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Less
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Last
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The "Wu Word" Blog

Dirty Work

I was half asleep on a weeknight at around 10PM getting ready to go to sleep.  My usual nightly ritual is tidying up and getting ready for the next work grind morning so I am not rushing like a chicken with my head cut off the next day.  My garbage happened to be overflowing that night.  I figured that I could bring it out the morning and so I put my hand right on top of the garbage to push as much of it down. 
 
Big Mistake. 
 
Suddenly, I felt something sharp slice and break through my skin.  I let out a feeble yelp.  The next thing I knew, bright red crimson blood was bubbling from my top right ring finger and spilling over on to the kitchen floor.  It turned out the one of kitty cat can lids had sliced right through my finger.  Immediately, I washed my hands with soap to try to disinfect and then grabbed paper towels and lifted my arm straight up like Lady Liberty to try to stop the blood flow.  But the blood would not stop.   Paper towels soaked through.  Droplets of my blood had made a trail from the kitchen to the bathroom in my panicked attempt to stop the bleeding.  Worst of all, I was all alone.
 
I kept muttering to myself as I tried to take deep breaths, “Do not freak out.  You can stop the bleeding.  It is just a small cut.”
 
I do not know if it was panic or being all alone with what was quickly looking like a crime scene or I really had cut myself too deep, but I started to break out in a cold sweat and feel extremely dizzy and nauseous like I was going to pass out.  I could see the headlines now: “Woman passed out and bled  herself to death from a kitty cat can lid.”  I chuckled to myself at the thought!   As the blood kept flowing, though, I knew I needed help.  I never ask for help unless I truly and really need it. 
 
I no longer go to my parents as my first source of an emergency or help.  In fact, as I have gotten older and fiercer about my sense of independence, my parents have become my last resort or even no resort at all.  Also, I reasoned, they lived 20 minutes away, and I needed someone right here and right now.  I did not have time for 20 minutes.  I started frantically calling all my neighbors.  Finally, on the last call, one of my neighbors immediately said, “I’m coming over right now.”
 
My neighbor tried to distract me and calm me down with stories of her children while we struggled  and then waited to try to stop the bleeding.  She was convinced that I did not need to go to the emergency room and I probably bled so easily and so quickly because I was on immunosuppressant medications.   It took at least ten minutes (but it felt so much longer) for the bleeding to stop. I had a restless sleep from my finger throbbing in pain.  The next morning, my finger was experiencing such pulsing pain that I went to the emergency room all on my own.   When I moved out almost ten years ago, my father said one of the most important places for me to live near was the hospital because of my health.  He wasn't joking.  My finger was cut deeply, but not deep enough that it needed stitches.  It was not until I left the emergency room that I started to share with my parents and a couple others what had happened.  For two days, my right hand was bandaged up and then it took almost a month for my finger to fully heal.
 
I always thrived and truly love living alone, but this incident suddenly put a thought and even worries and fear in my head that still stays and has made its own room and place in the back of my mind:  What would have happened if my neighbor had not picked up or if I had fainted?  Who would have found me?  What would I do in the event of an emergency with me living all alone and my parents eventually gone?  Who would I go to?  Who would actually do the dirty work and be there for me to DO something when I really needed help?
 
One of my earliest life lessons I learned after my second kidney transplant was that people are there for you when it is fun and easy and when there are lots of laughs, but people rarely stick around when it is really hard and really tough with lots of tears.  It is even rarer to find those who quietly and without complaining do the “dirty work” to actually DO something to really help rather than SAY something.  It is easy to say anything just like it is easy to be there when it is easy, but it hard to do something just like it hard to be there when it is really hard.  And, yes, life is hard and it gets even harder as we get older.  People provide their sympathies and maybe even listen for a short time to your woes, but that is it—no offer to really help.  In my life, with the exception of my parents, my circle has shrunk to the number of people I can really turn to for help and especially in an emergency.  I find more and more people are less and less able to help.  I think people genuinely do want to help, but people are increasingly limited and struggling/fighting with our own problems and issues.  After all, how can we help others when we cannot help others?  We are all limited in a limitless hurried and harried world.  We can only do the very best that we can. 
 
 
It is easy to be there when it is easy, but it is hard to be there when it is really hard.  Who is there for you when you are down and out?  Do you have someone or some people you can go to in the event of an emergency?  Who will actually DO the “dirty work” for you and not just say or speak?  Are you perhaps the one who does the “dirty work” more so for others than vice versa?    
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Less

“Do you want this bottle of wine?  I can’t drink two bottles of wine.” 
 
I looked up from the Seattle, Washington map that I was studying. 
 
A petite girl with long dark hair was directing this question to the guy next to me and not to me.  Good thing she was not asking me because my idea of alcohol to get me tipsy was a wine cooler.  The guy next to me looked up at her and said, “No, I do not drink alcohol because my father was an alcoholic.”
 
The girl’s eyes and mine met.  Clearly, our eye gaze read the same thought: We were both bewildered that this guy was so open about sharing his personal business about his father.  The girl then asked me and I played the game as the guy next to me of revealing all to complete strangers, “No, I do not really drink alcohol.  I do not like the taste of it and, plus, I have had two kidney transplants and just want to keep healthy.”
 
That is when the girl and the guy next to me both stared at me.  That is when I realized that this is how you get with strangers.  You just start sharing your stories with strangers because you will probably never see each other again so you have nothing to lose.  In a hot, stuffy, and sweltering common room in a hostel in the heart of Seattle, Washington with the fan blowing on high blast but not doing anything, these strangers and I ended up chatting about our lives.  The guy who shared about his alcoholic father was from Ohio; He went on to tell us his marital woes with his wife who left him after finishing up her chemotherapy treatment.  The girl was actually with her boyfriend, and they were from northern California and were here for the Pearl Jam concert.    As for me, I was there in Seattle, Washington all by myself in a bare necessities hostel and in a dormitory room with three female strangers that would save me over $200 in the heart of Pike Place Market to fulfill a two-for-the-price-of-one Live List item that crept up on me about six months ago when I was making travel arrangements to go to Salt Lake City, Utah for the Transplant Games of America:  Live on less and little to realize how much I truly have in my life.
 
Six months ago, I tried to recruit people to come travel with me, but no one could commit or no one had the financial or time off from work abilities.  If there is one thing I learned long ago and I know it sounds terribly selfish, but I do not put my life on hold or wait for anyone.  If I wait around or depend on someone to travel with or to do something with me, I will probably end up waiting forever.  And, ‘forever’ is not something myself or any of us have.   If I want to do something, I will do it—with or without anyone. 
 
My friends and even the transplant center somewhat scolded me for traveling all alone and in not the most hygienic of places with strangers.  Hostels do not get the best of reputations—especially dormitory hostels. I had stayed at hostels before, but they were either alone in the room or with a good friend.  This was the first time I would stay in a dormitory setting.  In fact, it was the first time ever in my life I was going to be in a dormitory setting because I did not experience that in college.  Granted, hostels are not 4-star luxury hotels or even a motel, but they get the job done as a place for me to sleep, go to the bathroom, and even eat breakfast.  I was going to sacrifice comfort to save money and gain life experiences.
 
The three strangers ended up inviting me out for weed and cannabis.  Marijuana is legal in Seattle.  I learned that the hard way when I arrived.  I was already having a hard time breathing and was all congested in the mornings in the stuffy hostel from lack of air circulation/no air conditioner and from the scent of weed.  I kindly declined.  They looked disappointed.  I joked, “You have extra fun whiffs for me!” 
 
For the two nights I was in the hostel, I was sweaty and craving the comfort of my air conditioner.  I was the only one to put the small fan attached to my bunk bed on full blast.  Not having fresh air in the room made me all the more grateful for the somewhat fresh air when I would go out to walk in Seattle at breaking dawn.  I walked more than I had walked than when I was at home.  The aches and pains in my feet made me all the more thankful for now having a hip replacement so I could actually walk now more than I ever could growing up.  I happened to meet a girl from Italy on a food tour who was also traveling alone.  We bonded over people questioning us single women: “Oh…why are you traveling all alone?  That is sad.”  I am sure that if I was a guy, I would not be asked this or receive a piteous reaction. 
 
On the contrary, traveling all alone brings you to place of such freedom.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  You see things, people, places, and experiences in a whole different enlightening and eye-opening light that you do not get to experience when you travel with the familiar.  You talk to people you would not normally talk to.  Your senses are heightened and on more of an alert than if you were with someone else.  Your natural instincts kick in of who you can talk to and who you cannot and where you can go to and where you cannot where safety is put first.  It is purposefully putting yourself in a vulnerable place to come out stronger and much more open to adventures and experiences.  It is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, thrilling, and exhilarating.  It is life on less and you gain all the more. 
 
It is when we have little or less that we realize how much more we really have.  Have you ever purposefully put yourself in a place of hardships and challenges to test your strength and abilities?  Have you ever hit rock bottom only to realize how much you really have and how truly fortunate and blessed you are?  When have you had ‘less’ to see how much you really have?  

Keep smilin' until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 

Starry Night

I am fascinated with anything and everything that is up above that I can gaze up into where I feel so smaller than small and humbler than humble in a world so vast and open.  The blue skies.  The full  or crescent-shaped moon.  The fluffy clouds.  The warm sun.  Most of all, the sparkly stars that light up the night sky.  I think when we all die that we somehow become shiny stars that sparkle in the dark up in heaven and watch upon our loved ones that are still on earth.
 
One of my Live List items is to see the stars so up close and personal that I feel like I can touch them.  This has been on my Live List item since 2012 when I first created the list.  When I shared with the select few that seeing (not just looking or gazing) the stars was at the top of my Live List, people said I would have to go somewhere deserted in oneness with nature.  One guy said I would have to go climb up mountains to see the feel the top of the world on the mountain and above me.  Another person said I would have to go into the woods or fields.  All I knew was that somehow and someway, when the time was right and when the opportunity presented itself as with all my Live List items, I would know and I would fulfill with a special someone.  The special someone of who I fulfill my Live List item is almost as important as the Live List item itself. 
 
The opportunity to see my stars was presented to me in March 2018 when my sister and I went to visit Mohonk Mountain House.  In front of a cozy, crackling fire with flames that hypnotized me into oblivion, I flipped through a brochure and my eyes immediately widened in shock and glee that an astronomer by the name of Bob Berman was going to be doing a lecture in August called “Night of the Shooting Stars” and we would all go out in the vast open fields to watch the stars, or, if luck would have it, experience meteor showers.  August!  My birthday month!  I nearly fell off the couch rushing to the front desk reception clamoring: “Tell me about this ‘Night of the Shooting Stars’!”
 
My sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I told her about Mohonk Mountain House and that all I wanted on the night of August 12, 2018 was to see and night sky full of twinkling stars.  She said she would join me and make sure that my birthday wish came true.  When we arrived there at the mountain house, we spent the day jumping into and swimming in the lake, bopping to 1980’s music as we paddle boated in the lake with the sun streaming on us scrunched in our bright orange life jackets, and stuffing our faces into a food coma from the most delicious food that you had ever tasted in your life.  When night finally fell, I was breathless with excitement!  In a standing room only filled to capacity of people, I could barely listen to and process astronomer Bob Berman sharing his personal experiences about meteorites and tours that he guided to see the mystical and magical world up above us.  I tried to patiently await him to finish and then when he finally stood up to guide us outside, I squealed to my sister: “This is it!  I am going to fulfill my live list!  I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!” 
 
I was practically hopping out the door, but then stopped dead in my tracks when the cool air swirled around me into pitch black darkness.  There were no lights to guide us.  I started to feel scared.  I grabbed on to my sister’s hand.  We marched into the fields not able to see a point of light I was suddenly extremely dependent on my other senses that heightened in functions: the pine scent of the trees, the murmur and mumble of people all around me and the crunch of our footsteps as we braved our way into the darkness, the taste of trepidation that I was going to trip and fall flat on my face, and the feel of the sweaty palm of my sister’s hand that transported me back to when I was a little girl and she held my hand.  I wanted to look at my cell phone to turn on the flashlight but Bob Berman shouted over our murmurs and mumbles with: “Absolutely no cell phones.  You will miss the magic.  Let the lights and your senses guide you.”
  
Fear fell away when there was a clearing.  We all grabbed towels and laid them on the tickling fresh green grass blades.  My sister and I lied down side by side.  Then, that is when I suddenly saw and experienced the magic and adrenaline coursing through my pumped body as I experienced when fulfilling my live list items.  Sparkly jeweled diamond stars blinked and twinkled before my glazed over and child-like eyes in that midnight milky sky.  I lifted my hands up, almost feeling like I could touch the stars.  I closed my eyes, inhaling the crisp, fresh, and delicious air.  I was tiny and small in the unending and limitless skies above me that was so vast, massive, and wide open that it almost felt like I could be swallowed whole by the universe above me.  I wanted to take my cell phone out to take a picture to capture the moment, but I did not even bother to because I understood that these Live List items could not be fully captured by the lens on the outside so you can feel everything in unexplainable and inexplicable ways on the inside.   I was living out one of my live list items: I was finally seeing the stars with my special someone-my sister.
 
Less than an hour later, the clouds came in and buckets of rain fell.  In the hazy and foggy mist, the rain created an even more ethereal feel and almost like a dream.  Like all magical moments and like all my Live List items that are so awe-inspiring, they take a lot of planning and hold much anticipation and then they come and go too fast, leaving you with an aftermath of imprinted memories and nostalgia that you live again in your mind asking yourself: “Did that really happen?”  The answer: Yes, it did and you are lucky enough if you get to relive it in your mind and live to tell and share the glory of the story with others. 
 
The most inspirational, humbling, and beautiful moments leave us unable to fully capture them so we can feel them and keep them alive in our mind when we remember them again.  What was a moment that you could not really capture with lens but keep deep within you when remembering them again? When could you not even explain the full capacity of the experience because of the feelings and memories involved?  What magical moments have you lived again when you remembered them? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Last

I was a geek, misfit, and outsider in school.  I missed out on a lot of ‘the fun’ or what was seen as fun by high schoolers like prom, football games, extracurricular activities, possibly traveling abroad with the exchange student program, and much more.   I kept my head buried in books.  I studied until my nerves were shot and my tummy hurt.  No one put pressure on the perfectionist and worst enemy in me because I put on and carried all that weight on myself.  I had a fierce competitive streak to always get the best grades and be the best.   I wholeheartedly believed within ever fiber in me that if I excelled at school that I would excel at life.  Such lies we were and are fed about this. 
 
The one class I absolutely loathed and could not excel in no matter how much I tried while skating by with a “PASS” was physical education.  Of course I was the clumsiest, overweight, and most non-athletic person because of my physical challenges revolved around my kidney and joint issues and massive steroids, but I never saw this as excuses and only saw them as explanations.  I remember my heart pounding and beads of sweat forming at the base of my neck with each and every name called up to join a team and there I was at the ONLY person left in front of all these kids.  How terrifying.  How petrifying.  I did not have an athletic bone in my body.  I was the slowest.  I was always behind everyone else.  I was always chosen last on a team.   When it comes to athletics, I am still always last. 
 
When I look back, I think I fought so hard to excel at academics and mental strength to compensate for what I could not have and what I believed I could never have in physical strength.  Everything changed when I received my second kidney transplant in 1995 and hip replacement in 2013.  I could not get my legs to kick and had two drowning episodes before my hip replacement that made me fear water and swimming.  What was fear turned to love and gratitude in the power of movement and organ donation and transplantation and from all I could finally do from what I believed that I could never ever do.  Over time, I developed a huge love and even hunger for the swimming pool.  It was about four years ago that I jumped into the water for the first time in my life—and now I cannot get enough of it.  I will ask anyone and everyone to jump in the water with me because of the adrenaline rush and the ultimate feeling that you are plunging into an abyss or underwater world, completely free and washed off of all your worries.  It was about two years ago that I learned backstroke for the first time in my life.  It was just a week ago that I jumped off a diving board into 45 feet depth of a lake for the first time only to see nothing and no grounding beneath me.  It had never felt so free.  The greatest change was in me.
 
The clumsiest, overweight, and most non-athletic person in the world that actually feared getting into the pool at my first Transplant Games of America venue back in 2010 has changed to people telling me I had to get out of the pool at this 2018 Transplant Games of America.  My competitive streak is still in me and will never go away, but has minimized by the magnitude of gratitude just to be alive and to be able to do all that I could not physically do growing up.  Being at the bottom and when you had absolutely nothing or very little and slowly making your way creates gratitude for whatever you can get.   However, it is VERY different when you have been healthy or at the top of your game only to fall and find a way to get back up again.  At this latest Transplant Games of America, I found that the mass majority are so competitive and set out to win medals that having fun is lost.  I think it is  what the medals represent—being able to do all that you could do from what you could not do, competing against yourself and your very own race, and being a ‘winner’ when you felt like a ‘loser.’  I think ‘fun’ is different from everyone.   My idea of fun is actually NOT winning medals.  I’m honestly happy not to win anything.  My idea of fun is just being together, jumping in the water, cheering for each other, going off on my own to explore and experience new in life and meet and connect with new people and reuniting with familiar faces, and, most of all, honoring organ donors/their families, living donors, and our loved ones who root for us and stand strong when we have been at our weakest. 
 
For my individual swim competitions, I did not win a single medal. It was for a swim team relay medley that I received a bronze and, that to me, is the greatest medal because it was a team and together effort.  My times were better.  My very own race and pace were strong and steady.  I was last.  I am still always last.  But now I will ALWAYS be the first to have fun, enjoy, laugh, embrace how far I’ve come and from the ongoing learning curves and process, not take everything and everyone so seriously when life is serious enough as it is, and just be in all the beauty around me that is fleeting and flies as fast as life goes.  Do not make the mistake I made of making everything and everyone so seriously and competitively that you miss out on the greater purpose and all the magical moments in the making that end up meaning the very most and the life that you are living in the here and now. 
 
Are we all competitive?  Are you competitive?  What do you deem as a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’?  Have you gotten so wrapped up in a competition that you forgot the fun involved?  Have you ever stopped to think about the process rather than the end result that is not always the reflection of what you had to endure?  When have you been so serious and competitive that you missed out on the fun and magic in what was happening and unfolding? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Ready

One of my very good and dearest friends just moved away to California.  She had been methodically planning this move since I met her at least five years ago.  I still remember when she told me that her goal was to move to California.  The words became a process and plodding pace of actions and executions.  I still remember saying to her in the wicked New York winters, “I’m right behind you!  I’ll see you there in sunny California!” 
 
Over the last few months, I’ve seen my friend had to decide what was worth keeping and what was worthless and needed to be given up and given away.  Through her and throughout my life, I’ve seen the value of things and that things are really just things until there is are sentimental memories and moments attached to them.  Invigorated and inspired by my friend and her move, I started to dig through my messy closets and cabinets as to what were just things to me and were more than things.  The mass majority of things were, indeed, things.  However, hidden in the darkest of places were ‘things’ I could not part with: my yearbooks, my over 50 journals that I started writing in when I was 8 or 9-years-old, pictures of friends and family, my research into a hip replacement surgery, my kidney advocacy work, and, most of all, multiple pieces of paper written in 2013 when my book was about to get published.  The papers contained my goals, plans, and preparations in the years to come in my life.  My handwriting was clean, crisp, and confident.  I had many expectations.  I was and am my own worst critic and enemy. 
 
The years have gone by.  Here I am in the now.   Many people may think that I am ambitious, but I do not have a desire to ‘succeed’ in the sense of ‘climbing up the ladder’ or ‘going to the top of the mountain’ where it is lonely and lonesome.  I am, however, determined.  Determined to meet the goals I made for and of myself.  However, it is the anticipation and aftermath that will change you and your life and never the goal itself.  It is never a singular or solo moment, but a build up to that moment and then everything thereafter.
 
When I re-read my goals that I had met and faced with, I realized that there were so many obstacles that had come my way that the goals being met were a slow-moving and a painstaking process.  I had fallen more times than I could count.  I had failed and risked more times than I could tell you.  To win, you have to lose.  To succeed, you have to fail.   Life interrupts and throws more curveballs of the unexpected, unplanned, and unforeseen that we are NEVER really ready for what is to come.  I had never really been ready for the results or how I felt after a goal I made was met.  You can plan and prepare and have all the goals you want, but to actually be ready for meeting and accomplishing them is a whole other ballgame.  I think about my friend who had met her goal to move to California.  I think about if she is ready for what is to come for her.  I think about if we are ever really ready for what is to come for all of us.  And, the answer is “NO.”   Life is always, always happening, moving, and living on as we are planning and preparing that I’ve reached a point to just try to be ready for the unplanned. The main goal I have for myself now is to be OK and to be OK with everyone and everything else.  We are never really ready for the reality until we are forced to get real. 
 
Are you goal-oriented?  What goals have you made for yourself?  Do you prepare and plan ?  When you met or supposedly accomplished what you set out to, were you ever really ready for the aftermath of meeting those goals?    
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary
 

 
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