November 25, 2006

It beats the alternative.

Anyone who has read me for a while knows that I don't generally love having birthdays. And tomorrow's not one that I've exactly looked forward to over the years. Tomorrow I turn thirty-nine.

Well. Yeah. When I just come out and say it like that, it sounds even worse.

This year, however, I find that my feelings about my birthday, usually pretty straightforward ("oh, fuck THIS"), are a little more complicated. While I'm not in love with turning thirty-nine and particularly not thrilled about being a short year away from, you know, thirty-ten, I'm not looking for something sharp or a bus to step in front of, either.

So yeah, I see that as a step up.

If I stop and take stock of my life the day before my birthday, I find that it's not a bad report at all.

I'm developing new relationships and understanding my old ones and have a pretty good sense of the people in my life and what I mean (and sometimes don't mean) to them. At thirty-nine, I am developing a sense of self that has at its core my own understanding of who I am rather than someone else's. I'm not there yet (does anyone ever actually get there?), but I feel closer than I ever have before.

At thirty-nine, I am feeling healthier than I have in a long time, aside from my little kidney misadventure last month. My diabetes is under control, enough so that I've stopped wearing my medic alert tag unless I'm traveling and I don't really think about the Beedies all that much. I take my meds, I eat reasonably intelligently and I spend an hour a day on the treadmill. I'm losing weight, my eyesight has returned to its normal badness, and I can feel my feet again. Everything works the way it's supposed to, and I'm not Jabba the Hutt anymore.

As far as that goes, I don't see it when I look in the mirror, but I've lost enough weight that when I went shopping yesterday for some clothes for New York City, I found that I have gone down ANOTHER size. This puts me at the same size jeans I wore in high school. Let me say that again. High school. And I honestly don't remember the last time I wore a shirts in a large, but I suspect I was still receiving lunch money at the time.

I will turn thirty-nine as something I always wanted to be but never quite was: an author. The word still feels snotty and pretentious, but like your first pair of boots, the more I legitimately wear it, the more comfortable it feels. The day I mailed off my contract, I talked to my agent. She asked me if I planned to write more books, and when I said yes, she was pleased.

"I think you've got more books to write, Robert," she said in her unmistakable accent, that hard-to-nail-down Manhattan cadence, two parts vaguely British Empire and one part old Cary Grant movies. "Your book works because you are a talented writer. When you're in New York, I'd like to talk to you about a few ideas."

In two weeks, I'll be in New York City to talk about making the transition from online writer (okay, fine, blogger) to author, and the next day, I will walk into the Flatiron Building and the offices of St. Martin's Press, and I'll belong there. Thirty-nine is the year that becomes real.

Most of all, however, I turn thirty-nine with the unfamiliar but exhilarating feeling that Schuyler is going to be okay. In Austin, she was treated like a pretty little tragedy, one who would never be capable of using her Big Box of Words and who was expected to be a ward of the public school system until she was old enough to go home and live out her days with her heartbroken and aging parents.

Now Schuyler is actually learning in school, much of her time spent with mainstream students in a regular first grade classroom. She's got teachers and support people who talk about what she'll have to do to graduate high school and go on to college, not as "wouldn't that be grand?" pipe dreams but with the same level of expectation as any neuro-typical student. I turn thirty-nine with a child who is still strange and still broken, but who is also finding her own way and remains the most extraordinary person I have ever known.

So yeah, thirty-nine. I'm not thrilled about the idea, but I'm okay with it.

Not ready to talk about thirty-ten just yet, though. Baby steps.

November 21, 2006

My pants, they are quite fancy.

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
It's been three months of contract negotiations and working out all the tiny details, a lengthy process with any publisher but especially tricky with a large house like St. Martin's Press, with their in-house divisions for things like audio books and overseas editions.

(And merchandising and game rights, oddly enough, although both remain sadly blocked out of my agreement. That's too bad; I was looking forward to my action figure, and Schuyler's Monster for Playstation 3 would have been extreme.)

Today, I am holding the first tangible result of all my agent's hard work.

Friends, I have my contract. Eleven pages.

I'm sure I'll write more about this over at the book blog later tonight, but I just wanted to mention the moment here, with all of you. (Even the assmonkeys.) Many of you have been with me from the very beginning, back before Schuyler was even born, and I know a lot of your hearts broke when she was diagnosed, too. Every time she does something great, I can feel how much pride is out there, among people who will probably never even meet her. When she stumbles, I sense all the invisible hands reaching out to catch her.

Incidentally, there's not much to say about Schuyler at the moment. She's doing well in school, keeping up with all the jabbering mainstream kids in her class and getting excited about the holidays and her birthday. Perhaps it's tempting Fate by saying this (although really, by now it should be pretty clear that Fate can kiss my ass), but Schuyler may have entered a somewhat boring part of her life, at least until she takes a copy of the book to school sometime in the next year or two and uses it to smack some pretty blonde cheerleader in the head.

I'm taking her to The Nutcracker on Friday. There's your Schuyler news. I love classical music but have always been strangely cool towards ballet, so it'll be interesting to see who becomes a twitchy freak first, Schuyler or me.

Things are moving inexorably toward the day when Schuyler's life changes because of this book. It's impossible not to consider that, and we have. It was one of the first conversations Julie and I had about the book. We decided, and still believe, that the concerns (real and imagined) are outweighed by the potential benefits for Schuyler and all the other kids out there with their own particularly monsters, and even more so for other parents who find themselves in their own world of "WTF?" when their lives get turned upside down.

I've mentioned the monkey paw aspects of this book before, but today, I'm going to allow myself to set that aside and enjoy the moment. Just a moment, and then back to the work of finishing the book, and the very real work of being Schuyler's father.

Today I'm going to enjoy looking at that last page of my contract, at the line with my signature on it, beside the word "Author". Today, I don't feel like a fraud when I read that word. And that, my friends, makes this a very, very good day.

November 20, 2006

Rob Rocks the Peg

(Originally posted at SCHUYLER'S MONSTER.)

An observant blog reader spotted this in the Sunday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press:

Blogger Robert Rummel-Hudson has landed a book deal based on his blog, 'Beloved Monster and Me' (, a chronicle of life with his daughter, now seven, who has an extremely rare neurological disorder. His memoir, 'Schuyler's Monster', will be published by St. Martin's Press in the Winter of 2008, Publisher's Weekly reports.

It’s not really news or anything, I just thought it was fun that I popped up in Winnipeg, just sort of at random.

I’m a news item, by golly, and not in that “He was always such a quiet neighbor...” sort of way. So much for my high school guidance counselor’s powers of prognostication...


Yes. No.
Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
Schuyler and I bought these Chuck Taylors over the weekend. Think of it. Shoes with something to say, worn by a little girl who can't say a word. That's some fated footwear right there.

There's one good thing about depression, a great thing, actually, even if it's a little manic. When it finally lifts, you feel fucking awesome, like nothing can beat you. You may not suddenly have all the answers, but you feel like you do, and that's not nothing.

I'm sure there's a chemical element to the passive of a depressive episode. I'm not sure I care so much. It's the other reasons for improvement that interest me more. There's clarity of thought and good advice of smart friends who listen and care, and improved health, too.

And exercise. I've started hitting the treadmill at my apartment complex's workout room for an hour a day, walking at 3.5 mph. Not exactly tearing it up, but compared to the ass-to-couch regimen I've been following, it's a start.

Mostly, however, it involves reaching the point where you're just not going to be down anymore. That's how it works for me. I never know exactly why I go into a down period, other than identifying the things that trigger it on the surface, and likewise I have no idea exactly what makes my mind arrive at "Oh, fuck this", either.

But I feel better, and stronger, and ready for the next few weeks. I need to finish the book, have a productive and successful New York City trip, and turn thirty-nine without stepping in front of a bus.

I can handle that.

November 16, 2006


Like many nights these days, I was up pretty late writing last night, finally going to bed around 2am. I woke up not long after and rolled over to discover Schuyler lying between Julie and me, watching me quietly in the dark with wide eyes. She smiled sadly when she saw me open my eyes, like she was safe at last. I knew then that she'd had a nightmare.

Schuyler's bad dreams mystify me, along with her good ones, too, I suppose. One day she'll be proficient enough on her device to describe them to us, but until then, they are lost to everyone but her. Schuyler's dreams create a world that may sometimes frighten her but is nevertheless entirely her own. That's true in some way for all of us, I guess, but for her, the things that she sees and experiences in her sleep defy explanation. I wish I could share in more of Schuyler's experiences, and her dreams most of all.

Dreams are complicated for me. In general, I am not a very New Age kind of a guy. That's probably not a huge surprise. And yet.

I won't get too moonbaby on you. It's not that I think I can predict the future or anything, because while I've had dreams that might be described as prescient, I also understand that dreams like that are most likely the subconscious working out things that the conscious mind is still trying to figure out. I had a long paragraph about how something I dreamed came true recently in a way that suggested a weird connection with Schuyler, but when I went back and read it, all I could think was "Good lord, what a load."

So I'll spare you the Crossing Over crazy talk and simply say that I have begun to listen more closely to my dreams. I wish I understood them better. And I wish I knew more about Schuyler's. I feel like there are answers there, for her and for me.

I also wish she didn't have to experience hers alone. But then, I wish that about a lot of things that I can't help her with.

November 13, 2006


Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
There's not much new to report about Schuyler other than the completely uninteresting details of the cold that she's enduring (two words to strike fear into your heart: green elevens) and the (probably inappropriate) high black boots she wants me to get for her. (She's currently wearing a camouflage half-jacket and grapey purple hair, so I suspect we all know how this is going to end.)

In the interest of continued shameless self-promotion, let's take a look at the newly-expanded list of speakers for the MediaBistro "Blogger to Author" panel in December:


-- Jessica Cutler, author of The Washingtonienne: A Novel (Hyperion), a book loosely based on her blog about her raunchy exploits as a congressional staff assistant

-- Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, author of Apartment Therapy (Bantam), and New York editor and co-founder of Apartment Therapy, the design blog the New York Times called "quietly addicting"

-- Kate Lee, literary agent at ICM, whose client list includes prominent bloggers, reporters, editors, publishers, novelists, and memoirists

-- Laura Mazer, Managing Editor at Seal Press (an imprint of Avalon), which has published numerous titles that began as blogs

-- Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of the forthcoming memoir Schuyler's Monster (St. Martins Press) which began as an online journal about how his life was transformed when his daughter Schuyler was diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disorder that left her unable to talk

-- Rachel Kramer Bussel, moderator, Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations, writes The Village Voice's Lusty Lady column. She's edited 13 erotic anthologies and her first novel, Everything But..., will be published by Bantam in 2008.


I think it looks like an awesome mix of writers and publishing professionals, even though I think making a parenting memoir interesting in the context of everything else on the program is going to be, and I think I'm putting this charitably, challenging. I exchanged very nice email with moderator Rachel Kramer Bussel and I think this is going to be a fun and well-run panel. The end-all hootenanny of hootenannies!

I've seen photos of the other participants, and yeah, everyone's all young and good looking and hip. Well, I should say, everyone else. I clearly have some work to do. ("Hey, look at that. I had no idea Ernest Borgnine had a blog!")

If my book advance pays out in time, I do believe I may just do something that I don't believe I have ever done in my life, or at least not since I was taller than four feet high and able to choose my own clothes. I think I might buy a suit. An actual, fancy pants snazzy suit.

You know, I should get a semi-stylish haircut, too. And yeah, I know. The beard. I know.

November 6, 2006


Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
I just walked in from putting Schuyler on the bus. This is almost always the worst part of the day.

About half an hour ago, I woke from a recurring dream, a variation on one that I've had ever since Schuyler's diagnosis in the summer of 2003. It's the dream where she talks to me. I hate the dream, even though I also love it a little. I hate how I feel when I wake up and Schuyler's reality hits me all over again, dissipating the dream like smoke.

This time it was a little different. I was holding a baby girl -- our baby, the second child we were never able to have -- and I was wondering where Schuyler was and how she was doing, in that way that I usually think about her during the day, from the moment I put her on the bus and give her over to the world.

Just then, in my dream, she came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder, and she said the same thing she always does. "It's going to be okay," she said. And then she asked where her beanbag chair was.

Julie woke me in the middle of the dream so I could put Schuyler on the bus after she left for work. I found Schuyler on the couch, getting her morning Zaboomafoo fix. I asked her how she was doing. She smiled and silently gave me a thumbs up.

It's going to be okay. I still hurt for her, though.