Step by Step


For most people, this picture is just a snapshot of someone wearing dress shoes. No big deal. They’re just shoes.

But to me, it’s a big deal. They aren’t just any shoes, or any feet. Those are my daughter, Olivia’s feet in her first pair of “girly” dress shoes.

Because she is fourteen years old, you again may think that it’s pretty typical for her to start to wear shoes with a little heel.

But she’s not just any fourteen year old….she’s special. You see, because the muscles on the left side of her body are not like ours, she spent most of her life wearing a brace on her left leg. Before she even walked, she wore a brace. The brace was bulky and a little longer than the length of her toes, so I always had to buy two pair of shoes; one bigger than the other to accommodate the brace. I spent years going to the store to buy tennis shoes when other Moms were buying cute shoes for their daughters. It was very stressful, and in the midst of what looked like a non-eventful trip to the shoe department, I usually ended up in tears.

Thanks to a successful surgery on her left heel chord a few years ago, she walks without a brace and has been able to wear the same size shoe on each foot, and even some cute flats up until now.

Not in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine she could balance herself in pretty shoes with a little wedge heel.

But this week she did.

Not only did she wear them, she walked around her school all day in them! She had to get dressed up for a mock interview for one of her classes and I made her take a pair of flats in her bookbag just in case she couldn’t last all day. As usual, she surprised me. She wore them all day, up and down the steps of her historic school building.

And my tears are no longer tears of frustration and sadness. My tears are now tears of joy for how she continues to surprise all of us with her strength and determination.

We celebrate what may look like small things to others in our house. We don’t take anything for granted….not one single step.



Maria Spencer is the wife of Michael and the mother of Jonah and Olivia; they reside in Poland, OH. Her daughter Olivia a person with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Maria is an Education Supervisor at Alta Head Start. Maria writes a monthly column for the Mahoning Valley Parent Magazine and Mid-Ohio Valley Parent entitled, “Special Parents, Special Kids.” She has stories published in “Women of Passions: Ordinary Women Serving an Extraordinary God”, compiled by Janet Ross, and “A Patchwork of Freedom” compiled by Lori Wagner. Maria is an inspirational speaker, blogger, parent coach and disability consultant. Maria is passionate about spreading the word to other special parents that they were chosen for their journey, and they are not alone. She can be reached through her website