Her Hand On Mine

Today my soul is still singing from a private reading with a four-year-old birthday girl who my sister knows and loves. I put four keys on a key ring for her and grabbed an extra copy of the book not really sure how well it would go to read a book, written for children in the age group 6-10, to such a young girl. I encouraged her to jingle her keys when she saw Mr. Quigley on a page; at the part about him being deaf, we stopped and shook the keys while holding them tight, to help her understand what his keys sounded like to him. It makes me happy to report that she was with me for the entire book, and I got the BEST feedback when she asked me to read it again.

Hoping to engage her in the author signing, I asked her to help me spell her name. Without skipping a beat, Zoe put her hand on mine, to help me with her name, literally and figuratively. It was a magical moment that I wished could last forever.

This morning I led a growth session, Building Equity By The Book, at the Character Conference in WI; click {here} if you’re interested in seeing those slides.

Inspiring Magical Moments

Today I’m grateful and filled with joy from last week’s school visits in Wisconsin. The week started in Hartland, where I got to read my book and sing with a class of third graders and then two classes of fifth graders. This visit was actually an auction-item donation to support their school building project, time with an author and signed books to the highest bidder. My husband was also there; his donation, a meeting to learn from a planetary scientist from NASA. You could say he’s recruiting, to help keep dreams of space travel alive. My Dad and sister joining us made it extra special.

Our second visit found me at Howard Elementary with a special group of fourth graders in the Green Bay area. To celebrate my book’s birthday, we were greeted with balloons, cookies, flowers and tons of smiles!

It made my soul sing to be able to read the story aloud after sharing its backstory with this school family, connected to us because their teacher, Mrs. Vande Hei, is the sister of my brother Mark’s friend Mike. Sibling love for the win!

While I was talking about their Key Principles, John was sharing all about space down the hall with the third grade team. (Photos courtesy of Howard-Suamico Schools)

We both encouraged them to follow their dreams and pursue their passions, be it writing or science, neither or both. What a joy it was to spend time with that incredible school family; the bonus was meeting their servant-hearted custodian, Jesse, on our way out the door. Then we headed south to Cedarburg, where we walked the streets of that quaint little town and celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary before my third and final school visit. This door to a stationery shop caught my eye and spoke to my spirit.

To say that my day at Westlawn Elementary was magical doesn’t begin to describe the enchanting things that are happening in that school of character.

The morning began with a Character Day assembly; no, Colleen and Stef, not THAT kind of character! There were 300 students in that gym but you seriously could have heard a pin drop as these young leaders respectfully listened, eager to hear what the day would hold for them as they unlocked the magic together.

Since Mr. Quigley’s Keys has served as their “North Star” this year, there was a collective gasp of excitement and joy that I will never forget when they announced that I was there to spend the day with them.

This was my nook for the day as I met all of the students by grade level and shared my story from farmer’s daughter to educator to author, a spot I will forever appreciate because it’s where I got to sing and sign with these beautiful Westlawn Dolphins.

At the end of the day, we presented a copy of the book to their hero custodian, Mrs. Heidi, a role model who is cherished and loved because, in the words of a first grader, “she puts us before herself.”

So many magical moments forever imprinted on my heart; I’m leaving Wisconsin with an extra spring in my step and a more vibrant energy, hope and love in my soul.

Unlocking The Magic

Today I’m grateful for three upcoming author visits in Wisconsin; as I was getting ready, I thought that it’d be fun to give the students a KEYpsake from our visit, so I wrote a little ditty, sung to the tune of You Are My Sunshine, and asked my daughter Kaitlyn to design a card for it.

This weekend, my daughter-in-law Victoria helped me tie an antique key onto each one of the key cards. Didn’t they turn out cute?

Earlier this spring, I donated a copy of the book and an accompanying author visit to the fundraising auction at a local today and today I was blessed with that visit. What a delightful treat, to read my book aloud, strum this song on the ukulele while we sang together, and answer their author questions. One boy asked if his key would actually work on any doors. Another girl asked how many friends I have. Pure magic. And joy.

Can you see why each one of these budding authors holds a key to my heart now?

How do YOU unlock the magic?

The Kindness Podcast

Right now, I’m feeling grateful to have been invited to visit with Nicole on The Kindness Podcast today at noon, perfectly timed to coincide with the Mr. Quigley’s Keys softcover release in Spanish this week.

Tune in today and you’ll see why Nicole’s podcast was named one of Oprah’s Top Five Happiness Podcasts; her questions were so thoughtful and her enthusiasm was contagious. Oh, and she was super easy and fun to talk to. Thank you, Nicole, for planting seeds of kindness wherever you go and for letting me share my essence, my purpose, and my story with your audience of kindness crusaders.

Giving Empathy Wings

This special delivery from a 4th-grade reader brought me to tears.

It was an update, about how the class is doing putting their KEY Principle into action, giving it wings, if you will. His KEY is empathy. What this empathy hero’s teacher might not know is that her thoughtfulness was perfectly timed, because this treasure came in the mail just as I was about to celebrate my first Easter without my brother Mark. My spirit needed a booster shot of connection, hope and love, and her empathy winged its way from my home state to deep in the heart of Texas at exactly the right moment. It’s empathy that gives kindness its why; I wrote about it {here}, along with some empathy integration ideas, in case you’ve been looking.

From time to time, our book gets a Twitter shout out; so thankful for this one from Florida. I love that the story whets their appetites for learning ASL.

Our hardcover in the Spanish language has arrived; check it out on Amazon {here}.

I’ll leave you with that beautiful smile, which says more about our joy than my words ever could. Happy springtime.

The Keyhole of Hope & Possibilities

Click the image for a download of this key template.

I’m always honored, excited and grateful to discover how schools around the world are using Mr. Quigley’s Keys to inspire and influence; one of the most recent projects shared with me comes from Lincoln Elementary in the state of Washington. Click {here} to watch their beautiful work of HEART unfold. My soul is singing that a seed our story planted has germinated and blossomed into this incredible school-wide project which this family of CAN-DOER Bull Pups is using to help them hurdle over some upcoming challenges and changes.

As I was creating this template, it occurred to me that you could teach your learners about symmetry so that they can create their own keyhole instead of using mine.

Directions: Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and draw a half circle and a slanted line; it’ll end up looking a bit like a capital R. Cut along the lines, open it up and find your very own, individualized keyhole template.

Write or illustrate the world you see through the keyhole when we use our keys to connection to encourage, support, love on and serve one another. Or let your artists create the prompt by asking them what they are looking for through their keyhole.

What do YOU see when you peek through the keyhole of hope and possibilities?

¿Puedes Oír Las Llaves?

Can you hear those keys coming closer … in Spanish?! Today I’m overflowing with gratitude and joy to share that Las Llaves del Señor Quigley is on its way to the publisher. HUGE shout-out to my daughter, Kaitlyn, for her design help and emotional support in making this dream a reality. I started the translation back in August, but then my brother Mark passed away and my grief work detoured me.

Then, in December, I heard Diana, the founder of Asher’s Gift Box, on the Kindness Podcast with Nicole J. Phillips, mention that she was looking for picture books in Spanish to include with her boxes, and it was the sign that I needed to get back on track translating KEYS.

We had a few interesting issues arise, like every Spanish-speaking country having its own Sign Language alphabet, so we decided to stick with our ASL and just include the two additional letters from the Sign Language of Spain alphabet.

I’m so thankful to Eugenia, a friend of EduMatch, for helping proof my translation. We are so eager for this opportunity to put our picture book into the hands and onto the hearts of more readers just as the one-year birthday of our book rolls around.

Last week I had the opportunity to make my first in-person author visit to Salem Lutheran in Tomball to read Mr. Quigley’s Keys in English to my young friends at Salem Lutheran in Tomball; what a delight it was to watch (and feel!) the reactions as I read to learners in grades K through 4th. Each of the classes presented me with a creative KEY that they’d made as their entrance ticket to unlock the event.

We sang a song, we shared some sign language words, and I got to act out the story as they listened respectfully with wide-eyed wonder. My favorite was probably hearing a second-grade girl gasp with glee as I turned to the last page and she realized that Jenn was actually Mr. Quigley’s granddaughter. As they left to go back to class, each reader took an antique key as a touchstone to remind them that they are all a KEY part of their school family. What makes YOU a key part of your school’s success?

The following day, the librarian shared this with me; yes, it is well with my soul.

¿Puedes oír el tintineo mágico de esas llaves acercándose?

From Deep In The Heart

Happy holidays from deep in the heart of Texas; while up in WI, I got to sit with Owen and find the keys again. Fun fact: Did you know that there are actually 13 keys hidden in Audrye’s illustrations?

And though 2021 has been a year fraught with deep grief as a result of losing three beloved family members, it has also brought great joy with the release of Mr. Quigley’s Keys. My brother, Mark, was the book’s biggest fan. After his death, one of his neighbors and best friends decided to buy a class set for his sister’s classroom up in Green Bay, which resulted in an online author visit and forged a friendship between WI and TX. Read all about it {here}.

Additionally, I’ve had the blessing of Zoom chatting with a class in OH, at a conference in TX, and with residents of an Assisted Living place in WI this semester. I also traveled to WI in November for a three-hour pre-con {IN-PERSON!} session on Kindness as The REAL Global Warming. It was such a fun morning together with the state’s school counselors and my sister, who was able to join us for the workshop.

Grief and joy can co-exist, and life goes on for those of us left behind. I continue to look for the blessings in the burden, the gifts in the grind. Oh, and focus on gratitude, every single day, because it’ll take you to amazing places, deep in the heart.

Happy New Year, sweet reader. If ever you’d like an author visit or to connect by heart via Zoom, please drop me a message and let’s get it on this year’s calendar.

Be blessed as you bless, Barbara

Finding Mr. Quigley’s Keys

Today I’m grateful to all of the friends of Mr. Quigley’s Keys who are reaching out to let me know how the book has landed on their hearts. I was so excited to meet my cousin’s son on a recent trip home and we had a BLAST trying to find the camouflaged keys together. It healed my heart hearing him giggle as he showed me that he’d found each of the keys.

I got to check in on him in his bed after he was tucked in and loved how he had the book under the covers in the dark, looking again to make sure he found them all.

I’m also grateful to have been a recent guest on Thrive O’Clock with Mel and Rachelle!

We talked about the book a bit, but I also got to break out the ukulele to accompany Mel’s serenade to Rachelle for her birthday, and my husband jumped on for the Rapid Fire at the end. Such a fun opportunity!

Life continues to be fragile yet beautiful. Our baby brother, the last of five siblings, passed away from a heart attack in late August, so we have had some painful days. Mark was a big fan of Mr. Quigley’s Keys, and the fact that he passed away at the same age as Don Pittman, the unsung hero in our book, is not lost on me; 53 is just way too young. I blogged about him and my last three weeks {here}. His work family at Clear Channel Outdoor sprinkled these digital billboards over the skies of Milwaukee in his memory; the competitors asked if they could also run the boards, to honor him on the day of his funeral. So comforting. Here’s our last sibling picture with our Dad and his wife. Seeing the billboard on our way to church felt like a sign.

So hard to imagine life without our baby brother, but we press on and carry on his legacy of connection and love now that he has passed the baton. In the words of Ram Dass, we are all just here walking one another home.

I’ve also done an author visit up in IL recently; what a gift to talk with budding authors and read my book to them!

Have YOU found all of Mr. Quigley’s Keys yet?