Be Enlightened – 2014

womanmeditating

Happy Monday, y’all!Some of you might be thinking, “When is he gonna be happied out?!”  No worries, I wonder myself sometimes.  I really wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach this topic as a New Year’s Resolution or Christmas/Kwanzaa gift … even a late Chanukah present if you prefer.  But it is something that I wish for all my friends, perhaps, even my enemies … that they be enlightened.Educational Excellence’s motto is “Know Thyself,” and, that concept or axiom is very similar to being enlightened.  There is a balance, I believe, to this experience called “life.”  Most people don’t like to think about this and definitely do not like talking about it.  I have noticed that people are more comfortable reading about this subject and writing about it.  This balance I’ve been referring to is the acknowledgement that there are forces of good and forces of evil on this planet.  We could discuss for centuries where they come from but if you observe the history of human kind as well as our direction as a civilization, we can clearly see that there have been some mistakes made.  Perhaps you may disagree with me on this as well.  Perhaps, “you” can explain why there is a deterioration of cultural values, those values that still seek to do “right” as opposed to “wrong” – another discussion that could go on for centuries or more with some people I know!My father used to come up with the darnest of “observations” in our home and with the kids.  He noticed stuff like … If me or my brother or sister said we couldn’t find something in the refrigerator or in the kitchen shelves, he would simply say, “Bend your back!”  Now you had to be sharp to understand that what he meant was that it was on the lower shelves and we had to bend down to see it!  His favorite saying or reply when I would tell him I finally understood what was developing in a certain situation like something in college or in a relationship, was, “That’s common sense!”

So, in contemplating what your resolution might be, I offer up a bit of “enlightenment”, however you choose to receive it.  Make 2014 the best darn year yet and keep it positive!  Don’t be afraid of change in your life or others.  It is the only constant in life.  Be well, Happy New Year 2014 ….
Peace,
John I. CookEmoji, Director

“Tough It Out!”

Tough It OutHappy Friday, All!

“Yes indeedy!”, as my friend “Petey” used to say, T.G.I.F.! As we approach the last days of 2013, I am sure that thoughts may be swirling around in our heads as we wonder what we could’ve done better. Moving forward into a New Year is often an opportunity to revise a previous plan, noting where improvements are needed. Most people today are finding that to look back too long can cause one to lose focus on ones goals, as well as direction. Perhaps, a goal may need tweaking and may require some help and expertise from someone who has experience. Other times, one may just have to tough it out.

Some television networks have begun to show clips of “The Year in Review,” which highlight the most memorable, often the most horrible, as well as the most emotional moments of this past year. I am sure that many may have “clips” of their own that replay in ones own mind, highlighting those things we can do better. This past Christmas was a change for me, since my daughter, Ayanna Lynne, came from Connecticut to visit, and, we all visited my sister in Port St. Lucie, FL. While trying to “move forward” so to speak, I found that there were some “new” things we had to learn about each other. It is easier to look outside of our “inner circle” and find something to preoccupy our attention though it (our attention) may better serve us if we focused on ourselves or that “inner circle”.

Have you ever heard the expression “Tough It Out!” before? This might be easier said than done. This past year, I personally have focused on spiritual conditioning which is a very important part of the human journey, methinks! One may see challenges in ones own life and make them bigger than life. This is where the conditioning comes in for me, developing the awareness of the spiritual threshold and where it may lead us next. This past year, a good friend passed away and I know it had a tremendous impact on his family. While celebrating Christmas this year with the remaining fragments of our extended family, which is basically my sister and I and our offspring, I became aware of some valuable lessons. We wanted to come together again and this was highlighted by my only offspring coming to visit us here in Florida. Her cousins rallied round her to make her visit fun and each of us continued working on our own destinies while experiencing and enjoying the “holy days” together. Yesterday was the first day of Kwanzaa as well as a “holy day” for countries in Canada and Europe, where the more advantaged gave gifts to the less advantaged. It brought back memories of my meeting up with Big Mama and her Team of Life. Her Christmas Season 2013 was highlighted by a “gift-giving” event at Santa’s Enchanted Forest located in Miami Dade. Thousands of children gathered there to enjoy the lights and the amusement park like rides, music, food, fun and festivities. No child left there without a gift!

Are there some issues that you just need to “tough out” moving forward into 2014? If you are human, I am sure there must be at least one! For me personally, and for me and Educational Excellence, we plan to move forward with our efforts as we appreciate your support of those efforts, and seek to continue the contributions to make this world a better place … and simultaneously making myself and EE a better entity. Feedback is always appreciated. Thanks for a wonderful year!

Peace,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa!

Sleigh RideHappy Monday, All!

You know, no matter what happens, I am grateful when I wake up the next morning! Christmas Week is here and many of you may already be on Christmas Vacation. Every year is different for me nowadays as I am maturing and still pretty much single! Again, I am not complaining, just explaining why I have some viewpoints that you may or may not share. I know that Christmas has a different meaning for every family and certainly as many individuals! When someone says “Merry Christmas” to you, we may not be aware of what Christmas really means to that person, nor perhaps, what they wished it meant.

Fortunately, I have lived to see another year and even a rekindled relationship with my daughter, who has come to visit “this side” of the family. Our family, I presume is like most families, unique in our structure and the type of relationships within the structure. I often think back to my senior thesis that I wrote to graduate from Princeton University entitled: “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family.” Most of my memories of my family, which is the focus of my first book, “From the Projects to Princeton,” include near heroic episodes of both my parents to keep a roof over our heads, all four of us, food to eat and decent clothes to wear as we grew up in the Winbrook Apartments. Mom even cleaned houses in addition to a lot of volunteer work, including being President of the PTA for a few years at Rochambeau Elementary School where I went. My dad worked for Pinkerton Detective Agency for many many hours on various assignments. He was glad to have “graduated” from being a garage mechanic to Sgt. Cook after some years with Pinkerton in Westchester. They struggled to make ends meet and it seems that nearly every Christmas, we were traveling from White Plains to Tampa, Florida where my mother’s late sister, Drucilla, and late brother, Jerry lived with their spouses and children. They lived in what comparably would be called “the country” part of Tampa. Christmases were always cool!

So, as I enter another Christmas Season, enjoying friends and family, and just being grateful and humble for a decent life today, I just want to say Merry Christmas to each and every one of you and your families as well. Try to exercise forgiveness when necessary, continue to be loving and generous in spirit and in deed, and be yourself! Most relationships require work. Nowadays, if the average person doesn’t see any results from this “work” that may gratify ones spirit, the average person may not want to make the investment and take the time to do the work. Just a quiet little thanks to my family members for doing this work this holiday season. Our ancestors, I am sure, are smiling on us, too. Happy Kwanza, as well!

Merry Christmas!

John I. CookEmoji, Director

The Best Holiday Wishes!

Best Holiday WishesHappy Friday, All!

T.G.I.F. might be in order folks! What do you think? Well, any other greeting will be fine, too!

Just last evening, I had the pleasure of picking up my daughter, Ayanna Lynne, from the FTL/HLLYWD Airport after work. As the holidays continue, I am hoping to see more friends and family, but this makes Christmas extra special for me. Now, I know I have friends who may be agnostic or just not grip the “Jesus Christ” story as part of their holiday celebrations. So be it. I know I also have friends and associates who are just “good people” with good values and a good human compass for their own behavior. So, I still want everyone included in these Holy Day Wishes.

Now, I am not a big “Duck Dynasty” fan so I don’t watch the show. What I did watch, however, were the responses to this guy’s “anti-gay” comments as well as some people’s attempt to compare the POTUS with this character “what’s his face” Peterson or something. Of course, the comment was like: “Who should be fired? The man who lied to the country about foreign policies OR the man who simply spoke his opinion?” I thought to myself, “What cynical times we live in … to even dare to compare these two?! No comparison!!” And of course, as I suspected, the protagonist of “Duck Dynasty” wasn’t finished with his remarks. He continued on into the race area. Peace be still! Sure, everyone can have their opinion, but don’t be surprised where your opinionated remarks land you, especially if you work for a major television network with many many more shows other than yours!

Next week lands us on Christmas Day, and, while I work the day before and the day after, the office is showing us much love with a small gathering of quality assurance agents, sales agents and all levels of management. I’ve heard of many people having Christmas parties, some with the regular “drunk dramas” and others that went off without a hitch! There are going to be more police on duty as folks finish their last minute shopping, so, be careful as you place things in your car, on your porch … since deliveries have been stolen, too … Don’t drink and drive unless you want to either add to fatality statistics or simply get arrested … or killed! Be responsible in these celebrations and please, please, please don’t forget the meaning of this holiday, which is “Joy to the World!”, Peace on Earth and Love Love Love! Have a great weekend.

Peace and Love,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

“We” Are The Human Family

One Human Family

Happy Hump Day, All!

 

 

 

Yes, it is … the middle of the work week for many of us! Even for those of us whose “weekends” fall on other days, it’s just so cool to have “Hump Day” anyways!!!

 

 

 

A quick house-keeping note, if you will, I wanted to thank you all in the Educational Excellence e-mail family for “putting up” with my early morning typos and stuff! You know, it seems no matter how early I wake up to write, or even if I put together a piece the night before, later in the day is when I find an error like “your” instead of “you” or vice versa! So thanks for still reading as I seek perfection, especially in the blog page which I can edit “all day long”!

 

 

 

Haven’t we all noticed that certain times of year seem to highlight “the family”? I have always been a big fan and student of the family. In fact, my senior thesis written as part of the graduation requirement from Princeton was called: “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family.” As I continued to have opportunities to explore and travel to different places, I became intrigued by the “other cultures”. I wouldn’t call myself “ethnocentric,” or thinking my ethnic group is the center of things. Yet, I do recognize, appreciate and accept the fact that ALL ethnic groups, including mine, are part of the fabric of the human family. We ALL, thusly, have made and continue to make contributions to the “human experience,” if you will. My thirst for knowledge, to learn another language, and to experience other cultures all make this journey quite intriguing and interesting, enjoyable even. Of course, we want to “know” the positive contributions, though it is important to learn about the “not so positive” characteristics of any culture, too! That knowledge may help us avoid certain pitfalls, misunderstandings and just “bad habits”.

 

 

 

My daughter by birth, Ayanna Lynne, is coming to visit me tomorrow and stay for Christmas! I honestly don’t remember exactly how old she was the last time we spent Christmas together since her mother and I separated (and ultimately divorced) only two or three years after she was born. It was a sad time in all of our lives though she had no control over what was happening between her biological parents. After a few years, I had traveled to Cali, Colombia, SA, to teach and live, and we were finally divorced. I suggested that her mother permit Ayanna to come and visit me while I worked in Cali, but she refused. Peace be still … Once I had returned to the USA five years later, Ayanna and I reconnected a bit, she did come to Florida for a Christmas which she spent part time with me and part time with my sister Edna and her kids, Ayanna’s cousins. We had a “falling out” after the visit and things changed for the worse. I unofficially was adopted by a young lady, Natasha Carilles, as she learned of the pain I experienced in missing Ayanna. She and I have been very very close friends ever since then, too! Maybe they’ll have a chance to meet up, since “Tashi” lives here.

 

 

 

The concept of “family” often extends beyond direct biological connections. It is often characterized by warm, loving, caring and uplifting relationships that are developed outside of the traditional biological connections. A good friend, my landlord, “Mitch” even dropped off an “early Christmas present” for Ayanna and I … maybe even “Tashi” … to enjoy together. Thanks “Mitch”, much appreciated! I think we’d have a lot more progress as the “human race” if we tried to connect as one human family! May we use these “holy days” to experience the widespread vastness of this “human family”, especially if you already haven’t.

 

 

 

Peace,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

 

“Live And Let Live!”

Hearts Live Let LiveIt’s Monday ….

Yes, once again we’ve another day of life to enjoy! Please, don’t take it for granted, folks. Over the years I’ve spent on this planet, considering the places I have been fortunate enough to see and the safe experiences I’ve had, I find myself suggesting to folks to “live and let live!” That way, one does NOT set oneself up for disappointment … we get enough of that already. Does it seem like we live in the same world with “the others” whose outlook on life may vary considerably from ours?! Doesn’t it make you wonder why one person likes “criticizing” and “speaking harshly” while others prefer to encourage and support our fellow humans along this journey?! Have you ever noticed how a person may speak to one person so warmly but within the next second, that same person may turn to you with some hostility in their voice? What do you think is the reason for this? Hey, don’t spend too much of your life trying to figure out someone else’s choices, you’ve got your own to make – live and let live!

“Life itself is the true binge!”, I’ve seen written in various ways. Yet there are others whose preoccupation with someone else’s life becomes their binge. Still others prefer food, or power, even sex, not just drugs or alcohol. The interesting thing about these “alternate” binges, since we’ve been given the gift of life, is that they usually have some negative “side effects”, if you will! Excessive weight, dependence on others, the desire to control others even … are amongst those “side effects”. Others may see you trying to live your dream, and, rather than encourage you with it, they seek to interrupt it and cast doubt on it. Ha! One of the most interesting examples of a person who had nearly everything negative thrown at him while he continued to give, and be peaceful, and encourage folks to work together to improve “humanity”, not just their own goals (sometimes obsessions) with life … is Nelson Mandela! Alongside some of my other heroes, if you will, I find MLK, Jr., Gandhi and Mother Teresa. They didn’t wear designer clothes, not that there is anything wrong with that as long as one does not become obsessed with them, didn’t have a television show nor multiple houses in different countries! Yet, their lessons in life were more paramount than the most popular rapper or talk show host and business mogul ever known. What I like about people like Oprah and Ellen are simple – they still, with their platform of fame and wealth, do countless things to encourage and help others achieve a life of meaning.

We know there is enough of everything on this planet to keep ALL of us relatively comfy along this journey. Yet, few people step up to offer a change in the “system”, which is obviously quite capitalistic, as it may either limit their own acquisitions or perhaps, “they” just like to see others suffer and struggle through this journey called life. Then, perhaps, “they” begin their judgment – “Well if I did it, why can’t they do it?!” And that’s where their dedication to humanity ends, and, their obsession with their acquisitions continues. No one of us can solve anyone’s problems alone. It’s a group effort, should we decide to undertake it! Let’s get into the “holy day” spirit, y’all – “live and let live!” Thanks to those of you who have given me support, encouragement and assistance. We’ll get back to fund raising after the holidays for EE. To my friends up North and out West, stay warm – we’ve even got a cool breeze here this morning in SoFlo! Peace be with you.

Namaste,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

To Follow, To Lead, To Unite!

ComeTogether Peace

Happy Friday, All!

So, I’m going out on a limb but, T.G.I.F.!! Glad that this week has come to an end as I look forward to a pretty special weekend! A friend is flying in from Canada and the festivities are cranking up all around town. I think most cities across the country may be getting in the “Christmas Spirit”! How about you?! Do you think there is a consensus on what exactly is the “Christmas Spirit?” I doubt it, simply because some like to lead, others like to follow while there are those of us who like to join together!

Did you notice how quickly the event in Soweto, South Africa at the Soccer Stadium came under fire from so many different directions? There were some inconsistencies, like the sign language “guy” who probably just wanted his “15 minutes” of fame! But in this case, it was more like four hours!!! The POTUS kind of took it all in stride but that was definitely a huge potential security threat. Folks seemed to enjoy the event while others took more “pot shots” at President Obama and the First Lady looking to divide them like those darn articles in the Enquirer “newspaper”!! That is human nature … well … once we’ve become ‘socialized’, we adopt that nature! Gives a competitive edge to some! Again, they both took it all in stride! Proud of our President and First Lady representing us at the Mandela sending off celebration!

 

 

Today is Friday the 13th … any triskaidekaphobiacs in the house?! I mean “13” PLUS Friday, with a full moon looming?! No Fear, right?! It’s the weekend and we’ve got another opportunity to make a difference. There are options. Do you remember when someone, perhaps your parent(s), would say, “Which one do you want?” And you would choose? Well, we’ve got a few good options, choose them all! To follow, to lead and finally to come together. I think “Madiba” would like that! Have a great weekend!

 

 

Peace,

John I. CookEmoji, Director

 

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