Tehachapi Peace

Tehachapi Peace

At two separate times, I’ve gone up to Tehachapi to spend time with my brother and both times found something I hadn’t been looking for, but very much needed – a sense of peace.

My brother Greg works as a freelance Computer Technician, because he’s that smart. A couple of guys he knew were wondering about social media, and if they should/HOW they should use it to promote their books. After mentioning my name a gazillion times as an example of how it should be done (my brother is a sweet guy, and doesn’t know any other authors, lol), he suggested – and they agreed – that I should come up and talk with them, and answer their multitudinous questions about social media and writers. (But this post isn’t about that.)

Me and my brother, Greg, at the Cesar Chavez Center, Tehachapi

The only catch? The date was set for Friday, December 14, at 2pm – right in the middle of my workday. But I did manage to get the day off and around 10am that morning, drove on up north.

The Tehachapi Mountains rise out of the San Joaquin Valley on one side and Mojave on the other. The pass is at just under 4000 ft above sea level. Once I drove into the small town, the temperature gauge on my car read 38 degrees. The air was crisp and cold and perfect for December. The house was small and sweet and perfect for Tina, the lady that owns it. We putzed around, went to lunch, drove out to a ranch, and I had a three hour talk on writing and social media with two other writers (one has 4 books out and has been writing magazine articles for twenty years; the other is a screenwriter who has had several scripts produced and has just written a memoir about Hollywood). These guys were sharp, smart, funny as hell, and willing to listen to me, and I had a total blast. I hope to showcase both of them here on the blog in the future.

After we’d talked each other out and darkness had fallen, we said goodbye to new friends and drove to the Souza Family Vineyards, where I bought two bottles of their Primitivo Zinfandel (because I’m a sucker for Zinfandel!). The 2007 won a silver medal, the 2009 won a bronze medal, and the 2010 won a gold medal, all at the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition. (I’m looking forward to showcasing the winery and the wines on a future Friday blog.) At the winery, we drank wine, looked over the wares at a craft fair there inside the winery, and chatted. Bob and Patty are really cool people.

Bob and Patty Souza, Proprietors of the Souza Family Vineyards

Bob and Patty Souza, Proprietors of the Souza Family Vineyards

Afterwards, we went back to the cute little house, where Tina made dinner and I drank wine. (Seems like a fair trade!) Greg futzed with the new sound system he’d put in place in the house. We talked and laughed and when I went to sleep, I slept soundly, surrounded in peace.

The Keene Cafe – lots of railroad workers eat here. Terrific food!

In the morning, we went to the Keene Cafe for an enormous breakfast (that’s all I ate until 7pm that night – fanTAStic ham steak!), then went to see some sights. We visited the Cesar Chavez Center and saw his grave and wandered around the peaceful grounds.

The headstone for Cesar Chavez is between the Angel and the Pointsettia.

We drove up the side of a hill so we’d have a good view of the Tehachapi Loop, an engineering marvel by William Hood (“one of the 7 wonders of the railroad world”) built in 1874 – 1876, the train tracks that loop through 18 tunnels and 10 bridges; at one point, if the train is long enough, a train can loop itself three times. This line is part of the last and final link of the first railroad line connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. The single track line is still in constant use today, 136 years after its completion.

Hopefully you can see three sections of train in this photo. If you google it, you’ll see better photos of the area…

But aside from the Loop, aside from Keene’s Cafe and the Cesar Chavez Center, aside from the flurry of snow that quickly melted and the frost that rimed the grass, the sense of peace was overwhelming. Part of it was the unconditional love that is so much a part of my brother; part of it was the crisp, cold air; part of it was me, without husband, sons, or responsibilities for a few hours.

It was lovely. A peace I desperately needed after hearing about the tragedy in Connecticut on my drive north. (After half an hour, I turned off the radio and kept it off.)

I had been worrying that this Christmas wouldn’t be the “best” Christmas, due to a shortage of funds and a new unwillingness to go into debt just to buy stuff. But after my time in Tehachapi, and after the events in Newtown, I am fine with a simpler Christmas. Blessed that everyone I know and love is well and alive.  We aren’t traveling this holiday, and we don’t have guests, so I think perhaps the family will go on a journey of some sort. A photo safari, or local hiking, or a neighborhood we don’t get to very often (there are SO MANY of them in the Los Angeles area). Or maybe we’ll stay home and watch the first season of Game of Thrones.

Whatever we do, I shall do my best not to stress, and hold tightly to the peace I experienced in Tehachapi.

May you have many blessings, peace, and happy days, from my house to yours.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Holiday Hassles? Or…

Holiday Hassles? Or…

It’s begun. The rush to the holiday season is upon us. Madness in the form of turkey recipes, shopping lines, or the perfect gift for the frenemy in the office is descending upon everyone who has enough money in their pockets to be concerned about such things.

Holiday decorations. Pies. Uncle Jack’s drinking problem and Aunt Sally’s really bad wig. Underdone turkey and burned dinner rolls. One half of the family not talking to the other half, but both halves coming to YOUR house. Working too hard at work. Not having a job to go to. Battling your own sense of entitlement while trying to curb your kids’ “gimme” attitude. Battling your sense of despair while wondering how to provide a special, memorable time for your kids when the cash isn’t there. There’s a reason the holiday season accounts for more cases of depression than any other time of year, and strangely enough a lot of it seems to revolve around the having, or the lack, of money.

I’ve got the beginning of a solution. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your pocket; it’s not a complete solution, either, and I’m pretty sure I’ve stolen this from someone else. But it’s a start. Ready?

Breathe. Take a few deep breaths. Stop your kitchen/shopping/bill-worrying madness. Go outside, spread your arms wide, breathe deeply. Feel the sun (or, if it’s night, the chill) on your face, and give thanks for being able to breathe. If you can, get your hands into the dirt. Plant something, or pull weeds. If there’s snow where you are, burn some frustrations off by building a snowman of any size (NOT as easy as it seems). Remember, you are not your bank balance. Remember to laugh!

Next, understand your place in the world – not in “bank account” terms, but in geologic terms. The mountain you can see outside your window (or the ocean, the plain, the forest, the desert) doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your Aunt Fanny’s tendency to blurt out uncomfortable truths at the dinner table. In fifty years, will anyone still be alive to remember the upside-down pumpkin pie on the kitchen floor, or that your child dumped hot gravy down your mom’s silk dress? Um, probably not. In the grand scheme of things, and whether you’re religious or not, as the decades pass the stuff that has your guts tied up in knots today won’t matter. They just won’t.

Does that mean that what you do doesn’t matter? Of course not. Kindness wins over selfishness. Happy memories win over mere things. Love – shared, expressed, and heartfelt, wins over all the pettiness that this time of year can call out in people.

I worry. Don’t for a minute think I’m immune. I worry about what to give my family this Christmas – my boys are grown, so the toys of previous years aren’t appropriate. My hubby and I have everything we need, really. How to make this year special? I don’t know, but I’m determined to figure it out. I will never say I’m not a worrier.

But… the old adage “you can’t change the things that happen – you can only change your attitude toward them” is true. So I worry, then I put it away. Nothing I can do about it, so I look to the bright side of things. I know “the papers will show up in the mail”.  I know “you’ll get the job”. I know, deep in my heart, that what I TRULY desire, as long as I focus on having it, will come about. It may not be in the package I think it should be, but it’ll be there. All I have to do is accept it.

So what it comes down to is, you have a choice. You can handle the holidays the way you’ve always handled them – spend too much, eat too much, bicker too much, worry too much, get pulled in a dozen different directions and battered by everyone else’s opinion on how you should live your life – OR…

You can Breathe. Resolve to put worry away, even if it’s just for a few hours at a time. Share your love. Let your family, friends, heck even your boss (if it’s appropriate) know how much you appreciate them. Change your attitude about things that normally get you tense or upset (in 100 years, will this matter?!). Let loose your inner Pollyanna. If ever there’s a time to play the Glad Game, it’s now. Go around the dinner table. What are you Glad about this year? If (or when) it degenerates into a bitter-fest, sit back and laugh, because heck – why not?Wishing you love, and joy, and peace. Wishing you the perfect memories of the upcoming, imperfect, holidays. Wishing for you the gift of laughter, good health, and good friends. Sending hugs out into the world to all my friends, old, new, and not-yet-met.