Jun 30 2013

In this day and age, it’s great to have some good news. And this morning, I got some of the best.

Remember at the beginning of June, a project was launched on Kickstarter.com to fund a new movie production? And, not just any production, but a movie mentoring women who unexpectedly need to change their lives?

Well, today at 11:35amEST, the $5,000 goal was reached and the project was funded. The movie that Ally Kirkpatrick as been envisioning with her credible background in film documentation will now proceed.

Ally in Woods II

Ally in the woods near the Green Cabin.

If you remember, Ally’s Kickstarter journey began on May 31, 2013, which seems like forever ago. She and her associates and production crew set up the Kickstarter account to gather her minimum costs of $5,000 to produce the movie, “Stories from the Green Cabin.” I read about it and couldn’t stand on the sidelines of such a worthwhile endeavor, so wrote a post for my web site and cross posted it to BlogHer.

Then began the longest thirty days of my life, watching, waiting and wondering what would happen to Ally and her band of pro-active filmmakers.

Canning Jars Ally II

Storing up cans for the winter, Green Cabin style.

Well, today the news has arrived! I can tell you with certainty that Ally’s “Stories from the Green Cabin” has tipped over the $5,000 mark, because, oddly enough I was there!

Yesterday, it didn’t look good. She was $600 or so under funding. Today when I visited her Kickstarter site, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The total had climbed to $4, 990!

I was talking to myself, rubbing my eyes and recalculating my second grade math to find out that, YES! Ally was only $10 away from goal.

I just HAD to be the one to push it over the top, and what’s more, I could afford $10.00!

But, I wasn’t prepare. I hadn’t registered with Kickstarter. Oh cruel oversight! Would I miss my chance to push Ally’s project over the top?

I fumbled with registration, each time being told my two e-mails, entered separately, but suppose to match, didn’t. Agh! What to do!?!? Wringing of hands…wringing of hands…

So I erased and reentered both e-mails and voila, I was in.

Lisa and Ally

Lisa Weldon and Ally in production.

I didn’t want there to be any question that Ally over over her goal, so I “dug deep” and pledged $15.00. Woo-Woo! It was the biggest thrill of my life when, after clicking “submit,” the screen came up to read $5,005. Wow…

And, that wasn’t the end of it. E-mails started arriving in my in-box, one after the other. Thanking me for my participation. Acknowledging my gift and promising my rewards to come. I felt so important.

Then, the BIG e-mail came. A video of Ally herself announcing the project was funded. How cool was that?

So, yes! Today was a great day with good news. I am looking forward to all of the good things to come from Ally and her movie futures. And, BTW, did you know you can still add to the Kickstarter total? For the next hour or so, at least.

Help Ally get more for her production needs  by going to her site and pledging. Just remember to reenter your e-mails like I did, if you have trouble registering.

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Jun 02 2013

Have you ever seen something that had an immediate impact on your life?

Something so wonderful, so you couldn’t quite understand the magnitude at the time, but which moved you to action, figuring the whys and wherefores would later appear?

I had such an experience yesterday when I saw the most compelling post on Facebook. Lisa Weldon, who blogs at “reSoulin’ My Dancing Shoes,”  had shared the most interesting Kickstarter opportunity. When I looked at it, I was mesmerized by heavy green foliage, a green cabin and sunlight dappling through the trees. The vision had that spring green look of new life and new directions. And, how right I was.

Col Sprgs 9 1978

The future SunbonnetSmart hiking in the Garden
of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO, September 1978.

The scene reminded me of my middle to late 20s, in the 1970s, when Jethro Tull’s “Songs from the Woods” was my favorite album and life seemed to be an unending series of mental “forks in the road.” So many choices, what to do, when and why. Constant questions without much guidance and plenty of uncharted vision as to “what ought to be.” It was overwhelming and ponderous. I was more timid then, in some ways, more assured in others, but I remember I was up to the task, assuming I could always, “punt” as I used to say, if things didn’t go my way. “Have an alternate Plan B” was my motto.

And, through the years, I’ve had many “Alternate Plan B’s.” That’s why I kept returning all afternoon to the Kickstarter video that Lisa had shared. Watching it, the green forestscape opened up to the story of Ally Kirkpatrick,  a young film maker, artist and visionary, who at 29, is at the stage I was in the 1970s. Much like I quit my job, packed everything into my Toyoto Celica and drove across country to live in Colorado, Ally decided to leave Brooklyn, going to go live in the woods, at her father’s hunting cabin.

Ally reading

Ally reading at the Green Cabin in Virginia.

While Ally was there, in a tranquil, but secluded spot, she devised a plan to passion out her future. As she blogged and examined her life, she found the “expanse of time and space” a bit overwhelming, compared to her hectic life in Brooklyn. She decided to reach out to people she admired. People who, as she says in her introductory Kickstarter video, “..had lived their life creatively and with gusto.”

The first person with whom she got in touch, she had met at BlogHer ’12, during a Breakout Session on Pathfinder Day, August 2, 2012 in New York City. Ally and Lisa Weldon had been in the same session and hit it off right away. Perhaps they were drawn to each other because, although there was a thirty year difference in their life stages, they were in somewhat the same quandary. Lisa’s life had taken unexpected turns overnight requiring her to stop, exhale and begin again. The void she felt closing in on her was very similar to the uninterrupted blocks of time Ally was experiencing at her dad’s cabin. Ally recognized a kindred spirit and called Lisa.

Ally’s Kickstarter call for funding.

Now, months later, the two, with the help of many others, have put forth Ally’s video proposal for Kickstarter funding. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a wonderful site where dreams and business proposals are presented for patron financial backing. Each proposal must have a goal established. After donations are pledged, if the project funds at its goal or above, the leader of the project receives a check. If the project does not reach its goal, then no cash is forwarded and pledges are vacated. So, Ally set her goal at $5,000 and she is off to a great start, but I am hoping she gets much more than that.

Additional funding would allow her to tell the stories of more women in life transitions, watching them create new paths to abundant self-fulfillment. Much like Lisa and Ally inspired each other, women learning from other women who have faced the dreaded unknown of life changes will, in turn, be inspired from the stories in Ally’s films. To get a feel for the project, visit with Ally at her “Stories from the Green Cabin” area of her web site, Allytk.com .

So, do you feel as empowered as I do by the creative approaches these women have taken to cure the deafening hiccups in their lives? If you are able to financially show them some love, would you consider donating to Ally’s “Stories from the Green Cabin” Kickerstarter listing? It would make my day to see this project not only funded to its goal level, but also way past, to provide for more stories from more creative women.

Please note! The project must be funded within thirty days from its start, which is by 3:27pm on June 30, 2013.

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Nov 02 2012

An investigative tribute to the unseen journalists on BlogHer.com, part I.

Unseen? No, actually they’re in plain sight. Perhaps I should say they are “partially unrecognized.” I just didn’t understand how powerful the BlogHer community is when it comes to professional journalists. I bet many BlogHer fans have no idea of the years of experience combined within our ranks by these top line professionals. They put their smiling faces out to greet us as fellow BlogHers, rather than point to their walls full of credentials while handing out their heavy CV’s.

And I, as a women, tend to see other women as approachable mother, sister, daughter figures, not intentionally meaning disrespect, but assuming a strong comradeship, an unwritten entrée to chat and become “drinking buddies.” I mean, I know I would not as easily go up to and talk with powerful male journalists the way I did with the powerful women at BlogHer ’12.

One reason these high powered women seem approachable is BlogHer has done a great job of presenting an even handed playing field. All participants may shine based on their performance on BlogHer alone, whether a first time poster or seasoned professional. I have come to believe that unless one’s Spidey sense is turned on to rout them out like a truffle pig, many of these high powered woman journalists, these Lois Lanes, go unrecognized for who and what they really are. Take good ol’ Stacy Morrison for instance, BlogHer’s Editor-in-Chief, who is always ready for a smile and a hug.

Initially, I had raised eyebrows when Stacy Morrison came on board to BlogHer’s top editorial position in December of 2011. Who WAS this woman selected to command such a position? It was natural to take note of her credentials, because after all, I had been on BlogHer for almost two weeks and I needed to make sure she measured up.

Reading BlogHer Co-Founder Lisa Stone’s introduction set me straight. I quickly learned Stacy was the Editor-in-Chief of Redbook magazine, a polished periodical known for its literary articles and style http://www.redbookmag.com“Wow,” I thought, “Editor-in-Chief at Redbook. Wow.”

Stacy on the cover of Redbook

But, no, that was not all. In March, 2010, while she was still Editor-in-Chief at Redbook, her book on remaining optimistic throughout a divorce was published titled, “Falling Apart In One Piece by Stacy Morrison, editor-in-chief ofRedbook. Rereading this post by Lisa Stone introducing the book to BlogHers, I was captured by Stacy’s writing style and depth of warmth:

“I stumbled across these lessons like so many river stones tossed on the shore, quieting thoughts coughed up out of the endless roil and thunder that filled my head in those two dark years. I picked them up and played with them in my mind, the way a hand will worry coins in a pocket. They gave me comfort, even though they weren’t the answers I thought I wanted, and the lessons weren’t always easy. Like the time I found myself lying on my kitchen floor for the fourth or fifth time, crying away another night, and I realized that even though I had so many people in my life who wanted to help me, no army of friends was going to be able to meet me here in my alone. 

But as the weeks, and then, the months unfolded, it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t need an army, even though I often felt my friends and strangers and our whole entire culture urging me to make divorce the ultimate battle. What I wanted on the other side of all this pain wasn’t to win, to be “right,” or even just to be able to claim the cruddy consolation prize of being the one who was “wronged.” 

What I wanted was peace. 

I decided the only way to rebuild was to start to understand who I really was, to love and forgive myself my failures, to move beyond all the dashed dreams to trust myself again. To dare to imagine who I might be on the other side of all this. To hold my best idea of myself in my mind’s eye and walk toward her, instead of being distracted by the anger and hurt that threatened to take root in my soul and scar it forever. 
And that has been the journey of a lifetime: to decide who I am and who I’ve been and who I want to be, and to do all of that with compassion, both for myself and for my ex.

Five years later, I can honestly say that my divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I am at peace, and not just with my divorce. With myself.”

Stacy’s book at Amazon.com

As Lisa Stone observes, “Who but an optimist would propose that this is what divorce has to offer?”
See? Isn’t Stacy’s writing beautifully compelling? She’s a powerhouse. No wonder I feel well mentored by her and the other BlogHer Lois Lanes.

To get to know Stacy better, enjoy watching her in this interview post by Lisa Stone.

 Tomorrow: BlogHer’s Lois Lanes at BlogHer ’12

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Nov 01 2012

Hearing the word “journalism” sends me back to my childhood in the 1950s.

My father was a reporter for The Washington Star newspaper in Washington, D.C. He worked long hours and was always on deadline, readying his copy to go to the Editor for publication in the evening edition of the paper, The Evening Star.

As Daddy’s little girl, I idolized him and his writing ability, all the while accepting I could never be a reporter. I was a female child and so the opportunities, he explained, were limited. He didn’t like it, but that was the way it was. And indeed, that was the way it was. My mother, trying to console me as mothers do, broadened my prospects by saying I could be a nurse or teacher until I married, or if I wanted to go into business, a secretary.

I remember buying a Giant Lois Lane
comic book just like this for 25cents.
As a result of this lack of future choice, I satisfied my journalistic bent by reading Superman Comics and avidly following my hero, Lois Lane. I thrilled as she took notes in her journal pad, just like my Dad did. I loved it when she was on deadline just like he was, typing away at a typewriter and running her copy into Perry White, her Editor, before going on to the next story.

I even thought of myself as Lois Lane while teaching myself to type on Daddy’s Royal typewriter. I felt so smart with the inked ribbon winding from one spool to the other as I clicked the return carriage to roll up the typing paper to my next line.

When the above comic came out at the drugstore, most of my playmates thought of Lois as the bride of Superman, but my eyes saw her sitting behind her desk at the typewriter. Regardless of my attempted foreshadowing as a reporter over the long haul, by the time I was in college, I had decided I would be a teacher.

It seemed a better fit, because, well, journalism was just too difficult for a woman to fight her way up “through the ranks.” For years I went round and round, never excited about one particular career and always wanting to write, working it into whatever profession I was in. Writing technical manuals. Writing directions for quilting patterns. Writing grants. Writing promos. Always writing, but never reporting, because, well, you know, I was a woman.

Can you believe this? Can you believe blindly following what you are told and for YEARS? That’s pretty much the way many women were back in the 1950s, 60s and less intensely in the 70s. I was taught to accept my role. It wasn’t that I had to marry and be a mother, it was just that I couldn’t be anything else. I was not compliant as much as I was not awake to the idea that my life could be, perhaps should be, different.

Luckily, I was at the crest of the wave of social change. My high school abolished the dress code in 1969, my Senior Year. The so-called “Summer of Love” and Woodstock followed soon after. By the time I graduated from college, I had awakened to other dreams and possibilities, but it wasn’t until, being much older, I thought of having a blog and getting down to the business of written self-actualization.

So now, maybe you’ll understand why I am fascinated with blogging and with BlogHer.com.  With the Internet climate promoting blogging, anyone with the drive and desire can write, edit and publish. With all of the accessible self-publishing opportunities, anyone can express themselves while promoting their interests to the world.

It is a phenomenal concept some may take for granted, but not this little girl who finally decided to become her own version of Lois Lane, and also, BTW, Perry White.

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Mar 06 2012

I send some of my Sunbonnet Smart posts over to BlogHer.com.

On our BlogHer profiles, our avatars are proudly displayed and also appear every time we comment. Visually marketing ourselves by only a small square is a challenge. Some wondrous creativity come into play as informative, decorative and sometimes humorous images are produced.

I get a kick every time I go to my profile to check on my own BlogHer Followers, because look who I see right next to each other:

The world’s most horrible and most beautiful images appear
side by side. On the left, Kraken, a fearsome mother
of the sea, and on the right, sweet little Barbara Hughes.

Poor, sweet, little Barbara Hughes’ image, ending up next to big, mean, ole Kraken. While Kraken’s image is fraught with the humor you’ll find on her profile, Barbara’s image is world’s away in its intent, having deep meaning relevancy to her life journey. Barbara is well versed in art, both painting and sculpture, and has used her art ability to help in her healing of traumatic childhood sexual abuse.

In addition, she reaches out to others with artistically oriented healing retreats at her studio in Tennessee. Barbara encourages attendees to feel and dissipate unpleasant childhood memories in a safe environment with others that desire healing from child abuse, sexual or otherwise. Forming art materials into expressions of healing allow each person to move their pain outward into a physical form.

Here Barbara works on a maquette for Jesus with Wild Beasts.
Painters plan their work with preliminary sketches while sculptors
plan with small scale three dimensional models called maquettes.

Barbara sculpts with clay in an additive process, adding clay and manipulating it into desire form and expression. Sometimes, if she is creating an edition for sale, she will use her clay sculpture as a base upon which to create a latex and plaster mold. Then, once the mold is ready, she presses clay into the mold to recreate an issue of her original design.


One women is holding another as she remembers her abuse.

When speaking of her sculpture, Remembering, Barbara says, “I had so much grief about my sexual abuse that making a sculpture that said back to me what I was feeling was very healing for me.  The desire to have the clay say to me what I am experiencing is a key part of my sculpture.”

The expression of art is controlled by the media with which it is presented to the viewer. Artists materials are physical substances that have physical proprieties, so the artists must remember these limitations and tailor their artwork around them. For instance, earthen clay is a porous substance easily manipulated and formed. It is soluble in water, which is another wonderful quality for the clay to have while the artist is manipulating it.

Smoke Ritual

A celebration of menstruation and a ritual around it.

But, this affinity for moisture, a big help while the piece is in progress, also means that the clay, once dry, will absorb moisture if the finished piece is moved to a humid location. So, the artist fires the clay at high temperatures in an oven called a kiln. This high firing eliminate this absorptive quality and make the artwork impervious to water. Firing also chemically changes the clay into a hard, strong structure.

“These sculptures are made free standing in clay.” Barbara shares that, “Sometimes I use a temporary outer armature while the clay is drying a little. An inside armature would make the clay break because it shrinks as it dries.”

Commenting on her inspiration, she continues, “Sometimes, it is a power greater than me that makes it happen, and sometimes it turns out differently from what I had planned.”

Resting in the Woundedness of God

When thinking about her work, Resting in the Woundedness of God, Barbara said that, “This is a healing piece I did. The only way I could understand how God could be a compassionate God in the light of my and many other’s abuse is to get that God suffers along with us – that God is wounded.”

The physical pain a sexual abuse victim suffers is compounded by accompanying emotional pain. If a person is a child when they are compromised, then the betrayal by a trusted adult or older child leaves many trust issues behind. Sometimes, these issues do not become open emotional wounds until much later in a person’s life. The child that once had a strong natural urge to trust and obey, has trouble trusting. Working with people in authority can also become very fearsome.

Barbara’s healing retreats use the arts to creatively move the pain from physical and emotional abuse to a creative display outside the mind and body. Her workshops take place at her Rahamin Retreat & Clayhouse, named for the Hebrew word for womb, “Rahamin.”

COMING SOON! Saturday, March 17, 2012
Nurturing the Child Within
a day long Art Retreat
10am to 4pm.

The Rahamin Retreat & Clayhouse is an art studio and retreat space located in the beautiful mountains of the Cumberland Plateau in middle Tennessee between Nashville and Chattanooga.

Barbara Hughes leads art and spirituality retreats, some of which are for survivors of childhood sexual abuse or other childhood trauma or pain. These retreats have CAREFUL BOUNDARIES, and provide a safe place to take the next step in healing. Simple ART MEDITATIONS USING A VARIETY OF ART MEDIA require no artistic skill. There is time for sharing and time for quiet.

Barbara also gives art retreats at other venues around the country.

For more information, go here.

Barbara has painted visually luscious cards which she
sells on her web site to benefit CASA, the Center for
the Prevention of Abuse and Violence, an organization
that has an effective program for helping to prevent
childhood sexual abuse. 

To order, please visit here.


Barbara Hughes has traveled to Tanzania, Africa.
In the next post, Barbara will share her paintings
and sculptures of the people she met.


NaBloPoMo March 2012

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Feb 01 2012

Testudo, the University of Maryland Diamondback Terrapin
mascot, says Portlandia is alive and well in College Park.

Today I went over to the University of Maryland and found an annex to Portland, Oregon, reminiscent of the new comedy show, Portlandia. Like Sue in the video from the Sunbonnet Smart post on Surprise Birthday Parties, I was SO EXCITED! Looking around at class change when students are rushing to get from their last class to their next class, I saw pretty girls in big black glasses, flannel shirts that still look fly, clowns and the Dream of the 90s being alive and well in College Park. Chalk one up for the East Coast!

Probably because of the 50° weather, right on the mall in front of the Administration Building I was able to see many free spirits. I saw men wearing athletic shorts made of the Maryland State flag and throwing frisbees. Up near McKeldin Library, I witnessed students setting up waist high tightropes between trees, getting on them while kneeling to balance, then raising up to a standing position to walk back and forth between the tress. H-m-m-m, don’t see THAT everyday. It was my own little slice of innovative youth and zest for living.

On a spring day in February, University of Maryland, College
Park, tightrope walkers appear to hover above the ground.

Things were going pretty well as we went to the Student Union Co-op to get healthy organic food and deepen our Portlandia visuals. Tattoos, piercings, wild leggings, torn clothing and dreadlocks greeted us as we got close to the Co-op. It was a wonderful feast of individuality, except that in being individual in the same way, most of the students looked pretty much the same. I am still working on analyzing this paradoxical quandary.

So, there we were in the Co-op waiting for handmade Indian Samosas, carrying them to the cashier and checking out, when I saw it: a box of free handouts on the counter

Free handouts! I LOVE free information and in flipping through these handouts I was seeing fliers for musical groups, massage therapy and…WAIT A MINUTE!…What is THIS!?!?!? A green and red postcard with the words ROLLER DERBY on it!?!?!?

A postcard from check out tells the RollerGirls Tale.

So unusual! And then I notice the “Fra-gi-le” Lamp from the movie A Christmas Story with a roller skate on it. And look, the words “Flat Track.” Oh no! For Heaven’s sake! This looks like that Roller Derby stuff that BlogHer blogger Laine is always writing about.

My eyes widened as I took in the card, right there on the front was a snappy logo saying “RollerGirls” with the Washington family coat of arms flippantly placed on her cheek.  In fact, cheeky is how she looks and how she gives us the “come-on” to meet her at the flat track referred to in the scehdule of derby events. One thing for sure, Roller Derby must be taking over the country.

BlogHer Blogger ElaineR.N. has a daughter on a team and when we looked at her video clip, there was her daughter skating and one of the teams was from Baltimore.  So, if Washington, DC has teams and Baltimore has teams…this thing is up and coming, and probably has been, as Laine says since the early 2000s. I’m just crawling out from under my rock to find out about it.

Ralphie is the boy who says, “All I want is an Official Red
Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!”

Well, everybody these days is organized and roller derby has it’s own association, the WFTDA, Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. And, flat track, that’s the amazing difference for me. I can’t imagine roller derby on anything but a track with banked curved sides. I watched roller derby every Saturday with the best of ’em when I was a kid, but it was always on a banked track.

But, BlogHer’s Laine Griffin explains that bank tracks are expense and with a flat track, groups can set up in warehouses, place some marking tape on the floor and have a session without the expense of and travel to a banked track.  So, make a mental note: banked tracks out and flat tracks in!

Truthfully, I know my derby days are over, but that is not going to prevent me from traveling to New York at some point to see Crazy Eyeris, our own Laine Griffin skate. Or, from going to see the RollerGirls in this area to get a feel for the game the way it is now. I really want to see how the sport has progressed.

And, besides, I need to see how to behave when I go north to see Laine. Don’t want to embarrass her, that’s fer sure. I do know to get a tattoo, wear my fishnet stockings and pink tutu, though. Whad’ya think I am? STUPID?

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Dec 23 2011

SunbonnetSmart.com has been selected as the
Featured Money Blogger on www.BlogHer.com
for the week of December 25 – 31, 2011

What excitement to receive an unexpected e-mail in early December. It was from BlogHer, from the BIGGIES at BlogHer, announcing that Sunbonnet Smart is doing something right. Offering skills that made the United States famous for getting out of the Great Depression is answering a need. In these hard times, the ones some people are calling the Great Recession, people are eager to learn the homemaking, homesteading skills that made life easier and insured survival in the 1930s.

For those of you who haven’t wandered over to BlogHer as yet, it is an easy web site to highly recommend. Every one who is a member of BlogHer has a blog, and behind every blog, there is a great deal of living and loving going on to produce a rich tapestry of interwoven voices. Each voice is tapping on the keyboard everyday, writing to reach out to and attract visitors from all over the world. And what a delightful, cooperative interaction it is.

Here, a focus group of BlogHer bloggers meets to prepare for
BlogHer12 in New York City. Top Row, L to R: alienbody,
Victoria, Melanie asking IsThisTheMiddle?, Allison and
sassymonkey. Bottom Row, L to R: Virginia, Denise,
Melissa, Laine, Jenna and Robin sans Sunbonnet.

Writing together everyday, reading, affirming and sometimes being at odds, the BlogHer community allows each blogger to grow and expand their reach. Not only do blogging skills improve, but in meeting and networking so many other blogging associates, BlogHer bloggers all gain a very practical bonus, more traffic to their web sites!

So, now that you’re here, it’s time for a celebration. How about a beverage? How about a holiday liquid refreshment meant to delight and start a tradition? And, what better recipe to share than this cool Christmas card recently received from friends in Youngstown, Ohio. It looks like a healthy recipe, even if, as my friend Bill says, “The only thing missing is the rum!” See what you think!

And to all, a good night!  🙂

NaBloPoMo 2011

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Dec 24 2010


A very Merry Christmas!

We LOVE you!


What an eye opener!

For the original web site of this post, click here.
For more background on the origins and history of the poem and its author, click here.

Thanks to Brett Kramer, who wrote us yesterday with the correct information, we have learned that the beautiful poem sent to us some years ago by one of our “web friends” is a modified copy of the original circulated on the internet for some years. The original poem’s true author, James M. Schmidt, was a Lance Corporal stationed in Washington, D.C., when he wrote the poem back in 1986.

The true story of the poem, as told by Lance Corporal Schmidt: “While a Lance Corporal serving as Battalion Counter Sniper at the Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, DC, under Commandant P.X. Kelly and Battalion Commander D.J. Myers [in 1986], I wrote this poem to hang on the door of the Gym in the BEQ. When Colonel Myers came upon it, he read it and immediately had copies sent to each department at the Barracks and promptly dismissed the entire Battalion early for Christmas leave. The poem was placed that day in the Marine Corps Gazette, distributed worldwide and later submitted to Leatherneck Magazine.”

Schmidt’s original version, entitled “Merry Christmas, My Friend,” was published in Leatherneck (Magazine of the Marines) in December 1991, a full two years before it was supposedly “written” by someone else on Christmas Eve 1993 (and had appeared in the Barracks publication Pass in Review four years before it was printed in Leatherneck).

As Leatherneck wrote of the poem’s author in 2003: “Merry Christmas, My Friend” has been a holiday favorite among “leatherneckphiles” for nearly the time it takes to complete a Marine Corps career. Few, however, know who wrote it and when. Former Corporal James M. Schmidt, stationed at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pounded it out 17 years ago on a typewriter while awaiting the commanding officer’s Christmas holiday decorations inspection . . . while other leathernecks strung lights for the Barracks’ annual Christmas decoration contest, Schmidt contributed his poem to his section.”

Over the years the text of “Merry Christmas, My Friend” has been altered to change the Marine-specific wording into Army references (including the title: U.S. Marines do not refer to themselves as “soldiers”) and to incorporate line-ending rhyme changes necessitated by those alterations.

We reproduce below Corporal Schmidt’s version as printed in Leatherneck back in 1991:

Merry Christmas, My Friend

By James M. Schmidt, a Marine Lance Corporal
stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1986

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I’d seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I’d heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.

Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn’t want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said “Carry on, Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all secure.”

One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Reports are that after leaving the Corps, Corporal Schmidt earned
a law degree and now serves as an attorney in Los Angeles and is
director of operations for a security consulting firm.

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Sep 05 2010

A postcard from 1910 titled “The Last Day of Summer.”

We like to go to Ocean City, Maryland for Labor Day weekend. We can’t wait to go to the beach, but the end of summer bubbles up gloriously bittersweet memories. I know that September 21 is the real change of season, but somehow, Labor Day is when everything changes for me.

The start of school used to signal the change, but that was when school began “when it should,” the Tuesday after Labor Day. Now, with changing school schedules to accommodate snow days and other realities, I’ve had to become more flexible. Labor Day itself has become my guide to shifting gears and getting ready for fall.

Summer Sunset at 8th Street, Ocean City, Maryland

But, I’ll share a secret. The east coast beaches are a great place to relax any time of year as I’ve never had a bad beach day. And, if you can’t make it down to the shore, or if you’re out in a landlocked area of our great nation, try visiting the Maryland – Delaware Beach Cams.

When you land on the Ocean City, Maryland web site, you’ll be looking out of the Ocean City web cam. This cam is located on the Boardwalk and on the Home Page, you can click on Cams for Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, both in Delaware. Beach web cams are the next best thing to being there.

That is, until Memorial Day, 2011, arrives on the calender!

Vintage postcard from the early 1900s.

The next time you’re looking out past the ocean toward the other side and beyond, squint and try to get a glimpse of what lies ahead in your life. As the ocean’s waves swirl up the air into ocean breezes, and the seagulls parasail above, it’s a great time to take stock of where you are and where you’re headed. A favorite affirmation I say to solidify my thinking into a place of calm is, “Where I am is where I’m supposed to be.”

Ocean City’s beach and the Boardwalk with the Lazy Train.

When I’m at the beach, I say it over and over, timing its rhythm to the push and pull of the waves. This affirmation in particular gives me permission to be at home with all of the things I have accomplished, but could have done better and all the things “not yet done” and still on the list. I am where I am in space and time, and that’s just fine: it’s me!

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