Can I please have my state back, now?

41518698I haven’t written in a while and it’s partly because I’ve been incredibly busy and partly because I’ve just had nothing of interest to write about. Well, that’s changed…not the busy part, but the writing part.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, I’m sure you’ve heard about 3 things…all the Hilary vs. Donald rhetoric, Glenn and Abraham were Negan’s victims on The Walking Dead, and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. It’s this last one that is weighing heavily on my heart these days.

I understand all about Native rights. I have some personal experience in this area. The people of Standing Rock have every right to protest peacefully and lawfully. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening here, and the people of Standing Rock are not the problem. The protests have been going on for nearly 3 months here, but it’s only the last 2 weeks or so that DAPL has received national attention. But there’s so much that national media is not saying, so much they’re leaving out, and so much untruth that they’re spreading, I just feel like I have to get this all off my chest.

Let’s start at the beginning with a breakdown of protesters’ complaints:

  1. Water is life, and this oil pipeline will endanger water sources. OK, yes, we all need water, but reality is that we do not yet have enough renewable energy sources to power the world. Pipelines are 4.5 times safer means of transport than trains and even more so than tanker trucks. Do leaks happen, yes they do, but DAPL is being built using the most high tech solution available to date. Sensors ever so many feet (I’d have to go look it up again in the specs, but I think it was every 15) that would quickly detect leaks, alert authorities, and automatically shut down. Additionally, the pipeline does NOT go over the water. It is being placed 90 feet below the bottom of the river bed through bedrock. In the event of a leak, gravity and sheer distance from the water through a solid barrier would keep the oil from contaminating water sources in the time it took to respond. Every effort has been taken to protect the water and DAPL has gone over and above national regulations and requirements to ensure safety. And do you really think this is the only pipeline crossing a river?
  2. The pipeline is disrupting sacred artifacts and burial grounds. Untrue. The entire pipeline has been inspected and reinspected by archiologists, historians, and environmentalists. It was even inspected again about a month ago after the most recent complaints and accusations. No artifacts or human remains have been found on any of the land impacted by the pipeline. Which leads to…
  3. The reason they didn’t find any is because they have been destroyed. If that’s true, they were destroyed 30 years ago when (in 1986) another pipeline was built along the same route that DAPL will follow. But again, inspections back then showed nothing present. Regardless, yes, there’s already a pipeline there. And it follows the EXACT same path that DAPL will follow including the river crossing.
  4. Standing Rock was not included in planning and decision making for DAPL. Again, untrue. The tribe was invited to participate in planning meetings and other parts of the process no less than 300 times…and they ignored every invitation. Multiple other organizations attended, voiced their concerns, and the committee addressed issues with groups advocating for trees, wildlife, structure impact, erosion, noise pollution…etc. etc. etc. Every concern was addressed, the pipeline was ultimately approved by all involved and the permits were issued. Contracts were signed with all land owners whose land would be impacted by the pipeline. The route of the pipeline was changed in response to concerns, which leads to…
  5. DAPL was rerouted because it would impact too many white communities. I supposed this could be considered partially true, but not for the reason you think. They’re saying that white communities (Bismarck) wanted it rerouted because, if there was a leak, it would effect our water sources…no, that’s not it. It was moved south closer to the reservation (the pipeline does NOT actually cross reservation land in any area) to accomplish 2 things: 1) to shorten the pipeline by 11 miles thus disrupting a smaller area of land and 2) the route further north would have caused DAPL to remove multiple existing buildings and other structures. The current route is across farm land.

So, those are the main concerns of the Standing Rock tribe. The protest site was set up (legally with permits) back in late July and the protesters were primarily peaceful. Yes, there were a few skirmishes, but these were quickly dealt with. (The dog attack thing back in August was completely blown out of proportion. The only one injured in that was one of the DOGS. Don’t know if you saw the picture of the dog with the bloody muzzle…yeah, that was dog’s blood. He was hit in the face with a pipe by one of the protesters.) The real problems didn’t start until all of the out of state protesters started flocking in.

A few weeks ago, several protesters decided that their current camp wasn’t near enough to the actual construction site, so the camp was moved several miles further north. The problem with this was that they were moving the camp onto private property (illegal) and started blocking public roadways (also illegal). The landowner made a request to law enforcement that the protesters be removed.

Law enforcement also asked several times over several weeks for the protesters to clear the public roadway. Again, blocking a public roadway is illegal. School buses were unable to run through the area. Ambulance and other first responders (most live in Bismarck including my friend who is a paramedic on the reservation and who personally experiences this every time she has to drive to work) could not get to and from work without going 45 miles out of their way, and could not respond when needed without huge (often life-threatening) delays. Residents (farmers and ranchers) could not reach their own homes, livestock or fields without going miles out of their way.

The response to law enforcement requests was an ever escalating “screw you” that became a situation that was clearly not peaceful prayer. It was a full fledged riot. If a group of rioters took over an area in a city, you’d expect law enforcement to respond, right? Just because this was in country makes no difference. Again, these people were on private property and blocking a public roadway.

So, this all came to a head last week when law enforcement was authorized to clear the camp “by any means necessary”. The first warnings were issued at 8:00am October 27 telling protesters that they had one hour to begin clearing the camp. Reinforcements were brought by buses to help with the removal because there were literally hundreds of protesters occupying this area. Instead of complying, by 9:00am the protesters converged on the road. Throughout the day, things escalated, fires were started (including 2 military dump trucks and a construction bulldozer), debri was thrown (feces, sticks, rocks, etc.) and still law enforcement did not respond. They patiently tried to get folks to move to the south camp. Unfortunately, the protesters would not move, would not unblock the road, and so around noon (4 hours later) they went in to start making arrests. The sonic siren was used as a crowd control method…painful, yeah, but non-lethal. As they started arresting people, one woman was on the ground and the officer was trying to hand-cuff her…she reached into her waistband and pulled a revolver. She fired 3 shots in the direction of both law enforcement and the protester…she had no idea what she was shooting at, she was just shooting. At this point, this is where it sounds like the rubber bullets (again, painful, but non-lethal) were fired by law enforcement. The only live rounds that day were fired by a protester. I watched multiple live videos throughout the entire day as the situation unfolded and I firmly believe that law enforcement did all they could, but they had a job to do. They were patient, tried many methods of getting the crowd to move, but they did their job.

The protesters who are down there right now are not the group who started this as “water protectors”. These folks are coming from out of state. They are looking for a fight. Many have said they waiting for the shooting to start and they’re going to stop the pipeline or give their lives in the effort…not a figure of speech. The news outlets are painting this as a prayerful people who are being dragged out of sweat lodges and arrested for voicing their opinion…no, these are violent rioters threatening citizens and law enforcement.
Even most of the people of Sioux County just wish that the out-of-staters would just go home. This has become something they never wanted.

The town of Cannonball (a reservation town) voted by a nearly 80% majority to deny permits requests by the protesters to set up a winter camp closer to town. Most of the people of Standing Rock actually HAVE gone home out of fear…not of law enforcement, but of the “agitators”. Yeah, those who are there peacefully are trying their best now to separate the protectors from the agitators now. It’s become a huge mess. By the way, over the weekend, agitators set a huge grass fire on private property…because of the terrain and blocked roadway, fire crews could not reach it. They had to bring in helicopters to put it out. If you look up arrest records since this whole thing started, 90% of the arrests are not North Dakotans…they’re from almost every other state. At this point, everyone here just wants them to go home and let us deal with this.

The river crossing at this point has been halted temporarily as the Army Corp pulled the permits for the easement at the beginning of the protests pending independent investigations into environmental, cultural and spiritual concerns. Three separate investigations were done by North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa at the direction of the governors of those three states. All three investigations have been completed and all three governors, satisfied with the results, have asked that the Army Corp reinstate the permits for the easements.

You know, I get now how the news gets things so completely twisted. I’ll be doing much more of my own research and not just blindly believing what the skewed point of view that we get from our national media. Every national news outlet has the Morton County Sheriff’s Department being painted as the bad guys here, but that is just not the case. You know what they say…if you don’t want to be arrested, don’t break the law. This whole thing has gone to far, and national media is not telling an accurate story of what’s really happening. It breaks my heart, it’s breaking our communities, and I just want my state back.


Come with me…

walking-awayPeople often ask me how I can possibly enjoy being on a stage, in front of a theater full of strangers, and willingly perform for them. The answer is simple: it feeds my soul. There is something so freeing about telling someone else’s story, and taking an audience along for the ride.

There are also moments, as an actor, when you’re on stage completely immersed in your character, and you’re not even aware that there’s an audience out there anymore. You are so deeply invested in your character, feeling what they’re feeling, that you are in your own world a million miles away. Then, something happens…a reaction from somewhere out there in the dark…that brings you back, but in a way that lets you know that that the audience is with you. They’re walking with you. They’re feeling what you’re feeling. They, in turn, have become so invested in the show, that they’ve forgotten they are watching live actors on a stage.

I’ve been done with Next to Normal for almost two weeks, but one of those such moments came back to me today. If you haven’t seen Next to Normal (and if you haven’t, you should), it’s the story of a family struggling to cope with the mother’s bipolar disorder. She has tried every treatment option including a wide variety of medications, talk-therapy, and hypnosis, but through circumstances and escalation of her disease, the doctor determines that her only option is E.C.T. One of the side effects of E.C.T. is possible memory loss which, unfortunately, Diana (my character) experiences in spades, losing over 19 years of memories. She has forgotten her marriage, her daughter, her home and her life, but also the painful loss of her infant son which served as the initial trigger for her mental illness.

In the show, there is a song in the Act II, after the therapy, where Diana is expressing her extreme frustration to her doctor. She is incredibly upset that she can’t remember her life, but she feels that it’s all right there on the edge of her mind. The doctor asks her if she has talked to her husband, if he has told her about her son. This is the first time anyone has mentioned this to her and she’s visibly shaken by the knowledge that she had a son. As soon as the doctor mentions the son, everything on stage just stops as Diana realizes and absorbs.

It was at this moment during one of our second run shows, that I was so completely “under” as my stage manager called it (think of a state of hypnosis…I wasn’t me, I was Diana), and the moment was so emotionally charged. The second the doctor asked if I knew about my son, I heard several audible gasps come from the audience.

Now, that may not sound like a big deal, but consider this: Making an audience laugh is often a matter of comedic timing. Making them cry can be as simple as a well-delivered song with incredibly sad lyrics; they songwriter has done the bulk of the work. But to elicit something like a gasp…the audience must truly believe what you are doing because YOU truly believe it’s happening.

During that split second, the real me poked her head out for just long enough to give a virtual fist-bump to Diana. We had this. They were in the palm of our hand, and completely along for the ride. Then, Diana pushed “me” back down and said “Let me handle this.” But in the back of my mind for the rest of the show I knew I’d done my job. Those are the moments you live for. That’s the high an actor gets from performing in front of an audience.

This is why I go to rehearsal for weeks on end, hours a night, and work my ass off to memorize, analyze, and deliver. It’s why I get on that stage every night. There’s a pay-off. It’s not monetary. It’s enriching. It feeds the soul. And for those two hours in front of a full house, I can bare that soul to the audience. I can bring them with me, show them my world, tell them the story, and send them home haunted by the memory of what I’ve shown them. We’ve been down a road together, and we will both forever be changed by the journey.



The End of a Journey…


I’ve been on a journey for almost 9 months. Today, I made it to my destination. It took me as long to get here as it took to have my babies, but I’ve finally arrived and the view is beautiful.

In June of last year, I started what I was sure was just going to be another weight loss plan. I’d done them before with varying levels of success, but everyone assured me that this one was different. “Profile by Sanford isn’t like those other plans. Really! It’s easy and it works!” I listened and watched my friends succeed on it for months before I finally gave in and said, what the hell. What I didn’t realize was that I was finally going to find that nutrition plan that made sense to me in a way that made me feel that I could stick with it and make a permanent lifestyle change.

9 months ago, I was tired of feeling like the fat one among my wonderful group of friends. I was tired of feeling tired. I hated how I looked in my clothes. How I couldn’t fit into my favorite jeans anymore. I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Today, I’m not that person anymore. I’ve found confidence and rediscovered myself. I’m here. 67 pounds gone. From a size 18 to an 8. And I feel AMAZING!

I’ve learned so much on this journey. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

  • One stumble does not mean you’re out of the race. If you are running a marathon and at mile 20, you trip and fall, do you have to go back to the starting line and start over? Are you booted from the race for falling? No, of course not. You pick yourself up, address your skinned knee, and run your last 6.2 miles. So why do we treat weight loss differently? I’ve been on other plans where one mistake basically messes up the entire week. And before you know it, you’ve had three bad weeks in a row, and you’re thinking to yourself “this is SO not working for me.” So we quit. If you have a bad day, if you eat something off plan, oh well. Pick it right back up with your very next meal. DO NOT wait for next week to start over. DO NOT even wait until tomorrow. Start with your NEXT meal.
  • You will NOT lose every week, but that’s OK. One of the things I’ve loved about this program is that it’s not always about the number on the scale. I’ve had weeks where I’ve lost 5 pounds in 7 days. (Not many, but it’s happened.) I’ve also had weeks where I’ve lost nothing. And yes, occasionally, I’ve gained a couple pounds. (Ladies, you know about this monthly phenomenon.) But in the end, this isn’t about just one number. My waist kept getting smaller. My clothes kept getting looser. I was feeling more energetic. On those weeks where the scale doesn’t cooperate, it’s important to find something positive to focus on.
  • What I put in my mouth is a choice…MY choice. This is important. Some call it “cheating”. I never refer to eating something off-plan as a “cheat”. Cheating is something that indicates a need for punishment…negative self talk does nothing to help move me forward. Or, just the opposite, we say “oops, I cheated!” with a wink and smile, waiting for someone to validate us and so “Oh, that’s OK. You’ll do better tomorrow.” No. I am not cheating. I am choosing. I chose to eat popcorn at the movies even though it wasn’t allowed. I chose to have a few drinks with my friends even though it was highly discourage. I CHOSE to have a small slice of cheesecake at a friend’s birthday party. I. CHOSE. TO. EAT. THAT. And those choices are OK. In actuality, they’re part of this process. We have to learn how to fit “life” into our eating. But, when we make those choices, we also have to own them and be ready to face the consequences. (Go back to the first bullet point…go ahead, I’ll wait.)
  • Commitment is key. Nothing gets me more riled up than people who complain that this plan (or any plan, for that matter) don’t work. But then when you really look at it, you find that they’re not really following the plan at all. I have one thing to say to you in that case…if you’re not following the plan, you’re not on the plan. Yes, I know what I said about choices, but notice, I also said that if I make the choice to eat off plan, I have to be ready to face the consequences. I also need to make a choice to go back to my plan right away, or I can’t expect to work for me. This plan requires commitment…commitment to health, commitment to change, and commitment to discipline. If you’re not ready to commit, it’s not going to work.
  • Every day is NOT a special occasion. Can I enjoy a piece of cake to celebrate someones birthday? What about the Holiday season…Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years? Do I have to avoid the office potluck for the rest of my life? Here’s the thing. How often do occasions like this REALLY come up? A few times a month at the most, right? It’s not what I eat on the special occasions that derails me. It’s what I eat on those normal days. People ask me how I managed to get through the holidays this year and still lose 6 pounds. On Thanksgiving, I ate Thanksgiving dinner. On Christmas, I ate Christmas dinner and even some cookies and candy. But on ALL of those days in between, I ate on my plan. It’s really that simple.
  • This is MY journey, and it’s different from yours. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from comparing myself to others on the same program. Others will lose more, and they’ll lose it faster. Good for them. But I came to the realization that they’re not me. Remember the thing about choices? Sometimes, I chose to enjoy life, and eating something I shouldn’t was a part of that. Did it slow me down a little? Yes, probably. But I had to find a way to make this journey work for me. I had to decide what trade-offs were worth it to me. So, my route to reach my destination was probably very different from others and took longer than it did for others. And that’s fine. But if I don’t figure out how to make adjustments for my life, how can I expect the changes to stick?
  • Photos don’t lie! If you’re on your own weight loss journey, or thinking about starting one, take pictures. LOTS of pictures! When you’re feeling discourage, start looking through those pictures to see documentation of your progress. Here. How about this?


There’s more, I know, and there are specific tricks I learned. I’ve dropped old habits like soda and coffee in favor of water. I still drink a cup of coffee most days, but instead of 5 or 6 cups with creamer, I only have one cup black. I definitely eat a ton more vegetables than I used to, and I’ve discovered some great new ways to prepare them. I won’t be giving up some of those dishes that I’ve learned to make.

But now that one journey is done, it’s time to start a new journey…maintaining this new healthier lifestyle I’ve adopted. Am I perfect? Oh no. I still have bulges in places I don’t like. I still don’t exercise as much as I should, but I’m a completely different person than I was 9 months ago…on the outside anyway. For me, I think the outside matches the inside better than it did. And I can much better accept the flaws and move on.

I don’t know yet what the new journey or the new goals look like…but for now, I think I’ll just enjoy the finish line.

Her Head is an Exhausting Place to Be

069bccbbdc268f454d1cb4eac4664f2b So, I’ve been cast as Diana Goodman in a community theater production of the musical “Next to Normal”. I’ve been obsessed with this show for months, listening to the music, reading about the show, and really trying to understand all of the subtext. When I got the part, it was such an exciting moment. This really is a dream role…so meaty, so much depth to the character, and it’s topped off with the most gorgeous score.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s the story of a woman (Diana) who is struggling with bipolar disorder. Throughout the play, you see not only Diana’s struggles, but the struggles of her family and the impact that her disease has had on them. It’s not pretty.

As preparation, our director assigned us an exercise that was really one of the most exhausting experiences of my life. We were asked to do write an end to end character analysis for our character. I thought, piece of cake! I know everything about this woman because I’ve been studying her for months. We had to document everything from basics like height, weight, how they dress, wear their hair, etc. to a deep dive into their psyche. That last bit was the part that really did me in.

Diana is an incredibly complex character. She runs the full gambit of emotions and has so many underlying motivations to everything she does, that it was difficult to break it all down. I had to pick the script apart and tackle one scene (or song) at a time…Diana is in 30 of the 37 songs. Yeah, it was a long process. But rather than just try to describe how Diana was feeling, I decided to use this as a true character exercise and write it as Diana.

For each of the 30 scenes, I tried to think like Diana. A tried to imagine myself in her crazy, mixed up bipolar world, and I wrote her inner monologue. It took me a combined 6 hours over 2 days. And yes, Diana is a completely exhausting person. Here’s a few snippets to demonstrate her emotional shifts (without spoiling plot lines as much as possible):

Just Another Day (Opening number, you’re meeting Diana for the first time)

I’m a mom…just like every single mom in America. That’s all I want them to see. Typical mom, typical kids, typical husband, typical life. Never let ‘em see you sweat, right? I can do this, I can keep this family running, and do it with style and flare! I can! Just watch me! Oh shit, I can’t do this.

You Don’t Know (Diana’s husband Dan makes the mistake of trying to tell her he understands what she’s going through. Empathy, ya know?)

Is Dan fucking kidding me?! He has no idea what goes on in my head! He has no clue the anger and sadness, the weight of that! He can’t. He’s never suffered over anything in his life!  Not the way I have…and still do. He couldn’t give two shits.

Didn’t I See this Movie (Diana’s doctor and her husband have decided on an unorthodox treatment for her disorder.)

You want to do WHAT? Are you serious? And who made this decision? They did. Dan and Dr. Madden. They made this decision without me. TRAITORS! Well, hell no. This is NOT happening.

Wish I Were Here (The treatment, from Diana’s perspective)

Whoa, this is trippy! It’s like I got drunk, smoked a joint, and slammed about a six pack of Natalie’s Red Bull all at once! This is the best I’ve felt in years. The clarity of my thoughts. The weight that’s been lifted from my head. Hey, it’s Natalie! Wait, what? OK, maybe this is a little scary. I’m not sure I like this after all. When will it stop?!

A Promise (Dan is explaining to Diana why he fights so hard for her.)

Is Dan seriously saying that he’s stayed with me out of a sense of duty? I guess he’s finally being completely honest with me, too. I’m having a moment of true realization. We’ve built a relationship on a lie. We’re never going to be those people again.

And these are just bits and pieces. Not only does can she not keep a consistent thought from one scene to the next, sometimes she does a full 180 all in the same scene. This woman is…I really can’t think of another way to put it. She’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to be in her head!

Now, I’ll let you in on a secret…it’s also amazing. Every actor has a dream role…for musical theater guys, maybe it’s Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” or Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha”. For the ladies, it might be Roxie Hart in “Chicago”, Liza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”, or Christine in “Phantom of the Opera”. For me, Diana Goodman is every bit of that to me. She’s complicated, intense, funny, a little scary, and she sings some of the most amazing songs written for a female vocalist. It’s an incredible privilege to be in her shoes and in her head. It’s just also exhausting.

By the end of this run, I may need therapy…





Welcome to 2016, where nothing has changed except everything.

This is always the time of year when employers like to have their employees reflect on the previous year and write a self-evaluation recounting successes, opportunities, and recapping accomplishments. I’ve kept old copies of these evaluations for years, and when I look back on them, there seems to be a common theme: change. More often than not, my opening paragraph contains a thesis statement something like one of these:

  • For me, personally and professionally, this has been a year of transition.
  • This year, I have successfully navigated an ever changing environment.
  • Although this year included a difficult adjustment period, I….
  • My year has been full of opportunities to adapt to a new…

I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for me to realize that change is the permanent condition in the modern world. There’s no longer any such thing as getting comfortable and coasting or being fully versed in your role and fully confident in your abilities, because once you start to feel as though you’ve got it, something (or everything) changes. I’ve never had a problem adapting to change (I thought the book “Who Moved My Cheese” was pretty much common sense, and really didn’t understand why someone would write a whole book on the subject), but something deep inside has always been wondering when I could just have a period of time where I have the opportunity to get bored with the status quo. Answer: Constant adaptation IS the status quo, you idiot! 

So, it really should have come as no surprise that along with the changing of the year, other changes would soon follow both personally and professionally.

Families change all the time. Two years ago, our little family of 4 turned into a family of 3 as my oldest daughter graduated from high school and left the nest. (Yes, I get that she’s still part of my family, but not having all 4 of us under the same roof, has been strange.) Less than two full years later, she is successfully employed, renting her own apartment, paying her own bills, and only needs mom when she needs a washing machine. I don’t mind. I miss her, but I know she’s not far away.

Over the past 12 months, her younger sister has grown increasingly independent, and in the past few weeks, has reached yet another milestone….a drivers license. The change here is positive in some ways. I have more time now that I’m not constantly chauffeuring her around town to and endless parade of rehearsals, activities, meetings, performances, and on and on and on. But, I think this has also been one of the most difficult transitions for me. It’s one less thing she’s dependent on me for. It’s eliminating one of our primary opportunities to connect. Driving her across town is when I heard about friends, school, problems, frustrations, successes…you get the point. Now, we have to adapt and find other ways to connect, but that’s a topic for another day.

Work has been one of the most challenging changes recently. In the past year, I’ve endured a change in managers, departments, job responsibilities, political climates all while continuing to try to keep all the balls in the air. In the past two weeks, a series of events, most of which were out of my control, have lead me to accept a new role in an area that is completely outside my comfort zone. I’m returning to my techno-geek roots, and back to learning new technologies, new products, and reawakening a knowledge that I had long since let stagnate.

I guess next year’s self-evaluation is going to have a similar theme, huh?