Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels!

Happy Friday, All!

It’s only customary to give it up for “My Creator” … you can do the same for yours, if you like!  T.G.I.F.!!

Most folks try to improve their lives over time, especially once they realize and accept the fact that some behavior(s) need modification, improvements to be exact.  Yet, unfortunately, I have noticed that some of “us” choose to ignore the obvious when wrong!  What’s the big problem with improving “sketchy”, unacceptable actions?!  Has ones “ego” turned one into an idiot?!?  Don’t let that happen to you.  Between my Dad’s detesting a liar and gossiper, and, my Mom always warning me “not to accept a wooden nickel” (or a phony), I had no choice except to “get wise”.

In my time living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, which was nearly 22 years, I made various friends from different walks of life.  When I had just gotten back on my feet after serving some time in Broward County Jail, I met a friend named “Tashie”.  She worked at Broward Motor Sports on Sunrise Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale.  My friend Peter Zachary, RIP, had purchased a motorcycle for me for a couple of thousand dollars or more from Broward Motor Sports.  Since “Tashie”, somewhere around her early 20’s at that time perhaps, was the cashier when I bought stuff like oil or spark plugs, replacement flasher lights or a gear cable, we got to “chat” every now and then.  My previous marriage was in bad shape as I tried to stay in touch with my daughter during these challenging times.  Cut to the chase, “Tashie” became that ear that listened to my stories and how I had messed up a few times while living in Ft. Lauderdale which is the ONLY place that I have ever been arrested in my life!!  If you know Florida, you know what I am talking about.  If you are of an ethnic minority … African American, to be exact … you are a very possible “racial profiling” victim.  Poor people want to eat, too, so they may sell drugs, steal, hustle in any way possible … not to DIE like a dog on the street.  In Ft. Lauderdale, most of the “street level” hustlers are “black”.

I was profiled over and over as “the new brother in town” and happened to be a proud brother that would ask questions before turning over my documents like a driver’s license and registration.  No rude questions but simply, “Why are you stopping me, Sir?”.  This could turn a simple traffic stop in to a full blown “resist/obstruct without violence” charge and arrest.  This was protocol in Ft. Lauderdale as well as many other parts of Florida.  “Tashie” became my unofficial adopted daughter, and, I had introduced her  and my biological child, Ayanna Lynne, to each other by social media.  “Tashie” worked hard and landed a job with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and we remained friends.  She would invite me to lunch as I struggled to get my life back together.  I even met some of her ex-boyfriends!  We got to know each other fairly well and I counted on communicating with her in my most challenging moments.  I thank her from the bottom of my heart to the top and back!!  She replied to my last communication and blog when she remembered an incident at Broward MotorSports when I got perturbed at an employee who wanted to “be in charge of me”:

“I remember thinking to myself, why did he get so aggressive? You weren’t trying to make a scene for attention. You weren’t trying to make a scene for free stuff, but I saw a lot of pain and anger in your eyes. I thought about that a lot throughout the years . I’ve concluded that there have been many instances where you’ve been deceived, taken advantage of, discriminated against, given unfair treatment, harassed and lied to throughout your life. NOW I’M NOT CALLING YOU MR. INNOCENT. Like myself we’ve made mistakes, very poor choices, and did things that ultimately  needed consequences. But since I’ve known you, you’ve never stopped giving up on bettering you and never go back to that “dark place” again.  I know many times every 1 step forward would lead to 3 steps back.  I’m proud of you! I’m proud at how far you’ve come. I’m proud of the person you’ve wanted to be and have become. You’ve never given up and have worked hard.  I’m so sorry for all the pain, harassment, and mistreatment you’ve gone through in your life.

You are and will always have a special place in my heart because I see a story of bravery and growth.”

In closing, be sure that you “Know Thyself”.  Don’t forget to “be the best that YOU can be”!  Oh yeah, “Don’t take no wooden nickels, honey!”  -Marietta Dolores


John I. Cook, Director


“Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

Happy Friday again, All!

Aren’t you glad that “we” could make it?!  I try not to take too much for granted so, here’s my usual “T.G.I.F.”!  It’s on you, if you like!

I am always grateful when I seem to “have learned” something, like NOT to let someone push my buttons, so to speak.  I think back to some incidents that would have normally made me “blow a fuse” … but I was cool. Perhaps not necessarily happy in that moment … but I was cool!  I try not to let other people’s behaviour control mine anymore … especially since I don’t have to deal with that now.  If I choose NOT to deal with someone’s nonsense, then it is no longer my problem.  When I was in Alcoholics Anonymous, which I am not ashamed to admit, we had a “motto” called “KISS”.  It is an acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”  No disrespect!  To get clean, you have to get stupid, learn stuff again without a drink or a drug.  I feel way less prone to want anything to upset my peaceful equilibrium nowadays because I don’t have to run all over the place in a car or public transportation.  I keep my short term goals simple and front and center and I am not sure of what the “long term goals are” except to be as happy as possible doing whatever!!  “Life is beautiful!” … even with the challenges, which when we overcome them are that much sweeter!

Trust me, I mind my business and don’t try to get involved in any body else’s business, even if they want me to do it!!  “No Thanks!”  I have been fortunate enough to “win the favor” of the folks at the “home school” environment called “Centro Educativo” located in Cocles, which is just up the road from Puerto Viejo.  I am doing a session today, probably on the causes of the Civil War as well as some of the important amendments associated with it.  I try to stay positively “busy”, so to speak, even waking up at 6am to have my curcuma, ginger, tapa dulce (sugar cane) and dash o’ pepper home made tea from fresh ingredients including ginger that I grind each morning!  I have time!!  There’s no rush even though I still volunteer each Saturday to teach “Ivon”, a Bri Bri teen who is very interested in improving her English as well as another “private student” who comes by for a class once a week.  That’s enough, you dig?!?

So in case you don’t know the power of “keeping it simple” here’s a brief example of how – “mind your business”!
Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

“Enjoy The Journey!!”

Happy Friday, wonderful people!

Perhaps a simple “T.G.I.F.” may suffice or a “thank you” to the Universe!

Life for me, indeed, is a journey, especially right about this time.  I am truly glad that I am “me”.  When I graduated from St. Paul’s, my yearbook quote was:  “Be yourself because “you” are YOU”!  We ALL can use a little bit of “home/self” improvement, so remember that you should “Be the best that YOU can be!”  Another and perhaps my favorite “slogan” associated with Educational Excellence is “Know Thyself”!  These are the three legs of EE.

Those of you who have been familiar with the blog and my non-profit volunteer oriented organization know that I simply try to emphasize the importance of “self education”.  My dad didn’t graduate from high school so he wanted to make sure I did.  I am the last of “Big Ike and Mary’s” four children.  I MUST represent … if only for them … and those who paved the way before.  My mother graduated from high school, had a tremendous aptitude for “formal learning” while “Ike” was a more “hands on” learner, you know … “Learn by doing”.  He was an expert auto mechanic and could fix just about anything that was broken … except a microwave or blender!  He was cool because he didn’t try to “put on” or pretend that he was someone or something other than what he was.  He was “the best that he could be”.  What about Y.O.U.?!?

It is interesting that I have been meeting “people” in Puerto Viejo who are very concerned with living a good life, healthy both physically and spiritually.  Indeed, these are “my kind of people”.  Here and now, I just enjoy doing my work on the third manuscript.  I wrapped up Chapter 5 yesterday and had so much information about that “part” of my early retirement training that it spilled over into a “new” Chapter 6!!  I found a nice spot on the floor in the bedroom/living room to sit on a cushion, look out over the balcony and write!  I am discovering more about my “self healing” and talking with people who also embrace the “power of meditation” in healing oneself.  I have a pretty good routine that I live by and thank God I have enough time to “care for myself”!

I tell my “stories” here about my life in hopes that someone and some of the readers will get a “clue”, and we each are capable of generating “clues”, and figure out a way to get “your talents” out to the thirsty masses.  My days are beautiful here, as is my lifestyle!  I have no complaints and seek only “truth and happiness” … for me and for you!  So, as you enjoy your weekends, also “enjoy the journey”!

Peace and Blessings!

John I. Cook, Director

Moving Right Along . . .

It’s Friday again, y’all!

Can we do that “T.G.I.F.” thing together?!?!  Remember, the option is yours!  So, T.G.I.F. this first day of March!  BOOM!

As one host of a segment on CNN said yesterday, “This has been the worst Black History Month EVER!”  Yep, folks were playing the “race card” with “props” in a United States Congressional hearing regarding more liars than I have seen in a loooong time!  My dad always told me two things:  1.  Don’t be crying racism, boy, ’cause they are doin’ it on purpose! and, 2.  You gotta be twice as good as them, son …”  So, when I am faced with racist comments or discrimination now …  I have a stockpile of “ammunition” in LANGUAGE and KNOWLEDGE that can get the attention of the worst racist so “it” can realize that “it” has a challenge on it’s hands, at least.  And there is more where that came from!

My health has been improving little by little due to the efforts of a variety of people from my yoga teacher and massage therapist to a local “Doctor Ricky” from Ohio who gave me an adjustment a month or so ago in my neck and spinal column which enabled me to stand upright even more!!  I can find myself “falling” in and out of a meditation in a moments notice, sitting by the beach or on the balcony of this “casita” I am now renting with an upstairs bedroom view through the trees right to the beach!  I don’t even have time to worry much about someone calling me a “childish archaic name” because they are envious of “how I roll”, which ain’t gonna change!  I am too busy enjoying the life that my Creator has paved the way.  Those “little” things like a racist or a bully simply are indicative of the FACT that “I have something that they don’t” … and it can’t be purchased.  I like to call it “class”.

After one month living here in this new location, I am feeling “at home”.  Yesterday, the “empleada” came and changed the sheets, swept and mopped the floors, even cleaned the bathroom and the shower.  After thanking her incessantly, I walked down to see “Miss Ana”, my land lady, and told her that I wanted to stay for a while and would be paying my rent today or tomorrow.  She replied, “You can stay as long as you like, Mr. John!”  This is the type of respect and treatment that I believe that I deserve from ANY fellow human being.  Enough said, so, if you can’t do that, please “stay in your lane”.  I appreciate you readers patience with me as I attempt to get more proficient or professional, whatever you want to call it, at these blog formats on social media as I try to pack in enough to get the message across.

Yes, indeedy as my friend “Petey” use to say, “Moving right along!”  Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

I Should Be Ashamed of WHAT?!?

“Hey ya’, hey ya’, hey yaa ya yaahh!”  T.G.I.F. even!  Just this morning, yep, I saw the “fullish moon” going down as the Sun rose!  “What a wonderful world!”
At this moment, I am so content with “things” around me, it feels like “paradise”.  Now, I know that perhaps around the corner or across the bridge, someone is struggling with life … I wish them peace, as I can only do so much to manage “ME”!  Recently, I thought back to my days in “boarding school” …. St. Paul’s to be exact!  What a “work in progress” I was, with so many experiences shaping me and influencing my own “self concept”.  I am grateful to have had teachers and classmates who were NOT cruel and disrespectful of those of us who came to “integrate” a previously all boys, white Anglo-Saxon private Episcopalian boarding school in Concord, NH!
This is something that meant and continues to mean a lot to me since I was so “impressionable” and young emotionally.  I wanted to be sure that people like Coach Blake, Sr. Rafael Fuster, Sr. Hurtgen and Mr. Lederer who were our instructors as we “minority students” attended a school quite unlike our hometown environs know this.  There were students like Gary Hodder, David Holt, Clinton Van Dusen … shucks, there were even a few of the female “white anglo saxon” students and “house mistresses” who enhanced “our” experiences.  Thank you for being cool with “us”!  “We” were trying to make “good” on the administration and student body’s efforts to literally “desegregate” and utilize “us” in the process.  I felt little or NO hostilities, little or NO name calling nor racial slurs were hurled at “us”, and the utmost cooperation by all involved at SPS to make the time when I was there “bearable”.  It helped me become the person I am today.  No apologies here!  I was well prepared for “Princeton” and beyond.  I had classmates and teammates like Larry T. Woody, Mike Shivers, Kevin Gover and Gary George from the “minority” students with whom I am glad to have “rubbed shoulders”!!  Again, no apologies here either!  Much appreciated, Guys!
One of the things about us “old school” guys, sometimes called an “Ole G”, is that we learned to “mix it up” with the best.  We sat in classes, lectures, cruised around an Ivy League campus and had access to some of “the finer things in life”.  To this day, I recall two class reunions I attended from The Class of 1976 at Princeton and I was still making friends there some 40 years later!  I mean, it wasn’t a picnic … yet, I and many of us “got through it” in style!!  So, in case you haven’t heard that “familiarity sometimes breeds contempt”, keep that in mind these last few days of Black History Month 2019 with so much going on in the US from a staged attack by a “movie star” to an attempted massacre by a white supremacist in the Coast Guard, I believe, living just miles from the Capitol …  Each time I try to watch “CNN”, I get annoyed at how many of “the president’s men” have committed crimes, some already incarcerated while others are preparing to stand trial or face Congressional hearings, and maybe even “cut a deal”!  Now THAT’S something to be ashamed of, not making it through a system tainted with institutional racism from its inception … by someone of a “minority race”!  And if you think that I am NOT PROUD … whether you agree with me or not, you’d better think again!
In closing, I am hoping that the folks I mentioned here know how much our experiences together meant to me and how much they helped me grow.  I am proud of “us”!  Have a great weekend and be proud of the good things you do!

John I. Cook, Director

The Dangers of Jealous, “Toxic” People

It’s Friday Again!
Yes, Sir!  I am feeling a grateful “T.G.I.F.” today, y’all!  Any takers on “feeling gratitude”?  You’ll worry less and care less about what jealous, toxic and potentially “harmful” people who want to negate “your” positive, caring and “classy” style of life think or say!  I always try to carry myself with “grace and style” no matter WHAT I am going through and experiencing.  “Toxic people” see that as a “fault” rather than a positive human characteristic.  “They” will try to make you “stumble” or even fall out of your positive approach to life.
For me, I try to first “educate” an individual(s) who clearly suffers from “my positiveness” and upbeat approach to life.  I mean, after all of the people who tried to help me and educate me, I feel that I “owe it to humanity” to share some kindness and positive energy with a person until I am “short circuited” by someone’s arrogant stupidity … much like the current president in “The States”!  I mean, I am NOT going to “suffer” and be denied my peace by anyone … ESPECIALLY if I have NOT provoked “you” or done anything to harm “you”.  This is where I “proudly” differ from the average person – I seek peace and will do what I can to spread it.  However, if I see that a person is “hell bent” on robbing me of MY JOY and freedom,  I simply IGNORE that person.  If “you” are that person and “you” are NOT seeking peace, “you” are NOT worth my efforts to maintain peace.  So, please, “just make like a ghost and disappear!”  A “person” like this, a racist, has no place in my life!  The current president is opening the doors for more racists to come out as he calls a woman running for office in New England “Pocahantas”!!!  “It” feels threatened and “it” does what every little “boy” having a temper tantrum does … start calling names … “racial slurs”, to be exact!  Dehumanizing activities have no place in my life today …  I seek to “educate”.  If you are toxic, please stay away while I do some positive things with my life!  Imagine … anyone can!!
The interesting thing about the “state of affairs” in the world today is that there are a lot of “shifts in power”, as we have been taught to call it.  Just last night as I watched a bit of the news, one participant mentioned that this is “how they play politics” … with OUR lives, pitting us against each other, making resources scarce and filling the cities in the States with firearms!  Yesterday was the first anniversary of the shooting and killing of 17 students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus in Parkland, FL.  I had visited Ft. Lauderdale at that time to  secure some paperwork for my “residency” here and had the “privilege” of seeing the young people on the streets near the Social Security Office which was very near the High School.  They carried signs, they were of ALL races and sizes, they began a national movement to affect “gun control” in “the States”.  Now, “the suburbs” there are experiencing a similar fate as the “inner cities”.
In closing, don’t let the “toxic”, hate-filled people ruin your perspective on “life” … YOUR life.  Don’t let anybody “rob you of your joy and peace” … and humanity!  Distance yourself from them, surround yourself with “like-minded” people and continue to BE THE CHANGE!

John I. Cook, Director

“Still . . . I Rise!” Maya Angelou

Happy Friday, All!
So … uhhh … “Can I get a T.G.I.F.” out here today, y’all?!!
Yes, it’s still “Black History Month”, “Scrump” is still lying and the “racists” are still “falling out of the wood work” … like roaches!!  Shucks, even here in “Puerto”, as I enjoyed some banana bread French toast and bacon at a public restaurant, a familiar “stateside” racist came up, AFTER I ignored him and spoke to a lady he sat with, and said, “Hey boy!”  I turned slowly away from my French toast and said, “What did you call me?”  He attempted to rebound with an idiotic quasi-funny, mostly stupid “Okay … Man.”  I continued munching on my breakfast while this “roach” stood another moment until I pulled the extra chair out and said, “Sit down.”  He declined, claimed “he” was busy and scurried off … like a roach!
You see, it’s also not my first rodeo being “the new kid on the block”.  This also attracts “bullies”.  People think you don’t know “what you are doing” so they are full of suggestions, threats and warnings.  Well, I have visited places that the average person, not bragging – stating FACTS, will never see.  People always try to make  a town “their place” … that’s what they actually think, that the “place” is theirs … and I need their guidance to get me by.  Imagine, needing the guidance of a town liar or the town bully – NOT ME!  I pride myself on being a “people person”.  In other words, I am able to “get along” with all people.  I try not to waste my energy being friends with a “racist” or a person who says racist things or attempts to treat me as if I “am less than thou”!  Wtf!!!  “Who died and made “you” GOD!”, I often mutter to myself when I hear some of the “know it alls” talking.
Maya Angelou said it best in her poem expressing passionately how “African American” people … women included … shall I add ALL people … STILL RISE in the face of horrifying odds … like being a slave!  Since I have been living here, I have quietly made my way around to meet people.  I say hello to everyone who is interested in speaking.  In fact, on my way from my previous residence as I walked to the ocean each day, I would see these African American women talking together as they sat outside of a lovely one story home.  Soon after I realized that the previous land lord was “overcharging” me for the one room studio at the roof of one of her properties, I started to “ask around”.  That’s something that “we” learned to do in “The Projects” – “ask around”.  To do this, one has to be confident, polite, RESPECTFUL,  and as genuine as possible.  I now occupy a lovely well maintained, two-bedroom “casita” owned by one of the African American (Jamaican descent) women whom I unknowingly spoke to each time I passed by the group chatting.  In fact, last night, “Miss Ana” showed me how to use a one unit “washer/spin dryer” at the bottom of the steps leading up to the sprawling two level home I now occupy!  I thought I had it “made” at the “small studio”!!  Now, for a few hundred dollars more, I have a guest room, a storage space in the attic, as well as a FULL KITCHEN complete with a micro wave, full stove powered by a propane tank, and ALL the dishes a family could use!  You see, when we are genuinely a “good person”, other “good people” can see it.  Keep in mind, the “haters” – you ALL know who you are – will come out of the woodwork … like roaches.  I simply distance myself from “haters” and hope they learn to love themselves, perhaps even KNOW themselves, as much as I know and love myself!
As  we continue our celebration of “Black History Month” stateside, may we remember those little “boys and girls” innocently BLOWN UP in church by racist cowards who felt that “the children’s lives” were less important than theirs …  May those of us “spiritually intelligent” enough to “spread unity, love, respect and coexistence” continue our “work”, which is my passion, to live in harmony!

John I. Cook, Director

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