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

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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

In need of input, please advise.

Hello M.R. Gavin,

I have a few things I’d like to discuss with you.

First and foremost, I want to  adopt a bunny. Now I recognize that given my current status as an income-lacking and at times very busy student, adopting a pet must be done only after careful and reflective consideration. I must answer many questions before diving into the rewarding and challenging world of pet parenting. These questions include but are not limited to:

What would I name the bunny?

What if the bunny already came with a name?

Floppy eared or pointy eared? (Admittedly I am unsure what the correct term is for non-floppy bunny ears)

Should I buy the bunny a sweater?

Should I buy the bunny a bunny sweater?

As I’m sure you can agree, these are difficult and life altering inquiries to address. Please advise.

Second, I am trying to decide what to do with my summer. As you are aware, I have a summer stipend to use, and I could get an internship or study abroad (a third option is an independent project, but I’m not really sure how I’d swing that). I’m hesitant to take just any internship. I’ve done the internship thing more than once now, and if I’m going to do it again, I need to know that I’ll be doing more that putting together spreadsheets and making copies (this is not to say that I did not enjoy or benefit from previous work and internship experiences, simply that I’d like to take on bigger projects if I intern again this summer). If I study abroad, I will not have any money. That would not be ideal, especially if I adopt a bunny and want to buy it a sweater. Please advise.

Third, I am filling out an application now which requires me to write a reflection on the notion of “punching above one’s weight.” I’m not much for violence, unless of course it is for WWE or hockey. Therefore, I am struggling to answer the question. Please advise.

Finally, as a sit in the library writing this post, a man sitting two seats to the left of me has fallen asleep and is snoring relatively loudly. This would not be a problem except for the fact that we are sitting in the quiet zone. I would kick him to wake him up, but, as previously mentioned, violence is not my cup of tea. Please advise.

 

Peacefully,

M.A. Gavin

 

 

Growth (Despite being Short)

My Dearest M.A. Gavin,

I know it has only been a few weeks, but I miss you immensely and I hope your travels and studies have treated you well in the interim.  I am glad to see you have been reading and will add all of your suggestions to my list.

While you completed a sort of recap of 2017, I’ve decided to write about my hopes and goals moving into 2018.  With that said, I have never been a fan of the colloquially “New Years Resolution,” and prefer to make changes when I recognize they are needed or desired. Nonetheless, I do like to sit down and reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year with those reflections in mind.

As I reflect on 2017, I noted many changes in my professional life, and – partially because of those changes – growth in terms of my mental and spiritual well being. Those are the things I am seeking to continue as 2018 proceeds and they simmer down into the following three big ideas.

  1. 30 Day Challenges. I watched a TED Talk by Matt Cutts (linked here) several years ago about trying something new and sticking to it for thirty days. While his oratory style is not my favorite, the message he gave stuck with me. Doing things over a period of time make them a habit. Last year I made a concerted effort to read everyday. Now if I don’t read at least of few pages, my day feels incomplete. The point is, I plan on using this “challenge” to try new things and better my overall physical, mental, and spiritual well being.  I have several months already decided, but if you have additional suggestions I would love to consider them.
  2. Engage in a community of learners. You may not know this about me, but I am incredibly shy and unfortunately instead of my shyness ebbing with age it has increased.  While I have the most beautiful circle of close friends and family a person could ever want, close friends and family are not always the people who will push one’s thinking, teach one something new, or provide unbiased feedback. This is not to say you do not challenge me, because you do. Instead it is about sharing with others and learning from others I would not otherwise engage with. Be this on a social media platform, a book club, or a volunteer position, I hope to work to get out of my shell and engage with others in order to learn and grow, and to contribute to important conversations.
  3. Read to learn. I have always been in love with reading and over the past year have successfully returned to reading for enjoyment and making reading a priority. Whilst doing so, I made an effort to read a variety of literature from diverse authors in order to learn about other people, their opinions, and how they view the world. This year I plan to continue exploring those writers, and I am hoping to expand my reading to other formats as well. Find a newsletter like the one you suggested, read articles from diverse authors and publications, scholarly publications, ect.  

Ultimately, for me 2018 is going to be about growth. And in truth, isn’t every year about growth? When we were kids each birthday meant we had grown physically, mastered a year’s worth of school, and experienced a plethora of new things, because when you are young everything is new.  I hope to keep that in mind this year.

Happy Reading,

-M.R. Gavin

READ A BOOK!

Hi M.R. Gavin,

I’m baaaacccckkkkkkkk. I’ve been reading quite a few books recently. Which isn’t unusual, except for the fact that this is pleasure reading. Not for school. Not for class or applications or professional development. Exclusively and selfishly for me.

As it’s only the second day of the New Year, I thought it still appropriate to share my favorites of 2017. Following in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama, it will be a compilation of all things of importance of 2017.

Let’s kick off the list with The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can’t say this book was good. That seems inappropriate given the entire story is about the suicides of five sisters. But damn was it fascinating. The entire story was told from the perspective of the middle-school aged neighbor boys, thus lending itself to discussion on voice, perspective, representation, ownership, etc. Please read it.

Next on the list is 1984 by George Orwell. Once again, given its content, I can’t say the book was good. I also can’t believe I waited this long to read it. Though given current national and international affairs, it felt applicable. Can we please see the play?

I also started reading The Broadsheet, a newsletter devoted to sharing stories for, about, and by powerful women. Nothing kicks off my day like a healthy dose of empowering literature about badass women.

“The Real Slim Shady” was my most listened to song on Spotify for 2017. There’s not much I can say about that.

Langston Hughes poetry became my jam in 2017. Let America Be (America Again) was a personal favorite. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.

Word of the year: teleological.

Personal catchphrase: Do Better.

I could go on, but 2018 is fleeting and I have some Eminem to catch up on.

Toodles,

M.A. Gavin