Waking the Walker

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

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.


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 »

WTW Is Coming Full Circle

If you’re a Walking Dead fan, you know oh to well the show returns February 25th. And with it’s return, the undoubted departure of a well-loved character.

TWD Masthead

Spoiler Alert –

If you are not caught up with TWD, please do not read any further.

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.

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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 »

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.

29214417 - illustration of a male teen doing yoga

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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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

Schooled by the Band

At any away football game, one never knows what you will experience from the home team fans. In general there are no major issues, but there are a few schools where the rivalry is pretty intense, so security tries to keep the students on their respective sides to prevent any clashes.

Over my Son’s high school years, his marching band has had to deal with some heckling as they exited the stadium, but in general it has not been that bad. That was until a game early this month, at which time our football team came out victorious after having lost in regular season to this particular team for the past 5 years.

We usually get a police escort when we exit at this school to aid in preventing any problems, but this time there were no police or even any security nearby. This obviously left the band vulnerable for abuse. Not just verbally either.

A bunch of kids were actually dodging in between the lines of band members as they tried to march. Of course they were trying to incite a fight. In addition, some of the group got in front of the band and took pictures as one of their buddies flipped the bird with the band behind him.

Their behavior was beyond rude and disrespectful.

21851969 - many hands pointing with their fingers to the center

Through all of this the band members just kept marching, not reacting, only politely requesting these intruders get out of the way. Once the band got to the instrument truck the intruders disappeared.

They weren’t gone for good though, after the instruments were packed up and the kids were all on their buses, they reappeared. This time they took to getting physical by volleying rocks at one of the buses. Fortunately the kids on this bus had the windows closed, so no one was injured, but they succeeded in putting a hairline crack in a window.

Needless to say, the band kids were not only extremely shaken up, but also fired up by all of this. They knew they did the right thing in not reacting, but seeing some of their “family” frightened by the intruders truly incensed some of them. As they said, “We are family and no one messes with my family.”

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.”

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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>

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