October

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 25, 2014

A Hazmat Suit for Devout Catholics

hazmatsuitBOO!  Since Halloween is quickly approaching, I thought I would write about a deadly disease that’s scarier than the Ebola virus — a disease that has infected hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  While everyone should be afraid of this disease, very few people seem to care about it.  If they had full knowledge of its devastating consequences, they would be petrified and would wear the equivalent of a hazmat suit to protect themselves from the disease.

I’ll talk about the disease in a moment, but first I want to tell you about a movie I saw in the early 1970s, while I was in high school.  The name of the movie was The Picture of Dorian Gray.

During the 1970s, the only way we could watch a movie was when it was shown in a theater or on television.  Back then, we didn’t have video or DVD players because they had not yet been invented.   We also didn’t have cable or satellite TV.  All we had were the three major networks — ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Like most other classic movies, The Picture of Dorian Gray was shown on television about once a year.

I watched the movie because my mom told me that if I ever had a chance, I should watch it.  I was intrigued by what she said about the movie, so I made sure to watch it when it was shown on television.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was a horror-drama film that was originally released in 1945 by MGM Studios.  It was based on a novel that was written in 1890 by Oscar Wilde.  In the movie, Dorian Gray, a young, good-looking, wealthy man who lives in London, poses for a portrait that is painted by his friend, Basil Hallward.

When a friend of Basil’s, Lord Henry Wotton, sees the portrait, he convinces Dorian that he should do whatever it takes to always stay young and handsome.  Dorian makes a prayer-like statement that he would give up his soul if he could always remain as young and handsome as he is in the portrait.

October 18, 2014

Halloween, Ebola, and a Saint

Halloween - BooIt’s that time of year again.  Halloween is right around the corner and a lot of people are scared.  Our so-called leaders walk around as though they are zombies whose purpose is to destroy our nation.  Every decision they make is the exact opposite of what a reasonable, rational person would decide.  What’s even scarier is the sheep-like behavior of the masses who wander about, clueless as to what’s going on around them.

On Friday (October 17), my wife and I went to a restaurant for dinner.  When the host handed me the small device that vibrates and buzzes when the table is ready, the first thought that popped into my mind was: What if this thing had the Ebola virus on it?  Every person who touches it tonight could become infected with the virus.

Next week, I’m flying out of Chicago to Pennsylvania.  The last thing I want to do is go to an airport where I’ll come into contact with thousands of strangers.  Worse than that is the fact that I’m going to get on a plane with 300 strangers where we’ll all be forced to breathe in the stale air and germs that are circulated throughout the pressurized cabin for at least two hours.

Until last week, the know-nothings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were saying that the incubation period for the Ebola virus is 21 days.  Now they’re admitting that they really don’t know how long the incubation period is.  Experts are now conceding that the virus can be spread with minimal contact between people.

On Thursday (October 16), three schools in Texas were closed so workers could “thoroughly clean and disinfect the schools and busses.”  Apparently there were five students who were exposed to Thomas Eric Duncan, the original Ebola patient who flew from Liberia to Dallas, so he could get treatment for his condition.

October 11, 2014

One of My Favorite Fight Scenes

Top Ten Fight ScenesLast week while I was on my way to a court hearing, I stepped onto an elevator to go up to the floor where the courtroom was located.  When I got on the elevator, there were five other individuals inside, one of whom was talking on her cell phone.  As the elevator doors closed, the woman said, “I’m in an elevator so if I lose you, I’ll call you back.”

Needless to say, I had to listen to her mindless chatter while I waited for the elevator to deliver me to the 11th floor.  After I got off the elevator, I couldn’t help but think about the elevator scene in the movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

While Captain America is inside a large elevator, the elevator stops at three different floors.  At each stop, three or four men get on the elevator.

After the three stops, there are about a dozen men inside the elevator who are surrounding Captain America.  By then, Captain America realizes that the men are going to attempt to kill him.  In a calm, firm voice, he says, “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”  At that point, one of the men hits the stop button on the elevator while the other men attack Captain America.

After an extended battle, there is only one man left standing — Captain America.  He hits the button on the elevator to get it going again and quickly finds out that everyone in the building is after him.

Of all the battle scenes in the movie, the fight in the elevator was my favorite.  If you want to see it, you can go to YouTube.com and type in the search terms: “Captain America winter soldier elevator.”

Throughout the entire movie, Captain America is pursued by his enemies.  They all have the same goal — to destroy him.  He is clearly a threat to their diabolical plans and they know that before they can succeed, he must be eliminated.

October 4, 2014

An Outsider Marries Into The Family

oceans_eleven_posterThere’s a scene in the movie Ocean’s Eleven, when after being released from prison, Danny Ocean (portrayed by George Clooney) tracks down his ex-wife, Tess (portrayed by Julia Roberts).  Although Danny is still in love with Tess, she no longer has any feelings for him and is romantically involved with Terry Bennedict, a wealthy, ruthless owner of three casinos in Las Vegas.

When Danny catches up with Tess, she reminds him that she no longer wants to have anything to do with him.  After she tells him to leave her alone, Danny tries to make a point by asking her a question: “Does he make you laugh?”  Tess momentarily has a look on her face that makes it appear as though she misses the times that she and Danny laughed together.  She then answers Danny’s question: “He doesn’t make me cry.”

Tess’s comment is a painful reminder to Danny that he caused her a lot of pain during their marriage.

That particular scene from the movie popped into my mind last Sunday morning (September 28), the day after I attended the funeral for one of my uncles, Robert “Bob” Schelp.

I learned about Uncle Bob’s death on the previous Wednesday morning (September 24) from a text message that I received from my sister, Rosemary.  Up until that time, Rosemary had periodically sent group texts to family members with updates on Uncle Bob’s condition.

Although I knew from the previous texts that Uncle Bob was nearing the end of his life, the text message about his death was a heart-wrenching experience.  Even though I was not particularly close to Uncle Bob, I felt as though a part of me died with him.  My immediate thought was, everyone who grew up in the neighborhood is going to feel the same way that I feel right now when they hear about his death.

I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family neighborhood.  There were seven homes in the neighborhood, six of which were overseen by Lebanese women, all of whom were relatives: my mom, Kathryn Williams; my grandmother, Effie Williams; my aunts, Marlene Miller and Pat Schelp; my cousin, Marie Ketcham; and my great aunt, Martha Joseph. The seventh home in the neighborhood was overseen by my Aunt Mary Jo Williams.

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