March

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).

March 26, 2011

The Truth About Panic

When the recent earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, people in various parts of the world panicked.  A week after the earthquake, a Los Angeles Times article reported that there were “long lines and mob scenes at stores across China after rumors spread of a radioactive cloud from Japan’s quake-damaged nuclear plant.”  Can you guess what the mobs of people were trying to buy?  Iodized salt.  They were under the false impression that they would be protected from radiation if they consumed extra iodized salt.

In California, pharmacists reported that they were “flooded” with requests for iodine tablets.  It didn’t take long before stores and pharmacies ran out of the tablets because of the panic buying that took place.  On eBay, prices for iodine tablets skyrocketed.

A few weeks ago, before the earthquake, I received a phone call from a client who reads my weekly articles.  The client is a young, educated, devout Catholic, stay-at-home wife and mother who keeps up with what’s going on in politics and the financial markets.  She’s concerned about the rising cost of food and gas and the prospect of steep price increases.  She has been following the predictions of several economists who claim that it’s only a matter of time before there will be a spike in inflation (and food prices), because of the massive borrowing that has been taking place by the U.S. government.

A few days after my client called, I read an article about a study conducted by British engineers that expressed concern about the “dangerous over-reliance” on satellite navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).  One expert, Martyn Thomas, was quoted as saying, “A significant failure of GPS could cause lots of services to fail at the same time, including many that are thought to be completely independent of each other.”

March 19, 2011

Meltdown

Do you know how many nuclear power plants we have in Illinois?  Until a few days ago, I had never given it any thought.  With the recent news about the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan (and the threat of radiation poisoning), I decided to investigate.  In case you don’t know, we have 6 nuclear power generation plants in Illinois, located in the following cities and counties: Braidwood (Will County), Byron (Ogle County), Clinton (De Witt County), Morris (Grundy County), Marseilles (La Salle County), and Cordova (Rock Island County).  The closest nuclear plant to Peoria is in Clinton, Illinois, which is approximately 62 miles from Downtown, Peoria.

Based on what I’ve read, although there could be trace amounts of radiation that finds its way to the west coast (of the United states), it does not appear that anyone in the United States is in any danger of  radiation poisoning.  On the other hand, if there was ever a nuclear meltdown at the plant in Clinton, Illinois, the people of Central Illinois would be at risk of being exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation.

Although the words “nuclear meltdown” are thrown around all of the time, most of us don’t have any idea of what a nuclear meltdown really is.   According to Webster’s Dictionary, a “meltdown” is: (1) the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor; (2) a rapid or disastrous decline or collapse; or (3) a breakdown of self-control.

In our country, over the past 50 years or so, we’ve experienced several non-nuclear meltdowns, including the disastrous decline and collapse of the institutions of marriage and the family, our moral values, our manufacturing industry, our school system, and our financial system.  Every year, more and more people turn to medications to keep from having meltdowns related to mental instability.  Now, of all things, the world is confronted with the type of meltdown that we rarely hear much about: a nuclear meltdown.

March 12, 2011

Lent, Kites & Secrets

On a Sunday afternoon in March of 1968, when I was 11 years old, one of my aunts packed her 8 children (6 boys and 2 girls) into her station wagon and took them over to my Grandparents’ house to visit.  At that time, we lived in the country and my parents’ home was next-door to my grandparents’ home.

That particular Sunday happened to be during Lent.  Like most Catholics, we were taught that during Lent we should sacrifice daily by “giving up something.”  I don’t know how common it was, but in our family, we were told that we could “cheat” on Sundays.  For example, the particular Lent that I’m talking about, I gave up eating candy; however, I was allowed to eat as much candy as I wanted to on Sundays, as long as I refrained from eating candy during the week.

Anyway, when my cousins arrived at my grandparents’ house, the boys immediately came over to my parents’ house to see me and my brothers.  One of my cousins brought his new kite with him.  The weather that day was clear, sunny, and moderately windy – perfect for flying kites.

I considered myself an expert at flying kites.  I didn’t have much to work with, but what I had was sufficient – a paper kite and some string rolled up on a stick of wood.  Living in the country with plenty of time on our hands, my brothers and I actually learned how to make our own kites from scratch, and we were able to spend the time that was necessary to perfect our kite flying skills.

One of my cousins, who was a year older than me, proudly displayed and bragged about his brand new (and expensive) kite, which was made out of reinforced plastic.  He also showed off a new gadget he purchased with money he earned while working at his dad’s grocery store.  The gadget looked like an oversized fishing rod reel.  Instead of having to manually wind up the string on his kite like the rest of us, he could simply hold onto the handle of his new gadget and quickly reel-in his kite.

March 5, 2011

Is Your Life Out of Balance?

Have you ever heard of a “life coach”?  Among other things, a life coach is someone who gets paid to provide private coaching to people who are trying to achieve balance in their lives.  The areas of life in which balance is ordinarily sought include spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, social and financial (not necessarily in that order).

Before our economy was hit with a recession, there was a booming business in personal coaching; however, because of the downturn in the economy, life coaches have been hurting for business.  Since people need to pay for things like food, housing, heat, gas, etc., personal coaching has been put on the back burner until all of the other more important needs can be taken care of.  What’s ironic about all of this is that the economic downturn has caused the lives of life coaches to be thrown completely out of balance.

If you’ve been following the international news for the past month, you know about the demonstrations and violence that started in Egypt and then spilled over into Libya.  You also probably know that it wasn’t the yearning to be free that triggered the demonstrations.  It was because of the doubling of food prices within the past year in those countries.

Half of the Egyptian population lives on income of less than $2 a day.  Prior to the increase in food prices, Egyptians spent 50 percent of their income on food.  After food prices doubled, most of them had to cut back from 2 meals a day to 1 meal a day.  The fear of starvation (or actual starvation) can force people to do crazy things, like risk their lives by attempting to overthrow repressive governments.

The average American spends between 10 to 15 percent of disposable income on food.  Even if our food prices doubled, household food costs wouldn’t be anywhere near the share of income that the people in countries like Egypt and Libya have to pay.  A recent study reported that two-thirds Americans are overweight.  We obviously get plenty of food to eat every day.

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