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The "Wu Word" Blog

June 2017


My earliest memory of my grandmother is meat.  Juicy and succulent Chinese pork meat drenched in oily and fatty sauce dripping down your overjoyed face at the tenderness and love that she put into that pork meat.  My Grandmother and I couldn’t communicate through spoken words as she grew up in Shanghai speaking the Shanghainese dialect and I grew up as ABC-American-Born Chinese, only being able to speak English.  Instead, we created our only loving grandparent and granddaughter language through body language, hand gestures, facial expressions, and, of course, food.  Every time I saw her, she had a steamy pot of Chinese pork ribs ready for me greedy mouth and hungry tummy.  It was these little things that showed me that she loved me and that she cared deeply for me.
I did not meet my grandmother until I was about 8-years-old.  Many would say this is later in life, and my father always wished that I had met and known my grandparents (his parents) sooner as he believed grandparents were instrumental and the ultimate key to understanding our roots and living and breathing history.  Were your grandparents instrumental or had involvement in your life? 
My grandmother was the epitome of gentle, loving, soft-spoken, and caring—caring too much.  You could even say worried too much.  Worry warts and overly caring are traits that have run in the Wu family since the beginning of time.  Then again, what is exactly the difference between caring and worrying too much?  Do they fall along the same lines?  As the years continue to pass by faster at the speed of light, I wish harder that I did not care so much at all.  It isn’t that I care about what others think of me—believe me that I couldn’t care less what people think about me, but I always have the people I care about and what they are going through on my mind.  I inherited the Wu gene of caring too much and, God forbid, being told I am overly sensitive.  When was being sensitive a bad trait? 
I have tirelessly tried to care less, because caring hurts and the person it hurts the most is the person who cares the most.  I envy those who could care less.  There have been many times that I wanted to be like these people because it seems like they do not feel the immense hurt that comes with the territory of immense caring.  It eventually hit me at some point that it is not about overly caring or under caring, but it is about “whatever.”  Whatever possess a very negative connotation of possibly not caring at all, but I am now seeing “whatever” is let whatever happens, happens and to try even harder not to attach to people, things, and experiences.  How can something that seems so easy in words be so hard to act?  I do not think I can ever completely remove the Wu caring gene, but am taking steps and strides in the right direction of at least realizing who it worth caring about and who isn’t.  The truth is, not everyone is worth the steps and strides, but for those that are, I rejoice in the caring gene.   I rejoice in caring because it is better to hurt and develop compassion than not hurt and be indifferent.   I give my gratitude to my grandmother and the caring gene that has run deep in our family that all boils down to the beauty of love.  And, you always remember and know the ones who REALLY care about you and are really worthwhile.
Have you been told that you are sensitive or even overly sensitive as though it is a negative trait?  Have you wished that you could just be ‘whatever’ to what you end up caring immensely about?  Is caring too much the same as worrying too much?  Were you ever told that you do not care and are cold or callous, which may just really be a protective mechanism? 
Here is to “Whatever”—whatever happens, happens..whatever may be, will be.
 Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)



In the past few years, my father has shared with me with his voice sounding of defeat and peace, “Mary, I am in my sunset years.” 
“Sunset years?” I ask.
“I am in the sunset club of getting older and old.  There are things I can’t do anymore as when I was younger.  The sun rises and the sun sets.  Sunrises are full of a new dawn of hope and learning and sunsets are full of a new understanding and wisdom to be at peace and serenity.  Both are beautiful.”       
“Dad,” I said slowly, “I think life is not only about sunrises and sunsets, but I think it is about the warmth and catching and being and basking in the sun in that time between the sunrises and sunsets.  Just enjoy life.  As is and as it comes.  Try to be present.   In the moments that go really fast.  Just be a suncatcher.” 
My dad smiles with a twinge of joy and sadness in his eyes. “It is good to be young.  You need to make friends around your age and be around the young to help you as you have special health considerations that so many do not think about or face until they are old and my age.” 
Alas, I am a child at heart with an old soul, and I’ve never really connected and clicked in this world particularly with people around my age.  Here’s the funny thing as that as I’ve gotten older, I am bewildered that there is a whole wide open population of youth seeing me as older and as one to help the younger.  When did that happen that I was no longer younger and became the older to help try to guide and even mentor others?  When did that happen that I am still considered younger than the retired who see me as a student hungry to learn from the teacher called life? 
Not purposefully, I have been making new friends, but those that I tend to connect with are not the younger, but are the older.   Even older than my Dad.
One is 103-years-old; She wears fancy jewelry and talks about her time in Russia and China as we sip strong and smoky black tea over an antique square teapot from China.  Another is 84-years-old who took a liking to my keen interest in piano playing and broke out tickling the ivories to play “You are my Sunshine.” He calls me up to connect me with the community to share my passion and advocacy work on life and organ donation and transplantation work.  Lastly, there is my neighbor from when I was a child who hugs me hard and looks deep into my eyes with shiny bright eyes to hear how I am doing while her TV blares of shootings, bombings, and killings around the world.  When I see her, she says: “I remember when you were just a little girl.  You still have those chubby cheeks.  You always have a special place in my heart.  And, I love you.” 
In all these elderly people who have unexpectedly come into my life in recent months, I see how they are in their sunset years and trying to catch as much of the sun and warmth as they have remaining. I also see those in their sunrise years as new parents or brand new babies or maybe even mid-sun that are trying, learning, failing, falling, surviving, and just doing their best at living.  All around me, I observe the sunrisers and sunsetters, but I cannot help but wonder if they are at all suncatchers?  Are they making the most of everything in between the sunrise and sunset?  Are they basking in the glow of the warmth of the kaleidoscope colors of the sun that life brings BUT also learning and living from the storms, wind, rain, and cold and cruelty that also comes with being a suncatcher?
There is great beauty and glory in catching the sun that is the in between of the sunrises and sunsets.    Are you present and in the moment as is?  Are there things now that you can no longer do when you were young?  What is your idea of young?  Would you ever want to be young again?  Do you tend to get along with the ‘older’ or ‘younger’?  Have you ever become a mentor or role model to others as well as look up to others—not based on age, but on experience and a connection with the person?  Are you a suncatcher?
My wish for you to be a SunCatcher—not about the sunrises and sunsets, but about the glow, spark, and warmth of sun in certain moments and times with those who make the sun worth enjoying.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Tough Love

Love Hurts.  It can hurt like hell.   The more we love and the more we care, the more it stings, burns, and drives and wedges right into the core of us.  This is tough love. 
My stepmother taught me about tough love.  Unlike my father who was the philosophical scientist who reasoned everything in his wise written words and calming deep voice in a gentle and methodical way, my stepmother was the complete opposite.  She was blunt.   She could be a verbal frying pan.  You would never guess this about her as she stood at just about my height and had the most soft-spoken voice with words that could cut sharper than any sword.    My stepmother was a top notch listener and had the patience of a saint.  After digesting everything, she would say it like she saw it.  Time and time again, she shocked me when her words just about always played out into truth of what she predicted.  It was like she was psychic.  I could always count on my stepmom to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.  Do you have someone like this in your life?
My stepmother was not like this when I first met her.  Or, maybe she was always like this, but did not feel comfortable enough with me to reveal her razor sharp ways.  I always find that people’s true colors and real ways eventually emerge; It just takes time.  All I know was when I was an angsty teenager that was deprived of a mother for nearly five years until she came into my life that I was unaccustomed to her type of love and care.  She was fearless to discipline me with giving clear cut “yes” or “no,” rather than my father that was “maybe” and “it depends.”  I tolerated her bluntness out of love for my father.  However, I remember one distinct experience where I literally blew up at her and snarled angrily, “You’re always slamming me!  Why??”
I stormed off in a huff.  I did not expect her to follow me.  My father was infamous for following and calming me down when I exploded like a firecracker.  I was shocked and speechless when my stepmother did follow me and gently said, “I’m hard on you because I care about you.  If I did not care about you, I would not say anything.  I know there is more to you.   It takes courage to stand up to those you love who may be hurting themselves or may have something even better in them.  It is tough love to see more and say more of what could hurt in that moment than to say nothing and let it hurt even more in the long run.” 

My stepmother’s words and ways have trailed behind me fiercely.  I realized recently that I’ve sort of adopted her ways.  I’ve seen people I love and care about continue with certain patterns that only hurts them in the end and, because I love them, I say something-- always, always, when asked.   Most people do not ask for our advice and just want someone to listen to them.  A sounding board, if you will.  For those that ask, I give to the best of my ability.  I try to refrain from sledgehammer ways and be a combination and the best of my father and stepmother.  Love is never without efforts.  Love never comes easy. 
As difficult as it is for us to stand up to our opponents, it is even harder to stand up to the people we love and the people we care about the most when we see what they are doing may be hurting or harming themselves. We cannot be anyone’s savior and we certainly cannot ever change anyone, but we can certainly be there for people and provide support and insight when needed and asked.  Have you ever had someone love you so much that the person told you what you needed to hear rather than what you wanted to hear?  Have you ever experienced someone you love hurting and harming themselves or on the brink of doing something that could possibly be catastrophic?  Will you say something even when you are not asked?  Would you risk your relationship with someone you love or care about them to ‘hurt’ them in the moment with words of truth than what could or would hurt them in the long run by not saying anything at all? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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