June 18, 2003

Late nights with file folders, again...As a chronic sufferer of pregnancy induced insomnia I find myself looking for things to do at 1 or 2am each day as I find it literally impossible to fall asleep. Last night I worked on some file folder games for the kids. As I was listening to Norah Jones and laminating file folders and small cut out shapes and cutting velcro I flashed back to other late nights with file folders not so long ago. Only under very different circumstances however. Those of you who know me - will remember all too vividly my years of intercollegiate debate, first as a competitor and then as a coach. It was during those years that I was very frequently awake at 1 or 2am in a room full of file folders, only then they were filled with the latest breaking news or the theoretical research of a complex foreign policy topic. I was a research addict and would be up at all hours of the night cutting cards, creating briefs and drinking mountain dew. Only now my drinks have changed (water or tea with lemons), my music is more mellow (Norah Jones instead of Nine Inch Nails or the Grateful Dead), and the subject matter is quite different (foreign policy to shapes and colors) and yet I find myself in an all too familiar place up at 1am further education and learning with some file folders.

I have changed so much over these years, I believe for the better. I still love debate and miss the intellectual challenge and honesty that occurred so freely in that environment. I miss the brilliant people I spent my days and nights with and I miss the travel believe it or not. Debate has in many ways made me into the person that I am today and I see its influences in my everyday life. Perhaps the thing I recognize the most is my love and passion for knowledge, my desire to keep people and research honest, and my love of a good intellectual fight and the depths that pushes us all too. I want to pass many of these characteristics on to our children. I want them to love knowledge, have a deep desire to learn more and a passion to share that knowledge. I want them to seek the truth and change their lives to live by it. I want them to learn to be advocates in life. To be discerning and able to tear an argument apart merely on its own weaknesses. I want them to learn to analyze what they hear, read and see and be able to find the truth and the trash in it and deal with each appropriately. I want them to be smart and intellectually honest.

I think about the first time debate truly got under my skin. I was a freshman in college and the World Trade Center had just been bombed (the first time) and I was sitting on my dorm floor cutting cards about the tragedy when I realized how important it all was and how so many people never got that deep. Terrorism scared me for the first time that night as I thought about the possibilities that could occur. I found a new desire to learn to improve myself and the world I was in and maybe make a difference someday. I became passionate about debate that night and the passion never died. When I became a coach I just wanted to pass the passion on to my students, but what I found was they kept passing it back to me and I soon discovered that my favorite moment of coaching always came when the light bulb went on for a student, the moment the switch was flipped and they were forever changed, when they got it. I was fortunate to see that many times over during my short tenure as a coach and each moment was so beautiful. Now as a mother I have that opportunity again with each of my children, many times over again.

Just as I was there for each of their first steps - I hope to be there when each of them learns to read, to do math, to understand complex concepts and to be so proud of that perfect sentence they wrote. Clearly they will need to have their fathers grammatical skills and not my own for that to be achieved! I think learning is such an amazing and powerful process to be a part of - how wonderful it is that God lets us take part in each others lives in that way. I have seen some light bulbs go off in my children already and what a powerful and moving experience it is for me to be a part of, I look forward to all the days to come and the moments that it brings us.

So as I questioned my sanity last night after cutting what felt like my hundredth piece of velcro to stick to some laminated shapes - when I ask myself is it all worth it? Is my work here important, could I make a difference somewhere else, the answer is always yes it is worth it. Yes I probably could make a difference somewhere else, but how significant? My mother-in-love (not only law), who in many ways is my Titus 2 woman, once said something very wise to me when I was a new mom struggling with societal pressures against my decision to be a stay at home mother. "Why be the same thing to every person when you can be everything to just one person" The impact of that statement hit me hard when I thought about the responsibility we have as parents and I have never second guessed my decision to stay at home with my children again. I was an excellent debate coach and teacher and now I am an excellent mother and I would not trade in that role and consider myself blessed to have the opportunities I have.

While the content and circumstances are completely different I once again find myself utilizing file folders to further my education and the learning of another. I find myself up at all hours of the night excited by a project that many others would consider a waste of time, if not downright insane. I find myself dedicated to the furthering of knowledge and learning and committed to building the tools needed at the time. I am pleased with Norah Jones and tea and with my little file folder games and perhaps they will be one of the tools that helps my little padawans lights turn on, as previous sessions with the Grateful Dead and Mountain Dew and cutting ev on the latest postmodern theory helped some of my co-debtors and the ones I coached light the fire within them. Either way I find myself smiling that as much as life changes it stays the same. The consistency of file folders in my life is one small way that makes me smile and feel like a cohesive whole and make sense of the many different paths my life has taken to bring me to this point.


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