Teacher, we wish to see a sign. (Matthew 12:38)

Ah, today is the beginning of a new school year in my little town of West Tennessee. It’s the week of inservice before the students begin. I had twenty years of inservice before my health forced me to retire. The excitement of it always made me giddy.

Inservice can be such a dirty word. Teachers listen to speakers, work on curriculum, and have several meetings. Often we are anxious to get on with it. We want to be in our classrooms preparing not being idle. Try to be patient and glean something. Try to treasure this respite. This week eases us into the routine slated for the next 180 school days to do our best. The education of so many souls depends on our attitude and gratitude to lead them.

Everyone knows I’m a nerd and really loved inservice. I was so grateful God had placed me in a vocation that never seemed like work. As a former colleague and I talked over lunch recently, we concluded that our classroom was our church. It really was. It was where we not only educated the mind but also hearts. It’s so true that students observe every aspect of your character. Your actions are deafening, so take heed. They also can sense if you genuinely care about them and their futures. What’s your message?

Now more than ever, our children need teachers that are invested in them. I know we as teachers have our own families and children and are stretched too thin. It’s hard to look at thirty faces and try to be all they need you to be. Take a deep breath. Take up your cross. Be grateful God called you to be a teacher. You are so priceless.

I hoped I would teach until I was 70, but God had other plans. This week when you’re attending inservice whisper a “Thank you” to the one above and remember “to the least of these.” Each child has a story and a name. It’s your job to know them and be a light. Each of them is looking for a sign. Will you be that positive influence? Unceasing prayers are coming from Sal the Retired Teaching Gal for your success.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Dedicated to teachers everywhere

Quotes of the Day:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

“One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen.”
Philip Wylie

“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.”
Maggie Gallagher

Dust

Last week the verse “And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” haunted me. I tried to interpret it into my own being. I have this flaw within me that wants to help and give until it becomes unhealthy. I have members of my family and friends that have addiction problems. Sadly, today this is not an exception. Many of you reading this are no stranger to drug addiction and it’s horrible consequences.

Too many children in our society are orphans because of this rampant epidemic. Drugs just hollow out a person. It takes their heart and leaves a selfish, insatiable shell. As a former teacher, I have seen so many children altered by this current epidemic. The neglect is rampant. The emotional abuse cuts so deep. Face it America, our family system is shattered. The children are lost in this shrapnel. The cycle of poverty is growing exponentially. When do we shake the dust from our feet?

I love working with children at our local library. There is a huge building beside it. This building stood for sale a long time. When I would go to the library, I always envisioned a safe house for children. A place they could show up on the doorstep and find immunity from their chaotic lives. A place where they could have a warm meal, a clean bed, and quiet place to read and study away from the drama of the world of addiction. You know going home from school hungry with only dry cereal to live on and no adult there to ask you about your day. Taking care of younger siblings while riffraff comes in and out of your house at all hours. Trying your best to avoid sexual predators. Surviving. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take children home with me and give them the nurturing and love they deserved. To provide a place for them to thrive and grow and crush the cycle of poverty. The building has been bought and someone is renovating it. Such a dream.

When do we shake the dust and move on from those who continue to choose evil? We give them love, resources, and shelter but are we giving them God? Are we enabling bad choices at the cost of the lives of children? I think we are. These children are feral without any moral and spiritual guidance. Faith without works is empty but don’t you also believe works without faith is just as futile? These things haunt my thoughts. Money, nice clothes, and food don’t remedy the deep rooted issue we are facing. It’s a heart problem. Hearts of children harden by the minute because of this cycle.

Ironically our homily last Sunday was about “Dust.” For two weeks I had rolled the “shaking dust” verse in my mind. The priest had a beautiful message of “dusting” off our spiritual lives. There are ways for us to reach out and help be a “dust mop” to those around us. We need to not be scared to lend a hand and give hugs. Time is short. It helped me realize that although sometimes our love falls on deaf ears we need to shake off the dust and let some go, dust never sleeps. America has layers of dust and I need to move on with my mop to find new areas of need. If we all did our dusting, we could make America shine again.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Dust Hating Gal

Quote of the Day:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Pablo Picasso

Take this Cup from Me…

Take this cup from me…

 

In my mind today I’m thinking of Holy Week on the church calendar. Sal the Youth Minister Gal is weak and weary. I had a very long, busy week and weekend. I could barely hold the communion cup at mass Sunday. We pulled off a pancake breakfast and egg hunt between services. I’m so proud of my church and the youth. It is melding into such a group of loving servants.

This was Palm Sunday when we reenact the wretchedness of turning Jesus over to the chief priests and then chant “Crucify him!” It makes my heart squeeze knowing that we are all wretched just like the mob demanding Jesus be put to death when days before we lauded his entrance into town for the Passover Feast. This is a tough week to be a Christian. We examine more closely our motives and actions. We realize that we are not worthy of such a BIG love. So as we sang our hymns I felt those tears find the path of wrinkles down to my cheeks.

As the disciples slept and we do too sometimes in church (back row,) Jesus poured out his heart and asked God to take the cup from him if it was His will. He cried saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” So he kept the cup and we were delivered from our wretched humanness. The suffering was for the greater good. I totally relate to this.

What about you? Do you find yourself praying God take this cup (insert cancer, addiction, death, divorce, financial ruin, ALS, etc.) from me and my family? Sure you do. I have many times closed my eyes and prayed, “God if it’s Your will, get me out of this chair. Strengthen my arms so I can write with a pencil again and give those backbone crushing hugs. How about just strengthening my diaphragm a bit? So I can breathe easy without my machine for longer periods.” Then I think of Jesus and add, “It’s all about you God and not me. I’m your servant. Use me for your purpose. Your will be done.” I don’t feel sad because I’m still waking up partially paralyzed. I feel grateful I’m given another day to be used in bigger purpose.

This week reminds us we all have “cups” to bear. Living is part of dying. Heartbreak is part of true love. Sin is part of redemption. We want to skip the tough parts and get on with the parties. Life just doesn’t work like that. The “cups” we graciously bear are what build our virtues and character creating a lighted path for others. We become strong warriors although we may wear diapers and sit in wheelchairs wearing a Darth Vader mask to breathe. I also whoosh around like BB8 or R2D2. Go ahead and laugh students. I am! This Holy Week, bear your “cups” for Jesus. Offer up all your suffering and pain. This is all temporal, fleeting. We are not bodies with a soul. We are eternal souls with a body. Take your cup this Holy Week.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cup Bearing Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
MLK Jr.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Helen Keller

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Khalil Gibran

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller

 

Be Not Afraid

Be Not Afraid

In my mind today, I have lots of situations in Sal the ALS Gal’s world that need attention. There are loose ends which need tied everywhere! I need to make calls, make lists, organize my calendar, and run errands. Ack! I’m drowning! I had to literally force myself to open my meditation materials first before diving into the tangled web of loose ends that are looming over me. I hear the back row snickering because Sal the Cool as a Cucumber Gal is having a bit of a meltdown.

As I read and cleared my mind, I read about Jonah being tossed into the raging sea, a person being forgiven of a huge debt then messing it up by choking someone who owed him a small sum, and forgiving those who hurt you not just seven times but infinity times seven. Here’s the kicker. We need to forgive them even if they hurt us over and over in the same way. I hear you back row. Sometimes people make you want to choke them and toss them overboard. Here’s the big BUT; we have to act with humility, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. I heard someone say, “This is whack! Why?” The more we open our hearts to humility and mercy, the better person we become. It’s not for the person hurting you but for your salvation. Yes front row it does sound like an oxymoron. Look it up back row!

While reading and thinking, my worries began to literally shrink in importance. I reminded myself that I just needed to focus on one loose end at a time. Then I read something that “shook” me. Do you know what words Jesus said more than any other? My guess was to love your neighbor as yourself. Wrong! It was “Be not afraid.” When I read this Sal the Show-tunes Gal immediately started sing the hymn “Be not afraid.” He does go before us always. If we come to Him, he will give us rest. He is with us tangled in the loose ends of our daily struggles. Call me crazy or Sal the Cuckoo Gal, but I not only believe this I feel it. So many times He comes to my rescue to help me tie my loose ends. One thing is for certain, I will not be afraid of loose ends, sickness, or death. Do you have problems looming over you? Is it at work? Is it a loved one fighting cancer? Has someone hurt you in any way? Have you had to let go of a loved one as they traversed to the other side of heaven? Is your schedule overbooked and you feel like giving up? Whatever the loose end or situation you are in I encourage you to “Be not afraid.”

Sarah Alley
Sal the Fearless Gal

Dedicated to Quintella “Nessie” Dyson Rest In Peace sweet friend. You lived an amazing, big-hearted existence. You always had my back on the basketball court.

Brenda, Teresa, Kelly Jo, Julie, Tracy, and the many other amazing, hard-working, loving people fighting to “Be not afraid” as they look cancer in the face. You are heroes for all of us.

Quotes of the Day:
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Steve Jobs

“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
Tecumseh

Reckonings

Reckonings

 

 

In my mind today, I’m thinking about Lent, wisdom, and forgiveness. A wonderful by-product of aging is hopefully becoming wiser. In my readings, the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon and was amazed at his wisdom. Remember he asked God not for treasures, victories in wars, or long life but wisdom. How do we become wise?

Lent gives us time of reflection and renewal. Jesus wandered the desert for forty days being tempted. He wrestled with much and stayed the course. After the forty days, he began his purpose. So as we wrestle with ourselves during Lent, I hope we find the strength to stay the course of our own purpose. We become older and hopefully wiser. Hopefully, we will have reckonings.

Forgiveness should be freeing. It frees our souls from pettiness, resentment, greed, and strife. When you truly forgive, you become lighter in mind and spirit. You become closer to your creator. You have a reckoning. The reckoning we have is to love others and forgive past hurts. The anger in our hearts bind and blind our hearts to the heaviness of hate. Are you ready to stop competing, comparing, criticizing and complaining? Life is too short.

I’m studying faithfully this Lent. I’m searching for knowledge and wisdom. I’m trying to find ways to be inspired and to inspire my students. The world is a complicated mess for me and my students and I’m praying for wisdom like Solomon. Like Solomon, we have our weaknesses. We are all perfectly imperfect. That’s another reckoning. It’s okay. God loves each of us and in our imperfectness. We have a purpose. It is to be the best of ourselves. I’ll ask again, are you ready to stop competing, comparing, criticizing and complaining? Let’s look upward in prayer, inward and mind our heart health, and outward to help others this Lent. Let’s find a reckoning.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Reckoning Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“And above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning.”
Isaac Asimov

“There is a time of reckoning in all our lives.”
Lorna Luft

“Morality without religion is only a kind of dead reckoning – an endeavor to find our place on a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we have run, but without any observation of the heavenly bodies.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“The anger in our hearts bind and blind our hearts to the heaviness of hate.”
Sal the Reflection Gal

 

Prayer

Prayer

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In my mind today, I’m thinking of prayer. You hear and see it often among friends and family. Being Catholic, prayer is key. We have many formal prayers: the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. These are common. Prayer is a way to “love others as we love ourselves.”

Scrolling through social media there are always petitions for prayers. The world is hurting. I see friends battling cancer, surgery, deaths, and just life. Prayer is such a gift.

I love to pray. It’s in those still moments that I consciously seek to commune with my maker. As a Catholic, you may think my prayers are formal. Yes, I clutch a worn rosary during my prayerful times, but I have quite the Protestant slant to many of my prayers. I plead and beg God for needs of my family and friends in plain speech. Sometimes I just think of the person or situation and let God do the rest. There are so many ways to pray. There are short “Jesus, Help Me” or “Thank you” prayers and long pleading prayers from our hearts. The wonderful thing is that I really think God hears all prayers.

Lent is coming. As a Sunday School teacher and Youth Minister at my little parish church, I’m going to focus on prayer with my students. They are an answered prayer for me. I’m given an outlet to still physically teach each Sunday for 60 minutes. This is some of my most beloved and cherished time.

The forty days before Easter are a time of reflection and renewal. A time to cultivate healthy habits. Many “give up’ a vice for lent, but I’m going to suggest we add more prayer. I know it will enhance the and stoke the “light” in our world. Do you have a Lenten goal? Whatever your faith, I hope you join me and my students as we pray for each other, our churches, our schools, our towns, and our world. Prayer works. Can I get an Amen?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Love to Pray Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Gandhi

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Mother Teresa

“Three of the best prayers: Thanks, Help, and Forgive me.”
Sarah Alley aka Sal the ALS Gal

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Amen.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
Amen

Snow Days

Snow Days

In my mind, I’m thinking about snow days. In my healthy, ambulatory life as a teacher, I lived for snow days! Last night as our little burg buzzed about the cancellation of school, a part of Sal the Snow Day Gal was giddy. When the alert dinged my phone informing us about the cancelling of school, I was ecstatic! This morning after my husband was ready for work he came to my side of the bed, jerked off the covers, and raised my head with the remote. I fuzzily opened my eyes and said, “Why are you waking me up? There’s no school. It’s a snow day.” For a brief moment I had forgotten I was Sal the ALS Gal. I was going to relish an icy, cold day sleeping in and the romping in the snow with my kids, friends, and dogs. Then, I remembered. I have to get up every day at 6 AM because that’s the routine for Sal the ALS Gal: up, meds, coffee and toast, potty, suction my lungs, back in my chair, read, pray, and write. This happens every day but Saturday. On Saturday I get to sleep until around 10 AM.

Don’t you love snow days? I hear the back row mumbling for me to zip it because I’m ruining their snow day! Since you’re already awake, let’s talk a bit. This morning the story I read was about the paralytic that was lowered through the ceiling so Jesus could heal him. It doesn’t mention this paralytic man having great faith. Who was full of faith? That’s right front row students, his friends knew if they could just get their crippled friend to Jesus, he would be healed. I hear you asking, “Was he healed?” Yes, students, he was. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, take your mat, and walk.” The point is we all need “faith-full” friends. Friends that know your struggles and have faith God is fighting with you. Sal the ALS Gal has so, so many faith-full friends and for that I’m so blessed.

I joke with my children that I need tire chains for my scoot (wheelchair) on days like this. Man, I could really cut up on this snow and ice if I did. Sal the Fast & the Furious Gal I would definitely be! Vin Diesel who? Of course you have a lesson on this snow day! What kind of teacher do you think I am? Today, get out there! Get out of the digital world! No video games or tv until you do at least three of these assignments. Here they are! Take your fur babies on a hike in the woods. Go sledding with your children and friends. Drink lots of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Make a snow angel. Make and eat snow cream. Hey, snow days are for FUN! These are some of Sal the Snow Day Gal’s favorites. What are you waiting for? Bundle up and get out there!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I LOVE Snow Days Gal

Dedicated to all those who love snow! Especially, the Snow Queen of West Tennessee, Ann Carson.

Quotes of the Day:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
John Ruskin

“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”
Andy Goldsworthy

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder.”
Susan Orlean