Michelle Hiskey

Savoring Hidinger’s legacy: Serving those who serve Atlanta

Ryan Hidinger’s dream of opening his own restaurant did not die with him. That dream, which the late chef had shared with his wife, Jennifer, to make a living running their own establishment, has grown into something much larger: a restaurant that will provide financial support to restaurant industry workers beset by catastrophic illnesses.

The service industry is the backbone of Atlanta, the reason that thousands of people gather here every year for conventions and big events. However, those who choose service careers – like the restaurants Hidinger worked for and devoted himself to –  are especially vulnerable to catastrophic events. About 250,000 of them work in metro Atlanta, and tend to be counted among those most likely to be uninsured, and hit hardest by lost wages when they lose shifts due to illness. Hidinger, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 gallbadder cancer in December 2012, experienced this firsthand. Continue reading

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On Super Bowl week, Kavin Caruso challenges his odds

The week before the Super Bowl, Kavin Caruso showed off his stellar memory by naming every NFL title winner in the 1960s and the teams they defeated. With a mental vise grip for dates and statistics, he’d be a ringer for any trivia team. But in the wider arena of job competition and social acceptance, Caruso is a decided underdog. At 32, he is mostly deaf from the massive ear infections he suffered as an orphan from India before his adoption by a family in Tucker. He also suffers from a mild form of schizophrenia and anxiety.

These disabilities are huge strikes against him in his quest to find a job, like the one in sales at Home Depot that he held for nine years until the economic meltdown. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the unemployment rate for adults diagnosed as mentally ill is three to five times higher than the general population. Caruso’s persistence is a hopeful sign, especially for those among the thousands of Georgia’s long-term unemployed. Faced with so many reasons to give up, Caruso does not. Continue reading

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A heroic alliance: caped crusaders and fashion photographer

In fiction, superheroes often elude the camera, their legends created by what bystanders thought they saw. Inside an Atlanta photography studio, Batman, Wonder Woman, Nightwing, Superman, the Green Lantern and other beloved superheroes are captured in light and shadow and framed as stylized fashion portraits.

These are real people from Atlanta, not movie stars or models. They make their own elaborate costumes and wear them to entertain hospitalized children. They are now the subjects of a photographer using his eye to elevate their zeal into an art form. The photographs, currently on display at the Showcase School of Photography, are windows into the world of fantasy, and show the power of refining the lens we use to look at the world.
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Local mandala expert advises: Wait to make resolutions

Let me guess. It’s barely two weeks into 2014 and you’re already wavering on your New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ve blown them altogether. Or if you’re like me, you haven’t even started them yet. What was supposed to be a fresh start is already a dead end.

Maybe we’ve got this all wrong. Susanne Fincher says the dead of winter is precisely the wrong time to setting out to change ourselves. She’s a Jungian psychotherapist, a licensed counselor, registered art therapist and a leading international expert on mandalas—sacred circles found throughout centuries and cultures. At the core of her work is the study and understanding of cycles and patterns that are universal.
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Auburn chaplain’s ‘broken road’ to BCS title game

At the start of the 2013 college football season, Chette Williams, chaplain of the Auburn University Tigers, said he told a reporter, “I hope our football team scores a lot of touchdowns for Jesus.”

Williams had no idea what miracles were coming, the preternatural last-second shifts of fortune that enabled Auburn to beat huge rivals—Georgia and No. 1-ranked Alabama—and end up squaring off against Florida State University tonight in the NCAA college football championship.

Williams documented his experiences in the 2013 book, “The Broken Road: Finding God’s Strength and Grace on a Journey of Faith” (Looking Glass Books). It chronicles the three-year spiritual climb by the Auburn players and coaches to their previous national championship at the end of the 2010 season.
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In Steve Walton’s lights, holidays on the edge

Steve Walton’s Christmas display around his Virginia Highland bungalow features a manger and baby Jesus without mom and dad, a monstrous snowman’s head and the effigy of an elderly woman who apparently got run over by a reindeer.

There are no flashing holiday lights, dime store decorations or blow up Santas. His displays are funny and edgy, sometimes quite dark and suggestive of a sense of longing for an artist who has experienced considerable loss in his life.

He moved on with his life by turning discarded stuff into elaborate, seasonal lawn displays. After the death of his partner in 1989, “I started to see the yard as a palette, not a chore,” said Walton, 59, last week.  “It was very therapeutic.”
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At Beatles v. Stones, the anchoring power of music and memory

Living in uncertain times, we’re all looking for anchors. Nostalgia is a powerful one, as is music and lending a helping hand.

Friday night, more than 800 people showed up in Midtown to hear 13 bands who tried to recreate the time of peace, love and understanding known as the 1960s through the songs of two iconic bands: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The music of these bands is now timeless, but in its day it was revolutionary, and the gray heads in the audience may have flashbacked like I did to a time when rock first moved us and when some of us sought to move others.

Beatles vs. Stones reminded me of my own altruistic early rocker roots in Staunton, Va. I played with a hastily assembled band called Ravenscroft in my first gig in a church basement.
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Atlanta Diaper Bank a fresh resource for a hidden need

Behind Atlanta’s hunger, poverty and homelessness are parents who are trying to stretch every resource—even dirty diapers. To cut the cost of this basic need, their babies wear soiled diapers for longer periods than they should, and sometimes parents try to wash or reuse disposable ones, putting the kids at risk for staph infections.

Founded by Adrienne Hopkins of Kennesaw, the Diaper Bank of Greater Atlanta is winding up its annual “Twelve Days of Diapers” drive that began Dec. 1. The Diaper Bank is a nonprofit that helps cover the bottoms of babies and toddlers as well as adults who require disposable undergarments but cannot afford them. Its current goal is collecting 100,000 diapers and adult incontinence products before Thursday.
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As holiday cards grow rare, Randy Osborne sends daily letter with care

In the coming weeks, as Americans rush to shove hastily written holiday cards and form letters in mail boxes to friends and family members, Randy Osborne will still pen a letter a day to a stranger.

Osborne doesn’t care if his letters arrive before a day attached to a religious figure or public cause. More than a resolution, his Letter a Day Project is about connection through a nostalgic form of messaging. It is one man’s reply to a national nosedive in personal correspondence.

“I think people really want some kind of contact even if it’s from a stranger, something that takes time and attention,” said Osborne, 58, who teaches fiction and non-fiction writing at Emory University and co-founded Carapace, a monthly storytelling event at Manuel’s Tavern.
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Weekly potluck dinner turns Atlanta friends into family

The bonds of family and friendship can be created through the sacrament of a regular shared mealtime, and it  doesn’t have to be as seldom or elaborate as the big Thanksgiving event many of us will travel thousands of miles to celebrate this Thursday.

For several years, Owen Mathews has hosted what he calls Potluck Dinner every week at his Midtown studio. It has grown into a broad range of young to early-middle aged professionals of assorted ethnic backgrounds and experiences.

“It’s almost like we have family dinner once a week,” said Sara Le Meitour, who is engaged to another potluck regular.
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