Medical Equipment Loan Ministry: Free for the Asking

Imagine . . .

Filling prescriptions for expensive medical gear to satisfy short- or long-term needs;

Or . . . donating items you no longer need;

And a church that brings the two together by lending free medical equipment to anyone who asks.

It’s a library minus overdue fees.

I learned of this Medical Equipment Ministry at Pluckemin Presbryterian Church in Bedminster, New Jersey in time to drop off my own, barely-used equipment before returning to Wyoming.

“. . . where equipment is loaned out at no cost,
for as long as it is needed, and returned when
you are done.”

So when I weaned off a wheelchair and the temporary ramps that got me safely from outside to in, they had someplace to go.

The walker was next.

Then the knee scooter.

My drop offs joined storage rooms of medical equipment housed in the 170-year-old church and its out buildings.

The all-terrain scooter
I had fun on
for several weeks

And borrowing is easy and shame free.

That’s because the ministry’s nuanced message gives people encouragement, support, respect, and dignity during times of great need.

In 2018, volunteers at Pluckemin returned 10,000 phone calls from donors and loanees.

But not a single monetary donation was requested, and letters of medical necessity aren’t — well, necessary.

So I’m adding two items to the imagination list.

First, that medical-equipment assistance be available to anyone anywhere.

And ministries and non-profits that collect such equipment blossom in every town and city nationwide.

. . .

To Consider

Medical Equipment Loan Closets in Wyoming

Do a google search for “free medical equipment [fill in state or region],” or “borrow medical equipment [fill in state or region]”.

Read about the help in Sheridan, WY, Carla Trier Brings Heaps of Love to Sheridan, Wyoming by Way of the Foster Parent Exchange.

Find out about other types free help when medical needs arise in, Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs.

.  .  .

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

University of Wyoming Janitor’s Grain of Sand

At last week’s Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, my husband and I sat talking as a student walked by.

She was headed for recycling bins labeled trash, mixed paper, cans and glass.

It’s where a University of Wyoming janitor was tidying up.

As the student carrying a soda bottle approached, the custodian directed her to the correct container.

Curious to know if I’m the only one who finds such bins and labels confusing, I asked if people comply with the campus sorting system.

See the source image

“I think of my grandchildren inheriting the planet, and I know this work is my grain of sand.”

“No,” the custodian said, pulling the lid off a can and delving for misfiled recyclables.

“I spend a lot of time going through trash and doing it myself.”

Then in a barely audible voice she added, “I think of my grandchildren inheriting the planet, and I know this work is my grain of sand.”

And that was the moment of recognition.

Clearly we were in the presence of the extraordinary.

Here was one person doing her job from a place of tender care for future generations.

Here was social justice in action — a living example of what Cornel West says “. . . love looks like in public.”


To Consider


Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Film “Good Medicine” Honors Native American Positivity on Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation

James Trosper is featured in Jackson Tisi’s short film, Good Medicine. (all photos are from the film)

“It’s not a physical thing.

“You can’t really put your finger on it, but we all know as Native American people what they mean when they say Good Medicine.”

That is what James Trosper says in Jackson Tisi’s seven-minute documentary commissioned by Facebook.

The Wind River Indian Reservation is home to Northern Arapaho and Shoshone Tribes.

And Trosper belongs to both.

He is the great-great grandson of Chief Washakie and Director of the High Plains American Indian Research Institute at the University of Wyoming.

He says, “Good Medicine includes our ceremonies and the values passed to us from our ancestors.

“We can achieve peace and healing through our traditions and positive core values such as love, kindness, sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, compassion, respect, forgiveness and spirituality.”

Also starring in the film is 12-year old Patrick Smith.

And for him, Good Medicine takes the form of skateboarding.

Patrick Smith.

“Skating takes a lot of stuff off my mind.

“Whenever I’m mad I can go skate,” he says in the film.

“Skateboarding means you don’t have to be any color.

“You don’t have to have anything, you don’t have to be perfect in order to skate.”

Forms of Good Medicine

Director Tisi says, “Good Medicine is a Native term that refers to anything that can bring peace, healing and positivity.”

James Trosper on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

We can achieve peace and healing through our traditions and positive core values such as love, kindness, sacrifice, honesty, loyalty, compassion, respect, forgiveness and spirituality.

James Trosper

“In this film we explore how elders find good medicine through their traditions, and how the youth on the reservation have found it through skateboarding,” Tisi said.

James Trosper says, “I think if ever there was a time for our people to turn back to our traditional values, it’s now.

“We see examples in the world today of people who don’t live by those values and the destruction and harm that it causes.”

This film makes me think.

And it makes me wonder how we outside the Wind River Indian Reservation find our own way to Good Medicine.

Take action!

Watch Good Medicine by accessing it above.

Learn about the High Plains American Indian Research Institute at the University of Wyoming

Read about Facebook’s 365 Days of Love. On Facebook, of course.

See another post about a Native American site in Wyoming, Returning a Sacred Rock’s Name — Bear Lodge, Mythic-Owl Mountain, Tree Rock, Mato Tipila . . . Just Not Devils Tower.

.  .  .

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

Take 2: Jackson Hole’s Brain Chemistry Labs Where Prevention for Alzheimer’s May Be Within Reach

Dr. Paul Cox, Executive Director of Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson, Wyoming.*


No pharmaceutical company is even close to the advances at Brain Chemistry Labs  when it comes to a prevention for neurodegenerative diseases ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

And a big part of this is their unconventional approach.

As a non-profit medical research company situated in the small town of Jackson, Wyoming, they can react swiftly to findings.

Writer Rick Tetzeli’s Fortune Magazine January 18, 2018 cover story is an in-depth look at how these pervasive problems are being studied.

While filled with background and scientific clarity, the heart of the piece aligns with the Lab’s core.

It’s about an inexpensive and innocuous amino acid, L-Serine, that may be capable of reducing suffering for those living with neurodegenerative diseases.

And as research continues, it may prove to be the key to preventing the onset for millions more.

Drs. Paul Cox, Executive Director of Brain Chemistry Labs, and Sandra Banack, Senior Scientist, are interviewed in a 10-minute video that accompanies the article.

Their optimism is contagious.

Excerpts from the film

“Our sole mission is to change patient outcomes, and we want the change to be in the lifetime of current patients.”

Paul Cox, Executive Director, Brain Chemistry Labs

“I think Brain Chemistry Labs can change the world. If we’re right — . . . and there’s still a lot of work to do — we can prevent neurodegenerative diseases.”

Sandra Banack, Senior Scientist, Brain Chemistry Labs

“. . . when we couple modern science with indigenous knowledge that goes back hundreds, and in some cases thousands of years, it’s a powerful way to discover new drugs.”

Paul Cox, Ph.D.

[Wyoming Social Justice in Action first reported on Brain Chemistry Labs in September 2018.]

Take action!

Read the initial post about Brain Chemistry Labs.

Go to Brain Chemistry Lab’s website for more information about their mission.

ReadFortune Magazine’s cover story, “Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: How a Small Lab in Wyoming is Changing the Face of Medicine.”

Watch Fortune Magazine’s 10-minute video on the work at Brain Chemistry Labs.


*“Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: How a Small Lab in Wyoming is Changing the face of Medicine,” source for photo of Paul Cox.

.  .  .

Ellen Webster Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

American Pain Scale Needs Radical Revamping

Instead of Asking About Worst Pain, How About Recalling Comfort?

Just before 6 am the lights came on and in walked a young nurse wheeling a brightly-lit computer.

And without looking my way, she asked, “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the worse pain you’ve ever experienced, how do you feel?”

The second day she came in, I stopped her.

“Oh no,” I said.  We’re not starting the day this way again . . .”

The physiology of emotions

Fort Collins, Colorado counselor and hypnotist, Ed Rupert, says asking someone to revisit pain is asking her to re-experience it.

It’s re-traumatizing.

That’s because the brain cannot distinguish between present and remembered sensations.

You need only re-experience the feeling of appreciation or awe or love to know the truth in that statement.

Seminal research from the HeartMath Institute shows that evoking strong emotions impacts our physiology.

Below is the heart-rate variability of the same person being asked to recall feelings of frustration and then appreciation.

Frustration Versus Appreciation HRV Coherence

While the first graph brings to mind chaos, harmony and ease could be ascribed to the second.

And given a choice, most of us would choose to spend time in the latter, and with the tools of HeartMath it’s possible to do.

Redefining pain and comfort

With Ed’s guidance I prepared for recent surgery by describing to him the most comfortable I’ve ever felt.

I return to floating on my back.

In the safest comfort I’ve known, I am a child. My arms and legs are splayed, and I’m surrounded and supported by a cool, Maine lake. It’s also there as an adult when I’m buoyed by the salty water of the Aegean.

And simply recounting this to Ed transports me to well being.

Surgery came and went with surprisingly little discomfort.

And here’s what I now know for sure.

A transformation is needed in the language, culture and way we train people to perceive pain and how we put to good use life-affirming emotions such as comfort and ease.

Take action!

Join a HeartMath class to learn more about the ways our emotions impact our health. Write me at:

Contact Ed Rupert at Changes in Attitude Hypnosis.

Read about immigrant elder care in the U.S.

.  .  .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach and can be reached at

DC Books to Prisons — a Spark in the Dark in 35 States

by guest writer Barbara Cornell

It’s Wednesday evening, and we’re in a church basement. The walls are crazy-crammed with books–from foreign languages in the far corner to business and science by the door. Busy people buzz around us.

Why have I brought you here? Joseph’s letter says it best: 

“A book or magazine is a major event in my 8×10 universe, and I would not have that spark in the dark if it were not for free.”

Joseph’s 8×10 universe is a prison cell in Woodville, Texas. And you are at DC Books to Prisons in Washington, DC.

If social justice is what love looks like in public, then DC Books to Prisons shows how love brings people together to push back against the darkness.

Our little group of volunteers—and we are all volunteers—is one of a handful of organizations around the country that sends free books to people in prison.

DC Books to Prisons serves 35 states, so we know how hungry prisoners are to read. We will send more than 16,000 books and other reading materials this year. 

If social justice is what love looks like in public, then DC Books to Prisons shows how love brings people together to push back against the darkness.

Barbara Cornell

But that’s only part of the story

We send Spanish books to children in immigration detention centers. We provide books and magazines for children visiting federal prisons, collect books for prison book clubs and build prison library collections. 

Hundreds of caring people give us books and the money to mail them, free space, free storage, free supplies. 

Sending even 16,000 books is a tiny act against the damage of mass incarceration. But choosing humanity over inhumanity is at least a spark in the dark.

“If we can act with courage and choose humanity over inhumanity, it does not seem that it can affect the larger trajectory of history,” said Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. “But I believe it can.”

.  .  .

Location of other prison book programs (click for details).

Take Action!

Explore  DC Books to Prisons .

Support DC Books to Prisons with a donation.

Find similar programs near you using this map

Learn more about mass incarceration.  “Being involved in Books to Prisons made me want to know more about mass incarceration in America,” Barbara said. Here’s a fact sheet by the Sentencing Project.

Read about progress being made. There has been some progress to undo some of the factors that have contributed to mass incarceration, but there are still many more issues to tackle such as money bail

Visit previous blog posts:  
Carla Trier Brings Heaps of Love to Sheridan, Wyoming by Way of the Foster Parent Exchange
“Gillette Against Hate” Stands Up to Violent Speech and Actions

.   .   .

Barbara Cornell lives in Washington, DC.

Immigrants Care for Older Americans, Including Me

See the source image

I’m in a rehab hospital where immigrant eldercare dominates.

The “rehab” part is code for “nursing home,” and since I just had my right ankle replaced with a shiny new one, I quality for short-term assistance.

From here in New York City to the small cities across America, immigrants increasingly watch over the oldest and most frail among us.

  • My patient-care assistant tonight is Comfort. She’s from Ghana.
  • My nurse is from Ukraine. “Well,” she said, “It’s called Ukraine now, but it’s been lots of things.”
  • The young Chinese-American doctor assigned to my floor said she chose to specialize in geriatrics. “I grew up in a multi-generational household and have known for a long time where I wanted to be.”
  • Yesterday’s physical therapist is from Argentina, and the other one I’ve seen swings back and forth between English and her native Spanish as she greets people on the rehab floor.
  • A smart OT I work with, has an almost undetectable accent, but one that reminds me that everyone I’m meeting has a story that includes why they uprooted and moved.

The care I’m receiving is good and feels genuinely easy for these women to offer.

And that, alone, makes it easier to receive.

Immigrant eldercare rapidly increasing

A February 2018 New York Times article says that one in four nursing home workers is foreign born, and between 2005 and 2015, the number of immigrants who work for themselves in state-funded, elder home care programs doubled to more than a million.

In New York, California, New Jersey and Florida, more than 40% of direct-care workers are immigrants.

And who knows how many immigrants are hired privately to care for the elderly.

Her accent reminds me that everyone I’m meeting has a story that include why they uprooted and moved.

I feel safe

Earlier today my patient-care assistant, Wilma, entered the room smiling as she finished a conversation with a fellow worker.

When I asked about the language they were speaking she said, “We’re both from Haiti, and that was Creole.”

“Now,” she said, turning her attention fully to me, “Let’s get you to the bathroom. You’re doing so well.”

And isn’t that encouragement the elixir everyone needs for healing?

Right now I hear laughing in the halls – the life-is-good sort that sounds like a choice to look through the viewfinder of optimism.

Surrounded by immigrants I feel safe, comfortable, and a bother to no one.

I wonder how they feel.

Take Action!

Read Paula Span’s New York Times article, “If immigrants are pushed out, who will care for the elderly?”

See Carolyn Rosenblatt’s Forbes article, “Aging parents, immigrants and the caregiving cliff.”

Read Ted Hessen’s Politico article, “Why baby boomers need immigrants.”

Check out this post about immigrants in Maine.

.   .   .

Ellen is a mother, wife, trainer, RCST, writer and reader. She now adds to that list — new ankle explorer. You can reach her at:

“Remember that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

20 Years After

Matthew Shepard’s Murder in Laramie, Wyoming

by guest contributor, Jess Fahlsing*

Jess Fahlsing with their mom,
Sue Fahlsing.

“Love you.”

Whenever I go biking out east of Laramie, I send my mom that text.

Fortunately, it’s not uncommon for me to text her that.  We have a pretty good relationship, so she doesn’t always know why I text her, “Love you.”

I do it after biking, because I remember Judy Shepard’s words, quoted by Rulon Stacey in a press release after Matthew Shepard died.

“Go home, give your kids a hug, and don’t let a day go by without telling them that you love them.”  

I’ve flipped those words around so that, whenever I go biking into the land where Matthew was taken, beaten, and left to die tied to a fence, I text my mom and tell her I love her.

I can make it back home.  Matt never can.

“Go home, give your kids a hug, and don’t let a day go by without telling them that you love them.”

Judy Shepard

Growing Up in Rock Springs, Wyoming

I grew up in Rock Springs, Wyoming, mountain biking in the desert.  It was a place where there was no visible queer community.  No clubs at the high school.  Very few queer role models out in the town.  I did have a trans friend, but they faced extreme violence in that town. 

I love the land there.  My heart yearns to go back.  

You can’t change who or what you love.

Yet there are some things you can’t make it back from.  That you cannot return to.  

I don’t know that I will return to Rock Springs to live long-term.  But I do know that Laramie has given me a lot. Laramie PrideFest, founded by Robert West, gave me the space to find a queer community here after I started openly identifying as lesbian at age 21.  It gave me the space to honor what activists before me have given up, and to remember Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, transwomen of color who were key in the Stonewall Riots.

. . . whenever I go biking into the land where Matthew was taken, beaten, and left to die tied to a fence, I text my mom and tell her I love her.

Jess Fahlsing

Shepard Symposium on Social Justice

In Laramie, the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice [hosted by the University of Wyoming each year in April] gave me a family. They are my family.  That is actually how Ellen and I met.  

Through the Shepard Symposium, I had the honor to co-chair the Matthew Shepard Memorial Group with Dr. Emily Monago, Chief Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  As part of the Memorial, we put banners for Matthew on the University Union.

“That wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago, when I was here for grad school,” a friend told me, who was visiting Laramie the same time as the Memorial.  

[Rock Springs] was a place without a visible queer community.  No clubs at the high school.  Very few queer role models out in the town.  

So there is good change.  There is love.  There is the text that I can keep sending my mom.

“Love you.”

And she will send it back.

Jess and their sister Anna (left) and mom, Sue, (right).

. . .

Take Action!

Attend the next Shepard Symposium on Social Justice April 10-13, 2019. All are welcome.

Read about Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents I admire deeply in life.

If you’re curious about the use of the singular personal pronoun “they,” take a look at this post: “Take Two: Why the Singular, Non-Binary ‘They’ Pronoun is Darned Difficult to Master.”

.  .  .

* Jess Fahlsing is a senior at the University of Wyoming. They are dual majoring in Psychology and Gender and Women’s Studies with minors in Queer Studies, Honors, and Creative Writing. What’s important to know when reading this love letter is that 20 years ago Matthew Shepard was also a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie when he was murdered in a hate crime for being gay.

I am privileged to know Jess and grateful for their contribution to this blog. I look forward to following their career which surely will expand social justice and human rights in ways that have yet to be revelaed. — Ellen

New Year’s Pledge: I’ll Reduce by 75% the Amount of Single-Use Plastic I Contribute to the Planet

Pasta straws

In 2019 I promise to refuse 75% of the single-use plastics that I accepted in 2018.

Just last week my family and I had dinner at a seaside restaurant that served pasta straws made by the Amazing Pasta Straw company. 

The ingredients? Flour and water.

And in the three hours we drank through the same ones for water, soda and iced tea, they neither disintegrated, get slimy nor formed any sort of yucky sediment in the drinks.

My review is that they are a perfect, compostable alternative to plastic and even paper. 

“. . . We are trying to solve a huge world-wide problem — one straw at a time.”

And for anyone preferring not to come into contact with gluten, Paradise Cove (where we had Christmas lunch) offers paper straws.

So while I understand that moving toward a zero waste lifestyle isn’t easy — it takes planning and currently can cost more — the planet is suffocating in the absence of these changes.

Zero Waste and Single-Use Plastics

And speaking of zero waste, there is a new company in Denver called Zero Market that offers items in their store and by mail order that make generating less waste easier.

In Laramie, Wyoming where I live, and oodles of other places, co-ops feature walls and aisles of bulk items from tea to olive oil to dish detergent that are cost effective and kind to the environment because they lack bulky and wasteful packaging.

Zero Market, on Dallas Street
in Aurora, Colorado

In 2019 I promise to refuse 75% of the single-use plastics that I accepted in 2018.

So here is a partial list of what I commit to reducing and eliminating in 2019:

•  plastic straws
Already I don’t use them in restaurants, and when occasionally they are served wrapped in plastic or paper, I ask that they be removed. I also carry bamboo and steel ones with me.

•  restaurant food leftover containers
I will begin to bring my own glass container when I know I’ll be eating out.

•  produce grocery bags
You know those green ones that rip off a roll.  I recently bought a slew of organic cotton ones from pataBee.

•  grocery store bags
This one is easy, and many mid- to large-size towns have expectations that shoppers will have their own.

•  hotel amenities
I started bringing my own soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner and leave the small plastic containers right where I found them.

•  plastic cutlery —forks, spoons, knives
I started carrying in my purse a bamboo set – and yes, remembering they are there is sometimes the hardest part of the plan. 

airline plastic cups
Help! I get thirsty, and this one is harder . . . any ideas?

•  plastic water bottles 
I’m going to be better about carrying a water bottle with me.

“. . . the planet is suffocating in the absence of these changes.”

So . . . what about you?

Take Action!

Encourage local restaurants to use pasta straws. The publicity they get will be great, and drinking from pasta is fun!

Watch Jeff Bridges talk about pasta straws (5 minutes into the Colbert interview).

Check out the Amazing Pasta Straw company.

Shop online at Zero Market.

Find local co-ops to support and while there, buy bulk food using your own containers.

.   .   .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. Her interest in getting to know Wyoming focuses on ways people and organizations help and protect individuals, wildlife, beauty, and rights. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach, a Connection Practice trainer and coach, and a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. Her website is: and her email is

“Remember that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

Witnessing Joy Was the Christmas Gift

Christmas 1958.

Christmas in Maine was routine.

Not a hum-drum sort of thing but rather something to count on.

Thanksgiving led to Christmas Eve at the Congo church that kicked off restless sleep before Santa came.

Photo for an annual Christmas card. The popup book? “Poochy the Christmas Pup.”

Before sunrise could emerge my sister and I would locate our bulging knit stockings and empty the contents as our parents looked on.

Then in heightened anticipation of the rest of the day, my mother’s elegant, candle-lit breakfast would be ever-so-slightly rushed.

In record time dishes were washed and put away so that the only thing standing between us and racing toward gift exchanges was Nana Webster’s deliberation.

And trust me when I say her Christmas-day pace was remarkably relaxed.

With Nana Webster in 1960.

She admired each gift.

It was held up and received as if it had been personally delivered by one of the three kings.

Because to her it had been.

And as our elder, she got to go first in the slow rotation — one person, one gift at a time.

It’s a cadence I’ve come to love.

To grandmother’s house we go

Halfway through the day we’d bundle up and walk three houses down to be with our other grandparents where happy chaos prevailed. 

They were faster, didn’t save paper like mom and Nana, and one of them used expletives like most of us throw out thank yous.

“Well for *&@!#%’s sake, who gave me this?” my grandmother would ask.

Bob and Hattie Weatherbee, 1960.

With a door always open to nine children and spouses, 21 grandchildren, great grandchildren and long-time friends, even ordinary days in their home were high-energy events.

And rarely a day passed in my youth when I wasn’t in their company for at least part of it.

This segment of the Christmas ritual meant watching as they opened packages between pausing for coffee warm ups, taking calls from friends, and greeting relatives entering and exiting the scene.

Witnessing joy in one another was what these days were about.

Christmas present

As an adult I count my blessings for each year I get to spend with my husband and children.

And it’s inevitable that sometime during Christmas day, reflection will appear.

I’ll miss kicking off wet boots to  rush into cousin Berta’s room to see what Santa left.

I’ll sense a longing for the sweet scent of baking bread and will feel the acute, still undefined loss that accompanied the stocking’s end as I reached the navel orange that filled the toe.

Such a poor use of space, I still think . . .

I’ll miss my mom and my dad, the man who modeled agape love.

I’ll think about Nana and Grampie Bob and my beloved Grammie. 

Dog memories of Patches, Rocky, Wags and Tippy will color in the background.

And in a flash the foundation responsible for this year’s Christmas will be acknowledged with a nod to the past and a prayer of thanksgiving for the joy I get to witness right here and right now.

Wishing each of you a moment to witness joy 
in this and every day.
. . .
(a recent photo taken at Ariana and Lucas’ wedding in Los Angeles — my son Byron, daughter Audrey, me, and my husband, Ed)