Sunday, December 25, 2022

A season of hope, peace, love and renewal…



A quick message this Christmas morning from West Newbury Vermont.  The picture above is from a chilly dawn this morning at sunrise, looking across the “Upper Connecticut river valley looking into the White mountains in New Hampshire.  This beautiful village has meant a lot to Jennie and her family for decades, and I have had the chance to get to know it since I was welcomed into this family almost 40 years ago.  Last night, at the village church (built in 1832, pictured below) we attended a wonderful and moving Christmas Eve service where Jen’s father lead the music and her sisters and nieces sang as part of the service. 



 It was a lovely, poignant, and moving night and the pastor shared a homily that really touched my heart.  He reminded all of us that Christmas isn’t a single day, but actually a season of twelve days (remember the “partridge in a pear tree??”) where we get the chance to slow down and reflect that this season, regardless of your specific religious beliefs or traditions, is a time for hope, peace love and renewal for all.  A time for all of us to realize how fragile life truly is, and how the world, our communities, our families and ourselves all need more love, peace and hope in our lives and especially in these challenging times…. we have the chance to use this “season” to find that path for “renewal” in our relationships broadly, and as I often quote from Dr. martin Luther King Jr.,


I refuse to accept the idea that the isness of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the oughtness that forever confronts him.


I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, filled with the "oughtness" that lies in front of all of us, and a season filled with hope, peace, love and renewal!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Pants for Christmas


As many of you readers know, or can certainly pickup from my essays over the past 12+ years, I am extremely proud (and very fond) of our company… Bolthouse Farms.  I will save the professional reflections and appreciations for another essay but suffice it to say that I continually find my time at Bolthouse Farms challenging and inspiring.  The company is based in Bakersfield California, a tough/gritty city in southern end of the San Joaquin valley.  The local industrial base is centered on Agriculture and Oil and the community is relatively poor and faces many challenges.


One tradition at the company that I am so proud of is our annual “adopt a family” program during the holidays.  It’s a time where we “adopt” a number of very needy families (this year 40) and we buy the entire “Christmas wish list” for the family.  We don’t just collect money for a financial donation, we actually buy, wrap and deliver the gifts to the families right before the holiday… this year I went to Walmart to buy a bike for a little 10-year-old!  Different departments take a specific family and their “wish list, and as a group pull it all together… it’s pretty incredible.


A week or so ago we realized we had one family “left over” that hadn’t been assigned to a specific department/team so Cathy dove in (of course, she always rocks!) and pulled the list for the last family.  It was a family that included a few kids and there was a solid list of toys and goodies for the young ones but the “wish list” for the parents was very slim, and specifically the “Christmas wish list” for mom was a pair of pants… nothing fancy, nothing flashy…. Just a single pair of pants.


The ”wish” of  “pants for Christmas” for the mom floored me and ultimately inspired this essay.  When was the last time any of us asked for a pair of pants ( or socks, or an “undershirt”, or a belt….) on a Christmas list??? It made me think about this family…and their needs (and wishes) this holiday and boy did it slow me down.  Forget about the business challenges at work (and we have a few, ha!!) …forget about the challenges of travelling during the holidays…forget about the ”Christmas lists” for families and friends ( none that include a pair of pants)… think about this family on the SE side of Bakersfield and their needs and challenges this year!  Perspective and appreciation often come from unseen corners, at unexpected moments, and this year the “adopt a family” program really stopped me in my tracks!


So many families across the world, and in our communities and neighborhoods close to home, are facing challenges this holiday.  We often are too occupied with our “busy lives” to see this reality but it’s there… and its everywhere! I hope this essay will “nudge” a few of you readers to take a moment over the next few weeks and find a way to “share” a little of what you have with those in need; maybe collecting canned goods for a local foodbank, donating to UNICEF or another organization committed to supporting children and families in crisis around the world, or finding your own “adopt a family” program in your hometown…. I hope you all can find a path to give back to others just a little bit more than usual this year.


As for “our adopted family,” all the gifts have arrived, (including the pants!) and are wrapped and ready to go to them next week.  The picture below is of a few of our “Santa’s helpers” and one of our trucks filled with all the gifts for all the families ready to be delivered….its incredible!!


I am hopeful that these presents can bring some smiles on Christmas morning for all the 40 families in Bakersfield, and maybe your generosity over the next few weeks can bring smiles to many more!

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Humble and very thankful



Early on a chilly morning, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I sit in our side room and am consumed by these two ideas/feelings/priorities….. being deeply humble and thankful as I start this essay.  This little room was an old “side porch” that we enclosed years ago and I have found it one of my favorite spots in this wonderful old house…. a house that turns 100 in 2023!  This cold morning, I can see the first rays of dawn lighting the tops of the old oak trees at the back of our yard… starting out as rays of piercing red, then mellowing into the soft yellows of a broader sunrise…. so beautiful.

Amid this beautiful dawn, I am struck by a deep sense of gratitude for my life, my marriage, my children, my broader family, my work, and the team of folks I get to work with every day.  I have written it many times… “life is fragile” and I feel the truth of those words again today.  We act sometimes like we are made of steel and will live forever, and we all know the folly of those thoughts.  In truth, we are made of flowers and stardust, (not titanium!!) and live a life shorter than we would hope… and have a wonderful set of chances and choices to live that life now, have an impact now, and work shoulder to shoulder with other like-minded folk trying to make tomorrow just a little better than yesterday!


Earlier this week, I lead a “Zoom Call” for our Leadership Team at Bolthouse Farms, a group of 50-60 key leaders from across the company and across the country.  We were reviewing our Q1 results ( not pretty!) and reinforcing the key priorities for fiscal Q2 ( the N/D/J wild ride.) As I was reviewing the numbers and reinforcing the key priorities I scanned the “zoom screen” ( which went into 3 screens) and was struck and impressed by the talented leaders that were side by side in the “zoom squares.”  There was Phil and David…. Sam and Manny…. Todd and Mary…. Lott and Amy… Donny and Mike…. Gio and Adam…. (and the list goes on and on) …all “shoulder to shoulder” on my screen focused on finding ways to make this crazy business we call Bolthouse Farms a bit better tomorrow than yesterday, better in December than October, better in  Q2 than Q1.  It literally brought a tear to my eye seeing these bright talented leaders “in it together” and I was deeply humbled and thankful that I had the chance to lead THIS team of tremendous leaders, at THIS time in our company's history, to work on OUR challenges/opportunities TOGETHER… tears of appreciation and humility.


As you turn your thoughts toward your families and friends and the upcoming thanksgiving holiday, find your own moment of “appreciation and humility.”  Regardless of the challenges facing our world, our county, our companies, and our families, we are literally lucky every day to have the chance to make it all a little bit better tomorrow…. and Thanksgiving is a good time to work on reminding ourselves of that deep truth.


Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, October 24, 2022

Sir are you Ok??? … Indeed, I am!



Well it has been a crazy few weeks, in candor a crazy few months!  After returning from an outstanding family vacation in mid-August, all hell seemed to breakout on the work front.  Business conditions have been very challenging, we have gone through a significant senior management change, and just last week took an action to reduce heads and expenses at the company in order to manage costs in the light of inflationary/recessionary headwinds.  While these challenges also face many organizations across industries, we are certainly feeling the challenges/pressures very directly and very personally as we head into Q4 of 2022.  It is this context that set the stage for a complex and challenging few days last week.


While all these business dynamics have been going on, a very dear friend of mine lost his brother to cancer.  The brother’s cancer hit hard, and the “battle” didn’t last very long, and at a very young age he passed away just a few weeks ago.  Knowing the family for over 30 years, I attended the memorial service last week wanting to show support for my friend and to honor his recently passed brother.  The service was filled with powerful and emotional tributes from family & friends and was accompanied by an incredible singer and guitarist.  The closing “song” was a rendition of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” (a song that was also played at my sister-in-law’s funeral back in 1999) that was beyond poignant…. I found myself deeply moved as I sat in the last row quietly weeping.  The service ended, I paid my respects to the family, and headed back into the work challenges of the day…. Probably not the best of ideas.


The business issues were active and swirling and I spent the rest of the next few days on calls regarding costs, revenue trends, farming challenges, customer issues…. you know the normal swirl… and I found myself completely worn out as I headed to fly back to Atlanta late last week.  Now the logistics of commuting back and forth from Atlanta to Bakersfield California is never simple, but the “return trip home” always starts with a very early flight out of the little airport in Bakersfield in order to connect to a flight back to Atlanta later that same day… these days start early with a 4:45am alarm in order to make the 6:15 am flight to Phoenix.


It was on this plane that I had the moment of interaction that I captured in the title of this essay.  It was early, and the flight attendant asked if I needed anything to drink.  I must have mumbled a somewhat incoherent response, and he said, “sir, can I get you anything…. sir are you ok??”  Somehow that second question… “Sir, are you ok?” triggered me out of my haze and I clearly responded… “Indeed, I am!”  as I paused with my response in the air it became clear that I was not only “Ok,” I was way beyond that adjective!!  I am incredibly lucky to have the life I have!  A great marriage to sweet Jennie, two wonderful kids in Bryson & Marie, so many dear and close friends many that I have known for decades....a chance to work in a wonderful company in a great role with a great team… working with a group of senior leaders who are talented and deeply committed to the business across so many levels…. No I am not JUST “Ok”,... I am doing very well and am VERY lucky to have the challenges that at times seem so omnipresent and overwhelming.


Maybe it was the combination of not enough sleep, (and maybe not enough coffee!!), and the powerful memorial service but that one simple question (“Sir, are you ok?”) stirred me out of my haze and helped me get a moment of perspective.  I hope that you have a chance to slow yourself down, and maybe ask yourself if you are “doing ok??"  We all need to shake off the blinders of the moment to remind ourselves that life is fragile and short, and that those who have passed before us are great reminders for all of us to try to enjoy the challenges that we face today, we will miss them when we are gone.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Empathy, not presumption, is key for leaders!



This is a quick essay from a leadership moment I had this week.  Leading in the context of the past few years has been challenging for me personally and for leaders across industries and organization size.  The dynamics of Covid with a large employee base (for us the majority of our organization works in the plant or on the farms every day), combined with massive supply chain disruptions, and wild inflation swings have created the most significant leadership challenge of my 35+ year career.  In this context, we have had numerous young leaders “step up” into big roles, with expanded responsibilities, to face the challenges across various departments.  It’s in this context that an exchange from earlier this week prompted this essay.


In a discussion with another senior member of our team, we were discussing the situation of a young exec who had stepped up into a larger role over the past few months.  My senior team partner expressed their worry about the young exec, concerned that they might have too much on their plate, and suggested that maybe we should “move something” to another young leader to help “balance the load.”  I listened and understood where they were coming from but suggested tht instead of just “moving some responsibilities to help out,” I thought we should have someone check in with them to see how they were doing…. Simply put, let’s ask before acting!


That suggestion turned out to be a good move because when the young exec was asked “how they were holding up with the new responsibilities?” they responded that they were energized by the new departments and all the new things to learn, and while they were working a ton, they knew they would get it “dialed in” soon and didn’t want to change a thing.   A well-meaning senior leader almost “trampled” the energy and performance of a growing your exec just because they “presumed” a bit too much about the situation without asking a singe question.


Its important to remember that this is tight balancing act and for leaders, especially in challenging moments, its critical to have an “empathetic” eye/ear directed towards the organization.


Empathy:  noun

  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.


This need to be tuned into the company and the team is hard and often is a shifting landscape, so leaders actually have to work hard to their “empathy” radar up and working at all times.  The key in my mind is to not let that empathetic “radar” so too far without actually asking much needed questions.



Presumption:  noun


an idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain.



Take a moment as leaders to reflect on this “balancing act” yourselves.  My encouragement is to keep you attention tuned into your organizations, but don’t let it go too far based soley on “your opinions!”  Ask some key questions through your process, and I am sure you will keep “presumption” out of your leadership toolbox.




Sunday, September 4, 2022

Eyes Forward!


The past few weeks have been filled with challenges and setbacks from multiple angles.  Tough business issues, combined with senior executive changes and frustrated equity partners have led to a few weeks of mounting stress.  In the midst of that “whirlwind,” once again I received some heartfelt and “on-point” advice from my long-term business partner and good friend Cathy…advice that I think is applicable to so many of us in these broadly challenging days.


The setting was an early morning drive (and I mean VERY early) from Los Angeles to Bakersfield two weeks ago.  The stress of the mounting situation was digging into my sleep so on that morning, I was awake well before 4am and on the road before 4:30.  Heading north on the 405, I called to check-in with Cathy and shared the dynamics of everything that was going on… a helpful and sympathetic “ear” in a very tough moment.  After listening to my venting, she said “Bill, I have some advice for you today” … and boy was I listening… I needed something!  “She said, “remember as you head to Bakersfield today… Eyes Forward.!”  Those two words, “Eyes Forward,” were helpful that day and have stayed with me over the past few weeks.


While Cathy’s advice on that Thursday morning was applicable to the challenge of driving over the Grapevine on the 405, she was really talking about working to have a clear headset and focus on the challenges ahead, not being distracted by the distractions around us… nor the missteps of the past.  More that 10 years ago I posted an essay titled “over the hood-over the horizon” (you can find it at: ) that touches on this idea of how to successfully navigate a challenging “road” in business or in life.  Cathy’s advice is a very good compliment to that idea, and in some way, they really make very good sense together.


As I reflect on this essay, I am pretty consumed by the challenges of the moment, both in my business life and across the world.  The past few years of living in a Covid plagued world, with accelerating political divisiveness, global military crises, escalating climate change issues, ( and I could go on…) have seemed daunting to the point of overwhelming.  The issues and challenges seem so omnipresent that charting a path forward appears out of reach.  It’s in this context that Cathy’s advice rings true… “Eyes Forward!”  If we take a moment, we need to remember that there have been daunting challenges across the centuries…  dramatic issues of plague, war, starvation, cultural crises, etc.  That historic perspective is not meant to be depressing and fatalistic.  It is intended to remind all of us that living and leading in the context of massive challenges is nothing new.  In those historic moments, just like today, Cathy’s advice is helpful and needed!


As you the reader take on the challenges in your world, whatever they are and from whatever direction they emanate, keep your focus on the road ahead and remember… “Eyes Forward.”  Companies, countries, and organizations of any size need leaders that help make sense of the chaos of challenges that face us and help chart a course FORWARD working to make the path of tomorrows a bit better and more productive than the days that are past.  I have often said that we have an infinite inability to affect yesterday, and an infinite ability to affect tomorrow ... and all the tomorrows in our future. 

Eyes Forward!!


Friday, August 19, 2022

You can never say thanks enough…


Over the years, how many times have you as a leader recognized key team members for exceptional work?  I am sure that your answer goes something like mine would….” as many times as I can.” Well, I have just been involved in a major project at work, our acquisition of the Evolution Fresh juice business from Starbucks (press release below) and I am learning once again that leaders can never say thank you enough for the truly heroic work of their teams.


Across my career I have now been involved in a number of M&A events, but this is the first one that I personally lead.  I knew it was going to be a major piece of work coordinating the “carveout” of this business unit out of the Starbucks corporate structure, but I had NO IDEA just how much work it would actually take for the Bolthouse Farms team and the Evolution Fresh team (and the Starbucks corporate team, equity partners and so many others) to bring the process to a successful close (that happened on 8/1/22!!!) and to ensure the uninterrupted continued operations of a very successful business at Evolution Fresh.  The work has been incredible, and the what’s most notable is that the work of the teams ALL ACROSS THE BOARD has been exceptional and inspiring. 


 I can tell stories of team members working through multiple nights to get major IT roadblocks handled…. or others in HR who worked shift after shift to ensure that the frontline team members could do their jobs and get back to work just minutes after closing, or finance team members who checked every single payroll record to make sure we could have  a successful payroll run after week one, or legal team members who oversaw EVERY detail of the required work and are still overseeing the details of TSA agreements and requirements, or operations team members who reorganized the production planning schedule to ensure high customer service levels in the midst of the ownership transition… and the list could literally go on for pages!  As the leader of this initiative, I am blown away and truly humbled by the quality of the work and the success of the outcome all across the board and as I commented above, I can never say thank you enough!


Now a moment of perspective… as a 60 yr old with over 37 years in business, I have the awareness that I am in the closing chapters of my professional career (duh!) and don’t have too many more events/projects/deals like this left.  It is in this context that I am even more appreciative of the incredible work of the teams across the companies.  I have found inspiration and energy from the exceptional work of so many and at this place in my career, that’s pretty incredible!


All I have left to say….. is thank you!

Monday, July 11, 2022

“Hopeful Optimism” is a fundamental requirement for Leaders… now more than ever.


As I mentioned in a recent essay, the headlines of global warfare, mass killings, economic downturns and renewed attacks on our democratic institutions have been exceedingly difficult to navigate as an individual, none-the-less as an organizational leader.  In addition to these more macro (and more significant) issues, our business has been faced by inflationary cost pressures and recessionary headwinds like so many other enterprises large or small.  While we are still a wonderful business, in a strong growth mode filled with many untapped opportunities and an exciting acquisition on the horizon, these past few months have brought serious challenges and have required us to rethink our priorities and business plans for our upcoming fiscal year that kicks off August 1st.


It’s in this context that I wanted to share a few thoughts about how important it is for leaders to not only understand the challenges we are facing and work with the team to “steer” a successful path amidst those challenges…. It is vital we do so in the context of “hope” and “optimism” even when the challenges seem daunting.  Recently on a flight west, I “went looking for hope,” and read some essays and quotes from various world leaders across history that were able to find and sustain “hopeful optimism” in exceedingly challenging contexts.  One famous quote is from Nelson Mandela speaking of his 27+ years incarcerated on Robbin Island, a hard labor prison in South Africa run by the Apartheid government at that time,  



“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”



Completely humbled and inspired by Mandela’s comments and “spirit,” I assessed our situation and came away a bit more hopeful indeed.  


While the business has its challenges, they are actually fairly visible and on the whole things we can work to control (expense management and wholesale pricing actions in the light of strong inflation pressures).  Equally they are challenges not faced solely by us, but are pressures being felt by our competitors in equal OR WORSE fashion!  Things might be tough, but we might be gaining advantages on the competitive landscape!


As I think about our organization broadly, and our leadership team specifically I am very encouraged.  While this group is broadly young (many have never faced a tough recession and high inflation at the same moment), it is so strong and a very “ingenious” bunch of problem-solvers.  Their energy and enthusiasm are strong but will be tested in the challenging days ahead; a team that I feel lucky to have a chance to lead in this specific moment!


Now I don’t want to suggest that our challenges today IN ANY WAY compare with Mandela’s plight on Robbin Island…. BUT …. If he was able to find a path of “hopeful optimism” in the midst of that nightmare, how can we as leaders today not find that spark in our landscape??  Our organizations and teams need us now more than ever…. to be candid and clear-eyed on the challenges ahead but also energized and forward-looking ( “keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward”)  on the opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead… they need us to be “hopeful optimists” now more than ever!

postscript: Nine years ago, I wrote an essay about Nelson Mandela that is also very appropriate to the challenges of today.... take a look if you have a second:

Monday, June 13, 2022

A “Hymn” for us all…



Like so many others, the terror and tragedy of the recent mass shootings have brought me to my knees both figuratively and physically.  The horror of Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa and even yesterday’s shooting in a concrete plant in Maryland continues the nightmare AND truth that we live in a uniquely violent gun filled country.  The data and TRUTH of that last statement is undeniable and not a partisan view of fact/news vs “alt facts/news.”  The following table is from a recent United Nations study that clearly shows our unique and, in my opinion, “nightmarish” place in the world.      


An underlying truth that this table doesn’t highlight is that an incredible number of these “gun violence deaths per 100,000” are deaths of children.  The fact that our county is not only this violent but also this “unsafe” for our children is not acceptable and cannot be the legacy that we (our generation of American adults) leave to the generations to follow.

It is in this context, in a dark and discouraged moment last week, that I was inspired by the poet Amanda Gorman.  She was interviewed on NPR regarding her perspective and response to the recent gun violence and she described herself as “optimistic and stubborn” on this topic, which she collapsed into the single descriptor that she was “obstinate” regarding the current trends.  That adjective hit home for me…. I want to be MORE “obstinate” regarding gun violence…I want to be MORE “obstinate” about supporting advances in gun regulation and controls … I want to be MORE “obstinate” about ways to make our society safer for our kids as school, at home and in our communities…. And the list goes on!  She continued on to read her recent poem “Hymn for the Hurting” which I have added below, and it inspired me deeply.  The stanza towards the end hit home to me and her admonition that we all  “May we not just grieve, but give: May we not just ache , but act;”  is so profound…. in the midst of OUR nightmare of American Gun Violence, we all need to find ways to “give” and “act” for the sake of our children and our communities.  I hope you find her words as poignant and powerful as I have!

Hymn for the Hurting

by Amanda Gorman

Everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
As horror,
As heritage.
Even our children
Cannot be children,
Cannot be.

Everything hurts.
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.

This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.

May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.

Amanda Gorman is a poet and the author of “The Hill We Climb,” “Call Us What We Carry” and “Change Sings.”


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 posted on 1/7/21) or on family issues that we were experiencing at the moment (, 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:



Problems viewing this email? View it online

USA for UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency


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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."