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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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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Letting Go of an Angel

I don’t know what the hardest job in the world might be but it’s fair to say that serving as chaplain in the oncology ward of a children’s hospital is right up there.  I can only imagine the strength it takes to comfort parents facing their child’s fight with cancer. Yet an angel did that job every day for 20 years—with joy. Her name was Sister Alice Edward Strogen (r), SSJ, Oncology Chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, known locally as CHOP. “Jolly” was how her office mate Helen Stermel described her. I’d suggest “Saint.”

If you don’t know much about nuns, here’s a thumbnail. They work tirelessly in schools, in hospitals, in some of the most desperate circumstances—not for money or praise, but for others. Many work well into their 80s and 90s, devoted to God. I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. I know these women. They are invincible.

I never met Sister Alice but she ‘met’ me when she attended my performance of “The God Box” on November 16, held to raise dollars for the retired sisters in the St. Joseph Villa in Flourtown, PA.  That night as I looked out from the stage, the audience was so darkly lit, I couldn’t see a single face. But that weekend, I received an enthusiastic letter from Sister Alice.

“Your dear mother, Mary, continues to have an impact on so many people!” she wrote. “I think that your mother’s legacy…her faith…her hope and her love… have so much to offer each one of us. Her most profound gift to us is the art of learning how to let go. I have said for years that I believe that this is what life is all about…learning how to let go!”

Sister and I wrote back and forth for a week, both of us so excited about bringing the show to Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t wait to meet her. But last Wednesday, Cindy Schmus, a nurse practitioner at CHOP, wrote to tell me that her dear friend Sister Alice, only 65 years old, had suddenly died of a massive heart attack. Cindy wrote that Sister spent her last hour, talking about sharing The God Box with patients and parents to help them cope.

I keep re-reading Sister Alice’s letters to me:

“I, too, believe that God brings people together and makes things happen…that’s why we have to learn to let go and open ourselves to God’s ideas for our lives…just like your mother did!”

Her funeral service is being held today at the Villa at 12:30PM. I know that the chapel will be packed with heartbroken souls trying to hold on to her. I won’t let go of my commitment to Sister Alice. I will figure out how to bring “The God Box” to the families and staff of CHOP. Rest in eternal peace, sweet angel. It’s only fair after doing the hardest job on earth.

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A Bouquet for Mom

When I turned 21, I gave my mother a bouquet of 21 daisies, each marking a happy and grateful year since she gave birth to me…I figured October 22 was kind of her birth-day, too. Daisies reminded me of the simple childlike love that I felt for her from day one. When Mom wrote her own memoir called “Mary’s Beautiful Memories,” she put daisies on the cover, perhaps as a wink back at me?

This week in Chicago, I will perform “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story”  as a way of taking her gift forward. This photo was shot during last Sunday’s show at Saint Joseph’s University. I hope you will join me at future performances or maybe, if you still have your Mom, you’ll give her a thank you bouquet just because.

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Falling into my mother’s footsteps

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see some glimpse of my mother in me. But breaking my foot on a New York sidewalk is too close for comfort. Last week I cracked my 5th metatarsal when I leapt to save my little dog Rocky from the jaws of a mastiff that Rocky had—somewhat impertinently!—sniffed.  Now I am dragging an UGG-ly boot around Manhattan that cannot be made to look cute no matter what I do with it. My mother would understand.

When Mom first visited me and Joe in New York City, she sprained her ankle on a cracked sidewalk. (She also had a bracelet stolen by the elderly lady she stooped to help on the street, but it was the 70s.) Dad, who never believed anything hurt, propped Mom up in the backseat of their car, stuck her leg out the window to chill in the sleet all the way home on the Jersey Turnpike.  (Ice and elevate, right?)

A couple years later, Mom sprained her ankle again, this time at home in Philadelphia. She was trying to stay off it but Dad wanted her to ‘get her mobility back’ as he said. “Hey, Mary, let’s take a walk  outside.” Begrudgingly, Mom hobbled to the door, took one step out and sprained the other one. Not a high point in our family’s medical history.

So, in honor of Mom, I will grin and bear it. And be glad that at least it’s not sleeting and I’ve got an elevator, a cab and if necessary, will hitch a ride on Rocky. It’s the least he can do!

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Feeling Free Inside the Box

Since writing “The God Box”, I have heard from so many people who share stories of their own families and God Box experiences and one of them is Jen Santoro– a mom, writer, volunteer, planner and all around terrific human being.  Jen, who has her own blog www.prosewithpoise.wordpress.com, met with me to talk about her upcoming plans for a charitable fundraiser on behalf of the Amanda Styles Cirelli Foundation. I am hoping to present “The God Box” play at their event this coming November. But Jen was so compelling, I wanted to give her this stage to tell her own story and I invited her to be our first video blogger “Outside the Box.” Meet a fabulous person and a new friend, Jen Santoro here:  Feeling Free Inside the Box

A little more background on Jenifer Santoro:
Jenifer Santoro is a writer, daughter, wife and stay at home mother of two.  A woman grounded in her christian faith, Jenifer uses her God Box as a means to surrender her thoughts, concerns and prayers to God.  Another major component of her God Box, though, is the appreciation she has for God’s favor.  As much as her Box is used for requests, it is equally filled with notes of gratitude for all of the blessings in her life.  Since reading Mary Lou’s story, Jenifer has been able to incorporate two of her life’s loves, faith and writing, together in a way that frees her from worry and uneasiness.  When it goes it the Box, it goes to God, and there is nothing He can’t handle.  When not working on her novel about faith and forgiveness, Jenifer writes about “Words with Gratitude, Grace and Gumption” and can be followed at www.prosewithpoise.wordpress.com.

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Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s in our lives

I wrote this blog about my Dad, Ray Finlayson, for the Speakeasy column in today’s online Wall St Journal. I miss my Dad every day and I can remember trying to give him ties and tools on Father’s Day…but all he wanted was time with us. Funny…that is all I wish I had with him now.

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DAY OF REST: On the road today with Joe and Rocky

Here is my backseat companion, Rocky. We are on our way to pick up Joe’s Mom and Dad in Levittown to go to Easter Mass and brunch and then heading up the NJ Turnpike to NYC to celebrate in New York with Joe’s sister Ginny, brother-in-law Tony and their children and grandkids (all our nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.) Easter peeps, here we come!

And in between, Rocky and I are studying my lines for upcoming performances of The God Box, my one woman, one act play. Well, I’m studying. Rocky is, well…resting!

What are your plans today? Enjoy in every way!

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sample chapter
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printable mini cards
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mobile app
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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"
  • "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"
  • "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"
  • "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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