Friday, August 31, 2012


"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Hebrews 9:27)

"A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!" (Proverbs 15:23)

My friend David C. Milley has often been concerned about some of the things I've written. His concern is that I can "put stuff out there" in an emotional state that I will later regret, and which, to use a line from a popular television show, "can and will be used against you".

Thus, I am taking a deep breath and trying to be very careful in what I write here.

A short time ago, I received word that the cousin of a woman I know fatally shot himself yesterday. The cousin was more like a brother, so of course, this is a devastating time for her family. In that case, the guy had a major psychotic episode. It is likely that there's nothing anyone could have said or done to change it. This does not make anything any less painful for that family. In fact, I'm sure they're experiencing a level of grief few of us could imagine. So, if you're a praying person, please pray for Sherry and her family today. They need it.

Ironically, it was also in the news this week that a young man committed suicide by jumping off the Bourne Bridge. At least two decades ago, huge anti-suicide fences were installed on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. (For you non-New Englanders, these are the two very high bridges over the Cape Cod canal which are managed by the Army Corps. of Engineers.) I was surprised the young man "pulled it off"; because it's GOT to be a very difficult feat with that fence in place.

Suicide is a very, very complicated topic: I think there are many, many reasons why people become suicidal and why they act on their feelings and actually kill themselves.

I'm reflecting on this today because at times I've struggled with very deep and dark depression as did my mother before me. Mom was never officially diagnosed with depression, but she spent at least half of her adult life depressed. Despite a strong faith in the Bible, in the God of the Bible, and in miracles, and despite the fact that I've experienced God doing a number of very positive things in my life, I've pretty much experienced what my Mom did. I have had some medical treatment for it. No, I never actually attempted suicide, nor have I ever been hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital or anything like that, but I have tremendous compassion for those who HAVE been. I feel like in many respects ..."I sat where they sat"... as it says in Ezekiel 3:15.

A number of people would probably find it strange that I've struggled SO much in this area because I can be SO humorous and silly. I'm frequently laughing and seeing the funny side of life. Sometimes my laughter is hard to control. I'm one of those people who has laughed during funerals, for instance. (NO, I never laughed during a funeral service that I CONDUCTED, thank God, but I HAVE been known to laugh during funerals!)

I honestly believe I have a biological predisposition to "seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full", however. For some reason, there's a very fine line between tragedy and comedy. The famous female Christian comedian Chonda Pierce can hold an audience CAPTIVE with her schtick. She's FUNNY! She does that whole southern Christian housewife thing and her enthusiastic audience just brings out the BEST in her comedy and entertainment. Yet, Chonda Pierce has been hospitalized...yes, in a psychiatric facility for deep depression. About a year ago, I watched a DVD of hers in which she discussed this. I know some Christians would probably have made very nasty remarks to and about her for what she said. Not me. I totally got it. Totally. She said that when she was hospitalized, she honestly believed her family would be better off without her and that she was genuinely suicidal.

I'm glad she publicly said what she did. When I heard it, it helped me. No, I've never ended up in the hospital nor "attempted" but I have also felt those feelings. In my own case, all my life I've been "different". I don't think the way OTHER people think. I just DON'T! My likes and dislikes and the way I perceive things are VERY different from most people! Things I consider appropriate or inappropriate are often at odds with most people. But, like Chonda, I also can hold an audience CAPTIVE! When I speak in public, I have an audience laughing and crying and in many cases, they'll NEVER forget what they've heard! Chonda and I have THAT same GIFT.

Now, in pastoring, my "gift" proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Most people really liked my public speaking, teaching, and persona, but often it just wasn't what was desired in a CHURCH LEADER...and ultimately that came back to bite me.

I remember that at the time the church I pastored closed, one guy said to me, "You must feel SO relieved that this is ALL over and than now you can move on!"

I know the person who said that meant well, but that was one of the worst things anybody could have said to me. You know, THAT statement brought me to some of my darkest moments of despair over the next year that I would walk through. It would be like saying to someone whose severely handicapped child just died, "Boy, I'll bet you're glad THAT'S over!"

No. Whatever "that" was, it was a major focus (or THE) major focus of your life for a long time, and its absence produces unimaginable grief.

The adage that sometimes it's better to NOT say anything is true.

An old Vacation Bible School song says, "I'm in-right, outright, upright, downright happy all the time!"

Nice, but it ain't true! It's not real.

Honestly, this has been kind of a difficult week for me. And it's NOT just due to my own problems and challenges. I've seen some nice people that I care about suffer some difficulties and pain this week. Yes, I've had my own set of problems, but then seeing and feeling the pain of others has just made it difficult for me to be ", outright, upright, downright happy all the time!" And, so, I guess in a sense, sadness can be good IF it produces an empathy that brings something helpful and positive.

Despite some of my low moments, I know I have been used in life as an encourager and a motivator. People tell me all the time of the POSITIVE difference I have made in their lives! And, ironically, my mother had more people at her funeral than did my father; and SO many talked about what a help and encouragement she was to them. THAT would have greatly surprised her!

So, on a kind of a sad morning for me, I wanted to share this.
I wrote the title, "TIMING, THOUGHT, AND THINGS" before I wrote the piece.

Perhaps it's a bit rambling, but I hope SOMEHOW it causes helpful reflection and action.

I was just about to try to change it, but you know what, I don't think I will! As Pilate said, "What I have written, I have written."

Monday, August 27, 2012


"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18)

Professing followers of Jesus Christ have often heard that verse read, but probably most have not idea what a "jot" or "tittle" is. These were small punctuation marks used in Hebrew writing. When Jesus said that, it was kind of like us saying, "I want every t crossed and every i dotted!".

This may more some of you silly, and many will wonder WHY I would possibly address something as seemingly small and insignificant as a jot or tittle ... or dash or apostrophe ... on my blog.

I'm just been noticing something and I wonder if it's just me who is noticing this: In our very high tech cyber and digital age, outside of the technical jargon of a URL address setup, apostrophes, slashes,and other marks are starting to be DROPPED. This is even true of formal surnames and company names.

In the U.S., for decades, the official abbreviation for the Assemblies of God was:

A/G. (A forward slash G).

(In Australia and the U.K. it's usually abbreviated A.O.G.).

Americans in the Assemblies of God refer to the religious organization as the "A/G".
We were always taught that was the proper abbreviation. In all official correspondence and publicity of the Assemblies of God that was ALWAYS used. And, when Assemblies of God ministers wrote about the Assemblies of God they always abbreviated it as A/G. About ten years ago, I noticed in all official correspondence from the Springfield, Missouri headquarters, the abbreviation began to be published as:

AG. (A capital A immediately followed by a capital G and no slash in the middle.)

I have noticed that most Assemblies of God ministers and constituents over the age of fifty still use A/G. We were taught that abbreviation and we used it for decades, but it's changed.

I really think the reason for that is digital usage on line. The forward slash takes up extra room and can be confusing. In fact, when our old church was still around we had an e-mail address and it was:

And we had a website which is now defunct at"

I deliberately did NOT use a slash in the abbreviation AG to avoid confusion.

Something that has REALLY SURPRISED me, though, it that PEOPLE ARE CHANGING HE WAY THEY SPELL THEIR LAST NAMES! I'm talking about names like O'Brien and O'Connell and
D'Ambra. In working at a telephone answering service and in taking messages which contain people's last names, I've been surprised that maybe half of people with these type last names now DROP the apostrophe in spelling them. That's also GOT TO be easier in creating e-mail addresses using those names or even websites using those names. I wonder if in another generation, those names will have gone through an evolution which will entirely eliminate the apostrophes. AND, for that matter, there are the names like MacDonald which have capital and small letters, and I'm finding those are now much more commonly appearing as all in the same "case" rather than some upper case letters and some lower case letters.

I wonder if I am the only one who notices this kind of "stuff". AND, if you have one of the type of last names I cite here, I'd be very interested in your comments.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22)

I've got a confession to make that may shock some folks. Despite the fact that for years I have been known as a news and current events junkie, and that for almost as many years I have been known as a political junkie, it's not even September yet and I'm totally sick of all the talking about the upcoming presidential election. Some of you know, that although I am a registered Republican, I'm sick of seeing all the "likes" for Romney and Ryan from many of my Facebook friends. (I'm even SICKER of all the "likes" for Obama and Biden from many of my other Facebook friends.) SO, this piece has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with anything "heavy".


As I write, I'm listening to one of my favorite radio programs "streaming live" on the computer. It's the Public Radio International "word play" game show, "Says You". If you've never heard that before, it's a lot of fun, and if you listen you'll not only have fun but DEFINITELY learn some "stuff"! Now, LAST week around this time, as I was driving along Route 290 in Worcester County, they were doing an exercise on the show where a phrase would be given and the panelists would have to guess what PRODUCT was involved. The host came to the phrase,

"The Moose Test".

I kind of "cracked up"! I immediately know the answer to "The Moose Test".

Now, to be accurate, I did NOT get the answer that "Says You" wanted. THEIR answer was "Volvo". Apparently, "The Moose Test" was something that involved crashing a Volvo into a Moose...or at least into a stuffed moose.

I knew about another Moose test that comes from over fifty years ago!

Sometimes I've described my father, Eugene A. "Gene" Baril, as a very accomplished man and a very strict person. I've also described him as complicated. Gene Baril had a very FUNNY, SILLY, FUN LOVING side, too! "The Moose Test" goes back to his early days as a Mass. Registry of Motor Vehicles Inspector. (A "Registry Inspector" was a Registry Police office. Years later the name was changed to "Registry Police" and in the 1990s they were merged into the State Police.) Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the entry level Registry Inspectors were given the task of giving driver's license tests. Now, THIS was BEFORE the days of Learner's Permits. Since the mid-1960s, 16-year-lds have been able to take a written test to get their Learner's Permit. Then, after Driver's Ed. and at least six months, they can come to the Registry for their road test. In the pre-1965 days, your driver's license test consisted of BOTH an oral exam on the Driver's License manual to see if you understood the Mass. Motor Vehicle laws of driving, THEN you took your driving test a few minutes later.

One of the remote sites for driving test examinations was the Norwood Armory, an impressive stone building in downtown Norwood, MA. As Dad described it, the interior of the Armory in the area where the oral exams were given had a moose head mounted on the wall. Dad and his Registry Inspector buddies used to like to pull little pranks to break up the boredom. One thing they'd do is make up a bunch of ridiculous names, then in front of a group of terrified teens waiting to be examined, they'd announce people who apparently hadn't shown up that they were trying to locate.

"Marsha VanAllshott," Dad might billow out. "Marsha VanAllshott?! Is Marsha VanAllshott here?!"

"Sherman L. Sturdley," he'd add, "Where's Sherman L. Sturdley?".

The favorite fake name of Dad and his close friend Bill Mitchell was Stilianos Kerikledes. Each exam day, either Dad or Bill, depending upon whose turn it was would yell, "Stilianos Kerikledes!! Looking for Stilianos Kerikledes!!"

Now, the grand belly laugh of them all, however, was what Dad always said he'd do if he got a "really weird" applicant who was taking the oral exam. Dad promised his colleagues that IF he was examining a real weirdo, he would tell the person that the NEXT part of the exam was:

"The Moose Test".

He would then, in rapid fire fashion, announce that the moose test involved looking at the moose head on the wall and telling if the moose's eyes were BLINKING!

Dad said he'd seriously and firmly ask, "Is the moose's LEFT eye blinking?" followed by, "Is the moose's RIGHT eye blinking?"

Dad was convinced that a weirdo would absolutely say "YES" to each!

Well, the day came that a VERY strange WOMAN came up to take her driver's examination!
I'm not sure exactly how Dad determined she was very strange, but knowing him, part of it was that he could hardly get through asking the questions without laughing his head off.

After the initial oral exam, the big moment came.

Dad, making sure he was LOUD, announced to the woman, "Now for the next part of the test we have THE MOOSE TEST!"

Of course, his buddies dropped everything THEY were doing and stared, incredulously.

Firmly, loudly, and in an authoritative manner, Dad asked, "Is the moose's LEFT eye blinking?"

She immediately responded "Yes!"

Followed by, "Is the moose's RIGHT eye blinking?"

and another "Yes!"

You know, this is a story from over fifty years ago. I am not sure if the weird woman got her driver's license or not, but somehow I have a feeling that SHE PROBABLY DID!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 New King James Version)

There's an old expression we often use, especially but not exclusively in Christian religious circles, which says, "You can't rob Peter to pay Paul". Peter and Paul were two of the biggest and most significant leaders of the early Church. They were also VERY different men. Paul was originally from outside of Palestine, was a Roman citizen, and was extremely well educated. Peter was FROM Galilee in Palestine, was very "blue collar", and was very outspoken and impulsive. We know from the Book of Galatians in the New Testament that at times they greatly CLASHED.

WHY am I writing about Peter and Paul here and WHAT do they have to do with a piece about "The Spirit of America"? Well, I'm really not writing about the BIBLICAL characters, Peter and Paul here. Rather, I'm mentioning my COUSINS Peter and Paul. Both are Facebook friends of mine. Peter writes a blog. Peter (from Colorado) is retired, having previously worked as a forest ranger and a history teacher. Paul (from Pennsylvania) although past retirement age is a Certified Financial Planner. I would describe Peter as a "bleeding heart liberal" and Paul as a conservative Republican business type. They recently conducted sort of a "friendly political argument" on Facebook. I had to chuckle that two Grandchildren of Pierre E. and Marie H. Baril could be SUCH opposites politically! Peter is VERY much for President Obama. He has endorsed him on his blog, and honestly, I can't think of ANYONE who is a bigger fan of President Obama than is Peter Baril. Paul is voting for Mitt Romney and believes the reelection of President Obama would really be a terrible thing.

My own views are closer to Paul's than to Peter's. That said, I am NOT a big fan of Mitt Romney. I will not vote for Obama in the Fall. I am struggling with whether or not I will "hold my nose and vote for Mitt Romney or not". I have not made up my mind on this. Listen, I have heard all the arguments in favor of voting for Mitt Romney. I don't need to hear any more of them, thank you; so please save your writing.

On Facebook, in the midst of Peter and Paul's postings, I posted that I believe America is becoming a hedonistic and atheistic country; more every day. Peter posted, asking if I REALLY believe this and if I could write more about it. THIS is the result of his request that I write more about it. I do think Mitt Romney would make a better President than Barack Obama, and I'm a Republican. BUT, Romney would be a mediocre President, at best. America's problem IS primarily spiritual. In 2008, Michelle Obama was CORRECT when she lamented, "our souls are broken".

Our souls ARE broken. Sadly, President and Mrs. Obama have offered really NO guidance or real help in this area, and Mitt Romney offers next to nothing, in my opinion.

This is SUCH a deep and complicated matter, I suppose I could write a whole BOOK on the subject. At the very least, I could probably do four or five lengthy postings on the blog about it. Instead I am going to just "spit out" what I believe about this here.

I can be a very "gut level" person at times, and at times I can "really turn people off". This is IRONIC because at the core of my being, I'm a guy who very much wants to be LIKED and AFFIRMED! So, it's with some definite "fear and trembling" (see I Corinthians 2:1-4) that I post this, but I DO believe every word of it:

Yes, American is becoming like modern Europe: hedonistic and atheistic. We were moving in this direction with or without President Obama, but his Presidency has only accelerated this trend. Evangelical Christian scholars who carefully study demographics and popular trends have noted that Massachusetts, especially the Boston area (as well as the Montreal area in Canada, for that matter) is CULTURALLY speaking "Europe" and not "America". Some missionaries from the Bible belt who are bound for Europe actually come and live in the Boston area for awhile to prepare for the culture shock they'll face.

The most popular series of license plates in Massachusetts is the "Sprit of America" series which began being issued in the early 1990s and is still in use today. My own cars display plates with the moniker "The Spirit of America". I remember about eight years ago, a woman from San Deigo, California who came to visit her brother and his family in Natick. She was a devout evangelical Christian who attends a southern California mega church. The woman was HORRIFIED by the slogan on the Massachusetts plates,

"If THIS is the Spirit of America, then HEAVEN HELP US!!" she exclaimed. Originally from the Boston area, but having lived away for thirty years, she was agast at the smug, brash, me-first, godless attitude and atmosphere of the Boston area.

Yeah, we are embodying the current Spirit of America which is really much more like the Spirit of Belial I mentioned above...a hellish spirit of wickedness and ungodliness.

Bluntly, it seems nobody can keep their pants on anymore. People become sexually active at ridiculously young ages. They couldn't tell you who Eleanor Roosevelt was or define what a cartographer is, but they can tell you everything you want to know about sex and everything you DON'T want to know about it, too!

People can't get thorough a conversation without a few F-Bombs being thrown in. People will tell you no one has the right to tell them what to do with THEIR bodies. In Europe, the churches are EMPTY. Christianity is seen as a dusty, undesirable relic of the past. New England is rapidly moving in that direction. Granted, there's still the Bible belt, but give it another generation and Dallas will be just like Boston. Most of what is on television and movies is really not fit to watch anymore.

There's also a very European attitude that it's up to the Government to GIVE you what you need, and then some! "Personal responsibility"? What's that?!

I could go on and on about the trend toward hedonism and atheism, but as bad as that trend is, I also see some other disturbing trends in our country.

The pastor of Bread of Life Assembly of God in Westminster, MA where I attend recently preached an excellent sermon about how the church is supposed to be "salt and light" in our world. Sadly, instead, evangelical Christians have often been judgmental, and legalistic. We often (stupidly) present a very negative gospel. WE have experienced a LOVING and FORGIVING and UNDERSTANDING and all powerful Savior, who has given us life more abundantly. We've had PRECIOUS times with our Lord. Yet, we present God as petty and mean and a being who wants to ruin everyone's fun and make their lives miserable. We also present God as this angry, right-wing Republican who is CRAZY ABOUT MITT ROMNEY and who wants everybody to be just like Mitt Romney. Listen, I used to be one of the most negative and legalistic guys you would ever want to meet, AND I used to be so far to the Right that I almost made Jesse Helms look like a liberal. I'm still a Republican and fairly conservative, but I've changed quite a bit over the past twenty-five years, and I've re-thought a lot of this stuff of wrapping up our Christianity in right wing politics and the Republican party.

I can already hear critics challenging, "You've made a case that NEW ENGLAND is like Europe, but that has nothing to do with the rest of the country!"

No, it DOES. We're just ten or twenty years ahead of many of you.


It's not false religion; the "I'm OK, You're OK" stuff that we need. That just "tickles the ears" for awhile, but has little real substance.

It's not aggressive fundamentalism with no love that we need.

It's not self-righteousness that we need.

It's not cults that we need... just LOOK at Scientology, for example.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"- THAT'S what we need.

John 3:16. That's what we need.

Jesus. Jesus is who and what we need. NOT the false Jesus that is so often presented. NOT that one. The REAL one.

Listen, when you're dying; when everything is "all washed up" so to speak- THAT'S when you realize how TRUE this is.

My father was a very accomplished person and a very proud man. He got dementia so bad that he was completely incontinent. He could not speak beyond occasionally getting out a word or two. He could not take care of himself at all. One day, I sat next to him at Charwell House Nursing Home in November of 1999, and I talked to him about Jesus. Oh, he'd been a Catholic and all that stuff; but I talked to him about having Jesus in his heart, being ready to die, being ready to go to Heaven...all that kind of stuff. My father, literally like a little child, responded and received Jesus.

A few months ago, I visited "Jack" at another nursing home...this one in Framingham. This 82-year-old was a graduate of M.I.T. He was brilliant. But he never wanted to talk about Jesus or the Gospel. Never. He was not interested. I did not push Jack at all. THAT day, he WAS interested. We talked about Jack's terminal cancer. Jack was interested. Jack wanted Jesus. I did his funeral service just three weeks later.

Listen, the answer is not Mitt Romney. And the answer is CERTAINLY not Barack Obama. The answer is not more smugness, more pride, more intellect; DEFINITELY not more humanistic independence! The answer is also NOT more religion, per se.

The ONLY hope for America is that we humble ourselves and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord, 100%. Seriously. "What would Jesus do?" needs to not be an empty slogan but a living reality.

"The Spirit of America" needs to NOT be the spirit of smugness, pride, intellect, and independence.

"The Spirit of America" needs to be THE HOLY SPIRIT.

There, I said it.

And, as my old friend David C. Milley would say, "If you still love me, say AMEN!"

Thursday, August 9, 2012


"But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37) (New King James Version)

Chris, a middle-aged woman at the old First Assembly of God of Framingham, used to sometimes become very emotional and say, "I'm in a place I never thought I would be".

Well, spiritually, family-wise, geographically, emotionally, financially, mentally, and vocationally, so am I! If someone would have told me I would wear a somewhat simplistic and unflattering uniform and work as an Operator at a telephone answering service, I would have found that difficult to believe. And, if they told me I'd be at a "big box" store handing out flyers to people as they were walking into the store, I'd have said that would never happen. I WILL say, these experiences have been very valuable learning experiences for me. I have been told by some folks that if I ever do serve as a Pastor or as an Associate Pastor again, I will be much more empathetic and will relate much better to my congregation. I think that's very true.

I have learned a LOT from my recent School of Hard Knocks. Today, I'm going to share something about what I have learned from the second job I mentioned above. This is something that frankly depresses me, but it's something that ought to cause ALL of us to do some real SOUL SEARCHING.

In times of serious discussion and thought we struggle with questions such as,

"How could intelligent and basically nice German people of seventy years ago have led Jewish victims into the gas chambers without a twinge of hesitation or guilt?"


"How could white Americans have called African-Americans 'niggers' and 'coons' and said they 'should all be shipped back to Africa' or were 'good for nothing'?"

"How could they have thrown bricks at the school busses full of black kids that were pulling up in front of what had been all white schools?"

Sadly, most people are followers.

In two years of handing out flyers to people entering the "big box" store, I have observed that one Alpha male or Alpha female with a bunch of shoppers who happen to be filing in behind him or her will set the tone.

IF one person happily takes the flyer, and says something like, "Thank you, sir!"
THEN the next few people immediately behind that person will do EXACTLY THE SAME THING! They will smile, take a flyer, and say, "Thank you, sir!"

IF the first one says, "Hey, appreciate it!" THEN the next few in immediate proximity will take the flyers and say, "Hey, appreciate it!"


IF the first person among such a group if shoppers gives me a look of disdain, and says, "Nope, DON'T want it!"
THEN the next few will all give me a disgusted look and say, "Nope, DON'T want it!"

IF that first person says something more harsh like, "You're not gonna fool ME!"
YES, you guessed it, the next few will all refuse a flyer and say, "You're not gonna fool ME!".

What's interesting is that SOMETIMES the last person will sheepishly come back after just having passed me and ask,

"Now WHAT was that for?"

"Optical," I will add, "There's a big optical sale this month".

"Oh!" the person will then exclaim, "I NEED new glasses, I'll take it."

Am I exaggerating when I say the behavior I am describing in this piece depresses me? No, I'm not. My father used to lament that, "People are like SHEEP!"

Dad refused to grow long sideburns (like almost all other men) during the early 1970s. When I asked him why he would not grow his sideburns long, he replied, "I'm not one of the sheep."

Now, to some extent, nobody REALLY is a non-conformist. We all conform to something.

But I hope this piece causes you to think a minute.

WHY are you a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Libertarian, or an Independent, or totally disinterested in politics?

WHY are you an agnostic, or an atheist, or a Catholic, or a Mormon, or a Reform Jew?

WHY do you love Japanese cars or hate Japanese cars?

WHY are you pro-choice or why are you pro-life?

If a crowd is reacting a certain way, do you go with the flow, or do you buck the trend?

This is not as simple a matter as you might think. As an Assemblies of God minister, I wonder why some people blindly accept the Bible without any critical thought while others would not embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior if He stood right in front of them and raised 22 people from the dead.

What I've written here is what I'd love to ask EVERY one of those "followers" walking into the big box store as they take or refuse the flyer I'm trying to hand out.

Friday, August 3, 2012


"...old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (from 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Late last week, I stumbled upon the new Walpole Public Library. Our family had lived in the town of Walpole for a few years during the 1980s.. I drove into the parking lot of what HAD been the Walpole Public Library on Common Street. I was stunned to find the Library closed up, dark, and empty. A sign on the door brought me relief to know the Library had not closed but that it had moved. The sign invited patrons to the new facility located on School Street next to the Town Hall. The old Public Library was a typical 1970-ish "modern" medium-sized public library facility. The new public library building is about three times the size of the old one. Wow. It's a totally "state-of-the-art place. Framingham has a very, very nice, large Public Library. As outstanding as the Framingham Library is, this Walpole Library if just as NEW and "Twenty-First Century" as it gets! The thing that amazed me is that there is NO fee to use the library computers for the day as a non-resident. Most local municipalities charge either a dollar or two dollars to use the library for the day as a non-resident, and I think that's reasonable.

Some of you know I fell and was injured earlier this week. I had Thursday, August 2 off and I decided to drive to the Walpole Public Library, go on-line, and to later just sit at a table writing letters in a nice, quite atmosphere. Shuffling around the library facility a couple of times, it struck me that a couple traditional local public library items are missing from this new state-of-the-art library.

The first item that's missing is a shelf filled with telephone directories. Check out the reference room of most eastern Massachusetts public libraries and you'll find a shelf (or shelves) containing a LOT of telephone directories. Most will have all the Verizon phone books for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and perhaps even a few Rhode Island and New Hampshire directories. In Framingham, until around 2009, the phone directories were replaced with new and updated ones about every two or three years. Now, there's a little sign by the directories in Framingham stating they are not going to update the directories any more, and I guess the ones there are now about five or six years old. Yes, today, you can find just about anybody's address and phone number on-line so there seems to be no reason for phone books. And, most businesses gave up Yellow Pages advertising a few years ago to concentrate on their websites, instead.

The other item that's missing is a PAY PHONE. Until probably four or five years ago, the Framingham Public Library had three pay phones in their lobby. They now have just one, but I think it's great they did not get rid of pay phones entirely. As rare as it is, ther ARE still some children and some adults who do NOT have cell phones and who rely on public pay phones where they're out, well, in public! I know of a middle-aged psychologist, for example, who has made the conscious choice to NOT own a cell phone. (His wife's not really happy about that, but he does feel it gives him a measure of freedom, independence, and privacy in this hectic "always ON" world.) I'm not sure if it's the Town of Walpole that made the decision to not have a pay phone at the Library OR if Verizon refused to put one in. The main reason pay phones are disappearing is that Verizon is taking them away (as are the phone carriers in other parts of the country). Verizon argues that is costs money to maintain the phones and to send workers out to collect the coins. In most case, they're just not getting enough usage and are just not cost effective. Even so, there are now all these government programs to provide the poor with free cell phones (NO KIDDING!). I wonder if that government money would be better spent NOT providing free cell phones but rather subsidizing the cost of pay phones.

I know I am probably sounding like Methuselah here, but it seems crazy that every 7-year-old needs to have a cell phone! I got my first cell phone in 1999. and my kids got theirs in 2001. They were all teenagers at the time. I watched a classic 1970s episode of "Columbo" on a nostalgia channel last week. As part of the investigation, Columbo was examining typewriter keys and typewriter ribbons. In those days, home computers were unheard of! And, the idea of everyone having a cordless, small, portable phone was literally something out of Dick Tracy.

I know.

There were no blogs existing in 1974, either. That's true.

Twenty years ago, my father absolutely refused to have cable T.V. and very much disliked and did not understand answering machines and voicemail. It's scary that I'm feeling more like him every day! What will the world be like in 2030? Will I "fit" at all into that world, or will I just not belong. For this 57-year-old there's too much change happening too fast, and it's a little scary!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." (Romans 14:5)

I have become like many "over 50" folks in that I frequently forgot what the date is, and occasionally I even forget the DAY of the week it is. I do, however, remember certain days vividly. I must give credit to my sister Dianne for this one, because it's possible I would have forgotten: Today is August 2, 2012 and it's exactly twelve years since my mother, Virginia M. (Richard) Baril passed away. My father had died just a few weeks earlier. They're buried at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton.

I have written about my father on this blog a lot. He was a very strong personality. He would definitely qualify as an "Alpha male". I've also written that he was a very complicated personality, and he was. Well, my mother was just as complicated. (For anyone who wonders about where my eccentricities come from, I inherited all of the most extreme characteristics of EACH parent!)

Virginia was born on May 1, 1924. She loved being a "May basket". Her folks were on the older side when she was born. I think her Mom was around 36 and her Dad was around 42 at the time. They had only been married about a year at the time. They later had a son, Frank, four years later. Mom got meningitis when she was very young. She was hospitalized, and very close to death. Her very devout Catholic parents prayed for a miracle. In fact, a miracle took place. She was suddenly and dramatically healed with no ill effects! The doctors and nurses were "completely blown away"!

Mom was intense. She said many relatives described her as "high strung". She worried about, well, everything. She feared, well, everything. She desperately wanted to please others and do what was right. Mom was a very devout Catholic. She truly WAS, "more Catholic than the Pope" as they say. Immediately following graduation from a small girls' Catholic high school in 1941, she entered the convent! She was only seventeen. The convent was in New Jersey. As Mom told it, her father cautioned her that if at ANY time she wanted to leave the convent and come home, it was perfectly O.K. Mom desperately wanted to become a missionary nun to China. Knowing her as I did, I don't think that ever would have "worked" for a myriad of reasons. After around two or three years she did leave the convent and come home. She took classes at Northeastern University and had the equivalent of about a year of college. Her father believed college was no place for a woman, and strongly discouraged her getting any further education. Mom worked for a few years at an engineering firm named Holtzer-Cabot and then for several years for New England Telephone (now Verizon). My parents grew up on the same blue-collar street in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Their houses were only about a hundred yards apart- if that. They were not close at all as young children. My father had dated all these (frankly) very sexy girls who were nothing like my mother. I suspect his family steered him towards her and away from them. I know they began dating in the late 1940s and that their first date was to a restaurant in Framingham which was no more than a mile from the house I lived in for twenty-four years.

My mother was an avid reader. I don't think I've ever known such an avid reader. She loved European history, poetry of almost all kinds, and was fascinated by English royalty. I think my sister Dianne would agree that our mother had the equivalent of a Master's Degree in English literature and in medieval European history.

I gave the euology at her funeral. In that euology, I compared her to George Bailey of the famous film, "It's a Wonderful Life". Like George Bailey, she wanted to travel all over the world. In fact, the only foreign countries she ever visited were Canada and Mexico. She wanted to see Prince Edward Island, but she never got there. She very much wanted to visit France, and that trip also was never to be. Mom would love to have earned at least a Bachelor's degree, but due to circumstances beyond her control, she didn't. Mom struggled with depression for most of her adult life, particulary during her years over 40. I think in a lot of ways she felt trapped and that her life was out of control. (Honestly, I have struggled with some of those same feelings and I can relate.) Mom worked as a Payroll Clerk at Draper Mills in Canton. She made a lot of friends there, but she pretty much hated her job.
Mom longed to enjoy a happy retirement, but she did not. For years, she took care of my father who had severe dementia, and then she got cancer from which she died.

I think it would have surprised her very much that far more people came to her funeral than to my father's and that SO many people talked about how powerfully she had touched their lives. When my father died, I was honestly just kind of matter-of-fact about it. When my mother died, I completely fell apart, sobbing like a baby.

Yes, I remember the morning of August 2, 2000 very well; the passing of my Mom.