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

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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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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Are you a parent of a cleft affected child and are looking for some advice on how to build their emotional resilience? Then click the button below to receive my free guide – 10 Keys To Building Emotional Resilience In Your Cleft Affected Child.