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On the Road to Comfort and Joy... 12/6/2016
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Just before the unprecedented presidential election on November 8th, I flew to Nashville to join Jim, Tracy and Kris Allen to rehearse for Jim’s “Comfort and Joy Tour”. We were only together for the day, but accomplished what we needed. We worked on some new songs and wove our newbie, Kris, into Jim’s holiday originals. He’s the sweetest young man and has a beautiful voice-- it’s no wonder he was the American Idol of 2009!

At the end of the day, Jim dropped me off at the airport. As I waited in the boarding area, I watched the World Series final game between the Chicago Cubs and my Cleveland Indians. But the lounge was a-buzz with Cubs fans... not good for my karma!

We were losing by the time I boarded, and the situation was no better when we landed. A nice distraction materialized in the shape of a dear friend’s son who just happened to be on my flight. He was on his way home for a visit and I ended up giving him a lift and dropping him off outside Jacob’s Field, where the game was being played.

Although Cleveland tied soon after, we ended up losing to the Cubs, who hadn’t won a Series in over 100 years…so I guess it was about time for them. And there is always next year for our beloved Tribe, right?

The next trip out of town was to Kansas City, where my husband and I were to attend The Pompeii Exhibition’s inaugural opening that night at The Union Station. Ed is involved in the exhibition which explains why we were included in this special invitation-only evening, before it opened to the public the following day.

Back in April, you may recall that we spent time in Italy with those affiliated with The Union Station and Exhibitions International, as they closed the deal with the Archaeological Museum in Naples, which houses the artifacts. It was a fascinating trip and now we were seeing it all come to fruition. We were blown away! The exhibition displays 200 artifacts, including body casts, found beneath the ash of the volcano which erupted so suddenly in 79 AD. The artistry in the pottery, jewelry and sculptures is simply magnificent. There is also a movie which recounts the 24-hour destruction of this Roman city, from beginning to end. The exhibition is open until May and it is a must-see!

Once home, the weekend and the help of my youngest son were put to good use for setting up our Christmas tree, decorating the house, and preparing for the arrival of our Thanksgiving guests the following weekend. If you are at all familiar with my diary, you know that my tree and decorating have to be done by Thanksgiving to be ready for Christmas Eve, when I rush home from three or four weeks on the road!

On Wednesday, family started trickling in. The first airport pickup brigade met my eldest’s gal, Cait, flying in from New Jersey after a 4-day visit with her mom. Next to arrive were my brother, his wife and their three kids, who braved the 9-hour drive from Charlotte, NC.

I hosted dinner with a labor-intensive, roasted vegetable lasagna that turned out very well (oof) as the main dish. Our houseguests, joined by my mom, my sister, her son and his wife and their adorable little ones, aged 3 and 6 months—along with Ed and me, made for a table of 14!

Later that evening Cait, Ed and I made a second airport run to pick up Sean, whose LA flight landed at midnight.

On Thanksgiving morning, I was up early, to prep the 20 lb turkey for roasting, with the Macy Thanksgiving Day parade providing the usual background entertainment. As I basted, my brother made scrumptious pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and we all enjoyed catching up with each other.

I got to work next on my chopped holiday salad, mashed potatoes, stuffed celery and pumpkin pie. Just a couple of miles away, my sister was (very) busy making the chestnut stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, homemade (though everything was, I like to insist on this one!) cranberry sauce, caramel apple cheesecake and pecan pie.

Now 17, with the addition of our youngest son, his gal, and our Sean, we all sat down for our family feast. Sadly missing from our Thanksgiving were my brother, Geoff, who died nearly 2 years ago and my sister’s husband, Mike, who passed away last May. We’re reminded even more acutely of their absence when we all get together, and we continue to find both sudden departures so hard to believe. Mike always carved the turkey so beautifully, and Geoff was our N°I holiday meal fan with his carefully-articulated, always enthusiastic critiques.

The following day, while my brother, his eldest son and mine went bouldering (indoor rock climbing), my sister-in-law, niece, almost-daughter and I did a little shopping in Chagrin Falls, before re-grouping with the boys and Wendy and her brood at “Tommy’s”, for a quick, but fun, dinner.

From there, all but Wendy’s group attended the Cavs game versus the Dallas Mavericks. Our 2016 NBA Champs won by 40 points, yay! What a fun night!

Saturday morning, my brother and family had to head back to Charlotte. The two older kids had an agenda! The rest of us went over to Wendy’s (and Mike’s) for pizza, salad, and beautiful autumn butter cookies, designed, baked and sent to us by her daughter-in-law’s sweet dad, all the way from Denver. Again, another occasion to miss Mike and expect him to appear at any moment.

On Sunday, Ed and I accompanied our favorite young LA couple to the airport at around 2:00 to see them off. We look forward to their visit back here at Christmas.

The rest of the day was spent getting my house back in order and packing for my first week-long trip out to join Jim’s “Comfort and Joy Tour”. Energy was waning…

But Monday morning, I was flying to Tampa, where I joined Tracy Silverman and Kris Allen for the hour long drive to Sarasota. There we met up with Jim, Brynne, our tour manager, and our production manager, Tyson, for rehearsals. Jim’s mom, Sally, was also there, which was a nice surprise.

The following day, we gathered at The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for more rehearsing. It was our opening night! All went well-- the audience was wonderful!

This is my 20th (what?!!) year touring with Jim and the18th with Tracy. I love them both dearly. It’s only Kris’s first year with us but he fits right in. Not only a great singer, he is also a true gentleman, kind and caring. He didn’t let the 2009 American Idol crown go to his head! And I think our voices blend really well, don’t you?

After this first show, I enjoyed a short but sweet visit with Mary, an old friend of my mom’s from Jacksonville, her two daughters and their friend. Mary is still beautiful at 94 and moves around with such ease. Very inspiring! But then, it’s always a treat to go out in the lobby to greet people. We see familiar friends and faces and meet new people, too. I just love it!

On Wednesday, the last day of November, we all flew to Dallas for our show at the magnificent Bass Symphony Hall in Fort Worth. Again, the audience was fantastic. We look forward to spreading our holiday cheer in cities around the country throughout December, right up to Christmas Eve.

Aside from all of the above activity, November was the scene of a few dinners out with friends, yoga, and, ta-daaaa: rehearsals for my New Year’s Eve shows at Nighttown, with Abe and the band. Very excited about that!

When I get back to this diary in early January, I’ll have lots more to log. In the meantime, allow me to wish you all a very happy holiday season—if we don’t see you on the road, that is!