Thanksgiving and Thanksgetting

This is the time of year we get together with family and friends and commune. Sometimes we give thanks for things and people in our lives, sometimes we eat too much and fall asleep on the sofa, and sometimes we do both. I am sure the name Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have received, so is Thanksgetting. How often during the other 364 days of the year do we do this? How often do we look around at the people and opportunities in our lives and feel thankful. Being thankful, having gratitude is a physical experience not a mental one. It happens in our chests, in our hearts like the Grinch only in reverse. 

Lots of times when I teach gratitude exercises people are focused on their thoughts, on actions of others or a good burger. I have them think of someone who they are truly grateful for and think about that person’s role in their lives, what is it they do that makes them grateful, how do they feel about them. Then and only then do I see an inhale of breath, hear a shaky voice when they start to speak about that person. That is when they feel their chest open up and have a physical experience instead of a psychological one.  This is when they are getting it, really feeling the wonder of gratitude. It is not hard to do, we know that that science says that writing a heart felt thank you to someone can have lasting effects of well-being for the author of that note for up to a month. Yes, a month. 

We will readily drink and eat things that propose well-being: teas, concoctions, exotic foods, tinctures, and/or med’s when we are told we will feel good for a period of time. Why then don’t we take on a practice of giving thanks, of being thankful for getting to experience being here and for the people in our lives? Again, research shows that being of service, helping another person, volunteering, even writing a thank you note has sustainable feelings of wellbeing for long periods of time. 

I am a practitioner of gratitude; I can look at the nature around me and be profoundly grateful for where I landed in Oregon. I can listen to friends and family and appreciate the humor; love and support I feel from them. Sometimes it happens via a meditation, a quiet cup of tea, a laugh over a martini. There is this welling up from deep that small bubble of joy, of gratitude for that moment. It reminds me that life is good, if only for this moment. I then tuck that memory away like a squirrel for tough long dark nights of the soul. 

I do write thank you notes for no reason, not as often as I like but I am working on it. There is a vulnerability there in telling someone how import they are, or calling out the acts of love, tenderness, help that support and supported you in chaotic times. My experience with being depressed, miserable in my life has given me a sense of wonder about people and things around me. Being witness to my father’s slow whittling away as he slid to his death and my younger sister’s short ferocious battle with leukemia sharpened my sense of how very fragile this life is and how grateful I am for the moments, good and bad. 

The bad moments, the painful things make me feel acutely alive, shitty, but alive. I get to be here now to live, to love and to screw up on a regular basis. I appreciate the scope of emotions and experiences in being human that comes through learning and being vulnerable. You can’t have a rollercoaster with only ups, there has to be downs in the ride or it’s not a ride at all. I get to watch people I love find themselves, struggle, and triumph, as I do the same, giving thanks for getting to be here, be here now and together through the good and the bad. I get to support, to grow, fight and take naps. Appreciating this wonderous, crazy fucking ride we are on and savoring all of it is why I am here. 

I implore you to stop, to pause once a day to soak it in. To reach out and say thank you in a heartfelt way to someone. Help a stranger, a struggler, or a stray because that is what community does. We get to show up for each other, to support, to share beginnings and endings of days and lives. Give Thanks for getting to do that, celebrate Thanksgetting every day. Now stop boggarting the pie and pass it this way because who doesn’t want to celebrate with pie?

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

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When there is nothing in the tank

Sometimes there are no words. No ideas, nothing interesting pulling me this way or that. There is nothing in the tank but the practice of creating, the commitment to myself, to try and show up at the blank page on a regular basis. To try to make something, out of nothing. That is the thread of creativity: to make something new out of what you think, feel or have lying about and what’s lying about is mostly the junk in your head and heart. These are all the same practices I use to build a life and so do you. 

We show up in our family unit a blank page to them, but fully ourselves to us. They write on us to figure out who we are and how we fit into the family. We take some of those assigned traits on and other traits we rebel against and peel off in chunks over time. We do this same thing in every job we walk into. We know who we are, and present a resume, they see the blank slate of what does this really look like, and they again guess about who we are. We either allow those guesses to stand or show them in our acts and deeds who we really are. 

Our every action, what we do, shows those around us who we are, not what we say. In this we are always becoming. We are creating our lives from the inside out, taking our hearts desires, our inspirations and even our fears and putting them out into the world in our actions or inactions. 

Every morning is a new blank slate, a new day to be and act that is more in alignment with yourself or not, simple as that. Each act, word, deed moves us further away from ourselves or closer to who we are. Some days that blank slate is daunting because we are overwhelmed, tired, lost and it all feels too much. Those are days to be gentle with ourselves, as tender with our feelings and thin skin as we would be with a wounded bird. There are times we are warriors and push through fear and doubt with trust in ourselves and the universe.  Other times we just do it because we are stubborn. That would be me. If I make a promise to others and myself, I work hard at making my word and actions align. Sometimes it is that stubbornness that makes me show up and habit makes me stay. 

Sometimes I rest, I take a break and fill my tank with adventures, other times I do it with naps, with reading, with exploring places and ideas. I always come back, I always come back to the blank page, the frustration, the excitement of following one word with another like chasing down a purse snatcher in grimy, trash littered, uneven alleys to take back what is mine. Because it is in this nonsensical way that I string my words, my dreams, my habits, my life together. This creative life is mine to keep or let go, that is my choice. Being stubborn, I will chase that mother fucker down and get my shit back. 

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

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What we leave behind

When I leave a job, a room and this lifetime I hope to have left every person and place better for me having been there. To do good things, to be thoughtful, to be funny, to be helpful and of course to enjoy the fuck out of my life and help others do the same is the goal while I’m still there.  Do I always do this, no but I set the intention and try every day. The goal being to produce that pebble in the pond causing a ripple of light, of play, of goodness however small. Small acts of kindness and grace travel the world in those ripples. 

Setting my intention based on my core values and living from the inside out is what helps sustain, guide and hold me up in times of struggle and enables me to live the way I do. Knowing who I am and how I want to be in the world helps inform my choices and by doing that I am happier with results. I am living my life as opposed to letting life happen to me and reacting to it. I am trying to put a pause in situations so I can respond rather than react. I am working with my intuition, my gut, and using those tools as a way that brings me to clarity.

I work hard at trying not to get sucked into the drama around me in the news. I watch, I listen and take that in and choose what I can do to move my locus of control, which is only me, then I move in a direction to be of service to myself and others. That is why I am here. I think it is important to get a clear understanding of why we are here. This concept has helped point me in a direction using my heart, gut, and Spidey senses to navigate and not get blown off course by the world’s spinning. If I can hold center in myself, I can stand at the eye of a storm, feel and see it all and not be lost in it. 

These are hard won skills. They take time to hon through practice, intent, humility and humor the key ingredients for learning and changing. You notice intelligence is not listed… our brain is not our sharpest tool in the kit, it is important to validate things, but curiosity is far better for problem solving and learning. Taking time with ourselves, journaling, noticing our choices without judgment and getting to know who we really are instead of who we were told we are or think we should be is the first huge step to living with intention. 

I highly recommend using a journal, taking up a loving kindness practice of mediation or yoga, walks in nature doing something that starts to put you in a quiet space with yourself not in relation to anyone else. Start to recognize that calm voice deep inside that points or suggests and tap into it. Pay attention to what it says, to what happens when you second guess yourself and ignore it. Just notice, you don’t have to do more than listen, watch and learn from yourself about yourself. Nobody has the manual to you but you. It is an inside job.

With some practice you get some clarity about who you are, what you are really like, and that what you feel is important. You learn to recognize what you need to do verses what you think you should do. Learning to shut out the noise of the world for periods of time, is key. Sometimes being without our significant others to get that alone time is important. If I am not clear on who I am, how can I be clear who I am with you?

Our autonomy and our gifts are what we bring to our community, our relationships and the world. Knowing our strengths and struggles help us be there for others in a genuine way. Not in the role of rescuer that undermines someone else’s power and says I know best, but rather in support, in empathy, in helping to hold space for their growth. Bringing our whole self into that room, that job, that relationship and that lifetime knowing who we are and how we can help, support, grow, cry and laugh together is the key. Knowing who we are and living with clear intent allows us to be flourish and create spaces for others to flourish as well. What will you leave behind?

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

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I Don’t Care

I have lived alone for most of my adult life. I know how to buy and sell houses, find a plumber, locate the nearest ER, cook for myself, do almost everything for myself. I cannot however manage to get my clothes on right-side out.  At least twice a month I look down and notice, hours into my day, that my shirt is inside out. 

I work from home and frequently zoom but even on days I am out in the world. One memorable time I had just started a new job as a high school counselor. A few hours into the today I had my jacket off and was in a crowded hallway filled with lanky, stinky, loud adolescents and some over wrought faculty when I got a tap on my shoulder. A soft-spoken English teacher I knew slightly leaned over and whispered in my ear my shirt was on inside out. He looked positively stricken with embarrassment having to tell me. Or maybe he was embarrassed for me, I don’t know. Clearly, he hated to be the bearer of bad news in such a public place. He watched me with sympathy as his words sunk in. I reached over my shoulder to feel my tag at the back of my neck like a ticket for the hapless train I was aboard, and I burst out laughing. He was startled and I assured him it happened all the time and thanked him and shrugged it off in search of a bathroom to ameliorate my clothing debacle.

In my 30’s, at least one day a week while munching on my peanut butter toast and drinking coffee on the way to work, startling at a stop sign to remember to check my shirt’s orientation. When dressing and doing many things I am not always focused on the task at hand. That has led to some early embarrassment and later humor. I understand many people think that having your shirt inside out, a rogue chunk of hair darting off at a crazy angle, or a wrinkle or two on clothes and faces are embarrassing things and cringe at them. Those are not my people, not my tribe. I used to embarrass easily when I was younger but since I was embarrassing myself on a regular basis, like all things, I got better at it. Better at not caring when it was something silly to be embarrassed about, a mistake, a misstep and bumble, stumble and stomach rumble. I do love alliteration.

There is so much more I don’t care about as I get older because the things, I do care about matter so much more. I have less and less time on this planet and how I use it is the only thing that matters. 

The things that have slid way down the list of worries and embarrassment are things having to do with …My face, my soft body, wrinkles, weird clothes moments, bodily functions, wedgies, being wrong, mistakes, being understood, being right, being cool, being liked by people I don’t know or don’t care to know. The not caring list is exhaustive as it should be. This was not an overnight slide. Those who know me, know that when I was younger, I was hyper vigilant with a plan A, B, C, D and scripts for them all so I would not face embarrassment, look stupid or silly. The more I accepted my human frailty of being a goof ball the more head space I opened up for more important things. 

I teach my students not to do anything they wouldn’t want their grandmother to know about or they wouldn’t want on a billboard in their hometown. That focus helps identify choices that might cause embarrassment. Everything else is just being human and living in avoidance of being embarrassed is NOT living. It is a recreation of a life for daytime TV on public access stations. Meaning that it is a facsimile of life, a faded paper copy, it is a waste of time, energy, worry, anxiety etc. Letting go of what others are thinking, of worrying about being embarrassed is a brick-by-brick dismantling of what media might be telling us. So, it means we must put down our phones sometimes and have good, real conversations with the people who matter. Then go out into the world and do cool, fun, worthwhile things. Don’t look over your shoulder in real life or digitally to see who is following you just do it and then go do something else. The freedom this brings you is intoxicating, I promise! The stories that cause embarrassment for most people are just funny stories, they are lovely human bits of humor, humility, joy and chagrin all wrapped up together. The people who love me, love me because of who I am not despite of who I am. I am betting the same is true for you…

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

Follow me on Instagram @kbfreeburg

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What do you see?

Years ago, when my nieces were small maybe seven and ten, and phones were landlines, they and my sister and I went on an adventure. My idea was to go to the Catskill Game Farm, a smallish rural petting zoo back then. This zoo consisted of mostly benign animals including 17 kinds of deer and lamas, alpacas which you would feed little stinky nuggets from your hand. The girls had been there before but my twist this time was each of us were going to have a disposable camera for this tour and shoot the roll throughout the day. I would develop the film and we would have a viewing party for us. I thought it would make the trip more engaging for us all.  I thought it would be fun and a better distraction than just feeding fat deer, I didn’t think much more about it.

After I had the rolls developed and we all piled on the squishy green sofa in their living room we went through each roll one by one with the photographer adding some bits of insight and inviting comments. It was hilarious and eye opening. The pictures had a good bit of subject overlap, deer, deer, deer eye, deer poop, lama, lama, lama, turkey, unidentifiable poop. That being said, how we saw them and shot them was so vastly different. That did not include skill, we are talking point and shoot here. It was all perspective, perception and poop.  Yes, I was the only one who took a picture of a smashed Budweiser can jammed in a fork in a spindly tree, but I am an artist who likes to drink, what can I say. 

I knew people saw life differently and witnesses are notoriously bad at recounting what happened, which made this that much more fascinating. I thought it would be a lark, but it turned out to reveal more about the people I loved, why they liked what they liked, what they thought was beautiful, funny, gross and how they expressed those things visually. It brought home in the most solid way possible that the only way I might really understand what someone is seeing, thinking, knowing, is to ask them. Even if we are in the same room watching the same thing play out. Our collective experiences, beliefs, preferences, knowledge, prejudices, aesthetic, shape everything no matter how old we are. 

So, without asking, I don’t know what someone is thinking, or knows, or feels. Unless they ask for what they want or need, again, I don’t know and neither does anyone else. We need to ask each other what is going on and not make up stories in our head about what they meant when they said they were “tired.” None of this shit about I should know, or they should know what I am thinking. NOBODY knows what we are thinking or feeling without us having the courage to speak it, to tell them. We are not living in a world of mind readers and if we were… listening to our laundry list of mental gymnastics and bullshit is not interesting to anyone except those who know us and care for us and then only minimally.  

It is our birthright to feel our emotions, it is our responsibility to feel them, process them, talk about them if we want but we cannot blame someone else for our reaction . Most especially if our reaction is a trigger that has far more to do with us than them. On a side note, If our reaction is bigger than the event, it is tied to our past not what just happened. We are human, we emote. Emotions are important guides for us to understand what the hell is going on under the surface, they portend our actions, and are excellent ways to decode the mystery of us. What we feel and think are important, and it is up to us to communicate when we want people to understand something. 

We all are in the same world, with very different knowledge and experiences all of which shape how we move through it. Asking about someone’s view and how they came to it is a tool of curiosity, of being interested in their intent. Listening to understand and not just respond is the first step here. Just listen, ask questions, and think about it. Don’t compare experiences, don’t bogart the moment just try to listen. This is also very different than jumping to conclusions, dismissing someone who has a different opinion because of a story we made up about them. 

Listening to my nieces talk about their pictures, the experience of capturing what they were seeing and why they chose it was a lovely window into who they are. I highly recommend asking someone what they think, feel or understand from what they are experiencing even if you are in the same room, town, state and country. Being able to do this is difficult but it is the only way to create better relationships, connections, communities and real belonging. 

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

Follow me on Instagram @kbfreeburg

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There are important skills and practices we learn as children that are incredibly valuable. Some of those skills we continue to use into adulthood and some that should follow us, don’t. Practices like looking both ways before we cross the street, sharing, taking turns and blaming the dog or grandma when you fart, have traveled with us to adulthood. The practice of the Do Over we learned and enjoyed unfortunately has not.

For those who never learned or have forgotten – a Do Over is a chance to do something again because you messed up the first time you did it. Most importantly, there was no recrimination, stigma, loosing face, feeling awkward… essentially include all the words that make us feel shitty here. A Do Over was just part of being a kid, no big deal. We all took advantage of a Do Over. How perfectly sane is that?

When and how did we lose this lovely practice as we came into adulthood? Do Overs allow us to omit the sense of failure when we are not our best, when we are learning, when we are struggling. It invites in grace and humility and normalizes what learning and messing up really are. I make a mistake, I learned something from it, and I try again… no harm, no foul. 

Do Overs allow for stigma free learning, creating, inventing, being brave for trying new experiences. We need the grace that a Do Over delivers us when we are vulnerable. It affords us time, space, and community support to grow. This would normalize what we know to be a natural learning curve and allow us to embrace that journey without hiding, feeling stupid and denial. How different would schools, workplaces and our homes be if we brought back Do Overs?

How wonderful would it be if in a meeting, on a project, in the classroom, at the dinner table we could all call a Do Over, take a moment, a breath, invite in grace and take another whack at it? Sign me up!

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

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I never always…

Two words that raise a red flag for me are Always and Never. They alert me that the speaker, even when it is myself, is about to tell a story. That story is a construct, a myth that we have built to support something that is not true. It is something we may use as lore, a basis for decisions and support who we want to be as opposed to who we really are… regardless it is not true. 

Let me explain. Rarely if ever does something organically always or never happen to us without our influence. If I were to flip a coin it roughly comes out 50/50, I say roughly because every study has outliers where things go awry. When something always or never happens to us we are the common denominator. Let me say that again because it is important, we are the reason for our Always and Nevers. We have architected something to always or never happen to reinforce a belief we hold, a story we tell ourselves that is false.

Our choices and behaviors feed that Always and Never monster, but we have control of those choices. If these choices and behaviors are something we are not happy with, we need to look underneath the surface at our beliefs about ourselves, others and our past, especially our family of origin. What myths and stories were told to us about who we were in our childhood that might not be true, or we have outgrown?  What outdated works-self story have we told ourselves that is no longer true? What projection of others have we believed that there is no evidence for or that was manufactured to manipulate us? 

By tuning our ears to hearing the Never and Always leads us to question what really is going on, what is true and real. Listening for these red flags allows us to peer into the windows of ourselves and others. It can give us some idea of what is causing friction and discomfort in ourselves in that who we think we are or shouldbe is misaligned with our true self. It is that misalignment that causes us pain, depression, anxiety and to question our worth. 

As a side note, when we hear the word should it is also a red flag that our or someone else’s motivation is about external influences not internal. The should’s in our lives are about making decisions for others not ourselves. It indicates that this is something I think I need to do for others in societies terms of conformity which runs contrary to who we are and what we want. 

Years ago, someone I knew said all their previous partners “were always difficult or crazy”. I looked at them and laughed, shaking my head. Then I asked, “what was the common denominator?” They were stunned, like I had hit them in the head with a 2×4. They had not even seen their hand in the pattern they had created, over and over for years. Perhaps it was easier to lie to themselves and not look at the hard stuff, choosing to believe it was bad luck, or an entire sex was unbalanced. Talk about crazy…

There is no denying our hand in architecting our results when things Always and Never happen to us. The good part of this realization is we are able to start listening for these red flags and recognize that we are orchestrating something we may not want. We may begin to see we are perpetuating an old wound, an outdated belief, or we are avoiding something scary like an opportunity. Adjusting our behavior can give us a more desired outcome and support healthy change, learning, and growth…all of that is scary stuff. 

Making conscious choices gives us a life that feeds us, helps us to grow and bloom focused on intent and our passions. To use reasoning, instead of myth to open up our world helps us

to create more honest relationships with ourselves and others. Therefore, building deeper and more satisfying relationships and connections with the world around us. Watching out for our Never and Always, helps to point us in the right direction. It is like having a little decoder ring for ourselves to solve the wonder and mystery of us.

Cheers- Kyra

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

Follow me on Instagram @kbfreeburg

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Perfect Enemy

I know a lot of folks who work hard at being perfect and/or normal. Both of these things are fiction and if they weren’t, would you want to sit next to someone who is normal and perfect at a wedding? For me, the answer is no, in fact it is hell no. Voltaire said, “perfect is the enemy of good.”  Yes, because perfect is a construct, it’s subjective, and again fiction… not unlike one size fits all.

Perfect is the enemy of progress, we get stuck trying to get something to fit to an ideal or esthetic that we believe will deliver us to perfection. Doing that stops the creative flow, discovery, learning and growth. Perfect is the enemy of all those things including compassion, happiness and the stuff that makes life worth living. I am not saying don’t strive for an ideal, what I am saying is have it be a benchmark on the way to what unfolds into something wholly and wonderfully yours.

Me, I strive for authenticity, which is a very over used word, but it fits in the moment. What I want to work at is to take what I feel and see on the inside and distill it, capturing my thoughts, my quirks, my individual vision of the world and share that as best as I can. I believe we are more similar than different so when I tell my messy truth it resonates more with others than when it is manicured and manipulated. Hopefully my messy truth opens a door to others embracing theirs, maybe even normalizing it. Making our imperfect selves the real prize.

Knowing who we are and what makes us tick is the gift. The opening to this is not shrinking from the idea we are flawed, messy and cranky humans who are full of contradictions, petty lies and great compassion. Settling into the potpourri of our uniqueness is where the good stuff is. Our connection to ourselves is our gateway to building good connections to others. Perfect is the enemy of that connection to self and others and can lead us to feeling lonely, that we are faking it and that we are not enough.

When we start making choices from our inner guidance system rather than outside influences, we start to come into alignment with who we are and our purpose in this world. Aligning our core values with our actions creates a harmony within us which trickles out into the world. Like throwing a pebble into a pond and watching those concentric circles ripple out.

Being in alignment with my values leads me to action which then creates a reaction and progress down my path. This is the dance with the universe that I do: I take a step and then it takes a step. I have found these steps are usually out of my comfort zone, pushing me to grow and change for the better and always lead me to more joy. Taking our values and direction from the outside world when we are seeking perfection through social media feeds and what others deem to be valuable will only lead us further away from ourselves and our true road and happiness.

What the pursuit of perfection gets us is anxious, self-loathing and miserable. Making choices based on crowd sourcing data leaves us depleted because we are seeking alignment with something other than ourselves. We are our own source of power, passion and energy which comes from plugging into ourselves, nature, the universe and drawing it in like water and air. In doing this our actions lead us to tribe, to true community, to those who align with the same values, passions and purpose. That community then naturally support each other in a symbiotic way along the journey.

Perfect is the enemy because it is a huckster, it leads us further and further away from ourselves. We are being led to believe that those in the marketing department have the answer for us if we look this way, sound this way, dress this way our lives will be better. Nope we will just be someone else who is not too happy and poorer for the journey. Perfect is the enemy because it deprives us the chance to fall in love with all of who we are, to give voice to our unique view, to explore the world and ourselves in a genuine way. Letting go of what we “should” be allows us to just be our beautiful, funny, thoughtful, creative, cranky, lumpy human selves and deeply connect to each other. What an amazing gift that is…

Cheers, Kyra

To learn more about my Coaching practice and book a free sample session go to trueroadtraveler@com or send me a note at

To read more of my work or subscribe to this blog go to

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Monkey Glands and Such

When I hear that someone has died, I always want to know how. I am not sure why, it’s almost like I think there is a giant menu for deaths so I can know my options when the time comes. It’s like that old joke; I want to pass like my grandmother did, peacefully in her sleep. Unlike the passenger in her car.

Maybe this morbid curiosity was born out of the house I grew up in. Both my grandmother and mother loved movies, old movies in particular. My sisters and I grew up watching the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s with Kathrine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Rosaland Russel and William Powel. As we watched these, and other great films, we got tons of backstory and grizzly gossip on each actor provided by my grandmother and mother who were avid fans of movie star magazines in the day.  For us, they were the original Entertainment Tonight and TMZ. We’d hear how people died and who they had affairs with. While watching Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight we might hear she died of kidney failure and how it broke her fiancé William Powell’s heart. Learning that William Holden bled out in a hotel after falling was just another movie night at the Freeburg house.

Later my nieces Kaelea and Gillian were subjected to the same diatribe of facts when watching old movies with their mother and me. On road trips we would play the alphabet game with names of famous people i.e., the first person to go says Jean Harlow. The next person has to come up with a name starting with H, Henry Fonda. Our sick twist on this was if you knew how they died or any gossip you got bonus points. Generations of my family have useless, morbid movie gossip and trivia stuck in our heads. Perhaps we are horrible people, or maybe we have a gallows type humor for the tragic, twisted and awkwardly human aspects of life. We definitely could be both.

In my family we modify games, create moments and experiences to add weird twists solely to amuse ourselves and each other. As a teen I was enticed into jamming my lanky teenage body into an old mildewy mail carriers bag found in the basement during a contest to see who could get into the bag fastest. Once in, my sisters cinched the bag up and drug me to the front lawn and left me there to free myself. I heard my sisters footsteps recede as I desperately tried to expel myself from my canvas womb.  Their laughter was near hysterical as they moved away, and I heard the front door slam leaving me rolling there on our manicured suburban front lawn in a wild panic to escape. Whether it be teasing, torturing each other or inventing adventures were boredom lie, we were raised to create fun. Sometimes twisted, but none the less amusement was had by most, i.e., see above on being stuck in a mail bag rolling around on front lawn.

In later years that fun has consisted of wanting to bring back language and culture from the 30’s and 40’s, using words like gams and stems for legs, or calling a dopey person a mook. While my sister Chris was visiting me in San Diego, we decided we needed to bring back an old cocktail that had a crazy name. This was before the era of craft cocktails, mind you. We spent hours looking for the perfect drink while chatting. For it to be good it had to have tasty ingredients and a bizarre name that might elicit a reaction from the waitstaff. A bonus might be that it become popular again.

After much searching a Monkey Gland won. We could think of no funnier thing then to dress up, go to a fine dining establishment and ask the waiter for a couple of Monkey Glands. After settling into our plush seats our waitress asked if we would like to start with a cocktail. I asked her for a couple of Monkey Glands which is essentially gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe. No monkeys are harmed in the making of this cocktail. Unless of course they have trained monkey’s for bartenders. Though I think their penchant for throwing their own feces would hurt an A rating with the health department and trifle with the patrons dining experience, to say the least.

After I ordered our glands there was a long pause, in which our waitress’s eyes widened a hair and then she gave a small nod before returning to the bar. Watching them I could see the bartender shrug and pick up her phone and I imagine research how to make a Monkey Gland. We laughed and enjoyed the moment even if there was a subdued reaction. The fun was in the process of finding the drink, building it up in our heads, and ordering them. It was less about other people.  It was about exercising our sense of whimsey, humor and quirk. Finding small things that can make us laugh has been a great way to create a life that feeds us, that is playful and brings enjoyment, which has helped in dealing with stress and trauma. Finding fun and laughter between the drama, work and funk makes for a richer life. How we choose to articulate it doesn’t look like someone else’s life, but that is okay, it just has to fit us.

Creating ways to have fun, to play and own your weirdness is key to accepting yourself, your past, and your family. Knowing that we are all awkward, goofy and silly even as adults is a good first step. Ultimately, we want to appreciate and love who we really are and from that know our worth.  I think people believe that when they become an “adult” they should leave these things behind. That is a lie, our sense of play and humor are the things that sustain us, lead us to ourselves and deeper connection with others. Taking life too seriously is a mistake, it’s not like we get out alive. What we want in the end is to have lived a rich life, to love and be loved, to leave this place better than we found it. Whether that is a room, a job, or the planet. So why not on this short weird little journey enjoy it, relax into who you are, play a game and have a couple of Monkey Glands?

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Years ago, my youngest sister, Amy, died of leukemia. She fought a good fight to ultimately succumb to it after only 10 months. She was brave and hilarious to the end, even in the face of some horrible, painful, very very scary stuff. There are five of us, no boys, just a small riot of former Freeburg girls and each of us tried our best to help her. We all know or have known someone who has or had cancer; it is an unwelcome familiarity. It is all too common, unimaginable except when it is happening to you. When it is you, that is what makes the surreal, real… this is not my beautiful life. 

During her fight with cancer, she had toxic chemicals being pumped into her body on a daily basis, her system reacting by giving her sores in her mouth, serious fevers, whole body racking chills that literally rattled her teeth, and so much more that I have no insight to as I was only on the sidelines. Sometimes those sidelines were states away, so in reality I know next to nothing. In this instance, to add insult to well, uh disease she lost her hair. Being bald for a guy is tough for a woman it is devastating.  Amy had a long thick mane of blonde hair; the rest of us got some serious recessive hair gene, its wispy, baby fine, bird downy, crap hair. One sister is so artful in managing her tresses that they almost look solid; I once referred to them as a Vegas act because the illusion is just that good.

When it came time for our first round of visits and subsequent presents, we brainstormed but for the most part went with things she had mentioned. Chris, the Vegas act coiffure, went with a whole bag of beauty: accoutrements for pedicures, body and face moisturizers, tweezers and a well-received electric razor. It seems that when your hair falls out during chemo it mostly all does, except the stuff you spend your adult life trying to remove. Its things like this that makes me believe the universe is absurd. Another sister, Susan, brought her a whole entire set of expensive mineral based make-up complete with a video. Amy watched it at least a half dozen times as there was a lot of blending, tapping and swirling to get on the first go around. She loved her gifts and each I believe helped make her feel more normal and whole. When she finally lost all of her hair she put out the word that she wanted great head gear, funny, pretty, the whole gambit of hats. The wig option was also in the works, they had come in a variety of hues from fire engine red, to California blonde with black roots, so maybe the latter is more trashy California blonde. Amy was blonde naturally then helped it along to strikingly streaky golden, so a good wig fit was difficult.

Amy was an eighth grade English teacher; she loved teaching, loved the kids and they in return loved her. One of the things she told friends and family was that she wanted an aviator helmet. The leather fly caps like snoopy wears on scrimmages with the Red Barron. She thought it would be great fun to teach in and the kids would get a kick out of it. I told her I would find her one no problem. A few searches via the internet and I had a black leather aviator cap ordered. I believed a fashion statement such as this required goggles, so I ordered a pair of them as well. It turned out that along with the purchase of her fly boy cap came a 12-15-page biography of a Vietnam veteran. So, she was able to toss out his memories as her own at such events as cocktail parties and the flushing of her chest pump by the nurses.

My sisters choose presents that Amy really needed, that had value in helping her pull back in some of her essence, her sense of Amyness, the bits that the chemo eroded. My gift to her was something preposterous, something she wanted not needed. I sent some whimsy, a laugh, and a good story. In the end it hit the mark which is all I cared about.

She went home after that round of chemo and we all waited for the results of a blood test to see which one of us would win the lottery for an almost all expense paid weeks’ vacation in a Tampa hospital for a stem cell transplant and a chance to be part of her cure. During that week she and I had a long chat about important things, pie and candy in particular. There is only so much white blood cell, platelets and infection talk you can have before one winds up in candyland. After a very long and involved conversation about our love of candy and concurring on the proper way to eat jujuy fruits in a theater, we agreed these advanced methods are not always common knowledge but best practices in jujuy eating. The procedure is you need to hold them up to the screen so you can see what color you are eating. Amy did this so she ate no black jujies, she hates black licorice. Not me, I love it and benefited that nobody in our house liked black licorice but me, so I got all the black jellybeans and didn’t have to trade for them. That left me fat and happy literally.  For me, the checking of jujuy color is that I don’t like to repeat flavors of my jujies when I can help it, it messes up a fine candy experience. After this discourse I decided to send her an 8lb bag of jujuy fruits. My note accompanying the gift expressed concern for her teeth, as both she and I need to hold the jujies in our hands for a minute or two to soften them up before eating them. This is to try to prevent the removal of fillings, cracked or damaged teeth and uh, the strong solidly entrenched teeth as well. Let’s face it jujuy is some strong stuff, softened it just leaves you hours of fine gummy goodness stuck to your enamel but in straight from the box hardness you are looking like a jack-o-lantern in no time.

My gift of the jujuy was received well. Amy left a message on my answering machine saying it was more like a 20lb bag of candy.   Seeing how they are small and light little suckers it must have been an unwieldy mass of nuggetized hardened corn syrup. She went on to say that she had squealed like a four-year-old when it had arrived. I can think of no better review of a gift than that. The bag it seems was sitting on the couch in an upright position as it was the size and weight of a toddler. She finished her message saying she was debating whether to dress it. I never heard If she did, as she was back in the hospital within a week or two for the next set of chemo.

Amy loved her presents, they made her laugh and I hope to feel loved, which she is. I am not very good at saying such things and hoped my gestures, such as aviator helmets, giant bags of candy, and dopy messages on her cell phone, conveyed that. I don’t think too many people say I love you, and when they do I fear most don’t really mean it, in particular when it is said easily. Perhaps that is just my prejudice or Samsonite cluttering reality. I think that when someone of few words, especially in the arena of feelings, says they love you, that that is a small miracle.

In the face of the unimaginable, of disease, and questions of mortality things like whimsy, laughter and quiet love do alright. Well, that and you can never underestimate the power of candy.

Cheers – Kyra

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