Tales From A Hungry Life

December 1, 2012

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

By Maria Schulz

The results are in from the latest Powerball Lottery, and guess what? I didn’t win anything. That’s too bad, because I really could use $500,000,000. I was even willing to settle for the lump sum, despite the fact that it was only $300,000,000. I can be flexible like that.


I’m really happy for the couple that won, since they seem like nice people who could use a break.


There’s one more winner from Arizona who hasn’t come forward yet. Just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t been to Arizona lately.

Unfortunately, this means that I will have to give up on the following plans I had for the aftermath of my big win.

1. I will not be crying on national television while holding my giant check with the phrase “$500,000,000 WINNER!” on it.

2. I will have to start answering the front door again, in the hopes that the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Prize Van stops by with a different yet equally large check.

3. As a result, I won’t be able to avoid the Jehovah’s Witnesses who ring my bell without any large prize checks. On the up side, I will get lots of free literature about life, death, the end of the world and my future in Hell.

4. I will not be tempted to run away with the money, leaving my co-workers penniless and angry. I also won’t get to go on trial when they all sue me.

5. I will not be able to be on one of those “Where Are They Now” shows called “She Won $500,000,000 but Now She’s Penniless!” unless they just want to go with the “Now She’s Penniless” theme to begin with.

It’s a shame, really, because I can guarantee you, I would have made a really great “what the hell went wrong?” story. I mean, how quickly can you blow through $500,000,000? That would have been the question, and I would have been more than overjoyed to give everyone the answer.

So what’s my preoccupation with winning? Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I never really won anything. Now before you get all choked up and start crying for me, let me just tell you, I’ve won things before.

For instance, I won 3rd place in the 4th grade Police Athletic League’s “Independence Day” poetry contest. Unfortunately, I was never notified and only learned when my classmate, Christine, went to the awards ceremony and heard my name called repeatedly.

“How come you didn’t go?” Christine asked.

“Maybe because no one told me,” I replied.

My Uncle Sal went down to the Police Station near his house in Chelsea and picked it up for me. I got it a few weeks later, at my family’s 4th of July picnic.

Honestly, I never felt like I should have won that prize. My poem was lamer than lame (The Revolutionary War/At peace it tore/The men all died/For peace they tried.).  I won’t continue. It doesn’t get better.

Later, in the 6th grade, Sister Anne Kathleen liked making us compete against one another. I’m not sure why, except that she was probably tired of singing “The King of Glory” and dancing like she was having an epileptic fit. She needed a little down time.

Sister would get a smug smile on her face, straighten her habit and start waving her intended prize at us like she was waving a bone at a big, dumb pack of dogs. Next, she said, “I’m thinking of a number from 1-100. If you can guess the number, you get the prize.”

I would sit there, uninterested. And then, she would call on me.

“Maria,” she said. “Pick a number.”

I folded my arms and stared at her. “18.”

The first time, Sister congratulated me and gave me my prize. It was a bookmark with a picture of Jesus on it.

By about the 10th straight time, I realized that my guessing was making her insane. I sat and stared at her, rubbed my temples, and closed my eyes. Then, I opened them, smiled broadly, and guessed…right. She got pretty freaked out.

“How do you know what number I’m thinking of?” Sister said. Her eyes were bugging out and her habit was crooked.

“I can read your mind,” I told her, as I pulled the Rosary beads from her hands.

rosary beads

We never played that game again.

Years later, I won 2nd place in my 10th grade “The Day Vandalism Ended” essay contest sponsored jointly by the local synagogue and the Catholic church. One of the rabbis at the awards ceremony pulled me aside to tell me that I would’ve won the contest outright, but he talked everyone into voting against me, and giving me 2nd place instead. He didn’t like the fact that I came out on the side of vandalism.

Of course my piece was not in favor of vandalism, but I had just read 1984 and Brave New World, and I was not a fan of repression or totalitarianism. In my essay, instead of everyone celebrating on the day vandalism ended, the world turned into a boring, whitewashed place, and everyone who was a vandal was dragged out into the streets and shot.

I got into a loud shouting match with him about the importance of artistic freedom, how you shouldn’t censor creativity, and how you should always fight for what you believe in. Then I collected my $30 prize. I can still see my English teachers, Mr. Reines and Mr. Walsh, barreling over with laughter as they watched me argue.

“I thought you were going to turn the check down,” Mr. Reines said to me, in between fits of laughter.

“What are you crazy?” I replied. I mean, really. A pay day is a pay day.

The years have passed, but not much has changed. I don’t have Sister Anne Kathleen around anymore to drive crazy with my mind-reading, and I’m not getting passed over by any local religious coalitions who protest my pro-vandalism stance. But I’m still not winning anything.

Case in point: some friends and I watch Dancing with the Stars every season. We each choose our top male and female dancers and guess who will get kicked off every week. We also choose the top three finishers as the season winds down. Every time you choose right, you win points. The person at the end of the season with the most points does NOT win $500,000,000; they just win the right to laugh at everyone else and boast about their superior ability to predict the way this crazy show goes.

I put all my hopes on Shawn and Derek. All season long, Shawn had the most amazing dances and got high scores from the judges without fail except for one or two times. It seemed like a no-brainer. I didn’t get a lot of guesses right; but I had a lot of fun watching the insanity unfold.

Why Shawn and Derek would choose to do a dance that got them in hot water with the judges was beyond me. This opened the door for Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, and they stuck their feet right in there and took the win.

By David Hancock / CBS News

By David Hancock / CBS News

This is the dance I would’ve told Shawn and Derek to do for the finale, if only they had asked.

So even though I lost out again, I still feel hopeful. I’d like to think that I am still pretty lucky, even if I don’t win a lot of things. As my Italian grandmother used to say, “I’m a millionaire without a million.” But as my Puerto Rican grandmother used to also say, “Get me a bookie.”

I like to think I’m also a millionaire without a million. But I’d still like to win a whole boatload of money and become a millionaire with a couple of hundred million.

I better go get that new lottery ticket now.


Roasted Chicken Purses. Yum!

Roasted Chicken Purses. Yum!

Whenever I do something right or feel like celebrating some small victory, my husband says “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” So here are some light chicken dinner recipes that look delicious. Check out the Roasted Chicken Purses. Enjoy!


So Hungry Lifers…have you ever won anything? What are your biggest regrets now that you didn’t win the Powerball lottery? Who should’ve won Dancing With the Stars? Leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. I always buy a ticket for Mega & Power and I know that the odds of me becoming President of the good old USA are better than me actually winning the lottery I use the logic that I never really entered the race for President so who knows if I did I could’ve won. That same logic applies to the lottery, someone has to win, which is proven anytime there is a winner and why not me? Unless of course if I never entered it. So I never buy more than one ticket, that gets me in and if I was to win then all I need to be is in it. Right? At my age I figure if I ever entered and won the Presidency I’d probably die before finishing my term or at least get put in Jail for murdering, I’m kidding of course, John Boehner. However, if I won any amount of millions at any age I could use it up in no time and even make that TV show of “Where Are They Now” and for me they might show a grave. Anyway it is nice to have dreams, good ones not nightmares.

    Comment by Bglou — December 1, 2012 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

    • Wait a minute…I probably wont be president either! You have big dreams–jail or a grave! With your genes, I would not be surprised to see you dancing in the Bahamas at 100. Keep playing! Thanks for always commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 1, 2012 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  2. Hi, Maria. One of the things I like most about your blog is how it makes me think of my youth. When I was in 6th grade, I represented my school in the Green Point Savings Bank Halloween Art Contest. I took first place! Still have the winning ribbon. The thing about winning, even when the odds are so against you, is that feeling that you’ve got this. Why else did I buy a Powerball ticket this week??

    Comment by Lisa — December 1, 2012 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  3. You’re rich in many ways!!

    Comment by Caroline Bock — December 3, 2012 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

    • Yes I am. I’m a millionaire without a million–I inherited that from my grandmother! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — December 3, 2012 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

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