple yet uncommon.  

On Thursday, Mathew and I visited the Guinness Beer Storehouse. The building encompassed seven floors combined with a beer factory, a museum, a large gift shop, and a gravity rooftop bar. The immersion interactive experience involved the science behind beer-making and the extensive history of Arthur Guinness and his family line. Arthur started brewing his porter-style beverages at St. James’s Gate as early as the 1770’s. Guinness is known for its creation from roasted barley, creating a rich aroma and a dark ruby color. This original Arthur beer recipe now accounts for 45% of the company’s global sales. 

I am a huge fan of lighthouses for their beauty and the symbolic nature of light in the darkness of a storm. Perhaps better said, semiotically, lighthouses represent images of hope to me. At night, a ship finds refuge when these symbols signify shallow waters that potentially could cause harm to the boats. 

As a result of my fascination with lighthouses, after our tour at the Guinness Beer Storehouse, we visited the Poolbeg Lighthouse on Friday. This structure sits on the outskirts of the city along the coastline. The retaining harbor wall to reach the lighthouse stretches almost a mile and a half long one-way. Upon the wall's initial construction in 1786, it was the longest of its kind in the world and remained one of Europe's longest seawalls to this day. The Poolbeg lighthouse structure is painted a distinct red, visible from afar several miles around on a bright day. From the retaining wall, one can also clearly see the North Bull Lighthouse (built in 1880) and the North Bank Lighthouse, which is nicknamed The Tea Caddy due to its architectural shape. Initially built in 1882, the North Bank Lighthouse looks like a giant mailbox on four enormous stilts. The North Bull Lighthouse resembles a classic cylinder-shaped lighthouse with a hazel-green tint.

On Friday morning, Mathew and I boarded a train to travel across Ireland to Galway, a coastal city on the west coast. Before heading to Galway, Mathew and I experienced a hiccup in our travel plans. Literally, less than forty-eight hours before our trip from Dublin to Galway, our tour company canceled our accommodations and planned itinerary for the next two days. We paid a flat fee for a company to escort us on a bus to multiple destinations on the west coast; however, I had to improvise with the sudden change. The Galway Races Summer Festival (perhaps Ireland's most famous horse races) occurred this same weekend we had planned to visit Galway, which certainly made for a festive experience. However, the last-minute accommodation took a lot of work to find. Thankfully, we found a modest-priced Airbnb to replace our original accommodations. 

We arrived in Galway around lunchtime, dropped our luggage off at our host home, and walked to a local eatery named The Full Duck Café. Our Airbnb host recommended this restaurant, known for its homemade cuisine and gourmet coffee. Mathew and I both enjoyed the meal and ventured into the main square again, where we stopped at the Galway City Distillery for a few specialty mixed gin drinks. In addition to rum and vodka, the distillery created multiple flavors of gin with different plants, organic ingredients, and natural oils. The business owner provided us with a free tour, an oral history of the company, and some local history about Galway as a city. We walked to the Spanish Arch, a famous archway in the original city walls from the 1700s. Mathew and I split up for a few hours to explore the city on our own.

I walked on the city's south side along the waterfront through a green space called South Park, along the River Corrib (a small water passage that flowed directly into the city from the ocean resembling a river). From a far distance away, I could see another lighthouse. As previously explained, I fancy a scenic lighthouse. Once through South Park, I reached the Mutton Island Causeway. It was approximately another half mile to the island, where a water treatment plant blocked access directly to the lighthouse; however, one still had a pleasant view of the top of the lighthouse. The scenery was majestic! It was getting dark, and I had several more miles to walk back and meet Mathew for a few beers before returning to our Airbnb residence for the night. Late into the night, the city thrived with eclectic pubs, local boutiques with handmade products, specialty coffee shops, and restaurants with exquisite cuisine. The town felt homey, sitting on the seaside, where most local landmarks were within walkable distance from each other. I walked a little over ten miles for the day. Exploration requires intense legwork. My heart was whole, and I was grateful for another abundant day with my friend. 

While Mathew stayed in Galway the next day, I booked an excursion to the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher, which would last most of the morning and afternoon. My bus first left for Doolin, where we would take a ferry to the first of the three Aran Islands, Inis Oirr (also known as Inisheer in Irish). As one might suspect with Irish weather, this day was rainy and foggy, making visibility difficult in some areas. The thirty-minute ferry ride to the island made my stomach churn. Thankfully, I did not vomit off the side of the boat or on anyone’s lap. I was sitting next to a friendly, loquacious girl from Wales. So, my spit-up would definitely have been unfortunate.

When I arrived on the island, local tour guides offered rides to the arriving tourists with horse-drawn wagons. The island is only approximately three kilometers by three kilometers, meaning one can easily ride a horse, a bike, or take a walk around the inlet in a short amount of time. During the horse buggy ride, we visited a wrecked cargo ship, the Plassy, which wrecked into the island's rocks in the 1960s. The ship still sits on the wreck site with an old iron, rusted edifice. It resembles a true ghostship visual experience with an exciting tale. No lives were lost in the accident due to the bravery of local islanders. We also visited an ancient graveyard, where an old stone church was built into the ground. This in-ground design was meant to provide shelter from fierce winds and rain many years ago when people actually visited the church. The structure had been vacated for several decades and is known as Tiemphall Chaomha (Church of St. Keevauns or St. Kevin’s Church). Still, it provided another example of beautiful, Irish-aged architecture that weathered rainy storms and seas. Our ride ended at the bottom of a steep hill, where the ruins of O'Brien's Castle provided a 360-degree panoramic view of the island, the village, the docks, and the surrounding ocean. The island was one large rock, where locals broke up the rock and built several square fence structures to place soil and grow grass for livestock. So, much of the island looks like a checkerboard with stone fences everywhere, adding to the scenery's unique charm.

The island’s population is approximately three hundred people, with some churches, a school, stores, and a few café type restaurants. I gathered much of the island depended on tourism, including our guide with the horse-drawn wagon business. The island's first language was Irish, not English, even though most were fluent in both languages. Irish was taught in the local school. The island encompassed a freshwater lake centered in the middle of the landscape that my guide said an endangered eel species lived in, but could no longer be fished since now endangered. There were no other fish or major living organisms now in the small lake. Inis Oirr was a unique landmark with many captivating features that provided a glimpse into what some of Ireland might have looked like thousands of years - rugged, seaworthy, untouched, and splendid scenery.

The ferry ride back to Doolin stopped at the bases on the Cliffs of Moher, a UNESCO global geopark and Irish National Park. The heights reach as high as seven hundred feet in elevation. Ocean waters crashed against the rocks below as my eyes soared to the cliffs above. I steadied myself, so I did not get sick from the rough waters of the boat. After the ferry returned to the docks, the bus stopped at the Visitor Center at the Cliffs of Moher. Unfortunately, the weather had gotten so bad that you could not see any mesmerizing vistas. The tops of the cliffs have a lookout area known as O'Brien's Tower; however, again, nothing could be seen in the distance. Upon my return, Mathew and I had a restful evening because we would take an early train back to Dublin the following day.

We arrived back at Egan’s Guesthouse for our second stay in Dublin mid-morning. Because we had such a wonderful time during our first stay at Egan’s, we looked forward to seeing the staff and staying there again. We wanted to make the most of our second stay in Dublin by visiting a local, coastal fish town known as Howth, another popular destination many advised us to explore. It took about ten minutes via taxi and then thirty minutes via train to Howth from the Dublin city center. When we arrived in Howth, we grabbed lunch in The Oar House, where I ordered calamari and fish pie (naturally smoked Haddock served in a creamy vegetable horseradish sauce topped with mashed potato). The meal melted in my mouth like a milkshake on a hot Alabama summer day.   

In a smaller fashion, compared to Galway, Howth comprised one-of-a-kind seafood restaurants, craft vendors, and open green spaces. Along the waterfront edges, Pier Street connected to Howth Pier Park, which neighbored a picturesque yacht club and marina. The park led to another longer seawall that reached toward the Howth Lighthouse. These areas were easily walkable, surrounded by the townscape. Ireland's Eye is an island nature preserve with several protected bird populations, a grey seal colony, and several hiking trails. Ireland’s Eye was easily visible from the Howth Lighthouse. The town felt like a majestic scene in a movie!

Howth is also known for a famous hike known as the cliff trail, which circles the peninsula. Several planned loops range from approximately four to seven and a half miles (six to twelve kilometers). We had to walk a mile and a half uphill to reach the start of the trail. The trail was hilly, with several ocean cliff views and waves crashing several hundred feet below. For those who have not visited Ireland, it resembled many of the California coastline hikes and landmarks along the Pacific Coast Highway. For much of our hike, we could look back on the town of Howth, where the seawall enclosed the marina and highlighted the features of Pier Street and the lighthouse. It was a spectacle where the most detailed photographs might not capture the illustriousness of the moment.

On our way back to the Howth town center, after hiking several miles, we were hungry again. In addition to a few local beers, Mathew and I shared a joint order of crab claws in savory butter and homemade cocktail sauce at King Sitric Seafood Bar. We felt blessed to eat in this restaurant because it was clear most patrons had reservations, and our wait time was minimal. My mouth continues to water, recollecting and writing about our cuisine experiences in Howth. Our day in Howth might have provided the best food we had during our trip with these two meals.          

Mathew and I felt strongly connected to Dublin and the specific individuals we met during our first week of adventures. Thus, we decided to tour Trinity College at our own pace in more detail than the previously mentioned tour given by Sandeman’s New Dublin. As a prestigious university known by name around the world, Trinity resembles a campus with architecture similar to the Harry Potter school, Hogwarts, which is vividly depicted in the movie series. We then visited the Dubh Lin Gardens one more time before heading back to Egan’s, another distinct famous landmark of the city.

When I was a child, I remember walking through plush, soft grass at my favorite parks, massaging the bottoms of my feet like pillows on my face. The sensation makes me feel connected to nature; the experience created a spiritual connection between my childhood and that present moment in those dignified Dubh Lin nurseries. The grass freshly soothed my feet as I danced around the lawn like a sprite. On this occasion, I felt led to pray that God would bless this stunning place and express my gratefulness for the singular, unprecedented Irish personalities we encountered. On this last day of exploring Ireland, we easily walked (and hiked) another ten-twelve miles in total distance through Howth and Dublin.

Throughout my life, I have learned several lessons from my adventures with international traveling. I have navigated all over the world and thus experienced many different life perspectives. Sometimes people tend to see the world as they want to see it, rather than for what it is. Traveling breaks down a person's paradigm and allows an individual to see the world from other viewpoints. An encounter with culture opens a person’s eyes to real life, and these experiences, therefore, educate a person. It shows the beauty in the shades of gray that define who we are as individuals.

These experiences exhibit that a world exists outside of the United States. To be changed by this external world, an immersion experience in a culture other than your own benefits the traveler with newfound knowledge and information. The distinction between the well-traveled adventurer and a local stateside inhabitant becomes noticeable in how a person communicates, how they behave, and more importantly, what they think. International excursions open a mind to consider the world through the lens of another person’s journey. That open-mindedness is often visible in how an individual addresses another person in conversation.

Traveling outside of the United States enhances personal and professional relationships. When building relationships through cultural experiences, an individual realizes people with opinions other than their own might see things differently yet still live in harmony. In this approach to diplomacy, by the very nature of conflict, discord takes a backseat in efforts extended by people to understand each other. Sometimes there is more than one way of doing things well and maybe even a better way than initially perceived.

Finally, when shared with the right person, these experiences become lifetime memories. Mathew Calhoun is one of my closest friends. On multiple occasions, when I have felt a little down in the past, Mathew has spoken words of hope into my spirit. While together these few weeks, we became close and got to know each other even more than we previously did. 

(Portrait of James on the cliff trail in Howth, Ireland.)

(The Howth Lighthouse and the surrounding waterway on the edge of the town and the marina.)

(An emblem on the stone inside St. Kevin’s Church at the first of the three Aran Islands, named Inis Oirr.)

(The Mutton Island Lighthouse on the outskirts of Galway, Ireland.)

(Another view on one side of the Dubh Linn Gardens.)

(A camera self-portrait in the museum at the Guinness Beer Storehouse.)

(The Poolbeg Lighthouse – tall, bright, and red.)

(A glimpse of the North Bull Lighthouse from the Poolbeg Lighthouse seawall.)

(A sailboat in front of the North Bull Lighthouse, visible from the Poolbeg Lighthouse seawall.)

(A cross tombstone at Inis Oirr.)

(A view of the countryside at Inis Oirr.) 

(A view of the Galway, Ireland coastline.)

(The Dubh Linn Gardens walkway.)

(Mathew and I in the Gravity Bar, atop the roof of the Guinness Beer Storehouse.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #travel #internationaltravels #adventures #escapades #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Thanksgiving #goodness #lifelessons #CalhounAndCartee #Ireland #Wales #England #TheUnitedKingdom #UK

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Grateful for the Scars in Hard Times…. Happy Thanksgiving!


Through this song, titled Scars, by the band, I Am They, the expressed lyrics represent gratitude from a unique perspective. Read the following verses. If you have time, you can also watch the video included here as well.  

“Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn't trade it for anything
'Cause my brokenness brought me to you
And these wounds are a story you'll use
So I'm thankful for the scars
'Cause without them I wouldn't know your heart
And I know they'll always tell of who you are
So forever I am thankful for the scars"

We do not typically thank God for the challenging times in life. However, this song reminds us that adversity builds character, kind of like the old saying goes. One might even say adversity has the potential to strengthen a person’s relationship with God and with other people. It depends on how we react to these hardships as individuals and in our relationships with others.

My past mishaps remind me to really appreciate when times are good. Count the blessings. Even more importantly, love those individuals who supported you through calamity when times were tough. Hug them. Kiss them. Celebrate with them. Laugh with them. Give thanks to them. Pray for them.

The last three years have been a real struggle for many people for varied reasons. If you find good in the created scars of past turbulence, you are stronger for it! These hardships were (and are) not easy, however, God can use them for good if you let Him.

If you have survived some grim times, celebrate those memories this Thanksgiving with loved ones and dear friends. When you rise above harsh circumstances, that is no small feat. That achievement is honorable! That deed is worth remembering! The scars symbolize our narratives of gratitude and the journey of getting to know God personally.  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-James Cartee 

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Thanksgiving #HappyThanksgiving #goodness #lifelessons 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

New Destinations, New Memories, and Our Finest Farewells


(Annabelle and Jace dance at Dry Falls Brewing Company.)

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

-James 4:14 (NIV)

My family often ventures for a weekend away to spend time together as a family. Lisa and I recently visited Easley, South Carolina, the hometown of my grandfather, James Louie Cartee, Sr. As many of my acquaintances know, my grandfather was an avid fan and supporter of the Clemson University Tigers sports teams. Easley is located very close to the Appalachian Mountains and some of the most beautiful state parks in the United States (i.e., Table Rock, Caesar’s Head, Paris Mountain). Easily is also positioned between the cities of Greenville and Clemson.

In addition to stopping in Easley, Lisa and I had long been wanting to visit Brevard, North Carolina. This small mountain town is known for white squirrels, mountain biking, waterfalls, and is the home of Brevard College. Brevard involves an active Main Street scene with family-style restaurants, art galleries, and other quaint shops. Our family ate lunch at the Brevard Diner, and I ordered the grilled trout as my lunch entrée. It was delicious! It tasted as if it had been freshly caught that morning in the cold mountain streams. Our waitress was fantastic! I drank all the water and coffee my bladder could hold. The décor of the restaurant was a classic diner like you might see in a movie, simplistic but still local.

We spent most of the afternoon on Main Street, including a visit to Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop, where we were treated to delectable ice cream desserts. Rocky’s is a known establishment that has resided in Brevard since 1941. I ordered my usual two scoops of two different flavors. Lisa, on the other hand, ordered the largest ice cream Sunday on the menu. Annabelle (two years old) has not yet learned the crucial lesson of sharing. She claimed Lisa's Sunday as her own, however, we limited her intake of sugar. As a youngling, Annabelle loves ice cream, a treat she might eat once every few months.

We arrived at our Airbnb in Easley late Friday evening, where we quickly prepared both kids for bed. It was a long day traveling but a good one for many reasons.

The next day we slept in as long as Annabelle would let us. We drove to Greenville, South Carolina, another beautiful area that incorporates an active lifestyle in the residential scene. For example, we decided to visit the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery. In a utopian mindset, Lisa loves grocery stores! This place was the most extraordinary grocery store I have ever been to. Everything is locally sourced in South Carolina from other family businesses. On the grounds, there is a café with several wonderful fresh offerings that make for a good lunch. A nearby building was an old bicycle shop, which had been turned into a community space with ping pong tables and arcade games. Imagine a large green space that resembles a beer garden for families, friends, and couples. This establishment neighbors a city greenway where bikes run rampant.  Riders often take a break from long distances at the Swamp Rabbit. Among multiple outdoor picnic tables, over a hundred people hung out while enjoying the pleasant weather. While the grocery store carried unique gifts, like candles and labeled t-shirts, the amount of fresh produce and selection of beers was immense.

After stopping at the Swamp Rabbit, Lisa and I wanted to visit the Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, North Carolina, situated about an hour from our Airbnb. The orchard was massive and resided on the top of a mountain where you could see local views in every direction. Apples were still being picked here in mid-November, which is typically a little late in the season. Lisa drank apple cider. I drank an apple slushie and ate several apple donuts. Like the ice cream Sunday, Annabelle possessively claimed a half donut from me, stating “Mine.” All four of us took a tractor ride around the orchard. I also shot an apple cannon at targets across a lake on the property. The canon was loud and resembled the force of a potato gun. These products and services were available for a modest price. The orchard provided a place for families to have a good time in a safe environment.

After another lovely day in these beautiful surroundings, we decided to eat and drink at Dry Falls Brewing Company in Hendersonville, North Carolina. On another previous trip, I visited the area just before Annabelle was born. At the time, the owners of Dry Falls offered the opportunity to pre-buy a drink for a police officer in order to honor these public servants. I sponsored one beer like several other local customers. When off duty, a police officer could enjoy some beverages on the tab of others who supported their services. So, I immediately had respect for the business!

A food truck named Heidi Ho on The Go supplied our dinner with some gluten-free, meatless options for Lisa. I had a few beers, and Lisa drank blackberry cider (also gluten-free). We both agreed that the food and drinks were flavorful. Most importantly, Dry Falls encouraged families to enjoy the atmosphere with an emphasis on tiny humans, meaning Annabelle and Jace. The residents of Brevard, Flat Rock, and Hendersonville seemed especially patient toward young children. Annabelle can sometimes test the nerves of customers close to us. During the week before our trip, I had completed and passed four six-hour comprehensive exams in my Ph.D. program at The University of Tennessee. So, we used the occasion to celebrate this momentous accomplishment! Dry Falls provided a great environment to do so!

On Sunday morning, Lisa and I ventured to my grandfather’s gravesite in Liberty to pay our respects. Called Jace for short, James Louie Cartee, IV is named after my grandfather. Since Jace did not get to officially meet his Great Grandad before his passing, we took a few pictures of Jace next to the tombstone. Lisa was not surprised that Grandad’s tombstone looked the “biggest and shiniest” in the cemetery. Grandad certainly possessed a BIG personality! Watching Jace and Annabelle, Lisa was not able to attend the actual funeral services. As a result, Lisa wanted to see the gravesite. We said a prayer and made our way home.  

Lisa and I enjoyed Brevard so much that we decided to take the same route back to Knoxville with a few more stops along the way. We would drive back through Brevard from Easley, which unfortunately involved many curvy mountain roads. We first stopped at Connestee Falls, a landmark we wanted to see Friday, however, rainy weather prevented us from doing so. Brevard borders the Pisgah National Forest, where several more beautiful waterfalls add to the scenery. In this national forest, we next visited Looking Glass Falls. Both these waterfalls are easily accessible for those with families and troublesome toddlers who have strong personalities. When I walked down to the bottom of Looking Glass Falls, Annabelle decided to lie down in a huge pile of leaves, like she was sleeping in a bed. She was blowing a gasket in her collision with nature. Thankfully, she had no spiders or ticks on her body afterward. She did not seem like her usual joyful self. I wondered what was wrong. Lisa and I would soon find out.

On the final leg driving up the mountain from Brevard through the national forest, Annabelle’s face turned a little greenish. After crying with a moan, she proceeded to vomit all over herself and her car seat. We stopped the car to clean up the mess and change Annabelle’s clothes. It was probably about forty degrees on the top of the mountain with a strong gust of wind. This freezing weather made Annabelle cry even louder on the side of the road. Lisa decided that Annabelle must be hungry after literally losing her lunch in our Honda Civic. No more than twenty-five minutes later, Annabelle threw up again with the recent crackers and goldfish Lisa decided to give her. We stopped again to change Annabelle’s clothes a second time. I had to unpack the entire trunk to get clothes out of the suitcase for this next change. While Annabelle was obviously carsick, we still had another twenty miles to cover before reaching Waynesville and straighter roads ahead. Annabelle’s hair was styled with vomit and leaves from wrestling with the dirt at Looking Glass Falls.  

While our last adventurous afternoon was eventful, I still found myself grateful for these messy spillovers. While probably cussing under my breath at that exact moment (especially after going through the vomiting scenario twice), I realized that God gave me a marvelous tiny human to clean and care for. In my younger days, God also gave me a dedicated Grandfather who often cared for me in some difficult situations. Lisa tends to be the champion with our kids and quickly cleans up decorative puddles of puke quicker than a transformer.

Annabelle gets sick occasionally. However, in a positive light, she cries a sweet quiver when she thinks Lisa or I plan to suddenly leave the apartment. She desires the family to always be together with her Mom and Dad by her side.

When I pick up Annabelle from daycare, she runs into my arms. When going to bed, Annabelle eagerly requests kisses for her and all the stuffed animals that accompany her nighttime sleep. Jace even now smiles when you kiss his cheeks fervently, caught between the love given by Lisa and me. If framed in a positive mindset, the frustrating moments still lead to smiles and remembering these mentioned blessings. Emotions might take over in the seconds of messy situations. However, God instills joy through these tiny humans, even amidst the grossest of moments in a vomit-filled car with a filthy kid who needs a bath. The following Bible verse reminds me of this observed truth.

“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.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.”
 -Psalm 127: 3-5 (NIV)

*Please view these pictures from our recent weekend getaway. 

(Dry Falls Brewing Company was converted into a microbrewery with what was once an automobile body shop.)

(Lisa and Jace eagerly await the orchard tractor ride.)

(Sky Top Apple Orchard near Flat Rock, North Carolina)

(Connestee Falls, near Brevard, North Carolina)

(Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina)

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Dedication to Jim Cartee, Sr. – “My Grandfather and My Friend”

As some of you may already know, my grandfather died last week….kind of unexpectedly for me. He was almost 94 years of age. Sometimes, when you have someone in your life for so long, you take it for granted that they have lived such a long time. You hope that person will continue to be around forever. However, eventually, the day will come when that streak of good health and longevity ends. It might hit you in the stomach like a ton of bricks punching you in the belly.

I still have mixed feelings about the situation because I did not yet have the chance to introduce Granddad to my son, Jace. Now only three and half months, Jace is named after my grandfather as the fourth generation, James Louie Cartee, IV.

The funeral transpired in Easley, South Carolina this past Saturday. I opened the funeral ceremony and service with the following prayer below. I think it surmises many of the happy and sad emotions felt through the occasion for me.

My grandfather lost his mother when he was six years old to pneumonia. When Granddad was twelve years old, he lost his father to a heart attack. He spent most of his teen years living in the YMCA and working while also trying to finish high school. He eventually graduated from Clemson University to later have a very successful career with Shell Oil Company. He and my grandmother, Dorothy “Dot” Cartee were wonderfully married for sixty-four years!

Please read this prayer as a dedication to my grandfather’s life, for all that he stood for, and for all that he meant to me. He will be greatly missed! I love you, Granddad!


“In the name of the Trinity, God, Son, and Holy Spirit; thank you for this day that you have made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thank you for 94 years with a man that forever changed my life and many of the lives here today. Rather than times not had, please help us to remember those times we celebrated together, as family, as friends, as four generations named James. Thank you for Jace. Thank you for Annabelle. Thank you for Lisa. Thank you for parents. Thank you for grandparents. Thank you for family – both family of the Cartee bloodline and friends we consider family here today.

The beach, the sports games, the graduation ceremonies, the times we took for granted that we perhaps now long for more of, the Crown and 7, the good food, the tailgating, the tipsy nights on the dock of the Fripp Bay, the laughs, the tears, and the bad times that eventually turned into good.

The Father tends His sheep. The Son saves mankind. The Spirit tends the Garden. I ask that we learn how precious life is in the three roles of this blessed Trinity. Rather than walk alone, please teach us to walk alongside Jesus.

Please help us to appreciate the living breath in this very moment, right now, in the heartbeat we feel within our chest. The youthful days are gone. The grandkids are no longer the babes. We are the next of kin, and please give us the courage of a thousand David’s, the wisdom of a thousand Solomon’s, and the endurance of a thousand Job’s.

I once might have considered a comparison to Granddad to be a bad thing. I only now consider it to be an honor. I stand before you today as a better man, a better Christian, a better father, a better student, and a better worker because of the person we celebrate today.

My name is James Louie Cartee, the 3rd. Over here, we have James Louie Cartee, Junior. In Knoxville, Tennessee, we have James “Jace” Louie Cartee, the 4th.

Some may say it’s just a name, however, four generations started with one name…and one to be cherished.

In his memory, may we live with honor, joy, and kindness for the rest of our days. Please bless each and every person in this room abundantly and without limit. Please watch over them. Please protect them. Please anoint them.

In the famous words of Mathew Calhoun, “Ain’t no party like the Cartee party because the Cartee party don’t stop!”

Yes sir! This is a celebration. This is a party! This is a dance! This is an awesome occasion!

So, please help us to celebrate until we can dance no more. Help us to grieve if we must. Help us to remember all we can with good memories. Help us to laugh until we can laugh no more. If in sorrow, help us to cry until we feel better. Some may ask me, “Who is Jim Cartee, Sr.?”

I will answer, “He was my grandfather. He was my hero. He was my friend.”

Let’s remember Jim Cartee for the rest of our days!

We ask all these many things in the precious blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. Forever and ever, Amen!”


*Referring back to the prayer, “Crown and 7” is one of my family’s favorite alcoholic beverages, including Granddad. “Tipsy nights on the dock of the Fripp Bay” is a reference to our many wonderful years of memories at Fripp Island.

I have posted some of my favorite recent and past pictures of Granddad below for your viewing.

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #babylife #friends #baby #JaceCartee #Jace #expecting #Annabelle #Granddad #JimCarteeSr #JimCartee

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