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Dinner at Woodfire Grille

Posted on October 3, 2020 by under Community, Food and Drink.    

We had about 20+ pickleball players and spouses converge at Woodfire Grille at the Kansas Star Casino for a delicious dinner last weekend. The restaurant’s executive chef Jen Reifschneider is a friend and fellow pickleball player and we wanted to support her restaurant. When we first learned that the restaurant had reopened, the ladies and I talked about going to have a girls’ night out. However, the guys wanted to go too so we just opened it up to everyone. We had an amazing turnout!

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Here’s a picture of all the ladies. Karen really wanted to be here too so she made a cutout of her head which I brought to dinner so she could be with us.

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This is a photo of me with Huyen and Debbie.

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Here’s Brian’s attempt at an ultimate selfie. The lighting inside the restaurant was just too dark for this picture to turn out well.

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Here are some pictures of the food we enjoyed that night…

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A few more pictures of our fun group…

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And, of course, we can’t forget Karen.

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Several people stayed to do some gambling after dinner. Brian and I don’t really gamble so I stayed to finish my drink after everyone left and then we just went home after. It was great to finally be out for a nice dinner after being cooped up for so long. We had fabulous company also. Looking forward to doing this again soon. Until then, GNG.

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My Friend Chris Wilson

Posted on August 21, 2020 by under Community, Hobbies, Toys.    

My friend Chris Wilson and I recreated our Wichita Corporate Challenge picture from last year. So much has changed since then. At the time, I was playing with my first big girl pickleball paddle – a Selkirk S1C. I’ve switched to four different paddles since then. I first switched to playing with a Prokennex Pro Speed because I ended up with really bad tennis elbow. Then, when my tennis elbow started to feel better, I let my friend Jon talk me into switching to the Onix Evoke Premier, which is the paddle that local pickleball superstars Lucy Kovalova and Matt Wright use.

Then, all of my friends started playing with the Engage Encore MX 6.0, which is the paddle you see in the pic below. Both Chris and I started playing with it around the same time. Almost everyone in our Friday night pickleball group plays with this exact paddle. I think there are only a couple of people who use different ones.

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Anyway, I’ve since moved on and switched to playing with an Electrum Pro. It’s the first pickleball paddle that I’ve fallen in love with and chosen for myself. All other paddles I’ve ever played with were recommended to me by other friends (Selkirk – Gregg Smith, Prokennex – Jimmy Cho, Onix – Jon Maugans, Engage – Debbie Fanning). The Electrum is the first one that I’ve chosen for myself after demoing. I actually thought I would be the first person to play with one as my regular paddle (Patrick Smith has one – it’s actually the one I demoed – but he wasn’t playing with it because he was still playing with his Engage) in town but my dad actually beat me to it. Dad bough and got his Electrum Pro about a week before me.

Back to Chris Wilson. I met him at Paul Haas’ (another pickleball friend) church about a year and a half ago. I had no idea that he and Paul both worked for Evergy (Westar Energy at the time) until Paul actually retired. Anyway, I was looking for a partner for the pickleball tournament portion of the Wichita Corporate Challenge and I was going to ask Paul at first and then Paul told me that Chris also works for our company. Unlike Paul, he isn’t retired, so the two of us teamed up.

Anyway, Chris is a really good pickleball player. When I first started playing, I was mostly playing at the West YMCA with a bunch of beginners. There were some better players but then they started not coming around. I found out later they were playing at the the West Heights United Methodist Church (Paul’s church) down the street instead. It was like a secret place. It wasn’t published on the USA Pickleball Places2Play site. You just kind of had to know about it either through a friend or you were invited. I remember being so excited when I finally found the church.

I met Chris on my first time there. I was still very much a beginner so everyone was so much better than me. My friend Gregg Smith, who I know through Brian (because he is an Edward Jones client), paired me with who he said was “the best player” there on my very first game, and that “best player” he gave me was Chris. I think our first game was me and Chris vs. Gregg and another guy. I was a newbie who needed some “babysitting” so I was grateful to have Chris as my partner.

A few months later, Chris asked me if I would play with him in a tournament. I was so flattered that he thought I was good enough to play with him until I found out it was a pickleball tournament for senior citizens. And then I wasn’t sure if I should feel insulted that he thought I would be old enough to play in it.

Another funny story I have about Chris happened a few weeks ago. We have been playing in some recreational (but still somewhat competitive) mixed doubles at the park on Sunday mornings. The first time we did this format, I played with my friend Michael Cheung who I have played with in past leagues and tournaments. Jimmy Cho, who organizes this play, makes it Sadie Hawkins dance style where the girls ask guys to be their partner. I assumed we were picking partners from “Jimmy’s boys,” a group of mostly Asian guys who Jimmy has been training and mentoring. Anyway, I noticed that other people invited non-Asian guys to be their partner so I decided that I would invite the best player I know for the following weekend and texted Chris Wilson.

Anyway, he immediately replied back that he was already playing with Kim Knotts. About that same time, I saw that Kim replied to the group chat with the ladies that she is playing with Chris as her partner. It was understandable as the two of them have been playing in tournaments together so it only makes sense that they would want to continue to team up even for rec play so that they can have lots of practice. But, not to be outdone, I decided to ask another really good player who also happens to be left handed same as Chris.

When Chris turned me down and I found another partner, I texted him back saying that I found another lefty to play with me. Well, we have a famous lefty in town, Cody Courter, who is super amazing. So he texted back and asked if I was bringing Cody. I didn’t reply because I wanted him to chew on that little niblet for a bit. I also wanted the element of surprise.

That Sunday I played with Tom Pham, another great pickleball player who happens to be a lefty. Tom is amazing and we did really well that day. I might not have brought Cody but I got the next best thing. LOL. Tom and I have since teamed up for mixed competitive league at Chicken N Pickle on Thursday nights and are also doing well in that league.

There are several guys who are really good and super fun to play with and I am grateful that they are willing to play with me. Kim has Chris pretty much on lock but I did get to play mixed doubles with Chris some over the summer. And, I also get to play with (and against) him every week in our normal Friday night group at Nahola that Debbie organizes.

One last little story about Chris. I’ve gotten a lot better at pickleball since the very first time we met and don’t really need much “babysitting” anymore. Whenever Chris and I play together, he actually lets me handle things instead of taking my shots to help me out. Anyway, he’s noticed that I actually play better against him than with him and he’s made a comment about it a couple of times.

After one particularly good game where me and my partner beat him and his partner he asked, “How come you don’t play like that when you’re playing with me?” I think I revert back to “beginner Ching” when we play together and still want him to do some “babysitting” because in my mind I think he is amazing and his shots are going to be way better than mine so I end up not taking shots I should be taking and just expect him to take care of everything.

For instance, I’ve gotten a lot better at chasing down lobs and he’s seen how much progress I’ve had in this area so then we get lobbed he expects me to “handle” it whereas before when we first started playing he would have to chase all of them down (because I simply did not have the skills to deal with them properly). So now that he knows I am capable he expects me to take these but in my mind I’m still thinking he will take care of these. I don’t think I have this same mental challenges when I’m playing with other guys who didn’t know me as a beginner. And I think this is why I seem to play much better when I’m playing with other people. Because I don’t expect them to “babysit” me like does.

Anyway, that’s pretty much my Chris Wilson stories. It’s Friday and that means we’re playing tonight. I am so excited! I love Fridays because I get to play pickleball for four hours nonstop. Until next time. GNG.

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Weekend Recap

Posted on July 28, 2020 by under Community, Hobbies.    

Besides the Jonny Pickleball Show at Chicken N Pickle on Friday, there was lots of pickleball that happened over the weekend. We had our Saturday morning Queen of Court play from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM and then we had another weekend of “pool pickleball” at Brooke’s house.

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I debuted a new outfit from Sofibella’s “Love at First Serve” line. I mostly got it because I saw that my friend Regina got it and I always try to get the same stuff so we can twin in the off chance that we happen to be at the same place at the same time… One of these days.

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Our Fil-Am Pickleball Association (FAPA) shirts finally arrived (after months of waiting – stinking COVID) and so I got those delivered to mom and dad (on Saturday morning) and my friend Tom (on Sunday afternoon).

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I delivered the shirt this weekend to everyone this weekend.

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I normally play mixed at Edgemoor Park on Sundays but I decided to skip it weekend because my friend Steve wanted to play. I hadn’t played with him in forever so I chose him over early morning mixed play. We decided that we would go check out the noon open play at Nahola and just see who would be there. Nahola made sense because after almost a month of no lessons with Chris because he’s been super busy, I was supposed to have a lesson (finally) with him on Sunday at ten o’clock. Anyway, Steve asked Chris if he could stay and play with us after my lesson so we could start at eleven. Karen agreed to come to Nahola at eleven also, so that we would have exactly four players. But then Chris had the brilliant idea to just play for a couple of hours if I was okay with skipping my lesson again. I love my lesson time with Chris but it’s not everyday that you get to play with him so it was a no-brainer. So then the four of us agreed to meet at Nahola at 10 AM for two hours of play before the noon open play on Sunday.

It was a great plan until Chris was invited to play with the out of town pros on Sunday morning at Chicken N Pickle so then Chris was like, “Could we play at Chicken N Pickle from 11 AM to 1 PM instead?” I had no problem relocating our game to CNP. It was actually more convenient because it’s closer to my house. Steve lives on the East side too and then Karen was coming from Edgemoor so it was actually better all the way around. Anyway, it was super nice of Chris to accommodate our group instead of canceling since he was already playing for a couple of hours this morning. If people wonder why he is my absolute favorite (above the handsome Patrick Smith), this is why. He is just super nice.

It is such a treat to play with Chris. He is so fun and at the same time so amazing. I’m always left in awe. The only downside about playing with him is that I often find myself just spectating and admiring his awesome shots so, instead of playing well, I end up playing terrible.

I went to Seneca Park later that day to deliver Tom’s FAPA shirt. I wasn’t going to stay originally because I don’t really go to open play at the park these days but I think I wanted to make myself feel better. I mean, I’m pretty decent at pickleball. It’s just that I’ve been playing with some really great players lately so I suck by comparison. I’m pretty good against regular players. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. I have actually gotten a lot better.

Anyway, besides Tom, Paul, Becci, Bruce, Roger, Greg, and Bob (McAuley) were there so, even though there were several newbies, we still had some decent games. I had quit going to the park because of the disparate beginner to intermediate player ratio. But Paul, who I haven’t played with in what seems like forever because of his knee surgery, was there so it made it totally worth it. I had fun playing. So much fun that I completely forgot all about my folding chair when I left. I went back to the park last night to see if it was still there. No such luck.

However, I did meet some new pickleball players. Bob happened to be there so I got a game in before my Zumba class. The best part is I hit an ATP (around the post shot) for game point thanks to an assist from Bob. It was really cool. I’ve hit a few ATPs now and that was the most comfortable and natural one I’ve ever hit. I think it helps when I’m playing with newer players because the pace of the game is so much slower. I am so used to playing with people better than me now that when I play with newer players the ball seems to go in slow motion.

Bob has been playing a long time (longer than me even) so his shots aren’t slow. They’re actually pretty good but Jason, the player directly across from me at the time is a beginner, so I think that’s why I wasn’t super stressed about hitting that ATP. It was like, Bam! No biggie. LOL. The fact that it was the game winning point was icing on the cake. What a way to finish!

Anyway, that’s pretty much your weekend (plus Monday) recap. Until next time. GNG.

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Sunday Mixed at the Park

Posted on July 17, 2020 by under Community, Hobbies, Things to Do.    

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Seneca Park is hands down my most favorite public park. I’m not really much of a park goer. Except, twenty years ago visiting Sedgwick County Parks to have a nice picnic and feed the ducks was one of our favorite cheap date activities. I can honestly say, I haven’t been to Sedgwick County Park in forever. For one, we have ducks out back that I can feed any time I get the hankering for it. Secondly, it’s clear out West.

Seneca Park is probably the only park (besides Edgemoor Park) that I visit regularly (and mostly only because of pickleball). I like playing at both public parks (primarily because it doesn’t cost a dime to play) but Seneca Park is my ultimate favorite because of the shade provided by the trees and street access. You can basically park right next to the pickleball courts. Also, it’s easy to do a quick drive-by, see who is playing, and decided whether or not you want to stay and play.

At Edgemoor Park, there’s a little skate park between the pickleball courts and the parking lot. There are also windscreens that prevent you from seeing who is playing. You can’t tell who’s playing just by driving by. You actually have to get out of your car and walk over to the courts. LOL.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to figure out who’s playing when people post their play times on Playtime Scheduler, but people don’t always do that. Sometimes people just want to play privately with their own crew. When you post on Playtime Scheduler (or on the Wichita Pickleball Facebook group, for that matter), it’s an open invitation for everyone to come and play.

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I don’t really do open plays as much anymore because I’m always already playing with specific people. My favorite thing right now is Jimmy’s mixed doubles events on Sunday. Our start time is so early but totally worth it. At first we started with only 9 mixed teams and now we are up to a solid 12 teams on our roster.

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The first weekend that I played, I played with my friend Michael Cheung and we revived our Cobra Kai team shirts. The following weekend, I played with my friend Tom Pham (one of my favorite leftys). The funny thing about this is I actually asked my friend Chris Wilson first (also a lefty) but Kim Knotts had already asked him to play and they usually play together because the have an upcoming tournaments so he had already said yes to her. So anyway, I told him I found another lefty to play with. He immediately thought I was referring to Cody Courter, another lefty who is super amazing and well-known in our circle. I didn’t reply to his text because I just wanted him to mull it over because Cody is probably the best lefty pickleball player in all of Wichita. LOL.

The other hilarious thing is when Jimmy sends a group text to the ladies to tell him who their partners will be, and all of these texts come in, I’m usually texting some random made up thing like “Ching and Chris Heck” or “Ching and Patrick Smith” just to see people’s reactions. They know I’m totally joking because those guys wouldn’t play in our little Sunday thing, but I think it’s the funniest thing ever.

This last Sunday however, I did get Patrick Smith’s men’s league partner Jamie Lynch to play. So I had three different partners over the last three weeks. Since Brian doesn’t play pickleball and I don’t have a “pickleball husband” (like my friend Karen does — she’s gone through two already), I’m not locked in to a specific partner. I’m kind of enjoying the flexibility that I have to play with various people. Sometimes it sucks because I don’t have someone I can count on to play with me for various events and play times but the positive side of it is if there’s a different person I want to play with for a specific thing then I don’t feel like I have to “check” with my normal partner to give them first rights of refusal.

Anyway, we first started our Sunday games at Seneca Park but quickly outgrew it. Patti has a large group that plays there on Sundays and the most we can get is usually three courts. We relocated our mixed doubles games to Edgemoor Park where we know we can get all six courts as long as we start at 6 AM. It’s worked well for us the last couple of weeks. We will be playing with a full group of 24 players again this weekend. This time were doing full-on King of Court. Normally, the mixed pairs stay together as they move up or down the court ladder. This weekend Jimmy is going to have the pairs split up. It should be interesting.

I’ll let you know how it goes this weekend. Until next time. GNG.

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Chicken N Pickle Festivities This Week

Posted on July 11, 2020 by under Community, Hobbies.    

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Michael Harris, head pickleball guy at Chicken N Pickle, turned 27 on Wednesday so I brought chocolate cake in his honor. It was delicious!

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His wife Naomi came to hang out so we finally got to meet her.

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I just happened to be there on Wednesday for mixed doubles with Kyle, Ryan, and Ryan’s wife Renae. I didn’t know that it was Michael’s birthday until that same day but thankfully Costco always comes through.

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Then this morning, my friend Karen and I played in the Doubles and Bubbles tournament at Chicken N Pickle. She had signed us up for it a few weeks ago.

We decided to wear our matching Sofibella skorts with white tanks. Karen made us these patches to make our team uniforms look more legit. She is so creative!

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I didn’t really know what to expect because it had been a while since I played in one of these events but I had so much fun! Karen and I actually won the tournament today. We won some Chicken N Pickle swag (it was a green tank that I already had two of but you can’t really have too many – now I can wear as a sort of uniform, which is only fitting because I’m there so much practically live at Chicken N Pickle) and Karen got to take home the big bracket poster.

Next week it’s the guys’ turn! Until next time. GNG.

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