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Nicole Wells Writings

“The Rest of the Story” (from winning night) Blogpost 9-1-13

Sitting on my hotel bed at 1:30am, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry.  What had I just been through?  I had literally experienced the heightened extremity of every emotion in less than 24 hours.  Is that even healthy?  It sure wasn’t what I had planned for while packing my suitcase – complete with Ziploc bags of 3 oz. liquid bottles, lyric sheets, and maps with directions (since my only GPS was my phone).


There are those moments we try to create intentionally and plan toward, and then there’s what I call “the rest of life”.  The rest of life occurs more often than the moments we plan for, but we tend to brush them aside and ignore them.  Sometimes, the ignored pieces are left out of story for a reason – boring, insignificant – but in the case of my recent trip to the West Coast Songwriter’s Finals in Berkeley, California, “the rest of life” is where I should have snapped some pictures.




I was so honored to be representing the Pacific Northwest at the West Coast Songwriters finals in California.  I had been preparing for this opportunity for a couple of years, just hoping for the right song at the right time, with the right judges (since we all know competitions like these are entirely subjective).  I felt a bit of pressure, knowing that no one from Portland had ever won this thing before and there was a thrill of energy coming from the countless friends and (for lack of a better word) fans that were cheering me on.  So it made sense that I should feel a bit nervous while heading to the airport on Friday morning the 23rd of August.  But the butterflies in my stomach were more violent than typical and I had a hard time figuring out why my jitters were so extreme.   “Great.  I’m nervous”, I thought.




Inching my way through the security check-point at the airport, my breathing got heavier and heavier, my nervous tension growing and growing as I passed signs about the plastic quart sized bags that my 3 oz. bottles of liquids should be in.  “Uh oh”, I thought to myself.  “I packed in gallon sized bags!  What if they get upset that mine are in gallon big bags and what if they don’t let me through since there are a bunch of them!?”  I started imagining that maybe I wouldn’t get to board my flight.  When I made it through security with no trouble at all, the anxiety just fell off!  No more nerves!  “Woo hoo!”, I thought.  “Guess I’m not so scared about tonight after all.  In fact, I’ll use that little “what if” moment to lead into my warm up song of “what if he rides” I’ll be singing tonight.”  I smiled and turned on my iPod, dozing off to Katie Herzig’s “Waking Sleep” album.  I neglected to turn off my phone.




Then I get to Oakland.  “Sorry, ma’am.  This rental is not in your name.  You can drive the car but your husband will need to be here to drive it off the lot.”  Panicking, I wondered if maybe I’d miss this event tonight after all.  I explained the situation and what we were told on the phone and shared the fact that my husband was at work in Portland and thankfully, they were great about helping me to remedy the situation.




But then I got in the car and saw there was no place to stick the key.  NOW I was frustrated.  The heat in the car was not helping and you can’t turn on A/C if the car won’t start.  “Do I really have to make a fool of myself right now and go ask how to work this car?”  Ugh.  Yep.  I pressed the start button and nothing happened but a flashing sign that asked me to press the brake.  So I pressed the brake.  Nothing happened.  Three times, three fails…I finally found a helper man in the lot and he comes over and says, “You have to press the brake.”  “I did”, I said.  “You held the brake down while you pressed the start button?”  SIGH….NO!  How would I know to do that?  I felt so stupid but he was so nice and told me that most people have to ask.  My anger melted away, though I wondered why they didn’t tell people if it’s common for people to not know.  Oh well.




Driving out of the rental car area toward my hotel, I saw the palm trees and got a fantastic “childhood” feeling.  Just a carefree, “I love life right now.  Let’s do gymnastics on the lawn!” kind of feeling.  I grew up in the bay area so the palm trees and sunny skies were just what I needed.  I found a Starbucks just before the hotel and ran in joyfully, buying comfortable food and drink I was used to, knowing what I could and could not have for my voice and stomach…everything was just perfect.  I walked out humming the theme song to “Cheers” on my way to the car…no joke.  I was so happy that I didn’t even get too angry about the lack of two way turn lanes and the inability to pull into my hotel until after 15 minutes of blocking traffic with my left blinker on.  Good times.


“I’ll keep the insane traffic in mind as I’m preparing to leave for Berkeley and ask the desk clerk for advice.”, I thought.  The man at the desk told me just what I needed regarding traffic and then added info I didn’t THINK I’d need.  He scribbled on a piece of paper some streets that weren’t on my map and said it might help.  I was too afraid to navigate away from my own directions I had printed but figured I’d keep his piece of paper JUST in case.




After calling my family and taking a quick nap, I got ready for the evening I’d been preparing for over the last couple of years and headed toward Berkeley.  After misreading the amount of distance I would travel before my exit off the freeway, I started vocalizing and warming up my voice.  Seven miles before I thought I was supposed to exit, there went my exit.  I was in the left lane and the exit was passing under me.  Great.  I promptly took the very next exit and ended up somewhere near Berkeley but not exactly.  I was so annoyed.  How could I be that stupid?  I started to wonder again if I’d ever end up at this event.  “You made it this far despite all the set-backs.  Surely, you’ll make it.”, I said to myself.



I prayed my way to the first cross-street and low and behold…one of those streets that was scribbled on that paper the desk clerk gave me was in my path.  Sweet relief.  I was close.  I drove around the basic area until I found a cell phone store that was open and went in to ask the salesperson to show me on my phone GPS system where I should go now.  Who better than a cell phone salesperson right?  He did an awful job reading the map on my phone but after getting us virtually lost a few times, he finally found where I needed to go.  I felt like I’d had a small tour of the city from up above – probably useless but at least I had direction now.




The next six hours were fantastic!  I met interesting people, made friends with great musicians, told my “gallon sized bags through security check point what-if” story and got some laughs, sang my warm up song, then my winning song, listened to other great songwriters, and waited for the results to be announced.  Nearly 11pm now and it felt like an hour at most.   Time really does fly when you’re having fun. “Your phone is dying”, the man that had been sitting next to me said, just before the results were announced.  He had used my phone to snap some pictures for me of the entire cast of performers for the evening.  “I did get some pictures, though.”  We were waiting for final results and I sort of brushed off the phone dying declaration I’d just heard.  Three winners are chosen each year.  The first song they called out was mine and I was stunned. “I Know It’s You” was among the three chosen and I was so grateful – not just for the win but the fact that I finally made it to the event for this moment.  I was now feeling very giddy.  All that preparation, hard work, and torture of facing my nerves….and I won.  It was such an amazing feeling.  Plus I’d made some new friends that I’d get to see again at the conference coming up where we’ll sing for the showcase “Sunset Concert”, so everything about this moment just felt perfect.   Then I got a text.




“How did it go?”, my friend Jennie texts while entertaining my children for the evening.  I figured I’d text her back quickly so that my boys could share in my joy.  Then I texted my mom back.  I knew I needed to tell text Steve before he got off  work but I’d wait for conversations when I was back at my hotel room and able to talk to people.  I put up a quick blurb on Facebook and got ready to text Steve.


Phone went black — dead.


Now I’m so sad.  I wanted so badly to tell Steve and have him share my joy with me and now it would be about an hour before he’d hear from me.  AND, Jennie would get to tell him before me.  Shoot.  Eagerly wanting to return to my room, I said goodbye to my new friends and thanked the appropriate people for the great opportunity and set out toward my hotel…almost.




The fork in the freeway came so fast and it was dark.  I had to act quickly and unfortunately, I acted quicker than I thought.  Now I was headed to San Francisco.  No!  I took the first exit I could find and immediately regretted it.  I’d seen some rough neighborhoods before.  But this was straight out of a movie.  Jumping quickly to conclusions, I wondered if I might die tonight.  I crept through the streets as ambulances whirled passed me, shining colored lights all over the graffiti.  People were roaming the middle of the streets aimlessly…my heart sank.  Oh boy.


So I put my big girl hat on and pulled over in the safest place I could find with my doors locked to check my phone.  “Oh yeah”, I thought.  Phone’s dead.  Sigh.  Now I have no GPS.  I started to drive and literally prayed a compass into my car hoping to be pointed in the general direction of Berkeley and hopefully toward the Freight and Salvage, so I could start over.  Extreme fear was my emotion now.  Had I just been celebrating victory a few moments ago?  Hard to imagine now.  That feeling was long gone but I really wanted it back.  I was thinking of how I couldn’t call Steve, of how I couldn’t navigate with my phone, of how I had no idea where a safe place to ask for directions was…I felt so lost.




Then a man crossed the street in front of my car without warning.  I slammed on my brakes and waited for him to keep walking….but he didn’t.  He stood directly in front of me, eyes blazing in the stream of my headlights, and glared at me.  He reminded me of a character on “Warm Bodies” I had seen recently.  As scared as I was for my safety, I felt a twinge of compassion for him.  He was obviously very strung out on drugs and apparently very angry.  He was either angry that I had almost hit him or angry that I hadn’t hit him.  I wasn’t sure, but I felt badly for him – even in my terror.  He stared me down for an entire 3 minutes.  He never spoke.  I just sat and blinked.  That’s a long time, folks.  I couldn’t figure out if I should try going around him or if I should back up.  I motioned with my hand that he could continue and that made him crouch as if to spring, so I didn’t do that again.  “I AM in a movie”, I thought.  I decided to pray for him.  Then after a while, I literally spoke out loud to God and said, “Could you please move this man”?  And the guy continued his trek across the road.  “Hmm…should have done that earlier”.  I drove on but continued to see that man’s lost face.  I’ll never forget it.




With my heart still racing from the stare-down and the fact that I still wasn’t sure if I was pointed in the right direction, I talked out loud to myself the rest of the time.  Actually, I spoke directly to God.  “Okay.  If the freeway is over there and I came from here, then I could turn here and…”….I did that for several minutes when suddenly there it was: “Berkeley City Limits”.  Phew!  And then a moment later, the street I had ended up on the first time I missed my exit earlier today was in front of me.   Interesting.   I was now very glad I had missed that exit.  Following that road, I found my way to the cell phone store.  It was, of course, closed now and all was dark, but hope was brewing.  From my memory of earlier today, I tried to retrace the steps I’d taken after the cell phone salesperson had given me the extended virtual tour from satellite view.  Things looked different now and I still wasn’t sure I was finding the freeway but I knew I was at least pointed in the right direction.  After all, he had given me a tour from above and now I recognized street names.  “The entire day had no accidents”, I thought.  Then I saw a bright light at the end of the street.  It was a Chevron.  Ahh…just like the Starbucks, I felt home.  There were two women visiting while putting gas in their cars.  The area seemed much safer, like someone drew a line down the middle of the town (interesting how that happens).  Even their faces looked like people I’ve known all of my life.  I told them which freeway I needed and they said, “You were almost there.  It’s one street up.”  It was a miracle.  I followed one of the ladies onto the freeway and toward the correct fork, since she was going to the same area I was headed.  Now the relief was so huge that the tears started flowing.  “THANK YOU, GOD!” I hollered.




I got to my room and anxiously waited for my phone to charge enough to call Steve.  I knew he’d be worried that I hadn’t called.  After all, it should have been HOURS ago!  After telling him my story, I checked Facebook to see if anyone had seen my news.  Among the “congrats” posts after the news and the “well-wishes” from just before the event, I saw this post from my friend Theresa:


“God bless your efforts & give you peace, confidence, & excellent navigation skills!!”.


That’s when I knew I just HAD to tell about “the rest of life” in this story as I recounted this trip.  This experience was about the other stuff.  Yes, it was great that my song “I Know it’s You” had won and I’m still thrilled.  But in the end, it was all the bunny trails that occurred along the way that brought even greater significance to my night of victory and I believe it was because the victory was never about me in the first place.  Wouldn’t you agree?  If it had all been in my strength, I wouldn’t have even made it to the security checkpoint.  No, the glory for this night soars far above me.  So with that, here are the lyrics to “I Know It’s You” – a fitting song to be the soundtrack behind this adventure.

“I KNOW IT’S YOU”  (single releasing mid-September…watch for updates!)

by Nicole Wells

(vs 1)

I was born dreaming, you had my heart

Holding me gently like a rare work of art

Life was so simple a long time ago

Now all I know is how much I don’t know

(vs 2)

Took all my treasure, set out on my own

Wandering is something I’ve never outgrown

One thing I’m sure of, you’re always there

You display evidence showing you care


It’s you when ash becomes beauty and grace

It’s you when I’ve fallen and finish the race

It’s you when I shine though there’s dirt on my face

I know it’s you when all hope is made new

That’s when I know it’s you

(vs 3)

My treasure taken, smashed on the ground

Fragments of pieces were all that I’d found

So many dreams I was sure I had lost

You remade better and paid all the cost


It’s you when ash becomes beauty and grace

It’s you when I’ve fallen and finish the race

It’s you when I shine though there’s dirt on my face

I know it’s you when all hope is made new

That’s when I know it’s you


All goodness I find

I’m sure, there’s no doubt in my mind

That it’s always been you, always it’s you

(last chorus)


It’s you when ash becomes beauty and grace

It’s you when I’ve fallen and finish the race

It’s you when I smile through the tears on my face

I know it’s you when my hope is made new

That’s when I know it’s you

© 2013 Nicole Wells,

Nicole Wells is a singer-songwriter, soccer mom and story teller who enjoys encouraging and entertaining others through music and testimony.  She can be booked for performances, worship leading, and speaking engagements.

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