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


It’s Ok to Ask “Why Me”.

Hello friends. It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my household. You may have noticed a lack of social media posts, YouTube videos, and a delay in everything Dragonfly Paradigm. While we weathered the weeklong return to remote learning for my daughter, we did not fair so well since then, because our household was hit hard by COVID-19. Not only did I and my husband test positive, but our daughter did as well. Luckily, we are moving through with relatively mild symptoms, except for fatigue. The COVID fatigue is no joke.

We know our symptoms could have been much worse and are thankful that both my husband and I were vaccinated so we did not have severe reactions. It nevertheless didn’t stop me from asking “why me” after I initially got my positive test result.


Asking Why..

It’s completely normal to have feelings like this and ask questions like this when unfortunate events befall us. I know from my involvement in various parent groups of cleft children that once receiving a cleft diagnosis for their child, they often ask these kinds of questions. “Why did this happen”, “What did I do wrong”, “How could this happen”. There were times in my youth that I also asked “why me”. All these feelings are completely NORMAL.


It’s Normal to Wonder Why..

My family knew that by putting our daughter back in public school we could most likely all contract COVID. It was a risk we discussed and worked through as a family – weighing all the pros and cons. But that didn’t stop the feelings of trying to figure out why this would happen to us.


What is the “Why”..

In contrast to the known ways one can come down with COVID, there is still no clear reason as to why babies are born with a cleft. Although 1 in 700 babies worldwide are born with a cleft, the cause has yet to be definitively identified. There was no case of a cleft at all in my family – either on my mother or fathers’ side – prior to my birth. My mother’s doctor told her that a cleft can be both biologically passed on or can be caused through environmental issues. My daughter was not born with a cleft but has the chance of having a child of her own that will, since I do. There are many families that have clefts prominently in their families and could have 2 out of 3 children born with a cleft.

This “no rhyme nor reason” is the cause of much frustration when it comes to trying to answer the “why me” questions. For both parents, and cleft affected individuals themselves, we always want to know the “why”. But no matter if we find out the “why” or not, it doesn’t change the result. And constantly beating our heads against the wall trying to find out the “why”, will only drive us crazy and distract us form dealing with the situation at hand.


The Sage Advice Never Fails..

If you saw my last blog post where I talked about the sage advice my mom gave me long ago, I put it good use again during these past two weeks. I took my day (more like two) and had a good mope and wallow. Then I slowly began to work on shifting my perspective form “why me”, to “what can I do about it.” This small shift in perspective made all the difference, not just for my recent COVID situation, but for my journey through accepting my cleft and learning the lessons I have been taught me because of it.

So, when you feel yourself asking “why me”, go ahead and give yourself permission to feel your emotions, because it is ok. But then shift that question from “why me”, to “what can I do about it”. Shift your perspective. Start working with what you have around you to better your situation, instead of railing against the injustice and unfairness of it all.


I Love a List..

Not sure where to start? Do what I do. Make a list. (I love a list). What do you have available right now that you can use to help you move forward? Even the smallest thing can make a huge difference in how you view your situation. And putting that one small thing into action will pay huge dividends in the long run.

~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’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions are Good

Did you ever play the game “telephone” when you were a kid? I remember playing that game so many times in school. All the kids would line up, and the first kid would whisper to the kid next to them a simple sentence like..”My dog has brown fur”. Then that kid would have to repeat what they heard to the next kid, and so on and so on, until the very last kid would say out loud what they heard. The results were always so funny because “my dog has brown fur” would turn into something like “my mom wears gowns to work”.  I started thinking about this game because recently I had an experience where what I said to someone was received not at all as I meant it. My intention was lost in translation.

Oh Lord, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Intention can be a tricky thing. Often times we say “That wasn’t my intention”, when something we have said is received by another person the wrong way.  Communication in general is hard these days. Even in the most comfortable of relationships, words can often be received in the opposite way from how they were meant. Add in the faceless anonymity of social media, the cold and inflectionless reading of words via email and text, and we are setting ourselves up for loads of “that wasn’t my intention” experiences.

That Wasn’t My Intention

Growing up I had many “that wasn’t my intention” experiences. When someone would ask in a cold, sometimes cruel way, “What happened to your face?”, I would often react with aggression. I’d say “It’s none of your business!”, or I’d say “What’s wrong with your face?!” I reacted from a place of defensiveness, and both myself and the questioner would be left with feelings of embarrassment.

If you are part of the cleft community, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you’ve had experiences already where a well-meaning person asks a question in an extremely insensitive manner. Much like the usual “What happened to your face?”, there are others like “Did you get into an accident?”, “Were you bit by a dog?”. The list is endless.

What is Their Intention?

Over the years I have relaxed A LOT when I get asked these questions. What I have come to realize is that most people are genuinely curious, not malicious. They want to ask in a kind and sensitive way, but they don’t know how to go about it.

No matter what question is asked of me, I can usually tell if the person asking is sincere or simply voyeuristic. If I’m unsure of their intentions, one of my tried-and-true responses has always been, “If you are genuinely interested, I’m happy to talk to you about it another time.” This way it helps me feel more in control, and that I do not owe this person an explanation about myself. 99 out of 100 times, if the person is asking for nefarious reasons, they simply walk away.

My Story is Owed to No One

There were many times growing up that I felt I had to explain myself, no matter what. That as someone being born with a cleft made it mandatory that I had to share everything. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and honestly, I wish I had learned this lesson a little sooner. No one is owed our story unless we want to share it, no matter how nicely they ask. So, if you are not comfortable sharing something about yourself, you know what? You don’t have to. You can simply say, “No.”. “No, I’m not comfortable talking about that with you.” Or “I don’t know you well enough to share that part of my story with you.” Keep it short and sweet and with no room for further explanation.

Same Goes For Me

The same goes for when I want to know more about someone, or a particular aspect of their story. As someone who never saw another person with a cleft in my small town I grew up in, I would always get excited when I would see another adult with a cleft, and it would take all my power to not run up to them and say “Hi! I have a cleft, you have a cleft, I want to know everything about you and let’s be best friends!”

You’re Just Like Me!

I’m sure you can relate. We tend to get super excited when we see others that have similarities to ourselves. But we must remember to slow our roll. Let the excitement die down and if we are interested in knowing more about this person, put the ball in their court and ask respectfully if they would be open to talking to you sometime. But remember, they, just like you, do not owe anyone their story if they don’t want to share it. Be prepared for them to say no.

The Best Intention

Communication will always be a tricky thing. Just like in the game of telephone, words and meanings get quickly muddled these days. But by seeing others with an empathetic eye, asking questions in a respectful manner and without expectation of what the outcome should be, we can engage in meaningful and heartfelt conversations around shared experiences.

~Vickie


Are you a parent of a cleft affected child? Are you looking for support in how to build their resilience skills? Then click the button below to get my free 10 Keys to Building Resilience in Your Cleft Affected Child guide right now!


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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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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?

~Vickie


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