Tag Archives: marijuana

Cannabis in the Keystone State

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The state of cannabis in the Keystone State is in flux.  Cannabis remains illegal and punishable with jail time for even minor offenses.  Some cities have decriminalized it, Philly, Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg to name a few.  Medical marijuana is legal, but unavailable as of yet.  Over a year after Act 16 legalizing MMJ was passed, there is still no way to access the medicine.  It remains an illusive promise dangling on the end of a very long stick.

On June 20, 2017 the PA Department of Health announced 12  permits for marijuana grower/processors statewide.  The PA D.O.H. divided the 46,055 sq mile, 67 county, state into 6 massive regions and awarded two permits in each region.  Berks county got two.  Several of the business are owned by out of state entities.

I’m a little peeved up here in the Great Lakes region of PA.  Erie county is two hours away from the closest grower.  We are the fourth largest city in the state.

I often feel we are left out of important state matters up here in the far right corner of the state.  I thought we were an excellent town for a growhouse.  On the day after the presidential election day when my children and I stayed home sick and mourned the results, I attended a community meeting about MMJ in Erie county.

Local businessman Sam Black III, heir to Erie Insurance, laid out his specific plans to turn his empty building and lot into a growhouse.  He was just the man we needed.  An Erie native, he believes in the value of our rust-belt, fished-out, lake community.  Erie Insurance is one of the largest and best paying employers in Erie.  He wanted to bring MMJ to our shores ASAP.  

He looked me in the eye and told me “Let me be clear, I have a family member who’s intractable nerve pain is only treatable with cannabis.”  His intentions were believable and he had the necessary capital needed.

PA isn’t going to let just anyone grow pot.  You have to have $500,000 in the bank to start.  It’s $10K,  non-refundable to apply.  $200,000 for the permit and you must have $2 million assets available.  It’s a lot.

Sam Black has a lot.  He remains committed to our community.  He wants to get MMJ to his loved one.  He had already contracted with companies in Colorado and the local osteopathic college, LECOM.  It was the only thing that made me feel better in the days that followed the Trumpening.

I was convinced.  His new company, Calypso was going to be great for Erie.  Not a single person spoke out against the plan.  Multiple people asked about jobs.  Mr Black promised 40 jobs to start.  The meeting was held in a hollowed out former office building for the closed International Paper Mill.  The loss of the plant was a blow to the neighborhood.  The smell cleared up but the jobs went away.  The lot has been sitting empty since the mill closed in 2001.

Mr. Black had the building stripped and was ready to be outfitted with the latest grow lights and processing materials.  I could envision the green plants growing already, gently waving in the well circulated air.  Our precious lake, a great source of fresh water, is only yards away.  It was a winning plan.

But we got stiffed.  Calypso scored 575.78 out of 1000 on their very important rubric.  I don’t know how they determined that score.  But I do know that 12 permits for a state of 12.8 million people isn’t enough.

My advocate friends reassure me that it doesn’t matter where the cannabis is grown in the state.  The dispensaries are the important part for patients like me, who are impatient at our twenty+ year wait for safe medicine. I was first diagnosed with epilepsy 20 years ago. I’ve wanted MMJ since then and have been advocating and protesting for it.  Now the end is in sight, I hope.  I presume that the 12 lucky winners are already working around the clock to get seeds in the dirt or growing medium of choice.  They must be ready in 6 months.  Merry Christmas PA!  

I was sure that the largest city in this region dominated by The Allegheny National Forest would get a grower permit.  The entire process has been so protracted and onerous.  My hope grows dim.  I still don’t have my card.  I could have had one when I lived in California in 2003.  14 years later and I am still high and dry in my home state.

They dispensaries were announced yesterday.  Although Erie county thankfully received ONE, it’s not in Erie.  It’s on the far west side of the county, in an affluent suburb of the city.  Fairview.  Fairview is close, but completely across town.  It’s so far across the city, I hardly visit.  We need a dispensary in the city, and one on the East side.  I find it hard to believe we have only one.  But at least we weren’t snubbed completely.  I’ll make the long drive across town.  Or rather, someone else will drive me across town.  I have seizures and can’t drive.  It’s a long drive when you can’t drive.  I am salty about it all.   The sick people of Erie County can’t all afford to live in Fairview.  I’m glad I’m not in the south part of Erie county or the many small forest counties that got none.  But one is not enough.  We should have growhouses and dispensaries for all, already! 

There aren’t even any doctors registered yet.  Epilepsy AND seizures are both listed as permittable conditions.  Everyday we wait is a day that could hold one, two, three, four or more seizures for me.  I try so hard to stay positive, but it’s hard when the permits go to out of state businesses.  It doesn’t seem fair and is certainly against the meaning of the bill.  But PA is known as Pennsyltucky to those in the know.  We’re still a backwater state, that swung red due to the massive amounts of rural districts.  Our state government is in a constant deadlock and has a crushing deficit looming.  

Of course, legal cannabis sales are solving tax problems in Colorado and Washington…

Meanwhile in the PA, we wait.

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Reefer Sadness

reefermadness

The Pennsylvania General Assembly made a fool of me again.  The roller coaster of legislation swept me away.  I thought we had finally done it this time.  The House passed a medical marijuana bill!  All we needed was the Senate to concur.  It was their bill, they already passed it.  (Twice, if you count the first MMJ bill that the House killed in 2014.)  I thought we had won a great victory.  Another great illusion was pulled off.  It was all smoke and mirrors.  I was foolish to be excited.  

Of course, the Senate couldn’t concur.  All my hope and joy have bled into bitterness and betrayal.  88% of Pennsylvania’s approve of medical marijuana.  Why must the Senate hijack our dreams?  All they had to do was agree.  They passed the bill over a year ago.   It now sits in Rules Committee.  One man is stopping it, just as one man stopped it in The House of Republicans.  Committee Chairmen hold all the power.  Senator Jake Corman and President Pro Tempore Senator Scarnati are in sole control of my fate.  Senator Corman assures me he is groovy, man.   I received a tweet from him telling me they are going over the wording.   He wants to read it really close to make sure it’s okay.  How long does it take to read a bill?   I read the bill the night it passed the House, March 16th.

The Senate is “concerned” that changing the word Cannabis to Marijuana will effect the implementation of the bill.  You don’t have to tell me words mean things.  Words mean MANY things.  You can always argue about semantics.  Is Marijuana different from Cannabis?  No.  Are licensed and registered the same?  Yes.  Yes they are.  I checked the Thesaurus.  It took thirty seconds to get my book off my bookshelf and look it up.  Done.

If the Senate makes any changes, one single word, it will go back to the House where it will die.  It must be accepted as is.  The new MMJ Board can improve things if they need to.  (Sure, they need to!)  Sending it back to the House is the kiss of death!!  Soon it will be summer, elections, and then session is over.  It’s a lame duck and medical marijuana will die again.  They will have to re-re-introduce yet another bill in January 2017. I am so tired of the lies.  Next week, next month, next, next, next.

SB 3 won’t be heard until mid-April.  I seem to remember them saying that last year, or was it the year before?  Whenever it gets close, they push it off.  “Oops, we aren’t in session now.  Spring Break dude!”

There is no spring break from Epilepsy or AIDS or PTSD or MS or Cancer!

You lied to me, Pennsylvania Senate.  You told me you were all in.  The General Assembly does not represent me or the people of Pennsylvania.  We are still dying to stay, even after the House passed medical marijuana.  It might not be the Senate’s priority, but it is mine.

I won’t stop until we get medical marijuana or I die. I say that with all the gravity in the universe.  Death is my constant companion.  He lies in wait for me to have a deadly seizure.  It’s the cold, hard truth of epilepsy.  At any time I could expire from SUDEP: Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy.  Suddenly, for no reason at all…

I want to live!!   All the Senate needs to do is concur.

Sign, or Die!

Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

B. Franklin, The Pennsylvania gazette, May 9, 1754

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PA Goes to Pot!

 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016 was a historic day for my Commonwealth!  Medical marijuana, which has been growing moldy in the House basement, was taken out and given the light of day!  Senate Bill 3, The Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use of Cannabis, was finally voted on in the House of Representatives.  It passed 149-43.  Medical marijuana IS coming to Pennsylvania!  The Senate has to concur with the changes the House made.  Then it’s on to Governor Wolf’s desk.  He promised to sign whatever time, day or night, that the bill hits his desk.  He was there for the vote and tweeted “Now is the time to act!”

Senate Bill 3 passed in the Senate with a vote of 40-7 in May 2015.  The House tried their best to kill it.  They sat on it and did nothing.  The head of the health committee was against it, so it didn’t have to get heard.  Rep. Matt Baker wanted to kill medical marijuana.  He failed.

I cried like a baby.  I bawled.  My cats gave me odd looks.  My kids didn’t quite know what to think.  Why was the boring political TV making Mom cry so much?  I felt relief like I have never known.  My state finally believes in me.  All these years, all I wanted were less seizures.  My state said no.  Yesterday, they said YES!  It has been such a long road, covered in seizures and bumps and bruises and blood.  So many activists died while waiting.  The end is finally in sight!  PA has been languishing in prohibition for far too long.  All of that is drawing to an close.  The light at the end of the tunnel is bright green!

A great pain rose off my chest when the vote came down.  The cloud lifted and the haze cleared.  I’m not a criminal!  I don’t have to  move to Colorado!  I can stay here and get the treatment I deserved.  I’ve cried about it so many times.  Now they are tears of joy and relief and happiness.  Treatment is within reach for me!  I am satisfied I will be able to get my precious medical card.  I’m an epileptic.  I can’t stay conscious!  We should all know this by now:  Marijuana reduces seizures.  This law is for me!  Of course, the fight is not over.  There are many people who are left out.  I promise you, I won’t stop fighting for you. Now we can be healthier while we fight.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Industrial Hemp Senate Bill 50 passed the Senate 49-0.  We are on our way to join only a few other states who allow hemp to be grown on large agricultural scale.  It is a legal crop.  Let’s grow some hemp!  It will be a lucrative crop for our state.  Hemp has a few more hoops to hop through.  They need to get a hearing in the House.  The House is a lot less friendly than the Senate.  They stonewalled medical marijuana for YEARS!

It may take years to get Pennsylvania’s programs running.  Not everyone is happy with SB3.  I’m giddy for the baby-step in the right direction.  Two steps forward and one step back is still one step ahead.  It has started.  It cannot be undone.  We are not a pioneer in this fight.  Pennsylvania is late to the game, but we’re here now~!

In the meantime, we need to educate our doctors.  We need to let them know they will be protected when they prescribe medical marijuana to their patients.  We need them to know why they should.

Today we celebrate!  The tides have turned.  They are green and foamy.  Pennsylvania will be growing marijuana and hemp.  Hemp was once our major crop.  (Why do you think there is a town named HEMPFIELD?!)

We are bringing hemp back to Hempfield!  

We are bringing compassion and cannabis to the sick and hurting!

Please remember who voted against compassion and vote accordingly.  Election Day is April 26th.  Many House seats are up.  You can check the vote here.

To all the Haters who said we couldn’t do it:  Put this in your pipe and smoke it!  Enjoy this picture of The Capitol Building lit up green in honor of SB3!

Th House goes GreenWe weren’t last!

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Promises, Promises

seeds and stems

The end of spring session draws near.  It is almost summer break.  Everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW!  I can appreciate that as a procrastinator myself.  However, I was writing basically the same article last  year.  I wrote to my State Representatives to beg them to take mercy on the suffering Pennsylvanians who could be treated by cannabis.  Last year SB1182 passed the Senate and just needed the House to vote.  Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis passed the Pennsylvania Senate.  The House just needed to vote.

That bill died with the end of session. Now the next legislative session is heading home for summer break without passage of medical marijuana.  SB3, a re-working of SB1182, passed Senate months ago.  I was promised it would pass by the end of June.  The Speaker of the House Mike Turzai sent it to the Health Committee instead of voting on it.  Rep Turzai once ran away from medical marijuana advocates.  Ran away.  I watched the video, it was something else.  Rather than even listen to the medical marijuana advocates, he ran away.  He pushed that bill away too.

My Representative Pat Harkins says he supports SB3.  It doesn’t matter.  Rep Matt Baker, Chairman of the Health Committee, promises to let it die.  He takes money from pharmaceutical companies and he denies states rights when it comes to medical marijuana.  He is a Republican from Tioga. I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard of it before.  I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for nearly 38 years and I had never heard of it before.  Matt Baker sits on top of SB3.  It’s not on any agenda.

I am involved with several online advocacy groups.  A few days ago, word went around that State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, also Republican, District 162-Ridley Park, decided/was convinced to file a discharge resolution to circumvent Mr. Matt Baker.  He spread the word that he would file this uncommon, but legal, discharge resolution on Friday, June 26, 2015.  Mere days before the end of the semester.

We celebrated the news!  We got tingly with excitement.  We didn’t need to let one man stonewall the will of the people.  Polling consistently shows more than 80% of Pennsylvanians approve the immediate passage of medical marijuana.  Maybe it would happen, this time.

Now, straight out of left field, State Rep Ron Marsico, Republican from Dauphin County 105 District, says he will introduce his own bill to legalize medical marijuana.  He promises this bill will go to the House Judiciary Committee for immediate passage.  He heads the Judiciary Committee so, he might have some pull there.  The Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings and interviewing patients for months.  They would rather control the future of medical marijuana than not.  Time for the Hail Mary Pass.

None of my advocate friends of medical marijuana knew about this.  We have been calling our Representatives all day.  I noticed the bill was not yet introduced.  He just promises introduction.  Who will flinch first?

There are more than a few doubts about Representatives Marsico’s motives.  We are waiting to read the language of this promised bill. His official press release says that the bill would “support a narrow, regulated measure that allows compassionate use of medical marijuana but takes special precautions against abuse or diversion of marijuana for non-medical purposes.”

I am happy for any movement on the issue.  Baby Steps, baby!

If you know a single, seriously ill person, don’t you want them to try whatever helps?  Cannabis is easy.  It grows like a weed.  There’s already a cultural shift nationwide.  PA is not exactly a forerunner here.  There are hundreds of successful businesses to learn from in the 23 states with medical marijuana.  We can still be in the top half of the country, Lucky Number 24!

Marsico’s official release promises no more than 5 medical marijuana companies to be throughout the state.  That’s good enough for me.  Erie is the third or fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, depending on how you count.  We are sure to be included in the five.  Five is better than zero.  Five is infinitely better than zero.  Mathematically it can’t even be defined how much better it is.  I will take any bill to start.  Of course, the cities will get the marijuana first.

Erie used to be an industrial powerhouse, a beautiful “gem city” on the naturally protected Presque Isle Bay.  We used to be a fresh-water fishing capital, and a necessary link on the Great Lakes Shipping chain.

Now there are more empty building than I care to count.  The city is demolishing blighted homes full time.  They tear down houses every day.  Many, many, empty factories sit crumbling.  I imagine them awash in green.  All the jobs and medicine to treat all the sick people could be grown here.   Pennsylvania needs jobs.  Governor Tom Wolf promises Pennsylvania is “Open for Business.”  Look around the country, money is being made hand over fist in Colorado (and Washington and Oregon and Alaska.)  They are giving the residents tax refund checks.  My friend who lives in Colorado can buy legal marijuana with her tax refund checks.  She did.  The state of Colorado approves!

I just want less seizures.  I just want to go to my son’s soccer game without having a seizure, getting confused and disoriented, and then sleeping the rest of the day away.  There are centuries of medical evidence, published in well-respected scientific journals.  Marijuana can help prevent and lessen the severity and frequency of seizures.  There are centuries of evidence.  I am not making this up.  I have discussed this with my doctors.  They all agree.  None of my numerous doctors have disagreed.  They all gauge their responses, as we “live in the wrong state.”  But nobody has flat-out told me I am wrong.  Just living in the wrong state.

Dear Pennsylvania House of Representatives, you could change that today.  Do the right thing.  My friend’s mother recently lost her fight to cancer, medical marijuana came too late for her.  Don’t let it be too late for the rest of us.
Any day now…

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It’s Good To Be Kind

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I am a Superhero!  I have the power to save lives!!  I have knowledge and knowledge is power.  All I have to do is share my knowledge.  What happens with that knowledge can’t always be known.  Today I know.  I helped save a life.  My knowledge, my advocacy, affected a human being’s life.  I saved a life.

I was told that my “tip” about medical marijuana helped someone get through cancer.  I started to cry.  I might be the only person who ever said, “I’m so glad to hear you are using.”  It sounded so wrong, but it felt so right.  I was so happy to hear it.  I helped him beat cancer.  What more is there to life?  Something I said changed his life forever.  I am so proud. I get scared being an advocate. People with big mouths and contrary ideas get murdered in other countries.  Sometimes they get arrested in this one.  But then something like this happens and I know I’m doing the right thing.  If you don’t know, you can’t get help.  Cannabis is medicine.

When I heard that my friend had cancer, I sent him an email.  I said, “Hey, I have no idea what you think about pot, but check it out.  There is so much information out there and cannabis is being used to treat and cure cancer.  Check it out.” It worked. He told me, “I don’t want to say it got me through, but it got me through.  It got really bad during chemo…”  I started to cry, so I gave him a hug. I feel like a fucking Super Hero.  Just call me Marijuana Girl.  I’m the THC Crusader!

I used to say that if I helped one person by sharing my story, I achieved my goal.  I know that to be true now.  One person matters.  I matter.  My advocacy matters. He thanked me for writing my blog and fighting for medical marijuana.  “I’m glad to know there are people out there fighting for this.” I feel the same way.  I’m encouraged by my advocate friends.  People that I have never even met in person.  We are all working together for the same goal.  A complete end of prohibition of marijuana.  Free the Weed!!

I can’t be silent.  I’m tired of waiting.  I want the same medicine that other epileptics have access to.  There are all sorts of cannabis treatments available to epileptics in other states.  But not in the Commonwealth.  Not for me. I read about CBD/THC patches that are available in dozens of states.  Creams and oils and I wouldn’t need to smoke anything if that’s what you are worried about.  I can’t afford to drive to Colorado.  If I could, I’d be a happy, healthy, hopefully seizure-free girl.

That’s all I want from this life.

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Representative Baker is a Big, Fat, Faker

Pennsylvania

It seems that marijuana is in the news everyday.  More states are fully legalizing it, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, District of Columbia… Ohio could be next?!  There is a movement for a referendum on the ballot in November.  Vermont has a bill, SB 95, in their state Senate.  Everyone is waiting for California to legalize it already. Entire countries are allowing home cultivation (Hi Germany!).  Ecuador is considering decriminalizing all drugs. The US Senate Appropriations Committee just voted 18-12 to pass a bi-partisan amendment to allow the Veterans Administration (VA) doctors the right to discuss medical marijuana with their patients in the 23 states where it is legal.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is teasing me again.  The PA Senate passed a medical marijuana bill!  For the second time.  A medical marijuana bill passed in the Senate last year.  The House let it die.  The House would let me die too. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will probably sit idly by and name bridges for dead veterans.  I am all for naming bridges for veterans, but maybe the townships and county governments could do that.  The House of Representatives does not need to do that. They should be talking about the veterans who committed suicide after traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.  Veterans who could have been treated with marijuana.  No, those veterans don’t get coverage on House Floor.  When they do get is short and fleeting.  The House is stringently opposed to medical marijuana.  Senate Bill 3 is not on the docket.  Its sister bill, House Bill 193, is stuck in committee.  The Commonwealth wants to wait for the Federal Government to act first.

There are scientific medical studies being published almost daily that show the numerous medical benefits.  At least three of my neurologists and my primary care physician agree that marijuana is a hopeful “new” treatment for my epilepsy.  Brain Doctors agree!  The Epilepsy Foundation agrees!  Some of my epilepsy friends successfully use cannabis to prevent seizures.  My Facebook friend Ricardo gives his daughter “Tuffy” cannabis oil that he has to make himself.  It has saved her life.  I love Ricky’s posts and pictures of Tuffy.  She was previously living a nearly vegetative state.  She had  hundreds of seizures a day and needed a helmet.  Ricky fought New Jersey to legalize medical marijuana and get Tuffy medicine.  She is a growing little girl again.  Cannabis has given Tuffy her life back.  The pictures are amazing.  Her new-found freedom from seizures is a blessing.  It gives me hope.  Cannabis IS medicine.

I don’t have much hope that the House will help me.  I have been on this roller-coaster for too long.  Even if the House did discuss SB 3 on the Floor, it probably doesn’t have enough Republican Majority votes. It’s not going to get me any relief anytime soon.  I can go to my neurologist and we can talk about how we live in the wrong state.  She would prescribe me medical marijuana if we were a different state.  I have been going to this doctor for over ten years.  She is deeply familiar with my condition. She recognizes the benefits of marijuana.  But the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, with their lack of medical expertise, says no.  I wasn’t even happy when SB 3 passed 40 to 7.  It passed last year as SB 1182 with 43 votes.

Senator Pat Vance got up before the vote and basically lied.  She said the National Epilepsy Association opposed medical marijuana.  I don’t know who the National Epilepsy Association is.  It was certainly not The Epilepsy Foundation, who is the actual voice for epilepsy in the USA.  The Epilepsy Foundation is in full support of medical marijuana.  FULL SUPPORT.  Whoever Senator Vance spoke to is not representative of the real epilepsy community.  I almost had a seizure I was so pissed off at her misrepresentation.

The head of the House Health Committee, Representative Matthew E. Baker promises not to do anything.  One person is mucking up the works.  He represents a small percentage of Pennsylvania citizens.  His district is distinctly mountainous and rural.  There aren’t many people living in Tioga, Pennsylvania, the largest “city” Mr. Baker’s District  68.  As of the 2010 census there were only 41,981 people in Tioga.  The total population of District 68 was 60,512.  There are 12.79 million residents in the Commonwealth.  I did the math, that’s less that 0.004% of the population.  I would wager a guess that there are more white-tail deer in District 68 than people.  Even the deer would support medical marijuana.  They love to eat it.

According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, nearly 90% of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana.  Matt Baker is keeping medical marijuana languishing in the House Health Committee.  One person is preventing a vote on the House Floor.  One person is preventing democracy.

I just want medicine.  Colorado and Washington are rolling in tax money from legal marijuana.  LEGAL.  In Pennsylvania I can’t get a prescription from my brain specialist.  The House of Representatives would rather have me and millions of Pennsylvanians suffer.

It doesn’t matter that my Representative Pat Harkins said he would vote yes.  He is in the cock-blocked minority.  It doesn’t matter that Governor Wolf is holding round table discussions with the Attorney General and advocates and doctors who agree.  Governor Tom Wolf says yes, yes, yes.  Baker says no.  He receives money from pharmaceutical companies.  Pharmaceutical companies that have an interest in preventing medical marijuana.  Does anybody else find it concerning that the Chair of the Health Committee gets money from drug companies?  It seems like a conflict of interest to me.

I’m guess I have to take my advocacy to the President.  He’s the last hope of the empire.  He could write an Executive Order legalizing medical marijuana.  He could reschedule marijuana, he could legalize marijuana.  He could do any of the three.  He’s on Twitter now.  I’ve already Tweeted to him about this.  I am very persistent.  Tweet.  Tweet.

Mr. President, Please Free the Weed.  You know you want to.  I know you can do it.  Congress might try to stop you, but they can’t.  They don’t get anything done.  Please.  Please.  Pretty-please with a cherry on top.  I just want to have less seizures.  I wish I could schedule a seizure for you so you could understand my life.  I read your memoir.  I know you are a compassionate man.  

Do what is right.  Matt Baker won’t.

Last night I was snuggling in bed with my kids before bedtime.  Out of the blue, my 11-year-old daughter said it was “pretty impressive that Mom was still alive since she could have died so many times, because she has so many seizures all the time.”  Kids say the darnedest things…

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