Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Witch Books Don't You Like?

I was selling and signing books at a recent event, and a grandmother was perusing my table, asking various questions. She was looking at my picture books for her kindergarten-aged grandkids, but she also had a fourth-grade grandson.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but I recently released the third book in the Sycamore Detective Agency series. It just came out last week. I think your family will like the series, and I was pretty sure her grandson would, too. So, I was trying to steer her in that direction.

I showed her the books, highlighting the shiny yellow cover of Case Number Three, hot off the press, and inquired about his reading level. I asked what kind of chapter books he was reading.

She responded that she didn’t know.

Trying a different angle, I inquired about what I consider to be the modern universal benchmark for assessing elementary-grade reading ability. (Plus, I just like mentioning my books in the same conversation as hers.)

“Has he read any of the Harry Potter books yet?” I asked.

That’s when things got weird.

She said, with total conviction, “Oh, I hope not. I hate Harry Potter.”

Umm… huh?

To me, as a father, an author, and a human, this idea simply did not register.

I hate Harry Potter. The strange words rang in my ears.


She may as well have said, “I hate water,” or “Puppies are ugly,” or “I hate babies and pizza.” Any one of those things would have made as much or more sense to me.

I was so flummoxed by her comment, I wasn’t even able to continue the conversation. I simply didn’t know what to say.

If she had said, “I’m not sure. I’m not really too much of a fan of those books,” or, “I don’t know. I’ve never read any of them myself,” I might have been able to move forward with the chat. But she didn’t say that.

What she said was she hopes her grandson never reads those books because she hates them. I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask why! I have a life to lead, and in my mind, any person who is going to utter the words “I hate Harry Potter,” is a complete and total conversational and emotional wild card. Asking “Why?” would have been like pulling the pin on a “possibly dead” grenade.

Now, I realize that it takes all kinds to make this world go around, but I wasn’t even aware that this kind existed. Maybe I’ve been living in a literary bubble, but to me, Harry Potter is like a default setting. It’s the taco of the book world. Everyone likes it. At the very least, in the elementary school literary world.

With my mind spinning listlessly into the new reality of the existence of Potter Haters, I struggled to regain equilibrium on my life and on the task at hand – selling my books. After taking a drink of water and willing myself not to run away from my own author table in fear for my life, I said the only logical thing there was left to say.

“These books are nothing like Harry Potter.”

I signed all three of them, “Good luck, kid. You can read these when you’re locked in the closet under the stairs at Grandma’s house.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Q & Eh?

It’s that time of year again.

Tragically-early Halloween decorations on houses, you ask? Christmas stuff on sale in October at Home Depot, you say?

Well, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s elementary school author visit season for me, and we’re in the peak of it. Reading to and talking with kids ranks in my top ten favorite things to do of all time.

I recently released the third book in the Sycamore Detective Agency series, and I’m thrilled about that, as well. Releasing new books ranks in my top six favorite things to do of all time. I will leave things one through five up to your imagination, and no, one of them is not putting up holiday decorations of any kind.

One of the things that makes school visits so enjoyable for me is the questions the kids ask me about my job. Sure, when I talk to the older grades, I tend to get some silly, trivial questions like, “How do you develop good quality characters?”, and “Can you describe your process for outlining a story?”

Those questions are adorable, so I do my best to answer them with a kind smile on my face, but let’s be serious – that’s hardly what young aspiring authors need to know. Thankfully, the kindergarteners always get right to the meat of the issues.

“Does anyone have any questions for me about being an author?”

“How old are you?”
“Can you read us another book?”
“You’re bald.”
“Could a jackal eat a person? How about a cardboard person? An alien? A ghost?"
“How tall are you?”
“Why are there so many words?”
“Do you know my dad?”
“How did you make the words?”
[pointing to the class library shelves] “Did you write all those books?”
“You have lots of fillings in your teeth.”
“My grandma has those same shoes, but in black.”
“How do you make the words different colors?”
“How do the pages stay in the book?”
“My dad’s name is Mark.”

These are the hard-hitting literary issues that need to be addressed. These are the crucial questions that every budding author should be asking.

My recent personal favorite was in a kindergarten class last week. A little girl in the front row sat pensively for a few seconds after I called on her, then the burning question she had been waiting to ask an author all her life popped into her head.

“Where do you get dressed?”

For a split second, I thought she might be roasting me, and she was going to come right back with, “In the dark?”

She didn’t though. She just gazed up at me and smiled, proud of her insightful literary question.

“In my room,” I responded.

Her eyes went wide. “Wow! Me too!” she gasped.

Well, there you go, sweetheart. You’re practically an author already.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

An Eleventh Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

You know, Lifetouch, I never thought I would need to write eleven separate letters to you, but here we are.

As you know, we broke up with you for fall pictures, so I’m not writing about a problem with my order. There was no order. But after receiving the “you still have time to order” page from you yesterday, emblazoned with Son Number Three’s something-other-than-smiling face on six different fun backgrounds, something needed to be said.

I have tried over the years to help you in many ways. I’ve selflessly shared my time and business knowledge with you. I’ve given you countless nuggets of valuable advice for free, so that you could hopefully begin to see things from a perspective obviously lacking in your organization – that of a human with a brain.

I see now that all my time and effort has been wasted. The 8-1/2 x 11 FujiFilm flyer you just sent me, urging me to purchase beautiful portraits of my youngest son, is glaringly hideous proof that you have not heard a single word I said.

How can I be expected to help you do your job when you don’t even know what it is? You seem to think your job is to sell me pictures of my kids. You are wrong. That is the business you are in. Your job is to take their picture. There’s a difference between the business you’re in and the job you have to do. You can’t survive in any business if you don’t do your job.

I always figured this went without saying, given the business you’re in, but again, here we are. In this country, when people sit down to have their portrait taken, they are expecting to have that portrait actually look like them. It’s their personal choice to smile or not, but inevitably, one hundred percent of them will be expecting to actually see a picture of themselves as the final result.

I imagine by now, you are sensing my issue here, but let me give you some background on Son Number Three just to solidify my point. He is a good-looking kid. And I’m not being an overly proud dad, and I’m not looking at him through rose-colored glasses. Now don’t get me wrong – I think all three of my boys are handsome gents, but Number Three is just flat-out good looking. And so you know I’m not being vain, I’ll tell you he gets it almost exclusively from his mother’s side. He looks just like her father, who looked just like Paul Newman in his younger years.

Our little Paul Newman knockoff has radiant ice-blue eyes and a joyous smile. Neither of those things are apparent in the picture you recently took of him.

Sure, he’s had his past struggles with CFSD (Chronic Forced Smile Disorder), but this issue goes way beyond that. He was one of the CFSD success stories. His last few organized family portraits showed little to no sign of his early issues with the disorder. He has learned to smile for a camera the way he smiles for a joke. You have taken that away from us.

Standing behind the old-timey wooden school chair in the classroom, or the library, or the plain slate gray background, he is squinting like he’s searching for a ship on the sun-glared horizon.

For reasons unknown, his normally room-lighting smile is missing, replaced by what appears to be his facial impression of a rat sniffing for a tasty morsel at the bottom of a Dumpster.

His entire face is squished up, with his lips curled in such a fashion I can envision no other scenario than your photographer asking him to do his best impression of a rodent.

OK, sniff for the delicious garbage. Good! Now curl your lips over your teeth and make the squeaky rat noise. Perfect! Got it. Next.

And a special thanks for the useless free gift at the bottom of this sheet. Your complimentary SmileSafe cards, meant to be an aid to law enforcement in the unthinkable event that my child ever went missing, are completely useless. I would be better off drawing a stick figure of my child and describing his features in Latin to the police than giving them this picture of some random rodent boy. He could be standing next to me when I handed them this picture and they wouldn’t be able to find him.

Tell me I’m wrong, Lifetouch. Give me some explanation, in this age of digital cameras and LCD flat screen TVs, why you couldn’t see how bad this picture was the very second you took it. You have the good-looking happy-go-lucky child right there in front of you. Tell me you could honestly pick him out of a lineup based on the rat picture you just took. I dare you.

The only other remote scenario I can think of that could explain this picture is if you have taken the Americans with Disabilities Act too far and actually started hiring blind photographers.

That would explain this perfectly.

Best of luck,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My Dog is Full of Crap

A month ago, my entire world was consumed by dog pee when our new Lab puppy had a urinary tract infection. It was really great. She was expelling nine to ten times her body weight in urine every hour, fortunately only inside the house.

We got that cleared up with twelve rolls of paper towels and two cans of carpet cleaner for the house, and for the dog, an evil-smelling remedy of apple cider vinegar and Greek yogurt. Personally, I would have rather eaten the carpet cleaner.

Amazingly, even after ten days of ingesting that demonic concoction with her food, her poop remained normal.

All that has changed now.

Now, my world revolves around her poop. Now, a month after the pee issues cleared up, she is experiencing some issues in the bowel region. To put it in layman’s terms, we’ve got poopy puddles and potty problems, people.

By the grace of God, however, she has not pooped in the house.

{sound of me knocking on every wooden surface in the house}

I will spare you the less than appetizing details. Suffice it to say, her poop has been anything but normal lately. If you decide to visit our backyard in the next few days, I would strongly suggest bringing some hip waders and a military-style gas mask.

She’s also having trouble “going” all at once, and has been gracious enough to wake me up multiple times the last two nights to allow me to experience her GI tract problems with her. She’s so thoughtful for a canine.

I just hope this passes quickly, because I am out of ideas. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what she could have eaten that would be causing such bowel-related stress. She has been religious about sticking to the standard Labrador retriever diet. This past week she has only eaten:

Thirty sticks
Six pounds of leaves
One plastic outer coating off a cheap baseball, and half the stitches
Just under three acres of grass
One wayward hotdog, whole
Thirty gallons of pool water
Seventeen pounds of bark chips
A handful of lamb lung toasters –I am not making that up – Treats that consist of little pieces of dried lamb lung with waffle marks on them!
Three-quarters of a foam squishy ball
One pair of swim goggles
Fifty or so Rice Krispies
More or less half a roll of duct tape
Somewhere between six inches and a foot of polyethylene pool noodle
Thirty-six square inches of dog bed plush top fuzz
One paper towel
One Lego man’s head, with space helmet
Half a tennis ball
One gravity-stricken slice of a quesadilla, with sour cream, whole
Two feet of nylon rope
And approximately six hundred little shriveled red plum things off the ground from our neighbor’s tree.

Oh, and about five pounds of actual dog food. But she doesn’t really seem to eat that, so much as suck it in, the way a jet engine sucks in air.

I mean, who knows what could be causing this, what with such a strict diet? Your guess is as good as mine.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We were LiED to

I’ll bet when Thomas Edison finally got the light bulb to work, he never imagined anyone would look at his amazing accomplishment as an annoyance. But that’s where I am. My feelings on the miracle of electric lighting have tipped. It feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth right now.

In all fairness to Tommy and his incandescent bulb, it’s the next generation bulbs that I’m annoyed with right now, not his original. I’m talking about LED bulbs, and their blinky, dimmer, and less reliable cousins, CFL’s.

CFL stands for either, Constantly Flickering Lightbulb, or Can’t Freakin’ LightOnTheFirstTry. They are the worst. They were supposed to last seven years and save planet Earth from certain doom. They are not dimmable, and when you turn some of them on, they start as dim as a candle that has just been blown out, and slowly get brighter over a period of ten weeks, give or take.

We had one bathroom where I would flip on the light switch, pee in the dark, flush, wash up, and by the time I had dried my hands, I had just enough light to be able to see the switch to turn it off again on my way out.

And don’t ever break a CFL, because they are filled with mercury and will kill every living thing in a nine-block radius. Also, they cost four to five hundred percent more than regular bulbs.

So why did I spend hundreds of dollars a long time ago to replace every regular bulb in my house with CFL’s? I wasn’t na├»ve enough to think I was saving the planet. I just wanted to go seven years in between ever needing to change another light bulb.

Besides peeing in the dark, things were going fine until the first one burnt out after nine months. Hmm… that’s less than seven years, I thought. So off I went to the store to enact my constitutional right to a replacement bulb under the Sir Frederick Warranty Act of 1776. It was there, in the lighting aisle at my local Home Depot in Rocklin, California, that I heard possibly the stupidest thing anyone ever said.

Me: “I need a replacement for this seven-year bulb. It didn’t even last a whole year.”
Lighting Aisle Lady: “Did you ever turn it off and on?”
Me: “Yes, of course. All the time.”
LAL: “Well, there’s your problem.”

Uhh… say what?

She then explained to me that the seven-year CFL lifespan only applies if you turn it on once and leave it on for seven years. If you turn it on and off, they do not guarantee how long it will last.

Uhh… say what?

So, never mind the whole mercury thing, how is leaving my lights on 24-7 helping the planet? I reluctantly bought a new CFL bulb and went home to my dim-but-getting-slowly-brighter house.

I waited patiently. Finally, along came LED’s. At first, they cost four thousand dollars per bulb, and didn’t look anything like a lightbulb, but on the plus side, they were bright enough to permanently damage your retinas.

Over time, the light bulb scientists figured out how to make them look more or less like an actual light bulb, and they got them toned down a little on the brightness scale, so now they only cause temporary blindness in people with healthy retinas. And the price finally dropped and leveled out at only three thousand dollars each, or so.

So once again, I spent and exorbitant amount of money replacing the bulbs in my house.

I am an idiot.

LED’s will definitely last ten years or longer, they said. Except one of the two LED bulbs over my head in my office. It will not last ten years. Or even one. It just started failing on Monday. It would go on and off intermittently, plunging my well-lit office into slightly dim, then back to bright. It was like working at a really lame rave.

And don’t even get me started on the dimmer switches. My “dimmable” LED bulbs are a joke. The regular incandescents do a marvelous job of dimming. If you were literally the most boring human on earth and wanted to chart their brightness on a graph in relation to the dimmer switch position, it would be a nice straight line, descending at an angle from “all the way on and bright” to “off and dark.”

My “dimmable” LED bulbs go from “all the way on and bright as the unfiltered sun” to “I can barely tell this dimmed at all and is still so bright I can’t look directly at it,” as you slide the dimmer switch through its full range of motion. A split second before the switch’s “completely off” position, the bulb goes to “momentarily almost dim but still way brighter than it should be,” and then shuts off. It is impossible to keep the switch in a position to maintain the “dim” setting.

I just replaced the bad bulb with a three-thousand-dollar spare, and out of curiosity, I went to the GE Lighting website to see about their warranty.

We're sorry if you've encountered a problem with one of our lighting products.
Defective Bulbs - Fast Service
For an immediate solution, please return the product to the retailer where it was purchased.

Oh, sure, like I’m going to fall for that old trick again. And why would I? The geniuses at GE and the other LED manufacturers have figured out the perfect price point for their bulbs. Six million percent more than the old incandescent bulbs that are not for sale anymore, but still not enough money that I’m willing to spend the time to go to Home Depot or Lowes and hassle with trying to return it.

The guy in the lighting aisle is just going to ask me if I made the unforgivable mistake of ever turning it off.

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, September 13, 2017

Now Hiring

Two news stories popped up in my feed this week that immediately caught my attention. One had me laughing and the other had me shaking my head.

I laughed at a story out of Massachusetts - a state that is impossible for me to spell correctly on my own – where a man was arrested for fleeing from the police at a traffic stop, and in the process, running over a state trooper’s foot.

The Mass. troopers have something called the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, and it was one of those guys who had his foot squished by Jose Jimenez. The story didn’t say if Mr. Jimenez was, in fact, a violent fugitive before the traffic stop, but he hurt a cop while fleeing from him, so he certainly managed to check off both boxes last Tuesday.

Unfortunately, that kind of story is not really news these days, but how Mr. Jimenez tried to hide from the police was. They found his Toyota Camry abandoned after the short chase, but Jose was nowhere to be found.

A witness reported to the police that he’d just seen a man run into a nearby Osprey Wireless store. When police entered the store they found Mr. Jimenez – I am not making this up – filling out a job application.

Unfortunately, the story did not provide any insight into what Mr. Jimenez’s plan was. I can only assume he figured a man of his qualifications would be offered a wireless store customer service job on the spot, they would quickly get him a uniform, and he would seamlessly blend in with his coworkers when the police arrived, thus, avoiding detection.

He would then begin his new life as a wireless salesman, possibly even starting a new family, in his new hometown, leaving his old life of crime behind him for good.

Solid plan, Jose. Sorry it didn’t work out. Maybe your new almost-coworkers could help you out with that $250K bail. We’ll put a fundraiser jar in the breakroom.

My joy from reading about Mr. Jimenez and his brilliant escape plan gave way to utter befuddlement when I read the next story about a hot dog vendor from Berkeley, California.

The story itself shouldn’t have been news at all. A man decided to sell hotdogs on the street without a license to do so. A cop stopped and asked him for his business license. He didn’t have one. The cop confiscated his $60 as evidence and wrote him a ticket to appear before a judge.

No news here. Man cheated. Police caught him. Man is in trouble now.

The story only made the news because some yahoo with a cell phone filmed the whole thing while berating the cop for “stealing this man’s livelihood while there are people down the street drinking alcohol in public and lots of other stuff and why can’t you just leave this poor proud man alone to support his family and boo hoo,” or something to that effect.

The internet then became outraged at the police officer who “stole the nice man’s money,” and the yahoo with the cell phone decided to start a GoFundMe page for the hot dog man to help him with his legal expenses, and maybe also other poor street vendors as well.

The GoFundMe page actually said, The funds raised will be utilized to cover legal and personal loses. In addition, funds in excess are to cover other vendors who have been robbed of their hard earned living through citations and removal of their carts. It is my goal to locate Juan in Berkeley.

Besides the fact that he can’t spell ‘losses’ and doesn’t know when to hyphenate, the cell phone guy doesn’t even know Juan the hot dog man, and he doesn’t know how to get in contact with him. AND PEOPLE ARE STILL GIVING HIM MONEY.

I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. The cell phone yahoo started with a lofty goal of $10K “for Juan’s (and maybe others) “legal and personal loses,” and as of this writing, he has raised $73,000.


So, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my own GoFundMe page that I set up this morning. You can find it at:

Here’s why – Like Juan, I also happen to manage an illegal street vendor operation. My sons run a totally unregulated and non-licensed lemonade stand in our neighborhood, and I am their business manager and their original angel investor when they needed start-up capital. So far, their lifetime earnings are less than Juan the hot dog man’s daily take, but after seeing his post-police involvement success, we are encouraged. Maybe we can make a go of this unlawful lemonade business after all.

I would love for any and all law enforcement in our area to immediately descend on our illegal lemonade stand. Please write us a citation, take our nineteen dollars and book it into evidence, and shut us down. (Please just wait until I have my cell phone video camera ready.)

The Berkeley cell phone yahoo has raised over $70K in three days with a target of only $10K. I have done some very simple math and set my target at $100K. That should get us very close to the one million mark in no time.

Here is the compelling verbiage from our campaign:
(GoFundMe gave me very helpful tips to raise as much money as possible, so I followed their template to the letter)

Describe who will benefit:
Me (and also my poor, deserving children, maybe)

Detail what the funds will be used for:
Possible legal expenses and loss of income if we are ever hassled by the police over business license issues.
And tacos.

Explain how soon you need the funds:
ASAP! Who knows when we could be unfairly ticketed or shut down.
Plus, we want tacos.

Talk about what the support will mean to you:
After the recent outpouring of support for the Berkeley hot dog vendor, I just figured, hey, people love to support other people who run non-licensed and totally unregulated street food operations, so your donation to this campaign will mean the world to me!

Share how grateful you will be for help:
I will be so grateful for your support, I might even "pay it forward" by giving this money (after any upcoming legal and taco expenses, of course) to my good friends at RPAL - the Roseville Police Activities League - an amazing non-profit organization that helps kids in need, and steers them in the right direction, so they don't grow up thinking they have the right to run illegal businesses.

Thanks for your support in this time of need.

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, September 6, 2017

Brain Child

Our family has officially made the transition. We have unwillingly breached the barrier and found ourselves on the other side. Things are bad.

We have a middle schooler now.

Life was so much simpler last year when Son Number One was still a sixth-grader. For starters, he was still at the same school as the other two. The elementary school is nine feet from our house. School drop off and pick up was a breeze.

Now, Number One goes to school all the way across town. Besides the fact that we’re forced to actually drive the car there, the location presents a few other challenges. A long time ago, when they built the middle school, the Rocklin city planners decided that it would be good to bury it way back in a residential area on a small street. To add to the fun, the only reasonable way into the neighborhood is at an intersection with the world’s slowest traffic light and a six-foot-long left turn lane. I regularly sit in my car, a quarter-mile from the light, listening to five middle schoolers jabber and squinting into the distance to count how many green arrows I’m not able to take advantage of. It’s relaxing.

Then, a few years ago, for reasons unexplainable by actual reasoning, the city planners decided to OK the placement of a Dutch Brothers drive-thru coffee shack on a lot roughly the same size as Juan Valdez’s hat, AT THE SAME DAMNED INTERSECTION. If you are not familiar with Dutch Brothers, they are a coffee company with a cult following. At any time of the day, there are no less than seven hundred cars lining up to get coffee from this place. It’s not as if it’s free beer, so I can only assume they somehow infuse crack cocaine into the coffee during the brewing process. That’s the only logical explanation for the crowds.

Speaking of drugs, I imagine this is how the city planning meeting went:

City Planner One: “Dude, Dutch Bros wants to put a coffee place there.” [pointing to the map and exhaling a huge cloud of bong smoke]
City Planner Two: [taking a rip off the bong] “Cool. Wait. Doesn’t that intersection get kinda crowded sometimes, bro?”
One: “Yeah, man, ‘cause of the school. Have you ever had Dutch Bros coffee, man? I think they put crack in it.”
Two: “Sweet, bro. If we say yes, do you think they’ll give us free donuts?”
One: “Totally.”
Two: “Sweet.”
[more bong hits]

So, between the school traffic and the drug traffic, a helicopter is really starting to look like a cost-effective option for our middle school carpool group.

Unfortunately, the hassle of getting Son Number One and his friends to and from school now is the least of our middle school problems. The main problem is that we have a middle schooler. If you don’t have one, let me explain.

We’ve been noticing a change in Son Number One’s behavior for some time now. Initially, we chalked it up to him just being grumpy because he considered his two younger brothers to be annoying. That was an easy explanation, since they are very annoying. Very.

But the seventh grade orientation slideshow enlightened us to what was really going on. It seems he has something in his brain called a prefrontal cortex, which is Latin for “is this thing on?”. Most adults you meet have smoothly functioning prefrontal cortexes, but all middle schoolers have crappy ones.

Wherever and whatever the prefrontal cortex is, it’s the least-developed part of the adolescent brain. That is great news, since it’s apparently in charge of these things:

*Self control
*Setting goals
*Prioritizing tasks
*Making sound judgements
*Planning and organizing multiple tasks
*Control of moods and impulses
*The ability to reason
*Determining right from wrong
*Determining cause and effect

That list, and the fact that Son Number One’s brain isn’t good at any of it, make so much sense now.

1) Lack of self control -
Me: “Don’t do that again.”
Him: [immediately does it again]
Me: “Now, you’re in trouble.”
Him: “Why?”

2) Bad at setting goals – That explains why his only discernable goal is to eat.

3) Bad at prioritizing, planning, and organizing multiple tasks – That explains why I saw him make a sandwich, put it in the dog’s bowl, kick off only one of his shoes, try to take a bite out of the remote control, and then put his sock in the fridge.

4) Bad at reasoning and determining cause and effect – See Number 1.

5) Bad at making sound judgements – Can’t wait for him to get his driver’s license!

6) Little to no control over moods and impulses – This explains why he’s like living with a schizophrenic spider monkey.

7) Determining right from wrong –
“Please don’t grab your little brother by the ear and neck and try to fling him down the stairs.”
“But, he breathed on my arm.”
(Also see Number 1, 4, 5, and 6.)

Unfortunately, just because we know why he’s so weird right now, doesn’t change the fact that we have to live with it. I guess all we can do is ride it out, and hope all the parts of his cortex, prefrontal and otherwise, start working correctly as soon as possible.

One thing, however, I’ve already learned from middle school – If things go south and his brain never gets any better at operating properly, all hope is not lost. He can always get a job as a city planner.

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, August 30, 2017

ACV for your UTI, ASAP

Dog urine is my life.

Sure, I had hopes and dreams. There were things I wanted to do. Things I wanted to accomplish. I had goals. Those are all gone now. They have been swept aside by a tidal wave of dog pee.

Get a puppy, they said. They’re so adorable, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

I’m not a big fan of them, whoever they are, right now.

A standard healthy puppy has enough pee issues to make you want to cry and then move to a new house. A puppy with a urinary tract infection is roughly four hundred times more annoyingly unpredictable, pee-wise. That’s the kind of puppy we have right now.

Within days of bringing her home, things seemed to be going fairly well. She was sleeping though the night and keeping her bed dry. She was starting to understand that peeing inside the house is frowned upon. She was even starting to clue in that we want her to pee only in certain spots in the back yard, like the grass and the dirt, and not places like the patio, or on our shoes.

All that has changed now that our puppy has a UTI. (UTI is the standard acronym for Urinary Tract Infection, but could easily also stand for Unbelievably Timed Incontinence, or Unexpectedly Tinkling Inside.)

The best way for me to describe what I’m dealing with is to make an analogy to your children. Imagine you have a toddler that you have successfully potty trained. They are sleeping through the night, and no longer need diapers. A milestone has been reached and life is good. Then one day, at Target, they pull down their pants and pee all over the Lucky Charms display in the cereal aisle. As you rush them out of the store in your arms, they pee on you. They pee all over the inside of the car on the way home, and all over the outside of the car once you’re back in the garage.

At this point, your child has somehow released roughly twice their body weight in urine, and they still manage to pee in the hallway on the way to the toilet. Once on the toilet, however, they spend three straight days saying they need to pee, but not producing a single drop of urine.

At this point, you gain some measure of false hope, and decide to remove them from the potty. As soon as they are off the toilet, they proceed to hose down the walls and floor of your living room with twelve gallons of wee-wee during a two-minute impression of a burst water main.

It’s exactly like that, but with a dog.

The standard home remedy for a dog with a UTI is apple cider vinegar. You are supposed to either add it to their food or their water. I want her to actually drink her water, so I decided to add it to her food. The recipe consists of the apple cider vinegar and plain yogurt mixed into her normal dry dog food.

Our dog already eats sticks, leaves, bugs, grass, bark, and seems to be seriously considering how to eat rocks. I always thought her extracurricular diet was weird until I tried the plain yogurt and the ACV. (ACV is the cool internet acronym for Apple Cider Vinegar, but could easily also stand for All Contents Vile, or Actually Contains Vomit.)

It tastes like someone mixed up some chunky sour milk with pickle juice in a blender with a rotten apple. The fact that she eats that unholy concoction is proof that dogs will literally eat anything. I would rather eat grass and rocks than try either of them again.

On further advice from reputable internet sources, I have begun adding blueberries to the mixture to help the healing process. So, along with the plain yogurt, she should be getting pretty healthy, pretty fast. I mean, if you subbed in kombucha for the ACV - which probably taste identical - my dog now has the same diet as most yoga instructors.

Since my life now consists only of listening for my dog to whine about pee, encouraging my dog to pee, waiting for my dog to pee, watching my dog pee, praising her for peeing in the correct locations, and cleaning up gallons of pee that happened in the pee-free zones, I’m not getting much else done.

That’s why you just read a column about dog pee. You’re welcome.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Eclipse on the Chart

I’m not sure if you freaked out on Monday or not like I did, but as it turns out the sun was not shutting off like I initially suspected. It was actually the eclipse everyone was talking about. I don’t know about you, but around here it was total eclipse mania on Monday. Suddenly everyone was an eclipse expert, throwing around technical eclipse terms like Path of Totality, ISO Compliant Solar Filters, Chromosphere, and Corona. Here on the west coast, the eclipse happened just after 10 A.M., so in addition to Corona, we used other technical eclipse viewing terms like Mimosa and Bloody Mary.

Unfortunately, we do not live in the path of totality. For any other type of totality, I would count that as a blessing, but for this eclipse, I was disappointed. It was the first time in my life I wished I lived in the path of anything. Our eclipse here in California was non-total, so it didn’t get really dark. It just got kinda gloomy and slightly cooler, as if we were all in Canada for a few minutes.   

For most people outside the path of totality, Monday was just a normal work day with a slightly unique (and possibly momentarily terrifying) event in the middle. If you were in the path of totality, however, the eclipse became almost a national holiday. NASA should think about renaming it the Path of Totally Gonna Skip Work and Have an Eclipse Party.

Many folks were confused on the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse, and which one was occurring. I can answer that question. A solar eclipse, which we experienced Monday, is when the moon passes in front of the sun. A lunar eclipse is when the plumber bends down to look under the sink and you shield your eyes with your hand to avoid being subjected to his exposed butt crack.

Lunar eclipses, unfortunately for everyone involved, are not rare, even though belts are sold at every clothing store in the world, all truck stops, and even some gas stations.

As far as solar eclipses go, they are far more infrequent. There have been conflicting reports, based on mimosa intake, of when the last total solar eclipse was over the United States, and when the next one will be. I have no idea, but I know who does – a man named Fred Espenak, who is a total astronomical badass.

I don’t know Fred personally, and if I ever met him, I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate with him effectively, since he is obviously a higher-order human than myself. One five-minute conversation would likely melt my puny brain, so it’s probably best if I stay here in California, and NASA continues to keep Fred securely and safely away from regular humans.

Who is Fred, you ask? He’s the guy that gave us charts and graphs of all the past, present, and future eclipses on NASA’s special eclipse website.

Having never met him, how do I know that Fred is the space-math super genius that I’m making him out to be? One simple sentence at the bottom of the main web page:

“All eclipse calculations are by Fred Espenak, and he assumes full responsibility for their accuracy.”

He assumes full responsibility for their accuracy!? That’s a rather bold and refreshing statement in an era when no one assumes responsibility for anything at all, up to and including their own actions. I mean, NASA probably told Fred that they assume no responsibility for his vehicle, or any items left in his vehicle being lost or stolen when he parks at work. Does that bother Fred? Hell no. Fred just laughs and assumes full responsibility for the accuracy of his calculations.

After Fred moved any valuables to the trunk of his Camry (he’s no fool), he went to work and gave us solar eclipse maps and times from 1851 to 2100, detailed enough to know whether or not the next moon’s shadow is going to touch the last parking space at the Circle K at Ficklin and Niles in Tuscola, Illinois, just outside of Chicken Bristle. And by the way, the Circle K does not assume any responsibility for your vehicle in their lot, either. Especially on eclipse days.

You should see Fred’s columns of times and coordinates for each eclipse. Seriously. Please look at them and tell me what they mean. I don’t have the foggiest idea.

What I do know is that Fred Espenak, NASA/GSFC Emeritus (whatever that means), is the one person left in the United States that assumes full responsibility for anything, so I’m going to trust his eclipse calculations.

I mean, I kinda have to. How would I know if they were wrong? I guess I could travel to the middle of the South Pacific Ocean for the next total solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 at 19:24:07 to check his accuracy, but I really don’t see that happening. I’m not sure you can get good Bloody Marys out there.

By the way, I assume no responsibility whatsoever for the accuracy of this column.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

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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!