Thursday, October 31, 2013

Extra post- Doggy pictures! :)

Day 3: Dog Day!!!! Oct. 30th

Dog Day.... the moment of truth in all this. :D

We started off the morning with the RA, Donna having to key in and wake me up as I was soooo zonked from last night.  I'm still feeling quite sleepy this morning.   I got up and dressed and went to the dining room for breakfast.   Kevin had prepared for us some mixed fruits, hot oatmeal (which I declined) and this amazing French toast casserole with a strip of bacon.   Everyone is starting to settle in now and talking to each other more as we are getting to know each other.  

After Breakfast, Bab and Jody gathered us all up in the leather lobby area and said that this morning they were going to finish up walks with us to make sure we had the footwork down and work on some leash guiding with the first time handlers  to get it in before we get our dogs after lunch.   They then gave us the names and breeds of our dogs! :)

I will be getting, a male golden retreiver named Boomer! :)   There will be 2 golden retreivers, 4 labs, and the apprentice that is in blindfold this week will be working with a smooth coated collie.

They released us to do as we wanted at this point and would come get us to do more walks with us about the grounds and then do the bus/van trainings.   Jody soon came to get me and we walked out and around the building and then saw that the local puppy raising group was here at the grounds having a meeting and several of the dogs were dressed up in costumes.   They were sooo cute!   There was a jockey on the dogs back, a pumpkin, one with bat wings, another dressed in a baseball jersey, one dressed as a horse with a mop for a mane. :)    The group was quite large and split in two, as one half of the group was working on obedience and sit/stays, and the other group was doing musical chairs with their dogs- walking around the chairs and then sitting on the chair in front of them.   There were several shepherds, lots of labs and a few goldens too.   All very adorable!   We walked right through the midst of them in practicing my footwork and commands.

We then worked our way around back to the front of the building and Jody was in love with the Jockey costume, in which I then told her that I'd brought the similar version of this costume, but that it was the headless horseman instead.   She was so excited and said Boomer may not wear it tomorrow, but will make sure we get to see it on him before I go home. :)   We then did he bus boarding training of how and where the dog was to be when getting on the bus, which has changed a bit since the last time I was here.

Once done with this, Jody released me to do as I wanted and have hung out in the room for a while before lunch.  The excitement continues to build as lunch approaches and giving us our dogs comes at 1pm!

I went to lunch and we had a really good bowl of chicken noodle soup and a half of a ham & cheese sandwich.    CEO Wells Jones came down during lunch and introduced himself to all of us and sat at my table and chatted with us throughout lunch.

After lunch, everyone scurried to their rooms, only for Barb to say in this really ornery voice that there had been a delay in bringing the dogs over and to "try" to relax, that it'd be closer to 1:30 before they started to bring them to us.   Jody then shortly came to my room and put the bucket of dogfood under the bathroom sink so I'd have food for my boy.  

Then things started to get noisy in the hallway as you could hear the trainers walking dogs down the hallway and knocking on the doors to their new handlers.   I heard the knock on my door and said "come in!"    Barb came in and Boomer bounded up to me to say hello and immediately sat on my feet as I stroked his long broad back.  Olivia the apprentice snapped several pictures of Barb, Boomer and I together and then they took off to give Boomer and I some time togther.   Boomer looked often at the door and would perk his head up and even whined a few times if I stopped stroking his soft coat, as he strained to listen for Barb going up and down the hallway.

After a good while, he started to relax a little and planted himself by me and didnt go too far.   He was fine if I continued to touch him in some way- whether stroking his head, shoulder, chest, or down his back.   If I didn't  though, he'd pace at the end of the leash and whine a bit.   Barb came back after bit to work us to the gathering room, and he was really ramped up with a good strong pull.   Before we headed out the door, I asked Barb about how to hold my hand on the leash for leash guiding and she stopped me.  I want you to know something, what happened with you and Favor was not your fault, and you couldnt do anything about it and she said she wanted me to realize this is a completely different dog, different personality, and try to not correct myself and worry about what I had done in the past with Favor, the things I'd done with Favor and doing them with Boomer
I quickly teared up but was nodding ny head in aggreement, and knowing thi sin my heart, but finding it hard to let go and she was like just take it one day at a time, I'll be here every step of the way with you and we'll work through everything with THIS dog and how he is.

So we slowly made our way out the door, making sure his long tail was clear of the door closing behind us (after the hard learned lesson with Favor's tail in the door right across the hall from us, last April).   We made our way down the hallway and came to a halt.   I then did a left turn and had Boomer take me to a chair by the door.   He nailed it right on and it took a few minutes to get him settled under the the chair though.  The traniners sat and talked to us a little about the dogs, that they were wound up because they hadn't been worked in a week, and that they still didn't know who the heck we all were and were thinking the trainers were big traitors, putting someone else on the end of their leashes!    Then then told us how much each of our dogs gets to eat and we talked a little bit about the food, Natural Balance Synergy, that the dogs were all on.  The dogs did settle down quite a bit and before long, all were snoozing under their handlers chairs.    It was nearly 4:30, which is feeding and break time, so the trainers then began to work each of us individually back to our rooms.   They then showed us and watched us feed our dogs and had us interact with our dogs quietly until they got all the dogs fed and came back to take us out to the break area.

Barb came back and we worked out to the break area, which for those who have been here and know the layout of this area- the big "T", I am at the far end of one of the ends of the top of the "T".   Boomer amazed me in that he almost immediately went out and did a number 2.   This was a first for me, as all my other dogs have held out with both at least until the evening/if not the next morning, and then held out on the number 2 business from 2 1/2 to 3 whole days!   So I was very pleasantly surprised.   Then he acted like he wanted to do a number 1, but was a little more interested in watching stuff around us for a bit, so I kept encouraging him and he eventually did it. :)  

We worked back inside and I put him on the tie down and went on down to dinner.   Kevin outdid  himself tonight with dinner, as he fixed these amazing, amazing flank steaks and baked potatoes & green beans as the side.   I was wanting more, but was good and just ate what I had on my plate, as I'd had him give me a half of a smaller potatoe and small portion of the steak and double portion of the green beans. :)     This meal was pretty quiet as I think between everyone being tired from the long days and the adrenaline rush having worn off from getting the dogs, everyone was rather quiet.  

After dinner, we went back to our rooms and spent time with our dogs until the trainers came and got us to go out to the leather lobby for the first time as a group.  It took a bit to get everyone settled and the dogs wanted to play with each other at first as they were in such close proximity of each other.   Boomer was a bi of a booger as he was up and down quite a bit, but we kept working it and kept him settled.   He's reminding me a lot of Rei already in this regards and is sooo loveable, so I'm really feeling good about him.   

After the lecture, we made our way back to our rooms and then the trainers worked us all out to the break area for the last time of the night and Boomer again did a #1 right off the bat.  So I think he's doing really, really well there.    We came back in and before I placed him on the tie down, I did take him into the bathroom to see if I could figure out about how tall he was and he is about 5 1/2 tiles tall. with these being 4 inch tiles, that puts him somewhere about 23 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder. Favor was 26 inches, and Rei was 19. So he's a little shorter than Favor, but he is pretty solid and stocky. :)

After this I put him on tie down and answered some buzzes from friends on FB and promptly fell asleep with the laptop on my lap! LOL!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 2- Tues. Oct. 29th

Today was very much a hurry up and wait type of day.   The RA came and knocked on the door at 6am so I got up and took a shower, making sure to close the bathroom door since I guess it is well known that if you do not, the fire alarms WILL go off and the Smithtown Fire Dept has not been happy with GDF when this happens. ;)   After getting myself all ready, I headed to the dining room for breakfast.

Breakfast was a bowl of mixed fresh fruits and my half sized portions of scrambled eggs and a slice of bacon with a biscuit.   Once we were finished with breakfast, the entire group met up in the lobby lounge and Barb and Jody went over the plans for the day.   First things on the agenda was that we would all be sent to our rooms and they'd set off the fire alarm for a fire drill, in which all the fire doors would close.   They wanted to do this where the doors closed since this tends to disorient people with the doors being closed.  We were then going to do our short handle walks with both trainers while several of the other apprentices was going to go through and finish up with orientations for the rest of the students.

I went back to the room and grabbed my laptop and took up the opportunity to go to the snack lounge and work on some paperwork stuff I'd brought with me.   I hung out here until Barb came and got me to do the short handle walk with her.   This went like this:
I went out to do my Juno walk/short handle walk, and as we were walking outside to do so, Barb asked a good handful of questions- Was this a good pace, Yes, do you think you can handle a strong dog? Yes, Are you willing to work through some silliness, knowing that with time it'll subside, Yes.
We go through several laps around the campus and then she tells me to follow her over to an area. Says to me to give her a few corrections- when it wiggles and she says DOG! To give her a good hard correction. So we do a few times and she says OK, come with me.
Then she asks, are you OK with whatever we have for you? Yes. Is there anything you specifically want in a dog- I say I want a dog with a lot of intuition, to make a decision and go with it with little instruction from me and as long as the dog is good with kids.
Then she asks if I have any questions or thoughts and upon saying No, she says that she thinks she has the perfect dog for me, but just needed to make sure I could handle him.
This honestly just absolutely makes my heart soar.  :)

After this walk, I went back inside to the computer and continued working there until Barb came in a little while later to do the interview with me.   We discussed the breeds they had and she asked if there was any i wouldn't work with, which I said I'll take whatever you give me, though some are lower on the list than others- such as a poodle.   While poodles are good dogs, just not a dog that I care for that much personally.   I'll leave them to the people that need them for allergies! :)   

We also talked about the activities of our lifestyle and things we do.   Things at our mega church, at our school, what types of transportation I use, do I use a subway, the trains, country walks (roads without sidewalks), and so forth.   After going through all of this, Barb said she could tell that I was very apprehensive, that she could tell from the moment of picking me up at the airport.   I told her I am very excited, but yes, very apprehensive too.   She went on to say that she can't make promises, but that she really believes that with some work, that this dog will be a really, really good dog for me.  :)

After the interview, it was very close to time for lunch, so made my way there and we had a really good bowl of barley soup and a turkey sandwich.   As always, Chef Kevin's food is just sooooo good.   I was good and passed on desserts, going back to the snack room to continue working on my paperwork.   Before too long, Barb and Jody gathered us all up again in the lobby lounge to let us know that they were doing second short handle walks in the afternoon and that two long time volunteers would be taking the others of us on tours of the grounds and of the training kennels.

Jody came and found me pretty quickly and we went out together and worked on the forward, halt, about, right turn, and left turn commands and footwork.   I was very rusty on these as I'm finding that while I'd been shown them on my first class with Honey, no one had reviewed these since, thus I'd quite forgotten the proper techniques of them.   Barb also had explained the reasoning behind these techniques too, thus changing a  lot of my perspective of some of the routes I've engaged for a long time.   I'll be re-thinking some of these for sure.  

We met up with Barb and the other student she was working with and then  swapped "dogs" aka trainers for a few minutes and I worked with Barb in that she wanted to see me do the harness correction now that I was more familiar with the grounds and such.   We swapped back and then Jody took me on inside back to the snack room where I had left my stuff.  

One of the two volunt

eers came soon to take me on the tour of the Kennels and as we talked, he remembered me from when I was here in April, upon telling him about Favor.   He gave me the tour about the grounds and we went on over to the Kennels where I got to see a buddy of mine. :)    Erin, Rei's puppy raiser had raised a smooth coated collie named David.   She had David in the last year that I had Rei and we had met up with her and met him when we made the trip to TN for a family reunion, then again when I retired Rei this past March, in which she and David stayed at our house overnight before going back to TN.  

Here is the big man in the kennels!   He's looking very good and at first he looked at me and once I approached him he started wiggling and was happy to see me, mouthing my fingers a bit and then turning to have his rump scratched. 

I finished up with my kennels tour and then went back to the Residence building.   I grabbed my laptop and stuff and headed back to the room, since my stuff had been camped out there nearly all day.   Just as I set the computer down, Jody came over the intercom, calling all of us down to the lobby lounge.    Jody and Barb explained that tomorrow we will have our 6am wake up call, 7:30 breakfast, and then from there do van and bus trainings.   Then from there, there will be one or two more interviews to finish up and then Barb and Jody will make their "Final, Final decisions" of which will be the best dog to give to each student and by that point they are thinking it'll be lunch time.  

So we will go to lunch and after lunch they will send us all to our rooms at 1pm and will bring our dogs to each of us individually and have an apprentice with them to take pictures of giving each of us our dogs.   After we receive our dogs, we will be given a couple of hours of quiet time to interact and bond with the dog as much as possible and then will be assisted in going with our dogs to the gathering room and then outside to the break area.   After this we'll bring the dogs back inside and put them on tie down in our rooms for during dinner and then after dinner we will bring our dogs with us to the lobby lounge for the evening lecture and then one last time out to the break area for the night.

Barb and Jody then signed off for the day, turning things over to several other trainers for the evening and a couple of other students who are amazingly good at music, one got out his guitar and the other his harmonica set and sang/played together w/o ever having practices together before.   Both are totally blind with no light perception and they were just amazing to watch in their abilities to create such a joyful noise!    The rest of us and several GDF staff members were drawn to the music and came and watched as they played several songs together until it was dinner time at 5:30pm.

Dinner was no different in that it was deliciously good.   Kevin's famous 2 1/2 inch thick porchops and sauce just melted in  your mouth with asparagus and a super small helping of stuffing for me. :)    I did splurge and have a small slice of chocolate cake as well.  

The evening lecture was the traditional split lecture, where the first time handlers stay up in the lobby area and learn how to make a long and short leash, how to properly put a training collar on the dog, and are given a bowl, nylabone, dog brush, and a recall whistle for their dogs.   The re-trains are sent to the lower level TV room in which the transition lecture takes place.    This lecture is good for reminding those of us that are receiving successor dogs, that we need to be patient, that it's OK and normal to feel guilt, shame, failure, and the grieving process that comes with the loss of a dog, either through retirement, death, or returning the dog back to the school.  

While this lecture has always been one of the more beneficial ones for me, it is entirely the one that I dread the most, as I knew I'd be a blubbering mess when it came to this with Favor.   Tonight it took everyone else talking as I sniffled, cried, and tried to hold myself together as the others talked about their situations and different things about their dogs.   I finally let it out and shared my feelings of guilt, apprehension, and somewhat fear of what is to come with the new dog.    I am very excited and ready to start a new chapter with this new dog, but I am very apprehensive of how can I protect my new dog and the new relationship I have with the dog, given the conditions and factors of the environments I have around me and that we will encounter, yet I cannot control.  I continue to pray for my new "forever" dog and at this point I have to entirely turn it over to God that he knows what he's doing and do my best  to put the work in to start this bond off in the right direction and with the help of all the staff here at GDF, who has been there for me, hugged me when I needed it, and been the listening ear through all this. :)

Thus I came back upstairs with a massive headache and some seriously puffy, red, and swollen eyes.   Kait, the apprentice instructor that gave the equipment lecture was waiting for me to go over how to properly put on the collar and make sure I knew how to make a short and long leash.   She was quite impressed as I whipped right through those and put the collar on the big stuffed snoopy dog they have for this purpose. :)    We wrapped it up there and she handed me my bowl of stuff for the dog and I came back here to the room to skype with Mike and the kids before the kids went to bed.   I now wrap up this post since then and we will continue with Day 3- Dog Day tomorrow! :)  

Stay tuned for lots of info tomorrow!
Kacie & ***Male dog- What's my name?***

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day one at GDF- Fall 2013

Well, Day 1 at GDF is coming to a close.   Was a good day overall. :)

Got up this morning with Katie to spend some time with the kids before they all went to school, knowing that I wouldn't be home when they got home.   I was struggling when Alex and Meaghan left though, as both of them held me tight and Alex didn't want to let go, close to tears, and says with his head down- "I don't want you to leave."    Yeah, tore at the heart strings majorly there.

I then finished off filing the paperwork I had to be filed and by this point it was time to head to the airport.   Went over the last minute things with Mike on where I'd put things and we made the drive to the airport.   It was a gorgeous crisp fall day out and clear as far as the eye could see.   This still didnt keep the nervousness away that was building in my stomach like butterflies fluttering around.

We arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport and went and made our way to the check out desk.   Mike teased me as my suitcase was 53lbs and I retorted back that I expected it to be overweight, with packing for a full month and keeping it to one suitcase.   He was given a companion pass and we then made our way to the Security checkpoint.   The TSA agent asked the person in front of us if he had any metal knee or hip implants, as if so, he'd need to go through a different line.   Mike was taking care of talking to the agent and completely spaced the CI on my head.  

So as we stripped our stuff off- belts, shoes, emptied the laptop and CI bag into the trays, I bring this up and we go back and tell the agent about the CI.   He tells us to go ahead and they'll send someone over to scan me.   With the next agent that was working the scanner, since it would set off the metal detector said I'd either have to be patted down or I could do the x-ray machine thing.   I opt for the x-ray and have to step in and place my feet on the yellow foot prints and place my hands over my head as the machine goes in this full circle around me in one quick swoop.   We were quickly done and able to move on, as all the agents were very friendly and helpful through all of this.

Now that we were through security, we go and grab us a bite to eat for lunch and then make our way to the gate.   I check in with the ticket agent and confirm the gate assistance once landing in La Guardia.   It was nice to sit and talk with Mike for while before leaving too.    Before I knew it, it was time to board on the plane, which amazingly was really empty.  The flight was really good and without any issues, as well as arriving in NY about 15 minutes early.  

An agent at the gate helps me down to baggage claims and trainer, Barb, met me there.   Since there were so few people on the plane, the baggage came off at record speed and we had my suitcase in no time.   Trainer, Jody E., had met up with her person and we all made our way out to the GDF van, in which a third student was there and waiting for us.    Barb then takes the three of us and we head back to the GDF campus.  

The traffic was really good on the highway, without any hang ups/slow downs and we made pretty good time getting bac to the campus, whih is normally about an hour away.   I quickly found myself right at home, being right across the hall from the room I was in last April while here.   At the suggestion of a friend, when we made our way back to the room, I asked if I could push the bed against the wall instead of sticking out in to the middle of the floor, centered along the long wall of the room.   I am blessed in that I have one of the few rooms with a full bed, vs the twin bed.    So we moved things around and got the room situated.  Barb said she needed to get a couple of things done and would be back to do irentation with me.

I unpacked my suitcase and stuff and am settled in for the long haul.  Shortly, Barb came and got me to do some orientation about the building to make sure safety things had been covered and so forth.   We also bumped into Kevin, GDF's AMAZING Chef, and I made it a point to go ahead and ask for the half portions now, before my pants don't fit me like last time. :)

Kevin and I talked for a good while, catching up on the things of the summer and I headed back to my room.   I take a look at the clock, which says 1:00pm.   Not even thinking that we'd just unplugged the clock about an hour earlier, I'm thinking I have about 3-4 hrs that I can take a nap, so I lay down.    I'd just really gone into a deep sleep when I shot out of bed at the hard knocking on my door and it's Jody saying it's 5:30 and dinner time. :)

I am in such a hurry to get down to the dining room and not hold people up, that I promptly rushed out the door without my room key and the door locked. Oye!    Dinner however was amazing, with breaded baked chicken and steamed mixed veggies of green beans, broccoli, and some other stuff too with a bit of mashed potatoes too.   Here at dinner we got to meet most of the other members of class that we'd heard, but not seen before.  

Everyone downs their dinners and our first lecture is at 7pm in the lobby/leather lounge.    We all gather up and all the nitty gritty stuff of rules, policies, and tentative schedules are discussed with all of us.   They explain that through the day tomorrow, we'll be doing Juno walks- where a double ended handle is used and the trainers are the "dogs" and lead us.   We are to tell them where we are comfortable and such as they will make a final decision of which dog will be the final choice to match to each of us students.  

All of us there at GDF right now are also blessed with the presence of an apprentice that is training by participating within our class for an entire week- but blindfolded.   She is staying here on campus with us and the blindfold is to stay on until next Monday afternoon.  Barb made us promise though to be nice to her this week and no pranks/moving furniture around on her, as she is using a cane right now and will use a guide dog the later part of the week to get a feel for what blindness is like.

After the lecture, I came back to my room to settle in for the night and gave Mike a buzz, in which they were heading home from MD's gymnastics Halloween party.  Once they got home, Mike and the kids jumped onto the computer and signed in to Skype, and we got to chat for a few minutes and was able to do the back camera on the Ipad Mini to show them what my room looks like.

Thus it's time to sign off and say Good Night, as the 6am wake up call will definitely come early and we begin a new day tomorrow with Juno walks and time here about the building.

Kacie and *What will my name be???*

Being Dogless- Again and other things

While the week of favor's leaving was very painful, there was an amazing high point to that week too,   MD asked to be baptized at church camp! :)

Mike about to dip MD under in the Camp Allendale pool to be baptized.

We were very proud of her and it was even more awesome that she called the night before and asked her Daddy to be the one to baptize her. :)

We left from Camp and headed back to the Indy area and headed straight to Camp Belzer and spent the afternoon with AC and his den there at camp.   The kids had fun, doing some archery, shooting, and various other games that day.   We had a few storms roll through for a bit, but they passed quickly and the fun continuted.

AC with arrow drawn and aiming for the target at Camp Belzer Cub Scout Day Camp.

So I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about Favor being gone this week, but I finally got the nerve to write back to GDF and inquire about what needed to be done for the process of starting the process for another dog.   I was told my application was in, that they'd just have to check that all the forms were in and up to date, which they should be with having put in the application for Favor.  

Then came the hard part of sending Favor back.   All the questions from various people who had seen and oohhh'd and ahhhh'd over Favor and her striking appearance.   Right and left, people asked me "Where is your dog???"    And with a straight face, I'd reply that she didn't work out and had become too protective of my family and I and with the amount of children I am around, that it wasn't going to work.   I honestly had hopes that she would go back to GDF and possibly be placed with someone that lived in the city and had almost no interactions with children.   While I knew it was essentially a shot in the dark, I was hoping.

Then came the onslaught of suggestions and well meaning advice from various people.   I learned very quickly that the people that I thought would be the most empathetic and compassionate, were the quickest to tell me what I'd done wrong and what I needed to do next time with a dog.   I honestly was hurt, emotionally raw, and even depressed.   I had suggestions of not letting anyone pet the new dog to not going anywhere with the new dog for several months.   I felt questioned, chastized, and called out as a handler that the decisions I'd made with my dogs were inappropriate and caused the early retirements I've faced now for the the third dog in a row.   The first due to fear of loud noises and in particular thunderstorms, the second being because of a medical condition, and then the third because of aggression.    

Then as we traveled for several family reunions and as the family had to learn to slow down again and Mike had to learn to sight guide me all over again, instead of walking away and leaving me standing there searching with my cane in unfamiliar territory, I was acutely aware of the loss of independence, the looks of pity on people's faces as they saw me tapping my cane from side to side.   I wanted to scream, break my white cane into a million pieces, even throw it across the room.   However I realize that this impersonal and inanimate object is the closest thing I have to maintaining at least a little bit of independence right now, so I'm stuck with it.   Yes I've cried myself to sleep many nights in prayer to God to watch over me and my family, to bring the right match forward in his time, and to be with the kids as we've lost  all the pets in our house in the past 8 months.   All three gerbils had crossed over the rainbow bridge as well.   

I struggled too, as the weeks started going by and not hearing anything from GDF, though this is the normal process since it all boils down to the right dog coming in for formal training and successfully making it through the training program   Unfortunately, this is not a quick process much to my dislike.  I still have not received a class date yet, but there will be a VERY big change this time around.   In the past, I've done what GDF calls a combo training, which means I am there at GDF for 10-14 days and then come home and the trainer comes to my home area and works each day with me for a week here in my home setting.  For the next dog, GDF wants me to come to the school for the full class.   That means 4 weeks all together and away from my family and home.   I'm honestly quite nervous at the prospect, not so much that Mike and our support isn't able to handle things without me, but moreso for MD and some of the issues she has had come up this summer, causing her to be irritable and at times quite difficult to be around.

I was pleasantly blessed though that with some adjustments to her medications, we were able to get her functioning well again with school.   

September however brought us to the sadness of Mike's mom, Elizabeth Weldy- going home to be with the Lord after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer's disease.  While we grieve for her, it's almost  a relief that she's gone on to Heaven and the knowing that we shall get to see her "whole" again, brings us the most comfort through this difficult time.

Upon returning home from her funeral, I received the phone call from GDF trainers, Barb & Jody E that they felt that they have a dog that will work for me.   The however did want to ask if I was hard set on my preference of a female dog, as they thought they had either a male black lab or a male golden retriever that would work for me.   I was more than fine with a male dog, and was excited at the prospect of being done with being dog-less!

Class dates were scheduled for Oct. 28th through Nov. 22nd and ready to get this ball rolling!