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

“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.

Peace as Learned and Teachable Skills: UN International Day of Peace September 21, 2018


HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein Jordan reading Article 1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (click photo to be taken to her reading)

Every year the United Nations presents the International Day of Peace.

And this year is especially notable because it marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But the how to of peace can be elusive.

Over time, though, I’ve found three portals to equanimity.

And for me they overlap.

All three, it seems, know that as sentient beings we yearn for and move toward emotional and physical health.

And I choose to think peace fits in there, too.

Master of the Heart and HeartMath

Through personal, social and global coherence of HeartMath® I’ve learned to regulate my emotions.

All the while I am changing my heart rate variablility (HRV).

And HRV is a predictor of longevity, health and one’s emotional state.

Surprising to many,  coherence can be attained in the midst and moments of life’s challenges.

When I achieve coherence I am deeply content with my life.

The good news is that HeartMath tools can be taught to just about anyone at any age.

And with practice these skills lead to consistent, internal peace, regardless of external conditions.

I took my first HeartMath® class in 2009 from a master of the heart, David McArther.

And over time I learned to intentionally shift my physiology.

At will I can bring into balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of my nervous system.

That is peace.

The Connection Practice

“Before directing the lightening in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.”

From The Connection Practice I know that world peace, family peace — any peace — is futile without internal peace.

It is in the motto.

“Before directing the lightening in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.”

The Connection Practice uses elements of HeartMath and Nonviolent Communication.

And these gentle starting places inform the Practice’s life-affirming skills.

From Nonviolent Communication we offer respectful empathy to ourselves and others.

Through HeartMath we access insight.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy

The third part of my profession and personal practice is biodynamic craniosacral therapy.

It is described as a “. . . a gentle, sensitive form of a hands-on approach to health.”

And it is truly magical.

After completing a session I am rested and deeply peaceful.

And that is true if I am receiving or facilitating.

As a practitioner I sense the rhythms within another’s nervous system — the breathe of life.

I set out to do nothing more.

In this way the practitioner is a mirror rather than a mechanic.

.  .  .

The United Nations International Day of Peace is an idea; it’s a chance to pause.

And perhaps in that pause you’ll ask if now is the right time to experience more peace in your life.

Take Action!

•  Books I recommend:  David McArthur – Your Spiritual Heart; HeartMath – The HeartMath Solution; Nonviolent Communication – Nonviolent Communication; The Connection Practice – Completely Connected, by Rita Marie Johnson; Cherionna Menzam-Sills – The Breath of Life.

•   Learn about HeartMath research and professional training.

•  Find a HeartMath professional in your area.

•  Read about The Connection Practice.

•  Find a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist in your area.

Previous Posts Related to Peace

•  Connecting:  When Needs are Met in a Simple Thank You

•  Connection Amid Political Chaos:  Impossible You Say?

•  Creating a Dignified Transition: A Daughter’s Gift to Her Mother

•  •  •

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

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

Mr. Rogers, It’s Time We Bring Back What You Taught Us

How do you feel when you see Mr. Rogers’ face as he sings to or looks at a child?

Does your heart open up like a big, all-in hug?

It takes me back to sitting on our living room floor in Lincoln, Maine and watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood after school.

Four o’clock, I think it was.

And though there are oodles of counter-joy messages in TV land these days, we can always go back to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

That’s where we can hear Tony Bennett sing to Lady Elaine.

Or watch Margaret Hamilton discuss pretend witches as she ties on her Wizard of Oz skirt.

Or be reminded of who knit all those zippered sweaters.

We could let ourselves empathize with the uncertainty of vulnerability.

And then feel certain that having a friend matters fiercely, as it did the day Lady Aberlin and Daniel sang, “Sometimes I Wonder if I’m a Mistake.”

We could picture ourselves living as compassionately as Mr. Rogers did, like the time he and Jeff Erlanger sang, “It’s You I Like”.

Mr Rogers, It’s You I Like

The 2018 PBS documentary, Mr. Rogers, It’s You I Like, is narrated by Michael Keaton, one of The Flying Zookeeni Brothers on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. (If you click the link, he’s the one in the white hat.)

Sarah Silverman says, “You know what I loved about him? He never lied to kids. He leaned right into it and he always told the truth.”

And John Lithgow falls still as Mr. Rogers sings, “Sometimes people get sad, and they really do feel bad. But the very same people who are sad sometimes, are the very same people who are glad sometimes . . .”

Whoppi Goldberg calls Fred Rogers a subtle civil rights advocate.

You could see it the first time he invited Officer Clemmons to share his wading pool.

It was during a time vicious messages promoting segregated swimming were pervasive in the U.S.

And again years later they cooled their heels while singing, “There are Many Ways to Say I Love You,”

Mr. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, never strayed from his message of love.

“Love is at the root of everything. All learning, all relationships. Love  —  or the lack of it.”

And how evident that was when he and the signing, silver-back gorilla, Koko, exchanged words of love.

When I was the parent of young children, I wanted them to to know that the simplicity of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood could go with them anywhere, and that they didn’t have to do or be a certain way for me and others to love them.

“The greatest thing we can do,” he said, “is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Treating yourself to the newest documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, qualifies, I’d say, as profound, self care.

And ditto for taking time afterwards to sit quietly with the feelings it evokes.

Surprisingly, the moment that may have spoken loudest to me during this film was when Mr. Rogers chose not to speak during a speech.

In a commencement address at Dartmouth he invited reflection then paused:

I’d like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today.
. . . wherever they are, if they’ve loved you, and encouraged you, and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside your self.

So I’m making the suggestion that as you read this, you stop for a moment to also remember.

I’ll do it, too.

and dad
and Byron
and . . .
. . .
. . .


And when your minute is up, remember:

It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive, it’s such a hap-py feeling you’re growing inside, and when you wake up ready to say, I think I’ll make a snappy today. It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling, . . .”

Take Action!

•  Be kind to someone today just because.

•  And notice all there is to be grateful for from sunrise to sunset. Once you start looking with those eyes, what comes into focus is pretty spectacular.

• And take action when you see something that is just plain wrong.

•  Read about Climb Wyoming, the organization demonstrating to adult, single moms that “they are loved and capable of loving.”

•  See how one small group banded together, Gillette Against Hate.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

“Gillette Against Hate” Quietly Stands Up to Violent Speech and Actions

Gillette Against Hate set out to stand up to violent speech and action, and that’s just what they’ve done.

In August 2016 a public burning of the Koran was planned by a small group in Gillette, Wyoming.33

And in a flash that announcement moved Gillette Against Hate (GAH) from idea to activity.

Tanya Leland Krummriech created a facebook page that rallied nearly 50 people around the state to travel to Gillette.

“I knew there were others who were equally upset by this,” she said.

“But sometimes it’s hard to be the first to speak up.”

So two weeks before the publicized burning she did something about it.

While the burning proceeded, a gathering stood in peaceful opposition.

“. . . We create a safe, just, and kind Gillette through collaborative relationships that prevent and respond to hate with community, love, and power.”
(from Gillette Against Hate’s mission statement)

Pastor AJ Bush
Pastor AJ Bush

As a result of the counter-protest rally, AJ Bush, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Gillette stepped forward.

In that shared, community event she became co-founder of GAH and has, ever since, been elemental in moving the group forward.

Tanya said her own interest in a collective,  non-violent presence in Gillette is beyond protesting.

“What I really care about is getting people to move away from apathy,” she said.

She learned about nonviolent action in her small, eastern Montana hometown.

“My parents showed me that standing up — speaking up — was the right thing to do.”

“Martin Luther King said, ‘The time is always right to do what is right,'” she said.

As an adult and parent, it’s this alignment between King, her parents and others that reassures and fuels Krummriech.

“What I really care about is getting people to move
away from apathy.”

Tanya Leland Krummriech and her family in Gillette, Wyoming.

Most of us are uncom-fortable speaking up. Even considering saying something in the face of hatred or bullying is hard. Yet that’s what Gillette Against Hate commits to doing.

They support individuals and back up groups working toward nondiscrimination and protection of human rights.

They speak up on issues ranging from immigration, arming teachers, and freedom of religion to unfair treatment of the LBGTQ community.

In this northeastern Wyoming town of about 32,000, members of Gillette Against Hate hum along in their daily lives.

And all the while they’re quietly doing what is right, when it’s right, simply because it’s right.

Take action!

Gillette Against Hate’s  social media presence continues to be on Facebook.

Tanya Krummreich, founder of Gillette Against Hate, pays close attention to the following groups and their work for social justice:

Pflag:  support of the LBGTQ community by family and allies. Find a local chapter here.

Wyoming AFL-CIO (American federation of labor and congress of industrial organizations) focuses on several areas of civil rights including immigration, better pay and benefits, gender equality, quality education and sexual harassment.

Wyoming Equality works for fairness and rights for the LBGTQ community.

Wyo Say No! is a grassroots organization publicly opposing the proposed immigration prison in Wyoming.

Previous Wyoming Social Justice posts of interest:

Climb Wyoming, helping single moms in Wyoming end multi-generational poverty.

Safe Zone offers LBGTQ ally training in person at the University of Wyoming and online. All training is free.  Online trainings can be accessed 24/7.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West


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:


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

my need for communication
to matter
to have my intentions understood
shared reality

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:


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

his need for understanding
shared reality
to be seen for who he is
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.

Connection amid political chaos: Impossible, you say?

Connection in plitical calls in Tucson, AZ to urge early voting.
Finding connection with political calls in Tucson to urge early voting.

Connection amid political chaos: Impossible, you say?

Last Wednesday I volunteered at a political phone bank in Arizona.

It was the day of the last Presidential debate and 20 days before the election.

My only job was to urge citizens of Tucson to vote early.

Simple enough.

My workspace was sparse: ear buds, cell phone, call sheets, and a written script.

John, the 20 something manager-on-duty, offered three minutes of instructions including the mandate not to leave messages.

As a swing state, Arizona voters are flooded with calls like mine. One message I heard confirmed it: “If you’re calling about politics, hang up now.”

About an hour into my shift after I’d had a couple of angry responses to my suggestion that folks vote early, an idea came to mind.

If I put more emphasis on the tools of The Connection Practice I’d have a better chance of empathizing with whomever and whatever I encountered.

I started with self-care by focusing on my own emotions and why I was making these calls.

I’d been feeling powerless, agitated, frustrated and worried. My needs for peace, balance, and progress were high, but no satisfaction was in sight.

I asked for wisdom about the calls I was making. And then I paused.

I waited until a truth came forward in the form of reassurance.

Confirmation that because I care deeply about the outcome of this election, any small contribution I make will move me toward my own power and could even help create the progress I’m desiring.

With my own motives clear, I turned attention to the people on my list.

Might they be feeling fear and confusion?

Could it be some were distressed because their needs for ease and safety seemed far from where we were?

Considering strangers’ needs as well as my own changed the nature of my calls.

Instead of selling people on voting early, I listened, empathized, and if an opening presented itself, I encouraged early participation in the voting process.

Connecting with Voters

Then Dan, 41 years old, a registered independent, answered my call.

“Hi. This is Ellen. . . . I’m calling to ask if we can count on you to vote early this year?”

“No ma’am, you can’t. It’s disgusting what’s going on.”

“Sounds like you’re really disappointed. What’s bothering you most about the election?”

He told me, ending with, “I just can’t bring myself to vote for either one.

“I know that’s not what you want to hear. I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Yet I was oddly energized.

In that short exchange two people with different mindsets had expressed empathy for one another.

Here was a guy telling me exactly what I didn’t want to hear and yet the call felt like a success.

The next person who answered was an 80-year-old woman, Angeleine.

She said for the first time in her adult life she’s refusing to vote for a President.

“One’s a Nazi and the other should be jailed,” she said.

I asked if she felt discouraged.

Her voice softened. “Yes,” she said. “I’ve never felt like this before. It’s just awful. There’s so much fighting. I’m so angry. This isn’t right . . . ”

“I can understand why you don’t want to vote,” I said,

“If you change your mind, would you like to know where the closest early voting is?”

She declined.

I knew she was hurting; so was I.

Nonetheless I was grateful that that the two of us had, if only for a moment, found common ground.

With both Dan and Angeleine I experienced connection amid chaos.

What else might be possible if more of us knew and practiced these skills?

Could family divides be mended? What about gender equality? Might bullying be reduced?

Today I’m off to volunteer at a local nonprofit.

If you asked me what the likelihood is I’ll need empathy for myself or someone else in such a friendly place, I’d say the chances are right around 100%.

They usually are.

I’ll keep you posted.

Connections in more posts

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

•  Why I care: Witnessing Childhood Injustices