Showing posts with label julie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label julie. Show all posts

October 2, 2011

Schuyler is my co-pilot

The internet hasn't been a very happy place lately. Here's a little something, just for fun.

September 24, 2011

The small print

Julie asked me a question tonight as we walked through the grocery store.

"Am I broken?"

We discussed it for a while amongst the Chef Boyardee and the Cap'n Crunch, and we concluded that yes, she was broken. We are a broken family, in some ways that are obvious and others less so. She is broken, and I am broken, and Schuyler is broken. We are like a good deal made ordinary by all the faults exposed in the small print. We go through the world operating with stopgap repairs, and we fuck up a lot, but we never stop. And for that, I am proud of us, fiercely so.

Parents break a little when they raise kids who are different or who present big challenges. Some of that breaking is bad, leaving us in an even less ideal position to take on those challenges. But I think some of it is for the best, too. We break some of the neurotypical narratives, we break some of the ridiculous expectations that we might otherwise mistake for Very Important Things, and we shatter the rules that don't make sense for us. We learn to break some of the parts that give a damn about what you think of us. Sometimes it is in the breaking that the solutions are hiding.

Julie and I keep moving forward, through the stumbles and the moments of doubt and all of it, and we do so with our own demons, ones that we brought to the table long before Schuyler was ever born. And sometimes the best thing we can do is make sure that we don't both show up for parenting duty with that haunted look at the same time. Sometimes that really is the essence of good parenting. Knowing when to tag out. Knowing when we simply can't tag out, so we simply don't.

In those moments of doubt, it is almost always Schuyler who shows us the way out. She holds a positive spark, and she sees when we need that spark. She always seems to see it. And if there is one thing we all share, the limping members of this broken tribe, it is an absolutely unbroken love, and an unwavering commitment to protect each other, and grow each other. We don't get it right all the time; sometimes we (mostly I) get it astonishingly wrong. But we never stop, and we never lose sight of it.

If, in the past weeks or months or years, you have determined that I am a mostly imperfect father or advocate or whatever, I can only confess that it's true. If you look at my family and see the cracks, the spackled-over holes and the duct tape holding some parts of it together, I can only apologize for the shabbiness of our presentation.

But if you could just see that love, and how sometimes it brings joy and sometimes it hurts, but it always burns, painfully and breathtakingly, and never flickers, then I would hope that you could recognize that our very broken machine runs because its engine is true, and the rest is just stuff.

June 13, 2011

Mermaid soul

S by Citizen Rob
S, a photo by Citizen Rob on Flickr.
We are at the pool, and Schuyler is swimming.

If today were a Saturday or a Sunday, the place would be crowded, mostly with brash teenagers loudly claiming their territory. But it's late, just before sundown so the heat is ever-so-slightly less oppressive, and it's a Monday. We almost have the pool to ourselves.

Schuyler swims. Julie and I don't, not today, although one or the other of us usually will. Julie has just gotten home from work, a job she likes but which is sometimes more stressful than it should be. When she's home, Julie has the weight of the world on her shoulders, sometimes money and sometimes her health or mine but mostly the constant consideration and work and concern for her broken little girl. She shouldn't require decompression after work, but fairness isn't a right and that's just that. Today was a good day; Julie doesn't swim but instead soaks up the last bit of sun. I sit beside the pool as well, reading a book. This happens much less often than I care to admit, to my shame.

Schuyler swims, mostly alone. Something has changed since last summer, seemingly at once. Schuyler has always seemed fearless, but the truth is that until this summer, she was never entirely comfortable in the water. In the past, she loved to swim, but always with a hand close to the edge. The moments when she went underwater were always followed by a few sputtering seconds of recovery, hands flapping and panic in her eyes. Last summer saw some improvement, but still. There were Issues.

This summer has been different, and without transition. The first moment she jumped into the pool, she was entirely comfortable, and fearless. Now she leaps from the high walls around the edge with abandon, in a position resembling nothing so much as a jumping spider, pouncing on its prey in tv slow motion. She spends as much time underwater as her lungs can handle. When she swims, she keeps her legs together and does what Julie calls a dolphin kick but which looks to me exactly like the mermaids she loves.

After years of trying, Schuyler has found her mermaid soul.

There is another person in the pool, a shy little boy maybe a year or two younger than Schuyler. His grandmother watches him and tries to convince him to talk to Schuyler. Schuyler is all for this plan as well and invades his space with enthusiasm, but the boy is hesitant. We've seen it before, often when Schuyler is paired with autistic children in school or at conferences. For kids who are timid or who have social anxieties, Schuyler is kryptonite. She is a shy kid's devil.

The grandmother asks questions, but of course the pool is a place of vulnerability for Schuyler, without her speech device to answer for her. Schuyler wants to give her name, but she can't, and really, it doesn't seem to matter to the boy. He doesn't want to be left alone, exactly; as Schuyler swims and plays, he approaches her slowly, fascinated but confused by her, which puts him in league with basically the whole world, myself included.

Julie and I could get up and walk around the pool to be near the grandmother. We could make ourselves available to answer her questions, the ones she has been shouting to Schuyler in the fleeting moments that her head is above water. But we don't. We don't even discuss it; it's not a team snub. When we discuss it later, we discover that we were on the same page. Maybe we came across as impolite. Perhaps we actually were rude. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've intentionally chosen to be chilly to someone, and not even in response to some perceived slight. The grandmother didn't do anything wrong, and yet we both chose to let her sit in her own confusion rather then enlighten her as to Schuyler's... schuylerness.

It's not something I can complain about, because I've clearly made something of a career out of it in recent years, but we don't always feel like we need to explain Schuyler. I've been more aware of it recently as I've been reading Jean Vanier and Ian Brown. We've spent so much time and energy trying to integrate Schuyler, and it's always been something that she has wanted. To fit in, to make her way in the typical world, these have been Schuyler's dreams, more hers if possible than ours, even. The fact that we've been unable to do that in some significant ways feels like one of the areas in which I have failed her the most. There's a lot I've gotten wrong with Schuyler, but perhaps my attempts to help her "pass" are the greatest. I'm no longer confident that it was ever the right thing to do, although she has certainly worked hard to make it happen, the thing she's wanted more than anything else in the world. She's always been Pinocchio, but there's never been much of a Blue Fairy to help her.

But lately, I've thought a great deal about Schuyler's right to exist on her own terms, without the pressure of a world in which she almost fits, but never completely does. I'm not talking about giving up on integration, certainly not in school, but at times like this, sitting by the pool and watching her swim like a sea creature, totally in her element, I understand that Schuyler doesn't need to fit. She doesn't need to talk, and we don't need to explain why she does what she does and can't do what she can't do. She only needs to swim, and we only need to watch, quietly and with something very much like peace.

Schuyler finally figures out how to reach the boy. She climbs out of the pool and up onto the wall, and she leaps fearlessly into the water, splashing down in her angry crab position. She swims to the surface and then points to him, a gauntlet playfully laid down. He smiles, maybe for the first time since she noisily entered his world, and then he climbs out of the pool and takes his place on the wall. He cannonballs into the water, and when he breaks the surface, he hears Schuyler clapping for him.

And that's it. Whatever connection they've been looking for has been made. The wordless girl and the shy boy take turns leaping from the wall. When they take the air, their anxieties remain behind them. They don't know each other's names or what grades they are in or any of the other questions that the grandmother tried to ask. They're not here to talk. They're here to swim.

When we leave, they wave to each other. "See you tomorrow," she says, although I have no idea if he understands her. I suspect he might.

March 25, 2011

Have you ever seen Office Space?

Here's an embarrassing but perhaps amusing story for you. (Before you ask, no, Schuyler was not home for this incident. It would not have happened if she had been.)

This afternoon, I lost my shit. Julie was on the phone trying to accomplish an important task with a customer service rep who seemed to be doing everything in her power to obstruct said task. She was in full-on "There's nothing I can do" mode, with that tone that suggests she wished our names were Mr. and Mrs. GoFuckYourself since that's clearly what she wanted to say. At the conclusion of the conversation, when the person had succeeded in making Julie actually cry, I needed to print something off, and at this tense, unhappy moment, our printer decided that it was no longer in the business of printing.

It was a very poorly timed print error.

So yeah, I lost it. I cursed at the printer, and I hit it. Okay, I may have hit it a couple of times, but when the flimsy shelf on which it sat suddenly gave way, that was it. Swearing dramatically and creatively, I proceeded to stomp on the printer, repeatedly, feeling it crunch beneath my feet, hearing it make a sound that, while not as satisfying as the sound of printing might have been a few moments before, was nevertheless a wonderful guilty pleasure. I lost my temper in the most ridiculous, over-the-top way, and that was that for the printer.

When I got my sudden flash of anger under control, I looked over at Julie sheepishly. "Want to join in?" I asked weakly. Without a word and with a stoic expression, she quietly stood and walked into the other room without answering.

I started to get up to follow her, to apologize for my shameful, destructive outburst, but before I could take more than a step or two, she returned from the bedroom.

With a softball bat. Which she put to astonishingly effective use.

Anyway, our printer most definitely doesn't work now. But I think we both feel much, much better.

March 2, 2010

Mean: A Play in Two Acts

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob

Julie picks up Schuyler from school. Schuyler is in a very sad mood, not making eye contact and seeming to be on the verge of tears.

Julie: Schuyler, what's wrong?

Schuyler: I'm sad.

Julie: Why are you sad?

Schuyler: Because you think I'm a loser.

Julie: No I don't! Schuyler, where did you hear that word?

Schuyler: Jackie called me a loser today.

(Jackie is a girl in Schuyler's class who has said things about her before, including the worst thing that you can say to Schuyler, who has the biggest heart in the entire world: "You're not my friend.")


Later, talking to Schuyler about the incident.

Rob: Did Jackie call you a loser at school?

Schuyler (sadly): Yeah.

Rob: You know you're not a loser, don't you?

Schuyler: Yes, Daddy.

Rob: We're going to Nashville in a couple of weeks so that a bunch of really smart people can hear all about you and how you use Pinkessa to talk. Do you think they want to come learn about you and meet you because they think you're a loser?

Schuyler: No.

Rob: No, they think you're the coolest, and so do I. So does anyone who matters. Do you think Jackie's opinion matters? It doesn't. She's just trying to be mean. Anyone can say mean things. Don't let it bother you next time.

Schuyler pauses and smiles, then she waves her hand in front of her face and laughs.

Rob: What? She smells?

Schuyler laughs and nods.

Rob: What does she smell like?

Schuyler points at her ass and laughs hard.

Rob: She smells like butt? Like a monkey butt?

Schuyler: Yeah!

We get Pinkessa so Schuyler can tell me, "Jackie smells like a monkey's butthole." I help her with the spelling. I'm not sure if this makes me a good or terrible father. Julie looks at me disapprovingly.

Julie: You're going to get her in trouble.

Rob: If she gets sent home for saying something, I'll punish her with ice cream.

Schuyler returns to school the next day, and for the rest of the week. She does not tell Jackie that she smells like a monkey's butthole. Sometimes I think she really does get when I'm kidding.



Julie takes Schuyler to see a movie that they both want to see, but which I think sounds like the kind of thing that Jack Bauer would show captive terrorists to tell him where the bomb is hidden, so I pass. While standing in line, Schuyler sees two girls, one of whom she knows from school. The mother of the girl also seems to know Schuyler, or at least who she is, and tries to engage her with complicated questions before chatting up Julie.

As they talk, Julie hears the girl from Schuyler's school talking to her friend, who attends a school in Frisco, not Plano.

Plano Girl (giggling to her friend): Watch this. (to Schuyler) Hey, Schuyler! Say something! Talk for us!

When Schuyler says something, the girl laughs at her. The Frisco girl doesn't laugh, to her credit, so the Plano girl says it again. This time the girl's mother hears her.

Plano Mom: That's enough of that!

Julie excuses herself and pulls Schuyler away. After they enter the theater, Schuyler sees her "friend" sitting a few rows down and tells Julie that she wants to sit with them.

Julie: No, Schuyler. They came to have an afternoon together, and they didn't invite us to join them. We don't invite ourselves to other people's get-togethers. That's not polite.

She neglects to mention the fact that the little girl is horrible.

Schuyler protests before slumping down in her seat in a full-blown sulk. Finally she looks at Julie with a frown.

Schuyler: You're mean.

Julie: I know, I'm sorry.

Julie doesn't tell Schuyler the truth, that she's not mean, but rather she's protecting her from a mean girl, another one, and just one of the many who will come along in the future. Schuyler is too innocent to recognize that the girl was being mean to her, and Julie would like to keep it that way forever.

Which is, of course, impossible. But we try. God knows we try, knowing that we'll lose one day. Because when a girl calls Schuyler a loser, it breaks her heart. But when a kid mocks Schuyler because of her monster and she doesn't even see it, and still thinks the girl is her friend, well, when that happens, ours are the hearts that break.

Schuyler will figure it out soon enough. And then there'll be broken hearts enough to go around. Plenty for everyone.


June 16, 2009

Calling Mister Furious

My apologies for the length of this post. Sometimes it's good to get things on the record.

So Julie received a call this morning from a "legal mediation" company with a Very Serious Legal Issue to discuss with her. The person leaving the message on voicemail said "I don't even think you're aware of what's going on!" So, you know, very scary, and before breakfast, even.

(UPDATE: Apparently they called Julie's parents this morning, too.)

She called the number and got a high strung, angry gentleman at "the Office of the CRA". She was informed that she has an old credit card outstanding debt of over $9000, and unless she gave him her bank information RIGHT THAT INSTANT, the matter was going to go to court and the debt would be reported to the IRS as additional income, and no, we won't send you anything in print, and no, you can't have a moment, you need to give us that information right now now nownownownow!

Julie, not suffering from a head injury, declined to give Mister Furious our bank account numbers, thereby denying the Office of the CRA a sum so vast that they might actually be able to invest in not one but two tacos from Taco Bell. (But sorry, no beverage.) She did, however, keep talking, or rather she tried, but mostly she just listened to this guy with his unresolved anger issues. A few interesting points came out of his frothy rage, however:
  • The credit card on which she had supposedly defaulted on $9000 in debt was one that was closed out a very very long time ago. Years ago, in fact, and the debt had been settled. More importantly, and this will perhaps not surprise you, the limit on that card was nowhere close to $9000. It might have been a thousand. Because, you know, credit card companies may not be smart, but none of them are dumb enough to give the Fabulous Rummel-Hudsons a $9000 line of credit. Certainly not way back then, during our wilder, dumber days.
  • The contact address they had was that of Julie's childhood home, where her parents still live. It may have been listed at one time as a reference address, but it hasn't been listed as her home address since back when she was receiving lunch money.
  • He repeatedly called her "Julie Hudson", which has in fact never been a legal name of hers. You can try a bunch of different combinations, but that's actually the only one that won't work.
  • The most interesting piece of information came when Mister Furious heard me talking to Julie (probably suggesting creative and possibly physically challenging anatomical activities she should suggest to her caller), he said, "You can listen to me, or you can listen to your boyfriend there..."
That's right. Despite their claim to have her comprehensive credit and personal history in the file open before them, the Office of the CRA didn't know that Julie was married. In fact, it appeared that all the information they had on her was pieced together randomly and in most cases wildly inaccurately.

After Mister Furious hung up on Julie, I called them back to try to find out who they were and where they were calling from. I got Mister Furious again, except now he was using a different name. He refused to give any information and said he could only talk to Julie, not me. When I handed the phone to her, she was told that if we called them back again, it would be considered harassment. (Really? Because on this saved voicemail message, it really did sound like you were rather insistent that we call you.)

So there you go.

Here's the thing about this. I think this company is operating under an outdated business model. I suspect they're not entirely unaware of the issues at play since they demand payment information right then, during the call. Because if you have time to go online and start Googling their information, particularly the phone numbers from which they called and which they asked for a return call, you might find some interesting tidbits of information, both from other consumers and from legal websites.

So in order to help "the Office of the CRA" improve their procedures and have more success in scaring the crap out of unsuspecting marks, here's just a sample of what turns up in about two minutes of Googling.

Google: 866-553-0428

CRA Collection Company, Inc.
1150 Lancaster Boulevard
Mechanicsburg, PA
(866) 553-0428

"does anyone know who this company is?? they somehow got my sister's number and is asking for me, claiming to be a law firm."

"who is this company? they are looking for someone who is not at my number and had even called my son in OK looking for this person. They say how important it is and that it is a very serious matter which needs immediate attention. Does anyone know who this is?"

"Paul from CRA called looking for me under a name I have not used in years. I have been divorced, remarried, and 3 kids since using this name. My oldest is in high school now. I live in a new state and number is unlisted. This is just crazy."

"I got a call from this number at my moms house. I have not lived at home for over 16 years. A Ms. Thompson is the caller and she tries to be very intimidating and almost a bully, but she will not give any specific details. My mom is ready to turn it in to the authorities."

"I just got a message from a Mrs. Karis at 866-553-0428. She left a message saying that she was looking for "RO" (married name) from "the city I grew up in." Which was strange because I haven't lived there in over 10 years. And I wasn't married when I lived there. I just felt it was very strange since any account I have with my married name I know is up to date. Do you just ignore this type of call? Or should I call back and find out what's going on? I would hate to think that they will be after my family members next."

Google: 831-274-2477

"A lady called wanted me to relay a message to someone that's supposedly left our phone number as a contact. She just gave a six-digit case no. When I asked for what matter is it related to, the lady started yelling and became extremely rude and said it's none of my business. Caller ID showed the call was from 831-274-2477. She wanted the person to call back at 1-877-407-9274 with just a case no. What a rude scammer!"

"I just received a call (on the cellphone I use for the company that I work for). I do not know how "Kristin" got my phone #. She says she is with CRA company. She was rude and obnoxious and said that she had an urgent call for me, though I never identified myself. She also threatened that she would report me for not identifying myself or my company name. I don't have any debts that need collection, so I don't know why anyone would be phoning me- especially on my company cellphone."

Google: 877-407-9274

"This has never happened to us! I'm glad I wasn't being too gullible tonight! They call from the same phone number 1-866-460-4260. The guy said he name was John Shelton. The guy said that he needed to speak to my husband urgently concerning a legal matter. My husband called back and spoke with a female (sounded white). We had to ask for a company name = CRA. They were unable to tell us what that stood for. They were very on edge, argumentative, and sounded threatening at times...claiming they would turn us into the IRS, if we didn't settle this now. They said that this was a last attempt to collect on a credit card debt before legal action would be taken. They stated that this was on his credit report and needed to be taken care of now. They said they only take credit/debit payment (Go figure). The card/debt they were referring to has been taken care of and the card has been canceled for many yrs, and we know for a fact that it is not on the credit report. My husband hung up on the woman, and she called right back from a different #. She said, "Mr. XXXXX, I can't help you with this, if you keep hanging up. What other legit company would ever do that. She was asking for his SS# and all kinds of stuff! I just want to turn these low life losers in, so they can get caught! It's a shame!"

"Calling all of my daughter's relatives, threatens to serve paper's, she is going to be arrested, calling her elderly grandparents, parents, says it is on excessive debt on a non existant credit card debt of a limit that she was never approved for. The woman "FLIPPED" out, was YELLING, CALLED my daughter CRAZY, would not confirm any information. "

"CRA woman became agitated when i asked for her address, refused, said she'd only been calling for a month, that they were not a collection agency but a 'mediation service.' supervisor Stephanie Martin came on line, said they'd never called me before today, i'd be taken off list. i said i'd been trying to stop calls for a year and a half. also refused address then hung up."

"866-452-9518 called my neighbor advising her that I gave them permission to contact them to get info about me. My neighbor knew better than this and told them she has nothing to tell them. They then proceeded to advise her that they are going to press charges if I do not call them back. I called them to tell them to NOT call looking for me ever again & I Never gave them authority to call my neighbor advising them that I said they could. The guy started yelling at me sayibg he wouldn't have to call if I paid his client monies owed. I asked what client? What monies? He refused to answer and continued yelling. I hung up the phone. I will be reporting them to FTC as well."

"These people called my Uncle\'s ex- wife from 1988 and initially stated that they wanted to deliver a package and needed to verify the address. That did not work so the called again and stated that they were calling from the office of CRA and some investigators needed to speak with him immediately. I called them back multiple times and they hung up on me whenever I asked what CRA stands for and what type of company were they. Finally they advised me that they were the Consumer Recovery Associates."

"These people caled me 8 months ago, had the wrong first name, middle initial and SS#, told me it was a mistake. They have since reported nick name, alternate SS# to the credit bureau and are now harrasing me again. I think these people are scum. They also stated I made the last payment from an address I had 9 years ago just 6 years ago so it is within the statute of limitations, what idiots! I complained to the FTC and the VA Attorney General! I hope the hard inquiry comes off my credit report and they leave me alone for good. This account is apparently outside the SOL anyway."

Here's a big one:

"If you receive a call from this number, you have been called by junk debt / collection agency that buys debt from original creditors that has been written off or settled and is beyond the statute of limitations in most states. They are trying get the money for themselves, not the original creditor.

They are reportedly a serial violator of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). They may be illegally using credit information obtained from Experian or other credit reporting agencies.

This company has been known to contact and harass people they believe may know the person they are trying to reach including distant relatives, ex-spouses and possible former co-workers.

NEVER answer these calls if you see this as a caller ID. NEVER return these calls. NEVER give them ANY information about the person they are seeking or refer them to others.

Any "positive" comments you read in these notes about the company may have been written by employees of the company.

The company is:

Consumer Recovery Associates
2697 International Parkway #4
Suite 270
PO Box 2916
Virginia Beach, VA 23450-2916

The following is the most comprehensive information gathered about this company from various sources on the Internet.

***If you've been called by a number not on this list or by someone using a different name, please copy this list, add the number/name in the correct order and repost it in its entirety.

Company Names that CRA reportedly uses:

CIA and Associates
CC Associates
Consumer Credit Association
Consumer Recovery Associates
Court Company
CR Associates
CRA Associates
C&R Associates
C & R Associates
Farm CIA & Associates
J Lamb and Associates
and possibly GC Services

Phone numbers that CRA reportedly uses:

(list redacted because it is crazy long.)

Individual names that CRA reportedly uses:
(also redacted for length, but the woman who left the voicemail, Mister Furious and his Furious Twin are all on the list)"

And finally...

Pennsylvania Consumers Challenge CRA Security Systems' Collection Practices

Bradley v CRA Security Systems, Inc.
CASE ID: 3131 | CREDIT / DEBT | 02/06/2004

A statewide class action has been filed in Pennsylvania against CRA Security Systems, Inc. and their parent company, Capital Recovery Associates, Inc. The action is brought on behalf of all Pennsylvania residents who received a form type collection letter demanding immediate payment of the consumers' alleged debt. The action is brought under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and seeks statutory damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.
According to consumers, CRA used language in its initial collection letters that was confusing and deceptive. Federal law requires that all collection services include a notice in their initial collection letters that informs consumers of their right to investigate the validity of a debt within 30 days. Although CRA's letter contained this notice, consumers allege that other language in the letter overshadowed the notice and rendered it ineffective. Specifically, the letters requested immediate attention by remitting payment. Consumers allege that by demanding immediate attention and payment, they were unable to determine if they were given 30 days to investigate the validity of the debt, or if they were required to pay immediately. Additionally, the letters were allegedly "signed" by Richard Lyons. According to consumers, there is no viable evidence to suggest that a Richard Lyons reviewed their debt or that Richard Lyons is even employed by CRA. However, consumers claim this "signature" is meant to convey to them that the debt had been reviewed by an actual person. According to consumers, CRA also routinely charges allegedly illegal fees for returned checks. Finally, even after repeated attempts to dispute the validity of the debts, many consumers claim that CRA never provided them with validation.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, any unfair, misleading or intimidating language is forbidden in collection letters or other forms of communication. The consumers allege that the language used by CRA fulfills this standard. They claim that CRA's language overshadows and renders ineffective the 30 day notice of disputing the validity of the debt. They claim that CRA's use of a signature that is allegedly bogus conveys a false and misleading impression that an actual person has reviewed their account, when in fact the letters are "form" type and mass mailed. Finally, consumers claim that CRA typically ignores all attempts to dispute the validity of the debt and continues with coercive efforts designed to elicit immediate payment. According to consumers the potential class is quite numerous, numbering in the thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands.

So there you go! Best of luck, Office of the CRA. Also, we filed reports with the Attorneys General of Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. You really should check out this Internet thing. I didn't even have to put my pants on!

June 12, 2009

On the radio

Julie shot some video while I was being interviewed on a local Christian radio show. Just for fun.

June 3, 2009

SoCal with the RumHuds

The fam
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
A courtesy note for stalkers...


Southern California Meet-up with the Rummel-Hudsons

Robert, Julie and Schuyler will be in Costa Mesa, California for the 2nd Annual Microcephaly Convention, June 18-21, 2009. If you aren't attending the conference but would like to meet the Rummel-Hudsons, join us on Thursday afternoon or Sunday morning for a little informal get-together.

June 18, 2009 | 12:30pm
The Beach Pit BBQ
1676 Tustin Avenue
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

June 21, 2009 | 10:00am
West LA Farmers Market in Santa Monica
11360 Santa Monica Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90025


May 10, 2009


Granting from the outset that I am perhaps not speaking from a position of objectivity, it is nevertheless one of the great coincidences and treasures of my life that the two best mothers I have ever had the privilege to know have been my own mother, Beverly, and my wife, Julie. They've both been tested beyond what most mothers have to deal with, and like the quintessential action superheroes that they are, they've both come through the fire as stronger, better people.

My mother's adversities aren't ones that I'm going to write about. They are her stories and not mine. If she ever decides to tell them, I would happily serve as her biographer, but somehow I don't think that's very likely to happen. I will say simply that the years in which I was in junior high and high school were hard for her (not because of me, although I was definitely a little shit), so hard that I honestly didn't always know that she was going to survive it. She made mistakes, like any human being, but she paid for them more dearly than most. Her own mother committed suicide a few years before I was born, and during the worst of my mother's struggles, I always half expected to get called down to the principal's office, to find a police officer waiting or to take a phone call with the most terrible news a kid can receive, the same news she'd received all those years before.

I never got that call, because although even she wasn't aware of it at the time, my mother was made of stronger stuff. She's a survivor, and although I don't get the chance to tell her very often (like most action superheroes, she doesn't like hearing about her exploits), she's one of my heroes.

If, as is often suggested, men spend their lives trying to find a woman who reminds them of their mother, I couldn't have done much better than Julie. When I met her, she was twenty-one. It's funny to think back on that, but it's true. Twenty-one. Even then, it was clear that she was mature and capable of taking on big things in her life. We never dreamed that the big thing she would end up tackling would be a monster, however, or that it would be holding her child hostage and would require negotiations for the rest of their lives.

Motherhood is hard. Motherhood for a child with a disability is almost more than a person should be expected to take on. Sometimes people like to say that God never gives us more than we can handle, but those of us who have seen a lot of families with disabilities know exactly what a bullshit idea that really is. God overwhelms plenty of people; there are a lot of mothers and fathers who can't take it, can't face the loss of their imaginary Future Child and its accompanying narrative and can't handle their new reality. A lot of parents give up, bug out, disappear or live in a state of protective denial.

My book was about my perspective as a father, and I would have never felt comfortable trying to tell Julie's story. But it's a story that should be told. Julie is a lot less introspective than I am, and she spends a lot less time second-guessing herself or trying to come to terms with Schuyler's situation. Julie didn't have much use for God before Schuyler was born, but when we received the diagnosis in 2003, I think Julie discarded whatever lingering belief she might have had. Julie didn't need a God who would hurt her child, so she jettisoned him, rolled up her sleeves and took on the task herself.

Julie has been a rock for Schuyler, and for me. Her book would probably be much shorter than mine. Perhaps it would be one sentence long. "My daughter needed me, so I did what I had to do, and I did it with joy, because I love her with everything I am. The End."

The late J.G. Ballard wrote a followup book to Empire of the Sun in which he wrote about a life spent in the company of extraordinary women. I've lived that life as well, and the most amazing of them all is still growing, still developing. Schuyler is just beginning her own journey into a future as a superheroine, and she does so with the benefit of the two best role models I can imagine.

Happy Mother's Day, Julie and Mom. You're the best, and that's the truth.

April 8, 2009

The silent partner speaks

Those of you who are always saying "More Julie, more Julie!" will be happy to know that she shot video on our trip to Austin, and you can see some of it here, along with the short radio piece that ran on KUT 90.5 Public Radio in Austin.

Don't look for anything capital-I Important here. It's just for fun. (I may post another one soon of the next day, at our signing at BookPeople. So there's something to live for if you're feeling sad.)

March 31, 2009

Austin Road Show

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
It's an exciting week for us as the Rummel-Hudson take to the road.

We're heading back to Austin, a town that generates a lot of mixed feelings for us. On one hand, everyone knows how hipster cool Austin is. by golly, and having been in suburban Plano for a few years now, some hipster cool sounds like a nice change of scenery for a few days. On the other hand, it was Schuyler's Austin-area school that failed her so miserably, and Plano's remarkable program that gave so much of her future back to her, so I suppose we're returning with a little bit of "How do you like us now?" going on. Like the Prodigal Son, if he'd gone off and made it big and was just coming back to show his dad what an asshole the old man turned out to be.

We're going back for two events. On Thursday morning, I'll be giving the keynote address at the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention, followed by at least one and possibly two book signing sessions with Schuyler. TSHA is the professional organization for speech-language pathologists and audiologists in Texas. This is one of the larger conventions of its kind in the country, and yesterday I was told that so far, about 2100 people have registered to attend the keynote session on Thursday morning. That's a lot of people. Yeah. A lot of people.

Oh, sorry. Paralyzed for just a moment there. Moving right along.

On Friday evening, I'll be speaking and signing copies of Schuyler's Monster at BookPeople, one of my favorite places in Austin. It's one of the more venerated independent bookstores in the country, and I'm really happy to be appearing there. I can't imagine I'll be doing very many more bookstore appearances for this book, after all; it's been out for over a year and I've done a LOT of them already. If this is to be my last bookstore appearance, I feel like it's a good place to end.

So if you're in the Austin area this week, I hope you'll come see us. Julie and Schuyler will be there for both events, which is always a selling point for these things. We'll be easy to pick out of a crowd. Look for the hot pink Big Box of Words.

March 3, 2009

Ambush my heart

Pondering monsters
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
Sometimes it sort of sneaks up on us.

Schuyler came home from school without her speech device today, which as you can imagine is a pretty big deal. We were stern with her, in that way that is probably a necessary part of the parenting process but which makes me a little queasy, and we found ourselves back at her school at seven o'clock at night. A janitor let us in, and Schuyler took us to her mainstream classroom. And there it was, the Big Box of Words, along with her lunchbox and a few other items that should have come home with her.

We led her miserably back to the car, lecturing her sternly the whole way. When we got to the car, we talked to her about the importance of having her device with her at all times, both because of her communication needs and the fact that, yeah, she's a nine year-old kid walking around with a $7500 piece of electronic equipment.

Throughout the questions and the admonishments, Schuyler sat quietly, her face downcast and sad. I can't look at her face when I talk to her in those moments, because I'll fold like a house of cards if I see those eyes.

It occurred to Julie that if Schuyler was leaving her device in her last classroom, she must not be using it in her after school program. That's not incredibly surprising since they mostly play and run around, in a rough and tumble environment that doesn't lend itself to using the BBoW. But in addition to any emergency communication needs, Schuyler also does her homework after school, so she needed to have the device nearby and accessible.

"Do you ever even use your device after school?" Julie asked her.

"No," Schuyler answered sadly.

"No? Why not?"

Schuyler hesitated, then started punching buttons on the device. When she was done, she looked up at us, with an expression of sadness and maybe even defeat, a look I very rarely see in her eyes. Rarely, but occasionally. When I see it, I take notice. She touched the speech button.

"They don't know I can't talk."

Yeah, sometimes it sneaks up on us.

I just started to cry, out of nowhere. Julie held it together a little longer, but not long. "She knows," Julie said. "She really understands, doesn't she?"

There was nothing left to say after that. I gave Schuyler a hug, a long one, and we drove in silence to the Purple Cow, her favorite restaurant.

Later, I asked Schuyler who she was talking about. "Who doesn't know you can't talk?"

She signed "friends".

And so it turns out that a father's heart can break twice in one night.

October 28, 2008

God can wait a little longer

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
It started innocently enough. Schuyler came home from school with a little sticker on her device. That's not unusual; it usually has about half a dozen or so stickers on its case at any given time. This one was a little different, however, and it gave us pause.

It was an angel.

We didn't get too worked up about it, partly because we try not to be THOSE earnest, humorless Whole Foods liberals. I'm sure that whoever gave it to her didn't even think about it, much less set out to somehow evangelize to our daughter. Also, Schuyler thought it was a fairy anyway, so we even got to dodge the explanation.

It did start a larger discussion with Schuyler, though, about religion and what to say to anyone who decides to take it upon themselves to save our kid's immortal soul. It's happened in front of us a few times, after all, and so it's only logical to expect it to happen when she's at school or otherwise away from us.

Here's the thing. I don't care if Schuyler learns about or even buys into a belief system other than ours. In fact, Julie's no-bullshit Atheism conflicts pretty strongly with my own metaphor-laden Agnosticism. (And please, I beg of you, before you start asking what's the difference or making snotty little remarks about how they are basically the same, please do me and yourself a favor and go read up. Seriously. Your hungry brain will thank you.) We make it work just fine because we don't need to have a monolithic belief system in our home. We intend to make sure that Schuyler gets a good, relatively balanced overview of the belief systems of the world.

But not yet. Not now. Schuyler isn't ready. I know there are people out there who took their eight-year-olds to see The Passion of the Christ (wackadoos), and plenty of parents send their young kids to Sunday school. But here's the thing about that. These are parents who have chosen to raise their kids within their own belief system, with the intention of their kids adopting that belief system for themselves. And that's great for them. I have no problem with that.

I guess in a sense, by raising Schuyler in what is technically an Agnostic environment, I'm kind of doing the same thing, in my own way. But it is the absence of Big-F-Faith and restrictive doctrine that will give her paths of her own choosing down the road. Julie wants to expose Schuyler to other religions as well. (Sometimes I think Julie is sort of a crappy Atheist, honestly.) When Schuyler is ready, we'll open up a whole world for her. It sounds like fun to me.

But not now. Schuyler is of an age, or perhaps more importantly of a stage of development, in which she still takes things at face value. Does she understand the difference between Belief and Fact? I don't know, but I don't really think so. Maybe soon, but for now, she's still very susceptible to suggestion. It's tricky, but for now, this is the right thing to do for her. We choose to delay that conversation a little longer, rather than confuse her now, which is exactly what we would do.

We'll have that conversation with her one day, and probably sooner than later, but it'll happen when we think she's ready. So for the time being, if anyone tries to talk to her about God or church or Jesus (sadly, probably the only red flag words that she really needs to beware of in Plano, Texas), she knows to simply say "No, thank you." That's how it's going to be for now. She knows how to say no to drugs and Jesus.

Her one dalliance in the world of religion? She has chosen to be the Devil for Halloween. Well, the Chicky Devil, anyway. That ought to raise a few eyebrows. Not to worry, though. Lest anyone see fit to try to save her little soul, she'll be protected by a 6'2" chicken, plus whatever Julie comes up with. (She's working on a bat costume, although we'll see if her ambition lasts all the way through the final stages of production.)

I don't care how devout you are. Being chided by a giant chicken won't be fun. Don't try me.

June 25, 2008

Summer monsters

Three little monsters
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
It's been a while since I've really had much to say here. I haven't been staying away because of any great tragedy. I've just felt, I don't know. Quiet, I suppose.

The early days of summer have been different this year, for the simple reason that we've elected to keep Schuyler at home with us rather than handing her over to another summer program. I feel like I got adequate practice writing angry emails to administrators last summer, after all. The one thing her summer programs have had in common for some time has been the lack of progress she's made on her Big Box of Words. When she was at the YMCA, she never used it because they were constantly playing hard and swimming and having fun being feral kids on the go go go. Last summer, she didn't use it because the people taking care of her were too busy searching for a quarter for the clue bus.

So now she spends her days with one of us, mostly me since my boss doesn't mind her coming in to the office. I think she actually brightens the place up when she's there; the associate dean went out of his way to tell me how much he enjoys hearing her playing in the next room. She brings in toys (sometimes her fairies, other times her big slobbery monsters) and draws and watches movies on my laptop, and the summer session at the university doesn't seem so ghostly. During the hour-long commute, she jabbers away and watches the world going by with interest.

The more time Schuyler and I spend together, the more conspiratorial we become, which is nice, at least for us. When she has her monsters in the car with us, she asks for me to play the "monster mix" I made for her on the iPod (consisting of music from monster movies like Cloverfield and King Kong and Jaws and War of the Worlds), and we drive along pretending to devour the people we see on the sidewalks.

"Daddy!" She says. "Eat that guy!" Which of course I do. When she eats that guy, she only eats half, handing me the rest. She's a very generous monster.

A few weeks ago, her cousins came to stay with us. One of them, almost exactly Schuyler's age, is a smart kid, almost scarily so in fact, but he's also trusting in a way that is perhaps unfortunate when he's got an uncle and a cousin who spend so much time trying to trick and scare each other. (For instance, he now believes that I know a deadly martial arts move called the Monkey Paw, which I can't teach to him because unlike me, he only has ten fingers. Something to think about if you are considering asking me to watch your kid.)

Schuyler invented something called the grass monster a few months ago, a krakenesque creature lurking under the surface of the lawn who will grab you if you walk on the grass. When her cousin came to stay, Schuyler played grass monster all weekend, and I fleshed out the story for him until the grass monster had reached legendary status in our house.

Once he returned to Arlington, he googled "grass monster" and "arlington" from time to time, and always bragged to me when I saw him that there wasn't a grass monster in Arlington. Thus, he was safe. So really, in my own defense, I think a case could be made that some things are just inevitable. (He called me yesterday morning to give me the news.)

Julie's summer has been a little rocky, mostly on account of her work situation. I've worked in a bookstore in the past, same as her, so I know how petty and ridiculous the environment can become, particularly during the slow summer months when people grow bored and restless.

Still, it pains me to watch her deal with a work environment that increasingly resembles nothing so much as junior high school, with a paycheck. I don't write much about her here, for reasons that have been made clear before, but here's what you need to know about Julie, something that people who truly get to know her already understand.

Julie works very hard to maintain a positive and friendly attitude when she's at work, not just having a professional attitude but being open and friendly and funny as well. When she finds herself having to guard herself against petty people taking advantage of that, it does more than cause her to come to work and behave like a retail automaton.

It takes away her refuge, a place where she can go to escape the fact that the light of her life, the little girl who means every bit as much to Julie as to me, is living a life under threat, where every perfect moment has possibilities hanging over it that could snatch everything away in a moment.

I recently read a report of another kid with polymicrogyria, this one closer to Schuyler's age, whose life was suddenly and cruelly snatched away by seizures, the ones that Schuyler has yet to suffer but which hang over this family like a cloud. The possibility of meeting that one last terrible monster isn't something for Schuyler to fear, but her peace belongs to her alone. I can't afford to drop my guard, ever.

And neither can Julie. I write so much about Schuyler's monster that no one ever forgets the thing I live in fear of. I wish the people in her life would remember Julie's anxiety, though. It's her monster, too.

May 12, 2008

Things are afoot at the Purple Cow

The father of one of Schuyler's friends at school left this comment on an earlier post, and I thought since it was left as a public comment rather than an email, it would probably be okay to share here.

I think it gives a unique view of sharing a few moments in Schuyler's world, from a different perspective.


eran has left a new comment on your post "Mosaic":

Tonight we celebrated my son's fifth birthday at the Purple Cow. For those of you not familiar with Plano, this is a fifties type diner in Plano that has a model train running on a track suspended from the ceiling. But the big attraction is that they serve purple milkshakes. Essentially, it's our kids' restaurant of choice.

I got there a little bit early before my wife and kids showed up and had a few minutes to have some thoughts to myself. For some reason I thought, "I wonder if we will see Rob and Schuyler here tonight." It was a fair enough assumption because we often see people who we know every time we eat there.

Well about 15 minutes after my family arrived, my daughter says "There's Schuyler!" Yup, I'm not lying, I really wondered if we would see her in there. Lauren knows Schuyler because she has been in all of Schuyler's classes at Gulledge. Lauren and I walked over and I introduced myself to Schuyler and Julie. Pretty much after that Lauren, Schuyler, and my son Scott were inseparable the rest of the time we were in the Purple Cow. They picked songs to play on the jukebox (Lauren always plays YMCA by the Village People). They eventually ditched the boring parents, sat at the bar and ordered purple and chocolate ice cream. I'm not sure who paid for that actually. Rob, please let me know if they charged you guys for my kids ice cream and I'll pay you back.

This was my first time meeting Schuyler and I have to confess I got excited the way someone does who sees a celebrity. I think because I read the book I built up a mental dialog and wanted to see it played out by the real actors. I asked her if she liked soccer and how many goals she scored this season. She raised 8 fingers. She had a very good season indeed! Lauren's been playing for two and half years constantly and she has only scored 3.

Schuyler is a riot. She has a lot of energy and she is laughing constantly. When the kids were all sitting down at the bar, I joined them. I enjoy watching Lauren hanging out with kids her own age. I see a side of her that I don't often see at home. To tell you the truth, I could understand almost everything Schuyler said to me tonight. She has learned to be expressive with her hands which does help. She had her device at Julie's table but she just wanted to hang out without it.

Julie came by and spoke with us a little bit. I asked her about the device which she showed off to me. I'm a computer programmer so my inner geek came out and I wanted to know all about it. After Julie and I talked I began think about how Schulyer could communicate in the future once she outgrew her device. I actually see her using a Blackberry sized device with a full QWERTY keyboard. This device would have a strong enough speaker so that she others could listen in a crowded room. I hope that as the AAC generation gets older the technology evolves with them.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun. Lauren kept asking me if Schuyler could come over tonight. I told her that Schuyler and Julie were eating with a friend and tonight was not a good night. However, maybe someday soon she can come over and we can have a soccer game.

April 24, 2008

Good Morning Texas Redux

Some of you were having trouble seeing the video from the WFAA site. Also, it cut off at the end before you got to see Julie's Stepford Wife smile and Schuyler mentally compiling her list of places she would rather be at that moment. So here's another shot at it. (Sorry the quality is sort of weird. I'll keep working on it.)

April 23, 2008

Good Morning Texas

Good Morning Texas
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob
Well, that was fast. My interview on Good Morning Texas is already online, so go check it out. I'm sorry to say, this clip cuts off before you get to see Schuyler and Julie sitting in the studio, so sadly it's just me and my unusually large meaty head.

I thought it went very well. It's hard in these very short segments to really get into very much of depth, but Paige McCoy Smith managed to cover an astonishing amount in a brief period. She asked me about my faith, which was a little unexpected (although she did give me a heads up before we started) but something that I was actually happy to talk about. It's funny, but the interviews for which I am the most prepared in terms of knowing questions in advance and what my answers will be, those tend to be my least favorite, and the ones that I think are the least interesting. Discussing my feelings about God on live television isn't something I would have ever expected to actually enjoy doing, but I'm glad she asked it. My answer was pretty much on the fly, and yet I'm entirely happy with it.

Another thing that Paige brought home to me was just how much I enjoy doing interviews with journalists who have actually read the book. That seems like an obvious point, but you'd be surprised. And it's always obvious, too. Not so much that they know facts that are pertinent, although that's part of it. (My favorite from a past interview was, about Schuyler's static brain condition, "Good luck with her continued improvement.") It's more that once you've read a book, you know a great deal about the author's personality and beliefs and such than you'll ever get from a press release or a book flap description. Paige McCoy Smith and KERA's Krys Boyd and Fox's Greg Groogan were responsible for interviews that I've enjoyed immensely, for just that reason.

Schuyler had a great time, of course, and charmed the pants off of everyone, as usual. The studio at WFAA is wide open, with glass walls everywhere, even the green room, so while you're waiting, you can see much of what's going on. She spent the better part of the morning having her mind completely blown, and finished off the experience by eating the strawberry smoothie prepared in a segment by "celebrity chef Jon Ashton". Julie finished up the morning by slobbering all over "celebrity chef Jon Ashton". It's sad, really, watching a woman of her advanced years lose her dignity like that. Really unfortunate.

Okay, so I really shouldn't tell this story, because past experience suggests that the chances of it getting back to the parties involved are somewhere near 100%. But it's been a while since I've started any trouble online (at least here; I've been poking a bees' nest on a parenting site on the topic of spanking, a metaphor that only works if you imagine really dumb bees), so I think I'm due.

While we were waiting for the show to begin, we were sitting in a room watching "Good Morning America" with two fashion models who were going to be on a segment before mine. GMA was interviewing Marlee Matlin about her appearance on "Dancing with the Stars", and she was signing away as she talked.

One of the models turned to the other and said, with absolute sincerity, "Do you think she's deaf?"

April 21, 2008

Take Your Daughter to Work Week

This is a busy week for us, in the best possible way. As I mentioned before, this Wednesday I'll be on a Dallas-area program called Good Morning Texas, on a segment called The Not So Perfect Parent. Julie and Schuyler will be in the green room, and may very well make an appearance on the show. Well, I certainly hope they do, because let's face it, who would YOU rather watch? Lovely Julie and enchanting Schuyler, the self-described "Queen of the Monkeys"? Or, you know, fat old Robba the Hutt? The show comes on during the breakfast hour, after all. No need upsetting people while they're eating.

The other thing taking place this week is a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Lewisville, Texas. If you live in the area and would like to meet me (or really, more to the point, if you'd like to meet Schuyler), we'll be there at 2:00pm. It's going to be a special event (as in, totally unpredictable and possibly chaos-in-pink-Chuck-Taylors) because Julie has to work, so it will just be Schuyler and me. This means that if I do a reading, she'll be on her own. Anyone who has seen her at these events knows just how much fun that might be. Come to the signing and watch the last shreds of parental authority fly out of my shaking hands!

A bonus for people in attendance: Schuyler loves to sign books, and she's become very sophisticated in her approach. We attended a very cool book club last week, and it should come as no surprise that her signature was pretty clearly coveted more than mine. Which is as it should be.

When Schuyler signs a book, her name stretches across the page, the letters blockish and angular but very meticulously written out. She ends her autograph with a period, every time, and occasionally she'll sneak down and put a period at the end of mine, too. If she gets to the edge of the page before she's done, she simply shifts into vertical mode for the rest of her name. Sometimes she'll pick a different page to sign, and often she quickly signs in the spot that I usually use, just to be a turd. She even laughs when she does it. Every time she signs her name, it's different, and not just slightly.

I'm always thrilled to sign books for stores, and I've been happily signing a lot of books for Prentke-Romich, makers of the Big Box of Words. But we decided at the very beginning of all this book business that Schuyler would only sign books for individuals, either in person or sent to us or whatever. I like the idea of Schuyler's autograph rendering someone's book into a totally unique thing, different from any other in the world.

Just like Schuyler herself.

January 10, 2008

SCHUYLER'S MONSTER: Schuyler's Future


Rob: What do you see in Schuyler's future when you imagine, like every parent imagines their kids', even if they pretend they don't?

Julie: I would love to see her living by herself, having a boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever. You know, partner in crime. Just somebody to take care of her. I worry about that all the time. I don't want her to think that we're her caretakers, you know. Because she's independent like the both of us, and she...

You can tell that she wants to say so much, and she wants to do so much. And maybe that's a cheesy goal, but I just, I want her to be able to travel, and go to the movies with her friends, and drive and experience life and, you know, not have the old people chauffeuring her around and, you know, cleaning up after her. That's like my one goal is for her to, like, have her own life and not have to have us lagging behind her, checking up on her.

I mean, we're her parents. We're always going to be there for her, but you know, you gotta cut that cord. And that's going to be scary. That's kind of a scary thought to me, her being by herself, like, in an apartment like this, and cooking her own meals, doing her laundry, having pets, paying bills. It's a weird concept, because she has no concept of that stuff right now.

Who knows, maybe she won't. But I can dream, can't I?

January 4, 2008

SCHUYLER'S MONSTER: "The best that we can..."


Julie: I think it's really shown me what I'm capable of, what my strengths are. Learning not to back down to teachers, to school administrators, to our families when they doubted us, that we just kind of did our own thing and persevered.

It's a pretty eye-opening experience, getting handed this huge responsibility for this little person, and being told "You have no guide book, you have no rules. This is what's wrong with your kid, and you have no idea why, and just, here you go, here's the book. Enjoy. Try to do the best that you can."

And I feel like we have done the best that we can. Some days are good, some days are bad. But at the end of the day, I think you and I can feel confident in knowing that we've raised a pretty amazing kid.