Get Your Miracle?

Home is Where You are You

I went back to Alexandria, Virginia to do a reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble, on my birthday. I stood in front of first friends, neighbors, teachers, cast mates, classmates, teammates and even my former principal, who is 93 but still able to reminisce. As I spoke, my judgment voice screamed, “Shhh! You’re ruining it.” I’ve been delivering speeches, performing monologues and facilitating dialog for years. Years! It began here so why was it so difficult? Why was I searching for and tripping over my words? Why was I choked up and inarticulate? Was it because this is home? I’ve made this trip back a hundred times. As I read from the chapters on my childhood I referenced my birth, the labor to which began in spitting distance from this bookstore that didn’t exist back then. I spoke of my mom’s aha moment when she knew she was pregnant. The restaurant my parents celebrated in was still standing and again, mere blocks from where I was reading. I recounted throwing table cloths on the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard of our home and and gave a shout out to our then realtor. He was in the audience with his wife.

 

Then it came time to talk of the miracle, and I just lost my mojo.

 

I couldn’t speak to the miracle people pay to see, the miracle that’s been documented and celebrated worldwide as I stood in front of these people who raised me and shaped who I would become. Aside from being Clair Huxtable/Phylicia Rashad, my miracle/dream/goal was to live and breathe as myself, harness my skills, be elevated by them and paid for them and in turn help those less fortunate. I was doing that, no? Still, I hadn’t fully experienced being Kate, as is, all grown up in my hometown. And it was happening. It took my breath away. My body felt small like I was playing dress-up in one moment, fully cognizant as an adult the next. Flashes of my life’s experiences stood before me: learning to ride a bike, twirling baton, playing piano, scoring a goal, numerous dance routines, Christmas parties and then the pain of being torn away from all of the innocence and joy to move over an ocean, face cancer, grow up without my people. It was very trippy. There were no words to fully express the magnitude of my reality. Yet, amidst all the ‘stop sucking’ jingle that repeated in my head, I faced my people – and they will always be my people — more empowered and grateful then I’ve ever been before. After all these years I could, miracle aside, miracle believed or not believed in, be celebrated for simply existing. We don’t do that enough as humans, celebrate each other just because. We need to.

 

This Fall and heading into next year I’ll be celebrating my origin story and 25 years in remission! If you’d like me to come to your hometown and learn more about you, your origins and what you want to be celebrated for, please send me an email and we’ll start the conversation.

 

Thank you to Barnes&Noble Potomac Yard, Headmaster Baytosh and the ACDS family and to all of you in the Rosemont neighborhood and beyond.

 

Be well,

Kate

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

24 and a Year Later…

One year ago today I launched my website and thought I’d be published within a couple months.

This year maybe I’ve finally learned that patience and acceptance are equal to hope and writing things in pen in my day planner. Yes, I still have a day planner. 24 years ago today I lay in an Intensive Care Unit, in a hospital that had been my home for months already, in a town that was not where I grew up, in a community where lots of people I didn’t know were invested in me and had already taken ownership of me even though we hadn’t met.

That’s one piece to my story. (Insert reminder that my book comes out tomorrow here)

24 years ago today my breathing tube was removed. My vocal chords were bruised and broken after relying on a vent for 47 days; My lungs scarred and weak, unable to fully support my breath. I had been an athlete, a singer and a confident little lady. Who was I now?

I didn’t get out of the hospital for several months after this moment. The rest of my body was also ravaged and compromised. But the inability to use my voice, create sound, ask on my own for what I needed or wanted was utterly terrifying and far more than humbling. It took almost 8 years before the voice I knew that lived in me physically worked in a way that didn’t leave me with pain or exhaustion. And it took years still to access the belief in myself to use my voice as a tool and a gift. Throughout this phase of my life I had to explain to people that I was not getting over a cold.

My raspy voice is here to stay. The voice I had as a child is not gone. But it has changed.

This last week people I love – on all sides and opposite ends of the political spectrum, belief in Ghandi to Google, have used their voices.
On this day, I want to thank all of you. For me it isn’t about agreeing with what you are saying but that you are using what you have to say it. I ask that you think before you speak, if only for a moment, to remember that this thing you have called a voice, is incredibly powerful and uniquely yours. Not all people have a voice and not all people feel safe or able to use theirs.

I promise my next post will be of my lunch or a sunset.

Happy Monday. Thanks for reading.

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

A Little Sneak Peak

Hi there!

“Chosen” never felt accessible to me, when I allowed others to determine what the weight of it should mean.

I think back to my life as a child. My bedtime prayer was, “God bless everyone and everything, living or dead, in this world or the next.” I was taught many prayers and much about faith in my formative years; but this was a prayer I’d created for myself. It’s been the core of my beliefs every day since. In prayer–like all belief systems–we have an opportunity to transform. We ebb and flow. We are reaffirmed. We learn, we change, we grow.

I remain the woman my parents raised who believes all people deserve a life that affords them opportunities to provide for themselves and those they love, those who love them and those we don’t love as much as we should. This choice is not always easy. In my accessible memory, I was chosen before I asked to be. I was chosen before I agreed to be. I was chosen when I didn’t want to be. For those of you who believe I did ask, agree and want whether I recollect it or not? Fair play to you; my story is as much about humanity as it is divinity.

It’s a lot to ask one person to carry the burdens, fears, judgments, loves and hopes of a whole society on their back. I have been that person. I will continue to be that person. To me, that’s what chosen is. I am chosen the same as anyone else, but it’s taken time for me to own it.

I believe people can come together in the circumstances of humanity to embrace and move forward as one! Despite what on the outside would appear to be polarizing differences that might exist at times in our life, or within our communities; we can put aside judgments, and realize that we have more in common than our differences.

Within that ambitious intention are days-simple, repeating days. There are no servants to dress me in robes; I pick up my own laundry off the floor, too. Every now and again, I open my eyes and immediately plan and plot for the minute I can crawl back into bed. More often than not my dog ignites a fire under me to get out the door to start our day.

We begin with my stretching, her assessment of my morning breath, our search for her leash or my sock. These things are not a grand miracle, but they are at times an attempt against seemingly insurmountable odds. Once outside, she sniffs and I take in the stillness of the morning, and the sunrise. We both enjoy the birds.

I know I am chosen, not for what I can do with the rest of my day, but for the reality that in that moment, I am actually given a gift in the presence and the power of an entire world going from night into day, all of which happens with or without my permission or acceptance.

The mundane nature of most days–working out, breakfast, dishes, emails, writing, grocery shopping, errand running, phone calls, meetings–these too are things I could compartmentalize and speak to as gifts, blessings and opportunities from which to learn and grow. In the grand scheme of things, they are. But when I’m stuck in traffic, the tub won’t drain or I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from, my go-to is not typically a move associated with gratitude.

This is why I mediate. I didn’t used to, but I actually need to mandate that silence in myself; otherwise, I’m prone to distraction or the temptation of calling someone an expletive outloud and to their face. My brand of chosen is more like an old shoe; it’s worn but still walking and shows signs of occasionally kicking ass.

Whenever we can, my pup and I team up again for a sunset stroll, taking in the sounds and sights of the day, observing people winding down, and settling in. Invariably, there are things on TV I want to watch: news of the day both in reality and in theory. The impactful to the less impressive stories in the global community each have merits. Every voice is one of a person who believes they have something that needs to be heard.

When I turn out the light and put my head on the pillow, depending on my energy, I say prayers. Some are traditional and in my brain from childhood; others more a wish for people who spoke to me that day.

Regardless, I always say thank you. As the world goes once again from day to night, I may be chosen, but I’d be an ingrate not to acknowledge that which remains greater than me.

In this light, I welcome you to my story. It took me a while to get here, to this place where I live in a mindset that I am as human and imperfect as I am Chosen and worthy. It’s a total package deal with no expiration date and plenty of opportunity for continued growth.

The world we live in can feel at times to be fractured; but if we look at human behavior, we learn that we all have basic needs, understandable wants, hopes and dreams worthy of respect. Victim or survivor, thief or hero, parent or child–we all deserve to be heard, honored and loved.

As you pick up and put down this book, trust that you’ll always be reading what you’re meant to. Because, you see, I think we are all chosen; we all end up where we are supposed to be.

And some might say that’s a miracle…

Kate

 

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

Inside the Misfit Miracle Girl (Continued)

Why Mother Marianne Cope?

Mother Marianne personified devotion to God and Medical Administrative expertise. She is not only sainted in the Catholic Church due in part to her intercession in my recovery but she is in the National Women’s’ Hall of Fame for her Contributions to Healthcare at the policy level from infection control to advocacy. She is the one who took a brothel and made it a hospital. She’s the one who welcomed unwed mothers, alcoholics, and other pariah of her time into her care. She is the one who took an island colony, a veritable prison and made it a sustainable home for lepers. She set the bar high with a standard of dignity for all. She’s a model to me of what it is to be badass with just the right touch of diplomacy.

Why Mother during my illness? A nun in the third order of Franciscans in Syracuse (who had been charged with the task of getting Mother canonized) was having dinner with her cousin, a congressman (who was my father’s former boss.) He shared that I lay dying in Intensive Care at a nearby hospital. Sister inquired as to whether or not my parents would be open to shifting prayers to Mother Marianne specifically, asking her to intercede in my recovery. While my family was faithful and praying it appeared that it would indeed take a miracle for me to survive and they agreed.

 Why share the story in book form – Misfit Miracle?  What’s the message for us?

Every book I have has dog eared pages, highlighted lines, pencil notes in the margins. I love holding a book in my hands, getting lost in it, using it as a tool to grow or be entertained. I want everyone to have that opportunity with The Misfit Miracle Girl.

In college I co-wrote and performed a one-woman show about my life and I always knew there would be a sequel. I didn’t think it would come 15 years later. I view the whole world as script, prop, and character- endless material. Quite literally this book started years ago as notes scribbled on little legal pads in every room of my house, in my car and in my purse. The physical act of writing is an imperative part of my communicative muscle memory.

I would like readers to know:

  1. You matter – thoughts, feelings, and dreams, all of it.
  2. If you want to measure success by seeing only what those around you have, congratulations, you’ve arrived. It takes much more to own your truth and power just as you are and trust that it’s not simply enough, it’s everything.
  3. Respect one another’s belief. Unity can be found in disagreement.

 How have you transformed?

I think my biggest transformation is that by getting this book out of my head and on to paper I no longer feel shipwrecked. The process of writing this book has been one of recovery, catharsis and great joy.  I am supposed to be the vehicle for inspiration. I am supposed to be the face of one person’s joy and another’s loss. I still want to look good when I leave the house and I want people to feel that I am kind and compassionate but I really don’t care if you’re not ready to hear what I have to say because I’m going to say it. For all the gratitude I have, I’m finally unapologetic, too.

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

Inside the Misfit Miracle Girl

Hello and Happy holidays to each of you. Several months ago I was interviewed for a short film on the transformative power of story. This week, i’m sharing my answers to some questions about how my life made this story and what brought my story to life, please check back each day.

Why misfit miracle girl?

We live in a world where we are all too comfortable defining people by their labels, which is not to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge and honor heritage, ethnicity and any other belief system that makes us who we are. But, for me, I’ve been labeled misfit or miracle. I don’t like that divisive concept. The title is also a play on words because in this role I’ve learned that people have very strong beliefs or disbelief in miracles. There are people who think I am a miracle and therefore I should act, talk or even think a certain way. On the flip side, those who don’t believe in miracles place their own judgment on me because in certain circles I have been given this title, I must not be interested in secular opinions. Again, with the divisiveness! Why do we set ourselves up to be devalued?  I have felt out of place just like everyone else at one time and this book is about ownership of my existence, getting comfortable with the fact that I am both a misfit and a miracle and everything in between, because I’m human.  I think we all experience these dichotomies at one time or another.

Do miracles exist?

The short answer is yes, they do. But, I still think in society we set ourselves up to fall short in the miracle department. If I had a miracle it should in no way mean, I’m better than you or more deserving. I think life in all of its pain and suffering and joy and hope is equally miraculous. There is no greater miracle than the journey of human experience, but we’ve established a good so that we can identify bad and we’ve set up judgment about what’s right so we can tell others their wrong. By that logic I am the recipient of a miracle but if I speak or step out of turn, I’m not doing enough with it maybe I didn’t deserve it… The circumstance of humanity is all around us and tangible. For me that is miraculous. Using it as a metric like keeping up with the Jones’ is wasteful and diminishes our experiences.

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

October Surmise

The first presidential October surprise and the Cub’s last World Series reside in the somewhat sacred archives of our nation’s institutional memory. This month I was reminded of my place in it all.

One of my first memories is my father teaching me how to oil my baseball glove. We played catch for hours while he talked me through over handed versus underhanded pitches and told me stories of his childhood when he played using sticks as bats and cans as balls with the neighborhood kids. As far as I was concerned we were the only two people in the world. My awareness shifted when he brought me into work. I learned that there were not only different worlds but people who held vastly different world views. Pop worked on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist-not one of thousands, one of only a few hundred. Lobbyist wasn’t the toxic moniker it is perceived to be today, rather a proud label of one who networked out of a sense of service. Like baseball, when the game was over, teams on both sides essentially showered off and went out to celebrate or lick their wounds. My pop and his friends worked as hard as they played. I can still feel the energy around campaigns in our house – electric! Elections were pennants and trophies, colleagues were teammates, term limits the season. It wasn’t idyllic. It actually was standard operating procedure to respect the people who played the game and give gratitude to those who participated in it. The notion that all people could be and should be heard was instilled into me whether we were playing catch or watching the McLaughlin Group – which we did every week.

On my eighteenth birthday we were living in Syracuse. Our life had been upended by my illness, among other things. I was given the opportunity to register to vote in my high school government class. Instead, Pop picked me up from school, drove me down to the board of elections, introduced me to everyone in the office and proceeded to take photos of me as I signed my name to my voter registration. The honor of participating in my future as an engaged citizen mattered. To Pop, this was my chance to say to America, “Put me in, Coach!” His enthusiasm surrounding my role in the political process never wavered, no mattered where I was.

When I moved to Chicago, Pop called me with specific instructions:  find out where my alderman was; stop in city hall and introduce myself; give Senator Durbin’s office a call and let him know I was there and be sure to identify my polling place once I’ve registered. It never occurred to him that any of this would be less than the norm or not a top priority of a young 20 something. Pop’s next request, “See if you can rustle up a couple tickets to a Cubs game.” Funny, even though we went to Orioles games’ in Maryland and later lived in NY, the Cubs held magic and mystique for my father. I think it was their history of hope and their evergreen belief in next year next year.

It was a clear Father’s day weekend when he arrived at my apartment north of Wrigleyville. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d spent my entire paycheck on the tickets for the game. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford the seats it’s just that with Pop’s cancer I needed to plan for the worst and best case scenario. I needed something that had shelter, something on an aisle, something near the restroom and a something near a ramp with not too many stairs. The walk was too far for him in this condition so we hopped in a cab, sporting our Cubs attire. We took our seats and ordered our hotdogs. I hate hot dogs, but something about a ball park hotdog with my Pop gets me every time. As we sat, my life with my father flashed before my eyes. I could smell the oil of my baseball glove. He was physically weaker and feeble still his passion was on point. Then he did what I guess men of a certain age do, regardless of their whereabouts. He leaned slightly in is seat…and farted. And then pretended like nothing happened. One whole paycheck and a life of memories literally snuffed out. I was mortified, entertained, honored-all part of the total package. We stood for the national anthem, both of us tearing up-not because of the song which Pop always maintained was not written in a key for normal mortals, but because we were both so overwhelmed at our joy of being in this historic place, knowing it could be our last game together. (It wasn’t of course because in my family cancer has become more of a hobby than anything else.) After the first pitch this man, my Pop,  next to me was literally back in the game.  He called 5 plays in a row before they happened. His sense of who was on the field and what needed to be done was so mesmerizing that a woman behind us leaned over to him and said, “What’s going to happen next?”  Pop was in his element strategizing, teaching. He was participant, historian and spectator all in one. He cheered, hollered and gleefully yelled, “Play Ball!” I have absolutely no idea who won that game or what the score was, only the memory of how I felt. I carry that heart swell with me every day, especially off the field and into my life as a member of every community with which I engage. The polarizing election that happens to coincide with the Cubs in the World Series doesn’t change that.

This presidential campaign, one that has basically been a two year long October Surprise, has offered division over hope, moral superiority over unity and elitism over issues that actually affect the day in day out living of many Americans. On top of that, both candidates are campaigning in Iowa, hoping like in Field of Dreams, it may just be their heaven. We have the first seemingly non political candidate and the first woman running for the office of the President and the Cubs are in the world series! But it is not the first time in our nation’s history that one group of people have tried to suppress another or that campaigning has had more crap than clarity.  Nor is it the first time in our nation’s history that we have faced legislation or litigation among the sexes or people in power. And it’s not even the first time the Cubs have played in the World Series, though whole societies have risen and fallen and risen again since. Generations have come before us who truly believed they could attain their dreams even if only for a shining moment in history. Generations will follow us in the same way. That is not an excuse to sit on the sidelines today.

I will watch game 5 tonight and I will vote in this next election. Believing I matter does not come at the expense of responsibility or civility. My hope must translate into advocacy and my love of the game must include giving everyone a chance to fly the W.

Pop used to say that he preferred to make the snowballs and let other people throw them. In his memory I ask you to consider your place in history, your role as spectator, fair weather fan or captain; think of what you want to put into your team as part of an electorate base, voter or citizen.

Play ball!

kate-d-mahoney-misfit-miracle-girlKate D. Mahoney is a professional storyteller, actorvist and author who travels the country to share anecdotes from life as patient and caregiver- it’s crisis, but with jazz hands. Please email kate@katedmahoney.com to schedule a speaking engagement.

Follow Kate

Pin It on Pinterest