SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE!

And that something is this month’s blog post.

If you read last month’s post “The Business That Has Become My Life” you’re aware that I have acknowledged I need to start lightening up on myself and my TO DO LIST.

https://wakingthewoman.com/…/the-business-that-has…/

AND, although I have a post started for this month, it’s far from complete because between OT at work, dealing with ongoing car issues with my Son’s card, the standard day-to-day, and my chalk art, time got the best of me and I had to surrender, acknowledging that I just can’t pull this one off this month.

In addition, although I thoroughly enjoy writing, since discovering my chalk art, my creative energy has been predominately focused on that avenue, which makes my writing seem more like a chore than a creative outlet, especially when the well is running dry with topics that relate to the theme of the blog.

So, I will not be renewing my domain name and premium WordPress plan when it comes up for renewal the end of January. 2023

This of course does not mean I won’t start another blog down the road one day, it just means with my Son now a college graduate, the concept of rediscovering myself while my Son is away at college is past it’s expiration date and time to let the blog site slowly fade into the sunset.

I truly appreciate everyone who has supported me and my writing since I started blogging in 2014, but I am most certainly at another transition point creatively and in order for me to truly pursue my new passion, chalk art, I have to accept the fact that until I have more free time, I can’t do both, or should I say do both with a proper level of enthusiasm.

With 5 months left on my plan, I will do my best to post every one of those months, but I can’t guarantee that. I can however promise I will have a post in September because I already have the post in the works.

Thanks again for all your support, and I’ll keep you posted on any future writing plans come January with my final Waking the Woman post.

#wakingthewoman#mommemoir#timeflies#transition#acceptance#aging#aginggracefully#somethingsgottagive

The Business That Has Become My Life

The Business That Has Become My Life

So, I made it through my son’s college graduation, moving him home, figuring out where to fit all the stuff that got moved home, purging/cleaning/organizing the basement so we could have a graduation celebration at home, planning/coordinating all that goes into a party, setting up/decorating for the party, the actual party and all that goes into the day of a party, and of course the clean up after the party.

The clean up alone took an entire day because we set up throughout the house to accommodate moving people inside if the threat of severe storms came to fruition. It didn’t, but it was very hot, so I was grateful the option to move inside was available and because of the extra effort to decorate the entire house, the ambiance was festive everywhere in the house.

I was so busy with all of this though, I didn’t even have time to write a post last month. That’s the first time ever in the 8 years I’ve been blogging I didn’t even post just a mini-post stating what was up. I just didn’t have the energy to do so, mentally and physically I was spent.

Added to all of this, the week after the party, my Son was in a car accident en route to taking his girlfriend back home. They were both fine, thank God, but this happened out of state, which added to the complexity of the situation, especially when the car started to overheat when my Son started to drive home.

I won’t get into the details, except to say my Son was stuck out of state for a week until I could coordinate ways to get him and the car back home. Now we’re at the mercy of the supply chain waiting on parts to fix the car.

To say I was moving at full-throttle for month’s between home and work is an understatement, but I kept reminding myself once I got to the other side of the party I’d have some downtime. For me however, downtime just means no extra stuff beyond the normal day-to-day, and week-to-week stuff.

As I’ve noted, I tend to thrive on being busy, and love the feeling crossing stuff off my to do list gives me. BUT, the older I get, and the more I fantasize about retirement, the more I realize that there has to be more to my days than tasks, especially with my day job is gearing back up to pre-COVID shutdown pace, with regular over-time.

The busier I am at work, the more I see the need for me to lighten up at home, but that in itself is a challenge when my brain is hardwired to “be busy.” I know I’ve written about this in the past, and the fact that I’m once again circling back to the subject, just means I haven’t been very successful at “lightening up” on the TO DO List. 

“Stop the glorification of busy. Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. It is OKAY to not be busy. Repeat this with me: It is OKAY to not be busy.” – Joshua Becker

When I saw this quote on Facebook, it hit me like a lightening rod. I knew the Universe was trying to make a point. A point I was very aware of, but obviously needed to be reminded of.

BUT, trying to reprogram my brain in my early 60’s is not going to be a simple task.

Normally I at least have our Summer Vacation to shutdown, and recharge, but this year we don’t have a real vacation or even a mini-vacation planned. Partly because I was so busy with other stuff I had no time to think about it. But, also because my Son’s post graduation plans where up in the air. I didn’t want to plan something only to find out he couldn’t go because he was starting a new job or even moving.

Vacation truly slows me down for a while beyond the actual excursion because I tend to try to bask in the “vacation chill mode” as long as I possibly can after I’m home. As I like to say “I’m trying to hang on to my vacation shine.”

I can honestly say I’m usually pretty successful with this, for at least a couple weeks, but with no real break on the horizon, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve even just a minimal “vacation chill mode” if I don’t leave home for even just a long weekend.

Being away from home, even if just for a short time, allows me to disconnect from the day-to-day tasks at hand because of course I’m not at home with the stuff that needs to be done staring me down. Granted it will still be there when I get home, but the break, no matter how short, can usually be enough for me to lighten up on when and how soon a task gets done.

With that said, although my Son’s post-college plans are still somewhat up in the air, I do know he’ll be home for a little while longer and have decided I need to find a way to take a mini-escape, if not in August, then September. I’ve been contemplating this idea for a week or two, but confirmed it has to happen when I read today’s Touched by an Angel Calendar Quote “People don’t always have to be busy. Sometimes they should just sit back and enjoy the peace.”

To say the Universe is trying to tell me something is an understatement. 

Of course this means I have something to add to my To Do List, figuring out the when and where to escape to, but it’s something fun to look forward to, and is a means to an end. Just knowing I’ve made the decision to do this helps with me learning how to lighten up on the business that has become my life.

When I was younger, I was not as hardwired with the  “be busy” mentality, I most certainly took more time to play. It’s something that developed the older I got, especially when I became a single parent, doing double duty was the norm.

Now however my Son is grown, and while he’s home can be more helpful around the house. It’s just a matter of figuring out where he can be of the most help and learning to relinquish the reigns, which is easier said than done, when it’s been all me all this time. Basically I’m on autopilot most of the time, and have to learn to stop myself and allow someone else to step in.

We have had discussions about my Son helping more, and he is all in. He knows one day he’ll be on his own, and learning to be self-sufficient is a must.

Since I’ve been doing more OT, I told him helping with dinner is the key spot where I can use assistance. He helps with clean up, but I mean learning how to actually cook, not just throw frozen food in the oven. After all, his Father was a Chef; he’s got to have some cooking skills in his gene pool, right?

I know I have a long way to go when it comes to learning to “lighten up” on my To DO List, but acknowledging I need to and the Universe reinforcing it, opens the door for it to actually come to fruition.

And, acknowledging I could use a little help even with just the day-to-day is a step in the right direction. Granted it’s a baby step, but that’s the only way to start with a change this big.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

#wakingthewoman
#mommemoir
#business
#todolist
#lighteningup
#learningtochill

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

May has been a month filled with a flurry of activity all revolving around the culmination of my Son’s four years at college.

First there was all the ever-changing pre-graduation planning and last minute decisions on my part to create decorations for a mini-family celebration at my Son and his girlfriend’s apartment post the ceremony and lunch.

Then, on May 15th was the actual commencement, which in itself was a day, filled with adventure and ever shifting plans. Not only did the ceremony start at least 30 minutes late, it also ran more than an hour longer than anticipated followed by a massive bottleneck getting out of the parking garage by the arena. 

This of course meant all of our post-graduation plans needed to be rearranged because we were all too hungry to take pictures on campus before lunch, as was the original plan. As my Son said, “ We were all HANGRY.”

So, by the time we all had lunch and got back to campus it was after 5 PM. And, till we got the pictures on campus done it was at least 6:30, so our little celebration at the apartment got cut back to a quick cup of coffee and piece of cake for the road because we all had to drive back home, some with a 3 hour drive.

Good thing we took pictures of my Son and his girlfriend in the apartment by the decorations before the ceremony because by the time we got back to the apartment later in the day, they just wanted get into comfy clothes and veg out.

Despite it all, it was a great day, and we all just rolled with things as they unraveled, which is a good sign for the future.

Bottom line, it brought me great joy to see my Son earn his bachelor’s degree in Game Development and Simulation, a field he’s extremely enthusiastic about, and excited to explore all it’s possibility. Which is another plus, because if he wasn’t excited, all those years in college would be for not.

From there we all had a week to re-group before the big move home.

And when I say big move I’m not under-estimating. We filled 3 vehicles to the brim, and spent at least six hours sorting, packing, loading, cleaning and unloading before it was all said and done. And that doesn’t include the two hours of driving to and from campus.

Thank God my sister and her husband helped, otherwise my Son and I would have been at it well into the wee hours of the night.

NOW though, it’s back to sorting through it all and figuring out what gets stored for when my Son eventually moves out on his own, and what stuff is mine, which I loaned to him to use in his apartment for the school year.

Trust me, this is a major project because it’s not just sorting and repacking, it’s also figuring out where the heck to store it in my house. Good thing I’ve been giving it some thought, and have had a plan percolating for a couple weeks. Plus have the long Memorial Day Weekend to do it in.

Stuff brought home

Once this task is done, we’ll both be able to truly recharge our batteries and take some time to linger in the joy of my Son’s accomplishment. Taking this time to recharge is critical to clear all the stress and anxiety about the future which has built up over the past month or so, which in turn clears the way to truly re-evaluate where things stand as far as my Son’s future.

Organized, repacked and in storage

My Son’s commencement on May 15th set the stage for the start of a new phase of his life, that of being a “grown up” post college graduation. AND, how we both approach this new phase will be critical in determining his success, which is why time to recharge and re-evaluate is a must for both of us.

I need to accept the fact that my Son will need some guidance, but it’s not my place to tell him what to do. As a young adult, he needs to chart his own path unencumbered by how I think he should do things. I can make a suggestion, but ultimately I have to allow him his space so he can learn to be confident in his own decision-making.

For most of his college years I have been working on stepping back and generally only making suggestions if he asked. Sometimes stepping in when an older adult figure was needed, but even then it was generally because he requested it.

As far as my Son’s future plans, we have had some discussions, and to be honest I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what he’s thinking. He has a basic outline set for his future, with a lot of wiggle room of course to allow for any uncertainties that could arise, which is very wise for him to consider.

In addition, since he’s home he is following through with the basic plans he set for himself, which is wonderful. I can continue to work on my stepping back, only needing to inquire how things are going, and encouraging him as he plugs away at charting his future in the “adult world.”

I knew he wanted to just chill for a bit when he got home, so to see him stepping right into working on revamping his resume and checking into not only employment in his field, but temporary employment that pays more than the P/T job he during school is very encouraging.

And speaks volumes as to how successful his future endeavors will be.

He’s even jumped right in to finally dismantling and bagging up the massive Lego world he created in middle school. This world, made up of many sets and original creations covered two 6’ tables with extensions under the tables and two smaller tables. To say it took over a large section of the basement is no lie.

What’s left to pack up. Multiply this by at least 3 and that’s the full world.

Now, packing up the Lego world was a pre-requisite in order for us to have a graduation celebration at home, which is what he wanted instead of at a park or restaurant. SO, I get that his actions are motivated by that, but I see them even more so as a symbol of him ready to truly “grow up” and step boldly into the world of being an adult.

Since he built that world, with every milestone along the way, heading to high school, high school graduation, and starting college, I have asked him about dismantling and bagging sets. Before he started college, he did take down a small section of it, but ultimately left the bulk of it out, which has just been collecting dust all through college.

This world was his refuge during tough times in middle school and high school, so I get that he wanted to hang on to it, but now that he has conquered the toughest part of his climb to adulthood, graduating from college, I do believe he is finally in the right mindset to once and for all let go of that world, which is huge.

One of the many phases of my Son’s Lego world

In doing so, as his Mother, I can find a sense of comfort in knowing that my little boy is definitely not a little boy any more, but a young man on the precipice of great things. Great things I know he’ll achieve because he is ready and willing to step boldly into the future of his dreams.

The question is, am I ready?

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

#wakingthewoman
#mommemoir
#classof2022
#collegegraduate
#uncertainty
#lettinggo
#dreamjob
#growingup
#becominganadult

Uncertainty & Fear of the Unknown

Every day is filled with a lot of the same old, same old, but it also holds the possibility of some uncertainty

There are things that could transpire on any given day, at any given time, that are out of our control, like you discover you have no hot water when you go to take a shower or get caught up in traffic backup en route to work which makes you late or a co-worker calls in sick which throws your work day out of whack.

Of course, all of these can be a nuisance and very frustrating, but some how we adjust and move forward. Trying not to let it cause a major hiccup in our day, week or even month for that matter. Every day uncertainties are just part of life. We learn to accept such events, and move forward.

And we most certainly shouldn’t spend time contemplating “what could happen” because that would just drain our energy reserves and make us useless.

There are however uncertainties that we do contemplate, and with my Son graduating from college this month, those are the ones circulating through both of our thoughts, which at times can create great anxiety, or at best distract us from the tasks at hand.

First, there are simple things, like where we should go to lunch after graduation, and when are we moving him home. These uncertainties are only uncertain because of indecisiveness, which when pushed, should be resolved. Frustrating yes, but not enough to cause major anxiety, just enough to cause distraction from the day-to-day tasks until resolved.

Then there are the major uncertainties, like what is my Son going to do once he graduates from college?

Some kids have it all figured out and know exactly where they want to head, especially if it’s grad school. While others want to just pause, clear their head and really take the time to plan, research and then hit the pavement for the career of their dreams.

My Son is somewhere in between these two, which is OK too, but I do believe fear of the unknown is what has at times put him into a state of paralysis which obviously gets him nowhere as far as contemplating his future.

Trust me, I get it. I was beyond scared when I graduated from art school. I also found out quickly getting a job as a graphic designer right out of art school was not an easy feat. I’d hear way too often, your portfolio is good, but you have no experience.

Of course I’m thinking how do I get experience if no one will hire me?

I realized quickly that I’d have to find a way in via another avenue, which in my case became that of a mechanical artist, which before computers was the person who did all the pre-press work by hand. I won’t get into details, but it was tedious work, which involved paying attention to a lot of detail because if you didn’t the job wouldn’t print correctly.

Regardless of how I felt about doing this work instead of design didn’t matter. What really mattered was this was the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and hope somewhere along the way someone in a higher ranking position saw my potential and gave me a chance to prove I could actually be creative too.

Fortunately this route did work, eventually working may way up to an associate designer at the largest advertising agency South of New York, at the time, Earle Palmer Brown in Bethesda, MD, which in turned opened the door to full designer opportunities.

I mention this because trying to convince my Son that he may have to take a similar route in order to reach his dream job of a world builder with a conceptual team for a game design company is hitting some roadblocks.

My Son has the perfect way to possibly get in with a game design company via that of sound and music editing because he took the specific classes necessary to be certified in a program that is used in the industry. When we’ve talked about this prospect, he seemed to agree that this was a very viable route.

When we last spoke about this in March though, he had started to change his tune. He stated he was actually considering just applying for the position he wants, despite not having a portfolio of valid writing work even with me reinforcing what I went through right out of college. I don’t know if it’s because he can’t see the parallels or if it’s a bit of self-sabotage because his fear of the unknown has him back peddling in pursuit of his dream job.

OR, none of the above.

He may just be so overwhelmed at the prospect of what comes next that he’s just not thinking straight. 

Based on the fact that I know he is afraid of what comes after college, I’m leaning towards the concept that he’s just overwhelmed and not thinking straight. Which is actually good, because that means once he’s home and has time to decompress, I’ll have an opportunity to talk some sense into him and hopefully prevent him from becoming frustrated and giving up, which is the most common form of fatigue in any ones job search.

Hearing no too many times is enough to kill your mojo and question whether going to college was even worth it. I most certainly don’t want to see this happen with my Son, because I know he’s very capable of being a great creative force in the world of gaming.

From a very young age I thought he’d end up in film or theater because of his amazing storytelling skills. But as he grew, his interests meandered to the world of gaming, and despite my fears of how consumed he became, with time I realized that this too is a very valid form of entertainment.

AND, indeed takes someone just like him to create the worlds these games are played in. In actuality, creating and producing a game is very much like the process involved in the film industry, and takes just as many people to make it come to fruition.

So, when it came to selecting his course of study for college, game development became number one. This enabled him to marry his love of gaming with computer science, and learn the skills that would actually make him marketable in the gaming world.

Now, here we are, at the point where this concept will be truly tested, graduation and the pursuit of his dream job.

Graduation is 14 days away, and in speaking with my Son yesterday, I can say I was extremely happy to hear that despite the crunch with final projects and final exams, he has been giving his future a lot of serious insightful thought.

He has already started to investigate entry-level positions in the gaming world, and is even thinking out of the box in regards to possibilities. Like working with a company that works with collegiate E-Sports teams, which he was part of all through college. Collegiate E-Sports is still in its infancy, and although this isn’t where he’d want to stay, he would be connected to the industry in a lateral way and use it as a means to make contacts.

Heck, he’s even considered looking into what’s available in the world of board games. Especially games like Dungeons and Dragons, which just like video games, need a world to be created to play within.

I can honestly say I stood in awe of my Son as he spoke yesterday. And although there is still a ton of uncertainty regarding his future, I know he’s got it under control, to a point, and is keeping his options wide open, and very willing to consider any opportunity that could eventually get him into his dream job, no matter how long that might take.

Now though, the focus is on wrapping up his Senior year, getting his diploma, and then taking a little time to decompress and recharge so he’s fully fueled up, ready to face his unknown future with certainty that he’s got what it takes to make his dreams come true.

Stay tuned for updates in future posts regarding not only my Son’s pursuit of his dream job, but my adjustments to having a college graduate back home.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

All images courtesy of 123rf

College Grad and Mom – 123rf  – kozyrevaelena

#wakingthewoman
#mommemoir
#classof2022
#collegegrad
#uncertainty
#fearoftheunknown
#dreamjob
#gamedevelopment
#thinkingoutofthebox

EMPTY NEST BLACK HOLE

The reality of the possibility of a very empty nest is quickly sinking in since my Son went back to school for the Spring Semester of his Senior year.

Granted, my Son doesn’t have a job lined up post graduation, or any prospects that I know of, just yet, but considering his major is video game design, I’m well aware that jobs in that field don’t exist in the area we live. So sticking around home post graduation for an extended period of time doesn’t seem like a possibility.

In addition, his girlfriend and he are getting pretty serious and she may be going to law school post graduation, which means he may very well consider employment near wherever she lands.

I’ve been working on adjusting to my Son getting serious about a girl after not really dating through high school and the first three years of college. As a single mom with only one child, to say this takes some getting use to is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for my Son. It’s wonderful to see how happy he is with her. Plus, she’s not only a sweetheart of a girl, she’s also very ambitious and driven, which has been a positive influence on my Son.

BUT, having both the prospect of my Son really moving away from home, and a serious relationship running parallel is a lot for me digest at once, especially because the relationship itself is still very much new, having just gotten serious in August. The two have been friends since Freshman year, never revealing feelings for each other until the start of this school year, so to say it came out of nowhere is an understatement.

I knew the day would come, but I figured I would have a bit more warning. 

With that said, we are here now, and with each passing day, I find myself bouncing between I’m good, to I’m feeling lonely and maybe I should get a dog. I honestly never thought I’d feel lonely, especially because between working full time, working on establishing my chalk art business, creating new chalk art, writing this blog, and all that goes into owning a home and daily chores, I have plenty to keep me busy and take my mind off the empty house.

BUT, some days it just feels extremely empty.

The irony is I’m actually quite content being by myself, and am basically more of an introvert than extrovert, and although the first semester of my Son’s Freshman year challenged me, as I expected, I actually began to get comfortable with everything. So why I’m going in and out of a funk now is a bit confusing for me.

I’m sure a lot of this ties to the fact that it’s Winter so I’m not out socializing with neighbors like I do during warmer weather. PLUS, because of the pandemic, my Son was home with me taking classes remotely from March of 2020 to August of 2021 when he started his Senior year. AND, during the Fall semester he and his girlfriend visited at least 3 times, and then he was home on Winter break from Thanksgiving till January 23rd, and during that time his girlfriend spent 3 weeks with us, so I had more company than I’m use to and loved it.

Needless to say I got very comfortable with having my Son home and really enjoyed when his girlfriend was there too. It was nice to have company for dinner every night and even hangout and watch TV with them sometimes.

The bottom line, it gave me purpose, I felt needed. The older my Son gets the less he needs me, and with a girlfriend to discuss problems with, I’m certainly not the first one he contacts any more. Which once again is a good thing, but to have it happen sort of all of a sudden, out of nowhere, is harder to adjust to than anticipated. 

Now of course, having a child need you less as they get older is a natural progression, but because of how things have been since COVID my presence in my Son’s life was a bit more prominent for a bit longer, which is most certainly why I’m feeling this transition even more. Had my Son’s college years been “normal” I may not be feeling the emptiness as much. The transition would have been more gradual and I could have worked through these emotions each year leading up to graduation.

BUT, that’s not the case at all. The growth that started was stalled, and put on hold, sort off. Now however, I’m being thrown in the deep end so to speak, and trying keep my head above water.

With Spring and warmer weather not far off, I’m hopeful this will help shake that funky lonely feeling looming in my soul sometimes. Most of the time I’m pretty good, but every once in awhile, the emptiness of the house just really hits me regardless of how busy I keep myself. I know I’ll get past this, but until then I need to honor my emotions for what they are, growing pains.  

Just as my Son is spreading his wings and learning to fly solo, I too need to learn to be more than my Son’s Mom. I need to rediscover me. Rediscover the woman I was before becoming a Mom. Which ironically is why I started to write this blog when he went off to college. And although I have had some growth, I’m now realizing I still have a way to go yet.

Discovering the chalk art has been wonderful for my creative growth, which in turn helps my soul growth, but that’s only part of  “growth beyond parenting.” There’s certainly more growing than I ever considered when I stepped into this adventure I endearingly called “Waking the Woman”

Change is never an easy thing, but it is necessary for any real growth, and I’m guessing based on the loneliness I’m feeling at times I’ve been avoiding some aspects of me that need to change in order to get over this hurdle. What, I’m not sure of though.

As I have noted in past posts, I’m very good at filling my days with tasks. Some fun, some just every day stuff. Basing my personal fulfillment on how much I’ve accomplished. While this certainly helps me cover a lot of ground in a day, which was critical during my heavy-duty single parenting days, I’m now realizing, this behavior is enabling me, allowing me to avoid dealing with what’s going on inside or even keeping me from allowing myself time to “play.”

Not any more though, although the busyness does help most of the time, it doesn’t seem to be working that well any more, if it did I wouldn’t be writing this post. 

SO, is the universe trying to tell me it’s not just about the very empty nest?

Could it also be about getting older and all that goes with aging, especially after the health issues I faced in 2021?

OR, could it be about learning how to lighten my to do list so I have more time to “play?”

OR, could it be I may not want to head into my Senior years alone?

OR, is it all of the above backing me into a corner now that I don’t have the serious distraction of parenting dominating my time?

I’m guessing it’s most definitely all of the above, which makes my journey of rediscovery even more interesting. Not sure I’m ready for that much discovery just yet, but I don’t think I have any say in this journey any more – the universe is in control.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2022. All rights reserved.

Empty Nest artwork courtesy of the CHALK Charmer ©2021

https://www.facebook.com/TheCHALKCharmer/

Moving Out – ©123rf studioworkstock

Busyness – ©123rf prettyvectors

Clip Art Courtesy of 123rf

#wakingthewoman

#mommemoir

#emptynest

#emptynestblackhole

#singleparenting

#singlemom

#selfdiscovery

#selfhelp

Act 3 vs Act 1

With my Son away at college for his Senior Year, and my free time dedicated to getting my chalk art business off the ground, my mind has been wondering to the great, big world of retirement a lot. I still have about 5 years till I can really step into that stage of my life, but I can tell you I am most certainly looking forward to the days when I only have to answer to me. AND, I control what I will do every day, not just in the evenings and weekends.

I will be at my present job 20 years the end of this year, and although I’m quite content in my position, and appreciate the perks that come with working for a small business, I’m beyond ready for my retirement years. In all honesty, if not for the chalk art that came out of COVID quarantine, I don’t think I could realistically be considering retirement before at least 67 because I know I need a back up kitty in addition to IRA’s and Social Security.

Originally I was hoping to monetize this blog, but as I also discovered during COVID quarantine, is not a simple task. Especially when my content is a bit too esoteric to pin down followers, let alone businesses that would want to advertise on the site. When people started to ask about merchandise with the chalk art on it, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I realized though it just might be a great replacement plan and started to focus all my energy on looking into how to create a merchandise business.

AND, here I am, a year and half later on the precipice of opening an online store. The closer I get to this reality, the more excited I get for the prospect of actually being able to seriously start to plan for retirement. Retirement before 67. I don’t need a fortune as back up, just enough to supplement, and if I can get a jump-start on that I can also jump start my retirement.

https://thechalkcharmer.shopping

Fingers crossed and lots of prayers it works. 

As I pondered this next phase of my life, it dawned on me that I’m heading into Act 3 of my story and my Son is on the doorstep of his Act 1.

Yes, he’s 21 years old, but everything that has transpired in his life up to this point is actually a Prequel, leading into his Act 1. After he graduates from college he’s officially an “adult” stepping into the great, big grown up world of working full-time, pursuing his dream job and living on his own at some point. And all that goes with branching into being your own person separate from your parents.

Two vastly different stages for sure.

For me it’s about the stage in my life when I can work less, and play more. About having more time for me to do the things that bring me great joy, like my chalk art. About more freedom in how I spend every day. About actually having time to spend with family and friends and not having to schedule time months in advance. About actually finishing unfinished projects. AND, maybe even changing things up in my house, even if it’s just a new coat of paint.

But for my Son, it will be about working more, and playing less. About learning how to structure his day to allow time for play. About taking on the responsibilities of having a place of his own. About learning to be fiscally sound because there are now bills to pay. About balancing work, home and play.

Sure he’s been working on some of this, sort of, all through college, but he’s also had a lot of luxuries, like a meal plan. That certainly won’t exist any more, and learning how to not spend your paycheck on carry out and actually buying food and cooking can be a real challenge when you’re first starting out on your own. 

The more I pondered all of this, the more I realized although my Son and I are at two very different stages in our lives, they are also very similar. We are both stepping into the beginning of the next phase of our lives. Extremely exciting and scary at the same time. So much unknown, but we will have each other as support as we venture forth.

I’ve seen a lot of growth in my Son this school year, I think living in an apartment and having a girlfriend has helped with this. So although I still worry about how he’ll do on his own, if he comes to me for advice now, I know he will still after he graduates and eventually lives on his own. This alone gives me a little peace of mind.

As for me, starting a small online business is something I never would have considered, but my Son encouraged me to do so. And, because he has a better grasp of social media he has become a bit of an advisor when it comes to reaching a broader audience than my Facebook world.

SO, before we take the leap into our next act, we will continue to bounce things off each other. Just knowing we have each other’s back is a means to making sure we each succeed. AND, realizing just how similar our paths truly are, makes it even more special.

A Mother and Son stepping into the great unknown together.

Me Act 3 and He Act 1, both a new beginning with amazing possibilities.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Three Act Structure – courtesy of https://prewrite.com/blog/2020/07/29/a-beginners-guide-to-three-act-structure/

Daily Routine – ©123rf – artinspiring

Clip Art – ©123rf

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#Act3vsAct1

#Act3Retirement

#Act1PostCollege

#NewBeginings

Learning to Step Back

So I thought I’d be writing about dealing with an empty nest again after having my Son home from college for almost a year and a half, March of 2020 to August of 2021, BUT, although I had a very emotional day the day after I took him back, I’m doing better than I thought.

Could be because this year, his Senior year, he’s actually living in suite-style housing, not a standard dorm. AND, once we moved him in, we discovered things that worked in the dorms won’t work in the “apartment” which meant Mom had to do a little shopping and got to go back the following weekend to get him completely set up.

SO, I was able to ease my empty nest heartache with another campus visit.

The Empty Nest – original chalk art created by me – AKA the CHALK Charmer

PLUS, as can be expected when living in an “apartment” some drama is to be had. Unfortunately for my Son, it turned into major drama, which means he’s been communicating with me more, AND, even came home over Labor Day weekend.

SO, I’ve actually seen him 4 weekends since he’s gone because he had to come home once again to pick up a new desk chair for his room.

All this helps fill my empty nest void, but the “apartment drama” my Son has endured is upsetting to me not just because he’s my child and I hate to see him upset. BUT also because it’s his Senior year. This year matters the most on many levels, the most important being acing the schoolwork so he can secure a good job when he graduates. I fear that all the nonsense he has been dealing with will impede his path to fulfill his dreams of being a professional game designer.

Needless to say I have given a lot of council to him and have noted I will step in if the issue doesn’t get resolved soon, and I’m trying hard to respect his desire to “handle” it. As a Mom who has had to step in over the years this isn’t that easy. Not that I’m a “Beverly Goldberg” smothering type of Mom, but when my Son was younger I had to be his advocate on many occasions to see that he didn’t get “screwed” or come to his defense when it was most certainly needed. 

This situation though is a bit different because my Son is somewhat at fault because he trusted someone he thought was a friend and neglected to ask any questions. SO, despite my desire to want to pick up the phone or just show up on campus, I am trying hard to sit tight in hopes that my Son can “handle” this and resolve the mess that was created by the lack of communication and a sincere trust that he was being told the truth.

As most of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives, these young college students are dealing with a “guest” who has over stayed their welcome and won’t leave. What was meant to be a couple days as a favor to someone they thought was a friend has turned into weeks with a jerk of guy who has no respect for anyone’s personal space.

What makes the matter worse, the “guest” graduated last year and is dating one of the roommates.

The situation amplified, because as time went by, more and more of the truth came out. The biggest discovery was the need for a temporary place to crash till the “guest” got housing was really all a rouse to shack up with his girlfriend. The guy’s family actually lives near by, and even if he got the job at the school he was going on and on and on about getting, he still would not have gotten housing supplied because he lived near by.

Add to it, they also found out he was told this well before he even hustled his way into the apartment. SO, he’d been lying from the start and manipulated my Son and the other roommate. This just infuriates me because had my Son mentioned the guy was dating one of the roommates I would have advised against it. BUT I was not consulted. I was just told he’d be there for a few nights so it would be OK

Trust is a good thing, but sometimes one must be weary of those we think are a friend, but may not know that well, especially after not being on campus for over a year.

To say my Son and the other roommate were up in arms about this is an understatement, but it’s a not a simple fix because of how long it’s gone on. My Son still insists he will resolve it and I need to stand down. Which I am, no matter how much I just wanted to go to the campus and haul that guys butt out of the apartment. (He’s a big guy though so I would need back up.)

Learning to step back and let my Son “handle” this has been extremely hard because of the gravity of the situation and the impact it could have on his future. BUT, I also know now that he is 21, and will one day in the not so distant future be out in the great big world on his own, he needs to be able to handle any situation that could be thrown at him or that he may unwittingly get himself in.

SO, despite my desire to step in and put an end to this mess, I know the only way my Son will really grow up and mature is to stand on his own two feet and accept the consequences of his actions. Which I’ve hoped and prayed won’t impact his education or health because of the stress the situation has put on him

I admire his determination to resolve this, and not get help from Mom, but I most certainly worry. Which as a Mom just comes naturally.

Stepping back to let your child fly on their own, is not for the faint of heart. I have been slowly loosening the tether since my Son was in high school, but to know I need to really let go some day soon is not something I’m sure I’m ready for, no matter how much I know I must. Something tells me my empty nest syndrome will be nothing compared to the day my Son actually moves out to officially live on his own and start the next phase of his grown-up adventure.

What I do know though, is if my Son comes to me for advice, that means I must have done something right. He trusts my judgement and respects me as not just his Mom, but as an adult who has experienced more in life than he has, and acknowledges I might just know more about some things. Which ultimately means he has matured.

And it’s only with maturity that I will feel better when he does officially leave the nest. 

I questioned a lot when my Son was adamant about handling this situation himself, especially because of how upset, and even angry he was getting the longer it went on. It’s not easy to think clearly when your emotions get in the way, and this concerned me, but my Son was playing the waiting game, just waiting for the right moment to approach the guy.

Fortunately the waiting game paid off. My Son had mentioned the school enacted a New Guest Policy due to the continuing pandemic and he thought that may be the perfect way to get their freeloading guest out.

Turns out he was right. He mentioned this to the roommate who is dating the “guest,” and she in turn mentioned it to him. And by later in the day he was gone, a win-win for all of them. 

The school policy became the bad guy and saved them from dealing with any resentful behavior on the part of the “guest” who wouldn’t leave.

Seeing how he handled the “guest” issue is evident of the fact that my Son is maturing. By thinking things through before acting, and taking the time to formulate a plan and not just react, he became the adult in the room, which I am very grateful for. When he starts to apply this thought process to all areas of his life, like how he budgets his time and money, I’ll know he’s made the leap into actually being an “adult” and won’t worry so much.

Until then, I will do my best to step back and not step in or give advice unless asked. After all, the only way he’ll truly grow up is by handling his own stuff as we all had to do at some point in our lives.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#SteppingBack

#ParentingaCollegeStudent

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Empty Nest Art – the CHALK charmer © 2021

All Clip Art Courtesy of 123rf.com

Drama, Trust & Stand on Own -– moniqcca

Advice – denyshutter

Adult Child – topvectors

A Tribute to My Father Bill – “Daddy”

Having lost my Father at an early age, Father’s Day has always been one of those holidays that was just there. I was only 3 1/2 years old when my Father passed, so I never had the opportunity to get to know him.

Did I feel like I was ripped off? Most certainly. 

BUT my Mother Helen was such a wonderful woman and did an amazing job at being both parents that over time those feelings began to fade. I comprehended the load she had to bare. Not only did she loose the love of her life, she had six children, four of whom were still at home, ranging in age from 21 months to 12 years old. It took great fortitude to keep on keeping on after such a loss, but she did.

In all honesty I am extremely grateful I was blessed to have such a phenomenal woman as my Mother. Parenting is a tough job when you have both parents, but doing it solo is a feat not for the weak at heart. 

Did I ever wonder about my Father and what life would have been like had he lived? Sure, who wouldn’t. 

Especially when my older siblings would tell stories about him. Over time these stories became cemented in my memories, and even though I never knew my Father, I had their memories to cling to. It gave me a little solace and made me feel like I sort of knew the man who was my Father. 

While writing the post about my Mother last September, new stories surfaced about my Father. Ones that reflected more about who he was as a man, not just as a Father, and I realized how very little I really knew about him.

At that point I knew one day I would need to dig deeper into those stories with the hope that I could put together a more concise picture of my Father, or should I say “Daddy,” which is how we have always referred to him.  As June approached I thought what better time than the month of June, which is when we honor all Father’s. 

SO, in this month of June, 2021, I will be dedicating my post to my Daddy, William “Bill” Henry Danko. A man I never knew, but love as though I did.

William “Bill” Henry Danko

July 28, 1919 – October 1, 1964

Bill was only 45 when he passed away from colon cancer, but in that short time he lived a full life. A life filled with hardships and challenges, but through them all he always remained true to who he was at heart and he never forgot his roots.

William Henry Danko was the oldest son of Agnes (Peczuch) and George Danko. Both Agnes and George had immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe in the hopes of having a better life.

Agnes arrived in New York on May 21, 1914 when she was not quite 17. She had $15 with her and was listed as a servant. She had left her parents and 2 siblings behind in their home in Szedikert in the Presov District of Slovakia. She came to America to meet her older brother Victor who lived in South Bethlehem, PA.  

George arrived in 1906 at the age of 15. His father and brother were already here and working for the Bethlehem Steel. He was naturalized in 1926 at the age of 35.

How Agnes and George met is not clear, but they both had family who belonged to Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in South Bethlehem, so it’s very possible that is where the connection was made, especially because that’s where they were married in 1916. Agnes was 19 and George was 25.

George and Agnes’ Wedding Picture

Their first child William Henry was born July 28, 1919 and George Francis, their second child, was born on November 29, 1921.

After renting for years, Agnes and George purchased a large home in May of 1926 in Hellertown, PA, not far from South Bethlehem where they had been living. The home had the second floor converted into an apartment, which could be an extra source of income.

Things were looking up. George was well established at the Bethlehem Steel as a repairman, and although he worked long hours, he still helped with the maintenance of the house and apartment.

Danko Family Circa 1922

In 1927 though, George, the Father, was admitted to the hospital with a mysterious illness. He was put in quarantine until it was discovered he had abdominal cancer that had metastasized. He passed away on July 2, just shy of Bill’s 9th birthday. 

The sudden loss of her husband at an early age was hard on Agnes, but she had her boys who needed her attention, as did the home they had recently purchased. 

In June of 1933, Agnes remarried Andrew Bacha, who was 43 and a widower. As the story goes, Agnes did not tell Bill and George about her plans to remarry, and when Bill witnessed them coming home, he was so upset he ran away from home. For how long, it’s not known, but long enough to let his voice be heard.

This marriage didn’t last long though. Soon after, Agnes discovered Andrew was an alcoholic and it wasn’t long after that he left. 

Agnes was an extremely hard worker, but with no man in the house, the boys would have to pick up the slack. Having a good work ethic was something both boys saw in their Father and Mother, so Bill and George fell right into place with the tasks at hand. 

In addition though, Agnes was so hardwired to always be taking care of the tasks at hand, that in her mind there was no time for frivolous behavior. This attitude would cause friction between Bill and his Mother as he grew into a young man and his highly creative side began to shine.

Agnes saw no room for such behavior and for this reason showed obvious favoritism to George, Bill’s younger brother. He was very obedient and went to Business School after high school, landing a job as an accountant at the Bethlehem Steel.

In Agnes’ eyes this was the right thing to do and nothing Bill did ever seemed to be good enough. It didn’t matter that Bill was a hard worker, working as a clerk at a meat market, a butcher at his Uncle’s Butcher Shop, and by 1945 getting a job at the Bethlehem Steel, starting in the Lab and working his way up to Safety Supervisor by 1949.

Bill working in butcher shop
Bill – Safety Supervisor
Bill at work as Safety Supervisor at the Bethlehem Steel

At one point Bill was even taking evening classes at a Penn State Extension to study engineering, his true passion. Unfortunately he was unable to finish, which was always his biggest regret.

Bill working at drafting table

Another disappointed for Bill was not being able to enlist in the military during WWII. As a child he had broken an arm and it was not set correctly, so he couldn’t straighten that arm. This was considered a slight defect, which kept him out of the service.

Bill was shorter than George, only 5’ 9” to George’s 6’ 3”, but he was strong and sturdy, even playing football in high school. But that issue with his arm, was all it took to reject him.

Bill’s football days – #20

Despite all the disappointment and negativity though, Bill never let it stop him from being true to who he was at heart. He had a vast array of interests, and was a bit of a Jack-of-All Trades. If he found something that intrigued him, he would dive in and explore.

One of those interests was photography, which actually became his occupation for a while, starting his own business taking portraits. He thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with different types of cameras and even built his own darkroom in the basement of his Mother’s home. This business stopped during the War though because the cost of materials was too expensive.

Just a few of Bill’s many cameras

Photography always remained a hobby though, especially once Bill had a family. His wife and children became his favorite subject, even setting up backdrops to take portraits of the children.

Bill’s creative pursuits didn’t end with photography. He loved to paint and was an amazing woodworker, carving gunstocks, and crafting furniture. Furniture that is still in use, built better than most of what exists now. He certainly put his engineering skills to use when designing this furniture. They were not just functional, but works of art too.

One of Bill’s paintings
One of Bill’s guns with a custom carved gun stock

When Bill passed many of Bill’s so-called friends were quick to show-up and talk Helen his wife into selling them some of his things, in particular this gun. Many years later, Bill’s Son William’s wife Judi was able to track down the person who bought the gun and she bought it back to give to William as a gift. Needless to say William was beyond surprised, but thrilled to own something that his Father crafted and used.

12′ bookshelf built by Bill – Mariann his Daughter still uses it
End table built by Bill, he built 2, Mariann has one and William his Son has the other
Coffee table built by Bill – his Grandson Roy, Mariann’s Son, has taken this over for his “dorm” in the basement of their home
Dresser built by Bill for his girls – Mariann uses to store wrapping paper in. The design on the dresser is to pay homage to Bill’s wife Helen’s PA German heritage
Another dresser built by Bill – Mariann uses to store craft supplies in

Being true to his heart most certainly came into play when Bill pursued a woman who was not only not Slovak, but also not Catholic. This did not please Agnes at all. She had already picked a nice Catholic Slovak girl for him, but Bill was in love and that’s all that mattered to him.

When taking an injured co-worker to St. Luke’s Hospital ER to be checked out, Bill encountered a nurse who quickly caught his eye. That beauty was Helen Dechert. Being an outspoken man, Bill commented how beautiful she was, but added she needed to do something about her hands, which looked awful. Needless to say, this did not sit well with Helen.

Bill however was sure to note her name and came back the next day to apologize and ask Helen out on a date. Helen was reluctant, but Bill was one handsome guy, he kind of had Clark Cable looks with coal black hair and blue grey eyes, so she agreed to the date.

This was all it took for the two of them to realize they were meant to be together.

Falling in love though was not part of Helen’s plans. She had been offered a scholarship for Columbia University where she could pursue a career as an obstetrician. Something she was seriously considering.

Not wanting to lose Helen, much to Helen’s surprise, Bill proposed. Upon popping the lid on the ring box, he said, “Well you love me, don’t you?”

The truth was, Helen did love Bill, so she followed her heart and married him, never once looking back. The two were married on January 23, 1943, at St. Theresa’s Church in Hellertown, PA. Bill was 23, and Helen was 22.

Bill always wanted a large family and they wasted no time getting started. In December of 1943 their first child Carolann was born with Georgene following 2 years later in 1945.

Agnes with Carolann and Georgene

As the story goes though, Bill was so hoping for a boy they didn’t even have a girls name picked out. He wanted very much to name his first male child George after his Father. In order to compromise they went with Georgene.

It certainly helped that Georgene turned out to be a bit of “Tom Boy” because Bill and Helen would have 3 more girls, Pamela in 1951, Francine in 1956 and Mariann in 1961, before their Son William was born in December of 1962, 21 months before Bill’s passing.

Bill holding Francine, Helen, Carolann, Georgene, and Pam
Bill holding his Son William, and daughter Mariann –
Helen said when he was sick he would always ask to have them play at his feet so he could watch

Early on in their marriage, they rented an apartment in Agnes’ house, which at times was a bit challenging, but the two found ways to overcome the friction. Bill helped maintain the property inside and out, which was a lot of work, considering it was coal heat, and the property was surrounded with shrubs. But that wasn’t even enough to please Agnes, particularly because she didn’t quite approve of their parenting style, which was a bit too playful for her.

Seeing Helen stop housework to make oatmeal box houses for the girl’s dolls, or to have a picnic inside on a rainy day, throwing a blanket on the living room floor and making peanut butter sandwiches with sprinkle sugar cut out with cookie cutters, or walking Carolann and Georgene to the Steel Club (miles away) for swimming lessons in the middle of doing laundry just was not how Agnes thought children should be raised.

Bill and Helen knew the needs of the children where more important than any housework. The children would remember time spent with them, not how clean the house was.

That’s why when they started having children Bill wanted Helen to stay home and quit working. Yes this was old-fashioned, but for the times it was pretty normal. Bill felt a woman’s place was at home with the children, and it was his job to provide for the family, no matter how hard he had to work to do so.

Although playful, Bill was a very strict disciplinarian, and would not tolerate picky eaters, disobedience and whining. This also applied when it came to the girls and their grades at school. He highly believed in getting a good education. He felt it was the stepping-stone to a better future, obviously because he himself was unable to finish his engineering degree.

He expected only the best out of the girls with their schoolwork. And the girls never let him down; they most definitely wanted to please their Dad. This gave Bill bragging rights with his co-workers. Especially when Carolann got a scholarship for nursing school and Georgene had to present a portfolio for admission into Kutztown University, both were very proud moments for Bill.

Carolann’s Nursing School Graduation – Left to right, Margaret, Bill’s cousin and all the children’s Godmother, Agnes, Bill, Carolann, Helen, and Hancy, George’s wife (in background, Carolann’s boyfriend Prett)

Bill even invested in the very expensive Encyclopedia Britannica, which before the Internet was the go to for information. No such thing as Google back then. All the children made good use out of these, long after Bill had passed, a very wise and worthy investment on his part.

In addition he enrolled in a Classic Record Club, so the girls could enrich their minds and ears listening to classical music.

Bill’s strictness also came into play when he taught Carolann and Georgene to drive. He was very tough on them, but he was also a very good teacher.

Falling in line with Bill’s old-fashion way of thinking was how very strict he was when it came to not only the girl’s attire, but Helen’s too. He wanted them all to be dressed like nice young ladies, properly covered and clean. Helen often made lookalike dresses for the girls and her and Bill just loved that.

Helen with Carolann and Georgene in matching dresses
Bill with Helen, Carolann, Georgene and Francine

Despite being very old-fashioned in his thinking when it came to Helen not working while raising the children, when it came to his daughters the skies were the limits. At one point Georgene mentioned becoming a hairdresser because she enjoyed playing with different hairstyles, he told her that would be a waste of her brains. Later she mentioned becoming a social worker, his response, “that’s for rich kids.”

Bill and Helen were also member of the Bethlehem Steel Club, which had a beautiful swimming pool, clubhouse, golf course and picnic grounds. Getting the girls swimming lessons was important to Bill. He knew the importance of safety in all areas of life, not just in the workplace.

Being a very talented diver, Bill loved having access to the pool as much as the children did. Plus it gave an additional opportunity to display proper pool safety.

The Steel Club hosted Christmas parties, egg hunts and picnics, and this gave the family an opportunity to socialize with other Steel workers families.

In 1958, Bill and Helen took a huge leap when they built their own home in Bright Acres/Bingen, which was just outside of Hellertown. They could finally find their emancipation from living in Agnes’ home.

This was an exciting time for the whole family, a place to finally call their own. The untouched countryside surrounding their home offered a much needed refuge. They felt as though they could breathe again.

Bill wasted no time landscaping the property, which was about 1 ½ acres, planting shrubs and trees that would compliment the house, clearing the fence line and building a rock garden. The girls were all expected to help with these tasks. No complaining, no excuses, and no allowances. It was tough, but they all developed a good work ethic from the experience. 

In addition, Bill loved gardening, the one thing he and his Mother had in common. At her home they had a huge garden they both tended to, so it goes without saying he would plant a huge vegetable garden at their new home. Surrounding it with raspberry and currant bushes, which Helen would use to create wonderful jelly to can and freeze their harvest. They lived the farm to table life well before it was even a thing.

Bill’s massive garden was a place of refuge after a long day at work. Often calling Helen before he left work telling her to feed the children because he was going out in the garden when he got home. His garden continued to be a place of refuge even when he became ill, often sitting in a lawn chair watering his plants.

Bill and Helen were green and sustainable before they were the trend. Starting a compost pile, and harvesting fresh organic produce and cooking from scratch, every day.

They would recycle everything they could, which back then took effort. Cans went to one place and bottles went back to the beverage distributor.

As an avid hunter, fisherman and overall outdoorsman, Bill was in his element in this more rural setting. He would continue to raise German Short Haired Pointers to be sold for hunting. He had started this while living at his Mother’s, but he could take it to a new level, building a huge fenced in area for the dogs. Even allowing them in the house on the coldest of Winter’s days.

He also made his own lures for fishing and custom designed carved gunstocks. Both were works of art just like his furniture.

In addition, Bill was a member of the Hellertown Sportsman’s Association and the NRA. While with the NRA he taught gun safety. Even making sure to teach his older daughters Carolann and Georgene how to safely handle a gun. 

He also taught all the girls the basics of fishing; Pamela even won a contest at the Sportsmen’s Association. He would sometimes even take one of them with him when he went for a quick fishing trip after work to unwind. Being outside, in any fashion, was a major stress reliever for Bill.

Pam fishing
Bill relaxing at the beach

One great adventure Bill took the entire family on was a fishing trip to Canada. This was before Mariann and William were born, so it was just the four older girls, but Francine was little enough to not realize Canada was a country, and thought it was one of Bill’s many friends who they often visited after church. There was one who never had toys, so Francine’s response when finding out about the trip was to ask, “Does Canada have toys?” A phrase that is still used in the family today.

In order to make the trip itself part of the adventure, Bill created a spot between the seats, stacking the suitcases and covering them with blankets, so the girls could sleep. He preferred to drive at night, and this way the girls would be comfortable and could rest when needed. Having tasty snacks like Oreos and coffee milk helped too.

They rented a rustic cabin with a screened in porch overlooking a lake. The scenery was pristine and the water so clear you could see your feet on the sandy bottom. In the evening they would build a campfire to sit around and sing songs. Or, hangout in the cabin and play games.

The Great Canadian Adventure – Pam with Georgene in the back

Since Bill had a background in Amateur Theatre, I’m quite sure he made the games quite entertaining, as well as the group sing-alongs.

One excursion on the trip involved taking Georgene and Carolann out on a boat to catch frogs that would later become dinner. The girls swore they wouldn’t eat the frogs legs after seeing them still hoping about even after their heads were cut off, but upon tasting them discovered they were quite good.

While on the Canada Trip Adventure, when they went out to a restaurant, Bill told the girls they were only allowed to have cereal for breakfast or a hot dog for lunch. Considering the size of the family, this is quite understandable.

Despite Bill’s early passing, his love of nature and the outdoors was instilled in all the children, even Mariann and William, who were too little to even know him. He was a true environmentalist, with a love for every living thing on this earth and knew the value of having a good relationship with the environment, and his children all do too, thanks to him.

As a matter of fact, William has his own landscaping business, Pamela and her husband are both Master Gardeners, and his oldest Grandson (who he never knew) is an Environmental Engineer. To say it’s in the genes is an understatement.

Another trait some of the children inherited, which isn’t a good one though, is his “Slavinsky Natura” – aka temper. Bill was quick to anger, but then just as quickly cooled down. Unfortunately this upset the household, which took much longer to relax after an outburst.

Fortunately, the children who did inherit this trait have very much mellowed as they have aged, which I’m guessing would have been the same for Bill had he had the opportunity to grow old with Helen.

In reference to Bill’s friends, he had a lot of them. All with a variety of skill sets different from his, who could help with things he couldn’t do himself. One of those was welding, which came in handy when Bill wanted a swing set for the children at the new house. This friend also made a custom designed Christmas tree stand, which stayed in the family for years.

Swing set Bill had a friend build for the girls

Bill also had friend’s who had cherry and peach trees that the family would go pick when in season, and another with a farm where he could cut a fresh Christmas tree.

An interesting habit Bill had in regards to his friends was, when driving, if he saw them, he would nod and say their names as he passed by, just a simple greeting acknowledging them, even if they didn’t see him.

Bill would often randomly stop by to visit friends, usually after church, which meant he had the family with him. The odd thing was, he generally went in by himself, leaving Helen and the girls in the car. Sometimes waiting in the car for an hour, Helen found ways to entertain the girls, but never complained. She knew Bill just needed some time with his friend.

Part of Bill’s escape from stress, beyond his garden or fishing was the huge workshop he built in the basement of the new home. That was a great escape for him where he would create his masterpieces.

He kept it immaculate and well organized. So much so that he knew if one of the girls borrowed a supply for a school project, because it would never be put back in its proper place.

He was a bit of an inventor too and even applied for patents on a few of his inventions, but it’s not known whatever became of them.

Bill also had large fish tanks for a while that he kept as meticulous as his workshop. This was just one more hobby that helped to alleviate stress in his life.

Both Bill and Helen were very creative and playful and it showed in how they approached the holidays, especially Christmas. It was most certainly a magical time.

Bill would create the most amazing Putz with real moss gathered from a friend’s farm. It was so large it took over the living room in their small apartment and half the living room in the new home.

Massive Putz Bill would create every year for Christmas. Even the manger and the stand the Putz is on was crafted by Bill

The two of them would stay up till the wee hours of the morning preparing stockings and gifts. One key feature was the Surprise Balls filled with little toys rolled up in paper that unraveled.

Francine, Pamela, Georgene and Carolann – Christmas in the apartment
First Christmas after Bill’s passing Helen made sure the Putz was put up. Not to the same detail, but it made it feel like Bill was still with them

At Easter the egg coloring was a major event supervised by Bill. This tradition is still carried on by all the children and grandchildren. Easter just isn’t Easter without this tradition.

Bill was not a very demonstrative man, but he found ways to let his girls know he loved them. Like placing his hand on their shoulder and gently guiding them when they were walking somewhere, or see that he had Valentines for each of them, telling them they’re all his sweethearts.

And, when the girls had processions at school he’d put together bouquets from the peonies, roses and Lilly of the Valley that lined the property at his Mother’s house. These bouquets were more beautiful than the purchased ones the other girls’ at school which made the Danko Girls very proud.

The biggest sign of his love though was his concern for Carolann and Georgene when they went out on a date. He would tell Helen not to worry and to go bed, but then he would wait up. When he heard the car pull into the driveway, he would flash the carport lights on and off to let them know he was waiting for them. I’m thinking this was also a way to worn the boy Dad was watching.

Georgene heading out on a date

Bill so wanted something more for his children, and he did everything he could to see that their life experiences were ones that would expand their minds and enhance their overall well-being. They were not wealthy, but he made sure everything they did was rich with wonder and awe.

If Bill were alive today I think he’d be pleased to see that all his efforts were not in vain. Each one of his children is unique and have tried hard to stay true to their hearts just like him. And all continue to honor their Slovak roots, which they are very proud of.

Danko Family circa 2013 at Carolann’s 70th birthday party – Dustin (Grandson) with his wife Nicole and their Son Ian, Daughter Pamela with her husband Terry behind her, Daughter Georgene with her husband John, Daughter Francine, Son William and his family, Son’s Billy, Dylan and Ethan on the far right, wife Judi and Daughter Carolann – Seated are Daughter Mariann and her Son Roy, and Helen, the matriarch of the family

Although Bill passed way too young, the legacy of the highly creative, multi-talented, passionate outdoorsman and environmentalist that he was has lived on with not only his children, but also his five grandsons and one great grandson.

Grandson Dustin (Georgene’s Son) and his Son Ian – 2020
Grandson’s Billy, Ethan and Dylan (William’s Sons) at Ethan’s wedding – 2016
Grandson Roy (Mariann’s Son) – 2019

AND, if he were here to see his grandsons and great grandson all grow into the fine young men they are, I’m quite sure he would be bragging to all his friends, just as he did about his girls.

When a soul is strong and full of life, their energy lives on even when they are gone. This is just the case for William “Bill” Henry Danko. Physically he left this Earth in 1964 at the youthful age of 45, but the spirit of his soul still lingers within all his loved ones, forever and for always.

Shadow box created by Pamela and her husband Terry for all the children in memory of Bill

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from the family’s personal collection

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the world starts to attempt to come out of it’s COVID cocoon, it’s hard to not look back and take stock of the impact this year in isolation has had on my Son and I.

For my Son, who is a junior in college, a year off-campus, with all virtual classes has taken a toll on him in a very negative way. It has induced apathy and put him into a dull state of depression, something I don’t often see with him.

As an online gamer he spends a lot of time in the virtual world, so I figured he’d adapt well, but as the quarantine lingered longer, the lack of in-person learning and time with friends hanging out on campus began to wear on him.

For me though, I’ve found the quarantine and isolation time somewhat invigorating. I love being home, but up until shut down, if I wasn’t at work, I was out running errands, and when I was home, my time was dominated by chores.

During shut down I continued to work from home, but the work was limited because of the nature of the business.

SO, the in-between time finally allowed me the luxury to just appreciate being home.

I could actually ponder things that would be nice to change, or that could use a little updating: nothing over the top like renovation, but something as simple as new curtains, or rearranging furniture.

AND, purge stuff that has accumulated over the years without the necessary time to address it.

PLUS, for the first time in years I could finally start to conquer projects sitting in limbo, like my Son’s high school graduation scrapbook and framing.

In addition, I could take time to relax and read a book, which is something I can honestly say I hardly ever do despite the fact that I love to read. Up until shut down, reading the paper or an occasional magazine article was the extent of my reading.

The most important thing though, I could finally truly focus on my writing as a business. Something I knew I had to do in order to supplement my income leading up to and during retirement, which is a must in order for me to actually retire. 

Yes, this does sound like a lot to cover in any day, week, or month, but considering prior to COVID shut down I was working a 9 hour day, plus travel time to and from work, I now had 10 hours each day, 50 hours a week, and 200 hours a month to play with.

Minus of course whatever work I had to attend to, but that was never more than maybe 5 hours a day, so I still had 5 hours free, which to any mom is a like an entire day free.

Note, this extra time began to dwindle by mid-May, but any time not already plotted into my day was a gift. So I took advantage of it, and jumped head first into exploring my writing as a business.

In so doing though, I discovered monetizing a blog that is a bit esoteric, as this blog is, is not an easy feat to accomplish, without a lot of time and SEO know how, which I do not have, especially being back in the office every day since June.

Fortunately though, by the time I discovered this, I had also unearthed a new creative outlet. An outlet that I would also discover has far more potential than monetizing my blog.

And that new creative outlet turns out is something I could have never fathomed even in my wildest dreams.

Custom designed chalk creations done on my driveway.

What started out as a simple Easter greeting for my neighbors at the beginning of the pandemic has turned into a weekly thing. All it took was a passerby commenting how cheerful the creation was, noting how much we needed that, and adding I should keep it up.

Every week I tried something new, and about a year ago tried my hand with a mandala. 

Once I did that I knew I was on to something. Even during the winter I continued to create new art. Of course on a smaller scale, but I would hang it in my front window and post it on the Facebook page I created to share my art with those not in my neighborhood.

I even came up with a name for my chalk art alter ego “the CHALK Charmer” which is what my Facebook page is titled.

https://www.facebook.com/TheCHALKCharmer/

Upon sharing my creations friends commented that some of the art would look nice on mugs, or t-shirts, or bags, etc…

This got the wheels in my head turning.

Could my creations actually become something more than therapy for me on weekends?

Could they actually become a source of income?

So I began to explore the idea and I’m happy to say I’m on the precipice of starting a business to sell merchandise. 

Right now this idea is very much in it’s infancy. 

Turns out the avenue I was considering, which is a third party company that would host my shop, do all the fulfillment from printing-on-demand, to shipping, to collecting payment, may not be the route I want to take.

Although this seems like the perfect route for someone who works full-time while trying to start a side business, the samples I received may look good, but upon showing my co-workers, I discovered the quality of the base product is not up to par, which doesn’t sit right with me.

Samples of mug, pouch, t-shirt and tank top
Close up of mug

I may work in the print world, but I don’t handle merchandise like some of my co-workers do, and I trust their judgement. The last thing I want is my reputation tarnished by a poor product.

In addition, this third party company would also handle the customer service, which makes me twitch, because as someone who does customer service for a living, I know how critical it is to making or breaking a business. In general the CS reviews I’ve read are pretty good for the company I was considering, but it only takes one bad experience to screw your reputation.

With all this in mind, I’m now looking into my own e-commerce site. Of course this means I need to stock inventory, do all the shipping and payment collection, but I would be able to control all aspects of the business, starting with selling a quality product I believe in.

Starting a business is not something I take lightly, and to be honest is very scary, yet exhilarating at the same time. It is also something I would not venture forth to do without guidance, which is why I have reached out to my local Small Business Council.

After all, this is my future and I want to make sure I do everything right from the very start. I don’t want to half-ass this in any way.

SO, although this means my actual shop for the CHALK Charmer will be delayed, my vision for the future is getting clearer every day. AND, after speaking with the Small Business Council, I know it’s a valid vision, which means I can look to the future with great excitement knowing as long as I put the work in, my dreams will come to fruition.

AND, the kicker is, without my quarantine time, I could have been spinning my wheels for years trying to monetize my blog and in so doing been forced to give up on the hopes of retiring at any age, let alone 65.

As for my Son, knowing he’ll be back on campus for his Senior year has been enough to help lift him out of the funk that consumed him over his year in isolation.

Come August I’m sure I’ll be going through withdrawal having an empty house again. BUT, I’ll have my new adventure to focus on, and I’ll know my Son is where he needs to be to fulfill his dreams.

PLUS, I’ll be able to look back over our year in isolation together knowing despite all the anxiety and stress we became closer, and faced the challenges together.

AND, all of this made us stronger individually and together. 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

Look Back – © 123rf – Pracha jaruprateepkul

Home – © 123rf – Vasvas

Free Time – © 123rf – Rabina Elif Aksoy

Business Start Up – © 123rf – Iryna Liashenko

Clear Vision – © 123rf – Zachery Blanton

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The Toll of Quarantine on My College Student Son

March 13, 2021 marked one year since I brought my Son home from college for what was only suppose to be two weeks. 

A year later he is still home, taking all his classes virtually.

AND, my how things have changed.

When the COVID pandemic was not yet classified a pandemic, but things were escalating daily, my anxiety levels were also escalating, especially because my Son was away at school. I feared the US would go into lockdown and he would be stuck there. 

As a fan of “The Walking Dead” every end of world scenario was playing out in my mind.

How would I get my Son home if we were in lockdown? What covert operation would I have to pull off? Would I have to dodge law enforcement or the military? Would I be fined if I was caught?

The Walking Dead Characters locked, loaded and ready for action – courtesy of AMC

Granted, some of this is extreme, but a year ago so much was up in the air that anything imaginable crossed my mind.

SO, when the school sent out the plans to send students home for an extended Spring Break I was beyond relieved. No covert operation would be needed. I could pick my Son up in a somewhat normal fashion.

Once he was home I didn’t care what happened, as long as he was home with me. If the world fell apart we’d face it together, just like Rick and Carl.

Rick and Carl facing the end of the world together – courtesy of AMC

And face it we did.

When my Son first got home, I was still working full-time in the office, coming home strung out because I had no clue if I was exposed to the virus. Within a week though the Stay-At-Home Orders were put in place in our state and the official lockdown began. 

Being told I had to stay home and not venture out into the virus-infested world was a huge relief, and an order I was grateful to abide by. We’d make due with what we had and when we ran out of something figure it out then. 

The true test would be how my Son and I handled being home all day, every day with just each other. 

I had finally adjusted to being by myself after a rough Freshman year, and my Son had gotten comfortable with his on-campus college student lifestyle.

He was becoming more independent and he liked it. His visits home up to this time were always relaxed and playful because that’s just what they were meant to be. Breaks from the college workload to refresh and recharge for the next semester.

AND, of course Mom would dote on him because that’s what Mom’s do when their kids come home from college.

Now however, he would be taking classes from home and I would be working from home. Nothing at all like a normal home visit for a college break. 

Add to it, we both had to share the loft where our computers were.

Needless to say it was a bit of an adjustment, but some how we made it work. His irregular class schedule and my flexibility with work hours certainly helped.

Plus I was only home full time for about a month before I was going back into the office a couple times a week which eventually led to full time again by May.

One of my biggest challenges came when I was trying to focus and my Son would decide that’s when he wanted to give me an update on something related to a class, or even just something silly he read and thought I’d enjoy.

Prior to this it was a none-issue because I wasn’t doing work related things at home. BUT, now it mattered, so I had to find a delicate way to let him know it was not a good time and not offend him because I certainly wanted to know about school.

Note, my Son is very random when it comes to informing me about personal things or school, so I have learned over the years to pause when he gets in the mood to talk. No matter when that may be.

The last thing I wanted was to have him think I didn’t care and stop randomly spilling what’s on his mind.

Considering the fact that he still does this, I can say I did not offend him, and we’re all good it that department.

The other key thing at play with my Son home full-time again was and still is the general dynamics between the two of us.

Our relationship as parent and child has been evolving since my Son was a teen, and took on a whole new level when he went away to college. At college, he was maturing and learning to be more independent, and I was concerned being forced to move back home full-time could do some damage in that area.

Something I most certainly didn’t want to see happen.

So I have tried hard to give him space, within limits though, because after all he is still at home under my roof.

There had to be some rules. Like helping Mom with kitchen duties. Something he got out of while in high school, but not now. It was only fair considering I was back to doing more cooking on a regular basis.

When I contracted COVID in late January, my Son had no choice but to step up his game in this area, and I can say he has done it without complaining which is major sign of maturity. 

In the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, because we were both so consumed by what was going on with the pandemic, and my work ours were not consistent, there was a lot of fluidity with household dynamics.

BUT, once my hours went back to full-time and my Son was back working part-time at a local grocery store, I quickly realized our relationship was evolving into a whole new phase

The dynamics between the two of us was becoming one of true camaraderie, with a buddy-like quality, and a real sense of respect for each other. Something I happily welcomed and was excited to experience. Were there hiccups, of course, but overall things were changing for the good.

Summer hike in the Poconos

Because of this new-found camaraderie I noticed my Son more willing to open up about his emotions when dealing with being home. Which I was beyond grateful for because otherwise I would not have realized the toll quarantine was actually taking on him.

One of the biggest issues he addresses was a feeling of apathy, and lack of motivation. He noted that at least he was getting his class work done.

Apparently a lot of friends have not been.

As my Son told me the extended virtual learning was taking a toll on everyone he spoke with.

The lack of in-person classes and “real” on-campus life was hindering their desire to perform to the best of their ability. AND this was coming from friends who were actually on campus, but had at least half of their classes still virtual.

Once he told me all of this, I started to better understand some of his not so normal behavior.

My Son has always been a bit of a night owl, and would sleep in as often as he could, which is pretty normal for teens and college students. BUT, things were escalating to the point where he’d be up all night and sleep all day whenever he didn’t need to be up for classes. AND sometimes even when he did have classes. 

This concerned me because how could he be prepared for class if he crawled out of bed 5 minutes before class. Plus be alert enough to actually participate.

And to add to all of this, my Son had finally gotten his computer moved to the basement over Winter Break so he had more seclusion and privacy, which only amplified the night owl problem.

Prior to the move, he was right outside my bedroom in the loft so I could hear him, which meant I could keep tabs on him and make him accountable for his time. Something he didn’t really like.

Although he’s holding his own with classes, despite an issue with one class that’s tied to the instructors, he’s spending the bare minimal of time on his classwork, but certainly spending plenty of time gaming, and watching Anime or stupid videos on YouTube. If he’s not in front of his computer, he’s got his phone and is watching stupid videos there.

Again, I know this is pretty standard for a college kid, but for my Son it’s excessive. It’s most certainly a means of escape.

He’s always spent a lot of time online with friends, either gaming or just BS’ing, but he’d also spend just as much time socializing with his friends in-person, especially on campus.

SO, taking the personal one-on-one side out of the equation was rearing it’s ugly head.

At least when he’s working he gets some one-on-one time with co-workers and customers, but because of the amount of writing one of his classes required he decided to not work during this semester, which just added to the seclusion problem.

I’ve told him his behavior is a sign of depression, and he’s aware of it. YET, he’s making limited effort to break free of the hold the quarantine has on him, which is what concerns me.

In general he seems fine, but because he has no reason to leave the house, and has limited commitments, he’s left to just flounder. 

He is not very self-motivated, which is another issue for another post, so although there are many things he could be doing with his time, he chooses to do nothing

I toss out ideas, and make suggestion to help lift him out of his funk, but he dismisses the ideas, even when he knows it’s on him to make the change.

When he was away at college, living on campus, he was starting to get more organized with his time, plotting his days out, prioritizing tasks, etc… He was learning to create structure and order to his days. Even motivated to venture forth beyond his comfort zone.

Last performance with jazz band a week prior to coming home

NOW, all bets are off 

At least he’s getting his schoolwork done, which I have to be grateful for. And, the classes the back half of this semester seem to be more engaging, which seem to be helping his overall mood a little.

BUT, next semester is his senior year and I fear what this extended time at home has done to his overall growth. I’m hoping once he’s vaccinated and can be back on campus, he will be able to pick up where he left off, but until then, I will do my best to help him break free from his quarantine funk.

I will need to find ways to make him more accountable for his time every day. What that is I don’t know yet, BUT if he has to answer to someone other than himself about how he spends his days, maybe that will help.

This is all very new for me.

Usually my Son has had so much schoolwork, and extracurricular activities that I was not concerned about his “veg out time.” I knew he needed it as a means to recharge so I didn’t worry.

Now however all this “veg out time” is doing the opposite.

It’s slowly burning out all the stored charge that motivated my Son to succeed. Apathy is winning and despite still being in a pandemic I have to find a way to reverse this course and get my Son back on track for I hope and pray will be his best year of college, his Senior year! 

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

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