Waking the Walker

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

TWD Apocalyptic Parenting Tactic


I’ve never been a fan of “doomsday” stories  and am far from a “survivalist” thinker. Not that I haven’t found myself in challenging situations, wondering how I was going to make it through. None of which, of course, were comparable to the “end of the world”, but challenges that I now realize, could definitely break the weak of spirit.

My biggest challenge, thus far, was becoming a single parent at a time in my life when being a Mom was the last thing on my mind. Recently divorced and forging ahead with my new found love, screenwriting, falling in love with anyone other than one of my characters was not even a consideration. I had spent way too many years in a deadend relationship to give even Brad Pitt a second glance. That was until I experienced real love. Not just any love, the kind that blinds you and makes everything around you stop. The kind you never thought existed. The kind that truly touches your soul. The kind that makes you decide to have a child at 38.

When the relationship fell apart after our son was born, I was upset, but never gave up hope of reconciliation. Ours was a destiny thing and meant to be, I just knew it. That was until the summer of 2003 when the love of my life died accidentally. Our son was 3.

Yes, at that point, it did feel like the end of the world, but I had a child to raise and harboring heartache wasn’t going to help. So, I went into survivor mode. Instincts moved me through the hours, days, months and years. My son is now 14, some how I’ve made it through the papoose phase, toddler tantrums, pre-school chapter, elementary school shifting (It was during these years that I discovered my son was gifted IQ. A discovery that has brought with it challenges I never knew existed and forced me to get creative with my parenting tactics.) and am now on the last year of middle school. Ouch! I’m exhausted thinking about how far I’ve/we’ve come and how far I/we still have to go.
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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.

An Attitude of Gratitude


After the insanity of the past couple months at work, which lead me to feeling as though I had lost my way, I had one day early this month where I was actually caught up, at least for a few hours.

Something I haven’t experienced in months.

I knew this moment would not last long; so I took advantage of it and allowed myself time to breathe. During that time I meditated on the fact that despite the frenetic days we can all experience at my office, everyone generally stays in an upbeat mood.

Meditation

Are there moments of bitching and complaining? Sure, we are human after all. We have our limits.

Overall though, there is an attitude of gratitude. My co-workers are grateful to have a job, and have the opportunity to do overtime to help make ends meet. Not every company would be so generous.

It made me realize that although in general I too am upbeat, over the course of the past couple months, I have had some days that I resented having to do overtime.

Not because I mind doing it. Honestly I don’t mind an extra hour every day, or a day here and there when I might need more than that to get almost caught up.

What I resent is that I now need to do it in order to make ends meet. I don’t have an option.

You see, my Son had received Social Security benefits because his father passed when he was three. This additional monthly income allowed me to make ends meet and not have to do overtime all the time in order to do so.

BUT, when my Son graduated from high school that money was cut off. Personally I feel that makes no sense. Wouldn’t that money come in handy when sending your child to college? Of course it would.

Obviously Social Security doesn’t think that way, but I won’t get into that now.

Leading up to the date this money was to be cut off I was having anxiety attacks about how to replace this money. Did I need to take on a part time job? Or, would there be enough work at work to warrant consistent overtime?

Perseverence

My answer came as things began to get busier than normal in late Spring, and explode through the Summer and Fall. Just at the time I needed it.

Will things stay this way? I don’t know for sure, but for now I am able to fill the financial void that caused me great anxiety, which is a good thing.

And, over the course of the past couple months I have adjusted to a longer workday. It has become my new norm.

In addition, should I need to supplement with a part-time job if the OT ends up not being consistent, I will be mentally and emotionally prepared.

So, although I may not be thrilled that working more than 40 hours a week is my new way of life, I am grateful that the opportunity is there.

I am also grateful that I didn’t have to do this while my Son was still at home. There are many families out there that can’t say the same.

While pondering all this, I have realized though that you can’t just say you are grateful, you have to live life with a grateful heart. It has to be at your core, all the time.

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I have also discovered this is most definitely easier said than done. All it takes is one overly stressful day to push any form of gratitude back into resentment.

It is with all of this in mind, that I am working on not just consistently having an attitude of gratitude, but living every day with a grateful heart. And this applies to all aspects of my life, not just my work situation.

My hope is that in so doing, I will be putting positive energy out into the universe, which in turn will bring positive energy back to me. Thus creating a circle of positivity, which can only open doors to a better way of living.

I do realize this may seem like a Pollyanna concept, but what better time of year to come to this realization and decide to make a conscious effort to change my way of thinking.

The holidays are upon us and a New Year is beckoning.

A new year in which I have vowed to introduce my new blog “Waking the Woman – a Mother’s quest to rediscover herself after her Son leaves for college.”

AND, part of my rediscovery will most definitely involve working on living with a grateful heart.

Everlasting Love

As we head into one of the busiest times of the year, I’m quite sure my efforts will be tested on multiple levels, so check back next month for an update on my progress.

 

 

© 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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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.

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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.

48026181 - illustration of a male teenage student thinking to himself

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.

88670557 - mom and daughter cooking together. home help, upbringing. vector

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.

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SEASON OF TRANSITION


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.

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/our-twd-summer-road-trip/

https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/our-twd-summer-road-trip-2017-edition/

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.

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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.

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Loosening the Tether


My Son did it. He passed his driving test.

The last great frontier in a teen’s journey to independence. 

AND, the beginning of new anxieties for a parent.

Passed Driving Test

I’m beyond grateful he waited till he felt ready and didn’t let peer pressure get to him. There were time’s he regretted still having to rely on me for rides, but I know deep down he knew he made the right decision. I believe this made him a more conscientious and alert driver.

His excursions on his own have just been back and forth to school, although the day he got his license was the prom. Needless to say I was a bit concerned about him driving, fortunately he only had to get to the school where a shuttle was supplied to transport the students to the prom site location.

He will add back and forth to work to the mix, but we have traveled that root multiple times so I’m praying he’s got that down.

I can’t tell you how weird it felt to see him pull away from the house without me in the car. I was beyond happy for him for his accomplishment, but having a small panic attack too.

Driving Away

I have requested he text me when he arrives at his destination or leaves to head home, but that will have to become a learned habit.

To date he is inconsistent about letting me know he got to his destination, but is getting better about letting me know he’s on his way home. It’s a start, and I’ll take it.

There is no way to truly prepare for this day.

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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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