The 90s toys that raised me

by Jennifer Dryden


My stuffed animal that wasn’t really stuffed, yet mechanically hard with a faux fur shell, also the one who demanded food by talking like a toddler. My finger pressed its tongue and my reward for feeding him invisible food was a loud and drawn out, “Yummmm”. Ours was tiger striped and then we got a white one because why not buy an overly-expensive-for-the-90s, annoying toy in bulk?


were a bonding tool for the genders. It was one of the only times my brother and I got to play together, or maybe he only liked the fact that he could “win” my pogs and I could feel privileged to get his crappy ones he got in his pack. I was easily molded to think the least popular cardboard circles were the best. And if they had some sort of bright color on it, I was sold upon first sight. So well play, brother, well played.

Nickelodeon Gak.gak

The only appropriate time for a little girl to make farting noises. My brother could make his armpit fart with his hand, and after many attempts behind closed doors with my own hand-pit combo, I bought some orange Gak and learned to fart in a more appropriate fake way.

Pretty Pretty Princess.pretty pretty princess

I never won the crown, I never owned the game. But I knew I was royalty, kind of like a premature Lorde. If that song was around back then, I would have sung the crap out of that, “And I will never be royyyal, it don’t run in my blood… or ability to play this damn game”… or something like that.

Goosebumps Books.goosebumps

“No way in hell am I reading these.” Same with watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? I have always respected my sleep cycle.

Slap bracelets.slap braeclets

The only way I could get revenge on my brother and not get in trouble for it. But vice versa.

Blow Pens.blow pens

The real fear of what would happen if I sucked in versus blew out of the pen. I never tried it even when my awful friends dared me to. #lifelongmystery


The only handheld game we had that was legit. Mario in that two inch black and green screen was life. I let my brother beat the hard levels because #realistic on my own button-punching abilities, and those monsters were terrifyingly sharp and I ONLY HAD TWO GUYS LEFT! #SOS


Dat hair though! I stand behind this as what kicked off the piercing-of-the-belly-button phase of teens. I stayed strong and I am so glad I did. #bellybuttonsaregross

Beanie Babies.pug bb

346 of them are for sale, if interested. Except the pug, he’s forever mine. #reasonsIhaveschooldebt #saveyour$5youngJennifer

Kitty SurpriseKitty Surprise.

They are selling it at Wal-Mart in 2015. I had a hot pink cat… the baby kittens were basically a bean bag with a plastic cat head, and I would protect them with my life. I remember squealing when I opened it at Christmas – any way to be a mama, I was in.

Don’t Wake Daddy! Board game.dont wake daddy

Why the hell wasn’t Mommy included? I mean I wouldn’t DARE wake my dad when I was little, but for future reference, don’t wake Mommy, children. Wake the other one. Like I said before, I respect my sleep and you should too. #gladwehadthistalk

Full House.full house

I have all nine seasons on DVD, and my children will be sheltered from TV except for Full House until they can reach the DVD/cable boxes. Danny Tanner might be an absolute creep in real life, but he raised those girls the best he could in the show and I even stand by Uncle Jesse’s questionable dates.

Bead lizards.Beaded Lizard 24

I remember making mine a home out of a Lisa Frank sticker box and hiding in my 4th grade desk. Again, we see the obsession of mothering something. String+beads=lizard. #IwillcallyouLizzyandyoushallbemine

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Centuryz car

My first real girl crush major. Zenon Car was equal parts of pretty, adventurous, rebellious and confident. “Zoom zoom zoom, make my heart go boom boom!” #zetuslapedus

The Lion King.the lion king

The first time I realized I had emotions and cried for imaginary characters. Simba, my stuffed animal/best friend, still lives with me and has gone everywhere with me on this crazy life journey. #RIPMufasa


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I pray the most for you

I pray the most for you. And I don’t even know who you are yet. I pray whenever I feel myself without you. Whenever I feel the hole only you can fill, according to so many people already in love. “It’ll come,” they say.

I pray that you’re okay and that life is treating you well, but not well enough not to wonder about me. I hope you’re either happy or learning a lesson with another girl, so when you get to me you’ll know for sure. I know this might all sound crazy, like some kind of desperation coming from someone who’s so good at being alone.

I’m not really that good at it.

I’m fine with not sharing a bed, watching a movie solo every few weekends. I don’t just want anyone to spend my time with. I want a woman with the same intentions, and lately that’s been asking for too much. I act like a complicated, high maintenance woman. I believe strongly in independence, women’s rights and letting love be love. I wouldn’t call that high maintenance or complicated. I’m really not that hard to read, if you take the time.

I want to hold your hand and play with your hair while we watch a movie, your head on my lap. I want to watch movies I’ve never seen and for you to watch for my response to your favorite part. Then when it’s not what you expected, I want you to make me explain my thoughts in detail. I want you to challenge me… on everything.

I know you’ll teach me things I’ve never considered to be important, I want them to become my priorities too. I want to hear about what you care about, what you dream about, and why something frustrates you. I want to take action together, let’s join a campaign to change the world.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

I want you not to care what people think and for us to exist in our happiness like a single cloud in the sky on a sunny day, unafraid and proud to be seen. I want us to exist together, in our own insane love.

I’ve daydreamed coming home to you, whoever you are. It’s the first time in years I’ve let myself embrace this thought, to think on it, to dream it. It’s been so vibrant lately. I believe in too many dreams of mine, and with my determination swimming through my veins, dreams usually come true; I usually find a way to live them. I know you are out there because of this.

I hope I’m your prayer before you close your eyes at night too. I bet I am.

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My place to stand. My person to be.


Until I was honest with myself I never knew how comfortable I could be in my own skin. It was the leap that scared me. As soon as I declared myself gay openly, I breathed life into the arteries that had been clotting for years. I got to dress the way I wanted to dress without feeling like I wasn’t girly enough, and I got to buy shoes that weren’t fancy flats or heels. I threw away half of my dresses, keeping only a couple for occasions like rehearsal dinners for weddings I always seem to be in. I got skinny jeans and high tops, and embraced the black and gold obsession I’ve had for months. This is me. The real one.

Living inside my head for years caused me to evaluate every option through logic… and every once in a while I would let my heart weigh in. I threw away ideas dealing with serious relationships because that topic confused me the most. I focused on my career, planning for what biases could come with the ‘announcement’ when it was right. I eliminated certain small towns and districts as they disagreed with the way my heart is made. I set myself up for the smoothest coming out I could. I built up my sass and ability not to care about how strangers or acquaintances felt about me. If I didn’t prepare myself like this, I don’t know if I would have ever come out. And now that I am out, I think about all the other LGBT youth out there struggling, hard, to get out of their heads.

The reality of a lot of the LGBT community is we live inside our bodies, inside our heads, until some light gets in and tells us it’s okay. That light can be anything and anyone. Mine was a girl, who I’d rather kiss than not. It sounds too simplistic, something you might say any straight person might experience. Believe me, this girl wasn’t the first one. There were many more after that. I then stopped acting like this wasn’t a thing. I fought through the physical sickness and the burning in my chest because every time I stopped thinking too hard, I felt the weight lift and everything calm.

I began to get a type, which sounds so stupid, because yes, everyone deserves love and blah blah blah. But to me, living in my head and finally having a type on the outside was something to hold onto. Something to believe myself a little more. I started to brand myself with what I truly loved, and surrounding myself with people who loved me too, unconditionally. My mindset changed from keep it in to let it go. (No Elsa puns intended.)

These past six years I’ve been single were evolving years. I consciously chose not to date. I knew in my mind that being with a guy wasn’t for me, especially when one would hold my hand and I’d internally roll my eyes and count down the seconds until it was appropriate to let go. We’d sit on the couch together and watch a movie, his body leaning towards mine and I would hug a pillow instead of leaning in to hold onto him, praying he wouldn’t make a move. So, I decided after college to just stop.

I needed some sincere me time. I became the single woman mascot; I joked that me being single was like a superpower. My friends ate it up. And the real questions about my sexuality never floated to the surface from anyone, and it was my fault. It was all quite calculated. I liked my consistent life outside of my head; I had prepared myself for success. I couldn’t ruin it now, I thought. Little did I know, saying it would set me free.

When someone says, “I just can’t keep it in anymore!” about anything, I believe them. I got there one day. I was tired of living in my head, hoping with my heart, and praying to a God I didn’t even know truly loved me. One text relieved the pressure and the first person knew who I was for the first time in my life.

The LGBT community – open or not – live and have lived inside our heads for a long time, so coming out is basically a physical step when in actuality none of us are in a closet. A physical step in the sense that our entire body reacts. I remember shaking. I remember lying in bed the night before I told one of my best friends, tears rolling from my eyes that were too tired, a head so full it ached. My stomach in knots. This friend is religious, and I was turning around in my head if I could live without them.

She reassured me that everything would be okay and our friendship could never be stronger than it was right then. It’s in moments like these that I knew I had a good group of friends. Coming out to my tight group of friends one-by-one was something I grew to love because their reactions varied from followup questions, hilarious comments, and “tell me everything”s. I never needed to be worried, or in my head, or crying late into the night. I was me, and as long as I stuck by being me, I couldn’t fail.

There were a couple friends who reacted harshly, and yeah, it made me cry, but comparatively when I hung up the phone with them I was still me, freer than before I dialed. I decided that was enough. It is enough.

So for those who didn’t know, well now you do. For those who don’t approve, I don’t give a shit. For those who support me like they have for years, thank you. For all the LGBT youth, be you and forget everyone else. It requires a few extra breaths and a couple friends to talk to. Be proud of who you are, love who you love, and be a support system for each other. I’m excited for the next generation being born into a country where women can marry women and men can marry men without a fight. What’s greater than seeing people happy?



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An open note to my school-year-stressed-out self


Remember when you’re sitting in the routine among one hundred papers to grade and deadline week that you can breathe. You can take a minute, or better yet an hour, to let it all go. To realize that all that you think has to be done right now, can wait another day. You work hard, you always have. It’s enough.

Remember during these times what the Chicago skyline looked like at night atop a high rise. Think back on Nashville to the powerful and reassuring words Katie shared. Remember screaming at the height of your lung’s capacity on Millennium Force. Remember the conversations that ended in your family and friends supporting you in all facets of your journey. If what today brings bleeds into tomorrow, remember a weekend isn’t too far away and sleep will relax muscles your awake self can’t – like your brain. Your strength lies in your words, your prayers for stability, and your ability to be a positive force in other’s lives.

Take time to write. Take time to stop, accept the reality of your now and make a plan. You thrive on lists; make one. The check mark is the most powerful thing you can create on paper. The power and pride it holds pushes you forward. Check off being fabulous, because girl, you know you are! 😋

Remember that the challenges your kids face are not yours. But realize your impact on them every day. You can spark a smile or a chuckle at how interactive and excited you teach concepts. You teach them things every day. And you can’t control everything, even though you try. Let it go.

Remember the feeling of laughing endlessly at Amelia and Alex. Remember how six-year-old Alex gets the hiccups when she laughs; that’s the best. Laugh now.

Wander back to when you first met her eyes and felt something you thought was lost long ago. That’s hope. If nothing else, you felt hope for the first time in years. You’re a better person for it and your outlook is a little clearer now.

This summer has taught you about freedom and personal happiness. You fought the urge to stay home, in your comfort zone. You smiled more than other summers, and realized this adult life is all you make it to be. Believe in a good life, you’ve made a good start.

So, let it be. And be thankful.

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Big Brother 17 Cast First Impressions


Courtesy of Yahoo Images

If you know me you know I am obsessed with Big Brother. My entire year hits holiday in late June and I’m the happiest when I can fall asleep with the 24/7 live feeds on and wake up at 3:30 a.m. just to see what the house guests are up to. People hate broken sleep, but for three months or around 100 days, I live and breath Big Brother, sleepless nights stalking them via feeds, and basically playing the game alongside them.

The show starts in two days, Wednesday, June 25, and I just watched the cast interviews. I have ranked them from HATE–>Annoying–>Boring–>Meh–>OK–>Cool–>Like–>LOVE. This is NOT my prediction for a winner, but my first impressions based solely on their interviews with Jeff on’s live feeds.

Liz = HATE: you basically can see her nipples in her revealing dress and although her strategy is clearly to be a slut without being a slut, it’s just a big no for me. I wrote down “deep, annoying voice = OMG EVICT ASAP!” Then as she flipped her hair and nearly blinked off her fake eyelashes, I drew a skull and bones and wrote “laugh=death”.

Johnny Mack = Annoying: Anyone who wants to keep a secret about being a superfan is just thinking wrong right off the bat. Who cares. If you’re on the show, you’re either a superfan or recruited in a drunken bar in LA or New York. I’d rather be a superfan. Seems like an airhead, is too loud. But I can see him bonding with the “bros” of the house, but will definitely be the first to go, or the pon all the time. I wrote down “what a goofy idiot = my reaction”.

James = Boring: An Asian person in camo = cool match, right? He looks more interesting than what he speaks about, but he seems like a nice man with a family. Based on his past, he is probably mentally strong, which could get him far if he also plays that “I’m a hunter and an Asian” card. I’m just left looking at the video’s length and thinking, “I’m bored as hell.”

Davon = Meh: She’s the only black person in the cast and that pisses me off. But putting that aside because I chose to be a teacher and not a casting agent, she is a new mom to a seven-month-old daughter. When she said that I immediately questioned if she’d be pumping while in the house and secretly shipping the milk off to her daughter. Why such a thought? I don’t know; don’t try to understand my mind! She’s loud, a “straight shooter” and seems fun. Way more fun than Candace, who was awfully annoying. Also, when you read way down this list you’ll meet Vanessa (back off, I called dibs!), I was worried about her as a pro poker player, because Davon is a poker dealer. I hope she doesn’t recognize her! #saveVanessa

Becky = OK: There’s nothing about her that’s memorable besides the fat that she won’t win, and in which case, we don’t have to remember her. My prediction is that she’ll be “friends” with Shelli and probably the HATE bitch Liz. The end.

Clay = OK: Yeah, all the women will fall in love with his face and the odd resemblance to Jeff Schroeder. It’s just how society works. Accept it and move on. I laughed out loud when he said he was a “superfan” except that he’s a poser. Yeah, that’s right, I said ‘poser’. That’s what he is. He has only watched the show for four months, although he claims he got through eight seasons. News Flash: THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A SUPERFAN! That makes you a student, ya ass! He seems like a sweetheart with that southern charm that could get Shelli or Becky or (god help us all) Liz. I hope he’s better than Liz. But then again, look at Brenden and Rachel. *eye roll*

Jace = Like: He’s the surfer, skater, personal trainer, long-haired blonde guy. He seems personable, had a good vocabulary and said he’s all for the fans. I appresh him, but he uses a lot of cliches. #Englishteacherprobs But I like him.

Steve = Like: He’s the less OCD version of Ian. He’s a student someplace for audio engineering and music. Superfan and nerdy. Super adorable and will use it to his advantage to win over house guests… as he should. I wrote “Good kid!” next to his name because that’s what people will say about him in the house. You go, smartypants!

Austin = Like: He’s the scary looking wrestler guy who could easily be mistaken for a caveman. What his picture looks like is the opposite of how he talks and I like that twist. He’s a pro wrestler and has a second persona when he puts on his big black top hat. His alter ego’s name is Judas. He seems really nice! I like him.

Shelli = Like: I like her because she reminds me of my best friend from journalism school Andrea. She seems nice and funny. I like her. She’ll be a woman in the house I won’t hate on, unless she befriends Liz too much. I’m hoping Shelli is smarter than that. *crosses fingers*

Audrey = Like: Aside from the fact that we all know she’s transgendered, which I fully support and love that BB is being so open mineded, she seems tough and serious about the game. Also, damn, modern medicine and surgery, FTW! She looks good, and I doubt many people will even notice she’s trans. #LGBTlove You go, Glen Coco!

Jason = Love: He stocks grocery store shelves, but his full-time job is being flipping funny. He is so pumped up to be on BB and he wants to form a girls alliance (which won’t work), but he thinks that a girls alliance will work with his “gay glue” to keep them all together. Not a bad idea at all. I kept laughing at his bubbly and happy personality. I love this guy.

Meg = LOVE: She’s a waitress in NYC so she’s a socialite. Plus she lives in a huge city that has to deal with people of all sorts, which makes her patient. I would probably be drawn to her as an ally if I were on this year’s show simply because she quoted Taylor Swift with “hater’s gunna hate”. Also she’s super funny and completely adorable with what comes out of her mouth. Her peppiness might be her downfall, but we’d be friends. I even wrote down, “I want to be her friend!” in my notes.

Vanessa = LOVE: She’s a pro poker player and a DJ. Right from the start, I’m intrigued at how she’ll play the game and manipulate people with a “poker face”. She seems to be a logical thinker and goodhearted. Plus she’s hot and gay and yes, please. Love her style and potential to kick ass. I just hope Davon doesn’t recognize her (as she’s a poker dealer). I question BB’s intentions with casting two poker-infused people. Vanessa’s my favorite for many reasons.

So there you go! My first impressions of the 14 BB17 house guests. Last year there was 16… hmmmmm, let me over analyze this for another day. What’s the twist? I’ve heard many things like having a former house guest come in each week to lead some sort of competition or something else. Who knows, but as always I will expect the unexpected and keep applying so I can get my run at my one true summer’s love. #BB17

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Road Trip Day 3 – Last full day in Nashville with headstands at the Parthenon


I helped Katie do a handstand today. I attempted to teach her how to do a cartwheel too. We stood at the Parthenon (no, not the one in Greece) in Midtown Nashville , across the street from Musicians Corner when Katie asked, “Teach me how to do a cartwheel!” So I did.

I did gymnastics for seven years from my single digits into my preteen youth. I was decent and I remember nearly breaking my neck when I attempted to do a skipping areal cartwheel in my front yard to impress my friends.

I knew before take off that it would stretch muscles I hadn’t used since gymnastic classes, but I still had the skillz. Mad skillz. I executed the cartwheel with straight legs, pointed toes, and twisted my hips perfectly in midair. Katie fumbled, but she gave it a good effort. Then she wanted to do a headstand. “Here, grab my feet!” I pulled her into a headstand. She panicked and asked me to put her legs down. I couldn’t stop laughing. I then put my head on the ground, scrunched myself into a tripod, then once balanced, I extended into a headstand – pointed toes and all.


My eyes were at overgrown grass height and the world was upside down. Figuratively speaking, I’ve felt that a few times this year. My world had turned on its head, perspective different than everyone else’s, and feeling the weight on my head.

I got out of the stance and regained the reality of a hot, 90-something degree day and the newly-formed tan lines on my feet from my TOMS shoes. #youknowitssummerwhen We sat on the steps of the Parthenon imitation and felt the sweat drip down our backs. I know, gross, but hey, that’s called losing weight while having fun. I’ll take it!

As we were grabbing dinner from Mitchell’s Delicatessen in East Nashville, I thanked Katie for hosting Steph and me, and jokingly apologized for my constant insanity, which in my own nature is a lot. I’m a lot – sarcastic wise and rambling wise and my food-allergies-make-me-picky wise. She said, “You’re Jenn. I knew what I was getting myself into,” as if it was just a matter of fact. She is at best friend status for many reasons – too many reasons to list here and mainly understood only by us – and without her I not only wouldn’t have a place to crash in Nashville, but I would have a void in which I would always be trying to fill.

So as Steph and I head off to Cincinnati, stop number two on our road trip to get free, Sunday, I thank Katie Connors and Nashville for getting me close to one of Taylor Swift’s houses and trails on which she’s run with bodyguards.


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Road Trip Day 2: Nashville – Biking six miles brings perspective


I don’t like being outside. I never have liked being outside, except when I was little and naïve to the fact that bugs were everywhere and that sweat was a thing that seeped from the pours of every inch of one’s body. I am fully aware of that now. But today, I biked six miles.

Katie, my best friend from my New York City era, Steph, my travel companion, and I rented bikes at Shelby Bottoms Park in East Nashville. East Nashville, according to Katie, is, “[the] land of the hipster and the overpriced bungalow, and where coffee is an art, and tight jeans are worn by all. Tattoos are like freckles, everyone has them.” With that last comment, yes, these are my people. East Nashville is often times referred to as the NYC East Village of Nashville, and it is stocked full of artists, creatives, and yes, tattooed people with whom I’d like to befriend.

We rode up to Cumberland River Bridge; it was too high to imagine making it to in my mind, but we did. If Katie would have told me it was three miles there alone, I would have said “no way” and to be honest, I did say “no way”, and “I’m going to die!” and “ahhh, this was a bad choice!” But as I pedaled behind them, taking in the green trees lining the trail and crossing the rickety bridges, I looked up at the blue sky and was silent for a while.

I looked into the trees, imagining deer making their home in there, and greeting passersby with hellos. I talked to my friends and goofed off on Snapchat. We stopped to meet a turtle that was crossing the bridge, and after a couple photo opps, Katie helped him cross the bridge the way he was faced. #heroicdeedoftheday. We named him Ziggy Zig. We saw many rabbits and apparently, I missed a deer sighting.


This was being outside among bugs, and yes, I was sweating. Then we saw the bridge. The bridge was up a big hill. We walked our bikes up there, around a winding path, and stood in the middle, taking in Tennessee’s beauty and watching heron’s fly across the trees. It was a little scary to look down off of a high bridge that was over a river. It was so vast. The other girls started ahead of me back to our bikes and behind them I silently opened my arms and let my head fall back. I didn’t close my eyes though because before me was a masterpiece and that masterpiece was all natural. Nature, in and of itself, is beautiful. I just never took the time to appreciate it or get to know something I’m not used to. It makes me think of people and what they’re not used to

All we have to do with something new is be open-minded. Being open-minded is half the battle in most things that end of being worth it. So biking six miles is my challenge to my routine, and it makes me wonder what other things I’m missing out on. It makes me wonder if people in general were exposed to people who pushed their boundaries and their thinking to things they normally would say ‘no way’ to, would the human race be more accepting? Our experiences shape us, and although this biking adventure shaped my legs, it also has shaped my thoughts on living.

IMG_20150612_162422920_HDR IMG_20150612_162406490

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