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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ruston's Ray of Sunshine Helps Women Bloom

I learned a new plant name today. It's "smelter weed." This came up in a conversation with Bev Wombacher, owner of the Ladies Workout Express gym in Ruston, while I happily exercised my way around the circuit of machines and stations. The sun was shining in the windows onto the raspberry-colored carpet and we were talking about what a nice day it was and how we should get out in our yards and pull weeds. As a gardener, I recoiled when she said "smelter weed", surely a weed that would give new meaning to the category "noxious". I pictured Bev in full protective gear, garden tools in hand.

"What's that?" I asked, in horror. I grew up on nearby Vashon Island and now live in Tacoma. I thought I knew all the weeds around here. That's when I found out it was plain old "horsetail", equisetum hyemale. "Smelter weed" is the name the Ruston locals have given it, and I do recall how back in the old days, before the pollution was cleaned up, and the huge ASARCO smelter still existed, this plant was a prominent part of the, ummm..."landscaping" around it.

"Oh, that stuff. It's amazingly tough and persistent," I told her. "I've heard that when you try to pull it out any little piece that remains will sprout a new plant! It just keeps going no matter what." Later in the day I would be thinking about horsetail and how it does actually symbolize some good qualities.

Ladies Workout Express, or LWE is my home-away-from-home and I can tell you why in one word: Bev. The acronym could just as well stand for "Live With Enthusiasm". Bev is Ruston's ray of sunshine. I remember the first day I came there to sign up. I'd never been to a gym before. Suddenly there was this cheerful, smiling woman about my age, greeting me warmly, and it all felt right. Since then I've become friends with Bev and my respect for her as a smart, ethical business woman, but more importantly as a wonderful and inspiring human being, continues to grow.

I'd been a little intimidated by the idea of joining a gym, and I wasn't sure if the fact that it was for women only made it easier or not. I imagined a bunch of hard-body types "going for the burn" that would be highly competitive and judgmental, scoffing at me for daring to show my rather out-of-shape self in their world. It wasn't like that at all. Believe me, the members come in all shapes and sizes, and those shapes and sizes CHANGE after awhile. And it isn't just bodies that change. So do members' outlooks on life. Bev is one of the main reasons.

Bev Wombacher is a cancer survivor. She talks about it freely, and just this morning we were discussing the fact that too many people are negative in their thinking. These days Bev is as healthy as a... well, a horsetail, and she knows a valuable truth. Life is much too beautiful, joyful, and precious to spend even a minute of it being negative. Her positive vibe so completely fills the room that no pettiness, gossip or other bad attitudes are able to exist. I can honestly say I have never, ever, heard an unkind word about anyone there. If a member who is not present is spoken of it's always in a good way. It's really amazing how strong the atmosphere of positive thinking is. No one would desire to, or dare to, compromise it. That's because we all love it there. We love how, by improving our bodies, we feel better about ourselves, and by improving our outlooks we feel better about life. And we love Bev.

At Ladies Workout Express you get a lot for your money. I would venture to say that there is no other gym in the Tacoma area, or any place else, where the owner herself is out on the floor all day, teaching, helping, encouraging, and inspiring the members. Bev is totally committed to helping women blossom, no matter what their age, situation in life, or body type. She goes way beyond what would be needed just to run a business, because it isn't just a business to her. It's a mission. With continuing education in the field of physical fitness she's up on all the latest and wants to serve the members in every way possible.

This afternoon I've been thinking about "smelter weed" and how it's not all that bad. It's bright and upright, vigorous, reliable and unstoppable. In a beauty pageant for plants it might not get the crown but would certainly win the title of "Most Optimistic". Bev Wombacher is a whole lot prettier and more appreciated than this weed, but in another way they are alike: unstoppable.

When you drive north on Pearl St. and cross the invisible line into our neighboring town of Ruston, be sure to notice the Ladies Workout Express. It's at 4927 N. Pearl St., second building on the right after Tatanka Take-out. The phone number is 253-752-8599. You can't miss it. The sun will be shining a little brighter there.

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