HAPPY NEW YEAR
“Let old acquaintance be forgot”. Well, the holiday season is over and what did we receive? Two price decreases for Christmas and a partridge in a pear tree. Everyone came out in the new year in their new Old Navy clothes and begging for orders. The machines were down for maintenance but now they are up and hungry. Seeing the film folks in my office who are wishing me Happy New Year and watching them trying to gulp up the marbles like Hungry, Hungry Hippos is astonishing. I want to say, “Hey, I never told you to go buy new machinery that adds 50 million pounds of capacity to your system!” However, remember this, those machines need to eat. They also cost a lot of money and they are hungry! As I told these guys, it’s not cool to be a jive Turkey so close to Christmas and now as they are sweating the slowdown that has happened in the 4th and beginning of the 1st Quarter, you see them all fresh with their new gym memberships and new goals for double digit growth. I can almost smell the desperation on them, it smells sweet, kind of like Maple Syrup.
My father had an expression, “The screw can only turn so far until it won’t turn anymore, then the screw can only turn the other way!” Not that I have some fascination with carpentry, but on the paper side it’s been a long 2 years. It’s been like a unending Game of Thrones episode where the paper industry is the Lannister family. If you don’t get the reference, where have you been these last 7 years? Please, watch the episodes chronologically, I don’t want to explain everything to you!
Big news came from our industry, Greif is buying Caraustar and the increase that the very few that are left in the URB world that have promised this increase since October has been delayed for a little while longer. Inventories are building and deal making is happening again. Yes, that screw is still tight out there but I finally can feel that the driver is turning the other way for once. The question is, in response, will the increase happen in the next 90 days that they want so badly? I know inventory is building up on their side of the business and you know what I smell? MAPLE SYRUP.
My two older sisters are cancer survivors. Rhonda and Diane (her first name is Edith, but since I teased her with Edie Pedi, she has gone by Diane forever) had to bear the brunt of our childhood and the spoiled rants I had. Rhonda, the oldest sibling, the one who had all the brains, Diane is beautiful and was popular in school and I was the bratty brother who was treated like the Korean Prince. I was spoiled and rebellious at the same time, a dangerous combination. I was the kid who threw the game pieces in the air if I lost at monopoly.
I shared before that I had a speech impediment when I was a kid in Hawaii. I was teased and thinking I could call upon superhuman strength, opened up a can of spinach calling on my inner-Popeye, but instead of winning five kids beat the snot out of me. Bruised and whimpering, I went home. My oldest sister Rhonda saw me and asked me who did this? I not only told names but serial numbers and addresses. She went out and one by one, pulled them out of their homes and gave them a beating.
Diane and I looked so similar when we were younger that people thought we were twins. The three of us literally would play with the neighbor kids until our mothers would open the door and call us for dinner. I didn’t have an iPhone, iPad or a Mac. We couldn’t afford those new toys that people were buying called personal computers. When we finally bought one, it was years after everyone else had one and it was made by some company called Radio Shack. That shiny new TRS-80 was the greatest invention ever, I stared at the green screen and thought for sure that technology could never get better than this!
I remember the day we learned my Father had cancer, the constant tug of hope and the free fall on that emotional roller coaster that feels like an elevator gave way when you find out bad news. We lost Dad quickly after his diagnosis. However, when I heard Diane had cancer, it brought all those memories back of when we were kids. A time where, we were “kind of close.” Diane had a very aggressive form of breast cancer which she didn’t relay the severity of because she didn’t want to worry everyone. I can only imagine Diane, the emotional one, hiding alone and crying and I wasn’t there to even hear her or help. She fought a courageous battle and won and yet she still gave off her strength of acting as it wasn’t that big of a deal.
My oldest sister, Rhonda, was my protector and my humility stick. I could never beat Rhonda at anything physical or mental. She was my superior and as the oldest, she would almost be apathetic about my challenges. We fought like cats and dogs and even though I idolized her, she would be quick with a verbal barrage that would make your priest blush or bring out her fists, appropriately named, “Frampton & Comes Alive”. I wish I could say that the great battle of the remote was in our youth, but no, I was 36 and she was 41. She pounded my head into the ground until I let go of the remote. Rhonda lives in France now and has been there for 16 years. So, when I got the call from her that she had breast cancer, I froze and almost fell down. My protector, my idol and my counselor was ill and it was this beast that took our father and tried to take our sister, Diane. I realize, part of who I am and the success we all have had is our sibling rivalry with one another. They both helped to make me who I am today and I was melancholy and thinking about the prospect of having to say goodbye to one of them. The saddest part was that although we love each other to death, we do a lousy job of staying in touch with one another.
Both my sisters are fine today and they are cancer free. They taught me that you need great inner strength, humility and grace to overcome any challenge. I am proud of my sisters and I wish I was there for them more. Almost everyone who reads this knows firsthand because they have lost someone, know someone lost or is going through the struggle of living with cancer. Cancer sucks! My sisters are alive and they would tell you, “love every moment of it, the good, the bad, and to remember to laugh!” Maybe Tracy Morgan has a better phrase, “Live everyday like it was Shark Week!”