February

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).

February 28, 2015

A Ritual Worth Considering

ritual-de-havanaLast week, one of my clients asked me if I would say some prayers for her and her family. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call her “Julie.” After asking for prayers, Julie said that she’s been having problems at home with her teenage daughters.

I’ve known Julie for more than 20 years. She’s a committed Catholic who is devoted to her husband and children. When Julie asked for prayers, I replied that I would be happy to include her family in my prayers. I then asked her a question that I have periodically asked her over the years: “Are you praying your rosary every day?” When I asked the question, she hesitated. I knew from the expression on her face what she was going to say. She was going to make an excuse — the same thing 95% of all other Catholics do when I ask that question.

I’m not going to tell you what excuse Julie used, because it doesn’t matter. One excuse is the same as any other. We all have our own excuses for our failure to remain faithful to an active and vibrant daily prayer life.

I did not criticize or ridicule Julie for her failure to do what she knows she should be doing. I did, however, talk to her about the importance of developing daily rituals concerning prayer.

One of the definitions that the dictionary provides for “ritual” is “an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time.” The word “ritual” is ordinarily used in the context of religion, but there are other social customs and protocols that can be described as rituals. Most of our daily behavioral habits eventually become rituals. Examples of daily rituals include shaving every morning and drinking coffee at the same time every day.

I told Julie that if she developed the habit of praying her rosary every morning while she was in her car on the way to work, over time she would see some improvement in her relationship with her daughters. She admitted that she was in the habit of listening to the radio when she was in her car and declared that she could easily develop the habit of praying her rosary instead. In addition to a daily rosary, I also suggested that Julie start setting aside one-on-one time each week with each of her daughters to do something that is fun and/or relaxing.

February 21, 2015

Trash Compactors and Depression

Walls Closing InOn a Friday evening in June 1977, while I was in the family room of my parents’ home, the evening news came on the television. The news opened with a teaser announcement about a movie that had recently been released that was surprising all of the critics and was wildly popular among viewers. Of course, if we wanted to know what that movie was, we had to sit through 20 minutes of the news before the newscaster would tell us about the movie.

At that time, I was 20 years old and had recently finished my second year in college. After the announcement about the new movie, one of my younger brothers asked me if I knew what movie the announcer was talking about. I told him that I had no idea. My brother asked, “Do you think it’s Rocky?” I replied that I did not think that it could be Rocky because although the movie about the rise of a small-time boxer was extremely popular, it had been released in late 1976 and had already run its course.

We hung around the family room and waited for the story about the movie. At that time there was no Internet so the only way to learn about newly released movies was from network television, the print media, or by word of mouth. It turned out that the movie was Star Wars, a science fiction film that had been released by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977. In addition to discussing the main characters, the news story also showed clips from the movie and talked about the popularity of the “droids,” C-3PO and R2-D2.

Within a week of seeing the story about Star Wars, I went to the theater to see the movie with a couple of my friends. At one point in the movie, to escape from enemy fire, the main characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, and Chewbacca, duck into a room-sized trash compactor. After discovering that they are trapped, the enemy activates the mechanical system that causes the walls of the compactor to close in on and crush all the trash that is in the compactor.

February 14, 2015

Love Letters, Marriage, and Valentine’s Day

Love LettersOn the day before Valentine’s Day (Friday), I stopped at Walgreens to pick up something that I needed. As I was walking through the store, I passed the aisle with the Valentine’s Day cards. When I saw the cards, it occurred to me that I had not yet purchased a Valentine’s Day card for Georgette.

I walked over to the section where the romantic cards were displayed and there was a young man looking through the cards. I immediately said, “Nothing like waiting until the last minute to buy your wife a Valentine’s Day card.” He immediately replied, “I’m actually a day early this year.”

“I am too,” I said.

About two minutes later, the man selected his card and as he was walking away, he said, “Good luck, it’s slim pickins.”

He was right.

I’ve never been very good at the game of romance. I was in Walgreens the previous week and it didn’t occur to me to pick up a card. I was also in Walgreens the week before that, and I didn’t think of buying a card.

Come to think of it, I’m in Walgreens almost every week. It’s my favorite store, because I can park right outside the door, walk in, and immediately find and purchase what I need. I hate Walmart because I have to walk half a mile every time I want to buy something.

Earlier last week, I saw an article about a poll that had been conducted by Beagle Street, a British life insurance company. After polling 1,000 people on what they thought were the greatest love letters ever written, Beagle Street declared that the winner was a letter written by the legendary country music artist Johnny Cash, to his wife, June Carter Cash. The letter was written in 1994 and was given to her on her 65th birthday.

The remaining top four letters consisted of one from Winston Churchill to his wife (1935), one from John Keats to his next-door neighbor, Fanny Brawne (1819), one in which Ernest Hemingway professed his love to Marlene Dietrich (1951), and one from Napoleon Bonaparte to his lover, Josephine de Beauharnais (1796). Here’s the text of Johnny Cash’s letter to his wife:

February 7, 2015

Breeding Like Rabbits

RabbitsAs you may know, a few weeks ago Pope Francis was criticized for making a statement about how Catholics are not required to breed like rabbits.  I wasn’t planning on writing about the pope’s remark, but I’ve had some people bring it up for discussion, so I decided I would share my thoughts with you concerning the pope and his comment.

If you’ve been paying any attention to Pope Francis and the amount of publicity he gets for his spontaneous comments, you may believe that he’s reckless and that he talks too much.  If you have that belief, you would be able to find a lot of people who agree with you.

Pope Francis is a classic extrovert.  There have been seven popes in my lifetime: Pius XII (Mar. 2, 1939 – Oct. 9, 1958), John XXIII (Oct. 28, 1958 – Jun. 3, 1963), Paul VI (Jun. 21, 1963 – Aug. 6, 1978), John Paul I (Aug. 26, 1978 – Sep. 28, 1978), John Paul II (Oct. 16, 1978 – Apr. 2, 2005), Benedict XVI (Apr. 19, 2005 – Feb. 28, 2013), and Francis (Mar. 13, 2013 – present).  Six of those seven popes were introverts.  The seventh — Pope Francis — is an extrovert.  For the first time in our lifetimes, we have a pope who is an extrovert.

In his book, Looking at Type: The Fundamentals, Charles R. Martin wrote about the differences between extroverts and introverts.

According to Martin, as a general rule, extroverts enjoy being around and are energized by other people.  They spend a lot more of their time talking than introverts do.  Extroverts like making things happen and generally feel at home in the world.  They’re usually better able to solve problems when they can talk things through with other people.  The following statements ordinarily apply to extroverts:

•    They are viewed by others as “outgoing” or as “people persons.”

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