… dear converse

Girls love shoes!  As a mama of a few girls I can assure you we have bought our share of shoes!  In fact I will just tell you that the first thing I notice about people … their shoes!  And back in the days of dating I would not date anyone a second time if I did not like their shoes on the first date!  Hmmm … maybe this is the reason I didn’t have a lot of second dates and it’s a really good thing Mark has great taste in shoes!

It started years ago, back when I was younger than Elizabeth.  We had a local shoe store in our mall called “Ragons Shoes” and my mom would take me there when it was time for a new pair of sneakers, dress shoes for church or my first pair of heels when I was asked to a school dance.  I would carefully browse the displays making sure I wasn’t too eager to just have a new pair of shoes.  I would walk around the store, usually the long way to the mirrors they had that cut you off at the shin so that all you really saw was how your foot looked in the shoe.  This was long before the high boot came into fashion and the mirrors got longer!   I was always so proud of that blue bag with black cursive writing across the middle walking out of the mall with my newest find to fill the shelves of my closet.

I’m not the let’s go barefoot kind of girl.  I’ve always got a pair of shoes on whether it is running shoes, flip-flops or a comfy pair of slip ons lined with sheep’s fur.  My closet has an array of shoes all carefully place in order in their designated place.  Heels … oh how I love some heels.  Now I am not a graceful heel wearer!  In fact most days at work I would walk into the office and then kick them off under my desk and find myself having to quickly find the right foot and get them back on when clients would come in.  I’m actually jealous of my friends whose legs look as amazing as their stroll in their stilettos!  But don’t let that fool you into thinking that I don’t have an amazing collection of the biggest names and most trending styles!

Boots, yep I’ve got a few of those!  Long ones, short ones, rain ones … several of each in fact!  My favorite pair of boots, well I have two.  They are both Lucchese and one is short and one is long; one is red and one is brown.  They are my go to shoes anymore.  Yes, the sole of my red boot is falling off but I can’t part with them long enough to send them in and have them cleaned up and fixed! 

There are a dozen running shoes and twice as many flip-flops that never leave my feet during the summer and late into the fall.  In case you’re thinking I’m that girl in the commercial where they open a closet and you see color coordinated rows and rows from floor to ceiling of shoes that you can get your first pair for $39 I am indeed not!!  There is purpose or a story behind just about every pair of shoes I own.

So of course when I started having babies and they turned out to be girls I was overly excited about the possibilities of having closets full of shoes that we would all share and sisters would fight over who wore whose shoes and didn’t return them.  When Elizabeth and Caroline were toddlers I would dress them alike all the way down to their feet!  They wore the same size for a very short period but Caroline’s little foot grew and my sweet Elizabeth’s did not.  Her tiny feet began to turn inward and the doctors began to talk about braces.  I didn’t understand how a little girl in a wheelchair who couldn’t walk needed braces but the Physical Therapist explained to me that with the help of an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis) her feet would not turn in at the ankles and it would prevent further damage that would require surgery.  The AFO would act as a support intended to control the position and motion of the ankle, compensate for weakness, or correct deformities.   The AFO would be used to support her weak limbs, or to position a limb with contracted muscles into a more normal position.

It was okay at first because the size of her foot remained so tiny and shoes were easy to fit over the AFO’s.  I remember vividly the first time she was casted for her new braces and I was asking about shoes.  The tech told me not to worry that her braces would come with super cute shoes.  Let me just say that the opinion of super cute shoes that come with AFO’s varies greatly.  I was a mama on a mission at this point.  The shoe would have to be wide, easy to slip on over a hard plastic velcro brace and of course …. stylish!  But as kids do, she did eventually start to grow which meant her braces got bigger and shoes became harder to find.  Okay let me rephrase that, shoes that I thought Elizabeth should be wearing became harder to find.  With each new pair of braces we were handed a brown box with a pair of rainbow sneakers that fit perfectly over each AFO; the brown boxes never made it home.

We are a Converse family … in fact my dad, my 77 year old father STILL has his from his high school and college days!  And yes, he STILL wears them!!  I didn’t really appreciate a good pair of Converse sneakers until I was well into my 30’s.  I had been tying up those laces on my kids for years but didn’t realize how much I would love them until I borrowed a pair from Caroline.  For a very brief time Caroline and I shared the same shoe size so I had an entire closet of Converse in every color to wear!  For the record her shoe size passed me by years ago so each girl in the family now all wear a different size and my aspirations of closets full of shoes to share have been squelched!  So as I said we are a Converse family and it doesn’t just mean my dad and the girls!  My boys have been wearing Converse since they could walk.  Nathan had a pair or two but Alex he had a pair in every color, every style and no matter the occasion it was his go to shoe.  School, weddings, family dinners … he made sure the shoe matched his outfit!

But my very favorite pair of Converse belonged to Elizabeth.  They were the first pair I bought to fit her AFO’s.  She wore them everyday and everyone always complimented her on how cute her shoes were.

Over the last few years I have not been putting on Elizabeth’s braces; yes I know … bad mama.  Now in my defense we did have some issues with the braces not fitting properly and we have had her recasted a few times, but the real reason would be that I can not find any shoes, well any shoes that don’t come in a brown box to fit over the AFO’s.  She has a closet full of converse in a variety of styles and colors and not a single pair will fit over her braces.  I have searched the internet for even just one pair that would allow me to dress her in something other than “sporty” that would at least compliment that awful complimentary brown box but let’s all just be honest with one another here; if there is one thing about Elizabeth … she dresses to impress!  Or maybe it is that she is the only one I have left that can’t argue with me about what to wear to school.  Either way this girl needs some shoes that will allow her to look good.  Just because she can’t walk or because the entirety of her day is spent sitting down doesn’t mean she shouldn’t look like the rest of her peers.  (The rest of her peers that believe life is more than lululemons and Southern Trend T-shirts … and don’t think I am judging as I sit here in my favorite pair of navy lulu’s and ST sweatshirt!)

Okay so if you google shoes for AFO’s you will be surprised to see the amount of shoes that people figure out how to fit over their braces and yes there are even a few pair of Converse that can be adapted with a little creativity.  But here’s the thing … I don’t want to have to figure out how to get a pair of shoes to fit over Elizabeth’s AFO’s.  I want to open her closet and see a row of shoes that I can grab a pair and without a lot of pushing and tugging and imagination send her out the door with braces and shoes feeling like she is just like everyone else that got up, got dressed and feels good about the way they look.

So, Converse … here’s my challenge!  I need a line of shoes that are made specifically for a variety of AFO’s; a few different styles, a few different colors.  We don’t have to go crazy here, just a small product line.  Shoes that will allow kids (and moms) to want to wear their much needed AFO’s.  It seems like such a simple request, something so many of us take for granted when we open our closet doors and grab a pair of shoes as we run out the door.  There are so many challenges with the every day basics of finding clothes that fit and getting dressed in hopes to fit in with everyone else so how about a project?  Let’s work together so that shoes can be an easy choice in the life of these pretty special kids.

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