May

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

May 29, 2010

The Two Greatest Desires

LoveCatsWe’ve covered The Idling Man and The Passion Bridge.  The last critical lesson I believe every Catholic girl must be taught before she is allowed to go out on a date with a boy is: The Two Greatest Desires

You may have heard of Fr. Clair Bourdereaux.  He was a Franciscan priest who was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria in 1976.  He remained there for 19 years (until his death in January of 1995).

Fr. Clair had all of the qualities of a great counselor.  He was holy, smart, wise, gentle, diplomatic, and understanding.  He had the unique ability to connect with people on their level and set them on a path toward happiness and holiness.

There was a period of time in the 1980’s when Georgette and I were really struggling and we sought out Fr. Clair’s advice and counsel. 

On March 27, 1984, about 5 hours after our third child, Maria, was born, Georgette started having seizures.  There was a nurse in her hospital room who immediately pushed the “code blue” button which alerted the whole floor of the hospital that there was an emergency.  Within minutes there were two doctors and several nurses in the room.

Georgette told me later that there was massive confusion and she heard one of the doctors yelling, “Get me some mag-sulfate, stat!  See if Dr. Couri is still in the hospital!  What’s taking so long with that mag-sulfate?  I need it stat!”  While all of this was going on, Georgette stopped breathing.  She then had an out-of-body experience.  She said that she felt as though she was floating above the bed because she saw the doctors and nurses standing around her bed frantically working to bring her dead body back to life.

She then had the same experience a lot of people have had when they’ve died (and later come back to life).  She was at the end of a long tunnel with a light at the other end and she started moving toward the light.  As soon as she saw the light she begged God to allow her to live so she could raise her children.  A split second later she felt a burning sensation spreading throughout her body.  She opened her eyes and saw one of the doctors giving her an injection of magnesium sulfate.

May 22, 2010

The Passion Bridge

BridgeIn last week’s article, The Unspoken Invitation, I told you there are 3 lessons I think every Catholic girl must be taught before she is allowed to go out on a date with a boy.  I covered the first lesson last week: The Idling Man.  This week I want to tell you about The Passion Bridge.

I met my wife, Georgette, during the summer of 1978 (between my junior and senior year in college).  Even though Georgette was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, she was interested in learning about the Catholic faith because most of her cousins on her mom’s side of the family were practicing Catholics.

After we dated for awhile, she started asking the typical questions that non-Catholics ask, such as, “Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest when they can confess them directly to God?  Why do Catholics pray to saints when they have the ability to pray directly to God?  Why is the Catholic Church opposed to birth control?  Does the Catholic Church teach that only Catholics can get into Heaven?”

I didn’t know the correct answers to most of her questions, so during the next two years I read at least two dozen books which covered all of the important aspects of the old and new testaments as well as the Catholic faith.  At the same time, Georgette learned about the Catholic faith by reading and talking to devout Catholics.

One of the books that I read provided an analysis of each of the Ten Commandments and the subsequent teachings of our Lord.  In the chapter that explained the 6th and 9th commandments, the topics of purity and chastity were covered in detail.  There was one statement in that chapter that took me completely by surprise.  It declared that for unmarried couples, passionate kissing, or what is commonly known as french kissing, is considered a mortal sin (provided the conditions for a mortal sin have been met). 

May 15, 2010

The Unspoken Invitation

DatingForDummiesOne Saturday evening in the early 1970’s (when I was in high school) I was watching the Miss Universe pageant on television with some of my brothers.  At one point my mom walked into the room.  On the TV screen was Miss Lebanon strutting around in a bikini.  When my mom saw her she said (in a repulsive tone of voice), “She’s really ugly!”  I immediately responded to my mom’s comment by saying, “No she’s not mom.  She’s one of the most beautiful women in the pageant.”  My mom shot back, “There’s nothing beautiful about her.  She’s ugly!”  Then my dad walked into the room, so I dragged him into the conversation by saying, “Dad, do you think she’s ugly?”  He looked at the television and said, “No, she’s not ugly.”  I looked at my mom and said, “Mom, you know she’s not ugly.  You’re just saying she’s ugly because she’s wearing a bikini and you don’t think she should be parading around on national television in a bikini.”  My mom then proceeded to lecture me, my brothers, and my dad about why it was inappropriate for us to be watching a show that had women prancing around on stage “half-naked.”

I grew up in a family of 17 children.  I had 8 brothers and 8 sisters and my mom constantly railed against immodesty.  She had strict rules about what my sisters could wear around the house and in public.  She knew how vulnerable and foolish young women could be and she was keenly aware of the weaknesses and desires of men.

Last week the local newspaper reported that the Miss USA organization released pictures of this year’s contestants in anticipation of the upcoming Miss USA pageant.  What was different about this year’s pictures (as compared to previous years), was that each woman was portrayed in a seductive pose while wearing sexy lingerie.  In prior years, the women were shown in traditional poses wearing two-piece swimsuits.

May 8, 2010

The Most Important Person on Earth

silhouette-of-woman-prayingA recent article in Newsweek lamented about how there is no longer any “passion” for “abortion rights” among younger women.  Nancy Keenan, the current president of NARAL (originally founded in 1969 as the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws), was quoted in the article as follows:

“This past January, when Keenan’s train pulled into Washington’s Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol, she was greeted by a swarm of anti-abortion-rights activists.  It was the 37th annual March for Life, organized every year on Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe. ‘I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,’ Keenan recalled.  ‘There are so many of them, and they are so young.’”

The article went on to point out that “ultrasound technology has provided increasingly clear pictures of fetal development.”  Kate Michelman, a former president of NARAL, was quoted as saying: “The technology has clearly helped to define how people think about a fetus as a full, breathing human being…. The other side has been able to use the technology to its own end.”

The Newsweek article referred to Keenan, Michelman, and other like-minded promoters of mass murder as “the ‘postmenopausal militia,’ a generation of baby-boomer activists now well into their 50s who … still run the major abortion-rights groups, including NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Woman.”

So there you have it.  The “postmenopausal militia” is in a tizzy because young woman aren’t willing to blindly follow in their footsteps.  Make no mistake about it, the women who are members of this so-called militia have hardened their hearts to such an extent that while conceding that there is an unborn human being moving around in its mother’s womb, the “mother” still has the “right” to brutally murder and then discard the “fetus” like it’s nothing more than a pile of garbage.

May 4, 2010

A Drive-Thru Experience

WendysThere’s something that’s been going on for awhile that’s really starting to irritate me.  The more I see it, the more irritated I get.  I don’t remember when it started, but it’s been going on for a least at few years now.

What am I talking about?  It’s all of those cups and jars that are sitting on countertops next to the cash registers (and at drive-thru windows) at businesses all over town.  They’re there for tips from customers who purchase items from the businesses.

 I really get irritated when I see a cup or jar sitting on the counter and the person who is standing behind the cash register waiting on me appears to be incapable of smiling or saying “thank you” after I buy something.  I suppose I’m just too old-fashioned.  I still have the unreasonable expectation that a person who collects my money when I’m purchasing something should at least smile (or fake a smile) and say “thank you” after I hand over the money.  After all, the money I give to the employee is helping to pay his or her wages.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  When I go to a restaurant and get good (or great) service from a waiter or waitress, I always leave a generous tip.  In fact, I try to give more than what is customary because I’ve been in their shoes before.  I worked as a busboy at a restaurant while I was in high school, and later as a room-service waiter at the hotel where the restaurant was located.  I learned quickly that if I hustled and was cheerful, I would be well-rewarded with tips.

Last week I went through the drive-thru at the Wendy’s that is located in the Glen Hollow Shopping Center.  When I drove up to the order station, an energetic and enthusiastic female voice said: “What can we do at Wendy’s today to make it a great day for you?”  My immediate thought was, “Huh?  What did she say?”  I was momentarily stunned.  It felt as though I had been zapped with one of those electric taser guns that police officers use shock people into submission.

Contact