Margaret Junior: A Lesson in Nontraditional Labels

A day or two ago, I ran into someone named Margaret Elizabeth Franklin, Jr. Well, I didn’t exactly run into her. I was being nosy like always, and I felt compelled to insert myself into her conversation. It was so fascinating. Usually, I merely listen when I’m being nosy. But this topic reeled me in. If you want to have privacy, don’t have conversations in a public place talking all loud. At least talk in a whisper or soft murmur. I can’t help it if I happen to hear what you’re discussing. ***laughing out loud***

Well, anyway, I was sitting in the lobby of an office building and a lady seated near me was talking to someone and identified herself as Margaret E. Franklin, Jr. She is the first female I have ever known of who was a Junior. It intrigued me, as I’ve been been very interested in studying non-traditional roles and responsibilities in our interpersonal relationships.  So, I butted into the conversation, being that I’m such an inquisitive person. Margaret was named after her mom, Margaret Elizabeth Franklin. Mom is Senior, and this lady is Junior. This situation solidified for me a lesson I learned a couple of years ago. You can’t ever look at names to judge someone’s gender. A Junior is traditionally reserved for men, but women could just as easily be a Junior too. Margaret told me how her parents couldn’t decide on a name. They had been going back and forth over many different possible names without reaching an agreement. Dad suggested in frustration, “We should just name her Margaret Junior and call it a day.” After a short pause, they thought it would be the perfect name, and they decided to stick with it.

You can’t ever rely on a person’s name to determine their gender. I have worked with women named Eddie, Kyle, Andre, and Le’Dennis. My mom used to go a hairdresser in Waldorf, Maryland named Mikey. These are all names one might presume were men. Then there are names like Quincy, Shawn, Terry, Jamie, Chris, Randy, and Alex – all of which are unisex. Sometimes when responding to email messages at work, I get stuck knowing how to respond. Just this morning I was in that situation. I don’t want to write, “Mr. Smith” when it should be Ms. Smith” or address someone as “he” when “she” is the preferred pronoun. So, I try hard to address people in neutral ways if I’m unsure. Perhaps the person is gender fluid and is okay being addressed as either (or neither in some instances). I’m getting more comfortable asking if I the situation lends itself to do so. I would rather ask than get it wrong and address someone incorrectly. My friend Darren Calhoun opened my mind to this.

I told Margaret Junior how impactful her story was to me and I thanked her for speaking with me. I also let her know I’d be writing an article in my blog about our conversation. She thought that would be wonderful. I tell you like I told her, stories like this help to open people’s eyes and help eradicate biases that exist among the genders. In a world in which we’re now more aware than in year’s past of embracing people’s individual differences especially when it comes to gender roles and non-binary* labels and identities, the conversation I had with Margaret Junior reminded me how important it is for everyone to be secure and confident with themselves whoever they are; furthermore, it’s equally as important for everyone to respect others’ choices and let people be. Live and let live is the most stress-free way to be. Thank you, Margaret Junior, for helping me spread the word.

*Non-binary is a term that refers to individuals who label themselves neither as male or female, or as neither masculine or feminine. Sometimes non-binary can also refer to a person who identifies with a gender that is different than the anatomy they have. Some people use non-binary as a sub-compartmented term encapsulated within the transgender umbrella. Another term that is often bantered about in this context is intersex or intersexual (or intersectionality), though the terms are not necessarily interchangeable. This variations in the meanings of these terms can be a little confusing and also could be a separate article on its own. I’m making a note to write one on some future date. I’m not sure when that will be. But if you hunger to know now, watch this short, superb video clip. It’s a perfect description. Actually, it’s one of the best explanations I’ve ever seen.



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House Fire Tragedy

Random House Fire

I just heard of someone a few blocks from where I live who died in a house fire, a fire a lot like the house in this picture. It’s a sad and tragic thing to face a fire in your home and to lose everything. The situation is doubly tragic when the fire pops up and you cannot get out in time. The worst part of this specific tragedy is, the fire marshal reported the home didn’t have a working smoke detector.

It’s troubling to me that people choose not to have a smoke detector. People spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy their house, but they don’t spend the money for a smoke detector. That’s something I cannot fathom; it doesn’t make sense to me. A good quality device can cost about $30-$40. You can spend more than $100 for a high-end device, but that’s not necessary (i.e., do you need a BMW or will a Toyota get the job done). The $30 device is more than adequate. That’s peanuts. But then, many people who have a smoke detector don’t take time to check/test it annually or quarterly to ensure it’s still working properly. It hurts me to think of people who might possibly have gotten out from a burning home in time if only they had a working smoke detector. If you are a renter, your landlord is responsible for installing a smoke detector at no cost to you. If your rental property doesn’t have one, call your landlord and insist she handle it pronto.

Sometimes I’ll ask people I know, in random conversations, whether they have a smoke detector. They sometimes look at me with a side eye. I also might even ask if they have an emergency evacuation plan. For some reason, people have this, “That won’t happen to me.” frame of mind. A fire extinguisher is another necessity too, which can cost you about $30; however, it’s better to get out and call 911 than to try and battle a fire that might overwhelm you.

According to recent reports from the National Fire Prevention Association, approximately 3,000 people die in house fires each year, and nearly 20,000 are injured either from the fire directly or smoke inhalation. Those numbers are alarming. The awareness campaigns are evidently insufficient, since too many people haven’t gotten the message.

If you have friends or relatives who own homes without a smoke detector, buy them one and encourage them to test it periodically. We must look out for one another. Like the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, even a grown child.

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Polaroid the Movie on Netflix


As I get older, I find my attention span gets worse with each passing day. It takes a lot to keep my attention whether its people, music, movies, or anything really. This played out recently with the movie Polaroid.

A few days ago, I started watching Polaroid. Let me tell you this: if a movie doesn’t hook me within the first 5-7 minutes, it’s a good chance I’ll turn it off. Once or twice I have gone to a theater to see a movie and got up and walked out when the plot didn’t keep me interested. Well, Polaroid didn’t keep me interested, so I turned it off and moved on to something else.

The next day, I got an email from Netflix alerting me that I began watching Polaroid but didn’t finish it. I guess Netflix thinks I couldn’t remember that I started it but didn’t finish it. I decided to go and read some professional reviews of the film. My expectations for movies tend to be quite high. When I’m disappointed so soon into it, I may think I’m being too critical. As an aside, I’m not even going to talk about the Big Brother action, with Netflix monitoring me and noticing I didn’t finish the film.

Sooooo, I checked out three independent review sites and each one gave the movie poor ratings. When I received the Netflix email, I was tempted to go and try to finish it (I never got past the first 10 minutes). But after reading the very bad reviews, I think I’ll just pass, since there are so many other good shows I could spend my time watching.

Have you seen Polaroid? If so, tell me if you think I’m being too hard on it and should give it another shot. No spoilers, please. If you haven’t seen it and know nothing about it, the official trailer is below.

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Bad News for Education

I checked my email last night and found a message from a group list I am on from the National Education Association regarding the massive budget cuts to education spending Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have proposed for 2021. The proposal is to cut more than $6 billion dollars. Yes, that’s $6 billion in cuts. It’s actually $6.1 billion to be exact. That’s huge. Huge, I tell you.

It should come as no surprise to anybody that low-income students and families would suffer the most. In addition to this, the Trump Administration also wants to cut $181 billion to the budget of  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a food stamps). If you’ve been paying attention, you should have been noticing how the Trump Administration keeps launching attacks at the most vulnerable citizens. Most of the key cabinet members have lived with a silver spoon in their mouths. They can’t conceive of the plight of everyday, common men, women and children.

   It’s not a done deal, though. There’s still a chance it could die in committee. Congress has the last word. There are still some allies in Congress, allies of education and of low-income citizens. If this issue interests you, fill out this form to quickly and easily tell your members of Congress to reject this ludicrous proposal. I just did, and it took me about two minutes. Education spending has already been subpar. This proposed cut for 2021 is inexcusable. Anyone who is a teacher, a student, a parent, or anybody who deeply cares about education should let their representatives know to reject this budget. Be sure to invite your friends and associates to do so too.

Lastly, this should be an important enough issue to galvanize folks to get out and vote in October. In addition to the Office of President, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 50 Senate seats are up for re-election. This would be the perfect time to clean house. Most of them have been in office for far too long. I swear, we need term limits for all political positions at all levels; however, that’s a topic for another day.

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Social Media Fasting

Sometimes the news is very draining. Very. It’s so draining that I shield myself from news sources. I’ll typically do a quick search for weather so I’ll know how to dress and whether to take my umbrella – or I’ll check for Metro updates for any possible delays or down stations – and that’s the extent of my quest to get any news. It’s been that way with me for a long time. Because current events (especially world events) often greatly impact my professional work day, I get more than enough of what’s going on in the world. Too much, actually.

Then, I’ll look at social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) seeking fun, lighthearted banter only to see my feed on each of those platforms flooded with news, most of which is quite depressing news. Occasionally, I found myself learning of many things via social media for the first time, such as, when George Zimmerman got acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin; the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett (which happened on the same day); Luke Perry’s, George Michael’s, and Prince’s death; the city of Detroit filing for Bankruptcy; the Malaysian Airline plane that was shot down near Ukraine; the mass shootings from the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas; and many other events. I learned about Kobe Bryant online too. Initially, I wondered why I was seeing his face with words of condolences, until I realized what had happened. Social media can have value beyond fun and games. But, my timeline tends to have many of the things that caused me to sequester myself from the news in the first place.

I’m glad to see my connections are such news trolls for sharing, opining/pontificating, and rebutting the various news items through the years. My people certainly are no dummies. They’re quite intellectual beings, and that’s wonderful. But, sometimes, it gets so daunting muddling through it all, and I get really stressed out. That’s why I tend to do a social media fast, generally on an annual basis. In year’s past, I’d usually do so to coincide with the 40 days of Lent each year, which would be 26 February through 8 April this year, particularly Facebook; however, I started my social media fast this year about a month earlier. I hadn’t been on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter sites since 31 January. I even removed the apps from my phone to remove the temptation to peek. Even though this blog is connected to Twitter and will automatically tweet out my posts as I make them, I’ve stayed away from visiting the site itself. Too much repetitive news, just like a regular news report. It’s draining when 30 different people report on the same thing.

I won’t even talk about the people who routinely post outdated information or fake information or those who want to be the first to make a post when a celebrity passes away. Then sometimes I’m like, “Wait a minute. Didn’t she die three years ago?” I’m just saying. Most people may have posted things on their social media pages from time to time without vetting them. I have been that person a few times. But there are some folk you can bet with absolute certainty will post things without carefully checking it out first.

I find myself doing more productive things, like writing and blogging. After all, writing and blogging are among my favorite pastimes, so doing that is probably a better use of my time than scrolling my timelines up and down all night and day. Additionally, my iPhone tells me my phone usage went down by approximately 28% each week since my social media fast began. If nothing else, I’m getting more sleep since I’m not reaching for my iPhone to hang out on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter when I should be sleeping.

I don’t know how long I’ll fast from social media. But listen: it’s a lot like alcohol. When you first give it up, the craving is strongest. As time passes, the desire lessens and it isn’t missed nearly as much. I’ll go back one day. I’m sure just like before, nothing will have changed. It’ll be the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Maybe that’s what makes it so attractive to all of us.


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Belated Happy Valentine’s Day


It’s the day after. Last night was a good night, even if I spent it alone. I treated myself to dinner at one of my favorite DC-area restaurants, Founding Farmers.  I’m not one who lets being single force me to stay home. I know how to pamper myself.

So, I went to dinner and enjoyed the experience. They have a diverse menu, one to satisfy the palates of all foodies. The alcohol menu is great too.

I ordered the Roasted Tomato Soup; Cornbread; Veggie Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans. The dessert menu looks good, but I was so full I had no room for another bite. Last time I ate there, I ordered the cookies, snickerdoodle. They’re perfect with a cup of hot chocolate.

Perhaps next time I’ll get dessert.

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Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Seven – Making A Difference


For the past five years (approximately five), I have kept a basket on my desk at work that looks a lot like this one. At any given time, there are probably 12-15 different types of chocolates in there. For those who aren’t into chocolate, I also keep mini Twizzlers, Life Savers, and Jolly Ranchers too.

I began doing this one year around Halloween. It was such a big hit, I continued to keep my basket filled year-round. Some people have asked me how expensive it is. Well, I have always been the type of person who believes the ends always justifies the means. Let me explain what I mean by that.

This tradition has served three purposes. Number one, several people drop by for a quick pick-me-up, much like all the coffee drinkers who reach for their cup of java. The chocolate-sugar rush is just the thing they need to get them through the day. I bet you know how a little chocolate or a little sugar, can do wonders to lift you up.  There are people who adore this little treat just a few steps from their desks. My reputation spreads too, for there are a few folks who come large distances, from the other end of the office, to get a piece, and that’s okay with me. That’s one purpose this serves, to treat folks to something small to lift them up. Second, some people who stop by for that pick-me-up will use it as an opportunity to have a counseling session about a problem they might have with a coworker or their boss or someone in another office of some ongoing problem they’re having at home – or all of the above. They drop in for some chocolate, but then they begin discussing the thing or things stressing them out. Empathic listening, embracing emotionally intelligent responses helps them leave feeling a lot better. The 10 years I spent volunteering on a crisis intervention hotline in Washington, DC helped me hone up on those listening skills. There is a third purpose, and it’s selfish. It gives me an enormously good feeling to know I can brighten someone’s day. This trend has served to help people I might otherwise never have met. One lady brought a buddy with her one day, someone I had seen here and there, said good morning in passing, but never knew by name.

When I began this candy tradition, I only did it to fulfill a superficial whim some people may have to indulge in a little treat. I never thought that it would also be an opportunity to benefit someone who might be in distress. It just proves how you never know when you can be a blessing to someone, and even the smallest of things can bless them. So, is it expensive? All things considered, no. Not at all. A few random people will leave $1 or $2 or $5 on my desk to help defray the costs, and that’s appreciated but not necessary. I love being in a position to brighten someone’s day, especially when I get nothing at all in return – other than seeing them leave with a smile on their face. So as I said earlier, the ends justify the means.

So, let that be a lesson to you boys and girls. Never underestimate the impact you have on others. Your efforts can truly be immeasurable, even the seemingly small ones. Never miss an opportunity to be somebody’s blessing. Be a blessing to be blessed.

 Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part One

 Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Two

Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Three

Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Four

Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Five

 Be A Blessing to Be Blessed: Part Six

Season of Gratitude







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Happy New Year, by Will Saunders

 Ok, bear with me for a minute. I ran into someone today whom I hadn’t seen or spoken to since before Thanksgiving. The person quickly said, “Happy New Year, Will.”  I shrugged (in my head of course) and I returned the greeting. I guess things really are never just in my head, for my face always lets people know what I’m thinking. The person then said, “I know, I know. But I hadn’t seen you yet this year.” As if that’s an excuse.
When February gets here, you can stop saying it. It’s along the lines of people who have yet to take down their Christmas tree and all their holiday decorations. While there are no hard and fast rules for either, it’s an unspoken expectation that your decorations should be down by now, and  you’re no longer saying Happy New Year. That’s just how it is, isn’t it? To each his own, or her own, but that should be a universal rule. If you live in a community with a stuck up homeowner’s association, they will fine you for that. A neighbor of mine was fined $25 because his front lawn still has Christmas items (snowman, Santa, and a miniature sleigh filled with toys). I don’t advocate going quite so far as to fine people. But, it’s late to still have your decorations still up. Some people believe it brings you bad luck if you haven’t taken them down by the 1st of January.
I know a middle aged woman who does it the easy way. She has a fully decorated Christmas Tree she lugs out every year, already with all of its garland, and tinsel and traditional tree accompaniments.  She touches it up to make it look fresh and pretty, then after Christmas, she lugs it back to her spare room, which ends up being a junk room. Its easy for her. Technically, her tree is up year-round, though nobody can see it for most of the year. Frankly, I think I like that idea. I use to laugh at her, but now I see the utility in that concept.
Taking down Christmas decorations can be such a chore. I often joke that Christmas is a lot like a big wedding. It builds up to that one day and it’s gone in an instant. Then the arduous task of taking down all the decorations begins. It’s simpler if you can merely grab it and move it to another room till the holiday season begins again. Oh well, c’est la vie. 
By the way, if you’re one of those people who says Happy Holidays, did you know that the original phrase was Happy Holiday in the singular form, without an ‘S’ at the end? It was intended to be a substitute for Merry Christmas – for that day – and not for the entire holiday season. But through the years, people adding the s. There was even a song, Happy Holiday – without the S – but some people still like it in the plural sense.
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Red Eye

No, I’m not talking about taking a late night flight. I’m talking about a photograph in which the subject’s eyes appear red. It’s a fairly common thing to happen. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize this. I thought the person was some type of satanic demon. I recall how I avoided people if I ever saw them in photos and their eyes were red. Looking back, I see the humor in it, although a few of those folks did lead troubled lives. But their red eyes had nothing to do with it.

In case you don’t know, the reason why a person’s eyes might be red in photos is because the flash of the camera occurs before the eye’s pupil can open and close. It has nothing to do with the subject. It can happen with animals too. Your dog or cat might appear in pictures with red eyes (It’s often called Red Eye Effect). It can be doubly eerie if it happens to one eye and not the other. You can look it up for more information.

It’s funny how kids can create their own explanation for things, and that explanation can be so far from the truth.


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