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The "Wu Word" Blog

August 2018

Starry Night

I am fascinated with anything and everything that is up above that I can gaze up into where I feel so smaller than small and humbler than humble in a world so vast and open.  The blue skies.  The full  or crescent-shaped moon.  The fluffy clouds.  The warm sun.  Most of all, the sparkly stars that light up the night sky.  I think when we all die that we somehow become shiny stars that sparkle in the dark up in heaven and watch upon our loved ones that are still on earth.
One of my Live List items is to see the stars so up close and personal that I feel like I can touch them.  This has been on my Live List item since 2012 when I first created the list.  When I shared with the select few that seeing (not just looking or gazing) the stars was at the top of my Live List, people said I would have to go somewhere deserted in oneness with nature.  One guy said I would have to go climb up mountains to see the feel the top of the world on the mountain and above me.  Another person said I would have to go into the woods or fields.  All I knew was that somehow and someway, when the time was right and when the opportunity presented itself as with all my Live List items, I would know and I would fulfill with a special someone.  The special someone of who I fulfill my Live List item is almost as important as the Live List item itself. 
The opportunity to see my stars was presented to me in March 2018 when my sister and I went to visit Mohonk Mountain House.  In front of a cozy, crackling fire with flames that hypnotized me into oblivion, I flipped through a brochure and my eyes immediately widened in shock and glee that an astronomer by the name of Bob Berman was going to be doing a lecture in August called “Night of the Shooting Stars” and we would all go out in the vast open fields to watch the stars, or, if luck would have it, experience meteor showers.  August!  My birthday month!  I nearly fell off the couch rushing to the front desk reception clamoring: “Tell me about this ‘Night of the Shooting Stars’!”
My sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I told her about Mohonk Mountain House and that all I wanted on the night of August 12, 2018 was to see and night sky full of twinkling stars.  She said she would join me and make sure that my birthday wish came true.  When we arrived there at the mountain house, we spent the day jumping into and swimming in the lake, bopping to 1980’s music as we paddle boated in the lake with the sun streaming on us scrunched in our bright orange life jackets, and stuffing our faces into a food coma from the most delicious food that you had ever tasted in your life.  When night finally fell, I was breathless with excitement!  In a standing room only filled to capacity of people, I could barely listen to and process astronomer Bob Berman sharing his personal experiences about meteorites and tours that he guided to see the mystical and magical world up above us.  I tried to patiently await him to finish and then when he finally stood up to guide us outside, I squealed to my sister: “This is it!  I am going to fulfill my live list!  I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!” 
I was practically hopping out the door, but then stopped dead in my tracks when the cool air swirled around me into pitch black darkness.  There were no lights to guide us.  I started to feel scared.  I grabbed on to my sister’s hand.  We marched into the fields not able to see a point of light I was suddenly extremely dependent on my other senses that heightened in functions: the pine scent of the trees, the murmur and mumble of people all around me and the crunch of our footsteps as we braved our way into the darkness, the taste of trepidation that I was going to trip and fall flat on my face, and the feel of the sweaty palm of my sister’s hand that transported me back to when I was a little girl and she held my hand.  I wanted to look at my cell phone to turn on the flashlight but Bob Berman shouted over our murmurs and mumbles with: “Absolutely no cell phones.  You will miss the magic.  Let the lights and your senses guide you.”
Fear fell away when there was a clearing.  We all grabbed towels and laid them on the tickling fresh green grass blades.  My sister and I lied down side by side.  Then, that is when I suddenly saw and experienced the magic and adrenaline coursing through my pumped body as I experienced when fulfilling my live list items.  Sparkly jeweled diamond stars blinked and twinkled before my glazed over and child-like eyes in that midnight milky sky.  I lifted my hands up, almost feeling like I could touch the stars.  I closed my eyes, inhaling the crisp, fresh, and delicious air.  I was tiny and small in the unending and limitless skies above me that was so vast, massive, and wide open that it almost felt like I could be swallowed whole by the universe above me.  I wanted to take my cell phone out to take a picture to capture the moment, but I did not even bother to because I understood that these Live List items could not be fully captured by the lens on the outside so you can feel everything in unexplainable and inexplicable ways on the inside.   I was living out one of my live list items: I was finally seeing the stars with my special someone-my sister.
Less than an hour later, the clouds came in and buckets of rain fell.  In the hazy and foggy mist, the rain created an even more ethereal feel and almost like a dream.  Like all magical moments and like all my Live List items that are so awe-inspiring, they take a lot of planning and hold much anticipation and then they come and go too fast, leaving you with an aftermath of imprinted memories and nostalgia that you live again in your mind asking yourself: “Did that really happen?”  The answer: Yes, it did and you are lucky enough if you get to relive it in your mind and live to tell and share the glory of the story with others. 
The most inspirational, humbling, and beautiful moments leave us unable to fully capture them so we can feel them and keep them alive in our mind when we remember them again.  What was a moment that you could not really capture with lens but keep deep within you when remembering them again? When could you not even explain the full capacity of the experience because of the feelings and memories involved?  What magical moments have you lived again when you remembered them? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 


I was a geek, misfit, and outsider in school.  I missed out on a lot of ‘the fun’ or what was seen as fun by high schoolers like prom, football games, extracurricular activities, possibly traveling abroad with the exchange student program, and much more.   I kept my head buried in books.  I studied until my nerves were shot and my tummy hurt.  No one put pressure on the perfectionist and worst enemy in me because I put on and carried all that weight on myself.  I had a fierce competitive streak to always get the best grades and be the best.   I wholeheartedly believed within ever fiber in me that if I excelled at school that I would excel at life.  Such lies we were and are fed about this. 
The one class I absolutely loathed and could not excel in no matter how much I tried while skating by with a “PASS” was physical education.  Of course I was the clumsiest, overweight, and most non-athletic person because of my physical challenges revolved around my kidney and joint issues and massive steroids, but I never saw this as excuses and only saw them as explanations.  I remember my heart pounding and beads of sweat forming at the base of my neck with each and every name called up to join a team and there I was at the ONLY person left in front of all these kids.  How terrifying.  How petrifying.  I did not have an athletic bone in my body.  I was the slowest.  I was always behind everyone else.  I was always chosen last on a team.   When it comes to athletics, I am still always last. 
When I look back, I think I fought so hard to excel at academics and mental strength to compensate for what I could not have and what I believed I could never have in physical strength.  Everything changed when I received my second kidney transplant in 1995 and hip replacement in 2013.  I could not get my legs to kick and had two drowning episodes before my hip replacement that made me fear water and swimming.  What was fear turned to love and gratitude in the power of movement and organ donation and transplantation and from all I could finally do from what I believed that I could never ever do.  Over time, I developed a huge love and even hunger for the swimming pool.  It was about four years ago that I jumped into the water for the first time in my life—and now I cannot get enough of it.  I will ask anyone and everyone to jump in the water with me because of the adrenaline rush and the ultimate feeling that you are plunging into an abyss or underwater world, completely free and washed off of all your worries.  It was about two years ago that I learned backstroke for the first time in my life.  It was just a week ago that I jumped off a diving board into 45 feet depth of a lake for the first time only to see nothing and no grounding beneath me.  It had never felt so free.  The greatest change was in me.
The clumsiest, overweight, and most non-athletic person in the world that actually feared getting into the pool at my first Transplant Games of America venue back in 2010 has changed to people telling me I had to get out of the pool at this 2018 Transplant Games of America.  My competitive streak is still in me and will never go away, but has minimized by the magnitude of gratitude just to be alive and to be able to do all that I could not physically do growing up.  Being at the bottom and when you had absolutely nothing or very little and slowly making your way creates gratitude for whatever you can get.   However, it is VERY different when you have been healthy or at the top of your game only to fall and find a way to get back up again.  At this latest Transplant Games of America, I found that the mass majority are so competitive and set out to win medals that having fun is lost.  I think it is  what the medals represent—being able to do all that you could do from what you could not do, competing against yourself and your very own race, and being a ‘winner’ when you felt like a ‘loser.’  I think ‘fun’ is different from everyone.   My idea of fun is actually NOT winning medals.  I’m honestly happy not to win anything.  My idea of fun is just being together, jumping in the water, cheering for each other, going off on my own to explore and experience new in life and meet and connect with new people and reuniting with familiar faces, and, most of all, honoring organ donors/their families, living donors, and our loved ones who root for us and stand strong when we have been at our weakest. 
For my individual swim competitions, I did not win a single medal. It was for a swim team relay medley that I received a bronze and, that to me, is the greatest medal because it was a team and together effort.  My times were better.  My very own race and pace were strong and steady.  I was last.  I am still always last.  But now I will ALWAYS be the first to have fun, enjoy, laugh, embrace how far I’ve come and from the ongoing learning curves and process, not take everything and everyone so seriously when life is serious enough as it is, and just be in all the beauty around me that is fleeting and flies as fast as life goes.  Do not make the mistake I made of making everything and everyone so seriously and competitively that you miss out on the greater purpose and all the magical moments in the making that end up meaning the very most and the life that you are living in the here and now. 
Are we all competitive?  Are you competitive?  What do you deem as a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’?  Have you gotten so wrapped up in a competition that you forgot the fun involved?  Have you ever stopped to think about the process rather than the end result that is not always the reflection of what you had to endure?  When have you been so serious and competitive that you missed out on the fun and magic in what was happening and unfolding? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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