The "Wu Word" Blog
It was that time of
the year again.
As soon as I heard
the crinkling plastic and the march of my father’s footsteps upstairs, I knew
what was to come.
Roughly every year
when I was a little girl and maybe even a couple times more throughout the year
just because of the junk I managed to collect, my father would come upstairs
armed with hefty garbage bags and a determined expression that we would bond
over throwing away and giving away items to the less fortunate that I no longer
needed. I cannot tell you what things I
threw away. I can only tell you about
the things I kept because of the memories and moments attached to them. I can especially tell you the times of being
with my father when we surveyed my entire room with all these things that did
not mean anything and only became something with sentimentality. I also learned that nothing and no one lasts
forever (things eventually break down and people get older), and to take care
of my belongings and people as best as I could while I had them for limited
I actually enjoyed
this ritual with my father because I got to spend time with him to realize how
much I had, how much I did not need, how much others did not have, and how much
others needed. I also learned that, in
this grand and meandering journey of life, we do not need a lot of things in
life and how sad that people treat their things better than other people. At the very end of it all, people will
remember how they felt in the company of who and not the what of things.
This ritual came to
an end when I tried to buy what I needed and not what I wanted. In that process of deciphering what I needed
and what I wanted, I came to grips that so much in life cannot be bought with
money in the long-term and for genuine but can maybe be bought in the only for
a short time based on superficiality: Health, Happiness, Love, People, Relationships,
and Time just to name a few are all that cannot be bought. Most of all, I realized over the years how
incredibly ‘wealthy’ I am with the simple necessities that we take for granted
until we no longer have them: the health of myself and my loved ones, my
family, a few good and true friends who are there for me during my worst and best
times, a roof over my head, food on the table, food to enjoy, a car to get me from point A to point B
without any accidents, and a job to make ends meet and to give me time to enjoy
life and with the people I love. There
are many who want more money; I want more time.
There are many who want more thigns; I want more life experiences to
enjoy and savor with the people I love. In fact, I’m trying more and more to become a
minimalist and get rid of things rather than take on new things—quite the
‘Wealth’ is different for everyone based on
different priorities. To me, my wealth
lies in my health of myself and my loved ones, my family, a couple really true
and loyal friends there for me in my worst and best times, freedom, time, and
enjoying life. Tangible money has always
been at the very bottom of ‘wealth’ for me because I learned long ago that
money is replaceable and refundable when life and with the people we love are
non-refundable. Time only goes. No way and abilities to get it back no matter
how much you want to. Forever lost and no way to gain back.
What ‘things’ mean so much to you and why
so? Do you want more money? What is your ‘wealth’? What is ‘wealthy’ to you?
Keep smilin’ until we
He was the last
person on my list that I had to call to register before his appointment to see
the surgeon next week for a consultation.
His case sounded
familiar to me from 10 years ago when I started working at the cancer center on
the surgical oncology floor where I entered the information for surgical
oncology cases. 10 years ago, I was a naïve
novice that shuddered in shock when I had reviewed and read the complex and
crushing medical histories of people forced into the patient role. Eventually,
the shock wears off and you become immune to how life weaves and works in ugly
and beauty, defeat and defiance, and struggle and strength.
I was counting down
the minutes, relieved that these past two weeks was finally going to be over. These
past two weeks had been emotionally exhausting, mentally draining, and
physically spent. Suffice to say, these were
probably one of the worst weeks I had endured professionally of being forced
back into New York City again with days starting and finishing in the darkness
of 6AM to after 8PM. I’ve come to hate
the commute to the city with such intensity that it is almost scary.
The worst part is I
felt a complete lack of support from my closest circle of friends who did not
ask or did not understand that I was about to breakdown. The best part is I
felt a complete shock and surprise of support from people from my past and a
couple from my present who checked in on me not to say and only to listen on my
brink of breakdown. The profound part is
the clarity that everyone has different gifts and experiences, which serve different
purposes at different points in your life.
You cannot expect from others and you can only hope.
He was 22-years-old. His voice was deep and husky. I’ve always been fascinated with voices. I, for one, disliked my voice, but I do think
my voice would be good as a cartoon character! ;-) A certain image begins to
form in my mind from their intonations, sound qualities, and highs and lows of
pitches. Does this happen to you?
Just before I got off
the phone, I asked him if he had any questions. “No,” he said slowly, “But, I do want to say
Uh-oh. I put on my extra professional voice, “OK,
how can I help you?”
“I just want to say
that you have a really lovely voice.
There have been few
and far times that I was left speechless.
Usually when people give me compliments, I am at a loss for words, my
face turns all hot and heated, desperation for a bucket of ice cold water to
wash over me kicks in, and I turn all flustered and stumbled over my strangled
response and behavior. I often try to
bounce compliments off myself on to others.
How do you do with compliments?
When have you been left wordless and flustered? This time was just like all the others when I
finally mustered, “Uhm…thanks.”
That’s when I
realized that I had been “zapped.” And,
it felt good. So good.
Let me tell you what "ZAP" is. It is a word I created. It is a word I hope to implement. “ZAP” is like an electric shock that jolts
you into putting the routine, the mundane, the boring, the familiar into new
and exciting perspectives of positivity and wanting and wishing to give good
forward and make great. “ZAP” shakes up
our life into something thrilling, joyful, and simply wonderful. “ZAP” leaves you silent and then ready to
soar. One sentence. A compliment.
Kind words. Simple and succinct. The little things that mean the most. The actions and words that totally throw you
off for the better. The surprises of
life and people in the best of ways. The
spontaneous of moments. Anyone can ‘zap’ and you can ‘zap,’ too. When
have you experienced “zap” by a stranger or familiar face and friend or family
member? Or, better yet, when have you “zapped”
others? "ZAP" is something that we need
to do more often than not.
We were only voices
on the phone. Words were our power. On my final day that wrapped up two weeks of
complete chaos, crazy, and funny that was filled with the unexpected
experiences and loads of learning of lessons, this one young man had ‘zapped’
me. He made my day and made the difference. He put me into new and needed
perspectives that what we do (or do not do) and what we say (or do not say) have such ripple and life
I hope others ‘zap’
you. I hope you ‘zap’ others. Most of all, I hope you keep on ‘zapping’ as you go forth in life.
Keep smilin’ until we
I met Buddy when I
was finishing up my teens and about to embark on my 20’s. Buddy was growing older. I was growing up. We were both at ‘lost and in trying to find’
places. You know those places where you
are at a crossroads—where you are or have lost and are trying to find your way
and must hold on to faith and hope that the unexpected that happened and the
choices you made will work out on the empty, long, and stretched road ahead that
will eventually have the signs, meaning and reasoning yet again.
middle-aged. He had just been laid off
after years of dedication, loyalty, stability, and hard work to his employer. My Dad did not tell me the details, but he
took on Buddy to help out at my Dad’s workplace after the lay-off. The lay-off was resulting in unspoken aloud
marital discord to feed Buddy and his family and make ends meet. My Dad never said in words, but he always did
in actions: “If you are in a better place than others, then your place is to
try to help others better themselves.”
As for me, I was at a
phase of fear, anxiety, and worry over what others my age had already happily achieved
and obtained: A Driver’s License.
Unlike the majority
of my fellow peers who craved and pursued their driver’s license like a dog on
the desperate hunt for food, I was a big cowering chicken when it came to
independence and freedom. This was an odd
and fearful to feel this gripping hold of fear when it came to my driver’s
license because I had always been rather bold in my pursuit of independence and
freedom under my Dad’s single parenthood of raising me rather protected due to
my health circumstances and being seen as ‘fragile’ by so many. I wanted to be an adult, but I also wanted to
just be a kid. The hard part was knowing
that I just could not have both. The
hardest part was knowing I had no choice but to be an adult.
I had just failed my
first driver’s test and was stubbornly refusing to take the road test
again. My Dad gave Buddy a task: Teach
me how to drive this second time around.
The catch: In reverse.
My biggest problem
when it came to driving was in reverse.
I was peachy just careening on the roads straight, putting on the
blinkers, knew about neutral, brake and gas, and the list went on. But, in reverse, I was downright confused when
the car wouldn’t go in the direction I wanted to when I backed out from a
parking spot or failed repeatedly in parallel parking. I can
still hear my father’s voice rising up to an octave of trepidation as soon as
the gear was on reverse and I struggled to drive: “Turn your wheel straight!”
Buddy was quiet and
calm with a soft-spoken and barely audible voice, which contradicted his wild
and wiry gray hair and disheveled appearance. He looked like a
very skinny version of Albert Einstein.
In our second or third lesson, we sat in my car (aka: Perry) in the
middle of a huge and empty parking lot.
I gulped and my palms sweat into the steering wheel. My mouth suddenly felt like cotton and I
could go for a whole gallon of water to guzzle down right then and there, but
then I probably would have peed on myself.
I knew what was to
come. I was going to have to drive in reverse. God help me. God help Buddy.
Perry purred gently
as a way to encourage me that I was going to be okay.
gently, “OK, check your car mirrors and rear view mirror again.”
I swallowed and
adjusted myself yet again more so than the car and rear view mirrors.
“You are going to
slowly put the gear in reverse while looking behind you and accelerate very,
very gently. We are just going to go in
reverse straight back.”
When I looked in the
car’s mirrors and in the rear window as I shifted the gear in reverse, I was
disoriented. With my short stature that
required me to sit on two pillows to see over the steering wheel, I had to
depend more so on the car’s mirrors and especially my gut feeling rather than
the rear window that made everything in the back appear distorted and
By my side, Buddy
said, “You have to trust me. It’s going
to be OK.”
The car was back in
park. I looked in his eyes and read
understanding that we were both in somewhat the same situations of not knowing
what would lie ahead with me trying to obtain my driver’s license that seemed
like the biggest deal ever and with him not knowing what would lie ahead with
his employment and, yet, you can’t help but retrospect and wonder how what
happened in life played out to where you are now and if you could have done
something differently in the past or if you did the best you could in that
moment in time to change the chain of life events. Isn’t this just like the
mind to play tricks on you to helplessly rewind and remember something from the
past and the images and memories are distorted, but the lingered feelings are
raw and real to you? When have you
Sometimes, your best just isn’t good
enough. Always, you will never know how
your life would have played out differently and if that ‘different’ would have
been better based on the best choices you made at that particular time and
place. You need reverse to go forward. All you can do is, indeed, go forward from reverse.
results in consequences and retrospect, but regret is a deep pressing feeling
that has no concrete and explainable reason.
I made a life rule for myself long ago to never live my life in regret
or dwell on the past because the consequences and time tells me that I will
live with them and find a way to go forward with those decisions that I had
made in that place and time. I do not regret, but I do retrospect and reflect an awfully lot. It is easy
to look back, but it is never easy to look ahead when we do not know if what we
did in reverse was right. When have you went
into retrospect mode on your life and the choices being ‘right’ for going
forwards? When did you feel that the best
that you gave in that moment in time was not good enough based on the
consequences that resulted? What have
you questioned in your life as to why it had to happen to have forced your hand
to make a choice? What are your regrets?
What do you wish you had known now then you had known then? How would you have done things
I trusted Buddy. I think he trusted me, too. On that day and the
days that followed with Buddy, we practiced reverse to go forward. There was fear of driving, but there was also
tons of laughter and smiles and a great camaraderie of friendship and trust that developed when we drove around and around the parking lot in
forward and reverse as well as in the village towns near by. I passed my second
road test with flying colors. To this
day, I will reverse in a parking spot as my preference for parking. As for
Buddy, I do not know what happened to him, but, I know, he is okay and that wherever
he is, he went in reverse to only go forward—and to keep on going.
Keep smilin’ until we
This had to be
Or, so I thought when
I was a tiny tyke no more than 8-years-old when the stars, moons, and comets
lit up the ceiling of my bedroom. I was
scared of the dark, but those glow-in-the-dark cosmic stickers made me unafraid
and convinced that this was my first glimpse and interpretation of heaven:
Heaven was high up where I could not touch or reach it, but I could certainly
dream and imagine. Heaven was where the
pearly white gates shone, angels flew, and sweet music played.
I wanted to touch
heaven. I wondered if there was more
than one heaven. ‘Tian’ is the word for
‘Heaven’ in Chinese. The Chinese believe
there are many heavens and Gods. No
matter if there were one or multiple heavens, I wanted to be up there among the
skies, the birds, Mother Nature, and, essentially, God’s natural wonders and
works of art.
I tried so hard to
touch heaven. I attempted to climb trees
when I was a little girl—a complete failed feat. I flew on airplanes thousands of feet high. I sweated up steep and ancient steps in the highest
towers in foreign countries. Being short
and closer to gravity made it even more frustrating that I could not reach
heaven. Someday, I was convinced, it
It was finally in
2012 when I stared up into the open, vast, and limitless sky after being
blessed as a Donate Life Float Rider at the Rose Bowl Parade that I saw
balloons fly up and disappear into the sky that it dawned on me that the only
way I could touch heaven was if I was a balloon. My best bet was flying in a hot air balloon,
and, so this was created as my #1 Live List item.
It took from 2012 to
2016 to finally touch heaven because of medical procedures and, especially, no
one wanted to accompany me. People
spouted off that I was “crazy,” “bonkers,” and: “I would never do that!” Many have said and probably will continue to
say that I am crazy with how I live my life with my “Live List” at hand. And, I don’t care. There comes a point you cannot and do not
care what others think and say about you and how you live your life when the
only choice is to live your life. No one
is going to live it for you except for you.
I spent so much of my youth overly caring and worrying what others
thought, anxious, and serious that I missed out on life and living it. I do not have regrets, but I certainly am
making up for lost time and all the things I did not say and was physically
limited to do as a child to now I saying and doing.
My long-time brave
soul of a friend for over 20 years finally stepped up and said that she would
accompany me. Irony is that she is scared of heights. I did not remind her
of her fears as I wanted her to be about life, and she was all about life when she proclaimed: “I
want to say that I went on a hot air balloon ride!”
My Dad has always
said that his greatest worry about me throughout 34 years of my life is how
bold and fearless I am, but now accepts and concludes: “Well, you are going to
do whatever you want anyway so just do it.
Live it up!”
Those were my last
words from my father on the phone on the day before I gunned the engine to
drive over an hour to New Jersey with my friend while we listened to 1950’s
rock n’ roll and contemporary pop music.
This was our first road trip. We
wanted to savor it. We oohed and ahhed
on our travels about our friendship as fast food joints and “Wendys” and “White
Castle” popped up.
We both squealed that
we have never been to a “White Castle” before and then I said: “Oh, I’ve never
been to a Wendys!”
“Yes, you have,
Mary! We went together!”
I could always depend
on her to remember my memories. That’s
what happens when you’ve been friends with someone for so long—it’s the kind of
friendship where you finish each other’s sentences, you remember for each
other, you stick up for one another, and, most of all, you are there for one another
when you are going to board a basket to fly up to who knows where.
My friend and I completely
understood the significance and meaning of this combined road trip and hot air
balloon ride being about the experience, the ride, and the companionship to
really LIVE LIFE. We were making up for
the lost time of our youth when we overly studied, cared, and believed that if
we studied hard, worked even harder, and partied less that we would be
successes. Now, over 20 years later, our
successes were not in money, a corporate high-end job, or in advanced
schooling, but our successes lay in our times together, memories made, and
moments lived and savored. Now, as I get
older and as my Live List continues to grow longer, I realize that I no longer
wish for ‘things’ in my life, but just wish for experiences with the people I
love and care for the most.
On the night of our
hot air balloon ride, we ate cheesy and gooey “grown up” grilled cheese dipped
in piping hot tomato bisque soup and stuffed our faces with pizza and burgers. Lying in bed in a fancy hotel, we read our “Live Lists” and
how we would make them happen. At 4AM
before the sun even rose and when we were wired and tired, we scrambled to get
up and did the most important thing before we closed the hotel door to drive in
the dark to the 34 annual QuickChek Hot Air Balloon Ride Festival:
Pray. Pray before we were about the live
the list item. Pray before we got to a
glimpse of heaven.
A blast of stifling humidity
suffocated us. It was complete chaos,
crowds, and craze when we arrived with no signs and ongoing questions of where
we were supposed to go. I was scared
that we would miss the hot air balloon ride and my ride to heaven would not
happen. I held in my bladder out of fear
of missing our names to meet our pilot that I had learned about over a year
ago. He was pretty much the only pilot
who had hot air balloon baskets with open doors. I knew my limitation lied in climbing over
the basket and a door would be the way to go.
He was friendly, jovial, and I could see the spark and lights in his
eyes as the hues of hazy purples and pinks of the sun was rising. This was the pilot who was going to steer us
I wish I could tell
you detail for detail what it was like to see all these beautiful, colorful,
brilliant, and vibrant balloons lift off and up in the air. I wish I could tell you word for word and
second for second what it was like to step into a basket with a group of
complete strangers, my one dearest and long-time friend to accompany me, and a
pilot who you could tell absolutely loved his job. But, this is the thing about moments—they fly
and fleet just as fast as they happen as they make their way into memories that
you just want to hold on, last, and keep forever. As the hot air balloon went up, up and away,
all my nerves and thrilling exhilaration fell to the wayside. I did
not feel the balloon take off. I did not
feel the balloon move. I did not feel
the balloon land. All I felt the entire
time of this experience as I was floating high above the world below of lush
green trees, tiny and perfectly manicured houses, and kidney-bean shaped
swimming pools that I was finally as close to heaven as I could possibly
be. Even as we hit 1100 feet and the
balloon continued to glide easily in the air, I was quiet and calm, smaller and
bigger, shorter and taller than ever before in my life. It is
very humbling and an honor to be with the higher heavens, Mother Nature, and
The descend back to earth and solid ground
happened quicker than the ascend to the skies and heaven. We landed in a stranger’s backyard. With all the hot air balloon riders and pilot,
our plastic cups filled with fruity and tangy lemonade and champagne touched and we rang
out a exuberant: “CHEERS!” Cheers to our safe and spectacular experience. Cheers
It has been more than
a week since my hot air balloon ride. The #1 item has been crossed off my
list. The greatest treasures of this hot
air balloon ride is what has happened to
my life that led me to board a basket and take flight in the companionship of a
valued friend and priceless friendship who ‘got’ the significance of this
experience. The greatest value that has
no price at all is my friend and her companionship from the time we scrambled
into my car to road trip, flew on the balloon, and landed safely on
ground. A ride in the company of one
good friend means the world than a ride by oneself. It seems like a dream now when I look
back. I suppose, in a sense, the most
magical moments feel like a surreal dream.
Yet, it was not a
dream. I finally did touch heaven.
What is on your Live
List? What have you ALWAYS wanted to do
but did not do it because of fear, of what people thought of you, of what
people said about you? Do you feel like
you are living YOUR life? What is your
Keep smilin’ until we