Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Have a Dream - A Father's Version - Part 2 - Repost

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday, I thought I would revisit my old “I Have a Dream” posts. I wrote this one six years ago, and unfortunately, much of it still rings true today. The only real difference between then and now is we no longer have diapers, the sippy cups have been replaced with easy-spill open-top plastic cups, and the six-year-old is now a twelve-year-old, so he can eat two chickens instead of just one. We really do need a raise and a giant refrigerator!


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. It is a Father’s Dream.

I have a dream that one day the people at Lego will take pity on my bare feet and finally round the sharp corners on their little plastic blocks.

I have a dream that one day my sons will pee in the toilet, instead of peeing on and around the toilet.

I have a dream that my sons will begin to think about putting a toy back where it goes, instead of throwing it over their shoulder when they’re done with it, or when they hear, “Dinner.”

I have a dream that eventually the daytime decibel level in my house will drop below the equivalent of a rock saw being destroyed by a jackhammer on a freight train.

I have a dream that one day we will be able to get my four-year-old tired enough that he will sleep past 5:30am.

I have a dream that someday soon my sons will be able to get out of bed, no matter what the hour, and go poop or get a drink of water without having to tell me about it.

I have a dream that I will change my last diaper on my child before I am old enough to need them myself.

I have a dream that the people who predict college tuition levels to rise 250% over the next 15-20 years have actually been smoking crack, and college is really getting cheaper.

I have a dream that somewhere, out there, there is a sippy-cup manufacturer that can actually make a container for milk that doesn’t leak when turned upside-down and slammed on the table by a two-year-old.

I have a dream that someday I will walk into my office and not find that my computer login name has been changed to bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbAW#4e5c by one of my sons randomly pushing buttons.

I have a dream that one day, taking the boys with me on an errand will not automatically add 45 minutes to that errand.

I have a dream that I will never again hear the words, "Daddy, help! I fell off the toilet while I was peeing." That I will never again have to deal with the cleanup of that unfortunate incident.

I have a dream that I can someday stop having to explain to the 911 dispatcher that my son was just playing with the buttons and they do not need to respond to my cell phone’s location.

I have a dream that a pharmaceutical company somewhere will eventually produce a safe and reliable children’s tranquilizer for short-term knockouts, so that we parents may sign escrow documents, or talk to the bank teller, or read the paper in peace.

I have a dream that someday I will hear about what actually happened at school, instead of hearing, “Nothing.”

I have a dream that the next call I receive from the principal will be to congratulate me on something outstanding my son did, instead of to discuss another “incident.”

I have a dream that someday we can find a food group that all five members of the family will willingly eat, besides bacon.

I have a dream that my three boys will somehow moderate their food intake to fit my budget, and not eat the entire contents of the refrigerator in one day. My six-year-old can eat a whole chicken, so I guess… I have a dream that someday soon food will get a lot cheaper, and giant refrigerators will go on sale.

And when this happens, I will sing:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Because teenagers clean up after themselves, are better behaved, quieter, and eat less, right? Right!?!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whoops, We HIPPA'd your TDaP

I’m confused, California. I just want to make sure I’m perfectly clear on what’s happening here...

I have a son in the sixth grade, attending a public school in our great state of California. Next year, if we’ve paid off the right people, he will go on to the seventh grade. Our public school district, operating in and under the authority of our great state of California just sent me, his parent, a notice about his immunization requirements for school. What?

The letter starts like this:
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, continues to threaten students in California. To help stop its spread, all incoming 7th graders are required by law to have proof of a whooping cough booster (TDaP) vaccine, or file an exemption, in order to attend classes this year. Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

Then you guys ask me, his parent, to please submit an immunization record for him. You see, this is the part that confuses me. He’s twelve, for goodness sake. You know he’s twelve because you know his birthdate, and you’re in charge of teaching him algebra, so I assume you guys can also do birthday math. So why are you sending this letter to me?

Don’t you remember the letter that your HIPPA folks sent me a few months ago when he turned twelve? Do your HIPPA people and your school district people not talk to each other over there?

How in the world am I supposed to tell you anything about his immunization record? Your HIPPA department just informed me that I don’t have access to his medical records anymore now that he’s all grown up, being twelve and all.

By the way, how old are your HIPPA people over there? I have to assume they’re all over one hundred and fifty years old. Is that why you chose the ripe old age of twelve? Because the people writing these laws are all from the good old days when everyone left the farm at twelve to get a job and needed to prove to their new employers that all their liniments, tonics, and salves against consumption and winter fever were up to date?

Anyway, if you want to know about his immunizations, you’ll obviously need to talk to him. Which leads me to the next thing I’m curious about. Are you just tired of having anyone over the age of twelve attend school?

Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

So, in case you’re slow on the uptake, let me recap this for you. You told the twelve-year-olds that their parents aren’t in charge of their medical decisions anymore. Then you told them that they have to do a medical thing or they can’t go to class. So, what you did there was tell twelve-year-olds that they are now in charge of deciding whether to go to school or not.

I would assume you school district folks have met twelve-year-olds before. You must see the problem here. Or do all your old-timey HIPPA people just want them to go get jobs? I can’t figure you guys out.

Speaking of that, there’s one more thing in this letter that I can’t figure out. I don’t mean to get all logical on you or anything, but you started the letter by saying that whooping cough continues to threaten students in California. Then you said to help stop its spread, students are required to have proof of a vaccine, or file an exemption?

So, just so I’m clear, one of the ways you plan to stop the spread of whooping cough is by collecting vaccine exemption letters? Was there even a meeting on this, or does Phil in the back cubicle just write down whatever the hell comes into his head and then sends it out to the parents?

Again, not to get all logical on you, but the only way that makes any sense is if the non-vaccinated kids are required to carry their exemption letters with them at all times to hold in front of their faces when they cough. Since my twelve-year-old regularly forgets to carry anything that isn’t physically attached to him, I don’t see that plan working.

Anyway, good luck getting my son’s vaccination records from him. He doesn’t know the name of his doctor, the name of his doctor’s medical practice, the name of our insurance provider, his insurance plan number, the telephone number to any of the aforementioned offices, the fact that he even has a vaccination record, or the name of his school district.

Basically he knows the name of his school and the exact time of each recess.

But I think everything will work out fine, you know, because he’s twelve now.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Crash Boom Bang

Sing to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. (For those of you under 40, Gilligan’s Island was a show about a bunch of people who could have easily gotten off an island if they had just killed and eaten Bob Denver. I assume you can YouTube the theme song.)

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from a snowy town,
and ended in a ditch.

The driver was a mighty steering man,
his wife worried and unsure,
three passengers in the back,
for a six-hour tour.
A six-hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
but the Suburban was going straight,
if not for the driver of the sliding Nissan,
we might have made it out of the state.
Made it out of the state.

The Suburban landed in a ditch,
on an uncharted stretch of road,
with Ron the tow guy,
Tow Truck Chuck, too,
the state trooper and his car.
Now the passengers,
the driver and his wife
are all at the Shilo Inn.

Yes, we started the New Year with a bang. Well, first an expletive, then a bang, then a ricochet, then a crunch, followed by eight more simultaneous bangs as all the airbags in our Suburban deployed. Good times.

I’ve always been comfortable driving in the snow. I was born and raised near the Sierras, one of the biggest, baddest mountain ranges known to man. I understand what chains and four-wheel-drive can and can’t do for me. I actually kind of like driving in the snow.

So when it started snowing heavily on our way from Grants Pass, Oregon to Crescent City, California on Monday afternoon, I didn’t sweat it. I just put the Suburban in 4WD, slowed down, increased my following distance, and powered through the curves. My wife was not as relaxed. She’s the smart one.

I think it was the first car that was upside down on the side of the road that made her worry. And when I say upside down, I mean literally sitting on its roof in the ditch.

How? Why? What the hell is the matter with you people?

Oh, well. Some people just can’t drive.

Hey, look. There’s a pickup truck UPSIDE DOWN in the ditch.

Hmm... two cars sitting on their roofs within a mile of each other.

Now, for some people, that might have been a warning. Not me, though. I just shrugged and said, “They were probably just going too fast.”

My only precautionary thought on the whole drive was, “I wish this was a divided highway. I know I’m not going to screw up, but what about the oncoming traffic.”

Dennis, who used to drive a black four-door Nissan sedan, was on his way home at the same time we were on our way to Crescent City. Unfortunately for us, Dennis was one of the cars in our oncoming traffic. And unfortunately for everyone involved, Dennis had successfully talked himself out of stopping to chain up, since he was only a few miles from home and had made it this far.

Then Dennis stopped making it any further and slid into our lane.

The lady in front of me in the Lexus SUV was able to avoid him by driving into the ditch. I tried the same maneuver, but didn’t have quite enough road or time to get it done. About a split second after I swore loudly under my breath, we hit the little Nissan almost head-on. The ‘almost’ was probably the key to how well things went after that.

I had started to dive off the road, so I hit him with the driver’s side headlight area of my Suburban, pretty much square in the middle of his front bumper. Thankfully, that sent us ricocheting into the ditch instead of continuing through his car. We went twenty feet down the bank and slammed into the snow, which deployed all eight airbags. It was loud.

(FYI, airbags smell like metallic gunpowder and make the inside of the car smoky, which my wife does not like in the least.)

Amazingly, the five of us, Dennis, and his passenger all walked away without so much as a scratch. Given the fact that we hit hard enough for airbags, and the entire front of Dennis’ car was missing, we all considered that nothing short of miraculous.

Now, if you’re going to crash into Dennis and then into a ditch in pretty much the middle of nowhere on US-199 in Oregon, I highly recommend mile post 19, because that’s where Dave lives. Dave was checking on us before we were all out of the car. Dave was directing traffic and setting out flares right away. Dave was on his cell phone calling the state patrol for us before the airbag smoke had settled. Dave even opened up his shop for us so my wife could sit somewhere warm. Dave rocks. Dave got beer money.

Another perk to mile post 19 is Cheryl’s Bar and Grill. Unfortunately, Cheryl wasn’t open at the time, but her bar and grill has a covered porch that is really handy in a heavy snow storm. It sure beat spending three hours standing in the forest.

When crashing near Grants Pass, I would also recommend Caveman Towing. Besides their really cool logo of a caveman dragging a car with a rope, Ron and Chuck are pros.

When getting a cheap room late at night in Grants Pass, I would also recommend the Shilo Inn. Sure, the hallways smelled like mildew, but the room didn’t, the bed was comfy, and the boys loved the make-your-own waffle machine at the complimentary continental breakfast buffet. Also, its proximity to Caveman Towing and Enterprise Rent-A-Car make it a convenient choice.

I tentatively recommend Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Grants Pass, only because of the wait. The service was excellent, but apparently everyone in Grants Pass rents cars when it snows. Who knew? The perfect Suburban in the parking lot was unfortunately reserved, but the Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn four-door pickup with the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI and 8-speed automatic transmission was up for grabs. Mine!

When shopping for a tarp to cover a Suburban’s worth of soft-sided luggage, pillows, blankets, shopping bags full crap, etc. in the back of a Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn HEMI in a snow storm, I highly recommend the Grants Pass Bi-Mart. The 10’ x 18’ medium-duty outdoor tarp is perfect for the job, and on sale right now for $9.97.

And finally, when the two coolers you thought would hold the tarp down on I-5 fail to do their job, I highly recommend the Ace Hardware in Rogue River, Oregon. They sell 40-pound bags of wood chips for $6.99 that perfectly match the woodchips under your play structure at home. Nothing does a better job of keeping your all-weather tarp snuggly protecting your luggage than two hundred and eighty pounds of mulch.

One thing I certainly won’t recommend... meeting Dennis the way we did. Stay safe out there, folks, and remember: If the little voice in the back of your head is saying “I don’t like this,” or your wife is sitting next to you saying the same thing, it pays to listen!

Adios, Suburban. We’ll miss you, but I guess it’s time to go car shopping. Maybe I can leave my wife at home this time. That HEMI really had some get up and go...

What’s that my little voice is telling me? Never mind. Probably not important.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Be Best Life!

I got the best Christmas gift EVER this year. It’s a crappy ninety-nine-cent as-seen-on-TV plastic bag sealer that is really hard to operate and works poorly. I could care less about the bag sealer. I am in love with the little cardboard box it came in.

The WORKWONDER SUPERSEALER is made in China by a Chinese company that obviously has two copywriters. One of these people has some background in using the English language. We’ll call him Bob. The other has to be the owner’s son, and after disappointing performances in many different departments, copywriter was the least harmful position his dad could think of to stick him. We’ll assume the owner’s name is Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang doesn’t know any English either. Bob is obviously terrified of Mr. Wang and won’t tell him that Son of Wang partied continuously for four years at the international university in Beijing and knows no English whatsoever.

In a few places on the box, Bob invites me to Just slide SUPERSEALER across bags to seal in freshness!

Son of Wang tells me, Relaxed onepulls, guarantees quality to retain freshness. Based on what we get from Son of Wang in his main paragraph, I guarantee Bob helped him with the last half of that sentence.

Here’s Bob’s effort on selling us on the amazing benefits of the SUPERSEALER:

Finally an inexpensive and easy way to perfectly reseal unused poutions of food. This amazing new SUPERSealer creates an airtight seal that locks in freshness.
You simply slids SUPERSealer along the edge of any bag and it’s sealed airtight. It’s that easy. You’ll not only save on storage bags, but you can save even more buying bulk at warehouse clubs. Just use your SUPERSealer to reseal any unused portions over and over again!

I never claimed that Bob was great. I just said he has some background in English. He’s not the best speller, but I do have to give him credit for using American sayings like, “locks in freshness,” and “it’s that easy.” That would suggest that he has a better than average grasp on American English than your standard WORKWONDER employee.

Here’s what Son of Wang had to offer us. I swear, I am not making any of this up, and keep in mind, folks, this is written on the SAME BOX as Bob’s paragraph.

Have sometimes been able to affect your state of mindbecause of a lot of situation such as damp , becomingmildewed , depraved , water leaking from in the dailylife, have used you feel very vexed , good under this , have had the convenient plastic bag of new model seal implement , have all have made stable , no matter howvexed your nonutility be. Collection such as all food , clothing and other articales of daily use , postage stamp, you have put plastic bag lining inside as long as with them , seal machine has taken form lightly with convenient adheaive tape of new model as soon as the fault , one have protection against the tide , mould proof, the herm etic sealing bag retaining freshness. Such is simple , the simplicity is comfortable, be best life!

After reading the box about a hundred times (and laughing out loud every single time), I have to assume this conversation took place at the WORKWONDERS office prior to printing the box:

“My dad wants you to proofread my copy, Bob. What do you think?”
“This is the most unintelligible thing anyone has ever written. What the hell, Wang?”
“My dad is the owner. I’ll have you fired.”
“Looks great. Let’s print that box!”

Thank you, Son of Wang, for giving my family our new motto for 2017.

Be best life!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gift of Life - Repost

This year for Christmas I got my wife new non-stick cookware that I will personally use almost one hundred percent more than she will. For some reason, that made me think of Christmas three years ago when I gave my wife a new shower mirror for me.

Here’s the explanation. Enjoy!

December 25, 2013

Of all the modern-day Christmas miracles out there, the one that stands out the most to me is the female of the species. Sure, there are many miraculous things about women - childbirth, ability to multi-task, speed of emotional state changes, willingness to ask directions, and the list goes on and on. But I’m talking about a very specific skillset that women have, that gets highlighted during the holidays - The ability to wrap gifts.

Sure, anyone with opposable thumbs can wrap a box up with paper, but women possess the unique ability to do it without having it end up looking like it was done by a drugged chimpanzee with an unnatural love for Scotch tape.

I am a reasonably smart guy, insofar as I can brush my own teeth and dress myself. I can drive a car, heat up canned food without burning the house down (knock on wood), and even do algebra problems with less than two variables. I was trained by a world-class university in California to be an engineer, and they even gave me a diploma. (Although it was never signed... When I asked them about that, they said, “Just take it and go!”)

Legitimate college diploma or not, you would think that a man who can set his own alarm clock would be able to get better at gift wrapping as the years went on. Sadly, that is not the case. I seem to be getting worse, actually. I don’t even bother trying to put bows on gifts anymore. The bow was meant to increase a gift’s appeal – adding to its beauty. My attempts at bows have the exact opposite effect, making the gift look even more like it was attacked by wolverines prior to ending up under the Christmas tree.

I apparently lack every skill necessary to make a present look attractive, because I can’t even use gift bags correctly. When they first became popular I thought gift bags were my salvation, until my wife informed me that you must put tissue paper on top of the gift, and have some of it stick out of the top of the bag. Sounds simple enough, and she makes it look so easy, but try as I might I cannot even put a simple piece of tissue paper in a bag and have it protrude properly. It always ends up looking like I am giving you an unwanted bag of used tissue paper instead of an enticing and mysterious gift.

There is an upside to my total lack of skill with wrapping paper, however. I am never asked to help with the Santa gifts. We want Christmas to remain magical for as long as possible with our boys, and even my five-year-old would know something was amiss when he saw my ridiculously lopsided end folds.

I only had to wrap one present this year. I took my time, concentrated, started over a few times, and it still looks like I wrapped it with my feet. I am just never going to be good at it. While I may be horrible with the wrapping paper, I must say, I am a genius when it comes to the gift itself. This year I got my wife the gift of life. My life.

What better gift for a spouse than a gift that helps ensure her partner will be around for many more years to walk through this crazy world with her, hand in hand? What magical gift is this, you may ask? The answer is simple. I bought my wife a new shower mirror for me.

Confused? So was she. Go figure.

It’s really quite simple. We have a mirror in our shower that I use to shave. It’s a 6-inch round plastic-framed mirror that is attached to the shower wall at my face level with a suction cup. The suction cup is getting old. Twice in the last few months, the suction cup has failed to do its job of sucking, and the mirror has fallen off the wall and loudly down onto the floor of the shower. Both times this happened it was the middle of the night. When the shower mirror bangs around at the bottom of the shower in the middle of the night, the glass shower walls have an amplifying effect that makes it sound as if a truck has just driven through the wall of the bathroom and completely destroyed the shower.

When I hear a truck drive through the wall of our house and obliterate our shower in the middle of the night, I sit bolt upright in bed with my heart going approximately five thousand beats per minute. Over the roar of the blood jack-hammering in my ears I hear my wife mumble, “It’s just your shower mirror,” as she casually rolls over to go back to sleep. I have no idea how she stays so calm, but I am positive that my heart cannot take a third shower mirror suction cup failure.

So, to ensure that my wife has a live husband going forward, I bought her a new shower mirror. This time with a more permanent wall attachment than a suction cup.

Thoughtful? I thought so. All she said was, “Oh look. You gave yourself a new mirror. What a great gift for me.”

I assumed that she would have immediately understood the underlying implications of a long and happy marriage that will be given to us by this simple new mirror, but her tone of voice seemed more than a little sarcastic. Hmm…

Well, it might not have been the most well-received gift ever, but at least the wrapping job sucked.

Merry Christmas, baby.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, December 14, 2016

The 2016 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

Admit it. You’ve spent all your holiday energy since Cyber Monday glued to your computer screen. Amazon now gets nervous and calls you if five minutes pass without you adding something to your cart. UPS and FedEx both have a guy who’s just assigned to your house. You’re expanding your Christmas list to include people you met once on a vacation ten years ago, just so you can justify buying that amazing picnic basket wine opener that doubles as a tire iron.

You are the reigning champion of online shopping. But do you know one thing you forgot? Your Christmas letter. You fool! It’s too late now. It will never get to everyone on time. Even Amazon Prime next day express locker pick-up can’t help you now, because personalized Christmas letters are the one thing Amazon doesn’t have. They sell corn litter, car lashes, cheese logs, coconut lotion, and concrete lions, but not Christmas letters.

But never fear. You know who has Christmas letters every year? For FREE? Yep, ol’ Smidgey Claus, that’s who. Take that, Jeff Bezos.

I’ve created another handy do-it-yourself template to help you crank out your 2016 Christmas letter in no time flat. As with previous years’ templates, just fill in your last name(s) in the blank and circle the appropriate choices, and you're in business. Now back away from that Add to Cart button and get to work. You’re welcome!

Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas to (all/a select few) of our friends and family. This year was another (blessing/real winner) for all of us here at the _______________ family.

Dad can’t say (enough/anything good) about his (care team/luck) at the (hospital/track) this year. He was (injured/wiped out) by a horse (on a trail ride/named Lucky Sevens) when it spooked (from a snake/out of the gate) and threw (him/the jockey) to the (ground/third row of the stands). He busted his (hip/entire year’s salary), but he said the thing that hurt the most was his (pride/bookie’s brass knuckles). He’s been doing (physical therapy/odd jobs) and is all healed up now and ready to get back (on/to betting) the horses.

Mom is still (volunteering/incarcerated) at the women’s (shelter/prison). There seems to be no end to her (heart for service/wicked ways). She had an opportunity for (travel/early parole) this year, and (took/blew) it. She went off (to Spain/the rails) with her (girlfriends/prison gang). They (danced/fought), (sang/looted), and even (ran with the bulls/shanked a rival gang member). It seems as if they may have started a (yearly tradition/full-scale prison riot). Whatever the case, she got (the travel bug/time added to her sentence) so we won’t be seeing (as much/any) of her in the next few years!

Sister is busy with her (executive career/exotic dancing) during the (day/evening) and her (three/six) kids during the (evening/day). We don’t know (how/why) she does it! Her (loving/latest) (husband/baby daddy) is such a huge (supporter/enabler) for her. They are even thinking of (buying/renting) a (vacation home/10x12 space) at the (beach/U-Store-It) as a second home! We’re all waiting for (our invitation/the next guy).

Brother is still heavily involved in (his church/illegal street racing). He has become a (deacon/gang leader) and heads up the (children’s ministry/Flaming Nitros). He is such a (light/menace) to so many of our (youth/citizens). Even with all that, he still manages to hold down a job at (Intel/Arby’s) in the (design/horsey sauce) department, and raise (his kids/hell) with his (wonderful wife/hooker girlfriend).

As for us, things couldn’t be (better/more depressing). My (amazing/unbearable) wife is (nominated/leaving me) for a (Grammy/Walmart clerk) and she deserves (it/him) more than anything! I just received a (promotion/pink slip) at work, and I’ll be moving to a corner (office/bar) soon. The kids are all (thriving/flunking) at school, and driving to and from (sporting events/juvenile court) seems to be our main activity.

As for you, well, our wish is that you are having as (blessed/crappy) a holiday season as we are. If that’s the case, we know you’re (doing great/in the same boat), and we can rest easy with the knowledge that (life is wonderful/at least it’s not just us).

Merry Christmas!

You’re welcome! Now just sign, copy and send. You’re all set.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, December 7, 2016

HIPPA Critical

Son Number One just turned twelve years old. I have a news flash for you. Most eighteen-year-olds are idiots. What do those two things have in common? Health care, obviously.

Eighteen-year-olds are, by definition, still teenagers, and therefore some of the most irrational and irresponsible creatures on the planet. Teenagers are worse than toddlers, actually, because their brains work exactly the same, but teenagers have cars.

Why am I focusing on eighteen-year-olds? Because they shouldn’t be in charge of anything. Whomever decided that eighteen was the age to become an adult probably just couldn’t stand having the kid living in their house any longer and wanted to be legally allowed to evict them.

Since twelve-year-olds are younger than eighteen-year-olds, do you know who else shouldn’t be in charge of anything? Twelve-year-olds, that’s who. Makes sense, right? Well, not to the government, I guess. Those braniacs just put my twelve-year-old son in charge of his own health care decisions.

I was not expecting that to happen, because I am a rational adult human, so it never even occurred to me that something as asinine as that would even be possible until I tried to log into our health insurance website the other day. Son Number One was missing from my list of family members on the plan.

I just figured it was a website maintenance issue, since we had just gotten home from his doctor’s visit. After further investigation I found out that HIPPA decided that twelve was the perfect age for health care independence.

HIPPA apparently stands for HighAndMighty Idiots Patronizingly Parenting AllOurKidsForUs. Who comes up with these crazy acronyms, anyway? The folks over at the government health care office have made it illegal for me to have unfettered access to my own child’s medical records.

Hmm... Well, that seems really dumb. I know my sons’ doctor had nothing to do with this, because he is a doctor, so he has an actual, working brain. Unfortunately, it’s his office that gets to deal with the aftermath of this HIPPA stupidity.

My twelve-year-old is now in charge of his own health care decisions. OK, fine. One health care decision is whether or not to pay for your health care. I’ll let you give him a call about billing for that office visit. He doesn’t have a phone, or a credit card, or any money at all, or a clue, so good luck. When you do get a hold of him somehow and ask him for money, he’s going to talk to you about Star Wars, so be ready for that conversation to not go your way. If you try to call me to get payment, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to refer you to the rigid HIPPA guidelines. Sorry.

At our recent office visit, he got the first of his HPV shots. It’s a two shot process, and he needs the next one in a year. Good luck with scheduling that. Like I said, he doesn’t have a phone, but he does have a gmail account for school, so I guess you could try sending him an email. But be warned, if you include the word ‘papilllomavirus’ you’re going to lose him. He’ll just assume it’s a language he doesn’t know and then he’ll go play kickball.

You could keep it simple and say ‘come to the doctor,’ but he has no idea where your office is. Seriously, it could be a block from our house and he still wouldn’t know. He knows where Blaze Pizza and Cold Stone Creamery are, though. Maybe you could meet him at one of those places. I’m afraid I won’t be able to drive him over to your office, because I don’t want to risk being seen as coercing him into anything under the HIPPA guidelines. Your best bet would be to actually send someone over to the middle school with the syringe and corner him at lunch.

Since I’ll need to let him schedule his next appointment, if you guys aren’t willing to track him down, you should see him back at the doctor’s office when he’s about thirty-eight years old. He probably won’t be going to a pediatrician any more by then, so you may have seen the last of him thanks to HIPPA.

Also, I’m just perusing the six-page health care instructional handout you mistakenly handed me during the office visit. I left it for him to read, but it ended up wadded up with his gum stuck to it. I guess he wasn’t all that interested in reading up on his most pressing twelve-year-old health care issues. Perhaps that’s because he’s twelve. Tough to say.

Anyway, most of the immunizations and testing page was illegible due to the Juicy Fruit, but I did notice there were sections on nutrition, screen time, and sleep. Now that my twelve-year-old is in charge of all this stuff, and since he apparently has no interest in reading your helpful tips, you might want to come over and talk to him. He’ll be the one in a twelve-year-old boy-shaped divot on the couch, catatonic in front of the TV, surviving on root beer and pita chip crumbs from the cushions.

Maybe we could get the school nurse to give him some advice. That is, if he decides to go to school at all. Am I allowed to insist that he goes to school anymore, now that he’s all grown up? I guess I should check the governmental regulations on that.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, November 30, 2016

Get the LED Out

Once again, Early January Smidge has screwed over Late November Smidge. Thanks for writing me a note or something, you idiot. I honestly don’t know what I’m thinking sometimes.

If you have read this column for any length of time, you know how I feel about Christmas lights. For the uninitiated, here’s a brief summary: I hate them. And I love them. It’s complicated. I love to see them on my house when they’re all working. It’s magical. I don’t really mind the chore of putting them up and taking them down, either. I just despise them more than anything on the planet when they don’t work. The five-foot section of uncooperative lights in the middle of the string is my mortal nemesis. “Hate” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my feelings toward non-functional light strings.

Apparently, for me, owning and operating Christmas lights is like having a baby. Sure, lights can be expensive and uncooperative like kids, and some are brilliant and some are not so bright, just like kids, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the way that God doesn’t allow you to remember anything about what it was really like when you had the newborn, or you’d never do it again.

It’s only when you have the second kid and you’re going through all the sleepless nights of crying and wailing - some of it even from the baby - that you remember what the first one was like. It’s then that you stare at each other and say, “What were we thinking?” Then you do it a third time and start to question whether or not you are really truly sane.

Much like the first few months with a newborn, I only have a foggy memory of my struggle with the lights last year. I seem to recall a few issues with outages, but when it came time to put them up again this year, they weren’t there. All I know is when I opened up the plastic tub that was supposed to contain my icicle lights, there were no icicle lights.

Where are they? I opened up a tub marked “Extra X-mas Lights” but they weren’t there either. I picked up a random string of old mini lights and saw the black film on the inside of one of the bulbs and it all came flooding back to me. The bitter cold January day. The bitterness in my heart. The ladder. The trash can directly under the ladder receiving the light strings as they came off the eaves...

It seems I threw out all my old icicle lights last year when I took them down, and I was either so upset at all the five-foot outages, or so traumatized by the sheer amount of little incandescent bulbs that had gone completely black on the inside, never to light up again, that I must have completely blocked out the incident.

Thanks again for the heads up, Early January Smidge. You can be a real pain.

Just like with our three boys, I decided to take the lemons life had handed me and make lemonade. (The boys love to have a lemonade stand when the neighbors bring us lemons. What did you think I meant?) Late November Smidge put a smile on his face and declared, “This is the year we will upgrade to the completely hassle-free LED icicle lights! They don’t burn out.”

Then I realized I was alone in the garage talking to myself, so I went inside and declared the same thing to my wife.

“Great weekend to buy lights,” she said. “Good call, Einstein.”


This was, of course, happening this past weekend on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is National Husbands Put up the Christmas Lights Day.

The Thanksgiving week schedule is as follows:

Pre-Black Friday Sales Wednesday
Thanksgiving Thursday
Black Friday
Put up the Christmas Lights while your Wife goes to the Black-Friday-All-Weekend-Long Sales Saturday
Leftover Turkey and Football while your Wife Mops up at the Black-Friday-All-Weekend-Long Sales Sunday
Cyber Monday
Giving Tuesday (and Last Chance for Cyber Monday Deal Extensions Tuesday)
Look up the Credit Card Balance and Have a Mild Cardiac Incident Wednesday

There are only two things in the entire known universe not on sale the weekend after Thanksgiving: Christmas lights and extension cords. Thankfully, I also needed a new extension cord.

I pried the smoking credit card from my wife’s hand and headed to my local Home Improvement Warehouse. I knew right where to go, since the Christmas decorations section has been up since August. With six strings of amazing LED icicle light technology and one extension cord, I smiled at the checkout lady, inserted my credit card into the chip reader, then closed my eyes, stuck my fingers in my ears, and said la-la-la-la-la until the transaction was complete.

Back to the house I went, impending joy brimming in my heart at the thought of never having to chase down an icicle light bulb outage again. LED’s, after all, are magical computer-like technology, or something. Who knows what they really are, but they don’t burn out like regular light bulbs, so I’m happy.

Up they go onto the eaves, powered up by the brand new extension cord, just as dusk is falling on a brisk November evening. Brilliant electronic artificially bright white light illuminates the front of our house making all my Christmas wishes come tru... What in the actual hell is that?

Five stinkin’ feet of LED icicle light string, completely dead, right in the center of the house.

Get the trash can. I quit.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, November 23, 2016

I'm Thankful for Witches and Cereal

The list of things I’m thankful for is long, and includes my family, nachos, our church, orthopedic insoles, my health, generic Advil, good friends, and pretty much any pork product, just to name a few.

I am also very thankful for my job as an author, because it allows me to visit so many elementary-age students and attempt to inspire them to do big things. I even get to create stories with some of them. I’ve been writing progressive fairy tales with the kindergarten classes at our elementary school for years now. Each child adds the next sentence to the story, and they are hilarious.

On this Thanksgiving eve, I am especially thankful for an organization called RPAL – the Roseville Police Activities League – and for its director, Vivi Nevarez, and all the volunteers that help run this great after school and summer activities program. The mix of kids is everywhere from your run-of-the-mill elementary schooler looking for a fun afternoon program all the way to some very at-risk youth who could be one misstep away from a much different life. Most of the kids come from low-income, single-parent homes or foster care.

RPAL and programs like it all across the country are known to be the largest organized crime prevention programs we have as a nation, and the people who dedicate their lives to facilitating these programs cannot be thanked enough.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to come do an author workshop with the RPAL kids yesterday, and we wrote a progressive fairy tale with a group of twelve young people ranging from second grade to high school.

It was a room full of wonderful imaginations. An obvious love of cereal, combined with some Harry Potter and Hansel and Gretel influences, as well as a ton of good old-fashioned making stuff up brings us this:


The Cinnamon Toast Crunch Incident (Alternate title: Maybe We Just Go to the Store Next Time)

By Oliver, Marvin, Messiah, Aiden, Jonathan, Kimberly, Carolyn, Jazmin, Jasmine, Cassie, Gianna and Cianna

Once upon a time there was a funny talking robot tennis ball named Jack, who bounced around from place to place. He was friends with a fast orange turtle named Raisin who was generally mean to everyone he met.

One day they desperately wanted to eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, but they had no milk. They naturally decided to go look for a magical cow to milk in the deep dark forest. After three suns and two moons of fruitless searching for a milk cow, they encountered a dark, evil witch.

Before they could resist, the witch cast a spell on them with her twisted magical wand that was made with the feather of a Phoenix, and they found themselves floating into her dark, creepy house.

Jack and Raisin were floating past the witch when Jack used his extendable robot arm, that could extend over five hundred million thousand feet. He extended his arm like lightning and grabbed the magic wand out of the evil witch’s hand.

Unfortunately, she had a second wand, and she pulled it out of her cloak and used it to continue levitating them into her huge oven. The door slammed behind them and the fire came to life under them.

Jack, thinking quickly, used the first wand that he was still holding in his extendable hand to conjure up a full-size cow inside the oven with them. The cow broke the oven open with its enormous body, and immediately kicked the evil witch right in head and sent her flying one thousand billion trillion feet into the air.

With the witch gone for good, the black and white cow just stood there mooing at the two friends. Jack used the magic wand to levitate their Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal to the witch’s kitchen table, then politely asked the cow if they could milk her.

The cow was nice enough to say yes, and the two friends finally enjoyed their delicious breakfast. After they were done eating, Jack and the cow jumped onto Raisin’s back, and the super-fast turtle ran them all the way home. When they got there, they filled their whole house with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and milked the magical cow for one trillion years until the whole house was a gigantic bowl of cereal.

The end.

Thank you Vivi, and all the other RPAL rock stars, for the opportunity to come hang out with your kids for a few hours and bring this story to life. I am very thankful for your tireless dedication. Keep up the good work!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, November 16, 2016

My Nerves Have Expired

Attention young people: You’re screwed.

No, this is not another column about the election. No one wants that. This is about getting old. No one wants that either, but like this last election, apparently we can’t avoid it.

Depending on your age, you may hear “getting old” and think about mortgages, or having loud, snot-covered children, or being forced to drive a minivan. There must be some sort of federal law or something requiring it, right? Why else would people drive minivans? No one would do that voluntarily, right?

You have a point about the minivans, but those things are not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about joints. No, not that kind of joint, California voters. I told you this wasn’t about the election. Try to focus, you bunch of stoners. I’m talking about knees and shoulders.

If you are still in your twenties or early thirties you never think about your joints, because you are still made of rubber and steel. If you are in the vicinity of forty, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Forty years old is the exact warranty expiration date on the human body. Things just give up. Things just quit working. Some parts can be fixed with a tiny pill, but those little Advils don’t work on everything. Wait... what did you think I was talking about? Oh, you! Never mind that, I want to talk about shoulders.

A few months ago while coaching baseball, my forty-four-year-old arm threw a ball high into the air to a waiting little-leaguer in the outfield. Unfortunately, it was the first baseball I had thrown that day. That was a huge mistake. When your arm is past its expiration date like mine is, you are required to swing it around a little and stretch it for anywhere from a couple of minutes to a day and a half before trying something crazy like throwing a ball.

I immediately felt a twinge in my shoulder and heard the distinct ‘pop’ of physics colliding with old age in my rotator cuff. I did not find it the least bit humerus.

Now, if I were a forty-four-year-old woman, I would have simply stopped throwing baseballs. But since I am a forty-four-year-old man, I said to myself, “No problem, I’ll just swing my arm around a few times before I throw fifty more baseballs to these kids.”    

I spent the next month not being able to throw a baseball at all while my expired tendons and muscles, bathed in two hundred thousand milligrams of ibuprofen, struggled to repair themselves. When I was in college I could have broken my leg in the morning and it would have healed by dinnertime.

Since I knew exactly what caused the injury, I never bothered to see a doctor or do any research. I just washed some more Advil down with a beer that I opened left-handed. Eventually it healed up and I was once again in prime shape. Fast forward to this past Thursday when I woke up with the same shoulder aching.

Thursday morning: Ouch. My shoulder aches.
Thursday afternoon: Man, this is getting worse.
Thursday evening: I can no longer use my right arm for anything useful.
Thursday night: I’m going to take a thousand milligrams of Advil and try to sleep.
Late Thursday night/Early Friday morning: [awake] Ow!
Friday morning: I can’t do anything except hold my arm against my body. Someone please soap me.

What did I do to my arm? I can’t for the life of me remember any baseball throwing, aggressive gardening, making a bed, grocery bag lifting, or any of the other diabolical activities that take down us old people. I didn’t do anything! Why does my arm hurt so bad?!?

There was only one thing to do. What every old person with an unexplained pain and a computer does - go to WebMD.

Oh, great. Frozen Shoulder. Starts from under use or over use. I’ve done both. Comes on after an injury. Check. Due to scar tissue. I’m sure I have some of that.

The really good news - Takes a year to heal. Super, I’m going to need to hire an assistant to wipe my butt. How much do you have to pay that person per hour? Try not to think about it.

Friday afternoon: My left arm is stuck in the steering wheel trying to get the keys in the ignition.
Friday night: I yearn for the sweet release of death.
Late Friday night/Early Saturday morning: [awake] Ow!
Saturday morning: Hmm... I think the beer and Advil are working. Feels slightly better this morning.
Saturday afternoon: The pain is going away really fast. It almost feels good now.
Saturday evening: It’s like it never happened. My arm is perfect.

I have completely conquered frozen shoulder! One year, my patootie. Try one DAY! I’m like Superman!

Hmm... Superman might be a stretch. Maybe I should check back on WebMD. Hmm... Pinched Nerve. That’s a new one. Symptoms sure do line right up, though.

So, I pinched a nerve in my shoulder Wednesday night. That’s just great. Superman apparently hurt himself while sleeping.

I’m telling you, young people, you’re screwed. My advice to you – buy stock in Advil. And enjoy your bodies while they still work!

I would say enjoy your joints, but I don’t want you California voters to get the wrong idea.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, November 9, 2016

The Breakfast Club

It’s the day after election day in the craziest and most undesirable presidential election any of us have ever seen. Since Just a Smidge is not a political column, the only endorsement you’ll find here is for the Nacho Party. We love nachos here, and this is nacho political endorsement. I’m not here today to discuss the candidates or the new president, even if you wanted to, which you really don’t. You just want a drink. Go get one and come back. I’ll wait...


Even if I wanted to discuss how deeply ridiculous and troubling the quality of this presidential race was - which I don’t - that would be the wrong thing to worry about in this process. We should really be focusing on how ridiculous our election system is.

Don’t even get me started on the electoral college. Seriously, I can’t start. I don’t know what it is or why it is whatever it is. I was apparently absent during that day/week/month of middle school or junior high or high school or college when I was supposed to be taught how this whole thing works.

What I do know about it is that if you live in a state that doesn’t agree with your political views, it totally invalidates your vote.

Imagine this scenario. Ten people are trying to choose a movie to watch. You vote for Movie A, but you are sitting on a couch with four other people and three of them chose Movie B. The other couch had four people choose Movie A and only one chose movie B. Your Movie A won the popular vote six to four, but since your couch can only hold five people, and the other couch can hold eight, you all have to play Jenga instead of watching a movie. That’s how the electoral college works.

But never mind that. Just put that out of your head because there’s nothing we can do about the electoral college. Majority voting is unthinkable, and besides, counting every single vote, preventing people from voting twice, and preventing non-citizens or people who aren’t registered to vote from voting in this day and age is completely unrealistic.

We simply don’t have the technology. It’s not like we all have unique numbers assigned to us at birth that could be tracked in some sort of electronic database or something. That’s just crazy talk. Hang on, let me use my phone to track the exact location of my UPS package real quick...

OK, I’m back. That only took four seconds. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. We don’t have the technology to get rid of the electoral college. Let’s focus instead on the fact that we have a multiple political party system where only two of the parties ever get to debate for your vote. Sure, Washington D.C. likes to placate you with some preliminary debates with a stage full of candidates, but come closer to election time the “presidential debates” only feature two out of the six candidates.

If they let all six candidates debate, you the voter might screw up the nice two-party system they love so much. It would be a whole lot harder to funnel all those tax dollars into their brother-in-law’s pockets if a bunch of Libertarian or Peace and Freedom party losers were hanging around D.C. watching what’s going on.

Since the two-party system is the only way to keep all the money and power in the hands of the little club that knows what’s best for you, the lowly voter, it’s best if they don’t let you get too out of control with a lot of choices.

Think of it in terms of breakfast cereal, since it’s harder to do this example with nachos.

You can only have one breakfast cereal for the next four years, but since this is a free country, you get to choose. There are at least six cereals to choose from. One out of six is pretty good odds. You should be able to find one you like.

OK, let’s get to taste-testing.

Great. Here are your two choices.

Wait, what about the six?

We decided you didn’t need to sample the other four.

But I wanted to try all six.

No. Two is enough for a taste test.

But you didn’t even let me choose which two I get to taste.

These two are our best sellers. Just taste these two.

But I want to taste all six.

We don’t have the time or the money for all that tasting.

That’s ridiculous. Just give them to me and I’ll taste them all.

No can do. Just taste these two here and choose one.

What if I don’t like either of them?

No problem. You can always choose any one of the six.

But I have no idea what they taste like!

Look at the boxes.

How do I know what’s inside?

We labeled them for you.

That’s ridiculous. I can’t choose without tasting them.

You have to pick.

This is ridiculous.

It’s time.

Well, crap. I guess I’ll take this one.

Sorry, you’re on the wrong couch.

That’s the U.S. election process, folks. Until we vote them ALL out, nothing changes. Enjoy your crap-tastic flax nuggets with extra yellow dye number five.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, November 2, 2016

Flaming Surgical Laser Farts

You might think you’re having a bad day. Things aren’t going well at home or at work. Your cat ran away and no one on the internet has been able to locate it for you. Your kids are misbehaving at school and no one on the internet has any good answers. Your boss is an idiot and he noticed that you mentioned that fact on the internet. You have slow internet.

Hey, you may have even voted by mail already, and had to write your own name in for president because, even with no political experience whatsoever, you’re still the most qualified name on the paper.

Whatever it is, I understand. Things look bleak.

But it could always be worse. Your bright side? Flaming surgical laser farts, of course.

A headline in my news feed yesterday caught my eye and once again proved that Japan is still leading the league in weird.

Tokyo, Japan - Woman passes gas during surgery; suffers burns, causes fire in operating room

A woman passed gas during a surgical procedure, sparking a fire in the operating room and even caused her to be seriously burned, according to the Miami Herald.

A fart bomb lit an operating room on fire, and the only U.S. news source to cover the story was the Miami Herald? Hey, New York Times, take a five-minute break from the mon-crap-strosity that is the election and focus on some news we can all appreciate.

The fire happened in April at Tokyo Medical University. Reports say the patient, who was in her 30s, was undergoing an operation which involved applying a laser to her cervix.

“Applying a laser to her cervix.” Ouch. Even if this story didn’t involve serious burns in an operating room fire caused by a giant fart, you are still having a better day than anyone getting a laser applied to their cervix. I don’t even know where my cervix is, but I damned sure don’t want a laser pointed at it!

And this happened all the way back in April? Why on earth didn’t the news reach us until now!?  Is it because everyone involved was embarrassed and tried to keep it quiet, or are the Japanese just trying to keep all the weird to themselves? Either way, not cool, Japan. Not cool.

According to reports, the laser is believed to have been ignited by the gas she passed. The fire burned much of her body, including her waist and legs. Her condition is unclear.

I am not making that up. Laser-ignited fart fire.

A spokesperson for the hospital said, “When the patient’s intestinal gas leaked into the space of the operation (room), it ignited with the irradiation of the laser, and the burning spread, eventually reaching the surgical drape and causing the fire.”

So given the translation of events from the Japanese hospital’s Flatulence and Anal-Related Trauma (FAART) department spokesperson, I am left with two possible – both awesomely nightmarish – scenarios.

Scenario One: The patient was gassy enough over a long enough period of time that the operation room was filled with methane, which was then touched off by the cervical laser, igniting a mushroom cloud-like explosion that charred everything inside the blast zone.

Scenario Two:
The gas was accidentally lit at the source, creating a laser-ignited butt flamethrower that had enough internal pressure and firepower to then light the “surgical drape” and everything else ablaze.

(Note to the eventual producer of the mini-series: I like Scenario Two better.)

Wow. Either Japan doesn’t have the “No eating for forty-eight hours ahead of major surgery” rule, or this unfortunate woman ignored that rule to her severe detriment. While “Weaponized Anus” would obviously be a great name for a rock band, it’s not a smart thing to bring to your surgery.

Anyway, I hope this helps. You may have thought you were having a bad day, but when you put it into perspective with a flaming surgical laser fart, you’re doing great!

Get well soon, flatulent unnamed thirty-something Japanese patient. And for goodness sake, stay away from any more ignition sources.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 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, October 26, 2016

A Ninth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Last year at this time I sat down and selflessly took time out of my busy schedule of snacking to write you a sixth open letter. I have given you nothing but invaluable advice over the years, attempting to help you improve not only your business operations, but also your business model, never asking anything in return for all my time and effort.

That changes as of today. One of two things is happening. You are either not reading my letters, or you simply don’t care. Given the current situation, I have to assume it’s the latter. You see, in letter number six I gave you the friendly heads-up that you’d ‘accidentally’ scheduled picture retake day during our school’s spirit week, specifically on pajama day.

I’ve got to hand it to you. Last year when you scheduled picture retake day on pajama day, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. But you did the exact same thing again this year. Retakes are today for a school full of kids wearing fuzzy SpongeBob SquarePants jammies.

Who’s in charge of scheduling this? I’m starting to think it’s the same photographer who didn’t care during the original picture day that Son Number Three had a clown-sized milk mustache and an entire cheese puff stuck to his face. I mean, logically I just have to assume he or she didn’t care, since being legally blind probably prevents employment as a photographer. Or maybe not with you guys.

Honestly, if it was solely up to me, I would have been done with school pictures a long time ago. But my wife, bless her heart, was clinging to the hope that school pictures still meant something special to you. Her answer to me this morning when I asked if she wanted retakes: “Why bother? What if they’re worse?”

You’ve lost my wife, so now your relationship with me has officially changed.

We used to pay you for the fall pictures, but I see that coming to a close. We have a nice camera, and we have something you apparently don’t – napkins. From now on, Costco Film Developing will be our official fall school picture photographer. I’ll save money, and I won’t have to look at food on my sons’ faces. Not in the pictures, anyway. I will obviously continue to see food on their faces during the day, since none of them have yet to master civilized eating. Son Number Three constantly looks like he used a grenade to get the food into his mouth instead of a fork.

As for spring pictures, that’s where our relationship is taking its biggest turn. I used to simply ignore the notices since I didn’t want or need more pictures ten days after you took the last set. Many of my helpful letters to you over the years have highlighted how you could save enormous amounts of money by not inexplicably printing and shipping reams and reams of spring pictures to me that I didn’t want in the first place. The indication that I didn’t want them still being the very easy to understand fact that I didn’t order them.

I know you guys are having a hard time with that concept, so let me try to put it in another context for you. Let’s use fast food as an example. Next time you drive past a McDonald’s, take a minute to notice that no one runs out of the building, chases your car down the street, throws hamburgers into your window, then sends you letters asking you to pay for the delicious burgers or kindly return them to the store.

McDonald’s has the business model where they wait for people to actually order the hamburgers before they make them and hand them over. Crazy, I know, but that’s how they do it.

Since we’re on letter number nine here, I feel like I should go a little further with the explanation. The spring pictures you print and send me that I didn’t order are the hamburgers getting thrown through the moving car’s window three blocks away from the restaurant. Get it?

I used to not care about when spring picture day was. And as humorous as I thought it was that you still took their pictures anyway, despite the distinct lack of any order forms, and then sent them to me hoping I would give you money, I still didn’t care.

Now I care. Now I am going to pay attention to when spring picture day. Now I’m going to get my kids dressed up on that morning and have them ready for pictures.

Spring picture day is our family’s new Halloween. I’m going to test you and see when you will finally stop sending me pictures. Will you still take pictures of my kids if I draw mustaches and surprised eyebrows on all of them with baseball eye black? Will you send me reams and reams of pictures I’m not going to pay for of my sons with Sharpie marker beard stubble and eye patches?

We’re going to find out.

Thank you Lifetouch! I’m really looking forward to our new relationship moving forward. If you don’t care, then I don’t either.

Good luck with your pajama pictures today.

All my best,


Copyright © 2016 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!