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The Best of 2019

Posted on January 19, 2020 by under Hobbies, Life, Travel.    

This past year has been memorable in different ways than previous years. We started the year by celebrating New Year’s Eve at our house. And, true to our superstition, we spent a lot of time with the Dills last year because we rang in the new year together. We actually traveled with the Dills a couple of times last year.

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Our #VacayWithJayJay crew traveled to Costa Rica for Jay’s 40th birthday and then we had another trip (this time to Mexico) later in the year with the Dills and the Huntees. The Costa Rica trip was in April and the Mexico (Cancun, Riviera Maya) trip was in November. Brian and I try not to take too many trips in the same year but, as work as been a little cray-cray lately, the breaks were actually helpful in keeping me balanced. Plus, even though we went a little overboard on trips (we also spent a weekend in Austin, Texas following one of my work conferences and, of course, my annual pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida for #ZINCON), I considered the Mexico trip as my birthday present this year. I had fun continuing my second 21st birthday celebration with the Dills and Huntees in Mexico. I enjoyed it so much I think, instead of just having a birthday month, I’m going to have a birthday “quarter” every year. LOL.

Just kidding. I know my birthday does not trump Jesus’ birthday in December, which Jay was nice enough to remind me.

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Speaking of birthdays, I really milked it this year. In addition to all of the birthday dinners Brian and I typically have the entire month of October, my friend Matt organized a birthday-slash-Halloween pickleball party at West YMCA. Never in my entire life had I ever thought that I would have a birthday party at the YMCA. Mainly the Y does kids’ birthday parties but I guess adults who are young at heart can have them there too. It might be the most underrated thing at the Y. Granted, you cannot have any alcoholic beverages at the YMCA (duh?) but grown up birthday parties at the Y can be a lot of fun. Specially if you are part of our ever-expanding Wichita pickleball community.

Pickleball really exploded in Wichita last year. I think Chicken N Pickle had a lot to do with it. I didn’t know this at the time but even before CNP, pickleball already had a huge following in Wichita in the senior circles. CNP made it more mainstream and accessible to everyone. And then we got new outdoor courts at Seneca Park and we brought everyone together — new players and veteran pickleball junkies — on Facebook.

The Wichita Pickleball Connection started last year with just a handful of people and today (exactly a year later) were at about 850 members strong. It’s insane! Yes, today is actually the first anniversary of our little Facebook group.

In terms of pickleball, the biggest event to ever happen in Wichita is the Franklin Pickleball Masters. Sure, there were tournaments that happened throughout the year but the Franklin event brought the nation’s top players to Wichita (a few of them live here, actually — at the time, I just new of Matt Wright and Lucy Kovalova but we have some up and coming players like Jocelyn Devilliers and Patrick Smith who live here also) and we got to see pros play the game in real life. It was amazing!

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That weekend was HUGE! I ended up hosting Regina Franco (one of the pros playing in the tournament) and her friend Belinda Dettman completely by accident and sheer luck. They even came to the pre-tournament cookout that Matt hosted at Seneca Park. Regina and Belinda were great house guests and Regina became my first ever professional pickleball player friend.

I really enjoyed watching Regina and her women’s doubles partner Sarah Ansboury play at the big tournament. Of course, we cheered for our hometown favorites, Matt and Lucy, but it was fun cheering for Regina and Sarah in the women’s division too.

Lots of things happened with pickleball last year. The event was added to the Wichita Corporate Challenge. At the time, it wasn’t that big at work yet so I got to play in it (being an early adopter) by default with my friend Chris Wilson. We were the only two people who volunteered for the pickleball event. I suspect that will change this year with pickleball being so popular and highly addictive.

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I also played in the Bob Jackson Friendship Tournament, my first “Light Up Edgemoor” event. There’s a big group that’s organized behind raising money to get lights installed at Edgemoor Park where we already have six outdoor pickleball courts thanks to the efforts of Becky Middleton and others. We are trying to raise money for lights for the pickleball courts so that we can play later in the evening in the summer time when the weather is nice.

Besides pickleball the year was also filled with fun parties. We didn’t attend as many as we did in previous years (as I don’t think I’m on that list anymore at work) but at least we had the opportunity to attend some of our faves:

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In addition, we had the opportunity to attend some events we’d never been to before like the Blues & Brews Festival in Andover, the Gatsby Gala (for United Way Young Leaders), and the Crawl for Cancer, which we actually had a dozens of others who participated in the event with us. We had a mega-team of almost 50 people. Anyway, I know the Cancer Crawl has been going on for years because I have coworkers who do it every year but I think the other two events are one offs.

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Uncle Roy also had a fun birthday ping pong tournament that was a ton of fun. He had one a couple of years ago during the holidays but everyone was busy with travels and other life events that there wasn’t one last year. It’s always a blast but my ping pong skills haven’t really improved much so I didn’t advance in the bracket. I’m not so worried about my ping pong game these days, though.

Another fun thing that happened is my friends from Kansas City came down to Wichita for a weekend and actually took my Zumba class. Brian and I had fun hosting them. They even got to meet grandma when we all had brunch together at Carrabba’s on Sunday. That’s one of the most memorable weekends of the year.

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The one thing that sets this year apart from other years is the number of new friends I made, all thanks to pickleball. I usually make a few new friends each year just through my Zumba classes and at the various events we attend, but this year was unlike any other. I made hundreds of new friends through our Facebook group.

Anyway, I always have fun looking back at the wonderful memories from the year. Recalling all of the great things that happened, interesting places we visited, fun parties we had the opportunity to attend, delicious food we got to eat, new friendships, etc. makes me realize how truly blessed I am and for that I am beyond grateful. This exercise really gets me excited for the current year. I can’t wait to document all of this year’s memorable moments and experiences and then to look back on them with you at the end of 2020. Here’s to a wonderful year ahead!

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Looking Back at Almost 2 Decades of This Blog

Posted on January 12, 2020 by under Blog, Events, Life.    

As you know, I write a blog post each year around this time reflecting on the things that happened the year before. The good, the bad, and the ugly… but mostly good because I have a real knack from blocking out all the bad stuff that happens.

Before we look at last year (the year 2019), let’s look at all the years that this blog has been in existence…

2002: Everyone knows I’ve been online since before blogging was actually a “thing” but it wasn’t until after Brian and I got married that this blog officially started. It was actually about two months after our wedding.

2003: The first year of marriage is what they often call the “honeymoon” phase. We were young and naive and so cute back then. We would have these movie nights where we would bring the feather bed to the family room and watch movies all night long. We bought a few worthless things this year (like the Bowflex) and I discovered online poker but the biggest thing that happened was me going back to school after having dropped out in 2000 after my four-year scholarship ended.

Ching at Fingers

2004: Lots of drama happened this year but, besides that, this was the year that I discovered bar poker (because I got bored with playing online and wanted to play with people in real life). We also played some racquetball and did some sword-fighting. We added a live-streaming webcam (actually two of them) to the site. Lastly, I officially became a naturalized US citizen.

Our Sugarglider, Ginger

2005: We had a menagerie back then and, at one point, had seven sugargliders. We started hosting some home games and became good friends with Jay and Becca. I think this was the year the Ponderosa Poker Party started.

poker buddies at IHOP

Invisible Poker Players

Can you tell who was sitting at which seat by their drink of choice? Maybe. But everyone’s tastes have changed since then. I can tell which one was my seat though.

Robin, Justin, Ching, Jen and Dawn

2006: I completed my Business degree at Wichita State. My major was Management Information Systems (MIS) and I minored in Management and Accounting. I was going for a Computer Science minor as well but just couldn’t quite get it done. We got a couple of new family members: Molly, our Yorkipoo, and Bebot, my Toyota Corolla which is the first and only brand new car I’ve ever bought.

Molly as a Puppy

2007: I didn’t really take a break after completing my undergrad so I went straight into grad school in fall 2006. This year was pretty crazy. Grad school was so much more challenging. We also had some fun. I got my first American passport and we went on our first all-inclusive resort vacation. And, we got to experience the whole au naturel thing. Oh, and we taught our nephew how to play poker.

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The photo below was taken at Couples Resort in Jamaica (now Couples Tower Isle). We celebrated our five year wedding anniversary a month early because I was in grad school.

Brian and Ching

2008: We had some big changes in 2008. Brian started working for Viega and I completed my MBA at Wichita State. But, perhaps the most memorable thing that happened that year was the Halloween poker cruise. We had the opportunity to deal cards on a cruise ship.

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2009: We had some firsts this year such as our first Zoobilee, Brian’s first trip to Germany, and our first and only trip to the Philippines together. We haven’t been back since. This is also the year we really got into racquetball and even introduced our friend Jay to the sport. On the work front, up until this year I’d been going to school full time, so this is the first year that I had time to participate in leadership/professional development opportunities at work. I took the opportunity to complete Leadership Westar and Diversity Champions.

Cable Car Group Photo

2010: We spent a lot of time with the Dills this year, starting with the first day of the year because we were with them in Kansas City for New Year’s Eve. Other trips this year include San Francisco and New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas where Brian got to meet my biological father for the first time. This is also the year we moved out of our house and into a townhouse at Quarters at Cambridge.

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2011: We started the year by getting stranded in Vegas (we were supposed to be back in Wichita on New Year’s Day) and did a lot of traveling the rest of the year. We traveled to the East Coast with the Dills, got to see the Orbases when we visited cousin Tracy in Texas, and I got to visit Nashville for the first time (on a work trip). We joined Genesis Health Clubs and got on a health and fitness kick. I was very much into Zumba and just working out in general. We pretty much lived at the gym. This was also the year that we spent our wedding anniversary at the ER.

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2012: We attended a few weddings, most notably cousin Tracy and Jeff’s destination wedding at Coral Cove in Jamaica. I completed my Zumba Basic 1 training and started teaching Zumba for the City of Wichita (Parks & Rec), took Brian to Nashville for his birthday, bought a house (we actually closed on our 10th wedding anniversary), and ended the year with a thyroidectomy.

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2013: I completed Leadership Elite at Wichita State, started teaching Zumba for YMCA, attended my first Zumba Instructor Convention (ZINCON for short), and made a few appearances on Splurge! magazine. In addition to traveling to Orlando for ZINCON, I also got to do some traveling for work (visited Minneapolis and Davenport). Besides all that, we also got each other his and hers handguns, and threw Brian’s parents a 40th wedding anniversary party.

2014: Brian bought his first tux this year. It was a big Zumba year for me. I attended both the Zumba Instructor Conference in LA and the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando. I started my short-lived Stella & Dot business. I joined the Adventurous Babes Society. We switched from Android to iPhone. Alex, my hard-top convertible, joined our family. But the biggest thing to happen this year is my completion of Leadership Wichita.

2015: Rex, Brian’s Lexus SUV, and Saki, our Shiba Inu that we won in the Heartspring live auction, both joined our family. Travels included trips to St. George (Utah), Washington DC, Charlotte (North Carolina) New Jersey, and New York. Brian and I both completed Citizen Police Academy.

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2016: Brian and I went on the first ever Zumba cruise where I met J. Perry (he sings many of my favorite Zumba songs) in person for the first time. I also got to meet Max Pizzolante at ZINCON. I got a tour of Zumba home office and finally made the Wichita Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

2017: Brian and I kicked off the year with a Plank Challenge. I hosted a Zumbathon to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I committed part of my 401K to Wichita State through planned giving and we were inducted into the Society of 1895. We attended several amazing events. We visited Alaska and Great Exuma (Bahamas). And I became a Zumba Wear 3-Star Insider.

2018: We attended a ton of great parties like always. I started teaching Zumba at VASA Fitness. We went on another Zumba cruise and also went to ZINCON. We started “Coffee Chats” on FLIP + CHING. I discovered pickleball and we quit our bowling league (because pickleball was on the same night). I’ve since found other places to play but, at the time, it was my only option.

That pretty much catches us up. Next post will be all about the memorable things that happened in 2019. I didn’t really have great expectations for the past year but it turned out amazing. It’s been the best year we’ve lived yet. But I have a feeling 2020 is going to be pretty awesome too. Anyway, come back next time for the full 2019 recap. Until then, GNG.

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Final Employees’ Association Holiday Party

Posted on January 4, 2020 by under Events.    

It is the end of an era. As you know, with mergers come changes. One of these changes is to disband our decades old Employees’ Association (EA). Even though I can usually only make one EA event each year (the holiday party), it’s a fun group and I’ve enjoyed being part of it.

Here are some pictures for our final Employees’ Association holiday party last month at the Kansas Star Casino.

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With Suzanne…

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With Tony…

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With Leo and Tammie…

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Table selfie with (from left) Steve, April, Sue, and Tony…

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This time with Carly and her boyfriend…

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Another random selfie…

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With the Pointers and the Coins…

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With Bonnie’s daughter Maddy who is an event coordinator at the Kansas Star…

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Ladies’ ugly Christmas sweater contest…

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Men’s ugly Christmas sweater contest…

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It was Priscilla’s birthday that night and the band called her up on the stage to perform with them.

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It was a fun night overall. My favorite part of this holiday party is seeing people from all parts of the company, many of whom I used to work with years ago who have moved on to other roles in the organization. Retirees also join us sometimes. It’s nice to be able to get together, even if it’s just once a year.

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Brian and I didn’t stay too late (because we’re old and we don’t party hard anymore) but we did take a bunch of selfies.

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Every year the Kansas Star Casino has a Trees of Hope event where local nonprofits decorate Christmas trees for a chance to win $5,000 for their organization. Besides taking a few more selfies of the two of us, we took a few pictures of the amazing trees before we left.

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Wichita DAV #4

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Mulvane Public Library

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Mental Health Association

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Goodwill

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Legacy Community Foundation

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Tri-City Day School

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Exploration Place

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Sumner County CASA

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Alzheimer’s Association

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Passageways

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All of the nonprofits did an amazing job of decorating their trees so I’m not sure who won. But even if they didn’t win the prize money, they still got their name out there in front of thousands of casino-goers so hopefully it’s helping further their cause in some way (websites are linked above each tree photo).

Anyway, those are the highlights from this year’s holiday party. If you would like to see highlights from previous years, follow the links below:

  • 2016 was a trivia party at Joe’s in Old Town
  • 2013 was at Prairie Pines Christmas Tree Farm
  • 2011 was at Mosley Street Melodrama
  • 2010 was at Margarita’s Cantina
  • 2009 was at Grand Prairie Hotel & Convention Center in Hutch

There were a few years I missed, and other years I probably just didn’t post about. Sad to say goodbye to the Employees’ Association. The officers have done a great job over the years with the various events they host for members and non-members throughout the year. It’s been a good run. Until next time. GNG.

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Pickleball-Filled Holiday Break

Posted on December 31, 2019 by under Hobbies.    

I feel like a girl juggling two boyfriends. My spare time is currently split between pickleball and Zumba. I’ve had a pretty good balance the last few months but, from time to time, one will have more of my attention than the other.

Over the summer when I first developed tennis elbow and had to stop playing pickleball (pickleball and I were basically “on the outs” so to speak), I ended up picking up additional Zumba classes. Zumba became “my shoulder to cry on” of sorts. Zumba is like the boyfriend who loves you unconditionally. The dependable one that you can always count on. You break up with him many times and then when things don’t work out with the other guy, he takes you back with open arms like nothing ever happened.

Pickleball is like the new guy you just met. The mysterious, elusive one that you want to learn more about. The one that you look forward to spending time with and will rearrange your schedule for. Even when he breaks your heart (like when you had to take a break because of tennis elbow), you still can’t wait to see him again.

So after I came back from my tennis elbow hiatus, I started playing once a week and then twice a week — but not on consecutive days. Then I started playing more frequently. Then over Thanksgiving break, I put my tennis elbow through its paces by playing consecutive days. Somehow my tennis elbow hasn’t bothered me too bad. I just always wear my arm brace when playing and I seem to do fine so now I’m back to playing pickleball as much as my schedule allows which is really tricky.

I joined a women’s doubles pickleball league at Chicken N Pickle last fall (when my Wednesday night Aqua Zumba class ended at South YMCA) and had such a blast so I wanted to keep going. After the fall league ended, I did the holiday women’s doubles league with my friend Kimberly. We played as Jingle Ballers. The team name was her idea and she even made us awesome team shirts.

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Anyway, I just couldn’t get enough of pickleball so I decide give up my Sunday morning 10:30 AM Aqua Zumba class at South YMCA so I could start playing the Sunday morning open play at Chicken N Pickle. A bunch of my pickleball friends were going and I felt like I was missing out.

I guess you could say in this juggling of Zumba and pickleball that I’ve been doing, ever since my tennis elbow started to get more manageable, Zumba has taken a back seat. I still enjoy it but not as much as I enjoy pickleball. I am obsessed with pickleball right now. In my free time, when I’m not playing pickleball, I’m watching pickleball videos, and when I’m not playing or watching videos, I’m thinking about when I can play next and how I can get better at it.

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I was so excited when Becca wanted to celebrate her birthday at Chicken N Pickle. She and Jay and Tina and Justin all signed up for the Flannel Pickleball Tournament. I hadn’t originally signed up for the tournament but, as luck would have it, someone on Wichita Pickleball Connection was looking for a partner because their partner fell through. Not only did I get to celebrate with Becca on her birthday, I also got to play pickleball. Other friends and family came to hang out. Whether you played in the tournament or not, everyone seemed to have a blast.

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I met Jeanie’s girls from El Dorado that night.

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The next day was Thanksgiving Day. I had originally signed up to play in the Top Turkey Tournament at West YMCA but the gym flooded because of a problem with their swimming pool so the tournament was canceled. I ended up going to the special Thanksgiving pickleball event at the Andover YMCA instead. It was actually the best of both worlds because I got to do Zumba with Charis and Amanda and pickleball on the same day. We had a great turnout. The best part was I got to see my friend Betty (pictured below).

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The next big pickleball event was the Ugly Sweater Tournament at Chicken N Pickle. It was supposed to be mixed but Aaron made an exception so Kimberly and I could play together.

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Kimberly and I decided to wear our holiday league uniforms one last time for the tournament because, frankly, I didn’t want to play in a sweater. I figured it would be too hot and I wanted to be comfortable.

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Kimberly and I had such a blast.

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This next pickleball picture was taken at Seneca Park. You would think that our days of playing outside were over but those afflicted with pickleball addiction will do anything to play. Debbie got us together and we posed for a group holiday photo.

Each year I usually take vacation over the holidays just to get a break. In years past, I filled my time off with various Zumba classes. Last year, it was a little bit of Zumba and a little bit of pickleball. This year, with the exception of the classes I was teaching, I pretty much just played pickleball. Thus is the extent of my pickleball addition. I would say it’s sad but not really because I’m enjoying every minute of it.

I’m not sure what 2020 holds. I’m hoping I get to play more pickleball. It’s so hard with my current Zumba schedule. I’m so torn. I’ve thought about giving up some more Zumba classes to make more time for pickleball but I love Zumba too. I guess I’ll just continue to ride this love triangle I have with pickleball and Zumba and see where it goes. Until next time. GNG.

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Wichita Flag Pics

Posted on December 29, 2019 by under Things to Do, Travel.    

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We took some fun pictures with the Wichita flag on our final day at the resort. Here are some of my favorites.

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This pretty much takes us to the end of our 2019 Cancun adventure. I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and looking at pictures as much I did recalling all of the details. It was very memorable trip and the best extended birthday celebration ever. #VacayWithJayJay #ChingTurns21X2

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