Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cabin Life

The past several summers have involved heading to the Front Range or crossing the Atlantic for international exploration, which meant that trips to the cabin were quickly becoming distant memories. This summer, we were able to return to the Northwoods and our time in Lac du Flambeau did not disappoint -- if you overlook the swarms of mosquitoes, which I'm sure totaled in the low to mid billions! 

We spent time reading, swimming, fishing, visiting family, playing Farkle (and winning, I'll add), and eating more treats than any respectable person would admit to consuming. 

 Brian headed to San Francisco after a handful of days lakeside; I stayed behind in the land of the loons (thankfully without the threat of an attack - been there, and loon assaults are terrifying AND real). Mom and Dad R., Becky, and I continued to take full advantage of the sunshine, which was abundant save for the daily rain showers - you know, to water-log the lawn and preserve the mosquitoes' precious habitat. We spent plenty of time on the party boat and caught plenty of goldfish-cracker sized fish (and some real ones, too). 

We also made a short trip to Michigan to explore Bond Falls.  Much like the Corner Store holds many great Runnells memories, Cathy's Ice Cream holds many Unti memories, and on our way back from the waterfalls, I got to share a little place of my past with everyone - and eat the biggest single scoop of ice cream I've ever seen!  And Becky and I got to play Minocqua tourists with our cousins, Kari Jo and Annie. 

During our stint in the Northwoods, we passed one rainy afternoon with a little Tour de Frace viewing, and images of the French countryside did result in me planning next summer's return trip to the Alps and Chamonix, but I must say that eight days of cabin living were eight days well spent! 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

+1 Year

Together, we took another lap around the sun, and this year, we did good work.  

Belgian beers, fry cones and the endless canals of Amsterdam; gale-force winds, black sand beaches, and the biggest and bluest Icelandic icebergs imaginable; pain au chocolat, hundreds of miles of hiking, and waking up in the shadows of (or on top of ) Mont Blanc: we settled for nothing less than living life to the fullest this past year, and our biggest and best adventures are still on the horizon.  Our life together is awesome 100 times over. 

I know I am a better, stronger person for having found the life partner I did. He may have a penchant for waking up before the sun, you know, to beat the tourists, and he may prefer hiking trails and mountain peaks to poolside drinks or beaches, but can you blame the guy?! There's nothing I'd rather do than chase him up a trail (though I have to put on a sour face, at least at the 2am wakeup call, for good measure) and fight for the last of the Twizzlers at the summit before coming home and putting my tired feet up next to his.  

I am insanely grateful for this little life we have crated together, and I am beyond excited to see where our future takes us.  Here, BR, is to one more year of making memories, taking on new adventures, and finally settling on an acceptable bubble water and avocado budget. 

You're the best of all things in life, BR!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Sundays

Ah, sweet, sweet summertime!

After a whole lot of adulting on Saturday - furniture shopping and assembly - we woke up Sunday morning with the intention of enjoying the cooler temperatures and the ample sunshine; it was the perfect conditions for a Devil's Lake outing.

There's a rule in our house that a day at The Lake doesn't count unless it includes a ride on the ferry, so take the ferry we did.  For being such a gorgeous morning, I was surprised at the relative emptiness of the parking lots and trails - and much like the unexpected conditions of the trails, the shifting weather was entirely unexpected.  It became cloudy and breezy, but better cool than sweltering - I had enough of that the previous week when I had to brave both the heat and intense humidity that left my hair looking something like a true natural disaster.

After a few miles of hiking, via the West Bluff, we made our way home and to our dinner date with our cousins Mike, Christina, and little Tommy.  It's really great to have family who are just as much friends, who you can hang out with, laugh with, and reminisce about the glory days of being a young Badger with (and who are happy to relive those glory days..if not nearly as effectively now as then; hey, we all agree that we need our sleep now more than ever).

Our time outdoors at The Lake and with family has me especially excited for the coming weeks and more of the same, this time in Lac du Flambeau. Bring on the party boat!!

"How will that man get back over here?" a little boy asked...very carefully

Looking across the lake to a 'classic' climb, Pine Tree Step Across

Monday, June 19, 2017

Family, Family, and Father's Day

I do not think that it would have been possible to squeeze in more family time this past weekend, and I wouldn't have it any other way....well, unless we were all trekking through Europe together, then maybe.

The family-packed weekend began with a Runnells family dinner followed by a trip to the Humboldt Park Beer Garden. While I am certainly lack in the 'beer drinking skills' department, I do my best to make up for it in the 'chat with everyone about everything' department, so our trip to the Beer Garden was not a wasted one.  It was filled with lots of catching up with not only my in-laws but extended family, too.  I got to hear about puppy parenthood, school years, and service work in Guatemala; and I got to reminisce about eating and drinking my way from Rome to Sorrento.

On Saturday, after a quick trip to the gym, Brian and I headed to my parents' house for our second annual Unti Summer Gathering.  While we were missing a few of the crew, quite a few Untis spent the afternoon together; per usual, plenty of stories were told, and laughs were had by all.  We're a diverse group, no doubt, but ever the Italian family, we're a tight-knit, we've-got-your-back family. And while all Unti gatherings will feel a little less complete now that we don't have Grandma with us, I am certain that her love, her memory, her spirit is in us all - and if you look closely enough at her kids, you see that sparkle in her eye shining through it theirs.  By the time we headed home Saturday evening, I was tired beyond belief and had sore cheeks from smiling and laughing all day long.  That, I would say, is a measure of a successful family gathering.

Sunday found us heading back to MukTown.  Our first stop of the morning was for pancakes and  planes.  My father-in-law, who is a very talented man,  flies planes, so we got to spend a bit of Father's Day at his favorite hang-out once again, the Palmyra Airport. There were three generations of Runnells men present, as Brian's grandpa came out for the flying fun, too.  Grandpa closed out our visit by reminding us all that a day at the airport is never wasted.  While the literal meaning was obvious, I also could not help but think of one of the last conversations Brian and I had with Grandma and Grandpa Runnells; we discussed their many adventures, and both of them encouraged us to never stop pursuing our dreams, to never stop exploring this, I think it's time to board a plane soon - one that is much bigger than those we saw Sunday morning - and check another place or two off our to-visit list! 

Three generations of Runnells men

After leaving the airport, we headed back to my parents' house to celebrate both Father's Day and my dad's birthday.  Father's Day is surely about taking a moment to honor the person you call dad, and I certainly was not about to miss the chance to do exactly that.  For as long as I can remember, nothing has made me happier than spending time with my dad.  There may have been a short time in life when I didn't much like sharing him with my brother and sough any and every chance to have my dad to myself, and while I still love dad-daughter time, like we had Thursday when we went shopping for the family party, I have come to accept that he isn't all mine.  He's an amazing parent to both my brother and me; he respects the ways in which his children are similar and is equally aware of how each of us is unique; and he, like my mom, is wonderful to my husband and always has been (let's not take too much time to remember the trip to Disney when all of the aforementioned individuals left me sick and alone in the hotel to ride Tower of Terror a dozen times in a row....and to purchase commemorative pictures of it).  While everyone tells me I look just like my mom, anyone who knows the both of us will tell you I am just like my dad, and I take that as a mighty fine compliment!  I don't know that I'll ever be able to express just how important my dad is to me, but it was nice to have the time - and a double-celebration day - devoted to doing exactly that.  

my dad, my hero (ignore the MU business)

Friday, June 9, 2017

School's Out for Summer - Round 10!!

Somehow, another school year has come and gone.  And in those 180+ days that made up the now-finalized 2016-17 school year, I managed to keep my sanity intact and my passion for education and innovation alive - because keeping it the same ol' is boring.  And I believe I may have also managed to teach my students a thing or two.  There may be comma splices in their futures still, but I think, together, we learned enough about life and learning (I think...I hope...) to call this year a successful one!

As I look back on what was a wonderful year and look ahead to the 2017-18 school year, a year that will bring more changes than any other before it, I am excited for all that will come my way!  And I do believe I finally feel like I know what the heck I'm doing. Education is hard work, and it's scary work sometimes; yet it's some of the most important work a person can do!  To think that I just wrapped up 10 years of teaching and learning is both unbelievable and encouraging -- I can do it!  There have been plenty of times along this journey where I wondered if I was good enough for my students or right for the school, the class, or the profession itself.  And while I still have those moments from time to time, more of my days are filled with inspiration and laughter, lots of laughter (teenagers, man!). Education has changed my life.  I have learned so much about the world, about people, about learning; I have met some of my best friends; I have seen young people find their strengths, find hope, and find inspiration. I have been profoundly impacted by people I would never otherwise have known.  A profession that gives and shows that much surely is a worthy one!  

So after 1,800+ days and nearly 1,9000 students, it's safe to say that I'm just getting started!  And....I do believe I've earned at least a few days - or weeks - off before it's time to jump into building a 2017-18 English classroom I can be proud to call Runnells' room! 

First I was a Red Devil

And then I was a Hawk

And now I am a Wolverine (Go, Eugene!) 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fun Friday Nights and Family Time

Last weekend, I somehow managed to stay up well past my bedtime on more than one occasion.  Friday night's concert at the Pabst was occasion enough to see the other side of 11pm.  Being in the second row certainly helped, too.  It felt an awful lot like a private show -- if you ignored the weird cat-calling/painful howling that came from somewhere in the lower balcony -- and was amazing from start to finish.

It seems that this has become the year of music in our household: between at-home concerts courtesy of Brian and mostly out-of-town trips to see the likes of Tedeschi Trucks Band,  Of Monsters and Men, John Mayer, and now David Gray, there has no shortage of good music in our lives, and Friday's show made me all the more excited for our summer trip to Red Rocks (we have tickets for two evenings with TTB thanks to an 'accidental' purchase, or so Brian says).  I was so inspired, in fact, that I attempted to play a few chords on the guitar - that lasted all of 12 seconds, though, as my child-sized hands didn't quite do what they were supposed to or reach the right places - there goes my second career...

On Saturday, Brian and I headed to Delavan to visit with my dad's family.  Most of his cousins from his mom's side of the family, many of whom I have not seen for a very, very long time (or ever??), were in town, and so too were all of my Unti aunts and uncles.  It was a really great time to catch up with everyone and to see a few of my own cousins, too.  As is the case any time I get to spend time with my dad's family, I heard my fair share of stories, some of which make me wonder how my uncles ever survived their teenage years (or moreover, why my grandparents kept them around!).  I am beyond blessed to have such a great family and to be so close to so many of my cousins, and it was clear that the value I find in those connections is something I have learned from my own parents' relationships with their siblings and cousins.  I had all sorts of warm feels Saturday - I'm blessed!

Somehow Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, which means we will be spending more time with both friends and family, and I cannot wait.  Also, there will only be eight
days of school after Memorial Day, so that's a pretty good thing :) I'm looking forward to summer - more time for more guitar lessons - hah!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Weekend of Mom(s)

This past weekend we got to celebrate all the moms, among them one of my favorite people, my own mom, and not just because it was Mother's Day.

On Saturday, we pulled off quite the fabulous surprise, which we had been planning for several months. To celebrate Mom's birthday, Elaine tricked her into heading to the Delafield Brewhaus, where friends and family waited - some of us quite anxiously - to spend some time celebrating the person who doesn't take nearly enough time to do that, celebrate how wonderful she is! I had become nearly...almost...maybe... certain that our cover was blow and the gig was up, but it was clear Mom had no idea!  Call me sentimental or sappy, but the big squeeze she shared with my brother, Dad, and me was the best part of the night. 

As a family, we've seen our way through all sorts of things, good and bad, beautiful and painful. Along the way, Mom and Dad have instilled in us the belief that we are each other's biggest allies, strongest supporters, best friends, and true to that, I am certain there isn't a thing in the world my brother and I would not do for one another - job well done, parents. The night was full of stories, laughter, hugs, and baby snuggles (thanks to Winston and Piper!!). And to be sure this was a right, proper affair, a few family members, who shall remain unnamed, kept a family tradition alive with a round of 'family shots', toasting to the very best of all things in our lives, each other. Traditions, people, you have to honor them....

I have to especially thank Elaine for her help - that term is so inadequate - with everything for the party, which was flawless. The party would not have been what it was had it not been for you and all you did! What a fabulous friendship you and Mom have. And how lucky I am to count you - and all the Jarvis ladies - among the wonderful, inspirational, immensely important women in my world (but we can't leave the Jarvis/Bullis men out, either.  They're a cut above!) Thank you so much to everyone who came by - for a little bit or a long while - to celebrate with us.  Mom deserved nothing less, and we are all blessed to have each of you in our lives.


calling her innocent children and her husband "Liars" - we didn't lie so much as omit the truth

The weekend of Moms continued Sunday with what has become an annual trek to the zoo - this year we did not have to wait for hours to get to it the parking lot, so it was already a success. The day was made better by the fact that we also got to share it with Grandma Navarrete. I come from a line of strong women - I tell you, Mexican and Italian women should run the world! - and my Grandma N. has done more to demonstrate strength, integrity, and heart than any other person I know! 

She did good work - 
the moms and all the kid
Happy Mother's Day!

Post-zoo excursion, we headed back to MukTown for a visit with another mom in my world, my mom-in-law. I love that we can chat about so many things, including Scandal and school-related shenanigans, and I must say she's done quite a fine job in the mom department considering my sis-in-law is great company, a friend as much as a sister, and my husband is pretty much the best guy around (when he isn't making me listen to 20-minute long guitar solos or finishing the last of our 'shared' bubble water). It was great to spend some time with Mom R. on this special weekend, too. 

This weekend was fantastic, and it made me all the more excited for all the family time we have planned in the coming weeks and months. Life truly is made better by the people we surround ourselves with....and my people are amazing.