#Kindness Is KEY

Happy new {school} year! Today I’m grateful because of a very special delivery that came my way recently from Sarah T. in Wisconsin; look at that gorgeous antique key on the right that perfectly complements our tiny tribute table.

It just arrived one day, this priority mail, out of the blue, and it made my heart soar. When I texted to thank her, she said when you see a key and it screams your friend’s name, you just have to buy it and ship it south. Her words of affirmation on the note read: Saw this while shopping and immediately thought about you. You’ve made a difference in more lives than you’ll ever know. Keep being YOU. Her thoughtfulness made my day, week, month summer brighter.

I’m spending my Labor Day signing a few books, more joy to fuel my journey.

Then, another blessing, this picture from a family that I babysat for when I was in college; it’s the then-father, now grandfather, sharing our story with his grandchildren at their Grand Camp retreat. Be still my soul.

I’ve gone back to school to teach 8th graders again this year; we have completed 3 weeks already and are having a blast learning Spanish while sharpening our social and emotional learning skills. Here’s this year’s Esquina de Paz (Peace Corner):

They’re getting more and more comfortable using the calming resources in the area to help center them and get them ready to learn. Yay!

Finally, after talking with some friends over at Applied EQ Group about something I tried last year to assess what kind of SEL skills my students were acquiring, Elizabeth asked if she could blog about it, so here’s a link to that post, which came out yesterday.

Ours really is more of a Leadership Lab than your ordinary classroom, and mutual respect and kindness is certainly key when it comes to getting 8th-graders to try partner yoga on their own and then ask you to take their picture for Open House. It’s just one of the reasons that I truly believe that the BEST is yet to come.

Here’s to an incredible 2022-2023 school year that’s one-of-a-KIND.

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?

Mom’s Choice Gold Award Recipient

We are grateful and proud to announce that Mr. Quigley’s Keys has been selected as a Mom’s Choice Gold Award Recipient. Such exciting news for us!

I’ve gone back to school now, but I’ve also been busily sharing our story’s backstory. In case you missed it, I was blessed to join Maria Dismondy on her podcast last week. She is such a beautiful ray of sunshine in our world; I hope you’ll be able to tune in and maybe even leave her a review.

I’m also super happy with how my classroom came together; here’s an SEL display designed to uplift, encourage and support, in both languages, of course.

And our Peace Corner is ready for when my learners need to PAZ (see what I did there?). I’m not certain how much my 8th-grade amigos will use this area, but it’s complete with breathing exercises, fidgets, essential oil options and more for if and when they want to press PAZ.

Happy new {school} year; I have a feeling that the BEST is yet to come!

Mr. Quigley’s Keys On The Radio

Feeling so SO grateful to The Lisa Show at BYU Radio for giving me some air time to share the story behind our story. What a joy it was to talk about our journey from a seed sown to the published product.

Readers of all ages are enjoying lap-top time with Mr. Quigley’s Keys. This toddler in WI loved searching for the camouflaged keys with my beautiful sister, Debra. Aren’t they adorable?

And I’m super excited for this week’s event at the Friendswood Library; if you’re in the area, join us this Thursday at 3 pm CST.

Finally, a can-doer quote I recently came across; happy August.

Back-To-School Book SELections

First things first; thank you, Barbie and Betty, for posting those promising practices about teaching empathy on our previous post. You BOTH have a book coming your way since I decided to match my publisher’s gift. Reach out to me at bgruener5 (at) gmail.com with your postal address and I’ll pop those into our next shipment. Congrats and happy reading.

Speaking of reading, I curated a Back-to-School SEL calendar around school-themed books that can help you foster a caring climate and classroom community with your learners of all ages. Click {here} for your freebie download.

What are YOUR key read-alouds as you help your learners transition back to school, get acquainted with one another, make those compassionate connections, and settle in to a new school year?