The Grays at Pollak
Pollak Vineyards, this past weekend

(I never have any good ideas for blog post titles, which is why they are always so inscrutable and senseless.)

I am looking forward to being with the family this week, but I also feel a lot of anxiety and sadness about the pending visit. I keep crying in public when people ask me about my grandparents (so, fair warning if you see me). I cried yesterday at work, in our department meeting, when our boss asked us to go around and say what we were thankful for. “My family,” I said. “And how dependable… and loving… they are…” And then I dissolved into ugly tears over free bagels.

The US political field is so ugly right now, and I am so ashamed of the surge of hatred, fear, and bigotry that the GOP candidates have inspired among the public. Whenever a candidate says anything, I visit FactCheck.org, which has become one of my sole barometers on the validity of political pronouncements. I have been astonished at how many blatant lies are circulating.

I am thankful for

  • the opportunity to be with Mom, Dad, Kelsey, Alex, Sam, Ma-Maw, and Da-Dan this week;
  • starting a Five-Year Diary;
  • sweet friends;
  • cataloging photo archives;
  • Guion, always;
  • my calligraphy studio;
  • kind colleagues and perceptive managers;
  • This American Life keeping us awake and inspired on road trips;
  • dogs who patiently wait outside the door while I nap off a migraine;
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus; and
  • a clean house.

Hope those of you in the US have a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.

Catching newts

Source: Flickr, user madrat

I remember catching buckets of newts on the edge of the Van Eerden’s largest pond. We separated them into male and female buckets, guessing—rightly, I recently found out—that the males had the flared tails and the females had straight, tapered ones, like the tails of a Dalmatian. We planned to establish a comprehensive spotted newt breeding program, and wouldn’t our parents be delighted when we suddenly had thousands of baby newts hidden in the back of the garage?

While we were daydreaming, Samson, that great, lumbering black lab, would stick his head in the newt bucket, like he was bobbing for apples. He’d come up with a face full of writhing newts, squirming in his white teeth. We’d squeal with terror and try to pry them out of his jaws, but he’d take a quick gulp and they were gone. From then on, we made the littlest sisters stand guard over the buckets and block Samson from any more snack attacks.

I remember the large puddle that was packed with wiggling black commas: tadpoles squirming for life. We would scoop up handfuls of them, dump them in other red buckets, and wait for them to turn into frogs. They never did. When the sun went down, we would trek to their house up that long, winding driveway, tired and content, feeling like conquerors. We hardly ever saw our parents.