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

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

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#Father’sDay

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#DaddyTribute

#Family

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

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#Isolation

#TollOfQuarantine

#NewVision

#LightAtEndOfTunnel

#ChalkTheWalk

#theCHALKCharmer

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.

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#QuarantineTollOnCollegeStudents

#QuarantineApathy

MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Motherhood

Ok, I know it’s a bit cliché to write a post about motherhood the week after Mother’s Day, but comments about “Real Mothers” in a book I’m reading not only made me giggle, but triggered my mind to meander through my years as a Single Mom raising a gifted child.

The book is “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult, and it’s been on my nightstand for years. I started reading it multiple times, but life as a Single Mom, or any Mom for that matter, doesn’t always allow the time to just sit and read.

BUT, having more time at home right now, and a child who is twenty and somewhat independent, I can say I finally carved out time to read, beyond the newspaper, blogs and reference books. A hobby I certainly missed.

The book is a story about a divorced, single Mom named Emma with an 18 year old son with Asperger’s syndrome, who is very verbal, and locked in his own world, but would very much like to make connections outside of this world, yet is clueless on how to be “normal.”

AND, there is also an older brother who just wants a normal life, but gave up hope of this ever happening, as the issues with his younger brother became the dominant factor in their household. Thus the title “House Rules.”

https://www.jodipicoult.com/house-rules.html

I won’t get into details beyond this because it’s insignificant to the point of this post. What is significant is that as can be expected this Mother has had a hard time at being the Mother she dreamed she would be. She’s spent a lot of time second-guessing herself, but with time has realized she has done what needed to be done to protect her children, especially the son with Asperger’s.

Continue reading “MID-WEEK MEANDERING – Motherhood”

MONTHLY MEDITATION – Quarantined with a Twenty-Year-Old College Student

As time starts to morph the longer our “Stay at Home” Order is in place, the more I’ve begun to analyze just how dysfunctional my Son and I can be.

OR, should I say, just how challenging living with a twenty-year-old college student really can be.

Granted he’s home on breaks, but that’s just it, a break. During those times I’m working full time, and so is he if it’s a summer or winter break, and our evenings and weekends are our time to hangout, which works out wonderfully.

The present situation is completely different.

I’m sort of laid off, but he has classes, or should I say class work. None of his teachers are using Zoom on a regular basis. He just has assignments to be completed by a certain date.

This leaves plenty of leverage when it comes to creating a schedule for my Son’s days, as I’ve suggested he do. I’m one who can’t stand seeing a day go to waste and want to use this time at home productively.

So for me creating a basic schedule allows me to break up my day and take time to write, work on unfinished house projects and explore other interests, or even just read. A luxury I don’t usually have time for.

Continue reading “MONTHLY MEDITATION – Quarantined with a Twenty-Year-Old College Student”

Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting

Parenting is a funny thing. 

When your child is young you need to be involved in every step along the way.

As they hit middle school years, you need to start stepping back; giving them the space they need to start maneuvering their world on their own.

By high school you need to be watching from the sidelines. It’s sink or swim time preparing for college.

The irony though is, if you’re too involved, you can be accused of being a “helicopter mom.”

AND

If you step back too much, you can be accused of not caring.

You’re constantly walking a fine line between over-stepping and under-stepping.

As my Son was growing up, I was by no means a “helicopter mom.” I was what I classified as his advocate.

An advocate he desperately needed at times.

Continue reading “Navigating the Ever-Changing Terrain of Parenting”

Signs of Growth

Last month I met an old friend for dinner. This is something we had tried to do for years, but between raising kids, and caring for our aging Mom’s, time just got away from us. BUT, with both of us now having our children back at college for their sophomore year we knew we had to make it happen

OR, it may never happen.

Once seated at our table, my first words to her were “How are you doing since the girls went back to school?”

Without any hesitation she stated sophomore year has been tougher than freshman year. I agreed, confessing I was downright depressed the first week or two.

I hate to say it, but it was refreshing to find out it wasn’t just me feeling this way. 

Freshman year I had many texts, emails, and even a somewhat regular Sunday afternoon call from my Son. Plus, I had a few runs to the college to aid with roommate issues and moving. And, bring things he discovered he needed for the dorm. 

This year however has been drastically different.

Which is good for my Son. It means he’s becoming more independent, self-confident and self-reliant.

For me however, it has been beyond challenging. The feeling of not being needed was overwhelming at times.

Before I let it get the best of me though, I knew I had to put my energy into something positive. I needed to be proactive and not dwell on the void.

With an endless list of unfinished projects staring me down, I set my sights on those, and created a plan of attack based on the time I had till my Son’s first visit home for Fall Break.

Continue reading “Signs of Growth”

Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years

As the month of August unfolded the reality that my Son heads back to college to start his Sophomore year in 25 days hit me hard. I had that same pit in my stomach as I experienced all of last summer as his Freshman year crept closer with each passing day. 

It’s just me and my Son at home, so facing a truly empty nest for the first time in 18 1/2 years was beyond a challenge for me to say the least.

I had my ups and downs over the course of his Freshman year, but by the time he came home for the Summer I felt I had conquered a lot of those feelings.

To feel that sadness in my gut popping up again confirmed that I still have work to do, which I’m quite sure will be the topic of future posts.

Continue reading “Facing the “IN-BETWEEN” Years”