I Believe

Every once and a while I do a cookie drop and have an experience that leaves an imprint on my heart.  It’s like it’s almost painful to keep it in and not share its profound impact on me with the world.

I did a cookie drop at Runway Tire the other day.  You probably haven’t heard of it; it’s all the way up on 19th Ave and 42nd Street, practically as close to the water as you can get in Astoria.  I met some hardworking gentlemen there, including the owner, Anthony Germano.  I had meant to go pick up my plate the Monday before Thanksgiving, but got swept away with holiday travel preparations and didn’t make it there until the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

I always feel a little sheepish when I don’t return for a plate when I say I am going to.  That’s one of the many things I’m resolving to do better in 2016.  So, as I walked in, I carried a touch of embarrassment for not having been in sooner.  Anthony recognized me and said, “We’ve been waiting for you!” and went to grab a bag on top of a vending machine in the back of the front room.  He told me he took the cookies home to his family and his kids and wife had loved them, looked me up online and that he wife loves joyful, happy things like my project and so they wanted to do something nice for me.  And here was my plate, wrapped in cellophane with a small gift bag and a card with my name written in cheerful bold purple block letters.  I was pretty surprised and very appreciative of the gesture.  We chatted a little bit about the history of Runway Tires, I learned that he took over the business from his father and started working there when he was 17 after his dad went in for open heart surgery, I thanked him for the gift and headed back home.

I tried to take pictures of the beautiful package when I got home, but my phone is so woefully full that it wouldn’t take.  In retrospect, I’m a little glad I didn’t document the hell out of this.  I savored unwrapping the ribbon holding it the cellophane together, reading the card and its heartfelt words, gingerly taking out the tissue paper from the gift bag.  In the bottom was a small Alex & Ani box.  The irony in that is that I had just told my family what I wanted for Christmas just a few days before – an Alex & Ani bracelet.  Inside the box was a Kindred Cord; a small charm that says “Journey Blessing Grace” on a delicate black cord with a blessing of Godspeed.  I have been shown incredible kindness and generosity in my day, but something about this struck me differently.  Sure, I give every week.  I bake cookies and a share goodness with those around me.  But the Germano family went to the store with me in their minds and hearts, and picked out something for me specifically.  With intention.

I left my apartment shorty after that to head into school to teach some lessons feeling humbled and uplifted and touched beyond words.  For the rest of the evening, I kept looking at that black cord on my wrist, knowing only I knew the story behind it, and feeling touched I had been thought of, and by people I didn’t even know.  I woke up the next day, still wearing it, feeling the same way.  My secret badge of honor; that I did something good for someone.  Somehow wearing it felt life armor against anything bad life might throw at me.

I taught differently that day.  I love my job and rarely have a bad day.  I’m blessed with great students, and I feel I’m doing good work with each one of them.  As I saw student after student, I was truly glad to see everyone of them, and connected.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to be at Turtle Bay and making music, but something felt different.  Something inside me had shifted.  I could see it in the way my students responded to me and our work.

Then my 12 o’clock came in.  This woman, let’s call her M, is a delight.  She is always game for a new Italian art song or aria, loves Pavarotti, and often gives me a rundown and review on the latest performance she’s seen at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center.  She’s made great strides since we started working together, but refuses to believe me.  She told me a few weeks ago, “I know I’ll never be a professional musician, but music for me is hope.”

M came in and I greeted her warmly, asked how she was doing, as the last time I had seen her, she was battling that wicked fall cold that everyone seemed to get.  She was settling in and setting her stuff down and said as good as could be expected.  She then turned, straightened, and told me that her mother had died on Saturday.

She told me it was everything you could hope for, a good thing for her mother, and shared some intimate details of their last conversation.  I told her if she wanted to not sing today we can reschedule, and please, take care of yourself first.  With pleading eyes, she asked me if we could spend the lesson vocalizing for a bit and then she could go home.  That this had been something she wanted to do and was looking forward to.  45 minutes of singing with me.

She sang beautifully that day and I cried when she left.

The cornerstone of Single Girl Cookies is kindness, kindness with intent, and kindness because you never know what someone is going through.  You can never know your impact on someone, so be kind to all, always.  I didn’t realize what our lessons meant to my student, and the Germano family has no idea how special that simple black corded bracelet is to me.  In my mind, these two events are linked, and the two parties aren’t even aware of the others’ existence.

In the midst of San Bernardino, and Planned Parenthood, and Paris, and too many other tragedies to mention, it’s so easy to lose sight of the good in people.  But I still believe we are all good on the inside.  Kindness and light will prevail, but it has to start somewhere.  It has to start with you.  We can’t let our humanity slip away in a river of violence or anger or disappointment.  You have to believe that there is good left in us.  That there is hope in the darkness.  That kindness does make a difference.  It’s there in the little everyday gestures that may be meaningless to you, but may mean the world to someone else.

That difference has to start with you.  That difference is you.

I believe.  Do you?

 

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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.

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.

We’ll Take A Cup O’Kindness Yet

Almost everything we do in life is a skill.  Something that maybe we have a natural talent for, but something we hone to make better over time.  Many physical activities are skills, good communication is a skill, even breathing is a skill.  You think I’m kidding, but come take a voice lesson with me and you’ll realize what I mean.  Blogging is also a skill, and man, do I feel the rustiness this last month of internet silence has brought me.  Kindness is a skill too, one that is harder to lose but one that also requires continuous practice.

It’s a skill I’m glad I had this month when I was on the phone with insurance companies, police precincts, doctors and the like.  You see, I was in a car accident at the beginning of December, and have spent the last 3 1/2 weeks dealing with the aftermath of all that.  So, when I become frustrated with the many rows of red tape that I’ve had to hurdle over, or the slowness of the Nassau County PD (the police report is still not done – seriously??) I have been able to not get upset at the person I was talking to, but to accept this is the system and to breath a little deeper and maintain some semblance of calm.  I did find this meme that I thought was pretty funny though.  I do love me some Ryan Gosling.

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What happened was I was attempting to make a left hand turn, legally on my side of the double yellow line.  As I went to move into the left turn lane, someone came from behind me, also attempting to make a left hand turn but crossing the double yellow line in order to do so, and hit me in the driver’s side of my car.  The impact of her hit pushed me forward and made me hit the person in front of me with my passenger side light, on his rear driver’s side.  The most frustrating part of it all was that I was approximately 50 yards from my destination.  Oh, and that she, the woman that hit me, got out of her van and said to me, “Don’t worry, I’m not mad at you.”.  Let me tell ya, it took a lot of patience (also another skill I’ve honed this year!) to not strangle her right then and there.

My car, my baby, a 2000 Dodge Stratus, was declared totaled and I was declared concussed.  I knew that night that I had hit my head, but I did not know quite the extent of what that did until the next day.  See, I was in the midst of making 200 cookies for Singlecut Beersmith’s birthday party (which I missed) and had started preparation for the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown that was to be on that Sunday (also, which I missed) and decided that I could go about my regular activities, including baking, teaching, delivering cookies, you name it!  BIIIIG mistake.

After a call to my mother, I decided it was best that I make an immediate trip to the ER.  Side note – Mount Sinai Queens was THE WORST experience I’ve had in an emergency situation.  And I’ve had a fair number of those in my lifetime!  I don’t want to go into much detail, but I would advise others if you have another option, take it.  I left there with my diagnosis and the instructions to stay away from screens and things that tax the brain (which pretty much sums up any part of NYC living) for a few days.  As another check in the negative column for Mount Sinai Queens, that’s actually not what you should do, I’ve come to learn.  I am fortunate that the wife of someone I sing with, who also sings with us from time to time, was participating in a concert that I was singing in as well on the Monday after the accident.  She is a PA and had just come back from a conference about this stuff and had all the newest, up-to-date information on how concussions are being handled these days.  It sounds like such a common thing, but they’ve made some amazing strides over the years and concussions are much more serious than previously thought.  The rule of thumb is now no activity for a week, not a few days.  Do you know anybody in New York, or anywhere for that matter, that can take an unexpected week off?  Well, actually, I did in October when my grandmother passed, so, me, but I definitely can’t take two of those in a short period of time.  And “no activity” means no screens (tv, computer, phone), to reading, no physical activity like exercise, literally nothing.  I was able to do that for a few days, but then had to start easing into things for work’s sake as much as my own sanity.  The next thing they tell you is you should start feeling better after a while and be back to “normal” after about 3 weeks.  THREE WEEKS.  To me, that is a looooong time to feel weird.  And certainly longer than most people can expect to have concessions made for them in areas of professionalism.  I have to thank my church family and TBMS family for being so awesome about this all and understanding of the now lingering effects of the past month.

Funny thing is when this happened, I knew nothing about concussions, but I certainly couldn’t research them now!  I’ve spent my down time reflecting on the generosity of offers to bring and make me meals (which I did take people up on – learning to accept help is also a skill), and quite honestly, really being down.  That’s a part of a concussion that I never thought about, or had experienced in my life before – depression.  Sure, I’ve had down days or slumpy weeks, but those have all been situational bummers and nothing like this. It was explained to me that certain chemicals are released when your brain had a trauma like this, and that’s what causes te depression.  Even if I was well enough to be baking and making deliveries, I definitely didn’t want to.  Or put on pants and join society for that matter.  Or do anything at all.  So, I didn’t.  I would muster up enough lightness and energy to go about my obligations, and while I was in the midst of it, I would actually enjoy what I was doing, but the moment it was done and I was back home, it was back to where I’d been.  And as the month went on, I started to feel better, but also started to play catch up from the things I’d missed weeks before.  The 5 days before Christmas were insanity.  All good things, and things I wanted to do and signed up for, but I counted down to coming home like never before.

And that’s been my month in a nutshell!  Well, a pretty big nutshell, but you get it.  I’m still following up with a few more tests and doctors, all prescribed, and hoping that none of what I’m experiencing is, in fact, permanent.  Only time will tell.  But until then, forgive my misspellings, typos, and possible word switches.  Quirky is in, right?

The night of the accident, I had just made a drop at Que Cossa on Steinway and was so excited to write a post about Portabella just up the street where I had been before.  I gotta say, I’m loving these Steinway drops.  Everyone I’ve met has been polite, kind, and seems to just be trying to make their way in small business.  It’s awesome.  And these men’s stores, I really have no reason to be in there myself, so it’s fun for me to explore new territory I’d otherwise not see.

When I walked in to Portabella, this was the first thing I saw:

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I’m still not sure if it was intentionally like that, or if it was being moved around to some other position.  When I went to pick up my plate, this guy was sitting, but the scene I encountered when I first came in did not seem like they were in transition.

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All the gentlemen and lady were really nice and quite supportive of the project.  A receptive audience makes a difference for sure.  This as one of the rare times I’ve left a place feeling like I explained my mission well and that it was understood as a result of my explanation.

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For my next drop, they sent me to Que Cossa, a dress boutique on Steinway.  I had actually bought a dress there a few years ago, and not one time had gone by when I wear it that I did not get a compliment.  I actually wore it to a photoshoot I did a few years back.

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I met two ladies, Elsie and Gladys, who, at first, didn’t quite seem to understand the concept.  Made me think, Did I really explain it that well at Portabella, or were they just humoring me?  In any event, it didn’t matter, because when I went back, they were overflowing with nice things to say about me and SGC.  Turns out they read the blog and got the full scope of what this year has been and just couldn’t say enough good things.  And I was excited to finally be able to “patronize the business” because it was a dress store!

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In the back, they carry formal dresses and if I had a prom to go to, I’d imagine this would be where I would go to get my dress.  But in the front, there are quite a few good sales racks, and you know how much I love a bargain.  I picked out a few dresses and Gladys helped me pick out a few and I went back to try them on.  The first one was the one I actually ended up with, a pretty purple with a long gold zipper in the back, 3/4 sleeves and a pleated skirt with a drop waist.

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I tried on a few more, one I will definitely go back for and one that I had a slightly unfortunate incident with.  You know what I’m talking about.  This is the time I had to be cut out of a dress.

I loved this dress on the rack, sheer top above the bra line, tank sleeve, navy blue with a full skirt and a few inches of green at the bottom hem.  SO adorable.  I get it over my head and start to pull up the side zipper, but seem to be having a hard time right around my rib cage.  Now, I make a lot of jokes about eating the world, but there was still a good thumbs width between me and the dress, so it wasn’t too tight to zip.  I asked Elsie for some help zipping it up and she managed to get it past the tough spot.  i took a look in the mirror, fell in love and decided I’d have to maybe take home two dresses today.  I went to unzip it, and it wouldn’t budge.  I took a closer look to see that the trouble spot of zipping it up had split and now would not go down.  Uh oh

I called Elsie back over to see if she could fix it, and she said, “Uh oh” and called Gladys over to take a look.  Yeah, uh oh indeed.  The three of us knew the zipper would not work and had no other option but to cut the zipper, i.e. CUT ME OUT OF THE DRESS.

Poor Gladys got out her little scissors, peered at the zipper an inch below my armpit, and started cutting threads at the top of the zipper.  I felt a mixture of mortification and amusement, because who else gets to be cut out of a dress?  The cookie lady that eats pounds of sugar a week?  I thought the poor ladies wished I never even stepped foot in the shop!  I figured, at least it makes for a good story!  First one side was freed, then the other.  When both sides were cut, she was able to slip the pull of the zipper up and off the track and then split open the side.  I had to make a quick grab before I exposed myself to everyone else in the store, and made a quick retreat back to my dressing room.

I did make out with one dress, as I mentioned, and I will make a point to visit again, both for the company of those lovely ladies and for the super cute dresses they sell.  They are sending me to Designer Eyewear next, just up the street on Steinway.  With the vision problems I’m having after the accident, maybe it’s fortuitous that’s where I’ll be headed!

That was the last drop I made this month, sad but true.  I stopped by Milly’s Pantry here in Penn Yan to get a recommendation from them for a drop here on Thursday.  They were the last Penn Yan place I did a drop at in August and I’d like to keep the chain going anytime I’m here.

A few other things of note that came out this month were, 1. The interview I did with WFUV and their show, Cityscape, and, 2. The article that came out in the Westminster Choir College Alumni Newsletter.  Both turned out really well, and thank you to George Bodarky for the interview and Anne Sears for the article!  Check them out and pass ’em on!

I did also attend my very first Astoria Whiskey Society Event this month, not as a taster, but as a bring of goodies!  I went to college with the founder, Emily, and had been trying to line up my schedule so I would be able to make one of these!  I met some pretty cool people, and when I get my act together, you can find the recipe to my Gingerbread Pumpkin Whiskey Cupcakes on their blog!  The whole thing was pretty neat, you sip, learn, meet new people, and generally have a great night.  This one was held at William Hallet on 30th Ave, and George was very accommodating of the whole group.  The whole evening was full of good peeps, and it’s nice to see people that I’ve enjoyed meeting from previous drops.

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When I look back on this December, I missed out on a lot this month.  I missed on on many opportunities to connect and convert new do-gooders, I missed out on singing The Messiah at school, I missed out on the holiday cheer and fun festive feelings, I missed seeing my friend who was in town because I had too much other “catch up” stuff to do toward the end of the month as a result of the accident.  I missed at least 1 cookie drop, probably 4 blog posts and any progress that could’ve been made in planning the Single Girl Cookies 1 year anniversary party, progress on the business side of things here, and progress on my book aspirations.  If you think I owe you a response to an email that you wrote to me weeks or months ago, I’m positive I do.  But I didn’t forget, and I will get to replying eventually 🙂 This was just my turn in life for things to feel out of control and overwhelming but do you know what I didn’t miss out on?  What I, in fact, gained?  I didn’t miss out on friends coming forth to offer help, words of encouragement and a supporting heart.  I was offered a new perspective to those that struggle with clinical depression or chronic illness.  I gained time to reflect on the work I’d done this year and the strides that have been made in the name of kindness, both in my life and the life of others.  My inactivity only strengthened my resolve to come back with more giving, bigger goals and a broader reach.  I wouldn’t want to repeat December 2013, and thankfully will never have to, but my experiences this month have given me a deeper appreciation for those in my life, new and far, new-to-me or not.  Thank you for shaping me into who and what I am in this very instant, and the person I continue to be molded into. Thank you also for the skills I’ve gained and refined this year. What new skills have you aqcuired?

As this year closes, take a moment to reach out and say a word of thanks, love or kindness to those near and far, new-to-you or not, and start your new year on a note of goodness. Thank those that have helped shape you.

For auld lang syne.

This Girl Is On Fire

Ever been in a situation where you realize halfway through just how epic and life changing it really is, and you start to see yourself almost from a third party perspective?  Or start saying something, just to test it out, but realizing it become infinitely more real each time you say it?  Kinda like Beetlejuice!  You know – you say his name three times to get him to appear?   I always imagined that with each “Beetlejuice”, Michael Keaton came more and more into being until he was a fully formed and solid being.  I find the same holds true for desires or thoughts.  Before you realize it, an “I’m thinking of doing” or “Maybe I’ll” has turned into “I’m doing ___ and actively pursuing this!”.  Then, for the first time, you really hear what you just said and go, “Huh???  I am??”  Welcome to my last three weeks.

When I last left you, the countdown to TEDx Utica was on.  I was at Utica Coffee Roasters for a bit of downtime before the big show and needed to catch you guys up on what had happened the weeks before.  I couldn’t let the last thing y’all read before I embarked on this crazy journey to be my letter to my grandmother.  And later that night at 5pm, the starting gun went off, I took the stage, and I haven’t stopped since.

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First of all, thank you thank you thank you to everyone that took the time to watch the livestream from the evening, or have gone to YouTube to watch my talk, or have shared it with their friends, families, co-workers, or pets.

I know in today’s world, 12 minutes can seem like an eternity, but thanks for taking the time.  Much appreciated. And yeah, even for a performer such as myself, those 12 minutes simultaneously flew by and seemed to go on forever.  That was the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life and I actually thought I might throw up before hand.  Luckily, I didn’t, everything went smoothly, everyone got cookies and so on we go.  The rest of the speakers were quite good and all had very relevant and thought provoking things to say.  You can actually watch all of the speakers’ videos on the TEDx Utica site!

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Between TED and the Guideposts article that came out that same day, I’ve been led down an amazing path of new possibilities, both as Renee and as Single Girl.  I did an interview with my alma mater about service through music because someone saw the TED livestream.  I’m doing a radio interview tomorrow with Kelli Corasanti, another TED speaker, on her internet blog radio show, It Only Takes One.  I’m scheduled to do another interview with the radio show Cityscape, on 90.7, WFUV, New York City’s NPR affiliate.  I’ll be participating in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown on Sunday, Dec 8.  I’ve met with the SBCD at LaGuardia CC, taken meetings with attorneys and others in a position to help the cause, and I’m still doing weekly drops (duh, like I could ever NOT do those).  Oh, and I’m planning a giant Single Girl Cookies Birthday Party/Astoria Love-Fest in January, having a gathering at my place this Sunday (email me for info – all ladies are invited!), and I am still working on a Single Girl Cookies book.  Yeah, and the rest of my regular singing life is still happening too.  Wait a second…..is this what being an adult is?

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Me pretending to be an adult

A lot of those things are things I can keep you updated on after they happen.  I’ll be posting at least one interview for your listening pleasure, and the legally/business stuff will take a while, but it means some VERY exciting news for Single Girl.  That is definitely one of those things I was mentioning earlier; I’m Beetjuice-ing something into existence, but didn’t realize what a big deal it was.  Kinda like when people bring back Beetlejuice and they don’t realize how bad that is!  Man, I’m rockin’ in the metaphor department today, except my things are good, not bad.

Something I’d like to talk to you all about now is my giant birthday party!!!  Woot!!  The one year anniversary of Single Girl Cookies is coming up on January 17th and what better way to celebrate a year of kindness than by throwing a party?  Also, who doesn’t love parties??  You, you over there that just said you don’t like parties? Get out.

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I’ve actually been thinking about this for a long time, long enough to know that I can’t do it alone.  My hope is to get as many people from the places I’ve been to over the last year in one big place, maybe have some vendors there, maybe a raffle (I’d like to get said people to donate gifts for said raffle) as a fund raiser, a giant board where people can stick note cards where they write their favorite thing about Astoria on there, cookies….just a huge Astoria Love-Fest!  In fact, because I’m not very creative in the Naming Things Department, that’s what I will probably call it. All of that sounds, in my opinion, like the greatest party that ever was or ever will be.  I’m sure that’s exactly how you view it too.  But, it’s also going to be a lot of work, and something I can’t do all myself.  I’m sure there are many other great ideas about what to add, or how to go about accomplishing everything, and I need your help!  This is my huge plea  – Please, oh please, don’t let me go crazy trying to make this amazing thing happen.  I’ll be at The Queens Kickshaw this Saturday, November 16th at 11am for a planning session.  It’s my first “community event” and I need the community to pull it off!  I’m really looking for a good group of people who wouldn’t mind making the occasional phone call, or stopping into a few places to diplomatically ask for a gift donation to raffle off, or posting signs, or coming early to the event to help with set up.  This entire year has been a community effort, don’t leave me hanging now 🙂

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The Utica Fire Department knows what’s up. They didn’t “leave me hanging” – get it??

Mark this on your calendars as well – December 8th, 2-4pm.  This is the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown!  I heard about this when a friend forwarded me the page, thinking it was up my alley.  Boy, is it ever!  I’m going as a cook on Sunday, but this happens both Saturday and Sunday, tickets can be purchased here.  For $15, you gain admission to Bell House in Brooklyn where you spend the next two hours drinking bourbon and eating cookies.  Tell me that isn’t the best news you’ve heard in the last ten minutes.

Another event event, smaller and more immediate, is the Stella & Dot Trunk Show gathering I’m having at my apartment on Sunday!  A good friend of mine is a Stella & Dot stylist and came up with the title Single Girl Soiree (cute, right?) with an evening that will be all about cookies, wine and of course, jewelry 🙂  Everyone is welcome, it is from 6-8 this Sunday the 17th, and you can come and go whenever.  If you’d like to come but can’t make it, you can still shop that party online (there are lots of cute things, and come on people, let’s start thinking holiday shopping).  In either case, I ask that you shoot me a message on Facebook, twitter, or email, and I’ll email or message you back the invitation link, because it does have my address on there and I’m not sure I could handle the flocks of adoring men that will swamp my building door, should that address get out.  Hehe, guess what I’m dreaming of for Christmas? 😉

And with a bit of normalcy, I’ll wrap up this post by finishing up the cookies I’ve been baking.  My drop today is at Samantha on Steinway, and I was sent there by Tina at Jasmine, two doors up the block.  Rob from Fantasy sent me to Jasmine, and Kian at Esquire sent me to Fantasy and the folks at Venzini sent me to Esquire.  There!  We’re all caught up 🙂    Catch you next week!

And The Party Don’t Stop

You know those automatic iphone/ipad signatures at the end of your emails that act as a disclaimer for the spelling errors that usually happen when not typing on a physical keyboard? Well, I’m typing this on my iPad, so here’s an apology up front for all my typos, grammatical errors or autocorrects that may occur during the course of this post :-). I am currently visiting family in Boston for the weekend but I knew I had to get a post out, and soon. I’ve been itching to write for a while now but have literally not had the time. Doesn’t that sound like such a cop out? I almost wish it were and not such an illustration of how busy I’ve been being here at home! But truly, it’s been a good busy, a seeing family and getting ice cream and going to Lollypop Farm and nephew time and dinner with friends kind of busy. Maybe it’s gearing me up for the fall? I’ll be back in Astoria soon and back to the swing of auditions, teaching voice lessons, and of course, baking and delivering cookies and good around the neighborhood. After all, what else is there for a Single Girl to do? 😉

Last week’s drop was at the Penn Yan Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps. I found that to be similar inn a way to a drop at the firehouse, because everyone works in different shifts and you rarely get the same groups of people twice. In this case, that is even more pronounced because it is a smaller operation and it’s on a volunteer basis. As a result, many times the people i pick up my plate from have no idea what I’m talking about 🙂 Such was the case here. I dropped the cookies off with Johnathan on a Wednesday and came back to pick up my plate on Saturday and spoke with Brian, who did have no idea. Poor guy missed out on cookies too! But I got my plate back, told him about Single Girl Cookies and he seemed to like the idea. When I asked for a recommendation, he went with the spirit of how they had received them and sent me just around the corner to the Emergency Room at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital. The irony of this is that this all took place with me in crutches and a boot for a sprained foot that got diagnosed at – yep, the emergency room.

Side note, I may be an idiot for how I sprained my foot, but I’m totally the coolest aunt.

I headed to the ER on Wednesday to drop off some cookies to those that probably know me more than I know. Growing up, we were always in the ER or at the doctors office for one thing or another. Sprained ankles, stitches, allergy shots, super bugs that left me super dehydrated – and these were more of the ‘run of the mill’ issues for us Heitmanns. But at least this visit wasn’t for any of that, but for good vibes and kindness!

I came in the afternoon when I figured it would be slow and thankfully, I was right. I came up to a window where Yvonne was chatting with Dwayne (I think he was leaving on his lunch break) to leave my sweets. I’m not sure if Dwayne remembered me, but I remember him from the many years of visits :-).

I told my story, they listened and loved what I had to say. We got to talking about small towns and things that were pretty relevant to my last post when I said to Yvonne, “And aren’t you the mother of the twins?” (there are one set of twins in PY) and sure enough, she was! The family resemblance was just too strong. But that’s the joy of a small town! We chatted a bit more and I left feeling lifted and positive. I’ll swing by when I get back in town for my final Penn Yan recommendation!

In other HUGE Single Girl Cookies news, this week I announced that I will be a speaking at TedX Utica in October! I cannot begin to tell you all how excited, honored, humbled, and just plain excited I am to be a part of this! Their message is “Dream, Develop, Deliver” and I will be sharing the story of Single Girl Cookies and reaching a whole new audience of future kindness doers. Just think of the possibilities… And really, I need thank those who believed this was an idea and concept that needed to be shared. I will be sharing more information as we go along, such as how to apply for tickets and where you can watch the Talks streaming online. There is a great line up of speakers covering a broad range of topics and everything is primed to cultivate and grow ideas. Check out their site for new happenings and to read more about it! http://tedxutica.com/

As I finish up, I’m surrounded by a small amount of chaos – Disney Junior is on the television, a small dog racing around the house, a 2 year old racing a remote control car, and other family catching up with multiple conversations. And I love it 🙂 What are you doing with your last moments of summer?