Scraps from Their Pasts

For Christmas I put together scrapbooks of their early years for our two children. The idea wasn’t an original one. Studly Doright’s mom, Saint Helen, had given Studly and his four siblings scrapbooks several years ago as Christmas gifts and for him at least, it remains one of his all-time favorite gifts.

I’m not a very crafts minded person, but in preparation for assembling these scrapbooks I made multiple trips to Michael’s (for non-Americans, that’s THE place to go for creative types) in order to purchase the books and to find appropriate decorative touches for each page. I bought tons of stuff and ended up using only a fraction of it. Project ideas, anyone.

I’m so awful at this type of thing that I actually started all this at the beginning of 2016 and had planned on presenting them with their gifts at Christmas that year, but I got bogged down in the minutiae, and it took me almost two years to complete the task. I’m still not sure how my mother-in-law put together five such books without going crazy, because I’m fairly certain some of my sanity was lost in the process.

I’d looked forward to presenting the books to my kids in person when we were all in Nashville that Christmas, but since I was an entire year behind, and we weren’t getting to see them for the holidays this year, I had to put them in the mail.

Now, I’d worked my butt off cropping photos and arranging them with curlicues and doodads. I’d spent countless hours searching through old school pictures and awards. The thought of trusting these works of heart to the mail almost drove me crazy(er). So, before I boxed them up for shipping to Dallas, Texas, where our son lives and to Port Byron, Illinois, where our daughter resides, I documented each and every page with the help of my trusty iPhone camera.

I’ll spare you from viewing all of the pages (you’re welcome). While I wasn’t there when they opened the books they both assured me they’d enjoyed their trips down memory lane. I’m so glad I spent the time creating these, but even more glad that I had only two children.

Peace, people.

So Much Food; So Little Time

My waistline is more a suggestion now, instead of a well-defined feature of my anatomy. Because the pecan

Pie I made for Christmas dinner and the baklava my daughter sent packed in a box of gifts,

Were deemed too tasty to ignore in spite of the calories they boast in abundance. Do I feel a New Year’s

Resolution in the making? Elastic waist pants in my future? A regimen of calisthenics in development?

Ask me in a week or so. There are still gourmet marshmallows wrapped in pretty paper on my kitchen counter.

Calories be damned.

Christmas Recap

Doright Manor was too quiet this Christmas. Studly Doright and I had gotten together with our kids and grandchildren in Texas at Thanksgiving, so we had to suck it up and spend Christmas without them. I’m going to be honest and tell you, Christmas for just us two isn’t much fun.

We tried to be as festive as possible. We took in a movie on Christmas Eve and then drove around Tallahassee to view the holiday lights, returning home to open gifts from each other. We’d agreed neither of us needed any big gifts this year, so I bought Studly books (he really isn’t a reader, but I always hold out hope), and T-shirts featuring vintage motorcycle brands.

He bought me Star Wars stuff: a Resistance leader’s jacket, a BB-8 handbag, and several pieces of jewelry in the shapes of light sabers and droids. So if anyone in Tallahassee sees a late middle aged woman sporting any of the aforementioned gear, you can be fairly certain it’s me. Say hello and we’ll go find some First Order thugs to put in their place before heading for coffee.

Our dinner on Christmas Day was outstanding, even if I do say so myself. I ran Studly out of the house to work in his shop, opened a bottle of Chardonnay, and made a meal for the ages. I’m a much better cook when fueled by wine, and that’s a fact. Studly went back for seconds and thirds which I took as the highest compliment. And the pecan pie, oh my word! It was one of the best ever. Studly said I was going to have to stop telling people what an awful cook I am.

We went to another movie after dinner, getting home much later than is our norm (10 p.m! Absolutely decadent!) and then spent a quiet post-Christmas Tuesday. I had planned and executed the perfect turkey and cheddar sandwich on soft white bread for dinner, while Studly warmed up the leftover turkey and dressing for a repeat of Christmas Day’s meal.

So, while nothing exciting happened, and we missed being with our children, we had a pleasant holiday. I’m writing this on Tuesday evening and thinking I might have to have one more piece of pecan pie. Wednesday’s post most likely will deal with how none of my pants will button. Exciting stuff. Stay tuned.

Peace, people!

The Christmas Story

When I was small one of my favorite activities during the Christmas season was rearranging the nativity scene that my mother placed beneath the Christmas tree. It wasn’t a fancy nativity set, in fact, as I recall it was made of heavy duty paper and the figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, et. al. were little more than cardboard cutouts, like holy paper dolls.

I’m sure I made them trek to and from Bethlehem a hundred times or more as I replayed the story of Jesus’s birth. That’s probably why they didn’t last much past my childhood.

For most of my marriage I didn’t have a nativity set. I wanted a nice one, and I couldn’t afford to buy a set that suited me. Then about fifteen years ago I won this one as a door prize at a charity golf tournament Studly Doright and my dad played in at Pensacola, FL.

I had to add the stable and the angel, but the rest of the cast was present. Every now and then I take the shepherd and the kings away and make them all play out their parts in the story. Sometimes Joseph manages to get them all a room at a Holiday Inn Express, but usually they make do with the stable. I mostly stick to the tale as told by Luke.

No matter where you are, I hope you and yours enjoy a peace filled Christmas Day.

Luke 2:1-20

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Searching for the Real Deal

I was perhaps four years old. Surely too young to have this memory of walking from store to store in downtown Lubbock, Texas, on a cold and blustery December day. My hands can still recall the feeling of being snuggled into a white, fake fur muff. Someone, probably my Grandaddy, thought I was special enough to have this beautiful hand warmer. It was a wondrous thing. As soft on the inside as on the outside. I wish I still had it. Of course at my age I’d only be able to fit one hand inside the one I had back then.

(Above, a muff similar to the one I once owned.)

At any rate I recall the vibrancy of this particular day: Happy shoppers clogging the sidewalks in the midst of tall buildings, Christmas music emanating from every store, stopping for hot chocolate with my mommy at a drugstore, and all of a sudden wondering why there were Santas everywhere. How could this be? I was four, but even I knew there was just one Santa Claus. I’d sat in Santa’s lap inside one department store, so how could I be seeing him again in the store next door? I was no mathematical prodigy, but dang, it was pretty obvious that something fishy was going on.

“Mommy?” I asked. “How did Santa get from Hemphill-Wells to Montgomery Ward so fast?”

“He’s magic,” Mom said.

I thought a bit and reckoned that must be so, especially since Santa had a history of popping down chimneys with a sack full of toys he’d carried around with him in a flying sleigh pulled by eight miniature reindeer. Still, by the time we reached the end of one block I’d counted at least five Santas. And, none of them looked the same. A couple of them were skinny and one had an obviously fake beard. I could see the elastic he used to keep it in place.

So, I broached the subject again. “Mommy, why are all the Santas different?”

“Well, you see, Santa has to have helpers. He’s up at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas.”

“So none of these Santas are real?”

“I think maybe Santa does stop by some stores, just to make sure his helpers are doing a good job.”

From then until I learned the truth about Santa Claus I became fairly obsessed with discerning whether the Santa I visited with at Christmas time was indeed the real deal or just a hired hand. It became my quest to find THE Santa. A couple of times I was fairly certain I’d found the one.

After every visit with a department store Santa my brothers and I would debate that one’s credentials. Of course the boys looked to me for wisdom, (I’m pretty sure that’s still the case, they just won’t admit it) so I’d say, “That seemed like the real Santa! Did you see his twinkling eyes?” or “That one was just a helper, I think. I could see his real hair under his hat.” I don’t remember there being much debate; although, my brothers might have different memories.

Wouldn’t it be lovely for just one week to experience the wonder of Santa as a child? Not through the eyes of a child but as one? The wonder and magic, the anticipation! Ah! I wonder if anyone would hire me as a Santa detector? I think I have a knack for it.

(Below is a photo of the old Hemphill Wells store in downtown Lubbock.)

Peace, people.

Coffeehouse Christmas

I’m fond of the Coffeehouse channel on SiriusXM radio. It’s the station that plays acoustic versions of just about any song you could name. I’m not sure some songs SHOULD be performed acoustically, but for the most part I enjoy the offerings on Coffeehouse.

This week the station is playing only Christmas music, and I’ve become enamored of some of the songs.

I’d never heard of the group Civil Wars, but I really like their version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It’s a new take on a beautiful old favorite.

Likewise, Last Christmas by Denny Lloyd is a slower, sweeter version than Wham!’s.

And James Taylor’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is as wonderful as ever.

Christmas at the Airport is hilarious. I have no idea who Nick Lowe is, but he had me chortling as he sang about the travails of being snowed in at an airport on his trip home for the holidays.

Coffeehouse is Channel 14 on SiriusXM.

(Lest you worry that I took these photos while driving, let me assure you I pulled over before snapping any of these shots. We don’t want Santa to think I’ve been naughty, right?)

Our Christmas Letter

Studly Doright and I were too lazy to send out our annual Christmas letter this year (and the year before, and the year before that), but after receiving the twelfth such letter from various friends and family members I began feeling guilty. Without such a missive how will anyone know what an absolutely awesome year Studly and I had? Fortunately I have this forum, so with just a bit of exaggeration, here is our offering:

“Doright Year in Review”

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year again when we regale all of you with our adventures great and small, but let’s face it, the Dorights only have great adventures. All others are swept under the rug.

In January we moaned about temperatures dropping into the 50’s. My tan faded and Studly had to wear long pants to play golf. It was devastating.

February brought more of the same, but Valentine’s Day broke up the monotony. Studly made it special by purchasing a 10-karat diamond necklace for me to wear to the grocery store. It pairs well with the mink he bought me for Christmas last year.

In March the temperatures began creeping into the tolerable zone. I spent a great deal of time at our beach house while Studly made a killing on the stock market and switched to shorts on the golf course. He shot a 69 on his home course and recorded two holes in one. The PGA contacted him about joining the senior tour, but he declined, saying it wouldn’t be fair to all the other golfers. What a mensch!

April and May were memorable for their showers and flowers. I entered the annual garden show with an orchid I discovered on my last trip to South America. The National Society of Horticulturalists have named it the Nana Glorious in my honor. My entry took first, second, and third place honors at the event.

We spent June, July, and August abroad. While Studly golfed in Scotland and Ireland, I explored quaint mountain villages throughout Europe and discovered yet another rare flower. Being the generous soul that I am, I pointed it out to a local woman who will go on to win multiple accolades for her contribution to botanical studies. Studly isn’t the only mensch in our family.

September was quiet as we recovered from our travels. Studly worked a bit, as his sharp mind and quick wit are in great demand. I was approached with a multi-million dollar deal to publish my memoirs. I just laughed and said, “Darlings, I haven’t even begun living yet!”

In October I traveled to visit our five precocious grandchildren. Fortunately they all take after me and will be outrageously successful.

November brought us together with most of Studly’s family. We celebrated his 60th birthday with a small concert. Sting said it was the best event he ever performed at, and asked if he could join us for Christmas this year.

So here we sit, Sting, Studly, and I, sipping spiced rum around a massive Christmas tree in the grand salon of our cabin in the Rockies. Sting keeps wanting to sing, but Studly says, “Enough, man. Let’s enjoy a Silent Night.”

We hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Exactly What I Was Looking For

I stopped in at a Walmart yesterday. Not the brightest move I’ve ever made, I must admit. All the usual Christmas craziness was on parade: bright-eyed children asking, no, pleading, for toys. Harried moms of all shapes, ages, and ethnicities asking, no, pleading for them to be good for just a few more days. Weary clerks just waiting for their shifts to end.

And there I was, an island of calm in the midst of chaos. All I needed was a bag of pecan halves to make my famous pecan pie for Christmas dinner. Ten minutes should have been sufficient for this errand.

Finding the pecans seemed simple enough, except all of the bags I found on the baking aisle were pecan pieces. I insist on pecan halves because they rise so beautifully to the top during baking. Almost like magic.

I couldn’t find a clerk, so I wandered to a center aisle thinking the pecan halves might’ve been moved to a holiday display. I found a likely looking spot, but at first glance, not the right pecans. A pleasant, well groomed woman, maybe a few years my senior, was also perusing the display.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Have you seen any pecan halves? All I can find are the pieces.”

With a bit of a flourish she lifted a bag from a lower shelf. “Voila!”

“Thank you!” I said. “These are exactly what I was looking for!”

I began to turn away, when the woman said, “You could make divinity with the leftover pecans.”

“I suppose I could,” I said. “But my husband won’t eat divinity and I’d end up eating the entire batch.”

She laughed. “My husband only wants cherry pie for Christmas dessert. I used to make pecan pies for our son and grandson, though.”

Again I started to turn away, but she said, “They we’re both killed in a car accident. On the interstate between Jacksonville and Orlando.”

My heart lurched, and time stopped. “I’m so sorry. How long ago?”

“Four years. My grandson was just twelve. I think about them both every day.”

Then she told me how an erratic driver, lane surfing had taken the lives of two of the people most precious to her. He’d had multiple tickets for a variety of violations, but still had a license.

I hugged this stranger. In the middle of Walmart beside shelves of pecan halves and pecan pieces we stood and cried.

She apologized for upsetting me. “I can’t believe I just told all this to a stranger,” she said. “But I think all of my friends are sick of hearing how sad I am. They want me to get over it, or to at least stop talking about it.”

“Sometimes a stranger is just the right person to talk to,” I said. “I’m glad I came in search of pecans. Thanks again for helping me.”

She hugged me again and we wished each other a Merry Christmas. She and her husband were going to her daughter’s home for Christmas dinner, she told me. She assured me she’d be all right. “You found the right pecans, but I found the right stranger,” she said.

We never know, do we? In the rush of the day, in the quest for some mundane object, we might find not only what we need, but be the answer to someone else’s need. Slow down. Listen. Be present. You might find exactly what you’re looking for.

Peace, people.

Ho Ho Ho, Falalalala, and All That Jazz

I needed a little jolly with my holly this Monday morning. Enjoy!

How could he not play a 7-letter word?

Go ahead, Santa! What do you have to lose?

It’s a Wonderful Life after all….

They call her Twiggy the Snowgirl:

Long distance?

Safety in numbers?

I know the feeling!

Mom always knows best.

Sex Ed for the gingerbread kids.

And my favorite!

The Case of the Missing Mary

The Case of the Missing Mary

By Leslie Noyes

(Note: This first appeared on my blog two years ago, back in the good old days when Trump’s candidacy was merely a bad joke. Guess I should’ve thrown more darts.) 

I leaned back in my wooden chair and aimed a dart at the picture of Donald Trump I’d taped to the door of my cramped office. Bullseye, baby. Before I could launch another projectile at the human embodiment of evil there was a tentative rap at the door.

Quickly I stashed the darts, downed a shot of Glenlivet and hid the bottle under the desk.

“Come in,” I intoned with as much gravity as I could muster. I was new at this detective gig and badly needed a client. Throwing darts at Trump, no matter how satisfying, wasn’t paying the bills.

The man who walked through my door was a sight for hungry eyes. Tall, dark, and handsome, and apparently built like Thor if the bulges in his well-tailored suit were to be trusted.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I’m looking for Mr. Noyes, the private investigator…”

“It’s Ms. Noyes,” I smiled. “My receptionist just stepped out for a bit.” Little did he know my receptionist, Glenlivet, was hiding under the desk. I nudged the bottle with my foot for reassurance.

“Oh!” He was clearly flustered, so I rushed to reassure him. Rising from my chair I stepped closer, hoping to encourage him to stay.

“Don’t let my gender color your expectations,” I said. “I’m fully qualified to handle discreet investigations.”

I held my breath as I watched him wrestle with his thoughts. Finally he extended a hand, and I exhaled.

“My name is Joseph. Joseph Carpenter, and my wife has gone missing.”

I motioned for Joseph to have a seat and took my place on the other side of the desk. Pulling out a pen and notepad I asked Joseph for details.

“She was right beside me. We were watching over our newborn son and I turned away for just a second to greet a man, a foreigner of some distinction, who’d brought a baby gift. When I looked back, Mary was gone.”

Joseph’s rugged face collapsed in tears. It took all of my strength to maintain a professional distance. My maternal instincts were urging me to comfort this man, but he didn’t need a nursemaid, he needed a detective. And by God, that’s just what he’d get.

“Do you have a recent picture of your wife, sir?”

“No, we weren’t into pictures. But she was just a little thing. Maybe five feet two. Brown eyes. Dark brown hair. Olive skin. She was, is, beautiful. She has the most beatific smile.”

I tried my hand at sketching a picture of Mary.

“No, her nose is a bit larger,” Joseph said. “Yes, like that. And her lips fuller.”

Finally we had a sketch that Joseph approved.

“Joseph, did you notice any strange characters hanging around, let’s see, the manger on the night of your wife’s disappearance?”

“Well,” he began, “Besides the foreigner there were a couple of other visiting dignitaries. They looked fairly trustworthy; although, come to think of it I have no idea why they dropped by.”

“Ok, that’s a starting place. Anyone or anything else?”

Joseph snapped his fingers. “There was a shepherd there ranting about some star he followed. Could it be…?”

“I couldn’t say right now, Joseph, but I promise to do everything in my power to find your Mary.” I stood and indicated we were through.

“By the way, how’s the baby?” I asked offhandedly. “I know newborns can be a handful. Is it possible Mary just took off?”

Joseph’s temper flared. I could see I’d hit a nerve. “Absolutely not! You have no idea what Mary has gone through to have this child, why….”

I held up one hand. “I had to ask Mr. Carpenter. I believe you.”

I told him I’d need a retainer and I’d bill my services at a hundred dollars per hour. Then I assured him I’d get on the case immediately.

“Money’s no problem. One of those foreign dignitaries brought gold. For a baby!” He shook his head in amazement.

As he paused at the door, Joseph Carpenter turned, his face half in shadow.

“Ms. Noyes. Have you done anything like this before?”

“Yes,” I answered honestly. “Every December.”

Almost every year one piece of my nativity goes missing. One year it was the lamb. I found it nestled next to the Christmas snow globe. Another year it was a wise man, the one carrying myrrh. He didn’t turn up until I was putting decorations away. Apparently the myrrh king had been napping in a Target bag. This year it’s Mary. One can’t very well have a nativity scene without the mother of Jesus. I’ll keep looking. Until I find her I have a cut out Mary from a Christmas card to stand in for her:


The scale isn’t that bad, right?