Somebody … Wake Me When It’s Over!



Happy Friday, All!

Of course, I feel better when I T.G.I.F., a little gratitude goes a long way.  At least, for me it does!  It keeps me humble and appreciative of the good things in my life.  At the same time, it allows me … still talking about gratitude … to want to utilize my gifts or talents even interests to the fullest.  From another perspective, I wouldn’t shun “fame and fortune” if it came my way, but I am glad to have experienced the things that I have along my journey.  In many ways, I have seen the best of the best … and … the worst of the worse!!  I’ve met some interesting people along this journey.

So, first of all, I want to give a shout out to my daughter, Ayanna whose son, Caleb Isaac, had his first birthday Wednesday, October 19th.  His mother has done a great job, taking very challenging situations and with help from her mother, she gave birth to Caleb in CT and returned there after a short time her in Florida.  I was grateful because I got to meet Caleb and hold him … and play with him a bit even.  I am proud of her and little Caleb and wish them the best always.

I am sure most of us watched the last debate as we watched a reality show host take the reigns of the American polity and play “his own little game” with it.  Trump’s claim that the election is “rigged” is so pathetic that I won’t even attempt to present a logical argument against it, waste of time.  For whomever can not see what this character is doing to America, calling the president “stupid” and praising Vladimir Putin of Russian for “outsmarting” both President Obama and Hillary Clinton in international affairs, one should have some serious treatment and self analysis.  Why would anyone support such a character, unless experiencing a serious case of ignorance in its most basic form!!?  Somehow, I think he will try to drag this thing on … especially if he loses … and maybe damn near hint at a “civil war” atmosphere here in America.  I almost don’t want to speculate at what he might do … He is utterly disgraceful, as we watch his decline from “stardom” … and his fall from “grace”, if you will.

Often in life, there is not much we can do in certain situations.  But this is one where we ALL are encouraged to come out to vote … and vote correctly!  Otherwise, I would say, “wake me when it’s over”!  Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Got Balance?!?



Happy Hump Day, Yeah!!

We’re baaacckk … on Wednesdays that is!  Educational Excellence is back on Wednesdays!!  It is the middle of the week, halfway to the weekend, Baby!  As I use to say on my college radio show … years ago for Wednesday Night Triad on WPRB … 103.3 FM …in New Jersey … “The weekend has begun!!”  Crazy, right?!?

That’s how we ALL use to roll during those years!!  One thing that we always did well … was have a good time!!  Now, I also believe that many of us were talented … me included … because there was a lot of work that had to get done, too … just for us to stay there and study for our degrees.  I was on an academic scholarship which included a “work/study” package with a small loan over the 4 years I spent studying … okay and partying, there, too!  During those years I spent at St. Paul’s School and Princeton University, I learned the importance of finding and maintaining balance in  my life.  I found out that in order to be successful in my academic pursuits, I had to have balance.  “All work and no play” was not an option for me.  I played basketball, ran track, shucks one year … I even tried out for the baseball team at St. Paul’s.  I wasn’t good … I was barely decent at baseball and didn’t like all the contact in football though I played my very first year at SPS.  Balancing school work and fun time with sports and socializing became major concerns for me as I studied and lived away from home.  I thank my parents for “pushing” me to take advantage of such opportunities, which I had to figure out and be successful at at the same time … that’s balance.

One of my favorite activities today, which combines the spiritual development I crave as well as physical conditioning, is yoga – vinyasa yoga to be exact!  That simply means that there are various postures or “asanas” to flow through, including downward dog, planks, tree pose, cobra and upward dog, during our “moving meditation”.  Breathing deeply is an important part of establishing ones balance during yoga practises.  I enjoy the challenge that comes with poses like “standing split” or airplane pose and side planks.  One has to find a “spot” on the floor or wall … or ceiling … focus your breathing and hold the pose for several seconds … maybe even a minute or two with some poses.  That “focus” also involves visual or looking outside of your body as well as spiritual, as we meditate and look inside of ourselves to stretch, breathe and join our breath with our movements to create a beautiful “flow”.  One can achieve focus and concentration, peace and harmony … and a form of relaxation second to none!!

Nowadays, when life gets challenging, I go “inside” and seek the peace that I have cultivated during my yoga practises, deep breathing and focusing on what I want to accomplish at that moment rather than just responding to some external stimuli … be it someone’s harsh words or a physical challenge where body movement and control is required.  I think about people who “fly off the handle” like Trump and say some of the most awful things, not to mention people who have chosen violent and gun oriented behavior when some else’s precious life is taken … because someone lacked “self control”.  Life is full of emotions … all of the emotions … love and hate … violence and calmness … sadness and joy.  How do YOU handle them?  Are “you” able to handle the situation, control yourself and your emotions and just “leave it there”, rather than carry that emotion with you throughout this day … weeks … or years along your journey?!?  Seek balance … internal, spiritual and physical balance … and “life” is more of a flow … at least, it is for me!

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

Time For Some Changes . . . Maybe!



Happy Friday, All!

And I have to do it again … a hearty T.G.I.F.!

It is Friday … and nearly a full moon, if I am not mistaken!  The full moon still has often had an effect on me, and, now that I understand the “burst of energy” … I like it!  The moon is affecting the tides as there is some flooding in the Las Olas area of Broward… and more standing water in the Miami Beach area where a new Zika virus zone has been identified.  I hope P-Diddy’s “Revolt Music Conference” being held on Miami Beach isn’t affected!  Always something to deal with … both positive and negative – yin and yang!!

Well, first, I wanted to thank you guys in this e-mail family.  I know some of these e-mails still  have occasional errors or misspellings that I don’t catch until I review the Educational Excellence site with WordPress where I can correct them … so I do.  Sometime, when you are not too busy, click on the link for Educational Excellence not only to see a cool graphic, but to read my re-edited versions of the e-mail turned blog post … should you care to!  Just letting you all know that you can visit … with a click!  Thanks again for reading, by the way!

So Saturday is the annual event held in downtown Ft. Lauderdale.  There are vendors and “give-a-ways” as theme focused groups compete to win the title of best dressed representative for this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness “Glam-Doll-Strut” co-sponsored by Channel 7 WSVN and Deco Drive hostess, Lynn Martinez.  There is actually a parade that starts on Las Olas Boulevard at Andrews Avenue where the Huizenga Park is located.  Many groups “stroll and strut” in some extremely creative outfits as well as individuals, dancers, even men dressed in costumes highlighting breast cancer awareness … often quite jovial!!  I try to attend each year and will be there tomorrow after yoga.  It starts at 11am and continues with fun, food and festivities surrounding the “Glamathon” until 3pm!  There are even judges to select the winners and all proceeds go to helping local women who have had their experiences with breast cancer.

I am thinking of making another change to Educational Excellence and WordPress and doing maybe one post/e-mail per week.  Right now, I am doing two e-mails, Tuesdays (which gets rough since I try to go to yoga at 8:30am now on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Friday.  I am going to change to Wednesdays and Fridays for now.  After speaking with a few supportive friends from St. Paul’s and Princeton, I may seek doing a column in a local newspaper or maybe even a not so local one … like the NY Times!!  Still shooting for the stars indeed as I attempt to live my life in a meaningful way … and contribute to the betterment of the world community as I enjoy this stage of my life!  What think you?!?  Please feel free to write me back with any thoughts, suggestions or comments!  Many of you already write back and I appreciate your readership and support, for I know  that I am a “different drummer”!

Enjoy your weekends, catch a movie or something, visit a local Breast Cancer Awareness event and … be well!


John I. Cook, Director

The Storm



It’s Tuesday . . .

The “storms a brewin'”!  The presidential election is heating up to a point beyond comprehension … for me!!  Many of us have never witnessed such shenanigans like that debate Sunday night!!  I don’t think either one of them mentioned Hurricane Matthew nor the people of this country whose lives remain in the “balance” as Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina suffer tremendous floods from the storm.  In watching the news last night, there were some scenes shown where people were actually on their houses roofs!!!  Here in SoFlo … Ft. Lauderdale … we dodged a serious bullet!!  Some 10 plus years ago, we had Hurricane Wilma that crossed the peninsula like a rabid dog!!  That was the worse one I have seen since living here for the past 20 plus years …  Yet, many folks recount stories of Hurricane Andrew and the devastation it wrapped around many parts of SoFlo, including Key West.

Have you been being entertained by these debates, the crowds cheering and jeering the candidates?!?  It is frightening to me … just to think that one of these two will be president of the country I live in!!  Should I move?!?  If Trump’s elected … I have said this before … I just might move …  I don’t have any interest in the racism that will run rampant if a classless act like him gets into office.  We all know that here in America, even during presidential elections and campaigning, anything goes!  I mean, Trump actually tries to blame Hillary for her husband’s inappropriate antics some years ago in regards to his treatment of women and multiple accusations of sexual harassment from women he had come into contact with while in office … some even before he was president … with the most famous event during his presidency occurring with Monica Lewinsky, his aide at the time who clearly had “the hots” for him.  Is it really Hillary’s fault?  Or did “garbage picking” Donald just decide to go as low as he could go … even though Bill Clinton is NOT running for office … but his wife is!  So why did Trump bring it up?!?   Because he, more than anyone else  has turned this entire presidential campaign into a fiasco of sorts like a “reality show” in which he just struts all over the stage … pompous and arrogant, crying like a baby at times and bullying the moderators of the debates as well as even Hillary from time to time … threatening that if he were in charge of the penal system … I guess … she would be in jail!!!

It is a sad day in American politics when the major issues of presidential debates hinge on sex, lies and videotapes!  Can we still call ourselves “the leader of the free world”?!?  Can we weather this horrific storm … as one good friend, Mr. Gover pointed out … Hurricane Donald appearing far worse than Hurricane Matthew?!?  We are indeed in the midst of a political storm …  Choose wisely … if you can!


John I. Cook, Director



Happy Friday, All!

Just want to take a special moment and say a hearty, thankful T.G.I.F.!

Every now and then, I like to focus on gratitude.  You know, I try to keep it simple … my approach to life … and somewhat hope that “other things” fall in to place.  I mean, things have happened to me and I have had people cast the greatest doubt … or at least question … on what will I do next.  Maybe it was the loss of a job, a significant other or woman in my case, or the loss of an apartment … even a motorcycle accident!  I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure WHAT I was going to do …but I keeps me some faith!

Something I have woven into my spirituality is to trust in MY higher power, whom I choose to call God or The Creator.  I know there is more to me than meets the eye.  I also know and believe that there is more to our existence other than what is created by “man” … and I use that term loosely!  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock “human kind” completely, but I do think that Western civilizations are rather narrow, yet technologically advanced, but not balanced in “its” approach to humanity.  We don’t encourage nor nurture spirituality in our schools nor our institutions.  The fabric of our society doesn’t have “room” for this type of thinking, which in my opinion (and others that I have spoken to) is why there is so much mental illness and imbalance in members of our society when under stress or uncertainty.  Folks don’t know how to “rebound” from life’s twists and turns and choose a variety of responses to these type of situations.  I mean, we can’t control everything that happens to us.  Yet, we can tailor how we respond!  Ha!  So many of us are reflexive, going with our emotions, which are usually out of whack because we haven’t developed them nor our knowledge of “ourselves”!  It is important to know or at least anticipate how we might respond in the face of tragedy, trauma or unexpected circumstances.  This “freedom” thing sometimes haunts us when we think we can say what we want or do what we want, even if it means taking the life of another person.

Let’s face it, it is a lot less challenging to deal with people who are “authentic”.  That is, their inner state matches their outer behaviour and vice versa.  It is when an individual is transparent, somewhat predictable, and their thoughts and actions are aligned with “what is” … you know … that thing we call “reality”?!?!  An example of how NOT to be, for me, is to see a person like Trump … pretending he is “in favor” of women when he has clearly knocked them, criticised them and did his best to defame some.  Imagine our world with deceptive leaders like he … and Vladimir Putin!  God save the world from characters like these … living in their own worlds and trying to subjugate people to their own realities!!

For me, I just try to be authentic nowadays.  I have been through my changes, trying to be a different person that who I “really” am … an honest, peaceful, humble yet proud person as ordained by my Creator … and my parents!  The world would be a much better place if we all practised “authenticity”!


John I. Cook, Director

Embracing Diversity 2016 – Style!



It’s Tuesday … I want to call it a tantalizing Tuesday … you’ll see in just a few paragraphs why!

So just recently, on Sunday, October 2nd, we saw the celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.  I have had the privilege of celebrating and learning about that holiday and Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement”, which is October 11th this year.  My mother used to cater many a dinner around these holy days for her Jewish clients in White Plains and Scarsdale, NY.  As well, my good friend Peter Zachary (RIP) and his family often invited me to celebrate some of these holy days with them while he  was alive.  He had a neighbor in Plantation who had invited me to their Sukkot Celebration a few years before Peter passed away from ALS.  Now yesterday, if I am not mistaken, the Islamic New Year was celebrated!  Look at how the Creator works in our most critical times to put these “holy days” so close as to almost force us humans to see the plethora of similarities we have rather than the differences …  So, let’s celebrate “diversity” y’all, and learn about each other and our cultures, which most, if I am not mistaken, are as unique as the variety of human forms of social organization, culture and spirituality usually embodied in “religion”.  Should I mention the German “Oktober Fest” here … or not?!?

Here we are in October, truly one of my favorite months though each and every one has something that I find solace or enjoyment in.  It is the month for Breast Cancer Awareness, and … Hispanic Heritage Month, which began September 15th and ends October 15th … so there is some overlap.  Yet, each of them have intense messages for humanity and together, they help us humans reflect on our diversity as we choose to celebrate one or the other … or BOTH!  I remember one year when I worked at The American Express Call Center in Sunrise, FL, I was selected to help plan events for the “Diversity Team”.  It was a tight group of thinkers, also very diverse, that was given a budget to plan and execute multi-cultural events to “honor” and give information on the many groups represented by the people that worked at the highly professional call center for American Express.  One event celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month gave me the opportunity to bring a saxophonist originally from Cuba but living in Miami named Ed Calle to the “stage” at our concert at the Call Center planned by the Diversity Team at AMEX back in 2000!  Those of you who really know me also know that I embrace diversity … as a life style!  It is fulfilling for me to learn about other cultures … their art and food, music and folklore, language and forms of spirituality, too!

Okay, now Hurricane Matthew is hitting Haiti, hurt Jamaica yesterday, and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has declared that the entire state of Florida is in the “cone of concern” as the Hurricane is just as long as the entire state of Florida!  Sometimes, it takes natural disasters to bring people together again.  Just in case you decide to “embrace diversity” in your daily endeavors, keep an open mind.  Quite often, what we fear in others is a reflection of how we see ourselves.  Embrace ….


John I. Cook, Director

Politically Correct, You Say?!?



It’s Friday, Y’all …

I’ve got to do it … Thank God It’s Friday!!  Yeah, Baby!

I remember when I was growing up in White Plains and  my father, “Big Ike”, had that conversation with me that “black” fathers usually have with their sons to prepare them for the hostilities of the world aimed at African American men.  He was a little different from most, he didn’t graduate from high school and didn’t have the best vocabulary, not that he was dumb or anything.  He would read the newspaper, “The Reporter Dispatch”, as the local newspaper in White Plains was called, nearly every night.  One of  my favorite places as a little boy was in his lap as he read!!  Yep, that’s right … there I was, “Little John” sittin’ in “Big Ike’s” lap learning to read.  He would always show me the comics … start laughing and then read them to me.  When I was feeling “adventurous” and curious … like that little monkey in a story book of my day, “Curious George” … I would point to one of those long articles and wait for him to start reading it to me.  He often did that for me to satisfy my curiosity until some of the words got so challenging to pronounce that I couldn’t follow his lead.

So that conversation for young black boys of my time went something like this:  “Don’t claim racism, boy, when those white people are treating you bad … or less than the other kids.  Show them how smart you are!  Learn every darn thing they are teaching the other kids in those schools, boy!  You can do it.  Never say that something is too hard for you, ’cause it’s not.  You just have to study harder, you hear me?!?”  I never talk or write a lot about my father, but know that I have the utmost respect for “Big Ike” who fought bone marrow cancer for five years at the end of his life.  He never wanted to see me cry … unless HE was whipping me!!  And he did that as he saw fit … except with my sisters, Edna and Barbara.  Me and Hank (RIP – Henry Charles Cook) got the worst of it … he wanted us to be well behaved young men.  He used to tell me, “Don’t be crying and running home from those damn kids!  Stand up for yourself and fight back!”  He never EVER touched my mother, his beloved wife … Marietta Dolores … unless it was to show her his love, or assistance, holding doors for her and carrying things for her.  He was a true gentleman … though my mother told me he wasn’t always like that.  She helped him to learn how to be a real gentleman, for that was the kind of man she wanted … as her husband and the father of her children … he was a great Dad … and grandfather to my daughter … Ayanna Lynne Cook …

Wednesday night, I watched the television program called “Empire”, which I don’t usually watch.  That last scene, Jamal was stopped by the police as he was putting a box in his vehicle as he moved from the home he lived in in a rather upscale neighborhood.  The two white police officers asked him, “What are you doing around here?”  He replied, “I lived here … I am moving now!”  The officers looked at each other … smirking … and asked him: “You know, there have been a lot of home robberies around here … Do you know anything about that?”  Jamal, feeling disrespected and profiled, replied:  “No, I don’t know anything about any robberies … Why?  Should I?!?”  Then, the officers went into their mode of feeling offended themselves,  said he was a wise guy and joined forces to grab Jamal and throw him face down on the asphalt on the street in front of his former luxury home.  This was an excellent depiction of what happens to black men … even the lighter skinned ones like Jamal who had previously often passed for white … or were treated better than the “darker” black men … as he, too, was slammed to the ground because he made a comment that the police didn’t like, even though they had JUST offended him by asking if he knew about the break ins.  Should he have been “politically correct” and not responded to the officers that way?!?  I think not … we black men have had quite enough of this profiling crap, though there is a price to pay … which has in reality, ended in the death (murder) of African American men like the man selling loose cigarettes on a street in New York City – Eric Gardner!

What does it mean to be “politically correct”?  Why can’t people just respect each other in their conversations, and as one of my yoga teachers “Michelle” said during our class yesterday: “Don’t be so quick to be judgmental.  Just try to understand each other first.”  How hard is that?!?  Considering the fact that people have become hostile first … in general … it might be difficult to scale down ones angst and just live with respect for humanity.

Have a great Friday, and a wonderful weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

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