along Riverwalk in downtown Tampa. Once again, very enjoyable. Arrrgh!!!
December for the Bradens was an eventful month. Robert visited and he and Jay got some father-son time at TopGolf. Then there was the Fellowship Baptist Church Christmas PartyWith over 80 people attending. Good food, good fellowship, and a fun White Elephant Gift Exchange. December 15th found Joyce at a surgical center for a procedure to hopefully provide some relief to some serious back pain. We will not know the full extent to which the procedure helps relieve the back pain for at least a month. Christmas morning Jay at Joyce were treated to a great breakfast by Karen and her family who were preparing for their trip to England. Very nice. The Bradens then travelled to Kernohan Cove where Michael and Karri again hosted a Christmas Dinner with Jay and Joyce providing the games. To bring in the New Year, Jay and Joyce spent the night at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and really enjoyed a winderful New Year's Eve dinner at Oystercatchers.
The highlight of the month was the family vacation to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. We also celebrated Thanksgiving twice, once with our church group and once at the Kernohans at their home in Hudson. We also traveled over to St Petersburg to help David Foster celebrate his 90th Birthday!
October was highlighted by three events. On October 22nd Shaun Dunn (son of Paul and Dorothy) was married to Victoria Caldwell in a nice ceremony and reception at Care Hatteras, North Carolina. (We also later learned that Shaun was recognized as the Hatteras Captain on the Year, 2022, so that was quite an honor.) In the same time frame Joyce and daughter Michelle had some nice days at Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Jay also got to spend some time with Robert's family in Lagrange, Georgia. Imagine: Six children! Lastly, on October 31st Jay and Joyce dressed up for their church's Trunk or Treat, and gave away a carload full of candy to very nice children with their parents.
September was slated to be to have a very good start with parts of the family gathering at Callaway Gardens over the Labor Day weekend. Robert would be there with his family and Jay would be traveling up by car with Karen and her family. Unfortunately that entire vacation had to be canceled when Jay came down with his second bout of Covid. His first bout had been in December 2019 and the second bout was relatively mild but it still put the Kabash on what was to be some great times together.
Callaway was understanding and gave a full refund, and we now have a second booking in November to look forward to. The second big event in September actually occurred. It was in Indianapolis where Jay traveled to be at his high school's 60th Reunion. Jay had been part of the planning committee that met just about every other week by Zoom going back to the previous November. Jay stayed with Ellen and Tom who were, as always, wonderful hosts. Tom and Ellen picked Jay up at the airport and had a surprise for him: a quick trip to Crawfordsville to visit the Lew Wallace Museum. Jay also he stayed at Tom and Ellen's house. The Reunion had three parts: a picnic at one of the alum's home, a tour of Bottle Works in downtown Indianapolis, and an evening dinner at the nearby Delaware County Community Center. Jay asked Ellen to be his "date" for all the events and that worked out very well, as she knew some of the people there (Ellen had graduated from a later class at the same high school). Jay's contribution to the evening dinner was to conduct - you guessed it – some games, which were well received. Naturally that made his night. All in all some very nice times. September 27th was the rescheduled date for Mom's interment at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery. Ellen flew up a day early with Mom's cremains and stayed with Delcie Mollick. However Jay and Karen's flights were messed up due to Hurricane Ian so the Interment Ceremony was conducted without them. Robert attended and was a GIANT help getting Jay and Karen connected in by Facetime.
August was another mostly quiet summer month. Both Robert and Karen celebrated birthdays. Braden had what was to be a routine surgery to clean out his nasal passages and make him less likely to get sinus infections. It was true about routine surgery but the recovery period was longer than anticipated. Thankfully it out well and we will see if there are some long-term good results. This was go-back-to-school month so that kept Karen and Robert and their kids active in getting ready for the upcoming school year. Hard to believe that the triplets would be sophomores in high school.
July started as a fairly quiet summer month. For one thing, we spent the Independence Day weekend at home rather than vacationing at one of Joyce's favorite resorts: the Bilmar on Treasure Island Beach. But both Jay and Joyce enjoyed again supporting the church's Freedom Festival held a few days earlier with lots of food and a great fireworks show. Jay kept with his Golf and PickleBall, and Joyce spent time each week with her daughter Michelle and with her son Michael's truck travels around the United States via an app they each had on her phone. They also managed to talk by phone almost daily, so that was very, very nice. She also had a nice day with her Admin Assistant Margaret from her nursing days. A super event was Karen's graduation from the University of South Florida with a Masters in Social Work. She earned this degree, an important key to her employment with Suncoast Hospice and other any other similar social work jobs she might have in the future, while working full time. Quite an accomplishment and she has a number of stories regarding her experiences during this academic endeavor. Yes, Jay and Joyce did manage to slip away at the end of the month. They traveled to Breezes Resort in Nassau by plane for a four night holiday at and all inclusive. Yes, that was a good time.
On June 6th Jay and Ellen hosted the Celebration of Life for their mother, Elaine, who had passed away on May 18th. It was held at Green House Cottages in Carmel, where Elaine had resided for the past few years. It was a very nice celebration, attended by friends and family and members of the Transition team that had served Elaine in her final days. The ceremony included a scripture message from Pastor Mac of Transitions that was warm and uplifting. Following the ceremony there was food and beverages for all; and then family members gathered at a nearby Residence Inn for further sharing of tributes and memories. The month ended with Jay and Joyce attending the Fellowship Baptist Church Freedom Festival, where they each served as volunteers. After more than eight years with Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Jay had transferred his membership to Fellowship Baptist so that he and Joyce could spend all of their Sundays together.
The beginning of the month found Jay traveling back to Indiana. A call from sister Ellen informed him that their mother Elaine had some type of incident that had resulted in a sharp downturn in her health. After about a four day visit things had stabilized and Jay returned to Tampa. That week Robert was in town for business and got to break away for a few hours to play PickleBall with Jay's friends. But another call from Ellen necessitated another trip back to Indiana. At this point Elaine was clearly nearing the end of her life on earth, and was simply being comforted and kept pain-fee by medications. Essentially, she was in a deep sleep for the entire visit, and Jay and Ellen got to spend some time working in various arrangements that would be set in place once Elaine passed. Jay returned to Tampa late Monday evening and got the call from Ellen shortly after 11AM on Wednesday that Nanny had slipped peacefully into eternity. Ellen and husband Tom were there at her passing, which was peaceful. Her obituary can be found at the ARN Mortuary and Funeral home and there is a posting on the family Website.
April started out nice when Jay plus Karen's family travelled to Orlando to spend the day with Robert and his family at the Marriott Resort where they were staying. Good fun at the pool, good eating, and overall good family times and memories. Highlight of the month was visiting Nanny to help her celebrate her 101st Birthday! We also had a nice Easter, and we count our blessings.
March is Florida Strawberry Festival time, and Joyce's friend Lu made her forst entry into the Horticulture Competition where she earned a First Place in her class! Congrats. (Joyce and Lu had been working for months on their respective entries.) We also had our annual Sunday School Class Strawberry Picnic at the Mercer Farm. Eddie Mercer is our Sunday School Class Leader and he generously opens up his fields for our class and his other close friends. Yes, Jay continued with Golf and Pickleball, which he enjoys greatly.
Lots of things this month. After about six months of hard work and great dedication, Joyce submitted her entry to the Florida State Fair. It was in the "Succulants in Alternative Containers" category. Her container was a crab trap and inside, with meticulous work, were over thirty species of cacti and other succulants. Yes, she won First Place in her category, and we learned that she was very strongly in contention for Best of Show, the winner being a terrarium with but four plants and mold in the waterfall area. We learned that Best of Show judging was contentuous among the judges. Unfortunately the terrarium prevailed - but there is no way it compared with the beauty, variety, and attention to detail of Joyce's entry. This month Jay also got to make his first visit to see Robert and Natalie's new babies, Alice and Thatcher. A great visit to a wonderful family.
The great news for this month was the birth of twins, Alice Claire and Thatcher Robert, to Robert and Natalie and their boys. Praise the Lord.
Christmas month began with the annual Sunday School Party, and Jay led the games, which were fun. He loves his games and so now a number of them are posted on this Website. Joyce participated in choir for her church's Christmas Program, and that was also excellent. Jay got away to spend three days with Robert and his family at their new home in LaGrange, Georgia. Jay and Joyce had Christmas Eve dinner with Howard and Michelle Wooden and were back to Hudson the next day for the Kernohan Christmas dinner and other activities. Jay and Joyce also got away to Orlando to stay at the Gaylord Palms over the New Year, and they enjoyed the getaway.
About the most significant activity in November was our vacation trip to stay in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Or I should say our "planned" trip, because as the time approached, the USA raised the Dominican Republic's COVID Alert to a pretty high level, enough for us to cancel the trip which meant losing some of our no-refund air fare. No regrets on that decision, however. Joyce continued practicing with her church choir for its Christmas Program and she and her friend Lu worked steadily on the hortculture submissions; Lu's for the Florida Strawberry Festival and Joyce's for the Florida State Fair. That way they would not be competing with each other. Jay continued golf though his team didn't do that well at his golf association's Memorial Tournament. His Pickleball group continued to play three days a week and Jay played regularly on the two mid-week games. Thanksgiving was at Michael and Karri Kernohan's house in Hudson. A nice time.
Mostly a nice month. Everett turned 10; Braden, Daylin, and Skyler celebrated their first high school HomeComing Weekend; and Joyce and Michelle drove up to Gatlinburg for some Mother-Daughter time to enjoy the mountains and the Fall leaves. Things got rough beginning on the 25th when Jay learned that his Mom, Elaine, in an Assisted Living Facility in Carmel (Indianapolis), Indiana, seem to be taking a turn for the worse, so Jay flew out on the 26th to be there. But within a span of about 24 hours she fully recovered and continues to do well for being 100 years old. Thank to Ellen and her family for being nearby and for all the work they do in looking in on Mom and ensuring that she is being properly attended to.
Got to spend the Labor Day Weekend with Karen and her family. We took in Discovery Cove and SeaWorld. Good times at both. Visited Hudson, FL, a few times to look in on Michael and Karri as they renovated their new home there. It is on a canal that leads to the Gulf and has a nice pier and boat lift. The lift was empty so Michael had to buy a 27' boat to go on it. Robert was in town late in the month so Jay, Robert, and the boys had some fun together. The boys are all involved in soccer at West Point, GA, and Robert coaches four teams! The tripletts are into fall sports: Braden (baseball), Skyler (softball), Daylin (Cross Country and Orchestra). Keeps Karen and Cathy busy shuttling the kids to practices and games. Jay and Joyce got away for a nice dinner at Anna Marie Island to close out the month.
August was moving month, with Michael and Karri moving to Hudson with a home on a canal leading out to the gulf, and with Robert and Natalie moving to a home in LaGrange, Georgia.
Independence Day Celebration. Again at the Bilmar on Treasure island Beach in St. Petersburg, along with Michelle, and also Michael and Karri who were celebrating their second anniversary. During the weekend, we were visited by Joseph and his girlfriend Mallory, and by Tyler and Conner. We brought beach gear and snacks . . . and games, of course. Everyone liked Bocce Ball (beach rules) and Mexican Train dominos. The fireworks on July 4th were also great. We returned home to watch the final two games of the Stanley Cup playoffs between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, and cheered when the Bolts won on July 7th for a second straight Stanley Cup. A few days later Tampa celebrated with a boat parade, something unique to the city.
June was not a good month. On the second day of the month Joyce learned that her best friend - who was like a sister to her, Carol Foster, had died in a May 30 auto accident; the news arriving late because Carol's husband, David, was in ICU from the accident and incommunicato. Carol and David had been Joyce and Fred's traveling companions all over Europe and to the Western US for 12 years beginning in 2000. David is Joyce's lawyer and he has done work for Jay also. The funeral service was for family only, but Joyce is "family" to the Fosters so she and Jay attended, and also the reception afterwards. Two weeks later, Joyce was one of only three speakers at the Celebration of Life, and she did an amazing job, her words making the church audience both laugh and cry. Later in the month, Jay drove up to Orlando and joined Robert's family for a day while they were staying at a Marriott resort.
May was just another slow month. It began with an nice event: the triples got baptised at St. Andrews United Methodist, where they attend. A few days later we got to hear Daylin play in the All-County Band. Then Robert came by for an afternoon and played Pickleball with our group. Then Jay visited Robert in Lanett to watch the boys play baseball while Joyce and her friend Lu visited Daytona Beach. Braden made the Bloomingdale Youth Sports Association All-Star Team, and Skyler drew attention and praises for her piching and fielding with her softball team. Skyler even got invited to practice with the Bloomingdale High School Softball Team; quite an honor. Jay and Joyce drove to Anna Maria Island and had a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant on the beach there. Jay had his first traffic accident (his fault-one other car involved-no injuries) and the Equinox began a slow seven weeks of recovery and repair$ while Jay got to pay for rental cars. And the month ended with the celebration of Joyce's birthday. Whew.
The highlight of the month was traveling to Indianapolis to help Jay and Ellen's Mother, Elaine, celebrate her 100th Birthday. All went well!! Jay and Joyce also got away for a few hours to enjoy the Florida State Fair.
This was highlighted by a couple of nice events. This year the Florida Strawberry Festival at Plant City was held albeit with many COVID-19 precautions in place. Normally there is big name entertainment each night but that went away this year. Understandably, attendance was down. We felt sorry for all the food vendors cooking up goodies for people who just weren't there. We did have our traditional strawberry shortcake, however. We also had two trips. Both over the March 26-28 weekend. Jay, with Robert's family and Karen's family, spent three days at Universal Studies while Joyce and her good friend Lu spent that weekend at Daytona Beach, accompanied by their dogs, Cinny and Bella. (Joyce's back just could not take three days of running through Universal.)
February was also a relatively quiet month, though Joyce was saddened by the passing of two very close friends, one being her Sunday school teacher whom she had known for 30 years. In terms of the pandemic, it appeared that spring and summer might see COVID-19 pretty much under control, and therefore opening up potential places to vacation. As one might guess, everyone had that same thought and it was surprising to find many places already booked up for so far in advance. Jay took on a small project; assembling some of the Christmas letters he could find. Those letters go back 40 years, and he has about 30 years worth now posted on the BradenClan Webpage.
January was a quiet month. It was a little bit of “recovering from Christmas and putting away Christmas decorations“ and pretty much waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted to the extent where we could begin thinking about travels. Joyce continue making contacts and speaking with the her friends and neighbors who count upon her for medical expertise, and at one point she had 13 “active“ cases of persons needing serious medical attention and seeking her advice. Jay continued with golf and pickle ball, and enjoyed each of these activities, though his golf game could always be better. Speaking of golf, Jay stepped down as his men’s association’s secretary after serving in that capacity for six years. Time for someone else to get that enjoyment.
Nothing special about this December. Despite an abundance of care and caution, Jay tested positive for COVID-19 in December 3rd. By December 14th he tested negative and was fully okay. Of course, between the 3rd and the 14th there were most of the symptoms: sore muscles, a cough, excessive fatigue. But with the help of Joyce (AKA Nurse Ratched) he recovered nicely. This year Jay and Joyce celebrated Christmas Day with her side of the family. There were around 14 of us and we had a good time with food, fellowship, and Jay’s games.
This month Joyce and her long time friend visited Gatlinburg, one of Joyce's favorite cities. During this time Jay visited Robert and his family in Alabama. Both visits created good times and sweet memories.
This month Jay and Joyce traveled to St Augustine for a few days. While there we enjoyed eating at some nice restaurants, hopping on and off the trolley tour, visiting the lighthouse, and expereiencing the unique aspects of this very old Florida city.
This month we returned to Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, where we stayed on property at one of their three bedroon villas. Joining us were Robert's family and Karens's family. to get around the property - from the villa to the lake to the activities center ... we rented two 6-passenger golf carts, and riding around in these added a new and fun aspect to our adventure.
Robert came in from Orlando with his family and we celebrated Karen's 50th Bithday at nearby Medard Park. The next day Jay joined Karen and her family at Holmes Beach in Bradenton. Braden, Daylin, and Skyler prepared to go back to (virtual) school. They were not happry with that, but Karen and Cathy felt that distancing precautions still needed to be practiced.August was go to UCF month for Conner Kernohan, and Joyce and Conner had made a lot of preparations for his freshman year there. They had worked hard to select a nice dormitory and to make sure Conner had all the supplies necessary for his stay there. Conner would be living in a four bedroom freshman suite with two other roommates and they would all be taking classes virtually.
Jay and Joyce got away for two nights at the Bilmar Resort on Treasure Island Beach in St. Petersburg. Good times. Jay visited with Robert and his family when they were in Lakeland. On the 18th of July Joyce exercised her Second Amendment rights and purchased a pistol. She also purchased all the ancillary items: bullets, hearing protection, protective glasses, holster, and ammo. She practiced at the range and did well. Joyce and Jay also took the required training for a concealed weapons permit and filed their applications with the state of Florida. Note: You might want to knock loudly before your come in to our house.
This must have been surgery month. Joyce had two separate hospital days; one for cataract surgery on her left eye and another for cataract surgery on her right eye. Both procedures turned out very well and now Joyce can read the fine print on all the advertising we get in our junk mail. Hunter Wooden also had surgery, to remove some pins in his leg that were part of a surgical solution to a broken leg he had years ago. The steel rod will remain but the pins had come loose and were causing him some discomfort. This procedure needed to be done because Hunter was considering entering the US Air Force. Jay and Joyce along with the Karen Alvarez family, spent the weekend in Orlando at the Westgate Lakes Resort. There they played miniature golf, swam in the pool, competed in board games at night, ate out at Longhorn Steakhouse, and played paddle ball on the grounds of ICONN Park. A nice time. Not a lot to report this month. COVID-19 precautions still dampened our activities and so Jay's racquetball had been out since March but this month one of his racquetball buddies set up a PickleBall court in his driveway, so Jay switched racquet sports. PickleBall is fun. Jay also resumed playing golf, with safety precautiions in effect. he learned that COVID-19 had somehow made his golf game ten strokes worse!
Karen continued to struggle at her hospice work due to the shortage of PPE and the rest of us continued with social distancing. Bummer. We had graduation celebrations for Hunter Wooden (from USF) and Conner Kernohan (from Bloomingdale High School and about to attenbd UCF).
This month will be remembered mostly for how the United States and the world attempted to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. In the US alone, the death toll went from 3,746 on April 1st to 55,225 on April 30th. Concurrently, unemployment numbers soared and the stock markets were in the tank. Cities scrambled to locate N95 masks, PPE for health care workers, and ventilators for critically ill patients. Jay and Joyce did "sneak out" to deliver Barbeque to the doctors and staff on the COVID-19 ward of Advent hospital, but mostly adhered to stay-at-home and self-isolation mandates and practiced social distancing when they did have to be in public. On the upside, Jay’s mom seemed to being okay in her nursing home and we got to speak with her fairly regularly using our iPhone FaceTime software. Her 99th birthday was on April 10th, and we met virtually to send our best wishes. We did have some sadness in the house: Mosby went to cat heaven. He was a great pet and will be missed very much. Puppy Cinny remained, however, to bolster our spirits.
Armed with surgical masks, germicide sprays, and Lysol wipes, Jay and Joyce flew to Hawaii for six great nights. Yes, the Coronavirus was out there, but no reports cases in Oahu. They had a great time and some pictures of their visit are here. They returned to a mainland overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19, schools closing, businesses closing, and to essentially self-isolation. Jay did play in the Polk County Senior Games before things got really serious (and even won his age group by kicking the crutches out from his opponents), but even gave up his twice-a-week golf, citing an overabundance of caution plus the fact that his family would kill him if he caught the virus and died.
February was a month of a number of things. jay and Joyce visited the Florida State Fair to include its horticultural exhibits and even Jay could tell thatr Joyce would have won Best of Show there should she have entered one of her Fairy Dish Gardens. Jay visited his Mom in Indianapolis who is now in assisted living. She is well, all things considered. Blessings to Ellen who sees her almost daily, arranges her doctor appointments and gets Mom to them, does her laundry, and interacts with the staff to stay informed and to be a presence in the home ... a good way to keep care to one's family member at the best possible level. Joyce also succumbed to getting some attention to her back, visiting a neurological spine surgeon, beginning therapy sessions, and getting scheduled at a surgical center for a spinal injection that had some promise of helping ease her pain. This was also the month that Jay sold his townhome that he owned and had been renting in the valrico area for eight years. His great tenant Carlos had decided to move and Jay decided not to be in the landlord business any longer. The sale was fast and smooth. And - meanwhile - Jay and Joyce continued preparations for their upcoming Hawaii trip while watching the Coronavirus in China beginning to spread worldwide ... wondering if all that travel would be safe.
In early January Jay returned to Orlando with Karen and her family to cash in on remaining passes from the December visit. This time they tried another Escape Room (and again successfully escaped) and also played video games, had lunch, and drove Karts at the NASCAR I-Drive attraction. In mid-January Jay and Joyce's life changed when they added a new member to the household; two-month-old Cinnabar Braden ("Cinny), a loveable five pound mix of Bichon Frise and Shih Tsu. Why would anyone want to sleep through the night when you can get up at 3 AM to walk the dog? Also Joyce continued her efforts as essentially a patient advocate for a number of friends and one relative: grandson Devin who broke a bone in his ankle and required surgery to insert a pin to hold the bones in place. Lastly, Jay and Joyce joined the boistrous crowds to watch the Gasparilla Pirate Parade in downtown Tampa (Aaargh!). A fun time and they collected almost more beads than they could carry.