You Can Tell By the Shoes

Spiritual Directors International held their annual conference in Atlanta this year.  My friend and I waited in line to check in at the Westin.

The Westin is 73 floors.  We (spiritual directors) were not the only ones staying at the hotel.  Men were in suits and ties, young women in sundresses or tight jeans and t-shirts.  Other women wore black pants and loose shirts or crop pants and cardigans.

“Hey, Marjorie,” I said.  “You know how to tell who is one of us?”

(It was my 3rd SDI Conference, her 1st.)

“Check out the shoes.”

She looked around the lobby.  And laughed.  We looked at our own shoes–Keen sandals for her and SAS sandals with adjustable velcro straps for me.  We laughed even more.  Spiritual Directors like comfortable, practical, wearable, walkable shoes.  Sexy?  Not so much.

My feet have required not-cheap, comfortable shoes for years.  Even for weddings.  Sigh.  (I know–who looks at the mother-of-the-bride’s shoes?  But it mattered to me.)

I bought a pair of black sneakers/walking shoes a couple of years ago.   I chose velcro straps instead of shoestrings because rheumatoid arthritis has done some damage to my finger dexerity.  (Ask my husband/kids about how I give someone “the finger” these days.  It looks like it’s in code.)

Those black shoes were kind of clunky but sort of okay with long black pants or jeans.

I couldn’t wear them.

They were really comfortable shoes.  But UGLY.  My pride and vanity won out over comfort and common sense.

I know a woman who has no car and no money for the bus.  She walks a lot.  I gave her the clunky, comfortable black shoes.

She LOVES those shoes.

My Inner Two-Year-Old

Adaline is one now.  Her world is just fine unless she is hungry or tired.  Then someone takes care of her. No one expects her to be self-sufficient.  What does she have to be snotty about?  The one-year-old is usually quite content.

In a year, she will be 2.  Things will be different then, I think.

Disability came as a surprise for me after my knee replacement surgery a year ago.  I expected to hurt and hobble.  I didn’t know I would need help with everything, including going to the bathroom and bathing (which Mike insisted I do daily so my incision didn’t get infected).  I appreciate my husband’s patient and loving care through those weeks.

I wasn’t always gracious.  My inner two-year-old raged and cried and temper-tantrumed more than a few times.

I couldn’t put on a pair of pants by myself because my knee wouldn’t bend.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I had to use a walker to get to the bathroom and then I had trouble standing up.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I couldn’t stand up long enough to fix anything to eat.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I will be sympathetic when Adaline says “I do it“, even if she can’t.

My knee is functioning well.  I am grateful daily for what I am able to do on my own.

I can take my own showers and go to the bathroom alone and even put on my pants easily.  Maybe one day that won’t be the case.  I do wonder if I should have long-term-care insurance.

Today, just for today, I did what I wanted.  My inner two-year-old is very grateful.


Father, Mother, God
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most–


–Maya Angelou

Copyright (c) 12/2005  Maya Angelou

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Comments (6)  
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Amma Says…

(Amma is my grandmother name.  Click here for why.)

1.  Practice good manners, even if you feel nagged.  It will matter one day.

2.  Accept and revel in the love we all have for you.  It is rare and will carry you long after we are gone.

3.  Take vitamins and calcium as you grow.  It’s one of those delayed gratification things.

4.  Be brave.  Your mom can teach you the difference between brave and reckless.  I tried to tell her, but she had to learn on her own.  You will, too, I’m sure.

5.  Try many things—foods, people, styles, words, animals, smells, places.  You will find beauty and wisdom in odd places, I believe.

6.  Enjoy your hair, when you have some.  (Look at your baby pictures.)  Be grateful for what you have, no matter what color it is.

7.  Be kind.  The energy you send out to the world will come back to you in mysterious ways.

8.  Don’t be afraid of questions.  That’s how you learn that not all questions have answers.

9.  Be still long enough to feel the Presence of something bigger than you.  I promise that Presence will always be with you.  Your responsibility is to notice.

10.  Let the inner child in you live forever.  Fun and laughter are essential.  I forgot how to play.  Please don’t do that.

Above all, know that I love you and that our Spirits will always be connected.

Nobody Ever Told Me

1.  Nobody ever told me sugar can cause/increase inflammation.  I learned it very reluctantly from a nutritionist named Bernadette.  I gave up sugar for a while.  Then I ate a lot of ice cream.  The next day my rheumatoid arthritis was noticeably more painful.  The sugar had increased the inflammation in my joints which caused more pain. Bummer.  (Click here for more information.)

2.  Nobody ever told me girls should exercise and be fit.  Or I didn’t hear it until I was an adult and had 2 kids.  I will pay the price for that all my life.  At least I didn’t pass that attitude on to the next generation.

3.  Nobody ever told me that being a mother-in-law could be as challenging as having a mother-in-law.

4.  Nobody ever told me the birth of a grandchild could trigger such a mishmash of feelings.  I feel joy and a pure, unconditional love that must be how God feels about us.  But I have also been stunned on a soul level by the realization that we are now the oldest generation and that Adaline’s life will (should) go on long after mine ends.

On the other hand,

1.  Mothers with daughters older than mine did tell me the teenage years of mother-disgust would eventually end.  And they did.  (Nobody told me the daughter might not remember the worst of those times.)

2.  Friends who had been through it told me that leaving my first child at college (in Washington, DC–the murder capital of America in 1996!!) would tear out a piece of my heart and then it would heal.  Then they told me it would happen again with the second daughter.  They were right.

3.  Friends who had grandchildren before me (the ones I snickered at) tried to tell me how remarkable it was.  Now I am just as goofy-in-love as all of them.

4.  My aunt (the mother of my swimmer-cousin) in Iowa, where winters are really cold, told me that kids do not get sick from going outside with wet hair.  That was reassuring when my swimmer-daughters with wet hair halfway down their backs strolled from the locker room to the car all winter.  They stayed amazingly healthy.

The wisest things anyone has told me?

All we can do is love them all and pray for them.  The rest is up to them and God.  And I’m not God.

Today is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

There is a giant red ribbon hanging on the front porch of the White House today.

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization.  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.


I Failed Facebook

For a long time,  I thought Facebook was silly and useless and a potential time-sucker.  Even though people I respect and like have Facebook pages.

I had lunch with Susan and Beth a week ago.  They worked on me and wore me down.  I decided to try Facebook.  My daughter said, “It’s not rocket science, Mom.”

The first day it was fine.  No problem signing up and I started to send out friend requests.  I went to bed, proud of myself.

The next day, I got a pop-up telling me I used an invalid email address to login.  I tried my other one.  Same response.  I tried everything on the Facebook Help page about login.  No luck.  Then I tried to find a way to contact Facebook.  I don’t think they want to hear from us.

I tried to log in for a whole day and used all the words I’ve banished from everyone’s vocabulary (at least in front of Adaline).  I gave up and went to bed.

Next morning, our internet connection didn’t work.  Then it did, but I still couldn’t get to my Facebook page.  (I could see it if I logged in to my daughter’s page.)  And I was getting emails confirming friend requests.  I had friends, but no way to get to my Facebook page.  The internet connection stopped working again.

I kept wondering what my “friends” would think.

Today I admitted I failed.  I started over.

I am now Robin Reaugh Dorko on Facebook.  If you search for Robin Dorko, I think you’ll find her, but she still can’t get to that page.  So go to Robin Reaugh Dorko instead.  My girls said this way my old boyfriends could find me easier.  Great.

More than once in the last few years, I’ve said I’m done upgrading and learning new computer stuff.   And then I upgrade or learn something new.  If Aunt Nadine and Uncle Phil can learn to email in their 80’s, I guess I can keep whining and then surrendering to progress.  Next is my iPod.

Want to be my friend?

Published in: on September 20, 2010 at 9:33 am  Comments (4)  
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I was bad last night.  This morning I was hung over.  And it’s Paul Newman’s fault.

I didn’t drink any alcohol or do any drugs.  Thank God.  It was cookies.  Newman-0’s, like Oreos, but made with organic flour and organic sugar.  I really don’t know how many I ate (bad sign, huh?), but I do remember at one point thinking I had crossed the line between eating and bingeing.  I didn’t stop until they were all gone.  (Mike ate some.)

I didn’t feel good when I went to bed.  I was afraid the chocolate would keep me from falling asleep.  And I forgot (!?!) what sugar can do to me.

My body and I live with rheumatoid arthritis.  The disease causes inflammation in my joints.  Inflammation causes pain.  Sugar increases inflammation. And so increases pain in my body.  Which I remembered when I got out of bed this morning.

Sugar hangover.  Will I never learn?

I’ve read books and articles about the mind/body/spirit connection.  I’ve even read a book about chronic illness as a spiritual practice.  I know my attitude and behavior influence how my body feels.  I resisted the sugar/inflammation/pain idea for a long time, but it’s true.

Here’s what else I know is true, for me:

1.  My body is the container of my soul.  I am an embodied Spirit.

2.  My body deserves reverence, respect, and gratitude.

3.  Exercise can be a spiritual practice.

4.  Nourishing my body with healthy food feeds my soul.

5.  Living in my body is a spiritual practice that teaches me patience and acceptance.   I’ve learned how to feel anger, how to love imperfection, how to grieve.  I now understand joy and awe.

6.  I am a child of God.  I was made in God’s image.

7.  My body and soul deserve fresh, local peaches and Goat Lady Dairy cheese, not cookies.  Not even organic ones with Paul Newman’s picture (those eyes!) on the package.

Turtle or Gazelle?

Kim and Donna, as part of a Soul Collage workshop, led a guided meditation to help us envision our totem animals.  I was hoping for something graceful and elegant, able to leap in the air and run fast—a gazelle, perhaps.  My Spirit gave me a big, old, ponderous, turtle.

Turtle is not glamorous, but really not as uninspiring as I first thought.  Here is what I learned about turtle symbolism:

1.  Turtle’s whole life is one of steadfastness, effort, and patience. It lives a slow and steady life of “non-doing”.

2.  Turtle takes its wisdom one day at a time – not reacting, simply accepting and moving on in its natural rhythm.

3.  The medicine of Turtle is its deliberate and thorough approach to life.  

4. Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil. It does not need to learn the importance of this focusing inward, it naturally knows.

5.  Turtle is courageous because it makes progress only when it sticks its neck out and moves forward with patient, steady flow.

6.  Turtle is always at home within itself.

I have spent years learning about living one day at a time, being in the moment, and accepting life as it comes to me.  All those words in all those books and discussions are summed up in “Turtle”.  Once again I am humbled.  And delighted by how cleverly Spirit teaches me.