Atlanta Falcons, young dancers score points on sheer resolve

The work ethic and energy of the dancers from Moving in the Spirit is remarkable.

Every day they are moving against the tide of childhood obesity, too common in poorer neighborhoods. Their personal work ethic contrasts to the cheating educators in the Atlanta Public Schools, where many of these dancers learn.

Their Holiday Store helps teach them financial literacy and credit lessons that too few of us grasp.

Finding new life by recycling license tags into art

By Michelle Hiskey

The best holiday gift this year may be a common object refashioned through the creative eye of an artist like Dominique Lacey, and her re-born mother’s heart.

She and more than 100 edgy local artists will sell their unique creations this weekend at the Indie Craft Experience – ICE – near downtown Atlanta.

Many use recycled materials simply to be green, but Lacey’s art represents her personal renaissance after unnamable grief.

From old license plates, Lacey fashions one-of-a-kind cool things like $10 bangle bracelets and $75 large ornamental stars. From discarded auto tags, she

A scary situation — the rise of childhood obesity in Georgia

By Michelle Hiskey

When you see the stark ads of fat kids in Georgia, don’t turn away from the scariest thing you may see this season.

As hard as it may be, take a long look. What’s happening to their health should shock everybody – and lead us to fitter future generations.

The ads, which have been running in print, outdoors and on TV, are black and white and right to the point.

“I’m 7 years old. I don’t like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. That hurts my feelings,” says a local girl named Tina, among the child actors who answered a casting call for the ad campaign commissioned by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The TV ads end with a boom, like a

Finding the truth about Georgia’s own baseball slugger — Rudy York

By Michelle Hiskey

Even after the Atlanta Braves season ended like a pileup on the Downtown Connector, hardcore baseball fans in Atlanta still care about this World Series.

Not only that, they care enough to preserve and deepen our knowledge of the personalities that popularized baseball.

One devotee even spent a decade piecing together a more complete picture of a misunderstood, part-Cherokee slugger from Georgia named Rudy York.

The detective work began with a tender story of brokenness between a father and son. This digging revealed how stereotyping separates us from the truth.

Praying with our pets brings out the simplicity in all of us

By Michelle Hiskey

Before dawn Sunday morning, police said, a dog woke up his sleeping family in Lawrenceville and saved them from a fire.

At dusk the same day, 75 people gathered on a church lawn near Emory University to celebrate their pets.

Sunday marked the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Even if you don’t believe in saints or God, you should appreciate them as a symbol of living simply, with love and forgiveness.

Yard sales serve as peepholes into people’s lives and hearts

By Michelle Hiskey

On fall Saturdays in the South, yard sales start early and end before afternoon football games. That makes Saturdays full of compelling narratives.

What’s inside the rest of the week – the clutter, the loyalty, the vision of something better — gets a stage for full public view. Saturday is the South’s big peephole.

Tom Zarrilli spent six years of Saturdays photographing and blogging yard sales around Atlanta (and some Friday afternoons for estate sales). As part of a citywide photographic exhibit, 19 of his color photographs are on display through Nov. 11 at the Callanwolde Arts Center.

“Faces of the Yards of Clutter” captures

Injuries don’t have to stop an athlete’s contribution to team

By Michelle Hiskey

Isn’t watching a fall football or softball game always more about the players on the field than the ones on the sideline?

Unless you’re Peyton Manning (the only 4-time Most Valuable Player in the NFL), few fans will give attention to an injured athlete.

A hobbled player, though, can still demonstrate the power of desire to shape a team – and herself.

Meet Sarah Grace Stafford of Decatur, and find out how coaches like Vince Dooley (of University of Georgia football) and Marynell Meadors (WNBA Atlanta Dream) harness the spirit of injured players to keep their team on track and boosted.

Leading female pro golfer – Rosie Jones of Sandy Springs – continues to break barriers

By Michelle Hiskey

Two of Atlanta’s top professional golfers will end the 2011 season by starring in atypical competitions this weekend.

You’ve probably heard of Matt Kuchar, who will tee off Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in the Tour Championship.

Kuchar, who lived in Brookhaven before moving to St. Simons a year ago and starred as an amateur while attending Georgia Tech, knows his scores at East Lake will also count toward the FedEx Cup – the PGA Tour’s prize for season-ending points playoffs.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, Rosie Jones of Sandy Springs will be leading the best American female pro golfers into the Solheim Cup against all-stars from Europe. This team match play (modeled after the men’s Ryder Cup) will take place at Killeen Castle in Ireland starting Friday.

A collection of memories, words and ideas post 9/11

By Michelle Hiskey

We are collectors.

My penchant for stuff traces to my maternal grandmother, whose home was filled with Roseville pottery, Depression glass, Hummel figurines and salt-and-pepper shakers. These items reflected her ideas of pleasure, beauty, home and comfort.

Her scrap iron and metal business (a.k.a. junkyard) in Twin Falls, ID was dropoff point for spare metal collected on the home front to help fight World War II. This collection reflected her community’s identity as small-town Americans marshaling every last resource for freedom’s sake.

Since 9/11, I have collected intangible souvenirs. These are words, memories and observations that, in my life as a writer, represent my stock in trade.

Boise State bringing its independent spirit to Saturday’s game against UGA

By Michelle Hiskey

University of Georgia football fans, what do you know about your first opponent, Boise State? Don’t say their No. 5 ranking, or their famous blue field. Everyone knows that.

Teams are like people – you can’t truly know them unless you know where they’re from.

We in Atlanta with roots in Idaho know that Boise State represents a culture as solid as their famous vegetable and as wacky as their indie star Napoleon Dynamite.

Take Frank Zang’s invitation to “go beyond the blue” field at Bronco Stadium. Zang used to work in Georgia Tech’s athletic department, and now serves as Boise State’s communications and marketing director.

Clay and Connor Cox — like father, like son — serving on and off the football field

By Michelle Hiskey

When a kicker comes on for a field goal or extra point, a football game takes on the feel of a dive meet or golf tournament. All eyes are on one athlete, and scoring the points are almost all on him. In all of sports, kicking is one of the most mentally demanding roles.

That scenario is never easy for a coach like Clay Cox, in his 10th year training the kickers at Greater Atlanta Christian. He’s nervous, remembering when he kicked at their level for Western Carolina. On the sideline, he can only hope he’s prepared them well enough to succeed.

On Friday night at Avondale Stadium, his butterflies were “100 times worse,” he said. The kicker was his oldest son.

John Smoltz and Atlanta Community Food Bank — the tipping point

By Michelle Hiskey

One connection, 20 years, 30 million tons of food for the hungry.

John Smoltz couldn’t remember the full name of the guy he met on a golf practice range in the early 1990s, who set him on a course to help Atlanta feed its hungry.

“Scott, and I don’t remember his last name!” he said, looking down with a scowl you might remember not so long ago when Smoltz was on the mound for the Atlanta Braves. “I do know it was almost like, weird, because I didn’t know him that well and I had so many of these causes thrown at me. I didn’t have anything like cancer that affected my family, and I wanted to get behind something that would make a great difference.”

Larry Nelson, one of golf’s greatest, receives PGA’s Distinguished Service Award

By Michelle Hiskey

How many of the combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will pick up a new sport, turn professional and win three of that sport’s most prestigious trophies?

That far-fetched fairy tale happened to an Atlanta soldier drafted into Vietnam. In the foxholes, Larry Nelson heard guys talking about golf. When he returned to Cobb County, he set about becoming the best – and did it.

This weekend, as Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek hosts the PGA Championship (golf’s final major title; the Masters in Augusta is the first), Nelson’s remarkable career is a fantastic shadow story from that same course 30 years ago.