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Life During COVID-19

Posted on April 5, 2020 by under Life.    

I feel like I’m in the middle of a horror film. Never in my entire life did I imagine we would be living like this — fearing for our lives, unable to leave our homes. It feels like the zombie apocalypse minus the zombies.

Since I’ve been working from home the last two weeks and we’re not supposed to go out for non-essential activities, I’ve pretty much been stuck at home 24/7. It’s been driving me crazy. I’m so glad that Kirk and Alicia organized a ZOOM night for us. We’ve had two of these virtual get togethers since the start of the stay-at-home order and they’ve been my lifeline.

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Brian set ours up in the basement so we could connect the computer to the big TV and see everyone’s video better than we would on our tiny computer screen. He was so excited that we were actually the first ones on. Actually, we were both looking forward to it all week. We even got a special bottle of wine just for the occasion.

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In all seriousness, it’s actually a bottle of Sequoia Grove (one of our favorite wines). Brian just printed a funny label to put over it.

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It was a nice evening so Jay and Becca set up on their back deck.

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Clockwise from top left in the below pic: Alicia and Kirk, me and Brian, Jay and Becca, Jared and Hazel, Justin and Tina, and Marc and Reniece.

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On the first night, we were joined by our #CostaRica2019 #VacayWithJayJay pals plus a couple of friends of the Shorts – Jarred and Hazel. It was like a mini reunion.

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We played virtual Cards Against Humanity with the group and it was super fun. I usually get crappy cards but I actually got the perfect card to play for this round.

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Here’s another round that I won.

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We had another get together the other night. We were supposed to dress up like where we wanted to go after we are all set free from the travel ban and stay-at-home mandate. Only Alicia and I really participated though.

I wore one of my Sofibella pickleball outfits because going to play pickleball as soon as we regain our freedom to be around other people is first of my list of things to do. Alicia wore her “Corona Beach Party” shirt because the beach is her first stop. Having Corona on the shirt was perfect though, because Coronavirus is the reason we are all in this mess.

Brian considered wearing his Star Trek shirt because he said he wanted to be off-world, but he was lazy and just stayed in his robe. He rationalized it by saying that’s what one of the characters wore in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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Here’s the group from the other night. We were minus Tina and Justin and Jarred and Hazel but still have enough people for games.

We played Cards Against Humanity again, which Brian won, and then also some Pictionary. Pictionary was really challenging but a lot of fun.

Oh, I forgot to mention Alicia’s sister AJ joined us both times too. Her husband who is currently stationed in Las Vegas got off work too late for us to meet him the first time but he was able to join this time around. He seems like a nice guy. Hopefully we can meet him in real life when we all get through this.

For our next ZOOM social we’re celebrating a bunch of birthdays — virtually of course. So we’re moving the event from Friday night to Saturday night. I may not have Zumba and pickleball anymore but at least I have one thing to look forward to each week. Alright, everyone hang in there. Stay heathy and safe. GNG.

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Shock ‘N Clause at the New Neighbors

Posted on January 25, 2020 by under Community, Food and Drink, Things to Do.    

I can’t believe I completely forgot to blog about the one of the best things that I was part of in 2019. Our friend Marc discovered the Shock ‘N Clause movement and organized one for our group.

There are many variations of this random act of kindness but our group agreed upon $50 per person (or $100 per couple). It basically works this way: All the participants pool their cash, use the funds to pay the meal, and the remaining cash goes to the server as their tip.

Our group consisted of the #VacayWithJayJay #CostaRica2019 gang plus Mama Dill and two other couples. One of the non #CostaRica2019 couples was friends with the Huntees and the other couple was friends with the Shooks. Here’s a group photo of the most generous bunch of people I know…

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We ended up taking our Shock ‘N Clause to the New Neighbors because none of the other diners could accommodate our large group (we had 15 people total) for brunch. Neighbors holds a special place in my heart because we used to play “bar” poker there back in the day. This was back in our Amateur Poker League (APL) days about fifteen years ago. I actually thought we were going to that same restaurant where we used to play but Brian and I hadn’t been there in years and we didn’t realize they moved. The restaurant is in a new spot and now called the New Neighbors Bar & Grill, instead of simply just Neighbors Bar & Grill.

I think the move to the new location happened a few years prior but the name change happened only a few months ago. After the owner was murdered back in July, the restaurant was closed for some time. The restaurant reopened in October under new ownership and that’s when the name change to the New Neighbors Bar & Grill happened.

Anyway, we were lucky to have a great server who seemed truly deserving of the gift. The restaurant isn’t a fancy place and the menu items are quite reasonably priced. Our group’s entire meal cost under $200. Since we brought $750 with us, our server ended up with just slightly over $550 as her tip. It felt really heartwarming to be able to pay it forward and bless someone’s life in this way specially around the holidays. I’d have to say this was the most gratifying meal I’ve had ever in my entire lifetime.

Speaking of meal, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share pictures of our food. That’s kind of my thing and I’m not about to let you down.

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I had their corned beef hash which was refreshingly very different than any other corned beef hash I’d ever had. I think it’s the best ever compared to all the other ones I’ve had in town, and I’m not just saying that because my heart was full.

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I couldn’t take pics of everyone’s food, because there were two other couples in attendance who I didn’t know very well and I didn’t want to seem weird, but I took as many as I could.

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At least our #VacayWithJayJay pals knew better than to start eating before I could take a photo of their meals. LOL. Seriously though, we have the most amazing and generous bunch of friends. I hope that Brian and I are able to participate when we do this again later this year. Until then, keep paying it forward and GNG.

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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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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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Xavage Adventure Park

Posted on December 12, 2019 by under Travel.    

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Here are some highlights from our visit to Xavage, the newest of the Grupo Xcaret theme parks. Grupo Xcaret has nine experiences altogether. Xavage happens to be the most extreme one and it’s the one that we chose to do first because it was on top of both Jay’s list and my list of things to do while on this #VacayWithJayJay trip.


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Jay and I weren’t the only ones excited about our day at Xavage. I think everyone in the group was too. Here are some group photos of us that we took using the escanea stations throughout the park.

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It turned out to be a beautiful day and we pretty much had the park all to ourselves. We didn’t have to wait in line for any rides/activities at all.

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How it works.
A day at Xavage is not cheap. For those who are not staying at Hotel Xcaret where the park admission is included, a day at Xavage will set you back $60 per person ($30 per child) for basic admission or $135 per person ($70 per child) for the full experience. Both basic and full access includes your lunch, drinks, and snacks. The main difference is if you do the basic admission only, you just get the ropes couse and kayaking so you don’t get all of the other awesome rides. If you do the full experience then you get to do all the rides as many times as you want.

Since we were staying at Hotel Xcaret, we had unlimited access to all of the Grupo Xcaret parks so we didn’t have to pay for admission. It’s kind of like going to Disney where your wristband gets you into the parks/rides, etc.

So, since we pretty much had run of the park, we just went right for it. We chose the most extreme activity, Puma, for our first one. Puma is the monster truck experience. Here’s a video of us with a bit of intro to what we’re about to get ourselves into. Some pictures follow.

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The next activity we did as a group was Dragonfly. Dragonfly is the high-adrenaline jet boat ride. There was another couple that went on the ride with us but we pretty much had the boat to ourselves.

Check out the awesome Go Pro footage Brian got in the above video.

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The jet boat driver attempted to get us a bunch of great photos from the park cameras but boat was going so fast that the camera only caught us a couple of times. The rest of the pics pretty much just had a sliver of the boat in the corner.

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Since we were already wet from having been splashed multiple times in the jet boat, we decided to just go for it. Our next activity was Barracuda, which is a simulated class 3 rafting experience. The park cameras got several great pics of our group during this activity. Here are just a few of them.

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We also got some really good Go Pro footage of the rafting.

After this we decided to change into dry clothes and have some lunch. The buffet lunch was actually really good for having been included. I thought they would cut corners and just give you something really basic but you have lots of options, from traditional Mexican foods to American stuff like burgers and hotdogs. The guys even got to try some crocodile meat.

As far as drinks go, the non-alcoholic beverages and juices were all included but I think tequila and other things were extra. I don’t know for sure because we didn’t bother with it. Since the activities are so extreme, they do not let you do them if you’ve had some alcoholic drinks for safety reasons.

I did not bring long pants/leggings on this trip so Brian loaned me a pair of his shorts to wear so my legs wouldn’t get chaffed from the harnesses. That happened to me when we did the zip lines in Jamaica a few years ago. Anyway, that’s why you see me in Brian’s shorts in some of the pics.

After lunch we hit the zip lines or Hawk activity. This one is actually a laying down zip line instead of a sitting one. It was my first time with this type of zip line. We were really high up and had excellent views of the entire park, which was super awesome. It started out kind of slow but then went faster in parts. I would describe it as kind of like a solo roller coaster ride but instead of up and down you got flung from side to side as you turned on the curves. It was a nice long ride.

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Contrast the pics of me above with the pics of Brian below. He never looks like he’s having any fun but, trust me, he’s having fun on the inside. LOL.

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Here’s a short clip Brian got of the ride. Enjoy!

The Snake area is an open water park for people and their children to hang out. Everyone was busy doing activities and there really weren’t any children when we were there so the park was pretty much empty. It was a very nice water park with lots of slides and activities for kids to do. There were plenty of lounge chairs around too. I could see it as a nice chill spot for families to hang out after they are exhausted from all of the rides/activities.

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As for us, we were not tired yet. We (well, most of us) were ready to take on our next challenge — the ropes course. I must admit, I didn’t mind saving it until the end (maybe partially hoping we would run out of time, LOL) because it looked quite intimidating. This area of the park was called Monkey. I really liked that they named the park areas after animals that kind of fit the activity. They had signs at the park that pointed you to the areas using these names (Puma, Dragonfly, Barracuda, Snake, Hawk, Monkey, and Crocodile) which made it really easy to navigate the vast park grounds and not get lost.

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The ropes course was massive. We were quite fearless in the morning but then as the day wore on, and it sprinkled on and off a bit throughout the day, it started to look even more daunting. Tina, Justin, Jay, and I all still decided to go through with it. Becca and Brian opted out and just waited for us at one of the picnic tables.

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Here are some pictures of me going through the course.

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No Go Pro video this time because (a) Brian had our Go Pro and (b) I think it had pretty much run out of battery by then.

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Tina and I did most of the course together and were right behind each other. In some really shaky parts, I preferred to go through the course all the way by myself because when someone is doing it with you then you have to contend with not just your weight and movements shaking the obstacles but then the other person’s weight and movements as well. It really tests your balance.

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The interesting thing about the ropes course is they offer four levels. They are (from lowest/easiest to highest/toughest) Green at 26 feet, Blue at 46 feet, Red at 82 feet, and Black at 118 feet. We originally thought we were going to go for Blue (level 2) but after being tired from all the activities and the course being wet from the rain, the four of us agreed to do Green (level 1) instead. We wanted to go through it quickly because everyone wanted to hit Puma (everyone’s favorite) one more time before we had to head back to the hotel.

The one activity we didn’t get to do was the Crocodile, which was the kayaking activity. We were worried that it would take too much time and we wouldn’t have time to hit Puma again. Anyway, missing that gives us a good reason to return to Cancun and visit the park again. That place is really cool.

The ropes course took a lot longer than we expected, even at the easiest level. Part of the issue was it started sprinkling again while we were in the middle of the course. While we wanted to finish quickly, we also had to be extra careful.

It was a relief to finally finish it because it was a total body workout. That ropes course is no joke! I can’t imagine doing it at 120 feet above the ground.

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By the time our group made it back to the Puma area, we only had about a half an hour before we were due back at the bus pickup area. Brian, Becca, and I opted not to go on another run and just watched the others. Brian and I used the opportunity to take a selfie while waiting for the trucks to make their way back.

Tina and Justin rode together. Jay had a solo ride. I took some videos of them with my phone, since the Go Pro was dead at this point.

Anyway, you got the driver’s perspective in the earlier videos. These two are from the vantage point of the spectator. Puma was super fun. I would totally do it again if we ever go back.

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This next picture is of the Xoximilco gondolas. I found out that the park is Xavage during the day and then at night it transforms into Xoximilco with carnivals, games, music, and lots of drinking. So, basically, while there’s no drinking during the day and lots of drinking happens at night. LOL.

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Xoximilco is one of those awesome parties that you don’t remember. Supposedly, people who go often don’t remember how they made it back to their hotel room the next morning. I can’t say that I wanted to get piss drunk but I’m all about experiences so I also wanted to experience while we were in Mexico. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time on this trip and these pictures are all I got. But, again, it’s the perfect excuse to go on a return trip.

Overall our Xavage experience was amazing and it was the perfect start to our awesome Mexico adventure. Until next time. GNG.

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