A Little More On Roy Moore (Godly By What Standards)

Written by Cookie Stoner

I find it extraordinary of all the information that has been reported about Roy Moore and his relationships only one woman in his age group has come forward to say she dated Moore – Jennie Klingenbeck. By Moore’s own account he met Kayla Kisor in December 1984 at a church Christmas party. She had recently separated from her husband and had a 1-year-old daughter. According to his autobiography, “So Help Me God” he was 37 and she was 23. He described himself as distracted by Kayla as he read aloud a Christmas poem he had written because he recognized her and wondered if she was the same woman he had watched “years earlier” at a recital at Gadsden State Junior College. Years earlier? How many years? She was 23 at the time Moore met her. three years previous would mean she was about 20 and he was about 34. five years previous means she was about 18, and he was about 32.

Roy Moore graduated from West Point, served in Viet Nam, and then returned home to attend the University of Alabama Law School. Other than Klingenbeck are there any women in his age group who will come forward to report they dated? I have only heard that Moore sought out much younger women (socially and culturally unacceptably younger even by 1970s standards regardless of Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler’s recent bizarre references to Old Testament cultural/marital customs as an excuse for Moore’s behavior) perhaps for a life partner. One he could groom and train perhaps? If Moore had never left a small community where he had limited options to meet women his age I could maybe understand some of his dating choices. It is not a crime to be with someone younger if both are at the age of consent. You fall in love with the person not the age. However, Roy Moore was known for always being interested in women significantly younger than he was.

West Point was an all-male institution when Moore attended. Perhaps he concentrated on his studies and did not date anyone – a southern boy in a new environment. But, when he was in law school at southern university campus did he date any of his peers? Or, even those undergrads who were a few years younger? Where are the women he dated from the time he was 20 to the time he was 37 years old? Seventeen years with the exception of the time he was in Viet Nam and Klingenbeck. There are many accounts of his predatory behavior, but not one that I have seen that says, “Hey Roy and I dated for a while, and it just didn’t work out. We grew apart.” Not one. Even Klingenbeck said they only briefly dated. Moore finally found his younger woman in Kayla. The “Godly” man met the married woman in December 1984. Her divorce was final in April 1985, and they married in December 1985.

He was “Godly.” She was married. Separated, but still married. Yes, when a marriage is over it is over and sometimes a person is just waiting on a piece of paper, but Moore has always veiled his politics in religion. The Ten Commandments have always been especially important to him. His religion seems to be very black and white. The Bible. The infallible word of God. By his own admission, he was breaking the 10th Commandment. “Thou Shalt Not Covet.” Even when I read Moore’s words about how he could not stop thinking of Kayla, he was not only coveting his neighbor’s wife; he seems to be lusting after her. I have no judgment about relationships in or out of marriage. But, I do find it very offensive when a politician, a judge, or a person who can use his power to affect so many lives gets a pass because he is a “Godly” man. Well, God can have him. He is not “Godly” by my God’s standards.

Cedar Robes and Southern Food

My daddy’s parents, Granny and Granddaddy Davis, lived in Chickasaw, Alabama.  Their neighbors, the Coopers lived next door.  Granny called them Cooper and Mr. Cooper.  I can still hear Granny say their names in her southern accent, Coopah and Mr. Coopah. Granny and Cooper had coffee each day.  There wasn’t much talk. They would just sit and drink coffee.  My Granny and Granddaddy had moved from Uriah in Monroe County, Alabama in 1957 where my granddaddy had been a sharecropper.  He got a job out of Mobile as a cook on a tug boat.  Granny was born in 1911 and Granddaddy in 1905. Neither of them ever learned how to drive.  They were well-mannered and stoic country people. 

Their backyard backed up to Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.  They were members at  Mt. Calvary.   They were Christians, but I don’t remember them going to church often. Granny didn’t enjoy being around large groups of people.  She preferred to stay at home where she did beautiful embroidery and was a talented cook. 

I loved to visit my Granny.  In the late 1960’s we lived in Mobile not too far from them.  My granddaddy was a cook on the Albert S. He was away for weeks at a time. Most of the time when I spent the night at their house it was just the two of us.  Granny was quiet and reserved, and her house was a refuge.  We watched Perry Mason, and she cooked for me my favorite dish, macaroni and tomatoes.  I was always relaxed at Granny’s.  I never got into trouble.  I didn’t have to eat food I didn’t like. Granny didn’t spoil me in the sense that I got anything I wanted. She just didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.  

The den was at the back of the house.  Outside that door is where family legend has it as a 3-year old I showed my precocity and theatrics.  My daddy and Granny were working in her yard and dispersing weed killer.  My daddy looked at me and said, “Cookie, don’t you touch that.  It will kill you!” referring to the poison.  In a bit, they went around to the front yard while I stayed in the back.  When they returned a few minutes later, I was sprawled out playing dead.  

I heard about death at Granny’s.  She would look out her window and peek out to where her good friend used to live.  Her friend, a neighbor, disappeared one day.  Her husband told everyone his wife had run off and left him and their children.  Granny said her friend would never have left her children.  “He killed her.  He killed her and put her in a vat at the power plant.”  That was the talk among the neighbors.  We never walked on that side of the street.  At Granny’s we stayed in her yard where we were safe, and we only played dead.

I loved going to Granddaddy’s room when he was away and smelling the cedar in the cedar robe chest where his Sunday suits hung and his dress hats perched.  We would go to the Banana Dock to pick him up and bring him home. It was always a treat to drive up to the dock and see the activity of the men returning from their travels. During his time at home, he would sit in his chair and patiently let me play beauty shop with him. I would brush the little bit of hair he had, and I would put barrettes and small bows in it.  He slicked his hair back with Vitalis which helped the hold the barrettes in place. Granddaddy was a gentle and tolerant man.  Granny and Grandaddy’s house was a quiet and safe place to visit.

In September of 1969, I was in the kitchen with Granny when my Uncle Leslie Laverne and my daddy came in and told her that Granddaddy had suffered a heart attack on the tugboat, The Green River Gal.  This is the only time I heard my granny yell. Chaos and death were in Granny’s house.  Granddaddy didn’t come back to that quiet sanctuary.  

After Granddaddy had died Granny’s house was still a refuge. Her neighbor friend never returned home, and her death is only speculation and lore. When I was a teenager, she moved from the Chickasaw house. I remember going to visit her with my husband when she was well into her 80‘s; she insisted on cooking dinner for us.  As always, on the menu, that day was my favorite, macaroni and tomatoes.  Granny was 90 years old when she died in April 2001. I inherited Granddaddy’s cedar robe.  The smell of cedar and the taste of good southern food endures. 

Eat One More Pickle You’re Gonna Get Sick


The Summer of 1968 was miserably hot and humid just like it was every summer growing up in Alabama.  But, Summer of ’68, I remember that one well.  Mother didn’t make me wait til June to go barefoot.  Since the temperature was warm on Easter of that year, she let me kick off my shoes after family pictures.  Dr. Martin Luther King had been killed on April the 4th.  I was sad because Loey, Lois Mae, my grandmother’s maid told me a man had shot him outside of his motel room. The day after Dr. King died I knew something was different.  That day we took Loey home just like we did every day.  We always drove right up to her house.  Loey told my Nana, “Stop right here, Mrs. Brewer.  You don’t need to go all the way over to my part of town.  It ain’t safe for you.  Just let me get out here and walk the rest of the way.”  Her large dark eyes were fixed and determined; they were sad and concerned.  I don’t remember Loey getting out of the car that day, and I don’t remember driving to her house.  Time just stopped. How could a man stand there in front of the big window to his motel room holding onto the railing just get killed?  How many times had my daddy driven our car up to the spot in front our room and gotten out and walked up the stairs?  Would they kill my daddy?  Loey told me not to worry that Dr. King was trying to help her people and my people didn’t like it.  I didn’t know we had different people.

Before school ended we played in my grandparent’s yard playing freeze tag and feeling the cool grass under our feet.  Mr. Rogers, a man who worked for my paw paw, lived with his mother, Grannie Rogers, near my grandparents home. They weren’t related to us, but she was always Grannie Rogers to us.  Paw Paw took care of Mr. Rogers.  Let him work when he was able.  When he wasn’t drunk.  I didn’t know what drunk meant, but I did know it wasn’t good.  I knew he stunk like overripe food and sweat.  I didn’t know that was the alcoholic smell of beer seeping out of his pores.  Grannie Rogers would spit into a metal vase.  It looked like something that should hold flowers.  I didn’t know any women who spit, so I would visit Grannie Rogers because she looked like a gnarled up witch spitting her special powers into her magic vessel.  My family did not look down upon Mr. Rogers or Grannie Rogers.  My grandparents were benevolent people who were always helping others.  I just thought they needed us.  I didn’t get too close for fear that she would cast some spell on me.  I had a morbid fascination with both of them.  I was taught that ladies sat up straight and didn’t spit unless it was the bathroom sink when you were brushing your teeth.  

The Rogers lived next door to a family I don’t remember who they were, but they had a son a few years older than me.  I was over there one day the beginning of the summer, and he took my hand and put it on top of his jeans where I knew I didn’t want to be touching.  I jumped up and took my hand away.  I wasn’t even afraid.  I remember thinking what an idiot to think I would want to do that.  I never told anyone, and I never went back.

June came, and my family and I went across the bay to my grandparent’s beach house in Bear Point, Alabama.  Bear Point was the setting for the idyllic childhood unless you are a precocious 6-year-old aware of the unrest around you. I played with my cousins and aunts who were close to my age.  We sang songs. This was the summer at Bear Point that my first brush with addiction surfaced.  We always had snacks in the summer.  We didn’t snack a lot during the school year, but in the summer we were allowed to snack.  I loved dill pickles.  I remember walking down to the beach and sharing a jar of pickles with my aunts.  I ate one and then another.  I picked up another one, and my aunt said, “if you eat another one, you’re gonna get sick”  I ate it anyway.  I got sick. 

We all went down to the pier to jump and swim.  One of our friends did a back dive off the pier and came back up.  Her face was bleeding, and we had to call an ambulance.  Her face had brushed the post of the pier, and the barnacles lacerated her face.  There was lots of chaos and screaming.  I never got near the barnacles after that. 

The Vietnam war was in full swing, and every night we said our prayers.  We always prayed for the boys overseas and asked God to bring them back home safely. We had family and friends who were fighting in the war.  Parents all around me were worried about their sons. 

The Easter season was supposed to be about hope and the summer about bare feet and the beach. Fathers were not supposed to be dying. People shouldn’t have been killing people who were different.  Old ladies were not supposed to be frightening children.  Young men should not have been preying on little girls. Soldiers needed to come home safely.  Bear Point was not about blood and ambulances.  I should have learned that one more is too many.    

“This One Is Very Good”

I LOVE Flannery O’Connor.  When my husband and I recently traveled to Savannah, I was thrilled to tour the childhood home of one of my favorite writers.  I loved listening to the docent who is part of the Flannery O’Connor Foundation. She gave a passionate and animated presentation of this prolific southern writer.  As usual, I got chills thinking that the formative years of Mary Flannery O’Connor were spent in the very home I was touring.  Her childhood fantasies and role play began at 207 E. Charlton Street, Savannah.  I could feel her presence.  I hung onto every word of the guide, and I was even asked to participate by reading aloud Miss O’s own words she had written in a childhood book.  “This one is not very good.” She was referring to one of her childhood books. She made notes to herself or to the next reader of this particular publication.  Flannery was quite the critic even as a six-year-old.  She knew what was good and what was not.   

As I searched my memory, I tried to remember what was my favorite Flannery O’Connor writing.  Last year I read, “Conversations with Flannery O’Connor,” though I had not read any of her short stories in years.  She only wrote two books, novels, and I have not read either of them. Most of her work is essays and short stories.  I remember reading some of these in a Southern Literature class in college.  However, as is my pattern with most writers, I became enamored with Flannery and researched everything I could on her.  What struck me as a college student about the descriptions of her was that she wrote with such confidence and was a straightforward and fiercely independent Southern woman who conveyed this through her stories.  This intrigued me.  As a young writer, I didn’t have the courage to write all the thoughts I had.  It is said that she disliked unoriginal or writing that was used to impress. 

This is why I love Flannery.  She didn’t write to please others.  She used her writing style to shock her audience because she wasn’t sure they held the same beliefs she did.  “When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock-to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”  In other words, her style was to get your attention even if you don’t agree with her.  Over the years I have written many human interest stories, written interviews.  I have written many short non-fiction humorist essays.  My quirky look at life.  I usually write for an audience who agrees with me and is touched or humored by my writing.  As a college student, I remember thinking of her a headstrong formidable presence.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, her friends spoke of her “merciless attacks on affectation and triviality.”  She didn’t put up with much.  This surfaces in her work.  I remember reading “Geranium” and feeling anxious at the tone of the story.  The story about a flower.  There was shouting and arguments.  I felt like a voyeur to a confrontation that I just wanted to leave, but I couldn’t.  I wanted to see the outcome.  That’s what Flannery O’Connor does.  She touches the mercenary part of your soul that wants to see the bizarre patina of her narrative.  She doesn’t give you a charming story tied up with a pretty bow and obligatory ending. 

Yes, I love Flannery O’Connor.  She is everything I am not.  She makes me want to grow.  Once again, I am picking up her completed works and reading each story.  I continue to read about her strong-willed shit-stirring approach to writing.  That’s my shocking explanation of how I perceive her.  I am no Flannery O’Connor expert, nor can I say I have read everything she has written.  I haven’t even read half of it.  But, I love Flannery because she inspires me to reach a new level in my writing.  She gives me the courage to write.  Period. 

My, How You’ve Grown

“Memories should be sharp when one has nothing else to live for.” Zelda Fitzgerald from Save Me the Waltz

In June of 1998, I was 35 years old.  That month we moved our little family from a larger city where we had become part of a community of friends and supporters, to a small town 3 hours north of us.  In this larger city, I had a place. I was content. I was happy. When we moved, towing our almost 2-year-old and almost 7-year old, I felt like the world had toppled off of its axis.  I had moved many times as a child and as a youth, but leaving this place began a descent into my first adult memory of unhappiness.  I was leaving a place where I felt grounded. With the move, I could envision my body and my spirit coming apart like a tree uprooting. We lived in this small town for five years.  In the past 19 years, I have had many mileposts and experiences, good and bad, which have become the sum of my life so far.  The sum of this life is memories.  

Last evening my husband and I drove to that small town and ate at an iconic little restaurant which had been a staple for our family during those five years. We drove around afterward, and I felt a tinge of sadness and longing for our time there. We talked fondly of our young children being in awe of the train which traveled through town on a regular schedule. We laughed at the mischief they got into with new friends in this town. We drove past our old house which we restored and looked at the trees we planted.  We surveyed the fence we had built.  My husband wasn’t happy that the fence needed some care. The Hosta we planted was thriving.  Our oak leaf hydrangeas have grown.  They are my favorite. We remembered our neighbor, an old woman who wasn’t fond of us.  When we had our fence built, we had a neighbor’s gate put in between our yards.  That’s what good neighbors do.  She planted a thorny rose bush on her side of the neighbor’s gate.  At the time, it was so strange and hurtful. Last night the memory made us laugh.   Time.  Memories. She has since passed away. I would love to have said hello to her again.  To see if time has softened her. 

I like getting older and experiencing life.  Having memories.  Memories allow me to grow.  Memories make me mad.  Memories make me cry.  Memories make me laugh. I am learning not to allow them to occupy my mind negatively.  Age and maturity allow me to understand that in a few years I will be looking back on last night and I will have a memory with emotions based on where I am then. 

I miss those times.  The train.  The grumpy neighbor.  Our house.  Our trees.  Our children being young.  I miss the person I was when I arrived. 

Do I want to go back?  No. 

Memories are an indulgence.  For a moment, you can pretend you are still in that place.  You are with a certain person.  You are experiencing happiness.  You are wallowing in sadness. Who am I now?  Who was I then? I have hopes of being better than I was then.

How can I look back and smile at something that was an unpleasant situation?  The neighbor with the thorny rosebush, how can I smile at that now?  How can I remember that I was so unhappy during this period in my life and felt so uprooted, yet have such fond memories?  Your thoughts can create conflict in the space of your mind.  One memory can be in concert with both pain and joy, orchestrating conflicting emotions. The sum of my life becomes memories.  My memories are sharp.  The Hosta and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas continue to flourish.  The thorny rosebush is no longer there.   

Dearest Diary

I have been writing for all the wrong reasons.  There was a time when I wrote what I was thinking, and when I finished, I would read it and breathe.  I had a sense of cathartic accomplishment.  I didn’t write for anyone.  I just wrote what was on my mind.  In a letter to Elizabeth McKee, who would become Flannery O’Connor’s agent, Miss O’Connor wrote, “I must tell you how I work. I don’t have my novel outlined, and I have to write to discover what I am doing.  Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.” I get this. As a writer who has no credibility, I am cautious to say I understand how a great writer like Flannery O’Connor works, but I do.  

I was never one to write a journal or a diary.  I did have a diary in the 4th grade. I found it in high school, and I think I destroyed it. I can’t remember what I did with it, but I do remember what I wrote and how embarrassed I was with such personal thoughts.  Apparently, I wanted to have long hair and long fingernails.  This was the daily theme of my diary.  I must have sensed even as a 10-year-old how shallow I must have been, so I quit writing in my diary when I realized I had pretty good hair and my nails were just fine. I also gave up the desire to be a country music singer and marry Donny Osmond which peppered some of the pages as well.  

When I discovered my diary as a teenager, I laughed quite hard at my 10-year-old self, but I think the reason I destroyed my diary is that I remember the pain behind those entries. It was my 4th-grade year, and I had attended three schools in that one school year.  I felt so lonely and out of place.  I wanted to be anything, but me. I spent a lot of time in my room fantasizing about another life.  I would act out skits. I would role play.  I would write. I would tape myself singing on a tape recorder. 

I spent a lot of time alone.  My sister is 7 1/2 years younger than I am so I learned how to play alone those years as an only child.  I could always entertain myself through any of these avenues.  

Writing or creating has been an alternative world for me to cope with my insecurities, my anxiety, and my boredom.  However, I stopped writing for a while because I couldn’t.  I took Ernest Hemingway’s advice to heart. “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write.”  I couldn’t write because I was not writing for the reasons I began writing for in the first place, as a coping mechanism. I began to write for affirmation or to inspire. I was honest in my writing, but I stressed too much about it.  So, again today I made a goal to write daily. Just sit down and write and be honest about where I am each day. If that inspires someone, then I am happy to be a source of inspiration.  If not, then I will have a diary which I can read in years to come and cringe at my honesty and insecurity.  And, also Dear Diary, I wish I could have long flowing hair and long fingernails, but I no longer wish for Donny.  Though, I would like a shot at being a country music singer one day.  Now, I know what I am thinking. 

Miss Helen Boykin

I have been interviewing people for as long as I can remember.  I found this piece as I was going through some old papers tonight.  The subject of this interview is Miss Helen Boykin, my neighbor when I was in college.  She lived next door to my family home.  She was an elegant southern lady and I just wanted to be around her and ask her about her life.  She fascinated me as many people do.  I don’t think I realized at the time what an erudite and talented lady she was.  I am grateful that she took the time to chat with me back in the mid-1980’s.  


Photographs, art, and sheet music adorn her music studio. The robust woman of 78 excitedly led me around her home showing me mementos she has collected over the years. Miss Helen Boykin, teacher and composer of music talked with me about her life and her music.

Miss B, as her students call her, “arises each morning at 10 of 5,” she says in her aristocratic southern accent. “I’m busy, busy.” “I begin teaching at 6:30 a.m. because I have many students in high school or who work and they have to leave my house by 7:30 a.m.” I have lived next door to Miss Boykin and her 87-year-old sister for four years. When I want a history lesson, I go next door.

Antiques fill the house, and Miss Boykin explains each piece to me. “This sewing stand came from the old family home on South Lawrence Street.” A faded gray picture was among the photos in the room. It was a man. She saw me staring at the photo, and she explained to me, “That was my fiance’. We were engaged to be married in 1940. He was an architect, and the government sent him to Savannah in 1940 to enlarge the airport. While he was away he found out he had cancer; then he returned to Atlanta where we both lived. He died a week later. His name was Harold C. McLaughlin.” Miss Boykin never married. She filled her life with music.

“Let me tell you a story about my first experience with composing. My mother could sing and play the piano; mostly she was a singer. I caught on to playing the piano. I was just a toddler, a little thing, and each morning my father would put me up on the piano stool. Then, he would go and shave. I would make up little tunes and play them. I played by ear, you see. My father would call to me to play ‘Morning.’ He named my little tunes. My father was superintendent of Lumber in the country, so I didn’t have my first formal lesson until I was in the 5th grade. It was so much easier to learn since I played by ear.” As she reminisced about her childhood and her first experience with music, I saw a twinkle in her brown eyes.

“I graduated from Montevallo High School. I spent my last year of high school in the dorm of Alabama College for Women, which is now the University of Montevallo. I graduated from the University of Montevallo in the Spring of 1927 with a Bachelor of Music. I was going to wait until the fall of 1927 to begin teaching, but the head of the Piano Department told me he wanted me to begin teaching at Montevallo that very summer. My first-day teaching, in front of me, sat teachers who were there to renew their certificates. I was freshly graduated, and I had to teach women with hair as gray as mine is now!” Miss Boykin touched her powder white hair as she shared this memory with me. I believe she was thinking of her honey brown hair of her younger days. She continued, “Yes, but those older teachers didn’t bother me. I worked their socks off!” She laughs admitting, “They were there to be challenged, and I challenged them. Maybe I did work harder because of their age and experience.”

She jumped up, “Oh, let me show you my cabinets I had made for my music sheets.” As we walked into the studio, she began to tell me about the photos around the room. “These twins were my students. Oh, this young man is now a professor in Troy, New York.” I asked her if she kept in touch with her students. “Oh, I receive many cards from my students.” She never says former students; they will always be her students.

“I studied at Yale for two summers, 1952 and 1953. I was at the Music Club of Montgomery, and a lady played the piano. We found out we had studied together at Yale. It was Marion Kent; I have taught her and her children. I taught in Atlanta; this was when I began composing. I was in bed, and a tune was pounding in my head. I jumped out of bed and played it on the piano; then I wrote it down. ‘Chit Chat’ was my first published piece. Some of my music was out of print for a while, but I received a call the other day from David Glover telling me a number of my compositions are now in print again. Mary’s House of Music carries many of them.”

She then began to tell me of her travels to New York when she visited her publisher. “When I left my publisher, which was outside of New York City, I would take the subway to Grand Central Station and wait for a bus to take me to my hotel. If the bus were even a little late, I would walk to my hotel. This was about 9:30 p.m. Who would do that today?” She laughed.

Miss Boykin moved to her house on Carter Hill Road with her sister because the A & P is nearby and they can walk to it. After selling her family home on South Lawrence Street, she moved in with her sister on Montezuma Road in Cloverdale until the grocery closed there. “The nearest grocery was Normandale, and that’s too far. I didn’t plan to take a taxi-cab every time I needed to go to the store.”

I asked Miss Boykin what she thought of today’s music which is composed of electronic synthesizer and machines which disguise the voice and if she ever taught contemporary music. “I have heard of some of the popular music on Sister’s television. I can say they have rhythm, and you can’t beat good rhythm, but I have never taught the popular music. I teach classics, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, the Old Masters. Once when I was teaching in Atlanta, a student of mine told me she wanted to study the popular music and she asked if I would teach her the music. I would not, so she decided to study the popular music for one year, and I was to fill her place with another student that year. It wasn’t two weeks into the summer when she called me and said, ‘Miss B, please save my place; I am quitting this popular music.’ She came back to me and studied the classics.”

We then exited the music studio. “You see the keepsakes my students give to me. They name each gift after a composer. I place them on my shelves and never move anything, or my students would be upset. They speak to the composers when they come for their lesson.” Among these keepsakes were plaques of honor and appreciation for Miss Boykin. She is in the Who’s Who of Women in Alabama and was also recently selected as Who’s Who in American Women. Miss Boykin has lived a life of fulfillment and success which has been passed on to many who are lucky enough to be in her path.

Finding Her Divine One

(Several years ago I asked my FB friends if anyone wanted to talk about their spiritual journey.  I wanted to share the stories of many different people.  I think I said something along the lines of “whether you worship Jesus, Buddha, Johnny Cash or an Oak Tree I want to hear from you.”  I did have many people reach out to me and this is the first person I interviewed.  I wrote this in 2014.  I wanted to compose a book of these in the Ethnographic Style of Studs Terkel.  I have decided to add these to my Swizzle Stick blog. ) I hope you enjoy. Reach out to me if you want to share your story with me.  


In a law office filled with antique bound Punch Magazines, the Weekly publication of humor and satire which ended its reign in 2002 the reigning Queen Regnant is MD, a southern lawyer. Some people claim to be Southerners by the grace of God; MD claims it was a move to Georgia when she was 8 1/2 years old which gave her this regional pedigree. When I asked her about her spiritual upbringing she is quick to explain that as an army brat she was different; they did not go to church even though her mother’s family were Baptist from Missouri. Before moving to Georgia she and her family lived on an army base in Germany where her mother would tell them Bible stories, and they attended Vacation Bible School, but she is quick to point out they were not “total heathens.” When I asked her if she would have been a heathen if given the chance she replied without missing a beat, “No, because I always wanted to be Catholic because my best friend in Germany was part of a Catholic family from New Mexico.” She felt a sense of connection and life from the Sacramentals displayed in her friend’s home. When she attended Mass, she felt an authentic emotion and connection with God. After leaving Germany, her family moved to a new assignment in Georgia. The first question was always, “Now, where do Y’all go to church?” So, her mother “fell into the routine of taking MD and her brothers to the neighborhood Baptist church on Sundays.” MD is not sure if it was out of particular conviction or if it was because the other mothers in the neighborhood followed this ritual and it seemed like the thing to do. Her father who was originally from Iowa was not affiliated with any church, so he continued his tradition of staying home while his newly southern transplanted family created theirs. After leaving Georgia as a teenager, their family moved to Texas, which was more cosmopolitan with more opportunities to meet people. The church was not the center of each families social life, and Sunday became a day off. In 1972, MD was 16 the Viet Nam War was being fought there was counterculture, drugs, and hippies. There were young people who wore their hair long, listened to rock music, looked like real hippies, but they wanted to worship Jesus in a church unlike the traditional churches of their childhood which expected crew cuts and polished shoes. MD and her friends found acceptance and salvation in a non-denominational evangelical church. They found peace, love and Jesus wearing jeans and long hair. This church became part of her existence for 16 years. As she approached her 30’s, she began to drift away spiritually from the church. Also, at this time she began having health problems which consisted of migraines and gastrointestinal problems. Her church leaders became concerned about her because this was a sure sign of the devil and demons invading her body due to a lack of prayer and discipline. She was bored, living at home with her parents, and she didn’t date because of the church’s fundamental beliefs that this would lead to a path of promiscuity. She was unhappy and depressed. She was working at the public library at the time, and she began to read books about strong women a subversive choice for a young woman who was in training to be a Proverbs 31 wife. As a member of this church MD found herself being expected to be accountable to the church for all of her decisions yet the leaders had no one to whom they were accountable. As she covertly read books about the saints and their faith and the strong woman who inspired her she thought she was escaping and losing herself in their world yet, she found that she was finding her true identity as a strong woman of faith with no regrets and no shame. The books became a strong foundation for her life, and she said,” it was as if she stacked them on a glass table that finally broke and she broke free.” The facade was gone, and she still had the same faith and desires as she did as that eight years old seeking her truth and who desired an authentic connection and emotion with God.

MD made the decision to leave this church and go to law school in another state so she could become the woman she knew God wanted her to be and not what church leaders thought she should be. She carried with her more freedoms, but she still believed that she could still be this strong woman and still be a Godly wife. She converted to Catholicism in 1990 and continued to grow in spirit and faith. She met a man, and they married in 1993. MD gladly accepted her husband as the leader of their union, and she felt led by God to “bring him good and not harm and wanted him to be respected at the city gate where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” Her husband didn’t want to lead; he wanted to control her. He didn’t believe “that charm was deceptive and that beauty was fleeting and that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” He just wanted her to lose weight. He was demeaning and abusive. They divorced and she never lost sight of the most important relationship to her. Her relationship with God. MD said that “the evangelical church was the major conditioning which led to her abusive marriage.” She had allowed herself to please church leaders, her husband and so-called Christian friends instead of following the God of love and peace she felt like that eight-year-old who connected with very real symbols of what is now her very important faith as a follower of Jesus in the Catholic Church. She has no regrets because she has the steadfast belief that she is right where God wants her, and it is not important for her to debate with any of her old friends who continue to show concern at her choosing a denomination which they perceive she is being controlled by liturgy and symbols. Yet, MD is not controlled by her Catholic faith she is transformed by it. During mass, the Eucharist is a miracle and a mystery every time. She may be the Queen Regnant of her law office, but she knows the true divine one who guides her as she continues her spiritual journey.

Pat Conroy Died and I am Grieving

Why am I choked up when I visit the truth that Pat Conroy has died?  I cry, not because his “promiscuous gift with metaphors” are lost.  They will continue to live through the words and characters he has given us. I cry because writing is a gift given to us by a writer.  Despite the genre, often the words we are given come from the writer’s personal pain and experience.  In the early 1990’s I heard Pat Conroy speak at a lecture series.  I was struck by his affable demeanor as he spoke and the ambiguity of the personality of the writer painting the narratives in his work, but I got it.  I got him. When I was reading “The Prince of Tides” in the late 1980’s I had to physically put down the book and throw up.  I knew those people.  I did more than get physically ill; I cried. Also, I was amused.  He….his writing….affected me.  A good writer does that, makes us feel emotions with their words.  When I heard him speak, I laughed, as he talked about his family dysfunction.  He talked about it humorously.  In 2013 when I read “The Death of Santini:  The Story of A Father and His Son”   I cried more.  His words showed me a son trying to say to his father, “I understand you more now.  I see you differently now.”  I also understood that he and his brother saw their childhood from different perspectives.  His brother didn’t see the same father that Pat Conroy saw which he represented in “The Great Santini,” the abusive dictator of their home.  I don’t think Pat Conroy’s childhood experience changed nor did his perception of his life and those around him.  I think he just understood more, and he accepted it.  I get that.  Thank you, Pat Conroy, for doing so much more than entertaining me.  Thank you for showing me how to represent what pains me and knowing that one day I may understand it.