How are you?

I mean really, how are you?

More than anything I wish I could sit down with you, face to face, and have a long chat. I’ve been missing my community: the teachers and students I get to work with, the educators I get to learn alongside, the folks I see at conferences and restaurants and grocery stores. I’d love to smile at each of you, offer a hug where appropriate, and just share a moment of “we are in this together.” I miss the joy of human connection! And it was really getting me down.

Then my colleague Katy Farber mentioned a new idea for students during this time: an independent hands-on learning experience called: The Joy Project.

Joy is exactly what I needed. AND it’s a way to communicate with my community.

So I went for it. I stepped through her plan.

1. Discover your interests

I was really interested in finding a way to communicate with others, those who might also be lonely or struggling in this challenging time (BUT NOT BY ZOOM! I REPEAT, NOT BY SCREEN!).

I’ve been inspired by the stories on social media and the news of folks writing in sidewalk chalk, sharing signs of gratitude, and hiding stuffed animals in windows for young children to spy on walks.  But I don’t live in a neighborhood with sidewalks or young walkers…

2. Discover your community

I live in a BEAUTIFUL place with lovely hiking paths and walking trails. And more folks are walking these trails than I’ve ever seen before. But with social distancing guidelines in place, we smile and move on, isolated from each other even as we share the trail, the view, the sound of the river.

3. Find the overlap

I’ve been repeating little mantras to myself when I need a boost… what would it look like to share these with my community?

Enter the tree cookie.

What is a tree cookie you ask?  In my many years of chaperoning at Keewaydin Environmental Education Center, I became not only familiar with but a fan of the tree cookie: a slice of a branch that can serve as a name tag, sign, or marker.  Why not write my little mantras on tree cookies?!!!

4. Enlist help

Power tools are not my friends. But, I’ve got some family members that were happy to collaborate with me.  A branch from the yard was quickly transformed into small, circular canvases. Many thanks to those who know how to wield a power saw!

5. Do the work!

Tree cookies in hand, I got out my markers and started to compose. I reached out to friends for sayings they found reassuring, words that lifted their spirits.  And once I had a handful of decorated tree cookies, I took them walking.

6. Share the results

My little round messages are now located on four different walking trails: nestled in trees, resting on rocks, tucked into mossy nooks, waiting to be seen by walkers of all ages.

7. Aaaaand reflect

It’s a little thing, the sharing of kind words. And yet it brought me so much joy, each and every step of the way.  As I wrote on each sliver of wood I breathed love and care into the words.  Walking in the woods with a pocket of positive messages changed the nature of the walk – I was more present as I noticed perfect spots for little circles of light.  And as I return to these spots I smile to see the words still there and smile even harder when I see that they are not –hoping they went home in the pocket of someone who needed them.

I can’t see you right now #vted community — I can’t inquire after your health or your family, I can’t offer you a smile as you tell me your news.
But I can share a kind word with you:

You are enough.

Deep breath in, deep breath out.
We’ve got this. We belong to each other.
You are loved.
how are you joy project
My pup, Charlie, assisting in the tree cookie process. I enlisted his skills in imitating a small hippopotamas.

Jeanie Phillips

Jeanie Phillips is a former (and always!) school librarian and a Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. A 2014 Rowland Fellow, she is passionate about student engagement, equity, collaboration, and questions. Jeanie likes to hike the woods of southern Vermont with her dog Charlie and is always in search of a well-brewed cup of tea and a good book.

12 thoughts on “How are you?

  • May 2, 2020 at 8:27 am
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    Thank you Jeannie. I needed this idea to give me hope that we can each do something to offer help.

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    • May 4, 2020 at 7:43 am
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      Thank you so much for reading, Nancy!

      Reply
  • modonnell@cvsdvt.org'
    May 2, 2020 at 10:43 am
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    This is the best idea ever! I love the simplicity and power of it. We certainly have plenty of blown down branches in our woods that would love to be repurposed! I feel inspired! Thank you so very much!! xoxo

    Reply
    • May 4, 2020 at 7:44 am
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      I would love to see what you do with your branches, I hope you will share!

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  • ggiom@brsu.org'
    May 4, 2020 at 10:59 am
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    Jeanie, I LOVE this! We’re going to do it.

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    • May 6, 2020 at 5:15 pm
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      Giom, I know you know your way around power tools! Looking forward to seeing the messages you put out into the world!

      Reply
  • eevans@bsdvt.org'
    May 4, 2020 at 11:04 am
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    SO BEAUTIFUL! Thank you so much for sharing. Just what I needed on this cloudy day…

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    • May 6, 2020 at 5:15 pm
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      Thank you so much for reading.

      Reply
  • rick@compass-school.org'
    May 4, 2020 at 11:58 am
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    Nice Jeanie. I want to wander in your woods. I’ve been wandering a lot in mine, sans uplifting messages:) Best to you and your family.

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    • May 6, 2020 at 5:16 pm
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      Hi Rick, our woods are not so far from each other… perhaps I will see you wandering around Lowell Lake one day soon? Sending my best to all of the Compass staff and students!

      Reply
  • annrocks23@yahoo.com'
    May 15, 2020 at 10:26 am
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    Jeannie,
    I’ve been creating kindness ricks for folks. I love the tree cookie idea! My next project. Thank you for the inspiration. You are loved!
    Roxanne

    Reply
    • May 18, 2020 at 9:24 am
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      Thank you so much, Roxanne! We would love to see the kind messages you are sending out to the world.

      Reply

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