A while back I embarked on my first leg of tour. I met so many people and talked constantly about 1IN700 and how it has changed my life. I spoke about my journey and shared battle wounds. I listened to parents fall apart and build themselves back up in the same conversation. This family in particular was pretty special. The Garber's that drove all the way from Cheyenne, WY to meet me and be a part of 1IN700. It was well over a two hour commute for a couple hour meet, greet, and photo shoot. And let me tell you how much this little boy made Twanika and I smile. 



  This smiley little guy made quite the impact on us. His parents, mild mannered, and relaxed. Made me feel like this parental encounter would be not only a pleasant one but also an informative one. Nixon had one of the more sever clefts I have seen, post repair. Let me tell you what a happy kid he is though. With bi-lateral cleft lip and a cleft palate and several more surgeries on his horizon you'd think that he would be a little bit more of a "problem child," when in actuality he is arguably the happiest 2 (now 3) year old you would ever meet. His parents will tell you that we just got lucky with timing, but Twanika and I like to think it was because he took so well to us. I keep saying "us" but really Nixon just fell in love with the beautiful Twanika. Her smile and calling him her "little man" brought so much joy into his face, no lie it would have made your heart melt a bit. 

  When I got back from Denver, I was kind of a mess. I had SO much content I didn't know what to do with it all. I waited to make sure that I could situate all the photos into categories and somewhat organize the chaos. I did and then when I got to edit Nixon's photos....I couldn't find them anywhere. Panic set it and I just started to get so upset with myself that I threw my hands up in the air, cupped my eyes with my hands and just felt like a complete failure. How did I misplace over 300 photos?? This had never ever happened to me before. I was finally experiencing my first ever TRUE technical difficulty. But what most don't have that I did...I had Twanika. And WHOA did she come to the rescue. She had several photos that I could choose from and create into a temporarty entry photo until I could find mine again or schedule another shoot with Nixon, if need be. So needless to say, this bond between them went further than I think either expected. The universe works in hilarious ways and boy oh BOY was I confused when I couldn't find the images. Why would this happen? What did I do wrong? Am I the WORST photographer in the world for losing photos? Luckily, I have friends and peers creative enough to have my back in a time of need. So Twanika, a MASSIVE THANK YOU from both myself, 1IN700 and for the intergrity of the project.  


Me and Nixon's parents trying to get him to sit in front of the most beautiful place: Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast. (PC: Twanika Jett) 

Me and Nixon's parents trying to get him to sit in front of the most beautiful place: Castle Marne Bed and Breakfast. (PC: Twanika Jett) 


  I also want to mention something to educate those reading. So Nixon's cleft, as well as many other cleft affected, causes him to have a bit different of a laugh. It's a bit more nasally and he does this quick breathing thing through his nose when he laughs that I think is the actual CUTEST!! But this happens to us a lot because without a palate your air intake just flows differently into your body and sometimes causes noises not a lot of people are used to. But that is pretty normal for us. Snorts haaaappen! Honestly, they crack me up because I just know the involuntary feeling so well and the look on people's face is 100% priceless. Not everyone shares that perspective, but I encourage my cleft brothers and sisters to embrace every angle of who they are. Snorts, stitches, and starey eyes all together. We can't all be as cute as Nixon here, but we can make our lives filled with more joy by learning to love all of you. 

Zachary Rodetis-Urenda