Imagine a Butterfly: How to Parent a Kid with ADHD

by Megan Taylor Stephens, M.A., M.S., CCC-SLP

Jan. 2, 2022

We learn in the struggle. If you deny the child the struggle, you deny them their growth, which is its own reward. –Lara Cannon


Send in the experts! Our teenager has ADHD, and it’s high time we get some proper professional help. Here’s the essential conundrum: My husband and I are often at an impasse about how to manage our kid’s behavior.

We often find ourselves entrenched in the opposing stances of prosecutor versus defense attorney when it comes to our son’s transgressions. We make our case for how egregious or petty we think the crime was. We make judgments on his frame of mind at the time of the misdemeanor. We decide how intentional or premeditated the action appeared to be. We sometimes even refer to historical precedents or bring in key eyewitnesses, like the little sister or the dog. I wrote a whole guest blog on this topic for ADDitude magazine called “Crime and Punishment and ADHD: When Parents Disagree on Discipline.”

Well, I finally found someone to give us sage advice. I reached out to Lara Cannon, a licensed professional counselor and ADHD specialist, with this question: How can families cope with divergent attitudes, especially when it comes to behavior and discipline, with their kids with ADHD?

Cannon’s take home message is that the more you can model awareness, flexibility, and problem-solving skills, the better you can activate the child’s desire to want what you want and the more likely you are to avoid conflict. Let’s break that down into specifics.

Here are Cannon’s five pro tips and my own interpretations in italics:

1. Educate Thyself

Parents should learn more about ADHD. When a child has a diagnosis of ADHD, it is important for caregivers to be on the same page about what it means and what it does not mean. In essence, ADHD is an effort regulation problem. Relying on the child’s internal regulation system (i.e., braking system or decision-making ability) when effort, focused attention, or self-control is required is a set up for failure.

Medication can be helpful, but it is not enough. Mindfulness and emotional regulation are skills that can be taught. Learning about how the ADHD brain works is also helpful. The role of the prefrontal cortex, limbic system, norepinephrine, and dopamine are a few of the buzzwords that caregivers should be knowledgeable about.

What I am taking from this is that our son is perfectly capable of attending to things he is interested in because it is effortless for him. Photography and videogames come to mind. However, he lacks attentional regulation and self-control when it comes to effortful things like household responsibilities. This is not a willful, intentional oversight. The idea of chores doesn’t light up circuits in his prefrontal cortex, arouse his limbic system, or reward him with buckets of norepinephrine and dopamine. All these things feed off of each other to perpetuate his neglect of responsibilities. Got it.

2. Reduce Friction

Parents should avoid power struggles. Pick your battles. Kids want autonomy, but kids with ADHD get ten times more corrections than neurotypicals. Reduce the number of commands. Let the small things go. It’s okay if your daughter didn’t manage to brush her teeth before school. Power struggles occur when caregivers and children have differing interests, which lead to a motivation mismatch.

Find out what motivates your child because these are high interest areas. Pay attention to what they naturally move toward, and power struggles will diminish. For example, if your child wants your attention (high interest), give it to them while you are doing yard work together (low interest). Or if they love dinosaurs (high interest), use them as a launching point for learning about other subjects like writing or math (low interest). If your teen wants to drive the car (high interest) then pair it with the responsibility of cleaning it and filling it with gas (low interest). Make sure the low interest responsibility is accomplished first, because once they have what they want, the motivation is gone.

So, basically, we need to dangle the car keys or computer mouse in our son’s face and tell him that he’ll only get them once his chores, homework, and other obligations are finished. But we should also let the small things go. Like maybe we shouldn’t care if his room is a pigsty, even if his damp towels and food-encrusted dishes are a bacterial hazard that seem poised to give him a respiratory infection.

3. Imagine a Butterfly

Parents can model emotional regulation. It is not easy to raise a child with ADHD, but responding to challenges in anger rarely ends well. Conflict is fueled by emotion, and emotions are contagious. Anger increases escalation, while calmness creates an anchor and helps maintain control. When you are experiencing anger, imagine that a butterfly has landed on your shoulder and you want it to stay. What do you need to do to keep it there? Be still, don’t make sudden movements, lower your voice volume, talk less, and observe what is happening around you.

Kids learn by example. When the child’s caregivers model mindfulness and emotional regulation, they are giving their child tools to regulate and modulate their own emotional responses in difficult situations. Learning mindfulness skills is an important key to a child’s success. 

I tend to be calmer than my husband when it comes to our son’s little lapses of judgment and small peccadillos. But when I do get angry, I’m known to climb up on a lectern and not descend until I have run out of oxygen and so has the entire room. All the butterflies have flown away to quieter pastures. I think I might singlehandedly start them on their biannual migration. There is clearly lots of room for improvement for me if I hope to be a Butterfly Whisperer.

4. Support Them Where They’re at

Parents can help their children form habits. Children with ADHD often have mind blindness. They are probably not paying attention to things that are boring or mundane. They may not even be aware of what they are doing until seconds after they have done it. That is because their powerful emotional and instinctual brain is way ahead of their slow-moving prefrontal cortex. Parents can support their child in creating effortless habits through “point of performance support.” This means that life skills are coached in baby steps with extra support in the beginning.

For example, the parent can hang out with their young child while she cleans her room. Someone could greet the teenager at the car with a trash can and tell him cheerfully that it’s time to tidy up. Maybe the kid has decided that it would be helpful to have a small bright trashcan in the car. Whenever possible, make the hard task easier to accomplish. Also, create systems for compliance and buy-in on more important things. Visual reminders and predictable schedules are another form of support that, over time, can instill habits in kids.

As a special educator, I am used to tailoring the level of support to my students that they require. I just forget that even kids who are perfectly capable of doing something—like my son removing trash from the car—may need a bit of guidance getting it done. Even if it just means that I’m waiting on the porch while he does it. I think my husband would say it’s preposterous to baby our teenager, but this Point of Performance Support may only need to happen for a short while before it becomes a habit that our son accomplishes independently. I’m really not sure when to expect independence, but as long as he’s semi-autonomous before he runs off into the sunset (or the basement bedroom), I’ll consider my job done.

5. Be a Guide

Parents should adopt a coaching mentality. A good coach has empathy, is understanding, and is a collaborative problem solver. They are not opponents or authoritarians. We’ve all had coaches who yelled, shamed, and punished, and we’ve also had coaches who nurtured, encouraged, and mentored. We know which ones we preferred.

Coaches are also not rescuers, they are guides. So don’t swoop in with a fabulous solution. You are stealing your child’s opportunity to learn that they can solve problems. Let your children have the fun and reward of discovering what works for them. Don’t do it for them, teach them how to do it. Repeat often. Teaching good habits is the key to success with ADHD. As much as possible, parents, help your child invent and create solutions on their own.

It’s hard to use an encouraging tone of voice when it’s the five thousandth time we’ve asked our kid to take his dirty dishes to the kitchen or pick his wet towels off the floor. I’ve found that saying “LBY” in a peppy voice has helped me feel like more of a coach and less of an angry nagger. LBY is our code for Look Behind You, because each and every time he moves from one room to another, there is guaranteed to be flotsam and jetsam left behind that needs tending to. Now the trick is to let our son come up with his own strategies to manage his ADHD. He’s about to be a full-fledged adult, and pretty soon his parents won’t be there to constantly coax, remind, coerce, nag, reward, or discipline him. Or, if he lives in the basement for decades, at least our voices will be significantly muted when we coax, remind, coerce, nag, reward, or discipline him.

In Conclusion, Have a Growth Mindset

I suppose Cannon didn’t directly help me and my husband on the issue of merging our divergent viewpoints. She didn’t give advice on how to dole out consequences to our child for his peccadillos. She didn’t really bolster my arguments as lead defense attorney. Instead, she gave us preventative tips to reduce conflict in the first place. This makes a lot of sense, I suppose.

Our judicial system, like our homes, focus too much on crime and punishment. Which side is guilty? Which side is victorious? What are the consequences? But if we would just create a better environment in the first place—one that focuses on nurturing, awareness, mindfulness, problem-solving, teamwork and success—our society would have a lot less parental bickering and a lot fewer court cases. The case of Stephens v. Stephens would be settled long before it comes before a judge.

But it’s not about the fictional attorneys or which parent won. It’s about the kids who we are trying to raise up into functioning adults. This endeavor is no easy feat. Our children have to learn by trial and error, and the trials and errors are extra when ADHD is in the mix. Fortunately, according to Cannon, “We learn in the struggle. If you deny the child the struggle, you deny them their growth, which is its own reward.”

Forget crime or punishment. Let’s focus on growth, for the parents in particular. I’ve got a pet butterfly that I am determined to keep perched my shoulder.

Lara Cannon, M.A., LPC is a child and family therapist and owner of ADHD Child and Family Services in Tigard, Oregon. She can be reached at:

Photo by Boris Smokrovic

My Experiment to be Mindful and Live in the Present for One Day

by Megan Taylor Stephens

Is there gas in the tank? Is there money in the bank? What should I make for dinner? Is this lottery ticket a winner?

Living in the Future

“I can’t wait until Vancouver, B.C.!” I proclaimed in my childhood diary. “Only 52 more days til Europe!” I shouted. I grew up with a single mom teacher who loved to travel and show us the world during school holidays. We didn’t have a nice car or fancy things, but we had exciting vacations. In a way, I think this backfired.

Looking ahead to the starred day on a calendar truly got me through lots of tedium at school and in life—boredom with classes, low level friend drama, breakups with boyfriends. Small things didn’t matter because pretty soon we were off to escape the confines of this uneventful town. I looked expectantly toward summer vacation like I did the final countdown on my student loan payoff date or the birth of my very past due and excessively large firstborn child.

As an adult, I can see that I am firmly future-focused. And I’m starting to wonder if too much foresight is bad for the psyche.

Identifying the Problem

The other day, I checked off a day in my calendar at work, which happens to be at a school—the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It goes without saying that I am very much looking forward to summer vacation, even though it’s only December. As I marked off another day in the calendar and scanned to see how many were left, I felt a pang of guilt. Why am I so impatient to get through 24 hours and move on to the next day? What am I trying to get one day closer to? If I’m honest, why do I often wake up hoping for time to speed up and the day to be over? This does not seem like a good way to live.

Apart from general pandemic malaise and the wear and tear of parenting teenagers, I think two major issues interfere with my ability to live in the present. First of all, travel is in my DNA and without a trip in the future, my life has felt aimless. I’m fully aware that this a super snobbish, entitled problem. Poor Megan grew up seeing the world, and she suffers so without a trip planned for the future. My point is that it’s somewhat detrimental. This “I can’t wait for the trip around the corner” mentality is now just my way of getting through life. Ticking the days off the calendar feels like getting one step closer to a glimmering pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. You never know if you’ve made it to your destination, because: Oh my gosh! There’s another rainbow over there!

My second problem is that I am not very Zen. I’m more mindless than mindful, more Tigger than Pooh. Try as I might to be Type B, my Type A, mildly ADHD reptilian brain is having not of it. The most mindful I usually get is something like, “Look, a squirrel!” It’s kind of like smelling the roses, right? Kinda sorta? Anyhow, my hypothesis is that those are my two biggest challenges. And because I have no trips definitely happening in the future (I blame COVID), that leaves me with exploring how to be more mindful and in the moment.

The Research on Being Present

We can’t avoid the need for some amount of future thinking. Our success as Homo sapiens relative to Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis probably comes largely from being able to plan ahead. Coolidge and Wynn (2001) postulate that executive functioning skills such as planning were a central factor in Homo sapiens’ superior cognitive development and success. As far back as 150,000 years ago, our well-developed prefrontal cortex started letting us build animal traps, paint hunting diagrams on cave walls, and migrate around the world. All activities based on “prospective thinking”!

That said, all of us have heard about the benefits of rooting ourselves in the present by incorporating mindfulness and stillness into our lives. Studies show that mindfulness boosts our immune system, improves sleep and concentration, increases compassion, and decreases stress and depression, to name only some perks mentioned in “Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for Your Health” (Suttie, 2018). Sitting quietly while we feel the inhale and exhale deep in our core. Naming three things we’re grateful for every day. Noticing five things around us that go with each of our senses. I feel less Tiggerish just writing about these.

The opposite of mindfulness, mind wandering, is correlated with less happiness. After developing an app called Track Your Happiness, Matt Killingsworth wrote a paper in 2010 with Daniel Gilbert entitled “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind.” The title gives away the conclusion: that mind wandering makes people less content than those focused on the present. Moreover, the researchers discovered that people think about what is not happening as much as they do what is happening. (I may have found my people!)

My Experiment

Like a good researcher, I decided to study how bad my “prospective thinking” or “mind wandering” problem really is. For 12 hours, I journaled about my effort to remain in the present and to try not to have thoughts of the future. How hard can it be for me to notice and smell the roses? My goal was to not let my mind or actions wander into more than one hour ahead of my present time and space. Well, here’s how it rolled out from 6:30am to 6:30pm (condensed version):

6:30am. The alarm goes off. It makes my heart rate lurch and my eyes shoot open. I am certainly living in the present now with my life-affirming cardiac palpitations.

7:00am. I thought about what to bring for lunch and banished it from my brain. I’m sure there’s some stale snack in my office drawer. Or I could eat an overpriced lunch in the cafeteria. Stop thinking about future food. Remind your primitive brainstem that you have ample fat reserves to protect you from starvation.

7:30am. I rode my bike to work while playing groovy 80s music on my speaker. “Don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me,” sang The Police. Kind of creepy and pervy when you really listen to the lyrics. Hall and Oates interrupted my thoughts with: “I can’t go for that. No, no can do.” Seems like a good statement for teachers who are pushed to the limit. Then Fleetwood Mac crooned, “Saaaara, you’re the poet in my heart. Never change. Never stop.” Who was this paragon of a woman?

The songs kept coming. While listening and sometimes singing along, I noticed the intricate blades of dewy grass that sparkled in the morning light. I inhaled the fresh morning breeze and savored it deep in my lungs. The music brought a smile to my pedal.

8:15am. I scan through my schedule to see who I will work with today. Oops, don’t scan ahead. Just find the students as you wish to work with them. It will somehow work out. I catch up on emails and get some lessons ready instead.

9:00am. I grab two students from their self-contained class and we work on social and communication skills. We practice staying one arm’s length apart while we walk to my office. We role play how it feels to be too close and why it’s not appropriate for the time and place. We then do a language game where they answer WH-questions. They enjoy rolling the dice, picking out the shapes and numbers on the cards, and trying to answer the questions. My brain is in the present with these two boys.

9:30-11:00. More lessons with other students: a Wheel of Fortune style game and a 45-minute class lesson on verbal self-advocacy. The students are doing great. High interest and good participation. My students with autism are loads of fun. Being a speech-language pathologist is loads of fun.

11:45am. Lunchtime. I skipped food in lieu of doing some paperwork for an IEP meeting tomorrow. Is this a forbidden future action, or is it just me doing my job in the present, much of which involves prepping for meetings? I daydreamed about going on a trip to Hawaii, my old stomping ground. I could squeeze a week in with my daughter during winter break. She has been asking. She visited once as a baby but doesn’t remember it.

12:15pm-3:00pm. I worked with one student on her speech sounds and another on his speech fluency. Then more paperwork. Then some scattered thoughts. Who knows if the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will shut our lives down later. I imagine basking on the beach and can almost hear the whooshing waves.

3:00-3:30pm. I thought I could intermittent fast until dinner. Nope. I’m starving. I walked to a food cart and got a bite to eat. Burmese food is delicious. It packed some serious spice. The sun felt nice.

3:30-4:00pm. More paperwork, emails, bureaucratic frivolity. I thought of appointments I should schedule. When was my last pap smear? I think I should do teeth whitening. The dog really needs a nail clipping and that other gross thing I didn’t know about until I got a dog: expressing anal glands.

4:00-5:00pm. IEP meeting. The parent was intense. She had lots of concerns and complaints (not about me, but still…). I did a lot of querying, explaining, appeasing, defending, assuring. It was a relief when it was over.

5:15-5:45pm. Bike ride home. On goes the 80s playlist. Back on goes my smile. “Say you, say me,” sings Lionel Richie. “I had a dream, I had an awesome dream…”

5:45-6:30pm. The husband made pasta for dinner. We ate and talked with the daughter. The son was at work. We talked about whether or not the youngest and I should go on a trip to Hawaii. What activities would she want to do? Where would we stay? We happily imagine the sun, surf, snorkeling. The pasta didn’t disappoint. 

The Analysis

How able was I to stay in the present? It was pretty mixed. Riding my bike and listening to music was the pinnacle of my feeling in the moment. Working with students was a close second. Teaching requires focus, vigilance, adaptability, theatrics. There’s no time for zoning out. I also felt present while eating. No surprise. Food is delicious and food is life. Paperwork made me focus, but I didn’t feel much while doing it. Other times, I mind wandered uncontrollably.

It was a battle for me to stop drifting and fantasizing. But, to be fair, our society makes it very hard to live a satisfactory life based on the present tense alone. How do we balance mindfulness and appreciation for the present with our lifestyles that are manufactured to make us plan ahead? Is there gas in the tank? Is there money in the bank? What should I make for dinner? Is this lottery ticket a winner? How can we possibly live in the here and now and still have a decent life?

The Take Home Lesson

A reminder to myself and everyone else is that satisfaction and joy can only be felt in the present. Satisfaction is doing a good job at work. Satisfaction is checking off duties from checklists. But joy makes you feel alive. Joy is pedaling to work singing along to Journey. Joy is on a baby’s face when you coo at her. Joy is in a toddler’s gallop at the park. Joy is the dog chasing a stick and bringing it back all slobbery. Joy is not planning for or fretting and dreaming about the future. Planning is essentially joy deferred.

The next time you catch yourself counting down the days to an exciting event, a better life, a hypothetical point in time, remind yourself about the counterpoint. Fantasies are fun but rarely fulfilled. Optimism, positive expectations, and plans for achieving goals are all fine and well. But life is not lived later. It is lived right here, right now.

So enjoy thinking about the airplane trip you will take later, but balance it with the trip you are taking to the post office right now. Fantasize about how calm and clean the house will be when the teens leave, but laugh with them today. Shop for the lasagna you will make for dinner, but don’t you dare forget to savor each bite of the creamy, cheesy, garlicky goodness that hits your taste buds. And don’t forget the wine. In moderation, wine is joy too.


Post script: We ended up buying tickets to go to Hawaii! To justify this, I’m sure my next article will be all about carpe diem and the virtues of living spontaneously. Before the trip, I vow to live fully every day. I am here…experiencing now…and noticing this drizzly, gray landscape with ungodly chilly temperatures.


Coolidge, F. L., & Wynn, T. (2001). Executive functions of the frontal lobes and the evolutionary ascendancy of Homo sapiens. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 11, 255-260.

Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T., (2010). A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330, 932.

Suttie, J. (2018, October 4). Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation is Good for Your Health. Greater Good Magazine.

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!)

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:

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.”



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.



“Don’t ask anymore questions like that”



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


“It’s driving me bananas!”

Nov. 30, 1983


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!



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



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?”


Lundi – Monday


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”



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”



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”



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)


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.


Megan Taylor

“How ‘mbarrassing!”

Novembre le 21, lundi


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”



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



“His dreamboat has finally come”



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”



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”



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”



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


DD [Dear Dear],

We’re going Ta-ta!

Tim, Meg, Moll, Ree


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

Love, Meg.

“Shelli was about to have a heart attack”



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!”



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”



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”



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…