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



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.


M.A. Gavin


Dear M.A. Gavin,

If you can’t tell from the title, I am ecstatic it is reading month.  I think this comes only second to my excitement for Banned Books week in September.  You are currently at a point in life and school where everyday is reading month based on how much you have to read.  For me, however, reading month is permission to carry a baker’s dozen worth of books everywhere, wear my Green Eggs and Ham chucks everyday, and shamelessly spout the importance of reading to anyone who will even half listen.  Fortunately, as a teacher, I am not considered crazy despite my overwhelming excitement (yes, overwhelming is accurate word – as my students stare at me wide eyed and jaw dropped 97% of the time).

We have a pretty intense love of reading, but it is impressive how the love of reading comes in different forms.  For example, there is a bibliophile who is a lover of books.  According to Oxford Dictionaries website, a librocubcultarist describes “someone who reads in bed.”  A more colloquial term is a “bookworm,” which we have been called on more than one occasion.

While I think all three of these terms accurately describe me, I don’t think any of them accurately describe  a simple love of reading.  Reading anything and everything you can get your hands on, consuming an abundance of information, in various digital and print forms.  Remember when you first started learning to read, and the feeling you got when you started seeing and reading words all around you?  It is that ecstasy, that simple love and wonder of reading and the world, I return to each March.   I wish there was a word for that feeling, for that love of reading, not of books, not someone who reads quickly, but for someone infatuated by the act of reading and who engages in it as often as possible.  If you know the word for it, let me know; I should add it to my elevator speech.

Additionally, our love of reading is founded in personal idiosyncrasies.  For example, my ability to read in a car, but inability to read for more than five minutes after work without passing out book open in my lap, mouth agape, and drool dribbling down my chin.  Instead, I choose to get up earlier than I need to, in order to enjoy reading in the morning.  The peace I feel on Saturday mornings is near perfection, as the sun rises through my front window, birds chirping, a warm cup of tea in my favorite mug, my current read in my lap, and one or two puppies curled up nearby.  The absurd croaking – RIBIT! – I hear in my head or aloud anytime I come across a gushy part of a story adds to my reading experience every time.  Going back to reread old favorites, receiving recommendations, and exploring new genres, help my love of reading continue to grow and flourish.

I wish you and everyone else a most joyful reading month, full of adventures, romances, inquiries, and discoveries.  I implore you to share your love of reading with children by reading to or with them, and with friends or family members by giving recommendations or discussing what you’ve read.  I leave you with a well used, but ever accurate quote from George R.R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

Happy Reading,

M.R. Gavin

suMMer is calling my name!

M.R. Gavin,

Hello hello hello. It’s GORGEOUS in my corner of the world right now, sunny and 65 degrees! The past week has been crazy hectic and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon, but I’m glad I found a quick moment to reply to your letter.

Like you, I am very excited for this journey, and I have a feeling our letters, stories, jokes, and opinions will only get better as time goes on. We have a lot of  e x c i t i n g things coming our way that I have no doubt will lead to philosophical discussions on the meaning of life and to funny, embarrassing, and gut busting anecdotes.

This beautiful weather has me thinking a lot about summer, and I cannot wait for it to be here. In order to keep my excitement in check, I made a list of all the things I am most excited for this summer:

  1. LONDON – I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve been listening exclusively to British classic rock in preparation for my London summer adventure
  2. ICE CREAM – We eat a lot of ice cream to begin with, but copious ice cream consumption is deemed socially acceptable in the summertime.
  3. WARM WEATHER- It’s warm right now, but tomorrow there could be ten inches of snow on the ground. I prefer consistency.
  4. ALASKA – What can I say, this summer’s travel itinerary rocks! Also, did someone say whale watching?
  5. YOU – I’ll get to spend a whole week with you (and M.J. Gavin, Momaroo, Gramsicle, et al.) and we’ll be on a boat (woot woot!)
  6. BOOOOOOKS – Something about summertime reading is just magical
  7. DOGS – I miss all the puppers while I’m away, but I’ll get to hang out with Bubba for a few weeks in May
  8. SHORTS – and t-shirts and anything that is not a sweater or a coat.
  9. LONDON – I feel like this needs to be listed twice (also ALASKA)

(For the record, I made this a nine point list because I like square numbers.)

This week I read Five Point Someone: What Not To Do at IIT by Chetan Bhagat. I have some criticisms of it, but I think it’s worth reading. There is also a Bollywood movie called 3 Idiots based off the book. I watched it Friday, and I’ve had the soundtrack stuck in my head ever since (~ zoobi doobi zoobi doobi ~).

Talk soon!


M.A. Gavin

On Journeys

M.A. Gavin,

Thank you for the book recommendation.  I am rapidly approaching the end of a reading journey, and am looking for some new literature to explore.  As I complete The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I am reminded of what P.D. Duck would say, “The point of the journey is not to arrive.”  That quote is oddly fitting in both the context of a reader, and of the story.  The series is essentially about a man’s journey to the Dark Tower.  It is his entire life’s work, and although I have not finished, I am afraid the main character, Roland, may be disappointed in what he finds when he arrives, but hopefully, he recognizes the beauty and impact of his quest.  In the context of a reader, finishing a book is not the point.  If it where we would just skip to the end.

You offered a quote that very accurately describes our current political situation.  It is funny how you can always find a quote to describe a situation, but I find P.D. Duck’s quote – borrowed from Neil Peart – to be one I regularly reflect on.  If the point of life was to arrive, would we simply want to arrive at death?  Thank heavens that is not the case!  Each leg of life is a journey, and those journeys build and intersect to create a series of journeys  we call life.  Unfortunately, I often find myself less focused on the journey, and more focused on the outcome.

Imagine if instead of reflecting on a journey at its completion, we were more open to embracing the journey as it happened.  There could be more learning, more willingness to experiment and explore, more meaningful interactions; the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, a journey is just aimless wanderings if there isn’t some sort of end game or goal.  I guess my point is, while it is important to have goals and plans, we need to be willing to embrace changes and opportunities as they present themselves to make the most of the journey, and have the best outcome at the conclusion.

I am glad our journeys have largely overlapped, and for once I am not too anxious to see how this particular journey (writing) ends.  Instead, I am ready to embrace whatever our writing journey brings us, and enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph we string together.

While you left me with a book suggestion, I am not yet sure how I want to conclude my half of our correspondence.  So for now, I encourage you to embrace your journey, and hope to hear from you soon.

Happy reading, and happy writing!

-M.R. Gavin

To M.R. Gavin, With Love

My Dearest M.R. Gavin,

Please forgive my absence. I’ve been busy writing, reading, and trying to understand the state of the universe. It is an all-encompassing endeavor, as I am sure you can imagine. I was also pooped on by a low-flying pigeon, which, retrospectively, looked rather large and rather magical.

In my recent undertakings and thought experiments, I’ve dwelled on one of my all-time favorite quotes :”The spaceships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t” (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). It seems to me that the current political scene is much like bricks hanging in the sky. They should fall aggressively to the ground, succumbing to the rules of gravity, yet they continue to hang there precariously, threatening to crush us all on our morning commute. Further, to protect us all, I think we should be less concerned with building a wall, and more concerned with constructing a brick-proof forcefield. But thats just a thought.

As for your suggested reasons for my absence, I appreciate your creativity. Number one was relatively accurate. I have been busy exercising my civic duties, and have therefore neglected you. For this, I am truly sorry. Number two could never be true. Much as it pains me to say, I could never truthfully dislike you. You are the wind beneath my wings, the Shaggy to my Scooby, and the person I call when no one else will pick up the phone. As I stated previously, number three may have some merit, but I have no actual proof.Finally, I did not run away, at least no farther than normal. As always, you are more than welcome to visit, and I look forward to finding  you at my doorstep unannounced at 5:30 in the morning.

I would love to write you letters, and it will surely be a good place for political musings, funny stories, and bad puns. I don’t think we should constrain ourselves with a word count, given the enormity of our thoughts and the limit of our schedules. Should you be content with this amendment, I’d be happy to continue letter writing.

Finally, M.R. Gavin, I’d like to leave you with a book recommendation (I might make this a standing part of my letters). This week I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, and I think you’d enjoy it.

Until next time,

M.A. Gavin


Something new

M.A. Gavin,

It has been two months since the conclusion of our first co-authored story, and two months since the election that has undoubtedly changed our country.  Why we stopped writing is a mystery to me, although I would like to suggest some potential reasons.

1: The election results.  Due to the election of now President Donald J. Trump (#notmypresident), you were initially too depressed to continue writing our silly stories – designed primarily for our own entertainment.  Now, because of the political atmosphere you are distracted from writing by other obligations to defend the rights of fellow Americans, protest the insanity of the political scene, and to educate yourself with an arsenal of material to provoke conversation and potentially open the eyes of others.  Perhaps, now that we have this new president, we can restructure our blog from fiction to a platform allowing us to provoke thought and conversation.

2:  You no longer like me.  Was I too much for you over the holidays?  Did I overstep a line when we wore matching pajamas?  Are you holding a grudge because my dog vomited in your bed?  Perhaps I didn’t laugh at one of your jokes – I am obligated as your straight man.   Was I not gracious enough when you cooked for me?   Whatever the possibility, I express my sincerest apologies and hope to make it up to you with a round of naked yoga, bird calling, or an extremely large dish of ice cream, and then, continue our writing endeavors.

3: You were attacked by a magical creature.  Is there a creature capable of stealing one’s memories?  There must be!  Why else would you have stopped our writing experiment?  One day you were walking in the city, contemplating your next piece of writing, brainstorming how we should proceed, and suddenly, it swooped out of the sky and knocked all memory of this blog right from your head.  Why else would you have left me hanging?

4: You ran away.  We are certainly not the most well traveled pair.  Maybe you decided it was time for you to embark on a hero’s quest.  Exploring the great unknown you are traveling far and wide, north and south, east and west meeting a host of people opening your eyes to far better writing than ours, new ideas and views of others.  Regardless of where you are travelling… WHY DIDN’T YOU INVITE ME?!

Well, those are my primary thoughts on where you could be, or what could have happened to our writing endeavor.  Nonetheless, I felt it was time to pick up one pen and see what happens.  I propose we begin again either with a new fictional story, or in a blog correspondence, or whatever else you may fancy.  We still choose a day to post, and stay at approximately 500 words.

I hope you consider this proposal and pick up a pen.  Please include if any of my above conclusions are correct (I am leaning toward 2 or 3 being most likely).

Happy Reading!