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The "Wu Word" Blog

October 2016

Skin

“Where does it hurt?”
 
I sighed with defeat. “Everywhere.”
 
My naked back faced one of my closest friends.  I stared straight ahead at pictures of my family and friends laughing with mouths wide open, closed eyes, blowfish cheeks, and crinkled happy lines on their faces.  I could not help but smile at all these photos that captured such joy.  The familiar, pungent scent of IcyHot and BenGay wafted to my nostrils.  Slowly and methodically, she gently laid her hand on my back that immediately tensed and then fell into relief once her fingers rubbed the minty menthol cold heat cream into my skin.  The only people I allowed to touch my revealed back were a masseuse, my father, my sister, and healthcare professionals.   I had always been able rub in the numbing cream myself, but now I could not because of how stubborn my body was in hindering me in this simple act that would provide the most relief.  I rarely ever ask for help.  It was a lot for me to finally ask my friends for this small pain relieving gesture that meant to most to me—not only in the action of rubbing the cream into my aching and painful body, but mostly in me showing and sharing my weak and vulnerable sides to say this: “I cannot do it all.  I need help.” 
 
My friends happily agreed.  My family would volunteer before I could ask.  Their touch soothed me.  Their hands comforted me.  Their care for me warmed me to the very core.  It is a very intimate and close feeling to have someone you trust reach out as contact on and to your skin to let you know that although you feel all alone, you really are not alone.   The relief is instant.  The connection is immediate.  My gratitude is immense and immeasurable—it is always the littlest things that move us the most.  Pain is undefined and consists of synonyms: prickly, burning, achy, sore, electrical shocks, etc.  For many people, they can pop in pain  pills.  For me, I can’t.  So, I have come to depend on the hands of mainly my family, my osteopath, and few friends.   For the past 2 weeks, my body had convulsed into muscle spasms and 'stuck' and pressing pain.  I had never had spasms or strain last this long and they seem to last all the longer when all you experience is pain.  I breathed a sigh of relief at the temporarily dissipating pain from the ointment.     My body was happy again.
 
I often have conversations with my body.  Not that my body can talk back or speak the roots of what ails it.  So, I talk aloud and loudly to my body with only my body speaking in volumes with how highly sensitive it is.  34 years of being in my body and I’ve concluded:  I have a body of probably someone in their 60’s, mentality even older, and spirit the youngest of all.   
 
If I were to talk to my body, I would say: “What are you trying to tell me??  You’re really pissing me off!  Please chill out and keep up with me enjoying and partying up life!” 
 
If my body were to talk to me, it would seriously snap back to me: “You are the craziest chick that I have to house!  Listen to me and slow down!”
 
My body, senses, and skin were always extremely sensitive that has mostly revolved around pain.  Definitely more sensitive than the average person.  My father says my body is always on extra high alert as a means to protect me after so many traumas and changes from surgeries, recovery, and rehabilitation. Pain can only be felt with strange sensations in what lies underneath the skin.  Our bodies and the skin are only a protective outer shell that is mysterious, mystifying, and miraculous.  My body and the skin I’ve been in has definitely reminded me time and time again that I am only human, full of limitations turned to strengths and of impatience requiring patience. I need to be slow and steady rather than unnecessarily speedy.    As I have chronologically aged and thankful to being another day older above my ground, my body has become increasingly hyper sensitive to my zest for life and me being the overly active participant in my life.  Yet, isn’t it more than interesting that we are born into one body as a protective and outer shell that naturally, eventually, and biologically ages and with increasing life experiences that can bring us down and lift us up?  Isn’t it even more interesting that we develop a thicker skin and end up with more layers of ourselves from life than we could have ever imagined? 
 
The bodies we are born into and the skin we are in becomes stronger and thicker when we push the boundaries of our bodies, but it is critical to carefully listen to the limitations.  What physical aches and pains and obstacles and hurdles have you had to overcome?  Are you like me that your cautious physical body can’t keep up with your racing mind?  If your body and you could have a conversation, what would you say?  What would your body say to you? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
  

Mary ;-) 

The Meaning of Life

“I think I was meant to meet you,” she declared.
 
A curled American red, white, and blue flag in the corner and a large crucifix in the backdrop framed her face of clarity and certainty.  She said it with such conviction that I felt humbled, startled, and bewildered with a slight chill that went up my spine and made the hairs on my arms stand up. 
 
No one had ever said this to me.  I did not know what to say.
 
I had just finished playing on “Hardy” (my beloved nickname for the abandoned piano I have escaped to and practice on in the last 4 months) at the Parish hall at one of the local churches.  No one had heard me strike or play a key until now when this woman and her husband walked in on me practicing “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven and complimenting me on my extremely novice musical skills.  I felt revealed, invaded, and suddenly very bashful that strangers had heard me playing the piano.
 
She seemed to not take notice on my shyness and continued, “God put us here in this room and this time for us to meet."

"Okay," I said slowly, eyeing the EXIT sign.

"Let me explain.  My husband and I are here just checking on the layout of this Parish hall because we are going to be hosting a weekly seminar on ‘The Meaning of Life’.”
 
Without missing a beat, I said, “Well, I think I know the meaning of life.”
 
She looked at me intrigued and as though she was trying to make sense of me, “What?”
 
“To Live it,” I said simply.
 
Her eyes glittered and she broke into a warm and wide smile.  “You would be perfect for this!”
 
I wanted to say to her that the meaning and priceless value of life that we come to appreciate is when we experience life in all its sharpest and darkest of points alongside its most beautiful and finest of plateaus that create a mosaic of us from all our shattered shards. But, I didn’t say anything. 
 
She exclaimed, “This will all be about faith, Christ, and discussions on the meaning of life.  And,” she paused for a dramatic flair, ”There will be a free dinner.” 
 
I was sold.
 
On a quiet and calm Sunday evening, I traipsed to the very first session on “The Meaning of Life.”   After a hearty and filling dinner of lasagna drenched in sauce and a small salad, a DVD was popped in where random strangers in the New York City streets were asked: “What do you think is the meaning of life?”  Most responses were stumped and speechless.  Some were full of clarity and certainty.  All responses were varied and prompted a discussion I had with bunch of strangers I met that night on the meaning to life AND if there really is a purpose and meaning to everything and everyone we encounter and endure.  I left that night with one sure thing: We, as humans, are flawed, struggle, forever works in progress, and end up living with more questions than answers as “What is the purpose of MY life in world of billions of people?  What is the meaning of MY life?” 
 
The first time I asked “What is the purpose in MY life?” was when I recovered from my second kidney transplant rejection at 12-years-old.  It was the death of my second donor who was only 4-years-old who made me question this.  I was convinced that I had to be given this second chance for a reason.  I was certain that my purpose was to help others, be as a good of a person as possible, and life my life to the fullest every single day because me living my life was being and living the legacy of both of my donors. 
 
At the seminar, one of the participants said: “I think your meaning of life and the views on the meaning of life change at different stages and ages of your life.”
 
I could not agree more with this.  Who I am now in my 30’s is very different from who I was when I was a 12-years-old, but the very cores of me have remained true to live my life by doing good for others and being good.  Being and doing good daily is difficult when there are so many temptations from the outside material world and the inside turmoil demons that are great obstacles.  It’s funny how life can be so routine and simple every day, but then laced with so many little things that end up being big moments that make up our lives and who we are.  I believe there is a reason for everything we endure and everyone we encounter from all those little pieces that make up the greater picture.  I do not think anything that happens or anyone we meet is an accident or a coincidence. 
 
My Dad recently said to me that sometimes there isn’t a reason for things that happen in life.  More often than not, I can find a hidden meaning, reason, and lesson behind everything in life, but, sometimes, I am simply stumped with more questions than answers.  Maybe the answer and reason to these unanswered experiences is to be at peace with these experiences that do not have anything solid to make us more fluid beings.
 
Sometimes when I am down and really struggling with the fact that there are no shortcuts, I think back to all the times the dots in my life seemed so disconnected and realize how they all somehow connected to who I am and where I am now and going forward.  Do you ever look back on your life to all the dots that seemed so disconnected to learn without any shortcuts how they somehow all connected to where you are right here and now in this very moment in time? 
 
Do you think everything and everyone has a purpose in their own lives as well as in our lives?  Do you there may be absolutely no reason at all and there are just accidents or coincidences in life?  What about fate and destiny? What do you think the meaning of life is? 
 
For now, I hold true to my definition on the meaning of life: LIVE IT.
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)

 

Popcorn

“OK, this is what you do,” my Stepmom instructed.
 
We stood side by side over the increasingly hot stove.  On the stove was one single pot.  In one hand was Canola oil that she carefully poured oil into the pot until it coated the bottom.  She took the bag of tiny popcorn kernels and sprinkled just enough to sink lazily into the oil.   Over the covered pot, we watched the oil hiss, fizz, and bubble until the kernels began to slowly and then rapidly pop magically into crunchy and crisp popcorn kernels. 
 
Pop, Pop, Pop went the innocent kernels now transformed into actual popcorn. 
 
To finish it off, she sprinkled some salt over a bowl of the most fresh and tastiest popcorn I ever had.  Magic!  Fresh and homemade popcorn right off the stove!
 
I was over the moon thrilled and excited.  “I can’t believe you can make your own popcorn!  Forget Orville Redenbacher!!” I exclaimed gleefully. 
 
Over the years and all thanks to my Stepmom as the ultimate popcorn instructor, I have perfected my popcorn with ghee, sunflower seed oil, parmesan cheese, and Himalayan pink sea salt.  My family and friends clamor for my signature popcorn.  My sister claims in between mouthfuls of popcorn: “You gotta sell this stuff!”  One Christmas, I even received two popcorn makers because of my transparent love affair with popcorn! 
 
Popcorn has always been my ultimate favorite snack.  Particularly when I was on the road to recovery and had to endure pain, procedures, and, especially, prodding from needles. 
 
I know my needles well.  Not because I’m some drug addict (some may beg to differ with the amount of pills I pop in my mouth daily to keep the kidney beanie babies going), but, because, needles have always been in my life.  I can tell you all the types, sizes, shapes, vials, and can immediately recognize a good straight shooter and even the amount of experience the blood drawer has had with blood extraction or IV input.  I love butterfly needles with green wings and am rather indifferent about the longer in length needles attached to syringes. 
 
I know my veins even better.  I can brag to you about my best veins, show you the kind of pumped up winning fist you need to make for the veins to pop out, and advise the amount of days you need to wait before your next blood draw or IV input if that’s possible.  I’ve had my blood splatter over and shoot out.  I’ve had nurses and lab techs stab and jab the needle so far in that I start to squirm and curse.  Big welts and bruises as a result of veins that blew from those that did not know any better.  I’ve had healthcare professionals blame my veins spouting: “Oh, so you have bad veins…”  I retort rather passive aggressively, “No, no one has had problems before.”  I have even refused a phlebotomist to draw my blood before because he did not wear gloves or cleanse my arm with an alcohol pad, resulting in a needle with direct contact and without any sterilization to my skin. 
 
Needles that pricked my fingers and injected in my back are not fun, but I hate the needles in my belly the absolute most.    You would think with such good cushioning and padding that I possess that the needles would not bother, but they hurt like hell for me.  After my hip replacement surgery, I had to get needles in my belly to prevent possible blood clots.  My Dad knew how much I hated them and made a deal with me like I was a little girl again: “After you get your needle in your belly, you get a stack of Pringles potato chips.” 
 
My eyes lit up with joy.  Oooh…a stack of Pringles potato chips!  My fave!  As the number of needles went into my belly and the number of bruises increased to the point that the nurses were not sure where to stick the next needle, I focused on my stack of Pringles potato chips.  I could not help but smile at the memories of when I was a little girl receiving saccharine crystal clear rainbow-colored lollipops that I sucked on jovially and lifted my band-aid arm in a warrior Wu pose.  I was such a spoiled brat, conditioned to receive a little goodie after the needle punctured my vein and withdrew my crimson blood and on my road to recovery. 
 
However, it is popcorn that I have the ultimate love affair with as my reward and all around snack.  I have a special place for it because it was the snack that bonded and brought my Stepmom and me close together. The crunch, the crisp, and the almost alien head contortions….yes, It is the ONLY snack I think about as my reward when I am on my road to recovery and for all the pain from needles, tests, procedures, and whatever else that is endured because of this one reason: Popcorn fascinates me that when under hot oil and flames and fire, the tiny and innocent looking kernels burst into something so tasty and yummy.  What has been your ‘reward’ on the road to recovery?  Have you ever eventually burst so much from pain and pressure that it made you full of clarity and understanding?  That it made you better than rather bitter? 
 
I think we all need a little bit of heat, pain, pressure, and even fire to fuel us to be better and to stronger.  It is only from pain that we learn about strength, character, faith, and about savoring the good and enjoyment in that certain time and place.  I always say to people and I stay true to this that I am immensely grateful for pain for telling us our limitations while teaching us to push boundaries. We all experience places of severe pain that it is up to us to bloom with the better or blame with the bitter.  We all have to be at a certain place at a certain time and we all need to be kind, gentle, and patient to ourselves during these times that are filled with more asks than answers. 
 
Do you think pain and pressure are actually necessary in life to grow and even remove ourselves out of our comfort zone?  When you are under extreme heat, do you fly and form from a kernel into a crispy and crunchy popcorn? 

Keep on poppin' and let the tiny become mighty!  :-) 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
  

Mary ;-) 

Wake Up Call

“You have a lot of stuff going on,” the emergency room doctor announced to my father and me.
 
He was rather good-looking in a gruff, sarcastic, and dry way with slicked back dishwater blonde hair that was losing its hair gel glue so strands of his hair fell to the side to his side burns.   He could maybe, just maybe, pass for a doctor actor on some soap opera, I thought to myself.
 
It was just another Friday night.  I just happened to be in the emergency room.  I must admit this was not my usual Friday excursion.  My usual was gallivanting with friends for a delicious dinner (it always comes down to food for me) or lounging in my apartment munching on popcorn and watching movies.  I had been in the emergency room for over 8 hours—more hours of sleep that I get in a day.  I had intense nausea, every urge to puke my guts out, and flaring and screaming back pain.  I had IV fluids going in the crook of my left arm and had undergone the drawing of vials of blood, a CT scan, and an x-ray.  All in all, a probably most memorable and party-filled Friday in comparison to all my other Fridays. 
 
I looked at the emergency room doctor without a hint of surprise.  There was nothing he could say to shock me.
 
“Dehydration, low grade fever, compression fractures, abdominal free fluid, and urinary tract infection,” he proclaimed.
 
He did not even take a breath when he spouted all of those out.  As for me, in the midst of my fog, I could not help but think what started this. 
 
It started with a headset. 
 
The headset for work was to arrive over a month ago.  Two weeks after the headset was ordered, my body began gnawing at me with discomfort. I’m accustomed to daily bodily aches and soreness and have come to appreciate these to tell me that I’m still alive and kicking, for not feeling any hurt or pain means that I am dead.  I dutifully continued to follow-up with only little to no regard as a response as my body slowly began to turn on me and rebel from gnawing to then talking to then shouting to finally screaming and throwing a massive temper tantrum for me to end up in the emergency room.
 
Out of all the findings that good-looking emergency room doctor announced, I was shocked about the spinal compression fractures and urinary tract infection.  The abdominal free fluid was a bit disconcerting, but not too terribly surprising since I was monitoring cysts since the hysterectomy.  It had been ages since I had a urinary tract infection.  What the heck were these compression fractures?   The irony of this all was just weeks ago, my aunt just had surgery for compression fractures.  Out of every single person in my family, my aunt and I were the most eerily body similar when it came to our disjointed joints, rebellious and finicky bodies, and high tolerance for pain.
 
When the body is in distress, the fight or flight is ignited.  For me, the fighter in me rises up over the flight.    Suddenly, all the stress about work and a stupid headset meant little to nothing to me.  Abruptly, the mantra I hold strongly to that “there is nothing more important than health” was shoved to the very forefront.   Therefore, this past week was one doctor appointment after another, another vein punctured after another to draw vials of blood, multiple radiology scans, dealing with continued nausea and a poor appetite (completely unlike the foodie in me), struggling to walk, feeling lethargic and run down, and clutching my burning and aching back and abdominal areas in a natural inclination to protect my angry body.   
 
How could something as simple and small as a silly headset turn so complicated and colossal?   How is it that the littlest things can be blown out of proportion starting in our mind to then fallen pieces like dominos that clash and collide into one another?  When has this happened to you? 
 
In the midst of exhaustion, frustration, and trepidation, I am feeling something that probably scares and startles me more than anything else: Infuriation. 
 
Infuriation at me for not taking care of myself sooner.  Infuriation at people who made broken promises and do not acknowledge (aka: Do not care). Infuriation at the amount of paperwork that creates increasing barriers and broken bridges.  Infuriation at my overly persnickety body.  Infuriation at systems that are full of bureaucracy and are becoming exceedingly cumbersome and even corrupt.  Healthcare is massively different now than years ago with it becoming more and more corporate than care. 
 
For the first time, my idealism is being punctured and perhaps even a bit pulverized.  I always believed in seeing the good in people and situations.  I always believed that what goes around comes around.  I always believed in good.  I had believed that a silly and stupid headset was going to be delivered and that the managerial staff cared just as much about my health as all my past managers had when I underwent my hip replacement surgery and then hysterectomy. 
 
For as long as I could remember, my Dad said that I was an idealist: “You believe in fair, justice, and that things and people should be a certain way, but life and the world does not work out this way.  No perfect world.  No perfect person.” 
 
My friends say to me: “Look, you can’t expect anything from anyone.  When you start to expect, you start to think you are entitled.  You can only hope from people.  It’s sad, but the good that comes out of it is that when you do not expect anything from anyone then you are surprised when they deliver and do more than you could ever imagine.  There are evil people in this world.  There are people who do not care.  You have to accept that they do not care, care about yourself, and move on.” 
 
It is very easy for me to play the blame game and point fingers at others at work and even more for not acting upon their spoken words, but where does blaming actually get anyone?  Where does anger actually take us that can be anywhere good and only in the bad and even danger zones?  It is easy for me to rewind in my mind to when I was younger and people gave me lots of passes and went out of their way to take care of me professionally and personally.  It would be easy for me to feel entitled and say that I’m disabled and not work and give in and become all my health challenges rather than rise above them.  It is easy for me to believe and say that I deserve good results when I work hard to earn my keep.  It is very hard for me to look at myself and now question my positive perspectives that I always held on to that if you do good and are good then everything will be okay and good.  It is even harder for me to ingest and digest this latest wake up call of my health to a loud and booming wake up call of flickering and changing colors of new perspectives that kindness can actually be seen as a weakness, good does not always overcome the bad,  and what we believe should happen does not happen.  I also cannot help but ask unanswerable questions as why certain people seem to live an un-ordinary and unpredictably unique life of ongoing challenges while other seemingly live a much more quiet and predictable life of marriage, children, and work.  It is hard to deal with the real without becoming jaded, suspicious, angry, and mistrustful of others and of life.   It is hard to balance this all. 
 
As I sit here with a burning and aching back that is now forcing me to get up more frequently than ever, I cannot help but ask such even more burning questions from this wake up call as: What is the difference between expectation and hope?  How can we hold on to the balance of idealism and realism without giving in to cynicism of people, situations, and the world we live in? 
 
I tried to explain to one of my friends that expectation is measurable while such beauty as hope and faith are not but felt in the depths of us to not give up on ourselves and on people no matter how ugly and easy it is to give up on idealism rather than stay up when realism hits.  I drank in the words of my friends that everyone wants everything to be free now and feels that they are entitled rather than earning their keep, but freedom comes at a heavy price.   Essentially, nothing is for free.  Most of all, I’m thinking the answer to all of my questions is gratitude.  Great gratitude when the good happens and even greater gratitude when the bad happens to put in new perspectives and lessons learned.  We learn much more and appreciate much more from the bad, the mistakes, the chaos, the hurt, and the pain.  We recognizing and appreciate the select few earth angels that remind us of the kind and the strength of kindness over the weakness of meanness.  We work to embrace our wake up calls that are filled with life experiences, questions, and new perspectives. 
 
Are you an idealist or realist?  Can realism and questioning idealism cause cynicism?  Have you become more jaded and cynical of people?  What is the difference between expectations and hope?  When have your perspectives and values been questioned to not necessarily negativity but to realism?  When was and what was your wake up call?
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
  

Mary ;-) 
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