Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 - A Craptastic Year in Review

Let’s take a look back at this dumpster fire of a year, shall we?


Even before the whole coronavirus mess started, the year was already in a complete shambles. Murder hornets had arrived in the U.S. from Asia and the entire continent of Australia was on fire. Iran declared war on two of our military bases and then shot down a commercial airliner, and the U.S. House of Representatives attempted to impeach the president. When that failed, they impeached the murder hornets instead. All of that was overshadowed, of course, by the tragic news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were quitting the royal family. Iran then declared war on the royal family and released murder hornets in a London scone factory to show they were serious.


We all started hearing more about something called COVID-19 that either gave you the sniffles or killed you instantly. Then things really got bad when a man named Bad Bunny in a bedazzled silver trench coat and a white napkin on his head actually performed alongside real singers at the Super Bowl halftime show. NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth after a record 328 days in space, saw the Super Bowl halftime show, and immediately returned to the international space station. Shortly afterward, a movie called "Parasite" swept the Oscars, further validating Christina’s decision.


In a monetary signal of what was to come, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst single-day point drop ever of over 2000 points. Americans responded by investing heavily in toilet paper. The WHO (both the band, and the World Health Organization) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic after hearing the news that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive in Australia. They also tested positive for third-degree burns since the entire continent was still on fire. The NBA suspended its season, announcing in a statement, “We’ll be damned if we’re going to play basketball while one of our nation’s most cherished actors is sick AND on fire.”

The Dow fell another 2,300 point after the U.S. released the Netflix documentary, Tiger King. All remaining sports canceled their seasons, including Broadway shows, but the most telling sign of how bad things had become was the closure of Mount Everest, leading many people to say, “Huh?”

The Dow set another single-day point drop record at 2997 after the news that bars in New York were closing. Apparently, all the stock traders just ran out of the building to check if that was really true.

School stopped happening at school and began happening, rather poorly, in our living rooms.


The U.S. government, in an attempt to make everyone feel better about living room school, sent us all a bunch of money. Every single penny was spent purchasing toilet paper. Grocery store bag boys were revered as being brave, “essential workers,” leading most police, fire, and medical professionals to say, “Huh?”

The entire world began to learn how to use Zoom video conferencing. No one has figured out the mute button as of yet.


George Floyd died while being restrained by Minneapolis police officers, sparking worldwide protests against anti-black racism, police, and/or police procedures. Sadly, massive rioting, looting, and arson followed, leading the legitimate protesters to probably ironically wish there were more police around.


Toilet paper sales skyrocketed as reports came in that North Korea had cut off communication with South Korea after destroying the Inter-Korean Liaison Office. South Korea responded by saying, “Oh, wow. No kidding? We didn’t even know we still had that office. OK, best of luck, guys.”

Living room school mercifully ended for the summer.


In the clearest sign of the rapidly approaching apocalypse, rapper Kanye West announced his candidacy in the 2020 presidential election. Americans responded by continuing to hoard toilet paper.

Appalled by Kanye’s announcement, or by the price of his tennis shoes, God began earthquake, hurricane, and fire season. Rightfully so, Los Angeles was the first area targeted.

America finally got some good news as we learned that beloved Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reached a net worth exceeding $100 billion, becoming only the third centibillionaire, alongside Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. We also learned that between them, those three men own 100% of the toilet paper manufacturing businesses worldwide, so it all started to make sense.

A rare thunderstorm from remnants of Tropical Storm Fausto ignited hundreds of wildfires in California in a record number of lightning strikes. This was, thankfully, coupled with a record-breaking heat wave. As most of California burned and the rest of the state choked on the smoke, we got some more good news; Apple Inc. became the first U.S. company to be valued at over $2 trillion. And they did it without owning any toilet paper manufacturing!

Not to be upstaged, shortly after the Apple announcement, Jeff Bezos became the first person in history to have a net worth exceeding $200 billion, spurred, no doubt, by toilet paper sales. Ever the comedian, Mr. Bezos was quoted as saying, “With toilet paper, I make money on both ends.”

With a second heat wave, California set a new record for the area of land destroyed by wildfires. Oregon, not wanting California to have all the fun, had over 10% of the state’s population evacuate their homes due to their own wildfires. Meanwhile, hurricane Sally brought catastrophic flooding to the southern US after making landfall, prompting Californians and Oregonians to unanimously wish they had hurricanes for the first time ever. Rioting continued in Portland, Oregon, presumably because it was the one part of the state not on fire.


President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and entered quarantine, where he tweeted, “This disease is great. It’s huge. Everyone is talking about it. It’s going to be big. We’re excited about it. Everyone is talking about it. It’s going to be huge.”

Rumors flew that Halloween would be canceled due to the pandemic, and/or a massive shortage of toilet paper for mummy costumes. Children across the United States logged into their parents’ Amazon accounts and bought their own candy. As a result, Jeff Bezos became the first quazadrillionaire.

With hair salons still shut down, and the resulting lack of tax revenue from their historically honest and accurate tip reporting, the national debt surpassed $27 trillion for the first time. Apple was quoted in an official statement as saying, “Sorry, we really can’t help. We only have $2 trillion. That’s not going to cover it. Did we mention we were worth $2 trillion? Yeah, it’s no big deal.” Jeff Bezos was heard clearing his throat in the background.

Meanwhile, Pizza Hut filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after closing 163 restaurants; a move that baffled economists since marijuana is legal in so many states now. On the marijuana front, protesters in Portland, Oregon, knocked over a huge statue of Abraham Lincoln, apparently forgetting why they had been protesting since May.

In yet another clear sign of the looming apocalypse, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, their first in 32 years. While Dodger fans blindly celebrated, the rest of us fully understood that this “season” was a total joke and the “World Series” didn’t actually count, but whatever.

To round out the month of October, as Americans celebrated a sterile and boring Halloween with Amazon candy, Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines, becoming the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in history, prompting the world to ask, “What the hell is the difference between a hurricane, a typhoon, and a cyclone?”


In response to five months of continuous Portland rioting, Oregon naturally became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of narcotics, including heroin, cocaine, and LSD. In an effort to revitalize Pizza Huts around the nation, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Mississippi, and South Dakota voted to legalize marijuana.

The world waited on the edge of their seats as Edith Montgomery, the eighty-six-year-old Nevada state election clerk, counted the entire state’s presidential ballots by hand at her dimly-lit card table. The process was further slowed by her breaks for Ensure and regular naps. Many, many naps later, by both Edith and the two presidential candidates, the election was decided for Joe Biden. President Trump immediately tweeted, “This disease is great. It’s huge. Everyone is talking about it. It’s going to be big. We’re excited about it. Everyone is talking about it. It’s going to be huge.”

With the election chaos behind us, we were free to focus on the really important story that Elon Musk overtook Bill Gates to become the second richest person in the world, with a net worth of $127.9 billion, behind only Jeff Bezos. Bezos immediately put out a statement saying, “Why are we even focusing on these guys? I’m worth more than both of them combined, pretty much. The only person I’m not richer than is Apple!”

Spurred by the good news on the Musk/Gates/Bezos front, the Dow increased by 500 points to surpass 30,000 for the first time, so I guess all the record-breaking losses weren’t really that big a deal after all???


Since the COVID vaccine was taking too long, the House of Representatives instead passed a bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, to decriminalize recreational cannabis at the federal level. On an unrelated note, every statue of anyone has finally been knocked down.

Days later, Russia began mass vaccination against COVID-19 with the Sputnik V candidate. We are not making that name up. The vaccinations went ahead despite having only been tested on one monkey, which later died. The world is not hopeful for Russia, since the CDC confirmed that Sputnik V is literally just a syringe full of vodka.

It took all year, but 2020 didn’t end without COVID cases finally being reported in Antarctica, the last continent to report infections. They are currently awaiting Sputnik V, but plan to drink it.

And against all odds, the year of 2020 – a four-digit number that has become synonymous with anything that is going poorly – is ending on a good note. Perhaps in a move to shore up worldwide morale, Nepal and China have finally officially agreed on Mount Everest's actual height, which is 8,848.86 meters. (58,944 feet, 3 inches). Jeff Bezos immediately purchased it. It remains unclear if it has reopened to hikers yet.


Good riddance to 2020. Let’s all raise a cold glass of Sputnik V, and welcome in 2021. Cheers!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The 2020 Do-It-Yourself Christmas Letter

Much like your sense of self-worth and your will to put on real pants, you’ve also completely lost your desire to write a Christmas letter this year. Hey, don’t beat yourself up. This is 2020! Who could blame you?

But now it’s two days ‘til Christmas and you’re kicking yourself about it while you sit motionless in your couch divot in the same pair of pajama pants you’ve been wearing since Halloween. There’s no way you can get a coherent letter put together in time now.

Well, once again, ol’ Smidgey Claus has got you covered. I have created the 2020 DIY Christmas Letter Grid. Just pick one item from each column in order to string together a sentence that best fits your 2020 experience. Repeat as needed to fully recap your dumpster fire of a year.

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








We lost

our jobs


the election.

We hoarded



the hurricanes.

We sheltered with

toilet paper


the wildfires.

We cried about

Tiger King

in the middle of

the couch.

We prayed for

at least 20 pounds


the lockdown.

We binged

junk food

prior to

the DOW crash.

We gained

the vaccine


the rioting.

We bought

personal hygiene



We worried about



social distancing.

We abandoned

essential workers


distance learning.

We lived without

Amazon Prime


a Zoom meeting.

There you go. Now add a “Merry Christmas,” sign, and send. You’re all set.

Don’t say I never did anything for you! Now hunker down in your couch divot and let’s pray for 2021 to get here ASAP.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Party Like it's 2020

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but that is proving a little harder this year, because 2020 ‘tis not the year of the Christmas party, or any other party, for that matter, except perhaps the communist party, because commies are the worst, and so is 2020.

Chances are, your annual Christmas get-togethers have been torpedoed by COVID, just like your job, your children’s education, your favorite sports, your waistline, and your sanity. Well, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! It just means it’s going to be a little different this year.

Here’s how to handle the cancellation of each type of Christmas party.

1) The Annual Extended Family Christmas Party

Look, we’re not going to lie to each other, here. You’re sad about this one, and also a little happy about this one. Yes, you will miss the good food and the five to ten people you were looking forward to seeing, but you will not miss Uncle Eddie cornering you for half an hour to talk about his enlarged prostate. Schedule some cocktail hour Zoom calls with the select few and drink a toast to Aunt Edna’s new hip.


2) The Neighborhood Christmas Party

Depending on your neighbors, you may or may not have been looking forward to this one. Never fear, there is good news here for both sides. Schedule a night (weather permitting) for everyone to put some lawn chairs out on their own driveways and huddle around the portable fire pit or barbecue. If you actually like your neighbors, you can then wander down the sidewalks and visit with them from an appropriate social distance. If you weren’t too thrilled about the party in the first place, you can stay on your own driveway near your own fire, pound the eggnog, and politely request that all passersby stay safely on the sidewalk. If they don’t comply, repel them with flaming marshmallows. Ho ho ho.


3) The Casual Social Acquaintance Christmas Party

You got put on the guest list for this one years ago when a friend of a friend suggested adding you, and you’ve been stuck reluctantly going to this party full of randoms ever since. Reply to the cancelation notice with “regret” while casually mentioning that you converted to Islam during your recent time in prison, and happily kiss this one goodbye.


4) Your Company Holiday Party

This is a blessing for everyone involved. Your spouse won’t have to endure the small talk hell that comes with this dreaded event, and it’s very hard for you to get fired because you had one too many spiced rums and peed in the potted plant at home. As long as the holiday bonus check still finds its way to you, this is a win all the way around. Just remember, when you get drunk at your own house, you won’t have access to the full-size office copier, so you’ll have to take pictures of your butt with your phone and get them to your coworkers via text. Cheers!


5) Your Spouse’s Company Holiday Party

Again, this cancellation is a huge blessing. Your spouse won’t have to fret all night about your inevitable embarrassing behavior, and you won’t have to get drunk with all the other uncomfortable spouses who don’t want to be there. Just keep your fingers crossed for that holiday bonus, fire up Netflix, and sip some eggnog on the couch with your honey. And for this one, once the whiskey you put in that nog kicks in, you can take pictures of your butt with your phone and text them to your spouse.


6) Your Small Christmas Party with Your Group of Good Friends

This one is not canceled. These are the people you’ve been hanging out with this whole time. Light the yule log and get your jolly on. Merry Christmas, y’all!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A Slightly Modified Christmas

We all know that 2020 has been a little funky, both in terms of COVID completely turning our lives upside down and also in terms of how your house smells since your kids have been going to school from your living room for nine months.

Well, Christmas 2020 isn’t going to be any less funky, so buckle up, buckaroos. We’re about to have Christmas COVID style. Here’s a short rundown on how it’s going to work this year.

For starters, many of you have been putting off your family Christmas pictures due to the obvious outbreak of COVID hair. You and your spouse are almost unrecognizable to each other at this point, and your children look like the end result of a drunken hookup between Cousin It and a yeti.

You’re going to need to bite the bullet and just do it. That cutesy holiday snapshot of your family isn’t going to get any prettier, and chances are, one of your kids is pretty good with Photoshop, so there’s some hope.

Christmas cookies are going to need to be contactless this year. You can still attempt to bake tasty treats for your friends and neighbors, but it will be challenging to say the least. Since we apparently know nothing about how COVID works, we must assume that it can survive 350 degrees for 20 minutes. That means you cannot come within six feet of any of the ingredients without being in a full hazmat suit.

Extra-long mixing spoons aside, your shopping cart was probably within six feet of you, another shopper, or a clerk during the ingredient purchasing process, so you’re really finished before you even started.

Best to just bake all the treats you would have normally made as gifts, then eat them all yourself with an eggnog chaser in front of a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

Santa will still be at the mall, but he will be inside a large plastic bubble, so your kids won’t get to sit on his lap. Also, the mall will be closed, so the best we can do is have you drive by with the kids and wave to him through the glass doors while he’s in his plastic bubble. Also, the glass doors will be covered with plywood to prevent looting.

Santa’s North Pole workshop is still open, being deemed an essential service, however the elves now have to work in cohorts of ten, on a rotating hybrid schedule to be able to maintain a six-elf-length spacing around the work benches. If one elf tests positive for COVID, the entire cohort, and any cohorts working in an adjacent workshop area, will need to quarantine until 2021. This has the potential to affect toy production, but the good news is Amazon seems to have ramped up to fill the gaps. We should be OK.

Speaking of elves, the Elves on the Shelves are no longer allowed to return to the North Pole each night, or at all, actually, due to the cohort quarantine shelter-in-place lockdown distance learning travel restriction slow the spread flatten the curve rules. This means they will now stay in your house 24/7, which presents a problem. Homesick elves will drink heavily to mask the pain, and a drunk elf is an unpredictable elf. Hide the peppermint schnapps and the spiced rum or you will be in for some very odd and distasteful elf pranks. Let’s just say you won’t be able to trust any of the chocolates in that See’s Candy sampler, if you know what I mean.

Since the reindeer naturally quarantine in a cohort of nine, they will be ready to go on Christmas Eve. Nothing drastic has changed about Santa’s delivery method this year since he is the original social distancer. He will enter and exit your home as usual, but your Santa treats will obviously need to be modified. In lieu of a plate of cookies and a glass of milk this year, you need to leave him an unopened school lunch milk and a sealed snack-size bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, both floating in a bucket of hand sanitizer.

Speaking of hand sanitizer, that brings up the one change in Santa’s gift-giving procedures. Naturally, Santa will social distance, but even with the fur-lined winter gloves, Santa is unable to deliver your gifts in a truly contactless manner. As such, all your presents will be completely covered in hand sanitizer this year. Also, all your presents ARE hand sanitizer.

Of course, all Christmas Eve caroling will need to be done via Zoom this year. This could present a never-before-seen issue for you and your Charles Dickens-clad choir group. People on Zoom will now be able to virtually do what they always wanted to physically do in the past, but were too polite – shut the door on you. Expect a lot of black screens and audio connection “problems.” Sorry, and best of luck to you crazy kids!

And lastly, popcorn strings will not be strung on the Christmas tree this year. All homemade popcorn strings have been deemed essential emergency supplies by the federal government and therefore cannot be wasted on the tree. They will instead need to be stored in the bathroom to be used as a last alternative in the event of a catastrophic nationwide holiday toilet paper shortage.

Good luck with that, and happy holidays!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Fourth Open Letter to the School District

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

I am writing to make you aware of several issues.

For starters, I want to remind you that we are on day 194 of school at my house. I gotta tell you, I am starting to get a little annoyed at the blatant ignoring of my repeated requests to get the custodians in here to clean up this mess. My classroom has not been serviced even once in this entire 194-day semester.

You claim to be holding school at my house in the interest of public health, but let me tell you, there is nothing healthy about this pigsty of a living room after three teenage boys have been camped in here on Zoom calls for six and a half months. We’re wading through a sea of empty Cheetos bags and goldfish cracker dust and the whole place smells like someone farted on an old tennis shoe. I’m begging you, please get the custodians in here ASAP.

Besides being badly in need of a tidal wave and an industrial-size Febreze grenade, I also need some IT support. But I’m a little skeptical about your ability to actually help. I say that because on the magical two days a week that school is not at my house now, the boys return home from campus (where I assume you are hoarding the custodial staff) with stories of just playing games on their phones in class because the WiFi was down.

I must say, if you are going to require the use of computers that need WiFi when the kids are in an actual classroom with their actual teacher, maybe priority one from the IT department should be WiFi that works all the time. Just a thought, from a dad that also can’t understand why the teacher defaults to phone games instead of books…

Anyway, I need the IT department to look at Son Number Two’s Chromebook. He tried to log in this morning and had a little trouble typing anything the computer would accept. It seems that overnight his keyboard took a little vacation from convenient functionality.

Now, when you type the ‘e’ key, it writes ‘qrwetiuOP’, and the ‘r’ key gives you ‘<.rii.>’, both of which are entirely unhelpful when trying to spell words in English. The ‘y’ key just shuts the computer off.

Not optimal.

As the IT manager at this homeschool, I find myself slightly out of my depth with this problem, and could really use some more professional help. Maybe one of your IT guys could log onto a remote desktop help session with me? I assume he’ll need to drive over to a Starbucks to use their WiFi since yours never works…

Let me know what you can do for us, and please keep us informed about when you think real school might start back up so our kids can begin to learn things again.

They’re 194 days dumber and counting, and the phone games and qrwetiuOP<.rii.> aren’t helping a bit.

Yours in educational excellence through continued partnership,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankfulness 2020

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and this may be the first year in recent history that we will all be thankful for the same thing: THE END OF 2020!

Along with that, we are all likely to be thankful for some other similar things, such as family, friends, church, any time you didn’t have to remind someone on Zoom that they were muted, employment, any time the kids aren’t home in the next year, 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)

Days-of-the-week pill containers

The beach

The lake

The pool




Any time they get 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


Heated seats/steering wheels

Good running shoes

Labrador retrievers


Car backup cameras

The “search a song” listening feature on Google

Dave Barry

Extra space in the neighbor’s garbage can

Pork ribs

Passionfruit La Croix



School libraries





Garbage disposals


Tape, in all its forms, but most specifically duct


Ice cubes

Toilet paper

The plastic things on the ends of shoelaces

Compound interest

Indoor plumbing

Yeti tumblers



Discount printer ink that actually works


Fortune cookies

Microwave popcorn

The five-second rule

Hot showers



Slow-closing toilet seats


Bill Murray

Caller ID


Amazon Prime



And every day it’s not windy

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

Have a great Thanksgiving,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


Your new favorite T-shirt is at SmidgeTees

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Ask Smidge - The Turkey Edition

Most of the free world, and I use that term ironically, is under tighter COVID restrictions this month, causing a mild state of panic in some American households. With many families not able to gather the generations together, people whom, in years past, have happily sat on the couch watching the Thanksgiving Day football games while their mothers and fathers prepared the feast, are now being forced into the kitchen to handle the turkey.

It’s a scary situation. Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.

Our inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner.)



I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?

Novice in Norfolk

Dear Novice,

There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high for 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.




This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?

Frozen in Fort Worth

Dear Frozen,

Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five minutes per pound to your cook time.




I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.

Shopping in Santa Barbara

Dear Shopping,

Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Midsize, Full Size SUV, Convertible, Luxury, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.




I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?

Breadless in Bangor

Dear Breadless,

Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!




I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!

Dry Dinner in Denver

Dear Dry Dinner,

As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!




I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?

Oiled in Omaha

Dear Oiled,

Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.



Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day with whomever can make it to your house this year.

Have a tasty Thanksgiving!

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day

I am proud to say I have quite a few veterans in my family tree, including my own father, his father, and my wife’s grandfather. The old war story that always makes me smile, however, is one from my mom’s side of the tree.

Brad Dolliver, my mom’s Uncle Brad, was a WWII and Korean War veteran. He was the Captain of a B-24 Liberator in WWII, a bomber named the “What’s Cookin’ Doc?,” complete with Bugs Bunny painted on the nose.

He received his plane and his crew here in the U.S., and they had to fly from his home state of Colorado to Kansas for training, and then make the long trip overseas. On the day they were leaving, he called his wife, who worked at the courthouse, and told her to come out onto the front steps on Main Street at noon.

She assumed he was going to drive up with flowers or a box of candy, so you can imagine her surprise when Uncle Brad’s shiny silver B-24 roared over the center of town, less than 500 feet above Main Street. He was so low she said she could clearly see the face of his tail gunner, smiling and waving from his little bubble window in the back of the plane.

When Uncle Brad got to the end of the street, he pulled back on all the throttles momentarily, then slammed them all forward to the stops, backfiring all four engines on his way out of town. An exhaustive “I Love You” courtesy of Pratt & Whitney, and a crazy-dangerous stunt.

He and his crew continued their low-altitude midwestern barn burning run all the way across two states. He was flying so low over some farms that his tail gunner radioed up to the cockpit to announce that the prop wash from the engines was picking chickens up off the ground and flipping them around in the air behind the plane.

Captain Dolliver only decided to put a little more sky between his plane and the ground when the tail gunner radioed back over Kansas to let them know they’d just sent a farmer diving for his life into the dirt off a moving tractor.

(That incident could very well have been the first chance meeting between the families, since my dad’s side were Kansas farmers, but, alas, we’ll never know.)

Brad said, when interviewed later in life about the flight, quite simply, that none of them knew if they were ever coming back, so they were having as much fun as they could along the way.

As it turns out, thankfully, his whole crew did make it back. Captain Dolliver and his nine men flew thirty missions over Europe, only sustaining one single crew injury, when flak shrapnel hit one of his gunners on their final mission over Germany. That was an amazing feat, since their campaign tour included being shot down on Christmas Day, 1944!

They were hit hard by anti-aircraft fire that knocked out three of his four engines, and he knew they couldn’t make it back to their airfield in England. He was losing altitude fast and heading for the Allied lines in France when he told the crew to bail out. There was heavy ground fog, and he had his eye on a large clearing, but had no way of knowing if it was a field or a lake.

His crew unanimously disobeyed his order and they all stayed with him in the crippled plane. As he recalled, he made the smoothest landing of his entire career that day, thankfully, in what turned out to be a plowed field. He and his crew hitched a ride with a French farmer in a pickup truck, and Uncle Brad assumed they were being taken to the nearest Allied forces.

Fortunately, the navigator didn’t stop doing his job after he got out of the plane. He was paying attention, and informed Captain Dolliver that they were being driven in the wrong direction, toward the Germans. The way Uncle Brad told the next part of the story speaks volumes about his generation and their matter-of-fact style. As he put it, “Somehow my .45 ended up in that Frenchman’s ear, and we got that truck turned around the right way.”

Got to love it.

Uncle Brad and his crew were some of the lucky ones that returned home from the wars they fought. On this special day set aside to remember and thank our veterans, let us not forget those who gave their lives for our liberty, and the liberty of other nations.

As a husband and a father, I can imagine no sacrifice more grave or selfless than the one the soldier makes when he or she leaves their family behind to fight on foreign soil on our behalf.  The physical, mental and emotional toll must be staggering, but we are reminded of the caliber of people who stand at our defense when we hear them say, as Brad Dolliver said, “We were just doing our jobs.”

The humility and grace of our nation’s finest always strikes and inspires me, and I am always at a loss for words of gratitude when I get a chance to thank them. It’s always just a simple “thank you,” because anything else I would or could try to express would fall well short of the reverence deserved.

For all the thanks and praise our returning heroes rightly receive, sadly it is the men and women that we will never get a chance to thank who deserve our utmost appreciation. They gave their lives for us, and that is a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

So, from this freedom-loving American to all you VFW’s out there, all I can say is, “Thanks for your service,” because I will never be able to adequately convey what you truly mean to me.

God bless you all.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Exam Questions

Few things are more impressive in their function than the combination of medicine and technology. In most cases, it’s impressively good, like laser eye surgery, MRI’s, and cyborgs.

In some cases, it’s impressively bad, like when our three sons became “medically independent” at the age of twelve under the idiotic HIPAA rules and now they all have their own user names and passwords to access their secret medical records that I am not supposed to know anything about and I’m not supposed to have access to their accounts except for the fact that if you let a twelve-year-old set up their own medical user name and password, no one, including the twelve-year-old, will ever know what they are, and also I am not allowed to know anything about their medical records or activities right up until it comes time to pay for them and then all of a sudden I am allowed to be involved and no one can seem to see why that is the dumbest thing in the world.

But I digress.

One of the lesser but nonetheless impressively good features of modern technology and medicine is the ability to log into your medical account and see all your files and notes that they take during your doctor’s visits.

I had a yearly physical appointment the other day, and just for kicks I read the notes afterward. While the technology is cool, I do have a few questions about the notes themselves that have me wondering just how precise this whole “physical exam” system is.

For starters, my body mass index was listed as 29.27, which really meant nothing to me until I read further and saw that I was in the 25-30 = Overweight category. I would generally agree that I’m overweight, especially after my impressive Halloween candy intake this year, but a closer look at the numbers had me questioning the data.

Noting that I was on the high end of Overweight, I found a BMI chart that told me I was only two pounds (or six Snickers, in Halloween math) away from being Obese. It’s not just that “obese” for me is unrealistic, but that the chart wants me to lose 40 pounds just to get out of Overweight and into Optimal. And I can lose as much as 80 pounds and still be in the Optimal category.

Now, you may not know me personally, but let me assure you, if I lost 80 pounds, I would look like I was just freed from a two-year stint in a POW camp. I’m not putting a lot of weight in the BMI chart. (See what I did there?)

Under GENERAL in the notes, I was listed as “well developed, well nourished, in no distress, and alert.” I will take all of that as a compliment.

However, under HEAD, they wrote, “skull is normal in size and shape.” Nothing could be further from the truth. My head is abnormally large and dented and scarred from years of poor timing and/or decision making. I think my doctor may have just been trying to be nice, but facts are key here.

EYES: “normal in appearance.” I would agree with that, but would also like to add “kind, bright, and wise.”

EARS: “external ear normal.” Again, they are rather large and I think she was just being nice. Same situation with my nose.

LUNGS: “normal chest excursion.” I have no idea if that was a typo, but if not, then I don’t know anything about how my lungs work.

HEART: “regular rate and rhythm.” Maybe here in this office, but you should feel it when I try to take my 29.27 BMI's on a run!

Under MUSCULOSKELETAL and EXTREMITIES, I am proud to report that I have a normal spine ROM, no cyanosis, no clubbing, and no edema, assuming all of that is good, since I have no idea what any of it means.

MOTOR FUNCTION has me a little confused. They noted “grossly normal strength.” On the one hand, “grossly” would suggest that I am super buff. On the other hand, “normal” is not a word associated with an excess of anything. I am either offended by this, or pleased with my workout efforts. I’m not sure which.

As confusing and questionable as all that was, the note that really had me wondering was under CORTICAL FUNCTION. My doctor listed me as having “normal intellectual function, normal memory, and good judgement.”

C’mon! These are the notes on me, right? It’s as if they got my file mixed up with someone who can keep a thought in their head for more than ten seconds, can remember what they had for breakfast, and doesn’t have an impressively long list of bad decisions that haunt them to this very day.

Technology is great and all, but having notes available online is only helpful if the notes are true. Trying to be nice about it isn’t helping anyone.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go eat a salad.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

There's a Trick to Wearing a Mask

This is it, school-aged children of America. This is your time to shine! Halloween is upon us, but this year at school is like none other.

Every Halloween of your life has been the same thing at school. “Please wear your costumes to show your school spirit, but remember the safety rules – no masks allowed.”

Well, my young friends, this year is different. Due to all of our adult COVID concerns, you are being required to wear masks at school! If a surgical mask over your nose and mouth is good, then why wouldn’t a hairy rubber full-head werewolf mask be even better? The answer is simple. It is better, and no adult working at your school can argue that logic.

In years past, you have had fun activities filled with delicious candy at your school’s Halloween celebrations. The only thing you’ll get this year is an extra squirt of hand sanitizer. Does that seem fair? No, it does not, but you don’t know what to do about it.

That’s because you have grown up with the tame, watered down, Disney version of Halloween, so chances are, you never really even understood why you say “Trick or Treat” to get candy. You need to understand that Halloween wasn’t always a national month of cute costume-themed parties. Halloween used to be a night to be dreaded by upstanding, tax-paying adults.

The phrase “Trick or Treat” is actually a question, and it’s a time-honored threat that your forefathers and foremothers leveled at helpless homeowners. It means, quite simply, “Do you want to give us candy or do you want our masked, anonymous mob to trash your house?”

It’s time to get back to our roots, kids! The reason the school never wanted you to wear masks is the same reason that when the spinster tried to give out twist-tied baggies of granola as “healthy treats,”  your ancestors were able to egg her house and soap her front windows with impunity. Masks hide your identity.

It is time for the natural, historical consequence of people not providing you with your well-deserved candy. It’s time to don that storm trooper helmet and head to school. If they don’t have a treat for you, well, then it’s time for a trick, isn’t it?

Are you going to go to your own classes? Of course not. Find a friend of similar height and make the switch. Always wanted to throw that plastic cup of watery canned corn that came with your school lunch back toward the kitchen from whence it came? Warm up that arm! Not allowed to play full-contact dodge ball at recess? Well, click the safety off that red bouncy ball and light that annoying kid from third period up. Always wanted to release 5,000 crickets into the front office? Just walk on in and dump the box.

Whatever you want to do! Use your imagination.

“But, they’ll catch me. They’ll just walk right up and take off my mask,” you might say, shaking in your hairy rubber werewolf feet.

Of course they won’t, if you learn one simple sentence. Repeat after me.

“Excuse me, responsible adult in charge of my safety, kindly maintain a six-foot distance from me to prevent the spread of any infectious disease that I could inadvertently bring home to my lawyer parents.”

The world is your oyster this year.

Will it be a Trick or a Treat?

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen


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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Dangerous and Disingenuous DMV

Yesterday I took my first steps into the valley of the shadow of death. Yes, that’s right. I logged into the DMV website to set up a driver’s permit test for Son Number One. Please pray for our family.

I would love to be optimistic about what’s about to happen, but let’s be serious. This is 2020. The year of the train wreck. And never mind the calendar, DNA simply is not on our side at the DMV. I was a horrible driver as a teenager. I couldn’t stop wrecking cars, and my wife was no better. There are auto salvage yards across California named after our family, and not because we own them.

The only good news here is that as far as our kids go, I think Son Number One is probably our best bet to be the safest driver. He’ll probably only wreck a couple of our cars while he’s in high school. The other two are going to be far worse.

Son Number Three is really the one we all need to worry about. Fair warning to all drivers and pedestrians of Northern California – you have three more years to get your affairs in order.

Because it’s 2020, the DMV isn’t making any new appointments, so Number One and I get to go take a number with the unwashed masses. Six feet apart wasn’t far enough at the DMV before COVID. But possibly worse than actually going there to wait in line could be the experience of navigating the website to figure out what we had to do in the first place. I would blame COVID for that, but we all know better.

It only took me a couple hours to finally have a vague idea about what forms we needed to fill out and which documents we needed to bring to prove that our son who lives in California with us at our house is related to parents that live in the same house and can vouch for the fact that he lives in the house that is located in California, provided we bring documentation proving that the house is in fact in California, the fact that we own it, the fact that we also live there, and the fact that he is, in fact, a human who was born. And also passports.

About an hour and a half into my online adventure, lost somewhere in the circular rat maze of non-informative information pages, I came across something that shocked me to the core. The dangers of COVID are far worse and more widespread than we ever could have imagined.

Due to COVID-related scheduling issues, the following temporary changes are in place:

• License holders 69 and younger (Beginning March 1, 2020): Most drivers now qualify for online renewal

• License holders over the age of 70 (March-December 2020 expirations): Automatic extension valid for one year from original expiration date.

Holy crap, people! The ninety-five-year-old man who went blind at the beginning of the year and is still driving because none of his kids want to be the one that told him to stop gets to keep his license for another year! That guy, hurtling blind down your neighborhood street in his ancient Cadillac is dangerous. He’s nearly as dangerous behind the wheel as a teenage boy!

That’s really the thing I don’t understand in all this. Why are they even letting him get his permit if they’re still worrying about COVID? That seems like disingenuous concern. I mean, they are even letting them go back to school part time now.

There is no question in my mind that letting high schoolers drive themselves to school is far more dangerous than COVID ever could be for them.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 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 14, 2020

COVID-19 Shutdown Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 145

Forced Homeschool Parent Log – Day 145

We are a new color! Besides being green with envy at the other states where kids get to receive an education, us Californians are operating on a critical COVID color convention code criteria, or CCCCCCC, as it’s known locally.

Each color represents a new phase where kids still don’t get to go to regular school for any sort of organized learning, but the color changes, which is fun. The phases are a step-by-step “reopening” plan. We are currently on day 215 of reopening from our 14-day shutdown to “flatten the curve.” I wish I were making that up.

So, each color represents a new reopening phase, and each phase is defined in weekly briefings from Sacramento. Unfortunately, the weekly briefings are made up on the spot by a politician who is actively huffing metallic spray paint from one of his Ralph Lauren dress socks, and the characteristics of each phase, as well as the color spectrum, change as required based on what is happening with COVID in eastern Europe. Each California county has been assigned a fun Slavic country to get our new case rate numbers from.

I believe Placer County was a very dark purple for the past few weeks and we are now deep magenta. Shout out to Latvia! Thanks, fellas. These are exciting times.

Unfortunately for students and their parents alike, we need to get all the way to “golf pants lime green" before the kids can go to school five days a week. And even then, they are required to continuously squirt hand sanitizer out in a six-foot radius in all directions when on campus, as is Latvian tradition.

I'm not sure what the state has planned for an educational catch-up after we get to the final "fully back to normal" color of UPS brown, but I'm hoping it's something good. We just finished the first quarter of this school year with a tenth grader who never finished his freshman year, a ninth grader who never finished middle school, and a seventh grader who can't figure out how to make it to a daily Zoom check-in meeting that happens at the same damn time every damn day.

Pray for our next transition to the burnt cyan phase as soon as possible. These kids are getting dumber by the minute.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 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 7, 2020

HIPAA Critical, Part IV

It has already happened twice at our house, and it still caught me off guard this week. No, not one of our teenagers saying, “I’m full.” Don’t be silly. That never happens. I’m talking about medical independence day.

Yes, that time-honored tradition of becoming completely in charge of all your own medical decisions with no input whatsoever from your parents at the ripe old age of twelve. You guessed it – I got blindsided by HIPAA, yet again.

You’d think I’d learn, but I suffer from a lifelong problem with being logical. Unlike the drooling, booger-eating bureaucrats who authored the HIPAA bill (most likely with crayons), I have met an actual twelve-year-old. As such, it just wouldn’t ever occur to me to put them in charge of what they should have for breakfast, let alone their medical decisions.

Waiter – “Good morning, what can I get you?”

Standard twelve-year-old – “Yes, good morning, I will have a fudge brownie, an empty glass, and a large bottle of syrup, please. And I do not believe I will be getting a tetanus shot this year. Or any other year. Thanks.”

So, there I was Monday morning, making a non-brownie and syrup breakfast for the boys, when my cell phone buzzed a calendar reminder. I glanced over to notice that I had ten minutes before Son Number Three’s doctor’s appointment was scheduled to start. His doctor is twenty minutes away from our house.

Holy crap! GET IN THE CAR!!!

I called the doctor’s office and had a stressful conversation with the appointment desk. They were really cool about it. The only reason the conversation was stressful was because I was having it while going 125 mph and sliding a Suburban sideways through intersections.

After I hung up and narrowly avoided an oncoming cement truck, I started to wonder, how did this happen? Why did I completely forget about this appointment? I obviously had it on my calendar, but why wasn’t I thinking about it. Why didn’t I wake up that morning with getting to the doctor on my mind?

Then I realized the answer. Usually when we have an appointment, I get about six emails and two or three text reminders ahead of time. “You have an upcoming appointment. Please let us know if you’re still able to make it.” “We’re looking forward to seeing you! Please fill out the pre-appointment health survey.” “Please let us know if you’ll need special assistance at your appointment, or an interpreter.” Yadda yadda.

I didn’t get a single communication before this appointment. I put it on my calendar six months ago and never heard from them again.

Well, we slid into the parking lot and ran to the waiting room, stopping only briefly for a nice lady at the front door to shoot our foreheads with the “you obviously don’t have COVID” laser. They saw him right away and I finally relaxed on the little spouse/parent chair in the corner of the exam room.

I apologized to the nurse for being late, thanked her for getting us right in, and then remarked how I had just realized I never received any emails or texts ahead of the visit.

She said simply, “Well, that’s because he turned twelve.”


Why was I even stressing? It wasn’t me that forgot the appointment after all. It was him! My irresponsible, medically-independent twelve-year-old son forgot all about his own appointment. C’mon, bro! Get it together. Why am I here at all, anyway? How come you didn’t set an alarm and jump on your bike at 5:30 A.M. to get yourself over here for your 7:00 appointment? For Pete’s sake, man.

When we were all done the nurse told me we could stop by the front desk on the way out and he could get his new twelve-year-old account all set up.


We set up the other two boys’ “private medical accounts” online, but I think I’ll skip it for Son Number Three.

They have no email address for him, and no phone number. So, whatever internet black hole they sent all the appointment reminders to, I want them to send the bills to the same damn place.

Let’s see how long they want to abide by the HIPAA rules then.

And if anyone out there is working to repeal these idiotic regulations, you can add “causes reckless driving” to the long list of things that are hazardous about letting a twelve-year-old be medically independent.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2020 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!