Connecting: When needs are met in a simple thank you

connecting with self and othersConnecting is a strong need in my life.

Someone I’m close to called today.*  He said he’d been thinking about a comment I made  earlier this week when I  asked him if keeping part of his life secret was necessary.

“You really got me thinking,” he said. He wondered what life might be like if he didn’t focus as much on hiding from others part of who he is.

Then he thanked me.

With his simple words of gratitude my heart opened. Connecting was present that hadn’t been there before.

Receiving this from him felt so good that I decided to look through the lens of The Connection Practice to see what this conversation might be offering me on a deeper level.

With his simple words of gratitude my heart opened.

When he said, “Hey, thanks for saying what you did,” I gave myself empathy by identifying all the feelings that came up:

touched
thankful
peaceful
moved
encouraged
compassionate
trusting

From there I could see that many of my needs – basic human needs – were being met, perhaps especially:

my need for communication
contribution
connecting
love
to matter
to have my intentions understood
shared reality
progress

Connecting to needs

Pausing a moment my need for shared reality rose to the surface as most important. In the conversation we’d had, we were viewing the situation similarly, and proof of that was his thank you.

Then I turned my thoughts to him. Though he wasn’t there, I gave him empathy by guessing that during today’s talk he might have been feeling:

grateful
optimistic
safe
hopeful

And that these feelings might be reflecting some of his own met needs. Perhaps:

his need for understanding
connecting
shared reality
to be seen for who he is
progress
to belong

This past year has been confusing and a little disappointing for him, and keeping part of himself separate from others may have contributed to that. I imagined that his  greatest met needs today were for progress and to be seen for who he is.

Then I prepared for a heart-brain insight to learn more about the celebration I was feeling. I brought my attention to the heart for heart focus. I imagined I could breathe in and out of the heart for heart breathing. After several breaths  I brought into my heart a feeling of appreciation for something easy – heart appreciation.

I take my time when I get to this part because it feels so good. Once I start feeling appreciation, I stay with it and let it fill me. When I felt ready I asked an open-ended question, “What do I need to understand about this conversation and my met need for shared reality.”

Not much time passed before the insight came. In addition to all that I had identified, there was another met need tucked in that short conversation, and it was a big one – intimacy .

That was exactly what I needed to understand!  In this world where disconnection often prevails, today’s phone call was a wondrous moment of intimacy between two human beings. I marveled at how simple the gift of a “thank you” can be to both offer and receive.

Connecting to insight

To complete the process I thought how I would act on this insight.

Writing this out has already helped deepen the experience. I better understand the compassion I have for my friend and his willingness to be vulnerable with me and in his own life. I’ll also keep celebrating the intimacy and connecting that came so unexpectedly with a simple thank you.

The process now feels complete.

Note to those of you wondering why it’s good to do this practice daily: Writing this was quick and easy and reminded me of the value of working with issues that are fully alive, like connecting.

*To retain privacy I’m leaving my friend’s name out of this story.
———————————————————————————————

connecting through connection practice    

Related posts and resources

•  Wyoming Social Justice in Action: What exactly does look like in public?

•  The Connection Practice – training offered by the Rasur Foundation International

•  Connect with the Center for Nonviolent Communication

Ellen Synakowski, MA, RCST, is a certified Connections Practice Trainer, Coach and Presenter; a HeartMath coach, and a registered biodynamic craniosacral therapist.

Suicide and Mental Illness Close to Home in Wyoming

Kelsey Rose Wilson

Last week a Laramie Boomerang obituary page included a teen’s face.

Kelsey Wilson was a 16-year-old student at Laramie High School.

While I didn’t know her, what my untrained eyes see in her photo is a young woman who was well loved in life.

And what pain she felt in that life, I can only imagine.

Alongside the shock of her age, the obituary contained a raw plea.

“Suicide and depression are difficult topics to discuss, and the family hopes you will talk with your loved ones to help bring it into the light and reduce the stigma surrounding it.

“The family asks you write your legislators and representatives in Congress to push for better mental health interventions and suicide prevention services in Wyoming.”

I grieve for Kelsey and for her family.

And my own letter to Representative Liz Cheney has already been sent.

The Tragic Truth

–  31% of teens nationwide have symptoms of depression.

–  Wyoming has the 4th highest suicide rate in the country.

–  In Wyoming, worry about suicide in teens is becoming
the top reported concern.

–  1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12)
seriously considered suicide in the past year.

–  Teen suicides in Wyoming are rising and are
nearly three times the national average.

The top blue line shows Wyoming’s deaths by suicide per 100,000 for youth aged 15-19. The lower blue line is the national number.

Take Action!

•  Write Representative Liz Cheney.

•  Read Preventing Suicide in Wyoming.

•  Be reminded of good people doing good work in Wyoming:

–  Peace as Learned and Teachable Skills

–  Pain Should Not Be Wasted: The Story of Three Parents

–  Carla Trier Brings Heaps of Love By Way of the Foster Parent Exchange

.   .   .

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:  EllenSynakowski.com and her email is EllenSynakowski@icloud.com.

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

Musical “Come From Away” Radiates Joy and Human Kindness

The musical “Come From Away” is playing in Denver and elsewhere.

Go.

It’s the story of 9,000 townspeople in Gander, Newfoundland who welcomed 6,700 unexpected guests on September 11, 2001.

When terrorism struck the airways, all U.S. air traffic stopped.

Planes en route  to the states had to go somewhere, and 38 of them landed in Gander, a town with 550 hotel rooms.

The play celebrates human decency in the face of calamity.

Retiring Gander mayor, Claude Elliott. (USA Today photo)

Last year retiring Gander mayor, Claude Elliott, spoke with USA Today reporter, Katherine Lackey:

“What we consider the most simple thing in life is to help people.

“You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.

“One thing this world is lacking today is common sense.

“You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.”

“We have to set more of an example and show the world we can all live in harmony regardless of what we are,” the mayor said.

The Graciousness of Gander

“Come From Away” amplifies what Gander showed the world.

And in recent years churches in Gander raised enough money to bring five Syrian families to Gander.

“One thing this world is lacking today is common sense,”

They saw a need and responded.

Yet those not from the island will always be considered “come from aways.”

And, in truth, aren’t we all?

The story’s creators, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, said they “found hope in a story about human kindness.”

It’s clear throughout, and by the end joy pulsates.

A final scene depicts the reunion in Gander 10 years after the planes landed.

A Newfoundlander says, “On the northeast tip of North America, on an island called Newfoundland, there’s an airport – and next to it, is a town called Gander.

“Tonight, we honor what was lost. But we also commemorate what we found!”

Make Kindness the Norm: World Kindness Day November 13

Last year I was at a table sitting next to a well-known newspaper opinion editor.

I thought I was adding to the conversation when I said I subscribe to the optimist news from the Washington Post.

He and a writer on my other side exchanged smirks.

They spoke over me as one asked, “Does your paper have optimistic news?”

“We have news,” was the reply.

Shut down.

“Recently I’ve been on a mission to both find and create more kindness in my world. . .” S. Petrow

Tuesday, November 13, is World Kindness Day.

It’s sponsored by Random Acts of Kindness.

“Make kindness the norm” is campaign slogan that’s really an invitation.

Last month the Washington Post published, “How a ‘kindness contagion’ improves lives, especially now.”

I love this article.

The author, Steven Petrow, won me with his earnest opening.

“Recently I’ve been on a mission to both find and create more kindness in my world. . .” he wrote.

Thinking back on the dinner I attended, I remember the lively people at the far end of the table nodding and urging my quiet daughter’s conversation contribution forward.

They shared time skillfully and playfully, and what I witnessed happening down there was kindness.

I, on the other hand, was flanked by sarcasm and my own discomfort.

Yet optimism always seems to win out.

Like Mr. Petrow, I’m off to “find and create more kindness in my world.”

And who couldn’t use a bigger dose of both of those?

Take Action!

•  See oodles of resources at Random Acts of Kindness.

•  Read the Washington Post’s, How a ‘kindness contagion’ improves life, especially nowby Steven Petrow.

• Treat yourself  to learning about Ben’s Bells where the motto is “Be Kind” and their mission is to teach “the importance of intentional kindness.”

•  Link to past posts related to kindness:
Alan Turgeon, thank you for your decency
Mr. Rogers, it’s time to bring back what you taught us
Gillette against hate
Pain should not be wasted

•  Watch this 1.5 minute kindness video:

.   .   .

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:  EllenSynakowski.com and her email is EllenSynakowski@icloud.com.

. . . justice is what love looks like in public.” Cornel West

Carla Trier Brings Heaps of Love to Sheridan, Wyoming by Way of the Foster Parent Exchange

Carla Trier, founder and Executive Director of Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange.

Carla Trier has a radio voice, and you want to listen when she speaks.

It’s sultry and earnest and sparkles when she talks about the nine children she has fostered/mentored as a single parent.

Her first foster daughter was seven years old when she arrived on New Years Eve 2012.

“She came only with a sack of things,” Carla said.

“She was sobbing, and I made a pretty fast decision that this wasn’t the way things should work.” she said.

That clarity lead to the Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange.

Carla said, “Children are removed from parents quickly, and that usually meant stuffing a few things into a trash bag as they are taken from the parents.”

But awareness is changing, and evidence of that are duffle bags often replacing plastic bags when children are picked up.

“That makes the little ones’ self images a lot different than arriving at a new home with a garbage bag,” she said.

Carla was a foster child, but unlike most children she encounters, she was sent with a suitcase and a teddy bear under her arm.

Change is also seen in Sheridan in the form of both children and the foster parents receiving help faster.

Children immediately receive 7 days worth of clothes, hygiene kits, towels, handmade quilts, coats, shoes, socks and underwear, pajamas, books, and stuffed toys.

Yet it’s not about handing a child a bag.

“Sometimes they’ve never had things that are their own, and we don’t ask for anything back,” Carla said.

As well, foster parents, grandparents, and biological parents reuniting with their families are all supported by this 501(c)3 nonprofit.

What Carla Would Like You to Know

“People say foster care is something they could never do.” Carla said.

“They’re afraid they’ll get attached to a kid and then they’ll leave”

Carla and her first foster daughter. The following year Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange was created.

To Carla, though, if you don’t give it your all, you’re not serving yourself or the child.

“The love they know when they are with you may be the only time they experience that in their lives.

“That might be the only place they have to go back to in their minds.”

“Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.”
Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

“It’s not always been easy with my kids,” Carla said.

Yet her support is unwavering.

“The love they know when they are with you may be the only time they experience that in their lives. That might be the only place they have to go back to in their minds.”

“I tell all my kids, I am not going to give up.

“I say, ‘Hey, I love you.
‘Hey, you matter.
‘Hey, you made my day special.
‘My day is always better with you in it.'”

“Those are things they may not hear in their lives,” she said.

“I just keep showing up.”

Take Action!

Donate to the Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange.

Watch a 90-second video on Sheridan Foster Parent Exchange narrated by Carla Trier.

•  Learn about a similar organization in Laramie, Wyoming

•  Watch the feature film, “Instant Family,” based on director Sean Anders’ own experience adopting his three foster children. From the movie’s website learn more about fostering and adoption, and volunteering with the foster care system as a tutor, mentor, and more.

•  Read about other organizations doing great work in Wyoming:
Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs
–  Climb Wyoming Breaking Multi-Generational Single Mom Cycle of Poverty

•  Listen to Josh Shipp, a former foster child, talk about The Power of One Caring Adult

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and is a practitioner of both HeartMath and The Connection Practice.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

Refugees Resettled in Maine Give Me Hope in Humanity

Deo, Uber driver in Portland, Maine by way of Tanzania and Burundi.

While visiting my home state of Maine I used Uber to get around Portland

During one trip the driver, Deo, and I started talking.

He has lived in Maine for 10 years.

And he is an immigrant from Burundi, one of the poorest countries in Africa.

In 1993 the first democratically-elected President came to power there.

Voter turnout was 97%.

Later that year the President was assassinated, and civil war erupted.

After two of Deo’s children died the same year, he walked 600 miles to Tanzania.

For the next decade he called two Tanzanian refugee camps home while assistance from the United Nations helped secure his asylum in the United States.

In 2008 he relocated to Maine after a short stay in Iowa.

Maine Used to Champion Refugees

For close to a decade Maine championed refugees, and whether that is because its population is rapidly aging and attracting younger workers was strategically smart or if it was a humanitarian gesture, I can’t say.

Either way, it was a powerfully good thing.

And unlike Wyoming, Maine had a plan to assist people in need.

But as of January 2018, an amended Act curtained Maine’s participation in what remains of the federally-funded refugee resettlement program.

In truth, since the U.S. presidential election of 2016, refugee resettlement in Maine and elsewhere has all but ended.

Between October 1, 2017 and March 15, 2018, 91% fewer refugees came to Maine.

That’s 21 arrivals versus 229 in the same period the previous year.

Yet for Deo, life here is good.

He works in Portland and belongs to a supportive community that both sees and believes in his worth.

I’m encouraged

After all he has witnessed and experienced, he reports being treated fairly and with respect in the whitest state in the country.

And his reflection on Maine matters to me; I want to live where human life is valued and compassionate acts are not only tolerated but are sanctioned.

•  •

Deo’s Uber profile shows he has a 4.86 overall rating with almost all evaluations being perfect 5-stars.

He says on the Uber app, “I am honest and take care of people.

“I love gospel music.

“I am filling [feeling] nice when I give people rides.”

Take Action!

•  Read about the Wyoming student who wrote a refugee resettlement plan for the only state without one.

•  Listen to Maine Public Radio, The Year the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Unraveled, by Deborah Amos, Jan 1, 2018.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and is a practitioner of both HeartMath and The Connection Practice.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

“Pain should not be wasted”— Deep Gratitude to Three Parents Who Have Not Wasted Their Pain

Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard.

Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein said, “Pain should not be wasted.”

And I am deeply grateful to three parents who live that wisdom.

Karen Ball began the Sturge-Weber Foundation when her daughter, Kaelin, was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome accompanied by a significant facial port wine stain.

Because this Foundation was there when my son, Byron, was born with the same syndrome, we were not alone.

Karen continues to blaze trail after medical trail in service to others.

The Shepards of Casper, Wyoming

And then there are the Shepards.

Their son, Matthew, was murdered 20 years ago this month.

It was a hate crime for being gay.

Judy channeled her anger and pain and created good:  The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

And for two decades, she and her gentle husband, Dennis, have traveled the country and the world erasing hate, promoting tolerance, and heralding human rights for all.

“This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.” – Judy Shepard

We spent this week-end in their presence.

On October 26, 2018 at 10 a.m., a public celebration of Matthew’s life will precede his interment at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

His remains are still not safe in Wyoming.

And that is unimaginable.

The Shepards model both public anguish and resilience as they counter the injustice of Matthew’s death.

And though their service to humanity cannot be measured, award after award attempts to quantify the shift their work is creating.

As Judy said during the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice in Laramie last spring, “This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.”

And for me, a mother still fighting for me children — sometimes out of fear, occasionally from anger, and mostly out of love — I spill tears every time I’m close to the energy that swirls like tornados around Judy and Dennis.

Because beyond the LGBTQ community, the work they do emphasizes justice for all human life on the planet.

“Pain should not be wasted.”

And for Judy and Dennis and Karen it hasn’t been.

•  •  •

An excerpt from Dennis Shepard’s trial statement:

“You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone . . . First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope. Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time — one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming . . . And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind — the ever-present Wyoming wind — for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God.

“I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone.”

Take Action!

•  Learn more at the Sturge-Weber Foundation

•  Help Erase Hate at the Matthew Shepard Foundation

•  Read about growing up in a moderately-tolerant town

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

Spaces Filled with Possibilities Characterize Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Sessions

Stephanie Abramson, RCST,  visiting Wyoming.

When I enter Stephanie Abramson’s treatment room time shifts as I tuck in for a restorative session of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST).

When I receive BCST I experience safe and compassionate touch as well as a sense of being seen completely and accepted entirely.

It is fundamentally about being open to the stillness within us where all possibility resides.

This junction of liminal space is where growth, renewal and a return to the innate essence of our being can unfold.

Typical Session – Is There One?

During the first session, a client often completes an intake form, and a few minutes of conversation may follow.

“How are you feeling today?

“And where in your body do you experience health?

When I receive BCST I experience safe and compassionate touch as well as a sense of being seen completely and accepted entirely.

With my son son, Byron.

Before getting on the massage table fully clothed, the client may also be asked if there is an intention for the session.

And she may respond:

“I want to feel better.”

“I’d like to be more connected to my body.”

Or, “I really need rest.”

Being On the Table

When I’m the one on the table I often experience a sense of dropping deeply to a secure place where I am aware of but not focused on the therapist I’m with.

And while there, I often see images — numbers, furniture, people I don’t know.

These visions, though curious and entertaining, are only sometimes informative.

Some people sense heat or cold, see colors or have flashes of light.

Yet others may feel sensations in their bodies — tingling or movements that seem to come from nowhere.

And it’s just as likely the experience will be described simply as “restful.”

In this aliveness, anything is possible.

Since there is absolutely no “should” in BCST, whatever reaction one has is exactly right for the moment.

Sessions Can’t Be Structured

Sessions have no agenda; We don’t say, “Let’s work on your lower back today.”

While this is typical of massage and other modalities, that’s not how BCST works.

The therapist’s role is to witness the unfolding of the session rather than trying to steer the ship.

We pause in the stillness until the client’s intelligence gives us direction.

Byron often finds relief from the pain of scoliosis with BCST.

Then intuition guides the session.

The therapist’s and client’s nervous systems come into sync as they balance and ground together.

And quite often that time of alignment is noted by a pronounced out breath – something like a sigh.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen the first or even first few times a client and practitioner are together as degrees of trust vary from person to person.

Other times quietude may present itself simply in anticipation of the session.

While there are lists of conditions for which BCST may be helpful, I don’t make promises.

My pledge is to be fully present as the client’s essence reveals what it wants me to see.

In Stephanie’s presence, I trust that the guidance she receives is just what I need, whether I share an awareness of it or not.

So I sink deeply and enjoy feeling fully alive.

And in that aliveness, anything is possible.

_  _  _

Take Action in Celebration of International Craniosacral Week October 15-21, 2018!

• Write Ellen for a free Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy appointment on Thursday, October 18, 2018:  EllenSynakowski@icloud.com This is in celebration of International Craniosacral Week.

•  Make an appointment with Stephanie Abramson when traveling to Washington, DC.  ‭(240) 418-5459

•  Read From My Hands and Heart:  Achieving Health and Balance with Craniosacral Therapy, by Kate’ MacKinnon.

•  Find a registered therapist near you through the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA).

•  Read The Breath of Life: An Introduction to Craniosacral Biodynamics by Cherionna Menzam Sills.

•   Read the summary and conclusion to the research article, The use of CranioSacral therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Benefits from the viewpoints of parents, clients, and therapists, by Kratz, Kerr and Porter, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapist, vol21(1), 1/2017, pages 19-29.

•  Watch Helen Robbins’ annimated Introduction to Craniosacral.

•  Read the summary and conclusion  to the research article, A systematic review to evaluate the clinical benefits of craniosacral therapy,  by Jakel and Hauenschild, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol20(6), 12/12, pages 456-465.

•  Watch the the British Craniosacral Therapy Association’s video,  What is Craniosacral Therapy?

•  See how Biodynamic Craniosacral is a model of Peace as Learned and Teachable Skills.

•  Consider how nonviolence toward women impacts one’s life in Alan Turgeon, Thank You For Your Decency.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

Allan Turgeon, Thank You for Your Decency*

My husband, Ed.

I don’t believe it.

And I won’t stay silent when people say, “Boys will be boys.”

My husband isn’t and never was like that.

Nor is my son.

My son, Byron.

And I’m certain my father never passed through an abusive phase on his way to becoming a fine man.

And neither did Allan Turgeon.

Decency in College

As with most of my 40+ year-old memories, what I recall of Allan is a little fuzzy.

Allan as a young frat guy.

When I was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, he was a senior.

Or was I a sophomore?

Both of us were part of the business school, and each of us grew up in Maine.

And for some reason I can’t recall, one week-end we drove to New York City  —  Allan, me, and his classmate and friend, Joey Nocero.

When we arrived in the wee hours they permitted me to stand between them like Debbie Reynolds flanked by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.

Then we danced down Broadway in the rain.

That memory is clear.

I won’t stay silent when people say,
“Boys will be boys.”

And the other thing that remains vivid is the hotel room we shared with its solitary, double bed.

When I first saw the layout, I didn’t experience fear or panic so much as a rush of concern.

But the feeling didn’t last.

Allan and Joey said the bed was mine as the two of them grabbed pillows and slept on the floor.

True Colors

The next time Allan showed his true colors was at the end of his last semester.

He invited me to a fraternity dance, and I joined him there wearing an outfit I’d sewn in high school along with stilt-height wedge heels.

But memories of the party itself are unclear.

I know it was crowded and loud.

Thank you, Allan. Your decency helped ensure that I experience life without lugging around heavy scars.

And I’m sure alcohol was a dominant feature.

By the end of the party I was ready to crash in Allan’s room and call it a night.

But he refused.

“You’re not staying here.

“You can’t be around these drunk guys,” he said.

So he drove me to my dorm where I sleepily, if innocently, said good night.

In Hindsight a Gift

I am one of the two-out-of-three women in this country who has been spared sexual assault.

Yet I know the anxiety that accompanies fear of violation.

What woman doesn’t?

Allan near the end of college.**

And whether that alarm bell is taught or acquired, I can’t say.

I didn’t have it growing up, and it’s not part of life now.

But in between, worrisome moments were frequent.

So thank you, Allan.

Your decency helped ensure that I experience life without lugging around heavy scars.

And while I understand that feeling safe in the world isn’t shared by all humans, it’s only recently I’ve come to appreciate how rare my reality may be.

Take Action!

•  Thank someone who made your life easier or better.

•  And read about the simple lessons Mr. Rogers exposed us to.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

This post was written in beleaguered anticipation of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court vote.

** Allan Turgeon still lives in Maine. He has been married 37 years, has two sons, two very young grandchildren, and, I imagine, he’s still doing the right things.

Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care Sees Far Beyond Medical Needs

Abigail Strube, WFCC Executive Director, with her mom, Cathy.

Last year Abigail Strube’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

And that’s when they both came to know volunteers from the Angels Care Cancer Program, a Casper-based organization that’s part of the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care (WFCC).

In fact, it was an Angel who suggested Abigail apply for her current job.

“WFCC is all about reducing the burden of cancer,” Abigail said.

And that translates to helping patients and families with non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

Help Beyond Medical Care

“We sometimes pay utility bills.

“We’ve even made mortgage payments,” Abigail said.

“We give gas cards, and this past summer a patient who needed to travel for a much-needed surgery had unsafe tires, so we just bought new ones for her.”

A large portion of WFCC’s budget goes to paying hotel bills.

Because of vast distances between Wyoming towns, people seeking cancer treatment must often travel hours for care.

It’s is all about reducing the burden of cancer.

WFCC Board of Directors includes (front row) Abigail Strube (ad hoc), Kara Frizell; (back row): Angie VanHouten, Michele Nash, Dr. Robert Tobin, and Sam Carrick (ad hoc)

More than 12 years ago staff at Rocky Mountain Oncology in the mid-state city of Casper saw patients struggling at home with non-medical needs.

So they considered how best to help.

The result was a grass roots organization as an arm of the large Tennessee based eplus Cancer Care foundation.

Then in 2018 WFCC received its own 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

Until recently funding came 100% from community donations and grants from individuals.

And now as they extend their reach to more of Wyoming and are eligible for federal grants, efforts are underway to grow the current $50,000 budget.

It’s about supporting patients and families with the non-medical needs that accompany treatment.

In 2017 more than 206 people state wide were served, and this year 176 patients have already been helped.

And the only eligibility requirements are that applicants be Wyoming patients currently undergoing treatment.

Partnering with Hands-On Care

When WFCC merged with the Angels Cancer Care Program more ways to offer non-medical support were possible.

That’s because many of the volunteers have, themselves, gone through cancer treatment.

“They know how to help make the stress of chemo more bearable,” Abigail said.

“Volunteers may sit with patients going through treatment, assemble cancer care kits, and drive patients to appointments.

“They have even put together teams to do house cleaning,” she said.

“In Wyoming we are proud to take care of our own.

“We believe in the spirit of the west and supporting cancer patients in our communities who are in need,” she said.

As for her mom, Abigail reports, “She’s 10 months out of treatment and doing really well.”

Take Action!

•  Read more about Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care

•  Donate to WFCC. Every small donation has a big impact.

•  Review Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Non Profit.

• Read Climb Wyoming where efforts to end the cycle of single-mom poverty in Wyoming are effecting change.

•  Read about a daughter who helped her mom live fully to the end of her life.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

 

Preventing Alzheimer’s and Slowing ALS: The Focus of Jackson Hole Medical Research Non-Profit

Brain Chemistry Labs is breaking rules and shattering the mold of how medical research is done.

And they’re doing it solely with small grants and private donations.

Dr. Sandra Banack, senior scientist at Brain Chemistry Labs.

What began as work focused on the motor neuron disease ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) has been led by research to include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“I think we can change the world,” said Sandra Banack, senior scientist and ethnobotanist.

“What we’re doing takes a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost,” she said.

Their work examines what is happening to people and what can be done about it.

“We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”    – Dr. Rachael Dunlop

Research shows that chronic exposure to the neurotoxin BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) found in cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae and most often pointed out by someone in my family as “that green stuff” on lakes and ponds) is a potential risk for neurodegenerative illnesses.

So they are testing and working with an amino acid called L-Serine that may counter BMAA and appears to be neuroprotective in its own right.

BMAA Surrounds Us

“We know that human health is related to environmental health,” Dr. Banack said.

People come into contact with BMAA through contaminated seafood and freshwater fish — possibly grains if they are watered by contaminated water.

And it can be in the air we breathe.

“Found in habitats ranging from the hot pools of Yellowstone to the deserts of the middle east to the middle of the oceans, cyanobacteria are nearly ubiquitous on the earth’s surface.” – Brain Chemistry Labs’ website

“This is like a slow toxin and a silent killer in a sense because we don’t know that it’s in the water that we’re drinking.

“We don’t know that it’s in the food that we’re eating.

“But we do know that it can cause neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said senior research fellow, Rachael Dunlop, in the film Toxic Puzzle.

But hope is on the horizon.

“I think we can change the world,”  – Dr. Banack

Can L-Serine Forestall Alzheimer’s?

What’s already been shown in Phase I clinical trials is that L-Serine is safe for ALS patients to take at doses as high as 30 grams per day.

The data suggest that L-Serine can slow down the progression of ALS by as much as 85%.

“Our research also suggests that L-Serine may be able to push off the onset of Alzheimer’s, but there are still many experiments to do,” Dr. Banack said.

Currently L-Serine is accessible as an inexpensive and safe supplement.

And it is found in abundance in foods like sweet potatoes and soy products.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members, so the swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters.

Because of the positive results shown in Phase I clinical trials, the FDA has fast tracked L-Serine into Phase II Alzheimer’s trials.

The swift work of Brain Chemistry Labs matters greatly.

Alzheimer’s impacts millions of patients and even more family members.

And for ALS patients any slow down in progression translates to hope.

Once diagnosed, life expectancy averages 2.5 years.

The urgency is understood in Jackson where the time from research to clinical trials has only taken about five years.

That nimbleness is more than surprising to those of us who know the legend of drug development exceeding decades and costing billions of dollars.

Non-Profit Medical Research

Drs. Sandra Banack and Rachael Dunlop

The lean research team has fewer meetings and less bureaucracy, and that’s appealing to the scientists who work and answer the phones at Brain Chemistry Labs.

To join the research team, Sandra Banack gave up tenure-for-life in the California State University system.

And similarly, Dr. Dunlop left a Sydney, Australia university position and moved to Jackson.

“The possibilities were too big to turn down,” Dr. Banack said.

“We’re not beholden to stock holders or the stock exchange.

“It’s a different model from anything else that’s been done,” she said.

“We owe it to society to give something back,” Dr. Dunlop said.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems.”
– Dr. Sandra Banack

Yet the work isn’t limited to this small group in northwestern Wyoming.

The Jackson team collaborates with more than 50 scientists in 28 disciplines worldwide.

“We exchange wisdom and pool it to solve problems,” Dr. Banack said.

Dr. Dunlop said, “We’re close to a prevention, and I think that’s better than a cure.”

Asked if what they’ve learned has changed their eating habits, Dr. Banack said, “I don’t eat seafood anymore.”

And Dr. Dunlop has increased her intake of soy — edamame, in particular — that she said is loaded with L-Serine.

My first order of the supplement should be here any day.

Take Action!

•  Donate to Brain Chemistry Labs.

•  Absolutely watch the 80-minute documentary, Toxic Puzzle, about BMAA, L-Serine, research and the founder of Brain Chemistry Labs, Paul Cox.

•  View Brain Chemistry Labs’ website.

•  Read a number of newspaper articles about this work.

•  See Paul Cox’s, TedX talk.

•  Read related research articles:

“Mapping amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lake risk factors across northern New England,” Nathan Torbick et al, International Journal of Health Geographics, 2014; 13: 1, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3922844/?report=classic#).

“Phase I clinical trial of safety of L-serine for ALS patients,” T.D. Levine, et al., Feb 18, 2017, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27589995#).

“Traditional Food Items in Ogimi, Okinawa: l-Serine Content and the Potential for Neuroprotection,” Paul Cox and James Metcalf, Current Nutrition Reports, 2017; 6(1): 24–31, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343079/).

•  Previous posts of interest: Civility Leads Climate Discussion and  Charity and Social Justice:  “Distinct but Complimentary”

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West