The State Of The Olson

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary…

Wait… that sounds a little familiar. Let me try again.

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…


Knowing this, that the testing of your faith worketh patience…

Better, but still plagiarism.

Lemmie ‘splain. No – ‘s too long. Lemmie sum up.


It’s been MONTHS since I’ve taken the time to write. Which means that absolutely nothing has been happening, right? I would have written if there was stuff going on, right?

Yeah. Right.

No, as is the case with so many of us, life rears its ugly head (or appearance-challenged head, if that’s more PC) and we get lost in the grind. The tragedy is, that sometimes the stuff that gets lost is MUCH more important than anything we find in “the grind,” but “the grind” has a LOUD voice and DEMANDS our attention and WILL NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!!!!!!

Yikes-a-roni… Makes you want to take the batteries out of the ol’ Belltone and pass into blissful silence.

So, I says to meself, Self, I says, we gots to get things straightened out. (And yes, for the record, I do have these sort of conversations with myself. And yes, they do often involve character voices and other eccentricities. That’s how I roll. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t give my kindergarten teacher a nervous breakdown, I at least persuaded her that teaching wasn’t really her calling. It’s a service I provide for free.)

(bonus points if you have any clue where I adapted that last sentence from)

So, since the threads of the last 6 months or so are pretty twisted and confused, we’re going to use the method taught to me by my beloved: when the yarn is knotted, pull one thread at a time. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, pets of all ages, we begin…

The State Of The Olson Address (100% Congress free! No Ads! No Standing O’s! No Partisanship! Ok… maybe a little…)

1) The Weight Of The Union

Since the surgery March 30th, I’ve lost 161 pounds (and falling). For those of you who love statistics, you’re out of luck. I have NO head for that kind of poopy. But a few facts? Lemmie try these:

Total weight down from 414 lbs to present weight of 253. Granted, that was a week or so ago, so the might be gone by now. From January 2009, I’ve gone from 480 lbs to 253.

Shirt size: from 5XL (or 6XL) to XL. Even some L, for wearing under other garments. Dress shirts – 22 neck down to 18.5.

Pants: from a 58 waist (in stretch jeans – 60 or 62 in dress pants) to the pair of 46 waist jeans (NON-stretch, VERY non-stretch) I’m wearing right now.

What I didn’t expect: my hat size is changing. The 2XL hats I have are a little big on me. Evidently the kid that called me a fathead in school wasn’t kidding…

2) The Health Of The Union

Diabetic meds: GONE. If I weren’t already diagnosed as a diabetic, I wouldn’t be classified as one today. Technically, I’m a diabetic controlled by diet. No complications from it, nothing lingering. As if it never was.

Sleep Apnea: When I was first diagnosed, my episode rate (the number of times I stop breathing in my sleep per hour) was 126. You read that right – I stopped breathing about every 30 seconds. As of the most recent sleep study, the episode rate is 30. Yow. My pressure level for the CPAP machine is down from 14 to 7. I can actually sleep without the mask sometimes. Not the best thing, but it can be done.

Which begs the question: will I ever be rid of the CPAP? Probably not. My airway is very small and constricted – they have a tough time getting a breathing tube into me for surgery. My tonsils were taken out in 3rd grade, just to provide more room for me to breathe and swallow. And, I snore at decibel levels approaching a chainsaw. So, CPAP probably stays, but with a lot less pressure.

Addendum: I originally started writing this October 27th. Shows how much I know… As of a follow-up appointment November 19th, guess what? We discovered in my last study that if I sleep on my side, I don’t have ANY episodes. So now I’ll be spending 30 nights with a “trainer” – a rig involving a piece of PVC pipe and a tennis ball – to teach me not to roll over on my back. A solid month of training, and using it once or twice a week to remind myself, and Cal doesn’t need the CPAP. Never EVER thought I’d see that…

High Blood Pressure: not changing. This one looks like it’s more of a hereditary thing than a weight-related one. But I’m responding well to the meds, so we should be able to stay on top of it.

3) The Movin’ Of The Union

I haven’t really blogged about this, but my Facebook peeps have heard more than they probably want to about my trike…

In mid-June, I got Rover, and life got good. OK – life always was and always is good. It just got a little gooder.

Rover is the newest model from the amazing folks at TerraTrike (, with a higher weight capacity (400 lbs, which I was just below when I got it in June) and a seat that’s folding chair height (unlike Vicki’s trike, where the seat is about 13″ off the ground).

To say that Rover has changed my life is a colossal understatement. Pre-Rover: 3 miles at Riverside Park? *sigh* Maybe someday. Post-Rover: 3 miles? That’s just a warmup. Now 10 miles? 12? 14? That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Ride 4 miles to church for a rehearsal? Sure! 7 miles round trip to WCSG to track and home again? Heck yeah! Home to Walgreen’s and back? Yuppers. In fact, I find myself looking at routes to places that I usually drive to get to and wondering, “how could I get there via trike?” We might look into a two wheel “regular” bike (a “wedgie” bike) for me – one I could put on the bike rack of a city bus. That would open up a LOT of options…

There’s still a couple of milestones to go before the snow files: a trip out the pier at Grand Haven for some sunset photos, and a trip to Chicago to ride along the lakeshore. Hopefully those will both happen.

Addendum: they didn’t. That’s alright – training this winter will leave me hungry for spring and ready to ride.

It’s a known fact that in order to overcome an addiction, one must find a replacement behavior. Riding has become my replacement for food, and has given me one of the best summers I can remember. And fall has been pretty sweet too. Which brings up the question, what am I going to do when the snow piles up? We’ll talk about that in a bit.

4) The Mind Of The Union

When you become a candidate for bariatric surgery, one of the things you are told is that the mental adjustments post-surgery are huge. But no one can give you specifics, since everyone adjusts in a different way. Attitudes change, passions shift, relationships can suffer or collapse – anything can happen.

So you know it’s coming, but you have no idea what it will look like when it gets here.

9 months down the road, I now have some idea of what it looks like, and I can honestly say that the mental adjustments are way WAY more demanding than the physical adjustments. The physical, while complex, is almost automatic… Live within the restraints of your new system. Obey the signs your body gives you. Use the rules to keep you comfortable, nourished, and healthy. Do these and live. A lot to learn and live, but pretty black and white, especially if you just listen to what your new system is telling you. The point where it hits the air circulation device is when you ignore your body and just have at it, resulting in (at best) discomfort and (at worst) “complications.” (want details? No, you don’t.)

Oh, and saddle up for a fast ride. The physical changes come on fast and hard – faster than you thought possible and sometimes harder than you think you can endure.

The mental adjustments, on the other hand, are NOT black and white. They are NOT obedient to rules and predictable. They are NOT a matter of just listening and responding. And while the physical changes are fast, the mental changes are S-L-O-W. Very, very, v-e-r-y slow. I’ve written a little about this, and will continue to do so, because I’m still figuring out everything that goes along with it. But the latin phrase Tabula Rasa sums it up so well – “blank slate.” Everything changes to some degree, and the only thing you can count on is that everything changes.

So, counseling continues, and it should. The changes are so massive that outside help and insight is essential. Potential surgery candidates: you CANNOT do this alone. You must have the help and support of others, lest you get lost in the swirling whiteout conditions in your own mind.

Insight from others at this stage will shine light on the dark path. It will give you a litmus test to help separate truth from lies. Without those external voices, everything has equal weight and equal validity in the chaos that is your mind. God’s word, the ultimate source of truth, will light your path as it always does, but in the chaos you might not be able to hear it. The help of trusted friends and loved ones (and professionals) to speak truth over you is so important when you can’t hear or distinguish that truth for yourself.

Am I a basket case right now? Some days, yes. Most days, no… a little.

There will come a time when I will write and tell you of the bravest, most loving and caring person I know – my beloved Vicki. But for this moment, let me just say that every time you encourage me in this walk, every time you tell me that I’m inspiring you, that I’m having such great success, that I’m doing such good work, believe me – it’s Vicki who is doing the hard work, Vicki who is walking the path, and Vicki who is so excited to see her hubby zip up the XL down vest and have it fit. She walks with me, and NONE of this would have happened without her.

As I said, I started writing this October 27th, and it’s sat on the ol’ iPad since then. Today is January 5th, 2011, and while most of this is still true, some has changed. I made some corrections and some notes where appropriate, and am kind of amazed at how the path changes, even over a couple of months. Good to know that God goes ahead of us down the path, and that He knows every twist and turn better than the most super luxo GPS ever produced. Unlike “Susan,” (it’s easier to call our GPS by name, than just “the box”) God not only guides but takes an active part in our path, clearing the way before us or throwing up roadblocks when necessary.

The state of the Olson? A state of wonder, amazement, confusion and humility that God should pour out blessings to someone so unworthy. His love endures forever, His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness continues to all generations.


  1. amelia says:

    Cal, this is all just amazing! I’m so excited for you and the year you had and what God has in store for you in 2011. Miracles all over the place! whohoo!

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