Sometimes . . . Things Happen in Threes . . .



Happy Friday, All!

I’ve got to do it … T.G.I.F.!!

It’s Friday, folks!  One of my favorite days of the week …  Well … I got three pieces of “news”, if you will, that are pretty much life changing at this time.  I am usually ready for such things, though I must admit, they all caught me by surprise … Kind of like the surprise I got when some trifling folks backed into my car last Sunday … and things continue to unfold … Let’s call that “event/news” number 1!

Here’s number 2 . . . Some of you may remember that not too long ago in August, I got another job after working in a call center for diabetic supplies and special projects like medical “chart chasing”.  Things went well with the debt settlement company and I handled many of the company’s Spanish client calls as there was no one else there who spoke Spanish when I arrived.  Since then, they have hired two gentlemen – one Cuban and one Colombian – who speak Spanish, and the number of Spanish clients serviced by the company began to increase!  Several referrals came in from clients that I had helped by setting up a debt relief program with the settlement component where the company’s negotiators would get their debts reduced to an average of 40 cents on the dollar.  I did well the first month with 14 deals, the second month was more challenging and I closed only 6 solid deals.  This month I was working hard but had only two deals … but it is only the 10th of December.  The Holiday Party is next Friday at Benihana’s Japanese Eatery and I was excited to attend.  I had some minor run in’s with the trainer and his assistant who like to be called “underwriting” though they are not in the office with the underwriters who move the contracts forward.  I was well liked by the other senior debt analysts and got along fairly well with the owner of the company.  My immediate managers/underwriters like to “micro manage” and are long time friends of the owner and helped him build the company as they were once on the phones like me  closing debt settlement “deals”.  I got hired through an agency called “Pride Staff”.  So, last night as I was outside on my way home thanks to a ride from the Cuban co-worker, my cell phone rang and it was the staffing specialist from “Pride Staff” named Geo.  He starts the conversation with: “Hey John!  What’s going on over there?”  I answered candidly, “Where are you talking about?”  He said, “Your job, Fast Track?  I just got a text from Robert, the owner, who asked me to ‘let you go’.  So what happened?”  I was like, “I don’t know, Geo, no one said anything to me!?!”  So he and I talked a bit last night, he agreed to contact Robert the owner, and called me this morning saying, “He says it was a performance thing!”  I repeated to him, “Nobody said anything to me yesterday or anytime and I had over 150 calls to clients yesterday, which is the requirement!  I just want to get my money … I know things get slow at Christmas time because people don’t want to give up their credit cards!”  So, this morning, my Cuban former co-worker agreed to pick me up this morning and I plan to go in to speak with Robert to confirm that I will get paid for my labor, and pay day is next Friday, set for every two weeks.

I am currently receiving early retirement benefits and realized that I am actually tired of the “rat race”, going from one job to the next as is customary in Florida, which is a “right to work state” (look that one up!) and feel the push of the Universe to embrace my retirement early and travel abroad, perhaps.  Yesterday, I got an e-mail from my boarding school Coach for basketball and football and athletic director asking me to remove him from the e-mail list . . .  I was a bit surprised but in continuing to read, I understood why.  His wife is in critical condition and I am sure that he is feeling rather helpless … perhaps even sad by this.  This is the third “news” or event . . .  My heart goes out to him … and I can only think, “For God so loves the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … and who soever believeth in Him, shall not perish … but have eternal life!”  In closing, I want to reach out to the St. Paul’s School community of sisters and brothers, and let Mr. and Mrs. Blake know that I love them …

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

Choose Happiness . . .



Happy Hump Day!!

Have you been sidetracked from your dream by having “things” in your life?  I mean it’s okay, but there is usually a  psychological relationship that develops between us humans and “things” we create.  Some “things” are necessities while other things are “status symbols”, if you know what I mean.  And trust me, I don’t disagree with a person’s desire to acquire “things”.  Just don’t get it mixed up that a possessor of “things” is greater than or more important than a non-possessor of the same “things”.  One who seeks “things” in their life has to be able to balance the spiritual enrichment … if any … with the material things that one may be seeking.

“Happiness is a result of the decision to be happy!” – Fortune Cookie

When I first started my blog for Educational Excellence, I always started with a quote or anecdote from someone else.  Then, the piece would find me writing and building on that quote or anecdote.  So, I decided to use things in the news, in our society, “current events” and of course focusing on the constant “violation of civil rights” of minorities, especially African Americans.  I used to write an e-mail/blog post everyday in the beginning, then I changed to every other day … and now I do an e-mail to each of you as well as a blog post on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I am thinking about writing one per week.  We’ll see where the spiritual “compass” takes me!

Speaking of compass, I was hit by a vehicle driving backwards on Sunday as I sat parked and checking my texts at an early hour Sunday morning as I sat in my Jeep Compass.  A group of us friends were celebrating another friend’s birthday at our favorite “watering hole”, my “Cheers”, also known as Capone’s!  I have been going there for over the past ten years since I  moved from the Fort Lauderdale Beach area.  I know everyone there, and, it is my “safe party place”!  So after leaving there, we were each driving in our own directions and another friend was thinking of going to another club – a gentlemen’s club – as they are called … and we were texting.  On my way home, I decided to stop at a parking space on the street parallel to A-1-A near Las Olas Blvd.  There were very few cars around … none in front of where I was parked at a meter on the street and none behind me.  I was finishing a text telling  my friends that I was on my way home when I noticed a car turn onto the street where I was parked and texting … which soon ended up in one of the four or five spaces in front of me!  I looked up, observed the brake lights on as it was 4am, then looked down at my cell phone again to see if anyone had responded to my texts to my friends.  Suddenly, the brake lights showed that the vehicle was put in reverse as I noticed the white reverse lights come on and the engine in the car revved …  Suddenly, the car sped backwards coming directly at me.  I didn’t have time to respond, wondered if this was a prank to scare me until … BAM!  The car hit me going around 30 mph, busting both headlights out and severely damaging the grill of my Jeep Compass, which I am still paying on and had planned to re-instate my insurance on Monday … hmmm … yep … just being honest like I usually try to be in my writings.  I couldn’t see the license plate of the car as they inched forward away from me and I tried to start my car since I sensed they were about to flee … that is exactly what they did!!!!  I couldn’t believe my eyes!!!  I was in shock … and I still am as I write this!!  Imagine someone doing this to me.  I was afraid to get out of my car because if the driver would do THAT … what else might he do!  The rest is history … and now I am thinking of options, including letting the car get “voluntarily repossessed” as I don’t need nor want any additional expenses as I try to move forward in my early retirement plans … still seriously contemplating going to Europe … Barcelona, Spain to be exact!!

Can I still be happy?!?  Yes, of course … if I choose to!  Is it really that simple?  Yes, it is … if one decides to look for the good in everything, including the “bad” situations that we find ourselves in.  Now, I thought about the “pranksters” and remembered how not too long ago, young people were involved in the new rage street game called “Knock Out”, where a group of youngsters would roam the streets, seeing innocent passersby and daring each other to “knock the innocent unsuspecting soul out” with one punch!!!  You may remember this “fad” that even spread to Europe!!!  What will they think of next?!?  Was this the result of some such dare?  I can’t think of anyone who would want to do this to me as I try to “play fair” in life nowadays and stay out of trouble.  So while I made a few mistakes here, including not renewing my insurance on time (any of you ever done such a thing?!?) and sitting alone in my car on a street checking texts at 4am in the morning … I have learned a few lessons, including looking for the good in this situation.  So, I continue my journey, thank God, still alive to tell you all about it.

Choose to be happy … no matter what!


John I. Cook, Director

“Well, well, well … The Prodigal’s Son!”



Happy Friday, All!

And y’all already know how I roll … so … T.G.I.F.!!

I always have to always thank somebody … or something … ’cause I know I didn’t do this journey by myself?!!  And thank you guys, too!

First things first, right?!  So, bam … I love youse guys … you know … the unconditional love you have for folks … or ideas … maybe even concepts.  I love a lot of things, and I’ve found it builds a tremendous passion for life in me.  I don’t have to own things or the latest phone to be happy … I don’t have to have the most beautiful girl … or any girl/woman at this point … in order to make my life complete.  Of course, I get that longing feeling from time to time … like the lobster (thanks Ayanna for commenting on that story about how the lobster feels uncomfortable in his shell, hides under a rock, sheds his shell and grows another one … away from predators) gets in each stage of its growth!  I like to be around people, encouraging each other to grow and helping each other through this “growth”.  A quick thanks to Princeton classmate of the Class of ’76, Willy Landrigan, who reminded me that it was our 40th Class Reunion … not the 45th as I incorrectly stated in the last piece when I mentioned my friend Dr. Karen Hurley and the fact that we “almost” met up that weekend.

This time of year is very sentimental for me … There are many moments when I “long” to have one  more conversation with my mother … we were closer than me and my father, though I miss him, too!  They always worked so hard to make sure that we had a great holiday season.  My father would put the tree up in our humble 3 bedroom apartment in The Projects, there were Christmas cards hanging decoratively from the windows in the living room behind the tree which had everything including that dreaded “angel’s hair” and colorful tinsels!!  This was New York, White Plains to be exact, and it was winter time and we had the “Christmas spirit” floating from the oven as mom cooked everything from hams and turkey to fruit cakes and sweet potato pies!!  We had the visual senses on high alert and … on any given Sunday, the old fashioned stereo played Christmas songs by Mahalia Jackson as well as Dean Martin!!  It was Christmas time, indeed!

Over the years, I have had my challenges, my binges and  my challenges … hmmmpfff.  Haven’t we all!!  What I adore about my mother is that whenever I returned from some episode along my journey, she would always welcome me “home”!  Her favorite saying was, “Well, well, well … the Prodigal’s son!”  My dad was not always as welcoming but my mother showed me that “unconditional love” that many of us miss … either because we don’t know how to show it … or we lack it in our own lives!!  I learned it from my mother while my father was always the “safety net” if his input was needed, usually his input was tempered by my mother’s love …  Oh how I miss her!

Enjoy the season, folks … enjoy your families … enjoy each other … and enjoy the true meaning of the season …


John I. Cook, Director

“Just In Case You Were Wondering . . .”



It’s Hump Day … middle of the week again!

How are you holding up?!  The world is swirling with an intriguing air of change …  One group of Cubans who live in this country are celebrating the “death of a dictator” – Fidel Castro – while other Cubans in Cuba show a sense of sadness as they participate in a “mandated 9 days of mourning” there in Havana … for the death of the same man – Fidel Castro.  While Castro’s 83 year old sister, Juanita, says she doesn’t celebrate the death of “anyone”, she has always been in opposition to her “older brother” – Fidel Castro.  In fact she says that she wished her brothers, Raul and Fidel, would ” …. open the doors of the Cuban country, giving women and dissidents equal rights and an equal voice with a more democratic government …”.

Meanwhile, back in the US of A, a new “chain letter of hate” has been being distributed in various Muslim communities and mosques across this country, a most notable one arriving here in South Florida.  The letter basically speaks to the author(s) belief that Muslim people are “demons” and their mothers are “whores and prostitutes” and suggesting that they leave the country now since “they” – the supporters of this anti-Muslim attitude – are following the lead of president elect, Donald Trump!  The interesting phenomena is that the Muslim gentleman who received and read the letter sent to a prominent mosque in Miami is a veteran of the United States Army.  He stated, “To think that I defended idiots like this so that they could practice so-called freedom of speech!”  The attack on the campus of Ohio State by a purported Muslim student whom ISIS is claiming is one of “their brothers” has added an additional spin to the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in this country!  “Land of the free … home of the brave …” …. “with freedom and justice for ALL!”  Hmmpppfff …

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish a friend whom I have never met personally, (almost did at the 40th Reunion of the Class of ’76 of Princeton University!), Dr. Karen Hurley most recently teaching psychiatry and treating clients in New York City who have had challenges related to cancer, a grand new beginning at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.  Karen is also a huge fan of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavalier’s NBA team … How cool is that?!?  Karen has become a “cyber space” friend who has shown support of my writing and even given assignments to some of her students surrounding the “Black Lives Matter” movement … Karen is not “black” but can clearly see the inconsistencies in the treatment of African Americans who have become entangled in the criminal justice system of this country …  Thank you Dr. Hurley, and I am wishing you continued success!  Namaste

Many of you know that I offer to remove “you” from my list of readers if you feel that I am “too far off base” for you!  I am offering again.  Occasionally, I remove folks who ask to be removed for whatever reason(s) … I don’t ask.  Less often, I remove people from the reading list that don’t seem to have “basic knowledge” of me and what I am trying to do.  They may reply to me in a most ignorant and hostile attack mode to my writings.  I always ask them to post something … their thoughts about my thoughts … on my blog page as they attempt to insult and attack me for my beliefs and my words, which they OFTEN don’t even understand … so that some of you and others who read the blog may respond to “his” stupidity … yep, I said it … and I am still not judging … just describing a person’s tendency in replies to some of my posts.  I don’t need anyone else’s ignorance and hostility directed at me when they don’t have the courage to post their thoughts so some of my readers, supporters and admirers can put this person “in his place”, as we both know would happen.  So, after repeated requests to post something public and the reader’s refusal to do so, I remove them!  Put simply, let me know if you would like to be removed.

In closing, I merely suggest that we keep an open mind on things but don’t let “ignorance” … “selective ignorance” … become a way of life for you!  Try to keep peace in your thoughts and actions and embrace the diversity of humanity!


John I. Cook, Director

Families, Friends and Thanksgiving



Happy Hump Day … and … Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, after fall sets in and the trees lose leaves and the temperatures drop, we have entered the core of the “holy days”, if you will.  Thanksgiving followed by Christmas … even … then New Year’s.  So, it is a time for families to try to renew their bonds, try to come together under the same roof and living room and dining room and give thanks for having the opportunity to enjoy such a Thanksgiving Feast!  That is the standard … that is the norm … as we see on many television commercials for Publix Supermarkets!  Most are done in good taste … no pun intended!  Others rely on presents of turkeys and fixin’s to adorn their otherwise “humble homes” at Thanksgiving!

Well, I just wanted to say that if I have offended any of the readers of my e-mails and blog posts where I showed little appreciation for the “president elect” Trump, it is not designed to challenge our friendships.  I can tell you that some friends of mine, even former students, are Trump supporters!  If you are a Trump supporter, hopefully, we can still be friends.  Just yesterday, I walked into an Office Depot and a long time Latina friend of mine from New York who usually helps me with copies of documents surprised me with her support of Trump.  I was just telling her that I was planning on traveling abroad during my retirement … especially since Trump won the election.  She asked me if I would give him a chance and I told her “yes”, but I don’t trust his judgement when it comes to ethnic minorities in this country, nor his judgement when it comes to “women”.  She switched gears on me and said, “Those people that keep saying that Trump is not their president better stop and realize that he IS their president!”  I was shocked … because here is not only a woman .. but a Hispanic woman … from New York.  Trump blatantly discriminated against ethnic minorities in New York City where he started his real estate ventures some years ago.  Now, it is okay if you want to support someone like that, though I don’t agree!  Now … let’s be clear … no one has to agree with ME in order for me to wake up in the morning and still be the most tenacious,  peaceful and humble warrior you’ve ever met!  As we used to say back in the day, “Don’t sleep on me!” … translation: “Don’t think that I am stupid because I am peaceful!”

So, don’t let your political differences ruin your Thanksgiving Celebrations nor create conflict amongst friends and family members!  Just remember that if the chips are down, not one president nor senator will come to your aid … just saying.  Perhaps, you can count more on a family member or friend to assist you in an emergency or time of need.  I’ve heard a new term this year … “Friends-giving” … which I believe is today or the night before Thanksgiving when friends get together to enjoy the start of the four-day weekend.  I have many friends … occasionally one or two who like to take pot shots at my education and what they “think” I know … light weight “chumps” … and we don’t always agree.  I have grown to understand that people don’t always have to agree with each other in order to be friends.  While I don’t take too kindly to people who attack my thoughts, I can still tolerate them and usually treat them like psychiatric patients or “children” in some instances, though they may have the age of an adult!!  So, in the event that someone … friend or family member seeks to turn your Thanksgiving festivities into more political aftermath … don’t play into it … treat them like a patient and try to change the subject, if possible.

While the history of Thanksgiving is not something that many people believe is a real “holy day”, take the time to enjoy both friends and family!



John I. Cook, Director

“This Too Shall Pass . . .” – Loosen up!



Happy Friday, All …

It’s been one of those weeks for me … everyone in the office where I work is sick.  I don’t want to … can’t get sick nor miss days from work because we don’t get sick days … ever!!  So, I am one of the few folks in the office who is NOT sick … thank you God …

The world is in upheaval and transition and there’s not much any one can do.  Now, groups can effect change, and groups are made up of individuals …  So, as a united effort, people can change the world!  Often, I find myself reflecting on my earlier years, remembering things and people that are important to me … and who give me life!  I have adopted a “way of thinking about me and my life” that is based on my experiences, knowledge, challenges and successes.  Each of us is different, some of our journeys are similar.  Yet, there are a variety of realities in our world today … choose wisely … and for me, comfortably.  One has to deal with their own pride and their egos, their humility and self esteem.  Our world has people in it who have different perceptions, depending on what they believe in!  This is the challenge when one encounters another person who has experienced different things from another person and, in turn, may have developed a different set of values and priorities.  For example, you have Trumps in the world as well as Obamas.  There are teachers and there are students.  I find it rather fulfilling when I can figure my way out of a challenging situation to which I may have well contributed.  Some people like to enjoy life while others feel better creating discord and confusion in their midst … and anywhere else they can.  There are folks who seek to get along with others as well as those who try to demoralize, criticize and destroy others!  Some of us “humans” are amongst the most dangerous animals on the planet.

There are givers … like folks who give away food and help create positive feelings for those who don’t have either …  There are “takers” of every opportunity to put someone else down while hiding their own low self esteemed creature away inside  themselves as they spout insults on the world and others, just to try to  make themselves feel better.  There are folks who can’t be alone or stay quiet for an extended period of time and there are still others who know how to balance the “world’s experiences” as they are … both the positive and the negative … and still feel comfortable about themselves as they coexist with others.  Then there are those humans who have to dominate and control others in order to feel as if they are more important than another fellow human being … who quite often is innocent.  There was a story in the local news last night with an overweight kid who works at Publix and pays for a small apartment that he has his mother there living with him.  So, BAM!  Miami Beach Police bang on and destroy the front door of the apartment, storming in with hazmat masks and gear, rifles drawn … handcuffing the Latino young man who works at Publix and even slapped cuffs on his elderly mother!!!  They said the raid was set for that apartment because they had confirmed that a guy had a heroin laboratory in the apartment and was processing the heroin for sale!  The cops busted the walls and ceilings, cut open his and his mother’s mattresses looking for heroin … threw clothes out of the closets onto the floor … left nothing untouched or unturned … and found N.O.T.H.I.N.G.!!!  Didn’t apologize nor offer compensation.  When asked why they did this to this 30-something year old Latino young man who works for Publix and his mother, they responded that they had the correct apartment and were looking for a guy who the tenant who paid rent there with his mother NEVER heard of …. the young Latino man’s name was not even on the warrant!!!!

Imagine if that were you … or me!!  I have learned to believe that I can loosen up when things get tense, work through the challenge … perhaps not with perfection, but indeed with dignity!  I remember Dr. King’s cry, “We shall overcome … some day!”  Woody Allen once said, “Ride loosely in the saddle of life …” ’cause it certainly gets bumpy sometimes!  Spirituality saves me from becoming overly obsessed with material things as it it something that is as mysterious as it is powerrful.  That God-child that dwells with in us, should we decide to nurture it, offers us peace and harmony as we pursue our lives.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the journey!
John I. Cook, Director

The Trump Effect . . . Did You Think It Was That Far Off?!?


Happy Hump Day, Y’all … Or IS It?!?

Y’all know what I am talking about?  … that thing I am asking you if you thought it was that far off …. “The Trump Effect”!

All of that hate that he stirred up to get “sick” people out to vote for him is being directed at innocent targets.  Crimes against Muslims are up, according to the crime statistics nationwide, in comparison to what they were last year at this time.  A woman … she was a Muslim was told to remove her traditional head gear unless some “home styled terrorists” were going to burn it off of her head with a cigarette lighter if she didn’t remove it in their presence!!  Some kid in a Miami Dade Public High School showed up to school with a “Trump” cap and a confederate flag floating in the air while he had someone take a photo of him for social media.  Some of the high school kids reported it, and it was investigated by the school’s principal and administration.   The kids apologized and they were reprimanded according to school misconduct policy which was not elaborated on in the news report covering this event.  The Trump Effect … you can act like an asshole and say I am sorry …if you want to …  ’cause he doesn’t apologize … and gets ready for the “Next Episode” in your life’s drama to tout the fact that Trump won the electoral college vote.  It’s funny because in his own interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday night he said that the electoral college was rigged and that the popular vote should be what determines the winner of the presidential race.

So, this African American veteran in a city in Texas went into a Chile’s Restaurant where they were giving free food to veterans on Veteran’s Day and was questioned by a store manager.  After, an older white patron who was also a veteran from World War II spoke up and said, “I was in World War II and there weren’t any blacks over there so you’re not a veteran!”  This white patron was wearing … what else … a Trump cap saying “Make America Great Again”!  This character was able to coerce this manager to ignore the service card the African American veteran had in his hand and SHOWED HIM and also had his service dog with him decked out in a “red, white and blue” neck chain and body holster so he could guide the service man … yep … to take the box of food away from him!  “Trump Effect”!  Hey … when I first heard this … my mind returned to my New York City corner days when I had to talk tough in certain neighborhoods … and I strung together a bunch of insults for Trump … then I got control of myself and calmed down!

Have you heard the story about the guy who hosts an anti-gay, anti-Muslim, racist website … and Trump wants to name him his official advisor!!?  His name is a household word in the Ku Klux Klan and soon to be … in the White House!  Stephen Bannon is the candidate for the position of Trump’s Chief Strategist … and is also the organizer of the website called Brietbart which is purported to represent the “alt right”  movement.  What is that?  Well, simply put, it is an extremist movement that supports ” … the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and protectionist trade polices.  It opposes feminism, diversity, gay rights, globalism, gun control … and civil rights” …  Sounds very American to you?!?!  You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.  Is this how he … “Scrump” … will make America great again … Or … maybe make America MIGRATE?!?!  There was a woman on a local newscast …  a Haitian civil rights activist … who spoke about “the electoral college” and how it was created during the times of slavery in the USA, which wasn’t that long ago, and how it is “outdated” and needs to be revised.  In my opinion, which you may not value … but I ain’t gonna die over it … it needs to be re-evaluated.  Even as outgoing Senate minority leader Harry Reid stated, “This man lost the popular vote by 2 million votes, is now president elect … and wants his chief strategist in the White House to be an advocate of the alt right.”  Reid follows with, “Don’t do it … don’t do it!” while Trump told the “home styled terrorists” who are openly attacking Muslim women, African Americans, immigrants, gays and lesbians to “Stop it!  Stop it!!”  But “Scrump” … YOU started it!

As the POTUS Obama watches the “transition” and does his part to make it smooth, I think he is intelligent enough to see that there are some problems looming on Capitol Hill with this “new-styled” President Trump.  If you are staying here … get prepared to study reasons for impeachment …


John I. Cook, Director

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: