Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hutchinson-To-Be's

I met Hutch going into my junior year of college. He was introduced to me as "this guy who's transferring to UGA from South Carolina" by my friends as I served them mediocre Mexican food at La Cazuela one summer evening. I probably gave him a free 32 ounce Dos XX's beer (sorry La Cazuela) and felt a sense of respect that he was getting out of gross Columbia, but otherwise didn't think much of our encounter. Over the next few weeks, however, Hutch became a staple in our group of friends. He was at every party, every football game, every get-together. And I liked his sass and sense of humor.

A few months later, we met his lady: a sweet, pretty little blonde he'd loved since high school. If you took Southern charm and bottled it up and sold it as a perfume, it would be called Morgan Peterson. (Hutch on the other hand...he'd definitely be Southern, but instead of charm I'd probably bottle up some musk, lake water and perhaps a splash of whiskey.) We quickly learned that Morgan was to assume the position in our group as the hospitable, home-cooking mother we always needed. Hutch would later (and rightfully) become known as our "Papa."

For the remainder of college, these two souls touched our lives and filled our bellies: Morgan with Pioneer Woman-inspired dishes and Papa with Bud Diesel and, you guessed it, lake water. Our group went to Mexico together for Spring Break and spent every weekend we could at Lake Oconee; every football game we were found cheering and sweating together in the stands of Sanford Stadium and downtown Athens knew us better together than apart. There weren't many times I remember not being with these two those last years in Athens and I liked it that way.

So here we are: we have all since graduated and moved away; some of us right down the road to Atlanta, others to the city that never sleeps and even some across the country. Hutch and Morgan are engaged and we're all counting down the days until their nuptials when we can reunite in magical Athens, Georgia to celebrate a love we all watched grow stronger and deeper and wider than when it first began.

Thanks for asking me to hop out of my comfort zone and take these photos, Morgan. Friends help friends grow up and I'm thankful for you. I love you two!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seventeen Percent

Six years ago, I was working at a Mexican restaurant in Athens and happened upon a new friend. Isaias was a 22 year old Colombian working towards a science degree - Biology or Genetics maybe, something far outside my realm of understanding - so that he could eventually go to Emory to pursue their MD/PhD program. It's important you know he's smarter than you and me both probably, and super driven and focused. A man with a plan. And incredibly interesting, helpful and nice, all desirable qualities for a new friend you get to spend weekends and evenings with while serving chips and taking orders for "cheese sauce" and margaritas. And I was happy to know him.

But there was this other, less important thing about him, too. A thing so inconsequential and far from defining to Isaias as a person that I wish it weren't a part of this story. This friend of mine, dear Isaias, had cancer. Stage four melanoma to be exact, and it had basically spread throughout his entire body over the course of two years. Isaias told me rather quickly upon our first meeting that he had a less than 17% chance of survival, but he certainly was going to be in that 17%. And when someone tells you they're in that 17%, you believe them and forget the whole cancer thing even exists. Because it's easy to look past something that doesn't matter.

About six months went by from the time I first met Isaias until the summer. He turned 23 and was in and out of work between his treatment and surgeries, but it never got him down. A few days after each chemo session, he would pop back into La Cazuela, energy anew, and get right back to slinging cheese dip and fajitas with us. His hair was gone, but that didn't matter. He wore his glasses because he said his contacts made him look sick with his lack of eyebrows, but they were nice glasses and I had pegged him as a glasses guy.

When summer rolled around, cancer reared its ugly head and things took a turn for the worse for my dear friend. A bump in the road, I thought. But then treatment stopped. And following that, Isaias no longer worked at the restaurant. Medicines got stronger and physical changes and pains began for Isaias and his body was tired.

I visited Isaias one last time after returning from a brief trip to Guatemala. "They had Pollo Camperos everywhere!" I excitedly shared with a sleepy Isaias, the same Isaias who had once recounted his love for the greasy Latin American fast food chain. His eyelids were heavy and his alertness fading, so I vowed to bring photos from my trip on my next visit. But there was no next visit with a present Isaias. The next time I saw him was at his funeral where friends and family gathered to say 'see you later' to someone much loved.

It's interesting how God does that, brings people into your life if only for a short time. Like a wind that rushes through unexpectedly and blows your paper away and out of reach. You didn't see it coming and you're left searching for that paper, or in life, the piece of you that seemed to go away with that person. You wonder if it would be better to have never known that person, never met that friend. But the answer is always no. Because of course I loved knowing Isaias, even if just for six months. And in the end, all he needed was six months to profoundly impact my views on life and love and friendships.

Isaias, you were a little part of my life who made an impact on me in a big way. I don't think of you every time this year. I think of you far more often than that and I am happy to call you a friend.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blooming Recklessly

I visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens back in April during prime blooming season and took some photos of flowers because, you know, they're lovely. The photos have been sitting idly on my computer for some time now, and you know what? They are just too pretty not to share. And what better place to put them than on a blog called Flowers are Lovely? I just love the varying colors and shapes and textures of nature and these flowers are no exception.

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wedding Boards

For the last installment of my June wedding projects, I present to you these wedding boards I hand-lettered at the end of the month. The bride provided the boards, the paint pens and the words and in turn gave me total creative freedom. Once they were back in her hands, she drilled some holes in the bride and groom pieces and hung those from their chairs. Pretty nifty, eh? I am itching to try some other color combinations or materials, so any brides out know where to find me.
Congrats, Kelley and Graham!