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.

Cynthia’s Win and Getting My Ass Out of Bed

This morning I had one of those mornings that everything just felt too much…too much loss…too much suffering…too much lack…

too much pain….

too much

too much

too much.

Between the diagnoses and issues happening for people I love, the loss currently being experienced in my town AND at Heartworks AND on the news, it was a morning that I almost said to myself “What’s the use?? The illnesses, the deaths, the day to day struggle for so many people just seems like too much. What good does Heartworks really do in the big scheme of life?? Maybe I should just stay in bed and watch The Housewives of NYC. Hmmmmmm….

But then I forced myself to remember what it felt like waking up at my sisters house in the Fall of 2001 and how it seemed impossible to get through another day, and yet we did, because the acts of kindness people did for her and her four children. I reminded myself of how many people got out of bed that September to offer perhaps a moment of reprieve to us by delivering sandwiches and iced tea for lunch and how many families, right here in town are in need of this same reprieve today.

I reminded myself of the other Heartworkers who have come to understand what giving does for our lives and how many times they have patiently listen to me suggest that if we are blessed with comfort and health, we are to use it in a way that sheds some light into someone else’s darkness.

These Heartworkers would be showing up at the Heartworks House today and so I couldn’t just stay in bed. And so I got up, threw on my baseball hat and headed down to the house to find Holly and Beka already there, working on a new video to help us fundraise for the families we currently help and for the families who have no idea at the moment that they will be in need of extra love and faith this year.

I read the sign in front of the house that Maryanne changed yesterday that reads “Let’s pray for those without freedom” and I thought about women in other countries who can not leave their homes today because of the threat of political violence and war. I thought about wanting to stay in bed and watch The Housewives of NYC and I thought about what a jackass I can be at times.

When I walked into my office, my mind was flooded with next Tuesday’s meeting and when I looked at the long list of family names on the white board, the overwhelm kicked in again. I sat and took some breaths and told myself what my dad would always say to do when overwhelmed: “Just start doing one thing, just focus on one thing that needs to be done and start with that” and so I made one phone call to an electrician to help a family in town get a generator so that they can go to sleep at night during bad weather and not be afraid the electricity will go out causing their 5 year old son’s medical equipment to stop working.

When that was done, I did one more thing, write an email to a local farm to see about dairy delivery to a family in town with 5 boys who just lost their “best dad in the world” dad to a heart attack 2 weeks ago and drink A LOT of milk. I started to feel a little calmer, just doing something felt better than doing nothing. Its like I always say at meetings “Heartworks does not created these struggles for people, life creates the struggles, and these struggles are happening whether we pay attention or not, Heartworks chooses to pay attention.” Doing something, paying attention, tosomeone who is suffering seems to somehow takes the craziness out of my thoughts and puts me into alignment with something bigger…something mystical and worth getting out of bed for. I was just in the middle of pondering this when I then looked down at my phone and got the text that


I jumped up and ran into the other room screaming my head off and we all started yelling and crying and cheering!!! “She won it!!! She really won it!! Holy shit this is AWESOME!!!” all the heaviness I had felt that morning was lifted and replaced with what I had been lacking…hope. The hope that comes with enough people voting everyday for an on-line, month long contest to win Cynthia a fully equipped handicapped van that will change her daily life for the better.

The hope that comes with people rallying together with the simple gesture of an on-line vote for a woman they probably didn’t even know, who grew up 10 miles from the Heartworks House and who moved to California with her husband, caught a rare virus and became paralyzed at the age of 34 over the course of 4 hours. People voted and she won a van that will give her the freedom to drive wherever she wants, whenever she wants. And you need to know that part of “wherever she wants” to go includes driving to volunteer at sporting events for other men and women with physical disabilities. This is how Cynthia chooses to spend her time, and needed a van to help get her there.

Things seemed to flow easier for me after I got this text. It was like a reminder that YES hardship is all around us, but within each story there are things we can all be doing to make some of the pieces more manageable. Part of Heartworks’ mission is to help all of us clear out the static in our own lives enough to see clearly the impact we can have on other people’s journey of loss, change, grief and hope.

Thank you Cynthia for allowing us into your life. Thank you for being gracious enough to say YES to people who want to help and for using your own experience to help others. Thank you for your willingness to experience the vulnerability it takes to enter a contest like this and to allow all of us to be a part of it. Thank you Cynthia for saving me from the grip of hopelessness today. Thank you for shedding some light into my darkness. Thank you for helping me to stay out of the static.

A Hike I Didn’t Hate

hike1blogWhen Eddie and I lived in Colorado and our friends had people visit them, there was always a lot of talk leading up to these visits that focused on which bike ride, hiking trail or rock climb they were going to do when their guests arrived. When people visited me, the talk leading up to the visit was focused more on what sale was happening at the mall, what time happy hour started and what movies were in town. It’s not to say I’m against the outdoors, it’s just to say I don’t crave it the way many of my Colorado friends do. For years they all tried to convert me…taking me rollerblading on Boulder creek path (hated it) girls weekend getaways to rustic cabins in the mountain (pour me another) and hikes that promised to help me feel closer to God (not so much).

One particular attempt was about 15 years ago when unbeknownst to me my girlfriends forged a plan to trick me by getting me to the top of a mountain and proving to me how awesome it was and worth the trip. They told me that the plan was that we were hiking for about 45 minutes then we would go to lunch…. The turkey club waiting on the other side of the hike convinced me to go (they knew it would) and I was also looking for a way to get them all off my back and figured 45 minutes in hell was worth it. We started off on the hike and I noticed they were all very engaged with me (part of the distraction plan) and before I knew it we were an hour in and still headed up hill away from my turkey club. Whenever I would ask about this (roughly every 3 and 1/2 minutes) they would distract me again until I finally just stopped dead in my tracks and asked what the hell was going on. The question was met with deep sighs and lots of eye contact avoidance. Then my friend Kristen confessed that they all wanted me to get to the top of this mountain so they can show me how magnificent this whole hiking thing was and they know I’m going to love it and could I pleeeeaaase just stay open.


I was NOT happy and stayed cranky pants the whole rest of the hike. When we reached the top….AN HOUR LATER…..I was ornery and hungry and when my friend offered me an organic wheatgrass granola bar she nearly got pushed off the cliff. I proclaimed with one hand on my hip and the other one pointing to each of my besties that IF things go bad on the way down and we all get stranded and I die from a bear attack, dehydration or tragic fall NONE OF THEM WERE ALLOWED TO EAT MY FLESH IN ORDER TO SAVE THEMSELVES. NOT ONE BITE WAS ALLOWED BY ANY OF THEM! NOT ONE BITE.

” But Megan, look around! It’s so beautiful! ” don’t you feel so close to God?” I did not feel any closer to God than I would hanging out with Eddie, or picking out placemats in Target or at home watching a movie on my couch. The mission was a big fat fail and that was the last time I was invited on a hike. Fine by me.

But when Eddie and I were talking a few days ago about our trip to Boulder this weekend he said that he would really love it if we went on a hike together. DAMN IT!! Ugh… Really?? Eddie doesn’t really ask that much of me so when he does ask for something , I usually say yes. So yes Eddie I will go on a stupid hike with you.

When we started up the Chatauqua Trail I wanted to take a break about 20 steps in. I appreciated the view but figured I could just as well enjoy it sitting there on the side of trail with a Diet Coke watching other people hike it .

hike2blogMy mind went straight to the negative…

How the hell long is this hike??
It’s hot out
I can’t breath in this altitude
I feel fat
I’m too out of shape for this
I’m slowing Eddie down
I’m no good at this
Poor Eddie, he should have gone by himself
When will this be over?
I’m letting Eddie down
Why can’t I be like everybody else here and want to go hiking?

I spent a few minutes in this thought process before I remembered my whole spiel that I give people about the human thought process. That the mind does not naturally go to the positive or the place of gratitude. It takes conscious choice and intention to get ” beyond ” the fearful thoughts and into a deeper understanding of what God is offering us in any given moment. Our negative, self defeating thoughts are simply a layer of the mind we need to work through to get to the deeper truth about what is happening for us. There is always something more, something richer, beyond our initial negative thought process. And in this moment I was faced with a choice to grind out this hike and feel miserable the whole time or I could practice what I preach and look deeper into what I was being offered beyond these stifling thoughts.

So I started to focus on things besides my thoughts….

Eddie and how much he makes me laugh even when I’m cranky
That I was healthy enough to walk up this mountain
The sound of the birds
The sun beaming down on my face
My girls back home having fun with a babysitter
Seeing all our Boulder friends
The green grass, blue, sky and white snow capped mountains…

My body began to relax. I stopped dreading myself and just focused on Eddie and the mountains and the river and the experience of doing something new. I looked up and saw Eddie waiting patiently for me a few steps ahead of me and then it hit me. The gift beyond the negative thoughts was for me to relish in the fact that even if I needed to stop 100 times on that trail I had married someone who wouldn’t mind, who cared so much about how I felt that he would just stop whenever I needed to.

I had married someone who when I looked up at the mountaintop and said “isn’t that beautiful? ” his response was ” Not as beautiful as you.” What God was giving me a chance to see is that I’m safe even when I’m not awesome. That I have pretty much weeded out hanging out with anyone that wouldn’t have stopped with me on the trail. I have chosen people in my life that love me and accept me and that it doesn’t matter that I am not good at everything. Nobody is good at everything. The gift behind the thoughts was to relish the fact that I am deeply loved and this is what mattered, not that I was a perfect-in-shape-hiker-girl, but that I am deeply loved. Accepting the acceptance Eddie and the people who love me offer me was the gift my negative thoughts almost kept me from.

I almost missed an awesome day outside in Boulder with Eddie. I almost missed the rock formations, the birds and the sun on my face after a long New Jersey winter. I almost missed all of this.
Thank you God for awareness and for choice. The turkey club I had afterwards was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Refelection: The next time negative thoughts are starting to take over, make the conscious choice to look beyond them and see what the real purpose of the experience is beyond your own stuck thoughts.
What are you being asked to see more clearly in your life that exists beyond the initial negative thoughts?


Eddie making Megan laugh


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!