Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Weight of Christmas

Christmas used to be simpler. And harder.

It’s complicated.

One thing’s for sure, Christmas definitely used to be lighter.

When the boys were younger, there was a lot more to the Christmas prep. We had to be careful what we said. We had to make sure we visited Santa Claus somewhere at least once before Christmas Eve, ideally nowhere near a mall.

We had to “mail” letters to the North Pole, which really meant we had to make sure we read the letters without anyone finding out, then I was in charge of making the letters disappear. And make no mistake, that was probably the most life-and-death job I’ve ever had as a parent. The world would have come down around our heads if one of the boys had ever seen me shredding their Santa letters and hand-decorated envelopes. Thank the good Lord they never insisted on walking them down to the mailbox themselves!

We had to put out carrots and milk and cookies for Santa, and I had to eat the cookies and drink the milk. That job was tolerable. But I also had to chew up the carrots and spit them onto the lawn, and collect dirt and freezing cold hose water to make mud in order to manufacture reindeer “hoofprints” on our front walkway at midnight. That job was cold and messy and tasted like carrots, which are not nearly as good as cookies.

Basically, we had to lie a lot and stay up late. But at least the gifts were smaller.

I mean, sure, I spent my fair share of Christmas Eves assembling new bikes and Fisher-Price scoot-around cars, or whatever, but they were all manageable one-man jobs. The boys are older now, and the big gifts have grown with them.

This year was almost too much for me to handle. Son Number Two and Three got an eight-foot-tall lacrosse bounce-back from us this year. The UPS guy could barely get the box up our driveway. He and I managed to get it stored in the garage out of sight, but last night I had to put it together. It’s basically a trampoline the size of a large coffee table, sitting vertically up on a tube steel frame. It has various places where it folds up for storage, but God help you if you fold it all out, stretching all the springs tight, before you thoroughly read the safety precautions section of the manual.

There are two places that require safety bolts to be placed through the hinges before you move on to assembling the rest of the very heavy framework. If you don’t put the safety bolts in, it’s possible for the whole thing to fold in half very rapidly as the springs collapse, beating the holy hell out of your right foot that happened to be standing on one side of the frame. That situation is also very sudden and very loud, which causes your heart to stop for three to four full seconds, which can’t be good for you.

The problem was the giant upright trampoline turned out to be the light, easy gift to assemble. Son Number One wanted a weight bench. I bought it at a local sporting good store, and between me and the five-foot-two-inch female store manager, we managed to get it into the back of our SUV. Just imagine a full-size wight bench with all the weights and everything, tucked into a reinforced cardboard box the size of a standard filing cabinet.

I had to keep it in the box in order to hide it in the garage. Ironically, Son Number One would have been an excellent choice to help me move it there from the back of the car. His brothers couldn’t be trusted to keep the secret safe, so I handled it myself. Luckily, that was about a month before Christmas, so I had time to recover from the hernia surgery before I had to assemble it last night.

It was all actually going pretty well, taking locking plate #24 and using two #37 bolts plus two #78 washers and #45 nuts to secure crossbar #17 to main beam #12. That was fine. It was the un-numbered items that gave me a little trouble. Specifically, the twenty-five-pound plastic-coated weight that slipped out of my tired fingers around midnight and bounced across my already spring-loaded right foot.

That kind of thing never happened with the Fisher-Price stuff. Like I said, Christmas used to be lighter.

On the upside, the boys didn’t wake us up at 4:30 this morning like they used to.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue to ice my foot.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Until next year,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The 2019 Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter

You’ve gone and done it again this year, haven’t you? You waited until the last minute and still don’t have your Christmas letter written. Like everything else you did this year, it’s going to be too little, too late now. When will you ever learn to stop procrastinating? Maybe next year, huh?

Well, don’t start drowning your sorrows in Jim Beam’s famous eggnog just yet. At least wait until five o’clock like a civilized holiday lush. And no, conquering procrastination does not begin with drinking earlier!

At least wait until you hear the good news. I can’t help you with your crippling lack of motivation or willpower, but I can get you out of this Christmas letter mess. You see, I anticipated your folly yet again this year, and created yet another Do-it-Yourself Christmas Letter, just for you. No need to thank me with a card I’ll probably get in June. I’m happy to help. It’s what I do.

So, grab your #2 pencil, pour some of that holiday cheer on the rocks, and start bubbling in the appropriate choices. It’s time to get this letter handled!

[heading and date]
O   Christmas 2019
O   Holidays 2019
O   2019 Holiday Season
O   Festival of the Nativity, Anno Domini MMXIX
O   2019, End of Fourth Quarter and Calendar Year
O   Wednesday

O   cherished loved ones,
O   family and friends,
O   mostly family and friends and some other obligatory holiday greeting recipients,
O   mostly marginal acquaintances,
O   bunch of names on the list my spouse provided me,

O   Merry Christmas
O   Happy Hanukkah
O   Happy Holidays
O   We’re Buddhist, so Happy Public School “Winter Break”
O   We’re Bengals fans, so Happy Last Two Weeks of this God-Forsaken Season
O   Yo Ho Ho

from the
O   Smith
O   Gonzalez
O   Lee
O   Johnson
O   Other


[obligatory opening line]
O   We just can’t believe the year is almost over!
O   Where does the time go?
O   Wow, Christmas is here already!
O   Christmas is upon us again! Time sure does fly!

[letter body]
O   We had a great year here at the (last name here) house.
O   We had a good year here at the (last name here) house.
O   We sure had a year here at the (last name here) house.
O   We’d like to forget the year we had here at the (multiple last names here) house.

O   (first child name here) won another award this year for (activity or service merit here).
O   (first child name here) almost won an award this year for (fourth place finish here).
O   (first child name here) got a participation ribbon for (sport or activity no one cares about here).
O   (first child name or inappropriate nickname here) ain’t never gonna win no awards for (skill or activity they are bad at here).

O   (second child name here) continues to excel in both (school level and sport here).
O   (second child name here) continues to excel in (school subject or sport here).
O   (second child name here) continues to attend (school level or sport here).
O   (second child name here) continues to misbehave and nearly got expelled again from (school name here).

O   (mom’s name here) had another fulfilling year of volunteering at (charitable organization here).
O   (mom’s name here) had another exciting year of working at (multinational company name here).
O   (mom’s name here) had another year off her life working retail at (major store chain name here).
O   (mom’s name here) had another year added to her sentence at (correctional facility name here).

O   (dad’s name here) continues to enjoy retirement, keeping busy with his (hobby here).
O   (dad’s name here) continues to navigate retirement, with his latest adventure being (hobby here).
O   (dad’s name here) continues to be on disability, and can’t seem to keep busy since he hates (hobby here).
O   (latest baby daddy’s name here) continues to enjoy unemployment, getting busy with (female neighbor’s name here).

O   We wish you all the best in the coming year, and a joyous holiday season.
O   We wish you all the best in the coming year.
O   We wish you all the best.
O   We wish we could be more like your family.
O   We wish this year had never happened.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Smash Gift of the Year

What do you get the person who has everything? That age-old question is actually easily answered this time of year. You get them the gift of life, of course, in the form of the Emergency Car Escape Hammer and Seatbelt Cutter.

You would never give someone one of these for their birthday, but for some reason it seems to be a perfectly logical gift at Christmas. What says “I love you” at Christmastime better than a tool that cuts through your seatbelt and breaks tempered auto glass so you can escape through your driver-side window after you’ve driven your car off a cliff into the frigid water below?

Obviously, nothing. And there are so many options these days. They all have the standard pointed hammer and safety-recessed seatbelt cutter blade, but there are new upgrades coming out every year.

Some of them glow in the dark now, because, let’s face it, most of your unscheduled cliff diving happens at night, am I right?

Mine not only has a light, but also an electronic tire gauge that will tell me my tire pressure in PSI and also in kilopascals, which will be handy if I ever drive my car off a cliff in Italy.

Mine is standard blue, but many of the new models are coming out in a variety of fashion colors, including pink, making it much easier to accessorize.

There’s even one available called the Car Cane, that doubles as a convenient handle to help you get out of your car through the door during normal circumstances. You simply slip the hammer end into the steel U-shaped latch receiver on your car’s door frame, and, presumably, scratch the holy hell out of your paint as you use the rubber-grip handle to support your weight getting out of the vehicle. I might argue that if you need a crutch to get out of your car in the Target parking lot, you might not be able to Dukes of Hazzard your way out of your driver window while the car is upside down and underwater, but who knows? Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

I found one that doubles as a phone charger, plugging into your cigarette lighter. It has a light on the end that includes LED low beam, high beam, and red strobe light. Unfortunately, the light points toward the driver when plugged into the dashboard, so the only possible scenario would be the red strobe getting activated by a childish passenger, causing the driver to become blinded and resulting in them swerving off a cliff. At least they would then have the tool that they needed to save themselves handy and easily locatable, but one could argue that the tool might not be the best gift if it causes the accidents in the first place.

They have models where the entire handle is actually a large strobe light, for those times when you drive your car off a cliff into the middle of the ocean. Just activate the strobe light and the Navy helicopters will be able to pinpoint exactly where to drop the rescue divers. I assume it also has a dye pack, for daytime ocean emergencies.

There’s even one that has solar panels in the handle, so you can use the sun to charge your phone. That’s handy when you drive off the road, need to extract yourself from the vehicle, then live next to your car for the next six to eight weeks.

These emergency tools are great and all, but here’s the thing - when you are trapped in your vehicle, you have to find this thing in your glove box or center console. But if you need to cut your seatbelt in order to get free of it, I’m going to guess you won’t be able to reach the glove box too easily. And if you keep the knife/hammer in your center console, you might as well just keep it in Cleveland. You can’t find anything in your center console when you are sitting in your driveway. What makes you think you’ll be able to locate your escape tool when you are sitting at a forty-five degree angle with water rising through the floorboards and a deployed airbag in your face?

Maybe this holiday season it’s time for a slightly more useful automotive gift, like a lesson on how to properly use a turn signal.

Or how to merge onto a freeway.

Or how to make a left turn at a four-way stop sign.

Or how to pull forward and not get out of your car in the school drop off lane.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head. If you do want to go the traditional Emergency Car Escape Hammer and Seatbelt Cutter route, just remember - this tool is completely ineffective if the gift recipient is too large to fit out of their car’s window. If that is the case, a better gift might be a personal trainer, or a car with larger windows.

Happy holidays!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Fourteenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

You know, fellas, life is funny, isn’t it? I mean, just when I thought there wasn’t any more advice I could give you about how to improve your thriving picture business, life throws me another photography curveball.

I get the feeling you aren’t reading my letters, so just in case that’s true, here’s where we stand:

I think you’re pretty bad at your overall job of managing the school picture process. Central to that, I think you just kinda suck at taking good pictures of kids. There’s really no other way to say it.

Based on the results we’ve seen over the years from our three boys, I’d guess you land somewhere in the fifty percent range. That’s an F on any grading scale. Unless we’re talking about the elementary school grading scale. We don’t do letters or numbers anymore, so your grade would be “Standard Not Met.” Still sucky.

After thirteen letters to you and one to Shutterfly urging them to back out of their ill-advised purchase of your little photography hobby shop over there, I thought I was just plain out of free advice to give you. Thankfully for you, I was wrong.

You see, as we’ve talked about many times in the past, Son Number One has a bad case of CFSD – Chronic Forced Smile Disorder. Unless you can get him to relax and laugh a little, his camera smile looks like he just stepped barefoot on a pile of Legos.

In your last twenty-one tries - twice a year from his preschool postgraduate year at Transitional Kindergarten all the way until this year in ninth grade - I’m not sure you have ever once managed to get a decent picture of him. Son Number Two and Three seem to have slightly better control of their facial muscles, but you still manage to screw them up quite a bit.

Anyhow, Son Number One is taking a trip soon, and we needed to get his passport renewed. The city of Roseville, CA has a passport office, which turned out to be nice because we didn’t have to go to the post office this time. I don’t know why, but the post office just feels as hopeless as the DMV, but without all the fun people watching.

Anyway, we were happy about the City of Roseville office because they not only let us set an appointment, but they offered picture services as well. We were renewing all three boys’ passports, so it was nice not to have to go somewhere else to get the pictures taken.

I would say that you might be able to see where this is going, but I’ve seen your pictures, so I’m not sure you can see much of anything. I’ll spell it out for you.

A lady who works every single day on a stool at a counter behind a glass wall in a drab and dreary city office building, picked up a handheld digital camera, and against the background of a plain white city office building wall, took three pictures of our boys that are better than anything you have ever been able to produce for us.

She actually took one of the best pictures of Son Number One that we have ever seen. His smile is natural and bright. He looks radiant with joy and brimming with youthful exuberance. The best you have ever done with him is “possibly not constipated.”

So, there it is, Lifetouch. That’s how bad you are. Lifetime government employees in hopeless little square offices take pictures that are a thousand times better than your “professional” photographers can muster. I’m not sure what you can do about that.

I don’t think there are enough city passport employees that you could lure away from the counter, even if you could match that sweet government pay scale and pension plan. There’s probably enough DMV driver’s license photographers out there, which would obviously be a huge improvement to your business model, but you have the whole government pension problem there too.

Maybe you guys could just figure out who trains these city, county, and state photographers who take such amazing identification photos, and lure that training staff away to help with your folks.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out.

We just can’t wait to send photocopies of our boys’ passport pictures out in the Christmas letters this year!

Happy holidays,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thankfulness 2019

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally filled with long-standing family arguments, overeating, and passing out on the couch in front of the football game.

Along with those essential pastimes, we have the popular tradition around the dinner table of naming the things for which we are thankful. Invariably, people (including myself) go with the big low-hanging fruit – family, friends, church, dark chocolate covered almonds, employment, first responders, good health, etc.

Nothing against all those very important things, but I think it’s a shame that we don’t have time to name everything we’re really thankful for before the turkey dries out and the gravy develops an impenetrable skin.

So, here’s my small list of some of the smaller things, in no particular order:

Parking karma
Civil discussions on the internet (just kidding, never seen one)
The hours my kids are in school (always)
The hours my kids are home (mostly)
Dental floss
The beach
The lake
The pool
Any time they got my order right
Ziploc bags
Phone flashlights
Opposable thumbs
Rolling luggage
Shopping carts that drive straight
Rock and roll
Paying for things with my phone
In-n-Out Burger
Good car defrost
Good shoes
Labrador retrievers
Car backup cameras
The “What is this song?” feature on Google
Dave Barry
Tabasco Green Pepper Jalapeño sauce
Pork ribs
La Croix
Getting to be a coach
Garbage disposals
Tape, in all its forms, but most specifically duct
Forever stamps
Toilet paper
The plastic things on the ends of shoelaces
Compound interest
Indoor plumbing
Insulated cups
Discount printer ink that actually works
Fortune cookies
Microwave popcorn
The five-second rule
Hot showers
The Little Caesars Pizza Portal
The National League
Bill Murray
Caller ID
Amazon Prime
Every day it’s not windy
Every day without a school project

It’s the big things in life, but it’s also the little things in life.

Have a great Thanksgiving,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Disney Plus a Kidney

I stuck it to those cable companies a few years ago. I really showed them when I “cut the cord” and canceled my cable subscription!

I’m tired of your high prices. I’m going to get all my TV from the internet now. I don’t even need a home phone anymore.

That’s right, I don’t need you. Come get your stupid cable boxes! Wait, except for the internet modem and router. I’m still going to need those.

How much is it for just internet? You’re kidding me. OK, well, that’s still cheaper than your stupid cable TV, so I’m good.

Let me just buy a separate Roku box for every TV in the house so we can start streaming. OK, that wasn’t exactly cheap, but check us out, just streaming away. Umm… where did all the TV shows go?

They’re all on Hulu? OK, let me just subscribe to Hulu. OK, there’s all the shows. What’s that? I can get them without commercials for just a few dollars more? Done.

What about movies? Netflix, you say? OK, great, let me just pay for that. Using it on more than one TV? That will be extra. Yippee.

Is that new movie we wanted to see on Netflix? No? What movies are on Netflix? Hmm… Those are pretty old.

Hey, you know what’s cool? We already pay for Amazon Prime, so we’ll be able to get tons of movies from that. Let me just fire that up. Wow, look at all the movies listed. Let’s watch this one. Why is it asking me to pay for it? I already pay for this. What’s that? Oh, some of these cost extra? Where’s the free stuff? Ah, it’s over here on this really short list. Super.

OK, now where are all the sports? On Hulu? No. Netflix or Amazon? Nope. Looks like I can pay the individual sports leagues to watch games on their apps. Just not my home teams. Those need to be blacked out just in case someone who was a fan wanted to see them play. Makes sense.

What now? Oh, YouTube TV has arrived. They will show me all the sports any time I want. Great! Let me just get that. How much did you say it was? That’s not too bad… Wait. Per month?!?!? Holy crap, that’s almost as much as I pay the cable company for the internet to make all this stuff work in the first place.

Well, sign me up, I guess. We need sports, after all. And I’m probably still paying less than I did for cable. Maybe? I’m afraid to add it all up.

OK, that covers everything. We can watch most TV shows, we can pay to rent movies any time we want, and we can watch sports as long as we don’t eat much or drive any of the cars. All set.

What’s that, now? Disney what? Disney+? What is that? Disney is pulling all their content from everywhere else and making me pay for a special Disney channel to see it? And all the Marvel movies, too?

No! This is the last straw! I can’t keep buying these different streaming services. The total bill is getting out of han… Wait, they’re making new Star Wars stuff? Disney+ has a completely new storyline called The Mandalorian? What is it? I must know. Wait, it has what?!?

Baby Yoda?!?!?!?!?!?!

Shut up and take my money!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Post-humorously Elected - Repost

Sure, things might look bad, politically speaking, right now in America. The House of Representatives started the televised phase of their “impeachment inquiry” into President Trump today. They are trying to determine, as best as we can understand, if Rudy Giuliani is secretly a Ukrainian citizen by birth, and what that means vis-à-vis political favors extended to then citizen Trump during Comrade Giuliani’s time as mayor of New York.

Or something like that.

I mean, a presidential impeachment inquiry is not exactly what you would hope your government is up to on a day-to-day basis, but remember, it could always be worse. In fact, it was, just one year ago.

Let’s take our mind of today’s unpleasantness with a fond look back at the time Nevada elected a dead pimp. Here’s my report from last November:

The 2018 midterm elections are behind us, and once again, during this tumultuous and confusing process, the nation looked to the great state of Nevada for guidance and direction.

Nevada has always been our national beacon of light in times of darkness. Our North Star, keeping the country focused on what matters. What counts. What is truly important to us all.

Roulette, cocaine, and hookers.

Wait, that can’t be right…

In any event, yesterday, Nevada showed us the way forward yet again. They went ahead and elected a dead guy.

We have a long and rich tradition in our larger metropolitan (read: corrupt) areas of allowing dead people to vote, but very rarely do we vote for a dead guy. But that’s the fun of Nevada!

Dennis Hof defeated educator Lesia Romanov yesterday in the race for Nevada's 36th Assembly District by a vote of 63% to 37%.

As per Nevada assembly district election law, at least one person in each race has to be an actual pimp, and that was Dennis in this case. Apparently Lesia is just a teacher or a school principal or something lame like that.

Dennis Hof owned and operated a half-dozen brothels around the state and was running on the platform of “Make Nevada Nevada again,” (it had been previously changed to Nebraska, and people were getting confused), “I Will Protect Our Water,” (meaning, I will protect our rights to have your water delivered to you by a licensed sex worker), and “I Can’t be Bought,” (meaning, I already have all the hookers and cocaine).

Unfortunately for Mr. Hof, he died on October 16th after an extended weekend of celebrating his 72nd birthday at one of his brothels. (Remember to ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for birthday activities, and seek immediate medical attention if you experience a birthday celebration lasting longer than four days.)

But the fact that their pimp was inconveniently dead was not going to deter the proud Nevadan District 36’ers from voting him into office in an overwhelming fashion. Well done, 36’ers, well done!

This is certainly a strange situation, and one that raises many questions, the most obvious one being, how bad was Lesia Romanov’s campaign platform that she could actually lose big to a dead pimp?

If she did nothing other than change her late-October campaign speeches to, “Look, I can breathe and wiggle my fingers,” it seems like she should have been able to get closer to at least half the votes.

Who knows how these things work!

Anyway, Nevada, the rest of us just want to thank you for, yet again, showing us the path. You may have just pioneered a new voting strategy of having dead people vote for dead people, completely eliminating the need for a live electorate or candidates. That could dramatically reduce campaign ads being mailed to our houses! That is some next-level visionary stuff.

Whether that dream comes to fruition or not, above all else, I just personally want to thank you for electing a dead guy.

I truly wish all politicians could be as ineffective as he’ll be.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Regrets Can Be Funny

Do you have regrets?

I don’t mean little day-to-day regrets like that fifth piece of pizza, or that shot of tequila you put on top of all that chardonnay. I mean big life regrets.

I was thinking more about that question recently after I heard an ad on the radio for Pepto Bismol, or some other such stomach/digestive-related medicine. The ad agency was tasked with relating all the maladies that the product was capable of curing in a peppy, up-beat manner.

As with so many other radio ads, they went the jingle singer route.

Whomever the jingle singer was, I found myself wondering about them when they presumably placed a hand on one of their headphones, presumably leaned forward into the microphone with eyes closed, and melodiously crooned, “di-a-rrheaaaa.”

At what point during their day in the recording studio do you think they said to themselves, “Huh. Will you look at what’s happening here? I’m singing about diarrhea. I mean, sure, they’re paying me, but seriously. Diarrhea. When did my singing career take this turn? When did my life go off the rails? I was planning to be on The Voice, for goodness sake.  How did I get here? Was it one big mistake or a series of small, poor decisions?”

Thankfully, I don’t have any big career regrets like that diarrhea singer obviously does, and frankly, I didn’t think I had many if any regrets at all. That is, until I was relaying a story the other day about seeing my old high school water polo coach on an airplane a few years back, and I realized I missed a huge opportunity.

We had been working in Tijuana, Mexico (motto: Sure it smells like a sewer, but we have tacos!). On the way home, we spent an afternoon in the ridiculously long line of cars at the border going back into the United States. Under Mexican law, any stationary tourist is required to be offered a minimum of six crappy things to purchase per minute. We were in the line for two hours, so we saw a lot of merchandise. I finally settled on a small acoustic guitar to bring home to our boys.

So, a few hours later, I was boarding a plane in San Diego, holding a small guitar in my hand. My old water polo coach, whom I hadn’t seen since high school, was seated midway down the plane in an aisle seat.

He did not recognize the grown-up me, but he was being funny and asked if I was going to play a song for the plane.

This is where my regret lies.

I was so excited to see him again after all those years, I just stopped and put out my hand and introduced myself. We had a fun moment of “holy cow, I haven’t seen you in years,” before I had to move on to find my seat. I went back to talk to him once the flight was underway and we had a nice visit.

My regret does not stem from seeing him or getting to speak with him briefly. My regret is pun-based.

You see, my old coach’s name is Rick West. I was telling the story to my dad, who is far funnier than me, and he immediately pointed out where I went horribly wrong.

My brain is far too slow. I blew it, big time. Had I been quicker, the conversation would have been:

Rick West - Are you going to play us a song?
Quicker Me - Sure, I guess, but I didn’t know there would be Rick Wests on this plane.

That missed opportunity for comedy gold will haunt me the rest of my days.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Frightfully Safe 2019

I hope everyone had a safe and sane Halloween last year. It is my sincere wish, as well as the wish of our National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics, that none of you or your children were injured, sickened, traumatized, frightened, scared, worried, startled, disturbed, rattled, jolted, displeased, inconvenienced, set on fire, or over-exercised.

You may be saying right now, “Well, yes, Smidge. As a matter of fact, my children were slightly startled in one brief instance last year, and I’m still hopping mad about it.”

If that’s the case, you probably did Halloween wrong. You may not be current on all the latest Halloween safety tips and procedures. Unfortunately, that makes you a bad parent. But before Child Protective Services needs to get involved, we’ve all decided to give you one more chance this year.

Please spend as many hours as necessary (minimum six) reviewing the list below so you’re ready to be a good parent tomorrow night.


Select a safe area for trick-or-treating.  Choose streets that are well lighted and landscaped so you can be seen.  Avoid trick-or-treating on streets you are unfamiliar with, and try to go out before it gets dark.

Were you trick-or-treating after 3:30 P.M.? Shame on you. Did you go to the porch of a house that didn’t have perfectly manicured front hedges? That was incorrect.

Always keep the adult who is watching you in sight.  Never go into a stranger’s home while trick-or-treating.  Never get into a stranger’s car or go anywhere with a stranger.

Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.  Do not walk out from behind parked cars or try to cross in the middle of the block.

Did you let your kids jump into the stranger’s van to go get the candy that they forgot at their other house? That was wrong. Don’t do that. Did you cross your neighborhood streets at any place other than an intersection? You are an idiot.

Wait until you get home to eat your treats.  Your parents should inspect each item carefully, looking for needles, open packages and other signs of tampering.  Do not eat homemade items prepared by strangers.

This is equally important – If you did find needles, it is not OK to re-use them.

Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

If any part of your child’s costume was a dark, non-reflective, or ill-fitting garment, your children probably already realize you don’t love them.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.

If you have found the first properly-fitting decorative hat in the history of the world, please let the rest of us know where you bought it. Any makeup or face paint that says “made in China” is radioactive. Seeking medical attention at this point is futile since you already touched it. Smear it all over and enjoy what time you have left.

When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.

This is especially important for wigs, since every trick-or-treater attempts to stick his or her head inside your jack-o’-lantern, as is customary and traditional.
(Side Note: While fire retardancy is a paramount issue on All Hallows Eve, “The Flaming Wigs” would obviously be a great name for a rock band.)

Do not carry or wear sharp objects that may poke others or damage eyes.  Objects like swords, wands, canes, etc., should be left at home.  Do not carry toy guns that look like real guns.  A citizen or a police officer can mistake a toy gun for a real gun.

Did your child lose an eye last year? That plastic Harry Potter wand was the problem in that instance. Were your kids pinned down behind your neighbor’s SUV for hours in a firefight with local law enforcement officers? Next time simply leave the toy guns at home.

Carry a flashlight to light the way and to alert motorists of your presence.  Never carry candles or any other flammable object.  Do not use candles for decorations or displays.  They can easily be knocked down or can set fire to a nearby curtain or costume.

Did you set yourself, your curtains, and your neighbor’s curtains on fire last year? The candelabra you were using to light your way was the problem. Most cell phones have a flashlight app now. Look into it.

Motorists need to be extra careful on Halloween.  Watch out for careless children who may run into the street without looking.  Expect the unexpected, and anticipate the actions of others.

If you were not “expecting the unexpected” last year, I am incredibly disappointed in you. Sit down and make a list of all the unforeseen issues that might arise tomorrow night so that you may stop sucking at life.

Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.

Correction – No one should ever carve pumpkins. It’s a slimy, messy job that attracts fruit flies and makes your hands stink like pumpkin guts. We should all stop.

Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

In summary, a concrete and stucco porch is no place for a small flame encased inside a wet, sticky, flame-retardant gourd. Keep the fire inside your home, on a surface made entirely of combustible materials.

A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.

We’re not sure who wrote this, but they obviously had never met a youngster before.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.

Definitely consider doing this if you’re tired of not having toilet paper in your trees, eggs on your house, and soap on the windows of your cars.

Hopefully this list will help you have a much safer and more enjoyable Halloween this year. I know that was a lot of information at once, but if you are ever in doubt, just use common sense. You can start by asking yourself five simple questions.

Have I fastened my child to his trick-or-treat buddy with reflective tape?

Is my child carrying anything other than a piece of Styrofoam that I bubble-wrapped for safety?

Is the sun still high in the sky?

Are there any dangerous jack-o’-lanterns with insane open flames inside them within a two hundred-foot radius of my child?
You are doing great.

Have we come into contact with any candy whatsoever?
You are a great parent!

Enjoy your Halloween done right this year!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Cautionary Tale-whip

I can tell this story now, because the statute of limitations has probably expired. Approximately a thousand years ago, when I was in college, I got a temporary job working as a car valet (pronounced: “valet”) at a very fancy oceanside hotel near Pismo Beach, CA. One of the regular guys hurt his foot somehow and was unable to put in the hustle it takes to be a fancy valet, so my roommate got me hired on to fill in for a month.

It was a great job for a college kid, because the wealthy people who wanted their cars parked almost always recognized that you were a pathetic, starving college student and tipped well out of pity.

The valets were almost always the last to leave for the night because the hotel had a nightclub attached, and we stuck around to park and retrieve cars after last call. Two late-night incidents occurred while I worked there that highlighted for me the fact that not everyone is always qualified for their job.

We valets rarely went inside the hotel, but one night when I was the only valet left, the fire alarm went off around one in the morning. I was all alone out on the front driveway, and not sure what to do, so I wandered into the lobby to ask a desk clerk what was going on. That was a mistake. There were no visible desk clerks, bellhops, managers, assistant managers, custodians, concierges, or any other type of hotel employee within a sixteen-block radius of the hotel lobby, except me.

I found myself in the middle of a vast expanse of marble floor, surrounded by an angry, pajama- and bathrobe-wearing mob, demanding answers, of which, I had less than none. I made the mistake of smiling to myself as I truly grasped how ridiculous it was that these people thought I was in charge, which angered a businessman in boxer shorts. I received a pointy-fingered tirade about how none of this was funny at all. I had to agree with him, but somehow, “I’m sorry, I’m just the valet. This is only the second time I’ve even been inside the hotel,” didn’t ease his frustration.

Fortunately, there was no actual fire, and we got out of it without a fancy riot. I dodged a bullet on my other late-night adventure as well, thank God.

Later that month, one of the front desk staff called me in and told me the shuttle bus driver had gone home for the night, but there were four guests up the hill at F. McLintock’s Saloon that just called for a ride back to the hotel. She gave me the keys to the bus and told me to go get them.


I had never driven the shuttle bus before, but how hard could it be? It’s just a big car with lots of seats, right? Off I went up the hill in the dark of night to retrieve my passengers, as a light fog rolled in off the ocean. I had a little wait in the parking lot for all four of them to muster to the bus, since it appeared they had become quite familiar with the offerings from the bar during their dining experience. When my two slightly toasted couples were on board, we set off back down the hill in a much heavier fog than I had experienced on the way up.

Now, college kids aren’t exactly known for their amazing decision-making skills, or conservative risk assessment, or extreme caution behind the wheel, but the one thing they do have is fantastic reflexes. That’s why when the hard ninety-degree left turn snuck up on me in the fog while I was busy driving far too fast for the road and weather conditions, I was able to keep the giant shuttle bus on the road. An unfortunate byproduct of my deft maneuvering however, was throwing one of the ladies across the bus into the opposite row of seats, and flinging the other lady out of her seat and literally rolling her down the aisle of the shuttle bus in her fancy cocktail dress.

One of the guys (presumably the least drunk of the four) had a few constructive comments regarding my driving style, but fortunately the other three were just howling with laughter, including the nice woman that I had just transformed into a well-dressed human pinball.

I drove much, much slower the rest of the way back to the hotel and apologized profusely to the four hotel guests as they exited my shuttle bus carnival ride. Thankfully, no one was injured, presumably from being very loose and relaxed during all the flinging. (A big thank you to the F. McLintock’s bartenders and staff!) And thankfully for my employment status, I never heard another word about it.

So, remember, when you’re out there this holiday shopping season, that young (or old) clerk who has no idea how to give you the discount shown on the tag is not incompetent. They’re just not properly trained. And if they are a college student, remember to have some patience. They have the mental capacity of broccoli.

And in this holiday travel season, if your shuttle bus driver looks to be nineteen or twenty years old, catch the next bus.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Plumb Loco

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Newlyweds, Ricky Joe and Darlene Stump, of Centerburg, OH were staying at a Columbus area Holiday Inn Express this past weekend when they were caught off guard by the shower controls. When Ricky Joe stepped into the tepid spray on Saturday morning, he said he wanted the water just a tad hotter. What came next was quite a shock for the twenty-four-year-old part-time Autozone employee and father of “six or so.”

“I reached down and turned that knob toward the HOT to warm the water up a bit, and man! It shot down ice cold on me! It was a real shriveler if you know what I’m sayin’. I damn near fell outta the tub.”

Ricky Joe explained to this reporter that he had absolutely no idea that almost every hotel shower control knob in America is plumbed backward.

“Over the years, customers have just come to expect it,” explained Holiday Inn Express manager Doug Stevenson. “There was an industry push in the early ‘90s to try to correct the issue, but the major U.S. hotel chains got more complaints about the controls being right than we ever did about them being backward. Our guests had apparently gotten used to it. Our goal,” he added, “is a minimum of ninety-six percent backward throughout our family of hotels.”

We interviewed another Holiday Inn Express guest in the lobby for her thoughts. “Oh, sure, of course the shower knob is backward. They always are,” said Sharon Matson, a pharmaceutical sales representative from White Plains, NY. “I don’t make the mistake much, but just the other day I ice-bathed myself for a split second at a Comfort Suites. I think that one might have been plumbed correctly. I had to laugh at myself. I should know better by now.”

Darlene Stump, Ricky Joe’s new bride, was amused by the incident. “I’ll tell you what,” said the twenty-two-year-old Arby’s employee and mother of three, chuckling, “he screamed like a twelve-year-old girl at a sleepover.”

“I don’t think it’s very funny at all, Darlene,” said Ricky Joe. “And you know what else?” he told us. “They’re damn lucky I’m a reasonable guy, because this being Darlene and me’s honeymoon and all, that ice bath really killed the mood, if you know what I’m sayin’. Not cool man. Not cool.”

When asked if the hotel had offered any sort of apology, Ricky Joe grinned. “They did better than a sorry, that’s for sure. I drive a hard bargain,” the cold and shriveled newlywed told us. “I got them to give us free breakfast for the whole two days we’re here in the big city.”

Manager Doug Stevenson confirmed Mr. Stump’s story. “I tried more than once to tell him the continental breakfast served in our lobby from 6:00 to 9:30 AM each day is complimentary to all guests, but he kept calling it a ‘freebie to make up for the shrivelidge.’ I finally just gave up and told him I would be happy to ‘comp’ their breakfasts for the entire stay.”

“I’ll tell you what,” said Darlene. “That waffle station is somethin’ else, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” agreed Ricky Joe. “First class all the way on this honeymoon, baby. I even had them throw in unlimited ice for my Monster Energy drinks and Darlene’s Red Bulls. We can use that machine at the end of the hall whenever we want, for free.”

Mr. Stevenson confirmed the ice machine conversation. “Yes, we are ‘comping’ their ice as well,” he told us, using finger quotes with an exasperated expression.

“My man sure it somethin’ else, isn’t he?” Darlene inquired to us.

This reporter would certainly have to agree.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Cavepeople Unite

I live in California, and since we don’t have hurricanes or tornadoes to speak of, we got mudslides and wildfires instead. The mudslides aren’t so bad, since they’re never near my house. The wildfires, on the other hand, are scary.

Not many people know this, but California is not one giant beach with Hollywood on one end. Only the left side of the state looks like that. The middle part is covered with food. You’re welcome. The right side is covered in trees and mountains, in an attempt to keep those weirdo Nevadans out. It’s the right side that catches on fire.

We live on the border of the middle and the right side. Tragically, we lost an entire town and a lot of people to a fast-moving wildfire last year. PG&E is our utility company that supplies nearly the whole state with gas and electricity. They were sued because it was found that the fire started at one of their transformers. They declared bankruptcy due to the lawsuit, but somehow, remain our utility company, proving once again that no one knows how bankruptcy works.

Suing them for the tragic fire is a double-edged sword. On the one side, they provide power. Electricity is the only thing that keeps us from being cavepeople, and we take it for granted every day and are very quick to dismiss its true importance.

On the other side, we have been paying PG&E roughly a zillion dollars per kilowatt for the last three hundred years, and the only equipment they have updated regularly are the executive jets.

So, it comes as no surprise that social media is all aflutter today with the latest developments in the PG&E saga. They are now turning off power preemptively, in an attempt to keep another fire from starting. They do this when the winds reach (or might reach) a certain velocity. As of this morning, that velocity seems to be a sliding scale, ranging from “no wind whatsoever” to “kinda breezy.”

We were alerted last night by the school district that some of the schools might be closed today, which caused every school-age child in the district to simultaneously text each other bad information. Parent braced themselves. Local stores sold out of dry ice almost instantly, and everyone went to gas up their cars, which are vital tools in keeping our cell phones alive.

The outages began early this morning. Perishable food, gasoline, and lost episodes of The Voice are not the only things being wasted by these outages. Collectively, the California Facebook users have already wasted two hundred thousand man-days of productivity arguing about why this is or is not a good idea.

Whether or not a planned power outage is a good idea is irrelevant once your power is actually turned off, so in an effort to be helpful in these strange times, I thought I would provide some power outage operational and safety tips.

1) Buy non-perishable snacks, like Twinkies and beef jerky. Keep them out and handy. Eat all these snacks before the power actually goes out, because you were bored and have no self-control.

2) Stock up on batteries. Realize when you get to the store that you actually don’t really know what size batteries the emergency flashlights take, so just buy a lot of each kind. The ones you don’t need can be used as currency in the post-apocalyptic nightmare that will soon become your life.

3) The store you are at is obviously already out of both regular ice and dry ice, so ask the clerk if they know where you can get some. They will say no. Complain to them about their stocking levels of vital power outage-related merchandise even though you know the bag boy you’re talking to has about as much store management decision making power as the Twinkies you are buying.

4) Since the bag boy was no help, ask on every social media platform about where to get any form of ice. No one will know, but everyone will share a story about not finding any either and a tirade about stocking levels of vital power outage-related merchandise. #Icemageddon

5) Return home and realize that the batteries you just purchased are worthless because all the dead batteries inside your emergency flashlights have corroded, welding themselves inside the tubes, becoming one with the now useless flashlights forever.  

6) Wait patiently for the power to go out, surfing all the social media posts about whether power is on or off in a particular neighborhood. Post that you still have power, but never give your location. Just assume everyone knows exactly where you live. In the morning, reluctantly get out of bed and start your normal routine when your stupid alarm goes off and you realize the power is still on.

7) If the power actually does go out, turn on your cell phone flashlight and locate the bag of empty, non-perishable snack wrappers. Curse your non-existent willpower.

8) Hunt for candles since all your emergency flashlights are just cylindrical paperweights.

9) Realize the only candles in your house are the scented decorative ones in the guest bath and you’ll be damned if you’re ever going to light those and waste them on this!

10) Settle in on the couch and get back on social media, asking if anyone else just lost power, but again, do not disclose your location. #SoDark #HopeMyPhoneBatteryHoldsOut

11) Realize you no longer have WiFi. Realize that that is probably your biggest problem. Get back on social media to talk about WiFi and data plans, phone carriers, etc. #PG&EBetterPayForMyData

12) Open the refrigerator and momentarily wonder why there is no light. Laugh at yourself for being dumb. Close it quickly to keep the cold in.

13) Walk to the bathroom and flip the light switch on by habit. Laugh at yourself for being dumb. Wonder if the toilet will flush with no power. It does. Be amazed that you still have water and gas with no electricity to, like, get them to your house and stuff.

14) Realize that you have no idea what you will do if this lasts more than four hours.

15) Feed the kids crackers for dinner by the light of the gas stovetop burner that you lit with the long butane barbecue lighter.

16) Go to bed and pray.

So far, so good here at Casa de Smidge. I just hope they keep our power on long enoug

Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

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

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Very Census-tive Subject

I received a letter from the United States Census Bureau the other day, about how my address had been randomly selected to take the American Community Survey. Oh joy.

In the handy pamphlet of FAQ’s under, “Do I have to answer the questions on the American Community Survey?” I was thrilled to read the answer, “Yes. Your response to this survey is required by law under a random title and code section number we just made up for this pamphlet because no one will respond if we don’t threaten them. Also, there will be penalties and fees.”

“We estimate this survey will take about 40 minutes to complete.”


Then, in various different paragraphs, on various different portions of the pamphlets, letters, and website, they told me these three concerning things:

1. By law, the Census Bureau can only use your responses to produce statistics.

2. We may combine your answers with information that you gave to other agencies to enhance the statistical uses of these data.

3. Use of this system indicates your consent to collection, monitoring, recording, and use of the information that you provide for any lawful government purpose.


So what you are saying, Census Bureau, is that you guys are only allowed to use my answers to produce nationally-vital statistics regarding how many bathrooms are in my house, but you have access to answers I gave other agencies that didn’t make that same promise, and oh, also, anything I tell you can be used for any reason, by any government agency, for anything that someone decided to write on page 16,135 of a 17,000-page bill that you voted into law.


Here’s why that concerns me. You told me this would take forty minutes of my life, but around minute twenty or so you asked me very specific questions about my income. And my wife’s income. And the specific sources of that income. And the specific amounts of income from each of those sources.

In order for me to answer those questions EXACTLY like I did on my taxes, I would have to spend an hour or so going through my last tax return, which would mean it would take me eighty minutes to get to the middle of a forty-minute survey.

So, I guessed.

But here’s the problem. There is one currently lawful government agency in particular that loves exact numbers and loves reported numbers to match up exactly, especially when those numbers have to do with income – The Department of Agriculture.

No wait, it’s the IRS.

Your survey forced me to guess about my income, and you might be sharing those guesses with the IRS? I ask you, Census Bureau workers in charge of the American Community Survey, would you want the IRS seeing your reported income numbers for last year varying from place to place? Do you have any idea what an IRS audit is like? Do you want to go through one?

Not unless you are suicidal, which, now that I think about it could very well be the case since the career path you have chosen ended up at the Census Bureau – the lamest and most boring of all the Bureaus. Chin up.

I may have had more time to dig out my tax return and get the numbers right if y’all could somehow figure out a way to shorten your survey.

I happen to have a few suggestions for you:

You asked about my heritage, to which I answered European. You asked about my wife’s heritage, to which I also answered European because we’re both white and we’re all pretty sure her grandpa was making up the whole “part American Indian” thing just to get a discount on tribal liquor and cigarettes.

Previously, you had asked about our kids and how they came into our family. I responded (individually for all three) that they were natural-born children between me and my wife. You then later asked (individually for all three) about their heritage. That question seemed entirely unnecessary given my earlier answers, but since you gave me text boxes to complete, I went with Pacific Islander (other), Andalusian, and Guatemalan, in an effort to help them get into college someday.

You told me that my address was selected at random to participate in the survey, then asked me approximately sixty questions about my house, including number of bedrooms, bathrooms, general rooms that were not a foyer or hallway, lot size, year built, what I think it would sell for right now, and on and on. The only thing you didn’t ask about was the color. (It’s beige, by the way, like everything you own, Census Bureau workers.)

Have any of you ever heard of Zillow? You have my address. Just plug it in and you get all the information, and it will all be correct, because I won’t be guessing!

And speaking of information you already have access to, just get my tax return! It has every answer to all your financial questions, all your car questions, the household questions, the employment questions, as well as the questions about whether any of us are deaf or blind.

And speaking of the questions about our physical limitations, I wasn’t really sure how to answer some of those, so I just did my best.

Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does Son Number One have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?

I’m not sure if being fourteen years old qualifies as a physical, mental, or emotion condition, or if it qualifies as all three, but I answered an emphatic yes.

Do you have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?

I’m forty-seven, so this is a definite yes on days I have gone running, but only a “sort of” on most other days. I went with yes.

Does Son Number Three have difficulty dressing or bathing?

You already know he’s eleven years old. Of course he does! All three boys do.

Do you people even have kids? Who wrote these ridiculous questions?

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 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 25, 2019

What the hECK?

I was recently reviewing my profile on Google Blogger and decided to click on the link to my listed occupation, writer and author.

Much to my delight, I discovered I’m in an elite group of other amazing “writer and author” folks. Most of us listed our interests in our bios.

For instance, a fellow writer and author lady from England listed her interests as: Reading, cooking, gardening...angels, spiritual, paranormal, Finland, cats!

She sounds fun.

A colleague from India listed his interests as: Public relationship Fight againest injustice.

Keep up the Fight, good sir.

It was riveting to read about so many of my professional brethren and what they were up to when not writing or authoring, but one gentleman in particular caught my eye. His listed interests were: Writing, reading, hiking, watching T.V.but within all it's the opportunity to serve as a co-worker with my spiritual guide the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master.

Hmm… interesting. An esteemed colleague of mine from Salem, Oregon has just stumped me, spiritually speaking. What is a Mahanta and a Living ECK Master? Thank God (or whoever), for the internet! I was able to research it all in a matter of minutes.

Eckancar, or ECK: Each of us is connected to God through Divine Spirit (the ECK), which can be heard as Sound and seen as Light. Eckankar offers a spiritual toolkit to help you experience the Light and Sound of God.

(It remains unclear if we’re supposed to be saying each letter in ECK, or if it’s supposed to be one sound, like what you say when you flick something gross off your hand.)

The ECKists are led by none other than Sri Harold Klemp, the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master. (There is a picture of the bespectacled ECK Master, in his polyester suit and wide striped tie. He looks like a 1980’s midwestern insurance salesman.)

Sri Harold offers us: simple daily spiritual exercises that can give you the experience of the Sound behind all sounds, and the pure Light of God; techniques for personal experience with dreams, past lives, Soul Travel, and your spiritual destiny.

The super-modern-looking ECK website boasts: tens of thousands of ECKists around the world and Eckankar spiritual study groups in hundreds of cities. This global community is supported by a worldwide spiritual center in Minnesota.

(please keep in mind, I am not making any of this up)

In Chanhassen, Minnesota we will find The Temple of ECK, which would obviously also be a good name for a rock band.

The Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minnesota, is the worldwide center for the teachings of the Light and Sound of God. Located at the heart of the Eckankar Spiritual Campus, it is a local community church and a Golden Wisdom Temple. Seekers of truth come here for the spiritual study of past lives, dreams, and Soul Travel.

Speaking of Soul Travel, that adventure just happens to be featured in this weeks’ ECK-tastic Spiritual Exercise of the Week.

First Landmarks of Soul Travel
One way to leave the body via Soul Travel is to lie down after dinner when you are drowsy. Plan to nap for five minutes, and watch the process of falling asleep. If you try the exercise with your spouse, agree to meet outside the body a few minutes later. Then watch carefully as your mate steps free of the physical body and enters the spiritual one in a burst of radiant light.

Sri Klemp then goes on to describe the journey:

The moment Soul leaves the body, It finds Itself in a blue-grey zone near the Physical Plane. This zone is an approach to the Astral Plane. The sensation of moving from the Physical to the Astral body is like slipping through a large iris of mild wind currents; this iris is the Spiritual Eye. Soul enters this neutral zone of blue-grey tones in Its Astral form, a sheath which looks like a thousand sparkling stars.

And the all-important launch zone for the trip:

This buffer zone, or corridor, between the Physical and lower Astral Planes resembles the underground silo of an enormous rocket that is perhaps two hundred feet in diameter and more than two thousand feet deep. The ceiling of this circular pocket is open and may display a brilliant canopy of white light, or you may see a night sky sprinkled with specks of twinkling stars. There may even be a pastoral scene by a river, whose waters murmur their pleasure at life.

I think it’s entirely possible that someone slipped some acid into Harold Klemp’s meatloaf at the Greater Twin Cities Insurance Brokers Association dinner and he later fell down an abandoned well.

Instead of seeking medical attention, he seems to have started a religion.

In a completely unrelated matter, I’d like to announce my new religion. You are all invited to join. It’s called AKC. You may say each letter, or you can choose to make the sound of having a chicken bone stuck in your throat.

AKC will be just like ECK, only cheaper. For the low price of only twenty percent of your gross income per year (before deductions or taxes, of course, praise the Spirit Soul), we will worship all the recognized major dog breeds, and I will instruct you to nap on a daily basis. (Spiritual Soul travel naps, obviously, but with astral canine companions.)

Dog is my copilot.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 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!