Archives

Oddballs

The State Newspaper Carrier, Route C14454

The Thank You Project

 

 

Dear Paper Delivery Friend,

Every weekend my Saturday and Sunday mornings start with the same
comfortable ritual.

After I wake up way too early for a weekend, I start a strong pot of coffee. Once brewing begins, I tread out the door to get The State newspaper that’s tucked beneath our mailbox. When I venture outside, the day is just waking so the gray morning fuzz hides my pjs and bedhead. Then over several cups of hot coffee, while everyone else in the house is still asleep, I scour the newspaper section by section.

It’s a short two-day routine I cherish and I thank you for all the work you do to make it possible.

In this day and age, your ever-present ongoing reliability amazes me.

I am so grateful to have my newspaper, always put so carefully just right where it should be. Because of your work, the paper is never late, never wet and never, ever blowing through my front yard.

I know your workday must start absurdly early. So for every rainy, cold, crack of dawn Saturday and Sunday morning that you’re out there, I offer you a million thanks.

You make my day.

Thank you for all you do for me and every other subscriber on route C14454.

 

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live. 

Rachel

 

 

Dear South Carolina Ob/GYN Associates,

I’ve been a patient for years. When Dr. Grumbach said it was time for a baseline mammogram, I had good intentions of doing it.

Then, as it does for many women, life’s day-to-day fires pushed my mammogram lower, then off the ‘Things-I-Must-Remember-to-do-Now’ list. Until last week when I had my first mammogram in your office.

As a writer, you’d think I’d know what to expect. But, as your mammography technician Rachel Blume can attest, I asked a pile of questions. She answered each one thoughtfully, clearly and with a down-to-earth sense of humor that’s missing in many medical settings. I never saw a shred of impatience, never felt rushed. I felt like answering my questions was what mattered to her. Even better, it was important to her.

Rachel made me feel so at ease, the entire process seemed no worse than a blood pressure check. Then she took extra time to explain digital images and carefully explained what may or may not happen after my images are read.

Having a mammogram is important. It’s also important to have the right type of person involved in the process. I wanted to let you know that Rachel is a great clinical technician. But she takes another important step beyond her job duties.

She truly cares about your patients and the work she does. And it shows.

With great doctors like mine and wonderful employees like Rachel there’s never a reason to go anywhere else.

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith letter writing and blog project. I’m recognizing and thanking people who enrich my life and make my community an even better place to live. 

Richard

 

 

Dear Richard,

A little over a year ago, my dear friends’ dog Elsa went missing. Today, it’s hard to believe she was only gone a week. At the time, each day dragged on like a month.

I remember little about that week. There were cold, rainy days that deepened the heartache. I remember driving for hours hoping for a glimpse of her bright yellow fur. I remember so many friends searching, putting up posters, sharing news on social media, even through they didn’t know Elsa’s family.

I remember the first pangs of resignation creeping in as days turned into a week.

While there is much I cannot recall, some moments are seared in my memory. I was eating lunch when I got the call that Elsa had been found. I remember being consumed by the need to see her. I had to see her to believe it could even possible.

As I barreled into the exam room, blinded by tears, Elsa launched at me from the floor. She was the happiest dog I’ve ever seen. The most beautiful, wiggliest, ecstatic animal imaginable. Minutes later, my friend and her daughter ran into the room. Her sweet young daughter dropped to the floor and buried her face in Elsa’s coat. The sound that came from her daughter was like nothing I’ve ever heard. Released anguish. Pure joy. Delirious relief. It rings in my ears even today. Seeing Elsa reunited with her family was an amazing, precious gift.

I will never forget how you took time to care. To coax Elsa over. To see if she had a collar and ID tag. Your efforts got Elsa back to her loving home, family and friends.

Every time I see Elsa, I think of what you did and I am grateful. You made every moment I have with Elsa possible.

Thank you for your extraordinary kindness.

 

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

Forest Acres Restaurant and Merchant Association

 

 

Dear Forest Acres Restaurant and Merchant Association,

I have lived in Forest Acres for years. I love everything about this community, from the rambling 1950’s homes to the tall leafy trees. It’s a neighborhood rich with character. That’s one of the main reasons we chose to live here.

Another thing I’ve come to appreciate more and more is Forest Acres residents’ undeniable sense of community. There’s a spirit of togetherness and familiarity that adds value to our homes.

Local events, like your fantastic Rooftop Rhythms atop Richland Mall, are opportunities for us to gather together to celebrate our community as good friends and neighbors. Every time we go, we stay later than we plan to and I have even more fun than I did the last time. In-between the music and laughs, I often look over the crowd and thank my lucky stars to be a part of something — somewhere — so wonderful.

I’m grateful to be a part of this community and proud my children are growing up in a neighborhood where we can play, learn, live and enjoy so much.

Thank you for investing in Forest Acres and its residents. Your events and businesses are carving out a pretty sweet spot in the big picture that’s Columbia, SC. And the picture just keeps getting better and better!

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

 

Emile

Some weeks there’s no question who will get the Thank You Project letter. Other weeks I swim around a short list until something out of the blue hijacks the letter and steals it for itself. That’s what happened this weekend. While I’ve been to the All Local Farmers’ Market many times, I gained a new appreciation for it on Saturday. The market is much more than a place to buy food. It’s a place that could and should change how you think about food and eating. Someday I will stay long enough to enjoy one of Kristian’s yummy Rosso breakfasts and toast Emile, hopefully over some of his amazing Caw Caw Creek Farm bacon.

Dear Emile,

My name is Julie Turner and I am a writer on a yearlong quest called The Thank You Project. Once a week for the next year, I am thanking someone who quietly makes my life or my community better.

When I arrived at the All Local Farmers’ Market this past weekend, I immediately knew you would get this week’s letter.

Saturday morning was cold and dreary. As my children and I rounded the corner of 701 Whaley, the sheer beauty of the market stopped me in my tracks. I could practically feel the warmth of the soft cheerful globes of light all the way out on Whaley Street. Finally making my way inside, I passed by tables of locals chattering and lingering over breakfast and was jealous until I got inside. My basket was quickly full with several types of homemade biscuits, a bag of curly City Roots spinach, fresh dill, some pre-made BLT dip and a hearty enchilada casserole that saved dinner at my house last night.

As I drove back home that morning, I found myself admiring my bounty. It was all beautiful, fresh food I would be thrilled to serve to my family and friends. I wish I could say that about more of my food and meals.

I am so grateful to have this type of market in Columbia. It’s a place to share, learn and gather as well as buy fantastic local food and goods. Thank you for the years of effort you and others put forth to make such a place possible.

Your inspiration and dedication changed the Columbia landscape in a very tangible and meaningful way for so many people. You made Columbia a better place.

Thank you for such an incredible gift to our city.

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

Trenholm Plaza Publix Deli Employees

I have waited in the grocery store deli line more times than I care to count. This week’s Thank You Project letter is for my local grocery store heroes: the men and women behind the counter at the Trenholm Plaza Publix. They are meat and cheese slicing ninjas. The line can be ten deep and you never see any sign of angst or pressure on one of their faces. Plus, they have an uncanny knack of knowing just the right moment your three year old needs a slice of something to do.

 

Dear Trenholm Plaza Publix Manager,

My name is Julie Turner and I have embarked on a yearlong quest called The Thank You Project. Once a week for the next year, I am thanking someone who quietly makes my life or my community better.

Your deli employees don’t know me by name but we’ve spent a lot of time together over the years. My kids eat a lot of salami.

In all the time I’ve spent at the deli counter, I’ve often noticed how busy they are. So many times they face what must seem like an endless line. What never fails is how each of them faces this onslaught with speed, accuracy and a smile on their face.

Every time they work through the line, I watch in admiration. It’s not easy work — it involves math, manners and a sharp, spinning blade.

I’m often impressed by how quickly they help so many people. But what I truly appreciate and admire is the great customer service they provide even during high-traffic times like football game days, Saturday mornings and the weekday afternoon rush.

I hope they know their hard work does not go unnoticed. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I choose to shop at your Publix store.

 

Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

City of Columbia Water Department

 

I spent Christmas day at home with my family. I had coffee, lounged about in my jammies and played with my kids in front of a roaring fire. A pretty blissful day in my book.

Outside it was dreary. It rained and got colder as the day went on. A few miles from my warm happy ranch, a crew of City of Columbia Water Department workers spent most of the day fighting with a broken water line. This week’s Thank You Project letter is for them. Sure it’s a job, but one that called them away from their homes, outside, in the rain, all day, on Christmas Day.

 

Dear City of Columbia Water Department,

While many of us celebrated Christmas day snug in our homes, I know at least one city water crew didn’t have that luxury. Water mains break even during Christmas.

I live in the Satchel Ford neighborhood of Forest Acres where many homes were without water most of Christmas day. What’s far worse than not being able to take a shower is that so many people had to work to repair that water main — for the majority of the day and into the night — on one of the biggest holidays of the year.

It’s safe to say, having clean water come from all the faucets is something we take for granted. It’s easy to forget how many people it takes to make good water possible. And we do have great water!

So thank you to all of you who keep us clean and hydrated. And, a special thanks to those of you who are always there for the emergencies, breaks and floods.

Whether it’s a plain old Wednesday or the year’s biggest holiday, I am grateful for all of the work you do for our city.
Sincerely,

Julie Smith Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

 

George Family

 

This week’s Thank You Project letter is true to the holiday season. The Turners love holiday lights. We seek and enjoy the bright joyful displays you only get to see one month of the year. There are many houses in Forest Acres with a strand here, a balloon there. Then there are our favorite houses which never disappoint us year after year.

 

Dear George Family,

My name is Julie Turner and I am a writer here in Columbia. I have embarked on a yearlong quest called The Thank You Project. Once a week for the next year, I am sending a much deserved thank you note to someone who has touched my life.

I know you don’t know who I am so bear with me.

I live in your neighborhood and have for the past eight years. I’m not sure exactly when we discovered your home’s Christmas lights but every year we wait for the day when your decorations are up and aglow. It’s a pretty amazing sight for anyone to behold but I have two young boys who love to drive by your house and see all of the holiday lights and balloons. They “oooh” and “ahh” the entire way around the corner and hate when someone drives up behind us pushing us along way before we are ready.

I’m sure it takes a good deal of work for you to put all of the decorations up every year. I want you to know what joy your effort brings to my family and me each holiday season. For us, seeing your house decorated, finally means the real Christmas season is underway.

Thank you for the joy you bring to our community. It’s part of what makes Forest Acres such a special place.

Happy holidays to you and your family!
Sincerely,

Julie Turner

 

The Thank You Project is a yearlong Wordsmith blog project recognizing people who need to be thanked more often for their many contributions to our lives and communities. 

The cane squeezing.

It’s pretty rare to have an opportunity to do something you’ve never done and a Saturday with no plans. That’s just what happened to us on Saturday. There was no soccer, no to-do list, no house project. Just an invitation to join friends at a cane squeezing at Hatiola Hunt Club somewhere deep in Barnwell County.

What’s a cane squeezing you ask? No need to be embarrassed. I didn’t know what it was either. So I googled it and found this.

Armed with some background and the invitation from friend and hunt club member, Andy Riley, we were off. It was just about an hour or so from home, but you’d think we were hours away. The kids marveled at horses and cows. And noticed there were very few houses. But one of the most interesting sights on the drive was the cotton.

We passed field after field. Pure white soft puffs looking oddly out of place on dead-looking twigs. We were even thrilled to catch a glimpse of cotton being harvested. I could have watched that for hours, I think. Ready-to-harvest fields, old machinery, endless rows of cotton. So un-digital. So un-modern. So wonderful.

When we arrived at Hatiola, an old homestead/hunt club/setting for grown men to tell their tall tales and cook to their hearts’ content, we saw the draft horses turning the ancient press. Inside the horse’s path, one person pushed stalks of sugar cane between two giant wheels. As the horse slowly ambled around the circle, all the sugar was pressed from the stalk leaving behind a stringy snake-skin looking husk.

I asked Andy what they did with the liquid since it all seemed so purposeful and important. He laughed and said they’d tried to make syrup, then rum. Now they just try to give it away.

It was a perfect southern Saturday. The sun was warm even though the wind had a bite. The whole day yawned before us. The Gamecocks hadn’t yet lost to Arkansas. A live bluegrass band, The Blue Iguanas, provided the perfect soundtrack.

After a few announcements, lunch was served. We wound our way up the rickety front steps and were asked to sign the official register. Based on the number of pages already signed, generations of friends and family have enjoyed the cane squeezing before us. Then we saw lunch. In the hallway on table after table, lay every variation of every Sunday casserole you could ever imagine. Andy had already assured us the main course was the best “effa’” chicken bog. I assure you, he is right.

We loaded up our plates and headed back out to enjoy lunch al fresco while shooing off a flock of very well behaved hunting dogs and the yellow jackets who by now had figured out there was good stuff to be had.

Later, we enjoyed a ride through the property in the back of Andy’s pick up truck. We stopped twice. Once so the kids could climb all over Andy’s deer stand or “treehouse” as they dubbed it. Then again a bit later so the kids could take a close look at the cotton and pick a puff or two to bring home as a souvenir. It was a fun, adventurous day.

Andy said we were welcome to come back next year since we didn’t do anything to get barred from the property (which has apparently happened a few times). I am so grateful. There was a whole historical discussion on the back porch I missed. There must be so much to show and tell in a house that storied. And to hear it told in person is a treasure in itself.

I started the day thinking the cane squeezing was all for show. Just something they’d always done. But later on I realized that it’s the most important part of the day.

It’s the reason for the celebration. The squeeze draws long-time friends together. It draws children, families and new friends from miles and hours away. It’s a slow kind of easy that’s absent in most of what we do today.

And to think it all came to be because we had nothing to do on a Saturday. I think we need to free more Saturdays. Days like the one we had at Hatiola Hunt Club fill in the holes left by the grind of everyday life.

Something everyone could use more of.

 

Go bananas!

I have always been a fan of bananas. They are loaded with good vitamins and minerals. Plus, they come in a pretty, bright yellow skin that composts. What’s not to love?

But there’s more.

I’m most in love with them when they start turning brown and spotty. Over-ripened bananas mean banana bread in our house. Unless they are a pulpy mess — which happens sometimes — bananas take on new life for a few more breakfasts and snacks. It’s like giving to Goodwill. Things we have and hold (often for too long) can take on new life and meaning for others, if we just let them.

If you have some brown bananas on your counter today, remake them into tonight’s dessert: banana bread. Here’s a simple recipe, borrowed (of course) years ago from someone else.

Enjoy!

Banana Bread
3 to 4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter into mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix. Add the flour last and mix again. Pour into a buttered 4×8″ loaf pan or. Bake for one hour. Cool on a rack.

(Sometimes I use four small loaf pans so I can share. If you do that, cut the baking time in half.)