Gather the Gavins!

Greetings M.R. Gavin,

I’m finding myself very unproductive at the moment, so I thought I’d write to you. Seeing as we spent the weekend together, I don’t have a whole lot to tell you that you don’t already know. My birthday has passed. The holiday weekend is over. Everyone is back to their day jobs, counting down to vacation.

As much as I enjoy getting to sleep in on a random Monday in May, I kind of resent Memorial Day. Everyone came home for the weekend; we sat on the patio and laughed at family stories. We cuddled with pups and ate greasy diner food. All in all, it was a great time. It just wasn’t enough time.

Memorial Day weekend gave me a glimpse of what it would be like if our whole family lived close by. We could be like one of those crazy families in movies and TV dramas that gather for dinner every Sunday and have a standing breakfast date on Wednesday mornings. We could stop by with leftover birthday cake or to borrow that navy sweater you wore that one time.

A few days is just enough time to remind you how fluffy the family dog is and how sassy Grams is. Its enough time to make you want more and to be disappointed when its over as soon as its started. And then you go back to your life – your apartment, your job, your respective pin on the map – and you miss everyone ten times more than you did on Friday.

I need time to hang out, laugh, eat, and THEN get sick of you and WANT to go back to my separate corner of the globe.

See you in a couple months.

Love,

M.A. Gavin

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Reading Representation

Dear M.A. Gavin,

Thank you for sharing your insights on the ever present topic of gun control in America. I agree with much of what you said.

Today however, I would like to write about Reading Month again.  Last year around this time, I wrote a post about my love of reading and the impact of reading on my life. While those things have not changed, I have grown in my reading and use of reading to learn about the world. One thing has become exceedingly clear to me over the past year: REPRESENTATION MATTERS.

Let me explain. Reading month is in March for Read Across America, which is basically a national movement to encourage a love of reading. However, it is historically associated with one children’s book author in particular: Dr. Seuss. His stories are famous for their rhymes, silliness, and fun. They are beloved books for children to listen to, and are reasonably accessible for early independent reading. But they lack diversity, and provide no representation for people of color. Were Dr. Seuss’s books a product of the time? Possibly, but that doesn’t mean in modern times we should overlook this problem.

I am not saying, we should oust Dr. Seuss books entirely. They are fun reads, but I am saying for every Dr. Seuss book read to children, there should be two more with a greater representation of characters. As a former educator in a school with mostly black students, it took a concerted effort to find books that had characters that looked like my students. Consider our own childhood. Black characters have been type cast in books, particularly children’s books. They make appearances in books about slavery, in books about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and the civil rights movement, and other stereotypes like basketball and athletes, but if you are looking for a fun uplifting, normal children’s storybook with characters of color, finding one in a school library is not the easiest.

This needs to change. Children are malleable; they understand and make connections in ways adults can’t even begin to imagine. The lack of representation in children’s books affects them. It projects an idea that people who look like them aren’t worthy of being in a book. That books are only about people that don’t look like them. While this is generally not intentional, it is an effect. Students are vastly more excited by a book that they can connect with – either because they enjoy the topic, or more so because they can relate to the characters. For our youngest readers and those who Read Across America is intended for this begins by having illustrations that represent diverse readers. Beyond representation of people of color, there is also a huge problem in children’s literature representing people with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals, and women in all of these categories.

Obviously, this is not just an issue in children’s literature. It is a problem in adult literature as well. The other day I went to a bookstore and it had an African American Literature section, but it was one shelf, compared to the six rows of fiction before it. This is a consistent problem in the media and Hollywood. It is not unusual for a white actor or actress to play a character of color. Actors of color are underrepresented, not recognized by awards for their works, and consistently type cast into stereotypical roles.

In my opinion representation in children’s literature is a place where this problem can begin to change long term. If children feel represented and valued, they will know their worth, they won’t doubt their abilities, they will feel empowered. With that they will grow to be transformational leaders, to be change makers. However, it is adults responsibility, as parents, teachers, mentors, writers, publishers, ect., to ensure they are represented and to ensure they have relatable literature to read and engage with that shows characters like them doing amazing things.

As I continue growing my library of children’s literature, I am making a strong effort to ensure my future children see diverse representation in literature, despite being a white child. I want them to respect all people, to see beauty in everyone, and to recognize that regardless of what a person looks like they have power within them. This reading month, I implore all readers to share their love of reading with someone, a child, a friend, a sibling, but more than that, I want you to think about how the literature you share with young readers impacts their view of themselves, of the world, and whether or not it perpetuates the systematic injustices of the world, or if it works to break them.

Yours in reading,

-M.R. Gavin

Thoughts, Prayers, and a Promise to Act

Hi M.R. Gavin,

Sorry its been a while since my last note. I could blame homework or my Olympic obsession, but that wouldn’t be the entire truth.

The truth is I’m disheartened. In the wake of yet another school shooting, I feel remarkably sad, exceedingly angry, and frustratingly helpless. Academics have always been a source of comfort for me, and school a welcome shelter from the outside world. It makes me sick that American schools have turned into a war zone and students are a physical casualty of political ideology.

I know that I have some power, however limited, to encourage change. I have written my senators begging for increased gun control, assault weapons bans, and the prioritization of students over guns. I continue to speak and debate tirelessly with those around me, so as to ensure that gun violence is neither normalized nor forgotten. I can attend marches, protests, and sit-ins. I stay up to date on current events, read voraciously, and listen to those with knowledge and political expertise. I intend on voting only for politicians with strong gun control stances. Still, my actions feel useless, a drop in a bucket with a hole in the bottom.

I am holding tightly onto that which give me hope. I am encouraged by the surviving students of the Florida school massacre. They’ve refused to be silenced, and have employed their grief as a catalyst for political and moral change. I am reassured by our hometown newspaper which, despite being circulated in a red county, published a front page article calling for gun control and the prioritization of student safety. I draw hope from those who have traded in party allegiance in exchange for human dignity and moral observance.

I think of the victims, I pray for their families, and I advocate on their behalf to prevent future tragedy. Thoughts and prayers are most effective when combined with actions.

 

With a heavy heart,

M.A. Gavin

Bring Me All The Food – Please

Hello M.A. Gavin,

It is snowing again. The snow is lovely, but it arrived after a brief period of warm weather, which made me long for spring. I started thinking about reading in the sun, going for walks with PenelopeBlossom, being hot, melting ice cream but alas, winter has returned and doesn’t look as though it’s going anywhere soon.

Let’s talk about FOOD!

Food culture is so interesting to me. Everyone needs food to survive, to provide nourishment and there are so many different segments of the food culture it is almost overwhelming. Think about food on social media. I would say there are at least five different segments approaching food on social media platforms.

  1. Your regular user snapping a quick pic of their meal at a restaurant, or a meal they made and are proud of. This segment of food culture is consider TMI by some, but it is also another great connector like music, books, and smiles. Everyone needs to eat. Most people are often looking for a new place to go or recipe to try, so why not share it with your friends. This also connects to the social aspect of food culture, which I will be looking at later in this post.
  2. Food reviewers. Reviewers and influencers are one of the largest growing self-employment sectors. If you like food, can take good pictures of food, can share your honest thoughts, and get a lot of followers, restaurants will feed you and invite you to do so! Personally, I follow several food related Instagrams in the Detroit area and the Philadelphia area and because of them I am constantly learning about new locally owned restaurants to try.
  3. Nutrition/Meal Planning Bloggers. These could probably be separated into two different categories, but I am grouping them together because they accomplish the same thing. Providing people with recipes, or food information in order for their followers to pursue a certain lifestyle. These include people showing the world their vegan journey, or parents sharing what quick and easy meals their kids like, or nutrition coaches demonstrating what a balanced food lifestyle looks like.
  4. Food Porn. Social media dedicated to certain types of food, for aesthetic sake and to basically make their followers mouth’s water 24/7. I am ice cream obsessed and will look longingly at pictures of ice cream all day, or beautiful cakes, or homegrown fruits and veggies. As long as it looks pretty I am in!
  5. Businesses. Obviously business are huge users of social media as it is an essential marketing tool in today’s world. They use it to announce specials, advertise, and simply spread the word about their products and services.

With these segments of food on social media, you see a variety of trends within each based on region, preferences, and all sorts of other things. It is mind boggling to me how something so unglamorous – literally a thing we do to survive, like breathing – is so fundamental to our social world. Which leads me to my next point about food. It is a social medium. Think about it. Where do most families gather when they are altogether? The kitchen, or the table. Where do you meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a long time? A restaurant or bar. What is at every party you have EVER been to (and if it hasn’t, was it really a party or just a meeting)? FOOD. Food brings people together: families, friends, colleagues, strangers. One of the easiest things to talk about with someone you’ve never met before is food they like to eat or make or restaurants they like to go to. Why? People relate to food.

Sometimes, I hear older generations ask why people share every minuscule aspect of their day on social media platforms. It is honestly a question I can’t answer, most likely because that’s not my style. I am a private person, as are you (I mean really we don’t use our names on this blog), but sharing your meal on social media isn’t all that different from talking about it, and if it is being shared on social media, it is probably also being talked about face to face. It is simply a different platform than previous generations are used to.

So there you have my thoughts on food. I will be honest in saying, it is probably what I think about the most in life. More than PenelopeBlossom, family, or curling. Because when I’m thinking about food, I’m inherently connecting those things. “Oh this is a restaurant M.A. Gavin and I should try.” “I need to send this recipe to M.J. Gavin.” “This would be great to eat while watching Olympic Curling.”

Now I am hungry. Maybe I’ll brave the snow to get some ice cream and then wash it down with hot chocolate and marshmallows. Dinner is already cooking in the crockpot (loaded baked potato soup if you care to know). Feel free to join me, although I don’t think any planes are landing here today.

Till we gather in the kitchen,

-M.R. Gavin

State of the Uniom

Tonight, President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union Address since taking office in January of 2017. Fox News has exclusively acquired a copy of his speech. It’s printed below. It has not been altered from its original state, all director’s notes are President Trump’s own.

(Applause)

Thank you. Good Evening. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady of the United States.

Settle down, settle down. Look at that guy still clapping. See? He loves me. Just like the American people. The real American people love me.

Last year, a month after my inauguration, I addressed Congress to discuss plans to Make America Great Again. I was the first President to give such a speech. In my remarks, I laid out plans to cleanse America of mistakes made by previous administrations and to reestablish America as a great and thriving world leader. Since that address, we, the American people, have made great strides towards a prosperous, safe, and free future.

(Applause)

Since I came into office last year, we’ve accomplished much as an American people. The economy, as a result of my tireless efforts on the golf course, is booming. BOOM – ing. The stock market is growing at an unpresidented rate and unemployment is at an all time low. (Really Big Applause) These are direct results of my refusal to coordinate with global economies and my continuous urging of congress to deregulate. I have also worked hard, despite pushback from the Democrats, to close our borders entirely – except perhaps to the kind and pure Norwegian people. Without access to the outside world, our economy will thrive. American people will buy American products and employ American people. We will rise again.

In the past year, we have accomplished many great feats. Of these, we passed the Tax Reform Act. This act, passed rapidly with the help of speed reading demons, puts money back in the pockets of the American people. Back in the double-breasted, Armani suit pockets of the everyday, working-class American people.

(Applause)

As we continue to strive for greatness, we must acknowledge past mistakes – other’s mistakes that is – and do our best to regain safety, security, and prosperity. This will be accomplished by the removal of dangerous and unqualified people from our great land. As I speak, murderers, drug dealers, and members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are being forcibly removed.

(Applause, ICE enter, members of the audience are escorted out of the room in handcuffs.)

Robert Mueller is, at this very moment, being detained. After tonight, he will no longer be able to bring discord or disillusion to our country. He will be Mexico’s problem.

(Audience member begins “Send him to Mexico” chant)

Speaking of Mexico, I spoke at length during my campaign and in my address to Congress last year about the construction of the great, great border wall. I would like to assure the American people that construction of this great, great wall will continue. We will protect our land from criminals, rapists, and free-thinkers. And do not worry! Mexico will be paying for our safety.

Very, very far from Mexico is a very, very small man named North Korea. (No relation to North Kardashian). He is a small and insignificant bug with firework play things in his backyard and a very small red button. Know, we Americans are not afraid. We raise our very large hands to our very large nuclear button in a mutually assured destruction game of chicken. We will win. Our chickens are stronger and filled with steroids because our food is not regulated.  Hawaii can attest to the vast success of our military protection and power.

As you may have noticed, there are a number of people missing from tonight’s engagement. Snowflake Liberal Dems have chosen to boycott my speech.

(Look directly into camera)

I would like to tell these people that America will be Great and that we do not need them to make it that way. Their refusal to attend historical and patriotic events reflects poorly only on them and shows disrespect for the American people. The American people, especially those who voted for Crooked Hillary (a faint “Lock Her Up!” is heard from the balcony) and her minions, should be ashamed.

(Big Applause)

To those Americans who have been pillars of patriotism, you are the heart of this great land. (Applause) Actually, I am the heart. You all are capillaries. Yes. Capillaries. You keep my heart going and have spread believe in me across the country, so that I may continue my – I mean our – pursuit for greatness.

As the fake news media insists on spreading lies about me, I remind everyone I am not a liar. CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, BBC, Russian Prostitutes, my son, the Washington Post, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, John Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Saturday Night Live, the Pendleton Record, every woman ever, Billy Bush, Henry Holt and Company, Stephen King, Anderson Cooper, Melissa McCarthy, my other son, and Nordstrom continue to spread lies.

(Booing)

They are liars. I am a truther.

(Applause)

Melania, I will be truthful, I am sorry. I am sorry that you believe the fake news media and I forgive you for wearing a pussy bow when I won the 2016 Presidential Election.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States, and God bless Fox News.

(Thunderous Applause)

-M.M. Gavin

 

The Inspiration Olympics

Hello M.R. Gavin,

In your last letter you asked what inspires me and how I mold that inspiration into something more. Inspiration is something that I think about often and fight with daily. As  such, I think it only appropriate that I dedicate the entirety of this not to trying (though likely failing ) to respond to your query.

I am inspired when my surroundings change. I am privileged to have spent a large chunk of the past year traveling. Being surrounded by new people and old buildings has a way of filling your soul with a simultaneous creative contentment and unsettling. At once you feel both relief to be in the place you are and drive to leave your own mark and inspire others. I firmly believe that a change of scenery is the single best solution to writers block.

I am inspired when I am angry. It seems counterintuitive, but my best writing emerges when I am enraged. Putting words to paper makes me feel as if my grievances are validated, and also gives me a platform of ideas on which to plan my next move. In the past year and a half, our political state has been a particularly fruitful source of inspiration.

I am inspired by the people that I care about. You. M.J. Gavin. P.D. Gavin. Susan. I am very grateful that the list could go on seemingly forever. I am inspired by their dedication, their passions, their joys, and their fears. They give me the courage to do things which scare me and the resources to fall back on should I fail. I think inspiration is contagious.

I am inspired when I do something which scares me. Sometimes this means traveling to a foreign country by myself. Other times this means speaking up in class. Fear is a finicky thing. It exists in the life-altering and in the minute, yet it fills the jar regardless. The same goes for inspiration. My capacity for inspiration can be filled equally by events of incomparable magnitude.

The second part of your question was how I turn inspiration into something more. This is a little more difficult to answer, especially since most of my creative energy is dedicated to mandated school work. That said, I believe we should treat derivatives of inspiration in the same manner we treat inspiration itself. If the smallest of moments can ignite creative energy the same as a large event, then why should all resulting works be compared by size? Writing is writing. It has the potential to fill another person with inspiration whether its sitting on a blog or on the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In closing, I guess the best I can suggest is to go with your gut. Don’t second guess yourself or pin your success on the opinions of others. You are a beautiful, strong, creative musk ox. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

Peacefully,

M.A. Gavin

Inspiration & Conundrum

M.A. Gavin,

I hope this does not find you too late. In reverse order my advice is as follows:

  1. Perhaps tap the gentleman on the shoulder and offer him a blanket, or a coffee.
  2. Express your distaste for violence and that you seek to achieve higher things through peaceful means.
  3. Come live with me. Last time we began this enjoyable blog.
  4. Having a pet is perhaps the best thing in my life. Perhaps even better than having you, although that is likely because they are always near at hand, while you are quite out of reach. Name it M.R. Gavin.

I’ve never been much for advising, so I recommend taking my opinions with an entire salt shaker.

What inspires you? I find myself thinking about inspiration a lot recently. Not because I lack it, but because I’m not sure how to turn the things that inspire me into something more. But before I get to that conundrum, I’d like to tell you a few things that inspire me.

First, are people. My family and friends especially inspire me to try things, to persist, to engage in life. I watch my family and friends on each of their own journeys and their resilience in difficult situations and even normal life circumstances, and it inspires me, because those situation are scary. Furthermore, the love of family and friends and their constant believe and encouragement is ever so helpful when I get trapped inside my own head.

Second, is little moments. Any small moment that puts a smile on my face is truly inspiring because I never know when they are going to occur. It could be a sweet moment between PenelopeBlossom, a random interaction with a stranger, or even a smell. Actually, to be honest, smells and sounds get me a lot. These little moments occur when I am least expecting them – most often while people-watching and I see others interact in adorable or comical ways. This inspiration has been helpful in growing my list of potential writing topics.

Third, is learning. I am inspired by almost everything I read. By the writing quality, the descriptions, the content. Even when I dislike something I read, I am inspired not to repeat that writer’s mistakes. Additionally, learning can be an almost constant occurrence. I learn from activists, from colleagues, from everyone because everyone has different life experiences to share and learn from.

Now to the conundrum.  I am inspired by so many things, but I have yet to find a sufficient way in which to utilize that inspiration as something “more.” By more, I mean a job that people would respect and consider admirable. I’m not looking for recognition, but I am looking for respect. That my passion and inspiration can be turned into something that makes a difference. They make a difference to me and they are respected by those closest to me, but there is a distinct difference in reactions when you tell someone you are a doctor or an engineer verses working for a nonprofit or even teaching. It is one of the more challenging things I’ve had to deal with in adulthood and hope that you are never faced with the feeling of inadequacy it generates. With that said, I am not writing this post to complain, but just to explain some of the things that inspire me and some of the questions I run through on a regular basis. I am extremely content and even invigorated by my current work, but it is not something easily shared as of yet.

Finally, I just chugged a bottle of water and am now shivering. This happens almost every time I drink a bottle of water and I think I need to find out why that is. Or just drink my water more slowly.

I’ll leave you with a quote that is a current inspiration for me. Helen Keller once said, “When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” I will continue doing my best and what makes me happy, and hope I see the impact some day.

Always yours,

-M.R. Gavin