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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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"
  • "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"
  • "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"
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
    – ELIZABETH GILBERT, AUTHOR OF "EAT, PRAY, LOVE"
  • "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 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

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

December 15, 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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