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.

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.

Mom
and dad
Lola
Ed
Audrey
and Byron
Martha
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 EllenSynakowski.com

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

Disconnect Between Animal Protection Laws and Economic Benefits of Keeping Animals Alive a Focus for Wyoming Untrapped

Tensions exist between Wyoming’s lax animal protection laws23 and research emphasizing economic benefits of keeping animals alive.24

Two sides of the same coin, says Lisa Robertson, President and Co-Founder of Wyoming Untrapped.

In 2012 this Jackson-based nonprofit formed to respond to increased trapping in the Tetons, particularly of the elusive bobcat.

Simultaneously, escalation in the number of pets caught in traps and snares was seen.

“Wyoming is treasured for its remaining wildlife, yet we punish our animals just for being a bobcat or for being a wolf.”

Wyoming Madison River bobcat. Photo credit Tom Mangelsen (see 5/6/18 60 Minutes —Into the Wild with Thomas D. Mangelsen: The renowned wildlife photographer shows 60 Minutes what goes into his iconic pictures,  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/into-the-wild-with-thomas-mangelsen/ )

A 2017 study24, 25, 26 found that ecotourism boosted a single bobcat’s one-year value to $308,000.

That represented a dollar amount nearly 1,000 times greater than income from a single trapping license and the pelt sale for the same animal.

Some believe  the new Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management degree at the University of Wyoming 27, 28 will help address this conflict.

A University web page cites “stewardship and conservation of natural resources” first in its list of what the program emphasizes.29

Full-length bobcat coats can require 35 and 50 pelts each.

More Animal Concerns

While hunting as a sport is decreasing in the the U.S.,30 Wyoming Untrapped says tens of thousands of animals are, nonetheless, trapped here each year.

And beyond traps and snares, coyote killing contests are common31 and grizzly bear hunting may soon be a reality.

All the while increased popularity of fur coats in Russia, China and European countries have quadrupled24 trapping demands.

Full-length bobcat coats can require 35 and 50 pelts each.

Wyoming bobcat – with permission from Nick Garbutt

Meanwhile, federal law (H.R. 1438) to eliminate “body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System” has been proposed. 32 

And while that might help, Wyoming has a fair distance to go with its 48th state ranking for animal cruelty laws.23

Lisa Robertson said, “Wyoming is treasured for its remaining wildlife, yet we punish our animals just for being a bobcat or for being a wolf.”

Wyoming Untrapped aims to change that.


 

Take Action!

•  Consider a donation to Wyoming Untrapped

 Learn how to release your pet from a trap with videos by
WyomingUntrapped

•  View miscellaneous educational videos from Wyoming
Untrapped

•  Read more about Project Coyote

•  Watch Ending Wildlife Killing Contests video

•  See the trailer to a documentary on wildlife killing contests,
    Killing Games: Wildlife in the the Crosshairs

•  See where your state ranks in the  2017 Trapping Report
from Born Free

•  •  •


Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

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

Climb Wyoming Breaking Multi-Generational Single Mom Cycle of Poverty

In a state like Wyoming where poverty is pervasive19 and often invisible,20 permanently interrupting the multi-generational cycle of impoverishment for single moms is a big goal.

Yet one woman at a time the chain is being broken at Climb Wyoming.

Reaching the top of the stairs in the Laramie office, I could have been entering an urban law firm or a boutique medical suite.

“Poverty can inhibit executive function, so by providing resources, counseling, life and communication skills, our moms are supported in becoming successful.” — Katie Hogarty

“The setting is intentional,” said Katie Hogarty, Climb Wyoming program director and lawyer by training.

“We want our space to mirror the environment our moms will be working in.”

Twice a year groups of women move together through the program, and on average 130 will graduate from six sites throughout the state.

“So much magic happens when the women are together,” Katie said.

“Poverty can inhibit executive function,21, 22 so by providing resources, counseling, life and communication skills, our moms are supported in becoming successful.”

“People can say, ‘Just put one foot in front of the other,’ but if you’re not practiced at knowing your priorities and how to get form a to b to c, you feel stuck — you’re just spinning.”

Katie Hogarty, Climb Wyoming program director in Laramie.

Remarkably, graduates typically double their pre-program wages, and the up-front investment yields tangible savings for the state of Wyoming.

And the business model of lean site offices supported by experts at the headquarters in Cheyenne permits Katie to stay focused on what she loves.

“I just want to be working with these moms,” she said.

———–

Take Action!

•  Watch a short Climb Wyoming video intended for the women they serve. “This is a judgment-free zone.” “You’re amazing, mom.” “You already have your gifts inside of you.”

 •  Donate to Climb Wyoming

•  Read about Hole Food Rescue in Jackson and community and school gardens supported by Rooted in Wyoming in Sheridan.

• Check out Columbia University’s statistics on Wyoming at the National Center for Children in Poverty


•  •  •


Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

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