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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Losing Your Mary

Christmas is softening New York City…literally. A dusting of snow has cheered even the crustiest among us who can’t help but whisper, ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’

But the sparkle of new fallen snow can cloak feelings that are sharper this time of year…the keen edge of missing those we’ve loved and lost.

I received this touching letter today from a God Box reader, a woman who lost her Mary too.

Dear Mary Lou,

   I just finished reading your book The God Box. It really touched my heart in a special way. I lost my own mother, also named Mary two years ago.  My nickname for her was Marmie too. She was a devoted Catholic who reminds me of your mom with her continual prayers. I always had her praying for me – I thought her prayers worked better then mine! We were also best friends like you and your mom. What’s uncanny is they had the same blood disorder. I watched my own mother go through the same lab draws, blood transfusions and chemotherapy as your mom. Your book really helped me to know I’m not alone in the pain of losing your best friend who in turn is your mother. It helped me continue to grieve. Thank you so much.

God bless you!

C. 

Dallas, Texas

 

Enjoy this lovely season but please remember to look out for those in your life who are feeling a little lost or left behind in the bustle. There are never enough hugs. No matter how many Christmases go by.

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Texting 9 to 5: A Generational Throwdown

Lately, I have noticed that my Gen Y colleagues have been spending more and more time pecking away at their mobile phones during the work day, (a boomer pet peeve that I have learned to live with). I assumed my millennial partners were exchanging one-liners or plotting cool parties with friends but in today’s Wall St. Journal, I learned that the person most often on the other end of the text is a mom.

Seems that twentysomething’s are g-chatting parents, mostly moms, as often as 20 times a day, just to dish on the sly or to share an indignity of office life. The article didn’t question whether daylong cubicle texting is a career-enhancing move but instead, asked whether the younger generation ought to be dumping work issues in mom’s lap rather than building independent problem-solving skills. After my initial eye-roll’s, I realized that I have actually embraced this digital reality and can even see the good in this changed office etiquette.

First things first. When I was climbing the corporate ladder (yes, and I walked barefoot to school in the snow), personal phone calls were NOT allowed. If Mom called, which she didn’t because she thought I would get in trouble, I would rush to hushed tones and hang up with promises of “I’ll call you tonight!” I’d been taught that the boss was paying for my attention to the job, not to my personal life.

But that was back when my workdays used to end at 6PM and when that same boss rarely, (make that never), called me at home at night. And there was no email. Can I say that again? There was no email. Today’s jobs aren’t 9 to 5 and haven’t been for years. Work summons us with the beep on the bedside table and haunts us with the last blink of night, while emails pile up on the pillow. So, with the workplace boundaries widened, the window for daytime personal duties opens. So I’ve decided I can get over my reflexive cringe at the sight of a clutched iPhone and admit that I like to text from my desk too–my husband, my friends, my to-do’s zip seamlessly in and out of my day. (Oh, how I would love to still have my Mom to text to!) Distracting? Yes. But helpful. And hard to kick. And I’m the boss, so why not? And if so, why not, others on the team?

And while at first, I felt annoyed reading about young-un’s running to mom with every office bruise, on second thought, maybe it’s not a bad idea. While it’s critical that we learn coping and negotiation skills early on, there’s nothing wrong with turning to “the source” for advice. I know I talked to Mom every night about every little nick and achievement. One friend said to me that her daughter texts her the moment her lunch break begins, her cue to lay out all her morning frustrations. And my friend’s responses are usually wise: “Give it some time.” “Think about why that might have happened.”  “Next time, try this approach.” Sound, thoughtful perspective or, one might say, skills training, which let’s face it, is rarely coming from the boss who can barely keep up with her/his own email avalanche. So, as long as the digital umbilical cord doesn’t extend into the performance appraisal session (“But she’s was so smart in fifth grade!!!”), I welcome the life line of Mom, AKA career coach. If the job gets done, I’m good with it. Ping away!

 

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You CAN go home again

In “The God Box” I wrote about my beloved Dad, Ray Finlayson. I only wish he could see what I have discovered– the grave of Dad’s great- great grandparents Alexander Finlayson and Margaret MacAllester in the far, far north of Scotland. I walked the street where they lived on the edge of the North Sea and imagined Margaret scanning the water each night for Alexander, a ship’s pilot on the rocky coastline. I do believe she was watching out for me too because St. Peter’s Church where they were married and finally laid to rest– now only ruins from the 1200s– had been closed for the past six years. We planned just to peer through the locked iron gate. It reopened for the first time the day before we got there. I walked into the churchyard and straight to this stone as if they called me over.  I was so grateful to finally find them. But my father in law Tom Quinlan said, “Oh no, it is they who are happy. They have been waiting a long, long time for you.”

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The God Box Inside You

I have been speaking lately about how with time and effort, our careers can evolve to reveal and fulfill our purpose in life. Janet D. Garraty, founder and CEO of Go Jane News, was In a recent audience of women gathered by the Chamber of Commerce of South Jersey. Her review of my talk touched me so much, I had to share. Hoping like Jane, you discover the God Box your Mom left you. Read Janet’s post HERE.

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Thankful for Mary

This morning I walked over to St. Francis Xavier Church to the tiny room upstairs called “The Mary Chapel.” I wanted to attend morning Mass because today, May 29th is the 7th anniversary of my mother’s death. The Mary Chapel lives up to its name. As humble and warm, inviting and hopeful as she was. There are two stained glass windows, each capturing a moment of the Blessed Mother’s life, both donated long ago by the ‘Ladies Sodality.’ I love that.

And the people who come each morning are a mix of what makes our neighborhood beautiful—diverse in age and background, unified in their shared need for peace, even as the growl of NYC construction and traffic pierce in the silence. Inside, we are one, each asking aloud for help—for someone sick, for homeless people, for lost souls. My request was one of thanksgiving for the gift of my Mary.

The priest said that sometimes God speaks to us in subtle ways, little ways. My Mom’s handwritten notes, her helpful sayings, her soothing voice, her ready laughter—that’s what I hear in the subtle quiet of the chapel. And in my heart always. Mom once wrote to me, “You will always be in my God box.” You, too, Mare… you too.

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Now, what?

Do you ever feel that, just as you have accomplished something, people ask, “Now, what?” Happens to me all the time. “What’s your next book?” “Now what are you doing?” My first instinct is to want to fill in their blank with more goals. As I say in my one woman play, “pen, paper, check, check, check, that’s me!” And if I don’t have an ambitious answer, I feel that I am letting someone down.  I do have some terrific plans in the works for the fall God Box tour.

But sometimes, especially as this long-awaited summer finally arrives, it’s okay to be grateful for “now.” My friend, director and co-writer Martha Wollner always tells me to “pay yourself on the back.” Martha literally makes me stop and put my hand over my shoulder and give a good pat. I laugh but it’s true that too many of us don’t stop to acknowledge what’s good. Instead, we look in the mirror and wonder why we haven’t done more. It’s great to set high goals but it’s also important to take a breath.

I am so proud that The God Box Project has raised more than $150,000 for cancer, hospice, women and family causes and education. We have helped thousands of people find peace and hope even in loss. And we have made so many new and wonderful friends along the way. Let’s celebrate the ‘now’ and let the ‘next’ come in good time.

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The God Box in the Greenville News!

The God Box made the news in Greenville, SC! Read the article HERE.

Excited for tonight’s performance at 7 PM at the Warehouse Theater. If you are interested in the show, or know someone who lives in the area that may be, visit HERE for more ticket information.

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Every show, Mom and Dad are closer to me

The question I am asked most often is: How do you do this, again and again? Aren’t you emotionally exhausted or just ready to cry?” No. Every show, Mom and Dad are closer to me. And nothing makes me happier. Hope you will check out the events tab on the home page to see when the show is coming to your area! Or write to me at hello@thegodboxproject.comand perhaps I can travel to your town!

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“My Mom was just like yours!”

Last weekend I performed “The God Box” play at the Connelly, an Off-Off Broadway theatre in NYC. The overflow audience told me that the story brings back the memories of the “Mary” or “Ray” in their lives, such as “My Mom was just like yours!” A friend said that the show was particularly moving to see on the one year anniversary of losing her Dad. Check out the events tab on the home page to see when the show is coming to your town, HERE.

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

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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