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Archive for "Hobbies"

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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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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Post Pickleball Chow Down

Posted on November 29, 2019 by under Hobbies.    

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A few weeks ago, before we left for vacation, my friend Amy and I decided we wanted to check out the open plan at Nahola. Nahola is where all of the really good pickleball players play and Friday night is 3.5 and above night. I know some of the better players might not like playing with less skilled players so I had the brilliant idea to invite a bunch of pickleball friends so, even if we did get snubbed, we for sure would have people to play with. LOL.

The players, those who stayed (some people left and went to the single court inside) and played with us, were actually pretty nice. The drop in fee of $7 is a bit steep (compared to the $2 and $3 that we normally pay at the rec centers and local churches) but I wouldn’t mind playing over there again. At the time, Immanuel Baptist Church Family Life Center (FLC) had 4.0 and above listed for Friday night so if you’re under 4.0 you really didn’t have any options. FLC has since opened up Friday nights to lower rated players. It is cheaper ($3 drop in) and actually closer to our house. Nahola is all the way out West. I’ve yet to play on Friday night since returning from vacation because we’ve always had stuff going on and FLC isn’t playing tonight due to the Thanksgiving holiday but I’m super glad that we now have a couple of really good options for Friday night play.

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We worked up an appetite playing pickleball that night so afterwards a bunch of us went to Old Chicago for dinner. It (clockwise from left in the below pic) was Cody, Matt, Michael, Eric, Kimberly, me and Brian. I invited Brian because I figured he would want to eat dinner too. Except that was an expensive night because his Lyft ride cost $30 (going from almost Andover to the West side of town during prime time on Friday night). The price you pay for convenience.

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Oh, well. I think at some point I’m going to have to get over the not wanting to drive two cars thing because this aversion is costing us money. Speaking of money, we’re actually saving quite a bit by opting out of the whole Black Friday insanity. LOL.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Enjoy the weekend!

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League Recap

Posted on November 6, 2019 by under Hobbies.    

I normally would have pickleball league tonight but the season is, unfortunately, over. I am so sad. It went by so quickly. Anyway, I had such a great time playing with my partner Renee (pictured below) in my first league experience ever that we decided to play together again next season.

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I wasn’t too sure about being in the Intermediate level at first but it was the one that Renee had signed up for already and I was simply joining to be her partner. I thought, even though I’d never been in a pickleball league before, I can pretty much hold my own with my pickleball friends who have been playing longer than me and I wanted to be challenged so I didn’t really mind being in Intermediate. This season proved to me that I’m in the correct level of competition.

Renee and I actually had a pretty good track record going into the tournament on the final night of our league. Our team, Heavy Dinkers, played against 12 different teams and only had 3 losses. Two of those losses were when I had a sub fill in for Renee so in all actuality we really only had 1 loss while playing together.

I felt really good about our chances until she told me that she had to be out of town for work during the week of our tournament night. You can’t get a sub who is better than your partner and we’d been playing really well together so I was super bummed. However, I did find someone to fill in who I felt complemented my style and would have a good chance with. We were all set for Wednesday when a work emergency cut Renee’s trip short. She would be back in time for the tournament after all. I felt bad about canceling on my sub but I was happy to have Renee back. I really wanted to see how well we could do together.

So, what happened last week? Well, we didn’t win it but I was happy with the way we played over all. We won our first match but were in the same pool as my friends Becci and Bev (BeBe Picklers) who are both very good. I think we had a good chance against them but we made some mistakes and ended up getting eliminated from the main bracket early. We didn’t do too bad in the consolation bracket. We won our first few matches and were steadily clawing our way back up until we ran into team Haylo. Both players were leaps and bounds more competitive than the rest of the field and Renee and I struggled to get it together. We lost that match and that was the end of our tournament journey.

I think Haylo ended up winning the tournament so I don’t feel too shabby about being eliminated by them. I feel like we had a really strong team and lost to the only two teams better than us (by my extremely biased calculation, anyway).

I improve each time I play so I’m really looking forward to this next season coming up. Now that we’ve had some games together, I think my partnership with Renee is only going to get stronger. They better be ready for us next season because we will be in it to win it! Until then, GNG.

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Bob Jackson Friendship Tournament

Posted on November 3, 2019 by under Hobbies.    

Bob Jackson passed away in August 2017, long before I discovered pickleball. I kind of wish I would have had an opportunity to meet him. He seemed like an amazing man. I still hear people talk about him today.

Not having met him, all I know is that he loved pickleball. He taught pickleball for the Wichita Parks & Rec department and was a great ambassador for the sport. Those who knew him continue to honor his legacy by hosting an annual Bob Jackson Friendship Tournament. We had the third one this year and I was honored to participate in it for the first time.

I hadn’t been participating in tournaments because I personally didn’t think I was ready. I’m a bit competitive and I wanted to hone my pickleball skills and improve some more before actually playing in one. However, my friend Michael invited me to be his parter for this one which honors a great man and it isn’t sanctioned so it seemed like a good place to start to get my feet wet. (BTW, I’m not counting the pickleball event during the Wichita Corporate Challenge because I was doing that for work and it was just kind of a free for all. You didn’t compete according to your skill level and it was just a fun thing for local corporations to do.)

In the Bob Jackson Friendship Tournament, they had 3.5 and below and 4.0 and above. I’ve considered myself a 3.0 for a long time since I started playing regularly so I didn’t mind Michael signing us up for 3.5 and below. It was actually spot on.

The weather did not cooperate that day. It rained on and off which really threw off the schedule but we got to play some games (some we won, some we lost) and had a lot of fun. And, we honored a great man while raising money for a good cause — lights for the pickleball courts at Edgemoor Park. Oh, and Michael and I looked legit in our team outfits.

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I had recently bought a paddle similar to his so we had matching shirts and paddles! The shirts were Michael’s idea. He got a “Cobra Kai” shirt (it’s the name of the dojo in the Karate Kid movie) from Target a while back and he said they still had some so if I got one then we could wear matching shirts for the tournament. I thought the motto “Strike Hard, Strike Fast, No Mercy” kind of applied to our pickleball strategy and I was just nerdy enough to go along with it. LOL.

I’m not sure how much Michael paid for his shirt but Brian got our shirts for $10 (Brian got one for himself too – he’s like our team manager – LOL). I just looked on the Target website and the shirts are on sale for $8 right now.

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The tournament had a great turnout, despite the weather. This actually isn’t everyone. This is maybe a third (or half at best) of the people who were there. I don’t know that there’s one thing we can attribute to the level of participation for this event. I think part of it is that Bob Jackson is loved and respected by those who knew him and they continue to honor his memory to this day. Part of it is, for those of us who didn’t know him, we just love pickleball so much that we want the sports exponential growth in our area to continue. And, finally, we really want to raise money for lights at the park.

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Here are a few more photos from that day.

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This is my friend Matt. He organized a cookout during the tournament and just helped support the tournament altogether to keep things going.

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I don’t know if I ever told the story of Matt. I met him a couple of years ago through a YMCA staff ping pong tournament. I credit him for my pickleball addiction. When I discovered pickleball last year, I didn’t really know where to play. I didn’t have any friends who played pickleball so I didn’t really know where to begin. He invited me to play pickleball at West YMCA. It’s where I learned the basics of the game and things haven’t been the same ever since. The struggle I had finding places to play and people to play with is actually why we started the pickleball group on Facebook earlier this year (Wichita Pickleball Connection). Selfishly, I wanted an easy way to find people to play with and places to play but the group is actually beneficial to all those new to the sport. Those who want to try the game but don’t have anyone in their friendship circle who plays pickleball can just post on the group and are immediately invited to games. Our pickleball community is amazing!

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BTW, Michael and I weren’t the only ones to sport matching outfits at the tournament. Huyen and Crystal wore matching shirts too.

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As did Bill and Trixie. It’s because great minds think alike!

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Here are a few more pics from the event.

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A couple more matching outfits…

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It was a great day overall and a wonderful first tournament experience. I can’t wait to sign up for the next one!

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