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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Summer’s End

I’m back, Astoria!  What a fantastic vacation I had, and thank you to all the wonderful people Upstate and beyond that were supportive of Single Girl Cookies as I made my rounds in OBX and Penn Yan.  And I’m continuing my kindness outreach beyond Astoria’s borders with my preparation for Tedx Utica, happening in October!  If this is news to you, I say, ” What?!?  You’d better check out the website, and fast!”  If this is NOT news to you, I say, “Sorry dude, get used to hearing about it a lot because it’s awesome and I’m pretty stoked.”  I guess my inner voice that lets people down gently is a surfer.

I know this may be hard for some of you, (those of you like me who can’t remember what I ate for breakfast today) but think back 10 or 12 days.  It was still summer, and the responsibility of being back to regular hours, or back to school, or back to reality was looming, but still not quite there.  It was in these final moments of freedom that I made my last drop in Penn Yan at Pinwheel Cafe of Milly’s Pantry on Main Street.

I had been at the Emergency Room at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hopsital the previous week dropping off cookies to reception.  How many times have you gone in, late at night (or early morning) with a terrible stomach flu,or a swollen, sprained foot from a stupid dance you move you earlier that day (me) or a pretty deep cut from a super sharp knife (my mom)?  And we thank the nurses and the doctors that bandage us up, and give us treatment, but how many times do we thank reception and say, “Hey, you’re doing a good job too.  You kept me calm when I was freaking out in your waiting room, and it’s 2 in the morning for you too.  Thanks.”  Think about that the next time you go in for a water skiing induced hip fracture (my brother).

As as I learned, many of the folks that works there are from out of town, and all wanted to recommend I go to their homes 🙂  Ha, nice try, this is not my first rodeo.  So you can understand my excitement when someone suggested Milly’s Pantry.  Or Pinwheel Cafe.  However they are called.  How I under stand is this:  Pinwheel Cafe is an offshoot, or under the umbrella of the larger not-for-profit Milly’s Pantry.  And I’d give you more background on them, and PY people, correct me if I’m wrong, but neither of them has a website.  So my information could be totally off!  But that’s how I understand it.

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When you walk in, you’re not quite sure if it’s a store, or a place to grab coffee, or lunch, or have a meeting.  Turns out, it’s all of those things!  I found this site that tells a bit more about some of the things offered there and how it helps the community.  They also sell local artisan wares, and by local, I believe it’s within 100 miles.  That’s pretty awesome.  Half of the proceeds go to the artist and half goes to Milly’s Pantry to feed their programs working with the low income population of Yates County.  When was the last time you purchased something and knew exactly where the money was going?  It certainly wasn’t that shirt you bought last week at Ann Taylor.  

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I was on my way to babysit my fantastical nephew and knew that I should grab something to eat while I was there, and y’all know that’s something I like to do.  I encountered a woman named Peggy, just inside the door and told her the deal.  In true volunteer mode, her response was, “Oh thank you, but we can’t sell these here.”  She thought I was dropping them off (I think) either as an artisan to be carried in the store, or as a “Here ya go, you can make 100% profit on these and that’s my contribution to Milly’s Pantry” kinda thing.  I explained further and said, no, no, no, these are for you, no strings attached, just to enjoy.  And like a light switch, the response was different.

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She ushered me to the back of the store where a woman I know, Kathy, was behind the counter acting as chef for the day.  Peggy told her about what SGC is and Kathy’s first question was about my lineage 🙂  The pinning down of who I am, and who I am connected to.  The next question was, “Are these your mom’s cookies?” Astorians, unless you have something similar in your backgrounds, I’m not sure how much I can convey how famous these cookies are in PY.  My mother was the original Single Girl of sorts, but just bringing cookies everywhere.  All the time.  And still does.

I explained that yes, they were, but rest assured I made them.  A fact that I was very proud of, because this batch turned out quite nicely, after attempting to learn and master my mother’s oven for four weeks.  I grabbed a quiche and soup to go and headed up to the counter to pay.  As I was (a very affordable $6/7 for my lunch, btw), I saw a sign that says:

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And I thought, really?  That’s it?  Imagine how many children could be fed if everyone that read this contributed even $5.  And the thing is, I know these kids.  These are the kids in my mom’s classroom, and the ones walking down the hallway that remember me from previous years when I would visit her room, and the ones down the hall in Miss Mulberger’s classroom.  I joke with my friends how poor I am (and there are weeks/months when I am) but I know how fortunate i am as well, and have such a huge network of supporters that I am never without.  A lot of families don’t have that, or are working their butts off at the local restaurant/bank/dollar store with minimum wage and that’s just not enough to support two kids.  So I took my last $10 and stuffed it into the container, knowing it would do more good there than in my wallet.

Because I was coming back to Astoria the next week, I didn’t get a recommendation when i went to pick up my plate.  But i did come back, and now that plate is in the hands of a contributor to Astoria Bookshop’s Kickstarter campaign; I was one of the perks they offered in conjunction with a cookbook.  Kinda neat how they get around, isn’t it?

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I did do a drop on Thursday of last week, picking up where I left off at Immaculate Conception on Ditmars and 29th.  That’s already turning out to be a fun story and I can’t wait to share it with you after I pick up my plate tomorrow.

Another thing I want to tall to you about today is the possibility of donating to Single Girl Cookies.  You know I’ve been invited to speak at Tedx Utica and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  This is probably the coolest thing to happen to me since, I don’t know, birth.  But we as speakers are not compensated in any way, including things like travel and lodging expenses, and certainly not for the 100+ cookies that I’ll be making for the event.  You didn’t think I’d talk for 12 minutes about cookies and cupcakes and then not reward you for listening, did you?  I’m appealing to you all to help me make this amazing opportunity the community effort that Single Girl Cookies has been thus far.  There is a “donate button” on the right side of the page, beneath the twitter feed, recent posts, contributors, and I encourage you to think about even $5.  It adds up.  Then you could donate $5 to Milly’s Pantry and feel like you’ve done your good deed for the week 🙂  It is through Paypal, so it’s super secure, but if you feel more comfortable with paper checks, I accept those too, made out to Single Girl Cookies.  Just email me and I’ll tell you where to send it.  Thanks!

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The space for Tedx Utica

And with that, I’m off to a friend’s house to watch some football and eat some pulled pork tacos. Can we say yum?  Friends and food, two things that help me ease into fall, my favorite time of year.  I get really excited about apple picking, pumpkin desserts, that beautiful smoky smell the air starts to get, snuggling in sweatshirts and blankets and the start of a new year.  What are some fun fall traditions you have?

 

Renee Heitmann Copyright 2013