Merry Christmas!

This is the most different Christmas I've ever had, but it's not bad. I slept in an extra hour (believe me, that makes a HUGE difference), came in to work and called my parents while opening the gifts they sent (it was 1am there).... I got a really soft, cranberry-colored robe and some nice slipper (I really needed those b/c my house is freezing). Then I read through my emails... it's a slow, rainy day, but it's nice.

The BEST news?!! My boss got me my 4-day R&R (rest and relaxation) trip to Qatar, and I leave tomorrow!!! He said I need the rest, and that if he didn't send me, I'd probably kill him next month when we're really busy with the Iraqi National Elections... he also said that if I do go, he won't feel so bad when he keeps me late every day in January. I am so excited! My first day off since I got here (if you don't count when I was sick)... Also, my best friend from college is down there, who I can't wait to see. I promise to take tons of pictures and post them when I get back.

Merry Christmas (again) and Happy New Year!
~ amber dawn


Well, the LAST entry generated a lot of comments. No need to say more, except that yesterday and today were a little better. I got some sleep, which helped tremendously, and some of the officers and I fixed some of the problems that were going on over here. Things aren't perfect (are they ever), but we found some ways to lighten the mood a bit.

I got a box with Christmas cards from a middle school in Littleton, Colorado... they were beautiful, so we put them up on the marble wall in our office. It's really nice to get letters from kids about their lives, their pets and family, their hobbies and sports... not only is it nostalgic to get a card made out of construction paper and glue-stick, but their stories and comments are so pure and heartfelt. (Not to mention a little funny at times.)

Have a good holiday, if I don't write back before Christmas!


my morale today is the size of a flea, and about as resistant to being stepped on. i was talking to a fellow officer of the same rank today about life over here. he's one of those "have faith in the system" guys who isn't cynical and gladly accepts, sacrificially, whatever is dished out to him - and expects everyone to do the same. i told him of some of the things that go on in our work place (morale issues, work load, general lack of leadership, guidance and common sense) and he essentially told me to suck it up and that "all of this is bigger than you and me." (of course i immediately translated that into: you are being selfish) then he said, "we are feeding the machine." and i replied, "yes, it's a factory...they use us up and spit us out when we're depleted." he told me that i had a pessimistic attitude, and i agreed, saying i hadn't always been this way. i had to get away from him as soon as possible because the anger i felt was rising up into my eyes and i didn't want to embarrass myself. he already thinks i'm a slacker b/c i yell out when things don't make sense. i guess i'll just have to suck it up, because in this war, "the play must go on."

my morning was great, by the way. i woke up and came to work, and as usual on a Sunday no one else was here (the rest of my team, save one, is under different leadership and gets the whole day off). discouraged, tired, and demoralized, i sat there reading my emails and trying my darndest to actually work through my bad attitude. i felt like my spirit was getting sucked out of me, and the more that happened, the heavier i felt. i'm losing it. i just know that if i don't get out of this attitude problem i have (which would probably take, oh, maybe a day off from this insanity?!), some day soon someone will say something that makes absolutely no sense, and instead of saying, "yes sir" i'll end up getting myself in trouble. i've lost the ability to hold it all in and just deal with it, and i'm sad to say it's probably making me look like i have a weak character.

miraculously enough, the brief i was supposed to give today to Gen Casey was cancelled (AGAIN), and so i WILL get my 6 hours off this week. imagine that. i am going to bed now, and i hope not to wake up until morning, so i can try out a new week with a more refreshed attitude. i hate being negative, but i feel like i'm falling down a spiral...

oh, get this: accountability issues, again. this morning, three of us (the others are in a different team from me, but under the same rules/commander) were here and five were taking the morning off and working the afternoon (a special privilege, and not a "right" we're told). the Sergeant Major over at Victory called asking where everyone was, and we told him that those who were supposed to be here were here, and the rest were probably at home sleeping in. he said he wanted visual accountability for EVERYONE by 0800 even on their off times (he can't wait until 1400 when everyone is here). there is just never an end to this insanity!


We had a gift exchange at work, and one of my friends came as Sadr Claus... Muqtada al-Sadr is a Shi'a personality in Najaf.


this is likely only funny for those who've been to Iraq, but i just had to put this out for public perview.... i picked only the best ones, and most of them apply to myself, which is scary...

You know you've been in Iraq too long when...
~ mortars land near your compound and you roll over in bed and think, "still way off, i've got another five minutes."
~ you actually volunteer for convoy security duty because you still haven't seen the country yet
~ driving around in SUVs with weapons pointing out the windows and forcing cars off the road seems normal to you
~ you see celebratory fire going over the compound at night and think, "wow, the tracer colors are so pretty" and want to fire back
~ you forgot there are colors other than brown that can be found in places other than PowerPoint slides
~ when you go on R&R, you duct tape your child to the roof of your car, hand him a pellet rifle, and assign him a sector of fire for the ride to "Olive Garden"
~ when 12 hours is a short work day
~ when, during a brief, "DIV asked MNSTC-I for the FRAGO that MNC-I was supposed to publish, but couldn't because MNF-I hadn't weighed in, since they were too inundated with MOD and MOI war-gaming the JCCs within the ISF to square us away!" is a valid comment and generates no questions
~ when you start using words like "G'day mate," "Cheers," and "bloody 'ell" as part of your normal vocabulary
~ when the trailer next to you catches on fire and instead of helping to put it out you grab a bag of marshmallows and start roasting
~ when you step into any office and there are 6 Colonels, 12 Lt Colonels, 15 Majors, and 8 Captains supervising the work of one NCO
~ when the weapon buy-back program has become so successful that you've issued the same AK47 to the Iraqi Army 3 times
~ when you cant tell the difference between the sound of an exploding car and an exploding mortar
~ when on R&R you go to Church and wonder why no one is wearing body armor or carrying an automatic weapon to the service
~ you know that you need to run inside immediately after any win of an Iraqi sports team to keep from being hit with celebratory fire
~ you decide that for shits and grins - "lets take a run around Lost Lake at Camp Victory to see if we can get shot at by the sniper"
~ you never worry about oversleeping because if the morning prayer calls don't wake you, the 0430 rocket attack will
~ you decide it's a better course of action to pull your blankets over your head than put on your body armor during an attack -- the woobee will save you and at least you're comfortable
~ a rocket attack isn't a big deal until the crater it leaves is big enough to trip over in the dark on the way to the latrine
~ you go to a social gathering and intermittent gunfire doesn't cause a pause in the conversation


The Twelve Days of Iraqristmas

On the _____ day of Iraqristmas, my Imam gave to me:
...the keys to a VBIED
...two foreign fighters
...three RPGs
...four new wives
...five golden Mosques
...six hostile sermons
...seven threatening flyers
...eight rusty AKs
...nine flaming fatwas
...ten pounds of C-4
...eleven men with small arms
...and twelve billion dinar!!!


I guess fixing my image/sidebar problem will have to wait a few days. *sigh* I'm not the computer geek i should be, apparently.

Today i spent most of the time staring at my computer screen, trying to figure out what was the point of the project i was working on. that must happen to other people as well, right? i wanted so badly to go back to my bed and sleep it all away...

i got an email yesterday with the "12 Days of Iraqristmas." It's great.... i'll have to put it on here sometime.

too bad i have nothing signifitant to report today... Camp Slayer was rather quiet today, at least where i was at. oh, i ran both last night and this morning, like an idiot. i think that's the only exciting thing that has happened. that, and we're watching White Christmas tonight after work. finally, something to look forward to.

it doesn't really feel like Christmas here. i'm not complaining about it though. because the work mood hasn't changed, and we aren't inundated with Christmas commercialism, and we don't have any Christmas parties, i just kind of forget that it's December. it's not bad - by forgetting, i don't feel as if i'm missing out on the holiday. as we say here, "there's always next year." next year, i plan on being somewhere snowy, with lots of mountains to snowboard on and egg nog and spiced cider and Dad's baklava. (he's sending me a box of his made-from-scratch baklava!) too bad i am not getting the traditional Matthews' family made-from-scratch ravioli Christmas dinner (don't ask, i know it's weird, but it's good, trust me).

the head boss here told me i look like Greta Scacci. i looked her up and sort of disagree. so now i've been told i look like her, Kate Winslet, and ... the girl from Sex in the City, what's her name... oh, Kim Cattrall. what a mix. i still don't see it.

well, off to dinner. it's steak night! (funny thing... we have guys from India cooking our food, and they don't do so well sometimes, but they try. on Curry Night, it's awesome. the steaks...they cook them after lunch and then re-heat them for dinner, but when it's all you got...)


this morning was chilly, but i'm adjusting to the temperature. it's still not as cold as St. Louis was when i lived there. every day, the weather is cooler and clearer (the skies are a cold, deep blue).

saturday night was "salsa night." i went to take lessons and ended up dancing until 11 (i left early because i had to be at work the next morning). dancing and twirling around, i nearly forgot i was in Baghdad. funny thing about being over here: if you're a woman, you're the center of attention, no matter what you look like. so, i hadn't even taken my coat off completely when someone asked me to dance.... and he was wearing his 9mm pistol the entire time (which i found somewhat entertaining in itself). ever dance with someone, spinning like a swing dance, while he/she is wearing a pistol? i will have to go back next saturday and do it again, because not only was i exhausted dancing nearly every song, but i had fun and released a ton of stress from work.

yesterday, when i got off work (early, for once), i went to North Victory where they have a small "bazaar" with items from the local population. i had to do some Christmas shopping, of course. i'm sure that if i had been able to get off the base to do the shopping, it would have been cheaper (and suicidal), but they jack the prices up b/c those of us on base don't have any other options. also, there is no such thing as bargaining there. *sigh* and that's the fun part! oh well. i also went by the Rug Shop, where they have real Persian and Turkish rugs for sale at reasonable prices. i am seriously thinking of getting a small one from Qom, Iran. they're pure silk, gorgeous, and as expensive as can be (why, oh why do i only like the best?). i'll have to get a really small one, but it'll last forever. i'll wait until next year to get it...




This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.
Well, yesterday I took some time and wrote at length, and my post didn't save. *sigh* Oh well.

Believe it or not, the Marine General over here thought not wearing the black fleece jackets was rediculous as well -- so they changed the uniform standards for us over here (finally, someone in charge has common sense). I was warm walking to work this morning...

I am searching for ways to put pics on here for you. My words aren't nearly as descriptive as a well-taken photo. I'm going to use the program "flikr."

Well, Merry Christmas and enjoy the season!