Occasionally, I misspell words. Like occassionally. One day spell check is going to respond: "Hey, I've corrected this word at least 350 times and you still get it wrong. What's up? Get with the program!" Definately is a word that I never spell correctly. I spelled opps the wrong way for years. Oops. And what about realize? Who wants that word with a lazy "s" when it looks so much better with a "z". Are both correct or neither? I have no idea.

For the "big Kahuna" Christmas present in 2015, I wrote a cookbook for my children. On the first day, I looked on-screen at the online cookbook template I'd chosen (and had no idea how to utilize) and I looked over at the stack of index cards filled with handwritten recipes from parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and I started typing. Transcribing recipes became dull so I added family stories. Along with the stories came family pictures chosen from a lot of pictures my father had saved and catalogued through the years.

Sidebar: the word a lot. OK - words. Sheesh. I've had a life-long issue spelling it correctly. Why require two words for correct spelling when one makes so much more sense. OK, I get it. A lot of something is like weights and measurements. Think Darwin - these two words should evolve into one: alot. Not only does it make much more sense, my spell checker becomes less testy with me.

What was originally planned as a simple, handwritten booklet, morphed into a 325 page book. Something took over my soul - and the words poured out onto the page. It was a lot of hard work - started and finished within 120 days - and by a guy who's never taken a creative writing course in his life and is somewhat (make that very, very) spelling imparied, a little dyslexic and probably more than a little ADD. And I didn't have anyone to edit it.

It's not that I didn't try. I called a few friends to help edit the cookbook but each took one look and quickly replied, "Too busy...." or "I wish I could, but...." or the most honest friend who said, "Do you think I'm crazy?! It's a month from Christmas and I have my own stuff to do." So I completed the editing myself - not the best idea from someone who can't spell and who isn't a great grammatimatician - but I could afford me and I found time to get it done. I ordered an additional 60 copies to give away as gifts to family, co-workers and close friends since I'd used all my Christmas shopping time to write. Then there was the last hurdle - the stunningly high printing price - a Christmas budget buster if there ever was one - but what the heck? In for a penny, in for a pound. Opps.

On Christmas Day, I waited with bated breath to see how my children would react to their gift. Would a tear or two have been too much to ask for? Or maybe clutching the newly minted 325 page Tom-tome and a breathless, "Best! Christmas! Present! Ever!"

What I heard was, "Really nice present...could you pass me the next one to open?" Occaisonally, I need to realize the importance of reduced expectations.

After Christmas the first call from a friend about the cookbook opened with, "Do you know you spelled ocaissonally wrong several times in your book?" Back to reduced expectations. Good grief. Did I respond with a snarky, "Occaisonally I want to get rid of an old friends..." or "Where were you when I needed a free editor?" or "At least it was free!"? No - I laughed and replied, "It is a homemade, family cookbook...not a New York Times best seller."

But it was a sell-out....OK, a give out....as all the copies were gone in a month. Incredibly, after the misspelling-of-occaisonally-call, many other friends called to tell me they loved it and wanted to know where they could buy a copy. If they noticed my spelling or grammatical errors, they didn't mention it. A few months later, my daughter said, "My friends love to read your cookbook when they come to my house!" Hey, it's not a tear, or clutching the book with unbridled enthusiasm, but I'll take it. Occaissionally.

That's me - striving for perfection and always missing by a mile. Sometimes I get it right, although never absolutely perfect. So with the occasionally comment in mind and to help with word placement, spelling, grammer (right-it's grammar - but it looks better with an "e" in it than an "a"), I hired a writing coach to help me edit and sharpen my writing skills. And you're wondering how it is for some poor soul to work with me?

Maybe it's not frustration coming through when she writes: "Did you read my edits?!?" (Yes, but I didn't agree with all of them.) And how was I supposed to know that isle starts with an "a" and it's tow-headed rather than toe-headed? I've addressed more than one email to the "Comma Queen" rather than her given name because the girl has never met a sentence where she wouldn't add another comma. I still don't get it (do I put one here or not...yep I do), but I'm working on it. And she always advises, "More details!" when I'm spare with words and "too wordy" when I'm not. And hypens-who knew there was a right and wrong way to use them (hint: used incorrectly in this sentence). And she's said this to me no fewer than a 50 times, "Tom! Take yourself out of this story!" Occaisonally I can't do that - like now. But notice the comma placement. Perfecto. I think. No - she hasn't read or edited this post which explains alot, doesn't it? A whole lot. But as I study her edits - and honestly - they're always 100% on-target and sharpen up what I've written - and then re-read my piece with her corrections, I'm amazed at the improvement. And I wonder: How she can be so damn smart and so strong in her creative writing skills? Then I remember she has a MFA in Creative Writing and her work has been published, many times. If we were to compete on who could do a better in-depth insurance policy comparison, I could whoop her creative-writing ass. So maybe insurance skills aren't the greatest when it comes to creative writing, but it's what I've got.

Many years (hopefully, many, many, many years) from now, if you are at my funeral, maybe you'll see my children walking down the isle of the Church with a tattered, very imperfect family cookbook clasped closely to their hearts and tears in their eyes And from above, I will say to myself, "Yes! Finally! And then I'll think - great job with these kids - I got it right with them if nothing else. Two pretty darn great people all from imperfect, spelling-impaired, ADD, dyslexic, impatient me."

And the cookbook ain't half bad either.


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