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.

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New York, New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Just Called to Say I Love You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Back in Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They Say It’s Your Birthday

Guys, I’m 1 year old today!  Can you believe it??  A kernel of a thought that I had over a year ago has been materialized and is now the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my lifetime thus far and actually exists.  You know what they say about the power of your thoughts.

I had originally started planning a giant birthday party back around Thanksgiving time but then the accident happened and everything kinda got shot to hell.  But if you want to come celebrate with me tonight and have a cookie and a beer, I’ll be at Singlecut Beersmiths around 10 hanging with some of the best peeps in the neighborhood, my friends that work there.  My love for them (and their beer) runs fast and deep and there’s nowhere I’d rather celebrate 🙂 So come up down (up, really), have a drink with me and let’s celebrate a kinder Astoria and world!  But first, let me take you on a walk through my morning…..

I woke up (waaay too late – talking with my bff on the west coast) and opened my door to trudge outside and move my car.  But what I saw puzzled me.

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I stood there for a minute, already foggy brain from a concussion (yep, still having issues with that), foggy brain from the morning, pre-coffee no less, and thought, “Is it my birthday and I forgot?” Yes, kids, things are that bad in the morning.  Then my next thought was “It’s not Annie’s (my roommate) birthday, that’s in August.  Maybe she’s having a surprise thing for a friend after work tonight?  Huh, she usually wouldn’t mentioned that.  Ok, that’s cool”

As I drew closer, it was clear that it was for someone’s birthday, I just hadn’t figured it out yet.

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As I turned the corner and saw this, I felt like I’d been hit with the most wonderful, loving, caring hammer.  And yeah, I felt a little dumb for my previous thoughts.  Like I’d forget my own birthday!  Well, apparently, I did.

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My roommate had set up streamers and balloons…

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….set out a ‘sweet’ gesture of sugar and an owl saying Happy Birthday….

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….and a nice, big, eye-level-so-I-can’t-miss-it sign wishing me a great day.

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I’d be terrible at surprise parties because I stood there for a moment, grinning and speechless, not sure what to do.  I, of course, have to give a huge thank you to Annie for doing this in the first place – I loved it! – and a ginormous thank you to all of you that have supported me throughout the last year.  It means the world, and I’m really looking forward to the year ahead.  I’m branching out into Manhattan next week (don’t worry, still continuing with Astoria) and have a lot of big projects that I’d like to accomplish in 2014.  But, for all my intentions, I’ll take it as it comes, because when 2013 started, I had no idea I’d be doing a TEDx Talk; you can never know what’s coming down the pipeline.  Kinda like my birthday surprise.  🙂

And that, my friends, is what makes living life so joyfully exciting.

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PS – See you tonight!

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.

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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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!

Only the Lonely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann