A thank you, 14 years later

thankyoublogThe days leading up to the anniversary of September 11th always feel a bit like a reunion. Revisiting emotions from 14 years ago… the terror, numbness, shock and panic all pool together in my mind’s eye with vivid visions of…

The call from my brother to turn on the news
Crawling up the stairs to get Eddie
A silent Colorado church filled with people
The pizza Kirsten brought us for dinner
The unsteady tone of my father’s voice
The 25 hour car ride back home to New Jersey
The eerie, empty streets of my hometown
Sleeping at my sister’s with my parents and siblings
Waiting for John to call and tell us he had survived

All of us gathered in the family room to tell my nieces and nephews that their father wasn’t coming home. The cries and moans that filled the room after I spoke.

This thank you is because now when I reflect on that time 14 years ago, it is impossible for me single out these horrific visions, because they are unfailingly linked with memories of…

Cups of coffee left at the front door
My sister’s dining room table covered in cards
Streets lined with flags
Father Capik running out of Holy Communion at the memorial mass
Lasagna, lasagna, lasagna
Strangers’ hugs in the grocery store
Rides being organized for soccer practice
Cookies delivered in a shoebox
Four pumpkins appearing on the front steps
My sister’s house filled with friends
Phone calls from dawn to dusk
Funds set up and bills paid for
Her kids being taken out for ice cream
The lawn mowed and leaves raked
Milk and eggs delivered before we awoke
And on and on and on…

The kindness shown to my sister’s family in the days, weeks, months and years after the terror attacks on our country shifted my families understanding of community and compassion in ways that can not be measured or explained. Heartworks is a daily, public thank you to each and every person who reached out to the families of September 11th through prayer, a gesture, an offering or act of kindness. Through my witnessing of the compassion shown following the attacks, and the daily participation of Heartworkers over the past ten years, I have come to understand that every single act of kindness is an exemplification of human hands being instructed by the invisible mystery of the universe to show us two truths:

That although suffering is interwoven into the human experience, we are not alone and we are deeply loved.

Because of the response led by first responders, our military and every day citizens, the paralyzing memories of 14 years ago are coated with love, and it is this love that makes the anniversaries tolerable. Thank you for this and for so much more.

Reflection: Please pray today for all the suffering in the world and honor it by not sweating the small stuff. Gain perspective by revisiting your experience in September of 2001 and live the way you vowed you would, if even for a day.

Thank you Wayne Dyer

dyerblog1I was rushing around Sunday night getting my girls settled before the start of Bachelor in Paradise (please refrain from judgment) and I was looking for toothbrushes. My little Mary does not understand why, in her perception, I’m “always asking her to brush her teeth”. I explain that asking her to brush twice a day is a pretty standard procedure in most households. She disagrees. I stood with my three girls in the bathroom as they rocked out to the only reason why Mary still has teeth in her head – a toothbrush that plays a One Direction song while she brushes so that she can dance along side her sisters.

While in the bathroom, I got a text from Heartworker Kelly that brought me to tears. One of the greatest spiritual teachers on the planet had died. Wayne Dyer was one of the most brilliant and truthful souls alive and his children posted that “he left his body, passing away during the night”. My heart is broken wide open that he is no longer walking around spreading some of the most direct love from God that we could ever hope to experience.

I was introduced to Wayne Dyer when I lived in Telluride, CO when I was 21 years old. I would listen to his audiotapes on my Walkman as I wandered through the magnificent San Juan Mountain range. His calming voice and the assurance he offered that “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience” affirmed the way I had always viewed life. My year in Telluride was a time in my life that I was just about as lost as I could be. I had loved college and it was over. I loved my family and my wallpapered bedroom in Bernardsville and yet had moved to Colorado. I was in the in-between space of no longer being a kid but by no means did I feel like an adult. I had ideas about my future but all of them terrified me. I was in love with two boys at the same time, one had been my whole world on a tiny New England campus for the past four years, and yet the second one made me feel more at home than I had ever felt in my life.

I was at a crossroads and stumbling with every step. Listening to Dr. Dyer’s voice of clarity coming through my yellow Sony head phones calmed me. Although I was not yet able to practice what he was teaching about trusting God, staying in the moment and meditation, I was still comforted by the ideas. Life felt like it was swirling around me and all I could do was watch it pick up everything I thought was permanent and either destroy it or place it somewhere that was completely unfamiliar. My anxieties kept telling me I could not quiet myself enough to meditate, but just the fact that there was such a practice, just the fact that there was someone like Wayne Dyer who saw beyond the veil of the Earthbound world gave me great hope. I would listen to him and say “YES, YES, I always knew that was true!!” He gave affirmation to the parts of myself I had not yet come to understand. I understood him and felt that if we met, he would understand me too. This is a very comforting feeling for a 21 year old girl walking away from the expected path, walking away from all that she had come to know and walking alone in the San Juan mountains.

Years later, long after I had chosen the right man for me, moved back to New Jersey with him and had two of our three baby girls, I was watching Dr. Dyer on PBS and was glued to the TV, hanging on to every word he said. During this particular broadcast he was up on stage and introduced a woman named Immaculee IIbagiza. Immaculee survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide huddled in a bathroom with seven other women for 91 days….YES 91 DAYS IN A BATHROOM WITH 7 OTHER WOMEN.
Rwandan genocide?? When the hell had that happened??? In 1994 I was drinking craft beers on a rooftop bar in Boulder, CO….nobody ever mentioned a GENOCIDE IN RWANDA!! And if they had, I would not have even known where Rwanda was…Jackass. JACK- ASS.

With this single introduction of Immaculee on PBS, Wayne Dyer transcended my life yet again as I gazed upon another great teacher. As I looked at her, my mind filled with shame at my 25 year old, 1994 self that was choosing which homebrew to have with my burger while Immaculee’s 22 year old self was hiding in a bathroom while her two brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were among the one million people being murdered in a genocide I didn’t even know was taking place. I walked up to the TV and placed my hand on the screen. I told my new teacher Immaculee that I was sorry about what happened to her and that now that I knew about her 91 days in the bathroom and the loss of her family, I would help her spread her message of forgiveness and hope.

So the reason why I am telling you about Wayne Dyer and about Immaculee is because both of them are entwined in the beginning story of Heartworks. Dr.Dyer because he spoke about all the things I ‘ve always thought to be true but was too young and insecure to believe my own truth. He was part of the fabric of support I had in younger years that helped me understand and navigate the truth of spirituality and in turn be able to eventually create the concepts of Heartworks. After I read Immaculee’s book, “Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust” I was obsessed with her and how she came to be able to forgive the men who killed her family. I spoke about her at meetings. I gave her book to my friends. And when I learned that she was speaking in New Jersey, I took a carload of Heartworkers to go see her. After the presentation ended the audience was encouraged to stand in a 3 ft x4 ft replica of the bathroom with 7 other people to get an idea of the cramped space she lived in for 3 months. Ummmmmmm…. Even though the replica only went up to my knees, I felt claustrophobic after a minute and it put every single thing in my life in perspective.

The second we get in the car I announced “WE NEED A REPLICA OF THE BATHROOM FOR HEARTWORKS MEETINGS!!!” and by the next month’s meeting my friend Shellie had made me one (thank you Shellie). Starting that month, every time you came to a meeting I greeted you at the door by saying “Hello, welcome to Heartworks, in an attempt to keep our problems in perspective, please grab a glass of wine and go stand in Immaculee’s bathroom with 7 other people!!” This was back in the days when we had Heartworks meetings at people’s homes and every month I would lug the replica to the host’s house, set it up and force people to stand in it!!! I love that even though I was a crazy woman with a 3 ft x 4ft bathroom replica, most of you kept coming back and stood in the bathroom!!

Since then, numerous Heartworkers have read Left to Tell and have had their lives transformed. So this is why I grieve the death of Wayne Dyer. A man I never met, but whom I adored. He was a pebble thrown into my lake over 25 years ago and the ripple it caused was a major part of how and why Heartworks came to be in the aftermath of September 11th.

Today I pray for everyone who is grieving and honoring him. Especially Immaculee, who remained dear friends with Dr. Dyer and continued to travel with him to speaking engagements. I also pray for my famous pretend friends Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Ellen DeGeneres who love him dearly.

When my girls gather at Mary’s tooth brushing dance party tonight in my bathroom that is twice the size of the Immaculee’s (but I have been known to complain about) I will think of her and Dr. Dyer and the impact they have both had on our group and I will say thank you while One Direction plays in the background.

Reflection: If you are struggling with the idea of forgiveness, please read Left to Tell, It will help you. Attached is the PBS episode when Wayne introduces Immaculee, if you watch it, it may be most impactful 14 minutes you spend today.

The Heartworks Cure for Boredom

boredblog1Anybody who really knows me knows better than to ever say to me

“Hey Megan, I’m bored.”

Because they know that if they tell me they’re bored, my head will pop off my shoulders and I will start rambling off a list of world needs and all my ideas about organizations, groups and efforts they could start, including, but not limited to….

A group that makes weekend snack bags for kids leaving school and may not have much food available at home

A group that rakes leaves all Fall for Veterans, shovels their driveways in winter and mows their lawns in the spring.

A group that organizes our town to send daily letters to local military serving over seas

A group that stands in front of grocery stores every Saturday and collects food for the Food Pantry

A group that organizes holiday necessities for families who don’t have the funds for Halloween costumes, Christmas presents etc…

A group of kids to “buddy up” with classmates with physical, emotional or mental issues and could use some extra love at lunchtime in the cafeteria

A group that does food shopping for homebound and elderly people in our town

And so on and so on…..

When I can’t fall asleep at night I lie in bed and think of ways anyone who is bored in Bernardsville could maybe become un-bored through action and compassion.

So this is why most women don’t tell me they are bored.

I am really, really annoying, in that I see boredom as a luxury…and if we have this particular luxury, wouldn’t it be great to reach out to someone who doesn’t have the luxury of having nothing to do. Heartworks just knows too many people caring for sick kids or in need of daily chemotherapy that would LOVE to be bored. But they can’t be. There’s too much going on that needs to be done. People who are experiencing intense grief are rarely bored because there is so much loss and sadness occupying their minds. And if I am not experiencing these things, I want to be respectful to people who are and not allow myself to be bored. I don’t know if people 200 years ago even used the phrase “I’m bored.” 200 years ago I think people may have been too busy surviving…collecting wood for winter and hunting for food and washing clothes by hand. Boredom may just be a sign that we are well taken care of and that we are blessed. Hmmmmmm…

(If you are reading this, and you knew my Dad, you know where I get this from)

One way to work with boredom is to recognize it and then get creative on how to fill the time usually spent in boredom. This weekend my family and I were stuck in a lot of traffic on the way up to the Adirondacks to visit friends and I was thinking about my dear friend Marney who just had a big house fire. Then I started to think about how bored I was sitting in the car listening to a baseball game on the radio and wanted to start complaining about it to Eddie. Then I thought about Marney again and felt like a big jackass. Marney was spending the day going through each and every item in her home having to decide what to send away to be professionally cleaned (which takes 4-6 weeks) or what things that she loved needed to be thrown out due to smoke damage and I’m wanting to complain to Eddie about being bored driving in my comfortable, not smoke damaged car on my way to sip cocktails on a deck while looking at the mountains….Jackass.

So, because I was unable to whip up a snack bag for hungry kids while in the car or rake leaves for a Veteran who risked his life so that I have the luxury of being bored in my comfortable car on the way to the mountains, I decided to start praying for all the kids who could use one of these not-made-yet-snack bags today. Then I prayed for all the people who visit the Somerset County Food Pantry and kids that will need Halloween costumes and kids that struggle with issues at school. Then I prayed for people not able to get to the grocery store and for our active military, veterans and their families, and then for all the people sitting in the stands and playing in the Colorado Rockies vs. Mets game.

Then I didn’t want to stop praying, because I felt less bored and less jackass-y, so I started to pray for the people in the other cars. Even though I didn’t know the people I was passing, I know that because they are alive on the planet, they are struggling with something or someone they love is struggling with something. So I just start praying for the person behind the wheel, the person in the passenger seat and everyone in the back seat. I prayed for them and whatever human challenge is affecting them as well as for all the people they love. I especially prayed for the people who were texting behind the wheel, right after giving them the universal hand signal to hang up while simultaneously mouthing “Get the #*@% off your #*@% phone.” Then I went right back to praying.

As I did this, I start to notice crucifix and rosary beads dangling from rear view mirrors, Buddhist prayer beads resting on a dash board, bible quotes the back of trucks and Jesus bumper stickers galore.

boredblog2PS- I LOVE a good Jesus bumper sticker, especially when my little Mary Frances yells out “Mom! Mom! Look! It’s Jesus!!!” from the back seat. It is even more awesome when she happens to be wearing her summer bible camp T-shirt while yelling out for me to notice Jesus on the car next to us!

Now, for me, this stuff isn’t so much about the stickers or what the bible quote on the back of a truck is even saying…Its more about how, when we think we are bored, there is a whole world of experience we may be missing. When I chose to step out of boredom and into an elevated way of thinking, I then began to see from an elevated place, which turns into an elevated experience, hence taking care of the boredom and filling me with gratitude, connection and leaving me feeling like less of a jack ass. Prayer helps a lot of things…many times it helps us more than the people we are praying for. On this particular trip prayer snapped me out of boredom and into gratitude. It reminded me that every human being around me is walking a tough path in one way or another and that there is ALWAYS someone or something to pray for.

boredblog3As Heartworkers, I’m not sure we should ever be bored… there is always prayers that need saying, meals to be delivered, gifts mailed, visits arranged or money to be raised. There is A LOT to do if we open our eyes and move through our initial human experience of being bored, lost or unsure in what we are doing. We have gifts that need to be shared and I swear that you will feel like less of a jackass when you share them.

Reflection – The next time we are bored, fill a need for someone or pray for everyone we know who is struggling and be aware of how it shifts us. Be acutely aware of the gifts boredom has to offer us in terms of perspective, comfort and conection.

Every day is someones best and another’s worst


The day Eddie and I realized I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, was April 20, 1999. This was the same day the Columbine School shooting took place in Littleton, Colorado in which 2 seniors killed 13 people and injured 21. The two boys then committed suicide. Being only 42 miles away from the shooting it felt as if it were in our own community.

The dichotomy of the day had me paralyzed for hours as I held my hand over my stomach and watched the news footage of children running from the building, parents running towards the school and even the newscasters appeared traumatized. At the time, school shootings were not as front and center in our nation’s consciousness. Even though I was only a few weeks pregnant and had never been a mother before, I already loved this baby more than my own life and the thought of 15 mothers loosing their children that day brought me to my knees.

When Eddie came home from work I didn’t know what to do. I was overwhelmed with sadness but at the same time, it was literally the happiest day of my life and I wanted to celebrate the night with him by having dinner on Pearl Street, one of our favorite places in the world. UGH! CELEBRATE something the night of the Columbine shooting??! We got out of the car to an eerily quiet downtown Boulder, CO. The bars were empty, the streets were like a ghost town and our favorite place was serving a limited menu because they were closing early.

As we sat down at the table, I wanted to burst I was so happy. We had been to this restaurant a thousand times. Eddie bussed tables there when we started dating in the early 90s and I would sit and do my graduate school homework while he worked. We went there for birthdays, graduation night and on the night we got engaged. And now we were sitting here and I was pregnant! I tried not to look at the TV screen in the corner, that the few other patrons were crowded around.

As I sat there and thought about the 15 mothers that were 42 miles away, I thought about the reality that every single day is somebody’s best day and every day is somebody’s worst day. For a lot of people, most days feel uneventful…running errands, working, folding laundry. Everyday someone is getting a diagnosis, a phone call about a death or an accident or a health scare.

Everyday someone is starving to death or involved in a war. Everyday someone is getting diagnosed with cancer and everyday someone is receiving a cure. Everyday someone is falling in love, accepting their dream job or experiencing a miracle of health. Everyday people are getting married, having a birthday or finding out they are pregnant like me.

If you are struggling with something and you are feeling like the only one, look at a calendar and remind yourself that every single date is the anniversary of something horrible for someone and something wonderful for another. On this date back in 1999, I was saying hello to this new life, while the Columbine mothers were saying goodbye. And one day I would be saying goodbye to this new life and someone else would be saying hello to theirs. Somehow this thought process gave me permission to eat dinner that night. I continuously kicked Eddie excitedly under the table and embraced this moment that had finally arrived for us.

The next day I went back to watching the news and praying for Columbine with the rest of the world.

I remembered this dinner on Pearl Street 16 years ago as I sat in my family room this week folding laundry and watching the coverage of the Amtrak derailment on TV. I thought about the people on the train, the first responders and the families of the deceased. May 13, 2015 will be etched in their memories as a worst day, and I am sitting here folding laundry. Bizarre.

I remember vividly on September 12, 2001 looking out my kitchen window and seeing a man run down my street. I remember wondering how he was doing that…how was he moving his legs? When I stood up my legs weakened and I had to sit back down again. My guess is that the man running down my street didn’t know anybody on the East Coast and so the terror attacks felt far away from him. Maybe he was even able to turn off the news and not think about it. Maybe he was folding laundry as he watched. I’m not sure. I just remember wondering how his legs were able to move like that and if mine would ever feel stable again.

My point of all of this is to remember to be grateful for times that I am folding laundry. To be grateful for the moments my life is not rocked by illness or death. To pray for people while they are in their struggle and to know that for whatever reason, on any particular day it may not be my day to struggle and so embrace the ease of an ordinary day. I have felt the gripping sensation of death before and as long as I continue to love, I will feel it again. So I try and spend the days in between as consciously and grateful as I possibly can.

Just this morning I spoke to a friend who is planning a birthday party for her husband while her nephew is being visited by Hospice Care. I understood the sacred confusion she was feeling: life ending, life continuing, life and death, joy and loss all happening all within the same moment. This is how it is every single day if you look at it like this. It helps me to take things less personally and gain the courage needed to face the unpredictability of daily life.

Refection: Be as present and grateful as possible for a day without grief. Celebrate the “ordinary” and pray for people who’s grief or fear have taken away the luxury of folding laundry or taking a run and when it is a day for you to grieve, know that it is somebody else’s day too and you are not alone.

Let Go of What Was

lettinggoblogWe are in full-blown yard sale mode here at the Heartworks House, hence the whole theme of “letting go”. (Get it? Cause we are all going to be getting rid of stuff? Clever right?) So the sign outside the house now reads:


This phrase reminds me of last year’s yard sale and my mother’s deacon’s bench. If you don’t know what the hell a deacon’s bench is, it’s a colonial style wooden bench, and the bench I’m talking about was one that was in the foyer of my house growing up.

The problem is that when we hang on to things that no longer work for us or fit in our changing lives, it causes us suffering. I have very little interest in unnecessary suffering, so I have to work daily on this theme of letting go of what no longer supports me or my family.

deaconsbenchblogNow, back to the deacon’s bench. The deacons bench sat in the foyer of my house on Old Army Road my entire childhood. It was positioned so that you could see out the window onto the driveway.  I sat there waiting to go to swim team practice, waiting for boys I loved to pick me up for dates, and it’s where my siblings and I would sit early Christmas morning, until my mom was ready to open up the family room doors.

 I remember after my dad died and it was time for my mom to move out of the house she couldn’t find a place for the deacon’s bench in her new home. And for some bazzare reason it made sense to her donate it somewhere.  Ummmmm….. Nope. We are not donating the deacon’s bench to a random charity where the memories may get scratched, broken or bought by the wrong person. A total stranger having the deacon’s bench?? Thanks but no thanks, Mom.

 I had a functioning table in the old spot where the deacon’s bench was and could not for the life of me find another place in the house for it, so it sat in the basement for years and gathered dust. Every April when the Heartworks Yard Sale would come around, I would look at the deacons bench and think it was time…GULP….to let it….GULP…go. Then my mind would start gripping onto the memories, the significance of the damn deacon’s bench and again I tried to figure out where I could put it in my home but I still couldn’t find the right place. So it stayed where it was… until last year when I got up in front of a room full of women at the April meeting and gave a similar speech to the one I gave last week, blathering on about the healing available when we let go of what was.

I warned that when we all got home, and were going through things to donate to the yard sale that our minds will grip, reject and fight the letting go process. YES sometimes it feels awesome to clear out stuff from the house, but there will inevitably be items we will come across that we will resist giving up.

The Heartworks Yard Sale way of thinking is that when we pick up the candlesticks we have never liked, (even though we registered for them ourselves 15 years ago), be aware of the resistance that will arise. Breath…. and put the candles sticks in the box to go to the sale. And yes, even if they are in a robins egg blue box. For me, the more I practice letting go of material things, the more I am able to let go of the bigger stuff like relationships, people and expectations when I need to be letting go of them. When I am faced with letting go of the bigger stuff, I want my brain to have already practiced the pattern of resistance and letting go of things like candle sticks that I never used in the first place.

Last year, after I had given my letting go schpeel at the meeting , I went home and saw the deacon’s bench all dusty in the basement.  I realized I was being a total friggin hypocrite and had to practice what I was preaching (damn it!), so I brought the deacons bench to the Heartworks sale. Because I am who I am, when I got to Heartworks with the deacon’s bench all the Heartworkers helping to set up the sale had to hear all about my tale of letting go woe and all the stories about my siblings and I sitting on the bench. My mom and sisters sat there patiently while I processed letting go for the 10,000th time. I placed the bench in the furniture section of the sale and prayed to God to help me let go. I thanked Him for all the memories it gave me. I prayed that it goes to someone who needs it and would love it.

The bench had served its purpose in my life and was ready to move into a new foyer. Then I walked back into the Heartworks House to get some pricing stickers. While I was inside, one my soul sister besties arrived at the preview sale. At the time, she was going through a divorce and was re-decorating her home. She was in a really tough spot and it had been a long road of struggle for her. It was one of those situations that you just want to fix for someone you love, but can’t. I had wanted to make everything better and easier for her. I was having fantasies that I had enough money to fill her new home with beautiful, comfortable, meaningful things so that she felt good opening her eyes every morning.  I reached down to get my stickers and that is when I heard the screeching and the screaming coming from outside…

“Does Megan know??? Oh my God!! This is so awesome, she’ll be so happy!!! Where is she? You have to tell her right now!!”

When I ran out to see what all the commotion was about, there was my soul sister bestie sitting, who’s home I soooo wanted to decorate for her, sitting on the deacon’s bench. She thought it was beautiful, comfortable and now that she knew I had sat on it Christmas mornings, it was meaningful too. She happily bought it and we carried to her car. Because I had allowed myself to go through the pattern of resistance and letting go, an awesome scenario was created that was way beyond what I could have thought to ask for.

 My soul sister bestie said I could come and visit the deacons bench anytime I wanted.

I have yet to visit it. I haven’t felt the need.

Reflection: Let’s use the yard sale as an opportunity to practice the pattern of resistance and letting go. What do you have to give that feels tough to let go of? What happens for you when you do let go?

Accept What Is

acceptwhatisblogThe sign outside the Heartworks House this week reads ACCEPT WHAT IS

If I were a person driving past this sign on my way home from a 2 for 1 deal on Big Macs at McDonalds and was thinking about something I was struggling with, I would roll down the window, whip one of my Big Macs at the sign, and happily watch the two whole beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun dribble down the stupid sign. Keep in mind that this is a hypothetical situation. So I always eat Big Macs in hypothetical situations and since I am throwing one out the window, I had to be coming back from a 2 for 1 deal so that I would still have one left to eat.

Next, I would pull over and emotionally eat the other Big Mac in total irritation toward whoever wrote that ridiculous sign. The idea seems absurd and not well thought through at all. Why in God’s name would I “ACCEPT WHAT IS” when the thing I would have to accept totally sucks?

Well…I’ll tell you a story about why to consider practicing acceptance even when what you are being asked to accept something that totally sucks.

Ten years ago this June, I stood in the parking lot of the church I grew up going to. Thousands of Sundays were spent there with my family. Thousands of times we got out of our cars in the parking lot and walked toward the church for mass. On that particular day 10 years ago, Eddie pulled our car into a parking space and I was expected to get out of the car to attend my father’s funeral.

Instead, I sat in the car with my hand on the handle of the door and looked out the window filled with annoyance at all the people getting out of their cars, apparently in total acceptance of this idea that someone you love can be here one minute and gone the next…they seemed to be ACCEPTING my father’s death and that pissed me off. “How can they be doing this?? So…what…we are just going to get out of our cars and go into the church and have MY FATHER’S FUNERAL???? Three days ago I was standing in the kitchen with him.

He was leaning against the dishwasher and we were laughing and now people are getting out of their #%&*@ cars to go to his funeral??? I mean people were actually walking into the church!! Like they were just letting this whole “my father died” thing continue to happen!! I wanted to get out and punch my Aunt Agnes in the head and yell “STOP! STOP! STOP! I’m not doing this!! I’m not just accepting this death thing!!”

No thanks

Not doing it

Hate it

Hate you

Hate everything.

Damn it. I got myself out of the car but started walking in the opposite direction of the building. Maybe if I don’t go into the church this won’t be happening. Maybe if I ignore all of this, it won’t be true and my dad will get out of one of these cars and pull me into a hug and say something like “That was a weird couple of days Moo Moo, wasn’t it? It’s alright my sweetheart, its not really happening, I’m right here” and then we could just walk home together and get back to our week.

Nothing from my two masters degrees in counseling or my ten years as a therapist could have offered enough proof that this was not a plausible option. I walked a few more feet and then the realization hit me as if someone had punched me in the head. A conversation I had with a therapist friend a week ago flooded my mind. She had said that God is only accessible in the present moment, so if we deny what’s happening in the present moment we are keeping ourselves from God.

I had spent the next few days thinking about this and its implications. I had thought about the fact that the times we often feel furthest from God are when we are wishing things to be different than they actually are and that the one thing I knew in that moment, standing with my back to the church was that I needed every friggin’ thing a higher source could possibly offer me.

Crap. ACCEPTANCE was the way I would receive the things I needed. But ACCEPTING this was going against every single ounce of my being…to walk through those red arched doors and accept the bagpipes, the coffin, the crowd, the words of the priest. But it was abundantly clear that I needed God and I could only be with Him if I was present in this moment, and in this moment I was at my father’s funeral. And so I slowly turned myself around and walked through the doors and stood under the same crucifix I stood under for my communion day, wedding ceremony, and my daughter Caroline’s baptism, and I attended my father’s funeral.

Sitting in the pew, I came into the awareness that by accepting what I did not want; the filled pews, the words spoken on the alter, the songs and the traditions, that all of these things somehow created a coating of love over the desperation I was feeling. If I had walked home (or to the bar around the corner) I would have still felt the desperation, but piled on top of it would have been things like isolation, anxiety, and horror. The acceptance saved me from adding to the hell I was already in. The way I see it, whatever is taking place in our lives is happening whether we like it or not, want it or not and whether or not we are comfortable with it. Acceptance is the one thing that gives us a direct connection to the invisible presences, the only things that make surviving terrible experiences possible.

I am not suggesting we have to accept everything about everything all at once (though if you are up for it, go for it). I am suggesting that by committing to accepting one moment in whatever the suffering is, it will move us into the next moment and then the next and that in each moment that we choose to be in acceptance we will have increased access to God. This is what I discovered during the impossible month of June 2005 when one of my greatest loves left the earth. I have practiced acceptance ever since and it helps me tremendously and gets easier the more I make the choice to do it.

As soon as I open my eyes in the morning I pray to God to help me accept the parts of myself and my life that I would LOOOOOOVE to ignore, stuff down and ultimately deny. These prayers prevent me from pushing fear and worry to the back of mind where they will only reek more havoc in my life. The sign outside of the Heartworks House will be changing soon and I’m surprised that not one person has thrown a Big Mac at it…but then again I don’t think Mickey D’s is currently having a 2 for 1 offer and who would want to sacrifice a perfectly good Big Mac for the sake of acceptance?

Reflection: What areas of your life you are spending a lot of time wishing things were different than they are?

Consider practicing accepting one moment, one piece of what is actually happening and see what shifts for you.

What’s Your Wilson?

wilsonblogAnybody who has known me for a long time knows that I am not, or at least was not, a dog person. I have never understood why when I walk into people’s houses they think I like touching and being licked by their dog (among the other awesome dog greeting habits). When I have been “greeted” by someone’s dog I can still usually sit and have a turkey sandwich with its owner, talking about all sorts of things, but all I’m really thinking about is how to not contaminate my Diet Coke can and wanting to wash my hand.

I sit there, maintaining eye contact, nodding my head and using all of my super strength counseling skills, but I’m totally preoccupied with trying to figure out what the appropriate time frame is between the licking time and the washing my hands time without being rude. This was especially an issue when we lived in Boulder, CO because people REALLY REALLY love their dogs in Boulder, CO.

I walked into a friends house once and didn’t get down on the floor to role around with her dog before lunch and she was a bit confused and bewildered. She then told me how surprised she was that I don’t like dogs because, had I not noticed, dog spelled backwards is god. Hmmmmmm….give me a break. This concept definitely felt like a stretch, created by someone who had been breathing in the mountain air a little too long.

I tell you this because all of this changed last December when, after years and years

of my girls begging for a dog, a tri-colored King Charles Spaniel named Ralphie ran into the family room on Christmas morning and I fell completely head-over-heels in love with this dog spelled backwards is god-sweet-all loving-furry-beautiful baby boy. Ralphie sleeps in the bed with Eddie and I, sometimes Ralphie eats his own poop and then we kiss on the lips. When we are away on vacation, I Facetime him, but only for a short time because I get sad and it kills my vacation buzz.

Long story short…I love this dog. I do not understand why someone would not want his saliva all over them when they come over for lunch.

Last summer we were down at the Jersey Shore and Ralphie wanted to get off his leash as I walked him down to the beach one night. And since I lose all sense of rationale when that sweet face looks up at me, I took him off the leash. If you are a new dog owner, here’s a tip- do not let your dog off the leash the first time he sees the beach. I let Ralphie go and he darted up the beach like a bat out of hell. Now, anyone who knows me, also knows that physical exercise if not my strong point. Running is FER SURE not my strong point. But I started running my fat ass off, chasing my beloved down the beach. The gap between us grew and grew and I had visions of him being found two days later all the way down in Seaside Heights, under the boardwalk, unconscious from overdosing on funnel cake, chocolate covered Oreos and hot dogs. While I would have been found not far from where I was, unconscious in my own boob sweat.

And then…all of a sudden… my hero intervened. I saw up in the distance a man jump up from his chair, run straight to Ralphie and scoop him up out of nowhere.

HOLY CRAP was I relieved! I started to slow down (and let’s not kid ourselves, I wasn’t going very fast) and finally reached them, gasping and putting my hands down on my knees the way marathon runners do as the volunteers drape the silver sheet over them at the finish line- I could have used of those silver sheet thingies. Anyway, when I caught my breath, I started to thank the guy profusely and noticed the scene behind him. He and his wife were sitting there having a beer and watching the sunset. I said to him that he had just saved Ralphie from a lonely death under the boardwalk and I can’t believe he would interrupt his romantic moment to jump up, spill his beer and save my dog when he could have just as easily said “not my problem.”

He then pulled up his sleeve and exposed an enormous tattoo, from his armpit to his wrist which read, in beautiful script the name

“Ohhhhhh”, he said,” I could never let him keep running, I lost my tri-colored, Wilson last year and I miss him everyday. I know the pain of loosing a dog.” And he choked up and introduced himself as Jimmy, as he handed Ralphie over to me. It struck me in that moment that his response was actually directly in line with the main philosophy of Heartworks. So, I hugged Jimmy (of course) and told him about Heartworks. That I had founded an Acts of Kindness group based on this principal of using our own loses and struggles to help someone else. Jimmy could have taken his grief in any direction. Had my new bestie Jimmy never allowed himself to love Wilson in the first place, or had Jimmy shut down when Wilson died and swore to never be around another King Charles Spaniel because it was too sad, or had he wanted someone else to be sad because he was sad and life sucked and dogs die, then he would never have helped me that night.

So the question is “What is your Wilson?” What is an experience from your own life that you can use to help another human being? Too often we bare knuckle through our pain and then make a career (sometimes literally a career) of getting as far away from the issue as possible. This concept does not work as well as we think it would. I see lives transform everyday at Heartworks when we reflect back on our own losses and use them to help someone else walk (or crawl) along a similar path. Think of how different our experiences with illness and grief would be if every person who ever suffered or grieved used their experience to help someone else?? This is what Heartworks is about and the offering is two-fold, the healing takes place for the receiver as well as the giver. I see it all the time and it is a doorway out of the isolation and fear that loss creates.

That summer night, back at the house when I poured my glass of Pinot Grigio, I toasted a thank you to Wilson for opening Jimmy’s heart and to Jimmy, for the willingness to get up out of his chair and share this heart with Ralphie.

Reflection for the week:
What is your Wilson and how are you allowing the healing to continue (for yourself and others), even long after the event has taken place?

February Meeting, Thank Yous and Dog Poop

febmeetblogBeyond the Valentine’s Day dinners, beyond the zodiac necklaces we prayed into, beyond the toys, the books and other gifts for people in numbing circumstances were the women who got up and shared their stories of receiving.

It seems it is not the giving that shifts us as much witnessing the receiving. How showing up at a meeting, signing a card and praying for people we sometimes don’t even know can alter the way people experience heartache.

I was at Atelier Salon (Thank you, Atelier!) today with my new friend Shea as she got a make-over to get ready for pictures with her 10 children tonight. Her hair looked beautiful and we hugged… and she cried… and she said the kind of thank you that comes out as two words but feels like a bijillion. (Is bijillion a real number? It feels like it is).

She left for home to have family pictures taken by Justin Baiter, who understands at a soul level the affects of cancer on a family. Shea had beautiful pictures taken and an hour later her husband shaved off the hair that started to fall out earlier this week. Her willingness to allow us into her life brings me to my knees.

Then at the meeting two other women who have received from Heartworks shared their thank yous. I know these types of thank yous…the type when no word or tear or hug seems to express what the thank you feels like inside. I know these types of thank yous because I have had the privilege of saying them myself. The gift of being in a darkness you want nothing to do with, but it is upon you, and so you say “yes” to help and then this “yes” turns into a thank you that you can barely comprehend. I understand this type of thank you. Heartworks exists as one of these thank yous. Heartworks is me saying thank you to the world for what you did for my sister after September 11th.

Heartworks is a living thank you.

I am blessed to understand these kind of thank yous. These women showed us, in a way I could never convey, the exact reasons why we show up month after month and do what we do, one act of kindness at a time. The tears, the head nodding and the “umm hmms” made me feel like we were in a revival church (can I get an AMEN?!) Every woman there could connect to the suffering in one way or another.

What I know is that every woman there was shifted in one way or another. This means that we were different people when we arrived back home and this is my greatest prayer…that we are opened just a little bit more to the vulnerabilities of life and the grace that sets in during the darkest of times. Tonight was about love, loss, survival and hope. Add the Pinot Grigio and pink M&Ms and it was a damn powerful night. Thank you for showing up, thank you for staying open, thank you for creating miracles (a shift from fear to love) for 16 families this Valentine’s Day. And thank you families for saying “yes”.

P.S. I didn’t fully understand the power of the night until 2:15 a.m. when I woke up and realized my dog had pooped ALL OVER my living room rug. EEEEEWWWWWWWW. I found myself on my hands and knees in the middle of the night, cleaning up poop and feeling as blessed as could be. I even tried to feel annoyed (cause I thought a rational, normal person should be!) and I couldn’t muster up a bit of aggravation. Not one bit. That’s what a full table of family stories and thank yous will do to you. Not even dog poop in the middle of the night can rattle you. This is the gift of Heartworks.

Thank you

Megan’s Speech at Our Tailgate Fundraiser

I have been asked to post the speech I read at our tailgate tasting fundraiser event on January 23, 2015. My greatest hope is that it encourages you to review your own life and use your own heartache to reach out to someone else.

“So…Heartworks has completely changed my life in more ways than I have time to talk about tonight, but there are days I just don’t feel like going to the Heartworks House. Sometimes the diagnoses, the suffering, the heaviness of illness and grief of the families we reach out to just feels “too much” and all I want to do is shove cinnamon roles in my face, find something to gossip about and go to the mall. But then I remember …

I remember washing the dishes in my sister’s sink the week after September 11th and looking out the back window to see Bushy mowing the lawn.

I remember the cups of coffee Mike Herrington dropped off on the front step every morning.

I remember the police car that Captain Kumpf had circle her street every night so that she would feel safe.

I remember Bruce taking my nephew surfing.

I remember the neighbor wheeling a red wooden wagon up the driveway filled with paper products because she knew a lot of people were staying at the house and thought we could use them.

I remember the envelope filled with $73 in cash that a class in California raised and sent to my sister.

And so I put on my yoga pants and fleece and I get my butt to the Heartworks House.

And when I pull into the parking lot, a Heartworker is outside writing an inspiring message on the white board for the passing cars to see. Another Heartworker is putting together dinner or groceries to bring to a family too sick to cook and shop. Another Heartworker is sitting in the meditation room and Holly is there doing everything else that needs to be done to keep us up and running. And I take a deep breath and realize how fortunate I am to be in a position to offer to others what was given to my family 14 years ago.

At the crux of what we do is this idea that we all struggle with something in this life and the question is, “What can happen when we take our own inevitable struggles and use them, use these very experiences to offer another person hope?” What comes from the choice to stay conscious with our own losses and help someone else through our pain is a deep healing that chocolate, booze, gossip, busy-ness, work or a new car can’t offer.

How different things would be if every person in this room took our own pain and used it to sit with someone else who is on a similar path. This is what we do at Heartworks and it has transformed too many lives in too many ways to count.

There are all different reasons women show up at our meetings each month.
Some women come because they have been changed by something that has happened to them and want more in depth experiences.

Some women come to Heartworks to help them get out of the static that can come from living in a small, comfortable East coast town.

Some women come because they are walking through grief or illness and feel less alone when they are helping others.

Some women come for the wine, chocolate and cheese and crackers (and you know who you are!).

But mostly we are all there because we realize that gestures of kindness help us all in deep, indescribable ways and that on any given day it can be our own family that needs to receive. Our own news of life changing events is one phone call away.

Thank you all for coming! Thank you to the football players that certainly get asked to do more high profile events than this but they said yes to Heartworks which is awesome!

Thank you to all the chefs and restaurants and wine distributors that are participating. We couldn’t do it without you!

Thank you to the co-chairs and the committee of Heartworkers that put this all together.

Thank you to the advisory board and board of directors who take all my craziness and passion and help turn it into beautiful things every day.

Thank you to Gagnon Securities and The Gagnon Family Foundation and Kline Metal Recycling for believing in our work and making tonight possible!

A Lesson From My Father on a Snowy Day

snowdayblogI love days that I know exactly what my father would be doing if he were still alive. Every year, I know that on the last weekend of April he would be sitting in the stands at Franklin Field in Philadelphia watching the Penn relays track meet. I know that on Easter morning he would for sure be at mass with us. On days that Caroline has a cross country meet I know that he would be yelling for her at the finish line, and I know that today, because it is 21 degrees, snowing and icy outside, he would be out for a long run. Maybe not that long of a run because he would be 82, but he would be out for some sort of a run.

Growing up, if it were a freezing, snowy, icy day outside we would be in the family room watching TV. The fire would be going and we would all be in warm sweatshirts and wool socks (ohhh…nothing beats a good old pair of Wigwam socks in January!) and my father would all of a sudden get up and leave the room.

He would return in shorts, a t-shirt and his running shoes and my mother would roll her eyes and tell him he was out of his mind. My Dad would respond by putting his fists in the air and yelling “WOOOOOOOOO!!” and head out the door for a run. He would sometimes be known to put a hat on, but I ‘m not sure of the determining factors that were involved in this decision. So off he went, in a t-shirt and shorts and sometimes hatless, out for a run on a freezing cold day while the rest of us sat by the fire and drank hot Campbell’s soup.

He would return sometime later, red faced and cringing, clearly in pain and my mother would simply shake her head. It was a regular routine for snowy days in Bernardsville that she had come to somewhat accept. My father would then run up the stairs, and jump in a COLD shower!! He would scream his head off for a few seconds until we heard the water stop. My mother, still under a blanket on the couch would lift her eyes from the paper for only a moment, glance upward and just continue with the head shake.

When my father came back into the room he would be in two pairs of plaid flannel pajamas and a long plaid flannel robe and slippers holding a steaming hot cup of coffee in his hand. He would sit back down in his leather chair and start watching the football game again and would say something like “Yup Meggy Meg! We got it pretty good here in B’Ville!” And this comment sums up exactly why he did things like this…because he believed so strongly about “how good we’ve got it here in Bernardsville.” The reason he didn’t (or couldn’t get himself to) sit and relax by the fire on a day like this was because he was so acutely grateful for our home, the warmth, the ease and luxuries that so many people around the world don’t have and that he was afraid, if he got too comfortable, he may forget how blessed he was. He would do things like this to help him remember and take nothing for granted. This is why early Heartworkers may remember me asking them on cold nights to leave their coats inside and join me outside for a few minutes to help us be grateful for the heat in our homes.

Some may think this practice is crazy (I get it) but it is something I do pretty much on a daily basis. I walk outside in winter in bare feet when I need a Diet Coke from my trunk to remind me to be grateful for shoes, hold off eating an hour after I am hungry to remind me to be grateful for the availability of food, not take an aspirin when I have a headache to remind me to be grateful for a pain free body. Not drink water when I am thirsty to remind me of the privilege of clean drinking water. There are a ton of ways to do this exercise and it keeps my perceptions in check.

My father never wanted to take anything for granted so he actively created ways to help him feel the gifts in his life. Imitating this practice helps me feel close to him, but I have to come clean…I did not go on a run today in shorts and a t-shirt and I did not take a cold shower, but I did write about it so maybe that counts for something…(I know…not really) .