Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I'm Having a Fitbit

I bought my wife a Fitbit for Christmas, so I’m wearing it now. Apparently, buying my wife a fitness and activity tracker as a gift said to her, “I, as your husband, want to trick you into wearing a device that will allow me to track your fitness and activity levels.” She didn’t like that very much.

I am constantly amazed at how much credit my wife gives me for being clever, or devious, or caring. We have been married for almost fourteen years now and she still hasn’t figured out that all the space in my brain is being taken up by five major categories: Sports, song lyrics, random movie quotes, Snapple lid trivia, and thinking about pizza. My brain activity surrounding most everything else is pretty much at a flat line - especially gift giving.

Here’s what my thought process was regarding the purchase of a Fitbit for my wife:

“Crap, it’s almost Christmas. What does Amazon Prime have that could be here in two days? Hey, look at that ad that just popped up on my Amazon page for a Fitbit. Her mom has one of those. And it’s just expensive enough that it can be my one gift to her, but still affordable. Add to cart.”

Like I said, she gives me waaaay too much credit.

So now I have a Fitbit. I have been wearing it for a grand total of three days now, and it has already completely taken over my life. It’s like some kind of brain chip implant from a sci-fi movie that controls my feelings. I have never once cared about how many steps I’ve taken in a day, but now I am utterly obsessed with it.

I went downstairs yesterday after showering and realized that I forgot to put it back on my wrist. I took the shortest route possible back to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up for someone to please go get my Fitbit off the bathroom counter and bring it down to me. Why? Because I didn’t want to waste the trip back up the stairs if I wasn’t going to get credit for it.

I found out after the first day that the Fitbit was not going to work as a watch replacement, however, so I have to wear it on my right arm. I tried it in place of my watch, but I kept having to flick my wrist to get it to come alive and tell me the time without pushing any buttons. I felt like an idiot whipping my hand up to my face more than once if it didn’t work the first time. Plus, I realized I think about time in terms of the face of my analog watch. I can see the space between the hands, representing how long it is until my next scheduled time to do something. Without hour and minute hands to look at, I just have to do too much math. Digital time confuses me and makes me late... Like I said, pretty much a flat line...

So I wear it on my right arm, and luckily on the Fitbit app on my phone, there is a setting to tell it that I’m wearing it on my dominant hand. It is so smart, it accounts for that. I guess so you don’t get credit for running when you’re actually just brushing your teeth.

They haven’t figured out vacuuming yet, though, because yesterday I “traveled” about two and a half miles in twenty minutes behind my Dyson. I’ll take it. If the Fitbit says it happened, that’s good enough for me.

I’m so obsessed with getting my ten thousand steps in every day that I almost hung up on my friend this morning. I answered his call on my walk back from taking the boys to school, and after saying hello, I came to the soul-crushing realization that I was holding the phone up to my ear with my right hand, and therefore not swinging my Fitbit arm, and therefore probably not getting credit for walking! I seriously considered stopping or hanging up on him, because I can’t use the phone with my left ear. It’s like trying to get dressed by putting the other leg into the pants first. It just doesn’t work.

And it even monitors my sleep. Once again, I have never given a second thought to sleep patterns, or sleep quality, or restlessness, but now that my Fitbit shows all that to me on my phone every morning, I’m obsessed. I can show you on my sleeping timeline the red line that indicates the exact time during the night that I got up to pee. I love America!

But now, not only am I obsessed with how many steps I’ve taken, I’m also concerned with all the light blue lines on my sleep timeline. Why was I so restless at 1:32 A.M. and then again at 3:27 A.M.?

I asked my wife about it, but she just mumbled something about “the #*%’ing Fitbit” and rolled over and went back to sleep. I guess maybe I should have waited until morning to ask her.

Oh, well. I’m not sure what I can do about the periods of restless sleep, but there is one huge question that needs to be answered. Namely, if I’m restless during the night, am I at least getting credit for it?

Rolling over in bed has to count for at least a few steps, right?

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, January 20, 2016

Surfing Lake Tahoe

My three boys have not had very much contact with snow. That’s mostly due to my wife’s natural allergic reaction to any temperature below 83 degrees Fahrenheit. She gets cold watching snow on TV. But like me, she grew up skiing, and she didn’t want to completely deny her children the experience, no matter how much she might suffer in the process – from the front seat of the running car, sipping hot chocolate with the heater blowing full bore.

The best we can do for them is to let them play in the snow. They won’t grow up skiing or snowboarding with any regularity, because going skiing as a family of five these days literally costs a thousand dollars - four hundred dollars for lift tickets and six hundred for five cheeseburgers and a small water at the lodge. Since a skiing scholarship is a tenuous gamble at best - and only one of the boys is displaying any real coordination - we’re just going to go ahead and save for college instead. We’re actually trying to save for four tuitions – three for the boys and one for me. I want to go back with them. I had a blast in college! That might have been because my dad didn’t tag along, though, but who knows?

We live in California, in the Central Valley that sits next to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sierra Nevada is an old Spanish term that means “steep road to casino covered in ice.” It never snows down where we live, but we can visit the snow like tourists in under an hour, any time we feel like it. Sorry, Wisconsin... and almost every other state.

Not too many people are aware of this, but the California side of the Sierras usually receives some of the highest snowfall totals of anywhere in the U.S., and way more than anywhere in Southeast Asia. I say usually, because in the recent few years we’ve received about half an inch of snow in the spots that normally get thirty feet. As a result, all of our lawns are brown and we can only shower every other week, and only if we pair up.

We’re having our first wet year in a long while this winter, and the snow is once again piled high where we keep it, a convenient fifty-minute drive from our house. Again, sorry, Wisconsin. It was time to head for the snow, so my wife put on twenty-seven layers of clothing and we headed up the hill.  

We are a little light on snow gear and toys, though - again, due to my wife’s severe temperature allergy, and our financial aversion to ski resorts. We go to the beach a lot because it’s free. I never have to pay $185 to get a “beach pass.” The flipside – there are no sharks on the ski slopes. It’s a give and take.

So, we own wetsuits and boogie boards for the kids, but not sleds and skis. Or snow pants. Or snow boots. Or good gloves... nothing, really. So, we borrowed some snow clothes for the boys, conveniently omitting the information that Son Number Three’s snow pants were really owned by a girl in his class, and off we went for a weekend in Tahoe.

The boys had a blast the first day of sledding, zooming down the small hills and flying off the jumps we made. On the second day, we got a little more adventurous and headed up the side of Mt. Rose to the public “snow play area,” which is an enormous steep hill that rockets you out onto a highway if you fail to stop in time. It would have been great, but the weather was not exactly cooperating.

While my wife watched in shock from the car, the three boys and I battled thirty to forty-mile per hour winds across the slope, along with the rest of the other idiots who decided to get out of their cars.

You know, those plastic saucers people have can really get moving through the air in a strong wind, like a sheet of plywood in a hurricane, nearly decapitating you as you hit the deck and watch them travel a quarter mile off into the trees.

We watched one lady, who obviously also favored the non-frozen water sports, chase her inflatable pool mattress all the way across the highway, where it had lodged itself under someone’s pickup truck.

Such rookies! We beach people had the upper hand that day. Boogie boards have leashes on them that attach to your wrist. Sure, the board is almost as big and heavy as the kid, so when the gale-force wind catches it, the kid gets pulled off his feet and his arm almost gets pulled out of the socket, but at least you don’t lose the board.

Those other people are probably still looking for their saucers.

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, January 13, 2016

Mule Svelte

It’s the New Year, so roughly 99.9% of us are currently “trying” to lose weight. I put trying in quotes, because really about 15% of you are actually trying with an actual plan and a measurable amount of willpower, and the rest of us are just talking about how we’re going to lose weight, and then eating fudge-dipped brownies.

At some point here I’m going to have to put the fudge brownie down and actually do it, though, because unlike most of you “I’d like to be skinnier” people out there, I’m the one that has to ride a mule.

In June I am supposed to get on a mule and ride it down a crack in the wall of the Grand Canyon. If I am even an ounce over two hundred pounds fully dressed, with shoes and underwear and everything, presumably the mule’s legs will fail underneath it and we’ll both plummet to our deaths, and naturally, seconds later you’ll all be able to watch the footage on Twitter and Instagram.

I think the mule tour company is trying to avoid that kind of bad viral publicity, so they won’t let me even get on the mule if I’m not under two hundred pounds. I don’t think they’ll even let me talk to the mule.

If I can’t go, then my mother-in-law won’t go. If she won’t go, then my son can’t go. If my son can’t go, I will never hear the end of it from my wife, and if my mother-in-law won’t go, she might make me pay for it – both literally and figuratively.

Basically, I NEED to get below two hundred pounds.

I can’t really start losing weight in January, because I still have Christmas cookies in the freezer that I need to finish off. We had too many around the holidays, so I wisely froze the extras. And they’re next to the tamales from the various youth sports fundraisers that I purchased, so I’ll need to polish those off too. Then there’s the seasonal holiday beers left in the fridge. You can’t serve those in the spring, and they’re not going to drink themselves.

With the chips and seven-layer dip at the Superbowl party, the Valentine’s Day candy, and the tamales I couldn’t get through in January, February is pretty much shot as well.

So it will be March before I can really commit to eating healthy again. At that point I will only have three months to lose the weight, so I’ll have to get back to eating mule salads for lunch. Mule salad is simply a bowl of iceberg lettuce topped with despair. I can’t wait!

I was at a party a few weeks ago - drinking seasonal holiday beer and eating a giant ham sandwich - when one of my friends suggested I join their team for the Tough Mudder race this year. The race is being held in June, the weekend before we leave for the Grand Canyon trip, and I was seriously considering it as a motivational aid to lose the mule weight. I was seriously considering it right up until the next morning when the effects of the seasonal holiday beer wore off. Then I remembered that I had done the Tough Mudder once back in 2011, and I don’t like throwing up. So that’s out.

I have been out running a little bit over the holidays, just trying to offset as much of the cake and pie intake as I can, but after forty years old, running comes with a price. Let’s just say if there are any calories in Advil, then that’s really working against me.

Before Halloween – the official start to the holiday eating season – I was trying to get a jump on the mule weight. I had implemented the mule salad lunch routine and lost about fourteen pounds, along with most of my will to live. Around that time I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year, and he told me I was looking svelte.

That’s when I knew I had more work to do. Svelte is one of those slightly complimentary terms. People use it as a sincere compliment, but no one ever uses the term “svelte” to describe someone in really great shape. Fitness models are not svelte. They are ripped. Svelte means, “Hey, you’re not as fat as you were the last time I saw you.”

Unfortunately, after this holiday eating season, I’d give my left roasted chestnut to still be svelte. I found a vast majority of that fourteen pounds I’d lost, so I’m pretty much back to square one. Or in this case, round one. Svelte has left the building and won’t be back until early May.

Maybe I should call the mule tour company and give them the recipe for mule salad. If they can start working on getting my mule a little more “svelte,” maybe come June we can work out some sort of mule/rider combined weight average deal.

Or maybe I should skip the chips and seven-layer dip this year.

Naw... let’s not start talking crazy!

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, January 6, 2016

About the Author, 2016

Here at Just a Smidge, we continue to gain new readership each year. This past year alone we have documented as many as two new readers. So, for both of you just joining us, welcome! We like to start each New Year here with a little meet and greet.

I am the 43-year-old husband of one and father of three, living in the idyllic northern California town of Rocklin. Think overpriced coffee and minivan soccer moms. Our crime consists of teenage shoplifters and people wearing last year’s fashions.  

My amazing, wonderful, loving, caring, trustworthy, adorable, extremely intelligent, smokin’ hot wife teaches high school all day so that I can stay home and take naps and occasionally type. Speaking of that, I should really learn to type. I am the lone staff writer here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this a job, so let’s just go with hobby.

My beautiful, fantastic, perfect-in-every-way wife and I have been blessed with three boys. They have, in turn, blessed us with a marked decrease in our sanity and an ever-dwindling amount of patience. They are known around here as Sons Number One, Two, and Three, and we’ve been calling them that for so long now we don’t actually remember their real names. I don’t consider that to be a huge problem, however, since we know what they look like.

They are currently in fifth, fourth, and second grade.  They have all been at the same elementary school since kindergarten, which never ceases to amaze me. Based on their behavior at home I thought for sure one or more of them would have been kicked out by now. I think my genius wife is secretly paying off the principal, which would go a long way toward explaining why all the money seems to just vanish every month. It’s probably worth it, though.

Anyway, enough about my wife and kids. Let’s talk more about me. Here are twenty other things that you should probably know about me:

1) I am in amazing shape for 43 years old. I actually left my job as an underwear model to do this writing thing.

2) My grandpa killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most outstanding thing anyone in my family has done. We are high achievers.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I inherited this trait from my grandmother. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club.

4) I am loosely related to a U.S. president, but I’m not sure which one. I think it's either Grover Cleveland or Woodrow Wilson. I don't care. I would only be excited if it was Teddy Roosevelt, and it isn't.

5) My favorite movie is a three-way tie between Romancing the Stone, Fletch, and Caddyshack. This should tell you a lot about me.

6) Until I was in my teens, I thought that coffee really would stunt your growth, and that drinking alcohol made your beard grow faster, because in the movies, when guys woke up with a hangover, they always had a five o’clock shadow. I wasn’t too bright as a kid.

7) Now that I have kids, I cry at “proud parent” moments in movies. I think this is because based on my children’s behavioral history, I may never have any proud moments of my own.

8) I am slightly over six feet tall, I weigh around 200 pounds, and I have the bladder capacity of a four-year-old. Unfortunately, Son Number Three inherited this trait. He is seven and has the bladder capacity of a hamster.

9) My three favorite flavors are burnt pepperoni, slightly burnt bacon, and well-toasted sesame seeds. Basically, if it has caught on fire, I want to eat it. Except for my s’more marshmallows. Those should only be browned.

10) I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 100 yards today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator.

11) I love bacon. See number 10.

12) I quit my day job in 2013 to become a professional writer. So far, I have only managed to become a mediocre homemaker, but I hope to get this column syndicated, so if you know somebody, please introduce us. Bacon is expensive.

13) I constantly get my left and right mixed up. This makes driving directions with my wife fun.

14) My favorite joke of all time is:
A guy walks into the psychiatrist’s office wearing nothing but underwear made out of Saran wrap. The psychiatrist looks at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts." This should also tell you a lot about me.

15) I like writing dialogue.
“You do?” they asked in unison.
“Yes. I do,” he said solemnly.

16) I love most foods (see number 10), but I have a deep, abiding hatred for cantaloupe. If bacon is a 10, cantaloupe is a negative 3000.

17) I love to travel and I love to stay home, but I don’t want an RV. Go figure.

18) My absolute favorite thing that has ever happened on this earth – and I am including my marriage and the birth of my children in that – was when the Oregon State Highway Division tried to disintegrate a dead whale with a half-ton of dynamite in 1970. I wasn’t around yet, but thankfully they had video cameras back then. (Just Google “Oregon Exploding Whale.”)

19) My favorite thing ever said on television – and I am including anything ever uttered on The Newlywed Game – came from KATU Channel 2 newsman Paul Linnman in 1970 after the whale dynamite was detonated. When large chunks of whale rained down on people and cars over a quarter-mile away, Paul noted, completely deadpan, “The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.”

20) My wife is still laughing right now about number 1.

So there you have it, folks. You now know everything you need to know about me. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

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!