Category Archives: College Friends

Faces: Holly Peach


There is no one like Holly Peach…

I adore this little ocean lady.  ADORE.  She has a master mind of amazingness.  I mean, really, her MIND=AMAZING.  Not only is her head red, but it’s freaking genius.  And I love it.  She’s three years my junior, but this girl intimidates me to pieces.  “Why is that?”  Might you ask…

Well, have you ever met a person who is always able to articulate everything you think before you’ve realized you thought it because it’s so perfectly developed and concise?  Holly is the one who is able to bring to surface everything I know I believe inside but can’t figure out because my brain just can’t put the pieces together.  But she can.  And I love (and envy) her for that.  Unfortunately, Holly lives about as far away from me as one can while still being in the States, but fortunately, all her wonderful amazing epiphanies can be found online at:  So be sure to check it out!

So how did I get the pleasure of meeting Holly?  I met Holly her freshman year, my senior year, of college.  We met at a church that “Is not a Korean church but is pretty much a Korean church even though they’re trying not to be a Korean church.”  Yeah.  So anyway, when we met, I was starting up a North Korean Human Rights club on campus, and she was interested, so she joined the club and we met each other through that.  Over time, I discovered what an incredible mind and heart this girl had, and we slowly developed a lovely friendship.  Now our love is here to stay–and in permanent ink for all to see at Ocean Beach, San Francisco!

I can now fairly say, I have left my heart in San Francisco.  But I know we’ll meet again soon.  Until then, thank God for texting, gchat, grooveshark playlists, and bloggy love!


Faces: Drew C



Faces: : Drew C

Places:  North Beach, Chicago, IL

Oh my!:  Beachy fun in the summer sun


Lawyer.  Lovable.  Loyal. 

This is Drew: old high school sweetheart, current friend.  We go way back to the AIM, DQ, Chem days–back when I was fifteen.  Drew and I technically grew up together from a young age at the same church and school, but it wasn’t until we were in Chemistry class in high school together that we really got to know each other.  I was part of a naughty crew in the back corner of the room who passed notes and cracked jokes–and poor Drew was stuck in the mix.  He usually minded his own business politely, but when finals rolled around, he–and his cheat sheet–became a key role in Chemistry class.  We were allowed one page as a cheat sheet for our monster final, and Drew had created the ultimate page.  We traded Aol Instant Messenger id’s (for those of you who don’t know what AIM stands for) to get in touch about this cheat sheet.  (This was before high schoolers had texting…)  And the rest was history. 

While most high school relationships these days start over texting or Facebook, ours started on good old AOL.  Soon after we shared screen names, we found ourselves chatting online for hours about life, religion, friendships, and other normal highschooler type things.  And of course, as every good Mahomet high-schooler works at either IGA or Dairy Queen at some point in time, we both soon after found ourselves working together at Dairy Queen.  Before we knew it, our blossoming friendship turned into “dating” and things became official.  (That is, after I turned 16 and was allowed to date and my parents sat down with me and gave me a list of about 50 rules…)

Obviously, we have since broken up, but we spent 2 fun years as a hot-teen-item, graduated from the same high school and college, and are still friends and still living in Illinois.  Drew is now a practicing lawyer at a legal clinic in Chicago, and spends his free time coming up with creative works of words at Wormhole.  (Yes, another writer friend!)  As Drew’s writing mantra is, “Show, don’t tell,” I will end this post by showing you, rather than telling you, about him through sharing some more pics we took at our last visit to the beach as well as a short story he wrote that also takes place at a beach.

College Graduates, Established People

By Drew C.

We took the golf car in the dark down the narrow road past a place call The Well. It wasn’t a church exactly because the resort was an incorporated entity, but instead called itself the community “worship center.” The sign out front read: “How do you want to spend eternity: smoking or non-smoking?” Its parking lot had golf car-sized spaces, and each intersection on the road had miniature stop signs. We were in, 1) an improbably large model village that wasn’t quite life-sized, 2) the golf car capitol of the State of Michigan, 3) the only beach community in America with its own Statement of Faith. We were in Bethany Beach.

We had been told to come back to the lakefront for fireworks.

“It could be a Wheaton graduation celebration,” Mrs. Green had said. We had all finished our senior year there in May. “And S.B. gets so worked up over his fireworks.” S.B. was her husband.

We got back to the beach at dark and there were no fireworks, only a firework singular, which my friend Frances had brought. None of us knew why he had brought it with him on the trip. It was a fountain. S.B. kept looking through his bag of tricks, trying to dig up something other than sparklers or punks. His wife and daughter were with him. His daughter was about five. She loved the sparklers.

Finally, S.B. took his golf car to go get something else from his home. Frances set off his fountain while we waited. It was pretty good, with a few whooping bottlerocket-like shots into the darkness, but after a minute or so it was over and we all had a “well, I guess that’s that” feeling.

Then S.B. returned and took a strange, bulky object out of his passenger seat and put it under one arm and walked up. We all assumed it was some really big  firework, but as he got closer it turned out to be a lawn ornament: a rather squat fairy princess with wand that must have been some sort of Christmas yard decoration. S.B. asked rhetorically who wants to blow something up, but we answered we had already used up the firework. He walked over to inspect the remains of the fountain, to be sure.

“Well, who wants to prank someone then?” he asked rather desperately.

I suggested we throw it up on the roof of The Well. I was a little drunk. Frances said he had a better idea, then took the doll and stuck the smoldering punk he had used earlier between her painted-on lips. It looked like a cigarette in a holder.

“Now we can break in and put it in the girl’s restroom,” he said. “Like the bad girl’s bathroom in junior high.” The Greens looked unhappy. We all laughed.

S.B’s daughter started crying just then. I think we had forgotten she was still there.

“Oh, honey,” Mrs. Green said as she bent down to her daughter, “What’s the matter?”

The girl answered, still crying, “Why do they get to do bad things to the church? I don’t like it.”

Mrs. Green straightened up and looked at S.B., who gave a slight shrug. Then she looked back down to her daughter, “It’s okay, honey. It’s okay. These are college graduates, established people. They know what they’re doing. It’s okay.” The Greens all went home then. We took the golf car back to The Well. The doors were locked and the roof was unreachably high. Eventually we just hung the smoking Christmas decoration with some rope to a tree out front and left.

Faces: Julia S



Faces: : Julia S

Places:  Logan Square, Chicago, IL

Oh my!:  Chicago reunion with a college friend and my first night time shoot


Introducing…Miss Julia S, aka J-sta.

Julia is my girl.  Whenever I need a listening ear, an affirming word, or an appreciative soul, Julia is where to go. Julia is a good friend and former neighbor back from my undergraduate years.  Her Freshman year, my Sophomore, we lived next door to each other on good ol’ Fischer three-west and would exchange back massages and pity stories after long, stressful hours of study.  As the years have gone on, our relationship has done the opposite of drift apart with distance and time.  Through several visits and phone calls, we’ve grown closer and come to know one another even more.  These pictures are from one of these visits in Logan Square, Chicago–the same neighborhood I had lived in a year prior to her lease.  We had just missed being neighbors again, but luckily got to visit with one another in our lovely hipsterville before moving on to grad school…

Here’s a little Q&A to get to know Julia a little better:

Q:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  What are you currently studying, and how did you pick this program?

A:  I’m currently doing a master’s program in Higher Education & Student Affairs. I really enjoy working with college students and being part of their story. For me, college was a formative experience that I really appreciated. My college experience was definitely impacted by the staff, faculty, and administrators who believed in me and helped me succeed, and I hope I can do the same for students someday.

Q:  What was your favorite pet you had as a child and why?

My parakeet. She kept me company for a good eight years, and she was delusionally in love with another stuffed bird I had. It was endearing.

Q:  What’s your best memory of high school?

A:  Volleyball trips and tournaments. They were a nice change of pace from the everyday routine because we got to travel to different cities and states. We always had some good laughs, and I would notoriously fall asleep on the bus no matter how long the trip was. What can I say? Power naps help my game.

Q:  What is the most rewarding experience you have had and what made it so?

Missions and humanitarian work overseas. These experiences continue to challenge me to think about the connectedness of humanity. I think these experiences not only taught me that I have something valuable to contribute to the lives of others but also that I also have a lot to learn from others. The people I met and worked with overseas have amazed me with their strength, their sacrifice, and their love of life.

Q:  Since we met in college, what was your undergraduate major?  And what influenced you to choose that major?

A:  English Literature. I loved studying English Literature because I’ve always been captivated by stories. Stories have the ability to communicate the human experience in a way that is unique and profound. They allow us to consider a chain of events from a perspective other than our own and imagine the pains and joys that affect others. Literature discloses and hones in on the subtleties of of people’s stories that often go overlooked, and I think that’s beautiful.

Q:  Great answer!  What fictional character’s story have you most identified with?

A:  Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, not because of her situation but because I think we’re similar in some respects.  I think she always hopes that things end up the way they are supposed to, and I’m like that, too. However, one of my high school English teachers once told me that I reminded her of Spinelli’s Stargirl, and I would have to agree with that as well. Stargirl is very unique, and though I’m not as strange as her, I definitely like to be my own woman.

Q:  I love that book!  One of my dear friends from college gave me that book as a gift and told me that I was her Stargirl.  Although some may take it as an insult because she is such an odd character, I was delighted.  I tried to read it to a boy I dated, but he fell asleep!  How rude.  Anyway, it’s one of my favorites. What is your favorite book?

A:  Jane Eyre.

Q: And what is your latest read?

A:  Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Q:  I know you are not only well-read, but are also a very good writer.  What will be the title of your best selling novel?

A:  I don’t want to give it away! You’ll just have to wait until it gets published.

Q:  Now for some random questions.  Which actor/actress would you never go out with?

A:  Vince Vaughn. I’ve never really thought he was funny.

Q:  What is the most important thing in a relationship?


Q: If you knew today was your last day on Earth, how would you spend it, and why?

A:  I would convince my friends to do ridiculous things with me. We would laugh hysterically, film it, and then show clips at my funeral (if it was just my last day and not the end of the world). Funerals cost a ridiculous amount of money so I might as well try to make it a good time for people.

Q:  I love that answer!  Much better than the typical, cheesy “tell everyone I love them” one.  Who or what inspires you, and why?

A:  Friends who give good hugs. A good hug can make you feel like a million dollars.

Q:  Do I give good hugs?

A:  Yes!

Q:  Good.  If you had to be someone else for a day, who would you be?

A:  Someone of the male gender. I’d just really like to know if the way they think and experience the world is really that different from the way women see things.

Well, there you have it, everyone.  The awesome Jsta!  See why I love her?  Here’s one last picture to close:

If you know Julia personally and have any stories or comments to share, please do in the comment box below!

Faces: Phila Lee



Faces:  Phila Lee

Places:  Wicker Park, Chicago, IL

Oh my!:  Reunion and interview w/ a college friend


Who’s that smooth ‘n stylin’ Korean hottie?  Phila Jin Lee!

Oddly enough, Phila was one of the first people I met my freshman year of college, seven years ago, but we didn’t become “real” friends until 2 years after graduation. We first met orientation weekend on an organized group trip into the city. He told me that his name was Phila, but that I could call him 멋진 오빠 (mut-jin op-ba) which in Korean means something along the lines of “cool, attractive guy.”  🙂 Even though we weren’t close in college, I knew he was a good guy when my college post office accidentally put my debit card into his mailbox (we both have the same last name, so our mailboxes were right next to each other) and he made it a point to tell me and give it to me.

Fast forward five years later, and through being roommates with one of my best friends back when we lived in Chicago, I finally got to know Phila more. I found Phila to be not only a trustworthy guy, but also a great story teller, and not to mention a very helpful love doctor. Phila always has a good story up his sleeve–whether it was about his father who went blind because an acupuncturist in South Korea poked him in the eyeball with his needles, or when he moved to NYC from Korea as a pre-teen and got into so much trouble trying to defend himself in a rough neighborhood that he broke his arm in a fight and his host family had to send him back to Korea, to when he got into an accidental run-in with the Chinese mafia when he lived in Chinatown, Chicago.

Phila now lives in Los Angeles, California.  He works at a cubicle and writes in his free time to stay sane. These photos are from several months ago when he made a visit to Chicago. We had fun with some murals in Wicker Park.

Since we don’t see each other often, I’ve been keeping in touch with Phila through his blog.  I wanted to know a little bit more about what inspires his writing, so I had a little conversation with him to learn more.  You can “listen in” below:

S: I’ve really been enjoying getting an insider’s perspective on the inner workings of your mind through reading your blog, as well as keeping tabs on your adventures in LA through your narratives.  There is always so much more that I’m learning about you. Why/how/when did you begin writing?

P: I remember several years ago, a college classmate of mine passed away. I never met her, I never knew her. But since our school was tiny, I did recognize her face.  When she died, I was curious of who she was or what kind of life she lived, so I looked up her blog. I soon found it and discovered that she had been writing a lot in her blog up until her death. So I read through it. Read about her struggles. Read about her inner thoughts. Read it all. By the time I had finally read through her entire blog, I felt like I knew her, that I had just met her. So in that sense, she was the most alive she ever was, more so than when she was actually alive.     That, is why I began writing.

S:  I find some of your work to be compelling and thought-provoking while others to be just downright hilarious.  Your entries read smoothly and easily, like having a conversation.  You say things so directly, yet I’m usually left having to read between the lines when I get to the end.  How would you describe your writing style?

P: I experiment with different techniques here and there, say if I see something that I think is pretty cool from a book I had read before, I go ahead and try it out for myself to see how it turns out. Other times, I just make something up that I think is creative, but probably more a product/result of something I had sub-consciously picked up from before.   But most of the time I find myself writing in a stream of consciousness narrative mode.  I use this primarily because I feel the most comfortable and at ease when I use this. However, I also use this because I find it to be the most effective bridge between the writer and the reader.

The main purpose of writing (and all books in general) is for the writer to communicate with the reader. It’s like the writer is the quarterback and the reader is the wide receiver.  The quarterback (writer) will throw the football (book) and it’s up to the receiver (reader) to catch it (read/understand) it. If the quarterback throws the ball but nobody catches it, he’s pretty much wasting his own time.   Now in our current day and age, reading is not the number one option (or only option) of entertainment or communication for the general public, and as a result, the general public’s reading level is collectively lower compared to the recent past. With that in mind, and from my own experience, I have found that it is very difficult for a writer to capture an average reader’s attention and even more difficult to maintain it.  I have found that directly telling a story in an easier-to-the-eye format captures and maintains one’s attention and most effectively gets the point across.

Choosing this method also has to do with my personal background, as I avoided books, libraries, and all reading in general during my formative years. I never had the chance to read the “modern western classics” of the 19th-20th century, and as a result, I never picked up on the flowery jargon and whatnot. So one thing for sure that you can expect from my entries is that you will never be overwhelmed with the flowery descriptions of things, as that type of language is not part of my natural tongue, nor am I capable of producing such lingo out of my brain because they simply are not part of it.

Avoiding such language in my own writing…I actually find this to be more modern and current, as general readers are not ready or willing to read words that will make themselves feel stupid after a paragraph or two. Such writing and books are more suitable for the few advanced readers out there (and trust me there are only a few). This does bring me back to the football example though, as I think writing and reading books of this sort is the most beautiful and at the pinnacle of the art of writing. It’s like when the most skilled quarterback throws the longest and most difficult football to catch that only he is able to throw, and only the most skilled of wide receivers catches it.  This shit is beautiful when that happens, you know. Very difficult to pull off, though.

I also find myself preferring to write in a self-deprecating voice, as I feel that is honest, humble and humorous, and if done correctly, also makes the voice sound more confident all at the same time.   I also try to work with the structuring of my sentences and choosing of my words. Occasional rhyming and alliteration is easier to the reading ear after all, and easy-to-pick up-symbolisms will make the general reader feel smart about him/herself. Always gotta look out for the general reader ya know wut I mean?

S:  Yes, I can definitely see that in your writing.  At the end of the day when I’m tired and exhausted and am mindlessly clicking through my blogroll, I don’t want to read some intellectual, “flowery” as you call it, literary piece.  That kind of stuff is usually reserved for an afternoon at the cafe w/ some Intelligentsia coffee–but when do I ever have time for that?  Or maybe I’m just not the most skilled quarterback so to speak…Nevertheless, your work is most definitely not flowery, but certainly does communicate clearly and always puts a smile on my face.  I like that.  What kinds of themes do you like to touch on?

P: I used to think that depended on what book I was reading at the moment. But now that I look through my drafts and diaries, I can see that they many of them share a common theme – I write about ‘value’ a lot. I can see now that in many of my entries I try to find the beauty and value of everything and everyone, albeit unsuccessful at times.

S:  What inspires your ideas?

P: Everything. Please allow me to explain. I began living with what I like to call “having a traveler’s mindset.” What I mean by this is that when we/people travel on vacation, we keep our eyes and minds open and try to notice, appreciate, and absorb everything we come across. That makes our trip more fulfilling and enjoyable, as compared to just taking naps in the hotel room all day (which I did for my junior year spring break trip to New York City. Needless to say that was one unfulfilling trip).  I try to have a traveler’s mindset every day and everywhere in my normal everyday life. And since I try to find value, beauty, and meaning in everything, I can honestly tell you that my life has become more valuable, beautiful, meaningful and fulfilling. And I think I became a more beautiful person in the inside, too.   So everything is interesting to me and hopefully through me everything will become an interesting story.  Don’t take naps in life, kids.  You’re missing out.

S:  I like that.  “Traveler’s mindset.”  I like to think I have a “celebrity mindset.”  Everyone I see and meet is someone special and an honor to get to know.  What do you hope to communicate through your writing?

P: That life is beautiful.

S:  You’re beautiful!  Look at this:

P: I know, I know.

S:  Switching gears, you lived in Korea for some time and the States for some time.  Tell us more about that experience of growing up in two distinctively different cultures.

P: This will become super long so I will just give you a link of my experience growing up in Korea. One thing I can tell you is that I am one of the lucky few who has a complete understanding of both cultures, and I see it as a major privilege that makes my life and background richer.

S:  You have a very unique family story.  Tell us about your family, particularly your father.

P: Every family story is unique, and yet every story is normal. My story seems very normal to me. But I guess to you it isn’t because of my father being a blind man. Steph, you did hit the jackpot of questions, as I absolutely love talking about my family and can go on forever.  My father, as you know, is blind. What I also know is that he is brave and fearless. Some of the decisions he has made in his life… seriously some rash/reckless but courageous stuff. Before this gets too long I’ll simply share a link of what I have written of him before.   My mother is the strongest person I know. She is also the person I care about the most. I can write a novel about her, so I will stop there. I am dead serious about the novel.   I have two sisters– one older, one younger. My older sister is the world’s best story teller. I honestly enjoy her version of telling me the plots of a movie more than actually watching the movie.  It always amazed me how she was able to remember every important detail of a movie in perfect sequence and how she was able to narrate it to me with such animated voices and facial expressions along with her personal commentary all at the same time. How crazy is that?  My younger sister is the cutest person on earth, and I am being completely biased here. Basically, she looks exactly like me, just with longer hair. You can check for yourself here. I thought looking like me would hurt her game, but it seems that it didn’t one bit. That’s talent I guess.

S:  What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

P: What a generic last question to wrap things up, Steph. Mad props, though. But yea, this question is something I actually spent a good amount of time thinking about before. And I have reached the conclusion that if I can live along my people and can together enjoy what life brings with it, then that will be one good life.   I dream of that for myself and everybody else.

S:  Thanks so much, Phila, for taking the time to thoughtfully answer all of my questions, and I look forward to your next blog post!

Feel free to leave a comment or even a story below about Phila, if you know him, or a question you may have about him.  And yes, ladies, he is single.  And yes, men, he is straight.