Bottled Water Binge!

water is a human right

Happy Monday, All!

Can it possibly be a “happy” Monday?! Why … of course it can!! Us humans find so many different little, often idiosyncratic, things to become obsessed with, be it the latest style cell phone to bottled water. I mean, I have my own as well. Basketball is something that I love to watch, to play, to coach and to read about! I am not sure when it started but I do remember the first time my big brother Hank (RIP) first showed me how to dribble then shoot a basketball at the Big Playground in the Winbrook Housing Projects in White Plains, NY. I also enjoy eating these fruit pops made by “Whole Fruit!” I can eat a box of six pops in one evening. My favorite flavor is strawberry.

What are some of your binge materials, if I may ask? Some years ago, I would have had to add some rather “unhealthy” things that I binged on, but have since turned the corner on. Around the time that I had arrived to Florida from Colombia in 1995, I was suffering from a few different complications caused by one of my binge items. Yet, the main one was walking pneumonia! I rode a motorcycle in Cali, Colombia and I often got caught in deluges of rain. On other occasions, I would take my motorcycle into the mountains to a small rustic town called “Sylvia” and rent a room and a horse and ride until the sun went down!! I really enjoyed the horses a lot. I also enjoyed speaking, reading and writing Spanish! I even enjoyed dancing salsa and meringue to the most popular songs then, and even learned the lyrics of a handful of songs sung in Spanish.

While I have had my share of unhealthy binges, I talk about them … write about them … and the methods I used and still utilize to this day to keep my life “simple and healthy.” I have been struggling not to get a full blown cold though something has definitely been trying to grow from this cough and sinus congestion that I get when the weather gets cooler. So, no matter what, folks, keep in mind that you can select your binge today … you can change it from something unhealthy and costly to something a lot more beneficial to your life and it might not cost you anything!

Have a wonderful day and a great week!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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Trying to Please Everyone!

Socrates Be

It’s Friday … and … T.G.I.F.!

Here’s to hoping your weeks have been productive. Sometimes, it is hard to be productive if one doesn’t have many goals. Just yesterday, a “friend” whom I have only “met” on a social network who was a co-classmate of many of my former students, told me something that made me smile. Now, I remember a while back this woman, “married with children”, had told me that I was a great motivator for her as my consistency and quest for good things to do with my life impressed her. Just yesterday, she mentioned that she had returned to practicing yoga and was eating better and feeling a lot better, too. She also said “thank you” to me on this social network to let me (and others!) know that she appreciated me and that I was indeed a real inspiration.

Have you ever had “times” in your life where one person was utterly impressed by your mannerism and choices in life; then another person may find the same respectable behavior actually “offensive?” Most humans have been in front of that “door of life” many times. It seems that no matter what you try to do, there is ALWAYS someone who feels that their opinion of you is more accurate than others’ opinion of you, and seek to make you feel bad about something you do, right?! Here of late, as I seek to develop a clientele for tutoring and keep the volunteer stuff going, I have encountered several such situations. I can offer to pick someone up, take them to handle some of “their things,” and then be told something like “you’re cheap” because I don’t spend my last monies on them!!

One client who had hired me, then fired me the next day, then … the following day hired me back with an hours notice, pulled a fast one. They went on a trip to the Caribbean and left the “boat captain” to handle the tutoring schedule. I was told that “the boat captain” of their personal vessel would call me this past Sunday for a possible tutoring session. I didn’t get a call. Monday, I usually put in an hour or two with the family’s two boys. But I hadn’t heard from anyone though I had sent texts and left several voice messages. It was raining Monday almost all day and an associate asked if I could take them to Palm Beach County to pick up something from a friend, and I agreed. I was waiting for a call or text or some communication from someone in the family to confirm the class that normally started at 8pm. Nothing . . . So, I told my friend that I would take her. On our way back, around 7:40pm, I get a text from the boat captain saying, “Just wanted to be sure that you are on your way.” I text him back that I was in Palm Beach County and it would probably take an hour to get there in Fort Lauderdale, and, that I hadn’t heard back from the “Mrs.” so I assumed class was canceled. When she returned from their trip yesterday (she and her husband), she asked the boat captain to tell me … NOT to come to tutor her sons! I text her saying, “Please let me know if you want me to return or if the message from the boat captain meant you were no longer going to need my tutoring services. I want to work and need to find other clients, perhaps.” She text me back, “Yes, find other clients and I have found a tutor who is reliable.” I thanked her for her reply and let it go . . .

Now, I was shocked … but not too shocked … as she had stated earlier that she could find a tutor that charged ten dollars less an hour than I did!!! Here’s a family with a near mansion on the waterways in Ft. Lauderdale with a personal watercraft, jacuzzi, swimming pool and humongous aquarium downstairs, not to mention a theatre as well! So, I wondered if it was really about the ten dollar difference per hour in tutoring costs or something else. Well, I have to look for other clients since I was planning to do three days per week with these kids. I also learned a valuable lesson …. again! Trying to please everyone can be difficult . . . so . . . try to please oneself … and ones Creator. Have a great Friday, a wonderful weekend, and “try to be as you would seem to be.”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

The Red Flag

the red flag

It’s Hump Day, All!

Yes, yes . . . the middle of the week again. Do you ever get tired of “celebrating” each day? Now, when I say “celebrate”, I simply mean appreciate. We don’t need bells and whistles, balloons and party favors to celebrate. We can celebrate with an attitude of gratitude. For me, it goes a long way.

Historically, the “red flag” has taken on different meanings though the most common notion of seeing something red, even a flag, is to stop. The Communist Flag was red as well as the socialist flag. Here in America, when one approaches an intersection where one needs to stop, we have a red light and we have a red “stop sign.” Okay, where am I going with this?! Red normally nowadays means to stop … like STOP the Violence! In my own affairs, I often refer to the red flag as symbolizing a set of events, even one, that may raise some question as to whether I should continue moving in a particular direction. This could be with a job, with an event like a concert or group gathering, or even with a particular situation that may be presenting itself to me. We all know that moment well. Sometimes, when we think back, we realize that we should have NOT moved forward in a friendship or job or even attending a particular event or concert.

Another seventeen year old was killed in Northwest Miami Dade while sitting in a park watching her cousins play. Often, when something like this happens, news reporters look for some way to redeem the fallen youth by commenting that she was on a path to graduation from high school, thusly indicating that she was not in a gang or anything notorious where “drive bys” are somewhat commonly experienced. One of the girl’s friends commented afterwards that Keimouria Gardner sat on a bench in a park watching her younger cousins play when multiple popping sounds were suddenly heard. The friend asked Keimouria what she thought that was. Keimouria answered, “Oh, that’s just firecrackers!” Seconds later, the friend said that Keimouria fell from the bench to the ground and blood began to flow profusely from her fallen body . . . Peace be still.

It was just last month where there was a big rally held to “Stop the Violence” in Miami Gardens, FL, a place that is riddled very often with bullets, drive-bys, robberies and even innocent youth (and adults!) being murdered. So many community leaders, religious officials and even the superintendent of school in Miami Dade have spoken out against this senseless removal of “young life” … “one bullet at a time.” It seems that it is extremely difficult to turn the tide of this violence in areas like Miami-Dade and other larger cities across the United States of America. Still, for me, I cling to the concept of peace, the advocating of peace, and the search for living together in harmony. Perhaps, I am dreaming … perhaps, not. Yet, I choose non-violence today and strongly suggest that we continue to do all we can to “Stop the Violence” in our communities, our schools … and our nation … one soul at a time!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

A Gentle Witness

Dorothy Height

Hello there, folks!

It’s Monday … the first day of a new week. What are each of us going to do with it? I don’t know about you but I’ve got a few projects that I need to complete ranging from figuring out the type of medical insurance I may be eligible for and handling tax related issues. ‘nough said, right!

Yet, as I awoke this morning, grateful for having had a very decent weekend and an exceptional Sunday, I wanted to share some things with you all. First of all, thanks to those of you who found time to reply to Friday’s e-mail/blog post. Two people in particular, whom I have know since childhood, replied in such a manner that really touched my being. James and Robert, thank you . . .

After having a decent Friday and Saturday, bills not included, Sunday took a rare form. Now, I had gotten in a bit later than usual so I slept a bit later than usual. Yet, when I got up, I did my “usual” which is put my clothes in the washer and start breakfast. I usually get them BOTH done at the same time, breakfast and laundry. Oftentimes, I may even stream the service from Calvary Chapel or catch one of the tele-evangelist on t.v. I didn’t yesterday. An associate with a personal problem similar to one I had many years ago approached me asking for help. I offered counseling since the type of help this person wanted is NOT the kind of help I choose to give to someone. Now, I have been “swindled” out of a few dollars here and there, unbeknownst to me as to what the perpetrator was going to do with the few dollars. But never have I knowingly helped someone to “escape reality” using the age old technique of altering it … perhaps … so that they could deal with it better. I offered counseling and was an attentive ear. I wasn’t sure where it was going but I had to distance myself from this, peace be still.

I have a New York born yoga classmate and friend who had told me about this event called the “Fire Ceremony” being held at Yoga Warehouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. I went and it was an incredible experience, and, my friend met me there. It was basically a cleansing ceremony utilized for centuries by yogi communities in the East and still takes place in many communities world-wide today. The music the chanting, the incense and the meditation, which was indeed profound, took me to a place that I had never been before … spiritually speaking … and I was at peace with my own issues and the universe. I was a gentle witness to the Creator’s love. Om shanti

Another “gentle witness” who has often been the “unsung giant” of the civil rights era, Dorothy Irene Height, if alive today would be 104 years of age! She was born on March 24, 1912 in Richmond, VA and held such areas of hard work in administration, education and civil rights – in particular African American women’s rights, unemployment and illiteracy dear to her heart. She studied at Columbia University, Barnard College and New York University (NYU) and met her sunset on April 20, 2010. She even said that she had been confronted by the “Klan,” as were many civil rights leaders (MLK, Jr. included) and did NOT back down from her life’s work to pursue equal rights for all, especially African American women as she was one! She indeed can be labeled a gentle witness of our Creator’s love for each of us.

Have a wonderful Monday and a productive week.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Follow Through!

Follow Through

Yes, yes, y’all! It’s Friday … so … I’m gonna Thank God It’s Friday!

Sticking to my guns, y’all …. e’ery day! Needless to say, I am not perfect, so don’t get any crazy ideas. Yet, one of my daily affirmations is that people can count on me to follow through on what I start with them, so to speak.

In playing sports, be it tennis, golf, baseball, archery … and my favorite … basketball, there is such a thing as the “follow through.” You don’t just swing and stop when you want if you are trying to be a great hitter in baseball. Likewise in tennis, once you’ve hit the ball squarely, you follow through with the natural motion of your swing to achieve greater accuracy and velocity. I don’t know how many basketball coaches I’ve had that demonstrate and insist on that “follow through” motion when shooting a jump shot. “Follow through, Johnny Cook! Follow through, Son!” That was Coach Blake from the sidelines of our team’s bench at St. Paul’s School, as he encouraged me to use that “flow” when taking a 30 footer, which I didn’t take too often!! I enjoyed driving to the basket and getting as close as I could. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”

Life is much the same, my friends. I feel better when I follow through on projects, goals and dreams. I am NOT the kind of person who gives up. My parents taught me that as I watched them work together and piece driving trips to Florida from New York together on Christmas Vacations, not to mention other trips and activities. There were those summer Saturday mornings, sometimes Sundays, when we would get up early, get all our chores done from emptying the trash pails, cleaning the bathroom, and … yep, in the Projects … cleaning our bedroom windows!! Then, we would end up packing up the two-tone pink fishtail Cadillac with food, grill and sporting equipment to play softball or basketball. Finally, we would arrive at a State Park called Bear Mountain setting up for a festive family picnic day from sun up to sun down!! So, I just want to suggest that if you want something done right, not only do it yourself, but follow through, y’all!

I have begun a tutoring component of Educational Excellence that I see taking off a bit during these transition months since being laid off at Platinum Marketing Group in January. I initially started EE back when I taught Personal Development, English and reading enrichment courses for non-native language speakers, Critical Thinking (debating) at City College in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Many of my students needed an additional 2-4 hours of “one to one” work with either speeches, essays or just mapping out their futures. So, I began tutoring some of them in their own homes, met their families and learned of their hopes and dreams. I did my best to follow through with them on any and all of their projects. And through it all, Educational Excellence now hosts a blog/website, an official business website, and not only do I continue my writing and motivational speaking, but have come a full “360 degrees” and am back building the tutorial component of the business, though spiritual in nature! I have had “exes” tell me to trash my dream of building EE, as well as have had people ask me, “Who do you think you are? What do you think you are doing?” Even occasionally, “What are you talking about?” Sometimes I share it … sometimes I don’t. But I do follow through!! Do you?

Have a great day, as Spring has officially sprung, and I will stay on the case, y’all. And if nobody told you yet today that they love you, I love you … each of youse! And thank you, too!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

For The Love of Life . . . I Live!

For The Love of Life

Happy “Hump Day” Morning, Y’all!

Of course we know what day it is!! That’s because we make each day count, right?! Well, if you’re not appreciating and making the best of each day, then … what do you live for?! Now, I am not suggesting that you “do away with yourself,” because The Creator giveth … and The Creator taketh away! It is not our job to do such a thing with our lives.

Waking up in the morning has always been one of the greatest joys in my life! Like this morning, I awoke early because I took charge of a situation, with the help of my Creator, and decided NOT to try to work all day and half of the night; then make sure another person got to an audition or engagement. This usually caused me to “hit the sack” at some unheard of hour like 3 or 4 … sometimes even 5AM! Of course, the next day suffered tremendously … That was NOT a good option for me. Hearing the birds chirping this morning outside the window of my flat before the traffic starts building has always been one of my favorite things I like about living where I do. Now, it is NOT an exclusive apartment complex, but it is in a pretty upscale neighborhood. We have the Pine Crest Private Day School just across the street and several residential areas adjacent to the apartment complexes that line the East side of 18th Avenue from Cypress Creek Road to Federal Highway aka US 1. The early morning has become my favorite time to reflect . . . and write.

Have you ever met people who seem NOT to love their lives, but live nearly moment to moment with no use of values like truth, peace, communication and understanding? It is rather difficult to have a decent time with such types of people. I mean, they might lie to get what they want … and think nothing of having told a lie to get what they want … even a sandwich!! Okay, so, I value my skills gifted me by my Creator and fortunately, lying is NOT one of those skills. Hard work IS one of those skills! Don’t take it the wrong way now. I know that there is a saying, “Don’t work harder, work smarter!” And I see the results of that axiom, if you will, in the lives of some well-to-do people. The new clients I have, two brothers in Fort Lauderdale, have a canal with a boat in it in their back yard! The house is humongous … with a theatre and dining room on the first floor. Obviously, someone (their father) is working “smarter,” so to speak. So I am their tutor! I take pride in that as much as some people take pride in the work that they may do!

I am grateful that today, I have learned to live life for the love of life . . . and not any particular possession or person in my life. It is a humble form of existence. It came to me yesterday during yoga class with Marissa as she instructed us to take the “humble warrior” pose. I can’t say that I remember any other yogis having us do that pose with such deliberation, if at all! I often enjoy the “peaceful warrior” pose as well as warriors I & II, but this was a moment of reflection with deep breathing in a pose I don’t remember having ever done before! I felt enlightened indeed.

As Spring is about to bloom, and, the beaches here in Fort Lauderdale are filled with tourists and Spring Breakers, I’ve got to keep that gratitude in my attitude … and make every day count.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

” ‘t Is The Season . . .”

A seed dreaming inside

Happy Friday, All!

Now, I might have to take a few steps back first … get a running start … and then say, “Thank God It’s Friday!” And you?

Upon looking at the title of today’s writing, I said to myself, “Well, John … Your reader’s are going to think that you have lost your mind … what’s left of it anyways!” Of course, that’s why I DIDN’T change it … It will be a challenge to expose this “seed dreaming inside” of me.

In taking a panoramic view of “reality”, so to speak, I notice a lot of troublesome times and moments … right down to my own individual experiences these past few weeks. My heart was broken when I thought about Jordan Davis losing his life and the jury having some difficulty charging his assailant with “murder” as they should have. I mean, 9 shots into a vehicle with UNarmed teenagers inside … one is killed instantly … What do we carry inside ourselves to drive us to want to deviate from the established norms to something like this?! Of course, there are more events we could look at. But … isn’t this “Spring Time” when the birds and the bees are finding their way through the trees to create new life?! Isn’t this a time of new beginnings of sorts?!

The situation in the Ukraine has been de-escalated apparently and Russian troops have been “called down” from their occupation of this independent state. When watching the news yesterday, there was a story regarding the blast that occurred in East Harlem the day before. One gent was interviewed and said, “When I was on my way to work in the early morning, I walked out of my home and immediately smelled gas!” Was that enough of an alert to get people to safety?! No … it wasn’t … because New York City’s Harlem is quite big and the gas lines are probably an intricate weaving of pipes … old ones at that … beneath the City’s surface!!! Where to begin looking?! And that plane from Malaysia heading to Beijing, China still hasn’t been found … nor any traces of anyone or anything so far … Kind of sends chills up my spine!

Personally, I found myself wanting to help an associate who had only oneself in mind … but in a very narcissistic way! Everything had to revolve around this person … who was asking everyone around to help with some aspect of her life!! Now I thought, “I just passed through a very rough time and wasn’t sure how I was going to come out of it, so … maybe this is my opportunity to lend a helping hand to someone!” Yet, I soon discovered that lies, deception and playing one person against another was the style of this creature!! “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive!” Soon, my heart was wrenched back to reality and I had to allow myself to be removed from this environment, as did some of the people I met who sought to also help this person with housing, food, transportation … even money! I had to hit a yoga class yesterday in an effort to alleviate the deception and fraud I had experienced just to find a peace and calm in my own heart!! I was fortunate enough to have chosen a class with a teacher from Cali, Colombia – Xiomar – who is also very spiritual and immersed in her craft as a “yogi” … and very young, too! Her words of wisdom were just what I needed as I moved through the asanas (poses) that she guided us through with a slow flow to match our movements with our breath. I found that “seed dreaming inside” of me … that one of peace and comradery, patience and respect, survival and successful living techniques!!!

Yes, it is Spring Time … and ‘t is the season but for things to be renewed and cultivated … and … as Xiomar stated in our class meditation topic … to control the things we each hold dear inside of us! Have a great day, a wonderful weekend … St. Patrick’s Day Weekend in many places … and be at peace with the universe!

Namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

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