Celebrate Giving Thanks

Yellow FeatherWow! Not only is it Hump Day, it is also Thanksgiving Week. It is kind of a kick off to the Holy Days. You know, for me a “holy day” is a day one sets aside for a specific purpose, usually spiritual, where a certain amount of time or days are separated to remember this specific purpose or value. Kind of a separation from the norm of behaviour. So, Thanksgiving raises a lot of issues as the interpretations vary. I have transformed the topic into Celebrate Giving Thanks!

How often do we just give thanks for something or someone? Now, that’s not to say we never do, but it is usually not a common theme being discussed amongst people unless at church. I used to laugh at the “dysfunctional family” jokes, especially around the “holidays”. Now, I know more what was meant. I was always a loner, even with a brother and two sisters, I did stuff by myself. I never asked why, I just did stuff: traveled, taught in other countries and visited still others by myself. I always made friends, I guess it’s just the kind of person I am. So I know I contributed to any dysfunctionality that my family may have! Just sayin’!

The first so called Thanksgiving is said to have one particular origin that I want to mention. It involves the local Pilgrims there at Plymouth Colony where folks were starving and going mad, it is said. They started to celebrate a harvest that yielded some food, since some had resorted to cannibalism amongst the settlers …. again it is said. So, they started shooting their guns in celebration of a meager first harvest. The nearby Wampanoag Indians overheard the ruckus and got a posse together to investigate. They found the colonists celebrating and hung around to make sure that was all it was. They had been around “settlers” before and had learned from experience. So, the colony’s first governor, John Carver, and, Yellow Feather Massasoit may have communicated as leaders to confirm that no battle was going to be fought. So, it wasn’t really a feast though gathering of edible vegetables, fruits and wild animals were shared at some point in the future, again, so it is said.

(Note: This is just one “history” I wanted to share. It is believed that the theme of Thanksgiving was embraced by this nation to quell internal disputes between racial groups amongst the colonies, later states. The African American “version” of this celebration is called “Umoja Karamu” and means unity feast. This is a relatively new celebration!)

So, whatever you decide to do, families and friends and food included, have a fine time. Just don’t forget the theme of being grateful and feeling moved enough to give thanks and to celebrate it. I mean, we all have tough times and know someone who has been challenged with health or family issues, legal challenges and financial crises. So let’s leave all the potential drama aside and come together, at least as families and friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

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Thank The Creator

thank the creatorYes, it’s Monday!

It’s also Thanksgiving Week, right!?! Some things to be grateful for maybe? I was just noticing a day or two ago how I had gotten a bit “snippy” .. with myself. You know, that “negative self talk” we hit up sometimes when something happens that we think we could have avoided like a speeding ticket. Then I stopped myself mid-thought, and reminded me that I’ve gotten this far through life, I must be doing some things right, plus being blessed by The Creator. I am glad I can catch myself before I get too far gone on that negative tangent!

There are some of you who like to reply to me from time to time regarding a piece on the e-mail/blog. This is very cool, I am glad that with everyone’s busy schedule and own ways of thinking, some have time to drop me a line. Thank you. Also, keep in mind that you can access the website by clicking on the link in the signature section below my name. Of course, feel free to reply on the blog of Educational Excellence if you’ve time and want others to know what you think. I always find time to reply so keep your comments and feedback coming!

As I was making breakfast yesterday, Sunday, morning, I was streaming the service from Calvary and overheard two other tele-evangelist on, including Joel Osteen. They all seemed to be talking about being in “The Creator’s favor”, especially when unexpected yet highly anticipated outcomes occur. Many religious and spiritual people call it “claiming the victory.” Osteen, for example mentioned a simple story about being stopped by the police. Upon telling the officer who had asked if his father was “that pastor on tv” that it was, once he (Joel) was sure the officer liked his father, yes, he was let go! Small but still apparently in “the Creator’s favor”. Some of us may have even more potent stories where a miracle of sorts may have occurred and folks didn’t know the source of this miraculous event. Some of us may know full well that when each of us individually “ends” with our ability and strength to handle a given situation, and things still go our way, there has been “divine intervention”.

As we arrive at our destinations for “Thanksgiving Week”, may we keep an extra amount of gratitude that we are able to enjoy food and festivities in the shelter of our friends’ and families’ homes. Amongst it all, please don’t forget to thank The Creator. Be a blessing to those less fortunate when possible, especially during these Holy Days.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Show Some Respect

the respect cycle

It’s Friday!! Do you know where your weekend is? How was your week? Hope things went well for each of you!

Thanksgiving is on the horizon next week and, around this time of year, I always get a bit mystical … spiritually astute, if you will. Over the years, I have learned to let things go that ” don’t serve me in a positive way”! This is one of the premises of yoga practice, to come and leave your problems and worries elsewhere, either the door or on your yoga mat. It is a time to connect your spirit with your body by using your breath. I feel less worried, have gained an uncanny ability to ignore nonsense, and to pay less attention to negativity … from any source … as it does not serve me in a positive way. I love myself more than anyone on the planet …. also in a healthy way. In fact, loving myself allows me to feel more positive toward others who are open to the good vibrations we may share. Otherwise, have a good day!

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination. I have a lot of feeling regarding this event in our nation’s history. The first one is derived from the fact that JFK was born on May 29, 1917, while my mother (RIP) was born on May 20th, 1917 … the same year! My mom was one of the people in the Winbrook Projects who encouraged folks living there to register to vote, understand the issues and legislation that were important to the low income population there, and “get involved in local politics”. I spent many hours with her, at her side, listening to her and basically following her around while my father worked many hours for Pinkerton Detective Agency. Life was so cool, we played games like stickball and knock hockey in the Big Playground, people in the Projects didn’t even lock their doors until going to bed. It was common to borrow a cup of sugar or milk from a neighbor. I decided in fourth grade that I wanted to play an instrument, which was free at Rochambeau Elementary School, and, we even received instruction during school from the band and orchestra leader, Mr. Norman LeBlanc.

So, this particular Autumn day, I had carried my trombone to school because I had a private lesson. I always liked Mr. LeBlanc because he had so much passion for music and kids. I initially wanted to play the drums but there were too many kids who wanted the same. So he had talked me into playing the trombone after I refused the baritone as a second choice. As I sat in class, learning the scales on the slide trombone, a message came over the intercom system there at Rochambeau School. It said, “Boys and girls, teachers and staff, the president of the United States, John Kennedy, has been shot in the head in Dallas, TX!” Mr. LeBlanc looked at me with a long stare. I asked him, “What did they say? Are they serious?” He replied, “They said the President, Kennedy, has been shot in the head!” The room fell silent as he and I were there alone amongst all the school supplied and owned instruments until I broke the silence. I asked him, “Do we shoot our presidents here in America?” He sighed and said, “Yes, John … and he is not the first one.” I was in fourth grade.

Last night, there was a story on about Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother when they had moved into a building in New York City. The focus of the story was the teenager’s fascination with BB guns. The inhabitants of the building reported being shot, their windows being pelted and near sniper attacks on residents after Oswald and his mother moved in. No respect, not even for the elderly women! As our country “progresses”, people seem less concerned with humanity, with values that foster an existence free of stress and drama, and are often simply rude and disrespectful! Anything goes!! Are we surprised, like I was, that people in America want to kill the president? Now, whether you like someone or not, is not so important. Certain people during my upbringing like adults, cops and presidents, all deserve a certain amount of “unconditional respect”. I mean, how many of you reading this have ever run for the office of the President of the United States of America?! So, it’s not the most common profession, if you see where I am coming from, and requires a huge amount of experience, training and plain old courage and chutzpa. They didn’t get into office by “gangster” tactics, they got voted into office!! So, why not show some respect for these people, especially since “we” can’t lead a country like they do?! RIP JFK …

As the Holy Days roll around, try to heighten your consciousness for each other and show some respect, and try to avoid the continued erosion of the fabric of human civilization. For without it, we are doomed to destroy each other! Look around, it’s already begun! Be well.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Count Your Blessings, Not Your Problems!

Counting Blessings ThanksgivingYes, Folks, it’s HUMP DAYYY!

I still can’t get over how funny that camel is in the GEICO Insurance commercial! How do you respond when someone else is happy? How about when they are struggling? Where do you go with it? Do you try to lift them up? Or do you try to find something they did to “smush” in their face?

These are the “Holy Days”, if you will, as I include Thanksgiving as one as well as Christmas. Of course there is Chanukah as well! In most places, the weather cools down, fireplaces are lit where they can be, and the “heat is turned up”! I remember those wintry days in the Winbrook Projects with that old time steam heat that clanged and banged as the hot water swelled up into the metal radiators in each room! Me and Hank had one in our bedroom, Barbara and Edna had one in their bedroom, and, mom and dad had one in their bedroom with the space heater and heating blanket available if necessary. Those were the “good ole” days.

I recall a “12 Step” program’s teaching about avoiding “pity parties”. “Oh, I wish I had this!”, or “How come they have all of that?” and not counting our own blessings … My father wasn’t standing for that in his place! Here was a guy who dropped out of junior high school to work the family farm with his two brothers, David and Samuel. Here was a guy who told this woman he wanted to marry her and, when he got to New York with his brother David and set up shop, would come back and get her. My father was my mother’s first real boyfriend, and, my mother was dad’s “ump-teenth” girlfriend! Once they got things moving a bit, found a little brownstone with rooms for rent in Harlem, David and Isaac went back to Florida from New York by train … to pick up their waiting wives. Such is how the Cook Family began, at least, my generation of us, of which I am the youngest sibling, of Ike and Mary.

So many lessons point to gratitude, appreciation and counting blessings … not problems. Some folks actually get stuck in that mode and become critical of everybody and everything while they may already have as much “good” as they can handle! Others struggle and cling to the script of “poor me” instead of getting out and hustling. When I share my story sometimes with people who don’t know me so well, they often say, “Wow! You went to Princeton … and this is all you have?!” I take a step back from them and count more of my blessings, like peace and love, understanding and forgiveness, harmony and understanding. Now I have never really had ” a lot”, whatever that means, but the folks who are “shakers and movers” that I know don’t hang out with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet either! My article Monday was about their (Buffet and Gates) benevolent hearts, in spite of their incredible riches. Do you have to be a nasty person to be “rich”? Do you have to be humble when you’re poor? There are so many options in between, and all are part of the human experiences we see every day.

Well, we were reminded yesterday at our job that we will be off next Thursday and Friday! I was happy to hear this, since many marketing companies like ours follow no ones non-federal holidays! So, I plan to visit my sister and her family in Port St. Lucie, hang out with my buddies in Ft. Lauderdale over the weekend and NOT forget my blessings. Usually, on Thanksgiving (and Christmas/Chanukah), I would sit at the dinner table with one of my best friends, R.I.P., Peter Zachary, and his wonderful family. I was usually the only “chocolate chip in the cookie”! May we continue to count our blessings, and not our problems! Be thankful, be grateful, for the simple things in life. Yet, look onward and upward, balancing humility and pride, hope and prosperity!

Be well!

John I. Cook, Director

Everyone Has A Purpose!

purposeYes, it is Monday again, folks!

How were the weekends for you all? I hope you had some time to do things that you can’t do Monday through Friday. Just this past Thursday, I took a few hours to visit a doctor’s office in Fort Lauderdale to get an update on the groin injury I seemed to have suffered last month. It’s good sometimes to get a professional opinion on things rather than just hearing folks who want to “one up” another person. So much happens in our lives and it happens so fast, we hardly notice. The doctor said that my hip joints looked good but were apparently inflamed from the positions used in yoga coupled perhaps with the weather and “time”! It seems I must be more moderate in my workouts nowadays and hope things get better. I told the doctor that I really live to work out, especially yoga. He encouraged me that things will be better with a prescription of anti-inflammation medication and “time”!

This coming Friday marks 50 years that president John F. Kennedy, Jr. was killed. The story now half a century old, still captivates the minds of those with the “who dunnit” disposition to life. I still wonder sometimes, exactly what happened. I am sure most of us will never know. JFK certainly had a life full of drama, yet, did a decent job as president.

It seems that Nelson Mandela may be in critical condition again. I mean, he is nearly 100 years of age, and, like most things, except perhaps our spirits, nothing lasts for ever. I wish him well and his family, too. They were just here in Florida branding some South African wines.

In watching “60 Minutes”, I took note of two stories that were noteworthy for me. Perhaps, you may find them a bit interesting. Having lived in Cali, Colombia for five years, I experienced but more so saw firsthand how impoverished some areas in South America are. The story that caught my attention was the one of the “Recycled Orchestra” from Paraguay that gained international attention because a mother of a child often visited a trash dump to retrieve garbage to be recycled into violins, cellos, even woodwind and brass instruments from old pipes and coins! There were children as well as instructors, including Paraguayan musician and singer Roberta Rojas, who taught the children to play those instruments made COMPLETELY from recycled trash retrieved from a small town garbage dump! They are now being booked for tours world-wide and have received gifts of new instruments to help make their future performances stellar.

Also on “60 Minutes” Sunday evening was a story about “Philanthropic Billionaires” led by Warren Buffet who has established a program for the real big money makers including Bill Gates and the woman who invented “Spanx”. These billionaires are very unique and feel that if there are proposals that can utilize their monies better than just having them (monies) sit there gaining interest, they would rather see other “less fortunate” people be given the opportunity to create their dreams as each of them had been able to create their own! This is a beauty of being a benevolent billionaire, not just interested in amassing wealth that they probably will never use in their own lifetimes!

Indeed, everyone has a purpose! Don’t ever give up on finding and breathing life into your own purpose. Have a great week!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

“Now, That’s Just Wrong!”

change the worldHappy Friday, All!

Yes, I don’t see anything wrong with saying, “T.G.I.F”! Do you?! It’s the weekend, Baby!

There has been a lot said about the state of affairs here in the State of Florida. Have you heard of the case involving a woman … an African American woman … Marissa Alexander? Yes, she’s the Jacksonville woman whose husband had been inflicting pain and abuse in the form of domestic violence, and, she decided to shoot a warning shot “near” her husband because he continued to block her exit from their home! You may remember the story. She was sentenced to 20 years in jail and not … NOT … given the opportunity to say that she was “standing her ground” and fired the warning shot in order to be able to leave their home! Is this a double standard? As of yesterday, it had been revealed that her estranged husband, whom she was ordered to stay away from, sent her texts asking if he could still have sex with her! When her attorney revealed this information to the ruling judge in this case, he still refused to grant her bond until the second trial is to take place! Can you say, “Now, that’s just wrong!”

Last night, I was given an assignment to cover a story for the Miami Times OnLine. There was a “Political Forum” held by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s “Chi Psi Omega” Chapter and the Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter at the St. Christopher Episcopal Church on 6th Avenue in the African American community in Ft. Lauderdale. After several law enforcement agencies, including the “infamous” Ft. Lauderdale Police Department and Broward Sheriff’s Office with their African American leaders, assistant Chief of Police, Anthony Williams and Colonel Al Pollack of BSO noted that records and statistics at the Juvenile Justice Department indicated a “disproportionate minority contact”(DMC), they joined forces with the local NAACP Chapter’s president, Marsha Ellison to challenge the “schoolhouse to jailhouse” pipeline experienced by a plethora of “black” teens in this state. It indeed was a meeting of the minds! Several programs, including the Broward School Board’s “Promise Program” as well as the renewed “Florida’s Statewide Civil Citation” program, which requires officers to issue a citation to teens with “first time offenses” have been implemented to curtail, and it has, the high level of African American male youth arrests in Broward County! That’s one good way to “right a wrong”!

When you see something wrong, do you say anything? Or are you like many of “us” who fear consequences for our SELVES if we speak out against a powerful entity? Some of “us” may be more interested in changing things rather than just passing the “blame”, so to speak. Stand up and make a difference whenever you can … just one person or situation at a time!

Have a great weekend and stay “alert”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

What Can I Say?!

bullying killsIt’s Wednesday, All!

Happy Hump Day! There is something to be said about finding things, perhaps looking for them, to be “happy” about. It’s not such a bad deal. Monday, there was a storm that surged onto the shores of the Philippines. Carnival Cruise Lines and the Miami HEAT have decided to donate a million dollars each to help in the recovery of that nation. Do you think that the people there have found anything to be happy about, perhaps?! Just being alive, and, the anticipated death toll originally thought to be approximately 10 thousand people has been reduced. In fact, the President said that it is currently around 1700 people confirmed dead.

It seems we’ve reached a time in human history where “people” want to just do what they want to do, and, say whatever they want to say. Most of us have been addressed “out of our names”, talked to hostile, perhaps even called “names” in our lives. Some of us may have even been bullied, or at least, witnessed it in our life time. Here in Florida, there were several cases where bullying reached the national news with the kicking attack against middle schooler Josie Lou Ratley due to a text sent, and, the bullying of the Brewer teen who was set on fire by his schoolmates over a bicycle in Deerfield Beach. While Josie Lou continues to recover from brain injuries, Michael Brewer has since been arrested on drug and paraphernalia possession charges as well. We’ve heard the horror stories of kids even going as far as to kill themselves to alleviate the drama of being bullied “on line”.

Now, also here in Florida, Miami to be exact, we have a professional football player, Richie Incognito, who has been recently identified as having bullied Dolphin team mate Jonathan Martin. A horrid recording was left on Martin’s voice mail by Incognito which included racial slurs and vulgar actions aimed at Martin and his family. Incognito said something to the effect that these things were said “out of love” and he is sorry if the Martin family was offended! I mean, if I ever heard anything so bizarre, this is certainly high ranking. Either Incognito is really really sick from some delusions of grandeur, or he thinks other people are so stupid that they would buy this “story” of friendship. The NFL has hired a professional group of “football” men to investigate the Dolphin’s locker room culture which precipitated this event.

The best story all week for me was the Florida Viet Nam veteran born in Colombia, South America, married to an African American woman who was seeking help from “post traumatic stress disorder”. He purportedly had sought help, over and over, in different places, but was only told that he would be deported to Colombia. Now this “deportation edict” came AFTER he served this nation in Viet Nam and apparently after his marriage also here in the USA. He was given an “honorable discharge” from the Viet Nam War but details were not released. So, he took his work truck, stopped on an over pass intersecting I-95 and SR595, placed a noose around his neck and had a high powered rifle in his possession … just to get attention … on Veteran’s Day! What a testimony, heh?! He was taken to a local hospital, and I suspect, since he never aimed or shot at anyone the entire time, will be treated for PTSD.

Say what you want to say. The language one uses shapes ones thought process and ultimate perceptions and personal feelings about “life”, too. This is why I cling to positive thoughts like peace, love … and namaste.

Have a great day and a wonderful rest of the week!

Be well!

John I. Cook, Director

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