Student Sound Off

Ode to Parmesan

Every now and then, after a long day at school, I like to sit down on the deck, kick my feet up and crack open a fresh tub of Parmesan cheese. No, I don’t have a bowl of spaghetti in my lap or a plate of Caesar salad on the table. Just a bit of Parmesan, preferably shaved into thin, crisp, beautiful slices for snacking. I realize some people may find this to be an odd habit, even a little gross. “Why not grab a cheese stick? At least that cheese is meant for snacking” is a suggestion I often hear. But there is something about the savory sharpness, the tantalizing texture, the fantastic flexibility of Parmesan cheese that puts it in a class by itself. It is the king of Italian cheeses, leaving its mozzarella and Romano counterparts in the dust. Whether shredded on a bed of spaghetti, melted on a piece of chicken, cooked into a layer of lasagna, or sprinkled on a helping of Caesar salad, the dynamic cheese always ties the meal together. Many of you are probably familiar with Parmesan's popularity as an ingredient in Italian dishes. My family is no different in that regard. Every year on my birthday we all sit down to a delicious meal prepared by my Mom. The dish changes every year, but the one thing that remains constant is Parmesan. One year, we ate flatbread pizza with Parmesan carefully blended into the cheese. The next, we had manicurist consisting of tube shaped noodles stuffed with sausage and melted Parmesan. That birthday meal is easily one of my top 3 meals of the year, up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a birthday present, my sister usually gives me a block of premium Parmesan to satisfy my addiction. The dairy delicacy is not just an occasional after school treat, but part of a birthday tradition that brings my family together.

-By Jack Major

Just Short of Average

It taunted me. Laughed at me. Mocked me as I struggled. I extended my shaking arm, my calves on the edge of cramping. The bowl at the top of the cabinet was just out of reach. Huffing with frustration, I stormed off to find a stool to stand on. You won this time, bowl.

Standing at a massive five foot zero inches, I (and many others) would consider myself short. I have always been the smallest in my class, but now that everyone has had their growth spurts, my small stature “stands out” even more. I am generally a whole head shorter than my average-heighted friends. And with someone above average? I am a mouse in comparison. As with most things in life, there are ups and downs to being my height.

Up until just a few years ago, when I finally reached 56 inches, I could never ride the ‘big kid’ rides because I was so puny and would slip out from underneath the safety bar. A minor car accident could be the end of me; I sit so far forward in order to reach the gas pedal, the wheel is nearly touching my chest—yes, I move the wheel as far down as possible. When it comes to shopping, finding pants that actually fit is quite a feat, so wearing belts and cuffing the bottoms is the way to go. Without my trusty belt, my pants would constantly sag and I’d look even more like a child.

A few months ago, I was attempting to get a pizza sample at Target and the saleswoman asked me how old I was.

“Seventeen.” I retorted, slightly offended.

She looked me up and down and replied with sass, “Oh, you look so much younger.”

I ended up getting ID'd; I felt like I was trying to buy alcohol with a fake.

If you think about it, taller people have an advantage in almost every sport! Soccer, basketball, track, hockey, softball, swimming, nordic skiing—you name it. Packed places, like concerts, are the worst: good luck finding anyone or seeing anything. Movie theaters can be just as bad; if anyone relatively tall sits in front of me, I can kiss actually seeing the movie goodbye. Toilets. Toilets are too high up. My legs dangle then quickly fall asleep. It is not a pleasant experience. After all that, being vertically challenged sounds terrible, right? But there are plenty of positives.

Life as someone who’s significantly below average isn’t always doom and gloom. Luckily the sport I compete in—weightlifting—is practically invented for fun-sized people. Not only is it categorized by weight class, but it’s also an advantage to have shorter extremities—you don’t have to lift the weight up as far! Growing pains? Sorry, don’t know her. Need to save a few dollars? Buy kids’ shoes, clothing, and meals. Because of the lack of growth, I’ve had the same clothing and shoes for years; it all still fits. Leg-room is never an issue; “you can move your seat back” is a common sentence I say. I never have to worry about hitting my head when I’m walking under something: my brain really appreciates that. Nearly all of my friends and family have longer legs, therefore longer strides, therefore I burn more calories simply trying to keep up. Summer-ready bod all day, every day!

Being five foot is quite the ride. There are many hurdles us below-average people must get over to compensate for the bigger, badder world—and hurdles are tough for our stumpy legs! But it is something I, and millions of others, have to deal with; though I think the world just has to get on my level.

-By Ella Holden

Bees VS. Humans

Collecting pollen from each and every flower is a dangerous job. Do I get a thank you? Nope, just an attempt on my life. Look at my older brothers for example. Harold was smashed by a tennis racket; Henry was smacked by the deadly rolled up newspaper. Those ungrateful humans.

Today, the National Park was extra busy, which meant I needed to be careful. As I made my way to the south end of the park, I was getting serious exercise. My adrenaline was pumping. Nothing was going to bring me down. I sucked nector from roses, tulips, daffodils, lilacs, lilies, daisies. It was such a treat. I was happy. I was in my element.

Upon my arrival to the meadows, I saw it. A picnic. I’ve always wanted to eat at a picnic. Would a little bite hurt? Moving swiftly and soundly, I made my way over. There were sandwiches, chips, fruit, vegetables, and pop. What a score! I was beyond excited; it was like I hit the jackpot.

I was mid-bite into this scrumptious bun when he saw me. A human!

“Mom! There’s a bee on the end of my sandwich!” the boy shrieked, slamming his sandwich down.

The boy looked terrified. You could’ve called me the devil by the way the boy jumped back and slammed his sandwich down. What did I do wrong? Was my jacket dirty? I was at a loss for words.

“Don’t panic Jimmy. Just leave the bee alone,” the older lady said calmly.

“What do you mean!?” he shrieked again.

“Dad, do something,” the boy yelled with worry.

Instantly this older man started swinging his arms around in a violent manner. He must of been explaining something in depth, but it was oftly close to me.

The boy, now prancing around, was practically running in circles. I was confused. Was it me that upset him? He was shouting something I couldn’t quite make out. That’s when I saw it. A newspaper. A fly swatter.

I was confused. Was this older man planning on hurting me? If so, they were messing with the wrong bee. The first swing nearly missed my stinger. I was a goner. My parents may never see me again. Second swing, was this the end? I opened my eyes. Thankfully, I was still alive. The newspaper nearly hit me, but never made contact. I came to the conclusion that soon, I’d be flat like a pancake. Or at least that’s how winded I felt. Reality check, if I make it out alive, I’d need to hit the gym.

Would the third swing be my lucky escape?

Barely. I made it out alive. As I fled the flowery meadow, I could hear the scolding of the older lady.

I escaped. But, my day was ruined. I left my pollen at the picnic. What a foul mood I was in. Just great. Perfect.

-By Isabel Friske

‘Tis the Season

Ah, yes. The most wonderful time of the year has approached Minnesota once again. The countdown to winter break has begun and the workload in every class has increased. The roads are filled with snow and ice and as soon as you walk out of your house you enter a frozen tundra. Throughout the lack of motivation you may be feeling, there are many ways to lift your spirits. Here are a few ideas to make your holiday season a little bit more festive.

Get Chilly

Despite the weather being extremely cold, there are many fun things to do outside. When was the last time you and your friends/siblings started a snowball fight? Exactly, it’s been awhile. Grab your hat and mittens and bundle up because here’s a few things you can do.

  1. Snowball fight (as mentioned above)
  2. Build a snowman
  3. Go sledding
  4. Go skiing
  5. Go ice skating
  6. Go to Holidazzle

Get Warm and Cozy

After spending hours outside doing the activities listed above, most likely you’re experiencing some stage of hypothermia. What better to do then snuggle up inside with your loved ones? Here’s a few ideas for activities you can do to get warm and cozy.

  1. Bake cookies
  2. Watch holiday movies
  3. Snuggle with someone (or your pet)
  4. Make hot cocoa
  5. Build a puzzle
  6. Sit by the fireplace

Get Motivated

With the heavy workload you’ve been experiencing, chances are you’re losing your motivation. Imagine how accomplished you would feel if you did that one errand that has been on your to do lists for weeks. Here’s your reminder to get your ish together and a few suggestions that you can do to feel productive.

  1. Workout
  2. Finish your homework (especially late assignments)
  3. Clean your room
  4. Buy last minute gifts
  5. Run errands

There’s an endless amount of things you can do during a Minnesota winter. Make the most of this festive time of year despite the stress you may be feeling and go out and enjoy it. Remember, it’s important to take care of yourself. You’ve been working hard and you deserve a break. Take time and embrace the cold winter weather!

-By Kathlyn Wagner

5 Minutes

In the midst of college applications, activities, and schoolwork, October and November were months filled with anxiety and stress. I was constantly doing something. By the end of October, I was mentally drained, so I did what many do when looking for solutions — I went to Youtube. After many hours of sifting through videos, I decided to give myself a 30-day challenge. For the month of November, I dedicated 5 minutes per day to practice meditation. I decided to do this as a way to wind down before bed; I wanted to give my brain a break and give myself a chance to reflect on my thoughts. In the beginning, getting myself to sit and be present was difficult, but with time I was able to stabilize my body and mind with ease. Throughout the 30 days, I experimented with mindful, focused, and spiritual meditation. Each day at the end of the 5 minutes, I would think and reflect on at least one thing that I was thankful for. Ending my meditation by practicing gratitude allowed me to go to bed while experiencing positive emotions. As I continued these practices, I gained a sense of discipline.

Forcing myself to do the same thing every night wasn't easy, but I began to see the results. Not only were my stress and anxiety levels reduced, but I began to fall asleep faster, become more self-aware, and overall felt emotionally and therefore physically better. I had often heard of the benefits of meditation and have tried it here and there, but once I stayed consistent with my practices, I noticed significant improvements in my overall health. Becoming more self-aware gave me an avenue to remove myself from the materialistic world and connect with my thoughts and emotions. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is the liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calm mind and sense of inner harmony (Giam). After my 30-day challenge, I continued to integrate practices of meditation and gratitude into my lifestyle. Though it may be difficult, I encourage you to take time out of your day to connect with your mind and give yourself a chance to reflect on what you're thankful for, even if it's just for 5 minutes.

-By Hana Kebede