Friday, December 30, 2011

Enzo is 2!

Enzo at the minute he turned two.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sertraline a.k.a. Zoloft

One week and one day on Sertraline, the generic name of Zoloft.  I guess I needn't have gotten myself so worked up over the idea of taking medication.  The world keeps spinning and life continues; it really was not a big deal after all.

The first day I had a minor panic attack.  I wonder if it was from being worked up about taking the drug or a continuation of the heightened anxiety level I had been at lately that had motivated me to finally try medication.  There are several potential side effects that, if they show, are expected to go away by two weeks.  The benefits, however, could take a month to show.  On day one I was thinking I may quit right then.  That day I had the panic episode, I felt week, my stomach was very upset with a sort of burning feeling like extreme hunger to the point of gnawing but without the growling. My hands had a cold sweat during the panic which I had not felt as one of my panic symptoms in over a year.  I was tired and insecure feeling for the rest of the day. By day two all was much easier.  I had an upset stomach that felt more like a dull and constant hunger, I needed a nap, and I felt slightly drugged and a little weak. Day 3 through 5 I had become use to the feeling of pseudo-hunger and felt pretty normal, in fact less anxious already, but I did feel a little less sharp as though it might be more difficult for me to solve a complex problem.  The best part was that I was becoming less self absorbed and able to enjoy my family again even if I felt a little bit off.  The feeling of being less sharp minded did concern me and I made the mental note to consider that fact later if it continued.  And now, eight days later, I don't feel any of the side effects except maybe a little more desire to take a nap once in a while, a little extra hungry once in a while, and a slightly effected digestive system.  My mind feels about right.  I feel steady.  My anxiety level and OCD symptoms, while there, have receded several degrees from where I was just over a week ago.  It's difficult to be certain how many of the negative experiences in the first days on the medicine were resulting from my own anxiety but I know the stomach discomfort was different then my normal anxiety caused stomach discomfort and so was the tiredness different than my normal feelings of exhaustion.  Those definitely were side effects.  As for the positives, it is hard to say how much credit the drug gets.  It's still early and I'm not even up to full dose yet.  It could take a month to be effective anyway.  I started one week at 25mg per day, now at 50 per day for week two, week three will be 75, week four will be 100, and then I will check in with the Dr. to see how I am doing on the medicine.  Maybe the drug has helped me already, though.  Maybe the time with my family has made the greater difference.  It's hard to divvy up the credit.  I think a lot of the credit goes to the time enjoying my kids and Tami constantly bringing my attention to good things and helping me to relax and enjoy my time off.  One thing does feel different and so I believe that credit does go to the drug even if it is a bit early for full potency.  When I have the intrusive thoughts, they seem to be less aggressive in their speed and frequency of occurrence to the point where I can catch them a little sooner in the process, acknowledge them, and move on.  I still get some gruesome thoughts and unnecessary stress, but I seem to stop them in the first 20 seconds more often now rather then realizing I have been living in an imaginary 3 minute mini-drama/horror movie in my mind.  That I think is the drug.  In time, I hope to be better at this and to be able to do it with a drug.  That those thoughts are happening a little less frequently now could be the drug or the fact that I am interrupting the cycle more often.  I also notice the same bump of my anxiety with the same triggers around my children's safety but they really don't seem to be stressing me out as much as they usually do.  That too, I think may be the medicine.  And, really, I seem to be getting much more rational about what discomfort remains.  I still feel strained breathing but only maybe once per day now and I am able to talk myself through it.  I was getting pretty frantic there for a while but that part of my daily experience is going away.

My net assessment of the drug after the first day would have been quite negative.  I was thinking, "how did anyone get through this torture to get to the benefit to know they could sell this stuff?"  But a little voice in my mind said "how do you know this is the drug and not your own panic over built up anxiety in taking the medicine?"  So I continued.  Now, my net assessment so far is that it's nothing bad.  There are some minor weird stomach feelings which only show up some times now, some tiredness that has minimized now means I would like a nap once in a day, and a dullness of mind that has gone away.  And I think there is the good in a lessening of the level in anxiety, a slowing in the OCD thoughts, and a little less care about the anxiety that remains.  It's not even close to having vanquished the anxiety, but it has blunted the edge that I felt for a while.  I remain hopeful that in short time, perhaps a month, I will have enough peace to take a full and calm metaphorical and physical breath, to take stock of my situation, and with the clarity of seeing above the clouds, find a direction to progress back to a sustainable peace of mind and well being, however long that takes.  In the mean time, I feel much better right now.

Christmas and First Words

(Great thing about time off is going to the park on a week day.)

Ana said her first words!
She said "bye bye" to her Aunti Tia.

It has been in the last week that Ana started waving.  She is super cute about it.  Her fingers stay still in relation to her hands and her arm stays still, too.  It's all a wrist movement where her whole hand just goes up and down as the wrist bends.  Adorable. Maybe it's because we have been visiting with so many people lately for the holidays. Well, it would seem that waving is not all she has picked up on.  On Christmas night, after dinner at Aunti Tia's house (Tami's sister Traci), Traci was putting Enzo in his car seat and I was putting Ana in hers when Ana started waving and then said "bye bye."  "Did you hear that", I said?  "Yes," said Traci. And then, "bye bye" Ana said again.  When Tami got in the car she said it once again.  Ana is a talker.  English first for her.

(Ana opening presents at Grandma's house.)

Next day, she started saying Mama. Now she is saying Mama the most.  It was only a couple of days ago when, right around when the waving started, I noticed for the first time she was making noises that seemed like practice words.  And then bye bye pops out.  I was expecting a lot longer before a word to come out, used appropriately, after she just started trying to vocalize.  Seriously, the wave alone is so cute that it is alone worth writing about.  Now that she said her first words with the wave it is all the more monumental.  My daughter speaks.  And she smiles.  And she is gorgeous.  And she has these super cute baby hands that I like to look at and hold.  And super cute little feet.  And the softest tummy.  Ana is a remarkably beautiful child.  A beautiful little baby.

(Enzo was drawn to Grandma's music carousel.)

Enzo is now saying his name a lot.  Tami has told me that he says his name but I hadn't heard it until recently.  Now I hear it all of the time.  He says it like "Eh-no" and some times "Eh-nom."  He likes to name the items he knows including people and so his name come up more now.  Tami says she thinks it is Enzo that taught Ana to say Mama.  I've heard him talking to her plenty so I believe it.  Tami says Enzo said Papi before Mama because Tami was always talking about me but that Ana hears Enzo say Mama more so she learned it first. That makes me think about how much energy we put into loving and teaching Enzo these last two years and how now he is actually going to be teaching his sister.  I wasn't thinking at the time about how my son would be a teacher so soon but he has become one.  He is an optimistic teacher.  I heard him trying to teach our dog Monte a few words also.

(Back at our house for Christmas morning.)

I have greatly enjoyed the last several days.  The first few days of Winter break were quite hectic for me and my mind was spinning.  But the last several days I have been able to really calm down and spend time with my family.  Enzo and Ana and I have spent so much more time playing on the floor lately. I have taken so many more opportunities to enjoy these children.  And there is so much to enjoy.  Ana smiles so often and she is more substantial and has more and more personality as the days go on.  Enzo is growing into a little boy and takes care of his sister often.  They play together and they laugh together. Enzo will still bring her toys almost as often as he takes toys away from her.  They are adorable together.  Tami actually taught Enzo to give Ana toys in exchange for ones he wants from her.  That is a cool trick and it is working.  He does other thoughtful things for her too.  He has two soccer balls, white and green.  He claimed the green one as his own "Eh-no ball."  But he also has declared the white one as "Baby Ana ball." No one asked him to.  In fact, he is the one that plays with both of them nearly all of the time but the White one is Ana's and that's what he calls it. 

(Playing with his new soccer net.)

There are a lot of toys for them to play with, especially after Christmas.  I have never enjoyed other people getting gifts as much as I did this year with my children.  They received some very cool and thoughtful gifts.  A lot! actually.  Our home is a bit over run at the moment in things for kids.  It will take another day to find some room.  Just to give a couple of examples of the many gifts.  My parents made them each a chair from old step stools that they then painted and decorated.  They came out great.  Katrina got them a wooden camel that waddles down a ramp using gravity and a creative design with one moving part.  The kids have played with it so much it's hard to believe.  You don't always need electricity.  TaTa (that's what Enzo calls Tami's mom) and Grandpapi Hun got Enzo a tricycle and he is loving it.  He will need to grow a little more to have full control over it but he is stretching for it and making it work.  He kept going back to it while we were opening presents on Christmas day and we had to coax him back to help open other presents.  Cousin Vincent made Enzo his own soccer goal out of parts from the hardware store.  Neat!  It came out really nice and is painted in Enzo's favorite A's colors of yellow and green.  We have spent a lot of time playing with that and it has only been two days.  And there were countless more gifts like the stuffed animals that Johnna made for the kids and the wooden and used toys, books, and clothes that friends and family got for them and much more.  Just so much.  And there was time and people at three houses with three Christmas trees; with my family at my mom's for Christmas eve, just us at our house Christmas morning, and with Tami's family Christmas evening.  Lots of time lately to visit with friends and family.  We got to spend time with my Grandma, cousins, parents, friends, and each other.

(With Tata at Aunti Tia's house.)

The first couple of days of this two week break I was wondering how I could go without leaving home for work to be productive.  What would I do with all of this time now that I actually had the time I was asking for?  Now, a little over a week in,  I remember it is not hard at all to fill up the day.  Time to play, cook, clean up, visit, and play some more.

(Cruising on his new tricycle.)

A great holiday time.  There is more to come.  This coming weekend is Enzo's second birthday.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Big Decision

Two and a half years knowing I have anxiety issues. Less time knowing
about OCD. And it makes sense. I can see the patterns even into my
youth. I always thought about it as everyone having issues to various
degrees. If an undesired quality can exist in a psychology then I
pictured it as a quality that everyone has to a certain degree as with
desirable qualities. I just hadn't thought of myself as diagnosable.
It's been worse lately. My average anxiety and the number of times
intrusive thoughts come in has increased in the last months. It
doesn't stop me from having good experiences but it does take away
hours of my day. OCD does not provide positive intrusive thoughts.
I have said no to medication several times and both the psychologist
and psychiatrist were ok with that as I was very successful with
cognitive therapy alone for panic attacks and the hope was that I
would continue as well with OCD. It's not happening. I've been wearing
down. I contacted the psychiatrist and said that I am ready to try
medication. We will be talking this week about treatment options. It's
not been easy for me. I worry about addiction though the medication is
not addicting. I worry about becoming dependent on it though I'm not
sure why that would matter. I judge myself negatively for not being
able to do this on my own and I'm not sure how to make myself leave me
alone on that one. I don't judge others the help they receive in life
and am happy to help others. I even love it when I receive help so
long as I believe I could have done it on my own. For some reason I
have created a double standard for myself. This applies to everything
from help with a vehicle to help with hanging Christmas lights to help
with dishes and definitely with medication.

I'm worn out fighting to cope with my conditions lately.
When I was younger I decided that I will only live this once so it
would be desirable to experience as much as possible and to live as
many life styles as possible in my time. I thought of this when it
came to taking jobs and when it came to adventures in general. I
remember when cigarettes and alcohol became the things to experiment
with in my friend group. I was there. There was the time when cigars
and pipes became the drug to try. I tried. I remember when marijuana
was the thing to try and I tried. I remember when other drugs became
the focus of experiment and I stayed sober or had a drink instead. I
was a little jealous of my friends who tried while I stayed on the
sidelines. Sure, drugs can take over a life but for many many people
they do not. My friends will probably be just fine though some have
experimented with ecstasy, shrooms, acid, and more. It's a part of the
life experience that I will not likely ever experience as it makes me
too nervous to think of my body on those drugs. I have come to terms
with the fact that even with only one life to live, a glorious
opportunity, I need not have every experience. I can be happy to know
that there are many humans out there and be satisfied to know that a
huge range of experiences are being had by the collective humanity. I
don't need to live them all myself.

And then there is my fear of medication for OCD. Well, I tell myself,
here is your chance to experience a class of drugs that are
experienced by many. This is just another life experience while I
live. I can better understand a human experience that I otherwise did
not think that I would ever experience. And so, I am ready to try. I
am ready to try a medication, to accept a help for something I am
having trouble with; something I do not seem to be able to handle by

I don't know the particulars yet but it sounds like the prescription
will be for Zoloft. From what I have read there is a very high success
rate with using it in conjunction with cognitive therapy for OCD and
then phasing the drug out after about a year. Perhaps my experience
will be as such. Maybe it will be convoluted and messy. I'm going to
try and not worry about it too much.

I'm a little stressed. And a little more hopeful. I would love a
single month reprieve, a month of clarity, a month of eating without
images and thoughts of suffocation, a month where wondering thoughts
are not gruesome, a month where breathing is not strained, a month
where variations in heart rhythm does not cause an adrenaline rush, a
month where watching my children eat does not cause my muscles to
tense, a month where freedom from one fixation does not cause a new
fixation, a month of relaxation. I would be happy with that month. I
would be so appreciative of that month. I'll take a year of much more
work towards a life more neutral than my thoughts provide. But oh, how
I would appreciate such a month. In the mean time, it can't get much
worse. And when I can be aware of the moment, I have so much to

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best 5:30 am Wake Up Ever

This morning I awoke at 5:30ish am.  It was the best.  I was laying on my right side and my right arm was tired so it was time to roll over.  Something in my consciousness woke me up first, saying "check out the situation before you move."  Good thing.  My son was also laying on his right side, cuddled up right next to me, his left arm wrapped over my face like it was a child's teddy bear.  My children don't have any stuffed animals they sleep with.  But my son found my head.  The extra fun to this was that his hand came over to my cheek and in his sleep he was playing with my beard!  He would play with it for seconds and then stop, and then play with it again.  I am so glad I started growing it back.  November was the first full month in at least ten or more years that I went an entire month clean shaven.  Back to the memory.  It was awesome.  It was so cute.  I got to feel the love of the Velveteen Rabbit.  And now I will be real for always.

I lay there refusing to move, letting my right arm tire and enjoying the closeness with my son.  I wish I could properly explain how awesome it felt to have him snuggled in and just sort of scratching my beard moving from my chin to my cheek.  Then, my daughter just flopped closer to me, on her back, sleeping face inches from mine and facing me, and rested her left arm on my left arm in front of my face.  Awesome!  I was simultaneously loving the moment and trying to figure how I could wake up Tami and convince her to go get a camera without waking the children while explaining the whole situation to her at 5:30ish am (I wasn't able to see the clock at this point) in a quiet enough voice.  I wanted to record this forever.  So, I took it all in.  I let Tami sleep.  I loved it all.  Eventually Enzo fell deeper asleep and left his hand resting on my beard.  Ana left her arm on mine.  I was in my own little heaven.  Then I knew it was time to move and gently freed myself without disturbing any of my family.  When I looked around to figure how to reinsert myself without being on my right arm, I realized what limited bed real estate was available and decided not to wake or move anyone.  I saw the time and new I had 30 minutes until my alarm so I got up and rested on the couch instead, cuddled up under a blanket that smelled faintly like dog despite the fact that Monte is not supposed to sleep on the couch, and basked in the memory of awesomeness.  What a morning.  I can still feel the contact and my love for Ana and Enzo.

Here are some recent pictures.

 (Santa picture.)

 (Christmas tree hunting.  Ana and her grandma.)

(Looking for two perfect trees.)

 (Cutting down his tree.)

(Walking in the Santa Cruz mountains.)

(Getting ready for the tree.)

 (Making Sunday breakfast.)

 (Being adorable.)

(Story time at Sunday breakfast.)

(Another story time at Sunday breakfast.)

(Our living room looks a little like a one room school house; super cool.)

(Don and some of the kids.)

(Game time.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Months Old

Ana is seven. She got a present and now gets to cruise with her
brother. Happy birthday my beautiful daughter.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Breakfast

(George and Enzo went for a ride.)

Good Sunday.  Family, friends and food.  Among the good friends who visited today was George who I believe had a good time playing.  I know Enzo and Ana enjoyed the company.

(Ana went for a ride, too.)

Last night, after I went for a ride and Tami and the kids had gone to a birthday party and a visit to Maelanie and Satiago's house, we went to downtown Sunnyvale to see the tree lighting and to enjoy the festivities.  Santa was dropped off by the local fire department and we listened to carolers and music.

(At dinner after the tree lighting.)

(Eating avocado.)

(Dancing on Murphy Street after dinner.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Norton on Skyline

Great ride on the Norton today. Went up 9 and 35 to Alice's
Restaurant. The transmissions on the Norton shifts amazingly smoothly.
The bike does vibrate a lot as noted everywhere on the Internet but
this one nowhere near as much as before now that the carburetors are
adjusted. Brakes still keep me cautious as they are nothing like I am
used to in stopping power. There are some sweet spots where the
vibration settles to near nothing in the rev range and the motor has
plenty of power. And yet, I rode very slowly getting use to the bike
an probably always will as precautionary on this bike to leave plenty
of room to stop. I'm getting pretty good with remembering to use right
foot shift with down for a higher gear and left foot as brake. I need
to think about it but it's becoming more natural. I met a guy named
Steve with an amazingly beautiful and custom 66 Triumph. He parks next
to me at Alice's as I was admiring my own bike and said "this must be
the pretty section for bike parking.". We had the two coolest and only
vintage bikes there. Nice guy. I almost went and sat alone for
breakfast but decided to ask if I could share the table he had gotten
to before I was up at the patio. I am so glad I did. Sometimes I am a
little shy about talking to people I don't already know. Alice's has
big tables where people often share the space and a part of me said
"no, just talk to the guy" though there were empty tables. A great
decision. Steve is an interesting guy who owns many classic bikes,
paints and builds and fabricates his own work and builds these classic
bikes for others. He's had an interesting life and was genuinely
excited to hear that I had two young children. He loves kids and gave
me a fist bump and congratulated me. That's just how I feel about
having them. His kid is 15 and he was in his 40's when he had his son.
He's been riding up at Alice's for over 40 years. Then he was
genuinely happy for me to have the Norton and to have been riding up
there for over 13 years. He nearly glowed and then gave me another
fist bump when he found out my wife is Puerto Rican. Steve is too. He
said "man, you're all right" when he found out I'm a vice principal.
It's pretty fun to have someone asking all these questions and then to
be excited for me with all of my answers. And he has stories. We must
have talked for over an hour about his life, being a father, growing
up, working, his parents, cars and motorcycles. He knows it all about
the old British bikes. Steve gave me some advice about the rear wheel
adjustment that I was wondering about, offered me some nice exhaust
cans he has that he does not plan to use, told me he has some paint
that will be perfect when I am ready to spray the Norton, and told me
he'll show me how to lace the wheels and help me whenever I call and
am ready. Keep in mind that I did not ask for a single thing from this
guy. I only asked about him and his life. A cool guy and to think I
could have missed it all if I decided to eat alone. Sometimes I just
make the right decisions. Got a couple of good pics (which I will
update this post with tonight) and Steve's number. A great day for
riding and meeting good people. Also, I have never talked to so many
people who have come up to me on any other bike as I did today on the
Norton. People are just happy to see it and talk about it and the
bikes they have had. Some just want to compliment it. And one guy
likes to talk and wants to help to do and teach to do anything an old
bike needs. I like people, motorcycles, and curvy roads on a Saturday
morning. And now, time to put down the phone and talk to the friends
who have shown up here at Katie's since I started writing this here in

Added Pics:

(Warming up for the ride.)

(On Skyline.)

(The '67 Norton and Steve's '66 Triumph)

(A good day's ride.)