Come Home Safe

Come home safe. That’s what I find myself saying a lot these days. Come home safe. It’s my motto -- on repeat ever since I’ve been adjusting to our family’s new normal. This awkward new chapter in our life called Surviving the Terrifying Moments When Your Teenager Drives Away Until They Return -- and ways to avoid Life360 App addiction. Come home safe is the crutch phrase of our family’s new season. You use crutches when you’re hurt or weak and although it’s embarrassing to admit - my children growing older makes me anemic.

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I say come home safe every morning before school as my son grabs his car keys and my daughter opens the back door that leads to the garage. The last words I say on the phone are, come home safe when my son calls from his job and lets me know he’s on his way. I feel the concern in my voice and I know my kids hear it too when I say come home safe on a Friday night after an overtime football game. It’s a crutch, but I’m imperfect.

My son turned 16 this year and I could tell you all the things I’ve been telling myself over and over -- that he’s respectful, responsible, makes good grades, has terrific friends -- all that warm, positive vibey stuff, but he’s driving solo more often and when he says goodbye - I always say, come home safe.

Like it makes any difference at all.

As if the words, come home safe will shield him and place a cover of protection over his car. Like an imaginary bubble that prevents other cars and objects from hitting him, or worse, if he hits someone else. I’m not sure why I’ve worked up in my mind that it would be worse if he caused the wreck. Fault or no fault, our car insurance payment will balloon but honestly, it isn’t about the money. The older I get the more I realize that if it can be fixed with money it’s not a problem. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t think money can fix everything - and we certainly struggle with not having enough of it, but if the problem can be fixed with money, it’s manageable. Here’s what’s fixable -- a totaled car, a damaged church sign, an extended hospital stay or months of physical therapy. All of those inconveniences are paid with time and money even if takes until you are 127 years old. A loved one, dead on the side of the road after a car accident cannot be fixed with money.

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Come home safe.

But like a fresh breeze, all these gory images are ushered from my brain and replaced with the endless loop of my energizing, rehearsed, positive words.  My son is respectful, responsible and a good student. He has terrific friends and he’s conscientious. I added that last adjective since it has a comforting sound to it. Makes me feel better to think that he’s a conscientious driver. A person wishing to do what is right and to do it with care.

It was after a few months of him driving that I realized I was pouring a favorable outcome into him. Planting seeds of confidence in his subconscious. I say come home safe instead of don’t speed...don’t be reckless...don’t make quick turns or tailgate. I won’t parent using the negative because I chose not to parent that way when they were younger. I used words of affirmation as I spoke to him just like I’ve done his whole life, but now, in this season, my words are different. Instead of, come home safe, when they were younger I’d say, share what you have and when they did, “I’m proud of you.” As the kids grew, I’d say “care for one another or watch out for your sister.” When they entered middle school, “Be a leader” and then later, “Make good decisions" and "I believe in you.”

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Come home safe is my way of adjusting to my teenagers when they flinch (ever so slightly) when I say I love you or when they shrug me off as I pat them on the shoulder. It stings a little when I can see him recoil when I adjust his collar. Our kids know they are loved. But, I’m honest enough to admit that they’re going through the “it’s so weird stage” when your mom says love you -- all the time -- out loud -- for like the whole world to hear. So I’ve learned to replace I love you with come home safe.

And come home safe is my way of saying that home will always be their safe place to land.

The Heaviest I've Ever Been

When I discovered how heavy I’d become, I was in the Dermatologist’s office. It was a Thursday and the weather was dreadful. Rain had soaked our city for days -- flooding streets and overwhelming storm drains. When I looked at the parking lot through the water-streaked window, it was full of puddles and the nearby gullies were swollen and nearly cresting. I remember thinking, if we get flushed away, at least I’ll float to the top.

 Digital scale in Doctor's office.

Digital scale in Doctor's office.

It was the first time I’d ever been to the dermatologist. Several of my co-workers came to our office with band-aids on their neck or arms -- residual proof of having a potentially cancerous mole removed, so I thought it might be a good idea to go, too. You know -- age spots. I checked in, was relocated to Exam Room One and finished answering a series of health questions. Do you use sunscreen? What level SPF? Have you ever used a tanning bed? Do you have any skin cancer in your family? Are you allergic to anything? Do you work outside? After suitable answers were documented and checked off, the nurse practitioner asked me to slip off my shoes and step on the digital scale.

If I hadn’t weighed so much and my cement feet weren’t grounding me to the scale, I would have fallen off in disbelief. When the "judging me" machine beeped, I stared at the readout and questioned everything I had eaten in my life in the span of about 23 seconds. My legs felt like concrete blocks and my knees suddenly forgot how to do their job. I turned around slowly as to not scare the scale any further and made my way to the chair. I felt like my thighs were melting off the edge of the seat and dripping onto the floor like cake batter. 

“But she has such a pretty face!”

 Dad hugging me. (Lollipop, not a cigarette.)

Dad hugging me. (Lollipop, not a cigarette.)

Weight has never really been an issue for me. The only time (until now) that weight felt like a topic that needed addressing was when my Dad, after watching television or reading the paper would announce, “We’re becoming a nation of fat people!” I think this must have been a generational ideal because I remember my mom lamenting, “Oh, but she has such a pretty face!” My parents loved their girls more than themselves and these comments were never directed towards us, it was just conversation we grew up hearing. They believed that the United States was unified only by gaining obscene amounts of weight. We should all try harder to be thinner.

I was a skinny, bony child -- just elbows and legs until age 14. I developed modest hips and a smaller bust compared to most throughout puberty. During my roaring, single 20s I stayed in the 6-8 size range. I definitely wasn’t fit - but I was average or below in weight so I never thought about it.

In my early 30s, even when pregnant, I didn’t feel like a blimp and really I wasn’t heavy considering I was carrying this extra person who crowded my rib cage and mashed my bladder. I nursed, so that helped most of the baby weight come off and 16 months later - second verse same as the first -- I was still doing okay with baby number 2 and keeping extra weight off. Mostly because I was chasing a toddler and caring for an infant.

But I added weight and inched up the scale. I was softer in my mid-section but still hanging out in what most would consider average size clothing. The weight gain was subtle and my new desire for more loose fitting clothes and the comfort of elastic made my actual sizing seem vague. I considered myself average size and my doctors never mentioned weight at my Annual Physical or GYN checkups so I thought I was okay. But my perspective changed when I went to the dermatologist and stepped on a scale that came from The Devil and his depraved underworld.

Over the years, my jobs changed too, I wasn’t hustling and moving on the retail floor or working crazy hours at Radio Station remotes and events. My work became sedentary - calculating numbers at an accounting firm and writing posts like this one at my desk. Snacks cured boredom from sitting and cooking at home was a money saver but a calorie-induced coma.  Easy meals were prepared with processed quick dinners and comfort food like pasta and rice. Every week and month, the weight inched on but I was so busy working full time and raising a family that I didn’t think too much about the extra carbs and unhealthy choices. I was feeding my family and our time together at the table was more important than portion size or that our food pyramid was upside down.

Two important notes I’ll insert here:

  1. I am not making excuses. I’m explaining where I started and how the rat race kept me from spending time on the treadmill and making better food choices.

  2. This is a story about the heaviest I HAVE been -- not how heavy you’ve been or how much Aunt Marge has been. It’s my journey and I’m not comparing Chocolate Layered Cake to Apples. I’m not judging others for how heavy or light, healthy or unhealthy they are.

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When you put on weight and you’ve gone up in pant sizes a couple of times you start to think that maybe you should do something to get a bit of the extra weight off. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I started going to the gym and being more conscious of what I eat. No chips, white bread, sweets, soda or wine. I drink water All. Day. Long. and have one cup of coffee in the morning.  Yes, I still take it with cream and sugar. Dammit, I’m not perfect. Honestly, I had been going to the gym for about three weeks before I went to the dermatologist and discovered my loathing of a piece of metal attached to weighing instrument panel - so it makes me wonder how much heavier I was before exercising regularly and eating better.

For the love, I eat bran now.  

BRAN!

I didn’t gain weight, overnight. It was several nights -- like years of nights. Losing weight takes time. And I’m going to unpack the extra pounds and do the work one day at a time. What is your story? What have you done to gain a healthier lifestyle and lose unwanted pounds?