Waking the Walker

A mother's quest to survive her son's "zombie" years – aka his teens.

Category: Play Time

Adjusting To My NEW Norm

Now that my Son is officially at college, my nest is very empty. With it just me at home, it’s really sinking in that I’m by myself.

This is a norm I have never experienced. I have been single most of my life, but I have always had a “roommate” whether it is family, partner or actual roommate.

This is a norm that will take more time to adjust to than I ever imagined. 

95529519 - the girl is holding a nest of branches in her hands,

For 18 years and 8 months, my daily routine revolved around my work schedule and my Son’s schedules; whether it be daycare, school, extra-curricular or work over the Summer.

Only having to deal with my schedule feels very strange.

This time of year was always our craziest too because of marching band/football season. Not having that is like putting salt into a gaping wound.

I have helped out at the football games as a means to get out of the house, but it’s just not the same without my Son in the band.

Again, it’s the gaping wound.

Read the rest of this entry »


With high school graduation now behind us, my Son and I took some time to relax and reflect on “Days Gone Bye” and roads yet to travel.

The best place for that in my book is the beach. Breathing in the sea air with sand between my toes is the best decompression therapy out there.

Our beach of choice for this trip was Ocean City, Maryland. The town where I met my Son’s Father and the place of my Son’s birth.

When my Son was little we would come back every year, but over time we migrated further north to Bethany Beach. And some years we didn’t even make it to the beach, choosing other locations for a Summer vacation, like Georgia for our TWD Roadtrips.



This year, considering where we have come from and where we are headed, I felt it was extremely fitting we go back to OCMD. Having lived and work there for three years, I have many fond memories beyond the obvious romance with my Son’s father and subsequent birth of our amazing Son.

This place will always hold a special place in my heart. How could it not?

When I moved to OCMD, I was single and starting over after a divorce. I knew no one, but I knew OCMD was where I was meant to be. My move was most definitely divinely guided.

Of course at the time I had no idea why. Now it’s quite obvious.

When my Son was born, he became the center of my universe, especially after we lost his Father when my Son was only 3 years old. My wants and needs became secondary. All that mattered was my Son’s health, welfare and happiness.

Over the years we’ve certainly seen our share of ups and downs, as documented in this blog, but it’s those challenges and rewards that made our bond stronger.

As with all children, as they grow into their own, and make friends, their parents start to take a backseat, so having a week with my Son all to myself was something I was very much looking forward to.

As they say in the Visa commercial, it was priceless.

By August he will be headed off to college and I will be flying solo, again.


In between now and then, he will be working his Summer job at an amusement park, and based on the shifts he’s been getting thus far, will more than likely be working a lot of nights, which means we won’t see much of each other. So it just makes the week at the beach, just the two of us, even more special.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Year, New You, Yeah Right

I’m sure the majority of the world starts the New Year with good intentions. We’re going to get more exercise, eat less junk or sweets, drink less wine/alcohol, get organized, finish unfinished projects, be more patient, worry less, meditate, etc… I could fill this entire post with the good intentions/new year’s resolutions made around the world, but the truth is, only a small percentage achieve their resolutions.

Not because we’re quitters, but because we are creatures of habit and it takes a lot of work to change our habits or our way of thinking, especially the older we get.

33599305 - new year resolution

I gave up on making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I do however set hopeful goals, this way I’m not disappointed in myself if they are not achieved.

Generally my goal is to complete unfinished projects from previous years. I can tell you that my list of unfinished projects has grown over the 4 years my Son has been in high school/marching band, and I don’t expect I’ll even seriously start to chip away at them until he goes away to college.

I usually type up the list and hang it somewhere where I can see it on a daily basis, just as a subtle reminder when I find a free moment (yeah right) I could dive in. Also, when something is completed I can cross it off, thus getting that rewarding feeling of accomplishment. Kind of like my weekly “To Do” List, only with greater satisfaction.

Be Prepared

This year is a completely different story. I haven’t even looked at the previous years list, let alone update it and print it out. Hell, I haven’t even completed pulling last years bill files and starting new files, something I usually accomplish on the 1st.

Please note, this wasn’t completed for a good reason, my family celebrated Christmas on January first, and I was working on my family project up until that day. (Yes, I believe I bit off more than I could chew on this one, but it was worth it.)

Beyond the incomplete file project, I did get my Christmas tree down, but my dining room table is still covered with all the ornaments that need to be packed up.

So, I have started 2018 even further behind than I was in 2017, but believe it or not, I’m not twitching about it.


I’ve adopted the attitude that “I get done what I can when I can.” Read the rest of this entry »



the quality or state of not being under the control of, reliant on, or connected with someone or something else     

5263553 - eighteen

With my son turning 18 this month, the topic of independence has come up more than once. In his head, 18 means more freedom because “legally” he is considered an adult.

The operative word is “legally.”

It is not so much your age that makes you an adult, as it is your behavior. What my Son keeps forgetting is along with adulthood comes responsibility. A lot more than he’s dealt with during his high school years.

Independence is a double-edge sword and one my Son has to learn how to handle.


Robot Sword

My Son has grown and matured over his high school years, but he is still extremely reliant on me to aid him in certain areas of his daily path, particularly in the morning. I find myself almost daily reminding him that in order to truly be independent, he needs to learn to be more self-reliant, and not use me as a crutch.

He tells me he knows, but I don’t see him stepping out of his comfort zone just yet and we’re not that far from hitting the halfway mark of his Senior year. Maybe now that he’s officially 18 that will change.

The mornings are still our biggest struggle. My Son has admitted he doesn’t even hear me come into his room in the morning or register the alarm going off until I turn on lights and start prodding.


I’m sure some people would feel I’m enabling him, but it’s hard to not start pushing when the clock is ticking and your kid is still not out of bed. I refuse to drive him to school if he misses the bus, nor do I want to see him miss school because of this. Once he’s out of bed he’s good, it’s just the getting out of bed part that is still challenging him.

I’ve told him he needs to resolve this issue in his own. It is not for me to figure out. Stressing that in college his roommate will not make sure he’s up, it will be all on him. I’d hate to see him learn the extremely hard way by sleeping through his alarm and missing classes when he’s in college, but this may be what it takes. Read the rest of this entry »

A Year of Lasts

With band uniform fittings the beginning of this month, I realized my Son and I are officially starting “The Year of Lasts.”

In September my Son starts his Senior Year in high school, so all the things that are once a year in high school, will never be done again. They will be the last time he and/or I do them.

Just as this was my Son’s last high school uniform fitting, it will also be his last high school marching band camp at the end of the month, which ushers in his last high school marching band season.

First Game Senior Year

I stress high school, because there is a possibility my Son will be marching in college. One school he is applying to has a marching band. This would mean Saturday road trips for Mom, but I’m OK with that because I would get to see my Son.

To be honest, I’m not sure either one of us is totally ready for this, but the reality of it is sinking in fast, especially with college applications being submitted this month and his Senior pictures behind us.

I actually got teary eyed the day of his Senior pictures just thinking about it. School photos are a rite of passage and when the final one comes you are met with an avalanche of emotions.

Excited for the future, but sad because it means everything will change. Change in a good way, but all change is met with some apprehension.

Next year at this time it will be about packing my Son up for college.

How did we get here? Where have all the years gone?

Last school year we were so consumed about making it through Junior Year and starting the college preparatory process that the notion of Senior Year was just a fleeting thought.

That thought is no longer fleeting. It is staring us down and forcing us to “wake up” and realize that we need to truly appreciate this “year of lasts” because we will never experience them again and can never get them back.

Junior Year was about surviving; Senior Year will be about appreciating and savoring every little detail that comes into play with the “lasts.”

It’s about living in the moment, which is not always that easy with the pace and pressures of today. This is something I know I need to learn to do better, not just for this year, but in general.

August Calendar

As I sat in the mandatory parent band meeting the first day of band camp, I didn’t drift off because I was a veteran parent, I listened and remembered what it felt like my Son’s Freshman year.

There were so many questions, so many fears. Would my Son actually survive band camp and stick with it? What is expected of me as a band Mom?

We found out the answers to these questions quickly and slowly fell into place with the rest of the veterans.

Now I’m a member of the music booster executive board and knee deep into everything band. Some days I ask myself why, but to be honest, just as the band has given my Son a safe-haven in high school and second family, so have the boosters for me.

I know I have made friends who have been and will be there for me even when our kids have graduated and are grown.

So, although this will be a “year of lasts,” I will cherish every moment, even the challenging ones, and store them for when my Son is away at college and I’m missing him.

The “lasts” won’t just apply to high school events though. They will also apply to this blog.

I started “Waking the Walker” in 2014 when my Son was finishing up middle school and transitioning into high school. It was a means to work through the trials and tribulations of raising a “zombie,” I mean teen.



Granted, there will most definitely be trials and tribulations when my Son goes off to college. They will however, be on a different level than those experienced through high school.

Will there be a new blog reflecting how I deal with these new issues? And how it feels to be in an empty nest? I have no idea yet. Only time will tell.

I do know though, that with each passing month, I found writing this blog quickly became therapy, even during the months when my time was stretched thin. The process of writing became my place of refuge and a means to work through my ever-evolving emotions.

Those ever-evolving emotions will be all over the place this year of “lasts.” Particularly the closer we get to my Son’s high school graduation.

Lord knows what I’ll be like when we get to the end of next Summer and it’s time for my Son to head to college. Mentally I won’t go there yet. I want to enjoy what this year has to bring.

I can guarantee though, this last year of “Waking the Walker” will not so much be about how I’m dealing with my Son’s behavior, but more about how my Son and I are dealing with the emotional roller coaster we will both be experiencing.

It has pretty much been just my Son and I from the very beginning. We have become a team. So, as we experience each “last” through this upcoming school year, the reality that the team will eventually be disbanding, will become ever present.

The good thing though, we have the school year to work through the challenges this reality brings, together. In so doing, we will make the team even stronger, so when we are apart, it won’t feel like it.

So, with “The Year of Lasts” already in motion, and quite a few “lasts” already behind us, the pausing and savoring every detail has begun.

Not just for me, but for my Son. He and his Senior buddies are determined to make this their best year yet. And I will cherish hearing all about it.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2017. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Our TWD Summer Road Trip – 2017 Edition

Just as we did in July of 2014, my Son and I ventured to Georgia for another TWD Summer Road Trip. I would have liked to do this later in June, as to give us some time to regroup after a grueling Junior Year and 2 weeks filled with a ton of extra stuff, but that would have meant 2 of us in my department at work out at the same time, and that’s just not cool when there’s only 4 of us.

So, Thursday, June 15th, the day after my Son’s last final exam, we hit the road. Needless to say, we got a late start, but we were not doing any site seeing on the exodus South, so I was not concerned.

The total drive time was approximately 12 hours, with our goal to do 8 hours Thursday and the rest of the way on Friday.

Day One we went from PA, through MD, WV, VA and spent the night in Gastonia, NC. I knew some of the roads in VA could be challenging because of the truckers and the hills, but this time things were exasperated by downpours that slowed traffic down to 25 mph.

In addition, there were the crazy drivers who think a speed limit of 70 gives them the right to do 90. Throw in construction in the heaviest traffic and you’ve got a less than appealing road trip, AND, one that took longer then the estimated 8 hours.

At least my Son was very entertained by some new “colorful” expressions that came out of my mouth.

It was a good thing we stopped for a late lunch, because till we got to the hotel around 10 PM, we had no desire to cross a highway just to get dinner. We settled for popcorn and for me an adult beverage.

The next morning, we were refreshed and ready to go. We headed out for the rest of the journey to Georgia, which we extended an hour to get us to Macon, where the Allman Brothers’ Museum, the Big House, is located.


As an Allman Brothers fan, especially Greg, I couldn’t be that close without checking it out. Halfway there though, I came close to bagging it and heading to Fayetteville where we were staying for the duration of our visit.

Why you ask?

The traffic on I75 made all the craziness we saw on the first leg of our sojourn seem relaxing.

I am convinced having a speed limit of 70 gives insane drivers what they perceive as permission to drive even faster and without any care for anyone else on the road. Or, maybe it’s just our society, the “me first” mentality is everywhere, and it’s getting worse, but that’s a subject for another post.

We persevered and did make it to the Big House, which I am grateful for. The place was amazing. It is the very house Duane, Greg and Berry Oakley lived during the early years of the band. Everything was impeccably preserved and laid out in a chronological, laying out every detail of the bands journey.


You could feel the energy as we walked through the front doors. I got chills standing in Duane’s room and the kitchen where “Ramblin Man” was written.


This visit was definitely for me. My Son thought the place was cool, but didn’t get the significance when it comes to the history of music. Hopefully when he gets older it will sink in.


From the Big House we trekked to our Airbnb rental in Fayetteville. The moment we stepped through the door of this basement apartment it felt like we were home, which we greatly appreciated after our trying two-day exodus.

The apartment was stunning and beautifully decorated. We also had access to the pool and lake; unfortunately we were on the go so much our pool time was limited.

I was beyond happy that I decided to go this route. Julia and her family were amazing hosts and we look forward to hopefully returning one day. If anyone decides to head to the Atlanta area, I highly recommend looking Julia up.

Saturday, June 17th, we headed into Senoia for Dad’s Zombie Road Trip with Will Riggs, Chandler Riggs’ (AKA Carl) real Dad. He does a walking and a driving tour.


We opted for the walking tour because the areas he drives to are ones we had seen on our 2014 trip. The walking tour is 1 1/2 hours centered around Senoia, which was Woodbury in TWD, and the Alexandria Safe Zone, which is a housing development right next to downtown Senoia.


On our previous trip in 2014, we had explored Senoia a little bit, but not with the behind the scene stories Will dished out at every stop. Read the rest of this entry »

Permission to Pause

I had every good intention of making this month’s post all about my Son and my TWD Summer Road Trip, which took place from June 15th – June 22nd, but when I woke up this morning, I realized I was biting off more than I could chew (no pun intended.)


I have been hurriedly writing the recap during my lunch breaks this week, but I am only half way through our trip and would never be able to complete it before midnight tonight.

If I had the energy in the evening I might have, but by the time I get home after a long day at work, it’s all can do to get dinner, clean up and conjure up my lunch for the next day.

When I started this blog three years ago, my goal was to post monthly, which I have done religiously. The idea of not posting any month is not one I take lightly, but I “paused” this morning and meditated on all that transpired this month and decided it was OK to give myself “permission to pause.”

13614181 - glassy aqua blue play pause icon

I’ve given myself permission to take a break after a busy end of school year, which ran right into our road trip, which tallied up over 2,000 miles of driving, then back to work without a day to regroup. Add to it, one hell of a busy week at work.

In simple words “I’m spent!”

Tired Woman

I want the upcoming 4-day weekend to be time for me. Will I do chores around the house? Sure, but at a leisurely pace, allowing myself time to breath, and not chastising myself for any tasks I don’t accomplish.

This is something I’m not very good at, and am working on learning how to lighten up on myself. Something I need to do, not just for me, but for my Son too.

I can be very driven and list oriented, setting goals and pushing till I achieve everything on my list. This isn’t a bad trait, but it can be limiting and can keep me from allowing myself to play.

This is one of the biggest contrasts between my Son and I, and because he has not found a job for the Summer, is making me twitch a bit. I don’t want to see him waste his Summer away, and after his first week on his own, I’m concerned he will.


My Son is not very self-motivated, which concerns me on many levels, but pushing and nagging is not the answer. Nor is resenting the fact that he’s at home, doing as minimal as possible, while I’m at work, spinning in circles, then coming home with more work to do.

Last night the hammer came down, with Mom giving him an ultimatum. Either start being more productive during the day (He has things he needs to accomplish.) or I take his laptop to work with me.

I believe he needed to hear this, but after I pondered my own situation this morning, I realized he too deserves the opportunity to “pause.”

He worked his butt off this past school year, and although we went on vacation already, neither one of us has had the opportunity to just be happy the insanity of his Junior Year is behind us.

The key thing for me though, is to make sure he doesn’t stay stuck on pause, which is where that ultimatum comes into play.

In addition, July and August will be busy unto themselves, even without a job. This is the Summer the serious college stuff gets put in motion, which will most definitely challenge both of us.

Add to it band rehearsals, band camp, Senior pics and doctors appointments and I’m thinking were going to need a “pause” before we head into Senior Year and my Son’s final marching band season, which as a booster member can be even busier for me.

So, with that said, I wish you all a very Happy 4th of July and promise next month’s post will bring you the great adventures of our TWD Summer Road Trip, the 2017 Edition.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2017. All rights reserved.

Pause – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_hemantraval’>hemantraval / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Tired Woman – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_memoangeles’>memoangeles / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Cardigan Carol and Carl. Watch out walkers we're packing heat.

Cardigan Carol and Carl. Watch out walkers we’re packing heat.

During a recent conversation with one of my Sisters, we got on the subject of my son and my cosplaying escapade at the Walker Stalker Convention in Philly the end of September. My son went as Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) from “The Walking Dead” and I went as Cardigan Carol (Melissa McBride); cookie baking, cardigan wearing Carol from the back half of Season 5. Since my Sister does not watch “The Walking Dead,” I gave her a little background on the characters, particularly Carol.

Carol - Season 1

Carol – Season 1

Carol - Season 5

Carol – Season 5

Cardigan Carol, with Carl

Cardigan Carol, with Carl

Explaining Carol’s transition from abused wife in Season 1 to a butt kicking, take no names, badass woman who rescued Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company single handedly from the cannibals at Terminus. Noting once within the walls of the Alexandria Safe Zone she reverted back to the submissive, cookie and casserole baking housewife persona she once was, not because she believed it was safe to shed her badass mamma side, but for protection from the unknown. Not knowing who the people within the safe zone were and what they may or may not be capable of, she felt it best to hold back who she was at her core. Believing the old version of herself was the one the Alexandrians wanted to see. Plus, it would enable her to move around unnoticed, blending in, allowing her to be the watcher. Appearing to be just like them, not toughened by the walker world on the other side of the walls, Carol was able to fall right into place with the locals. Fortunately though, as we’ve already seen in Season 6, she has not lost any of her badass skills.

I was surprised when my Sister told me she sees me more as the badass Carol than the Cardigan Carol. Yes, I have on more than one occasion been the Momma Bear protecting my son, and even walked out of a dead-end marriage to save my sanity, but, comparing this to a character like the evolved Carol I would not. This made me ponder the “characters” we all play in our daily lives and how we see ourselves vs. how others see us. In addition, how much fictional characters may actually influence our behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

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