Choices

We all have choices. These are what shape our lives. As a teenager: Do we avoid the happening parties of our youth because we want to keep ourselves from smoking pot or drinking underage? Do we risk our reputation of being cool? Do we risk awakening a demon of addiction to fit in with the popular clique? Do we trade sex in hopes of receiving love? Do we miss a social gathering to complete important assignments? Do we sleep in or go to church on Sunday? Do we text and drive? Do we study? Do we complete our assignments? Do we cheat on tests and homework? Do we skip school? Do we embrace others or snub them? Being a teenager is so hard. Making good choices are not at all popular if you want to be popular. I didn’t always make the best choices in my youth but thanks be to God I came it on the other side alive without an addiction problem and wiser. Some of my peers weren’t so lucky. Choices.

As an adult, choices are imminent. Do I go to college or a trade school? Do I go to work? Do I have children? Do I get married? Do I put God at the center of my life or what I desire: sex, partying, money, materialism, work, or myself? Do I pay my bills? Do I live off of welfare or cheat the system? Do I choose to be lazy and blame the government for my problems? Do I blame my choices on my parents because of being emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or being neglected as a child? Do I blame God? Do I blame choosing my vices over good on everything and everyone but myself? Choices.

We have choices. We can control them. It’s called free will. As a child we are exposed to choices of our guardians but one day those choices become our own. Do we choose drugs? Unprotected sex? A government check instead of working? Handouts? Being a deadbeat parent? Do we choose the opposite of what we endured or go with the flow and repeat history? It is so very hard. The cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction are rampant. Wherever you are on your life-walk you have choices. Each one is crucial. At the center of your life should be your morals and beliefs. If those are focused on a God of Love, your choices will be clarified. We all crave to love and be loved. We want to choose happiness and to be happy. The first step towards this is to make good choices. The choice is yours.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Make Good Choices Gal

Dedicated to the Class of 2019

Quote of the Day:
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Edwin Markham

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

Grace, Mercy, & Love

Think of times you are given gifts. It feels really good when others think of you. As a child, you expect gifts. The more you receive the better. Right? In my adult years, I’ve always been bashful about receiving gifts. This drives my husband crazy! He is just so thoughtful and always has been. I can’t pinpoint when “stuff” became so unimportant to me.

I remember as a child I always was doted on especially by my father. He always tried to give me special surprises. I can remember when he would come home and I would run to him and say, “What did you bring me Daddy?” It may have only been a candy bar, but he always had something for me. Even during his alcoholic binges he would appear with gifts for me. I have a vivid memory of him showing up reeking of alcohol and bringing me the brand new bicycle I had been dreaming about. It was on display at a local hardware store downtown. It was a sparkly blue and best of all it had a banana seat! The seat was striped with blue and yellow. It had a white plastic woven basket with three pink flowers across the front. Boy, I loved that bike. I remember my mother coming out on the front porch and saying, “John, how did you get that bicycle?” Remember, I said he was on another binge. That always coincides with lost or quit job, running around with drinking buddies, and no money. I can’t tell you how many times my sweet, beautiful, hard-working mother had to endure this cycle. It breaks my heart. Well, my mother went to the phone and called the store. The bicycle was put on her credit account. So now she had to figure a way to pay yet another bill, keep our house, and feed all of us while my Father swooped in and gave me this lavish birthday present. She did and 42 years ago I got the bike of my dreams. It took about seven more years but my Dad was able to overcome his addiction. That was one of the best gifts of all.

This year a few weeks ago, Ken asked, “What do you want for your birthday?” I really have it all and it’s not materialistic. It’s Grace, Mercy, and Peace. I have been gifted the Grace to roll around, head high, and be oblivious to the condition of my physical self. I have Mercy which showers me and strengthens me knowing that the selfish me no longer controls my choices. I am comforted with an inner Peace. I know from where all of my gifts come and they are freely given to anyone only if they embrace them. This life has been and still is so fruitful. I still have many miles to roll, places to see, and moments to live. You do, too. God will see to it. Be brave. Have Faith to accept your gifts of Grace, Mercy, and Peace.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Gift Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“I believe that God has put gifts and talents and ability on the inside of every one of us. When you develop that and you believe in yourself and you believe that you’re a person of influence and a person of purpose, I believe you can rise up out of any situation.”
Joel Osteen

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
Maya Angelou

“Each day provides its own gifts.”
Marcus Aurelius

 

Where I See God

I see God in nature. As a child, I would refuse to go inside on a pretty day. My mother told me that at two years of age my best friend Clayton and I would head out with our pails to rescue bugs. When we moved to a neighborhood and had a nice sized yard, I would find holes filled with toads. I would take them in to our bathroom, place them in the sink, and shut the door. I then would head out to find more. Whoever opened the bathroom door would be in for a big surprise. It was usually my mom. I can hear her saying, “Sarah Anne, what in the world are you doing?”

I cried when people killed bugs. Sometimes my older brother did it just to torment me. He would pull the legs off of a grasshopper and ask, “You want me to put it out of it’s misery?” In my mind I envisioned a little hospital crew reattaching the maimed part and quickly said, “Yes! Please help it.” He would proceed to stomp the poor insect while I wailed and sobbed. Another evil tactic was talking my grass-hopper collections and tossing them into spider webs as I screeched. Traumatic times indeed. Boys really are made of “snakes and snails.”

I remember walks with my dogs discovering snakes, gullies, riverlets, and ponds. The adventures were always satisfying eating wild berries and snatching fruit from neighbors trees to serve as a makeshift lunch. I would explore for hours and heading home in the gloaming which is still a favorite time of day for me. Everything glows and seems lucid to the eye. These walks continued until being ambulatory was stolen away by by ALS. My dogs and I explored the woods around my home. We’ve flushed squirrels and deer. Watching the hounds bay and chase is a beautiful sight. Of course, no one was harmed. The joy is in the pursuit which is a good thing because my girls never caught anything. Watching them rush to ponds to swim and flounce their sodden coats as they came back to me on our adventure always made me smile.

Today, I roll and still commune with nature. It’s limited to my yard but it’s a sanctuary to me. I trek in my scoot watching birds enjoy my feeders, birdhouses, and trees. The butterflies and bees scurrying and harvesting from my flowers. My dogs follow me and rest at my feet as I look up dreamily into the trees I planted as mere saplings. Their girth a treasure I thought I would never see. I spend hours watching and listening to nature. From toddler to death, I will enjoy my sacred time with God in his roofless sanctuary.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Nature Gal

 

 

Opportunity

 

In my mind, I’m thinking of how 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It makes me ponder if we are any better for it today? What would MLKJ think of our country? Watching a PBS presentation at home with my kids the other night, I shuddered. Watching the blatant displays of hate, it made my stomach hurt. When I taught as a white educator, this was a tough but fruitful unit for all of my students. We realize the fight for a better world was for all. We all bleed red. We are a family of humans. We all deserve love and respect. We all want to finish this life as best we can. Humans are not geared toward solidarity existence. We all have gifts to share. We all are capable of building up one another. We all have a purpose.

I always asked, “What did MLKJ fight for: blacks, the poor, or equality? This was a tough question. As we viewed historical footage, my students recognized that among the vast marches there were blacks and whites marching side by side. All colors were martyred for the cause. Doing what is right in any situation is always the tougher path. It’s not for the weak of heart. Dying for something honorable takes sterner stuff indeed.

I ask again, “What was the Civil Rights Movement all about?” I’m just a mere educator but this is my take on it. It was for opportunity not hand-outs. It was to be able to compete in the race of life not with a head start but with a chance to compete. The only problem is who are the score keepers? This is where opportunities become muddled. This is age old regardless of ethnicity. Your birth comes with limitations whether rich or poor, nurtured or neglected, educated parents or not and in your life race you have many hurdles to leap in order to compete well. Opportunity. It’s crucial to being able to compete. Will you seize your opportunities?

At some point every April 4th, I revisit the “I have a Dream” speech. I am always stirred within my soul to “Dream” of a world where love and service trump hate and selfishness. I will embrace all in my path. I will take the opportunity to be the best version of myself. Be a peace maker. You have only to accept the opportunities given to you each day.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Opportunity Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Authenticity is everything! You have to wake up every day and look in the mirror, and you want to be proud of the person who’s looking back at you. And you can only do that if you’re being honest with yourself and being a person of high character. You have an opportunity every single day to write that story of your life.”
Aaron Rodgers

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”
Mike Singletary

“I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that.”
Gillian Anderson

 

Dharma

Dharma

In my mind today I’m thinking like Brittany Spears, “Oops I did it again.” I haven’t been able to write as of late because I’ve done it again. I’m going to ballgames, teaching at church, and being a youth minister. Some call it “burning the candle at both ends” but Sal the Dharma Gal calls it living with ALS not dying. It feels so good to live with purpose. I’ve given you a break back row so let’s get started and no bathroom breaks during instruction time.

First, what in the world is dharma? Back row not the tv show, Dharma and Greg! It’s what I’ve been harping on for my high school students in religion class each Sunday. We are trying to form good habits and shake old ones. We want to grow. Here’s the definition of dharma: virtue, righteousness, and duty, especially social and caste duty in accord with the cosmic order.

In Sal the ALS Gal’s world, I’ve been fulfilling my cosmic duties to the best of my abilities. God has allowed me to immerse myself in serving once again and I’m so giddy. My modus operandi is to teach. When I sleep, I almost always have vivid dreams. 90% of my dreams involve me teaching and the other 10% I’m playing a sport. Really. So recently I’ve been gifted a new teaching assignment. I’m teaching my great nephew, who suffered a tragic brain injury, two days a week. He’s on homebound instruction. Searching ideas, planning a curriculum, and creating lesson plans gives me so much new life. In my brokenness, I’ve been given purpose. Smile with me.

Not only am I being a teacher once again, but I’m also going to share art and use it once a month at my beloved local library with local middle school students. I’m calling it Art Therapy with Sal the ALS Gal. Giggle with me. I’m so happy.

Now students, why am I so giddy? No, back row I’m not hitting the old peace pipe! I’ve been given the gift of service. I get to serve! We are all called to a purpose and that purpose always has an element of service. I encourage you to find yours.

I know your lives are so full of work, family, church, little-league, boy/girl scouts, and obligations. Somewhere in the web of your life, find a way to help and serve others. It can be through your job or life activities. Just find someway to help those around you. You don’t have to visit a third world country. Seek and you will find a way to live a life fulfilled. Sal the Philosophical Gal knows a life well lived doesn’t involve a big bank account, fancy cars, and designer stuff. It’s about using your gifts to help others. Find your dharm aka path of righteous living.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Servant Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Gandhi

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”
Billy Graham

“Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”
Kallam Anji Reddy