Top Gun

I cannot tell you how excited I am for May 27th to get here! In case you aren’t counting down the days like I am and are asking yourself “What is happening on May 27th?” Well my friends, that is the day that TOP GUN 2 is finally being released in the theaters!

It is no secret that I am huge Tom Cruise fan, and always have been. I’m pretty sure Top Gun was the first movie I ever saw him in, and it’s been a love affair ever since. Well, ok, not a love affair, but a grand appreciation for him – especially as Maverick.

You Can Be My Wingman Anytime

My obsession with all things Top Gun was taken to new heights when I actually got to meet Maverick himself! In the photo you can tell that I am completely star struck because my body is frozen in the position and I remember that all I was able to say to him was “Thank you for doing this.”.. Oh my goodness, so embarrassing!

A treasured keepsake!

We all have our celebrity obsessions/crushes/idols from time to time, and for me Tom Cruise was it for so many years. If you had asked me back when I saw Top Gun for the first time if I could ever see myself becoming a pilot, I would have said “no Way!” But isn’t it funny how our dreams can change when we get exposed to something new? In my senior year in high school my dad paid for a short little flight around our local airport with an instructor, and as soon as we took off, I was hooked. I didn’t know much about aviation then, but I knew I wanted to fly more. So with the encouragement of my parents, I did my research, found a flight school, and started my training.

You Gotta See It To Be It

I never even considered flying as something I could do because I had never seen someone like me do it. Sometimes you don’t even realize what you can do because you haven’t seen it done before by someone like you. I wrote a blog a while ago about a technique they teach in flying called “Chair Flying”. You can click here to read about the power of visualization and how it not only works for learning a new skill, but for seeing ourselves in a more positive light too.

By my dad taking the initiative and exposing me to something new (and that he was afraid to do himself, by the way) he opened up my world in a way neither one of us could have imagined.

Letting Go

Learning the skills and procedures it took to be a pilot wasn’t the only thing I got out of my time as an aviator. I also gained self confidence and a sense of capability that I desperately needed. Having grown up with a cleft, I suffered from low self esteem at times due to my experiences. I often felt that my cleft defined me. So being able to put all of that away and leave it on the ground for a little while gave me a much needed confidence boost. It allowed me to feel good about something that I had complete control over. At my flight school I identified as competent pilot, and not simply as that girl with a cleft. It was so freeing.

Me and my good friend Nicci.

Progressing through my training, I received my private pilot certificate, then my commercial/instrument certificate, and finally became a certified instructor. I lived and worked in both Eugene, Oregon and Southern California , building up my hours. It was so much fun doing what I loved to do. I made wonderful friends that I still have to this day.

I have flown all over the pacific northwest and even the Hawaiian islands. All of these experiences made possible by my father purchasing that one 30 minute flight when I was 17.

On my way to Molokai
Over the clouds in Oregon

Bring Back Those Lovin’ Feelings

So when I hear the soundtrack to Top Gun, or see the trailer for Top Gun 2, it’s not just about the films themselves. It’s because they bring back all of those feelings and emotions I had when I was doing my own flying. I can feel the confidence, the pride, and the capability I displayed back then and it helps me remember during challenging times that all of that confidence and capability is still within me.

Can you think of a time in your life you felt really good? A time where you felt confidence and capable? When you find yourself in times of challenge, harness those memories. Put on a song that reminds you of those times. Watch a movie that always makes you feel good. Cook yourself a meal that you love. Do something that gets you into that positive headspace. It will help remind you of where you have been, and where you can go again.


What’s In A Name

Have you ever wondered, what’s with the name Dragonfly Paradigm, anyway?

I’ve explained it a handful of times via my blog and social media posts, but I thought I would elaborate a bit more since there are many of you who have only recently joined the community, and may not know what the symbolism is all about.

Run For Your Life

The dragonfly part is an homage to my father. It sounds silly and you’ll probably think it sounds ridiculous, but when I was young and would see a dragonfly flying about in the back yard, my dad would say “Watch out! They’ll sew your lips shut!”. Anyone else’s parents use this saying?!

Eventually he told me that his parents used to say that to him too, so it was really just a big joke, but it would still send me screaming and running for my life. All in good fun of course, and clearly I’m not traumatized by it (not like chickens, which I may tell you about at some point), and so it became one of the endearing things he and I shared.

Once I started looking for a name for my business, I kept thinking about the Dragonfly and started doing research into what the animal symbolizes.

The Name Represents the Vision

The dragonfly has long been a symbol of transformation, self-realization, and change. I mean, talk about a perfect representation of what I was envisioning this community to be for.

Change the Way You Look at Things

Now, onto the Paradigm part. In addition to the Dragonfly, I wanted the name of my business to represent what I was trying to do at the core. I wanted to change the way we in the cleft community think about and view ourselves. So, while I was knee deep in thesaurus searches (I LOVE a good thesaurus search), Paradigm kept coming up.

A Paradigm is a model, framework, or way of thinking. It was a perfect word to describe what I wanted to do. I wanted to help others find a new way of thinking in regard to the handling of obstacles and struggles that those of us on the cleft journey go through. It was a perfect fit.

Choose to Own Your Power

So there you have it. The back story on the name Dragonfly Paradigm. And truly, it is also a backstory on why I’m here doing this work. I am passionate about helping all of us within the cleft community realize that they are born with all the strength and power they need to live a full and emotionally supported life.

It is my hope that you continue on this shared journey with me. I know it will be amazing!



Be honest, when you saw the title of this article, you immediately heard Ross’ voice screaming it out, right?! Whenever I hear or see the word PIVOT, I cannot help but smile and remember one of the funniest moments from Friends.

Not What We Were Hoping For..

However, when thinking of pivot this week, my smile was a dimmer than usual because the pivot my family had to do was return (albeit for a much shorter time – fingers crossed) to remote learning. Ugh.

Talk about a wrench thrown in the works. Of course I knew in the back of my mind it was always a possibility due to all things COVID, but geez, when we received the word from the school I was so mad. I mean, really mad. Anger rose up from the depths and took over my entire mind and body.

Boiling Up From The Deep..

My strong reaction to this news, I realized, was rooted deeper than in just the immediate inconvenience, frustration, and disruption to my daughter’s schedule. It was coming from a place where all the former frustration, inconvenience, and disruption I felt from my daughter’s entire year of second grade had been hiding – just waiting to rear it’s ugly head.

Bringing Up Old Issues..

From my own experience growing up, I can remember many times when what I thought was going to happen regarding an upcoming surgery or dental procedure, was changed due to varying circumstances, and I would feel anger, confusion, and fear.

As parents of a cleft child, or a cleft individual yourself, I’m sure you too can relate. A small change to an upcoming procedure schedule, or a big adjustment to an overall treatment plan, can bring up BIG reaction, that can cause you to feel even BIGGER emotions.

Pivot Power..

So, what can we do when these events happen that bring up these BIG reactions and BIGGER emotions?

For me, I always fall back to a great piece of advice my mom gave me when I was younger. Whenever I was feeling down, she would tell me “Go ahead, take today and mope. Feel down. Feel the feelings you are having. But tomorrow, pick yourself up, put one foot in front of the other, and start doing something about it.”

So that is what I did. I took that day and felt all my feelings. I commiserated with my friends and family about what I was feeling and let all that anger and frustration out. Then, the next day, I picked myself up, put one foot in front of the other, and started making a plan for my daughter’s change in schedule.

I may not feel good about what is going on, but I am feeling capable and ready to tackle this challenge.

Take The Day and Then Rise Up..

So, if you find yourself dealing with an unexpected challenge or change right now – give yourself some grace to feel your feelings, but remember my mom’s sage advice: Take the day, but then pick yourself up and do something to get you moving forward.


Pageant Dream: The Spirit of Miss Teen

Would you believe me if I told you that a young girl who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate entered herself into a pageant and actually won an award? Well, back in August of 1993 at the age of 15, that’s exactly what I did!

Pageant Photo Flashback..

My mother found some old photos recently and sent them my way. This one not only surprised me, but brought back so many emotions and thoughts about that time. The main thought being “how did I ever feel so confident to do this at such a young age?”

From The Outside In..

Looking back, I can pinpoint one major factor in how I became confident enough to not only enter this pageant, but to try so many other things throughout my life that I may have otherwise been too afraid to because of feeling fearful of how others may look at me, react to me, or what they may say to me.

I found activities that I enjoyed and could hone and become proficient in. Being able to develop skills and talents that had absolutely nothing to do with how I looked gave me the boost of confidence that I needed. The first and foremost being piano. I started playing piano at age 6. From that age, all the way through high school, I took lessons. I performed at recitals, talent shows, and even at the Miss Teen of Oregon pageant where this picture was taken.

They Can’t Take That Away..

Learning piano and becoming proficient left no room for anyone’s opinion on my ability. Whereas beauty is subjective and as they say “in the eye of the beholder”, my musical ability was not up for debate. I didn’t have to try to explain it away or justify that I could play. The fact was that I could.

I had something that I could do and that I was proud of. I could receive praise for my ability, which had nothing to do with my outward appearance. It was liberating.

Aristotle Was Right..

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Aristotle was on to something with these words.   It is so easy to look at someone as separate parts. How they look, how they sound, how they dress, etc. However, they can become so much more because of how those parts of put together. Although my talent for piano is a part of who I am, the effect it had on my ability to see my worth was life changing. I knew from the inside out that I was more than my parts, because when put all together I am a person worthy of love, respect, and have value and gifts to share just like anyone else. And so are you.

It’s Your Turn..

So now it’s your turn. Look back and reminisce on all that you are. Celebrate not only the fact that you have overcome challenges, but celebrate what you enjoy and have a talent for. You are worthy of this adoration. The gifts you have are unique to you because there is no one else like you on this Earth.


I’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! Reflecting on the Journey.

“In moments of quiet reflection our minds embrace the sea that we have crossed.”

~ Holmes

Big news my friends!

October is my birthday month! Yep, I’m one of those people that likes to celebrate all month long! Packing in as much fun and opportunity for shenanigans to be had as is possible! How do you like to celebrate? All month long like me, or pack all the festivities into the exact special day? One of the ways I love to celebrate is through music – and I’ve created a special birthday playlist to accompany my celebration. Click here to check it out!

Taking the opportunity..

I have always enjoyed every aspect of my birthday! When I was younger it was all about how much fun I could cram into the month. As I have gotten older, and especially as I have begun the journey that is Dragonfly Paradigm, I find myself reflecting often on where I have been, and just how far I’ve come.

Nobody said it would be easy..

Growing up as I did, with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, the struggles were real. There were many surgeries and many emotional hard times. They populate my memories as I look back on my soon to be 44 years on this beautiful Earth. Life in and of itself is hard. Living with a facial deformity makes it even more so. Those of you in the cleft community know what I’m talking about. In those times of great challenge, it felt completely overwhelming and isolating for me, and at times I thought it would never get better. Oh, how I was wrong.

One step at a time..

With the encouragement of my parents, I took one step at a time into the big world that was waiting for me. I found activities that I enjoyed such as piano and dance. Through those activities I grew more confident in myself. With each piano recital or dance performance, I faced my fears of being in front of a crowd. I proved to myself that I could indeed stand on my own two feet. The confidence gained from these early experiences helped to carry me through my young adulthood years. Although my fears of what people may say about my face remained, I didn’t let the fear get so ingrained that it stopped me from living my life and to try the things I wanted to try.

Older and Wiser..

As I look back now with much older eyes, and as a parent, I can see that it wasn’t in the big moments that I became the strong and capable person that I am today. It was through the small, less significant events that my resilience was shaped. The close bond I had with my parents. The friendships I formed when I was young, with several still lasting to this day. The courage I felt in knowing that if I stepped out of my comfort zone and failed, I had a safe place to return to and receive the support, encouragement, and acknowledgment I needed. Resilience is formed through the experience of adversity, and living with a cleft lip and palate definitely gave me the opportunities to experience quite a bit of adversity.

Paying it forward..

Now, as I embark on yet another year, and another “out of my comfort zone” journey, I am hopeful and excited. As I share my stories and experiences of living with a cleft I hope that it will resonate. I aim to instill in my own daughter the skills of self awareness and empathy that will serve her well as she continues on her own path in this big bold world.

Looking back and moving forward..

So I am going to take this month of October to not only celebrate another trip around the sun for me, but also take the time to recognize and appreciate just how much I have overcome. No one said life would be easy, and I certainly agree with that. But life is also wonderful and beautiful. It is full of rich experiences that we have to be courageous enough to try. So let’s be brave! Celebrate all that we are! All that we have overcome! And all that we can do with this one precious life we have.


Cookie Connections: Conversation and Cribbage

This photo isn’t an ad, but it should be! (I’m looking at you Pepperidge Farm!) I discovered the fantastic combination of coffee and Carmel Macchiato Milano cookies this past week while my mom was up for a visit. It is the best pairing of flavors!! Over rousing games of cribbage, we enjoyed our coffee, cookies, and conversation.

Conversation memories..

It made me remember the times from my youth when I would feel down or upset, or just wanted to talk, that she would put me in the car, and we would drive to our local Dairy Queen for a couple of soft serve ice cream cones and sit in the parking lot and just talk. We would talk about everything and anything during those times, and something about being outside of the four walls of my home made me feel a little more relaxed to share things with her, as you would a friend, versus through the power dynamic that is mothers and daughters.

Two-way talk..

The wonderful thing about those conversations was that we both shared. There were times she wanted to talk to me, and so we would get our cones, park in our usual spot, and talk to each other. She would share things she was feeling, I would listen. She would ask what I thought. It was an amazing feeling to know that my mother wanted my thoughts and advice sometimes. It made me feel that I was important to her, and that I had something of value she wanted me to share with her.

Trust bonds..

What I didn’t know then that I know now, is that through those conversations we were not only talking through whatever problem or issue we were facing, but we were building trust between us and strengthening the bonds of connection.

Connection through conversation..

If you are reading (or have read) “What Happened To You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, you know that one of the main keys to building resilience is through connection. This concept has created a major shift in the way I think about resilience. I used to think that building resilience was a solitary endeavor. That it was something I had to forge myself through the fires of adversity. However, through reading the book I have learned that it is through the sharing of experience with, being present for, and being seen by, others we truly become emotionally supported and resilient individuals.

Best listen to Brene’..

Sharing our stories with those that have earned the privilege of our vulnerability is the key to connectedness. It is the way we can bring more joy, contentment, and resiliency into our lives.  You get what you give in this life. Do you want more connectedness? More joy? A fuller life experience? Then, as Brene’ Brown says, you have to get in the arena.

Take charge..

How do you show up for your life? What connections can you build up to bring more joy to you and those around you? Not sure? Pour yourself a cup of coffee, get some cookies, and have a conversation with someone. It can be as simple as that.


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The ABK’s of Yard Sales: Always Be Kind

Last weekend my family had a yard sale. It was a good way to rehome a lot of my daughters’ clothes and toys that she had outgrown (the girl grew over an inch in 6 weeks, so she basically had to get a whole new wardrobe), and miscellaneous household items that we had collected over the past several years. I love a good clean out from time to time, don’t you?! My daughter also got to have her very first lemonade stand (she’s been asking to do it since January) and I learned something new about her. That girl has the sales gene.

I don’t have it..

I have never been skilled at sales. In college I took a beginning sales class and was torture! I felt confident speaking in front of people right up until the point I need to “sell”, and then my throat closes, and I can’t remember what it is I want to say. It just feels unnatural!

She’s got it..

Not for my kid though. The moment the first person showed up to our house, it was like she hit her “on” button. She was engaging, personable, pleasant, and genuinely interested in what the people were saying in response to her questions. Let me tell you, the minute she made her first 25 cents from her first cup of lemonade, she was hooked! As soon as anyone got out of their car, they first thing they heard was, “Would you like to try some of my fresh lemonade?” It was adorable.

Everyone gets a piggy bank..

But she did not stop there. As the day went on, she grew more confident in her ability to talk to the people who stopped by. She walked around our tables of items, picking up one here or there, and making conversations with her customers. Watching this usually reserved little girl come out of her shell and be self-assured enough to engage and sell to people she did not know was amazing. And let me tell you, she sold 4, count them 4, gigantic ceramic baby piggy banks. She’s that good.

As she worked her magic and sold countless ceramic knick-knacks to the people who came to our yard sale, I was filled with pride but also awe. I kept thinking to myself “How is she so comfortable talking to these people she doesn’t know? I was never like that when I was her age.”, and “Look at her be so at ease making sales, like it’s no big deal!”. It was amazing. She is an amazing little girl.

Keep it simple..

So, what was her secret? After our sale was done, I asked her how it was that she was so comfortable talking to these people she had never met and selling to them. She said two things in response – that she was having fun, and that she wanted to be kind to them.  

It is as simple as that, my friends. Do you want to feel as confident and at ease in your life as my 7-year-old daughter selling old picture frames and giant baby piggy banks? Have fun and be kind. Leading with kindness will bring joy to not only those your meet throughout your day, but also to you too. It’s a win-win.


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Investing: If Not Now, Then When?

I was having a conversation with a friend a few days ago, and as we were talking about all sorts of things, she said something that struck me. She said that women rarely invest in themselves before investing in others.  

There is truth to this..

Think about yourself right now. When an opportunity arises to take a class, go to a retreat, or participate in a workshop that you know will be a benefit to you personally and emotionally, what do you feel in your gut? Hesitation? Fear? If you let that feeling grow, what comes next? I’m guessing a myriad of excuses as to why you cannot attend. Not to mention creation of imaginary scenarios that “could” arise that end up making you say no to the current opportunity. Believe me, I have heard them all, because I have told them all to myself countless times.

Investing does not mean money..

There is plenty of research and articles out there that talk about just this specific issue and try to get down to the root of WHY women tend to put their personal growth aside for the sake of others.  So, what is the WHY? Time? Money? Nope, it is neither of those. Even though they both play a part, they are not the root cause of why women continue to put themselves down. The number one reason? LACK OF CONFIDENCE. If you are interested in reading more details, there was a well written article in The Atlantic several years back that still holds up. Click the link here to check it out.

It all comes back to this..

Confidence is key to just about everything we do in life. If that makes you cringe a bit because you feel that you are lacking in confidence, then try thinking of it this way. Your attitude determines how well you function in the midst of all of life’s challenges. Do you have a positive outlook or negative? When presented with an opportunity for personal growth and challenge, do you see it as a way of investing in yourself or do you see it as something else you don’t have the time or money for. As one of my favorite spiritual motivational speakers used to say “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr. Dyer is right on with that, and it really is that simple.

So, is there something you want to learn? A workshop you want to attend? Is there a skill you want to hone? Do not let the immediate fear of “I’m not worthy” stop you from doing what you want.

Confront the fear..

Are you still consumed with all the excuses? Use my Brain Dump Worksheet (link to download below) and write down all of the excuses you can come up with. Next, go line by line and right a T or F by each one. Is that excuse true or false? Is it your fear talking or a legitimate reason? Be honest with yourself and if by the time you get to the end of your list you have realized that most of your excuses are false, then my friend, there is your answer.

If you do not invest now, then when..

Invest in yourself. You are the greatest gift you have to give to others, so nurture yourself. Love yourself. Take the time to show yourself that you believe you are worthy of your own time and energy. As Robin Sharma says, “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.”


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Chair Flying: See It To Be It

June 5th, 1997. A day that will live in infamy. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I had visualized myself doing this flight from the day I started flight training, and it had finally arrived! This photo is from the day of my first solo flight. I was nervous, but also extremely excited to complete the takeoff, pattern, and landing as the sole occupant of the aircraft.

I still remember my dad being there video recording my flight. As my instructor hopped out of the plane and I taxied away, my dad asked “Do you really think she’s ready?” My instructor, without hesitation, said “Yes!”. That made my dad feel more at ease watching his daughter take off into the wild blue yonder all on her own. I think it made my instructor feel better too!

Self Reliance..

That day was a huge success. Not only for the fact of accomplishing my first solo flight, but for my self confidence as well. Being completely responsible for the machine, knowing how to operate the systems, communicating with the control tower and relying on the skills I learned from my instructors solidified my belief that I could do this. Not to mention it was so much fun that I don’t think I stopped smiling for the entire week after!

Gotta See It To Be It..

But of course, the skills and confidence did not happen over night. There was months of training and logging hours in the aircraft. My instructor would have never sent me out unless he believed I was ready. One of the methods our instructors used was a visualization technique to help learn new maneuvers and procedures. They called it Chair Flying.

You simply sit down, close your eyes, and visualize yourself working through the steps of each procedure. You speak out loud the checklist items and move your feet, arms, and hands, just as you would if you were sitting in the cockpit. It really works and is an invaluable exercise to use, even if you are not learning how to fly an airplane.

Visualize to Realize..

Visualization is a powerful skill. If you can picture yourself as a self-confident individual doing and accomplishing your goals, then you will get there. But it takes practice. Creating a positive image of yourself in your mind will lead you to develop thoughts, feelings, and actions that will move you forward on your path of growth.

Take 5 minutes and sit with your eyes closed and use this visualization technique to practice and solidify your own “chair flying” self confidence routine. Are you working toward a goal in your personal life that would benefit from some time of quiet thought and practice? Visualize it! Do you dream of writing the next great American novel? Visualize it! Practice this every day for a week and see how you feel. Go on, give it a try. One positive step begets another. Action leads to more action. What have you got to lose?


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Don’t Say That Word

I have a love/hate relationship with the word routine. On one hand I am completely Type-A and rely on lists, checklists, and schedules to maintain organization in my life. On the other hand, my free-spirited side goes absolutely insane under that much organizational constraint. My body literally feels like it’s trying to break out of a strait jacket! I’m not super into astrology, but I am a libra and my sign is represented by the scales. Makes sense, right? Always trying to balance the to-dos with the want-tos. Trying to balance the requirements of life with the need for fun and spontaneity.  It is enough to drive a person mad!

Too much of a good thing?

Organization is a must not only in our personal lives, but in society as well. Systems, procedures, and checklists help us maintain a clear path ahead. Unanticipated events allow for pure experiences that come from being a part of new, unexpected occasions. Too much rigidity robs you of the joy of spontaneity, and too much freewheeling can lead to unsettledness and anxiousness.  So how do we find balance between the two?

Spontaneous plans? Is that a even a thing?

Plan the spontaneity! I know, it sounds like an oxymoron to “plan” to be spontaneous, but sometimes that’s just the way it has to be done. We have to make room and create time for the breaks. Have you ever heard of “yes days”? Planning spontaneity is kind of like that. Why not plan for one day a month (or more if you can fit it in) to not have anything on your schedule. No appointments, no places you must be, no other to-dos or requirements. Just a day for yourself that when you wake up in the morning, there are no plans. Can you even imagine what that would feel like? If just the thought of having time to yourself makes you feel giddy, then my dear, it needs to happen!

Make the spontaneity happen..

Can’t get a whole day to yourself? Then plan a morning or afternoon. Coordinate with your partner or other family members to help you block out this time. It can be done, but you have to make it happen. Prioritize yourself and realize that you need this time in order to be your best self. If you have read (or are reading as part of the Dragonfly Paradigm Lunchtime Book Club) What Happened To You? by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, then you know that in chapter 2 they talk about regulation and balance. (You can watch the previous discussions on the chapters by clicking here).

Working to bring yourself back to a settled emotional state through regulation is just as important to your overall health as eating a balanced diet. If you don’t take the time to nurture your emotional health, nothing else is going to work either. The best way to do that? Figure out the things that bring you joy! What soothes you when you feel agitated or down? Love going for walks in nature, then do that during your planned spontaneous day! Do you dream about enjoying a cup of coffee all by yourself at your favorite coffee shop? Then do it!

Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner..

Putting your needs on the front burner is not a self-indulgent activity, no matter what society may tell you. It is necessary and required to live the full life you desire. So, when are you going to plan your spontaneous day? What can you imagine yourself doing on a morning, afternoon, entire day all to yourself? The possibilities are endless, if you just say “YES!” to yourself.


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