It’s been TOO long!

I know, I know, you probably thought I moved away or lost interest in this blog. The truth is, the past year and a half has been pretty wild. My employer, Millard & Company, was acquired by Parsec Financial. The founder of Millard & Company, Andy Millard, officially retired from our firm and is now a coach to other financial advisors. In the midst of this major transition, our only other employee who is a rock star got pretty sick and it took almost a year before she was able to return to work. So please forgive me but, I’m back and look forward to sharing more insights and experiences from our life here in little ole Tryon.

First thing I want to do is draw your attention to Carol Browning’s Community Arts Calendar. If you ever wanted to know EVERYTHING that was going on on a particular date in our community, look no further. Click here to see/read more. 

It’s good to be back. I’ve missed you. – Michael

Paying It Foward

If you watched the news lately, you may think the world is coming to an end. I beg to differ. Below is the replay from a recent dinner experience with my family. I’m not making this up.

My daughter has gotten into riding horses – big time. I watched a lot of Western movies growing up but I know very little about horses other than they are expensive to own and maintain, or so I’ve been told. Every week after her riding lessons, we go to this “establishment” near us to celebrate another successful lesson without injury or over-drafting my account to pay for lessons.

This past week, we sat in our usual spot and waited on the waitress to greet us. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see an older gentleman along with what appeared to be his wife and grown children enjoying a meal. He had this warm face, like he had known me for a long time. He kept looking at our family and just smiling. I got nervous thinking we were interrupting their dinner experience. Remember, I have kids. Kids can be loud and squirmy and mine are just that, especially one of them. After a few awkward glances back and forth this gentleman calls me over to the table. Thinking he wanted to see one of my kids who are much cuter and have better hair, I asked him are you sure you want ME to come over?  He said yes, I ran over expecting to get a tongue lashing for letting my kids ruin his meal. Boy was I wrong.

He looks at me says, “You have a beautiful family. You are and your family are what make this country so great.” I responded, “But Donald Trump thinks we need him to Make America Great Again.”

I thanked him and went back to my table, which has now turned, into pure chaos. Jack is hungry and trying to drill a hole in the table with his fork. Ellie, who is tired and smells like a wet, sweaty horse is in serious need of food.  Luckily, it arrives soon, and all is right with the world. Jack’s fork will never be the same.

After dinner I ask for the check and the waitress tells me, “It’s been taken care of.”

I knew exactly who paid for my meal and why he did it.  I couldn’t help but see a little bit of myself in him. He was nearer the end of his life than the beginning, his children were grown (all 10 of them) and seeing my young boisterous and smelly family allowed him to reminisce a little about times gone past.

No matter what season of life you are in, I hope you took this past Easter weekend to celebrate the past, present and the future.

And to my new friend Joe, thank you for your act of kindness. It meant more to me than you know and I hope I can live up to your expectations.

No snowplows? No problems!

I’ll go ahead and state what most of us in Tryon, NC are probably thinking. – Thank goodness the snow has melted and has anyone seen a snowplow?!

I know we have a lot of transplants here from points North of us and for who snow is not a big deal but, I am not one of them. For me, snow = fun at first, followed by depression. It brings back some troubling memories from a few winters in the Northeast.

We live on top of a pretty big hill at the end of a long gravel road. So, when it snows, we’re pretty much stuck in our house until the road gets scraped or the snow melts – whichever comes first. Let’s just say it took a few days for the snow to melt, I’ll leave it at that.

At first, it was exciting; we built a fire in the wood stove and I didn’t go into work on a Friday. We turned the TV on, something we rarely do these days for fear of seeing one of the three D’s: Death, Disaster and Dysfunction. We tackled a few household chores that we’ve been avoiding, played a f board game or two and just enjoyed some downtime with the family. Then, it was 10:00am and I was bored out of my mind. So we decided to take our new puppy out for a walk in the fresh snow. After dressing our kids for the next 45 minutes it was time to hit the slopes of Polk County. I remember my four-year old saying as we’re leaving the house, “Dad, I can’t bend my knees.” “Don’t worry son,” I say, “the extra layers will help you when you’re sledding down our steep driveway and into the group of mailboxes at the base of the hill.”

Once we got outside, my depression quickly turned into jubilation. It was beautiful! There is something about the snow in the mountains. It was quiet and peaceful. After a few runs down the double-black-diamond hill on the sled, reality began setting in as my eight-year old started getting cold. I thought those cotton pants were waterproof.

We spent the rest of the day thawing out from our 20 minutes of snow-time and praying the power would stay on, and it did! I take back most of those things I’ve said about Duke Power.

All in all, it was a fabulous few days with those I hold most dear. A snowstorm and some missing snowplows reminded me of what’s most important – each other.


Here we are at the top of the double black-diamond sledding hill. (aka. our driveway)

I LOVE Christmas Parades!

One of the neat things about small-town living is the ubiquity of our parades. I think the main reason we have so many is to make sure our emergency vehicles still run. We may have more parades than full-fledged emergencies around here. We recently had a “Tuesday Parade” to celebrate the fact that it was a Tuesday. One thing I’ve noticed about our parades is the amount and ear-piercing loudness of our emergency vehicles. Since when did a deafening fire truck become synonymous with Christmas? Here is a quick glance into my life during the recent Tryon Christmas Parade:


I left work a little early to get a prime seat right in the heart of Tryon. Me, and my four-year old son Jack, walked across the tracks to wait for procession. All was going swimmingly to start. Just as Jack is settling in, the first fire truck lets off a loud, long honk and siren, like it’s on the way to a massive emergency only it’s moving about one mile per hour. Jack went from happy-happy to a full-on melt-down in a split second. Luckily, I was able to shove a newfound piece of candy (from the street) into his mouth and he calmed right down.

Next, we watch a few more parade participants pass by, each throwing more pure sugar at my 4-year old. He picks up another piece of candy off the street and says, “Can I have this dad?” “Sure,” I say. “I think eating more candy from the street on an empty stomach is a great idea.” And then, I see it – the Hillbilly Clan that must be in EVERY local parade with their fire horns and loud speakers. They usually bring up the rear of a parade and make sure your youngster is in full meltdown mode as you run back to your car.

I decide to make a run for it so I can maintain some level of control. As I’m swiftly walking back towards my car, I of course bump into someone I know, remember this is Tryon, you can’t go anywhere in a hurry. We end up in a conversation, it’s Christmas after all. But, in the back of my mind I know the Hillbilly Clan is still a-creepin, so I cut the conversation short and keep moving only to bump into someone else who I haven’t seen in a while. Jack, who at this time is all raged up on sugar, wants to see the “pictures on my phone.” Thinking that will buy me a few more minutes to catch-up with my friend, I acquiesce. All of a sudden, I hear the Hillbillies approaching. I quickly grab the phone out of Jack’s hand and try to get him to pick up the pace with me. Oh no, what have I done? I can see his face turning blood red; steam is getting ready to come out of his ears. I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I took something out of Jack’s hands without giving him a little warning. Jack’s face turns into the color of Rudolph’s nose, and he’s holding back the tears I know I have but one choice. Say it with me parents (grandparents would not succumb to this level): “Give him the phone back, ANOTHER PIECE OF CANDY and apologize profusely.” 

But it’s too late, they have caught up to us and there is nowhere to run. They launch that loud music from that speaker about two inches from Jack’s head and he is done for. Jack is crying, dad is fired up and now running with a screaming toddler over my shoulders to the car.  (SCENE ENDS)

Don’t you just love Christmas parades?

Here’s wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a meltdown free 2016. 

I’m a dope!

My most recent blog post contained a few errors and I’d like to correct those. The decorated officer I had the privilege of escorting during our Veterans Day parade, was not a Vietnam War veteran. He was a decorated Marine infantry officer and Army Chaplain during multiple conflicts including the Cuban Missile Crisis. Please forgive this error on my part. I was alerted to this error by none other than this retired Marine himself who wanted no false credit whatsoever. Does this surprise you?

My own embarrassment aside, I’m more concerned that I have a retired, decorated Marine mad at me. Hopefully all those years as an Army Chaplain will come in handy as he forgives me for this blunder.

I’ll do my best to not make stuff up going forward. Thanks for your leniency. – Michael

Updated and accurate (I hope) blog post can be found here.

A view from the inside

This past week, we celebrated Veterans Day all across our country in towns large and small. Here in our little corner of the world, we had our own celebration, complete with a parade and ceremony. Veterans of every war since WWII, were present to honor and be honored. I had a view from the inside and I’ll never forget it. For your own view from the inside, I hope you’ll watch this amazing video (above) put together by our own Erik Olsen Pictures.

I had the privilege of driving a car carrying one of our own who served our country with honor and valor. He was a decorated Marine infantry officer and Army Chaplain. He and his family moved to Tryon years ago to pastor a local church. This man and his family made great sacrifices for our country and now he and his wife are quietly living, working and serving behind the scenes in our community. If it wasn’t for Veterans Day, most of us would have no idea what these men and women did for our country.

Since I was actually “in” the parade, even though I’m not a Veteran, I got to see the countless expressions of gratitude as we slowly proceeded along the parade route. I saw children holding homemade signs and waiving miniature flags. I witnessed the elderly as well as people in wheelchairs waiving their hands and mouthing the words “Thank you.” There was a lone man standing in the back of his truck saluting. And there were the hundreds of people young and old shouting, “Thank you for your service.” It was a powerful experience I hope I never forget. While I never served in our armed forces, this past week I got a little taste of what it’s like to be a Veteran on Veterans Day and it was a humbling experience.

To all of those who served our country whether directly or indirectly, I join the echoes who say, “Thank you for your service.” Thanks to you and your sacrifices, my life is pretty much perfect. Here’s hoping I don’t wait another year to be reminded of what you did.

Our Voice Matters!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

This place is filled with creative, eclectic and opinionated folks. If you don’t believe me, just ask someone around here a question about anything. A few topic ideas could be: Duke Power’s Western Carolinas Modernization Project, The Polk County Board of Commissioners, TIEC, Water, Nina Simone and where to get the best Bar-B-Que or craft beer. That should get you started. Let me know how that goes.

One thing that’s pretty unique about this place is that people CHOOSE to live here. Often times where we live is determined by circumstances out of our control. Perhaps a job took us to a new town or, maybe we fell in love with someone and needed to relocate to be closer to him or her. Love and money can make us do some strange things, or at least that’s what I hear! ☺

As I’ve written before, some folks are natives to this area and they will be the first to tell you that. But many of us are foreigners – we came here from somewhere else. What brought most of us here was not necessarily a job, since we don’t have many of those here. People come here and live here because they want better quality of life. And we can get pretty fired up about things that may negatively impact our community. We want to protect our piece of paradise from outside invaders. We might be friendly but we’re also feisty!

Take the Duke Power transmission lines as an example. Duke Power is a big, utility company, which is about the equivalent of a federal judge when it comes to getting what they want. In many respects, they make their own rules. Unless you’ve been living under a rock on the top of Hogback Mountain, you’re aware of Duke’s “Western Carolina’s Modernization Project.” What seemed like a foregone conclusion has become anything but that. In fact, Duke Power recently announced their plans no longer require ripping apart a huge swath of our beautiful, rural countryside. Why the change of heart? Because a group of committed, thoughtful citizens made a stand. We wrote letters, shared Facebook posts, attended meetings, wrote more letters, attended more meetings, shared more Facebook posts until finally, reason, logic and common sense prevailed. Way to go us!

Now, what’s the next great challenge we need to address so that we continue to protect our beautiful and wonderful way of life for generations to come? Remember your voice matters but try to balance the friendliness with feistiness. We’ve got a reputation to uphold!

We can do ANYTHING!

I continue to be amazed by what people can accomplish when they unite for a common purpose. This past weekend, Tryon hosted it’s first TEDx event. I have watched and/or listened to hundreds of TED talks. It may be my number one source for learning new things and hearing new perspectives these days. A TEDx is simply a locally organized TED conference. You can learn more about TED by clicking here. If you have any interest in anything, I highly encourage you to explore that (and other topics) via the TED website.

The theme for this inaugural event was, “Live, Inspire, Repeat.” The speakers and entertainers ranged from a Polk County High English School teacher turned bio-fuel entrepreneur to a group of 18 – 80 year olds tap dancing. Now, I’m not a big fan of watching people tap dance, but that’s wasn’t the point. The tap dancers reminded me it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. If you spend too much time worrying about what people think, you may not be living life to it’s fullest. Anyone who changed the course of history for the better was usually a pioneer – someone who looked at the world or a problem in a slightly different way and then went out and did something about it. When is the last time you came across someone who was truly living an “inspired” life? For me, it’s rare, but when it happens I’m reminded to get busy living. Life is far too short and my opportunities are far too great to ever settle.

All of the presentations from TEDx Tryon will be available by video soon. I had lots of takeaways from the event but the two that really stuck are:

  1. If you have a passion, pursue it with everything you have, you might just find your true calling in life.

  2. When in doubt or in pain, be kind, listen and forgive. There is always more to the story.

Special thanks to Loti and Corrie Woods for having the passion and the courage to make this event happen. Our community and our lives are better and richer because of you. Thank you for living and inspiring. It’s up to us to go repeat. 

It’s easier to see the stars!

I don’t travel much but when I do, I’m reminded how lucky I am to live in the country. Ok, let’s be honest, I don’t actually live in the country, but we do have more farms than red-lights around here.

When I think about country living, I think about the way my mom and dad grew up. For them a trip to “town” was a big deal, and a big effort. And, it usually involved walking a long way. For me, a trip to “town” is about a two minute drive. Mind you, our “town” isn’t like most, we have just a few restaurants, zero traffic and parking problems but there’s something here you don’t see when just passing through town. I can’t fully articulate it, but those who live here know what I mean.

Living outside of the big city has taught me I don’t really need all that extra stuff. Sure a few more restaurants would be nice but I’m more than willing to trade a little bit of convenience for more of a rural way of life.

I was in Austin, TX last week, a very cool city no doubt. But dang, it was filled with people! Every where I walked and drove, I was fighting crowds. I found myself exhausted and craving the mountains of Western, NC.

During my trip to Texas, I bumped into a good friend. He’s about my age and has three young children. When I asked him if we could get together the following day, he said he couldn’t because that was his “chemo” day. Excuse me? Chemo? As in, “You have cancer, chemo?” Then he proceeds to tell me that he has colon cancer, and was told it was terminal. Doctors are telling him he has a few months to live. He told me this like we were talking about college football or something. I mean this guy’s life may be over in a few months but yet he seemed so content and at peace. Me, I was rocked for the rest of my trip. I asked him what’s been the most shocking thing about his experience and he said, “How loved I am.” He told me to make sure I tell those I care about how much I love them, every day. He then said something I’ll never forget: “It takes real darkness to see how bright the stars are.”

I like to visit the big city every once in a while, but I don’t want to live there. Tryon is just right. Scratch that, it’s perfect. It’s also a little easier to see the stars.

Hang in there J Elder. My life is better because of you. Here’s hoping you get to see the stars for a long, long time.

At Last!

We’re home!

I’ve been dreaming about living in a small, eclectic mountain town for as long as I can remember. Every stop along the way for me always felt temporary and, as a result, I was hesitant to plant roots too deep. Not anymore, I’m home.

I’ve lived in enough places to know that nowhere is perfect. Some places are too big and congested and others are too small and boring.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve moved into what we hope is our forever home. As someone who hasn’t stayed in the same place for more than five years since high school, this statement sounds almost surreal to me.

When Carolyn and I were contemplating this move to Tryon, NC we were hoping for the following things:

  1. Access to the outdoors
  2. A community of friends
  3. A place where everybody knows your name
  4. A safe place where our kids can roam and be free
  5. Easier access to hiking trails than a shopping mall
  6. A challenge
  7. Exposure to people with different backgrounds and beliefs but a tolerance for those who are different than themselves
  8. Access to parents and grandparents
  9. More quality time with our children
  10. More sustainable lifestyle

In order for us to have these goals above, we had to give up the following:

  1. Quick access to lots of different types of restaurants and shopping
  2. Congestion and crowds
  3. Anonymity
  4. Clean cars (we live on a dirt road now)
  5. Long commutes

You can’t have it all, or can you? It just depends on your definition of the word “all.”

I’m done Moving to Tryon, NC. I live here now.