August

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).

August 30, 2014

A Catholic Town Jester

JesterRecently my daughter Maria purchased a write-it-yourself children’s book for her four-year-old daughter, Grace.  The book came with some stickers of characters you would see in an animated movie about a castle and a royal family.  The characters included a king, queen, princess, wizard, town jester, and prince in shining armor.

Since Grace was to be the author of the book, it was up to her to choose names for each of the characters.  Then, with Maria’s help, she could write a story about the characters.  The first character that Grace gave a name to was the princess.  Of course, the name of the princess was “Grace.”

She gave the prince in shining armor the name of “Joe” which is her dad’s name.  She chose her mom’s name, “Maria,” for the queen.  When Maria asked Grace what the name of the king was, Grace paused and then answered, “The king’s name is ‘Campobasso.’”  Maria immediately knew who Grace was talking about, because Maria’s husband has a good friend by the name of Mike Campobasso.

When she got to the town jester, Grace asked her mom what a jester is.  Maria responded by telling her that a jester is someone who entertains people and makes them laugh.  Grace excitedly said, “Oh, then the name of the jester is ‘Jidu.’”

In the Lebanese language, a grandfather is referred to as “Jidu.”  Since Georgette and I are both of Lebanese heritage, all my grandchildren call me Jidu.  So I was the lucky person who got to be the jester in Grace’s book.

When Maria and Grace got to the wizard, the only man left who Grace could think of at the moment was her grandfather on her dad’s side of the family, so she named the wizard after him.

When Grace was finished naming each of the characters, she told Maria how she wanted the story of the royal family to be written.  At one point in Grace’s story, King Campobasso and Queen Maria are sitting on their thrones trying to decide who they should hire to entertain their guests.  They agree that they should call in the town jester, Jidu, to entertain the guests.

August 23, 2014

A Different Perspective on the Robin Williams Suicide

Robin WilliamsAfter the recent suicide of the famous American actor and comedian Robin Williams, various reasons were given to explain why he killed himself. Some of the reasons included the fact that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, suffered from severe depression, and was having money problems. For whatever reason, at the age of 63, Williams ended his life after determining that he was better off dead than alive.

To put Robin Williams’ suffering into perspective, I would like you to consider another “old man” who despite enduring immense suffering refused to give up. His name was Alphonsus Liguori, a Catholic saint who during the prime of his life was a well-known and respected Catholic bishop, theologian, and scholastic philosopher. During his lifetime, St. Alphonsus wrote several books, including The Glories of Mary, The Way of Salvation, The True Spouse of Christ, and Sermons for All the Sundays in the Year.

In 1767, at the age of 71, suffering from rheumatism, St. Alphonsus became so crippled that he had to be confined to a wheelchair. His neck was so weak that he was unable to hold up his head. Because of the weight of his head, his chin constantly rubbed against his chest, causing his skin to become raw.

In addition to his physical suffering, St. Alphonsus was publicly humiliated and removed from his order after it was shown that he had signed a religious document that was contrary to the teachings of the Church. The signing of the document was a mistake in judgment and was due in part to the fact that St. Alphonsus’ condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he was almost completely blind.

He had trouble reading anything, and when he was asked to approve the document, St. Alphonsus struggled to read the first page. After he read several lines and found nothing that was objectionable, he verified the authenticity of the document by signing it. He trusted the person who asked him to sign the document. He subsequently paid a heavy price for that trust.

August 16, 2014

Sacrificing Comfort for Growth

Comfort ZoneMy mom was 19 years old when she married my dad.  She was 20 when she had the first of her 17 children.  Georgette and I were both 23 when we were married.  We had the first of our seven children the following year.

I have two questions for you to consider:

1.    When is the best time to get married?

2.    When is the right time to have a baby?

In 1951, when my parents were married, the best time to get married was generally considered to be shortly after a person graduated from high school.  When Georgette and I were married in 1980, the best time to get married was generally considered to be after a person graduated from college.

Today, in 2014, I’m not sure what the general consensus is concerning the best time to get married.  For some couples, it’s after they have lived together for several years.  For others, it’s after they have given themselves the opportunity to become established in their respective careers.

After a couple is married, when’s the “right time” to have a baby?  I tell young couples that there’s never really a right time to have a baby, so they should get started as soon as possible after they are married.  For most couples, there’s almost always a (seemingly) compelling reason to wait.  They may believe that they need more time to grow together as a couple, or to get ahead financially, or to advance in their careers before taking on any new responsibilities.

What has complicated the decision-making process concerning marriage and children has been the widespread availability and use of modern-day contraceptives.  What’s the hurry in getting married if a couple can enjoy the benefits of marriage without worrying about the consequences of a pregnancy?  Why should they have a child during the first five years of marriage when they can use contraceptives to delay pregnancy?  And after they finally get around to having two or three children, why should they subject themselves to more risks and responsibilities by having more children?

August 9, 2014

A Final Response

Criticism - AvoidThis is my fifth and final response to an email that I received from Tony, who questioned an article I had written about Amazon.com and its founder, Jeff Bezos.  Tony provided the following reasons why I (and other Catholics) should refuse to buy products from Amazon:

1.    “Amazon.com is basically the distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China, a communist dictatorship.”

2.    “Amazon distributes pornography.”

3.    The concept of “inverted totalitarianism” applies to Bezos and Amazon.

4.    “You cannot serve God and mammon” and “it’s fairly apparent which one Mr. Bezos is serving.”

5.    It appears as though what is supposed to be “The Church Militant” has become “The Church Mesmerized.”

In my first two articles, I discussed the pornography issue and how the “principle of double effect” applies to consumers who purchase goods from Amazon.  Since there was an angry tone to some of Tony’s comments, my third article focused on my own personal experiences in dealing with anger and the foolishness of repeatedly getting angry over the same issue.  In my fourth article, I wrote about how the process of “creative destruction” is causing a lot of anxiety and pain for people who have lost their jobs because of new technologies that have been discovered and put into place.

Here are my thoughts concerning the remaining issues that were raised by Tony:

1.    Distribution Arm of China – If the statement that Amazon.com is basically the distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China is correct, then every retail store in America that sells smart phones, computers, televisions, hardware, garden supplies, and clothing is a distribution arm for the People’s Republic of China.

I stop at Nena’s hardware store in Peoria about once every other month to buy one or more items.  Nena’s sells the same products that I can buy on Amazon.com.  Most of the clothes and products that are available for purchase at Kohl’s, Target, and Wal-Mart can also be purchased on Amazon.  There are thousands of American companies that sell their products on Amazon.  When I get around to publishing my first book, like every other author in America, I will offer the book for sale on Amazon.

August 2, 2014

Creative Destruction

Creative DestructionOne of the things I wanted to cover in my series of articles concerning Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com is the process of creative destruction.  Have you ever heard of “creative destruction”?  It’s a term that was originally used by an Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950).  Schumpeter described creative destruction as an essential process that takes place in a free-market economy, wiping out entire industries after new technologies are discovered and put into place.

Schumpeter explained that in a free-market capitalist economy, it is inevitable that as new products, services, and opportunities are created by entrepreneurs, companies and industries that are locked into the old way of doing business quickly vanish, causing the people in those industries to lose their jobs.

Over time, the concept of creative destruction has been used by free-market economists to explain how societies can become more productive, benefit from better products and services, and enjoy a higher standard of living.  The dark side of creative destruction is that there are always large groups of individuals who end up being worse off because of the loss of jobs associated with the companies that were involved in the old way of doing business.

Here are some examples of creative destruction:

•    The invention of the automobile created new jobs for designers, assemblers, road construction workers, mechanics, and truck drivers, while wiping out the horse-and-carriage industry and large segments of the train and boat industries.  There were massive job losses among blacksmiths, wainwrights (makers and repairers of wagons), drovers (cattle and sheep drivers), railroad workers, and canalmen.

•    The invention of plastics created new jobs for petrochemists and factory workers, while eliminating or severely curtailing companies that manufactured steel, aluminum, barrels, tubs, pottery, and glass.  There were massive job losses among miners, founders, metalworkers, coopers, and potters.

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