Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lead like a great conductor

A few days ago I listened to Itay Talgam's talk, Lead like the great conductors. He shows different leadership styles with clips of famous orchestra conductors, explaining differences in their philosophies that influenced how each one directed their symphony. His metaphor of leadership as a symphony conductor resonates with me, especially combined with Ann's metaphor of forming habits to make a rhythmic, flowing symphony of our daily lives.

The first clip he shows is Carlos Kleiber directing the Vienna Philharmonic with energy, flair, and obvious joy. The audience is clapping along, and the whole orchestra appear to be enjoying themselves.

In the next clip he shows Riccardo Muti, whose style of conducting is quite different. Muti leads with stern passion, demanding excellence from the musicians. He shows another conductor who offers no expression at all, his face bland, a look of boredom on his face. His philosophy is to play the music exactly as it is written, carefully fulfill what is prescribed with no deviations. Then he shows a clip of Herbert Von Karajan, a famous conductor whose philosophy was to lead as little as possible, giving ultimate opportunity of expression and individuality to his orchestra. Talgam explains that Karajan's orchestra stayed together by following each other rather than their conductor, and that by offering such vague leadership he was in essence demanding them to read his mind, in reality a formidable form of control. He returns, at the end of his talk, to Carlos Kleiber leading an orchestra. Kleiber's motions are energetic and clear, but with joy, rather than threatening, and he allows, actually seems to inspire, an unusual depth of expression from the orchestra.

Now I wonder, how do I become a mother who inspires excellence, allows freedom of expression while keeping behavior in check, leads clearly and firmly but with joy? My natural tendency matches Muti's rigid intensity, feeling such a sense of responsibility that I dare not relax. I fear the opposite leadership style, Karajan's, as a path to chaos, discord, even anarchy. I have long struggled to find the balance that Kleiber achieves so well. It's struggle for the elusive, but now I have a mental picture of what it looks like. I still don't know exactly how to be the mother that leads with joy and inspires greatness, but this image in my mind gives me something to aim for, and may well be more helpful than any how-to book on the subject.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Truth

With the help of the wii fit, purchased at the end of last December, I have lost over 15 pounds. It wasn't the exercise that made the difference...I'd been exercising daily for two years. The wii fit offers a "body test" every day, a daily weigh-in. Suddenly I could see how snacking before bed caused my weight to be higher the very next morning, while going to bed slightly hungry made it go down. And even though my weight fluctuates, sometimes up, sometimes down, I can see the graph that tracks where I started to where I am now, and the steady curve downward lets me see the progress, even on mornings when my weight is up.
The wii fit shone a bright light on my dark and mysterious body weight. The truth is, I had been in denial for a long time about how my little food choices were making a difference long term. A few cookies here and there really are perfectly acceptable, so I had developed habits of indulgence and told myself not to worry about it. My Hero and I used to sometimes get angry at the wii fit when our weight would shift up. "Come on! It was only a pizza! It shouldn't matter that much!" I think I accepted before he did that the wii fit scale really was an impartial judge that simply told us the truth every day, not some technology wired to frustrate and manipulate.
And now we'll both tell you, I 15 lbs. lighter and he 35, that it was incredibly easy to lose the weight. You don't have to starve yourself or give up your favorite foods. You can even indulge sometimes. You just have to consistently eat fewer calories than your body uses each day. It wasn't hard, but it did take a while, and the progress was so slow, and so fluctuating, that having a graph of our progress so we could see it made all the difference.
I've been wishing I had a spiritual wii fit. Oh, for some impartial, unbiased feedback every day! And a graph to show me how much closer to Jesus or further away I'm growing. It's so easy to be in denial about how I'm really doing, and the less I worry about it, the more comfortable I feel with where I am.
Lately I've been reading scripture a lot. And it has been shining a light on my dark, sloppy, overweight soul. It doesn't graph my progress, but it sure does give me a better look at how I live compared to how Jesus calls me to live. He says some hard things, challenges too big for me to rise to without His help. His Word has been shaking the denial out of me, and giving me a humility that begs God to show me how to live differently.

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25 NLT

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Animal crackers...

...and cocoa to drink,

That is the finest of suppers, I think;

When I'm grown up and can have what I please,

I think I shall always insist upon these.

Christopher Morley

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

unbelievable gifts

151. Sacks of bulbs--dry orbs to bury in the dirt, all the long cold winter anticipating beauty of pink blooms when the snow drips away.

152. Twenty minute drive, five of us make a family, to a local orchard--acres of trees laden with apples...fresh donuts, tangy/sweet cider.

153. Two hours on Tuesday evenings with talented (can our little town really hold such talent?) musicians banding together to create sounds to honor our holy God.

154. Coming home to chaos and after-supper mess and husband/Daddy just needing a break after four hours alone with the kids...realizing that we have traded places this once, walked in each other's shoes.

155. Thick sweaters and cozy sweatshirts in brown and green and pink.

156. The landscape's new clothes...reds and yellows, orange and green, bright splotches around every corner making each familiar scene new with fresh beauty.

157. Fedco's new tree catalog in the mail...dreams of apple trees in our own yard...apples for eating from the tree, and sauce, and pies, and storage through long winters.

158. Glint of mischief in baby girl's eyes as she peers around the corner at her mama sitting on the floor with baby pajamas ready, then throws her body in the other direction in the wild thrill of teaching her legs to run.

159. My Hero's new schedule, 3 days of work followed by 3 days with the family. Really? He's only at work half of the time?

160. Warm, bony hug from skinny arms of 5 year old boy. Is this tall, separate person really the same one who came home a frail, tiny bundle in blankets only 5 years ago?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unreasonable Little Man

My Hero was reading George Bernard Shaw quotes last night. One made him laugh out loud, so he read it to me.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself...
"That's Peanut Butter!" I interrupted. It's gratifying to hear put into words something you've never quite been able to describe accurately. Peanut Butter doesn't "adjust", he keeps demanding what he knows he wants with unbelievable persistence. That's who he is since he was born and decided that I, his mom, was the only one who should care for him. I left him with My Hero for a few hours every week because no matter how much he hated it, I was determined that he would learn to spend a little time with his own father. He screamed the entire time I was gone, every week. I almost never left him with anyone else until he was a year old and developed a more open mind about these things. Nowadays I'm constantly torn between battling him to conform to the way we do things and letting him be himself. It has to be a balance, because demanding conformity is only so successful; I'd have to somehow crush his will if I wanted total conformity, but if left to his own ways he becomes more and more unreasonable until he's not good for anybody, even himself. So we pick our battles and brace ourselves for the mighty clash each confrontation brings.
Anyway, I had interrupted the quotation before it had concluded. My Hero finished reading,
...Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I didn't even try, last night, to make any progress with unpacking or cleaning up the debris spewn all over our house since coming home from a nine day vacation to Illinois to visit my in-laws. I was so discouraged with how little progress I'd made in the two days I'd been back, and the enormity of the job just made me feel tired. And I was tired. All my energy was gone and my spirits were wallowing in muddy despair after a crying, whining, wailing early bedtime for three out-of-sorts children. So I vegged, and saved the whole job of sorting and cleaning for today.
Only My Hero knew my discouragement, and when I woke up this morning the house was clean, my robe and slippers, coffee, and a love note waiting for me in the middle of a calm, orderly kitchen. My first emotions were fear and regret for how late he must have stayed up last night to make that happen. After two LONG days at work. But as it sunk in, my admiration for him has taken over. It will be a good day together today. I'm always so humbled by these over-the-top acts of love.

It's the calm in the storm I asked God for last night. I asked Him why he didn't step in and make that miracle happen for me when I asked Him. He felt too far away to make any difference in my terrible evening, and my own self-loathing for the unloving ways I dealt with my kids made me wonder if He really made any difference to me at all. I felt like I understood the Psalms better, when David cried out to God over and over again that He felt so far away. "When are you going to come to my rescue, God?"

But He did. My impatience gives God a deadline. I'd like Him to prevent evenings like that, and maybe as He teaches me patience and helps me develop more of His love, those kinds of experiences will be less frequent...at least my own part in them. I wanted to know how to calm the storm myself. And I knew I didn't have it in me. Powerless and out of control, and faithless that God would step in and change things. He did anyway. Before bed last night I went into the kids' bedroom and laid down with Peanut Butter. He didn't wake up, I just held his hand and watched him sleep and prayed for him. And in the middle of the night Christopher Robin climbed in bed next to me, and I put my arm around his skinny middle and my cheek next to his warm skin and fell asleep with my lanky 5 year old.

This morning I marvel at the calm. "Peace, be still."