Family, Friends and Politics & the Man in the Mirror

Hi! It’s me, Ollie. The past two weeks have been lovely here in Vermont. When last you heard from me, it was peak leaf peeping time. We then had a lovely week of Indian summer. (I hope that is still politically correct – would think so since it is a highly desirable time during the autumn.)

( photo of Secretary Clinton)

Speaking of politics, I’m reminded of a conversation James and I had this week. He’s quite concerned about the upcoming election. He told me that he assumed his family would vote for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton; and most, if not all, of his friends will as well, or else not vote for the Republican candidate, Donald John Trump. At least that is what he told me. It was on the walk back home when James confided in me that he was worried about how the only sibling with whom he is still in touch, and her husband, would vote. They are both loyal Republicans.

When James and Ron visited both North and South Carolina last April (and I was having a wonderful time playing with my friends in the kennel), this lovely sister had informed James that if Mr. Trump became her party’s candidate for President, that she would pull the lever for him while holding her nose. James assumed that her husband, a generous, kind and supportive man, would vote for whoever the Republican nominee was. After what has transpired since then, especially with the release of the Access Hollywood tape and Mr. Trump bragging about his sexual assaults, James told me that he wasn’t sure if they would “toe the party line.” (That means do what is expected of a loyal party member no matter the repercussions. See, as an Old English Sheepdog I know a thing or two.) Especially after so many prominent Republicans, including President George H. W. Bush, have come out against Mr. Trump.

Something I’ve noticed about James that I thought I should mention: he has kept away from politics this season. When I asked him why, he said it was due to how disgusting and dark it has become because of Mr. Trump. He has been afraid of getting on the heightened emotional bandwagon, and has, for the most part, stayed out of the fray.

“The time has come,” I told him, “to put fingers to keyboard and let people know how you feel.”

Once we were home and after James had given me fresh water (I love James – scored a treat! Works every time.), he sent his beautiful sister and her thoughtful husband an email, asking how they were going to vote given all that has transpired since they had last seen one another and spoken about the election. James wants me to let you know that he posted a blog four years ago about how painful it was for him to hear his sister, who he dearly loves, talking about politics since they are at opposite ends of the spectrum – you can read that post here. Since then, his sister has respected his request that they not discuss politics. However, they did briefly last April and then again this one time via email at James’ initiation.

James, Ron and I are a family. We include in our family his sister and her husband because we love them. Love is what makes a family. See my prior post here. If you can’t tell, or I haven’t made it clear, I have two daddies – they are LGBT individuals who were married in 2009 when the Supreme Court granted them the same rights as non-LGBT individuals – equal protection under the law as guaranteed under our Constitution. Mr. Trump has threatened to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn the ruling that has allowed James and Ron to marry and take advantage of all the laws marriage grants them – advantages non-LGBT couples take for granted.

When I asked James about the right to vote, he told me that he respects the right for everyone to have their own political views and to vote for whomever they choose. Since the outcome of this election may negatively impact our family, James has said he would prefer if those he loves, and who say they love him, would consider what their vote will do to James, Ron and me when they walk into their voting booth and pull the lever. James has asked that I let everyone know that while this is only one of the many reasons he refuses to vote for Mr. Trump, it is one of two major reasons.

The other key reason is Mr. Trump has said he will end The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Should Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court Justices overturn James and Ron’s right to marry, then James will no longer have the right to be covered under Ron’s medical insurance. If Congress ends The Affordable Care Act and Mr. Trump, as President, does away with the law, then James will not be able to have his pre-existing condition (he has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) covered under any insurance he might be lucky enough to obtain. These two possibilities would be suicidal to my loving parent, James.

(Sorry, I have to pause here. The tears in our eyes are making it hard to think and type.)

Now that we have dried our eyes and blown our noses, I’ll continue. The other reasons James gave me for not voting for Mr. Trump include the fact that when his actions are criticized he lashes out from paranoia. These attacks are evident from his assaults on the legitimacy of Barack Obama to be President, claiming he wasn’t born in the United States; calling Mexicans rapist and criminals while also claiming the Mexican government will pay to build a wall to keep them out of the United States; historically discriminating against African-Americans in housing in New York city; sexually abusing multiple women and then bragging about it, calling it “locker room talk,” when no self-respecting man would brag in a locker room or anywhere else about abusing women sexually; making fun of the disabled by spasmodically flailing his arms during a news conference; belittling the Khan family and their deceased son who is a military hero because of their Muslim religion, while our Constitution guarantees religious freedom; desiring to kick out of the United States immigrants instead of trying to work with them to make them citizens, forgetting that we are all descendants of immigrants; refusing to accept Syrian refugees even after a thirty-six month vetting process currently in place; vilifying both President Clinton and Secretary Clinton when in fact he has said Secretary Clinton was a wonderful Secretary of State; belittling Republican Senator John McCain for having been captured by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, claiming being captured disqualified him as a war hero; bashing still other Republicans within his own party who do not automatically agree with him; purporting that the media is biased simply for reporting the news that he doesn’t like; frightfully encouraging the Russians, with whom we are at odds, to hack into our political systems; threatening to arbitrarily sue the women who have come forward regarding his own admission of sexual abuse, and multiple other people and businesses; encouraging gun violence against his rival for the presidency; and all other things that simply do not agree with him.

The list above is scary, if you ask this Old English sheepdog. In addition, James was reading an entry on Facebook by a gentleman he respects, who had come forward to admit that he had been sexually abused as a child. This man was making this admission because of how hard he knew it must be for the women who have come forward to shine a light on Mr. Trump’s having sexually abused them. One of the comments was by a Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik, a psychoanalyst. James read out loud to me what she wrote:

Mr. Trump “is lacking impulse control [and] empathy for individuals or groups of individuals. This lack of empathy disables him from seeing little else beyond the self-burnished image reflected in his mirror. These are clear indications of … narcissism…. He is a severely disturbed individual demonstrating clear signs of psychopathology – his distorted perspective.., his latching on to conspiracy theories providing him with clear ‘enemies’ gives him ‘permission’ to ‘defend’ and to destroy. [C]ertainly, there are supporters…who are drawn to policy promises, [yet] the danger to this nation, and yes the world, if this apparently deeply disturbed man, [sic] were to become the leader of [the free world] with unlimited power[,] is nothing short of terrifying.”

When James initiated his query to his sophisticated sister and her charming husband, he told me that nowhere in the email or at any other time has he asked them to vote for Secretary Clinton. He didn’t even ask them not to vote for Mr. Trump. James simply wanted to know if they were still going to vote for Mr. Trump.

Three email replies and a phone call were received. The email replies brought tears to James’ eyes. (It was a good thing for me since it meant he would snuggle with me cause I always make him feel better. Yes, another treat, and another, and another!!!) By the time of the phone call, James had accepted the bad news. After his gracious sister, who will no longer be holding her nose, asked if he had received the emails, James simply acknowledged that he had and they changed the subject. He told me there is no need to try and speak with his courteous sister about politics, as it would only upset him. It is depressing to James, and to me, that there are people out there who only seem to care about beating Secretary Clinton, no matter the consequences.

There was a time, James told me, when the Republican Party claimed to be the party of family values. We now know that if that was ever true that the time is past from their having nominated Mr. Trump who is currently married to his third wife having cheated on each and who has called his own daughter “a piece of ass.” There was a time when the Republican Party stood for fiscal responsibility and smaller government. The last two Republican Presidents grew the government and ran our country into debt creating the Great Recession from which President Obama has successfully, even through Republican resistance, brought our economy back, creating over fifteen million jobs during his two terms as President. There was a time when the Republican Party stood for respecting our constitution. The Supreme Court Justices that Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush I and Bush II appointed have tried to reinterpret our great Constitution to fit their religious beliefs, ignoring the separation of church and state. There was a time when the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln. Those days are long past with the rise of the bigoted Tea Party component of the Republican Party, and Mr. Trump not disavowing groups that support him like the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), or individuals like the former leader of the KKK, David Duke.

Those who still cling to these myths are what James calls hypocrites. He told me that he sincerely hopes that his gorgeous sister and her gallant husband do not fall into this category. He is fine with them believing as they do, but he honestly prays that when they go into the voting booth that they write in someone else. He told me that they both supported Governor Jeb Bush. James would be so proud of them if they wrote in this alternative – anyone other than Mr. Trump. (Yes, a treat! I love James. Another treat!)

According to James’ research, Mr. Trump is one of the most corrupt businessmen alive today. After signing contracts, he defaults on them to the detriment of small businesses. Mr. Trump refuses to release his tax returns because they would clearly demonstrate that the charitable deductions he claims to have taken are fraudulent. Mr. Trump claims to care for our wonderful veterans, yet has stiffed them after purporting to hold fundraisers on their behalf. Mr. Trump has repeatedly filed for bankruptcy, running his businesses into the ground, losing in one year $916,000,000 (Wow! That’s almost a billion dollars. James says it’s $1.5 billion in today’s dollars.), then claiming he is a smart businessman by taking advantage of the tax laws. Mr. Trump claims to care about our trade deals and creating more jobs at home, when in fact he has outsourced to Mexico and other countries the manufacturing of his branded products. Mr. Trump makes claim after claim, such as he’s going to cut 70% to 80% of government regulations, yet never gives any specifics. It would be nice to know if he plans on cutting any of the clean air or clean water regulations. It would be truly nice to know what his plans are. Generalities are not constructive. They are typically destructive. We do not need to turn the United States into a water-fouled Flint, Michigan or heavily air polluted Beijing.

I asked James if Secretary Clinton was perfect. He smiled at me, knowing I would ask the tough question. He even gave me a couple of treats before answering.

“No. She is not. No one is. But she is a far better choice for President of the United States than anyone else running. Many hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars [This reminds me that Mr. Trump does not pay taxes, so none of his money was used in these efforts.] have been spent by Republicans on investigating Hillary Rodham Clinton. From Whitewater to Benghazi and her private email server, none of these inquiries have found evidence to imprison Secretary Clinton. Quite the opposite has happened – she has been exonerated. Has she made missteps prior to these enquiries? Yes – she is human.

“You are such a loyal companion,” James said to me as I sat beside him, looking for a treat. He then added, “The Republicans are, yet again, trying to bring false accusations against Secretary Clinton only eleven days before the election. The Director of the FBI, Mr. Comey, at one point a registered Republican, served as deputy GOP counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee in 1996, from which the Clinton’s were, as I said before, exonerated. Then, as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York during the George W. Bush administration, Comey oversaw the tail end of an investigation into Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich. No charges were ever filed in that case.”

When I think about the abuse Secretary Clinton has been put through by the Republican Party, proving nothing, it makes me want to bark. From the little that I know, it appears that Mr. Comey has played into the small hands of Mr. Trump by trying to influence the results of the election since it hadn’t appeared to be going in Mr. Trump’s direction.

“People and dogs need to know,” James turned to me and said after I did bark – I can’t help but be angry – “Mr. Comey has broken with tradition, in a desperation move, to send a vapid letter to the Republican leaders of Congress about emails that weren’t even found on Secretary Clinton’s private email server.” This smacks of election tampering if ever an Old English Sheepdog has heard of election tampering.

“This is,” James continued, “yet again, a diversion by the Republicans, who spend millions of taxpayer dollars on frivolous investigations on the Clintons, simply to then claim the Republican Party is fiscally responsible.” He told me that the letter from Mr. Comey was so vague as to state:

“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.”

“Again,” James told me as he scratched my belly, “the Republicans are grasping at straws that don’t exist in order to influence the election.” James then bowed his head, and I felt a tear drop from James’ eye onto the underside of my leg. I got off my back and nudged his arm. As he bent to caress me, I slobbered all over his face, licking those salty tears away. I wanted him to know that if the crazy Mr. Trump or any of his supporters try to harm him and Daddy Ron that I would protect them.

As I maneuvered into the crawlspace under James’ desk where he puts his feet, I could hear him mumbling about how he hoped that if his friends and family were not going to vote for Secretary Clinton, that they at least not vote for Mr. Trump: the “Man in the Mirror” who only sees his own reflection to the detriment of everyone else.

I hope you have a loving family and supportive network of friends. I’d like to hear about it, good or bad, if you are willing to share. You can talk about your family and/or friends in the comment section below.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

PS: Here is where you can find The Huffington Post blog James wrote four years ago.
PSS: You can check out my earlier post on Family and Friends – the Worthy and the Ruthless .
PSSS: You can check out another post on Family and Friends – What Makes a Family .

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

Family and Friends – What Makes a Family?

Hi! It’s me, Ollie. Autumn is in full bloom here at Skygate Farm. James took an airplane ride the other day and flew over our home. It is so beautiful here.

Skygate Farm 13-Oct. 2016

Yes, it’s like all the trees have decided to flower into brilliant colors from lemon to scarlet. If you’ve never seen anything like it, you must plan on visiting Vermont next year at this time. Of course, my favorite part is chasing the vibrantly painted leaves as they blow around from the wind bringing in the cooler nights and shorter days.

Colorful leaves Ollie likes to chase.

Yesterday, James and I were hanging around outside because the temperature rose into the upper sixties. When I looked at James, he had a serene smile on his face, as if he had found paradise. Well, that’s what he told me after I asked him why he was looking so content.

“There are few days in one’s life where the planets align,” he said. I asked him what planets were, and he gave me a treat and said, “Astrologically, we are walking on the planet Earth. On this special, life-giving sphere, there are billions of humans making up the family of Homo sapiens.”

The planets aligning.

Well, I told him that it was my understanding that he, Ron and I were a family. What did all these other people (and no other dogs, I want you to know) have to do with our family?

“We are all connected, and interconnected, through time and space,” James then said.

With that I rolled my china-blue eyes and ran off. When I came back, begging for a treat, which, I might add, James was more than happy to give me – he loves me – I asked him what time and space were. His lips rose at both ends and his eyes began to sparkle. I knew I was in for another treat, so I sat.

“All of mankind, and all the animals on the planet earth, are one big family. We exist because of one another, and we shelter those who are unable to fend for themselves.”

I had to think about this, so I ran after another couple of leaves. James was getting too philosophical for me. [Yes, I know what philosophical means: 1) relating or devoted to the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence; and 2) having or showing a calm attitude toward disappointments or difficulties.]

“What makes a family?” I asked when I came back to James. He looked up at the trees with their bountifully flamboyant leaves, blowing and swirling within the air, and thought. Taking a deep breath, he looked back down at me and kneeled, taking my face in his hands and giving me a kiss.

“Love makes a family.”

Now, I have to admit, I was even more confused. Don’t get me wrong. I love James. He loves me. He loves Ron. I love Ron. Ron loves me. Ron loves James. You get the picture. We are a family. Then I asked how the billions of humans on the face of the earth could be a family. The things I’ve seen on the big rectangular screen don’t lend themselves to there being a family of “man” on this beautiful planet.

Behold, Seurat would love this.


“The main criteria of a family is that they usually live together,” James said as he scanned the Seurat pointillized horizon. “If you think about it, we are all living together on this planet we call earth. We might disagree or argue, but we are bound by….” Then he paused. “We should love and care about one another, but, come to think of it, we don’t.”

Tugging at James’ pant’s leg, I politely asked him to come down from the fifty thousand feet in which he appeared to be hovering. I agreed with him that it would be nice if the lion were to lie down with the lamb, but, come on, that’s not going to happen. So while it might be nice if we could all get along, we don’t. So, what makes a family?

“Love makes a family,” James said again. “It starts with love and ends with love. Next is the caring or concern we have for those we call family, whether it’s one mom and one dad, or two moms and two dads.”

“What about me?” I asked, looking up at James.

“You?” James asked. “You are like a foster child we have adopted. Beyond that, Ron already has five children, so when we married, we became a blended family, even more so when you joined us.”

It’s interesting that a family isn’t limited to only blood relatives. Families can be anyone who is close or dependent upon another for care and support. Close friends also make up a family. I agree with James that it is the love that binds us together.

Besides James and Ron, I have a family of friends who play together at Wagmore Kennels. Another family consists of my four children and their mother. James also has family in New York City and in both South and North Carolina. In fact, James has family around the world. I hope to go around the world with James some day and meet all his friends who are my friends, and family, too.

Until then, who is in your family? How many different families are you a member of? What is it about those families that make them special? I’d love to know, and so would James.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,

Social Media: Facebook & Twitter = Time Vortex Holes
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

PS: You can check out my earlier post on Family and Friends – the Worthy and the Ruthless

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated

Family and Friends – the Worthy and the Ruthless

Hi! It’s me, Ollie. One of my sweet daughters, River, was over this past weekend for a play date. We had the best time. I hadn’t seen her since 21-May; so it was nice to get some qualify time with her at the start of autumn. It gets awfully cold here even before winter begins. It was also in May when I last saw one of my sons, Bailey. He, along with my other daughter and son, rarely write and never call. I’m told that’s typical of children once they’ve left the nest. Here I thought my mom was using guilt, but now I know.

(Ollie and River: Photo by Charma Ward Bonanno)

I mentioned this to James, and he shrugged his shoulders. It appears that his family is not particularly close. He has two brothers and two sisters. He speaks with only one sister. When I asked why, he said it’s a long story and not fit for my blog. I then asked about his parents, both of whom he told me had passed. My ears rose and I tilted my head because I’ve heard him talking to them. James told me he often speaks with them, but they don’t answer, and I’m not to tell anyone. (Oops! I’ve let the kibble out of the bag.)

(Ollie and Family: Photo by Ron)

Family has been on both of our minds this past week. I have eight siblings who I miss terribly. They’ve been scattered in the wind like the autumn leaves I love to chase. I imagine these beautiful leaves are my brothers and sisters and have a wonderful time playing with them. I suppose that’s kind of like James talking with his deceased parents. He and I are alike in many ways. I have more hair and he walks on two legs. Otherwise, well, you get my drift.

After coming back from daycare, I sat James down and got him to tell me about his family. I never thought he was a private person, but I suppose he is. He only opens up to select friends. Here I thought he was an open memoir. James surprises me daily.

His brothers, who are identical twins, were mean to him when they were growing up. He supposes that older brothers typically tease their younger siblings, but they also show them a great deal of support and love. James says he never received either love or support from either of his older brothers. As twins, they had one another for support and love, and they treated James as if he were their personal toy to kick and abuse. They also constantly rubbed it in that he wasn’t wanted. Their family already had two boys and two girls when he was born. At least his mother explained that he wasn’t planned, but always wanted.

As adults, his brothers have continued to treat him poorly. He says he tried to spend time with them and be a family, but when he was with them he was still the little brother that they would abuse and still tell him he wasn’t wanted. After his mother passed, James hoped, yet again, that they could come together. It was not to be. They were jealous that James was chosen by their mother to be one of the executors of her will. They were also upset that the house their mother lived in was in the name of James and one of his sisters. That was because James and this sister had bought the house for her. Then one of the brothers stole two items that had been left to James by their mother. He decided to cut the cord with that theft.

After hearing about the twin brothers, I asked about his sisters. James sighed, and looked at me with such sad eyes. His oldest sister has been clinically diagnosed as bi-polar. She is manic-depressive. He has fond memories of her when he was little, but she was eight years older and out of the house when he was still young. Her disease didn’t manifest itself until she was in college. After that, every time James spent any time with her, usually during a holiday such as Christmas, this sister would be disruptive. (He says he is being kind with only using that word.) Her disruptions were extensive and extremely unpleasant. After she, yet again, ruined the Christmas of 1984, James made the conscious decision to have as little to do with her as possible. During the many years of therapy in which James participated, he came to understand that it was okay to say to family, “No more.”

There is one more sibling, a sister, who James dearly loves. She lives in South Carolina so he doesn’t see her often. When they were younger, they were extremely close, but with distance and politics, they have not stayed as close as James would like. While James is a Democrat, this sister is a Republican. For a number of years, that created problems for James. Today, thank goodness, they rarely, if ever, talk about politics. This has caused them to begin to regain the closeness they once had. That makes James very happy. (James told me he will fill me in about their different political beliefs soon, so I can blog about it now that there is an election coming). She is his one contact to his biological family.

Today, Ron and I are James’ family. He and Ron were legally married in 2009 after being together for thirty years. They celebrated their thirty-seventh anniversary on 12-September. The three of us are very happy. (Oh, a treat, and I wasn’t trying for one – go figure.) We live in Vermont where James spends his days writing and Ron advises his clients on financial matters. Ron is an expert on taxes and investing. (Another treat!)

James also says he has an extended family of wonderful friends. They are there for you no matter what. A quote from the novel James is writing goes like this: “As Aristotle might have said: friends are people who share in each other’s pleasure and pain, for the sake of the friendship and nothing else.” These are the people he is completely open with. He says if you can’t trust someone, then he/she isn’t your friend. I also love the quote from Dr. Seuss that James uses at the end of his email: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Friends are to be cherished.

I hope you have a loving family life and a supporting network of friends. I’d like to hear about it, good or bad, if you are willing to share. You can talk about your family and/or friends in the comment section below.

I always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated