June

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.

June 28, 2014

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Marriage - HappinessLast week at the end of my weekly Adoration Letter article, I asked a question: “So what can Catholic couples do to stay happily married while the world around them is falling apart?”  Before I answer the question, we need to take a look at the Catholic Church’s definition of marriage.

The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines marriage as follows:

As a natural institution, the lasting union of a man and a woman who agree to give and receive rights over each other for the performance of the act of generation and for the fostering of their mutual love.

The state of marriage implies four chief conditions: (1) there must be a union of opposite sexes; it is therefore opposed to all forms of unnatural, homosexual behavior; (2) it is a permanent union until the death of either spouse; (3) it is an exclusive union, so that extramarital acts are a violation of justice; and (4) its permanence and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract; mere living together, without mutually binding themselves to do so, is concubinage and not marriage.

Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament of the New Law.  Christian spouses signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his Church, helping each other to attain holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children.

The Son of God declared that there is no power on Earth that can dissolve a valid marriage.  It is only His church — the Catholic Church — that has continued to abide by His declaration.  Except for Catholicism, there has never been a religion that has believed and taught that marriage is indissoluble.

One of the primary conflicts that arose between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church, which eventually resulted in the Eastern Orthodox Church’s separation from Rome, was the practice among the Eastern bishops of repeatedly granting “annulments” without justification.

June 21, 2014

Social Media and Marriage

Prenuptial AgreementThere’s a new trend that’s been developing among couples who are getting married. They are signing prenuptial agreements that prohibit their partners from posting nude or embarrassing photos on the Internet. A prenuptial agreement has been traditionally defined as a written contract that is signed by a couple prior to marriage. The agreement provides that in the event of a divorce, the couple will be allowed to retain the property that each of them acquired during the marriage.

Prenuptial agreements have historically been used by wealthy people who are concerned that their future spouse may eventually file for divorce and claim half of their assets.

In our modern Internet age, prenuptial agreements are becoming more common among couples who may not have acquired wealth, but are concerned about the actions of their spouses in the event of a divorce. The new language that is included in these agreements is commonly referred to as “social media clauses.”

In a recent article published on the website for CBS Philly, a local television station in Philadelphia, Aaron Weems, a family law attorney in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, commented on this trend: “It’s just a way for people to really put down on paper what the expectations are, that after you’re divorced or when you’re in the midst of a divorce, you’re going to treat each other with respect.”

Weems added, “We don’t live in the age when you can just turn over the photos and burn the negatives and you’ve now prevented yourself from ever having to see something embarrassing exposed. This digital media travels and it’s difficult to remove once it’s on the Internet.”

Can you imagine your grandparents signing a written contract that prohibited them from passing around nude photos of each other to members of the public?

June 14, 2014

The Real Enemy

PogoA couple of weeks ago one of my clients started talking about one of his favorite pastimes — reading comic books.  My mind immediately flashed back to when I was a boy in the 1960s.  Back then, I hated reading assignments from school, but I loved reading comic books.  The first product that I ever ordered through the mail was a product that I discovered by reading an advertisement in a comic book.

In addition to comic books, I read several of the comic strips that were published in the daily newspaper.  If you’re under the age of 35, there’s a strong likelihood that you don’t read the newspaper because you’ve been conditioned to retrieve news and current events from your Smartphone or laptop computer.

If you’re in your 40s or older, you probably have fond memories of reading the daily comic strips.  One of your favorites may have been a popular comic strip that was titled Pogo, the nickname of the main character.

Pogo was created by Walt Kelly (1913–1973), a cartoonist who got his start in 1935 when he went to work for Walt Disney Studios.  During his time at Disney, Kelly worked as an animator on projects that included Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo.  Kelly left Disney in 1941 and eventually ended up working for the New York Star newspaper, drawing editorial cartoons.

On October 4, 1948, Kelly launched his daily comic strip, Pogo, in the New York Star.  Seven months later, Pogo was selected by the Post-Hall Syndicate for national distribution.  The publication of the Pogo comic strip ended in 1975, two years after Kelly died from complications of diabetes.

In the 27 years that Pogo appeared in newspapers across the country, Kelly featured more than 1,000 characters, most of whom were animals.  Kelly had a knack for creating characters that had the same traits as humans.  Many of them were charming and good-natured, but were also selfish, confrontational, greedy, corrupt, and stupid.

June 7, 2014

A Simple Formula for Happiness

HappinessLast week, while I was meeting with a client, she started talking about a new crisis in her life that was causing her distress.  (For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call my client “Julie.”)  At any other time in her life, Julie would have easily been able to handle the type of crisis she was going through, but this time she was in severe distress.

After telling me what happened, she said, “I just don’t think I can take anymore.”  I immediately replied, “If you say you can’t take anymore, you won’t be able to get through this.  You have to be careful about how you think and respond to any crisis that comes your way.”

Julie didn’t react to my statement the way I expected her to.  Ordinarily she would have been open to my comments, but this time was different.  She looked at me with an expression of anger and disdain.  It appeared as though she was about to start crying.  I reactively followed up with some questions and then I made some outlandish comments that threw her off guard and made her start laughing.

There’s a saying that “Life can either be a comedy or a tragedy.  It all depends on how you view it.”  I suppose that if most of us had a choice between living in a comedy or a tragedy, we would choose the comedy.  That’s why I frequently attempt to find humor in even the most dire situations.

The reason Julie didn’t feel as though she could take anymore was because for the past eight months, she has lived through four major personal crises, all of which involved her husband and/or her children.  I’ve known Julie for more than 10 years and she’s not the type of person who gives up easily, but her current situation pushed her to the edge.

You may have heard of Viktor Frankl, the author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  During the 1940s, Frankl spent three years in two different Nazi death camps.  While Frankl lived to write about his experiences in the death camps, his wife and every other member of his family were killed by the Nazis, except for his sister who was able to escape to Australia.

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