Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Come From a Winning Family

Yesterday, Michelle at Michelle's Spell mentioned having mostly received participation ribbons when she was growing up.

And I got to thinking about all the things that I have won in my life, and it's really a pretty short list, despite the title of today's post.

When I was a kid and lived in Vidalia, Louisiana, I played baseball on the Sherriff's Department Angels little league team. I always thought that was a cool name, even as a kid. Sherriff's deputies mostly deal with anything but angels; know what I mean?

Anyhoo, I think I played two years, and sucked bad enough that both years at the season ending award ceremonies I received a tiny participation trophy. I understood even back then that they were lame, but I sure as heck took them home anyway. Lord only knows whatever happened to them.

I was always a whiz as a kid at memorizing Bible verses, and I won just about every church contest I was ever in. So, although this resulted in no trophies, I won an assortment of candies and whatnot for those wins. I was kind of a Bible nerd as a kid. I liked memorizing verses and had whole chapters of Psalms and various crucial New Testament verses memorized. I just never knew when I was going to have to "commence to convertin'" someone, as my Mamaw Eunice used to say. And as a kid in Baptist churches, the verses in The Roman Road to Salvation were the most important to memorize.

And thanks to the Holy Spirit, whenever I've needed to call up those scriptures, they still roll off my tongue like I'd been studying for a test on them. Of course, reading the Bible helps; I read over them all from time to time.

In around tenth grade, a good friend and I, who attended the same church, went for a week at a summer youth camp way out in the woods and swamps near Shreveport, Louisiana. All of the buildings were built on stilts about ten feet up because it flooded so often. Well, to make a long story short, I won the "best camper" trophy for that week. Which is a laugh. The best camper was the winner of most of the Bible related games, and that's where my memory skills paid off big time. That is if you count being named "best camper" at an obscure Baptist church camp hitting the big time.

Then, in the summer before my senior year of high school (12th), I attended a photography / yearbook staff workshop held at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe). I won a nice trophy for having taken the "best candid photograph" of the workshop. It was of a campus cop writing a ticket to put on some poor person's VW Beetle. The cop looked up as I had the camera pointed at him and just grinned really big. Like he was so proud to be writing that ticket. I don't know if I still have a copy of that anywhere. I haven't seen the photo in years, but I can still picture him in my mind.

I also won a small trophy at that same workshop for coming in second in the "best overall photographer" category. I was much more proud of the candid photograph trophy than I would have been to win best overall. I knew as soon as I pushed the shutter button on that cop's smile, that was a good photo. Sometimes you know a photograph is really good the instant you take the shot. I couldn't have cared less about the rest of what I did. I was addicted to finding "the shot" every time I had my camera. I guess looking for "the shot" is what still has me out wandering around with my camera all of these years later.

Then years later, this would have been around 1985, Lovely Wife and I were living in Bossier City, Louisiana. We were in our apartment one day when the phone rang. It was the day after Father's Day, and this strange man tells me all excited-like how I'd won the drawing for the rod and reel at the drawing they had had on Father's Day.

I remember being dumbfounded. I told the man that I had never in my life been in that particular sporting goods store before and I certainly hadn't entered the contest.

I asked him to hold on, and asked Lovely Wife if she had entered my name in any drawings for Father's Day and at first she seemed as flummoxed as I was, then I saw her face change as she remembered doing just that. I told the guy I'd come get my rod and reel as soon as I could.

I kept that rod and reel for years, and it moved from apartment to apartment to house, etc., with us for years until, well, I don't know what ever happened to that major award. All I know is I never once fished with it.

I guess we kept moving it with us as some sort of symbol; that it was indeed possible that sometimes good things can happen to us out of the blue.

I know what you're thinking, "Man! This Dude should be playin' the lottery. He'd be a squillionaire by now."

Oh contrare, mon ami.

Years after winning that rod and reel, I took a discrete math course at La. Tech, which is a jumble of maths from different areas that are directly applicable to computer programming and digital logic. Mostly binary math, logic, probability and things like that.

One day in the discrete math class, we all got in there and the professor looked around and noticed that many students were absent. She was a young Computer Science PhD, and immediately recognized that it was a case of Friday-itis that had swept the class, leaving it half full.

She had us pull out paper for a pop quiz. All we had to do was calculate the odds of winning the Powerball Lottery, which is available in Louisiana. At the time, the way the game was played, I came up with a number of 1 in 155Million and something something chance of winning by buying one ticket.

I got the answer right, which was good for my grade, but has been a great incentive for me to NOT play the lottery. Every time the Powerball would get up to one of those $100Million jackpots, and folks were buying tickets like crazy, I would remember that pop quiz in my discrete math class and it was easy to not buy a ticket.

Which brings me to the "family" part of today's title.

Sainted Mother once won an electric ice cream freezer. You know, the kind our forefathers used to have to sit and crank and crank to make homemade ice cream with. Only the one Sainted Mother won was electric. It turned all by it's little ol' self as soon as you plugged that baby into an electrical socket.

Big Brother once "volunteered" Sainted Mother to make homemade ice cream for a team he was on, and said that she would make them chocolate ice cream. Well, it ended up becoming chocolate chips in vanilla by accident, and everybody raved over how wonderful her "accidental" ice cream tasted.

Another true-blue winner in our family is Big Sis.

Big Sis is a member of some Keith Urban Obsessed Stalker Fan Club or something and this year already has planned out four, count 'em four, Keith Urban concert trips all over the country. Well, as a member of this Keith Urban Obsessed Stalker Fan Club, Big Sis's name was entered into a drawing. The people whose names are drawn for whichever concerts they are attending get to go back stage before the concert and meet with Keith Urban. There are only eight Stalker Fan Club members that get to do this before each concert.

Well, Big Sis won herself one of the coveted eight spots before one of the four concerts she's planning to go to, so she'll be able to meet Mr. Talented yet again.

I actually kinda feel sorry for Mr. Urban. He just doesn't know Big Sis like I do. He has no idea what he's in for.

(It's been a while, but I've written about Big Sis's obsession with Keith Urban if y'all care to read them. A Day of Mourning, and Me and Accents and She's All A-Twitter.)

I just thought I'd share the amazing good fortune that myself and relatives have had over the years.

What with fishing rods, electric ice cream makers, and meeting Keith Urban, people should rub out heads for good luck every day.


photowannabe said...

If I was closer I would too..Hee Hee.
I really never won much of anything either except back in the 80's my husband and I were on the tv show, Let's Make a Deal. We made it to the end of the show and won the second prize, which was an all expense paid trip for a week to Cancun. It was a wonderful trip.

Marsha (Big Sis) said...

John, you forgot about the $5,000 that Cary won playing the lottery back about 3 years ago! He won it the day Jonathan told us his transmission went out on his truck!

By the way, only 9 days until my Backstage Experience with Keith Urban in Memphis! I just bought my new outfit to wear! God help him and anyone getting in my way of making physical contact with him!

Meg in Nelson said...

Dad, Mom and Baby Brother were always winners due to their achievements; Lil Sis a winner by luck; I was the non-winner, though I tried my hardest to win anything and everything within my power.

Then I discovered I was a valuable employee, won a few awards in quick succession in my late 20's.

And now I'm in arts, and boy, winning/loosing means totally different thing in this world, not that I've won much.

Life is a journey.

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