My Very Specific Late Onset Anxiety Disorder

by Megan Taylor Stephens

Nov. 26, 2021

I seem to have slowly developed a fear of being separated from my people. It’s a very strange and specific fear that has only become obvious to me in the past few years. I think I can unpack it. Bear with me.

I love being alone—it’s a rare gift that replenishes me and reminds me that I’m not the extrovert I usually pretend to be. I don’t mind if my husband is on the other side of the world for work. He has good care around him and will be fine no matter what. I don’t even mind it when my teenagers are far away from me for a few days. There’s nothing I can do if something bad happens. I manage to let go and let live. What I don’t like is for my kids to be just far away enough to be inaccessible. So close yet so far. This crops up most when there is a body of water in between me and my kids.

It’s possible that my very specific separation anxiety may have started at this moment.

When I was three years old, my mom and stepdad took me and my sister to an island getaway in one of the many lakes of Minnesota. They dropped us off with family friends and took a much-needed mini vacay back on the mainland. It was summer. Warm and muggy and a perfect time of year to be surrounded by water. My big sis and I were thrilled to be at the rustic cabin in the middle of a lake that was only accessible by boat. And we were beyond excited to sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed. What a treat!

At some point in the night, my position changed from next to the wall to next to the railing. No surprise, as I have always been a restless sleeper. At some point soon after, in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up wailing in anguish. I had fallen out of the top bunk and had landed on the ground, splitting my chin open. A bandage was wound around my chin and the adults in charge tried to comfort me while they scrambled to find a way to get me off the island and to a hospital. I don’t think there was a phone. Or a boat. Eventually, someone rustled up transportation and I was rushed to a clinic, where I got stitches, a lollipop, and praise for being a brave little kid. It took forever to reach my parents. They really went off radar.

Flash forward to my life in Portland, Oregon. I love my life but I think I’ve come to hate the damned rivers that are at our doorstep. The majestic Willamette and Columbia rivers continuously separate me from my offspring. My anxiety and imagination are fueled by the certainty of two main things: the dozens of old bridges in need of repair and the Cascadia Megaquake that is scheduled to bring down all said bridges and countless other not-up-to-code structures in this quaint city at some unspecified point in time. It is certain yet uncertain, which makes it particularly vexing. It will definitely happen, we just don’t know exactly when.

Back to the rivers. Why was Portland set up to be on both sides of the river…and is it too late to propose a new city layout? Like an uninvited and oblivious dinner guest preventing me from dashing out of my house, the rivers throw a wedge between me and my escape plan. What if, when The Big One strikes, half of my family is on one side of the river and half are on the other side? Should I order an inflatable kayak to keep in the car? And why do my teens have to cross the river constantly to visit friends, play in sports games, and screw around on a Saturday night? Here’s another story to illustrate my paranoia—I mean, my point.

Not long ago, my friends had a little getaway to an idyllic island cabin in the Puget Sound of Washington state. I told some friends about my bodies-of-water-induced anxiety. They passed me more wine and told me there’s nothing to be stressed about. What’s the worst that can happen? At midnight, I called to check in on my then 17-year-old son, who was home alone in Portland. The Hubs was overseas and the other kid was staying with friends. My son told me, “Mom, you’ll never guess what happened.”

That’s never a good start with him. I inhaled deeply. He proceeded to tell me how someone with road rage chased him and a friend in their cars all over downtown Portland and, when the raging driver cornered them at a traffic light, he pulled a gun on them. They had accidentally cut it a bit too close when they needed to merge onto an onramp for a bridge. He was back safely home and had left a police report. He said all was well. I had a fitful sleep, as you can imagine. I obsessed most of the night about the ridiculous gun laws in this country, but that’s another story. I also plotted which ferry to take to get off the island pronto.

The day after this crappy slumber, the girlfriends cheered me up and we frolicked in a quiet little cove. We swam, splashed, paddle boarded, and reminisced about our fond childhood memories of summers spent in joyful, refreshing, rejuvenating lakes and rivers across the US. Needless to say, when the Hubs called later from “across the pond,” I did not tell him about our son’s misadventures.

My late onset anxiety is probably not 100% about water. I’m sure it has a tad bit to do with perimenopause. Exacerbated by the impending (or not?) megaquake. Enhanced by a little childhood separation anxiety. Enflamed by parenting stress from trying to raise kids in a dangerous world where we can’t protect them. Whatever it’s about, it’s probably time for me to ask the doctor for some meds for this very specific anxiety disorder that really should be in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). I am kind of partial to the water element, so I narrowed it down to two names. Should it be called Bodies of Water Induced Anxiety (BOWIA) or Effin’ Lakes, Rivers, and Islands Paranoia (ELRIP)? Let me know what you think.

My carefree kid on Sauvie Island (Wapato Island) along the Columbia River

The Tilikum Bridge shot by drone by my son (it’s new and earthquake resistant!)
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Courageous Acts of Career Questioning: Stories about people who made job shifts during the pandemic

by Megan Taylor Stephens

Nov. 2021

I’ve learned that ‘making a living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.

–Maya Angelou

Career Questioners

My friend, Dorothy Davis, up and quit during the pandemic. She had a demanding job in an intense line of work: Head of Marketing in the tech sector. I knew she had been thinking of making a change for some time, and I’m so very proud of her. She had saved up money and finally gave herself the gift of walking away for a while to ponder her next career move. She is extremely talented and a genuinely good person, so I don’t doubt that something amazing will come her way. Dorothy’s Act of Courageous Quitting made me wonder who else has done something different or even radical with their careers during the Times of COVID.

Before I regale you with motivational stories, I want to acknowledge that there is great privilege in making a radical change in one’s career. Not everyone is in a place where they can throw caution to the wind and start over from scratch. Inadequate savings, childcare issues, unsupportive partners—these are only some of the things that might prevent someone from taking the plunge into a new line of work. Some people may be better off pivoting while staying within their lane of experience and training. Others might want to dip their toes in the water and test out their passions as a side hustle rather than jump straight into the deep end.

As I was poking around, I realized that I had lots of friends and acquaintances who went through both subtle and drastic professional shake-ups during the lockdown. A colleague, Emma Reznic, has kept her day job as a speech-language pathologist while pursuing a side gig as an illustrator. My neighbor, Gretchen Cook, went from being a product advisor for a food company to being a restaurant server. Sean Brochin reduced his special educator job to half time and became a half-time realtor. Jasmine Landry turned her educational leadership job into a fully remote position and launched herself as an educational consultant. Bridget Saladino was in a professional rut and decided moving to Italy was a now or never event, which she called “making limoncello out of lemons.”

While many doors of employment and opportunity have slammed shut, others have opened wide. Based on stories I was hearing, I came up with three broad categories of job change-ups that are happening during the pandemic: The Pivot, The Side Hustle, and The Radical Leap. I reached out to some job shifters and asked them exactly what they did, why they did it, and how they feel about the outcome. Spoiler alert: They all seem pleased with their Courageous Act of Career Questioning.

The Pivot: Ben

Ben Cosloy has been a general and finish carpenter for years. He has busied himself mostly with residential remodeling of old houses, doing the gamut from design to framing to finish work. He has also been a musician for years. He grew up with a love for jazz and rock that he largely attributes to Pink Floyd and his music-loving dad. Ben picked up the guitar in middle school, played in bands in high school, and plays in gigging bands part-time with his wife starting about twenty years ago.

As his carpentry jobs were delayed and work dwindled during the pandemic, Ben found that he had time on his hands to focus on things that brought him joy, such as his luthier hobby. Guitar building was a hobby that he started dabbling in about 15 years prior because he was too frugal to buy a guitar that he wanted. So he bought the parts he needed and more or less taught himself to build and repair guitars.

During the pandemic lockdown, Ben finished the first guitar he had started years before, built a new one, and it just kept going from there. He already had the basic wood shop needed for carpentry and could have stayed low budget by sticking with a jigsaw and endless filing and sanding. But he had a little extra unemployment money and used it to buy some specialty tools to enhance his luthier hobby.

It turns out that there was a robust market for hand-hewn guitars and Ben’s hobby could bring in money. Now Ben makes more than 50% of his money from guitar building, and his hope is that it will gradually take over carpentry and contracting altogether.

Ben was able to take his experience with building, woodworking, and finish carpentry and re-fashion it into something that gives him greater joy. He doesn’t think he would have made the pivot from his less satisfying and more stressful job to this more gratifying and creative line of work if it were not for the pandemic. First of all, the pandemic gave him the gift (and curse) of time. “Anyone with some woodworking experience and tons of patience could build an electric guitar—which is mostly what I do—but it took me a lot of builds to improve to where it wasn’t a totally white knuckle ride building them.”

The lockdown also gave Ben the gift of clarity. He calls it The Big Pause. “The Big Pause is something that helped me mentally, realizing that I was not locked into doing exactly what I had been doing previously.” He adds, “When everything is going to hell, it’s a lot easier to decide to do things that are important to you.”

Ben’s advice to others who don’t feel fulfilled is: “You don’t have to be stuck doing what you’re doing. Think about what you enjoy and what you’re good at and try to align those to your career goals. Also, it’s incredibly helpful to talk to folks who are in a field you’re interested in. I can’t imagine doing any of the stuff I’m doing without friends and mentors.” He particularly wants to give a shout out to Todd Mylet at Portland Fretworks repair shop.

Check out Ben’s guitars on his Instagram page and make sure to check out his bands Lord Master and Bad Assets.

The Side Hustle: Temujin

Pre-pandemic, Temujin “Temu” Nana worked fulltime in the tour industry as a tour manager and photo instructor. The company he works for takes tourists to far flung places all over the world, such as the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, Norway, India, Morocco, and Namibia. Photography tour packages are Temu’s specialty. These small-group luxury expeditions are exhilarating and rewarding. Temu thoroughly enjoys going on these international adventure trips and doesn’t plan on quitting this day job. However, COVID-19 had other plans.

The pandemic lockdown radically thinned out the queue of customers looking for the travel experiences that Temu’s company offers. During his period of employment stagnation, Temu and his wife realized that they could easily relocate. They decided to test out a “gap year” move from urban Philadelphia to a rural area of Utah. The impetus was for him to be immersed in nature and delve into his area of passion: astrophotography.

“The idea was to go somewhere beautiful, near nature, not too close to people, and with dark skies. With the skies we have here in Utah, I was able to shoot consistently and in ways that are impossible in more light polluted areas. That was the big kicker. I learned and shot a ton.”

As Temu honed his skills in his area of passion, he was surprised to find out that even experienced photographers often knew very little about photographing the night sky. He found himself giving advice on deep space astrophotography, which led to presentations, which led to the bona fide money-making side hustle that he finds himself currently enjoying.

Now he says, “I simply love sharing my love of the night sky, and the more people I can get to appreciate it, the more we can protect places where we still have views of the incredible spectacle we have above us.”

Temu has succeeded in the sometimes challenging alchemy experiment of making lemonade from lemons, and he may not have done so without the impetus of the pandemic slowdown. “Not having the ability to travel simply made me focus on other things to take up my time,” he explained.

Temu says, “I think the greatest obstacle for most people is their own fear of uncertainty.” His advice is: “Make the jump, slowly at first and in segments if you need to, but just try. You can (usually) always return to your old life, if you want.”

Check out Temu’s astrophotography photos on his Instagram page here: Night Sky

And here’s the tour company he works for: Open Sky Expeditions

The Radical Leap: Jackie

Jackie Haddon has been a licensed clinical social worker for twenty years. She was the director of a large mental health agency for the last decade. As a social worker, she specialized in adolescent girls and their mental health challenges—depression, anxiety, sex abuse, etc. Jackie was very tired. After losing two friends to breast cancer and a father-in-law to ALS, she paused and reflected. It dawned on her that time was short, and she was allowing work to completely deplete her.

“I realized how much I had come to believe that busyness and stress was a natural byproduct of working,” she said. With the passing of friends and family, “I was made keenly aware that I was being arrogant to assume I had years ahead of me to find what made me happy professionally.” In order to have the quality of life and creativity that she craved, Jackie knew she would have to make a huge change in careers.

Jackie loved houses, interior design, home renovation, and project design. She is also passionate about equity and inclusion. To top it off, she has a charming and bubbly personality. She decided to become a licensed real estate agent, something she had been interested in for a number of years. She took an online class over the course of three months. Then she studied for and passed a test covering national and state real estate laws. She says it took her awhile to get off and running after that—she blames general pandemic distraction and disorientation—but now she’s making as much money as she was in her old job and having a ball in the process.

Even though her new career seems like an obvious choice to people who know her,

it was hard for her to take the plunge into the real estate industry. “I couldn’t imagine making the leap from professional do-gooder to selling homes. But once I realized I could incorporate my values around equity and accessible housing, it all began to fall into place.”

Jackie can credit the pandemic to helping her come to terms with the fragility of life. Life is unpredictable and sometimes unfair. But life is uncertain whether you’re working yourself to death or enjoying a creative and fulfilling career. She feels fortunate that she had a good sense of what profession would make her fulfilled, and she had support and resources to make the leap, which she knows can’t be taken for granted.

Jackie’s advice is: “Don’t just assume that it is impossible to leave your current career. Sit down and really look at what you need financially and then assess if there’s a way you can meet those needs somewhere else.”

As if propelled by all her forward momentum, Jackie is now working on other areas of interest. She is planning on starting a nonprofit to help train women in the trades and help individuals with mobility challenges stay in their homes. 

Jackie works at this Real Estate company in the Portland, OR area: O’Donnell Group Realty­

What Will You Do?

Amid many stories of struggle and despair during the pandemic, there are also stories of empowerment and renaissance. Many people adjusted to new pandemic parameters and ended up liking the outcome. Perhaps you are questioning how you spend 40+ hours per week (more than 2000 hours per year!) in your current employment situation. If so, what better time to change it up than during a global upheaval? The Pivot, The Side Hustle, or The Radical Leap could be right for you.

Consider Jasmine Landry’s epiphany once she gave herself permission to change course: “I think my biggest personal lesson from my career move and the pandemic is that I don’t ‘have to’ do anything.  It was a big mental shift for me.  I don’t ‘have to’ take a safe job opportunity just because it’s what I thought I would do next. I don’t ‘have to’ stay in my expensive rental. I can weigh my options and make big moves—and change my mind and make new big moves.”

Jasmine’s parting words of wisdom to others is: “Think about what needs to be true for you to feel safe in a career shake-up. Figure out how much a safety net you need, put that net in place, then see what happens!”

Mary Oliver says it best in this poem called The Summer Day: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Crime and Punishment and ADHD: When Parents Disagree on Discipline

Published in ADDitude magazine on Oct. 29, 2021

by Megan Taylor Stephens

“Crime and Punishment and ADHD: When Parents Disagree on Discipline”

Has a crime occurred?

From another room, I hear my husband proclaim, “Why is there trash in the car? We have told you a million times. You’re supposed to leave it clean after you drive.”

“Just a second – I’m busy,” says our son, who is wrapped up in a critical siege in his videogame.

My husband is fuming. He believes that our 17-year-old son is being egocentric, disrespectful, and self-entitled. Furthermore, he thinks our son needs to be banned from driving for a week. I agree with the adjectives – they are kind of teen specialties, after all. But I disagree with the nature of the crime in the first place, and with the consequences part as well.

My husband thinks I’m coddling our son by not agreeing to a sizable consequence for his repeated misdemeanors. I don’t want to dismiss the situation entirely, but I fundamentally disagree with many of my spouse’s accusations. I believe it all boils down to a misperception about our son’s intentionality.

Is It ADHD? Or Bad Behavior?

My husband says there’s no way that our son doesn’t remember what he’s supposed to do, ADHD or no ADHD. After all, we have told him the rules countless times and threatened to take away the car keys if he doesn’t get his act together. But repeated infractions suggest that our son is willfully snubbing us and doesn’t care because we don’t crack down on him. To my husband, we are essentially raising an irresponsible brat who will not be ready to enter society as a fully functioning high school graduate in one year.

I, on the other hand, think that our son is just being a dingbat, to put it diplomatically. I don’t call my son names or anything, I just truly think he is being oblivious. Our son usually has his hands full when he exits the car (full of camera gear since he has been out doing photography for hours) and it probably escapes his mind that he needs to look around the car for his fast-food garbage and other semi-moldy detritus.

Even when he’s empty-handed, our son’s brain has likely moved on once he turns off the engine. He is on to grander notions than dealing with the empty Boba tea cups that leave residue on the floor of the car.

In a nutshell, I don’t think a real, intentional crime has occurred and, therefore, I don’t think punishment is necessary. I think we just need to tell our son to go back to the car and tidy up.

What Are Fair and Effective Consequence?

Let’s put aside the fact that we can’t agree that a crime has even occurred. In a court of law, the next step is to determine the punishment. Prior to doling out sentences, judges consider intentionality.

The concept of mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”) plays heavily into the trial and sentencing. A verdict of involuntary manslaughter vs. first-degree murder depends on things like planning, knowledge, and intentionality. The same goes for petty theft versus armed robbery. Accidental fire versus arson. We need to determine if the accused was careless, oblivious, and spur-of-the-moment. Or reckless, aware, and premeditated.

Except for certain heinous examples, I think that most of these crimes fall under two distinct categories: spontaneous adolescent versus hardened criminal.

Invariably, my husband tends to see our son’s actions as intentional or, at the very least, flagrantly careless. He goes for big punishment that I think is often totally unrelated to the incident in question. I am constantly suggesting smaller, more natural consequences that I think correspond better to the type and severity of the situation. Community service rather than jail time, if you will.

This difference in perception and interpretation regarding our son’s level of consciousness is a huge sticking point. It spills over into how we interact with our son, and the consequences we dole out.

We’re often at a stalemate and could really use an educated judge and a panel of jurors to help us out. Or at least more lawyer friends.

Talking Through our Differences

The mismatch in how we attribute intentionality in our son’s behaviors puts a strain on our marriage for sure (as is the case for most parents of kids with behavior challenges). I must admit, there were years when it almost seemed like a good idea to split up and co-parent in our own disparate ways.

Fortunately, my husband and I are pretty good at talking through our differences. Often, we come to a middle-of-the-road punishment, such as taking away the car keys for one day or making him vacuum out the car to “drive home” his responsibilities with a shared car.

I also have to admit that my logic often prevails. I remind my husband of all the times I’ve entered the garage, only to see his junk piled up everywhere after a million requests to return things to their original spot! In those instances, I tell myself that my husband doesn’t purposefully or maliciously disorganize the garage. He probably thought that he would deal with the mess he created later, I tell myself. Like my son, he was being a negligent scatterbrain rather than a conscious hooligan.

In the midst of my empathetic and gracious daydreams, I hear my husband say, “Son, we asked you hours ago to take out the garbage and recycling and mow the lawn.” And I hear our son reply mid-videogame battle, “Oh, yeah. I forgot. Gimme a minute.”

Chore Time
Car Cleaning

Understanding ADHD: Our Long and Winding Journey to the Summit

Published in ADDitude magazine in Sept. 2021: https://www.additudemag.com/understanding-adhd-journey-accept-child-diagnosis/

September 2021

by Megan Taylor Stephens

My husband and son make an annual short climb up Black Butte in central Oregon. Usually, they ascend the little mountain easily — it’s just over 6,000 feet in elevation — and it’s clear skies for miles.

Not long ago, however, they found themselves in white-out conditions. They lost the trail and had no winter clothes or water, so they had to turn back just short of the peak. I had carefully packed an emergency backpack for them, but they had left it in the car. They came back home a little beat up, quite frozen, and slightly rattled. They learned their lesson that day: Always expect the unexpected. And that’s generally how we have approached raising our kids, notably our son.

A Spirited Child – and Cheerful Denial

As an infant, our son was in a perpetual state of motion and agitation. He was constantly spitting up and wriggling in discomfort. He only slept in short bursts, and had trouble nursing. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, they weren’t kidding when they said babies are intense.”

He was also able to run at 9 months old. I remember thinking this was an auspicious sign that he’d grow up to be sporty, just like me. I also noticed that he was so much more spirited than other babies. They sat like placid lumps of dough on their parents’ laps in the play groups we’d attend. He did not.

When I had my second child, a girl, I thought to myself, “Wait, is my girl calm or is my boy active?” Their energy levels were so different. I wondered if something was wrong with one or the other.

When my son was 3, we had to lock away all the dining room chairs because he had stacked them up, climbed over them, undid the many locks on the front door, and escaped for the great outdoors. “Geez, toddlers definitely deserve the bad rap they get — what rapscallions!” I thought. On my shopping list, I wrote: Baby locks for cabinets. Safety plugs for outlets.

The daycare teacher said our boy was a handful. But friends and acquaintances said that that’s just how boys are. I taught in schools myself and could think of many calm male students. But which was the exception: the calm ones or my decidedly not-calm kid?

A Pre-K parent was upset when my son intentionally stepped on his child’s fingers and made him cry during playtime. I had my kid apologize, but I secretly thought that the other kid seemed unusually sensitive.

In kindergarten, the teacher said our boy was a busy little beaver, always building things with blocks and needing encouragement to play with others. I thought, “He a creative little genius, that’s why. And the other kids are probably boring.”

In the first grade, the teacher told us that our boy never followed directions, behaved recklessly, and was otherwise far from her behavior expectations for the classroom. What did we do? We got him out of that “rigid school.”

Climbing the Mountain

Though we eventually and reluctantly brought up these concerns to the pediatrician, he insisted that it couldn’t be ADHD. He’d seen ADHD, and this wasn’t it, he said.

But at around age 7, our son started to say things like, “I’m not a good listener. I’m a bad learner.” Our hearts dropped at these comments. Something was wrong. We had seen and heard enough concerning behavior, and we had to turn this around.

We brought him in for testing at a specialized clinic, and the results confirmed what had been glaringly obvious. He “passed” these screenings with flying colors and got his ADHD diagnosis.

I’ve seen quite a few other families, both professionally and personally, whose path toward enlightenment about ADHD has been equally full of detours, dead ends, and road construction signs. Some of them were told to go down the trail of, “It’s not ADHD; it’s sensory integration disorder. Or food sensitivity. Or “maladaptive daydreaming.” Or bad parenting.

Though these could explain some of what was going on for them, ultimately, all roads led to ADHD. And I think the years it took to get the diagnosis did a degree of damage to the psyches of the families and children alike. Without an appropriate diagnosis, you grasp at straws for how to make life easier and better for everyone involved.

I try not to proselytize about ADHD, but I certainly try to explain its symptoms when it comes up because I’ve found that people’s understanding of it is often incomplete. They erroneously believe that any kid who can play videogames for hours couldn’t possibly have ADHD. They think that if a kid is intelligent, that must counter-indicate ADHD. Or they believe that their girl doesn’t have ADHD because she doesn’t have glaring behavioral problems.

Reaching the Summit

I am thankful that we got a fairly early and accurate diagnosis for our kid. It turned around his poor self-esteem and helped him understand that he’s not damaged; he’s just neurodevelopmentally unique. Of course, it’s not all rosy. He is quite aware of the challenges that come with ADHD. That said, for many years, he has worn his ADHD badge with pride. He thinks it gives him superior curiosity, determination, productivity, and enthusiasm. He is not wrong.

We wear our “Parents of an ADHD Child” badge with pride as well. We’ve been on quite a journey. We can look back with amazement and humor at all the bush whacking we tackled through overgrown paths and all the times we had to give up and turn around just shy of some summit. We still find ourselves in white-out conditions at times, but our map skills have improved over the years, and we don’t leave behind our emergency supplies. We may be a little cold, scraped up and mud-splattered, but we have made it to the mountaintop of understanding.

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 6, Season Finale)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


“I told Shelli that I was starting to like him.”

11-??-83

Icky,

I got mixed up on dates of what we did, so I’ll start over. On this Thanksgiving weekend (from Thurs. to Sun.) Tim, Shelli, and I did many things together. We saw the movie “Never Cry Wolf” and “Prodigal.” The Prodigal was a little religious, but it was meaningful. Never Cry Wolf was a true story, but also with a little comedy. We liked it. We all planned to TP Molly that night at 12:30. Shelli and I snook out and waited here, and waited at Tim’s house, and waited everywhere – but he didn’t show up. Shelli and I were “gravely” disappointed, and went to bed.

The next day we talked to Tim, and made another “date” just to “bullshit” around. He crawled up to my window (there is a way to do it – which is hard) and opened the window. After waking me up, I woke up Shelli, and we all snook out the back door (since that’s the only way [to] get back in). We walked around for half an hour smoking sevolc [“cloves” spelled backward as a disguise]. Then we sat down under a little awning in a place hard to explain. We ended up sleeping and mumbling for 4 hours. It was fun. I slept like this on Tim [stick figure of me leaning back on his chest] and we traded places. I told Shelli that I was starting to like him. Now I gotta break up with Matt. I can’t hurt him or myself.

G’night!

Megan


“Don’t ask anymore questions like that”

11-28-83

Icabody,

I broke up with him [Matt]. I heard by Ree [Marie] that he was real unhappy. I’m not too happy, either, but I think it’s best. Today Mom asked me if anything unusual happened at school and if I was still going with Matt. I guess she somehow found out. I didn’t feel like explaining everything so I just said no, we’re not and told her not to ask anymore questions like that.

I’m getting a perm right before X-mas vacation so I can “play” with it before school. I’m writing bad ‘cuz I’m using my electric blanket dial thing that has a tiny light in it to see. I’m sooo tired. ZZZZ

Mergan


“It’s driving me bananas!”

Nov. 30, 1983

Icumscum,

I’m starting to like Tim more. I try to be with him, and we’ve been around eachother often, but I don’t think he likes me anymore than a pretty good friend. I hope – and think – that I’m his best girl/friend. Although I’m tired and it is 10:19, I wanna read my good book “The Late Great Me.” I have been having homework up the butt (a lot of homework) lately. It’s driving me bananas!

Love,

Mergan


“Maybe he and I will get sumthin’ going!”

12-13-83

Ick,

I can’t wait until Jan. 13, 14, and 15 because Tim and I are going alone (ha ha) to the French Club ski trip. Shelli was gunna go, but can’t, so now only Tim and I will go with the other members of French class that we don’t know! Maybe he and I will get sumthin’ going! I doubt it, but…!

(To Be Continued)


To be continued in Season 2

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 5)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


“Do you like our ideas?”

11-7-83

Lundi – Monday

Icky,

Tracy, Shelli, and I have decided what to do for our birthdays. On Friday the xx there will be a slumber party at Tracy’s house from 7:00 till 11:00 the next day. We will rent a VCR and see 2 movies: Outsiders and a scary one. There will be punch, popcorn or chips, ice cream, and 3 cakes to eat. Shelli will make Tracy a cake, Tracy will make me a cake, and I’ll make Shelli a cake! I’m going to make her a merry-go-round cake. She expects me to make her a regular one, so she’ll be surprised. Do you like our ideas? We’re inviting 12 people – all girls. I haven’t seen Matt in awhile or talked to him much. I wish he lived by me. His b-day is on the xx, and I got him a funny b-day card. I think I’ll get him a chocolate kiss since he said he wanted a kiss from me. He didn’t specify what kind! What should I get Shelli and Tracy? I just got done with [reading] Little Women and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Love, Meg


“I can’t wait to go to England”

11-11-83

Icky,

Bonjour. It is 10:30 […] This morning Mom and I went out to breakfast. Then we went to Dr. Pribnow’s office and I got a shot of two that I didn’t have. After that we went to Dr. Smith’s office for my feet and knee. He took plasters of my feet so he could make things to slip into my shoes and tilt them more straight. We then went to get my passport picture. I look dumb in it – but I least I get to travel! I can’t wait to go to England next summer. Mom brought back a sample piece of toilet paper from England. It is just like was paper and wouldn’t absorb anything! I think I’ll bring my own supply of American t.p.!

Love, Rachey


“Marie is being mean”

11-13-83

Icky,

Hi. The time is now 10:33. Today was Matt’s birthday. He is sweet 16. Is that for boys, too? My birthday is in 6 days. Shelli’s is tomorrow. We are going to dress punkish this week. I think it’s cool. Matt came over and I paid for us to see a movie called Running Brave. It was inspirational. Then he came over and ate dinner with us. His mom forgot about his birthday. She thought it was on the 15th. Marie is being mean and has been lately. She has been criticising me a lot in front of people. She made herself a miniskirt-dress thingy. I like it and want one. She’s real excited about Hawaii. I’d be, too!

L,M [Love, Megan]


“I’m sick of Mom”

11-15-83

Icky,

I’m sick of Mom. All she does is nag, nag, nag… During lunch I hit my head on my locker and felt sick for the rest of the day. I suddenly got dizzy and a headache. The office has to get an o.k. by one of your parents before you leave, so they tried for an hour to while I slept on a cot. My eye was really red and some people thought I was stoned. I felt better when they reached Mom, but went home anyway. Matt and I don’t seem to be doing too well. He didn’t call today. Usually he does every day ‘cuz he has an alarm on his watch to call me. Oh well. We don’t usually have anything to say anyways. He’s so unexciting and plain. I shouldn’t complain, but… !

Tim and I are getting to be better friends now that I don’t like him for a B-friend. Matt & I have been going w/ eachother for a long time. On my birthday it will be a month… if I don’t break up w/ him. Should I?

L, Megan


“I refuse to think about it”

11-20-83 (age 14)

Icky,

Sorry I haven’t written for so long. Tracy, Shell, and I had our little party on Fri. Two boys brought over 3 movies (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 48 Hours and An Officer & a Gentleman) and we’d already rented Outsiders and Friday the 13th part III. It was pretty fun […] Shelli, Tim and I saw “The Prodigal.” It was kinda religious – but good. We had fun. I just got done watching “The Day After.” It was a nation-wide show about the effects of a nuclear war. I can’t believe it could happen. I refuse to think about it.

G’night!

Megan Taylor


“How ‘mbarrassing!”

Novembre le 21, lundi

Icky,

Bonjour! Salut! … There was a lot of talk about the show last night – “The Day After” at school au jourd’hui (today). I still don’t believe people would actually destroy so much life with nuclear war. It doesn’t help any situations or problems. I got my period during P.E. and had to come home to change. How ‘mbarrassing! I hope Ree’s enjoying herself [in Hawaii]. I’d be!

Love, Rach


To be continued…

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 4)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


“Halloween is coming up”

10-24-84

Icabod,

Hi. You are my 5th diary. I wonder how many more I’ll have. Do you like your name? Yes, it’s kinda corny.

Matt and I are doing pretty well. You can read about him in the previous diary, Dee Dee. He kisses kinda funny, but, oh well! After the speech club (leadership) after school he was there and came home with me. When I walked him to North where his mom would pick him up (in 10 minutes) we kissed and 3 girls my age yelled my name and started laughing. I’m expecting someone in school to embarrass me tomorrow! I’m embarrassed! Halloween is coming up in 6 days. I’m gunna be a bum. I’ve been everything except that. Matt’s birthday is on Nov. xxth, Shelli’s is on Nov. xx, and Tracy and mine is on the xxth! We should do something together. I wanna take Matt out to din-din, but I don’t really have the moolah!

Love, Meg

I

Matt.


“His dreamboat has finally come”

10-27-83

Icky,

That’s a nice nickname, don’t you agree? Tomorrow at school we are having a Halloween dress up day. Molly and I are both going to be punkers. She is gunna be a fake and crazy punker and I’m going to be a real one. It’s gunna be great. I talk to Matt on the phone every day. He’s really nice, but I think he actually likes me too much. He acts like his dreamboat has finally come and won’t ever go. Get me? I like him, though. In 4 more days I’m gunna be a bum for Halloween. It should be fun. There will be a dance manana morning before school. It’ll probably be dumb, but it needs support, so I’ll go.

Love, Rach


“It sounds corny, but it’s great”

10-30-83

Icky,

I gotta hurry – it’s bedtime. Matt, Shelli and I went to Campus Life Haunted House last night. It was o.k. I only screamed once ‘cuz I was with Matt. We really get along good. He came over on his bike 2-day in the rain. It is about 7 miles. Whatta guy! I can’t explain how it feels when we hold and kiss eachother. I feel like we’re one person and warmth is everywhere. It sounds corny, but it’s great. We did this for 1 and a half hours last night. Poor Shelli sat her bored. She understands, though. Tomorrow is Halloween. I hope Shelli goes trick-or-treating w/ me. Bye, bye.

L, M [love, Meg]


“I played with our orchestra”

11-1-83

Icky,

I wrote like this at school today. Don’t ask me why. I’ve been kind of down and moody lately. I should start thinking of happy things! I think that from now on I’ll write about the funniest thing that happens each day. Good idea… Shelli and Tim keep making fun of Matt and I. Whenever, in school, I brush my hair and stuff they tease me about Matt. They’re just joking, but I guess they don’t know how much I value their opinions on Matt. I liked Tim so long and was good friends with him so now it’s hard to be with him and talking about Matt. It is uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just me, though. See ya!!

P.S. There was a concert 2-night at school I played with our orchestra. Mom had to teach night classes at OSCI, but Chuckles came.

Luv, Meg


“Baby I’ma want you”

11-4-83

Icky,

I’m listening to a song right now that Matt gave me. It’s called “Baby Ima Want You.” I really like it. I’m the only one home right now. Matt and I are doing pretty good. He acts kind of strange around a lot of people, though, so I like him best alone.

Tracy Zakes and Karin Peterson both like Tim. They both hang over and on him. He has said that he likes neither. The problem is that he leads girls on a little. He’s over-friendly. He says he doesn’t want a girlfriend for awhile. Now all he has to do is tell them that!

Right now my grades are: French – A, Soc. Studies – A, Orchestra – A, Health – A, Algebra – C, English – A, and Science – A. That “C” really disgusts me. I do try hard and turn in my assingments, at least. I DON’T have a mathematical mind, obviously. Mrs. Pratt says I’m just not self-confident. But how did I get unself-confident? By doing bad!

I have been real moody lately [the letter “o” was written as two crossed eyeballs like below]. Don’t ask me why. I think I need some attention. I’m getting plenty from Matt, though. Nice talking to you, Icky.

Love, Megan

M&M& M&M&M&M&M&M&M


To be continued…

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 3)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


10-13-83

DD [Dear Dear],

We’re going t.p.ing. Ta-ta!

Tim, Meg, Moll, Ree


10-14-83

We (Shelli & I) went T.P.ing again, same person.

Love, Meg.


“Shelli was about to have a heart attack”

10-14-83

DD

Hi. I’m real tired, as you’d probably guess! On Thursday night Molly spend the night. Me and Molly expertly tumbled out of my window, met Tim, came in the back door, and had to tug at Marie to awaken her. Annie had a neck ache, so didn’t go. We left at 12:45 with 9 rolls of toilet paper headed for Kevin’s house. We snuck around, and got him real good. Then we got back at 2:30 expecting a greeting from Mom. Luckily, we didn’t get one. Shelli spend the night on Friday and we were expecting Eric and Kevin to get our house, so we decided to t.p. them again, this time with 7 rolls + the already picked up t.p. from the night before at their house. Shelli and I were really freaked out by ourselves, but made it. It was a really nice night and I enjoyed it while Shelli was about to have a heart attack.

We were kneeling by some bushes from a cop car, and saw a man across the street with a bat hiding too. When a car passed, he went on his merry way, tapping his bat. It was freaky watching another person hide!

So, my eyes are about to fall off from not enough sleep. Shelli and I went to Lancaster Mall today and I got my hair cut at supercuts. I, personally, like it. I didn’t take any off the length, but shortened the sides & top.

I’m not sure about this thing “betwixt” Matt & I. He likes me; I like him. But he lives way out there, it is embarrassing on the phone, and football games aren’t frequent enough or always at North. So, we don’t have a real definite future relationship!

Gotta go, Joe!

Love, Meg


“I haven’t danced much in my life time!”

10-19-83

DD,

I’m going to the homecoming game and dance with Matt on Thursday. I’ll pretend I’m from a different school, like South. I’ll be embarrassed to dance and stuff. I haven’t danced much in my life time! Matt says he hasen’t either. Good. I wonder when Matt will kiss me. We haven’t seen eachother much. All I get to do is walk past his room at North after French class. He has been calling me every night.

We got our pictures today. My hair looks terrible, but I look otherwise decent. I want re-takes though.


“I am embarrassed anyways”

10-20-83

DD,

Matt called last night and I think he implied about asking me to homecoming. Marie will call him to make sure. I hope he did, but I am embarrassed anyways. G’night!

Love, Megan


“I could feel his heart beating faster”

10-22-83

D.D.

I’m writing during the day today because I’ve gotta tell you about last night it was great. O.K. Marie and I got back from Eugene with Dad at about 6:60 and I found Matt there waiting for me I didn’t expect him to be there so Marie and I quickly changed clothes and went to the homecoming game and dance it turned out that he was there [at my house] for an hour talking to mom and Chuck so I felt dumb and figured that Mom and Chuck knew him better than me well that quickly changed after a while during the end of the game he started holding my hand do you believe that North won it is the 1st homecoming game we’ve won in 3 years so everyone was jumping around and hyping out over our 12-9 lead then the game was over I only watched a little bit of it because I was looking at Matt Shelli left and we went to the dance it was pretty fun but I had a little headache because of the strobelights and it was about 100 in there from all the people we danced to about 3 fast dances and 3 slow ones we both preferred the slow dances he dances fast soo funny and awkward but that’s o.k. I’m not the best either we kissed and hugged eachother and held hands then it was time to call his dad to pick us up we were not thrilled to end the night everyone left but we went up a flight of stairs where nobody was and held eachother and kissed a little more I liked holding him better I could feel his heart beating faster but I was calm and slowed him down and it was great… I said this in one breath!

Today is Mom’s birthday. She is the big “40.” We (Marie & I) got Mom roses, balloons with “Happy Birthday, Linda” on them and a mug with a cat on it that says “sensuous woman.” I hope me and Matt work out!

Love, Megan


To be continued…

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 2)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


“Boy, was I embarrassed”

10-7-83

I just got back from a football game. We lost: 13-27. Darn. It was closer than usual, though! I hardly watched any of it. I was watching a guy – Matt Bonheur. He is really funny. Marie says we’d make a good couple. He’s a junior or sophomore – I forgot. Anyways, we joked around and goofed around. At the end of the game we took a victory lap around our new track. Matt is a fabulous runner. When Shelli left for home, I was stuck by myself with Matt and his friends. I wasn’t worrying, though, cuz actually he’s rather shy with girls. His friend joked around and said, “Should we leave you two alone?” and other stuff. Boy, was I embarrassed. I think I really like him. Maybe he even likes me! I haven’t liked a guy in years.

Let me tell you more about him. I guess he’s about 5’11”, has brown hair and weird brownish-blueish eyes. He was wearing dark glasses on, so I couldn’t tell ½ the time. He has a nice body and real strong legs. He has a great personality, too. But it’s hard to make real conversation w/ him cuz we mainly joke around. I think I really like him.

He lives out by Shelli, so when his dad was about to pick him up, he shook my hand, gave me a “peck” on the hand (jokingly) and said “It was real.” It seemed more like a dream! Marie kept glancing over at us during the game and laughing. She looked proud of me or sumthing. I wanted to kick her. He says he sees me every day at French when I go to North [Salem High School]. I’ll look for him next time: in the Health room on the right side.

Love, Meg


“I’d like one, or two, or three…”

10-10-83

On Sunday I unwillingly told Marie about Matt Bonheur. She said if I didn’t tell her, she’d ask him herself. So, I told her. Of course, she knew it was none of her business, but curiosity took the best of her! I told her not to talk to Matt, but she wrote him a note anyways. I’m glad she did. It said:

Marie: What do you think of my little sister?

Matt: I think she’s a really nice, super fun person with incredible eyes. (I almost died when I read it.)

It was fairly long, so I won’t write the rest except: he also said that he wanted to get to know me better, he wanted to know what I thought of him (here I was worried about him not liking me!), he was glad when Ree told him that I wanted to know him better, too. He said, “If they’ve gotten their pictures at Parrish [Middle School], I’d like one, or two, or three, or four, or… just kidding, I’d like one,” and wanted to know if I wanted one of him. Do I want one?!

So that was really surprising. I told Shelli, and we both almost died together.


“That isn’t a promising future”

10-11-83

D.D.,

I’m still thinking of Matt. I hope he’s thinking of me, too! But if we discovered that we did like eachother, how would we see eachother? He lives out at MacLeay [sic: McKay], by Shelli, and I could visit them then. The only time we’ve seen eachother is at the 2 football games. That isn’t a promising future, but I think about him all the time, and I like him A LOT!!

L, M [Love, Meg]


“I’m totally embarrassed”

10-12-83

Dee Dee,

I just had an exciting, absorbing conversation with Matt. Actually, it was a total flop. The conversation went something like this:

Hi, Megan? This is Matt (Matt)

Oh, hi, what are you doing? (me)

Nothing much… did you get my picture? (Matt)

No, but I got your note. (me)

Oh, well, tell Marie to give it to you, ‘kay? (Matt)

O.K. So, how’re ya doing? (me)

Fine. (Matt)

Do you wanna help me with my algebra? (I say desperately)

I guess. (Matt)

Get off the phone, Megan, I need to use it! (Marie)

Well, I’d better go, Marie wants to use the phone (me)

O.K., well, see ya tomorrow (Matt)

Yea, bye (me)

Actually, there were a lot of pauses somewhere in there, and a lot of “wells” and “uhs.” I’m totally embarrassed. Now what does he think of me? Not so great, huh? He doesn’t talk much on the phone, only [sic: or] in person either.

Gotta go try to finnish my math.

L, M

P.S. I’m getting a “C.”


To be continued…

Hunkering Down with my 1983 Diary (Season 1, Episode 1)

“Real Moody”

by Megan Taylor Stephens


“It’s so embarrassing”

9-5-83 [age 13]

DD [Dear Diary],

I’m gunna getta good night sleep 2-night. Tomorrow Molly, Julia, and Eric are coming over at 7:20 am to walk to school with Marie and I. We did it last year, too. Mom also sits there and makes us stand together so she can take a picture of all of us. It’s embarrassing when everyone is walking to school and we sit in the front yard saying “cheese”!


“I like to be different and unique”

9-6-83

Dee Dee,

Well, the 1st day of school [8th grade] was no biggie. Nothing but lectures. After school Molly and I rode to Razzle Dazzle and I got some wrapping paper and a lot of stickers for my locker. She got the same paper as me and a lot of [the] same stickers. It got me mad. I like to be different and unique—she just copies me.


“And that’s the story of the day”

9-18-83

DD,

There’s a real good song on right now. It’s about guys talking [to] girls about things. It’s usually the other way around. Yesterday I got a pair of shrink-to-fit Levi’s. I needed another pair. Tomorrow I’m getting a Generra jean jacket. I love it. Everyone else gets Levi’s jeans jackets, but Generras have class. Kelli Babb and Ree [Marie] are gunna get one too.

This morning Marie came in my room and – in a real fake, tuff voice – told me to get up and fight. She was just joshin’ around but she pretended [to be] mad. So she picks on me and hits me. I hit her back. She’s surprised about that. So she gets mad, and I do too, and we start fighting. I pin her down, then let go, and she left steel brush marks on my leg. She wouldn’t go out, but I slammed the door on her. She opens it again, I close it. She leaves. I try to open my door, and it’s stuck. I crawl out my window and it wouldn’t open from either way. Marie thought it was hilarious. So, when Chuck [Mom’s boyfriend] gets home he takes the door apart. Now it won’t ever close completely. And that’s the story of the day. Mom and I execised before bed. We’ll try to do it every night.

G’night, a bientôt! Love, Meg


To be continued…