Saturday, May 14, 2022

It’s been a tough few months…. “no malignancy”!


 

Over the years of writing this blog, (and that has now spanned more than 13 years!!!) I have tried to focus on lessons of leadership and life as my core themes.  A few times I have strayed into political issues of the day ( see https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2021/01/a-message-at-troubled-moment-in-our.html posted on 1/7/21) or on family issues that we were experiencing at the moment ( https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2013/06/jump-shoal-of-life.html, posted in 2014).  Today I want to break that mold and take a moment to share a medical issue that I have been dealing with over the past few months and a few thoughts/reflections that have come from that journey.


 

Earlier this year in January I had to have a minor sinus operation to remove some scar tissue that was affecting my breathing.  While that procedure was very successful, during that time I had several doctor appointments through the process and one of the “scans” identified a large growth on my thyroid… it was found completely by accident!  After diving in with a specialist, and doing more scans and biopsies, it was determined that the growth/tumor was most likely cancerous and needed to come out immediately.  Last Friday that surgery was successfully completed and as I recovered this past week, I waited for the pathology report with the results regarding the nature of the growth.  While I have many strengths, “waiting” is not one of them and as the week wore on my patience/nerves/demeanor etc. was stretched and frayed….. not a pleasant week for Jennie and others that were trying hard to take care of me and for that I apologize deeply!

 

Well yesterday was my follow-up appt with the surgeon, and he burst into the exam room and yelled out “YOU ARE BENIGN!!”  I jumped up, gave him a high five, gave Jennie a big hug and let out a “whoop” of joy and relief…..  an outcome that was far better than expected on every front!  I won’t go into the medical details, but the picture above is from my pathology report, and it couldn’t have come out any better… “no malignancy is identified” are words to live by and for!!

 

I share this story not to explain why my postings have been a bit sparse this winter/spring, but to share that we are all frail creatures, and we all have, have had, or will have physical challenges in our lives.  The one message I want to share in this experience is how supported/cared-for/and candidly loved I have felt though this by so many people… none more than my sweet wife Jennie!  I took a lot of strength and comfort from all the support from so many that I have received through my journey these past few months and this experience has reminded me to be ready to give that same support in return.  

 

I will close with a faithful musical reminder of this admonition… written beautifully by Lennon & Mccartney:

 

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Don't fight your life..." The wisdom of Swint"

 This may sound like quite an unusual title, but recently I have faced some challenges that have brought this idea, and these themes into sharp focus.  As most of you know, I have had a business career that has spanned 35+ years and across those decades ( now that's hard to fathom!) I have often travelled fro my work.  In this most recent chapter, as President of Bolthouse Farms, I literally commute regularly ( often weekly) from Atlanta Ga. to Bakersfield Ca. for my work.... not a very typical commute to say the least!  In this reality, I often have to take various routes across multiple airlines as part of my travel itinerary and at times the challenges of modern travel rear their "ugly" head.

Over the past few weeks, I have been on a tough streak, with multiple delayed flights, mechanical/crew issues, and major traffic delays that have caused significant challenges and frustrations.  Just this past week, after an extended drive due to a major accident on the Grapevine ( the mountain pass where "The 5" connects LA to Bakersfield) I arrived to a hotel near LAX to crash for an early direct flight home to Atlanta the next morning.  Arriving nice and early, successfully advancing my position, I got to the gate to be met by a 3 hour delay that culminated in a cancelled flight due to mechanical issues.  It had been a long few weeks at work and this felt like a kind of a breaking point.  The tension in the gate area was high, my patience was short, and for some reason in the midst of the tension I remembered back to a work associate at Coke named "Swint."

I have no idea why Swint came to mind last Friday morning at LAX, but indeed he did!  We worked together at Coke in Baltimore back in the late 90's, and Swint and his family lived near Annapolis Maryland.  I remember that Swint owned a boat and invited a few of us for a weekend get together that included a boat cruise/ride.  It was a very pleasant trip, a beautiful spot and I remember asking Swint if he was a long time boat owner.  He shared that this was the first boat he had ever owned and he had bought it when Coke transferred him and his family to the area from Atlanta.  I must have had a curious look on my face when he said this because he went on to share that he always tried to adopt the interests of the area where he was living, and since he was living by the water, he bought a boat.  If he had been transferred to Denver, they would have taken up skiing, and if they had been sent to LA they probably would have tried their hand at surfing!  In those days people were transferred regularly by Coke to various offices across the country ( and world!) and this idea of overtly "not fighting that life" and going with the "local flow" seemed to make a lot of sense!

For some reason, "the wisdom of Swint" hit me at LAX on Friday morning at a tension filled gate 26B.  I immediately got on the phone with my trusted associate Cathy, and started coming up with a big "plan B." Instead of staying at the airport for hours in the stress filled mess, we rebooked a flight for yesterday (Saturday) morning, and I went back to the LAX parking deck to get my car and drive 2 hours to take my sweet daughter Marie to lunch ... pictured to the right!  We had a couple of hours together, and caught up on her life this spring at UCSB and just enjoyed our time together....truly a tonic!  I found my way back to Atlanta yesterday, and while I need to get re-energized for my flight west tomorrow (ugh) I am keeping Swint in my mind and will continue to look for ways to "not fight my life"... and maybe even find a few more "lucky surprise lunches" with sweet Marie!!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Now is the time for Action and Condemnation!

 

 

Across history there are too many moments where the “silent majority” of the global community have sat on the sidelines and quietly “tolerated” authoritarian atrocities and humanitarian crises to occur.  Today the unprovoked, criminal invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russian military forces is just such a moment that REQUIRES all of us to act and let our “voices” be heard.  We can’t “take a back seat” and assume that this is someone else’s problem.  This massive attack/invasion of a sovereign democratic nation by its autocratic neighbor is actually an attack on democracies broadly… and this trend of autocracies “flexing their muscles” against weaker foes to get their way is nothing new.  History is filled with this exact cynical action across centuries with no more glaring of an example as the 1939 invasion of Poland by Hitler’s autocratic Nazi regime, and Stalin’s autocratic Soviet government.  This invasion of Ukraine today is a direct parallel and must be responded to with universal and immediate condemnation. 

 

On that point, I find it unthinkable and dangerous to read today that our ex-president THIS WEEK was quoted as saying that Putin’s invasion was “smart” and “savvy” and actually praised Putin’s actions by saying “this is genius.”  Now this should not surprise this writer or any readers since this is the same individual who encouraged an insurrectionist mob to storm our nation’s capital on Jan 6, 2021; but today another required action is to repudiate and denounce these comments and for all political leaders (REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS ALIKE) to reject these traitorous comments of unconditionally!

 

Its in this context that I share the information and links below.  What can we ordinary citizens do today in the light of this mounting global crisis??  In addition to the condemnations that I mentioned above, one thing we can today is help innocent Ukrainian citizens in need.  The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is a very important global organization and is diving in to support those in need in Ukraine. I received the email below just a few hours ago, and I have donated today via the link below, and I encourage any readers of this essay to join in with your support.  These are dark days indeed, and certainly darker for those innocent citizens in Ukraine, but let us all stay involved and active and find ways to lend our voice to condemn autocratic actions ( or those that support autocrats) and lend our resources to those groups working to help “on the ground.

 

Link for donations:  https://www.unrefugees.org

 

 

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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Its time to smell the roses .... literally!

 

Last week i had minor sinus surgery.  I won't go into the messy details, but I have had had breathing challenges for years, and over the past few months had seen some doctors who uncovered a deviated septum, and extensive scar tissue... issues that needed to be corrected and eliminated.  The procedure went well, and I returned home the same day and began my recovery.  Jennie (my sweet spouse) was an incredible caregiver, and was very attentive and patient to my situation.  Among the MANY things she handled so well on my behalf last week, there included a lovely small arrangement of flowers ( pictured here) that brought a bit of fresh color into my messy recovery universe in the spare bedroom.  The recovery has gone well, I am feeling much better and back to work, and all-in-all getting back to an easier breathing "normal" pattern of life.  

It's in this context that I want to comment on "appreciation" and the idea of taking time to "smell the roses."  As news of my impending surgery spread a bit, I was surrounded by so many notes/messages/texts/emails/calls of support, love and friendship. Numerous friends dropped off/sent soup, ice cream, juices, and meals all wanted to help me recover well... ( the Matzoh ball soup and the while bean chili all rocked!!) My primary family lead by dear Jen totally rocked, and my extended family all were checking in to see how the surgery went and how I was coming along.  I can go on and on, but what I am really commenting on is how touched and appreciative I am to be so well loved and supported!

It's easy in life to get too busy on the "wrong" things.... too focused on the petty challenges at work, or the never ending negative headlines that cast a "pall" on our lives and communities.  While I am not being "pollyannaish," I am suggesting that it is high time for all of us to recognize and appreciate our contexts.  I am literally surrounded by family and friends that care deeply for me and I am too often prone to take that for granted.  This past week has reminded me how appreciative I am for that "context of support" from the community of friends and family that surrounds me and I want to encourage all of us to take an extra moment.... smell the roses and appreciate their beauty ... and recognize the community of support and love that surrounds us in our worlds today!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

An inspiring moment at the piano

 


 

This year Christmas was a bit quieter than most; there were five of us (our family of four an Jennies father) gathered here in Atlanta on a warm and beautiful day.  We exchanged gifts, cooked a delicious meal, and really enjoyed the time together.  Jennie’s sisters and their families were out of town this year, sharing the holidays with their “in-laws,” thus our “quiet five”, vs a more rambunctious twelve, gathered on Christmas day.


In the afterglow of the holiday meal (an attempted reprise of an incredible meal the family shared on an incredible vacation in Italy a few years ago) we found our way to our living room and Don (Jen’s dad) sat at the piano and began to play.  It’s been an inspiring and humbling experience to marry into this incredibly musical family; filled with talented singers, songwriters, performers and musicians that span genres and instruments. While I don’t know exactly how many instruments Don knows how to play, he is an accomplished and talented pianist and organist.  On Christmas day, as he sat at our little piano, he began playing Beethoven ( I think) from memory and it was exquisite.  There was no music on the piano, just the little painting pictured above, just this eloquent music being reproduced from memory.  Outside of a sticky/broken “D-Key”, the little piano held up well and we just all quietly sat in the living room appreciating the artistry and talent on a warm/sunny Christmas afternoon.

 

After a few minutes, the music changed a bit and while I could tell it wasn’t exactly the Beethoven we had heard before, I wasn’t at all sure of the musical source.  Now it’s not a bit unusual for me to be musically “in-the-dark” with this family so I sat quietly for a bit truly enjoying the musical change. After a few minutes I quietly asked…. “Don, is this still Beethoven or is it another composer?”  Without hesitation my father-in-law said, “no Bill, it’s not Beethoven, I am playing the painting on the piano.”  Now I know I am not the brightest bulb in the pack, and that is especially true on all things musical, but his response stopped me in my tracks.  “Playing the painting Don… what exactly to you mean?” was my honest question.  He described the red flowers in the painting and then played a theme that to him expressed the flowers…. And then described the blue and green “foliage” and proceeded to play the musical theme that represented those images then very casually put the two themes together and went back to playing the music he had created from the image on the piano…. he went back to “playing the painting!”

 

In life and I think in families we often take too much for granted, and this story is meant to take a pause and simply recognize an amazing, creative, inspiring moment.  I am lucky to be part of this family (regardless of my limited musical prowess) and feel very fortunate to have witnessed that moment pf creative inspiration.  Maybe it’s common for musicians to pick up their instruments and “play a painting,” but to me that moment will stand out as a distinctive and powerful moment of a unique, inspiring and very talented person…. My father-in-law Don!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

January 6: Redux

 

A year ago today our county, and the world, suffered an assault that is still reverberating today.  Senseless violence and aggression lead to an event that I for one hope we never forget and always learn from.  The closing paragraph of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is so appropriate for all of us to remember:

 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

Our dedication to these historic words, Lincoln’s admonition that we remain “dedicated here to the unfinished work” is so powerful today.  It can’t be assumed that a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is inevitable and self-sustaining; it requires all of us to WORK to make this country, our society, and the world broadly a place of justice and peace.  

 

Earlier today, President Jimmy Carter penned an Op-Ed in the N.Y. Times focused on this exact topic.  The closing paragraph of that article is also an important reminder and a call-to-action for all of us:

 

Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss. Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.

 

Last year, early on the morning post the Capital Insurrection, I shared this essay on my blog; I share it again today as a reminder of our “unfinished work” ahead.

 

 

January 7, 2020:

Early this morning, I sent the following "note" to my team at Bolthouse Farms.  Its rare that I post these types of communications on this blog, but at a very challenging and troubled moment in our country's history, I wanted to share these thoughts....

Early this morning, I got up with a fresh cup of coffee and reflected on the horrific images from our Capitol in Washington D.C.  I am angered, horrified, and deeply saddened by the acts of mob violence and domestic terrorism… and in the quiet of the morning I am highly motivated to speak out against those actions (and those inciting those actions) as an American and as a Bolthouse Farms person.

 

Since our founding in 1915, generations of Bolthouse Farms people have always had to work hard to do their/our honest work.  Everyday across our history we have had to work hard to overcome challenges, to take care of our land, take care of our facilities, take care of our people and to grow our carrots; to make all of our products, and to serve our customers and communities. We work hard everyday at Bolthouse Farms to Grow, Make & Serve.  This central idea of “working hard to grow, make, & serve” has always been at the heart of this company, a 105 year “young” idea that is never more true and relevant than today.  We don’t stand for lies, bullying, violence, and destruction, and we never will.

 

As an American, I am reminded that we must come together and work hard for a more just and productive nation.  Our communities face so many challenges, but through coming together and working hard together we can (and must) accomplish great things.  Very early this morning, after the congress reconvened and finished their constitutional work to confirm the results of our recent election, the Senate Chaplain closed the proceedings with the following prayer.  I found it encouraging and inspiring, and I share it with that same spirit…

 

"Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom's price.
Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.
Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.
Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen."

  


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Mama's Peanut Butter Cookies for the New Year!



 I know, the last thing you are thinking about are Cookie recipes but over the years on this blog ( 11 years and counting!) I have a little tradition of including family recipes around the holidays.  Below is an "Easy" Peanut Butter Cookie recipe from my paternal grandmother Lakie Pearl Hill otherwise know to all as Mama!  She lived a long and colorful life, born in 1901 and passed in 1998 and was a fiercely proud West Virginian.  

I learned so many things from Mama, including how to save tomato seeds from year to year, how to choose the right whiskey for eggnog, how to roll a tobacco plug and so on... Beyond all of those lessons, I learned how to cook from her and we have saved so many recipes like the one below that are in her handwriting, sometimes including great little illustrations!  Give it a try and I am sure you will find it a real treat over the new years holiday to make some of Mama's tasty cookies using your "fork points" for design!




p.s. I want to wish everyone a very happy New Year.... filled with hope for better, safer and healthier days ahead in 2022!