North Dakota

>> Thursday, October 13, 2016

When Elly asked me to join her in presenting in North Dakota about Cannabis, I told her: I will do this for you, because you asked and also because she sorta, kinda threatened. But, I changed my mind. I thought: Why would I get back into that world? Did I not remember the vile and virtuousness of some of the people involved? I thought of the 40 days that we spent talking to people, educating about epilepsy, about cannabis; over and over. I remembered being ignored and then NOT being ignored. Sometimes being ignored was better. 

Then I looked at Bug. 

I called his name and he looked at me and….he smiled. That smile that was so elusive for so long, that prolonged eye contact that we were sure was gone forever. I thought of Charlee. I thought of Izzie, I thought of Stockton and Connor and Isaac. I thought of Dad.

Still, could I really expose myself and my family to this; this potential upheaval as I pour my heart out and cry in quiet and try to be strong? I spoke to Glenn and expressed my reticence. He said: Seriously? This is who you are. You are good at it and you are reasonable about it. Then he promptly forgot we spoke about it until I reminded him to leave me alone while we were finalizing the presentation. Who is this for? He asked.

I laughed at him and reminded him, poking fun as I do, and he said: That’s really cool.


So Glenn and I woke up at 5:30am on Friday and headed to DCA. I almost missed the flight because of traffic. I hoped it wasn’t a sign of things to come. It wasn’t.

In the Twin Cities, I met up with my soul sister Elly, for the first time ever. And the world began to shift; to lull its way into a new direction. For both of us.

We talked about what to say, what not to say (THAT is very important with so much misinformation out there about cannabis) and we laughed a lot. I do mean a lot. It was like schoolgirls at camp giggling about their crushes. I didn’t do that when I WAS a schoolgirl let alone at THIS age. Never mind what age, just know I am not 30 anymore.

When we landed, Mary picked us up and took us to the hotel. Seems like a simple statement, as I am want to do often, but it isn’t.


Her golden locks, red lips and funky glasses told me she was an artist. With Bug having a bad run of it, I slipped on my due diligence, trusting that Elly had done all of it already. She had. Mary, Mother to Sam, was done with cannabis, done with the fight to get the truth out, done with hoping that North Dakota would provide help for her family by giving Sam something he had not had in years: a new chance. Mary told us that should their Measure fail, she was done. The Committee was all done. They would let the world around them move forward (or not) but they would retreat back to their lives and focus on being happy, out of this crazy Medical Cannabis world.

We invited her in, cancelled one of the rooms, and all three of us worked on the presentation and decided what needed to change and what we should focus on. She showed us an editorial that was in their paper that day. Sigh. Editorials are nearly always a platform for the loudest among us to continue to have their voice heard with or without fact. And since it is in print and a lot of people don’t pay much attention to the OPINION on the top of the page, it can be taken as fact. Problem was: this was without fact. Mary was upset. She deserved to be upset. Even as an opinion, written by the Newspaper Editorial Board, which I am pretty sure in this instance, consists of one person, it was devoid of truth about North Dakota’s Measure 5 and even more lacking in any scientific proof. Another heavy, heavy sigh. It was embarrassingly obvious they didn’t actually READ the Measure. Responding in like would be like arguing with an unarmed, drunk toddler. Not really worth it BUT still needing a response in order to be corrected, and ensuring the toddler doesn’t get away with the bad behavior, in order to learn.

As I watched her tear up, I thought of Bug. I thought of Taylor and Ava and Aiden and I thought mostly about my Dad. And the world shifted again. What world would I leave for them, and what can I help to alter to ensure that NO ONE absolutely NO ONE dies like Dad did? No. Never again must grandchildren watch Papa throw up everyday and cry and try to be strong. NEVER again will Papa’s not be able to play trains with their grandsons because the softball size cancer in his belly prevented him from sitting on the floor. My Dad, sitting on the floor, he always sat on the floor. 73 and still sat on the floor. This was for Dad as much as it was for children like my little prince.

We spent 5 hours going through the presentation with Mary. It was good and it was insightful. We shared some of our experiences with our programs, the good and the bad and we laughed and supported one another. Something I could tell that Mary needed.

Mary took leave of us around 8 or 9pm, I lost track of the time but I do know that Elly and I stayed up until after Midnight developing our approach...and giggling. We didn’t really want to sleep, but we did. Well, one of us did anyway.

The morning came and we headed off with newly printed notes and an introduction.

The first session found us presenting to just shy of 100 people, with many patients and caregivers, one Republican Senator, a Doctor, and a very careful police officer who raised his hand as far as his shoulder and then quickly put it back down. Hey there mister! We saw you. :)

So we presented.  It was good. It was strong in science and fact with no, and I mean NO, rhetoric. We showed them our children and the people we know that have been helped by cannabis. Even some that had not been helped because let’s keep this real and keep Panacea out if it. The scientist in Elly glowed and the heart and soul I poured into it, well, we saw the doubt in their eyes turn to hope. No exaggeration there…the determination in that room was palpable. It WAS good.

And the world was nearly aligned, the shift was almost complete.

We did the presentation again for about 20 people and they too left with more hope than when they walked in. Hope tempered with different expectations. Expectations based in reality. The data that Elly has is undeniable; it is based in science and careful, unbiased research. It’s beautiful. Truly and purely beautiful and I was awed to be a part of it. I kept thinking that I did not belong there with these people, not me, not this mousy Mommy with no college and only armed with heart and dedication. But there I was, standing in front of people listening to them tell me about their MS, their Neuropathy, their Glaucoma. And each time Elly would talk about cannabis treating these conditions and WHY it works, I would see the tears. Try presenting without crying when you realize that what YOU say may or may not bring those people in front of you in tears the relief they deserve. It’s overwhelming.

As we tiredly climbed up the stadium seating stairs at the North Dakota Heritage Center we encountered a cameraman. He wanted an interview and I was thrown in front of the camera. I was, at first, very calm in presenting and he was obviously disappointed but careful about what he was about to say. So I stopped him before he had to say too much: You want more passion? He smiled. Ok. You got it. He smiled most of the entire time and then he had a look that said: damn.

Apparently it was a pretty good presentation and interview because the next morning there was ANOTHER editorial.  Elly and I thought: Excellent! Mary wasn’t so sure.

But back to the evening after the presentation. We had dinner with the good Doctor, Vinod, who it turns out, lost a daughter to cancer and had seizures. Much sadness. He also happened to live stream the presentation. Not sure if that’s a good thing or….We were also lucky enough to share dinner with Vinod’s lovely wife, Aruna, and Mary’s husband, Dave.  Dave, a train engineer, and now Dad was back in my mind, as if he is ever far from it. Aruna; magnetic and lovely. She carried the grief for her daughter and this cause so clearly in her heart and mind. It was heartfelt, warm and immensely enjoyable. There was actual, logical, amusing adult conversation that did not revolve around Aiden’s offer to defecate on your face. It was lovely. We ordered dinner and got to the talking, We talked about healthcare briefly (because Vinod said it was too serious and we needed to change the subject and promptly asked Dave about a cow), hitting cows with trains, epilepsy needing to be a separate category in IDEA and cannabis. Of course; cannabis.

There were a lot smiles amidst those tears, there was despair and there was hope. Most of all, there was understanding and support. By the end of dinner, we all had new friends on Facebook and more truly, sincere compassion and love then we walked in with.

And the world was one step away from aligned. It was Sinoli’s Garden that was the final tip.

We talked about chai in the morning with Vinod and Aruna and missed it by a few minutes…a definite rain check on that offer, perhaps I can add a couple of Glenn’s to the table.

While we did not have time to partake with the Seth’s, we did have time to visit the garden of their daughter on the vista overlooking the river. This garden, Sinoli’s Garden, was nothing short of one of the most spiritual places I have stood. It is the monument every Mother would raise to honor that part of her heart that was lost with the passing of her child, if she could.  This labor of love, this garden on the vista, Sinoli’s garden, invites children to play, parents to reflect, all with nature at the center. 
It pulls the heart to sit and stay awhile, to be still, to be active, to live a peaceful life to the fullest. Aruna’s hands lovingly placed each plant in that garden just as Vinod’s arms cradled their daughter as an infant and as woman not long for this world.  I imagine the tears as each plant was placed, the pauses to think about Sinoli and remember. It’s easy for me to envision their hands holding their daughter and working to preserve her memory, easy because I have felt that final moment with so many sunrises. That need to honor.

I looked at the swings and remembered when Bug would fit in them, when he would laugh and giggle and reach for me as the swing made its way back to where it started. I pictured him at his worst, not wanting to stand, not able to stand, and I saw all the children like him. I saw those empty swings and I wondered how many children who have never played in them could play in them if North Dakota voters passed Measure 5. It’s easy for me to see that in my mind because I have seen so many of my Utah families and others around the country get their children back. The joy those families feel, the ability to take their child to play on the swings, the amount of people with a new chance for their child to play would ensure those swings were never empty and that garden would be filled with laughter. The laughter Vinod and Aruna miss.

It was a very deeply moving experience.

I came home to squealing children and a smiling Bug. I came home to a wonderful man who took me to dinner before I jumped back into the fray that is the Maughansters. He asked me about all of it. I told very little. So we cuddled and we held hands and we were just the two of us for a bit. On the way home I told him more about the trip. He listened, he asked questions and he braced himself for the answer to his: what’s next?

Even though our collective new world is seemingly focused. I don’t know. I really don’t know. For North Dakota, I hope it’s the passing of Measure 5 and a new life for thousands of their people. For Utah, I hope they make good by my Dad and find a way to pass ONE of the FIVE bills that may be numbered and debated. I would like to help, but I am all but ineffectual now, so I wish them best and my offer to help stands. For us, in Maryland, I can’t help but think that the proximity to DC may make for a very interesting year. Regardless, following this new path, I will find more patience with my children, hold Bug whenever he wants and forget about me and change the world.


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