Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Halloween

from Mr. & Mrs. Collado Ricardo

This is the best picture we could get by ourselves with the self-timer.
Danilo is wearing an authentic Cuban guayabera in honor of Ricky Ricardo plus his charming accent.

Ask me if I'll ever spray my hair red again. No. I left red in my wake everywhere I went, and I had to clean the entire bathroom after I showered. But I'm glad I did it once.

6th Saturday of Seven

Laurel and I met through a blog party being hosted by this blog. We were randomly assigned a partner, encouraged to get to know one another through our blogs and emails, and then at the end of three weeks or so send each other a hair accessory to remember our new friend across the country by. The following snippets are excerpts from our conversations.

Brittney writes:
Hi Laurel! I just wanted to say hi. I've only spent two minutes on your blog and already am excited to know you because 1. I love skinny jeans too, and 2. I went on a trip to the South for the first time about six weeks ago and loved it. So nice to meet you.

Laurel writes:
Hey, Brittney!!!  I haven't checked out your blog yet but I'm excited to get to know you better. I love living in the South but people down here say I'm not a true Southerner because I don't sound like one. But I am a Georgia peach born and bred! :) It's absolutely so nice to meet you, too. I can't wait to get started on making something for the swap. :) 

Laurel, after only an hour or so writes again:
Hey, Brittney! I checked out some of your posts and even though our politics definitely aren't in alignment...

For the record, Laurel didn't put those last five words in giant glaring text, but that's how I read them. And when I read them, I did something like this:

because I knew she had visited my blog, where it would be impossible to miss the current ROMNEY, ROMNEY, HE'S OUR MAN theme. And if our politics definitely weren't in alignment, what must she have to say to me??? It's not that I wasn't willing to stand by what I have written all these weeks, it was just that in this instance I hoped to be making a friend. I braced myself for being told I was ignorant, naive, uninformed and the rest of the barrage of insults that might follow. Through partly squinted eyes, I continued reading.

Laurel, after having been interrupted by Brittney's thoughts, continues:
...and even though our politics definitely aren't in alignment, I can absolutely respect someone having well-formed, well-thought-out opinions on who to vote for. Kudos to you for having a reason instead of blindly following the masses. Faith in humanity - restored. 

Needless to say, we are friends.

Here are some excerpts from my favorite parts of our conversations.

Brittney writes:
Laurel! There are few things I like more than meeting someone who differs from me politically and totally hitting it off with them. :) Thank YOU for restoring MY faith in humanity. There is too much unkindness and incivility in the world and I appreciate your openness and friendliness towards me.  

Laurel writes:

It's always so, so, so, SOOOOOOOOOOOOO nice to meet someone who is opinionated (see what I did there?) but not hateful about it. Lots of people aren't like that, like everyone and their brother on their Facebook wall posts. 

Laurel writes:
I'm not voting for Romney because he's Mormon. But I'm not not voting for Romney because he's Mormon either. His choice of religious belief/worship/denomination does not even enter into my spectrum of reasons to vote a certain way, though it is clearly of interest and it might matter if he was a Satanist or something more sinister.

Brittney writes:  
It made me laugh, when I made that very definitive statement, that a vote should not be based on religion, I did make a little mental disclaimer like the one you did...I thought, shoot, if some religious fanatic ever comes up for the vote, I would have to take that back.

and all politics aside...

Brittney writes:
I've attached a picture of what I pictured when I read your preferences on hair accessories... please let me know how close or how very far away I am to something you'd enjoy receiving :).

Laurel writes:
I love that bow clip!!! My motto is basically, "When in doubt, add glitter."

Finally, one of my favorite things my new friend Laurel has had to say:
Laurel writes:
I can absolutely respect someone having well-formed, well-thought-out opinions on who to vote for. It's your vote, not mine!

I knew when I chose to throw my mind and heart into this campaign that a lot of it wasn't going to be pretty. In fact, I knew that choosing to stay informed and aware of the issues meant that I was going to be subjecting myself to a lot of the ugliness politics has to offer. It's been said, however, that most things in life worth having don't come easily, and for me this is one of those times.   

Discussing our views and getting them out so that they can be heard is our blessed right as Americans. However, I hope Laurel and I have been able to demonstrate that you can disagree with someone, even passionately disagree with someone without allowing ill-will or hate to enter the situation. Laurel hasn't changed my mind, and I seriously doubt I have changed hers, but we are both better for having bumped into each other.
Go pay her a visit. She's a really great girl.

I am voting for Mitt Romney because it is my vote and I want to. No, it's bigger than that. I have never so confidently or earnestly placed my support behind a candidate. For all the reasons I have stated the past five Saturdays and will state in next week's final post, I believe America would be blessed to have such a man as president. I am voting for Mitt Romney because even after I am exposed to the mountain of hate spewed in newspaper discussion forums, in YouTube videos,  on Facebook, Pinterest (I didn't know Pinterest could be an engine for hate, I just thought it was for yummy recipes and cute decorating ideas :), network television and talk radio, I am not swayed. I am still able to dig my candidate out from underneath it all. I dust him off and he is still worthy of my vote.

There is one remaining Saturday in the Seven Saturdays series.
If you have disagreed with me, that's okay. Laurel is one of several very dear friends who don't agree with my political stance.
But if you have agreed with much of what has been said here, or any of the other posts, please share them. Send the link in emails, post it to Facebook, pin it on Pinterest.

What can you do in these final days in this election to make a difference? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

5th Saturday of Seven

There once was a campaign run on the idea of free handouts. It was mine. For my speech at the campaign assembly, I shared several reasons why you should vote for me which all related back to candy bars, and then the candy was tossed into the crowd ("your vote for me will make this the best school in the Milky Way!"). And while I had a few reasons for running, like being a positive example to my peers and being involved in school events, one in particular was very appealing: the Longhorn sweater with my name on it.

You may laugh at my bangs for three seconds. Okay. That's enough.
Yes, we were the orange and black Longhorns. At night during campaign season as I lie in bed, I would envision wearing the sweater on game days and assembly days, sometimes as a jacket, sometimes around my waist, sometimes out in public so people would see me and say, "She must be a class officer at her school." Kind of shallow, I know.

I was reading 1 Kings in the Bible a few months ago and found a verse that describes a truer and nobler form of leadership. Rehoboam has just replaced his father Solomon as king and seeks counsel from the elders as to how to run the kingdom. This was their answer: a servant unto this people this day...
1 Kings 12:7

Unfortunately, Rehoboam didn't like that answer. Instead he counseled with his friends, who suggested he impose greater burdens on the people. Sadly, to his detriment and the kingdom's, he followed the advice of the young men.  "Whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."

Fortunately in the United States of America, we have a choice.
It is my belief that Mitt Romney is not running for president to serve his personal interest.
 I really believe that. I believe that he is a man of good character. My last two posts have discussed why I think he's qualified for the job and this one will discuss why I think we have an extraordinary choice before us: a man who will use his qualifications for the right reason, which is to serve the people of the United States of America.

Serving others is part of who Mitt Romney is. His record indicates that. I have made it clear that I am not voting for Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. But because he and I have that in common, it does give me an interesting perspective.

Mitt Romney served as a Mormon missionary. I am not familiar with the particular details of Mitt Romney's mission other than that he served in France, but my dad and my husband served missions (Australia and Orlando, Florida), and my sister-in-law just left to serve in Guatemala this very week.

Hugging her sister goodbye as my sister-in-law embarks on her 18 month mission

Here's what I can tell you about missionaries. They leave their home sometime in their late teens to early twenties to serve the Lord and the people of the area to which they are called. They are gone for 18 months (women) to two years (men). They put college and career plans on hold. They pay their own way. If they serve for the right reasons, they come back better, more selfless people having had an experience that will positively influence the rest of their lives. How could it not? I am going to assume that Mitt Romney's case was no different.  

Mitt Romney, like active members of his faith, also served the children, youth and adults of his congregation. He later served as a stake president, as did my grandfather. As a granddaughter I witnessed the magnitude of responsibility associated with that particular calling. Here is a Wikipedia summary of Mitt Romney's leadership roles in the Mormon faith:

From 1986 to 1994, Romney presided over the Boston Stake, which included more than a dozen wards in eastern Massachusetts with almost 4,000 church members altogether. An unpaid position, his local church leadership often took 30 or more hours a week of his time, and he became known for his considerable energy in the role,
A number of local church members later credited him with turning their lives around or helping them through difficult times. Romney later said that the years spent as an LDS minister gave him direct exposure to people struggling financially and empathy for those with family problems.
  [Wikipedia, "Mitt Romney: Local LDS Leadership", abridged]

Examples of church service have dominated this blog post because of my Mormon perspective, but Mitt Romney's desire to serve extends beyond his faith. Of his decision to run the Olympic Games of 2002, Mitt Romney said, "Ann and I felt it was the right thing to do....It was the spirit of public service that attracted me." When the Olympics were over, he donated the severance pay he earned for his work to charity.

This well-written blog post has a compilation of other good works done by Mitt Romney. I love author's last paragraph: "You may choose to dislike Romney’s politics, his policies, his ham-handed speeches. But what a better country we would have if half the people attacking him now could compile half of the list above."

One thing that strikes me about these stories being told is that Mitt Romney is not telling them himself. Other people are telling them for him. That tells me he did these acts of service not for recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. Personally, it all makes me want to be a better person, a sentiment I'm not used to feeling when dealing in politics. What a quality for a president to possess.

Is it time to vote YET?!

Unlike King Rehoboam from the Bible, I believe if Mitt Romney is elected the next president of our country, he would view himself as "a servant unto [the] people." Unlike the people of King Rehoboam's kingdom, we as the American people have the choice in whom we will vote for. Use it wisely.

Taking part in a nobler campaign than the one I ran in 1998.
I will continue to post a reason I am voting for Mitt Romney each Saturday until the election. If you don't agree with me, that's okay. I've actually had some really good conversations with people through the course of this project whose opinions differ from mine but who I respect immensely.

However, if you feel like it's the right thing to do, please help me extend my reach by sharing these posts through email, Facebook and Pinterest. Thank you!

P.S. There is a presidential debate this Monday. Watch it. More information here

P.S.#2. This video is worth your time.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Saturday, October 13, 2012

4th Saturday of Seven

In 7th grade, my world as I knew it came to a screeching halt. After 10+ years in a neighborhood where all the kids had assumed the privilege of running between each others yards and where kick-the-can tournaments had been held for countless summers, my dad announced that we were building a new home. The main reason was because the little gray home we had built in 1987 was bursting at the seams since my little brother had been born. I shed many tears during the process, some warranted, some, slightly dramatic, but none so much as the night we pulled away from the gray house with the beautiful bay window for the last time.

Our new home was beautiful. It was larger and more expensive than the first, and it was surrounded by other larger and more expensive homes. The idea hadn't phased me much, but at the dinner table, all of us in the family who were old enough would report being told by a coworker or a classmate or two, "Good luck on snob hill."

Such statements caused me to approach our new neighborhood with some apprehension. However, it truly all dissolved when we received the warmest of welcomes at our arrival. There were in this neighborhood, as in the first, good neighbors. In the eight years I lived there until I married, I can name many people from that area who had a hand in shaping me for the better during impressionable growing up years. Hard times hit our family and people from that neighborhood rallied around us during dark hours. I was also moved to see the way some of the families in that area used the wealth they had acquired in their medical practices and law firms and small businesses to quietly but generously bless the lives of others.

I am not saying my experience will be the case in every upscale neighborhood, but I am saying that in many instances, wealth does not equal arrogance. In many instances, individuals who possess wealth also possess the virtues of hard work, persistence, the determination to forge through difficult times, and ultimately the ability to be successful. And many remember to help others.

This is the case with Mitt Romney.

There have been several attempts during this campaign to associate Mitt Romney's success in the business arena with greed and to try to disconnect him from the American people, when actually, he is a true representation of an individual pursuing and attaining the American dream. These attempts to create a gap between the rich and the poor are unnerving and unAmerican. 

This is what Ann Romney had to say about it:

 "It amazes me to see his history of success actually being attacked. 
Are those really the values that made our country great? 
As [moms].. do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success?
Do we send our children out in the world with the advice, 'Try to do... okay?'"

Read the whole speech here.
Watch it here.
I am voting for Mitt Romney because he is a successful businessman. He was the CEO of a business consulting firm that took struggling companies and turned them around. And they were successful at it. That means he understands what is good for businesses. And he understands how to take things that are in trouble and turn them around.

Is it time to vote YET?

At the height of his success at the firm he was asked to take over the 2002 Winter Olympics, without compensation, and he left. And he decided he wouldn't go back after three years and try to pick up the reins again. He would leave it to those who had stayed behind.   

Yes, wealth can corrupt men and women.  But I have seen through the example of my neighbors what it can do in the hands of good people. I love how Ann Romney describes their experience of choosing to share what they have with others, "It's given us the deep satisfaction of being able to help others in ways that we could never have imagined."

I repeat, to take people who have used their knowledge and resources and through ingenuity and hard work have made better lives for themselves, their families, and others, and cast them as villains in the story of America is unAmerican. I am voting for Mitt Romney because he is a successful businessman who understands how to take organizations that are in trouble and get them thriving again. 
I will continue to share a reason I am voting for Mitt Rommey each Saturday until the election. If you don't agree with me, that's okay. I have friends who are very dear to me who don't see politics the way I do. But if you feel good about it, please use your reach to share these posts through email, Facebook, and Pinterest.

How will you make a difference in this election?

This is Mr. Collado after registering to vote this week. While I ran around my little gray house playing kick-the-can, he was living in one-bedroom apartments with his mom and sisters. He often expresses gratitude for the opportunities America has provided him, and what it has provided his mom who worked so hard to keep them fed and clothed. Today he has a bachelor's degree, works as an MRI technologist, and we purchased our first home a year ago. Needless to say, I am very proud of him.

P.S. There is a presidential debate this Tuesday. Watch it. More information here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Month Ago Today was a Really Happy Day

So we dressed up really nice

because my sister was marrying
the love of her life.

Lots of special people came to town,
Colin's family from Indiana, Aunt Paula from California, and
Kelli (Arizona), Rakel (Sweden) and Joe (Missouri) to name a few.

and we may have thrown the most successful
Utah Mormon wedding dance party known to...Utah
(oh, you thought you were here to
shake some hands, grab some cheesecake
and run? Get your hands in the air!).

And so ended the summer that I went from
no brothers-in-law to three.
I am so thankful for these people.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

3rd Saturday of Seven

Brittney Achter
Period 7
The Decision

An excited buzz was felt in the air
The TV flipped on, all the 5th graders were there.
A hush filled the room, the chattering stopped
On the list of the chosen, we hoped Utah would be on top.
A man stepped to the podium, all eyes were on him.
We thought we would burst, our impatience was over the rim.
He opened his mouth, his answer we feared.
"To the city of Salt Lake City," he said, and all of us cheered.

I wrote this poem in jr. high to describe what it was like on that day in 1995 when we found out the Olympics were coming to Utah. It was an exciting time. I remember as a ten year old fearing that my high school graduation in 2002 was going to be overshadowed by the Olympics, but figured it was a price worth paying.

Little did we know that the process for the securing the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City had been steeped in bribery. $10,000 here, $70,000 there paid to members of the International Olympic Committee. People in Mali, Libya, Cameroon, Swaziland, South Korea, and Finland, to name a few had received tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, healthcare, and direct payments from certain members of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee in order to secure Utah as the place for the 2002 Olympic games.

What was left in the wake was an organization that was over $400 million in the hole. Big name sponsors not wanting to be associated with corrupt games began pulling out on every side. National and international media descended upon an embarrassed Utah community, which now had only three years left to prepare to welcome the world.

Two years ago, I read the book, Turnaround in which Mitt Romney describes his approach from day one when he was asked to step in as CEO of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympic games. While he didn't ask for the job, he did see it as "an opportunity to tackle a challenging situation in a worth cause" and took it head on. It struck me as I read the book and many times since how the leadership Mitt Romney displayed in restoring the honor and spirit of those Olympic games is much needed in our country today. I hardly dared dream that two years later he would occupy the position of Republican nominee for President of the United States, but, ladies and gentlemen, here we are.

When Mitt Romney addressed the media and public for the first time after being introduced as the new CEO of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, he made four promises:
1.  To hold the preparation for the Olympics to the highest standards of ethical conduct
2. To exercise fiscal discipline and spend no more money than was taken in
3. To protect Utah's environment
and 4. That the people of Utah would share in the Olympic experience

During one of his first board meetings with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, Mitt Romney explained, "I talked about values and culture, about having fun, working as a team, and to abide by the highest standards of integrity. After what I thought was one of my most eloquent speeches, I asked [a colleague] what he thought about it. He said, 'Talk's cheap.' They had heard it all before from guys that had done some pretty bad stuff. Truly establishing a culture that fit the lofty purposes we espoused would require a lot more of me and the senior managers than good speeches."
And so he set out with his team to make it happen

Under Mitt Romney's direction, all Salt Lake Olympic Committee board meetings would be open to the public and media. This transparency would help build previously shattered trust. 

He built a culture at the Salt Lake Olympic Committee based on principles like teamwork, communication, integrity, fun and humor. He championed team members when they went through walls to get the impossible done, like finding a new technology sponsor for the computers, timing, scoring, broadcast and information networks when after 30 years, IBM dropped out.

Budget cuts came in many forms, here were some of the most interesting:

Mitt Romney traveled alone (without an entourage as had been the custom) to the International Olympic Committee meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland. He would stay in economy hotels rather than the five-star hotel previously arranged for him by the IOC. He would only stay one day to report instead of the originally allocated 7-10 days. Later many of these visits were done through videoconferencing, which saved additional money.

SLOC was responsible for providing accommodations for the International Olympic Committee. Mitt Romney himself asked that the IOC members stay in the Little America Hotel during the games rather than the five-star Grand America Hotel.

Free meals were not provided at board meetings. Members were asked to provide a dollar for a Coke and a dollar for a slice of pizza.

15% of paid positions were removed to be filled instead by volunteers.

The previous budget allowed $52 million for inflation throughout the preparation for the games. Everyone was asked to make do with 1999 dollars, to either "buy early or find a better deal."

The promises he made at the beginning of his assignment were promises he kept.
Utah shined brightly on the world stage and the athletes became the focus as the scandal was all but forgotten. The qualities the Olympics represent, achievement, sacrifice, competition, peace and brotherhood, were felt strongly, a blessing to the world five short months after the September 11 attacks. Really. I was there. I felt it. And he did it all transparently. At the end, there were no documents or budget records that needed to be adjusted to tell a different story or stuffed in a dark room somewhere. He did what he said he was going to do and he did it with everyone watching.

Mitt Romney made us a similar set of promises to our country on Wednesday night during the first presidential debate in Colorado. In many ways I think we as an American people feel like the staff Mitt Romney spoke to on his first day at the SLOC. Talk's cheap. "I'll cut the deficit." It's multiplied at a horrifying rate. "I'll create jobs." Unemployment is still a staggering problem. We felt this personally when it took my husband two years to find full-time work in his field. We've heard it all before from guys who haven't come through. I feel very much that this time is different. I feel like this man will do what he says he will do, and that we will see it happen. Mitt Romney spoke of what drove him during the roller coaster ride up to the Olympic games."What gave me energy was the passion I felt for the Games, for what they meant to America and our athletes... and for the thrill of taking on a turnaround project of such magnitude." I believe this man feels even more passionately about the United States of America and that he is ready for the job of President of the United States. I believe he will make good on the promises he's made to the American people. His record demonstrates that he's done it before.

I will continue to post a reason I have chosen to cast my vote the way I have each Saturday until the election. If you don't agree with me, that's okay.I have friends who are very dear to me who don't see politics they way I do.

 However, if you feel like it's the right thing to do, please share these posts through email and on Facebook and Pinterest with friends and family in your state and out of your state whose vote is undecided or maybe even decided.

P.S. There is a vice-presidential debate this Thursday. Watch it. More information here.