Monday, November 4, 2013

Adventures in Nicaragua: Blessings From A Dancing Frontier

I've been teaching kizomba for almost three years now and while I don't have direct access to the roots of the dance being so far away from Angola and Portugal, I am still learning every time I dance and teach it.

Helping to grow the dance in Seattle has helped me learn so much beyond just dancing. I started out with a wish to have more people to dance kizomba with, to share why I love this dance so much with others, to learn from danceres that aspire to dance like or with and to be able to start teaching dance. The journey so far has opened up many opportunities and blessed me by crossing my path with so many generous and amazing people. I was at the forefront of this huge wave that still has all these rippling effects.

It hasn't been all goodness and light, there have been some hard lessons along the way which have helped me learn more about myself and how to deal with others who do not always share the same beliefs and work ethic.

I'm so lucky that I was able to experience being at the forefront again.

I was recently in Nicaragua for their Salsa Congress to teach and perform kizomba. It was a lovely experience. Most memorable because the people I met and taught and danced with were generous, grateful and hungry to dance.

I didn't know this before I went there: salsa, bachata and kizomba are all relatively young dances in Nicaragua. They have not been dancing salsa for a long time like we have here in the US. So, without realizing it, I had the pleasure of seeing and being a part of a growing and thriving dance scene for salsa, bachata and hopefully, kizomba.

In Nicaragua, salsa has not been around for very long. They are dominantly Casino (Cuban) style salsa dancers. Linear dancing (as they call it) or dancing on a slot is a new phenomenon for them. Its only been around about 3-5 years. Dancing on2 has only been around for the last few months! On top of that bachata is also new, maybe 1-2 years old. And Kizomba? Its brand spanking new. I had the privilege to be one of the first people to expose these dancers to this beautiful dance.

I was met with such welcome and generosity, it was impossible not to be infected by it. What I walked into is a community of dancers so hooked on dancing, so thirsty for it that their hunger to learn and desire to dance and joy in dance was like a splash of cold water in a hot, dry desert. Such a blessing to be a part of. It made me so thankful for the opportunity to help shape their dance experience. It wasn't just about introducing kizomba (which was so exciting in itself), It was also a gift to be a part of a community that just loves to dance.

It made me realize how easy it is to take for granted and how lucky I am that I have access to all this dancing here in Seattle, in the US. For them, they are just starting and so hungry for more. Its like being with kids and their unadulterated joy in discovery and play.

I could see them struggle with the differences in movement between salsa and kizomba. Some of them took to it right away, others were fighting against body movements that they just conditioned themselves to do.

I don't often like to claim responsibility for a lot of things that I do because they don't just involve me, they involve other people too. I do think of myself as a positive catalyst for change. The idea that I could influence someone else's dancing so that they eventually incorporate dance in to their lives and derive from it all its joys is just too cool for words. I love seeing people blossom through dance and its even more gratifying to be able to introduce it and plant dance seeds.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I'm a big believer in looking for signs.

If you've ever read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, you'll know where I'm coming from.

[A quick side story about how I discovered the book and why it had such an impact on me.]
I read the book during a HUGE turning point in my life. This turning point occurred when I realized that something that I believed was impossible (as in "this would never happen to me") became possible. It made me ask "Are there other things that I thought were impossible that really are possible?"


That thought was like an explosion in my head. It blew away some walls that led me to explore art and travel and spend four months doing things that fell into the "its not important, I can do that later when I have time" category. Turns out those things are important and thank goodness I was in a mind space to realize it and do something about it. Since the, I've been breaking down my "impossible" barriers little by little.
[end side story]

Another thing that resonated so well with me from The Alchemist is encapsulated in this sentence:

"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." 

The universe also sends you signs. What can be challenging is all this noise that can get in the way. The universe is screaming at you and you just can't hear from all the noise.

Signs are out there, you just have to be open to them. Like the song says:

I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes 

I saw the sign 
Life is demanding without understanding 
I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes 
I saw the sign 
No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong... 
But where do you belong? 

I saw the sign and it opened up my mind! 

Lately, I think the universe has been screaming at me and I've just now started to hear. I was finding myself in a bit of a rut. Nothing major but I was wallowing a little bit in my own little "woe is me" world and waiting for some savior to come charging in on a white horse to save me. 

Lots of lovely little things remind me that despite the difficulties I've experienced and my own personal drama (the stuff I create and succumb to every now and again), I do have the faith in myself and lots of love from friends and family to help me. Sure, I expect I'll lapse into "woe"dom every now and again, but I'll rebound a little quicker each time. 

I still want someone to come charging in on a white horse ... but not to save me, more to like swoop me up to ride the horse wherever I'm going or perhaps dismount to join me on whatever ride I'm on. Maybe, its more that I want someone to come riding in on a motorcycle (like the TRON cycle, ooo, how cool would that be?). Or, maybe, its more like I'm the one that's helping people to be open to the possibility of being swept off their feet and somewhere along the way, that special someone will join me in the dance.

I don't claim to have the answer because I believe, everyone has a different question that drives them. 
Its just like Curly says from the movie City Slickers::

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [points index finger skyward] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly[smiles and points his finger at Mitch] That's what you have to find out.

I do believe that I have some experiences that I can share to help people find out what that question is for themselves so they can pursue the answer. It will come as no surprise if I tell you that sharing dance is a big part of that. I like the sound of  "changing your world, one dance at a time" 

I invite you to take a moment to engage in something that brings you joy or do something new to open up your mind to possibilities: to listen to the universe and the signs that are coming your way. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dancing to Me

I'm not the first to taut the benefits of dance, nor will I be the last. Dancing has been a source of a great many things to me, not the least of which is how it has helped me connect to myself. Through dance, I have grown in confidence and strength. Dancing has helped me develop a strong sense of self and has helped me understand how powerful it is to be able to let go and move my body to express what I feel when I am dancing to music.

When I dance, there is a purity of being fully present in the moment: of letting go of the normal analysis in my head and just reacting to and providing my own voice to a dance partnership that is set to music. Through dance I can be coy, I can be a diva, I can be a cool hipsta, I can be flirtatiously fun, I can be whoever I please. I can be close enough to hear someone's heartbeat and I can be far enough to let my feet jam along as part of the band. I can celebrate who I am and get immediate feedback about how fully and wholeheartedly my dance partner enjoys dancing with me.

Dance is sensual. The whole framework is setup based on touch, feeling and expression that's not taboo or awkward: just two people having fun together. Partner dancing allows us to communicate without words through our movements and our touch. Its powerful when there's a connection, when I feel that my partner and I are on the same wavelength. At the very least its two people sharing in the joy of movement through dance. At its best its a visceral interaction that makes me feel so vibrant and alive because in that brief moment of the song, my partner and I are fluidly moving together: as one, in response to one another. There is comfort in another person's embrace: I think everyone needs that kind of touch in their lives.

Sure, every now and again, there's a lemon or two: that interaction that's not quite so fun or satisfying. In the grand scheme of things though, I believe its all about the greater joy. One shouldn't let the lemon's dictate what's best for you. [I have more to say on this but another time.]

Dance is dynamic and fluid: I listen to the music that's playing, follow the leads that my partner initiates, make sure my own balance and response matches and move to the music. Think about how many synapses are firing just to make that all happen. Pretty brilliant if you ask me. Its like lighting up your brain and watching the fireworks fly!

Dance is so accessible, its always there for anyone to try. Just watch little babies and children as they respond to music: its a pretty primal instinct in all of us. Dance is ageless and crosses boundaries. Dance is in us, our blood moves to the pulse that's based on the beating of our heart. Its as simple as tapping your feet or bopping your head of the rhythm of the music.

I dance to free myself and to be in the moment. I dance to celebrate who I am and express what I feel in the music through movement in my body. I dance to celebrate the joy of being able to express with someone else what we hear in the music that we dance to.

I teach dance to help others get through that initial hurdle of learning to dance and to eventually see how much dancing can help them to be all that they can be.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Whoa... What's This?

I'm often surprised by my reaction when the things I wish for or imagine come true. Especially when they go my way or better. Instead of the "hip hip hooray!" there's a small voice in my head that says "Really? Is this really that good or am I missing the catch?"

This is a very different reaction from when I dance or when I used to compete in volleyball or when I make something on my own to give away or sell. When I win a tournament its easy to celebrate - there's no doubt about the victory. When I have a great dance the feedback is almost instantaneous so I ride that wave of  euphoria (a.k.a. dance high) without resistance.

There are those times, mostly when I'm wishing for something that's based on someone else's decision and not just mine, when I get what I wished for and instead of celebrating outright, I hear that voice of skepticism questioning and putting a bit of a damper on my celebrating.

That got me thinking: when did I start to doubt if something was too good to be true? I mean I wanted it and it happened so isn't that cause for celebration? I wonder if this reaction stems from self-preservation or is it some latent "worst case scenario" persona deep inside. Am I'm afraid of what might happen if I actually get what I want?

Being happily fun-employed allows me lots of luxuries that I probably take for granted that many people would envy. Little things like I get to sleep in whenever I want to and not have to worry about making some conference call that I don't really need to be there for at a crazy time of the day. I truly believe I'm living a life that most people would envy. I myself find it hard to believe. I know that I'm still figuring out what else to do to complete the picture but that's all part of the journey.

This past year has been punctuated by some serious personal events like the deterioration and restoration of my eye sight. I was ready to dive into exploring a new way of living and then all this stuff happened that is now (thankfully) resolved. Now that I have the energy to start exploring again, I'm realizing that I'm actually quite inexperienced with getting what I want.

I realized about 10 years ago that I was striving for goals and successes based on a model that my parents taught me while I was growing up. Its not a bad model, its just not the one I came up with. So, for a significant part of my impressionable years, I was basically going along, doing what my parents wanted and not really paying attention to what I wanted. Now that I'm focusing on building my own model, I realize that I'm just not as experienced in the successes within that model. I mean I can't just say "Well, mom and dad said this is right so its right."

I also have remnants of that "worst-case-scenario" voice from my upbringing. My parents meant for it to be a voice of reason to help guide me to make the right decisions. It has served me well so far but now I think I need to relax its application just a little bit. I should just celebrate those moments when what I wish for actually happens.

I'm getting there, old habits are hard to break. I'm afraid something will actually go terribly awry just to balance out what has been going very, very well. Luckily, my optimistic nature wins over in the end. Its lovely to just bask in the joy/excitement/satisfaction (whatever the positive feelings are) of a wonderful moment without doubts.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Laughing Out Loud

I go on and on about dancing but today's post is dedicated to my niece and nephew: two bundles of joy who have made my life more vibrant and colorful by just being who they are.

Everyone who's been an aunt (or uncle) can relate to the joys of spending time with your nieces and nephews so what I'm about to share is no surprise. I have often told my sister how thankful I am that she and her husband brought these two wonderful kids into my life. I have enjoyed and continue to experience unbridled fun and laughter through the eyes of my niece and nephew.

I'm not sure about the science of it all but I'm pretty sure that everyone should have the chance to reconnect with how kids play and have fun. I can't even remember exactly what these kids have said or done but I do remember just laughing out loud so much that my sides hurt. When did we loose that as adults?

A trip to shop for some beauty accessories turned in to an adventure in makeovers for my niece and nephew - who knew it would be so much fun? Going to a store like Sephora for most of us women is like being in a candy store: so many things to try, free advice and of course, easy access to small things to play with. Well, apparently for my niece and nephew, the same is true. They didn't really know what things were for, but they like to draw and so seeing the brushes and pads next to open palettes of eye shadow and lip stick was like being in an art class. Both of them were curious about what everything was for. To demonstrate, I explained about the makeover and what eye shadow and lipstick are for and  gave my niece a taste for adult face painting. My nephew wanted in on the fun but I told him I'd just put a dot on his forehead.

After cleaning their faces, I started to shop for my own stuff. All I did was turn away for a few seconds. I hear them laughing and when I looked back at them I can see that they have smeared lipstick all over their face and mouth. In each hand they had tissues and were trying to wipe stuff off. They were laughing at each other and just making a mess of the makeup on their faces. I really wish I remembered to take a picture but I laughed so hard while trying to take the makeup off their faces. They also had small plush toys (microbes - plush microbes) with them so after cleaning them up, and letting them each take a few of the applicators, they then started to give their plush toys makeovers:  "Ok Coldie (aka the cold virus), we're going to put some eye shadow on you now."

I still have a big smile on my face when I think about it. I know you probably had to be there to really understand how much fun it was. These moments that make you laugh out loud are the moments to really remember and celebrate.

Microbe makeovers - I love it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ok, I'll Stop Fighting

I still rejoice in my new found eye sight tho there are some repercussions that I'm dealing with which have been challenging in their own right. I feel like a spoiled, petulant child for writing about it - especially since I've been blessed with new lenses to end my temporary blurry blindness.

I've basically been sleep deprived for the last three months with pockets of sleep drunkenness (ie: crashing and sleeping for 10+ hours straight). I've been fighting this battle on two fronts: trying to sleep earlier (yes, yes, I'm a night owl) and waking up earlier (so that I don't feel like a total slug). While I've been enjoying my life with some great weekend workshops, teaching, practicing and completing projects that I've left alone because of bad eyes, the lack of sleep has been taking its toll: eyes always puffy, lethargic, lack luster, weight gain, etc.

The effects of  a drug that I took while recovering from cataract surgery have lingered a bit. Its almost impossible for me to fall asleep before 4am. Yes, yes, I do all my activities at night: teach dance, dance, hang out with friends, etc. so I do know about the whole "it takes time to wind down". I usually end my activities by 1:00am and the 2 - 3 hour winding down bit is borderline ridiculous. I've tried boring television, boring reading, meditation, hot milk, herbal teas, magnesium, melatonin, benadryl (ugh, I hate waking up feeling like lead) and none of them have really been helping. Each night has seemed like a two hour battle and then I set my alarm to wake up at a "decent" hour (aka before noon) to assuage my need to be productive during the day.

The results have been that I am tired and constantly needing a nap. My energy levels are down to red and despite the fact that I still go dancing almost every night, I'm motivated to do less and less. 

I'm not sure why, but last night something clicked. It finally occurred to me to stop fighting. I had nothing planned for the next day (today) until the late afternoon so why not just sleep whenever I sleep and get up whenever I get up and see what happens. 

I slept for 8 hours straight. 

[insert angelic chorus rejoicing in song]

I ate "breakfast" at 3:00 pm and feel well rested and ready to go. Its a beautiful day out so after I complete this article, I'm going to sit in the sun before I head out to teach and practice mambo. 

A part of me is saying "DUH!" I'm wondering why it took me this long to realize that its more important for me to get enough sleep and not when or how long I sleep. I'm lucky enough that I don't have to worry about getting up to go somewhere, I'm still living my fun-employed life, and since the days are getting longer and the sun is out longer, who cares if I wake up at 10:00am or 1:00pm? 

Here's another toast to not fighting. I think the Borg had it right: resistance is futile. There are things worth fighting for and one shouldn't just "give up" when challenges arise but for a lot of things in life, when there's resistance, it usually means having to let go of something to move forward. 

It occurs to me that this is also why I find following in dance so refreshing. I still have to use my brain to tell me what to do when I feel a lead but there's a very visceral sense that I've developed over time as a follow. Its a sense that allows me to maintain just the right amount of tension so that I do not feel resistance in the arms of my dance partner and we flow through the dance as the music guides us. 

I digress a bit. I'll talk more about that later. For now, no more fighting, I'm looking forward to being well rested. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Somebody Pinch Me!

The past few days have been as crazy as this windy, blustery day.

I'm still adjusting to the new lens in my eyes. What a joy it was to chop up basil for my salad at normal speed. I don't have to go slow and worry about slicing my finger off. I still can't stop smiling.

The only downside is that the Prednesone that I'm taking is making me a bit over-amped, hungry and not sleepy. Apparently taking the pills a second time around is affecting me more than it did back in January. I feel so wired, its like a cartoon. Thankfully I'm tapering off so I know things will settle back to normal.

In the meantime, its just hitting me that a dream of mine that I've been hatching for the last three years is actually happening this weekend: one more day.

About three years ago, I learned about a dance called kizomba (from Angola, danced to kizomba music) and fell in love with it. I started to learn it with the hope that one day, I might be able to teach it to others and help the dance spread. At the time I was starting to look for opportunities to teach dancing. Dance as given me so much as far as confidence, fun and personal growth that I wanted to be able to share it with as many people as I could. Teaching kizomba seemed to be the way to do that.

When I started down this road, I started to imagine what it would be like in a few years: what would it would look like to "spread" the word on kizomba. I envisioned classes (I now teach at the Century Ballroom  - check!), classes at a congress (I taught at the 2012 Seattle Salsa Congress check!), visiting instructors (I've brought lots of them over starting last year - check!) and a weekend camp that would simulate my ideal learning environment: getting together with dancers who are just as crazy about the dance and being taught by an amazing instructional team in an integrated manner, not separate classes.

Jump forward to the now and here I am, ready for Seattle Kizomba Semba Camp that starts Friday March 22, 2013.

Can I get a "WHOO - HOO!" ?

Its, like, surreal.

There are 65 camp registrants and I have a great crew of folks helping me over the weekend. My check list for today is done and though there's more to do, I'm taking this moment to enjoy the excitement. Not only is this dream of mine coming true but I've got so much pent up energy from Prednesone and resting after the surgery, I'm busting out.


The instructors will be coming in tomorrow and starting Friday I'll be submerged in the camp for four days and I can't wait to spend it with my growing kizomba family.

Ready. Set. Go!

For more about Kizomba in Seattle, check the blog and the facebook group page.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Seeing Clearly with BOTH Eyes

Hurrah! Round two of my cataract surgery was completed today and while I'm not totally in the clear I feel like a new person AGAIN.

I know it sounds cliche and I know I had to deal with the blurry vision but this is simply an amazing experience that I wish everyone could experience without the stressful and threatening side of things. Seeing the world through a clear lens (even though I will still need reading glasses and anti-reflective glare protection) is a miracle. There's is a lot you take for granted when its right there - especially what you see. I never new how clear things could look until now.

Since this was my second time through the surgery, I knew the routine for the preparations: three questions (about phones, weapons and medical marijuana), lots of drops to dilate and numb, marking my eye lids to help with the procedure, instructions for post surgery and follow and finally, the doping lollipop to get me chilled out.  [Read about my first time with cataract surgery here.]

My right eye's vision prior to operating was better then my left eye's vision so while things were blurry, I could still make things out. Looking through my right eye was like looking through a piece of 50% translucent plastic. I was able to see the light bulb shining in my eyes and the doctor's hands as he brought instruments over to my eyes to work on them. I won't get into the nitty gritty details but it was harder to keep calm when I could see thing coming at me, no matter how blurry they were. With my left eye it was just white lite an then sensations when my surgeon was working, I think I preferred that to what I went through today (not that I'm complaining either way).

I was more aware of the sounds in the room and the pressure from the instruments as my surgeon worked his magic. I could see some colors: red (which I assume as blood since a cut had to be made - it washed away quickly) and blue (which is a dye I think they use). I really appreciated the cooling sensation when they hydrated my eyes as the operation progressed. This time I was aware of sutures being place, that was a little unnerving since I could imagine what was happening.

The blood pressure device was a life saver - being able to focus on that and my breathing was really helpful. As I said from the first time, even though I knew there would be no pain, its really hard to relax when you feel the pressure on your eyes as work is being done. My shoulders still feel the pinch as I think about it. I would highly recommend learning about breathing exercises: focusing on the breath really helped me a LOT.

When all was said and done, I was still amazed. when I sat up. That amazement melted away all the tension and discomfort from the procedure. While it wasn't as epic as when my left eye could see clearly, I still gained another level of clarity and that nagging blurriness is now gone - amazing! I'm still smiling. The clarity with which I see things (even though they are sometimes unfocused because of my aging eye muscles) is just a joy to me - its priceless.

Tomorrow I go to see the surgeon for a follow up and then a week of rest and 6 weeks of various levels of eye drops and more doctor visits and reading glasses.

What a trip its been and I'm so looking forward to enjoying these lenses in my eyes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Its OK to Say NO

Why is it so hard to say "No"? I thought I'd just share my reflections and conclusions.

I've been finding myself in situations where I've had difficulty saying "no". These are not your obvious "no" situations like when someone asks "would you like to jump off the roof?" (NO. Thank you!). These are situations where someone is making a request of me or I am working with someone to come to  mutual agreement on something.

Upon reflection, I discovered that my difficulty with "no" comes from two things.

One is a simple logic chain: no is negative, negative is bad and so, no is bad. The second is rooted my desire to please people and avoid conflict whenever possible without having to compromise my own values and needs.

It is easy enough to objectively refute the logic chain. I realize that the fallacy lies in the statement that "negative is bad". I'm not sure when I started to associate being negative with being bad - that thought just feels like it was in my head from something long ago. I can't dive into the psychology of it but I do know its not true. Negative is simply the opposite of positive. 

The second part of my difficulty with saying 'no' is a little trickier. Its like having to break a tug of war inside myself.

Having to say no is often times accompanied by an interaction that is so opposite to what I expect. When things happen out of left field its usually because I still haven't fully embraced the fact that people are driven by different things and have their own goals to accomplish. When I encounter this, I try to apply my own reasoning to explain what just happened. I forget that not everyone operates from the same root and not everyone's objectives and goals are the same as mine. When I forget, I start to assign right or wrong to the situation based on my values.

So when I find myself in situations where my first reaction is anger or indignation or even unpleasant surprise (as in coming out of left field), I apply my reasoning and I get righteous. This strong reaction eventually makes me think that perhaps I'm the one being selfish and unreasonable and I start to second guess myself. This begins a personal tug of war where I get all wrapped up in the "me" part of things. My need to feel validated ends up at war with my need to be right and I end up feeling like I'm in quicksand.

Lucky for me, I have friends and family that help to remind me that its not quicksand, its just a muddy, messy pit that I've stepped into. I may end up feeling dirty from all the mud after I get out, and that's ok. Once I make that shift, I return to thinking about my intentions and goals and I'm not just reacting to save my pride or be right or get caught up in someone else's model of what's right.

Saying no is still hard and I can't say that I've always done it gracefully but each time it happens I get less tied up in my personal tug of war and its gets a little easier.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Can't Stop Smiling

Its been a week since my cataract surgery and I still can't stop smiling.

Seeing through the new lens in my left eye is nothing short of miraculous! I have never ever seen this clearly out of my left eye. I don't have perfect vision but everything is so clear even when I can't focus on words (I'm going to need reading glasses).

Every speck, smudge, wrinkle, line, shadow, sparkle ... every little detail that I can see brings a smile to my face. Finally being able to see my friends' faces, my niece and nephew as they clown around - its like a new world that's been there all this time.

Most of all, I marvel at how bright the night is with all the street lights and leftover holiday lights. Prior to the surgery I dreaded the night time. It was just dark with no definition or shared of gray. For me, venturing out at night was a heavy experience, laced with dread.

This brightness is simply amazing. It lightens everything. I am uplifted and just so much lighter. The gloom of darkness was lifted as this new lens of mine allows more light to pass through my eyes as I see.

I went dancing for the first time and I had so much fun! I felt such joy at being able to see everything while I dance. I could see a smile clear across the room. I could see all the friendly faces and see the joy reflected in their congratulations and happy wishes on my new lens and recovery. Its going to be hard to stop smiling.

I walked in to the room that I would be teaching dance class in wondering what I will see. Prior to surgery, it was just black. Today, I saw the shadows on the floor, the outline of the window frames as lights from the outside illuminate the floor.

Simply amazing.

To the powers that be and the universe in general, "thanks!" are not enough to convey how grateful I am for being able to experience my vision with such clarity. Its going to take a while before I stop smiling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What a Difference a New Lens Makes

I received a gift: a new lens in my left eye to replace the old lens that had clouded over and was legally blind.

I had been diagnosed with cataracts in 2010, nothing noticeable, just something to keep an eye on. Starting in May 2012, my cataracts progressed rapidly (in a large part due to treatment from another condition that is called uveitis, inflammation in the eyes). I went through 3 eye prescriptions and within 5 months, became "legally blind". I could still see because my right eye was borderline ok. With the right light conditions and with the right contrast I could still distinguish most things. I couldn't drive and with the greyness of Seattle, it was nerve-wracking to walk around looking for bus stops because everything just looked hazy black and gray.

I'm on my recovery path so theses next entries will record my experiences and thoughts as I move forward.

On January 15, 2013, I woke up a bit on edge. This is partly due to some of the medicines I started to take as part of pre-op. The other part was a just excitement to see again fighting anxiety about what might go wrong. Luckily, my natural inclination is to focus on the positive outcome so, overall, I was calm and ready, though a bit sleep deprived.

I got to the clinic to check in and waited to be called. One patient was already being escorted to her husband, her operation successfully completed. There were 2 other people waiting for their loved ones to come out. My sister sat on her laptop with her WiFi clearspot typing away while I posted an update to my Path and Facebook feeds and even responded to a few emails.

The nurse came to get me and the first thing she asked were 3 questions:
1) Do I have a phone?
2) Am I carrying a gun or firearms ?
3) Am I carrying any medical marijuana?

The randomness of  the questions were amusing. I can see why the phone, some people are just joined at the hip to that nifty price of communication. The firearm, well, better be safe right? The medical marijuana threw me a little but at that point I was just realizing the absurdity of asking these questions (all part of standard procedure) to an elderly patient. I'm the exception as far as age goes: most cataract patients are over 70 year's old.

At any rate, next order of business, putting a sticker above the eye to be operated on. Then, put on this lovely hospital blue hair cap and matching booties over my shoes. I am given a post-op kit and walked through the instructions for what to do after surgery. Then, 8 drops in my eye in rapid succession: for dilating, numbing, disinfecting and reducing inflammation.

Keeping you eye opened is NOT that easy - who knew? Through this whole process of being treated, I've come to realize that. (sorry for the side bar)

So now, I'm brought to a staging area and given the final medication . I can't remember the exact name, it had 2 syllables and is basically like Valium and mean to  decrease anxiety. I won't be knocked out. Then, it was wait for the procedure before me to finish (typically 15 - 20 minutes. In that time I could hear the surgeon addressing the patient and his assistants and some sounds that had the same timber as those notes the aliens played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I decided to do some deep breathing. A few breaths later, it was my turn.

The surgical team was great - they do their best to make things comfortable while dressed in similar hair cap and booties with mouth shields and scrubs. I am asked to Ly down, face up ad they strap me to the table, put on the monitors on my chest, finger and arms (for blood pressure) and strap my head down for stability.

The surgery begins. I am awake and aware the whole time and its probably the only time I'm very glad that my eye is legally blind - it would've been impossible to stay calm seeing things come right at my eye! I see the light that illuminates my eye for the operation and can hear the voice of my doctor and his assistants as they work. I more or less know the process and try to mark if I can tell when it the steps happen.

 First, an incision. I just feel a brief pressure across the are around my lens. Next, break up the lens. This is when the surgeon asks for a specific piece of equipment which basically uses an ultrasonic  device to break the cloudy lens. That's that funky sound I heard earlier. This takes a little longer and I feel the pressure across my eye and for a split second I see what looks ilk branches which I think might be the blood  vessels in my eyes.

Next they remove the broken bits of lens and set up the lens cap for the new lens. Again a lot of pressure, this time I'm feeling this weird uncomfortable sensation. For a split second I see what looks like cracked glass and then I feel a lot of pressure, I know there won't pain, but the pressure feels like a dispersed tingling that makes my skin crawl. I realize I'm tensing up and start to focus on my exhale to breathe. Its much like trying to relax in a dentist chair during a root canal except my mouth isn't getting dry or my tongue getting moved around. There's a lot of irrigating my eye which feels wonderful, a relief from the pressure.

It is at this point where I sense some sort of challenge as the doctor makes requests for things that need to be prepared. The voices are stern and urgent and I hear that the Topic lens (which corrects for astigmatism, will not be supported and to use the regular lens instead. Then there's more of the pressure and tension management and when that second "bout" is over, my legs and arms get ansy (its clear why they have to strap you down). I'm not sure how long it took but I know its not over, so back to breathing and releasing the tension. I  notice that I can see what looks like small clear thin worms, swimming with this vertical squiggle across my eyes as they are irrigated. I think this must be the water rippling across. Its kind of whimsical and calms me down

Then the lens is placed in the capsule. I see a clear round edge and the more pressure, not as bad, around what I'm guessing is the border of the lens. I'm asked to look up, look left, look right and down. More irrigation and its over.

The doctor gives me the thumbs up, explains that there were complications that were managed and that I have a regular lens instead of the toric. The nurses take over and boy were they great. I din't realize how much tension there still was in my body and they kept repeating "It's over now, good job.", and rub my back as I sit up.

I CAN SEE! I see the different shades of blue from the folds and shadows in the scrubs. I see the clock and the hands of the clock and the door and the pattern of the tiles on the floor and the colors - just the colors - are so vibrant. I cam see eyes, lips, brows and the facial expressions of everyone in the room. I must be smiling because they are beaming from ear to ear. I am astounded and all I can say is "I can see."

I am walked to the waiting room where I got my booties and the nurse bring around a pencil/pen  holder. Oh my god! The colors! She had fluorescent pens of all colors: yellow, pink, blue, green, orange and then blue, black and red pens. It was a bouquet of beautiful flowers to me: so bright, so vibrant. Astounding.

I got my stuff and as my sister drove us to get lunch (we just stopped by Burgermaster which is a drive in) and then home, I marveled at the different shades of color in the sky. Look! I can see the dividing lines on the highway. We cross the bridge and I can see the mountain ranges in the distance, the ripples of water, everything. Its really a miracle how much science has progressed that I have this wonderful new lens to see through.

Not only that, the eye as an organ is  pretty amazing, I mean, I just had a cut, old lens broken and removed and a new lens placed and I can see so much. All that took about 20 minutes. I am not quite in the clear. My pupil is still dilated so I see halos like a  sphere of rainbows around halogen bulbs and can't quite read tiny fonts. There are still many check-ups to make eye pressures stabilize and lots of eye drops to go. It will be about a week or two before everything is clear enough to start talking about my right eye.

For now, I am basking in gratitude and wonder. Thankful to my sister and her family who have been so great, so supportive and so loving. Thankful to such awesome friends who have helped me to get around in my "blindness", who have supported me with well wishes, worry, sympathy and laughter; even a little scolding. I can't say enough about the dancing and how it saved me and kept me floating. A friend pointed out another rare gift: to dance without depending on my sight and really develop the "feel" in the different partner dances that I love.

Life is good. Thank you