Waking the Walker

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

Tag: Family

Waking the Woman


To all my regular “Waking the Walker” readers I have officially taken the leap from Single Parenting blogging to Self-Discovery blogging.

In January of 2019 I launched “Waking the Woman – a Mother’s quest to rediscover herself after her Son leaves for college”

https://wakingthewoman.com/

Goddess Masthead

This new blog is very much in it’s infancy (pun intended), but if you enjoyed reading my adventures while parenting my Son, I would hope you’d find my journey to rediscover the woman that got lost during those parenting years just as interesting and entertaining. And maybe even inspirational.

To date this sojourn has already hit roadblocks, but unearthing the woman that got lost while focusing on raising my Son is going to take a lot more work than I ever thought.

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As I noted in this months post “Out of Sorts” I have just had the epiphany that I am stuck in the limbo between two worlds: that of Full-Time Mom and Empty Nester. Thus making the road to rediscovery even more challenging.

In many ways I am now the “Walker” meandering the earth being swayed by whatever way the horde may go.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca


As one year draws to a close and a new one beckons on the horizon, thinking about wiping the slate clean and starting fresh is an invigorating thing, regardless of what you experienced the previous year.

For my Son and I, 2018 was a year full of a flurry of activity and major change. My Son graduated from high school and headed off to college, leaving me an empty nester.

College

Needless to say this has been a huge adjustment for both us. BUT, now that we are 4 months into it, I can say we are both holding our own.

It was a bit shaky for me the first month or two. Coming home to an empty house, and eating dinner alone being the most difficult adjustments. With time however, it became the new norm, which makes both my Son and I truly appreciate meals together when he’s home on breaks.

So, as a new year approaches, and our new status established, my Son a college student, and me an empty nester, I can officially sign off on “surviving my Son’s zombie years, AKA his teens.”  

With that said, the time has come to bid farewell to my dear friend “Waking the Walker”

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactics/

WTW-twitter

My first blog post was January 29, 2014 and since then, this blog has not just documented the highs and lows of the past four years, but become the anchor that kept me grounded, and helped bring my Son and I closer.

In addition, it aided me in navigating some very challenging times. By writing about whatever was testing me, I was able to find a way to resolve the issue.

It will not be easy to let go of “Waking the Walker” just as it was not easy to see my Son head off to college, but it is the healthy thing to do. I know it is time for me to focus on rediscovering who I am beyond being a Mom.

In meditating on all this, a line from the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic came to mind: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca

Perseverence

This song came out in the late nineties, during the time when I had left my husband and was on a quest to rediscover myself post a suffocating marriage. It was also during this time I met my Son’s father, which in turn lead to me becoming a Mom.

Is it irony or coincidence that this song came to mind as I meditate on once again forging off on a new journey of rediscovery?

Or is it just the universe reminding me that the last time I stepped into this zone the most amazing and wonderful thing occurred. I met the love of my life and became a Mom.

Being a Mom was something I had all but given up on at that time, so it goes without saying that I threw myself in 200%. The center of my universe was and always will be my Son, but I do know he needs to forge his own path, without Mom right by his side. As do I.

Where this new adventure will take me is yet to be seen. Who I am now is very different from who I was back in the nineties before I became a Mom, so this quest of rediscovery will most certainly be different.

Not to say that I’m older and wiser, but I have experienced a lot these past twenty-some years since then, and it is those experiences that will shape and mold my new journey of rediscovery.

Flying Solo

If there is one thing though that I can take from my previous sojourn, it is to “let go and let God.” By allowing things to transpire in God’s time, not our time, we allow the universe to step in and work it’s magic.

So, as my Son and I bid adieu to 2018, and usher in 2019, we will look to the New Year with wide-eyed optimism. Acknowledging that although we are now both on our own adventure, we are still partners in the great adventure called life.

I do hope that some of you who have been regular “Waking the Walker” readers will continue to follow me into my next sojourn. I will post one final post in January of 2019 with the official link to my new blog “Waking the Woman” – a mother’s quest to rediscover herself after her Son leaves for college.

Until then, I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

Sunrise

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2018. All rights reserved.

At a Crossroads Without a Compass


In 1995, at the age of 34, I walked out of a dead-end marriage. I was beyond stressed, not just about my marriage, but work too.

Anyone who has ever worked in advertising or marketing can relate to the ridiculous levels of stress one can experience in this world. In the beginning it was exciting, but one can only take all that BS for so long, and I had been at for 15 years.

I felt trapped at work and home. I felt like there was no way out.

Dead End Sign Maze No Way Out Danger Warning 3d Illustration

It was a co-worker who encouraged me to just set a date, and leave my husband. At first I thought the idea was nuts.

How do you just do that?

The worse things got though, the more it made sense. 

I knew I could only tackle one life-sucking situation at a time. Leaving my husband was a lot easier than figuring out what to do about my job, especially because the stress of the two made me brain-dead.

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But Really, What ARE You Feeling?


Over the course of the past couple months I’ve spent a lot time expressing the emotional roller coaster I’m feeling in regards to my Son heading off to college this month.

roller coaster

This is an extremely challenging time because I’m excited for my Son to step into his own, but at the same time fearful because it’s all new for him.

Plus, facing the reality of an empty house can be a bit much to bear some days.

In order to ease this transition, I have been doing my best to process my emotions as they roll over me, and been open and forthcoming about all of them, knowing that keeping them bottled up will make dropping my Son off at college even harder.

My Son on the other hand has been very closed mouth. I figured by early August he’d be expressing some emotions regarding his new adventure, but I only recently found out from a friend that he is indeed anxious, especially about meeting his roommate, and believe it not, worried about me being alone.

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Finding out he’s anxious didn’t surprise me. Who wouldn’t be, it’s all new. Everything about his life will change.

But finding out he’s concerned about leaving me alone surprised me. I was touched, but it made me realize I need to make an effort to get him to express these emotions to me so I can assure him Mom will be fine, and so will he.

At about the two weeks out mark, I commented, “You do realize there’s only two weeks till we move you to college, right?”

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Home for Dinner


With the extremely busy schedules most families have today, sitting down to dinner, as a family is becoming a thing of the past. It’s actually more of a luxury when it happens. For many, dinner is grabbing fast food on the fly between practices, games, school events and lessons of some sort.

Growing up, my mother made sure there was a home-cooked meal every night, and we all sat down to eat dinner together as a family. Granted, this was in the sixties and seventies and we did not have the insane schedules most families have today, but my Mom was a single Mom who worked full-time.

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That in itself was somewhat rare for that time period, but my father passed away when I was three, and with five additional siblings, ranging in age from 18 month to early 20’s, my Mom had no other option but to get back into the work force. Thank goodness she had a nursing degree to fall back on.

So, for me, a single Mom who works full-time and cooks dinner every night was the norm. This is why I believe I am hardwired to be that way. Eating out, even fast food is and was a treat, not a common thing.

Even during our hectic marching band season through out my Son’s high school years, I would juggle my work schedule so I could be home on a Friday with enough time to heat up leftovers so my Son and I could eat together before we went to the stadium. I would calculate what I would cook earlier in the week so there would be enough for Friday night. Sometimes I’d supplement with some frozen food, but the bulk was home-cooked warm-ups.

Having that time together, no matter how brief, was and still is important to me.

Home for Dinner

My Son and I may be going in a million directions all day, but come dinnertime, we put everything on pause. We don’t answer the phone unless we know it’s important. Eating dinner together is a way to play catch-up after a day apart. 

As my Son has grown, and become more vocal about life in general, this has become the best part of my day. That’s why I get upset when he drags his feet coming to the dinner table because he’s caught up on something on his computer. Mostly gaming, which can infuriate me even more, but as long as we have time together at the end of the day, I let it slide, sort of.

Now that he’s working, I truly appreciate the nights he will be home for dinner. He has no regular schedule, so when he gets a day shift or a night off, I’m thrilled.

Even if I am still putting up with the feet dragging and late arrival for dinner, he’s home for dinner with Mom, something that will be a rarity when he heads off to college in August.

Being so programmed to pre-plan meals to work around my Son’s schedule, I’m quite sure I’ll feel lost the first couple months when I only need to worry about me.

It’s already evident the nights he works. Only having to plan a meal for me isn’t quite the same.

I am however using these nights as a means to mentally and emotionally prepare for dinner for one.

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There are many things I will have to adjust to when my Son is away at college, but eating alone will be one of the toughest adjustments.

Dinner has always been our time together. Not having him across the table from me will be a constant reminder that I am now an empty nester.

Granted, I can try to look at the positives that come with my son away at college. Like my food bills will be drastically less, and if I don’t want to cook, I won’t have to, but right now those things aren’t enough to balance the scales.

With time though, I know I will adjust, but I also know I will be looking forward to every visit home my Son will get, just knowing that he will be home for dinner will bring me great joy.

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© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2018. All rights reserved.

Old Days – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_dinkoobraz’>dinkoobraz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Home for Dinner – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_iconicbestiary’>iconicbestiary / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Dinner for One – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_3drenderings’>3drenderings / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Tying Up Loose Ends


By the time I post this my Son and I will have completed the gauntlet that was hell week. The week leading up to the band trip to Orlando. 

The reason I’m calling this hell week is because there is something every night leading up to our Friday flight to Florida.

Monday night is parade rehearsal along with an after school orchestra rehearsal, Tuesday is a mandatory meeting about the trip, Wednesday is Spring concert rehearsal and Thursday is the Spring concert, after which uniforms and instruments will be collected so they can be transported to Florida via truck.

Full Calendar

Thank goodness they are not squeezing in luggage collection prior to our departure. I was worried about that. Two years ago luggage collection was the day before, but we left on a Sunday. The process has been simplified, with the students bringing their luggage with them the morning they leave. Of course they have to be at the school at the ungodly hour of 3:30AM, but at least they can sleep on the bus to the airport and plane.

My Son and I could have bowed out of this trip, and we did come close, but being his Senior year, we both figured it would be a great way to end his high school marching band experience. 

Knowing now that my Son won’t be attending a college that has a marching band I am grateful we did. (His college of choice offers pep band, jazz ensemble and symphonic band, so he will continue to play, he just won’t be marching.)

Looking Back

This trip truly plays into the “year of lasts” which I wrote about at the beginning of band camp in August. At this point, we have checked off quite a few “lasts” already (last band camp, last football season, last winter concert, etc.. ) and in all honesty as we draw closer to my Son’s graduation we most certainly feel like we are tying up loose ends.

Kind of funny “The Walking Dead” has done the same thing. Capping off Season 8 with the final battle between Negan and the Saviors, and Rick and company, with Rick’s gang winning, thus opening the door for a new beginning at the start of Season 9. Just as my Son and I will face a new beginning when he heads off to college in August.

Quite the nice parallel for the final months of this blog. Thank you TWD.

TWD Finale

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What Would Carl Do?


It was these very words that sparked a new way of parenting for me fours years ago, and became the catalyst for this blog.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/twd-apocalyptic-parenting-tactic/#more-2

As any parent knows, dealing with a teenager creates a whole new level of challenges. As the hormones kick in, that once sweet, little, abiding child becomes a disconnected, zoned out, somewhat disrespectful foot-dragging walker. Testing you at every turn.

One has to get creative when approaching such a creature.

Zombie Teen

Just as I was at my wits end, it entered my mind that maybe, just maybe, by using “The Walking Dead” (our new found bonding agent) as a tuning fork, I could break through the teen brain fog and make a connection that my son would understand.

My Son had already connected to the character of Carl Grimes, the teenager on the show, so that was where I turned first.

With that in mind, I thought what better a way than then to ask, “What would Carl do?” at the times my Son was slacking and not carrying his share of the load. Or just plain not making wise choices about how he uses his time, particularly with schoolwork due.

The first time I said it, my Son heard me, immediately, and gave me a strange look, like “what are you up to?” I just smiled, said think about it and walked away.

Over time these words have evolved based on what Carl was up to on “The Walking Dead.” Some seasons Carl has been a beaming example for my Son, other seasons he proved to be “What Not To Do” and I used both to my advantage.

Yes, at times my Son got annoyed, but because he was annoyed, I knew he knew what I was getting at.

Of course Carl wasn’t the only character that made for great examples. There is a huge cast on TWD, with characters behaving badly and saintly, all of which make for examples. The subject matter of the show, surviving a zombie apocalypse, sets up for a plethora of behaviors ripe for the picking.

Some may think I’m crazy for even considering such a notion as to use fictitious characters as examples of what to do or not do in life, but I can honestly say I’ve seen growth with my Son since adopting this tactic.

Read the rest of this entry »

My Walker is Waking


As I work my way through the last year of writing this blog, I find deciding on the theme for the month becoming more challenging than when I started the blog four years ago. 

This is actually a good thing because it means my “walker” may actually be “waking” to the real world around him. The teenage brain fog is lifting, allowing my Son to get out of his head and be in-tune to his environment.

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I’m thrilled because this is key to finding success in college, which will be the next leg of his developmental journey.

Not saying we don’t still have challenges and there is some regression here and there, he is a teenager after all.

The good thing is there have been definite signs of growth over the course of the four years I’ve been writing this blog. My Son is discovering whom he is and has gotten comfortable in his own skin.

He is also starting to look to the future with excitement and gets that his actions now have a bearing on how that future plays out.

In addition, he gets that he will no longer have Mom as a buffer and has to get better at being “independent” in all areas, not just some. Just the fact that he acknowledges there are areas he needs to work on is a huge step.

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This all sets up for his success in the future which is all I hope and pray for.

Parenting is a challenging job and all too often over the years I have second guessed myself, so seeing positive results at this point in our journey is very gratifying.

I have no doubt that college will put before us a whole new set of challenges, but for now I will bask in the sunshine of my walker’s awakening.

So, during this the month of “Thanksgiving” when we all pause to count our blessings and ponder all we are grateful for, I most certainly can say I am joyous my “walker” is showing signs of “waking.”

I am also eternally grateful for all who have stood by, and continue to stand by, my side. Offering not only support, but also guidance. As a single parent I have never had a partner as a sounding board or buffer, it has been just me, facing some difficult decisions, so having access to outside council has been my saving grace.

Without it, I’m not sure we would be where we are in this journey. 

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As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I have most definitely accessed mine and am beholden to all.

With my Son continuing to work on his driving skills in preparation for taking his driver’s test in hopes of getting his license, I am beyond thankful that he is “waking” and feel blessed that he did not rush into this extremely serious and responsible step prematurely.

Just like every other parent though, I can’t help but worry, praying that he does not relapse into “walker” mode while he is driving. 

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This however is a “theme” for another month. I want to hang onto the euphoria of my “walker waking” for as long as I can.

 

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

Meditation – Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_lenm’>lenm / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Walker Brain – Too Tired to Think


OK, so for the first time in the four years I’ve been writing this blog, I’m coming up dry in the monthly theme department. It’s not that I have writers block, it’s just that my Son and I have been busy beyond even our normal busy. So much so, even my brain is tired.

Walkers Circling House

October is always a extra-busy month when it comes to marching band because parades (one short one and one endless one) are added into the mix beyond football games, but this year my Son’s school also hosted a Tournament of Bands, at which the band performed twice, and the music boosters ran the concession stand, at which I worked. So the weekend of the Tournament, there was an away game Friday night, the furthest we’ve traveled regular season in two years, the Tournament Saturday and a parade Sunday.

This gauntlet was taxing on everyone involved, but my Son and I felt it even more. Why you ask? We had just returned from a trip to Arizona for my nephew’s wedding the previous weekend. This was the furthest West either of us had traveled and going out it was wonderful gaining time, but coming back it really got us, particularly because we landed at midnight our time, which got us home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

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We did take Wednesday to recuperate, but Thursday we were off and running, so we had little time to even catch our breath. Added to this I’ve been crazy busy at work, which makes my days just seem endless. Just getting done what had to be done at home was about all I could handle.

You would not have wanted to see my house the weeks after the trip, I had laundry sitting in the living room for two weeks before I could get it put away. Our suitcases are still sitting in the dining room waiting to be taken to the basement, along with unfinished project that have been sitting since band camp started in August.

Don’t get me wrong, our trip was an amazing whirlwind adventure, and one I would do again, but it did challenge me in the energy department, especially because I started with a head cold before we left, which put my energy and brain functions in a deficit to start. Add cold meds to mix I was in a constant state of brain fog.

Our trip West is a major highlight of the year and one we had been looking forward too since we booked our flight in February. I made sure I didn’t let the brain fog or low energy levels get in the way of enjoying time spent with family. Or the opportunity to see one of God’s greatest creations, the Grand Canyon. Words and photos don’t do this stunning piece of landscape justice. It most definitely should be on everyone’s bucket list.

One thing is for sure, if not for the wedding, I know I would not have gotten out West to not only see the Grand Canyon, but Las Vegas (at least the strip) and Flagstaff. My Son and I flew into Las Vegas, where we connected with one of my nephews and his family, then drove to Flagstaff. The scenery was spectacular. So glad I took my nephew’s advise.

So, although the end of October brought the end of the regular football season, I’m not sure November will be much different because the football team is undefeated, and we are now headed into the playoffs.

One thing is for sure though, nothing will compare to the gauntlet October put before us. The key thing though is we survived, and had a fantastic time, making memories we will never forget. And that’s all that really matters.

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

TWD pics courtesy of AMC

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.

WTW_TShirt_Final

 

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

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