Gotta find the balance, tryin’ to find the balance

Tonight at church, the priest advocated the importance of finding balance in your lives. I ardently adhere to this advice. Always have.

Oftentimes, perhaps too much so.

Take weekends, for example. Throughout the past four years I’ve been a college student, I probably haven’t gone out a handful of weekends. Even when my schedule is stacked, I say sayonara to studying for a night or two to hang out with my friends.

I realize that not all people agree—and I have absolutely no issue with that. But for me, I’ve always felt that I’m more alert during the week when I give the books a bit of a break during the weekend.

This quote by Tom Petty sums up my opinion pretty well:

“You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So, stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does.””

This doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to his whole advice. Not everyone has to have a weekly ‘Last Dance with Mary Jane’ to live up their college years. In my mind, it’s simple: Do what makes you happy. Which is likely not studying 24/7. We all have responsbilities, but we don’t want to leave college and enter the workforce with a bucket list of regrets.

Say my name, Say my name

My last name is crazy. Literally. Looney (well, if we’re going to get technical here:  ‘loony’) is synomonous for crazy. Or silly. Or insane. My last name garners many snickers and second looks from grocery store clerks, cashiers, or, a lesser likely occurrence, slightly loony Looney Tunes lovers.

Yet I like my last name, despite its frequent references to Bugs Bunny or crazy jailbirds. As a kid, being a Looney was particularly cool. After all, how many other people can say they can find memorabilia of their last name at nearly any shopping mall? Sure, my family often went a bit overboard with surname stuff. We owned Looney Tunes t-shirts in nearly every color, have a ‘Looney Tunes’ welcome mat, and even possessed a jean jacket with a ‘Looney Tunes’ patch that covers the entire back of the jacket. Seriously.

My babysitting experiences stresses the importance of name recognition. Max owns tons of books, many of which contain a character named ‘Max.’ He shares his name with some pretty cool Maxes—Max from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Max’ the mischievous bunny of Rosemary Wells’ ‘Max and Ruby’ are two of the coolest. I’m not certain if Harry, another boy I watch, gained his name from my favorite literary hero, but the DVDs in their family collection hint at the strong possibility.

When you’re a kid, name sharing is pretty sweet. It helped me create a pretty cool, er coincidences: My ‘great grandpa’ created the Looney Tunes. My, er, brother was Bugs Bunny. I only wish I would have took Looney Tune folklore a step further when I was younger.

Romeo may have asked ‘What’s in a name?’, but when you’re a kid, it’s well, everything. I suppose I’ll just have to meet and marry someone named ‘Potter’ one day to keep—or perhaps up—my last names’ cool factor.

The best of both worlds

I didn’t think I would love where I’m at right now this much. Obviously, I enrolled in graduate school at Drake for a reason. I love the school, I love the people, and I love the overall environment. Plus, I don’t generally love change, so if I’m going to transition into a new field I’d prefer to do so in a familiar place. Enter Drake University, the school where (almost) everbody knows your name. And yes, they’re (almost) always glad you came.

I knew that I’d be in a different field. I knew that I’d get to know a different group of people. But, honestly, I didn’t really realize exactly how many new people I’d meet: Great, awesome, passionate, dedicated people at that.

Everyone in my classes is there because they want to be, rather than simply because society says that they should in order to get a good job. You don’t hear graduate students counting down the days until graduation. You don’t see graduate students dozing off mid-lecture…even when the class is 4 hours. You do see them scribbling notes in their spiral, but I get the feeling that they aren’t doing so in order to score an A on their next exam. They do so because they are genuinely interested in what the professor has to say, and simply because they love learning.

Much of Drake is the same as always. It’s like that comfortable pair of blue jeans that still fit just right. Comfortably, I hang out with many of the same people. I still do many of the same daily activities, and have similar conversations. Yet, Drake now has a few extra patches to the old blues. Patches that add character and new topics of conversation.

Drake is familiar, yet different. And exciting. And I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

Salmon Patty Problems

I’m beginning to distrust the word easy. Yesterday, it was yoga. Today, it was ‘1001 Fast Easy Recipes’ that pulled me a fast one.

The book sat on my shelf nearly the entire past two years. I like cooking, and love grocery shopping but I rarely use recipes because I tend to prefer to stick to what I know. Meat, fish, pasta, rice, egss…I know the basics. When I’m starving, I don’t want to scratch my planned meal for some cereal.

But today, I stepped outside my culinary comfort zone. Which was, if I’ll be honest, thanks to a coupon. Walgreens offered a ‘Buy 1, Get 1 free’ canned salmon. $2.19 for two 15 oz cans? I couldn’t resist. Even though, well, I didn’t actually know how to prepare canned salmon. Hey, it’s like canned tuna, right? Ah, not so much.

On the walk back from Walgreens, I pondered what to do with the confusing can. Finally, it came to me. Salmon patties! I’ve eaten them a million times…they have to be simple to prepare, right? Sure, says  ‘1001 Fast Easy Recipes.’ All you need is 1 (15 ounce) can pink salmon with juice, 1 egg, 1/2 cup cracker crumbs and 1 teaspoon baking powder. I didn’t have the cracker crumbs, so I substituted Wheat Thins, which I figured would work just as well. The recipe made me have a few important relevations:

1.) Can openers are confusing, and I cannot comprehend how to use one. Because of this sad fact, I had to use a huge kitchen knife to stab the can of salmon continuously (likely creating a few neighborly enemies) until it finally came open. A juicy mess.

2.) Recipes are there for a reason. People test them. If it says to drop the mixture by teaspoons, do it. Cup size will not work.

3.) It’s probably not the best idea to eat something as it’s being cooked. Especially when it contains eggs.

4.) You actually do have to wait for the hot oil to spread in your cooking pan. Otherwise, your prized patties will burn.

5.) Patience is a culinary virtue I do not have. You’re supposed to wait until a side browns to flip. It may be okay to do it a bit early when you cook chicken, but if something isn’t actually in solid form, trying to flip it after 30 seconds will it an inedible mess.

6.) If you’re going to make fish, be prepared to deal with the consequences. You will not be able to say sayonara to the smell for at least a few days.

Of my 12 or so salmon patties, only 4 were actually edible. Fortunately, those edible ones were actually pretty good. But I’ll give myself a D+ overall. I burnt too many to get a good grade and plus, the fact that I can’t open a can is just plain embarrassing.

Not-so-yawn-worthy yoga

Yoga is supposed to be relaxing. Some say it’s easy enough to make you fall asleep. I’ve come to the conclusion that those people are either A.) Rubberbands in disguise, B.) Lying or most likely C.) Both. Yoga is not, I repeat not easy.

In my mind, relaxing generally means simple. Easy. Unstrenuous. Not so when it comes to yoga. Antonyms better described my experience.

My venture into Downward dogs, cobras, planks and Namastes made me realize just why I tend to stick with the same hobbies for decades. Sure, some days running feels easier than others, but unless it’s a race, it’s rarely painful. My hour-and-a-half Yoga session—the supposed to be “a stress minimizing, reducing muscle pain and joint stiffness workout”— will likely make me stiffer than the 17-miler I ran last week.

But I’m vowing, via this blog, that I will not ditch Downward dogs. Even though I looked at the clock at least each minute of the 90-minute session. As a future teacher, I’m supposed to advocate doing something even when it’s difficult. Just because I will never make big bucks as the next Bill Nye doesn’t mean I should cut Chemistry.

I’m vowing here that my first venture into yoga will not be my last. I’m also vowing that I will immensely regret that promise.

Reading…for fun

Most who know me know that I’m a huge advocate of reading for fun. I’m a firm believer that anyone can enjoy reading if they find the right author or series. My sisters, of course, beg to differ, and constantly say Why read if you can watch TV or a movie?

Although I love movies and TV—reality TV, especially…sad but true—I’ve always been big on books. For awhile, though, my library stacks were solely non-school related. My library love began with the Bernstein Bears, and then progressed to the Babysitters Club. Then came alot of other “adolescent chick lit” like “Sweet Valley Twins (and Junior High and High School)”, “Sleepover Friends” and even “Full House” books (ok, that may be the exception to the books are usually better than the TV show/movie rule).

I liked some of the required reads in Elementary school like “The Giver” but had a horrible time making it through some other required reads. I vividly remember being stuck on the same page of “Catherine Called Birdy” in 5th grade for what seemed like a century.

These days, I like it all; nearly, that is. I may generally not be as crazy about the classics as contemporary works—Potter wins the match versus “Wuthering Heights”—yet I’ll read nearly whatever is in front of me. As long as it’s not “Ulysses.”

Why am I giving you a glimpse into my reading history? Books are what have made me aspire to be a teacher. I always loved to read, but once doubted that I could enjoy a required one. Ultimately, I’d like my students to actually enjoy reading. Sure, “Catcher in the Rye” isn’t going to draw in everyone and “Great Expectations” is not going to fulfill everyone’s literary expections, but I ultimately want to show that reading really can be fun. Even if the only book that transfixes you is Twilight.

Crazy coincidences

Driving to school is boring. The 5.5 hour drive includes  a lovely display of cornfields and cows as your roadside distractions. Plus, you’re constantly reminded that you’ve barely made a dent in your drive: The green road sign reads that you are currently 340, 301, 294…all the way down to 10 or 8 miles away. 

To make matters worse, my radio doesn’t work well during this drive. I have to tune to see whether I can pick up a slight, scratchy signal. A signal which is nearly always Christian Rock. And not contemporary Christian rock, at that. I resort to tapes, but since it seems the majority of the public now has car CD players–a luxury not to be taken for granted, let me tell you–tape selection is scant. The soundtrack to “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Best of Kenny Rogers” and “The Backstreet Boys” is about as good as my selection gets.

One thing does break up the drive, though. An I-80 paradise: The World’s Largest Truckstop. A truckstop supersized–it includes shops, showers, a barber shop, movie theatre, and some lovely trucker trivia–with the best people watching you can possibly imagine.

I took the Walcott exit–the tiny town whose claim to fame is this people watching paradise–but I was craving Subway so I decided to skip the truckstop. After my stomach was satisfied, I went to the bathroom and ran into crazy coincidences. I saw a middle-aged woman with a blue shirt that read my school ‘Drake.’ Anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to pass up this opportunity for small talk. I asked her whether she went to school at Drake. She hadn’t, but she had just dropped off her son.

Ok, so it was cool that I found a slight Drake connection on the road–rare, but not unrealistic–but then the coincidence compounded. I happened to be wearing an old Evergreen Park High School shirt, and the woman said she went there too. Now this relevation is crazy–EPCHS has had a total of 2 people attend Drake in probably the past 20 years (1 being myself). I kept talking to her, and she revealed that her son was living in Crawford–which coincidentally was my Freshman year dorm too.

This may not be the oddest coincidence ever–not by a long shot–but it was still odd and gave me a sense of driving Deja Vu. She reminded me so much of my mom–spending the first night overnight because she was sad to see her firstborn off, yet wearing her son’s school shirt to show she was proud of his decision–that I couldn’t help but have a little roadside reflection after the meeting. Is it all chance that we have these coincidental meetings? How often do they happen? I never bypass the truckstop, but did that day. Did I do so to run into my mom’s counterpart? There’s no way to tell, of course, so instead I’ll simply marvel at my chance, coincental meeting.