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

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



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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Real Talk


No Holds Barred

Any fans of The Red Table Talk here? Oh, my goodness I love that show. The three women – Jada, Gammy, and Willow – have created a wonderfully honest and no holds barred space for communication. The guests on the show step into ring, you might say, and share, work through, and expose themselves in painful and beautiful ways. The ladies always get down to the “real talk”. I love that phrase.

Click here to check out one of their best episodes in my opinion..featuring the one and only Brene Brown.


My Seat at the Table..

I experienced my own version of a red table talk a few days ago with a good friend and mentor. She took me to task on a few things and did not let me skate by with excuses for why I was not doing what I needed to do. Have you ever had a conversation like that? Tough talk is never easy to hear, but when done from a place of caring and love it can be just the motivation needed to get out of your own way, drop the excuses, and get to it.

What was the topic of this talk, you may be asking? Well friends, I’ll tell you. My lack of authenticity. Ouch. That was hard to hear. My friend reminded me that the whole purpose behind my starting Dragonfly Paradigm was to share my story as a woman born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and the lessons I’ve learned from that unique experience. Has that information been found anywhere on the website, blog posts, social media? NO! Everything that I have put out into the world so far has been lacking in that story. I have been unauthentic because I was afraid. If you missed last week’s blog post, click here to read it now. Apparently I need to read it again too.


Over It..

I had my first surgery before the age of 6 months old. I had a total of thirteen surgeries by the time I was 14 years old. To say that I was over all of it by then is an understatement. My doctors said that I could do cosmetic surgery at that point to try to improve the overall look of my nose and lip, but I declined. I was done. It was at that point I started to solidify the walls I had begun to put up around me.

Teasing, bullying and the like was a regular occurrence when I was younger, but one of the benefits of growing up in a small town was that you know everyone for almost your entire school career. Those that teased and bullied me early on eventually tired of it because either they grew up a bit or it wasn’t new and fun to them anymore. I also had a good group of friends that had my back, and even some that were more popular than I would stand up for me when I really needed it.


The Real World..

Once out of high school and starting my college experience in the “real world”, the core group of friends who knew me and had my back were gone. My high school of 500 total students was replaced by a university world that had 500 students in my introduction to chemistry class. Culture shock was an understatement. I was that nervous scared little girl again and I built up my walls even higher and thicker. Although I did not drink or really do anything too out of control in my high school years, once in college alcohol became my go-to tool for lessening the anxiety and nervousness I had from trying to not stand out as the girl with the weird face, and fit in with all the other kids who seemed so at ease at the parties, social functions etc. It was a tough time.

Things did get better though. Not ready for the university life, I left and found a new passion. Aviation. I’ll save that story for another time, but of course that story has its own heartache and struggle. Life is full of challenges, adversity, and strife. But it is also full of rich and beautiful experiences too. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the way you look at things.


Break It Down..

The armor we form during our young years can stay with us for a really long time, unless we consciously work to break it down ourselves. It is not easy, and definitely not for the faint of heart. There have been many times I find myself regressing to that scared little girl, and others where I find the strength within to face my own fears with courage.


Born This Way..

This face I was born with has been the source of much pain, but it has also given me a unique life that has provided lessons and opportunities. It is my intent to share my story to help others like myself, as well as those that may benefit from new perspectives or points of view.  Consider me a core member of your close friends’ group that always has your back and will give you the “real talk” when you need it.

~Vickie


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