After days of stress – Remembering the Season and being Grateful

By Debra Tash

I’ve had the good fortune to attend the Thousand Oaks Republican Women’s Christmas Holiday Gala the past few years.  They always do it right at the Sherwood Country Club with its festive decor and the treat of carolers dressed in period costumes serenading the attendees.  It proved a welcoming respite for me after the stress of the last few days. I live in the unincorporated area of what can be considered one of the loveliest counties in our fair state.  But paradise always comes with a price, and in past Santa Ana wind events my family and I have had to be evacuated three times.  Tuesday night began with a power outage and in the pitch black that ensued there came an unwelcomed sight in the northern sky, the orange light of a fire, one that would become a heartbreaking harbinger of destruction.

For the last three nights, being on edge, I’ve gotten into my car and drove around on a mission after receiving calls, Facebook messages and texts from concerned family and friends. I would scout the surrounding area where we live, which is rural and remote, looking for signs of the advancing flames like the ones that breached South Mountain in the Day Fire which destroyed several of my neighbors’ homes.

Yet today, I got to hear those beautiful carols sung by the Voices of Christmas, seasonal melodies to uplift the spirit and see Rev. Dr. Gray Alan Dickey, dressed like a fine Scotsman as he always does at these events, playing the bagpipes to begin the festivities.  Yet even then I was reminded of the connection to those who have been victimized by these fires.  The Rev. Dickey had to step in as Master of Ceremonies for District Attorney Gregory Totten. Totten has had that role for the last two years I’ve attended.  But today he was absent, his mother’s house having been lost in the Thomas Fire.

Voices of Christmas

Rev. Dr. Fray Alan Dickey

But then the most inspiring portion of the afternoon came with hearing Mr. Larry Elder speak along with the club’s co-honoree, Natasha Trenev.  Both were given the Beacon of Light, Mr. Elder, the Freedom Award and Ms. Trenev, the Humanitarian Award.

Larry Elder is a lawyer, author, and radio and television commentator.  He spoke of his parents and the lessons they taught him, most of all to work hard.  “I was born in America,” he said. “We are all fortune to be born here.” 

Mr. Larry Elder

Natasha Trenev wasn’t born in this country.  She came here as a child with her parents, who had $100 between them. They lived in one room which they paid $10 a week to rent.  Her father built a successful business, Continental Culture Specialists, a company that perfected the use of sweet acidophilus in yogurt.  Ms. Trenev graduated UCLA, joined her father’s company and later established Natren Inc. with her husband, Yordan.  The company makes probiotic supplements.  And like her counterpart, Mr. Elder, Ms. Trenev, a naturalized citizen, expressed a love for America.  She said, “This is the greatest country on God’s green earth.”

Natasha Trenev at the dove release ceremony

It’s been a hard few days.  I needed to hear that.  Thank you for the reminder.  It is the finest country on this earth and we live in one of its best places.  Here’s to the season and the hope there will be peace and calm here once more.

Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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