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

Take Two: Why the Singular, Non-Binary “They” Pronoun is Darned Difficult to Master

If you read no further, delight in watching John E. McIntyre’s Baltimore Sun video on the indisputable appropriateness of the singular, epicene, pronoun “they.”

The third-person, singular “they” he talks about was the 2015 American Dialect Society Word of the Year.

Merriam-Webster and the Oxford dictionaries agree.

And the Washington Post style guide, the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style do, too.

So why is speaking “they” when we’re referring to one person so difficult to master?

Even — and especially — if someone has told us “he” or “she” just isn’t who they are.

Logic says this should be easier.

Most of us have lived through a few language changes in our time.

Think no further than “groovy.”

We used it, then shuttered and moved on.

Yet tell me that they/them/their are your pronouns, and I’ll stumble, fall, get up, and do it again.

“As shorthand for any thing or concept, pronouns are used so often and so unconsciously that they are more like hardware.

Linguistics May Hold the Answer

Why I slip up so often can, at least partially, be explained by linguistics.

John McWhorter, an English and literature professor at Columbia University, says we are flexible with changing nouns, verbs and adjectives, and it can even feel natural to add, subtract and revise them.

Like software, he said, we can adapt moderately easily to new versions of what’s called, “open class words.”

But other parts of language are different.

“Pronouns are closed class words,” he said.

“As shorthand for any thing or concept, pronouns are used so often and so unconsciously that they are more like hardware.

“A new object or practice is one thing — but a new “you” or a new “him” or “her”?

“It’s harder to wrap our minds around changing something so cognitively fundamental, just as one does not pop up with new prepositions.

“ . . . nouns and verbs are lightbulbs; prepositions are the wiring inside the walls.”

He said the origins of our language can be traced back 6,000 years.

And even then people spoke pronouns that sounded similar to “me,” “you,” and “we.”

“That’s how hardy pronouns are,” he said.

Comfort in Knowledge

So let’s drop some of the judgment we put on ourselves for making mistakes with “they.”

Slipping back into “he” or “she” when someone says their pronoun is “they” is what can happen when you have hard-wired parts of the brain.

And as a result, this is going to take time.

What we’re seeing is a rapid evolution in English.

But John McIntyre cautions against taking too long to adapt, “The tide is running against you, and it’s coming in,” he said.

“. . . Resistance is futile.”

Take Action!

•  Read  the CNN Opinion by John McWhorter, Goodbye to ‘he’ and ‘she’ and hello to ‘ze’?,” October 14, 2015.

Read  New York Times magazine article, “Who’s ‘They’? by Amanda Hess, March 29, 2016.

•  Watch John McIntyre’s Baltimore Sun video on singular ‘they.”

•  Read last week’s blog, The Evolving World of Pronouns, and My Struggle to Keep Up.

•  And You Might Enjoy  Growing Up in a Town Hospitable to Lesbians and Others with Non-Binary Lifestyles 

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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

The Evolving World of Pronouns and My Struggle to Keep Up

October 17th is the first-ever International Pronouns Day.

That means that organizations and individuals are acknowledging and supporting — celebrating, even — nonbinary pronouns.

And I’ve already signed up.

What has been she/her/hers, he/him/his in me/mine/my language is expanding.

English pronouns are becoming they/them/their, ze/zim/zir, sie/sie/hir, ey/em/eir, ve/ver/vis, and more.

Other languages have far more pronouns than we do, so this change isn’t revolutionary, but it’s happening quickly, and it’s confusing to me.

Dizzying and disorienting better describes where I am with all this.

Last year my husband and I took lunch-time classes at the University of Wyoming to become better-informed LGBTQIA+ allies.

The topics were LGB 101, gender identity, and how to be a visible ally.

But even after being encouraged to ask people their pronouns, I couldn’t.

I haven’t been able to say to a single person, “Hi, I’m Ellen. My pronouns are she/her and hers.

“What about you?”

I fear I’ll anger some people while offending others.

My own history foreshadows the perils of good intentions.

At least once I called someone’s husband by her former husband’s name.

And then there’s the personal anguish of anonymity that I experienced with my chronically-sick child.

In hospitals I was seldom summoned by any name other than “mom.”

It was as if I didn’t exist.

And not being seen doesn’t feel good.

So I really do get that this pronoun upgrade is important.

But I don’t want to be shamed or humiliated or seen as disrespectful if I mess up.

Yet that’s exactly what recently happened.

An Email Exchange

Last week I wrote an email suggesting that when I don’t know someone personally I can ask, “What are your preferred pronouns?”

A swift reply arrived from my colleague, a self-described, non-binary human who uses the pronouns they/them/their.

My offenses were itemized.

First, they said, “Being trans is not a choice. One does not just choose to not be cis.

“In this vein, the pronoun that people use is not a ‘preferred’ pronoun . . .

“There is no preference here. I am not a woman, therefore they/them IS my pronoun — not a preference.”

So noted.

In the same email they said it’s impolite to ask a personal question about a relationship.

But wait a minute.

Isn’t asking about someone’s pronouns a really, really personal question?

They also told me to “refrain from using the word biological.”

“Assigned Female/Male at birth (AFAB, AMAB) is the word choice at the moment (these things change!!)”

And for me that’s the fulcrum of the problem; I feel the rules keep changing.

Being warned that changes are coming isn’t exactly the rally call I need to go forward with confidence.

So what I’m now trying to understand is if the comments I received are the reaction of a single person, or are the points they make typical of a wide range of people asserting rights to their own pronouns?

I Could Use Some Empathy

What they didn’t seem to consider [and here I’m using “they” as a personal pronoun for one individual] is that every single time I take a risk with the intention of being respectful and empathetic, I am leaping flat footed into vulnerability where criticism is poised to pounce.

But ok.

I accept the feedback and will learn from my errors, innocent as they may be.

I have another chance at success.

This time it’s a commitment to myself and a nod to Pronouns Day.

By October 17, 2018, I promise to look someone in his/her/their/zir/hir/eir/vis eyes and say, “Hi, I’m Ellen. My pronouns are she/her and hers.

“What about you?”

Take Action!

•  Sign Up to Support International Pronouns Day.

•  Read Lindy Westenhoff about and her simple ideas for updating language in college classes.

• Read my experience of growing up in a town friendly to multiple-gendered people.

•  Take free online LGBTQIA+ ally classes through the Safe Zone at the University of Wyoming.

•  Read “Understnding Non-Binary People: How to be Respectful and Supportive” on the website.

•  Read a CNN article by John McWhorter, “Say Goodbye to ‘he’ and ‘she’ and hello to ‘ze’?” .

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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

Wyoming Refugee Resettlement Plan Written by University Student for Only State Without One

“. . . Wyoming is the single state in the U.S. without a Refugee Resettlement Program (RRP) filed with the federal government.”

Gabe Selting wrote his senior honors thesis as a “How To” plan for Wyoming to initiate a Refugee Resettlement Plan.

So begins Gabe Selting’s 2018 honors senior thesis from the University of Wyoming, “Refugee Resettlement in Wyoming: A How-to Guide.”

Selting says social justice addresses “equal access to opportunity.”

Yet his own interests are broader.

They extend to equal access to opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers.

And this fall his already passionate life takes a step forward as he begins law school in Washington, DC.

His interest in social justice and service began when he was 16 years old.

He was living in London with time on his hands while his parents, both professors at the University of Wyoming, were on sabattical.

During this time he thought, and he struggled.

“The ultimate question was, ‘What is my personal interpretation of happiness, and how can I get there?’”

The answer came as a question.

“What is my ability to impact others in a meaningful way? How can I have a positive impact?”

Resettlement Plan Began with Education

As an International Studies undergraduate, Selting expanded his lens on the world.

He studied and volunteered in multiple countries.

And those experiences gave him perspective on Wyoming’s role in global issues.

As well as Wyoming’s role in the refugee conversation.

“All around Wyoming there’s affordable housing, low-skill jobs, and open spaces so you’re not forced to live next to others’ religions, if you don’t want to,” he said.

“By not having a Refugee Resettlement Plan, what message are we sending to Washington and to the United Nation’s High Commission on Refugees?

“It takes 50 links to make this work,” he said. “and one doesn’t exist – Wyoming.”

The website of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is clear.

Refugees are given, “the opportunity to achieve their full potential . . .”

The U.S. Government along with individual states and organizations offer a hand up with “critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society.”

“It takes 50 links to make this work, and one doesn’t exist — Wyoming.”

Refugees are Free to Move Into Wyoming

Because there are no cross-state entry restrictions, once refugees have been permitted to enter the country, Selting says they can go where they like.

“Former refugees are making their way to Wyoming, whether people like it or not.”

Yet without a RRP Selting says, “those who arrive here don’t have access to key services.”

Selting thinks that state’s resistance stems from fears for safety and economic security.

“It’s so much more dangerous to not have a refugee infrastructure program then to have one,” he said.

“There’s a huge body of literature showing that extremism often comes in the form of social and economic alienation.

“We need to have systems for people to integrate into; to combat social isolation.

“Wyoming has the capacity to help and accept refugees,” he said.

And thanks to this recent grad’s persistence, Wyoming’s “How To” is ready to go.

Take Action!

•  Read Gabe’s thesis, Refugee Resettlement in Wyoming: A How-To Guide.

•  Learn about the Immigration Alliance of Casper.

•  Check out the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

•  Read Gillette Against Hate. 

•  Read Where refugees go in America,” from the Washington Post.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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


Bright pink states are the worst for welcoming refugees. Bright green are the best.

Positive Roadside Messages: Won’t You “”?

I noticed a billboard on Interstate I-25 in Cheyenne, Wyoming with the then child Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai’s photo and quote, “Girls should learn history. And make it,”

I saw it again in Laramie along I-80.

And a similar one a few miles away that featured a 13-year-old boy who started a nonprofit when he was 5.

Today in Tucson, Arizona I drove past a bus stop with a picture of Garth Brooks and lyrics from his song.

“When there’s only one race, and that’s mankind . . . We shall be free.”

And each billboard and post included, “”

The Foundation for a Better Life is the nonprofit that began in 2000 to promote positive values through public messages.

It is a 501(c)(3) that has, it says, “zero political or religious affiliations.”

They don’t accept financial contributions, and not a single thing is for sale on their website.

Rather, the Denver-based nonprofit that offers free billboard copy, radio and TV spots, posters and daily emails is funded entirely by Philip Anschutz through the Anschutz Family Foundation.

Its website says it “. . . exists solely to create and share uplifting messages . . .”

According to Variety, though, there has been significant criticism surrounding Philip Anschutz’s funding of conservative groups including pro-gun, anti-abortion and those touting anti-LBGT values.

A Gift to the Elton John AIDS Foundation

Yet earlier this year, Anschutz donated $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Isn’t passing it on what we human beings do really REALLY well?

He said, “My gift to the Elton John Foundation is intended to emphasize that we support freedom of all people to live their lives peacefully, without interference from others.”

Each message includes a red rectangle identifying the value in its story.

Inclusion, inspiration, courage, service, soul, persistence, compassion, soul, optimism . . .



You could be driving across country on I-80 or getting on the same interstate to travel to the other side of Laramie.

It doesn’t matter.

Most of us can use a reminder now and again that we have it in us to do and be better.

As imperfect humans we look to one another for stories of encouragement and inspiration, even stories that fit on billboards.

And passing those stories on is something we do really REALLY well.

Take Action!

•  See someone — really  see someone with the eyes of appreciation, then tell them what you see.

 Access the entire collection

 View Garth Brooks’ full We Shall Be Free video on Vimeo

•  Read about Rooted in Wyoming‘s efforts in Sheridan, Wyoming to bring people together through community gardening.

•  Get to know why Wyoming Untrapped‘s work to keep bobcats alive could be a tourist draw for the state.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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

Returning a Sacred Rock’s Name — Bear Lodge, Mythic-Owl Mountain, Tree Rock, Mato Tipila . . . Just Not Devils Tower

Last month my husband, son and I traveled north to Bear Lodge (aka Devils Tower), the first National Monument in the country.

Approaching from the south the land sweeps up — like a lifting cloud into rolling round hills dotted then filled with pines.

Solemnity of place abounds.

Before Europeans

Long before Europeans took this beautiful land as their own, the rock was sacred to those who lived in the Black Hills.

Pilgrimages were part of Native American rituals.

Arapaho • Crow • Cheyenne • Eastern Shoshone • Lakota • Kiowa

The National Park Service’s website states that these tribes were gradually extirpated.

Definition: “Extirpate . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

In the context of American history, this word takes my breath away.

.  .  .

Translated to English, the tribes’ names for Devils Tower include:

Bear’s Tipi • Bear’s Lodge • Bear’s House • Bear’s Peak • Mato Tipila (aka Bear Lodge) • Bear Lodge Butte • Grizzly Bear’s Lodge • Mythic-owl Mountain • Grey Horn Butte • Ghost Mountain • Aloft on a Rock • Tree Rock (associated with astrological knowledge).

And clearly none of these relate even remotely to “devil.”

Yet this unfortunate and disrespectful mistranslation stuck.

“Extirpate: . . . to root out and destroy completely.”

Returning the Name to Bear Lodge

In 2015, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations, petitioned President Obama to reunite the place with its native name, Bear Lodge.

But it didn’t happen.

Then in 2017 to permanently end present or future Native American appeals, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) introduced H.R.401 to block the name Devils Tower from ever changing.

And she justifies it with commerce.

“. . . Devils Tower attracts crucial tourism and revenue to our communities,” she said.

So Devils Tower is now a brand.

Yet Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Commerce would be sustained and the offensive mistake corrected.

But it would take great courage and deep regard for Native Americans to do this.

It would be the right thing to do while removing none of the magnificence from the site.

Representative Liz Cheney has the power to introduce a bill that restores the name, Bear Lodge, and secures funding to rebrand the name over the next five years.

Native American Stories

No geological explanation can definitively account for this towering stone’s formation.

Yet each tribe has creation stories that ascribe meaning to it.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

I am most drawn to the one from Kiowa.

In it, seven little girls playing together are chased by bears.

The friends jump on a low rock and one prays, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!”

And in response to their pleas, the rock lifts from the ground.

The bears try to reach them, but fall backwards leaving vertical claw marks on the ascending tower.

Still higher the rock rises until the girls are pushed up and into the sky where even today they safely remain as the star formation, the Pleiades.

There is nothing but beauty and safety in the stories of this tower that reaches nearly 900 feet from ground to summit.

Certainly my own treks there have just begun.

And the only thing better than standing quietly in awe at the base of this rock would be to see its name returned.

Restore Bear Lodge, Tree Rock or any other Native American moniker that honors the reverence and history of this place, please.

Take Action!

•  Email Liz Cheney and ask her to:  1) change the name Devils Tower to Bear Lodge; 2) seek funding for a 5-year rebranding plan

•  Devils Tower National Monument

•  National Park Service, Devils Tower: A Sacred Site to American Indians

•  Who File, Rep. Liz Cheny

•  Devils Tower: First Stories:

•  Reuters:  Native Americans want name change for Wyoming’s Devils Tower, by Laura Zuckerman,

•  The Spaniards brought horses to The United States. Read about Deerwood Eco Ranch that is caring for some in that now populate (over populate) the state.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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

Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethics — Does That Imply Valuing Justice, Too?

Yesterday I drove up behind a roofing repair truck.

It said in light blue letters on the tailgate, “BBB’s Torch Award for Ethics.”

I noted the company, Capitol Roofing, for the minor roof work we intended to do.

And honestly, who needing roof repair could see the ethics award sticker and not give them a call?

Then I became curious.

Is there a logical connection between ethics and justice, that idea that occupies so much of my thoughts?

The Oxford Living Dictionary says ethics are “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior . . .”

And justice is defined as “. . . the quality of being fair and reasonable.”

Even Plato tied these together by saying happiness, the ultimate goal, requires morality.

And morality involves wisdom, courage, moderation, and, yes, justice.

I read that this particular ethics award is nearly impossible to earn.

The website for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Northern Colorado and Wyoming explained.

A Torch Award “shines the spotlight on businesses and nonprofits that exemplify outstanding ethics.”

A company is ineligible if it has less than a “B” rating and any unresolved complaints.

Capitol Roofing knows well the rigors of making the cut.

And that is probably why their 2014 win is prominently displayed.

By the second or third red light the truck and I shared, I felt settled.

My logic said an ethical company also values social justice.

And that brings me comfort.

But just in case I’ve misunderstood Plato or the dictionary, I won’t be running my theory by a philosopher.

Simply put, my conclusion works for me.

And if happiness comes to the owners and workers at Capitol Roofing, all the better.

Take Action!

•  Read about the BBB Torch Awards for Ethics

•  Take a look at Capital Roofing in Cheyenne, WY

•  Read about Ethisphere, which gives out awards to the most ethical companies world wide

•  Re-read about two non-profits I’d like to see win ethics awards, Climb Wyoming and Hole Food Rescue.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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


Giving Up Single-Use Plastic Comforts and Conveniences

We just returned from 10 days on the road.

1,900 miles and only about 5 of those outside of Wyoming.

It’s a big state and a long way to travel without plastics.

But we didn’t do that.

I watched as the soda bottles, caps and food wrappers piled up, and clothes needing washing were shoved into plastic hotel laundry bags.

And all the while discomfort seeped in.

It’s impossible to ignore that I am an active part of the single-use plastic problem that plagues the world.

What to Do?

A recent Scientific American article said we’re being hoodwinked if we think good recyclers / bad recyclers — simply recycling — is the answer.

“Our huge problem with plastic is the result of a permissive legal framework that has allowed the uncontrolled rise of plastic pollution . . .” Matt Wilkins

It’s true, we should do simple things like decline plastic straws and supply our own beverage containers and grocery bags.

And we should encourage others to do the same.

But the bigger battle is all uphill when vested interests fight legislation.

A $6 million ad campaign financed by the plastics industry impacted plastic bag ban legislation in California.

And the beverage industry poured $14 million into averting a National Bottle Bill.

Shockingly, experts think that by 2050, there will be more plastics then fish in the oceans.

“Some 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean every year from land. And to put that into perspective, that’s one New York City garbage truck full of plastic going into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.”  – Nick Mallos, Ocean Concervancy

Hope on the Horizon

McDonald’s says it will end styrofoam use by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is looking at alternatives.

They are partnering to create a “circular economy model.”

It’s also referred to as “cradle-to-cradle” use of plastic materials.

And it involves innovative thinking to minimize waste by including plans from the getgo for reuse and recycling.

Additionally, National Geographic recently announced a multiyear initiative to reduce single-use plastics.

•. •

After our trip I set aside plastics to recycle and forgave myself for what I could have done better.

Any of us can speak up alone or collectively and demand change.

Yet if we do, we should be prepared to alter our own habits.

And that means foregoing comforts and conveniences that lure us to plastics in the first place.

If I’m truthful, that may be the hardest part of all.

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 Take Action!

Join me in taking the plastic-reducing pledge through National Geographic

And see how one Laramie restaurant, Sweet Melissa, has changed the culture of straws

Read More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution, by Matt Wilkins, Scientific American Blog Network, July 6, 2018

Listen to Here and Now, Americans Throw Out Millions of Plastic Straws Daily, and Here’s What’s Being Done About ItMay 2, 2018

Read about the plastic bag ban legislation in CaliforniaEnvironmental Nuisance or Grocery-Store Necessity? California Voters to Decide Fate of Plastic Bags, by Taryn Luna, October 8, 2016

Explore innovative collaborations regarding plastics at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Read the New York Times Article, Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe? Or Maybe Not, by Livia Albeck-Ripka, May 29, 2018

And read more in the New York Times Article, Six Things You’re Recycling Wrong, by Livia Albeck-Ripka, May 29, 2018

Read National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic?” accessed July 23, 2018,

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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


“The world needs more cowboys” — Self Discovery in the University of Wyoming’s New Slogan

Recently the Trustees of the University of Wyoming voted unanimously to adopt as the new recruiting slogan, “The world needs more cowboys.”

It has attracted negative press as well as praise, including from the Wall Street Journal for its unapologetic rebuff of political correctness.

I’m going to take a minute and think out loud.

I don’t have a deep connection to cowboys (we moved to Laramie less than a year ago).

So maybe that’s why I am flummuxed by the lack of unity I’m finding in those five words.

And specifically because of how I felt when I heard this slogan out loud, as I did last week-end.


I ached and pinched back tears that threatened to give me away as a dissident of the slogan while it was cheered by a room of supporters.

And, yet, like so many things in life, at the core of my discomfort was a chance for self-discovery.

Within my pain resides an awareness that I want things to be different than they are.

And its that very discontent, I understand from Buddhist friends, that feeds my misery.

Moving Away From Separation

Pistol Pete is the University of Wyoming mascot.

But still, I want there to be less separation in the world.

I want to live where there is respect and acknowledgment for others’ feelings.

I want to be in a place where attitudes of “that’s just the way we do things” is periodically checked and reconsidered.

Even if it’s uncomfortable and takes work.

Because that’s how and when real connection is made.

I  pinched back tears that threatened to give me away
as a dissident of the slogan . . .

I can trace the lump in my throat to lost possibilities for meaningful ways to connect with:

  • Bright Native Americans youth
  • Other peoples of color
  • Ideas that promote women and men moving toward balance
  • LBGTQ folks contributing vibrantly while assured safety in their lives

It seems introspection about this slogan is absent, though I can’t say that with certainty.

Most of us know that self reflections isn’t for the faint of heart because what you find can be hard to face and harder to remedy.

It’s lonely business.

Yet meaningful change and seeing the world in bigger ways can result.

So when I hear, “The world needs more cowboys,” I wonder. . .

If I stay the course with my feelings, especially the hard parts, will it lead me to understanding and empathy or deeper dissension?

It’s too early to tell but I’m willing to stick with it and find out.

.  .  .

Take Action!

•  University of Wyoming’s promotional video that accompanies the slogan.

•  “Higher Ed Needs More Cowboys: The University of Wyoming sticks to its guns against politically correct faculty,” Wall Street Journal, opinion, 7/13/18.

•  Safe Zone at the University of Wyoming.


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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is

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