Gym’s, Gerry’s and the petri dish of life

Going to my gym is like experiencing a cornucopia of life. A mixture of people, sizes and persuasions along with contradictions and for me, curiosity.

kroc center

Who gets a gym that looks like it belongs in Aspen? Me and 14,000 other people, that’s who

Maybe it’s because this place is a multi-purpose center as opposed to a strictly iron and class oriented gym. This place is rock climbing and swimming, theatre and basketball courts. I’m sure there is more, but my curiosity taps out where the day care center stops. It starts back up as I approach mile three on thick rubber bottom-treadmill and the sweat is dripping in my, blurring the letters on my Kindle. My mind starts to wander and I look around. Out of my left eye, I spy an older man two treadmills down about 5’7 who has a crunched right hand. At first I only sense this, because he’s having extraordinary difficulty pushing the buttons. In front of me is a younger couple that are engaged in the type of back and forth that only occurs in the dating phase. Married couples, FYI, go separate directions, or if they stay together, move with military-style precision. They are here to get things done, not flirt.

I move on from the young couple. They are boring me and honestly, if I have to watch people flirt on the treadmill, my only recourse is to give myself more pain as a distraction.

Downstairs, over the railing, I see a late-twenties man rolling his wheelchair. He works here. Once I overhead him talking to a group of elderly patrons. He said a snowboarding accident left him in his present state. He wheels everywhere with vigor, being much more helpful to the senior citizens who occupy this place than I would normally expect a late-twenties employee to be. (Nothing against late twenties, mind you. It’s just that a person who is half the height of a granny tends to be a) non-threatening, b) interested in what life’s lessons are all about and c) funny. If you have lost the use of your legs, along the path, I believe a decision is made whether or not to become bitter. And if that’s not the choice, happiness usually is. Have you ever noticed how happy disabled people are? It’s like it was a blessing. But I digress.)

Then comes the group of big, bald and…(no, not bloaty, I know you thought I was going there), but hard. How can that be? You ask. I can answer because in my alter life, I am the quizat haderachk. These men are mostly forties to sixties, and own their bigness and baldness. As I ramp up my treadmill to 7% and then 11%, I’m in awe of how these men own it. Actually, I have to give credit to my friend from LA, Mark S., a snowboarding, surfing CEO of not one but two companies (he’s single, but has attachment issues, sorry ladies). In any case, he will look at you when you completely err (e.g. fart in a closed-windowed car) and say “Claim it, bro.”

These men, I watch them and then claim it. Claim their bigness that is so big, their tummies is one, enormous round entity that stretches the t-shirt like a balloon ready to go into the stratosphere. They strut. They laugh. They do the man-bro hug and pat each other’s back twice with a bap-bap. I must say, I applaud it. They are so full of confidence it almost makes them appealing. Almost.

Then we have another group of Gerries (what I call older women, Gerries—with a j–) is short for geriatric. Rog thinks it’s insulting but in my posse of grandmas who I hang with (thing church and service-based activities), a Gerry is really an affectionate term, one of endearment. (e.g. oh that Gerry si so cute driving her scooter, oh, that’s a hot Gerry, she’s working that lace skirt).

In any case, these place has the female equivalent of the balding, big men. They are the not-so-well preserved women who are trying really, REALLY, hard. (yes, I shouted, but more of a nice emphasis cuz I like these women). This area, in Northern Idaho, isn’t about pretense, plastic surgery or make-up. When I’m talking try hard, I’m referring to a completely different try, one that requires my complete respect and more than a little bit of awe.

To wit (invoking my high school English lit class), one woman in her late sixties, her face an unfolded piece of parchment paper that attests to her a lifetime in the northern Idaho sun, has poured her skinny self into a pair of stretchy leggings and a skin tight halter top. Rock climbing shoes without sock are the only other piece of clothing she puts on before scrambling her little superhero butt into the harness. She shimmies up the rock wall, putting the out of shape fourteen year-old male’s to shame.

That girl has claimed it. Dang. I look around wanting to claim something of my own.

As I get off the stationary walking apparatus of pain, I head directly to the weight section. There I run into a wall of Gerries who have commandeered the machines, many with their personal trainer (compliments of the center). They have their small white pieces of paper, attached to a clipboard and their minder. (I’m borrowing that from the Scientologists. I like it. It fits. I hope I don’t get sued. If the government of the US doesn’t have the funds or gumption to sue the Scientologists, I’m pretty sure I don’t). In any case, the minder keeps tabs on very push and press, pull and dip. Nary a sweat drop in sight, but I tell you what I do see. A lot of looking around. Gazing—at the opposite sex!

I ponder this as I continue into the free weight section where I’m in the company of only one other woman (who is definitely not a Gerry) and a whole lot of maleness under thirty. I’m okay with this, but as I mention to my husband later than evening, I’m confused as to what to do and how to be. My natural, nice, talkative self creates the impression that I want to talk, instead of working out, and that my talking is a forward to getting into bed. So after realizing I was creating a legion of potential stalkers who would follow me around from bench to pole, I tried the other approach. I stared straight ahead, barely making eye contact, and only doing so when I needed to verify bench or item was available. I’m terribly conflicted about this, because I think avoiding someone’s gaze is rude and I run this risk of thinking I’m all that (which, if you saw me at the gym, would know I’m very little of all that).

I’m reminded of what Rog told me earlier in the week. “Who cares if they look or talk to you? Why are you even thinking about this? Enjoy a younger man talking to you. It’s not going to last forever.”

What the…? Laughing while foreseeing my old-age Gerry-ness coming into play, I continue working out, trying to find a balance between being focused and polite but distant and not-b—chy. The good news is I have better things to focus on, like the man who has been burned on half of his body, and the woman plastered with so many tattoos I can barely see the skin. She doesn’t look very happy but has an amazing body. This then makes me wonder if I have to be grumpy and focused to have a great body.

Closing the locker on my things, I wipe some sweat off and head out. The meanderings of my time at the gym. I came. I exercised. I pondered. I realized I don’t know half of what I need to be wise, but if the Gerry’s around me are any example, I’m going to have a lot of time to figure it out.

Why Mormon’s Pay Tithing

“There they go again,” remarked my husband Rog, he of the hee-haw pick-up truck-driving, Porsche-racing, fishing-and-heli-skiing kind. He was, of course, referring to the Mormon missionaries who fearlessly ride in the northwest rain. Before I could respond, he starts talking about the cars, or the lack thereof, for these guys. “The least they (the church) could do is give them cars.”

A woman visiting a sick woman in a hospital bed.This begat a conversation about “where all the money goes.”

“The money,” Rog is referring to is the “tithing money,” that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or Mormons, or members of the LDS church are called), paid by the members of the church once a month. (It can be paid anytime, but is typically done on “fast Sunday,” which is the first Sunday of the month.

His comment was timely, since a few weeks ago, the church held their semi-annual General Conference, where the church leaders provide statistics on just this kind of information. The media is ever-ready to pick up on the facts and figures, and the LDS church has a web page just for the news media, but it’s accessible to all. So, when its a slow day (which it was Easter weekend), the statistics for 2012 got a lot of play. Let’s just say 2012 was impressive.

  • 890,000 people in 36 countries received clean water
  • 70,000 people in 57 countries received wheelchairs
  • 75,000 people in 25 countries received vision care
  • millions of dollars were provided in 52 countries following natural disasters
  • the LDS church provided immunizations for 8,000,000 men, women and children around the world (as well as neonatal efforts through their LDS Charities), also funded by tithing
  • the LDS church provided resources and assistance for displaced people in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan
A snapshot of just a few welfare centers

This doesn’t count the millions of dollars that the fast offerings provided to those needing welfare or  welfare assistance, nor does it include the training given to refugees and immigrants that is provided at no cost all to individuals around the world. I also learned about the partners of the LDS church, including those in other faiths, like Islam. I found this link on the welfare locations around the world, just in case you or someone you know, is in need. (it’s interactive, so click on it and scroll around around the world). As a side note, I think it’s awesome that the church provides so much to people regardless of faith, status or anything else. The overall goal is to help people- and that’s pretty inclusive. A heartbeat and two legs. Done.

An actual tithing slip from the LDS church

Since I got this information on my phone and gave it to Rog while we were still driving–during the same conversation– we then started talking about how the LDS church “gets” it’s money as well as”saves and spends.”

Tithing–the principle and the purpose
Tithing was instituted at the foundation of the church, to do the above–help others. Members donate 10% of their increase (its up to the person as to whether that would be groresearchers at the Christian Post, a non-LDS org).
ss or net). The church as approximately 14M members around the world. Of these, nearly 90% are full tithe payers according to

More giving than just tithing…food, clothing and humanitarian aid….
Above the 10% tithing, the actual tithing slip has different categories where a member can elect to give money for other aspects of the church. For instance, in money can be given from a “fast offering.” Once a month, members of the LDS church “fast,” meaning, they skip eating for 2 meals, and the money that would have been spent on the meals is given for ‘fast offerings.’ This is a fund specifically set up for food supplies, and is used to feed those in need around the world. Have you ever heard of “the Bishop’s storehouse?” These are enormous, central locations of food storage that individual pastors (called bishop’s in the LDS church), are able to draw from for members (and their families) within their own congregations (called wards). In a way, it’s like an entire sub-welfare system that runs parallel to the government (and since these are worldwide, government’s plural).

A bishops storehouse for the LDS church.

Another category is education. This is designed for individuals who cannot afford to go to college, and LDS education system (colleges) provides a means for subsidizing the college education. It would be something if these schools were community colleges, but they aren’t. The Brigham Young Universities are in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, pumping out thousands of well-educated young adults who go on to graduate school.

Ok then, what about missionaries, coming full-circle. Back in the day (@10 yrs ago), missionaries paid the entire cost of their missions, and are still expected to do so. The difference was that if a poor guy was sent to San Francisco or Paris, their costs was hundreds (or thousands) more than someone sent to Africa or Louisiana. This put an undue burden on the young man or woman or their parents. The church changed this so it asks of missionaries a flat cost (I think it’s $250 per month), and then the rest is subsidized by the LDS church. This keeps the cost extraordinarily low and is fair to all. According to the April statistics, 65,000 full-time missionaries are serving around the church at this present time. Whoa. That’s a lot of money. And one of the line items on the tithing slip is for missionaries.

Save, save, save
Young adults having fun as they paint a building.Beyond the fact that members voluntarily contribute a lot of money, the LDS church isn’t known for paying out. In other words, bishops, stake presidents, the auxiliary women organizations…every single position is volunteer and not compensated. (I found this study by the University of Pennsylvania on the merits of volunteerism in the LDS church interesting). Furthermore, those mowing the lawns on Saturday, or cleaning the building are also members of the church who take turns. The 117 geneology centers around the world are all staffed by members who are also volunteers or who have been asked to spend time helping others work on family history. That’s millions of dollars saved, not spent– and by the way, the latest news is that over a billion records have been processed.

When I kept related this to Rog (still in the car), he asked if we (meaning, anyone) could get in on the food storage part of it. (We’ve been restocking our food storage– being in the hinterland, and sometimes without power for 1-2 weeks, and trees coming down, we have to be prepared!).

“Of course,” I said, telling him the hours of the cannery, where anyone–and I do mean anyone– can sign up and go in, take your own dry goods (or buy them) and fill up.

Need a Job? Hit the LDS site
Well, so once I got into the web site, I couldn’t stop myself. The newsroom had so many great things (and I’m sooo sick of sites with nothing but bad news), I kept reading. The LDS employment network is huge and always looking for folks. It operates in 117 countries and as one bishop told me, is “open to everyone.” Problem is, very few people know about it.

Cheap clothes? Go Desert Industries
Ever heard of Deseret Industries, the LDS church’s version of Goodwill. The workers are disabled individuals, the items are inexpensive and the donations come primarily from members of the church but anyone can give. I remember we had one nearby when I was growing up, and our school had a 1970’s disco dance and we all went down and got duded up for a few bucks. It was excellent. Even now, I hit the local “DI” (which is the abbreviated version) for all things I want inexpensive. The LDS church’s standards seem to be higher than the Goodwill (e.g. nicer items) for less money.

At that point, Rog raised his hand, telling me it was “enough.”

“Well, I’ve made my case,” Rog saidas the missionaries went on their way, bowing their heads against the rain. “They should definitely have cars.”