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.

October 29, 2011

Scary Times

BOO!  IT’S GETTING SCARY OUT THERE! As I am writing this, there are “Occupy” protests going on in numerous cities throughout the United States.  One of the gripes of the protestors is the lack of jobs that are available.  The protesters remind me of Linus in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Instead of going trick-or-treating with his friends, Linus waited up all night in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arrive with free toys and candy.  My favorite quote from the show came from Linus when he said: “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

Linus’ refusal to discuss “the Great Pumpkin” shielded him from having to hear the truth from others.  We often do this in our own lives – refuse to discuss matters that we may be mistaken about.  This type of conduct arises because of our own pride and our desire to shield ourselves from constructive criticism.

At the end of the show, Linus’ sister, Lucy, helps him into their house after she finds him on the ground, covered with his blanket and shivering from the cold.  (Thank God for the women in our lives!)  The next day Linus vows to Charlie Brown that the Great Pumpkin will come “next year.”

A majority of the “Occupy” protestors have bought into the myth that the role of government is to provide them with financial assistance and good paying jobs.  Although this has been possible over the past 80 years, at this point in history, it is no longer feasible.  Our federal government is functionally bankrupt.

From the end of World War II (1945) until the early 1970’s, the United States was the supplier to the world.  It was during that period of time that unions flourished and good paying American jobs were plentiful.  The majority of products that were sold to Americans and people in other developed countries were actually made in America by American workers.

October 22, 2011

Staples & iPhone Icons

Earlier this month, I walked into my office and picked up a five-page document that had been placed in my inbox by one of my employees.  The pages were stapled together and the first thing I noticed was that only one end of the staple had gone through the stack of papers, while the other end was crushed and clumped together on top of the first page.  This was the third time in two weeks that I was given a document that had a staple that was crushed on one end.

Needless to say, I was very irritated.  My initial thought was, “I can’t believe my employees are this reckless.  If they are incapable of stapling a simple document, how can they be expected to provide premium services to my clients?”  Then I thought, “I’m going to solve this problem right now.”

I immediately walked over to my computer, navigated to Google.com, and typed in “powercrown staples.”  I clicked on a link for Amazon.com and was able to quickly find what I was looking for: (1) the Stanley Bostitch B8 Desktop Stapler with Built-In Staple Remover; and (2) the Stanley Bostitch B8 1/4” PowerCrown Staples.  I ordered 11 new D8 Desktop Staplers and 16 boxes of B8 1/4” PowerCrown staples.  (A Stanley Bostitch B8 Desktop Stapler costs twice as much as a regular stapler.)

Do you know what a PowerCrown staple is?  It’s a staple that is made with a top that is bent in the shape of the roof of a house (rather than a straight line).  The staple looks like this:




PowerCrown staples are superior to regular staples because when pressure is placed on the staple by the stapler, the staple flexes and then shoots down into the paper (rather than simply being pushed into the paper).  The counter-resistance that is created when pressure is placed on the crown of the staple is what drives the staple into the paper.  The force that is generated by a PowerCrown staple causes both ends of the staple to forcibly pierce through the paper.  With regular staples, even a few pages of paper can provide enough resistance to, at times, stop one end of the staple from piercing through the paper.

October 15, 2011

iPads, iTunes & iHaters

When I was a freshman in college, I shared an apartment with a student who was a junior at the same college I was attending.  His name was Dale.

Dale and I were opposites in a lot of ways.  I was a more serious student than he was.  I majored in Accounting and he majored in Parks and Recreation.

Dale was a tall, good looking, charming guy who liked playing around.  He attracted girls like a magnet attracts pieces of metal.  At one point during the fall semester, the topic of abortion came up and Dale told me that during the previous school year he had gotten a girl pregnant and ended up paying for half the cost of an abortion.  We argued about the morality of abortion.  He was a product of the “free love” movement and didn’t see anything wrong with premarital or adulterous sex as long as it took place between consenting adults.

I thought about Dale and the abortion of his unborn child last week when I read about the death of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, and the visionary creator of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes.  As a newborn child, Jobs was given up for adoption.

Although Steve Jobs was an extremely private individual, in 2005 he revealed that his birth mother was a graduate student in college when she became pregnant with him.  Although she gave him up for adoption, she insisted that one condition had to be met before a couple could adopt her child.  The couple had to promise to give the child a college education.

The couple that ended up adopting Jobs promised they would follow the birth mother’s wishes; however, because they were working class individuals, they did not know how they were going to be able to afford to pay for a college education for their new son.  During Jobs’ first year in college, he dropped out because he didn’t feel like he belonged there and he didn’t want to waste his parents’ hard-earned money.  In 1976, he became the co-founder of Apple Computer with his good friend, Steve Wozniak, setting up shop in his parents’ garage.

October 8, 2011

The Perfect Family

It all started when my wife got pregnant within a month after we were married.  What I mean by “it all started” were the questions we got from friends, relatives, and even strangers.  Questions like: “Was it an accident?” or “Why didn’t you wait a few years before having your first child?” or “How long have you been married?”  Then of course there was the 2-part question.  First part: “When’s your due date?”  Second part: “Oh, so when did you get married?” Then a pause to do the math to figure out when the pregnancy occurred – before or after the wedding.

When Georgette became pregnant with our third child, the questions and negative comments (from friends, relatives and strangers) came at us at an accelerated pace.   In fact, we heard more negative comments with our third pregnancy than with any of the six other pregnancies.  All throughout the pregnancy we were asked: “Why are you having another baby when you already have the perfect family”? We were asked that same exact question at least three dozen times during the pregnancy.

At first I was stunned by the question and wondered what was meant by the reference to “the perfect family.”  To me, a perfect family included lots of children.  The more the better.  But then again, I grew up in a family of 17 children (9 boys, 8 girls).

It didn’t take me long to realize what most peoples’ definition of a perfect family was: a boy and a girl.  That’s what Georgette and I had when she became pregnant with our third child – the perfect family – a boy and a girl.

Initially I was offended by the question.  First of all, it was none of anyone’s business how many children we had.  I wasn’t asking anyone for financial assistance and the people who asked the question had no right to imply that my wife and I were reckless or stupid for having more children.  In fact, many of the people who asked the question went on to ask the standard follow-up question: “Was it planned?”

October 1, 2011

The Tavern Owners Club

Did you know that at one time Peoria was known as the “Whiskey Capital” of Illinois?  According to a PeoriaMagazines.com article written by Jerry Klein, between 1837 and 1919, there were 24 breweries and 73 distilleries in Peoria.  In another publication, “A Brief History of Peoria,” published by C.A. Cockle in 1896, it was noted that out of all of the breweries in Peoria, three of them had the lions’ share of the beer market: Gipps Brewing Co., Leisy Brewing Co. and Union Brewing Co.

The picture on this page shows the Peoria Fire Department attempting to put out a fire at Gipps Brewery.  The picture was taken in 1957 (the year I was born) and shows the entrance side of the building which was on Bridge St. (now known as Kumpf Blvd).  The entire Gipps complex consisted of the building shown in the picture along with several attached buildings.  The damage from the fire was so extensive that the brewery closed and never reopened for business.

When I was growing up, my grandfather (Tom Williams) told me about how he had his own coal delivery business in the 1940’s.  At that time, he owned his own dump truck and made daily trips to a coal mine near Canton, Illinois.  One of his customers was Gipps Brewery.  When he made his daily delivery of coal to Gipps, he would back up to a large opening in the Brewery building and dump the coal into a basement storage area.  The coal was used as fuel for the furnaces to generate heat for the brewing process.

My grandfather was of Lebanese decent and spent the better part of his youth in the country of Lebanon.  In the Lebanese language, a grandfather is referred to as “Jidu.”  That’s what all of his grandchildren called him: “Jidu.”

One particular incident that Jidu told me about concerning Gipps Brewery happened in 1946.  One day, after Jidu was done delivering coal, the general manager of Gipps told him that his services were no longer needed.  Apparently, a relative of the general manager had purchased a truck and was given the coal delivery job by the manager.