This time last year I was shopping and preparing to host the kids for Thanksgiving for the first time, worrying about under-cooked turkey and over-cooked stuffing. Thankfully, I only had to call my mom once to bring me back from the brink of a corn pudding disaster. Fast forward one year and mom is still on speed dial for any potential kitchen mishaps, one of many things to be thankful for this time of year.

As someone who has always loved the beach and ocean, I never realized how much I loved listening to snow falling. We got our first snow of the season last week here at our new home in Tennesse, complete with a snow day off from school, which thrilled the kids to no end. Two days later, it was like nothing happened. Temperatures that were hovering at 31 were suddenly a beautifully sunny 58 degrees. While not a monster storm, the steady snowfall turned our yard into scenes worthy of a postcard.

Not totally unrelated, I am especially thankful for fleece socks, and will be investing in some furry slippers before the next expected storm.

The three boys - Samuel, Vincie and Desmond - were so excited about the impending snowstorm early in the week. The older boys reported their school friends talking about five inches of snow over dinner the night before the storm hit. And as the snow started really falling throughout the day, the bus driver announced at drop off that she had never seen three boys more excited for snow in her life. Consequently, I think that we’ve been outed as Californians, if we hadn’t already been.

Which leads me to that new view, and a refreshed outlook on life that major changes bring. When we packed up and left California, there was excitement - and a touch of apprehension - at what life would bring us at our new home in Tennessee. Well, there have been changes, many of them good ones.

New schools, a new house and making new friends. It can be intimidating for the kids, and the adults as well. But the changes have had great results. The kids have settled and found a happy place with friends at school. The grades are good, the teachers well liked, and the older boys are starting to get the hang of junior high.

As for the adults, things are starting to settle in as well. Vince is finally back after a second trip out to the West Side and the house is starting to feel like ours. A few coats of paint and furniture finding it’s perfect place have done wonders for helping end the inevitable craziness of moving across the country. Almost everything has been unpacked and put away, and the yelling across the house asking where someone put something only happens about once a week now, rather than five times a day.

Definitely thankful for that one, by the way, since I am usually the person who moved it in the first place!

Things were settled enough that Vince and I ventured out on election night to the county GOP headquarters to say hello. We both met some new people who welcomed us with open arms and friendly smiles. That friendliness has greeted us at every turn, and people have been quick to help fill us in on Tennessee life and where we need to visit, something else that I am thankful for.

And while I wasn’t thrilled with the all the election results, I am more than thankful that I live in a country where you can vote your conscience free of governmental force. I think Americans of all stripes can forget that not every country has that right, even in 2018.

Most of all, I am thankful for my friends, family and the blessings that everyone of you has brought to our lives. Whether here in Tennessee, at home in California or spread over the country. We may not be present together at the same table this Thanksgiving, but our thoughts and love are extended to each and every one of you.

And as I sit and write my column, I can’t forget to be thankful for you, our readers and subscribers, who are practically like family as you invite us into your homes every week. Your emails and notes before and after our move, and letters about my columns mean so much to me. It is because of you that I get to drive editor Dean crazy wondering where my political rants will lead each week, and having the opportunity to write about something I love is something I hope to never take for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving… and we send all our love from western Tennessee. I hope your holiday is filled with food, friends and loved ones… and no culinary disasters!

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