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How Winning the Lottery Changed My LifeWINDFALL: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
By Sandra Hayes
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Sandra Hayes
All right reserved.
On December 5, 2007, my fiancé Charles and I were sitting on the sofa in my den watching television. We were anxiously waiting to watch the reality show Million Dollar Christmas, which was a two-part show that featured four out of the thirteen winners of the April 2006 Missouri Powerball drawing. I was going to be featured on part two of the show.
While watching the show, I was disappointed with how they told my story. The reason for my disappointment was that the show was supposed to contain heartfelt and heartwarming stories about our first Christmas as Millionaires. At least that's what the executive producers pitched when they sold us the idea for the show. It was that pitch and the producers' warmth that made me want to do the show. I wanted the experience of making a reality show, and I wanted to make my friends and family, who were a part of my life, a part of this reality show.
Even though my fiancé Charles loved the show, I was disappointed with how it had turned out. They had turned my story into something controversial. It was not heartwarming. I did not like some of the issues the show focused on.
Of the four stories, mine seemed to get the biggest reaction from the public. I received both positive and negative feedback from people across the United States.
In this book, I will tell you about the love I received and the hate, the hopes, and the regrets that come with a life-altering change. After reading this book, perhaps you will be able to answer this question. Is winning the lottery a blessing or a curse?
Chapter TwoTHE STORM
One day in early March 2006, I was really down. I was feeling tired, not just physically tired, but emotionally and spiritually. I admit it—I was really feeling sorry for myself.
I was scared about finances. Scared because I was about to complete my second master's degree. My yearly salary was not enough to pay back the loan without going into debt. Even though I had a job that I loved, I was making less than $26 thousand a year. I was worried because I knew I would have to work two jobs in order to pay off my student loans. Due to my health problems, I felt that I could not work a second job. I have discoid lupus, a chronic illness.
I was diagnosed with lupus in 2005. Lupus is a chronic illness that can affect your organs, muscles, and joints. Lupus often mimics other illnesses, making you believe, for example, that you have the flu when in fact you do not. When you get sick, you really get sick. I also experience involuntary muscle spasms, which are very embarrassing. My lupus symptoms are worse in the winter. Coldness is my enemy. I have to be in a warm environment.
Stress also triggers episodes of lupus. In 2006, I was under a lot of stress and I was sick a lot. I often prayed that my lupus would go away. Because of this chronic illness, I would often miss work or come in late. This is the reason I felt I could not work a second job. How many employers would work with me when I was experiencing a lupus episode?
In addition to my financial worries, I was a divorcée and had no relationship or husband to help carry the weight. I wanted the Lord to bless me with someone who was real, who was my friend. I prayed for a man who would truly love me for who I was. I wanted a man who would appreciate me—a man who would stand by my side through sickness and in health.
God listens and does answers prayers.
That day, I had a long talk with the Lord and I stated my case to him. I thanked him for my home. I thanked him for helping me raise my children as a divorced, single mother. I thanked him for blessing me with my job.
My job at the time allowed me to help many people—children and families—but I reminded the Lord that I had unsuccessfully tried to get a promotion at work and had even applied for better paying jobs, both within the state government and with various employers. I told the Lord that I knew he loved me and had the best in store for me. Man may let me down, but you, God, have always had my back. Please help me. I thank you. Amen. I poured out my heart to God and rested my case. I needed a financial blessing. Little did I know the Lord had a reason for keeping me right there at that job.
I realized that day that you have to be grateful for the things you have in life. I have had many positive people in my life who love me and are very supportive of me. Some of those people are gone now but not forgotten. I truly miss them.
After I poured out my heart to God, I felt relieved, and I actually felt better. My spirit was lifted.
The truth was always within me. All my life, I have been strong and a fighter. For example, I used to be active in the union as a shop steward, at both the state level and the federal level. I have never been afraid to stand up for my rights or the rights of others.
My lupus did not stop me from working a second job to pay back my student loan. That's what a strong person does: she makes lemonade from lemons.
Chapter ThreeTHE SWEET RAY OF LIGHT
In the second week of March 2006; a coworker told me that people in my office were pooling their money together to play the lottery and asked me to join them. I was surprised because I had never been asked to participate before. Since no one had ever asked me if I wanted to play, I had to ask who was in charge of collecting the money. My coworker told me who was in charge and I went to him and told him that I wanted to join the lottery pool. He apologized to me for not having included me before, saying, "We forget about you being in the back." His cubicle was in another room in the front of the office, while mine was in the back. He assured me that the next time they played; he would make sure I was asked, too. He told me that the office only plays the lottery when the pot is big.
The next week, which was the third week of March 2006, I was sitting at my desk eating my lunch when I was asked by a coworker if I wanted to play the lottery. I said, "Yes", and handed the person one dollar, which I thought was the normal amount people played. My coworker who was collecting the money told me that everyone was putting in five dollars so we could buy lots of tickets. I gave him the five dollars to play and continued to eat my lunch.
Chapter FourTHE WINDFALL
It was Thursday morning, April 13, 2006. I normally watch the morning news while I am getting dressed for work. That morning, I was running late, so I did not watch the news. I normally left for work by 8:00 a.m. in order to arrive at work by 8:30. This particular morning I had overslept, so my regular morning routine was thrown off track. The clothes I had laid out to wear to work the night before were brand new, and I had not tried them on before buying them. To my surprise, they were too tight, but I did not have time to change into another outfit.
As I was combing my hair, my telephone rang. I thought about ignoring the call because I was running late, but I reluctantly answered the telephone. The caller was my supervisor. She apologized to me for calling my home and asked me what time I was coming in to work. She said she needed to talk to me. I felt a lump in my throat. My supervisor had never called my home before. I told her that I would be leaving my house in about five minutes. She said, "Okay," we said good-bye and hung up.
I was about to leave my home fifteen minutes later when my telephone rang again. I answered, "Hello?"
"You haven't left for work yet?" It was my supervisor again.
"I am leaving right now," I replied.
I was beginning to worry. I thought I had been laid off and was bracing myself to receive bad news. My supervisor anxiously said, "I have something to tell you." She then asked me to have a seat. She asked me if I was sitting down and I lied and told her, "Yes."
She then asked me if I had watched the news that morning. When I replied "no," she then told me I had won. I asked her, "Won? Won what?" I had no idea what she was talking about. She replied, "The lottery!"
I went completely numb. I was in a state of shock. I felt totally weak, like I was on a supernatural high. I was floating on cloud nine. I saw purple elephants flying past me, rainbows forming, and waterfalls falling. "Hello?" My supervisor interrupted my thoughts.
I said, "What?"
She said, "Did you hear what I just said to you?"
I replied, "Yes I did."
She then asked me was I still coming to work. I replied, "Yes I am."
Before I got out the door, my youngest daughter called me on my telephone. When I picked up she said, "Hi mom." Before I could say hello, she asked me, "Did you know a group of social workers won the Powerball at your job?" She said, "My God, everyone at my job is talking about it."
When she got no reply, she asked, "Mom, did you play the Powerball yesterday?"
I replied, "Yes I did."
"You are kidding, right?"
I told my daughter, "No, I am not kidding."
She repeated, "Mom? You're kidding."
I told her again, "No baby, I am not kidding."
All I heard after that was my daughter screaming, "We're rich! We're rich! We're rich! Um, I mean you are rich!"
We hung up and almost immediately, the telephone rang again. This time when I answered, it was my best friend Pam, who was also my coworker. She said, "San, where are you?"
I replied, "I am trying to get to work."
She said, "San, don't you know that you won the lottery?"
"What?" I replied, "No!"
She said "You've got to be kidding, home girl."
I told her, "No, I am not kidding."
She then asked me, "Didn't you look at the news this morning?"
I innocently told her I hadn't. She then asked me if I wanted her to come over to my house to pick me up. She jokingly said that she would pick me for a hundred dollars. I told her no, thank you; I could drive myself to work. She then informed me that when I came to work that I would need to go into my office manager's office because the Lottery Commissioner was at the office waiting to meet the winners. So she commanded me, "Hurry up and get to work!"
I was halfway to work when my cell phone rang. it was Pam again asking me where I was. I said, "I am halfway there."
She responded, "They're all waiting for you; hurry up and get here".
A few minutes later I pulled into the parking lot at work. I looked around and observed that the lot was unusually empty. I then got out of my car and entered the building.
I went through the entrance door and walked down the hall and through the employee entrance door. I was walking down an empty hall when suddenly the door to my department opened.
A group of my coworkers were running toward me, screaming loudly. They grabbed me and pulled me toward my cubicle. One of my coworkers began rubbing my back—she said it was for good luck—and another one pinched me.
Out of habit and disbelief, I immediately went into my cubicle to put my purse away. My girlfriend Pam came to my cubicle to escort me to the supervisor's office. My supervisor asked me very excitedly if I understood what was going on.
I told her, "No."
She then said, "I guess you think we are kidding?"
I told her, "Yes, I do." She then escorted me, along with my best friend, to my office manager's office.
When we arrived, my office manager had just gotten off the telephone. He was smiling and blushing. I believe he had tears of joy in his eyes. When I saw his reaction, I knew it was not a joke. At that point, a mix of emotions came over me. I remember a feeling of relief and excitement. Then feelings of euphoria hit me. At one point, I thought I was going to faint, but I did not.
Chapter FiveTHE CLAIM
The winners who reported to work that day (a few of the lottery winners quit their jobs that day), were met by the Director of the Missouri Lottery in the office manager's office. That director informed us that there were reporters at Huck's, the convenience store where the ticket had been purchased. He said that they would be showing up at the office soon and that we needed to get away from that office as soon as possible. The lottery ticket had to be validated first.
Those of us who reported to work that day left the child support office and went to the attorney's office. I was still in a state of shock. I felt like a zombie. Fortunately, I did not have to drive to that attorney's office. I couldn't drive. I forgot how to. Luckily, one of the coworker lottery winners asked me to ride with her, and I did.
We had to have the winning ticket legally validated before we could let the news media know who the winners were. The person who had actually purchased the ticket was not at work that day. (I believe he quit his job.) He did, however, come to the office to let the lottery winners know that he had the winning ticket. He had kept it in a safe deposit box. As I recall, that safe deposit box was located at his bank. His friend directed us to an attorney's office in Clayton for legal guidance. We were lucky because that attorney also hid us from the reporters who were on the hunt for those of us who knew about our windfall.
We stayed at the attorney's office until the winning lottery ticket was validated. The winners who were not at work showed up there. A representative of the Lottery Commission was also present.
What does "validate" mean? It means the Lottery Commission has to verify that the winning lottery ticket is real.
As we arrived at the attorney's office, we sat outside his conference room. We were waiting for the word to enter the conference room. I remember hearing many cell phones ringing, including mine. The win from the lottery had spread. One of my many cell phone calls, in particular, was from a former state employee who called to ask me if I had heard about the group of social workers who had won the lottery. I told her yes. She asked me if I knew who they were. I told her yes. She then asked who. I asked her to guess. She jokingly said, "You!" We were laughing as we hung up our phones.
Shortly thereafter, we were invited into the conference room where we met the attorney who would give us advice. Mind you, this advice did not come free. It was my understanding that this attorney had experience with clients who had windfalls of money. He was excellent at answering our questions and explaining our situation to us. The attorney told us what we could expect from people, how our lives would change, and how this windfall would affect our lives forever. We were also advised that if we did not spend our money wisely, we could go broke within a few years.
The Missouri Lottery Commission representative informed us that we had to make a decision as to whether we wanted to get our money in a lump sum or have a twenty-year installment payout. I chose the lump-sum payment. We completed paperwork that stated how we wanted to receive our winnings.
Within a few hours, the winning ticket was validated. No winner owed back child support, so no liens were attached to the claim. If you owe taxes or back child support, the government takes money from your winning portion before you receive your check.
We were then declared the official winners of the Missouri Power Ball. We had won $224 million dollars. We were dubbed "The Lucky Thirteen."
Actually, one ticket was split between two people who had bought their tickets together. As a result, they each received half of their winning portion. Guess what? When you win the lottery, you do not get all of the money that was won. The federal and state governments get their money from your winnings before you even get the money. Then the merchant who sold the winning ticket gets his cut.
I was told that I would ultimately receive more of my actual winnings if I took the annual payments for twenty years rather than taking a lump sum, but I chose to take the lump sum. Most of the winners also took the lump-sum payment, with the exception of one of the winners. As far as I know, we are all still comfortable. Some of us went to school to earn degrees, some started businesses, and others moved out of Missouri.
At the end of the winning year, the government takes, takes, and takes. I remember my hand sweating and shaking as I wrote checks to the federal and state governments to pay the additional taxes I was told I owed at the end of 2006.
Paying those taxes was mandatory. I was used to receiving refunds, not paying out large lump sums of money. I was not used to writing checks that large, but I was too scared not to pay what the federal and state governments said I had to pay. This is why I hired an investment firm, a broker, and an accountant to help manage my accounts.
Excerpted from How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life by Sandra Hayes Copyright © 2011 by Sandra Hayes. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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