The God Box App is shiny new and ready to welcome your cares

Since The God Box book was published in the spring of 2012, so many readers have told me that they started their own God Boxes. I love hearing stories of children creating God Boxes and married couples joining their prayer and cares in a family box. (And my mother would be thrilled!)  A ‘real’ God box is a constant reminder that we are not in control and that letting go is the first step to finding comfort, hope and relief for life’s worries.

But did you know that many thousands have gone virtual with their God boxes? To help the many busy readers who spend more time on their smartphones than writing things down, we created a special app, The God Box which is free on iTunes.  It’s an easy way to enter notes on the go and save them to your private online God Box or if you prefer, email a message to a friend or post on your social media. And now, we have upgraded the original app to a shiny new 2.1 version that is friendlier to use and works with the most current IOS systems for iPhone and iPad. Check it out! The only thing you have to lose…is the worry you may carry on your shoulders.

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Dear God, Love, Ireland

I’m nearly halfway through my tour of “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” to ten cities and towns in Ireland and I’ve witnessed something quite remarkable.  Yes, it’s the hundred shades of green and the gorgeous lilting accents and the faces– oh, the  lovely faces of Irish people! But The God Box story has left little footprints across this beautiful country– from Portlaoise to Cork to Kilkenny to Kenmare…in the form of tiny notes filling a simple God Box after each performance.

While the TV news here might bemoan the recent budget or the downside of Brexit or even the contentious US election, the God Box is filled with hope.  What is on the minds and hearts of Irish people? “Please help me find my one true love.” “Please give my grandparents a hug and a cup of tea.” “Please may my mammy get pregnant.” Letters asking for courage, for support, for safety, for comfort, for health.  Many just saying thank you. Most are unsigned, simple petitions written in faith and love.

My mother Mary chose to write notes to her God Box as a way of letting go and releasing her concerns to God’s hands.  Though I lost her in 2006, perhaps she has started a movement here in the country of her great grandfather Thomas Cosgrove.  Perhaps it’s Mary’s way of saying ” hands on…we are always together.”

Onward to Tralee and Limerick, to Sligo, Roscommon, Longford and Dun Laoghaire…hands on. image

 

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Taking my heart to Ireland

This week I am setting out on a great adventure, one that my husband Joe and I have planned for nearly two years. Our goal was to bring my one-woman play “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story” to an extended tour of performances in Ireland and now it’s real. Below are the facts though at the m0ment, I am more consumed by my feelings.Clover-Green-Leafs-Water-River-214x161

October Tour Schedule
10/13 Dunamaise Arts Centre PORTLAOISE
10/14 The Everyman CORK
10/15 Watergate Theatre KILKENNY
10/21 Siamsa Tire, TRALEE
10/22 Lime Tree Theatre LIMERICK
10/27 Hawk’s Well Theatre SLIGO
10/28 ROSCOMMON Arts Centre
10/29 Backstage Theatre LONGFORD
10/30 Pavilion Theatre DUN LAOGHAIRE outside DUBLIN.
All shows begin at 8PM. All tickets available through the theatres at 18 euros/15 concession and all proceeds support Local Hospices through the Irish Hospice Foundation.
So, those are the facts. Here are my feelings. My heart is bursting with expectation, hopes and memories of my mother and father. Joe and I love Ireland so much. We’ve visited over 20 times over the years and I can almost inhale the sweetness and grace of that God’s green gift to us. I cannot help but wonder what my parents would say to the idea that I am sharing our family’s story of love and loss throughout the homeland of both their own mothers. I can only know that I will bring my heart to the stage every night and that the hugs I may give and receive on this beautiful Isle will stretch all the way to heaven. Hands on, Ireland! Joe will be with  me and Martha too and of course, Mary! Here we come!

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A love letter to Ireland

I just returned from one of the most wondrous God Box journeys yet. This month I performed my one woman show The God Box, A Daughter’s Story in Ireland, at theaters in Limerick and Dun Laoghaire just outside Dublin city. Onstage I always learn something new, whether in small US towns, big cities or other countries. And the Irish people were the best of teachers. In the show, I am as fully open as I can be about what it means to love parents with all your heart and then lose a part of yourself when they die. Audiences react in their own unique ways. Some audiences delight me with their hearty laughter at the happiest nostalgic moments, others become quite emotional, and many tell me they look deeply into themselves. Do I love my mother that much? What would I change if I could? Can I face the grief that won’t let go?

In Ireland, I could feel the ‘motherlove’ as delicious and natural as the fresh Irish air. It’s a country of family, an island that feels connected to every neighbor. And Ireland is also a country that knows deep grief and loss. They were what I call a ‘pin drop crowd’ feeling each beat with me through to the curtain call. That’s why it was fitting that The God Box Project paid it forward to this beautiful homeland of mine, devoting all proceeds to support the voluntary efforts of the Irish Hospice Foundation. In this photo, I’m shoulder to shoulder with my new friend Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation whose mission is to strive for best of care at the end of life, for all. My hope is that I can help raise awareness and support in the months to come.

Sharon FoleySharon kindly wrote, “Mary Lou eloquently portrays the life and death of her beloved parents in this powerful production that will pull on your heartstrings. We are proud and delighted to have the support of The God Box Project.” I couldn’t be more grateful to bring my journey of the heart to the country with such a big one.

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From the Bottom of my Heart

At our Thanksgiving table, as so many families do, we go around before we eat to acknowledge what each of us is grateful for. I always got teary when I spoke because the memories would flood back one over the other, making it impossible to list all the gifts from those I hold dear. Even the hardest years have moments of light (and bold-faced names!) to remember.

This year I would like to thank the thousands of people who came to The God Box Project–whether through the book or the play or the app–particularly those who hosted events so that we could give back to their charities and the theaters who shared space generously for a good cause. This year was particularly special due to the leadership and generous spirit of so many. Thanks to Gina Groch, formerly principal of St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Will be performing for Gina again at her new school St. Ann’s in Naples on Jan.28!). February brought me to Atlanta, the day after the big ice storm for a special reading for Barbara Bonapfel’s women’s group of St. James UMC Retreat. And March came in like a lion, thanks to Lily Safani and the Gilda’s Club NYC show at the fabulous Cherry Lane Theater in NYC followed by four shows in a row. The first was pulled together by the beloved late Mike Prendergast, one of his last efforts to support scholarships for Cardinal Dougherty students who now attend Bishop McDevitt HS. That show was held at Arcadia University’s Theater, thanks to president Steve Finley and later that day, I performed the first of three shows in honor of late Sr. Alice Edward Strogen SSJ, longtime chaplain on the oncology floor of Childrens’ Hospital of Philadelphia (at Arcadia, at Saint Joseph’s University Bluett Theater and then at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio in Philadelphia.) Huge hugs to Rachel Biblow, Stroge’s boss and forever friend. Later that spring, I staged another show for the Cancer Support Community, this one hosted by CSCNJ, thanks to the marvelous Amy Sutton at the Bickford Theater in Morristown, NJ and then a special event run by Dina Murray for the St. Andrew’s Home and School Association in Lawrenceville, NJ and a huge event at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Doylestown, PA with the leadership of Janice Perry. During the summer, our performances at the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland brought needed dollars to MacMillan Cancer Support in the UK. The fall brought me to New Hope, PA to St. Martin of Tours Church for an amazing reading thanks to Pamela Gray and to Harrisburg to Bishop McDevitt HS to support the Sisters of St. Joseph Retirement Fund, (shoutout to Sr. Elizabeth Ferguson SSJ!) and then to Villanova U for Robin Cohen who heads the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Fund. Finally, I ended the fall tour at the hospice conference sponsored by Barnabas Health, run by the spectacular Mary Murray.

If you have read througChildrens God Boxesh these names–and believe me, there are many more!– you may not remember them but I can never forget. This year, thanks also to the stellar work of our director Martha Wollner, lighting designer Kia Rogers, video designer Chris Kateff and production coordinator Nidia Medina,  the God Box Project passed the $250,000 in total funds raised since we launched in spring 2012. If we were at a Thanksgiving table together, by now we would be on to dessert. My dessert? The joy of sharing my family’s story with so many and being able to pay my mother’s love forward…with so much more to come. Check out the events calendar for the winter/spring 2015 tour. Love is all around us! (and please write to me marylou@theGodBoxProject.com if your community and/or charity would like to book the show. Here for you!

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Still Hearing my Dad

One of the most beautiful lines in Alice McDermott’s newest book “Someone” traces a daughter’s relationship with her Dadphoto Dad barn: “with my heart pinned to my father’s sleeve.” Stopped me in my tracks. That’s how I loved my Dad.  Since dancing on his shoes as a girl, I never stopped following in his footsteps, as I did in this photo taken when Dad was 88. I cherish his memory.

Ray Finlayson always knew what to say to his only daughter.

 

How many teenagers despair in the mirror, dreading they will never measure up?  Dad lifted my downcast face and whispered, “You will be willowy.”

He founded my independence. “No matter what you choose to do, we’ll love you just the same.” He unselfishly told me to live my life, not his or Mom’s.

“Give ‘em hell, Harry!” he’d yell to me before a big presentation.  With Truman’s battle cry, Dad urged me to speak my mind, even if it was what others didn’t want (or expect) to hear.

And as Dad watched me over-work or over-worry, he’d gently ask: “Why don’t you put your feet up?” Advocate of balance before we called it that.

 

But Dad also knew what NOT to say. He never said, Why didn’t you try harder? Or, What’s wrong with you? Or, Why aren’t you more like her?” He raised me on his high hopes and his promise of home no matter what. He was my hero who never asked for applause or credit. He made me laugh but never made me cry. Until I lost him.

 

His words I most miss are those I still hear if I close my eyes. “You’re my girl.” Yes, I am, Daddy. Always will be. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Thank you for what you said…and didn’t.

 

 

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The little book that just wants to help

Page from bookOver the past two plus years, one of the most delightful things about “The God Box” book is its way of bringing comfort to people it has never even met. The entire God Box Project started that way, when I wrote an article for Real Simple Magazine in November 2010 and I started to hear from readers who were touched by it. Even now, after a performance, someone will approach me with a torn page from that issue because the piece ‘brought  back’ their own mother or because they had started a God Box after reading it. But the true heart of this project is my Mom Mary Finlayson. She’s the one who just wanted to help others and felt that tucking a message into her God Box would bring some measure of joy or hope or relief to family, friends and even strangers who never knew. Someone wrote to me recently, “I’ve read and re-read portions of the book that gave me particular comfort and I will continue to apply hot compresses of Mary Finlayson on my bruised soul, because now I have a model for what unconditional love looks like.  I hope you don’t mind if I adopt your mother as my spiritual guide.  She seems to have plenty of love to go around, and maybe she won’t mind throwing her beneficence over another stray.” So now “The God Box”  is like a mini-Mary, finding its way into other hands and hearts. And in a few days, it will find its way across the ocean. The book has been set free. Will you find it?

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A Dream Realized

"The God Box, A Daughter's Story"

Losing my parents was the heartbreak of my life. But I feel that they left me a gift, first in my mother’s God Boxes of notes but also in the grit and hope they instilled in me as a girl. I had always dreamed of a career in theater but instead poured my years into a business career. But after losing Mom and Dad, I decided I wanted to share their story, not only in my book but onstage.  I started from scratch, at the bottom, at a sad point in my life. But their belief in me gave me courage. And my partnership with the amazing actor/playwright/director Martha Wollner gave me the skills. After many U.S. performances raising nearly $250,000 for charities, now the show is stepping up to a world stage. From July 31 to August 25, I will be performing ‘The God Box, A Daughter’s Story’ at the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was an honor to be accepted by the famous Assembly Theater there. A new journey is beginning.But I’ll pack my bags with Mom and Dad’s love inside.  Come along with me as I share the next few months of the dream of a lifetime.

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What Makes Mom “Mom”

Sometimes our mother’s quirks are what makes them so memorable. Here is one of my Mom memories. What little odd things does or did your Mom do?

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Remember to remember Mom

What do you wish you told your mother? I feel that sometimes we were better at disclosing our hearts when we were little. No holds barred–just pure love and gratitude. With Mother’s Day coming, what do you want to say to your Mom?

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sample chapter
Enjoy a free selected chapter from The God Box.
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reading group guide
Invite your book club to join this engaging conversation about Mary Lou’s book.
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printable mini cards
Share these mini note cards or write notes for your God Box.
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mobile app
The God Box app makes it easy to write notes on the go.
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giving back
Ask how Mary Lou can support your local cause with the book and play.
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Come meet Mary Lou and experience The God Box: A Daughter's Story at a venue near you.
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press & praise
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  • "In the slips of paper that carry this sweet story forward, we can see the love in our own families and the great possibilities of simple faith."
    – JEFFREY ZASLOW, COAUTHOR OF "THE LAST LECTURE"
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan shares her mother’s handmade and heartfelt gift of how to persist, believe and move forward with joy."
    – LEE WOODRUFF, AUTHOR OF "IN AN INSTANT"
  • "The courage and wisdom from the messages left in her mother’s God Box will inspire you to create a God Box of your own."
    – GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR OF "PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING"
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan has told the story of her mother in a way that entertains, moves and inspires. The thoughts about life and values will stick with you forever."
    – JIM LEHRER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF PBS NEWSHOUR
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
    – ELIZABETH GILBERT, AUTHOR OF "EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
  • "A wonderful legacy…Keeping a God Box is an incredibly moving and hopeful ritual that we should all consider adding into our daily lives."
    – REBA, MUSICIAN, AUTHOR, ACTRESS
  • "What a beautiful and profoundly human book....I will keep The God Box in my heart for a long, long time."
    – LAURA SCHROFF, AUTHOR OF "THE INVISIBLE THREAD"

The God Box App is shiny new and ready to welcome your cares

November 18, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

Since The God Box book was published in the spring of 2012, so many readers have told me that they started their own God Boxes. I love hearing stories of children creating God Boxes and married couples joining their prayer and cares in a family box. (And my mother would be thrilled!)  A 'real' God box is a constant reminder that we are not in control and that letting go is the first step to finding comfort, hope and relief for life's worries. But did you know that many thousands have gone virtual with their God boxes? To help the many busy ...

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