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.


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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Balancing Act

My husband and I used to do quite a bite of hiking. Occasionally we would come across stacks of balanced rocks along trails. Have you seen those? Rocks that are perfectly and precariously balanced one on top of each other. Some more than 8 or 9 high, others smaller but still impressive. I would always wonder, how the heck do they get them to balance like that?

Out of Balance

“Get In, Get Out, Get It Done” is a rather good way to describe my attitude when it comes to getting sh*t checked off my list. I am a type-a personality when it comes to tasks, so lists are my lifeline to feeling in control. However, with each passing year the to-do lists get longer, responsibilities seem heavier, and worries get more intense. Not to mention the increased stress from a global pandemic – thanks a lot 2020. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to balance the busyness of day to day life with the time I need to rest and recharge.

The emotional toll of pushing down your mental health needs in favor of the long list of others things that are demanding your attention can be huge. I experienced a bit of this just last week, and it was tough. My realization? There is not much balance happening in my life right now.

Every Day We’re Hustlin..

Ah…the glorification of being “busy”. Are you a busy bee? Always doing, going, helping, assisting, working, stressing, exhausting, …all the -ings? When I’m busy I feel like I am doing something important. However, at the root of this busyness is the fact that I have an extremely hard time asking for any kind of help or support.

Roots Run Deep..

Growing up I created a thick emotional armour for myself to keep the bullies cruelty from getting to me. Although that was a good tactic for me to employ for the teasing, over the years it became my default setting. I do not let many people in, and even when I do, it takes A LOT for me to be vulnerable and admit any kind of inability to get something done myself. I used to think that I wouldn’t ask for help because it was just easier for me to do it myself, but I learned something over this past week. By choosing to do everything on my own and not ask for help, I am protecting myself from possible rejection and ridicule. That’s some deep rooted insecurities right there.

Tiny Teachers..

Thankfully, my daughter has no trouble asking for help. Just the other day she was spending her afternoon playing outside doing the usual jumping, swinging, riding her bike stuff, when she stopped and looked down at the rocks in our gravel driveway. Sitting down on the ground, she began collecting rocks and placing them on the concrete walkway. A whole array of them – different shapes, textures, colors. She has always had an eye for finding the prettiest rocks. Then, one by one, she began to try to stack them. Working through the process in her little mind how best to get them to balance. Figuring out which ones would work best for the style and design she was planning.

She asked for my help at various times to choose a better rock for her stack, or find a prettier one for the top. She asked for help when she needed it, and as a result created numerous stacks of rocks all along our walkway while enjoying every moment of it.

Watching her work, I was reminded of the thoughts I would have when I would see these stacks of rocks on the hikes with my husband. “How do they get them to balance like that?” Patience and humility would be my answer now. Patience to work through the challenges, and the humility to ask for help and support when they need it.

Humble and Kind…

Do you need to take a cue from my daughter and work on your balancing skills? I know I do. Be more humble, and ask for help when I need it. Be more patient and let others help when and how they can. Allow yourself to receive the support that is ready and waiting for you. You just have to ask.

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Familiar Faces: Grocery Store Support Group

A few years ago, I was doing some grocery shopping when I was stopped in the coffee aisle by a woman with a desperate look on her face. I expected her to ask for help finding something, but as I looked in her cart I saw a young child in the seat with a familiar face. I knew exactly what she wanted.

Her young son had a cleft lip just like mine. I knew right then we were in for an awkward exchange. So, I gave my best welcoming expression and she began to speak. She started off saying that she was so surprised to see someone who looked like her son. She could not help herself but follow me until she got up the courage to approach.

Familiar Face..

I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me. At grocery stores, barbeques, summertime festivals, pretty much anywhere people gather with others they may not know.  For a long time, I viewed these approaches as intrusive and uncomfortable. I’d think – “Why should I tell you anything at all about myself or what I’ve gone through? That’s too personal! I don’t even know who you are!”

But as the years have gone on, my view of these encounters has changed. What I once saw as an invasion of my privacy has now shifted to a place of compassion and service. All the times I have been approached by strangers genuinely looking for information (and not just to gawk or get the sordid details of what happened to me) has been by parents of a child with either a clef lip, palate, or both.

Shared Familiar Experience..

These parents are desperate for not only whatever information I can give them, but are looking for the comfort that comes through shared experiences. I know what living with a facial deformity is like. For parents of childen with a clft lip and palate, it can be difficult to find others to share what it feels like to be born this way.

What are the questions these parents ask? Very few ask about the technical nuts and bolts of surgeries, speech therapy and the like. There are many resources out there that cover all of that. If you need support in this area, check out this link to the American Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Association.

No, these parents ask questions with one common thread. They want to know that their child is going to be alright. They want to know the emotional toll that living with this type of birth defect can have on their children. Parents want to learn what they can do to help mitigate the negative impacts to their child’s emotional health.

Rule #1..

It’s a heavy question, and as someone who has lived through it, I am careful with my response. However, my answer is a simple but nevertheless impactful: “Your child is going to be alright. You are going to be alright. Just be sure you are always honest.”  

Do not lie to your child. There is a lot of pain – both physical and emotional – they will go through because of having this type of birth defect. The last thing you want to do is lie and tell them that nothing is ever going to cause them pain because of their cleft lip and palate.

My mother followed this rule as she supported me through all the surgeries, dentist appointments, etc. She never lied about the pain. Never lied about the procedures the doctors and nurses would have to do. She never lied about the types of kids I would encounter in school.

My mother was honest and direct about all of it, and that has made all the difference. I knew what I was getting into in just about every situation and could arm myself with the tools I needed to get through. If she had lied and said that no one would ever tease me because I am a nice person on the inside, that would have resulted in many horrible experiences, and would have simply not been true.

Think to your own life. How many times has lying to yourself ever worked out? To avoid pain human beings will do just about anything, but it rarely ever pays off. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is a life skill. Being honest with yourself is the first step. Check out a past blog post on getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Coffee Talk

This mother and I continued our conversation for a little while longer, and as it came to an end I wished her and her son well. She thanked me for my time and apologized for bothering me. I told her it was not a bother at all. She turned her cart around and as I waved goodbye to her and her son, I repeated Rule#1. I told her that her son was going to be alright. She was going to be alright. Just remember to always be honest.


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