July

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).

July 25, 2015

The Key to the Side Door

KeyLast week, I wrote about an experience I had during the summer of 1974. At that time, I was 17 years old. I had a part-time job at the Ramada Inn in downtown Peoria, and one Saturday night after work, I drove to the Shrine Mosque in downtown Peoria to see if I could catch the second half of a show that featured a professional barbershop quartet. The quartet had won the previous year’s international competition of barbershop quartets.

When I arrived at the Shrine Mosque, it was intermission and the men in the quartet were standing outside near the back of the building, getting a breath of fresh air. After I introduced myself and told them that I had missed the first half of their show because I was working and that I had organized my own quartet in high school, one of the men invited me to watch the rest of the show from backstage. I gladly accepted and followed them into the side door of the building.

Years later when I thought about what had happened, two questions popped into my mind: Would the organizers of the show have approved of me entering the building through the side door to watch the second half of the performance, without first paying for a ticket? Did the men in the quartet have the authority to allow me to enter the building to watch their performance?

Regardless of whether they had the authority, the men in the quartet had the power to invite me to watch the show from backstage. Authority and power are two different things. The U.S. Supreme Court may have the power to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage, but they don’t have the legal or moral authority — either under the U.S. Constitution or under the laws of God. Our politicians may have the power to allow illegal aliens to enter into and remain in our country, but neither the Constitution nor any law gives them the authority to do so.

July 18, 2015

Backstage at a Professional Performance

Backstage PassDuring the spring semester of my junior year in high school (1974), I organized a barbershop quartet. I recruited three of my friends who were in the music program with me at the high school. We started out by practicing at the house of one of the guys in the quartet. We continued practicing throughout the summer and started performing in the fall.

During the summer, I heard about a show that was scheduled to take place at the Shrine Mosque in downtown Peoria. The featured performers for the show consisted of a group of four men — a barbershop quartet — who had won the previous year’s international competition of barbershop quartets. Also performing at the show was a local men’s singing group.

At that time, I had a part-time job at a restaurant that was located inside the Ramada Inn in downtown Peoria. I initially started working as a busboy and was later promoted to room service.

The show was scheduled for a Saturday evening in August. I was not available to attend because I was scheduled to work during the evening of the show. On the night of the show, I convinced my boss to let me off early. After leaving work, I jumped in my car and drove to the Shrine Mosque. As I drove around the back of the building looking for a place to park, I saw a group of four men who were standing next to the building.

I quickly parked my car and walked over to the men and introduced myself. It turned out that they were the featured performers for the show. They told me that it was intermission and they had stepped outside to get some fresh air. A couple of the men were smoking cigarettes.

I explained to them that I was going to be a senior in high school and that I had organized my own barbershop quartet. I told them that I had wanted to attend their performance, but was unable to because I had to work. One of the men responded by telling me that I was welcome to watch the rest of the show from backstage.

July 10, 2015

Lessons From An Alcoholic Lawyer

Alcoholic FamilyOne of the conditions of maintaining my law license is that every other year I am required to report to the state of Illinois that I have completed at least 30 hours of continuing legal education. One option that’s available is to purchase and listen to audio recordings of presentations that have been made by attorneys at legal conferences. I recently purchased a package of 30 hours of audio recordings that were assembled from several different presentations.

One presentation that was included in the package was titled “Attorneys and Alcoholism.” The lawyer who gave the presentation is the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. The organization was established in 1988 and operates as a confidential helpline service for Pennsylvania lawyers, judges, and law students who are in distress because of substance abuse or mental health disorders.

The lawyer who gave the presentation — Kenneth J. Hagreen — is a former alcoholic who has been assisting other lawyers with alcoholism and addiction problems for more than 35 years.

In his presentation, Hagreen explained what most of us already know: that some people have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism or drugs that causes them to react differently than people who do not have the predisposition.

He also talked about how our life experiences provide the foundation for how our minds develop. He explained that the ability to communicate effectively, make good judgments, control our emotions, solve problems, and set goals depends on the type of environment we grew up in.

Hagreen outlined the three different types of environments that children can be exposed to while they’re growing up:

  1. Safe and Nurturing Environment – Children who are raised in a safe and nurturing environment generally develop better communication and coping skills. As they are growing up, they are exposed to stability and order, and their parents treat them as worthy individuals. As problems and issues arise, they become accustomed to discussing the problems with their parents and coming up with reasonable solutions. As a result, these children develop a strong sense of well-being and confidence. When they have their first experience with alcohol or drugs, they are usually more resistant to the impact and the emotional high that alcohol and drugs would otherwise have on them.
  2. Unstable and Dysfunctional Environment – Children who are raised in an unstable and dysfunctional environment don’t learn how to communicate effectively, and they fail to learn how to adequately cope with disappointment, frustration, and negative feelings. They generally feel that it’s safer to stay out of sight and remain quiet rather than try to communicate or work through a disagreement they have with someone. For them, life can be a constant struggle. Ultimately these children end up being more withdrawn and insecure. They feel as though they are not in control of their lives. They may also feel a sense of hopelessness. They are constantly on the lookout for someone who will provide them with direction, leadership, and approval.
  3. Abusive Environment – The last category of children are those who have been subjected to mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. These children have been severely traumatized. They live in fear and constantly have a heightened sense of alertness. They perceive typical life situations as threatening, when in fact they’re not. This chronic state of fearfulness, coupled with a lack of communication and coping skills, sets the stage for them to misperceive events. They are more likely to overreact to stressful situations with angry outbursts and, at times, violence. They are gravely insecure and feel as though they are completely powerless.

When the second and third groups of children experiment with alcohol or drugs, they are at a higher level of risk to develop problems. The alcohol and drugs create a sense of well-being and completeness that they can immediately latch onto. With continued use, they begin to believe that alcohol and drugs are an appropriate and acceptable way to deal with their problems and difficulties.

July 4, 2015

Restoring Freedom of Religion in America

libertyIn November 2011, 70 businesses and professional organizations added their names to a legal brief that was filed in a case that was in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The businesses and organizations were recruited by a law firm that had been hired to file a “friend of the court” brief. The purpose of the brief was to encourage the court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, a necessary step that had to take place before same-sex marriage could ever be declared to be a fundamental right under the U.S. constitution.

Earlier this year, the same group of lawyers were hired to write a similar brief in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in every state in the country. A total of 379 American corporations and organizations added their names to the brief. The corporations included American Express, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, CBS, Coca-Cola, CVS, DIRECTV, Disney, eBay, Facebook, General Mills, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, United Air Lines, and Verizon.

The following paragraph was included in the introduction of the brief that was filed on behalf of the businesses:

Some of the states in which [our companies] do business make marriage equally available to all of our employees and colleagues; others prohibit marriages between couples of the same sex and refuse to recognize existing same-sex marriages. This dual regime burdens [our companies]. It creates legal uncertainty and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative complexities on employers, and requires differential employer treatment of employees who are similarly situated save for the state where they reside.

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