“Let The Festivities Begin!!!”

winterfest 2014

Happy Friday, All!

Now, if you don’t … I will … T.G.I.F.!!

It’s been a long week, y’all, and I am NOT complaining, of course. Just sayin’! Yes, these are the “holy days” and things are normally very festive. I enjoy all the stories of “acts of kindness” shown during the holidays from cops … yes, cops … stopping people in their vehicles, asking them what they want for Christmas, and, while holding the driver’s license … goes into a local department store and buys a big screen t.v. and gifts it to the driver, to his surprise; to a couple at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in a city in Missouri who saw a waitress’s torn down car (she is a single parent) with ropes holding the hood down, and decided to come back and eat at her table and then give her the keys to a 2008 compact Ford vehicle as a tip!! Pretty cool stuff, right?!

This is the season for Christmas parties, y’all. A dear friend in Germany who works for the DOJ there mentioned that they are having a big Christmas party at a fancy location, lots of food and gifts, drinks and dancing! Meanwhile, back here in Margate where the office where I work is located, we are having a small party next Friday at a venue near the office. Trees are going up everywhere, stores and shoppers bustling through them are a common sight. Of course, there are those who like to do last minute shopping and will wait until Christmas Eve or something crazy like that!! Perhaps, that is the adrenaline rush that some folks like to experience. I have even seen information about New Year’s Eve parties here in SoFlo from the Fountain Blue Resort in Miami as well as a HUGE event headlined by Miami’s own “Pit Bull”. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, Saturday is the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade which winds through the waterways here that have earned this City the name of “The Naples of America” like that famous ancient city in Italy! The annual Boat Parade will feature another of the state’s entertainers as Grand Marshall, “FLO Rida”, who will be on the lead boat in the parade! The Riverside Hotel on Las Olas, where the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade starts, is the “talk of the town”!

While I enjoy the festivities, I always try to keep the “spirit of the season” in my heart by showing kindness and love as well as togetherness with our families, both nuclear and extended, as well as with our dearest closest friends. Last night, I got a bit of sad news regarding the passing of a very close friend’s older brother, who was the same age as my brother “Hank” (RIP), George Young. We all grew up, played and partied, lived, loved, and laughed together in the Winbrook Projects there in White Plains, NY. George was living in Daytona Beach, FL and suffered from lung cancer. His brother, a good friend of mine, John Young, called me last night to inform me of his passing. Methinks, it is the cycle of life … as hard as it may be to accept … that we are born … and we die. Thus is the journey. As the season unfolds, may we keep the “spirit of the season” in our hearts while we “let the festivities begin”!

Peace,

John I. Cook

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Why Don’t You Just Chill Out!!?

frog chill

It’s Hump Day again, y’all!

How’s it going for you? This week was seemingly going slow … until this morning!! Wednesday signifies … at least for me … the middle of the week! It’s all down hill from here, you dig?! Silly, I know.

These past few weeks have been somewhat challenging for me. I mean, I am very very grateful for my health, able to put some funds together to keep the bills paid, and feeling at peace with the universe. How many of you can say that? Maybe, you’re doing much better … though it is all relative, right?! This is the season that focuses heavily on material things, expensive gifts, fancy clothes and costly trips!! It’s the “holy days”, y’all. And of course, most folks miss the point completely. It all goes to show how people follow fads and practices of OTHERS rather than doing the things that they believe are right.

Haven’t you ever found yourself in a situation where you were simply “powerless”? I mean, anything that one might do could lead to a problem. I mention this “challenge” from time to time because it seems to be part of our human existence. You can call it “one upmanship” or the “I’m gonna get you, sucka!” syndrome … or what have you. Two “hot heads” don’t solve a problem. Yet, with all this cool weather, even here in sunny Florida, plus the “holy day” season, one might fare better just chilling out! These past few days, I was thinking very hard about my mother, wanting to talk with her and stuff. Then, this morning, I thought about my father, “Big Ike”, and how he fought “bone marrow” cancer until he couldn’t take the pain anymore … peace be still. I miss them both … terribly … especially during this Season. I still want to make them proud, not to mention making myself proud!

Just yesterday evening, I was talking with some friends as we try to organize some larger scale tutoring for the local youth. One gent and I have similar experiences, and, it was so refreshing to see another “black man” working on helping the youth find their best educational opportunities. I am hoping to pitch in with some “spiritual educational” tools as well as the basic educational tools of “reading, writing and arithmetic”! Encourage each other, folks, young and old, and hold each other accountable to be the best that we each can be. Have a great Hump Day!

Peace,

John I. Cook

You Have The Final Decision . . .

warrior

It’s Monday, ready or not here it comes!

Just remember, I am like most people. I look for things to motivate me to “do good”, think positive … even forgive! I also like to share those things, as is hopefully evident in these e-mails and blog posts. So, Sunday morning found me pensive, looking at some things that I need to keep in my radar, things/situations requiring constant monitoring and perhaps spontaneous action. I don’t particularly care for these circumstances as I am more of a planner who looks ahead and makes arrangements based on a forecast of sorts. I seem to have found it reiterated in a televangelist’s message. This is why I listen to all things that are purportedly good; who knows, I might find some enlightenment in those “things”. So, one guy who I like a bit (admiring the massive number of people in that church in Texas), Joel Osteen, was saying how important it is to remember that while we can not control others behavior, we can control our own!! In other words, don’t just react as if a button was pushed. But instead, respond like an adult would, especially knowing and understanding that everyone may not be so enlightened, nor even able to carry on a conversation about such topics.

I am fortunate enough to know some pretty fine folks. Sure, we are different expressing our own ideas based on our own experiences as well as perhaps others circumstances that we learned from. Yet, we are able to discuss these important issues stating our beliefs without being rude or offending one another. So, here, I want to give a shout out to a guy that I grew up with in the Winbrook Projects in White Plains, NY, David Stokes, who sent his response to the e-mail of last week. We went back and forth a bit and I enjoyed corresponding with him in this way. It’s been a long time since we “talked” back in the days growing up as young teens. Also, another gent that I happen to call “Counselor” or “G” depending on the subject, but a shout out to Gary Hodder from Toronto, Canada with whom I have the honor of having attended boarding school with though not in the same circles and just one year apart. Thanks for your insight, Barrister Hodder, that the situation surrounding the grand juries decisions in Ferguson and NYC is not only about race, but about re-defining the role of police and their training as well as more human relations training for diverse cultures that exist amongst the populations in communities that police work.

So, hopefully it is clear that it is something that needs to be addressed. These topics come from our everyday experiences and circumstances like selling loose cigarettes on the street or ripping off some cigars from the local “market”, neither are capitol crimes, not to mention graffiti writing on some Miami city walls. Deescalation tactics must be taught and implemented, and additional crisis training for law enforcement officers need to be made mandatory. Of course, I find this anecdote in many places, which also appears in yoga and spiritual disciplines, about making decisions, remarks and actions based on a careful analysis of options and repercussions rather than settling for that immediate gut reaction in potentially volatile and precarious circumstances. We indeed can’t make others like us, not even accept us and it is often hard to get basic respect. Some folks aren’t content unless “you follow them” and act as if your own self doesn’t exist as you have defined yourself!! It’s a lot, I know, again . . . I am done here. Choose wisely . . .

Peace,

John I. Cook

Is THIS What It Comes Down To?

love

Can anyone say, “HAPPY FRIDAY”?! How about T.G.I.F.?

Well, human kind and our so-called civilization is becoming more and more barbaric by the seconds!! Here in America, “land of the free, home of the brave,” we have reduced ourselves to a color/caste oriented society in which certain individuals are allowed to carry guns, hang out in groups (gangs) and are allowed to interpret the law and decide if someone should live or die in a moments notice! Is any human being, especially those NOT TRAINED in behavioural psychology, really prepared to handle such a level of “power and control”?! Looking at the nation-wide protests surrounding the grand jury’s decision NOT to charge Darren Wilson, and then, the event surrounding the grand jury’s decision NOT to charge that member of the “gang of NYPD” officers who stalked, taunted, “got a rise out of Eric Garner” to the point where he waved his hands and asked to be left alone and NOT to be touched, it is clear that something is definitely wrong!!!

These are situations that only “highly trained and disciplined” officers should be permitted to handle. Just as there is a “SWAT” team, there should be an “escalated event” team in each police department that can de-escalate a situation to avoid killing any unarmed person. How can one justify the way the officer closest to the camera put his knee upside Garner’s head while pushing his bare head ONTO the cement on that city street with all of his body weight? The medical examiner said that Garner died due to being choked … and people … so-called civilized ones … have a problem accepting that FACT as one coming from a trained professional whose job it is to determine the cause of death!! Who do you believe then? Like one white woman hostess in the talk show network said, “What do they (police) have to do before they are indicted by a grand jury??!” IT really is a great question …. and I am sure no one has the answer.

People who “touch” other people in a hostile way definitely have a hidden agenda. It has happened to me, which is why I know. One evening when I was downtown, and had a couple of outstanding tickets in the City of Ft. Lauderdale’s Parking Authority, I came out and had a boot on my front left tire!! So, the “boot patrol” with a couple of parking authority agents and a couple of Ft. Lauderdale police officers standing by told me what I had to pay to get the boot off. I got closer to the speaking parking authority person, who was a woman, so I could hear what she was saying. A skinny, bony, feather-weight cop stepped between me and the woman and pushed me in my chest to move me backwards. I didn’t even look at the officer and continued asking the parking authority how I could get the boot off! The officer, realizing that I was ignoring his attempts to “push my buttons”, pushed me again!! I am much more disciplined than this jerk was and could read him like a children’s book. I ignored him again not even looking his way nor acknowledging his existence (nor the fact that he touched me – twice!), and, once being able to hear what I needed to pay in cash, I went into the establishment and used the ATM to withdraw the money to get this boot off of my car!! Another officer came up after that, once I got the boot off, and told me not to drive because … and I quote … he said, “You are drunk!” I looked at him, smiled and walked back into the club and enjoyed the rest of the night!! Wasn’t he disappointed?! Foiled again!!!

Enter Mike Ditka, ex-football player/now announcer for the NFL and Charles Barkley, ex-basketball player and sports announcer: they both chime in with the most unprofessionally based comments about what the NFL players for the Missouri team should do – apologize for raising their hands as they entered the playing field, and, about the protesters, which Barkley called “scumbags”. NEITHER of these characters are “studied” enough, in my opinion, and neither of them said that the officers should apologize. The NYPD as well as the Ferguson PD have both sought to improve their officers’ protocol, so …. something MUST have been done wrong!! Admit it … the grand juries are unable to see that TRUTH but the “people”, black and white and others, are taking to the streets in peaceful protest of a string of horrific deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers. One official in the NYPD commented: “What you did not hear is that you can’t resist arrest … and he did!” So, Garner was stalked by NYPD for selling untaxable/bootleg cigarettes, provoked and surrounded by the “gang”, then … perhaps resisted arrest. Does that mean that the officers can KILL him??!! I beg to differ. Tighten up, folks … on both sides. Learn to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect. We all know that love is the answer but so many people were raised without “love” that I am sure that they don’t know what it is ….

Peace,

John I. Cook

“The Art of Living”

azure basel Happy Hump Day, Yeah! Should I start off by saying, “No! I don’t have all of the answers … I barely have some of them … for ME!!” This is where Educational Excellence comes into the picture!! Most people immediately think of “academics” when one sees or hears the terms “educational excellence”. Well, in many ways, I had that … still do, pretty much! But there is not enough emphasis on “spiritual education” as in “knowing thyself”, so that when tough times requiring good decisions come up, we know what is best … for us!! So, here is where I thank each and every one of you again and again and again … for allowing me to be myself … and to share these tidbits with you. Hopefully, there is something “you” can use or at least contemplate, maybe as an alternative to what you already do. Maybe “you” see things similarly as I see them and most of this makes a lot of sense. And of course, as I always say to my e-mail family members, anytime you wish to be removed from the “family list”, let me know! In the time I have spent living, working, even traveling sometimes, I have learned that living is indeed an “art”. We can be as stiff and as rigid as the ways of living that got us economic, political, even social success; yet, we may feel that something is still missing. Many of us experience this but fail to see the importance of “spirituality” in this physical world. There are things that we can’t see, that we can’t touch, that may be all around us … anonymously … and we don’t know the impact that these “forces” have on our lives. Can you tune into that which you cannot see … or touch?!? Can we quiet ourselves enough to hear that soft voice of reason and peace, hope and harmony that speaks inside?! Are we busy trying to get on “I-95” when your journey requires a “back woods road”, with twists and turns and all winding with lots of scenery and “lessons”. What if we get on the “I-95” in our life and find that we left something behind – ourselves!!! Will you go back to get “you”? Or will you be able to recreate a “you” that can carry on your journey? Hopefully, you all understand the imagery and can relate it to the point I am making – we are each engaged in “the art of living”. So, Tuesday night in Miami saw the opening ceremony for “Art Basel”, the world’s largest international/”street” art fair hosted by the City of Miami in The Design District. Some of “The City’s Best”, like Dwayne Wade and Alonzo Mourning were in attendance, not to mention the local “street” artists who decorated the City’s landscape. A piece of “larger than life” artwork of Mr. Mourning was on display there, and upon viewing it, he was speechlessly grateful. His life has truly been a work of art during the many years he has spent in Miami with all his programs and community outreach efforts. The “fashionista” Wade was having some extravagant ball or party where many many were invited and attended. Also, last night in Fort Lauderdale, the Christmas Season officially “rang in” with the annual event of “Christmas on Las Olas”, which included snow flown in to add to the already exquisite Christmas ambiance there on Las Olas! In the past, I have had the pleasure of attending! From the choirs singing to the carols being sung to the smiles on children AND parent’s faces, it was clear that the season was ringing in right!! Consider yourself fortunate to be able to engage yourself in “the art of living”. If you get involved, you won’t be able to stop! Peace, John I. Cook

It’s All A Matter of Perspective . . .

perspective

Happy Monday, All!

Yes, yes, yes!!! How many of us are saying “No, no, no!” Because it’s Monday? Because those of us working have a five day week ahead? Or is it just because it is morning … and we want to sleep some more!?

Supposing we were grateful to be alive, able to open both of our eyes, even climb out of bed onto two legs?! Does that make a difference to your perspective of the fact that it is Monday?! I hope so, because it is important. Sometimes, I sweat stuff … think about stuff … let stuff worry me to the point of “no return” or “self destruction” … then I stop!! How many of us can say, “I’ve been there and I’ve done that!” We all know that worrying is pretty much a waste of time and a major cause of stress as well as misdirected behavior. “And if you didn’t know, now you do!”

Yes, it’s the holy day season and folks have a mixture of approaches to it. Lavish trees with splendid lights in and out of their homes are very popular for those who can afford it. Isn’t it nice! One woman on the news said that a house in her neighborhood, or not far from it, has an incredible light show on the front yard, around the house and on … and in the house!! This all can be seen from the vehicles passing by! Others may have a “not so fancy” array of lights on a modest tree in an even more modest neighborhood. Does that mean that they are “less-Christmassy” than others … perhaps, having less Christmas spirit than those with “greater” lights and decorations? In our modern day world, so much is based on comparison and competition that we often lose sight of what it is that is MOST important to ourselves as individuals, not to mention our family, friends and loved ones.

Some folks get sad because they do not have the resources to decorate and travel and spend lots of money during these holy days. Then, either they resort to “negative self talk” or feeling bad about themselves, their own lives, and sometimes find their loved ones lives worthless, too! NO! Please stop this comparison drama in your lives!! It is not about comparing ourselves to others on each and every level … that is not life! It is … life, perhaps … more accurately described as a journey for each of us, giving what we can, asking and receiving when we need to, and being grateful for what we have … both physically and spiritually. No one person has the answer to a “happy life” other than that person her or himself. This is why it is important NOT to compare the things that you have to the things that others may have. “‘t is the season to be jolly …”, if it were only that simple!

This past weekend, three former students of mine from White Plains came through to say hello … and hang out. We crashed at my flat like college buddies might or just good friends do, caught up on each other’s friends and families, went out to eat together and even enjoyed some time at my favorite night spot here in the FTL. It was a fine time … even finer seeing how these young men are doing … life is all about teaching the next generation to learn how to survive for themselves. It was great! Keep yourself in the “right perspective” for who YOU are … Otherwise, you may find yourself doing something that you never thought you would do … Make it a good one! Adjust your perspective, if necessary!

Peace,

John I. Cook

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