February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

August 26, 2017

Excuses, Deadlines, and Commitments

Earlier this year, I hired a man who is an expert at optimizing websites for local Google search results. I agreed to pay him $900 per month to optimize my website at For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Jim.”

Everything went well during the first few months of working with Jim, but then his performance started slipping. At one point, he failed to get an important project done because the person he assigned it to was sick and “had other things come up” that prevented her from working on the project. He emailed me and explained the reasons that the work didn’t get done.

I responded to his email by stating that his “reasons” were nothing more than excuses and that he should have done the work himself or assigned it to someone else. He was highly offended by my email and found it hard to believe that I would question his integrity and accuse him of making excuses. Despite his irritation with me, he redeemed himself by quickly completing the project.

Last month, I had a conference call with Jim and we decided that he would create several new pages for my website that would highlight certain types of cases that I handle. At the beginning of this month, I asked him to provide me with a timeline for getting the pages completed. He responded by telling me that he thought he could get the pages done within two weeks, but he wasn’t sure because he had to be in the right frame of mind to write the pages.

I waited two and a half weeks and then I emailed him and asked if he was going to be able to get the pages completed by the end of the month. Several emails were then exchanged between us in which he refused to commit to a date that he would have the pages completed. Here are the final emails that were exchanged between us:

September 17, 2016

Can God’s Grace Be “Banked”?

bank-accountLast month, I made a telephone call to a man I’ve known for more than 20 years. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Luke.” I hadn’t seen Luke for several months. I had been accustomed to seeing him at least once a week in the adoration chapel, then he stopped showing up.

After Luke stopped coming to the chapel, I asked another person who knows him what happened to him. The person told me that he had heard that a priest at Luke’s church had said something that humiliated Luke in front of some other people. After that, Luke stopped going to church. He also stopped going to the adoration chapel. In case you’re curious, the priest who made the comment was not associated with Saint Philomena Church, where I’m a member.

I had planned on calling Luke a couple of months ago, but I didn’t get around to it until Monday, August 15, the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. Every year on August 15, I renew my consecration to the Blessed Mother. I made my first consecration on August 15, 1985, and have renewed it every year since then.

I learned how to make the consecration by reading Saint Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary. One of the guidelines that Saint Louis de Montfort has for individuals who renew their consecration each year is to perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on the day of the consecration.

On the day of my renewal, I thought about Luke. When I called him, he didn’t answer. I left a message for him to call me. He tried calling me back, but we weren’t able to match up until later in the week. When I finally reached him, I asked him why he was no longer going to the chapel. He said that he had developed a new devotion to Saint Sharbel.

I’m familiar with Saint Sharbel because I used to be a member of Saint Sharbel Catholic Church in Peoria. Saint Sharbel was born in Lebanon and later became a Maronite Catholic monk and priest. He died on December 24, 1898. For 23 years prior to his death, he lived as a solitary hermit.

December 26, 2015

A Thief in the Church

ThiefDuring the week, I do my best to attend Mass every day. Because Sacred Heart Church is only three blocks from my office, I usually end up walking there for the midday Mass, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Ordinarily there are 30 to 50 people who attend that particular Mass. About half of the people work downtown and the other half are people who are either retired or do not have a job that keeps them from driving downtown to attend the Mass.

About eight years ago, something very unusual happened while I was at Mass at Sacred Heart. After I got in line to walk up the center aisle to receive Holy Communion, I looked ahead to the front of the line and saw a man who received Holy Communion in his hand and then walked away without putting the Consecrated Host in his mouth. The man looked like he was in his 50s.

I watched the man walk back to where he had been sitting. I waited for him to put the Host in his mouth, but he knelt down with the Host still in his hand. The pew that he was sitting in was about ten rows back from the front of the church.

As I moved forward in the communion line, I watched to see if he was going to put the Host in his mouth. He kept his head facing down as though he was praying. When I passed him, I looked to see where his hands were. They were clenched together and resting on his lap.

I stepped into the pew directly in front of the man and sat down. I turned around to the left and placed my elbow on the back of the pew I was sitting in, next to the man’s face. I looked at him and when his eyes caught my eyes, I said, “Do you plan on consuming that Host?” He was startled by my question and responded, “What?” I asked again, “Do you plan on consuming the Host that you’re holding in your hand?”

The man looked as though he was stunned by my question. After hesitating, he replied, “Yes.” I immediately followed up by saying, “Okay, that’s good. I’m going to sit here and watch you until you place the Host in your mouth.” He looked at me, looked down at his hands, looked at me again, and then shoved the Host into his mouth. When I saw that he was chewing the Host, I said, “Thank you.” He replied in a sarcastic tone of voice, “You’re welcome.”

October 31, 2015

A Priestly Halloween Costume

Halloween - 2013A 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.

September 5, 2015

An Insider’s Secret To Success

Insider SecretLast week I told you about the nice-guy prisoner who had a lot going for him but ended up in prison because he did “stupid stuff.” For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Rick.” When Rick and I met in my office, he told me that after graduating from high school, he attended a trade school and became certified in a well-known trade. He was later hired by a company that paid him $24 per hour to work at his chosen trade.

When I asked Rick where he was currently working, he said that he was working for a local company and was being paid $11 per hour. The job he was hired to perform was not related to his trade. When I asked him why he wasn’t working for a company where he could get paid more for performing his trade, he said, “I like the job I have now because there’s not a lot of pressure. I’m able to get through the day without any problems, get off work, and then go about my business. I like it that way.”

I’ve written before about how everybody is born with a primary fault that they struggle with throughout their life. It didn’t take me very long to realize that Rick’s primary fault is laziness.

People who are inclined toward laziness are experts at avoiding responsibility. They’re also experts at making excuses for not getting their work done. They constantly avoid making commitments because commitments always involve work and responsibility.

Early in my career, I read The Ultimate Success Secret, a book that was written by Dan Kennedy, a business strategist and marketing expert. After I read the book, I hired Kennedy to assist me with marketing my law firm. He subsequently became a business mentor of mine.

In his book, Kennedy made the point that while everyone desires more control over their lives, most people fail to realize one critical thing about control: If you wish to exercise more control over your life, you have to be willing to commit to and accept more responsibility. Kennedy’s simple formula for success is

August 29, 2015

Just A Nice Guy

ManipulationIt’s been a couple of years since my three youngest daughters — Mary, Christine, and Teresa — stopped describing boys to me in the way they had always described them. Before they stopped, whenever they talked about a new boy they had met and liked, they focused on how nice he was. They would say, “He’s such a nice guy. You can’t help but like him.”

That particular description of their newfound friends really irritated me. Every time one of them mentioned how nice a guy was I responded by saying, “Eighty percent of the guys in prison are nice guys. The other 20 percent are mean or evil. The 80 percent who are nice have other critically important character flaws that disqualify them from further consideration as a boyfriend.”

At first, the girls thought I was being cynical, negative, and overprotective of them. Each time one of them talked about how nice a guy was, I reminded them that being nice wasn’t a sufficient enough reason to consider developing a relationship.

At one point, I explained to the girls that during the 1980s and 1990s, I represented several young men who were charged with crimes. Eighty percent of them were nice guys. They simply couldn’t control their behavior. Many of them were addicted to alcohol, drugs, or pornography. Most of them were inherently dishonest and blamed everyone but themselves for their problems. All of them were experts at making excuses for their behavior, always finding a reason why they were not responsible for their actions.

After several months of warnings about how they needed to be careful not to let their guard down just because a guy came across as being nice, my daughters stopped describing guys as being “nice.” At least around me they stopped. Instead, they talked about other positive traits that the guys possessed.

June 13, 2015

Beyond Your 15 Minutes of Fame

15 MInutes of FameFive years ago, in an Adoration Letter article titled “A Prayer for a Beating Heart,” I asked for prayers for my wife, Georgette. In the article, I wrote about a genetic condition that she had that caused the wall of one of the ventricles of her heart to become so thick that her heart was unable to supply her body with a sufficient amount of oxygenated blood. Her health was quickly deteriorating and the only way to correct the problem was through open-heart surgery, which was scheduled for June 16, 2010.

The heart surgery was performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Georgette’s doctor performed a “septal myectomy,” a surgical procedure that required him to cut away part of the muscle inside her heart. By the grace of God, the surgery was successful, and, after a long recovery, Georgette was able to regain her health and vitality.

Three weeks after Georgette’s surgery, I wrote about the following experience I had with one of the adorers at the St. Philomena Adoration Chapel:

[W]hile I was in the adoration chapel, one of our daily adorers, Beth Fuson, walked up to me and handed me a holy card and a medal to give to Georgette. The holy card had two prayers to Saint John of God, and a short biography of his life.

Saint John of God was born in 1495. As an adult, he devoted himself to assisting Christian slaves in Africa and later started and ran a hospital for the poor and sick in Grenada. He died in 1550 from heart disease and was canonized in 1690. He is known as the patron saint of people who suffer from heart disease.

The week after I wrote about Beth and the holy card, I ran into her in the parking lot outside the adoration chapel. As soon as she saw me, she said, “Thanks for the 15 minutes.” Since I didn’t know what she was talking about, I asked, “What?” She replied,

May 23, 2015

I was a god for a day

I Am GodAfter I graduated from Saint Louis University law school in 1982, my wife and I moved back to Peoria. At that time, my wife was pregnant with our second child. Shortly after returning to Peoria, I began teaching CCD classes on Sunday mornings at St. Sharbel Catholic Church to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

That year, as Christmas approached, I was asked to be Santa Claus at a Christmas party that was being planned for the children of the parish. At the party, I sat down on a throne-like chair, and the children lined up to sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.

There was one thing about my experience as Santa Claus that had a lasting impact on me. It was the look in each of the children’s eyes when they approached me. Each one of them looked at me with awe and admiration. It was as though they were looking at God Himself. I had never had anyone look at me the way those children looked at me.

I have to admit that the look in those children’s eyes made me feel special. Wouldn’t we all like to be looked at by others with awe and admiration?

There was a period of time after each of our children was born when they would gaze at my wife with awe and admiration. Although this period of time didn’t last very long, every time it happened my wife told me how good she felt when her newborn child looked at her as though she was the only person in the world.

Whether or not we are willing to admit it, we all have a deep desire to be admired and adored by others. Since the beginning of time, this desire has been used by Satan to tempt us. He has a lot of experience using this particular temptation. The first time he used it was when he tempted Eve to sin against God. He told her that if she did what he said, she would be like a god.

That’s the way I felt at that Christmas party — like a god who was being worshipped by children.

March 28, 2015

Romance, Love & Chick Flicks

A Walk To RememberIf you’re a fan of romance novels or chick flicks, you’ve probably heard of Nicholas Sparks. He’s a Catholic novelist, screen writer, and producer who has published 17 romantic novels, nine of which have been made into movies. Three of his most popular movies were Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, and A Walk to Remember.

Sparks has been referred to as “The King of the Love Story.” Despite his reputation and popularity as a romance novelist, earlier this year, Sparks announced that he and his wife of 25 years had separated. They have five children ranging in age from 12 to 23.

You may have heard of John Gray and his wife, Beverly De Angelis. At one time, they were both heralded as relationship experts. Gray wrote the best-selling books, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and Men, Women and Relationships. De Angelis wrote the best-selling books, Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know and How To Make Love All The Time: Make Love Last a Lifetime. After obtaining fame and fortune as relationship gurus, Gray and De Angelis divorced and went their separate ways.

Maybe you’ve heard of Mark Victor Hansen, the co-creator of the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of books. Hansen held himself out to be a dedicated and loving husband who frequently read poetry to his wife and renewed his marriage vows every year. His loving devotion to his wife came to an abrupt end on his 26th wedding anniversary when he told her that he no longer loved her. Hansen’s wife was devastated and was later quoted as saying, “I never thought this would happen to us. We worked on our relationship.”

If you’re over the age of 50, you probably remember the Ann Landers daily advice column that appeared in newspapers across the country. Although Ann Landers was the woman that Americans looked to for advice on marriage and relationships, in 1975 she shocked her readers by running a column that announced she was getting a divorce from her husband. In that column she admitted, “The lady with all the answers does not know the answer to this one.” I remember the impact the column had on me when I read it. I think it had a significant impact on most of her readers. They genuinely felt sorry for her.