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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
A few weeks ago, my daughter Anna had a birthday party at her home. Anna has five children. They range in age from one-year-old to nine years old. After the party was over, I walked into Anna’s kitchen to say goodbye to her. When I entered the kitchen, I heard her two-year-old son Peter ask, “Mom, can I wear my vestment?” Anna replied, “Yes, I’ll get it for you in a few minutes.”
The vestment that Peter was referring to is similar to the one that is being worn by his brother in the picture on this page. The picture was taken on Halloween, two years ago. The two women in the picture are my daughters, Anna and Maria. Anna is on the left holding her son, Peter, and Maria is on the right holding her daughter, Katie.
The children standing in front are from left to right: Anna’s son David (dressed as a priest); Maria’s daughter Grace (dressed as a bride); Anna’s daughter Mary (dressed as a nun); and Anna’s daughter Kathryn (dressed as a nun).
David is wearing a vestment that is similar to the one Peter was referring to when he asked his mother if he could wear his vestment. Anna recently made a second vestment for Peter. She also made the costumes that her daughters were wearing in the picture.
A couple of years ago, David received a children’s priest kit as a gift. The kit includes a chalice, paten, and other items that a priest uses when he celebrates Mass. David and his brother and sisters frequently celebrate Mass in their home. They know all about the Mass because Anna attends daily Mass with them.
This is what goes on in the home of a devout Catholic family. It’s what went on in my parents’ home when I was growing up. I remember frequently participating in Mass at home with my brothers and sisters when we were young. We used oyster crackers for communion, and everyone who participated had their own role in the Mass.
Last week I wrote about how the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, had signed a bill into law that legalized doctor-assisted suicide. When I found out about the new law, I thought about the deep-rooted thistles I had to dig up from the pasture next to my parents’ home when I was a teenager.
There was nothing good about those thistles. They multiplied quickly and within a few years had taken over the pasture. No person or animal could touch them because the stems and leaves were covered with sharp, thorn-like points that would inflict pain when the skin was pricked. To eradicate each thistle, we had to dig up the entire root, which was 12 to 18 inches deep.
The assisted-suicide laws that are beginning to pop up in various states are going to soon overtake the country just like the thistles overtook our pasture. The new laws feed off the same deep-seated root that fed the same-sex marriage laws that quickly overtook our nation and are now stinging and pricking those who dare to oppose them.
The same root that has fed the same-sex marriage and assisted-suicide movements has fed all modern-day evil movements, including the sexual revolution that ushered in widespread premarital sex, divorce, adultery, and abortion. All of these evils are treacherous thistles that now plague our society. Every year, these thistles spread and spawn new permutations of evil, some of which include:
• Surrogate Mothers — Women who act as incubators for a human ovum (“egg”) that has been fertilized by male sperm in a “dish” before being implanted into the womb of the “mother.” Prior to implantation, several eggs are fertilized and the most promising and robust fertilized egg is selected while all the others are discarded. Each fertilized egg that is discarded constitutes the termination of a human life. The sperm that is used to fertilize the eggs can be purchased from or donated by any man chosen by the parties who are involved.
During the years I was growing up, my parents owned an acre and a half of land that was located next to our house. When I was a young boy, my dad made a pasture by putting up a fence around the land. He also built a barn on the land.
For a short period of time, we had horses. During the 1960s and 1970s, we had sheep and a cow that provided milk for our family.
Over time, the pasture became populated with hundreds of thistles. A thistle is a wild plant that has a stem and leaves that are covered with sharp points.
Thistles produce flowers that release tiny seeds into the air. Like most wild plants, thistles multiply quickly if they are not kept under control.
The animals stayed away from the thistles because when they attempted to eat them, their tongues and noses were pricked by the sharp points on the leaves.
One Saturday morning during the summer of 1969 — when I was 12 years old — my dad rounded up me and a couple of my brothers and we all descended onto the pasture to dig up thistles. The biggest challenge we faced was that the roots of the thistles were 12 to 18 inches in length.
My dad emphasized the fact that we had to dig deep enough to get the entire root of each thistle or the following summer, a new thistle would sprout up from the leftover root. We didn’t get very far that Saturday, so my dad offered to pay us ten cents for every thistle that we dug up on our own. The deal was that we had to get the entire root before we could collect our ten cents.
For the next several days, my brothers and I dug up thistles. When we picked up the thistles, we had to hold them by the roots because there was no place on the plant itself that didn’t have the sharp points.
We were able to remove all the thistles from the pasture that summer. The following summer, new thistles popped up, but the total number of thistles was only about 25 percent of what we had during the previous year. By the third summer, the new thistles were down to about 5 percent of the original number of thistles.
I landed my first job when I was 12 years old, delivering newspapers for the Peoria Journal Star. One of my job duties was to knock on the doors of my customers every Wednesday and collect payment for the newspapers. Each Friday at 6:00 p.m. I met with a representative for the Journal Star to pay him for the previous week’s newspapers.
I initially started out by giving my mom the money I owed to the Journal Star. She deposited the money into her checking account, and every week she wrote a check to the Journal Star. Each Friday when I met with the representative, I gave him the check from my mom.
My mom eventually took me to the bank and opened a checking account for me. After that, I wrote my own checks to the Journal Star.
When my first bank statement arrived in the mail, my mom taught me how to reconcile my checking account. That was over 45 years ago. To this day, whenever a bank statement arrives in the mail for one of my accounts, I take the time to reconcile the account.
Last month, a 19-year-old college-student client of mine told me that she had been charged overdraft fees of $70 by her bank for two separate transactions within the same week. She recently received a debit card from the bank and, like most of my bankruptcy clients, recklessly started paying for all her purchases with the debit card without keeping track of how much money was in her bank account.
When I told her that she needed to start writing down every purchase and keeping track of the balance in her account, she was shocked that I would suggest that she perform such a burdensome task. She responded with a question: “Why would I go to all the trouble of recording all my transactions when I can check my balance on my iPhone at any time of the day or night?”
One of the greatest technological breakthroughs of the past 100 years was the perfection and mass production of the automobile. Although the initial design of a steam-powered “motorized carriage” dates back to the 18th century, it was the invention of the internal combustion engine that allowed the automobile industry to dramatically change our way of life.
The internal combustion engine was the first engine that was powered by liquid fuel. The engine was designed to generate power by igniting a mixture of fuel and air to produce multiple explosions in chambers that drove pistons to turn a shaft that would make the wheels of a vehicle move.
It is generally acknowledged that the practical use of internal combustion engines in automobiles didn’t start to take place until the late 1800s when several German inventors, working independently of each other, developed automobiles that could travel for long distances.
Prior to the Great Depression which began in 1929, there were more than 1800 American entrepreneurs who were attempting to mass-produce gas-powered automobiles for consumers. By the time the Great Depression was over, only eight American automobile companies remained: General Motors, Ford, Crosley, Packard, Nash-Kelvinator, Studebaker, Chrysler, and Hudson.
The mass production of vehicles created millions of new jobs for American workers, including jobs for designers, assemblers, road construction workers, mechanics, and truck drivers. It also wiped 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.
I’ve written before about the process 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 that wipes out entire industries after new technologies are discovered and put into place.