Being with the trees reminds me…

September 2, 2017

So this past week, I spent three days with my Journey Fellows just being. This was our third retreat time together but we spent a good deal of our time in solitude, working on being still. During one of these times of quietude, we were given a Mary Oliver poem to contemplate and asked to go find a tree to simply be among. Instead of walking deeper into the woods, I chose a tree nearer the patio deck lined with rocking chairs. I chose this particular tree because it is like a decorative tree I have in my yard. It’s a tree that won’t get too big in it’s landscaped home; it doesn’t put off an abundance of leaves so it’s not too messy when fall inevitably comes around.

I sat down in the rocker looking at this decorative tree locked into the landscaped mulch bed maybe 25 yards away from the “real” treeline of the forest.  I read the Mary Oliver poem.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness,

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.


As I sat there looking at my chosen tree, the tree set apart from the others, I noticed it had a string of artificial lights unplugged, but still there. Its separateness and isolation struck me. This tree was apart from nature, decorative in its purpose, landscaped in a place where an abundance of “real” trees already exist. In its isolation from the other trees, it needs to be filled with artificial light requiring it to be plugged in.

We Journey Fellows have sometimes spoken of how our work of caring for and taking care of so many people and things sometimes makes us feel isolated and set apart from the rest like my lonely, decorative tree. This third retreat has me thinking about what the journey has been like…The first retreats brought us isolated trees–the ones with strings of artificial lights together, and they plugged us in and let that artificial light shine to remind us that we do have light to shine. But, the further we get into the journey, the more I realize that we are all real trees, not landscaped, decorative ones with a string of fake lights and a need to be plugged in to shine. Rather, we walk this journey among the trees that are the other Journey Fellows and our retreats are about the other trees calling out to us, “Stay while.” We slow each other down to make the going easier and the light more real.

Thanks, fellows, for being real.


On Father’s Day

June 18, 2017

My whole life, I could count on my dad to be doing some kind of home project.

Some of my earliest memories of Dad are of him working on our house.  I remember the time he remodeled the kitchen.  Stacey and I were supposed to stay out of the way, so we pretended to be in a fancy restaurant as we ate our Long John Silver’s out in the little summer house.  I remember when Dad and Gootch laid the carpet in the living room and we pretended that the giant cardboard roll was a log and we were lumberjacks.  I remember the summer that Dad had the fieldstone put on the house and the spring the swimming pool went in, and we all stood and watched as the fire truck filled it to the top.  I remember watching Dad frame my playhouse in the garage and him shaking his head saying, “That’s it. Your grandma isn’t paying anybody else for A’s on their report card.”  There is something good about being in a place you’ve seen your dad build himself… He had a lot of help from friends of course, but the vision for building a home was always his.

So I think that is what I’m going to miss the most about Dad.  You see, I’ve always been a little jealous of the boys with their stories of running around town with Dad to Hardees or the upholstery shop or to his buddy’s garage to look at a car. The boys all have the experience of working with Dad—or more accurately FOR Dad—out in the building, or the yard, or mini-barn.  They all know what Dad was like out there, and they’ve all heard him rant and rave about not doing a job right. Apparently, Dad had a whole other vocabulary that he saved for the boys out in the building.  Bryan said to me once after spending the day with Dad and my brothers moving Coke machines or pool tables or some other thing Dad had no doubt swapped for, “Man, you’re dad can cuss, now!  It was like a contest!” See Dad saved all that for the boys and they got to see a side of Dad that he never would have let any of the women in his life see.  And so, I’ve always been a little jealous that maybe the boys got to know Dad better than I did. I mean, Lord knows I certainly didn’t want to be yelled at for letting the car dry with water spots or for not knowing which tool he was pointing at with a foot as he was underneath the hood of a hot rod.  But I did want to know my dad like my brothers and the grandsons did.

But you see, once I got my own home, I came to understand why my dad always had a project going and I got to know my dad in a way I never had growing up as his little girl.  There isn’t a home project I’ve done that doesn’t have my dad’s input or hand print on it.  Dad told me how deep post holes have to be when I put up a fence.  He and Mike built the pergola in our backyard, and Dad gave me the lumber for my deck that spring.  The last project that Dad was physically well enough to help me with was a project I started in my garage—My garage, by the way is painted, ceiling included, because that’s how it should be, according to Dad. So this project of mine—I cut big hole in the drywall because I assumed there would be space I could use for storage.  Luckily, I was right.  But I was also stuck.  I cut the hole and framed a doorway, but I didn’t know how to attach a covering to the hole I had made.  Dad came to the rescue.  He built a door for me complete with trim, and he patiently explained to me what he was doing, which tool to use and why.  When he gave me his jigsaw, I felt like I had been given a badge of honor.  I was so proud of that silly little saw.  I was telling my brother, Stacey about the project, and Stace said, “Yeah, I know Dad was really impressed with you.”  And, I thought this is why my brothers keep going out to the garage with Dad even though they know he’s going to yell once in while. When Dad is impressed with you, you know you’ve done it right.  I know my dad was proud of me for lots of things and he always let me know that.  But for Dad to be proud of me for being able to make a house into a home with my own hands the way he had for my whole life, I will treasure that forever.

What I did on my Sabbatical: by Shelly Furuness

May 24, 2017
  1. Took an art class on drawing at the Indianapolis Art Center
  2. Documented my creative process
  3. Took a tennis lesson
  4. Took a swim lesson
  5. Created little paintings with oil paints and really liked it
  6. Saw Hidden Figures in the movie theater at 10:00 in the morning all by myself on a Monday morning
  7. Wrote a book chapter about teaching middle schoolers in an online environment
  8. Read about 20 books
  9. Got a tattoo
  10. Got a massage
  11. Saw a nutritionist
  12. Wrote weekly at CTS and had several wonderful lunches in the cafe there
  13. Attended a Writing Workshop on Flash Memoir
  14. Learned about Scandinavia’s healthcare and education systems
  15. Met new Journey Fellow friends at Waycross in Bloomington, IN
  16. Canoed at Sugar Creek
  17. Hiked at Turkey Run with those Journey Fellow friends
  18. Contra danced in a barn near a historic covered bridge
  19. Made a story stick to walk with
  20. Spent 9 days in Florida with my boys and in-laws for Spring Break
  21. Went to Universal Studios to explore the expanded Harry Potter World
  22. Took a glass bottom boat ride in a natural spring in Florida
  23. Hit golf balls
  24. Worked out with fidelity the whole semester
  25. Learned that the Indiana Department of Education loved our Middle-Secondary Special Education proposal
  26. Tried spin class again
  27. Loved water aerobics
  28. Watched an Atlanta Braves spring training game
  29. Started a blog
  30. Began a daily writing practice thanks to Bryan’s Boot Camp
  31. Drove my son to weight training all semester
  32. Meditated with Oprah and Deepak for 21 days
  33. Had brunch with my friends more than once
  34. Attended Birdman with a live drumming performance at Clowes
  35. Attended several One Butler Brain Project lectures with my boys
  36. Volunteered to review science textbooks for my boys’ school district
  37. Hung out at the middle school team meetings at the Lab School on Fridays from February-May
  38. Wrote an (almost finished) article with my friend and colleague, Dr. Brooke Kandel-Cisco
  39. Visited Stockholm, Sweden
  40. Visited Copenhagen, Denmark
  41. Visited Reykjavic, Iceland
  42. Rode a bike (without crashing) in Copenhagen
  43. Ate herring–multiple times
  44. Listened to newly arrived students in Vallentuna tell their stories of arrival in Sweden
  45. Had wine and cheese in the lovely home of my Swedish Hoosier colleague, Angelica Granqvist
  46. Got to know my Butler colleagues better by traveling with them for 14 days
  47. Soaked in the Blue Lagoon with a silica mud mask on my face and a drink in my hand
  48. Ate a salmon burger off a salmon wagon
  49. Tried Thai food for the first time
  50. Walked through Kronsborg Castle which is the setting for Hamlet
  51. Saw the “real” Little Mermaid
  52. Thought deeply about the restructuring of our College of Education and proposed some ideas
  53. Took a class called Writing Life through the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers
  54. Applied for and was granted a BAC grant
  55. Spent 13 days from 9:00-4:00 being a student in the National Writing Project at IUPUI
  56. Continued participating in the Writing Life and reconnected with a writing friend from high school
  57. Hiked 8 miles at Clifty Falls with my boys
  58. Fell in the creek hiking trail 2
  59. Didn’t teach the summer cohort for the first time in 9 years
  60. Celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary
  61. Co-wrote an article with Michelle Trainor for the Middle School Journal
  62. Took baby steps rethinking curriculum with colleagues that might enhance preparation of for middle childhood
  63. Learned that STEM grants require much more than a month to prepare
  64. Traveled back to the UK with Dr. Esteves, Bryan and 16 students
  65. Navigated the Tube in London
  66. Saw Twelfth Night at the Globe
  67. Saw Julius Caesar performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon
  68. Climbed to the summit of Arthur’s Seat
  69. Participated in a storytelling workshop with a professional storyteller in Edinburgh, Scotland
  70. Walked along the dock where the Titanic was launch in Belfast
  71. Meditated with Oprah and Deepak for another 21 days
  72. Had my first pint of Guinness
  73. Walked along the Giant’s Causeway and learned about Finn MacCool
  74. Learned that the Peace Wall in Belfast is about keeping peace, not celebrating it
  75. Took time, breathed deeply as often as I wanted, and remembered my “why”

Books I Read During Sabbatical

May 4, 2017

Do Not Go On–Manuscript Draft by Bryan Furuness

Hillbilly Elegy–JD Vance

A Gentleman in Moscow–Amov Towles

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness–Michelle Alexander

Station Eleven–Emily St. John Mandel

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–J.K. Rowling (for ol’ time’s sake)

One Hundred Demons–Lynda Barry

The Promise of Paradox–Parker Palmer

Turning to One Another–Margaret Wheatley (Re-reading from 2011)

The Servant as Leader, original Essay–Robert K. Greenleaf

The Case for Servant Leadership–Kent M. Keith

Teaching from the Heart–Sharon Draper

The Heart of Higher Education–Parker Palmer and Arthur Zajonc

The Wonder–Emma Donoghue

Let Your Life Speak–Parker Palmer

Hidden Wholeness–Parker Palmer

Show Your Work–Austin Kleon

Start with the Way–Simon Sinek

The Active Life –Parker Palmer

Just Mercy–Bryan Stevenson

Story of Creative Process

April 10, 2017

The link below will take you to a visual story I created to document what I learned about my creative process during sabbatical.

Story of Creative Process

Work Spouse

March 31, 2017

On October 26th, 2016, I had the privilege of addressing friends and colleagues as we honored Dr. Kelli Esteves as the 2016-2019 College of Education Guyer Chair. Here, I share my thoughts with those of you who couldn’t be there:

I’m so excited to stand before you this evening as we honor my friend, my colleague, and my work wife—Dr. Kelli Esteves.

Now, you may be wondering why I just called Kelli my work-wife, but I can assure you that having a work spouse is a real thing. A “regular” marriage is a public declaration and recognition of a special union two people willingly enter into and a work marriage is pretty similar. When you have a work spouse, there is a recognition on the part of other colleagues that co-workers have a special kind of partnership. Working with Kelli has been a special kind of partnership. And, by the way, there are academics who are actually doing research on this phenomenon so it must be a real thing, right?

Dr. Debra Major, for example, is a professor of organizational psychology at Old Dominion University, and some of her current research focuses on work spouse relationships. Dr. Major contends that the work spouse relationship is the best kind of partnership. It is a sort of relationship that is pared down to the relationship core. The psychological components that we appreciate most about being in a relationship with another person whether that’s shared values, compatible personalities, or shared interests are there too in a purer form and it’s pretty great that there’s no need or cause to argue about bills or dirty dishes in the sink. Another scholar from Creighton University, Dr. Chris McBride, says that that the best part of a work marriage is that it’s characterized by trust, reciprocity and support. He says the trust piece is crucial because both professional satisfaction and professional success are at stake.  After all, work—for better or for worse–comprises nearly 90,000 hours of our lives, and if we are very lucky, we sometimes find a co-worker to share those 90,000 hours with who supports us in sickness and in health, in good time and in times of uncertainty. We find a confidant, a co-conspirator, and a kindred spirit. We find that trust, reciprocity, and support we need to make our work meaningful. And, when Dr. Kelli Esteves came to Butler in the fall of 2010, I found that.

When Kelli was going up for tenure and promotion, I wrote her a letter of support. Prior to writing that letter on Kelli’s behalf, I had only written two other support letters, and both had been for former professors and mentors—women I admired and in whose path I wanted to follow.  As I sat down to write this letter of support for my friend and peer, I wondered what I could share about Dr. Esteves’s strengths that would best support a colleague I admire and walk next to on this professional journey.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that many of my own best moments on this path and the contributions I’ve been able make to our college so far have come directly from the times when I’ve been working right next to Kelli.

She has been a very significant influence in my own professional development and successes as well as my personal growth and adventures.  Professionally, every time I’ve stretched myself, Dr. Esteves has been by my side whether that’s been in our co-facilitation of the Time to Think retreats, co-presentations at conferences, or co-taught blocks of the Core II over the last 4 years. It’s been at A-Team where we trust that we can count on each other when navigating the grid and grind of scheduling and faculty load assignments. It’s been on search committees and at my kitchen table with our 4th Year Review materials spread out before us. Personally too, Kelli’s been by my side when I’ve stretched myself to take a risk or go on an adventure. She’s been with me on the High Ropes course where challenge-by-choice took on new heights. And mostly recently she willingly and enthusiastically let me—my whole family, actually–go with her to England to study children’s literature. We traveled by planes, trains, tubes, and broomsticks.  We kayaked in a freezing lake with it’s own monster during a storm. We survived a 4-mile march into oncoming traffic to make the pilgrimage to Beatrix Potter’s home and got into a bit of a jam with the very large bus on a very narrow road. We stormed castles in Scotland and raised a pint in the dark when the restaurant lost power. In short, we had a grand adventure and a trip that I’ll never forget.

However, the most important thing that my work with Dr. Esteves has yielded is a relationship I deeply value–one that is the best kind of partnership because at its core, it’s built on trust, reciprocity, and support. With her support, I’m a stronger faculty member of our college.

Kelli exemplifies what it means to be a truly collaborative colleague.  While I say Kelli is my work wife, the truth is that she gives all of her colleagues the same trust, reciprocity, and support that she gives me which is why our senior colleagues have recognized her as the next Guyer Chair. And while a clock is the gift traditionally given in celebration of the first year anniversary, this particular clock given to Richard Guyer for outstanding service to Butler University is passed along to the newly named chair at his or her installation.  So, Dr. Esteves, I entrust this to you now as it continues to keep count of our next 80,000 or so hours.  I extend my gratitude and my congratulations, and I look forward to many more anniversaries!

When others see something in you that you haven’t seen yet

March 31, 2017

On November 11, 2013, after being selected by senior faculty in the College of Education, I was installed as the Guyer Chair in Education.  The honor was such a shock to me and I struggled with preparing my remarks. This recognition and the installation ceremony remains one of the proudest moments of my life. This is a three-year recognition and in the fall of 2016 the honor was passed to Dr. Kelli Esteves. I was so honored to be asked to give remarks at Kelli’s installation ceremony which I found way easier to make than at my own! I decided to post my remarks so that others might have a chance to read about Dr. Esteve’s impact on me (and the CoE). However, in doing so, I revisited remarks I made at my own installation and found them to still be true.

So, 3 1/2 years later…

I’d like to thank Mr. Hockett for his generosity and Dr. Guyer who inspired this gift. I feel so humbled to be a part of this legacy.

Many of you know that I’ve struggled with my remarks for this evening, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m stalling, but I’d like to start by thanking some of the special people in room this evening…

First, I’d like to thank my two boys Eli and Evan who are giving up a pizza party and wearing dress shoes to be here this evening. I tell my students all the time that I’m preparing them to be the kinds of teachers I want my boys to have. When I started this journey, the boys were just babies, and now they are in the 4th and 5th grade. I appreciate their patience with all my late nights and working weekends. They are super smart and I hope that they get a Butler grad as a teacher as they move into middle school in the next year or two and that they’ll see what mom’s work is really about.

Speaking of late nights and weekends, I often get teased about the amount of time I spend at the office. I stay late and come in on weekends because I love my work and because there’s never a shortage of work to be done and I can’t stand to leave a task half finished. My mom is my role model for working hard and finishing the job, and I hope that I reflect her work ethic everyday. I won’t say anything else about her though because I know she will die of embarrassment at this very moment if people are looking her direction.

My wonderful in-laws, Sue and Drew Furuness are here this evening as well. Both are career educators and have shown me what it means to be dedicated to public education. Even in retirement, they continue to teach and to council whether it’s at the Pioneer School House or the state park with the boys or the nearest high school guidance office that promises they’re just looking for a little consulting but always ask for him to stay a little longer.  I appreciate all you guys do.

Mrs. Karen Yeager, was my English teacher at Mooresville High School.  Twenty years ago Mrs. Yeager accompanied me to my high school’s Top 20 Seniors Banquet as my most influential teacher. When I asked Mrs. Yeager to come to this reception, she said she’d come if I promised not to tell the Prom story. I promised I wouldn’t, but I will tell you it is a good one! I recently was reminded that Mrs. Yeager is a Butler Master’s graduate. Not only was Dr. Guyer one of her teachers, but she also taught with his daughter. I am thankful that Mrs. Karen Yeager was the kind of teacher who cared about and knew her students in class and out of class. Mrs. Yeager was wicked smart and wicked funny. So I hope I reflect the joy that comes from having a good time with your students.

Tina Campbell and John Campbell and their kids Ellie and Brody are here this evening. Both are graduates of Butler’s Master’s program and both are amazing teachers.  John is in Washington Township and Tina and I taught in Wayne Township together.  She is the reason I came to Butler in the first place. She was the best teacher in the building and she was finishing her Master’s here at Butler. Tina taught me about controlled chaos in a middle school classroom!

Also here this evening is my friend and mentor, Dr. Judy Lysaker. While Tina was the reason I came to Butler, Judy was the reason I wanted to stay at Butler forever. I met Judy as a Master’s student working on my thesis project.  I knew that Butler University had a distinctive philosophy but I wondered if it was really evident in actual classroom practice. After observing Judy’s class for a semester and interviewing her students, it became clear to me it was absolutely possible to live your philosophy in the classroom. One of our alums, Bridgit Goss teases that when she’s stuck on planning something for class, she’ll ask herself, “What Would Furuness Do”.  Well, Judy is that person for me.

Dr. Cindy Wilson, I can honestly say that without Dr. Wilson there is no way I would be here. I mean I literally have her job. When I finished my master’s at Butler and went down to IU to get my doctorate, I made it clear that this was the place I wanted to work. It is absolutely surreal to hold the exact faculty position your advisor and mentor held.  For my first several years here, I was introduced as the “new” Dr. Wilson—It’s been a very tough act to follow, but I am so very thankful that she had faith in me.

Finally, I liked to thank my wonderful husband Bryan for being here. Aside from being super cute, incredibly smart, and pretty funny, he’s a wonderful dad, he’s my best friend and my biggest fan. I’m able to do the work I do because he believed in me first and made it possible for us to chase the next big thing on the horizon.

Thanks to you all for coming…

For weeks now, I’ve been trying to prepare remarks for this evening.  And for weeks, I’ve been left speechless by this honor.

And, anyone who has ever been in class with me, or on a committee with me knows how rarely I’m at a loss for words. I always have something to say. Yet, I am at a loss for words. As much as I’ve thought about this night and what I might say to express my gratitude, everything seems inadequate. Nothing I’ve thought to say to this point seems to truly represent how completely this individual honor is dependent upon my collaborative work with other, truly amazing people.

When I look around this room at my mentors, my friends, my students, and my amazing colleagues, I see compassion, integrity, and dedication personified. I see servant leaders and people deeply committed to the well-being of the whole student. I see change agents with a vision for what schools could be like for kids. And I see that vision being advanced everyday in nearly every interaction I have. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. And so to be in the company of colleagues such as these and to be the one standing before you receiving this honor leaves me humbled.

Last year in my 4th year review, I talked about how it’s really hard to predict what our work will be or will look like in the future tense. Seeing into the future is difficult for sure. But predicting the future and having a vision for where one is heading are different things. I never could have predicted that I’d be standing here this evening. I just did not see that coming.  But my senior colleagues must have more vision than I do because they see something in me that I have not yet seen in myself.

I also wrote in my 4th year review about how faculty members can only truly succeed when we see how our work contributes to the larger goals and mission of our teaching and learning community. We can only be successful if we refuse isolation and refuse to see our work as ours alone. The thing I love most about working in our college is that it not only allows me, but encourages me to live my philosophy and beliefs about teaching and learning.  The teaching, the scholarship, the service I have the privilege to do everyday aligns with my vision of what education could and should be. And that is-collaborative, joyful, curious, ethical, always looking toward what is possible, and always remembering that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Being named the Guyer Chair feels like an honor that is bigger than my individual work and this recognition is only possible because of the community of people I work with.

And so, this is how I’ve come to make sense of being named the Guyer Chair—the way I can account for what it is the senior faculty have seen in me, is that I must be doing a good job of reflecting all those qualities I desperately hope to emulate in the community of people here sharing this evening with me. That does make me very proud.

So, thank you all for letting me be a part of this community and for making my work joyful.  Thank you for seeing this in me.

Aren’t you too old for a tattoo?

March 14, 2017

 I’ve always been afraid of getting a tattoo–for lots of reasons. One reason being that it would hurt (and it did, a lot.) But, more broadly my reasons had to do with the fact that people always want to know the “why” and the “what” of your tattoo story…Why’d you pick that and what does it mean? Why there? What made you decide to get it? Until now, I didn’t have an answer compelling enough to satisfy me.

I think tattoos represent something very personal and intimate about how one sees the world. They are documentation of your thinking made visible to other people. A tattoo represents at least part of your identity. Even if the tattoo is located in a less publicly visible space, it shows others (and yourself) who you believe yourself to be or what beauty you see in the world. The placement of the tattoo is part of the story too. The placement is an invitation of sorts and an indication of whom you’ll allow to see that part of you.  The idea that a tattoo is a part of your identity, but only a part always stopped me from seriously considering a permanent representation. Self-definition and identity integration have been very important concepts to me, so much so, that I simply couldn’t imagine an image that would fully integrate enough parts of myself to show the “whole” me, and I didn’t want a permanently fragmented image projected to the world or to myself.

I’m 41 (almost 42) and I have become what I want to be when I grow up. I mean, I’m always in the process of becoming, but I’m no longer trying to figure out who I want to be. I know who I am. I know what I am called to do with my life. Now the goal is to be and to live a better version of myself each day. This spring of 2017, I’ve been on sabbatical and I’ve had the opportunity to read and think deeply about how to do that. So, I got a little tattoo, about the size of a quarter on my right wrist, left of center–a place I can see easily and a place you can see when I extend my hand to you in greeting. How will a tattoo help me live into a better version of myself each day you might wonder. Well, maybe it won’t, but it is a visual reminder, a touchstone, of the unifying theory working in my life–one I recognized as working in my life when given the time sabbatical affords me to stop, think, and reflect.

And now, I have an answer to the “what” and “why” questions of my tattoo story that satisfy me. What is it? What does it mean? Why?

It’s a Tree of Life with green, spiraling leaves within a blue circle. Why the Tree of Life? Because it is an image both sacred and philosophical. It is the sacred image at the alter in my own church, but it is also an image widely used in most religions, philosophies, and myths connecting all forms of creation. For me, the tree with the shape of the cross within it reminds me that I do have a calling, and while it is my calling, it is not a ministry. It is resistance and liberation. In Promise of the Paradox, Parker Palmer says, ” The older word for liberation is salvation…for its root meaning is “wholeness.” To be saved is to be made whole…The liberation of the cross frees us not for indulgence and ease but for the discipline of serving truth without fearing the contractions…But as I live in that resistance–as I acknowledge and confess it to myself and others–slowly my life is pulled open.”  The tree and the cross remind me of what I’m called to do and that I need to remember to be pulled open, not pulled apart, by it.

The green spiral leaves on the tree remind me that there is always a chance for renewal and new growth. The spiral shape is a constant reminder that our own growth has an outward ripple effect. And, the blue dots encircling the tree represent the many and the one bigger community(ies) in which I am rooted. Palmer reminds us that…“[T]here are circles within circles within circles, world without end. And his words remind me that we must always keep space open to invite others into community with us, even (and especially) those who challenge us. Palmer says, “In a true community, we will not choose our companions, for our choices are always limited by self-serving motives…In fact, we might define true community as that place where the person you least want to live with always lives…[C]ommunity comes as a by-product of commitment and struggle…community is a product of love in action and not of simple self-interest.”

There’s my tattoo story. What it is; what it means; why I got it. This tattoo is my public and visual declaration of who and how I want to be in the world. I recognize that I will fail to live up to this again and again. But it is my hope that any failure in what I cannot do will strengthen my discovery of what I can do and that I’ll continue to “learn that our gifts vary, with each person possessing some of what we need but no one possessing it all.