Bluff YOU, Love!

“Man. You must turn down a lot of guys,” he said as I crawled into his cab to head home from karaoke. I’ve been calling this same cab driver about once every month or two for a few years and never had a companion so, knowing that the world thinks I could get any guy I want and that there have technically been opportunities, I just laughed and replied, “Well, sort of. You could say that.” I was fairly certain he was implying that I was too pretty and interesting to go home alone so frequently and didn’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate the unspoken compliment… so, I bluffed. The full truth is quite similar to the range of hands you might be dealt at a poker table. Taken at face value, most of them aren’t worth playing.

The only man who actually, literally asked me out anytime recently was a drunk old rich man who wandered into the restaurant where I work. He was sitting at the bar when I came over to ring in an order for one of my tables. (Normally I’m the bartender, but I was only serving tables that night.) The bartender asked me to ring in his order and he took that opportunity to flirt. He asked to take me to dinner in Beverly Hills (1.5+ hours away, depending on traffic) before telling me a single thing about himself. I asked his name and what he was interested in. He told me where he owned real estate (multiple cities) and dropped the fact that he had a driver into the story somehow. When I discovered that he left without signing the credit card slip, despite the fact I told him I couldn’t add on the 20% tip he claimed he wanted to leave multiple times unless he signed, I was glad I had (strangely) decided to give him my actual phone number. Unfortunately, he never contacted me and gave me a chance to ask why he was too busy and important to sign off on his own expenses. Although that was an extreme example, many of the men I meet seem that poorly suited to stand at my side. Meeting them is about as exciting as finding an eight of spades and three of hearts in the hole. The only ways to win with such a hand are to bluff and/or get really lucky.

There have been a few guys at karaoke who have shown a tiny bit of interest. Not one of them has offered to buy me a drink. Some of them attempt a conversation. Even fewer have any questions beyond, “Are you going to sing?” and “What are you going to sing?” Sometimes guys merely stare at me from across the room all night… often in a corner behind a crowd of people. I feel like these guys want me to play with them, but they rarely make any actual moves. (Side note: it’s the lack of actual conversation that bothers me the most.) To me, these guys are like being dealt a hand with moderate odds of success i.e. ten-eight suited. They only really look interesting when you haven’t seen a great hand in a long time. Their odds of winning don’t change over time – you do. You get desperate and decide it’s time to bluff. While this strategy can work in poker, it’s not one I want to utilize to find love.

Finally, I’ll admit that there have been a few moments where I enjoyed the company of someone who showed the potential to be the King perfectly suited for this Queen. Unfortunately, all of those candidates did things that showed they weren’t interested in spending more time with me… and while I might defend that hand against a poker table bully, I unwillingly fold when someone pushes me out of their romantic game.

I don’t want to spend so many days and nights alone, but I know that you have to fold a lot of bad hands and face some bad beats in most poker tournaments and feel it is no different in my love life.  I peek at a lot of hands and fold because it seems the wisest choice. In romance, it’s too easy to become attached to a bad hand once you’re invested in the pot. I’d rather wait around for the hand that feels incredibly valuable before I invest a single embrace. Life’s too short to spend it bluffing about how much you love your partner. I’d rather spend it bluffing about how much I love being alone.

 

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Gratitude Season

He said Christmas is the one time of year that everyone puts others first and that it was the fact that this couldn’t happen at any other time of year that made the season so special. I tried to debate him on the “couldn’t” portion of the statement but gave up on changing his mind before picking on his reference to “everyone”. Having recently decided that the purpose of life is to add meaning to the world, I was gravely disappointed that someone who cherishes the giving spirit which the holiday season bolsters would be convinced it must be confined to one time of year. I believe that giving for the sake of giving puts you outside yourself and creates meaningful moments which explain and sometimes expand your purpose in life.

When the Thomas Fire rolled into Santa Barbara a few weeks prior, everyone wanted to thank the firefighters for their hard work. Signs proclaiming things like, “Keep Kicking Ash!” appeared all over town, restaurants offered discounts and free meals, and most posts about the fire on social media included a thank you to the men and women fighting the blaze. It wouldn’t have mattered if the fire hadn’t happened near Christmas. It alone was enough reason for a “season” of gratitude. So, while I might agree that most people wait for a reason and season to show gratitude, I refuse to believe it must be that way. Should we be (are we) really any less grateful for a firefighter when there isn’t a fire burning nearby?

When I worked as a barista, I didn’t enjoy the duties my job consisted of very much, but I did like the customers… because they were (for the most part) extremely grateful for people who remember their name, serve their favorite drink(s) promptly, and sometimes ask a few questions about their day, offer a compliment, or tell a story – things it was fairly easy for me to do. Somewhat like the firefighters, all I had to do was show up, be nice, do my job well, and reap the gratitude. I’m not perfect and didn’t always accomplish my goal, but I tried to show the fact I was grateful to have a job serving those people every day. They noticed. At this point, I’ve been served a dose of thanks in the form of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (my favorite), pot stickers, pizza, job referrals, a lot of cash tips, and probably many other ways I’m forgetting to list. The funny thing is that the mere fact they were so grateful for my existence made me all the more grateful to share this planet with them.

I never gave away any free food or unwarranted discounts when I worked as a barista. I simply strove to be the kindest version of myself which I could muster each day and show gratitude for the customers who were keeping me employed… especially those who had ways of making my day nicer. I created my own reason for a season of gratitude and my world became a much lovelier place because of it. I was (and am) genuinely grateful for those customers and it showed in my actions and was reciprocated. The way I see it, I may have proven that love actually does make the world go ‘round… or it can if you want it to. The choice is yours. Do you want to be the type of person who confines their giving spirit to one season or do you want to try to spread kindness and love every moment of every day in 2018? After all, this isn’t a hand of poker we are talking about, so it just might be possible for everyone involved to win.

Lucky Or Unlucky To Be Forty?

As I approached my fortieth birthday, I began to believe more firmly than ever that we are all both lucky and unlucky all the time – feeling lucky is merely a matter of perspective. Both the Chinese and Japanese detest the number four because the word for death in their languages sounds quite similar, while the Pythagoreans believed the number four to be perfect. Some focus on the one terrible association with the number while others take note of the many wonderful things which come in fours: phases of the moon, seasons, elements (earth, air, fire, water), directions (north, south, east, west), and even the leaves of a lucky clover. Knowing all this, as my annual dose of holiday gloom latched onto me like a lead vest days before my fourth decade on the planet would be complete, I vowed that this year would be different. This year I would successfully bluff away my gloom.

Then, like anyone who’s prone to reminding others that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, I began my quest to forget the things that make me blue by opening a few of my birthday presents early (aka the same thing I’ve done every other year). Not being completely insane myself, I wasn’t surprised when the joy of opening one present early merely made me want to open a second… and was extremely grateful when doing so led to an even better plan.

The second gift was a ring from my twin sister which we like to say has twinning powers. Not long after I slipped it on my finger I realized that what would really make my holiday season sparkle with happiness is to create a memory with my twin. Within 24 hours, we were picking a date to meet at Disneyland. I realized that while my new job would keep me away from family and working on the holidays, it was also stabilizing my income enough that I could afford a memorable excursion with my twin… and that having something to look forward to was the best gift I could give myself.  Just as I’d hoped, the delight of anticipation promptly rebalanced my mood and enabled me to respond to my holiday gloom differently.

I can’t change the fact that I find myself having to explain why I haven’t found someone special yet and whether or not I want to have children far more frequently during the holidays, but thanks to a speech by Tracee Ellis Ross, I knew there were far more successful women than I who were equally bothered by this conversational phenomena. What I could do was to take advantage of all the advantages which being single and childless can offer. I could enjoy the peace and quiet of my apartment or plan an excursion anywhere I want, whenever I decide to do so. Most importantly, I could dream big knowing that only I could hold myself back.

In the final hours of our thirties, my twin and I divulged what birthday miracle we were wishing for to each other via text. Before I awoke, my twin’s wish came true. She had discovered that her employer was sending her to work at their Menlo Park location on the same day which the Pac-12 Championship would take place nearby – USC (her alma matter) vs. Stanford. Dressed in Trojans gear to taunt her coworkers (many of whom had attended Stanford), she attracted the attention of a family waiting to board the same flight for the game. When my twin told them she wasn’t going to be able to attend the game unless she somehow got a free ticket, the family happily handed her the extra they had on hand. Better still, it turned out to be in the club lounge seats. That is what I call a birthday miracle. She got the best seat she could possibly have wished for.

When we talked on the phone mid-day, I was ecstatic. “See!?! If you don’t believe in fairytales and birthday miracles, they will never come true,” I squealed, certain her experiences that day had confirmed this fact and increased the possibility my wish would also come true. By the time I was driving home from the casino that evening (a little poorer), I was a little less certain. My desired birthday miracle had not occurred, but I had a fabulous day nonetheless. As I navigated that familiar road feeling unusually content, I remembered that a far bigger wish I’d wished many years prior had finally come true.

Once upon a time, I was living a life I thought I wanted, feeling afraid, restless, unhappy, and uncertain of what I truly wanted in life. I got divorced knowing only one thing – I didn’t want that life – and wished to figure out who I wanted to be and become that woman.  About a month ago, I’d articulated exactly what I wanted in life (right now) to a new friend and he had helped make it happen. I have a new job as a bartender and server at a nice restaurant – precisely the type of job and schedule I wished to juggle my art and writing career around. I had figured out what type of woman I wanted to be and become her. What more could/should a gal wish for than that?

Perhaps 4 is an unlucky number for some, but I believe my forties will be spectacular. With a bit of twinning power, faith, trust, and pixie dust, I will continue to dream big and strive to achieve, knowing I’ve already accomplished the most important goal of all. Being conscious of your wants and needs is the key to everything. It’s the reason why you play the game of life the way you do and the ultimate source of personal empowerment. Perhaps wishes don’t always come true, at least not when you want them to, but the fact remains that if you don’t wish them and seek them out, they will never come true… and, when it comes to wishes, late is always better than never.

Doesn’t Heart Trump Luck and Skill?

As I watched three other females’ videos flash across the screen as the first three finalists in Daniel Negraneu’s contest for a seat in the Main Event, my heart broke a little. With those spots taken, it was officially highly unlikely that I had been chosen as one of the nine finalists. However, after I rented and watched the first Rocky (not for the first time, but the first in a long time), I realized that I was grateful for my broken heart. People often talk about the skill and luck required to win, but the type of heart that’s required is much more difficult to explain. I believe the fact my heart breaks from seeing others succeed where I want to is proof that I have it. Unfortunately, I was unable to prove it in 30 seconds or less via video.

Can anyone convey their heart for the game in half a minute? I won’t deny that the videos I’ve seen are better than my own submission… but they all have a similar feel. I can tell these players have skills, a desire to win, and might deserve to be bought in, but I have no idea who they really are. I can’t feel their heart. I can see why Daniel is having a hard time choosing and has been asking for help from his followers. As one of the best poker players in the world, I’m certain he can read people very well in all situations, but these videos give little to go off of (including mine).

I wish I could explain to him that I know what an amazing opportunity this is and how it means so much more than a chance at a large sum of money. I’m disappointed there are so many people whining about the finalists Daniel has chosen so far. They say they’re tired of people favoring sob stories and think Daniel should pick someone with a real chance at the bracelet. I think Daniel knows that if any of the contestants was truly far more skilled than all the others, he or she would have found a way to the WSOP without his help. I think Daniel wants someone with the heart of a fighter. He wants to feel like he is Apollo Creed offering the unknown Italian Stallion his (or her) big chance.

So, as I make my way through the rest of the Rocky movies over the next few days, I will continue to ponder if there is any way I can get through to Daniel and convince him I’m the one. He alone holds the power to decide and could always choose the wild card in the end. If not, I’ll come up with another plan some other day. Sometimes all the cards fall the way you hope they will. Sometimes they don’t. That’s how it is in poker and that’s how it is in my life… and I won’t give up. That’s not the kind of gal I am. Having the heart of a fighter is what has gotten me this far. It’s what made me a writer, artist, and poker player. I am grateful for that every day, even if it means I’m working for minimum wage plus tips rather than playing in the WSOP.

 

A Fortunately Timed Fortune

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A little over one week ago, a fortune cookie told me, “You will inherit a large sum of money from an unusual source.” I posted a picture of it on Instagram stating, “I think this fortune cookie is trying to tell me I’ll be playing poker again soon.” At the end of the day, I made a wish and tucked it in the corner of my bathroom mirror, directly below a message of hope I’d scribbled to myself on the glass months ago: “Impossible things happen every day.”

Five days later, I found the opportunity I had wished for. I learned that Daniel Negreanu was going to buy one very lucky soul into the World Series of Poker’s Main Event. All I needed to do to enter was make a video saying why he should pick me in 30 seconds or less. The impossible had become possible.

I spent the next four days working and pondering what I should say. I could try to recall the dream I had that launched me on my quest to become a writer, artist, and poker player. I could boast that I believe I have the skills needed to go all the way. I could promise to donate a portion of my winnings and anything I crochet during the WSOP to charity. I could admit that poker helped me develop strength of character, patience, and the ability to endure bad beats. I wanted to say all of that (because it’s all true), but there wasn’t time.

So, I draped two of the scarves I’ve crocheted over the top of my gate and set out some of my art and vintage card decks on the ledge below to create a backdrop that would give a peek into the breadth of my passion for poker. Then, I used my video to tell Daniel three other honest reasons to pick me which I didn’t think anyone else would say. First, I stated my belief that I can get other women interested in the game. Next, because I’d seen a video suggesting that WSOP players are getting too serious, I suggested I could help bring back the fun. (I’m often up for conversation and full of wit and puns.) Finally, I told him about my fortune cookie’s prediction.

I decided that the odds of anyone who’s entering the contest getting that same message right now are lower than the odds it will come true. I decided to accept it was possible that this time, for whatever reason, God sent me a sign in a cookie. I decided there were reasons beyond the ones I knew when I nicknamed myself the Gold Digging Grinder. I decided to believe that it might be my time and mentally prepare for the fact that my life could change overnight. I decided to let Daniel Negreanu decide if that cookie was telling the truth.

 

Translation: Just Stay Calm

Life is like a hand of poker – you shuffle the deck and deal it out… and everything that happens depends both on how those cards fall and the reactions of each player at the table. Some things are under your control while others are a matter of chance. However, if you remain calm, examine every aspect of the hand as it plays out, choose your moves wisely, and believe that everything will work out as it should, it will. Last week was a perfect example.

I awoke Monday morning to an email from an author who’s children’s book I translated from English to Spanish in rhyme. The author had gotten my copy proofread by a friend and she now wanted to call me the Spanish Interpreter and her friend the Spanish Translator. I was livid, but I knew better than to respond while in that state. I’m a Sagittarius – a fire sign. Calm is not an emotion I feel on a deeper level very often. However, I try not to play “on tilt” or while “steaming” on the felt or in life. There’s a reason those terms are used to describe players when they’re frustrated or angry and letting it affect their game: because experience has shown that it doesn’t work out well.

So, I whined to my parents about the dilemma, spent a few hours searching for sea glass on the beach and sorting my thoughts, then attempted to write a response. I still wanted to say, “How dare you make me share my title with her?! She’s just a proofreader!” Instead, having not yet seen the revised copy which could reveal that my translation was full of errors (despite the fact that I too had it proofread), I said, “I’m confused about why I’m being asked to relinquish my title to someone who seems to be playing the role of editor/proofreader…” and that I would really like to see the revised copy. Rather than bully the author with a response equivalent to a pot-sized bet, I checked and asked to see the next card.

Tuesday morning I received the pdf of the new Spanish version of the book. It seemed like all my worst fears had come true. It was full of errors for which “typo” seemed too kind a word… and the author had written her friend’s name right after mine and the words “Traducido por”. We appeared like a team even though I was the one who had altered the Spanish translation to keep rhythm and rhyme. I was so upset I couldn’t imagine how I was going to respond again without being rude. That time it took nearly 36 hours, a lot of whining to friends and family about my dilemma, and a few suggested responses from my sister before I could stop steaming and pick my next move.

I decided the best way to be kind (bet small) was to pretend that the majority of the mistakes were merely typos and to find a way to focus on something bigger. I decided to try not to say anything mean about the editor as I still had no firsthand knowledge of what she was like and I had noticed at least a few spots where I agreed with her corrections. I remembered that, while you might need to bully your fellow poker players to learn about their hand, in life people are often more than willing to answer your questions.

So, I began by trying to determine if they’d edited the book with items of concern to me in mind. Did the editor know the story was supposed to rhyme? Had the author requested the editor ensure my language wasn’t too formal and accidentally allowed slang terms in her book? I then gave examples of places where I felt the changes made were unnecessary and unfavorable because they took out rhymes. I offered to edit my copy one more time, but said we might need someone else to double check the final copy if we wanted to be 100% sure there were no grammar errors. I admitted I could see spots where good corrections had been made, but said there were so many mistakes in it now that I wouldn’t want my name on it at all… and that she did not have permission to use my new rhyming, non-literally translated lines without my name… and that I was not okay with the editor being listed as co-translator.

Thursday morning I got a (forwarded) email “from” the editor saying she would be happy to meet with me to go over the changes in person – an option I’d thrown in at the end of my email, but wasn’t too eager to pursue unless she proved to be more educated than she currently appeared. Her response said she was a certified translator and would be happy to show her resume, but I couldn’t forget the fact that the book was a mess. Furthermore, the author hadn’t responded to my concerns about my title. So, I prodded her. I said that I needed a response on “the co-translator vs. sole translator” concern before I did any more work on the project.

The hours ticked by slowly once I pressed send on that final email. I was worried I’d pushed too hard (bet too big), but also that I might have to take things further in order to stand up for myself. I began to cave in to the fear that I would have to investigate my legal rights to these new lines. I wanted to stay calm and behave as if I knew everything would work out, but I couldn’t stop worrying about what move I would need to make next. I didn’t want to take things to the next level, but I would if I had to.

That evening, the author called. She said she wanted to apologize and that everything was her fault. She had typed up the draft from the editor’s handwritten notes and failed to show her the pdf  before she sent it to me. All the things I’d decided to pretend were typos actually were.

Next, the author explained why she wanted to call me the Spanish Interpreter: because I had done far more for her than the average translator and she felt this work deserved a different title, a better one. She was very grateful for the special care I had taken with her work and wanted to be sure that was reflected in the credits just as much as I did. She also happily agreed to list her friend as the editor, not the translator, and said that the editor herself had never asked for published credit and had acknowledged long ago that our roles were quite different.

On Saturday, when I received the corrected draft, I was reminded of another good reason to play nice in life: so people will be kind back when you screw up. It turned out I had forgotten to translate an entire page, but the author kindly suggested the possibility that she might have overlooked it in the files when she informed me of this fact. Everything had worked out just as it should. What went around, came around. I’m not sure if I’ll worry less the next time I’m faced with a challenge of similar proportions, but for once I think I stand a chance. After all, the title of the children’s book I translated is “Everything Changes, Including Me” and I don’t think I’ll forget how beautifully this all worked out anytime soon.

My Game: Short on Cash, Full of Hope

It was not long after I had my heart broken two months in a row by two different men and just before I had to humiliate myself and ask my dad to lend me more money to pay my bills that I risked and lost the rest of my bankroll. I thought I’d been sent a sign that my luck was changing. I thought February 11th was the day. I thought I was going to win… or at least place high enough to win half my bankroll back as I’d done on Christmas Eve… but, instead, I left with nothing but the feeling that perhaps I’m not playing the games of poker, life, or love as well as I thought.

I berated myself for thinking that, at least sometimes, I play better poker when feeling down and out in life. I kicked myself for thinking that my game improves when I’m down to a chip and a chair. I ate junk food when feeling too lazy to cook. I let the dust and clutter (which had taken a lot of help to clear out in the winter) begin to accumulate once again. I played a lot of free poker on Poker Stars. Eventually, I visited my backer and told him I’d lost our cash. Unlike my own reaction, he was not upset with me for a single moment and still believes I can find a way to make my dreams come true.

When the time came to admit to my dad that I needed his help once again, I had begun to fear that I had gone too far. I didn’t want to give up on my dreams, but if I couldn’t find a way to support myself, I would feel like I needed to. I let myself dread the moment for so long that I ended up leaving my dad a voicemail request that he make a deposit for me the next day. Thankfully, my father knows how hard I push myself and promptly deposited the loan and sent a heaping dose of love and well wishes along with it.

After a few additional unexpected gifts from friends floated into my life, seemingly to distract me from the despair I was still fighting over my struggle to pay the bills, it finally hit me. Although I thought I had been doing it all along, I wasn’t truly loving myself or believing in myself fully. I had failed to go all-in on my dream. Despite the fact that I technically had the time, I hadn’t spent much of my spare time pitching articles to magazines or trying to find more retail shops that want to sell my candles. I had continuously looked for jobs I didn’t love to help me keep the bills paid. Perhaps the reason I couldn’t find anything better than what I have is because I’m better at convincing others I will achieve my dream than I am at actually taking the steps to achieve it.

Still, I needed cash fast… and writing gigs don’t pay right away… and it’s harder to sell candles in the Spring and Summer because people burn more candles when it’s cold outside. So, I took a sales job through Craigslist… because I finally found something that sounded fun… and it was great… for about a month.

Then, suddenly, I realized that, if I spent as much time and energy promoting my own products in the days to come as I’d spent in the previous month promoting someone else’s, perhaps I could finally find success. Perhaps I’d finally spent enough time worrying, brooding, planning, and preparing. Perhaps that time had been more fruitful than I thought and I actually had been loving myself by indulging the stress of allowing my brain to spit out a plethora of problem solving ideas on all those difficult days. Perhaps creating and brainstorming were the best ways to show myself love then, it just wasn’t the case anymore.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to remember that I sold over $1500 in candles at A Crimson Holiday in La Cumbre Mall this past winter and find a few places open year round with similar earning potential. Now is the time to be proud of my newfound ability to translate children’s books from English to Spanish in rhyme and find the authors who need my services. Now is the time to wear my leggings to places that might be interested in buying a wholesale lot to sell. Now is the time to write the articles I’ve been mulling over for months and pitch them to the right publications.

Perhaps it was fate that I lose my bankroll (for now) because I had gotten distracted from everything else I was working on. Both life and the game of poker have a tendency to provide you with a metaphorical slap upside the head whenever you need it most. Now that I’ve recovered from mine, I’m excited to see what comes next. I think there’s a good chance it will be awesome and help me somehow find a way back to the felt. One good thing leads to another, right? Or, am I just thinking that way because I’m a gambler who’s short on cash, but full of hope and love?

Are You With Me?

As I tucked my latest winnings into my bankroll, safely separated from my everyday cash, it dawned on me that I hadn’t truly specified what I plan to do with my profits and, since you may think the number one reason I love poker is the potential of winning money, I figured it’s about time I tell you that you are wrong. While many people choose a career (at least in part) based on its income potential, I chose mine based on what I felt called to do by God. I can’t say that winning a jackpot wouldn’t bring me an immense amount of pleasure, but I can say that becoming rich is not my goal.

Playing poker has improved my decision making skills immeasurably and helped to make me brave enough to face the life challenges I confront on a daily basis in order to pursue entrepreneurial lifestyle I desire. Thus, the lessons learned while playing and the feelings that the game evokes are the reasons I most love the game. The money is just a means to an end, both for myself and all the other underdogs of the world. In my mind, I’m playing for all of us.

I have big plans for my bankroll. I want to turn my original $1,000 into $15,000+ for the 2017 World Series of Poker. I then hope to win enough to give my backer a hefty payday, make sizable donations to charity, and have plenty leftover to support my life as a writer and entrepreneur. In addition to my lofty goals for the near future, I have some more urgent needs from my bankroll – to pay some of my bills and provide my backer with enough rewards to not feel guilty about gambling with his money. So, I sketched a bankroll payout chart to envision how I can accomplish all of the above.

My first payday will come when my bankroll first goes over $2,500. I will take $300 and my backer will get $200. We will repeat this payout method for every $1,500 or so that the bankroll increases up to the $15,000 mark and then keep all “extra” cash in play through the end of the World Series of Poker. At the end of the series, my backer and I will split the winnings 60/40 and I will become a wholly independent player. Once I have some idea how much money I may have available to donate to charity – 10% minimum is the plan – I will reveal what causes I find most worthy and allow the public to help me decide who gets what.

So, there you have it. I am not your average player. I play to gather the information needed to write my novel. I play to become stronger and wiser. I play because I want to take money from “the rich” and give it to the poor. I play because God told me that is where I was meant to be. What I want to know is, are you with me? Do you believe in me yet?

Reading the Universe’s Game

Am I, or am I not, reading the world correctly? That is the question. I thought the universe was telling me to return to the felt, so I found a bankroll and got back to playing poker at the casino. The results have been mixed. I also thought I had found the day job I would keep until I became a full-time freelance writer… but I lost that job last week. I got into playing poker as an adult because I wanted to improve my people reading skills to the utmost degree and it feels as if now is the moment of truth. Is it possible that the only thing I needed to finish transitioning to my new path was the time to do so?

I was at the Laundromat last Tuesday when I missed a call from my boss from my day job and, soon thereafter, got a text asking if I could meet with him that night or the next morning before work. My gut immediately told me I was about to be let go, but I spent every minute until we were face to face convincing myself I was overreacting. Then it happened, just as my instincts had predicted. On the one hand, I was sad to lose a job at a place I enjoy very much. On the other hand, I was intrigued by how boldly and accurately my gut had spoken.

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Just five days prior, I’d had the magical experience of witnessing a monarch’s first flight at the job I would soon no longer have. Someone special had gifted me a chrysalis and I had been watching it grow in the window for more than a week. I held it for at least five phenomenal minutes as it stretched and dried it’s wings to prepare to soar, marveling at the fact it had only taken ten days to transform from caterpillar to butterfly. When I found myself at home with far more free time than expected, wondering what the immediate future will hold, I couldn’t help but think of that butterfly. Perhaps it was sent to show me that my caterpillar phase is complete – after a short hibernation, I will be ready to fly.

my-butterfly

So, for the past week, I have been attempting to split my time and efforts to fix my financial issues 50/50 between traditional and entrepreneurial methods. I created a Zazzle shop full of goods (playing cards, journals, reusable bags, leggings, and more – 58 items and counting) using the artistic texture images I’ve been selling on Shutterstock (600 background textures and counting). I am exploring various options for affiliate marketing that might be appropriate for this blog. (I aim to provide honest, quality product recommendations with links and refrain from adding pop ups or banners.) I have been working on querying more magazines with my article ideas. I am drafting serious marketing plans for Homemade by Hoyt in hopes of getting my products back on local stores’ shelves and into the hands of many more consumers. In between all of that, I am picking up extra barista shifts and applying for new jobs of all kinds.

So far, I’ve only sold one Zazzle order (Thanks, dad!) and one custom candle, but it feels like many more blessings are about to come. I have two other (potentially large) candle orders coming soon and I got scheduled to work at a catering event this Saturday at one of the many wineries within short driving distance of the casino (which seems like a sign in itself). Saturday is the tenth day since I was let go from my day job. The butterfly took only ten days to transform. Someone else is paying for my gas to drive to and from the casino on the tenth day of my transformation. I have a bankroll that’s been waiting around for me to feel unemotional enough to play. Thus, I will follow these signs and head to the poker table when I get off work this Saturday because that’s what I think you would want me to do. Am I right?

Call Me The Gold Digging Grinder

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Shortly after my IndieGoGo campaign failed miserably, people began asking me how I was doing at poker. Trying with all my might not to show my sorrow over the missed opportunity, I explained that I couldn’t afford to play. I had been unable to sell enough candles to afford the time off work to go to the tournaments that my backer had agreed to fund. The plan was void and my “game” was struggling to stay alive. What I didn’t say was that things had actually gotten worse for me. My hours were cut (again) at one of my jobs and I realized I would soon have to request yet another loan from my dad to keep my bills paid – an act which pains me like no other. At times, the most optimistic thought I could muster was, “You’ve hit rock bottom. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

I took a few days to wallow, then made myself get back to working as hard as possible to dig myself out of the muck. As I resumed juggling two jobs, occasional catering gigs, a candle business, and my writing career, I found myself feeling increasingly confident about my career path despite the lack of stable finances to prove it. After nearly twenty years in town with only two or three sightings, I crossed paths with three celebrities whose work holds meaning for me in a single week – The Dude, Dori, and P!nk. I took it as a sign to “Take it easy, man.” and “Just keep swimming!” knowing that, in loving myself because “no one could be just like me anyway,” I could, “light the world up for just one day,” each and every day I chose to show myself that kindness.

Lo and behold, I was finally right. As I walked taller, content with my status as a poor but published writer, happily bragging about my article in Santa Barbara Magazine (p. 108 – Perfectly Illogical) by day, it became easier to find inspiration to write and create Boxes of Flare by night. I bid on and secured a chance to write blog posts and case studies for a local company which does extremely interesting work (thanks to a referral from a friend). Then, thanks to my penchant for conversing with strangers, I stumbled into an astounding interview opportunity and felt my world begin to change and warp speed. I now have a collection of interesting information I must find time to pitch to the appropriate publications (as it is certain to take my career to the next level) and am amassing a list of people to interview next.

One week after I was showered with blessings by a group of Tibetan Monks (a story for another time… maybe), engrossed in my researching my next writing projects with every spare moment, it took me nearly fifteen minutes to realize I was sitting next to Kevin Costner – the man whose famous line, “If you build it, they will come,” had long been used to justify my multi-faceted approach to constructing a creative career. He caught me sneaking a peek at him and, to reassure him that I was merely looking because I’d recognized his voice and didn’t hear whatever was being discussed in his meeting, I added, “I’m a poker player.” before “It’s nice to meet you.” I realized how brightly I am now shining when I turned back to my phone while he chose not to end the conversation there. “Are you any good?” he asked with a smile. We chatted for more than a moment about poker and each of our writing careers, then went our separate ways. (Did you know Kevin Costner recently published a book – Explorer’s Guild? I didn’t know until he told me, but hope to check it out soon!)

The next night I went out to karaoke, heard that my local casino has a very big tournament coming up soon – $100,000 guaranteed prize pool – and began to think it might be time to make my move. A few days later, I went back to my backer and asked if he would still be willing to give me that bankroll he handed me a few months ago for the World Series of Poker. He said yes. So, this Friday, August 12th, on my 16 year un-anniversary, I will break in my new bankroll. It marks approximately 14 years since I got divorced and roughly 12 years since my dream to become a writer began. It seems like the perfect day to celebrate the fact I am finally (at least mostly – no one is perfect) the woman I always wanted to be.

You can call me The Gold Digging Grinder. (Click here if you don’t know what a grinder is in the poker world.) I don’t date men to get my hands on their money, but I metaphorically dig for gold every day. Whether I am working at one of the jobs that keeps me out of the house 40+ hours per week, informing designers about my handmade candles with custom colors, pitching my next article to a magazine or transcribing an interview, uploading more background texture photos to my Shutterstock portfolio, or (coming up soon) grinding for riches on the felt with my somewhat rusty poker skills, I give my all and seek to make each moment sparkle. My bankroll is not gigantic, but I believe it could be enough to launch a career. It feels as if I’m striking gold everywhere I discuss my writing career lately. It is time to take that luck and confidence to the felt.

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