No Regrets 20 Years After A Life-Changing Decision

No Regrets 20 Years After A Life-Changing Decision

We all have life-defining moments we can point to. One of mine occurred 20 years ago this month.

I moved to South Lake Tahoe in August 2002. This was my second time to live in this mountain town. The second time to work at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. I thought I would live there forever. I thought I was taking my dream job; one I would retire from.

Life had other plans for me, as is often the case.

I had been working at the San Francisco Chronicle as a copy editor and news editor. It was the easiest job I had and the one that came with the biggest paycheck. I was so unfulfilled. I wanted out of the Bay Area. I was tired of commuting an hour from the North Bay. I was living alone after a 10-year relationship went south. I needed a change in so many aspects of my life.

When I left Tahoe the first time I said I would come back 10 years later as managing editor of the Tribune. It took me 13 years.

Would I do it again knowing the outcome? Absolutely.

Kae Reed hiking in the Sierra mountains in 2015. (Image: Susan Wood)

Would I take that job knowing that I would get fired as managing editor 17 months later because I refused to blur the lines between editorial and advertising? Yes.

One of my favorite memories is telling the publisher my news hole was not for sale and then being told it was not my news hole. It was one of many nails I helped drive into the coffin of my career at the Trib. At least I walked out the doors that fateful January morning with my integrity intact and a solid grip on my journalistic ethics.

I had a staff of 13. The paper was a broadsheet that came out five days a week. We weren’t afraid of writing stories that ruffled the powers that be. We weren’t afraid to publish stories when there were drug busts/ABC infractions at restaurants that were also advertisers. (All acts that shortened my tenure at the Trib.) We were doing good work, trying to make the paper better with each issue. Ninety-nine percent of those who worked for me were incredible people, many of whom I still call friends to this day.

It’s never been a great paper because of upper management and ownership. It’s the residents who are losing the most. I still say South Lake Tahoe and the entire basin (and Truckee) are a journalists’ gold mine. There are so many stories to unearth, some sitting right out in the open. It still frustrates me knowing all of the news I know that is not getting written and I don’t even live in the area. But that’s another story.

Being fired is scary. It tests you in ways you don’t want to be tested. Someone, if not several people, is telling you that you can’t do the job. That does a doozy to your self-confidence. That makes you question how you go forward. They have taken your income away, but the bill collector still comes knocking.

A lot of people showed they cared. Del came over with a copy of Writers Digest, saying I needed to get out there and freelance, and not leave town. My friend Julie offered me a job at The Appointment Biz, the company she still owns, for which I will always be grateful. It’s not on my resume because it’s not relevant to my career as a writer, but that job is so relevant to my life. It is what allowed me to stay in Tahoe until I figured things out. The Tahoe Mountain News became my outlet for local writing. I will forever be thankful to Taylor (who I had worked with at the Tribune in the late 1980s) and Heather for letting me write for them even though I came from the Trib and was living with someone who was still a reporter there. They knew my journalistic integrity and trusted me. It was the start of rebuilding my confidence.

Being fired changes you. At least it changed me. Work took on new meaning. After that I never worked for anyone again outside of being a freelancer or doing contract work. It’s liberating. It’s also daunting not having a regular paycheck every other week. I haven’t had employer health care or a company-sponsored retirement plan since then. I also don’t have to show up to work every day, don’t have a work wardrobe, don’t have to commute, can say no to an assignment, and multiple days of the week I play tennis in the middle of what would be a traditional workday.

If I hadn’t been fired, I presumably would have kept working 50-60 hour weeks and still gotten paid for 40. Such are the hazards of management. I would not have grown as I did. I would not have enjoyed so much in life that I have. So, in many ways, getting fired made my life better. It just took a while to realize it.

Being fired showed me who my friends were and weren’t. It was eye-opening. I was no longer in a position of power, such as it were. For the non-friends, that meant something. I could no longer do something for them. Of course they probably still haven’t figured out I wasn’t doing anything for them, I was covering a story because it was the right thing to do. This was another lesson, realizing how many users there are in the world, or least in a small town.

It was also a lesson in true friendship. That’s what I hold on to. Too many people to count who were there for me. They lifted me up at one of my lowest points. They didn’t ask me what I could have done differently to not be fired. (Not much and still be able to look myself in the mirror each day.) They didn’t tell me how I brought this on myself. (Which I had because of what I believe in.) They didn’t judge me. (Plenty of others did.) They knew I didn’t need judgment because I was being hard enough on myself. (Others didn’t seem to understand that.)

My friends checked in on me. They helped with job leads. They took me out for a drink. They made me want to stay in Tahoe.

Stay I did. My roots grew deeper, my friendships stronger. I took up tennis again—with so many lasting friendships from the court. I started hiking more. I started making peace with the past. I started dreaming again. My writing took off in different directions—including starting an online news site. I also resumed massage, first working for others and then starting my own business. Writing and massage have always brought me great balance, and continue to today.

Eventually, I got tired of the cold and the snow. Winters were no longer fun. In an ideal world I would have spent the winters one place, and summers in Tahoe. I made that work for my last three years. It was perfect. Those years also allowed me an opportunity to connect with Tahoe without working there full time, without being immersed in the politics, in the strife and the crap. It made me appreciate the area in a different way that is hard to do as a full time journalist. It brought me a sense of peace and a renewed love for the area.

There is something special about Lake Tahoe. It will always be home even when I’m not there.

Surrounded By Joy In The Cancer Free Zone

Surrounded By Joy In The Cancer Free Zone

Joy and AJ in the cancer free zone on April, 30, 2012. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A cancer free zone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something like that existed for people battling this insidious disease?

Joy found one. On occasion I would go there with her. Almost always with AJ, her dog. Sometimes it would be just me and AJ, as I was the official dog walker when Joy was battling cancer. After Joy died in August 2012 I couldn’t go there. It was too sad.

But I went back in July. It was too important not to. Fortunately, our mutual friend Lisa accompanied me on my journey to put some of AJ’s ashes along the north edge of the Upper Truckee River near the mouth of Lake Tahoe.

AJ had become my dog after Joy’s death. It seemed only natural the two should be together in this way. The river is where Joy’s ashes were placed by her sister.

The cancer free zone was where Joy went to escape all things having to do with her cancer treatments. I doubt she ever could. But she tried. When I was with her in the CFZ there was no talk of cancer. Not a problem. We had so many subjects we could cover, mostly political in nature—local and national. I miss those talks. I miss our email exchanges. And I miss our dog.

A search of CFZ (cancer free zone) in my emails turned up 17 between me and Joy, as well as others who were on some of the string of correspondence.

One from April 30, 2012, by Joy says, “… instead of waiting for the call from Barton, I looked at the dog, she looked at me, we both put on our raincoats and said screw it, we’re going for a long walk. We went back out to the lake to the point where Trout Creek empties – my original Cancer Free Zone – and enjoyed the solitude, the drizzle, the bird songs, and the scenery.”

An email from me to Joy on March 18, 2012, said, “And it’s because of you I like going to Trout Creek/LT … since you are the one who first took me there. AJ and I talk about you (in good ways!) when we are there. I feel connected to you there … I think that’s why I like to take AJ there. I don’t ever go without one of you.”

South Lake Tahoe failing residents, visitors who play tennis

South Lake Tahoe failing residents, visitors who play tennis

South Tahoe Middle School tennis courts are in horrible condition. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It is nearly impossible for the public to play tennis in South Lake Tahoe because the four courts that are available are dangerous.

I did not feel comfortable last month running on the courts at South Tahoe Middle School. While the nets are better than the last time I played there, the surface is horrific. Large cracks are a broken ankle waiting to happen.

These courts in the center of town were once in great condition. In fact, Lake Tahoe Community College used to use them for its tennis classes.

It’s unfortunate the college several years ago removed covered tennis courts from its master plan. Equally sad is how when the city of South Lake Tahoe was putting its recreation plan together a few years back tennis was not part of the equation.

What’s probably even worse is Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s approach to the sport. LTUSD owns the 10 public courts in the city. There are the four dilapidated ones at the middle school and six playable ones at South Tahoe High School.

The problem with those six taxpayer-funded courts is they can only be used by non-taxpayers—students and their opponents. At all other times the courts are locked.

Tennis courts at STMS are in lousy condition. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I grew up playing on public courts in the Bay Area; the same courts where I eventually would play four years of varsity high school tennis. I play on public courts now in Chico, which are in even better condition than the private club in town. South Lake Tahoe is a big enough city that is should have decent courts open to the public.

When those courts at STHS were first resurfaced they were supposed to be open to everyone.

A Sept. 2, 2010, article in Lake Tahoe News quotes then LTUSD Superintendent Jim Tarwater saying, “Those will be open to the public, just like at the middle school. Tennis is big in South Lake Tahoe. I could see tournaments coming up here. My dream would be to cover the six at the high school.”

His other dream that never came to fruition was partnering with the city and LTCC to build two more courts at STMS.

The courts cost about $350,000 to overhaul in fall 2010. From that same LTN story, “While the project wasn’t originally part of the Measure G facilities bond, a line in the contractors’ contract made it logical to repave the courts. The contract said if the workers could not park at STHS, they would be paid an additional 15 minutes at the start and end of their day to compensate for the time to get to the work site. This was going to add about $400,000 to the nearly $25 million project going on at that time. The district decided it would be more prudent in terms of time and money to have the workers use the tennis courts as a staging area, lose access to them for a season and then have them rebuilt.”

South Tahoe High’s courts have never been open to the public and that’s a shame. Tennis is such a wonderful sport for all ages. I can’t even imagine if I had not had the opportunity to play on public courts way back when and even today.

Come on South Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe Unified, you both can do better when it comes to providing residents and visitors an opportunity to play tennis.

Everyone should watch Jan. 6 congressional hearings

Everyone should watch Jan. 6 congressional hearings

The Jan. 6 hearings are definitely must-see TV.

Everyone should be watching them. It doesn’t matter one’s party or lack of one, if you consider yourself political or not, or who you voted for in the past or expect to vote for in the future.

This is about understanding what happens when there is not the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. This is about one man going rogue and what those around him did. It’s about one man having control over people in a cult-like following.

Bottom line—it’s about the future of democracy in the United States.

The testimony from people is astonishing. So much is coming out that has not been made public until now. During the last hearing we were told how Secret Service agents protecting the vice president that day feared for their lives so they called loved ones to say goodbye.

This mob was sent to the Capitol by the president. The president didn’t care the rioters were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” The president’s lack of action that day spurred the insurrectionists. That, too, has been well documented during the hearings.

If you missed the hearings, they can be found online and they will resume in September. According to Nielsen ratings, at least 20 million people watched the first prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee’s hearings. More than 23 million in the U.S. watched when Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified. During last week’s hearing more than 17.7 million people tuned in. These are the kind of numbers that major NFL match ups get.

Will Donald Trump and Mike Pence testify? Those are questions still to be answered. Will an indictment or charges be leveled against Trump? Again, time will tell.

No matter the answer to the above questions it is important for the public to understand what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and for voters in November to mark ballots for people who believe in and will uphold the U.S. Constitution.

People need to understand this isn’t merely about your guy or gal winning or losing. This is well beyond Democrat v Republican. This is about the future of the United States.

Watch the hearings and tell me this was not an insurrection led by Donald Trump.

Appreciating friendships made at a young age at the workplace

Appreciating friendships made at a young age at the workplace

There is something extra special about friendships made at your first job or jobs in your 20s.

I’m a firm believer your 20s are some of the most critically formative years, even though at the time I thought I was fully formed, so to speak.

How can there be office romances in your 20s (or any age) if there is no office to go to? Kae Reed interning at the Bend Bulletin in Oregon in 1987.

The friends I made working during college and after I graduated were more than my work family. These people helped create the foundation of my adulthood. They were instrumental in putting me on the path to who I am today. Because of all of this there is a bond we have that I won’t have with others.

I have friends from various time periods of my life—from childhood to today, where I’m still making friends. I don’t want to disparage the friendships I have made post age 30 or pre-20 because so many of those are just as special.

In my 20s I still had a lot of growing up to do, a lot of boundaries to figure out, and a lot of fun to share with these people.

Today I wonder if those freshly out of college will create a similar bond to the ones I have with Kele, Penny, Patty, Stephanie and others. How can they when they are working remotely? How do you make friendships when you only know someone as a face on a computer screen?

You can fake it on a Zoom call if you are tired, frustrated, angry, even excited, or happy. You can hide your emotions and just get through the call. In the office, though, it’s near impossible to be even keeled for eight or more hours. This is when people get to know you—when you allow them to share your highs and lows.

It’s about going out to lunch and for drinks at the end of the day; seeing people outside of work and talking about something other than the job.

It’s about learning how to socialize, how to interact with people of dissimilar backgrounds, various ages, and different skill levels. It can take some time to get used to people essentially being in your space 40 hours a week or more. These are important aspects of adulting.

I can’t imagine starting my career being isolated; or having any part of my education being virtual.

Don’t get me wrong, I love not working in an office. I was doing it long before the pandemic hit. I can’t imagine ever working in an office again; nor do I intend to.

But if I were to ask my twentysomething self: Hey, do you want to work at home your entire career and not have the friends you will have in your 50s? I would tell her: Go to the office. There is so much to learn besides how to do your job. There is so much more to work than work. There are so many experiences at the office and outside of it that will help make you be you. You will create so many life-long memories that you won’t have if you stay at your home office. Most important, the friends you make will be some of the most special people for your entire life.

It makes me sad to think the young remote workers of today won’t forge the lifelong bonds with colleagues like I did.

Lawns a legacy of wasteful water use

Lawns a legacy of wasteful water use

How anyone can justify having a lawn is beyond me. It’s a pleasure that is hurting the masses. Why? Because water is a precious resource.

Anyone living in California, the desert or another similar climate knows those grassy areas are a waste of water.

Lawns are helping to deplete water resources in California. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Lawns are estimated to use about 40 percent to 60 percent of landscape irrigation in California. Overall, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for about 50 percent of annual residential water consumption statewide,” according to the U.C. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

When I lived in South Lake Tahoe I participated in the local water district’s turf buyback program. Out went the grass and in went plants native to the area that were fed water via a drip line.

No grass in my yard in Chico. Plants are all watered via a drip line.

I understand the attraction to grass. It’s pretty. It’s soft. It’s fun to play on.

It’s also selfish and wasteful to keep watering it. There are plenty of alternative landscaping solutions that looks great, use less water, and are more practical.

Let’s start with California (and other states) banning grass from all new residential and commercial construction. Then we can work on getting rid of existing front yards and back yards, and commercial strips.

Even better would be to do the right thing before government issues a mandate.

American Canyon in Napa County is being proactive by delivering recycled water to residents and using that same reusable water on vegetation throughout the city. Residents can fill up containers with non-potable water to use for landscaping or flushing toilets. The program has existed since the early 2000s.

The city’s philosophy is “the right water for the right use.”

In 2020, the city delivered 2,900 acre-feet of potable water and 800 acre-feet of recycled water to residential and commercial customers. (An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.) New multi-family residences come with two water lines. The purple pipes are non-potable water that goes into toilets.

In Todos Santos, Mexico, many homes have gray water pipes going from the inside to the outside for irrigation.

Solutions exist if we are willing to change our ways.

Finding a reason to celebrate Fourth of July

Finding a reason to celebrate Fourth of July

Independence Day is going to take on a new meaning this year for so many people.

Some will find there is less to celebrate with all of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It was not just the reversal of Roe v. Wade that was so damning. I feel less safe with the jurists giving more gun rights to people. And it appears the separation of church and state has ended.

While SCOTUS frightens me, I have not given up hope.

Watch the Jan. 6 congressional hearings. There will be more in July. Hopefully, they will restore your belief in democracy, that our country really does want to get to the root of the insurrection, and hopefully when it’s all over there will be a clear understanding of what went on behind the scenes that led to the insurrection as well as what was taking place in the White House that day.

The only way to restore the cracks in our democracy is hold people accountable for their actions, or in actions as the case may be.

Some of the testimony is so incriminating. I applaud those who have testified when it would be easier to take the Fifth, to ignore a subpoena, to say you don’t remember. At the June 28 hearing the committee pointed out what appeared to be witness tampering from the ex-president. That’s just one of many crimes the cult leader is likely to have committed.

I have said it before and believe it still that anyone who is a Trump supporter is in a cult.  Anyone who believes Joe Biden did not win the election is delusional, has been misled, and is probably a member of the cult.

There is a lot wrong with the United States right now, but there is also so much that is right. On this Fourth of July that is what I will be celebrating—the good, and all the good that can happen if the people have the will to fight for democracy. At the end of the day it does not matter what your political party is or if, like me, you don’t have one. What matters is that you vote for people who believe in the Constitution and in democracy. Plenty of people in both parties still do. Get the imposters out of city hall, out of board of supervisors seats, out of legislatures and most definitely out of Congress.

Scattering AJ’s ashes in a favorite place in Todos Santos

Scattering AJ’s ashes in a favorite place in Todos Santos

AJ enjoys La Poza lagoon in Todos Santos in 2019. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even though AJ was not a big water dog, she will forever be swimming in La Poza lagoon in Todos Santos. At least that’s how I like to think of it.

I spread some of her ashes in that body of fresh water this month when I was in Mexico.

On that foggy morning I walked purposefully toward the lagoon, but couldn’t get too close. I was pushed back. A strong force said not now. This doesn’t happen to me very often, or maybe I don’t listen or feel as well as I should. This time I did.

OK, AJ, I thought. Let’s just sit and talk. And that’s what we did for well more than an hour. She had always been my confidante. I’d been missing that these last four months. Friends told me she would still listen if I tried to talk to her. I just couldn’t. I was weighed down with a grief I hadn’t felt before, which was only compounded by other things going on in my life.

This particular day, though, was different. While I was in an incredibly sad state of mind, I was also willing to listen to what she had to say. Our talk was long enough for the fog to dissipate and the sun to brighten the day. It was the perfect transformation.

I still cried on the way back to my friends’, but I also felt a shift. Thank you, AJ.

This is about as close as AJ ever wanted to get to the ocean in Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Going to the lagoon was our go-to walk for the first two winters we spent south of the border. We’d drive to the beach, then head south to the lagoon. It was the only fresh water for her to wade in and drink in the area.

Most days it was just us on the beach. Often we would sit and stare at the ocean after she had her romp in the calm lagoon. There’s something about a large body of water that grounds me. It took AJ to remind me to seek out what I need to feel balanced.

AJ’s happy place was a trail—the forest or the desert.

You knew she wasn’t a native of Baja because she would not take a swig of ocean water. In fact, she stayed as far from it as possible. In California she had tasted the salt water of the Pacific and never needed to try it again.

Waves were also never her thing. Another reason to stay out of the ocean. She wouldn’t even go near Lake Tahoe when the water was rough.

I wonder what she would have been like had she come to Baja in her prime, when she was faster, full of energy and feistier. Would she have made friends with the street dogs? She was their size after all.

While the worst experience I ever had with her was in Todos Santos—when we were attacked by another dog—Baja was special for both of us and continues to be for me. She made the trip with me in the Jeep each of the three times I drove to Baja and back to California. It’s hard to imagine making that drive without her, and, yet, I can see myself on another extended stay in the distant future.

While she obviously won’t be on that next road trip, it is comforting to know she will always be part of Todos Santos.

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