Category: From the Heart

Why Star Wars Matters?


I laid my head down and I tried to get to sleep. I was both restless and exhausted.

I kept thinking of Ben Solo and Rey, sitting face-to-face in their final scene together in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. An epic battle of light-and-dark ensued, where the pair fought the evil Sith Lord, Emperor Palpatine.

After much fighting, Ben was cast down to the bottom of one of Star Wars’ well-known “now-you-are-surely-dead-but-you-may-come-back-to-life” crevasses, leaving Rey to invoke the spirit of all the Jedi-past to empower her to defeat the darkness.

Copyright 2019 Disney Lucasfilm LTD All Rights Reserved


She did so, in one of the most teeth-clenching, breath-stopping moments of the series, countering the evil emperor’s statement, “I am all the Sith!” with an ultra-empowering, “AND I AM ALL THE JEDI!” Light passed through her and the Emperor, his minions, and his temple were destroyed. 

It is a fully satisfying scene that replayed over and over in my mind. 

In that moment of the movie, we did not yet know if Rey would survive as a conduit for that much force power. 

We watched and waited as Ben Solo climbed from the crevasse (not dead) to see Rey lying before the now-destroyed Sith throne. He limped and stumbled toward her (a truly embodied piece of physical acting by the incredible Adam Driver) convincing us both his physical and emotional pain. 

It was heart-wrenching to watch. 

Ben Solo turned Rey’s lifeless body and took her up in his arms. We could see in his tender embrace what had been hinted and suggested at (and wished for my thousands of Force-Fans online) throughout episodes 7, 8, and 9: Ben Solo loved Rey deeply.  

There was NOW no mistaking it. 

He cradled her body close to his, laying his hand gently on her torso to transfer his life force into her. He closed his eyes and the movie’s music crescendoed. I could almost feel him breathing life into her, as I held my own chest in anticipation.

I replayed this moment over and over in my mind, and I was completely absorbed in it. 

It is these kinds of chest grabbing, tear-jerking, kick-ass, joy-filled moments that make up the body and soul of the Star Wars saga. I felt the same when I saw the Rebel fighters take down the AT-ATs on Hoth; when I saw Yoda reveal his face to Luke on Dagobah and help him complete his training; when the disguised Bounty Hunter, aka Leia unfreezes her beloved Han Solo; when the Rancor (the most misunderstood and hungry guy on Tatooine) tries to eat Luke at Jabba’s Palace; when Leia and Luke sped through the forest of Endor on the speeders…and on and on.

Star Wars is made up if these miracle story moments – the ones that as a child, were the springboard for my playtime; as an adult, a conduit for connection with fellow fans and the magic of imagination within. It laughed, I cried, and I learned how to catch my breath, fully absorbed in the characters and their stories.


This is the joy I feel about Star Wars!


I reached out to my friends as we celebrated the launch of the Final Chapter of the Skywalker Saga and asked them: “Why does Star Wars matter to you? What is it about the story that means something to you? What are your best Star Wars memories?”

Their responses were heartening and beautiful.

Chuck McLean: Ever Since I was a little child I loved the aesthetic of the Star Wars Universe. It was a real place to me. Star Wars sparked my creativity at a young age with playtime -a stick could be a lightsaber or blaster playing outside with my friends, or making silly movies with my family. Drawing pictures or building with legos always had some essence of Star Wars injected into it. Still to this day that has been a part of my creative energy. As I get older, I often think of how the lore of Star Wars starts to make more sense when I try to understand the world around me. While the top physicists in the world try to understand what “Dark Matter” is, or why there is gravitational attraction, I just rely on the words of Obi-Wan when he explained the Force to young Luke. “…an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together,” or any of the wise quotes from Yoda, the Jedi Master. “Do or do not. There is no try.” “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Or “Pass on what you have learned.” That is enough for me.

Bryce Hach: I was born in 1974 and Star Wars came out when I was not quite three years old. I saw it in back-to-back showings in the Ames, Iowa shopping mall theater the first time I saw it and it is my very first memory. I feel that my life and Star Wars kind of had a similar birth in that regard. When I was in kindergarten, a beloved teenage friend, Jim, from across the street, spent who-knows-how-many-hours to hand-make me a life-size X-Wing Fighter in my basement. That friend was in a terrible bicycle accident that left him forever mentally paralyzed not long after that. It was the best present I had ever received. When I was seven, I remember my dad putting the whole neighborhood of kids into the station wagon to see the original Star Wars when it was re-released in a local theater. When one of the kids started talking during the film, I stood up and said, “This is Star Wars and that that behavior was entirely unacceptable!” I wear the same 1977 iron-on “May the Force Be With You” t-shirt for the first showing of each new Star Wars movie in the theater since my early childhood. The shirt is a youth size and stretched to hell but it will be worn again come December 19th. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is synonymous with a more innocent time in my youth that holds true no matter what stresses, responsibilities or challenges adulthood throws at me. As I have gotten older, there is something strangely reassuring to see that the characters of Star Wars have gotten older too. Mark Hamill was a teenage Luke Skywalker for so many imagination adventures in my childhood home, either in dress-up or with action figures, and now we all look a little worn for wear. Beyond the memories, I love the mythic good vs. evil (light and dark sides of the force) the film embodies but also how the films show so many tributary storylines of scoundrels, bounty hunters, warlords, rogues and the like, who operate on the fringes, opportunistically carving out niches throughout the film’s many narratives. I love the characters in all their many forms, languages, fictional cultures and nuances. I love the soundtracks with all the original music from John Williams. I love the many notable quotes from the film that are forever etched into my daily lexicon. And finally, I find the Star Wars films visually awe-inspiring. It is vast and panoramic and yet still intimate and approachable


Young and old, everyone loves Star Wars.













Ann Casey: Star Wars matters to me simply because it brings my family together. While I think the story is awesome, I think it is even more impressive to do what is done in episodes 4-6, then I do  in the prequels, then sequels, not to mention all the shoot-offs. It spans generations and is something my entire family can enjoy.

Patty Holliday: My parents didn’t have a sitter, so they loaded up 3 little girls and took us to the movies to see Empire Strikes Back. It’s one of my earliest full family memories. And that moment where Darth is revealed as Luke’s father? ZOMG 6-year-old me was shook! It’s the first fandom I ever had and the one I was most eager to pass on to my own children. And yes, my son’s name is Luke in part so I could say, “LUKE- I AM YOUR MOTHER” at embarrassing moments in his life. 😉 This ending? This ending is probably going to take me back to that 6-year-old moment because the ending of Star Wars is most certainly going to rock our worlds.

Miles Hanson: To me, Star Wars represented a world filled with potential where you could be whatever you wanted to be. That a kid on a dusty planet, drinking blue milk could lead a rebellion. Or someone rough around the edges with questionable morals could still come through as the good guy.. or just because you came from high society, doesn’t mean you can’t play in the dirt. Their Universe is vast and lived in with rich history and mysticism, its easy to fall in love with.

Scott Luers: What an amazing piece of the hero narrative that hits us all to the core- good vs evil, with cool things like lasers (even without sharks!) and lightsabers. But in the end I think we all just love to see good triumph over evil even when the chips are down (and aren’t they always?). I think it parallels a lot of the struggle of our lives, as well as what we hope for in our country.

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Ronto Roasters











Let us know why Star Wars matters to you? We would love to hear it. Share it in the comments below or on our social media pages. 

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This is a personal fan review and is not affiliated Walt Disney World, Star Wars, or the Walt Disney Company. Views and Opinions are my own

gratitude is magical

gratitude is magical™ | calling cards to share your thanks

Our philosophy:

We believe that what you put into the world, you get back. When you show your thanks, you give not only your gratitude, but also your appreciation, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

These actions have power. These gestures create change.

Gratitude is Magical™ Calling Cards to Share Your Thanks

Our story:

On a recent trip to a Destination Theme Park, I watched as a young guest walked up to one of the costumed staff and handed her a homemade gift card.

It was a sweet gesture, and the staff member bent down to greet the young boy to respond to his act of kindness.

In this beautiful moment, and I walked over to her, as I was touched by what I had just witnessed.

I said to her: “Do you mind showing me the card he gave you?”

She said, “Of course!” while wiping away a small tear of sweet emotion. She handed me the piece of paper. On it was a drawing of a robot and the words, “Thanks for working so hard!”

The staff member said to me: “This happens sometimes, and it means so much to me. We have SO many more times when guests are complaining or they are mad and it can be a challenge. It is SO nice when we get things like this. It really makes my day.”

I could see that she meant it and how much it refueled her.

I have always been a big fan of hand-written cards and small acts of kindness. After I returned home from the theme park, I asked one of my daughters to design a card that we could easily put in our day packs so that we could have quick access to mini “Thank You” notes.

I wanted to be able to quickly share a “Thanks for a great meal” in a restaurant check, or “We appreciated the room upgrade” & “You were so patient with us and all of our questions.”

She came up with the 1st Design: “A Galaxy of Gratitude™” with more to new cards to come.

We hope you will enjoy these cards and that they will inspire you to share your thanks with the people around you; at work, in the theme parks, in your neighborhood, or out on the town.

Online Store to launch Winter 2020

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Sign up for our email list and be the FIRST TO KNOW when your can order our mini calling cards. 

This artwork is original and the gratitude is magical™ is the trademarked property of Kristin F. Simmons Digital Media. This creative material is not affiliated with any other third party entities or businesses. Any questions can be directed to

Study Abroad – A Parent’s Perspective

Study Abroad – A Parent’s Perspective on travel & letting go

My oldest daughter just landed in Shanghai for her first Study Abroad program.

I am happy she is in China safely. I have been watching the clock and calculating the 12 hours ahead, following happily along with her initial itinerary. I imagine she is full of excitement and exhaustion from the long flight.

I have to admit: Sending her off for her study abroad was somewhat of a relief. The days and weeks of planning amidst all of our other life events made for a wee bit of stress.

Well, maybe MORE than a wee bit of stress…

It was at times fun to plan, pack, and fantasize about the sights and food in China. It was also fertile ground for power struggles, family sit-down chats, and self-check-ins about my OWN energy that was clouding the planning process.

I am feeling all-the-feels, as it is de-rigueur to say. I am happy. I am a wreck. I am filled with excitement, and riddled with anxiety-based-what-if travel scenarios.

This is not the first time that we have been apart for long periods of time. Both of our girls have gone away to camp for several weeks each summer. I loved the time to myself to breathe and rest, as much as I appreciated all the new and fun experiences that they were having.

Right now, summer camp feels like child’s play compared to the preparation and planning for a study abroad in a majorly far away country.

Study Abroad - A Parent's perspective on meeting go and trust by Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmon

To backtrack for a moment…

Both of my children study Mandarin Chinese. I KNEW that when they picked this course of study (and yes, it was a decision that the girls discussed and debated with us at-length before making their choices), that a study abroad program in China would be in their future. I, myself have studied several Romance languages and I lived in both Mexico and Italy for long periods of time and LOVED it.

Immersion was THE THING that took my language skills from perfunctory classroom recitation to fluency. I was confident that my girls would undertake the same kind of program in their own lives.

The China trip was announced over two years ago, as her teacher and school knew that we needed time to plan, to fundraise (travel ain’t cheap!), and to get everything we needed together. My daughter began a plan to babysit several days a week during the summer, and socked money away week-after-week. She launched her own “Go Fund Me” campaign (with a little parental help) and asked for donations.

She raised the required $4,500 for her trip. We felt so proud of her efforts and the seed that was planted began to grow into full-blown excitement.

For ME, stress began to mount over what felt like a huge burden of “What-Ifs.”

It went a little something like this:

We live rurally. Will my daughter know how to get on and off a city bus? Will she know how to handle her money? Will she look both ways before crossing the street? Does she know how to carry her bag across her shoulder to keep it snug and safe from pickpockets? How will she cope with the huge crowds? Will she need to use her kickboxing skills in real-time? Will she put on enough sunscreen?  We she dress modestly? Will she stay hydrated? Does she know how to treat herself if she gets diarrhea/nausea etc? And on, and on, and on….

Any scenario, I have imagined it.

I found myself getting mired in a feeling of inadequacy that I had not better prepared her for EVERY LIFE SCENARIO that could possibly come her way. (Yes, I know how insane this sounds! Hooray for Mom Guilt!) ……Like there was some kind of international boot camp I should have put her through in order to be properly prepared for study abroad and also wilderness and city survival.  

I was gently and lovingly reminded by my patient-as-a-saint-husband, that our lives together have been the training she needs. We have travelled A LOT with our children and they have paid attention. We have included them in the preparations. We talk to our kids about safety. We model and LIVE the kinds of relationships we want them to have.

My daughter is smart-as-a-whip, compassionate, and highly organized.

I needed to SEE and ACKNOWLEDGE that about her.

Our daughter is beautiful, strong, and amazing. We love seeing how she grows.

My husband also reminded me that travel IS also the bootcamp. That these experiences are how she will learn to trust herself.  

He also reminded me that the gift of OUR TRUST would help set her on that path of self-awareness and connectedness that comes from travel.

Ahhhh………That was it: TRUST.

I found myself reaching out to friends who have studied abroad, and who have experienced similar emotions with their own families.

My friend Marina shared with me: “I always felt that they [my parents] had the trust in my abilities to figure it  [Travel Abroad] out, they are very proud and supportive of me and honestly, it made our relationship so strong and special. I absolutely love my parents. Now, as a mom myself I understand how hard it must’ve been for them to let me fly into the unknown and let go of control.  It is the ultimate parental sacrifice to let go of your child.”

She articulated about TRUST so well.

My friend Jude stated in regards to her son’s travel abroad: “I love watching it. It is filled with the beauty of being young so far away from what you know, and the joy of being together in the experience of what you don’t. What a time this will be for your baby who has grown like a glorious flower opening to welcome the warmth of the sun.”

I am grateful for have they have shared.

So… have you been through something similar in letting your child study abroad? Did you, yourself travel far from home and feel a range of emotions? I would love hear from you.

Want to stay in touch? Like us on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to our email list to follow along for the latest updates and social media storytelling classes. My goal? To help you feel confident, competent, and creative online.

Lumbar Puncture – Does it hurt?

Lumbar Punctures, ER Visits, & a Sense of Humor with Chronic Illness

I layed on the gurney, looking at the IV bag and the rapid drip of the caffeine and sodium benzoate into my arm. It was a busy Friday in the emergency room. I listened to the sounds of a man wretch repeatedly in the next bay. I watched the rush of staff move back and forth down the halls to attend to a steady stream of patients.

I was triaged from a hallway stretcher to a brightly lit private room – its equipment all tagged by someone supremely excited to exercise their skills with a label maker. I appreciated their fastidiousness. I studied the sizes of the intubation tubes as I laid back in the hopes of physical relief.

Prior to this ER visit, I had experienced several days of a crunching, body- seizing kind of pain that would not bend to ibuprofen and increased hydration. I had a lumbar puncture just days before; a next step in a long series of diagnostics on the road that is neuro-demyelinating disease. The procedure itself went smoothly. It was high-tech, pain-free, and without incident. I went home numbed up and relaxed, intent on “taking it easy” and resuming a slower, but engaged pace of day-to-day life.

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Learning to love myself deeply: A new health horizon

A new way of loving myself deeply: My diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

 I went to the doctor yesterday and she told me: “Kristin: THIS is the hardest part – the part when you are waiting to begin treatment and it is all so new. You don’t need to be UP or ON or optimistic. It’s totally okay to NOT be okay right now.”

I broke down into tears and she handed me a wad of Kleenex from one of the six boxes in the examination room that upon closer look, seemed to be strategically placed near every piece of equipment. It was as if she knew that at any moment of the medical evaluation, whether on the table or at the scale, patient tears may flow, and she wanted to be at-the-ready to lend a tissue.

With her words “It’s totally okay Not to be okay” a weight was lifted and I opened up like a flood gate. It was like she had been reading my mind and saw straight through me.

I had been chatty at the start of the exam; funny even. I made jokes when she asked me: “How are you feeling today?” and I quipped with a talk show host accent, “Well other than the brain lesions, constant pain, and near paralyzing exhaustion, I am totally great!” 

The truth was,  I was NOT okay and the past three weeks since my MRI and first round of diagnostic appointments, I had tried to mask my fear with dignity and positive self-talk mantras.  I told myself, “Multiple Sclerosis was not what it used to be,” and “I am going to be fine.”  I tried to jump right into a fearless faith without acknowledging the worry and fear that bubbling just below the surface. 

In truth, I didn’t feel fine. 

I felt supremely scared of the unknown; of not knowing what to expect for treatment; of the unplanned-for expenses; for how much I would or wouldn’t be able to work; for who I would be if I weren’t always doing/being/trying so much.


Multiple Sclerosis: What does it mean?

 What do I mean when I say that I have Multiple Sclerosis or MS?

In a nutshell, It is a chronic disease where the body attacks itself. The immune system attacks the nerves in the body and breaks down the fatty protective coating of the nerve cells called the Myelin sheath.  Without the protective layer in place, nerves become damaged and the brain can’t send signals to the body the way that it should to help you move properly and to feel, both emotions and physical sensations. Scar tissue can show up in the brain and spine and begin to affect the activities of daily living.

There are four kinds of MS and everyone who has it experiences it differently.  It tends to run heavily in white women who live in northern climates, (there is a connection with lack of Vitamin D and MS) although anyone can get get it. There is some link with MS to viral exposure that occurs in puberty, the effects of which can lay dormant for many years. It is chronic and incurable, however not untreatable.


The disease I was not expecting, but the change I truly needed.

No one ever expects Multiple Sclerosis. When my diagnosis came, it conjured up images of wheelchairs, paralysis, endless drip bags and infusion therapy, and loss of independence. 

That is the way that it was in the not-so-distant past.  

Current treatment is radically different  from what it was even a decade ago. I have been assured by my doctors, and both my friends and family who know someone with MS, that “these people are the most kick-ass people that they know.” (I have heard this over and over again and I am optimistic about the carpe-diem, fact-facing hard-coreness that comes with chronic disease.) 

My patient advocate even asked me: “Are you ready to stop tolerating any bullshit in your life?” Once I got over the Tony Robbins-esque tenor in her voice, I said a grunting “YES!” with the same kind of teeth-gritting tenacity and relief I felt after the labor and delivery of my 1st daughter.

Truthfully, I had not felt well for months. 

I worried that I was in a cycle of depression and that my severe lack of motivation was a result of some cosmic judgment on my capabilities as a human. (Yes, quite dramatic – but I am never one to go at things quietly!) This kind of bad stretch had happened before and I had cycled through, feeling some relief and then onto progress, growth and elation in my life.

This past autumn, I felt like I had been running in mud –  way more tired than the  working-mom-tired I had normalized since I had kids, and scared of the weird changes in my vision, the lightheadedness, and the dizzying nausea. I had chalked it up to my busy travel schedule and promised myself that I would schedule myself differently in the new year.

I was beginning to turn on myself, telling myself crappy stories like: “You just need to work harder. You are not enough and will never be enough. You are never going to make it in this life.” While on the one hand I knew these thoughts were lies and just plain wrong,  there was another part of me that believed it – the part that I had worked so hard to change and transform. 

I had an old story that was trying with every thought  to keep a grip on my life. It found fertile ground in my fatigue and illness. I told myself such shitty things and bullied myself. I thought I was cursed and that I somehow I deserved to suffer. 


Then came the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

 Was it a  weird sense of relief?  Yes. It totally was.

The first thing I actually said to my husband was: “This is a gift” and I meant and felt that wholeheartedly. 

It was almost  instantly that I reframed everything that I was saying to myself about my symptoms. I realized that many of the cycles I had experienced in the past were probably part of the disease course.  It was an opportunity for me to  observe that self-doubt and blame in a new light.  I laughed about it. I cried, and then laughed and cried some more. I realized that I didn’t need be so hard on myself and that “bad thoughts” were just thoughts, and feeling fatigued was just feeling – and not some greater judgment on my abilities as a human. I needed to be okay with it ALL – and let all the feelings flow through.

Now, as I step into therapy, I realize that the most significant treatment will come in the way that I treat myself. The biggest opportunity is to be present, to observe, and to be fully loving toward myself in everything that comes my way.

My friends have asked me: “What can we do for you to help you?” 

My reply? “Tell me stories of people who have succeeded and overcome, and let’s kick some ass in everything that we do.”

More to come as treatment continues and I continue on my path of radical self-love. 

-xo Kristin