Throwback Thursday: As It Was, 8 Minutes 20 Seconds Ago

I started a new job a couple weeks ago, and as usually happens shortly after you become accustomed to a new route, I'm on "unreliable automatic" when it comes to my commute: comfortable enough that I don't have to concentrate heavily on where and which way to turn, but unpracticed enough that it's dangerous for me to entirely zone out. This morning, zone out I did. I've had a lot on my mind lately. The open road and the promise of a commute that's routinely over an hour gave me perfect motivation to focus on my worries, not on my direction.

And then the beauty of the sun in the sky overtook my worries and left me agape, mesmerized, uplifted.

I love the long days of summer. I wake with the morning's first light, and 5:00 a.m. in late June is my favorite time of day. I love that the sun is high in the sky by mid-morning and remains high in the sky until long after the work day is done.

As the sun captured my full attention, I rushed to take a picture. (I'm not proud to admit this. Do as I say, not as I do: Don't pull out your camera phone while driving.)

The clouds. The landscape. The sun shining through it all.

Sometimes I just feel so blessed to be here. And by "here," I mean Earth. What an amazing planet and a fascinating galaxy in which we live.

There is only one problem.

I work 40 miles west of where I live.

Once it dawned on me (no pun intended) that seeing this gorgeous sun meant I was traveling east, I exited the freeway and prepared to turn around. I realized that I would be late to work, as I was now an hour and a half away from my office with an extra traffic jam to endure on the way.

But I couldn't be mad or frustrated with myself. I received the tremendous gift of an incredible view this morning, a view I would have missed had I gone the right way and arrived at work on time.

I am slowly realizing that my outlook on life is pretty analogous. We make decisions or sometimes take certain paths out of sheer necessity, and these decisions and paths sometimes take us to places where we didn't think we'd be. I'm not going to tell you that bad decisions don't have bad consequences or that every path is lined with purple perennial blossoms. But in everything, there is something good. Whether you look this way or that way, whether life forcibly pulls you one way or the other - in every direction, all around us, there is good.

I believe it wholeheartedly.

I'm so glad for the wrong turn this morning and for seeing the sun as it was 8 minutes and 20 seconds before it reached my eyes.

Breaking the Silence

A few months ago, I stopped posting new material on the blog. 

As a middle school teacher, I've always been aware that I'll have my fair share of fans and non-fans among my students. I've been fortunate in that for the most part, I seem to have good rapport with my classes.

A few months ago, though, two of my girls created a fake social media account in my name. To legitimize the account, they took pictures of me that I had posted online. They wrote captions to these photos in the first person. The vast majority of the information they posted was false.

A parent alerted me to the account. When I went to it, I was horrified - but not for the reasons I think most might assume. A middle school teacher has to have a thick skin, and although I was a little hurt personally, my mind immediately went to other things that were going on at that time:

  1. I was searching for a job. In this Internet era, I knew that potential employers were googling me and could find the account.
  2. My husband and I were in the middle of an adoption homestudy. We had signed paperwork promising to be honest about all aspects of our lives, and here was someone who looked like me revealing information (presumably about me) that went counter to what we were saying.

Needless to say, I took action immediately. Initially, I didn't know who created the account so I notified the authorities and the cybercrime department of the FBI. My main concern was getting the false information OFF the Internet as soon as possible. 

I believe that the girls meant no permanent harm. While I don't understand the appeal of playing a prank on someone 20 years your senior, I guess there just wasn't enough drama in their peer group - and that's not a bad thing. Better to go after a secure adult than to destroy the fragile self-esteem of a preteen or teen trying so desperately to be accepted. They admitted to a lapse in judgment, and I have no desire to make this about them.

The point is, I gained a new awareness about how vulnerable we make ourselves. Check it out yourself - are your Facebook pictures public? (The default setting for your profile pictures is public.) Then someone - and not necessarily a sworn enemy - could create an account that looks a lot like it belongs to you. What is placed online is NEVER truly gone - even if it is taken down. Even an immature friend (assuming you're an adult; my students were merely acting their age) doing something "for fun" could put up information that is damaging later.

Do your children have social media accounts? (What happened to me prompted a conversation about this at school.) Do they post their school name? Most of my students with Facebook accounts have chosen to "like" their school or otherwise identify themselves with it online. That, coupled with a photograph, makes them an easy target should someone decide to target them. (Granted, most people won't become targets. But you have to understand that it could happen.)

Do you ever plan to apply for a job? Think about what you post. Think about what you say about others. Don't generalize a people group. (Let me tell you, I have NEVER, EVER seen anyone write online, "people with cystinosis can't hold down a full-time job." But if I did, I'd call you on it immediately. Not just for myself, but for all those who may be googled at some point.) Also remember that while treatment might be dynamic, information posted online can be static - it isn't changed, and newer information won't necessarily trump older information in Google's search result list.

In hindsight, I wish I had written both my book and this blog using a pseudonym. I'm not naive enough to believe that doing such a thing would have left me truly anonymous, but it would have added an additional layer of protection.

But there are exciting things going on in life, and I want to share those things without hiding behind a mask. There is a delicate balance, and I am searching for it.

Until it is found,
Jessica

Grace, Undeserved

I don't typically write about my students. The place where their realm intersects mine is positively sacred to me. (Plus, I don't know if they could be reading this, though hopefully they don't know of this blog's existence.) So I'm going to be vague. It is enough to say that a student was offered undeserved grace today. I felt the burden of his guilt upon my own shoulders and suggested to someone else that he be relieved of it. Because he's 12. Because we all make mistakes. Because I believe in him one thousand percent. I don't know that I had any kind of impact on the decision, but grace was extended to him in the end.

I don't believe in karma; nor do I believe that good things happen to good people or that I am good and deserving. I don't typically get angry at the world when things don't go "my way." My way is often wrong, ignorant, and detrimental to others.

Today, though, someone also offered me grace, undeserved. I was given a freebie - an offer to take a day off with pay - to deal with the mountains of work I have so foolishly allowed to pile up.

I'm 31. I make mistakes. Someone has chosen to believe in me one thousand percent. And although I turned down the offer for a day away from the students - for, truly, they represent so much of what brings me joy - I'll never forget what it felt like to be given grace.