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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Summer’s End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The space for Tedx Utica

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

 

Renee Heitmann Copyright 2013

And The Party Don’t Stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Town, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Copyright 2013, Renee Heitmann