Friday, June 3, 2011

'Til We Meet Again, Birmingham

So, tonight is my last night in Birmingham. As of 5 p.m. today, I was officially out of the collegiate athletics business and no longer employed at Samford. For a while now, I've felt God calling me to another career. For a bit, I thought I was being called to ministry. Now, I know I have been called to ministry. Just not the kind of ministry you think of when people say the word "ministry".

For 27 years of my life, I have watched my parents minister to people of all ages through their careers in education. Then my sister joined the ranks of teaching and I've been able to see God work through her.

I think for so long I tried to go as far away as I could from "they family business" that it eventually brought me back to what I was made to do. We all know that we can't escape God's will for our lives, and it is no different in this situation.

God has orchestrated an opportunity to for me to go back HOME to Jackson, be close to my family and friends, and do what I've been created to do.

Samford and Birmingham have played no small part in this orchestration and I will never be grateful enough for the people that God brought into my life here and for the things that I've learned.

So, in perfect Walden fashion, I've just formulated a list of things that I've learned and that I will miss from Birmingham:

1. I've learned that there's no getting around the fact that God is in control and that he's got this whole life thing rigged.

2. I've learned that you have to roll with the punches but never let someone punch you until you roll. Stand up for yourself but remember that respect is a two-way street.

3. I've learned that when a job makes you lose your passion for something, it's time to reevaluate.

4. No matter what anyone says, church and good small group are essential to Christian growth.

5. I'll miss seeing Hollie every day and all the complaining and encouraging and laughing that comes along with it. Friends like that are few and far between but it makes it easier knowing that I have four of those kind of friends waiting for me when I get home.

6. I'll miss Salem's and they way that Mr. Wayne and the hombres know exactly what I want before I even start to order it.

7. I'll miss my volleyball girls. They keep me laughing, feeling like a 20-year-old and up on the latest dance moves.

8. I'll miss baseball, because it's the only sport that I could legally cheer at.

9. I'll miss my football guys: Davis, Alvin and JT. And their moms.

10. Most of all, I'll miss my church. God knew what he was doing when he moved me to Birmingham, gave me a place to live and introduced me to a roommate who took me to a church that would rock my world for five years. I've been a Christian since I was seven years old, have won many rounds of Bible Baseball, but never have I really understood the Word and seen it in the light that I have for the last five years. And frankly, I needed it. God has opened my eyes to what I have been put here on Earth to do, and that is to glorify Him and proclaim his name to the ends of the earth.

So that's what I'll do.

And Birmingham, this isn't goodbye. It's see ya soon. I'll be back, probably more than you would like.

P.S. I wouldn't be my mother's child or my sister's sister if I didn't end this post with this video. Enjoy. And sing along. You know you want to.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finales Galore

Last night was the last night for a few of my shows. I think I've mentioned before that reality TV has taken over my TV life as we know it, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they were all reality shows.

First - the finale of Dancing With The Stars. I really think this was the closest finale there has been in a while. And even though Kirstie Alley wasn't as good as Hines Ward and Chelsea Kane, she has a huge personality and is loved by all and her journey through the show was incredible -- weight loss, bouncing back from setbacks during dances, etc.

I'm still glad Hines won the Mirror Ball Trophy. He's just an example of good people. He loves his momma, his job is more than a paycheck for him, and he's a truly caring person.

Second - the Biggest Loser finale. I know I said on Twitter that I swore off BL after they voted Arthur off the show. If you don't know anything about BL, Arthur was the biggest contestant the show has ever had and he also had the biggest heart. However, there was a lot of head and heart stuff that Arthur needed to get right in order to be successful in the weight loss journey and we all knew that if anyone needed to be on the BL ranch for any reason, it was Arthur.

But I digress, because BL saw its first all-girl top three and for the first time ever in the history of "couples" episodes, one team made it all the way to the very end. This team had me in tears every week, whether from laughing so hard or from heart-breaking stores. Two sisters, Hanna and Olivia. They were my favorites from the beginning and I, like the rest of the world, never thought they'd last all the way to the end.



But there's another reason they were my favorite. Hannah and Olivia's relationship reminded me of the relationship that I have with my own sister. Olivia is an amazing opera singer. So is my sister. The only difference between them is that Olivia is in New York City living her dream and my sister is in Florence, Mississippi, living hers. I found myself looking up to Olivia like I do my own sister and being so very proud of her like she was my own. Meanwhile, I could identify with Hannah, the younger sister, in so many ways and I beamed watching Hannah's pride in herself and for her sister grow each week. Relationships like that don't come around everyday and I'm so glad that I have the same bond with my sister.

Here's the video of Olivia singing on the scale when she finally eclipse the 100-pound loss mark. I wept.

And finally - the American Idol performance finale. Even though we won't know who wins until tonight, you know I had to comment a little.

I've got to say, I called it. And I'm sure the rest of America did, with the exception of my mom and sister who were big Hailey fans. This was an extremely talented season and I'm sure we will see lots of these contestants with their own albums as soon as the AI franchise releases them from their grasp.

It's amazing to see that it's come down to the two youngest contestants in AI history. The country music world is about to get a little bit (read: a lot bit) better because of these two.

Going into last night, and even up until the very last performance by Lauren Alaina, I just knew Scotty had it in the bag. The kid is a natural all the way around. He's comfortable on stage and rarely sings a pitchy note. But y'all, Lauren Alaina killed that Mama song. Up until that song, she was coming in second. But with that performance, she won the shebang. Y'all know the country music fans have been out in full force voting for these two, and y'all know country music fans love them some Mama songs. So, I'll let you do the math.

So there's my prediction. Lauren Alaina it is. However, I'll be glad to see either one of them do well. Either way, they'll both be making lots of money in the near future.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Idol - Top 3

I'm baaaaaaaack!

I seriously thought about not posting again this week because it's been a pretty emotionally draining week at work and today has been pretty hard as well. It's like the Samford universe said, "Hey! Katie's about to bounce outta this mug, so we need to hit her hard with some crazy happ'nins before she wises up."

(Yes, I'm leaving Samford. Birmingham, in fact. June 3, peeps. But that's a whole different post for another day.)

It's hometown week, y'all. I don't know about everyone else but I'm kinda excited to see where Scotty comes from.

And also, I'm calling it now. An all-country final. I'll pay you all 38 cents if it doesn't happen.

Scotty McCreery

Amazed - Scotty just keeps getting better and better. (You see what I did there? Hint: song lyrics.) This was probably THE most honest performance that Scotty has given. There wasn't an ounce of cheese in that performance and I'm pretty sure he kept the mic upright instead of turning it sideways. Progress, people. But seriously, all kidding aside. Scotty has become one of my favorites. And that's saying a lot coming from an anti-country person. (I mean, seriously. I picked an all-country final. Wha???) He was pitch perfect and he's got what, two more performances left?

P.S. He looks exactly like his momma.

Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? - Y'all, I'm running out of ways to say that I love Scotty. I've heard this song twice. Both times I was in my friend Hollie's office. She has her TV on CMT in the morning and ESPN in the afternoon. And I really do like this song. It was great for Scotty and I love that he pulled out the guitar for this one. I'm thinking right now that Scotty is gonna be the one to beat. However, I might eat my words since there's two more performances and a whole 'nother round to go.

Well, as if luck would have it, my DVR cut off after an hour and a half and only caught it 10 minutes later, so I missed Scotty's entire third song. Pretty bummed about that. So it's up to y'all to let me know how he did.

Lauren Alaina

Wild One - Lauren has hit her stride. I don't know that she's going to do anything particularly bad from now on. She's so like-able and cute and she looked like she was having fun up there tonight. I really can't say anything bad about her performance besides the fact that she looked like she was the musical guest for this week's episode of "Hee-Haw" with those earrings.

If I Die Young - I actually like this song too. Maybe living in Alabama has had a little impact on my anti-country perspective. She did a great job with it too. I'm pretty sure she had a little flub coming out of the bridge at the modulation point but she covered it well. It's crazy how before she hits the stage she just seems so young and immature and innocent, and then the music starts and she's a completely different person. She's great and she will do great things.

I Hope You Dance - Great. Fantastic. Blah blah blah. Y'all, you can only say she's good in so many words.

Haley Reinhart

What It Is And What Will Never Be - Loved that her dad got to play in the band for her performance. That's pretty dang awesome. And I loved how she bounced back from the fall. I knew someone was going to do that this season. I just didn't know who it was going to be. Haley has really grasped the directions that the judges have been giving her with her song selection. I think, starting with Bennie and the Jets several weeks ago, she really has picked one great song after another that really fits her voice, in my opinion. This week, even though it wasn't really a well-known song, she pretty much killed it.

P.S. I'd love to see her dad go on the road with her when her career takes off.

Rhiannon - Hailey's so original that I'm really running out of things to say about her too. She's also very vintage and I love that about her. It was interesting to see her just stay in one place and sing. I thought it might get a little boring but her voice and the way she feels the music is so captivating that it kept my attention the whole time.

You Outta Know - Gotta admit. I wasn't really paying attention. I got distracted by text message. Sue me. Sounded great though.

I lost interest toward the end but I'm keeping to my prediction. Scotty and Lauren in the final.

Put your 38 cents where your mouth is.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

American Idol - Top 5

I have to say that I was sad to see Casey go last week but I wasn't surprised. This is definitely one of the most talented seasons AI has ever had. At this point, for me, it's anyone's game. They are all so very good and have their own appeal.

Two songs this week. And Sheryl Crow. Let's do this.


James Durbin - "Closer To The Edge"
I completely agree that his voice fits this genre even better than 80's metal rock. No question. Did I think this was greatness from James? No. Did I think it was good? Yes. The beginning was a little weak, and I'm not sure if James wasn't loud enough or if the music was TOO LOUD. I'm going to lean towards the latter. It was shaky for me until he hit the bridge. The bridge was great and is crowd interaction was en pointe but I still don't think it was his best. There is definitely something lovable about James though. And he definitely show us where he could be in the music biz in a few months.

Jacob Lusk - "No Air"
I wasn't really sure about this song selection for Jacob and I've gotta say I didn't like the performance all that much. It was really awkward for me to watch when he started groovin' and doing the Superwoman punch-out move. Also, the beginning was a little to high for my liking. It sounded weird. When he hit the bridge and the chorus it got better but I just felt like there wasn't a lot of substance in the performance. It was a little pitchy and maybe a little sharp (confirmed by Randy). I am glad to know what kind of music he would release though.

Lauren Alaina - "Flat On The Floor"
Love this song. Loved the performance. Best of the night so far. I loved that Sheryl said to stand in a strong position and let the audience come to her. Lauren did that to night and it was great. Her energy was so high that she didn't need to move around the stage or get in the audience. That's a powerful song anyway so it doesn't need a lot behind it. It's one of those head-banging songs and she definitely had me head-banging.

(Can I just say again that I love Jennifer Lopez as a judge? She's fantastic.)

Scotty McCreery - "Gone"
This suits Scotty well and it was Scotty's best performance yet, in my opinion. There was nothing awkward or pitchy or fake about this performance. It was real, fun and real fun. And he sounded incredible too. It still blows my mind that that voice comes out of a kid like that. It's flawless. You can tell that Scotty has grown exponentially in this process, both as a person and as an artist. Yes ma'am Ms. Crow, he's got a great career ahead of him. Both he and Lauren Alaina just gave us a glimpse at what their concerts will be like in a year or two.

Haley Reinhart - "You And I"
My favorite thing about this performance? The violinist with the afro. Quality.

This is my feeling about Haley. Haley makes you love songs. I love Bennie and the Jets before she sang it and whenever I heard the song I thought of the movie 27 Dresses. Now, when I hear it I think of Haley. Adele's song Rolling In The Deep? Haley sang it two weeks ago. I've been obsessed with it since. Now, Gaga. I'm not a Gaga fan, but I love this song now. She had a moment like Sheryl said. Yes, she did. That's the thing about Haley, she just goes out there and sings. It's not premeditated, or at least it doesn't look that way. She has also definitely grown and come into her own. This is her sound, and I like it.

Well, the judges didn't really like it. I don't get it.


James Durbin - "Without You"
There was definitely honesty in this performance. There were some really special parts in there too but overall, I just didn't like it. I wanted to like it because I know that song meant a lot to him but I think his emotions took over a little and it didn't work out too well for him. They kind of took him to that Yelly McScreamy place that I've noticed he goes to when he doesn't know what else to do. It just didn't work out this time. The last note was great though.

"It wasn't perfect, but it was emotionally perfect," said Randy Jackson. Tu chez, dog.

Jacob Lusk - "Love Hurts"
I think a lot of people are going to say that Jacob killed this song. I think he hurt severely injured it. I don't think it was great enough to say that he killed it but it was pretty darn good. Again, I wasn't sure about this one either but he pulled it through. I think it was a bold move and I think it was a good move, but I still don't think that he's made his case tonight.

Lauren Alaina - "Unchained Melody"
First of all, I love her dress. Second, I love her runs. Third, I loved this performance. It was sweet and gritty and elegant all at the same time. From a country point of view, she just put LeAnn Rimes to shame.

Scotty McCreery - "Always On My Mind"
Again, there's not much to judge here. I just sat back and enjoyed because it was another snippet of the Scotty McCreery national tour. He's just so good and I think he's made himself a front runner tonight.

Haley Reinhart - "The House Of The Rising Sun"

Best Contemporary: Scotty
Best Oldie: Haley
Best overall: Scotty
In trouble: Jacob

What do you think?

Samford Gives Back

As everyone knows, this area of the country was hit hard by the outbreak of tornadoes last week. Starting in Tuscaloosa, a tornado traveled some 200-plus miles through Alabama and into Georgia, leaving a path of destruction along the way.

I've only been able to get out to help once since it all happened. Sunday was the day. I'm still trying to wrap my head and heart around what I saw and I hope to share my experience, pictures and videos with you all on the blog here within the next week.

But for now, I wanted to share with you a story that appeared on our website today. It tells of the hearts of our amazing student-athletes, young men and women that I have the pleasure to work with every day. Students whose hearts explode for the people and communities around them in their darkest times.

The story is posted below. Please keep the disaster victims in your prayers as well as the thousands of people who are pouring out their hearts, lives and wallets to aid in relief. And pray that God continues to grow young people like the ones in this story.
May 4, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An estimated 100 Samford student-athletes spent most of the weekend volunteering in Pratt City, Ala., helping victims of last week's tornado outbreak.

Pratt City is one of many areas in the state of Alabama that was hit hard by the severe weather that came through the area last Wednesday. Scott Elementary School served as a base for collecting supplies people needed. Samford's student-athletes helped with delivering supplies to victims of the storms.

One of the groups of student-athletes who traveled to Pratt City to assist with the clean-up was football player Devyn Keith, along with teammates Bill Kottas, Jacobi Rodriguez and Jeremy Towns, and women's basketball player Jazmine Powers.

"Right after we saw the disaster, J.T. (Towns) and I immediately got on the phone, calling people, because we understood that those were people that we knew," Keith said. "After seeing what happened in Huntsville, I'm from Huntsville, and since I couldn't get up there, I said `let me go and see what happened to these people.' I didn't get to go down that day because I had to work, but we went down on Friday.

"We felt like it was an obligation," Keith said. "When you see that type of thing, you can't do anything but help, because here at Samford we were so blessed to not be affected that much by the tornados."

The group of athletes filled Kottas' truck with supplies and went down to Cherry Avenue, which was hit hard by the storms, checking door-to-door with people to see what supplies they needed.
One of the more touching stories that came out of this experience came from Keith. As he was working in the area, a lady pulled up in her car and Keith stopped her to see if she needed anything. She asked him if he was going to take care of her. He responded, "No, ma'am. I can't take care of you. God's going to take care of you. I'm just going to help out."

As the lady cried in her car, Keith reached in and hugged her and let her continue to cry. Keith loaded her car with sandwiches and other supplies. He then told her that he loved her and that everything was going to be alright. "We told her we loved her and we prayed for her," Keith said.

"She said she was really moved by the fact that we were out there. She said she had lost everything."

Powers said she had planned to go home that weekend, but she had a feeling she needed to help out in Pratt City.

"I was originally going to go home that Friday after class, but something just told me I needed to go and experience this," Powers said. "I was even packing up and my mind just shifted, telling me I needed to go. I got some stuff that I wasn't using in the house like soap and some other items I had and I just took it over and we went down there."

Powers said the experience of helping people who had just lost everything was something that really touched her. She said it was a tremendous experience.

"It was very emotional, but at the same time, you knew you were doing something great," Powers said. "I went to one lady's house, she was there by herself, and I brought a case of water into her kitchen. She just broke down and cried and gave me a hug. She said it was good to know that there are good people out there and that God is good and he is still looking after us.

"That was the part that was emotional for me, because they would get emotional, knowing that people were out there trying to help," Powers said. "It was a great experience and I was so glad I went over there."

Caroline Summers, Samford's senior photographer, was on hand to document the relief efforts for the university. Summers said she was touched by the efforts of the Samford students.

"I have always felt that I was blessed to work on a campus filled with such amazing people, both faculty and students," Summers said. "But, I must say, that I have never been prouder to be associated with Samford University than I was this weekend. These students don't just help out for something to do, they truly care."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April's Fury

So considering that we just ended the 24-hour weather watch marathon here in Sweet Home Alabama (officially dubbed by Fox 6 as April's Fury), there won't be an American Idol recap again tonight (sorry to disappoint AGAIN, Anna Little Morris!).

I do plan to hop on the interwebs and watch it tomorrow but I've got to say, it won't be the same with out my Stefano.

On another less humorous note, most of you around the South have probably heard about the terrible weather we had here in Alabama today. It was pretty wide spread throughout the state but I think it's safe to say that Tuscaloosa and Cullman got hit the worst. We're talking major destruction and fatalities.

Please keep the people who have been affected by these storms in your prayers. The people of Alabama have already started trying to find out how they can help in disaster relief and I couldn't be more excited to hear that. These storms today were no mistake. They were caused by The One who holds ALL in his hands.

I couldn't have said it better than what one of my college professors said on Twitter today: "Words that never rang truer than today: I will praise You in this storm..."

So, that's just what I'll do. I'll praise God for the incredible display of power that he put on today in his creation of nature and through his people. I pray that he gets the glory in the disaster relief of these storms.

To Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday? What happened to Monday and Tuesday?

So, no American Idol post for me tonight.

I'm swimming in a sea of track & field championships and softball and awards banquets and other stuff that I can't quite talk about on here yet but that is sucking up all of my time this week.

Not to mention, I'm on migraine number two this week.

So, no American Idol post for me tonight.

I'll leave the commenting to you this time.

And, maybe, if I have time tomorrow, I'll let you guys know what I thought.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Video Madness

1. This one gave me chills.

2. This one reminded me a little bit of the "It's A Small World" ride at Disney World.

3. This one is just funny. Go here and scroll to the bottom and click on the media video, "Acts In Three Minutes".

4. This one is scary.

5. This is precious. My nephew William's sweet moves to Thriller.

William's Sweet Moves from Katie Walden on Vimeo.

6. And last but not least, this one just because.