Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Happy Birthday, Heimlich

Today is the birthday of the Heimlich maneuver. I don’t mean like when it was invented. I have no idea when that was. I mean today we used the Heimlich maneuver on a birthday. On the birthday boy, more specifically.

Son Number Three turned eleven years old today, and I talked him into choosing Chipotle for his birthday dinner spot. It wasn’t a hard sell. It’s Chipotle after all.

So, there we all are at a big round galvanized steel table, and I’m just minding my own business, eating my chicken burrito bowl with pinto beans and cilantro lime rice, when someone starts asking Number Three if he’s OK. He happens to be sitting directly to my right, so I was kind enough to take a moment away from my amazing bowl topped with cheese, sour cream, and both pico de gallo and tomatillo green salsa, to glance over at him.

I just thought he was gagging and needed to throw up.

At this point in the story, I think we need to step back a little and give you, the faithful reader, some background on my parenting crisis management skills.

I’m sure if I ever saw one of my children on fire, I would move quickly. Hardly any doubt, there. Short of that, however, I’m more methodical in my crisis intervention. My wife calls it oblivious, but there’s a fine line there I don’t think she’s seeing.

She might have a little bit of a point, though.

I mean, there was the time that Son Number Three broke his femur when he was three. He was crying and going on and on, so I did the responsible dad thing and told him to rub some dirt on it and get back in the game. In my defense, I had no way of knowing it was broken. Only a highly trained ER doctor can diagnose that kind of thing in the waiting room seven seconds after you arrive.

But this whole birthday Chipotle incident was really more like the time Son Number Two fainted. He was sitting up on one of our barstools a few years back, and I had his foot in my lap, working on popping a blister with a needle. As it turned out, the blister was really a wart of some kind, and shoving a needle through it apparently hurt a little. Or a lot.

He let out a little squeal, and I looked up from the non-blister to see him acting kinda weird. He was doing something funny with his eyes, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he was leaning back off the stool, like he was getting ready to do a set of ab crunches. I sat there holding his foot and wondering what his plan was when my wife, from across the room at a dead sprint, informed me he was in the process of fainting.

He hit the floor pretty hard, but I saved his foot.

Now, in my defense, I have only fainted twice that I know of, and I was unconscious both times, so I had no idea what it looked like.

Anyway, today, when I noticed that Son Number Three was gagging and sticking his fingers down his throat and possibly needed to throw up, I jumped into action. As I took another bite of my amazing Chipotle chicken burrito bowl, I searched frantically for someone else’s burrito bowl to position under his chin.

I mean, let’s not throw up all over this nice galvanized steel table. We don’t have enough napkins for that.

Just about the time my wife was trying to shove me out of the way to get to her youngest son, his oldest brother, who was seated on the other side of him from me, solved the dilemma with a modified Heimlich maneuver.

It turns out Son Number Three was actually choking on a wad of tortilla about the size of a golf ball. I would have thought he’d have learned to eat a burrito properly by the age of eleven, but today proved otherwise. Go figure.

I say “modified” Heimlich, because it was really more of a one-handed, single-shot Heimlich to the back. Basically, his older brother open-hand slapped him really hard on the spine and dislodged the offending tortilla wad. They must teach that kind of thing in school now. Modern education is wonderful.

Everything turned out just fine, but for some reason my wife still seems mad at me for not acting faster. I tried to explain my contemplative (almost laissez-faire, if you will) emergency management style to her again, but she just muttered something and walked off.

I think she might also still be a little mad about her burrito bowl.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Happy birthday, Number Three!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring Broke

It’s spring break this week for our three boys, which means they are not in school and their teachers are off somewhere getting drunk.

It’s also spring break this week for my wife, who is a high school teacher, which means she’s with us all week. And she’s getting drunk.

Since everyone else in the family is on break, that means I am too, so we decided – possibly while drunk – that we should go to Disneyland.

We logged onto the Disneyland website to buy tickets, chose five two-day park passes, added them to the cart, then opened a new browser tab and logged onto our bank’s website and applied for a second mortgage.

After that, we applied for six or seven new credit cards to get the total ticket price to fit in underneath our credit limits, and we were in business. We hit the checkout button and printed out our tickets to the happiest place on earth.

Then we logged onto a popular travel website and searched for hotel suites near the park that could sleep five. After reviewing our options, we logged back onto our bank’s website and applied for a third mortgage. Once that got approved, we booked our hotel and we were all set.

Two days ago, we headed out on the road for the long drive south. As it turns out, our Suburban will not make it all the way to Anaheim on one tank of gas, so after applying for a new Chevron Loyalty Program credit card, we filled up on gasoline and snacks a few times and made it to our surprisingly small hotel “suite.”

We woke up early and sent two of the boys down to the complimentary continental breakfast with an empty suitcase and very specific instructions. After a hearty meal in our room, we headed for the front gate lines.

Once inside the park, we were alerted to the handy new feature of being able to spend additional money on our pre-purchased tickets by purchasing an add-on called a “MaxPass.” As luck would have it, we needed a separate MaxPass for each person in our group. The MaxPass allows you to get the FastPass, which will in turn allow you to get on the ride you thought you were already allowed to get on when you bought the actual ticket to get into the park.

Apparently, nowadays at Disneyland, if you don’t have a FastPass, you are more than welcome to stand in front of the attractions and watch people go in and out, while Goofy consoles you with a gentle hug, but if you actually want to ride anything, you’ll need to pony up some more money for the MaxPass.

We went ahead and filled out a quick application for a Disney credit card, and then got the MaxPasses purchased.

After a fun-filled morning of waiting for our FastPass time window to occur, and riding that one ride, it was lunch time. We had exhausted the remaining supply of hotel bagels and powdered eggs during our morning wait, so we headed over to the buffet to see what else we could afford.

After surveying the menu, and realizing that many of our new credit cards were being systematically deactivated, we opted to splurge and get a banana to share between the five of us, and topped it off with some of the flavored ice cubes sitting on the drink dispenser drain grate under the soda nozzles. Then we headed out to wait for our next FastPass time window to arrive.

While my wife and kids waited patiently for ride number two, I caught the monorail back to the parking lot and sold the Suburban in an all-cash deal to a fast-talking gentleman named Stevie (for what turned out, unfortunately, to be well under blue book value), in order to have a remote chance of financing day two at the park.

I made it back in time to hear all about the second ride, and catch the amazing fireworks show, which, surprisingly, was no extra charge.

Day Two has been just as magical, and even started with another surprise realization that the MaxPasses are only good for one day. What fun!

Anyway, we are having the time of our lives here in line, and it would just be amazing if one of you could plan to pick us up at the main park entrance right after the fireworks show tonight.

And please bring food and water. Thanks a million.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

It's Tax Time, You Fool

Your taxes are due Monday. Don’t blame me. I voted against them.

A few years ago, I thought I would try to make everyone feel a little better about our tax bills by calling attention to some of the wonderful government agencies that our hard-earned dollars go to fund.

So, I went to (motto: “Shut up and write a check”), and looked up the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies. After reading for a while, I realized there was no way I was going to make anyone feel better about paying taxes, so instead I bet myself that I could click on every letter of the alphabet and come up with at least one ridiculous agency that should never have been started in the first place.

I lost the bet. I failed to find an insane waste of money under each letter of the alphabet, but that was only because there were no agencies that started with the letters Q, X, Y or Z.

I have updated the list of current agencies for you again this year. Here’s the fun places your 2018 tax dollars are headed to be mercilessly squandered:

Administrative Conference of the United States (motto: Leave us alone. We’re still conferring. Offsite.)

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (motto: Buyer beware. And seller, too. We’re coming for all of you.)

Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (motto: It goes in the upper right corner, dammit!)

Delaware River Basin Commission (motto: Getting paid to stare at water since 1961.)

Economic Adjustment Office (motto: Please be patient. We’re redistributing your money as fast as we can.)

Federal Consulting Group (From the website: The Federal Consulting Group offers consulting, executive coaching, and performance and customer satisfaction measuring services to federal agencies.) (motto: For your convenience, now completely staffed with direct family members of congress.)

Government Ethics, Office of (motto: We can’t even fit all the irony into one building.)

House Office of the Clerk (Main functions include running the offices of deceased and retired representatives – I am not making that up.)

Inter-American Foundation (From the website: Provides grant support to Latin American and Caribbean grass-roots groups and non-governmental organizations with creative self-help ideas. Can’t we just send them Tony Robbins?)

Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (motto: We will sue you in as many places as possible.)

Kennedy Center (motto: Please stop asking about Marilyn.)

Legal Services Corporation (motto: That might be legal now. There’s been a lot of changes.)

Marine Mammal Commission (We’re investigating the narwhal. He seems like a troublemaker.)

National Agriculture Statistics Service (motto: We’re still excited about that 1957 bean crop!)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (This is not where we hide all the bribes and kickbacks and stuff. We swear.)

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (Just kidding, we spent it all. Here’s a third of what you were promised. We borrowed it from social security. Shhh!)

Risk Management Agency (motto: We manage our risk with your money. No problemo!)

Surface Transportation Board (We don’t trust those Department of Transportation guys to handle the surface. There’s just too much of it. It covers the whole country, you know?)

Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (We changed our name from “Taxpayer Advocate Service” because too many people thought we would actually help. You’re still screwed.)

Utah (motto: The completely unnecessary state.)

Veterans Day National Committee (We’re thinking November 11th again this year.)

Washington Headquarters Services (We’re here to provide services. To headquarters. In Washington. Don’t ask a lot of questions, OK?)

It really bothers me that since I started keeping track of this list, we, as a nation, have failed to come up with any Q, X, Y, or Z agencies yet. We’re only four more ridiculous money-wasting agencies away from having the whole alphabet covered. Just off the top of my head in year’s past, I suggested the Quicksand and other Swamp Dangers Mitigation Exploratory Committee, the Xylophone Standardization Council, the Yo-Yo Injury Prevention Task Force, and the Zeppelin and Lighter-than-Aircraft (Unmanned) Aviation Standards Advisory Board, and not one of them has been added. It’s as if Washington isn’t listening to me at all. Where’s the Federal Consulting Group when you really need them? (answer: golfing.)

As far as the current agencies go, keep in mind, folks, I limited myself to only one department per letter of the alphabet. This list of agencies whose only concern is to justify their funding for next year could go on for days.

If that isn’t scary enough for you, then I invite you to blissfully ignore that and ponder this instead:

According to Congress, it takes around $5.9 billion per year just for them to turn the lights on and run the show. Not all of Washington, D.C., mind you. Just Congress. Not the White House, plus the Supreme Court, plus the Pentagon, plus the army and stuff. Just Congress. Just under six billion dollars. Billion with a “B.” Six thousand millions.

They “work” about one hundred seventy-five days per year. That means we’re talking $34 million a day.
Even if we generously assume they work twelve hours per day, that’s $2.8 million an hour.
That’s $47,000 per minute.
That’s $780 per second. For Congress to keep the doors open.

(And, let’s keep in mind that it was Congress themselves who told us how much they are spending. So, in reality, it’s probably a much higher number, since they have a tendency toward not always sharing all the information, on the advice of the Federal Consulting Group.)

In the time it will take you to read this sentence, the U.S. Congress will spend $9,360 of your money (or probably more) on nothing more than working hard to dream up even more government agencies to help spend the rest of it.

Holy crap.

The real April Fools’ Day is not April 1st. It’s April 15th.

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, April 3, 2019

The English Sea - Repost

In honor of the release of the Second Edition of my very first children’s book, My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, I thought I’d re-run a column that came out a few months after the First Edition was released.

The nice folks at the Roseville, California public libraries have inexplicably asked me to host the kick-off event for their 23rd annual Youth Poetry Contest. Apparently, they consider my children’s book, My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, to be full of children’s poetry. I just thought it was full of rhymes, but who am I to argue? After all, they are the professionals here. They are even billing me as, “Local poet, Marc Schmatjen.” Who woulda’ thought, huh?

Thankfully, they were wise enough not to ask me to judge the event. I will simply be in charge of leading a large group of young children through some rhyming exercises and teaching them about the different kinds of poems. I figured that I could pull it off with a little luck and a lot of ad-libbing, so I accepted the job.

In honor of the event, I thought I would try my hand at some poetry. We’re going off the reservation a little this week, but I don’t want you to worry. I doubt that this will be a permanent thing!

“The English Sea” – A Poem of Sorts

Here in the English Sea, it is tough to grammatically wade.
When you hear English, you see, context must be weighed.

Sounding out a word ewe herd? There may be many ways, not just one.
Four instants, there are three ways two spell too, and to ways too spell won.

Consider this:

A bird with the flu, flew up our flue,
But our brand new gnu knew what to do.

You’ll want to cry foul, but alas, my poor dear,
It’s just a wayward ailing fowl and an African deer.

The sentence is sound, it’s grammatically right,
Although its content isn’t something I’d write.

The words all disagree, on the page or the pane,
But they are pronounced with true sameness. I’d call that a pain.

They have a real name: Homophones, don’t you know?
Do they make the English language neat and tidy? No, no, no!

To know your way through them, you need lots of know-how.
Are they easy and intuitive? No way, no how!

Some of them can serve to make sentences sweet.
To hold up your whole body is a feat of your feet.
And the presence of presents makes your birthday quite neat.

Some of them serve to make sentences insane.
If he rode down the road, you’d see him holding a rein,
But if he rowed down the road, then you’ve had too much rain.

But most of them serve to make you feel like you’re losing.
They’re right there, but they’ve left their chairs there. Is that amusing?
It is certainly not. That’s just downright confusing.

Dew knot give up yet. Try this little tail:

The heir to the throne was thrown through the air.
He gave his horse too much rein and regretted his err.
He ended up in the mud on his derriere.
But the err the heir dared was minor, he swore.
A riding faux pas in the rain, and a seat that was sore.
He knew an err in the reign could cost so much more.
It wasn’t so bad to be thrown from one’s steed,
The heir and his father, the king, both agreed.
To be thrown from the throne would be much worse, indeed.

Sea, now that wasn’t sew bad.

In order for your assistants to kindly deliver your correspondence on your stationery,
It would be of great assistance if your correspondents would kindly remain stationary.

On second thought, theirs no hope two bee had.

It doesn’t make sense, its hard not to err,
When many of the scents travel over the air.

My advice is two get reel good at math before you are grown,
Because this language will only make ewe moan and groan.

English has never made sense, and now you see it two,
Unlike dollars and cents, one and won don’t make to.

I really hope I’m not banned permanently from the public library system after this!

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!