A Giving Kind of Post

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and I’m super excited! Even though I’m not much of a fan of the month of November, I dearly love Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. This year I’m going to be spending the holiday visiting my family in California, and it will be my first Thanksgiving with them since I moved to Washington in 2010.
I am so incredibly fortunate to have so much to be thankful for this season: a wonderful family and friends, and a loving fiancee and sweet kitties that live with me in our warm, comfortable home. I have plenty of food to eat, a great job, a warm bed to rest in at night. The list goes on and on, and I could easily write an entire blog post just listing out things that I am grateful for. But just as I am so very thankful for all that I have, I am also very aware that there are so many around me that do not have even the most basic of things, no roof over their heads or warm clothes to wear or a safe place to sleep. It seems so unbalanced to me, that I have so much while others struggle to get by with so little, and so I try to do my part to help out those less fortunate than me. I wanted to take some time today to share a few of my favorite charities, and I hope that this will inspire those around me to find a way to help out those in need. I’ve included links to each organization’s website for anyone who would like more information or to donate.
To me, Kiva is a gift that keeps on giving. It isn’t really so much a charity as it is a system of loaning money to people who are trying to better their communities but may not have access to traditional bank loans. Kiva is a non-profit organization that connects lenders and borrowers. To get started, decide on an amount to loan (my first one was $25, which was all I could afford at the time). Then review the different men and women who are seeking funds to improve their businesses and communities. There are a wide range of areas to choose from (for example, I lent money to a man who was saving up for a water filtration system to provide clean drinking water to students in Uganda). Find the perfect cause, lend out the money, receive repayment, and start all over! Over the years I have been repaid my money several times, then turned around and found new people and projects to loan to.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society in North America, and today it is one of the largest. They are a non-profit organization fighting animal cruelty throughout the US, with their mission being the protection, placement, and rescue of animals in need. While I would happily adopt every homeless animal if I could, unfortunately I don’t have the resources. Between donating monthly to the ASPCA and pampering my own three adopted cats, I am trying to do my part to help animals.
Cocoon House
In addition to larger national organizations, I also believe it is really important to offer local support as well. Cocoon House is a local non profit that strives to end youth homelessness in Snohomish County. It was started as a small emergency shelter but has grown into a nationally recognized program that offers a variety of programs to help at-risk youth and their families and to combat the problem of teen homelessness. It’s hard to imagine that there are kids right now with nowhere to go tonight, but over 34% of the homeless population is under the age of 24.
Snohomish County Food Bank
On Thanksgiving Day, most of us will probably eat far too much and then slink off to bed to sleep off the turkey hangover. But there are far too many people who are anything but full on any given day, and to help those people locally we have the Snohomish County Food Bank. This non-profit organization provides beneficiaries with food and social services every week. Those wishing to donate food can find drop-off locations on the organization’s website, and monetary donations are taken right online. Want to help but have a tight budget? The Food Bank is also accepting volunteers for a variety of schedules and jobs.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Story of How I Cancelled My Gym Membership

When I left my telecom job earlier this year, I also left behind its on-site gym with the kindly trainer Curt and his challenging but fun lunchtime classes. Once I started my new job, I joined a gym close to my new office with the intention of working out consistently. I started off strong and was really getting a solid bang for my buck. But over the summer, I started slacking and not going, and when I would work out I would just do a quick video at home or go to my beloved Zumba class. As so many people do, I became less of a patron and more of a donor of membership fees as I went to the gym less and less. It did bother me that I was wasting fifty bucks a month, and I tried to rally and start going back, but I only really found one class that I liked and I lack all motivation to work out by myself. If a flash of motivation arises, I do have a small gym at my office and one at my apartment complex. And so today, I decided to throw in the towel, admit defeat, and cancel my membership.
I went over to the gym on my lunch hour, thinking that I would be in and out and back to work in no time. At the check-in desk, I let the receptionist know what I wanted to do. His face immediately sank. “You want to cancel? No!” he exclaimed, clearly heartbroken. I remained resolute. I had been warned of this when I watched the episode of Friends, The One with the Ballroom Dancing, in which Ross goes with Chandler to help him cancel his gym membership but instead finds himself talked into joining the gym as well. I knew that there would be resistance, pressure, bargaining. After explaining to the traumatized receptionist that I simply did not use my membership, he told me that a manager would have to assist me with my request and motioned me to sit and wait on a Bench of Shame in the lobby that was reserved for quitters.
I sat down, and within a minute a friendly guy named Kevin came over to ask how he could help me. Once he realized I was there to cancel a membership and not start one, he backed away as if I had the plague, muttering that Frank the Manager would have to help me as he scampered quickly away.
Undeterred, I sat on the Bench of Shame for a few more minutes before Frank the Manager appeared and asked how he could help. After I explained (again) that I wanted to cancel my membership, he led me to his office and shut the door. I had a feeling that this was very similar to what happens when they pull you aside to tell you that they have decided to take Great Aunt Irene off of life support. He sat somberly at his desk and said, “So, you just want to cancel today,”  and I affirmed that, yes, I wished to cancel. Apparently fourth time’s a charm, because  he seemed to comprehend my request. He pulled up my account and said wistfully, “Oh, but you have such a good rate too.”
Kill me now.
I am not falling for your crap, Frank, I thought, while smiling and remaining firm that yes, I wanted to cancel my membership with my great rate. I explained that I simply didn’t use the gym, that I did not anticipate it changing, and that I had thought this through and wasn’t going to change my mind. He asked me if I had any friends who came to the gym with me and I said no. He nodded, empathizing that it is a lot harder to come to the gym without friends. “Oh, poor you, you have no friends” was what I’m pretty sure he was thinking. Then he switched tactics, asking me what my fitness goals originally were.
I was not going to be lured into a conversation about my longtime struggle of desiring washboard abs versus desiring cheeseburgers. “Just to maintain my health,” I replied quickly. “And I still take Zumba twice a week in Marysville with friends.”
I think this hurt ol’ Frank the Manager just a bit. “Why not come to our Zumba classes?” he asked.
Now, if you’ve never actually taken Zumba with Nancy McFadden, the answer to this question is impossible to understand. Nancy’s class is just…different. Less twirly-dance-y, more fitness-oriented. Plus, friends that I’ve had for years go there, and it is literally the only time I see them. “I just prefer to take the class my friends go to, it’s the only time we spend together,” I answered simply, trying to shut the door on this line of questioning.
“Well, how about we get your friends some two week passes so they can try the gym here?” Frank the Manager rebutted.
“All my friends have other gym memberships” I retorted. No idea if that’s true. Seems implausible, actually. But still.
At this point, I think Frank knew he was losing me and that he was going to have to double down if he was going to get anywhere. “What about your boyfriend or husband, could he come with you and motivate you?” he asked.
That had actually been the plan in the beginning, and it was working just fine until I got bored with it. Outside of Zumba, I’m fickle with my fitness. “My fiancee has a membership here, but I still want to cancel,” I said.
I did not realize it, but I fell directly into Frank’s trap. “Fiancee? I just got engaged too! On Tuesday!” he said, lighting up. Momentarily, I was genuinely happy for the guy, but that initial good-for-you vibe was quickly replaced with the realization that he had tricked me. Now he’d found common ground, now we could “bond”. We were going to be besties now, Frank the Manager and I.
He proceeded to tell me his engagement story, complete with a scroll of his Instagram photos of the Big Event, and I nodded politely while silently cursing him for wasting my lunch break when I really wanted to run over to Starbucks and get a green tea on my way back to work. I now know that he asked his girlfriend to dress up nicely before she went to work because he wanted to take her out to dinner that night, only to have a limo fetch her and bring her to a private tour of a local winery before having her presented with a heart-shaped cake with “Will You Marry Me?” written on it. As he wrapped up the story, he let out a chuckle and said, “Listen to me, telling you all about my life,” as he shook his head conspiratorily. Then for good measure he flashed me a photo of his small son wearing a dinosaur Halloween costume.
I said all the right things, the “oh how sweet”s and the “oh how cute”s. I still wanted a green tea though, damn it, and I did not want to encourage the fostering of this new BFFhood. So I did not offer up any tidbits of my own life. Frank the Manager finally cleared his throat and got back to business. “Now, it just sounds like you’re struggling to find your motivation right now. What we can do, is just put your membership on hold for free for a few months,” he offered, looking at me confidently. It seemed to him that we were not the same people that we were when we entered the room. We had bonded. We had shared things. Clearly I would agree to his offer. It made so much sense! Just put the membership on hold to give myself time to find my motivation, to find myself.
“That’s okay, let’s just cancel it,” I persisted.
I had clearly crushed Frank the Manger. He had put his faith and trust in me and I had let him down. He dutifully clicked a single button and I heard my email ping before he could even explain that I would have an email confirmation of my cancellation waiting for me, and that I was paid up through December 10th so I could feel free to use the gym until then. “Would you like a printed copy of your cancellation?” he asked me, gaze down, not meeting my eyes. I declined, and he ushered me out of his office and his heart.