is a foothills resident and former French teacher

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I don't smoke, drink or take illegal substances; however, I do admit to one addiction - entering drawings and contests.

The thrill of possibly winning the next big (or even small) one trumps every loss I've ever had.

Like many addictions, this one started innocently enough. Years ago, during our dog days of summer, some friends invited me to tag along on their weekly outing to the casino. It sounded like a fun afternoon, and I told them to count me in.

Once we arrived at our destination, my friend Laurie made a beeline to the poker table, while her honey, Sig, passed the time with a book. What was I going to do with the two to three hours stretching in front of me? I decided to try my luck at bingo.

As I entered the hushed bingo hall, a game was about to begin. Hundreds of people were seated in that room, some playing three to four cards at a time, all hoping for a chance to go home with cold cash on a hot summer day.

I was such a rookie at the game that a woman sitting next to me had to explain such configurations as small picture frame, kite and pyramid, even though they were diagrammed on the instruction sheet.

During the first six or seven rounds, winners were announced, including a few splits. The only problem was that I was not among them.

On the following game, my luck turned around. I only needed to fill one more square to win the $300 jackpot. That square was B2. I attached great symbolism to that number. If I won, Barbara (i.e. me), who was unattached at that time, would become a two. To my utter astonishment, the next number called was B2.

I went crazy, shouting "Bingo" at the top of my lungs. The next thing I knew, a man was slapping $300 in 20s into the palm of my hand. But the best part was that my bingo prophecy came to pass. Not too long afterward, I met Ben and indeed became a two.

A couple of years later, a second bingo miracle occurred. Ben and I had been traveling in southern France. One day in crowded Montpelier, I, the quintessential American tourist, wearing a hat, shorts and fanny pack, was pickpocketed. Before I could say, "Zut, zut et triple zut," thieves had opened my wallet, taken my passport and stolen about $200 in francs and dollars.

Like every person who has had possessions stolen, I was angry and felt violated. Gazing upward I told the universe that I was owed some money back. Sure enough, a few months later, I decided to test the justice of the universe. Although my bingo win of $80 fell short of my goal, I still felt vindicated after my loss.

These experiences led to Phase II: entering drawings and contests. They usually cost little or nothing to enter and can potentially reap great rewards.

I have failed to win a trip to Paris, a Corvette and high-end shoes, to name but a few. But I have won gift baskets, an iTunes gift card and tickets for the theater, restaurants and a film festival. My biggest win of all: $370 in August 2010 at the Mount Lemmon Music on the Mountain drawing.

Although winning is a lot more exciting than losing, there is a lot to be gained from entering a drawing or contest, no matter how things play out.

Most important is the life's lesson that you win some and you lose some. If you lose, you shed a few tears, vent to your friends and then get right back in the arena and try your luck at the wheel of fortune again, knowing it will eventually spin in your direction.

Not only that but until the final tally is in and the winner's name is announced, there is that hope against hope that maybe I'll be the lucky one.

Daydreaming while I'm waiting for the results, I picture myself on that exotic cruise to a French-speaking country, being able to give large amounts of money to my favorite causes, and even giving a friend that Coach purse she's been dreaming of that I just won. It's a heady feeling while it lasts.

One caveat: People should only invest as much money in contests, drawings and gambling as they can afford to lose.

On the rare occasion when I beat the odds and my name is called, the high is indescribable. I actually won something, even if it's as small as a shiny new yellow pencil. And that feeling's enough to keep me searching for the next drawing or contest. Anybody know of any good ones out there?

Barbara Russek welcomes comments at