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Winning stuff can make me ‘smiech’

October 14, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

It makes me "smiech."

That's Polish for laugh, the phonetic pronunciation sort of like this - "schmee-atch."

It's about the only Polish word I have committed to memory in the years since I made the name switch from Hout to Kiaski.

I think of the word in situations that strike me ironically funny.

Take the other evening, for instance, when I'm at Taste of the County, a fundraiser for the United Way of Jefferson County.

I'm taking pictures, waiting for what's a big moment in the evening - photographing what lucky person will have a key to open this treasure chest and go home the winner of a beautiful diamond ring valued at about $4,500.

Turns out it's a lucky person all right - a 12-year-old middle school pupil who is the first one in line to try his key. Mind you, it's one of only eight keys out of a hundred that will even open the treasure chest to begin with.

Bingo! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a diamond ring winner.

I take his picture, offer my congratulations and "smiech."

And here I thought I was going to bring home the bling.

I should know better, given my history of not winning big ticket items or very many little ones for that matter.

But Lord knows I've tried.

My writing hand should be paralyzed for all the 50-50 tickets on which I have scribbled my name and phone number in hopes of my name being called.

Or the ones where I've abandoned printing and plastered instead those address labels that show up in the mailbox every other day, as plentiful as they are unsolicited.

I end up two or three numbers off on the drawings. Or a light year away. Rats.

I try to stay positive, though, telling myself everything's for a good cause, just not mine.

I "smiech."

Everyone wants to be a winner, you know.

I have experienced the thrill of being a door prize winner.

One time was especially exhilarating, an event a few years ago where almost everyone was winning something.

I started to feel lucky. Very lucky.

My name was called. Bingo.

I waved my arms in the air with the enthusiasm of a longtime island survivor welcoming at long last the rescue plane.

An event volunteer started to approach me, her hands cupped together with my hidden treasure.

The anticipation was great as my mind raced with the possibilities. Jewelry. Something from Bath and Body. A gift certificate. Candy. A stack of 20s. Hurry!

I was the kid on Dec. 25, ready to race down the stairs to claim my loot under the Christmas tree.

The volunteer stopped and presented with my prize. A ceramic frog. A very cute ceramic frog, mind you, but a ceramic frog.

My mother's words pierced my moment of shock.

Be a gracious gift receiver.

I accepted the frog, even wondered if I should kiss it.

It made me "smeich."

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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