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.

~Vickie

When Words Hurt: Picking Your Battles With Bullies

I love award shows. I enjoy every aspect: the red-carpet interviews, the fashion, the spectacle of the award show itself, I love it all. So, like many I was parked on the couch this past Sunday getting my fill of all things Oscars and rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch because he is fantastic! And along with millions of viewers, I watched Will Smith slap Chris Rock. My first reaction was that it was part of the show. I quickly learned that it wasn’t a staged bit, but a raw and visceral reaction to a cruel “joke” made by a bully at the expense of Will’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Words Do Hurt


I am not going to get into the whole right versus wrong part of the discussion here. Clearly everyone understands that what Will Smith did was wrong. What I do want to say is..I get it. I get why Will Smith reacted the way he did. As someone who has had many a verbal insult flung my way over the years because of my bilateral cleft lip and palate, I completely understand the impulse to lash out, even physically, when you’ve had as much as you can take.

For those that have had the experience of being bullied, you know that kind of pain cuts deep. And I don’t care who says otherwise, words do hurt. I can still remember the exact situation and cruel words said to me by a bully I had when I was in middle school. So, I don’t buy the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” mantra. Words can cut deep, hit hard, and linger in our minds for years.

Being A Bully Is Not Comedy


Making fun of someone’s appearance is not comedy. It’s petty, uninteresting, and shows the true nature of the person making the insult. That’s why when Chris Rock made his “joke”, I rolled my eyes just like Jada Pinkett Smith did. If nothing further happened, Chris Rock would have been made to look petty and uninteresting through his own words. However, by Will Smith reacting the way he did, he gave away his power the moment he struck Chris Rock.

Now, instead of talking about how out of line Chris Rock was by making fun of someone’s appearance -and let me just clear up the idea that just because he may have not known Jada has alopecia somehow how makes his “joke” ok..it does not. Whether or not he knew does not excuse his crassness and pettiness for using someone’s appearance as a punchline – we are now talking about how out of line Will Smith was for his reaction because it was “just a joke”.  The power has shifted from the victim back to the bully.

Lessons To Be Learned


As I think about how all of this played out on Sunday, I realize that it is the perfect teaching opportunity for ourselves and our children. The lesson: We must learn how to pick our battles. Does Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith really care what Chris Rock thinks of them? I’m guessing not. We must consider the messenger when it comes to how we react to hurtful words or rude comments.

Now, of course, as soon we start school and become part of social groups, we care A LOT about what others think. It’s part of the growing up experience – learning how and where we want to fit in. Did I care what my bully thought of me when she hurled those hurtful words my way all those years ago in middle school? Yeah, most likely because they stayed with me for a very long time. Do I care now? Of course not.  We must ask ourselves – do I really care what this person thinks of me? If the answer is no, then that person’s opinion on anything we do will have zero impact. They are not worth the time or energy it would take to respond.

Not Every Bully Is Worth Your Time


I’ve learned that not every bully deserves my response when it comes to reacting to a rude or hurtful comment. I have learned how to pick my battles. And now, as a parent myself, I am teaching my daughter to do the same. I encourage you to have conversations with your children about how they view the people who have said mean things. When it comes down to it, do they really care about what that person thinks of them? Use this particular incident with Will Smith and Chris Rock as your jumping off point. There are complicated feelings and emotions locked up inside this singular incident that can spark wonderful and helpful conversations. By using this as a learning opportunity, you and your children can strengthen the skill of learning to pick the battles that truly deserve their time and energy.

~Vickie


Mask Removed: It’s Never As Bad As I Imagine

A few months ago I shared in a blog that at the beginning of the school year, I met another mom at the bus drop off. Of course, because of all things pandemic related, we were wearing our masks. Over the next few weeks of hanging out together, we exchanged numbers and decided it would be fun to get together for coffee and chat.

That day, as soon as I left the bus stop, the thoughts started snowballing through my brain. I thought “I met this mom while I was wearing a mask. She has no idea that I have a cleft. What is her reaction going to be? What will I say? Will I have to endure the inevitable look to my nose and mouth and then the quick look away?”.

It’s Always Worse In My Head

Fast forward a few months, and we finally were able to make our coffee date plan. Admittedly, I was still having all those initial anxious thoughts of what her reaction would be when we removed our masks and she saw my full face for the first time.

I can tell you, that the thoughts I have about removing my mask around people I have never met before is always worse than what really ends up happening.

Fear Can Mask Our Minds

If we let it, our minds can come up with some pretty crazy scenarios of how people may react to our facial difference. But if we let our fears take control, we rob ourselves of truly wonderful experiences. And with mask requirements lessening in many places around our country, the idea of people seeing our facial difference, for the first time in some cases, can be quite nerve racking for many of us.

But do you want to know what my new friend did when I took off my mask? ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING! We had a lovely chat and talked about all kinds of things and found several commonalities between us.

If I had let my initial hesitation stop me from going to the coffee date, I would have missed out on this new friendship. What a tragedy that would have been!

Make A Thought Correction

So, when you feel those thoughts of insecurity start to creep in, make a thought correction. Tell yourself that you know what you are thinking isn’t true or accurate. That nothing about your outward appearance needs to be explained away. You are made up of a million little things and if someone doesn’t take the time to get to know you just because of what they see on the outside, it is their loss, not yours.

~Vickie

A Million Little Things

I’m a sucker for the emotional television dramas -( hello This Is Us and Downton Abbey!) Do any of you watch the show A Million Little Things? I do, and in episode 7 of season 4 there was one scene that felt like it was written just for me.


Can’t Take the Insecurities Out of the Girl

In this scene two characters are discussing how one of them recently met a woman he would like to ask on a date, but she did not know he uses a wheelchair because they met when they were both in a parking lot and sitting in their cars. The guy is nervous because he doesn’t know how to tell this woman that he is in a chair. He feels he must explain it to her so she can be prepared.

Let me tell you, I feel like I lived this scene in real life. Let me explain: At the beginning of the school year, I met another mom at the bus drop off. Of course, because of all things pandemic related, we were wearing our masks. Over the next few weeks of hanging out together every morning watching our kids get on the bus, we exchanged numbers and decided it would be fun to get together for coffee and chat elsewhere besides the cold of the bus stop.

That day, as soon as I left the bus stop, the thoughts started pinballing through my brain like well..a pinball. I thought “I met this mom while I was wearing a mask. She has no idea that I have a cleft. What is her reaction going to be? What will I say? Will I have to endure the inevitable look to my nose and mouth and then further endure the quick look away?”.


A Million Miles an Hour

My brain was going a million miles per hour thinking out all the awful situations that could occur, and I was paralyzed. I couldn’t think any further than my immediate reaction – which was..can you guess? Fear. I was feeling afraid of being rejected by this nice woman who I genuinely liked chatting with every morning. I was feeling anxious because before this woman, I haven’t met anyone new that couldn’t at least see what I looked like when they met me. Just the thought of “unveiling” myself was almost too much.

I may be 44 now, but all those insecurities that were there as a young girl born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate never really go away. They came roaring back with a vengeance. So much so that I contemplated trying to cancel our yet to be scheduled coffee hang out before it even was on the books.


A Million Little Anxieties

Fast forward to me watching this particular episode of A Million Little Things, and this scene comes on. It was just the wake up call I needed. As the main character is talking out his thoughts of should I call her and tell her that I am in a wheelchair”, the other character in the scene dropped some knowledge. He said “Sure, you can do that. While you’re at it do you want to tell her others things like your credit score?” It made me laugh out loud, not just because the actor’s delivery of that line was perfectly dead-pan, but because of how silly it would be if the guy really did that! The actor continued… “She liked you for you. And if the chair changes that, then it is her loss, not yours.”

The point that this scene so perfectly makes is that nothing other than who you are on the inside should determine whether or not someone likes you.


You Are More Than What Is On The Outside

So the next time you are feeling nervous, fearful, or anxious about meeting someone new, or going into a new situation, remember this –  nothing about your physical appearance needs to be explained away. Who you are is more than your physical appearance.  Who you are is a combination of a million little things. And if someone doesn’t take the time to get to know you just because of what they see on the outside, it is their loss, not yours.

~Vickie


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!

~Vickie


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.

~Vickie



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.

~Vickie



Skunked: It’s as Awful as You’d Imagine.

If you saw my social media post last week, you know that my family adopted a new dog into our family! He’s a big (100 pound), lovable (won’t stop with the face licks), funny (lays on his back 50 % of the time just waiting for someone to walk by to give him a belly rub), and as we found out the other night, a dedicated protector. Turns out, that when given the opportunity to protect his new found family from an intruding skunk in the back yard, our lovely Apollo would not back down! And so, as you probably guessed, he got skunked!

Never Been Skunked Before

I’ve had dogs all my life, but this was a new experience for me. If you and your dog haven’t had the pleasure, it is as awful as you would imagine. We made the mistake of letting him in the house, so it wasn’t just a smelly dog, but a smelly house as well. In our defense, this event did take place at 3AM. So in our tired, sleepy stupor, we didn’t quite realize what had happened to him until it was too late,. He attempted to get the skunk spray off by rubbing his body and face on every surface he could find.

Let’s just say, it was a VERY LONG day. Lots of cleaning, lots of bathing, lots of telling our daughter “Don’t hug the dog!”, lots of saying out loud “Ugh, everything stinks!”.

Pepe’ Le Pew is a Punk

You can be moving easily along, putting one foot in front of the other going about our business, and then BAM! You get Pepe’ Le Pewed! With a few days reprieve from Skunkageddon, this entire experience has been a good reminder that when life throws a wrench in your plans, and the unexpected happens, you have two choices. Resign or Rise.

Skunks Show Up When You Least Expect It

Going through my early years living with a cleft there were plenty of times that things did not go entirely as planned. For example, my mother has told me a story about the second surgery I ever had. To avoid an additional procedure, my surgeon attempted to close both of my lip clefts in one surgery. It was successful, but during the healing process one side reopened, and I had to have the additional surgery anyway. It was not at all what either the surgeon or my parents wanted or expected to happen. Both parties were understandably upset at the result, knowing that they now had to send a not yet 6 month old back into surgery so soon. They had been skunked.

My parents had to do the hard work and prepare both themselves and me for the second unplanned surgery. My surgeon had to put aside the failure of the first attempt and focus all of his efforts on this next procedure. Both sides chose not to dwell on to the failure, but instead accept what had happened, and work with what they had to create the best result possible for me.

Resign Or Rise

We all have a choice in how we react to the circumstances we find ourselves in. We can resign and think we have no power to improve our situation and rail against the unfairness of it all, or we can rise and look for workable solutions. The choice is always ours.

It All Works Out In The End

The surgery to close the reopened cleft was successful and there were no more unforeseen issues during the healing of my lip. Either way the surgery was going to have to happen, but because my parents accepted, not rejected, the initial failure, they avoided getting stuck in cycle of blame, frustration, and sadness. Therefore they were able to work through the situation and ultimately provide me with the steadfast support and care that I needed.

Skunked No More

When have you been confronted with your own “skunkageddon”, and had to make the decision to rise instead of resign? Whenever we do, we are actively building up our resilience muscles. Remember, resilience is forged through adversity. Confidence comes from taking action, not the other way around. So be brave. Choose to rise and face your challenges. You will be stronger for it.

~Vickie


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Whom Do You Love First?


Yesterday was my 12-year wedding anniversary. 12 years! My husband and I are at the point now where we have to actually stop and ask ourselves…”Just how many years has it been?” Sometimes it feels like it was just a few years ago that we exchanged vows, and other times, well, it feels like waaayyyy longer. Any other members of long-term partnerships know what I’m talking about?! All jokes aside, my husband and I are a great match, with love and respect at the core of our relationship.

Looking for love in all the wrong places..


There were many years growing up however, that I never thought I would find anyone who would love me. Being born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate certainly made the usual “standards of beauty” that society values feel way out of reach.  It was a long struggle to get to the point of thinking of myself as “pretty” or “beautiful”, but I do now.

However, it was not anyone outside of myself that got me there. Let me tell you there were times in my late teens and early 20s when I was actively seeking validation and recognition of my physical beauty from everyone else except me. Looking back, I am incredibly lucky that there were no serious ramifications from my desperate search because I was taking risks with myself that I never should have.

We can get our self-image so twisted up in other people that it can become almost impossible to unravel the tangles. It usually takes something big happening to shake us awake and recognize that our behavior is destructive and doing just the opposite of what we want it too.

Who holds the keys?


Low self esteem and low self-worth can be so dangerous because it can lead us down such a reckless path. With even just the hint of desire or validation of my beauty from someone, I was ready to hand over the keys to my confidence, all in the hopes of having just one person love me.

Shaken up but not broken down..


My jarring moment came in 2004 with the illness and eventual death of my father. That event late in 2004 shook me and made me start to take a hard look at my actions and knowing deep down that I needed to change my behavior. I decided I was no longer going to let anyone else dictate how I would feel about myself. I stopped looking at my physical appearance as the only indicator of my value as a person, and stopped letting other people’s desire to use my body be the only means of measuring my worth.

I’m not saying that this change happened over night. Having a facial birth defect made most emotional challenges harder to work through, but it did happen. I had to make a conscious effort to see all of my other attributes just as, if not more so, important than my physical ones.

Resilience List


Want to know one tool I used? I made a list in a journal of all the things that I loved to do and things I had accomplished so far in my life. When you feel low or down, try this exercise. Make a list of all the activities you enjoy and things you have accomplished in your life so far. Trust me, once you get over the initial resistance of writing something nice about yourself, it will start to flow. List anything and everything you enjoy, and what you are proud of yourself for doing. Still stuck? Ask a trusted family member or friend to help you. Let them know that you are making yourself a “resilience list” to give you a boost when you need it.

Self-love begins within..


See your value through your own eyes, and do not let the opinions and desires of others (or society for that matter) dictate how you determine your worth. You hold the power to lift yourself up when you feel down. Be your own best friend. Remember, you are a complete and wonderful beautiful human being just as you are.  

All my best.

~Vickie


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