Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The World Will Continue Spinning... Or Will It?

Work. Work. Train. Pedal. Pack. Drive. Practice. Cry. Race. Cry. Drive. Cry. Unpack. Work. Sit. Cry. Work. Plan. Work. Cry.

Sunday morning dawned cloudy, overcast and a bit cool in the back lot where we were camped out. I suppose I should have known something was wrong -- the earth was in mourning. Things went too smoothly. I woke up too early, make coffee too quickly, plugged in and began prepping my rig for practice that would come later. It's okay, I said. "Cool race days are better than hot."

This one was not. At 9:36, I opened my iMessage inbox to find a one-line message from my older brother letting me know that my grandfather had died. As I would later find out, having only wifi on site had led to me missing all of my mom's phone calls, texts and attempts to reach us to let us know that my grandfather was in rough condition. He had suffered a stroke a few days prior, but being out of the loop until the night before left me clueless and blindsided with the news of his death, unable to process his decline and subsequent passing.

I suppose I should start from the beginning... At least for me. My grandfather, Blaine Delton Batty, was born January 26th. He had blue eyes icier than the month of his birth that would melt like a popsicle in July when he laughed; a rowdy, shouting guffaw. It was that laugh of his that I'll never forget. My grandfather would sometimes forget he was holding my hand while laughing and I'd think it was about to pull clean away from my body. Other times, when he was holding me in one of his larger-than-life bear hugs, his whole chest would shake and I'd end up giggling along, just because he was so infectiously thrilled with something. My Grandpa Batty was enthralled by nature; whether it was the telescope in front of the living room window, his National Geographic Nature videos we'd watch together or the birds he'd try to tell me about, the man loved being surrounded by everything in nature. From irrigating the lawn on hot summer days as a child and tossing handfuls of crabapples back and forth to his cherry trees and walnut wood smoke-filled workshop, my grandfather was an enigma. Stubborn as an ass, his daughters would say. Opinionated and bullish, my mom would tell me... But he was my Grandpa, first and foremost. He patiently taught me how to play checkers, then cleverly explained how to beat my brother at them. He'd lift me high on his shoulders so I could reach the best cherries on the tree; he taught me how to recognize 'bird berries' from the edible ones on his bushes to keep me from poisoning myself and later, different plants that would help or hurt me. Grandpa hand built his grandkids a playhouse, complete with not only a slide but with an actual fireman's pole, right above his workshop where he could keep an eye on us. He poured a goldfish pond that he kept stocked with shimmering, sleek fish that we'd spend hours watching, listening to his pet peacocks hoot around the barns... My grandpa wasn't just my hero -- the neighbors all adored him and 'Mr. Batty' was a legend in his small Lindon neighborhood, even as his rural haven changed and became a suburb. He embraced them, those neighbors; lawn care tips and game-curing help poured from his encyclopedic brain, peppered with funny anecdotes and Batty-esque humor.

My childhood was filled with joy because of a man who saw past my know-it-all shell and into my curious, questioning mind. My grandfather was my best friend... He never gave me the brush off or was too busy for my (many) inquiries; for an awfully impatient man, he tolerated one little girl with nothing but kindness, love and respect. Sometimes, it was tough love and would end with a swat and a shake. Sometimes, it was shockingly sweet and he'd hug me close until the tears stopped. During the summer, he'd mow his lawn three times in one day if I'd ask him to, if only because I loved his giant riding lawnmower. Winter saw him shoveling not only his own driveway and walk, but the houses around him, too, letting us kids follow his huge bootsteps through the snow. He'd salt and walk and shovel until everyone was taken care of, and he left that generous spirit to his children and grandchildren as a small part of his giant legacy. My dad still does the same damn thing. I remember his hands and how tiny and safe I felt when I held them, and his huge slippers. I remember how, when he was tired of listening to the chatter of the adults around him, he'd just turn off his hearing aid and close his eyes. I remember the swingset he built for us and the trampoline sprinklers during the summer. He could shell a walnut faster than you can blink, and always smelled like life... Flannel and sunshine and woodsmoke and grass.

My granddad worked at Geneva Steel for decades, was a WWII vet and lost two sons before they saw 21. He'd butcher, pack and freeze his own meat and drove a Ford pickup most of his life. He loved Christmas so much that he'd raise a lit star 50 feet in the air on a steel pole every December that we could see from the other side of State Street, and his place would be lit like Clark Griswold's house, multiplied by 1,000. I was always pretty sure it could be seen from space and every Christmas eve, he'd tell us to turn it on so that Santa could find the house... I'll never forget lots of things about my grandfather, but most of all, I'll never forget his spirit that I see in my dad and my brothers and in myself. I'll never get away from the determined Batty sense of adventure, or the need to see how far I can push the limits. I'll never take 'No' for an answer and I'll always love confrontation, information and education. I'll never be afraid of hard work, depending on myself or taking care of the people around me. I'll never be too worried to hold someone close, to laugh when I'm happy and yell when I'm mad. Every time I see a goldfish in a pond or eat fresh cherries or wade through water or taste strawberry ice cream on a hot summer day, I'll think of my Grandpa Batty. When I thumb through a bird book, drink a Coke or happen upon a bottle tree, I'll feel him in the air around me.

The man was indeed that -- a man. A beautiful, stubborn, strong, capable, loving, imperfectly perfect man. From pioneer and moonshiner stock, he's the fabric I'm cut from. From his patience came a woman unafraid of who she is and proud of the quirks he left her with. Because of him, the world is a better place. His light will not dim because he is gone, no... It will only shine brighter because of those he loved.

Thank you, Grandpa. I love you. Rest in peace. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wedding Season and the "No, I will not be attending RSVP"...

It's June, which means wedding season is upon us. We all started receiving invitations in March from eager brides vying for our attendance to their celebration of love. Some of us have been asked to be bridesmaids, cake makers, groomsmen, florists... These weddings are the culmination of a couple's love; the ultimate commitment and promise.

This year is different. This year, I won't be in attendance. Not going. Not to a single one, not even my little sister's wedding that's happening in September. Not just not attending the wedding, but not participating in wedding activities at all. Not out of disrespect to her or any of my friends, but out of respect for equal rights. I love my little sister more than almost anything... She lights up my life. I love that she's in love and I wish her all the best -- always. But I'm not going to support a wedding until everyone can marry.

You see, we have a problem in the US right now that, up until today, I've been fairly 'meh' about: gay couples cannot be married and enjoy the same rights as straight couples because of their sexual preference. They're second class citizens, excluded from the privilege of marrying that one person whom they love more than anything, because the rest of us have turned a blind eye to this issue. Yeah, I've been to many a gay pride weekend; congratulations. I march in protestation of the treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals; excellent. But how far am I really taking my support? How deep is my commitment to equality? I'll tell you: deep as fuck. Until every. single. person. in this country is given the right to marry and gain the same recognition as a straight couple under both religion and the law, I will not support marriage. I will not go to weddings. I will not make cakes or cupcakes. I will not attend celebrations that turn a blind eye to the civil rights atrocities happening on a daily basis. I don't mean it out of disrespect for my little sister or my many friends who have chosen to wed... I mean this out of respect to all people, everywhere, no matter their sexual orientation, age, color, national origin or religion. This may not go beyond my singular effort and this blog may sit exactly where it resides right now, on my website, in virtual exile, but I will not falter. This is what I believe in. Even if I stand alone, I will stand. Because I can stand. Because I believe in equal rights. Because I want to inspire a movement towards equality for all. I believe that a multi-billion dollar industry such as the wedding industry would stand up and take notice if weddings were to simply stop. If people started standing up for their brothers and sisters and refusing to pay vendors and businesses who continue to support the way things are. If we insist on change, we will get it... For all. Change for all. For unity. For equality. To stop oppression and hatred. To cease the separation of souls because of sexuality. This is not only every single person's choice to make, but our responsibility.

I encourage those around me to take a stand. I wish I could somehow inspire everyone to care. I wish that because of my absence this summer, people would take notice and ask questions. However, I know this isn't possible. The world doesn't revolve around me or my decisions. But my decision is an act of hope, of change, of defiance and of loyalty. I have to be the change in the world I wish to see. I believe in equal rights enough to stake my familial relationships, my friendships and even my future employment on that belief. I believe in love... FOR ALL.

I'm sorry, Becca. I love you. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"To Thine Own Self Be True"...

Tonight in the shower as I'm mid-hair washing with suds up to my elbows and a face full of water while reflecting on the day's events, I was hit with a small, short, random thought: "To thine own self be true."  It hit me like a freaking bus and now, instead of sleeping and chugging water in preparation for my regularly-scheduled, Monday morning ass kicking, I'm laying here in bed trying to organize my thoughts into something more substantial than a jumble of words and questions and airy curiosity.

The above phrase brings with it more questions than answers and, plagued with musings of the soulful type, I want to get them down on (virtual) paper... Bear with me. 

I was met with some... shall we say, interpersonal conflict this evening that I'm not entirely sure I dealt with properly. First of all, why do we, as humans, go for the low blow in the midst of an emotional battle with someone we love? Secondly, how does one maintain sanity and utilize logic when emotions are running high? Thirdly, why isn't telling someone else to "shut up and let me finish" as effective (or immediate) as I would like it to be? 

As much as I wish I was joking about this particular spat (and more importantly, its origination), I'm not and it's creating a metal constipation of the apocalyptic sort. How does one stick to one's guns, if you will, while still embodying kindness and compassion, as well as respect? How does one validate another's emotions while demanding they respect one's own? Is that fair, that expectation of equal rights? The equal right of respect; the 'yes, you may feel one thing (and I understand that, and I'm sorry), but you may not dismiss my emotions or disrespect my feelings, as they do exist and are just as real to me as yours are to you' statement. Is this logical? Or am I completely insane? Where does kindness come in? Kindness to oneself, kindness to another? Compassion, understanding, apologies, but still maintaining one's honesty... Standing one's ground, per say. Do the kindness and compassion lie in acknowledging the other's feelings? Diffusing the situation to talk about it? Or is it looking at the entire argument or even the relationship and taking stock of where one stands in the midst of these issues? What happens when the idea of being alone is an easier answer than tolerating shit? Does one abandon all hope for said relationship, throw one's hands in the air (or bury their face in said hands) and quit? Where do one turn when one arrives at the crossroads between being loved and changing the world? 

Heavy thoughts. 

How much of gaining respect from another person is actually earning it versus demanding it (and not tolerating anything less)? Is walking away actually required? What about when it pertains to one's dreams, one's emotions... One's very sense of self? Are relationships (romantic, friendship, familial, etc) possible when trying to focus on certain pursuits? Am I asking too many questions?  

"To thine own self be true." Is it a cornerstone of happiness and achievement and success or a path towards despair, trouble and heartache?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Winter, then Spring, then Summer and GO!!!

Let's just clear one thing up: I'm terrible at this blogging stuff. I doubt I could post regularly and often if my life depended on it, thanks to a hectic schedule and far too many hobbies and ideas and people and plans and... You get the idea. However, I'm doing well summing up this ski season: it was cold. There was snow. All I wanted to do was ride my bike. The end! 

I'm just kidding, although not about riding my bike -- I lapped a local run called Bobsled until December 14th and picked up riding again in February. I think I have a problem... With snow, that is. Too much of a good thing, maybe? Either way, the 'brown pow fever' has taken over and I only dream of speed manuals and tall berms and perfectly shaped jumps that lead into tacky singletrack followed by impeccably-spaced rock gardens. Yes, I know. It can be addictive. Now can we avoid the 'I spend way too much money on bike parts' talk? Thanks.

So the winter seemed endless, spring took forever and I started downhill racing again in March at the Reaper Madness ProGRT in Boulder City, NV. It. Was. AWESOME. Probably because of my excitement over the UCI upgrade to the Pro category, which came with another learning experience, but it also could have been the 80F weather, the sharp and technical sections of track or just the very nice company I was in... Anyway, I placed 8th of 15 pro women in my first race, only to head for Sea Otter in April and come in absolute last. Talk about making a grand pro debut, eh? It was perfect though -- as always, another day and another lesson. I can't seem to stop (or at least exit) this train called 'Learning Experiences'; maybe one day it will lead to a fantastic interview with Oprah. (Oprah? Are you out there? No? Oh. Okay.) Either way, my spring started out with a lot of racing, a lot of riding, a lot of spending and much less racing than I had anticipated, unfortunately. However, I was able to get home and make it to my first anniversary racing of the annual Sundance Showdown here in Utah, which was absolutely wonderful. The week up to the race, I worked, practiced, prepped and mentally visualized my way onto the box with the help of my family, friends and MB and then somehow ended up there! No, it wasn't as perfect a race as my practice runs were (go figure), but it was a decent result that set me mid-pack with the men and first for the women. It was also my first place result as a pro rider, which probably meant more to me than anything else. The Showdown is always a good time, but this year was even more special as my younger brother (I would say little, but the guy somehow got into the Miracle Gro and shot up like a beanstalk!) raced alongside me and my loved ones supported both of us from the side and finish lines. I must have cried multiple times that day; I will never again take for granted the support and strength that simply 'being there' for someone gives. 

It hasn't been an easy or smooth start to a race season by any means, but it has been an incredible one full of ups and downs and basically, life's best. So we keep moving, keep pedaling and keep taking it one day at a time to stay healthy, happy and strong! Thank you to all of you cyber-folks and non-cyber folks alike out there for supporting me and my efforts; you do not go unnoticed, nor does your love and support. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May your summer be magical, as only summer can be, and may life and good health find you and yours.