We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Kaye Podschweit and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary Kaye, what matters most to you?
Since my anoxic brain injury from a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest three times, I’ve had to reinvent myself. The part of me that enjoyed challenges, math problems, and a good debate, that part of me died on November 22, 2013. Since then, I have been working life in first gear, sometimes, in park or neutral but always trying. Life for everyone, at some point, changes instantly. What I valued then, I really don’t remember, but what I value now is relationships, bringing joy, experiencing love, and being able to give all three freely. I’m not exceptional at anything. But that realization doesn’t prevent me from trying. I try. I try with my writing, whether it be non-fiction, short stories, or poetry. I find it easiest to express through words and painting, then trying discreetly to speak. Speech has been the most difficult form of communication to relearn. To see the words but not be able to articulate them used to be time-consuming. Seems rather silly, now I am sharing with you because I still get to love, to be a wife and mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I first entered the Art Therapy program, I was angry. I was never an artist. I enjoyed the exactness of working with numbers. I did not have the knowledge or prior experience to hold an artist’s pencil or brush, let alone create anything. Then, as I began creating, a part of me I never knew existed came alive. I began taking a blank canvas and expressing myself, my feelings. Since I couldn’t speak very well, this became a great outlet. I was learning. Although focusing was rather difficult, I would change mediums from graphite pencil to oil, acrylic, and watercolor. I worked on several pieces at once. Every piece of art you see from me is the fruition of many attempts, anxiety, and frustration, an accumulation of errors before I get one that I can say, “That’s not bad.” Every poem, short story, and even our story of how this happened and the process to find a new normal is a dutiful process. I can honestly share, I am not a talented writer or a talented artist. We wrote and published our two books, hoping to help one family. Since publishing, we have received notes from around the world of people who just needed a little hope. A little hope, don’t we all need that, HOPE? Art is objective. But with every piece, I have hidden a symbol. You can play where’s waldo, but they are all a secret. Heck, even I wouldn’t know where I placed a hidden symbol.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So many great adventures to be experienced in Colorado Springs. Walking tour of Garden of the gods. The most beautiful park in the country. A tour of the AirForce Academy. A difficult, but incredibly beautiful hike up the Incline to Barr Camp. After all this adventure, we will refuel at The Coffee Exchange downtown while enjoying the live jazz sounds from The Trēo. Then a nice cold craft beer from Jak’s Brewery. And of course, we will enjoy a night of dancing at the Boot Barn Hall listening to the best dance band, The Sofa Killers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I certainly would not be where I am today without the dedication of my family. My husband of twenty-nine years, Matt, who’s life also changed alongside mine. Aubrey and Emily, our daughters who put their own lives on hold to help take care of, encourage, and celebrate every milestone. Although I was the one fighting for my life, fighting to live, it was their lives that would change forever. I don’t know where you, the reader, are in your faith, but for me and my story, I wouldn’t be here without Jesus holding me in his arms, then telling me my “job is not done.” The kiss on the forehead and the love felt was one that I hope I truly will never forget. But this is my story, I am not asking anyone to believe it. Since reading is an issue, I rely on other stories, and how they have overcome obstacles. Although I have never skied before, I find the Ascencion podcast by Simon Dumont amazingly supportive, realizing how lucky we are to experience life. The Brain Injury Alliance offers great programs for not only the injured person but for the families as well. Without the art and music therapy programs, I just might sit in front of a window trying to remember my name. The patient coaches at Orange Theory Fitness and Coach Lori Castellini. Who continually challenged me to try. And since the pandemic, I am now a member of Peloton. Both are incredibly supportive communities that, without the accountability and encouragement, the celebration of milestones. They, my family, could easily lose me in sadness.
Facebook: MK Podschweit – Disabled Author and Artist