The Epiphany of our Lord

 In my mind today I am thinking of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We hear of this every year at Christmas time. Have we ever really taken the time students to look these things up and to define them and create connections within your own minds?  It is true what teachers tell you. If you see something unfamiliar or you have no clue, use a dictionary. These three gifts were given and recorded throughout history. King Herod knew the implications of such gifts. He held power over the tribe of Judah. He controlled their high priests. He murdered so many Jewish boys trying to stop the rise of a new King of the Jews. His plans were thwarted. This powerful birth had been foretold. The whole Earth rejoiced and nature sang. Here’s the secret sauce students. It still does. So many good and beautiful things happen at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Let’s talk about those three gifts.

Gold. Think about it, students: the golden rule, the gold standard, more precious than gold, etc. Gold is a precious metal. It has a symbol of AU on the periodic table of elements. They brought the baby Jesus something priceless. A gift to show the worth of this blessed son that would save the world by allowing Agape to be the guidance for all from this day forward. Students, Agape is a special kind of love: sacrificial. What an amazing gift He is. What could we give God this year that is more precious than gold? Could you show great charity? Think about that. 

Frankincense. This is a gum or sap that comes from trees in Somalia and coastal Arabia. It is used for its strong perfume when burnt. The smoke is aromatic and used for rituals. It is very expensive. They have discovered that it is good for medicinal reasons:  asthma, ibs, cancer, skin problems, and arthritis.  It is still harvested today. This gift shows devotion to the health and life of Christ.  Christ still lives today within each one of us if we only allow him to be in charge of our hearts.  How can you show great devotion, students?  Yes it is homework.

 Last but not least, myrrh.  It is also a resin or gum from a tree. These trees grow naturally in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.  It also has medicinal properties just like frankincense.  It also has uses for perfume and incense. It has been used before Christ came as a man in religious ceremonies of the Hebrews.  Moses used it. Jacob used it. Esther used it. Jesus was given it on the cross mixed with wine. Joseph of Arimathea gave it for Jesus’s burial.  Ancient Egyptians as do those of Islamic faith used and use it.  It is used to anoint holy people.  It represents a sacrifice. What could you sacrifice for Christ?  Would you sacrifice? Some people can’t even do this. They have become so self centered which is the very opposite of why Christ came to this world. Agape. 

 Today is the last day of Christmas for us as Catholic christians. It is the Epiphany of our Lord.  The realization that God did enter the world and He came to save us by giving us a better way to love: Agape.  As I watch the children from my window play in the snow, I wish you a Happy Agape Day!  Now get outside and enjoy students! Build a Snowman for me and throw a few snowballs! The best of all is to sled.  Be sure to do plenty of that! 

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Agape Gal

 Quotes of the Day:

1. “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Works Of Love’, 1847.

2. “Shine your soul with the same egoless humility as the rainbow and no matter where you go in this world or the next, love will find you, attend you, and bless you.”

― Aberjhani, ‘Journey Through The Power Of The Rainbow: Quotations From A Life Made Out Of Poetry’, 2014.

3. “Divine love, agape, is self-sacrificing love, which sounds difficult, as it is, and not very attractive. If the best image we have of love is of a man who’s been tortured and hung upon a cross … But it is the highest Christian image of love.”

― Kevin Hart, ‘The Poetry And Prayers Of Kevin Hart’, 2011.

4. “Agape is total love… Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important – just love.”

― Paolo Coelho, ‘The Pilgrimage’, 1987.

5. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”

― Stephen Kendrick, ‘The Love Dare’, 2008.

https://kidadl.com/articles/best-agape-love-quotes-about-unconditional-love

Cause and Effect

In my mind today I am thinking about cause and effect. I remember the days of teaching Language Arts. Oh, how I loved to intertwine all of those academic subjects into one! I was even able to teach history through the language arts. The history teachers loved me. Language arts is the study of literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. 

Today I am talking about cause and effect. This used to be a standard in the curriculum that we had to be sure students understood. The thing is it can be applied to our lives today.  This is how you teach. You teach students to use what they learned in your class and apply it to the lives that they will live as adults. 

Cause and effect. Let’s look at our world today. What is causing all of the grief and turmoil in this world? In our country? In our little cities? In our homes?  Let’s work backwards. Yes students, I know I have taught you many ways to figure out problems especially in math. Look at the answer 21, and then figure out, how in the world did you get that answer? Well that is cause and effect. What caused you to get the number 21, for example? Did you multiply seven 3 times? Did you add up three rows of 7? What operation did you use to get the answer 21?

Cause and effect. What is happening right now in our world? What causes: School shootings, unwanted children, fatherless children, children orphaned from addictions of their parents, genocides, human trafficking, plagues, floods, famine, etc. These are all effects. What causes this to happen in a society of civilized people? We are definitely not focused on the family. I said this on purpose because this is something I used to listen to and read books about from the person that coined this phrase: Dr. James Dobson.

When I became a mother, I became scared. Scared of what the world would do to my children. I was so desperate to find a way to protect them. The first thing I did was to ask my husband to help us find a church to attend and raise our children. This is something that I never had but I saw others had. I had a very hard working mother, trying to survive with 5 children and an absent father for a while because of addictions. She didn’t have the luxury of time to take us to church. She would find church services on television to help us or to watch with her. She made me understand how important it was to have God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to help you through all these terrible famines, floods, and storms of life. One of her favorites for us to watch together was Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee. 

You see, my mother never learned to drive, but she tried to find a way to help us look towards something bigger that would help us have order at our houses and homes when we became mothers and fathers. My 5th grade teacher called the television the Idiot Box. I understand why because now we have miniature idiot boxes. We are letting things control us instead of using them to help us. My mother used the Idiot Box to help us the best way she could while working late shifts and overtimes so we could be okay. 

Students, let’s analyze this. The cause of me searching so desperately to be the best mother I could possibly be was my mother pointing the way to something better than this life. My mother did not have a lot of money, but she had so much love for her God and her children. She knew that that would be a greater gift. She prayed all of the time. We found several notebooks filled with prayers for us. We understood she feared for our souls as well as our Earthly lives. She knew that she was limited, but her God wasn’t. He would help us through the storms of life. She told us there was a right and wrong. The effects of my mother’s love and prayers are that some of her children are still believing and try to give their children that inheritance that can never be taken away. Back row students, listen. My mother had 5 children, and we are not perfect, but we do understand that this world is not the end of it all. She is the reason. She is the cause, and my life is the effect. 

Let’s take the lesson to a bigger picture than just one family. Look at the world. We have children murdered every day. I am sad to say in the good old USA we have abortions, school shootings, and human trafficking. What is the cause of this? We are losing our connection with the Divine. Mothers do not know how to be mothers. Fathers do not know how to be fathers. Children are brought into a world of turmoil. They have no structure. Destruction is what they have, or a structure of busyness. 

We are too busy to go to church. We are too busy to spend time with our children. We have been lulled to sleep with technology and the fear of missing out. YouTube is a babysitter. Being a parent is the hardest job if you do it right. It is a huge struggle. We don’t have the time to do it the way it should be done. We do have time, however, to shuffle thousands of activities that keep them from being children. We want them to be something bigger.

I was an athlete, and it is true that your competition practices while you are asleep. In reality, only a small percentage will be able to go forward as a professional athlete, but then what? In one of the blogs I have written recently, I talked about building things up instead of tearing things down. If you do not understand your past, and if you do not have traditions that are good and pure for your family, then your present moments are just discombobulated. 

We live in the present moment. Our present moments are guided by our traditions of family. If we tear those down, we have done a grave injustice to our children. If you spend all of your moments without goals, you have no future. You won’t have a future. We want everything right now. Impatience. 

Students, do you think that we are very impatient? We cannot tear down our family traditions, because if we do, we tear down our families. That is exactly what El Diablo wants. He wants us to forget how to be mothers and fathers. Is it working? My precious mother knew that when she had children, they would be her legacy. They would be how she put what she loved so dearly into the future. What are the mothers and fathers of today putting into their children for a legacy? Are they filling them with virtue and morals? Or are they teaching them how to be a better rat in the rat race? 

Here’s the rub: they are not teaching much of anything to the children anymore.  It is not the school’s job to raise your children. It is not the government’s job to provide for all of your children. It is your job. It would be fabulous to have a professional athlete for a son or daughter, but the BEST joy is to be a good mother or father. To see them choose the better part of this earthly life, which is to love each other and to take care of the most important thing that God gives us: our families. 

Wake up, America. Wake up, world. Just like James Dobson told us, we need to focus on the family if we want to make what we have left a better place to live. Understand that love is an action verb. It is not an emotion. It is not sex or lust. It is a sacrificial gift of one person to another. Sacrifice. It gives up everything to God.  

Sacrifice your desires to help your partner be the best mother or father they could possibly be. That goes both ways within a marriage. That’s why we call marriage a sacrament from God. It is not to be looked upon as all pleasure. It is not to be looked upon as trivial or easy. Marriage and love are very hard. It is not just a whimsical passion of unfettered love. We have definitely lost our focus on the family.  

This is the 1st week of advent, and this is what I hope for us in this country: focus on the family again. Yes back row, this is homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Cause and Effect Gal

Quotes of the Day:

The best way to get children to do what you want is to spend time with them before disciplinary problems occur—having fun together and enjoying mutual laughter and joy. When those moments of love and closeness happen, kids are not as tempted to challenge and test the limits. Many confrontations can be avoided by building friendships with kids and thereby making them want to cooperate at home. It sure beats anger as a motivator of little ones!

Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today’s boys.

Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.

Whenever two human beings spend time together, sooner or later they will probably irritate one another. This is true of best friends, married couples, parents and children, or teachers and students. The question is: How do they respond when friction occurs? There are four basic ways they can react: 

• They can internalize the anger and send it downward into a memory bank that never forgets. This creates great pressure within and can even result in disease and other problems.

• They can pout and be rude without discussing the issues. This further irritates the other person and leaves him or her to draw his or her own conclusions about what the problem may be.

• They can blow up and try to hurt the other person. This causes the death of friendships, marriages, homes, and businesses.

• Or they can talk to one another about their feelings, being very careful not to attack the dignity and worth of the other person. This approach often leads to permanent and healthy relationships.

Dr. James C. Dobson

UP

In my mind today I am thinking about up.  Yes front row I know that that is just a preposition  or a direction but that is exactly what I am thinking about the word up.  I also remember the rule never to end a sentence with a preposition.  I do not want to discuss the grammatical rules of English today. I want to talk about the word up and how it has really been in the middle of my thoughts lately.

God is good all of the time and I can’t remember God ever for building something downwards. We mere humans either. Why up and not down?  Think about it. 

Today our world is so busy building things up like technology and material wealth. We build-up science as the ultimate answer to save us from death or an untimely death. We build-up governments. Our governments are supposed to protect their constituents. It is supposed to build them up and not down.  Front row you are going to love this lesson. Who gives these liberties? Do our governments give us liberties? 

Look around you. In this little city where I live we are building things up everywhere. There are new churches being built. There are new banks being built. There are new shopping centers being built. Progress. Our little city is growing. After the pandemic, the people of my little town have awakened to so much  building up of everything around us except our attendees back to church.  I hear the back row starting to moan. 

The pandemic tore us down. It isolated us.  It changed our habits. It tricked us.  It made us think that this life is so precious that we have to do whatever we can to save it. We all lost so many precious family members and friends. They left this Earthly life. Why are we so easily discouraged?  We are so easily led down that road to perdition.  It is a super highway.  

We are just mere humans. We are easily confused and divided.  My favorite subject to teach was always history. I always told my students we need to know our history.  The history of civilization. The history of being a human. It is not always a beautiful picture. Our road to becoming an independent country was built with the precious blood of fathers and sons. They died so we could build-up something great in the eyes of the world under the name of God.  Yes front row I do hear you.  We are not a theocracy. I totally understand that but I also hear the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The word creator changes everything. 

This is the point I am trying to get across to you students. Who gives us all of these rights? All of these human rights that we enjoy right here and the good old USA are given to us in the Bill of Rights. Right? They are given to us by God, the creator. Why is this so important?  There is no bill of sale. They cannot be taken from us. If we take our principles from God, we are able to create something good for all.  What are we building up today? Are we building up avarice and ignorance?  Are we learning from our history or are we trying to tear it down and rewrite it? Are we building our own narrative because we worship new gods?  This is your homework for the holidays while you feast on turkey. Be honest with yourself and ask what you are building up in your life?  What are you trying to tear down and why? 

The world does have order. It has a natural order. I believe it was created by God. Our God is a God of order. There is a morality that is driven by goodness. There is an eternal city that is also orderly. The road to it is very narrow. There is another city that is very disorderly. The road to it is very wide. This city is governed by man and has only chaos. It is created by a god of destruction. This city will end and not last for an eternity. This city is something my son and I call the clown world.   Everything is the opposite: Evil is good; good is evil. It is the place where a human can be god of his Earthly life. Students you have a lot of critical thinking to do during your break. 

I know there are so many of us that believe in a supreme God-man-Holy Spirit.  We want to work with God’s creation not to destroy it.  We want our lives to be measured by the good we do not the gold we acquire. We need to build each other up. We may not meet in the pews but we can meet on our knees. Pray. Yes, it is the most important homework I have ever given.

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Build-up Gal

Quotes of the Day by Venerable Fulton Sheen 

If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.

You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.

America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.

The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.

Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.

Autumn March for ALS 2021

In my mind today, I am excited about having time to write. October has grown from being a one event to a multi – event month. My family, God bless them, for putting up with me and my divinely inspired ways to pump good into our little corner of the world. This month I have really pushed all of my family to the precipice of sanity. I apologise, but look at how God blessed others through the efforts of my family and friends. That’s what it’s all about students. Pouring out yourself for others. 

This year without key players to pull off the race, it became my beast of burden. I knew God would bring the people to pull it off. The Alley Alliance is a Motley crew of dedicated individuals. We have learned to persevere despite cancer, strokes, mental illness, ALS, death, etc. I could fill the entire blog with the obstacles we deal with and shoulder as a team. The most important member is God. He literally carries us each year. He carries me all the time. I feel it. 

  The race is every year on the 3rd Saturday of October. It has been this way now for 32 years. I definitely do not want to jinx the race but there has only been one day out of the 32 years that it has rained.  This year the race fell a lot earlier because of the calendar. There was a huge chance of rain that morning. The clouds parted and it was so beautiful.  There was not a one single cloud in the sky. Miracles. I cannot even tell you how many angels showed up that day to help this be such a beautiful day. There were old friends and new friends that came to do the work to make this happen. There were so many people praying for the race in heaven as well as on Earth. So many beautiful things have been born out of the Autumn March for ALS: What Ever It Takes Scholarships, Bart Williams Cookie Scholarships, Back to School Biking for Bart, Addi’s Haunted Trail, connections with Depot Days race and stronger ties with Newbern, Tennessee, and CHRISTgiving 2021. The race ties so many people together in our little community from the YMCA to the Parks and Recreation authorities. It includes people from all walks of life from mayors to farmers. We are able to do so much good for all of those around us just because of this little race. Next year will be year 7 for me as the race director, God willing.  It will be October 15th 2022 downtown Dyersburg, TN at 9 AM. If you want to be a part of something wonderful then mark your calendar! I know next year will be even bigger and better for the greater good.  Thank you to the entirety of our little county in Tennessee.  It is so wonderful to be a part of such a lovely and loving community. Thanks be to God.

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Autumn March Gal 

Quote for the Day:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

Picasso 

Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)

Cicero 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill 

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

Mohammad Ali

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

Einstein 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Gandhi 

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

St. Catherine of Siena

Gratitude begets generosity

In my mind today, I am thinking about birthdays, summertime, grandchildren, and friendships. I am so so grateful for all of the love that shows up in my life every single day. I recently had my 52nd birthday. I can’t tell you how much beauty and love was poured into me from so many people. I received so many wonderful well wishes and even gifts from people that I haven’t been able to be around in a while because of the pandemic and just distance. That’s something you need to understand students. True friendships will never end. It may be someone you went to kindergarten with but that love is always there and sparks so many beautiful memories. We all have seasons to go through in our lives. The people and friends that surround us are what make it so special. It’s not that you had the best set of cleats on the softball team or if you were the most popular in school. It is about the true friendships that weave in and out of your life until you go to the next chapter. I am so amazed that God has gifted me with so much time. I am so very grateful for the time. Students that is the second objective of the day. Let me reiterate the first one in case the back row of students was doodling on their paper. The first objective of today is knowing that love and friendships are eternal. The second objective today is the most valuable thing in anyone’s life is time. Think about it, students. Time is something that we give to others. We give them our time. Let me break it down for you. All of those times when you listen to others without speaking that is treasure. All of those times when you meet others just to help them be okay and have lunch to talk over problems or just to enjoy each other’s company, that is treasure. Especially when you feel like you have no time to spare and you do it anyway, that is true friendship and that is true treasure. So many of us want to think of treasure in terms of materialistic things. That is so far from the truth. Things that pass away on this Earth are not treasure. The memories and the love you share, giving your time to others is the true treasure of this life. I am so grateful for the 52 years of time that God has given me. I take each day as an absolute gift. The time that God is giving me is the time for me to share God’s love to those around me. It is not because I’m in a wheelchair and I have ALS; it is because that’s what we are created to do. We are created to live in communion with each other and to love one another as brothers and sisters. I didn’t say it was easy but it is so very worth it. Why do I give so much time to the local library? Why do I give so much time to Matthew 25:40? Why do I give so much time to my little book club every month? Why do I give so much time to the children at the church that I attend? Why do I give so much time to my friends? Why do I give so much time to you students? It is because gratitude begets generosity. I am so very grateful for every second of my life. Generosity is something we are in great need of during this season of Earth. Most people are wanting to look and point fingers at those who are not being what they need to be. Competition and comparison are killing our nation. I don’t know what news is fake or not anymore whenever I open my phone. Everyone has an agenda and they all want to brainwash us to their agendas. Everything that we need to know students and this is objective number three for the day is simply to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others the way you love yourself. As I look out onto social media and to other things like news and commercials, it’s all telling us it’s all about us. It’s all about what we want. I’m not talking about civil rights. Yes we all deserve civil rights but the lives that we build are not contingent to things that we get like money or status or cars. I totally understand that people are born into different situations. Some of these situations are not so great. How do people rise above horrible situations? How do we pursue happiness? That’s a question for the ages. We have the right to pursue happiness and happiness is not a given. Look at history. There are so many atrocious events in human history but there are also so many beautiful stories of those who rise above horrible situations. It’s not just a black or white question. We want happiness for others. The objective that is so crucial right now is that happiness is nothing that you will be able to attain of your own volition. You cannot be the God of your life. If you surrender to commercialism and materialistic culture or science, then you are allowing that to be the God of your life. I remember something I read a long time ago that stated happiness is being content with what you have and where you are. I have seen so many children in my lifetime as a teacher that have no reason to be joyful. Their homes are broken. Their parents are addicted. They are raising their siblings. They are not allowed to be children in their own right. This is a tragedy. If we want to satisfy our needs at the cost of our children then we have missed the mark. The world is trying to have a paradigm shift. We are trying to shift from parents being selfless and what they build for their children to being selfish. It will never work. The most important commodity in every culture is their children. Let me say that again. The most important commodity in every culture is their children. How are we as Americans treating our children? It breaks my heart to see so many broken families and parents and children. If you want to erase a culture, what do you do? You attack their children. If you look at our culture in America today, what do you see? Be real with yourself. Ask any teacher today and they will tell you that our society is in trouble. Another thing that we need to look really hard at is how people are treated who try desperately to raise their children in a Christian home but they are mocked within our societal structure. If women choose to stay home and raise their children, they are mocked. They are made to feel less than. Is this right? When someone gets pregnant because of unprotected sex or even an abusive situation what is the first default people come to in our society? Abortion. I know there are people who have been raped and have conceived a child from that situation. It is never okay to take a life. Thou shall not kill. There are so many variants and arguments to this. I am not belittling the people who have been abused and conceived. What I am trying to get you to see is when someone has a child or has sex what is going to happen or possibly happen? Conception. The start of a new soul within another person. Who has the right to abort another person? The same thing goes for the death penalty. We have so many ways to do things differently but we choose to do them according to man’s rules. We have forgotten God’s rules. I know so many people that have had abortions and they regret it. Many of those were girls with wealthy parents. Some were just girls that were not ready or it was not the right time. If you look at the statistics many of the aborted in our country are minorities. Is this okay? There are so many people that would love to be parents but the system is not for children anymore. I don’t really know if it ever was. I am telling you today students that the first thing we should protect in our country is our children. It doesn’t matter the color of the skin or the situation they are born in, we should protect children. How do you do that? Love. Children do not need materialistic things. All they need is love. All we need is love. So students review today’s lesson. Objective one is true friendships are eternal. Go out and make a new friend today. The second objective is time is the biggest treasure given to you as a human being. Go out and spend your time on something beautiful. It may just be sitting out looking at nature but do it! Yes it’s homework. And last but not least happiness is something that comes from within and you need to remember how you get happiness. Love God and love each other the way you love yourself. I have so much faith that you will do these things and you will start your journey of gratitude begets generosity. You want to have that heart that freely flows love to others. Why? It is what we are called to do, love. So yes your homework is to go out and to love others the way you love yourself. Don’t pick someone like your mother. Yes love her but back row students find someone that you have a beef with and then show them some kindness. You will be amazed at what love can do! It can turn sinners into saints. It can turn bullies into team players. It can help you build a kingdom of God. Thank you for being so generous and reading my blogs. I am eternally grateful.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Grateful Gal
Quotes of the day:
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
— Dr. Seuss

“Adults are just outdated children.”
— Dr. Seuss

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”
— Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady of the United States

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
— Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
— Billy Graham, evangelist


Seeds

In my mind I have been thinking about all of the beautiful blessings that have come to me. There have been so many ideas and blogs floating around in my head lately and I have just not been able to get them onto paper and into your minds. Tonight I finally have a little bit of time and I need to get all of this out because students I need to have room to keep learning and growing and writing. Yes it is a lifetime process so buckle up and do your best. Here is some hope work not homework! Because hope is what I need you to put out into our community and world. I want you to read something from the Bible everyday, say a short prayer for those around you, and look for opportunities around you to plant a seed of hope. That means students find someone that needs a blessing and you plant that seed of love and help them. Even if it’s taking someone’s buggy back for them at the grocery store. Before I send you on your way to spread hope I wanted to talk more about seeds. Stop grumbling back row!
I have always loved gardening. For fun I used to read horticulture magazines. Recently I realized I think I was a bit of a weird kid. I did not fit in well even with my cousins. The antics of my youth with my cousins has inspired a story even: the cousin conundrum! This was completely off topic but I’m trying to paint the picture here so be patient. Back to gardening. I have a wonderful friend that during the pandemic began to research how to sustain your family by growing vegetables in cubes. She and I have a lot of history together. We attended college together, raised children together, and taught for 20 years in similar systems but ended our careers together. I remember after I got the news that my body would be totally deteriorated in 10 to 11 years and I told her. She looked me in the eyes, grabbed me and hugged me. Then looked in my eyes again and said, “Oh my sweet friend no.” She began to weep and hold me. This was a day of tears. Her heart literally hurt for me. Unbeknownst to us my sweet friend would have a horrible stroke and have to retire 2 years before I did.
This amazing friend of mine can do more with her broken body than three people. She called me and asked me if I wanted to try the gardening techniques that she had learned. I of course said yes immediately! If it’s about dirt excuse me Master gardeners I mean soil  and plants you can count me in. You see this part of my life is the part of my life that no one in my house enjoys. Having a friend call and ask if she can plant flowers and vegetables for me is like a dream come true. So she and I picked two days and she would come over and show me all that she had learned.
The next sunny day that we had she came over with all of her magical materials! She had pea gravel, compost, topsoil, and peat moss. She carried all the materials and we took them to a shady spot. She began her assembly line method of creating the veggie boxes. I was utterly amazed! My friend who had suffered and lost so much from her stroke was giving me a lesson. You see I had been having some bad days let’s be real I believe I had a few months of sadness during all of this pandemic. My sweet strong friend used this time to learn and grow and to plant seeds to feed her family just in case we have to start doing things a lot different in our country. Even if we can still get things in stores, knowing how to do it is so much more satisfying. My friend has become a Master Gardener. I watched her beauty and strength as she packed all of the veggie boxes made. It me so so proud of her. Proud that she never gave up. Proud that she enjoys her life. Proud that she always wants to help others. Proud that she has turned her sadness into joy. Proud that she is grateful for her brokenness and Jesus shines through it. But does she ever have pity parties? Absolutely! We all do. But the seeds of happiness that are sown by our friends will choke out so much sadness, grief and depression if we just let it. If we just plant seeds for each other, just think how much beauty could be in our world.
The pandemic has changed so many people. I know that it has changed so many people for the good. I think the powers that be wanted to scare us and split us apart is feeling a backlash of faith and light and strength. What is all this? It is the power of good. It is the power of love. It is the power of truth. Students we all know good and evil. It seems like a continuous fight and it is. We have to continue to fight to plant good seeds and even more importantly be sure those seeds we plant are from the way, the truth, and the light of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Sarah Anderson Alley Sal the Seed Planting Gal
Quote of the Day Grow where you are planted.

What is a Man?

In my mind today I have been thinking about what it means to be a man? Actually I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Yes are they different from a woman? Physically? Emotionally? Think about it. We all have our idea of what it is to be a man.
I can remember back to my sandlot days. I was such a tom-boy. Anything the guys did I was going to do better or break my neck trying to do it. I loved, loved being outside and physical with the world. I resented when the captain (a boy) demanded to take my last strike in the middle of a game as if we would automatically lose if I took my own last strike. It made me so mad. 
As I sit back in my chair and watch the world go by especially during the pandemic I see that we are lacking so much as an American culture. We have lost our idenity. Our boys have lost their motivation. They have lost their leadership abilities. It is just getting more prevalent each generation. We need to redefine what it means to be a man in this country. If you could right now, write down or brainstorm what it means to be a man to you. If you are a boy write down what you think it means. If you’re a girl write down what you think it means and what kind of man would you want to marry? Think about the shows you watch on television. Which ones are the real men or the definition of it? What about movies? How are men portrayed in the shows or the things that you watch? Remember garbage in and garbage out students. Does what you see align with the definition you wrote or thought of when I asked you? Who are your heroes? Do they have to have fantastical powers? Can an ordinary man just be a hero? Just like the song, where have all the good guys gone?
Many American children today have excess. They don’t have to struggle for food or shelter. This is a good thing, but I think we lost our way though. Haven’t you always heard if you don’t work for it you will not appreciate it? We have a lot of underappreciative generations that are just now becoming adults. I don’t know if I could say appreciative, because they did not have the example that was needed. They did not know how to be men because no one ever showed them. There was no rite of passage for most of them. When do they become men in our American culture? Students do you see why it is important for us to define a man? I don’t want to get into the big gender debate but men are very important whether I want them to take my last strike or not. I am not saying that women cannot lead. I am not saying that women are any less. I am saying there are differences. I don’t understand why we have to demonize men in order to feel good about being a woman. Being a woman is a whole other thing entirely. As a woman I do want my rights, but I do not want to take away from or add to because of my gender. If I work the same job, yes I deserve the same pay. If I want to stay home with my children, I should be looked upon with honor not distain. If my husband is the head of my household, it does not render me powerless it shows that we are united together for the good of our family. I look around and see so many other cultures embracing what we used to have. A family centered around God working together for the greater good. How did we lose this? Are we listening to the right propaganda? Think about it. What is a man? The answer is really simple. It’s like finding the forrest among the trees.
Sal the Concerned Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes:
“A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitat

e him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.” Niccolo Macheveli
“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.” John Ruskin


“Good men by nature, wish to know. I know that many will call this useless work… men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of that of wisdom, which is the food and only true riches of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

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

Tutti Fruitti

IMG951555
Today I am thinking about fruit. Summers in the South give us lots of wonderful fruit: watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydew, peaches, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Each summer my heart leaps when I see the roadside stands full of fresh produce. Besides fruit there are the garden treasures of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and several squash varieties. Summers of the South are so bountiful. It reminds me of the manna from heaven that God provided as the Hebrews fled through the desert. The treasures of this Earth are miracles from God. From manna to black-eyed peas, it is all a beautiful gift from God. Miraculous indeed.

Just as the Hebrews travel years through the desert surviving on manna, quail, and Holy water from stones, we get complacent with our daily miracles. We really take them for granted until the season has passed only then do we realize the sweet, savory tastes of fresh fruit and veggies are gone until next summer. The fresh produce of the summer becomes a memory in the winter. The roadside Farmers go back to their homes and farms to prepare for the winter and to plan it next year’s harvest. The miracles of their fields become a statistic compared to years prior. They note lessons learned and begin again taking time to reflect now their fields are fallow. We should do the same.

I know being a human is busy work, but we really ought take time to reflect and meditate on all the miracles in lives. We should fight to be in every miracle of every season God gives us. We should be thankful that he gives us manna every Sunday we attend church. Just like the Hebrews received double portions on Saturday so as to enjoy the Sabbath, going to meet with all our brothers and sisters at mass we are fed with the spirit and the body of Christ to go forth and enjoy the fruit of God’s bountifulness in our daily lives. Is the soil of your soul surrounded by vices that steal the good works? Is the soil of your soul too hard to fertilize and nourish good deeds? Is the soil of your soul tangled with deciect, fears, hurt, and hate so no seed of goodness can grow? We are all the fruit of God but do we have the strength to allow the ultimate gardener to cleanse the soil of our souls?
Take time to realize, reflect, and meditate on the miracles in your life.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Tutti Fruitti Gal

Quotes of the day:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil

The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.
Henry David Thoreau

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta aka Mother TeresaIMG951555

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