Come Together

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me give my roommate a shoutout or two.  She pretty great as a person, as a friend, and as a roommate.  With the exception of one, I’ve been extremely fortunate in the roommate department in my lifetime, and in NYC, that stuff matters.  Chances are, you share a smaller-than-the-average-American living space, kitchen, bathroom, and sometimes (thank GOD this is not me) even a bedroom.  You can escape the world (or your roommate) by closing your bedroom door, but who really wants to live within four walls?

I’m one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have to do that. My roommate and I talk, actually miss each other when one or the other goes out of town, and she has been an extraordinary supporter and helper of the Single Girl Cookies cause.  I love this girl!

We were talking the other day and as conversations do, one thing led to another, and she had the brilliant idea of doing a cookie  of the month club! (credit where credit is due)  The more we talked about it, the more excited I got at thinking of how awesome something like this could be.  It’d be a great way to further connect everyone in the community, we could all meet up once a month at a local coffee shop like Astoria Coffee, have some coffee, try something new and take home some cookies!  Wanna join the Single Girl Cookies Cookie of the Month Club?  Here’s how! (and some more details :))

Every first Sunday of the month, come and meet me (and my cookies) at the pre-designated coffee spot.  For $10 a month, you get a half dozen cookies on a real plate that you can add to your collection, or bring back next month for a refill.  Each month I’ll bake a different kind of cookie, and you only pay if you’re participating that month.  That way, if I announce I’ll be making oatmeal raisin next month and you hate that kind, come on down for the community, but pass on the cookies 🙂  Hopefully, I’ll be making something you like the next month, and you can come back and join us on the confectionery journey!

In order to have your plate ready for pick up that Sunday, I need an email request to singlegirlcookies@gmail.com by 9pm the Friday night before, and how many (half dozen/full dozen).  The first Sunday of the Single Girl Cookies Cookie of the Month Club will be this February 1st at 3pm.  I know what you must be thinking “That’s Superbowl Sunday!”, and indeed it is!  As a grand kick off, I will be holding a Superbowl/Single Girl Cookies Special of a dozen of my signature chocolate chip cookies for $15.  You can spend $15 on a crappy 6 pack and chips, or you can be the hero of your Superbowl party and bring delicious, homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Be the hero, spread the kindness of cookies 🙂

That’s about it!  I look forward to checking my inbox and I’m super excited to start meeting all of you face to face!

Back in Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To Be a Better Man

I’ve been staring at my screen for 10 minutes, having so many things to say and not really sure how to start.  Things about thankfulness, and family, and cookies drops, but I keep coming up with nothing.  I’m also surrounded by a small amount of chaos – 4 dogs, 2 parents, 1 sister, 1 b-i-l and 1 nephew that needs the watchful eye of all 5 adults present.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day that for me, marks the beginning of a season of thanks, of giving and fullness of heart.  I believe we should act the way we tend to act around the holidays all the time, and by that I mean kinder, more thoughtful, more generous and more empathetic to others’ situationa.  But, I realize that’s not the way the world works (yet) and so that makes me cling to the season more than others – because I feel like I’m living in a world that could be, one that I wish existed for the entire year, not just for these short, fleeting weeks.  I like to think we are all our best versions of ourselves around the holidays.

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, my usual cookie drop day, I am saving my next drop for next week when I am back in the city.  Surely you caught that with the slight chaos illustration – I definitely can’t fit us all in my apartment for dinner tomorrow 🙂  But I can tell you about my drop this week at Prato on Steinway.  I was previously at Samantha II Outlet, just up the street, and they sent me down to Prato.  I’ve got to say, I’m kinda hoping the next few weeks brings me some female clothing stores, because I don’t have much need for menswear lately!  I feel bad not being able to patronize these places, especially because they are small businesses and that’s what keeps Astoria going.

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I walked into Prato, plate of cookies in hand, and garnered some looks from a few guys working there.  The man behind the counter was on the phone, so when he noticed me, I mouthed something like, “I’ll just be over here until you’re finished.”, all theatrical and big.  Which, as I looked around, probably looked hysterical to anyone that was watching.  A girl with a plate of cookies.  In a men’s store.  Big smile.  Big arm motions.  Small, tight space.  Yeah.

The gentleman behind the counter got off the phone and looked up at me.  I took that as my cue to approach and launch into the spiel.  That was the only eye contact I got.  Unfazed, I continued telling him about Single Girl Cookies, how it works, I’ll come back on Sunday, but still only got that first, brief eye contact.

Admittedly, I left there feeling a little dismissed.  The more I thought about it though, the more I figured he was being as dismissive as possible because he thought I wanted something and he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Like I was going to finish my bit and follow up with a “….And that’s a $20 donation!”  WRONG.  And yes, I know this is nothing new, and people always (or a lot of the time) think I want something other than just spreading my kindness and message around the world.  Ok, around the neighborhood, but go big or go home, right?

And that is where I am right now, at home.  And it feels so good to be here.  I’m nestled up the warmth of a coal stove with a doggie at my feet, Disney Jr. on the television as my nephew stays up waaay past his bedtime.  And continues to talk about pumpkin pie and get real close to the edge of the table where the pie is situated. (he is my nephew, after all)  He is also the kid that misheard me when I said “It’s prayer time” and looked at me wide eyed and hopeful and whispered, “Pie??”  He thought I said “Pie time”.  Family is one of the things I’m most thankful for this season.  The loss of my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, has changed our dynamic a bit, and I think we’re all still trying to figure out how the remaining pieces fit together.  We know they are supposed to go together, but the natural rhythm of our interaction has been disrupted.  We will figure it out eventually, and I’m thankful that even in the worst of things, we stick together.  Cause if things are crappy, wouldn’t you rather be surrounded by people that you love, that love you and most importantly, ‘get’ your brand of crazy?

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Speaking of crazy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beginning part of my Sunday before picking up my plate at Prato.  I met with Astoria’s own proprietors of Astoria Coffee, Dennis Lee and Liz Wick to do a podcast with Dennis Holden of Dennis Has A Podcast at Snowdonia Pub to have a little brunch before a little podcasting action.  I brought cookies, of course, and they wee the perfect pairing to Astoria Coffee’s coffee, which Snowdonia now serves with brunch on the weekends!

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After we finished brunch, we warmed up our podcast muscles and spent the next few hours talking about SGC’s mission, how you can be involved, and even tackled Dennis’s dating life!  We talked so much that Dennis (DHAP) divided them up into two episodes to make a little easier to navigate.  Check them out here and here!

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As I found my way back to Prato, I was hoping to find a better reception, and was not disappointed.  It always happens after people have had my cookies.  There was a different guy behind the front counter this time and complimented me on how delicious the cookies were as he looked for my plate.  I asked him where I was headed next week, and the boss from on high (upstairs) phoned down to say “Esquire”.  Now, I hate saying no to people, as in “No, I can’t go there, I’ve been there before”, but I secretly am thrilled when a place gets recommended more than once.  I explained the why, and asked for another place, to which the answer was “Venzini”  Double whammy!  I am super secretly thrilled now, because those have been two of my favorite places in recent months and I’m glad to hear that they are equally as highly thought of in the business community.  I had to say no, no, I’ve been there too.  Their third suggestion was a go, and so next week I will be visiting Portabello on Steinway.

As tomorrow gets underway, don’t be so consumed with ‘getting there’, or with making sure everything is done, or perfect, or whatever – just enjoy the time with those you love.  As cheesy as it may sound to you, carve out 10 minutes to stop and really think on what you are thankful for.  But don’t stop there.  Don’t just say, “Yeah, wow, I’m thankful for that.  Ok, on to the next thing!”.  Whatever it is, don’t let tomorrow be the only day that you stop and give thanks.  Let’s face it, we’re all just lucky (and should be thankful) to be alive.  And I mean that in the most sincere way.  I’m thankful that I’m not homeless.  Were it not for my support system of family and friends, I very well could be by now!  I’m thankful for not being hungry, even if that means I’ve made myself sick with copious amounts of apple pie.

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There are people that could only dream of that.  And (grandma alert) I’m thankful to all of you, for giving a shit about what I’m doing with Single Girl Cookies and all I strive to do and hope to do with it one day.  Your positive feedback and words of encouragement are what I need sometimes to remind myself why I started this whole crazy thing in the first place – to make a difference and to make my world a better place.  And as long as I’m doing that, I’m good.

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This Girl Is On Fire

Ever been in a situation where you realize halfway through just how epic and life changing it really is, and you start to see yourself almost from a third party perspective?  Or start saying something, just to test it out, but realizing it become infinitely more real each time you say it?  Kinda like Beetlejuice!  You know – you say his name three times to get him to appear?   I always imagined that with each “Beetlejuice”, Michael Keaton came more and more into being until he was a fully formed and solid being.  I find the same holds true for desires or thoughts.  Before you realize it, an “I’m thinking of doing” or “Maybe I’ll” has turned into “I’m doing ___ and actively pursuing this!”.  Then, for the first time, you really hear what you just said and go, “Huh???  I am??”  Welcome to my last three weeks.

When I last left you, the countdown to TEDx Utica was on.  I was at Utica Coffee Roasters for a bit of downtime before the big show and needed to catch you guys up on what had happened the weeks before.  I couldn’t let the last thing y’all read before I embarked on this crazy journey to be my letter to my grandmother.  And later that night at 5pm, the starting gun went off, I took the stage, and I haven’t stopped since.

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First of all, thank you thank you thank you to everyone that took the time to watch the livestream from the evening, or have gone to YouTube to watch my talk, or have shared it with their friends, families, co-workers, or pets.

I know in today’s world, 12 minutes can seem like an eternity, but thanks for taking the time.  Much appreciated. And yeah, even for a performer such as myself, those 12 minutes simultaneously flew by and seemed to go on forever.  That was the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life and I actually thought I might throw up before hand.  Luckily, I didn’t, everything went smoothly, everyone got cookies and so on we go.  The rest of the speakers were quite good and all had very relevant and thought provoking things to say.  You can actually watch all of the speakers’ videos on the TEDx Utica site!

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Between TED and the Guideposts article that came out that same day, I’ve been led down an amazing path of new possibilities, both as Renee and as Single Girl.  I did an interview with my alma mater about service through music because someone saw the TED livestream.  I’m doing a radio interview tomorrow with Kelli Corasanti, another TED speaker, on her internet blog radio show, It Only Takes One.  I’m scheduled to do another interview with the radio show Cityscape, on 90.7, WFUV, New York City’s NPR affiliate.  I’ll be participating in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown on Sunday, Dec 8.  I’ve met with the SBCD at LaGuardia CC, taken meetings with attorneys and others in a position to help the cause, and I’m still doing weekly drops (duh, like I could ever NOT do those).  Oh, and I’m planning a giant Single Girl Cookies Birthday Party/Astoria Love-Fest in January, having a gathering at my place this Sunday (email me for info – all ladies are invited!), and I am still working on a Single Girl Cookies book.  Yeah, and the rest of my regular singing life is still happening too.  Wait a second…..is this what being an adult is?

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Me pretending to be an adult

A lot of those things are things I can keep you updated on after they happen.  I’ll be posting at least one interview for your listening pleasure, and the legally/business stuff will take a while, but it means some VERY exciting news for Single Girl.  That is definitely one of those things I was mentioning earlier; I’m Beetjuice-ing something into existence, but didn’t realize what a big deal it was.  Kinda like when people bring back Beetlejuice and they don’t realize how bad that is!  Man, I’m rockin’ in the metaphor department today, except my things are good, not bad.

Something I’d like to talk to you all about now is my giant birthday party!!!  Woot!!  The one year anniversary of Single Girl Cookies is coming up on January 17th and what better way to celebrate a year of kindness than by throwing a party?  Also, who doesn’t love parties??  You, you over there that just said you don’t like parties? Get out.

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I’ve actually been thinking about this for a long time, long enough to know that I can’t do it alone.  My hope is to get as many people from the places I’ve been to over the last year in one big place, maybe have some vendors there, maybe a raffle (I’d like to get said people to donate gifts for said raffle) as a fund raiser, a giant board where people can stick note cards where they write their favorite thing about Astoria on there, cookies….just a huge Astoria Love-Fest!  In fact, because I’m not very creative in the Naming Things Department, that’s what I will probably call it. All of that sounds, in my opinion, like the greatest party that ever was or ever will be.  I’m sure that’s exactly how you view it too.  But, it’s also going to be a lot of work, and something I can’t do all myself.  I’m sure there are many other great ideas about what to add, or how to go about accomplishing everything, and I need your help!  This is my huge plea  – Please, oh please, don’t let me go crazy trying to make this amazing thing happen.  I’ll be at The Queens Kickshaw this Saturday, November 16th at 11am for a planning session.  It’s my first “community event” and I need the community to pull it off!  I’m really looking for a good group of people who wouldn’t mind making the occasional phone call, or stopping into a few places to diplomatically ask for a gift donation to raffle off, or posting signs, or coming early to the event to help with set up.  This entire year has been a community effort, don’t leave me hanging now 🙂

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The Utica Fire Department knows what’s up. They didn’t “leave me hanging” – get it??

Mark this on your calendars as well – December 8th, 2-4pm.  This is the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown!  I heard about this when a friend forwarded me the page, thinking it was up my alley.  Boy, is it ever!  I’m going as a cook on Sunday, but this happens both Saturday and Sunday, tickets can be purchased here.  For $15, you gain admission to Bell House in Brooklyn where you spend the next two hours drinking bourbon and eating cookies.  Tell me that isn’t the best news you’ve heard in the last ten minutes.

Another event event, smaller and more immediate, is the Stella & Dot Trunk Show gathering I’m having at my apartment on Sunday!  A good friend of mine is a Stella & Dot stylist and came up with the title Single Girl Soiree (cute, right?) with an evening that will be all about cookies, wine and of course, jewelry 🙂  Everyone is welcome, it is from 6-8 this Sunday the 17th, and you can come and go whenever.  If you’d like to come but can’t make it, you can still shop that party online (there are lots of cute things, and come on people, let’s start thinking holiday shopping).  In either case, I ask that you shoot me a message on Facebook, twitter, or email, and I’ll email or message you back the invitation link, because it does have my address on there and I’m not sure I could handle the flocks of adoring men that will swamp my building door, should that address get out.  Hehe, guess what I’m dreaming of for Christmas? 😉

And with a bit of normalcy, I’ll wrap up this post by finishing up the cookies I’ve been baking.  My drop today is at Samantha on Steinway, and I was sent there by Tina at Jasmine, two doors up the block.  Rob from Fantasy sent me to Jasmine, and Kian at Esquire sent me to Fantasy and the folks at Venzini sent me to Esquire.  There!  We’re all caught up 🙂    Catch you next week!