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Don’t Worry Everything Will Be Fine by Conlee Ricketts

As a “grown up” the words, “it will all be O.K.” comforts me because I know—good or bad—the events of my life will roll along as they should. I learned though (the very hard way) that these words are just a big fat lie to a 10 year old.

When my daughter was 10 she had a very rough couple of months. Everything she feared might happen in life, actually started happening! The odds of this were beyond my comprehension as a math teacher and as a mother trying to comfort her and convince her to go to school –one—more—day. We had a very rough year of what some call “school resistance.”

She became very nervous about what I call the “what ifs”. What if the bus breaks down, what if we have a lock down, what if there’s a storm, what if there’s a tornado, what if something happens to you? During her 4th grade school year nearly everything on her list happened! The bus, the storm, the lock down, my broken twisted wrist!

As an example that frames how I “lied” to my child I will share this; in 3rd grade the boy sitting next to her threw … Continue reading..

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Perspective Matters Part II by Conlee Ricketts

Last week Perspective Matters Part I gave two points I plan on sharing with a group of future teachers that are currently in their student teaching phase. This week I am sharing two more. When I say “perspective matters” I mean that it matters in the sense that it is simply more information. It is not to say that any one perspective is more valuable or more correct than any other. Having as much information as possible, even differing opinions about a situation, is the best approach I have found before entering into any discussion centered on someone else’s child.

I use my three different perspectives to filter a great deal of my experiences through. My perspectives again are the following:

A teacher without children/ 15 years

A teacher with a child/8 years

A stay at home mom/3 years

I have no idea if these new young teachers in training are anything like I was, but when I was 23 and fresh in the classroom I was terrified of talking with parents. Instinctively I knew that parents will want to protect their child and how was I, this young “girl”, going to deliver difficult news to them if I had … Continue reading..

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Perspective Matters: Part I by Conlee Ricketts

This week I will put on my AccepTeen hat. I call myself a “Parenting Cheerleader” because I believe that each of our parenting styles is a deeply personal piece of who we are in the world. It is not my goal to tell anyone how to parent. No two families are the same; no two people will react the same to any event, and we each do the best we can with the information we have at the moment. It’s important to me that I lay that out before I listen to anyone asking for information, insights, or ideas about how they navigate their relationship with their own children.

Working with parents is something I have done for 25 years but I have the gift of three different perspectives:

A teacher without children/ 15 years

A teacher with a child/8 years

A stay at home mom/3 years

Each perspective is undeniably valuable to me but not necessary to be a good teacher or a good parent. They each are simply reminders for me about how different we each are and how different we can each see a situation.

I’ve been asked to guest lecturer next month at The Ohio State … Continue reading..

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Mommy’s Little Instruction Manual by Conlee Ricketts

Kids don’t come with instructions but parents should. All adults should really. I’ve know myself for 48 years now and I have explained myself to my daughter more than once in order to make sure she doesn’t take any of my ridiculous nonsense too seriously.

Here’s my list of repeat offenders that my daughter knows:

1.  I’m loud—too loud sometimes. I talk too loud, I laugh too loud, I can be a “yeller” but I’m also able to get a room full of 60 twelve year old girls to quiet in three seconds with a calm, loud, clear, “Quiet please.” My daughter knows that sometimes Mommy talks embarrassingly loud in the grocery store, at the mall, in front of her friends, hell, even in the kitchen. Sometimes my “teacher voice” takes over and she hates it.

2.  I cuss. Sometimes I punctuate my life with inappropriate “flowery” language. My daughter also hates this, but this is part of the rebellious side of me that I share with my own mother. I have tapered back since becoming a mother, and I’m very well behaved in public and in front of her friends, but if she would just decorate that damn swear … Continue reading..

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Shedding the Year of the Snake by Conlee Ricketts

I’m taking a few moments before the end of the year to bid it farewell, say good riddance and put to rest this most difficult year.

Ten days into 2013 I broke my wrist requiring surgery complete with titanium plate, screws, and no health insurance. A few weeks after that (unable to lift things) the apartment above mine broke a pipe and poured gallons and gallons of water down onto my living space. It drowned my desk, electronics, furniture, and carpet because I couldn’t lift and move things fast enough to save them. Once I could get writing and typing again I was able to enter a few writing contest. My novel entry made it past the first round of eliminations and became one of 30 out of the 150+ entries. This felt like a victory in itself but ultimately I didn’t win either contest I entered. I ended a relationship which was very painful. We moved into a small rental home in a new school district, and I finally have reliable transportation thanks to my brother and his wife.

So here’s what I have learned:

1. Appreciate your ability to turn a door know, do a push up, and … Continue reading..

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Hers and Mine by Conlee Ricketts

I recently confessed to a friend that for the first nine years or so of my daughter’s life I would have to take some time to go off and cry every Christmas. I cried because I felt like I didn’t provide a “magical enough” Christmas. It took me a lot of inner work to examine my tears and feelings. My inner reactions to my outer circumstances didn’t make sense at all. They were way off balance. I realize now and am happy to report that I have basked in the glow of happy Christmas mornings ever since.

The answer? Simply put—I am not my parents. I am me, and I do provide magical Christmases for my daughter.

BUT my inability to understand and accept this made my cry every year. My parents had a gift—they provided me and my brother with wonderful Christmases well into our twenties when we would come home from college. Never once did I question the arrival of Santa. The magic was part of the tradition and I cherish that. I am a 48 year old believer and it makes me smile.

We would have lovely Christmas mornings taking turns opening presents with my Dad always … Continue reading..

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My Crazy Fears by Conlee Ricketts

I have an irrational fear of bouillon cubes, chicken stock, and heavy cream. I’m not lying—this is one of my shameful truths. It’s a crippling fear. I shy away from glorious looking recipes because I see the words “bouillon cube” or “heavy cream” in the ingredients. That’s just crazy! Right?

I am able to cook. I mean I can get my body to move in the appropriate motions to prepare certain foods—hot dogs, spaghetti, frozen chicken pieces. I know I can do better though if it weren’t for my crazy fears.

One time I tried to conquer my fear by getting an adorable jar of bouillon cubes I saw at the store. That jar sat in my cupboard for years—years I say! Never touched. I finally pulled the jar out of the cupboard as I packed away my kitchen to move from our home during my divorce and ceremoniously dropped it into the garbage, apologizing to the cute jar and the tiny foil covered cubes for not knowing how to give them purpose. I felt guilty and defeated by these tiny cubes—or maybe it was the coinciding divorce that made me feel defeated—nope, I’m blaming the cubes.

With 2014 right … Continue reading..

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A Bad Weekend by Conlee Ricketts

I was a math teacher more years than I’ve been a parent. At some point that will flip, but it hasn’t just yet. There are moments in parenting when I catch myself doing the exact things I know way better than to actually do, but I do them anyway. I have decided it’s normal.

I think the number one rule I break is letting my feelings get hurt. In my classroom students occasionally did or said things that lacked emotional sensitivity but it never bothered me. Things as mild as asking me if I was pregnant (nope just ignoring my core, thank you), or trying to get me on What Not to Wear, or as rough as starting a brawl in the hall outside my room. I knew that every child needed to know there was a clean slate each day when they entered my classroom. Mistakes are made, apologies accepted, and life goes on.

As a parent I struggle some days with the clean slate because I’ve let my feelings get hurt. This usually only lasts for a few days but it’s still a few days longer than I like. For me the disgruntled daughter with the heavy, irritated … Continue reading..

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Willie’s Home by Conlee Ricketts

This is an essay I wrote a few years ago. As I muddle through holidays, a sick child, bad attitudes, laughter, and chaos, I needed to post this to remind myself and others how it’s the little things we do that teach our children about poverty, mental illness, and compassion in a way that they can see the world with their own eyes and learn the tough lessons about our world in a gentle and loving way.

The first time my friend took my daughter and me to try to find Willie I was nervous and hesitant about what we might find. My daughter had so many questions, as any eight year old might.

“Why are we going there?” Skye asked.

“Because I need to see him,” I responded.

“How does he get food?” she continued.

“I honestly don’t know, Skye. Maybe he looks in dumpsters, maybe the neighborhood looks out for him, maybe he asks for help.”  I had no real answers. Skye and I have seen difficult times together—cereal dinners and Ramen Noodle lunches; I’ve sold my belongings on the front lawn just to pay bills, but we have never seen the truest of hard times. Then possibly … Continue reading..

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What Was She Thinking? by Conlee Ricketts

I enjoy finding the silver linings. You might call me a cautious optimist, but as I write this I am fully expecting to be here in Columbus missing Thanksgiving with my father, brother, his wife, one of my nieces and her husband. I had planned on being there for the past two months, but it didn’t work out. I will be sad and I take full responsibility for that.

I’m sure I will be the subject of a conversation that starts off with “What the hell was she thinking?” To be fair to myself and in my defense, I had big dreams—I was certain I couldn’t fail. When I jumped off the cliff to chase my dream of working with adolescents, parents, and teachers I had a plan. I was in a supportive relationship, I had what I thought would be solid connections, I had brains, money saved, and most important I had a mission. I was building my business and supplementing my income by cleaning houses the first year, then I worked in a plastics factory for awhile during year two, I trimmed my budget to no debt, sold my car for a financial cushion and shared a vehicle … Continue reading..

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