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The "Wu Word" Blog

February 2016


The first time I heard about “God” was through the sins, lies, and truths of my mother.   
It was my mother who brought us to the House of God decked out with plush pews, golden massive crosses, and stain-glassed windows.   Alongside a majestic pipe organ, she sang passionately in the Church choir in long, flowing, and satin-silken robes.  She taught me how to bend and pray on my knees, clasp my hands together, sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and made me believe that if I was good enough that good things would happen to me.   With black eyes that looked deep into my innocent soul, my Mom said to me, “Remember that your father and I had no one when we came to this country.  The only people who were ever here for us when you were so sick were these Church people who prayed so hard for you.  God is always here for you.  No one else. God is watching you.”  I learned from my Mom to have faith when times were tough. 
Rather than comforted, I was scared.  God was always watching me.  Could I ever live up to the saintly American name “Mary” that my parents gave to me and God who was watching me?  I remember wanting to ask my Mom years later after one health obstacle after another, “Why are bad things happening to me with my health when I followed all your rules to be so good?  What did I ever do in my life that was so bad? Is God watching now?”
The first time I learned about science was from my father.  He was immersed in the world of facts, science, and experiments.  It was my father who told me of such terms as gene expression, resveratrol, and molecular biochemistry.  After my mother left, we all stopped going to Church, and I wondered if we were all going to hell as a result.  With black eyes that looked deep into my soul as a little girl, my Father reassured me, “Mary, as long as you do good things because you want to then this is all that matters.”  I learned from my father that there were facts to make logical decisions.
I did not understand God.  Who was God?  Where was He?  Why was there all this pain and suffering to endure in this world?  And, why me with health stuff?  At 8-years-old, I diligently began to write to God every single day in my very first multi-colored paged “Hello Kitty” diary.  I wanted to understand myself.  Mostly, I wanted to understand God.  For over ten years, I wrote to God. Every single day, I put pen to paper to tell God about my day, my worries, my fears, my joys, and all the little things that seemed so big and unending when I was so young.  Yes, God was watching me, but how come I couldn’t see or watch God?  Did God really understand me?  Could I ever understand God?   Was he really a He?  Maybe he was a She?  Were there heaven or hell?  Sinners and saints? Was there a devil and were people born evil?  How could He let bad things happen like world hunger, shootings, and poverty?  How come God seemed to let good things seem to happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people or people who never did anything wrong, but always seemed like something was going wrong?  How come we turn to God when we are mainly in need and just as quickly and easily blame when things are at its worst rather than when things are really at its best? 
People ask me what religion I am.  I will be the first to admit that I turn to and think of God more when times or tough rather than when sailing on smooth waters.  I reflect deeply on my own personal faith and journey that involved my religious mother, my philosophical father, and meditative Stepmother.  I think of the atheists and agnostics I have met.  I realize that faith and facts, philosophy and spirituality, chants and prayers, and crosses and rosary beads have laid the groundwork for me to conclude that I do not know what religion I am.  All I know is I have faith and believe that there is some higher power watching over ad will take care of myself and my loved ones.  All I know is that it feels good to believe than to not and never believe.  The power and process of faith is such an individual journey for each person that manifests from the roller coaster ride of life. 
What has your spiritual, scientific, or religious journey been like from your life experiences?  What is your faith?  What do you think a soul is?  And, what happens to someone when all faith is lost and seems like it can never be restored again? 

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


Wait and See

The texts and the phone calls have begun. 
“I’m here for you whenever you are ready.”
“What’s going on?  You sound sad.  Let’s grab a coffee—my treat.”
“Keep me posted. I love you.”
“You are in my thoughts and prayers.  I said a special prayer for you in mass.” 
With these simple and sweet messages that express thought, sincerity, and care for me, my sense of faith and gratitude is restored and soaring higher than I could ever foresee with those few who are by my side. 
But the waiting continues on with test results to determine how I must go forward to fight or stand still to not forget that everything can change in a blink of an eye in the worst of ways to bring out to best in me.  Without divulging too much for the entire world to read and review, I am waiting on precautionary results that another health battle is not budding and about to tower over me while juggling new found supposedly and hopeful separate symptoms that have risen.
When I look back on almost 34 years of my life, there seems to be two life tactics that I’ve been doing nearly consistently in an inconsistent life:
Waiting and Fighting
The waiting was out of my control.  The fighting was in my control.
Waiting for a first kidney transplant.  Waiting for my parents to come to their senses to go separate ways.  Waiting for my sister to return home from her wanderlast ventures to see her again.  Waiting for friends—or, the select few who could embrace and even love my quirks and quandaries to befriend the oddity that I was and still am.  Waiting for my second kidney transplant.  Waiting for the just the right moment until I had to undergo my hip replacement surgery.  Waiting for and still waiting for love—whatever love means.  Waiting for test results that determined my next battle to fight.  All I wanted were the simple waits in life that others seem to have that I could never have: Waiting in traffic, Waiting on grocery lines, Waiting for tickets to a live and loud concert, Waiting for that ‘right’ person for a proposal or for life to begin in the womb or even before then, Waiting on lines to new adventures and excursions that life had waiting for me in the kaleidoscope of colored horizons. 
In all my waiting, I ended up fighting.  Fighting really hard.  Fighting so hard that I could no longer feel or figure out what was my original intent to fighting.    Fighting with insurance companies to cover the costs for medical services that ranged from radiology scans to my oblong, capsule, or round pills that I had to feed my mouth to maintain my kidneys and health.  Fighting with doctors to call me back in a timely manner to fulfill my next step that I had in my mind to my health path.  Fighting to find the illusions of control only to eventually understand that what I had to wait for was never in my control to begin with.  Fighting for my life because, the truth is, the more I have had to fight for life on the brink of losing it, the more I live and value life in ways that no one will understand until that person is about to lose life.   
Honestly, though, I have a secret to divulge.  I was not always the fighter.  I spent much of my childhood into my angsty teenager years asking “Why Me?”  and throwing and wallowing in pity parties until I could no longer see who I was and felt like I was disappearing.  I do not know when it happened that I just started to surrender.  I do not know when I stopped asking why and flying away, and started to ask questions to face and fight. 
Funny thing is many in white lab coats foresee “questioning” as “challenging authority” or me as the “problematic patient.”   I’ve had a doctor refuse to see me because I asked too many questions and, apparently, she was not available for emergencies according to her nurse practitioner. I’ve been labeled as a difficult and anxious patient—and I do not deny it.  I’m on the flip side of the coin because I work in healthcare and I know patients like me who wait and fight.  I never wish harm or ill will on anyone.  I never expect anyone to understand my life because they have not lived it—nor have I lived your life or anyone’s life…and, even if our experiences are similar, our truths and perceptions are all the different from so many underlying factors.  But, I must confess that I have had these words itch on my sharp tongue when the fighter in me comes out: Who would like to live my life for a little while and live in my mind where a sense of fear and knowledge lurks that the other shoe can clunk and fall so hard and so fast until the shoe shatters? It isn’t pessimism because I will always be the eternal optimist and fighter.  It is simply reality.  
With this reality, I wish and believe that every doctor should be a patient to experience and feel that fear, not knowing, waiting, and fighting for life.  Again, no ill will on anyone, but there is utmost truth that we can never understand how someone is feeling until we walk in their shoes.  I think these doctors as patients would make the best doctors as doctors of all.     
After nearly 34 years of waiting and fighting, I must say that these latest health bumpers in my road have solidified and fortified the fighter in me, but now there a different fighter in me coming out with a deep understanding that I have to see first.  I mean, really SEE.  SEE in the sense of accepting and understanding that nothing is really in my control  and all I can try my best and fight my hardest while holding on to the one and only faith that everything becomes clearer when looking back while having to fight and keep it moving forward.   
It takes courage and strength to really ‘wait and see,’ which possess the fine balance of doing without overdoing and trying the best without controlling the uncontrollable.   It is when we are all under pressure that we see people as they really are.  So, who are you?  How do you cope in the wait and see period?  Is this something that you strive for? How have you faced situations where you felt like you were losing it…losing your life, losing who you are at the core of you, losing illusions of control, losing loved ones?  Did you fight or flight? Did you 'wait and see'?  
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 


I learned when I was college-aged that most people do not know what to say when they see you years later all grown up.  They resort to these two questions that seemingly determine success according to society’s standards:
“Do you have a boyfriend?” 
If you do, the faces lighten up and the string of squeals and excited, eager, curious, and bordering on nosy questions are asked about the significant other and all the delicious details of how the both of you met and are here now.  You then are a part of the “in crowd.”  You are the “haver,” rather than the “have-notter.”   
Then, there is second question as below:
“What do you do for a living?”
Yet again, you are the “haver,” rather than the “have-notter”if you have a job that pays you well and robs you of time from the really important in life of family and friends over paper money. 
I wish I knew then in high school and college when the questions came what I know now through this one word that is my best and only answer to these questions: “SAPOI.” 
Please let me introduce you to this word “SAPOI.”  It will intrigue you.  I’m sure you can relate to it to a certain degree or know someone who does, regardless of your gender—though many believe it is mainly applicable to women.   It is primarily those who identify as the ‘angualrs’ (aka: misfits and outsiders) who are intense, complex, and complicated thinkers and even analyzers who never felt they belonged anywhere rather than the ‘linears’ (aka: the fitters and insiders) that followed the supposed simple life on the surface of friends, marriage, children, grandchildren, and good job/pay.  Maybe you will even fall in love with it. Maybe, do not fear, you are more different than you think and believe to be when all you want to do is fit in and be “normal—whatever that means. 
My overseas friend introduced me to the word “SAPOI” in her letter in CAPITAL LETTERS:
“Mary, I discovered this magazine!  It is not like all these other girly magazines that tell women how they cannot live without a man or must satisfy their man, more make-up they must wear or less clothes they wear to show their skin and body parts to attract men to hunt them down, and to be unrealistically and unhealthily thin until you want to shake the magazines and yell at the photo-shopped woman to ‘PLEASE EAT A BURGER!’  It is a magazine about how single women can live independently and freely and that there is NOTHING wrong with it.  These women are not accused and judged that they must be homosexual.  It supports and says that just because a woman is single does not mean that she does not want to be with someone else, but that she is proud of singlehood and being on her own and is just waiting for the right guy at the right time.  It is about SAPOI—SINGLE AND PROUD OF IT.”
My eyes re-read “SAPOI.”  I said the word aloud.  I tasted the word with my tongue.  Soft “SA” that sloped gently downwards and “POI” that jutted and blurted out abruptly.  Joy bubbled inside of me.  A big smile took over my face to the delicious feel, taste, and especially the significance of this simple word.  SAPOI.  Oh, yes, this was me.  Oh, yes, this was so many women that I knew of.  Oh, and, absolutely, definitely, and fully, there were men who were SAPOI, too.  And, I loved this word.  Correction, I LOVE this word. 
Beginning in college and slammed particularly in college and on, I was asked endless question when it came to the opposite sex and guy-girl relationships:
·         Do you have a boyfriend yet? Why don’t you have one?
·         Have you tried dating websites? Why not EHarmony of Match.com—there’s probably a discount?  Maybe meet some guys at a Home Depot or bars? 
·         Why don’t you put yourself out there more? 
·         You have such a pretty face—why not make yourself gorgeous by plucking eyebrows and wearing make-up? 
·         You know, you aren’t getting any younger, so there will reach a time that you will want to settle and grow old with someone, right? 
Then the assumptions and the judgments whispered of
·         #1 Mary is gay—yes, I have had people say this in high school just because I did not have a boyfriend and had all girls as friends.
·         #2 Mary must NOT want to be in a relationship.  Do not ever put her on a blind date or suggest a nice guy.   She is second best or second rate—no, no one has said this, but it sure makes me feel that way.  
Never has anyone asked me this: “Mary, what do YOU want when it comes to being in a serious RELATIONSHIP with a guy?” 
I wish I had the answer to that question. 
All I know so far is this:
 #1 assumption makes me roll my eyes at the diminutive views that many have to box in.
#2 assumption bewilders and hurts me the most because it goes like this: Just because I am single DOES NOT mean that I DO NOT want to be in a relationship.  It just means that *fathom this* I actually LIKE my company of me, myself, and I and *even bigger shocker,*I rather wait patiently for the right person at the right time than NOT wait and end up in all the wrong that is not meant for me. 
I always knew that I was different when it came to ‘relationships,’ and especially with a significant other.  Unlike many, I never had any desire and never believed in forcing or trying to find any kind of relationship.  While everyone was and still is going on dating websites, speed dating, and purposefully going out to social scenes and settings with the intent to meet that special someone, I never even looked at a dating website and the places I go to are because I want to out of interest and curiosity to learn more and not with any intent to force to find anyone.  I believe in organic and “let nature take its course” with people and relationships.  I see connections with another person are either a ‘have,’ ‘maybe will grow over time, or ‘do not have.’  To even reach the point of ‘connection’ with someone, I think it is about being open and never closed with this truth: People are people—take ‘em or leave ‘em as they come or go and everything in between.  I have also come to grips that it takes patience and time to really get to know people.  It does not happen overnight.  It is a slow-moving progression and process of motions and emotions and it is about giving people your patience and presence while time will reveal and tell you what you need to know about a particular relationship and that particular person.  Most of all, it is about sharing and caring.  No, do not mistake this for keeping score.  Relationships are not about scorecards.  Relationships are about ‘relating' through the good, bad, and everything in the middle through everything and not when it is to your own satisfaction and needs. 
For the longest time, I believed that we choose our friends, but now my views are changing that perhaps a greater fate, destiny, and/or heavens above choose and ‘call’ out to us with meeting and encountering certain people—and, most of all, whatever is meant to be with another person in a relationship is meant to be.   I see that any and all relationships as a ‘calling’ now. 
How do you see relationships?  Do you think everyone is meant to be with someone?  Do soulmates, destiny, and fate exist?  Is a serious relationship a ‘calling’?  What happened to the contentment of a whole person rather than the constant quest for the other half?  What is it YOU want rather than what others and especially society wants of you? 
So, alas, for now and I imagine even if I were to end up with a significant other, I am wholeheartedly and definitely “SAPOI” when it comes to my relations with others.
Are you SAPOI?   And would you ever be so proud to admit and maybe even strut it?  ;-)
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 

Slanted Eyes

I was convinced I was Italian and understood I was American before I realized and am still learning that I am ABC (American-Born Chinese). 
I ate pasta drenched in my favorite Bolognase sauce (or gravy, as I’ve been told it is ‘properly’ called) with a fork covered in snowy grated Parmesan cheese before I ate noodles in salty soya sauce and earthy sesame oil covered in sesame seeds and seaweed bits with a pair of ivory chopsticks.  I learned to eat with a fork, spoon, knife, and even a spork when I was a tiny tyke before I learned to use chopsticks at 15-years-old.  My earliest memories of holiday festivities were of cottony soft red and white stockings hung by our fake fireplace stuffed with chocolates and candies on Christmas day rather than red packets etched in glittering golden characters stuffed with lucky wads of green money bills on Chinese New Year.  I spoke English fluently before Chinese—and, mind you, my Chinese is still ever so broken and causes eruptions of laughter rather than nods of comprehension to this day.  I knew my American name and how to write it in the letters of the alphabet before my Chinese name in countless characters, which I still do not know how to write in perfect strokes. 
I grew up believing that I should be as “American” as possible—whatever “American” means.  I was raised by my atypical anti-stereotypical Asian father who was born in Shanghai, grew up in Hong Kong, and was the first one to come to North America all on his own.  He was considered unusual in the usual of Asian parents because he never drilled in me to study until my head hurt and until I received straight A+ (not only an “A”) marks.  He never steered me in any direction about what I needed to do with my life career-wise, which, typically, Asian children are directed to go into science and math to become doctors or accountants where the ‘real’ money (aka: security and success in this society) are.  After all, let us not forget that, Asians are known to exceed at mathematics and numbers over words and letters.  Even now, I am the only one in my immediate family who does not have a doctor or doctorate degree or at least a Masters Degree. My father never put pressure on me.  I put pressure on myself.  I had to get lost and try to find my own way.  Most of all, my father was unlike Asian parents in that he was a philosopher.  He told me stories.  He taught me lessons.  He liked to and opted to talk through the world that was full of colors and grays rather than just blacks and whites.  Every now and then, he will share his childhood with me. 
It is when I hear these stories about him growing up in China, I wonder about who I am in relation to my cultural identity and how it plays its own vital part.  I wonder about the Chinese side to me and if people make assumptions when they hear my last name is “Wu” and see my slanted eyes and yellow skin.  I cannot tell you the number of times someone has said to me at first glance: “Konichiwa,” with the assumption I am Japanese, or asked me: “Where are you from?  Born in China or here in U.S.A?” In many ways, I feel like I am like all the products on display in major corporate chain stores where I am here in the U.S.A., but “Made in China.”   Do the people who ask me these questions have any idea that I am more American than Chinese?  Do my very select few Asian friends know that, although I look just like them on the outside, they are more Asian than I am on the inside?  On the outside, I am clearly Asian, but on the inside, I am so much more.  My insides derive from a modge podge and multiple melting pots of experiences with people and life and, now more than ever, I am understanding, my roots, culture, ancestors, and past have an immense and lifelong impact.
As an ‘adult’ now if you can call me that because I am ever silly and goofy and forever young at heart, I often wished that my father told me what to do and laid the path out for me to follow so I did not have to get so lost to try to figure it out on my own to find my way.  I also wish that I had ‘fit’ the mold of the typical Asian who excelled at science and math just because I think it would have been easier to connect to the Asian side to me.  It is often easier and less painful to have someone tell you what to do than to have to figure it out on your own, but I understand that easier is not better and there is are great gifts and curses that come with the freedom of figuring it out on your own.  ‘Gifts’ and ‘Curses’ that I would not and could not trade if given that freedom of choice.  These ‘gifts’ and ‘curses’ of decision-making and getting through this meandering journey of life has made me see that the decisions and actions of our ancestors, grandparents, and parents affect our identity and what we do and who we are as we go forward.   My father deciding to come to the U.S.A. at a very young age and to ‘make it on his own’ has carried over to me to ‘make it on my own.’ The previous, the past, the yesterday carry over to today and to next days from thereafter.
Sometimes, I will close my eyes and imagine what it was like for my father when he first came to the U.S.A.  I think of “America” and what it means, and conjure images of flags boasting red, white, and blue and the Pledge of Allegiance that I recited when I was a little girl and into my teens.  I think of the fireworks that blast and burst into the skies on 4 of July.  I think of barbeques, picnics, and a land that my father came to where hard work meant everything and that you receive rewards not because you deserve it, but because you earned it.   I think of all the ‘differences’ in culture, ethnicities, religion, and so much more we have here in this one U.S.A. country that try and can divide us when we possess ‘similarities’ that can ultimately bind and bring us together and to understand each other better.   
When I completed one of my ‘live list’ items to walk on the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China a year after my hip replacement surgery, I remember my father said to me pensively with his head tiled,   “I think it is important for children to have their grandparents in their lives because grandparents are living history to provide insight to who we are now and what could be in the future. “  Yes, I agree.  Yes, I am finally understanding.  I am understanding what “America” is and who I am from where I came from and from what my parents and the previous have decided and done. 
What are your roots?  Who do you identify with culturally and how so?  Do you think your ethnicity and are your elderly and ancestors vital to your identity?  Where and who do you come from? 
I end with bidding “Happy Chinese New Year!” to all….it’s the year of the monkey, let’s go bananas over it!    
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 
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