We’re on Each Other’s Team

So last night at the Vespa Queens Grand Opening Party, I was having a chat with the lovely Matt of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and all around Astoria. He asked me if I had posted my Snowdonia post yet and he had missed it or what, bringing to light how much I have not blogged in the last month.  I sheepishly said, “No, you didn’t miss it, I haven’t posted it yet.  I know, I know, I’m way behind.”, to which he replied (like the polite gentleman he is) “Oh, no, no pressure, just wasn’t sure if I missed it or not!”.  I told him not to feel bad, I needed that pressure to get started on this Mt. Rushmore sized task.  Like when your laundry piles up and the only thing that motivates you to do it is when you run out of underwear, or when you finally get around to writing that paper because you realize that if you don’t, you’ll fail  that very important class.  In this case, nobody’s failing anything, and we’re all good in the underwear situation, so that’s a start 🙂

I believe when we left off, I was going to tell you about my excellent trip to Crescent Grill for my plate, and a special delivery of more cookies.  When I first came in, Ryan had told me about a duck confit and pappardelle dish that I just had to try, so on my return trip, I saddled up to the bar, ordered a drink, and prepared myself to be wowed.  I was not disappointed.

I forget exactly what I had to drink, but I believe it was a cocktail from their cocktail menu, a house drink, I think.  I do remember it being delicious.

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My entree came, and was also delicious to match.

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Ryan came over and offered me some bread, which ended up being this basket of amazing biscuits accompanied by butter drizzled with honey.  I had a friend (or a guy that I think I was dating at the time?  I can’t be sure.  Oh, labels!) that was meeting me at Crescent Grill for a drink, but by the time he got there, I had had a few conversational exchanges with my fellow bar companion, Jerry.

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Over the course of the next hour, my drinks date and I got to know Jerry quite well!  We learned that he was in a managerial position at Tom Cat Bakery, lives in New Jersey, loves his wife, comes into town every few weeks to oversee some things, and was staying around the area and had happened upon Crescent Grill.  I told him about SGC, he ate a cookie, and seemed to like it!  I told him some stories about all the crazy people I’ve met along this journey so far, and the conversation was flowing so much at one point that he interrupted a convo I was having with Drinks Date to make a jokey reference about a story I had told!  I loved it.

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My entire experience at Crescent Grill was one I can’t wait to repeat again and again.  The food was delicious, the service was excellent, and the people were warm and welcoming.  Also, I can’t leave out how beautiful the space is as well.

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I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that it’s also an art gallery of sorts, and the pieces I’ve seen hanging there are pretty great.

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All and all, this was definitely an A++ drop spot.

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I asked Ryan at Crescent Grill for my recommendation and he told me to go to Baroness Bar just down the street.  That’s that new(ish) wine bar where they open bottles of champagne with sabers.  Yes, you read that right.  🙂  My drop and pick up there were pretty uneventful; I got a chance to briefly meet Melinda, one of the owners, while dropping off and she seemed friendly.  I didn’t have a chance to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine while picking up, that was a pretty crazy week for me, but hopefully one day soon!  Maybe I’ll even spring for a special bottle of champagne.  I did learn that I was to visit neighborhood hot spot, Snowdonia, next.

Now, I’m no stranger to Snowdonia.  I first stopped by to check it out with an impromptu meeting of my friend Alex of Cocktail Crate as he was having dinner with a long lost friend of mine from college, Emily, who founded the Astoria Whiskey Society. I hadn’t seen her since college, and didn’t even know she lived in Astoria until I checked out the AWS website as an interested party (I really like dark liquors) and saw her familiar face, as well as others!  Turns out Westminster Choir College has quite a representation in our great neighborhood.  Adam, another college acquaintance and friend of Emily’s, is the artistic director of the Astoria Symphonic Choir, which I’d like to sing with one day if I ever get the time!

I’m also friends with Dennis and Liz of Astoria Coffee, the coffee that Snowdonia serves with brunch (good stuff, can’t wait for their shop to open!!) and had brunch there some months ago with those two and Dennis from DHAP before our podcast.  While we were there, I put out a plate of cookies with a sign that said “free”, and happened to run into Bradley Hawkes, who then wrote a really great article of me that was in BORO!  Neither of those last two things are related to each other, just giving context 🙂

Needless to say, I was excited to drop off some cookies to the good folks of Snowdonia and was greeted with a “Hey, it’s the cookie lady!”  when I walked in.  I love it when that happens.  I got to meet the aforementioned Matt, who is the final nudge in making this happen, another owner, and a gentleman whose name I have no idea how to spell, so I’m not going to try, but it starts with a J.  Let’s call him J!  Anyway, they were all very receptive of me and my cookies when I came in, and  couldn’t wait to come back for their Game of Thrones live viewing night for my plate pick up and a GoT Ommegang beer.

I wasn’t able to enjoy either of those things when I went to pick up because I had a two day migraine and didn’t think drinking or being around loud GoT noises was a good idea.  I’d never had a migraine until my concussion from the car accident, but I guess I’ve got’em now!  Not my happiest moment, and I’m still itching to get back there; it’s been too long since my last visit.  Maybe I’ll make to their Monday brunch, which, btdubs, is the best idea EVER.  On Monday they do a service industry brunch so those that sling of our food and drinks all weekend have a chance to relax and enjoy being on the other side of the table for once.  As a former server at the worst place ever, I can tell you how much I appreciate this idea.  Plus, my weekends are spent singing and teaching voice lessons, so, it’s my brunch too!

And as if all that awesomeness weren’t enough, the people at Snowdonia are just great as well.  The thing I love most about the whole process of Single Girl is, hands down, the recommendation process.  I now know that Matt is both part of Snowdonia, Vespa Queens, and some other Astoria entities.  Tom, owner at Snowdonia, is also a involved with Vespa Queens.  Yesterday at the VQ‘s Grand Opening Party (check their FB for a pic of me on a Vespa and the goodies I brought!), I started chatting with a gentleman who turned out to be Damian of VQ’s roommate.  Then he introduced me to “Willie and John”, who, unbeknownst to me at the time, are the heart and soul of Mundo!  I actually ran into them again today at the brand new Astoria Flea and Food, hugged them and thanked them for bringing Mundo back.  Do you see where this is going?  This crazy red thread that connects us all really does connect us all.  Not only that, but it retraces and intertwines in ways I’d never dreamed.

Jane Goodall is quoted as saying “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do make a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”  The truth in those words is undeniable.  Most of us think about “making a difference” to mean some grand gesture that betters the world.  I think that’s pretty daunting.  If that’s what I thought making a difference was, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.  But the truth is, each of our actions puts something in motion in the environment around of.  Even the tiniest one. Now, I don’t know about a butterfly causing a tsunami, but I’ll tell ya, when I smile and say ‘hello’ to someone, I feel good.  I’m guessing they do too, and that’s a start.

Life is a Highway

If I had to make a gross generalization, I’d say that 65% of the posts in my Facebook newsfeed in the last few weeks have been about the weather.  And over the last two days, I’d say that number shot to 113%, mainly because many of my friends reside in Upstate NY, Jersey, or Pennsylvania – all the places that got a dusting of snow this weekend.  Most of them were pictures of someone’s back or front yard with a caption like, “Wtf, Mother Nature!” or “Uhh….what??  It’s supposed to be spring!”.  I, thankfully, did not wake up to any snow this weekend where I was, but I feel your pain.  I’m going to have to say it – who else is tired of this bullshit winter weather??  I think it’s made many of us a touch crankier than we usually might be, and a little less willing to give an inch, let alone a mile.

I think that’s how I came to be at Vespa Queens for a cookie drop, at least that’s the story I tell myself so I can believe that there aren’t truly nasty people that are like that just for the sake of being nasty.  Some weeks back, I was supposed to make a drop at Grand Bazaar, a lovely Turkish shop on Steinway that I have been to a number of times and really enjoyed the things there.  You can imagine how excited I was to “patronize the business” – one of the other things I do at drops.  I find it helps me open up to trying and buying new things, helps keep money in the local community and feeds small business, and let’s face it, I love an excuse to shop.  So one day, I came jaunting in with my cookies, like I do, and without getting into too many details, both of us (me and my cookies) were rudely refused.  After I got over my shock (nobody in the year I’d been doing has flat out refused my cookies), my next thought was “Uh………how am I going to know where to go next week??!?”

You know I don’t choose any of the places I visit, the current, weekly business/place that got cookies that week does.  But without a “current business”, what’s a Single Girl to do?  Even with that rule in place, it doesn’t stop people from giving me hundreds of recommendations of places they think would appreciate some cookies.  And while I’d love to visit ever place that y’all think are great and deliver some homemade kindness to them, that would be totally insane.  I would be busy making so many cookies that I couldn’t go to work, and without a job, I wouldn’t have any money to pay rent, and without money to pay rent, I’d be homeless, and if I’m homeless, I couldn’t make any more cookies!  You don’t want that to happen, right?  Hint: you don’t, because I’d be your newest couch guest 🙂

In true generational form, I decided to take to the World Wide Web to make my decision for me.   I figured, you guys have been telling me for a year where you think I should go, here’s your chance.  I polled Twitter and Facebook and the Astoria place with the most votes would be where I started this new thread of recommendations.  Honorable mentioned go to Astoria Bookshop and Petals and Roots, but the ultimate winner was Vespa Queens.

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After all the tweeting that was done to find the winner, the folks at Vespa Queens knew I was coming in with the goods, and I was greeted with a warm, “The cookie lady is here!” when I walked into the showroom.  Which is gorgeous, btdubs.  It’s a longish room, painted a nice calming gray, beautiful, vivid photos line the walls above the Vespas, also lined up along each side.  There are also some vintage-y poster type pictures that hang on one wall that depict a blonde on one of these sleek machines.  I’d buy a bike in a heartbeat if I could.

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Turns out the woman that greeted me was Stella, a very friendly, nice, warm and awesome staff member.  Damian, the owner, came in from the service side when he heard I was here.  I felt like we all already kinda knew each other, both because of all the tweeting that had been done, but they both were so open and just awesome people.  They totally get/got what I’m doing, which always makes things a little easier on my end.  As we were chatting, I noticed a small room at the back that had a bunch of helmets and whatnot, so I poked my head in to see what other kind of accoutrement there was.  I saw some logo sweatshirts and thought. “Yay!  I can’t buy a Vespa, but I can certainly buy a sweatshirt, that’ll be my way to patronize the business!”  I happened to say, “Oh, I love logo apparel”, because I do, and Damian hopped right in front of me and handed me one and said, “Here ya go!  Take it!  It’s the least we could do!” I tried to refuse, but Stella helped me sort through the piles to find a good color and size.  Which is kinda funny because there were only size L and up 🙂 I took home a very comfy large, gray zip up that has become a favorite of mine in the few weeks I’ve had it.

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My return visit to pick up my plate was no different.  I got the opportunity to chat with both Damian and Stella a bit more and found out just what Vespa Queens is all about.  Turns out Damian is actually a fashion photographer, and quite a good one. (I googled him, you should too)  to my way of thinking, being a photographer and Vespa shop owner are two very different things, so I asked him how did he get into being the new owner of Vespa Queens.  He said he had a bike, loved it, and had been financially successful as a photographer and was looking for an investment opportunity.  It now makes sense as to how aesthetically pleasing the showroom is.  Stella is equally as awesome, having worked there before Damian was there, and originally from Portland.  She’s super knowledgeable about the product, and ready to answer any questions you may have.

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I know they’ve got plans to put in a small coffee bar in the back area where people will be able to come and relax, or have an espresso while they wait for their bike to be serviced, but for now, it’s worth swinging by to take a look and meet some really cool people.

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I asked for their official recommendation (even though they already told me when I first dropped off the cookies) and as you know, they sent me to Crescent Grill just down the street, where they got the art that graces their walls.  I’ll tell you about THAT later this week 🙂 For now, enjoy the warming weather.  It might not be on a long, open stretch of road on a beautiful Vespa, but at least crack the windows a bit.  And I’ll look forward to tell you more about how awesome they are after their grand opening party in May.  I think I see some Vespa shaped cookies in their future….

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As an unrelated thought, I wanted to share this with you.  Best life advice I’ve heard lately came from a babysitting charge that I spent yesterday evening with.  He is 6 years old, and his dad is an artist.  We were both drawing (I am a terrible artist) and I said “I find drawing a little scary.  He asked me why, and I told him it was because I was never sure what to draw, and once you started, if you don’t like it, you can’t always fix it, but have to erase it and start again but that you’d still be able to see the lines and it just wouldn’t be any good.  And he replied with the assuredness and certainty that can only come from a 6 year old, “That’s ok, if you don’t like it, you can always paint over it.”  And that struck me.  Isn’t that just a great metaphor for living life?  There are options if you don’t like something, or are less than satisfied – you can start over, paint over it, but ultimately you are the creator and you are the master.  Nothing is set in stone unless you make it so.

So what are you waiting for?  Get creating.

New York, New York

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere!!!” As you may know, I’ve started a Single Girl Cookies Manhattan Edition! It’s an idea I’d been toying with for months and tried to start a few times but got derailed by life circumstances. I was able to finally make my first, official delivery a few weeks ago to the incredible folks at Turtle Bay Music School (where I teach private voice lessons) and have been to a few more places I’d like to tell you about!

Much like the start of Single Girl, I was pretty excited to make my first Manhattan drop, even if nobody else knew about it 🙂 The Turtles (as they are called) are pretty used to me bringing in random goodies at any point in the year; mini pink cakes for Valentine’s Day, pumpkin cupcakes in the fall, even my very first vegan cookie! So when I came in with my vanilla lavender topped cupcakes, nobody thought anything of it. Perfect for a confectionary ambush.

I came in the office and happened upon Julie, Executive Director, and Katie, Director of Community Development, having a meeting/chat. I said, “Hey guys! I’ve got some goodies for you! This is my first official Manhattan drop!” and they said, “Wait – what? We’re like, a Single Girl Cookies drop??” Yay! Just the reaction I had hoped for. You see, these kind, nurturing and caring folks (I will never stop dropping positive adjectives about this place or these people. Get used to it.) have seen the entire journey of Single Girl Cookies, and in a very real sense, the entire journey of the person I am today. Let me explain.

One day in the summer of 2011, I was walking around the Turtle Bay area where I had spent almost every day for that last year. At that point in my NYC journey, I was walking dogs and most of the clients’ homes were along 2nd Avenue, from 87th to 42nd. The pay wasn’t great, I worked rain or shine (including those 115 degree days that summer saw) but my schedule had flexibility and I was getting a lot of exercise by walking up to 5 miles a day (and still going to the gym). And I love dogs sometimes more than some people I meet 🙂 This one day, I had a break in my schedule and was enjoying walking up and down the blocks I hadn’t seen before. I turned onto 52nd Street and saw TBMS’s green sign that to me, looked like a beacon of hope. After walking dogs for a year and seriously struggling, I wasn’t sure I could take much more. I walked into the an open and airy waiting room and asked the young man if they were perhaps hiring voice teachers that summer. He came back with a serene, soft spoken young woman who asked if I was looking only for the summer or interested for the fall as well, and did I have a resume? I lied and said I was running errands (I was too embarrassed to admit my sweaty mug was due to catering to dogs with allowances bigger than my monthly intake) and didn’t have one on me, but that I would email her one as soon as I got home. That was a Tuesday. By Friday I had an interview for that next Monday and was offered the job the next day to start in the fall. One week. In one week, my life had a completely new direction. Soon there after, I landed my church job as a soprano section leader for Christ Church in Manhasset, also to start in the fall.

The fall of 2012 rolled in and swept the summer out – and my relationship went with it, leaving me to find a new apartment to accompany my new jobs. So when I say I had a completely new life, I wasn’t kidding! Through this entire process, Turtle Bay was a refuge for me, a place where I was known only as myself, and not as somebody’s girlfriend. I was judged on my merits, and the teacher and artist I was, and am. And every time I went there, I left feeling renewed and blanketed with good vibes. Those good vibes got me through some rough months following the break up as I settled into my new life. So, when I decided to start a Manhattan edition of Single Girl Cookies, they were an easy choice for where to start.

The lovely folks at TBMS have tasted almost every baked good treat I’ve made over the last two years. If I wanted to experiment or create something, they were my inevitable guinea pigs – not that they minded 🙂 Instead of my signature Heitmann cookies, I brought them giant vanilla cupcakes to herald in this new start.

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When the day came for my to get my recommendation, I poked my head in Julie’s office and asked her. She paused and said, “Do you think we could have a few more days? We want to make sure it goes to the right place.” And that is probably the best compliment I could get. They know the scope of this project, and the importance to me so much that they want to be certain.

When they were, they sent me to Visions at Selis Manor, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired on 23rd Street. Turtle Bay partners with a few places to aid in community growth and outreach, and Visions is one of them. I’ve kinda chosen Tuesdays to be my Manhattan day, so one Tuesday last month, I made the trip down to 23rd Street.

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The sidewalk outside was very busy with lots of people coming and going, being helped in and out of the building, in and out of service buses, there seemed to be people everywhere. There were people milling about in the entrance way as well. I made my way down to the office to look for Ann Deshazo, Director of Visions, to drop off my cookies. As I waited, I couldn’t help but notice that the bustle didn’t stop at the sidewalk, or on the hallways. Ann came in, looking slightly confused as to why I’d be looking for her, but I mentioned that in addition to what the cookie thing is, I teach at TBMS. She seemed to “get it”, and I was on my way.

When I came back to get my plate, it was the same story. Busy, bustle, slight chaos. I asked for Ann again for my plate and the recommendation. A gentleman helped me by finding my plate and thought that was all I had come for. Now, this is where I start to feel bad when I revisit places. Many people and business are busy and I hate being in the way, or a bother. But, it is part of the process (yes, I know, one that I created) and everyone so far has humored me in recommending another place! Ann said I should next visit SAGE, an LGBT senior center, and told me that they do a lot of great work and are very deserving. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post, and I’ll tell you she was right.

Back at school, I was chatting with Julie and Katie again and mentioned that Visions sent me to SAGE, and how great they were there. Julie exclaimed, “Oh! We’re newly partnered with them too!” I said they’ll love working with them too. Then Julie asked me how the drop at Visions went, she’d been meaning to find out. I said, “You know, they were very nice, but I got the feeling that they were a really busy place and I kinda felt like I was in the way. I would never want to interrupt their operation or anything but I did feel a little awkward, like I was bothering them.” Julie then tells me that the day I came to drop off cookies, they had a fire in the building! What??? If I were Ann, I’d surely be feeling a little frantic too! Just another reinforcement to treat others with kindness and give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know if they’ve just had a fire in their workplace!

So far, my journey in Manhattan has been an exciting one. Every time I’ve tried to do this, I seem to have been derailed by life and when I official started this and was able to make a drop in Manhattan, I questioned if it was the right move; if life keep putting up road blocks, is it the path I should be going down? Ultimately, I feel that if I can reach one or two more people, then it’s the right thing and I need to be doing it. And I do mean ‘need’. At this point in Single Girl Cookies’ development (and my own), I find it keeps me on the path of kindness and being the best person I can be. And you know what? The goodness keeps coming back to me. It’s like that lyric from John Mayer’s song Wheel:

I believe
that my life’s gonna see
the love I give, return to me.

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I Just Called to Say I Love You

Not only do I love you guys, but I miss you!  I haven’t blogged consistently since about October, and even more sporadically since the accident, but damn it, I miss it!  I’ve been doing my drops the whole time, of course, but saying I’d get around o blogging when I had the time.  Well, we know that kind of thing never happens.  And as life happens, what happens with me is my space gets messy.  And messier.  And messier, until I can write messages in the dust on my TV console and I have a mountain of laundry to do.  My kitchen is easy to keep clean because I’m constantly in there, baking, doing dishes wiping off counters, but the rest of the place I often feel like a ship passing in the night, just coming home to sleep.  All that is said to illustrate my next procrastination technique – I should clean before I do anything else.  Sounds productive, right?  WRONG.  You see, in my head, I set aside a certain number of hours any given task will take, and I won’t start that task unless I have said number of hours available.  Which also never happens!

But this past month I’ve had pretty good reason to clean.  I may have mentioned this before, but an NYU grad student in the Journalism Department got in touch with me and asked me to be the subject of her video profile for a class assignment.  If that isn’t a fire lit underneath me, I don’t know what is. Richa, this student, has been coming over to film my baking, doing a podcast, for a sit down interview, doing drops, church rehearsal and time at TBMS.  I believe she’s in the editing stages right now, and i can’t wait to see how this whole video comes together!  She had access to all areas of my life, so I’m thinking it should be pretty fascinating to see how someone else interprets my story.

Now I’ve got nothing standing in my way!  My space is clean, my brain space is uncluttered, I’ve had my coffee, life is good.  Just to add a little spice to the mix, I think I’ll start backwards.DSC_0772

Last week, I was at Crescent Grill to drop off my goodies.  I had made my almond cut out cookies that some of you may have had at the Queens County Market I participated in in February at Singlecut Beersmiths.  (I was passing out heart cookies for free and it was a blast!  They were pretty huge, too) You know my signature cookies are my secret family recipe chocolate chip cookies, but Richa wanted to film the actual act of me baking, and I said no way to filming those cookies being made – you think I’m a fool??  So I made almond cut outs instead.  I think they turned out pretty cute!

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I loaded up the car full of cookies, dropped some off to my good friend Amanda at Singlecut (these are her favorite cookies of mine), then made my way to Crescent Grill.  Like my drop at the previous spot, Vespa Queens, I drove, because it is so damn far.  BUT – Crescent Grill realizes they are not in the main pathway of many people, so they offer a shuttle service to dining guests within their pick up zone.  You heard me right – they will pick you and drop you off.  Insanity.  It’s like Snowdonia’s beer delivery – a complete game changer.

That’s actually the only thing I had heard about Crescent Grill via the interwebs before making my way there, the shuttle service thing.  And they they had great artists hang their works there, because Vespa Queens got their artwork from an artist that exhibits at CG.

As I walked in I was greeted by a wonderful mix of sleek and rustic; warmth, yet with a cool, clean line.  The bar stools are shiny, red cup seats, while the bar itself is a solid natural plank that has been sealed to a high shine.  There is reclaimed wood overhead and chrome accents around the room.  It’s really pretty beautiful.  I handed over the cookies to Ryan, general manager and events guy, as he exclaimed, “It’s the cookie lady!”  Indeed it is 🙂

I explained to him what I do and this time, I also explained to him why I brought these particular cookies, the almond instead of the chocolate chip.  I was surprised to hear him say that he had heard so much about the chocolate chip that he wouldn’t be disappointed if I brought them with me when I came back to pick up my plate.  I didn’t realize they had a reputation of their own!

He also said he wanted to “feed me” (I always want to be fed!) and so we made a date for Wednesday for me to come back and try some of their menu.  I’m sure it is all delicious, based on the reviews I read and the pictures from their website.  Everything looks fantastic.  Regardless, I’m excited to try it all!

Next I’ll tell you about how I got to Crescent Grill, through Vespa Queens, and how I even got to Vespa Queens in the first place.  Hint: It’s a completely new thread of recommendations!

 

Back in Black

“My cousin Bri is the coolest person to talk to on the phone!”, says Bri herself this morning/afternoon.  This was after I told her I’d better blog this afternoon; that I had so much to say and update, but didn’t know how to start.  And God bless this girl that I love so much for calling me; I’m not always the best at maintaining lines of communication (I know I need to call her more!) and I’m glad she still calls me.  So, in addition to general cousin catching up, this was her contribution to motivate me and help me start.  What can I say – it worked!  And honestly, if it weren’t for my family these last few months (or for all 32 years of my life) where would I be?

I’ve been spending these last few months trying to get back on the horse after my accident in December.  It’s not even that things were so bad then that it’s taken me this long, but it’s been harder than I thought it would be.  Like I said to my friend Dennis, of Dennis Has a Podcast, it feels like I’m walking against a current.  On the plus side, it used to feel like I was not moving, like walking up the down escalator, but now I am making some headway, slow but sure.  Getting back to regular blogging is just another step in the right direction.

I have been making regular drops since my last post!  I believe when we last left off, I was about to make a drop at Rosana’s Beauty Salon.  I dropped them off on a Thursday night before church rehearsal and was greeted by a woman getting her hair done, and a few technicians/stylists.  I wasn’t sure who to talk to, so I just said I’d talk to the whole room!  I got through with my spiel and one of the stylists, a gorgeous, big, fabulous Brazilian man, came up and said, “You can take them to my house next week, Hahahaha!” and let out a boisterous laugh. I love laughter.  It’s soft, loud, a beautiful emotional response, stress reliever, mood enhancer, and this laugh was contagious.  I chuckled all the way back to my car.

They sent me next door to Coconut Brazil Boutique, another one of these clothing stores on Steinway that I probably would never have gone in otherwise.  I spoke with a woman behind the counter about why I was there and it was very well received.  I took a look around and couldn’t wait to come back to “patronize the business”.  This place has pretty cute shirts, nice dresses, a good selection of winter accessories, and regular accessories as well.  When  came back, I chatted with Rita, who told me their selection was a little down because it was the end of the season and she was about to make a buying trip to Brazil.  We continued to talk as I collected things to try on and I learned that she has a hand in designing and choosing every single item for their store.  She showed me to a sale rack in the back where everything was $20 or less to help make room or new merchandise, and you know my love of a bargain!

I had chosen a few things to try on and when I put on this sequin front short denim mini skirt, I kinda fell in love.  As a quasi-guilt admission, I love sequins.  Like, LOVE them.  I like to incorporate them in small tasteful ways in my wardrobe, and this skirt, while tiny, was anything but a small addition.  I sent a picture to my mom and sister, asking, Am I too old for this?  At my age, that’s a valid question to ask!

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I wound up with the skirt, an adorable red winter hat, and LOVE earrings.  I’m still waiting for the weather to warm up and the occasion to this awesome skirt, but for now, I’ll take rockin’ the hat and earrings.  Rita told me to come back mid March when they’ll have an entire new selection of spring and summer items.  I’m definitely excited for that; I’ve found Brazilian designed clothing fits my large-ish posterior much better than other most. 😉  She also said that my next stop was to be at the 99 cent store next door, because the people were so nice.

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Now, this next stop was an interesting one, and I received a reaction unlike one I had gotten before.  I walked in with my plate of cookies, and as is my tradition with businesses, I let the actual customers go first so my long winded explanation doesn’t hinder their business.  It was before Valentine’s Day and the woman in front of me was buying VDay Balloons but needed a certain number of the same pattern which took some time to find.  5 minutes go by, more people come, look at me strange.  Finally the balloon woman is finished, and a few more people get checked out.  Then, it’s my turn after a nice gentleman let me go ahead and do my thing.  I’d been standing there for some time getting awkward, suspicious looks from customers and the clerk.  I introduced myself, told her what I was all about, and the clerk said sorry, the manager isn’t here.  I said, that’s ok, they’re yours/the store’s, I don’t want anything from you, I’ll just be back in a few days for the plate.  Then she said, “I’m not allowed to take them.  We aren’t allowed to take things from people we don’t know.” I’ve seen suspicion before, but nobody has ever refused my cookies before.  I put them on the counter, put my hands up like I was delivering a bomb, and backed away slowly, saying, “I’m just going to leave them there, they’re yours to do whatever you’d like with them.  I’ll be back in a few days” and left.

I did come back and had recognition with what must have been a manager or owner by the name of Rangi, after I explained myself.  She thanked me for the cookies and gave me my plate back.  I asked her why the clerk responded the way she did, and she said it was more or less a safety thing not to accept foods or things from people they don’t know.  I have to concede that I understand the safety part of it, but…part of me is just sad that people react that way because there is a reason to, or that society has given us a reason to be so suspect of kindness, and selflessness.  They sent me to ISpa, mani/pedi/spa center next door.  It seems I’m making my way up Steinway Street!

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In the midst of all this, life still happens.  I’ve been singing, teaching, going to so many doctor appointments, and even starting a Manhattan Edition of Single Girl Cookie Drops!  You can read about that later this week in my next post, New York, New York.  And as life continues, things happen unexpectedly.  You may remember my grandmother passed in October just before TEDx Utica.  It was a hard blow to my family and our internal structure.  Because we’re strong stock, it made us pull tighter together.  A blessing for sure, because a few weeks ago, my other grandmother, my father’s mother, passed unexpectedly.  We had been almost expecting it would be my grandfather, his father, because he had been in the ICU for weeks with prostate cancer and kidney problems.  It was a shock to get that call, and made me think, “What the hell is going on??”  I hadn’t been very close with the Heitmann side of my family and hadn’t seen many of them for close to 20 years, of course with exceptions of a select few I am close with (Troublemakers, you know who you are ;))  I took a week off from delivering cookies to make the trip home for my grandmother’s funeral and reconnect with family.  As sad as it is and was, those two days were healing and increased my family by more than just numbers.  It changes my whole story, and isn’t that incredible?  Before, my family was my parents, siblings (their spouses), my mother’s sister, her husband and their kids and my Grammy.  They were extended and immediate all in one.  Over the last 8 years, prompted by the death of her brother, my Grammy and her sister reconnected, bring the Boston side of our family back into the fold.  Now I have a whole new side of my family back in my life, all the Heitmanns and their progeny.  Like I said, that changes my whole story! I feel I have a larger support system, a bigger safety net, which allows me to take bigger risks with my life, and do greater good, all with less fear.  With no dark corners left in my life, I feel free.

I came back last week with a renewed spirit and ready to pick up where I left off.  I dropped by ISpa with my cookies and spoke with a gentleman who I wasn’t totally sure understood what I was saying. I got a few sentences in, and he asked me if I wanted a manicurepedicure?  I said, no, and kept explaining what it was that I was doing there.  I said, thanks!, I’ll see you in a few days! and left, hoping I’d been understood!

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I came back with a camera crew of sorts.  I’ve been being filmed this week by an NYU grad student in the Documentary Journalism Dept as the subject of her video profile assignment.  Richa found me online, enjoyed my story, and reached out to me.  So far, she’s filmed me at church rehearsal, a singing practice session at TBMS, podcasting with Dennis, dropping off cookies at SAGE in Manhattan, and picking up this plate at ISpa.  I came in and said I had dropped off some cookies, was here for the plate…. A woman named Connie came out of the back room with a big smile and an excited, brisk walk and thanked me profusely for the cookies and how delicious they were.  I’m hoping it wasn’t just because of the camera 😉

I looked at their pamphlet and the services that are offered there and think I’ll have to treat myself to a pedicure this week.  The facilities look beautiful, and hopefully their pedis are just as good!  Connie sent me to UPS across the street this week, and I think Richa will film that as well.  I’ll certainly share that with you once it is edited and completed!

There are still a thousand things I want to share with you, but I have a long night of private voice lessons ahead of me.  The short list has a trip to Nashville and the men of Station 8 Firehouse, my first involvement with the Queens County Market, an article in BORO Mag, a visit at Front Toward Enemy, new restaurant on 30th – great food, great cocktails Check. It. Out., a podcast with Dennis Has a podcast, to be posted on my press page shortly, for now, you can find the link on my twitter and here, a Manhattan Edition of SGC, mini documentary in the works, and toying around with a day to pass out cookies on the subway.  And that means exactly what it is.  Sometime this week, I’ll be getting on the train with a basket of cookies, ready to pass out and spread the kindness.  I’m excited to see what kind of reactions I’ll get!  Maybe a date?

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For now, I keep on keepin’ on, working against the tide and getting stronger every day.

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Shiny Happy People

It’s official – I’m crowning January as The Tightest Month.  My pants are tight, money’s tight – even my apartment feels tight.  That last one is something that happens after I spend a lot of time at home.  In a real house.  With real amounts of space.  Like the rest of American that doesn’t live in a crowded city like NYC.  I didn’t even bring back tons of stuff like I usually do!  I swear….

And speaking of Christmas presents, one of the wonderful gifts I received was a plane ticket to Nashville!  So in a few weeks, I will be boarding a plane and headed down to hang in Music City!  I’ve wanted to visit Nashville for years now; thought I was going to make it last year, but life happened and then the trip didn’t.  I’ll be down there for a whole week, which means I’ll be doing a cookie drop (or two) while I’m there – and I need your help!  Remember how I did Single Girl Cookies: Hometown Edition when I was in Penn Yan for August and I took a poll asking where I should go for my first drop?  I’ll need your help with this one too!   I Facebooked and tweeted about it and got back a few responses.  Right now Ryman Auditorium has the most votes, including one stipulation where I’m to make a recording while I’m there 🙂  I’ve looked into that and think I will do that anyway!  I’ve actually always wanted to sing Jeff Buckley’s Lilac Wine…maybe this is my chance?  If you know of a place in Nashville that deserves cookies, let me know!  I’m also taking recommendations of places I should visit and things I should see – help plan my trip!

While I’m looking forward to my trip, I’ve still got business to do here in Astoria!  Last week I made my first cookie drop of 2014 at Designer Optical on Steinway. For those of you familiar with the neighborhood, this is the eyeglasses store on the northern part of the Steinway block between 31st and 30th with the Blues Brothers in the window. Now you know which store I’m talking about.

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I came in with my plate of cookies and was greeted by a woman named Tatiana.  As I stood there giving her my speech, I noticed that everyone that came in was greeted by name by the other woman working there, Melissa.  I thought, “This is a place I can get behind!” if they know everyone that comes in here.  I left with a feeling of friendly neighborhoodliness (yep, my first official made up word of the year) and went about my week.

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I came back on Monday (they aren’t open on Sundays) and met the same two ladies.  They said my cookies were ‘really delicious’ and gave me back my plate.  You may recall I was in a motor vehicle accident last month, and as a result, I’ve been experiencing some vision problems in my right eye.  I figured while I was in there, and had waited for other real customers to be finished, I may as well try on some glasses if I had the need for some in the near future!  Spoiler alert: the blurriness I’m experiencing is NOT correctable with lenses, I will NOT get to get cute new glasses, and we STILL have no diagnoses on why my eye sucks.  That didn’t diminish the fun I had trying on lots of frames!

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They have a huge selection and Tatiana really knows what she’s doing.  She picked out the perfect pair of beautiful Fendi frames that would look so good if I really ever need glasses, and they will be the first place I go.  And this week, tomorrow, really, I will be heading to Rosana’s Salon on Steinway between 30th and 28th Aves.  Perhaps a manicure will lift and loosen my spirits 🙂

I realize I might not be the only one experiencing this slump, be it from a holiday high, or feeling the affect of the winter weather.  When I feel this way, I have a couple of songs that lift my spirits no matter what kind of mood I’m in.  Try this one on for size.  It makes me smile to myself on the subway, grin like a fool as I walk down the street and put that spring in my step that I’ve been missing.  Welcome to 2014 everyone, we’ve got a great year ahead.

To Be a Better Man

I’ve been staring at my screen for 10 minutes, having so many things to say and not really sure how to start.  Things about thankfulness, and family, and cookies drops, but I keep coming up with nothing.  I’m also surrounded by a small amount of chaos – 4 dogs, 2 parents, 1 sister, 1 b-i-l and 1 nephew that needs the watchful eye of all 5 adults present.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day that for me, marks the beginning of a season of thanks, of giving and fullness of heart.  I believe we should act the way we tend to act around the holidays all the time, and by that I mean kinder, more thoughtful, more generous and more empathetic to others’ situationa.  But, I realize that’s not the way the world works (yet) and so that makes me cling to the season more than others – because I feel like I’m living in a world that could be, one that I wish existed for the entire year, not just for these short, fleeting weeks.  I like to think we are all our best versions of ourselves around the holidays.

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, my usual cookie drop day, I am saving my next drop for next week when I am back in the city.  Surely you caught that with the slight chaos illustration – I definitely can’t fit us all in my apartment for dinner tomorrow 🙂  But I can tell you about my drop this week at Prato on Steinway.  I was previously at Samantha II Outlet, just up the street, and they sent me down to Prato.  I’ve got to say, I’m kinda hoping the next few weeks brings me some female clothing stores, because I don’t have much need for menswear lately!  I feel bad not being able to patronize these places, especially because they are small businesses and that’s what keeps Astoria going.

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I walked into Prato, plate of cookies in hand, and garnered some looks from a few guys working there.  The man behind the counter was on the phone, so when he noticed me, I mouthed something like, “I’ll just be over here until you’re finished.”, all theatrical and big.  Which, as I looked around, probably looked hysterical to anyone that was watching.  A girl with a plate of cookies.  In a men’s store.  Big smile.  Big arm motions.  Small, tight space.  Yeah.

The gentleman behind the counter got off the phone and looked up at me.  I took that as my cue to approach and launch into the spiel.  That was the only eye contact I got.  Unfazed, I continued telling him about Single Girl Cookies, how it works, I’ll come back on Sunday, but still only got that first, brief eye contact.

Admittedly, I left there feeling a little dismissed.  The more I thought about it though, the more I figured he was being as dismissive as possible because he thought I wanted something and he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Like I was going to finish my bit and follow up with a “….And that’s a $20 donation!”  WRONG.  And yes, I know this is nothing new, and people always (or a lot of the time) think I want something other than just spreading my kindness and message around the world.  Ok, around the neighborhood, but go big or go home, right?

And that is where I am right now, at home.  And it feels so good to be here.  I’m nestled up the warmth of a coal stove with a doggie at my feet, Disney Jr. on the television as my nephew stays up waaay past his bedtime.  And continues to talk about pumpkin pie and get real close to the edge of the table where the pie is situated. (he is my nephew, after all)  He is also the kid that misheard me when I said “It’s prayer time” and looked at me wide eyed and hopeful and whispered, “Pie??”  He thought I said “Pie time”.  Family is one of the things I’m most thankful for this season.  The loss of my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, has changed our dynamic a bit, and I think we’re all still trying to figure out how the remaining pieces fit together.  We know they are supposed to go together, but the natural rhythm of our interaction has been disrupted.  We will figure it out eventually, and I’m thankful that even in the worst of things, we stick together.  Cause if things are crappy, wouldn’t you rather be surrounded by people that you love, that love you and most importantly, ‘get’ your brand of crazy?

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Speaking of crazy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beginning part of my Sunday before picking up my plate at Prato.  I met with Astoria’s own proprietors of Astoria Coffee, Dennis Lee and Liz Wick to do a podcast with Dennis Holden of Dennis Has A Podcast at Snowdonia Pub to have a little brunch before a little podcasting action.  I brought cookies, of course, and they wee the perfect pairing to Astoria Coffee’s coffee, which Snowdonia now serves with brunch on the weekends!

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After we finished brunch, we warmed up our podcast muscles and spent the next few hours talking about SGC’s mission, how you can be involved, and even tackled Dennis’s dating life!  We talked so much that Dennis (DHAP) divided them up into two episodes to make a little easier to navigate.  Check them out here and here!

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As I found my way back to Prato, I was hoping to find a better reception, and was not disappointed.  It always happens after people have had my cookies.  There was a different guy behind the front counter this time and complimented me on how delicious the cookies were as he looked for my plate.  I asked him where I was headed next week, and the boss from on high (upstairs) phoned down to say “Esquire”.  Now, I hate saying no to people, as in “No, I can’t go there, I’ve been there before”, but I secretly am thrilled when a place gets recommended more than once.  I explained the why, and asked for another place, to which the answer was “Venzini”  Double whammy!  I am super secretly thrilled now, because those have been two of my favorite places in recent months and I’m glad to hear that they are equally as highly thought of in the business community.  I had to say no, no, I’ve been there too.  Their third suggestion was a go, and so next week I will be visiting Portabello on Steinway.

As tomorrow gets underway, don’t be so consumed with ‘getting there’, or with making sure everything is done, or perfect, or whatever – just enjoy the time with those you love.  As cheesy as it may sound to you, carve out 10 minutes to stop and really think on what you are thankful for.  But don’t stop there.  Don’t just say, “Yeah, wow, I’m thankful for that.  Ok, on to the next thing!”.  Whatever it is, don’t let tomorrow be the only day that you stop and give thanks.  Let’s face it, we’re all just lucky (and should be thankful) to be alive.  And I mean that in the most sincere way.  I’m thankful that I’m not homeless.  Were it not for my support system of family and friends, I very well could be by now!  I’m thankful for not being hungry, even if that means I’ve made myself sick with copious amounts of apple pie.

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There are people that could only dream of that.  And (grandma alert) I’m thankful to all of you, for giving a shit about what I’m doing with Single Girl Cookies and all I strive to do and hope to do with it one day.  Your positive feedback and words of encouragement are what I need sometimes to remind myself why I started this whole crazy thing in the first place – to make a difference and to make my world a better place.  And as long as I’m doing that, I’m good.

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Only the Lonely

I think fall has (dare I say it??) finally arrived here in Astoria.  I haven’t looked at any future forecasts for the upcoming days, but last night I slept with my window open in long pants and a t shirt and it was GLORIOUS.  That is enough of a sign for me.  The other, and most obvious sign for me, is that school is back in session.  Some parents are rejoicing with a resounding, “Yipee!”, while others are wiping away tears as their little ones go to pre-school or kindergarten or day care for the first time, thinking, “How did they get so big?  Where did the time go?”  I literally do the exact same thing every time I get a picture of my nephew.  He is the love of my life, my main man, my bff, and after spending 5 weeks with him upstate, coming back to the city has never been more difficult.  I love my family to pieces and going from one extreme (being surrounded by loved ones All. The. Time.) to the other (being alone 80% of the time) has not been fun.  I feel lonely and listless, as if without the love of others to urge me on, I have little direction and motivation.  Sure, I have my singing and auditions and jobs to fill in the gaps, but it’s not the same, is it?  No, it’s definitely not.  The void is still there.  I’m fine until I experience what I didn’t know I was missing, but then once it’s uncovered, what do you?

What I did was get back in the swing of Single Girl Cookies, Astoria style.  Last week I was at Immaculate Conception School for my first drop back in the neighborhood since being away.  Now, if you’ll recall back to my last drop before I left town for August, I was at Sal, Kris and Charlie’s having a not-so-pleasant encounter with Charlie as he became increasingly belligerent in an attempt to give me my next drop spot.  He had said go to Immaculate Conception Church because that is where his mother is a parishioner and for all the work they do with the homeless.

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So  went last Thursday to see about sharing the cookie love.  If you’re unfamiliar with IC, it’s a giant church on the corner of 29th and Ditmars, really quite beautiful.  I locked up my bike and walked around the building to see if I could find an entrance to the church office.  I was raised Methodist and we have a rectory that holds the administrative offices for the church, so I was looking for something like that.  Couldn’t find a thing.  So, i went into the church (the only open door) to see if that would yield different results.

Nearly empty, save for a one or two people, the inside of the church is really something.  I always feel, when entering a catholic or orthodox church, this urge to be hushed and extra reverent.   This was no different.  It’s quite large inside, with electric votives dotting the length of the church for prayers, confessional booth off the right side, and long wooden benches that could easily fit 4 to 5 hundred people.  Not finding what I was looking for, I sat for a moment.  I now had the church all to myself and felt moved to pray.  Prayer is a personal thing.  How we pray, when we do it, if you even use that word.  But we all do it.  Maybe you call it meditation.  Maybe it’s just a quiet moment where you check in with yourself.  This was me needing a moment to ‘right’ myself again and move in a forward direction.  Here I had biked all the way up to Ditmars (fairly far from where I live), toting around a plate of cookies, going to this place because a man I don’t particularly care for sent me here, still feeling lost and lonely in my own life – I was in need of a time out.

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I came back out, mentally weighing my options.  I started to walk down the block a ways and noticed an entrance to Immaculate Conception School.  It’s amazing how blind I can be to the rest of the world when I’m too inward focused.  I thought, Surely someone is in here that would appreciate cookies, and I was right.

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I rang the bell and was let in and greeted at the top of the stairs by a woman that turned out to be the principal, Eileen Harnischfeger.  I started explaining why I was there and she stopped me and invited me into the office where I could explain once for everyone.  In the office, I met about 5 more women.  I started again, got half way through before someone said, “Hey, aren’t you the cookie lady?  I saw something about you on the news!”  🙂  She had recognized me from the spot Channel 7 ABC Eyewitness News did this summer.  She proceeded to fill the other ladies in on what Single Girl Cookies is all about.  I told them I was sent to IC Church  but not having found anyone there to deliver to, thought they surely would appreciate a sugary pick-me-up as school gets back in session.  I was met with a resounding “yes!” and as I left, I’d bet those cookies didn’t last 20 minutes.

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My return for the plate has now sent me to another catholic school, St. Francis of Assisi, on 46th Street and 21st Ave, which I went to this week.  I had a somewhat similar experience there, where I could not find anyone to give my cookies to!  I went on Thursday around 3:20, which I figured was the perfect time to miss the chaos of children leaving school, but still catch the teachers.  It worked at the last school, I thought it would work here!  Wrong.  I saw cars in the lots, and even a kid or two in the playground. but couldn’t get in.  So, I tested my indomitable spirit and went up the next day!

I made sure I went up earlier in the day to make sure people would still be there.  This time when I rang the bell, I was let in and also greeted at the top of the stairs by Principal Anne Stefano the way Ms. Harnischfeger had greeted e at Immaculate Conception.  (I definitely like the safety aspect of that).  She seemed skeptical at first (as many of them are) but warmed up to my initiative as I went on.   I’ll be back up there on Monday or Tuesday for my plate and we’ll see where they send me next!  I wonder how many Catholic schools there are in the neighborhood….I may be making the rounds 🙂

After all is said and done, I still feel a little bit lost, a little bit lonely and a little bit out of sorts.  But not as much as before.  By looking outside yourself and helping others, you open yourself up the the world, to connection, and you start to refocus your energies.  Instead of “Man, this sucks, what about me?” it becomes, “What can I do for you?” and takes that negative feeding energy and creates something good.  And as I’m sure my friends can attest, talking about it helps.  If you’ve got someone to take to about the way you feel, you’re not right then that you’re not alone.  None of us are.

So as I continue down my path of self discover and sharing kindness, I know that day when things feel ‘right’ is drawing closer and closer.  I’m not there yet.  But I’ll get there.

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Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann

Small Town, USA

Ahhh.  That’s the sound of my happy tummy, filled with good ol’ hometown diner food, an everything omelette, hashbrowns and english muffin, to be exact.  And coffee too, you can’t go to a diner and not order coffee; that’s gotta be some sacred rule handed down through the ages.   Boy, oh boy, was it good!  I finally got around to trying out a place I have driven by for literally 31 years, and I’m glad I did – they are closing their doors for good on Monday.  And what a shame too, it’s a very cute, super homey place where you get your own silverware, condiments, coffee and pick up your food when it’s ready.  I chatted with the owner and cook, Bruce, about life, got acquainted with some older gentlemen that came in for lunch and generally had a great time taking in small town life.

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I think I’m going to have to stop back in for lunch this weekend; I hear the weekends are quite an experience.

That diner and all that it holds epitomizes small town life to me, both as an outside observer and one that grew up in it.  You work hard, sometimes live hard (cause hell, you’ve earned it) and enjoy life.  You know your neighbors, you meet your friends at the bar for a beer (both of those words are to be said with very hard “R’s”) after work, you’re in bed early that night because you have another full day ahead the next day.  I find myself listening to country whenever I come home, actually when I hit the middle of Pennsylvania, because it just fits.  These songs paint the pictures of my real life Americans here in Penn Yan and the Finger Lakes.  And I love it.

I’m going to do a drop today, but before I do that, I have to tell you all about the one I did last week!  By popular vote, I went to the Keuka Comfort Care Home to deliver some fresh baked kindness to the volunteers that aid in the care of the residents there.  Keuka Comfort Care Home is exactly what the name implies – a place that offers free terminal end-of-life care in a comfortable, home-like setting.  It’s set looking over Keuka Lake with a beautiful, peaceful gazebo in the back, a grapevine sculpture off to the side, and quite homey inside.  It’s run entirely of volunteers (save for one person) and I believe the bulk of their expenses are taken care of through donations.

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I stopped in last Wednesday to drop off a plate of cookies and explain my long winded but hopefully enlightening story.  I spoke with a volunteer named Mary. who seemed to really get and like my project.  As we were chatting, her husband came in.  Mary explained who i was, what Single Girl Cookies was all about and how it works.  He said, “Oh, you’re from New York City, huh?”  I explained, yes,  live there, but was born and raised in Penn Yan.  His next question is one that is so common and old school (ancient era kind of old school) but still makes me laugh inside because of the way the world works in a small town.  “What’s your last name?”

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Think of this like your modern day Game of Thrones: by knowing my last name or house, if you will, they (generally everyone n PY) knows my family, our history, what we stand for, who I am, what I do, where I live, my relation to other people in town, and generally assume my character to be that of a well balanced young lady.  All of this works both ways – if your history has some patchiness, or even a blemish that stood out in the past, you’d better believe that’s what comes to the forefront of people’s minds as well.  That in particular has never been something I had to worry about.  Being raised the daughter of well known parents, I never had the opportunity to make questionable choices.  And believe me, I tried 🙂

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I told this gentleman my last name and he immediately came forth with a barrage of information – “Oh, you’re Kyle’s sister?  Are you the one that got burned or the singer?  I know Kyle from the ambulance corps, I heard he’s doing well, just got a promotion.  i stopped in the other day to see him but he wasn’t there.” 🙂  See what I mean?  And I don’t mind it, really.  There are more pros to being known in a small town than cons.  People are hugely supportive and kind and giving, because they know you.  And you know them.  Although, you can never safely honk at someone in your car they way you might as a frustrated driver in the city – it could be your 1st grade teacher you’re honking at.

I had a similar experience when I went to pick up the plate on Friday.  I ended up chatting with another volunteer, Robin, whom I remember from my days in 4-H when I was younger.  And this morning when I went to get my teeth cleaned, my dental hygienist (whom I’ve known for years, I had a crush on her son, one of my friends, in high school) mentioned that she heard about my next drop because she is on the board of KCCH – I had no idea!

Now, think about this:  I find myself acting a bit kinder, being more thoughtful with my words and actions when I’m home because you never know who knows you, or that you’re probably always going to run into someone you know.  And nobody wants to be a jerk in their life, so a lot of us are nicer as too not be perceived as such.  And this is more pre-SGC, but I would find myself not being a great person when I was back in NYC.  I didn’t really know you, guy standing too close to me on the train.  Or you, impatient lady who brushed by me on the street, so I don’t have to be as nice to you.  I can get angry and shoot you nasty looks or call names after you.  But what if we all tried treating our worlds like a small town?  Where you smile at people you know, and those you don’t.  Take that extra moment to listen to someone’s troubles, or chit chat at the marketplace.  Try it for one week and see how you feel.  I guarantee it will brighten your day and lighten your mood.

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This afternoon I’m headed to the Penn Yan Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps to brighten their day with some homemade deliciousness.  Keuka Comfort Care Home suggested that I head there because the PYAVAC freely transports many of their residents, giving of their time and resources.  Then I’ll be popping over to the park at 6:30 to sing in the Penn Yan Community Chorus Concert for the last concert in the Concert in the Park series for the summer.  So come on down, say hi, and get to know your neighbor!  Chances are, you already do 😉

 

Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann

Love the Ones You’re With

VACATION!!!!  I look forward to this week all year long, from the moment we leave our rental house in the Outer Banks, NC, ’til the moment we step foot up those stairs a year later.  And I gotta tell ya, it never disappoints.  Even this year, which has been unseasonably rainy and grey, we have been having a blast, but that’s because we as a family really love being around one another.  Not just in a “It’s nice to see you, I see you three times a year” way, but in a Sunday dinner every week, everyone involved in everyone else’s lives and business, laughing about something ridiculous until we’re crying kind of way.  And there is plenty to laugh about – we are rather ridiculous.

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Just because I’m not in Astoria for a while and on vacation did not mean I could stay away from cookies for that long.  I decided a while back that I would continue the Single Girl Cookies kindness through out my vacation and time at home, but felt like I needed to do two drops here to get that “bake-it-forward” feeling.  So on Tuesday I ventured out to The Pit Surf Shop and Boardriders Grill in Kill Devil Hills a short distance from out rental house.  Now, you know me, I normally would NEVER choose a place on my own.  Even when people ask me for a recommendation of where they should send me, or ask where I live so they can send me somewhere convenient for me, I am adamant about it being their choice.  But, when I asked you guys for suggestions, I really had none, so I had to make a choice judgment call on this one.  I chose The Pit mainly because we took surf lessons there last year and enjoyed their Taco Tuesdays and got $1 tacos.   In my younger days when I went, I also (very much) enjoyed Mug Night that they offer on Thursdays 😉

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Single Girl Surfer

And as is our family way, I didn’t make this drop alone!  I had asked my dad to drive me (I have no car down here) and I thought my mom would get a kick out of seeing a live drop in action.  I knew this could be a hit or miss drop (although I had a hunch it would be a hit) because I had to explain what Single Girl Cookies was in the first place, and then explain how that related to why I was standing there in front of them with a plate of freshly homemade cookies.

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As I approached the counter, I saw Matt, our surf instructor from last year, and a woman i hadn’t met, Missi.  I explained who I was, what SGC is and why and what I was doing there.  Matt nodded like he remembered me when I pointed and said, “And you gave us surf lessons last year!” I’m sure he did remember us – crazy family, see photo above 🙂

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I told them I’d be back in a few days for the plate and a recommendation. and Matt didn’t even wait until I left to dig in.  Missi (VERY sweet, btw) seemed really on board and excited to give a recommendation.  I can imagine they see A LOT of tourists throughout the year and that not all of them may be so nice.  I’ve definitely encountered some cranky and full-of-attitude tourists this year.  Dude, come on, you’re on vacation!  Give it up.

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As I was finishing up, my mom happened to see a collection stone turtles for sale.  They were really pretty, and our family has a thing for turtles.  That really came to light when my cousin Bri had a beach flirtation with someone we dubbed Turtle Man – a local kid on summer college break who was working with the wildlife preserve (or something like that) to help the sea turtles with their hatching.  Anyway, as my mother showed me these turtles, I said that part of my thing was to patronize the business (when I could) that I visit because I feel small businesses are what keep this country going, and may I please purchase this turtle?  Missi just slid it across the counter and said, “No, please have it.  You brought us cookies. :)”

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Such a kind gesture.  I look upon that turtle and feel a warmth of kindness that it represents to me now.

I stopped in yesterday to pick up my plate and aw Missi again.  She gave me my plate with a note on it (just in case she missed me) and told me to go to Booty Treats on the beach road in Nags Head.  It’s a pirate themed ice cream place – two of my favorite things!  I’m baking up a batch this afternoon then heading over, probably with the fam, for ice cream later.  Rough life, I know 😉  I’ve already had frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog and frozen custard at Kill Devil’s. Not to mention pretzels from Jim’s Soft Pretzel Bakery, breakfast at Stack’em High (smothered hashbrowns will change your life), fresh caught lunch at The Flying Melon, and a hand pressed kale/romaine/celery/parsley/lemon juice from a local juice bar.  Yes, life is rough indeed.

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In other amazing SC news, did we all read the Astoria Characters article that Nancy Ruhling wrote for her Huffington Post blog????

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-ruhling/astoria-characters-the-co_4_b_3262441.html

It really tells my life story in a nut shell and how I got to this very point in my life.  So, if you’ve ever wanted to know a little bit more about this Single Girl, here’s your chance!  AND, if that weren’t awesome enough, I may have some more exciting news for you in about a week…!!

I’ve tried to make this a shorter post (FAIL), don’t want to miss out on the family fun!  And yes, it is still grey and rainy.  But don’t worry, we’ve eaten enough awesome food here in OBX to last us double our time down here, and we are doing a special family version of Chopped tonight for dinner.  The moms are out shopping for five ingredients for each course right now and I cannot wait to see what our teamwork of minds can come up with!

So, for now, I must be off.  I’ve got some relaxin’ to do.

Renee Heitmann, Copyright 2013