Friday, March 1, 2013

Mickey: Raising Chicks with Balls

Mickey: Saving the World One Corner at a Time by Judy Takács
I know nothing about raising girls…heck I barely know about the boys I’m raising, so with girls, I’m thoroughly clueless.

I do have a dream though, about how my daughter would be…if I were to have one someday. My daughter would grow up with self-esteem by the boatload. She’d judge herself by the content of her character, not by the size of her thighs (thank you MLK, paraphrasing that quote really worked here). She’d be kind, but tough; book-smart, street-smart and creative. And she wouldn’t buy into all the mean-girl business I keep hearing about from moms of girls. Neither a victim nor a perpetrator, she’d be confident and wise and would gracefully rise above the fray with humor, and rock-solid friendships with girls of substance who aren’t swayed by the popularity pendulum. And, unlike me, she’d have a sport. She’d know from experience how athletic achievement is good for a girl’s soul and body; that teamwork and physical strength are empowering.

And I’d be really good friends with my daughters. They’d call me with news; good and bad. If they needed an ear, a shoulder and of course, if they needed a laugh, I would be there.

In short, these fantasy daughters of mine would be like Mickey’s real daughters; she has two who are young adults, and one still in high school. All three are high quality women with brains, balls and heart.

Mickey has been my school bus stop friend for four years, but our paths have crossed since the early days of my momhood. Her youngest daughter and my middle son have been in each other’s classes since preschool, more times than I can remember. We’ve been in neighborhood playgroup, sat together on school committees and even played tennis at the same club. We’ve never played tennis with each other though; Mickey plays at professional level and I never went beyond cute tennis-dress beginner level. And I quit after a year because my tennis elbow made it uncomfortable to hold a paintbrush. (…I know, soul and body blah blah blah, but remember I was talking about my pretend daughters…not myself.)

Though we lead parallel lives, Mickey and I never actually got to know each other until fate, and the Solon Board of Education had us sharing the same bus stop.

Before I knew her well, Mickey had this aura about her. I saw her as a tough sporty lady with whom I had not much in common. I always imagined ladies like Mickey to be more from “shake it off” school of problem solving than the “talk about it ad nauseum and perseverate to the point of obsession” school…from which I hold an advanced degree.

But, being women, standing on a street corner, having just handed our children to a hissing yellow bus, we talked. And it only took about a day before souls were bared, philosophies were shared, teenage-rearing woes were laid out in painful detail and we became friends. No topic was off limits, religion, politics, soccer, tennis, school, college, drinking, drugs, mental illness, cancer, death, taxes, sex, husbands, parents, world injustice and of course…our children. Whether we were solving world problems, or those in our homes, the bus stop was where we held these summit talks.  If only world leaders listened in to our practical solutions, we felt real strides to world peace and economic stability could be made.

As the school years progressed, we continued walking our kids out to the bus, well beyond the point where they needed to be walked out. Our morning ritual became this wonderful daily therapy/venting/world problem solving session that I looked forward to as an opportunity to exhale about life before beginning my day sequestered in the studio.

Inevitably, I asked Mickey to pose for me for CWB. She loved the concept and chose from my vast selection of sports balls to symbolize her life and loves. One daughter plays soccer, one basketball and the third plays tennis, just like her mother. Mickey, also played basketball in high school, and became engaged to her sweet husband on a basketball court.  And her husband golfs, but I hate painting golf balls (you'll hear about that in future blogs)! No shortage of literal balls in Mickey’s life.

A Detail of Mickey's balls and inspirational bracelet

And then there was the jewelry. Mickey always wears a delicate braided black thread bracelet with a cross woven into it. This bracelet, made in the Dominican Republic is called a Denarios, or a small rosary. She wears it to remind her of the residents of a small village in the Dominican Republic, which had several years ago been decimated by a hurricane.

Each summer for the past few years, Mickey goes with her husband, her daughters and her church on a mission to rebuild their houses, build them a school, erect a playground, distribute clothing, food, knowledge and religion. They visit the poorest of the poor in a forgotten part of the world and help rebuild their lives. Paying it forward, these impoverished villagers share what little they have with Haitian refugees who have even less.

Tending to the residents of this village is a yearlong pursuit. Mickey works with teams all year to raise funds and determine how best to make these hard working people a bit more self sufficient and empowered with each mission trip. This pursuit is called “Mission Possible” and you can read about it at:

Our children have graduated from that bus stop and Mickey and I no longer have our bus stop summit talks. We vowed to try to meet once a month for breakfast, and have done so a few times. Mickey, and her wisdom, strength and heroic qualities continue to be an inspiration to me though, and I’ll continue to be thankful we were thrown together every day for four years on that street corner at that particular juncture in our lives.

And so I called her painting, “Mickey: Saving the world, one corner at a time” because that's exactly what she does.