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).

April 26, 2014

What Lovers Often Do


Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

During the spring semester of my sophomore year in college (1977), I took an art appreciation class.  I signed up for the class to satisfy one of the general education requirements for my major. The class had more than 100 students and was held in a large auditorium-style classroom.  The teacher was a gentle, gray-haired man who was in his mid-50s.  It was obvious from the way he taught the class that he had a passion for art and music.

Toward the end of the semester, the teacher announced that he was going to show the class a special slide presentation.  Back then, if a person wanted to put together a slide presentation, the negatives from the film that was used to take the pictures that were going to be used for the presentation had to be taken to a local photography shop so the slides could be made from the images on the negatives.  Each slide was surrounded by a cardboard frame.  The slides were then organized and assembled in a carousel that was attached to a projector.

The person who was giving the slide presentation had to either sit near the projector and press a button to advance each slide, or use a unit that was attached to the projector with a long cord.  As background music was played from a stereo system or other audio device, the person had to manually advance each slide.

The slide presentation that my art teacher prepared was presented to the class while the song “Vincent” was played over the classroom sound system.  Although the official title of the song was “Vincent,” a more common name that was frequently used at that time to refer to the song was “Starry Starry Night.”  The song, which was originally written and recorded in 1970 by Don McLean, is a tribute to the 19th-century Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh.

In the lyrics to the song, McLean laments about how no one appreciated or understood Van Gogh during his lifetime.  For most of his adult life, Van Gogh was plagued with depression and mental problems.  He committed suicide on July 29, 1890.  If you’re not familiar with the song, it would be worth your while to look it up on YouTube and play one of the music videos that shows Van Gogh’s paintings while the music plays in the background.

April 21, 2014

An (Almost) Irresistible Offer

The year was 1993.  One of my cousins had recently gotten engaged and her dad told her and her fianc? that he had a proposal for them.  He was willing to pay them $20,000 if they were willing to agree to have a small wedding that only included immediate family members.  The offer came after the wedding invitation list had grown to more than 400 people.  While the groom was interested in accepting the money, the bride put her foot down and insisted that they follow through with the traditional wedding they were planning.

When the topic came up for discussion at the supper table in my home, I made the following proposal to my three oldest children: When you’re old enough to get married, I’ll pay each of you $20,000 if you let me and your mom pick out your spouse.  You can do anything you want with the money — go on a honeymoon, use it for a down payment on a house, put it in the bank.  All you have to do to get the money is let us choose your spouse.

My 10-year-old daughter Anna immediately spoke up and said, “There’s no way you’re going to choose my husband.  I don’t care how much money you offer me.”  I responded by saying, “Why?  Don’t you trust us?”  She shot back, “No, not to pick my husband!”

I glanced over at my 12-year-old son Harry and I knew from prior experience what he was thinking.  He was doing calculations in his head to figure out all the things he could buy if he accepted the $20,000.  I looked at my 9-year-old daughter Maria and asked, “What about you Maria?  Would you take the $20,000?”  She had a serious look on her face and responded, “Give me $25,000 and you’ve got a deal.”  (Maria obviously takes after the LaHood side of the family, all of whom are master negotiators and dealmakers.)

I often wonder what kind of conversations went on around the supper table of the holy family.  Did St. Joseph tease his Son the same way I teased my children?  What did they talk about?  Did they laugh together as they talked about the events of the day?

April 19, 2014

A Reason To Smile

SmileAbout five years ago, I was attending a weekday Mass at a local church.  Halfway through the Mass, two women in their sixties snuck in the side door of the church and ran over to the nearest pew.  Both women were wearing gray sweatshirts.  The way they scurried over to the pew reminded me of the animated mice you would see in a Disney movie — because the women were short, pudgy, cute, and grinning from ear to ear.

As they were running toward the pew, the women intentionally stooped down so it would be difficult for the priest to see them.  They timed their sprint into the church to coincide with the moment the priest turned away from the pulpit and walked toward the chair on the other side of the altar.  When the women ran inside, the priest’s back was to them and he did not see them.

I was familiar with the church and the priest, and it was a well-known fact among the people who attended daily Mass that the priest would become visibly irritated every time someone entered the church after Mass started.

The women’s cleverly timed sprint into the church worked perfectly.  In addition to sneaking in without the priest seeing them, they provided some entertainment for the people who were already in the church.

I personally knew one of the two women and although I had seen the other woman on several previous occasions, I didn’t know her name.  The name of the woman I knew was Sharon “Guppy” Litchfield.

I initially met Guppy outside the St. Philomena Adoration Chapel about 15 years ago.  The day I met her she had a big smile on her face.  The day she snuck into the church she had a big smile on her face.  Come to think of it, it seems as though every time I saw her she had a big smile on her face.

I can guarantee you that if the priest had seen her scurry into the church and had reprimanded her, she would have still smiled.  Although she avoided conflict, whenever she was confronted, she would simply smile and accept whatever happened as God’s will for her.

April 12, 2014

The Real Secret to Weight Loss and Holiness

Weight LossOne of my older brothers, Mike, is a medical doctor who lives in California with his wife and family.  I see Mike about once a year, usually at a family function.  Mike was recently in Peoria with his wife and one of their children for a family wedding.  Mike is 61 years old and he looks like a movie star.  He’s tall, slim, and good-looking.  If you asked me who he looks like, I would say that he looks like a cross between the modern-day actor George Clooney and the legendary actor Omar Sharif.

After the wedding, when I was talking to Mike, one of our uncles walked up to us and marveled at how great Mike looks.  He then asked him the same question other people probably ask him: “How do you stay so thin?”  Instead of answering the question, Mike said that when he was getting ready for the wedding, he realized that the sport coat he was wearing was the same one he wore when he was awarded his medical fellowship, more than 35 years ago.

At the wedding reception, the guests were given cards that indicated where they were assigned to sit.  Georgette and I were assigned to the same table as Mike and his wife.  When I sat down at the table, Georgette was sitting on my left side and Mike was on my right.

At the buffet table, while I piled food onto my plate, Mike took only a roll (no butter) and two small portions of food.  I felt like a glutton when I saw what was on his plate and compared it to mine.

I need to clarify something for you.  Mike is not one of those people who is genetically engineered to always stay thin.  If he ate as much as most other men his age, he would have the same type of bloated belly that you see on a majority of men in their 60s.  The question I would like to know the answer to is this: What is it that has motivated Mike to continuously limit what he puts in his mouth for more than 35 years?

April 5, 2014

Dealing With The Dirty Laundry

Laundry RemovalI was born on the same day that my grandfather, Harry LaHood, was buried.  My grandfather died on May 17, 1957.  My mom and dad attended his funeral Mass on May 20, and then went to the cemetery for the burial service.  Mom’s contractions had started earlier in the day and became more intense while she and Dad were at the cemetery.  After the burial service was finished, Mom told Dad that she needed to go to the hospital.  I was born later that day, and Mom gave me the same name as her father.

My grandfather was only 49 years old when he died.  Prior to his death, he had been treated for what was then called “hardening of the arteries.”  Today, his condition would be diagnosed as blocked arteries, and he would be a candidate for either bypass surgery or the insertion of one or more stents in his arteries.  Unfortunately, at the time of his death, no such procedures were available.

Prior to experiencing problems with his heart, my grandfather owned and operated a retail store that was located on MacArthur Highway in Peoria, Illinois.  When his health began to deteriorate, he closed the store.  After his death, my grandmother, Cecelia LaHood (Grandma Ceil), was left with the empty commercial building that her husband had built for his store.

Shortly after my grandfather’s death, a local businessman from the Lebanese community approached my grandmother to inquire about the vacant building.  (For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Nick.”)  Grandma Ceil knew and trusted Nick, because she had grown up in the same neighborhood as his relatives and was very familiar with his family.

When Nick met with my grandmother, he asked if she would be willing to rent the building to him.  He told her that he wanted to use the building as a new location for a coin-operated Laundromat.  He already had one Laundromat that was fully operational and was generating income for him and his family.  Up until that time, Grandma Ceil didn’t know anything about the Laundromat business.