The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adjustments: the second adjustment

The first adjustment? WONDER - seeing it in everything! Not letting the mundane outweigh the sublime.

The second adjustment? SLOW DOWN!

Learning to live with the aftermath of bariatric surgery is a lesson in slowing down! Everything seems to require slowing down. For example:

Taking my medicines becomes a 30 minute task, since I have to take the pills one at a time, and allowing time to pass between the pills. If I took them all in one gulp (as I used to do), they would either get caught in the plumbing someplace, or would all hit my tiny stomach at the same time and cause me to be sick.

(I’ve been here writing for about 45 minutes... I just finished taking my morning meds. That’s how slowly the task has to be done.)

Eating is a slow-mo task too. There’s only so much space, so to get a half-cup of cottage cheese down, it’s taking one bite, chew it until nothing remains, put the spoon down and wait, then pick it up and take the next bite. And, for the record, it’s tough to get that whole half-cup down. I get full right about the time I take the last bite.

Drinking is slow, since if I gulp my water, I’ll get air mixed in with it. There’s really no room for air bubbles down there, so it’s got to get out. If I just chug the water down, the air will come up and bring a cargo with it. (I’m putting this as delicately as possible...) So slowly drinking, trying to keep air out, is the way we do it. And no drinking when I eat - no fluids 15 minutes before to 45 minutes after eating. It takes up room that is needed for protein.

Getting ready to go out for the day? An exercise in slow. Thinking about what I’ll need to eat while I’m gone from home, packing it and making sure I have enough. Then packing my water, along with whatever else I need to take along. It’s kind of like packing up a toddler to go away for the day - all the various things necessary need to be brought along. Fortunately, I don’t need a pack-n-play. That puppy would be HUGE...

Slow is not easy. In all of our lives, slow is not only hard, but nigh unto impossible. The pace of life seems to demand fast - after all, if you snooze, you lose. Reach out and grab... something. The early bird eats worm guts. Something like that. Slow is definitely not considered a virtue.

And yet, slow seems to be where I have time to notice things. I see God moving when I’m moving slow. I have more time to appreciate all He has done for me, when it takes me so much time to work through it all. I have time to see just how sweet life is, and how amazing it’ll continue to be as He keeps us on this path. I have time to see the wonder, and not just watch it all flash by.

Not everyone has that luxury, and I realize that. I am grateful for this time, where I move slow and see God all around me. I know as I get used to the routine, it’ll get faster, and in gaining that I’ll lose something. So for now, slow is alright. I’ll take my time and store up good things to carry me through faster times.

Placing the Stones - documenting the story pt 3

After a none-too-brief pause, we carry on with the story. It’s been two weeks, and I’m sure I’ve already forgotten some of the amazing details. But as best as I can recall, here we go...


As you might expect, I don’t recall much of Tuesday, March 30th. I remember going into the operating room, but that’s about it. Waking up afterward, getting to my room - all gone. (I do remember one of the last things said to me by the anesthesiologist - “remember, this is just a tool. You can regain all your weight back - it’s just a tool.” Um, thanks. I know that. Can I go to sleep now?...) The only thing I remember about being in my room is wanting that catheter OUT. NOW. And the happy feeling when my wish was granted. :-D

I remember somewhere along the line that I was told that the operation went very well. The WHOLE operation - both parts. The full duodenal switch. It was complete - my only prayer had been answered. That was a reason for joy. Other prayers were answered too - I was at peace through the whole thing, including the recovery. I was comfortable - no mind-numbing pain - it was all well-controlled, and I wasn’t having to “press the button” every 10 minutes for another shot of painkiller. Oh yes, I DID use that button, but I didn’t have to depend on it. I used it to keep things under control, not to deaden dreadful pain.

Like I said, there isn’t too much else I remember clearly. If there were horrible things, Vicki might remember, but she hasn’t mentioned them. Perhaps what happens in recovery STAYS in recovery...

I do remember, however, when the nurse said, “it’s time to get you up for a walk.” Now, I knew this was coming - we had been warned that about 4 hours after getting back from surgery, I’d be getting up and walking. But knowing that and being faced with the reality of it are two different things.

God was so gracious - He kept a peaceful spirit within me, so I didn’t turn into “Crabby Cal.” Did it hurt to try and get up? Oh heavens yes. Did I get snitty about it? No, by God’s grace I didn’t.

But moving from the horizontal to the vertical was the weirdest feeling I’ve had. It took a moment, when getting to my feet, to adjust. The feeling was one of things moving into place, and it was weird. Not really painful - ok, a little uncomfortable, but not a real “ouchie.” Just weird, as “stuff” found its new location. (In fact, it was kind of a test of my recovery. When I was able to get up and not feel “stuff” looking for a new place, I figured that I was healing pretty well.)

Ok - I’m now in an upright and locked position, ready for takeoff. So we walk - the nurse was moving my I.V. stand, and I was using my canes to stay moving. And I walked. Not very far, mind you, but enough for that time. First time up, walking down the hall, after having my innards remodeled. Weird and wonderful, to quote Elton the bard. And it got a little easier every time... Except at 4am. There’s something about having to get up at 4am to go for a walk that just doesn’t seem right. I tried to be gracious and accept that it’s something I need to do, but still...


I’m not a towering example of optimism. If you know me, you know that. Perky? No - not really. And yet, I have to say in all honesty that my feelings were feelings of gratefulness. I was thankful. I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness. I was amazed to be doing so well, just hours out of surgery.

Most of all, this phrase kept running through my mind:

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.”

(As I type those words, tears come to my eyes. We sang that song last week at First Cov, and I’ve never sung it so loudly. It continues to be the tale of my body and soul - “I’ve been set free.”)


Our overnight nurse, Karolyn, was amazing. She was a dear saint who made me smile, even when rousing me at 4am for a walk. She encouraged me to keep walking, understood when I just couldn’t keep moving, and was a true blessing to Vicki and I. She was the one who said “His wife will be here soon, and he’ll be well-cared for.” I was well-cared for, both when Vicki was there, and when she was gone. God gave us some very special folks to look after us. We gave Karolyn one of my CDs, to try in some small way to thank her for all her care. I hope that little token lets her know just how much she meant to us. There were a few others that we gave a CD to - just to try and say thanks. After all, if they hate the music, they can always turn it over and use it for a mirror. (thanks, Dodd...)


If you’ve never seen the Lacks Cancer Center at St. Mary’s, you should. It’s incredible. The bariatric patients are housed on the 4th floor, the rooms are amazing, and the staff is wonderful. Vicki tells me that the food there is also great, since Lacks has their own kitchen. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to be - it was great.

Our favorite part is the 5th floor... When you see the Cancer Center from the outside, you’ll see what almost looks like a lighthouse tower on the corner. On the 5th floor, in that tower, is a conservatory. Lovely, with some incredible plants. There is an indoor path you can walk that goes around the Healing Garden, and it’s a nice walk. On my second night, Vicki took me up there and we walked all the way around the garden. The next day, I got to go outside...

Thursday, April 1st was one of those “what the heck is a summer day doing here in early April” kind of days. It was sunny, warm, and the kind of day you expected to see everyone heading for the beach. Except that it was April first - no foolin’. (sorry - couldn’t resist...) So, this was a great day to get outside.

The Healing Garden is in the middle of the 5th floor - an outdoor garden with a courtyard and a path around it you can walk in the shade. It’s a peaceful place, with places to sit and enjoy the outside. We’re guessing there’s water involved out there someplace - I’ll have to go back this summer to see.

I walked all around the garden, then a lap around the sunny courtyard for good measure. It felt so good to walk in the sun - the brightness outside perfectly matching the brightness inside me.

to be continued...


It’s been a little humbling to see how many people are watching this journey. It’s also been amazing to see others relating to the path - the steps we have taken, the thoughts going on behind the path, and all the other random ponderings. Vicki and I are so blessed that our story is encouraging others, and yet that’s the way it’s supposed to be...

Talking of our lives, sharing our stories is how life in Christ is supposed to be. These stories remind us that we’re not the only ones on the journey. If all we ever see is shiny people on Sunday morning, smiling and happy, we get the idea that the garbage that hits us on a daily basis is only happening to us. No one else seems to have these kinds of struggles, so I must be doing something wrong. Everyone else is shiny and happy - why am I so miserable?

When we hear other’s stories, we come to realize that others are also digging themselves out of garbage. We all struggle, we all deal with the mundane, we all try to limp through our days and still remain upright at the end of the week.

I’ve tried to be open in these posts, and will continue to do so, lest someone get the impression that it’s all easy - that our path has been an easy walk so far, and all is happy and shiny. There has been a lot of that, by God’s grace, but there is also mud. There are times of discouragement, times of weariness, times of pain. The point is, at the end of the day, the wonder always is greater than the mud. God makes it so, if we lift our eyes to see it.

Our church is taking time to share those stories - “Resurrection Stories.” We’re hearing what everyday life and everyday faith looks like in the lives of our church family. And those stories are worth SO much - to hear and identify and see where faith becomes real in the lives of our brothers and sisters makes it easier to recognize where faith becomes real in MY life.

(This week, it’s my turn to share our Resurrection Story. I need to write it out, and give it to Pastor and Jeremy. I really got to get to work...)

As Vicki and I walk this path, we will continue to try to be transparent. Both the good and the not-so-good will be out there to see. We need to put the story out there, for others and for ourselves. If you have a chance, don’t hesitate - tell your story. We all need it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Adjustments: The first adjustment...

Whilst catching my breath in the telling of the tale of my surgery, I realized that I had something else going on in my head that needed to get put down. So, I shall. Now. Here.

So here’s my first thing: The MUNDANE seems to always outweigh the SUBLIME.

Isn’t that sad?

I’ve been through a few incredible weeks lately... From word that the surgery was approved, to God’s hand as we prepared to the procedure itself right up to these weeks of recovery, it’s been nothing short of amazing. And yet, all it takes is a day or two of “the same old grind” and I’m back to where I started. Mentally, that is. My innards are still as shuffled as they were when I came out of the operating room. (I pause while you try and get that image off your retina...)

I’ve been someplace that we all wish to go - smack dead center in the tidal force of the will of God. It’s a wild ride, an unstoppable force and somewhere that convinces you that absolutely nothing can hinder God when He moves. There is no stopping Him, no slowing Him down - when He moves, everything moves. And yet it’s all too easy to forget that rushing torrent and to get stuck in a mud puddle.

You arrive in the mud puddle, and start to believe that this stagnant water is all there is. That life is reduced to this little brown patch of stuff. It doesn’t take much to get you stuck there either - a small distraction, a tiny diversion, and splat - you’re waist-deep in the muck and don’t even realize that you’re stuck.

So let’s put it right out there: LIFE IS WONDROUS! Life in Christ is filled with light and wonder and amazing brilliance, but too often we settle for MUD. The mundane can outweigh the sublime, and all the wonder that is abundant life gets lost in a mud slide.

So, my first “adjustment?“ To be more like Edward Magorium - ”Toy Impresario, Wonder Aficionado, Avid Shoe-Wearer.“ Ok - not so much for the toys... except for Nerf guns. I love those things. And as for shoes, again, not so much. But wonder? Oh yeah. The world is full of wonder, and the days are too short to take it all in. So I dare not lose a moment stuck in mud - I don’t have time for muck, with so much wonder to pursue.

It starts with my focus - where do I look when I start my day? I need to lift my eyes, even on a grey day when rain obscures the sky. God has filled this world and this life and this new day with wonder, and it’s my job to recognize it - as much of it as I can. Out of a wonder-filled heart comes gratitude and praise, two things that can keep me mud-free.

Easy to say, hard to do. But I’m up for the challenge - lately, I’ve been doing a number of hard things. :-D

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Placing the Stones - documenting the story pt 2

To simplify stuff, I’m going to use a few abbreviations...
MMPC - the place where I first went through the medical weight loss program
GHP - Grand Health Partners, where Dr. Paul Kemmeter now works
WtW - Weigh to Wellness, where I did a medical fast in January of ‘09 and still go for followup

Have you ever noticed that when God decides that the time has come for something, that nothing (and I mean NOTHING) ever stands in His way? You can almost imagine the Red Sea flying back to the shore, leaving very surprised fishies in its wake. God points, the path opens, and nothing can stand in the way of His will.

We began to consider the surgery option in October and November, beginning to jump through all the little hoops that so delight the insurance industry. And yet, it was more like the hoops being flattened than jumping through them. God pointed, and we followed, more amazed at each step.

You’ll notice that I’m saying “we” a lot... no, I haven’t suddenly ascended as the reigning monarch of Olsonhaus, speaking in the Royal we. Vicki and I have both been walking this path. I might be the one whose innards were redecorated last week, but Vicki walks with me through all of it. She was the one waiting through the surgery, while I snoozed. She was the one who greeted me when I finally came back to the world of the semi-concious. She was beside me, walking the hallways and keeping me moving after surgery. She came home with me, making note of what meds I go back on, how much protein I have to take in, water intake and all of those details that make me dizzy. I’ve done the easy part - take a nap, wake up, drink, eliminate, repeat. She’s done the heavy lifting. And I try, but can never thank her enough for being by my side. Our favorite nurse said it best - “His wife will be here soon, and he’ll be well cared for.” Indeed.

We walk this path together, now and always.


When I first considered surgery, I met Dr. Paul Kemmeter at MMPC, and we liked him a lot. But that wasn’t God’s time. Dr. Kemmeter has since become a part of GHP, and knows Dr. Turke and her work at WtW. (Anybody else seeing a connection here?) The door opened (was blasted off its hinges, actually) and we went to surgical orientation at GHP. There were appointments to keep, tests to be run, but all was finally in place. If approved, Dr. Kemmeter would be my surgeon, doing the procedure that he first recommended when we first met - the duodenal switch.


The term “bariatric surgery” actually means a whole flock of procedures - from the Lap Banding (which places removable bands around the stomach to constrict intake) to some that aren’t even done anymore. A large number of patients receive Roux-en-Y gastric bypass - it’s not really correct to call it “stomach stapling,” since it’s more complicated than that. If you know someone who has had bariatric surgery, there’s a good chance it was Roux-en-Y. Similar is the sleeve gastrectomy, which turns the tummy into a tube. Want to know the details? Wikipedia is your friend. :-D

The duodenal switch is a two-part operation - part one is sleeve gastrectomy, and then the duodenal switch - the small intestine is divided, part connected to the liver and part to the stomach. The result is restriction of intake and malabsorption. Dr. Kemmeter put it this way - for me, the difference between Roux-en-Y and DS is the difference between trying to drive a spike with a ball peen hammer or a sledgehammer. With my body mass and everything else considered, the duodenal switch would give us the best chance at the outcome we were hoping for. Harder surgery, tougher recovery, more meticulous maintenance - and exactly where God wanted me to go.

There was a good chance that he wouldn’t be able to do both parts of the procedure at the same time. If after finishing the sleeve gastrectomy, he found that the small intestine wouldn’t reach, the operation would end. And maybe in a year or so, after losing some weight, we’d be able to go back and finish with the duodenal switch. So my only prayer about the operation became, “allow him to do both parts.”


So we waited for insurance approval, which could take 8 weeks. And we waited on the Lord. Not patiently, with halos perched on our noggins, but we waited. And yet, patience came. And peace - knowing that it was all in His hands, in His time, and we were to just sit back and watch.

Less than three weeks later, the phone rang. “This is GHP calling to schedule Cal’s surgery.” Ok... When? “March 30th - two weeks away.” Ok... yikes. :-D

A mighty wind was blowing the sea aside. So He pointed and we walked...

Dr appointments. Down to 800 calories / day for two weeks. All liquids after 6pm on the 29th. The time flew, and yet we were in the eye of the hurricane (my friend Dr. John calls it “The Eye of a Miracle”) and all was peaceful. Reminds me of what Rich Mulllins said in The Love Of God - “Makes me glad to have been caught in the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.”

The Saturday before surgery, we were getting “things” in order - will, patient advocate forms, etc. That was my only time of fear and anxiousness. Not for myself, but at the thought of leaving Vicki behind and alone. That was almost more than I could bear, but when one is weak God strengthens the other. Vicki had no fear, no doubt - the path was clear and she was eager to follow it. And she carried me along for a bit when my feet wouldn’t move.

Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, and God was in da house. I was doing my usual thing, playing the bass in our worship team, when He showed up and healed a connection I had been missing since January 2006 - the connection between the mechanics of my instrument and the heart of worship. I worshiped while playing my bass, and rejoiced at God’s grace. He blew away the darkness of Saturday night with the light of His presence, and it was amazing!

After the service, brothers and sisters gathered around me and prayed over me. If you’ve ever been at the center of a circle of prayer like that, you understand the overwhelming feeling of God’s presence. God met us in that circle, hearing my family as they raised us up in prayer. Praying for my only concern - that the whole operation be completed. I wasn’t concerned about anything else, but my family was - they prayed for peace, for comfort and for God’s care over both of us. Sitting dead center in the Eye of a Miracle.

Monday - more things to finish up. Got to spend some sweet time catching up with Pastor Craig, recounting all the steps that brought us here. Before we knew it, we were getting into bed Monday night...

and I actually slept pretty well. Amazing? No - it’s just like God to do that.

Tuesday morning - at St. Mary’s by 7:45am. In we go, and all is still peaceful. “Scared?” “No. Not at all.” “Really?” “Yeah. Cool, eh?”

9:45 or so, I say goodbye to my best friend and get wheeled away. She has the long wait ahead, and I get a long nap. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

-- to be continued --

Placing the stones - documenting the story pt 1

Vicki was excited when I said I thought I was going to go and do some writing today. I know she’d never pressure me, but she wants to make sure I make note of the steps we’re taking in this journey, so that we don’t forget just where from and how far we have come.


Yeah - I know. It’s been a long, l-o-n-g time since I wrote. September of ‘09, according to the posts on TW’sW. A lot has happened since then, but I seem to have forgotten that writing is the thing I must do - it’s how I process my thoughts and feelings, it’s where I place the Stones to remind me of the path and to help me keep sight of God when I lose faith, and it’s the place where Vicki can see what’s going on in my brain without being overwhelmed.

(Vicki will often make my eyes glaze over with details of what she does at work - the type of digital sorcery she engages in makes no sense to me whatsoever. I sometimes forget that I often do the same thing to her... late at night... in bed... when she’s trying to settle in and rest, and I’m chatting for all I’m worth as everything I’ve thought about all day suddenly tries to jump ship at the same time. If I write, those ideas get out there when she can actually see them, take her time reading them, and not feel like I just ambushed her with a fire hose...)

So, it’ll take a while, but I’ll catch you up with where we are. Then we’ll talk about it. Saddle up, buttercup...


Last fall, almost a year out from my most recent medical weight loss program, my doctor and I began to discuss the possibility of bariatric surgery. I’ve considered it over the years, even went so far as to pursue it a couple of times only to be turned down by two different insurance companies. And frankly, I’ve always been a little scared of it.

It seems like everyone you talk to knows someone who has had “the surgery,” and you’ll hear tales that range from, “oh, they’re doing GREAT!” to “well, they did lose some weight, but now they’re bigger than they were before!” It’s all too easy to take that huge step, make some good progress, and end up worse than you were to start with because you’ve regained everything and stretched your stomach to a dangerous size. And that’s what scared me - I know me, sort of, and at the end of the day I seriously doubted I could make the kind of lasting change that would make surgery a safe and successful option for me.

But that changed...

it was in October that Dr. Turke (my doc at Weigh to Wellness) and I realized something - I was almost a year out from my medical fast in January of ‘09, and I was still at the weight I was when I finished. Actually, I had managed to lose a few more pounds since May of ‘09. And I hadn’t been doing anything to really make it that way. We looked over my history, and discovered something pretty significant: I don’t lose well, but I maintain beautifully.

It’s pretty much the opposite of most people. When I settle at a new weight, I tend to stick there, instead of ballooning back up the moment I get off of a “program.” I tend to land at the new place, and stay there instead of running back up to where I was.

That’s a biggie.

Now, back when I first went through a medical fast, I got all the way down to 366 - over 100 lbs off. And I regained back to over 460. That doesn’t sound like I stick very well, does it? So I thought...

Until Vicki reminded me that one little tiny thing happened in the middle there - losing my job of almost 20 years and becoming unemployed. And that was a very dark time - my heart was so wrapped up in that job and what I was a part of that it was a long time before I could even think straight. My heart went to stone, my joy was down the biffy, and worship became cold and stale.

Since then, I’ve learned some significant stuff. No job will ever have my heart again - it belongs to God alone. Work gets my allegiance, my best efforts, my full concentration and ability, but not my heart. So when my job at CBH ministries ended in October, I left and my heart stayed with me.

Have I recovered fully from January, 2006? Yes and no. I know enough now to keep myself and my work separate. But the wounds to my heart and my relationship with God? Still working on it. Making some progress, but working on it.

So, our original observation still stands: when I lose weight, I tend to stick there. It’s hard for me to get it off, but good when it’s gone. Knowing that, I started to explore the surgery one more time.

Little did I know that God was WAY ahead of me, as He always is...

-to be continued-