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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā

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. ūüėČ ¬†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 ūüėČ

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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