Blake’s Book Bag: The Books that Shape Us

By: Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor


My grandparents recently told me they read in the “New York Times” that reading the newspaper to a child at a young age can ensure that they will be good readers in the years to follow.

When I was about three or four, my grandfather made a habit of having me sit on his knee while he read the paper.

He’d read certain articles aloud to me while we both sipped at glasses of orange juice like a couple of Old West barflies.

I would gleefully jab my finger at any picture I could find on the black-and-gray canvas and would get particularly excited at any picture involving an airplane.

While my fascination with airplanes may have faded away, a curiosity with the written word did not.

This spark was stoked into a fire with my first encounter with fiction.

The first series of books that I really remember getting into was given to me in third grade by my school librarian, Mrs. Daughtry, a kind, willowy woman who fit the description of a librarian right down to the horn-rimmed glasses.

I was having issues being away from home and making friends and she told me that while she couldn’t sit in class with me, she could give me some books until I saw her again. (Psst, you know how people always say librarians are great people? It’s true.)

These were not just any books. These were books that didn’t have check-out/return stamps in the front covers and said she trusted me to return the books when I was done reading them.

I, eight, accepted that solemn duty.

To this day I still feel guilty about never getting “Vacation Under the Volcano” back to her.

I think she knew exactly what she was doing by introducing me to those books. Namely, this was “The Magic Treehouse” series by Mary Pope Osborne.

The main plot of the series follows the adventures and of the brother-sister duo Jack and Annie as a, well, magic treehouse transports them through space/time into whatever book they happen to be holding.

These books were able to transport me right along with Jack and Annie into histories long past and make them seem relevant and interesting to my eight year-old brain.

I still remember laughing at the scene in The Knight at Dawn when Annie uses her “magic” flashlight to ward off superstitious knights that were bent on capturing the adventurers.

I did end up making good friends that I stuck with through fifth grade before leaving that school, but something was sparked in me and though the loneliness had faded away, I still craved the adventure the stories brought.

Soon after, my mother began reading the “Boxcar Children” mysteries out loud to my sister and me, followed by “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

The rest is pretty much history.


Editorial: The art of a successful argument

By: Sara Keen, Editor-in-Chief


We have all had that experience online, when someone decides they want to argue over a topic that we are well prepared for in comparison.  Sometimes the arguments can turn into nightmares, other times the arguments are over within minutes.  It just depends on the subject, and possibly more importantly, the person.  

Some arguments are, as some would say, a waste of breath.  One side refuses to lose or compromise while the other side is just tired of trying to argue.  The best advice I can give for these is to simply let the argument die.

It can be hard to leave an argument for both sides, but sometimes it hits a point that you just want to stop.  It is also perfectly okay to stop, even if you do not want to feel defeated.  Defeat happens to everyone, just look at Ash Ketchum from Pokémon, he’s always being defeated in some way.

A prime example of a waste-of-breath argument is any argument over a moral issue.  Anyone who has taken English Composition 1020 has probably heard the professor list a number of topics, such as abortion or assisted suicide, that they refuse to take papers on.

The reason for this is because morals vary from person-to-person and are not easily changed through an argument.  Typically, a person’s moral argument is based on their own opinions more so than facts.  There is no right or wrong answer in the end because the argument is already based on individual views.

If you ever find yourself stuck in an argument that you are not prepared for, you can always back out.  There is no shame in accepting that you were not right in an argument, and it makes you look better than struggling to respond.

If the issue is more from a lack of knowledge, then use Google.  Seriously, I have never understood why people say “you just Googled that,” when you respond with information or a link.  If you Google it, at least you are making an attempt to learn and understand the subject you are arguing about.

To think that everyone has prior knowledge to a subject is ridiculous.  There is no way of knowing absolutely everything in the world.  Our minds are not able to do that yet.  So do not feel bad if you have to Google something in the middle of an argument so that you avoid making a fool of yourself.

There are some fights that you simply do not have time for.  Yes, you have done your research and you have learned all that you can about the subject, but that does not mean that you have to spend hours arguing with a person.

In instances like that, I find it easier to hang on to a few links in the note section of my phone so that I can just post them.  If the topic means that much to the person, then they will read them.  In the likelihood that it does not, you have completely avoided a terrible argument.

Social media has sparked numerous arguments and debates in the past few years.  It is best to be ready for one on a topic that you are passionate about, especially if you are a vocal person on Facebook.


Letter to the Editor – “Critical” Success

By Jeremy Stevens


This morning, I read a review of a hit Country Music song performed by an immensely popular artist. This critic wrote that the song made him want to “barf in [his] mouth.” I know, the artistic expression is strong with this one.

But, this one line that I originally saw on the song’s Wikipedia page made me think, although not just about what the critic said, but rather about what it means to be successful and what it means to be someone who criticizes success.

I know that in the game of the Internet, I’m losing because I’m reacting to critical Internet messages. So I must be mad. Bro. But, to paraphrase Dr. Phil McGraw, words are a powerful thing, and they mean something when we use them. Furthermore, it cheapens words when we exaggerate to this degree. Eventually “barf in [his] mouth” becomes “Eh, I could take it or leave it” in the mind of the writer as well as the reader.

Shouldn’t we question the taste of a critic who goes around barfing at a product that millions of people like?

Wouldn’t this be particularly true when music is something that the critic is supposed to know quite a bit about?

Within the scope of this article, let’s talk about success within the parameters of commercial success. Let’s quantify success and say that in today’s market, if a million people like what you’re doing enough to go out and buy it, you’re a wild success by commercial standards. Of earth’s 7 billion residents, 6,999,000,000 of those can hate your guts and say terrible things about you, but if the remaining million subscribe to your YouTube Channel, you’re quitting that job at Starbucks, waking up at noon every day and making prank videos all night. If you can sell a $5 newspaper, music album, or website subscription to that tiny fraction of people, it’s the same story.

This is the secret to the Kardashians’ success, just on a different scale. Do you think it bothers them that six billion people are put off by them? No, they probably secretly revel in it. They know that the remaining billion are willing to buy every, single thing they’re selling.

Obviously this particular “review” that I referred to employs a wild exaggeration meant to express displeasure. So was he really going to barf in his mouth as his words stated? Or was he simply trying to garner attention for himself and his website?

By my estimation, there is no difference between this statement and a twelve-year old going to Twitter and insulting Adele’s appearance.

Neither is a critique, it’s just simply the new critical normal that we are becoming accustomed to in the age of the Internet. But, it’s not just the insult and the lack of decency in an alleged “critique” like the one in question, what about the lack of journalism/professionalism going on while using words such as those?

I ask myself who I would rather be, the person winning awards and selling records/books (whatever), or the guy writing that it makes him want to barf in his mouth.

The answer is pretty clear; I’d rather produce than try to eek out a professional existence trying to climb up the backs of the producers of the world.

At the time of writing this, the song in question is number 3 on the Billboard Country Music charts, and has sold hundreds of thousands of downloads. Meanwhile, a quick Google search reveals that there are “13 people talking” about the critic’s associated Facebook page and website.

So, I guess Taylor was right after all when she sang that the “Haters Gonna Hate.” But don’t think that because people are critical, you can’t achieve success.

Even if almost all of the people are critical, there’s still a whole world of people out there to sell yourself and/or your product to.

Finally, remember to choose your words carefully, because they do mean something.

Life Forces You to Procrastinate

By Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor

It’s February. Your speech teacher informs you that you have a group project due at the beginning of April, aka an eternity away, aka put it off for the last week.

In the meantime, you have the rest of the work to do in that class and your four other classes. Commitments you made months ago suddenly rear their ugly head.

By the way, your aunt just got diagnosed with breast cancer, your dog just died, and you just broke up with your girlfriend. By the way, be sure to eat right and exercise to maintain healthy weight but all you want to do is drown yourself in melted peanut butter and nacho cheese. By the way, you’ve gotta be sure to show up for your part time job and keep up with other schoolwork of course.

BY THE WAY. That GROUP PROJECT is due NEXT WEEK. So you and your group mates get together after class to talk about delegating what research to do. And your group mates, two people so unmotivated you’re certain they can halt the earth’s rotation with their collective negative force of backward movement, come up with – in a project that is supposed to denote the cultural differences between two diverse cultures – creating a Minecraft civilization showing as much.

Your features fall and you ask, doubtfully, “Well, how long would that take?” As if you’re actually entertaining this absolutely insane idea that you want no part of because A) the project must be delivered in PowerPoint format and B) what the hell is Minecraft, but you must be polite because dear God, what are you if not polite.

Your group mate looks at you pointedly with his hawkish features and shrugs, muttering, “Could take me a couple of months.” And you ask him to please repeat himself and he returns with, “It would take me a couple of months to do that.”

And suddenly the lights are flickering – but no, they aren’t, you are just blinking so quickly because your brain has frantically instructed your eyelids to try and make the rest of your body take flight and escape.

“But the project is due next Thursday,” you tell your group mate in a profound state of shock, and a little bit of awe.

And your group mate shrugs and goes back to looking at his phonesatisfied in the knowledge that he has helped the group in all ways in which he is capable and it is up to the rest of us to come up with something.

You nearly get whiplash with how quickly your head swivels on your neck as you meet your other group mate’s eye, desperate for a mirror that will reflect your thoughts on that idea. But your other group mate, who looks vaguely like a lion with his mane of red hair and red whiskers, widens his eyes at you and tells you, “That sounds like a good idea.”

And suddenly you find yourself trapped before the Lion as the Hawk circles overhead, and you are nothing more than a meerkat trying to find his hole to crawl into.

“We could all log onto a server,” the Hawk begins, brightening as his idea is suddenly taken up and you’re fractionally in the minority of those who oppose it.

“The project has to be on PowerPoint,” you reply firmly before the Lion and Hawk can pounce on you and drag your from your hole into some twisted Mexican-esque Minecraft civilization.

“We can take screencaps,” the Hawk squawks.

“Maybe if we had thought of this at the beginning of the semester,” you reason with him, because your other responsibilities are tapping you on the shoulder reminding you that you have no time to play computer games for your final project.

While an assignment that is due three months from now can seem like an eternity away, please never forget that life will happily help you fill that waiting period. Nibble at the problem.

Advice for the Student-Parent

By: Barbara Harmon, Staff Writer

While many students find college to be a challenge, students with children of their own have to keep an even tighter schedule.

“Balancing family life, parenthood and college coursework can be difficult at best, and challenging at worst, especially for those without the support of a spouse or partner,” according to AC Online.

“Keeping life in check when returning to college is a major concern for most student-parents.

“Returning students should understand there is an adjustment period, and that it’s going to take some time to establish a comfortable routine,” according to the website.

Sometimes you have to follow the advice you would give to your own children.

If they have homework they need to finish, what would you say to them? “Get it done, before you do anything else.”

Well, you may have to remind yourself of this at times. Especially with the distractions that come with electronic technology these days—link after link and episode after episode.

There are simple ways to stay on top of your task. If your children take naps, make the most of that time.

That can be a wonderful opportunity to work on your studies. This is not the time to scroll through Facebook profiles or viral videos.

You determine what is most important to you.

If your children are older, work on your homework together.

It is possible and fulfilling to multitask, as well. There are many nicely measured time slots throughout your day.

If you need to read a chapter, sit at the kitchen table and finish it while super is in the oven.

Have some discussion posts to make or an instrument to practice? Do it while the clothes are in the dryer.

You will accomplish more in your day this way and your to-do list will not become a challenge of its own.

It is also essential to get enough sleep.

“Burning the candle on both ends, as a parent and a student, can quickly lead to burnout,” according to AC Online.

“While it’s tempting to stay up late to get in some quality time with Netflix after work and studies are completed for the day, it’s only going to hurt in the long run when energy has been totally depleted.

“Get some rest instead,” advised the website.

There are student-parents at Volunteer State Community College that have learned to adapt to these circumstances.

“This is only for a season (sometimes a season that will never end) and soon the work put into school will lead way for more quality time again,” according to Jennifer Giese, a student at Vol State.

“So some of my advice is to try not to feel guilty when you can’t be completely involved with the family and have to count on a spouse or other family members to help with dinner, housekeeping, activities, etc,” according to Giese.

Responsibilities can be divided out so that task are shared, and it does not take all of one person’s time to do it.

“Also, ensure that you carve out specific time for homework and studying,” according to Giese.

“If the family is aware that you have set aside specific time for this, then they will fall into a schedule of knowing that unless it is an emergency that you can’t be disturbed.

“At first it is hard to strike a balance, but all parties need to be flexible for changes,” Giese added.

Once a schedule is established, it will become a valuable asset to aid you in the completion of your degree.

Living life to its full potential

By Sara Keen, Editor-in-Chief


With the advancement on technology, it seems to be much easier to stay indoors and spend all of one’s free time on social media or Netflix. While, in moderation, this can be really nice, one can miss several of life’s opportunities as a result.

Life is short, and no one gets out of it alive. That is simple enough. It should not be wasted on social media and T.V. binges. There is an entire world waiting for you.

There is a lot of temptation that comes with living in the modern world. With the Internet at our fingertips, it is almost natural to want to scroll Facebook while you are in public.

I cannot begin to count the number of people I have seen sit in classrooms and scroll social media before class begins. Some rooms are silent because no one is trying to communicate with the people around them.

It is astonishing how much can happen when we put our phones away for a while. You can meet new people or even see a fantastic moment occur right before your eyes. Neither of these can be experienced when your nose is buried into your phone all day.

Even at home, when you are around your family, it is hard to stay off the various websites we have grown accustomed to.

I have heard several discussions lately about mothers who are on their phones instead of playing with their children. On the other hand, people do not seem to be nearly upset about the young adults who are too busy with social media to give their parents attention.

On the other side, we have the beautiful web-service known as Netflix. When in combination with the forces of Hulu and Amazon Prime, these websites can destroy all possibility of leaving the house for days on end.

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to binging a show on Netflix, I will admit. However, I know that it is awful to spend all of my time streaming movies and shows.

There is a world of opportunity and adventure when you leave the comfortable confines of your “nest,” as some may call it. We are given a very short time on this world, and we should do with it all that we can.

So, the next time you find yourself doubting that outing with your friends, as Netflix calls your name, remember the short time you have. Then, pull your shoes on and run out to meet your friends.

Oh, and do not forget to put your phone in a hard-to-get-to spot, so you will not be looking at it all day.

Blake’s Book Bag: Winter Weather Reading

By Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor


Welcome back to The Settler’s book review, where I sift what you should be reading from what you could be reading.

This week we are going to discuss good books to read for winter when you are stuck at home and can’t go anywhere because of the centimeters and centimeters of snow piled up around your house (we poor Southerners just don’t know any better).

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Now my first recommendation serves two purposes. 1) Alan Rickman, known for a fantastic performance as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, just passed away. 2) Harry Potter is the perfect thing to read for when you are going just a little stir crazy when cooped up in your house.

I chose “Goblet of Fire” because it is almost certain to hold your attention between everything going on in it. Between two Olympic-style wizarding events, a ball, Voldemort’s return, the Forbidden Curses, the mystery of who put Harry’s name in the goblet – there will definitely be something here to engross you and keep you reading for hours on end

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

If you want a cutesy-type comedy to occupy your attention and ensure your cheeks are not rosy just from the frigid wind, then give “Landline” a try.

This book is so delightfully quotable with the one-liners Rowell gives her characters. The book is basically about a screenwriter whose marriage is on the rocks with her husband and hurts it even further when she tells him she will have to work on Christmas rather than go to his parents’ house down south.

With an iciness that has nothing to do with the weather between them, he leaves with the kids while Georgie stays at her mother’s house. There she uses her mom’s landline to call him, but discovers that each call she makes is to her husband of years ago, while he was in college.

Time-travelling phone calling that doesn’t waste time trying to explain itself, interesting characters, a snowy Nebraska setting, and whip-snapping dialogue ensure you might just finish this before the snow melts.


61 Hours by Lee Child.

It was between this one and “And Then There Were None,” but I ultimately settled on this one because with Child’s writing you will feel just how cold the main character, Jack Reacher, is.

If you like a little bit of thrill and mystery to your late nights by the fire, look no further than “61 Hours.” Jack Reacher is on a tour bus with several senior citizens when it breaks down near South Dakota.

On the kindness of a stranger, he ends up staying at the house of a star witness in a case against the corruption of the town. But witness is in danger because a hitman for the mafia is coming to town.

Told over the course of (you guessed it) 61 hours, Child’s writing shows he knows how to do what he does when it comes to showing off a kick-butt character and overwhelming odds – all against the backdrop of the frozen South Dakota landscape.

Getting back on track after inclement weather

By: Barbara Harmon, Assistant Editor


Our spring semester at Volunteer State Community College has gotten off to a snowy start.

However, we must not let this distract us from our studies.

We were all prepared to start back and cannot let these snow days slow down that momentum.

According to, “when students come back to school, some teachers may find that students are less focused after an extended, unexpected break.”

Freezing temperatures and a snow blanketed ground are an invitation for many to cuddle up and binge watch their favorite series, movies, etc.

Keep a steady pace and do not get behind on your studies, especially before our first full week of classes.

The snow is melting, and you will come out of this haze.

Stay focused on your work with a warm cup of coffee and cozy socks if it helps, but do not keep pushing your homework aside.

Some of us have our own structure that assists us during these sluggish times.

“I personally get all my work done ahead of time,” said Maegan Smith, a student at Vol State.

“That way I can relax and enjoy the snow!

“Usually teachers give you a syllabus or some kind of schedule of assignments, and you can get ahead; that way you don’t fall behind,” Smith said. “It’s much more relaxing that way.”

Jesse Versage, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), said, “what I do to stay on track with school work is just get done with what I have early, so I have the rest of the day to go out and play in the snow.”

If you are off to a rough start, do not panic; what’s done is done, but you can right those wrongs.

Now that the snowy interruption is over do not pick up the remote, stay off the couch and silence your phone.

So, here we are, it is week 2. Print off your assignments, get your head in school and back on track.

“One thing I would suggest is just going on a social media ‘fast,’” advised Joshua Brewster, a student at Vol State.

“Then, find a place to sit and keep as many distracting things away as you can, where it will be easy to focus.

“Listening to classical music, or instrumental music is recommended to keep background noise out,” according to Brewster.

You can do this!

Everybody has been there, but we have your back.

Now get busy!

Forming good study habits

Forming Good Habits

By Blake Bouza, Assistant Editor


At Volunteer State Community College, it can almost universally be agreed that our biggest enemy is “inclement weather.”

This has never been more illustrated than in the very first week of school this semester (no elaboration needed).

More than ever it is imperative to form good study habits now so that your schedule is not completely thrown off gear by things like the weather, car trouble, relationship trouble – just trouble, okay?

Student life in college is almost invariably 90 percent damage control and 10 percent waiting for the next crisis of the week.

Now is the time to set some safeties in place. I like to call it “preemptive damage control.” Form good habits now, so that when you pick up our end-of-the-semester edition of the paper and see the inevitable “Save Your Grades” article, you can throw your head back and cackle.

With some advice on this, I turned to the Internet and students at Vol State.

Editor-in-Chief Sara Keen had a wonderful editorial last week about procrastination (check it out on our website, seriously). In it she talked about a solid strategy she employs, setting aside a half hour to an hour each day and devote that time to one subject.

Daily reviews of notes that you have taken can be tedious. Instead, the Oklahoma Nursing Student Association website writes that we should consider weekly note reviews.

Since we mostly have Fridays free of school activity now, try and use this time for a weekly review. Be it early in the morning or during lunch, the OKNSA website writes that students should study when they are at their peak, that is, when students are most alert and awake.

I find it imperative to mention that I’ve already checked my phone three different times while writing this article. Silence the phone and put it out of reach. You’ll keep your concentration about you, I promise. writes “how you approach something matters almost as much as what you do. Aim to think positively when you study.”

The website goes on to write that students should avoid catastrophic thinking. “Instead of, ‘I’m a mess, I’ll never have enough time to study for this exam,’ look at it like, ‘I may be a little late to study as much as I’d like, but since I’m doing it now, I’ll get most of it done.’”

We should take an objective view of our grades and ask ourselves what we can do to improve, notes Psychcentral, rather than think “I always mess things up.”

Make a schedule you can stick to. You know what you’ve got to do in a week. Make a study schedule that fits your work and home life. According to the OKSNA website, transferring notes to 3×5 cards would be an effective way to study during spare moments, or recording a lecture for later listening if your professor is particularly fast-speaking.

Holdon Guy, student at Vol State, said that he bases his studying method around the principles of prioritization, time management, breaks, and working hours.

Guy said that he makes out a list of tasks based on due dates, then allocates as much time as needed for each task.

“Doing this allows me to visualize where I need to concentrate my efforts when I study. During study time I incorporate fifteen minutes of break time into every hour,” said Guy.

Guy said that taking fifteen minutes to walk around, eat a snack, or take a bike ride keeps his mind alert and helps him to remember all the material he is studying.

“I try to only study when I feel fresh and productive,” Guy said.

While students cannot predict such things as inclement weather, we can indeed set up safeties for ourselves to ensure that our academic careers are on track by consciously making the effort to, in spite of how much snow is on the ground.

Editorial on appreciating what you have

Sara Keen//Editor-in-Chief


We live in a time where it is easy to forget about the luxuries we live with.  We often take for granted our homes, clothes, electricity, and everything that we’ve received as a result of technology.

We forget that we live in a country where most can afford what other countries dream.  There are places where people cannot easily receive clothes, housing, food, or medical treatments.

In our society, we have gotten to a point where people fear the wrong things, such as vaccinations, because we have forgotten how bad the world was before.  There are children who are angry when they do not get a certain color of iPhone or iPad when kids in other places are overjoyed to receive a pair of socks.

Even worse, there are fits thrown to parents because they look out for their children.  Parents have a reason for everything they do, even if you do not quite understand it at the time.  They are your guardians until they are gone.

We never know how long we have left with someone.  It is vital that we enjoy every second that we are able to with them.  It could be as simple a task as getting ice cream with a grandparent, or going shopping with your mother.

Be thankful when someone is sick that they have the medicine to treat him or her.  If they cannot be cured, be thankful that there is medicine to lessen the pain.

We no longer suffer from a variety of diseases thanks to vaccines.  The number one fear for pregnancy is no longer death.  We live in a time where we can be comfortable in raising our families.  

We have a day to give thanks for everything we have each year, but with so much to be thankful for, it is not the only day that we can say thank you for what we have.

Any time you feel down, think about how great things are now in comparison to what they would be 100 years ago.  We have so much that we can say thank you for.

We have full families, a chance for education, a place for food and sleep.  We are able to come home in the winter without fearing the flu.    

When you sit around the table on Nov. 26, remember how lucky you are to live in a time with so many advancements.  Enjoy your time with your family.

Happy Thanksgiving.