Perfectionism is the work of the devil.  Let us take one area, writing.  At each step, I must learn to relax and accept my work.  I have done my best and must rest.

The converse, is to tear out your hair and moan to yourself and tell yourself I could have done better (to whoever you want to compare yourself to).

This attitude is counterproductive.  Always comparing yourself to someone else’s work splits your concentration.  Being always concerned your work does not match up (to whoever) weakens your work.

To write the best you can is to accept your results at every stage of your piece.  There should be only one person you should compare yourself to:  and that is you.

You are unique.  Comparing yourself to anyone else really does not work.  No one can be you.  Trying at every stage to improve your work is fine.  But at every stage, learn to relax and accept the results.

And unfortunately when you write and are concerned whether your work matches up to anyone else, you eventually become paralyzed and stop writing because you have become too anxious.

Wanting to get better and better is normal.  And submitting your work to a trusted editor is good but learn to relax and accept your results at every stage of the piece.  This attitude preserves your sanity and enables you to keep on writing.

There is only one you and no one likes phonies so keep exploring in your writing the unique place you have in this world.  And avoid the trap of perfectionism.  Then you will continue to write the best you can.  And that should be your only goal–to become the best writer you are capable of–and you will.

I thought the tears were gone but they were not ended.  I heard the song Neil Young wrote thirty-seven years ago, “Old Man”, again and I thought of my Dad who died nine years ago.  A little later I burst into tears.

We had such a “rocky” relationship.  Most of my life he did not accept me and we argued a lot particularly about finances:  I knew I did not meet his expectations of a son.  He never told me exactly how.

The last conversation I had with him he told me he was far more impressed with the million dollars his future son-in-law made selling his company than anything I did.

I remember our conversation and was then aware it might be the last time I might talk to him.  He was ninety-one and possibly blind.  His mind was lucid but I had to talk to him slowly.  I tried reasoning with him but to no avail.

He did not value anything I accomplished in my life.  All he valued was money.  I finally gave up and left him in bed.  That was the last time I saw him alive.  He died shortly after.

Although he did not approve of my life I did know the last year or two of his life he loved me.  That was a gift but I wish he would have valued who I truly was a little more.

Anyway, hearing the song “Old Man” brought up memories of my Dad and all the years we “lost”.  I loved him despite how hard he was with me.  In the end he loved me.  That was all that mattered.

Everything is by grace.  The first dog I ever raised from a pup, “Daisy”, who died over two years ago, I missed terribly.  She was one stubborn dog and the first one that I trained.  And I trained her when she was an adult.

Her training started when I got tired of replacing broken windows in our front door.  “Daisy” would go crazy every time I left my house.  She would jump at me repeatedly and bark uncontrollably.  When she startled me once and I slammed my front door a little too hard cracking the window again, I decided despite her age it was time to do something about it.

Every time she barked at me when I was leaving the house, I would put my hands around her snout and keep them there for a short time.  When I released my hands, if she then barked I did nothing but if she did not bark I praised her.  I repeated this technique countless times.  Finally at some point I realized I broke her of the habit of barking at me frantically every time I left the house.  All I had to do was “Shush” her and she would immediately quiet down.

My wife was amazed that when she slept on our bed she would go to the furthest most corner and curl up.  She had no idea how many countless times I had pushed her away from me.

Daisy would never take her eyes off of me when I was in the same room.  She was my dog and when she died I missed her terribly.  I never thought another dog would come along like her.

Well, one did, finally to my surprise:  “Atilla The Hun” or “Tilla” for short.  Unlike “Daisy” he was very eager to please.  He was just very undisciplined.  I never had a dog that would want so many belly rubs.  I, almost, never denied him.  It was hilarious.  He would turn over every time I went to bring him in the house.  The turning point with him was when I started giving him walks.

I knew he had become my “Dog” when just about every night he would join me in the bedroom and usually curl up at the base of my bed.  He is not “Daisy” by any means but I realized God had sent me another dog.  Everything is by grace.

My daughter worked the last eight days.  She is going to spend time with me today.  Father’s Day for her had to be postponed two days.  That is the most precious thing she has–her time.  She does not have much money but she has time.  And no price can be put on that.  Time is invaluable.  Especially when that is all you have.  So squander it on the people you care about.  It is a gift.  You never know for sure when it will run out.

Today is Father’s Day:  it is not a given:  you earn it.  You earn it by doing your job right, supporting your family, going to work every day, even when you do not feel like it.

You earn it by spending time with your kids, day in day out.  Being a father is a privilege.  It is not simply genetics.  It is loving your kids even when they “mess up”.

You know damn well you are flawed.  Being a father is apologizing to your kids when you made a mistake.  God knows, we all err.

Being a father is encouraging each kid to follow his/her dreams even if that was not a path you would have followed but each kid has their own dream.

Being a father is encouraging your kid when they fall down and encouraging them to get up again and not give up.

There are so many things a father does.  Maybe the most important thing a father can do is to set the example for them to follow.  There is no more important thing a parent can do than the right thing even when it costs.  Honesty and integrity have their price.

Being a parent is forgiving your mate when he/she has made a mistake.  Being a parent (and father) is loving your wife at all costs.  Maybe that is the greatest example you can set.  Transmit fidelity and trust and love.  I can not sum up being a father in three more important words than that.

Maybe I will add another:  integrity, fidelity, trust and love.  Transmit all those things to your children and you have succeeded in your role as a father.  Being a father is a lifetime occupation.  You are in it for the long haul.  A lifetime.

No matter which way I go I hit an hill.  One way I encounter a steep incline, the other way I get a steady climb.  It is .8 mile around my block.  I walk “Tilla” one of my dogs.  He never refuses a walk.

I never forgot the time I was camping with my friend Chuck two summers ago.  There was a trail nearby (about a third of a mile) which led to the fishing pier on the lake.  Two summers ago I walked up it (it is all uphill) and in the heat and exertion I threw up three times.  It was not pleasant.

This summer I was determined to get into better shape and recapture my wind.  I never liked exercise for exercise sake.  Most people don’t.

I still get a little winded when I go up the hills.  This time I keep going.  I am thrilled my wind is returning and “Tilla” always comes running when he hears the jangling of the metal leash.

I also started shooting hoops by myself.  I have always enjoyed basketball.  I was not foolhardy enough to challenge any of the teenagers one on one.  It is amazing how a little exercise done regularly can change your conditioning.

Familiarity breeds discontent.  Sometimes paradise is in your own backyard.  For example I had no idea a large patch of raspberries lay in the furthermost right corner of my yard.  I discovered that accidentally when a surveyor came in because we had to know the exact boundary of our property.

I considered driving twenty minutes to go to a state park to go fishing.  I looked around and realized I only had to drive a few minutes to be at the shore of the River, which usually was deserted.  Paradise is always somewhere else.

I decided to stay put.  I plan on watching the sun go down on the mountains of the nearby Susquehanna River.  I simply will bring my Coleman lantern for light.  I may even build a fire to enjoy the darkness which will descend on the River.

I also considered camping there.  There is even a closer area for me to camp only mere minutes from me–Lake Heron.  Sometimes you have to take a closer look at your surroundings to determine you do not have to go far to find paradise.

Toads of all sizes keep appearing in front of our garage attracted by the night light.  You never know when a box turtle will turn up at our footsteps.  We discovered that another bird built a nest only steps away from our door.  Today I saw a bird alight on it but was not able to identify it for it flew away too quickly.

There is so much beauty in our own backyard.  I simply have to open my eyes to see what is actually in front of me.  I really do not have to go far to land in paradise.  It is here.  Right in front of me all along.  I just have to pay attention.

I am convinced God created marriage for only one reason:  to teach us how to love better.  That is the only reason, as far as I am concerned, this institution was created.

I am extremely self centered and narcissistic.  Marriage forces me to examine my foibles and flaws.  I mess up all the time and hurt my “other”.

I have to apologize and ask her for her forgiveness.  I know precisely how flawed I am although I, often, am not aware exactly how having definite blind spots.  Marriage forces you to examine your weaknesses and attempt to correct them.

Your partner sees the worst in you given enough time.  There is no doubt about that.  One never sees what goes on behind closed doors nor should they.

When we are in a primary relationship we have a chance to examine our flaws again.  First we have to become aware of them, then decide how we want to change.  Every family is dysfunctional.  The only question is to what degree.

When we are in a relationship we are forced to examine our shortcomings.  We have a chance to examine our childhood again.  Every relationship is flawed including our parents’.  When we live with someone nothing is hidden too long.

As time goes on, we have a chance to correct flaws we become aware of.  I laughed at my friend when he said marriage is “work” (that was in my single days).  I am no longer laughing at him.  Marriage is work.  Hopefully the pluses outweigh the minuses and the marriage survives.

Living with another is the hardest thing in the whole world.  It is the compromises we have to work out that insure the success of the marriage.  Living with another forces us to get out of our self-centeredness and forces us to love another human being better.

There are no easy answers to each marriage, each marriage is different.  There is no more common institution than marriage to change the other.  Too many people do not want to do the hard work it takes to continue the marriage or examine themselves and their flaws.  Thus the high divorce rate.  There are no easy answers to any marriage; it all takes time (and commitment) to one another.

Coco is a darling.  She is a mid-sized female mongrel, almost completely black with a small splash of white under her neck.  Her spirit is lovely:  she is gentle and loving.  She likes her privacy.  She will often spend hours outside by herself.  She is one of four dogs we own.

She is bowlegged and is “mouthy”:  she will grab you by her teeth although she does not bite.  She has never bitten anyone.  She is quiet and can be quite insistent when she wants to go out.

She is confident, will not beg for attention but of course likes it.  Once in awhile she will roll on her back to get a belly rub but only once in a while.

Her brother the infamous “Tilla” or “Atilla the Hun” as he is originally named, will want a belly hug almost every time he is approached but “Coco” will only ask for it once in awhile.

I love “Coco”.  Don’t tell me dogs don’t have spirits and personalities.  They all do.  Every pet I have ever had had a distinct personality.  Coco is one lovely affectionate dog.  She is just not as demanding as her brother.  I have fallen in love with Coco.

I love all my pets:  all eight cats and four dogs.  Yes, we have a menagerie.  As time goes on, I will write about the other pets, too.

It is no accident that all of us (my two sisters and I) garden.  It all started in my mother’s garden.  It was such a small garden but what an “oasis”.  She had all kinds of beautiful flowers.  I never forgot those deep red roses she had.

That does not even include our fig tree (I mourn its death), the biggest blackberries I have ever seen and the white grape vine she could not kill and finally gave up.

Even after decades I can almost visualize that garden.  Everything started there.  That does not even include the vegetables she raised.  Years later I became a produce clerk.

My appreciation of beauty started in that garden.  She introduced me to God there.  This is such a short essay.  I can not even begin to state the impact of her garden had on on my life even long after she moved from there (I must say reluctantly).

She has been dead seven years and it has been decades since I left that garden but its impact can still be felt today.

I still love looking at flowers and this year I planted eight tomato plants in pots.  I used to think that New Jersey had the best tomatoes in the whole world.  (Yes, I forgot to mention we also had tomatoes in that garden.)

There is so much I have to thank Mom for the garden she tended so carefully and lovingly.  This is such an incomplete list but I have to start somewhere.  Thank you Mom, for introducing me to flowers (and figs and so many other things).  Thank you, Mom, and may you rest in peace.

It is never too late to start gardening:  I am sixty-one and trying to find activities I enjoy and that in the process will keep me in shape.  I am gradually doing more gardening.  My wife can not physically do as much any more.

tomatoes2I love flowers and raising tomatoes.  Growing up we had a small but wonderful garden.  I always loved viewing other peoples gardens and observing the fruits of their labor.

I was really out of shape.  The first thing I did was get a personal trainer:  his rates are really cheap and “Tilla” as we call him never refuses a walk.  It is amazing to me what a little exercise can do.  I am also playing basketball in the park.  I am taking my time about getting my wind back.

In my youth I played a lot of basketball and tennis and ping pong which I loved.  I found out it was getting increasingly hard to find activities I enjoyed.  Finally I started walking my dog.  It is .8 miles around my block.  I also started mowing my lawn again (I usually hired someone to do that).  All of a sudden my sleep became solid.

Gardening is just another activity I enjoy.  The more exercise I can do the better.  I have always hated exercise for exercise sake but believed in finding activities I enjoyed and in the process got into shape.  Gardening is another activity I have just taken up.

I absolutely loved the many flowers my wife has planted on our property.  And I also love eating vine-ripened tomatoes.  Thus my incentive to garden.  It is never too late to start a new activity even at my age.  So gardening is the latest activity I have started.

How out of whack you are:  You think the worst thing in the world is our four dogs coming in from the yard tracking mud into our living room rug.  You have no sense of perspective.

There are people in the world who are dying because open sewage is running into the gutters in the street spreading disease.  We spend more money for pet food and bird seed than some families’ yearly income.

There are many people in many places in the world who can not buy something as basic as Neosporin ointment and aspirin (both over the counter items).

There are many people dying because they do not have access to medical care:  they are too poor.  People are dying in this world from AIDS because they can not get the medications that are too expensive for them to buy.

The poorest people in the United States are rich by most standards.  No, I do not particularly want my dogs tracking mud onto my living room rug and will do what I can to prevent that from happening but if you think that is the worst thing in the world, you have no sense of perspective!!!???