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Mother knows best

03MotherI cannot quite remember how old I was the first time I realized my mother’s words were coming out of my mouth, but it was quite a shock. It was even more shocking when I heard myself telling the Precious Jewels the same advice my mother gave me.

For example, good manners will take you places money cannot go. Education is a gift no one can take away from you. Pretty is as pretty does. And, this gem attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Nor can I remember not knowing about the importance of thank-you notes, timely RSVPs, please and thank you. Today’s parents have different ideas on this, but my mother was a stickler for “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.” Apparently, her generation had no angst about class or age distinctions or subservience, although today’s parents of young children may not be as keen on “ma’am” and “sir,” even in the South.

I can still hear my mother’s admonishment as well to always look an adult in the eye, something I still do — even though I have clearly been one myself for decades.

Food means love to most everyone, and mothers offer both several times a day. My mother worked in our family business, so gourmet cooking was not really her thing. But she had dinner on the table every night, and some of it was memorable. Red snapper baked with tomatoes, onions and peppers. Tunnel of fudge cake and Japanese fruit pie. She even introduced us to English kippers for breakfast.

I think my Precious Jewels see my cooking much the way I saw my mother’s — sustenance but generally nothing to write home about. I am gratified, though, that they still want my carrot cake for their birthdays and occasionally request some dish from the past. Their baby sitter definitely won the fried chicken contest, though.

Few people in life have more influence over us than our mothers, even when we do not know it. The Precious Jewels have no idea that some of the words out of their mouths are actually mine, and very likely my mother’s. Our mothers kept us warm, safe and full, from our first breaths. They were our security blankets from our childhood troubles at school, and they gently let us know when we were in the wrong. Our mothers know us better than almost anyone else. They know our strengths and weaknesses, what we enjoy and what we don’t, how we are likely to react to whatever life throws at us.

And, if we are lucky, our mothers instilled in us the essence of good manners, not just the outward signs of manners like “ma’am” and “sir” in the South. Good manners mean always treating others with respect and kindness, whether they are princes or paupers, the president or a garbage collector. It means not embarrassing or running down others. Good manners are the epitome of the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If your mother is around, do something special for her on Mother’s Day. Flowers are always nice as is a meal out, but most precious of all is your time and attention. Nothing means more to a mother than feeling like she is a meaningful part of her children’s lives, no matter how old they are. And, if you really want to hit a home run, make sure to say something that came from her lips and pretend you thought of it yourself

Branding survey: Your chance to define Fayetteville’s image

02DowntownHalfwayWith designators that range from “Fayettenam” to “America’s Hometown: History, Heroes, A Hometown Feeling,” Fayetteville’s story is a rich and colorful tapestry. It includes heroism and tragedy, darkness and light and all the shades and colors in between.

And this community’s journey continues forward. Polls and surveys from outside sources and their wacky metrics and logarithms can throw down whatever claims, ratings and analytics suit their fancies. When it comes down to it, they don’t know Fayetteville.

They don’t feel the pulse of the crowd when the Dogwood Festival is in full swing. They don’t feel the sense of community and empowerment the International Folk Festival and A Dickens Holiday foster. They don’t come and dance on the promenade at Fayetteville After Five concerts in Festival Park or savor the flavors of the culinary genius that prospers here — in food trucks and in restaurants and at the many farmers markets that dot the landscape.

Sure, statistics tell a story. So does compassion, innovation, hard work and inspiration. Fayetteville has all that in spades — and it doesn’t always register on an analytics scale. But it does bring flavor and personality to this international city that so many choose to call home.

People who don’t live here often have no idea about the talented performers and firstrate theaters and music organizations that call the Sandhills home. They don’t see the generosity of the multitude of nonprofits here. They don’t know Fayetteville. And they don’t get to define her or tell her story to the rest of the world. Why would we give them that power?

It’s time for people actually living and working here to own this community’s narrative, to speak the truth and project it out into the world with pride and confidence. Stop trying to outrun decades-old reputations and fallacies. Stop accepting false information from out-of-town number-crunchers looking for search engine page rankings.

Fayetteville is undertaking a new initiative to come up with a branding strategy that accurately reflects the goodness that resides here and tells the true story about the opportunities here. This isn’t about a new logo or a new motto. This is about defining what makes this place special and telling this community’s story.

The Fayetteville Cumberland Collaborative Branding Committee is taking the lead in the effort. It consists of representatives from the city of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, the Cumberland County Tourism Development Authority, Crown Complex, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Vision 2026, Cool Spring Downtown District and the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation.

The first step in accurately telling any community’s story is to gather information. That’s where we are in the process. The branding initiative wants to hear from you. Tell the committee what you think, what you want and what matters to you. This community’s story is your story, too.

Visit www.brandingfcnc.com and take the branding survey. It only takes about 15 minutes, and it covers just about every aspect of life in Cumberland County that you can imagine. Be brutally honest. This is our chance to not only counter the misinformation but to shape the future.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Hope Mills Commissioners’ red herring

02HM Pub Pen1Publisher’s Note: A special thanks to Ms. Blevins for finally explaining our side of the story about the $28,000 partnership Up & Coming Weekly had with Hope Mills. And, it had absolutely nothing to do with the money. Matter of fact, listed below are thirteen main objectives Mayor Jackie Warner, commissioners and Hope Mills staff wanted to achieve for the residents of Hope Mills.

The graphics below are from June 2017, when the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners initially heard a proposal from Bill Bowman, and from July 2017, when the Board voted unanimously to accept the proposal. But what exactly was the proposal?

What was presented as the Hope Mills Initiative was a collaborative effort between the Hope Mills staff, the Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce and Up & Coming Weekly publisher Bill Bowman. It was the result of a tremendous amount of work and research by key players in Hope Mills: Town Manager Melissa Adams, Interim Town Clerk Deborah Holland, Mayor Jackie Warner, Hope Mills Area Chamber of Commerce President Jan Spell, and the late Commissioner Bob Gorman, over many months.

Together they developed a program to “make sure local businesses have time tested, affordable and effective ways available to market, promote and advertise their business, goods and services. We will have open dialog with HM residents, providing them space to promote their events with a weekly up-to-date event calendar hosting local Hope Mills events and other relevant Cumberland County happenings. U&CW will also be providing editorial space for residents to contribute their thoughts and insights,” said Bowman in his proposal. 

It was heralded as a first tentative step toward developing a marketing strategy for the town with 13 distinct objectives.

03HM Pub Pen2Three formal discussions were held at Sammio’s, and the public was invited to hear an impressive list of community leaders discuss the initiative.

The HMI was an opportunity for the citizens, businesses and organizations in Hope Mills to take control of the narrative and tell their story. And it was an opportunity to reach 300,000 readers in Cumberland County.

Bowman also offered advertising to Hope Mills businesses and organizations at drastically discounted rates to help jump-start economic development in our community. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell and Commissioner Meg Larson have been quick to reference the roughly $28,000 the town was spending on the project, but they’ve never mentioned the $14,000 Bowman spent to get the program started or that the agreement included him matching the town’s investment and matching the costs for businesses who advertised.

And they certainly never mention the actual value of this program was conservatively more than a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of marketing.

Before the initiative had really begun, it was in trouble. This Board was sworn in a week prior to the event at Sammio’s. They balked at tasking the staff with writing articles, then balked at writing articles themselves. The initiative relied on a steady flow of information, so Bowman tasked his new sports writer, Earl Vaughan Jr., with covering Hope Mills.

Vaughan, who briefly lived in Hope Mills 30 years ago, immediately began building relationships with Hope Mills residents. He managed to plug into our community, familiarize himself with our history and stay two steps ahead of every story.

During the budget retreat March 3, 2018, the Board discussed the expense of the initiative and their alternatives. Ultimately, they voted 3-2 not to renew the agreement when it concluded on Sept. 6. Commissioners Mitchell and Pat Edwards voted against the motion. You can review the minutes from the meeting on their website, https://townofhopemills.com/agendacenter.

In the same feckless manner with which they dismiss staff recommendations, doing a feasibility study on the proposed walking trail and the expert opinion of the consultants they hire, they dismissed the HMI. They knew better than the dozen community leaders and the subject matter experts who designed the initiative.

By August 6, 2018, there was contention. Mitchell was displeased and made a motion to end the contract immediately. At that point, the municipality had already paid the agreement in full and there were already pending articles waiting for publication. Mitchell’s motion passed, but it had no effect on the publication.

In fact, it continues to have no effect on the publication. Earl Vaughan Jr. began writing about Hope Mills in the early spring of 2018. He writes two to four articles a week, depending on what’s happening and what sports are in season. He is a one-man marketing team for our town, promoting anything and everything that needs promoting.

Since Sept. 6, 2018, when the gentleman’s agreement with Hope Mills ended, Up & Coming Weekly has published more than 60 positive articles about the town of Hope Mills, including advertising for 21 events; 13 mentions of local schools, teachers and students; 26 general information pieces; and no less than 11 profiles or mentions of local businesses.

These numbers don’t include the nonstop coverage of local high school sports. They don’t include the handful of stories that were published on the website but not in the paper. They don’t include any of the articles I’ve written for Up & Coming Weekly, and they don’t include the weekly calendar of Hope Mills events. A weekly calendar isn’t published for any other non-Fayetteville municipality. In fact, no other municipality enjoys a dedicated section of the paper.

The truth is, Bowman never stopped the program he began with the previous Board in 2017. While this Board ignored the hard work of dozens of people and squandered the opportunity provided to them, Bowman quietly kept working. Bowman and Up & Coming Weekly no longer enjoy the benefit of a financial agreement with Hope Mills, but the town very much enjoys the benefit of Bowman’s generosity.

In an Aug. 10, 2018, radio interview on WFNC 640 AM, Mitchell said, “We basically said — on the last Board meeting — I just asked all media if they would report some balanced reporting — ask both sides their opinions about things — they would have a better outlook on Hope Mills and be in a more positive manner — you know — you’re not gonna accomplish anything by printing all this negative news — has a lot of misleading facts — that aren’t facts at all.

“And the fact that we cancelled the contract with this publication about 3-4 weeks ago — it loses — that publication loses credibility when they make such negative comments when they’re ‘tooted’ as a positive magazine. ... There’s a whole blog dedicated to the destruction of Commissioner Larson and myself and there’s some politics played in there.

“It kinda loses credibility when we’ve cancelled the contract and then they come back — it’s almost retaliatory in nature.” The transcript is available at https://hopemills.net/2018/08/25/we-are-one-team/.

Mitchell also said, “If you wanna give one-sided views that’s not reputable — also we did not renew your contract in September for $28,000 a year. In the general public’s eye, everything you’re doing is vindictiveness,” on March 25, 2019. The audio can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRPjk79T0Cc&feature=youtu.be.

And the commissioners still complain. Beginning in August, when Larson and Mitchell were on a local talk radio station, and as recently as the March 25 meeting, Mitchell declared Bowman was simply being vindictive because he was angry the Board cancelled the contract.

It was never simply a contract. It was a partnership conceived of and implemented by some of the most impressive leaders in our community. And it was another golden opportunity missed by this Board because they choose at all times to dwell in innuendo and conspiracy theories.

Bowman and I were both at the March 25 meeting. We were prepared to address the Board. But they used their elected seats as a pulpit from which they condemned us without ever giving us an opportunity to speak.

If Bowman was vindictive, Vaughan would have been reassigned months ago and Hope Mills wouldn’t have dozens of articles announcing its events and promoting its businesses. The Board chose not to pay to participate in the Pocket Guide published by Up & Coming Weekly several months ago, but Bowman waived the fee and included a small section for the town anyway. Does that sound like the actions of a vindictive man?

I won’t speak for Bowman’s articles, but I will tell you the articles I write are designed to mirror the Board’s actions. When they’ve done good things, I’ve reported that. Unfortunately, so little of what they do is good.

This situation, like so many others in recent months, has been misrepresented by members of the Board to defend their wretched behavior. While they hurl accusations our way, they’re free to continue misbehaving. We are their red herring.

Visit www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.2054544537974961&type=3 to see more information about the Hope Mills Initiative, Larson’s comments about Up & Coming Weekly, screen captures from the meetings and more.

Babar’s revenge

04BarbarApril is now officially the month of underdogs. Admit it, once upon a time you used to be a kid. If you were lucky, your parents read you stories before you could read. If you were really lucky, you heard the story of Babar the Elephant. To refresh your recollection, here is the Reader’s Digest version of Babar’s story. It gets kind of weepy at the beginning. If you are tenderhearted, you may wish to skip the rest of this column. But hang in there, it has several happy endings.

Our story begins with baby Babar riding on the back of his Mother through the jungle. Babar was as happy as Bambi was with his Mom before man came into the forest. However, a Hunter is hiding in the bush. The Hunter shoots and kills Babar’s Mother.

Babar cries but escapes the Hunter.

Babar runs away and ends up in the City, where he meets a very friendly Old Lady. She buys him an excellent green suit and hires tutors to educate him. Babar becomes quite the sophisticate as he dwells for several years in the City.

Eventually, his cousins Celeste and Arthur come to the City. They convince him to return to the jungle. Babar gets back to the jungle just as the King of the Elephants has become very sick after eating a poisonous mushroom. As luck would have it, the King dies shortly after Babar’s arrival. The other elephants decide Babar’s education among humans make him the perfect candidate to be the new King of the Elephants. Babar is crowned King. He marries his cousin Celeste because that’s what royalty does; they marry close relatives to maintain a grip on power and to develop hemophilia.

Fast forward to April 2019 in South Africa. There are still hunters in the jungle. Five of them snuck into the Kruger National Park to illegally hunt rhinos. Earth has a limited supply of rhinos, estimated at about 20,000 in South Africa. Their numbers dwindle each year due to poachers. Most rhinos are not a match for high-powered rifles.

But on this day, the rhinos had a friend in high places, a cranky elephant. Our poacher buddy, let us call him Slim, was hunting rhinos to sell their horns to doofuses in China, who think the horns are an aphrodisiac. While hunting rhinos, Slim got too close to an elephant whom we shall call Babar Jr.

Slim’s buddies told authorities that Babar Jr. suddenly attacked Slim. Babar Jr. squashed Slim into the ground doing the old elephant two-step all over Slim’s soon-tobe pancaked body. Yikes. That would leave a mark.

Slim’s buddies pulled his flattened body out on a road so he could be found by the authorities. His pals then high-tailed it out of the park, leaving Slim like a pork chop in an outdoor meat market.

Unfortunately for Slim, before the authorities could find his body, the lions found him first. Slim became lion chow. The search party finally found what was left of Slim near the Crocodile River. After the lions got through with him, all that was remained of Slim was his skull and a pair of pants. That was mighty slim pickings.

But it was a happy ending. Jungle Animals: One. Poachers: Zero. For one brief, shining moment, the animals were the winners. Rhinos, elephants and lions don’t often win against the hunters. But when an underdog wins, we all win. Maybe the next time the Trump boys, Don Jr. and Eric, go big game hunting for elephants, they will meet up with Babar Jr. before they can shoot him.

In keeping with April being the month of underdogs, Tiger Woods finally won the Masters again after 11 years of wandering in the rough of the golfing wilderness. Huzzah for Tiger. He kept at it.

The same week, Chris Davis, a member of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, ended his longest hitless streak for a nonpitcher in the history of major league baseball. Davis had gone without a hit in his last 54 times at bat, stretching all the way back to last season. Thanks to Davis, the Orioles won the game. Don’t feel too sorry for him. Davis is getting paid $161 million dollars as part of a seven-year contract. He will be alright.

So, what have we learned today? Sometimes karma works and an elephant will caress a bad guy with his toes. Lions don’t require Texas Pete hot sauce when eating a poacher pancake. Tiger Woods and Chris Davis prove that persistence pays in all areas of life. If you give a monkey a typewriter, he will eventually type a column. The very existence of this column is proof of the typing monkey theory.

Jimi Hendrix once said, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” I say, “Excuse me while I go eat a banana.”

Seasons come

10springIsn’t it beautiful when spring arrives? Even that blanket of yellow dust on every surface is lovely. As suffocating as it can be, pollen points to change, to winter coming to an end. Soon after, every tree, bush, flower and blade of grass awakens to the warmth of spring. When pollen season hits, everything lying in wait of warm weather comes bursting forth. The colors are vibrant. Flowers bloom. Grass is green. It’s a stunning sight after the bareness of winter.

We know what pollen brings. Pollen signals a natural segue to life. Does anyone actually care about that wave of pollen after flowers start blooming? We all know the sights, tastes, sounds and smells of spring. We know the life it brings.

But eventually, after summer’s warmth and the cool of fall, winter sets in again. Everything that came to life in the spring has run its cycle and dies again. Winter brings crunchy leaves. Pine needles become pine straw, and the colors of fall turn to grays and browns. Trees are bare. Forests seem quite vulnerable, with every branch on display, light touching places it just couldn’t reach in the fullness of summer.

There’s a certain line of trees on the farm I grew up on that I’m reminded of when I think about winter. Several years ago, I took my dog for a walk down my parents’ road, a road I had walked umpteen times in my life, and I noticed a field I had never paid attention to before.

My family didn’t own it, so my childhood farm adventures never took me to explore it. The pine trees had shed all of their needles, and I could see straight through to the other side. In the distance, I could see a high school football field, the silver lights shining in the sunshine, matching the height of the trees nearby.

It wasn’t until winter that I could see clearly just how close we were to the local high school. I never realized it until all the trees were bare.

I think God created seasons to show us more about our lives. Some things remain hidden until the thick of winter.

It’s in the winters of our lives — the hardest times, the toughest times, the loneliest times — that everything feels lifeless and stripped bare. We’re vulnerable. Exposed. The tiniest bit of light shining on us displays the hurt, the grief, the regret, the despair, the bitterness we feel. And it seems like those in close proximity can see right through us, no matter how hard we try to hide.

But there’s always more if we look past the surface. There’s so much good to be found in winter.

That same feeling of vulnerability can be used as a tunnel to our own heart. Things we didn’t even know we were capable of, whether good or bad, are suddenly uncovered. There’s an unfamiliar clarity we can use to our advantage if we take a moment to see it.

Winter sets the stage for the life that comes with spring. Ann Bradstreet once said, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.” How true that is. Spring is always right around the corner. You will never see a winter that doesn’t have spring following behind it. Spring is coming. Spring is here.

If we stay in this mindset that winter will last forever, we’ll miss the glimpses of a new season coming. Change is hard. Especially when winter has become comfortable. But God sends agents of change that make us feel uncomfortable, the “pollen,” if you will, and it sometimes seems anything but lovely. It will make us sneeze, make our eyes water and make us have to wash our car more. It’s a huge nuisance more than anything else.

But if we can embrace life’s “pollen,” the uncomfortable means by which we make a change, knowing it brings life and life more abundant, we can notice the growth. What we once thought was dead has come alive again, and it’s morebeautiful than ever.

Spring is here, and it so lovely.

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