Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas 2008 - Celebrating friendships

Christmas Letter 2008

Greetings! What a year 2008 has been. I just spent an evening with great friends for a year-end party. Times like this remind me of all the great friendships I have formed over the years. Thanks for being friends with us! As always, we remain humbled by all your generosity, kindness and compassion.

This year caught us by surprise. Julia fell ill around April and was in Starship Hospital for 8 weeks due to a narrowing in her bile ducts. She also had unexplainable leg pains and had a series of investigations ending with a bone biopsy. So imagine crutches, moonboots for a period. She later had a minor fracture (had a cast for a month) on her arm from gymnastics and was out of action for a while.

Picking up
Despite all the physical barriers, she didn’t let her illness or physical limitations get to her. She is good at picking up where she left things – and returns to school as if she hasn’t left. She came back from a long hospital stay to win 1st place in the 100m and 200m sprints in her schools athletics’ day for Year 5 girls. She surprises Tony and me with her tenacity and rapacious hunger to thrive. She outdid a few boys in her swimming class and moved up a group! Next year, she continues her gymnastics, her ballroom dancing, her swimming and Mandarin lessons. We are pleased with her achievements in school as she has had an excellent year with a very good school report.

Transplant lunch
In the first quarter of this year, Steve Munn (her surgeon) and the Liver Transplant unit coordinator Margaret asked if Julia could read her poems at the 10th anniversary of the New Zealand Transplant Unit of Auckland Hospital. Initially Julia was reluctant. After a bit of pep talk by her principal Ms Adamson, she caved in! Talk about armtwisting by mom/dad! She read at the luncheon and at the formal dinner. Dr Munn stood by her as she read "Orange" and "The Writer of this Poem" (both written when she was in year 4 in school). She surprised me with her composure and poise, and how well she carried herself in an audience on very serious business. These were all a bunch of professionals belonging to the arcane world of liver magic.

Here is a sample of her poem which she read.

The writer of this poem

The writer of this poem is as chatty as a cheetah,
Bouncy as a flea,
Flexible as a snake,
All these things make the writer of this poem sound fake!

The writer of this poem is as tall as the door,
But not as small as the floor,
Is wide as a baby tree,
But not as round as a bee.

The writer of this poem is as imaginative as vivid,
Is as permanent as immortal,
Is as kind as a friend,
Is as soft as a rose petal!

Julia was also lucky to get her wish granted by from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She now has her own “house” (a playhouse) in our little yard. She plans to move out real soon except she is petrified of the bugs that tend to visit from time to time. She hangs out in the playhouse with her girlfriends. The walls are already covered with Jonas Brothers posters!

Tony moves on
Tony had a watershed year, moving on from APV (which he has been for over 19 years on and off either fulltime or as a contractor) to GEA, doing the same thing. He is learning the ropes in a new environment and is ready for new challenges! His collection of Big Boys toys continues to grow – a fishing kayak, fishing gear, a trailer and other things I don’t even get to hear about in detail, that gets hidden in the garage. We also added a new fancy tent and quite a few other accessories to the garage which incidentally seems to be getting smaller by the day. And oh, a stainless steel BBQ to make a Kiwi home complete!

The not-so-good news this year was Anna (Tony’s sister) being diagnosed with brain tumour. Anna fights on, in an indomitable way. We are awed by her approach and how she copes with all the chemos and countless visits to hospital. She continues to be Julia’s "Aunty Unu" and they provide great company for each other - both feisty and not to be messed about with.

It has been over two years since I left fulltime work. I am still freelancing and am enjoying the freedom. Tony thinks I should get a real job. I think I have a real good deal!

This year, I learnt to knit from my dear friend Sally. My two favourite books this year have to be -- Three Cups of Tea – about the work of Greg Mortenson, who built schools for Afghanistan kids high up in the mountains - and Journey of A Thousand Miles – life story of Chinese pianist Lang Lang. Julia asked me to read a book she fell in love with -- The Power of One -- so I am reading it at the moment and enjoying it too! Julia and I also went through Cleopatra and Boudica -- both romanticised versions of the historial personalities.

I also managed to get rid of a lot of things in my bid to clear clutter. The Woolfs and the Cheahs (and some other families) went camping in Jan08 at Treasure Island, and we fell in love with the concept of waking up late and not having to do housework. Julia continued to be so well looked after by her two older and extremely awesome friends Chelsea and Daryl that we plan to have the Cheahs camp with us sometime soon!

I continue to seek the inspiration of our resident monks and nuns at Dorje Chang (a Tibetan Buddhist Centre which Julia and I) - they show us how to live with compassion and how to cherish others above ourselves.

Mom and dad came for a visit in April. So did my aunty and her family! It was awesome having so much fun! Imagine a bunch of 50-something year old ladies learning dance steps from Julia; competing on sports virtually on the PlayStation. The laugher resonated through our house which continues to be filled with loads of great energy from great people we love! Tony was a away so he didn’t mind the noise.

Thanks again!
To all our friends who came to the hospital bearing their prayers, kindness, comfort, food, toys, games and books – thank you as always! To those who are far away but continue to send their prayers and wishes for health and pray for Julia – thanks from the bottom of our heart.

Here’s a wish for your health and happiness in this and all lifetimes! Have a great 2009!

Love: From the Woolfs


  1. Yoke Har,

    May you, Tony and Julia have a great year ahead too. May you all be blessed with good health, happiness and joy always.

    Missing you from Singapore,

  2. Hey HotMamaWannabe: Great to see you're starting a Nasi Lemak blog! Can't wait to "smell" the aroma of coconut rice! Missing you and the gila gila girls too! Hugs and warm wishes from us...!

  3. Yoke Har,

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Mike and the delightfully lovely Julia.
    Here's hoping that you'll have an even wonderful year ahead!!

    p.s am writing this from the office without Charles Raj (his my boss now) knowing it... heheheh

  4. a great year i would say for you and your family. it's always nice to hear so much friendship going on especially in these uncertain times.

    best wishes to you, julia and tony.

    merry christmas and a happy new year and may all that you wish for come in abundance joy.

  5. Hey AsIseesIt...Have a great 2009 and infinite happiness,and never ending health! Hope your little boy has a great holiday and you will get to spend good time with the family. I have had a good year despite the occassional setbacks. Like the sage always says, you can't change what happens but you can change your response!

  6. Hey Yoke Har, thanks for sharing this with us and I bet both Tony and yourself are proud of Julia's achievements.

    Here's wishing you, Julia and Tony best of health, best in life in the upcoming 2009.

    Cheers, Florence

  7. Dear Yoke Har
    So good to see you and the family having a great year.
    My best wishes for 2009.
    Against popular opinion, this naively positive guy feels "all will be OK" and there will be food on the table.
    Always thought of you whenever I pass by the Eng Ann area.

  8. Hi Florence - enjoy 2009! Hope to see you some day in Singers...haha, not sure when though!

  9. Hi KH - pop in at my folks' home; am sure they will offer a cup of tea! And you will get to see my niece and nephew...not sure you will want to be surrounded by screaming kids since you have 2 boys! Hope you have a great time during the holidays!

  10. Hello Yoke Har,

    So happy to have found your blog :) Wish you, Julia and Tony a Merry Christmas and happy new year.

    Just back in Singapore after 2 years in Vancouver. Have to say I miss the food, family and friends :)

    Haven't talked to you for such a long time, but no worries, just messaged you in facebook, skype me okay :)


  11. Hi Lady L,
    Happy New Year ! All the best to you and your family for 2009.

  12. Hey thanks for the informative post, Swimming classes should be something that a person takes up when young. Well I guess an adult can also take up swimming lessons. Never too young to try!

  13. hi yoke har & family,

    my apologies for not reading this post earlier...we've had a long bout of minor illnesses in the family throughout xmas. now we're all back in form and looking forward to an exciting new year!

    wishing you and your loved ones all the very best for 2009...despite all the doom and gloom in the global economy, i believe all will be alright if we have all followed the Asian ethic of not spending with what we don't have! your lovely Princess is mentioned in my household all the time especially when my two boys start behaving like spoilt brats...sorry, Julia, you are my fall-back when i need to give my boys an inspirational example of indomitable spirits!

    this year, like every year since my boys were born, will be spent nudging my boys to greater heights in their achievements, whether music, sports, academic or personal development. (unlike you though, i don't have company inhouse to watch chick flicks with...i have been spending lots of time watching Transformers and the like!) .

    i also plan to spend more time nurturing old friendships, cultivating new ones and generally maintaining an upbeat state of mind to combat the doomsayers. Not forgetting, of course, to mastering Mandarin and learning Arabic and Italian with Alexander!

    Take care and keep well.

  14. Great to finally see a pic of you, Tony & Julia after all these years.

    Wishing you Love & Light & a Bullish CNY.



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