Monday, August 26, 2013

All that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. ~ Charles Kingsley

One afternoon while sitting with my grandmother on her and Papa's front porch swing, flipping through the pages of a wildflower guidebook together, Grandma confided that sometimes when she couldn't fall asleep at night, she would try to think of a flower that began with each letter of the alphabet.  It has probably been almost thirty years since she told me that, but like Grandma, I've never been able to fall asleep easily either and I often find myself employing her alphabet trick.  Flowers tonight, I hear myself thinking.  Anemones, Bachelor Buttons, Camelias. . . .Some nights, it is birds, and sometimes they come even after the flowers if I'm still wide awake.  Auks (thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Long Winter [my favorite book in her series] for that one), Baltimore Orioles, Chicadees, Doves, Eagles, Finches, Grackles. . . .I'm not too strict with myself with my twenty-six-item lists.  I often skip Q and X, no matter the subject.  More often that not, the flowers, birds, places-I've-been, and words-in-Spanish aren't enough, and I decide to alphabetize my gratitude list or Things-I'm-Looking-Foward-To list.  It is not a bad note to end the day on, and there are certainly worse ways to fall asleep than by reflecting on all the good and sweet in one's life.   

A is for a big salad, I will tell myself tonight.  My mother-in-law recently bought us huge restaurant ware-type salad plates, and we used them for the first time tonight.    B is baking.  My third (and maybe final) attempt at meringues has been in the oven about three hours now.  This batch looks okay but isn't thrilling enough to me to bother with again.  Catching up on sleep.  That's always wonderful.  Sleep usually is on my list somewhere.  David Bowie:  Starman, an impressively well-researched biography by Paul Trynka.  There is so much glorious detail in this book.  As a boy, Bowie, along with his friends and apparently like so many children in post-war London, used to play in former bombsites, digging in the dirt, imagining, and unearthing little treasures lost until then to the war.  "It was unbelievable," one of his childhood friends is quoted as remembering.  "There were these huge spaces from the bomb sites, and ruined houses, which seemed like mountains to us, covered in Buddleia:  they were our plagrounds."  I will think of David Bowie every time I smell or see powder-scented Butterfly Bush now, and I like knowing that he probably remembers his childhood whenever he catches a whiff of the flowers too.  Dishes have been washed and are all put away.  By the end of the week, all the piddly and naggy little errands that have been on my to-do list for ages will all have been run, so E is errands all the way.  Fresh air.  (Months now of) Good health.  I cut back on sugar last fall to see if it would help my immune system, as I had read that it would, and who knows, but I have gone cold-and-flu-free for quite awhile now, so maybe. 
Heart-shaped leaves.  I prefer blue Morning Glories to any of the other colors, but their heart-shaped leaves always charm me.  I have tomorrow off from work.  Just hearing about a friend's maybe-possible-I-hope-we-can-go travel plans.  Knowing a letter likely reached my parents over the weekend.  One of my new loves:  Linen-scented candles, particularly Glade-brand's "Clean Linen and Sunny Days" ones.  My grocery store carries these for just a few dollars, and the scent is so relaxing, as if I'd just carried in a basket of laundry that had dried out on the line.  A movie I'm looking forward to watching (When Do We Eat?), thanks to Heidi who mentioned it on her blog a couple weeks ago.  Nancy Drew.  I bought the first ten books awhile back and just finished (re-)reading them.  As a kid, I was introduced to the Bobbsey Twins and Trixie Belden books by my mom.  I don't remember when I read my first Nancy Crew books, but it's been fun to dive back into her world of sporty blue convertibles and classic sheath dresses.  Organizing to pay bills this payday.  I'm determined to have one of my student loans paid off by spring, and I've been getting real satisfaction from playing the little if-I-pay-this-much-toward-the-balance-I'll-only-owe-this-much-but-if-I-can-pay-this-amount-the-new-balance-will-be-even-lower game.  Plans for next week include a visit home to my parents  Quinoa, since I keep seeing recipes for it that I look forward to trying soon. 
A gift from a friend of a mini Silvertone radio that not only plays both AM and FM, but also looks vintage and fits onto my little corner shelf in the kitchen.  I will think of her every time I play it, making it even sweeter.   Stuffed meowed at me this afternoon.  He rarely "talks"--he is silent most of the time and saves his few meows for Mike--so to hear anything besides the jingle of his collar was sweet.  Time to myself tonight and tomorrow.  Updating aunts in letters and email tonight.  Vanilla soy milk.  Creating another faux wallpapered wall tomorrow, this one pale green with bouquets of pink roses--the wall beside the mantel and that the wing chair will be against.  I might skip X as I usually do.  I never thought to ask Grandma what she came up with for the hard letters.  Maybe she fell asleep before she reached them.  Maybe that was the point.  :)  Y will be the 80s song "Your Love" by The Outfield since I've had it on repeat-play this past week.  And Z--Z, I can do, Grandma, if you've listened all the way to the end --Z is for Zucchini-Tomato Tart, one of my favorite dishes and one that will be my supper later this week.  Any recipe will likely be wonderful, but I just throw sliced zucchini and tomatoes into a pie crust with feta or Parmesan cheese and maybe some olive oil and bake it about thirty minutes.  (If you could be my guest at luncheon, Nancy Drew, I'd serve you this tart with your oft-mentioned iced tea and fruit salad.)    

People are often asked what they've learned from their loved ones or their favorite teachers, and it seems that peoples' first thought is the grand life lessons, but Grandma's little alphabet trick is one of the things she told me that I most appreciate.  Some people get up to watch television or read when they can't sleep, but Grandma stayed-put and made mental lists of pretty things.    Pansies, Queen Anne's Lace, Ranunculus, Snapdragons. . . .It makes me smile now to think of garden-loving Grandma's silent recitations.  To know that the sun will come up eventually, even if sleep doesn't come at all, and to decide to focus on the happy and beautiful in the meantime:  This is a lesson worth passing on too.


Marie said...

I often have a hard time falling asleep. It's hard to turn my brain off. I start praying alphabetically for people I know. I rarely ever get bast f or g and I am in lala land. It helps to take the focus off of other things. Loved your list of alphabetical joys! xxoo

Val said...

Hi, Marie. :) I was going to email you tonight! I haven't been receiving your posts in my inbox, even though I'm still subscribed. I'll write soon. I have one of your posts bookmarked and at least one more in my "Remember to comment on!" folder. :)

It is hard to turn one's brain off, yes. I like your idea of alphabetical prayer lists. ♥

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a fun way to help you fall asleep.

I recently bought my first bag of quinoa from SAM's club as I'd been seeing recipes too, and for the price I decided to go for it. I really like it and it is good for me too.

Have a great week there in your happy, colorful home.


La Table De Nana said...

This post is just so charming:) I am going to try that trick..:)
Your whole post with the alphabet :) And Nancy Drew:)

Lisa said...

Val, I love this post. You are onto something, 'though I think when I can't sleep and I try to focus on things, that wakes me up more.

I also love the Bobbsey Twins as a child, but never got around to Nancy Drew.
A box of quinoa is sitting in the pantry, waiting for me to make up my mind and just try it.
Dolly is also very quiet. I think she has little reason to speak, since we both jump to anticipate her every need. :D
It occurred to me that your sugar deprivation is coming out in your decor - it all sounds so sweet! Roses, flowers, pinks, etc. We all must have sugar in our lives! It sounds so cheery and welcoming.
The idea of a zucchini and tomato tart really appeals, and seems so simple. I will try it some time.
Frances Mayes, in Under the Tuscan Sun, suffered from insomnia. She would mentally go through the rooms of houses she'd loved.

Val said...

Lorraine, I'm glad you like the things you've cooked with it. I'm trying to work a few new-to-me foods into my life, and quinoa's been on the list for awhile.

Thank you, Monique. :)

Lisa, yes, maybe that's why Stuffed doesn't need to talk much. :) That's cute about the sugar. Who knows! I used to be "all pink all the time," in every room I ever had. My mom is always surprised when I choose anything *but* pink. :) I like Mayes' idea. I don't think that was a book I ever got around to reading. A bunch of those travel memoirs kind of run together in my mind, though. I like the Olive Farm, trilogy. Those might be ones you'd like too.

Nellie said...

I love your alphabetical lists, Val! I usually don't need any help falling asleep, though.

We enjoy quinoa just cooked as it is. I like it for lunch sometimes with black beans, so I am known to prepare more than we will need for one meal just to have leftovers.:-)

xo Nellie

Val said...

I had rice and black beans with my salad last night, Nellie. :) Hopefully, I'll like the quinoa that way too.

June said...

What a sweet post Val. I love the alphabet trick. I also love blue morning glories best. These are some of my favorite flowers (oh what am I saying...I love all flowers:)
Have a lovely day...this post made mine...

Val said...

Thank you, June. How sweet.

Rev. Jim said...

Val: I was going to suggest the same as Marie; so instead I'll suggest that you just use the alphabet with the blessings in your life (similar to all that you've mentioned). Talking with and listening to the Lord should be relaxing enough to put you to sleep. :) Rev. Jim

Val said...

Hi, Jim! I owe you an email! More this weekend. :) Hello to Freda. ♥

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Val,

You have shared a lovely post and how neat your alphabetical list is -
Hope you have a lovely new week


asmplelife said...

I love love love this post. I think the alphabet game would dovetail very nicely with the encyclopedia of your life idea! Like you, I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and have a pile of my own to work through. A patron recently reintroduced me to The Happy Hollisters. You may enjoy those, as well! I think I shall be making your zucchini and tomato tart. It sounds scrumptious. Best of weekends to you!

Val said...

Thank you, Carolyn and Cheryl. :)

And I'll have to check out those books, Cheryl, thank you.