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The "Wu Word" Blog

June 2016

Magic

I received unfortunate results this week from a routine radiology scan this week.  So, the shoe has dropped yet again for more tests and doctor appointments. 
 
This is like a repeat of two years ago when I returned from the 2014 Transplant Games of America.  It is as though I entered a time machine and went back to 2014, but this is happening here and now in 2016.   I brace myself that surgery number (fill in blank because I lost track) will happen again.  The surgeons love me, and particularly my abdominal area that has been cut into countless times to rewire the ‘plumbing’ for kidney beans, transplant kidneys, and remove or question masses.  I never want to hear the word “mass” again in my life, and the only acceptable and embraceable ‘mass’ to me now is “Catholic Mass.”  I am the surgeons’ human carving board.
 
The first person I told was my friend for over 20 years. 
 
One of the first questions she asked me was, “How do you feel about all of this?”
 
“I don’t know,” I confessed.

I expected to be more upset, but, on the day I received this news, I did the unexpected—I drove to an area I was completely unfamiliar with to meet with friends to eat soft serve swirled ice cream encrusted in hardened chocolate that melted into my mouth in a pool of delicious heaven, played on a hybrid piano, and smiled and laughed so hard that my face hurt and could not make any possible room for wet tears. 
 
And, the ONLY image that first formed in my head and filled and flowed throughout the day of this news as all my thoughts and worries swam in there was this: Water. 
 
16 feet of water—just to be exact. 
 
Water so incredibly blue, shimmering, glittering, crisp, clean, delicious, pure, and welcoming for me to jump in.  Eyes wide open.  Breath held.  Free fall.  Jumped straight in.  An world of crystal clear and clean and frigid and freezing water enveloped and embraced me.  Only me.  No one else.  It felt magical.  It was my magic to jump into that 16 feet of water and to feel nothing and everything at the same time.  It is magic. 
 
For the first time in my life in over 30 years of receiving bad and unfortunate news about my health, there were no tears, bitterness, anger, or panic.  I strangely and welcomingly felt peaceful and unafraid of the unknown.   If anything, this latest health hiccup has made me want to live, party, enjoy, and make and find magic more than ever before.  Time and time again, everything that had went wrong, everything that had crashed and crumbled around me, everything that felt like it was falling apart ended up all right, unfolded to reveal what I needed to know and understand, and fell into its rightful places.   For as many tears that I have cried, shed, and that have rolled down my cheeks, I have smiled and laughed even more, harder, and louder.  Especially at the small that seem to mean nothing to others mean everything to me—like jumping into 16 feet of water! :-) I am easily fascinated and excited by the little in life!  I love and treasure magical moments that I both create and find when least expected! 
 
Funny that as I’ve aged older in numbers and as my body has undergone even more, the younger and more free I feel and am.  Funny that I feel old and young at the same time.  I spent so much wasted time worrying throughout my life that if I could just meet with child Mary Wu again, I would look her straight in the eyes, wipe her tears, hug her hard, and exclaim: “Don’t worry!  Don’t take life so seriously when there is so much serious in your life and in this world!  Everything has a way of working out! Just enjoy, love, live, laugh, and, most of all, let magic envelope you to fascinate and enthrall you!”   
 
Here I am now as an adult.  No longer a child.  Magic is not only for the chronological age of a child, but is needed and vital even more so as we get older and life gets tougher.  Better late than never that I finally do this—party, celebrate, feel, make, and find the magic especially in the most mayhem of moments.  There is so much in life that tries to stop us when they need to move us to make magic.  Never lose your sense of wonder, fascinating, magic, and awe and especially at the worst rather than only the best.  
 
What would you say to your child you?  What have been and are your magical moments?  What magic are you making and finding in life at its worst and best?  What is magic to you?
 
I hope you always make and find magic.  There is magic everywhere—it is just a matter of creating, seeing, loving, and living in it!  
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Gold

The truth comes out.  I won’t lie.  I won’t even try.  I wanted to win the gold medal. 
 
I craved the shine and sheen of the medal to blind me full of glory, applause, and confirmation that all my hard work and efforts would announce loud and clear to all, everyone, and, most of all, myself that I was a “winner.”  After two months of training to dive and backstroke and a lifetime of always being a non-athlete that stumbled over my feet and was in modified gym classes, I believed that this 2016 Transplant Games of America would be the time that I was given the ‘gold medalist’ title. 
 
Well, I did not win the gold medal.  I won much more.
 
The truth is that I’ve never been an athlete.  I’m not a sports fan by any means.  I’ve never understood the gusto and competitive sides and even beasts that come out in a sports game.  Throughout my life I’ve struggled with running, jumping, sprinting, hopping, skipping, and even swimming and walking.  I’ve never won any symbolic “winner” rather than “loser” item—a trophy, medal, or even a ribbon.   
 
I’ve always been last.  I’ve always stood on the sidelines or sat on the bleachers, watching in wide-eyed awe at the gift of movement and motion from others that were and are stronger, taller, and faster.   
 
The one thing I can do and still do to this day is this: I’ll be your best and loudest cheerleader full of exuberance, exhilaration, and excitement. 
 
However, let me tell you how loud life can get. There does come a point that sitting down in a slump is not an option and standing up tall is the only option.  This point happens when life starts talking—loudly.   Life will loudly intervene for an end to waiting, wanting, and wishing and a start doing, playing, and acting.  Life screams when the possibility of death occurs and when struggling and fighting begins in your very own ‘race.’ When has life screamed and got loud for you to stand and not sit?  To act and not say?  To play and not just wish away? 
 
After competing in my third Transplant Games of America,  I’m learning that the truest of athletes and winners is not someone  who plays the logistics and rules of the game with  the single view to win the gold medal, but someone who has passion, motivation, sportsmanship, and is about ‘we’ over ‘me.’  Anyone can play the game, but how many can persevere and persist in the game when are at the very end of the rope, trying the best in worst of circumstances, slower than everyone else, and fighting to make it to the finish line?
 
I gained more gold than I have in this Transplant Games of America than I have in one single medal.  I dove for the first time in a 50 free.  I jumped in 16 feet of water in the company and companionship of fellow transplant recipients.  I did a surprise 50 back stroke in a team relay medley where we won a bronze medal.  My teammate and I ended up winning a gold medal in cornhole all because she stuck by me when I didn’t even have the energy to throw the dang bean bag anymore.  I experienced the power of friendship when my very good friend who could not swim anymore sat and stayed with me to complete my 50 free and hug me so hard that I started crying just thinking of my organ donor families.  I reunited with one of my favorite families who had lost their heart transplant recipient son and fellow swimmer friend of mine.  I hugged organ donor families as hard as I could constantly thinking of mine and just hoping peace and love for them wherever they are and whomever they are.  I hope to make them proud just by me living and continuing to be the best version of myself in whatever I do in this ‘race’ and journey of life. All these single valued and priceless moments with every single person are precious shiny and sheen gold.  
 
My ‘gold’ is ‘life.' Simply being alive, to live, to move, have fun, savor, and have fun because of both of my organ donor families.  I’ve never been and still do not consider myself a competitive person against others because the greatest competitor, the greatest enemy, and the greatest race I am in day after day is with me, myself, and I.   And, isn’t that like all of us that we are in our very own ‘race’ everyday to fight, live, and just keep on going and moving and treasuring and valuing the beauty and the joy in the little things that mean the most?  What have you ‘won’ and what are you still winning in life?  Do you consider yourself an athlete?  What actually makes an athlete?  What actually makes a ‘winner’?  What is your ‘gold’? 
 
I did not win the gold medal.   I am still winning so much more ‘gold.’ For all this and more, I am blessed and grateful. 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

The Abandoned Piano

It started out as a dream.  It almost always starts out with a dream that results in me either lying lazily in bed reflecting upon it or sitting up straight to execute it. 
 
In this dream, I was in the music store searching for two piano books: “Les Miserables” and a red piano book that taught the very beginner basics of piano.  When I finally found them, I delivered them to my friend with a request: “Please teach me the piano.” 
 
This was one of the execution dreams. 
 
I think the piano was a somewhat symbol of my biological mother—she was the one who forced me to learn how to play the piano at 7-years-old, but more so for the final recital where I remember feeling pretty for the first time in my life in a rich royal purple velvet dress and my hair wove tightly in two braids.  I was truly a terrible piano student!  Now, I’m trying to make up for this.  I don’t know how my piano teacher put up with me as the bad piano child student who never paid attention or practiced, fidgeted relentlessly, and rolled my eyes that this must just be a waste of my time.
 
Once I placed my ten fingers on the keys gently, I thought and hoped everything, something, or maybe just anything would come back to me.   Nothing.  Not a note.  Not a chord.  My fingers were clumsy and nearly fearful of the 88 black and white keys.  Nonetheless, I was invigorated and eager to learn.  To learn, I needed to practice.  To practice, I needed a piano.
 
Apparently, finding a piano to play and practice on was harder than I could have ever imagined.  Public libraries rejected me.  Nursing homes didn’t call me back.  Churches were up in the air.  All because of possible liability and property damage. 
 
I was begging anyone to practice on a piano, and the mass majority of responses were: “You are not allowed to practice on our baby grand or public piano that is only meant for public performances.”
 
I sputtered, “But, I don’t need to practice on a fancy piano.  I’ll practice on any piano that has 88 keys!”
 
A music conservatory finally came through with allowing me to rent the space with a piano in it for $25 per hour, splitting it a half hour each session.  Melodious music embraced me as soon as I entered.  One of the first questions I was asked once I was told which room I could practice in was: “Do you need an instructor at all?”
 
“No, I have a great instructor.”
 
The woman looked dubiously at me, “Does she have a Masters degree?”
 
I was stunned and immediately said, “Yes.”
 
Marching up to the rented room to meet my first piano to practice on that ended up being a “Steinway,” I shook my head in confusion wondering: “What’s with all this needing to practice on a baby grand piano and the instructor mandated to have a Masters?  All I want is a piano to practice on!  I’m grateful for whatever I can get.”
 
My determination and pain-in-the-ass persistence finally resulted in playing and practicing on four completely different pianos this past week.  One in the plush and regal music conservatory with the sounds of virtuosos in the making.  Two pianos at two of my friends’ homes. All three pianos were cared for a maintained meticulously with being tuned at least twice a month (or more) and the cover open to reveal intricate parts that released music.  Then, finally, I received permission from one of the local churches to practice on one of their supposedly second rate pianos after I confirmed with her, “I don’t need to practice on your baby grand piano!  I just need to practice on a piano!  Anything!  I’m grateful for anything!”
 
Finding this piano was half the battle.  When I entered the room, there was no piano to be found.  Only rounded tables and matching beige chairs to follow.  I searched everywhere and, finally, the sunlight streaming through the window caught on a cloth covering what had to be the body of a piano.  I had almost given up finding it because it was so tucked away in seclusion.
 
When I removed the sheet, this dusty and old piano greeted me.  It had clearly been abandoned and left unmaintained and uncared for.  To most, it probably would have been considered an eyesore.  To me, it was the most beautiful piano I could have ever seen, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was going to be the one to try to give it love to make music once again.
 
When I gently pressed on the keys, they stuck and required more exertion from me.  Memories flooded back when I was a little girl that did not care or appreciate learning how to play the piano, or my piano instructor.  I had taken all of this for granted as a child and now this was all I wanted as an adult.  When do we gain appreciation and gratitude?  Is it only when we no longer have it?  Is it that awareness of appreciation and gratitude are not realized until we are adults?
 
I felt a sharp sadness for this pitiful piano that had been bereft of any love and music released from it for who knows how long?  What songs had this piano played?  When was the last time music came from it?  Who had stroked and pressed the keys only to finally push it to the corner, forgotten and uncared for?    
 
I think there are certain things, times, and moments we appreciate and value more when we are older than younger and when we no longer have it or can no longer get it back.  Was there something from your childhood you did not care for that, most likely, your parents forced you to do that you wished to make up for it as an adult?  What have you taken for granted and appreciated even more after it was gone and as an adult rather than a child?
 
I do not know how long I stayed in this room by myself.  But, I wasn’t alone.  I was with this abandoned piano.  But, it was not to be abandoned anymore.  I was a beginner.  This piano was advanced.  We would find a way to make music together for as long we could make it.
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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