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Every Penny
100 Days
The Girl at the Cashier
Isolation
Isolation

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The "Wu Word" Blog

Every Penny

I miss traveling. And I miss my pennies.  Let me explain.
 
One of my earliest and happiest memories was on a lengthy plane ride to Hong Kong to see my grandparents who I only met for the first time when I was close to 10-years-old.  There was something exhilarating about all of us crammed in an airplane, the little rectangle trays of airplane food, the sound of the wheeled carts giving off a lilting clatter holding juice and bottles of wine, and the endless movies and need to move up and down the narrow aisles.  There was something magical about taking off in one place and ending up in a completely different and exotic place hours later.  Hong Kong always held a special place for me because it was the very first place internationally that I traveled alone. 
 
I hold on to memories of my first cruise with my sister.  A floating hotel, it was called.  Sis and I did not do so well with the motion sickness and drank so much ginger ale and relied religiously on anti-motion sickness bands with pressure points gripped on to our wrists.  However, watching movies under a starlit sky, swimming with the limitless sky above, and gorging on creamy chocolate pudding made up for any ill feeling that my body was subjected to. 
 
I relive in my mind long road trips that began when I was 10-years-old to Canada with my dad and sister.  I sang to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey blasting in my ear drums from my Walkman.  I thrived on greasy foods of burgers, fries, and milkshakes with endless land before my eyes. 
 
Travel traditions began in my late 20’s and 30’s.  Every two years, meet with my dear friend in Spain in some destination in the world for us to gallivant and explore together.  Every two years, Transplant Games of America in a mysterious majestic USA state that I only had the chance to see and experience and swim in a glorious swimming pool thanks to my organ donor and organ donor families.  A yearly trip with my sister.  Anywhere in the world.  The world was vast and open and ready for me to embrace and taste every sight and sound.  And, whenever I landed in my destination, the ONLY souvenir gift that I wished for and searched for when I was on my travels, was to find a penny machine.   I popped in the cents that no one really cared much about and wound the crank until my copper zinc Abraham Lincoln one cent coupled with quarters was crushed to create a mere image that was reminiscent of that particular travel.     
 
I bought my Penny Passport book only a couple years ago, but it has already filled with 22 pennies of my travels in Japan and New Mexico, Utah, Georgia, Washington, California, and Pennsylvania states.   Every penny has a tiny sleeved home in my Penny Passport book.   Every penny brings back a memory of who I was with, what I was doing, the sights, and sounds, and anything that really means everything to me.  I’ve been looking through my Penny Passport book and every single penny longingly and lovingly with the wanderlust emerging and hoping for the days that I can travel again.   I am struck that no one has cared or given much thought to a mere Penny, but out of all the cents in our USA currency, the Penny has meant the most to me.  I want the pennies that are only 1 single cent, but hold all the more priceless for me when I find a Penny Machine to make a memory and momento for me.  My love for these pennies as souvenirs is so great that when people travel, they will try to find a Penny Machine for me to make a memory and momento of their own to give to me and to share with me.  How incredible and priceless of a gift is that?  When did you experience something that seems of little value only to be the most priceless? 
 
I miss getting away.  I miss change of scenery beyond the walls of my apartment and pace that exists in an unknown place that beckons for me to know it.  On the flip and strange side, I find myself surprised that I have also discovered and learned more about myself and others on my sedentary travels and explorations at home, close by towns, and neighborhoods near me.  I’ve fallen in love with the riverfronts, discovered community in homes and houses and apartments here, and explored the tiny shops and restaurants making me see the importance of community and that there is that fine balance of discovering about oneself at home and elsewhere.   It is now a luxury to travel outside of the walls of our home.  I treasure my passport that contains stamps of my destinations, travels, memories, and moments, but I treasure my “Penny Passport” even more.   It is a scary world out there.  But, it is also so incredibly wondrous and wonderful that I crave to see again.
 
Every penny that seems so little value has been priceless for me in my travels.  Are there certain souvenirs or momentos that you seek out when you travel to bring back certain memories when you are back home?  Where is the last place that you traveled to before this all started?  What travel plans have you had to cancel?  Where is the first place you want to travel to and land in when time permits again? Do you care at all for pennies at all right here in your home or elsewhere?

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
Mary

 

100 Days

Earlier today, I called to check in on “Grandpa Mike”—my 85-year-old adopted grandfather who lives in Staten Island and has been strictly homebound since the start of the quarantine per his children and grandchildren’s orders.  He was pleasantly surprised and excited to hear from me and kept saying: “You are a good person.  You are a good person.”
 
We talked for about an hour.  He shared stories with me of how he lived through the polio, peaceful protests, uncertain and scary times, and the unknown and unseen inflicting fear as the greatest and more fearsome powerhouse.  He is living history.  Before we parted, he said to me, “I was listening to the radio and the radio host says that we have been in confinement for 100 days if you count ALL the days since we heard of Corona Virus, Covid-19.” 
“Really?” I asked.
“Really,” he confirmed.
I went over to my Pusheen kitty cat calendar and counted the days since I started working from home.  It has been approximately 91 days, but it was, indeed, about 100 days since the news of Corona Virus, Covid-19 landing on USA soil.  100 days out of nearly 38 years of my life.  I started to wonder the place I was in now as opposed to 100 days ago and all that had happened in my life in this weird time warp of the days going so slow like thick molasses but then it blows you away at how speedy the time actually went by.
 
This is what I came up with in 100 days with the ones in * to be the hardest hit for me:
-Spent over 50 days not physically seeing or spending in-person time with my family and friends  *
-Laughed and joked with my colleagues at work in-person*
-Spent over 50 days not going to a supermarket to buy my very own groceries and just roam the aisles as I so love doing
-Gone to one of the many libraries I go to for in-person and fun activities and get lost in all the book aisles
-Swam in a pool *
-Went to a restaurant with my friends to eat and chat*
-Fulfilled another Wu foodie list item*
-Spent over 50 days not walking side by side with a friend or family member*
-Stood up and spoke up to bothersome individuals and situations- realizing and making boundaries known
-Handled an insect problem in my apartment
-Being physically all along without any human contact *
 
In 100 days, I DISCOVERED:
-Discovered Yoga and Breath
-I am pretty decent at baking cookies!
-Putting together my patio table and the joy of being outside on my patio in nature
-The importance of neighbors and community
-The Helpers and the Heroes versus the not
-Received many visits at my door of food, love, care, and conversations
-Surprise from long-lost people who checked-in on me and made sure I had enough groceries and food
-Wrote and Received cards
-Learned about curbside ice cream and farm produce delivery
-Made phone calls to strangers to try to cheer them up
-Positivity Project at Ossining Public Library
-Discovered how beautiful it is where I live to walk and be in such beauty
-Learning about meal planning, being resourceful, and about rationing and substituting
-How much stuff I have that I do not really need that other people need more
-Discovered Coloring
-Discovered Zoom and other technological advances
-Ricky and his funny, sweet routines
-Integrity and Humility
-Faith (an ongoing process)
-YouTube stretching videos
-The love of animals
-How powerful compassion and hate can be in the best and worst of ways, respectively
-Little things mean the most in the best or worst of ways
-How much or many I may have taken for granted
-The greatest power is FEAR and how the unseen and unknown enemy inflicts that feeling of fear
-Created HUGS platform
-Hugged someone or received a full-fledged ‘let me mend your broken pieces and put you back together again’ HUG*
 
In 100 days, I have been physically ALL ALONE in my apartment only to realize that humans and myself especially are  not made to be all alone and that people need people AND need touch.  In 100 days, I witnessed and experienced the death of a good friend (and another friend and a friend’s mother), difficulties with people who can't take the stress (myself included at times), opportunities with people who can take the stress and anxiety and turn it into something awesome, family dynamics of loves and dislike, limitations and boundaries while also trying to push boundaries, opened doors to closed doors, and the good days and bad days and the good and bad in all of us.  I think one of the biggest discoveries I have made is that stress, difficulties, and challenges can bring out the worst and best in people and what we do or do not do can have the biggest impact. It can be hard to be happy and to keep on going and to focus at the positives at times and we are all allowed to our bad days to then appreciate the good in life yet again.
 
It just dawned on me today that this is the first post I have written and posted in a long while on my blog..probably in 100 days.  I have realized that, in 100 days, I have somehow reverted to a child to color, bake and eat cookies, hug my stuffed animals, watch old 1980’s shows, read children’s books, do origami, crave comfort foods (hot bread from the oven, tomato soup with grilled cheese, and dumplings just to name a few), cuddle extra with kitty cat Ricky, discovered new places and revisited some old places to walk at least 30 minutes-1 hour every single day, and, most of all, struggled to be an ‘adult’ and ‘adulthood’ to write the words I have been really feeling and experiencing during 100 days and counting time.
 
Recently, someone asked me: “What do you think the whole point of this corona virus was and with everything else going on in the world?”
My answer: “I think the point is to learn about ourselves and others—we only will learn about ourselves and others in the worst of times and not the best of times, and the learning and discovering is not always pretty, but it is always revealing and necessary to reflect and reevaluate our lives and ourselves.  I think the point is gratitude to treasure and savor what we have and who we have who are worthwhile and reminding us of our self-worth.  I think the point is to realize that as much people can get on our nerves that people need people because we are no isolated islands and solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments one can endure.  I think the point is to become better and not bitter. “

I can honestly and wholeheartedly conclude the one certain and truth is that we ALL have been immensely hit, impacted, and affected by this time emotionally, economically, financially, mentally, physically, spiritually, and the list goes on and on.  I wonder what you have you learned, discovered, and realized during this time about yourself and others?  What do you think the whole point of this corona virus was and with everything else going on in the world? How have your 100 days been and what do you HOPE for going forward? 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary 

The Girl at the Cashier

I have never been your typical “girly girl” who loves to shop endlessly at shoe stores, clothing spots, or make-up shops.  Rather, out of all the places that I absolutely love to shop at, walk endlessly up and down aisles in, price compare, and truly stay hours on end and end up leaving with a cart full of goodies is the grocery store.  Oh, yes, there is nothing that makes me happier than to go food shopping.  All the beautiful boxes so well packaged for advertising, cans stacked up, colorful array of fruit and veggies to greet me, and the smooth and gentle roll of the wheels of the cart as I slide and maneuver my cart in and out.  I suppose that my love for grocery shopping shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a foodie such as I.

However, lately, my utmost love and joy of shopping at food stores has been replaced with a kind of trepidation and uncertainty during these times.  It does not help that many of my family members, closest friends, and even neighbors are reminding me that I am immunosuppressed and should NOT even be going out to this dangerous outside world.  But, who is going to buy and deliver groceries for me? Oh, yes, perhaps Peapod, but I have stubbornly refused this option because I feel like it would be caving in to a growing fear of food shopping when it has always been my love?  Who is going to feed me, myself, and I with living solo?  Only me, I must say.  So, at the insistence of Papa Wu to make sure that I have enough food to feed solo me, I went to the supermarket to get in and out of basic items and necessities. 

I tell you that you NEVER really realize the difference between NEED and WANT until you are thrusted in uncertain times.  I can also tell you what you already know with all the starkingly empty aisles, the need to ration now, the conundrum to try to figure out what to buy and when and how much, the tension that just permeates the food markets now, and the hand sanitizer that now greets me as the first point item rather than a human being, but, instead, I will tell you my latest food shopping story about the girl at the cashier.
 
After taking pictures of the empty aisles in shock and awe to dear friends and family and trying to figure how much to buy for solo me, but then also having my parents and sister in the back of my mind in case they run out of necessities and then maybe any other peeps that may need something extra, I headed out to check out all my food items.  As expected, there was a line.  And, yes, not going to lie that the line was longer than previous times I had shopped AND the line was continuing to grow because the number of items for each customer had grown exponentially.    Me?  I had nowhere to go, but I had to confess that I wanted more so to leave than to stay for the first time ever in a grocery store.  There was no choice but to wait.  When it finally got to me, I looked at this girl at the cashier who had to be in her 20’s.  She had chin-length light brown hair and, I believe, brown eyes, but they were hard to see with her bright red-framed plastic glasses.  Her eyes were closed and she was muttering to herself.  At first, I thought she was maybe praying.  She opened her eyes slowly.
 
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
 
She gave me a lopsided, tired smile and said, “I’m just tired.  It’s been a long day.” 
 
I paused and replied, “Yes, it has been.”
 
“I was just telling myself it’s a job.  It’s just a job, right?” she asked me rhetorically, giving me another one of her tired half-smiles. 

I looked behind me at a line of irritated, blank-faced, and sleepy customers.  We were all so tired.  We were all so exhausted.  Then, it struck me how severely exhausted this cashier, all the grocery staffers, cleaning people, garbage collectors, and so many other people were AND, perhaps, how underappreciated they were.  These were all people who had stayed later hours with maybe not the best of pay.  Had anyone ever said ‘thank you’ to them to make them feel like it was more than ‘just a job’?  Had they ever felt appreciated?  This made me sad. 
 
When I had paid and was about to leave, I looked at the girl at the cashier and said, “I hope your shift ends soon.  Thank you very much for everything.” 
 
I’ve always been told that I say “THANK YOU” too much, but, perhaps, I need to amp it up now.  I’ve been trying to do that more "Thank Yous" now to the unlikely and underappreciated.   I said it the other day to the cleaning lady in the locker room of my gym who was mopping the floor.  I said it to the hunched over guy at another place I was at who was wiping everything down with Clorox wipes.  “Thank You” is the greatest and smallest way to express gratitude to someone else that can mean the most and lift someone on their hardest of days.  So, “thank you” for and to the girl at the cashier for reminding me this AND that no job is too little or less than anyone else’s, for we all play a part and have an impact that can be in the best of ways or the worst of ways from what we do or do not do in our daily lives of work.  If we can do it in the best of ways, then it does not get any better than that. 
 
The most unlikely, unseen, and underappreciated may just be the ones who are the hidden heroes that do the most and maybe even deserve the most recognition.  Have you ever felt underappreciated?  Or, maybe, was in a thankless position that you did not want to do, but that you had to do to survive?  When have you paused to maybe show appreciation and kindness for the least likely that are, maybe, likely to do the very most in their own small and seemingly menial ways that are actually the most heroic?    
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 
 

 

Isolation

Approximately a week ago, I timidly stepped into CVS in minimal hopes that there would be some (or really any) cleaning solutions available as my products of protection from the Budlight Virus….oh, wait, I mean the C-virus.  Surely you know even if you live under a sheltered, sturdy rock about the Corona Virus, or what I am calling the C-Virus.  I hated to admit that I was starting to get the surges of anxiety and nerves with the C-Virus and felt it was my utmost duty to try and safeguard my second kidney transplant and weakened immune system with whatever tools I could find. 
I hesitated going up to one of the staff members as it seemed that we were all at a weird time and place of trying to steer clear of people who have the dread G-word of “Germs,” but I truly had no idea which aisle were the following: Clorax wipes, Gloves, Antibacterial sanitzer, and Masks. 
 
The guy shrugged in complete defeat said, “Out of everything,”

I wondered how many times he had to say this today and when that line of “out of everything” started. I wondered how many pharmacists and staff members were handling ordering supplies only to come to the dawning realization that there simply were not enough supplies for the demand from the mass. 

“Nothing?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he confirmed.

I sighed.  No ammunition.  No protection against the abundance of caution.  I wandered forlorn to the cleaning products in hope that maybe there was a stray rolling Clorax container in the aisle.  And, then, the Hallelujah chorus seemed to boom when my eyes zoned in to the very top shelf of disinfectant sprays.  Yes!  Disinfectant sprays!  Of course, they had to be located where it was the most difficult for me to retrieve.  Victory would be mine! 

Without anyone in sight, I started to try to climb up the shelves.  Then, all of a sudden, the disinfect spray was gone.  I was so focused on trying to climb the shelves that this woman who well had the height, arm lengths, and leverage over my not even 5 foot height had snatched up the very last canister of Lysol disinfectant.  She held the very last Lysol canister as though it was a gleaming trophy.  I stared at her.  I was shocked.  I was speechless. 

Isolation

Suddenly, the memories began flooding at me when I was brought back in time to May 1995 when I was recovering at home from my second kidney transplant.    Since I was little, germs, kidneys, and immune system were introduced into my world and language, but at 12-years-old in 1995, I really began to understand just how very bad germs, bacteria, and viruses (GBV)  were because they could come at my pre-owned and what was deemed as “foreign” kidney from my donor to attack and conquer to the point that my second kidney transplant would reject and I would lose this gift of life.  To try to stop GBV from coming at me and attach my gift of life second transplant, I was told to stay at home and take my fistfuls of color-coded immunosuppressed medications.   The adults said to me that there was no way I should go back to school that was a bedrock of bad from the cluster and crowds of kids.  This made me sad.   All I wanted was to be like the other kids, but I was in indoors bubbled isolation watching the Spring season bloom before my eyes and yet I could not really go out to enjoy the scent of flowers, the warmth of sunshine, the cool cuts and blades of grass under my bare feet, and, most of all, the contact with other kids that I craved.  I could not really be a kid.  It was like I was an adult trapped in a child’s body. 
 
I think my circle of adults knew how much I wanted to be with other children because at the end of June and less than two months after receiving my second kidney transplant, my wish to just be with the outside world to touch, taste, see, hear, smell, and really feel everything was granted by going to school on just about the last day known as “Field Day.”  It was the day that ALL (and I do mean ALL) the children were there in color-coded teams playing different sports.  I had never felt like I belonged among my classmates, but for that one day, I felt like I belonged.  Sure, I was in a wheelchair and did not say much, but just being with everyone in this living, breathing, and wonderful world had never made me happier and more carefree.    It was one of the best times in my life just to live and be a kid. 
 
Shortly after my visit and contact with all the children, I got sick.  Horribly sick.  Sick as in news that my second kidney transplant was going into rejection.  It was probably one of the worst and more depressing points in my life.  The fear to lose a gift from a complete stranger who died only to save my life.  The horror that my one wish granted would be my downfall to me being sick again and that the girl who saved my life would have to suffer another ‘death’ in the sense of her life-saving organ.  Yet, in spite of all the fear and horror, I had no regrets.  I had the best time in my life just being in this breathing world after being bubbled for what I saw as much too long.  I had been around other kids who had shown me kindness and like I did not have ‘cooties.’  They did not fear me or shelter and shield me like the adults just so I could be myself and be a kid.  I did not and could never let fear control and stop me from living my life to the fullest.  I could not live or be in isolation. 
 
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