Coming to grips with an obesity diagnosis


Monitoring how one breaths is one of the health screenings. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I knew I had gained weight, but I didn’t know I was obese. This was not what I wanted to hear, especially considering I was on vacation and was in Utah to compete as an athlete.

One of the bonuses of the Huntsman World Senior Games is the opportunity to partake in an array of health screenings. They are free, or better put, come with the entry fee.

For someone who has not found a health care provider since moving from Tahoe, this seemed like a good opportunity to get some basic things checked like cholesterol and blood pressure.

(Earlier this fall I looked into getting a provider; the one that sounded OK isn’t seeing new patients until August. Maybe I should get that appointment to follow up on my obesity.)

The obese description—and it’s in writing as my “physique rating”—was based on weight and height. I don’t know what else was taken into consideration. I was standing barefoot on a scale that had a metal feature that made me wonder if it could calculate other things.

The vertical jump proves Kae Reed barely can get over a dime. (Image: Becky Darrow)

Also on the obese printout was my muscle mass, bone mass, metabolic age, body mass index and more.

When I see my doctor that I don’t have, I’m going to be sure my height is measured again. The folks in Utah say I’ve lost an inch. I didn’t think I had started to shrink. Maybe everyone around me is getting shorter so I haven’t noticed.

My degree of obesity, again, written in black ink, is 8.8 percent. Ideally, I should lose 12 pounds, according to the analysis.

I’m determined to lose it. Gradually. No silly diet. Just a few less snacks and little more pedaling on that new bike I brought back from Utah.

The good news out of the tests is that I don’t have oral cancer, my carotid arteries are not clogged, my grip strength in both hands is better than average—and the left one is stronger (I’m right handed), no issues with my balance, I’m a chest breather (would be better to be a diaphragm breather), I’m not much of a vertical jumper (no surprise there), and my cognitive ability is just fine (but, boy, did I have a hard time drawing the time with a little and big hands of a clock—shows I read digital clocks all the time).

Students from various universities in Utah volunteer to administer the health screenings. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

So, I don’t actually think I’m obese. But I could lose a few pounds. I like to gauge my weight by how my clothes feel and not what the scale says. The clothes are telling the same story as the scale.

It was easy to get into this predicament. I’m back to mostly sitting all day at a computer and there is food in the kitchen to snack on. Less activity, more food=weight gain. It’s that simple.

I may go back to the Huntsman Games next year just to get a new reading without the word “obese” on the printout.

Here are some of the health screenings available at the event:

  • Aerobic fitness
  • Balance
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood glucose
  • Body composition
  • Cognitive wellness
  • Carotid artery screening
  • Functional testing
  • Flu immunizations
  • Grip strength
  • Hearing screening
  • Oral cancer screenings
  • Retinal screening
  • Visual screening
  • Vertical jump.

Columbus Day needs to be relegated to the history books

The second Monday of October remains controversial.

Should it be called Indigenous People’s Day or Columbus Day?

This will be the second year that nationally it has been known as Indigenous People’s Day. Columbus Day had been a national holiday since 1934.

However, President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 first celebrated Discovery Day on the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. In part this was to appease the Italian-American community that had been facing unrest and discrimination after a large influx of immigrants were coming to the United States.

While many of us were taught that Columbus was a good person, this has turned out be another fallacy in our history books.

The truth is he and his cronies kidnapped, enslaved, raped, and abused the indigenous people who lived in the Americas long before these Europeans reportedly “discovered” it.

About 20 states still call it Columbus Day. That needs to change.

It’s time our history and celebrations are seen from a perspective other than those of the white male conquerors.

Chico council, school board candidates distinguish themselves


The eight Chico City Council candidates at the Sept. 27 forum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

What a difference it makes seeing and hearing candidates in person versus reading about them whether it’s through campaign materials, news articles or letters to the editor.

In some ways it was refreshing to attend the Sept. 27 forum put on by the Chico chapter of the League of Women Voters. I didn’t know a single candidate. I didn’t know anyone in the room other than the two people I went with. This is quite a change from my days of living in South Lake Tahoe.

What disappointed me was how the League of Women Voters did not explain which candidates were running for which seat. There was no formal introduction of who each person was. The event was run as though the audience knew who everyone was, whether they were an incumbent or challenger, what district they were in, and like we had some knowledge about them. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like an outsider at a local political event. It was interesting, informative and a bit enlightening.

What it made me realize is the importance of hearing candidates for myself. Something I encourage you all to do no matter where you live and the offices being contested. Your vote matters, but so does your understanding of the candidates and the issues.

I had few expectations. I had only made a couple early judgments based on signs. One guy’s you can’t even read. While driving I pulled over only because I could see the word “tennis” so that got my attention. It turns out it is someone’s last name. Another dude has so many signs that it makes me wonder where all the money is coming from to pay for them.

Chico now has district elections for City Council and school board; much like a lot of jurisdictions. This all came about so ideally people have representation from where they live. But it also means I only get to vote for one candidate. This council has seven members, while the school board has five members. Call me old school, but I like at-large elections better. But then again, I’ve never felt like I was not represented—at least at the local level.

Neither of these offices are partisan, though based on what some of them said it was easy to know which side of the aisle they would line up on.

Mostly I was surprised (though probably should not have been) by anger, hostility, and lack of compassion expressed by some of the candidates. I would never vote for Matt Tennis. Wow—his words, his demeanor—all anger. (Glad I’m not in his district; though it would be great to vote him off the school board.)

For council, it’s a big no on Tom van Overbeek. He exuded zero compassion for the unhoused community, which is still the No. 1 issue in Chico. Even in his closing comments it was like and us vs. them instead of being inclusive.

While most of the council candidates were in favor of Measure H, which will raise the sales tax one percentage point, many had reservations. It would go from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

I will vote no against Measure H because the money will go to the General Fund instead of being allocated for something in particular—like roads. Plus, there is no sunset for the measure; this means the added tax will go on forever. This means the council will be able to spend the money however it wants. It might not be spent how I would choose. This could be better summed up as: I don’t trust the council to do the right thing.

If I could vote in each district, for council I would choose Morgan Kennedy, Monica McDaniel, Addison Winslow and Jesica Giannola. For school board it would be Tom Lando and Eileen Robinson. The district 1 candidates did not participate on Tuesday night. However, considering Tennis threw his support behind Rebecca Konkin, this would have me marking my ballot for Scott Thompson.


Rethinking the words we use when it comes to gender

Words matter. Innocuous as some may be, they can come with baggage not always obvious. It may simply be because we grew up saying certain words and accepted them or we could be oblivious or something else might be going on.

Words like fireman, policeman, serviceman, workman, etc. all probably came into being because only men once had those jobs. It makes sense that firefighter, police officer, service member, and worker are the more preferred words today.

It’s beyond being politically correct. It’s about being inclusive. It’s about not being discriminatory. It’s about being accurate. It’s about evolving.

The use and connotation of words can change. We don’t call someone a Negro today. We don’t say a bundle of sticks is a faggot, though it is. Plenty of examples exist as to words that are no longer acceptable in every day conversation.

Pronouns and other gender distinguishing words are also important to reconsider.

Voters in the Bay Area city of Oakland this November will decide if the Charter (which is akin to a constitution for a city) should have gender specific words replaced with gender neutral ones. Berkeley already did this in 2019.

In Oakland’s Charter, which was adopted in 1968, female police officers are known as matrons.

Where he/him/his is used to refer to everyone and not just men, those words would be replaced with they.

Now if only we could collectively do away with woMAN, feMALE and MANkind, to name a few words, then we truly would be making progress when it comes to having words be less male-centric.

It’s not that I want to do away with my gender. I just would like it tied less to the other one, to be more autonomous and distinctive in the words that are used for it. It probably won’t happen in my life time, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Astonishing amount of trash to clean up in statewide event

A suit case and clothes fill part of Little Chico Creek. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Looking over the bridge trash was everywhere. Three bags were not going to be enough. Even worse, we didn’t know how to safely retrieve it.

The leaders of the 35th annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup said it would be steep to access Little Chico Creek. I failed to ask how steep; instead I said I can do steep. Four women were sent to the same location. Three of us found each other; not sure where the other one ended up. None of us thought we could safely get down the embankments, let alone climb out with bags full of garbage.

One location off Pomona Avenue was so bad I texted the organizers (as we were told to do) to send a truck. There was that much debris. Multiple wood pallets and what looked like debris left a homeless encampment filled the area.

Our instructions were to not dismantle someone’s home. Not a problem.

A city of Chico sign outlines the rules for this greenway. But there is no access to the area without climbing a fence. The garbage isn’t there anymore. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The three of us decided to drive to various locations along the creek, which had no water in it, to see if we could climb down.

As we peered over one bridge to assess our access options, a guy asked if we were cleaning up garbage. We said, yes, but not taking anyone’s home. His was living below us along the creek. He said he could rake things up a bit, but wasn’t sure what to do about the garbage. One woman said put it in a pile and someone would get it.

It was astonishing to see all of the trash in the creek bed and along the edges. It’s not the homeless contributing to the trash problem. Apartment dumpsters were not closed, with crap all around them which was then blowing into the watershed.

Clothes were strewn about a suit case. All sitting on the rock bottom of the creek.  Who stole the suit case and who lost it? The clothes looked perfectly fine, as did the suit case; well, at least from my vantage point. This was another instance of not being able to access the discarded items.

Bringing in the day’s haul on Sept. 17 in Chico.

We texted in another location. Organizers said they noted it. Here a mattress with graffiti on it had been dumped. It didn’t look like it was part of someone’s outdoor home, but instead someone chose this public spot to be their garbage can.

We cleaned up trash in some the public rights-of-way near overpasses of the creek. We filled our three large black garbage bags with lots of bottles, cans, food wrappers, clothing, shoes, cigarette butts, cardboard, and a well-worn blanket.

A metal chair without a seat or back and a tire with the rim intact were part of our haul.

All of Little Chico Creek that we surveyed needs attention. With rains coming early (fingers crossed the wet stuff keeps falling), actual water in the creek mixing with all the debris is going to be an environmental nightmare.

Butte Environmental Council put on the Sept. 17 event which was part of the larger 38th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.

The California Coastal Commission said, “With 60% of the cleanup sites reporting, the statewide count stands at 27,185 volunteers. Those volunteers picked up 220,861 pounds of trash and an additional 29,702 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 250,563 pounds or 125 tons.”

Smell of rain a soothing, natural perfume

A leaf catches raindrops on Sept. 12 in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Waking to another overcast day can be so depressing. Then I heard it, and I smiled. That sound that has been absent from California for the better part of three years. Rain.

It wasn’t smoke filling the sky, it was actual clouds.

Not much rain fell Monday morning, but it was enough to get everything wet and bring down the temperature.

And that aroma. Mother Nature certainly has a way of stimulating so many senses.

The smell of rain even has a name—petrichor. The dictionary defines it this way: “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

With our doors open, this petrichor even filled part of the house. It’s like nature’s cleaner—erasing the dust and leaving this scent that is hard to describe. This fresh rain smell is unique, special and soothing.

It brings me hope that more wet stuff will fall this autumn and winter, with fingers crossed the drought doesn’t go into year four.

For now, though, I’m going to keep inhaling Mother Nature’s fragrance.

Lack of escalator etiquette can slow down movement

Some people understand to stand on the right of an escalator, others don’t. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

One of the benefits of riding an escalator is to get someplace faster than walking stationary stairs.

But what if you want to walk on the escalator? How often has that desire been thwarted by people blocking your forward progress?

OK, so escalator etiquette is not one of those things you have thought about much. Most of us aren’t on an escalator that often. But there are plenty of places where these people movers exist—airports, malls, ballparks, hotels—so they can be part of one’s life on a somewhat regular basis.

I was taught that when riding an escalator you should stand on the right side, while those who want to walk on the moving stairs should use the left side.

When people stand on both sides it can impede forward progress for those who want to go faster for whatever reason—they are running late, they want a little exercise, they don’t want to be confined next to other people, whatever the case may be.

It can be hard to get ahead on an escalator when etiquette is not followed. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My escalator riding is rare. It happened when I flew in June and again this month when I was at a mall. Wow, people don’t know escalator etiquette. I didn’t want to educate anyone, I just politely said “may I pass you” more as a statement than a question. I thought about saying “on your left” like you do on a walking/cycling path as you pass someone, but thought that would sound a little odd.

People looked at me like I was cutting in line. I was taken aback a bit. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a hurry, but I didn’t want to just stand. Not everyone moved. When they did it was with a bit of attitude. Nonetheless, I thanked them and moved on.

But the experiences left me wondering if I should have explained to these obstructionists that there is actually an etiquette to riding an escalator. Maybe it was a teaching moment that I missed.

On the flip side, there are those who believe everyone will get to the top or bottom faster if people stood side by side instead of leaving one side open that isn’t well used. I can see the logic in this when the escalator is full. But if there are enough people who want to walk, then let us walk.

Rant over.

More people die by suicide than homicide each year

It would surprise me to find a person who hasn’t been impacted by someone dying by suicide. It’s that prevalent.

With September being Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month, we should be talking about this issue now. We should be talking about it every day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,500 people in the United States die by suicide every year.

According to the World Health Organization:

  • More than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year. (For comparison, homicides total about 400,000 worldwide each year.)
  • For every suicide there are many more people who attempt suicide. A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds.
  • 77 percent of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Ingestion of pesticide, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

“While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness,” WHO says on its website. “In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior.”

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline reports, “For every one person who dies by suicide annually, 316 people seriously consider suicide, but do not kill themselves.”

From the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year
  • 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 youth ages 6-17 in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50 percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent by age
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

All of these statistics are sad, sobering and overwhelming.

Someone I know died by suicide last month. Another family shattered, asking questions that may never be answered.

In California, the Legislature last month passed a bill that would create the CARE Court. People with severe mental illnesses who end up in the judicial system would be provided treatment plans.

The New York Times recently published an article about the importance of reaching out to friends.

“To be functioning at our best, we need to be in a connected state,” Marisa Franco, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland and author of the forthcoming book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends told the Times. “Just like you need to eat, like you need to drink, you need to be connected to be functioning well.”

Life is short even under the best of circumstances. Hug the ones you love.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800.273.8255 or dial 988. The three digit code has been available to everyone in the U.S. since July 16. It’s also possible to text 988.

Conflicted about used books

Authors want people to buy their books. Even better is if people read those books and then write five-star reviews so more people will be inclined to buy a copy.

But what happens when the reader doesn’t want to keep that book? Many end up at used bookstores, thrift shops, or sold at garage sales for pennies on the dollar. I even thought it a good thing environmentally.

However, no money from that reselling of the book goes into the author’s wallet. It goes into the cash register of the seller.

Before becoming an author I never gave used bookstores much thought. I suppose I was looking for a deal, or something older. Long ago I stopped “needing” to buy new.

I also didn’t think much about borrowing or lending a book. When it came to sharing books I thought it was merely a nice thing to do. Same theory goes for using little free libraries in neighborhoods. I didn’t consider it taking money from the author.

I’m rethinking that philosophy now that I am an author. It’s a lot of work to write a book. I think that person should be paid for their efforts whether I like the book or not.

Authors only make money from that first sale.

They can be paid a few ways. When working with a publisher an advance is often paid. Royalties from actual books sold don’t come in until that advance is paid off, so to speak. It’s also possible to get a flat fee. Self-published authors get money each time a book is sold—this could be online or at a brick and mortar outlet. It all depends how the distribution has been set up.

But that $20 book isn’t $20 in the author’s pocket. It is much, much, much less. Publishers and retailers (including Amazon) take a big chunk. After all, they are in the business of making money, too.

For those who self-published, they also can (and should if it’s going to look professional) have the expense of the book being edited, covers designed, the book being formatted, and it being put on various platforms. So, it takes a lot of book sales to break even, let alone make a profit.

But it’s not so simple for me to say I will never read a used book or to tell someone not to. I’m too much of an advocate of reading to say that. Plus, I know plenty of people cannot afford new books, especially printed ones.

It just seems like the author ought to be able get a percentage of used book being sold. But then again, it’s not like Chrysler would benefit if/when I sell my Jeep to a private owner or trade it in to another dealer. Furniture manufacturers and the like haven’t gotten another dime when I’ve sold something on Craigslist or through Facebook Marketplace. I could sell artwork in my house that the creator would never benefit from. That list of items that can be resold without compensation to the originator is seemingly endless.

I don’t know the answer to the question of how to get the original creator of something compensation from the reselling of their product. That’s probably because there isn’t one. One and done. That’s how it is.

I suppose in the end I’m just happy people are reading, whether it’s a new or used book. It’s a heck of a lot better than burning or banning them.

At 150-Years-Old, Chico Continues To Grow

Each day it seems like another vacant parcel in Chico is being turned into a construction site for homes or commercial development.

In the short time I’ve been here (going on 18 months) the growth has been amazing. Coming from Tahoe where new construction was limited, I’m just not used to this. From what I see being built near my end of town (the southeast) it doesn’t seem like city staff or electeds put a lot of thought into what got approved. The roads were not designed to handle the density of housing and commercial enterprises being built.

We all know water is a precious resource. At least most of the landscaping does not include grass.

Chico is 150-years-old this year. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Chico was incorporated 150 years ago on Jan. 8, 1872, after being founded by John Bidwell in 1860. I wonder what all the people who inhabited this 33.5 square mile city in the 1800s would think of it today.

While I’m a newbie to Chico, I have been coming here since 1974 when my oldest sister started college at Chico State University. She returned more than 30 years ago and started a family here, so I’ve been coming nearly every year before I moved here. She’s in a more established area of town so I didn’t see the growth as a visitor.

I know we need more housing. We are an example of a city with a homeless problem gone wrong—though it’s gradually being addressed thanks to lawsuits, judges and people who care.

Chico had a population of 101,475 as of the 2020 Census. It’s been on a steady growth pattern, with the largest influx coming after the 2018 Camp Fire that wiped out the town of Paradise. Those people needed somewhere to land; Chico was it and many have never left.

Chico is the biggest city in the state north of Sacramento. Driving around the sprawl makes it feel big. But the political shenanigans make it feel small—in a bad way. The downtown makes it feel small in a good way.

One of the best things about Chico is the university, which brings an energy to the area—especially since it is right downtown. All of those red brick buildings, many dating to 1887 when the college first opened as the Northern Branch of the State Normal School, gives it a bit of an East Coast feel. Or maybe brick just makes me think of the East.

Hopefully, when the city celebrates its next milestone all of the land will not have been completely paved over. After all, it is known as The City of Trees.

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