“But this does not define you…”

Cover image from Moana. Screen cap via. An approximation of how I’ve felt the past few weeks.

I’ve had a rough few weeks. Personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally, physically… you name it. It’s been difficult to fire on all cylinders. After a particularly trying week, I gave myself permission this weekend to just be.

Terry and I had a productive Saturday and spent time with friends, but I knew I needed today for and to myself. Based on my activities, here are some tips for a rejuvenating Sunday from someone who allowed herself to have one:

  • Sleep in.
  • Drink coffee.
  • Sink into something methodical—preferably with a goal or something easy to achieve—for a few hours. For me, this was crafting gear in Guild Wars 2 and listening to a podcast. I was playing an open-world MMO, but doing tasks with clearly defined crafting guidelines and a numerical goal to reach. This is not fun for everyone. I don’t even like it a lot of times. But it was perfect for today.
  • Eat lunch. Or a snack. Drink water. Just don’t forget to nourish yourself.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Spend time with your person. Or a person or creature who doesn’t make you make an effort to spend time with them. I’m fortunate to have a husband I can cohabitate with and not have to do anything. Most of the day we were within sight of one another, but we weren’t doing things together. We could just do our thing and have a good day.
  • Eat ice cream.
  • Watch Moana. I suppose you could theoretically watch any Disney movie, or any movie that makes you happy. But I highly suggest Moana for empowerment, good music, tears, and happiness.
  • Do Yoga with Adriene’sYoga for Depression.” Again, you could do any workout or yoga you like, I suppose. But Adriene just posted this today, and it was exactly what I needed. More so than I could have thought.
  • Bathe and pamper yourself. Take a bath, take a hot shower, put on a face mask, shave your legs, pluck your eyebrows. Whatever gets you clean and makes you feel a little special.
  • Dance and sing to the Moana soundtrack while you write a blog post. Okay, maybe that’s just for me.

Take a deep breath and get out there and kill it this week.


EXPeriencing Wonder Woman

Cover image via.

Caution: There’s a spoiler below.

My husband made me cry because of Wonder Woman.

Don’t worry, they were happy tears.

We saw Wonder Woman this afternoon, and were both blown away. Not only was it a great story with great acting and awesome fight scenes and explosions that make all good superhero movies worthwhile, but it was a woman. leading. the. charge. I didn’t know I’d been waiting my whole life to see Wonder Woman kicking ass and taking names on the big screen, but when I watched her train with the Amazons, fight Germans, and save the world, I was mesmerized. She’s everything the 8-year-old girl in me needed to see 20 years ago: a strong, smart woman warrior who can do anything.

I was particularly choked up during a fight scene in the latter half of the film. Diana had just walked across No Man’s Land and helped the allied forces overcome the entrenched Germans. Then she cleared out the nearby German-occupied town to save the villagers. She was fighting a dozen men at once, and beating them all to pulps. My nose started to tickle as tears were welling in my eyes. I’ve never truly been struck with the sense of seeing myself represented on screen, and it is powerful. It’s one thing to see Captain America and Batman and Thor leading a team, running around, beating up the bad guys. But it’s another to see a woman doing it. Representation matters in all things. It took more than 75 years from Wonder Woman’s creation for women to see her on the big screen in all her deserved glory. It’s ridiculous it took Hollywood this long to catch up. But boy, was it worth the wait.

As I was about to share with Terry how this scene made me tear up, he said, “The movie almost got me. I almost cried during it.” I asked him what part. He replied, “When Steve Trevor was saying goodbye to Diana before flying the plane away from the base.”

Terry said, “Because that’s how I see you. You’re Wonder Woman to me.”

Reader, I burst into tears.

I clutched his hand and said, “Really?”

He said, “Yeah, are you kidding? You are Wonder Woman, and any other strong female video game or movie character. That’s why I want you to go everywhere with me. I’m Steve Trevor, I can’t do anything on my own. I need Wonder Woman there to help me.”

I’ve never felt more loved or special in all my life. I told Terry it was the sweetest thing he’s ever said to me. He replied, “What about ‘Will you marry me?'” That ranks second.

The moral of this story is two-fold:

1.) Go see Wonder Woman. Immediately. Take your daughters and sons.

2.) Find a lady or gentleman who sees you as Wonder Woman, and marry them.

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Cover photo art by Hayley Gilmore and is available for download along with her other designs! Thank you, Hayley!

Well it’s been a bit of a week, I’d say.


Me at Hamilton in Chicago.

On Wednesday, January 18, I saw Hamilton in Chicago with my best friend. It’s hard to put the experience into words (without a lot of superlatives). After listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack for nearly a year and the Hamilton Mixtape since it was released in December, I thought I knew the show pretty well. And it’s true, 90% of what’s on the soundtrack is in the show.

But there’s a reason why musicals are more than just concerts. Everything that’s happening on stage is incredible. From the minimal, rotating set, to the company dancing, to the inflections and movements of the actors, each bit of visual candy creates a richer experience than just blasting the soundtrack in your car every day.

Even though we saw the Wednesday matinee, we saw all the main cast: Miguel Cervantes as Alexander Hamilton, Ari Afsar as Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Karen Olivo as Angelica Schuyler, Chris De’Sean Lee (a junior in college) as Lafayette/Jefferson, and the new Aaron Burr, in his second day of shows, Wayne Brady. I had my doubts about Brady as Burr, but rest assured, he was incredible. So many goosebumps in “Wait For It.”

The best thing about Hamilton, though, is what makes it so amazing no matter what form you watch or listen to it in: the history of our country’s founding is told through performances by diverse men and women who more accurately reflect today’s America. It was comforting and empowering to see people of color performing roles previously occupied by white men and women telling a story about a country—our country—that fought for its freedom.

But that fight continues today.

It was a unique experience to see Hamilton just two days before America’s first black president left office, only for that office be taken over by the man we must now call President. I couldn’t bear to watch the inauguration and see our country slide backwards.

So when the inauguration ceremony kicked off, I was at the movies watching Hidden Figures, a story of the black women who helped get America’s astronauts into space. What an incredible film! I had never heard the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and all the black “human computers” who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. Not once. To paraphrase a black woman’s post on Facebook about the movie: “I was moved to tears by the movie and so proud of these women. But I’m also angry that I was never taught about these women and others like them. What would have been the trajectory of my life if I’d known of them?”

I, too, am angry and feel a sense of betrayal that I never once learned about these women. I didn’t know they existed. To not teach little girls that women—specifically black women—helped get astronauts into space seems such an egregious oversight. All women and all minorities should have been looking up to Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary for the past 50 years, but we’re just now getting a movie? It’s not fair, especially not to black girls and women.


A couple great Hamilton signs at the Women’s March in Indy.

And that is just one reason why on Saturday, January 21, I marched. I marched (or rallied, as it were, in Indianapolis) in my pink hat with a Planned Parenthood button on my Hamilton-Chicago t-shirt because of the inequalities we still face in this country. I marched because women don’t make equal pay for equal work. I marched because I’m afraid my access to affordable birth control is in jeopardy. I marched because I am afraid for the lives of the thousands of Americans who will lose their insurance without the Affordable Care Act. I marched because immigrants deserve the same rights as natural born American citizens. I marched because LGBTQ individuals face discrimination every day, particularly in Indiana. I marched because people of color face discrimination every day, no matter where they are. I marched because I believe in the power of women, not just the power of 3 million women and their friends yesterday who marched across the world, but the power of all of us moving forward to fight for what we believe in.

We will not go back. Let’s get to it, ladies.


Love trumps hate, indeed.

Re-EXPeriencing My Love of [All] Movies

Cover image via.

Two weeks ago the Republican National Convention ended, and I needed a distraction from reality. After looking through my collection of movies I’ve seen a million times, I turned on Netflix to find something else. Criminal Minds didn’t seem appealing; neither did Fixer Upper. So I turned to the movie section and found that two of this year’s Oscar-winners had been added: The Big Short and Spotlight. Thursday night I watched The Big Short and Saturday afternoon I watched Spotlight. Neither ended up being very distracting from reality. Spoiler alert: they’re both based on true stories and kind of depressing. But they were both excellent and very deserving of their golden statues.

That’s not what I’m writing about today, though.

I enjoyed watching both movies because they were good. But what I enjoyed more was that they reconnected me with my love for movies—all movies.

Once upon a time, I went to the movies almost every weekend. If there was a new movie coming out that I wanted to see, I saw it. That was when the only thing I needed to spend my money on was fun things because I was a teenager and had no bills. Nowadays, I have to choose my movies more judiciously. And because I almost always go to the movies with my husband Terry, we go to something we both want to see bad enough to spend the money on. That means we almost exclusively see superhero/sci-fi/action/adventure movies.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, X-Men, you name it. I will gladly go see a movie with 100-foot-tall monsters destroying cities. But just as I don’t want to exclusively read books about wizards and dragons, I don’t exclusively want to watch movies with those things, either.

Watching The Big Short and Spotlight last weekend reminded me of two things: I can watch whatever movies I’m interested in, and I can do it by myself.

I have gone to the movies alone before. I saw Mad Max: Fury Road by myself just last year because Terry didn’t want to go with me. But that translates to home, too. I can turn on a movie I haven’t seen when Terry goes to bed and enjoy some me-time and excellent visual storytelling. I can get a Redbox DVD and see something new that isn’t on Netflix whenever I want. And it doesn’t have to be something that Terry wants to watch with me. We don’t like all the same books, music, or food. Why should like all the same movies?

In case you need the reminder like I did, remember to take time for yourself, especially in this contentious election season. Watch a new movie you’ve been wanting to see, just for fun, and just because you want to. It’s a worthwhile two hours.

EXPeriencing ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’

(Image via Reddit. Warning: Mild spoilers below.)

In March of this year, I blogged about how I became a Star Wars fan. I concluded that post saying I was “pretty freaking excited” to see The Force Awakens in theaters. How excited was I? Excited enough to go without my husband, the much bigger Star Wars fan, because he’s an introvert and didn’t want to see it in a crowded theater opening weekend. By the time all my friends and their brothers had seen the movie Friday evening, I couldn’t wait any more. I bought a ticket (to a really cool movie theater in Carmel called FlixBrewhouse) and saw The Force Awakens on Monday the 21st.

It was amazing.

I’m not just saying that because zOMG Star Wars!!1! I like Star Wars a lot, but I’m not so devoted to it that I can’t see its flaws–or rail on said flaws over and over and over again. After my first viewing of The Force Awakens, though, I found very few flaws, and the plot, characters, acting, and immersion were stellar.

I can’t recite the original trilogy word-for-word like my husband can, so I rewatched Episodes IV, V, and VI before seeing The Force Awakens. I’m glad I did because Episode VII really felt like a continuation of that trilogy. Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, things aren’t as we thought they should be: there’s no new Jedi order, stormtroopers of the First Order are wreaking havoc on the Resistance–two groups it didn’t seem like we’d have or need at the end of Jedi. While some people who are devoted to the now non-existent extended universe may be salty that there aren’t a hundred Jedi running around, the militaristic stormtroopers of the Empire/First Order versus the scrappy pilots of the Rebellion/Resistance fit well in the universe. The classic good versus evil fight is still going from 30 years ago, but we still recognize that 30 years have indeed passed.

I think my favorite thing about The Force Awakens is that blend of old versus new. It’s in everything from the ships to the characters. Hello, Millennium Falcon! Hello, Han and Chewie! Hello, Easter eggs that call to the original trilogy! But these “old” settings and characters don’t just pander to Star Wars fans. They provide the perfect bridge to all the new–new worlds, new characters, new powers. For instance, I am a huge fan of Finn and Rey. Finn, the stormtrooper turned good, and Rey, the lost girl on Jakku who, well, I won’t get that spoilery on you. Their dynamic with each other, with Han Solo and Leia, and with the bad guys makes the movie fun and fresh. I like the uppity kids dynamic versus the old rogues, because what were Luke, Leia, and Han 30 years ago but uppity kids themselves?

And as I’m talking about the characters, I just have to take a minute to fangirl over the fact that they actually got Harrison Ford to come back for the part of Han Solo. He’s always said he never liked the character and he’s been famously tight-lipped about talking about Star Wars. As in, he never talks about it. Ever. So to see him on the screen–with some significant screen time–made my Harrison Ford-fan heart flutter. And just like the blend of old and new characters, the “old” and young actors make a great dynamic. John Boyega, Daisey Ridley, and Adam Driver pair well against Harrison Ford, et al.

(Well. Kylo Ren/Adam Driver doesn’t pair all that well against Han Solo/Harrison Ford… If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll leave that at that.)

The Force Awakens was an overall exciting movie experience. It’s absolutely something that should be seen on the big screen, and more than once. There’s humor, there’s sorrow. There are space battles, the Force, and some sweet lightsaber action. I laughed often, and I cried a little, too. If you like Star Wars, $20 says you’ve already seen the movie. If you don’t care one way or another about Star Wars, but want a good movie night, I’d go see it. It’s fun, and you don’t need to have Yoda’s every line from Empire memorized to enjoy it.

EXPeriencing This Week’s Casting Announcements

Cover images via Zimbio & BlackFilm.

This week saw two very different casting announcements for two projects I’m invested in: Netflix’s Daredevil and Ghostbusters (the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, to be exact).

First was Tuesday’s announcement that Jon Bernthal would be joining the cast of Daredevil as The Punisher. Jon Bernthal, you may know, played Shane in The Walking Dead. Shane, the best friend turned (spoilers) wife-thief and psychopath. The crazy look he got in his eyes as he became more and more unhinged throughout the show honestly haunts me. I haven’t seen Bernthal’s other works yet, so to me, he’s still just “Crazy-Eyes Shane.”

See what I mean?? (Via)

See what I mean?? (Via)

Which is why when I read Bernthal would be joining the cast of Daredevil, as The Punisher no less, I really didn’t know what to think. My husband loves The Punisher. I’ve watched the Thomas Jane version dozens of times and Terry dragged me to see Punisher: War Zone in theaters. (It was not my favorite.) So I’m fairly familiar with Frank Castle’s backstory, as well as his role in Marvel Civil War, to some extent. What I did not realize was how much interaction The Punisher has with Daredevil or that they both call Hell’s Kitchen home. So it makes sense why The Punisher would show up. I just don’t think I was expecting another superhero to join Daredevil, even if he is an incredibly violent anti-hero. Which, come to think of it, actually fits the show quite well.

I think Charlie Cox is an amazing Matt Murdock, so I’ll be interested to see how he and Bernthal work together. Now that I’ve gotten over my initial shock and slight anxiety at “Shane’s” return, I think Bernthal will make an excellent Frank Castle. The character is fairly troubled, to put it lightly, so Bernthal’s intensity will certainly lend itself to the part.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of The Punisher joining Daredevil. With the concluding events of the first season, Matt Murdock needs someone new to keep him on his toes. The Punisher’s style of fighting crime and corruption will definitely keep Daredevil busy–the kill-everything outlook vs. the Catholic guilt anti-killing outlook alone is sure to provide enough material for several episodes.

I was already excited that Season 2 of Daredevil is coming. Now I can’t wait!

The day after Daredevil‘s casting announcement, another announcement came that just made me laugh with joy: Chris Hemsworth is joining the Ghostbusters reboot as the receptionist.

That’s right. The receptionist. As in, Annie Potts from the original Ghostbusters.

Via Giphy.

Via Giphy.

This makes me so incredibly happy. Not only will we have Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig fighting ghosts, Thor will be answering their phones. It’s the type of ideal casting you usually only dream and joke about: “Wouldn’t it be awesome if Chris Hemsworth was cast in a random yet gender-bent role??” But it’s happening for real!

I hadn’t been keeping up on the Ghostbusters news too much since so little information has been shared about it. If they keep making casting announcements of this caliber, though, I’m going to start obsessing. The movie isn’t coming out for another year, according to IMDb, but it’s going to be a fun ride leading up to its release, that’s for sure.

These two announcements alone have got me nerding out, and I really can’t wait for the next developments in Daredevil and Ghostbusters. These, in addition to all the other movies and shows coming out in the next couple years. It’s a good time to be a nerd.

Getting the Entire Shawshank Redemption EXPerience

This post contains spoilers about The Shawshank Redemption. All photos by me.

My mom isn’t like most moms. She loves horror movies, and her favorite movie is The Exorcist. She was in the Army in the 70s, had kids in her mid-to-late 30s, and jumped back into the workforce a widow and 20-year stay-at-home mom. So while a trip to Mansfield, Ohio to visit the Ohio State Reformatory where The Shawshank Redemption and scenes from Air Force One were filmed might seem like a strange Mother’s Day trip to some, it wasn’t to my family.

On Sunday, May 10, my mom, sister, husband, and I made the two-hour drive east from Fort Wayne, Indiana to take the Hollywood tour of the Ohio State Reformatory. We saw most of the major scene locations from Shawshank, including Warden Norton’s office, solitary confinement, the cell blocks the movie sets were based on, the halfway house apartment Brooks and Red stay in, and the two tunnels Andy crawled through to freedom. You can see many of the pictures I took below.

Now would probably be a good time to share that The Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie of all time. I don’t know exactly when or how that happened, but I was in high school when I came to the realization that it’s my favorite movie. I couldn’t tell you how old I was the first time I saw the movie. Probably far younger than I should have been. I just know I’ve always known the movie. I’ve always seen its scenes in my head, always recalled powerful lines. It’s just always been a part of my life, and I’ve always loved it.

My mom and sister really like the movie, too, which is why the only surprising thing about our Mother’s Day trip was that it took us until just this year to go visit the Ohio State Reformatory. But I’m so glad we did. It was an incredible experience, and I’m so happy to have seen so many of the locations where some of (in my opinion) the most powerful and incredible scenes in cinema history occurred.

But I couldn’t just talk about my trip alone with this blog post. I watched Shawshank back in February and wanted to write about it then, but when I knew we were planning a trip to the prison, I wanted to hold off on writing about the movie so I could talk about my whole Shawshank experience. So while it’s been several weeks in the making, I’ve finally rewatched Shawshank after visiting Shawshank, and below are some thoughts I had while watching:


Looking up at the Warden’s office (middle set of windows).

When we pulled up to the Ohio State Reformatory on May 10, I knew we were at Shawshank Prison, but I only knew it in my gut. In looking at it, it didn’t really look like Shawshank when we pulled up, even though I knew it was. In rewatching the movie, I realize I’ve seen it so many times, I’ve just never given much thought to what the prison looks like on the outside. When the prisoners are in the yard and they make their way to “greet” the bus of prisoners Andy’s on, the camera flies over the prison to convey its size and scope. This establishing shot moves over the main prison building to focus on the prisoners in the yard. I guess I never really looked at the prison building before, or truly paid much mind of the flyover. Now having visited and rewatching the movie, it’s even clearer that the Ohio State Reformatory is Shawshank Prison.

IMG_1306Seeing the halfway house room where Brooks commits suicide and Red stays when he gets out of Shawshank was probably the most surprising and exhilarating stop during the tour. I assumed that room was located in an apartment building somewhere in Mansfield. So when I went up a flight of stairs from the Warden’s office and rounded a corner into Brooks’s bedroom, I swear I almost cried. I was so surprised that I was just standing there in that room, with the beam above me reading “Brooks was here – so was Red” carved into it. I truly was at a loss for words. The saddest and one of the happiest scenes in the movie took place in that very room. And I got to stand there.


Outside of the warden’s office. Note the missing glass in the door.

Twenty-one years has taken its toll on the Ohio State Reformatory. In rewatching the movie, all the offices—and even the cells—are much cleaner than they were in the actual building today. For instance, in the scene where Andy’s going through the books and records the State delivered to get him to stop writing letters, the floor is nice and mopped, the wood is stained and clean. It does not look like that now. It’s a bit dirty and dusty, and could use a little TLC. Thankfully, the money we spent on the tours and our souvenirs go to help clean up the building and renovate it so it can continue to be enjoyed into the future. (Also, they really did break the glass out of the door’s window to get Andy to stop playing the record. And then Hollywood just didn’t replace it.)

Part of he Ohio State Reformatory's cell block--the largest cell block in the US.

Part of he Ohio State Reformatory’s cell block–the largest cell block in the US.

I notice new things every time I watch Shawshank. You’d think after watching it probably a hundred times I’d know and see everything there is to know and see about the movie, but that’s definitely not the case. For instance, on this rewatch, I noticed a lot more things the prisoners call out during the “fresh fish” scene when Andy first arrives to Shawshank. I also noticed for the first time the gradual transition from the prisoners wearing striped shirts to blue denim shirts. It doesn’t happen all at once; they’re slowly replaced over the span of a few scenes until all the prisoners are wearing new shirts. The new shirts also start getting lighter as the movie progresses from that point as they get more worn.

Sometimes when experiencing a story, I put things together and remember why I was an English major. In the cafeteria when Tommy asks why Andy’s in prison and Andy tells him, “Everyone’s innocent in here. Didn’t you know that?” the symmetry from Andy’s first months to Tommy’s is both wonderful and tragic. It shows Andy is the vet, the “old boy,” in the system now. He knows the routine, knows Shawshank, and will likely be there for life. But what it also signifies is Andy’s actual innocence, Tommy’s role in bringing that innocence to light, and the tragic part he plays in Andy’s escape to freedom.


The hole in the wall.

To continue with the theme of connections, Red tells Andy that getting out of Shawshank and going to Mexico are just “shitty pipe dreams.” “Shitty pipes” are exactly right—Andy has to crawl through a 500-yard-long pipe of “shit-smelling foulness” to freedom so he can make it to Mexico.

And speaking of pipes, I looked down/through both the sewage pipe and the hole in the wall! It still looks just like it did in the movie: kind of egg-shaped with metal and brick bits sticking out of it. I also felt the rough sides, which if you’re like me, you always wondered what they felt like. They feel just like you’ve always imagined.

Warden Norton's desk.

Warden Norton’s desk.

Seeing Warden Norton’s office was a little unsettling, to be entirely honest. Unlike walking into the halfway house room where Brooks died and feeling sadness and joy, I walked into the Warden’s office and thought, “This is where that bastard put a bullet in his brain.” But then I looked ahead and saw the safe in the wall and the joy resurfaced immediately. When that bastard does kill himself, though, the arresting officer calls from behind the door: “Make it easy on yourself, Norton!” While the officer means, “Turn yourself in,” Norton doesn’t see that as making it easy on himself. His face turns from defiance and fear and “how the hell did this happen,” to the resignation that his only remaining option is the easy way out—not to go quietly, but to kill himself.

Shawshank Redemption is a perfect movie. The story is amazingly well-written and filmed perfectly so you get everything you need for a satisfying story, and nothing you don’t. I can’t think of any movie that I enjoy more than The Shawshank Redemption. And I’m not alone in this opinion. Shawshank is rated #1 on IMDb’s Top 250 movies. It’s above The Godfather, The Dark Knight, and even Schindler’s List. I will admit it’s strange my favorite movie has no speaking female characters whatsoever. However, I’ll take the trade-off for the story of Shawshank Prison, and the story of Andy and Red’s friendship, more than I’ll take a movie with unnecessary characters.

If you like Shawshank a fraction of how much I do and live in the Midwest, I highly recommend a trip to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio to learn about both the Hollywood history and the actual history this amazing prison.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying. That’s goddamn right.”

Becoming a Star Wars Fan

When I started this post, it was meant to be a review of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. But by the time I had finished my intro and even begun talking about the series, I was at nearly 400 words and the post about the show itself was only going to get longer. Before I knew it, I was over 1,100 words into the post and nowhere near done.

No one wants to read an 1,100+-word blog post about a TV show.

So, rather than write a dissertation on The Clone Wars, I decided that the intro to the post—how I ended up becoming a Star Wars fan—was really a post in and of itself. I’ll blog about The Clone Wars later, possibly in a few different posts. Binge-watching TV shows and then deciding to blog about them seemed great in theory, but that’s a lot of material to try to break down and express your feelings for at once. You probably wouldn’t review all of the Harry Potter books in one post, and likewise, reviewing the entirety of a TV show (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Clone Wars, Breaking Bad, etc.) in one post is a bit over-the-top. Breaking it down by book/season, though, now that’s doable.

Anyway, what were we here to talk about? Ah, yes, becoming a Star Wars fan.

I don’t remember what or when my first Star Wars viewing experience was. It had to have been at some point in my childhood because I know I saw Episodes IV, V, and VI before Episode I came out when I was 10. Yet I have no “first-watch” memory of the original trilogy. I saw Episodes I, II, and III in theaters and have clear memories of II and III because I was a teenager. But I know I didn’t love them. In fact, my strongest feelings for the prequels were that I just really wanted Padme’s dresses.

Clearly, I wasn’t a mega-fan of Star Wars growing up. Honestly, it wasn’t until the past couple of years that I really became an actual fan of Star Wars at all. I had always enjoyed it to some extent—mostly for nerd-cred—but I didn’t go out of my way to watch the movies or buy Star Wars swag or fervently declare my favorite Episode.

My husband Terry, on the other hand, has been a huge fan of Star Wars since childhood. Episode V is his favorite (“Because the good guys are getting their asses kicked. It’s a little more realistic. They won in Episode IV but then the Empire came back with a vengeance… Because bad things happen to good people in the real world and I like that realism.”) He’s also read almost every single Star Wars book (which were once somewhat canon but have since all been retconned by George Lucas, and Disney isn’t beholding themselves to them for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX), he has a Jedi costume he wears for Halloween, and he collects Star Wars action figures. He may not be a total mega-fan either, but he comes pretty close.

Because of his enjoyment of the series, and by virtue of being with him for 10 years and spending lots and lots of time with him and caring about his interests, I’ve not only become much more appreciative of the franchise, but I’ve become an actual fan. It’s hard not to when you know information about characters, events, and technology through the extended universe that you don’t get from the movies alone. For instance, did you know Darth Vader’s gauntlets are the only on-screen representation of Mandalorian crushgaunts? These add to Vader’s already considerable power and strength.

(My friends and I created a drinking game for whenever we watched Star Wars movies: every time Terry knows too much about the Star Wars universe, everyone takes a drink.)

I didn’t care overly when Episode III came out in theaters in 2005. I went because I knew I should, not because I was super excited for the movie. But do I care that Episode VII is coming out in December? Yes, actually, I’m pretty freaking excited for it! For this one, I’ll be going because I want to see what happens next in the universe—how Disney reinterpreted the characters, how different they are from how I know the books are, what the graphics and robotics will look like, who all these new characters are that they show in the trailer… There are so many questions I’m excited to learn the answers to.

And for this movie, I’ll definitely be wearing my Star Wars swag.