“It’s exciting to think about what Haywood County could be. The desire is there.”

— Buddy Melton, fiddler/singer, Balsam Range

It’s inspiring when you come across people who have both a vision and the wherewithal to turn it into reality. It makes me want to climb on board with them and be a part of that success. That’s what I see happening with local bluegrass supergroup Balsam Range and its “Art of Music Festival.”

The day of my stepfather’s celebration of life service was a brisk, sunny Saturday morning, as good a day as any to celebrate life. We got up before daylight, made coffee, put on our nice clothes, packed the car, and hit the road for the three-hour drive up to Sparta, where we would meet the rest of the family before all the people started showing up to hug us or shake our hands as we stood in a long line to greet them.

In a book on the nature of state legislatures, the journalist Frank Trippett coined the term “true constituency” to explain why so many politicians act as badly as they do.

Holidays are all fun and games until death and divorce happen. Then they become an aching headache, if a person lets them. My goal is to ward off that headache by any means possible.

I’ve been throwing around ideas for this column over the past week. Thanksgiving is the obvious choice. It’s impossible to write about this day in the same manner as two or three years ago. I remember writing a column back then titled “Surviving Thanksgiving.” It was a light, humorous piece suggesting activities to entertain kids while the adults cooked, drank wine, watched football and conversed about holiday shopping.

I don’t like following crowds and have a naturally occurring cynicism of trends. That said, there’s one holiday promotional movement that strikes a real chord with me.

I’m talking about the “Small Business Saturday” or “Shop Small Saturday,” whatever name one chooses as a label. It’s this Saturday (Nov. 27), and the concept is to shop at the privately owned businesses in large and small towns across the nation as a way of supporting all they do to help their local communities.

Lightning. It’s a yellow, 20-ounce Vaughn framing hammer with one of the claws broken that I’ve owned for about 34 years. It was purchased brand new at a building supply store in Boone, along with the leather tool belt and speed square that I also still use.

This past Saturday, I spent hours finishing the floor joists on what will eventually be a 20-foot-by-16-foot shed and workshop. This is the workshop I’ve been putting off building for, oh, about 20 years.

The list of allegations is dizzying and depressing. Every day, it seems, there are new reports of predatory behavior by someone famous, maybe someone you have admired. For me, it was Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., both accused of horrendous acts of sexual harassment and/or assault. Both of these men — once beloved and held in the highest regard among lovers of film and television — have confessed and are now suddenly pariahs, having been fired from their various projects and awaiting whatever legal repercussions may obtain.

Asheville is red hot in more ways than I can list here. Pick up a travel magazine, visit an outdoor adventure website, listen to interviews with famous musicians or screen stars, or read articles discussing best places to visit, retire, live, eat or open a business and Asheville is among the places brought up.

I know that’s not breaking news, but the fact that we all know it’s the truth is why I think it was a smart idea for Haywood County to partner with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce for economic development marketing.

Over the past couple years, this column has been a sounding board for me. I’ve written about everything from coping with my mom’s death to getting a tattoo. But one major life woe I’ve kept mostly to myself is being separated from my husband.

Local politics in Western North Carolina have long been dominated by the good ole boys. But like they say about winter in “The Game of Thrones,” change is coming.

I’ve spent much of my career as a journalist — the past 25 years — covering the towns and counties west of Buncombe County, watching as local civic leaders made decisions that have had lasting effects on the region. Aside from Sylva — which has a long tradition of female leaders in politics and business — it’s been a game dominated by old white guys.

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