Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Tenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Kudos to you, Lifetouch. I had no idea how diversified your great company was until we got our new puppy.

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, so first off, I want you to know I’m still looking forward to spring pictures. It’s the first day of school here today, and I’m already giddy with anticipation about what we might get from you after winter break. If I send Son Number One in a pirate costume with a Sharpie marker “arggh” speech bubble drawn on his cheek, will you still take his picture? Will you still send me reams and reams of pirate pictures I didn’t order, along with handy plastic rulers and keychain fobs of the young buccaneer?

If I send Son Number Two in a stained wife-beater T-shirt, gold chains, a temporary tattoo of red lips on his neck, and no picture order form in sight, will you still sit him down on that silly fake rock you have that looks like a giant cow turd and snap a picture of the little gang banger in a magical field of daisies?

Time will tell. I hope so!

Also, I just wanted to remind you that we’re breaking up with you for the fall pictures. It’s just been too many years of Chronic Forced Smile Disorder, wild uncombed hair, food on the faces, etc. I don’t feel like you and I need to rehash all the reasons. You know how you are.

The real reason I’m writing you today is to congratulate you. After all these years of bad school pictures and questionable business practices (where you send me huge packets of pictures I never ordered or even authorized and then pretend like my only two options are to pay for them or send them back to you), I had never realized you were good at anything.

I foolishly just assumed that your only business was taking pictures of students with noticeable milk mustaches and one side of their shirt collars sticking up. I never imagined you took good pictures of anyone, or anything. Then, we got a puppy.

Now granted, we’re on day ten of having her in the house, and I’m going on an average of three and a half minutes of sleep per night, but I think my judgement was sound in this case. We took our new puppy dog to the vet on Monday, and there, in the front office, your other line of work was showcased.

You take portraits of pets! Who knew? Well, I guess maybe you guys knew, since you do it. Although, based on some of the decisions I’ve seen you human school portrait folks make, maybe you might not be aware. Go ahead and ask around. If the pet portrait thing is another division, can you please let them know they’re doing a good job?

There were big canvas portraits of dogs and cats, all over the walls in the waiting area. Bigger than life-size, the ten or twelve black and white photographs showcased the animals perfectly.

I’m not sure if they were the fall or spring pictures from obedience school, but they were really great. None of their smiles looked forced. None of their collars had any parts sticking up. Their hair wasn’t messed up, there was no food stuck to any of their faces, and none of them were covered in chalk or paint.

Plus, they were all just head shots of the dogs and cats, so your pet people even figured out how to avoid the embarrassing cow turd chair problem.  

Just an all-around outstanding job by the pet school portrait division. Again, please tell them good job, and while you’re over there, you human school portrait guys might want to ask them for some pointers. Just a thought.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What Were We Thinking?

We had an amazing two-week vacation on the east coast with my family, but I arrived home to a mountain of paperwork and a to-do list a mile long. The top of the list is my new book. I finished writing book three of The Sycamore Detective Agency series last month, and my editors are starting to return manuscripts, so I am anxious to get on the revisions and get the book that much closer to being ready.

So, what’s the absolute stupidest thing you can do if you have a bunch of work to get done? Get a puppy, of course.

The boys wrote up a puppy contract just before Christmas last year, and have been harassing us to sign it ever since. It states that we, as the parents, will need to do nothing and pay for nothing in regard to the puppy. In exchange for agreeing to board the dog, they would handle all the care, feeding, and paying.

We were naturally skeptical, based on previous smaller-scale pet experiences. We have watched them literally forget that we even owned goldfish three days after bringing them home from the fair. Also, as far as the financial side goes, between the three of them they have seven bucks, so footing the bill for a dog seemed like it might stretch them a little thin.

After some major private parental deliberations, we decided we would let them slide on a few of the finer points of the financial contract, and bit the bullet. It was time to get a dog. We broke the news to them while we were on vacation, which resulted in some extra security and cleaning fees, since we had to scape them off the ceiling of our Airbnb.

We arrived home from our trip late Saturday night, so naturally, Sunday morning we got up and drove to get a puppy.

Super dumb idea.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been involved in taking care of an eight-week-old dog, but they are just ridiculous. They’re like having a crawling infant, except you can’t put diapers on them. Human babies rarely shred their diapers with needle-sharp fangs.

We’ve only had her for three days and she’s peed and pooped on our carpet - and this is just a rough guess, since I’m sleep-deprived – about three thousand times. You do not want to visit right now, and if you do, do NOT sit on the carpet.

Actually, on second thought, please visit. You can puppy sit for a night or two! It’s a blast. (Plus, I’ll get some sleep.)

The night we brought her home, my wife told me that I got the first shift since she needed to get up early for work. Fine, I said. No problem. I foolishly thought she meant I would get to sleep in my own bed and just get up when the dog needed to go out. Turns out that wasn’t what she meant at all.

I was getting in bed and she looked at me like I was an idiot. (I get that a lot.)

“What are you doing?”
“Umm… is this a trick question?”
“You said you’d take the first night.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Then why are you getting in this bed? You and the dog are downstairs in the guest room.”

So, I slept downstairs in the guest room with the puppy. That was fun. Between her being in a new house without her mommy, and me being three feet from her, and both of us crying, the dog and I got a combined total seven minutes of sleep.

The next day, while yawning continuously, I got exactly nothing done. I was able to say things like “Potty,” “No,” “Good dog,” and “Dammit, my ankles are not chew toys!” about a million times, though, so I felt good about my day.

After another night of being awake in the guest room, day two provided zero opportunities for getting any work done either, but I did spend about half the day in the backyard asking the puppy to go potty in a designated spot. It was majorly fulfilling. I got to praise her a couple times when it actually happened correctly, but I spent the remainder of the day cleaning up all the spots on the carpet where it happened incorrectly. That was great, too.

Night three in the guest room provided a little more sleep for both of us, as she seems to be getting more comfortable in her new surroundings. Maybe I’ll get to sleep in my own bed tonight? Wouldn’t that be cool.

As for today, the only thing I’ve managed to do between puppy training is write this, and I have to stop now, because it’s time to go potty again.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll publish that third book when the dog is two or three years old.

Puppies are fun. You should totally get one.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I'm a Little Crabby

My extended family and I were in the Outer Banks last week on vacation. In case you are unaware, the Outer Banks, or OBX, as the locals call it, is basically a sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean just off of North Carolina. It runs half the length of the NC coastline and varies in width between a staggering five neighborhood blocks wide and just wide enough for one bicycle and one jogger to pass each other if the jogger turns sideways.

The first people to visit the OBX were Native Americans in the early 1500s. They took one look at the North Carolina Highway Department’s ridiculous layout of having the only two bridges from the mainland connect smack in the middle of the two hundred-mile-long stretch, and said, “Forget this mess. Traffic is going to be a nightmare.”

They were right.

The next group of people to visit the OBX were the Europeans, who arrived in the late 1500s and stayed, even though the prices for crab cakes and hand-churned ice cream bordered on gouging. A group from the Netherlands built the first three-story home on the beach, complete with ten bedrooms, eight and a half baths, a pool, a hot tub, and a gourmet kitchen with two dishwashers. The Germans immediately opened a real estate office specializing in vacation rentals and offered to represent them. A day later, an English immigrant sold them the first hurricane insurance policy in America’s history. Within a week they had one hundred percent occupancy from a vacationing Virginia dentist and his extended family, and the OBX was born.

I’m sure a lot of notable people have vacationed in the OBX over the years, but certainly it’s most famous visitors were Orville and Wilbur Wright. They were on more of a working vacation, busy running up and down sand dunes dressed in three-piece suits and snappy patent leather shoes. Sure, they managed the first powered, controlled flights in history, but unfortunately for aviation, they chose a field in Kitty Hawk. Amazingly, they were only three or four blocks from the town of Kill Devil Hills! Think of how much cooler the history books would sound. I’m not sure what they were thinking. At least they didn’t choose the town of Duck. (Yes, Duck, NC. No, I’m not making that up.)

For those of us less visionary visitors who go to the OBX for non-working vacations, we are forced to choose a side each day. There are two sides to the OBX – the ocean side and the sound side.

The ocean side offers endless wonderful beaches with one main activity – playing in the waves. The sound side offers jet skiing, wind surfing, paddle boarding, boating, fishing, and my personal favorite, chicken neckin’.

No, that’s not what it means.

Chicken neckin’ is marketed by the OBX board of tourism as a fun and surprisingly effective way to catch the delicious Carolina blue crab. All you need is a string, a chicken’s neck, and a public dock on the water. You simply drop the chicken neck down to the bottom on a string, the blue crab grabs on for a tasty meal, and you pull him right out of the water. What could be simpler or more fun for the whole family?

Where do I find a chicken’s neck that I do not have to separate from the chicken myself?, you might ask. Simple. Every tackle shop in the OBX has a freezer full of them in the back.

Do I need to buy an expensive fishing license to catch crabs in the state of North Carolina?
Of course not. Not to chicken neck. It’s free!

What is the limit?
Each visitor to our beautiful state can catch and keep fifty blue crabs per day! Fifty! Per day! That’s enough to feed an entire three-story, ten-bedroom vacation rental every night.

I love crab, and this sounds like my kind of family fun, OBX. Let’s do this!

Off to the tackle shop I went to get my family outfitted for this unique, exciting, and free brand of entertainment. In the back of the shop I found the freezer full of chicken necks, right next to the wall of chicken neckin’ gear.

Here’s the special chicken neckin’ string with a weight and a cool chicken neck attaching wire. That’s handy. Ooh, look! Nets that collapse on the bottom and can catch lots of crabs at once instead of just one at a time. And the great state of North Carolina says I can use five collapsible crab traps without needing a fishing license. Sweet!

And don’t forget your long-handled net to make sure you don’t lose the crabs at the surface when you’re pulling them up hand over fist.

And you’ll need one of these special chicken neckin’ five-gallon buckets to hold the hundreds of crabs you and your family will catch.

We also sell special crab claw-proof rope for those collapsible net traps. You don’t want to be hauling up a mess of blue crab only to lose them because you were using the wrong rope!

And we also sell pliers, because it never hurts to have pliers when you’re fishing.

Oh, and of course, the chicken necks.

That will be seventy-five dollars, sir.

Wow! This “free” form of wholesome outdoor family entertainment is expensive. But let’s keep our eye on the prize. That’s a small price to pay for a week of all the crab we can eat. We’re going to be money ahead in no time. Someone start melting the butter. It’s chicken neckin’ time!

We loaded up the rented minivan with eager chicken neckers, and off we went to the public docks at the old city park – “the best place in the OBX to catch blue crab,” as advertised by every tackle shop and board of tourism flyer on the two hundred-mile stretch of sunbaked sand.  

We arrived on the dock, greeted by a mob of other tourists, all sporting their shiny new buckets and collapsible nets with special crab claw-proof ropes.

“Any luck?” we ask hopefully.

“Not yet,” they reply, returning our hopeful smiles, only with a slight sadness behind their eyes.

We find an open section of dock and get right to our wholesome family fun. After an hour or so of not catching a single blue crab, I start to look around. Hmm… there’s not one scratched-up bucket or weathered-looking long-handled net out here. I get the feeling the local chicken neckers aren’t here with us at “the best place in the OBX to catch blue crab.”  

“Let’s try again early tomorrow morning,” I told the kids, “before everyone else is here.”

That might be a good plan at another vacation destination, but not so much for us in the OBX. The early bird may get the worm, but the early OBX chicken neckin’ tourist gets exactly one blue crab that is too small to keep.

Wash, rinse, repeat for the next week, trying desperately to get your money’s worth out of your heap of surprisingly ineffective chicken neckin’ gear, and do you know what you end up with?

One stinkin’ crab, that’s what. One stinkin’ blue crab that may or may not have just barely made the five-inch size limit, but we were damn-sure keeping.

He was delicious. We split him between all the kids that stuck with the chicken neckin’ effort over the week. We each had one bite about the size of a thumbnail.

We did end up having some good family time together during this wholesome and fun family activity, but I must say, if you thought the OBX was price gouging on shrimp scampi, wait until you spend twelve hundred dollars a pound for crab.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing the Wrongs

Help! I’m in North Carolina, vacationing with my extended family and they’ve turned against me. It seems they’ve taken exception to some of the things I’ve written about them in the past. They’ve threatened to lock me in a closet and hijack this column.

Here they come now… Don’t believe a word they say…

Hi All,

Marc is on vacation this week. Today’s column is brought to you by ghostwriters who may or may not be related to Marc, and who may or may not be on vacation with Marc in the Outer Banks. Many of the numerous ghostwriters herein may or may not have been previously featured in Marc’s columns, and may or may not see this as a prime opportunity to have “equal air time” so they may enlighten you… as there are two sides to every story.

Those of us in the family have realized that any time Marc is bored, or does not want to empty the dishwasher, suddenly it becomes “time for him to go write this column.” We’re on to you now. [This week, it’s suddenly “time to go crabbing,” which is just a clever substitute for “it’s time to write my column,” because we know HE is not writing his column.]

While the vacationing columnist will frequently take literary license, everything you are about to read is 100% true. Authenticated and verified.

Sugar Grandma pleads the Fifth on the aforementioned Slurpee Incident….and says indignantly, “This from the guy who when the curtains are pulled and the neighbors aren’t around eats chocolate chips straight from the fridge, and can’t pass a up a three-gallon fill-up on a road trip because he’s out of Peanut M&M’s.” [And, by the way, it was AUNTIE who bought the donuts this morning, NOT her.] Considering the fact that she’s spending the week in a house with seventeen of his closest relatives, and he controls access to her grandchildren, she has wisely opted to limit her comments to the obvious:

1. Once you reach a certain age - that being the age you are when your first grandchild is born - you can do anything you want, so why wouldn’t you?
2. All the furniture, clothing, sports equipment, toys, camping gear, and generally cute “stuff” she has brought to his house with love, are just things he won’t have to clean out of her house later when she dies.
3. Whatever made him think free babysitting wasn’t costly?

Sister, Slayer of the Nutritional Yeast and Purveyor of the Mahvelous Margarita goes on record as saying that anything positive posted about her is absolutely true, and anything negative, well… see the aforementioned Sugar Grandma pleading the Fifth thing. And, I too, am a fan of the Oxford comma. Punctuate on.

Niece Abby, aka Abbazabbadoodle: He’s AWESOME! And he took me crabbing. [The vacationing columnist agrees and has approved this message.]

Son Number One: I didn’t do it.

Son Number Two: It wasn’t me.

Son Number Three: What happened?

Nefarious Nephew… when pressed for comment: He’s awesome and he’s good at building stuff. [The vacationing columnist agrees, and is forwarding Nefarious Nephew’s twenty-dollar payment post haste.]

IAArena008: I have writer’s block. Good thing I don’t normally write this column.

Papa Doc: Which of us has not suffered the slings and arrows of Smidge, the Mad Columnist? It’s only fair that the anonymous masses get a chance to speak their piece… perhaps not so anonymously.

Auntie M: I’ve met the rest of the family, and I’m no longer going to believe a word he writes.

Youngest Cousin and Last Shrunken Head on the Charm Bracelet: He did teach me all the words to Love Shack at an inappropriately-young age. Rusted.

Nana (mom): I want the world to know that all of Marc’s Lifetouch photos from his school days were absolutely perfect.

The Wife: There is simply not enough space in this column for an adequate retort to nine years of suffering my husband’s “literary license.” In the interest of preserving my fifteen-year marriage, I’m going to stop there. Ditto to Sugar Grandma’s pleading the Fifth.

We are having trouble finding anyone else willing to comment. They seem to fear a backlash of “literary license” in future columns. Go figure. So, we will close by taking this opportunity to mention that all writing credits from the columnist’s literary catalog should also give honorable mention to moms, moms-in-law, older sisters, dads, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins who contribute free fabulous editorial and marketing support.

We have to wrap this up now, anyway. We need to let Marc out of the closet we’ve locked him in. It’s time for him to go crabbing again.

See you soon,

-Relatives of Smidge

Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Shopping for Crap

Apparently, forty-five is the age that I’m finally being honest with myself. Not about my fitness level or body fat percentage, obviously. (I’m still in amazing shape and have the body of a teenager.)

At the age of forty-five - which could possibly be mid-life if I beat the odds on fitness level and body fat percentage - I am finally being honest with myself about woodworking.

My dad is a woodworker. A long time ago he bought me a really big worm-drive Skilsaw and then taught me the cool carpenters’ trick of holding a 2x4 off the ground on the top of your foot and cutting it in half right next to your leg one-handed.

He also gave me his huge radial arm saw when he was beginning to pare down his garage. If you ever need to cut something big in half - like a structural beam, or a bison - I recommend a radial arm saw. I used it exactly one time to launch a section of plywood like a Stinger missile across my garage and into the sheetrock on the back wall. Literally, six inches into the sheetrock.

In hindsight, my dad may be trying to get rid of me for some reason...

My grandfather was a woodworker, also. He had a shop full of power tools, and when he died, I inherited quite a few of them. Suddenly, my garage magically transformed into a woodshop. I was excited. I was minutes away from producing fine cabinetry, elegant porch swings, cribs, rocking horses – you name it!

I had a band saw, a drill press, a table saw, a small Skilsaw, a big worm-drive Skilsaw, a router, a nail gun, and a power sander. Not to mention a radial arm saw that I was terrified to turn on.

I had enough power tools to build anything at all. The world was my oyster.

Do you know what the first thing I made was? I built a huge workbench for my garage, so that when I did all the amazing woodworking projects, I would have a big bench to work on.

In the last fifteen years, I have not done a single other woodworking project with any of my shop tools.

Why? I think a big part of the reason is that while I inherited a lot of tools, I did not inherit any of the woodworking skills to go with them. And then there’s the boys. Looking around my garage a few weeks ago I noticed something that made me take stock of the situation. Every flat surface on every large power tool was covered with crap. Just tons and tons of crap. Who did all the crap belong to? The boys.

There was not a single square inch of the top of my nearly two-acre workbench that I could actually see. It was just a vast ocean of crap, all belonging to the boys.

I stood there, surveying the scene, marveling at our family’s ability to hoard crap, when it hit me. If I have less flat surfaces, there will be less room for crap. And then I took stock of my woodworking future and came to terms with it. It’s simply not going to happen.

A few days after my moment of self-honesty, we had a garage sale, and I priced my power tools so that no man with a pulse could walk past them without throwing money at me instantly. We sold everything in fifteen minutes. The massive table saw was bought by a guy in a Honda Civic. He spent an hour on our driveway disassembling it so he could get it home.

I was happy to help those guys out. And I’m thrilled for their families. Now they have more flat spaces to store their crap.

As for my garage, well… It looks a little more open, but there’s still no room to walk around. Now all the crap is on the floor.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pandora's Orange Juice Can

My mom was a health food nut before it was cool, which meant, as the third child, I was an unwilling participant in eating healthy from birth.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for this fact now, but there were times when I considered it extremely unfair that my friends got Froot Loops for breakfast and I was eating Grape Nuts with wheat germ sprinkled on top. I am not making that up.

She wasn’t a crazy militant “organic” nut; she just made sure that the things we ate were made with actual food products. We were not subjected to carob chips and we didn’t sacrifice our backyard and compost our own dung to attempt a “sustainable” gardening lifestyle. We shopped at the regular grocery store, but you could be damn sure we weren’t buying any soda or Pop Tarts. The bread was whole wheat and the juices were 100% juice.

Now that I’m a parent, I totally understand where she was coming from, and I’m grateful for how she fed us. My boys are not as grateful, but they will be some day, if they ever have kids of their own. They see their friends drinking neon-blue Gatorade and complain to me about my rules – specifically my food and drink color rule – if you can find me anything that grows in nature that is that same color, and then you can prove to me that they used that food to create the color, then you can have it. If they used sodium hydrochloric dimethyl acetate to make that color, you’re out of luck, kid.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think drinks should glow in the dark. I really believe that a lot of our health and allergy problems in this country can be attributed to processed foods, lab-enhanced sugars, and food dyes. Just read the label on a diet soda and think long and hard about whether aspartic acid and phenylalanine seem like things you really need to add to your body.

If someone approached you and said, “Hold still while I drip some aspartic acid and phenylalanine onto your skin,” you would punch them in the throat. But the Coca-Cola company and our incredibly trustworthy government say it’s cool to drink it, so we pour it down our throats. Not the best idea, in my opinion, but I digress.

All things considered, my two sisters and I really didn’t know any better growing up, and we were perfectly content. That is, until the fateful morning when frozen concentrated orange juice shined a light on our mom’s dietary hijinks.

One morning my oldest sister, Jill, took it upon herself to make the orange juice for the first time. Our mom always bought the frozen concentrated juice in the cardboard cans with the metal lids that were removed by pulling on the white plastic sealing ring. Those cans were always a losing proposition, because when the juice was still frozen solid, there was no way to get a good grip on the icy plastic seal, but if you let it thaw enough to be able to open it, you were guaranteed to spill some when the lid came off and the flimsy cardboard container buckled under the pressure of your grip. Good times.

So after cleaning up the spill, Jill proceeded to read the instructions on the can, and made the OJ. Minutes later, my middle sister, Heidi, and I were drinking the results.

“This is the best orange juice I’ve ever had! What did you put in this? It’s amazing!”
“Why does this taste so good? You added a bunch of sugar, didn’t you?”

"No," replied Jill, smiling. "I just didn't put the yeast in it."

You see, my mom used to add nutritional yeast to the orange juice. If you are unfamiliar, nutritional yeast is a vile, dirt-like substance that has the consistency of dandruff and tastes like hay. My entire life, up to that point, my mom had me convinced that orange juice was supposed to be gritty and have little brown flakes floating on top of it.

My sister opened Pandora's frozen concentrated orange juice container that morning, and it was the beginning of the end of my dietary naïveté. I fear that I accidentally did the same thing with my boys yesterday morning.

Most mornings, I make them a fruit smoothie. They all love them, and it's really the only proven method to get a piece of fruit into them with any regularity. The standard smoothie recipe is one apple, one banana, some milk, the secret ingredient – Hershey’s chocolate syrup – you heard me, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries (without the pits), and a handful of spinach.

The smoothie turns out to be a pretty gross-looking color of off-brown, but it’s delicious. Like I said, the boys love them. At least, they used to.

Yesterday, my brain was obviously malfunctioning, and I forgot to put the spinach in.

As I poured the smoothies into the cups, the back part of my brain was casually remarking, “Hmm, this smoothie seems much more reddish-pink than normal. I guess I put in a lot of strawberries this morning, or something.”

I am an idiot.

Son Number One took a sip and immediately asked me what was in it. I said the usual. He asked for the ingredient list. I told him. He said, “So, you put everything in it except the spinach?”


“This smoothie is amazing, Dad! Can we have it like this every day?”

For years, my wife and I have been a united front, reciting the same old line - “You can’t taste the spinach.”

Well, apparently you can.

And I’ll bet you can’t guess what happened this morning, can you?

Yep, this morning they all begged for yesterday’s amazing smoothie without the vile green weed. Sorry fellas, spinach is back in. “That was your imagination because of the color. You can’t taste the spinach!”

I’m not going to let up on the healthy eating, but they’re right. That spinach-less smoothie was pretty damn good!

They should just be happy I’m not adding nutritional yeast to the recipe.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Freedom isn't Free - Repost

The Fourth of July is a special time for me, and not just because of the magnificent pairing of beer and explosives. I have always loved celebrating our freedom, but the last few years have been extra special, because it was around this time in July of 2013 when I extricated myself from the business world to become a full-time writer.

Now, when I celebrate our freedom as Americans, I also have a little mini personal celebration of my daily freedom from having a boss. I guess I should say, a boss that I’m not married to. A few years ago I traded one boss for another, but my new one is much easier to work with, and I can sleep with her without it being an ethical issue.

Prior to my incredibly liberating decision to quit my job, I had an eighteen-year career in engineering. While I don’t miss much about the working world, I do miss the people now and again. I worked with a lot of good, smart people, a lot of good but not-so-smart people, and a few folks that can only be categorized as brain-dead.

Strangely, it’s the brain-dead ones I miss the most. They were never easy to work with (or for), but if you could survive the frustrations, they did provide a level of entertainment that you just can’t get anywhere else. 

Sure, now I’m home with my kids, and they say ridiculous things.
“Dad! He hit me in the nuts with an X-wing fighter.”
“Only because he just bit my butt.”

That’s all well and good for a laugh, but it’s slightly tempered because it’s to be expected from young kids. The real true comedy comes from when those inane comments are coming from a grownup. When you get that kind of idiocy from a colleague, a client, or your boss, that’s comedy gold.

Over my career (perhaps sensing that someday I would become a writer), I wrote down some of the verbal gems that I received. Here are some of the highlights:


I was talking with someone about a company’s operations in Thailand, and he kept referring to the workers as “Taiwanese.”
Importing people from a different country seems unnecessary.

I overheard this conversation in a break room once:
World Traveler: “I lived in Europe for two years. My favorite part was driving between all the different countries.”
Geography Major: “Did you ever drive over to Australia?”
WT: “Uh... I was in Europe. I did drive to Austria a bunch of times. It was great.”
GM: “I’ll bet the beaches were nice, huh?”
WT: “Uh...”
I’ll bet if that other company opened a facility in Australia they would staff it with Austrians.

English as a second language – Awesomely, however, every single one of these gems come from people born and raised in ‘Merca

I had someone substitute the word “oversight” for “insight” in a phone call and not skip a beat. “Your excellent oversight with that problem...”
Yes, any time I can help by overlooking your problems, I’m happy to do so.

I worked with a guy for a long time who just made up words. My favorite was “squose.” He believed it was the past tense or past participle of squeeze.  He would say to clients things like, “We squose four into the same space.” It was magical.

“Not the most eloquent solution”
Irony isn’t even a good enough word.

And then, just to really keep everyone on their toes, the same guy said, “In his eloquent way, he picked a Thursday to start the project.”
You aren’t even using the word wrong the same way. How many incorrect meanings do you think it has and what are they??

Someone talking about the honor his son was receiving for high school graduation:
“He’s graduating magna cum lau, or whatever”
So I guess the milkman helped him with his homework all these years?

"I point-blank alluded to him"
Nope, nope, nope, nope.

And my favorite category: Idioms – Know when and how to use them – and most importantly, what they mean. Again, awesomely, all from born and bred ‘Mercans

“Now he’s singing to the choir”
In the context of the conversation, this was a wonderful mixture of “singing a different tune” and “preaching to the choir.”

“He wants me at his call and beckon”
A good example of the rule – if you don’t know the idiom, don’t try to use it.

“This hits home right between the eyes”
It does?

“That’s been their Achilles' heel in their side... or however you want to say it”
However I want to say it? I guess if it was up to me, I would choose one or the other - Achilles' heel or thorn in their side. That's just me, though.

“Take the political middle of the ground”
I think it was a combination of high ground and middle of the road.

“I'm treading on a gray area”
Uh...?Possibly a mixture of “thin ice” and “gray area,” although, one of those is a lot worse than the other, so I’m not sure how serious this is.

“He beat him to the punchline”
Sure he did.

“Squealing like a stuffed pig”
Stuffed... stuck... they all squeal.

“The ship is sailing, but no one's at the helm, and we're not tied up to the port”
Uh... say what?

“I would undress him with both barrels”
Dress down, maybe? Or unload? Or are there some other issues you want to discuss?

“Didn't mean to throw gasoline on an open wound, there”
Fire... salt... who can keep track of all this stuff?

“Just tell them we’re keeping our pulse on it”
I would tell them that, but I don’t want to confuse them.

“I took it as a grain of salt”
Like, it was really small?

“Shot it up the ladder”
This was supposed to be “run it up the flagpole.” The only thing they got right was “it up the.”

“The ball is in my court, but I don’t have a player on the other side of the net”

“We don’t want any black toes on this one”
Yes, frostbite is not a good option. My best guess is it was a hybrid of “black eyes” and “stubbed toes.”

“They’re breathing down my throat”
He meant “breathing down my neck,” but the misuse of the idiom left a visual that I couldn’t unsee inside my mind.

“I’m trying to tread water lightly on this one”
Jesus? Is that you?

They say freedom isn’t free, and that’s very true. I may not be tied to an eight-to-five office life anymore, but that freedom came at a cost. I lost out on a regular supply of this kind of comedy magic.

I mean, sure, one of my sons just told me he accidentally dropped his underwear in the toilet when he was peeing. That will be a hilarious story, but the fact remains that I still have to clean it up.

Happy Independence Day! God bless ‘Merca!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rewards Card Fraud

A few years ago, I became our household’s primary grocery shopper. “No problem,” I thought. “I got this. I totally know where everything is.” Upon returning from my first trip to the store, my wife informed me that we, as a family, needed more than just Fritos and beer, and I needed to go back and try again. Apparently, there’s a list with lots of other stuff on it.

I have since gotten the hang of it, and I now know where everything is inside of our local Winco even better than I do our Home Depot, which is really saying something. I even write out the grocery shopping list in order of the route I will take through the store. I’m that good.

So, when a friend was raving to us about another grocery store’s online shopping system, where you just tell them what you want and set a time to pick it up, I surprised myself by immediately dismissing the idea.

My stated reason for wanting to continue shopping for my own groceries? I don’t want someone else picking out my tomatoes.

After my wife stopped rolling on the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter, I had a quiet moment of self-reflection and realized why she thought that reaction was so funny. Namely, we both know I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing at the grocery store.

Sure, I’m efficient in my shopping route through the store, but the actual shopping itself – picking out the best produce, for example – remains a complete mystery to me. I am pretending to know what I’m doing the entire time.

Is this melon ripe? Let me knock on it and listen. What am I listening for? No idea, but I saw someone else do that once. Sounds great. I’ll take it.

How firm or soft should a tomato be? Beats me. These look red. I’ll take them.

Are these pineapples ripe? Great question. No clue. I’ll take that one.

What constitutes a good onion? That lady who looks like she knows what she’s doing just grabbed one that looked kinda like this one. Perfect.

And don’t even get me started on cilantro and Italian parsley. Why do they keep those two things even remotely close to each other? They look IDENTICAL! Do you know what doesn’t enhance salsa very much? Italian parsley. Do you know what makes pasta carbonara taste weird? Cilantro. They should be on opposite ends of the store with large identification signs. Not sitting right next to each other, dammit!

At least with grapes I can actually eat one. I’m amazing at picking out grapes. They look at you funny when you start munching on the Italian parsley.

The only thing on the list besides grapes that I’m truly qualified to choose with any authority is beer. I don’t need to taste it to pick out a good one. (FYI – If they do catch you in the walk-in beer cooler wearing a parka and sampling the different varieties, they kick you out of the store. Happened to a friend…)

Then there’s the other problem of me constantly buying things that aren’t on the list because I see them on the shelf and think, “Ooh, do we need mustard? I don’t remember seeing any last time I looked in the pantry. Better grab a couple bottles.” Then I get home and set the two new bottles in the pantry next to the fifty-two bottles of mustard currently taking up an entire shelf. Perfect.

Then there’s the irrational fear I have every single time I’m in the store - the fear of leaving my cart alone. Every time I park my cart outside the beer cooler, I have the same idiotic thought run through my head as I reach for the door handle - “What if someone steals my stuff?”

I’m still inside the damn store! I haven’t paid for any of this yet. What am I worried about? If someone takes something from my cart, it would just be annoying. I haven’t been harmed in any way. And it wouldn’t even be considered stealing on their part. At worst, it’s just a dick move, and at best, it’s just a convenient mobile shelf they happened to pass by. Yet, every time I leave my cart alone, I feel like I’m leaving all my worldly possessions out on the sidewalk in front of the 7-Eleven while I go inside to use the restroom.

Besides not being very good at it, I guess shopping is a little stressful for me as well. This online ordering thing might not be a bad idea after all. Let’s face it, the person who is going to pick out my tomatoes works at the store. They are probably infinitely more qualified to get me the perfect tomato than I am.

I think I might give it a shot. I’ll have to look into… wait a second. I forgot. What about samples?

If I use the online ordering, they meet me at my car with the groceries. I never even get to go inside. How will I get the samples from all the little stations around the store?

Forget it. I’m not willing to sacrifice my store sample lunch for a little convenience and an actually ripe pineapple. I’ll do my own stressful shopping, thank you very much.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Clean up on Child Three

The hardest part about going on vacation is coming home. That’s probably mostly because of the stress of smuggling five suitcases full of tequila, illegal Mexican fireworks, and my cool new switchblade past the customs agents at the airport. But also because we had to come back to the reality of having kids.

We were only in Mexico for five days, but, apparently, God thought we were getting a little too comfortable in our south-of-the-border kid-less bliss So, He smacked us straight in the face - mostly the nose, really – with reality. Literally the first thing we had to do when we saw the kids was clean up vomit.

My wife and I flew back from Mexico into the San Francisco Bay Area and stayed the night, and Grandma drove the boys to us the next morning so we could all continue on a family vacation for a week. Grandma has apparently lost the ability to say no, or the ability to make good decisions, or both, because on her way she said yes to cherry-red Slurpees for breakfast on the road. Son Number Three’s body rejected the eight A.M. overload of high-fructose corn syrup and red dye #40 about a block from our hotel.

Welcome back. There’s red puke all over the inside of your car. And your son. And one of your other sons. Road trip!

There’s not too many things that can make me miss the unpleasant wafting aroma of the under-engineered Mexican sewer system, but cleaning bright red Slurpee vomit off the back seats of the car with a baby wipe at a gas station is one of them. It’s great to be back with the kids. Thanks for watching them, Grandma. I guess we forgot to mention it, but “No” is an acceptable word to use with the children when inside a 7-Eleven.

(Please don’t misunderstand – even though Grandma seems to be losing it, we will still gladly use her babysitting services in the future. It takes a lot more than projectile Slurpee to get fired from that job!)

Our destination was San Diego to stay with relatives for a few days in their beautiful, upscale, clean, well-appointed home. We arrived and promptly took over their laundry room to de-puke-ify the contents of our quarantined trash bag. After the laundry was finished we went to bed happy that the clean-up was behind us.

I guess God thought we hadn’t quite paid for all the time off.

The next morning, I woke up to Son Number Two in the kitchen with bright blue hands and ten dismantled ball-point pens on the granite countertop, trying to wash off the blue ink that had spread everywhere inside his backpack. He was busy trying to wash the pens. The pens! Because to my eleven-year-old, saving the twenty-four cents’ worth of crappy pens was the main concern.

I traced the ink spill back to his bed on their living room couch, where he first discovered the Bic-xon Valdez had run aground. There I found the backpack, and various items from within, all a vibrant fresh blue ink color, many of which, in his haste to save the precious disposable plastic pens, had found their way onto the sheets, the staircase next to the couch, and the large area rug.

After I collected all the little pieces of my head that exploded all over the room, I spent the next hour perfecting the technique of using rubbing alcohol to get ink out of a carpet. Given enough time and excruciatingly-manufactured patience, rubbing alcohol and an endless supply of clean rags removes bright blue ink from carpet fibers amazingly well, which is the only reason Son Number Two is still with us here on Earth.

It was starting to look like penance for a week off from parenting was going to involve a crazy mess from each child. We’d had bright red and bright blue, so it was looking like a patriotic theme was developing.

We kept Son Number One away from marshmallows and milk for the rest of the trip.

It’s great to be back.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bat Demo

Mexico update numero dos.

In update numero uno, we discussed some of the major cultural differences between Mexico and Los Estados Unidos. Now that we’re back on U.S. soil and off the ridiculously slow, and possibly bugged, hotel Wi-Fi, I feel safer about bringing you the second update. As it turns out, wild drivers and El Hombre de Viagra and his burro smuggling operation were not the only parts of our Mexican experience that differed from our regular life.

Another change was the relative security we experienced. One morning after breakfast we came back to our hotel room to find the door wide open, with no maid or maid cart in sight. While none of our possessions were missing, we were understandably concerned. Thankfully, our Mexican hotel security team was all over the problem.

The jefe de seguridad plugged in the electronic scanner to our door lock, downloaded the entry and exit log, informed me that he needed to go back to the security office to print it out, and promptly disappeared. I guess he must have had a paper jam or needed to change the ink cartridge, because a mere five hours later, another hotel security professional showed me the handy printout which informed me that I was the last one in or out of the room, so it was probably all my fault.

Hmm… seems legit. I have never ever left a door unlocked and open in my entire life, so Mexico seems like the place I’d start. Thanks for the super-realistic and timely report, fellas!

If we had any mild security concerns inside our hotel, thankfully they quickly escalated when we went out walking in town. To prove that the neighborhoods are safe, Mexico conveniently displays their militarized police forces for you to inspect. Every other police vehicle was a pickup truck with five or six men dressed like a commando strike force, complete with face masks and M-16’s, standing up in the back, rifles ready for action.

We were impressed with the show of force, which even included an armored truck with a M-60 mounted on a swiveling turret. The locals, however, seemed to display less reverent awe than we did. We got that impression when we watched the ice cream man cut in front of the armored truck and proceed to ignore the surprisingly whiny honking from the driver of the three-axle, heavily-armed, bulletproof vehicle. It was almost as if the ice cream man knew the police budget didn’t include bullets for the machine gun.

Security differences aside, our hotel had some other striking differences to what you might experience in the United States. Mainly, that they were tearing it down while we were there. Sure, they tried to disguise the demolition as a “pardon our dust, we’re making more fun for you” kind of renovation, but there was no mistaking the fact that they were really dismantling the building.

That might have been because when we arrived, the entire right half of the hotel was a seven-story gaping hole, with tile and siding hanging loosely around the area that looked like it had just been hit with a scud missile.

As our week at hotel Fallujah progressed, more and more of the front of the hotel was broken apart by large pieces of heavy equipment and men with sledge hammers. By the time we left, I was getting legitimately concerned about the structural integrity of the building.

The first few mornings, we were nudged awake by the melodious tones of five or six back-up alarms on the heavy equipment all singing out their one-note songs in perfect non-harmony. One particularly exciting morning, we were jolted out of bed by what sounded like someone trying to enter our room through the wall directly above our heads, using a Sawzall. He must have just been cutting up the bed or the couch in the adjoining room, however, because he never actually came through the wall.

Need to get to the pool? Check with the crossing guard in the hard hat. He’ll keep you from getting run over by a front-end loader. The view from the pool? To the south, the beautiful ocean. To the north, heavy equipment plucking the palm trees out of the ground in the hotel’s large horseshoe-shaped interior garden area. What’s that pleasant banging and crackling sound? Just another overhead beam going up near the pool bar, with the welders fitting it into place. No wonder we got so pink out by the pool. Half of our “sunburns” were probably flash burns from the welders.

I’ve stayed at a number of U.S. hotels that were doing some construction onsite, but it never seemed to affect my stay the way it did in Mexico. For instance, in America I’ve never actually had to walk through the construction (or destruction) as part of the only route to my room. In Mexico, six times a day, we walked right through the ten guys removing the tiles from the walls in the main hall. The guys down on the ground with us had all been issued hard hats to protect them from the team on the scissor lift removing the tiles from twenty feet overhead. We protected our heads with beach towels.

My wife even helped out a little and removed a few souvenir tiles from one of the walls by hand. I’m not sure why the guys in hard hats were bothering with tools. The tiles seemed to be attached with the same stuff that sticks your new credit card to the paper.

Despite the fact that four out of our hotel’s five stars were being jackhammered apart, we actually had a relaxing and enjoyable time. Do you know why? Because our kids weren’t with us. Now, don’t get me wrong, we love our three boys to death. I’m just saying, never underestimate how much your children are sucking the very life out of you, that’s all. This vacation proves it. We slept in a construction/war zone, and it was honestly more relaxing than being at home with our boys.

In fairness to the boys, the food had a lot to do with our overall enjoyment of the vacation. Besides the fact that we never had to break up a single fight at any of our meals, the food was amazing. Which brings us to my favorite difference – besides El Hombre de Viagra, of course – between Mexico and America: the wildlife in the bars. Literally.

We saw plenty of wildlife (mostly iguana-looking lizards) on our walks to and from the restaurants, but the wildlife inside the restaurants was what caught my attention. Most places were more or less open-air. If they weren’t completely patio-style, they would certainly keep the doors open. On more than one occasion we saw birds flying in and out over our heads during meals, but it was the bat that made me sit up and take notice.

We were at a table down at the Fish and Grill, having some of the most amazing tacos on planet Earth and watching game two of the NBA finals on the big screens over the bar. We’d had a few birds fly in and out, but just after the start of the third quarter, Mexico upped the ante and added a bat. He (or she) wasn’t much bigger than a flying mouse (which if you think about it, that’s pretty much what it was), and it zipped in through the doors and zig-zagged all over the place up near the ceiling beams.

Then, it made the fatal mistake of wanting to check out the game, or order a tequila. I’m not sure which, and we’ll probably never know. I don’t know if all Mexican bat sonar is defective, if this particular bat was on his fourth or fifth bar visit that night and was drunk as a tiny flying skunk, or if ceiling fans create some kind of magnetic field and are confounding to all North American bats, but things didn’t go well.

He zig-zagged out of the rafters and headed straight for the bar. He made it under his own power just as far as the large ceiling fan above the bar, and then the ceiling fan took over the flight planning. He flew straight into the path of the rotating blades and got hit like a hanging curve ball, straight across the bar and smack into the middle of the big screen TV. He hit the flat screen with a thud and dropped straight down past the impressive selection of local tequilas to the floor behind the bar.

Well, that was a first for me. (And probably a first and a last for him.)

Two bartenders and a waiter behind the bar looked down at the unfortunate winged rodent, shrugged, and went about their business.

Nice one, Mexico.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mucho Caliente

Update from Mexico – It’s different than the U.S.

I’m not sure if you knew that or not, but I’m here at the southern tip of Baja California, and I can tell you from firsthand experience this week, it’s definitely different.

For starters, everyone here speaks Spanish. Like, one hundred percent of the people. That’s different than where I live in California, where only eighty-five percent of the people speak Spanish.

Secondly, the drivers here are suicidal, but also incredibly polite. If you are in another car, they will do everything in their power to run you off the road. If you are a pedestrian at a crosswalk, however, they could not be nicer or more accommodating. Imagine having crosswalks on the track at a Nascar race, and all the drivers are required to stop to let any pedestrians across or their cars will instantly explode. It’s kinda like that.

Sidewalks are also a major difference. Here in Mexico, sidewalks seem to be something they thought were a nice idea, but not necessarily mandatory. Often times your sidewalk will simply end, replaced by a field of rubble where the old sidewalk was inexplicably demolished and the remnants left in place. Other times the sidewalk will simply disappear, becoming a sand or dirt path for twenty or thirty feet before becoming a sidewalk again.

Occasionally the sidewalk will become impossibly skinny, as if the buildings all moved out toward the street and swallowed it. This usually happens somewhere with an incredibly high curb, so you end up negotiating the skinny section of sidewalk like a mountain climber moving across a narrow shelf on the face of a cliff.

And you can’t walk on the sidewalks with your head up, looking at the scenery. If you do, you will fall into one of the many open manholes and electrical or other utility boxes in the middle of the sidewalks without covers.

And there is construction everywhere, which isn’t that amazingly different, except here it occurs with no safety barriers in place for the general public. America has much more of a “We need to protect you from the dangerous work happening here” mentality, whereas Mexico has obviously adopted a more “Hey, idiot. Watch your own ass” philosophy. You are free to walk right up to the man operating the jackhammer and step through his rubble pile, but you do so at your own risk. Someone welding near your dinner table? That’s just how it goes. It’s on you to keep the hot slag and sparks out of your ceviche.

The language, construction, and driver differences are all very interesting, but they might be too subtle if you aren’t paying attention or if you’ve had one too many watermelon margaritas (which are phenomenal, by the way).

One international difference that is anything but subtle down here? The marketing of male erectile dysfunction drugs.

In America, Viagra and Cialis are marketed on television with almost appropriate for all ages television commercials. Usually, a rich and powerful salt and pepper-haired corporate executive and his beautiful younger wife are seen on vacation or out at a fancy dinner. They hold hands and gaze at each other lovingly as they make their way back to the well-appointed hotel room. “When the time is right, will you be ready?” the understanding and non-judgmental voiceover asks.

The commercials are very targeted in their vagueness. The people who ask, “Ready for what?” are not being marketed to. Then, in keeping with the “we need to protect you from everything” American way, they strongly advise you, the powerful and soon-to-be virile again CEO, to consult your doctor to make sure your heart is healthy enough for sexual activity.

(News flash – no man in the world has ever worried if his heart was healthy enough for sexual activity. The most infirmed of us might worry if we’re healthy enough for a light jog, or a brisk walk, but given the opportunity, sexual activity is always a green light. That’s how we all want to die, anyway.)

Not necessarily surprisingly, they took a different route here in Mexico. They decided the best way to advertise a pill for erectile dysfunction would be to make the blue Viagra pill into a cartoon character for window posters at pharmacies.

He stands at least six feet tall. His torso is the chiseled muscular semi-diamond-shaped blue Viagra pill. He has muscular arms and legs, and vibrant bushy eyebrows, narrowed across his brow in a triumphant smile. He is Viagra Man, or as they say here in Mexico, El Hombre de Viagra.

He has the word VIAGRA tattooed on one of his manly arms, and “MUCHO CALIENTE” scrawled in front of him, indicating – as if you didn’t already know – that he is very hot and spicy.

He stands with his feet spread wide and his hands victoriously on his hips. He wears a traditional huge round sombrero, dazzling white teeth, and the commanding jawline of a hero.

His only article of clothing is a bright red speedo, in the front of which he appears to be smuggling a medium-size burro.

Subtlety is not an issue with El Hombre de Viagra.

Well done, Mexico. Thanks for being so caliente!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tacos on the Brain

My wife and I are celebrating a decade and a half of marital bliss this year with the traditional fifteenth anniversary gift - tacos. What kind of tacos do you get the woman who has given you three amazing boys and has put up with your crap all these years?

Authentic Mexican tacos, of course.

In Mexico.

(We’re going to Mexico - that’s what I’m telling you.)

In just a few short days we’ll leave the kids behind with their grandma and head out for a week in San Jose del Cabo.

In case you don’t know where that is, it’s the other town on the end of Baja California, right next to Cabo San Lucas.

Cabo San Lucas is the town you go to when you’re young and want to play in the water all day and party with Sammy Hagar all night. San Jose del Cabo is the town you go to when you’re forty-five years old and don’t want to do upside-down tequila shots anymore.

My wife and I have been working together as a well-oiled marital machine now for fifteen years, so we are dividing up the chores to get ready to leave for a week in the same way we always have. When a team works this well together, there’s no reason to change things.

My main job, with any impending vacation, is to remain relaxed and act as the voice of reason. My wife hates this voice and refuses to listen to it. Her main job is to lose as much sleep as possible in the days leading up to travel, worrying about anything she can possibly dream up. And by “dream up,” I don’t mean actual dreams, because she’s awake in the middle of the night making lists.

My wife’s main concern seems to be the care and feeding of the children. I continue to remind her that they will have adult supervision – in fact, they will have incredibly experienced adult supervision in the form of the woman that got her on-the-job training supervising my wife. I then remind her that she survived childhood just fine, and even went on to thrive and create babies of her own, and we’ve been caring for them for so long now that we desperately need to leave them and go have authentic Mexican tacos without them, and they will be just fine eating mac ‘n cheese. This prompts her to write another shopping list.

She makes a list outlining all the school end-of-year field trips and activities that will occur while we’re gone. I remind her that the teachers know where to go, and every activity will start and end at the school, so Grandma doesn’t need to worry about it. She scowls at me and adds the school address to the list.

She makes an emergency contact list of neighbors for Grandma. I tell her that 911 is really the only number she’ll need. She asks me to do something useful. I Google “best tacos in Cabo” and save the locations to my phone.

She revises her packing list and decides a shopping trip is in order because she has nothing to wear for dinner on day four. I tell her the taco place won’t mind if she shows up in the same outfit. This does not help. She makes a list of all the lists she still needs to make.

Speaking of clothes, one of her other pre-vacation duties is to pack at least a week and a half ahead of time. I could understand that timeline if we were mounting an expedition to a remote part of the globe that had no civilization, like Antarctica or Detroit. But we’re going to a really nice resort in a modern Mexican tourist city. I am planning on packing my swim shorts, possibly another pair of shorts, my toothbrush, and a shirt. I will handle that the morning we leave, about ten minutes or so before we need to head for the airport.

(Just kidding. She’d kill me. I’ll pack at least an hour before we leave.)

I’m not kidding about the lists, though. She actually started writing me lists three or four months ago, with all kinds of things for me to do. I’ll give you a few examples of this crazy stuff if I can find one of them... Hang on… here it is.

1) Book hotel – OK, that one was pretty important. She sat me down at the computer and we did this one together. I don’t think she trusted me with it.

2) Figure out airport parking – C’mon! Not a problem. It’s an airport. Of course they have parking. No action required.

3) Make the cell phones work in Mexico – Why wouldn’t the cell phones work in Mexico? They work just fine in San Diego. No action required.

4) Get passports out – No sweat. They’re around here somewhere, in a drawer, or the kitchen, or maybe a box in the garage. I’ll find them easy enough. I can do that later.

5) Buy plane tickets - …

Uh… I have to go now. I just remembered something I need to take care of.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!