- Our creativity and writing processes are unique, just like our fingerprints.
- Children are naturally creative. We can connect to our inner child to remember. Play.
- Metaphors can be gateways to creative exploration and expression.
- When we consider the act of writing practice and the development of the craft of writing as separate processes, we can nurture them both. We set learning goals.
- We encourage our writing to develop by engaging in writing practice, reflecting on our work, referring to elements of style and craft, consulting with writing mentors, and by using our learning to write something new.
This is the time of year we celebrate beginnings and endings. We reflect on change and fresh starts. We check in on where we have been and where we are going. We set direction. We resolve to be better than we were the year before.
Beginnings and endings naturally occur many times throughout our lives. People celebrate a new job, a new marriage, a new house, a new child. We celebrate the end of a week, the end of a year, the end of schooling. Beginnings and endings are milestones showing us that we are moving and growing.
Then there are other beginnings and endings too. A new health diagnosis, a new world tragedy, a new loss or disappointment. We are changed by the end of a relationship, the end of a time, or the end of a life. Beginnings and endings are complex.
2015 was a year of learning for me, filled with some complex beginnings and endings. I turned 40. I settled into a new job as principal in an elementary school (after 15 years of working in high schools). I stopped writing for a while. It was a year of learning about education, friendship, family, and myself. It was very much a year of acclimatizing and adjusting to big changes (both literal life changes and changes in my perspective).
Today I feel more grounded and confident than any other time in my life. I’m happy.
It’s time to climb a mountain.
2016 will be my “Brave New Year” and the year I devote to training my inner Jedi.
On New Year’s Day I took out my watercolour paints and swished some colour around on the page. When it dried, a faint outline of a mountain appeared. I traced its peak, adding more colour and detail. Yup, there it is. My mountain with a big sun rising up behind it.
My 2016 quest involves two big themes:
- Love. This is bigger love than romantic love. I want to learn about the love that makes the world go around and how to love more fully each day. At work I want to focus on relationships, building community, and affirming a sense of belonging for our staff and students.
- Strength and agility. This is about health and self-care. I want to become stronger and more agile. I want to eat and move and sleep more–learning how to become a tenacious Jedi inside and out. At work I want to focus on being a good principal, a source of strength for those who need support, and to model work/life balance.
To climb a mountain in 2016 means to take ourselves to our limits in whatever we choose to pursue. To climb a mountain involves careful planning and execution. It’s about intention. It’s about changing our perspectives along the way and fully embodying changes.
My goals for this year are to explore these themes with the intensity of a climber. I’ve learned that New Year’s resolutions are not so much about what we choose but about how we pursue our goals. It’s about action.
Last year my metaphor was a spiral so I was able to just go through the days, keeping my eyes open for the themes, gently reaching out to lessons as they passed by. The mountain suggests a more rigorous approach. 2016 is a year of action.
Why do I want to work hard this year?
Maybe it’s turning 40. Maybe it’s because I’m a workaholic. Maybe it’s because I don’t have children and I try to find other ways to contribute meaningfully to our world. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned that showing up when things are tough pays off. Climbing a mountain brings a level of focus and determination that I need to see the work through.
Reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth had a profound impact on me in 2015. Hadfield reminded me of the importance of problem solving. We identify an issue and then we work the problem. So when I sat down to write my resolutions for 2016 I reflected on: What problems do I want to solve in my life? What problems do I want to solve at work? What problems do I want to solve through my writing?
In today’s world of high speed entertainment, mobile social networks, and constant leisure options we live in a distracted place. I don’t know when there was a time in history when it was so easy to escape. We are escaping each other and we are escaping ourselves.
In 2016 I want to resist the lure of escape. I want to work hard at understanding love because I worry about our culture of escape and leisure. Research consistently suggests that technology (despite it’s many benefits) affects human connections and relationships. The more time I spend online or in front of the television, the less time I spend engaging in what it means to be human.
When I was an English teacher students read Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt. It was a haunting story about a futuristic house that cared for two children. When the parents “unplug” the house, the children turn on the parents, feeling more connected to the virtual reality than reality. Early in my career students could not identify with the children. Now with each new development in technology, children are becoming more addicted to their devices. We are getting closer to this desperate dependence on technology. I want to fight the urge to disconnect and work hard to connect.
Love is the force.
When we are young we take strength for granted. We put everything else first, then if there is time we sleep well, eat a healthy meal, and exercise. For many in my generation, this type of self-care is reserved for when we are on vacation. I get it now. To be able to give anything to anyone we love we need to have the strength to do so. Strength is not an entitlement. Working hard to prioritize health is essential.
What are your resolutions for 2016? How will you pursue them?
We can learn from each person we meet. Teachers are everywhere when we are willing to be students. For years I’ve been a stealthy student watching and listening and reflecting, my mind a people-powered repository. Every day I reflect on my learnings: ideas and insights from experiences, conversations, and encounters.
People can teach us valuable lessons about various aspects of life, but we need to listen well, we need to pay attention. Learning is everywhere and in everything.
For years I’ve wanted to begin a blog category that celebrates people who influence and inspire others through their example. To influence is to have the capacity to affect character, development, and behaviour. “Influential teachers” are those who change the people and culture around them. They may be famous or they may be in our family or they may be the person at the grocery store. We choose our teachers and that’s the best part: every person we meet has the potential to be a teacher and to influence us–it’s our responsibility to catch their light and to learn.
Each month I plan to feature an influential teacher, sharing with you what I’ve learned from this special person. In most cases, the person is not an educator and the learning has happened informally through events, observations, and reflections. I want to do this as a way to thank the people who influence me and to share my lessons with you.
About Felicity Sidnell Reid
I met Felicity through the Spirit of the Hills Writing Group. She is our generous leader, organizing and chairing our monthly meetings. Over the last five years our paths have crossed at writing breakfasts, book events, and library events.
I know Felicity as a local writer, editor, and radio host. She was one of the editors for both volumes of Hill Spirits (Blue Denim Press). Some of her publishing credits include pieces of memoir in two anthologies: Family Ties (Hidden Brook Press edited by Elizabeth Kimberley Grove) and Grandfather, Father and Me (Hidden Brook Press edited by Donna Clark Goodrich). In 2014, The Ontario Poetry Society included two of her poems in their 2014 anthology Scarlet Thistles.
Here are some other interesting details about Felicity’s life, work, and writing:
- Graduate of University of London, King’s College
- Lived in New Brunswick for 7 years
- Then lived in Ontario: Peterborough, Toronto, and now Colborne
- Taught Grade 5 students to University students in Canada, England, and Thailand
- Taught English, History, Drama, and ESL
- Worked as Vice Principal at Harbord Collegiate and Northern Secondary in Toronto
- Mother of four children
- Master of Arts in Victorian Studies from the University of Toronto
- Master of Education from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
- Education Writer (text books and resources)
- Volunteer with Cramahe Public Library
- Co-Host of “Word on the Hills” radio program 89.7 FM
Five Things I’ve Learned from Felicity:
- Fortitude: Felicity exudes a peaceful strength. Her optimism and resiliency shine through her confidence and kindness. She is assertive, but not aggressive. She teaches me to be self-reliant, strong, and connected to community.
- Humility: Felicity gently puts others first. She finds ways to share moments, to build confidence in those around her. She is a natural teacher and “invisible” leader. She teaches me the impact of using our gifts to support others.
- Patience: Everything has its time and even when her schedule is packed, Felicity is fully present. She teaches me the value of careful planning and the benefits of committing to each moment of the day and each person I meet.
- Generosity: Felicity leads our writing group with a generous spirit, making space for our diverse personalities and sometimes disparate voices. She teaches me the art of facilitation and the gift we can give others by quietly leading without expecting anything in return.
- Focus: Intentionality seems to ripple beneath the surface of my observations of Felicity. She seems to know what she wants, how she wants to spend her time, and focuses her attention on what’s most important to her. While she juggles a number of priorities, she teaches me how to attend to each ball with laser beam focus and with a clear understanding of intention.
Felicity answered three questions pulled from my 50 Questions in a Jar so we could get to know her better
Q: If you could fill a piñata with your favourite candy, what would you put inside?
Felicity: “In my pinata I’d like to find chocolate roses, sugared violets, silk flowers and butterflies.”
Q: What do you like thinking about?
Felicity: “What do I like thinking about?! Such a huge question—I like thinking about my family, walking in the woods with my dog, sitting b the sea and watching the tide come in– or out– and, of course, writing, and what I am reading, since I have been an obsessive reader all my life.”
Q: What is the greatest love song?
Felicity: “My favourite love song is Burns’ My love is like a red, red rose…”
Felicity’s Next Big Project
Alone: A Winter in the Woods by Felicity Sidnell Reid with illustrations by Jirina Marton
A story for all ages, Alone: A Winter in the Woods quickly engages the reader in thirteen year-old John Turner’s adventures. Forced to grow up quickly, while left alone on the family’s land grant in a virtually unsettled township, in the winter of 1797, John has to overcome devastating isolation and loneliness. With only a couple of oxen, a pregnant cow, a handful of chickens and his dog to keep him company, everyday tasks become ten times more difficult than they were while Pa was still with him, building their tiny cabin. Meanwhile John’s mother has adopted the orphaned Joséphine, who keeps a journal recording the life of the Turners and her own experiences. The family waits for Pa to return to Adolphustown to escort his wife and young children up the lake to the new settlement once spring allows water traffic to start up again. This tale explores the differences between family life and expectations in the eighteenth century and the present, as John and Joséphine reflect on what home, family, and friendship mean to them and struggle to find the courage, determination and faith needed to face the future.
- Published as part of Hidden Brook Press’s North Shore Series with six more books in this series.
- Launch party on October 4, 2015.
- Alone: A Winter in the Woods will be available online from: Amazon and many other e-stores around the world; Local bookstores (Northumberland); May be ordered from any bookstore in Canada by giving them the title, ISBN number and contact info for Hidden Brook Press: email@example.com