Staff holidays photo

This issue, “10 Questions” takes a holiday slant, with your own CPA/SYNC2 Media staff. We hope you enjoy this time spent with CEO Jerry Raehal, Membership and Projects Specialist Russell Bassett, Office Manager Jean Creel, Lead Business Development Specialist Judy Quelch, Business Development Consultant Peyton Jacobson and Advertising Coordinator Randia Toledo:

1 – What was your favorite holiday tradition when you were growing up?

Jerry: For most of my life, every Christmas Eve my Grandmother would invite family and friends to her small home (which I’m sure was packed so full that we easily broke multiple fire codes). Each year, we had Butterball Soup. It’s a dish my Grandmother brought over from our German-Russian background. It’s like Chicken Noodle Soup, with big balls of breaded goodness intertwined. An Uncle would dress up as Santa to hand out gifts from Santa and the grandparents. Because the grandparents were buying gifts for well over 100 people, we would often get very similar gifts – a shirt but a different color – which would spark the annual tradition of whom the grandparents loved more based on the color of said shirt. I’m pretty sure Grandma loved me the most: I got blue shirts.

Russell: I don’t know that I had a favorite other than maybe sledding and just generally playing in the snow with family, but definitely had a least favorite, which was oyster stew. That was a tradition from my grandmother, and as I much as I miss her, I don’t miss that tradition. Used to struggle to keep from throwing up when I ate oyster stew every Christmas while growing up. 

Jean: I love so many things about Christmas, but my favorite holiday tradition has to be singing Christmas carols. I still love it. I’ve never been a particularly good singer – and don’t worry, I don’t start until the day after Thanksgiving (promptly), but I love Christmas music. There is an embarrassing amount of it on my iPod. When I was younger, the 4-H group I belonged to would go caroling at nursing homes. I also remember one year it was bitterly cold and we just stayed at someone’s home and sang Christmas carols – kids and adults of all ages, gathered around someone playing a piano, singing together. It’s hard not to romanticize memories like that.

Judy: Christmas stockings. Both my (maternal) grandmother and mother put a lot of effort into small, individually wrapped gifts for each person’s stocking. Opening the stockings could take almost an hour and some years would eclipse the gifts themselves.  

Peyton: The night before Christmas all the kids would open one present before going to bed and I was very impatient, so that was a nice teaser to start the holiday.

Randia: I am from Puerto Rico so the best tradition will be the celebration “Los 3 Reyes Magos” (The 3 Wise Men). 

2 – What new event or tradition will you celebrate this season?

Jerry: I do really bad magic tricks for my kids, which has prompted them to say that God and Santa Claus are more magical than me. This year, I might show them I’m more magical than Santa … and make him disappear.

Russell: Duck hunting. I get in a duck hunt or two every holiday season nowadays. 

Jean: This will be my daughter’s first Christmas, and I’m excited to share the holiday season with her. She is 10 months old; so far, a new tradition has been hanging most of the ornaments up higher on the tree, and I wrapped a bunch of old heavy books in diaper boxes and placed them around the tree as a perimeter.

Peyton: This will be my first Christmas out at my own place, so I’m going to make turkey for dinner – a tradition starting this year.

Randia: New in Colorado so will have to see what new tradition will come this season.

3 – Favorite holiday food or libation?

Jerry: Butterball Soup, though if I can convince my wife that Santa needs Cookies and Bourbon (Angel’s Envy, specifically) rather cookies and milk, that might be my new favorite.

Russell: Eggnog. Only time I drink it is during the holidays, but I sure do enjoy it during that time. 

Jean: I would not call it my favorite by a longshot, but lutefisk is a traditional holiday food where I’m from. Lutefisk means “lye fish,” which gives you an idea of what it tastes like. It’s always fun to get people from out-of-state to try it.

Judy: Yep – I’m that one person that eats, and actually LIKES, fruitcake, so feel free to send all unwanted, unloved, under-appreciated fruitcakes to me, c/o SYNC2Media, 1120 Lincoln St, Suite 912.

4 – Favorite holiday song, TV special and movie?

Jerry: “Silent Night” and “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” on TV and the movie.

Russell: “A Christmas Story” is my favorite movie. It has aged well, and I still think it’s hilarious even though I’ve seen it a dozen times or more. Favorite song is Winter Wonderland. Even though I am still not sure who Parson Brown is, tend to name snowmen built during the holidays that name. 

Jean: My family always watches “Christmas Vacation.” And how could the best Christmas song be anything other than “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey? That song is the best.

Judy: “Love Actually” – great movie!  Also “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

Peyton: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, no competition.

5 – Favorite holiday decoration?

Jerry: The ornaments my wife puts up each year from her childhood. Her parents gave her a special ornament every year as a child, and each year we put up the tree I love watching her look at each one and seeing the look on her face as she remembers something about that particular year or Christmas. It’s a tradition we’ve started with our kids.

Jean: My grandmother started buying me ornaments the year I was born and they bring me so much joy to hang up every year.

Peyton: White Christmas lights on houses.

6 – What character would you be in what holiday TV or movie classic?

Jerry: The Grinch.

Russell: John McClane in "Die Hard." Ha! I'm not near that cool. 

Jean: My sister and I are basically the sisters in “White Christmas,” minus the singing, dancing, tiny waists and blonde hair. Okay, basically they’re sisters and we’re also sisters, but for real – God help the mister that comes between me and my sister (and God help the sister that comes between me and my man).

7 – When you were a kid, what was the best gift you ever received and why?

Jerry: We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, and when I was a teenager I asked for a pair of cheaper Nike basketball shoes. I saw my parents come in with a shoe box but the box was from a Payless shoe store. My mom told me, “Sorry, we just couldn’t afford the Nikes.” Fast forward to Christmas Day: I unwrapped the gift, saw the Pro Wings box, and halfheartedly opened it. But there were the Nikes I had asked to receive. I hugged them (the shoes and my parents) like it was my firstborn child. My parents were really good at both misdirecting what the gift might be, but trying to get us at least one expensive (or at least expensive to us) gift each Christmas.

Russell: First BB gun for sure. Like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” all I wanted as a kid was an air rifle. 

Jean: When I was 13, I was given a portable CD player by my parents. I’m not even sure what the point of those was – if you so much as vigorously walked, the music would skip. But I loved it.

Peyton: I got tickets to Arrowhead Stadium to watch the Broncos play in Kansas City on Christmas Day, and that was by far my favorite.

8 – Now that you’re grown up, what has been the best gift you’ve received or given?

Jerry: I just love watching my family open presents each year.

Russell:  My family is big. With five siblings, their spouses, kids and kids’ kids, when we all get together it is more than 40 people, which makes buying presents problematic. We used to draw names, but now we don’t even do presents, so Christmas is when I buy stuff for myself that I couldn't justify the expense earlier in the year. This year I bought some new waders for duck hunting and a new ice auger for ice fishing, which was just what I wanted. 

Jean: Pardon the cheesy cliché answer, but the best gift on any holiday is spending it with people you love. I’ve spent many holidays away from my family and time together is something I value.

9 – What was the funniest gift you’ve ever received?

Jerry: A single serving pack of SPAM.

Russell: I’ve received some stuff in white elephant gift exchanges at friends’ parties that are R-rated that I won’t mention here, but at the time was pretty funny.

Jean: I didn’t give or receive this, but a signed picture of Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth, turned up during our office white elephant gift exchange. It’s still hanging in the office, and I’m definitely taking it home before letting anyone throw it away. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

10 – What do you wish for CPA members for the holidays?

Jerry: Health in all forms.

Russell: To know that you are appreciated and valued. There are very good reasons what you do is enshrined in the First Amendment. You're doing important work for your communities, and as always, keep calm and press on. 

Jean: I hope our members are able to enjoy the holidays with friends and/or family, and that they know how essential the work they do is for their communities and for a democracy. Good journalism really and truly matters.

Randia: Happy Holidays and lots of health!!