I Have A Little Secret For You

Extrovert.  I was 12 years old when I first heard this word.  I didn’t know the label at the time.  My best friend’s father, Albert Gless, was an extrovert.  He was larger than life!  He was fun.  He told stories.  He drew you to him.  He made those around him laugh.  He was brilliant.  He called me his “little extrovert.”  We would swap stories. We allowed each other to shine. He was a New Yorker from The Bronx, 52 years my senior.  He, his beautiful wife, Rose,  and their children, Artie and Susan, my best friend,  had come south to Gulf Breeze, Florida in the early 1970’s just a few years before I met them.  With his New Yawk accent, he would ask me, “Do you know Mubbalubba Jim ovah by the bordah back bay?”  I would respond, “Well, do YOU know Mubbalubba Jim ovah by the bordah back bay?”  I think he loved that I found such delight in these exchanges. 

When he died, he had a photo of my best friend and me in his wallet.  I was his other daughter, his little extrovert.  I got the call early one morning.  It was in the summer of 1983.  My beloved kindred spirit had died.  Mr. Gless taught me that being an extrovert is a good thing. 

As I got older I became perplexed that people believe they have the license to point out an extrovert’s personality traits and many times not in a kind manner. I could write a list of statements which have been said to me over my lifetime.  “Wow, you are a piece of work aren’t you? Are you always on? Do you have ADHD?” or “Allen Stoner deserves a medal for living with you.”  Yes, a prominent Christian man just a few years older than my father in our small city said this to me at a social gathering in 2010. I was 48 years old.  I will never forget it.  It cut me to the core.  I still don’t get it. I don’t. 

Conversely, I can’t imagine saying to an introvert, “Wow, you just don’t say anything? Are you always so quiet, so dull?”  I take responsibility for letting some of these statements offend me.  For hurting me.  

I was very close to someone years ago.  A friend of hers sent her an email expressing that she could not be friends with her at the time because of me….. because of my personality.  The sad part is I did not want to be the cause of the split in their friendship.  I wanted reconciliation for them, so I sent a letter of apology for being the way I was.  For being over the top. For annoying them.  I did this.  I apologized for being me.  She acknowledged the letter and sent a kind response, but she still stayed away.  They are all friends again and friends with some of my old friends. I am out of this loop. I know now; these are not my people.  When you have the exterior of being funny, happy, and kind some people see this as a weakness, and it causes some to have a level of superiority over the extrovert.

In recovery, I have learned quite a bit about me.  I want everyone to love me. I have only disliked people if they were unkind to me, my family, my friends, or if they spewed hate or bigotry.  I can’t imagine disliking someone just for being themselves. I have also learned that not everyone will like me and it does not matter.  One of my favorite quotes is, “It is absolutely none of my business what anyone thinks of me.”  We all want people to like us.  I think extroverts put on a show for others to please them and make them happy.  Part of my descent into alcoholism was trying to be what everyone wanted me to be.  I loathed myself for being me.  Period.  I have tried to change me.  Change who I am.  Years ago a friend said, “Cookie is like the sun. Some people want the sunshine on their face.  They look up and soak it in.  Others put their hands up and guard their faces because it is too much.”

My career before being a stay at home mom was in sales.  I worked at a Fortune 500 company selling postage meters and shipping and mailing equipment. I was in Sales Management in the hospitality industry and my last job was as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative.  Because of the balance of personality along with my work ethic I was successful in my career.  I enjoyed great respect from successful business people.  In my late 40’s after being at home, as well as working as my husband’s law office manager I began having coffee with a group of strong smart professional women on a weekly basis.  One of the ladies was in the early stages of building her new company.  After a few weeks of these morning coffee meetings, she said, “I would love to have someone like you work for my company.”  Never missing an opportunity, I told her I was interested.  We set a time for a job interview.  I dressed in a suit looking and acting my most professional.  I arrived 10 minutes early for my appointment updated resume in hand.  We spent about an hour together discussing her vision.  I was on my best behavior as I always was in business situations.  At the end of our time together, she looked up at me and these were her words, “I just don’t know.  All I know is this Cookie…..” and she proceeded to put her hands up and let out a crazy shrill.  I thanked her for her time and we both agreed we would think about it.  We never discussed it again.  She didn’t call.  I didn’t follow up which I normally would have if I had wanted the job. 

When my daughter was about five years old, she was entertaining my aunt and uncle who had come to visit.  I told her it was time to settle down.  She replied, “Mommy, I just want to make them happy.” And, there you have it.  Both of my children are extrovert/introverts.  Extroverts first, but they are so much more.  I have cried many tears because they are outgoing people pleasers.  In an article by Beth Belle Cooper, she states, “Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs.  For extroverts, their brains respond more strongly when a gamble pays off.  Part of this is simply genetic, but it’s partly the difference of their dopamine systems as well.”  So, we were born this way.  We know when to be calm by society’s standards.  We know when to behave.  But, we are who we are because of the makeup of our brain.  

I suppose I am tired of “extrovert shaming.”  Of course, I say this somewhat in jest, but unless you have not been dismissed because you are an extrovert, you cannot understand what a lifetime of this does to a person’s spirit.  So today, this ambivert is telling my truth.  I love to be alone, but I also love being alone in a crowd of people who are strangers.  I think this must be why I felt so alive when I lived in New York City for a few months in 2016.  The people and the movement of the city energized me, but I found the mental space to be alone in the crowd.  I did not have to interact to be energized.  Extroverts love to observe.  We don’t miss a thing.  We are great listeners.  We are very intuitive people. Carl Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert.  Such a person would be in a lunatic asylum.”  I have read extensively about extroverts in the last few years.  We are people pleasers.  If we are quiet, then those around us want to know what is wrong so we have been conditioned to keep our level of energy up to maintain these expectations.  Many people do not take us seriously.  Though, I have found that true intellectuals and those whose opinions I respect, get me and have a deeper thought process of what it means to be an extrovert.  Bluntly speaking, they have the sense enough to know we are many-faceted individuals and those who understand this are not so shallow as to be put off by an extrovert’s exterior.  We become the yin to the other’s yang.  These are my people. 

This piece isn’t to garner sympathy.  It is to continue the dialogue of understanding a misunderstood personality.  We extroverts are not all happy people all the time.  We don’t want to fill in the conversation when it gets quiet, though our brain thinks otherwise. We don’t always want to talk!  We have to work at turning it off.  Interaction with people makes our brain get charged and we are off to the races.  Trust me, we want to stop.  We have to keep our smile while we are mentally putting on the brakes.  Many think extroverts are exhausting and most of the time they will come out and tell us.  Well, I have a little secret for you, quiet people exhaust us.  We just have the kindness and social graces not to tell you. Though, secretly we are thinking you are a “Flatliner” and hope that you don’t depend on your personality to feed yourself.  Seriously, and we are serious people.  We know when to have on our communion faces and we know when to be on.  We are much more than our exterior. 

I will always remember the first time my beloved kindred spirit called me his little extrovert.  His smile was big and infectious and his blue eyes glistened.  I felt he gave me a badge of honor.  I will always be his little extrovert, but I will continue to set boundaries with those who need my boundaries.  I will continue to shine when I feel like shining. I will not apologize for my personality. I will continue to be me. 


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.

Happy Birthday, Mother

I wonder what I would have gotten my mother for her 74th birthday. Would it have been something with a beach theme? One of her favorites. Would it have been a picture frame to place photos of her beloved family? Would it have been something to support her new hobby? Mother always had a new hobby.  Mother was always growing and evolving.  November 4th.  My mother’s birthday. This is the 15th birthday we have celebrated without her.  She left us when she was 59 years old. 

15 birthdays.  Today I will continue to grow. Evolve. I will look at the world with wonder. I will love big.  I will live large. I will continue to write. I will keep moving forward. This would have been all my mother would have wanted on her 74th birthday.  

Happy Birthday, Mother.  

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. 

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.