Thursday, July 31, 2008

My South

This was written by Robert St. John, executive chef and owner of the Purple Parrot Cafe, Crescent City Grill and Mahogany Bar of Hattiesburg, MS.

Thirty years ago I visited my first cousin in Virginia. While hanging out with his friend, the discussion turned to popular movies of the day. When I offered my two-cents on the authenticity and social relevance of the movie Billy Jack, one of the boys asked, in all seriousness, "Do you guys have movie theaters down there?" To which I replied, "Yep. We wear shoes too."

Just three years ago, my wife and I were attending a food and wine seminar in Aspen, Colorado. We were seated with two couples from Las Vegas. One of the Glitter Gulch gals was amused and downright rude when I described our restaurant as a fine-dining restaurant.

"Mississippi doesn't have fine-dining restaurants," she insisted and nudged her companion. I fought back the strong desire to mention that she lived in the land that invented the 99-cent breakfast buffet. I wanted badly to defend my state, my region, and my restaurant with a 15-minute soliloquy and public relations rant that would surely change her mind.

It was at that precise moment that I was hit with a blinding jolt of enlightenment, and in a moment of complete and absolute clarity it dawned on me -- my South is the best-kept secret in the country. Why would I try to win this woman over? She might move down here.

I am always amused by Hollywood's interpretation of the South. We are still, on occasion, depicted as a collective group of sweaty, stupid, backwards-minded, racist rednecks. The South of movies and TV, the Hollywood South, is not my South.

This is my South:

My South is full of honest, hardworking people.

My South is the birthplace of blues and jazz, and rock n' roll. It has banjo pickers and fiddle players, but it also has BB King, Muddy Waters, the Allan Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, Ray Charles, Tammy Wynette and Elvis - Lionel Richey and Leontyn Price.

My South is hot.

My South smells of newly mowed grass.

My South was kick the can, creek swimming, cane-pole fishing and bird hunting.

In my South, football is king, and the Southeastern Conference is the kingdom.

My South is home to the most beautiful women on the planet.

In my South, soul food and country cooking are the same thing.

My South is full of fig preserves, cornbread, butter beans, fried chicken, grits and catfish.

In my South we eat foie gras, caviar and truffles.

In my South, our transistor radios introduced us to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at the same time they were introduced to the rest of the country.

In my South, grandmothers cook a big lunch every Sunday, so big that we call it dinner (supper comes later).

In my South, family matters, deeply.

My South is boiled shrimp, blackberry cobbler, peach ice cream, banana pudding and fried peach and apple pies.

In my South, people put peanuts in bottles of Coca-Cola and hot sauce on almost everything.

In my South, the tea is iced and almost as sweet as the women.

My South has air-conditioning.

My South is camellias, azaleas, wisteria and hydrangeas.

In my South, the only person that has to sit on the back of the bus is the last person that got on the bus.

In my South, people still say 'Yes, ma'am,' 'No ma'am,' 'Please' and 'Thank you.'

In my South, we all wear shoes....most of the time.

My South is the best-kept secret in the country.

Please continue to keep the keeps the idiots away.

A Friend Sticks Closer Than A Brother

My dad sends devotions out every day to lots of people. This was in the one he sent out today. I felt I should share it in an attempt to honor the many friends I have who are like family to me...and the family I have who are definitely friends.

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

Truth teaches that the quality of our friendships is more important than the quantity. We don't need a lot of friends in this life, but we do need a few good ones. By moving beyond superficial acquaintance with specific Jesus-ones, we become friends who are closer than family (Proverbs 18:24). This requires considerably more commitment than our standard "to each his own" approach to getting along. Instead, we agree there will be "none of this going off and doing your own thing" (Colossians 3:15 MSG). We see each other as individuals, unique creations of God and vessels of God's grace. We "develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results" when we "do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor" (James 3:18 MSG). Although this describes what a family should be, it's a stone, cold fact that many people find closer relationships among friends than their blood relatives. But there is a different type of blood relative, sisters and brothers who are grafted together through the blood of Jesus Christ. His power within us gives us the ability to become companions who stick together closer than a brother, or sister.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday was my birthday. I turned 25. 25! I'm a quarter of a century old...which my mom said just reminded her that she was over half a century old. I shut up after that. Anyway, I ended up turning my birthday into a five day celebration. However, even though I carried my camera with me everywhere I was, I completely forgot that I had it. Therefore, nothing was photo documented. Unfortunate, I know.

Thursday, my friend Chris came through town on his way home to Columbus for a weekend with his family. He didn't come for my birthday but I like to say he did. Ha. Anyway, we ventured out to the Barons game (Thirsty Thursday!) since they were playing the M-Braves. It was the first time for me to see the M-Braves in action. Maybe next time I'll see them at their home field. Anyway, we met a bunch of my friends from work out there and we had a good ol' time. Some more than others. After the M-Braves blew their five run lead and let the Barons bat around in the sixth inning, and after seeing Van Pope throw fits in the infield like he did in high school, we decided to leave and go home. 

The next day I got many "Happy Early Birthday" wishes from folks at work before heading to Madison around 2 p.m. to start the Jacktown celebration. When I got home, I changed clothes and immediately went to meet Casey, Lauren and Joey, and Drew and Neal, some of my closest friends for dinner at Sal and Phil's in Ridgeland. I'd never been there before. I told Casey that I wanted seafood and I wanted to go someplace that I'd never been to. So, she suggested Sal and Phil's. Fantastic choice. Good fun and fun times catching up with old friends. It did my heart good.

Saturday was family day, and I woke up to cookie cake, which was the number one request from me to my parents. Oh, so good! Then my parents and I went shopping. (More like Mom and I shopping and Dad hanging out in Best Buy and PetSmart. I ended up getting a cute dress and a great coat, then we headed out to meet the other half of the family (sister Anna, bro-in-law Ross and baby William) at Sal and Mookie's in Fondren, a great pizza and ice cream place owned by a great friend of the family. Mom had a couple of gift cards (she has a gift card for every restaurant in Jackson because she teaches all the rich kids). William was my date and he was definitely excited to see his Auntie KK. 

Sunday, we went to church and then Mom, Dad and I went to eat at Olive Garden, one of our most favorite places. Mom had another gift card...surprise, surprise. After that we went home and Dad built me a shelf for my closet in Birmingham while I vaccumed out my car because it was so nasty. 

Monday was my birthday celebration at the office and my coworkers took me to O'Charley's (my most favorite restaurant) for lunch. It's so fun to be able to celebrate and work with such fun and awesome people. And when I got home from work, Kel had decorated my door and told me that my gift was a ticket to the Third Day/Switchfoot/Robert Randolph concert in September. Yay! I can't wait! I did get a picture of the door.


I also wanted to post some cute pictures of our 4th of July beach trip that I just got from my sister this weekend. Here's a little collage (a couple of them aren't from the trip but they were just too cute not to share).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thinking over life...

I've been thinking over the things life has brought me and my loved ones during the past year and a half, lately. And then I just read this psalm and the Lord reminded me of how great and faithful he is to bring us out of those things, glorifying himself and allowing us to praise him all the way through. I wanted to share.

1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
5 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
7 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The LORD thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies ,
great bolts of lightning and routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I have not done evil by turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
24 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
30 As for God, his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield
for all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the LORD ?
And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
and makes my way perfect.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he enables me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You give me your shield of victory,
and your right hand sustains me;
you stoop down to make me great.
36 You broaden the path beneath me,
so that my ankles do not turn.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
you made my adversaries bow at my feet.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the LORD, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as dust borne on the wind;
I poured them out like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
you have made me the head of nations;
people I did not know are subject to me.
44 As soon as they hear me, they obey me;
foreigners cringe before me.
45 They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.
46 The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Savior!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
who subdues nations under me,
48 who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from violent men you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD;
I will sing praises to your name.
50 He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.

I Love Sports...and Justin Timberlake

Did anyone see the ESPYs? I don't usually watch the whole thing...and especially not on the night it airs because I usually forget it's airing but I didn't want to miss this year's because Justin Timberlake was hosting. Yes, I admit I'm a JT fan. How can you not be? He's hot. Period. But he is also H-I-larry-O-U-S! He's been great on every SNL he's been on and this was no different. And he actually wrote most of what he did on the ESPYs. I won't go on and on. I'll just post a few videos of some of my favorite moments.

The first was a song that JT wrote with some other people and it was hilarious. Plus, who knew Greg Oden was so funny and talented.

This is another one. JT is a big Memphis fan since he's from Memphis and all. The whole show he kept on ragging on Memphis and Kansas' Mario Chalmers about the national championship game. (Kansas came back from being down 12, I think, and Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer to send it into overtime before the Jayhawks won the game. Memphis would have won if they could hit free-throws. Luckily, not one Tiger could hit the broad side of a barn.) He's Justin giving the Tigers a few pointers on free throws.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Holy Oscar Batman!

I saw the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, last night...or should I say this morning. Yes, folks. Along with my roommate and two good friends, I ventured out with several hundred other Birminghamians (and a select few freaks of nature) to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight at one of the area theaters. And yes, it was well worth the $10 and the lack of sleep. In fact, I just took a 20-minute power nap at my desk in my office -- with the door closed -- although, that may have had more to do with the fact that my stomach is cramping and feels like it is completely in knots rather than the decision to go to a tw0-and-half-hour movie at midnight when I have to be at work at 9 the next morning.

I'm not a crazed Batman fan but I do like a good flick and none of the past Batman films have dissapointed. Especially the last one.

Anyway, I have to say, this was the best yet of the series. I would go back and see it again in the theater and pay for it. That's how good it was. And I don't say that about many movies at all.

The writing was just incredible and the way it ties everything together was so neat. The little intricate details were amazing. And Heath Ledger. Boy, oh boy. He was amazing. I didn't even believe it was him. His portrayal of The Joker was unlike any other and well deserving of an Oscar nod. You could definitely tell that he put all of himself into that role, or should I say he completely abandoned all of himself and became a totally different character. It made me sad to watch how great of an artist he his and to think about how no one will ever get to see him in another role again. What a huge loss to the entertainment industry.

I also loved seeing Morgan Freeman again. He could make the smallest role (and by no means was his role in this movie small) stand out among the crowd. Christian Bale is by far the best Batman. I don't care what anyone says. After seeing Michael Keaton in films like Multiplicity and Jack Frost (which weren't bad), I can't take him seriously anymore.

Everyone in the movie was so good. It just seemed like each actor fit his or her role to a tee. I hope it gets lots of nominations for Academy Awards. It was really just created very well.

Now, I'm counting down the minutes until I get to go home and crash in my bed.

Go see this movie!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I just got a new job and I already want to move on...

After two years of doing intern work, getting paid about $1000 a month (before taxes), I've finally gotten a job with great benefits at a great place with great people doing something I love. I mean I get to watch sports all the time! I love it!

So why is it that I already want to move on. Lately, well within the last year or so, I've definitely been feeling like God could used me in a much larger way and in addition, I've been feeling like I want to do more with my life. I have a "small" dream of running my own sports ministry one day but I have no idea how to even begin and I'm too clueless to even try to make a contact with someone who could at least give me some direction. I guess I should pray a little harder for God to cross my paths with someone who I could talk to about this and give me some pointers in how to get it started.

I really wish I had a job where I had the summer off. With my job I technically have the summer "off" but I still have to work. It's just our slowest time of the year. It's the prep stage. I want a job like teaching or something that would give me two months to do whatever I wanted. In those two months, I would go on mission trips or work for some kind of summer youth camps like the Fuge camps or whatever. I just feel like, although I could be making an impact and a difference in my workplace, I don't really see opportunities to really get in there with my hands and feet and really serve. I know I serve the Lord everyday by just being who I am (His) and glorifying him in my everyday dealings. I just need something tangible. I need to know that I am actually making that impact.

I've come to realize that I really don't want to do what I'm doing for the rest of my life. It's way too time consuming and draining to continue on with it after I get married and have children (if that ever happens). I jokingly chalk up my singleness to my job because I have no time to have a real relationship with anyone else outside of my workplace. However, I know God has given me the gift of singleness (for right now) so that he can use me with no strings attached. And I pray that if he chooses to bless me with a marriage and a family of my own one day, that I will continue to be as faithful to his calling as I am right now without sacrificing my relationship with either.

Pray that God will place opportunities in from of me to serve and glorify him and advance his kingdom. Pray that I will be open and sensitive to those opportunities, actively looking for them. Pray that I will be obedient in whatever God is calling me to do and that I will seek his guidance in all of it and trust him to handle all of the details.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.

They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Crisis Averted...

This morning my life came to a schreeching halt as I came to the final stage of my morning preparation routine. I'd just finished blow drying my hair and went to turn on my CHI Flat Iron (arguably the greatest invention known to man), when my most dreaded nightmare became a reality -- at last, the CHI had breathed its last. Sad day for all.

A little background on Katie's love affair with the CHI:

I've always had straight hair. Never a curl unless made to do so with sponge rollers or hot curlers. I've had a slight wave for the past 10 or 12 years but nothing that could be solved with a little heat. All through middle school and high school, and some college, I just used the standard curling iron. After all, I was taught that a little curl always looks better. Except, Katie isn't one of those curly hair, hairspray poof girls like her sister is. Anna can pull it off. Katie...not so much. Anyway, until my senior year, I had no desire for the flat iron. I didn't even really know that they existed. Yet, one faithful day, my senior year, my KD House roommate Tricia Hopper Butts introduced me to the art of hair-straightening. I've been a fan ever since.
I immediately ran out and bought the cheapest straightener I could find, a Revlon, from Walmart. I worked okay for the first year. Then the CHI entered my life. It served me well for three, almost four years, and yet, I exhausted all of its energy. So this morning when mine when caput, I had a moment of silence...and then asked my best friend Casey what she did when hers died. She said she got a cheaper version of the CHI at Sally's Beauty Supply and that it works just as well. I thought this couldn't be possible.

So I grabbed my hairbrush, stuffed it in my purse, and headed down the street to Sally's. I got there at 8:55 and realized that they didn't open until 9:00. So I waited. Yes I did. I was not going to work all day with crazy non-smooth hair. No sir. It has become my trademark. All my friends always croon over how smooth and shiny my hair is. I couldn't let them down.

So at the stroke of 9:00, I got out of my car, headed to the door and went to make my purchase. I searched for the GVP (Generic Value Products) Straightening Iron (It says on the box, compared to the CHI. It was the only one that said it so it has to be true.). I purchased it for half the price of my CHI. The GVP was $69.99. And I got it on sale -- $10 off! Happy day!

I took my purchase, headed to the office and immediately got to straightening. My hair is smoother than it was before, or at least than it has been in a year. I'm sure my CHI hadn't been getting as hot as it used to for a while, but wow, what a difference.

All in all, crisis has been averted. I now have a straightener that works and I'm breathing a little easier. Ahhhhhh...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feel The Excitement...

Oh, yes. Excitement abounds for Katie right this moment. I just found out that two of my favorite shows are starting back within the next week and it's all I can do to not pee on myself from excitement.

It's not the head-is-about-to-explode kind of excitement that may come with a new season premiere of say 24 (Jack, must I wait any longer?) or Chuck (I miss him everytime I pass a Best Buy or Circuit City. Please come back!) or The Office (I've started to think that they could do a show about my office), but it's excitement nevertheless.

My favorite reality show is coming back with a new season of "fierce and fabulous" fashion. Yes, folks. That's right. Project Runway is back. The season premiere airs next, Wednesday, July 16, at 8 p.m. CT. (Hopefully, it won't interfere with So You Think You Can Dance. I don't think my finger can take the manic flipping on channels that will ensue.) I'm crazy excited because it gives me the chance to live vicariously through people who have the incredible talent I wish I had. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

The other show that is premiering is not something I'm proud to be excited that it's starting back but I got hooked last season with sweet but atheistic James being the master of the veto. Yes, that's right. Big Brother 10 will begin this Sunday. I'm way excited, and yet sad at the same time, because I no longer have the wicked cable package that gives me Showtime so I can watch Big Brother After Dark. I'm a little weary of this season because I found out that there will be a gay cowboy on the show. I hope there's no Brokeback Mountain action. Just kidding. Yikes, that was harsh. Anyway, there's a 70-something Marine also on the show. I think he will probably end up being my favorite.

Consequently, any hopes for my cutting back on the TV watching have all been flushed down the toilet. OH WELL!

Monday, July 7, 2008

My life for the past week (Disclaimer: Long post, mostly pictures)

I got back Sunday night from a week in Florida. It was a much awaited and much deserved break and wasn't quite long enough but it was definitely refreshing. I left a week ago Sunday to go to the CoSIDA Conference in Tampa. It was a fun four days of seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, meeting new people, learning and getting to hear Dick Vitale and Billy Packer speak. Those two people may not be the usual "girl's dream speakers" but it very cool to see the lighter side to two guys who have made and extraordinary career out of doing something they absolutely love.

(view from my room in Tampa)

The highlight of my trip was getting to go to the Rays game and see the Red Sox play. I had the greatest seats thanks to Mandi, even though the outcome was not the greatest. Here are a few pics:

(Manny Ramirez batting.)

(Mandi and me at the game.)

(Me and Mandi with the Cowbell Kid. He's kind of like the Rays version of the Candy Man.)

I flew back into Birmingham on Wednesday, unpacked my bag, unpacked boxes in my new room in my new house, and then repacked my bag to get ready to go to the beach on Thursday. So I woke up on Thursday and headed out by 9:45 Thursday morning after a quick stop by Krispy Kreme for breakfast. Then I made my way onto I-65 and I was headed south to Ft. Walton. About five hours later, I arrived, only to find out that my parents and my sister and bro-in-law, with baby William in tow, had only just made it to Mobile, which meant two and a half hours for Katie to find something to do. I made my way to the Books-A-Million at Destin Commons to see if I could get internet to get some work done. The family finally got there and the fun began.

We had lots of fun, laying on the beach, swimming in the pool and shopping, as well as entertaining Sir William. He loves the beach, which is fantastic, because if you're going be in this family, you better love the beach and everything that comes with it. He wanted to eat the sand and he absolutely loved the pool. He's a natural swimmer. I hated to have to leave on Sunday while the rest of the family stayed at the beach until Wednesday.

I've created a slideshow of the precious babe in all his summer sun glory. Enjoy!