The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Happy Monday, folks!

‘Tis a great Monday indeed, since it’s the very last Monday before… CHRISTMAS!!!!!!1!!!11!!!!!!!!!!1!!

If you’re thinking, “Gretchen, ease up on the exclamation points and formatting, it’s just a holiday…” then you obviously don’t know me at all. Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday, my favorite time of year, my favorite everything. I’m totally that girl when it comes to Christmas. And this year, my whole fam is heading down to Atlanta to ring in Christmas morn at my sister Jen’s house.

It actually feels like the Christmas festivities have kind of already started, though, because even though we’re all going to her house for Christmas in just a few days, my sister and my nieces were actually up here this past weekend!

 
This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also certainly the busiest! This past week has held my work holiday celebration, my brother’s birthday, a photoshoot, and a baby shower — as well as plenty of time spent with the best kiddos in the world, of course. 🙂

Wednesday night, I went out to dinner with my coworkers to celebrate 2016 and the upcoming holidays. We don’t have an actual office here in the DC area (I work from home), but I’m luckier than a lot of other remote Yelp employees in that there are actually quite a few of us in the same area! This gives us the luxury of getting me out from behind my computer screen every once in a while to love on each other in person (and gives me an excuse to get dolled up, too!)

 
I know I probably humblebrag about my job far too much already, but I just have the best coworkers. We went to this new-ish restaurant in DC called Mythology that I loooooved, and ate, drank, and chatted the night away. I don’t go into the city all that often, but this place already has me thinking about my next trip, it was so good! The deets are all on–you guessed it–Yelp, so take a gander if you’re interested:

Read Gretchen F.‘s review of Mythology on Yelp

Thursday was my brother’s birthday, and was also the day that Jenny and the girls came into town. We had a family dinner at my parents’ house, and then went to see Rogue One on opening night (no spoilers, but it was awesome.)

 
Saturday morning was spent twiddling my thumbs waiting for the insane ice that had taken over the Metro Area to melt. It was insanely icy that morning — I almost fell flat on my butt just stepping out my front door, and there were literally dozens and dozens of terrible traffic accidents throughout the morning (including a THIRTY CAR PILEUP on the beltway. :()

Luckily (and weirdly), it warmed up and the ice was all but melted by noon, so I still got to fill the majority of the day with fun stuff… and even had a special guest star that some of you may recognize:

Anne! My brother and sister-in-law were shooting some photos for Anne’s business, so I played the role of makeup artist for the day. I can’t wait to see the finished shots!

 
Getting to test out my makeup skills is always fun for me, especially as my interest in makeup artistry has continued to grow. I’ve been getting more experimental with my own makeup lately (perhaps I’ve been getting bolder as a side effect of chopping off my hair, hehe), and, much to Sean’s chagrin, have been investing in a broader range and breadth of products.

Maybe one day I’ll get confident enough to start a side hustle beautifying folks, but for now, it’s enough to showcase my extreme vanity all over Instagram. And here, too, I guess. 😉

Finally, my weekend capped off with my beautiful friend Lara’s baby shower! This was the main reason Jen was back in town, as she was co-hosting it, and it just worked out really well that it was around the same time as Ben’s birthday.

Lara is a big Crossfit nut, so the shower was actually Crossfit themed! I helped Jen out by trying to replicate some of the things that she found on Pinterest. Some were a big win (the barbell diaper cake!), some were passable (the kettle bell cake balls), and some were a huge, time-wasting fail (WHY ARE SUGAR COOKIES SO HARD TO DECORATE?!?!). Regardless, I had a ton of fun prepping with Jen and, of course, loving on Lara and her soon-to-be baby girl!

So, that just about catches us up! Jen and the girls head back to Atlanta today with my parents, and the rest of us will be following suit later this week. So the next few days are sure be super busy as I try to wrap up work stuff, personal stuff, and try to keep my raging Christmas spirit in check ’til I make it to the ATL! And if I don’t make it back for another post before the end of the week, we wish you the happiest of holidays and merriest of Christmases!

 

Jelly Legs

So last night I made my (not so) triumphant return to CrossFit. I’ve been admittedly lax in my workout efforts since my car accident(s), citing my whiplash injuries as the reason I wasn’t trying very hard in that department. Well, while it’s true that I do still have some soft tissue injuries that I’m getting treatment for, I am certainly not completely debilitated. And shoulder/neck tension and discomfort considered, it’s no excuse for a total lack of exercise. So with a little bit of (necessary) prodding from my coach at CrossFit Annandale, I saddled up.

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Please ignore the atrocious mess that is my room.

At least it gave me an excuse to try out some of the new CrossFit-targeted workout clothes that my awesome friends at New Balance sent me!

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They hooked me up with a couple of Getback Racerback tanks. Not only is the back of this tank pretty flippin’ sweet, but the built-in shelf bra was surprisingly supportive. I didn’t wear any kind of additional sports bra with this tank and I felt totally fine jumping rope and whatnot at CrossFit. Kind of crazy, considering my rather ample front-end. I was definitely impressed!

They also sent me the Fitness 8-inch Shorts, which are seriously like the most unflattering length ever but are also CRAZY comfortable. And the length, while I don’t feel it does anything for my leg aesthetics, was pretty perfect for working out. No ride-ups, plus it has pockets! They’re also high-waisted, so I didn’t have to worry about my pooch or muffin top spilling over when I was squatting or anything. Hahaha, I am so attractive.

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And, of course, what NB ensemble would be complete without shoes? They sent me a pair of their Minimus 20V2 Cross-Training shoes to try out. I am way in love with the color, and was blown away when I picked them up because they are SO light. Lighter even than the Reebok RealFlex shoes I received at the Healthy Living Summit.

In comparison to those Reeboks, however, the NB Minimus is also less flexible. Which I guess isn’t really a terribly important component of a CF shoe, but it is something that I guess I like. I was also just a smidge disappointed in the craftsmanship of the Minimus. They fit well and were great to use during CrossFit, but there were some manufacturing details that looked a little messy: puckering where the sole meets the upper, loose threads, and whatnot (as pictured above). Regardless, they are light on my feet, though I’ll definitely need to wear them more than, um, once, in order to give a full review on how they feel.

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As for the one non-New Balance item I was wearing? My sister gave me this awesome Under Armour triple-band headband (she gave me two, actually), and I loveloveLOVE it. I provides the hair coverage of a thick headband without making me look like a thug or a seller of bavarian cookies. And even if the third band slips back because it’s too far back on my head (which I need to keep my bangs fully slicked back), the first two stay firmly in place.

But okay, enough product shilling, hahahaha. Onto the actual workout:

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So evidently I made the poorest choice in the history of choices and returned to CrossFit on like the worst possible day. Because the WOD was RIDICULOUS. It was a three-part WOD, which I had looked up on the website previously and thought we had a CHOICE of the three 8-minute WODs: A, B, OR C. As it turns out, NOPE. I WAS WRONG. We did them ALL. IN A ROW (with a 4 minute rest in between each part).

I didn’t really end up doing the same workout as anybody else because the coach was super attentive to me and modified pretty much everything so that I wouldn’t strain my neck/shoulders. Basically, this meant turning everything into some variation of a squat. Ergo, jelly legs today.

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My injured weakling substitution props

Here is how my workout broke down:

Part A: I used a PVC pipe instead of a barbell to mimic the movement of thrusters (5 reps), then did 10 goblet squats by holding a kettlebell upside down and squatting to replace the power cleans. Then I did 15 box dips instead of pull ups. I made it through 3 sets with two extra thrusters in 8 minutes.

Part B: Instead of kettlebell swings, I did another set of 10 goblet squats, which at this point were nearly impossible. My body has never felt so heavy. Then I did the 30 walking lunges that were prescribed in the WOD, and did 20 single unders (er, regular jump ropes?) instead of 40 double unders. I made it through 1 set, plus like 5 extra squats. I felt really lame.

Part C: Instead of burpees (my nemesis!), I rowed 150 meters. This was the part I was most excited about because it meant I didn’t have to do burpees, hahaha. Then instead of push-ups, I did box dips again (20 this time). And then instead of sit-ups, I held a 30-second plank. I was actually really proud of myself for being able to hold a plank for 30 seconds! I know it sounds CRAZY weak, but my max plank time from before was like, 12 seconds. I am not lying. Core strength has never been my (literal) strong suit. I made it through 2 sets and like, 2 extra squats. Again, felt very lame.

So, there you have it. I know that I’m not at my best right now, that I’m “injured” and “recovering” and stuff, AND that this was a particularly ridiculous workout for me to jump back into. But while I still got my butt handed to me by this workout (I’m thinking that post-CrossFit nausea is just going to be a thing I need to get used to, since evidently it’s going to happen every time, haha), I felt kind of pathetic that it did. Especially considering it was so modified. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up too badly (my lower body is hurting enough on its own today, haha), buuuut I may or may not have cried a little in the car once I left the gym. Only for like, 15 seconds though!

Ah well, once I have regained control of my quads and as my injuries continue to heal, I’m sure it’ll get easier. Or, you know, at least I’ll get used to being so bad at it.

Weekend Update: Labors of Love

Howdy folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, mine has ended with me picking up a(nother) little cold, but prior to waking up with my head feeling like it needs to be popped (seriously, cannot even hear out of my right ear right now) the weekend was pretty rad! Let’s flashback to Friday for a hot second.

Shocking though it may seem, I actually did start my weekend off with a workout. I know, who am I? I ventured back for my third CrossFit class and it totally kicked my ass.

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Coach Jeremy was cruel kind enough to document the experience for me. The warm-up this time was actually really fun. We grabbed a partner and a medicine ball (ours was 15 lbs) and went out to the parking lot.

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Then, one of us would throw the ball as far as we could, then the other would sprint from their position to where it landed. Then the second partner would throw the ball while the first stayed in place, and so on, and so forth.

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Turns out that just because something is shaped like a ball does NOT make it easy to throw, hahaha. 15 lbs is a lot to toss forward!

After the warm-up we spent 10 minutes working on a particular CrossFit skill that we have a hard time with (note how it’s phrased on the whiteboard in the first pic, hahaha). Since ALL of the skills are new to me, I didn’t particularly know where to start. Jeremy suggested I try working on my jump ropes, since “double unders” are a pretty standard CF move. I’m pretty sure that 11-year-old Gretchen would be VERY disappointed in how my jump rope skills have lapsed. I could barely make single unders happen. Oh well, something to work on, I guess!

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Then came the Workout of the Day itself. Just like last time’s, this was an “AMRAP”, or “As many reps as possible” in the allotted time (10 minutes). The WOD consisted of 5 power cleans, 5 thrusters, and 10 burpees. Since I had absolutely no clue was a “power clean” or “thruster” was, the coach spent a good amount of time going over the movements, and then gave me a little extra practice time, too. I practiced with a PVC pipe at first to get the general motion, and then did the actual workout with a 15-lb practice bar (rather than a 45-lb + weights bar like everyone else). At first I thought that 15-lbs was totally lame, and almost asked if I could use a heavier weight, but in the end I’m sooooo glad I didn’t try to get ahead of myself.

Dude, this ish be hard! I had a really hard time getting the proper form down for the power clean. A power clean is where you take the bar (from the floor for the others, from my knees for me — like in the picture above) and lift it up under your chin with this kind of jumpy/jerky move. It’s really hard for me to explain in words, but I found it very difficult to do correctly without leaning back and doing all sorts of weird stuff with my posture. I actually think it’s one of those things where it would have been a little easier with more weight on the bar, because I would have had more resistance keeping me in place.

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The thrusters I did okay on. They involve starting in a squat position with the bar under your neck, then standing and thrusting (get it?) the bar over your head and back (keeping your head “through the window” that your arms make).

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Then… came the burpees. 10 of them. After doing them at the first CrossFit class I attended (in which I was supposed to do 20 burpees), I thought that 10 would be no problem! Boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong.

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I don’t know what it is about this move but it is basically like an instant recipe for me to become nauseous. I don’t know if it’s all the bending, or just the fact that they’re always in combination with some other hardcore movement, but seriously. It is awful. I had to take like a 5 minute break after my second set because I suddenly felt so terriblw. Wtf, burpees?

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This face is all for show. (Also, apologies for the cleav shot, hahaha.)

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There we go. That’s a little more accurate as to how it felt.

In the end, I ended up making it through 3 full sets, plus an additional 7 (5 power cleans and 2 thrusters). Each class I’ve been to has been so different from the last, I still feel like an uber-n00b. That said, I can’t lie: the variety does make it kind of fun. And at least the fact that I started off the weekend with such a hard workout made me feel slightly less guilty for eating out so much over the weekend. I promise I had good reasons to though!

Saturday night my bestest best friend Bethany and her husband Colt came into town. Bethany and Colt have been living in Texas for the past two years and just moved back to Charlottesville. I couldn’t be happier! It’s hard to believe it’s been over TWO YEARS since I’d seen them last (at their freaking wedding!) Bethany and I were roommates throughout almost all of college (we were hallmates Freshman year), and we definitely have one of those friendships where it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, we just kind of pick right up where we left off. Sean & I took the two of them to Dogfish Head and spent the night chatting away. We had such a great time I literally took 0 pictures. Oops! 🙂

But, much to my other friend Lara’s chagrin, I more than made up for the lack of picture-taking Sunday night.

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Sean & I met Lara and her new fiance (!!) Dan for dinner on Sunday at the Vietnamese restaurant Four Sisters.

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I’d been hearing rave reviews about this place for a long time but had never gotten a chance to go. Lara said she was in the mood to try something new, so I immediately suggested it!

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We started off sharing an order of fresh summer rolls (the best!) and fried shrimp wontons. When it came down to ordering, the menu is HUMONGOUS. Like, of Cheesecake Factory proportions. Luckily, I already knew what I was in the mood for:

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Pho!

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With all the appropriate accouterments, of course.

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Theeeere we go.

I thought it was really good. A lot of the time Pho broth can be way too strong for me, but Four Sisters’ was very balanced. I got it with beef and meatballs, which was kind of a weird combination but I dug it. The meatballs reminded me of the fish balls that my mom puts into soup noodles sometimes, so it was nostalgic for me. Next time I go to Four Sisters I’ll want to branch out a little for sure, but it had been so long since I had pho that there was no reasoning with me. The caramelized fish in clay pot is particularly well-reviewed on Yelp…

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Since Four Sisters is located right in the cute new little shopping center in Merrifield, we walked right past a Coldstone on our way in. Both Lara and I agreed that we couldn’t just pass up the opportunity!

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Sean and I shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle bowl. Sadly, I think it’s the last bit of ice cream I think I’ll be seeing in a while. Good thing it was delicious!

Monday was spent primarily bumming around the house. There was one ill-fated trip to Target that I mildly regretted (Target was CRAZY on Labor Day!) but other than that, it was just a lot of Guild Wars 2…. as well as a lot of Virginia Tech Football talk, haha. I guess that since Sean and I didn’t really start dating until college football season was almost over, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into dating a Hokie! As someone who is almost entirely apathetic when it comes to sports of any kind (especially including my own alma mater, JMU, ahahaha), I guess it’s a good thing they won last night?

Have a great day!

CrossFit Part Deux

I’d say “Guess what I did last night?” but I’m thinking the title of this post kinda gives it away, huh?

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Please ignore my heinous bug bite.

Yep, a mere six days after my first CrossFit experience, I made my (not so) victorious return to the “box”! The amazing people at CrossFit Annandale are generously providing me with a scholarship (free attendance) in exchange for me sharing my workout experiences, so I figured it was time to get back in the figurative saddle.

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That picture just about sums it up. On the bright side, I felt roughly 83% less throwy-uppy after this time. That means I’m already improving, right? Hahahaha.

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I think I ended up picking a really good class to make my second one, because the types of moves we did and the muscle areas we targeted were completely different than last time. I can see why CrossFitters claim that they never get bored doing this kind of workout, for sure. Yesterday’s workout was much more focused on arms, shoulders, and back, whereas last week’s was all about the quads and glutes.

We started with a warm up outside in the parking lot where we did high knees and butt kicks, then some walking stretches, then a quick round of push ups (on knees, for me) and squats (I’m getting better at these already!). Then we headed inside for the regular workout part, where we alternated between bench pressing and “toes to bar” crunches. Sorry there aren’t any actual workout photos, but I felt a little sketchball asking for someone to take pics of me again, haha.

Since I have never bench-pressed anything in my life (and it was only my 2nd time and all), Coach Tony spent a lot of time taking me through the proper way to do it. I gotta say, I’m really impressed with the amount of personal attention you get at CrossFit. I know that it’s probably different for me because I’m still such a n00b and need help with, um, everything, but still. I think I would liken the experience to group personal training.

Anyway, for the bench press I started with just the 45-lb bar, then added 10 lbs of weight after my first set. I was VERY wobbly, since I’m not used to having to hold up something that can tilt above me, but I think I have the basic idea down for sure. I really need to work on my breathing rhythm most, I think, since exhaling at the wrong time had a definite effect on my ability to push the bar back up.

The toes to bar things were NOT something I could do, however. They involved dangling from a pull-up bar and lifting your feet straight up until they touch the bar where your hands are. Er, yeah. I couldn’t even do the whole dangling from the bar part. So Tony had me do leg lifts on the ground instead, which works the same lower abdominal muscles (of which I have roughly zero, haha). At least I’ve done those before!

After a few sets of those two moves, it was time to move onto the Workout of the Day (WOD). Yesterday’s WOD was an “AMRAP”, which stands for “As Many Reps As Possible.” In essence, we had 10 minutes to cycle through the 3 different sections of the WOD as many times as we could manage.

The first part was to do 5 ring dips. This involves hoisting yourself up on dangling rings, dipping your body weight, and pulling yourself back up. Because my upper arm strength is about the same as my core strength (I’m weeeeeak!), I did dips on a bench instead, and did twice as many (10).

The second part was to do 10 pull ups. Again, can’t do them (yet!) so I did seated pull-ups using the rings that I didn’t use for the actual ring dips (confused yet? Hahaha). I also only had to do 5, which was good, because they were still really hard.

Finally, the last part was to do kettlebell swings! I’ve been seeing/hearing about kettlebells for a long time, so I was actually excited to get to do this. Coach Tony helped me out with my form for a while, and I did a lighter weight than the other girls (16 pounds instead of 35), but I did the regular number of reps (20).

So, ring dips, pull ups, kettlebell swings, repeat! I got through my modified-for-a-weakling cycle 4 times, plus an additional 5 shoulder dips. Whoo! Unlike last time, however, where I was able to do the same exercises as everyone just with lower weight, I did feel kind of lame having to modify so many moves, and by so much. I mean, I know that I’ll get there eventually, and it’s not like anybody made me feel bad about it (other than myself), but still. I guess that’s just something I’ll have to get over, eh?

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After the WOD was over, another coach helped me with stretching and mobility exercises for a good 15 minutes, which was awesome. He showed me how to foam roll my lats, do shoulder mobility using a long skinny PVC pipe, and use a lacrosse ball for my back. I think that this was crucial in me being less sore today. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still sore (which means I’ll be even MORE sore tomorrow!), but it’s not as bad as last time AT ALL. And again, this workout didn’t really make me nauseous or anything either. Hopefully that doesn’t mean I didn’t put forth the same amount of effort though!

We’ll have to see how long it takes me to fully recover this time, haha. ‘Til then, CrossFit!

Introduction to CrossFit

My body.

It hurts.

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Yes folks, last night I had my very first taste of CrossFit in all its glory. Admittedly, I’ve wanted to see what CrossFit is all about for a while. Goodness knows I read about it on enough blogs, and everyone I know who does do it seems to be OBSESSED with it. After I posted my first HLS Recap explaining how I didn’t get a chance to participate in the CrossFit workout because of the timing of my presentation, blog reader Kiera emailed me and invited me to come check out the box where she does CrossFit: CrossFit Annandale.

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I have to say, after just one session I can already kind of tell why people are seriously drinking the CrossFit kool-aid. My entire body is sore today, but it’s in an I-feel-like-a-badass kind of way (though going to the bathroom is not really fun after all those squats and lunges, I tell you what). Granted, I did feel just a tiny bit throwy-uppy near the end of the WOD (Workout of the Day), but I can definitely say that I survived, and I even — gasp! — kind of had fun! What?

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So, let’s talk specifics. I went to attend the 7:00 PM class last night (the first one is free!) and got there a little early to check things out and speak with the owner, Jeremy. I got to see the end of the previous class finishing up the WOD, and when they had all cleared out, we jumped right in! Each hour-long workout is structured into three parts: warm up, skill/strength training, and finally the WOD. CrossFit Annandale does have two nights a week where they offer a WOD-only workout, too, for those who may be more crunched for time but still want to be able to “get after it” (that’s a CF saying, right? Ahahahaha).

We started out with a warm-up that consisted of about 3 minutes of various plank exercises. So obviously, considering my core strength (read: none), this entailed me holding a plank for about 8 seconds at a time, crumpling to my knees, then trying again. But hey, it’s about the effort, right? And it certainly got me warmed up in a jiffy.

After that, we moved into the strength/skill part of the class. We partnered up (I immediately grabbed ahold of Kiera, haha) and we alternated between sets of 5 front squats with a weighted bar (I did a 35 lb bar with 10 extra pounds on it, so 45 total), and 10 dumbbell external rotations, which I did with a 5 lb weight. Since I was still getting used to the moves and am totally new at this, Coach Jeremy said it was fine for me to keep my weight light. I had absolutely no problem with this.

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I need to work on keeping my elbows up, I know, but hey, I’m a n00b! I’m learning. 😉

I have some occasional issues with my left wrist (my dainty blogger’s wrists, ahaha), and after three sets with the bar pulling my wrist back, I knew I needed to change it up. Jeremy showed me a way to complete the set by holding an upside-down kettlebell instead, which kept my wrists straight. I had go to down to a 35 lb weight though, since 45 pounds on a bar and 45 pounds crammed into a kettlebell definitely feel different!

After we completed our last set, it was time for the WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was as follows:

1. Row 1000 meters.
2. 20 overhead walking lunges with 25/45 lbs (women/men)
3. 30 burpees

Because at this point I was already pathetic-looking (not to mention mega-sweaty), the supernice coaches modified the WOD for me. I rowed 500 meters, did the 20 walking lunges with a 10 lb overhead weight, and did 15 burpees. And still, even in exerting half the effort as the other people who were there, I still teetered on the “Am I going to throw up?” line for a little bit, hahaha. Guess I haven’t been working out as hard as I thought lately, eh?

There are only three rowing machines and there were at least 10 of us in the class, so we went in heats. I watched the first two heats go before jumping in. Extremely unflattering photo barrage in 3… 2… 1…

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Newflash: I already hate burpees. I got through the rowing and the overhead lunges fairly quickly, but the thought of having to crouch, then flatten, then crouch, then jump (and clap!) afterward made me literally nauseous. I got through one burpee before I had to sit down and take a breather. After a little water (and a little whining), however, I finished the rest of them. My total time for my modified WOD was 9 minutes and 10 seconds.

So there you have it! The workout was definitely rough, even modified for a beginner like me, but it also was a lot of fun. I know, “rough but fun” sounds a little oxymoronic, but it’s true! The other attendees and the coaches were all crazy friendly, and spent a lot of time with each individual person: correcting our form, encouraging us, joking around, etc. I can understand why people enjoy CrossFit so much — it’s a very communal workout, and socialization automatically makes things more fun (and lessened the intimidation factor by about 1000 for me).

Once my muscles stop screaming every time I sit or stand or turn or walk or reach for something or, you know, do anything at all, I will definitely be going back. I know I don’t have the best track record with sticking with one particular kind of exercise, but who knows? People must be fanatical about CrossFit for a reason, right? It’ll be interesting to see how my own relationship with exercise, as well as with my body in general, changes as I continue. I’m really not used to such epic strength training, even when I was doing weight training at the gym, so I feel like this will either do wonders for my weight loss, or throw my body into a state of total and utter chaos. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes!

Do you do CrossFit? Have you thought about it, if you don’t?