Discipline and Detention, According to Dad

02/21/2015

Staci recounted her husband’s experience with a nun in grammar school. It was part of a Facebook discussion in Tribe Writers, a writing group we both belong to. That got me thinking about the wonderful nuns in my life. And I say that with honesty and respect.

For the first six years of grammar school, Karen, my sister, and I attended school at Ascension of Our Lord parish in Evanston, Illinois. Enrollment was meager and shrinking rapidly as the offspring of parishioners moved to more distant suburbs. Ascension announced that the school would close at the end of the 1970-71 school year. I think enrollment in that final year was 54 students. Yep, in all eight grades.

The ’70-’71 school year would have been the end of 7th grade for me. Mom and Dad decided to take us out of Ascension at the end of the 1969-70 year. They enrolled us at St. Nicholas School (now known as Pope John XXIII School), also in Evanston.

For the years I attended, Ascension had three classrooms for all eight grades. Sister Presentine taught grades 1, 2, and 3. Depending on that year’s enrollment in each class, Sister Egidia taught grades 4 and 5 or 4, 5, and 6. Sister Lourdine, the principal, would teach either 6th through 8th or 7th and 8th grades. Sister Egidia and Sister Lourdine were intimidating, imposing women.Loving, but firm. And I was often intimidated by them.

But I totally loved Sister Presentine. Sister Presentine demonstrated the love she had for all of us with one selfless, painstaking gesture. She glued together a ceramic pencil cup I smashed closing my desk lid.

Our family took a vacation to Pennsylvania. I think it was the summer before I started 3rd grade. I brought my cherished cup to school, excited to show her. I’m pretty sure it was the first week of class. The cup listed all the Presidents of the United States and the years they served. But when I brought it back to my desk and closed the desk lid, I smashed it into probably 100 or more small pieces.

————————————————————————————-

Anyway, fast forward to late summer, 1970. We ventured off to a new school, St. Nicholas. It was the start of junior high school, 7th grade for me.

I discovered that the nuns and lay teachers didn’t have as much control of the classroom in this new environment. The 7th and 8th grade classes were two rooms each, I’m guessing between 25 and 30 kids per room. I also learned how to elevate my own brand of mischief. In 7th grade, then again in 8th grade, the angelic Catholic boys at St. Nick’s terrorized two poor, sweet Sisters right outta town. Back to back years. Sister Camilla and Sister Daniel.

One day, 8th grade, I got a detention for bad behavior. I needed to get my detention slip signed by a parent. Mom worked nights, so I presented the slip to Dad. Luckily, Uncle Bob (Mom’s brother, who’s really more like the big brother I never had than an uncle) was over for a visit and the three of us always had a great time together. Most times, it was sports related, either playing or watching or talking sports. I have no recollection where my sister, Karen, was on this particular night.

I also have no idea what Dad, Uncle Bob, and I had been doing that led up to this moment, but the mood was right for Dad to sign. In fact, it was so right, he didn’t just sign the slip.

He composed a poem.

“It was brought to my attention
That David has a detention.
So without further mention,
Keep him in retention.”

I will never forget Uncle Bob rolling on the floor, he was laughing so hard.

I took the note to school the next day and handed it to Sister Mary Dennis. I’m sure I had an annoying 13-year-old grin on my pudgy, bespectacled face. She looked at me, expressionless, as I ceremoniously presented the note to her.

Sister Dennis unfolded the note, read it, folded it again, and slipped it into her desk. Her expression never changed.

So did she take it back to the convent and share a laugh with the other nuns? Or did she burn it and race down to church to say a Rosary for the redemption of Dad’s and my soul?

Or did she slip out to the tavern?


A (Very) Short Play – Part I

02/06/2015

Scene: O’Hare International Airport, Terminal 2, near TSA security checkpoint.

Amid the typical hustle and bustle of airline passengers headed for their gates or arriving from their destinations and headed out the door into the bright sunshine, TSA workers and Chicago’s finest patrolling the corridors, airline workers on lunch break, and maintenance personnel emptying trash cans, stands a man named Steve. He appears to be waiting for someone. He alternately looks at his phone, scans the TSA security line, and the Delta check-in area, wanders toward the windows that look out onto the street where departing travelers are dropped off by loved ones or taxi and limousine drivers. He casually wanders about the waiting area for a minute or two.

Suddenly, Steve spies an attractive redhead arriving by car outside and he walks hurriedly out of direct line of sight, not wanting to be seen by the woman, but also not wanting to attract unwanted attention from the TSA or the policewoman to his left.

Out on the street, a woman arrives. Her name is Patricia. She is — as always — impeccably dressed. She walks assuredly through the doorway into the terminal. It’s evident she’s played this game before. She is a frequent flyer; it’s evident in her walk and her demeanor.

As Patricia walks toward the security checkpoint, Steve approaches Patricia from behind.

Steve: Did you need any assistance with your carry-on, Madam?

Patricia (recognizing the voice, but surprised by the polite intrusion, turns, with a surprised but controlled expression on her face): What are you doing here?

Steve (smiling and reaching for Patricia’s carry-on bag): Just proving that I’ll do what it takes. I promised you we could make this work. I just thought this would be a simple way to demonstrate.

Patricia: I don’t have much time.

Steve: I know. It doesn’t matter. I just wanted to see your pretty face. (Pausing and then adding abruptly) And make a point.

Patricia (with a sideways glance and a broad smile): You’ve done that! What are you doing here?

Steve just smiles back at her.

Patricia: You didn’t have to do this. My God, what if you would have missed me?

Steve (smiling, almost giggling): It was worth the risk. (Then seriously) You’re worth it.

Now it’s Patricia’s turn to simply return a smile.

Steve: I’ve checked the departure board. Flight is on time. You leave in 25 minutes.

Patricia: Thank you.

Steve: Now, before you get into that line and schmooze the handsome guy over there in the Delta Priority Check-in line, I ask the young lady’s permission to accompany me in this direction. (He motions toward the stairway.)

Patricia: I only have 20 minutes.

Steve: I only want five. It’ll take you five minutes, max, to get through security, and it wouldn’t take you ten minutes to get to the gate if you crawled there on your hands and knees. That leaves you five, maybe ten minutes before your flight leaves. You’ll be one of the last to board. Just the way you like it.

Patricia: You do pay attention to detail, don’t you?

Steve: You know it. Now come on! I’ve only got four and a half minutes left.

Patricia: Okay. Lead on.

Steve takes Patricia by the hand and leads her toward the stairway. The two walk about 20 feet, between a pillar and the windows. The view of most of the travelers and others present is obstructed from this position.

Steve wheels 180 degrees to face Patricia. He moves very close to her face and asks in a whispered voice…

Steve: Do you know any nice restaurants near the airport?

Patricia is surprised by the odd question. It prompts a smile.

Patricia: Around O’Hare?

Steve (still whispering, moving closer to Patricia): … or perhaps you can tell me if there’s a nice airport in northwestern Indiana…

Patricia has heard enough. She wraps both arms around Steve’s neck. Steve has Patricia’s carry-on over his left shoulder. He pulls Patricia as close as he can with his right arm. The couple share a tender kiss.

… it lingers for a long while. The couple unlock their lips and each share a satisfying sigh. A smile slowly spreads across each of their faces.

Patricia: Well, this is quite the bon voyage.

Steve: I told you. You’re worth it.

Patricia: That is a really stupid line.

Steve: Hey, gimme a break. I worked hard planning the rest of this. That’s the best I’ve got right now.

Patricia grabs him by the neck and pulls him close for another kiss. There is more passion in this kiss. When their lips separate, there is less smile and more intensity in their gaze at each other.

Patricia: Thanks for carrying my bag.

Steve: Thanks for the kiss. My five minutes is up.

Patricia: Walk me to security?

Steve: With pleasure.

Patricia and Steve embrace one last time. Then Patricia fixes the hair in front of her face. Not that it needs it, perhaps just a perfunctory exercise to make sure she looks professional. The pair separate, maintain a professional distance, and walk toward the TSA checkpoint.

– End, Part I –


Fifty Shades of Grey or an Old Fashioned Valentine’s Day?

02/05/2015

So… what’s your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day date? Dinner? Then maybe a trip to the show? What movie? Fifty Shades? It’s opening Valentine’s Day weekend. I’m sure you knew that.

Why that movie?

What’s the attraction?


I’ve never read a word of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I do know what it’s about, though.

How can you avoid it? It’s all over social media. And television. Even a Super Bowl commercial. And now, you can even buy your sweetie a Fifty Shades teddy bear.

Seriously? Are you kidding me?

So… ladies… and gentlemen, if any of you are so inclined…

Clue me in.

What is the attraction of fantasizing about a relationship in which a naive young lady is coerced into a relationship with a man — not much older than her, but certainly more street-wise (if “manipulative” serves as a working definition of “wise”) — who subjects her to demeaning sexual acts?

Just because the dude is good looking?

Come on. If that’s the case, the overwhelming popularity is outrageously troubling.


I am not a prude.

But I do consider myself a gentleman.

Would it be an over-generalization to suggest that most of you who find this story fascinating would (or actually do) prefer an abuser to a gentleman in your life?

Please don’t be mad at me for asking the question.

Please respectfully consider what attracts you to the story.

Is it the sex?

Hey, if that floats your boat, the choice is yours. I am the last person to judge.

But I am compelled to ask:

Have you considered the impact of stories like this on your children?

The world is getting faster. News travels fast.

So do Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram and Pinterest “messages” (yes, I’d say those images have the potential to be far more powerful than a Facebook conversation; or rant).

What does your thirteen year old daughter think about Fifty Shades?

How about your ten year old daughter?

Or son?

How much information do they have about the story?

Are you sure you know the answer?

The world is getting smaller. News travels fast.

Yeah. They’re too young. I’m sure nobody their age talks about sex. Or relationships.

Do you think they have a clear idea of what a healthy relationship looks like? Or how to treat a member of the opposite sex? Or how they should be treated by a member of the opposite sex?

Just askin’.


Someone in a Facebook group I’m a part of — I forget where I saw it exactly, but that’s not necessarily relevant — shared a blog post discussing five themes in Fifty Shades. If you’re at all concerned about how your kids might react to any knowledge of this movie, why don’t you give this post a glance?


So… what’s your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day date? Dinner? Then maybe a movie? How about Fifty Shades? It’s opening Valentine’s Day weekend. I’m sure you knew that.

Why that movie?

What’s the attraction?


There is an alternative. I wonder if you’ve heard of it.

It’s called Old Fashioned.

Let me ask you a question. What would you consider more romantic? A story that examines the concept of “true love?” Of what really matters in a relationship? About honor and dignity?

Or a story that reduces relationship to physical encounter?

Just askin’.

If you’d prefer the former, permit me to direct you to the movie’s website.


Old Fashioned isn’t getting the play that Fifty Shades is. Budget was a little smaller.

As in, about $600,000.

Yep, that’s it. Less than one million dollars.

But Old Fashioned is getting a fair share of attention. And not just from Christian or religious media.

Christian Toto, on breitbart.com, says:

“Hollywood is betting that the release of 50 Shades of Grey, the film adaptation of the sexually tawdry book of the same name, will be a hit with movie-going couples on Valentine’s Day weekend. One indie film begs to differ.”

But you would expect a conservative website to promote a movie like Old Fashioned, right?

Well, that’s not the only press the movie has received. Check out what Jenna Mullins at E! has to say about the film (personally, I’d say calling Old Fashioned “a clean, religious version of Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bit of a stretch, but…).

And Emily Blake at mtv.com says:

“There’s a faith-based film about ‘old-fashioned courtship’ hitting theaters on the exact same day as the sinful, S&M-filled adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Pretty strong words for the Sex, Drugs, and <insert music genre of choice> Network!

Variety, The Daily Beast, International Business Times, and other secular news sources have all covered Old Fashioned‘s direct challenge to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Erin Bishop, Founder and President of The Whatever Girls Ministry, said it best:
“Lust lasts a moment, but true love lasts a lifetime!”

Moms and dads, did you click on the link for the blog post I mentioned above? Don’t be angry with me for suggesting it again. It’s well worth your time.


One has  a multimillion dollar budget. The other was made with a $600,000 budget.

One has been anticipated since 2012. The book has been out since 2011. The movie is highly anticipated.

The other is largely unknown.

One depicts exploitative sex under the guise of romance. The term “mommy porn” is used to describe it.

(Nice.)

The other depicts a romantic chivalry.

One is Fifty Shades of Grey.

The other is Old Fashioned.


Hey, if you had your heart set on seeing Fifty Shades on opening weekend… well, I hope I convinced you to at least think twice about seeing it. But if not…

won’t you at least give Old Fashioned a chance?

If you’re bound (YES! pun intended) and determined to see Fifty Shades, no matter what this prude-who-claims-not-to-be-a-prude is telling you, will you make it a point to go see Old Fashioned, too?

If not for me, will you do it for your kids? Your nieces? Your nephews? For the kids next door or down the block?

If we can seize this opportunity to make the slightest bit of difference — even if the box office numbers of Fifty Shades dwarf those for Old Fashioned — isn’t it worth it?

If not for you, for your kids.


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