Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Longer Profile

Kate Murphy
Writing Assignment #12
Lunch Lady Cleaning Up Kindness

            A high school cafeteria. Kids are pushing and shoving to make a single-file line toward the grilled chicken sandwiches or salad bar. After eating, the teenagers make their way to the garbage to drop off their trays and silverware. Placing their tray down onto a stainless steel counter, they can hear the jet-engine-like sound of the dishwasher. A woman stands there, with the sprayer in hand, cleaning the sticky messes left behind. Washing dishes may be a grimy job, but the teenagers see something more than suds and rubber gloves. They see this woman with a heart-warming smile, ready to “dish” out a joke or two.
            Jean Murphy has been a kitchen helper at Fairmont High School for 12 years. From washing dishes, to being a wife and mother, this woman has done one thing throughout her entire life – always having a smile and showing kindness.
            “Jean is a very dynamic person in that she is the epitome of gracious,” Mary Betts, a family friend said. “People should notice that she is always positive. I know when I talk to her that will make my day brighter just by what she says.”
            Even students take notice of the big impact that one lunch lady can have.
            “She’s the most caring person I know,” Jazzmyne Kelly, a 2012 FHS graduate said. “She lights up any room she walks in to. Whether it is a piece of candy or a hug, she does whatever she can for people.”
            With the drama of high school surrounding her, why display this kindness?
            “My parents taught me to be respectful,” Murphy said. “I want to treat people how I want to be treated. Being friendly to and with people is something I want to portray. I just like being friends with people and make people happy. If the kids are having a bad day, it’s always nice for them to see a smiling face.”
            Murphy originally went to school for history, but decided it wasn’t the path for her. She transferred and switched her career choice to fashion merchandise. Even though she dropped out of college, and worked at Sears for three years before coming to the high school, she is glad she made it to FHS.
            “Working in the food service never crossed my mind,” Murphy said. “I like being here and being a part of the daily school life. I get to see how the kids grow and change.”
            The mundane job of washing dishes has bigger repercussions than Murphy realizes.
            “I called her my mom,” Kelly said. “She was always there for me and she’s do anything for anyone no matter what.”
            What makes Murphy different is her kindness. She makes an effort to go beyond just saying “hi” to kids or just greeting them with a smile.
            “I try to learn their first name,” Murphy said. “If they say ‘hi’ to me, I give them a piece of candy to sweeten their day. I try to do my best to get to know them and learn who they are.”
            Treating others how you want to be treated is a way of life for many people. It’s always nice to see that being displayed, especially in the high school environment.
            “She does so many nice things for people every day that I truly think we take for granted,” Betts said. “There aren’t many out there like Jean. She is one of a kind, funny, a great cook, and an exceptional mother. She loves her children more than they will ever know.”
            High school dramas, bad test scores, and feeling sick can all be reasons for a disgruntled mood. Once you make your way to the garbage to set aside your tray, that mood can be uplifted with the help of a lunch lady.
            As for the future, Murphy hopes to stay at her position for a few more years, continuing to bring smiles to students’ faces. Eventually, retirement is in her future, but as for right now, washing dishes is her main priority.
            “I don’t think I impact people,” Murphy said. “I do try to reach as many kids as possible and I want to be their source of a sweet treat or a good laugh with a joke.”
            Humble, giving, caring, loving and kind. Those words are just the tip of the iceberg when describing Murphy.
            “Why not make the best of it and be kind,” Murphy said. “I’d rather be positive than negative.”

*Photo by Kate Murphy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brief Profile

Kate Murphy
Writing Assignment #13 – Brief Profile

            The Sugar Plum Fairy now works at The College of St. Scholastica.
            Upon entering the Admissions office, the ringing of the phone is the music in the air. A family arrives, stating they have a 10 o’clock appointment.
            Is this family thinking that the woman greeting them with the heart-warming smile glided her way across the stage in almost every fairytale imaginable? 
            Sitting behind a deep-mahogany desk, she now spends her day answering numerous phone calls and coordinating campus visits for prospective students and their families.
            Before becoming the campus visit coordinator, Amanda Abrahamson dedicated her life toward the love of dance.
            “I danced professionally with the Minnesota Ballet for five years, until I was 30,” Abrahamson said. “The Minnesota Ballet is one of the top ballet companies in the Midwest and I loved being a ballerina.”
            Abrahamson pirouetted and chasséd through hundreds of performances. She was the principle dancer, or main role of Clara in the classic, Nutcracker, but the majority of her roles were on the darker side. Thinking back on her experiences with the company, she laughed at the irony of her dance roles compared to her work today.
            “People say that I am a welcoming, motivated and pleasant person,” Abrahamson said. “Admissions is one of the first places the family sees, so I try to be as welcoming as possible. But while in the ballet, I noticed that I usually had the evil or aggressive character roles. For whatever reason, I did well at being evil.”
            Abrahamson performed in countless ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty to Swan Lake. In the spring of 2010, she decided it was time to “retire.” Her retirement was a transition; Swanilda in Coppélia one day, to the first face many curious students see upon entering Admissions in Tower Hall, the next.
            Does she miss the graceful and elegant life she once had? After pondering this question, Abrahamson came to the conclusion that she knew it was time to retire. And she’s happy with her decision. For a year and a half she has been the reason why students can schedule visits, and noted that CSS has become a place she has fallen in love with.
            Abrahamson may love CSS, but the five years of pointe shoes, tutus and leotards will forever hold a special place in the campus visit coordinator’s heart.

*Abrahamson is responsible for coordinating campus visits. Visit css.edu to get more information about Admissions.
**Picture by Kate Murphy

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Preview of Final Paper

Kate Murphy
Multi-Week Writing Assignment #4 – Final Paper

            It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For some college students, it’s the most stressful.
            Finals week is infamous for long study sessions in the library, lots of caffeine and an extreme lack of sleep. The exams are a huge source of stress, with large portions of final grades resting on one last test. After a semester’s worth of homework, projects and speeches, it’s easy to become unmotivated in the last stretch.
            However, there are ways to keep stress levels to a minimum and to stay motivated. While the path leading up to finals may seem dark and never-ending, students should remember that the tests will be over soon. Semester break is soon upon college students, which means it tart preparing for finals now.  but it'n how to manage stress, stay motivated and survive the dreaded finals week. e finals mayis important to start preparing for finals now.
To help out the frazzled college student, here are the top five ways on how to manage stress, stay motivated and survive the dreaded finals week:

1. Budget your time and don’t procrastinate.
            Making a to-do list and writing down a schedule can help the student put things into perspective. Putting everything off until the last minute will only create more stress. The sooner the student starts studying, the more they will be able to review.
            “Finals are inevitable. From the first day of class, start to prepare for finals,” Christine Sandal, Registered Nurse at The College of St. Scholastica said. “Study in small chunks rather than cramming it all at once at the end.”
            By breaking down the studying time, the student will be able to focus more clearly and be able to tackle the project at hand.
            “I schedule my weeks out on Sunday night so I know what to expect each day,” Carrie Schmidt, junior at CSS said. “It helps me stay on track and I know when I have free time to add fun things in that can help relieve stress. In my personal experience and my friends experiences, by the time finals come around, we are so drained and unfocused that we don’t spend as much time on finals as we would a normal test. There is so little time to get everything done for all the tests that are in the same week.”
            Start your planning earlier, so that procrastination doesn’t bite you in the end.
            “The best way I manage stress for finals is to study ahead of time,” Maggie Quinn, sophomore at CSS said. “I write lists of everything coming up, and just keep track of it, then studying falls into place much easier.”
2. Study in chunks and take breaks.
            Your attention span isn’t built to stay mega-focused for hours and hours. Give your brain a break every once in a while.
            “Every half an hour or so, I will check Facebook, grab a snack, text friends or walk around – anything to get my mind off what I'm doing,” Quinn said.
            Finals are all about endurance. But taking frequent breaks will make it less likely that you’ll burn out, and help you stay focused and motivated to get through it.
“It’s extremely important to take breaks because if you focus on one thing for too long it can overwhelm you or at least become boring and uninteresting,” Connor Stevens, sophomore at CSS said. “When things become uninteresting we tend not focus or retain as much knowledge.”
Working out can also be a great stress reliever and a way to get away from the burden of studying.
“I like to exercise before or after a long study session so I don't have any pent up energy,” Quinn said.
            Whatever your break may be, it’s important to not study for long periods of time. Set goals; for every hour you study, take a 15 minute break.

3. Get some sleep.
            A lot of students may try to go for days without sleep during finals. Depriving yourself is counterintuitive to studying. You’ll be able to better remember what you’re studying if you’re well rested.
            “If students don't get enough sleep, they become more worn down,” Julie Kim, a licensed professional clinical counselor at St. Scholastica said. “Exhaustion begins to take its toll and it affects their physical and mental health.”
            Even students feel that finals are restricting their ability to sleep.
              “I would say that most college students are lacking the adequate amount of sleep needed throughout the year, especially during finals,” Schmidt said.
            Sleep is vital during finals week. By getting the recommended eight hours of dreaming a night, you’ll be able to give those exams everything you’ve got. Instead of the nightmare of trying to stay awake with gallons of caffeine, try going to bed a little earlier.

4. Relax. It’s not the end of the world.
            Whether it’s doing yoga or just taking a hot shower, plan time to relax and regroup. Take some time to think about something else besides the stress of finals.
            “Give your mind a break and do something fun with friends,” Schmidt said. “It will be unproductive studying if you don’t relax a bit.”
            Keep things in perspective. You’ve been working hard all semester long, and all your work is going to reflect in your finals. Finals are only a part of your grade and they won’t make or break you. So take a deep breath and relax.  
“I think the best way to manage stress is to manage stressful thinking,” Kim said. “Stress can be driven by anxious thoughts and chronic worry. For example, ‘I hope I don't fail. I have to get a certain grade.’ Using affirming, true and factual statements are ways to counteract anxious thoughts and prevent catastrophic thinking.  For example, ‘It’s just a test. I will do the best I can. It's not the end of the world.’ Also, talking about how stressed you feel with a supportive person is essential. Other people can help to get us out of our head.”

5. Reward yourself. You deserve it.
            Plan to do something fun with friends, pick out a fun book to read or maybe buy a new outfit. You’ve certainly earned it.
            Rewards after studying, as well as at the end of finals week, will boost the student’s morale.
             “Personally I set goals and rewards,” Stevens said. “For example, if I finish two pages of my paper, I get to play Xbox for a little bit.”
            Finals week is an overwhelming time which takes a toll on the young adult’s health and mind. The plus side of finals is when your last exam is over, the joy of the holiday season can begin. Semester break is a time for the students to become kids again, by hanging out with their friends, engaging themselves in their hobbies, and spending more time on themselves.

            Finals are creeping onto college campuses everywhere. That’s a scary thought for many students because of the increased amount of stress, decreased hours of sleep, and the overwhelming thought of the work that’s left to be done.
            It’s easy to become unmotivated with the abundant tasks at hand, but if you prepare yourself and take these pointers, finals week might not be that daunting.  
“It is one test, for one class, for one semester, for one year of school,” Schmidt said. “Not worth stressing over too much. Grades won’t have a huge impact on your life in a few years.”

*Photo by Kate Murphy


        Are you stressed? Did you just eat that entire bag of Doritos or handful of Skittles in one sitting?
            You may be stress eating.
             Elizabeth Scott wrote an article titled Stress and Emotional Eating: What Causes Emotional Eating?, which informs readers on the effects of emotional eating.
            “Stress can bring on increased levels of cortisol, known as ‘the stress hormone,’” Scott wrote in her October 2012 article. “Cortisol has a beneficial function in the body, but excessive levels of cortisol brought on by chronic stress can cause a slew of problems in the body. Among other things, high levels of cortisol can create cravings for salty and sweet foods. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food is scarce; however, in modern times and industrialized nations, when food is rarely scarce, this previously adaptive mechanism causes excess weight gain.”
            Have you ever noticed your increased craving for a sugary chocolate chip cookie or the salty goodness of pretzels? It’s not all in your head. You really do crave rich foods with stress is evident in your life.
            “Sometimes students either don't eat enough, they eat too much, or they eat high-fat, high-carb foods,” Julie Kim, a licensed professional clinical counselor at St. Scholastica said. “As a result, exercise usually goes by the wayside.”
            It’s important to keep your body’s health in mind during times of stress, especially during finals week. Feed your body with healthy options, such as salads and fresh fruit.
            Why not head over to the Burns Wellness Commons on St. Scholastica’s campus, and burn your stress away? Not only is it a good way to take a study break, but it will also keep your body in balance.
            “The best way to manage stress is balance,” Christine Sandal, Registered Nurse at CSS said. “This means studying, eating well, laughing, and getting in exercise.”
            When you’re feeling the burden of stress on your shoulders, don’t gravitate toward the high-calorie soft drink or carb-loaded Ramen noodles. Your body will thank you in the end.