All posts by jeppster

Nonsense Rationalizations and the U.S. Senate

Last week, I wrote my two U.S. senators, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford, regarding the Republican-controlled Senate’s unwillingness to hold a hearing for newly-nominated Judge Garland. Here is the response I received from Sen. Inhofe and my reply back to him. I really don’t understand how they cannot see that their rationalizations can be extended out to absurd levels. Yes, I think they are acting within their Constitutional rights, but they could technically defer their “advice and consent” indefinitely and still be within the technical bounds. It’s so frustrating to me!

Sen. Inhofe:
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the spot. As your representative in Washington, I appreciate hearing your concerns.

Since the devastating loss of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, much controversy has surrounded who his successor will be. On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the position. Judge Garland was an exemplary model of justice when he oversaw the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. As an Oklahoman, I am forever appreciative of Judge Garland’s actions on behalf of our state. I have spoken with Judge Garland since his nomination announcement and made it clear that this is about the process and not about him personally. It is important for the upcoming presidential election to be about citizens like you deciding the direction the Court will take.

We have seen time and again that when President Obama is unable to get his liberal agenda through Congress he has turned to executive actions and agency rulemaking to implement his priorities. These regulations and actions are now making their way through our courts, and many of them will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next year or two.

The President and Senate Democrats want the Senate to confirm someone who will uphold these executive overreaches, but the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies. With the balance of the Supreme Court now at stake, the choice to fill this vacancy will shape our nation for at least the next generation. Americans just like you are the ones who will bear the burden of these court decisions; therefore, you should have a say on who fills Justice Scalia’s vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have made clear that the Senate will not hold hearings on a nomination until the next president has been elected. While the president has a Constitutional duty to nominate a justice, the Senate also has the Constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent,” and it is fully within the purview of this body to withhold that consent while completely fulfilling our Constitutional duties.

My response:
I appreciate your respect for Judge Garland.

You assert that “the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies”. I disagree and think that it is just as likely that several other factors contributed more heavily to the swing in party majority. In either case, I think we can both agree that the current Senate composition is the most recent representation of the American people.

If so, would it not be best for the Senate to hold a hearing for Judge Garland since they are the current, best representation of the American people? What if Americans elected a Republican president in November and swung the Senate back to Democrat majority (complete hypothetical; I don’t even know if the right numbers of Senators are up for re-election)? Should the now-Democratic Senate say we should wait four years until the American people have their say again? Can’t you see how this can be rationalized infinitely?

I can understand how you consider it in the purview of the Senate to withhold the consent. Please consider how that is a slippery-slope. No other Supreme Court vacancy has been handled in this way. Yes, Joe Biden made the argument many years ago for what the Republicans are doing right now, but the Democrats never followed through on that. Who is to say the precedent doesn’t get stretched further down the road? What is the cutoff for how long the Senate can wait? Can it be two years? How about three? Following the rules strictly, the Senate could wait until we had fewer than six justices (since that constitutes a quorum). You could do that, but can’t you see that it is a ridiculous notion? This current rationalization is ridiculous in the same vein.

I appreciate your response. I am a registered Republican and have only ever voted for Republican Senators in my lifetime. I value Conservative ideals, but I value common-sense much more. This behavior by Senate Republicans is complete nonsense, and I hope you can come to see that and fight for common-sense in our legislative branch. Thank you.

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Continue This Story – Revisited

It’s almost been a whole year since we posted! Yikes, better fix that quick.

I was just going back through old posts and found this one about a fun little story Jessica and I wrote progressively back and forth. The link has long since been dead, but I found it at the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine! I’ve copied the text here to live forever. My paragraphs are in italics; Jessica’s are normal.

 

The Little Boy That Couldn’t

Joe had troubles doing anything. He’d try to ride a bike and would end up falling down. He’d try to kick a soccer ball and would end up falling down. He’d try to fly by jumping off his house and…well, you get the idea.

Then one day he met a girl with the same trouble. Cindy could not roller skate without scrapping her knees. She couldn’t braid her hair without getting it tangled in knots. She met Joe the day he tried to fly off of his house.

Joe landed on Cindy squishing her flat, but not too flat, as she was able to get up. Cindy said, “Hey, aren’t you Joe, ‘the little boy that couldn’t?'” Joe just hung his head in embarrassment. Feeling awkward, Cindy didn’t know what to say.

So, instead she decided to introduce herself. “Hi, my name is Cindy. I’m the Little Girl that Couldn’t.” Joe feeling slightly braver, asked Cindy, “Are you okay?” “I’m fine, thanks. What were you doing up on the roof?” “Oh, I was just…uh…

“…I was just testing my roof’s resiliency,” Joe said, “Everything seems to be in order. What were you doing in front of my door?” Cindy didn’t know how to explain that she had just been getting ready to knock on Joe’s door.

“Well,” she started. “I was actually coming over to talk to you about…something. Since I see that your busy, so I’ll just be on my way.” As she turned to run, Joe stopped her.

“You know, two negatives equal a positive. I mean, two ‘couldn’t’s would equal a ‘could’, right? So…let’s be friends!” With that, Joe and Cindy were best of friends from that day on and could do anything they wanted as long as they were together.

What Aspergers Means to Us

Hey, Adam here. So, I have Aspergers Syndrome (AS). Just thought I’d get that out there. I was diagnosed last spring, ten months after Spencer was diagnosed with AS. We had not told any people about my diagnosis because it never really felt relevant. Since then, I’ve read a bunch about adults with AS. Research shows that the presence of autism in older generations is roughly equal to kids being born now. That means that the “autism epidemic” you often hear reported is nothing new. We are just better able to recognize it now. It occurred to me a couple days ago that I likely have at least one or two friends with AS/autism and don’t even know it. It has benefited me greatly to understand my place on the spectrum, and I’d like to shine light on it so that if any of those who know me are on the spectrum, some of this might resonate with them. Hence, this post.

Background
For a couple years prior to my diagnosis, I had been trying to find an answer to why I had been having difficulties coping with life in general ever since Spencer had been born. I searched and searched all I could trying to figure out why I would have mental breakdowns just because there were dishes to do. Why mentally scheduling a few tasks for a Saturday literally (and I mean that literally) felt as impossible as calculating higher-order derivatives without a pencil and paper. Why more nights than not, I dreaded spending time with my family after work. Why I got moody and grumpy every weekend before church or any social event and felt immense relief whenever such events were over.

Eventually, thanks to Spencer’s diagnosis, I was able to match up nearly every single one of my struggles with those typical of someone on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. I’d like to go through three specific aspects of how AS has negatively affected my marriage/family life and how learning about AS has shifted it in a positive direction.

Emotional Intelligence
Wikipedia states that “Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Did you know that there are actual psychological evaluations to assess emotional intelligence? I’ve taken some of them. I didn’t do very well, and it turns out I’m not alone. Many (most) people on the autism spectrum have a hard time with it. For me, specifically, I can label emotions just as well as anyone else in a removed, third-party setting. Unfortunately, in a live setting, I almost completely lack the ability to monitor, discriminate between and label emotions going on in others and especially in myself.

I’m sure you can guess as to all sorts of marital hazards that can arise from this. They have taken a few forms for us, but I’d like to share one type. When disagreements have come up for us, emotions tend to accompany them. Well, at least they tend to come from Jessica. I definitely feel them, but I have incredible difficulty expressing or even understanding what they are. On top of that, the emotions Jessica is showing are hitting the impenetrable wall that is my brain. It has led to some difficulties in communication. Pre-AS diagnosis, this would often end with her in tears and me wondering what train of bricks just hit me. I would literally have no clue how to interpret all her emotions as anything more than just “sad” or “mad”. They were like a foreign language to me.

One other problem would always accompany such conversations: I would “shut down” in the middle of them. It was never a conscious decision. My emotional center, and also most of my mental faculties, would close for business. I would literally be unable to answer more than yes or no questions. Post-AS diagnosis I have learned that this is a common thing for those on the spectrum. Another term is “overload”. I’ve come to understand that emotions’ (especially negative) affect me in a way very similar to very loud noises. It is much like someone is yelling. And the more the emotion is directed at me, the more deafening. The other night I saw someone crying (happily) and hugging someone else that I knew, and I couldn’t look away. It felt like they were making so much noise and was very, very distracting when it actuality it was very normal for the environment they were in.

Learning about AS has helped us understand that I can participate productively in disagreements or conversations-in-conflict as long as we take the right approach. Jessica is allowed to be emotional with me, even negatively, but I might just save my contribution to that conversation until after everything is cooled down. I am not off the hook, emotionally. I have learned that I need to share how I’m feeling with her, with the understanding that it might not be at “normal” times.

Jessica’s two cents: Once we started to understand how to better communicate with each other and our reactions to one another, we’ve been better able to avoid any overly emotional crying upset moments on either of our parts.  It took some time and a rather steep learning curve, but it has really helped.

Executive Functioning
“Executive functioning” can be simply described as being the CEO brain process that manages and runs all the brain processes that get you through your day. You can read a great write-up of how autism and executive functioning interact here.

One of the most common examples of “executive dysfunction” in my life as a parent has been common household chores. If the dishes need to be done (which they MUST be done, a completely different topic), my brain has to plan it out to the nth degree how to accomplish it. I will automatically start virtually loading the dishwasher in my head and plan it all out. If I can’t get them all in, in my head, that brain process shorts out and tries again. This all happens in less than a second and fires off like that over and over and over again.

This was all well and good when we were married without kids and had all the time in the world to dedicate to things like dishes and vacuuming. After having kids, that all went out the window. Now, I have no time to spend all my brain power analyzing optimal dishwasher configurations or vacuuming patterns or order of operations in bathroom cleaning or even the best order in which to do all of these things. Now, I have children who constantly want my attention and don’t allow for those important thoughts (please note sarcasm!). Pre-AS diagnosis, I (very stupidly) kept falling into the same trap of letting my mind constantly work on all the problems all at once while juggling kids. It always led to a breakdown (meltdown) of one form or another.

Now, post-AS diagnosis, I’ve learned about all this and can deliberately set those processes aside. Yes, I will still have to do the dishes, and you can bet that while doing them I’m still going to be figuring optimal placement (though I’ve learned to distract myself with music or TV so that I don’t burn out my brain). I know now that I have to pick one thing, announce it to the whole family, and do that one thing only. Even if that one thing is “play with the kids”, I can mentally set aside all other tasks. It is admittedly still very difficult, but simply knowing how my brain works is quite enabling.

Social difficulties
Along with my AS diagnosis, I also received a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder (SA). It does fit quite a bit. The AS part of me has a very hard time understanding social and emotional conventions, and the SA part of me gets very anxious about being conspicuous because of that difficulty. It can be very frustrating some times and a negative loop. It is why I generally prefer to have my social interactions in very small groups. I love game nights at my house because I don’t have to focus on so many people at once. Social language is very much a “noisy” thing to me like emotions. When people exhibit some sort of conspicuous social interaction, it is very distracting to me and hard to ignore. When you get a lot of people doing that all at once, it gets overwhelming very fast.

Pre-AS diagnosis, this would result in me shutting down in many social situations. I would be no fun to Jessica because I would be dead weight and possibly ruin what, for her, is something very enjoyable. I also had difficulties transitioning to home life every evening after a socially draining day at work and would not be a pleasant person to be around. Post-AS diagnosis, social situations aren’t necessarily any easier, but I’ve learned some ways/tricks to resetting my brain such that I can “stay in the game”, if you will. Also, I’ve learned that if I just vocalize the stresses from work to Jessica, she can give me space for a while when I need it which goes a long way towards me giving her the one-on-one time that is important for our relationship.

Jessica’s two cents: Adam is not the only one who is aware in this situation. I’ve been able to identify some of the things that indicate Adam is approaching overwhelmed before he gets to that point and am able to better help him or even tell him to take a moment to go reset before it becomes an issue. We are not perfect at this, but we are getting better and more understanding of each other’s needs.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture or anything because, ultimately, I am a very high-functioning person and feel blessed to have always had good supportive friends in my life and to have found so easily my wonderful wife. I know a lot of people on the spectrum suffer so much more, in general. But, if we can improve, any of us, our lives with a little more mental health knowledge about ourselves, it can be incredibly beneficial.

Sorry about the long post, and if you actually made it this far, you deserve a medal. 🙂

30 in 45 – We’re all tied up

It seems that Adam and I are all tied up with our win -loss records.  Quite an accomplishment for me since I seem to lose a lot, but apparently that’s not entirely true anymore.  I am getting better at some of the strategy games, and since Adam and my brains work very differently, he has a hard time figuring out what I’m going to do next.  I have the same problem, but always have so it doesn’t play as much to my disadvantage.  🙂

September 17th – Small World

Results:
Jessica: 80
Adam: 93

Report:
Since we learned we had been playing this incorrectly for a while now, we were excited to play it correctly.  It turned out to be a little more balanced.  Well, that is until yon Dragon Master Trolls came and squished everybody in their path and left behind a trail of fortresses that spelled utter DOOM to anyone trying to conquer them.

I hope that conveyed the despair that Jessica felt after I played my trolls because I don’t think she was very happy with me.  I gave her permission to weep.  Still, her Wealthy Wizards bolstered her end-game scoring to a respectable scoring gap.  Ah, yes, it’s good to be a troll.

Thursday, September 20th – Forbidden Island iOS version
Results:
A & J –> Lost

Report: Our goal here is to get all the treasures and get off the Island before it all washes into the sea.  We can prevent some of this by shoring up flooded areas, but if a flooded area is flooded again, it washes away.  We thought we were doing really well.  We had gotten two of the treasures we sought, and were almost set to claim another when we drew a waters rise card.  It reshuffled an already flooded Fool’s Landing (our way in and out of the Island) into the flood deck.  The first card that came up in the flood phase was Fool’s Landing.  Thus washing it away and leaving us stranded on the Island as it sunk all around us.

Thursday, September 20th – Ingenious iOS version
Results:
A: Lose
J: WIN

Report: The goal of this game is to match colored tiles in such a way that you gain points.  You have 5 colors you are managing.  You want each on to be as high as possible.  The person who has the least amount (in any color) is the one who loses in the end.  You really have to play it to understand, but it’s fun.  This is Jessica’s game that she can usually count on for a win.  She plays it in her spare time while watching TV.  So, she’s pretty good at it.  This round of the game was no exception.

Monday, September 24th – Tobago
Results:
A: 61 – Win
J: 51

Report: Adam here.  Wow, 4 days since our last play.  We are going to need to ramp up the pace.  Ok, so you say Tobago, I say Tobago.  I guess that works better out loud.  This is a game of treasure hunting and movement optimization with a little set theory thrown in.  Since at least one of those things is incredibly interesting to me, I love this game.  It was a little slow starting because we had sort of forgotten the rules. When familiar, it would play quickly.  I think I found the first treasure and we swapped back and forth after that with an exclusionary treasure for each of us.  Jessica got cursed once and lost some serious points.  That and a little luck bumped me to the top, and Mr. Red Jeep won the day!

Lord of the Rings – The Card Game (9/25, 27, 28, 10/1, 2 thus far)
We are playing a lot of this game. Look for the LOTR Edition coming up

September 30th – Unity

Results:
Adam -Orange –
Jessica- Purple – WIN!

Report:
The point of UNITY is the get all the pieces you have on the board in a collection together by strategically picking up and moving pieces around the board. Jessica was still grasping the concepts of this game. It had been frustrating to her in the past, but it seems that she’s got it figured out. It was a rather handy win for her. It did help that when Adam set up the board he let Jessica chose the color she wanted to play, and she chose the group that already had the most unified group to start with. So, it was easier to deal with the rest.

September 30th – Issac

Results:
Adam: 52
Jessica: 77

Report:
Man alive was Jessica on a winning streak tonight! Issac is a game about strategically laying down varying lengths (and point valued) sticks, and picking up said sticks in such a fashion that gains you the most points. Personally, I think I just got lucky and made some excellent blocks and pick ups that really put Adam in a position to gain fewer points. In the end, I got to pick up at least 3 or 4 more sticks, which resulted in a larger victory. After that win though, Adam didn’t want to play anymore games with me that night. 🙂

Days Left: 19   Games Played: 18

Living with an Aspie: Rebuttal

UPDATE: This blog post was born out of frustration and pain of being misunderstood.  We’ve since talked with the other blogger, and we now understand where each other is coming from.  We are leaving the post the way it is, because this is not an uncommon response from people when they find out our son has Asperger’s.

Adam here. LONG post ahead. You know that feeling when you are reading someone’s blog or some article on the Internet and think “This person is dead wrong! I must correct them!” (relevant comic) But then you remember that it is kind of a jerk-ish thing to do. So you move on. That is almost always the right approach. I remember one particular instance in which I corrected someone on their Facebook page using not so kind words. I sort of lost a friend that day, and I will always regret it.

Well, I’m here to break the golden rule again. I’m going to correct someone on the Internet. I would have left it alone (I promise!), but the individual decided to use my family as an example to prove her incorrect point and managed to insult us at the same time. I’m not going to sit idly by because I feel the need to, um, provide some additional insight. Unfortunately, the blog’s author is a member of our church congregation. It is possible other members of our congregation will identify my family as the one referenced in the blog (though she does not give names, bless her). I cannot simply let it go unanswered. Full disclosure: The blog post I will reference has a lot to do with alternative medicines and diets. Generally, I have nothing against alternative approaches to health (I hope that is the right way to phrase it, if not I am sorry). My sweet sister does a lot in this field, and from what I can tell, it has helped her and her family quite a bit. I am glad for that and wish them health. Wendy, you and your family deserve every good thing in this world.

All right, back on track. Edit: Her blog has been made private now. Since this post contains no personal identifying information, I’ve decided to leave it up. I think it can stand on its own as an information piece about Spencer as well as a promotion of the strength of unique, individual parenting styles for unique, individual children. I will be quoting sections of the post that I wish to address. I will not focus on the post as a whole because much of it is her opinion on her blog and that is fine. I will pick and choose the sections that deal with my family. The general context of the post is that the author feels that society is becoming more unhealthy and is not willing to do anything about it. Continue reading Living with an Aspie: Rebuttal

Matthew Stephen Jeppson

We proudly welcome to the world our newest little baby boy, Matthew Stephen Jeppson! He was born at 1:32pm on May 3, 2012. He was 7lbs, 12oz and 21 1/4″ long. He came out completely calm and very interested in the world. Of course, people felt the need to intrude into all his private business right away, and he was not at all happy about that.

Let’s back up before we get too far ahead of ourselves. At 5:30am, we showed up at the hospital, ready to get the induction process started. Jessica progressed fairly slowly until her doctor came and broke her water. She got the epidural shortly after as the contractions became much more painful without that watery cushion. I decided to go get some lunch before the big show started, and right as I was leaving, the nurse announced that Jessica was dilated to an 8! They said I still had time and to go ahead.

In the middle of my greasy hamburger at McDonald’s, I get the text that Jessica is starting to feel the need to push. I have never pushed a hamburger into my mouth that quickly (and will never again, ugghhh). I got back with plenty of time, but we got started shortly after. She pushed through a couple contractions to get the baby into place. They then got everything setup for his arrival, and she did a couple more contractions’ worth of pushing and out Matthew came! Everyone marveled at how picture-perfect his birth was and that it should be in textbooks. That made us happy. 🙂

Ok, caught up now. Once everyone left him well enough alone with cleaning and tests, he showed his true colors, that of a mild mannered, hungry little boy. He took to eating right away and never seems to get that fussy at all. He has passed his hearing tests and pretty much everything else they’ve put him through. He has been such an angel for us, and we couldn’t be happier to have him here. Also, Spencer really seems to like him. They gave each other gifts, and it was really cute. Here are some pictures:

Mystery in Tokyo (and USA)

I found this story in a box my mom gave me of stuff from my childhood. I don’t know when I wrote it, but I’m guessing 4th or 5th grade? Anyway, here it is for your viewing. The only thing I’ve edited is putting in paragraphs. My comments will be in bold. I am a little disturbed that I glorified the life of a villain so much. –Adam

Once upon a time in the city of Tokyo it was peacful and quiet (in Tokyo? I guess I thought everywhere in Japan was just one big zen-like place, man) when bang! bang! bang! Everybody looked at the jewelry store, the diamond was gone! (you see, in Tokyo, three gun shots means jewelry robbery) The police looked for days and days and they said that they think his name is Red foot Louie and they say that he’s probably above the ocean right now. Up in the plane there was a detective. His name was Sly Sam, and he saw Louie and punched him and Louie punched him back, then Louie tried to shoot Sam but he shot his hand that was on the bag with the diamond and he fell into the ocean (my hand is ALWAYS getting in the way of my target). Sly Sam thought that Louie was dead……

One day when Sam was in his office a man came in and he said are you Sly Sam and Sam said yes and the man said well I’m Red foot Louie and you’re a goner. Louie knocked him out and killed him. Soon there was a funeral for Sly Sam. He was buried where he was killed (in his office??? I’m trying to imagine what my younger self was picturing in this scene and coming up empty). Soon there was a parade with the chief of police. Louie took a rifle that wasn’t loaded and put Sam’s ring in it and shot the tires (I guess it’s pretty obvious I didn’t know much about firearms; also, wouldn’t it have been cooler to shoot the diamond he stole from Tokyo?), punched the chief (why all the punching?), took $1,000 and ran away. Later that day they were voting for a new mayor and Louie wrote on his paper look behind you or you die and Louie kidnapped the new mayor. (I know I am probably enabling all sorts of would-be kidnappers out there by revealing this fool-proof method for mayor-napping, but it had to be done)

One day Louie was cleaning his gun and the doorbell rang and when he opened the door the police were behind him and they said youre under arest but Louie shot them all (yay for less punching!) then he got in his car and went to the next town but when he was almost in the next town he wasn’t looking at the road CRASH! Louie crashed. Well that’s the end of Louie, or is it? (cue mysterious end music)

The End