The "Wu Word" Blog
I am unable to watch the
news anymore. I do not remember the last
time I picked up a newspaper. The most I
can muster is quickly viewing the headlines that leave me depressed and
sickened. I must say that I like and
prefer my rose-colored glass that shields me from reality in all its unabashed
ugly. Behind my rose-colored glasses, I escape and
go to places of sanctuary and safety where I try to do good and be good in the
face of the blatant bad and just life plainly sucks sometimes. These places revolve around my volunteer work
that remind me “It Could Be Me.”
Volunteer work at
large venues to try to register people as life-saving organ, eye, and tissue
donors. Volunteer work at the animal rescue
events to advocate for animals. And,
above all else, my favorite volunteer work: The Midnight Run.
It was at least five
years ago that I attended my first Midnight Run where I participated and assisted
in giving food, drinks, toiletries, and the absolute necessities that we take
for granted to those who are labeled as ‘homeless’ and having ‘mental
disorders.’ I had never been so
physically exhausted yet emotionally charged than that night. I did not hesitate to assist again a couple
weeks ago, but I knew my aging over 35-year-old body could not take on
staying up until past midnight. So, I
did what I did best: I prepped. I made
sandwiches. I bagged food. I organized toiletry bags. I matched shoes and tied laces. I talked.
A lot. To a room full of people—some
would go out late that night to help the homeless. Others as myself would not and would prep and
prepare. One woman I met this night of
prep and prepare made a comment that it was typically those with mental
disorders that were out on the street, but this was not always the case and
shared with me about this woman who made an impression on her:
“She had a full-time
job, but her daughter got sick requiring around the clock care. She had to leave her job and the healthcare bills
kept piling up. Eventually, her daughter
died, and she was all out of resources and out on the streets.”
I commented, “It
could be you. It could be me.”
“Yes,” she responded,
“We all fall on hard times. Life can be
cruel and sad and painful, but also so beautiful. It could be anyone of us.”
When I am at Midngith
Run and all my other volunteer gigs and when I see what is happening around the
world and to the people I love that is of pain and suffering, I am filled with
this odd and unexplainable feelings of empty and full at the same time. Always, always, the sentence that follows
after “It Could Be Me,” is “Dang, I am so blessed.” I sense a shift in the world we are living in. Cries for help. Heads buried in the sands. We all see and experience what is going on in
the world—whether it be directly or indirectly, but this is all about us and we.
We are all trying our best to get
through our lives and this world day in and day out. We all have a part to play in this world that can be for the better and greater. What are you doing for this world? Perhaps I do not always cling and wear my
rose-colored glasses after all.
I think we all are
more fragile than ever, needing and craving more compassion and gentleness in these
tumultuous times. We all fall on hard times.
We can be quick to kick someone when they are down. When have you looked at someone on the
outside only to think ‘wow, that could be me,’ making you even more full of
gratitude? When have you been at your
most vulnerable to receive compassion as the ultimate reaction rather than
disdain? When have you experienced the
utmost kindness and gentleness that meant the most to you? When have you given compassion that meant the
world to someone else? What is your positive part and purpose to and in this world?
until we meet again,
“Do you know
Mike? He can help you out. He is the key master. If he can’t get the keys right, then no one
My patience was
wearing thin. This was my THIRD (yes,
THIRD) visit to the hardware store to get a copy of my keys. By now, I knew the names of the three people
who had tried unsuccessfully to copy my persnickety keys. By now, they were tired of seeing my face
with the dangling keys on the key ring saying in defeat, “Sorry, it didn’t
work. They key goes in, but it doesn’t
On to the fourth try,
I received my refund and headed across the street to this Master Key guy named
Mike. When I walked in, I felt like I
was pulled back in time to some other planet.
Plastered on every single wall, nook, cranny, and crevice were keys,
keys, and more keys. There were some
other sections of safes, key rings, key labels, and also doorknobs, and locks. On the countertop, there was a big basket of
chocolates and candies. I immediately
went for a cherry-flavored Starburst.
A thin balding man
with a caterpillar moustache that lifted upwards into a smile greeted me. His pale blue eyes lightened up when I
presented the challenge, “Are you Mike?
Can you make a copy of my keys?
This is the fourth time. I heard
that if anyone can make a copy of my keys that it would be you.”
“That is correct!!”
he boasted gleefully, took my keys before I could say anything else, put on
goggles, and traipsed happily to his vibrating key machine.
Polished, shiny gold
keys that twinkled in the light were the final product. With a hammer, he engraved his name simply as
“Mike” into the keys.
There was not a
single doubt in my mind that the keys would finally work. When I returned home, I gently put one key in
the mailbox and one in the doorknob.
Again, neither key worked. Yelling at the doorknob and mailbox, “What
the heck??” I immediately contacted Mike
who was completely baffled. “That is extremely odd. That can’t be right. Come back again.”
On my fifth time and
in this visit Mike, I went for a Twix snack size bar while he examined my keys
in the utmost of scrutiny. He said, “Do
you know I made this mailbox key over 20 years ago? I used to work out of the Ossining
Hardware. I remember making this key.”
In mid-chew with
caramel blanketing the roof of my mouth, I said incredulously, “Really?”
“Yes. This will work. You will see.
And, if it doesn’t, I’ll come to your place for free to check on the
doorknobs and locks. We will find a way
to get it to work. The thing about keys
is you have to get them just right….you cannot force the key and they have to
just be the right exact fit.”
Returning back home, I took a deep breath as I faced off with my mailbox and doorknob. I closed my eyes as I
stuck the keys in, expecting them to get stuck again. Imagine my shock when the keys finally
worked! I couldn’t believe it! I was absolutely elated! Fifth time was the charm!
What seemed so simple
to do turned out much too complicated until it was the right person who got it
right for everything to work out. It
often takes many tries until it works out. It is always who you get. There
will be people that will give up on you and easily, and then there will be
people who will keep on going and trying and go the extra mile for you. It never comes easy. There are no shortcuts. It will often take many tries and
tribulations to get it just right and work how it needs to work out. You can never force anything or anyone as it
has to be just the right fit, timing, and circumstances. Even when it isn’t
working out, it is actually making its way to working out.
When have you had to
keep on trying and depending on others to get it to work out? When did everything seem like it was falling
apart only to eventually and finally fall into place for you?
until we meet again,
On August 31, 2017, I
was doing what I did every year on my birthday: I was at the Transplant Center.
I would get my blood
work, check my vitals of blood pressure and weight, review my medications, and
hold on to every hope within me that my kidney beanies from my second kidney
transplant were still going strong.
Going on 23 years later with this second transplant and I still hold my breath
that I can continue celebrating birthdays, being with my family and friends,
taste and savor all the beauty and ugly of life, and just making the most of
every single moment.
I am not sure when this
birthday tradition began of going to the transplant center. Traditions are a funny thing. Traditions kind of creep on us and we just
keep on keeping on with them not remembering how they started but always
wanting to make them last forever out of safety, peace, comfort, and because we need
some sort of ‘glue’ with family and friends that we love and hate and
everything in between. I am sure this
birthday tradition began around the time that I started to go to the Transplant
Center alone and particularly without my father who regularly accompanied
me. That must have been at about
So, every birthday, I
sat for nearly two hours in the waiting room.
For these two hours, I reflected on all the birthday traditions, like
Carvel birthday cake that has slowly transitioned to traditional creamy and
fruit-topped Chinese cakes or rich French cakes and a delicious dinner at a restaurant
of my choosing with my father and stepmother.
My mouth watered thinking of the divine food that I was going to dig
into later that evening when I received a text message from a worried friend
who said: “Are you OK? Why are you at
the transplant center? It sucks that you
are there on your birthday.”
Taken aback, I
immediately responded, “Being here at the transplant center reminds me that I
am celebrating another birthday alive and kicking it and living it up. 35 and alive.”
I know many who are
depressed, anxious, stressed, and whine about getting older. I know many people who stop celebrating birthdays
after a certain age. I’ve had people say
to me: “You stop celebrating your birthdays when you are old and useless,” or “Getting
older is just a pain in the ass. There
is nothing good to getting older.” My
response: “Getting old and older is a privilege that so many wish to experience
that do not get the chance to.”
I’m not sure when the
fun, laughter, joy, and thrill of birthdays ends for many people. Birthdays seems to hold a much different
meaning and thought of very differently when younger than getting older. For many, birthdays are a scary and painful
reminder or getting older and even closer to death. For me, birthdays and all the traditions
laced with sweet cake, loving messages, and spending my morning at the
transplant center hits home of how life is such a gift and everyday that I am
alive above ground at 4’11” is the best and greatest of days.
What are some
traditions that you have and keep? How do
you feel about birthdays? Do you dread
them or love and embrace them? When did
the thrill of birthdays end for you, or maybe it never did?
Every day, I
PARTYEVERYDAY, but I PARTY EXTRA ON MY BIRTHDAY.
Oh, and happy to
report that I received the best and cleanest bill of health there ever
until we meet again,
In the spring of
2013, I was recovering from my total hip replacement surgery that had been
delayed for at least ten years of my life.
People thought that since I was young at only 30-years-old that I would
bounce back faster than a rubber band as I had always been resilient. I thought the same. But, as you get older, it gets harder. Mind you, I was 30-years-old chronologically,
but not physically. Age is just a number. It is all about what has happened in all the
ages and stages of your life. What we
often think is not what plays out in reality.
The recovery was
hard. And painful. I was learning how to walk all over again
after the mechanics of my body failed me and compensated, resulting in walking
wrong for about 30 years of my life.
I cried a lot. I was furious at my body that I felt had
betrayed me since I was a tiny tyke. I
was mentally exhausted of wondering and waiting when I would get better. Would I ever get better? Would I ever embrace and feel comfortable
with and in my ‘new normal’? I never
thought I would get better. Have you been in those situations where you never
thought you would ever get better?
This recovery time
brought me back to when I was a little girl and learned my very first life
lesson: “Life is not Fair.” You do not
always get what you want. You do not always have a choice. There are no shortcuts, and you are often
forced to go through what never seems like will work out or get better. You may
give your all and tried what your best, and it still is not good enough only to
learn and live that it was not meant to be and acceptance (not defeat) of
this. Life never goes according to the
plans and the deadlines that you made that you formed in your head.
recovery, the person that was there as he had always been there was my
father. My father helped me with
everyday tasks that we take for granted: cooking, cleaning, getting dressed,
bathing, bending, and even just going to the bathroom. Unlike others that may have lapped in all the
service and assistance, I disliked it. I
never liked feelings of dependence, weakness, and helplessness. However, these very feelings that I loathe
have always been my motivators of determination, perseverance, and persistence.
One of the most
challenging tasks with the recovery was getting in a car and driving again. My mind has
always sped ahead as ‘limitless’ to my limited body. My father insisted that he would drive me time and time again,
but I had lost my patience at depending on others and spouted stubbornly, “If I
need help, I’ll ask. But, let me do it
on my own. Let me fall so I can get back
My father backed
off. I think one of the most difficult
jobs in the entire world is being a parent and somehow knowing and seeing that
your children will suffer, experience pain, make mistakes, and learn only from pain and suffering one of the
harshest realities about life that ‘life is not fair.’ I think a great parent will actually let
their children fall and fail and see how their children will go through the
motions/progress, learn, and come up and out better with solutions and options
rather than be their problems and a victim to their problems. Protecting, sheltering, and doing for others
is actually not helping, but is actually crippling and trying to control others
and situations that really cannot be controlled. Sometimes, you have to go through all the
worst to come out and bring out your best.
Failure, falling, and
even suffering are all vital ingredients to life. When did you come to realize that life is
unfair? When did you fall to get back
up again to be and come up with solutions and options rather than be your
problems? When was your biggest and
greatest ‘fall’ to only stand up taller again?
Keep smilin’ until we meet
“So, you’re Mary Wu!” She exclaimed
I froze at this woman
I did not even know with flowing white hair and her piercing blue eyes revealed
when she put down her camera. She had
the warmest smile that outshone the California sunshine. It was
the winter of 2011 and on the cusp of the new 2012 year that I was basking in
the warmth and glow of the sun in Pasadena, California as a float rider for the
2012 Donate Life float featured as one of the many floats at the infamous Rose
Bowl Parade. The number of cameras and
flashes made me feel like a starstruck, yet humbled, celebrity. This woman was one of the many who was armed
with a camera to try to capture every moment through a lens.
This woman went on to
explain that she was a donor grandmother.
Her 14-year-old granddaughter had proclaimed after watching a news story
that she (the granddaughter) would naturally become an organ donor at the time
of her death. Her granddaughter’s wishes
were carried out with the granddaughter’s kidneys and tissue that saved the
lives of many. The grandmother went on to say that she couldn’t
believe when she read my biography that I lived only 5 minutes away from her
son and his family and that she would be sure to contact me when she visited
I did not think much
about it, but she kept her promise contacting me every time she was in town. Every
time we reunited, her blue eyes sparkled and she flashed her winsome wattage
smile as she wrapped me in the biggest and warmest hug. Then, always, always, she handed me a mason
jar of her homemade rhubarb jam. She was
the one who introduced me to “rhubarb.” One
time she gave me a tall plastic container with stalks of rhubarb in there. To me, the rhubarb looked like an odd celery
stalk with red undertones. I did not
understand if it was a vegetable or a fruit or a plant…? What the heck was it, really? Oh, how the rhubarb was misunderstood!! She raved about the rhubarb and how special
it was because it always had to be another and, more often than not, a
sweetener to make it edible and beyond delicious. With her, I devoured rhubarb jam and her homemade
rhubarb pie. Together, we ate, exchanged
recipes, talked about how the power of organ donation and transplantation made
an everlasting connection and bond. It
was through her granddaughter’s death and the unexpected location of where her
son lives that we have kept in touch. It
was through the introduction of her love for the rhubarb and the actual rhubarb
that I understood that we are often misunderstood as the simple and unique
rhubarb is, the world is very small and we never know who we will come into our
lives and will keep coming back, and that people do really need people just as
the rhubarb cannot be alone and must be with others to make it delicious and
This grandmother and
I rarely have contact throughout the year, but when we finally do meet and
spend time together, it is like time had never existed. Do you have people like this in your life who
you rarely ever have contact with, but then when you do, everything just fits
and feels just right as though there was never time or space in between? When this grandmother and I reunite, our time
together is always short, but full of significance—and, these, are the best and
more unforgettable times with people. Have
you experienced this with certain people in your life?
I think we all crave
connection and to be understood in this world that is really very small. Do you feel misunderstood? Have you met
someone completely unexpected through others that have come into your life? Have there been people or a person who has
kept coming back into your life? Would
you say that there is a bit of ‘rhubarb’ in all of us?
Keep smilin’ until we meet