Category Archives: Personal Growth

Firey Wyoming Sunset

The lack of imagination. Can it destroy freedom?

I have a theory.

I know, dangerous, right?

Anyway, when I took my dog for his morning constitutional, I got to thinking. Is it possible the lack of imagination among the masses could bring about the downfall of our free country as we know it?

I’m sure you’re wondering where the heck that came from, or who thinks like that?

Well, I do.

Ever since I was a small child, I imagined. I imagined all day long and all night long. I imagined I was a doctor. That my bike was a horse. I imagined the woods surrounding my college were actually in Siberia. I imagined characters and a plot to fill a novel.

Imagining is inherent to me. Like breathing. I think of Craig’s List and imagine a gazillion ways a serial killer can use that site to lure prey.

I lie in an MRI machine and imagine a rogue technician using the scanner as a murder weapon.
And then I hear colleagues in education lament the lack of imagination in today’s school kids.

I see adults’ inabilities to spend 30 seconds away from their portable device.

Look around you. our culture is dependent on something else to occupy their minds. They cannot imagine.

Or, few can.

Which bring me back to my theory.

It takes imagination to see where current events in the United States are taking us. In most cases, the circumstances do not prompt the pain and discomfort brought about by the long-term effects of varying decisions, so one must sit back and imagine how things could go.

And that takes time.

And for some, effort.

Is it possible that so many are caught up in the comfort of the moment they fail to imagine what could happen? Or just don’t care? Or have a “well, that won’t affect me” type of attitude?

Does it take imagination to look at history and see how dictators and tyrants rose to power and extrapolate that into the political decisions of today?

My theory is that the lack of imagination is one of the contributing factors to the crumbling state of our nation.

If you don’t think it is so, are you free to express an opinion that is contrary to the Popular Opinion of The Day?

Imagine if things flipped and The Other Side was in power. And took your voice away…

Can you?

Does it change your perspective just a little?

Imagine.

Exercising faith

 

This is the house we may be able to get if things work out. But it's not up to us, is it?

This is the house we may be able to get if things work out. But it’s not up to us, is it?

My entire world is suspended. It’s like everything is moving in slow motion if it’s moving at all. At the same time, it’s screaming along like a fully-loaded freight train without breaks on a steep descent.

Doubting.

A cynical attitude.

Pessimism.

Those are life-long habits I’ve honed over the decades. They follow me everywhere I go.

Deciding to move to Wyoming not knowing how things would work out has been the toughest decision my husband and I have made in our 17 years of marriage. This new plot-twist in life is forcing us to examine our thought patterns and thinking habits. It’s forcing us to exercise our faith in ways we never imagined.

At first, things felt surreal.

Like a foggy dream.

Tuesday, a contract was drawn up on our house. All it needs is a closing date.

Yesterday, John took away some pretty large items with lots of memories attached. The purging process has begun.

We lost Chloe in December.

Esau a week and a half ago.

Change.

Obstacles.

But I am determined not to doubt. John and I made a pact that if we chose to move, we would trust God completely. We would not pray and then doubt God would answer. We agreed to trust Him to answer in His way.

How am I doing?

Well, truth is, I am numbing out. I’m not allowing myself to think or feel much. When doubt crept in I watched multiple episodes of Downton Abbey.

I researched graphic design principles of novel covers.

I asked God to help me not doubt.

I know some say it’s important to be expectant. To decide things are going to work out a certain way… I’m not there. And I’m not sure if my expectations are real or true.  I need to focus on not doubting.

Yesterday we were supposed to find out if a  spec home would go on the market. The contract fell through on the other buyer’s end. We were hoping to go up to Casper today to see the house and start paperwork to secure it.

This house is a deal.

Ideal.

Similar to what we have, but brand new and not a single swath of duct tape in sight!

Under budget.

Next to a river with bike and walking trails.

I would be content there.

The seller and real estate agent are giving that other buyer every chance to save their contract. Now, it will be end of business day, Friday before we know anything. At best, there is a 50/50 chance things would work out for us.

In the shower, I struggled with how to pray about it. What if the other people were praying to get that house? What if they are trusting God to come through for them? After all, the house is build to their specs. Not mine. How can I pray for that house to be mine?

I can’t.

I have to let it go.

Soap in my eyes, I told  God that if getting a contract on their current home and getting into that house would draw them closer to Him, then they should have that house. John and I will have to trust Him for another one.

And that is hard.

Because it would mean more suspension.

More waiting.

More wondering

As time ticks forward.

 

Breakthrough

James 15,6 mountainsI’m gonna be brutally honest.

About myself.

I’m cringing as I type, because on so many levels I feel like a fool. A stubborn fool… or a mule.

Why?

Because the truth has been in front of me all the time. I knew it. I even advised others to make behavioral and mental changes accordingly but… I never applied said truth to my own life.

And it’s been making me miserable for years and years.

Read the previous post if you need some context.

On Friday mornings, I make a conference call with my author buddies Kim and Becca. Usually we shred each other’s prose and help each other work toward mastery of our craft. This time, we talked about life and ended up challenging each other to become better people.

My friend Kim shared a passage from James. Verses 2-8, to be exact. She shared how it convicted her and how she planned on applying it to her life. Then she challenged me. To memorize it with her.

The part that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go was the part about doubt. When we pray, we are to pray in faith without any doubting. James describes doubters like the foam on the sea, at the mercy of relentless waves and violent wind. Doubters are not to expect any answers and are double-minded thinkers and unstable in all their ways.

Gulp.

My first thought was, “I’m not a doubter, I’m merely a skeptic. A realist, if you will.”

I’d pray, then have a plan B, C, D and so on if God failed to come through. Actually, deep down, I expected Him to not come through. I have been praying for hope and expecting nothing but more suffering. In fact, I honestly did not believe God could have something good for me.

Why?

I have no idea.

But I do know this, my stinkin’ thinkin’ has kept me in a stuck, unstable place for… should I admit this?

Decades.

We girls talked for a while. Encouraged one another. Prayed. Then I went to my husband and had a melt down.

I was done.

So. Done. With being  in a miserable place.

I had let the circumstances rule. I let doubt consume me like a malignant rot.

As we talked, we observed how life has beat us up so hard. It was easier to be myopic and focus on the pain, the hardships. Looking beyond took too much… effort.

Under the pressure,  I retraced. Withdrew. Became a severe introvert. I lived life defensively. Looking over my shoulder for the Next Bad Thing so I could see it coming and prepare.

Does that look like a life of faith?

I don’t think so either.

I was the sea foam. Flung about, ragged, frothy from the violence of life. Unstable in all my ways.

John and I made a pact to change. We admitted to ourselves and God our messed up thinking. We asked for wisdom on how to squash the doubts. Stop speaking it into our lives. We decided to hold each other accountable for our speech and actions. We will be positive. We will refrain from the complain.

It’s not easy. Circumstances have not changed.

We did.

And boy, do I feel a whole lot better.

 

 

Do we do the hard thing?

There are no easy options. All choices are hard. What do I do?

There are no easy options. All choices are hard. What do I do? (And yes, I use distortion filters on my selfies)

In all my 42 years, I’ve only majorly moved once. I’m not counting college. Nor am I counting moving across the street from an apartment to a house. I am only counting the move from PA to CO.

That was exactly 20 years ago.

Most people, including my friends, don’t know, but my husband lost his job in early January. Right as I was scheduled for surgery. It has been an insane month. And this time around caused us to fall back on our butts and think hard. Really hard.

In all honestly, in an economic sense and career sense, Denver has not been kind. The economy has been up and down, up and down. My husband has gained and lost, gained and lost jobs. Had salary cuts. Such trials over almost 17 years of marriage have taken their toll.

Both of us are tired of living in crisis mode.

And every time, we go back to doing the same thing. Look for another job in Denver. Lose another job in Denver. Fight to keep our house in Denver.

Is it time to break the cycle? Is it time to step out in faith and do something radical… like move?

We have several options in Boulder, but the cost of living there is so much greater. The commute would be killer. Even if we move north, affordable housing is 45 minutes to an hour away.

Several options are available out of state. A state where taxes are way lower. The cost of living lower, and we’d be in a small city. Which is what I personally crave.

We have so many people we love here in Colorado. Both of us, and even our son are wrestling with that. Do we continue to struggle through life where we can never get our heads above water? Or, do we do the really hard thing and move?

I wish I had a definite answer.

Up or Down?

Must walk EVERY day, or my house is filled with chaos.

Must walk EVERY day, or my house is filled with chaos.

Today I was on my w-a-l-k with Psycho dog when I noticed something.

My feet.

A lot of my feet.

Why?

Because I am in the habit of hanging my head and looking down. walking

I lifted my face and gazed down the street, but soon found myself staring at the ground, looking deep into the cracks of the concrete sidewalks.

When I look at the ground, I miss a lot. I miss the murder of crows blackening a leaf-bare tree. I miss the Very Brazen Coyote lurking in the middle of the street, waiting to devour my dog. I miss the smile of the little old lady raking leaves into a trash bag. I walk into a lamp post.

In spite of several efforts to look up and look ahead, I found myself ground gazing again and again.

Why?

It hit me that I have been living my life that way. Looking down. I  allowed life to beat me down so much, I forgot the view around me. I don’t feel worthy of looking people in the eye because… because… what if they see my battle scars and judge me?

Ithaca street viewOr, is it more of a self-deception where if I don’t see the world,  it won’t see me and hurt me anymore?

Am I hiding?

If so, why?

Right now I don’t have answers to these questions. But I am aware of the problem. I am faced with a choice. Will I live bodily and look up?

Or, will I continue to hide and let my gaze scrape the ground?

 

It’s about more than spinning and winning.

Love, respect, encouragement, perseverance, courage, confidence... just a few lessons learned this season.

Love, respect, encouragement, perseverance, courage, confidence… just a few lessons learned this season.

Yesterday Team Evergreen competed in the 2014 sate championships for marching band.

The sky was a mean gray, the air finger-numbing cold. The wind tired desperately to rip rifles, flags and sabers from the guard’s frozen hands. But they held on.

Because of the weather, finals were cancelled.

Scores from prelims were tabulated and results were announced.

We came in 6th.

We hoped for higher, however, it was the best season so far.

The amount of growth I saw in each member of my team was incredible.

This year the Evergreen staff asked them to push beyond the skills they had and learn new ones. We asked them to project confidence when they felt unsure. We asked them to look ten times bigger than their small number.

We raised the bar.

They grabbed it.

We raised it again.

They stretched for it.

The more we expected, the more they gave.

Sweat, blood, bruises, tears and broken teeth… they fought.

Yesterday, this guard came off the field with no regrets.  Their wind-burned faces beamed. Their eyes sparkled as they scooped up equipment while the audience roared in appreciation. Heads rose high above their shoulders as they walked off the field.

But it wasn’t just the show they were proud of.

These kids learned not only how to spin and dance at a much higher level, they also learned how to persevere through pain. At one show, a student took a flag pole to the mouth in the first 20 seconds of the opener. Broke her tooth off. She performed to the very end as if nothing happened.

They learned how to extend grace to one another over the past few months as each member reached his or her breaking point.

They pulled together to offer comfort when a member was sad.

They encouraged one another when things got hard.

I don’t think I’m stretching anything by saying they learned to love one another. The bond this team has is unlike anything I have seen in all my years. And for that reason alone, I am  proud of them.

 

Photo by Michael Baldrey

Guest Post by Former Evergreen Guardling, Linzi Garcia

Evergreen HS class of '14

Linzi Garcie Evergreen HS class of ’14

Color guard is not a activity that simply has some measurable value to me; color guard is Me.

High school… High school is something we all dread in the moment and hold onto as long as we can once we’re out. Without color guard, I do not know if I would like the person I have become nearly as much. I learned that blood, sweat, tears, and a little bit of vomit are the baby steps for lifelong discipline, hard work, and a sense of accomplishment.

What always absolutely delighted me about the activity is that we took it and exposed our community to our passion. It wasn’t solely a school activity. Individually, and as a team, we became active members in our school and our community. Between fundraisers, parades, volunteer work, and performances, there was never a time we weren’t trying to be involved. I wouldn’t have ever even attempted integrating myself into my school or my community without that, and I am so incredibly grateful I did.

Confidence has always been a facet of life that can be built and destroyed in a second. Why do we do that to each other? Why do we do that to ourselves?Color guard is the one thing I knew I could always take pride in.  It built my character, my confidence, and perspective. Spinning, dancing, and performing are incomparable ways to release my emotion without feeling the need to sensor it. It was because of guard I could feel. I could accept my emotions. I could accept myself. As my brother always told the marching band: Everything you do, you must do “With confidence!”

Not being in color guard in college is something I did not realize would affect me so much. In high school, even in the off-season, our commitment never ceased. I even traded summer babysitting for sabre lessons! We do whatever we must to fulfill our greatest potential. Again, this translates from guard experiences and skills to things I encounter every day. It will forever be applicable that we receive precisely what we put forth. I realized I must not only be committed to classes or activities I’m involved in; I must be committed to my life.

Color guard is beautiful in the inevitable expansion of your perspective. I myself rejuvenate

Evergreen HS Winter Guard SA, Photo by Michael Baldrey

by observing and thinking. When you’re too ignorant to accept a different perspective, so much of life is missed. Performing is about opening and connecting each of those perspectives within you. Whether it’s time to be a diva, a heartbroken lover, or a monster, we are able to be anyone and anything during those few minutes. Once you accept that for yourself, you are able to accept that when reading others. It is fascinating!

Whether it be respect, self- and world-actualization, or fun skills learned, everything color guard has provided me is extraordinarily interdisciplinary. Not many activities are able to fulfill that! I’ve finally been able to recognize respect, inspiration, self-discipline, and what it feels like to be rewarded for hard work. I want to be the one to inspire the next Linzi Garcia that comes around, whether or not it is even guard related. Because of what I took from those brutal, worthwhile, amazing years within learning in that environment, I finally got a slap to the face of what I had learned to value. In the moment, throughout a color guard career, we might only be considering our technique and skills within color guard, but now, and forever more, it’s all about considering the character you’ve built and how you emanate it.

If you would like to contribute as a guest guarding blogger send me an email with your post 300-800 words, a headshot and a performance shot to darciebooks@gmail.com. I will publish well written posts about the value of color guard in your life.

It’s called the Sport of the Arts

photo by Darcie J. Gudger

This morning while I read through my Feedly collection of blogs, I found an incredible post by leadership and publishing industry guru, Michael Hyatt. It was an article titled Why You Need More Art in Your Life (and 5 ways to get it). 

Everyday I run into people who, after asking what I do for a living, look at me like I have a third nostril when I say, “I’m and author and also the color guard director at Evergreen High School.”

The ensuing conversation goes like this:

Jaw slack, head tilted, they ask, “What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“Color guard.”

“Um,  you know marching band, right?”

“Yeah.”

“We are the ones who–”

“Oh! You guys run around and wave flags. Got it.” With a flick of the hand, Joe Q. Public turns away.

“Wait!” I grab his elbow, “It’s more than that… it’s… it’s…you know…”

He breaks away. His head moves from sided to side.

I stand there staring, wondering how I could explain something so complex in a succinct way someone with no exposure could understand.

Many of us have had this conversation.  And when we’re put on the spot, it’s really, really hard to articulate in a few words what we do.

I mean, I’ve had someone say to me, “You really need a coach for that? Flipping flags?”

Um. Yeah. We do.

Anyway, guard is more than the physical skills of flag, rifle, sabre, dance and performance. It is an art.

Therefore, what captivated me this morning, was how Mr. Hyatt defined art. In spite of the fact I am an author and words are my livelihood, I often fail to find the right ones at the right time. Hyatt’s definition brings clarity.

Art gives us meaning. These are things that cannot be understood with pure reason– like love and beauty, to name two. Art helps us understand our world… Art requires something of us. At the most basic level it can stir us to gratitude.

 Winter Guard International (WGI) describes color guard as the Sport of the Arts. Guard gives those of us who participate, a vehicle to understand the world we live in. A vehicle to understand ourselves. Things that can’t be explained by simple words.

Wow. Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve been asking guardlings I know and love, to write a guest post about the value of guard in their lives. The first guest post by Derek Hackett

It is awesome. See if you can find what Hyatt is talking about in Derek’s words.

Pomona High School
Scholastic Open
Class of 2015

Guest Post by Guardling, Derek Hackett, of Pomona HS

I was asked a simple but exquisite question a few days back; What is the value of guard in my life?

Before I share the value of guard in my life, I feel I should explain what guard is to me

Guard, to me, is a place where a group of talented individuals come together and express themselves in ways they otherwise can’t.

Guard is about much more than the show or performers. It’s about painting a visual masterpiece of the music for the audience.

Pomona competed in Dayton, OH at WGI World Championships in SO

Pomona competed in Dayton, OH at WGI World Championships in SO

Before guard, I played football for a several years until I injured my knee.

I remember the first day I participated in guard. It was in the lunchroom after school where everyone saw me!

I was laughed at—called names…. I broke the “norm.”

We all know football players just don’t spin flags!

It was rough at first, served with a side of overwhelming. But, the care and compassion shown by the members and staff, helped me push through it. Guard became my safe place.

Guard will always be my safe place.

Guard shapes me as a person by teaching me essential life lessons I can use outside of guard.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that each toss… each spin…. each catch… is its own unique moment.

If something doesn’t go as planned—like a drop, or the next toss is a complete loss… I can learn from those moments and connect them to real life.

If I’m having a bad day, today, and things just aren’t going right, tomorrow is a new day. Why waste an opportunity to shine by letting yesterday affect today?

Guard is training me for the future by helping me become a master of multitasking. Because what other activities don’t expect me to have a list of at least ten things to think about every second?

Take my job at a pizza shop. I multitask all the time. I prepare food. Put that food in the oven. Then I have to keep track of what went in the oven when and what needs to come out in a specific order. I can juggle pizzas and breadsticks like I can juggle sabres!

Guard is not easy. That is a fact. I persevere through thick and thin with guard because, to me, there is no greater reward than performing.

There have been days where I wanted to chuck my equipment across the room and quit. Days I didn’t want to be there because I was sick, tired, annoyed by other members, or I didn’t want to get called out by staff.

When I feel overwhelmed and burned out, I recall the feeling I get inside while I’m performing under the lights which illuminate my bright, radiant flag.  I think about the audience applause when I nail my blade six on the hilt. Best yet, I remember the passion I feel in my heart when I’m on the floor.

I tell myself,

“Never stop performing! Head up toward the sky!, You’ve got this!”

So. What’s the value of guard in your life?

Facing Fears

Creative Commons photo by Michael Labowicz

Creative Commons photo by Michael Labowicz

My book comes out in four days.

Exciting, but scary.

I had no idea that after I signed that publication contract, a whole bunch of fears would resurface. Or that I would develop new ones.

Back in the day, if you asked me what I was afraid of, I’d list two things: spiders and lightning. Life was an adventure and I did all kinds of crazy things.

But now…

I am happy to hide in my house. I prefer to stick with the known rather than explore the unknown. I gave difficult circumstances power over me. I tried to put my trust in myself to fix things and make them better rather than trust the God who created the universe.

The hard truth is, I cannot succeed at being a writer, color guard director, wife, or mother if I live in fear.

I must do something about this fear.

And thanks to my friend, Stacey, I have a plan.

I am going to face something that downright terrifies me.

I am going to learn how to ski.

Don’t laugh!

Skiing terrifies me. I’ve only ever gone twice in my life and spent most of the time as a human snowball. Hated every minute. And, to top it off,  I have a Frankenknee. So taking risks is something I just. Don’t. Do. Anymore.

Friends and family, before you freak out on me and beg me not to, I am not going at this alone. My friend Stacey, an instructor at Vail, is going to help me through this process. She knows what fear can do to a person. Skiing helped her overcome. She challenged me to face this fear in order to learn to overcome the others.

So. What is your fear?

How are you planning to overcome it?

*I got the picture from Flickr, added the words. I know there is a “proper” way to link to the usage license and stuff, but I have yet to figure that out. I tried, but need to do more research.