Jubilant Weekend Observed (4/5 Update)

EVERYTHING I DO -- Clay Aiken lives the phrase "doing for others," and this lovely graphic by Cindilu2 features a song with that message: "Everything I Do, I Do It for You" from the album A Thousand Different Ways.

Six Degrees, Gala, ATDW Podcasts!

Jubilant Weekend Observed

Celebrations in the Clay Aiken fan communities are many this weekend -- the exciting close of Six Degrees campaign with The Bubel Aiken Foundation set to receive $10,000 in matching funds, countless Clay fans gathered in Raleigh for TBAF Champions of Change Gala, and the surfacing of five amazing iTunes podcasts of our singer discussing various aspects of A Thousand Different Ways.

With enormous final day donations, CA fans and supporters made sure TBAF remained among the top six charities for Kevin Bacon's Six Degrees challenge. The drive built on the popularity of the "small world phenomenon" to create a charitable social network and inspire online fundraising.

TBAF To Receive $10k from Six Degrees

The Six Degrees fundraiser ended at 11:59 p.m. Saturday with the organization set to contribute $10,000 in matching funds to the six charities with the most donors. They include Autism Speaks Inc, 2439 ($48,370); TBAF, 2198 ($43,983); Family Pride Coalition, 1170; 11th Hour Animal Rescue, 1131; National Multiple Sclerosis, 1063; Helping Children Worldwide, 1041.

Final figures are still being tallied, and you can view them by clicking on the Fan Alert graphic below. Donor totals are updated here through 7 p.m. April 5.

Click to View Final Top 10 Totals

Clay even double-blogged Saturday afternoon to spur on the troops: "It's like American Idol all over again! Down to the wire and us in second place! This time though, all for a good cause!"

Afterwards, the number of donors soared -- and coming in second, though deja vu was not a bad thing.

TBAF Throws Annual Party

TBAF, Clay’s charity for the inclusion of children with developmental disabilities, threw a huge party in Raleigh Saturday honoring this year's Champions of Change. The gala annually celebrates people and organizations who have made outstanding efforts to open doors so children with special needs can be included in their communities.

The sold-out event will featured dinner, speeches, the conclusion of silent and Internet auctions, and special performances by Clay and his backup partner, Quiana Parler. Their program included "I Can't Make You Love Me," "Home" (Quiana), "The Prayer" (duet), and "Unchained Melody." Audio can be downloaded at Clack Unlimited.

There are already several wonderful recaps posted at Clay's Daily Double, as well as message boards throughout Clay Cyberspace.

These clickable photos are but a teaser of the CLACK Clay fans can expect to see and hear in the days to come. Included here are Invisible926, #1; Irishbookgal, auction of LTS, #2; Invisible926, prior to auction of Wango Tango shirt won by SmartyPantsSuz, #3; Irishbookgal, prior to auction of Clay's rings, #4; and Invisible926, #5.

Gala Honors Champions of Change

Champions of Change honorees included State Farm Insurance, Beta Alpha Volunteers, Coach Jim Johnson, and 12-year old Jonathan Bunzey. You can read about them here.

TBAF's Beta Alpha chapters, established in 20 states and on nine message boards, actively raise significant funding and awareness to support the foundation’s mission of full inclusion.

Full inclusion is a goal that has become more important now than ever before:

- In 2005, it was estimated that 1.77 million Americans were affected by autism
- In the United States today, Downs Syndrome affects more than 350,000 people
- In all, approximately 500,000 people in this country have some degree of cerebral palsy

“I am proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our honorees. Our own Beta Alpha volunteers’ passion and dedication to raising awareness all across the country should inspire all of us to use our voices to make a difference in our own communities for inclusion," Clay said.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: The clickable interlude features the graphic designs and photographs of seven talented fans, including Amazing_CA, photo by dc4clay, #1; Amazing_CA, photo by Karen Eh, #2; ABeautifulMind, #3; Ambassador of Love, photos by Karen Eh and SecretlyLovesClay, #4; and ClayAikenFan86, #5.

Clay Talks About ATDW in Podcasts

Amidst the hoopla in Raleigh, fans at home discovered a treasure in the five 12/11/06 podcasts at iTunes. In these interviews, Clay expounds on song selection and the recording of ATDW, his passion for TBAF, and his experiences as a UNICEF ambassador.

If you have iTunes on your computer, you can download the podcasts at no cost. You can also obtain the set-up free of charge.

I am an iTunes newbie, so I hope these instructions work for you: go to the iTunes Store, then to Podcasts. Type in "Your Idols" in the upper right SEARCH box and you should locate the Clay Aiken Exclusive Interviews 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Below are some highlights from the five podcasts. There is a little paraphrasing, but most are direct quotes from the singer himself.

Graphic by Clayla919

Here you come again. Just when I've begun to get myself together, you waltz right in the door, just like you've done before and wrap my heart 'round your little finger ...

Here You Come Again

"Some of the songs on the album are favorites of mine just because we changed them up so much. My Mom was a huge Dolly Parton fan, and one of the songs I obviously heard a lot of was HYCA ...

"Jaymes asked Adam Anders to see if he could do anything to it [make it a ballad], and he sent it back to us. We were sitting in her car, and we almost ran off the road because his version of that song was just absolutely amazing. He changed it so much and made it so different that it's easily become my favorite song ...

"It's just kind of funny to me because here I am 28 years old and I've had the opportunity to sing a song that, growing up, was my mother's favorite, and it must have been one of mine because it stuck with me for so many years.

"I not only got a chance to record it, but I'm friends with the person who played piano on the original album [David Foster] and I got to do it in a way that kind of makes the song different and makes there be a Clay Aiken version, too."

Graphic by Amazing_CA

Baby, don't understand why we can't just hold on to each other's hands ...

Broken Wings

"Broken Wings" is a favorite song from Clay's youth, but he and Jaymes wanted an ethereal, haunting feel to the arrangement. He talks about recording the vocals and the spoken parts.

" ... we found that there were gaps in places to maybe put a poem, so we called a friend of mine who had written stuff before. Initially, we thought we'd have her just say the lyrics in the background; and instead she wrote a poem that kind of went along with the song's title and message.

"She read it and got completely done, and I said, "Say your last line again --"We are broken, but we are moving still" -- and she did it, and I asked her to do that again and then say "A thousand different ways," and she did it ... and we all got chills!"

Katt45 ~ Karen Eh

Through my eyes, I have seen the world start spinning like a ball ...

Choosing the Originals

In the third podcast, Clay explains the process of choosing the album's four originals -- "A Thousand Days," "These Open Arms," "Lonely No More," and "Everything I Have." There are gems about all four, but I particularly like the segment about EIH:

"Every time I played three or four songs for friends if there was a woman in the room and if she didn't cry on the demo, she would say, 'Oh, I want that song at my wedding' or ... 'You've got to do that song!'

"So every single female in my life or not in my life has said this is the song to sing, so I said we will put it on!"

Clayquebec1 ~ Invisible926

If we can't solve any problems, why do we lose so many tears ...

Every Time You Go Away

"Every Time You Go Away" plays in the background as Clay talks about the melding of singing, teaching, God's plan, his passion for inclusion of children with disabilities, and TBAF:

"I think that God wanted me to learn about other things first, to become passionate about something else, because I honestly believe that if I had left high school and gone straight into singing in LA or Nashville before I had some world experience, I would have done this all for me.

"I'm really happy and thankful that I had the opportunity to learn about other things, to learn about individuals with special needs, and have a passion for that. I got to meet the Bubel family; and, with them, started the foundation that we have now ... "

Graphic by Clayquebec1

I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over. I better read between the lines in case I need it when I'm older ...

I Want To Know What Love Is

In the final podcast, accompanied by strains of I Want To Know What Love Is, Clay talks about his appointment as a special ambassador to UNICEF:

"I guess we somehow caught the ear or the eye of UNICEF, and they have different celebrity ambassadors that work in different areas whether it be clean water or advocates for aids and women's rights. They work in education, and one of their biggest areas of concentration is making education accessible for all kids in the world. As a teacher, it was kind of in synergy to ask me to do that, so they called me up and asked me to be an Ambassador of Education ...

"I took my first trip to Indonesia in early 2005, and I was told it would be a practice run to prepare me for the types of things I would see on these trips. I remember getting off the plane in Banda Aceh and the very first place they took us was a huge, empty field where the ground was unsettled ... now a mass grave with 35,000 bodies in a field of no more then two acres ... "

In my life there's been heartache and pain, I don't know if I can face it again ... I Want To Know What Love Is.

Many Thnx from Texas Claymate

Thank you for your outpouring of prayers, get-well wishes, and candle lighting at the Gratefulness site for my mother-in-law, Nina. She asked that I tell you how much she appreciates your love and concern and that she felt both, even in West Texas.

I read her your messages from the NinaB candle page, as well as the ticket-buying ordeals relayed in the previous blog. She was happy to hear Clay will be in Texas this summer but sorry she and I didn't attended a concert together while she was healthy.

Unfortunately, Nina has a grocery list of ailments dealing with heart and kidney failure. She will be in the hospital through the weekend, but hopes to go home next week with a new health regimen.

Thank you again for the kindness shown this special Texas Claymate.

With the assistance of Cindilu2's beautiful new calendar featuring photos by Karen Eh and Scrpkym, here's to a very happy first week of April, Clay Nation!


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Clay Nation Hits Lively Week

MAGICAL -- Katt45's lovely graphic embodies the current theme of graphic artists at the Clayboard Pavillion -- "The Magic and the Mystery."

Ticketmaster Tango, TBAF Gala

Clay Nation Hits Lively Week

Between three days of "Ticketmaster Tango" to the highly-anticipated Champions of Change Gala in Raleigh Saturday, life in Clay Cyberspace promises to be off the charts this week!

Ticket-buying stress on Clay Aiken message boards is a way of life, a necessary evil if you want to score seats for one of the singer's summer concerts with orchestras across the country. Pre-sales this week include Houston and Pala, CA, Monday; Gilford, NH, Tuesday; and Chautauqua, NY, Thursday.

Monday's countdown to Houston ticket sales by phone and Pala online paints the picture -- nervous nail-biting, queasiness, real life meetings crowding the 10 o'clock opening bell -- that is always better shared online with others than alone.

Librarianforclay summed up "pre-game" sentiments in this Clayversity post Monday: I don't pray for things like tickets to concerts. But I do hope ... a whole lot ... at least for a seat in the venue. Any seat. I'd like to be close. I'd like to be on orchestra level. But at this point, all I want is a seat. If they offered me a square of carpet, I'd take that. A corner of a square. A spot on a stair. I'd hang from a light fixture if that's all they had. Even though I really hate heights, I would do it for Clay and the VOX.

Ticket Dance in a Nutshell

I was offline when the Houston frenzy began and scrolled through the mine field after the real time battles had been waged and the results decided. This is a synopsis of the scene at CV -- and most any CA message board -- Monday morning:

Still busy ... Here are seating charts for the orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony levels ... Still busy ... I've got a ring ... I'm on hold! They said if I'm waiting for Clay Aiken, don't press any other numbers ... EEEEE!!!! ... I'm ON HOLD in Houston; at least they have nice "hold" music! ... WOOHOO -- my friend got through, Row E!!! ... Ringing but no answer. I am going nuts here ... It rings for a long time -- like 12 or so. . .I just got Row C Center for the Houston concert! Goose bumps all over my body! ...

Eight people are on the phones, and it takes 4-5 minutes per person. They can accommodate about 100 people an hour. Keep trying! ... Hope I don't have a stroke waiting. This is awful, but at least I am on hold ... ROW H, BABY!!! ... Houston, we have lift-off! My travel buddy got tickets on the 6th row! ... For those still on hold, try two phones if you can ... I have the switchboard today. I can't tell you how many people I hung up on when I thought my call was going through ... Worth the hour of dial and redial? Oh, yeah, baby!!! ... OMG, it's five minutes to the Pala sale! EEK, I'm so nervous ...EEEEEE -- we are in da house!!!

Kudos to all who survived Monday's tango and landed tickets for symphony tour concerts! Take a deep breath -- the dance starts anew *SOON* !

Clickable of 'Champions of Change' Poster

Gala To Honor Volunteers

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, Clay’s charity for the inclusion of children with developmental disabilities, is throwing a party in Raleigh Saturday, March 31, honoring "champions of change." The annual TBAF Champions of Change Gala will celebrate people and organizations who have made outstanding efforts to open doors so children with special needs can be included in their communities.

The sold-out event will feature a special performance by Clay. The honorees include State Farm Insurance, Beta Alpha Volunteers, Coach Jim Johnson, and 12-year old Jonathan Bunzey. You can read about them here.

TBAF's Beta Alpha chapters, established in 20 states and on nine message boards, actively raise significant funding and awareness to support the foundation’s mission of full inclusion. The current fund-raising focus is Six Degrees, a project created by actor Kevin Bacon that will contribute $10,000 in matching funds to the six charities with the most donors through 11:59 p.m. March 31.

TBAF Badge Still in Second Place

Click To View Latest Badge Totals

UPDATED TOTALS: At 6 a.m. EDT Saturday, the top six groups ranged from 915 - 1705 donors, the TBAF Charity Badge in second place with 1315 contributors and $29,467 raised. Autism Speaks Inc. leads with 1705 donors and $36,407.

Key is the total NUMBER OF DIFFERENT DONORS. To add your contribution, link to TBAF Charity Badge here and click on the orange button. Tax deductible donations go directly to TBAF. You can also email the link to others to do the same.

“I am proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our honorees. Our own Beta Alpha volunteers’ passion and dedication to raising awareness all across the country should inspire all of us to use our voices to make a difference in our own communities for inclusion," Clay said in a gala press release.

TBAF hopes to be celebrating as one of the top charities in the Six Degrees campaign Saturday night.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: Today's clickable interlude features the visual artistic talent of 10 CA fans, including Amazing_CA, photos by Ztilb, 1; Ambassador of Love, 2; ABeautifulMind, photos by Scrpkym and Karen Eh, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by dc4clay, 4; and Claystruck, photo by Coopersgirl, screen caps by Gerwhisp, 5.

Tar Heel Victories, Losses

Sadly, the Carolina Tar Heels lost in overtime to the Georgetown Hoyas in their bid for a Final Four berth Sunday. The graphic below from the Greensboro News&Record strikes the remarkable contrast between the game's fierce competition and, a few minutes later, the dejection of falling short. The photos of sophomore forward Tyler Hansbrough are by Jerry Wofford of the N&R.

In a press conference after the game, Coach Roy Williams said, "I would give every cent I have right now for my team to be out there cutting down those nets and feeling those feelings that Georgetown's players are feeling. But life doesn't always go like you want. Life is never as sweet as you think it could possibly be. I told my youngsters they have to be able to handle this extremely disappointing time."

Mega March Madness continues in this corner, however, as the Lady Tar Heels cruised past George Washington and Purdue, punching their ticket to meet the Tennessee Lady Vols in the Final Four semi-finals Sunday, April 1.

I also have friends from several states -- West Virginia, California, Ohio -- for whose teams I am still cheering.

Mascot Leaves Legacy of Life

The death Monday morning of 21-year-old Jason Ray, UNC student who performed as the ram mascot, Rameses, for the men's basketball team, promptly put NCAA wins and losses into proper perspective.

Jason had been in extremely critical condition at Hackensack University Medical Center since being struck by an SUV a few hours before the Carolina-USC game in New Jersey Friday. He was scheduled to graduate with a 3.6 GPA in May with a major in business administration and a minor in religion.

According to his brother, Allen, he believed in organ donation; and his were bequeathed to the Sharing Network of New Jersey. "We hope that Jason's gift will be able to help up to 50 people in critical need of transplant."

"My heart goes out to Jason's family," said Coach Williams. "He was an engaging young man and a friend to a number of our players and managers. Obviously our team is disappointed with the outcome of Sunday's game, but that pales greatly in comparison with the loss the Ray family is dealing with today. We ask everyone to remember Jason and his family in their prayers."

Clay Fans Light Candles for MIL

In the previous blog about John and Elizabeth Edwards, I included a link to the Gratefulness Candle site. Following last week's announcement of the return of this courageous woman's cancer and the couple's continued commitment to life, more than 200 48-hour candle flames from several countries were lit for ElizE there.

Friday I learned that my mother-in-law, a dedicated octogenarian Claymate in West Texas, had been admitted to a Critical Care Unit with heart failure. At CV, we have established candle pages for several relatives and friends encountering rough times; and I shared the news about my MIL with the link for her NinaB candle page.

Tuesday afternoon Nina graduated to a room with a telephone, and I told her about the many candles burning for her from Claymates in three countries. She enjoys hearing about Clay and his fans, and we often watch his TV appearances while talking on the phone.

I read her many of your messages, and she is most grateful. She also loved the recount of my misstep while setting up her candle page. I inadvertantly posted a message for a "Nina" from Bulgaria; so in the midst of six candles, five in Bulgarian, sits one in English from North Carolina -- at least for 48 hours.

Sunday 'Messiah' a Family Affair

Sunday morning, after rising at the crack of dawn and gyrating through the pantyhose shuffle for an 8 a.m. orchestra call, I with my trusty oboe participated in my brother-in-law's special music presentation of the Easter portion of the Messiah at Jamestown United Methodist Church.

George Frederick Handel, who composed the Messiah in just 24 days in the fall of 1741, did not leave his house the entire time. A servant brought him trays of food, but he ate little. Completely immersed in composition and Bible reading, he let nothing deter him from the colossal work at hand. As he put the finishing touches on the "Hallelujah Chorus," he turned to his servant with tears in his eyes and exclaimed: "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!"

Clickable 'Messiah' manuscript

More often associated with the Christmas season, the Messiah's Easter segments begin with "Behold the Lamb of God" (#22) and continue through such beautiful choruses as "Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates" (#33), "Hallelujah" (#44), and "Worthy Is the Lamb" (#53). Excerpts are available at the above link.

As usual, our performance Sunday was a family affair with my BIL conducting, my sister and her daughter playing flute, and yours truly on oboe. As the program progressed, I couldn't help thinking of our mother, Mama Mac, whom some of you know through this blog. Not too many years ago, she would have added her robust alto vocals to the mix. Later when mobility became a problem, she occupied a front pew for all my BIL's special music presentations.

On this day, Jamestown's new harpsichord was featured as the keyboard accompaniment for the choir and orchestra, as well as my sister's offertory solo, Sonata in G Minor by J.S. Bach. Mama Mac had to be smiling from the heavenly choir because in both services after the flautist's final note, this "high" Methodist church congregation added a resounding, unison "Amen!"

This is a clickable of the lovely lead graphic by Katt45:

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


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Cancer Enters Edwards Presidential Race

John and Elizabeth Edwards discuss the return of her cancer at a press conference in Chapel Hill Thursday. -- Getty Photo

NC Couple Displays Character

Cancer Enters Presidential Race

Much of the country watched with heartfelt empathy as North Carolina's John and Elizabeth Edwards revealed Thursday that her breast cancer has returned. The extraordinary manner they delivered the message spoke volumes about the couple's courage, confidence, and grace.

The announcement in a noon press conference from the same Chapel Hill, NC, hotel garden in which their wedding reception occurred 30 years ago provided a metaphor of their unconditional love and commitment for each other, their family, and the future of this country.

"The bottom line is her cancer is back," said John Edwards, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, former senator, and 2004 vice presidential nominee. "Her cancer is treatable, not curable. Elizabeth will have this as long as she's alive."

Setting a powerful example for others, the Edwardses have become symbols for the concept that cancer doesn't have to mean the end of an active life. All over the Internet and airwaves, the "new face" of this dreaded disease has been discussed as chronic, treatable but not curable, with life continuing in an optimistic fashion.

Couple Shares Commitment

Thus, cancer, with its potential for triumph or tragedy, is now part of the 2008 presidential race; and Elizabeth Edwards is one of 10,000 Americans living with the disease.

"We are very optimistic about this because, having been through some struggles together in the past, we know that the key is to keep your head up and keep moving and be strong; and we intend to do exactly that," he said, alluding to the death of their 16-year-old son, Wade, in a car accident in 1996, and his wife's initial cancer diagnosis.

The 57-year-old mother of three, who appeared healthy in the live telecast, said she has no symptoms, though she may get tired from her treatment or her youngest children (Emma Claire, 8, and Jack, 6), who, she laughingly added, are "disappointed I won't lose my hair this time."

After first receiving a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in the final weeks of the 2004 campaign, Elizabeth underwent several months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy that appeared to defeat the disease. She later wrote a book about her treatment and recovery, Saving Graces, subtitled "finding solace and strength from friends and strangers."

Elizabeth Blesses Broken Rib

The cancer recurrence was discovered after Elizabeth visited her doctor complaining of a pain in her side. She had twisted her back while moving a storage chest, and Monday X-rays revealed a rib fracture on her left side and the suspicious spot on her right rib. "I bless this broken rib and the fortuitous turn of events," she said, demonstrating the same up-beat attitude that characterized Thursday's announcement.

Her oncologist, Dr. Lisa Carey, described the cancer recurrence as a chronic condition that will be treated the remainder of her life. "The survival rate for stage IV breast cancer varies significantly. For some people, none of the treatments we use work, so their survival is short," Carey said. "Other people can live with it for many years."

"We're going to always look for the silver lining," Elizabeth told the media. "It's who we are as people, and we'll continue to do it." She plans to maintain her campaign schedule throughout the country, describing herself as symptom-free.

"I expect to do next week all the things I did last week. And the week after that, and next year at the same time," she said. "I don't expect my life to be significantly different."

PHOTO INTERMISSION: Since Elizabeth Edwards is a huge Clay Aiken fan, I imagine she would enjoy this clickable interlude by these talented visual artists from the CA fandom. Featured in a look back are graphics by ABeautifulMind, 1; Clayquebec1, photo by Fairfield2002, 2; Cindilu2, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by Karen Eh, 4; and Katt45, 5.

Popular on Campaign Trail

Elizabeth has been a popular figure on the campaign trail and a close adviser to her husband. With a quick wit and a down-to-earth style, she campaigned on her own in 2004, drawing large crowds; and this season she frequently introduces her husband at stops around the country.

Her strength and generosity are evident when she speaks of the many Americans she has met. "Every event I ever did, someone cried on my shoulder about the state of their life. It is important that the country get this election right."

The campaign continued immediately after the news conference, as the family left on a two-day fundraising trip to New York and California that included a stop in Boston to visit their adult daughter, Cate, 25, a law student at Harvard.

John and Elizabeth Edwards met when they were law students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were married in a small country church near Chapel Hill the Saturday after taking the bar exam.

Supporters Empathize with Couple

Hundreds of messages have been posted at websites across the websites across the Internet. Here are three from CNN's Cafferty File asking if Edwards should run:

Ron, a Republican from St. Louis: Unless you have been through this, and I have, you have no idea how much this shows a person's real character. Here are two people I would like to see in the White House. They are showing unconditional love for each other as well as the country.

Shirley in Atlanta: The country needs him more than ever before. EE has encouraged him to run, and it may be the best thing for her, too. Ask any cancer patient, and they will tell you that keeping busy is vital. Sitting at home worrying does no good, and the campaign trail may help them.

Kerry in Jacksonville, FL: Having survived a stage IV breast cancer, I believe each person and his/her spouse make their own choices. If you have never walked the path of the disease and treatment, then it is unfair to make any comments. I think I lived because I went to work as long as I was physically able.

Thursday's announcement prompted a huge outpouring of sympathy and admiration from people of all political persuasions. Almost anywhere you turn on the Net, the well wishes continue.

Clickable of Candle Page

On the Gratefulness site, Americans and citizens from other countries are leaving messages and lighting candles that will burn for 48 hours. You can click on an unlit wick to light a candle for ElizE with this link.

John Edwards Expresses Appreciation

In an email to the Edwards base, the former senator expressed gratitude for prayers, good wishes, and continued support:

Although the cancer is no longer curable, it is treatable; and many patients in similar circumstances have lived full, energetic lives. We expect nothing less for Elizabeth. She expects to do all the things next week that she did last week.

Our campaign goes on and it goes on strongly. We are so proud of the campaign we are running -- a campaign based on ideas and reaching out to people. This campaign is not about me or Elizabeth -- it's about all the people we have met these past few years and people like them all across America and the world; people worried about feeding and clothing their kids; people without health care; people facing hardships overseas.

Both of us are committed to this campaign. We're committed to this cause and we're committed to changing this country we love so much.

John and Elizabeth Edwards -- Photo by Davis

Cancer Won't Be Her Boss

I expect to live a long time," Elizabeth said during a health care forum in Las Vegas Saturday, reported in the New York Times.

"I expect us to have lots and lots of years together. But if that's not the case, I don't want my legacy to be that I pulled somebody who ought to be president out of the race. It's not fair to me, in a sense."

Saying she hopes to be "heavily involved" in her husband's campaign, she said, "My feeling is, if we gave up what we have committed to as our life's work, wouldn't I be getting ready to die? That's what I'd be doing. This cause is not just John's cause, it's my cause.

If cancer expects to be the boss of me, it's gonna have to earn that. I am denying it control over how I spend the rest of my life."

Whether you agree with their politics or not, you have to admire the passion and courage of John and Elizabeth Edwards. I am sure they join me in a resounding cheer for the Carolina men's and women's basketball teams in NCAA tournament play this weekend: Go, Tar Heels, Go!!!

Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Aiken Inspires Cyber Community

WORLD AMBASSADOR -- Clay Aiken's singing career allows him to work toward making the world a better place, and his fans have joined him to make a difference. Graphic design by Clayquebec1.

'Clay cares ... and so do we'

Singer Inspires Cyber Fans

The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" can be applied to the charitable endeavors singer Clay Aiken's path inspires his fans to support, as well as the daily interaction within the various Cyberspace communities of the CA fandom.

Because of Clay, we have supported a myriad of causes -- The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, UNICEF, The Way We Make a Difference (ticket donations for the less advantaged), Ronald McDonald House of Charities, Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, Beads for Life, Gulu Walk, US Marines Toys for Tots, autism awareness, to name a few.

Throughout the year, fans participate in a variety of projects for TBAF, including the annual holiday Wrapping for Inclusion campaigns, GoodSearch (a penny for each Internet perusal), the recycling of printer cartridges through Empties4Cash, making cents count with Penny Lane and Change for Change Boxes, Ebay and silent auctions, donations for such special events as Clay's Valentine's Day appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and on and on.

TBAF Leads Six Degrees Drive

Currently, the fund-raising focus for TBAF is Six Degrees, a drive created by actor Kevin Bacon, who Tuesday spoke about the project and participating charities on the syndicated Ellen DeGeneres Show. "We're all connected on this planet, and what we do affects each other," he said. "The Internet is a powerful tool through which we can exponentially spread the act of giving. Be a celebrity for your cause."

To donate, click on the orange button on TBAF's Charity Badge linked here and at other sites around the Net. Donations go directly to TBAF and are tax deductible. Click on the image at right to donate or use this link, which can be emailed to others to do the same: TBAF Charity Badge.

TBAF's campaign is presently in second place, having raised more than $20,000 with over 700 donations as of Thursday afternoon. Six Degrees will match up to $10,000 for the top six charities in the fundraiser scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. March 31.

Clickable 'Champions of Change' Poster

'Champions of Change Gala' Set

Many fans are planning to be in Raleigh for TBAF Champions of Change Gala on March 31. The sold-out event will feature a special performance by Clay and the announcement of the Champions of Change honorees, individuals and groups who have made extraordinary contributions to the cause of inclusion.

The honorees include State Farm Insurance; Beta Alpha Volunteers; Jim Johnson, Jason McElwain's basketball coach; and 12-year-old Jonathan Bunzey. You can read about all the honorees here.

Since the gala is scheduled on the final day of the Six Degrees campaign, an update on that fundraiser will also be announced.

Still in construction, a site that promises to play an important role is awAikening.org, dedicated to the singer's philanthropic causes and the fundraising activities and awareness campaigns of his fans.

Aspiegirl Creates Special Montage

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially with Clay singing the lovely "Everything I Have" cut from his latest album, A Thousand Different Ways. Despite cable problems with red lights, blinking lights, and periods of no lights Monday night, Aspiegirl created a very special montage for this blog's theme.

You can view Everything I Have on the player below or at YouTube. A Sendspace download also is available here.

'Everything I Have' Montage by Aspiegirl

Tour Maze Infuses Village

There's nothing like a Clay Aiken tour to inspire the village atmosphere on the boards -- helping other Internet fans navigate Ticketmaster presale mazes, sharing info about the best travel and hotel rates, planning pre-concert gatherings, opening homes to friends you probably know online only. Such tour arrangements are in full swing for Clay's July-August performances with orchestras across the US.

The closeness of the Clay Cyber community is also there for its members daily no matter the circumstance -- illness, job woes, family concerns. A memorable illustration for me took place two years ago in a hospital cath lab as incoming phone calls from North Dakota, California, and Texas literally blew the minds of my nurses as they relayed messages from fans -- some using their screen names -- while I completed the requisite six hours of lying perfectly still.

Periodic updates from a subsequent stent intervention were provided in the blogs of friends Sally888 and Lisa1068. The village also filled my hospital room with lovely get-well cards and vases of flowers.

Due to the unexpected hospital bills, I had decided not to attend the Jukebox Tour. Another Internet fan, Brightstar, insisted she just happened to have an extra ticket for the Greenville, SC, concert; and there I met her and many friends with whom I "speak" in daily message board posts.

Spreading the CLACK around is a given among CA fans, and I have been on the receiving end more than once. Many on my Christmas list would not have received "All Is Well," which sold out here two hours past midnight, had it not been for Clay friends from Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Carolina.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features nine graphic artists and photographers, including Amazing_CA, photo by NCguurl, 1; Amazing_CA, photo by Kareh Eh, 2; Claystruck, photos by dc4clay and PermaSwooned, 3; MNmeesh, photos by Ambassador of Love, 4; and ABeautifulMind, 5.

Blogging Takes a Village

That it takes a village to produce a blog is evident in the beautiful interludes here and elsewhere graciously provided by this fandom's talented graphic artists, photographers, videographers, and montage makers. The center graphic in the above interlude signifies the blending of Cotton's diligent record-keeping of the Christmas Tour's "words of the day" and Claystruck's creative hand.

The 200th celebration last week was an amazing collaboration from the outset with Cindilu2's email link for her new "Sunshine" montage leading to the backstory Sally supplied from personal experiences with John Denver. These two friends didn't stop there, though.

The picture link directing readers to "Sunrise" at YouTube didn't work correctly; so, from her workplace, Cindilu diligently searched the Internet until she located the precise code, emailed me the correction, and taught this gal something new about HTML. She also shared an excellent site that some may want to bookmark: Echo HTML Tutorial .

Extra Proofreaders a Plus

Just as I was turning off my computer for a full afternoon of music lessons, Sally, our other partner, called to inform me of a typo in the last paragraph. LOL, I've never had such intense, helpful proofreaders; so I must say collaboration and village life is a definite plus.

Credit Chamption124 and Clayversity's Outreach Department for the kicker headline. I could not improve on the forum's subtitle: Clay cares ... and so do we.

Bringing a journal full circle are the readers, who often share related material just as interesting as the blog entry itself. Many thnx to all who stop by.

Below is a clickable of Clayquebec1's beautiful lead graphic:

I'm sure every member of the Clay Nation can recount similar experiences. It takes a village, and I'm so glad to be a part of this one.

Have a great week, all!


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200th Blog Honors Clay Friends

RIGHT HERE WAITING -- A popular song from Clay Aiken's latest CD, "A Thousand Different Ways," served as the inspiration for this memorable graphic by Cindilu2.

Close Friendships Celebrated

For days readers have strongly suggested that one's 200th blog is reason for a major celebration. I checked the archives and noted that #100 was a simple personal remembrance of two dear friends no longer here.

One delighted in Clay's vocals and American Idol successes with me. The other, my college roommate, never knew the man with the golden voice from her home state; but she would have hopped the Clay Train instantly had she heard him sing.

Putting cake, party streamers, and favors aside until the second anniversary of the initial entry on July 7, I propose, instead, that we celebrate the countless communities, close friendships, and special times we share in our support of a singer whose magnificent voice and caring heart affect lives throughout the planet. I thank you for your readership and for your many kind comments throughout the 200 blogs.

Hosaa, a member at Clayversity, once worded it this way: In his short time in the spotlight, Clay Aiken has "united the hearts" of complete strangers. This is more than most people can hope to do in a lifetime.

Uniting hearts, then, is the thesis of this milestone entry.

200 Blog Entries Ago

This journal is here because, two states away, my good friend Sally (Sally888 at the OFC) finally convinced me to start a blog on July 7, 2005. Even with my newspaper background, I had never written a blog; but she was an industrious encourager and facilitator, sending me links for HTML codes, color charts, backgrounds, clipart, etc.

Gingerly, I chose a Carolina blue background, penned a profile, saved some graphics, and took the plunge with a two-line entry entitled "Opening Night." Brevity, not one of my strong points, never had it so good!

Hello, Clay Nation!

It's opening night, and the curtain is going up. Just this much feels like a four-movement symphony. Much more to come as I study the score ... I mean the blog tutorials.

Have a great day, all!


Strangers United in Friendship

Though Sally and I have met just once at the Greenville, SC, Jukebox Concert, we talk daily and share experiences, family concerns, interests (everything but basketball, LOL!) as if we were best friends not five minutes apart. As many fans know, this is not unusual with the many close friendships formed on message boards and other websites throughout Clay Cyberspace.

AI5 Finale Graphic by Cindilu2

While debating the best way to honor the bonds we Clay fans have formed, another friend, Cindilu2, a moderator in CV's Paint Shop Pro Forum, emailed me a link to her new montage, "Sunshine," a collection of her graphic designs highlighting the past few years of Clay. You can view all of them, including a clickable of this blog's lead picture, on her website, Forever Clay.

A country away, the person who helped Cindy develop her graphic art skills was Sally -- not just in the tutorials and threads of the PSP Forum, which she formed in June 2005, but also via emails, instant messaging, and whatnot. Sally has also shared her expertise with many other fledgling artists in this manner.

The opening dedication of "Sunshine" recognizes the reason we are all together: For Clay ... in my life you make a difference every day. The closing credit pays homage to a good friend and teacher: Dedicated to Miss Sally who set me on my way.

Following intermission, there's a remarkable second chapter to this story. Meanwhile, you can view "Sunshine" on the YouTube player below. Sendspace downloads include Sunshine, 91 MB and Sunshine, 44 MB.

Sunshine Montage by Cindilu2

Sunshine On My Shoulders

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely.
Sunshine almost always make me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a day just like today.
If I had a song that I could sing for you.
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way.

[Repeat Chorus]

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile.
If I had a wish that I could wish for you.
I'd make a wish for sunshine all the while.

[Repeat Chorus]

Sunshine almost all the time makes me high.
Sunshine almost always.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable interlude celebrates the CA fandom fun, blessings, and the fact that we are all a bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day this week. PSP Forum graphic designers represented include Ambassador of Love, 1; Cindilu2, 2; ABeautifulMind, 3; Amazing_CA, photo by Karen Eh, 4; and Katt45, 5.

'Sunshine' Holds Special Meaning

What Cindy did not realize when she selected John Denver's song for her montage was the very special meaning it holds for her friend and mentor, Sally. This, then, is the second chapter of the lovely drama surrounding a 200th blog.

As I typed this passage, I was struck by the parallel life goals of these two extraordinary artists, one from Colorado and the other from North Carolina, as well as the passionate devotion of their fans.

In Sally's words, here is the amazing litany of coincidence:

I was climbing on planes and flying to see John's concerts when Clay was still in diapers. I wouldn’t even try to guess at the number of times I watched him perform live across the country, but each time I came away loving him even more.

Imagine my surprise and delight in the early 1980’s, when he became a student of Frida, my spiritual teacher! Frida lived quietly in a modest house in an unfashionable neighborhood in San Francisco, and John’s visits created quite a stir among the neighbors. He came to the Bay Area often … sometimes to perform and for other reasons as well. After John became Frida’s student, her home was always one of his stops and the long, black limo with the driver parked on the narrow street outside was hard not to notice.

When they first met, Frida had no idea who John Denver was, and since her musical tastes were more classical with some Peter, Paul and Mary thrown in, his music was foreign to her as well. After their first session, John sent her a boom-box and cassette tapes of all of his albums. She loved his music and remained a JD fan until her death about six years later. Frida gave me the tapes a few months before we lost her.

John Denver -- Photo from John-Denver.ORG

Backstage with John Denver

Once when John was coming to San Francisco to perform, he sent her two tickets with backstage passes, and Frida asked me to accompany her. That was a night I’ll never forget. This concert was in a smaller theater, with just John and his guitar on the stage. I had to remind myself to breathe as he sang so beautifully ... mostly to Frida!

Backstage, we were led to a sofa; and when John emerged, still a bit damp from his quick post-performance shower, he ignored everyone else and went directly to Frida. Kneeling at her feet and kissing her hand, he thanked her for gracing his concert with her presence. I could see that he loved her as I did, and I loved him even more for that.

“Sunshine” has always been my favorite of John’s songs. Written on a spring day in Minnesota when the rain was gently falling, it holds a kind of magic for me … a reminder that life is worth living and special moments always lie ahead. That night backstage I had the opportunity to thank John for “Sunshine” and for all of the magical, healing moments it brings. I was rewarded with a warm hug, a sweet kiss on the cheek, and a lingering look that let me know he found me attractive. *g*

State Honors 'Rocky Mountain High'

Oct. 12 will mark the 10th year since John Denver's untimely death in an airplane crash in northern California. This week Colorado officially designated "Rocky Mountain High" as the second state song.

Like Clay, John was personally dedicated to making a difference in the world with untiring work in numerous areas -- the environment, conservation, world hunger, peace to name a few. The first American artist invited to perform in the former Soviet Union and mainland China, John was presented the Albert Schweitzer Music Award "for a life's work dedicated to music and devoted to humanity."

Upon his induction into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1996, he said, “Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. Music proves: We are the same.”

In his lifetime, John Denver recorded and released some 300 songs, about half of which he had written, and served as the Poet Laureate of Colorado.

If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a day just like today.
If I had a song that I could sing for you.
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way.

Happy #200 ... and Happy St. Patrick's Day from some very good friends who happen to be fans of Clay Aiken and John Denver!

Sally created the graphic for our Irish wish for you:


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