Month: September 2017


I have become an unabashed devotee of a relatively new iPhone app known as TimeHop. I don’t really get the T-Rex with swim goggles and heart-print boxer shorts brand logo. In fact, I experience mild annoyance with a touch of embarrassment when I daily interact with the app each morning, painfully aware of the TimeHop T-Rex’s resemblance to Barney. I avoided Barney like the plague when my sons fell in his target age demographic. Snobbishly opting for “Mozart for Babies” over the thick-tongued and goofy purple brontosaurus. Well the chicken (pterodactyl?) has come home to roost: My kids despise classical music, and I endure begrudging eye contact with a cartoon dinosaur and his useless swim goggles. In his damned underpants. Every day.

Because I genuinely enjoy perusing the digital images scraped by the app from among the various repositories where my memories lie. At least those memories within the past 10 years. Dutifully date-stamped by the dinosaur, reminding me of this family wedding in New York City during a September 11 weekend, that walk on the beach with my dog whilst chewing through a tricky work situation, or my younger son’s first official soccer practice in which he finally deigned to actually participate, or my elder son’s greenstick-fractured wrist bone from an ill-advised and unsupervised jaunt on the treadmill in our garage.

The images that tickle my belly or leave me staring in awe, I “share” those immediately via text message. I am well aware that my wife is beholden to the almighty billable hour and that she cannot bill “looking at a TimeHop photo my husband sent to me of my son Everett grotesquely twisting one of his front teeth” to any of her clients. So by definition, my “Do You Remember” iMessages are interfering with my wife’s job.

And I have read every word of my older son’s new school’s Parent Handbook. I am fairly certain my TimeHop text messages this morning pinged the iPhone in his pants pocket smack in the middle of Precalculus. This sort of thing likely explains why parents are generally forbidden from communicating with their children in this manner, save for elusively narrow windows of the day that I have yet to figure out. Rationally, this policy makes complete sense to me. It does. But when I get emotionally overwhelmed by a parking lot shot of Max’s first of many travel baseball games after our first of many 5am drives to Stockton, I just can’t help myself. And part of me wants to believe that Max’s Precalculus teacher, upon discovering a pic of my fresh-faced cherub in his new uniform when Max is supposed to be sketching some Euclidean vectors, would smile knowingly and cut Max a break. He might even invite Max to deliver a moving PowerPoint presentation to the entire class regarding my first born’s obviously perfect childhood and father. This is the stuff of which valedictory speeches are made!

Anyhow, today’s trip down memory lane has reached its dead end, as it always does. Marked by the sneering T-Rex, Barney’s cousin, who knows that I will be back again tomorrow. Perhaps by then, at long last, he will have found his pants.

Thanks for reading.

You and Me Against the World.


I clearly have a lot to learn when it comes to parenting.  Well, a lot to learn when it comes to just about everything. But let’s focus on parenting for now.  Bite-sized pieces.  

When I was a boy, my mom and I adopted a poignant Helen Reddy song as our theme song.  It was called, “You and Me Against the World.”  The song was released in 1975, so I must’ve been about 8 or 9.  That would make my mom something on the order of 29 or 30.  I had a pretty pleasant childhood.  No complaints.  Certainly didn’t harbor any notions of the world being against me, or against me and my mom.  Nor did my mom harbor any such notions, I don’t think.  Instead, our affinity for the song probably had more to do with a short-hand way of affirming our bond.  Of her assuring me that she would always be there for me. No matter what.  By the time our pushbutton car radio gave currency to “You and Me,” my mother had only been a mother for 8 or 9 years.  That is roughly half the amount of time that I have now been a father to my own children.  And I started the parenting thing later in life, so in theory, I should have a pretty decent idea of what’s what.       

But this morning’s walk to the school bus stop revealed yet another parenting failure on my part: No theme song.  As a direct result, my children have been completely deprived of the “I’ve-got-your-back-no-matter-what” sense of security that my mom lyrically guaranteed me as a child.  To my emotionally-neglected sons, the entire world is against them.  As am I, apparently.  

I lump myself in with the rest of the world in opposition to my kids because my 11 year-old told me so.  This morning, maybe in a tiny bit of a rush out of our flat and up the street to the schoolbus (blinking its lights impatiently), Everett absentmindedly neglected to close our garage door.  He pushed the proper keypad buttons in the proper sequence, mind you.  And the garage door, in fact, obligingly started down its path to 100% city living security.  But just as Ev bounded out into the driveway, already onto the next thing, the door bounced right back up again. Leaving our little home completely vulnerable to the sharp-clawed raccoons I read about on the NextDoor app, and to the elderly ladies who crunch recyclable cans underfoot curbside on garbage day.  I can’t have any raccoons pilfering our dog’s gourmet treats we keep in a plastic container on the garage’s workbench.  Not to mention the horrors that would befall my household if the can-crunching lady began crunching cans in my garage.  What would be next? Locusts? Horsemen?    

So with this parade of horribles in mind, I said to Everett, “Hey, careful bud, you didn’t quite close the garage door there.  Your backpack or your heel must have triggered the sensor.  Kind of important to make sure the door closes, you know?” Pretty sure this is exactly what I said to him.  Pretty sure I said it, too, in an intentionally calm, measured tone.  I didn’t want to indicate to Everett the true enormity of this event. The unimaginable catastrophes that would surely transpire due to an open garage door.  

But alas, we have no theme song.  So Everett’s immediate response? “Dad, why are you always against me on everything?!” And then he stormed off up the sidewalk towards the waiting bus.  I follow behind him, more or less speed-walking to keep up.  The thought crossed my mind of humming a few bars of “I Am a Gummy Bear” — perhaps the one song that Everett might associate with his father from my playing it for him once or twice many many years ago.  But there is no real message in there, I quickly concluded, at least not one that would fit this moment. So instead, still walking at a brisk clip on my son’s heels, I try logic.  I even manage to turn the thing totally around, a little impressed with myself, such quick thinking on the spot and on my feet: “Ev, I’m actually not against you on anything. I’m trying to help you out.  This is called ‘parenting.'” My explanation — perfectly rational, probably 100% factually accurate, too — was a remarkably poor substitute for Helen Reddy. No doubt Everett climbed the school bus steps feeling totally alone.  Abandoned.  Theme song-less. 

So now I will spend the next several hours scouring the Internet for an age-appropriate, non-explicit, secular, non-mysogynistic, non-materialistic, not-about-gummy bears song that I can use to make my son believe that I am a good father.  I do have his back, of course. I just don’t have a theme song.  Yet. 

Thanks for reading. 


And then there were three….


We’re down to three sentient beings under our roof on a regular, expected basis.  Well, four, if you count the dog.  So let’s go with four.  Our fifth (fourth, if you for some reason don’t count the dog), now resides 2,584 miles away from our roof.  As a seeker of the bright side and maker of soothing lists, I have, predictably, begun to compile a number of consequences of this attrition that slot into the “positive” column —

Example: Our younger son, Everett, now picks up the slack in the household chores department.  And he does so happily.  No he doesn’t.  Actually, he disappears into some unknown hiding spots in our home when he rightly senses that a handed-down task is coming his way.  Fortunately for us, the Santa Claus jig is up with respect to Everett, or else he certainly would have found our top-secret Christmas presents hiding spots whilst burrowing under the turf in our backyard.  Or wherever the hell he is hiding instead of setting the dinner table.  And by “setting,” I mean putting forks and knives on either side of the place settings, set roughly 7 steps away from the kitchen’s silverware drawer.  And now he has just 3 settings to set, what with our 4th lying idle. 

Another example: Last night, my wife Hilary gave Ev “a lesson” in how to roll our bins curbside for the morning Recology visit. I realize now that the way I worded that last sentence may conjure up images of hickory switches and welts on butts.  Not the case.  Rather, young Everett was supposedly indoctrinated into the business of Green, Black and Blue Bins 101. And the truth is, the bins did somehow magically end up neatly aligned out front, ready for pickup. But I’m not as confident that our elder son’s least favorite aspect of this particular chore was wholly handed over to his younger brother.  The part where you have to scamper all over the house, collecting yucky stuff from an endless array of little trash cans, sticky little recycling bins or wet paper bags.  Or nightmare-inducing compost bags threatening to burst at any moment.  Who am I kidding on this last point; I alone shoulder the bomb squad outfit for the compost transfer.  My children are not ready for that horror. But Ev is certainly capable, apparently, of lining up the bins on a Monday night.  The militaristic set up out there last night, though, with all 3 bins so perfect.  I’m not buying it.  I’d bet everything currently stuffed into our kitchen compost can that Hilary “taught” Everett how to line up the bins outside.  And Everett merely “learned.”  I.e., she did the dirty work, and he watched.  How very Tom Sawyer of him.  

Another example: The standing requirement that one of sentient beings number 1-4 must occasionally walk sentient being number 5.  When Max bore this responsibility, the dog, miraculously, never seemed to do anything.  This defeated the purpose, with the predictable result of unreasonably early bedside whimpering (Wailea, not Max) the following morning.  I suspect that Max’s habit of effectively sprinting around our block leash-in-hand proved an insurmountable hurdle for a dog interested in peeing.  It remains to be seen whether Everett will have the patience for a sniff of every bush, and the mental fortitude required when Lea takes care of business in the middle of the street while a MUNI bus rapidly approaches.  For now, it appears that I am pretty much the only Beadling family member managing the bushes and buses in the afternoons.  You might say I’m “teaching” Everett the ropes here. 

So you see, there are so many positives flowing from sending your child off to boarding school.  Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Well, I’ve gotta run now. I have a number of Everett’s chores to attend to.

Thanks for reading.  

Lists at 4 in the Morning

I make lists. People with brains that work like mine make lists. Constantly. Lists upon lists. Lists of lists. A trusted technique to manage the whirlwind of jointed and disjointed thoughts and notions swirling about my head. Well, not actually about my head. Rather, within my head. The former would represent a whole ‘nother thing (no disrespect intended to those actually struggling with myriad actual thoughts regarding their own actual cabezas).

In my case, especially in sensory-overloaded times or moments in my life, the compulsive list-making is soothing. Allows me to impose some sense of order or organization on what otherwise feels disordered or disorganized. To take a moment to ensure I am processing current events so as to maximize the value of the important ones. And equally important, to recognize the unimportant ones, and discard those. To be able to articulate, at least to myself, that there is some logical and positive and hopeful thread connecting all of it. A rational narrative unfolding step-by-step. Building through some meaningful highlights, or lowlights, even. I like to think the lowlights are actually just highlights that require a little extra effort to pull reluctantly out of the shadows. Sometimes yanked by the wrist. Sometimes coaxed over the passage of time.

For some reason, this morning I find myself compiling a “Fall Stuff” list. Usually I am far more specific with my titles (e.g., “Karaoke Songs,” “Groceries,” “Vet Visit Deliverables,” etc.). The uncharacteristic ambiguity here suggests I am wrestling with something. I know what it is, of course: Dropping my eldest off at boarding school on the east coast. It’s not a lunar mission. Or the Peace Corps in a far off third world country. Or cancer. It’s just a major stretch of the rubber band that connects us. The rubber band has deliberately been stretched before, to be sure. Over greater distances by an order of magnitude. Or tested via long-running arguments over messy bedrooms or unwashed dishes. But this gap is yawning. I can’t see the other side. Not sure there even is an other side. Just an elastic pulled nearly to transparency.

Knowing what troubles me, what wakes me at 4am two nights in a row on one coast and then the other, doesn’t make it any easier.

That’s where the ham-handedly named “Fall Stuff” list come to my rescue. A stream-of-consciousness, meandering recitation of things I love about this particular season. Of things I want to do. People I want to share oxygen with. Places I want to go. Things to look forward to. I’d like to visit Yosemite again. Gasp at the grandeur of Half Dome with my wife and younger son and maybe my dog if she’s up for the trip. Start envisioning the shape (as in, the venue and participants) of our Thanksgiving table this year. Also, I’d like to reconvene the hodgepodge group of friends with whom I swim in the Bay — not frequently enough of late. I’m looking forward to watching my younger son’s new travel baseball team’s machinations. Silently from the stands of the brand-spanking new field. And not as silently, stealing away for an hour while catching up with a buddy at a brewpub nearby. I’d like to successfully navigate the labyrinthian process for reserving overnight camping spots on Mount Tam.

Much of it wishful thinking. Not gonna happen. Mindful yet not mindful. In the moment yet not in the moment. But the list serves a purpose, to be sure — savoring moments yet to come, or maybe yet to come.

And to help me appreciate in hindsight the good parts of recent moments that seem, at the time, mostly, to just plain old suck. Like the photo at the top of this post, taken just last week during a father-sons surf session. Max and Everett were at each other’s throats. Soiling what should have been a beautiful experience (our last for some time) with heated accusations of who snaked whom. Vitriol that has no place on a beach after riding salty waves for free. And triggering a regrettably epic string of profanities from their dad during the car ride back home. Fortunately for me, the cursing dad had also managed to capture a lasting image worth keeping while standing on the sand. Preserving the good stuff and discarding the ultimately unimportant stuff.

These mental gymnastics and manic list-making? Seems to work for me. A device to help me swallow the rubberband-stretching moment tomorrow that’s sure to stick in my throat just a little bit. In the meantime, I’m back to my list.

Thanks for reading.