Separating Personal Self-Worth With Job Loss

My husband Jim showed me this piece of paper from his construction company that says he’s “necessary” just in case he gets pulled over for being on a job site. We kinda fake-laughed about it.

Nope, I don’t have such a paper. As a writer and marketer, it’s hard to feel “necessary” when my efforts aren’t driving revenue at the end of the day – although I keep on forgetting what day it is. But to be fair, even the best marketing and the best salespeople can’t generate income against an entire industry being shut down.

Sixteen million workers in America, are no longer producing for their companies, let alone bringing home the bacon for their families. I heard last night that one in ten Nevadans, my home state, are unemployed.

So many folks, for the first time in their careers, have filed for unemployment. And the rest of us still working are finding themselves wondering if their position will also be deemed “not necessary” or non-sustainable.

How do the unemployed and those holding their breath, put this into perspective and separate their personal self-worth with the loss of the job?

I caught up with Stephanie Somanchi, MBA, Ph.D., Raving Partner who specializes in Executive Coaching & Organizational Development and posed the following questions.

This is not about you, it’s about me … or is it really about me?

Stephanie, folks are being furloughed, some positions might be eliminated permanently. There’s going to be many that just may have to reinvent themselves as getting a job with a like company in the gaming industry won’t be there for a long time. They might be middle-aged and concerned about ageism on top of all that. How do you help folks like this deal with those doubts that they were let go because they just weren’t as valuable to the company as they could have been? What would you say to these people (um, okay, could be me … but I’m asking for a friend).

As the world has shifted so completely, it is important to remember that your value hasn’t changed in any way. Your value was never measured by what you did or how much you made, or the status of your job. Your value is innate, unquestionable and infinite. We often get it backward thinking that what we do gives us value. From your value you take action.

Your value is not in question. And from your unquestionable worth, you will find a way through this time. You will find answers that push your creativity to new levels. Your value, your innate worth is what is going to pull you through and what you create will be a by-product of you fully recognizing your true value. Self-doubt is a notice that you are believing the lie that what you did made you worthy. Your worth is already solid and from that place, you will find solutions.

That makes a lot of sense Stephanie and me and my friend feel better already. In your previous article, you mentioned that most of us feel better when we are in action mode … but we first need to acknowledge that we’ve experienced something pretty devastating. I believe you used the phrase, “WHAT THE BLOODY FLAMING HELL LEPRECHAUN EATING FOUL EXCREMENT IS THIS?!” After this acknowledgment, what is the right mindset and the positive action we can take to progress in a healthy manner?

One key that we must remember during this time is that we can’t simply wait around for life to return to normal before moving forward because we are in a brand new normal. Now is the time to pause and think about who you want to be in this new world. This time of shut down, where the world feels like it is on hold, is the time to try a new vision. This is the time to try on new ideas and new roles. Like most plans, the first version isn’t usually the one that sticks but if you’ve shifted to the mindset of change you’re going to be agile and forward-thinking and you’ll ride this wave of change to success. This is your opportunity for reinvention. It isn’t going to look like it did, so the risk in a new direction really isn’t that risky after all. It may just be your safest bet!

New Mindset
Much thanks to Stephanie for your wise and positive words. For all of our readers out there, we know that the world has changed forever … and that’s not just the end of the age-old casino buffet. In these times of change and hardship, please know that together, we will get through this. Together we will be a stronger industry and stronger individually. Let’s put on our thinking caps, maybe some new hats … you never know what opportunities lie ahead.

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How Working in the Dirt and Other Ideas Can Help You Through This Crisis

This past Sunday I took a big whiff of compost as I used my hoe to work it into my spring garden bed. To me, the combination of homemade compost, moist leaves that were set out in the fall, and just-tilled dirt, well, it’s aromatherapy. The weekend was about weeding my yard, raking up the final leaves from autumn and doing anything but thinking about the virus. And work. And shutdowns. And money. My phone was left inside.

I’m not burying my head in the sand; I just needed a break.

Every year I always have big plans around my suburban small garden – minimally the goal is that I don’t have to go to the store to buy trucked-in veggies. This year, it would be great to have enough to share more with neighbors.

It will still be a couple of months here in Reno before I’ll even get some greens, as it’s been lightly snowing all week; and not until July when summer vegetables are ready to pick. There are a lot of factors involved, including if my two knucklehead dogs run across my beds chasing birds or squirrels out of the yard.

It felt good to have a plan, to take control, to do something other than look at my computer.

Like many of you, one week ago Monday, I woke up, got dressed and went to work. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d be closing the office and working remotely.

By Monday afternoon, we’d loaded whatever screens and computer hardware we needed, canceled weekly cleaning service, turned the heater off and started to use the words:

Social distancing.

Flattening the Curve.

Essential Business.

Shelter in Place.

Zoom Lunches.

Coffee in Cars.

Last week I was receiving press releases hourly to post on Tribal Gaming & Hospitality Magazine where I’m editor, about closures of Tribal and commercial casino properties. Our team met to discuss our messaging and how we can help our clients get through this. This meeting was our first Zoom and we all laughed as we looked like the opening screen from the Brady Bunch. We’re in the hospitality business. Hospitality is shutdown. Like nearly everyone in the country, in the world, this is going to be a tough road ahead.

Finally, on Friday, I left the house to do a quick errand at the office. On the way back, I decided to replenish my fresh vegetables. I did a drive-by of Trader Joe’s and there was a line out the door, so I went to another grocery store.

I wasn’t in for long and when I got back outside I realized I had been holding my breath (no, this is not a proven technique). I was not sure on etiquette as there were a lot of folks in crowded aisles. I felt stupid. So, I ended up leaving with broccoli, lettuce and without thinking, a family-sized bag of York Peppermint Patties (because that is what you really need during a crisis; too bad I didn’t think of wine). If we are shutting down non-essential businesses, and subsequently people are being laid off to try to contain the spread, then I want to do my part. So, going to the grocery store felt funky and selfish.

That visit to the store ended a week of weirdness.

Other weird stuff? We’re trying to sell an old minivan and a buyer wanted to trade in part for N95 masks. The construction firm my husband works for cannot provide bottled water for their still working crews, as there is no bottled water in town. I’m grateful that he is working; yet, I wonder.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep – I was thinking what can I do to help our small business provides “essential” products moving forward; heck, how can I show that I’M STILL essential? A minute later, I was wondering what I should be doing to help my community; what am I missing? How can I be a leader at this time?

I didn’t come up with any brilliant answers, but I thought I’d try to come up with three ideas each week to keep myself challenged and future focused. This isn’t going to solve more serious financial issues – but it is something that we all can do to stay positive:

  1. Collaborate with your neighbors.
    Check in with your neighbors, especially the elderly. If you are going to venture out to the store or place an order for delivery, consider doing a group order. Are you making a big batch of beans or overbought some produce?
  2. Burpees.
    I remember watching an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe years ago. He said when he can’t go to the gym, or stuck in a hotel, he does burpees every day. He looked pretty damn good to me. Find a way to move; to release your stress; to avoid grazing. (I haven’t done them for months, and I just did 20 to practice what I preach).
  3. Work on your database.
    No matter what type of business you are in, most are cutting direct mail (and all expenses for that matter) until they have an all-clear to open up again. Email is the least expensive way to communicate and you may find that you’re missing email addresses or getting a lot of bounce backs. If you have team members that are being paid to be at home, have them pick up the phone, connect with your guests (with the right message), and start updating those missing or out of date addresses.

There are a lot of things that we cannot control. That’s life now and before this crisis. We can use this time to connect more with our communities; we can use this time to think out of the box. I do believe we will all come out of this stronger and smarter. I really do.

I’d love to hear how you are getting along on a personal level as well as how your businesses are being innovative. And if you want to talk squash bugs or greens, I’m here for that as well.



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Marketing ideas from the yoga mat

yogaI’m watching Becky (Becky Conrad that is, co-owner of Raving) instead of concentrating on my breathing. She’s in front of me, doing this yoga pose where her entire body is supported only on her elbows.  I, however, am looking like a squatting toad, as if I try the Becky move, I know I’ll fall over on my face.

Our local Patagonia outlet offers free yoga classes once a week. This is my second class with them and it’s very crowded. The word on the floor is that it isn’t always this crowded, but they’re giving away a free, very popular and expensive Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket in a raffle if you attend these two classes.  I’m looking for the bait and switch – and can’t find any – they are really offering ongoing free yoga classes once a week.

The instructor is now having us do something that’s called the pigeon, which I almost laugh out loud, because I think it looks like a pigeon who has been flattened by a car and wonder who came up with that name.  The instructor is reminding us to keep our “flow” and to breathe in and sigh out.  I think I’m exhaling and inhaling at the wrong time.

Why am I here again?

That morning I’ve taken my regular kickboxing class. I know why I’m there. Every upper cut, every Thai kick, every block, every move has a purpose – for defense or offense. I look at every motion, as well, to strengthen my body and burn calories. The class makes me feel powerful and strong. I don’t think about anything except the bag as an attacker and my form so I don’t injure myself. I certainly don’t think about my “to do” list waiting for me at home.

We’re now in a tree pose and my mind wanders wondering if my husband was able to feed himself for dinner. I also think of what a good turnout this is and thinking about the application is for a casino. And I’m also wondering how much time has passed, when I’m not worrying about falling over.  I seem to have a problem with a quiet mind. Even Dennis, my boss, tried yoga for a while and seemed to find relaxation from it.

I understand conceptually (or because the last two instructors have told me so) that yoga is about giving an hour or so to ourselves, to block out everything from the outside world, and just be with ourselves.  And there is a host of physical benefits. I’ve tried it about a dozen times, but I always more concerned with if “I’m doing it right” and keeping my balance.

(By the way, Becky, can do the pose in the picture above. The only thing that looks like me is the hair. And did I mention that Becky is fitter than anyone here in the office and she just got her Medicare card?)

Marylynn Wei, MD, shared in an article, “But the truth is that the practice of yoga is not about changing the brain, body, headstands, or even about gaining greater happiness and joy. If it were, it’d be just like taking a spinning class or doing a set of lunges at the gym. Yoga aims toward transcendence of all those things. In a culture in which we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, our body, or our emotions, or to plan our future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have — to who we already are.”

Meanwhile, close to the end of the class, we are doing this rocking movement on our back, so I can’t see what Becky does when the instructor asks us to do an inversion pose, with our knees and hips above our heart. I figure she’s on her head doing something that a Chinese acrobat would do, so I look at what others are doing, and think, I can do this! I shoot my legs to the ceiling, balanced on my shoulders and feel quite proud that I am not toppling over.  (I mean, I’ve been doing this move since I was a kid). Google tells me this is a “supported shoulder stand.” I’m feeling quite cocky until we’re supposed to easy our bodies back to the mat, vertebra by vertebra, and I land with a thunk.

Next time I’ll do my best to forget about how awkward I might feel being twisted up like a human pretzel, but in the meantime, thought I’d tell you my marketing takeaways from this experience:

  • Just because you hold a free event, it doesn’t mean that you will convert attendees to customers. (Even the Patagonia outlet is too rich for my blood). So can you convince your GM what your return on investment really is? With that said …
  • I do look at Patagonia as a generous neighbor in our community and would likely support them if they wanted to expand. They are known for their environmental and social responsibility philosophy, and even this free class supports that’s not PR hype.
  • Some free events will drive new customers. Patagonia offers yoga clothing – so a yoga class makes sense. Are there complimentary events or classes that you can offer to highlight your resort or business – during times that your facilities are not busy?  Free cooking lessons from your gourmet steakhouse? Wine or beer tasting from your brewery or wine bar?  Salsa or country line dance lessons on off hours at your nightclub? Yoga, water aerobics or meditation in your spa?  Does your convention space go nearly dark at any time of year?
  • The experts will say that in most markets outside of Vegas, gambling still yields the most profit. However, if you’ve already invested in non-gaming amenities and choosing to expand your offerings to a “resort” destination or to attract a new demographic, utilizing that real-estate to attract non-gamers (as long as it doesn’t turn away gamblers) can be a good strategy. Starting off with free or low-cost classes, might be the way for folks to visit your casino that wouldn’t have considered before.

Face first on the yoga mat,


Originally published by Raving Consulting

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Say it isn’t so … I’m not ready for summer to end

 I’m soooo not ready for fleece and socks chrisandgil

   We scarcely have a month left here in Northern Nevada where we can jump into Lake Tahoe without our hearts stopping from the shock of ice-cold water. Yup, the end of August always signals the end of the Coppertone season.

    This week if took me longer to get to work – kids are back in school crosswalks. And when I went up to the box store to replace some potted flowers that I forgot to water; they only had orange and maroon fall Chrysanthemums and the patio furniture was replaced by Halloween decorations.  My garden is in its full crazy ignored mess with cilantro gone to seed, overloaded tomato vines and massive dark green squash hiding … lurking.

Even before we moved to a four season climate, it would always kill me to be home on a summer weekend. My husband’s the same – if we don’t have sore muscles from water-skiing or marathon paddle-boarding (to a bar on the lake), we’re not having a “good” summer.

I grew up with parents who loved the water. As a kid, most weekends were spent at Lake Berryessa, in Northern California. It was a little less than a two-hour drive in our wood-paneled station wagon, windows closed, AC going, with my mom and dad chain-smoking their Winston’s. Most trips one of us, actually I think it was always me, would throw up. If it wasn’t the windy roads, it was the name of the marina before ours,“Sugarloaf,” that got me every time.

We had a single-wide Fleetwood mobile home, perched on a hill directly above the lake. The air smelled of oak trees and hot baked dirt. My mom would shoo out the daddy long-legs that liked to gather in our bathtub before sending us out to adventure in our crispy, old Keds with the toes cut out.

All the appliances were avocado colored and there was a huge dark green deck that ran on two sides, protected by an aluminum awning (that my dad built). From this deck we’d watch the whitecaps on windy days and the numerous ski boats on calm days.  There was one fish as huge as a Marlin, that would jump out of the water on our arrival, only for us, every season. We’d get out the old binoculars just in time to see his fin disappear. One time, my dad got the timing just right and said he had glasses on like the Incredible Mister Limpet. I swear, it’s true.

In the heat of the day, you could hear the weeds crackling, like they were so hot, they were breaking.

My brother and I were pretty young when we’d leave to fish from the dock on our own, for hours at a time for Crappie and Bluegill that we’d bring back for the nuns at our elementary school. My mom would tell my seven-year old brother to “take care” of his little sister. Even after a man in a car stopped and asked if we wanted a ride and some candy and my dad alerted the sheriff, we still were allowed to go off alone, as long as we were “extra cautious.”

Our first stop was the mysterious and wonderful bait and tackle shop, where we’d first check out the live minnows, frantic in the wooden tanks – which we never bought. Instead we’d buy squirmy night crawlers and top off the hook with one stinky salmon egg. That was our secret recipe. There was always cool things to look at, dust covered cans of Chili Con Carne and Deviled Ham and 99 cent flip flops and fisherman’s hats with the lake’s logo on them.

   Our strategy was to sneak onto one of the deep water docks in the cove –
where the sign said “no fishing, no diving, slip owners only.” Inevitably, someone would leave the gate unlocked. Feeling that first tug, seeing the initial shiny glimmer at the end of the line, I always wondered, could this be the time that I caught the unknown
shark or whale that surely lurked in the depths of Lake Berryessa? Could my Popeil Pocket
Fisherman handle the weight or would I be dragged down?

chrisandgil2We’d stop back there after our fishing to get a black and white Polaroid picture posted on the wall, with our stringer full of fish. We’d lay down “two bits” for a  Push-Up or an orange and vanilla Creamsicle for the dusty walk back home. (As you can see by the picture on the right, we didn’t miss too many ice creams).

If we weren’t fishing, we’d go down to the little park on the lake and hunt through the trash containers.  We’d create quite a fort with old carpet, broken lawn chairs, cardboard boxes and any other treasures we could find. We were inseparable during those years. And we weren’t alone all the time – really, the best part of the day was when my mom would show up in her yellow bikini, with her big toothy grin and freckled face, and swim with us.

The smell of Coppertone, lake clams, fumes from an outboard, warm mud in stagnant water (the best place to catch frogs) – these aromas are like vintage perfume that I’d recognize in a second. Oh, and Lifebuoy soap. My dad didn’t swim (although that didn’t prevent him from going out in our little runabout). He’d walk down the steep 150 wooden stairs down to the beach; put a couple of cans of Coors in the water, tie a rope around him and float. No kidding, he’d have us toss him a bar of orange Lifebuoy soap and he’d bathe in the lake. My husband says that it must be a Portuguese thing (we share this heritage).

When I think of my childhood summers, I think of that time. Before the big drought came and dried out our fishing cove, before my dad died when I was 13 and before my brother and I didn’t want to hang around with each other anymore, and you know, everything changed, for all of us.

Maybe that’s why every year I try and recreate the time up at the lake, because it was really magical.  And that’s how I choose to remember my family.

Go out and play  — and get the most out of the end of summer.

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Are Millennials “Short on Brains” or are We Too Old To Understand This Generation?

Will the casinos of today become irrelevant in the future?  Does it make sense to invest in this future customer now? Or is this discussion just a waste of time?

The loud buzz at conferences and in gaming publications, is about the future of brick and mortar casinos in relation to this group of consumers, ages 17 to 36 … the millennial generation.

The dilemma of how to best invest dollars today in “future” customers, while keeping current guests and investors happy, is not unique to the gaming industry.  However, many believe that casinos have been traditionally slower to adapt technology compared to other enterprises. And the fear is that the current cash cow for casinos specifically outside of the Las Vegas Strip, slot machines and table games, will not be of interest to this future group.

Gaming executives are very much divided on this topic. Many believe that it is a true waste of investment and of breath to speculate on a group that won’t have the discretionary income for several years down the road. One reader commented,   “Remember when we built water parks at casinos for the new generation? How did that go?” Others believe that acting now, is the only way to stay solvent in the future.

When industry leader Steve Wynn* spoke at the International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking said that he was “one of those old white guys” who thinks Millennials are “sort of short on brains.” He also said that, “They (millennials) get older later so maybe when they’re about 60, we’ll have a chance to get some common sense out of them. In the meantime, we’re doing well with the little darlings in our nightclubs.” He might not understand this age group, but he certainly appreciates the non-gaming revenue.

Gency, our 29-year old marketing manager (pictured right) at Raving laughs when shegency-warren sees this big headline about “being short on brains” on my computer screen as I’m writing this article.

She’s our “token millennial” that we run things by for her unique generational perspective.

A very unscientific gathering of data

With Gency’s help, I gathered feedback of a total of 10 “kids” from different parts of the country to get the scoop on their thoughts on casinos. All, except one, had their bachelor’s degree and one had their medical doctorate.

Similar to what Mister Wynn has discovered; all of my interviewees go to casinos occasionally for reasons other than gambling: restaurants, bars and concerts and always with groups of friends. None of the respondents would go to a casino as a resort destination.

And if you think that Wynn’s comment of “short on brains” is harsh, this is what Russ (24, estimator, Reno) responded with to my question about what turns you off about casinos:

 “Most of the people at casinos gambling are low-lifes who I never want to spend time around.”


Looking through all the feedback, I can’t say that I am going to share anything that most casinos operators or even the general public, don’t already know. The complaints aren’t unique to this generation either: smoke, crowds, noise, and expense (specifically of clubs and restaurants).

When these young folks did gamble while they were on property for another reason, table games were mentioned more frequently. Gency likes video poker as she’s familiar with “basic strategy” and can “stretch her $20 longer.” She summed-up other slot games with, “I don’t like playing slots. Just hitting a button over and over again to see what pops up is boring. Makes me feel like a test rat that gets addicted to hitting a trigger because it results in cheese, unpredictably and randomly.”

Mary Rose, 29, sales, Portland replied that her ideal casino would be “user friendly, i.e. have rules posted so I wouldn’t look dumb when I tried to learn a new game.”

Mitch, 25, estimator, Reno, said that he avoids, “slot machines and doesn’t gamble alone.” What he likes the most about casinos is “meeting people.”

Sophia, 27, production associate, Reno, said her ideal casino would have “beginning and advanced tables.”

Russ, (the same guy that said most people gambling were “low-lifes”), shared that if he did play, he liked blackjack and craps as the “odds aren’t terrible and the energy is definitely more fun than machines.”

Will casinos ever be the choice hangout for millennials? Is it too early to tell?

There’s this theory of the “third place” (coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg) which is a place, other than home (1st place) and work (2nd place) where we spend the most time. He suggests that these are coffee shops, bars, restaurants and other gathering places that people frequent for community and connection (which we know is important to Gen Y). Some of the components of this space, he suggests is that they are:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Food and drink, while not essential, are important
  • Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
  • Involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
  • Welcoming and comfortable
  • Both new friends and old should be found there

One of Gency’s answers checked off several of the “third place” boxes.

When asked what her favorite casino was, she said our locals’ downtown gambling joint calnevahere in Reno, the Club Cal-Neva (also Mitch’s favorite). Just this past weekend she and some friends gathered there for karaoke. On the Cal-Neva blog, one of their tags is “get drunk and eat.” They’re known for their beer pong, bikini baby-oil wrestling, 50 cent coconut shrimp … you get the picture. So, why would she go there above others?

“Because dollar beers! It’s a lowbrow joint and the people watching is pure gold. So, maybe I like the Cal-Neva for all of the wrong reasons. But I’ll also say, it’s welcoming. You fit in exactly as you are. The staff isn’t the friendliest, you can tell that they’re hardened, but if you treat them right, they treat you right. And when any of my non-gambling friends wants to dip their toe into the world of table games, it’s a perfect place to take a newbie. It’s comfortable, non-threatening, and their table games have low minimums. The dealers are hit and miss – you get a friendly/funny one sometimes, or someone who hates their job (or just hates us) at other times.”

So, are millennials really short on brains? Or are we old farts?

They’re a generation accustomed to exponential technological progress. They communicate in abbreviated language with two thumbs. They also might carry more long-term debt (excluding mortgage) than other generations, due to the higher cost of education, thus impacting their future buying power.

And as one of the largest generations moves into its prime spending years – we’ll most likely see their technology driven preferences force cable companies, television manufacturers and other brick and mortar businesses (like our casinos) to get with the times or close their doors.

So no, I don’t believe they are short on brains, just different from those of us hovering around 50 (or older) that saw the microwave as one of the best technological advancements in youth and did not start fully utilizing email for personal use until we were 30!

As long as the silent generation, baby boomers and Gen-Xers will accept traditional gaming and its smoke and its noise and its sometimes surly dealers, would you agree that casinos should take as slow a course of action as possible so not to impact their short-term profits?

When the day comes that millennials have meaningful disposable income, will casinos discover that they have moved way too slowly? And will their gaming product go the way of daily newspapers?

When is it really time to start worrying about the millennial that cares about $1 beers? Should the casino industry leave it to the coffee shops and pubs to invest in creating that “third place” and table this conversation, at least for now?

And there’s the rub …

Original article published by Raving Consulting





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Special Tribute – What You Didn’t Know About Native American Code Talkers

Even Hitler feared their skill – how Native American’s used their own language to save lives in WWI and WWII

Every Memorial Day, I have the privilege of writing for Raving Consulting and going off our gaming topic and honoring those who served our country.

Earlier this year, a submission for Raving’s Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards from Lucie Roberts, Human Resources Director, Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, caught my attention.

Her entry was about the annual Veterans Appreciation Dinner (watch their video here) that they’ve hosted for almost two decades. However, her story began long before that, describing the role that the Meskwaki Code Talkers played in WWII.

5-30-16Meskwaki Code Talkers - Provided by Meskwaki Casino Bingo

Lucie shared, “In 1941, 27 members of the Meskwaki Nation enlisted in the Army together, which, at that time, was 16% of the Tribe and nearly a year before Pearl Harbor. Of those 27, eight went on to become Meskwaki Code Talkers. The Meskwakis were sent to North Africa, where their skills were used to communicate sensitive information across enemy lines. The Code was never broken. [Not until] 2008, were these eight men honored and awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to their families for the services to our country.”

Most of us are familiar with the Navajo Code Talkers, but did you know that several Tribes helped in their special role during both WWI and WWII to save the lives of thousands of Allies? In fact, according to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Code Talking was pioneered by the Choctaw and the Cherokee in WWI! (American Indians didn’t get U.S. citizenship until 1924, years after WWI had finished; yet more than 12,000 fought).

According to the CIA, after WWI, Germany and Japan sent students to the United States to study Native American languages and cultures, such as Cherokee, Choctaw, and Comanche. It’s even noted that Hitler, prior to the outbreak of World War II, fearing these communications specialists, discreetly sent a team of up to 30 German anthropologists and writers (or agents disguised as) for this purpose.

During WWII, more Native American Code Talkers were utilized across many theatres of action. Various sources, including the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008, recognize the Assiniboine, Chippewa and Oneida, Choctaw, Comanche, Cree, Crow, Hopi, Kiowa, Menominee, Meskwaki, Mississauga, Muscogee, Navajo, Sac and Fox, Sioux, and Seminole.

As stated on the NMAI website, the “Many American Indian Code Talkers in World War II used their everyday tribal languages to convey messages. A message such as, ‘Send more ammunition to the front,’ would just be translated into the Native language and sent over the radio. These became known as Type Two Codes. However, the Navajos, Comanches, Hopis, and Meskwakis developed and used special codes based on their languages. These became known as Type One Codes.

More than 12,000 American Indians served in World War I – about 25 percent of the male American Indian population at that time. During World War II, when the total American Indian population was less than 350,000, an estimated 44,000 Indian men and women served.”

Thank you to Lucie for reminding us about the forgotten history of the many American Indians who fought for our nation as Code Talkers.

Today we honor all American veterans we have lost, as well as acknowledge the nearly 1.5 million Americans currently deployed throughout the world.

Special thanks to all of those organizations in the gaming industry, like Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, that honor our vets through various programs throughout the year. Also thanks to the Meskwaki team for their submission and video: Dan Stromer, General Manager, Jon Papakee, Assistant General Manager, Dirk Whitebreast, Assistant General Manager.

To read previous articles I’ve published about veterans, click on the following:  Remembering Our Fallen, Our Lack of Connection With Those Who Serve, and A Very Special Memorial DayOrganizations Putting Veterans First.

This article originally published by Raving Consulting

Posted in History, Profiles, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged | 1 Comment

If kitchen walls could talk

Remembering a kitchen – and thanking the parents that made it a home for me cf-perspectives-5-5-16

By Christine Faria

For years, a funky thermometer hung on the side of the refrigerator. From it, extended the wire that originally held it to some tree outside. You had to be careful going by it, as it might snag your sweater if you rounded the corner too sharply into the galley kitchen. It was a weird hazard that no one had ever thought to move.

I had spent hours and hours in this particular kitchen in my best friend Jenna’s home; from the time we met at 15, even through my adulthood. And to this day, she makes me laugh ridiculously like no other. Her entire family is the only one that calls me “Chrissy.”

Her parents, Sandy and Dennis (Ma and Pops), took me on a family vacation to Disneyland when we were 16. I spent every Christmas Eve at their long-running, annual open house while my single-mom was working; I even went with them to parent/teacher nights in high school. Our time around their kitchen table was spent talking and laughing until we cried about the merits of the many boys we had crushes on or some other drama of high school. We confessed more adventures the older we got, protected by the fact that Ma and Pops couldn’t ground us anymore.

That unsightly thermometer became legend when Jenna’s blind date, Matt (arranged by me), got tangled in it, becoming thoroughly frazzled while meeting her parents for the first (and last) time.

Hard to believe that Ma and Pops were just 40 when I met them. They were easy to be around even with their high expectations of us to “act like ladies” and take school seriously (which, for the most part, we did). I dunno’, they always seemed engaged and entertained by our silliness. There was always room at their kitchen table for me and there was always laughter. They encouraged me in my photography and in my journalism; they trusted me at 16 to ferry their daughter around in my gas-guzzling 1970 Ford Mustang to and from school and even to the beach two hours away. Their home was the place to hang out.

I never saw them argue or witness any great disharmony – well, only when Pops was trying to get his family out the door for a road trip. From my perspective, their family, complete with their younger son, seemed blessed. It gave me faith that marriages could last the test of time and that not all dads left from divorce or death (I had lost my dad just a few years before).

When I met my future husband Jim in my early 20’s, he joined the Christmas Eve tradition at their home. And although he didn’t get caught in the thermometer, he made a name for himself eating practically an entire Pyrex tray of Ma’s cheesy casserole made with potatoes o’brien, Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, and topped with corn flakes and butter. After that, Ma planned for Jim’s appearance and never ran out of her special potatoes again.

On another Christmas Eve, we were all leaning against the kitchen counters, and in typical “Chrissy” fashion, I  incorrectly explained that my brother Gil recently had surgery for his sleep apnea and had his vulva removed (instead of his uvula).  We still lose control with laughter thinking about it.

A few weeks ago, I traveled from my home in Reno, NV, to the San Francisco Bay Area to spend time with Jenna, who was in from the East Coast to spend some time with her parents. I hadn’t seen them in three years, I’m embarrassed to say, and not since Ma had started showing signs of Alzheimer’s and then having a minor stroke.

Last year, they had sold their beloved two-story family home and moved into a condo in a town nearby – a practical decision due to Ma’s changing health.  They had also stopped their Christmas Eve party after nearly 40 consecutive years. Jenna coached me that her mom still had her same spirit, but to expect that she would cry a lot.

We ended up all sitting around the kitchen table, like so many times before, telling stories that we’ve told a million times that still made us laugh. Ma laughed too, although it wasn’t as big of a laugh and she didn’t contribute to the storytelling, she just tried to follow along. She had several moments where she couldn’t come up with the right word (but shit, that happens to me all the time, so that wasn’t at all disturbing). The woman across from me was the same lady who treated me like a daughter for so many years, who filled in as a parent when my mom just couldn’t be there.  But something was slightly off. Like she was an actor that no longer had passion playing her part. Later, Jenna needed to help her get ready for bed, as even something routine, like deciding what shoes to wear, can be overwhelming with this disease, even in an early stage.

That next morning, we had a long drive home, both of us silent for awhile. I was thinking that there may not be more talks around the kitchen table. My heart broke for Jenna, whose role was steadily changing with her parents and who was dealing with her mom disappearing in front of her eyes.

It never fails. When catastrophic illness and death affect those close to us, it’s a personal reality check.  What if this disease happened to us? How much time do we really have left that we’re healthy enough to do all that we want to do?

Gets you thinking, right? … if there is anything we should be doing right NOW, to make sure that we have an overflowing bucket full of memories to laugh about around our own kitchen table? And, have we invested enough of ourselves to ensure that we will have friends to join us there?  Do we regularly thank the people who have made a difference in our lives – especially our elders?

Hey, anyone want to get together over at my house tonight? My kitchen table is open.



PS – Do you have someone close to you that is experiencing memory loss? Don’t leave their stories to chance. Check out an article I wrote about an easy way to record the memories of your loved ones

Originally published by Raving Consulting

Posted in Family, Feel Good | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Really? You don’t like my homemade cranberry sauce? Oh, yes, it’s Thanksgiving again

Really? You don’t like my homemade cranberry sauce? Oh, yes, it’s Thanksgiving again

Last night, husband Jim told me that “everyone” preferred the store-bought jellied cranberry sauce over my homemade sauce. He’ll deny that he said it exactly like that. He might even deny that he really meant it. But, I was in a severely cranky (and maybe hormonal) mood and it floored me.

I mean, I’ve known all these years, that his family does prefer canned, but I still insist on serving mine. Because after all these years, I still think I can convert them. And I believe, after 27 years of Thanksgivings, Jim should say that my sauce is superior and join me on my mission. Just because. Don’t you? I think he lost his primer on what you can and can’t say to your wife, especially when it’s around the holidays.

Oh well. The holidays. They are, at least with me, a bi-polar combination of great expectations, stress, loving moments and melancholy .  This year I’m thankful to be home, with Jim’s family coming over; and I’m especially happy that my brother will be joining us.

I wanted to share a post I did a few years ago about Thanksgiving to give you a laugh and maybe some perspective while you down a bottle of wine or two if you’re having a stressful time of it.

Another White Trash Thanksgiving

Very Happy Thanksgiving my friends. Wishing you the very best tomorrow and every day forward. And thank you for your continued support of my writing by reading my posts.


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Traveling with the Ghosts of World War II

How two travelers from east bufu Reno connect with Nigerian priests, Bavarian beer drinkers and Syrian refugees and the ghosts of WWII

My husband, Jim, and I are sitting at the kitchen table of friends, a couple of weeks ago, inpoppenhausen a small, 800-year-old village of  Poppenhausen , about an hour and a half northeast of Frankfurt. Their extended family has occupied this exact plot of land for much longer than our nation is old. Over traditional afternoon coffee and apple dessert, I’m asking questions of our friend’s parents, both in their 80’s, who speak only German, about what their life was like during WWII and their relationship with the Americans during the occupation. Their teenage grand-kids are my interpreters.

I guess I should back up a bit as to how we ended up at that table.

Back in 1990, I was working for an international import company. I enthusiasticallydorisandchris volunteered to make housing arrangements for a German intern who would be working for us for three months.

Her name was Doris. Her family had owned a  candle making factory  since 1899, which was destroyed in WWII by the Allies and then rebuilt. The summer of her arrival, the East German military officially began dismantling the Berlin Wall.

We were both 24.

My then boyfriend (the same Jim) helped her find wheels (a 74 VW Beetle of all things).  prostOne of my first memories is of her looking at our washer and dryer and confessing that she’d never done her own laundry. Jim, always ever so direct, nicknamed her the “German Princess,” and despite that, and making her watch, what she thought was a ridiculous skit on Saturday Night Live called Sprockets  about Germans, the three of us immediately resembled long-lost siblings.

The following year, I waited at SFO for another intern. I confess that I thought Doris was germansinwolfpackunique; after working for a German-owned company with German-speaking bosses, I figured her warmness wasn’t “typically” German. I feel small admitting to that. Martin came out of the gate, a huge smile on his face, with a heart so huge that he left his mark on so many of us during his six months in the U.S. (Martin on the right with his son in Reno Wolfpack gear).

Jim fixed HIM up with transportation, an old Yamaha motorcycle, which Martin, in his leather jacket and scarf, rode to explore the West Coast, favoring “Highway Number One.” Martin’s nickname was the “Time Sergeant,” as on any trip he planned, he kept his companions on a regimented schedule so that they wouldn’t miss any attraction. (The same happened this October).

Immediately after Doris and Martin’s internships, we were THE “California” connection and hosts of their friends and family who made the “great U.S. road trip,” including Martin’s cousin Gregor, whose kitchen we were now sitting in 25 years later. (His nickname is the “Mayor” as because of his family’s presence in the town for centuries everyone knows him wherever we go).

I grew up with a mom, who, until the day she died, had nightmares about the maimed
soldiers  she treated, sent home from battlefields in Europe. And uncles who would never speak about what they saw when they fought Germans in Italy and Africa. Likewise, our German friends grew up with active U.S. military bases  in their backyards, and rubble from Allied bombings and elders who had fought Americans.

All of us were born 20 years after the end of WWII, yet our conversations to this day are fuldacastlestill delicate; with our friends, there’s a shame that they’ve somehow absorbed as their own when they talk about the Nazis. At the same time, their families have a passion and a love for the Americans who saved them from the Russians so many years ago. Throughout the years, Jim and I have talked privately about our visits to Germany – and the tendrils of grief we all carry, from a war that ended nearly seven decades ago.

Fast forward 25 years and we find ourselves at that kitchen table, three generations. Just that morning we had crossed over the old East German border – without really knowing it. Seems like we should have. We’d visited Point Alpha , an earlier observation point of the U.S. during another type of conflict, the Cold War. Not everything that day is focused on war; we also visit Kreuzberg Monastery, where monks have brewed their own beer since the 1700’s. We also did some mighty fine alpine coasting in the same historic area.

Throughout our week in Germany with the Princess, the Time Sergeant and the Mayor’s family, we talk a lot about the huge humanitarian effort that Germany is doing on behalf of Syria. Just about a quarter of a mile from Martin’s house, there is a temporary shelter for refugees. Using old buildings, schools and military bases, Germans have already accommodated hundreds of thousands of refugees, and are expecting over 1.5 million more by the end of this year. More than any other country in Europe.

Our friends unilaterally support their Chancellor’s steadfast policy, as the “right thing to do.” We found that kindness and great humanitarianism throughout all three groups of friends, even though they are from different areas in Germany and of somewhat different incomes. You could argue that our friends are anomalies; whatever they are, I’m proud of them, as well as the history that their country is making now.

Throughout our three-week adventure  in Germany and Italy this past October, through every conversation with locals and fellow travelers, I was reminded of how much we are all alike rather than different, regardless of our age, sex, class, education or country of origin.

This was evident while I was eating lunch with a group of rowdy Dominican priests from BavariansNigeria, and interviewing an elderly native Venetian woman along a canal over a cappuccino, and sharing travel tips with blokes from Edinburgh over cocktails in Campo di’Fiori, Rome, and swiggin’ beer with Bavarians wearing dirndl and lederhosen (ah, yes, we did). Laughter, compassion, curiosity,  a taste for adventure  … these are the qualities that bring us together, that help us to forgive , if not forget our sometimes twisted and shared histories.  There is a “connectedness” that surpasses recent history and has bonded us for millions of years.

These are the qualities that prompt us to reach out to strangers, whether immigrants or interns, because I do believe, from the bottom of my heart, that people are amazing and truly good.

And it’s through travel, through getting to know people who are not in our same circles, who will not always agree with our points of view, that will teach us the most. And, you’ll just never know when you’ll meet that next lifelong friend .

Wishing you the opportunity of adventure.


PS – I’ll be writing more about my interviews and adventures, like what it was like to grow up on a sinking island and the challenges living in Venice today; driving a supercar Ferrari through Italian country roads; and if Bolognese sauce really tastes better in Bologna, from this trip.  Make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter by emailing me directly at or submitting your email to the subscribe form on the right.

Originally published by Raving Consulting

Posted in Career and Life, Family, Feel Good, History, Travel, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Remembering Our Fallen

I’ll never forget your smile: How we can honor the fallen and have compassion for our returning veterans this Memorial Day.

It’s 1983, and a group of us teenagers are piled into the back of a small pickup truck. It’s Randynight and we’re keyed up after teepeeing a few homes. I’m scared about getting caught and feeling guilty; this will be my first and last acts of “vandalism.”

Sure enough, about two miles from the scene of the crime, red flashing lights appear.

Our classmate, Randy Guzman, is our getaway driver, and I bet he was coerced into doing it. He’s tall and really skinny; probably from running cross country every hour outside of class. He’s always worn really big glasses … almost as big as his toothy smile. If anyone’sguzman_randy186x186 going to get us off, it’s this innocent looking kid.

I can’t hear what the cop says to Randy. As they talk, we shove the remaining toilet paper under our legs. After a couple minutes, the cop drives away, telling us to “call it a night.” Later, Randy said the cop wanted to make sure that we weren’t drinking (which we weren’t). The band of straight-laced hooligans is spared from juvey!

The next distinct memory I have of Randy, must be the summer of 1991. A small group of us gathered in our hometown at the parents’ of another friend, Jordan Chroman (bottom picture). Both ROTC, Jordan took the Army route and Randy the Marines, and they’re back from the first Persian Gulf War. Jordan’s parents have thrown a BBQ for the “old gang,” and my future husband, Jim, and I are sitting with Randy on the step on the deck outside. I think this is the first time that Jim has met Randy — and he’s struck by his warmth, by his thoughtful demeanor.

Randy looks the same, with the exception that his once feathered hair is now a buzz cut. He’s not the same goofy kid though. He takes off his big glasses and presses his fists to his eyes. What he experienced over 7,000 miles away, catches in his throat. He commanded a rifle platoon in Kuwait.

I don’t see Randy’s face again, until his picture appears on TV and in the newspaper, in his Marine uniform.

See, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Randy Guzman (two top photos) was among 168 people killed on April 19, 1995. He was working as the XO, overseeing the Marines’ recruiting station in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. When the bomb went off, he was sitting at his desk. He was just 28. (Sadly, the Marine reservist who found Randy five days later, died on September 11, 2001, while saving the lives of victims at the World Trade Center attack).

A few weeks before the 20th Anniversary of the bombing, I’m on the phone with Jordan, a

Col. Jordan Chroman

Col. Jordan Chroman

scheduling accomplishment, as he’s in South Korea, a 15-hour time difference from Reno. He’s now a Colonel and commands the 403rd Brigade headquartered in Daegu. I tell him that I’m working on my annual Memorial Day piece to support the troops, and that day with Randy in his parents’ backyard has been on my mind.

We talk about returning veterans and the struggles that so many of them face. We talk about the movie American Sniper as an example, and he says that although much of it was “Hollywood,” a lot of it painfully hit home.

He’s very emphatic about the message that he’d like me to share with all of you. “Tell your readers that these soldiers don’t need to be pitied or have excuses made for them. What they need is patience, they need compassion, they need time, they need help.”

He reminds me that less than 1% of the U.S. population serves in the military (compared to 12% in WWII). Meaning that very few of us have any real connection with or comprehension of the life of a soldier. Very few of us can say that our daughter or son, our niece or nephew, our mother or father has boots on the ground.

And with that disconnection, even though through the Internet we have “more access” to what’s happening overseas, most of us are not engaged on a personal level. Nor do most of us understand the real impact of what’s happening politically. Just because soldiers are sent home, it doesn’t mean that the remaining forces that are left, say in Afghanistan, are in a better situation.

So when a vet comes back, they are asked, “Aren’t you happy that you’re home?” “Sure, we’re glad that we’re home,” Jordan tells me, but he also explains that “being home” in civilian life doesn’t always feel “safe or normal.” So that expectation that any veteran can resume “where they left off” doesn’t apply to everyone. Welcoming them back at the airport is just not enough.

We talk about Randy again, and the emotion of that day. In the 30 years since Jordan has

Me in my mom's WAC uniform and Jordan circa 1983

Me in my mom’s WAC uniform and Jordan circa 1983

been in the military, I’ve never seen him wipe his eyes, and probably never will. That’s what Jordan is trying to get across to me; that every veteran is different in how they process what they’ve seen, some healthier than others.

We’ve been on the phone for nearly an hour, a rare thing. I’m frustrated that I don’t know how I can help when he’s the only soldier in my life now. And I wonder too, if his exhaustion or something else is making him so fervent in this conversation about compassion. When I ask again how I can make a difference, he says that even if one or two of our 5,000 subscribers has a connection with a soldier and understands this message, then I’ve helped.

Here’s to remembering Randy and all of our veterans this Memorial Day. Thank you for your service.

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Originally Published by Raving Consulting

Posted in Family, Feel Good, History, Profiles, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments