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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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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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