“Smile” … it’s worth a song …

Probably many people have heard the wonderful song “Smile,” sung above by Judy Garland and done by many others (including Michael Buble’). It was written by Charlie Chaplin, who made quite a name for himself in silent movies.

“Smile, though your heart is aching …” is one of the lines. Many cleft and craniofacial families around the world may find, at times, it is tough to smile themselves. Even for those of us who have anomalies, finding space to crack a smile can be, well, difficult.

Now I know this is supposed to be all cheery and real-life stuff within the community here.

Sometimes, though, it is worth just taking a few minutes to have a song resonate so deeply.

Call me a little old fashioned when it comes to some of my musical tastes.

Give the song a listen … and let me know what resonates deep within you as you hear or even sing along.

You might even find yourself smiling at the end.


The Question …

I imagine many parents rustle out of bed in the mornings and check on their children, whether it is to get them ready for school or take care of a medical situation.

The strain of yesterday’s pains may have drifted out of them, but some still remain. They take a look at their child with love and compassion and ask “What can I do for you?” Not in a forceful or mean way (at least I hope not!), yet more in a way to get information.

This question can also be asked by someone who is older, say an adult, and has no significant other in his or her life.

“What can I do for you?” turns into a powerful, affirming question to ask. It is not silly nor is it vanity. This simply calls upon you asking yourself what can be done to help you today … in this moment.

A lot of times, my mystical mind races 1,000 steps ahead of where I am in the present. I start fretting and worrying about where the next dollars are coming from. Am I worthy of a loving, intimate relationship with a woman? When will the scars of life heal fully? Am I worth a million dollars?

The question for myself, and the question for yourself, will take a different form and shape. One thing I can say is this: Not asking solid questions in your life and getting clarity around what you want will definitely cause more pain than success.

In the cleft and craniofacial community, our pain lies not only on the physical realm but in the soul realm, too. The insecurities and anxieties that litter our insides are just mind-boggling. Yet they do not have to be that way. We can share our insecurities with one another. We can actually talk about what is going on inside ourselves and open up to the real possibility of healing and wholeness.

Everyone around the world in the cleft and craniofacial community is worthy of healing, love, light, forgiveness and peace. Even those people we differ with on certain social and political issues … we can, I believe, wish one another the gift of love. For some of us, it might be from many, many miles away as well. Safety first!

Every minute counts … and you are loved.

Why I do this …

It is all about the heart.

It is all about the heart.

Some people might wonder why I am so dedicated to the emotional issues surrounding the people in the international cleft and craniofacial community.

Well, the answer is pretty simple. It comes from an internal desire to raise awareness of facial differences and align myself with like-minded people and organizations.

I feel quite grateful and thankful many of you have discovered “CleftCast” and are listening to it.

Yet there is more on the way. More services and products to help you, my friends, tap into the emotional areas of your hearts and bodies in healthy ways.

Whether a child, adolescent, young adult or adult with a cleft and craniofacial anomaly, the coming days and weeks are going to give you more resources for your life.

Parents, you have not been forgotten in this area, either. You have a lot of stress and issues to deal with on your own.

I’d suggest to keep checking back here because more is on the way.

Podcasts, ebooks, downloadable PDFs, etc. These will help you in your own emotional journey.

Until then …

Every minute counts … and you are loved.

“CleftCast” on Overcoming The Fear of Speaking Up for Yourself …

Hi friends … it’s that time of the week again! 🙂

I hope this message finds you all doing well.

This week’s “CleftCast” #podcast focuses on overcoming the fear of speaking up for yourself. It’s a tough thing to do when you are just learning how to speak, how to say words and enunciate properly, and it’s hard to do if people around you don’t want to hear what you have to say. How odd! This is not always the case, OK. Yet it happens sometimes in different communities, be they school, church, or friends.

Well, here’s “CleftCast” and I hope you enjoy it.

Get in touch with me on Facebook at:



Get in touch with me on Twitter at:



Let’s start a conversation that keeps everyone active, vibrant and involved. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Blessings and peace,





Your child’s emotional needs and an upcoming offer …

Hi there,

I’m really grateful that I received so much feedback to my earlier post around your child’s emotional and behavioral responses.

Learning how to bring out a conversation from a cleft lip/cleft palate/craniofacial child when he or she shuts down because of strong emotions is certainly a challenge. It would be for any child, yet I know because of the challenges that parents and family members face with the young child that it can feel overwhelming.

I remember when I was around 7 years old, my parents attempted to divorce. Now I had really no idea what was going on because the only thing I was told was that my father asked me if I wanted to go stay at my aunt and uncle’s for a while. I said yes. My mother reacted like I had just killed her. It felt that way, OK. My stomach (the place where all of my internal pain resides) was upset and I felt it. But I did not know how to effectively share my feelings and emotions with my parents. The dominant emotions were fear and anger for me at that age.

Interacting with the outside world when others are looking at the craniofacial anomaly ONLY also is something to overcome. It is good to remember that a lot of people at a young child’s age are, well, not well informed when it comes to how their children look. Some of that comes from ill-informed parents (in my humble opinion) and some comes from whatever the “cultural norm” look is for that day.

Being able to talk, speak and even wave in a friendly manner might be too much to do.

This can especially happen within a school environment. Children just may not know or understand your child’s facial look, slow speech, speech impediment, cleft lip, cleft palate … they may just see the visual side of your child and not have the ability to see beneath that or into his or her eyes. I can’t make this as a blanket statement because there just might be one or two children who are able to say hi and connect in a way that will turn into a friendship. It’s also helpful when teachers understand a child’s abilities and will actually listen to the parent or guardian.

Good teachers can be great gateways to growth not only intellectually but emotionally, too.

These are all important issues to cover, and covering all of them in one post would be impossible.

I will be offering a series of teleseminars very soon that touch on these and other topics for those 3- to 8-year-olds in your lives. More information about these teleseminars will be coming out soon.

In the meantime, tell me what TWO questions not covered in this message that you have that can help your child’s emotional life become easier? Leave your questions below and I’ll see them.

Thanks so much and take care.

Every minute counts … and you are loved.

A Heartfelt Smiles Moment on Suicide …

Sometimes, people within the cleft lip/cleft palate/craniofacial community get fed up with the name-calling, bullying and abuse that they’ve had to deal with in life. They believe there is only one option left for them — suicide.

This video is for them … and for anyone who has a friend considering taking their lives. I hope it helps.

Feel free to leave a comment below and let’s start a meaningful conversation about this serious subject.

Every minute counts … and you are loved.


Attitudes: Gratitude, Grief and the Pain of Change


Oh Captain Jack, your wisdom leaves me reaching for more sometimes!

Well settle in, kids. We’re going to talk about attitudes for a few minutes. Now every individual that is dealing with a craniofacial anomaly, no matter what it is, has had the unfortunate trials and tribulations of reparative surgeries. Maybe three or four. Maybe 10 or 11. Maybe 19 or 20. How did you get through them all? Did you have supportive parents and friends? How about at school? Church? From your craniofacial team? Your plastic surgeon? Social worker? Counselor?

See, all of these individuals and environments may have played in a role in how we developed our attitudes toward life. Let’s be honest. Some of these places or people were helpful and supportive; others, not so much. The attitudes that they passed along to me and us weren’t always healthy. Again, though, what looks and feels like healthy for me might look different for someone else. That’s cool.

Yet our attitudes can provide signposts to how healthy I and we see ourselves as human beings.

Before I go any further, let me allow our good friend Mr. Doubt to say a word.

A-hem … “Joe, F you. You don’t know what I’ve been through with people staring at my face all my life. You don’t know what it feels like to have a hole in the roof of my mouth where mucus from my sinuses comes through all the time. You don’t know what it’s like to have my face worked on every year, or so it seems, since I was born. You don’t know all the negative language and what people say about how I look. You talk about attitudes. Well, I have some bad news for you dude. I got an attitude, and it’s mine and I’m not changing no matter what you write. So stick it up where the sun doesn’t shine, dude.”

Thanks Mr. Doubt. You’ve really helped out this blog post. (Hey, shhh … just between us, Mr. Doubt could use some love today. Show him some love, will you?)

If all of the above has run through your mind before, then you can rest in the comfort that you are not alone. So I’m going to address the topics of gratitude, grief and the pain of change, and how these play a role in our attitudes about ourselves.


“What do I have to be grateful about with this craniofacial stuff?” (Hey, Mr. Doubt, you had your time. Now go!) Actually, gratitude is a tough one because people are always telling you and I to have an attitude of gratitude about everything in life. Yes, even our cleft lips, cleft palates, Goldenhar Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome, Treacher Collins Syndrome, Craniosynostosis, and many others.

That’s a pretty tall order. What about being grateful for, um, being alive? Having eyesight decent enough to read this? Grateful for what you and I do have in our lives, even if it is simply food to eat, clothes to wear and a roof over our heads? I mean, let’s break this down to just the basics of life. You and I have lived through some crazy shit. Can we agree on this? I believe so. Gratitude is an attitude, yes. It’s one born out of not wanting to feel downcast all the time. It calls our hearts to want a change. That change starts on the inside. Sorry, the parents-girlfriend-boyfriend-doctors-neighbors group can only go so far.

Gratitude is an attitude that can be cultivated over time. Some days are going to be rock-star days with gratitude flowing. Others, not so much. “Baby steps,” like Bill Murray said in “What About Bob?”


Yes, grief is a normal and natural attitude to have around craniofacial anomalies. Feeling sad and crying about the situation you and I find ourselves in each day, at times, is about all we can do. It does not matter what positive thinking, encouraging words, or even healthy hugs can provide. Nope. Grief overcomes us like a cloak of blackness that pins us down for the 1-2-3 count in the middle of the ring.

Sitting in grief for days, weeks, months and years is what I call a “soul sucker.” That stuff literally takes any initiative and energy toward a better way of life right out of my soul and probably yours, too. I’ve been there. Got the badge. Lord knows, it sucks. Figuratively and literally.

Can grief be transformed into something good? It can be a learning experience to ask questions about the grief. Talk to the grief. No, really. Ask the grief (not The Grinch!) about what’s going on. Why are you in me? What are you trying to say to me? What do you want me to learn from this grief? Answers will not come immediately … well, they may for some people and I don’t want to take out the miracle possibility. If we can transform our grief into an attitude of active movement toward achieving greater things in our lives, then it played a purpose. A deeper purpose than simply leaving us in a dark room in front of hours of meandering through the Internet for unhealthy stuff.

Some things to ponder about grief. I’m not a licensed counselor or social worker, OK. I just want to add this about grief before moving on to our final topic. If you really are stuck in grief and are alone with no one offering you help, then please reach out for help. People are not all strange, OK. There are those who do want to honestly help us heal and move forward with life. I encourage you lovingly and as a fellow journeyer along this craniofacial road to get the professional support you need today.

The Pain of Change

“I don’t want to change.” Yeah, and I have dirty underwear from two weeks ago. If I don’t change it, then how do I smell? Nevermind. 🙂

Hey, making any difference or change in life and doing so with intention is painful. Whether it is making a priority of going to the gym, hopping on a road cycle for 10 miles every day, sharing time with your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, or just making plans to totally revamp your professional life … there is going to be a wee bit of pain involved because it’s changing what has been the natural rhythm of your personal life. The brain and body get into a groove of going one way, then something interrupts that path and our physical, natural response is to revolt. Don’t wave the white flag of surrender to sit where you are and stay put if that place is not working for you. Wave the white flag when you are ready to surrender one way of life for another one. That, friends, is the start of change … meaningful change that brings joy, happiness and warmth into a suffering heart.

The pain of change lies deep within, yet it can be leveraged into something so positive and good. The way that my face and your face looks may to those on the outside simply not let them see the inner beauty that truly lies within us all. Don’t fall into “the hypnosis of the culture,” quoting teacher and speaker Anthony Robbins here. You and I are better than this and deserve the best that life has to offer. Change is going to be painful. Staying in the same mindset, crappy attitudes and thoughts for year after year … it’s not what you and I are here to do, be and give. We all have powerful stories of strength. We all have powerful stories of truth … our truth that the world is waiting to hear. Turn the pain of change into an engine of goodness, grace and love for others in the world. Know that the change you are willing to make … even gradually … will leave an indelible mark on the path for children and young adults dealing with craniofacial anomalies for years to come.

Every minute counts … and you are loved.