Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good Words

I have only worked with my colleague, Mark, since I joined Verrill Dana this past January.  Just before my diagnosis, the firm officially assigned him to be my mentor, although he has played that role out of the goodness of his heart since my first day on the job.  Mark is someone special, and since the day I interviewed with him, I knew I wanted to work in an office near his.  I won't embarass him with a full entry on how much I respect and admire him (until I get his permission to do so) but for now, I will explain one of the most valuable gifts he has given me, and he may not even know it (yet).

Mark is the best writer I have ever met.  He can take a memo I have drafted and with the utmost modesty, "work his magic."  Imagine the document going into a machine as a C+ and coming out as a shiny golden "A."   Mark's brain is that machine.  Even as I have typed these posts, I have thought back to the lessons he taught me about writing, and I am so thankful.

Mark's vocabulary is incredible (for instance, he would find the perfect word to replace "incredible" in this sentence).  When he told me that he improves his vocabulary by reading "Word a Day" emails by Anu Garg (see if interested), I immediately signed up hoping I could one day achieve a fraction of his genius.  Since then, I have tried my best to read the email each day, although I admit, I'm weeks behind.

I think Mr. Garg's emails are fabulous -- they include the origin of the word, an example of its usage, and a pronunciation button where you can hear the word (I have never been able to figure out how to pronunciate a word from those little codes with emphasis signals, etc.).  The emails are also fabulous for their quotes -- high quality quotes, not the cheesy kind (although I usually like those too).

A few months ago, I read a quote I loved and I mentioned it to Mark.  I remember the exact quote (from a writer Thornton Wilder) -- "If you write to impress it will always be bad, but if you write to express it will be good."  Mark laughed and turned to his computer to retrieve a file.  He brought up a Word document, over 30 pages long, full of quotes (or "Good Words" as he calls them) that he has gathered over the years.  He showed me that he had already added this exact quote to his list of others.

After this exchange, I got to thinking of what a valuable gift a compilation like this would be for my kids.  So I started my own blank document.  I ended up calling it, "My Life. For You."  For the last few months, I found myself thinking about this project often during the day, usually when I found something I was so excited to share.  At night, I would add my random thoughts, photos, quotes, song lyrics, or funny observations (like that when Brian mows the lawn with his headphones on, he sings really loud and Teddy, Annabel, and I laugh at him behind his back).  If I learned something new that day or had some little piece of advice that I'd one day want my kids to read, I wrote it down.  (It's not like I'm a fool enough to think we would actually sit at a dinner table while I recounted these things.  My kids barely listen when I tell them to take their dirty feet off the table.)  I had so much fun with this little project.  Until I found out I had cancer.

For some reason, adding to it now feels wrong, like I'm preparing for my own absence, and that was never my intent.  But today was somewhat of a turning point for me.  I don't know why, or when, or how it happened, but today I became convinced, absolutely convinced, that I will beat this.  There's a good chance that tomorrow I will feel less confident, since even as a rookie, I know the highs and lows that accompany this disease.  Yet even if I do regress, I can at least read this entry and know that today I felt certain that this cancer is curable.  Even though I'm not ready to add more to my collection just yet, I did open the document tonight and read where I left off.  And I know that document has lots more coming to it.

As you can see, this post doesn't have just one theme.  I hope it expresses my deepest appreciation for Mark, my mentor, teacher, colleague, and friend.  Maybe it makes one of you itch to jot down some thoughts that you want to be sure you pass along some day.  Maybe you sign up for those Anu Garg emails that I enjoy so much, or maybe you end up thinking I am the biggest nerd you've ever known.  At the very least, you'll have another small window into another human being's life journey.

I have turned to Mark's "Good Words" several times in the past few weeks.  I actually stole my earlier quote about courage from there.  Today I found another great one, and like Mr. Garg's emails do, I'll leave you with this "Thought for Today":

"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." (Joseph Addison, writer, 1672-1719)

There's no doubt in my mind that I've got happiness covered.  From the bottom of my heart, I hope you do too.


P.S.  I woke up this Monday morning (the morning after I originally posted this entry, to my Word a Day -- salutary, meaning beneficial, useful, remedial; healthful.  I especially like that one.)


  1. Lisa (Cardito) OliverAugust 27, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Tara, I just started reading your blog. Like many others, you've brought me to tears. To think about what you are going through while trying to balance a job, family, health, and feelings at the same time. It's really wonderful that you are sharing this personal experience with everyone. You have put a new perspective on a lot of things for me. Your words are inspirational, funny, sad, and best of all, honest. Good for you. Regardless of how you may feel, you are healthy, strong, and positive. Fight every day to keep those positive thoughts. I'm certainly not worried about that girl I went to middle school with who got straight A's and was always the best athlete. We haven't spoken in ages, but somehow, I have no doubt you will beat this.

  2. Hi Tara,

    Janice told me about your blog since she knows that all of the Lazar/Murphys
    are so concerned about you! I learned more about you this afternoon than all the times we have visited at the fun (and exuberant!) Christmas gatherings in South Boston. What an amazing writer you are and an accomplished young women. Sharing this journey will not only help you, your friends and will touch and support folks you may not even know (Russia??!!).

    Five years ago, this past May, I too received an unwelcome diagnosis and it was the most scary time of my life. Like you, I was blessed with the unwavering support of friends and family. One statement of support from a friend that stayed with me throughout was 4 simple words-”You are not alone”. I say that to you-”You are NOT alone”.

    Please know that the Lazar/Murphys stand behind you, send out prayers and positive thoughts for you as well.

    with love,

    Georgia Lazar Murphy