Life Changes when you Discover the Beauty of Imperfection

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I once had a fairy tale life…I remember quite clearly, feeling like a princess as I walked hand in hand with my husband, down the Red Carpet at the Prime time Emmy Awards. My husband, a producer and writer, was nominated for a show called Beauty and the Beast on CBS.

It was a modern day fairytale set against the backdrop of New York City. Catherine, played by Linda Hamilton, worked as a high powered attorney for a prominent law firm. One night, she’s brutally attacked in Central Park and left to die. She’s rescued in the dark of the night by Vincent, a hideous beast, who has the face and hands of a lion. He carried her below the city streets where a utopian community of social outcasts thrive in the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the city.

In the days that followed, Vincent cared for Catherine. He fed her and read Shakespeare as she lie in his bed, healing.

The remarkable part of the story is that the love affair began while Catherine’s eyes were bandaged. When Vincent removed the bandages from Catherine's eyes, she saw him for the first time. As she stared into the face of a man who looked like a beast, she felt no fear, only love. This was the gentle soul who lovingly cared for her. Unlike the traditional Beauty and the Beast story, this beast wasn't physically transformed by Catherine’s love. Instead, the inner beauty of this man dominated the physical and it was Catherine who was transformed by his love.

Catherine quit her job at the law firm to become a District Attorney, specializing in fighting for the underdog. We watched week to week how love transformed them both, and to the loyal audience, the Beast suddenly had become the most handsome man on the planet, even though his features never changed.

If you ever saw the you remember that? Ron Perlman played Vincent so beautifully that he became a heartthrob to women across America. However, women weren’t in love with the actor...they were in love with the Beast! I was intimately invested in the story lines, and I, too, had fallen in love with their story.

I worked closely with my husband on developing each and every script throughout his career in the entertainment industry. I also studied acting because I loved it, and it helped with developing characters in the scripts.

I learned that every character in a script has a back story and a secret that motivates them. As the audience, we don’t always know what that is. But the actor knows, and developing that “back story” is what makes the character come alive.

Julianne Belle Peckinpah
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And that’s the way it is in real life. Every one of you has a story and a past that shapes who you are and how you approach life.

I gave birth to my daughter several months after walking the Red Carpet . She was born with a severe facial cleft. It was a huge shock and my heart was broken.

Our beautiful baby would need many surgeries to put together the face she was always meant to have. I was devastated for her and blamed myself for the hard road she’d be facing in necessary surgeries and extensive medical care. I kept thinking... what did I do to cause this? Many parents go through the same feeling when a child is born with health problems. I grieved deeply.

People often don’t associate grief with something like this, but I discovered it’s very much like a loss. It was the loss of my hope of having my daughter born healthy and ready to begin a beautiful life.

In the hospital I wondered how people would treat her when I'd take her in public? I worried about her being teased when she started school. After all, I experienced teasing as a little girl for just having red hair!

Isn’t it odd that my husband and I spent months talking about Vincent and the travesty of this beautiful man being shunned by the world because he wasn’t like the rest of us? Suddenly, I was faced with the same questions in real life.

My sons, Garrett and Trevor came to the hospital to see their new sister. There was no fear or upset, only love and they welcomed her, exclaiming, "She's the most beautiful baby in the world!" In fact, they fought over who would hold her!

That realization was a turning point for me. It was the end of fears and the birth of my courage and commitment to give her the best life I could, and that meant paving the way for her. I struggled to find a way to change public perception of beauty... a huge task!

One day, my wonderful friend, Wendy Steinmetz, came to see my new baby. "Oh Sandy," she said, "her little mouth looks just like a rose petal."

Written by Sandy Peckinpah
Illustrated by Trisha Moore
It was the birth of an idea. The thing I know best, is how to write. I decided to give Julianne her own story... a hero’s journey. I wrote a fairytale, Rosey… the Imperfect Angel. 

The story is about a little angel who had a face that was very different than her eleven sister angels. Boss Angel assigned each one the task of tending a garden, each one named for the months of the year. Rosey was sad because she didn't look like the others and she had the most difficult garden of all... the garden of January, filled with brown twigs, thorns, and piles of dead leaves. She lovingly tended her plants for weeks. One day the buds began to sprout and by spring she had the most glorious garden of all! Every rosebush was in bloom! Her reward from Boss Angel was to join a family who would love her and cherish her just the way she was born.

And so... her new family welcomed her and discovered the beauty of imperfection and the power of love to unite and heal a family.

With that book, I became my daughter’s warrior mom and took it into schools with my best friend, Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie). She's loved by children of all ages. We read the book together and paved the way for my daughter. Melissa was right there with me, every step of the way, including Julianne's surgeries.

And it worked. In fact, I even had one little girl tell me she wished she’d been born with a cleft! Over the years my daughter's face transformed through a gifted surgeon who told me "I want her to love her face." The truth is, I loved her face just as she was born.

Twenty years later, a young man tracked me down and called me to say that he was one of those elementary school students who heard Melissa and I read “Rosey.” He’d never forgotten the impact it made on him. Now, as an adult, he was a successful musician and producer. He asked to record Rosey as a CD and share it with the world. Michael Alden, (now an Emmy winning and Tony winning producer), created the CD with Melissa reading the story and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra playing the music written by Michael. It made it all the way to the Grammy Ballot in 2009! Here's the link: Rosey, the Imperfect Angel

That was the first time I really understood the power of storytelling and how it can change people’s lives. It makes me cry even now.

In one of my favorite books, The Alchemist, the author Paulo Coelho shares the metaphoric story of a young man in search of his Personal Legend. I've discovered our personal legends can come from things we least expect… like the birth of a tiny baby girl who had my heart the moment she was born. Her gift to me was a role I never expected- as a writer to help people find a new way of looking at life and the lesson of discovering the beauty of imperfection.

And here's my beautiful daughter today with her fiancĂ© 
Once you look at life through a different lens, it will never be quite the same. Anything is possible, and that's what my daughter and my sons taught me. When you find those moments in your own life, you'll be transformed into knowing the power of your own gifts and uncover your life's purpose.

Beautiful Julianne Belle… you continue to inspire me as I watch your life unfold. You absolutely are the princess in your fairy tale because you seized life and became the courageous heroine of your own life. You are my glorious blooming rose, my inspiration, and my shining star.

Sandy Peckinpah writes and speaks on finding happiness, surviving loss and activating resilience. Her new award winning book entitled, "How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen" is a parent's step by step guide for healing after the loss of a child, based on her own experience of losing her 16 year old son. She is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® with the Grief Recovery Institute® in Los Angeles.
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