Waking the Walker

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

Tag: walkers

Time is a Walker

Why is it, the older I get, time just seems to fly by at the blink of an eye? And this time of year it feels like it’s moving at warp speed and all the things that need to get done are speeding by like a big blur.

16065826 - time space

My “To Do” list changes hourly, not daily, as I cross tasks off and revise. Tackling tasks based on due dates, like if it needs to get shipped, when is the latest date I can ship and still have the package arrive in time for Christmas.

Since my Son hit high school and is part of the marching band, my free time is even more limited during the football season. If the team makes the playoffs, which it has every year, the time I have to accomplish holiday tasks is seriously compromised. Add to it my hospital stay the beginning of November (see my post Dealing with Sudden and Unexpected Change https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/dealing-with-sudden-and-unexpected-change/) which ate up the last of my vacation days and I’m more than strapped. Forced to only having weekends to get the big tasks done was been daunting.

Early in the month, as I contemplated all I needed to accomplish before Christmas Day arrived, I realized it felt like a horde of Walkers, adorned in ratty, blood and guts covered, extremely ugly holiday sweaters, was chasing me down. I didn’t have a tank to climb in, Daryl to swoosh in on his bike to rescue me, a walker guts poncho to mask my smell or a dumpster to crawl under. It was just me, armed with my list and the Walkers were getting closer no matter how fast I moved.


Even the best time juggling, multi-taskers can fumble and look like Andrea handling a gun for the first time. The safety is on and the Walkers have broken through the front doors. It’s time to panic, OR get resourceful and creative, just as the gang on “The Walking Dead” does when they are pinned into a corner.


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Fear of the Unknown

We all experience fear in some way throughout our lives. It’s a normal human emotion. With every stage or rite of passage in our lives, apprehension can set in, it’s all part of the growth process.

As children our fears tend to be simple and easily eased by an adult. As we age though, the things that make us pause become a bit more serious. These are the things that are tied directly to our future.


A wrong decision could change the course of our lives forever, which is why I completely understand my Son’s apprehension when it comes to driving.

By our teens, fear of the unknown can be extremely polarizing, preventing us from moving forward and possibly stunting our emotional health. To be honest, polarization can happen at any age, and again, we’ve all probably experienced some level of it at some point in our lives. As a parent though, it’s my job to help guide my Son through these polarizing experiences so he can move forward.

The question is how to do this without seeming pushy or prying?

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Much like walkers, teenagers can meander aimlessly, not in search of fresh flesh, but with their noses buried into an electronic devise and no destination in mind, unless they’re playing Pokemon Go. In addition they spend much of their free time hauled up in the dark cocoon of their room, staring into the blue glow of their computer monitor, but, unlike walkers who would be motivated by any loud noise, it takes more than that to get a teenager to leave their “cave” even when food is involved.

As a matter of fact, if their headphone wearing teens, like mine, they are even more insulated from noise, making the motivation factor an even bigger challenge. Not even the smell of food can lure them from the security of their virtual world. To be honest, I think walkers are more motivated than most teenagers, or at least my teenager.


Motivating my walker to do anything outside of what is absolutely necessary is a major challenge. Some days even that can be extremely frustrating.

Although, my Son was determined to get exempt from final exams this past school year, which meant getting straight A’s for final grades, which he did achieve. He had a goal and was motivated to follow through. I was glowing. I felt like we were actually turning a corner.

The problem was, once accomplished, he shut down. Some shut down over the Summer can be expected, but my Son was all about getting a Summer job so he could earn money for some games he preordered which are due out in November. I figured this alone would be enough of a catalyst.

Boy was I wrong.

He thought he had a Summer job all lined up at the Daycare he volunteers at, unfortunately when we approached them about it we were told they didn’t have the money in the budget. Of course, he could still volunteer. Why pay for labor when you can get it for free.

He is volunteering one day a week, but has decided he will not continue during the school year. Can’t blame him for that. He’s been helping out there for 4 years. He knows more than some of the people who were hired after he started volunteering. He should have been hired even if just one day a week.

SO, now he had to go back to square one and it was already June. Needless to say he dilly-dallied and till he even put one application in it was the middle of July. Who wants to hire you for a couple weeks?

Zoned Out Teen

The last thing I wanted was my already zoned out walker having too much free time on his hands over the Summer. I had previously told my Son there are plenty of things to do around the house that I could pay him, outside of his standard chores, but he wasn’t very receptive, so, I decided to create an application for a House Project Assistant. He seemed to like this and completed the application at which time we discussed the projects.

One of the biggest projects was shredding old documents. I have boxes of files to shred and just never seem to have the time. The position would pay $10 per box. Easy money, right? If he did all the boxes he would have almost all the money he needed. I thought for sure this time I had found the answer to motivate my walker.

The first Saturday after completing the application he came home from his second volunteer job at the library and went right to shredding, completing one box. I was thrilled. I figured the combination of convenience of work and desire for game related funds had done the trick to get my walker moving.

47474938 - illustration of a cartoon man with shredder

We are now in August and he has not done any more shredding. He did purge his clothing which was a project avoided by both of us for a while, so I was grateful he got that done.

With Band Camp the last two weeks of August and football/marching season starting August 26th, I highly doubt I’ll see much more work out of my House Project Assistant and I’m concerned that a Summer with very little structure and self-discipline will spell disaster come his Junior Year in High School, which we all know is the year that counts the most when it comes to college.

My Son swears it will not. I hope he is right.

It’s not like he hasn’t done anything all Summer though. Besides his 2 volunteer jobs, he also had to get college and career research done and auditioned for Jazz Band and Section Leader in Band, which entailed more practice and essay writing. In addition, he did a one-week video game design camp, which turned out to be a worthy investment for his future.

Yes, I can actually say something video game related was good in reference to my Son.

As I have mentioned in the past, my son is a big gamer, and although that is not my thing, I am well aware of its relevance in the entertainment world.

Video games were not even a thing of the future when I was kid, but now there are many making a lucrative living as game creators and coders. It is for this reason that I had to finally acknowledge that it was a valid career to pursue, which made my Son very happy.

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We have already begun college visits and all of them have been to schools that offer game design as an arm of the computer science program. I find this all very exciting, but my Son seems far from exhilarated about any of it. I don’t know if it’s because the reality of moving into that phase of his life is frightening or if he just isn’t that enthusiastic.

It is for this reason that I’m concerned my very creative child who has been coming up with game ideas since he was 7 years old will end up being nothing more than a tester of someone else’s games because he’s just not that motivated. He’s got the talent and brain to be the next great game creator, but he just doesn’t seem to have the drive and I have no idea how to change that. When he’s playing he’s very enthusiastic, but when it comes to reviewing and comparing schools and what they offer he does as little as possible.


Knowing my Son, I suspect fear of being a “grown up,” so to speak, is at the root of his ambivalence. Since he showed promising signs of maturity during his Sophomore Year, I hope and pray by the time he gets through his Junior Year he will have risen to a new level in the maturity department.

If he does not, Community College may be his best option. I do not want to put out a large chunk of change for a big dog school if my Son isn’t going to do his part. Fortunately for him, the local Community College does offer Video Game Design/Programing so, it’s not like he’d be giving up on his dream, he’d just be taking the longer root to achieving it and hopefully “growing up” through the process.

So, although my Son may be “dragging his feet” in the drive to achieve department, he does still at his core have the goal to fulfill his dream of becoming a Video Game Designer/Programmer, and it is this fact that allows me to keep the faith that his enthusiasm and motivation level will shift into at least the “rabid walker” mode sometime through his Junior.


© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2016. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy of AMC

Paper Shredder – Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_brux’>brux / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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Waking a Walker is an Evolution

Like most kids, when my son was “little” he couldn’t wait to be “grown-up,” but the closer he gets to turning 18, the further he seems to regress at times. Not that 18 is really “grown-up,” but it’s a major turning point in all our lives, the completion of one cycle and start of a new one. It is most definitely scary and exhilarating at the same time. Playing Dress-Up

My son cautiously tiptoes around the whole idea of high school graduation and starting college. As a matter of fact, having just turned 16, he’s not even in any hurry to learn to drive. I do however think some of this is due to all the horrific videos they show in Drivers Ed. He is definitely fearful of getting behind the wheel, which in all honesty I am grateful for.  It’s a huge responsibility and takes a lot of focus, both of which my “walker” can struggle with at times. Although, to his credit, so far this school year (knock on wood) he’s doing well at keeping up with his work and getting good grades. And after the endless marching band season this was not always that easy.

We have touched on the subject of college and a major, but it has never been as serious a subject as it will be from this point forward. Not only does registration for classes for his Junior year need to be dealt with this month, but his first official meeting with CAP of PA College Aid, specialists in college planning, is later this month. This is the real deal and will start the process leading to the inevitable cross roads he is trying so hard to avoid.

Life just got real scary. The walkers are circling the house and it’s time to go on the offense if we want to survive.

Walkers Circling House

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Walking Among the Walkers

With the end of the regular football/marching band season the beginning of this month, I’ve been thinking about how valuable the experience of chaperoning 260 teenagers really is, particularly for a single Mom. I have truly been “walking among the walkers” for weeks now, and will continue to as long as the playoffs go. The funny thing is, I have for the most part gone unnoticed, kind of like when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Glenn Rhee (Steven Yuen) from “The Walking Dead” cover themselves in “walker guts” so they can go unnoticed in a horde of walkers in hopes of getting to a vehicle so they can escape the overridden city of Atlanta. Carol (Melissa McBride) does the same thing so she can mingle with walkers to get into Terminus in order to free Rick and his gang in the Season Five opener. The stunt worked in both cases and for the most part works for me too.Glenn and Rick, walker guts

Granted, I’m not covered in “sweaty teenager stink” but because these kids hormone riddled brains keep them stuck in their own worlds, they are oblivious to parent chaperones standing right next to them. That is until you catch them saying or doing something inappropriate and you make yourself visible, then, all it takes is the look and they know they’re being watched. At least when they become aware of your presence, they don’t chase you down and try to make you dinner like a walker would.

Remaining anonymous aids me in getting into the psyche of the teenage “aka walker” brain and reminds me I was once a walker too and I would never want to go back to High School. It’s allowed me to step outside of my role as my son’s Mother and try to look with empathy at the plight of a high school student. The world today is vastly different than my high school years and there are plenty more pressures put on kids today. Not just from the teachers but from parents, like me. Teen Horde

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OK, my son’s freshman year of high school came to a close June 15th and I should be thrilled that we have made it through somewhat unscathed. The operative word here is “somewhat.”

Granted, being his freshmen year in high school, I anticipated more challenges then his middle school years, so I was “somewhat” prepared. Besides the standard concerns of a larger work load, adjusting to a bigger school meant more ground to cover between classes, which was at the top of the list. For all of you who have been following my blog, you’re well aware that my son is not always good about plotting a plan, which in this case was mandatory. Fortunately, with the help of his guidance counselor, he figured out the right routes and when to make locker stops to eliminate the tardy to class issue that popped up early in the year.

Another fear was marching band. Could he handle the intense pre-school summer camp and football games every Friday night for two months, plus playoffs? Could I too? There were some adjustments to make with my work schedule in order to pull off the early arrival time each week, but, my son and I made it through camp and football/parade season like we had done this all in a past life. He didn’t even complain and actually had fun. I breathed a little sigh of relief.

red flagUnfortunately, it was a bit too early to let my guard down. As the year progressed, history began to repeat itself in the academic area, which is what disturbs me and is curbing my enthusiasm for the end of my son’s freshman year. It’s obvious he isn’t learning from his past mistakes. As he did all through middle school, he started the new school year with gusto, excited to get back to school and new challenges, but by mid-year, red flags began to appear. There were missed assignments, an occasional poor test/assignment grade and zoning out in class, as noted in e-mails from his teachers.

Don’t get me wrong, some subjects he’s breezed right through: History, English, German, Band and believe it or not Gym, he’s stayed consistently in the A department, but, in Engineering, Math, and even Science, his grades have bounced up and down, to include almost failing engineering and having some failing test grades in math. By the end of the second and third marking periods, he pulled his final grade up and made honor roll, but, just the fact that he got to this point is very alarming to me. Especially the Math troubles. Math was always his thing. After he missed a week of school due to the flu in eighth grade, he did have a few issues with algebra 1, but by the end of the year, he seemed to be back on track. This year it’s a different story, as of now, he’s teetering on a “C” as a final grade in math. He’s not happy and neither am I. Particularly when his new interest is computer programming. Can’t be a programer without a mind for math.
Zoned Out Teen
I would love to blame this on the virtual gaming world my son loves so much, but, since the issue isn’t across the board, I know it’s more than that. Needless to say, he’s had to hustle to get really good grades on the last couple math quizzes and tests in order to help pull his grade up, but, now everything is hinging on his final exam. With that in mind, I’ve amped up my ammo and brought in a tutor. Not just for final exam prep, but for the summer. He’s not getting off that easy, I’m well aware of the threat of idle minds over the summer and the damage that can be done. Makes the walkers on “The Walking Dead” look like hordes of roaming intellectuals. Because of this, I’m extremely concerned about what the summer will do to my semi-de-zompified teenage son’s brain. Any advances he did make over his freshman year could be overridden much too quickly if his mind is left to vegetate in the gaming world he thinks he’s going to spend his summer vacation in. Read the rest of this entry »

Give It Your All

“The average person puts about 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes its hat off to those who put more than 50% of their capacity into their work, and the world stands on it’s head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” – Andrew Carnegie

Besides the weekly task of waking my walker and battle to cut back on video game/electronic use, I also struggle with trying to impress upon my son the importance of not just showing up. The importance of giving your all, not just enough to get by.  This is a huge frustration for me because I can see my son’s potential. Potential just wasting away with each passing marking period. The issue has been getting progressively worse since middle school, and with his freshman year in high school it has come to a head.

Snoozing TeenHis grades are see-sawing and he’s carrying a “C” in his engineering elective class. A class I figured he’d ace because it’s hands on and he loves building stuff.  At first I thought the “C” was an indication that maybe engineering really isn’t his thing, even with his Lego junky disposition. Since he was a toddler, he has been building sets well above his age level. Engineering just seemed like the perfect fit. How could I be so wrong? It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to speak with his engineering teacher that I found out it was nothing like that. My son does get the material, he just doesn’t give it his all and it’s not that he doesn’t enjoy what he’s doing, he does. The bottom line, he’s become academically lazy. He starts out with gusto, but fizzles out three quarters of the way through. His follow-through has become a follow-stop.

A habit that is getting increasingly worse as he gets older and one I believe has occurred because in his elementary days he was never really challenged and didn’t have to work hard to get good grades. He never really learned how to “Give it his all.” because he didn’t really have to. When he hit middle school, more was expected of him, and at times there was evidence of more effort, but in general, he found a way to just get by, even though his teachers and myself told him this will come back to bite him in high school. He needed to pick up his game and change his habits before he got to high school, otherwise he will fall behind and end up playing catch-up.

Now, all our predictions are coming true. Although he may still be getting A’s and B’s in his academic classes, he’s had more and more poor test grades, especially in math, which used to be one of his top subjects.  Eventually this will trickle into his final grade if he doesn’t wake up soon. He is actually getting help with math after school so he can get caught up. His mid-term exam was horrible. This is a first and a major red flag, not just for me, but for him, because he thought he did fine on the exam.
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LOSS Addendum

Since starting this blog a year ago, finding “The Walking Dead” thread that held each months theme threadtogether usually came pretty easy. The link was always fairly obvious. As a matter of fact, it was that thread that moved the theme forward. I could see the beginning, middle and end before I ever typed a word. That was until last month. I had a seedling of an idea but wasn’t quite sure how I was going to seam it all together with my TWD thread. Even with the topic of loss, an obvious issue during an apocalypse, I was at a loss, no pun intended. The light bulb never went off. I did complete the post, but with minimal TWD stitching. I didn’t feel it was best, although my siblings felt it was, partly because it didn’t have a strong TWD tie. (Note, they do not watch the show, but are considering checking it out since I started this blog. Their curiosity has been sparked.)

Part of my struggle with my December post was not just the holidays, but the inner struggles my families personal challenge was and still is creating. (See December post for details.) My mind was clouded and my heart filled with sorrow. Something you’d think would help move the subject of loss along, but not in this case, it frustrated and stagnated me. It made me feel like I should abandon this blog like the many homes and businesses left behind when the zombie apocalypse hit in “The Walking Dead.” It was my personal goal to post monthly that helped me forge ahead. I didn’t want to let myself down. As I pulled my final words together on the 31st, I told myself the TWD thread may not be as strong as my previous posts, but it was good enough and once read, the reader would understand why. As I hit publish with just a few hours to spare on December 31st, a sense of relief filled my soul. I did it despite my struggles. I could toast the new year feeling good about myself and my blog.

As I sat on New Year’s Eve with my cocktail of choice in hand watching AMC’s New Year’s TWD marathon I released all concerns about the December post and let myself be consumed by my now favorite apocalyptic world filled with walker mayhem and unforgettable characters. By rewatching the show from the very first episode, my son and both realized there were quite a few details we had either forgotten or missed. It was like watching it for the first time. We were sucked in all over again.
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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

By the time I post this, we will be a week into summer vacation and my son’s middle school years will be a blur in my rearview mirror, so, I thought it would be the ideal time to evaluate the impact my new “TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic” has had on my son and myself. This experiment, as I like to call it, really just got off the ground in January, so I’m only pooling from five months, but, knowing that summer and high school (UGHHHH!) will bring on new challenges, I figured it would be good to review what works and what doesn’t. So, here we go. Note, if you haven’t read any other posts besides this one, the next couple paragraphs won’t make much sense, but hopefully they’ll inspire you to read my previous posts.

First I’ll start with the concept, “TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic.” Knowing that I have hit a nerve with my son on more than one occasion, pretty much seals this as a valid method of parenting, at least for me. Plus, having “The Walking Dead” as a bonding factor has helped our relationship grow in ways I never thought possible. As a matter of fact, my end of middle school gift to my son was a trip to the Philly Wizard World/Comic Con, where we had our picture taken with Norman Reedus, AKA, Daryl Dixon in “The Walking Dead.” Then, later in the summer, we will be road tripping to Atlanta to do the Big Zombie Tours by Atlanta Movie Tours, Inc. These are tours of areas in and around Atlanta where “The Walking Dead” is filmed. I don’t know to many 14 year old boys who would be excited to spend their summer vacation with just Mom. It’s amazing what these zombies have done for us.

Carl in AMC's "The Walking Dead"


“What Would Carl Do?” worked well at first, but, when Carl’s character became a smart aleck brat teen in the back half of season four, the last thing I wanted was my son looking to him as a role model. Carl did start to redeem himself by the end of the season, but, until I see where the writers go with him in season five, I will back off a little on this one.
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