Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

In my mind lately, I have been wanting to write for so long. There have been so many mornings that I had read something that made me think of all of you. Things that touched my heart and I want to share. Seeing all of the little miracles around me unfold. Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s more than just green beer and wearing green to keep from getting pinched! I know the back row did not want to hear that.
During these long days of the pandemic I have been so blessed to be enveloped with love from my family. Now, I did not say that we did not fight or get into squabbles. In the Alley house, we call our squabbles incidents. We have certainly had several ” incidents.” We have recently begun to inch out of our little dens like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog. Depending your mindset, how much did you grow during the pandemic? Did you grow spiritually? Did you grow emotionally? Think of what you gained from the pandemic time. I certainly gained a lot. Yes, back row, you have homework. Think of things that you were blessed with during the pandemic.
This leads me back to St. Patrick. Saint Patrick did not struggle through a pandemic but the parallels of his indentured servitude are something we can look at to help us understand the power of God. Let me paint the picture a little bit for my students. St. Patrick was born to two very devout Christian parents in Roman Brittania. They were wealthy. He had a great life until one day he was captured by Irish pagans and sold into slavery as a shepherd in Ireland. He was about 16 years old. 16! Can you even imagine? It makes our pandemic time look very wimpy. He was not a very studious child but as he spent his days on the mountains and hills in Ireland tending the sheep, he got closer and closer to God. He felt God within him. He spoke with God. After several years of enslavement, God told him to go to the coast. He would find a boat there. This boat would take him back to his home country. He traveled 200 miles of course on foot. I don’t think they had many types of transportation in the 4th century. He did see a boat and whenever he went up to the boat and begged for a passage back to his home country the sailors said no. As he was walking away, they had a change of heart. They allowed him to ride with them. The journey was perilous. There were many times of despair. One of those occasions the sailors told him to pray to his God because they were all going to starve to death. Patrick did just that. He prayed and there were pigs freshly slaughtered that they came upon. They ate their fill. Patrick made it back to his family. Before the celibacy rule, his father and grandfather were priests. He followed suit. Something kept telling him to go back to Ireland. He had a dream that the people of the Ireland were begging him to come back. After his studies, he returned to Ireland. He became a bishop there. He performed many miracles and some of those were on the high holidays of the Druids. This always caused a stir. Saint Patrick lit a fire on the high holy day of darkness. They were not able to put the fire out. Miracles like these help to convert the Irish people to Christianity. The miracle that is most talked about is how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. When we think of Saint Patrick’s Day we think of clovers. They are associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because he used the clover to describe God as three people in one. St Patrick was very close to nature and saw God everywhere in nature. He walked fearlessly having been granted a long life in Ireland. His only fear was of his God. Anything of this earth did not bother Saint Patrick. Today he is the patron saint of Ireland. You see back row, It’s more than green beer and wearing the color green!
Don’t forget your homework! There are blessings everyday in our lives. There are tiny miracles all around us. During this time I have been given a group of women to read and share the Bible with and try to figure out how we can be closer to God. I have been given little notes of love in the mail from people of all types of faith that are praying for me. I am so thankful. I really do feel the prayers. How did you grow like Saint Patrick?
Sarah Anderson Alley Sal the loving Saint Patrick Gal
Quotes of the day: Saint Patrick
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

Merry Christmas 2020

In my mind today I have been trying so hard to find the Joy. The pandemic has driven everyone into their tightest circles possible. In my family, the circle is huge. The times of huge gatherings was not to be had this year. From March until who knows, we will miss very many wonderful gatherings or take a chance. The fragility of our health makes it harder than ever because we want to be with all of our loved ones. If I sat in my wheelchair and dwelled on this everyday, I don’t think I would have any tears left. I believe I would cry myself empty. That is why I reach for my devotionals each day. I try to feed my mind with good words and directions before I begin each day. Some days you just have to cuss. I hear you back row; you are laughing. After losing it, I turn back and ask for forgiveness. The tensions inside of our homes is real. Even in our most tenuous moments there is joy! Don’t believe me back row? Let’s take it to trial. You be the judge!


Exhibit A
Last year I got a new wheelchair. It was to be driven by my head and neck. I didn’t realize that my neck muscles would begin to atrophy before I ever mastered it. So, it sat in the corner in my room broken after I had run into a car outside and broken the drive device. The new chair sat there for a year, and I continued to drive the old one. My left arm is now weakening and I am barely able to drive with a joystick but I was still able to tootle around especially outside. Next, the batteries were running out on the old wheelchair that I was using and I was forced to contact the wheelchair people. They came to get the wheelchair and put many adaptations on it for me. After three more with months of waiting, it arrived! I was so excited to drive again without worrying about the battery dying. My dogs were getting seriously mad at me because I could not roll with them. The eye gaze system was a bit jerky but I thought hey I can do this. I did tootle a bit and then I was waiting for a day to go outside and practice. Driving with your eyes inside takes a lot of skill especially whenever you have an s curve on the way into the bedroom. Don’t you remember whenever you were learning to drive? They take you to big parking lots and let you practice. I was bound and determined to learn to drive this wheelchair. My son and I headed outside. I began to drive it down the ramp but whenever I got out of the garage it died. It would not work. It kept saying no eyes detected! We sat out there for 2 hours trying to figure out why the wheelchair would not work. It had to be me or some wire that wasn’t attached correctly. I did hit a few doors and walls in the house. Whenever we gave up and came in, it worked in the house. I had suggested that maybe the sunlight was interfering with it. So I called the technology people that created the eye gaze and found out that I was given the cheapest version available. Insurance did not think it was necessary for me to be outside driving on my own. Folks, I am not dead yet. As long as I am breathing, I want to go outside it doesn’t matter if it is 0° or 110°. This girl loves outside. It’s where I find most of my joy. It is where God meets me. After several meltdowns and conversations with insurance and technology people I believe they have approved the eye gaze that works outside as well as inside. What I had discovered was unless you have an advocate you are your own. Where is the joy? The joy was I was able to advocate for myself. The joy was now I know even more how important it is to donate to the ALS chapter because they are huge advocates of getting us what we need. The virtual race that we had this year made it possible to give a nice donation to the ALS chapter. Joy abounds.  I can call at any time and they are able and willing to help me live with ALS. 
Verdict: Help those who have no advocate. I guarantee you you will find joy!


Exhibit B
If you know me, You know I am an absolute nut for Christmas! I always have been. Did I always get everything I wanted for Christmas as a child? Never. But that’s okay. It was about the songs and the feeling that Christmas gives that was always what I loved. Let us not forget the awesome claymation cartoons. I was born at the right time. I still torture my children to this day and grandchildren with watching those antique shows together. I just drive my family crazy. Lists. I am list maker. Even if I cannot physically write anymore, I make lists in my head and occasionally voice to text them like I am now. I shoot those list out to my poor children. The ones that are trapped with me in this house. That’s how I think they feel sometimes! They then begin to try to help. This year the list was completely ignored. The kids started decorating without any attention given to the list. So cue the meltdown. I asked them what were they doing? Why were they dragging out all this stuff but I actually said junk? I asked desperately, “Did you even read the list?” The list was way simpler than what was going on. They were dragging out things I had not seen in years. The house was a wreck. I was a wreck. They were frazzled. It was not a beautiful Christmas scene from a Hallmark movie at all. After we all got over it (10 days later) the decorating began. They tried to back up and punt. I had only planned on one tree this year. Yes, I know it’s horrible that I have more than one tree and I am stuck in a wheelchair and I still want those trees up. The list that I had given them explicitly said one tree. I wanted the Nativity tree because that is what this time of year is really all about anyway. It was like one of those quizzes your teacher gives you and then when you get to the end it says put your name at the top and you will get a 100. Don’t worry about answering the questions. If that had been done, lots less crying and gnashing of teeth would have happened while decorating. The whole house almost came down whenever they found out I had nixed the memory tree. Needless to say, decorating is done and there are three trees up. The tree that means the most to my children is the one that is full of memories. Note to self! It is the one that has traveled with us through our lives together. It has all sorts of ornaments from friends and school crafts. It carries with it people and friends who are no longer with us. The nativity tree used to be in the foyer. The memory tree was always in the living room. It had lived with us. It was the staple tree from the very beginning. This year I flipped them. After all of the dust settled, my sweet husband who never says anything says, “I can’t believe you picked the Nativity tree. Didn’t you realize the children would be upset? The memory tree is also my favorite. It should be in the living room.” 
Verdict: Don’t assume that others love the cherish same things that you do even if you live in the same household. Be considerate of their time and feelings regardless if there is a list. My list caused so much grief and wasted so much time. I should have just let them decorate the way they wanted. It will be theirs to do one day anyway. After one nasty exchange, I suddenly realized I was being over zealous with the trappings of Christmas. I felt just like the Grinch before he had an epiphany. It really only matters that we are here and we will be able to make more memories God willing. That’s it. You don’t need anything: a tree, gifts, or extravagance of any kind to find the Joy of Christmas.


Bed sores (another gift from being in a wheelchair that is stationary,) uti infections, and beyond and I could never forget to mention the near death experiences of choking. Yes we have been through a lot of falling down with our health lately. The pandemic makes it so much harder to look at the bright side of things. If this is how you feel, it is time to flip the script. You need to look around yourself and see all of those blessings. Look around and find people who need blessings. Now that you have opened your eyes, you need to get busy. You have so many gifts of joy to unwrap this advent. Here are some of the gifts I have received: fresh eggs from a friend who has a farm each Saturday delivered straight to my mailbox or my garage, surprise drop offs of pumpkin bread and pies, a dear friend who is very sick made the dressing for my Christmas meal that tastes so much like my mother’s, my children trying to make me want to live longer, my grandson who has ripped every vehicle off of every tree with a few other ornaments, a window visit from my grand girls that I have not seen in months, and beautiful Christmas cards from friends that I never knew I would be able to hear from again. These are just a few of the gifts from people who just love us. That is complete Joy. God speaks to us every single day not just Christmas. He is in the little birds that sit by my window and pick berries. He is in the squirrels that skitter and fight and play around my window everyday. He is in the playful dogs that come to my window wanting to know why I am not out there with them. He is in my children that desperately try to make everything okay. He is in the sweet husband that guards his little family so well even though he himself has lost so much. He is in the bulbs that I saved and are now beginning to sprout in my window. Every message he gives me is of LOVE and a promise of resurrection. I see things sometimes that I know are just for me from God. Students there is Joy whether we open our eyes to see it or not. What are you waiting for? Find your joy!


Merry Christmas!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ALS Gal


Quotes for the Season:
“Cover them,” he says. “I do not wish to see them.” Ebenezer Scrooge
“Bring them here,” He says. “I wish to see them.” Jesus Christ
Do you see the difference? Scrooge did not want to see the poor of the world. He did not want to feel responsible or guilty or worse not to feel anything. To you much that is given… always remember that. Jesus said bring those to me who are on the fringes of life. 


Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 
 

Thanksgiving 2020

In my mind today, I have had such strong emotions this November. Novembers are always hard for us since our son left the Earth. It was 10 years this year. So so many have left us. It is our job to continue on and to spread love and unselfish acts. We have been isolated because of our health. Everything is different this year because of the pandemic. This was the first year we did not get to see our grand girls. This was the first year that we didn’t have 50 plus people to share a family meal. Our wonderful weekends at church and with family have been thwarted since March. There has just been so much grief in our world. My heart cannot take it.
Yesterday at the end of November in my readings I was reminded to stop, pray, and hope for better times on this Earth. Although everything has seemed so sad and dreary we have to fight through the dark times. We have to search for the good even if it is just thru our own window. There is so much good still to be done; there is still so much good in our lives although we often overlook it. I am thankful for the blessings of getting to see my husband and children every day. I am grateful that my youngest grandson is able to be with me so so much because his parents are having to work. It brings so much light and joy to us. It makes me realize that our jobs during this time maybe just simply to love each other I mean really love each other. Not post a pic on social media to show all the wonderful love but really really give that wonderful love even if you don’t get a picture. Be in the moment. I know I have always been a little bit nutty but I tried to imprint memories in my mind as I am having them. There is a treasure trove to be revisited. As I look out the big window with my grandson and see all of the beauty of the birds and the squirrels playing, I know there is no place that I should be but with him. I see that real love when he falls asleep on his Uncle Ben because Uncle Ben has the best hugs. I see that love when Abbey has to say “No!” I also see that love when he goes to her for his essential needs, snacks! I see that love when he sings along with us or adds a new word. I see real love when he jumps up in Poppy’s chair and shares his cereal with his coffee in the afternoons just like my grand girls always did. I hear that love when I hear my daughter is singing for her classes upstairs. I feel that love especially when my family has to feed me and bathe me.Even if I am a guinea pig for all of my daughters beauty stuff! I have just not ever been a girly girl or a diva I guess. She loves it and I love that she wants to keep me healthy.  I even see that kind of love when the cat will jump on my feet and just lay there for hours. ALS continues to take but I refuse to give it my joy. My joy -o- meter has been up and down like the stock market but when I open my devotionals and all of my readings I find the strength to fight. Stop, pray, and hope. My hope is way bigger than a mustard seed and I know where my Joy comes from and that’s all that I need. Last but not least, I am thankful for you. For loving and supporting me and this fight, I can never repay all of the kindness that surrounds me. I can only say, thanks be to God.
Sarah Anderson AlleySal the Thankful Gal
Quotes for the Day:
Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires.Sherri L. Dew
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.Buddha
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.Alphonse Karr

…but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Kathy & George

In my mind today I am thinking about death. Just plain and simple death. Our God sweeps in and takes those we love. How we take it so personal when someone has to go. Then we think about fairness; is there any fairness? Is there ever a good time for us humans?
My family and I have been going to the same church for 30 years and my mother-in-law since the 1970’s. This is something very odd for me. Growing up I did not have a home church. I spent many days on church vans trying to find a home for my little young girl soul. You see my mother had to work third shift and there were no family going to church together days. This is something that I found to be very, very important. Will it guarantee your kids always act right? Never. But there is just something about the love of a church for you and for your family that is an extension of the greater love from God. I thank God for my little church.
Recently we have lost so many wonderful people. I shouldn’t say lost. They are home. They have crossed the Rubicon. They have crossed the great divide. I have seen so many of these people for 30 years and now they have started the new journey. Nothing stops it; it will happen. It will come. What’s more important is are you ready? Is anyone really ever ready? I really think so. Whenever you reach your spiritual maturity point, you realize. It is a reckoning within your own soul. There is a peace about you. A peace about the way you live, share your life, and help the least. It just shows in every fiber of your being. Congratulations! When you get to this point, you are well on your way to communion with the Saints. Here is the saddest part, some people never get there. They never cross the maturity into spirituality. Your dying is a birth into new life. Our bodies are the old wineskins. You cannot put good wine into old wineskins. Remember Mary’s request at the wedding and Cannan. Do as her son tells you.
Those who are closest to you will never be ready for you to go but thank God for His plan. Thank God for His Mercy. Thank God for His Grace that is everlasting. It is still a mystery but one that we are privy, too. We will all cross the Jordan, ride the peace train, or just catch that long black train for our next journey. This past year we have seen so many of our church make that journey. It wasn’t all Covid-19 but the natural and slow ebb of living a long fruitful life. Life, are you living it? Or just going through the motions? This is it folks. It is time for people to get ready. You really don’t need a ticket, you just thank the Lord and get on that train knowing you have run the race well. Were you faithful to your spouse? Were you sure your children attended church on Sundays? Were you a good grandparent? Did you love all of those even those who grind your gears? Did you try to do small acts of kindness with no one knowing about them? Did you pray and stay in contact with God throughout this journey? Did you do for the least? Don’t say there aren’t any because we serve 750 families a month at Matthew 25:40. This is the tip of the iceberg. You have a job that only you can do. Jesus calls us our entire lives. I really hope you stopped to listen like our beloved George.
Our last member that left for eternity and communion with the Saints, I remember oh so well. I think we need to buckle up. I think we are going to lose a lot of good people, but we are getting them to the light. We need others to step up. Two years ago I was privileged to go through the RCIA program with our church with my daughter in law. George was also a part of that class. I remember that very first evening. I leaned over as we were going in to ask George if he had decided to join the dark side? Just joking of course, it’s the light side! But he said yep I think I’m going to do it. I knew George from his fabulous older sister who had always been a champion of our local schools and tried to be the good in this little county. Many moons later after his sister had moved on, he began to come with one of our longtime members. Just as he loved us, he was drawn into the love of our little parish. I remember when he began to come to church. My boys were like he looks like a rockstar! We always thought he was the Elvis of Holy Angels. He had the best hair ever. He also dressed like Tony Saprano. Too cool! I just so, so loved to be able to watch him blossom into the fruitful life of being a Catholic Christian. It brings tears even now. I am so happy for George. The waiting is the hardest part. Living while knowing some day, somewhere, somehow, we will be called back to our heavenly creator. We know there is more. I think George was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. He was always so excited to work at the Salvation Army to serve the least. I can still see him and Kathy with their aprons. Smiling, singing, and whistling that was George while mopping or sweeping at The Salvation Army or with the Knights of Columbus fish fries. They with many others helped me and fought to keep our kids active in church. If Matthew 25:40 needed him, he was there. As a matter of fact, if anyone needed him he never hesitated to help out. They were so very supportive and I know that the family will continue to be because that is what Christians do. There’s a kingdom to be built. We were all given tasks. I can say without a doubt that George finished very well and I know no one will argue. When George retired from being a doctor, he could have done anything. He could have traveled extensively. He could have gone on all types of medical conventions and do the circuit learning even more. He could have moved to Knoxville and enjoyed every single ball game. Doesn’t matter the sport, he could have caught them all. He could have chosen to be single, foot-loose and fancy free. He did like Mary instead of Martha, For a while, he sat at God’s feet and soaked up all of God’s love then to he became a Martha for Holy Angels Catholic Church. Thanks be to God for Kathy for opening up her heart again to the sacrament of marriage. Along with God you loved him into eternity. It’s not forever and we will all be together with all of those saints one day, one day.

 Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Saint loving Gal

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Cookie

In my mind today, I have been working through losing one of my favorite friends to heaven and trying to focus on making this year’s race a success. My friend was the reason I took over this race. He has some very big shoes to fill on our committee. In order to honor my friend, I wanted to explain how it all came to be.
After being forced into retirement because of my weakened physical abilities, I noticed there were advocates that did a yearly walk for ALS. I thought this was so cool and the way I could try to find a way to be useful. Every year in our little West Tennessee town we have always had race on the 3rd Saturday of October. It was coming up on the 26th annual Mission March. I called my friend who had always run in it as I had in the past and asked how could I do a walk in conjunction with the Mission March to help support ALS research and help our little community in some way. To give back to the community that had always loved me through this horrible disease that was my goal. When I called Bart, I asked him if we could do a simple walk along with the Mission March event. He sadly told me that the event had been canceled. He then told me that he had run the race every single year and was very sad it was going to be let go. I said, “I’ll be on the committee if you want to try to do something with it.” He replied, ” Be on the committee? You are the committee!” And so out of that conversation, became the Autumn March for ALS. 
We had big dreams for the race. Each year we wanted to build on the next. As the race began to gain steam, we had the idea of all kids running free. Especially the youngest of our community. We understood the benefits for children to run. Children need exercise, healthy competition, and camaraderie. The shirts would be free for these students. The shirts are also a gift from us to our kids in this area and wherever else they may land. The shirts can be used as a spirit shirt for school and it could also be used underneath polo shirts that are mandated by our systems. We understood that many kids have needs that can’t always be met. This was just another little way we could help out the least of ours. Do we lose money when we do this? It depends on what you are talking about. Yes we lose part of our bottom dollar but we also gain so much by way of spreading that light and love to others which is priceless. We wanted the race to inspire students to be healthy, to become teammates, and to feel good about themselves. We had a vision that schools all around the area and eventually around the country could join in our fight for a cure and a brighter future. We always hoped that the children would outnumber the adults. We both thought of Spain and how the running of the bulls would be so cool if the bulls were children running down our streets. I am not going to give up. I know Bart would not want me to ever give up. 
Another wonderful thing that blossomed out of the race was support for local scholarships to local seniors. This money that we raise helps those students start a chapter in college. Each year we hope to give more and more scholarships. This year we were able to give four $1,000 scholarships. We call these scholarships The Autumn March “Whatever it Takes Scholarship” was added to our efforts in order to honor long time teacher and admistrator Robert Cupples and Sarah Alley. All of our legacies should be for the future and that is our kids. These scholarships help leave a legacy to share the light in our little corners of the world. The only thing required is to write an essay about how you will be a light in the world after college or trade school and give it to your guidance counselor. 
The people in your neighborhood who do the jobs needed and do those while shedding light to all the dark places are needed now more than ever. Another way that we try to help others is through local donations to non-profit organizations. We were able to give Matthew 25:40 a gift of money during a very trying financial year to ensure the least got Christmas presents and other needs covered. We are all on the same team.
Mr. Bart worked tirelessly up to the very end. He continued to encourage me and now I encourage you. If you can donate to help sponsor students to run and to receive a shirt free, please donate. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $100. Just help us be the good that’s what Bart would want. As many know, Mr Bart was one of the best cookie bakers and sweet treat makers of all time! Everyone coveted those was wonderful cookies and caramels. It was a tradition that he started with his kids and they would deliver those to people around them especially the elderly and during the holidays. He was a grandfather and his grandchildren called him Cookie. You and I both know why. He’d never visited without sharing those wonderful cookies. Please help support us during this crazy year of virtual everything! If you are at school, please have groups of kids sign up and walk or run to show their support for Mr Bart, a cure, or a brighter tomorrow. Make posters and celebrate! You could do all of the above by signing up and posting your accomplishments! As usual we will have a trophy for the school with the largest number of students to run. We then deliver the trophy and cookies to the winners! Last years winner was Fifth Consolidated Elementary. The beauty is it could all be done at your leisure. I’m hoping that all runs will be completed by October 31st and posted to our websites to share the love! 
Sarah Anderson AlleySal the Autumn March Gal
Quotes of the day: Have courage…….Be kind…….Eat cookies!!The secret ingredient is always…….kindness. All you need is love and cookies!!Bake the world a better place. Peace, Love, & Cookies Tracy Cupples https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Dyersburg/AutumnMarchforALSVirtual