Joy, the Little Dog that Conquered Fear

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February 9, 2009. Joy. Joy was one of 189 dogs seized from a breeder in Montana on December 30, 2008. For about 9 months, most of the dogs were housed in horse barns as the legal case made its way through the court. As with many of the dogs, fear was an issue that held Joy back from fully engaging in the opportunities presented to her . . . until one thing happened.

I earned her trust.

From December 30, 2008 – February 8, 2009, Joy dd not leave the 8 x 10 barn stall she shared with 2 other dogs — Love and Happy. But on February 9th (the picture is of this very moment), Joy moved toward the open door for the first time and watched me walk, play, and engage outside the stall with Love and Happy. When she was ready, I knew she would come to where I was standing a short distance from where she is in this picture.

And she did!

As the months went on Joy continued to conquer fear and prove to be one of my greatest life teachers of all time.

On August 14, 2009, Joy was taken from me and I’ve never seen her since. I think about her every day and have pleaded with those who took her from me to know where she is, but, to date, I do not.

The woman who took Joy died last month.

Through the torture of silence and never-ending tears, Joy lives in my heart.

When Someone that Caused You Extreme Pain Dies

Girl in the moonlight alone

Yesterday, I learned that someone who caused indescribable pain in my life for almost 5 years died last month. Her actions were brutal, intentional, and, to my knowledge, she never displayed an ounce of remorse, nor did she ever attempt to change the course of her actions, which she had the power to do. If anyone ever tells you that being a Christian is easy, then they have never experienced the crux of the cross. That experience does not occur in a church or within a group of fellow believers. That experience occurs within the darkness of our own individual souls. It occurs when we, alone, fight to inflict judgment and Jesus combats that with the filter of His shed blood. We are left to fight not seeing the actions of another who caused us or others pain, but seeing only the blood Jesus shed at the cross. We are left to fight with the knowledge that Jesus did not shed His blood for me and me alone, but for the ones who cause us pain as well. We are left to fight to the resolve: Do we believe in the power of His shed blood or do we not? It is always alone, in the darkness of our own souls, that we must answer that question.

For me, the shed blood of Jesus is a beacon of light that breaks the darkness; removes the burden of judgment; and instills grace and mercy. The pain inflicted by others is not lessened and still has its consequences to bear because they alone control their actions, but, at times like now – learning of the death of someone who caused horrendous pain in my life – I am grateful I am relieved of the burden of judgment and can work through the process of her death with grace and mercy.

Al Feldstein, My Friend

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I was blessed beyond measure to call Al Feldstein a friend. We enjoyed hours and hours of conversation at my gallery in Livingston, MT or on the phone or email. People came from all over to sit and talk with Al about his art, his years of being the editor at MAD Magazine, his years of military service, or his adventures at ComiCon. Al graciously held his audience captive with his ability to tell a story. Al was extraordinarily intelligent and deeply passionate. I loved talking history and politics with Al. He was a treasure chest of knowledge.

As Al’s health began to decline I spoke more with Michelle, Al’s extraordinary wife, when I would call. Our mutual love for animals and her respect for the friendship Al and I shared created an immediate bond between us for which I am eternally grateful.

Al Feldstein, you have always been and will forever be one of my heroes.

 

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Dear Arizona

Dear Arizona

I’m a straight, Christian, American woman and I stand in solidarity with my fellow Americans who are gay. We all fall in love with another human being the same way — with our hearts.

The idea that any lawmaker in the United States of America could even desire in their heart and think in their mind of introducing a bill that would create a legal “less than” mentality back into our country is very disturbing…

BUT, for that lawmaker to then recruit other lawmakers to actually sponsor and help craft a bill with language so a legal “less than” mentality is masked within a web of “religious freedom” language . . . well, that is frightening.

BUT, for those lawmakers to THEN actually get this bill passed in one house of congress in their state, as it did in Kansas and now both houses of congress in Arizona . . . . well, that downright scares the shit out of me and it should every American.

In Arizona this bill appears to be moving closer to the Governor’s office. The intent behind these bills is shameful and against everything our great constitution stands for. The language in these bills opens the door to vast consequences – who will they come after next and what are the next steps – patches on our clothing?

As an American, I believe these are the type of laws that weaken our country. As a Christian, I believe these are the type of laws that weaken Christianity and present God in a false light.

Discussion on vetoing this bill based on a projected detrimental financial impact that will occur to the state only adds to its shamefulness.

Veto the bill based on its immoral intent  — period.

Shame on you, Arizona lawmakers.

Thank God He Put on His Seat Belt

October 2, 1995. I was living in Tulsa, OK and a little after 11:00 pm I received a phone call from my sister in Montana telling me that my dad had been in a serious car accident. She did not have any more information, but would call me back.

At 9:35 pm, my dad walked out of his restaurant to go home for the night. As a business owner, he was in the habit of carrying a small Texas Instrument calculator in his left shirt pocket, but as car driver he was not in the habit of wearing a seat belt. However, that night as he was driving away from the restaurant he felt the need to put on his seat belt. And thank God he did.

Less than 5 minutes later he was broadsided by a 15-year-old driver who was speeding and failed to stop at a stop sign.

My dad was driving a small 1983 GMC truck and the 15-year-old was driving a big 1979 4-wheel-drive GMC Blazer.

My dad suffered multiple broken ribs, a broken clavicle, a dislocated shoulder, chipped teeth, multiple contusions, a gash on the back of his head, and his pelvis was broken in three places, but he survived.

He survived because he had done two things: He carried his Texas Instrument calculator in his left shirt pocket and most importantly, he put on his seat belt.

My dad now always wears a seat belt, but I was reminded of how important this is by a dear friend whose family recently walked away from a terrible car accident because they were wearing their seat belts.

Not everyone wearing a seat belt survives every car accident, but the odds of surviving when wearing one are significantly higher.

Dad's accident010My dad’s 1983 GMC pickup truck. Wearing a seat belt saved his life.

1 Dad's accident (7)Driver’s side of my dad’s truck. Both vehicles ended up in the yard of the house on the northeast corner of 13th St. West and Colton. The 15-year-old was speeding east on Colton when he failed to stop for a stop sign and broadsided my dad who was driving north on 13th St. West.

My dad was less than 5 minutes from leaving his restaurant and less than 5 minutes from being home.

Dad's accident (8)Photo showing how the cab was ripped away from the chassis.

Dad's accident009My dad’s crumpled dashboard. 

Dad's accident (2)The corner of my dad’s driver’s side window and door. The metal square in the center of the picture is the remnant of the exterior rear view mirror. A corner of that metal square was embedded in the Texas Instrument calculator my dad had in his left shirt pocket.

Dad's accident (5)A picture of the exterior rear view mirror with the camera sitting on the top-middle of the back seat looking straight forward. This metal is what was stuck into my dad’s Texas Instrument calculator in his left shirt pocket.

Dad's accident (6)Close up of the driver’s door looking in the window to show how little room he had for his body. The metal plat on the upper left is the remnant of the exterior rear view mirror.

Dad's accident (4)Looking down into the driver’s side of my dad’s truck. The blood on the other side of the seat is from when my dad was trying to unlock the passenger door so he could get out, but he lost consciousness and never got the door unlocked.

Dad's accidentDocumenting his injuries.

Gray Matter

Gray Matter poster

GRAY MATTER. I’m guessing most of the world believes, like I did, that the horrors of the Holocaust were stopped when the war against Hitler and the Nazis was won. Or, at the very least, national governments did not celebrate, award, revere, and allow Nazi war criminals to continue their work.

Wrong.

Austria allowed, promoted, and awarded FOR YEARS the work of Dr. Heinrich Gross.

GRAY MATTER follows filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s attendance at the 2002 burial of the brains of more than 700 children murdered by Dr. Heinrich Gross and his colleagues under the order of Adolf Hitler, which as history reveals, appears to be the beginning acts of the Holocaust.

Why were these children murdered? Because 3 doctors deemed them not worthy of life simply because they had some form of handicap.

After the child had been murdered, the brain was removed, preserved for scientific study, and the body was returned to the family…maybe.

If that’s not horrific enough what Dr. Heinrich Gross and the Austrian government did FOR YEARS after is equally as horrific.

The Austrian government allowed Dr. Heinrich Gross and other “experts” to continue to experiment on the brains of these children FOR YEARS in secret – all the way to 1998. Not only did the Austrian government allow this “research” to continue, but they awarded Dr. Heinrich Gross repeatedly and elevated him to a position of great esteem. They just never told anyone the truth about what was really happening AND the Austrian government legally fought against the survivors of the horrific Spieglegrund hospital where the murders and other atrocities took place.

After years of repression of their stories and the truth, the families of many of the murdered children won the right to have the brains of their loved ones buried in 2002. Sadly, as of 2004, survivors of Spieglgrund still had not been awarded any justice by the Austrian government.

Perhaps someday governments and those in positions of power and authority will actually understand, as the filmmaker shows, that the truth cannot be buried.

GRAY MATTER, a film by Joe Berlinger.