It was finally here! The time for my first ever "Cleft Meet-Up," L.A. version. I had built up all of these expectations and hopes that there was going to be a huge turn out...it was much smaller than I thought but I was about to find out why the more intimate setting was going to be perfect for that day. 

  Growing up in a small town down south, I just wasn't exposed to many (if any) cranio-facial deformities. So when Brittany (@cleftclub) and I turned the corner of my apartment building to meet Julian's mother, the look on her face was all too familiar. It's like a mixture of relief/amazement/surprise/joy. Seeing someone that looks like you (or your son in Margarita's case) for the first time shifts your anxiety about existence to determination; you can survive and thrive with this too. Margarita may not have a cleft lip like myself, but she has a place with us in the cleft community. 

  We gathered in the common room of my apartment building in Downtown Los Angeles; Brittany, her wonderful mother (Rebecca Weisler), and my talented neighbor Ashley. 8 month old Julian was the first baby with a cleft lip I have ever held. This quickly became a day I knew I would remember the rest of my life. It felt a bit like meeting a baby version of myself. He had no concept of being shy, he smiled constantly, and he was happy. This youthful bliss inspired me even further. 

  This was also the first day I had the pleasure of meeting (@cleftclub) Brittany in person. From her bubbly and friendly telephone voice, I knew she would be more than a pleasure to meet and work with. 

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Zachary Rodetis-Urenda