A Year In Mill Valley

Archive for July, 2010

How Will You Measure Your Life?

(email sent to some friends and family today)

Great article about measuring your life in the Harvard Business Review at http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/1.

I was really struck by how he asks and answers these three questions:

  • How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
  • How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
  • How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

I particularly loved this bit on page 4 about making sure we don’t use “power tools” (i.e. coercion, threats, punishment, and so on) with our kids when they’re younger just because it’s easiest for us rather than building a culture of respect so the teen years have a better chance of turning out well for all involved.

In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my students quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

Let me know what you think…

— Frank

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Note To Self: Don’t Fly United With Boys Again

On the way to the Cape today. In the car on the way to the airport the boys started talking about what movies they were going to watch on the plane. I groaned, and Rachel looked at me and asked if I’d forgotten something. “Yes,” I said, “I forgot to think about the boys when I booked the tickets. We’re on United and I’m pretty sure they don’t have individual seat movies.” Ugh. Between the $50 in extra books we had to buy at the airport and the $100 in baggage checkin costs (each way), plus the aggravation of hearing “when are we going to be there?” multiple times, we should have paid extra for Virgin Atlantic or Jet Blue.

Posted via email from backtalk’s posterous

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Goodbye Dear Sweet Geronimo

Dear friends,

Our sweet cat Geronimo died on Thursday July 1st, peacefully at home. He was 18 and a half.

I first met this Geronimo as a very small kitten in a house in San Francisco in Spring 1992, where a family had rescued the mother and kittens. In my mind I was hoping for a female kitten, but when I saw his brother Ho Chi I fell for the little thing that looked like it had been plugged into a light socket, with fur sticking up on end. As I scooped Ho Chi up and made my way out, his slightly rounder brother squeezed himself out from behind the dish washer and stood expectantly by my feet. “Take me too” he pleaded. “I think I belong with you too.”

And he most certainly did.

Almost 19 years on and Geronimo still had the softest coat, and without doubt the loudest motor of a purr. In recent years, after many years of kidney and thryoid disease he was a thinner version of his sleek self, but still the same affectionate demeanor and audible purr thrumming. He liked nothing better than when one of us sat on the couch next to him and he could sit with his paw draped possessively over one of our legs. “You’re mine, and my job in this house is to look after you.”

That was always his job in his furry mind. Even more so when the two boys were born. Bit by bit his job description increased. Some nights he couldn’t decide which boy needed guarding most. He would start off the night lying next to Sebastian the littlest, and when morning came would be lying next to Nathaniel. No doubt he was also in charge of Rosie too (in his mind)…..an exuberant and independent dog who would have been mortified to admit that secretly he and this cat had become friends over the years. Sometimes we would come home late at night to find them both sitting companionably next to each other, Rosie at the top of the stairs and Geronimo one step below. Of course they would immediately get up and stroll nonchalantly off in differently directions, but we knew better.

If I had to pick one word to sum up Geronimo it would be loyal. This is a kitty who has resolutely followed me from house to house, across the Atlantic twice, in quarantine in England for 5 months, a cat who has managed to settle into at least seven homes….one of them floating alarmingly on water. The first move from Cazneau Avenue to Frank’s house on Cloudview Trail was perhaps the most dramatic…..at least for me, by this stage an overwrought 7 months pregnant person convinced that the cats would run off and be eaten by mountain lions, (that is if they weren’t first scoffed by Rosie). There were a few hairy first days when having finally let them out, both kitties scampered and were not seen for a couple of days. But it was Geronimo who came home first, (maybe more hungry than his brother, or perhaps more needing of a home). It was always Geronimo who returned first to come home. And Geronimo who made it over the Atlantic safely to join us in England. Ever the hunter, Ho Chi protected us from rats and evil spirits, and brought the teeth and assorted bits of innards back as prizes, meanwhile Geronimo protected us with his body warmth and love.

Over the past few years Geronimo started to slow down. Towards the end his eyesight and hearing and sense of smell was failing, and the dementia resulting from years of kidney disease was starting to show more and more. Sometimes he would sit staring into a cupboard door as though trying to remember where he was, and who he was….and maybe if he was. But the minute I gathered him up in my arms his tense body would relax and his throaty motor would switch on.

Who would not love a little being who has spent it’s whole life loving you.

So, to my sweet kitty Geronimo who has taught me so much about love, farewell for now. You will be most missed. You will be remembered and loved always.

Rachel xo
(and Frank, Nathaniel and Sebastian)


Every war has two losers

At the Rafael Theater in San Rafael with Rachel watching the premier of Haydn Reiss’ new movie “Every War Has Two Losers”, based on the writings of William Stafford, poet and conscientious objector. Beautifully crafted. Thought provoking. We are listening now to Haydn in conversation with Alice Walker and Norman Solomon (blurry photo above).

Well done Haydn. Thanks for including us.

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