I travel the world and am truly amazed with the sights, cultures, and people but in my eyes there is no place like home.


30 April 2009

The race is on!

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook an extra race number/chip has been found and Justin is in the race on Sunday with us. Yay. On a side note I was schooled today at the Y by one of the morning runners and fitness queens. As I was inquiring about anyone having an extra number they asked if I was running. I replied with "yeah but just the half". I was told never again to refer to it as"just" a half, that a half is quite an accomplishment. Race photos and results to come after the weekend.

Aeisha has adapted amazingly well to life in Council Bluffs. Despite the fact it is cold and rainy unlike her native dessert climate. Grandma brought her up some kitty grass the other day which she quickly devoured. I know this doesn't relate to racing but I haven't posted any Aeisha photos lately so figured it was time.

29 April 2009

Lincoln Half Marathon Goals

My original goal was just to finish. As when I first signed up running 13.1 miles seemed ridiculous. As I realized I could accomplish I set a goal of finishing in 2 hours. That is still a possibility, but a very slim and very remote possibility. The allergies or cold or whatever craziness I had really put a damper on my running the last few weeks. I feel like I can finish but not sure at what pace.

I need a goal to prevent aimlessly running that would result in an awful time. I stalked all of last year’s participants and highlighted everyone from good ol Council Bluffs. I have decided that I absolutely can not be the last place finisher for CB as that would be mortifying. Many of those that ran workout at the YMCA with me daily, how I could have any pride knowing I came in last. Especially as many are way older than me! The slowest CBer last year was a 45 year old female with a time of 3:24:56, but since she is 45 I figure that is not really fair. The next slowest female in my age bracket is a 33 year old with a time of 2:58:05. This is an average pace of 13:36 per mile. There is absolutely no reason why I would need to run that slow (no offense to whoever this female is as kudos to you just for finishing!!). Plus that is a whole extra hour of running – brutal! My goal is to come in maybe around 2:25 or less. I think that is attainable. The fastest CB girl was a 36 year old with a time of 1:45:36 – no chance I can beat or match that.

The fastest CB male was a 47 year old with a time of 1:42:25 – my little brother can totally beat that time! However MAJOR kink in all plans. He somehow never registered. We are in desperate need of an extra entry. If anyone knows of someone not running either a full or half on Sunday please let me know. We will gladly pay for the bib and chip so Justin can run as he has been training like mad. Please please help us out!

On another note today is National Walk at Work Day so get outside and walk at lunch. Its drizzly and nasty in Downtown Omaha but I am braving the elements to walk at noon.

27 April 2009

My kitchen

Used to look like this….

Dirty dingy wallpaper, yellowy woodwork (the cabinets were the same until I painted), a fridge that sticks out into the open space, and so so appliances. I can't believe I entertain with a kitchen like this. However, I came home from work on Tuesday night to find this…

A construction crew violently tearing down the walls!

Ok so maybe it’s my brother and my dad

And my brother’s friend and my cool neighbor Jason. Also the tear down wasn't a total surprise. By the end of the week after lots of hard work by said construction crew (all I did was offer up dinners, pick up parts, and observe)

I now have a larger kitchen, a spot to recess the fridge, and direct access to the soon to be built patio.

Now I just need the new wallpaper to be hung (hopefully early next week), the woodwork to be painted white or restored to its original finish (to be decided this week), floors refinished, new lights, and new appliances. Unfortunately I have to wait until the end of June for the floors to be complete (hardwood is lurking beneath that awful linoleum). That means these fun new appliances purchased last weekend won’t arrive till July.

(Images from http://www.geappliances.com/products/cafe/)
Mid July a full reveal of the new and improved kitchen will be posted. In the meantime you’ll have to make do with snippets of progress.

26 April 2009

No More Excuses

After years of throwing everything away and recycling nothing I have decided it is time to finally jump on the green bandwagon. I mean really when all I have to do is dump the items in one of these lovely bins and put out on trash day the proper week there is no excuse. You would have to be beyond lazy not to. It is wonderful that Council Bluffs offers this service at no charge, a great way to promote a greener community.

I have also started to use re-usable bags for all grocery and other shopping. Its great as no more bag breakage or abundance of plastic to be thrown away. Slowly but surely I will get in sync with the rest of the world. Next up is planting my own garden and hopefully raising chickens! Yes chickens, just need to fix the chicken coop up a bit and get a permit.....

24 April 2009

Iraq – outside of the Palaces

Most of these photos are taken in and around Baghdad. Baghdad is considered a large city in Iraq.

I spent most of my time in Baghdad (Camp Victory and the Green Zone/International Zone). Once one left the secure Palace/Camp grounds the scenery drastically changed. It was very run down, dirty, and destitute. The Iraqis often went without power or electricity (the US is desperately trying to remedy this, along with building schools and hospitals but the ongoing war and insurgency issues make it difficult), people were very poor. We complain about no air in the Midwest and we rarely get over 90 degrees, there it was close to 125 degrees quite often. This is not to say there were not a few nice places in Iraq. Just overall it is a very rundown country. The markets looked like this.

And many people were afraid to even go shop as this is usually where the bombings would occur so it was dangerous. I can't imagine having to fear for your life just to shop. We were definitely not allowed to get out and shop. In fact to even leave the base you had to be in full battle rattle (Kevlar helmet, vest, ear plugs, and safety glasses!) and in either an armored SUV with a security team (usually several vehicles and about 16 armed ex military men).

Or in a Blackhawk. Again heavily armed and traveling in twos.

People sold anything they could to make money and often had little shacks or move able carts. The vehicles were rundown and old.

The further away from the main cities you traveled the more destitute and third world it seemed. People utilized animals as a means of transportation.

To add to the hardships of living in Iraq were the constant dust storms. When a dust storm rolled in it was brutal. You often could not see your hand in front of you and the dust was everywhere due to poor construction.

I truly hope that someday Iraq will rise above the violence and become a great city. Many other countries have been able to. Up North in Iraq is beautiful and there are also many very historic biblical sites (Babylon, the eternal flame, etc…) that would make great tourism sites.

*Sorry for the lack of posting, I have been sick all week and not motivated. I also lost my camera! Luckily it was found in the attic last night - who knows.

17 April 2009

Small bouts of cheer

Sometimes it’s the little things in day to day life that can make me happy, make me smile. These little things are the easiest to overlook as life becomes hectic. Such as fresh flowers that promise spring, amidst a sea of work.

An engraved business card holder from Tiffany with my brand new business cards.

The cafeteria guy telling me I look like Jacki-O. The knowledge that after work I have a great group of friends and family I can spend time with. Arriving home after work every Friday to a freshly clean house. All of this reminds me of how lucky I really am to have an amazing life. Especially when our economy is not as lucky.

16 April 2009

HGTV Iraq Edition

This was my “house” for six months. However, not just mine each trailer was shared with three others! Yes four of us lived in these tiny trailers. The trailers were divided in half with a bathroom on each side and two people shared each side. It was cramped quarters to say the least. However I was not one to let a small space look gloomy. This is how the trailer looked when I first arrived (as I was smart enough to bring at least a set of cute sheets, a few photos from home, the trusty bear).

However that wasn’t quite good enough. The government issued curtains obviously clashed and once the “winter” months hit the sheet alone wasn’t warm enough. So online shopped and ended up with this.

The curtains and comforter were from Pottery Barn kids.

The cute chair was bought out on the local economy. I actually wish I could have brought it home but that was not a PCS move so no free shipping and it was over the limit for APO type shipments. Would have been fun outside somewhere.

Most of the bathroom goodies came from my wonderful Mommy who sent me awesome care packages to spruce my trailer up. The shower was so small that the curtain touched you as you showered and more often than not we ran out of water. Nice eh. But I would not have complained as many of the soldiers had to trek to a separate trailer to shower and use the restroom. We were lucky to have our own!

Even though I lived in a postage stamp it was cozy and felt like a welcome retreat at the end of each 12-14 hour day. I had two roommates. One was Cynthia my shooting range buddy. Here she is holding up a piece of shrapnel that may have hit our trailer….

And the other after her was an older lady. I can’t remember her name which is awful. She was very sweat though. I definitely relish my solo living these days. At the end of our trailer park we had a "hang out" space. The Brits and Gurkhas had set it all up and often hosted parties and BBQs. It was fun.

We made the best of the situation, amazing how creative people can be.

Lucky me what a great Easter Bunny I have….

Ok so maybe it was the mailman and my parents not the Easter Bunny but I am still excited. My Kate Spade Basket Purse just arrived in the mail last night (along with fun new Nike workout clothes, it felt like my birthday!). It’s a tradition that every year my mom (as sure my dad has no clue) buys me a Kate Spade basket purse for Easter. When I was younger it was a Longaberger basket to use for the egg hunt (which I still have and use to organize my closets).

I love holidays, and not just for the gifts its also great to spend time with family! Speaking of which Easter weekend Mahoney photos will be posted soon.

15 April 2009

Camp Victory - Baghdad Iraq

This was home for six months. These photos are all about five years old and Camp Victory now looks way different. I was amazed how different it was by the end of my second tour even. USACE moved from the trailers into a new office building(s) they built and all the employees moved into a barrack/dorm style building (benefit of not having to share a room but you had to walk down the hall to the bathrooms). A few of these pools I have been told are now closed.

Anyway before Camp Victory was taken over by the US Military and made into a base camp it was actually Saddam Hussein’s “hunting palace”. Nice huh. Rumor has it he had over a 100 palaces! The Iraqis lived in a hut at best and their ruler had palatial homes in the triple digits. Amazing and unfair. Anyway the hunting palace had not only one amazing palace where Saddam would have lived.

It also had a very cool lap pool right outside the palace. I swam in this pool many times.

There were also several other very large homes located within the palace grounds. I guess these were for his friends, family, and staff. Many of these were very ornate as well (photos to come in the future).

Many of these buildings, to include the two below that were the vacation homes of Saddam’s two very bad sons were badly bombed by US Forces during the initial month of war. However any building that was salvageable was made into either office space or living space. It was odd as you would walk around these palaces and see some walls or areas totally crumbling and falling apart from the bombs and the rest would be totally in tact. Very precise!

Even with all the buildings there were still more people than space. So many of us lived and worked in trailers. Below is a photo of the office area and also the trailers we all lived in. More photos of my trailer to follow in a future post.

We also had a huge tent that was the PX (post exchange) where you could buy any needed supplies such as snacks, toiletries, movies, magazines, etc.. Like a small Wal-Mart. Items were always limited and shipments were sometimes halted due to convoys being targeted by roadside bombs. But overall they did have a great selection and better than nothing. We also had a Burger King so you could get your fast food fix if needed! Now there are several additional fast food restaurant option.

Connected to Camp Victory was Camp Slayer which was another Saddam palace compound, this was known as the Perfume palace and the rumor is this is the compound where he kept all of his mistresses! Nice huh. Anyway here is the palace at Slayer and one of those pools we often used for hails and farewells.

Hope you are enjoying the brief photos tours of Iraq. I am hoping I can find some photos from my travels outside of Baghdad as well.