A Christmas Message from Megan and the Boards

Merry Christmas Heartworkers,

We are winding down the week here at the Heartworks House and want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and say thank you for all the love that has expanded our hearts this month. This note is meant for anyone who took part in our efforts or for anyone looking for inspiration to reach out beyond their own family this Christmas.

The month started with our December meeting that was filled with so many authentic prayers and continued with the night of stocking filling that seems to have expanded the lives of everyone who gathered. Our Tuesday morning meditations have been about staying grounded and honoring those who are struggling with illness and grief this year by keeping things in perspective. Our book club on December 20th was a powerful discussion on saying YES to possibility.

At Heartworks, we believe that if we keep our lives in perspective and we are not in crisis, we have the time and energy to give to people who are. Here are just some of the ways we continued the kindness we all experienced that first holiday season after September 11, 2001, to families living with grief or illness:

  • 76 lights were purchased for our fundraiser of spreading light in the darkness of illness and grief, which provided $7,600 we were able to give out to families in the form of meals, experiences, and gifts to make their holidays a little more tolerable.
  • We delivered 30 wreaths filled with prayers from over 75 women to people for whom this may be the only decoration they feel like hanging this year.
  • 44 stockings were filled with love, prayers, gift cards, candy and trinkets for children.
  • Grocery and restaurant gift cards were given out to help with holiday expenses and to encourage big family meals.
  • 5 sizable checks were given to families with serious medical bills that were deterring them from buying gifts this year.
  • A family got to go to see the Rockettes and have dinner in NYC right smack in the middle of a family health crisis
  • Families are receiving weekends away for this time when they are feeling it is just too difficult to stay home for Christmas or New Years Eve.
  • A teenage girl who has been out of school for 3 months is getting a new laptop this year.
  • Catered dinners and family gatherings are being provided for families too sad or sick to organize themselves.
  • Houses and trees were decorated for people with bigger fish to fry than putting lights up.
  • 4 gift cards given to kids living their first Christmas without their mothers so that they can buy each other gifts.
  • 19 candles delivered to light for people missing at tables this year.

Thank you for joining us in expanding the idea of gratitude and kindness. Thank you for helping us to live full lives that include such deep connections with other human beings, as well as with God.

As this year comes to a close, we look forward to our 15th year of practicing awareness, receiving, giving and gratitude. THANK YOU for believing in our mission and for participating in bringing light into the world.

XOXOXO,
Megan, The Advisory Board, and Board of Directors

How Bono Saved Me From My 17-Year-Old Self

This picture is of me at the 30th Anniversary Joshua Tree concert with my original ticket from 1987 (which cost $16.50, by the way).

This week, I went to see U2 at Met Life Stadium. While everyone else was screaming and singing along with Pride (In the Name of Love), I sank down into my seat and thanked Bono for saving me 30 years and 45 days ago. I thanked God for offering me another view of myself that night in 1987 when I was 17 years old and really, really, REALLY struggling with myself. I thanked God for Bono and for new starts in life. I thanked God for the stranger who pushed me that night. I thanked God for my husband Eddie, and my three girls, and for my lifelong friendships, and for Heartworks. I thanked God for my present life because, during the Spring 1987, I was almost swallowed whole by self-doubt, shame, and sadness.

As I sat there, I prayed for all 17-year-old girls struggling with the darkness of the unrelenting teenage mind and prayed that they, too, can experience peace when everything around them (and within them) seems broken. Bono helped me to do this in a stadium of people on May 13, 1987.

But I am getting ahead of myself….
I will give a shortened version of the story so that I can get to the part of how he saved me. I have told this story thousands of times over the past 30 years. I told this story the very next day in each of my high school classes. I told this story as a way to break the ice with girls on my hall when I started college that next fall and many, many, many times since. My friends have a bad habit of waiting for me to have a few glasses of wine and then say to whoever is sitting with us, “Have you ever heard Megan’s Bono story???” Because this question always ends up with me up on a table or chair, heart beating out of my chest, in full reenactment of the four-foot leap (some versions have the leap at six feet) onto the back of the stage, grabbing on to Larry Mullen’s drum set and pulling myself up yelling, “BONO!!!!!” and him reaching towards me with one hand while keeping the security guards away with the other.

But my mindset during this time in my life is something only a few close people know about. It is the backdrop to why that night changed the course of my life. So here is the story one more time…

On that Wednesday night, when I was a senior in high school, I went to see The Joshua Tree tour with my girlfriends. We had cut school a few weeks before and slept out all night in Leslie’s Nissan Sentra outside a Ticket Master office. We ended up with terrible seats and, about halfway through the show, we split up in search of better seats. I ended up on my own, in the very last row of the bottom section, directly in back of Larry Mullen playing the drums. Because I was 17, rules or social graces apparently didn’t occur to me, so I started to walk downward on the arm rests of the seats in front of me, balancing myself by holding onto people’s shoulders as I descended. I started getting closer and closer to the back of the stage.

Nobody stopped me and it actually seemed like everyone was actually letting me in front of them. The next thing I know, I am in the front row with nothing but a four-foot pit separating me from Larry Mullen. I was screaming and crying. I could see Bono off to the side. The Edge was to my right.

AAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

As I was screaming, all of a sudden, everything got very quiet in my head. (I swear.) And the guy next to me looks right at me, as calm as can be, and says “Go.”
I said, “WHAT???”

He looked directly into my eyes with the screaming chaos all around him. He gestured towards the stage, encouraging me to jump. I looked back at him like he was nuts.
“GO!” he firmly said again.

But this time he put his hands on my back and propelled me forward. Half of me landed on the stage and half of me was dangling down in the pit. So I grabbed onto a piece of the drum set and pulled myself up. The next thing I know I AM ON THE STAGE STANDING IN BETWEEN LARRY AND THE EDGE.

AAAAAUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

They were both laughing…I started yelling over to Bono. He saw me…he came towards me…waving off security…I jumped again, but this time away from the uniformed guards and right onto Bono. So now my legs were wrapped around Bono’s waist and we were rocking back and forth while he starts to sing Pride. I give him a big smooch and screamed “I LOVE YOU!” into his ear while I wiped the sweat from his hair onto my face (while making a mental vow to never, ever, ever wash my face again). Then he put me down and we were both singing into the microphone, center stage, “In the naaaaaaame of love! One more in the name of love…”

I SWEAR THIS HAPPENED!!!

Then he told me to hold up my t-shirt, which was a tie-dye with GIVE PEACE A CHANCE written on the front under a big peace sign. I pulled it over my head. (I had a white Fruit of the Loom undershirt under it for some reason…Did we do that in the 80s? I guess so.) So, then I held up my peace sign t-shirt and the whole stadium goes CRAZY! HA! It was ABSOLUTELY BEYOND INCREDIBLE.

The whole time I was up there I was thinking about my friends being in the crowd of 20,000 people witnessing this and that we would be telling this story for the rest of our lives. I thought about them laughing and screaming. But up there with Bono, I was also thinking about how I had spent the past three weeks of that spring of 1987. Leading up to that night, my time had been spent crying quietly in my room every night and struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Self-loathing and hatred had infiltrated my thoughts to the point that I couldn’t share my experience with even my closest friends. I had been through a rough phase of the teenage experience and, actually, when that man next to me in the seats had said “GO” and put his hands on my back to help me, it had flashed through my mind, “He’s helping me because he doesn’t know me. If he knew me he would be disappointed in me and would know I don’t deserve to get up on stage with Bono.”

But then…there I was…up there on that stage. With Bono. Out of the 20,000 people in the stadium, I was singing this incredible song with BONO. And in between thoughts of my friends freaking out in the audience, I also thought to myself…
“Maybe I’m not worthless.”
“Maybe I’m not a horrible person.”
“Maybe I do deserve goodness in my life.”
“Maybe I’m just 17 and have made mistakes.”
“Maybe I got in over my head and maybe I could start over.”
“Maybe I deserve some peace.”
In my 17-year-old head, I thought to myself that if I really was worthless, horrible, and not deserving of goodness, would I really be up on stage singing Pride with Bono????!!!

It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I had been wrong about myself.

I’m not going to say that it was an instantaneous healing, but it catapulted me into a new level of grace with myself that I’m sure would not have come anytime soon had I not had this experience. When I got home from the concert, I started talking to trusted people about how I was feeling. I learned about self-forgiveness and reconnected with God. I started to lean toward thoughts of feeling good about myself again. The tears stopped and I was able to attend graduation the next month with a smile on my face.

Bernard’s High School Graduation, June 19, 1987 with my awesome Dad.

I wasn’t a hundred percent healed, but I was no longer a hundred percent shattered. I started to understand that how we view ourselves does not necessarily reflect the truth about who we really are and what we deserve in life. It was as if when I lifted myself up out of that pit that separated the stage from the seats, I lifted myself out of the pit of shame and isolation at the same time. I could have easily stayed in that level of self-loathing for years to come, maybe even forever. But instead, May 13, 1987 was a night my self-concept took a turn, and it was all because of a stranger who gave me a push and Bono who allowed me up on that stage.

It has occurred to me over the years, that the message of “Give Peace a Chance” that was on my shirt was not solely intended for the crowd, but was actually intended for me. I have come to see it as God working through my depression to say to my 17-year-old self…

“Hey sweet girl, give peace a chance.”
“You are worthy and good.”
“You deserve good things in life.”
“You got in over your head.”
“You’re 17… Mistakes are a part of being 17.”
“I want you to give peace within yourself a chance, Megan.”

Now clearly, not everybody has a rock star unknowingly change the direction of their lives. But all of us have people that come into our lives offering us goodness and peace, usually just when we need it the most. The true bummer is that our shame can be so blinding that we don’t realize when grace is being offered. The message that was meant for me, that God had been trying to show me for three weeks prior to that concert, was written with a Sharpie on a tie-dyed t-shirt that I wore to bed for years to come and I still didn’t get the message right away.

Give Peace a Chance.
Give Peace a Chance.
Give Inner Peace a Chance, pull yourself up out of the pit, and choose peace.

So if you have a phase in your life, a single night or period of time, that causes you suffering, or perhaps you are suffering now…
Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath.
Picture God holding up a yellow and white tie-dye t-shirt that reads GIVE PEACE A CHANCE.
And follow His instructions….
Do it…
I’m serious…
Commit to giving peace a chance regardless of how bad things feel. Do this In The Name of Love… a love that supports you regardless of how deep in the pit you are. Allow it in. It’s real and it’s right next to you, looking right into your eyes amid the chaos. Trust it and jump.

Get Off the Bus this Memorial Day

I was rushing around town yesterday morning, a few days before Memorial Day. And when I say rushing, I mean really rushing, caught up in the unconscious busy-ness of life in a small East Coast town.

Darting through the parking lot I saw a United States veteran handing out poppies outside of Starbucks. I said to myself “No, no, no, no Megan! Do not go get a poppy! You will be late! There is no time for poppies this morning!!” Then I stopped dead in my tracks and remembered what happened on Ajax Mountain during a hungover bus ride to work in Telluride, Colorado during the winter of 1992. With visions of a snow-covered mountain and a bus pulled over to the side of the road, I turned and walked towards the veteran to get a poppy.

I had moved from New Jersey to Telluride for the winter after I graduated from college. Because I was not a skier, (more of a beer drinker and sitter by the fireplace in a nice ski lodge kind of girl) I worked the day shift at a childcare center at a resort while everyone else hit the slopes. This ensured my nights would be free for gallivanting. (I love this word “gallivanting” and want to commit to using it more). And gallivanting in a Colorado ski town when you are 22 is about as good of a gallivanting experience as you may ever get.

One frigid morning, on a bus headed up the mountain to the resort where I worked, the bus driver pulled over on the side of road and suggested that everyone to get off the bus. This immediately set me into a panic because I was already late (due to the previous night’s gallivanting). And I was concerned the bus had broken down. If the bus had broken down, we may have had to hike the rest of the way to the top of the mountain.

I looked around the bus at the other riders and based on their physical condition combined with the backpacks, water bottles and boots it was not going to be as much of a problem for them as it was going to be for me. I had left the house with Birkenstocks and cotton mouth due, again, to the gallivanting the night before.

Everyone got off the bus as if it was a routine stop. No questions asked. No complaining. I stayed put with my head my against the window thinking if I kept my eyes closed maybe the driver wouldn’t see me and I would just take a quick disco nap while the bus hopefully got fixed.

Well, the driver did see me and said, “Are you aware of what’s happening on Ajax Mountain this morning?” When I said “no,” he said, “Well, if I were you, I would get off this bus.” As he turned to walk away, a feeling came over me that I should listen to him.

So, I got my cotton mouth, Birkenstock-wearing ass off the bus and joined the others outside.

Everybody was facing east, so I turned and faced east. Everyone was looking up at Ajax Mountain, so I looked up at Ajax Mountain. When I asked the guy next to me what was happening he said, “They are about to do a controlled blast on Ajax.” (“Controlled blasts” are planned avalanches done for safety and maintenance reasons in ski towns). We sat for about another 20 minutes (I was reminded that I was not in Jersey anymore when there was not one complaint about this) and I then heard the bus driver say, “Brace yourselves, here it comes.”

The reason he said to brace ourselves was because unless you have seen one before, the pure, majestic beauty of an avalanche on a clear Colorado morning could knock you off your feet even though you are miles away from it. This show of unabashed nature was so beautiful, so powerful, so unscripted (even though it was planned) that it made me burst into tears and lean back on the snow bank behind me for support.

I was instantaneously snapped out my hangover and experienced a clearing throughout my aching head and tired body. I felt completely overwhelmed with a deeper understanding of life, the substance below the surface of my boyfriend troubles, concerns about my future and what I was having for lunch that day. I was in awe of something bigger than myself, and the worries that were filling my mind at the time quieted. I was the last one off the bus and the last one back on the bus that morning. We traveled the rest of the ride up the mountain in silence. Seemingly everyone else on the bus was also transformed by what they had just witnessed and didn’t want small talk to interfere with the experience (as small talk often does).

The closer we got to the top, the more anxiety of having to explain to my boss why I was late started to creep in. When I got to work I was fully prepared to explain to her that it WAS NOT MY FAULT! I was going to tell her how I had started out on time (I hadn’t) and it was this crunchy, old bus driver’s fault that had stopped the bus to force me outside to watch an avalanche. I was fully prepared to argue my case and try and get out of whatever my consequence was.

My boss’s response to me that morning, however, gave me a perspective that changed the way I viewed life from that morning forward. When I came through the door and told her what had happened, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Of course the bus stopped. And thank God you were on it. Thank God you got off it and looked east. Isn’t that the whole point of why you are here, Megan? You’re not here to just work and build a resume. You are here to be humbled enough to experience gratitude for the life you have been given. You almost missed it, Meg! Thank God you got off that bus, stood still and looked around. Thank God you were reminded today of beauty and goodness and the power of God.”

Um… I had never had this reaction to being late from a boss, a teacher, or a coach. But she was right. Since that morning, every time I get a gut feeling to get out of my routine and do something that will promote growth, I do it. Even though it doesn’t seem to make sense. The most powerful experiences of my life have not made any logical sense. So from that day forward I knew to look for situations that help me get off the bus.

Be Still. Turn and be humbled.

Get off the bus. Be still. Turn and be humbled.

Her words rang in my ears yesterday morning outside of Starbucks. It seems, in that moment I may have been missing the point of why I am here, or more importantly how I got here. When I skip supporting the veterans because “I don’t have enough time” then I am absolutely missing how I came to have this busy, full life in the first place.

I almost missed the tradition, and purpose, that lives beyond the surface of things in our free nation, just as I almost missed the avalanche if I had stayed on that bus. Spending time with our veterans helps me to be still. It helps me to grow and to see more clearly. Supporting our veterans snaps me out of busy-ness and distraction the same way that avalanche snapped me out of my hangover and tiredness.

More times than not, our generation cannot seem to collectively pull ourselves away from the gym, our kids’ practices, school activities, appointments, or sometimes even a manicure to stand with veterans and honor what they have given to us. We do not seem to be bosses, coaches, teachers or parents who say, “LET US, ABOVE ALL ELSE, MAKE TIME TO HONOR OUR VETERANS.”

We are not saying to each other “Of course you should be late or leave early this week to attend a veterans’ ceremony or buy a poppy. You’re not here to just work and build a resume. You are here to be humbled and experience gratitude and our veterans help us to do that!” This is why Heartworks doesn’t wait for the two holidays a year to roll around to honor these men and women. It’s simply not enough. We want to get off the bus as often as we can, and they help us to do this.

I am not sure what direction I was facing in the parking lot when I turned to walk towards that veteran standing outside of Starbucks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was facing east.

Let’s do whatever we have to do to get off the bus this Memorial Day, May 29th and reflect on all that these men and women have given us.

Manchester, England and our Veterans

Hello Everyone,

If you are struggling to honor the victims of last night’s Terror Attack in England, please join us at the Veteran’s ceremony today at 4:00 p.m. at the Bernardsville Post Office 7 Quimby Lane.

It will help us all to slow down and stand together in peace and reverence. The ceremony is 6 minutes long. If you have been trying to get there but haven’t been able to, read Heartworker Jen Donohoe’s speech from yesterday (included below) and it will help break through the fog of “business” and help us all to remember.

Jen’s Words Monday, May 22, 2017

“Thank you for joining us on a raining Monday. I feel so fortunate that we are able to gather here together on this fine day. Because, let’s face it – any day that we can freely gather alongside our neighbors is a good day – a great day. Just this simple act of standing together under the flag, without fear, is far fetched DREAM in some parts of the world. Standing in the rain honoring a flag is not even an OPTION for everyone – TODAY – in 2017.

And yet – I’m not going to lie – I sometime fall prey to getting caught up in the noise that all this freedom and good fortune gives me. I think about my laundry – I complain in my head about the clothes piled up at home – I even have a fabulous American made top loader (you know the one where the water fills all the way to the top?) and yet, I still find myself complaining. I also sometimes worry about what is for dinner – even though I have a really great oven and who am I kidding – awesome take out three minutes away.

What else? I worry about my kids, getting them to practice and tryouts and filling out camp forms on time – balancing all of the “important” stuff. I’m sure that all of you kids standing here have your own sense responsibility that you perhaps carry too – getting good grades, making sports teams, social situations like managing the cafeteria with friends.

Yes, in our beautiful towns of Bernardsville and Basking Ridge, it becomes easy to lose sight of the gift – the real gift that these men (and the men and women they represent fought for) represent. Standing here beside them? Looking at these brave men? Standing here in the rain with WW2, Vietnam, and Korean Veterans? I feel ridiculous complaining about my laundry, car pools and sports teams.

That is why we are here today. We must – we MUST not lose sight and get caught up in all the noise – if we do then I believe we disrespect the sacrifices that were made for us to be free – and to enjoy this freedom.

Let’s take a deep breath. Let us right now make a promise to ourselves and the memory of all the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice that we will slow down. That we will look up at our flag. That we will take pause to remember. That we will take joy in the choices we get to make. And when we get tempted to forget? Take a moment. Remember – this moment – standing here in the rain with our neighbors and our dedicated veterans and all they stand for and remember what’s important.”

Release and Let Go This Month with Heartworks

During the month of April Heartworks will be focusing on releasing and letting go. The inspiration for this theme is our annual yard sale in April.

Every year I bring up the topic of letting go of what no longer serves us. It’s a time for all of us to go through our homes, our beliefs, our relationships and let go of what is keeping us from living fully. This month is about helping us to hold loosely to the things we truly love and let go of the things that block us. For me, all of this letting go talk is easier said than done, for sure.

In any true spiritual discussion there always seems to be a theme about releasing and letting go. And this is for good reason. It has been said that letting go is the single most profound healing suggestion ever made. I say it is probably the most difficult suggestion ever made.

A magnet on the refrigerator at the Heartworks House reads: LET GO OR BE DRAGGED.

I am NOT a natural Letter Goer, so when I saw this magnet at a farmer’s market in Boulder last year I thought maybe if I see these words everyday it would help me with the letting go concept.

Sometimes it helps, sometimes I need to be all emotionally scraped up before I realize just how long I’ve been holding on to someone or something. I have been dragged thousands of times by attachments to people and things that weren’t working in my life. I have been dragged by stuff in my house, stuff in my closet, old boyfriends, friendships, work, a mindset, an emotion or view point stuck in my head.

I used to get dragged A LOT because if I’ve loved someone or something it feels unnatural for me to let go, even when it is clear we are not good for each other anymore. I tend to love so full in, be it a friend or my navy blue LL BEAN backpack that knew all of my high school AND college friends that it just seems insane to let go. As if the memories and stories would evaporate with the word “goodbye.” I forget that with the exception of very few people and things, relationships and backpacks are meant to serve a purpose and then move away from me or me from them. It’s the way life works, and yet it is always hard for me to say goodbye.

In the past few years I have gotten better at releasing. And by “better” I mean when I cleaned out a drawer a few months ago and found pictures of my daughter when she was a baby that had gotten wet and stuck together, I threw them out instead of googling how to get pictures unstuck or sending them away to a lab somewhere. This felt huge for me.

When I recently redid my living room over my daughters objections, their questions were “Your going to get rid of that cushion? Didn’t Grampy sit there when we were little?” “How can you paint this room mom? Its been yellow our whole lives! Now it’s going to be blue?” “Did you take pictures so I can show them to my kids when I’m grown up what it looked like when I was little?” And “Where are we going to sit next year to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas?”

So clearly I can still use some practice this month because now I have apparently dragged my kids along with me!! And let me be clear about something- it’s not that the other people or things do the dragging- I grip on and allow myself to be pulled when I refuse to let go.

It is almost always impossible for me to let go of things I misperceive as nostalgic or meaningful. I make things permanent that are not meant to be permanent. I had to set a boundary with my 45 year old sister in law a few weeks ago while she was cleaning out her closet. The boundary was “If you wore it in high school it’s time to let it go.” She disagreed on many well preserved stone washed jeans and diagonally cut sweatshirts.

What she was doing was trying to make something permanent that was not meant to be permanent (Thank you Fashion Gods). I knew what she was doing because I do it too. I forget that just because I love someone or something and they were meaningful during a specific time in my life, that it doesn’t mean I have to hang on to it FOREVER. Again, this can be anything from a sweater or a chair to a relationship or viewpoint.

I dig my heals in and stay in the clutter of my mind, my memory or my garage. I make the unconscious choice to stay cluttered in a misguided attempt to avoid the feelings of letting go. I like the thought of my high school notebooks being up in my attic. I need to know where they are in case Bono calls for an album cover idea. I like my father’s wool sweaters piled up in my closet, even though I have absolutely no room for them. I am sure that if we had texting and Facebook back in 1969 I would still be friends with the infants that were next to me in the nursery at New York Hospital.

It is soooo me to live in the house I grew up in. I love it. It is home. I have lived other places, but it is only in a white house with black shutters, two houses in from Olcott Ave. and half a mile from my high school that I actually feel at home.

When I lived in Colorado nobody could understand why I continuously flew home to New Jersey. I flew home for every holiday, family birthday and any other excuse I could find to leave the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in order to be home on Old Army Road.

Then I Married a boy I passed a thousand times in the hallways during my childhood and teen years and who’s childhood house is 8 miles from mine. When one of my closest friends bought my husband’s childhood house a few years ago it made me so happy! I didn’t have to let go of MY house or HIS house!! This was clearly WIN/WIN in my not let go of anything head.

The major problem with this is that there are two guarantees in life , change and loss. I am not a fan of either one and so I must continue to work on this letting go thing. And this is what we plan on doing this month at Heartworks…work on sorting through our closets, homes, minds and emotions and see what presents itself.

At this month’s Heartworks meeting we will commit to releasing in our homes, relationships, emotions and ideas that need to be thrown out, passed along or sold at our yard sale. In preparation for the meeting I am CONSIDERING letting go of :

  • 2 black side tables I love but have nowhere to put them since I painted my living room
  • My parents’ 1974 edition of World Book Encyclopedias (these will FOR SURE cause a stampede at the yard sale)
  • The concern of what people think of me and if they understand what we are trying to do at Heartworks
  • SOME my Dad’s ties that have been hanging in my closet since he went to Heaven in 2005
  • A picture I bought when we first moved back into Old Army Rd that I have nowhere to hang anymore
  • Negative thoughts about myself that serve no other purpose other than to beat myself up.

So please join us in the intention of releasing and letting go during the month of April!! We are accepting items for our yard sale on Thursday April 21st at the Heartworks House- it is a fun weekend of purging and then shopping!!

Heartworks Snow Day Prayer

Heartworks would love to have you join us at 3:00 today to pray for anyone you know who is stressed or fearful of this snowstorm due to their life circumstances . Lots of different prayers can be said. Here is a start to a list of people that come to Megan’s heart. Please expand this list and include anyone you know who could benefit from prayer in this storm . This can include anyone you see on the news, the internet or that you know personally. Light a candle if possible and let it burn for the rest of the day. XOXOXOXO

We can start with praying for:

  • All Policemen, Firemen and EMTs that are out helping people
  • That all medical professionals get to their jobs safely
  • Everyone who is home struggling with depression and anxiety
  • Everyone who is home dealing with illness
  • Everyone who feels isolated and lonely
  • Everyone who is grieving
  • Everyone who must get to medical appointments
  • Everyone without heat
  • Everyone without a home
  • Everyone who has nobody to check on them
  • Everyone struggling because they truly must get somewhere in a car that doesn’t do well in the snow
  • Everyone in the hospital separated from the rest of their family
  • Everyone who is at home but depend on meals at their work or school
  • Everyone who is unable to stay in a safe, warm place

Please add on all your own personal intentions and let’s send some serious love out into the world

PS- If you have anyone or groups of people who you want prayers for please post a prayer request

PSS – You don’t have to wait until 3:00!! We can be in a state of prayer and awareness all day…at 3:00 it will be a collective prayer but pray all day and see how it grounds you and helps you reach beyond the walls of your home into a deep sense of love and connection

PSSS- When I told Advisory Member Jen D about the 3:00 prayer, she wants us to do more…
She says “Yes pray but also call someone on this snowy day….reach out…connect…step outside your own bubble”
Thanks Jen! XOXO

To Live the Fullness of Life

On December 6, 2016 one of the people I have loved most in my life returned home to God at the age of 54 after a fourteen year journey with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. I was privileged to spend her final days by her bedside with her family. Mary and I had a glass of wine together on Thanksgiving Day and a week later her doctor told her there were no effective treatments available to help her live any longer. After fourteen years, she went from that glass of wine to hospice within a week.

Mary remains one of the best friends, one of the best laughs, one of the purest connections I have known in my life. And for the record, I’ve had a lot of friends, a lot of laughs and a lot of pure connections in my life.

But this blog is not about Mary’s death. This blog is about the way she lived, and how the way she lived is helping all of us to live without her. I am telling this story because I know it will help anyone given a life threatening diagnosis. It will give those who are healthy a valuable perspective on how to live. It will give families that are grieving an understanding of what the invisible force is that is sustaining them when they do not feel it is possible to be sustained.

Andrew and Mary with Father Larry on their wedding day September, 1989

In 2002 when Mary had three small children and was given a diagnosis of Stage 4 Breast Cancer, she turned to her Uncle Larry, a Catholic Priest, for guidance. The story of the conversation with Father Larry goes like this:

“Father Larry, I’ve been given this diagnosis and I’m afraid. My kids are so young and I don’t know what to do. I want to live a long life and stay here with everyone. What can I do Father Larry?”

The words Father Larry gave her that day fourteen years ago were the words that I referenced as she lay in the bed looking at me during her last week of life.

Father Larry had said to her “Mary, it’s not so much about how long you live. I know you want to live to see your children grow up, but the truth is that we have no control over that. But what I wish for you, Mary, is to have the fullness of life. Be humble, be kind, and live the fullness of life, dear Mary”

And so over the years, we would talk about this, about mentally staying out of the parts of life she had no control over and focusing on the fullness of life that was within her reach. Things like telling people she loved them. Being kind and helpful. To laugh… often and hysterically even in the face of a nightmare. To attend her children’s sporting events whenever possible. To participate in Heartworks even when it was from bed. To create deep and lasting friendships that will prevail regardless of how long she lived because they are based on how she lived instead.

These words from Father Larry helped her to appreciate every glass of wine, every meal she got to cook for her family, every party, every night in, every celebration and milestone. She lived it all as fully as she could.

So when she was coming to terms with the fact that her life was ending (this happened along with comments like “This is so bizarre Megan, I’m going to see God in a few days”) Father Larry’s words became my response to all her concerns.

“Do the kids have dinner tonight, Megan?”
“Yes Mary, the fullness of your life is taking care of dinner tonight”

“I don’t want to miss Teddy and Maddy’s graduations”
“I know Mary, but the fullness of your life will be there”

“I don’t want Drew to have to miss work to come home”
“ I know, but the fullness of your life will figure all that out for Drew”

“What’s Andrew going to do without me?”
“The fullness of your life will take care of him”

“I don’t want to leave yet, I want to stay”
“I know Mary, (sob, sob, sob) but listen to me….you will never be gone. You’ve lived the fullness of life, so there are enough friends and family to support the kids and Andrew. There are enough fun memories to last all of our lifetimes. The fullness of the stories and the laughs will sustain us all. You have created enough love, friendships, connections and support to last long after your physical body gives out, Mary.”

And with each answer she would simply nod her head, and say “Ok, I’m going to trust in that”. Then she would close her eyes and rest.

This picture of Father Larry sits on Mary’s bookcase.

I witnessed the fullness of her life fill in the impossible emptiness of that final week and the weeks that have followed. It is the fullness of her life that shows up everyday, in one way or another for her kids and husband, for her siblings and extended family and friends.

The fullness of her life shows up… sometimes in the form of a lasagna, sometimes in the form of a phone call or note left in the mailbox. It shows up in laughs and stories and in the plans her children are making for their futures.

This is how I know the fullness of our lives out lives our physical bodies. I know this because I am witness to it. I will get to be a part of the fullness this week when I meet Mary’s bestie for lunch. We will sit over lunch (and wine) and laugh and cry and live in the fullness of Mary’s life.

It has been 70 days since we last heard Mary’s voice. Everyone who loves her is walking through winter with hearts broken open. And the only thing that can effectively fill a broken, open heart is to continue living the fullness of life she created in spite of the ending of a life we never wanted to end.

Thank you Mary for living in such a way that we get to live in the fullness you have left us. Thank you Father Larry for offering words all those years ago that I was able to use with her when no other human words made sense.

Mary and I at the Heartworks fundraiser in 2015.

So for 2017 my wish for every human being is that you live the fullness of your life. My hope is that by focusing on this, in whatever situation you find yourself in, you are brought to a level of unexpected peace and certainty that the fullness of our lives plays a role much bigger than the space our physical body occupies.

The fullness of the relationships and connections we create in this lifetime is what will help us in our final days and will help all the people we love that are left behind.

Cheers, Mary. We will love you and miss you forever.

Megan’s Thoughts this Thanksgiving

Every single year at this time, I think about Thanksgiving week, 2001- how it had been 10 weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

It had been 72 days since we had seen my brother-in-law John, heard his voice, or sat at a table with him. The days leading up to that Thanksgiving Day seemed to be drenched in thick molasses.

We had managed getting cornstalks and 4 pumpkins onto my sister Maryanne’s front steps, one for each of her kids. We had managed costumes and a fun night of trick or treating, mostly due to my brother flying in from Chicago and showing up in a form fitting Super Man suit.

There is something about the holidays that causes us to expect our loved ones to come through the door regardless of how long they have been gone. Maybe this is due to cellular memories triggered by things like scents, the changing weather and the feel of anticipation in the air, causing us to believe it’s possible.

As Thanksgiving week of 2001 approached, and traffic increased in town, a part of my brain still went to, “Well, surely John will be here for Thanksgiving. How can he miss Thanksgiving?? How can we have turkey with out John?” He had been at our family table every year since I was eight years old. I had no memories of a Thanksgiving without John Farrell.

The bottom line is, it seems impossible for it to be a holiday when someone you love, and is part of the fabric of your life, is gone.

This is why at Heartworks, the kindness foundation I created In my brother-in-law’s name, we do whatever we can to make the first holiday during illness or death as manageable as possible.

If cooking is healing for someone, but they can’t get themselves to the store, we do the shopping for them. If the thought of doing the dishes feels too much, then we bring people beautiful paper products (I am a full blown paper product snob so I insist on colorful turkeys plates with big lush napkins, sturdy table clothes and gorgeous centerpieces!)

We deliver breakfast to help give some direction first thing that morning, cook full dinners or give a gift card to go out, knowing that sometimes it is simply too painful to be home. After having been through a Thanksgiving in which we were at the mercy of God and the kindness of other people, I simply can’t sit at my table until I have done for others what was done for us during our impossible first year.

Here are suggestions that my family has done. I hope these will help with Thanksgiving this year if someone you love will not be at the table or is too sick to carry out your regular traditions.

~ Do whatever works for you in terms of the day. If you need to stay in bed and eat a cheeseburger, stay in bed and eat a cheeseburger. You can have turkey and stuffing next year.

~ If there are children and other family members to consider (making bed and the cheeseburger a non-option), try lighting a candle as a symbol of the person you are missing. We lit a candle that first year, as soon as we woke up and it helped more than you would think it would.

We needed to acknowledge the struggle, light the candle, say, “Happy Thanksgiving, John.” The candle made it easier to move around the kitchen in preparation for dinner. The candle came with us into the family room to watch football, back to the kitchen to check on the bird and eventually to the table. The candle allowed us to be sacred in our experience of this first Thanksgiving, and yet, at the same time do what needed to be done in order to have as normal as a day as possible for my nieces and nephews.

~ Give yourself time before other people wake up or arrive at your door to have sacred space with your person. My father passed away very unexpectedly in 2005. If you drive by my house early any holiday morning, you will see me outside in my pajamas with bed head in full force, crying and hugging the tree Heartworks planted for my father.

I create my quiet time with him before the chaos of the day begins. Every holiday before I speak a word to another human being, I am out there in my yard, hugging that tree. It helps. And if it feels too scary to spend time alone, ask a trusted person to do it with you. I have found in over 20 years of counseling people through grief that it does not help to try and avoid the tears…. it is better to create a set time to have the cry and then carry through with the rest of the day.

~ When someone who loves you offers you help, just say yes. Last year one of my besties, in treatment for breast cancer, wouldn’t let me come over and vacuum for her the day before Thanksgiving. Don’t do things like this. It keeps God at bay. Just say yes to any help that comes at you. Help coming at you is God coming at you… even in the form of vacuuming.

~ Don’t be afraid to break (or keep) traditions. If you need to go to the movies and forget it’s Thanksgiving, then go to the movies and forget it’s Thanksgiving. This may not be what your mom needs or your uncle needs, but if it’s what YOU need, make it happen.

~ Place items on the person’s empty seat with things that remind you of the person. That first Thanksgiving, we filled John’s seat with lots of things, like the kid’s school projects, a Whoopee cushion, and a football. The most vivid item in my memory is the tackle box that my nephew Patrick, (9 at the time) bought as he waited for word from his dad. He wanted to give it to his dad when he came home. So now it sat on John’s empty chair for Thanksgiving dinner.

~ Fill the days leading up to the holiday with prayer. Pray non-stop all day. Ask your friends, church, book club and anyone else you can think of to pray for you as well. Fifteen years ago my family received prayers from all over the world. In my sister’s house, in the weeks following the attack, when I closed my eyes at night, I was grateful for each and every prayer that got us through another day.

~ And finally, know that the day will come to a close, and you will have lived through it. Know that you will not be alone in your struggle and that you are surrounded by love.

I share these ideas in an attempt to help anyone who has an incomplete table this year. For everyone who does have a full table, let’s honor the worry and grief of others. Let’s take nothing for granted. Let’s not get caught up in preparations.

Let’s pray throughout the day for families not having an easy go of it this year.

Thoughts on Our October Meeting

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Tuesday Night’s Meeting

I sat alone at the Heartworks House long after I said goodbye to the last Heartworker on Tuesday night. The energy in the house was solid, connected and blessed and I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. To be honest, the hours leading up to the meeting made for a very long day. Last month we had 31 families on our “sacred table” and afterwards I said to the Board “It’s too much, we have to cut back.” But how do we cut back? How do we know what we know and then cut back? How do we see what we see and then cut back? How do we feel what we feel and then cut back? The answer is we don’t. We can’t. We won’t.

Sometimes I just want to be a girl that goes to the mall. Sometimes I just want to be a girl that wakes up and focus’ on her workout and blocks it all out. But I can’t. I have never ever, not even for a minute, in my entire life have been able to do this. There is a price I pay for being who I am. I know this price… I think about in all sorts of ways, everyday. When I was 8 I would walk into the room while my parents were watching the news, see that a man had been shot in The Bronx and start to cry and demand to know where The Bronx was and ask why we weren’t going there to help the man that was shot. I have never been able to have much distance between myself and other people’s suffering.

Heartworks is not always easy, but it gives me a way to do something about the human struggles we come across every day. This past Tuesday was one of those days that I was exhausted from the heaviness of the stories and not managing it well. Sometimes I am so tired that I say to my Advisory Board “What are we doing? Are we even making a dent? Is this all worth it?” And I have days like Tuesday that I feel so overwhelmed that I’m dropping “F” Bombs as I’m putting prayer books out on the table to be signed 🙁 … And then we have a night like Tuesday night. A night where Olga walks through the door for her first Heartworks meeting ever.

Olga lives in Bedminster but leaves for Florida next week. She’ll be moving in with her mom to be closer to her son who just started college there. She’ll be traveling next week with a U Haul van filled with her belongings, and the tumor that rests inside her brain. But after tonight, her possessions include a gift bag filled with magazines and snacks to enjoy in the private room during the 17 hour train ride we offered her when we found out she was DRIVING WHILE ON HER MEDS, WITH A BRAIN TUMOR TO FLORIDA.

How does a human being sleep when she knows another human being, with a brain tumor, is driving herself from New Jersey to Florida?? I complain most times I have to even drive to Target. Perhaps a human being who doesn’t know about someone like Olga sleeps. But once you know…you know…and then how can you not do something? And so we are doing something. Because of all of you showing up Tuesday, we are able to pay for her to load her U Haul van onto a train and then go rest in a private room with a bed eating Cheetos and reading about Brangelina for the rest of the trip.

Because of the donations that continue to come into Heartworks, we can do something like this. And sweet, powerful, faith filled Olga will be able to lie her head on a pillow with Amtrak etched across the pillow case and get some sleep. The rest of us now will be able to put our heads on our own pillows and sleep, knowing that the teeny tiny section of the world that God has asked us to watch over (a 21 hour stretch from New Jersey to Florida) is being taken care of.
I wish that this felt like we were doing enough, but it never does. I’m working on this …seeing my energy worker at 8:45 tomorrow morning for assistance with this :). As I return to the Heartworks House after my appointment it will be so full of love that all I will be able to say is thank you to everyone who came to Tuesday’s meeting, thank you to Olga for receiving, and thank you to God for the opportunity to be alive…and like Nicky, who we learned had passed away after a journey with Cystic Fibrosis taught us, be grateful for every breath we are given, because he was. Every Heartworks meeting seems to teach us ways to be more connected and awake to what is happening in the world around us and this continues to help me move through this unpredictable and fragile life of ours. Thank you for your part in my lessons, see you all next month.

What’s your mantra

A few weeks ago I was sitting at Design Squared, a Web Hosting company in Bernardsville with my friend Kathy working on our new Heartworks website. As usual, when Heartworks is the topic, the conversation moved from surface to depthful very quickly and we found ourselves talking about experiences we have had in life that have brought us to our knees.

Kathy’s co-worker John shared a story about when his brother-in-law was given a terminal diagnosis his mantra was “Someone else is carrying a bigger bag of hammers”. John said this as if this phrase was as common as “Have a nice day”.

When I asked him what the hell “Someone else is carrying a bigger bag of hammers” meant, he smiled in a way someone does when they know a secret. He said that to his brother-in-law, it meant that although his diagnosis was a tough one, there was somebody, somewhere, carrying a bigger burden than his own. He said this mantra brought his brother-in-law comfort and made sense of the senselessness in his mind.

I love learning new phrases that help people and I started to use this hammer one in the days that followed. One of my own personal favorites is “Thank you God that this problem is manageable.” I started saying this a few years ago and use it mostly when something that is truly just a surface issue is getting the best of me. I remind myself that “this problem is manageable” meaning, it’s do-able…I have options…it’s just part of the static of life and not worthy of pulling me under.

manageableblogBecause I have been in situations that have not felt manageable and have pulled me under, this phrase serves as a reminder and helps me prioritize if a circumstance is worthy of flattening me or if it’s just a part of the fluff of life… like when I came to after being knocked unconscious in a car accident on an icy Colorado highway in 1992, to find myself sideways on Rt 70 with speeding cars slamming into me, this did NOT feel manageable; the 25 hour car ride back to the East Coast from Boulder on September 12, 2001, not knowing if my sister’s husband was alive or dead did NOT feel manageable; and sitting next to my father in 2004 during cancer on days he could barely open his eyes, did NOT feel manageable.

So, for me when my daughter doesn’t make it onto the “A” team, or the new rug I want is backordered 8 weeks or even when I’m totally uncomfortable in a disagreement with someone I love, I remind my brain that “this is manageable” and it keeps me from giving the issue unnecessary attention and energy. It also often gives way to another favorite, “This too shall pass.” Mantras give our minds something to focus on instead of getting overwhelmed with the details of the story we are tempted to play over and over in our head. Mantras help us stay in line with the universal flow and keep us out of chaotic thinking. Mantras have helped carry people through some of the toughest times, and they offer us a direct connection with a truth bigger than ourselves.

I was reminded of these awesome aspects of mantras yesterday when a friend called me, looping in negative thoughts and asking if I knew of anything that would help her. She was having a party at her house, and as the ego does (especially before a party at your house) it had started to feed negative thoughts to her mind.

“I need new pillows in the family room, I should have gotten the kitchen cabinets painted, ugh! I never got those pictures framed, this bathroom sucks….” and on and on and on. Now, let me point out that this party banter with the negative, surface thoughts are coming from someone who has been in the “unmanageable.”

Trust me, three years ago when her son was diagnosed with a rare cancer, she spent an entire year in the unmanageable, and she has spent the past two years training her mind to re-familiarize itself with calm and quiet. And now here we were, calculating how many mums and pumpkins it would take to keep her from spending thousands of dollars at Home Depot and Pottery Barn before Friday night. As faith would have it, I told her, I am on a mantra kick and YES I had something that would help her…

“Thank you god for this manageable problem”

Three years ago she would have given ANYTHING to have a sucky bathroom be her problem of the week and yet, in the absence of the bigger life challenges (thank you God) her ego needed to cling to floppy pillows and dated cabinets in order to entertain itself. “OOOHHHH, YES!” She said, “That’s all this is…. got it” And that was last I’ve heard from her about the frameless pictures.

So these conversations got me thinking further about the power of mantras to help us stay on track either during life’s seemingly impossible times or when we need help keeping perspective in our day to day lives. This lead me to wondering about what other people’s mantras are and how they help, so, at our October meeting tonight (Oct. 4th) there will be a table set up to write down a word or phrase that helps you cope.

Then we are going to hang these cards up on a ribbon with clothes pins (I found the CUTEST polka dot and striped clothes pins EVER) and at the end of the meeting everyone can choose another Heartworker’s mantra to bring home and start using. So, please join us Tuesday night (tonight) for wine, cheese and crackers and the answer to the question “What’s your mantra?” Let’s never ever take for granted the many ways we can help each other feel connected to God and if you need a push to get you out of the house…use a mantra.
See you tonight!!!