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!