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. 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.
December began with six fun days. Jay and his mom began with a three day cruise from Port Canaveral to Nassau and back, and then followed that with three nights in Orlando, taking an attractions there a such as the WonderWorks Magic Show, Gatorland, ICE, Disney Springs, Disney's Boardwalk area, and Circus Soleil. In mid December I went up to Pittsburgh to visit with my Uncle Don, my father's younger brother and about the sole remaining relative on that side of my family. He showed me some of the homes of my ancestors, and I took some more notes on his life. Posted all of that on the Braden clan website, but there is more to do. I probably need to visit him again soon. And, later, during the Christmas holiday, the family got together to again visit Disney Springs and ICE at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, experience trampoline fun at 2Infinity Air Extreme Sports in Lakeland, and just enjoy hanging out together. But too soon after Christmas, after Robert and his family returned to Alabama, and after Rusty and his family returned to New Orleans for his schooling, the Braden household turned quiet for the first time in almost four months.
November was a good month. Rusty and Anne continued planning for their return to New Orleans where Rusty will begin his doctoral program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Meanwhile, Bonnie Jane kept the Braden household fun and happy. One of the events of the month was taking Bonnie Jane for her first visit to Disney World, where she had a very good time. For Thanksgiving, Rusty and Anne cooked their first turkey dinner, and it was fantastic. Everything came out perfectly. Also, most of the grandkids participated in fall sports activities, so it was also fun watching them compete.
In October we had more good news: Robert and Natalie are having another baby! The baby will be due in the May timeframe. Rusty and Anne hosted an ordination party for their friend Brandon Footit, and Robert and family came down for a couple of nghts before Halloween to visit with us. Bell Shoals church also conducted its Trunk or Treat event on the 31st, something that Jay helped out, a large and fun event.
September was an exciting month. Rusty and Anne completed their preaching in the town of Walker, Lousiana, and returned to Valrico to stay while Rusty is searching for a new job. Meanwhile Rusty also applied for and was accepted to the doctoral program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. And we also got word on the gender of their baby; IT'S A BOY!!! Meanwhile, all the grandkids got themselves involved in some type of fall sports activity: baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics. And Book #2 Delta Dogs was finally done!!!
August was back-to-school month for the grandkids, and for Sandra. Benjamin joined his brothers at the Montessori School in nearby LaGrancge, and Savanah and Seth switched schools to Seffner Christian Academy. Sydney continued with gymnastics. Jay continued to play golf and racquetball, and worked on additional editing of Book #2. Robert was admitted to the EMBA Program at Georgia Tech and will be taking classes about every other weekend through December 2017.
Robert and Natalie and their family; Steve and Sandra and their family; Nanny; and Jay gathered in Tampa for a cruise on the Carnival Paradise from July 18-23 to Grand Cayman and Cozumel and back. We were missing Rusty and Anne and Bonnie Jane because of concerns over the Zika Virus in Mexico. We also visited LegoLand and did other summer vacation activities.
The great news for the month is that Anne and Rusty are expecting a baby!!! Probably in the mid-January time frame. Wonderful blessings! Also, Nanny was here for a few days in June and we traveled up to Orlando to stay overnight at one of the resorts there and take in a performance of the Blue Man Group. Robert and Natalie and family came mid-month and were joined by Steve and Sandra and family for a stay at the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach. Anne came in with Bonnie Jane at the end of the month to do some business involving her condo, so it was great to see her, also. (That's when we got the super news.) Golf and racquetball remained fun, especially as my golf was pretty decent.
May was a busy month. Savanah received a late birthday present on May 14 when Sandra and I took her to Discovery Cove. She was surprised, and we all had a fun time. On May 20, I flew up to Robert's house to help Benjamin celebrate his seventh birthday. Rusty and Anne were able to be there for part of the weekend, so that was very nice. Sydney continued with gymnastics, now taking classes twice a week. Seth completed his baseball season and I think he had a good time. But we learned that he may have a medical problem in his right arm and that will need some attention. Sandra got away for a day trip to Universal Orlando and invited me to join them, and that was nice. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the entire Roberts family went to Universal Orlando and that was fun. Golf and racquetball stayed good; I seem to be making some "regular" money at golf. Not a lot, but winning always beats not winning. I did finish Book #2 to the point where I sent it to the printer for a Proof copy. Also made some necessary editing and content corrections to Book #1, and they should both be online very early this month. Not sure if there will be another writing project, but it's possible.
A lot of things were going on in April, all of them good. Seth rejoined his baseball team, Sydney began gymnastic lessons, Benjamin started soccer, and Everett began T-ball. Sydney and Savanah participated in Bible Buddies and Bible Drill competition, and Savanah - in her first year - went on to state competition. Also, Sandra and I flew into New Orleans and traveled up to Walker, Louisiana, for Bonnie Jane's first birthday, and that was a very nice time. Stayed busy enough that I did not finish my second round of editing on Book #2 but am determined try to finish it the first week in May.
March was a big birthday month. Savanah turned 16!!!! She already has her Learners Permit and it won't be long before she will be driving on her own. Now if Steve and Sandra will just spring for some wheels - nothing new but maybe something like a 2014 Mustang convertible. Went to the State Fair and also to the Strawberry Festival, and made another trip to Universal Orlando with Sandra and family. Spent a few days with Rex Benedict in Melbourne where he gave me a golf lesson and we did some fishing. Played racquetball in the Polk County Senior Games. Also celebrated Nanny's 95th birthday early when Ellen and I joined Mom for a cross Canada train trip from Vancouver to Toronto. Conducted my second round of editing on Book #2 and discovered I still have a lot of work to do.
Rec League Youth Baseball started up again for Seth as he joined fellow teammates in a 13-15 Cal Ripkin league. Initially Seth mostly played shortstop and catcher - until his season was put on hold by a broken pinkie finger on his right hand, done playing basketball at school. Charlie and Sydney had birthdays this month; everyone's growing up! The family got together for a weekend at Universal Orlando. A good time and we are already thinking about a return; perhaps after a few new rides come online. Sydney and her partner represented the third grade in her category for the county-wide Science Fair. The team received a superior for its project, the highest level award given. Savanah continued with some tennis lessons. Golf and racquetball are still good, and the book editing is progressing. My goal was to finish editing in February, but the work was more than I thought. Lots of loose ends to tie together, as well as correcting typos and grammatical errors.
Weather forecasts for January across the United States included words like “Arctic blasts” and “frigid conditions.” Well, I want to tell our northern friends that we felt it down here in Tampa, also. There were some days where I had to wear a sweater in the mornings until it warmed up into the 70s. This month Charlie joined brother Everett for Montessori schooling, that he is enjoying. Also, Seth turned 14!!! Wow!!! And, thanks to Steve and Sandra I spent one Saturday with them as they drove up to Brooksville, Florida, about 90 minutes away. There we attended the annual Brooksville Raid Civil War reenactment. Seeing the reenactors in their camps and with their equipment and talking to them was very, very interesting. First time I’ve ever done that, and I am a Civil War buff. The day concluded with a mock battle and that was also very interesting. This month Savanah began tennis lessons and Bonnie Jane took her first few steps (pictures coming). I completed the ending of the book; assembled all the (~26) segments into something that will hopefully flow; had it all printed at Office Depot; and am now proofing. About 107,000 words; about 400 pages if it and is published in the standard 6” x 9” book that is common to most libraries. Okay I made it in terms of quantity if not quality.
December was a month of blessings. We had Christmas parties and Christmas programs. We had our annual golf tournament with its putting, chipping, and sand shot contests. The highlight of the month was traveling to New Orleans for Rusty's graduation from seminary plus geting to hear him preach at his new church and to visit his new home. And there were Christmas presents and a trip to LegoLand for a day of fun. Bought myself a Christmas present: a 45 caliber pistol. That probably says something about me and about how I feel concerning the world we are living in now. The book: Now at 95,000 words - the end is in sight!
November was a time when Seth finished up his Fall baseball. He was on a traveling team in a Cal Ripkin League, and he had a good time. He played a number of positions including pitcher, catcher, shortstop, second base, and outfield. The family also got together for Thanksgiving at Robert's house in Lynette, Alabama. Our visit they are included a side trip to FDR's Little White House in the Warm Springs, Georgia and another trip to While the Animal Safari where Seth, Savanah, and Bonnie Jane had their first opportunity to experience things like having the draft's tongue almost halfway into the van as it sought food treats. And Natalie fixed another wonderful Thanksgiving meal and we had lots of fun just being together at their house. Also got to see the second rental property that Robert has purchased and rented out. He is well on his way towards being a real estate mogul. After three months of not during very well with my writing, had a burst of energy and am now up to 90,000 words, with the goal being 100,000 words. Can almost see the end of this project. Perhaps a draft sometime in the month of March. Speaking of goals, also finally made my goal of over 200 Gator Jokes on this Website. Enjoy it my Hog Town friends!
One of the highlights of the month was celebrating Bonnie’s Birthday at Walt Disney World in Orlando with Robert and his family and Sandra and her family. We stayed at one of Disney’s “value” resorts that worked out just fine. The rooms were clean and comfy, if not exceedingly large. And there was a fast food restaurant and the free Disney transportation to the various theme parks. After two or three rides on the Expedition Everest roller coaster I was more than happy to watch Charlie while the others rode even more. Steve Roberts had a pedometer app on his phone and said that we each walked 9 miles on Sunday and 9 miles on Monday. I believe that. It took me two days to catch up on my rest. Our Disney weekend was followed the next weekend by two wonderful visits. Anne flew in with Bonnie Jane to spend a few days here and my old friends, the MacIver’s: Tom and Marilyn, also came in for a visit. More good times. This month I helped my church with Trunk or Treat, a family fun Festival involving giving candy to kids that is dispensed out of car trunks. Much safer than having kids walking door-to-door in neighborhoods where cars are driving on the streets. The event also had inflatables, a band, classic cars and motorcycles, and free food and drink. It was been a major effort to help organize but very worthwhile in that we had over 2,000 attendees and we achieved all our outreach objectives.
Traveled to Alabama to spend Labor Day Weekend with Robert and Natalie. We drove up to Pine Mountain, Georgia, where we stayed at Callaway Gardens, a very nice resort that we had been to one night before on Memorial Day and in previous years during the Christmas Holidays to see their Light Show. Over Labor Day Weekend they had a Balloon Best which was very interesting and we enjoyed ourselves swimming in their Lake, playing in the pool adjacent to our cottage, and partaking of the other food and fun there. Later this month Ellen and her family came into town. They had a weeks vacation lined up at the Bon-Aire Resort on Saint Pete Beach. My Mom came in with them and got to spend some time with the family here plus we visited Ellen and her family at the beach for two nights plus Mom and I went up to Orlando to take in some of the sites there for two nights. It was a good stay. Also had fun all month watching Seth play baseball; he is a good athlete.
Of course, August is the month where kids have to go back to school, and that means Sandra has to again set up her classroom for the new school year. Just like last year, I went in and essentially did everything while Sandra talked in the hall with her fellow teachers. Well, this is my Website, that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. In preparation for the upcoming baseball season, Steve enrolled Seth in a Pitching Academy. The Academy is run by a physical therapist and his goal is to teach boys about Seth’s age the proper technique for throwing a baseball so they will not end up with elbow or shoulder problems later in life. How about that? As of August 31, I found that in the previous 12 months I had written 60,000 words for Book #2, so I met my 5,000 words per month goal. Hooray!
Certainly the highlight of this month was another gathering of the Clan at the Club Med Resort at Sandpiper Beach. This is an all-inclusive resort near the Atlantic coast of Florida near Port St. Lucie that we had visited previously in 2009. In terms of the resort and what it offered, our trip there this time was perhaps even better. Tennis lessons, dance lessons, sailing lessons, volleyball lessons, a club for Kids, friendly sports competition, nightly shows, swimming, bocce ball, a small pitch and putt course, and lots of food and drink. We had such a good time that we’re considering going back next year.
The family gathered June 10-12 at Pensacola Beach to celebrate. We learned that Katie has a job (in a tough and competitive hiring environment). She was hired by the same heart hospital where she did her internship! Sydney also had a Recital to showcase her talent in Hip Hop. That girl can dance!
Went to Indianapolis to visit with mom and to be present for Katie Mitchell's graduation from Nursing School. Shortly thereafter she passed the state's certification exam and now she is RN Katie. Congratulations! A big achievement. Also had a nice Memorial Day Weekend. Got got to go to Lanett to be there for Benjamin Braden's sixth birthday celebration, which was a whole lot of fun; and to travel up to Callaway Gardens to spend Memorial Day there in a two bedroom cabin in the woods and to appreciate the magnificance of the resort. Still behind on my writing, but working on it.
The BIG event was the arrival of Bonnie Jane Zwerner on April 17. All was well. Rusty and Anne begin a new and wonderful adventure in life that involves getting up five times a night and watching that sweet baby sleep through the day. Sandra and I were honored and pleased to be invited there for the birth, and we stayed a week to help out. It was a great welcoming sweet Bonnie Jane to the family. Yes, behind on my writing.
Here in the Tampa area we marched into spring with continued softball and baseball. In addition to his local team, Seth is also a member of a travel team based in North Florida, so one weekend he played in a tournament with them in Jacksonville and another weekend he played in a tournament with them in Lake City. I was invited to join the Roberts family for both of these trips and had a very good time. While on the Jacksonville trip we stopped at St. Augustine which is always a nice place to visit. When we were in the Lake City area, we visited the Olustee (Civil War) Battlefield Historic State Park, which was okay, and also tried some geocaching, which was interesting except we didn't find as many caches as we wanted. I continued with golf and racquetball, and again won of my age group in racquetball as part of the Polk County Senior Games. There were so few participants that there really wasn't any competition, so I was there for the tee shirt - but did collect my medals. Rusty and Anne made their regular check ups anticipating the arrival of Bonnie Jane, and Sandra and I are waiting here with bags packed. How about this: Savanah is now 15!!! And, yes, I made my 5,000 words, so my publishers remained happy.
Spent most of my February applying suntan lotion while in my short sleeve shirt and shorts and thinking about the people in the Northeast who were shoveling 8 feet of snow every day. Who would want to do that? February was sports month for the kids, with many in baseball (Seth, Braden) or softball (Savanah, Skyler, Daylin). And Sydney continued with her Hip Hop lessons. The highlight of the month, of course, was Anne's baby shower here in Valrico. Sandra and Natalie did tons of work and it resulted in a great time for all the attendees. There were about 35 ladies who attended, but enough food for 70. (That was okay, I had great leftovers to eat.) Besides the food, there were fun games and Anne received many, many very nice presents. Yes, I made my 5,000 words. I know you were worried about that.
A busy January. Played in my golf association's annual tournament and did okay. Also finished the golf "yearbook." It had 28 pages and was well-received. The association voted to have another one for 2015. Visted my Mom in Indianapolis for a few days and that was nice. Got to see my dear friends the Bonine's as they came into town for business, and traveled to Alabama late in the month to be there for grandson Charlie's first birthday. Lucky for me that January had 41 days; that let me make my 5,000 words for this month also.
Played racquetball in the Florida Senior Games. Came in third in my (even older) age group. Wanted to do better but came across a very good player in the semi-finals who went on to win the age group. Next year... Helped with my golf association's Christmas Party. We had long drive, chipping, putting, and bunker shot contests. Enjoyed by all. Also had a nice family vacation in Orlando that included a number of fun places to visit. Yes, I made my 5,000 words, but it was tough.
In November Savanah continued with her softball, friends invited me to a Bucs game, I visited my mom and sister in Indianapolis, and most of the family gathered at Robert's for Thanksgiving. Yes, I made my 5,000 words but it was hard . . . Oh, yeah, with my birthday I moved up to the YELLOW tees on the golf course (for seniors). I'm not proud; I can use all the help I can get.
The highlight of the month was Bonnie's Birthday Weekend. Understandably, we couldn't get the family all together so Sandra and her family and I traveled to and spent the weekend of October 17-20 in Orlando. Thanks to a friend we stayed in suite rooms at the Marriott World Center that overlooked the pool area and were magnificent in every respect. Our weekend included the Pirates Dinner Adventure, GatorLand, Disney Quest, and the Magic Kingdom. A great family outing. Other October activities included a Grandparents Bingo with Sydney and Halloween. Savanah attended her first Homecoming Dance and enjoyed it. In New Orleans, Rusty and Anne moved to a larger apartment. In Alabama, Everett turned three and Benjamin enjoyed Fall Soccer. Here a friend took me up to Crystal River to view the manatees, which would have been great if there were manatees to view. And I kept up with golf, racquetball, and Shower Ministry activities, and was only 400 words short - since made up - of my 5,000 word monthly goal for book #2.
The great, wonderful, super, news for September was that Anne and Rusty are due to have a baby!!! They made the announcement when they came down for Anne's birthday celebration and Rusty's ordination party and church service. September was also the month for Sydney beginning hip-hop lessons; and she is good. Also, Savanah began playing fall Rec League softball for the second year and she is enjoying it. The end of the month was also eventful and joyful as I flew into New Orleans to join up with Rusty and Anne, and together we drove up to visit Robert and his family. There we visited the Wild Animal Safari park and the Pumpkin Farm and had a very good time at each location.
August is a time for the last of summer vacation adventures, family birthdays, and getting the kids ready to go back to school. In the case for Sandra and Anne, it's also getting themselves ready to go back to school. For this August, it was also time for Bonnie's interment at Arlington National Cemetery and a concurrent trip to see and visit the museums and monuments and other attractions of Washington, DC. Later in the month my Mom flew in to visit and we took a four-night cruise to Nassau.
July was a mostly quiet time around the Braden house. A lot of things had been put on hold or piled in stacks over the previous five months, and they had to be dealt with. Jay resumed his twice-a-week golf game with his Diamond Hill Men’s Association (DHMA) and same with his three-times-a-week men’s racquetball group at the nearby LA Fitness. Previously he had volunteered to create a Snapfish-like album of 2014 DHMA golfers, knowing that he would be the only picture-taker for the product. He turned the project into creating pages of laminated plastic comb binder sheets and currently has about 12 pages of activities bound together. He also resumed work on his “Study of Islam” project and agreed to move his homeowners association e-mail contacts into Constant Contact. He sees Sandra’s family regularly and stays in touch with Robert’s and Anne’s through his iPhone. Rusty and Anne got away on a seven day cruise out of New Orleans to celebrate their first anniversary. They went to Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica and had a good time. Robert worked to purchase a rental property near Point University. The soon-to-be landlord was negotiating a closing date as the month closed.
|Tuesday, June 10. Bonnie went to be with her Lord today. She jumped into the arms of Jesus at about 11 a.m. These last four months have been a difficult time for the Braden family, but we are amazed at the love and support from so many friends. Bonnie touched so many lives; we know she is no longer here on earth with us, but we see how much she impacted our lives with her joy and love. As you all know, she was a person who lit up the room when she came in. Her laugh was infectious. Her joy was unbounded. She loved her kids and grandkids and every person she met. Most important, she loved God just as God loves all of us. And she's with him now.
Hallelujah!!! Hallelujah!!!! Hallelujah!!! Amen.
A Celebration of Life service was held at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida, on Friday, June 20.
For more on Bonnie click here.
In honor of Bonnie and her love of the beach, the family gathered for the next few days at the the Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach. There we had fun in her memory, as she would have wanted.
From June 26-30, Jay visited his Mother "Nanny" in Indianapolis. A nice time. She had injured her hip and was unable to make Bonnie's service.
Early in May Bonnie contracted a very painful mouth thrush, and it took most of the month to get over it. On May 17 Bonnie traveled to Moffitt to have an MRI to see the current state of her tumor. On May 19 we met with her neuro oncology team to learn the results. Happily we heard that the tumor size was reduced from the size measured February 1 when it was first diagnosed. But two days later Bonnie was back at Moffitt with a pulmonary embolism - blood clots in her lungs. She had emergency surgery to have a filter inserted to prevent further clots from damaging her vital organs. Over the next eight days she was treated for a variety of problems including bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, coronavirus, and bacteria in her blood. Bonnie was released from Moffitt on May 29 with a home treatment plan that included a number of pills and injections and transfusions of antibiotics. We worried about her weakened state but were hopeful that she would get stronger so, at some point, she could resume tumor treatments.
The month started on the happiest possible note, all things considered: Bonnie completed her six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and the family gathered with her at the Moffitt Center to celebrate this event. We looked forward to the planned month break in the program to allow the treatment to do its work; her next Moffitt appointment was April 26th for an MRI to check the tumor. We hoped that being off radiation and chemo would help Bonnie regain her strength, but that didn't happen. She was weaker and weaker. On Saturday, April 12th, Bonnie had a seizure, fell to the floor, and was breathing but otherwise unresponsive for ten minutes. Sandra made the 9-1-1 call, but Bonnie was awake by the time the paramedics arrived. They took her to Tampa General where she had a CT scan and an MRI. The MRI revealed that the tumor had grown. Anne came in from New Orleans and Robert drove down from Alabama so the family was together during this crisis. After two days at Tampa General, Bonnie was released and immediately was seen by her Moffitt team who increased her steroid and anti-seizure meds and advanced the next phase of the treatment that included Avastin infusions and increased levels of the chemo drug Temodar. During April Bonnie had good days and not-so-good days. The family re-gathered for Easter Sunday - another flight for Anne and another long drive for Robert, this time with Natalie and boys along. It was a nice weekend. Bonnie did get out at times, watching Savanah play softball and Seth play baseball. The family prayed that the results of this next phase of treatment would be better than the first phase.
Well, let’s go back to February. Bonnie began her treatment plan at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, about a 35 minute drive from our house on the campus of the University of South Florida. Her six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy began February 19. The first three weeks were pretty easy, and we even had a family get-away at St. Pete Beach, so we could drive in for her treatment and return for sun and fun. Robert and Natalie and their boys were there and so were Anne and Rusty, so that was a special event and we also got some good beach pictures. Even with her treatment, she shushed me out the door on March 6 to play racquetball in the Polk County Senior Games, where I took first place in my age group. It was easy; I just put sugar in the gas tank of the participant bus coming from the county’s old folk’s home. We continued to get out to watch the grandkids with their sports. Sandra took a leave of absence from her teaching job and was a great help taking care of Bonnie, especially as the treatment wore on, making her weak. As the month progressed Bonnie grew more tired and became more wheelchair bound. We ended March looking forward to finishing up the radiation, hoping that it worked to some extent, and profoundly thankful for all our friends who expressed their love and support for us.
When you maintain a family website for nearly 14 years, you wonder about the day when you no longer want to make any posts. That happened this month. On February 1st Bonnie was found to have a brain tumor. She is now in a six month program of radiation and chemotherapy. This will be followed by more chemotherapy and other treatment as dictated by what happens during this initial phase. More on this can be found on the Website www.caringbridge.org. Once there type in Bonnie Braden. Thank you for your prayers.
A nice month. We celebrated grandson Seth’s birthday, which included buying Sumo wrestlingt outfits, and did family activities.
We had a very nice "December to Remember" that included some nice activities and our annual trek to Daytona Beach for more memories at Perry's Ocean Edge Resort. There was our Bible Fellowship Christmas Party (games courtesy of Jay and Bonnie), the Florida Senior Games racquetball competition (Jay was second in his age group), our service times with the Shower Ministry, a golf tournament where Jay helped with the post-tournament games, and a nice Christmas day with most of the family.
One of our “accomplishments” this month was to go out and get us each a smart phone. It wasn’t that our flip phones got broken or anything like that; it just got to the point where we couldn’t take the abuse from the kids. So now we have a car and phones that are all smarter than we are. A nice month: Savanah running middle school track and playing rec league softball. Celebrating the triplets' birthday. Presenting for Veterans Day. A GIANT Thanksgiving highlighted by a surprise visit by Rusty and Anne who showed up at the door at 2 a.m. from New Orleans followed by a complete gathering of the Clan with Nanny coming in from Indianapolis. So we had 19 for Turkey Day and then a few ventured out to try to catch some early Black Friday specials. Robert described his experience: “If Satan could design hell it would be endless Black Friday shopping.” On Friday we traveled to Orlando where we all saw ICE! and had a super nice time with games and snacks later at the Orlando World Center Marriott where Philip Wright once again helped us get rooms.
Karen and Jay continued coaching Braden's soccer, proving decisively that no amount of screaming, begging, cajoling, and coaxing from the sidelines can get a six-year-old to "get open" when it's much easier to cluster around the ball and stab at it with a foot if it perhaps is laying at one's feet. We received similar reports from Alabama where we understand Benjamin played an entire game without touching the ball except for the one time it was kicked into his chest. But they are having fun. Also in Alabama, Everett got some extra attention when his foot was in a cast, though he never seemed to notice it except for adjusting his walk. All better now. Jay and Bonnie got away for a full week of cruising that also included celebrating Bonnie's birthday on the FlowRider. You have to see the video. Bonnie continued with tennis and learned even more how to be a good sport. (That's what you say when you are a loser.) Halloween was fun with crazy costumes and good candy.
We began the month with a weekend at one of our favorite Orlando-area places: the Hyatt Grand Cypress. Then we made a surprise visit to New Orleans to help Anne (re)celebrate her birthday. Bonnie’s tennis resumed so she certainly liked that. Seth earned a placed on the Mulrennan Middle School Basketball Team. Karen and Dad began co-coaching Braden’s U-7 soccer team, the Strikers, for the Brandon Area Youth Soccer League (BAYSL), Savanah joined the of the Bloomingdale Senior Girls' recreational softball league, and the triplets signed up for Hip Hop lessons. We attended Grandparent’s Day at Walden Lake Elementary for Sydney and the Cougar Challenge at Cimino Elementary for the triplets.
Finishing up some summer activities. One of the big ones was our family cruise to the Bahamas. Thanks to Nanny for cabin upgrades. There were 19 of us and - as always - it was great getting everyone together. Rusty took some ribbing because it was his first cruise, but by the end he was working the buffet like a pro. We also finished up our third season of Upward Soccer and that was also a good time for Seth and Sydney. Bonnie and I continued to help with the Shower Ministry and were glad to be able to do so. August was back-to-school month for the kids, so Anne and Sandra worked to get their classrooms ready; and Benjamin, Savanah, Seth, Sydney, Braden, Daylin, and Skyler got to meet their teachers and make new friends. We also said Hello to a new addition to the family – an SUV - having put more than 280,000 miles on our GMC Jimmy. Unfortunately, with its voice-activated and other automated systems, the SUV is a lot smarter than we are.
July 20, 2013. The day was wonderful. The month was busy: Couples shower; Bridesmaids' Shower, Rehearsal Dinner, decorating the Sanctuary and the reception areas. Whew. But absolutely worth it. The entire month was - eventful. We were much saddened by the death of Rusty's father Robert; and Anne joined the family in Indiana for the funeral. Wedding-related events included a couples shower for both Rusty and Anne and a ladies shower for Anne. The wedding was great and after the wedding there was a honeymoon on Ana Maria Island followed by a return to Brandon for packing out Anne's condo, driving the rental truck and cars to New Orleans, setting up their new household in married student quarters, and Anne beginning her new job. We also worked to get her condo in shape for new renters. Sandra worked to get her new classsroom at Walden Lake Elementary School ready for students.
The wedding: Our house resembles a craft shop. Three bedrooms, the family room, and kitchen area filled with ribbons, bows, sparkles, and whatever Bonnie can buy at Michaels Art and Decor and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. Plus she found another store with all kinds of crafts and cute things in nearby Plant City. Knowing Bonnie, I should have bought stock in all three stores in early April. Other things: Seth played in his age group for the South Brandon All Stars, Upward Soccer began for Sydney and Seth, and the triplets - Daylin, Braden & Sydney - had fun in camps at Sidekicks, a martial arts program. Here are a few Engagement Pictures. Nice couple, huh?
Certainly a month still busy with “wedding stuff.” Much work getting out the invitations. More discussions on the menu, table decorations, outfits for the kids, pew bows and chapel decorations. Rusty and Anne built a wedding Website. Braden, Seth, and Benjamin finished up baseball; Daylin, Skyler, and Sidney finished up gymnastics for the spring. Most of the family made it up to Lanett, Alabama to help Benjamin celebrate his fourth birthday. We also got to watch him play Tee Ball. Mom, Dad, Anne, and Rusty traveled to New Orleans to join in on the Preview Weekend for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
What a great month!! On April 5th Rusty Zwerner proposed to Anne. Rusty is currently the Middle School Pastor for Bell Shoals Baptist Church and he will be going to seminary in New Orleans beginning this August. The good news sent the BradenClan into a flurry of activity. I got invited to go wedding dress shopping as a prelude to all the upcoming events. By the end of the month we had picked out a wedding date, a wedding dress, dresses for the brides maids and flower girls, our venues, a photographer, and a preliminary menu. Whew. Busy but good. In other news, Bonnie continued with tennis, the grand daughters with gymnastics, Seth and Braden with Little League, and Jay with racquetball and golf. We also had a brief road trip up north to visit Robert and Natalie and to play with Benjamin and Everett.
A big month for activities. We began with the Orlando wedding of Ben and Cherish Benedict. Then we were fortunate that Natalie and and boys could spend some time with us, so we went to nearby Chuck E Cheese's and to Tampa's Glazer Children's Museum. We got to spend a day and a half at the beach and have some more fun when Nanny visited. This included our second strawberry picking trip to the Mercer Farm and a tour/visit to Schakolad, one of the sweetest places in Tampa. During the month Bonnie continued her tennis and for racquetball I managed to win my age group for the third time in the Polk Senior Games.
For Seth, Upward Basketball was replaced by Little League Baseball. Actually Seth plays in two leagues: South Brandon Little League and an under-11 select team that travels in the area. One Saturday he had four baseball games scheduled! Sydney began gymnasics so now we have three granddaughters who spend an hour each week in the nearby Golden City Gymnastics facility. To me, the hour seems to consist of 5 minutes of getting ready for class, 5 minutes warm-up jogging, 20 minutes stetching, a 5-minute water break, 10 minutes getting ready to work on some activity, 10 minutes of floor activities or bars - where most of the time is standing in line waiting your turn, and a 5-minute cool-down. But what do I know. Braden began Spring Tee Ball which involves Karen and Jay, and becomes a family outing for each game. ("Yes, Bonnie, I have ten dollars for fries and drinks.") Mid-month we got together with Paul and Dorothy as Dorothy was coming back from a trip to Costa Rica - a really nice time.
A nice start to the new year. Florida temperatures hovered in the mid-80s while the rest of the country hovered in mid-icicles - but that's how it should be. Jay and Bonnie snuck away for four great days at Atlantis. Savanah and Seth continued with Upward Basketball, with Steve coaching Seth's team and helping out with Savanah's. Daylin and Skyler continued with gymnastics. Bonnie's tennis started back up and Jay continued with racquetball and golf.