Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey

Letters by couple separated by WWII united in Atlanta son’s new book

As the 71st anniversary of D-Day approaches Thursday, the memories of World War II are newly fresh for Josh Taylor, a longtime Atlanta resident who recently transformed a heavy box of 460 letters between his Navy dad and stateside mom into a published book. So many families have a need to preserve important family history—especially if that history is on paper, not digitized. If sons and daughters don’t act, a lot of letters, photos and other important personal archives can be lost forever. That’s the story behind “Love Letters Across the Pacific.”

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey

Nostalgia and 50 Atlanta pies served up in a zine

With so many ways to tell a story, the promise of a personal handmade one led to Pie, A Zine about Memories and Pie Eating. Zines (short for magazines) are crafted with thought, heart and hand, and it was the perfect topping to author Muriel Vega’s quest to master making 50 pies in a year. What started on Instagram ended up sketched, Xeroxed and stapled.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

The only girl in a room of coders

Atlanta is home to 13,000 technology companies, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber says the tech sector will invest $1 billion in Georgia the next five years. It’s a rosy picture for young people who are learning to code.

Unfortunately, too few are girls. Those who are trying to break into the boys’ club are facing a pioneer’s uphill, often lonely climb. They are the “rainbow unicorns,” said local mom Caroline Busse, whose sixth grader Madeline is learning to code.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

From CHOA to the White House, via NASCAR

Andrew Childers nearly died playing high school football in Atlanta in 2002 and appeared far removed from the sports fame that earns the highest national accolades. And yet this year he and his team were guests at the White House, where President Obama complimented his team’s athleticism.

Childers got to the White House using his strength and speed from football to help change tires as the jack man for 2013 NASCAR champion driver Jimmie Johnson.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

The Ray Barreras era ends in Atlanta

When Renaissance man Ray Barreras recently departed Atlanta, the city’s fabric lost a stabilizing force.

For 50 years here, he made the complex look easy, from teaching organic chemistry at the Atlanta University Center and Morehouse School of Medicine, to manning the WABE pledge drive for decades, to a gender-busting, prolific hobby of quilt making. That list only scratches the surface of his service, mostly behind the scenes and without pay, that helped Atlanta diversify.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

As ground breaks for new Braves park, risk rises for men of iron

Shovels were a sign of excitement at last week’s groundbreaking for the new Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb County, but they also recalled the grave dug for Jack Falls, who died in a construction accident on the old stadium.

He was killed in 1995 when a light tower he was working on collapsed at the Olympic Stadium, which became Turner Field. An engineer had miscalculated the load that the tower could bear. His family recently recovered a stone plaque from Turner Field that marks his legacy.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

To journalists on front line, Atlanta chaplain offers lifeline

The beheading of James Foley troubled Dorie Griggs of Roswell on a level that most of us cannot relate to. For the last 12 years she has followed an unpaid calling as a chaplain to journalists, especially those in combat zones.

It would be hard to find anyone in metro Atlanta who understands and supports the news gatherers who rush to danger without the benefit of trauma training. And sometimes don’t come back.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

Obscure inventor, quirky museum plow roots of television

Rigby, Idaho—Life before television lies in stark relief here in this small high desert town (pop. 4000) in southeastern Idaho. Its claim to fame is the birthplace of TV, where a teenaged farm boy first thought up the technology to carry images through the air into our homes.

The story is told at the quirky Farnsworth TV and Pioneer Museum, which itself could be a destination for the Travel Channel. In this converted hotel, amid the animal trophies, retro beauty shop mannequins and collections of barbed wire, you can find his quintessentially American hard-luck inventor story. Philo Farnsworth believed he could invent a device to transmit pictures and sound over long distance, and he did it without getting much credit or fortune.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

At 78, my healthy mom’s guide to dying well

My parents both turned 78 last week, and they remain so fit that I am unsure, at 51, if I can keep up. I know that they won’t always be alive, but picturing them gone is hard to wrap my mind around. It’s too painful. So I rarely dwell on that reality.

One surprising Sunday afternoon late last month cleared the hard-packed sand around my ostrich head, and helped me start accepting the fact of their eventual deaths. Especially if you’re in the sandwich generation and put off dealing with this reality….

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

At 72, Chuck Wolf still developing a photo legacy

At 72, Chuck Wolf has reinvented himself from the owner of a national chain of camera stores to a single boutique storefront in Sandy Springs. Chuck Wolf’s Photo Bar points to how phones and social media make it easy to document our lives, but in the fast pace of digital life, how many of us take a longer view of what we want most to leave behind?

Wolf’s knack has always been to understand that photos aren’t about people and places and moments; they are about our identities and values. The Photo Bar serves those customers, some of whom want to curate and manipulate the selves they show to the world.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

Color Runs: The Peachtree Road Race’s millennial offspring

The Peachtree Road Race on July 4 is rooted in a time when running wasn’t popular. Out on the multicolored, millennial fringes of outdoor recreation for young adults, the clenched-teeth grind is passé.

By turning up the party, color runs have become a popular mixing zone for socializing, sweating, and social media. If anything was tailor made for the selfie and the “unique shareable experiences” craved by the millennial generation, it’s a color run.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

Atlanta men, man up for girls. Period.

Without men, you can’t spell menstruation. And that’s as far as most men want to read about this subject. But local men like Nathan Hilkert are manning up to encourage other men to pitch in for Days for Girls, a volunteer effort that targets a big barrier to educating girls in developing countries. When they have their periods, they miss school. Days for Girls prepares and delivers reusable feminine hygiene kits.

Men and boys play an incredibly important role in tackling the taboos around menstruation that isolate and weaken girls and help lead to sexual exploitation and violence.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

What to do with a rabid cat

Until you’ve been chased by an animal that’s foaming at the mouth, you haven’t really experienced the terror of rabies. 

Recent reports of potentially rabid animals threatening humans have reminded me of my own encounter with a rabid cat that I trapped with a recycling bin in my DeKalb County backyard just as it leapt to attack me. While it sounds like a freak occurrence, it’s surprisingly common especially during our warmest months, and it’s dead serious.

Last Thursday, a 13-year-old boy strangled a fox that had bit him. He’s receiving precautionary anti-rabies treatment pending the outcome of tests to determine if the animal was rabid.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

With love to Garcia Marquez, one word at a time

On a day that seemed so damp that fish could have come in through the door and floated out the windows, lovers of the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) gathered at Kavarna coffeehouse in Decatur to pay their respects by reading from his timeless stories of families, war, death, and above all, the magic of love.

They came to 100 Readers of Solitude, named in homage to the author’s greatest novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Anos de Soledad).” One by one they read vigorously, declaratively, and with humor, like Garcia Marquez wrote.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

Local artist injects dark humor into diabetes

Diagnosed with diabetes in her first year at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Leah Owenby felt anger, fear and other deep emotions. Those feelings now are channeled into whimsical, funky and jarring pieces of art in “My Creepy Diabetes Show” at Yay Studio in Avondale Estates. She assembles syringes, test strips and other found objects familiar to all of us with this disease to create darkly humorous statements about dealing with the hideous monster that never leaves our bodies. By putting eyes and Lego legs on her blood glucose meters, for instance, she converted them into “glucobots.”

There is a sobering enormity to her work that reminded me that she and I and millions of us with diabetes most likely will die of this disease. No matter how much we exercise and try to eat right, it is always stalking us.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

Still Nonessential after 18 years playing Atlanta’s blues

When the federal government closed down in 1995, three furloughed workers at the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta and their politically-appointed boss figured out how to stay busy. Instead of helping green the Southeast, the four started playing the blues.

The Nonessentials have stuck with one constant through nearly two decades: the three simple chords that make up the blues. On a part-time basis, they’ve played festivals, restaurants and other events. They’ve played as their founder retired from public service, one left government work and the two remaining EPA employees became nonessential once again in last week’s federal shutdown.

The stoppage brought back the story of how the band formed, the power of music to connect and sustain, and the possibility of bad news leading to new opportunities.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

A circular journey into one’s soul through an Atlanta labyrinth

Labyrinths look like circular mazes, but represent an ancient pathway into the soul. Seekers like me have boosted the number of labyrinths within 100 miles of Atlanta. In 2000 there were a half dozen; now there are about 100. Describing the simple power of the labyrinth is almost impossible.

In my pile up of job losses, family crises, health scares and a recession without end, walking the labyrinth has become more frequent and vital. People across the world and over the centuries have discovered that walking the circle path can help make sense of all the craziness life deals out.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

For warped lives, re:loom and Spanx weave new hope

When Fred Brown’s ex-girlfriend went to prison in 2011 and left their son in his care, he knew he had to change the pattern of his life. Brown was homeless and didn’t want Damari, then only 9 months old, to grow up like he did—seeing his first dead body on the street at six years old and getting so used to the sight that it “was no big deal” by the time he was an adult.

Last week, Brown told his story from the headquarters of re:loom, where he turns recycled clothing and textiles into rugs and other items. Re:loom is nonprofit that helped him find his way back by teaching him the ancient art of weaving, and it got a big boost when another grassroots Atlanta business—Spanx—began globally promoting re:loom.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

No quit in football team of Atlanta immigrants

Down 41-0 at halftime Friday night, the Cross Keys Indians could have easily folded. They had every reason to be discouraged: They haven’t had a winning season since 1994. They haven’t won a game since Sept. 16, 2011.

But these sons of immigrants, first generation Americans and football players, never fold. Just as their parents haven’t given up on building a good life in a sometimes inhospitable land of opportunity, so too, it seems, these teenagers keep believing they can master a game that was alien to them as children.  

“Giving up is for punks,” said senior quarterback and free safety Oluwatomi “Tomi” Adedayo, whose team of 37 players includes 16 born in Asia, Africa, and Central America. “You start to give up and they’ll see it in your eyes. So you just keep your head up and you keep fighting.”