Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Remix: "Love Ninja"

Happy Friday Readers and especially you, Teachers!

Today's Friday Remix theme is "Love Ninja."

Check out this truly inspiring bully hack from the site Momastery. Here's an excerpt below, but the entire short piece is a must-read:

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot –  and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
- See more at:

And, because I can't resist... here's an inspirational weekend jam for all you love ninjas out there!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Guest Blogger: Penny Loker

Continuing our series on work and career, today's post is from guest blogger, Penny Loker. Penny is a woman with a facial difference trying to make the world a better place. She's from Kitchener Ontario Canada and loves knitting, reading, and her dogs. Check out her blog here:

When CCA (Children’s Craniofacial Association) asked me to contribute to their blog I was honored and I readily agreed. I hope that my experiences may inspire others to be their true self in all of their life adventures.

I would love to say that my facial difference didn't matter in applying for a job, or that I never let it be a barrier in applying to certain companies, but I would be lying. I had great anxiety when applying for jobs or when I had job interviews. I don’t think of myself as being any different but I know that society does and that when looking for employment I had to be ready for rejection and to accept that that rejection may be tied to me looking different. I made it a point not to apply for many retail positions since I knew that most companies have a “look” and that I would never fit in with that vision.

I have been fully employed for about 14 years between two big Canadian companies. My first real full time job was at a coffee shop called Tim Horton’s.  Working there I never felt my facial difference mattered. My employer and co-workers always treated me as me with respect and dignity. It was with that job I was able gain confidence and grow my leadership skills which have become invaluable.

My current position is in a call center with one of Canada’s biggest telecommunication companies Rogers Communications. I have worked for Rogers for a little over 8 years.  When I first applied I assumed and honestly didn't believe I would be hired as I felt my facial difference and the speech issues that come with that difference would prevent people from understanding me when speaking over the phone. I am happy to say I was wrong in my assumption.  Over my 8 years, I have held many roles and I am currently an Escalation Advisor, meaning I take calls as a manager and work with customers when they are at their most frustrated or concerned and work with them to resolve their issues.

Although my facial difference doesn't impact my job as much as I thought it would, as I get older and my facial difference causes more physical pain, I look to move within Rogers to other positions that would not require me to be on the phones speaking as much as I do now.  I recently enjoyed a temporary assignment in a position where I got to chat with our customers online via our company website instead of speaking with them over the phone.  I continue to look for ways to grow and develop so that I can transition to other roles.
Source: Michelleleh via PhotoYOLO

This new path on my employment journey is the only time where I feel that I may be slighted or over looked for positions of authority even though I have produced strong results and had positive reviews.  That being said, it is hard to say whether this is truly the case or just my own insecurities coming to the surface.

In the future, I would love to work in Rogers Social Media department and be a more visual role model in continuing to help customers and evolve our business. What’s great about Rogers is that they pride themselves on being named one of Canada’s 50 most diverse employers. We have many people in my location who not only have physical differences but are also legally blind.  I love working in such a diverse work environment and am sure that my future with the company will be a successful one.

Having a facial difference shouldn't limit anyone from applying and succeeding, but I know that as long as society continues to promote inequality it will always be in the back of mind of any person with a facial difference.  I hope that young adults today know that their best option to succeed is education.  Work towards goals and never be afraid to apply to jobs you don’t think in a million years you would be hired for. Don’t feel that you have to mention before an interview that you have a facial difference (unless there is a specific reason to do so). Be yourself!  A potential employer is looking for personality and skill set.  Skills can be taught but if you don’t have the right attitude that will become your biggest barrier…not your facial difference.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trucking Company Takes CCA Awareness on the Road

Today we have a guest post from Kristina Brown at Road Scholar Transport, one of our generous corporate partners. 

Trucking Company Takes CCA Awareness on the Road 

The Children’s Craniofacial Association and Road Scholar Transport are helping to spread awareness for those children affected by craniofacial differences in a large way.  Weighing in at a maximum 80,000 lbs. and covering 53 feet of road, Road Scholar’s bright yellow CCA awareness tractor trailer is traveling across the country, delivering freight while spreading a powerful message…that beyond the face is a heart.  

It all started back in 2007 with the creation of a pink breast cancer awareness truck, marking the beginning of Road Scholar Transport’s awareness program, which has now grown to support over two dozen different organizations from Autism awareness to Supporting our Troops.

“My mother-in-law, Marlene Deily, worked at Schott Glass Technologies (she is now retired),” explains George Dale, who is on the Board of Directors for CCA.   “Her colleague, Ed Hart, was aware of our son Jeremy (who has a facial difference known as Goldenhar Syndrome) through her and was aware of our fundraising and awareness efforts for CCA with the Friends of Jeremy Golf Tournament.  Her colleague thought there was a good link there between CCA and Road Scholar’s awareness efforts."

So Jim Barrett, President of Road Scholar Transport, and Ed set up a lunch meeting to discuss the potential of a CCA truck joining the campaign.  Jim, however, was extremely busy at the time and arranged for them to meet again in a month or two to revisit the possibility.  But as the two of them were walking out of the empty restaurant, in walked a girl who clearly had a facial difference and Jim’s jaw quickly dropped.

“It was a divine message.  That was not an accident that that girl walked in there,” Jim said.  He turned towards Ed and stated, “It’s not a question of IF anymore.  We ARE going to do it.”  And working with Robin Williamson, one of the CCA’s board members who is a graphic designer, the Children’s Craniofacial Association trailer was soon created on behalf of Jeremy Dale.  “Jeremy was the happiest kid in the world when he saw that truck and I couldn’t help but cry,” Jim reflects.

“Road Scholar’s awareness program is an amazing way to spread the word for so many great causes,” George states.  “Acting as mobile billboards, the trucks eye catching designs draw people to look at them and help them learn about different organizations and causes.  This is a very unique approach to community involvement and Road Scholar’s generous support of these organizations says a lot about Road Scholar and the people that work there.  I think that CCA was Road Scholar’s 6th or 7th charity.  It is amazing to see that the fleet has grown to more than 20 charities now and the program continues to expand.”

But with over two dozen charities featured throughout our fleet, each individual truck and organization holds a special meaning and place in our hearts.  Road Scholar Transport is proud to feature Children’s Craniofacial Association and especially, to support and spread CCA’s message that it’s not what you look like on the outside, but who you are on the inside that matters and makes a difference.  Seeing the excitement on people’s faces when we attend events with our trucks, such as the 2011 CCA family retreat in Louisville, KY, gives us a warm feeling as well as honor that we are able to represent such a worthy cause. 

For more information on our awareness program and to view our CCA awareness truck visit

 I also wrote a post for the RST Blog which you can see here. Thanks again, Road Scholar! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Remix: Stop the Mommy Wars!

When I came across this blog post and photo series from Connecticut Working Moms, I was impressed. I love its simplicity, yet this truth could revolutionize motherhood in America: stop the judging and comparison and instead, love more and choose kind. Every mom is fighting an uphill battle to raise healthy, confident kids and juggle the endless tasks labor of love that is raising little humans. Instead of pitting choice against choice and mom against mom, these moms are showing that you can make different decisions yet still support one another. Their tagline says it all: "Support. Strength. Sisterhood."

I've included some of the photos from the series below, but check out the entire set at CTWorkingMoms.

How awesome do you feel now? And there's more! Check out the CTWorkingMoms Campaign for Judgement-Free Motherhood.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Media Monday: Philadelphia Family Magazine

Check out Danny Pfef and Connor Loescher, who made the cover of Philadelphia Family magazine, along with our Ambassadog, Lentil!

Inside the magazine is a wonderful article, "Facing Adversity," that highlights the awesome work that Lindsay Condefer (Lentil's mama) is doing for CCA.

Three cheers for volunteers! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Monthly Survey: January

Please help us improve the CCAKidsBlog! Each month we'll post a survey with three or fewer questions. 

We want your feedback!

Click here to take survey!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

CranioPro: Commitment

We hope you'll enjoy our new series CranioPro: Igniting a dialog around how Craniofacial Parents manage the challenges of career and family. Look for this series every third Thursday.

I’m delighted and humbled that the CCA Kids Blog has asked me to write periodically on the topic of career and work life for parents of children with craniofacial differences. Let me be clear, I am by no means an expert. I’m not a life coach, career counselor nor do I have any professional designation that would lead you to believe I’m qualified to wax prophetic on this topic. But, what I am is a working dad. A dad and a husband who has worried since the day Nathaniel was born if I could adequately provide for his needs and the needs of the rest of my family. With a little luck, a lot of sleepless nights and tons of hard work I have had a decent bit of success these past ten years. With the love and support of my wife, the tolerance of my children and the help of extended family, I have “ascended the corporate ladder” and am now in a place where I feel perhaps adequately equipped to start this dialog with our extended CCA family.

I will ask for your help in this endeavor. Every month or so I will provide a topic and then share my thoughts, ideas and advice.  Then I will ask that you all take the time to respond with your feelings or additional advice on the topic. DEAL??? 

So here goes. Our maiden voyage together. 

Question: How can I be as committed to my career as I need to be when the challenges faced by craniofacial families are so vast? 

Some facts: I started a new job about 3 months before Nathaniel was born. I had embarked on a second career (working at a Fortune 100 Insurance company) where I was basically starting off at the trainee level, despite being in my early 30s. Living in NYC, with law school loans and a modest salary, let’s just say making ends meet was already challenging. The depths of it all came shortly before Nathaniel’s birth when Magda and I were rebuffed at the checkout line with a wagon full of groceries and a debit card that just wouldn't cooperate. 

The first days of Nathaniel’s journey were scary enough. We all remember the anxiety, the fear and the sadness of knowing our baby’s life would be so filled with challenges. But my fear grew to full blown panic the day I sat with a social worker at NYU and he mapped out for me some of the financial hurdles and obstacles that might present themselves. 

But what does this all mean on the career front? How much work will I miss? How can I leave my wife alone during hospital stays so I am fresh for work? Will my boss understand? Will having a “special kid” hurt my chances for promotion? But the scariest question for me was about commitment: How can I fully commit to a career when I should be thinking about Nathaniel? For some reason I convinced myself that if I was 100% committed to work, I was not being 100% committed to Nathaniel. Have any of you had these same thoughts? 

Well, if others have, GREAT! It means I’m not a total nut job. But here is my advice this month: You owe it to your kids and family to be 100% committed to your career. I don’t care if you’re an hourly blue collar worker like my father or a suit-and-tie professional. We need to find a way to be fully committed at work so that when you are at home you can be equally committed to family. 

But Why? 
It has nothing to do with finances as you might be thinking. 
Bear with me. 
Here are the real reasons why:
  1. Guilt: We all know when we’re doing a good job at work and when we are not.  I remember sitting up at night knowing I didn't give my all at work that day. I was riddled with guilt and fear that folks at work knew it. This guilt only added emotional stress. We have enough to worry about in a craniofacial life, so why add workplace stress that we can control simply by giving our all and being present on the job? Eliminate a stressor and go to work every day prepared to be fully committed.
  2. Resentment: A few folks in my career were promoted ahead of me. Truthfully, I knew they deserved it more, but I quickly made the excuse that it was because of Nathaniel’s medical issues. The truth was the other folks outworked me. But, I comforted myself by convincing myself otherwise and was filled with resentment. How could the world, God… and worst of all Nathaniel do this to me? I shared these feelings with a mentor of mine. To his credit, he called bull$%#@ on me! He told me how amazing he thought it was that Magda and I were so committed to Nathaniel and he asked for a promise. For the next few months he asked me to go to work with the same passion and vigor I had for Nathaniel. I’m not sure how or why I did it, but lo and behold it worked. My reviews got better, promotions came, finances improved but most importantly guilt and resentment faded away.

So here are a few tactical bits of advice:
  1. Get a mentor or coach. You need someone at work who is not your boss, with whom who you can share your challenges and aspirations. Pick someone with different skills than your own. No one needs a clone telling them what to do. Choosing a quality mentor will be a game changer I promise.
  2. Use vacation time wisely. Sounds easy I know but it is important. Whenever possible schedule surgery around slow times at work so being off or away will have the least impact. Sorry, but those mental health days to play golf with the guys might have to wait a few years. Small sacrifices like these are a must for our cranio kids.
  3. Share. What do I mean? Don’t keep your kids challenges secret from folks at work. I sat down with one of my new bosses and shared with her a 24 month calendar of what Nathaniel might require well in advance. I worked with her to create some tools we could use to manage situations that came up. I know, some bosses are not so nice. If possible… GET A NEW BOSS! Seriously, with kids like ours it is so important we work at companies and for people that can be empathetic. Don’t give up on this one.
  4. However, the bottom line is: GET COMMITTED!! Whenever possible find a job you love, working for people you trust and dive in 100%. It is not about the money (although money certainly helps). Once you find that commitment to work, your ability to commit to your family will achieve its full potential.

Stay tuned next month for our next CranioPro post.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Media Monday: Lizzie Velasquez

Today's Media Monday post comes from Lizzie Velasquez, a motivational speaker and person with physical differences. I love Lizzie's story: She made her haters her motivators. Sure, anyone can say it but Lizzie lives it and proved it to be a successful philosophy.

I hope you'll watch her TEDx talk and feel inspired to take charge of your life. Her poise is truly skillful. I'm taking notes!

Lizzie also gave a talk aimed at children and teens.

Thank you Lizzie, for your commitment to positivity and progress. Kudos to you!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Grateful Sunday: Friends

My grateful Sunday post for today comes from a short interview that I did with my adopted sister Shauna the other day. I asked her one question and I was quite humbled by her response. The question was “What has made you the most grateful for when it comes to having a little adopted sister with Apert Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome?” 

Her response was “Diversity, patience, and that the phrase ‘Beyond the face is a heart’ means so much more to me now then it would have 5-10 years ago.” She told me a story about how she interacts more with a little boy with autism that comes into her office than she had in the past, because of her experience with me.

I’m grateful as well to have someone that loves me for me, who is patient with me and my…….quirks, and has helped me to come out of my shy shell of a being. There are few things in this world that could equal the priceless value of the gift of friendship…..and in this case, an adopted sister.


Today, we're grateful for the friends in our life who help usbe more authentically ourselves.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Proust Questionnaire: Rachel

To get to know our bloggers better, we're doing the Proust Questionnaire, a form of interview created by Marcel Proust and popularized by Vanity Fair. We hope you enjoy this fun series. Meet new 2014 blogger, Rachel Lance!

Proust Questionnaire: Rachel
1.       What is your idea of perfect happiness? A Saturday afternoon spent snuggling
2.      What is your greatest fear? The sun exploding (which my husband assures me is not going to happen while we're alive)
3.      What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My anxiety  
4.      What is the trait you most deplore in others? Lack of empathy
5.      Which living person do you most admire? My daughter, Shierry. Also BeyoncĂ©.
6.      What is your greatest extravagance? My ridiculous moisturizers, plural
7.      What is your current state of mind? Content
8.     What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Purity
9.      On what occasion do you lie? When someone invites me out, but all I want to do is stay home in my pajamas and watch true-crime shows
10. What is the quality you most like in a man? Curiosity
11.  What is the quality you most like in a woman? Not giving a flip
12.  Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Bad words
13.  What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband and my daughter
14.   When and where were you happiest? A tie between the beach in Maui and just being out and about with my family
15.  Which talent would you most like to have? I’d love to be artistic
16.   If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d  get rid of my anxiety and self-doubt
17.  What do you consider your greatest achievement? So far, this kid.
18.  If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Probably an orangutan.
19. Where would you most like to live? New York City
20.  What is your most treasured possession? A pair of earrings passed down from one of my grandmothers and the ribbon from the wrapping of the last gift that my other grandmother ever gave me
21. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Loneliness
22. What is your most marked characteristic? That I talk loud and fast and a lot and about everything
23. What do you most value in your friends? That they’re kind and hilarious
24.  Who are your favorite writers? On the internet: Ta-Nehisi Coates. In books: Zadie Smith. On television: Mike Schur and Louis C.K.
25. Who are your heroes in real life? Teachers
26. What is it that you most dislike? Waiting in lines
27. What is your greatest regret? Going to and paying for (for the rest of my life) law school
28. How would you like to die? I’d prefer not to, but I suppose at the exact same time as my husband knowing that Shierry is safe and happy
29.  What is your motto? Pugs not drugs