Sunday, May 31, 2009

Clay Aiken Headlines Insure Hits

Stylized graphic design of singer Clay Aiken by cindilu2.

No Quiet Vacation

Q&A Replies Prompt Media Blitz

Spring was supposed to be down time for singer Clay Aiken, but you would never know it from the media blitz prompted by the singer's replies to queries in the very popular Q&A thread at Clayonline, his official fan club site.

A gazillion news stories, blogs, and tweets have kept his opinion about the over-hyping of American Idol, a runner-up's song interpretation, etc., front and center for more than a week. Just like Season 2, his surprise appearance on the Season 5 finale, and the Season 8 remarks to his fans, Clay has inadvertently created media buzz meant for the actual winner.

Jan-May 09 Headlines
Clickable by Fountaindawg

Certainly, everyone on the planet does not appreciate Clay's vocal style, incredible pipes, and charitable work for children through The Bubel/Aiken Foundation and UNICEF; and that's their prerogative. But it's for sure, his name in headlines is an automatic magnet for hits and a widespread choice by fans and non-supporters alike.

The tags below a current eonline story and poll involving the Season 2 and 8 Idol runner-ups clearly ascribe to this theory:


No doubt you have already read Clay's very articulate reply to the fan board question about the Prop 8 ruling in California. If not, see When Clay Aiken Speaks, People Listen at the CA News Network.

The June calendar in the photo interlude pays homage to Clay's 2008 blond hairdo, which the singer says is probably passe. Featured are designs by graphic artists Amazing_CA, 1 and 5, the latter with Scrpkym photos; Fountaindawg, 2; and cindilu2, 3 and 4. For the wide screen version of the June calendar and opening graphic, see Cindy's Yuku site.

I had planned to write about my grandson Kai's latest escapades. Believe me, at 20 months, he's already testing the "terrible 2" waters. Those stories can wait until next time when, hopefully, the computer that relays photos of him and sister Lia to the Carolina clan is home from the shop.

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Newcomers Discover Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken - Measure of a Man (UNICEF)
Montage by gerwhisp

Varied Trails Lead to Clay Blog

It's All About the Voice, Heart

We came for the voice but stayed for the man.

An anonymous phrase coined early in Clay Aiken's career remains the mantra of fans six years later. Throughout the spring of 2003, the singer's incredible pipes wooed legions of followers as week after week he progressed to the finale of American Idol 2.

By mid-summer when Clay and Diane Bubel founded The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, officially turning a college blueprint into an organization working to bridge the gap between young people with special needs and the world around them, supporters knew a little more about the heart of the man.

The title track and "I Will Carry You" from Measure of a Man, Clay's first album, have practically become theme songs for his charitable projects of inclusion and worldwide endeavors as a UNICEF Ambassador. The latter are portrayed in the 2007 Measure of a Man montage above by gerwhisp.

IN ALL THINGS, LOVE -- Animated design by cindilu2.

Carolina Blog Greets 119 Nations

According to the ClustrMap and Feedjit Live Feed monitoring the Carolina blog in its sidebar, visitors from 119 countries have stopped by this site in the past year and a half. Today we celebrate you!

In January, Turkey became the 100th country; the United Republic of Tanzania logged on for the first time while I was compiling this entry; and a Latvian tweeter visited after the blog was posted.

Clickable ClustrMap

According to these stats, a very successful worldwide tour is bound to be in Clay Aiken's future. Created by SmartyPantsSuz, clickable graphics of the On My Way Here album cover accompany a representative from each of the six continents. Below are the 118 countries with newer listings in bold:

AFRICA: South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Madagascar, Seychelles, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Algeria, Uganda, Mauritius, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Tanzania - 15

ASIA: Guam, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Micronesia, Oman, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Qatar, South Korea, Taipei, Taiwan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait, Azerbaijan (Baku), Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, China, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Maldives, Palestinian Territory, Brunei Darussalam - 35

AFRICA (Seychelles) and ASIA (Japan)

AUSTRALIA: Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania - 3

EUROPE: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Romania, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Belgium, Poland, Russia, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Turkey, Malta, Georgia, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sicilia, Andorra, Latvia - 39

AUSTRALIA (Melbourne, AU) and EUROPE (Netherlands)

NORTH AMERICA: Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, United States, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bermuda, Saint Lucia, Guatemala, Nassau, The Bahamas, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Honduras - 18

SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador - 9


Hurricane Kai Surprises Visitor

ClustrMap, which has tracked Carolina visitors for 18 months, shows 42,704 hits since 12/2/07. In the beginning, Ron Kanipe, a friend with a background in geography, helped me identify countries represented by the map's tiny red dots. Last year, ClustrMap began listing the countries in its monthly updates.

A later addition, the Feedjit "live feed" displays the last 50 locations. Besides showing this writer the graphics and photos readers open and save, the feed also provides a hint into the wide range of topics that guide Google searches here.

Most center around Clay Aiken, his career, new family, and charitable endeavors. However, other subjects have brought readers to the Carolina blog -- accidentally and on purpose.

For example, a resident of Singapore inquiring about a storm named Kai landed right in the middle of the Hurricane Kai Strikes Texas Home entry about my grandson, now 22 months old:

Many may recall that in answer to my plea for more pictures of our brand new grandson, Kai's grandfather sent images of an apartment in total disarray -- dirty dishes in the sink, newspapers stacked up, you name it, to prove how little picture-taking time was available.

From these photos, my friend Sally created the "Hurricane Kai" graphic with grandson calmly sleeping in the eye of the storm.

Potato Rolls, Music Popular Links

Hopefully, the visitor who googled "what's for dinner?" enjoyed reading about -- and possibly baking -- my Aunt Lill's Potato Rolls. My great-aunt, who taught piano into her 90's, often sent a pan of her special rolls home with her students, an unlikely event for the young charges of this non-baker.

Occasionally, I report on rehearsals, performances, and other accomplishments of my piano/string students. This season we had "the gong show" and even discovered a drought remedy: Spring Recital Yields Surprise.

Other popular searches in this field revolve around the my major instrument, Trusty Oboe Could Tell Tales (Nov. 2006); experiences as a marching band director, Football Season Stirs Memories (Oct. 2006); and a collection definitions, Musical Terms Provide Grins (Jan. 2007).

Blogs about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., such as Country Honors Legacy of MLK (Jan. 2007), have been magnets for international visitors and, no doubt, students completing homework assignments. Storms Stir F-5 Tornado Memories (from a Sept. 2008 subhead) pops up according to weather news.

Many thnx to all who leave comments with a recognizable screen name and as "anonymous," the conventional moniker for non-Blogspot members. Thank you, too, for the ongoing geography lesson. We are making "Teacher Clay" proud!

Speaking of which, I wonder what's next ...

Clickable graphic by cindilu2

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

America Honors Military Heroes

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Clay Aiken Sings 'God Bless the U.S.A.'

Remembering John M. Steele

'Longest Day' Is Vivid Memory

The longest day has been immortalized in books and on the movie screen. The biggest day in World War II also lives wherever John M. Steele is.

June 6, 1944, D-Day for the Allied invasion of Normandy, is portrayed in the army of autographed pictures, newspaper and magazine articles, medals and documents that line the walls of a special room in the Wilmingtonian's home.

That was the headline and lead on a feature I wrote for the Wilmington Morning Star in 1963 about one of 13,000 paratroopers dropped into France during the D-Day invasion. Like many, Private Steele missed the drop zone and was carried over the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise where his chute caught on a church steeple when he tried to steer away from a burning building.

In 1962 at the Washington movie premiere of the The Longest Day, John met Red Buttons who portrayed him in the film. "Thanks a lot, John," he said. You got me four days of work with 20th Century!"

"He's a nice guy and a real character!" the original steeple climber said with a grin.

In the first hour of the invasion, Steele hit the church roof and slid down, his chute wrapping around the spire. When he tried to free himself, pain shot through his leg and his combat knife clattered to the street below.

With the battle raging all around him, the trooper wisely decided to play dead and dangled on the spire for 2 1/2 hours. Later, a group of German soldiers, intent on stripping the "body" of cigarettes and other rations, discovered he was still alive and took him prisoner.

Three days later during an American tank attack, he and another wounded soldier leaped through a window and escaped to friendly lines. Following two weeks in an English hospital, Pvt. Steele returned to the war and was among those who broke through to Bastogne where the 101st was surrounded in the Battle of the Bulge.

For these actions and his wounds, the soldier was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart.

I thought about John Steele when I came across The Longest Day in the weekend movie listings. When I interviewed him that summer before my junior year in college, he had cancer and was planning to enter a veterans administration hospital for cobalt treatments.

John Steele monument in Ste. Mere Eglise, France.

According to his bio on Wikepedia, he died on May 16, 1969, in Fayetteville, just two weeks short of the 25th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

An honorary citizen of the first village liberated by the Americans in June 1946, John (I'm pretty sure I called him "Mr. Steele" in '63) visited Ste. Mere-Eglise several times before his death. His story is commemorated in the Airborne Forces Museum in the center of town.

Events Salute Those Who Served

At graveside ceremonies, parades, concerts, and other festivities in Washington, DC, and throughout the nation, America this weekend pays tribute to those who have served and sacrificed for their country.

Featuring the National Symphony and an all star line-up of dignitaries and musical artists, the National Memorial Day Concert is slated for 8 p.m. ET Sunday on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and will be telecast on PBS stations. This very moving presentation will rerun at 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday and at 2 a.m. ET Saturday, May 30.

The National Memorial Day Parade, an annual tradition of remembrance with patriotic marches and floats in Washington, DC, is sponsored by the World War II Veterans Committee.

On Monday, President Barack Obama will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

At 3 p.m. local time, according to the 2000 National Moment of Remembrance Act passed to emphasize the meaning of Memorial Day, all Americans should "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect.'"

Clay Aiken performs "God Bless the USA" at 2004 concert.
Graphic by Ashes links to the video on YouTube.

On Memorial Day, we honor the John M. Steeles of our lives. Have a very special Memorial Day Weekend!


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Clay Aiken 'Appears' at Idol Finale

Clay's AI5 appearance replays in montage by Aspiegirl.

Season 5 Ploy Revived

AI8 Hoopla Finally Lures Fan

Frankly, my life has been way too busy to sample Season 8 of American Idol; but all the hoopla surrounding the final episode finally lured this Clay Aiken fan to turn on the TV for the last hour of Wednesday night's results show.

In that brief time, I got a handle on most finalists, enjoyed some of their performances with entertainment heavyweights, and was struck by a few AI2 similarities; many more differences; and, above all, the glitzy embellishments since the Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard showdown six years ago.

There was even a stab at the very successful AI5 finale filler during which Clay surprised Michael Sandecki, a preliminary contestant who had proclaimed the Aiken his hero during the auditions.

AI5 Surprise Appearance Recalled

Supposedly nominated as "best impersonator," Michael was invited to perform one of Clay's signature songs, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," on the results show.

In the midst of Michael's performance, the stage backdrop opened and out strolled the producers' best kept secret, the AI2 runner-up belting out the song that had secured his Wildcard position in the 2003 competition.

It was the same incredible voice, but the maturity and difference in Clay's appearance was so striking that the panel of judges didn't even recognize him.

The theater audience and television viewers, however, went wild; and the event became the next day's most discussed water cooler topic, even topping the buzz about a new idol.

Aspiegirl captured the AI5 moment in her What a Feeling montage, which can viewed in the above player and at YouTube.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Images from the AI5 Finale are featured in these clickable graphics by cindilu2, Amazing_CA, Sally, Clayquebec1, and Claystruck.

'Bikini Girl' Invokes Season 5

The Season 8 version of the Aiken-Sandecki event was Katrina Darrell, whose audition in a string bikini, earned her eventual moniker. Wearing her trademark ensemble, she took the stage to sing and accept an award for "best attitude."

Her unexpected co-singer was judge Kara Dioguardi, who provided yet another surprise for Bikini Girl and the audience.

Congratulations to Kris Allen, the new American Idol; Adam Lambert, this season's runner-up; and the 2009 finalists who just may be embarking on a musical career because of the AI phenomenon.

Current fans can take heart from previous AI editions that Clay, Jennifer Hudson, and Chris Daughtrey have proved one doesn't have to win the title to enjoy a successful career in the entertainment business. Compliments of goldarngirl, here's the Insider video.

A continent away during last night's Idol confetti, Clay impacted yet another final show. Almost immediately, the debate about second place finishers began on Twitter and other social networking sites.

And the conversation continues ... in 140 characters or less!


American Idol Winner Crowned from Huffington Post
It's All About Idol + Blog at Clay Aiken News Network
Much Ado at The ConCLAYve
Clay Aiken Speaks Out About American Idol at mj's blog

'American Idol': The Triumphof Soft Rock from The New York Times

Have an awesome weekend, Clay Nation!


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Aiken Serenades DWTS Final 3

Dancing with the Stars Final 3 - Everything I Don't Need

Students Make 'Beautiful Music'

EIDN Showcases DWTS Final 3

Having guest-starred on the season-ending episode of '30 Rock' last week, Clay Aiken is this week helping to advertise the finale of Dancing with the Stars in the "Everything I Don't Need" montage by LovesClaysVoice.

The top 3 contestants -- Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas, Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke -- face off in Monday night's ABC finale. The winning couple will be announced during Tuesday's show.

The Everything I Don't Need montage, which can also be viewed at YouTube, was created to a popular track from the Clay's 2008 album, On My Way Here. Here is a Sendspace if you would like to download the montage.

Clay honors top musical at NCT Awards. (Scrpkym)

Clay Presents Theatre Award

Monday night Clay was a celebrity presenter for the outstanding musical at the Third Annual North Carolina Theatre Capital Awards at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.

Arts educators at 11 schools from all the state registered their school productions, actors, and tech personnel for consideration of a NCT Capital Award. According to the
Raleigh Chronicle, outstanding musical, actor, and actress nominees performed a number or portion of a song during the program.

During Clay's introduction, his accomplishments in the music industry, theater, and charitable organizations were outlined.

The list of winners can be read at The event was filmed for a June 30 telecast.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Below is a clickable interlude of graphics from the singer's May 9 performance with "David Foster & Friends" in Las Vegas. Photos are by Ethan Miller. The designers are Amazing_CA, 1 and 2, and Ashes, 3.

Spring Recital Yields Surprise

My music students not only presented a beautiful spring recital Sunday, but we just may have accidentally discovered a solution for future droughts in the area. For the second consecutive year, our recital date has been a giant invitation for rain!

Despite the wet conditions outside, all was sunny in the hall as students presented a sample of their piano, violin, and viola studies for family, friends, and teachers. As reported in earlier entries, the advanced strings were jointed by my sister's woodwind students and a harpist for the final numbers, "Ashokan Farewell" and "Star Wars."

The wide range of styles and composers -- folk, Baroque, Romantic, jazz -- even included a musical seventh inning stretch when the strings played a hornpipe from their Irish fiddle repertoire. The audience supplied toe taps and finger snaps.

Amy, a senior violinist, played the first movement of a Vivaldi concerto, for her final concert. Next year she will be a college freshman in Idaho.

Creativity, Musicality Shine

Some of my creative pianists are delving into composition and improvisation. Caleb added a jazzy beat and transposed an otherwise "normal" piano solo, while Christian preceded "Hymn of Praise" with his own medieval version. Performing one of his compositions, Joseph actually predicted the weather weeks ago when he named the solo "Coming Storm."

The inevitable butterflies appeared, but most students remained calm, an important lesson that transfers to other areas of life. This teacher is always very pleased when students play musically. I could list them all; but kudos to Anna, violinist who opened the recital with a spirited bourree by Handel, and Emily, a junior pianist performing Schumann after her school prom.

Thanks to some very thoughtful students, two lovely bouquets of flowers will adorn my living room for the week's follow-up lessons. Driving home, I called my sister to tell her about the surprise gift card from the string group. LOL, she already knew because they had asked her for suggestions at our rehearsal!

Post Recital TO DO Checklist

Following the recital, there were two main projects on my TO DO list: (a) email an announcement of granddaughter Lia's birth to family and friends, which I did; and (b) download as many movies as possible before my three-month bonus period expired at midnight.

I dialed DIRECTV at 11:40 p.m. Sunday with only 4% available on the DVR receiver, and it will probably take me all summer to make my way through the movie stash. Since I can enjoy movies and books more than once, the most difficult part will be hitting the delete button.

Despite the rainy weather, Sunday proved an awesome beginning to the new week. Hope yours is just as special!


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Aiken Rocks on 'Unchained Melody'

Clay sings "Unchained Melody" at David Foster After Party.

A Week of High Notes

Clay Soars with UM, '30 Rock'

Once I heard Clay Aiken's exquisite version of "Unchained Melody" on American Idol 2 in 2003, the song and especially the heavenly high note became tops in my book.

In the past six years, the Carolina singer has performed the song countless times on tour and at various events. Fans who attended last weekend's David Foster & Friends Concert in Las Vegas raved that Clay's after-party rendition was incredible, but warned that chances of ever seeing a video were very slim.

On the morning after Clay's celebrated TV appearance on NBC, most fans were still in a 30 Rock stupor. (See links below.) I, however, was thrilled to stumble across the 5/9 UM performance from the DF&F after-party.

Unmistakable Voice Shines

The video isn't professional, but the unmistakable, resplendent voice radiates throughout. Thanks to Glasair03, a Josh Groban fan according to previously-posted videos, you can check it out on the above player or at YouTube.

Here is a Sendspace download of the above performance. A video from another angle is available here. On both, you can hear David Foster saying, "Here it comes!" as the song approaches the apex.

Nursing home visits with my late mother, a public school music teacher for 35 years, were never complete without our listening to Clay sing UM. Curious by nature and assisted by my flute, I played along with the video this morning to determine the pitch of this special gem.

During American Idol and the 2005 Jukebox Tour, Clay consistently soared to fourth space treble "E" in his beautiful upper register. By the 2006 David Foster Gala, he had lowered the key a step and the pinnacle note continues as fourth line treble "D."

My favorite singer has an unusually wide range. For me, the climax of "Unchained Melody" is a glorious celebration of the magnificent voice.

Clay and Elvis Costello on 30 Rock.

Stars Turn Out for '30 Rock' Benefit

In a hindsight report, David Bauder wrote this about Thursday's final 30 Rock episode:

NEW YORK — How hip is the room at "30 Rock" these days?

Hip enough to bring in Mary J. Blige, Clay Aiken, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, Wyclef Jean, Moby, Ad-Rock, Steve Earle and a backstage party's worth of other musicians for a "benefit concert" during the show's season finale. [snip]

"30 Rock" may be slipping into its summer hibernation, but NBC will be quick to milk it by distributing copies of the benefit online and helping viewers follow the lyrics. T-shirts are already on sale with the "catch-phrase" of "That's a DealBreaker, Ladies!" It's a new paradigm _ television shows need to generate more money.

From "30 Rock" this week, producers provided the perfect buzz-worthy curtain-closer for a buzz-worthy show.

To order a "That's a Dealbreaker" t-shirt, link to the 30 Rock site:

Clickable Dealbreaker T

Other popular "30 Rock" links on CA message boards today:

Stream the "30 Rock" finale here: Kidney Now!

For visuals from the episode, see 30 Rock Photo Slide Show.

Download He Needs a Kidney for 99 cents on the "30 Rock" page at iTunes. Proceeds go to the Nationa Kidney founation.

Compliments of Gerwhisp, here is a video download of Clay's scenes.

Clay and Mary J. Blige were interviewed by MTV about the show. Here are a couple of graphs:

"30 Rock is not only the funniest show on TV now; it's also the smartest," Aiken told MTV News in a statement. "Things that you see or hear on that show start popping up in everyday life all of the time. I don't think any show since 'Seinfeld' has been able to do that."

Given the subtle reveal of Aiken's newfound "cousin," it sounds like the "Spamalot" star might have an opening to return for another stint.

Superstition Among Musicians

Sometimes a smooth-sailing dress rehearsal precludes a poor performance. I hope not because the stars were well-aligned for Thursday's final run-through of our string-wind-harp-piano ensembles to be performed at Sunday's student recital. Besides "Ashokan Farewell" and "Star Wars," the solos and fiddle tune sounded great.

It was special to finally hear the harpist, and my very inquisitive students ("Why do the strings have different colors?" ... "What's the purpose of all those pedals?) came away with a music appreciation lesson.

Naturally, the violinists and violist had to sample the array of percussion instruments in this well-equipped band room one more time. The most exuberant players, however, were two little sisters who must have heard about the previous rehearsal and weren't about to miss out on all the fun.

Thank goodness, all the equipment will be safely stored in another room for the main event Sunday!

Grandma Reverts to Reporter Mode

Living 1,300 miles away from the birth of a new granddaughter has been very frustrating. For two days I could not get through to the new mother. A nurse finally checked and, sure enough, there was no phone in her room!

In addition, Poppy, who has his hands full with our 20-month-year old grandson, is a dismal source for statistics. He, of course, thinks I am the epitome of the opposite end of the dial and teases that my inquisitive reporter mode doesn't have an "off" switch.

Even so, I googled to find the hospital phone number and, after speaking with the helpful nurse, finally talked with our daughter, who gladly told her mother the requisite specifics: 6 lbs. 1 oz.; 19 inches long; healthy in every way; an abundant crown of red hair.

Red Hair Traced to Great-Great Grands

Upon further investigation of family trees, the strawberry blond tresses probably come from Poppy's paternal Irish grandmother, whose nickname was "Carrot Top," with perhaps a few recessive genes from my paternal grandmother's family in which there were twin sisters, one of whom was red-headed.

Like her brother, Lia has three Hawaiian names, two with special meanings: Saipelia (Samoan meaning "strong"), Mahealani (which means "calm and peaceful"), and Maya.

Late Friday night I "met" our new granddaughter. Here are two clickables of the family at home, one with big brother Kai:

Cross your fingers that Grandma has some "calm and peaceful" moments Sunday. Have an awesome weekend, Clay Nation!


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Clay Aiken To Appear on '30 Rock'

It's a Girl!

Stork Interrupts Blog Routine

What a morning! In the midst of gathering information about Clay Aiken's 5/14 appearance on the star-studded 30 Rock finale and a post David Foster & Friends concert interview, I became a grandmother again!

The fact that all I know came from three men gathered in the hospital waiting room 1,300 miles away -- grandfather, cousin, and best friend -- explains why details are very sketchy.

According to the "sources," our new granddaughter was born mid-morning Wednesday; is healthy; has red hair and the requisite number of fingers and toes; weighs "6 lbs.-ish"; and sports four names like her brother. The new mother was still in the delivery room, so I left a message on her cell phone she will hear later.

Big brother was not too pleased having his morning schedule interrupted, although I understand he really enjoyed playing with the elevator buttons. I have a feeling life as he has known it just changed forever.

I'm off to spread the news to the Carolina relatives and teach five music lessons. A dress rehearsal Thursday for Sunday's spring recital round out this special calendar week.

Have an awesome weekend, Clay Nation!


P.S. Below are the links for the Clay Aiken blog I was preparing when grandmotherhood took over. Enjoy!

Screen cap by Gerwhisp

30 Rock's 'Kidney Now' Finale: Preview of of NBC's 30 Rock with regulars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin joined by guest stars Clay Aiken, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello, and Adam Levine of Maroon 5. The final episode airs at 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.

ETonline Interview Features Foster & Friends: Donny Osmond interviews several participants from the David Foster & Friends Concert. The ETonline video begins with Cher and ends with Clay talking about the show, his son, and the courageous Farrah Fawcett.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Clay Aiken Sings at Foster Gala

Clay Aiken at David Foster and Friends 2009 - Yollie950

Mama Mac Remembered

Clay Performs Cetera Medley

Mandalay Bay provided a smorgasbord of Clack for Clay Aiken fans as the singer joined an exciting lineup of musical guests for Saturday night's annual David Foster & Friends Concert.

The audience at the Las Vegas event center was boosted by countless CA fans on home computers reading concert recaps and listening to cell streams beaming far and near.

After tuning into the White House Correspondents Dinner speeches, I made it an even later night by signing onto a stream, keeping up with message board reports, and catching pre-dawn cell phone photos from the Las Vegas venue.

The opening video by Yollie950, which can also be viewed at YouTube, begins with David's intro of Clay -- "such an amazing talent, and he's now part of my family!" -- and continues into light-hearted banter between the two. Accompanied by the songwriter, Clay performed a medley of Peter Cetera songs: "Hard To Say I’m Sorry," "You’re My Inspiration," and "The Glory of Love."

At the evening's conclusion, the entire cast returned for "America's Song," with Clay singing the opening phrase.

With special thnx to Scarlett, Yollie950, Deborah760, and others still traveling here is the link to Clack Unlimited audio and video files from an evening the Clay Nation will be discussing for quite some time: Clack Unlimited: David Foster and Friends.

Photos from the concert are available at Zimbio (slide show without water marks) and Getty Images. These clickables of Clay's set are by Getty photographer Ethan Miller.

A Mother's Day Remembrance

Saturday morning I was running errands, and memories of my mother enveloped me as I unconsciously performed the maneuver our family years ago tagged "the Mama Mac stop." This occurs when the driver arrives at an intersection in a relatively quiet neighborhood and figuratively, almost literally, drags his/her feet instead of coming to a complete halt.

In her later years and much to the horror of her granddaughters, all excellent drivers, Mother perfected the maneuver and emplyed it at will. On the day before Mother's Day, I drifted into "the Mama Mac stop" at least twice. We used to tease her about this tempered version of a stop, and I just bet she returned the grin this weekend.

Mama Mac, whom many of you have met through my Mother's Day blogs, was a character. This entry is a reprint from Mother's Day 2008. Reflecting the passing year, her five great-grandchildren will become six with the birth of our new granddaughter later this month.

On July 12, 2005, my mother -- the woman who gave my sister, brother, and me life, introduced us to the wonderful world of music, encouraged us in all life's endeavors -- left behind a tired, weary 93-year-old body and sailed peacefully on to her next portal.

On this fourth Mother's Day since that night, our family celebrates a joyful life that almost spanned a century with many fond memories, a full heart, and the knowledge that this very special woman is still singing glorious harmony through her offspring and the many students she touched.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

As a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, musician, gardener extraordinaire, Alleen McDonald, affectionately known as Mama Mac, worked hard and lived a full life. Her green thumb was legendary, whether she was cultivating gardens of vegetables or azaleas.

An alto in the First Baptist Church-Wilmington Chancel Choir for 42 years, she appreciated good music and was a very enthusiastic fan of Clay Aiken. Some of the most enjoyable moments of the final two years of her life were spent watching and listening to Clay sing. She especially loved his rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and would have embraced the later albums as much as she did Measure of a Man.

Our family misses its spirited matriarch. Besides her three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, Mama Mac was special to a large extended family of friends, former students and coworkers, as well as the caregivers at Wesley Long Nursing Home where she lived following a broken hip.

Even with 35 years in the public schools, all the successful operettas and other musical productions, Mother is best remembered in our Wilmington neighborhood as "the beach lady." On any given summer day, we would load up her old 1939 Chevy, which she kept way past its prime just for beach outings.

Picture an old jalopy, of the running board variety, bursting with neighborhood kids in bathing suits, inner tubes, fishing/crabbing gear, picnic lunches, etc., bopping down the 10 miles between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Fond, fond memories.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

One of my favorite Mama Mac stories happened during National Caregivers Week in May 2005. A month shy of her 93rd birthday, Mother was very proud of the fact that she was cognizant 99% of the time and that she still had all her teeth.

Awakened from a mid-morning nap with a visit from her granddaughter and toddler twin great-grandchildren, Mama Mac immediately began insisting she needed to get dressed for a rehearsal. No one in the family knew that she and her physical therapist had been secretly rehearsing a duet for the nursing home's afternoon talent show, so we just assumed our matriarch was groggy and still getting her bearings.

When my sister dropped by after choir practice later that evening, proudly displayed on Mother's door was a huge lst Place Blue Ribbon. She most certainly did know she needed to get dressed to rehearse. Our mother could sing harmony at the drop of a hat, a talent she shared with Clay and one of the many reasons she admired him so much. That day she and her duet partner were, hands down, the best!

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

Mother would have enjoyed the Celebration of Life in her honor at her home church, especially the beautiful baritone rendition of her all-time favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace," and the loving, light-hearted reflections by her minister.

"Mama Mac was a character in the best way," he told those gathered at First Baptist. At restaurants, she always pocketed several little pink packets of Sweet-N-Low "for the church." Annoyed or bored with a discussion, her final word on any subject was "whatevah," delivered with deadpan inflection and any number of hand gestures.

At the graveside, a "Kodak moment" that went unsnapped came when William, one of the twins, respectfully placed his father's pallbearer boutonniere on Mama Mac's coffin. His great-grandmother would have been very touched by that simple gesture.

She also would have been delighted that, despite stifling temps and typical summer humidity, there was a cool breeze blowing off her beloved Carolina coastline for her mid-July farewell.

PHOTO INTERLUDE -- Featured in this special Mother's Day respite are graphics and photos by Amazing_CA, 1; cindilu2, 2 and 3; Sally, 4; and Fountaindawg, 5. The close relationship Clay shares with his mother and Jaymes, mother of his son Parker, are interwoven with the song lyrics and flowers Mama Mac dearly loved.

Students Honor Special Teacher

In addition to a stream of memorial gifts to First Baptist's music program, our family received an outpouring of letters from former students from throughout Mother's 35-year teaching career. Parts of three are shared here.

Dianne (Sunset Park, 1955-56):
It was with much sorrow I read of your mother's death. I was able to read this because she cared enough to take the time and patience with a LDADHD girl.

I only learned I had these problems 10 years ago. I remember having such a hard time not talking in class and keeping my attention on her teaching. She also encouraged my mother to be more patient with my behavior and my learning problems.

Several years ago my daughter, who was a teenager at the time and had heard me speak of Mrs. McDonald, and I saw your mother in a doctor's office. I recognized her and spoke. To my pleasant surprise, she knew me right away. It was a wonderful moment, for "my" Mrs. McDonald remembered me with all the students she had taught. She showed such interest in what I had done with my life and my daughter's plans for college.

I have been a teacher's assistant for the past 25 years. I hope that I have been able to give my students a portion of the loving care that your mother gave to her students.

Susan (Sunset Park, 1961-62): Your mother was my beloved 5th grade teacher at Sunset Park Elementary. My year with her was very special. Mrs. McDonald taught us everything from how to do research projects to how to harmonize when we sang.

The Christmas play she directed that year probably raised the bar for not just harmony but also the amount of instruments she had us playing in the background. She encouraged us to be inquisitive beyond the textbook and rewarded us for creative thinking with extra credit points. She was a fair teacher with high standards. If we pleased her, we felt very good about our efforts.

Raymond (Hillcrest Elementary, 1936-38), one of Mother's earliest students, touted her influence during his Burlington, NC, school days via a newspaper letter to the editor. A music major, he later became a minister and also served as a collegiate public information director.

His 1980 letter to the High Point Enterprise was inspired by a reporter who attended an opera in Atlanta and wrote a column filled with intense derision and mockery of this art form. The letter to the editor, which ends with a paragraph addressed to the reporter (Clark), was later forwarded to our mother:

Ah, Clark, you have gone too far. And to think one of my fondest recollections of the third grade over 40 years ago in Burlington was when Ms. McDonald, the twice-weekly music teacher, arrived with records and storybooks with color scenes of ancient Egypt, and opened with her enthusiasm to us the glories of "Aida." I'm sorry that you missed such an opportunity, for it has given me a lifetime of pleasure.

Thank you for you kind comments. My zippy little laptop is still busted, and I am working on an older model with the cord duck-taped to its plug. Mama Mac would have gotten a laugh out of that, and I think a certain singer would, too.

Happy Mother's Day, Clay Nation!


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