Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Open Letter to the School District


Dear folks in charge of the decision making down at the School District,

It has come to my attention that you are still planning to have “spring break” next week. I am writing to ask that you seriously reconsider that plan, because frankly, it’s stupid.

Spring break is meant to be a time of joy – a time to “break away” from the harsh rigors of school and the grueling six whole weeks of continuous study we’ve had to endure since ski week in February.

That would be great and all, if we could leave the house, but there’s a little viral wrench in the works this year. I know you know about it, because you guys send me six or seven emails a day expressly telling me that you are aware of the situation, you are proud of how you’re handling it, and you care deeply about my family’s health and safety.

Well, Mr. and Mrs. School District, I’m not a hundred percent sure that last part is correct. Do you really care?

You see, the governor has told us that we’re not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. I’m not sure if you school district big wigs got special travel dispensation, but the rest of us are supposed to remain locked inside our houses for the foreseeable future, which most certainly includes your so-called “spring break” next week.

Even if we could leave the house and go somewhere, all the places we were planning to go have closed. Exactly what are we supposed to do with our children on this “spring break” of yours? Take them to the grocery store? Nope. I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed under state law anymore.

Field trip to the Chevron? “Hey, kids, let’s go get gas! Stay in the car, though. Maybe if you’re good we’ll go through the car wash.”

I don’t think so, and these scenarios are what make me skeptical about your claim that you care about the health and safety of my family. Health includes mental health, and the only thing keeping our mental health even remotely intact right now is the existence of some sort of school schedule for our three boys.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that homeschooling is going well. It’s not. It’s not even going remotely well. But at the very least, their online schoolwork is an activity they’re required to accomplish during the day. That means they stay busy for at least part of the day, and more importantly, out of our hair and off of each other. Some days it may only be for fifteen or twenty minutes, but it’s something.

And if you cared at all about their safety, you’d definitely cancel this whole spring break nonsense. Have you people even ever seen two testosterone-y teenage boys and their crazy twelve-year-old brother caged up inside a house with nothing to do? If not, have you ever seen footage of a prison riot? Same thing.

We, as their parents, genuinely fear for their safety, because if they don’t kill each other, my wife and I might just finish the job. Possibly as early as day two. They are that annoying.

And please don’t suggest to me that we should let them play more video games. Screen time is not the answer if you are truly concerned about their health. Screen time is the answer if we’re looking to have them rapidly oscillate between lobotomized drooling and hyperactive insanity, but that’s not exactly the picture of mental health now, is it?

And don’t try to give me any nonsense about the hard-working teachers needing a break. My wife is one of those hard-working teachers, and she is not looking for a break from her students – she’s looking for a break from her own kids. Spring “break” will be the exact opposite of that.

A vast majority of our district teachers are in the same boat. They have kids, too. It’s not an excessive burden on them to teach through what would have been the break. They are all helping keep each other’s kids busy during the day. It’s a circle of life kinda deal.

And the teachers in our district who don’t have kids at home need to keep working just as much, but for a different reason. They’ve had to quickly ramp up to online teaching the past few weeks, and they’re as stressed out as the rest of their colleagues. Normally, a break would do them a world of good, if they were actually able to travel. However, if you make them stay home with nothing to do, they are just going to develop severe drinking problems.

Restaurants are allowed to deliver alcohol now! That’s not good. These teachers are trapped inside like the rest of us, and the fact that they still have to go to work each day, albeit in their pajamas, is the only thing keeping them from slipping off the edge. If you take away the responsibility of needing to be coherent during the day, it’s going to be a nine A.M. margarita-fueled disaster zone.

So, I beg you, for the good of all mankind in our district, please stop the inevitable spring break madness before it even begins. You can even take full credit for the great idea of “pushing on with valuable learning during these unprecedented times to maintain fluid educational continuity,” or however you want to word it to make yourselves sound amazing. You guys are good at that.

Just please, please don’t make me have to buy a monthly pass at the Chevron drive-thru car wash for field trips. I fear we’ll scrub off the Suburban’s entire top coat of paint just trying to keep our sanity next week without a school schedule.

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Shutdown Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 12

Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 12

Yes, we are on day twelve without school. I am counting the weekends, because weekends have no meaning when you know the kids won’t leave on Monday morning.

I’m not going to lie and say homeschooling is going well. We have already abandoned hope of any sort of educational advancement during these bleak times. We will be satisfied if the kids get out of this just not being dumber.

And please don’t get me wrong. Their teachers are doing a great job. At least, I think they are. I am basing that solely off volume of communications, not content. They are assaulting my inbox with email after email about this and that and the other thing. I would give you specifics, but I stopped reading the emails on Day 4. It was just too much. I have a life to lead over here!

We assume that our boys are reading the emails and doing the work, but it would simply be too much work for me to follow up. Instead, every once in a while, I just yell down the hall, “Did you get that email from your teacher just now?”

They say incoherent things back that I can’t and don’t want or need to understand, and I check the “homeschooled them” box for the day.


Son Number Three coughed yesterday morning. We quarantined him in the closet for the remainder of the day, not because we are worried about the coronavirus, but because he is very loud and we took the opportunity to mute him for a while. It’s our mental health that we’re concerned with, not the virus.


Meals are getting weird. In the before-time, when we had jam-packed schedules full of school and sports, we still managed to get an organized dinner on the table at least a few nights a week. Somehow, with all this amazing “free time” we’ve been given, dinner just can’t seem to bring itself together. We still have a fair amount of actual food in the pantry and refrigerator, but we keep pairing some snack mix with a can of olives around three o’clock, after the noontime cereal wears off. This pushes dinnertime out well into Cinema class (see below), which inevitably leads to popcorn for dinner, which is fine, because popcorn is a vegetable. Prove me wrong.
  

As part of my ever-evolving (some have called it lazy, but I can’t be bothered to argue with them) homeschool curriculum, I have added an Appreciation for the Cinematic Arts class in the evenings. This shelter-in-place seems to be the perfect opportunity to homeschool my kids about the magic of the silver screen in the eighties and nineties. Each night they enthusiastically tug at the duct tape binding their wrists and ankles as we watch another golden oldie, including, but not limited to, Groundhog Day, Adventures in Babysitting, The Great Outdoors, Fletch, Uncle Buck, Teen Wolf, Beetlejuice, Kindergarten Cop, Predator, and What About Bob.

They are loving it! Also, in order to properly scare them into staying home during this pandemic crisis, we showed them Outbreak. Highly recommended.


Even though we still have food, my wife keeps pestering me to go to the store. I don’t understand this, since I’m pretty sure I made my feelings on the subject very clear. I don’t want to go to the store. Last time I went I had to stand in line for an hour to get in, even though I wasn’t going to buy toilet paper. I don’t even like standing in line to go to things I actually want to go to. The grocery store certainly does not qualify for that list. Our corner gas station continues to sell milk, so I see no need to go back to that hellish line.

She showed me the grocery list she’s been compiling, trying to get me to believe we really needed things like green beans and broccoli, but I saw right through the lie. She’s almost out of chardonnay.

I don’t need to go to the store. I can wait her out. She’ll go. She might try to muscle though some pinot grigio for a few days, but she’ll crack.


I must sign off now and go get Weekend at Bernie’s cued up and ready for the nightly Cinema class.

Stay strong, people!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Just a Smidge Homeschool Schedule


I don’t want to brag or anything, but we are handling this new nationwide “distance learning” directive like a boss over here at Smidge Central.

Do we need the boys to leave the house to get their education every day?

Heck no! We can totally do all that stuff right here at home. A home that used to be much, much larger, as I remember it.

We spent the weekend coming up with our new homeschooling schedule – and by weekend, I mean five minutes on Sunday night over a couple drinks. The schedule has since been honed to razor-sharp perfection, and we are running like a Swiss watch over here on day three.

Since this has been such a massive win for us, educationally speaking, we just wouldn’t feel right keeping it to ourselves. So, we have decided to post our homeschooling schedule here for you to adopt in your own home.


The Just a Smidge Homeschool Schedule

From whenever you wake up until 8:00 A.M.
Reading time (we think – we are taking this opportunity to sleep in until 8:00 because that NEVER happens, so we’re not really sure what they’re doing, but we told them to read and we also really don’t care that much as long as they let us sleep.)

8:00 – 9:00
Culinary – boys complain about having to make their own breakfasts

9:00 – 9:30
Work Experience – boys complain about having to vacuum and do dishes

9:30 – 11:30
Classroom – boys complain that the assignments from the teachers are dumb and don’t make sense. I ask them if they read the directions. They say stupid things and then shut up after they finally read the directions. Repeat. I also use this time to attempt to figure out the logistics of expelling one or more of my children from homeschool. Does that mean they have to live in the backyard? If so, I’m totally fine with that. We own tents.

11:30 – Noon
Culinary – boys complain that they aren’t hungry for lunch yet, but they are lying, because they are boys and therefore always hungry. They make themselves cereal and chips.

Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Reading time – boys complain that they already read a ton before we got up and their books are boring and this is dumb and why can’t we go play since there is no school. They also complain about being hungry. They shut up once they actually open their books and get sucked back into the amazing stories that await them on every page.

1:00 – 2:00
Physical Education – boys go to the garage and mostly punch each other and put each other in headlocks while they are supposed to be lifting weights, doing pullups, or running around the block. As long as they stay out in the garage for an hour, we give them full credit.

2:00 – 5:00
Free Play, including one hour of screen time – boys always start their three-hour free play time with their one hour of screen time, because they have already figured out that the one hour will likely be extended indefinitely since it’s the only peace and quiet I’ve had all day and I need to get some damn things done around here!

5:00 P.M.
Guided Culinary – dinner prep with the boys playing active roles in all major food preparation activities. We are having cereal again because I just can’t anymore.

6:00 P.M.
Survival Skills – get away from me if you want to live. Also, make sure you get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s a school night.


Anyway, like I said, we’re pretty much owning this whole homeschooling thing. Use this amazing schedule with our compliments.

Best of luck!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Ask Smidge - The Viral Edition


As you know, America, and dare I say, the entire civilized world, is currently panicking about the coronavirus. Trustworthy answers are scarce, so naturally many of you have turned to the only truly trusted source for information left – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our asksmidge@gmail.com inbox has been overflowing with questions from concerned citizens, like yourselves, who just want straight answers about the dangers we face from this hideous, devastating, completely unique in every way, threat to our very existence.

You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based and completely non-controversial manner.)


Smidge,
What is the name of this thing? Is it the Corona virus, the coronavirus, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19?
Curious in Coeur d’Alene

Dear Curious,
It’s all of them. It actually started as four different viruses that were all ganging up to take over the world. When they meet, they form a totally new strain. There are actually six million different strains now, they’re just not telling us. And speaking of names, Coeur d’Alene translates to “heart of an awl.” Love your city, but that name is kinda dumb.



Smidge,
Why are they calling it the “novel coronavirus?”
Confused in Carson City

Dear Confused,
They call it that because each day someone sends you a novel on how to wash your hands. They are considering renaming it the J. R. R. Tolkienvirus.



Smidge,
Why are people hoarding toilet paper? I don’t understand the connection between the flu and toilet paper.
Shopping in Sheboygan

Dear Shopping,
There is no connection. These people are also buying and hoarding paste as well as toilet paper. They are making large toilet paper forts inside their homes, then they sit in the forts and eat paste. And their boogers.



Smidge,
I have been to five stores and can’t find any toilet paper. What is the matter with people? And where can I get some TP?
Frustrated in Fargo

Dear Frustrated,
I feel your pain. The stores are all sold out, but the good news is that the CDC and the WHO (the band, not the health people) both recently endorsed looting and pillaging at this time, as long as proper “social distancing” rules are observed. Stay safe out there!



Smidge,
Why are stores sold out of soap? Shouldn’t this coronavirus thing maybe account for a small increase in soap purchases? Didn’t people wash their hands before this?
Soapless in Seattle

Dear Soapless,
No, most people are gross. This situation is many people’s first encounter with soap. Case in point, they tested a bunch of McDonald’s order touchscreens and every one of them tested positive for fecal bacteria. And boogers. If you see someone hoarding toilet paper and soap, you can have some fun by telling them that you heard peeing on an electric fence is the best way to become immune to the coronavirus. Enjoy!



Smidge,
I’m getting conflicting information at my local bar. Does the Corona virus come from Corona beer?
Switching to Pacifico in Pacifica

Dear Switching,
No, Corona beer does not carry the virus. Not the beer itself. The bartender who handed you the beer after eating at McDonald’s carries the virus.



Smidge,
Are the people who want their Instagram posts to go “viral” the same people who can’t understand why politicians can’t stop the coronavirus?
Wondering in Waikiki

Dear Wondering,
Yes. They are toilet paper fort-building booger eaters.



Smidge,
My stock portfolio is taking a major hit with this whole thing. What can I do?
Worried in Wichita

Dear Worried,
Sell everything and dump it all into any company that makes toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or soap. Hurry.



Smidge,
Should we continue to shake hands with each other? I want to be careful, but I don’t want to be rude.
Cordial in Cambridge

Dear Cordial,
No, stop shaking hands immediately. But not because of the coronavirus. Because half of the country is out of toilet paper and soap.



Smidge,
They just canceled school for an entire district near us, and our school district just canceled every non-classroom event, including outdoor sports. This is madness. What on earth are we doing? What has happened to common sense?
Frustrated in Fairfield

Dear Frustrated,
Don’t worry. We’re planning on holding a mandatory meeting of all school district administrators soon. We’re holding the meeting on a cruise ship.



Smidge,
What ever happened with the swine flu, the bird flu, SARS, MERS, that Zika virus, and acid rain?
Questioning in Queens

Dear Questioning,
What a great question.


Stay safe out there, folks. Wash your hands as often as you can with rum, tequila, or lighter fluid, and stock up on coffee filters and fast food napkins. (Just not the ones from McDonald’s!)

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Leap Year - Repost

We had a February 29th a few days ago. There isn’t supposed to be a February 29th. Not normally, anyway. It’s a leap year. The whole concept of leap year, and our calendar in general, is very strange. I have never agreed with how our calendar works, and I have decided that it is time to stop the madness. I hereby propose that the world adopt the Smidge Calendar.

Our current calendar is complicated. This stems from the fact that the earth takes 365.2422 days to go around the sun.  If we didn’t do the leap years, we would lose six hours off the calendar every year. That’s 24 days off in a hundred years. Not good. I mean, what if your birthday was in that lost month? No party for you. What if the lost month turned out to be October, and we lost Oktoberfest? Totally unacceptable.

A long time ago, Julius Caesar, a huge fan of Oktoberfest and birthdays, introduced leap years to correct for the 0.2422 day problem. Julius decided they would do a leap day every four years no matter what. That is actually too many, since the day fraction is 0.24 and not 0.25, so things started getting out of whack. Fifteen hundred years later, after people got tired of spring starting in the middle of summer, someone with a big brain and an abacus developed a formula. To be a leap year, the year must be evenly divisible by four. If the year is also evenly divisible by 100, then it is not a leap year, unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. Simple, right?

Well, that’s all fine and dandy, and I don’t really have a problem with the leap year math. It’s necessary. What is not necessary is having our months all different. Why have some months with 30 days, others with 31, and one with variable days? It’s too complicated. When I was a kid, my dad taught me a way to tell how many days a month has in it. You count on your knuckles. Start on the knuckle of your index finger as January. Count the months down your fist, landing alternately on your knuckles, and the valleys between your knuckles. When you get to your pinkie knuckle (July), start over on your index knuckle (August). If you are on a knuckle, the month has 31 days. If you are in a valley, it has 30, unless it’s February, then you have to refer to the complicated formula.

The knuckle trick is handy (get it?), but it shouldn’t be necessary. With the Smidge Calendar, you will never need to count on your knuckles like an ape again. My months will all have 28 days. Gone will be the days of not knowing what day of the week the 12th of March is. The days will always be the same number. The month will always start on Monday the 1st. Sundays will always be the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. Simple and easy.

Holidays will always be on the same day. You will always know when Thanksgiving is going to fall, and with the new calendar, we can move some of the more flexible holidays to always fall on a Monday or a Friday. Boom, more three-day weekends. You’re welcome!

Now, with 28-day months, we'll need to have 13 of them, to make a year.  We’ll have to come up with a name for the new month. We'll make it fun and have a national contest, and pick the most popular submission. This will be a worldwide calendar, of course, but we'll retain naming rights. This is our idea, and everyone else can just get on board. It won't be a hard sell, due to the New Year’s factor.

Thirteen months at 28 days each only gets you 364 days. The all-important 365th day will occur on what is currently known as January 1st. However, it will be known only as New Year’s Day. It will not have a number. It will not be a Monday. It will simply be "New Year’s Day," and it will be a freebie. No work will occur. Nothing will be accomplished. It's a phantom day that doesn't exist on the calendar. Relax and enjoy!

Since we can't do anything about the 0.2422 day problem, we will continue with the current leap year formula, and any leap year will have an extra bonus day, known as New Year’s Weekend. Two totally free days every four years (unless the year is evenly divisible by 100 but not 400, obviously). Winning!

While you will be encouraged to do nothing on New Year’s Day and Weekend, inevitably, a certain amount of children will be born on these phantom days. This is where the Smidge Calendar also has a bonus financial planning aspect. Any parent having a child on New Year’s Day will get to choose whether their new child's official birthday will be December 28th or January 1st. This will allow them to decide which tax year they would like their new deduction and tax credit to fall in. Just a happy bonus feature of a new and improved system.

In fact, I don't mean to brag, but the Smidge Calendar has no discernible flaws. It's way better that the current random 12- month system. The only potential downside I can see is a slight long-term hit to the calendar industry, since calendars will now be reusable.

Now, before all you accountants out there have a conniption fit, screaming about financial quarters, please try to relax. We'll still have quarters, they're just 13 weeks long now. You're supposed to be good at math, so deal with it. Like I said, no flaws.

I anticipate immediate adoption of the Smidge Calendar as soon as the word gets out. The only thing left to do is figure out where to put the new month. I'm thinking between September and October. They always seemed like they needed to be separated a little more. We could call it Smidgetober. It would be a fun month. We could introduce Smidgetoberfest, the Oktoberfest pre-party.

Just food for thought.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

School Officials in Our (Hot) Pocket


This just in from the news desk, heiress to the billion-dollar Hot Pockets fortune, Michelle Janavs, has just been sentenced to five months in jail for attempting to get her two daughters into college by paying now infamous William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach “college admissions consultant,” over three hundred thousand dollars in cash and frozen food.

Janavs paid Singer one hundred thousand dollars to facilitate the bribing of a high school testing official and two hundred thousand dollars to buy a USC administrator’s approval of a bogus sports admission.

Police were already investigating Singer and his phony foundation, but may not have found out about his dealings with Janavs, had it not been for the eighteen-wheeler of Hot Pockets that backed up to his office one afternoon. Apparently, he had requested a portion of his illegal compensation in the form of the delicious microwavable frozen snack food.

Initially, authorities feared the worst when the surveillance teams reporting Singer buying twenty full-size chest freezers over the course of week. Thankfully, he had not graduated to mass murder and body storage, and the police simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief and had a new lead to follow when the Hot Pockets truck arrived.

The trail to the Janavs family’s huge front door was a short one. Conspicuously missing from the tests allegedly taken by the Janavs girls were the tell-tale ever-present greasy fingerprints and marinara stains. And authorities were immediately suspicious about the USC admission under the guise of being an elite beach volleyball player, since both daughters, having been raised from a babies on nothing but Hot Pockets and ranch dipping sauce, each weigh close to seven hundred pounds.

Facing five months in jail, Michelle Janavs’ legal team has worked out a special arrangement with the California Institution for Women and Day Spa in Corona, California, where she will be housed. Michelle’s team of personal physicians submitted a three-thousand-page document to the courts detailing her fragile health condition.

Essentially, due to a lifetime of eating nothing but Hot Pockets, she could die almost instantly if she consumes anything else, other than diet soda, of course. “We need to maintain her saturated fat and sodium levels at their normal six thousand percent of the recommended daily value,” said her lead doctor, “or the consequences could be dire. Hot Pockets, and Hot Pockets alone are the best way to do that.”

“Prior to arriving here in Corona, Mrs. Janavs will have a minimum of four hundred sixty-five boxes of Hot Pockets delivered for her personal consumption, plus any she plans to trade for cigarettes and shivs,” CIWDS warden Janet Stevens told us. “We are having to add a second walk-in freezer here to accommodate her special dietary restrictions.”

“We’re excited about her coming here,” an anonymous guard at the prison shared with us. “Given her history, we figured she’d be up for bribing us, which she totally was. She’s bringing in an additional four full trucks worth to take care of all the guards’ families. It’s going to be amazing. We love Hot Pockets!”

Happily, not all clouds have a silver lining. Some are lined with a crispy crust and seven thousand-degree mozzarella cheese.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

This Column is Going Downhill


Our regularly scheduled column has been rudely preempted by Ski Week.

Yes, that’s right, I said Ski Week. Instead of celebrating the glorious birthdays of Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison on two separate Mondays in February, like we all did when we were young, our school district changed things up. Apparently, they think we’re all rich.

They tacked on three extra president’s days to the previous two, and lined them all up in a row this week. This phenomenon is nicknamed “Ski Week,” so the idea, apparently, is that we’re all supposed to head up to the slopes and spend the education-free week on a ski vacation. I guess I forgot to let our school district know that we don’t have thirty-eight thousand dollars lying around for just such an occasion.

And our school district failed to check with any of the surrounding districts to see if they were also populated by the idle rich and doing the same thing. Turns out they’re not. Since my wife teaches in a neighboring district, our ski week, could we afford it, would be momless.

Sure, we might be able to shave a few thousand bucks off the total cost with one less lift ticket and no overpriced ski lodge chardonnay, but if you think I’m taking these three monkeys skiing by myself, you’ve obviously been drinking something a lot stronger than wine.

So, what I’m telling you is, the kids in Rocklin, which unfortunately includes MY kids, have the ENTIRE damn week off. And not only that, but this particular week has weekends on BOTH sides of it! Do you know what that means? It means my three boys have been here at home with me now for five whole days in a row already, and we still have four more whole days, also in that row, left before they go back to school.

Those of you with kids, or those of you who have met kids before, should now understand the fact that I’ve got nothing done in the last five days, and that trend will continue for the next four. In particular, I haven’t been able to write this column. I haven’t been able to do anything useful. (Author’s note to aspiring writers: Take notice of how I deftly implied that this column is actually useful through the trickery of italics, even though there is absolutely no historical evidence that would support that claim.)

So, to all of you who are not currently on a weeks-long ski vacation, I apologize for not having a column for you today. I don’t know why our school district is choosing not to celebrate the President’s Days as our forefathers intended, but one thing is certain – our distinguished eighth and ninth presidents are rolling over in their ornate, gold and diamond-encrusted graves.

As for you folks who are swooshing down the slopes this week and sipping expensive ski lodge cocktails in plush leather chairs in front of magnificent fireplaces while I spend another day eating cold pizza and refereeing at the World Brothers Wrestling Federation, I’ll say this:

I am NOT sorry that I don’t have a column for you this week. You’re probably too busy to read it anyway, what with all your swooshing, and expensive sipping, and plush fireplace sitting, and stacking gold coins in your Rolls Royce, and snorting caviar, and whatever else it is you people do.

But I’m not bitter. I would never wish for you to have a skiing accident and break a bone or anything like that. That’s just not right.

But I do kinda wish you’d fall off your wallet in the lodge and get a mild sprain.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Snacking Dangerously


Son Number Three brought this permission slip home from his sixth-grade cooking elective class the other day:

Over the next few weeks we will be working on a unit focused on making healthy after-school snacks. We will be learning knife skills in class so that the students can prepare fruits and vegetables. Students will be placed in small groups of 4-5 and will work directly with me to learn how to properly hold and handle a knife, as well as how to slice, chop, and dice. In order to participate in the hands-on knife skills training, all students must bring a signed permission slip.

   ___   I would like my child to participate in knife skills training.
   ___   I do NOT want my child to participate in knife skills at this time.


I have a lot of issues with this permission slip, starting with the fact that someone in our school district thought that a permission slip was needed in the first place. My son is in the sixth grade. He’s eleven years old. He has his own monogrammed folding pocketknife that he carries around with him (off campus, of course). If he doesn’t know how to slice a cucumber without hurting himself by now, then let’s just let the natural learning and selection process run its course.

I checked the yes box, and added a note asking if they would also be learning proper knife throwing techniques. I mean, if you’re going to make me sign a permission slip before my kid is allowed to do something as crazy as chop a bell pepper, then let’s really use the parental permission to its fullest. This could be a combination cooking and bladed weapon self-defense class, for example. Appetizers and axe throwing? Brunch and bayonets? I just feel like we’re missing a real opportunity for some higher learning, here.

You know, it wasn’t too long ago that sixth graders were running the radial arm saw in woodshop, and no permission slip ever went home for that. Of course, the radial arm saw gets its name from the fact that it’s great at removing your arm, just above the radius. (The original name, “ulnar arm saw,” didn’t work because everyone thought you were saying “underarm saw,” which obviously refers to a gas-powered thirty-inch-bar chainsaw.)

We have drifted a long way from the days of being taught woodworking skills by an eight-fingered man, but it’s very clear that we’ve gone over the edge the wrong way in the name of safety. That being said, my biggest problem with this permission slip has nothing to do with the knives.

Apparently, the only “healthy after-school snacks” being presented as options to my impressionable young son are fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables!? This is a travesty. I ask you, Rocklin Unified School District, what about the Totino’s Pizza Rolls? You call this a responsible and informed education??

And you want to talk about safety concerns? Let’s talk about a pizza roll that just came out of the oven. The potential for third- or even sixth-degree burns from the explosive molten-lava-marinara and cheese filling cannot be understated. If our military could somehow develop a rapid delivery system to effectively weaponize hot Totino’s pizza rolls, conflicts around the globe could be ended tomorrow. Try to say that about fruits and vegetables.

Pizza rolls - now that’s a situation that should require a permission slip!

And safety goggles.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Miami Pop Rocks

The Super Bowl was in Miami this year. I don’t want to talk about the game. As a lifelong Forty-Niners fan, it was far too painful to watch the fourth quarter, a quarter in which, traditionally, both teams play. My team decided not to play the fourth quarter for some reason, and I still don’t want to talk about it, so please, just let it go.

Let’s talk about the halftime show, instead. J Lo’s butt joined Shakira’s butt on stage at the fifty-yard-line to entertain us for fourteen minutes. The butts wore skimpy outfits and danced around the stage. The butts swayed. The butts hung on tight to poles and spun down to the stage again. At the end of the show, the swinging butts even knocked all the rest of the dancers off their feet with two powerful sideways butt moves. The butts put on a pretty good show.

Not many people are aware of this, but the owners of the butts, J Lo and Shakira, are actually fairly talented singers. The NFL consented to let them have microphones as long as their butts were constantly visible to the cameras, as per the butt contract, and the two ladies were even allowed to sing a little during the show.

It is not a shock that the NFL would put on a halftime show centered around butts. We’re not exactly talking about America’s moral compass here. Let’s not forget the halftime show centered around Janet Jackson’s boobs. The NFL has a low bar, family entertainment-wise, and they continue to sneak under it to pick up all the dollar bills on the stage.

So, the butts weren’t surprising. Shakira is from Colombia, which also makes perfect sense, since the Super Bowl was in Miami, Florida, a town that operates completely under Colombian national law. I assume J Lo was invited because she is from New York - a nod to where the state of Florida imports the rest of its citizens from.

There were two male performers invited up on stage as well. J Balvin is another Colombian pop star, so he was probably required to be on stage under Colombian entertainment law, as a chaperone for Shakira’s butt.

The other choice for male entertainment was baffling. A guy in a diamond-encrusted silver trench coat wearing a silk dinner napkin as a hat showed up on stage with a microphone, as if he was a legitimate entertainer. It was bad enough until I was informed he goes by the name Bad Bunny. I am not making that up.

He crept around the stage, squatting down in his matching diamond-encrusted sneakers, doing a half-rap song in Spanish. Apparently, Bad Bunny is from Puerto Rico, where I guess you are not required to have any talent in order to become a famous singer, or a famous outerwear BeDazzler, or whatever it is he’s famous for.

I’m not sure why the Colombian government of Miami agreed to have a Puerto Rican join the show. They literally, and I’m using literally correctly here, could have gone outside the stadium right before the show, thrown a churro blindfolded, and hit someone better to be on stage than Bad Bunny.

Bad Bunny, however, was not my problem with the halftime show. My problem was the whole thing took place inside Hard Rock Stadium.

Hard Rock.

Not Hard Butts Stadium. Not Easy-Listening Latin Rap Stadium. Not Whatever-the-Hell Bad Bunny Does Stadium.

Hard Rock Stadium. You have one clear choice for a halftime show at Hard Rock Stadium: AC/DC.

They blew it.

If AC/DC had played, the Niners would have won. I blame Bad Bunny. I don’t want to talk about it.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

High School Knowledge Week - Repost

I am in the middle of school visit season, and as such, I ran out of time to write a new column for this week. So, in honor of school visit season, I thought I’d re-share a post about a school visit a couple years ago. Everything still holds true today. Enjoy!


I went back to high school today. Not my own high school, but a very similar one. It felt the same. The smell of gym socks and mysterious cafeteria “food” has not changed much in thirty years.

It’s career week at Rocklin High, and they invited me to speak about being an author. I wanted to speak about being a bullfighter, but they said it was better to stick to things I’d had direct experience with, so whatever. Author it is.

I really had a fun time sharing my knowledge and insights with the students about authoring, but I also felt like I left a lot on the table, advice-wise. I mean, I gave them plenty of advice about being an author, such as, “If you want to be able to afford food and clothing, be a dentist instead,” and “Never name your evil villainess after your mother-in-law if you can help it.”

But I really wished I could have gone a step further and given them general high school life advice. The format and time constraints of the day wouldn’t allow for it, but there was definitely more wisdom I wanted to impart, such as:

- Talk to the girl. She’s nervous and self-conscious just like you are, even if all you see is her being amazing and you having zits. If she wants nothing to do with you, smile and say, “OK, no sweat. I hope you have a great day.” Or cover her front yard in toilet paper at midnight. Either way you want to play it is cool.

- Pay attention, you idiot. The things they are teaching you do not suck and are not lame. This is all stuff you will need in life. Except algebra. Algebra does suck and is lame. No one uses algebra in their job.

- Here’s a good joke for your math teacher:
What does the little mermaid wear to math class?
An algebra.
You’re welcome.

- While you are here, learn to form grammatically correct sentences on paper and with your face. If you can’t do that, you will always work at the car wash.

- Drive while driving. And drive as little as possible while you’re in high school. You think you’re amazing at it, but you’re not. You suck at it. So much.

- Stand up straight, look people in the eye, have a firm handshake, and speak clearly. In other words, stop being you and start acting like a human. It’s time.

- Quit wearing beanie hats unless it is below 45 degrees. Never wear them indoors, unless you work in a walk-in freezer.

- Be extra nice to your joints – your knees in particular. Trust me.

- Go to any other country before you start college. Just go. You don’t need any money.

- Get your hair out of your eyes. For you boys, it makes you look like a lazy slob. For you girls, it makes you look like Cousin It. Not good, either way.

- Go to any other country after you finish college. Just go. You still don’t need any money.

- Sit up straight.

- Your parents know a lot of useful information, and they want you to have it because they love you. You don’t know anything useful at all. Listen to them and stop being a turd.

- And no, having “likes” on your selfies is not useful. Stop taking selfies and learn how to cook a steak properly.

- Pronounce words correctly.

- You will get out of college exactly what you put into it. So be sure to study. Also, be sure to learn how to do an upside-down keg stand properly. Both are vitally important to college.

- Seriously, stop wearing beanie hats.

- Get a job if you don’t have one yet. You are not too busy. Throw your cell phone away and you just freed up 80% of your day.

- Once you learn something, start your own business with zero dollars in your bank account. If you fail, big deal. You’ll still have zero dollars. If you succeed, you’ll have more than zero. It’s just simple math.

- Deodorant. Always.

- Don’t say, “To be honest with you...”
It gives the impression you aren’t being honest all the other times.

- And above all else, remember -  Us adults are just as lost as you, but we have mortgages. Stay in high school. You have no idea how good you have it.

I’m going back tomorrow to talk to more students. Maybe I’ll find time to fit some of this good stuff in.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Insert Emoji Here


It all started with someone turning their head ninety degrees to the left and realizing that this

 : )

looked like a smiling face. It wasn’t too long before a bunch of clever people started exploring their keyboard options and we had a nose,

:-)

a winking face,

; )

and a surprised look.

: 0

It escalated until eventually no one was getting any actual work done, but we had a shrugging guy,

\_( ``/ )_/

and Princess Leia,

@(^0_0^)@

among many other useful little designs. Then, something weird happened. People started including these little designs in actual sentences, as part of the message.

Instead of writing, “I’m happy about that,” people started just putting a

: )

at the end of the sentence. It wasn’t long before it was universally understood that you meant you were happy, and not all colon space parenthesis about it.

We named them “emoticons,” which literally translated from Latin means, “A huge waste of time.”

“Emoticons” got shortened almost immediately to “emoji,” and things spiraled out of control from there.

Eventually, someone at a cell phone company said, “Why don’t we just make pictures?” and the first round yellow smiley face found its way off the Jeep spare tire cover and onto our cell phones. It has been an exponential emoji curve ever since.

I can now be happy with your text in a number of different teeth options, I can laugh until I cry at your text, I can laugh until I cry with a sideways tilt to my head and sneezing eyes. I can look surprised, worried, pensive, mischievous, shocked, asleep, sick, insane, frustrated, and even dead. There is no end to the emotion I can convey with the array of little yellow faces at my disposal.

And that’s just the little yellow faces. I can also do any one of those emotions in a cat face. And as a monkey.

Apple, the phone company dedicated to making phones for people who do nothing but take pictures of themselves and their food, even came up with a way to make an animated emoji face of yourself. You can even add a body and have yourself standing next to a huge congratulations rainbow with fireworks, conveying the emotion, “congratulations a lot.”

The phone companies didn’t stop there, however. Our emoji menus now contain goldfish, apples, camels, footballs, cacti, the Parthenon, Vespa scooters, trumpets, the handicapped sign, protractors, the flag of Albania, the scales of justice, Ferris wheels, flaming meteors, doughnuts, champagne bottles, beer mugs, and of course, poop.

I use the “thumbs up” all the time, but I recently found my favorite one. Someone at Samsung decided to add an Easter Island head to my emoji arsenal. I have no idea why, or what anyone could possibly try to convey with it, but I use it all the time now, like a signature. “Sincerely, Blockhead.”

These emojis litter our texts, but up until now they have been at the discretion of the texter. That is changing as apps are starting to get pushy about it if you don’t use enough emojis. When I type a note on Venmo about what I’m paying someone for, it keeps popping up emoji suggestions that it wants me to use instead of actual words. If I type “piz…” it’s popping up a pizza slice emoji in front of my fingers, basically screaming at me, “Use this emoji, you idiot! No one reads words anymore!”

And can we even really call the pizza slice an emoji? I mean, I have strong emotions about pizza, but I don’t think a picture of a slice of pizza by itself can be considered a feeling. Be that as it may, I can see where this is all headed.

The English language will die out in its written form, and we will all move back to hieroglyphics, albeit now digital and very colorful. We’re basically all sending each other rebus picture puzzles now instead of sentences.

Your phone has become a digital Lucky Lager beer cap.

[eye] [female sheep] soon,

-[Easter Island head]


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Tiny Naked Hoarders


My wife and I have been watching some reality TV lately. Normally, reality TV can be defined as anything but reality, but in the case of the three shows we’ve landed on, they are as real as it gets.

The first one is Tiny House Nation. Two guys travel the United States helping people move out of regular-size houses and cram themselves, their kids, their dogs, and about five to seven percent of the stuff they used to own into a new tiny house that would easily fit into the living room of their old place.

They all report that they love their new miniature house when they get handed the keys on the big reveal day, but there is never a follow-up show a year or so later detailing the aftermath of the inevitable close-quarters cabin fever tearing the family apart at the seams. It would show only the husband left in the tiny house, parked behind a 7-eleven so he can find dinner, while his ex-wife and the kids and dogs sprawl out in a normal house, at least two states away.

The next show is Hoarders, which is essentially the opposite of Tiny House Nation. Instead of getting rid of all their stuff, hoarders continue to purchase or collect crap they don’t need and cram their regular-size houses so full, even people who live in a tiny house would ask, “How do you move around in this place?”

A psychologist and a cleaning team partner with the family of the hoarder to help them through their deep-seated emotional and mental issues that led to the hoarding while the house is completely cleaned out and returned to the semblance of a normal dwelling. They take stuff out of the houses using snow shovels. Marie Kondo would literally vaporize from the stress.

Predictably, there is a big reveal, and the “former” hoarder cries and says thank you and that they are grateful. Again, I think the one-year follow-up show would probably show the hoarding returned with such a vengeance that the chimney would be getting pushed up out of the roof, but I am only speculating.

The third show has no houses whatsoever. Naked and Afraid is where a man and a woman who don’t know each other are paired up to survive for twenty-one days together somewhere harsh and unforgiving, like Detroit. Also, of course, they are naked. They are allowed to bring one single item each, which usually ends up being a machete and a fire starter. Why none of them choose to bring a taco truck is baffling to me.

One of the first things they always do is attempt to build a tiny house, albeit in this case out of branches and leaves instead of 2x4’s and ugly kitchen tile. Amazingly, they have even less storage requirements than a tiny houser, since they have no clothes and only own one household item each, so their houses tend to be of the six square feet variety.

They also have significantly less food that hoarders or housers, since they have none, which makes Naked and Afraid a very effective weight loss program. If they make it the full three weeks, which many do not, the men lose about twenty to twenty-five pounds and the woman lose about twelve to eighteen. Women around the globe are outraged by the disparity. Equal weight for equal time!

After watching a lot of these shows, it occurs to me that the networks are not really applying themselves here. Just between these three shows alone, there are countless spinoff and collaboration opportunities for new shows.

Just off the top of my head:

Hoarders Helped Me Go Tiny – hoarders are invited to remove items from people’s houses to help them pare down their belongings in order to fit into their new tiny house. Will the homeowners be able to fight off the growing feeding frenzy of hoarders in order to keep anything at all for the move?

Naked and Afraid I Won’t Fit into My New Tiny House – overweight people go on the twenty-one-day wilderness survival challenge in order to prepare for fitting more comfortably into their new tiny houses. Can they make it long enough to fit, or will they tap out and have to stay in their normal-size house?

Naked and Building my Tiny House – a couple has three weeks to build their new tiny house out of materials found only in the jungle. They are allowed to eat and use power tools, but is that really a good idea given that they are naked?

Afraid My House is too Tiny to Be Naked – They need to go smaller on the square footage, but will there still be enough room for a shower? Or are they doomed to a life of coin-operated truck stop showers?

Tiny House Hoarders – like regular Hoarders, but with eighty percent less stuff. Episodes can be fifteen minutes each.

Naked Hoarders Afraid of Tiny Houses – hoarders have to fit all their stuff into a tiny house and then live there naked for twenty-one days. Why do they need to be naked? Why not?

Hoarding Tiny Houses – one man’s rabid obsession with collecting two hundred square-foot mini houses. Where will he put them all? Tune in to find out.

Hoarding Tiny Naked Houses – same as Hoarding Tiny Houses, but none of the tiny houses have exterior siding. Will the elements consume the houses before his hoarding disorder consumes his life?

Hoarding Tiny Houses Naked – the houses have siding, but now the guy is naked…

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. You’re welcome, network executives. I will await my royalty checks.

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

About the Author, 2020

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! Let’s start the New Year with a little meet and greet, shall we?

Hi. I’m Marc Schmatjen, aka Smidge, and I’m the lone staff writer and head pool maintenance technician here at Just a Smidge. Based on how much money I make writing this column, it would be inaccurate to call this my job, so let’s just go with “hobby.”

I am a forty-seven-year-old husband of one and father of three. My wife is an amazing woman who teaches high school kids math, which is becoming increasingly difficult now that school isn’t necessarily used for teaching anymore. For a math teacher, she’s an excellent counseloreferee.

We have three boys, whom we affectionately refer to as Son Number One, Two, and Three. Two of them are teenagers and all three of them are loud and smelly and they eat a lot.

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, in no particular order:

1) I am going bald, and amazingly, getting better looking with every single lost hair off my head.

2) My grandfather killed General Patton's dog. That is the single most historically outstanding thing anyone in my family has done. We are a proud people.

3) Walking out into bright sunlight makes me sneeze. I am one of only an estimated seven people in the world with this disorder. We have a club. I inherited this trait from my grandmother, whose husband once killed General George Patton’s dog.

4) I am related to U.S. president Grover Cleveland on my maternal grandmother’s side, whose husband (my grandmother’s, not Grover Clevelend’s) - I believe I may have mentioned this - killed General George S. Patton’s beloved English bull terrier, Willie. I don't really care about being related to Grover Cleveland since he’s not Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy got shot in the chest while leaving his hotel to give a speech. He continued on to the auditorium and gave an 84-minute speech with a bullet in his ribs. Teddy was the only truly cool president.

5) A few of my literary heroes are Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Erma Bombeck, Michael Connelly, and Dave Barry. My grandfather did not kill any of their dogs, that I am aware of.

6) I am 47 now, and my once-fantastic eyesight is relaxing like a tired dad in a Barcalounger. My arms are not long enough to read small print anymore, or even the medium print. Also, every other part of my body aches.

7) As an author and a writer, I am not afraid to say that books of non-rhyming “poetry” with sentences like, “My mind is a seedless grape, grasping to comprehend the melancholy oration, drowning in a cacophony of humanity…” etc., are written by people who are too scared to attempt to write anything that is required to make sense.

8) Another highlight of being 47 now: My face is going numb. Why does this happen to men? You see old guys all the time eating dinner with food stuck to their faces. We just can’t feel it on there anymore. My chin is completely dead at this point.

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. (And they will end up stuck to my chin, where they will remain until my wife scolds me.)

10) I was in shape once. I swam 100,000 yards in one week when I was in high school. I could not swim more than 50 yards or so today without needing a floatation device, an oxygen tank, and a defibrillator. See number 11.

11) I love bacon and I sit all day. See number 10.

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

13) I am a recovering engineer, so I know there are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

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 doctor takes one look at him and says, "Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts."

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

16) I like 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) Coincidently, 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,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The 2020 Do-it-Yourself New Year's Resolution Template

So many of you needed to use my DIY Christmas letter this year that it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you’ve also failed to plan ahead for your New Year’s resolutions. Have no fear. I’ve got you covered, hopeless slackers.

Just choose one entry from each column to construct your new resolution. If you are super ambitious and want more than one resolution that you can abandon before the middle of January, just repeat the easy four-step process.

Now, get to it. There’s no time to lose.

COLUMN 1
COLUMN 2
COLUMN 3
COLUMN 4




Stop

cooking meth
after
running a 5K
Step up my

meditating
while posting about
crying uncontrollably
Keep

singing loudly
during
weightlifting
Envision

talking back
in the middle of
making love
Start

ignoring the pain

while livestreaming
disinfecting the hookah
Avoid

making painful small talk
prior to
vaping
Quit

drowning my sorrows
while filming strangers
dialing 911
Try

talking to the voices
before
working the crowd
Practice
increasing my swagger
while
sifting through the wreckage of my life
Effort toward

hot-tubbing
when I’m done
babbling hysterically
Continue

winking
while shouting at people
smoking hash
Work my way into

screaming
in addition to
buying burritos
Begin

making an impact
immediately before
running from the cops

There you go. Now get out there and make those resolutions stick. You got this!

No need to thank me, it’s just what I do.

Happy New Year!

See you soon,

-Smidge


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

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