Grapple

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Every day I try to learn a new word or expose myself to a random word. I started doing this a very long time ago. I remember reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as a child. One of the things Eleanor did everyday was to pick up a dictionary and randomly shuffle through it and put her finger on a word. She would then use that word several times during the day. Thus, she added to her vocabulary. Today it’s rather easy for me to find a word of the day. Living with ALS, I have lots of electronic gadgets. One of those is Amazon Alexa. I just ask Alexa, “Hey Alexa, What’s my word of the day?” This week grapple was one of the words. It’s not a word that I did not know the meaning of but it is a word that has resounded with me this week. I even heard it at the Convocation Ceremony for my daughter yesterday. It was in Dr. Hass’s speech, the president of Rhodes College.

This past week has been harrowing and that is an understatement. This is the week that most college students take flight. They go to college to begin their new chapter. They leave behind the comforts of home. The times that seemed so aggravating are being reconsidered and light bulbs are going off in a lot of 18 year old students’ heads. They are beginning to understand that things don’t just happen. Parents annoyingly giving advice and doing all of the little things that magically happen in a household from keeping the bills paid to stocking the pantry packed with all of the best snacks. Granted, our little adventure trying to gather all of the necessities to help our little bird feel as comfortable as she possibly can should have began probably two months ago. Ah we have weeks, let’s just put it off for another day. As the time for departure crept ever so closer, we were in panic mode trying to get everything accomplished from paying tuition and deciding on which meal plan to choose and finishing learning modules that were required before she could enter campus and receive her dorm key. It had me grappling for my sanity. Needless to say, we were rolling down highway 51 toward campus while my little bird pecked away on her laptop trying to finish her module learning courses. Yes, she is an honor student, but boy oh boy, this past few weeks we were definitely learning challenged. We faced a learning curve together and hopefully next year this will all go so much smoother. Hopefully, there will not be much grappling next August when she returns to school.

My little bird is grappling, too. She has been in her new nest for the last two nights. She is surviving on black coffee with no creamer or sugar because yes you guessed it was overlooked. She is desperately searching for her group. She is grappling desperately. When you open up your phone and the text from your daughter says “I’m so lonely” your heart moves to your throat and forms a huge lump. What can you do or say to help your sweet little bird to be brave? First, you say a prayer. You asked God to give you the words. You know what? He does. It has to be from God because I couldn’t make this stuff up. Saturdays I spend studying the gospel for Sunday service. I teach the high school students so I want to be prepared and use the gospel within the lesson.

Here is part of what I read:

Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Jeremiah was cast into a cistern into the muck. He was stranded, away from every comfort he had ever known, and left to die. I’m sure my little bird felt like Jeremiah when we left her. It was so hard for her to feel Jesus. Where was her Ebed-melech? As I typed positive messages I urged her to look around whatever she was at her PA group tonight and find more Ebed-melechs. I assured her they were there. They may not be similar in dress, ethnicity, or gender but they were there for her to discover. She will create with the help of God a new community or family circle. She’s always been such a shy bird with strong morals. She has always been mature for her age as well. I chuckled because I have always called her a granny. By the end of our conversation, she was ready to step out there and be brave. She said, “I am going to find people who like me for me. I am valuable. I can live my Faith. Come Holy Spirit, Let’s do this!” And I breathed a sigh of relief. I had got the words that she needed to hear. Of course, it was more than just the Bible verse. It was a lifetime of learning how to be myself as a Catholic Christian woman in the world. I am still a work in progress just as she is. But thanks be to God that He gives me the words and wisdom to help my precious daughter.

I know a lot of parents right now are grappling. Their nest at home maybe empty or have a few little birds left, but one thing is for sure if you look for your strength in the right places everything is going to be all right. I didn’t say you wouldn’t miss your birds like crazy and even shed tears often. I just say that the arrow from your bow will travel straighter if you have a bow created with the love of God. Those type of bows have a stupendous strength filled with morals, principles, and love. It will give them the accuracy and speed to hit the target of their goals they create for their lives.

Here’s what I have learned:
Complete your financial counseling early in the summer before the few weeks before classes begin.
Make list and do research of what not to take to college.
Find top ten lists of the essentials for college early and not two weeks before leaving; purchase them in a timely matter.
Be positive always even when you want to grapple them around the neck.
Be brave when you say goodbye even though you your heart is shredding inside of your chest and you are leaving a piece of it there.
Each time you think of them, whisper a prayer. I promise it is heard. Remember that birds are made to fly.

Sal the College Mom Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

This quote reminded me of the speech made by the president of the college. We are all community.

“I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves.”

—St. Alberto Hurtado

“Walk your faith. Live it the way it should be lived. If you do you will march closer to the ideals of Rhodes College. Our Catholic faith is inclusive not exclusive.”
Sarah Anderson Alley

Storms

40 days with Sal
It is day 30 students! Where do I begin? Since I last wrote I have had a liver biopsy, a baptismal reception for my littlest grandson, severe pain, a stay in the hospital, visiting with a dear friend contemplating what this life is all about, and a hibernation at home to try to recuperate. The horizon is also full of events that involved our last bird graduating from high school. I am so glad that God will let me see this. This is one thing I prayed for when I became so sick. I wanted to just be able to see her graduate had to get her next season in college. Everything else is just a bonus.
We Catholics are still celebrating Easter. Isn’t that great! I think it is. Today was the tragic reading of the first martyr, Stephen. How he rebuked the crowd and tried to get them to see but yet they rushed him and stoned him to death. It is so hard to take criticism. It is so hard to tell those you love that there is a better way. There is a proper code to treat each other in ways that you want to be treated. There is something bigger at work in our lives. We need to open our ears and eyes. Today the reflection started with “all of our days” and this is what we work for students. We want “all of our days” to be useful and to be something that will live eternally. Something that will continue to spring forth beauty into the world long after we are gone from the Earth. If I were to die tomorrow, I feel satisfied. I feel like Stephen did. I feel that I have run this race very well. Do you understand how good this feels? How peaceful? I want you to feel this, too. I am still here hallelujah to give what little is left of me. It is an honor to be able to do so. Students you are still here, too. There is still so much work to be done. I know we all have spring fever and school is about to be out for the summer but we need to use “all of our days” to love and serve each other especially our families. This is where the greatest love begins.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Using Every Breath Gal
Thank you everyone for the prayers that brought me through this storm.
Quote of the day:
Carpe diem

He is Risen!

Wow! Easter is here! Yesterday was full of celebrating as a family. Each holiday when our family comes together it is a day of love and fellowship. I love these days. Easter has always been special day for our family. We have always gathered to share a meal and to have a big Easter egg hunt for the children. Each generation growing older and a new generation is being born. It warms my heart because students this is what life is about. It is about sharing time and meals with each other. Sharing the bond of kinship. Looking at the DNA as it flows into the future. It is so good to have a loving family. It is a treasure. It is a gift from above.
Last night we attended the Easter vigil. It was beautiful. We had many added to our flock. It felt so good to literally watch The light of Christ grow. The Alley pew is becoming crowded. For this I am so grateful. I was able to journey alongside with the neophytes and sponsor to special daughters: Carlin and Kerrie. Presenting them my voice quivered with happiness. Listening to my daughter sing in the choir loft helped the tears to flow. Tears of happiness. My cup continues to overflow more and more with each season passing.
There were so many happy moments yesterday I can’t tell you all of them. My mother holding my grandson and his reaction to her was miraculous. Our little George is still waking to his new world at 2 months old. When placed on my eighty-year-old mother’s lap, he came alive singing and talking to her. I thank God for moments like this. These are the little pieces of light He puts into my life. You see she has Alzheimer’s, but the spirit of God is stronger. It gives us these little twinkles. Watching the children squeal and hunt for Easter eggs was so endearing. To watch my nieces, nephews, and children lead their children along the bunny

as they once did themselves made me so, so happy. Let’s not forget about the great food either. My sweet son Ben helped me to enjoy the barbecue with all the trimmings. My grand girls proudly hanging with their Gram. They love me contraptions and all. These are just a few of the many, many blessings of the day.

Students I promised 40 days of blogs and as my mother taught me you have to follow through. Lent has ceased but Easter reigns. Our celebrations have just only begun. They will continue on in Easter fashion until the Ascension of our Lord which is 39 days after Easter. So back row, I will get the 40 days was Sal completed! Remember also Easter is to be celebrated every day of your life. Our homework today is to rejoice in this day that our Lord has made! Happy, Happy Easter!
Sal the Easter loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
 Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
Saint Pope John Paul II
“No matter how scared or sinful I am, I am continually called. I look up at Jesus, and I tremble. This Man is much too Good for me. His promises are too Good. And I am much too bad. But still He points to His Wounds and says, “For you.” Still He holds out His Hand, wounded for my greed, and invites me in. To a simple life. To a life where He is my Love and I am His Beloved. He calls me, and I cannot resist forever. He is much too Good for me and Good to me, to the point of tears. But He created my heart for Him. And I cannot resist forever.”
Abbey Alley

The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas

Triduum

Here we are students at Holy Week! Tomorrow we’ll begin our most sacred days of the year: The Triduum(Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday.) I really love how our church walks the path that was created with the death of our savior. Tomorrow as we go to church we will relive The Last Supper. We listen as disciples promise to be loyal but fall short. Good Friday is celebrated alongside all other Christians. It is a holiday celebrated around the world. It is celebrating the crucifixion. I can’t imagine being at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It always brings tears to my eyes. Saturday is our Easter vigil. It starts at sundown in the dark. We are searching for the light of Christ. We proceeded into the dark church faithfully awaiting the light of Christ. This is when baptisms take place and new parishioners are added to our number. Those who have come to the faith through the rites of Christian initiation. It is so beautiful.
This Lent we have worked so very hard to become better Christians. We want to be better people. We don’t want it to end with Easter. Guess what students? It doesn’t have to end. We are called to grow every year. We are to get stronger in our faith. This may be a beginning for some of you but I ask you to open yourself up to whatever God is calling you to do. It may be simple like overlooking a slight given it to you by someone who was supposed to be your friend. It may be that you are to be more serious about your faith and get involved with church life. Start each day with a prayer asking God to use you. I did this long ago and boy am I ever busy. Try it.
Students have you ever noticed how busy each spring is? We have a new group about to graduate from high school. We have a new group about to graduate from college. We have children signing up to begin kindergarten next fall. We have flowers blooming and trees surging to life. The warm days begging us to come outside and forget all the things that need tied up at the end of the school year. Just like the song, “I think to myself, What a Wonderful World” and I do. In spring there is so much living to do and we feel it in our bones. Thanks be to God for Spring, Easter, and New Life. Yes you have homework. Try to attend a Good Friday service and also an Easter service. Find your place and begin your work!
Sal the Triduum Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, ‘Christ is risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.”
Phillips Brooks
“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
Martin Luther
“Easter is very important to me. It’s a second chance.”
Reba McIntire

Life and Death

Last Friday was a special day students. It is the birthday of my last child, Abbey. As a mother every child you have bears a special place in your heart. Each one’s birthday is a special day. We have an Independence Day baby, Labor Day baby, Christmas baby, a Mother’s Day baby, and Easter baby. Lots of Alley babies and each one is a treasure and gift from God. Besides celebrating there was lots of work to be done. Working the soup kitchen on Saturday and church Sunday coupled with a COPD exacerbation by Ken made our schedules harried. Papa Ratz aka Papa Smurf has been ordered meds and rest. Two things he hates. He fights to live each day and is a literal miracle. He has end stage COPD. Most people know about Sal the ALS Gal but not about my sweet, amazing husband. Whisper a prayer for him today students. God blessed Ms. Alley with this hard working and selfless man. I’m not ready to live in a world without him.
Students we have covered many virtues. Seven ways to make a difference. Today I read about life and death. Death is something we all have to face. Humans have a different consciousness than do other animals. We have a consciousness that knows we are going to die. Other animals live their lives without worries about the end of their earthly existence. Why? I believe we are created in the image of the creator. The Creator is eternal and therefore a part of us is as well. How do we deal with this? We are one week away from Holy week. Holy week is the week that we march Christ to the cross. We escort him to his death. This is the Pinnacle of our faith. In this heinous act, death was defeated. We are given answers to our own death. Jesus showed us that there is life after death. He paved our path to ressurrection. Living with disabilities and illnesses is only a part of our journey. I believe our death is a birth into the eternal. Be not afraid students.
Today’s lesson was a heavy lesson. No one wants to think about death. So let’s talk about life. Life is what happens between birth and death. How is your life? Is it full? Are you disappointed? Are you angry? I hope your life is going well. If it isn’t students you need to take inventory. On my journey sometimes I reach a dark patch and I find that I am focusing inward. I am counting all the crosses that I bear. I am wanting to know why they are there. Why did someone so young in the middle of life end their earthly journey? Why do good people have horrible cancers? I become angry. I want to lash out at God. Guess what students? There are days that I lash out but they are becoming fewer and fewer as I journey toward my death. You see God is not a rescuer; He is a redeemer. It is so easy to confuse the two. We mere humans want to be rescued from cancer, strokes, COPD, ALS, young deaths of children, and all the other unexplicable tragedies that we traverse through on Earth. There in lies our mystery. The mystery that our journey redeems us to be born again in death to the next life. So if you are not in a happy place in your life, try to practice you’re virtues. Remember as a Christian you have a job to do. You are to live your faith. That means more than showing up to church once a week. Being a Christian has to be the most important part of your life. That Sunday that you do attend church should redeem and refresh you for your job you have each week. It is hard back row, but I believe you can do it. I implore you to be found. Next week begins our Holy Week of Lent. We will relive the death of our savior, Jesus Christ. But on that third day our tears will be dried and our hearts will be full because we know we are redeemed. We are preparing to live our lives with purpose and at our deaths we are restored to everlasting life.
Sal the Redemption Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Leonardo da Vinci
Back row, not the blue Ninja turtle!

Faith

Looking back over our classes together, we have been very busy! We have covered so many virtues. We have tried to put so much goodness out into the world. Remember this is ongoing assignment. I don’t want you to stop after we reach our forty days together.
Yesterday we discussed charity. I hope in some way you were able to be charitable. Don’t forget it doesn’t have to be something huge like donating $1,000 to a local charity. That’s great if you can, but if you are not able to do so don’t beat yourself up. I find that God works in the smallest of ways. Those small little gestures that we give as we walk through our daily lives.
Today we will discuss the last virtue of the seven Christian virtues, faith. I grew up in the 80s and when I hear the word faith I think of that song by George Michael. You know the one: “You Gotta Have Faith.” This song is very far from the virtue of faith that we need to discuss today. Faith is the belief is the graciousness of God’s plan for our lives. The Divine plan for our lives is revealed in Scripture and traditions of the church. Faith is not something we can acquire by studying. Back row you love that part. It is a gift. It is a mysterious gift. If we ask God to strengthen our faith and his works, he freely gives it to us. He gives us Faith to believe in the things that we do not see with our eyes. The virtue of faith has many definitions with the the many denominations of Christian faith. The one I described to you is from Thomas Aquinas. Faith is a very important virtue.
Today as I write this blog, I remember that today is the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I think it is befitting to discuss faith on this day. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had tremendous faith. I remember teaching this objective in my history class. Listening to the speech the night before his death together we realized he had faith that the cause for good would continue. He foretold of his impending death. He reassured the Civil Rights crowd he was not scared. He knew better things would come whether he was here in body or spirit. Twelve years before April 4th 1968 Dr. King had received yet another death threat. As he sat in the middle of the night with a cup of coffee he recalled hearing a voice. That voice promised that it would be with him to the end of time. It encouraged him to fight for what was right and just. This steeled his resolve to continue the dangerous fight for rights. You see students, he had faith in God’s plans.
Every once in awhile, I get glimpse of what Sal the ALS Gal looks like in this scoot. For example, heading into the church last night for youth group I saw myself reflected in the glass doors.  I saw a broken body rolling into church cumbered by apparatuses to help me continue to go forward. I said oh my goodness. My daughter asked what are you talking about? I just replied boy I am such a mess. Rolling down the hall, I saw one of our young parishioners with her baby and four year old. The four year olds face lit up and grabbed my arm and hugged me the best way she could. We began talking about little topics that children love. The image that I saw moments before vanished. For a second, I lost my faith that a broken body could still do the work God has provided for me. I was reminded of oh ye of little faith. You see students if you ask God for the faith to complete the plan of your life, He will. Why are we studying how to be lights for God? Why are we learning virtues? We are on this journey to make the best decisions possible. We want to make the world a better place. We can only do that by walking in faith in our daily lives. This Faith walk speaks louder than any blog or speech. Today, walk with faith that God is with you. Your day maybe riddled with problems, but have faith. Turn to him and whisper a prayer:
God, I want to have faith. I want you to help me make good choices. I give my life to you. Help me to grow in faith and love for what is good and just.
Amen
Sal the Faithful Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. . . . And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
—Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at a rally the night before his death