Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas is For Children

Gabe is wearing his very fancy Christmas outfit from China, and Roman is modeling the latest in baby hats this year. Uncle Chris and Aunt Marie were the good sports that played the new Christmas games with the boys this year. Notice their mom is also playing but in the other picture we see that their dad is reading his Christmas book!

A Two Table Family

The little boys table, and the big people table. The boys are enjoying their gingerbread men which apparently was their favorite part of their table theme. That and the little house that played music and had dancing lights. The big boys table included 2 babies but they didn't really stay at the table much.

Christmas Take Down

Here are a couple of pictures from Christmas - which was wonderful this year. We are so glad our married,home-owning,live-nearby, grownup children still sleepover for Christmas. Since they bring our grandsons they are invited every year. Here they are waiting on the stairs. Dawson came into our room at 4:45 am with eyes wide and asked "Grandma can we go downstairs now?" I tucked him right back into his bed with the Christmas pillowcases and said not until 7 is the first number on the clock

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Look Review "In the Time of the Butterflies"

“In the Time of the Butterflies”
by Debbie Balzotti

There were four courageous Mirabal sisters - Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and Dede. They lived in a family under the rule of the brutal Dominican dictator Trujillo. They were known as Las Mariposas, “The Butterflies,” and three of them were murdered. That is the true part of the story.

The author Julia Alvarez then weaves fact and fiction to create a novel that you cannot put down. Using the memories of the surviving sister, Alvarez draws us into the world of The Dominican Republic in 1950. The citizens are at first enamored with their dictator and most submit to his rule. Similar to other countries under the rule of dictators, Trujillo rules with a malicious and capricious hand. As the corruption of his regime becomes more evident, young students begin to protest. The students are imprisoned and murdered as a lesson to others. But like all people, the desire for freedom is greater than the fear of even death and the revolutionary activities escalate.

In the beginning of the story the young Mirabal sisters live a sheltered life in the countryside where their father has a farm and a successful store. When the girls are allowed to attend a convent boarding school they are exposed to the ideas of young revolutionaries. Soon a couple of the sisters are caught up in their dangerous activities, and even marry these young men. Family members are arrested and imprisoned and eventually some lose their lives for the cause of freedom.

Each chapter changes voice between the sisters, which gives the reader an opportunity to view the historical events through the eyes of different ages and personalities. Occasionally, the surviving sister brings us back to the present and what has happened to the Mirabel family.

November 25th, the day of the women’s’ murders, is observed in many Latin American countries as the “International Day against Violence towards Women”. The sisters who died long ago have become martyrs to rally others in our time. There is hope that their story will stop the violence that victimizes women in all countries still today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dave & Anne's Snowy December Wedding

In the middle of a huge snowstorm, Dave and Anne were married on Friday December 19th. We all agree that they are a perfect couple and send our love and best wishes as they honeymoon in San Diego, Mexico and Hawaii. What?! Yes these love birds have left the snow behind and are enjoying some warm beaches for the next couple of weeks. You will notice that I take pictures of my family and leave the bride and groom photos for the professionals, or at least talented. Hopefully we will see Dalan's pictures posted soon since we love the pictures he takes.I am enjoying my new Christmas music from Sarah as I type "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Look Review "The Christmas Sweater"

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti
“The Christmas Sweater”

This book is #2 on the New York Times fiction list today!

I admit I was a bit confused about what was fictional and what was autobiographical in this new Christmas Novel by Glen Beck. In the author’s forward, he states, “It has taken me more than thirty years to feel comfortable enough to share this story. And while some of the names and events have been changed, what follows is at its core, the story of the most important Christmas of my life.” Then he signed it. So is it a mostly true tale, or a mostly fictional fable? It seems to be a combination of fact and fiction with the intent to focus the reader on a message. In the conclusion Beck gives us a small glimpse into his motivation and clarifies some of the fiction based on fact. This is my dad’s Christmas book this year because he’s a big Glen Beck fan. I hope he enjoys a relaxing evening reading on the couch – while rubbing mom’s feet.

The main character 13 year old Eddie (Glenn Beck) thinks his life stinks. I agree with him. He has reason to be mad at the world and the Creator of it. No child should have to suffer the losses he has. The only problem with his angry attitude is that it isolates him further from the grandparents who dearly love him. He turns toward a neighbor family that has everything he doesn’t. They eat in restaurants, their son has every toy he wants, no rules to obey and to top it all off they drive a nice car. From Eddie’s perspective they are living the good life while he has been denied all of the things that make life happy. Of course he comes to learn that what really counts is the unconditional love of family.

Beck uses an imaginary neighbor as the character to bring redemption to Eddie. In a vivid dream, not unlike Scrooge, he finds the meaning of life before it is too late. There is a definite underlying tone of regret in Eddie’s story. As readers we all share the feeling that our actions have not only caused our own misery, but made those we love unhappy in the past.

Like many Christmas stories written for gift giving in mind, “The Christmas Sweater” is a short novel. I think the publishers believe we don’t have time to read a real book during the holidays. Sometimes the author just doesn’t have enough to say so a novella is the better choice as a vehicle for their message. Glen Beck has an inspirational short story to tell. It is worth an evening reading on the couch while showing love to someone by rubbing their feet. Merry Christmas Dad!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tips for Holiday Survival

Mark took this picture of me at Niagara Falls just before we were married. Ah the memories. In an effort to regain my youth, which cannot be done, I am procrastinating a writing assignment and blogging. I should be writing an inspirational news article for "The Foothill Breeze" about New Years. Not gettin' that inspiration. I do have a couple of holiday survival tips learned over the years that you won't find on any website or Good Morning America. I fully confess I have done many of the following crazy shortcuts - or at least thought about it.

1. EMERGENCY a neighbor is coming over to bring a plate of goodies and your house looks like it was messed up by the children, only you don't have children at home anymore. Throw all dirty dishes in the oven, run out in the snow in your socks and scoot around the tile floor until it shines.

2. PANIC you don't have any home baked goodness to give to the neighbor who is now coming up the sidewalk. Grab a book off the shelf in the den, tie a ribbon around it from one of your gifts then add an ornament off your Christmas tree. If you have written your name inside the book, even better - just add from!

3. EXHAUSTION you really cannot order pizza again. I found a good easy meal website at, but if that thought is overwhelming, rotate your food storage. Take a can of that tomato soup and serve it with carrots, celery and a grilled cheese sandwich. Dinner together as a family - Check.

4. DESPAIR it will never all get done in time. First of all, you are right, it won't. Get over it. You survived the fashion disaster called the 80's so you can survive Christmas. This is where I confess that one year I hid chocolate marshmallow Santas for the stockings and found them in April while cleaning the top of my kitchen cabinets.Just last year I frantically cleaned up the guest room/gift wrapping room and apparently shoved Alyssa's cool book for the France trip in a craft bin. Again, found in April while cleaning out that closet.(Note to self, do spring cleaning the day before Christmas.)

Merry Christmas and remember in just a week it will be Christmas Eve...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Look Review "A Christmas Journey"

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti

“A Christmas Journey”
An Audio (or Paper) Book Recommendation for Christmas

There is something so Dickens Christmas about listening to the voice of Terrence Hardiman read this story by Anne Perry. Really, what can call up the Victorians better than a talented Brit describing bustles that rustle? He talks about tea and crumpets with such enthusiasm that it is tempting to hold a tea party. The correct accent placed on the correct syllable makes names like Omegus and Lady Vespasia sound positively enchanting. No American reader could pull that off! I have listened to several of these Christmas Victorian mysteries by Perry but I will review only the first one and let you discover the rest at the library.

“A Christmas Journey” is a winter tale that ends on Christmas Eve. The cast of characters are all members of the Victorian gentry and so bound by their society’s rules and regulations they seem at first superficial. It does require some understanding, or at least tolerance of 19th century England to believe these characters and their interpretation of honorable behavior.

Following an evening dinner party at Applecross, a country home in Berkshire, Isobel makes a cruel remark about Gwendolyn. The two widows are rivals for the affection of Bertie (honestly, why do the Brits call grown men Bertie!). The next morning the guests are told of Gwendolyn’s suicide and they all blame Isobel. As Isobel enters the breakfast room the group treats her as if she were invisible. She is about to be cast out of society by their self-righteous judgment.

Omegus Jones, owner of Applecross, proposes a medieval solution that could allow Isobel to redeem herself and keep her part in the suicide a secret forever. All present would agree to her assigned journey of expiation which would allow Isobel to stay a part of their society. Isobel would admit guilt in the death and deliver a sealed letter to Gwendolyn’s mother in Scotland and inform her of the death. Upon completion of the pilgrimage, the guests would gather and confirm their pact of silence.

Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould, a friend to both women, agrees to accompany her on what becomes an arduous winter journey. The two women eventually meet the most fascinating character in the story, Gwendolyn’s mother. The true cause of Gwendolyn’s suicide is revealed and the three women all return to Applecross for Christmas Eve. Their Christmas now celebrates forgiveness, mercy, charity and friendship.

If you are getting a little weary of listening to Christmas music on the radio, you will enjoy improving your “journey” with this book on CD. There are a couple of risks if you listen to more than one of these novels. The British accent may cause you to imprudently purchase figgy pudding to give as gifts to your family and friends!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Christmas tree is naked from the waist down

Due to a busy week of newspaper deadlines, substitute teaching and babysitting grandchildren, our tree is 1/2 naked! Our tree is so tall that I decorate the top and then Mark puts it together. The idea being that then I finish the bottom half. On the same day. Or at the latest, the next day. A week later and it is still waiting. We did put up dad's beautiful outdoor painting of the shepherds looking up at the star ( a perfectly placed spotlight in the trees) at the beginning of December. Our neighbors all say that it starts the Christmas season for them. Next door they have a life size nativity on their front hillside that includes the wise men, but they left out the shepherds in tribute to dad's painting. When a new home was built 2 down from ours, they bought large angels for their front balcony to complete the tableau.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Traditions The Gingerbread House

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Mike and Tyfani make a Christmas gingerbread house each year with their boys. Dad starts with the construction stage. Dawson and Haydon use a variety of candy - some left from Halloween! There is a lot of candy on this house despite the amount that gets eaten during the decorating process. Tyfani supervises the final touches and the gingerbread house is completed. Alyssa was indispensable this year holding the trees upright while the frosting stiffened up. Good team work!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Book Look Review "Grace"

A New Christmas Gift Book by Richard Paul Evans

Any book by Richard Paul Evans is not a good Christmas choice for the cynical or Grinchical in your gift giving circle of family and friends. It is perfect for those who feel that the worth of a book is measured by the tears shed. Yes mom, I am referring to your famous phrase, “I really got my money’s worth”. I am somewhere in the middle of these two groups. I resent obvious emotional manipulation by an author, but I cannot help crying anyway. I see it coming, I have been alerted by the description on the back, but I read it anyway. I confess I am a sentimental sucker at times. Go ahead and read “Grace”. Just admit you are a sap - especially at Christmas.

“Grace” opens with an abbreviated version of “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen. I hated this classic story because it tormented me. Stories, fictional or real, about the suffering and abuse of children really upset me. I almost stopped reading “Grace” after the introduction, but knowing I had this review hanging over my head, I persevered. Evans must have known about my hesitation because although the story is poignant it is not traumatic. I appreciated his sensitive approach to the painful reality of child abuse and teenage runaways.

The year is 1962. The Welch family has recently moved from southern California to a rundown house in Utah due to their father’s disability. Eric, a shy fourteen year old, “with acne and a bad hair cut”, notices Grace searching for food in the dumpster behind the restaurant where he works. This kind hearted Samaritan takes her home and hides her in his clubhouse. Eric explains how the experience of these few weeks changes his life forever and determines his later career path.

You will see the tragedy coming but the story is worth the tears. Have a box of Kleenex beside you and plan on staying up late to finish this short Richard Paul Evans novel.
I am giving this book to my mom for Christmas – she will definitely get her money’s worth from this one. Merry Christmas, I love you mom. (The photo is my mom age 21)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What We Did Thanksgiving Day Featuring Family

This year I picked up my camera and caught family members doing what they do (but will not admit, nor remember). Chris was as "studying" a chapter for a class. That lasted a couple of minutes before Marie snuggled up and they both fell asleep on the couch. Dawson and Haydon brought the Wii game to play but you will notice that mom (her first time) and dad are joining in. Since Jon and Mariel had their entire dash panel stolen with the stereo theft last week, Mark and he spent all morning putting the new parts into the Honda. Mariel and Alyssa were very busy with the babies - Gabe the Babe and our Roman Invasion. Grandma Ava enjoyed watching all the action from her princess chair in the family room. Debbie (not pictured since I am the photog) did all the usual stuff and enjoyed having almost the whole family at home - we missed Sean lots! The table was set with my grandma Brodie's china, my mom's stemware and candle holders and a centerpiece designed by Alyssa. After turkey dinner we were joined by the Gleave family, all of them, for a pie buffet with delicious pie favorites provided by all the girls of the family. Highlights, some pictures here, included eating pie of course, wandering in and out of interesting conversations in 5 rooms, two 1 year olds, little Ava following Gabe,crawling around and around the circle of living room, entry, kitchen etc., five young boys running around with flushed cheeks playing some pretend game involving treasure, death, and disguises. The mustaches brought by Alyssa were inspiration to add hats for even more fun. At the end of the evening the attempt to take a picture of the group was more of a low-light than a high-light, but if you look at Mariel trying to control the front row group I think you get a pretty good idea of how that went!It really was a wonderful Thanksgiving, thanks to our great family.

Book Look Review "Miracle in the Wilderness"

“Miracle in the Wilderness”
A Christmas Story of Colonial America

Book Look December 4, 2008

Paul Gallico’s Christmas fable is one of those little holiday treasures. We have a family tradition of book giving (imagine!) which has been in our family since I was a little girl. Mark and I continued it with our children and now with our grandchildren. “Miracle in the Wilderness” is actually a gift from my sister who has surprised me the past few years with hard-to-find books including President Monson’s favorite “The Mansion”. If you have a Lit-Lover in your family, these are the type of books to give them.

The author, Paul Gallico, has written several well-known books. “The Snow Goose”, “Mrs. ‘arris goes to Paris and “The Poseidon Adventure” were some of his works of fiction that I was familiar with. As an American writer in the 1940s-1960s he was primarily known as a sports columnist. He became a storyteller with the publication of the sentimental tale “The Snow Goose” and turned from writing sports columns to authoring books. He did not consider himself much of a writer. Gallico once told New York Magazine "I'm a rotten novelist. I'm not even literary. I just like to tell stories and all my books tell stories.... If I had lived 2,000 years ago I'd be going around to caves, and I'd say, 'Can I come in? I'm hungry. I'd like some supper. In exchange, I'll tell you a story. Once upon a time there were two apes.' And I'd tell them a story about two cave men."

“Miracle in the Wilderness” is about a frontier family in colonial America. Set during the time of the French and Indian wars, the novella begins on Christmas Eve 1752. Gallico begins, “This story was told to me when I was a boy, by my great-grandmother on a Christ Eve by the fire. I always believed that stories told by great-grandmothers must be so, for their old eyes look inward and they recall…” Jasper Adams had settled his young wife and baby son in a fort like cabin in the North American wilderness. While he was in the nearby forest hunting, an Indian raiding party surprised Dorcas and kidnapped the family. Without a miracle, this small family would be lost. It is a tale of faith, fortitude and charity. I highly recommend this book as a holiday gift that will be treasured and read every Christmas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Look Review "Silks"

Book Look

Debbie Balzotti

It’s time for Christmas gift recommendations!
This book makes a great gift for men or women - take a vacation from your vacation.

The latest Dick Francis mystery novel is written with the help of his son Felix. After writing more than 40 books, winning the Edgar Award three times for best novel, and many more awards to list, he is entitled to a co writer. Dick must be almost 100 years old! I am actually a fan of co writers for old authors who are over-the-hill, past their sell-by date, ancient, and prone to wander. I wonder who will help me with this book review column when I begin to do some mind meandering…?

“Silks” does not disappoint Dick Francis fans. It contains all the important elements of his entertaining storytelling style. The good guy is really good, the bad guy uses a baseball bat to beat up people so he is really bad, and the victims are pitiful. There is plenty of race course action at Sandown which includes fighting, falling and felony. There is also plenty of courtroom action at London’s Old Bailey which also includes fighting, falling and felony. The fighting is a bit more graphic than some past Francis novels and has a real menace behind it at times. The good guy falls off of horses and may be falling in love with the lovely leading lady. The felonies involve illegal betting, illegal intimidation, illegal beating and the very illegal stabbing with a pitchfork.

Geoffrey Mason, our hero, is a British barrister who is also an amateur steeplechase jockey. When one of his fellow riders Steve Mitchell is accused of murdering another jockey by driving a pitchfork through his chest, he calls Mason to defend him. Threatening phone calls warn Mason that he must lose the case and be sure that Steve Mitchell is convicted of murder. The evidence is overwhelming and Mason struggles to find any clue as to who the real killer could be. The intimidation escalates as he is attacked and his father threatened. There is a sense that this is a real problem in the justice system today and an important part of the story.

Of course this is Dick Francis so justice prevails with a bit of a Perry Mason courtroom conclusion but it is a satisfying end to a frustrating situation. If you have not read any novels by Francis you should start with “Straight”, “Reflex” or “Risk” which were written earlier when the author was more at the top of his game. If you are already a fan you will enjoy spending time again with one of the best storytellers still writing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I May Not Be Right, But I Sure Sound Like IT

"Oh, what's that?" My baby picture captured my philosophy of life at age one.
Just a brief musing here. As a proud member of the over 50 age group (a little too young for wisdom, a little too old for some hair styles)I find myself thoughtlessly dispensing advice. Hey, they asked me didn't they? Experience is helpful in giving advice and I rely on those that are a little further down life's path to help me avoid the potholes. But what I say is often just my opinion. There, I said it. Take it or leave it. Of course, I am usually right - or at least I sound like it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Book Look Review "The Sister"

This is the review for this week - but I also wanted to post the picture of my sister Sue becoming an American in time to vote this year. Oh Canada became America The Beautiful. I became a citizen 20 years ago so I could vote and be involved in the community where I live. We don't love Canada less, we just added USA to our list. Having a Canadian Dad and an American Mom, we feel equal affection for both sides of the border.

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti

“The Sister”

When someone recommends a book and says it is a clean read, what does that mean exactly? Is it squeaky clean, or spick-and-span, or clean as a whistle, or cleaner than my teenage son’s bedroom floor? There are many websites that rate book content for language, violence and sexual references. One of the sites I use is There are not many selections there but I like the rating system using N for none, M for mild, and Mo for moderate. There are two separate files for books that are Off the Charts and Dirt. I chose “The Sister” by Poppy Adams from the website to read and review it this week.

It is the story of two sisters who reunite in their crumbling childhood mansion after fifty years. The adventurous Vivien left home to live in London as a teenager and never returned home. The reclusive Ginny was left behind to carry on her father’s research on moths. As the women reunite, Ginny remembers her happy childhood with her sister and wonders why they have been apart so long. “There’s rarely a sole cause for the separation of lives. It’s a sequence of events, an inexorable chain reaction where each small link is fundamental, like a snake of upended dominoes. And I’ve been thinking that the very first one, the one you push to start it all off, must have been when Vivi slipped off our bell tower and nearly died, fifty-nine years ago.”

Vivien disturbs the tranquility of Ginny’s orderly life, and we soon sense that Ginny may be more than eccentric. She is obsessed with time to the point she must wear two watches, determined to keep her bed sheets so neat she must pin them in place and unable to tolerate the presence of even her own sister. The suspense builds as we wonder how many of the past family tragedies accidents were really accidental and if there is another one yet to come.

“The Sister” was rated as a clean read. It did have the Mo rating which alerts the reader that there is some language to be aware of. It is definitely an adult fiction selection. There is also the caution that there is “mild” discussion of a sexual scene. I would rate it cleaner than a teenage boy’s bedroom floor but definitely not squeaky clean.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Look Review "The Invisible Wall"

Book Look
Debbie Balzotti

Visiting Springville Book Clubs
Many local groups sponsor book clubs in Springville. This wonderful
Book Club enjoyed a gourmet dinner provided by their hostess Sheri Furbeck before discussing the book selection. The food was delicious but the discussion was just as delectable. Everyone read the book and contributed valuable comments. Every book club I visit I want to join, but this one may have tempted me beyond my powers to resist!

“The Invisible Wall”

Harry Bernstein wrote his memoir when he was 93 years old. It gives us hope doesn’t it? Maybe we will still have something as worthwhile to do when we reach nonagenarian status. His memories of life in the English mill town of Lancashire provide a glimpse into a real time and place just as WW1 was beginning. He also tells a love story that crosses two religious cultures and begins to heal the deep wounds of prejudice in a neighborhood.

Harry, or ‘arry which was the only pronunciation he heard, grew up on an unusual street. The Jews lived on one side, which included his family, and the Christian families lived on the other. They did not mix. They rarely entered each other’s homes unless it was absolutely unavoidable. Those narrow homes perched on the banks of a wide uncrossable river paved in stone. Parents on both sides of the street instilled fear and even hatred in their children to keep them isolated on their own safe side of the river.

Harry’s sister Lily changed all that. She fell in love with a Christian boy named Arthur from across the street. The reaction of Lily’s mother reminded me of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”. The mourning for a lost child who leaves the Jewish faith to marry a Christian is not easy for us to understand today. As Harry’s mother grieves surrounded by her friends, Lily entreats her to speak to her, look at her, acknowledge her. But the funeral wailing continues and Arthur must carry his weeping young bride out of her parents’ home. The gulf between the two sides of the street widens as Christians are appalled at the rejection of Arthur, and Jews are horrified by the idea that one of their children might make the same mistake.

Bernstein fills his pages with real people from his past. He wastes little time on the mundane but gives us just enough detail to understand the setting. He concentrates on the characters and their effect on each other. Outward appearances are lightly sketched, but their detailed conversations overheard by a small boy create a story that is spellbinding.

I rarely long for a sequel and it would seem impossible for this elderly author, but I was happy to read that he is writing another book. I want to know what happens to the Bernstein family when they finally reach America in 1922. I want to know more about those left behind. Hopefully Harry Bernstein will have time to write that book for all of us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I interviewed an amazing woman today!

My job as a staff writer for the newspaper just got a whole lot better today! I spent a couple of hours with a veteran from WWII who was a poster girl for the Marines. One of my best Veteran's Days yet. She is amazing! Here is a little of her story.

The Few, The Proud – A WWII Woman Marine!

Debbie Balzotti

Norris Dolvin Deem was a young 21 year old patriot in 1944 when she decided that she had to do more for the war effort. To celebrate Veteran’s Day November 11th, I interviewed this living legend at her daughter Laura’s home in Provo. Still passionate about her war-time service at age 85, she stands as an example for women of all ages. ‘I was a patriot before I was a Marine. I wanted to put another star in my mother’s window beside the one for my brother Paul who was a paratrooper in the air force.” Norris leaned toward me as she described her determination to join one of the armed forces that day even though women were not encouraged to join. Norris knew that with some college education and experience as a legal secretary she had something to offer. After stopping at the recruiting offices for the Army, Air Force, and Navy, she chose the Marines because they answered her question satisfactorily. “What can I get from you? And the Marines told me that anything I get from the corps I would have to earn. I liked that attitude – so I became a Marine”

Norris set about proving that she was the right woman for the Marine Corps from the very beginning. During the long marches at boot camp in North Carolina she recited her father’s motto about the rubber ball. “The harder they hit me the higher I bounce.” After completing boot camp, Norris was stationed at Marine headquarters in Washington D.C. as a secretary to one of the officers. It was during this assignment that she became the most famous Marine woman of her time. A contest was announced for all military photographers to find the face of the Marines. As Norris walked down the hall toward the candy machine, one of the photographers asked her to pose. When she was taken to the commandant’s office a few months later he announced that her picture had been chosen. “Your picture reflects the pride you have in wearing the Marine Corps uniform and the pride you have in being an American patriot,” he told her.

PFC Dolvin became the poster girl for the Marines. Her picture was everywhere! In fact, the young man who would later become her husband first noticed her on a seven story tall billboard hung across the Golden Gate Bridge. As Woody Deem traveled home to Washington D.C. he couldn’t get her out of his mind. This beautiful redhead gazed at him from posters on gas station walls, magazine covers, and bill boards along the highways - even on a stamp for a postcard. He soon met Norris as he attended a fireside where she was the speaker. After her remarks he approached and asked if it would be all right to call her. She chuckled as she remembered their first meeting and her reply. “You can try but I live in one of four barracks with forty other women and we only have one phone!”

Woody persevered and the couple was married Feb. 11, 1947 in the Salt Lake Temple. Norris soon left the Marines and supported her husband who worked for Ernest L. Wilkinson in his law office in Washington D.C., then later as he continued his law career as the District Attorney for Ventura County in California.

After many happy years in California, the Deems moved to Hawaii where Woody
became one of the first faculty members at the Church College of Hawaii. Later, in the 1970’s he joined the new BYU Law School’s faculty. During these years Norris was busy as a mother to their eight adopted children and giving patriotic speeches. She also made time for an auto mechanic class since she was fixing up her ’66 blue Mustang convertible in her spare time.

Norris said she always enjoyed marching in parades where she was happy to carry the Marine flag. “I always wanted to fire a rifle, but they never would let me!” Often she was the guest of honor and rode in car where she could wave to those that lined the parade route.

Norris has received many awards over the years. The first honor as International Cover Girl for the US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, was followed by other recognitions. In 2003 she received the Utah Woman of Achievement Award, and later the American Legion’s World War II Women’s Veteran Honoree Award.

The Deems retired to St. George where Norris joined the American Legion. She had wanted to join while living in Provo but Provo didn’t have a unit at the time. She continued in retirement to give many lectures on patriotism and be involved with the Legion. An avid reader, Norris said one of her favorite books is “No Doubt about It” by Sheri Dew. She also enjoys watching Pink Panther movies and spending time with her wonderful family.

As we end our interview, I ask this amazing woman what advice she would like to give to the younger women who will read about her. She takes out a small leather notebook and reads, “The only happiness in life is to love and be loved.” These are wise words from a woman who is an example of patriotism and service for all of us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Anne's Bridal Shower

These pictures are from Anne's bridal shower on Saturday. Lots of family and neighbors came to support Anne and David. David tried to sneak in at the beginning but we kicked him right out. Notice how I made sure to post the picture of how Gabe spent his time asking grandma to hold him. The food was delicious thanks to Lori, Christy, and Jo. We had fall fruit, chicken salad croissants, spinach dip with crustini, veggies, and pumpkin parfait. I am very sad that I didn't take the time to photo the food table because it was as great to look at as it was delicious to eat. Anne is the beautiful blonde in the gold "princess chair". A lovely person inside and out.

Nice Compliment From the Provo Paper

The editor of the Provo Daily Herald wrote a nice compliment to our Pass the Bond Committee. Here is an excerpt. My thank you letter follows that went to the papers.

Sunday, 09 November 2008
in our view: What votes say about voters Print E-mail
Daily Herald

11It's obviously a bad time to suggest more spending. But really worthwhile projects can win the public's backing.
American Fork voters sent five bond questions down in flames. Proposals for roads, parks and trails were defeated by margins of 2-to-1 or 3-to-1. Only a plan to add cemetery land came even close.

"The rejection of the bonds really isn't any surprise to me, given the uncertainty of the economy," Mayor Heber Thompson said. "I think families obviously feel it is just not the right time to get into additional expense. People are spending less money at the retail level. That reduces our sales tax revenues. Citizens are paying attention to that aspect of their budget. Just as families pay attention, the city will find ways to limit their spending to just essential items."

Those comments should be the unofficial motto of Utah Valley communities until the economy turns upward. Elected officials are expected to be innovative, and for some months (at least) they'll have to find new ways to do more with less. At the same time, voters will back improvements under the right circumstances.

In Springville, a $9.8 million bond for a new library garnered 58 percent of the vote. The key was likely grassroots support. A band of residents got together and worked enthusiastically to explain the need to their neighbors.

Other communities should pay attention. It isn't enough to get a few professionals to write up a plan, and then for elected officials to go out and proclaim the need for the project.

The people of a city have to get excited, especially if a solid core of them get off the couch and work hard for it.


Springville is a great city! We will be adding a beautiful new library to our downtown district thanks to the many citizens who voted FOR the bond. Without that vote we would not be building a library starting next year. Special recognition also needs to be given to the many volunteers who worked for months to get the information out to our citizens. There are too many volunteer names to list here, but you made a difference in your community and you are appreciated. To those many citizens who made a financial donation to The Friends of the Library, we thank you for your support. Springville City elected officials, administrators and employees contributed patience, positive attitudes, and lots of hard work. Thank you to everyone who made this campaign a success – we are building a new library!

The Library Bond Passage Committee
Jim Weber
Rodney Burt
Margy Layton
Marilee Moon
Sheri Britsch
Ann Kronmiller
Andy Shelline
Garn Coombs
Debbie Balzotti

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Library Bond Passed!

This is very big news for me. After many months as a volunteer PR director on a citizen committee which included thousands of hours writing news stories, talking to people, distributing fliers and doing public meetings etc., Springville voters were persuaded to pass a bond to build a new library. It was quite a task with the current negative mood about our economy. My own next door neighbor took out a 1/2 page newspaper ad against the bond (he said he would see a new library built "over my dead body!" - I said that could be arranged...)The news article below includes quotes from the reporter's call at midnight last night so I was talking with only 1/2 a brain functioning at that late hour. This morning I took thankyou balloons and pumpkin donuts down to the city library and other departments to thank them for all the hard work to pass the bond. The picture is of some of the kids that happened to be there checking out books with their "victory" balloons. Will this PR job never end?!

Wednesday, 05 November 2008
Springville says yes to library building bond Print E-mail
Daily Herald

A bond for the building of a new library in Springville passed on Tuesday.
With a majority of precincts reporting, more than 58 percent of voters had approved construction of the library.

Debbie Balzotti, a city volunteer and proponent of the bond, said the library will be a positive development for the community.

"I'm thrilled that, with the passage of the bond, we'll be able to build a new library," she said, "and that it can be one that addresses our present and future needs, and that we were able to look past the current worries about our national economy."

The $9.8 million bond will cover the construction costs not already met by the funds available in the city's reserves.

The library bond would increase taxes by an estimated $2.26 a month per $100,000 in valuation. The median home price in Springville is currently $233,332.

The library's total budget is estimated at $14,074,000. This is the breakdown of costs: construction, $9.8 million; architects, $690,000; site work, $1.8 million; fixtures and furnishings, $784,000; contingency, $1 million.

Balzotti said extra efforts to publicize this issue helped the bond pass.

"I would like to give special thanks to those who quietly worked hard and encouraged people to come out and vote for the bond," she said. "I think it made a difference in this case."

The 35,000- to 45,000-square-foot facility would be much larger than the current 8,000-square-foot library, which spills into the City Council chambers and other areas of the city offices.

It will have auditoriums that can be used after-hours and separate areas for children's rooms and study rooms for adults.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I have a picture of Anne!

So Heather may have scooped the engagement of Dave and Anne story on her blog, but I have the first picture of Anne. Not a great one, not even a good one but still... This is from Halloween night when Nanny Annie brought Breanna around trick or treating and they looked so great together I snatched a quick photo.I like her eye patch, it's a very good disguise!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Photo of Ace Reporter on the Job

While I was interviewing a parent at the State Soccer Cup, the club president of HCStorm team (who it turned out was Mike's boss!) took this picture and sent it to me. I am enjoying writing a couple of articles a week for a weekly paper that has hired me to write for them. They have a 5,000 circulation in Mapleton and Springville. The editor assigns me local interest stories that are fun to write (mostly).After I interview people, the best part is I get to work at home writing stories, in my sweats!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gabe's Photo Shoot with Grandma

Gabe is wearing his birthday outfit from grandma and grandpa. We went out into their yard for a photo shoot but I made the mistake of bringing out an apple for a fall prop and Gabe kept trying to eat it. When I took it and held it while trying to take a picture he signed "food - eat" and when I said do you want to eat the apple he applauded which is sign for "you got it!"

Book Look Review "The Wednesday Letters"

Book Look

Debbie Balzotti

Visiting book clubs in Springville...
Many Relief Societies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsor book clubs for their members. The women of the Springville 7th ward book club meet monthly to discuss a book choice. The group varies in size from month to month according to interest in the book and busy schedules, but everyone is invited to attend.

“The Wednesday Letters”
There are many writers in the Christian Lit. category that produce best sellers. Jason F. Wright wrote “The Christmas Jars” a few years ago and I thought it was an interesting and motivational story. It inspired many readers to create Christmas jars of their own filled with spare change throughout the year and then donate to someone anonymously at Christmas. It comes out as a movie this year after being on the New York Times Bestseller list. “The Wednesday Letters” is having great success as well and outgrew its local Shadow Mountain publisher thanks to publicity from Glenn Beck who is like the Oprah of the Mormon book endorsers. It continues along the same theme hoping to have readers be inspired to write love letters in their own families.

When Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other’s arms, their three children return to the bed and breakfast the Coopers ran and discover letters written by their father to their mother. What makes these letters remarkable is that they were written every week, every Wednesday, through almost forty years of marriage. As Matthew, Malcolm, and Samantha read letters that are tender, angry, loving and revealing, they discover there was more to their family than they knew. Each adult child comes to terms with these revelations in their own way and we watch them experience grief and joy together.

“The Wednesday Letters” will have the same good-will effect as “The Christmas Jars”. Readers will write love letters to their spouses. Children will try to be more loving and understanding. It is a simply written book but I applaud the author’s effort to improve the world through his stories.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Dinner

We enjoyed our annual Halloween Dinner yesterday. The menu included: Spaghetti and Eyeballs, witches warts (green peas), bleached bones (bread sticks), witches fingers (green and yellow beans), bug guts (orange jello), and plasma (pomegranate 7up) to drink with the plastic spider in the goblet. We had to leave the plastic spider out of grandma Ava's goblet since she had thrown it in the garbage earlier. As you can see Dawson and Haydon frosted our ghost and pumpkin cookies for dessert. I took a bad picture of Dawson - he looks like he is glaring but he wasn't. Lots of frosting+ lots of sprinkles=these happy faces. I wish they were still wearing their Indiana Jones costume hats because they looked great.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I get quoted in the paper since I am doing the publicity to try and pass the library bond!

Article in the Salt Lake Tribune today, Sunday Oct. 26th by Donald Meyer

"SPRINGVILLE - If anyone doubts the city doesn't need a new library, Debbie Balzotti has a simple suggestion.
"Visit the library, especially after school lets out," says Balzotti, a former library board member. That's when the library's computer stations and tables fill up, and patrons wind their way through cramped bookshelves.
At 8,100 square feet, the library is more than three times too small for the city's nearly 30,000 population, Library Director Pam Vaughn said. But Vaughn said residents can change that by approving a $9.8 million bond to build a larger library across the street.
The bond will cover the bulk of the projected $14.1 million cost, with the city providing the rest from its funds.
The new building will be built across Main Street from the existing library, where the fire department now stands.
If the bond is approved, the city will move toward the next step of designing the new building, which would be between 35,000- 45,000 square feet. Vaughn said the city agreed not to go beyond a conceptual plan until it was sure voters would support it.
But Howard A. Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said times are too rough to go into debt for a library.
Tax revenues are expected to be in decline, Stephenson said. Taxpayers might find themselves facing bigger..."

Notice how I cut this former legislator off? He is so conservative and so against anything that needs any tax increase he makes me crazy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Look Review "Faith of my Fathers"

“Faith of my Fathers”

To conclude October, what could be more frightening than a book by a presidential candidate? The election is just a week away so if you want to read this book you will have to put it on hold at the library today. A month ago I reserved this John McCain family memoir and also Barak Obama’s “Dreams from my Father” to give both sides equal representation, but someone out there has not returned it and now has a very overdue library book. I don’t mind since your fine will help pay for a new library!

The book begins with a brief genealogy and then focuses first on the story of his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. Their examples of courage and perseverance were the foundation for John McCain’s legendary act of heroism during the Vietnam War described in the final chapters.

It is a book about a patriotic family of career military men who were intensely dedicated to their country but flawed as all men are. I appreciated the humor that often surfaced as the youngest McCain reminisces about these alpha males. Describing his grandfather he writes: “He smoked, swore, drank, and gambled at every opportunity he had. His profile in the 1943 Current Biography described him as one of the navy’s best plain and fancy cussers.”

McCain’s father was more of a religious man. “He always kept with him a tattered, dog-eared prayer book, from which he would pray aloud for an hour, on his knees, twice every day”. Both men had standards of honor passed down from one generation to another. “As boys, no less than as men, they did not lie, steal, or cheat, and they never shirked their duty.” These were the fathers of John McCain.

As Senator McCain relates his capture and subsequent imprisonment of more than five years we are amazed by his bravery and resilience. “Vietnam changed me in significant ways, for the better. It is a surpassing irony that war; for all its horror, provides the combatant with every conceivable human experience.” He noted that these experiences were transforming. “I know my life is blessed, and always has been.”

We have often heard war heroes express gratitude for their families and their values as they relate their story of survival. McCain did not only survive but triumphed. He returned from an incredible ordeal and continued to serve his country as a congressman and senator. We will soon know if McCain will also serve as president.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pickup Man

When we visited Nashville last Spring we heard this song by Joe Diffie on the radio and Mark loved it. I wish I could remember how to put the link here but go to You Tube and listen/watch the original version of "Pickup Man". It is funny to watch Mark who doesn't generally like country music smile and tap his foot while working at his computer listening to this song. Enjoy.

Our beautiful chestnut tree

Right outside our front door is a tree of gold today! This chestnut tree was planted about 15 years ago when we moved in and a neighbor, Irving Cohen planted a walnut in with our gamble oaks. It is so beautiful this week shining in the dull gold of the oaks. I have enjoyed seeing everyone post their fall pictures and you have inspired me to post mine. Fall has been just perfect this year and we are trying to take time to smell the...leaves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Look at Tyf's blog for better pictures

I attempted to take "head shots" of my grandsons this weekend but sadly failed. They never stay still, their eyes, tongue, lips and heads jiggle constantly so here are a couple of my failures. They don't even look like this! To see better pictures of these very good looking boys you will have to look at Tyfani's new blog where she will have better pictures I am sure.