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.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

January 29, 2011

An Atheist Madman & A Catholic Hero

Larry King, the television talk show host who recently retired from CNN after 25 years of hosting his own show, once commented: “If you want to get on my show, all you need to do is take out a gun and blow your parents away.”  He wasn’t encouraging that type of behavior; he was simply stating a fact.  What he did not say was: “If you want to get on my show, all you need to do is take care of your elderly parents day after day, month after month, and year after year, until they pass away.  After that, I’ll invite you on my show to talk about the heroic sacrifice that you made.”

King knew that when a person does something outrageously immoral or violent, he or she can expect to be richly rewarded with attention, and in some cases, riches.

The madman who recently killed 6 people and wounded 13 others in Tucson, Arizona, knew what Larry King knows: Commit mass murder and you’ll get worldwide media attention (negative attention, but attention nonetheless).  So that’s what happened in Arizona.  After the bloodbath, the 24 hour “news” stations lit up with enthusiasm, and the politicians got busy with advancing their agendas.  Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old drug addicted atheist madman who did the killing, got what he wanted: worldwide attention.

In my previous two articles, I outlined my first two (of three) observations about the events surrounding the Arizona killings.  My first observation (All Behavior Originates And Proceeds From Beliefs) was discussed two weeks ago.  My second observation (But For The Grace of God Go I) was covered last week.

Here’s my third and final observation:

OBSERVATION #3:  Bang, Your Time Is Up!

One of the six people who were killed in the shootings was John Roll, a 63 year old Catholic federal judge who had stopped by to say hello to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Video footage from a nearby security camera revealed the details of how Judge Roll was killed.

January 22, 2011

A Madman & A Student

Last week I told you I had three observations about the Arizona killings that I wanted to share with you.  My first observation (“All Behavior Originates And Proceeds From Beliefs”) was covered in last week’s article.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the article, you can find it here

Here’s my second observation:

OBSERVATION #2:But For The Grace Of God Go I

Most people don’t know this, but when I was in eighth grade at St. Mark’s in Peoria, Illinois, I almost got kicked out of school.  There was an occasion when an entire wing of the school (where all of the seventh and eighth grade students were taught) had to be evacuated because of a terrible smell that, for no apparent reason, quickly spread throughout the classrooms. It turned out that a couple of students had poured skunk perfume in the ventilation system.

The students who were responsible for the incident were two eighth graders: me and my best friend, John Jones (not his real name).

Up until then, John and I were constantly getting into trouble.  When we started seventh grade together, the large class of students was split up into two groups: 7-1 and 7-2.  The students in 7-1 were the smart kids, and the students in 7-2 were the dummies.  Can you guess which group of students John and I were in?

To my friend and I, the school was a prison.  The principal was the warden, the teachers were the guards, and John and I were two restless prisoners longing to break out and be free.

Eighth grade was the same as seventh grade – two groups of students: 8-1 and 8-2.  Of course, John and I were in the same group as the other dummies.

It was during our 8th grade year that we bought some skunk perfume from Midget Studio, a store that was located in downtown, Peoria.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but someone spoiled it by telling on us.  After we got caught, the principal and the 7th and 8th grade teachers (there were 2 teachers for 7th grade and 2 teachers for 8th grade) had a meeting to discuss what they were “going to do with Harry and John.”  Prior to the meeting, the principal told our parents that one of their options was to kick us out of school.

January 15, 2011

The Beliefs & Behavior of a Madman

If you pay any attention to the news, you know about the attempted murder last Saturday of Gabrielle Giffords, a congresswoman from Arizona.  Just in case you’re not up to speed on the details of the incident, I’ll give you a brief summary of what happened, and then a few of my own thoughts and observations that I haven’t seen expressed by anyone else.

The shooting took place in Tucson, Arizona, in front of a grocery store at a local shopping center where Giffords was greeting people.  For no apparent reason, a young man walked up to Giffords, pulled out a semi-automatic pistol, and shot her in the head.  He then proceeded to open fire on the crowd of people who were there to meet Giffords.  He was eventually tackled and restrained by two men, but only after he killed 6 people and injured 14 others.  Among the dead was a 9 year old Catholic girl, Christina Taylor Green.  Christina was in third grade and had recently been elected to her school council and was a fan of Congresswoman Giffords.  Also killed was a 63 year old Catholic federal judge, John Roll, who had stopped by to say hello to Giffords after attending Mass at a church in downtown Tucson, Arizona.

The young man who did the killing was identified as 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner.  It turns out that Loughner is a deranged individual who, over the past couple of years, completely alienated himself from his family and friends.  Last year he attended a local junior college and was suspended after campus police had to intervene on 5 separate occasions, because of his bizarre and threatening behavior.  At one point, one of his teachers was so concerned about being harmed by Loughner that she asked a police officer to remain in the classroom with her until class was over.  While personally hand delivering a notice of suspension from the school, the two police officers who delivered the notice made sure there were two additional officers available to back them up.

January 8, 2011

The “Wallet” That Will Crush An Entire Industry

When I was in grade school, a sign of status and importance among the students was whether you owned a watch.  During that time (the 1960’s), watches were expensive and most parents didn’t see the need for a young student to have a watch.  The rule in the home I grew up in was that unless we received a watch as a gift from a relative or bought our own, we had to wait until we were in 8th grade before our parents would buy us a watch.

I remember getting my first wristwatch when I was in 8th grade.  I’ve worn one ever since, and now, 41 years later, I feel lost when I don’t have a watch around my wrist.

Today, very few of the people under the age of 30 wear a wristwatch.  It wouldn’t even occur to me to buy a watch as a gift for one of my children.  They wouldn’t bother wearing it.  Georgette used to wear a wristwatch, but it stopped working a few years ago and she didn’t see a need to replace it.

Nowadays people don’t need watches because their cell phones (which always show the correct time with a large digital display), are always within reach.

I recently read that within a few years, most people will no longer have the need to carry a wallet.  The “new wallet” will be a “smartphone,” such as an iPhone, Android, or Blackberry.  A smartphone is the equivalent of a personal pocket computer that is equipped with mobile phone functions and has the ability to access the internet. 

One feature of the smartphone is that is can store a person’s debit and credit card information.  Before long, all a person will need to do to purchase an item at a store will be to locate the debit or credit card information on the phone, and then sweep the phone over an electronic device (like we do to unlock the door to the new adoration chapel). 

The same thing can currently be done with a coupon.  All a person needs to do is display a coupon that was downloaded from the internet or received as a text message, and then sweep the smartphone across an electronic device.

January 1, 2011

What’s “New” This Year?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “new” is defined as “having recently come into existence.”  I have a question for you.  Now that 2011 has come into existence, what’s really “new”?

Let’s be honest here.  There’s really not much that’s “new” that we can look forward to in 2011.  In fact, when the clock struck 12:00 a.m. on January 1, we dragged a whole lot of the “old” into our “new” year. 

Old habits.  Old behaviors.  Old attitudes.  Old biases.  Old prejudices.  Old grudges.  Old problems.  For those of us who are “older” in age, we also dragged in our old (and deteriorating) bones, muscles, eyes, ears, teeth, and layers of fat.

So what is it that we’re supposed to be celebrating anyway?  What can we honestly look forward to in 2011 that is about to “come into existence”?

A few months ago, our 11 year old washing machine started making some loud grinding noises, so we called a repairman.  He looked at the machine and told Georgette that the transmission needed to be replaced.  The cost of replacing the transmission was going to be over $300.  It was obvious that we needed to replace the entire washing machine instead of the transmission, so Georgette and I went to Sears and bought a “new” washing machine.

We buy “new” things every day, such as kitchen appliances, cars, televisions, computers, shoes, clothes.  But are those items really “new”?  Have they only “recently come into existence”?  Although the new things we buy are made from new parts, they really aren’t “new” to us.  They’re just replacements for things we’ve owned in the past.

In this new year that we call 2011, what can we look forward to that is really “new”?

Last week on Christmas day when Georgette and I were with our children and grandchildren, I announced to my two married daughters, Anna and Maria, that I expected two “new” babies in 2011.  I said it in a joking way, since both of them had babies that were born in May and June of 2010.