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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Stitched with LOVE

Helen Wolf, an amazing writer, quilter and teacher wrote to me about a three day show called the Quilt and Garden Festival at the Pearl S. Buck Center in Perkasie, PA. Helen, who loved The God Box book decided to take the concept into her own hands–literally! She made a quilt that was a fabric God Box and invited attendees to place their own notes inside. We contributed books to the event to support the center…the result? Dozens of prayers slipped inside and as many hearts, lifted!

Helen wrote, “We had a very nice response to the quilt and box today and many people wrote on the slips.  Many people either had heard about the book or had read it.”

Hoping to teach a writing class with Helen at Delaware Valley Community College in the Fall and also to skype into her group of writers who quilt!

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Letters to The God Box

Mom liked to keep her God Boxes handy—even if that meant crossing state lines! She kept boxes in Florida where she and Dad lived in the wintertime, but also in her bedroom in our Pennsylvania house where they stayed each summer.

Wendy Parsons of Jenkintown, PA sent in her story that takes ‘God Box geography’ to a new level. Here’s what she wrote.

“The gift of my God box is peace of mind.  I actually have two God boxes — one at home in my kitchen and the other at work in my office.  They cover the two main arenas of my life — family and  career. 

I keep my family God box in my kitchen because we spend so much time together there–cooking, eating, checking email, helping with homework and just catching up with each other.

I often put in prayers of thanks for the many little and big blessings of my life.  We also put in special requests — if one of my daughters is having a struggle with a particular challenge at school, or if we need guidance on making a decision, we write a prayer asking for wisdom.    I also include prayers for my friends who need help, assurances, or just the experience of extra love in their lives.  

I have another God box at the office in which I place prayers for the success of my work, my colleagues’ work, and for the good outcome of any problems that arise.  My God boxes are a way for me to have conversations with God and keep me connected with my divine guidance and bigger truths of my life. This has opened up the whole heart experience of feeling more gratitude and consolation. 

Thanks for sharing, Wendy!

Do you have a story to share about lessons learned from your Mom or loved one…or experiences with your God Box? Send them to me at marylou@theGodBoxproject.com–along with photos or videos –and we can post with your permission.


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Letters to The God Box

Over the past month, I have been receiving beautiful letters from readers and keepers of God Boxes. This week, I received one from a woman named Sheila McCarthy. Sheila, who lives in a retirement community of 70,000 in Central Florida, describes herself as a 66 year old grandmother of ten and a mother of four grown children. I would describe her as “loving”.

Here is an excerpt of her letter to me:


I just wanted to tell you how deeply touched I was by your beautiful tribute to your mother.

Your book was a gift to me from my nephew and I will treasure it always.  I also have a God Box and have had it for over a year.  My God Box is also filled with short notes to God for petitions about my family and extended family. It’s a square velvet box that I keep on my dresser and it was given to me by a very special friend of mine. Ironically, when I first saw a copy of your book, I purchased it for this friend. 

I have always been very spiritual and with such a large family, there have been so many prayer requests.  I’ve been thrilled to have a place to “offer up” my requests and then to “let go.”  It has been a great help to me. I am a product of 12 years of Catholic school and the need to turn to God in times of concern is second nature to me.

I loved your tribute to your mother.  God bless you!

Sheila McCarthy

The Villages, Fl


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A Rainbow over New York City

Goes to show you that no matter what happens in NYC, there is always a rainbow waiting in the wings!

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One month. 6,000 books already sold. And almost as many undone to do’s.

First, the good news! “The God Box” launched exactly one month ago today and it is flying off the shelves, both in stores and online and off– an amazing start. Mom’s little box seems to be touching so many and we hope that those who received it as a gift for Mother’s Day yesterday might want to buy copies for friends, family and just anyone who needs the love tucked inside. I traveled to Philadelphia (multiple times), Charlotte, Portland, OR, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and of course, held a bunch of NY events, spoke to at least 25 different audiences, visited bookstores to sign, tweeted, FB’d, blogged, appeared on a dozen radio shows and a couple TV programs, logged thousands of miles and breathed a couple of times. We are so excited and raring to go!

Now, the bad news of what it means to go on a book ‘tour’ of my own design. (Aren’t we our own worst boss?) Here is the list of what I haven’t done for a solid month.

  1. Exercise
  2. Make the bed
  3. Eat salad and drink water
  4. Read the paper with Rocky my dog on my lap (a favorite morning ritual)
  5. Go to yoga class
  6. Fill the car with gas (see yesterday’s post)
  7. Sleep much
  8. Take my winter clothes out of my drawers and closets despite 80 degree temps
  9. Skip dessert
  10. Do you see a pattern here?

So, starting today, for the next phase of what I hope is a lifelong journey with “The God Box”, I went to the gym, made the bed, sat with Rocky, ate oatmeal with skim milk(ok, it’s a start), and had a great night’s sleep. Still stuff on the list but don’t we all have that? What’s on your to do list?

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Wowza, “The God Box” tops USA Today’s Mother’s Day Gift List

Wowza “The God Box” has been touted as the #1 book to buy this year for Mother’s Day in USA Today…but why stop at Mother’s Day? Mom would be so proud! http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/G3848


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Ever think you are becoming more and more like your Mom?

If you are facing Mother’s Day without your Mom, this blog that The New York Times featured today on Motherlode might help. I find that discovering more of my Mom in me, year by year, is a comfort and in a small way, like having her back again.http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/becoming-my-mom/

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A Book Party with a Soul, “The God Box” at Michael’s April 23rd

Ann Moore, a great friend and the former chair of TIME Inc, and me

The truth about NY book parties is that they sound glamorous and sometimes, on TV, they are portrayed that way. Who doesn’t remember Carrie’s book party on Sex and The City? But honestly, they are often sedate affairs where friends and media folks stop in for a quick air kiss, grab a book and head to their real destination, dinner out or home with family at the end of a long day. But I can truly say that the book party that Joe threw for me at Michael’s in NYC was an exception.

I felt so much love in that room. Longtime friends and neighbors, connections from our Irish-American world in NYC, from the theatre, from the blogosphere, from literary circles and film and many terrific supporters from the national media. The room was like one big hug. Just listen to this lovely story of the birth of the God Box from Ann Moore, a great friend and the former chair of TIME Inc. It’s amazing that the book’s very beginning as an article in Real Simple was triggered by the loss of another beautiful mother to cancer and the connection between her beautiful daughter Lily and me, when we were both still fresh with grief.

A party to toast “The God Box”

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sample chapter
Enjoy a free selected chapter from The God Box.

reading group guide
Invite your book club to join this engaging conversation about Mary Lou’s book.

printable mini cards
Share these mini note cards or write notes for your God Box.

mobile app
The God Box app makes it easy to write notes on the go.

giving back
Ask how Mary Lou can support your local cause with the book and play.
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press & praise
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  • "Mary Lou Quinlan shares her mother’s handmade and heartfelt gift of how to persist, believe and move forward with joy."
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
  • "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."
  • "What a beautiful and profoundly human book....I will keep The God Box in my heart for a long, long time."
  • "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."
  • "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."
  • "A wonderful legacy…Keeping a God Box is an incredibly moving and hopeful ritual that we should all consider adding into our daily lives."

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

November 28, 2023
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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