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 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, 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.
December included some parties with Joyce's high school class, Sunday School Christmas Parties, Christmas Eve with the Woodens and Joyce's family, Christmas Day with the Kernohans and family, and a trip to Orlando to stay with Karen and Robert's families in a 5-bedroom condo while enjoying Orlando attractions such as an Escape Room, eating at T-Rex and exploring Disney Springs, making our annual visit to ICE where the theme this year was The Polar Express, cheering our team at the Medieval Times and Prates Dinner Theater, swimming (December!) at the Champions Gate Resort, and having fun at Gatorland.
A small event this month: Jay turned 75, though he insisted he was still 55 plus shipping and handling. Though he did admit it is now taking him two tries to get up off the couch. Robert, now fully in his job with Chick-fil-A, came in from his Orlando area to celebrate two days with Jay, where they had fun at Busch Gardens and played golf at Jay's "home course" at Diamond Hill.
The big event of this month was our trip to the Bahamas and our stay at the Sandals' Resort in Nassau. Our trip included enjoying the amenities of the property, swimming with pigs and sharks, and a Segway tour of one of the nearby islands. in mid-month we traveled to Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, to help celebrate Joyce's grandson Joseph Gardynik's graduation from Basic Training.
We missed this year's celebration of the Labor Day weekend with Robert and his family at Callaway Gardens, but did go up to Georgia in mid-September for some fun at Great Wolf Lodge with its indoor water park, plus we had the "required" visit to Wild Animal Safari so we could again experience what it's like to have a giraffe stick its tongue all the way inside your vehicle. Later this month Jay travelled to Miami to be part of Judge Raul Cuervo's Investiture Ceremony as a County Judge. Jay and Raul served together in the 317th Combat Engineer Battalion in Germany in the mid-70s and have maintained contact for 40 years.
We began this month celebrating Robert's Birthday and continued with another trip to the Bilmar Beach Resort to help celebrate Karen's Birthday and to have some more beach fun before the beginning of school. We also spent parts of August visiting friends and family of Joyce who were in hospitals being treated for medical issues. Joyce is an outstanding source of medical advice based on her extensive experience as a Critical Care Registered Nurse. She may be retired, but she keeps her certifications correct, and her skills as a medical advocate are well-known to most members of her church as well as her other friends and relatives. As we know, medical professionals have our best interests at heart when we go to them for services but we just do not have the knowledge to know what questions to ask. Joyce bridges that gap, and also uses her extensive contacts in the Tampa area to expedite medical appointments and treatments.
This month we continued to unpack and sort from our move; trying to get settled, a process that would take a while, but necessary. It helped that we knew how happy we would be with the home once we were finally settled. We also celebrated Independence Day with newly married Michael and Karri (King) Kernohan at the Bilmar Beach Resort on Treasure Island in the St Pete Beach area. This was also the big month for Joyce's Family Cruise to the Bahamas which also included the family of Joyce's long-time friend Lu Thompson.
June was moving month, from the rental property in Brandon to Jay and Joyce's new home in Valrico. Two different city addresses but a move of only about six miles. Not that a six miles move is easier than a thousand mile move; for a short move you want to move "precious" items by yourself in 35 carloads of boxes that have to be bought, self-packed, loaded in a car, transported, and unloaded. For the thousand mile move you self-pack one box of precious items and stand back while the movers do the work. Whew! This concluded an 18 month period that included an engagement, a wedding, preparing for sale and selling of two homes, renting an interim home, and buying what will hopefully be the last home Jay and Joyce will ever live in. As of the end of June there were still about 15 boxes to be unpacked. We also got in a visit to Robert and his family as they joined him while he was training for his new job with Chick-fil-A.
This month included a lot of sports for Braden, Daylin, Skyler, Benjamin, Everett, and Charlie. They all did well. Jay and Joyce got away for a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game at the Trop, which was fun, and celebrated Memorial Day on the beach at Treasure Island where the weather was great (but maybe a bit hot) and the water was perfect. This month also marked the sale of the Sablewood Drive home, the place where the Braden family had lived the longest of any of about 20 homes including military quarters. Jay and Joyce stayed busy preparing for their move to their new Legends Pass Drive home in mid-June. Jay's Mom also made a transition this month, from her independent living at Rosewalk to assisted living at Carmel Senior Living by way of more than a month of physical therapy. Ellen and Tom and their family worked hard to get Mom moved out of Rosewalk and into her new accommodations.
Jay and Joyce celebrated their one year anniversary with a trip to the Cayman Islands where they stayed in a nice accommodation on the east end of Grand Cayman Island. Everything related to the trip went very well – a good time.
We continued to watch Braden, Daylin, and Skyler play their various recreational sports and we got away with Karen and Cathy and their family for some fun in Orlando, We also had Robert and his family here for a nice time as part of their visit to the Orlando and Tampa areas. March was also our Sunday School class' annual Strawberry Picnic at the Mercer Farm where we picked strawberries and, enjoyed socializing, and had some great food. We also made a quick trip to Carmel, Indiana, because Jay's Mom was hospitalized. She ended up with time in physical therapy ... a process that was to last until late May.
This month was marked with a lot of activity. Joyce got a good offer on our home and was able to close on it. Jay and Joyce travelled to Orlando to meet one day with Robert and his family who were vacationing there. Then Jay and Joyce traveled Monday through Friday to San Francisco and back for all the touristy stuff there: cable car riding, fisherman’s wharf eating and attractions, a bus trip into Sonoma and Napa Valleys for wine tasting, visiting and eating in Chinatown, and taking the ferry to and from Sausalito for lunch and to experience that unique town. February was alaso the month that the Florida Strawberry Festival began in Plan City and Joyce turned in two entries into the horticulture judging. Click here to find out how she did.
In January Jay and Joyce continued to work to get their homes sold. They also had the opportunity to spend a few days in Orlando with Karen and her family. They did some indoor cart racing which was really fun, went to a Pirates Dinner Theater, a lot of fun, and went twice to an Escape Room for two different scenarios. Everything was really fun, especially the experiences inside each Escape Room.
In December there was the annual Sunday School Christmas party for Jay’s class and there were good food and games. This was the month that Jay also traveled Pittsburgh to be with his uncle Don who was in the hospital and not doing well. Jay was glad to be able to visit with him and his son David, though Uncle Don passed away within a week of Jay‘s visit. Christmas day was spent with Joyce and her family, and it was hosted by Karrie King, Michael Kernohan‘s fiancé. Again it was good time and fun games.
Jay and Joyce flew in to Jamaica on November 4 and spent five nights there at the Jewel Dunn‘s River Falls Resort. Had a super time. Zip-lining. Dunn’s River Falls climbing and swimming at the Blue Hole. Riding the Jamaican bobsled run. Horseback riding in the Caribbean waters. Enjoying the all inclusive resort where our room was upgraded to ocean front with a magnificent view of the property in the Caribbean. Also had a very nice Thanksgiving dinner with Joyce’s children including Michael and his fiancée and Michelle and her family. For the dinner, the grocery store made a small error in the order which set our eating time back an hour, but the store made up for it by giving us a cheese tray and a spinach dip tray ... and this gave Jay and Joyce time to play some parlor games, which were fun.
Among some of the activities of this month was driving up to Gatlinburg for about four days to enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains to include Cades Cove, hiking to Laurel Falls, riding the lift up to the Gatlinburg overview, enjoying all types of Gatlinburg cuisine, and sampling the local moonshine. Our friend Lu Thompson joined us for this fun time.
The month started with a super great visit up to be with Robert and his family as we enjoyed ourselves at Callaway Gardens to include zip lining, swimming, the aqua park, the antique car show, the balloon fest, miniature golf, and other good family fun. Jay and Joyce also took a seven day cruise in the Eastern Caribbean on the Royal Caribbean ship Harmony of the Seas. We visited Nassau, St. Thomas, and Saint Martin, and had a lot of fun or on the way. This included some very good snorkeling, a couple of great beach days, and an excursion around St Martin for water fun. Of course, the shipboard activities and dining were just great, also.
This was a big month for Savanah – and her family, of course. Savanah began college at Southeastern University in Lakeland. She is rooming withy a softball friend from her high school.
The beginning of the month found Jay and Joyce moving into the home they are renting. The house is in a nice neighborhood, a small community of about 35 homes. Jay and Joyce decided that, for now, they will go with a house perhaps larger than they need, and so their current home has a swimming pool and four bedrooms. No, moving is not fun. They did get a couple of days at Disney for fun at Epcot and few days in Orlando to be there for a close friend having a kidney transplant. The large event for Anne and Rusty was the birth of their third child: Carson James, born on the 31st. Sandra, Sydney, and Savanah were there to help out.
Most of this moth was taken up getting ready to move, though there were a few day of Orlando theme part fun.
May was still house hunting. Eventually Jay and Joyce settled on a nice rental property in Brandon, just eight minutes from Jay’s Sablewood Drive home and five minutes from the home of Joyce’s daughter Michelle. Both Jay and Joyce began pre-move activities of deciding what to move and - especially in Jay’s case - what to dispose of ... a hard process, both emotionally and physically. But with all this they managed to work in a couple of trips to Disney, one to Animal Kingdom with Robert and his family. Also, Savanah graduated from Seffner Christian Academy on May 25th - Congratulations!!!
Jay and Joyce were married Saturday, April 7, at Fellowship Baptist Church near Thonotosassa, about 12 miles north of Brandon ... Joyce’s home church. Afterwards there was a reception at The Shrimp Boat Restaurant in Brandon. Jay and Joyce spent their wedding night at the Bilmar on St Pete Beach and departed Monday for Cancun, where they stayed at the Omni Resort and enjoyed the beach, the hotel amenities, and some excursions that involved zip lining, ATV riding, and snorkeling. They returned late on a Friday and departed early Saturday for a wedding in Greenville, SC, on Sunday. They did a small tour of the town and enjoyed the wedding, the reception, and a visit to a local park. Following the wedding they drove to Savannah where they stayed in a wonderful B&B and got a chance to tour the city and also visit nearby Tybee Island. The month ended with a second honeymoon trip, this one to Club Med Sandpiper at Port St Lucie, FL. There they enjoyed the resort and its many activities including a tennis lesson, a golf lesson, a volleyball lesson, playing miniature golf, sailing where Jay managed to turn the boat over and dump his new bride into the water. There were also nightly shows, swimming, and a side trip to a nearby Atlantic Ocean beach.
We visited the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, traveled with Robert’s Family and Sandra’s family to a Spring Training baseball game in Plant City, watched Savanah play varsity softball for Seffner Christian Academy, watched Seth play JV ball for SCA, watched Daylin play rec league soccer, watched Sydney player league softball, and watched Braden play rec league baseball. Whew, that’s a lot of sports. But fun. We also learned that Savanah was accepted into Southeastern University in Lakeland, and that her fall roommate will be a friend from her softball team. Great. Jay and Joyce prepared for their upcoming marriage by pre-marital counseling and house hunting.
Had a great visit to New Orleans where Anne and Rusty were excellent hosts in getting us out to a number of the Mardi Grad parades so we could have fun, eat treats, and load up on beads and other trinkets. This was also the month that I proposed to Joyce Pollicina. Joyce and I had been seeing each other for around 18 months and we came to love each other. For Joyce there will never be another Fred and for me there will never be another Bonnie, but we are sure that Fred and Bonnie would want us to be together. Nanny also came in for a visit at the end of the month and we visited Epcot and Circus du Soleil.
One of the Tampa highlights this month is the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. This includes a large parade and a host of related community events held almost every year since 1904 that celebrate the apocryphal legend of José Gaspar (also known as Gasparilla), a mythical Spanish pirate who supposedly operated in Southwest Florida in the early 1800s. While anyone can find a spot along Bay Shore Drive to watch the parade, there are sections of reserved seating and that is what Jay and Joyce decided to pay for. The money was worth it; no crowds to fight, right up close to the parade, in an excellent position to catch more beads and trinkets that you know what to do with ... and did I mention private porta potties? You wouldn't want to see or - worse - have to use some of the public ones after a day's use. We dressed up and had great fun. It was neat that a lot of people came up to us, evidently thinking that we were part of the parade staff.
The highlight of December was in learning that Rusty and Anne are due to have another baby: Due in July 2018. What a blessing!!! This was also the month that Robert graduated from Georgia Tech with his MBA, culminating an 18 month intensive effort that his bank helped him greatly with while Natalie carried a lot of the weekend load with kids, including new baby Luke, as Robert attended classes in Atlanta. Way to go! And we also had a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas right after Christmas. Just think: Most of the USA was enduring freezing temperatures while we were swimming in the Caribbean.
A fairly quiet month. Had Thanksgiving dinner with Joyce's daughter Michelle, and her husband Howard, and their son. Sandra and Anne's family travelled to North Carolina for some fun in the mountains, Karens's family visited relatives in Naples, and Robert's family enjoyed the holiday at home with Natalie's family.
One of the nice activities in October was being able to meet up at Epcot with Robert and his family as they took some time for Disney fun to celebrate Everett's birthday. Also visited Seaworld with Joyce Pollicina, and had a good day there. Yes, I kept up with my golf and racquetball.
The month begin with a very nice Labor Day weekend at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain Georgia, where Robert's family, Karen's family, and I stayed in one of their Southern Pine Cottages and enjoyed some of the many activities there such as their Birds of Prey show, their Discovery Center, their Zip Line for kids, swimming at Robin Lake, climbing on the floats in the Aqua Park, and watching the Balloon Fest. Also travelled to Orlando for fun at Discovery Cove - a bit pricy but something everyone has to do at least once. Seaworld runs a first class operation at Discovery Cove. And the tickets for there came with a bonus: tickets for nearby Aquatica and Seaworld, so we tried Aquatica in September also. The month ended with me attending my Lawrence Central High School Class of 1962 reunion in Indianapolis. Wow, my classmates are getting old ... !!!!
August was back-to-school month for Daylin, Braden, and Skyler, Karen’s children; for Savanah, Seth, and Sydney, Sandra and Steve’s children; and for Benjamin, Everett, and Charlie, Robert and Natalie’s children. The triplets returned for 5th grade at Chimino Elementary, a very fine school close to their home. Savanah and Seth returned to Seffner Christian Academy for their senior and freshman years, and Sydney began to experience home schooling under the tutelage of Sandra, who took a leave of absence from public school teaching. Benjamin, Everett, and Charlie attend a Montessori School in nearby LaGrange, Georgia. I visited with Robert and Natalie to help celebrate robert’s birthday, and later travelled to New Orleans to be there for Rusty and his Birthday Celebration.
Early in ther month Robert and Natalie and family visited, and just after that Rusty and Anne and family visited; and we had fun in each case. In mid-month we enjoyed a stay at Universal's Cabana Bay Resort and played at Volcano Bay, its new water park right next to the resort.
One of the events for this month was a trip up to visit Robert and Natalie and their family, and especially to meet their new baby Luke. The visit also included a day trip to Butts Mill Farm, a throwback farm that included games and things for kids to climb one, a petting zoo, miniature golf, and the picnic area. There was also fishing in its pond, and I am pleased to report that everyone did catch a fish.
The amazing event of this month was the birth of Luke Collins Braden. PTL!!! It was such a blessing to see their wonderful family grow. May was a traveling month for Rusty and Anne and their children. They drove to Alabama shortly after Luke's birth to be there with Robert and Natalie and share the joys of the latest addition to their family. Then they drove down to Valrico for over a week to visit here with family and friends, and - of course - I just loved it. Then they traveled back to Alabama to be present for one of Rusty's nephews high school graduation before returning to New Orleans. Whew, that's a lot of miles. While they were here, they attended the funeral service for Steve's dad Paul Roberts, who died following a stroke at age 79. Paul was a great husband, father, grandfather, and friend, and he will be missed.
April was the month for weddings, with niece Shannon having her wedding reception on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina and with daughter Sara of long time friends Pam and David Duke having her wedding at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Two very different venues, but two wonderful locations.
Nanny (Mom), Ellen, and I took a Mississippi Riverboat Cruise. We had a great week of cruising and sightseeing that included visits to New Orleans, Natchesz, Vicksburg, and Baton Rougue. Plus we toured three antibellum plantations and the Angola State Prison.
We had some fun getting part of the family together at Universal Orlando. Grandkids continued with spring sports. Here are some pics of Seth playing on the JV Baseball Team at Seffner Christian Academy,
The amazing event of this month was the birth of Ryan Kent Zwerner. PTL!!! And the grandkids kept up with school and their activities, such as Sydney's soccer.