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Four-Car Pile Up at Starbucks or “Mayhem in the Starbucks Drive-Thru

The worst car accident I’ve ever been in happened in s Starbucks drive-thru.  And it was all because of a bee.  Or, at least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

Each morning before opening my eyes my mind searches for the same answers:  Where am I? Where is Connor?  Are we home today?  After waking up next to Connor’s hospital bed more than half of my mornings, these are my typical first questions of the day.

On this particular morning I gain my bearings and through my mental fog establish that we are once again home from the hospital and “improving”.  Life in the hospital holds its own set of challenges and urgency, while at home our life is no less critical.  Once home, we are back on the rehabilitation track with therapy appointments (speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy), doctor visits, CT scans, blood tests, medication refills and home health supply ordering.  There are two roles for me these days, critical care nurse and rehabilitation case manager, and only when I’m not playing mom-advocate or disgruntled “managed care member”.  In a matter of seconds I realize that it’s time to hit the ground running with today’s therapy appointment, which is particularly important because his early childhood case manager will be attending.

On our way to the appointment, I feel that tiredness that has taken over my days so much that I forget how it feels to be fully awake.  Because of Connor, my exhaustion goes so deep that not even 14 hours of sleep could shake it.

What I later find out is that what I’m experiencing is called “adrenal fatigue”.  The trauma of Connor’s now four near-death experiences combined with dozens of high-risk surgeries, emergency room visits and insurance company brawls have left my adrenals so tired they can’t produce enough cortisol to get me through a typical day.  My doctor later explains that it’s like someone held a gun to my head repeatedly, causing me to pump extra adrenaline  over a prolonged period of time before eventually causing the gland to give out.

Unknowing of the cortisol deficiency, I pull into the Starbucks drive-thru like I always do when I feel tired.  Even though my caffeine pit-stop will put me about five minutes late to Connor’s appointment, I figure a Venti Hot Mocha with an extra shot of espresso will wake me up and therefore be worth the tardiness.  I would later learn that caffeine only makes adrenal fatigue worse as it stresses the overtired glands to produce more cortisol leading to even more fatigue.

As I roll down my car window to place my order, I notice a slight sprinkling of rain.  I pull forward to hear a boy’s voice, “Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your”….and just then a bee flew in my window.

“Just remain calm”, I tell myself.  “Shoo.  Shoo”, I say out loud to the bee.

Each time I shoo the bee, it comes closer to me.

Feeling something else is wrong, I glance up to realize that my Ford Expedition is slowly creeping forward and about to bump into the small truck in front of me.  The panic I’m suppressing from dealing with the bee is instantaneously combined with the acute alarm of potentially hitting the vehicle in front of me.   I slam hard on my break, or at least what I think is my break.  As I push down on the accelerator with all my strength, my 4,200-pound SUV peels out, and while burning rubber, slams into the truck.

I still can’t figure out why my vehicle isn’t stopping.  The lack of cortisol from my adrenals is preventing my brain from realizing that I’m still flooring the gas pedal.  The more I push on the gas pedal without being able to stop my vehicle, the more I panic… and the harder I push.

As my tires screech and shoot clouds of rubber in the air, I slowly push the small truck in front of me into the car in front of him, and finally pushed that car into the vehicle in front of her.  Connor, unharmed and shielded in our ton of steel, sits strapped in his car seat and unaware of the chaos occurring outside his window.

While I’m pushing with all my strength on the gas pedal, I look up and catch a glimpse of the driver of the small truck in front of me in his rear-view mirror as he distinctively mouths the word, “STOP”.  All the while the sound of screeching tires combined with colliding metal can be heard throughout the parking lot.

After what seems like way too much time, my brain finally catches up with the situation and I’m able to remove my foot from the accelerator and transfer it calmly to the break.  Once I put my SUV into “P”, I sit quietly to take in the mayhem that lay before me.  The truck in front of me had both rear and front-end damage along with the car in front of him.  And now, people are emerging from cars and vehicles to confront me.

The man in the truck is surprisingly kind to me and we began to talk.  “There was this bee…” I start to explain.  The woman from the car in front of him interrupts us, “How in the hell fast were you going!?”, she yells.  With her “up-do” and business suit I remember wondering what career would allow such inexcusable grammar.  My apologetic demeanor is instantaneously gone as I respond to her harsh enough to send her back to her car without another word.

The boy from Starbucks emerges from the back door and begins to recount the event from his perspective, “First I heard ‘shoo’….”, he recounts as he hands the man and me complimentary cups of coffee. Another woman approaches from the parking lot, “I saw the whole thing…” she went on.  Everyone was talking at the same time.  I’m dazed but thankful for how kind and understanding everyone is, sans the cranky businesswoman.

As for the bee?  Well, the bee is nowhere to be found.

Because of Connor,  and a bee, I realize this is the worst car accident I’ve ever been in.

Read more about Adrenal Fatigue and my treatment here.

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Oh This Is Going To Be Good


As I sat in the last row of the hotel conference room at the Mount Charleston Inn (because- as usual- I was late, plus I always like to sit in the back for an easy escape route), I looked around the room at the people gathered for our week-long spiritual retreat with Gary Spivey, “World Renowned Psychic”.  The room was lined with long tables one behind the other, facing forward with a pen and pad of paper marking each chair.  I looked at my fellow conference attendees and was surprised at how many were here to learn how to “see with your spiritual eyes”.


This week we were to discover how to connect and talk directly with God and our Angels, receive “spiritual gifts” and learn how overcome dark energy attacks.  If I didn’t know then what I know now, I would expect the attendees of our conference to be spiritual hippies who belong to online groups titled, “Sacred Heart of The Eternal Crystal” and forward emails with spiritual paintings of mother earth holding a rose quartz crystal… and there’s nothing wrong with any of that.  However, with the exception of one, my fellow conference attendees were anything but frankincense-burning New Age hippies- they were just ordinary people from a diverse background who have seen and experienced things that not everyone is open to, who understood that there is something more, and that a church is not always the best way to find spirituality and connect with GOD.


One man was a marketing executive from City Center Las Vegas, a nerdy and pleasant type who wore jeans and a LL Bean fleece hoodie, and who probably lamented for an hour that morning on whether or not he was wearing the right outfit.


Rachel, the former bank manager turned clothing line designer wore cowgirl boots with jeans in a complimentary style that made her appear much younger than her years.  She was the proud business owner of “Rodeo Ho Clothing” where she travels from rodeo to rodeo selling t-shirts with sayings like, “Save A Bull, Ride A Cowboy” and “8 Minutes Aint Enough”, and business card read “Rachel McManus Head Honch-Ho”.  Rachel was genuinely kind and real, and always showed interest in what others had to say.

Todd… and when he talked about the love he had at home everyone could feel the warmth, and only proves that GOD does not reward good people with money, rather with love.


The trendy Range Rover-driving pregnant mom was an adorable Asian girl living in Anthem Country Club with her venture capitalist Irish husband.  Now, what would this girl be doing at a spiritual conference, I wondered.  Shouldn’t she be shopping for Bellisimio baby bedding and pre-ordering the newest (stroller)?  Man, I was about to find out that I was very wrong about that girl.


One woman was a medical billing clerk from UMC Hospital who looked like she could be anyone’s favorite aunt, who might sew decorative lace and frills onto a t-shirt for a Christmas present.


If anything, these people validated that I wasn’t crazy for being at a spiritual re was merely a collection of people who understoood there was something more, and that spirituality didn’t necessarily come in the way of sitting in church and following rules, but rather than just cutting through the red type and middle-men and speaking directly with God.  The girl with the barrettes was a very slender young and obnoxiou insecure girl from Texas who accompanied Gary’s publicist as his date.  Each day she wore Bebe business suits , but no matter what her attire was she parted her short blond hair each day down the middle and secured each side with a Goody barrette that matched her outfits.  You probably remember Goody barrets as a child- plastic and pastel-colored with either flowers or animals like squirrels and bunnies.  Each day it seemed like such an odd combination to match a $300 outfit with $1.99 dime-store barrettes.  I sent Thyra into a fit of laughter one day when while getting dressed and fighting with my hairstyle said, “I wonder if that girl would let me borrow a barrette.”


And then there was Travis, Gary’s ridiculously cute personal assistant.  The night before, Travis and I had sat at the hotel bar while he used his 23-year old charm and pretty-boy smile to flirt with me.  Amused, I assured him that he was too cute for his own good.  The fact is that even I was young, I wasn’t attracted to younger guys.  My whole life I had always liked older men and can even remember fantasizing about Bruce Wilis in “Moonlighting” when I was fourteen.


The Scientologist refer to it as “finding your core trauma”.   On day two of our week of spiritual awakening, Gary performed what he called going back to

Gary, who has an open mind for any religion as someone who believes in God and spirituality, but not necessarily someone who always adheres to the rules and restritictions men have placed upon our spirituality and the laws of heaven under the guise of “religion”.  A Scientologist friend of Gary’s asked him to engage in a church practice called “finding your core trauma” where scientologists find by holding probe… it’s basically a verify scientific approach to a spiritual idea.  Gary, being so cool said, “sure”


So, today Gary was helping our group find and heal our core traumas using his spiritual gifts rather than electrical probes and a keyboard.  He started in the front row and in just a few seconds was able to recite some unexpected incident in each attendees life that created a core trauma upon which hundreds or even thousands of traumas have build upon.  “Oh this is going to be good”, I thought, as I wondered what my core trauma was.  There were so many traumas to choose from, which one could be my core?  The drama in me began to mount.  Each person wept, as Gary…. The lady

The only person who didn’t cry was the marketing, “when you were three, your parents moved your bed”… apparently, his grandparents and when they died.  They discussed the incident and the man talked about how his grandparents.  Then Gary suggested that he go ahead and take a walk to think about it.  Later on, the man described walking to his room and breaking down in tears before reaching his room where he then went on to cry for a while.

The bank


The unexpected trauma came from the trendy pregnant mom.  She was from , and was married to a wealthy and the were expecting their first child.  She seemed like the type whose  greatest trauma might be that she missed the Nordstrom one-day sale last week.  Was I ever wrong about her.  was .  The obnocious girl with the barrettes,


Then it was Thyra’s turn.  “When you were young your family went on a trip and you felt that you didn’t have the right place in the car, or you felt that you just didn’t have your place.”  Thyra looked confused and couldn’t figure out what he was referring to, but I knew instantly.  “It was the trip to San Francicso, I said.  I wasn’t on this trip with Thyra, and don’t know how I knew what he was talking about when Thyra couldn’t remember.  This is one of those times that I was able to tap into that spiritual channel, to help Gary because otherwise I wouldn’t have know what she was talking about.  Thyra, my best friend and cousin, our sisters are mothers.  Thyra has an older brother and a younger brother and my aunt in her younger days experienced everything… a “free spirit” from living on Hate-Ash in San Francisco, to traveling with her musician boyfriend through France living in south of France, to   What resulted in Aunt Peggy’s “free spirited” life when she finally settled down was my cousin, Bruce, who is also some type of biracial but looks caucasian, then Thyra who looks like a prettier version of Alicia Keys, and the evil younger brother, Levi, who with blond hair and blue eyes looks like he could fit in with Arian nation.    Thyra may have felt out of place her whole life because she is bi-racial.  She’s the one in the family photo and that sisters-in-laws have to “explain” her to their families, etc.  I think that trip to San Francisco when she was about eight may have been the first time that she felt that she didn’t have a “place”  Thyra cried, and I cried again with her.  I cried because of the guilt I felt of knowing that Thyra chose this life, with this family, to be with me in this life.  There’s one thing I know for sure and that’s I’ve not been through a lifetime on this planet without her- whether we’ve been mother and daughter, sisters or best friends, Thyra and I have always weathered the storm of a life hear together.


Now, it was my turn, and I was ready.  The excitement mixed in with the drama building up in me I was ready for this life-changing revelation that was going to explain what event has caused all the chaosI was ready to talk about my traumas and cry with everyone else.  “Let’s get on with it”, I thought.  I couldn’t wait to everyone to share in my trauma drama.


Gary walked over to me and looked at me with that peaceful smile .  Gary always has a sparkle in his eye.  Even Harrison Ford has nothing on Gary Spivey in the eye-sparkle department- where Harrison’s sparkle comes from carefuly placed lighting and technicians who know how to capture that Hans-Solo magic, Gary’s sparkle comes from within and from somewhere very few people in this world have seen.  Spiritual paintings that do the best job possible portraying a place where colors in this world can’t begin to describe, is the where that beautiful white-gold mixed with Bahama-ocean blue that seems to shine that you can feel right down into your toes when he looks at you with his clever smile from right below is bushy eyebrows


Gary then spoke, “When you were an infant, your father was holding you while you were crying and you wouldn’t stop.  So he put you down and walked away.  He walked away for good.  You came into this life specifically to have a relationship with your dad- you two are a lot alike.  But he walked away.”   I thought about what he said and let that realization soak in.  But- I didn’t cry.  In fact, I didn’t feel anything.


After a minute of silence, Gary suggested I “take a walk” to think about it too.  There was an akward silence as I left the room and caught a glimpse of Travis’ face and he had a sympathetic and concerned look to say, “I’m so sorry”.  I appreciated the sentiment, but honestly did not feel anything.


I walked outside and sat by the pond looked up at the beautiful mountains- nothing.  I thought about what Gary had said.  I chose this life to be with my dad.  But he left.  I tried to feel the impact of that abandonment along with the tragedy that my Dad passed away just two years ago and we never had any type of real relationship.  The fact that we were indeed so much alike, only furthered the tragedy.   as a way to get myself to cry.  But, still there were no tears.  “Oh my God, is there something wrong with me?  Only fueling my internal drama I questioned.


I  gave up and headed back to the meeting room to join the rest of the weeping and healed friends, but thought it might be too soon- I didn’t want everyone else to know how cold I was.  So I entered the ladies room to “freshen up” (waste some time) by washing my hands and checking my makeup in the mirror.  Just then the hospital billing clerk entered, “Are you okay?” she asked as she gave me a big sympathetic and well-meaning hug.  Maybe a hug was what I needed to get the tears flowing- but still- nothing.


There were no tears for this girl who had just discovered the primary event for which all of  The fact is, that growing up I always felt a coldness from within and inability to feel anything when it came to my father.  When I was ten as I walked through the living room just arriving home from school on my way to my bedroom, my mom informed that he was in a terrible car accident and almost died.  She later scolded me for responding with a quick smile and a “okay” as my response.  What did she really expect?  At ten, I didn’t know my father from the man who just soled me a pack of bubblegum a the 7-Eleven store.  How was I supposed to process that information?  But what my mom taught me was that there was something wrong with me.  I was wrong for not feeling  Perhaps she wanted me to break down into tears upon hearing my father was hurt.  But the fact is, my mind immediately went to the fact that my younger half-sister was in the car, with my step-mom and what it must have been like as a young girl to be sitting in the back seat of a car with your mother and father both in the front seats.  I had never and would never know what that felt like.  In the short ten years of my life I had already been through three marriages and a half-dozen boyfriends with my mom…  the idea of being together as a family in a car was as far from my life as living in a palace in Agrabah with my pet tiger, Rhaga.


And to this day, I still haven’t wept over still nothing about my core trauma, which means one of only two things to me.  It means that either I haven’t really confronted and dealt with my life’s “core trauma” and it’s still bottled up inside me waiting to come out with a waterfall of tears.  Or, perhaps Because of Connor, my perspective of trauma I’ve experienced with Connor and those two delicate years far surpasses any pain my father’s absence in my life could have caused and in perspectively

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The first time Connor almost left me was the night of the day he was born.  As I lay strapped to a table in the operating room with a sheet draped in front of me, the hustle and bustle of doctors and nurses drowned out the radio playing in the background.  “Doesn’t anyone hear that song?”, I remember asking.  But they were understandably too involved in performing my cesarian section and didn’t hear Highway To Hell by RUSH playing while I patiently awaited the arrival of my twins.

Connor came first and everyone cheered for only a second as they bundled him up and held him close so I could see him briefly before whisking him away.  It took just a short glance at his face for me to notice something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it could be.  In fact, I think it took just one look for me to feel there something wrong.  But so much was going on in the room that my questions about Connor were again drowned out just like the radio playing in the background.  “What’s wrong with him?”, I asked, but was interrupted by the doctor.  “Here she comes”, he said with excitement.

I don’t know what song was playing when Cassidy was born just minutes later, and as they held her up I could see that she well, but her obvious health only validated my concern about Connor.

The morphine was beginning to work and time began to not exist.  I remember watching the nurses clean up the twins while talking to each other only to find myself the next minute in my recovery room.  Each room at St. Rose Hospital has a beautiful crib area where the baby stays with you and a bay-window couch for the dads to rest.  Only my room had no babies.  It was just me.  It was night time and I was all alone.

I don’t know how much time passed when Kevin delivered the news.  “Connor was born with just one eye”, he explained, “and the doctors think he may be totally blind.”  I started crying.  Now Connor was in respiratory distress he went on to explain along with Cassidy and the hospital was air evacing both of them to a hospital with a Level II neonatal intensive unit.

I couldn’t understand how this could happen to me.  As I sat in this room filled with balloons and flowers from friends congratulating us on the arrival of our babies, I felt sorry for myself because I was alone with no babies.  My mind went to visions of Connor dealing with things like driving or going to prom and wondered what challenges life held for a boy with just one eye.  It’s funny what you think of first when receiving news of a disability- driving and prom were all I could think about.

I became angry and began to speak directly to God.  There are really no words in this world to describe what I experienced, but I felt God’s presence in that room like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or since, and it wasn’t the morphine.  I’ve prayed a lot in my life, but this time I began talking to God like he was just another person standing in that room.  And as sure as someone who looks you in the eye to show they’re listening to you, I could feel God hearing every word I had to say.

I wish I could write that I had something profound to say to God since I had his undivided attention at that moment, but I was so angry and feeling sorry for myself that I could only think about how I was going to explain this to everyone, and how this would affect my life and my family.  “Is this some kind of sick joke?” I demanded.  “After everything I’ve been through in life, this is what I get?  Is this some kind of twisted payback for something terrible I’ve done in a past life- or this one?  You of all people know that I’ve done some shit in this life too.”

I’m sure that it was sometime in the middle of the night and I was probably in and out consciousness.  I don’t know how much more time passed when I woke up and saw Kevin lying on the couch next to me.  He woke up at the same time.  “I saw Connor”, he said, “just now in a dream.  He said that he’s leaving.”  I panicked, and before I could say anything the phone rang.  The nurse walked in and picked up the phone and handed it to me while explaining that the neonatal doctor wanted to speak with me.   I grabbed the phone as the nurse left the room closing the door behind her.  “Mrs. Spilsbury”, a female doctor with a heavy Phillippine accent said, “your son is a very sick boy.  You must come to this hospital to say good bye to him, because he most likely will not make it through the night.”  I threw down the phone and began to weep loudly- in fact, I think I was screaming.  Despite my screams, none of the nurses came into the room because they all knew what was happening.

I shot out of bed, “we have to leave”, I said.  I wanted to get over to Connor’s bedside as quickly as possible.  “Please don’t leave Connor!” I yelled.  “I’m so sorry, please don’t leave me.”  Because of Connor, I learned perspective.  The missing eye didn’t matter.  The blindness didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered but keeping Connor here and with me.  An hour ago I was so angry about the news of his disability and now all I wanted to do was hold him.

Earlier in the evening the nurses were encouraging me to get out of bed and walk as with any other post-ceserian patient, but I could barely walk across the floor in my room my abdomen hurt so bad.  I tried again an hour later and was able to walk to the bathroom, but again very slowly and with a lot of pain.  But now, after my new-found perspective and adrenaline pumping, I couldn’t feel a thing as I grabbed my shoes and headed for the elevator.  Nurses scrambled to find a wheelchair while everyone was urging me to take it easy, and annoying me in the meantime to be quite honest.  As I waited for the elevator, one nurse came to me and gave me a big hug while slipping a small handful of pills into my hand.  “Here, she said.  I talked one of the doctors into giving me some Percocet for you as a favor because it would take hours for me to get it otherwise.”  I don’t know what her name was, but I’ll always remember that thoughtful act.

I don’t remember the drive across town and after arriving in the neonatal unit I looked at Connor and started to cry again.  “She needs to be off her feet” I heard the male neonatal doctor say as I wished everyone would stop making such a fuss. I didn’t care about me, I just wanted Connor to stay.  As I looked at Connor, so fragile and probably uncomfortable with his tiny 2-pound body being pumped by a high-velocity oxygen machine, I felt more love than I thought anyone could ever feel, and I knew he was going to make it through the night.

You see, Connor made a choice that night.  Although he had first decided to leave and God was all too willing to bring him home, Connor heard me and changed his mind.  Despite what challenges and pain lay ahead, Connor didn’t go home that night for one reason, and that was so I wouldn’t be sad.

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My Muse

As I sit down with my computer late at night with a glass of wine, the stillness of the house is amplified by the contrast of noise and bustle that filled this very room just an hour ago.  Finally, a quiet moment for the two of us- just me and my laptop.


It’s only been a few months that I realized the healing power of pulling the stories swirling around in my brain like bumper cars aimlessly driving in circles, colliding and making abrupt stops when I least expect them to.  By letting my fingertips organize my memories onto virtual paper, I’m guiding them out of the loud neon-lit ring one at a time, like a traffic controller waiving flashlights directing cars into  organized symmetrical rows, color coordinated blinking signs lighting the way.


So, like any “writer”, I sit staring at the blinking cursor on my screen bursting with stories to tell but not knowing where to start.  I can feel my bumper cars wanting to jump out of every opening  of my body.   How do I tell my story tonight?  Where do I begin?  Which car do I let out first and how?


I begin with where I found my authentic voice for the first time.  Those unedited words that came through my mouth from somewhere larger than me for the first time in my life almost thirteen years ago now.  I had never heard the real me until that destined unexpected day on the telephone when I said, “wait” to you.


I said, “wait” but I didn’t know what I was going to say next to keep you on the phone.  So, I stayed quiet, opened my mouth and let my higher self speak for the first time.  And then my words came.  And you stayed.  You stayed and on the phone and in my life.


Shortly before I became “Mrs. Spilsbury” and years before Connor and the girls came, I heard Toni speak from home for the first time. It was as if the universe brought you and I together for the sole purpose of me finding my authentic voice so that one day I could find the words I needed to write about things that although had nothing to do with you, could be told because of you.  I’m able to tell my story because meeting you in this lifetime taught me how to listen and speak from my heart.


Because of Connor I have a story to tell.  But because of you I have the voice to tell it.


So what better place do I begin to tell tonight’s story than by tapping into that authentic voice, and I do that by pretending that I’m speaking to you.  My authentic voice appears most when I’m talking with you so I ask myself, how would I begin to tell this story to you?  How do I get you to stay?


All I need is to begin and my fingers will do the rest.  I close my eyes and picture me talking to you- telling my story.


And then- I begin to write.


“Dusk I then realized is just an illusion,….”


More from “Because of Connor” here.

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