Treasures

In my mind today, I am thinking about treasures. It’s been a crazy, hectic, and amazing October. I have been frantically zipping all over my little burg advocating the Autumn March for ALS. Meetings, designing shirts, collecting donations, and praying for a beautiful event day have had Sal the Autumn March Gal busy as a bee, literally! Am I exhausted and on the brink of mutiny? Of course, but I love it! As long as I can roll in my scooter and breathe, I will advocate for a cure for ALS, establish scholarships for my local school systems, and give to local non-profits. There are so many treasures when look outside of yourself and work for unity.

The Autumn March has so many treasures. First and foremost are the people on our small committee. Each one gives 110% of their time, talent, and treasure to make this race successful. All have been personally touched by ALS either through my battle or with a family member’s fight. They are true treasures. Their love and support is priceless.

My little burg where I’ve grown up is also a treasure. I love knowing so many people. All small towns have their drawbacks, but knowing and loving the people with whom you share a pinpoint on the map is a priceless treasure. Community is so important. My vocation as a teacher continues to bless me as familiar adults approach me and ask, “Ms. Alley, is that you?” And then a family reunion begins as my former students tell me about their lives and families. They will always be my kids, too. This is such a treasure. At the Autumn March each year, I see so many students that I have taught. Each year it’s a different mix. It fills my heart to see them being such productive adults and wonderful parents.

Some of the biggest treasures in my life are packaged as family and friends. Without my family and friends none of this could ever happen. They feed me. They dress me. They clean me, they chaffeur me to my activities, and they love me. They do this even when they don’t want to or are exhausted themselves. When I join another committee or create another club, they patiently indulge me without rolling their eyes. That was for my back row students. They want me to live. Family and friends are definitely a treasure.

What I treasure most in this life is my faith in God through my Catholic faith. Yes, I’ve had my moments of anger and sadness living with ALS, but as my body has grown weaker my faith has grown exponentially. I see the big picture of my purpose, even though I have such limited physically ability. It’s not about me or ALS or money. It’s about “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Not my will but God’s. We have made such a mess of our gifts from the Creator. When we start using those gifts for the greater good, we spread love, give people respect and dignity no matter their station in life, and emptying ourselves for service to others during our earthly time mimics heaven. ALS has helped me weed through the narcissistic frivolities of humanity. It has given me a supernatural ability to know where the true treasures of this life lie. Back row students, it’s like the Spidey senses that Spiderman has. Your homework today is to investigate where your treasures are. I remember a quote from a writer who said, “I have never seen a U-Haul hitched to the back of a hearse.” We are simply left with our souls and our works for a better world when we are called to leave this beautiful Earth. Look for your treasures and you will find your heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Autumn March Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also.”
Saint Ambrose

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”
Buddha

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus Christ

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

From Martha to Mary


Reflecting today on my readings, I realize that I have become a Mary. I watch the flurry of social media posting about back to school and I visit the season before ALS. I was such a Martha. I enjoyed every busy moment of every busy teaching day from inservices preparing our minds for another year of teaching to the bone-tired days of May. I admit I offen scoffed at teachers who were like “Woah, slow down! You are going to burn out before September.” They had had their seasons being Marthas and understood the value of reflecting and pacing. Teaching is a very competitive profession. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. We want to do our very best every single moment of every single day. We looked at the new teachers each year and tried to glean new methods they have learned that maybe we had never heard of before. We looked at the experienced teachers and their ease of scheduling and confidence eager to learn from the them. We tried to figure out just how were they so cool and confident hoping they would share some of their “tricks of the trade.” By default, I think most teachers are Marthas. Busyness is the nature of the teaching profession. There truly is never a dull moment. There truly is never a moment of peace until you gather your things and make it to the parking lot to your car. And if you’re raising your own children, then another form of chaos ensues until bedtime. Whew! Prayers for all of the teachers all of the time.

I am now a Mary. I sit still everyday from 7 a.m. until lunch. My body is still except for my eyes and the little bit of arm function I have left. I read, think, reflect, pray, and on good day write. It truly is the better part that Jesus spoke of to Martha. I just had to realize that and let go of the bitterness and sadness when my Martha days were over. I trusted that God had a plan for me that was good even though ALS was part of that plan. My days at His feet are so fruitful. I listen and He guides me to new adventures.

To all of my Marthas that are beginning a new school year know that I’m praying for your success. I have not prayed for you all to be a 5 on the Teacher Evaluation but I am praying that God blesses you with patience, knowledge, and last but not least a big old heart to open up and embrace those precious souls that God has given you this year. I pray that each one will be filled with confidence, respect, and love for you. Now that I am a Mary I understand what is the most important thing about teaching. It is something eternal. It is something that will come up and hug you in the middle of a grocery store. It is something that will wait on you at a restaurant and tell you what a difference you made in their lives. It will stop you it public and show you pictures of its children. It may become a teacher and say you are the reason I became a teacher because I wanted to help others like you helped me. It may invite you to its wedding and let you be a guest of honor. It is something that will make a random post on your Facebook page or social media to say thank you so much for believing in me and most of all loving me. Rarely will it say thank you so much for helping me learn the Bill of Rights, but sometimes it will say that too. Although Martha was busy, Martha recognized God in her presence, in her heart, and in her vocation. So to all of my teaching Marthas, have a great school year. On your most trying days remember that every season will pass, do your best in every moment, love the unlovable(these are the ones who need the most love,) and when you begin your Mary season you will have so much love to sustain you to complete God’s plan for you. Remember it’s a good plan.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embracing Mary Gal

Quotes of the day:
Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.
Bill Gates

Life and Death

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

Hope

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28
This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.

Life happened again yesterday. I had too many obligations and not enough time. I hope you are staying strong and practicing your virtues. Today we are going to talk about the virtue of Hope. Hope can mean a lot of things in our culture. We hope we get into the college that we want when we graduate high school. We hope that we can get a good job to provide for our family. We hope that our students in class will behave and try to learn the objectives. As a Christian virtue hope takes on a different dimension. As a Christian hope it’s not based on our human desires. Hope is based on what God has promised us as Christians. We hope in the strength of our God and savior to fulfill his promise that he wants us to be happy, to have a good life, and to help us to fulfill our purpose in creating a better world for Him.

My first reading today was from Jeremiah. It was rather shocking. It said this is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God. Think about that. We hope in the promises of God but are we doing our part? Are we listening to the voice of God through scriptures and prayer and other people that God places in our lives? What if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain? In order to cash in our rewards, we have to live morally, sound lives. This is very important. That’s why students I am taking so much time on virtues. In order for you to grow spiritually we have to run a good race.  You have to have a sound moral core. All of these virtues that we are discussing and learning are from God. Haven’t you always heard all things good come from God? I understand the argument of people not understanding creation and a creator, but all of the studying I have done I have come to the conclusion that this one makes the most sense. God is a god of love. All things from God should produce love. Think about the opposite of our virtues that we are building. We want to be strong . We want to be courageous, but the opposites of those are to be cowardly and weak in our faith. Think about the opposite of charity. That would to be very miserly and we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. How did that work out?

Today I want you to work on your virtue of Hope. I want you too have faith and hope for the best. Hope for the plans that God has for you. If you’re reading this blog, you have been led here for a reason. There are three big aspects to being a human: our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves chosing good and acting upon it, and our relationship with God. Right now we are focusing on our relationship with ourselves and trying to create a better person, a better heart, and a better understanding of why we are even here on Earth. I hope you understand that we are not here to horde as many resources as possible, to be lauded by our accomplishments, or be accepted into the “in” crowd. We are here to live a life of virtues. We are here to love each other and take care of one another on this earthly journey. Our treasures are not here. I really hope that our time together will open your ears to hear. Not like the ones in the Bible verse today from Jeremiah. It’s never too late to fight the vices of your life. We are called to listen and fight now to build up a Kingdom of God. Today I want you to read The Lord’s prayer. I want you to really think about each line of this perfect prayer. You all are growing! I feel it. Hope in this prayer, and most of all try to live this prayer today as you go through your day.

Sal the Thy Kingdom Come Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:
The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
Basil Hume

I see so many people. They just seem to be hopeless. Being a Christian and being a pastor, the ultimate hope is in Jesus.
Richie Fury


The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfillment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.
Mother Angelica

I hope the day that all the Christians are one. This is my dream.
Pope Theodoros II

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.

Fortitude

Good day students! I hope the world is treating you with Justice. I also hope that you are treating others with Justice. Today we are going to talk about fortitude. Fortitude is a very wonderful virtue. The only downside to fortitude is that you have to go through trials in your life in order for your fortitude to shine.
This morning I got a text from our youngest daughter. She is at the end of her high school career and is taking calculus. Today they did some example problems for the AP exam. She said, “Thank God that God will still love me even though I am going to fail this calculus AP exam.” What does she need to do students? That’s right front row, she needs to summon her fortitude or strength. It’s really hard to do that when you are at the end of something like your high school career. I know inside of her mind she is thinking what the heck? Does this test really matter that much? I also know my daughter. I know she will muster the strength to do her best. And as long as she does that, she will have peace because she knows God will love her anyway. That’s what fortitude is, try your hardest in the face of adversity to take the high road and do your best.
In my little small corner of the world, there have been a lot of life events: births, deaths, cancer, and dealing with the ebb and flow of the each day. Life is tough. Especially when you have to say goodbye to your soulmate and trust that there is another birth with their leaving this Earth. Trust that the love and memories that you have created will sustain you until you take that journey. Seeing the DNA of your family carry on. Wow! Life is a miracle. Watching beloved friends fight cancer and other diseases takes fortitude. Waking up and facing a new day takes fortitude. How can we help when so much is trying to snatch or our joy? Well students, you call on your other virtues to help you build fortitude in others. Help them to be strong and courageous. Pray for them. Take them meals. Mail a funny card or a heartfelt note. Visit them. Share a story about them to their loved ones.
Students, we need to be fortitudious. Be strong for your sisters and brothers on this planet. We are in this together. Believe me when I say there is strength in numbers. And that’s right back row, you do have homework. Here it is. I want you to flex your fortitude muscles. Use all of your lessons we have learned this far andd show your strength. Show the strength of faith that you have as a Christian. Let someone lean on you today. Hold them up with your spiritual strength. It doesn’t matter if you do a good deed or a simple prayer. Just do it.
Sal the Fortitudious Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Courage is the most important of all the
virtues because without courage, you
can’t practice any other virtue
consistently.
Maya Angelou
       No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.
Orson F. Whitney
       True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies… Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies and have greatest advantage against us. The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.
Jonathan Edwards

Justice

Students do you remember that rhyme: “1,2 skip a few?” I promise that it’s not what’s happening with our 40 days together. It makes me think of a John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This is exactly what happened to me. Life has been happening. We have been busy researching and visiting places that could be the next chapter for our youngest daughter. But now I am back ready to double up on our journey through our 40 days.
The last day we had class we talked about temperance. Temperance is very important as we live our lives. We need to show restraint with those things that tempt us and threaten to become idols in our lives. I hope you practiced using temperance this past weekend.
We are working on virtues. We are trying to right our ship and have smooth sailing toward our goal. These forty days we are working toward many goals: creating a pure heart, creating moments of kindness toward others, clearing out the clutter of our hearts, making our little corner of the world better, and practicing virtues. Today we will add another virtue. This virtue is called Justice.
When you hear the word justice, you think of fairness, court cases, and being slighted in some way or another. The virtue Justice is something that we as humans need. It is a check on ourselves. How do we use Justice in our lives? Justice is a balance between being selfish and selfless. There is a happy balance in the middle. It is very hard to walk this thin line in our daily lives.
Charity and Justice can be used synonymously. Are you charitable to others when everything is going their way? There are days when we wonder why did I not get what I wanted and the other person did. I told you that I had been busy. One of the things that happened this past week was our daughter did not get into a college that she picked as her top choice. Looking at her transcript and her community involvement it made no sense that she did not get into this college. So we all wanted to scream, “This is not fair!” Eating humble pie is very hard. It is one of the hardest things to do when things do not go your way. Even harder is being happy for those who have made it to a goal that you yearned for and have failed.
What should we do? How can we practice Charity or Justice when these things slap us in the face? First we should be firm with ourselves. We should not fall in the face of adversity but straighten our backbones and persevere. I believe everything happens for the good of all even if we do not get everything we want. This helps us practice humility and patience. We need to remain truthful and upright and be cautious not to slander others who have reached a goal that we so desperately wanted. We need to pray with gratitude the ability to run this race of life. Until you draw your last breath, the race is on. Embrace these times of hardship. These are the times you learn exponentially. They help you become a stronger, more faithful, and a virtuous person.
Think about a time when things didn’t go the way you wished. It may have been a job promotion or position on a sports team that you didn’t get. Did you handle it with Justice and Charity? I know many times in my life I did not. Thanks be to God I am still learning how to be a virtuous person. I hope the next time you and I are faced with a tough situation, we choose to be charitable and act out of Justice. Dry your eyes and blow those noses. Today is a new day and we have living to do!
Sal the Stiff Upper Lip Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
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
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Fredrick Douglass
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triump.
Haile Selassie