One good thing about the internet, and social media, is the ability to stay in touch with home, and I was reminded of that Thursday night when I was able to watch the memorial vigil for Cpl. Ronil Singh through the newspaper’s Facebook live post. I called my mom the next morning to let her know I had watched, and to check in after all the Christmas insanity at my place.

We both were touched at the attendance, a show of support for both Cpl. Singh’s family and Newman P.D. officers. Even across the country, the absolute sadness still present could be felt. And I don’t know that it will ever really lessen.

Can sense ever really be made of the senseless and tragic loss of someone you love?

Time may lessen some of the sharpness of the pain, but there is no magic wand to wave that can make everything better. But people showing up, sharing in the grief, helps.

No one will ever be the same, and neither will Newman.

The illusion that nothing bad happens in a small town was lost....and televised across the nation.

Even through the sadness felt one year later, and the sting that remains, the strength and support of the community remain steadfast.

The blue ribbons that were tied around trees and light poles... not frayed, faded, tattered and forgotten. Take hope that even while blue ribbons might be small symbols, there is care and remembrance and that is no little thing.

And that remembrance is not just in Newman, but also at a house in Tennessee, where my blue lights are turned on every night and will be for the foreseeable future.

As I told my mom, things won’t ever be the same, because they aren’t. And they won’t ever be again. But luckily, Newman is the kind of town, where a few hundred people come out on the night after Christmas to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. To shed tears, to remember and to share in grief and support. And after a year of sadness and loss, that is something worth holding onto.

There is nothing quite like the whirlwind that toddlers bring to a home. Monday morning we had to say goodbye to the two youngest grandsons, who came to visit for a few days to check out “Mimi’s new house.”

Giggles, kisses, banshee-level yells and a platoon of Hot Wheels filled the last three days of my life, and I couldn’t be happier. Amazing how a sweet smile and a kiss from an angelic little face can do so much for any kind of a mood... even when said angel is driving the Hot Wheels on my freshly painted walls.

As an aside, has anyone else noticed how stepping on a Hot Wheel in the dark is way worse than stepping on a Lego? I had forgotten how badly metal shaped like a small car hurts the arch of the foot, especially the cars with the fins on them.

The dogs have been in heaven chasing two more boys through the house and back yard, scouring the floor for any stray crumbs that happened to fall... or any morsels that a 3- and 4-year-old wanted to share.  Both dogs were so enthralled with the boys they took to sleeping with them, rather than coming to Vince and me in our room the last two nights. Luckily the adoration was more than mutual. More than once I caught the 3-year-old sitting with the dogs on their beds having a conversation, contemplating the mysteries of the universe to be sure.

Very few of the Christmas cookies I made this year made it to the floor, not even crumbs. I think they might have been a success if the grumbling when the container was empty was any indication. Asher and Emmitt are even bigger critics than Samuel when it comes to cookie tasting. There will also be no comment about who slipped the kids the cookies before breakfast, after breakfast, or any other time they came in the kitchen. And if asked, I’m most definitely playing the “Mimi’s kitchen, Mimi’s rules” card.

But now there is silence, and a massive Hot Wheels pileup to clear out... and as I’m sitting here with my coffee, I’d much rather be listening to a righteous tantrum only a 3-year-old can muster rather than the clicking of my fingernails on my keyboard.

The older kids conned Joe into going to the movies to catch the new Star Wars installment... leaving me in an almost completely empty house, which any other day would be cause for celebration, but after all the noise, is exceptionally, absolutely awful.

The Mimi problems are real y’all, and I’m not liking them one bit. Those two boys aren’t the only ones looking forward to their next visit.

I may have to steal my Mom’s idea and gives the boys a Mimi phone the next time they visit, so they can call me for a rescue mission whenever necessary. Think anyone will notice if I stuff it next to the pull-ups?!

There is something to be said for the extended break Congress and our government takes as the calendars turn toward a new year. I have been much less focused on the news of the day, spending most of that extra time cooking and washing dishes. A clogged drain, the day before Christmas, in my kitchen sink and dishwasher wasn’t the present I was hoping for from Santa.... coal might have been a better choice with all the cooking that was happening at my house.

My hopes that Vince would be able to handle the problem easily, with an assist from Drano, have been dashed thus far, and he’s ready to call in the professionals. Well, if his cussing as the catch bucket under the sink dumped all over him as he was taking the pipes apart was any indication, I’m sure he would have gladly paid the emergency call-out fee if he could have gotten in touch with anyone. 

I will be keeping all my fingers crossed that we can find a plumber (during prime hunting season mind you) before Valentine’s Day.

Luckily the laundry room sink works fine, and is only a few steps away. But just the same, I think we will be eating off paper plates as much as possible until I get the all clear. The dishwasher is definitely a necessary appliance at my house, since I can’t really make everyone stop eating. Do you know how many dishes a household of seven generates on a daily basis? Way too many for me to wash, that’s for sure! Add in Joe and the two boys, and watch out, the double sink is full at least twice a day.

I’m definitely not paid enough for that much dish washing.

And no matter how many kisses I get, I’m not spending my New Year’s at the sink!

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.