Category Archives: Life Lessons

Life Is Like A Game Of Poker

I was all over social media (or at least more than usual) on Father’s Day this past Sunday. And no, I wasn’t searching for YouTube videos about funny, stupid, smart and/or inspirational dads.

I spent the day cheering on my husband, but not for the typical Father’s Day reasons. Don’t get me wrong, he is an awesome father to his 29 year old son and equally awesome stepfather to my 18 year old son (well, 18 in two days…Happy Birthday Nathan!) and 21 year old daughter.

So call me crazy but…I spent a day posting like, well crazy, in support of and his quest for one of these…

WSOP Gold Bracelet

That ladies and gentlemen is the coveted World Series of Poker gold bracelet and my husband, Stan, a long time poker player, went to Las Vegas to win one of these in their first ever WSOP Super Seniors Tournament. For years they’ve had a “Seniors” event which meant you had to be 50 and older, but to be a Super Senior?…65 and up baby! Stan happens to be 66 so this tournament, if he won, would have sort of eliminated the need for any AARP discounts moving forward.

This was actually his second time going to the WSOP. He was sent two years ago through the poker club he belongs to here in Tampa and made it through the first very long and grueling day which was highlighted by helping knock out a rather famous player, Barry Greenstein around midnight. Obviously he was on cloud nine going into Day 2 only to be smacked with a big dose of “that’s why they call it gambling” when the cards just weren’t stacked in his favor 19 minutes into play. 

He had to spend another day in Sin City dealing with his somewhat wounded pride. However, when he landed in Tampa my son and I were there at 1 am with this sign…Go Stan The Man

I know, I know…Wife Of The Year right?

Anyway, I know better than to actually go with him to Vegas. Way too intense not to mention way too hot in June and that’s coming from someone living in Florida. This is totally his thing except, of course, if he wins and then it’s totally our thing.

That being said, I’ve kind of picked up a thing or two about the relationship between poker and life as I have travailed the ups and downs of tournament play with Stan…figuratively speaking of course.

1. Believe in luck
krispy kreme

Yeah, you need mad skills to be good at poker, but there is most definitely some degree of luck involved. Stan’s may come in the form of something hot and sickly sweet but whatever makes you feel good/lucky in life that gives you an edge, go for it. Don’t let anyone ever take it away from you. I cannot tell you how many detours to Krispy Kreme we have made through the years. I personally would choose something that can’t be inhaled in less than 30 seconds, but welcome to #lifewithstan.

2.  Age is just a numberyoung whippersnapperWhile Stan may have been the “young whippersnapper” in the crowd, our society, for the most part, considers him “old”. However, I choose to believe he never would have had the stamina to be at WSOP if he let his chronological age dictate his behavior.  Same goes for this guy, Russell Moncrief.

Russell Moncrief

He may have motored around the Rio Hotel and Casino in a scooter but still, come on…HE IS 92 AND COMPETING IN WSOP!!!

3. Take chancesWSOP 2015 Super SeniorsPoker is not for the faint at heart and walking into a giant room of approximately 1500 people can be intimidating, but if you aren’t willing to “go all in” every once in awhile you will never win whether at poker or life in general. Stan is a gambler by all counts. Seriously, he left a very safe job 21 years ago and started OJ Mortgage. Trust me, the mortgage industry is not a safe bet by any stretch of the imagination.

If you’ve read this far and were waiting for me to announce that Stan even got through the first day, sorry to disappoint. I received this text about 6 hours into play.Stan has left the building


I spent the next 45 minutes on the phone with him doing some consoling but mostly trying to get him on a flight home the next day. No sense in continuing to put salt on that WSOP wound. Besides, this adorable thing was waiting for him at home…Come Home Papa Stan

What better consolation prize could a person ask for?

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !Poker as a sport


Proud to be joining this week’s #MidlifeLuv Linkup hosted by Kimberly Montgomery of Fifty Jewels and Elena of Living With Batman. Check it out…I promise it won’t hurt 🙂

#MidLifeLuv Linky


Filed under Call Me Crazy, Life Lessons, Random Stuff

Camp Jenny: How One Weekend Can Change Your Life

I spent this past Memorial Day Weekend eating mediocre food (no offense to those that prepared it…it was what it was), sleeping on essentially a piece of wood and feeling like I was never going to feel or smell clean again but it was the best Memorial Day Weekend ever!

I had the honor and pleasure to participate as a volunteer at Camp Jenny, a 4 day camp experience for students from F.L. Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta on the URJ-Camp Coleman property in Cleveland, GA. I made mention of it in a blog back in February after my daughter had won a film festival award for her documentary, Earning Jenny, about this absolutely amazing program. And as I said then, it was definitely a #ProudMama moment. (If you would like to view the video, please send a request by clicking here. I promise it is worth 7 minutes of your time.)Earning Jenny on Vimeo

So call me crazy but…I thought I really knew and understood everything about Camp Jenny after hearing all of my daughter’s stories upon returning home every Memorial Day Weekend for 6 years…all 4 years in high school as well as after her freshman and sophomore years in college. Seeing her go through the process of creating the documentary and watching the end result?…Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible to get any more emotional about it.

Clearly I was wrong because when the buses pulled up to over 270 screaming teenage counselors and adult staff (yes, that’s 120 more counselors and staff than campers) and those kindergarten through fifth grade kids are just in awe of what is unfolding in front of them, I became an absolute puddle of tears.

Camp Jenny Buses Arrive
My daughter did warn me. And so did all of the Camp Jenny leadership, especially during the 24 hours prior to the campers arrival. They also warned us that many of these kids have never left Metro Atlanta, some haven’t even left their neighborhood and most are more afraid of the woods than they are of the dangerous streets they cross every day to get to school.11329765_911385358903184_5085171261819523805_n

So it was our responsibility to make sure they all felt safe…

…from the time they got off the bus on Friday when many would be crying because they were homesick or simply afraid of the unknown

…until the time they got back on the bus on Monday when they would be crying because they didn’t want to leave after having so much fun or sadly, for some, because of the reality of what is waiting for them back home sets in.

David Haller, the first director of the program when it was established in 1988 and still a very active part of the leadership team, took us through it’s history on the eve before they arived and outlined the four simple yet powerful goals…Camp Jenny GoalsThere is no doubt we set the groundwork to meet #1 and #2 in the years to come. They already have 28 years of documented proof that they have, in fact, not only improved but drastically changed the direction of so many children’s lives, children that insist the days they spent at Camp Jenny between the ages of 5 and 10 gave them the confidence and strength to overcome the odds of growing up surrounded by things like drugs and drive by shootings, get through high school, go on to college and lead very successful lives.10931171_911388795569507_3987769863272336546_n

Think about it…even if one child earns the opportunity to go every year they will have spent a total of 24 days at Camp Jenny over the course of their elementary school years. So what if that one child goes on to get a full scholarship at Stanford and do stem cell research? Yeah, that happened…all because of Camp Jenny. Impactful for sure!10958795_911952175513169_4774674190361311500_n

I grew up never having to think for a minute whether there would be food on the table, clothes on my back and a roof over my head so there is no way I can ever really know what it is like for these kids on a day to day basis.  But I can certainly imagine it and that, of course, breaks my heart.

At the same time, my heart was overflowing with joy as I watched the kids learn something cool about science…

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Climb a rock wall for the very first time and get to the top…11068384_911388475569539_2827727956525761895_n

Participate in an activity about supporting one another…
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Run around on a big field of soft grass…barefoot…in bathing suits…getting soaked by buckets of water…11330047_911389688902751_672817623916480351_n (1)

And learn how to make superhero super muffins and fruit burritos…

11329905_911390268902693_6694378623161610065_nI spent two full days as a cooking specialist and while that certainly isn’t a stretch for me in terms of the skill set required, I really had no idea how exhausting it would be to have one group after another come through the tiny kitchen. I was so fortunate to have 3 younger staff members there to truly own it. They were absolutely amazing with those kids. If you are reading this Lexi, Daniel and Roni…thanks from the bottom of my heart. Even though it took for us to run out of butter for you to believe that the muffins would, in fact, taste better with mashed bananas as a replacement (and essentially cut all of the fat out of them), I think you are all SUPER! That said, remember…#mamaknowsbest 🙂20150523_110627

I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t give a huge shoutout to all counselors who totally brought serious energy and enthusiasm to the activity. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to get excited about baking powder …but they did…and that filtered down to the campers for sure!

You know what else filters down to the campers? The theme chosen for the weekend. This year it was Be Your Own Superhero. They made it very clear to the campers that you don’t need a cape or a mask to be your own superhero but they certainly looked adorable “flying” around camp in ones made by their counselors and they got to decorate.11377395_911955328846187_2465898647680067151_n

And channeling their superhero powers…WOOSH!

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The counselors, of course, were all about the costumes…


These are high school kids giving up not only their Memorial Day Weekend but also for a few seniors attending their graduation ceremonies. The co-directors, chosen by their peers via an election at an annual convention for the National Federation of Temple Youth – SAR and STR Regions, work tirelessly all year to make sure every T is crossed and every I is dotted.

Remember the goals above? #3, build a generation of young leaders, is absolutely in motion.

#4 from that list of goals? Improve our own lives? Well, I was on my way to dinner last night when I saw that my daughter had tagged me in a Facebook post. She rarely does that so I was obviously very curious and then cried as I read these words…

One final shoutout to my mom, Beth Blacker for going in my place. It meant so much to me that you were finally able to experience what it’s all about!

If that doesn’t improve a mother’s life I don’t know what will.

Actually, her being there with me next year would be a fantastic improvement. Unfortunately she couldn’t make it this year. She’s in the midst of working on her senior film thesis so college took precedence. Her spirit, though, was definitely felt and I’m thinking my name tag should have just said “Jamie’s Mom”…I can live with that!

Possibly the only thing that could improve upon my Camp Jenny experience and, in turn, my life would be to have my son and husband join me and my daughter and make it the ultimate family affair. I was so jealous of the other parents there with their kids. At various points in time I was definitely “adopted” by them especially these three families and I really can’t thank them enough.20150525_081556 (1)

The mothers all met at Camp Coleman and have remained friends through the years. Their children essentially grew up together despite living in three different cities and all very much embody what Camp Jenny is all about.

Suffice it to say Camp Jenny not only improved, but changed my life. My brain absolutely has not shut off since I left two days ago with thoughts of how amazing it would be if there could be hundreds of programs exactly like it around the country. I know some do exist but I’m hard pressed to believe they have quite the intensity I felt.

To all of those incredible children, I wish you a wonderful summer and best of luck earning the opportunity to be back for #CJ2016. For those that have “aged out”, as announced during the closing circle on Monday, you can return to Camp Jenny in high school as a counselor. So do what I’ve always said to my kids…make good choices and make your parents proud!

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut!







Filed under Call Me Crazy, Great Causes, Life Lessons

Winning Isn’t Everything: Lessons From The Soccer Field

This past weekend marked the end of my son’s soccer career. The competitive team he has been playing on since fifth grade lost all 3 games in the second round of the Florida State Cup.

No, that wasn’t fun, especially when you consider 2 of the 3 games were about 150 miles away…one game at 8 am on Saturday and the other at 2 pm on Sunday with his senior prom smack dab in the middle on Saturday night.  Several of his teammates also went to prom so, suffice it to say, it was a very long weekend.

I suppose there are some that would have forfeited going to the prom if it would jeopardize a potential win and opportunity to move on to the next round. I am just so glad that the team, as a whole, never created that culture or projected that mindset. As the coach said after the loss on Sunday, he appreciated our “low expectations”.

Don’t get me wrong, they always played to win and they were a good team over the past 8 years if you look at their win-loss record. However, by the time they were all in high school I don’t think any of the boys anticipated they would go on to play in college and/or professionally.

Call me crazy but…does it really matter if you win or lose? I believe participating in a sport ultimately needs to be about how you mindfully play a game on a field which, in turn, should determine how you mindfully play the game of life off the field and hopefully make you a great human being.

Win or Lose

All that said I have a confession to make…I didn’t understand why it was even necessary to play the Sunday game. I mean, the chances of going on to the next round were so slim…like paper slim. It would have taken a miracle and major planet alignment. So why not sing a round of “Know When To Fold ‘Em”, save us all the hassle and just forfeit in advance?download (5)

Enter my very wise friend Sarah who played soccer through college and just completed the MBA program at The University of Florida in her late thirties. She did it while maintaining a full time job as a regional director for a pharmaceutical company so she travels a lot for work. Some weeks she is gone Monday-Friday. But without fail, one very intense weekend a month for over two years she made her way to Gainesville from wherever she was to attend classes all day Saturday and Sunday.  And the remainder of the month when she wasn’t working she was slammed with assignments and group projects. She has an amazing work ethic!

So, when we were together this past Saturday afternoon, I mentioned to her my thoughts about just forfeiting the game the next day given their chances of winning and moving on, how tired most of them would be as a result of going to prom and no doubt staying up most of the night plus the distance required to travel to the game.

Why bother?”, I said.

She looked at me and said, “What are you…crazy?

Ummmm….hello…Beth Blacker Call Me Crazy

Anyway, she proceeded to reprimand me (it’s ok…I deserved it) about the fact that if I allowed my son to think it was ok to forfeit I was essentially telling him it’s ok to never complete a task or job if the outcome is a foregone conclusion. And, she advised me based on her years of playing, by forfeiting, there really was no way to determine the intended opponent’s true ranking in the tournament.  In other words, the actual point totals and not necessarily just who won or lost the games on Sunday were equally significant.facepalm

Yep, I deserved that big smack in the head.

I’ve always prided myself on being very driven and highly motivated. And I rarely have backed away from anything. In fact, I knew the odds were so stacked against me starting a baked goods company a few years ago that I subsequently shut down this past January.

That said, I never wanted anyone to tell me not to think the impossible could happen even when I had gone through 2 brokers and 3 manufacturers to try to launch a product nationwide. I still hired a third broker in the hopes that the planets would, in fact, align and we’d find the perfect co-packer. As many of you know, it didn’t happen but every phone call, email, meeting and sample run were all necessary whether we ever made it to retail shelves or not.

So what was up with my lapse in judgment this weekend?

I guess this is the point where I should probably tell you I have never been a very good soccer mom. I mean I understand all of the benefits for exposing children to sports but I don’t enjoy them myself. My idea of an athletic feat as a kid was tackling the key recipes in my mom’s dog-eared Betty Crocker cookbook.

I tried not to impose my lack of interest in knowing the difference between a goal and corner kick on either of my kids, but the fact remains I was not all that engaged through the years. The majority of the times the team traveled overnight my son went with his father. Being divorced, I had a hard time justifying us both paying for gas, meals, hotel rooms, etc. I’m not cheap, just practical.

Besides, I do have an older daughter who until she went to college did not necessarily need to forego her weekends to be 200 miles away watching her brother play. Or at least that’s my opinion.

Oh and did I mention I also had a business that required attending a lot of weekend events as well as helping my husband when his mortgage company exhibited at home shows around the state? So trust me, I wasn’t sitting at home eating bon bons.

I know I’m in the minority in my thinking about competitive sports but you totally lose me when parents get more worked up about the game than their kids. I guess they live by this famous quote…

Vince Lombardi Winning Isn't Everything

Me?…not so much.

And don’t even get me started with the crazy rules including the new “no water break” one here in Florida. Apparently someone has decided that our entire state is at a competitive disadvantage when teams travel out of state because nowhere else do they allow hydration.

That’s 40 minutes on either side of a 5 minute halftime…in Florida…you know, where it feels like 120 degrees most of the year on any open field…with no water?

Again, call me crazy but…THAT’S INSANE!!!!

Seriously, I thought my son was going to pass out two weeks ago when the humidity level was especially high and it was only 10 am. I was getting lightheaded just sitting on the sidelines

…under an umbrella


And that ladies and gentlemen is why I think despite my brain fart this past weekend, I try to always look at the bigger picture with my respect to raising my kids. I know, overall, I am good mom…or as I like to say…the best mom I know how to be. I will never be able to distinguish when a player is off sides, but I have tried to instill great values in both of my kids and thought the best lesson I could teach them in doing anything was to just always try to do their personal best and, of course, see it through until the end.

So the bottom line? I was never going to relish the 6 hours of total travel time that my son undoubtedly was going to sleep through for a two hour game that I pretty much knew there was a minuscule chance of winning (think as small as a speck of dust).

But I have to say, they gave it their all with exactly the right expectations and the right mindset.  And to snap this photo after the loss clearly shows just how much.


No frowns, no pouty faces…just a bunch of goofy guys who played to win but happened to lose…and got to celebrate the loss with donuts to really take everyone full circle to the days when they were 8 or 9 and there was always some sweet treat and Capri Suns after a game. My son told me last night that this photo is probably his all time favorite of the team. He thinks it shows the “fun” in their dysfunction. Score one for the anti-soccer mom !

They were, indeed, a GREAT team…win or lose on the field…and will no doubt continue to individually be great off the field as they move on in life and hopefully be remembered for a lot more than a bunch of soccer games.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut!


Filed under Call Me Crazy, Life Lessons, Parenting