Just a Dog

 

 


In my mind I’m thinking about beloved pets specifically dogs. Remember your childhood days? Were you lucky enough to have a family pet? If you didn’t, I can honestly say you missed a lot of love. I have always loved animals and much to my mother’s dismay brought several home as a child. I got it honest. My father was worse than me for having a soft spot for animals. It makes complete sense that I follow in his footsteps. Pets are just extended family according to Sal the Animal Loving Gal.

I remember each and every pet I’ve ever had. I remember the antics of begging my mom to let them stay. Of course, she always did. She always made sure each animal was cared for when I was too busy being a kid. Thank God for mothers.

Do I have favorites? Well, each pet has its own special personality and trait. I can’t say that some were better. They all have a special place in my heart. Each one gave me companionship and joy. There were different pets in different seasons and each shared my life as a outside-loving, adventuresome girl. Oh, the places we did go! I know I always had a best friend by my side.

This year I’ve had to say goodbye to two of my beloved dogs. It’s taken me almost six months to pen the words. To give a proper tribute to these two special girls Lily and Lucy has been so hard. My mop-topped Lucy came to me one Valentine’s Day as a gift to keep me moving. My body was weakening from atrophy and I had no clue how devastating this disease would be. Instead of running, she and I walked. I know we walked many miles over her 13 too short years. My big, beloved, stinky sheepdog never wavered. She watched me go from running, walking, hobbling with a cane, and finally to a wheelchair. When my walking days were over, I rolled in my scoot with her faithfully on my left side. Some days we just sat looking into the sky. We were both too tired and our bodies slowing down. She started struggling to walk as I rolled only one mile. I would say, “Good girl Lucy Seuss. Let’s just head home.” Then came the struggling to get up. Her hips were worn out. I would pet her and say, “I feel your pain sweet girl.” Then the day came when she was to cross over rainbow bridge. I couldn’t beg her to stay in such a worn-out body. There is not hospice care or motorized wheelchairs for our fur babies. We had lived a beautiful season together so I told her, “I’ll meet you on the other side. We will have a good long walk. You are my Lucy in the Sky now.”

My hard headed cross between Willie Nelson and a basset hound Lily left me in January. She had more issues than Reader’s Digest and more road miles touring than Waylon, Wille, and the Boys. She was literally know in our Tri-County Area. Everyone knew and loved our Lily. She frequented the pound. They would just call and say, “Sarah, Lily is here.” We would bust her out. Remember those long wooded paths we walked? Well, one led to a little country store called “Countryside Grocery.” As the crow flies, it was less than 1,000 feet from my house. What do hounds do? Follow their noses of course! She became pals with the local farmers. When I left for work at 7 AM, she did, too. She ate breakfast with the farmers for a decade. Farmers brought her home after her day at the store. The owners let her stay till closing and then brought her home. We tried everything to keep her here, but she was everyone’s dog. Then like all good things, they end. The store was bought by a Dollar General chain. Talk about convenience. There was a lot more convenience for Our Lily. There were automated doors and pig ears on the bottom shelves. Doggy heaven, right? She had a running tab at the “Gentral.” She was one of the best actors. She could rival Morgan Freeman. She could have won an Oscar. She was given treats galore. I just chuckle. She was Facebook famous. People would post look at this poor basset at the Dollar General. People would tag me and reply, “That’s Sarah’s dog.” What a life this girl of ours lived. It was a dream life for a basset. Such personality this girl had. There will never be another Lily. My daughter is still grieving but she’s college bound and Lily was to be our last basset. Maybe one day she’ll have her own “Lily.” I could fill volumes with “Lily Tales.” She loved me ferociously. She would always nudge and lick my immobile feet because I couldn’t bear hug her anymore. When we met the neighborhood bully Pit bull, Pokey, she would race to my rescue putting herself between Pokey and my wheelchair. Once Pokey got my foot, but Lily backed her off and we escaped. I’m crying again as I type. We shared such beautiful times. When I took her for her first vet visit with Lucy, my vet said don’t be surprised if Lily is your alpha. She was and I love and miss her so much. She died a rainy Wednesday night in my friend’s yard. She was traveling with the latest stray that was dropped at the Dollar General. I came home from youth group and my boys were muddy and sad. They had put her to rest by my pink rose bush. They knew I would be inconsolable to see her lifeless.

Lily and Lucy are at rest side by side in my flower garden. I will be scattered there with them one day. My kids know I want to be free to romp in my garden with them and feed my flowers. Now our herd consists of Daisy May the Stray and Dolly. Both of these girls were dumped out. Dolly came from the Dollar General about a month before Lily left us. Hence her name Dolly General. Daisy was dropped at a relative’s house and Lily talked her into jumping in my SUV 8 years ago. The rest is history,

Are they just dogs? I don’t think so. They are part of our singing, dancing, mourning, and living. Both of my sons assured me I had given them a great life as I wept for days. I think so, too. I know because my heart wouldn’t hurt so.
RIP to my girls.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Dog Loving Gal

Quote of the Day:
“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: They bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.”
Bruce Cameron

 

A Thousand Words…

A Thousand Words

Mother’s Day is upon us. Mothers come in many varieties. They leave such a strong imprint on their children. No matter the type of mother you are born to, you always yearn for that mother’s acceptance, approval, and love. When I think of my mother I remember her whipping up the best meals and rarely sitting down to enjoy them. I remember her denying herself of materialistic things and making sure we had what we needed. I remember her running a household, working twelve hour shifts, and still having time to talk with me. She always put money into savings for our future safety. She dreamed big for her children. She went to bat for me to allow me to experience the world in ways she never was able to do. During warm seasons, she kept fresh flowers, most often roses, she had picked from the yard on our kitchen table. Most importantly, I remember her genuine interest, talks, and time she gave to me. Rachel Sharon was and is the epitome of what a mother should be. I am truly blessed.

For boys, their mother is the first woman they fall in love with. As they grow, they color pictures, write poems, and make cards for her. No one can cook as well as her or know you like your mother. The most treasured things are making your favorite meal, kissing your boo boos, and the light in her eyes when she sees her son. That relationship teaches them how to love and respect the wife and mother of their children. It is so very important. The bond between a son and mother is indestructible.

For girls, their relationship is quite different. I’ve seen it too often and in myself. We know the world is tough for women. We subconsciously prepare our daughters for this sometimes to the point of friction. Girls test their mother’s judgement and loyalty. Often they go running to their father for shelter and reassurance amid the squabbles of mother/daughter tension. Don’t misunderstand me. Mothers treasure their daughters. There is no greater bond than between a mother and daughter. There is just a period of time when you feel more like sparring partners than mother and daughter. Think back. Who was real with you as a teenager? (Insert conflict here whether it be over makeup, hairstyles, clothes, friends, or boyfriends.) As we grow into women, we have a reckoning. When we become mothers ourselves, it slaps us in the face. The lightbulb comes on so brightly it momentarily blinds us. What do we do? We reach out to our mothers, hug them, and say, “I so get it. Your job is constant and never ending. You are the seamstress of our family making sure we all stay pulled together with stitches of support, direction, and altruistic love.” We then bear our own needles to secure our own tapestry that is in progress. We realize how important our title is. We are mothers.

Seek out the mothers in your lives and show them you love and appreciate them. Mothers have such a heavy burden and carry it so gracefully. They mold honorable men. They meld strong women. They support husbands. They nurture those around them. The world would be a mess without mothers. Do something to honor the mother that helped shape and guide you.

Happy Mother’s Day
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Grateful for Rachel Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”
Rudyard Kipling

“Men are what their mothers made them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Only mothers can think of the future – because they give birth to it in their children.”
Maxim Gorky

 

Where I See God

I see God in nature. As a child, I would refuse to go inside on a pretty day. My mother told me that at two years of age my best friend Clayton and I would head out with our pails to rescue bugs. When we moved to a neighborhood and had a nice sized yard, I would find holes filled with toads. I would take them in to our bathroom, place them in the sink, and shut the door. I then would head out to find more. Whoever opened the bathroom door would be in for a big surprise. It was usually my mom. I can hear her saying, “Sarah Anne, what in the world are you doing?”

I cried when people killed bugs. Sometimes my older brother did it just to torment me. He would pull the legs off of a grasshopper and ask, “You want me to put it out of it’s misery?” In my mind I envisioned a little hospital crew reattaching the maimed part and quickly said, “Yes! Please help it.” He would proceed to stomp the poor insect while I wailed and sobbed. Another evil tactic was talking my grass-hopper collections and tossing them into spider webs as I screeched. Traumatic times indeed. Boys really are made of “snakes and snails.”

I remember walks with my dogs discovering snakes, gullies, riverlets, and ponds. The adventures were always satisfying eating wild berries and snatching fruit from neighbors trees to serve as a makeshift lunch. I would explore for hours and heading home in the gloaming which is still a favorite time of day for me. Everything glows and seems lucid to the eye. These walks continued until being ambulatory was stolen away by by ALS. My dogs and I explored the woods around my home. We’ve flushed squirrels and deer. Watching the hounds bay and chase is a beautiful sight. Of course, no one was harmed. The joy is in the pursuit which is a good thing because my girls never caught anything. Watching them rush to ponds to swim and flounce their sodden coats as they came back to me on our adventure always made me smile.

Today, I roll and still commune with nature. It’s limited to my yard but it’s a sanctuary to me. I trek in my scoot watching birds enjoy my feeders, birdhouses, and trees. The butterflies and bees scurrying and harvesting from my flowers. My dogs follow me and rest at my feet as I look up dreamily into the trees I planted as mere saplings. Their girth a treasure I thought I would never see. I spend hours watching and listening to nature. From toddler to death, I will enjoy my sacred time with God in his roofless sanctuary.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Nature Gal

 

 

They Cried Out

They Cried Out

In Acts 14:11 the crowd cried out. They were amazed. A man lame from birth was walking about. The crowd starting announcing thanks to Hermes and Zeus. The apostles were distraught. How dare they when they had witnessed a miracle in the name of Jesus, the son of God. Where is their faith?

Fast-forward 2,000 years. Are we any different? A beloved friend is given a chance to hold her grandchild while cancer whittles and distorts her bone marrow. Her prognosis was death at 45 years of age but she is now 48 and cherishing her first grandchild. Do we cry out and worship the science and doctors?

Look at the seven year old who had a tragic, fatal ATV accident giving him a traumatic brain injury. He should be severely damaged or dead. Today, he prepares to re-enter school this fall. To whom do we cry out and give credit? The EMT Team, the doctors, or the advancement of surgical techniques are they the gods of this miracle?

Today we have miracles, but do we see God in the mist of each one? For humans when people leave this earth too soon, live with horrific diseases, or suffer daily, we begin to cry out, “Where is God? How could God let this happen?” This is tough, but God is always beside and in those who need him. We want magic. God wants faith. He is close to the broken-hearted. He is with the suffering and those crippled by disease. The ones who acknowledge him are those who smile through the struggles of wearing diapers, withstanding chemo, and letting go to become whole again in death.

What about the 48 year old with cancer? What about the 7 year old with the traumatic brain injury? Was it modern medicine? Was it luck? Was it Hermes or Zeus? God is in everything. He is in science. He is in doctors. He is in the development of medicines and techniques. He guides EMTs, hospice nurses, and people. Today as you see the miracles of God cry out with me, “Thanks be to God.”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Thanks be to God Gal

Dedicated to Teresa & Kyler

Quotes of the Day:
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
Audrey Hepburn

“Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”
Jon Bon Jovi

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
C.S. Lewis

54 and So Much More

54 and So Much More

In my mind today I’m focused on my first cousin. I attended her wake this past Monday. Her precious mother sitting there receiving visitors to give condolences for losing her oldest child. Aunt Linda is now a member of the “Parents who outlived their child club” or as I like to call it “The Eternal Hole in My Heart Club.” Heart-crushing.

Brenda was her first child. The child that is usually the strongest. This child has to experience a mother figuring out how to be a mother. They grow and learn together. There is such a strong bond between mother and her first fledgling. The first child is the brunt of a lot of learning experiences of which some are wonderful but sometimes are tough. Typically the first child survives and thrives often becoming strong and very protective of his or her mother and siblings. This was the case of my Aunt and her first, Brenda.

As I watched the slideshow of my cousin’s life, I saw her seasons of sun. Her unbeknownst physical beauty that encompassed an elegant, selfless soul. She grew into a fierce protector and provider for her mother, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and siblings. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t work. She started at the tender age of 14 years old working in a restaurant. The first big purchase she made was a beautiful, warm coat for her mother. She always worked with a servant’s heart. She never coveted money, wealth, or materialistic things for herself. She always provided for others never thinking of herself. Selfless.

She had battled cancer almost 10 years ago. She won. Two months ago cancer came back for round two. Two months ago she went to her mother’s home and asked, “Mom, can I stay with you? I’m so, so tired.” In her heart and my Aunt Linda’s, they knew the C-word was back. This time it had brought multiple tumors and seeped into her bones growing and spreading with each passing day. My Aunt Linda then did what she does best; she helped her strong daughter pass with love and dignity to her new season. As cancer consumed her physical body, her fear of death subsided and her faith grew. The love of her siblings grew. Her children’s compassion, respect, and love for her grew.

We all knew our strong Brenda was going to go before us. It hurts to think of someone so young battling cancer. When I look at the news, social media feeds, and prayer petitions, it’s flooded with loved ones facing this earthly life stealing disease. Although cancer steals years, it can’t steal our joy, spirit, and love. These are eternally carried within our souls and not touched by cancer. I can give cancer one compliment. It helps us declutter our selfish lives, live in the moment, grow in gratitude, and realize there is so much more even if someone you hold dear is like our strong, beautiful Brenda who was given only 54 earthly years. There is so much more.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I HATE CANCER Gal

Dedicated to Brenda Darby Reed, Kelly Jo Blair Hicks, Callie Cupples DeSpain, Tracy Cupples, Linda Darby, Kim Toombs Evans,Teresa Archer, Cindy Enochs, Rhonda Mayfield, Penny Guthrie, Java Renyolds Stanley. Moody Thompson Permenter, George Hancock, Colt Lemons, Jeremy Maze, Gerald Darby, George Wesley Anderson, Logan Anderson, & all of those touched by cancer.

Quotes of the Day:
“I will thank God for the day and the moment I have.”

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Jim Valvano

 

Joy, Joy, Joy

Joy, Joy, Joy

In my mind I’m thinking of joy. I’ve been experiencing a lot of joy as of late. Joy in the warm spring days. Joy because my garden fairy niece is milling around in my yard. Joy of spending time with my precious niece and great-nephew. Joy with the chances I’m given to be useful. Joy in my abundant friendships. And especially, joy in my children.

About three months ago, my oldest child came into my bedroom while I was doing my daily reading, praying, and reflecting. He said, “Momma, will you pray for me to get this job I’ve applied for with Canadian National Railroad? I really want it. This is my dream job.” I told him I would get right on it. I then thanked God because this was a huge leap for him.

I knew this was a dream job indeed. He has always loved trains. When my sister kept him as a toddler while I worked and went back to school, she would take him daily to watch the train come by her house. Then of course we collected everything “Thomas the Train” from train tables to video tapes. In elementary school, he would draw trains with his friend Grant. Of course, now he collects model trains. My sisters still today call him their “Engine, Engine number 9.” I was so grateful he had discovered a vocation and opportunity. Watching your child struggle is so painful.

When it became evident that Ken and I were going to be fighting and struggling to stay on this side of heaven to see our children into adulthood because of our health situations coupled with losing a child, their older brother, at 26 years of age and an estranged older sister, they became bitter. All of the years we attended church and lived our faith dissolved for them. They were so angry with God. Many times they would ask me, “How can you love a God that took Nick and allowed you and Dad to be terminally sick?” I would tell them this is my cross to bear. Your father and I know that there is more than this life on earth. So Ken and I fight to be here despite end-stage emphysema and ALS. God and prayer has helped sustain us. This bitterness has been lingering for several years and my boys refused to enter our church because they wanted no part of a God who let their brother die and parents have emphysema and ALS. I can hear them asking, “Why won’t your God get you out of that chair? Where’s your miracle?”

My oldest has been desperately floundering for the last two years. He had given up his teaching career. He was searching and trying to find a vocation. Nothing was going his way. So for these last two years he has done odd jobs from climbing under trailers fixing broken sewer pipes to climbing on top of houses patching roofs. He’s come home bruised, cut, and covered in filth from head to toe never complaining. Always searching. At supper each night we hold hands while I pray aloud for each of their futures and give thanks for our blessings whether they want to hear it or not. We endure always.

I marvel at the gifts of my children. I know now I have been given miracles through them. Ken and I both have. You see, we are still here because of the deep love they have for us. That is a direct gift from the God that they don’t understand. He is always for this little Alley Clan even as I roll in my chair and Ken drags his oxygen tanks to work each day. Yes, we struggle but never in vain for he sends us little miracles through family and friends every day. So when Ian came and asked me for prayer a few months ago, I began to cry and pray thanksgiving.

Ian went to Illinois to an all day interview for the railroad on a wing and lots of prayers this past February. He started sliding in the pew beside us on Sunday mornings at church. That first appearance my youngest told me, “Mom I started crying when I saw Ian’s car in the parking lot at church.” He helped me and the youth group Palm Sunday with the Easter Egg Hunt and pancake breakfast. The past few Sundays he has been playing guitar again in the choir loft. Yesterday, I wept tears of joy as I heard his guitar improvising with the hymns. This Saturday, he leaves to go to school in Chicago, Illinois to start his seven week school training for his dream job. My God does give miracles. I will not cease to pray for my children’s futures, but I’ve given a big thank you to my “Sky Daddy” for answered prayers. I’ve got joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Joyful Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”
Menachem Begin

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
Richard Bach

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Buddha

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Tecumseh

“Where’s your Sky Daddy Sal?”
Ian & Ben Alley

17

 

In my mind, seventeen is the number of the day. Seventeen years ago I was about to have my omega child. As I kept reassuring myself that the multitude of human civilization came to be through birth, I felt panic, pain, and exhilaration of becoming a mother once again. So when Rachel Abigail Alley came into the world big eyed and screaming, we were so elated. I was ever so loopy from the meds with my glasses askew atop my head wanting a glimpse of the newest addition. I saw a fuzzy black-haired baby embraced by an overjoyed father. As I was drifting in and out, I heard him say, “Sarah, look. She is so beautiful.” My nurse and family friend Carrie said chuckling, “You’re wasting your time. She’s out of it. Take her to see her family.” She was right.

As I mentioned “Abbey” was our third together and Ken’s fifth child. She was our little Disney World souvenir from our July 2002 family vacation. With the anticipation our little souvenir, I felt more confident as a mother and I’m sure Ken felt it was second nature. We were older and according to our boys way too lenient. Being the youngest definitely has its perks. One of those is being enveloped in love by siblings. Those older may chide you a bit much, but the love is there even if they feel the discipline is too lax. This is often a supper table debate. All of that aside, we cherish our “Chuck.” Her personality, voice, and achievements make us all so very proud.

The years have flown by from zero to seventeen. All of our children have been such gifts from God. It’s hard to imagine our last is on the cusp of adulthood. She left for school today after Sal the Show Tunes Gal serenaded ABBA “Dancing Queen” to her much to Ken’s ears distain. Today is a special day when we are thankful for all things Abigail.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Chuck Lovin’ Gal

Dedicated to Rachel Abigail Alley.

 

My prayer for our birthday girl is this:
Always be humble and know from where your gifts come; the Spirit has blessed you with fruits galore.
Brace yourself for adversity and know you are stronger still; understand that those times are blessings that help your heart to grow even as your tears flow.
Beauty comes from your soul; seek to nurture it from within.
Enjoy the moments of each season; you never know when they will end.
Yearn for being the good even when it causes pain; it seems that good deeds often are punished but remember to try to smile anyway.
Thank you God for our youngest child. Allow us to stay with her a bit longer if it is your will. We will cherish each moment given.
Amen

Quotes of the Day:
“It’s the Abbey show!”
Ben Alley

“You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen
Dancing queen
Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl
Watch that scene
Dig in the dancing queen!”
ABBA