Laughter, Lights, & Love

Laughter, Lights, and Love

In my mind today, I’m thinking about Laughter, Lights, and Love. God blessed me with two of the best biological sisters this little sister could ever ask for. We love unconditionally. When one hurts so does the others. I’m so grateful for the hearts my mother nourished in each of her children. Through her strong belief, faith, and hope in God, she created something stunning from her strife as a predominately single mom. She helped us to laugh at our troubles as we grew. She shined her love-light in so many ways that gave us examples of kindness. She showered us with a fierce love that soaked into our souls. God has also granted me sisters in Christ. I have been given writing & book-loving buds, childhood comrades, college cohorts, Alley Alliance warriors, committee cronies, Parish pals, teaching chums, neighbor friends, and Bunco buddies. In each season and chapter of my life, I have and am still blessed beyond measure.

Last night we had our Christmas Bunco Blast at another “sister’s” new business, Holy Cow. It’s located in the quaint, cozy town of Trimble, Tennessee. This group of Bunco “sisters” has been playing together for one score and two years. Students, remember how many years are in a score? Back row, I’m not talking about a Monday night football score! Listen! That’s right front row! Twenty! Add the two and voila, we have shared twenty-two wonderful years together. We’ve been “sisters” through having babies, divorces, retirements, deaths, job changes, moves, our kid’s going to college and getting married, and now our season has the joy of grandchildren. A couple of Bunco Buddies have great-grandchildren. Our age range is a broad spectrum, but that just adds to the spice of our crew. Our little group has shared so much of each other’s pain, happiness, and love. We are the “Ya-Ya’s” of Bunco and we have oh, so much fun.

Last night, the Light of the season was in us all. I laughed hysterically at our antics. Tears of happiness rested in my eyes the entire night. My heart was filled with so much Light, Laughter, and Love for these “sisters.” I’m ever so grateful for each one of them. They are each unique and wonderful in their own ways. While my weakness in my body continues, our sisterhood grows stronger still. You see when you face life’s hardest moments true friends stay. The rest of the world may sadly walk away in the face of adversity, but not my Bunco Ya-Ya’s. They have walked with me through my “new normals” of ALS/PMA. From putting up temporary ramps to feeding me, they brain-storm ways to keep our Bunco Train chugging. I know they will for as long as I have breath in me. We are “Sisters” to the end.

Students, I pray you find God-given siblings in this life. They are truly priceless. If you have some, make time this advent to spend precious moments with them. If you haven’t, then get busy and reach out. Embrace those around you at work or church. Start your own Ya-Ya group! Before you know it, the Laughter, Lights, and Love will traverse scores of time.

So students, this week’s theme for Advent is Light of the Holy Spirit. As we journey through this week of activities, obligations, and bustle, don’t just plug in your Christmas lights on your trees. Be sure that the one you light up first is the Light from above, the Holy Spirit. It was a gift given to mankind over 100 scores ago. It’s in your heart. Be sure to plug it in and let it shine.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Heart-light Gal

Dedicated to all of my Bunco Buddies
Thanks for Dot’s message and reflection from her latest retreat!

Quotes of the Day:
“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”
Euripides

“Friends are the siblings God never gave us.”
Mencius

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
Helen Keller

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Grateful

Grateful

In my mind today, I’m thinking about the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday. As I read and prayed this morning, the word grateful kept popping up. The more I sat in the stillness, the more I was filled with such gratefulness. Each day is such a gift. Ken and I know this all to well.

I’m so grateful our family is growing. We have a new three month old member, Owen Monroe. My son’s fiancé Carlin’s family joined us creating more love and diversity. There were old recipes and new. The bounty of food was so abundant. The joining of families is such a beautiful sight. The saying, “The More the Merrier” is definitely true.

After Thanksgiving, I felt oh, so peaceful. The last three months have been harrowing. As we held hands and prayed (yes back row, just like The Whos down in Whoville,) a warmth spread all over Sal the Prayerful Gal’s body. Tears brimmed my eyes as the realization hit me. Lots of my prayers have been answered. My niece who had been deathly sick is on the road to recovery. She looks healthier and stronger than I have seen her in years. My precious mother that has short-term memory issues still remembers our names and has snuggles and hugs that are priceless. Our Grands lost their father seven years ago, but have a wonderful, stable home and are growing into happy, healthy, and amazing people. My husband had a good time enjoying all the company despite his ever present cannula and health issues. And last but not least, my great nephew sat on my scoot with me when he could have easily been on the other side of heaven just a few weeks ago. Ladies and Gentlemen, God is Good ALL the Time. He gave us a day of such love and gratefulness. I will always treasure and be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Being thankful in all things is easy when prayers are answered. There are going to be days and times when God answers our prayers in ways we don’t quite understand. We as mere humans have to be okay with those answers as well. This is where some hearts turn cold, angry, and bitter. Students, please try to be thankful in all things. I pray continually for God to help me find His blessings in all things: the Good and the Bad.

Here lies your lesson for Thanksgiving this year. Back row I know you want me to drop the holiday lessons, but I’m a teacher 365 days of the year so quit grumbling and listen. Continue to pray always without ceasing. If someone or something is causing you pain, pray and ask for guidance. In everything be thankful. God doesn’t take days off. He hasn’t forgotten you. The unanswered prayers often turn out to be blessings in disguise. Just be still, patient, and thankful. Always, always be Grateful.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ever so Grateful Gal

Dedicated to my family’s miracles of 2017

Quotes of the Day:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” —Dalai Lama

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” —Willie Nelson

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” —Charles Dickens

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein

Life

Life

 

 

 

 


In my mind today I’m thinking about how we can survive this life. Just like the old saying, “No one gets out alive” the truth hurts. As we trundle down our life lines, we have many hills to climb and sometimes when you’re lucky you catch some effortless down hill coasting. This reminds me of my biking and running seasons. Those coasting moments are refreshing.

Our book club just read The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. It has just been made into a major motion picture. It was a great read about survival and love. Just like in life, we encounter mountains. The mountains can be literal like in our book but also figurative. We have mountains to climb in our personal lives, workplaces, peer groups, families, and especially our spiritual lives. We slip, fall, get lost, and sometimes tumble over the cliff wall. The most important thing is that we give our all so we have no regrets. That’s when we are able to lift our eyes up to see the Glory of the blessings we have given and received in our lives. When the mountain seems too steep, use blind Faith to get you to the top. This whole “life” is so much bigger than we mere humans can fathom.

I ended our Book Club meeting with a quote by a wise, beautiful woman. I was lucky enough in this life to meet her and hear her sing. The quote paralleled the motifs of our book. “To succeed in life you need three things, a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.” Your wishbones are your dreams. Your determination is your backbone. Your sense of humor which is ever so important is your funny bone. If you can find humor on your steepest mountain climbs, you’ll be at the summit before you know it. Today as you begin your weekend and Thanksgiving holidays, find your wishbones, backbones, and funny bones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Mountain Climbing Gal
Dedicated to Reba McIntire for her beautiful spirit, inspiration, and strength.

Quotes of the Day:
“To succeed in life you need three things, a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”
Reba McIntire

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”
Edward Abbey

 

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
Muhammad Ali

“Patience and Diligence, like faith, remove mountains.”
William Penn

 

Love Flows

 

Love Flows

In my mind, I’m thinking about “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. “(Romans 13:9) This precept covers many commandments. I’ve always said it’s easy to love those neighbors with which you have commonalities, but what about those who “grind your gears?”

Well, when those people lash out at you or send you passive aggressive messages or talk about you behind your back how do you respond? Sal the Young Ambulatory Gal probably acted totally different that Sal the Old ALS Gal. Young Sal probably played the passive aggressive psychological warfare right back without batting an eye. She also snapped a lot quicker than she would now. Even before I became Sal the Handicapped Gal my heart began to change.

I remember after being hurt by co-workers, family, friends, or parents, I would retreat to my classroom turn out the lights and weep. Within my weeping time, I would pray for my heart and those who had hurt me. You know what, God dried my tears and helped me to smile and forgive never looking back or reacting negatively to those who hurt me. During one of my dark classroom, weeping moments God sent one of my dearest teaching friends to console me. I still go back to this even today when I feel hurt by someone. She said, “Sal feel honored. If you weren’t acting selflessly, then you wouldn’t be doing the right thing. Look at how they treated Jesus. You are blessed with being genuine and acting with your heart.”

The times of scrutiny and backlash haven’t ceased just because I’ve retired from the public sector of teaching. I’ve become really good at praying before reacting to hurtful “neighbors.” You see when your heart is in the right place it makes me think of “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) It’s ever so hard to love in the face of sordidness, pettiness, ignobleness, or haughtiness. People can really be the worst. That’s what prompted me to write today. I want us to think about how others have shown us love.

Love abounds in my life. Here are some recent examples. My family keeps me clean and scrubbed. Most people trapped in a wheelchair don’t get the luxury of a bath and consistently being changed. Yes back row, I meant changing my dipe. Yesterday, I was whisked away by a sweet friend to a painting class with a long time friend. We then bought items for Operation Shoebox to use at my Youth Group. My son who had worked all day took me to Bible study and loaded and unloaded my van. My mother-in-law joined in helping as well. This is just one day in the life of Sal the Loved Gal. God sends people to help me live life to the fullest.

Okay here’s where as a teacher I want you to figure out how can all of this love continually surround me? Think and as a good teacher always should, I’ll give you adequate thinking time. Hear that Jeopardy music in your head? Need a hint? Examine the title of this blog post: Love Flows. Want to love and feel loved? It’s vital that YOU make the initial love offering even to those who hurt you. Forgive them. Especially to the ones who continually lash out or respond with hate. Make no room for revenge or mean reactions in your heart. Catch those moments and whisper a prayer of patience and help for you and the neighbor. I promise if you do, the dam you have built within your heart will begin to crumble. Love will soon be overflowing in your lives. Today try to react with love. Let your Love Flow!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Love your Neighbor Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Just let your love flow
Like a mountain stream
And let your love grow
With the smallest of dreams”
The Bellamy Brothers

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

Happy Anniversary

 

Happy Anniversary

In my mind today, I’m thinking about marriage. Today, Ken and I have been married 28 years. We’ve loved and supported one another through peaks and valleys of this life journey. We’ve raised five children and have two wonderful grandchildren. Just like Joe Walsh sings, “Life’s been Good to Me.” It really has.

Ken had two children when we met. I knew by watching him with his children what a wonderful man he truly was. I couldn’t understand how any woman would not treasure him. I’m just so glad they didn’t. I hate he suffered so much heartache and failed marriages, but without those aches I wouldn’t have met the love of my life. Back row, today is an ultra cheesy post so I give you permission to “zone” out.

As a newly wedded couple, we saw no reason to wait on children. I was awfully young, but he already had children and he wasn’t getting any younger. So, we had children. I worked two jobs and went to college part time to finish my degree I had abruptly dropped. He was my biggest fan and insisted although money was tight that I earn my degree. He wanted me to excel and to be educated. What a wonderful man? He’s been my compass. He was heaven sent.

We have truly shared life. The years have blown by and almost all the children are grown. One is in heaven and the youngest is sweet 16. This morning he woke me with, “Happy Anniversary Sweetheart.” What so many don’t understand is that true, lasting love is more than hot sex (the back row is wide awake now) and breathtaking moments. Sure those are a part of it, but I find myself gushing over him because of his beautiful heart. I still blush when I see him. He’s always told me how wonderful and beautiful I am before ALS and after. And what’s even better, I believe him. He’s changed this ugly duckling into a swan ALS and all. Marriage is truly a gift from God.
I love you Ken,

Sal the Old Married Gal

Dedicated to true love. I hope you someday find yours.

Quotes of the Day:
“Cherish not just anniversaries but each given moment.”
Mrs. Sarah Anderson Alley

“True love stories never have endings.”
Richard Bach

“Love is when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 

When the Saints Go Marching In…

When the Saints Go Marching In…

In my mind today, I’m reading and reflecting on today’s Holy Day: The Feast of All Saints. You ever hear people say, “That person is a Saint!” Well, what makes a Saint?

Everyday I read about a different Saint. It’s part of my morning ritual. These courageous people many times suffered tremendously during their lives. To top it off many times they died gruesome deaths: burning at the stake, disemboweled, quartered at their death and scattered, or crucified upside down. I see the back row woke up with all of these graphic descriptions. The way they died didn’t automatically put them on the list for sainthood. It was the way they continued to live despite the suffering. They constantly sought what was true, right, and justified by God. They were light bearers. They spread hope, joy, and love in the mist of hopelessness. After reading this phrase “saints faced walls but saw them as doors,” made me stop and think how wonderful? What an inspiring frame of mind. When backed into a corner, they didn’t see the walls of terminal diseases, starvation, injustice, abject poverty, or tyranny. They envisioned solutions and lived those solutions never relenting until their deaths. They never feared death because they knew their purpose was bigger. Could you surrender your life for the greater good?

During mass each week we have a time to remember those souls who have gone before us. I have always loved this brief part of our service. I’m able to remember and whisper prayers for family and friends who are on the other side of heaven. I get lost in my mind remembering them and the love I still carry for them in my heart. I imagine they can feel the love emanating from all of us here on earth and they smile because I do. Amazingly we each are given an earthly life that intertwines with so many. I’m excited to see and understand all the connections when I cross over into eternity. Yes back row, I am a bit fruity.

Today, strive to be a Saint. Saints were ordinary people like you and me. It’s not about how much you give, do, or pray. It’s about the way in which you give, do, or pray. It’s about what is in your heart as you give, do, or pray. It’s about a journey of thinking of others before you think of yourselves. It’s about “finding doors” when you are walled in a corner. Back row it’s not about illusions but simply unleashing the magic within our own hearts. Let’s all join in the choir of saints and give of ourselves, do something kind, and pray for each other.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I wanna be a Saint Gal

Dedicated to all of those who have gone before us.

Quotes of the Day:
“I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by.”
Thérèse of Lisieux

“A man does not have to be an angel in order to be saint.”
Albert Schweitzer

“In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 120 saints of China, 87 of whom were ethnically Chinese. My home church was incredibly excited because this was the first time the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged Chinese citizens in this way.”
Gene Luen Yang

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor.”
Mother Teresa

 

Wired, Hope, & Hearts

 

Wired, Hope, & Hearts

In my mind today I’m thinking about being wired, “Hoping against Hope,”and eyes of the heart. Having a disease like ALS, I have to be “wired” most of the time. My devotion today suggested I unplug. I chuckled as I was reading it on my iPhone. My hands are too weak to hold a physical book and use paper and pen. My modus operandi is reading and pecking away on my phone. Sadly, this too is going to end eventually. Don’t cheer back row, because some earthly angels have gifted me with a Dynavox: a device where I use my eyes to type and communicate. So, hopefully my blogging, teaching, and writing will go on a bit longer. I hear moaning back there! So Sal the Wired Gal still needs to zone out occasionally without these electronic devices and so do you. Yes, here’s your first assignment of the day: pick a small block of time and turn off your phone, tablet, lap top, or PC. I used to sometimes spend my lunches or planning periods at school alone in my room in the dark. I would begin praying, meditating, and often times sleeping. I do that now every day sometime between 8 AM and 11 AM. You know what? It recharges me. Front row, you caught that pun didn’t you? Yes back grow, this is a grade.

My phrase of the day is “Hoping against Hope.” In the Alley family, we’ve had and continue to have a lot of “Hoping against Hope” scenarios. It has been a harrowing past few months. My husband crashed in the ER and was slowly brought back from a vent. A dear niece of mine almost lost her life to lung disease. My great-nephew endured a traumatic, life threatening head injury. My older brother is on the brink of self-destruction with addiction issues. My dear mother continues to decline mentally with Alzheimer’s. Of course, I continue to fight ALS. This all seems surreal. It’s sounds like a Lifetime movie and fiction. It’s simply life. Just like the quote from Ian Maclauren, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This is ever so true. We are all “Hoping against Hope.” I hear you asking, “Ms. Alley, how can we continue on? It all seems so hopeless.” Ah, but “Hoping against Hope” is not hopeless and here’s your second assignment. Use your prayers and petitions to summon a miracle. Right now after reading this, whisper a prayer for something you feel hopeless about. Ask for guidance. Unplug yourself and listen. Remember I’m a teacher at heart. I’m tying this lesson together. There’s always Hope. It’s one of the big three: Faith, Hope, and Love.

I’ll end with eyes of the heart. I stumbled across this or it was planted in my mind the other day: eyes of the heart. I thought to myself how beautiful? Back row I see you looking perplexed picturing a heart with literal eyeballs on it. It’s so much deeper than that. I think looking at problems, people, and situations with your heart is something of divinity. When as a mere human, we begin to seek and to see with a humble, all encompassing heart then we are literally in the heart of our maker. I know I’m getting a bit cheesy here but let me share this quick story. During mass one Sunday, I had an epiphany. As I prayed, looked at the crucifix, and took communion, I realized God had escaped my heart. I was now being carried inside of His heart. Yes, back row Ms. Alley is a bit Cuckoo. I had the realization that I was free from ALS. I was now being carried through this earthly life for something greater. People always ask, “How do you do all that you do?” Well this is the answer. I now look with God’s heart as I roll around in my wheelchair. He moves me, puts people in my life to assist me, and carries me through each adventure. Eyes of the Heart.

Last assignment I promise. Today when you unplug, “Hope against Hope, and look with your heart, smile because you have been given another day to make the world a better place. Be grateful for the good and the bad. Each day is a new beginning to begin anew. If you are reading this, you have a purpose to fill and jobs yet to do. Get out there! Go in Peace to love and serve others.
Sal the Spiritual Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Hope against hope, and ask till ye receive.”
James Montgomery

 

“I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Jesus Christ