Monday, February 27, 2012

Honey! I’m Pregnant

Kevin Coolidge

The crush of gravel and the whine of a fan belt announce that the wife is home. It’s almost March, and time to get the car inspected, and that means another oil change. Hope that car holds together a little longer. At least until I get it paid off.

She’s stopping at the store after her appointment. So, I pull on my boots to help carry in the groceries. I sure hope she got pork chops. I open the door.

“Honey! I’m pregnant!”

“Uh, what’s for dinner?”

When a woman discovers she is pregnant, she often accepts the pregnancy as soon as it is confirmed. She has dreamt of becoming a mother since she was a girl. She is thinking of the new life within her—a baby with ten fingers and ten toes. A man might not be thinking of that at all.

Acceptance is a major emotional task for a new dad throughout the pregnancy. First, he must accept the reality of the baby. He cannot see, feel, or touch this new life at first, and it can be a difficult task.

One man who know this is Hogan Hilling. He’s the founder of Proud Dads, Inc., a consulting firm to improve support services for dads, and the author of Rattled: What He’s Thinking When You’re Pregnant.

He understands that men and women view and react to pregnancy differently. Often the anxieties of becoming a dad can take the initial joy out of the pregnancy. It can be overwhelming. Are you prepared? Are the finances in order? How about all the things that can go wrong? A man is not as well prepared for parenthood as a woman. He has spent his childhood preparing for work, and not necessarily for being a father.

Men may find it hard to connect with an unborn baby and don’t understand the permanent connection a woman has with the baby. It’s physically impossible. A woman cannot remove herself from the pregnancy. She is always emotionally and physically there, but a man can escape by leaving the house, or spending more time at work.

The transition into fatherhood may be a slow progression. A man needs time to accept the profound responsibility of becoming a new dad. With every heartbeat heard, with the ultrasound firmly in grasp, with the feel of his wife’s swelling belly beneath his hand. Each day, the new identity comes closer to reality.

Your husband may be excited, but also flooded with worries. He may not react the way you think he should. Try giving him the space to experience the pregnancy in his own way. What he is feeling is as normal as the joy you feel in becoming a mom. He’s just going to need time to catch up. This needs to be about you and him. So, instead of you being pregnant, it can be the two of you having a baby…

Honey, I’m pregnant? Or You are going to be a dad? Drop me an email at and let me know. Running late? Miss a past column? Get it at Going to need a children’s book? Check out “Hobo Finds A Home” a book about cat that wanted more than life on the farm…

Monday, February 20, 2012

Welcome to Barsoom

Naked on hot, dry sand--my body aches. My skull pounds. I open my eyes to see the moon chasing itself across the sky. This is not a promising start to my vacation. The brochure used words like magical, dreamlike, adventure, and beautiful women. Right now I’m willing to settle for a strong cup of coffee, a handful of aspirin, and some sunblock.

My knuckles brush against something smooth and hard. It fills my hand--three feet of metal, cold and sharp. A hiss of metal on metal causes me to turn my head. I behold a pale, green monstrosity, easily fifteen feet high, with two pairs of arms, each holding a long straight blade. Are those tusks? I am definitely filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Well, if I survive…

Barsoom is a dying planet. You probably know it as Mars, named for the Roman god of war. It is aptly named, for it is a savage world filled with beasts, lost cities, and forgotten secrets. Men live for honor and die in brutal competition for dwindling resources. Martial prowess is prized above all, and the greatest fighting man of Mars is John Carter.

John Carter is a veteran of the American Civil War who, through mysterious means, is transported to the red planet. On Mars, he has great strength due to the lower gravity, and can jump great distances. Upon arrival, he kills a “thark”—a nomadic, green Martian.

Soon he becomes involved with the politics of the tribe, and rises in rank due to his skills in combat and the strength of his sword arm. He meets a captured humanoid princess, Dejah Thoris, and falls in love. He rescues her and vows to return her to her people.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, originally published in 1912, is now considered a classic example of early pulp fiction. This first tale of Barsoom was published in All-Story Magazine as Under the Moons of Mars. Introduced in serial format, his stories quickly became popular with the reading public, and several of his formerly serialized tales were gathered and printed as novels. Altogether, Burroughs published eleven books about John Carter and his descendents over the course of thirty years.

Several American science fiction writers have been influenced by his stories. Ray Bradbury admired his stimulating tales and was inspired to write his Martian Chronicles, which used similar concepts of a dying Mars. Burroughs’ influence can also be seen in the writing of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as James Cameron and his blockbuster movie, Avatar, and George Lucas and the Star Wars saga.

The fighting man of Mars will have his own movie in March of 2012, John Carter of Mars, produced by Disney studios. If you can’t wait until March, the first three of the books have been collected into a single volume. Another recent release you’d enjoy is Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom edited by John Joseph Adams, an anthology of short stories inspired by the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Though better known for his character, Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs wrote seventy action-adventure stories ranging from westerns, adventures in a hollow earth, tales of lost islands, and even historical romances. His imagination and storytelling encouraged the public to support the US Space Program, and served as the creative spark for such scientists as Carl Sagan. The Burroughs crater on Mars is named in his honor. Perhaps the last great frontier isn’t waiting for us in outer space, but is as close as our own imagination…

Wage war? Or make love? Drop me an email at Miss a past column? Visit and catch up. Be sure to catch “The New Adventures of Hobo” in 4D. Glasses and nose filters are provided!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What in the World is World Book Night?

Read the Printed Word!
World Book Night is coming to the United States this year, and may just be arriving on the streets of Tioga County as well. On the evening of April 23, 2012, nearly 50,000 people will go out into their neighborhoods, across the United States, armed with twenty free copies of a book they are enthusiastic about sharing with people who currently don’t read much. The goal of World Book Night is to start conversations about books, between people who have been inspired by books, and folks who may think books don’t have much to say to them.

Book givers choose one book from a list of thirty books, designated as “accessible works of enduring quality” for this year’s event. The book givers then receive twenty copies of the title of their choice. The World Book Night titles are specially-produced, not-for-sale editions, to be freely given, to foster community literacy, communication, and the kind of conversation that comes out of people talking about a story that touches them.

In looking over this year’s list of thirty books, it is obvious how the choices match the mission statement for “accessible” stories: many aren’t “literary classics” in the traditional sense, but are instead contemporary books with appealing plots, intriguing characters, and realistic dialogue, across a broad spectrum of topics. (This is not to say that we shouldn’t read, or wax enthusiastic, about “literary classics”, which is one reason these works are taught in school.) World Book Night seeks to appeal to non-readers or light readers who need other books, or places besides school, to draw them in to quality writing and the joy of books.

The choices for World Book Night USA, 2012, include female and male authors, target both young adult and adult audiences, and were published as early as 1969 and as recently as 2010. They and their authors have won several awards; some have been made into movies and TV shows; a couple are regularly banned from school curricula or libraries; a couple have been dismissed by academics as “just popular fiction”; some have been touted by talk show hosts or TV book clubs. These books cover every topic from alien invasion to anorexia, from growing up in Afghanistan to doing mission work in Africa. Chosen from every genre from memoir to science fiction, murder mystery to the history of modern genetic research, there truly is something for everyone.

The organizers of the first World Book Night were inspired by the success of “World Book Day”, a literacy celebration in the UK and Ireland, now in its fifteenth year. On the first World Book Day, more than 600,000 school children cashed in a token in exchange for one of a list of specially-chosen books. As their website states, World Book Day is a partnership of people who love and work with books, who want to inspire a love of reading in children. Every child under 18 who is in full-time education in the UK or in Ireland receives a token. These tokens can then be taken to a bookshop and used either to redeem one of eight specially-produced World Book Day books, or to receive a “1 pound” discount off a regularly-priced book of their choice. On this March 1st, over 14 million book tokens will be given out in order to get children “closer to the books and authors they already love” and to help them discover more to love for their futures.

The first World Book Night was just a little less than one year ago, on March 5, 2011, all across the UK and Ireland. Backed by big-name authors, large publishing houses, bookstores small and large, it met with huge success. This year – only the second year of World Book Night as an event – will be the first year the success and spirit of World Book Night spreads to the United States. The hope is to encourage its growth into many more countries over the next several years.

For more information about World Book Night, including a full list of the thirty books chosen, check out their website at and watch for more news in the coming weeks, as book givers are chosen from the pool of applicants, with nearly twenty-five applicants from this area!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Her Star Will Never Go Out

Read the Printed Word!

*by Kasey Cox, written Jan. 9th, 2012

This week marks the release of one of the most widely-anticipated young adult books of the last year or more – John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Green’s writing hasn’t yet received the traditional press coverage of some authors, though his fans number in the tens of thousands already. For those of us late to the party, Green’s new book is an incredible place to begin to appreciate a literary and creative career whose star will only keep rising.

The phenomenon created by brothers John and Hank Green is an energetic, idealistic, powerful, organic force to be reckoned with, but may be more or less invisible to those who (a) are not well-versed in all the possibilities of youtube and “the interwebs”, (b)aren’t currently spending a lot of time with a teen who is enamoured of said ‘interwebs’, and/or (c)have yet to spend a great deal of time alone, surfing the internet and delving into all the connections that exist amongst the many new forms of social media.

The Green Brothers have garnered an enormous following over the past four years, inviting people to join them in an open, worldwide, online community who have become known as “Nerdfighters.” This all began in 2007 when the brothers challenged themselves to communicate for one year via youtube videos, posting them as “the Vlog Brothers” [Vlog = video blog, or video web log]. The year-long challenge inspired a growing fan base, who responded enthusiastically to the combination of silliness and smart which these brothers share. Their community of fans have been inspired to “fight worldsuck” by doing things as small as pledging not to be mean and things as large as raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity in their yearly “Project for Awesome.”

As someone whose main form of entertainment, distraction, and education has always been reading, and whose philosophies lean more toward Luddite, I’ll confess, I’ve alternately rolled my eyes and scorned the young adults I know who, it seems, might as well get it over with and have the wetware installed in their brains now. To me, technology is a useful tool. A cell phone is a PHONE. I occasionally watch a funny video on youtube, and I use my facebook page to spread business news for free and to connect with old friends. Listening to a tech-savvy teenager wax enthusiastic about “vlogs” and tumblr posts is a great way to feel old before I’ve hit my fortieth birthday.

I have to admit, though, I’ve seen the ways that various forms of social media are connecting people who might otherwise remain quite isolated. Sure, we can criticize those people who seem to spend so much of their lives on the computer, especially when we stereotype “those teens” who don’t read any more, or who should be spending time outside, or playing sports, “like we did when we were young.” But what if you’re a teen who lives in a very rural area? What if you don’t have a parent who can chauffeur you to a bunch of extra-curricular activities? What if you have a chronic illness that keeps you close to home, or limits your physical and social activities?

Many in the “Nerdfighteria” community became inspired by a young woman in just that situation. Esther Earl was diagnosed with an aggressive thyroid cancer at the age of 12, with extensive tumors already metastasized into her lungs. As she endured years worth of all kinds of treatments, Esther found her way into a creative, active social life through a growing community of online friends. First connecting with other proud, self-proclaimed “nerds” through the Harry Potter Alliance, then tapping into the “Nerdfighteria”, Esther kept herself fulfilled through these social connections and charitable causes. The internet was a venue that worked for her, and she, like John Green and Hank Green, found ways to use, for good, all the power and creativity possible there.

The Fault in Our Stars gives the reader the story of Hazel Lancaster, age 17, dying of cancer, who meets an interesting, attractive new guy at her support group for kids with cancer. Suddenly, everything is that much more bittersweet and weird and difficult and angst-ridden and exciting. Author Jodi Picoult explains how this book “takes a spin on universal themes – Will I be loved? Will I be remembered? Will I leave a mark on this world? – by dramatically raising the stakes for the characters who are asking.”

Inspired by knowing Esther, all through her fight with cancer, John Green penned The Fault in Our Stars, which, while dedicated to Esther Earl, is, he insists, a fiction novel. The book is not about Esther. It is FOR Esther, and for the thousands of children like her, who find themselves trying to simultaneously live a “normal” life while coming to terms, earlier than most, with the vulnerability and mortality that is an inevitable part of being human.