Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Rant About Dogs and their Owners

Walking my dog today and I see a guy with three angry barking little dogs on extendable leashes coming my way. 2 Shih Tzus and a Pekingese it looked like. Being a wary dog walker, I elect to cross over to the other side of the street at the intersection and continue on my merry way. 

Well the Pekingese was having none of it, barking and growling, he darted into the middle of the street coming after me and my dog (who looked but pretty much ignored him), and then the retractable leash broke. The dog comes barreling at us, and his owner and the 2 yapping shihtzus after him. 

At first I just stopped, thinking the dog would just bark and sniff Duke and the guy could catch him and be off. But the dog doesn't do that, instead he growls and darts in and basically attacks my dog, completely unprovoked. My 50# dog yips, jumps aside, and then the hackles went up and he started growling, not his usual play growl, but a "back off or I will be forced to hurt you" growl. The Pekingese is now darting around in circles, growling at Duke, while I'm clutching his collar trying to keep my dog from killing the little **** and also dancing around trying to keep myself between them (and seeing if I can aim a good swift kick at the attacker). Meanwhile the owner is standing off yelling at his dog to come (it doens't) or to sit (my dog does a couple of times, his doesn't). His other two dogs are busy yapping their little heads off but thankfully don't get involved. Finally (read, 30 seconds later, but felt like forever), he manages to grab his dog and I practically bolt down the sidewalk with mine. An apology? A shamed face? Nope, nothing, the guy just walked away. 

Halfway down the block I see a woman with a lab mix wagging its tail at us. She witnessed the altercation, and hurriedly crossed the street as we came down it. I wanted to shout at her, "it wasn't my dog's fault, that little ****forbrains attacked him!" 

We made it home without further incident and as far as I can tell the other dog never drew blood. 

Teach your dogs manners people, or next time the GSD your Pekingese picks on will rip his yappy little head off, or his angry mom will.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Life in Chicago

Well I've been in Chicago now doing a summer lab animal fellowship at the University of Illinois at Chicago for about 4 weeks.  I have Duke and Addy here with me (pros and cons to that) and have been spending some time with Jackie (as much as possible).

The traffic here totally sucks.  I have a 9 mile drive to work and it takes me 30 minutes in the morning if I leave around 7am and about an hour going home leaving at like 4:30pm.  Luckily I've been listening to audiobooks (Song of Ice & Fire #2) which is probably all that's keeping me sane.

Last weekend I went and saw Jurassic World solo (pretty fun movie) and took a long day of bike riding up and down lakeshore drive with Jackie - including a brief stop at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

This weekend, Nathan came down.  Friday night we got Chinese food, took Duke for a walk, and watched the last 4 episodes of season 5 of Game of Thrones.

Saturday we took Duke to the Montrose Dog Beach - with a stop at Slims for some Chicago hot dogs and frozen yogurt on the way.  Pretty tasty and reasonably priced.  Dog beach was crowded but very fun - Duke had a blast, zooming all around.  Came home, dropped off Duke, and then walked the 2 miles to Davis Theater to see Inside Out.  Huge line outside so I sneakily bought tickets on my phone and we walked past the line and straight in.  Cute movie, interesting concept, but we both thought they could have done more with it.  Long walk home and it started raining/storming on the way.  We barely made it back right as the thunder and lightning started.  Luckily I had my umbrella, though Nathan refused to use it until the very end.  We ordered some deep dish Chicago pizza for dinner and watched The Heat and Little Shop of Horrors before calling it a night.

Sunday (today) we got a late start to the morning, ate some leftover pizza for lunch, and then walked about a mile to the train station.  We took a couple of trains to the Roosevelt station and then walked about 15 minutes to the Shedd Aquarium,  Jackie's friend hooked us up with free tickets that got us in everywhere.  So we saw everything, including the dolphin/beluga/penguin/dog show.  Spent a long time there, then headed back on the train to home.  Fed the animals, Nathan packed up, then had leftover Chinese food before driving back to the train station and taking that up to O'Hare to drop Nathan off.  I went with to say goodbye.  Then the lonely ride and drive home.

Overall, I love my fellowship here, the people are very nice and the program sounds amazing, but I worry about living in Chicago.  I'm not Jackie - she thrives on the nightlife and seems to make friends easily.  I've mostly felt like I'm wasting so much time commuting, plus being lonely, it's making me question Chicago or really any big city as a potential future home.

I guess we'll just have to see how the next 7 weeks go.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oh happy days :)

Yes I am in the middle of the hell weeks I formerly mentioned, and yet I keep having good fortune and happy things happening to me :)

My happy things:
1.  I was offered another summer internship interview, this time at Cornell
2.  I was awarded another scholarship, this time specifically for lab animal medicine
3.  My group got 39/40 on our 2nd homework assignment (this is especially awesome because we received a D on our first assignment)
4.  Nathan is taking me to see Beauty and the Beast next Thursday at the Orpheum :)
5.  I was offered the internship position at the U of I - Chicago :D !!!!

Yep.  Happy times.

In other news, I've also started another weight-loss journey.  The stresses of vet school and certain things happening in my life lead to a ridiculous cycle of me eating anything and everything that sounded moderately tasty with zero regard for portion control.  I recognized this pretty quick but decided I didn't care.

Then I stepped on a scale, saw the number, and decided I'd be okay so long as I didn't get back up to X (the number I weighed before starting Weight Watchers back in the day).

Then mid-February hit and I had been avoiding the scale but decided to jump on to see where I was at... and the number was X+1.  As soon as I saw that I noticed that yeah, my pants weren't fitting super well and yeah, I was getting more tired and lazy with exercising Duke (a lot more fetch, a lot less walks - which I had been blaming on the cold weather).

So then I realized I should actually do something about it, but I decided I was going to be more realistic about things and take it slow.  So I gave myself February.  I literally made the conscious decision that I could keep eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted up through February 28.  But come March 1, that was it.  I was on a diet.

So March 1st came and it was a Sunday that I had to work.  I drive by a Culvers on my way to/from work and the Flavor of the Day was Cookie Dough Overload and I thought to myself, well what's one more day?  Thought about stopping on my way back all through my shift, it was the thought of that delicious frozen custard full of delightful cookie dough that kept the smile on my face while dealing with rude and ignorant clients.  And then I got in my car to drive home (with my pit stop) and realized what I was doing.

I didn't go to Culver's, I went home and ate scrambled eggs instead.

That was a pretty proud moment for me and my motivation.  Since then I've been counting calories every day and keeping within my range of desired intake.

I realize it's only been 5 days, so it doesn't really seem like a big deal.  But for me, that's pretty damn good, especially compared to the last few months.

On the down side of that, while my current weight is X-4 (it dropped during February despite my laxity - I was probably still semi-conscious of it), it hasn't changed by an ounce since March 1st.  Which is disheartening, I don't expect to drop pounds every day, but it's just frustrating to see zero progress with all of my hard work.  Again, I know it's only been 5 days.  It just feels like longer.

Anyway, my goal is to keep tracking my intake for all of March.  I might do little changes as far as activity goes (like taking the stairs more, walking Duke more, etc) but that's not my focus for this month.

On April 1st though my plan is to add regular exercise into the mix.  Again, I'm going slow with this, and I'm debating giving myself a non-tracking day (1x/week, 1x/2 weeks, or 1x/month??? not sure yet) but I'm thinking in April I will start focusing more on the activity side of things.  I also think it might be easier to do it then, hopefully the weather will be nicer and more enticing by that point.

Well I think that's enough about me.  Time to try to refocus on this current pharmacology lecture (actually fairly entertaining this time).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Come on spring

I'm not going to lie, Spring Semester of 2nd year of vet school absolutely sucks.

It's funny, because it's a combination of things that is making it tricky.  Overall I really like some of the classes and find them really interesting (especially surgery).  But I'm currently taking 30 credits.  THIRTY CREDITS!  That's without taking any electives...  To top that off, in the classes this semester I have so many homework assignments, online quizzes, tutorials, and other random things to do that I've already forgotten to do some, despite actually making a MS Word calendar and checking it practically hourly to make sure I don't forget anything.

A problem I'm about to face is the fact that they gave us 2 weeks off without an exam.  To be fair there were still homeworks and online quizzes etc to do and there's always class to attend, but no exams to cram for.  This put me into a state of zero-f**ks-given and my motivation has never been lower.  This is also partially senioritis (though I'm only in 2nd year) and the desire to just be done with classes.  This will be a problem for me because in the upcoming 2 weeks (checking my calendar here) I have 7 exams, 2 homework assignments due, and 6 quizzes.

I may die.

I'm also not doing as well this semester as I should be.  My grades are not living up to the standards I hold myself to, but again I can't seem to find the motivation to care enough to work on it.

Prime example: I am sitting in a lecture RIGHT NOW, and instead of paying attention I am typing this up.

I'm tired of the cold weather too.  It's hit the 30's a couple times in the past month and both times I took Duke for a bike ride - it was great!  But anything below that and I'm just cold and miserable, and while I take him to the dog park nearly every day to play some fetch on the frozen pond, I can't wait for winter to be over.

I applied for a few internships for the summer (okay 7) and so far have heard back from 3.  Tufts essentially waitlisted me (boo) but both CSU and U of I-Chicago both want to interview me!  That is very exciting because those are my top 2 choices (I would love to spend 10 weeks of my summer hanging out with Jackie :D).  So we'll see how that goes, hopefully I get one!

Being VP of RAM Club (research animal medicine) is probably one of my biggest highlights of my life right now.  If I could devote all of my time just working on that stuff I probably would.  Alex S and I make a great P/VP team, and I'm not going to lie, I'm actually kind of glad that she took over the presidency.  As much as I love what I get to do, she has to deal with all of the coordination/administrativey crap.  I mostly just get to do the fun stuff.

Hah, midway through typing this I thought of more stuff to do for RAM Club and then spent the last hour doing that (again, not paying attention to pharmacology, le sigh).
But I did make this cool logo:
Definitely a good use of my time. 

I should just go home. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Externship at Mizzou

Well since I had to keep a journal for my externship at the U of Missouri, I decided to just copy and paste it in here for an update.  Enjoy!

Day 1 (12/16/14):
Arrived too early
Talked to Craig - went over program, exciting
Talked to Shelly, got administrative things done
Talked to Aaron Ericsson? about potential research projects (mouse poo ie microbiome or zebrafish behavior)
Met Marcia - offered to drive me to ACUC annual review
Went to ACUC annual review - disagreements, scientist vs vet, very entertaining
Met other externs at OAR, went to VA imaging - like a sales pitch to do a PhD in his lab, very excited about his stuff
Long day, excited for the rest
Contacted Sarah Hooper and Cat Hagan about setting up time - may do some bat bleeding
Day 2 (12/17/14)
Morning watched 2 current resident presentations on mouse strains - some info I knew, some I didn't (liked the history of Jackson Lab), asked a question about audiogenic seizures and cochlear degeneration, then had to leave early
Did the Repro lab - Loved it - but wish there had enough mice for us each to do our own.  was a little frustrating when Ava claimed she did the right testicle but actually did the left.  Would also have been cool to actually insert the pipet into the infundibulum.  The whole concept and procedures were really interesting
Afternoon meeting was cancelled (they were busy ranking candidates for the residency program next year, hope Mitch gets it)
Spent the rest of the afternoon shadowing Dan and picking his brain about his path to residency (since he's a MN grad like me).  Got to see a bunch of adorable dachsund puppies and a muscular dystrophy dog (Captain) and help with blood draw/radiographs.  Also got to see a bat room and a cat room (gave Clavamox to post-spay cats). 
More talking with the current residents (super helpful). 
Day 3 (12/18/14)
Early morning at the swine center.  Shower in facility - that was new!  Had a long productive morning shadowing Megan and Mike Linville.  He was very informative, giving me the tour and the history of the facilities.
Went to the OAR holiday party - lots of good food and company.  Got the chance to talk with more of the vets and residents and watch a fun game being played. 
Following the party went to a live internet cast of primate rounds from Tulane.  Heard about some really interesting cases of granulomatous inflammation in some macaques. 
From there I went to shadowing Jake in the last of the animal facilities where I got to play with dachshund puppies, help restrain one for an ear cleaning and cytology, and looked at some fighting mouse wounds including a mouse who had lost his entire penis and had a random hole in his abdomen that he peed through.  Super weird/gross.  Ended the day looking at the slide from the dog ear and possibly seeing some yeast. 
Day 4 (12/19/14)
Later morning thank goodness.  Started with OAR rounds, basically updates from all the different factions.  Pretty interesting, and since I'd already toured all 3 vet cares I actually knew about all of the cases they talked about, which was fun. 
Talked with Lon and Pat about ACQA and got quizzed on OLAW, USDA, AWA, and The Guide.  Also learned more about the structure of Mizzou's animal stuff.
Met with Dr. Bryda about my research project.  Unfortunately not what I was hoping for - more PCR and benchtop than anything with animals. Still should be a good learning experience. Set up training stuff for Monday.
Joined the other externs for a mouse necropsy/parasitology lab.  Using pet mice - found tapeworms, pinworms, mites, and all sorts of protozoa.  So gross!  Never getting pet mice from a store again.  Very cool and interesting though.
Weekend activities:
Dog park, hiking, Hobbit with first year residents Dan, Jake, and Megan
Day 5 (12/22/14):
Morning came to learn PCR with Miriam (but she'd already finished) so then went over and watched Dr. Men do zygote injections.  Very cool and finicky - he thinks its tedious
Came back to the lab and saw the PCR didn't work.  Set up a new one myself with Miriam's guidance using the Accuprime kit.
Had a window of time so went over to ARC to help Sarah Hooper with bat stuff!  Helped take pictures under UV light and then rehydrating (SQ injections of LRS) and feeding (mealworms!) the bats.  Very cool.
Back to run gel on my PCR to see if it worked.  Started doing the TA cloning on the sample, plated the bacteria for overnight.
Day 6 (12/23/14):
Morning was going to help out with bat stuff again but because of their late night they didn't get started until late.
Spent the morning reading background information about my research project (CRISPR in rats) as well as one of my books about veterinary surgery.  Also emailed the rest of the people I hadn't gotten ahold of yet and scheduled up almost all of the rest of my activities.
In the afternoon I continued working with Anagha on my research project. Unfortunately the previous day's work didn't turn out, so we repeated the TA cloning with positive and negative controls as well as taking into account information from Invitrogen.  Plated the bacteria again and hopefully there will be some growth tomorrow.
Day 7 (12/24/14):
Update with my research project and we had colony growth!  Waiting to set up the next part until next week (since we are both off tomorrow and I'm off on Friday).  Spent the rest of the morning updating my PowerPoint presentation and doing more background reading into the CRISPR technology.
Did send out a text to the remaining first year residents but unfortunately they didn't have much going on either.
Weekend activities:
Drove back up to Minnesota for Christmas with the family
Day 8 (12/29/14):
Long weekend but back in the saddle. Started the morning working on PowerPoint, then got an update from Anagha about the project.  She ran through the next steps of the project and the timeline and we worked out a plan.
Then had a slide review with Dr. Marcia Hart.  Very interesting and informative!  Saw a few interesting cases and got to review some histology. See notes in notebook for more info.
Rat and mouse handling lab with Megan.  Very fun, though not enough mice/rats for us each to have our own.  Megan managed to blind stick a rat vena cava and impress us all, no one else could hit it.   Fun and informative.
Day 9 (12/30/14):
Woke up feeling like I had swallowed a bag of gravel and broken glass, which were currently occupying space in my joints and no sleep.  Elected to not bring my illness into surgical suites (daschund spay/neuters were on the schedule) and attempted to aid my immune system with extra sleep.
Came in the afternoon and had an extended vivarium tour at Discovery Ridge with Jason Huntsperger.  A lot of good information about facility management and design.  Went well over the scheduled time, but very interesting.
Was going to then go to learn about rodent colonoscopy with Sarah Hansen but she had been in other rodent facilities that day so we had to reschedule for Friday.  Finishing the day with some more research into my research project.
Day 10 (12/31/14):
Watched Megan do a mass removal on a MN mini pig - really black mass! 
Then followed Sarah Hansen over to check up on the puppies that were sterilized yesterday, they were all doing well.  Soaked another dog's sore foot and also ran a fecal float on the other puppies in the litter (the ones that didn't get surgery had loose stool).  Didn't see anything on the fecal.
Got a protocol from Pat Farrar to review and set up a meeting time to go over that with her.
Also set up a more concrete plan to meet with Sarah Hansen on Friday for the rodent colonoscopy. 
Got an update from Anagha about my project - basically on hiatus until Monday since we're at a good stopping point and she's taking some days off.
Day 11 (1/1/15):
Helped Megan do her daily checks - first the pig with the mass removal and then the puppies that were recently sterilized. 
Spent the rest of the day out and about Columbia, reading over the animal protocol from Pat Farrar, and working on my project.
Day 12 (1/2/15):
Started the day working with Sarah Hansen all morning.  First I helped her get things ready and watched her do 3 rat colonoscopies.  After that I helped with the necropsies and tissue sample collections along with Nick Harrison. 
We got pizza and then headed over to OAR.
From there, Liz, Dan, Nick, and I went to Middlebush Farm and accompanied Lon Dixon and posse on the ACUC inspection.  Finding expired needles was pretty much the only thing of note (and then the discussion about how and why things like needles expire).
That pretty much summed up the day.  Busy last week coming up but excited as well.
Weekend Activities:
Drove over to St. Louis for the day - visited the zoo and the Arch.
On Sunday went to the dog park and ran into Sarah Hansen with her dog and daughter. 
Day 13 (1/5/15):
Starting my last week fairly slowly.  Slow morning, then had to decide whether to hit up the 2nd year Lab Animal Medicine class or stick around with the other externs and go to a class for the residents on infectious diseases.  Decided to stay here, they talked me into it by reminding me that day 1 they would probably be going over the syllabus for the class, which isn't something I really need to know.
Class is interesting, talking about disease outbreaks and how to handle them. Given a case to look at and questions to address. Talked about approved vendors, how to address the issue with PI's, talking about budget concerns, risks for exceptions, disease transmission, etc.  Basically ended with "do some research and come back on Wednesday with ideas." Interesting class, will get more out of it on Wednesday I think.
I then went to the Pathology PBL class and realized there wasn't much point to being there - all the presentations will be happening next week after I'm gone, but it was nice to meet some new people.
After that I had a meeting with Anagha to discuss my research project and presentation.  She helped me flesh out the presentation a bit more with some more background info on the specific goals of the lab and we discussed future plans for my mini project.
Spent the rest of the afternoon working on my presentation.
Day 14 (1/6/15):
This morning I started off talking to Dana Weir about facility management.  It was a really interesting discussion and not something I had given a lot of thought about until recently.  We ended up going more over the Disease Outbreak PBL that had been discussed with the first year residents yesterday.
Then went to the ACUC meeting, not quite as hot button as the last one but still really interesting and fun to watch.
From there I spent the rest of the day with Beth Ahner and James Cook's lab watching orthopedic surgeries on dogs.  It was really interesting - especially seeing all t he power tools and hammer and chisel in use, not to mention seeing Dr. Cook make a new meniscus out of pig skin.  Very cool stuff, but really long day. 
Also got some feedback from Dr. Bryda about my presentation.  Will have to find some time somehow to talk with Anagha again.  Scheduling this last week has been crazy!
Day 15 (1/7/15)
Crazy busy day.  Started at Disco with Dalila and learning about her role in colony management at the MMRC.  Showed me how to do health checks, wean mice, ear tag, and take tail snips.  For all my mouse background, I was pretty slow at it!  Took a bit longer than expected but still really fun/interesting.
Then went over to the OAR and was hoping to go over my protocol review with Pat but she wasn't around.  Then went to the lab animal lecture that Jake gave about rat biology.  Made me miss my old pet rats!  Was fun hanging out with Megan, Mike, Sarah, and Dan.
Then went out to lunch with them at Panda Express - not terribly vet related but I enjoyed the company.  There's never a good chicken to rice ratio with the food there I find... always too much rice left over.
From there I met up with the other externs at OAR and we walked over to LIDR together for a talk about that facility from Travis.  Very interesting, and a bit odd to me about the security.  You can find tularemia in wild animals, but if a mouse with it goes missing the FBI gets called in.  They also keep mosquitoes there, so learning about their husbandry was grossly fascinating.
We then headed back to the trailer and waited just a little while for a tour from Craig.  Went all over the MU campus and a bit through Columbia.  Very interesting and informative - two of the other externs came a long and it was funny how little one knew about the town she'd been living in for the past 2 1/2 years.  That was really fun and basically ended the day.
Except I got some feedback from Dr Bryda about my presentation so will likely spend the rest of the evening working on that - then an early day tomorrow!
Day 16 (1/8/15):
Early day starting with the pig orthopedic surgeries.  Mostly an observatory role - interesting at first seeing the blood draw from the jugular and watching them put the pig down.  Shaving and scrubbing.  Then in the surgical suite we were basically kicked out, so that was less interesting.  Apparently they had a problem with hypertension?  The other externs and I were called upon to calcluate a CRI fluid rate for Dobutamine. Nick was called away to help Sarah and Liz and Ava were stuck with the calculations.  They got Mike Fink to help out and eventually had it figured out.  I headed out early to hit up the 2nd year Lab Animal Medicine class again.
Managed to find the room and sat in on Marcia's lecture about hamsters and gerbils.  Unsurprisingly, a lot of histo pictures :)
Spent my lunch hour working on my presentation (only got so far last night before I lost steam). 
Did a PCR lab with Dr. Bryda and Miriam.  Pretty basic stuff, and mostly had already gone over it with them for my project, but still good to get another run through and practice stuff.
Following that I polished up my presentation a bit and then had a meeting with Dr. Bryda.  We talked for over an hour about the presentation, how to format it better and add/adjust things, and future directions etc.  After that I went back to my cubicle and spent another 3 hours making her suggested changes.  Practiced it a couple of times and called it a night.
Day 17 (1/9/15) Last day :(
Started the morning off with OAR rounds.  Pretty entertaining, similar to the first time.  Got to hear more about the mouse with the mysterious hole (apparently not so mysterious a problem) and updates about puppies.
Then went to path rounds and questioned everything I ever thought I knew about gram stains.  I swear it was purple for positive and pink for negative... but what do I know.  Pretty  interesting looking at the septic hedgehog organs - the heart I thought was especially cool, though the others were also interesting.
Then it was game time, had to give my presentation.  It did not go as smoothly as when I'd practiced, I got a bit flustered and mixed up and I'm pretty sure I just confused most of the people (and the people who actually knew what I was supposed to be talking about had to correct me on some stuff).  But hey, it's done, and that's what happens when you have a very limited time to try to learn a whole new topic.
Ava and I then went to grab some food, well coffee for her and Chipotle for me.  Delicious. 
Spent some time going over emails and then had my final meeting with Craig.  Kind of sad, but good to recap the program and go through pros and cons.  Then I went around and found people to say goodbye to (Sarah Hansen and Nick, Ava, Marcia, couldn't find Liz). 

Then back here at Megan's, packing up and wondering how 4 weeks went by so quickly - I'm not ready to go back to the cold of Minnesota!

Monday, October 6, 2014

And in real time...

While I'm slowly updating posts from well over a year ago, I'll give a quickie that's more in real time.

Life is hard.

New job (okay I started in May so not that new but whatever) working at an emergency veterinary clinic.  My job mostly entails answering the phone, checking in clients, making them sign paperwork, and begging for money at the end.  Basically all of the things I want to avoid about vet med by going into lab animal.  So that's fun...

Went on an epic road trip this summer (did I already write about this?? I don't even know) with Megan and Sara.  Drove from Rochester to Lincoln, NE to Glenwood Springs, CO to Las Vegas, NV to San Diego, CA to Flagstaff, AZ to Georgetown, CO and back home.  It was amazing, rafting in Colorado, drinking in Vegas, going to the zoo and whale watching in San Diego, and seeing the amazing Grand Canyon.  Plus lots of driving.  It was super fun.

In August I got a dog!

Yep, his name is Duke of Weselton, he's a black lab-shepherd mix, and he's insane.  We just graduated basic obedience last week, and he has more energy than Nathan's dog Jackie and Belle combined, which is saying something.

So that's pretty special.

Year two of vet school is well under way and I'm struggling to keep my head above water, or care enough to keep swimming.  It's been rough, we'll see how this year goes.

I managed to set myself up with an internship at the University of Missouri over winter break, so that should be fun.  Also been doing a lot of work as the VP of the Research Animal Medicine Club - booking lunchtime speakers and tours and food and things.

Busy life man.  And here I am, procrastinating.

Italy Part 1: Rome

July 17:
Stupid early morning.  We brought our bags down the night before so just hauling the little stuff down in the morning.  Shuttle/taxi got there around 5 minutes late - we were the first stop.  Picked up 1 dude then went to pick up 2 more but they weren't ready (Meg got a snippy reply when she went to see).  Thanks to them, got to Orly at 5:40am, then had to find our gate.  Shuttled to the plane and then fly to Rome.  Waited for the bags and then decided to take a shuttle bus to Termini station (5 euro each).  Arrived, super short walk to the hostel and they let us up the elevator and into our room!  Took a 2-3 hour nap (necessary!) and then dressed for church-friendly and headed to the restaurant suggested by our hostess for some delicious sparkling wine and pasta.  Then off to Termini and the metro line A to Spagna (Spanish Steps) for a tour at 5:30.  We arrived stupid early again and now waiting (bought postcards 20 for 1 euro and a fan for 2 euros). Very hot.  Finally found the tour - she had a mic and speaker!  Went to Spanish square (steps were French!), 2 old columns with Mary and Saint Paul on top, 2 churches, the Pantheon - largest dome, and the Trevi Fountain.  Lots of Pagan turned Christian stuff!  Good tour.  Walked back down a street full of vendors and artists and watched a woman use spray paint and stencils to create beauty for 10 euros.  Finally decided to get one - gave her creative freedom and it paid off big time - gorgeous.  Creepy towel man outside but shower then bed.

July 18:
Alarm off at 8am so we'd be ready for our breakfast set up in the kitchen at 8:30 - cereal, hot chocolate, croissant (filled), yogurt, etc.  Dressed and out the door (after herding cats mom & Megan) around 9:30.  Walked to the Colosseum (my map skills) and then trying to find where to meet our tour guide (at reserved tickets).  Had a short tour (with our own handheld speakers!) and then wandered some more and through the Constantine exhibit. Headed over to Palatino/Roman Forum and had to walk/wander a long way to find the entrance due to some construction.  Wandered around the area but very hot, very little shade/breeze, and barely any information on what we were looking at.  Finally walked home for a lovely 3 hour nap.  Got up and headed out to the Hard Rock Cafe for food.  Had to wait awhile for a table but not as long as predicted.  Claudio took our order then switched to Elena.  I had half a BBQ bacon cheeseburger and Meg & mom split twisted mac and a smaller burger.  Headed home and stopped at outdoor market - found out we should buy leather in Florence. Also stopped at a supermarket and got chicken, chips, and cookies to make a lunch.  Showered, read, talked to Brian for awhile about pride, Megan got snuggly, and finally sleep ~2am.

July 19:
8am wake up, breakfast, & out the door by 9am.  Brief "argument" about bus vs. metro, got on the metro to "Ottaviano."  Then walking a ways to Museo Vaticano and being worried about being late and in the wrong place (again!).  Got to skip a huge queue and got our tickets at the meeting point.  Our tour guide "Margarita"? gave us speakers/headphones.  Tour of the Vatican Gardens.  Very quiet and peaceful and lots of shade plus history of the Vatican.  Then walked through the museum (da Vinci, Raphael, Dali) to the Sistine Chapel.  I thought the ceiling in the church on our free tour was more impressive!  We took the wrong exit out of the Sistine Chapel so had to backtrack to get to the right one.  Then found a nice little souvenir shop run by nuns and I got a pin.  Sat outside on a bench and ate our packed sandwiches, chips, and cookies.  Debated going up the Dome - 7 euros and 300 steps or 5 euros and 500 steps, decided not to.  Then into St. Peter's Basilica, touched the worn feet, wandered around.  Finally home through the square and back on the metro.  Read, took a nap, now mom and Megan are shopping.  Yay alone time, but I miss Nathan.  They brought back pizza and wine from the same restaurant as before, then bedtime.

July 20:
Got to "sleep in"!  Alarm @ 8:30, out of bed ~9am for breakfast.  Dawdled a bit and headed out ~11am (in & out to potty!).  Then decided to do a trip advisor walking tour of baths/temples, etc.  Saw the circus, some old bridges over the Tiber (62 BC!) and the Marcello Teatro (like a smaller Colosseum).  Also saw a face from the 1st century - w/ "Mouth of Truth."  Then decided to walk/shop for shoes up towards the Spanish steps and then over to Barberini.  Then walked home from there - tried to stop in a McD's for a toilet but a long unmoving line.   Finally back to our usual restaurant for pizza and bruschetta (free!).  Meg and I walked down to the laundromat to check it out and on the way stopped in a lingerie shop.  Cheap stuff - awkward though!  Laundromat was too pricey - will try in Florence.  Now home - after trying to find mom to let us in.  Short nap break.  Got up and mom and Megan went to try to find a WWII free museum (was closed unfortunately) while I Skyped with Nathan and took a shower.  They got back and mom and I went to the train station to get my Euro pass stamped - waited in the wrong line then got to the right line and ran home for my passport.  Then got it stamped, stopped at McD's for Coke and shakes (1 euro) then home.

Rome Summary:
Nice place, fountains everywhere - overwhelming amount of super old (BC) structures.  Not as big as I was expecting - fairly walkable.  Metro not great and I was afraid of using buses - couldn't buy tickets on the bus.  Super hot until the thunderstorm then better so long as you stay out of the sun.  The Colosseum was impressive, the Roman Forum not so much (probably because no info/tour).  The Vatican was both over and underwhelming.  Too many people!  Very glad for online ticket purchases. Calm in the garden but then super crowded in the museum/Sistine Chapel.  Sistine was less impressive than a church on our free tour.  Never found good shoes for Megan.  Hopefully in Florence we can find good leather products.  Food was good but really only ate at one restaurant besides the Hard Rock Cafe.  No cannolis yet.  Hostel has been great - WiFi, clean, old locks/keys, Don't feel like I missed anything.
"Ancient City"
3.5 out of 5 stars