October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

hope and peace


It’s Monday … and we are half-way through Hispanic Heritage Month, and, as of October 1st, we are celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Each year, one of my favorite newscasters for Channel 7 WSVN TV, Lynn Martinez, hosts the “Glam-Doll-Strut” in downtown Ft. Lauderdale which is named for the competing “fashion show” of women dressed in their finest gear to bring more awareness to breast cancer and raise money for treating and curing it.  It is always … ALWAYS … quite the treat for us here in Ft. Lauderdale!  This year, it will be  held once again at Esplanade Park on October 17th … it’s a Saturday … from 11am EST to 3pm.  If you are in the area, come out and check out this event, which is just one of many events scheduled to honor survivors of breast cancer as well.
Many of the National Football League’s teams are wearing something pink in their gear for their games being played during this month.  It is always nice when “the men” support “the women” as well in bringing more awareness, treatment and funds for breast cancer research.  Hopefully, most of you know that “men” can also experience breast cancer, as one of the most noteworthy survivors of men with this cancer is Richard Roundtree, the actor who made the  movie “Shaft” famous.  Many of you may remember “Bella Rodriguez-Torres”, the oldest daughter of Shannah and Raymond, who received treatment for childhood cancer as a tumor caused her paralysis and ultimate passing in May of 2013.  Her mother, Shannah, shared a post on Facebook that soon after went viral … “Live Like Bella” … which has caught on and brought tremendous awareness to childhood cancer.
As we share this Earth, though some folks feel that they should have a “greater share” of the Earth than others, maybe we can come together more and more … around health issues, around social issues, those darn political issues … shucks, maybe even around each other!!  Wear your pink to demonstrate your interest and awareness, participate in some activities in your local areas, keep the faith alive to find better treatment and cures for breast cancer.  I lost my father to “bone marrow” cancer … which is a “horse of another color” … still deadly … so I have a particular affinity with any people or organizations concerned with spreading awareness, encouraging check ups and regular tests and seeking treatment for breast cancer!
“Save the TaTas!” was one battle cry at last year’s “Glam-Doll-Strut” here in Ft. Lauderdale.

John I. Cook, Director

Is It Safe?!!

puppy nose

It’s Friday …
How many of us can muster up the energy to “T.G.I.F.”?!?  From what I saw on the television news and internet, the students at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR were asked by the gunman, Chris Harper Mercer, what religion they worshiped.  It was reported that when a student answered “Christian”, the gunman stated, “Good!  You’re gonna see God in a few seconds!”  Then … he fired on them!
This sad event where 10 college students lost their lives in … yes … seconds … speaks volumes to how some folks respond to the isolation that occurs amongst individuals in this society.  Those around the horrifying event were so surprised that they couldn’t fathom that the crackling and popping sounds were coming from gunfire!  It was like they couldn’t believe this was happening in that quiet college community and the more scenic logging community of Roseburg, Oregon … Peace be still!
The POTUS’s response could be felt through the airwaves of the television news reports that he made after the fatal event occurred.  Many of us don’t feel probably what this 20 year old felt.  How do you “feel” so hopeless about your own life that one feels this is their only opportunity to “claim their fame”!??  Does one HAVE to claim their fame in order to feel whole?!?  This is a “state of mind” that many “mass shooters” had in common from the East coast shootings in Sandy Hook to this one … all the way on the other side of the country, and, just North of the horrific event that took place in the movie theatre just a short time ago.
“I’ll never be in the news.  I’m so insignificant!”, the gunman is reported to have expressed on social network pages and videos he had posted on Youtube!!!  It was even discovered that he had multiple posts like this and people commented in a somewhat callous way, calling him “a loser”, a phony and a “wannabee”.  His response to these claims was deadly ….
The POTUS stated sadly that, “This has become routine … these events … the sadness … and even my response has become routine!”  He feels we need to do more.  What about you?


John I. Cook, Director

Give Peace A Chance!

peace colors

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!
Yes, it’s here again … mid-week and things are churning … everywhere!  Sometimes, I want to stop the world and get off!!  I will tonight … during yoga!!
So, I’ve got this story that I’ve been dying to share!  I told maybe one or two people about this because of the nature of the story line.  So, here it goes ….
About two weeks ago, I was on my way home from work in Margate, FL which is West of Ft. Lauderdale.  I take Atlantic Blvd. to my old neighborhood off of Cypress Creek Rd. en route to the gym … or my post office box … sometimes I cruise to the beach before going to the gym.  So, traffic is always tight on Atlantic at 6PM, middle of rush hour traffic pretty much, four lanes of traffic.  People dart in and out of the traffic trying to get one car length ahead of the next person before the next traffic light.  I recall doing it myself a few times as I tried not to be late to a tutoring session or any appointment I may have had after working.  It gets crazy … I am telling you!!
So, I was driving my vehicle in the middle lane of what narrowed to 3-lane traffic … the car in front of me was going slow and the one to the left of me kept driving just fast enough to keep me from going in front of him.  He was with his lady friend who was in the passenger seat closest to my window.  He finally slowed up enough for me to go in front of him only because he was talking to the woman in the car with him.  As I moved in front of his car, I put my blinker on. I looked in the rear view mirror and could see that he was mouthing something.  He threw his middle finger up as he said something probably corresponding to the gesture.  Once I got past the car that was going somewhat slower in front of me, I got back into the middle lane.  The guy in the car pulled up beside me and started gesturing through his closed window.  I usually keep my window open as I enjoy the fresh air at that time of day unless it is really hot … then I put on the air conditioning.  I looked at him as he lowered the window on the side where his lady-friend was sitting and said something like ” What?” or “Yeah, what?”  So, I replied, “Why do you have to give me the finger, Man?”
He said: “You need to learn how to drive!!”  I answered, “What?  Now I have to drive by YOUR rules of the road … or you’re gonna give me the finger?!?”  He replied, “How do you know I’m not packin’, Man?”  I looked at him and responded, “How do you know I’m not packin’, Son?”  The traffic began to move and our cars crept along nearly side by side … he seemed to slow down a bit, still in the left lane.  Soon, as his lane got more open, the guy drove up right next to me, looked out of the window where his lady friend sat, and said through the window he had let down: “Hey, I’m sorry Man!  I apologize!”  I looked at him … smiled a bit … and replied: “I’m sorry, too, Man.  Glad things didn’t get out of hand.”  He smiled, his lady friend was quietly looking straight ahead.  I smiled back at him, and said: “My closest friends call me Peaceboy … you’d be surprised!”  We both drove off into our own lives down Atlantic into the sunset ….

I share this story with only this punch line: “Give peace a chance!”

John I. Cook, Director

Mask II



Monday, Monday … y’all!  “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood!”, according to television character Mr. Rogers!  I don’t know who use to make me laugh more … him or Pee Wee Herman!!

As I often do on Sundays when I can, I hang home and rejuvenate a bit.  It was one of those kind of Sundays …  With the personal things that I am dealing with, I often have to recoil and figure things out again … and again … and again!  So, for me, the motto of Educational Excellence, “Know Thyself”, is so very important!  Some folks play this “role”, or try to be someone they are not, or even have like “multiple personalities” depending on to whom they are talking!  You know, some people become “different persons” when they are in front of “others”!  Imagine that!  One of the most important “talking points”, if you will, of Pope Francis when he spoke in the various Masses he conducted, involved the lack of tolerance of sexual abuse of children as there have been many scandals uncovered regarding Catholic Church officials here in this country.  He removed the “mask” of perfection that many people have associated with the Catholic Archdiocese.  He clearly stated that the abuse of children, especially sexual, will not be tolerated and will be investigated and those involved dealt with accordingly.
Of course, the topic of today’s message, “Mask II”, is borrowed from Joel Osteen.  His sermon Sunday was basically touching on the fact that he believes that one cannot recover … from ANYTHING … unless one is honest with ones SELF … when they do indeed have circumstances in their behavior that are causing problems in their lives!  In other words, take off the mask of “self righteousness” or “perfection” or the one that many of us wear daily, the mask of “denial”.  Joel stated that he believes that Our Creator doesn’t like us to “wear these masks” as it makes ITS work that much more difficult.  This is an integral part of any 12-Step Program, admitting that one is powerless over their “addictions”.  In simplicity, it can be said that unless one sees a certain behavior as problematic, they will NOT treat that behavior as destructive while it is indeed destroying one’s life!  Take off the mask and “heal yourself” because one is not deceiving others as much as one is deceiving … ones SELF!
So, I have entitled this one “Mask II” …  Here’s my spin on it.  Now, most of you who “know” me are aware that I have a pretty good education and can read and write, even work a computer and perhaps build a website and a blog.  Yet, I have been ostracized from the “profession that I studied for in college and graduate school”, teaching and educational related careers (admissions included), because I had been charged with “gun related” crimes in the past.  Yes, it was over 10 years ago and I didn’t kill anyone nor rob anyone … just defended myself, which is a highly uncommon defense in Florida courts unless you are Caucasian (or other non-black) and you are “standing your ground”.  Yet, I won the trial also held over 10 years ago.  I had a second gun-related charge when I fired a “warning round” into the ground where I lived on Fort Lauderdale beach to wake up a drunken racist and let him know that he could be stopped, even if he was wielding a crowbar!!!  This case I pretty much lost and was placed on probation, which was later violated when my “ex” had called the police after hurting herself when chasing me as I attempted to allude her and the argument!!  The judge violated my probation and I was sentenced to a year in Broward County Jail for “resist/obstruct arrest without violence” when the BSO officers came to arrest me.  This is why I write the blog and these e-mails, and, why I also have a website to market my motivational speaking business as well as offer “alternatives to typical thinking” on major subjects like “racial profiling” or police brutality … even misconduct of clergy members.  Besides, if anyone wants to find out anything about you, they can pay somebody to find those things out!  So, I would rather volunteer the information rather than have some “loose canon” giving inaccurate accounts of who THEY think I am!
Take off the mask.  Be yourself.  I don’t really have a choice at this point.  Thoughts about the third book keep swirling in my head … “Cooking With Life”!
Have a great week.
John I. Cook, Director

Make It Count!

man moon

Happy Friday, y’all!  ALL Y’ALL!

So, keeping with tradition, T.G.I.F.!   It has been one whirlwind of a week … and I’m still standing …  How are things in “y’all’s” neck of the woods?!?  I know … a bit corny but I try to maintain my sense of humor in the face of everything that I can!  Now, I am no super-person, so … sometimes it gets tough … tougher to smile!  I am being straight with youse!!   And quickly, I want to say that that is where the meditation and prayer as well as yoga which is often referred to as “moving meditation” actually make me more “flexible” with and appreciative of my life!  Yes … om shanti, shanti, … shanti.
So, I wanted to mention an event that occurred recently at the Hillcrest Country Club in Hollywood, put together by the Hollywood Meditation Group of the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University.  Roz Reich and her “partner in peace”, Ella, put together an incredible Rakhi Tying Ceremony where each of us got to visit Sister Veronica, the Florida director for the Brahma Kumaris, and have our symbolic pledges of peace and promise to care for each other tied around our wrists!  The ambiance at the Hillcrest Country Club Community building on the property there was scenic, as it overlooks the golf course; and decorations inside were stellar, with the red lights moving across and over the room, very peaceful calm music playing, flowers and “peaceful spirits” present enjoying each other’s company!  Several Brahma Kumaris members from Miami were present as was Sister Marianne now living in Sarasota, who sat on the stage next to Sister Veronica passing out one of the many spiritual gifts, “rocks and cards” given to each of us to remember what may be the last Rakhi tying ceremony at the Hillcrest Country Club!  We even had “a singing bowl” that added to the spiritual ambiance there with a clip of the new film by Oprah Winfrey entitled: “Belief”, being shown to us.  It focuses on the many ways that people all over the world are seeking to understand this journey we ALL have been gifted with called “life” and our common denominator of “belief”!
Tomorrow, I am presenting a workshop to the Broward Sheriff’s Office Community Justice Program participants which consists of local Broward County high school young people who have been given “a second chance”, so to speak.  It is led by Nicole Valencia, Youth Services Counselor, who has invited me back a second time to speak with this unique group of young people.  Amongst the topics I plan to address are: 1. Bullying and Peer Pressure, and, 2. Goal Setting for Personal Development.  I look forward to the opportunity to “give back” as well as to share my “hope, experience and peace” with these young folks!
With so many spiritual events going on this weekend, including the Pope’s visit to New York City and then Philadelphia, I hope many of you get a chance to re-evaluate your “spiritual selves”, should you decide you have one, as it is apparent that a human desire for a peaceful and spiritual “paradigm shift” is on the horizon!

John I. Cook, Director

Who Are You Going to Vote for NOW?!?!



What?!?  It’s Wednesday??? Hump Day, Yeaaahhhh!!

If nobody told you all today … that they love youse …. let me get the ball rolling!!!  It’s even the first day of Autumn!  Gotta love it … change!  That is one of the few reasons I enjoyed living in New England for so many years … the seasons change … 4 times!!  Now, once we got past the aesthetic beauty of fall … winding roads … leaves changing colors … and that brisk nip in the air with the first signs of Autumn … it was often rather challenging … the winters, that is!  Each day, I try to enjoy life to the utmost … in a healthy way!
So, the Pope is now “state-side” and preparing for quite a menu of festivities in three major cities, starting with Washington, DC where he will be spending two or three days and holding several masses at the most noteworthy Catholic Churches in our Nation’s Capitol.  Preparations for security and ease of travel have been in the works for a while now!  I wish the Pope safety and peace during his travels here!
We Americans, like most societies of the Western civilization foundations, have been “taught” to want certain things, to believe certain things, and to behave in a certain way … or NOT!  Now, I was in traffic yesterday just marveling at how people actually “follow the rules” pretty closely on I-95.  Now of course you have those folks who weave in and out of traffic to get one or two car lengths ahead of where they would’ve been, but most people drive and behave normally … in a civilized fashion!  So, us “humans” are trainable and we can be conditioned as evidenced by the theory of Pavlov’s classical conditioning in psychology!  We can follow a routine, most of the time.  Then, when things get tough … “all bets are off”, so to speak.  The economy gets tight … people rob banks and stores … and each other!!  Out the window with that “civilization” crap!!!  Murders and unanticipated deaths occur, out come the racial comments with hatred written all over them!!  Take a look at our Republican candidates for President now!!!  As Emilio, Gloria Estefan’s husband, says: “All we hear about is racial hatred, division and separating of people … ethnic groups!”  This led him to pen the song entitled: “We are All Mexican”!  Are these the people who want to be our nation’s “leaders”?  Now, the infamous Donald Trump got the ball of NOT being politically correct rolling in his efforts to get “voters on his side” by bashing “Mexicans and other groups from Latin/Hispanic heritage” … bashing women like Rosie O’Donnell … and even Carly Fiorina, another Republican candidate for president!!!
We’ve got Dr. Ben Carson, who speaks more like he should be a participant in a “diversity training workshop” rather than running for the POTUS!!!  Imagine him in the Middle East attempting to work out a treaty with a country that is predominantly Muslim!!  What’s coming out of these early campaign activities is somewhat horrifying.  Look at the candidates that we embrace!?  Listen to what they say?!  Is this something “uniting and empowering” people?!  Listening to some of these folks speak is like a combination comedy show/horror flick!!!  Shucks, if it were up to me, I would do like we used to do in class elections in school … write in someone else’s name!!!  “Pope for President” or “Emilio and Gloria Estefan for Pres. and Vice Pres”!  All I have to say is that for me, President Obama has held down a somewhat “crumbling nation” and stabilized the apparent “down-fall”.  I know, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it … tell the truth, that is!
In the meantime, don’t get too wrapped up in the rhetoric of these folks, use your intelligence … what little that may be left in each of us now … and usher in our Autumn season.  Learn to embrace “the change”!  Happy Autumn, ALL!

John I. Cook, Director

The “Secret Place”

secret dwelling


It’s Monday … and another opportunity to do something good!

This past weekend saw a lot of festive preparations for the Pope’s arrival in Havana and the Mass he held for the hundreds of thousands of people – seniors and children included on Sunday!  It was quite the event, as I happened to watch it on television Sunday morning.
Also Sunday morning, as I sought to sort through some of my own life’s issues, I heard Joel Osteen, tel-evangelist out of Texas, talk about a subject that I hold dear to my heart and central to my own personal development.  It was about the “Secret Place” that each of us should seek to nourish.  It is that place where negativity and hostile thoughts or actions have no impact.  It is that place of peace that one can nurture so that when one is surrounded with “seas of negativity”, we still remain afloat and on course!  What a fabulous place, that inner core of peace that we can establish to where we return when the “world’s” drama comes knocking at the door!
I particularly enjoyed Joel Osteen’s description of the “secret place” as the place which, though “water” surrounds you … as it might surround a boat or water vessel … as long as “we” don’t let the negative thoughts and energies into our “secret place”, again as water would come into a boat, we can safe guard and preserve who we really are … creatures of peace!  Sometimes, Osteen continued, “we have to let things go” in order to stay peaceful and not full of nervous and negative energy as we might be drawn “outside” of our peaceful selves and get caught up in the drama.  As well, as long as we do NOT get involved in a “tit for tat” communication with someone that we  may have had a disagreement with, or a desire to seek revenge on someone who has wronged you, “you” will be behaving maturely, peacefully and able to call forth your blessings from your Creator!  After all, good karma, if you will, is simply attracting the good in “the universe” because you are in tune with the “goodness” as evidenced by your behavior.
So, when you feel that a “place” like this, deep within … only accessible to you and your Creator, may benefit you along this journey, take some time to develop it.  It’s a “safe place” where you can retreat when circumstances in your life seem not to be going the way you want it!  And, as a friend said to me while we chatted Friday afternoon, “You never know what someone is going through!”  We both chuckled, and said, “Be kind to them, too!”
Have a great week!

John I. Cook, Director

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