As we begin to move through January, there are a few looks back that need to be touched on before we get too far into the new year. Let me start with Christmas.
Our young grandson, Jake, now dominates the gift giving portion of the holiday, which is nothing but fun for us. The picture you see of our cluttered living room sums up the evening. Son-in-law Tim Phillips digging pieces out for one of Jake’s gifts. Julie digging out the little cars that go with the track. Laura digging her new Converse shoes. Of course our dog, Rocket, has to check out everything since he views the living room as his own and we are interlopers. That is why there are covers over the chairs. Finally, there is Jake, worn out and sitting in a suitcase, a gift Julie needed to haul all of her son’s gear on a trip to visit Tim’s family in Memphis. Pure Americana. Really, nothing could be finer.
Unless it was the dynamic piece of finery I sported for the occasion. While volunteering for the Share the Warmth organization in Lawrence, I came across this true classic amidst all the donated coats volunteers sorted through before they were given to the needy at no cost. After a cash donation, the shirt jacket came home with me.
Naturally, my attire resulted in quizzical looks and outright scorn, which is exactly why I wore it. There is something about confounding my wife and children with my odd outlook on life that never loses its appeal for me and for them – if they were not afraid that by admitting it, I would only do more.
Days later, while watching the final scenes of The Aviator, I pointed out that Leonardo DiCaprio wore virtually that exact shirt jacket while playing the troubled genius Howard Hughes. For a moment, Laura seemed impressed. Then she pointed out the Hughes version would have been fine wool while mine was only the purest polyester chemicals could create.
Finally, in honor of the word “selfie” being named the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year, Laura and I made sure everyone received a Kansas “Bill Selfie” in their stocking with whatever the surfing Santa delivered. Hope every one of you had a Wacky Christmas as well.
Now, onto some seriously good news. In The Sad State story I wrote for this blog on June 26, 2013, I pointed out the sad condition of the Swarthout Recital Hall on the University of Kansas campus. My worry was that in difficult economic times, in a state with a Governor cutting back on education and fine arts funding, the Hall would only continue to deteriorate.
Happily I can report that the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, recently donated $1 million towards the renovation of Swarthout. With that gift, donations now total $2.3 million, with a goal of $2.5 million. Plans call for renovation of the stage; lighting and acoustics; new seating for the audience; an accessible entryway for ADA seating; and audio/video and telecommunications equipment. Two Steinway D grand pianos will also be purchased for exclusive use in Swarthout. To all donating funds, thank you.
The other update is the condition of my left knee following micro-fracture surgery that I wrote about on October 19, 2013 with the Bone-on-Bone story. On January 1st, Dr. Jeff Randall freed me to begin running and weight lifting again as well as cycling with no restrictions. With some trepidation on a blustery cold New Year’s Day, Laura and I did a series of short intervals. The ground was frozen solid and seemed as hard as concrete. The runs were slow. However, there was none of the aching pain shooting up my femur and down my tibia that I was feeling before the surgery. Often that pain did not develop until after a run or lifting session. After the run, I kept waiting for the onset of pain, but it never developed and has not during or after any runs or weight lifting sessions since.
Clearly, my conditioning suffered during the 12 weeks, but I am hopeful that even as I work myself back into shape, the knee will hold up and remain pain-free. What worries me more is the state of my lower back. While trying to be a good boy as promised and follow all doctor’s orders, I overcompensated trying to protect the repaired knee. That caution irritated a nerve in my aging back, leading to sciatic pain in my left hip and down my leg. The pain can be occasionally debilitating. It will take time to work through this, but my doctor and chiropractor are confident I can overcome this setback. I want to do all I can to make this a very Happy and Healthy New Year.
My wishes are the same for all of you. Thanks always for reading Here I Stand.