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Looking Back at 2021

Posted on January 27, 2022 by under Life.    

A bunch of friends at the PPA Carvana Desert Ridge Open this week which brings back memories of when I was there last year for PPA Foot Solutions Arizona Open, which this year is at the new Bell Bank Park at the Legacy Sports Complex in Mesa, AZ. Anyway, this got me reflecting on 2021 as a whole.

I am a little bit sad that 2021 is basically just a continuation of 2020 and I haven’t traveled out of the country at all since our Mexico trip in late 2019. I went to some tournaments out of state but we really didn’t get to do any international travel. We were going to break the cycle in January this year but the Jamaica trip ended up falling through — because COVID ruins everything.

Despite failed plans, 2021 wasn’t all bad. I finally got participate in some big tournaments, which I had originally planned to do in 2020 but couldn’t because everything was canceled when the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt.

I also participated in some tournaments closer to home like one in Lenexa and another in Great Bend. I played with my friend Ramon Lozano in both who is the main reason I actually did them. The one in Lenexa is means a lot to me because it was my first 4.0+ tournament and we actually beat some really good teams.

I played in a couple of tournaments in Oklahoma, which I have decided is the state that runs the best tournaments because you get fed lunch and they provide lots of snacks. The first one was called Picklemania (at Lifetime Athletics) and it was non-sanctioned and the second was PC Smash (Gene Click’s tournament) and that one is sanctioned by USA Pickleball so even though it’s not a regional tournament, it’s totally legitimate one.

Speaking of tournaments, I intentionally participated in the ICT Tournaments last year (unlike in 2020 when I ended up playing because one of the guys mixed partners fell through, so I played as a stand in) and got my first ICT medal.

I think my entire year revolved around pickleball, which is not entirely unusual because when I get into something I really go all out — much like I did with Zumba. There was a whole decade of my life that was pretty much dedicated to all things Zumba.

Other pickleball-related things that happened last year include:

Speaking of hanging out with friends, late in 2021 (before Omicron happened), things were almost returning back to normal and I feel like people were starting to feel comfortable gathering again. I actually got to see my Leadership Wichita classmates a few times last year. Tallgrass Film Festival was back and had in person viewings and parties. Zach Hyatt (Brian’s cousin) and Krystle (now also Hyatt) finally had their wedding.

I think with more people getting vaccinated, people started feeling more comfortable and maybe even a little complacent. After my bout with COVID in 2020 (natural immunity) and getting shots 1 and 2, I have to say, I was feeling pretty invincible until some of my friends started getting COVID. Some of them were vaccinated.

By the way, as paranoid as Brian is about getting sick, he was super reluctant to get vaccinated and only got his shots because he wouldn’t be able to leave country. So even though we didn’t get to go to Jamaica this month as planned, at least Brian got vaccinated as a result. I got my booster shot a few weeks ago to protect myself because it seemed like all of my pickleball friends were catching COVID. Brian still hasn’t had his booster and I think he’s still on the fence about it.

So far, we managed to get through 2021 without catching COVID again (that we know of). I think one encounter with COVID is enough for me.

Nothing too exciting happened last year, other than I got to play a lot of pickleball. After ringing in the new year at pickleball tournament in St. Louis this month, I’m not joking when I say I have even more pickleball planned this year.

Stay tuned! GNG.

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Rotary District 5680 Refugee Project

Posted on January 22, 2022 by under Community, Projects.    

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Kathy Sexton from the Derby Rotary Club spoke to our club last week to talk about the Rotary District 5680 refugee project. Our nine area Rotary clubs are partnering with the Wichita office of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help resettle hundreds of families fleeing Afghanistan and other crisis zones.

IRC helps refugees find homes, jobs, English classes, and connects them with resources to help them transition to their new environment. Refugees often arrive with nothing and need dishes, furniture, and other items for their new home.

The Rotary clubs in our District have committed to providing and assembling dinnerware, kitchen, cookware, and bathroom kits consisting of new and gently used items, and transporting kits, vacuums, and other household items. We are asking everyone for help in putting together these kits.

  • Dinnerware Kit: 8 place settings of dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, drinking glasses, mugs/teacups, and silverware
  • Kitchen Kit: 3 mixing bowls, 3+ kitchen knives, 3 cutting boards, 3+ plastic/glass storage containers, can opener, dish drying rack, 3+ cooking utensils, 2 oven mitts, 2 towels
  • Cookware Kit: 3+ pots and pans, stockpot, 3+ bakeware, tea kettle
  • Bathroom Kit: shower curtain, curtain rod and package of shower hooks, toilet brush and plunger, toothbrush holder, wastebasket

If you are downsizing or minimizing, then this is a great opportunity to put extra items that you no longer need to good use. Please consider donating items listed above that you no longer use. There is an immediate need as we are expecting hundreds of refugees to arrive in Wichita the coming weeks.

The IRC in Wichita is currently located at 1530 S. Oliver Suite 270 but they will be moving their office to a new location sometime in February. The IRC accepts kits Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. You an reach them at (316) 351-5495 or volunteerks@rescue.org to let them know that you’re coming by to drop off a donation.

If those days do not work for you, you can also deliver your donation to BRG Precision Products at 600 River Street (Derby, KS) through February 11. BRG can accept donations Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It’s best to call them ahead of time at (316) 788-2000 to notify them that you’re dropping of a donation. They will give you parking/drop off instructions based on when you’re arriving to ensure that there are no conflicts with their normal business operations and other deliveries.

On Presidents Day (Monday, February 21), Rotarians will gather at the BRG office from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM to assemble all the donations received into the kits listed above. BRG will provide boxes, bubble wrap, and packing materials. Rotarians will deliver the completed kits to IRC on Saturday, February 26.

Kathy Sexton from the Derby Rotary Club is leading this effort. If you wish to donate, volunteer, or have questions, please contact her at sextonkbs@gmail.com or (316) 371-6451. Thank you in advance for supporting this initiative and helping us welcome refugees to their new homes.

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New Year’s Eve

Posted on January 15, 2022 by under Life, Travel.    

What do you do for New Year’s Eve when you have an early wake up the next morning for a pickleball tournament? You stay in and drink in the hotel lobby and play Mexican train dominoes and Uno all evening.

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I set up in the lobby and started making drinks from my Shaker & Spoon cocktail kit while we were waiting for Tiffany and Donnie to come down. This random guy comes over and asks if it’s the “manager’s special” because he wants a drink, I guess. I’m like, “Sorry, dude. This happy hour is private.” LOL.

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I made drinks for both me and Tiffany.

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The four of us enjoyed some cocktails while playing Mexican train dominoes. It’s nice to be able to drink and not have to worry about driving home (or anywhere for that matter). The guys looked quite serious because Brian was seriously losing and Donnie was hot on my heels (I was the points leader for most of the game but Donnie ended up winning at the end by a mere two points).

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Everyone was in it to win it. Except for Brian because, after his triple digits in the first round, he didn’t have a prayer.

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I’m so disappointed that we didn’t get to drink these shots. They came in the cutest jars. However, the size of them was somewhat intimidating. I mean, the jars are cute but they are a good size so there’s a lot of alcohol in those shots.

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Tiffany won at Uno on NYE but I owned it the next night.

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I think one of my favorite memories from the weekend was when Tiffany and Donnie and Brian all banded together to help Brian win the round and keep me from winning. I think I had 4 wins, Brian had 3, Tiffany had 2, and Donnie had 0 wins. We were in the 10th round. If Tiffany, Donnie, or I won the round then I would be the winner. The only way they could prevent me from winning is if Brian won the round and tied me at 4 wins, which would force a sudden death tie breaker round. So even though, Tiffany and Donnie were both ready to go out, they weren’t going out because because they wanted Brian to win.

It was three against one and I still won! That was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights for me. Of course, winning gold in mixed 4.0 with Devon was nice too.

That was pretty much our NYE weekend. Until next time. GNG.

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Dink-in the New Year

Posted on January 12, 2022 by under Pickleball.    

The Dink-in the New Year pickleball tournament at Vetta Racquet Sports Sunset was a great experience overall. I wanted to push myself so I signed up for 3.5 singles, 3.5 women’s doubles, and 4.0 mixed doubles.

I found out a couple of days before the tournament that they combined 3.5 singles with 4.0 singles because there was only two of us (me and my friend Tiffany Lesperance) who signed up for 3.5 division. It made me wish I had signed up for 3.0 singles instead but I didn’t email the tournament director to switch divisions. I figured I wanted to challenge myself so I might as well just tough it out.

I wasn’t as concerned about my doubles because, even though I’m only a 3.2 in women’s doubles, I’m pretty comfortable playing at the 3.5 level and Tiffany has been playing 3.5 and 4.0 so she had a lot of experience at these levels. In mixed, I got a great partner with Devon Fuller. He has medaled in 4.0 mixed multiple times and he actually has experience playing in the higher levels. It was really just singles I was worried about because I would be playing against higher level ladies and I wouldn’t have a partner to bail me out.

We started with singles on Friday. This tournament is bigger than the ICT tournaments but still kind of on the small side (less than 300 players) so there weren’t any age groups, only skill groups. For women’s singles, they had a 2.5 division, 3.0 division, and then 3.5/4.0 division.

Besides being in the highest division, Tiffany and I ended up on the same side of the bracket so even though we didn’t have to play each other in the first round, we would end up facing off in the second round if we both lost or if we both won. The only way for us to not meet up so soon would be for one of us to win and one of us to lose. We ended up both losing and playing each other for our second match.

My first match was against an older but super experienced pickleball player, Janice Bolton. She’s a teaching pro at one of the Vetta Racquest Sports locations so it was really tough. I actually ran into her in the restroom earlier that morning and told her that had I known they were combining 3.5 with 4.0, I would have signed up for 3.0 singles instead — not knowing she would be my first round match. Our match went 3 games and lasted an hour and ten minutes. I really wish I could have gotten it on video because we had some amazing rallies, which doesn’t generally happen in singles. She was chasing shots down that I thought were winners and sending them back extremely well each time.

I lost that match but, at the end of it, Janice told me that I should not be playing in 3.0 singles, which I took as a compliment. I’m not good enough for 4.0 but I’m better than 3.0 so maybe 3.5 singles is where I’m supposed to be.

Tiffany was a bit cranky about them combining 3.5 with 4.0 and also how we were positioned in the bracket so she didn’t even try in our consolation bracket match. My next match was against Rachel Mossman who ended up winning the gold not just in our singles division but also in 5.0 women’s doubles and 5.0 mixed doubles.

I knew I probably wouldn’t medal in singles considering I was playing against higher skilled ladies but I kind of wished I didn’t have to play against Rachel so soon because I wanted more match experience and more singles games under my belt. Playing her (and losing to her) so soon in the bracket meant I was out.

Anyway, since Tiffany and I were both out, we ended up watching and cheering for her husband Donnie who was schooling guys who are more than half his age in his bracket. Watching him was hilarious because, not only was the oldest player in his division (by a significant stretch) but, after each match, he would put his old man glasses to fill out the score sheet. I got such a kick out of it. When he won the championship match, I told him he should walk up to the podium with a cane and really make the young guys feel bad. LOL.

Here are some videos of Donnie’s singles matches.

This is a video of Donnie’s championship match against Bobby Song.

The next day was gender doubles day. Tiffany and I went from playing against each other to playing together. Donnie played with his friend from Missouri, Mark Steiner. Tiffany and I missed making the podium but Donnie and Mark won silver in 4.0 men’s doubles.

Tiffany and I missed the winner bracket final by 2 points when we lost 10-12 in game three against the gold medal team. Then in the consolation bracket we lost to a team we beat pretty comfortably in the first round. That match was brutal. We could not get in a groove and we were down 2-12. I think we didn’t have any points at all during the side switch. Anyway, we started coming back and ended up losing 13-15. We just needed one more hold. Ultimately, it was too big a deficit to overcome. Anyway, the girls were super nice and they went on to win the bronze.

Sunday was mixed doubles day. Devon and I were in the same division as Tiffany and Donnie. Again, we were on the same side of the bracket so if we both won and we both lost then we would have had to play each other. We never ended up facing off because Tiffany and Donnie lost their second match. They were making their way back and winning their matches in the consolation bracket. I was kind of hopeful for an all Kansas championship and also because if we were all playing in the championship then Tiffany, Donnie, and I would all finish at the same time and no one would be waiting on anyone.

Tiffany and Donnie ended up losing to the team that won silver and finished in fourth place. Devon and I went undefeated in our bracket and finished in first place. Here’s the video of our winner bracket final against AJ Thum and Cully Higgins. AJ and Cully finished in third.

Here’s the video from our championship match against Dustin Imgarten and Monika Ray. I think everyone was just ready to be finished and go home. LOL.

Brian took a short video of the medal presentation. I’ve played 4.0 mixed a few times (mostly in our local ICT tournaments and once in the Oklahoma PC Smash) but this was my first ever 4.0 level gold medal. I am super grateful to Devon for taking a chance on me and being my partner for this tournament.

Here’s our official podium picture.

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Devon was really funny. I asked to get a picture of the two of us while we were still playing in our bracket and he said, with a lot of confidence, “Don’t worry. You will get your picture.” I had to wait until the very end but it was totally worth it.

I had such a great time playing the tournament and hanging out with Tiffany and Donnie that weekend. I also made a bunch of new friends and even got an offer for free open play at Vetta from Janice. So much fun! I can’t wait until the next tournament! GNG.

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Missouri Pickleball Club

Posted on January 10, 2022 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

When we arrived in Missouri on Thursday, all the courts at the tournament site were completely booked so there was no open play to be had there. Thankfully, my friend Christie Pink, who lives in St. Louis, is a member of the Missouri Pickleball Club. MPC touts itself as the largest indoor pickleball facility in the nation. I think that’s true right now but might not be the case because pickleball facilities are sprouting up all over the place.

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We ended up paying $22 each to play for two hours. It’s not cheap but it would have been even more expensive had we not come in as Christie’s guests. It made me feel like they were keeping non-members out just by making it super expensive to play there. I think the guy told me that if we were to book courts ourselves, it would be $40 per hour plus a $10 hourly guest fee. Members can get the courts for $24 per hour and their guests only have to pay $5 per hour for the guest fee. So for us, it was $12 for the two hours of court time plus $10 for the guest fee (instead of $40 per person). It’s like Chicken N Pickle weekend rates without the awesome CNP food and drinks and fun ambiance. And they charge guest fees on top of that, which at least you don’t have at CNP.

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The facility itself was clean and well lit and the courts were spaced just right. Other than being expensive, the facility was great overall and we were with a great group of people. So the company was well worth the visit.

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This is my friend Christie with Brian Garner behind her and Donnie and Tiffany Lesperance in the red shirt. Christie is so fun. I am so grateful for her bringing everyone together and setting up this play for us. We wouldn’t have gotten to play on Thursday night otherwise.

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I wish they would open a place like this in Wichita (because there’s not enough places to play indoors with a good playing surface in the winter time) — just not as expensive. LOL. Anyway, pickleball always makes me work up an appetite. We ended up having Burger King for dinner late that night after we finished playing because there’s a BK right outside our hotel. It worked out for me because I actually like BK. Until next time, GNG.

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