Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back to School 2017

Well, it's that time of year again. For the eleventh time, I'll be welcoming a new group of young people into my life and doing my best to ensure they leave me in June better and wiser than when we met in early September. 

I recently did the math - as best I could considering block scheduling, A and B day classes, and semester courses - and I think I have had the distinct pleasure of working with somewhere near 2,000 students. And I truly do consider it a pleasure, an honor, that I've been able to do what I love, to face new and unique challenges with each class and each year, to meet some of my favorite people - colleagues and students (those Acadec peeps, I tell ya!),  and to grow in my practice and perspective. 

There have been days, and not that long ago, a whole year,  where I am more defeated than I'd like to admit, times when I worried I wasn't the best at what I was doing or that my best wasn't good enough, but then I hear a student say something like, "don't be a miscreant," and I think, "They remember my vocabulary song and dance." And I pick up a pen and scratch some notes in my lesson plan binder and think that I may just have a chance to make a little bit of an impact, and the day is better, and I'm sure, once again, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. 

To all those educators out there, our profession may not be glamorous or even well-respected, but we know what we're up against and what we're able to accomplish each day and with each kiddo, so keep fighting the good fight, my friends!

And now, with a little bit of nerves and a lot of anticipation, bring on year 11, West High School. I'm as ready as I'll ever be :)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Starting August Right

I headed to the Fox Valley on Wednesday evening for a literacy conference, and while it meant I was one step closer to the end of summer (August, why must you always come so quickly?!),   I got to English teacher nerd-out for two full days.  And if that wasn't enough, I also got to spend a few, brief moments with my bestie.  Imagine my surprise - and excitement - when I saw Katie in the hotel lobby and then got to steal quick conversations with her during caffeination breaks.  Next conference, we'll have to road trip together in order to have the whole drive home to talk about how great our hero, Kelly Gallagher is!

Post-conference, Brian and I headed to Appleton to attend my cousin Dane's wedding.  Even though it had only been a few months since the Unti family got together, it felt as if it had been ages, so our family Friday evening was fantastic.  And everyone - yes, every one of us - was there!  We probably should have gotten a picture of the whole crew, but that would have interrupted the drinking, dancing, laughing, and storytelling that filled our evening.  My cousin was in my wedding 100 years ago, and it was especially touching to be present for his - and to see my handsome brother all dressed up.  The ceremony was really sweet, the cupcakes were delicious, there was plenty of room to Cupid Shuffle, and the Old Fashioned fountain flowed freely all night long.  What more could one ask for at a wedding?!

After recovering from a night of dancing, Brian and I joined my parents for a lap around High Cliff State Park Saturday morning.  None of us had been to the park before, but all of us enjoyed it and the exceptionally nice weather. Before heading back to Waukesha County, we met my brother for lunch, which gave me a bit more time to check in on him and offer unsolicited life advice (ever the overbearing....err...protective big sis), which was hard to do between the drinks and dancing the night before.  

What a fantastic weekend with family and influential English teachers!!

my brother is the cutest! 

Family photo

me and my Bs

We've been a trio since forever


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It Isn't Summer Unless...

...we find ourselves in Colorado!

Summer, for the last several years, has meant varying amounts of time in Colorado, and this summer, we were sure to keep the tradition alive with a trip to the Front Range.

Our five days in Boulder were filled with all sorts of great things: we took multiple trips to Rocky Mountain National Park (along with about a billion tourists -- I guess we're all technically tourists, ha?!); we spent time with our Boulder crew; we went hiking; and we went to two Tedeschi Trucks Band shows -- how 'bout it for dueling evenings at Red Rock Amphitheater?!

From dinner dates to watching climbing competitions with the crew, it was a real feel-good trip, and it was as difficult as ever to pack up and head home, which is why we spent some of our time exploring the possibility of building ourselves a nice little mountain hideaway.  Sure, we had to dodge raindrops a bit (hello Colorado summers) - including at the end of Saturday's show and the beginning of Sunday's show - but we managed to make the most of our time and found that the heat, more than the rain, deterred us from getting too ambitious -- while we didn't climb any 14ers this trips, we kept the string of Green Mountain summits alive (and we didn't even get rained on!).

In all, it was another great outing to one of our favorite places. We are very lucky to have found the tribe we have in Colorado, some of whom originate from the good ol' Midwest; and we are very lucky to be able to make awesome trips like this one a part of our life.

this place is kind of a big deal

the chipmunks were out.of.control. at Bear Lake
Look at this dude sunning himself like some little Adonis

Despite their best efforts, no tourists were maimed in the presence of this moose

Night 1 at Red Rocks

Night 2 at Red Rocks

Longs Peak - majestic! 

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)