Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vacation - Day 1

Yesterday began a week-long vacation. We kicked it off with a long run ... part of Anna's training. She is using an intermediate training schedule to prepare her for a marathon in October. First week: 5 miles on Monday, 3 miles on Tuesday, 5 miles (faster) on Wednesday), rest on Thursday, 8 miles on Friday, 1 hr. of cross training on Saturday and 3 more miles on Sunday.

After the run, we raced the clock ... Wyatt's clock - trying to get the car packed and the house locked down before a Wyatt meltdown. Somehow we made it - stuffing the xA to the gills with stroller, bags, books, magazines, boy, groceries and cameras.

Just before we left, the mail woman stopped by with a book we had just ordered: Parenting with Love and Logic - from birth to six years. We alternated reading a chapter from that book and a book I've been reading about the Christian faith (The Geography of God by Lindvall). Sure made the miles go by easily and also gave great exercise to different parts of the old knoggin'.

The Love and Logic book is a practical look at the more general theory. I learned in Chapter 1 yesterday that parenting with Love and Logic means ... letting children participate in the decision making process (so long as it does not damage the planet or anyone on it) so that they become more self-assured and world-wise.

This is so funny and frightening: this is one of the first times I have honestly thought about how I am going to parent. Sweet mercy and God help me. I don't think my parents had a strategy for me, though, and you learn what you see.

Modeling, in fact, is also a big part of the Love and Logic method. Which is why I heard Anna blurting out from the book that it is totally cool to model to your children how to use the restroom - everything from showing them where the toilet is to how to sit on it properly to how to wipe your bottom ... and the kicker, letting them watch where your poo goes. Wow. I got really nervous when she said all of this - especially the last part - and the road was straight and clear as I could see.

I tried to imagine letting little Wyatt see the remains of my last days food consumption - horrifically disappearing before both of our eyes. Would this be okay to do with anyone else? Would I stand next to Smithers and watch him discard his poo? Okay, so I clearly have issues with my own potty habits.


We made it up to Greencastle, safe and sound. That's where I am this morning ... on fifty plus acres of birdsong, wild wheat and the quiet life. Anna and her mom are off to take a walk - fenced in by a rich green and black tree line. I'm on boy duty. Pray he doesn't go to the bathroom.


Thursday, June 28, 2007


Wyatt and I recently spent some time at the pool...I cannot begin to describe how much I dearly love being in the water with kids. I have missed it, and look forward to more days like this one.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wrestling with a Modern Day Hercules

"Do you remember when you thought your dad was Superman? Then, one day, you realized he was just another old guy in spandex and a cape?" - Ray Romano

In the summer of 1997 I headed up to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first time in my life - to see a good friend's new home. Four of us - three fresh off graduating high school - made the trip in Brad Pierce's Honda Accord. Up0n arriving in the newly landscaped subdivision on the southside of Minneapolis, we were smacked with the reality that suburban life is pretty boring every where. In fact, aside from the promise of lakes within a twenty minute drive in any direction, Minneapolis truly seemed a reinvention of what already bored me about Indianapolis. Still there was one thing in Minneapolis which I could not refuse; I had been given a tantalizing invitation to see a spectacle I long admired.

No, it was not Prince. It was professional wrestling.


Minneapolis - as I came to discover - has long been something of an Ur of Chaldeans in wrestling - a type of patriarchal birthplace. I don't know why this is exactly. I got some idea after reading this on the American Wrestling Association. But I think the more complete answer is best shrouded in American folklore ... and even deeper in the mysteries of ancients.

I like to imagine wrestling (and wrestlers) were originally part of the mysterious Nephilim that wandered the earth - humiliating themselves by trespassing upon the daughters of humans only to find themselves forever tangled into the folklore of mere mortals. At one time they towered over all other humans, but their hulking frames could not restrain their lust. So, they became inconsistencies, spectacles to be feared, mocked and - worst of all - targeted as a the ultimate victory ... as Goliath came to discover. But, then again, what space can a son of god occupy? Where does Hercules go at the end of the day - back to Mount Olympus where he cannot get away from his father's mightier hand or back to earth where his power will never be understood?

It seems only reasonable then to look for a place of relative solitude, which is what I imagine they found in the upper lands of Europe. That land - absent of any prodding civilization - gave ample room to stack stones or parade around as frothing Grendels - disbursing punishment for the ridicule they long suffered.

Thankfully, for us, these god-men became tamer over time - settling for the benefits of a limited life-span and some good ale. Norsemen - towering like the trees of a Russian winterland - carried with them the ancient genes of the early chaos when men and God were not yet properly defined or barred from one another. Then they moved to Minnesota.

Sure, rumors still persisted. Paul Bunyan trounced around with his ax the size of an Amish windmill - seeking to generate some good will amongst the public. Why he was even willing to serve as a tourist attraction.

But somewhere in the barrel-chests of these once proud men, there would arise a strong urge to turn over the hourglass of time to the forgotten age - to let the world quake beneath the clashing of their hefty limbs and to send the world ooohing and aaahing over their immense girth. So, professional wrestling was born. Or something like that.

Seriously, how else could such a thing happen? What man in his right mind would agree to grapple with a human bear in a confined space (in tights!) if it were not something archaic and primal - something beyond the reasoning of our modern sensitivities.

And we (okay, only boys and men who find the masculine drama of professional wrestling much more safe than daytime soap operas) happily give ourselves over to their caricature dramas of evil and good. I was certainly willing to abandon reason and restraint if I could but meet one of these sons of god - these professional wrestlers. And, in truth, that was precisely the guarantee I had been given from one of my co-travelers as we headed northwest towards Minneapolis.


"Minnesota's Joe Laurinaitis is a family man," or so one journalist determined after sneaking a peek into the life of The Animal - one of the famed duo of The Road Warriors. That was generally the impression I also got when I was treated to an afternoon at the home of The Animal. But everything about this man's house and life bespoke a realm I would never enter as a result of my more pedestrian DNA.

His house was HUGE - a type of immensity I had only known one doctor in Zionsville to achieve. And everything inside of it and around the house seemed to have fallen from a beanstalk that had once grown in his backyard. His furniture was custom made - tailored to fit his enormous frame and making my average stature into a comedy. His ottoman was a bed. His recliner was a loveseat.

While The Animal was not around the day I toured his abode (which, of course, only added to the forbidding sense that I was but one careless move away from awaking a behemoth and suffering the fate of shredded skin and torn sockets), I did have the chance to swim in his pool through the generosity of his wife, sinching the useless elastic of Joe's swimsuit around my waist by pulling the chord as tight as it would go and still fearing the suit would be around my ankles in moments.

I left his house awed by the possibilities awakened within me. Oh, I never dared dream I would be a towering mass of muscle - constructed upon a frame gifted from Hercelus' line. But just witnessing the remnants and exoskeleton of The Animal's over-sized life drew me in as though I had seen the foot of a Yeti leading into the underbrush, and I wanted to follow.


Today news was released that Chris Benoit - the Canadian Crippler, the Rabbid Wolverine - had killed his wife and son and then turned his remaining fury and fire upon his own life - strangling himself to death with a exercise machine chord. Benoit was never a hulking figure in professional wrestling - nothing like Andre the Giant or the Big Show. Standing a mere 5' 10'', his position in the pantheon of professional wrestlers would not be secured by birthright alone. So, like others who longed to be a new-age Nephilim but would never see the sky, he focused his monstrosity within him - cooking up his frame with the aid of relentless body-building and steroids - the elixir of the gods.

Like any modern hero, Benoit's successes were easily choreographed through paper-thin drama plots, glistening bodies and bright-as-stars lights. Then again, his failures could have been just as easily diagnosed if you took the time to stare long enough into the places beyond the television crews and thunderous rock music. Surrounded by and enmeshed in a culture of misogyny and rage, Benoit found it impossible to turn off his character. His wife sought a divorce shortly after the marriage began - citing irreconcilable differences and harsh treatment.

He is, unfortunately but not surprisingly, not alone in the realm of modern day athletes - especially within professional sports where so much emphasis is placed upon the might of men who can do in reality what Greek legend pawned off to mythic figures.

Chris Benoit stands - yet again - as the ancient/modern parable of a man who let the fury of his humanity boil over into the wrath of a primordial force - tapping into strength he surely wished to forget as soon as it was unleashed upon his family. And unable to roam the earth or complete twelve labours in penance for his sin, he took his life - felling the great Niphilim to minus one more.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dark Days

We watched Dark Days tonight - a documentary about a homeless community existing in the subway caverns of New York City. We watch a lot of documentaries in our house. Yes, most of them - as our extended family usually points out to us if they ever take our advice and watch them - are depressing. But, most of the time documentaries these days are professionally crafted and edited to keep some form of distance between the action occurring in the film and the viewer sitting comfortably at home. You don't tend to sit in the misery of other people. Documentaries like The Future of Food or An Inconvenient Truth are certainly full of their woe, but they also end positively - hoping to lift the audience into a new way of behaving.

Well Dark Days has no such ambitions. Filmed in black and white and using loud, obnoxious subway trains as "cuts" from scene to scene, you watch constantly uncomfortable - trying to understand the anxious, disturbed, drug-saturated minds of men and women who have been reduced to scavenging like rats (which the director also uses as another "cut" device). Thirty minutes into the movie I started fearing the filth had jumped off the television and invaded my house.

You watch men pulling raw meat out of garbage bags - explaining how this is good meat since it comes from a Jewish deli where the meat is not thrown out with the other trash, "coffee grounds and shit" - and you're thankful the filming is so gritty. You watch two young men arguing over who will dump out the latrine - a painter's bucket set-up under a handicap accessible seat you'd expect to find hovering over a hospital or retirement home toilet. Eventually, the new kid takes the bucket not twenty yards from their makeshift house and pours it onto a stinking mound. No music. No narration. Just the inescapable hopelessness.

Or so I thought.

At the very end of the movie Amtrak issues a statement that the underground community has 30 days to vacate or else they will be evicted by force. But before the police can march into the depths, a homeless relief center in New York works with Amtrak to negotiate a better deal: the homeless men and women will be transferred to Section 8 housing and into apartments with another chance at life.

It's naive to think that's all these people need, and Dark Days never attempts to answer the pervasive reality and disaster mental illness and drugs has and will wreak on these people's lives. But, as the movie closes, you can't help but feel that some form of redemption has occurred.

In the conclusion, particularly, is where the brilliance of the black and white film is realized. For sixty plus minutes, the screen has been a barely visible abyss - with occasional light added by bright film lamps and small fires. For the last fifteen minutes of the film, however, the light has been reversed - bright light pours in to apartments, highlighting the sanitary shine of new paint and carpeted floors. One man stands over a frying pan cooking chicken, explaining how you never realize just how dark your life has become. You feel like you're in that room (just like you felt you were in that underground hell), which allows you to breath. And relax. But no where near as much as before you started the film. Some scenes are just too dark to forget.


I Never Saw a Butterfly

During the terrible reign of darkness that was Nazi Germany, a "model ghetto" was set up in Terezin that would come to house 15,000 children ages 8-15. Fewer than a 1,000 of the children would survive. Even more heartbreaking, this children's prison camp contained a large percentage of artistic, creative kids - some of whom left behind brief glimpses of the profound gifts that never made it to maturation. Included in these artistic testimonies were sketches and poems. Composer Charles Davidson went on to set a few of the poems to music.

On Monday night, the North Carolina Boys Choir stopped in Owensboro as part of a two week tour throughout the South and Midwest. They came prepared to sing many pieces - pieces from Bach, Mendelssohn, Rutter - and the final portion of their performance contained one of the Terezin poems as composed by Davidson. It is simply called Birdsong:


He doesn't know the world at all who stays in his nest and doesn't go out.
He doesn't know what the birds know best, nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness. When dew drops sparkle in the grass,
And earth's a-flood with morning light. A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the morning after night. Then I know how fine it is to be alive.
Hey try to open up your hearts to beauty, go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there. Then, if tears obscure your way,
You'll know how wonderful it is to be alive. To be alive!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Neither Hot nor Cold

"We are too Christian to enjoy sinning, and we enjoy sinning too much to be real Christians." - Anonymous

Saturday, June 16, 2007


From my brief stay with Andy LaDow in Chicago. The first picture was a piece outside the Contemporary Art Museum of Chicago. The next couple of pics (and the last one) were of "The Bean" in Millenium Park, which I was clearly fascinated with ... and one other picture of a classic Chicago symbol. I also saw 4th Presbyterian and ate at Lou Malnati's ... mmmm ... sausage layer and extra cheese.


So Long

Goodness, gracious it's been a while. For two straight weeks the Kendall's have been a discombobulated bunch - traveling to and fro, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville ... and good ol' Owensboro.

Today we were at Church Hill Downs in Louisville taking in the thrills of horse racing six stories up - watching the horses thunder around the mile of dirt and fence. It was hot ... again. Good Lord, it has been hot for the whole month of June.

I officiated two funerals this past week - both for persons I had never spoken to in my life.

And Monday begins my first ever true VBS experience. Argh.

So much to say ... no way to find the words or enthusiasm to do so.


Monday, June 04, 2007

300 Acres & 300 miles

300 acres of woodlands, a log cabin, a pond, two dogs, three deer, a turkey, one rope swing, and some good Foster's ... stir it up and you get one heck of a brief retreat from the (small) city of Owensboro.

Anna and I were kindly invited to join another couple out in Ohio County (east of Owensboro) on Saturday afternoon. After thinking about it for two seconds, we said, "hades yes!" It was grand. We enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by our host (meatloaf, ceasar salad, mashed potatoes, asparagus and fresh bread) out on the wooden porch, listening to bird song and the subtle chirp of crickets. To top it off, we enjoyed some great cheesecake (two slices for me ... hehe) and a bottle of Red Truck wine (a white from Sonoma County).

Yes, it was all incredible, and I give such good thanks to be together with those friends ... in that place.

One thing also stuck with me ... that time, that place, they were inconsequential to the rest of the "world" in the sense of productivity or importance. For all intents and purposes, for an evening we had disappeared, dropped off the world or gone into some Bermuda triangle in between Louisville, Indianapolis and Nashville - an abyss devoid of art and entertainment, politics and religion, industry and commerce, just a wide space of creation and us under the darkening sky. Some people may be frightened by such isolation, by such a lack of relevance. Not me.


Anna takes off tomorrow for an art fair up in Milwaukee. She is going to take a class in precious metal clay - learning how to craft and bake clay into jewelry. Somehow this clay is transformed through refining into valuable metal. I envy her opportunity to see definitively and artistically the Refiner's Fire.


I'm going to stay around for two days - hopefully finishing up a sermon for Sunday and getting Wyatt's bedroom painted (yes, we are notoriously bad for doing house improvements in any timely fashion).


Then, I'm off to Greencastle with Anna's dad and on to Chicago Thursday to catch up with Andy LaDow - an incredibly gifted, humorous and satirical friend. He's being kind enough to see to my visit.


Friday I venture on up to Milwaukee to rejoin my wife and son. That same day we'll pack up the xA and travel the great distance back to Indianapolis for my mom's wedding this upcoming Saturday.


Sunday: back in Owensboro ... to preach and hopefully tend to a garden in our own backyard.


By the end of it all, those 300 acres are already going to be a distant memory, and I will shortly be in need of another stay in anonymity.