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We can never go back

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

Here is what I’m learning

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Some uncomfortable situations are worth stretching and growing for; others might only make you unhappy. It’s important — and sometimes difficult — to know the difference.

It doesn’t matter if it takes you five minutes or five years: As soon as you know a romantic interest should no longer be a romantic interest, cross him off the list. With a Sharpie.

Time is the new money — that is, until a 50-foot tree limb snaps and almost crushes your car in the driveway. When you fork over $450 to have some guy saw it down and haul it away, you realize that in certain situations your time is kind of worthless and money is, in fact, worth a lot.

At the end of the day, dogs are just wild animals. So when yours hunts, chases, catches, kills, rips apart, and swallows a rabbit, come on, man, don’t be so surprised.

If the only food you stock in your house is eggs, apples, string cheese, and Wheat Thins and it makes you feel sad but you still don’t change your ways, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Wherever you go, there you are. The grass is never greener; it’s all just grass.

Life plans I’ve made in my mind

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

#1 — Quit your job, sell your house, buy a little camper, and drive around with Foxy. You’ll probably stay in the US, but the Canadian border is right there so be sure to keep both your passport and her vaccination papers in the glove box. A Scamp would be ideal, but a teardrop trailer is probably more realistic for towing behind the Subaru (get a trailer hitch installed, btw). I wonder if grizzly bears can rip the door off a camper? You need to stay in campgrounds that have actual bathroom facilities, because you require running water and a mirror in which to apply your $100 eye cream. Don’t sell that long leash at your yard sale next month, because when you sit in your lawn chair drinking boxed wine, Foxy will need to be tied to a tree so she doesn’t chase a rabbit and get eaten by a grizzly bear. Oh, and buy a lawn chair.

#2 — Train for a marathon. You’re 33-years old, for crying out loud, and your knees will only get worse. It’s now or never. It’s okay to start slow. Tomorrow morning go run a mile, and just build up from there. Never mind that running a mile sounds like torture, let alone 26.2. Achievement is more important than anything else, and think about how good your butt will look.

#3 — Move back to Seattle and get a Masters in Counseling. Maybe you would be good at it! You care about people, and all you ever want to do is talk about feelings anyway.

[searches 98103 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#4 — Never mind, you can’t pay money to go back to school. You need to make money. Stay where you are and throw everything you can into retirement. You’ve been doing that for years, but that financial guy says you’re behind — because don’t you have any concept of inflation?

#5 — Wait a second, don’t worry about money. Trust God. Birds of the air, lilies of the field. (But I really do want that $100 eye cream.)

#6 — Get a puppy. Foxy needs her very own dog.

#7 — Have a baby. There are lots of ways — just google it.

#8 — Move back to Nashville and do life with all of your old friends. It’s hotter than literal hell in the summer, and yeah there were those cockroaches and the possum that frequented your apartment on Music Row, but there are no better people on earth than your friends in Tennessee. What’s more important than relationships, anyway?

[searches 37206 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#9 — Do the Whole30.

#10 — Write more songs for one of the three recording projects you have in mind. Actually, just choose which one you want to make, and do it. DO IT. It’s so important that you be writing, creating, making, Annie. You’ve somehow allowed yourself to believe that writing isn’t something you’re qualified to do, and here I am, your better self, begging you to do whatever it takes to throw yourself into these songs. Please do it.

[prays that she can do it]

#11 — You should probably fall in love, never mind that you’re really bad at falling in love. Let’s skip this for now, maybe circle back later.

#12 — Minnesota isn’t bad, you know. Just be present. Be here now. Explore. Invite people over for dinner. Wallpaper the stairwell, and maybe get new kitchen cabinets at some point. One day you can build a garage, but only after you save enough to pay cash.

#13 — Go work for Dave Ramsey?

#14 — Move into your mom’s basement. Just regroup. If you didn’t have a mortgage, you could afford to do more yoga.

#15 — I’m loving the baby idea. Could the baby sleep in a teardrop trailer?

#16 — Colorado is the best. Move back to Denver and who cares what your job is as long as you’re able to get to the mountains every weekend.

[searches 80211 in Zillow, loses all hope]

#17 — Stop making plans and just go with the flow.

#18 — Don’t let your life pass you by.

#19 — Trust God, but tie your camel.

#20 — Get quiet. Listen. Go on a walk every morning and every night. Be kind. Be honest. Forgive. Forgive. Even yourself, forgive. Do your best. Don’t be afraid. Remember that you’re hemmed in, behind and before — and that somewhere in the jumble of Christmas lights, there’s still a straight line.

Wallpaper dreams

Wallpaper dreams

In which I drain my savings account

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Back in December, a natural gas leak was discovered in the crawl space beneath my house. The inspector from Xcel told me that it wasn’t urgent, and that I could have it repaired at my leisure (pronounced “lehh-zhure” in my mind). So this past Friday, I finally had someone come take a look. He shut off the gas, unplugged all of my appliances, and started testing.

Here is how a gas man “tests” for a natural gas leak: he uses a spray bottle of soapy water to mist the joints of your pipes (not an innuendo). If bubbles form, gas is leaking.

Well, bubbles were forming. Gas was leaking. It’s much worse than I was originally told: I need a full (multi-thousand dollar) replacement of all of my gas lines – that is, if I don’t fancy a dramatic death by explosion.

This worker would have started the job when he was here on Friday, except that my gas line actually runs from my cellar out beneath my neighbor’s house, and he will need to access their basement to complete the repair. My neighbors are out of town for the next week – and since the worker said that it would be dangerous to turn my gas back on, I have been gas-less for the past three days, and will be for at least four more.

But don’t cry for me Argentina – it’s basically like fancy camping. I have a comfy bed and electricity – at least, I did until my space heater blew the breaker (momentary setback). I have coffee in the mornings and a microwave to heat up the soup from my freezer. But I don’t have stovetop burners or an oven, a shower with hot water, or heat of any kind. Luckily, this week is off to an unseasonably warm start, so I don’t have to worry about my pipes freezing. I’m cooking in the CrockPot and wearing wool socks and counting my lucky stars not to be dead even though I haven’t taken a proper shower since Thursday.

On Saturday night, I crawled into bed and tucked the covers around myself like a burrito. It was 10:30 or so, because I am geriatric – and even though there was a party with a bonfire raging in the vacant lot across the alley behind my house, I put in earplugs and fell asleep.

When I awoke to shouting and laughter, I figured that I hadn’t been asleep long since the party was still going – but when I looked at the clock, it was 3:45am. “Seriously?” I thought. I walked to my kitchen window and looked outside – and yes indeed, the bonfire was in full force.

So I called 911. (See above: geriatric.)

I asked the operator for the non-emergency line, but she said she could help me. I told her that I needed a squad car (and yes, I called it that) dispatched to break up the party, and after taking down the information, she said she’d send someone as soon as possible.

An hour later, the drum circle started.

At 4:45 in the morning, my neighbors started a drum circle.

So I called back, this time to the non-emergency line like a decent human being (720-913-2000, FYI), and asked the status of my knight in shining cop uniform. They said that the night was busy, and assured me that they would send someone as soon as they could.

I hung up the phone and burst into tears because in that moment I so desperately wanted someone else to fight my battles for me. But then I pulled myself together and tugged on my boots and marched across the alley like a BAMF/high school chaperone, and informed them that they were at least 5 hours past their bedtime and could they PLEASE stop DRUMMING around their BONFIRE.

I didn’t stick around long enough to experience their reaction. I was too mortified at my old lady rage. I did a step-pivot and scurried back across the alley, blessing the darkness for shrouding my face, lest I see these hooligans in the daylight.

I slept from 6-8am, and then got up to go on a hike with Kristen. We made it a half mile before Foxy bounded up a hill and then started limping. After checking her paw for thorns and not finding any, I carried her back to the car, which is kind of like carrying a 4-year old without the benefit of legs that can wrap around your waist. As we drove home, I passed one of those traffic cameras that take your picture if you’re speeding – which I was (54 in a 45, which also happened to be a construction zone). The camera flashed, and I can now look forward to a hefty ticket in the mail.

Foxy’s limp worsened throughout the day and her paw swelled up, so I took her to the emergency vet. The x-rays revealed no breaks, but potential torn tendons. So I spent last night worrying that she would need surgery – but luckily the radiologist called with the report that she should heal up without it [cue the angel choir] and oh by the way, your bill will be $500.

So now it’s Monday and it’s back to work and I’m still without gas and my poor pup is on pain meds and all I want is some roasted vegetables and a bubble bath, and I guess that the moral of the story is that we don’t always get what we want.

Hope you had a better weekend than Foxy’s foot and my bank account.


“Nothing can be necessary that he withholds”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Last Friday, I listened to Taylor Swift’s 1989 for the entire 9-hour drive from Denver to Kansas City. Collectively my favorite record I’ve heard in ages, it just might have the power to pull me out of athletic retirement and train for another half marathon. Running would probably be good for me, seeing as how these days I’m wound as tight as a guitar string one pluck away from snapping up and whipping you in the eyeball.

In the past month, I’ve been in a lot of airports – Denver, Minneapolis, Austin, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago, Rochester, and Baltimore, to be exact. Between work and my far-flung family and friends, I travel more than the average person – and I’ve found that the only way I can survive the aggravation of airline travel is to wear earplugs at all times. Not ear buds – I don’t want music. No, I want to drown out everyone and everything, even at the risk of appearing rude to my fellow passengers. Oh, you just introduced yourself? UNACKNOWLEDGED. You’ll get over it one day.

But despite the irritation, airplanes get me where I want to go – which, this weekend, was upstate New York for 24 hours. While I’ve been a bridesmaid more times than I have fingers, “godparent” is a new role for me – and there was no way I was going to miss Colin’s baptism. He is 6 months of chubby, flirtatious perfection, and I’m honored beyond words that his parents would choose me.


When the service was over and the reception was in full swing, I stole away to the edge of Will and Miranda’s dock on Seneca Lake. Their property is beautiful – it’s been in Will’s family for generations – and I needed to be by the water. At the risk of sounding all woo-woo, water affects me spiritually. It cracks my hard heart wide open. It’s a shame that Denver is so landlocked.

There on the dock, I thought about the stories that the majority of my friends are living, and how different mine is turning out to be. I tried to tell myself that it’s okay, I’m okay, that not having a family of my own is actually far less complicated and I should be happy for the simplicity of my little life. After all, as some well-meaning friends have told me, it’s dangerous to love someone so deeply – because then you have so much to lose.

Well. I’ve never been divorced. But I’ve never been married. I have never lost a child. But I’ve never had a baby. Hope unrealized brings with it its own invisible grief, one that doesn’t fit into an obvious category, the kind that solicits cards and casseroles. Could it be that things that haven’t happened can hurt as badly as things that could?

Because it’s one thing for all of your friends to get married. It’s another when they start having kids. It’s entirely another when they decide to be finished having kids… and you’re not sure if you’ll even start.

I know, cue the sob fest and the weeping ovaries. Except.

Here’s what I’m discovering: joy is found in connection, and connection comes in all sorts of forms. I might not be a wife, but I’m a friend who can and will hop on a plane at a moment’s notice to fly across the country. I might not be a mom, but I’m an auntie, and a dog lover, and now a godmother. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a hard worker who cares about the well-being of the people I work with. I’m a writer and a wanderer and a hoper and a dreamer, and damn it, I want to be one who celebrates the things worth celebrating, even if they’re not happening to me.

And until those celebrations are my own, I’m clinging to John Newton’s words: “Everything is necessary that [God] sends; nothing can be necessary that he withholds.”

Given that, I’m really thankful that God has sent Foxy Brains and Colin Warder and Southwest Airlines and red wine and Taylor Swift.

The ramblings of an erratic woman

Monday, October 27th, 2014

I’m becoming exceedingly private these days – at least when it comes to the bare-my-soul stuff. Even in the face-to-face presence of the people I trust the most, I find myself holding back – because just because I think/feel/act a certain way today doesn’t mean I’m going to think/feel/act the same way tomorrow, and how would I explain that?

In short, my emotions are drunk. (I am not.)

I guess I just don’t trust myself these days. I am convinced – convinced – that something is true (like, I WANT TO MOVE FAR, FAR AWAY) (MY LIFE IS HORRIBLE) (I HATE EVERYTHING), and then one day, like today, things feel different. Better. Calm. Until maybe it will all change again – which, it totally will. I am a fickle, persnickety nutcase.

There are a lot of factors contributing to my erraticism – things outside of my control that are pressing in and weighing heavy and making me feel unsure about the way my future might unfold – so you can understand why I am craving certainty. I love certainty. I want to marry it and have its for sure, locked in, done deal of a baby. (That was weird. Forget I said it.)

But in the midst of the uncertainty, there are some things I know for sure.

Savory breakfasts will always be better than sweet, and breakfast at home will always be better than breakfast out. Laughter is jumper cables for the soul. Also, puppies. Lori McKenna’s “The Luxury of Knowing” is the best song in the world. No one – not a single one – can have a thick, glamorous side braid like Princess Elsa. Food looks most appetizing when on a white plate. One should never buy a car brand new. It’s better to have done things you might regret than to have always just played it safe. If tempted to buy something pricey, sleep on it. Being impressive will get you far, but being liked will get you further. The best things in life are not things – unless, again, those “things” are puppies.

And though I’m not fully there yet, and HARDLY an authority, here is what I suspect:

We should work for 8 hours, play for 8 hours, and sleep for 8 hours.
We are not defined by what we do, but by who we are.
It’s all going to be okay.



Monday, September 29th, 2014

“Do you find the tension between seeking contentment and desiring more, difficult? I do, certainly.”

Those were the closing lines of an email I received last week from a woman who has lived more life than I – and just like that, she so concisely distilled my entire life’s dilemma. Perhaps you relate?

Contentment in its truest form is a beautiful thing, and worth cultivating. But personally, I can easily confuse contentment with complacency – an artificial version of “satisfaction,” keeping my dreams and desires in the OFF position.

Contentment should never be at the risk of betraying one’s heart.

I used to feel a little sheepish that I (still) love the song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid – but not anymore. Why shouldn’t I love it? The lyricist, Howard Ashman*, perfectly articulates the honest acknowledgement of restless desire, regardless of how much one has – which is actually quite profound.

I want more.

When’s it my turn?

Contentment and wanting more seem to be in direct opposition of each other – and like my friend Joey recently said, “I think that for some people, it’s honestly just harder to be happy.” And if it hadn’t been 10 in the morning, we would have clinked whiskey glasses.

The trouble with wanting more is that we’re never satisfied. The beauty of wanting more is that it cracks our lives wide open – for better and for worse, but ultimately for better. It’s like when you love someone. Loving makes you vulnerable to pain. Loving means there’s a lot to lose.

Loving can make you afraid. But being loved means you don’t have to be.

I don’t know that any of this makes much sense, and I don’t know if I even mean for it to. All I know is that I want MORE – and I’m not talking about the material things (although I’d definitely take another pair of Frye boots if you’re offering), but just… more. Life. Depth. Beauty. Freedom. I don’t want to play it safe – because this is what Mary Oliver calls my “one wild and precious life.”

What if there’s more for me? What if there’s more for you?


(Once on a trip to Texas, I forgot pajamas. I raided the Target sale rack, and obviously chose this.)


*From what I’ve learned about Howard Ashman (and trust me, I’ve obsessed over the man), I so wish I could have met him. His work on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin is some of the best musical storytelling there’s ever been. Watch this short clip, and try not to fall in love with him. And then watch this longer clip and witness Jodi Benson sing like a laser beam.

Heads and tails

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

For me, Nashville is a safe place to land. It’s a city that always welcomes me back and tells me that I belong.

After spending last week with friends, holding new babies and touring new homes, being surrounded by people who know me and accept me, talking about life, love, and other mysteries (not this), I found my heart creeping back to that place that it always goes: Do I want to move back?

But I know that the question is bigger than that. It always is. The real question is, Is my life what I hoped it would be?

And for the entire 17-hour drive back to Denver, Foxy curled up in a ball on the passenger seat, I turned that question over and over in my head, an existential coin toss.

I don’t live in Nashville – tails. But I do live in Denver – heads.

I don’t get to see these people on a regular basis – tails. But I do have them as friends forever – heads.

I’m not independently wealthy – tails. But I do have a job that, most days, I really love – heads.

I don’t have a guest room – tails. But I do have a charming little hut just big enough for my dog and me, with high ceilings and skylights and an interior brick wall and a gas stove and a clawfoot tub – heads.

I’m single – tails. But I am single – heads.

Sometimes we choose our circumstances, and sometimes they choose us, and sometimes the only choice we have is to choose them back.


The sky is falling, and other tales of woe

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Monday and Tuesday, I got four parking tickets in 24 hours. My license plates had expired at the end of March (news to me!), and before I could find an opening in my work schedule to hit the DMV, Denver’s parking patrol graced me. Four times.

I have to say, street parking enforcement in Denver is stricter than any other city in which I’ve lived. No matter the offense, THEY WILL CATCH YOU. I’d say that it’s the worst thing about this town, except then I remember how bad the boogers hurt (those who live in dry climates at high altitude surely understand), and allow the parking patrol to drop a notch on the Worst list.

When I finally made it to the DMV, they slapped me with a late fee and sent me on my merry way.

Late last week, I walked out into my backyard to find Foxy chewing on a chicken bone – just, you know, an instrument of canine death. I mentally accused every one of my neighbors of throwing leftover KFC over the fence into my yard, and cursed them along with their children and their children’s children.

The next day I saw a squirrel summit my fence with a chicken thigh in his clutches, and realized that the bone had likely been dropped by a varmint. I released my neighbors from vindictive mental prison, and instead, channeled my anger into psychic BBs aimed at a rodent – which really gets me nowhere (as opposed to despising my neighbors, which is obviously edifying).

When I was stopped at a red light at Colfax & Speer and I offered the homeless man on the corner a granola bar and he refused it, saying he doesn’t eat “that garbage,” I told him that his sign (“Anything helps”) was a lie. And as he walked angrily and aggressively toward my car and I frantically reached for the button to roll up the window, I thought, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

On Sunday, May 11, it started to snow. On Monday, May 12, it was still snowing. And just as my soul was withering up to die, my kitchen ceiling caved in* – as did my will to soldier on.

Let me tell you, you think life’s bad, and then your roof collapses*.

I’m leaving tomorrow for a work trip to Minnesota, and 12 hours after I get back, I’m leaving for a week in Nashville. My roof has one job – to keep everything out – and it’s failing. Work is busier than ever. I’m exhausted. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life that I’m trying to beat back and not give the power to, but it feels impossible. I find myself craving things I don’t need – new clothes and new shoes and plane tickets to take me far away – but I know that they’re just misplaced desires. This ache can’t be fixed by money or things or security or control, all of which are just a fist full of water – the tighter I hold on, the more they slip through my fingers.

“You sound really stressed,” she said. And it was the best possible thing someone could offer – a simple acknowledgement that life feels out of control right now.

My throat got tight. “I am. I’m really stressed. I wish that just one thing was easier right now.” And then, the heart of the matter floated right up to the surface. “I need to find a way to be happy.”

And I’m not talking about a “look for the silver lining,” “there’s always something to be thankful for,” “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” kind of happy. I’m talking about laughing in the face of life’s trials and letting them roll off my back like a wet duck – because life’s too short to dwell on the nonsense. Do I trust that there’s a story bigger than I can see, and that it really doesn’t matter if the sky is falling, because my security lies somewhere other than my circumstances?

This is the question I’m asking myself today – because the older I get, the faster life goes. I don’t want to miss it.

*Very dramatic terms to describe a mere leak – although yes, thank you pessimist friends, I agree that the roofer is probably going to tell me, “There’s no such thing as a ‘mere’ leak.”

Let it go

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This weekend, something that I wanted to work out didn’t work out, leaving me sad and disappointed. Then my bike seat broke. Then I tried to fix my bathtub drain, but realized I don’t have the right tools. Then several people told me, in various ways, that a dream that I’ve been working toward is a bad idea. Then, after dealing with shoddy, unreliable internet service for over a week, I came home yesterday afternoon to find that my actual electricity was gone.

Must be the wind, I thought, as I dialed Xcel to report the outage. I followed the prompts on the automated service, and then took Foxy on her lunchtime walk.

When I arrived back at the house, I got a phone call from someone in the Xcel customer support department. He asked me some questions about the meter (“It should be on the south side of the house”), so I found myself prowling through bushes, being poked in the eye by branches, and reading the unit number to the man on the phone – only for him to tell me that that’s the gas meter, and we need the electric meter.

That’s when I remembered I was on the north side of the house, and also, a moron.

So I headed around SOUTH into the backyard, crawled on a ledge, and had to touch dirty, rusty things, relaying meter readings to the man on the line, just to have him tell me that none of that helped him, so he would send a technician out – except, wait a second. What’s this?

He put me on hold while he took a look at my account, and eventually a new voice – a woman, probably Bad News Special Forces or something – came back on the line. Apparently, a neighbor had not paid her electric bill in quite some time, so they had disconnected her service – at least, what they thought was her service. Turns out they turned off mine instead.


Oh, and they wouldn’t be able to send someone to turn it back on until tomorrow.

And all of a sudden, it was just too much. Something snapped. This is when, to use a technical term, I lost my shit.

I have worked in customer service before, and still do, to a certain extent – which is why I couldn’t believe I was finding myself uttering words like “infuriating” and “unacceptable” and “immediately” and “you people” and “enraged” and “now – NOW.” My chest was tight but my tongue was loose. I was on an absolute rampage.

I spent the night at Becca and Mike’s, where Foxy whined non-stop in the darkness because that big yellow dog Grizz is RIGHT THROUGH THAT WALL. RIGHT THERE. HE’S THERE. I got a grand total of 2 hours sleep, and spent all day today feeling downright witless.

So now I’m home and the power is back on and I’m typing all of this out, and laughing because it’s so ridiculous. I’ve been sulking about things really not worth sulking about – especially since furrowing my eyebrows is the last thing I need to do more of, seeing as how that look is basically already my natural resting face.

The older I get, the more I realize my strong need for justice – which is unfortunate, since it’s also the more I realize that life just isn’t fair. Sometimes your neighbor doesn’t pay her bills, and you are the one inconvenienced. Sometimes you take good care of your things, and they break anyway. Sometimes someone else makes a decision, and your heart winds up paying a price.

We can try to legislate fairness into our lives, but it just isn’t going to happen.

I could be a sulker. I could resent people and situations and reality itself. I could shake my fist at heaven and tell everything to go to hell.

But to borrow an idea from Proverbs, I’d rather be clothed in strength and dignity, and laugh at the days to come – or you know, Frozen, and let it go.