You Make Me Feel Like I’m Living a Teenage Dream

Today at work I spent more time than I should have turning my boss, “Ike”, into a unicorn.

This is me, not my boss. I didn't want to embarrass him.

This is me, not my boss. I don’t want to embarrass him.

He was so impressed (that might be the wrong word) that he told me I could add ‘Maker of Unicorns’ to my business card.

“As long as the card looks like it was designed by Lisa Frank,” I said, and he stared at me like I was a crazy person.

“You know. Lisa Frank? Oh… I just remembered you weren’t a small girl growing up in the ’90s.”

“No,” he said. “Thank you for acknowledging that.”

I showed him some classic Lisa Frank art and he called it ugly. Oh, Ike. You so don’t get it.

Apparently Lisa Frank is a little bit crazy. I honestly did not see that coming.

Apparently Lisa Frank is a little bit crazy. I honestly did not see that coming.

Perhaps you were a female who grew up in the ’90s, or perhaps you know one who did. If so, you’re aware that every folder, pencil bag, and eraser Lisa Frank ever touched was a masterpiece. You also know how deeply important pogs are and at some point in your life, you definitely wanted to be Harriet the Spy.

I was a Harriet junkie. I wanted her outfit. I wanted her hair. I even wanted her arch-nemesis (and as a result, have a lot of unwarranted anger towards blonde girls). Most of all, however, I wanted her steam trunk full of notebooks. Considering she’d only been literate for five or six years, Harriet’s notebook collection was impressive. She had all kinds of notebooks, but as a mature preteen, she favored the composition book. I was so enamored by them that I started writing in composition books, too.

And all of them say PRIVATE.

But only while wearing a raincoat.

I must have 20 notebooks of my own at this point, filled with evidence that I’ve never been a deep thinker. Some of that evidence comes in list form (shockingly), like the one called “CURRENT RAVEZ!!!” I wrote when I was 14 that emphasizes how sigh-worthy Johnny Depp, walruses, cherry kool-aid, and Freddie Mercury’s voice are. (Totally sigh-worthy!!!!!!)

Anyway, I pulled a couple of my Harriet notebooks out of the ol’ steam trunk today (I wish) and was delighted to find some short how-to guides written by 13-year-old Stephanie, based on her goals at the time. I thought maybe you guys had some similar goals that I might be able to help you with. You’re quite welcome.

How to Do All the Things You REALLY Want to Do, By Stephanie, Age 13

1. The first step to achieving your dreams is to write down your goal in a goal notebook and make an action plan with deadlines and space to say how it went.

[That’s the only step I wrote down. I suspect Step 2 is to decorate the pages of your designated notebook with inspirational quotes, which is what I did. Mysteriously, a lot of them are by Madonna. I did not listen to Madonna. She was totally not sigh-worthy!!!!]

To Become a Movie Star

1. Act every chance you get.
Deadline: Until you are 104!!
How’d it go?: ______________

2. Take drama every year in school.
Deadline: 2008
How’d it go?: ______________

3. In college, get some kind of degree in acting.
Deadline: 2012
How’d it go?: ______________

To Get a Boyfriend!!!!

1. Flirt with the boy you like.
Deadline: Wednesday, April 9, 2003
How’d it go?: ______________

2. Destroy his girlfriend.
Deadline: Wednesday, April 16, 2003
How’d it go?: ______________

3. Flirt more, then wait for him to make the first move.
Deadline: Wednesday, May 6, 2003
How’d it go?: ______________

4. Ask him out.
Deadline: Thursday, May 7, 2003
How’d it go?: ______________

To Own Disney Enterprises

1. Make good grades for a scholarship to the University of Texas.
Deadline: May, 2008
How’d it go?: ______________

2. Major in business.
Deadline: June, 2008
How’d it go?: ______________

3. Interview for the administrative branch of Disney
Deadline: July, 2012
How’d it go?: ______________

4. Work your way to the top. (It’s THAT easy!)
Deadline: unspecified
How’d it go?: ______________

To Learn How To Do a Front Handspring

1. Get Kristin to show you how.
Deadline: May 1, 2003
How’d it go?: ______________

2. Practice three times a day.
Deadline: Until I’m dead.
How’d it go?: ______________

To Write a Bestseller (No Deadline)

1. Write all the time!
How’d it go?: ______________

2. Keep working on ideas!
How’d it go?: ______________

3. Join newspaper staff.
How’d it go?: YOU GO GIRL! TODAY WAS DAY 1!

4. Keep writing…
How’d it go?: ______________

To Start a Band

1. Learn guitar by asking Dad to learn with you. [This is highlighted. I guess because it’s a super good idea?]

2. Get band members by putting up signs.

3. Practice by finding an area and time and practicing.

4. Set up performances. JUMP AT OPPORTUNITIES!

I want to laugh at 13-year-old me, who was completely convinced I would keep filling this thing out with encouraging YOU GO GIRLS! until my death (literally), but I can’t, because I respect her too much. Say what you will, but 13-year-old Stephanie knew what she wanted and was ready to go out and get it.

Thank heavens I double-majored in drama and business management and went on to become a movie star who does front handsprings in an awesome band while working on my bestselling autobiography about owning Disney Enterprises and having a boyfriend who I asked out even though he made the first move.

Otherwise I’d be extremely disappointed in myself.


  1. ninjasinstitches

    I am a fellow Harriet the Spy lover as well.. I too have a grand collection of notebooks.. I never connected my love of composition notebooks to Harriet though.. I’m a left and as I got older I realized it was easier for me to write in them vs battling with spirals. ;)

  2. Is Everyone an Idiot but Me?

    I definitely kept a Harriet the Spy journal and started spying on my sister. I need to find that…. I also was obsessed with Lisa Frank. I think it’s impossible not to. Those bright colors must release seratonin in the brain or something.

  3. 2summers

    I can’t remember the last time I thought about Lisa Frank stickers. They were important to small girls growing up in the 1980s, too. I’m surprised to learn here that their significance continued into the next decade.

  4. Caitlin

    Haha your notebooks are so much better than mine! I was such an angsty little person. I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one with several composition notebooks inspired by Harriet.

  5. Nichole

    Lisa Frank I remember but I doubt at 13 I was that focused on anything other than softball. You should be proud of your 13 year old self. :)

  6. themeredithmouth

    I’m so glad that I found someone else who knows what pogs are. Seriously.
    Having never read any Harriet books, I now have a reason to go to the library. Again. (Although, I am the proud owner of a “Decomposition Notebook,” and I use it to write important spy-business, like notes for my blog.)

  7. prozacbrownie

    Sweet, sweet Lisa Frank. I find it at the dollar store every so often. I dream of buying it all up and having some screwed up 90’s shop where i sell all the forgotten treats of the past. If this ever becomes a reality-i will know who to call to be my business partner!

  8. Miriam Joy

    I was slightly post-nineties (born in 96), but Harriet The Spy was still one of my favourites. I used to abseil over our banisters with a piece of string tied to my belt.

  9. Tophat

    Oh man, pogs! I had them, too. My interest in them lasted about as far as the first pog “match,” when someone explained to me that I would be expected to actually give up some of the delightful little things if I lost. “Over my dead body,” I muttered at him darkly, hiding my tube full of pogs and preparing to apply my slammer against his forehead if he got grabby. “You’ll have to take these from my corpse.”
    …….. Embarrassment level 3/10 for remembering the slammers.

  10. nobsj

    One time I decided to keep a spy journal in my fifth grade history class to keep from falling asleep, so I recorded every time someone left to use the bathroom (which was suspiciously often- hmm). Then my mom found it and got really upset and I was convinced my life would be destroyed a la the “Spy Catcher Club.”

    Also, the only items I possessed to rival my Lisa Frank pencils were my Aaron Carter and assorted boy band pens.

  11. Escaping Elegance

    Oh my god! This was like I was reading about myself! Part of that may be because my name is Stephanie and I was also once a 13 yo girl… but I’m sure it’s mainly because I did this exact same shit.

    I used to keep a notebook in which I would track the movements of my sister and her friends. I found one the other day and it killed me because i was using quotes when I thought they were up to something.
    ___ and ___ are going to the “movies”.

  12. Stephen Kaplan

    I laughed out loud at this article! That last paragraph in particular was hilarious as were the lists! Unfortunately I wasn’t a girl in the 90s…or ever, so I don’t really know anything about Lisa Frank. But I still thought this was very funny! Great post, keep it up! :)

  13. Laura S.

    This cracked me up! OMG, I remember making lists like that. One of my top priority being a millionaire because I invented something totally unique and being married at age 25. Let me tell you I’m far a way from inventing something great or getting married. This post made my day!

  14. Pingback: Every Day I Write the Book | Listful Thinking

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