Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11

This is a little delayed, but I feel like I need to put down in written form my thoughts and experiences from the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001, since we just had the tenth anniversary.

On that morning, I awoke in a hotel room in Eugene, OR. (A great beginning to any story...). I was 22 years old, and on tour with the National Touring Company of Les Miserables, and we had re-entered the country the day before, Sept. 10, from spending the summer performing in Canada. I always thought that was a blessing; who knows how long we would have been stuck trying to come back into the US if we had been a day later.

I woke up about mid morning, and without turning on the TV, went straight to the gym, which was connected to a nearby mall. As I got to the mall searching for an entrance, the building was like a ghost town. I was a little confused, but asked some nearby security guards how to find the gym entrance. They looked at me really strangely, and asked if I had heard the news, which of course, I had not. I don't remember exactly what they said, but they tried to tell me what had happened, but it was so confusing and foreign that I know I didn't grasp what they were saying. They gave me directions to the gym, and off I went. When I arrived there, I was assaulted with every TV screen in the place showing the World Trade Center Towers been crashed into and falling, over and over again, the Pentagon on fire, and a random plane crash in a field in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania.

Arriving back at my hotel room, the TV was on again, and my roommate that week, Lisa Morris, was glued to it, as was everyone else in our company by that time. It was late morning by then, and we were 3 hours behind the east coast, so much had happened before any of us were even aware. That day the TVs stayed on, and my friends and I all tried unsuccessfully to reach friends and loved ones in the City. That night our show was dark, along with the rest of the Broadway community out of respect and mourning. A girl in my company asked me if I wanted to come to a prayer meeting that night in one of the rooms. Since we had the night off, I thought I would take that chance to go to the doctor. I don't remember why I wasn't feeling well, but I decided to go then instead of to the prayer meeting. I remember that, because she was surprised that I would do something so mundane on such a night.

The next night we did our show to a packed house. The emotions ran high throughout. Les Miz is a musical about many things, but among them are redemption, the belief in God, and the fight for what you believe in. A major part of the show is how a group of French middle class students stand up against the aristocracy (in a nutshell), staging a battle, most of them dying in the process. Some ensuing scenes include the women singing about their men dying for a cause, and one of the main male characters, Marius, singing about surviving that battle, and wondering why he still lived when his friends had died. Needless to say, none of us got through the show very well that night. It all hit way too close to home. I remember that the man who played Enjolras, the leader of the students, broke down in his final battle cry. Below is the stanza I am talking about:

Let us die facing our foes
Make them bleed while we can

Make 'em pay through the nose

Make 'em pay for every man!

Let others rise
To take our place
Until the earth is free

He was not a normally emotional person. On the contrary, Stephen Tewkesbury was a guy who was always up for a good time, never serious. When he broke down singing the lines that called us all to a final stand, we all lost it. That is a very vivid memory for me. We fought that battle like it had never been fought before. Maybe if it was real, we would have won.

Personally, that time was interesting for me. I think I was mostly in shock. I was saddened, but I think mostly, I was shocked. I went to the doctor that night, and other than thinking about it and talking about it, I went about my business. I didn't know what else to do. That is the way I am, I guess. I grieve, but I go about my business. I know much more about grief now than I did then, but in some ways I am still the same. I don't try and repress it, but I am not the type to be immobilized by grief. Especially not then, being as young as I was, and without a lot of significant life experience. But it didn't mean I didn't feel, and I was very hurt by the attacks in either word or action by some of the women in the company who accused me of being unfeeling, or having no concept of what had happened. I was devastated by that. Who were they to tell me how to feel or act under the circumstances, or assume they even knew what was happening in my head? How dare they decide how I need to react to anything?? No one came to my aid in that moment, but one woman later told me she thought the others were very wrong for what they did. I try to look at it as more of a reflection of where they were in their grief process, and leave it at that. These were good women otherwise, and they were hurting. We all react differently to trauma, I have figured out. Of course, that has only come in recent years, as I understand more about other people. But I was very judged that night, and hurt by it.

If I am honest, I was not really struck emotionally by the events of 9/11 at that time. Not to the core, like others were. Not that I am ashamed of that, or think those women were right to say unkind things to me. But I was not as "affected" emotionally then. Like I said, I was probably just in shock and didn't know how to process all the information; somehow it wasn't quite real to me at that time. I didn't feel quite connected. I knew it had happened, I tried to keep up with all the incoming news, unsuccessfully; I cried at the songs that were written in ensuing weeks and months commemorating 9/11. (I am a sucker for emotional manipulation through music). I remember, and was very sobered, when President Gordon B. Hinckley stopped in the middle of General Conference 3 weeks later and announced that we were at war. I guess the right word is "sobered." I was very sobered, and prayed, and stood with my country during this whole time period. But I didn't cry too much, and will always believe that is okay.

Fast forward to the fall of 2003. I had come back and graduated from BYU, and had made the big move to New York City to make my way as an actor. I lived with a friend for a few months in Hoboken, NJ, just across the Hudson River. One day, I was out walking and I entered a riverside park. In that park was a covered bulletin board, the kind that people would post flyers on for lost dogs, cars for sale, etc. On one side, the board was covered with flyers with faces. I looked closer, and realized they were 9/11 victims who had been residents of Hoboken. There were pictures and biographies/obituaries of each one. I imagine they were hung sometime soon after 9/11, and two years later they were still there.

Then it was real.

I cried then.

I read each one, all alone on a late fall afternoon in that park, directly across from the New York City skyline where the Twin Towers used to stand tall, and wept. Now that I was living there, and in the same city as these good people, it was real to me. These innocent people, all they had done wrong was NOT call in sick that fateful day in 2001. They fell victim to the ultimate Hate Crime. It was real.

It was very cathartic for me, like I had been holding it in for 2 years, or something. Maybe I hadn't fully comprehended until that moment. Maybe it hadn't been real to me until then. Maybe I grieved two years later. But I grieved.

God bless my country. God bless the rescuers who gave their lives, or worked day and night to find the survivors and bodies. May God bless the families left behind.

I will Never Forget.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Just a little Sunset.

In May I did "Sunset Boulevard" at Pioneer Theatre Company.  This was a significant show for me, because it was the first full professional contract I have done in 6 years.  So, it was big deal for me, being my first foray back into the professional theater industry in a long time.  I had such a great time, and our cast was amazing!  I was in the ensemble, and it was the best ensemble show.  I had enough to do that I didn't get bored, but not so much that I was stressed out during the show.  I loved everyone I worked with!  It was seriously so fun, and so fulfilling, to perform with that caliber of people and production again.  Pioneer was great to work for, and I hope to do it again soon.

Two guys that I became good friends with, Eric Jackson and Ben Eackley.  Love them!
Guess who's photo idea this was??
"A Little Suffering"
One of my FAVORITE people, Jeff Stevens.

I was one of the "Harem Girls."  With me are Theresa Bramwell and Sara Kae Childs.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


My parents' 50th wedding anniversary is in July. So, in celebration, they took all of us kids and the spouses (and my date, my rad cousin Emily) to Mexico. It was amazing! We went to a resort called Barcelo Maya, just south of Tulum.

The week consisted of some major beach time, eating, seeing the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, eating, massages on the beach, more eating.

Emily is the best travel partner ever! She just jumped right in with my family and everyone had a great time. She and my sister Cyndi are both pregnant, and they were such troupers. I heart her. She is a total party.

This is Chichen Itza; it was fascinating to learn about the ancient Mayan civilization. Tulum was also really cool.

Obviously, scenic views were not hard to find.

We ate a ton, of course, because everything was basically a buffet, or 4 course meal.

Sarah, Mike and I went to the Discotheque. It was so lame, and gross. Just a yucky club. But we
danced and laughed our guts out for about 15 minutes. Sarah and I totally know how to work it, for sure. This is our famous dance move, the Back Scratch. It's going to be big.

So, on the website were all these super happy-looking couples dressed all in white, for some reason, to show the amazing-ness of Barcelo. Mike and Sarah assumed that was the dress code.

My cute parents! My mom LOVES the beach. Seriously.

Sometimes I think I can do yoga. It's fine. Don't be alarmed. I know my standing leg is bent; I didn't say I was good.

One of my favorite things of the week was the cenote. It is a huge sink hole with water in it. In ancient times the Mayans would throw human sacrifices in to appease whatever gods they were worshipping. This one was discovered and cleaned out, obviously, but apparently it was just filled with jewels and human remains. So creepy, but gorgeous!

On Thursday night, we had a big celebration of the anniversary. Sure do think my parents are cool.

The Anniversary couple...

My SIL's Becca and Melissa. Love.

 day for the ladies...don't be jealous.

Pretty much, it was bliss. And not fun to come back to a snow storm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Faves #1

I was reading my scriptures this morning, and came across Matthew 18: 11-13, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

11For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

12How think ye? if a man have an hundred asheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

I have decided that this is my favorite parable, because of how it illustrates that we are all known to God, and loved by Him. We are loved enough that Jesus Christ comes looking for us individually, until we are found. We ALL need finding. I believe that so strongly, and I know that I am known and loved by my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. I know that, and it is amazing to me.

I also believe, maybe more than I have in the past, that God and Christ REJOICE when we are found, and maybe even more for us at those times than at the times we think we are doing everything expected of us. They rejoice because we are learning and progressing, and coming closer to them in humility, FINALLY. Sometimes it is through the hard way, but I know that there are some things I have to learn the hard way. The last few years of my life would testify to that, but if I had not have been through the things I have, I would not be in a place to learn the things I am learning now. And I would like to think God is rejoicing over me finally saying, OK. Teach me.

One of my favorite songs right now is Amy Grant's "Better than a Hallelujah." This song says it all, in my opinion. The video is kind of sad, but see it through to the end. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Promise to Myself #1

Last weekend I did a benefit concert for the Syd Riggs Foundation. It was to raise money for scholarships for graduating seniors in the Arts from Orem High School. I had so much fun! I really love doing concerts, I have to say. The time commitment is low, it is really fun, I get to sing fun songs, and usually I am with great friends. This concert was no different. I sang songs that I haven't done before (material from Smokey Joe's Cafe and "No Good Deed" from Wicked) and sang like I haven't gotten to for a long time. And, quite honestly, last Saturday was my wedding anniversary, so it was particularly great to have something so fun to do on what could have otherwise been a really hard day for me. For that, I was grateful.

Some of the people involved were old friends that I haven't seen for years, and it was such a pleasure to see them, and to hear them all sing agan. I felt like I was at a reunion. The audiences were not the biggest, but they were so enthusiastic, it didn't matter.

I drove away from that evening, green-painted face and all, and wondered why I had let my love of performing take a back seat in my life over the last few years. I felt so amazing and fulfilled; how had I stopped paying attention to my passion, something that is so much a part of who I am? There are a few reasons for that, and some were very justifiable. But the fact is, I stopped making what I love to do a priority for me, and I have no one to blame but myself. I stopped making ME a priority, and I can never do that again. I don't know what form performance will take for me yet, professional or non-professional, but I need it. I have thought about that a lot in the last year, and have vowed to make sure I am filling that need in myself. It is my responsibility, and I promise myself to pay more attention to that, because no one else can or should do that for me.

Welcome to the beginnings of my brain post-divorce. Welcome to Nicole Riding 2.0. Unfortunately, in my software upgrade, sometimes I still can't figure out a light, witty way to end my posts. I still have a few kinks to work out. Like any new version of an Iphone.