Friday, December 22, 2017

The Last Concert of the Tour: Krasley Christmas in Manheim PA

Well, I did it.  I'm here in my hotel room, and I feel weird.  It's all done.  Tomorrow morning at six I get up, get out of the wonderful hotel room Don Krasley got for me, and I head for Brooklyn to pick up my girls.  Youngest has to work until six and then we're heading home to NH.  By midnight I'll be back where I started from on November 29th.

On Christmas Eve I'll have a lot of wrapping to do of all the presents that have been arriving in packages at home.  Thank goodness for online shopping.  Today I did stop at a Barnes & Noble in Harrisburg, PA to pick up a few last minute gifts and it's all done.  I had the lady at the store who was from the local library and wrapping for donations wrap those up for me.  The only problem was, now I don't know what's in each package and I'm not sure who gets what! Oh well, it will be a problem for Santa to sort out!

Before I get to the concert tonight I want to let you know that Terri Keeling got in touch to say that we raised over $1700 for the Clifty School Park at the concert in Kentucky two nights ago.  Hooray! That was because of the efforts of the whole gang putting together a big night around my concert.  Good going, folks!

The concert tonight was wonderful, because it was at the home of the Krasley family. This was my third time performing at their display. The first time was in 2012, and Tammy had just been diagnosed with cancer. Things didn't look good. Now here it is five years later and thank God she is still with us and doing great!  Don's display pays tribute to her with pink lights and angels and a pink light ribbon and Sarah McLaughlin's song "Angel."  It's really and truly beautiful.

Despite my gargling with warm water, salt, honey and baking soda every two hours last night and today, my voice was still shot, but I managed to get through the concert, although I'm not sure how good it was.  I was very very happy to see Rich and Wendy Motz from Lititz, where I began my tour over three weeks ago, and their friends who came to see the show.  Also in attendance was Dave Russell and his lovely wife Diane from the local radio station, WARM 103.3.  Dave and I go way back to my early radio days in Maine, but I hadn't seen him in a very long time.  They are playing "The House on Christmas Street" on his station and I am VERY grateful!  It was a good crowd and there were some fun kids there who were dancing and singing, and a very sweet young lady named Madden who came up and did a great job on "Frosty the Snowman."  It was a wonderful way to end the tour with Don's fantastic display and a lot of fun!

I had dinner at a cool little barbecue joint near the hotel with Dave and Diane and we did a little catching up.  It was my first time meeting Diane and I felt like I had known her all my life. It's too bad we live so far away from each other.

This makes me think of all the great people I've seen in the past three weeks who have been important in my life over the past 58 years. How lucky I am to have had the chance to spend a little time with them on this fantastic journey.   All of my hosts, of course, but also Carolyn and Larry Heard, Mary D'Agostino, Becka Bossons and her kids,  Carla and Jerry Dicken, Dave Kinnoin, Michael Simmons, Mary and Jay Lane, Randy Schmidt, Joe Lansdale, Jamie Feinberg, Stephen Meadows, Ron Bunt, The NH contingency who came to my concert at Mickey's Home (thank you SO MUCH Nancy Kelleher for putting that together!), Terri Keeling, and Dave Russell.

I want to say another round of thanks to all of the hosts:  Rich and Wendy Motz, Jason Reph and his folks, Gary and Billi Mayfield, Bobby and Roxanne Dicken, Brian and Danielle Wagner, Tyson Schmidt and family, Mark and Tracy Zembruski, Paul Aziz and Mary Carter, Dr. Bob and Marianne Brescia and the whole crew at the University of Texas of the Permean Basin, Tim Bryant of The Bosslight in Nacogdoches, TX, Jim Dennis, Calvin Slater and family and neighbors on Jeater Bend, Mickey and Minnie Baus, Terri and Travis Keeling and the whole Keeling clan, and last but not least, Don and Tammy Krasley.  Don was also a big sponsor of the tour and for that I am very very grateful.

And that leads me to saying I want to thank again all of the sponsors who made this tour possible. Whether your contribution was small or large it was all very important in helping this all happen. You made hundreds of people happy and helped out a whole bunch of charities and I am very grateful.

I am going to write one last post here next week with some statistics on the tour, but for now I'm going to go to bed because I am POOPED>  Thank you for coming along on this amazing journey with me. And to all a very merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I'm in a hotel room in Clarksburg, West Virginia and I am so excited that after this I only have one more night in  hotel room and then I sleep in my own bed again. This tour has been an amazing experience and the people I've interacted with have been wonderful. It's been a great chance to participate in happiness all over the country, plus catch up with so many old friends.  I was thinking today that the one thing that has been missing is snow!  I think I only hit snow once, and very briefly, when I was on the first leg of the tour.  Now watch, I'll end up driving into a huge snowstorm on the way home just because I said that!  But anyway, I am excited nonetheless to be going home to my husband and to get my kids on the way and bring them home for Christmas. I'm worried that my dog and my cats have forgotten about me. It will be a wonderful reunion on Saturday!

Yesterday I arrived in Clifty, KY, which is miles out in the country, at the home of my friends Terri and Travis Keeling, around 1:30pm and Terri took me to lunch at a great old fashioned soda fountain in a pharmacy in the town of Elkton. Then we went back to her place and I caught up on the blog before we headed out to "A Clifty Christmas."

When I had first reached out to Terri about the tour she asked me if I'd be willing to do a concert in a park, or if it had to be a decorator's home. I said I'd be glad to do a concert in a park if there were Christmas lights and if it benefited a charity.  So Terri and her husband Travis and their family and friends put together a whole event to benefit the local park, which was once the site of the school that burned down several years ago.  They are raising money to improve the playground at the park.  They had a tree lighting, and people could purchase ornaments and have the name of a loved one who has passed written on the ornament and put on the town tree, and there were free cookies and hot chocolate, and Santa and Mrs. Claus and an elf and a REAL reindeer and a miniature pony!  There were people singing Christmas carols and the names of the loved ones from the ornaments were read during a special ceremony on the stage.  The whole thing wrapped up with my concert at 7.  Unfortunately, most of the people who'd brought their kids to see Santa had left by then, so we learned that next time Santa has to come after the concert! Still, there was a nice crowd that stayed.  Unfortunately, when I opened my mouth to sing the sore throat I'd had all day really affected the quality of my voice.  I did my best, but I couldn't hit all the notes and I felt like my voice only had half of its usual power.  The people were very kind, though, and they participated in the singalong and Sheila, who got up to sing Frosty, was wonderful!

After the concert I was given a giant bag of goodies from the community which included a Clifty Christmas ornament and lots of other great stuff, plus some gas cards and a Wendy's gift card!  Terri made me some soup and we watched "Elf" together before saying goodnight.

This morning I was up and out by 8:30, saying "goodbye" once again to a great friend who has been a godsend on the road.  I looked at my route and decided to drive to Clarksburg, West Virginia, before stopping for the night. The guy at the bar downstairs in this hotel gave me a cup of hot water and lemon and I put some honey and salt in it and have been gargling like crazy.  Tomorrow night is the final show of the tour and I'm praying that my voice comes back! I want to go out with a bang, not a whimper!

Good night!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Catching up on the Blog: Sunday, December 17th: Mickey's Home

A few years ago I performed at the annual Christmas Expo (a convention of Christmas decorating enthusiasts) in the summer, and I met a gentleman named Mickey Baus.  I'd met  Mickey online before, as he had already commissioned a customized version of "The House on Christmas Street" for his display (I can't recall what year it was that we did that), but it was the first time I'd met him in person.  He asked me to come to his display on the Sunday before Christmas, which is when he and his wife, Minnie (yes, that's her real name) hold their annual carnival. They have games and activities for kids and all the proceeds go to "Give Kids the World," which is a charity that brings ill children to Disney World.  It didn't work out that I could come on my last tour, but when I was planning this tour I started with that date and worked everything else around it.  That's how I wound up performing at their display last Sunday.

But first I have to tell you about earlier in the day.  Several months ago, my friend Nancy told me that she was planning something extra special for her daughter's birthday.  Her daughter, Christina, has been best friends with my daughter, Emma, and another girl named Jocelyn since they were in first grade. They are still thick as thieves even though Emma lives in New York, Christina lives in New Orleans and Jocelyn still lives in New Hampshire.  Nancy's other daughter is my movie buddy, Megan.  Nancy was planning a BIG TRIP  to Florida for the birthday and she was going to bring Megan, Megan's friend Tessa, Christina, Jocelyn, Emma, and another friend of Christina's from college.  AND IT JUST HAPPENED that the dates she was planning on would coincide with my dates of performing in Florida!!!  So we made a plan to surprise Emma and I actually KEPT A SECRET for months about this, figuring that Emma is so busy she probably wouldn't check my calendar or know where I was on any given day. I was to meet them at their vacation condo Sunday morning and join them for a day at Sea World. We kept that secret for months and then NANCY spilled the beans THAT MORNING!!! Still, it was a great reunion and we had a WONDERFUL time at Sea World!  It was so great to be with my daughter and everyone in the group and I even went on a ride and I just can't say enough how wonderful it was!!

Then I left them around five and headed for Mickey's home and was blown away by his amazing display.  It's HUGE and beautiful and there were a bazillion people there plus a ton of teen volunteers and a very festive atmosphere!  Plus Nancy and all the girls came to the concert too, along with my friend Ron Bunt, who is a Carpenters fan, and Ron took a lot of video and pictures and posted them on my facebook page.  The audience was so hepped up and responsive that they even asked for an encore, which was a first on the tour. It made me super happy!  I have to thank Mickey and Minnie for a wonderful time!

There was only one thing that was kind of a downer, and I feel I have to write about it.  After the show Minnie said, "You did CHRISTMAS MUSIC!" like she was surprised.  I was so confused. I didn't understand...of course I did Christmas music.  But Mickey and Minnie told me they had not known what to expect from my concert because they had heard rumors from other decorators that because I am a children's musician that my concerts at decorator's houses were all just children's music and not Christmas music. NOT TRUE!  It's a Christmas concert!   I do a variety of original Christmas songs from my two Christmas albums plus Christmas standards, and this year I have added a sing along portion at the end of the show, before I sing "The House on Christmas Street."  I know Mickey and Minnie didn't mean to upset me, they were just wonderful and so nice, but they were so surprised that I did all Christmas music and it really made me wonder how these rumors got started. They said some decorators were reluctant to invite me because they didn't think I was doing Christmas concerts. I do not get that.  The only thing I can think of is that I've done my song "Candy" in the past on these tours and that's not exactly a Christmas song but I do it because it's about candy (and who doesn't love candy at Christmas?)  and it's a good audience participation song. But even if you say that's just a kids' song that has nothing to do with Christmas, it's just one song out of a whole concert of Christmas songs.  I know I shouldn't let this bother me but it does because they said decorators were saying they weren't going to invite me because of it.   I mean, I work so hard on these tours to give a great, Christmassy experience to people all over the country, and to help raise donations for charity, and sometimes it's exhausting but I love it,  and it's hurtful to think that people are saying negative things about it.  Again, I want to point out that I am sure that Mickey and Minnie had no idea it was going to bother me so much when they told me that.  They were so nice and happy and said they were pleased with the concert and it was a WONDERFUL evening for me aside from that one thing.

So in closing I just want to say a couple of things:
1:  Don't start rumors if you don't know what you're talking about. There are many decorators who have invited me over and over again, and if you are wondering what my concerts are like just ASK them.
2.  My Christmas concerts are filled with Christmas music!!!

3.  THANK YOU Mickey and Minnie Baus for a wonderful evening.  Your display a wonder and the event was everything you said it would be!! xoxoxo and Merry Christmas!!

And finally, the next day I started off the day visiting with my friend Jamie from NH and had a lovely time with her, and then I drove to my friend Maxine's house in Jacksonville and spend the rest of the day and night with her and it was homey and relaxing and we had a great time together.  The next day, yesterday, my show in Alabama was cancelled due to rain.

Now I am in Clifty, KY with my friend Terri from NH who lives here now and we are about to go out and celebrate "A Clifty Christmas!" with Santa Claus, cookies, fun and a Judy Pancoast CHRISTMAS concert!!!!!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Catching up on the Blog: Saturday, December 16th

As I said in the last blog post, I couldn't get out of Motel Hell fast enough.  I threw my bags in the car and peeled out of there.  By then I was close to the highway and it was a hop, skip and long drive down to Florida, to the Orlando area.  Before too long it got sunny and warm and beautiful and you could just feel that it was Florida even before crossing the border.

I do want to mention that on these last couple of drives I'd been listening to an audiobook called "Lily and the Octopus."  I had read a great review of this book but I didn't know what it was about.  Well, it turned out it was the story of this lonely gay man and his mini-dachsund named Lily and it was just SUCH A BEAUTIFUL STORY! I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever loved a dog! It will make you laugh and cry...and I mean really cry, especially if (SPOILER) you've ever had to have a dog put down.  But even with that sadness it's still a beautiful little book and someone I love is getting it for Christmas.

Okay, enough about that.  My ordeal the previous night was not in vain. I made it to the Orlando area (passing though all their ridiculous tolls every five minutes) in time to get to the hotel ( a beautiful, clean, comfortable, wonderful, amazing hotel), take a shower and get gussied up to go to Celebration, the Disney planned community right across the way from the hotel. I'd been there before on another tour and remember Calvin Slater very well. Plus his Lights on Jeater Bend, which involves several houses on the block (was it 11?  I can't recall the exact number and they all have synchronized lights) was on The Great Christmas Light Fight as well.  Calvin had set up a stage and the whole street was just so beautiful and it was a really exciting atmosphere. I was pumped. The concert was terrific!  I mean, I don't know if I was terrific but it was terrific for me! My dear friend Jamie Feinberg- an original member of the Judy Crew- who is now living in an RV on an adventure with her husband, came to the show.  And so did Stephen Meadows, who up to now I have only known online but who has supported my tours and sent me a lot of very nice messages.  He discovered "The House on Christmas Street" on a compilation CD that was released in 2009 by The Sounds of Christmas internet radio station. He got it because he is a Huey Lewis & the News fan, and there is a song on there from them, but he also discovered my song and really loves it.  I was really happy to have the chance to sing it for him in person. The crowd was lovely, and Anna and Elsa and Olaf from Frozen showed up, as well as Santa Claus, and they were all in front of me dancing with the kids for "The House on Christmas Street."  It was just one of those moments that make it all worthwhile for me, to see everyone so happy and having fun! And when I asked for a volunteer to sing "Frosty the Snowman" Jamie came up and that was super fun too! She knows all the words!!!  In all it was an A+++++ event and I owe Calvin and everyone on Jeater Bend a great big THANK YOU.  Beautiful people, a beautiful town, and beautiful lights. It was a wonderful Christmas time night! And so nice that I didn't have to wear a coat!

After the show I got back to the hotel and had a nice, relaxing evening, blogged a bit to catch up and then got a good night's sleep because the next day was really going to be jam-packed!  And I'll write more about that tomorrow because my eyes are starting to close now. I'm almost caught up but I can't stay awake any longer.

Thank you for keeping up with me and I hope you have your ribbon candy ready for Ribbon Candy Day on Thursday!

Catching Up on the Blog: Friday, December 15th: Childersburg, AL

It's now Tuesday, and my show for tonight was cancelled, so I drove for about 7 hours and have landed in Chattanooga TN, and am trying to catch up on the blog a little bit more.  I'm up to Friday, December 15th.

I'd estimated on Mapquest that the drive from Nacogdoches, TX to Childersburg, AL was about nine hours, so I was up and out the door of the Lansdale's home just before 7am.  They were still asleep.  Of course, then I was horrified to discover that I'd left my phone and glasses sitting on a table in the guest room, so I had to knock on the door and wake Karen up and I felt like a total doofus. But she is so sweet and gracious and she made sure to say that she was up anyway and to come back anytime and even bring my husband!  I would LOVE to bring my husband!!!

So I hit the road.  It was a looooooong drive through East Texas and then Mississippi and Louisiana (where gas was under $2/gallon!!!) and then to Alabama and I stopped a couple of times for car naps.  I brought a blanket and pillows with me just for this purpose and when I am tired I can fall asleep in my car faster than I do in my own bed!  The traffic was worse than I had anticipated and I didn't have time to check into the hotel before I had to get to the show.  Jim Dennis had told me Christmas in the Pines was a huge display set up in park in Alabama and I had pictured something like Larry and Rachel Charpiat's Pilot Mt. Christmas, which I performed at several times before they retired from decorating.

Anyhow, I arrived and found the park and Jim's HUGE display which also featured a live Santa stationed at a covered bridge. For a second I thought I was back in New Hampshire!  The park already has a performance area with bleachers and Jim helped me get set up, and the show went off without a hitch.  The only problem was that there was not much of a crowd. However, some of the vendors who were there (the display is so big that Jim has invited vendors to set up and sell crafts and food) listened to the show and participated, and a few people dropped in.  Jim said he had been disappointed with the attendance this year but it's the first year he's had the display at the park and it is  quite a ways off the beaten path so I'm hoping for him that word will get around and it will do better next year. But I had fun anyway! There were two teenage boys who were especially fun and dancing and hey, as long as I have one or two people who are having fun then I'm okay with that!!  After the concert one of the vendors who sells homemade soap and stuff sent me down a little goodie bag. People have been so nice to me on this tour!

After the concert Jim took me and a lovely little family who was visiting on a hayride through the displays. It was beautiful!  He had somehow rigged those projection lights in the trees and they looked like millions of green fireflies ...or, as I told the little girl...Christmas fairies. It was just gorgeous and unlike anything I'd seen before.

Unfortunately, after  I left the park is when things went awry.  I  drove over to the hotel, which was about 15 minutes away from the display.  I didn't check in right away, though, because I was hungry and indecisive about what to eat. There were a few fast food places with greasy fried stuff and I didn't want that, so I went over across the way to a Subway and got a sandwich to eat in my room.  BUT when I got back to the hotel I discovered that I didn't have a room! The clerk had no record of a reservation for me, let alone a paid one!  I tried to contact Jim but he wasn't answering his phone or text.  I waited about ten minutes and I felt like a complete moron standing there in the lobby, so I decided on the spur of the moment to start the ride on to Florida at that point.  I knew I had a ten hour drive the next day and I was going to be racing against time going into another time zone, so I decided to get a couple of hours in and then get a hotel along the route.  Little did I know that I was going into the TWILIGHT ZONE.

About a half hour down the road I heard from Jim and he was very apologetic. His fiancee had made the reservation but she didn't make it at the hotel he thought she was going to make it at, and wires got crossed and that's how I ended up at the wrong place.  But it was too late to turn back, I was almost out of Alabama by then.  Jim felt really bad and promised it wouldn't happen again as I was scheduled to go back there on the following Tuesday again (which is tonight...but that show got cancelled because of rain).  Well, I drove and drove and drove and checked out my atlas and discovered that there is basically nothing but peanut farms in northeast Georgia!  I finally reached a little town with an Econo-Lodge that got decent reviews online so I stopped there.  I paid $55 for the room- you get what you pay for...and by this time I'd crossed into the next time zone so it was one am.  I went into the room and the toilet was NASTY.  SO NASTY that I actually gagged.  I went back to the office and I should have asked for my money back but I just didn't have the energy to get back into the car and drive on, so I told him about the situation and he moved me to a different room. The next room at least was cleaner, but I was worried about skittering little creatures coming out to play in the night, so I kept shutting the light off and then turning it back on to see if I'd spy any. I didn't, luckily, and I finally fell asleep but it was a fitful sleep!  It was after two when I last looked at the clock, and I was rudely awakened at 7 by the yokels in the room next to me laughing and having a great time.  URGH!  So I didn't shower or anything, I just got up and left and was happy to see MOTEL HELL in my rearview mirror! (Motel Hell was an 80s horror movie about a farmer who makes the most delicious sausage in the land......).

And that was my visit to Alabama! It was a whirlwind and I was happy to do it.  I wish Jim the best of luck with his endeavor and hope that Christmas in the Pines becomes just as much of a local treasure as Pilot Mt. Christmas was for years and years!

Catching up on the Blog: Thursday, December 14th

I'm sitting in a Starbucks just below the Georgia border.  Tonight's show just got canceled due to rain, so I thought I'd catch up the blog a bit as I am now waaaaay behind.  So here we go....

Randy Schmidt and I have known each other for about 22 years....I met him online when he had a Carpenters listserv and we had just purchased our first computer.  Of course I went searching for Carpenters stuff!  Randy was such a die-hard fan which was amazing to me because he wasn't even around when Karen and Richard were at the height of their fame.  At one point he asked me if I had all of my old clippings and fan club newsletters from back in the 70s and I did, and he asked me to photocopy them for him, which I did. Little did I know that he was writing a book!

Shortly after that we moved to NH and I was finishing my Masters Degree and the kids were getting active with stuff so I just lost track of Randy.  Years later I found him on Facebook and discovered that he'd written a book about Karen Carpenter, entitled "Little Girl Blue: the Life of Karen Carpenter."  Of course I got it right away and was really thrilled at how well written and packed with info it was!  Since then Randy and I have stayed in touch and I went down to NYC to meet him when he was doing a bookstore appearance there...I think that was about four years ago.  Randy lives in TX, and that was the one and only time we'd met.

Several weeks ago he contacted me with a project for us to work on together.  He'd found my audiobook narrator profile online and thought I would be perfect to narrate his children's book about Judy Garland, entitled "Becoming Judy Garland."  I was delighted!  The book is now available for purchase on Randy's website and each book comes with a CD with the audiobook.  So, of course, when I realized that it was possible, I made plans to visit Randy while I was in TX.

The challenge was this:  Randy is a school teacher in a town north of Dallas, and he only had from 10:30am-11:30 free.  So I vowed I would get there by 10:30.  Even after my pain-filled night with the ankle problems, I dragged myself out of bed early, showered and hit the road by five.  I drove until just about when the sun came up, and then I couldn't drive any more because my eyes were closing.  I pulled off at an exit with one gas station and a boarded up restaurant. I parked next to the restaurant, shut off the van, put my seat back and konked out.  I woke up some time later to discover that the VAN WOULDN"T START!!!!  I'd left the lights on, and even though they shut off automatically I guess they don't do that unless you remove the keys from the ignition, which I had not done.  So I dragged myself into the gas station and asked the two young people working there if one of them could give me a jump.  A young woman who looked very unhappy came out, pulled her truck up, connected her jumper cables and got the van going.  I reached into my wallet and the smallest bill I had was a twenty, so I handed it to her because she'd done me such a huge favor.  At that point this unhappy looking woman broke into a big smile and said, "Oh thank you, you don't know how much I really need that!"  That proved once again to me that God works in mysterious ways.

I texted Randy that I wouldn't get there until after noon and he said to come on anyway, so I did and I visited with the two classed that he had during the hour I was there. I did some songs with them and we had a really fun time!  It was GREAT to see Randy and I appreciate him taking the time for me as he had his chorus concert and show that afternoon for the school and then again that night for the community.  Randy, I hope FA LA LA LAND went super well and thank you for a really super time with you and your kids! And I would LOVE to come back and do a full assembly for the school!

After I left Randy I trekked East to Nacogdoches. This is a town that used to be mythical to me but I have now visited three times!  My friend, the world-renowned author Joe R. Lansdale (Hap & Leonard, Bubbo Ho Tep) lives there and I am collaborating with him on a musical version of his novella "Christmas with the Dead."  I'd been there in July for a play reading, which took place in a book store/arts center, and I'd met the proprietor, a musician and author named Tim Bryant.  When I realized that it would be possible, I asked him if he'd like to host a concert to benefit the arts space when I was on my tour. So that's how I came to be in Nacogdoches on The House on Christmas Street 2017 Charity Tour!  It turned out that we had a small  crowd, and I was actually nervous.  Joe and his wife Karen came, along with his son Keith and his fiancee Danni, and then three other folks who I hadn't previously known, plus Tim.  Like I said, it was a small crowd, and suddenly I got very nervous. First of all, I consider Joe Lansdale to be one of the COOLEST guys I've ever met.  I mean, he is JOE COOL in the flesh.  Now here I was, about to sing my un-ironic and totally uncool Christmas concert and I just suddenly froze up.  However, almost as soon as I started singing everything was okay.  Joe was smiling, Karen was smiling, everybody started smiling and singing along.  And then, after I sang the second song, my original, "Santa Whatcha Got," Keith reminded me that it was one of the songs on the "Christmas with the Dead" movie soundtrack, which was how I got to meet all these folks in the first place.  From that point on the whole concert was a blast. I don't know how much was donated to the arts space, but I saw some folks put money in the donation jar so at least it was a little, and Joe wrote to me after to tell me what a good time everybody had, and that's what it's all about.  Joe and Karen hosted me at their home that night and I got a much-needed GREAT night's sleep, and I got to see their insane dog, Nicky, who is just a big old loveable goofball.  I've met some terrific pets on this trip, including Kelsey, a Cava-doodle at my friend Max's house last night.  It makes me miss my doggie even more!!!  I hope she doesn't sense all these other dogs and cats on me and think I've been unfaithful to her!

So that takes care of on to Friday in the next post!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Catching Up on the Blog: Dec. 13th, Odessa TX

I didn't sleep very well on the night of the 12th, but I was up bright and early to meet my host, Dr. Bob Brescia, in the lobby of the hotel just after 7am. I knew that morning that things were catching up with me, because I didn't feel rested at all and I felt pretty bad. But  Bob had a full day of activities planned, starting with a radio interview at 7am on a local talk/news station.  The show is hosted by a conservative woman and a more liberal man, but I didn't let them get me talking politics.  The show was a nice way to promote the public children's concert in the afternoon and it was a nice time and I did appreciate the air time and publicity.

Then there was a bit of free time so I went back to the hotel and tried to nap, but I just couldn't fall asleep. Dr. Bob picked me up around 10:30 and brought me over for a tour of the John Ben Sheppard Public Leadership Institute, of which is he is the executive director.  It was fascinating.  One of the things they do there is train students in crisis decision making, and they have an actual "war room" where simulations are carried out in real time and the students role play decision makers.  You can find out more about it here:  I was very impressed. I also really enjoyed meeting the staff there. They were all so nice and helpful.  I have to mention Clay Finley, the Associate Director, who gave me the tour with Dr. Bob. He was so serious when I met him and then before too long he was cracking me up with his dry sense of humor.  It was really great!  A highlight of the tour for me was seeing their collection of Presidential bobblehead dolls. I know that doesn't sounds like it goes with the other stuff I mentioned but there's a lot more to the institute. A library, a collection of portraits of the First Ladies, and the Presidents, framed documents that were signed by Presidents...all kinds of stuff. It's a fascinating place.  I also met Katie Roberts, the Special Events Coordinator who had been communicating with me and she is just as bright and hard-working as I imagined.  I also want to mention Cindy Ward, another non-Texas native, like me, who immediately became a soul-mate. She is the Administrative Assistant at the Center.  A great group of people!

Around 11:30 Dr. Bob took me to lunch at the Country Club (I'm not fancy enough for Country Clubs but he was wonderful to take me there.)  Unfortunately, and if Bob is reading this he will find out for the first time, I was really feeling totally ill by that point. I really think all the driving and not sleeping well caught up with me for real that day, but it was such a busy day that I couldn't stop. I felt shaky and nauseous and I began to feel like I was hallucinating.  I tried to eat a little bit but I just couldn't eat much and I felt really bad about it because I know my host wanted me to have a wonderful day and that meal was part of it.  So I did the best I could and didn't say anything about how I was feeling.

Then we went over to rehearse with the choir and I met the choir director, Frank Eyechaner, who had helped me arrange The House on Christmas Street for Soprano, Alto, Bass and Tenor. I so enjoyed hearing the choir sing it and they were all just great young men and women and a lot of fun.  What a great experience to sing with a choir again! Thank you so much, kids. You made me really happy and you actually helped me feel energized with that rehearsal!

At 3pm we went over to a television station and I did an on-camera interview there. I don't know how it turned out but I tried to do my best, although I'm not sure everything I said came out right at that point. I was beginning to feel light-headed but I was trying to act like everything was normal.  Maybe you know how that is?  So I hope it came out okay but I just don't know.

Then we went over to the Ellen Noel Art Museum on the campus because that's where the afternoon and evening events were being held.  Around 4:45 I did a community concert  that was open to the public and was billed as as children's concert so I did a mix of Christmas songs and some of my original children's music.  There weren't a ton of kids there but the ones who were there seemed to have a good time, and some of the choir members joined me for "The House on Christmas Street" as a warm-up for our performance that evening.

Then I tried to take a nap again in the "green room" they had set up for me.  I actually sprawled out on the floor in the dark but, again, sleep just wouldn't come.  At 6:30 I put on my pantyhose, my dress and my make-up and made my appearance in the "Pancoast Lounge." This was a room in the museum that had been set up for an evening of music, food and socializing for patrons of the Institute.  They were serving a "Jingle Judy" cocktail which someone handed me...I don't know what kind of alcohol was in it but I took one sip and knew that if I drank anymore I'd fall flat down and no one would be getting me up! It did taste yummy, though.  I found a table and put it down and didn't pick it up again.

 I was introduced to a lot of very nice people and tried to make conversation and sound intelligent.  That was hard!  At one point I  wandered over to the buffet table which was piled with the most delicious looking assortment of food you've ever seen, and none of it appealed to me.  It was weird. I wish I felt like that every day.I wouldn't have a weight problem.  But no, in truth I just felt so .....bad.  I used to joke around when I'd hear that celebrities are hospitalized for "exhaustion" but I honestly think that on that day I probably should have been in a hospital! I'm sorry, Dr. Bob, if you are reading this. I tried to do my best to hide it and put on a good show for everyone, but in the back of my mind I was just concerned about staying upright because I felt like I was going to pass out any minute.

Finally I got up to sing and I was able to pull it off. The event folks at the University had built a stage and the art students created a cute backdrop for me and they even had a Bose sound system for me to use.  The audience was lovely and I even had a wonderful lady come up and sing Frosty the Snowman with me and she did a great job. The whole time I was saying prayers in my head, asking God to just help me do it and entertain everyone and make my host happy. Looking back on that night I'm so grateful that I was able to get through it without collapsing, because I truly felt like I was going to.  I was so happy when the choir came out to join me for "The House on Christmas Street."  They did a totally wonderful job and once again their youth and energy revived me, if only long enough to do that song and finish the concert.  I am thankful for each and every one of them!

Unfortunately, I had to decline Bob and Marianne's invitation to go over to their home on Shiloh Road after the concert to see the lights and visit with neighbors. I was there on my 2012 tour and it was all just magical, and I would have liked to see it again but by that time I knew that I absolutely had to try to get some sleep.  I hated disappointing them but they were very kind and understanding.

Now here's where things get really bad. I'd been wearing my boots all day....BAD MOVE on my part.  Every since I broke my ankle in 2006 I can't wear real heels, and even a short heel gives me problems if I wear it for too long.  And I, like an idiot, wore these boots all day because I wanted to look good.  When I took them off in the hotel room my ankle was swollen up so huge and throbbing and stabbing and then....guess what?  I couldn't get to sleep! I knew I had some Tylenol in my van but I just couldn't stand the thought of getting dressed and walking again and going down to the van so I just propped my foot up on a pillow and did the best I could.  I did get sleep here and there but the stabbing in my ankle kept waking me up, so it was yet another night of restlessness.  When I finally got up the next morning I remembered that I had another bottle of Tylenol right in my canvas bag in my room. AGH!!!  So I popped some of that stuff, put on my sneakers and went on my way.

Dr. Bob and Marianne, please know that I am so grateful for EVERYTHING you did to make it a special day for me. I appreciate all of it and I tried so hard to make it all worth it for you. I hope you got good feedback about the concerts and that everyone was happy.   I'm sorry I had to bail on you...if I had been feeling better I would have loved to go over and see your display.  Merry Christmas to both of you and thank you for making me feel so special.

And I'm going to end this post on a positive note:  The day's events raised over TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for the Jr. League of Odessa, which contributes to the community in many worthwhile hooray!  It was all worth it!   THANK YOU to everyone involved, and Merry Christmas to all the great people I met that day.  You all helped me in ways you didn't even realized, and you all played a big part in making it possible for me to do what I came there to do.  I will never forget you.

And now, even though I'm not fully caught up on the blog yet, I have to get some sleep. Thank you for reading this and coming along on this journey with me!!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Catching up! Dec. 10-12

I apologize to those of you who keep up with my crazy tour blog.  These past five days have been a giant blur as I made it from one coast to the other.  I'm going to try to catch up bit by bit here.

I left OR very early on Sunday morning December tenth and drove down and down and down all the way to Pasadena, where I was taken in by a good friend, songwriter and children's musician Dave Kinnoin, and his family.  They treated me to a lovely dinner out and it was fun chatting with Dave's wife Mary and his two boys, Oliver and Grady, whom I had never before met.  I spent a very comfortable night in their amazing house.  The next day I got the grand tour and saw all the cool stuff they've collected over the years as well as the recording studio that Dave's son Oliver is building in their home.  I would have liked to stay and visit longer with them, and maybe write a song with Dave, but the road beckoned.  MANY THANKS to you and your family, Dave, and also for your kind and generous monetary donation to sponsor the tour.

On my way to Arizona I was invited to lunch by a  Christmas decorator I've known for a long time who lives in Palm Springs.  His name is Michael Simmons, and I've performed at his house twice. He was the first decorator to try to get "The House on Christmas Street" on The Great Christmas Light Fight, unfortunately to no avail. Every year there have been decorators who have used my song in their shows who participate in that TV show but the show never uses my song. I don't know why, but I've given up.  Anyhow, I had a nice lunch with Michael and we caught up a bit, and then, in the immortal words of Willie Nelson, I was "on the road again."  THANK YOU Michael for a lovely lunch with great company!

Oh yes, and before lunch I did get my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube and the guy's eyes popped out of his head when he saw my mileage! 

I got to Mary Lane's house in Sierra Vista, AZ sometime around 9pm, I think?  I loved driving through the desert but at one point I suddenly felt violently ill and had to pull over and get sick.  It was so weird.  I was out in the middle of nowhere and I just walked around a little bit and then I felt fine. I think the exhaustion was catching up with me. Even though I had great places to sleep I just didn't get much of it.  Anyway, at this point things were becoming a bit blurry because of all the driving and lack of sleep, but Mary kindly took in the weary traveler and gave me her wonderful guest room for the night.  She didn't mind that I wasn't really up for socializing after the long drive and I didn't mind that one of her little mini dachsunds decided to raid my canvas tote bag while we were talking!  Mary was Emma's teacher for three years in a multi-age program at her elementary school, and she is a dear, dear friend of our family.  Oh, her husband Jay was there too! The next day Mary treated me to a delicious breakfast out, we caught up a bit, she told me about a trop-rock singer she likes named Matt Mulligan (I think that was his name?  His last name was definitely Mulligan cause I remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel) and gave me advice on vacationing in Mexico!  Our visit was way to short as I had to hit the road again for the long drive to Odessa. THANK YOU Mary for taking me in and being such a cherished friend.

On the drive on the 12th I got to go through southern New Mexico, which is my favorite state. It's just like the license plate says:  Land of Enchantment.  It's different from the other southwestern states somehow, and the people are SUPER nice.  I stopped for a couple of hours and did laundry in Las Cruces just to have more time there, but that got me to Odessa much later than I'd originally planned.

I love everyone I've met in Texas, but driving through it can sometimes be awfully boooooring.  Driving through the panhandle on my way to Odessa was a little mind-numbing.  Thank goodness I listen to audiobooks.  The first time you see an oil derrick it's kind of cool, especially if you've only seen them on TV or in movies. By the time you see the 10th, or 20th one it's gotten pretty old.  Thank goodness at the end of my drive there was a very nice room waiting for me, where I washed up and went straight to bed around 11:30pm. And then couldn't get to sleep, and couldn't get to sleep, and couldn't get to sleep. "What the heck is wrong with me?"  I thought as I tossed and turned. The last time I noticed the clock it was around 2:30. I finally drifted off but it was a rude awakening at 6am, when I had to arise because my host, Dr. Bob Brescia, had a full day of activities planned for me beginning with a radio interview at 7:30am.  And that's for the next blog post!

Thank you for reading my boring post.  I'm sorry it wasn't more exciting, but basically these days were all about getting from Oregon to Texas and not having  enough time to visit with the wonderful people who helped me do it.  Dave, Mary, Grady, Oliver, Michael, Mary and Jay....I am BLESSED to have good friends like you in my life. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday, Dec. 10 Tour Stop #8: Cascade Christmas Lights, Lebanon, OR

I just had to check my calendar to see what day it is!  This tour has been a WHIRLWIND so far and it's not even half over.  The bummer is that I have tonight and tomorrow night off.  The cancellation of tonight's show, coming the day before I left on the tour, was very upsetting.  I understand the decorator's reasoning but coming at the last minute I was unable to find a decorator to fill the spot, and now I have two days off. When I originally planned the tour I'd hoped to have a concert every night, but that's kind of an unreasonable goal. Still, I never wanted to have more than one night off at a time.  Oh well. Lots of driving over the next few days but luckily some great friends have stepped in to take me in for the next two nights.  I won't be able to visit with them for long but it will be wonderful to see them again.  Then I hit Odessa, TX on Tuesday and my host there has two days of events planned for me for my visit! He is a professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and he has arranged for the choir there to join me on The House on Christmas Street! There will definitely be a video of that!  I spent a lot of time creating a choral arrangement and I can't wait to see how it turned out!  I'm doing a children's concert and a Christmas concert and it's all going to be fantastic!

ANYHOW let's get to yesterday's show!  I'd been to Mayor Paul Aziz's house on my 2012 show and I've never forgotten what a truly nice man he is so I was eager to see him again.  Just a few months ago he was hospitalized with a dangerous Staph infection and I contacted him to say that if he needed to cancel his concert I would completely understand but I would still come by to visit.  But he said, "No."  Nothing would keep him from hosting me!  He enlisted the help of some friends, got his display up and running, and greeted me with a smile and a warm hug.  I also met his wonderful lady friend and his sister, and I bonded immediately with them.  Warm, wonderful people!

There were five people who sat right in the front row...Paul had put up chairs under his arches...and I told them I was worried it would be too loud for them but they wanted to sit there anyway.  I'm not sure how they all were related but it was obvious after a while that the young man and woman to my left were sweethearts.  They were very cute and he was so shy.  A couple of times I sang right at him and he just blushed.  It was great!  I was so happy to be able to sing for that family.  And then a couple of rows back there was a little girl who really caught my attention with her enthusiasm.  And over to my left there were two sisters dancing on the sidewalk.  These are some of the things I always notice when I'm singing because I just feel so good seeing that my music is making people happy.  It's worth every long drive, every sleep deprived night, missing's all worth it to see people happy and enjoying themselves because of me.

The charity last night was Lebanon Kid's Packs. This organization provides backpacks full of food for children to take home over the weekend. Things they can easily prepare themselves in case there is an issue in the home. I've never heard of anything like it but I think it's a great idea. I don't know how much money they raised but I know that Paul is supporting them all season with his display so I hope they raise a lot.

The hardest part about doing these concerts is that I get to be with these people for a few hours and then I have to leave them.  I really hated leaving last night.  It seemed like I'd just arrived and then I was going, but last night I had to drive after the show.  I drove for about three and a half hours through FOG after the show to get to my hotel, because the tour stop that had been planned for tonight is 15 hours away from Paul's house. The plan was to get some miles behind me last night, get a few hours of sleep and then go down to SoCal today.  But I was EXHAUSTED by the time I got here to the hotel.  It was the first time on the tour that I've really had to  sing REALLY LOUD in the car to keep from falling asleep. But don't worry...if it ever gets really bad I do pull off the road and take a power nap.  Luckily I arrived here before it got to that point!

Before I sign off and hit the road I want to do a quick recap.  So far the tour has  raised about $2500 for charity and two filled bins of food for food pantries.  Not bad as the weather was bad at a couple of the stops.  I still have eight more concerts to do and would love to see a big number at the end!  So if you're coming to a concert, please raid your piggy bank!!

Thank you for keeping up with me on my tour blog.  Have a wonderful Sunday!  I'm off in search of BIGFOOT!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday, Dec. 8th Tour Stop #7: Woodinville Wonderland, Woodinville, WA

The Orca II and I made it over some curvy, windy roads today to get to Mark and Tracy Zembruski's house, but it was no problem because I knew at the end of the road there was a magnificent display and a couple of completely wonderful people waiting for me!  Mark and Tracy are truly friends now...and it's all because of The House on Christmas Street.  This was my third visit to their house, and I think it was the best one yet.  Mark actually got up to sing "Frosty the Snowman!"  He had a great group of friends there to help out tonight, and I especially want to thank Brian, who unloaded everything from my van and got my speakers up on the poles for me and then took it all down after the show and loaded it up.  I'm very, very grateful.  It was such a joy to look out at all the happy people and the kids dancing and singing.  This year I added a few sing-along tunes- Christmas songs that everybody knows- toward the end of the concert and I was thinking tonight what a good decision that was because people are really getting into it.  Young and old they are singing their hearts out and it's so much fun!

When I drove up to the house there were a lot of people out their walking around, marveling at the display.  I couldn't believe it but it was actually bigger than the last time I was there. Mark has added a TRAIN!  And it's all so beautifully put together and bright and happy and you just know that it's a wonderful tradition for families to come and see it every year.  It's almost like having Disneyland in the neighborhood! Truly MIND BLOWING!  And Mark's is still the only house I've ever seen with not only Santa  up on the roof, but Santa AND Mrs. Claus on MOTORCYCLES up on the roof!

Mark is friends with a lot of other decorators all over the country and several were at the show tonight.  Everybody loves him because he's such a nice guy and always willing to help others.  I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow named Christopher who is just getting into the decorating hobby and his wife was with him and she talked about how she's been a fan of "The House on Christmas Street" for a long time.  I had seen her singing along while I was singing it.  You know, when people tell me that it really means a lot to me. I don't take it for granted.  I've been writing songs since I was 12 years old and I feel so blessed to have been given a song that has touched the lives of so many people all over the world.  It still isn't played on many radio stations, and I'm not getting rich from it, but I am rich in spirit because of all the wonderful experiences and people that song has given me.  I'm a very, very lucky person, and I owe so much to the decorators who have given the song such a wonderful life with their displays.

Tracy fed me a nice hot dinner before the show (Thank you, Tracy!) and introduced me to their new doggy, Yogi, who is just the sweetest little thing!  And then, after the show, I drove to the hotel and when I walked through the door to my room there were Christmas lights strung around the TV and a gift bag from the hotel staff.  What a surprise!

I had a hot shower and even though I had thoughts of hitting the exercise room I'm just too doggone tired.  I don't remember ever being this tired this early in the tour before. I must be getting old. When I think about it, I did the very first tour seven years ago when I was only 51.  Now I can see 60 on the horizon....but I can't think about giving this up. It's too much fun!  I do find that this time around I am also missing my husband and our pets more than I usually have in the past. I mean, it's not like I haven't missed him before, but this time I find that I am feeling it more intensely.  I don't really wish I were there....I just wish they were all here with me. I think it's time to get a camper and do this all together next time!

And on that happy thought I'm going to sign off and get some sleep.  Tomorrow's drive is only five hours so I am going to get some time in on the treadmill before I go.  It's on to Lebanon,  Oregon and the home of Mayor Paul Aziz, who gave me the key to the city made out of lights last time I was there!!  Looking forward to seeing everybody there again!

Good night, and in the immortal words of Bartles and Jaymes, "Thank you for your support."

Thursday, Dec. 7th: Tour stop #6: The Journey of Lights

It's Friday and my drive today isn't as long, and I've time traveled back another hour, so I thought I'd take a break and settle in at Starbucks to blog while I'm feeling fresh.  It's a beautiful day here in La Grande, OR.  I'm on my way to see old friends Mark and Tracy Zembruski in Woodinville, WA.  I've known them since I went to their display on my first tour in 2010.

Speaking of old friends, on my first tour I went to Fruitland, ID, to Terry Hurrle's display.  I went there again in 2012. Terry and his wife have become wonderful friends, and, when our family dog Buffy passed away in 2012, they sent us a lovely handmade ornament of Buffy with angel wings that goes on our Christmas tree every year in loving memory.

Anyhow, Terry has retired from decorating, but at both of those shows at his house I met another decorator, Tyson Schmidt.  Tyson and his wife and four children live in Boise and he decorates their church, which is called The Journey:  a Church for the Spiritually Curious.  I'm not really sure what that means, but I like the idea of a person being able to question and look for answers to spiritual matters. Anyhow, I'm getting off track.  Since Terry wasn't doing a display in 2014, Tyson invited me to come sing at the church, which I did, and it was so much fun!  His whole family gets involved!

When he found out I was touring again this year he invited me back, and this time he offered to do the concert inside the church.  Hooray!  A warm place to perform in a pretty dress without a coat and hat and gloves and all that was quite welcome!  The charity they chose was Siah Smash.  Siah was a little boy who passed away several years ago (his full name was Josiah) and his parents have begun a charity in his name.  They are planning to visit hospitals in a high-tech superhero suit (Siah was REALLY into super heroes!) and cheer up the kids and bring them goodie bags, and provide encouragement to their parents as well.  A great cause!  Siah's parents and grandparents and siblings were there last night, and it was wonderful to meet them.

Tyson collected raffle prizes and many tickets were sold.  They had great prizes- including a couple of my CDs- and lots of happy winners!  It was a banner evening!!  I felt so warm, both literally and figuratively, surrounded by all that love and faith.

I do want to talk a little bit about the drive there.  Philip, my travel consultant and hubby, and I debated which way to go from Casper to Boise.  He was encouraging me to take the highway, but, being adventurous (and stubborn) I took a chance and went the back way.  I did, however, rely on the advice of a kind gentleman at McDonald's, who heard me talking to the cashier about my trip, and advised me not to go quite the way I was going because it would've taken me through treacherous territory ("2004 Toyota Van with nearly 550k Miles Flies off Ice-Encrusted Road"  I probably wouldn't even get in the headline.  It was would be about the van!).  So I went one way the GPS didn't advise, and that turned out okay. The back roads were all clear (except for the one that had taken me to that McDonald's in the first place. That one was really icy and a both-hands-rigidly-on-the-wheel deal).  The scenery was just gorgeous...hills and valleys and rivers and lakes and even some hot springs where I could see the steam coming off from them.  Nary a McD's in sight, but thank God for that little general store in the middle of nowhere where I was able to use a clean bathroom and gas up!

I made it to Boise in time to shower, get gussied up and head over to the church, where a good time was had by all. thing I wanted to mention about the show in Casper, WY the night before. Brian Wagner contacted me and told me his donation bin for Joshua's Storehouse was FULL in the morning!  Maybe some people saw the concert on the news that night and came over with donations?  I'd like to think I had something to do with it!

I"ve now been on the road nine days and have so many wonderful memories as I head for the farthest west point on the tour.  From the carillon bells in Lititz that were chiming Christmas carols as I walked from the inn to the fire station for my big ride to the display, to Jason Reph's little cousin, a survivor of rheumatic fever this year, who was having fun at the concert and who inspired the Reph's to make the Ronald McDonald  House of Philadelphia their charity, to the wonderful visit to the Christmas Story House (they were actually sucking Flick's tongue with a suction tube through a hole in that pipe, and that's how they made it look like his tongue was frozen to the flagpole!), to the wonderful Santas along the way...especially the one at Lights on Edison Road who sat in a royal throne behind me during my entire show!, to  A Dicken Christmas, where I met the brand new baby of the couple who got engaged at my 2012 show there, to being serenaded by the Wagner's daughters on the piano at their house while I ate delicious home-made beef stew, to the warmth and love I felt last night...and at every single tour stop so far!  THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED THIS TOUR ...monetarily, through prayer and good wishes. I am grateful to you all!

Now, on to Washington!!!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday, Dec. 6: Tour Stop #5

Just got out of a long hot shower I took in order to thaw out my hands and feet. You know that horrible feeling you get when your toes are thawing out?  Yeah, that was it.  OUCH!   I think tonight set a record for possibly the coldest it's been when I've done one of these concerts.  Or actually, the coldest I've felt!  It was around 25 degrees in Casper, WY tonight, and there was frost on my keyboard and I could see my breath while I was singing.  But you know what? That's the risk I take when I plan these tours!  About 25 hardy souls came out to sing and dance with me at Brian and Danielle Wagner's "Christmas in Wyoming" display.  Brian said the last time I was here it was 45 degrees! I knew I didn't remember it being this cold.  The stars were shining in the big sky over Casper and it was a beautiful night.  When I was packing up I noticed Orion and thought how funny it is that I see him over my house in New Hampshire every night this time of year and now I'm all the way out here and there he is.  Small world, big universe.

A cameraman from one of the local news stations was there, and he recorded me doing "The House on Christmas Street" with Brian's animated display.   It's supposed to be on the local news tonight but I'll probably be asleep before it comes on.

Even though it wasn't a huge crowd I did see some people putting stuff in the donation box for Joshua's Storehouse and that made me happy!  Thank you, kind people, for braving the cold and donating to those in need.

The Wagners are wonderful people.  Danielle filled me up with homemade beef stew before the show and I was serenaded on the piano by their daughters.  They have a warm, beautiful home with lots of cool Christmas decorations inside too, including Santas that Brian has had since childhood.  It was Danielle's birthday today so we sang happy birthday to her at the conclusion of the show.

It was a seven hour drive here today but I left early and stopped a couple of times along the way to search for Weird Things I found on If you are ever planning a road trip with kids, I highly recommended this site.  You just look for the map of the states you're driving through and it will show you every strange roadside attraction out there, and ranks them in order of fun.  I love it!  You can have a lot of fun even if you're traveling without kids!

There was a time during today's drive when I thought the Orca II was going to give up the ghost. Suddenly she began losing power.  Then I realized that, even though the road seemed pretty level, elevation must be increasing.  I called hubby to check it out and that's just what was happening. It didn't help that there were wind gusts of 40 mph out there as well.  Believe me, I was praying out there on the highway watching tons of tumbleweeds go flying across the road.  My van has been faithful and true so far on this trip but we still have a long way to go together, and I'm counting on her.  Tomorrow we're going to drive over nine hours to get to Boise, ID and the Journey Church where Tyson Schmidt invited me to do the concert inside this year.  Hooray!

Thank you all for your prayers as I make this journey.  I know God is listening.  I admit that tonight, with a small crowd and not a ton of donations coming in because it was so cold, I had a moment where I thought, "Why am I doing this?"  But I trust that somehow God is working.  Maybe there was a person there tonight who needed a little fun, who needed to be cheered up, who just needed to get out of the house for a while. I don't know, but I know there's a reason I was meant to be there, and I just trust in that.  I am praying every day that God uses me on this tour, not just to help the charities but also to bring some fun and happiness into people's lives.  I've been on the road a week now, with over two weeks to go. I really miss my husband and my dog and cats, but  I look forward to the people I'll meet in the coming days and all the interesting things that are just down the road!  I hope you Christmas season is filled with lots of love and special people as well.

Hope to see you out there somewhere!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday, December 4th, Tour Stop #4

Out here in the middle.....

the weather is very weird tonight!  It was 64 degrees and the wind was blowing like a sonofagun during my concert at the Dicken residence in Hudson, IL tonight. Still, a hearty crowd braved the wind and I'm pretty sure a good time was had by all. I know I had a terrific time!  This was my third time performing at Bobby Dicken's display...the other two times he had a stage set up but this time the wind was blowing so hard that he dispensed with the stage and set me up in the garage!  The concert raised money for the Children's Home and Aid Society and Bobby just texted me to let me know that we raised about $200 in spite of the fact that it was a far smaller crowd because of the weather. So YAY!!!  Thanks to all who attended. I really did have a blast and it was a real treat to see how much fun the kids were having, especially when they started dancing with Santa Claus.

A really cool thing that happened was that a couple that got engaged during my 2012 concert dropped by tonight with their newborn!  Their first baby is a boy named Benjamin who is two months old. It was really great to see them again and meet the little doll-face!

Just like at the first tour stop in Lititz last Thursday night, almost as soon as I stopped singing the heavens opened up and the rain came pouring down. It was kind of miraculous that the rain held off on two different occasions!

My days of short driving times are over for now. Tomorrow I will begin a two day journey to Casper, WY.  I'll go as far as Kearney, NE tomorrow...that's about a nine hour drive...but staying in the Central Time zone.  Then the next day I'll have a seven hour drive but I'll go back in time another hour so I won't be too stressed out trying to get there for the 7pm show. The following day I'll log 9 1/2 hours going to Boise, ID and the day after that it's 71/2 hours to Woodinville, WA.  Time to hit the hay and rest up for the coming days.

I just want to say "thanks" once again to the Dicken family for hosting me for the third time. It was really great to see you all again!  Merry Christmas!!

Sunday Morning, Dec. 4th

I found out late last night the the donation bucket for the Food Bank of Northern Indiana at the Mayfield's "Holiday Lights on Edison Road" was filled to the brim by the end of the concert!  HOORAY! That makes me so happy!!!!

And it's official...I've got a cold. The Zicam didn't work.  Still popping vitamin C and drinking plenty of fluids.

Got a lot to do this morning before check out at 11am. Heading down to the fitness room now for a good walk.

A Dicken Christmas in Hudson IL....Bobby, Roxanne, Carla, Jerry and the whole I come!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday, Dec. 3 Tour Stop #3: Holiday Lightshow on Edison Road, South Bend, IN

I'm sitting in my hotel room, popping Vitamin C drops and Zicam and trying to ward off a cold.  "Can't get sick, can't get sick, can't get sick" is all I've been saying to myself all day.  On top of that I feel like I've already gained ten pounds and I've only been on the road since Wednesday! Tomorrow I shall begin the day in the fitness room here at the hotel.  This is my solemn vow!

Many, many thanks to all the folks who came out to the show tonight here in South Bend, and especially to Gary and Billie Mayfield and their boys who worked so hard to put on the show. Gary said we had a bigger crowd than he had expected!  I was very fortunate to have the donated services of a sound man, one of Gary's friends....Dale from DJ Fire and he did a great job.  I had a wireless mic so I was able to move throughout the crowd and even rubbed noses with a doggie!  It was really great to have someone doing sound and not have to worry about that aspect of things. We went live on FB for a little while and that video is still up if you want to watch it.  It's interesting for me to watch because I can hear voices from the crowd that I could not hear while I was performing.

Gary surprised me with a double batch of Wendy's chili before the show! He had been watching my posts about eating a lot of Wendy's chili on the road and did this very thoughtful thing. I had one cup before the show and just finished the second cup here in the room to warm up. Thank you for thinking of this, Gary!

Sometimes I feel uncertain after a show...and I'm having one of those nights tonight.  In this case, it was pretty cold out and some of the people got up and left before the show was over.  You know, no matter how many times that has happened throughout my career, it still always makes me feel bad. Even thought they may have a zillion reasons for leaving that have nothing to do with me, I still always feel like its my fault.  Maybe every entertainer feels that way?  In any case, I was worried that people were leaving because they were getting cold so I cut a couple of songs from the show, and now I'm feeling like I maybe didn't sing long enough.  Yes, I am officially loony. But my hosts do a lot of work to make these shows possible, and I never want to let them down. 

I signed a lot of autographs after the performance and people had very nice things to say, so that made me feel better.  There was a news woman there throughout the concert. I am very eager to hear from Gary and Billie about just how much of the show made it on TV!

I had great ambitions about getting a lot of stuff done when I got back to the hotel room, but now, as I'm writing this, I think I'm just gonna go brush my teeth and read a little bit.  I'm trying to Christmas shop online while I'm out here, plus do Christmas cards, and work on bookings for the new year.

One thing I want to mention before I sign off....people ask me sometimes how I manage all the driving. The secret is audiobooks. I always have a book going.  Right now I'm listening to Jan Karon's latest Mitford book.  I started out the tour by re-listening to the last one, just to refresh my memory.  I love this series of books about an Episcopal priest in a small town in North Carolina.  The writing and stories always serve to remind me that God is always in my life, and whether or not I'm thinking about Him, He's thinking about me.  I don't know how, and I can't explain it, but I know God cares about each and every one of us, because He made us and He is our Father. When I think of Him as a father, it is very easy to understand God and what my relationship with Him should be like.  So I'm trying to use my time alone on this tour to pray more and worry less.  Thank you all for your prayers and good will as I go on this journey. Tomorrow it's off to Illinois and the Dicken will be my third trip to their display since 2010 and I'm really looking forward to reuniting with them.  I sang at Bobby and Roxanne's wedding last year and it will be good to see the newlyweds.

Good night!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 1 Tour Stop #2: Reph's Winter Wonderland, Nazareth, PA

As I write this I am safely ensconced in my hotel room in Cleveland after having visited the A Christmas Story House.  What a blast! That visit has been a goal of mine ever since I found out about the house, and it was worth the wait.  Like being right in the movie.  Now I wish I'd brought the DVD with me so I could watch it tonight!

Last night was the fifth time I've performed in concert at Reph's Winter Wonderland in Nazareth, PA.  Jason and his family are old friends now, and I always have a wonderful time there.  But it's also always really cold!!  Still, we had a good and enthusiastic crowd with a bunch of kids who got up and sang with me, and Jason's friend (and now she's my friend as well) Becca brought a girl scout troop who danced and sang and seemed to have a lot of fun.  Even Santa Claus was there!  The family selected the Ronald McDonald house of Philadelphia as their charity because family members recently stayed there when their daughter was seriously ill.  She's okay now and was at the concert last night. I'm very grateful for the donations.  $189 was raised. Hooray!!!

Jason and his father are firefighters and I'm trying to convince them to invite me back to perform for the kids and families at the Fireman's Carnival next summer.  I'd love to come to Nazareth when it's warm out!

Thank you so much, Reph family, for another wonderful and memorable evening.  Let's do it again soon!  Lots of love to all of you!

Tonight is an off night so I drove halfway to my next destination- South Bend, Indiana, and visited the aforementioned A Christmas Story House.  Sooooooo coool!  I even learned how they got that kid's tongue to stick to the lamp post!   Below are some pictures from my visit.
Tomorrow night I'll be at the home of Gary and Bobbi Mayfield...Holiday Light Show on Edison Road ....get ready, South Bend, here I come!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Nov. 30th. Stop #1. Lights on Laurel in Lititz, PA

I am writing this from my hotel room near Nazareth, PA.  Soon I will head over to Jason Reph's "Reph's Winter Wonderland" for my second concert of the tour. I'm so looking forward to seeing Jason and his family and all of their guests.  I think this will be the fifth time I've been to their house since I started doing these tours in 2010!

I cannot stress enough what a wonderful time it was at my first concert last night at the home of Rich and Wendy Motz in Lititz, PA last night.  I was really exhausted when I got there because I'd had such a full day in NYC the previous day, going to a Broadway show in the afternoon - a Christmas present from my dear brother Michael Pierce- and then a HANSON Christmas concert with my daughter, Emma.  Which was SO MUCH FUN!!!  But anyway,  I was really beat when I got to Lititz, but the smiles on the faces of Rich and Wendy Motz and their family and friends when I arrived perked me right up.  They really went all out. THEY HAD SANTA ON THE ROOF!  They got a professional stage and, of course, their display was magnificent.  They had around 250 people out in the street with VIP seating in front of the stage!  AND as the concert was a benefit for the town  volunteer fire department they arranged for me to arrive at their house on a fire truck! It was a hoot! Many thanks to the wonderful firemen who made sure I climbed up and down safely and didn't fall off.  A photographer took my picture as I climbed down and I'm sure THAT will be a shot for the memory book.  HAHA!

Wendy and Rich have a neighbor named Frank who came over and helped with the technical part of the set-up so I could sing "The House on Christmas Street" along with the animated lights. He mentioned that he is a performer himself, so I got him up on stage near the end of the concert to sing "Candy" with me and he was a big hit! A real showman!  Thank you, Frank!

A bunch of kids came up to sing "Frosty the Snowman" with me and it's so always SWEAR they know the whole song.  They get past the "eyes made out of coal" part and everything disintegrates! So if you are planning on attending one of my shows down the road make sure to bone up on your "Frosty" lyrics!  Go ahead, try to sing it now without looking at the lyrics and let me know how far YOU get!

Rain had been predicted but it held off until after the show when I had just finished signing autographs. Thank the Lord! I was being interviewed by the local cable station when it started raining and it was a big rush to get all the gear out of the rain, but everything survived--- I hope. I'll know when I set it all up at the Reph's in a little while.  Fingers crossed.

My dear friends Larry and Carolyn Heard came to the concert and took me out to an Italian restaurant for dinner after the show. We had a lot of catching up to do and closed the place down. They are both crazed Carpenter fans and that's how we met.  They are beautiful people and we had a wonderful time. Thank you, Larry and Carolyn!  I'm so lucky to know you!

I got to lay my head in a wonderful bed at the General Sutter Inn, a historic inn in Lititz and it was extremely comfortable. This morning Rich and Wendy met me and treated me to a Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast - there was apple pie on the buffet, for breakfast! - but I resisted that temptation.  It's a good thing because I ended up eating three of Wendy's delicious cookies (she gave me a giant bag of  them from last night) on the way to this stop.

Lititz is an amazing little town.  Not only beautiful, but interesting. There is a place called "Rock Lititz" that does staging, lighting and sound for major concerts all over the world and we dropped over there for a look around this morning.  They also took me to a huge, beautiful park where many events are held and I enjoyed watching the ducks in the canal.  Perhaps I'll come back to perform in the park on the 4th of July! We talked about that possibility.  Oh, and by the way, at the concert last night they gave me a basket of Lititz goodies, including chocolates from the Wilbur Chocolate company that I'm told are the forerunners of the famous Hershey kisses....but better! I haven't broken into that bag yet. I want to fit into my coat for the rest of the tour!

And here's the best news of all....this first concert on The House on Christmas Street 2017 Charity Tour raised just shy of a thousand bucks for the Lititz Volunteer Fire Department!!  HOORAY and many, many thanks to all the people who came out and donated generously!  You are all heroes in my book!