Last week, I spent a few days in Las Vegas for a conference.  Twice a year I have the pleasure of spending time with a group of amazing people who make me learn new things, think about my work in a different way AND who make me laugh hysterically.  It’s a professional pleasure that I hold dear.  This year was no exception and I left with some fantastic ideas for our company to implement in the upcoming months until we meet again.


Vegas is a funny place.  I’m not a gambler…in fact the last three times I’ve been there I don’t think I’ve put a single coin in a slot machine or played a single dollar at a table. I love people who love it, I just choose to waste my money on super useful and wildly more important things like…you know… $5 coffees.  Cuz I’m frugal like that.  I also do very high brow things like visit the Vanderpump Cocktail Garden because The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is a pinnacle of cultural sophistication.


After our group meets all day on work things we try to give our brains a rest with a fun dinner. Jason’s goal for all of us is to do a dinner that slightly (remember this word) pushes us out of our comfort zone and gives us more of an experience than the typical steak/chicken dinner you eat at most professional get togethers.  We’ve eaten with dancers and singers popping up at your table and dined in a gorgeous restaurant that you have to pass through a pawn shop to reach.  You get the picture.  Out of the ordinary.


This trip one of our group members picked a restaurant called “Blackout”.  The premise is that you eat in the dark.  No, not slightly darker…THE DARK. Complete blackness.  You arrive and the first thing you do is sign a waiver…to eat dinner.  This should have given us a sign that perhaps we were in for more than just a spilled water glass.

After the waiver, you request your first bar drink–also, a sign.  If it is necessary to remind me that I can have an alcohol drink before I even enter the room, there might just be some stress ahead.

After the drink orders are taken you line up, single file, with your group and put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you.  Your waiter puts on his infrared goggles and away you go.  When you pass the back curtain it is lights out.  Again…not dim…complete black out.  Oh–and no phones or apple watches allowed because of the light they give off.  You’re stripped of your comfort electronics and led into a cave. Jason was behind me with his hands on my shoulders and I noticed an eerie silence from him about 5 seconds into the room.  Anyone who knows Jason knows that silence is not his forté so I turned my head slightly as we were shuffling forward to ask if he was ok.  All I heard was…


Me:  “what do you mean, ‘no’??  Like… are you going to pass out???” 

Him: “not sure.” 

I”m not going to lie…although I was worried about his safety my mind was trying to imagine the domino effect I was about to be a part of when the man went down and our parade of shoulder-holding people tipped one by one in his wake.  And then I realized why he was silent.  My control freak husband was counting steps and visualizing the room to plan for his (and I guess I’m going to give him credit and hope that he intended to grab my hand to go with him) escape.  When we reached our chairs, which they guide our hands to, he whispered to me…

“They walked us in a circle, the door is behind us and to our right.  I can get us out of here in no time. I’m claustrophobic as $*!* right now.”  

Yeah…ok, whatever, I’m busy begging my eyes to find something…a light somewhere, anywhere.  Literally scanning the room.

There is nothing. Not a single light.  And then our waiter appears…I say “appears” because we only hear his voice but then we can spot a teeny tiny red speck of light on his infrared glasses.  The only indication that our sight is still in working order.  Relief washes over us as many people comment on the tiny red light that emits ZERO ability to see but somehow lets you know that our sense of vision is still intact.

The menu is Vegan.  Let me tell you that when you inform a group of Type A professionals that you are not only going to let them dine is utter darkness but that they also have to give up any meat at their meal there is a palpable disdain for the whole “out of the ordinary experience” that I mentioned earlier.  Rubber chicken dinner with a vegetable medley starts sounding so lovely.

We find out that we will cycle through 5 courses at this meal.  We have silverware and are told where our drinks are placed on the table and everyone is mostly quiet while we feel around on the table to carefully locate things we are used to simply seeing and grabbing without a thought. We also all noticed that we naturally closed our eyes even though it didn’t matter if they were open or closed.  The sight was gone.

At first you spend a lot of time laughing with nervousness and newness but I noticed, since I was sitting with some of my closest friends. that we all became more quiet as the evening wore on.  I also noticed myself sitting with my head in my hand, fatigue creeping in with the discomfort.  It made me wonder how many times in real life situations we force ourselves to sit up, engage with energy and basically “fake it” because it’s socially, and to be honest, visually rude to do otherwise.  This in spite of our bodies natural desire to do so.

Eating and drinking became so labor intensive as we carefully raised spoonfuls of soup to our mouths. I found myself leaning so close to the bowl of soup that I would have looked manner-less in normal situations.  Glasses of wine were grasped with both hands and water glasses were interchanged amongst guests…because who knows whose is whose? I noticed we all described the plates we were served in ways we probably wouldn’t have even noticed normally but our hands didn’t just eat the food–they outlined the edges of the bowls and discussed the compartments of the trays in hopes of ensuring we were all “finding” the different meals served to us.  The food was exquisite. Even though we had silverware we all found ourselves eating with our hands much of the time…laughing about the gravy on our chins, comparing which sauce was the most delicious, deciding if the herb was cilantro or parsley.

“This bowl feels like a viking ship!” 

“There’s 5 compartments to this plate…no 6!”

“Is this a red wine or a white?” “Red…no wait…white…” 

“I think the chairs are red!” “why???” ” I don’t know, they just seem red in my mind.” 

“I think my plate has a gold edge.” 

As the dinner wore on,  my table discussed the many emotions we were feeling.  Scared, excited, anxious, angry, trapped, and even sad. Sad that this is reality for some people all the time. A vital reminder for a room full of eye doctors and other industry people that we are so very privileged to GET to do this work.

What I didn’t know until we discussed it the next day was that a few of us were also on a very similar track of thinking about this event and how it relates to our faith.  We all had a few different takes on it but for me it was this.

With all of my discomfort, all of my fatigue, all of my fear and my worry… I never once worried that our waiter wouldn’t reappear and would be bringing us food and or drink.  If we needed a bathroom break, he would guide us to relief.  If we couldn’t handle the stress, he would have taken us to light.

Again, I never doubted.

And yet…in life, and with my God, sometimes I DO doubt.  Sometimes I DO question during times of darkness.  I do wonder if He will provide.  I DO question if He will appear and bring me to relief and out of the darkness.

And this is strange isn’t it?  Because this waiter…he promised me nothing.  We had no shared experience to fall back on to build my faith and trust in him to allow me to KNOW that he would return.  I simply knew nourishment would come and that he would bring it.

But I have a God that has shown me over and over that he will lead me and he never fails to either turn on the lights or hold my hand and guide me towards it.  He has not only promised, he has delivered and has asked me to simply always have faith that he will continue to do so based on his past willingness to serve me. His delivery is always flawless.  His performance always repeats on a timeless loop.

How foolish I felt to realize that at times, I exhibit less faith in a Father that has never failed me than a random waiter returning for a good tip.

One of my friends told me all she could think about was the prayer…

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to SHINE upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

I loved that.

In the end, the waiter directs you to stand up and they lead you out in the same shoulder-gripping line up you entered with.  The relief you feel when you hit the light-filled lobby is immense.  The gratitude felt for a sense we all take for granted is beyond description.

I doubt I would ever do this experience again.  Not because I didn’t love it–I think everyone should go if they have the chance. My hesitance is that I think I “got it”…I had the experience and I’m not sure it would ever be able to be re-created.

But if you’re ever in Vegas, or anywhere that has one of these restaurants, go!  And then tell me what you think!


Dr. Rah Rah…

I’ve written before about how much I love the opportunity to follow my patients throughout their childhoods. Getting a yearly snapshot into their lives and hearing the updates from them fills my parenting arsenal with tips and things to prepare for. The common struggles and successes between parent and child forms a comraderie that connects us all, for better or worse.

Occasionally though, there are patients that have a story that grabs your heart strings in such a way that you become a cheerleader for their success. Last week I had one of those patients arrive for her yearly exam. I’ve seen this girl since she was seven, she is now twelve. I will never forget the first time I examined her eyes. She had just been adopted and looked so little sitting in my big examination chair. Her eyes were both watering, one would barely stay open when any light came near it. That same eye didn’t stay straight and wandered away freely from the other. It also had an obvious scar across the cornea. She didn’t speak English but also avoided using the interpreter that her family had brought with her to help with the communication barrier caused by our mis-matched languages. I remember trying to put myself in her position…my heart ached at the fear she must have been feeling. Although she was now living with an amazing family who had waited years for her and prayed for her arrival fervently, she had left the only home she ever knew when she left her orphanage. The conditions there were reportedly awful, the medical care she had received for her eyes was abominable…and yet…that was home to her. Now she sat in my chair, blinking, tearing up, and watching everyone around her all-the-while trying to process her new reality. I think of my older two girls and try to imagine them having to make a similar move and the thought gets interrupted by my head shaking as my brain overrides it–it’s just too hard to imagine.

In terms of adoptive families, this girl hit the proverbial jackpot. Other kids fill their home, opportunities are presented to explore whatever makes them tick, be it music or sports. This little girl was going to be loved by giant hearts and hugged by many…frequently. They were realistic about the limitations her eyes may have but were determined to make sure they had explored all avenues. In the last five years we’ve been through specialists, glasses, contact lenses, eye drops and patching regimens together. One eye does not see well and probably won’t ever see well. The other eye wasn’t all that great either but at least she could go to school and, using larger print books, function.

I always hoped we could get her “good” eye to at least 20/40. To be able to drive in this state without any restrictions on your license it is required that the driver be able to see at least 20/40 in one eye. You might think that the fact that she was now in a new country, with an amazing family and endless opportunity would be enough…but I wanted this kid to be able to drive. I remember the freedom that gave me at 16…the independence and self worth that came from getting myself from point A to point B without having to ask for a ride. And for her parents, who have invested so much time and money and heart into her care…I wanted this for them too. Year after year though, the magic 20/40 eluded me.

As we started on her prescription this year I started thinking about the fact that her teen years were approaching. She’s adorable and has a smile that can melt you. I remember that age though…you never feel adorable enough and it seems that everyone else has it all figured out. We don’t realize until we’re much older that no one does. As the lenses were flipping and the letters were being read lower and lower on the chart I tried to imagine where she would be if she hadn’t been adopted. If she hadn’t, in some twist of fate or serendipity, been placed with this family who wanted so much for her. And, on the flip side, where would they be without her? Certainly both would lacking without the other.

It hit me as we hit the 20/50 line that she was going quite quickly. Any of my optometrist friends can tell you that the WAY someone reads the letters tells you if they are going to read the next line on the chart or the next five lines. It’s all in their tone, pace and certainty. I flipped the letters down to the 20/40 line and literally held my breath. We’ve never been this close. I swear as she started ticking her way across that line I could feel her dad thinking the same thing behind me…come on, come on.

And then the waterworks started. Not her’s, not her dad’s…mine. Because when she finished that line it hit me as a mother. We want so much for our kids today…happiness, health, safety, smiles and laughter. Even more, though, if we allow ourselves to imagine it, we want a FUTURE for them. A future without ANY restrictions. To me, this vision leap just opened another avenue for this girl’s future that had been closed before. It’s still four years until she’ll be able to drive alone but now she CAN. It’s another opportunity that wouldn’t have been available to her in the orphanage had she not been adopted.

It’s a strange twist that we all face as parents. We want these children so much. Pray for them, love them, hate that the years pass so quickly but also know that ultimately, we want them to have the opportunities to go through this adult life as well. Personally, I love that someday this patient will get to “fly the nest” driving herself.

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