My Guardian Angels

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

I am feeling so blessed today that I have to share a bit of it with you all!  In three days, it will be one month that I have been in Spain … Valencia to be exact today.  I spent my first two weeks in Sabadell, also in Catalunya, Spain and “hung out” a lot in Barcelona and Badalona Beach!  Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy beaches … water stuff … be it a swimming pool and jacuzzi at the local gym or enjoying a swim in the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea. More than 20 years ago, I came to Madrid to celebrate a divorce from my first wife, and it was tough … the divorce thing.  So, when I was finally able to come to grips with it … that it was over and all … I booked a flight at Christmas time to Madrid, rented a car, and drove along the West coast of the country for a month.  Interestingly enough, I was first motivated to come to Spain a second time to celebrate my birthday … and … to visit a lady friend whom I met in Ft. Lauderdale 15 years ago.  We became friends and got closer though we were never “boyfriend and girlfriend”, so to speak.  I was hoping that would happen this time around but things didn’t work out that way.

Enter my “Guardian Angels”, yep, “Mother Mary” and “Big Ike”!  My Dad had always told me not to get so enraptured with a woman … unless she was like my Mom … to the point where you don’t see your way “out from her”.  I remember he called me “stupid” when I first went away to boarding school and, when I came home, my “girlfriend” was digging one of my buddies … no longer me.  I couldn’t see my way out and was crying and carrying on …  My mother was all sympathetic, used her maternal psychology to show me that at that age, no girl was worth what I was going through.  Meanwhile, my father’s only words were, “Mary, that boy is stupid, worrying about some girl!”  I’ll admit, some of you may remember, I thought about suicide … but I was too much of a coward to inflict any pain on myself!!  So, right now, I have changed up my travel plans a bit to spend less time in Germany and no time in the city where this friend resides … and “keep it movin'” on to places like Amsterdam and France before returning to Spain!  The “Guardian Angels” have spoken … and I am listening!  I have had a few friends, both male and female, tell me to “keep it movin'” and not spend my time thinking about that situation, and I appreciate their feedback.  It is my birthday trip … still … I am seeking to heal myself from cancerous tumors in my prostate and to enjoy my early retirement!  I think I can do that!

So, I’ll keep it short and sweet today, letting you know that I am on my way to Hamburg, Germany tomorrow with a long flight and layover in Prague, scheduled to arrive in Hamburg Friday night.  Spain has been a blast, I definitely want to live here … Barcelona or Valencia … and I am “keepin’ it movin'”, thanks to the lessons of my “Guardian Angels”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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“. . . and the Walls Came Tumbling Down!”

 

Happy Friday, y’all!

And now … more than ever, I am Thanking God It’s Friday … writing it out even!  I thanked my Creator this morning when I woke up … standing in the rest room … just feeling grateful for being where I am today.   That would be including my spiritual, physical and mental health today.  I am just a “happy camper” so to speak … on this journey called “life”!  Peace be still . . .

Just last week, I was having an issue with a booking I made in Amsterdam, since I am planning to go there after I leave Kiel, Germany.  I am looking at flights and trains connecting me from here in Valencia to Hamburg, as I hope to visit a friend there in Kiel, too!  We’ll see … but I do want to see some parts of Germany.  So, I was on Booking.com looking for a deal.  Up until now, all “deals” had a free cancellation policy.  In other words, if you cancel like three days before you arrive, there is no fee.  Where I am now gave me three days and would charge me a fee of 30 Euro if I hadn’t cancelled 3 days before my anticipated arrival.  I am happy … so happy here … that I don’t want to leave this place!  It is essentially a college dormitory but I have my own room.  There are 6 or 7 floors with an elevator to carry you up and down, they call it a “lift”, and there are two wings or sides to each floor!  No television … which I don’t miss … no refrigerator either … but since I am doing a lot of fruits and nuts, I don’t miss one much either.  It is a fairly new building with spacious rooms with huge closets, an enormous desk and an incredible staff – cleaning and front desk, maintenance included.  For example, I needed a new shower head, I reported it in the morning and got it by the end of the day … like 6 in the evening!

Anyway, so I booked this hostel in Amsterdam after seeing multiple advertisements for “free cancellation” within a certain time frame.  As I am completing the booking, I saw a “bold red line” at the bottom of the page and above it it read: “This booking cannot be cancelled. The cost of the cancellation is the same as the cost of your booking.”  I was like, wt@ … and hit cancel.  I was too late! I looked over everything, and sure enough, they were charging me 275 Euro for my stay at this hostel in Amsterdam AND 275 Euro for cancelling it!  In other words, I was being charged 550 Euro for two clicks on their website!!!  My funds are fixed and I am living on my SSA retirement pension and a small amount of retirement monies I get each month from New York State United Teachers Retirement since I put in 10 years teaching at White Plains High School.  I budget like a squirrel …  I checked my on line banking … and I was in the negative by $210.00! I hadn’t paid for the place where I am staying now and was leaving Sabadell, Catalunya, Spain in two days!  My cell phone can only receive calls from the USA and I cannot call the Bank of America customer service number from my cell phone.  I was texting people asking them to do a “three way” call with me, got through to one person, who while we were trying to connect, said she had to leave and had run out of time to help me.  I am thinking, “Homeless in Valencia” … the title of my next book! I had also sent a text to Gordon Derouseau who hadn’t gotten back to me and had called me while I was on the phone with Jacquie Young, a dear friend who helped me get my low rate air fare to Barcelona and back to the USA.  I have two hundred (200) minutes in my “World Calling” plan with MetroPCS each month. After Jacquie and I hung up since she had run out of time to help me, I text Gordon and he called me, we got through to an agent using three way calling, and I got the two charges reversed!  All I could say was “Thank you, thank you, thank you God!”

Okay, I know this is getting long so I am going to cut to the chase.  I had enough in my banking account to pay for my stay here, arriving one day early.  Two days later, I checked my account using my on line banking and find that the hostel in Amsterdam had re-charged my account TWO times!!  I was in the red again by $300 more or less and hadn’t booked my flight for Germany and my pension doesn’t come in until next week!!!  I still had a booking to pay for in Kiel which was about 275 Euro … I had found an application on Facebook to message them with an issue when I first got the bad news of the double fee for nothing … and went back to that.  I contacted them by message, they called me, we set up a dispute and I had to use 100 of my 200 minutes of “World Calling” plan to be transferred to “disputes”and hold for 20 minutes to get it done.  I got an e-mail from the accounting department after my friend in Sabadell helped me to send a “screen shot” of the double payment to the accounting department of the hostel in Amsterdam stating that they would refund one of the fees for the double charging and they were apologizing for any inconvenience.  When I set up the dispute, which redeposited the 550 Euro back into my account (plus international service fees!), I informed them that I did NOT want to stay at a place that had such incompetent accounting because I don’t have that kind of money to “burn”, play with or turn around on!  Yesterday, the hostel’s accounting department put 275 Euro into my account … so … at least I am NOT homeless in Valencia and have a chance to recover my funds, even if they do take the 275 Euro back … I still don’t want to stay there.  My new card is arriving here at Colegio Mayor today via UPS, I have checked the tracking and it should be here by the end of the day.

” …. and the walls came tumbling down!”

Have a great weekend, thanks for reading.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

The “Little Things” Add Up, Too!

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Life has lots of lessons … for me anyways.  Some folks ignore the lessons while others make excuses for not learning the most basic lessons that “life” teaches us.  You know, that thing called experience!?  “Experience is the best teacher!”  Have you heard that before?!?

Most of you who know me realize that I try to learn from everything that I experience.  I don’t have the “money”, so to speak, to “buy” my way out of problems.  So, I have to figure a lot of stuff out … on my own … connect the dots type thing.  When I was leaving Ft. Lauderdale to come to Barcelona, thanks to two magnificent friends who got me incredible Delta flight tickets at half price, the same day … the IRS took nearly $200.00 of my SSA monies for back taxes! (It’s going to be that way ’til I die!)  I had already budgeted down to the last quarter, had my flight information in hand AND my bags packed, I wasn’t about to turn around now! I had gotten a small loan to help cover the costs of my round trip tickets to and from Barcelona and had to leave room in the budget to cover that once I got here … that’s where I am now … on the second leg of the trip … Valencia, to be exact!  I pretty much figured out how to move forward from there.

The flight was good, I had booked a place in Sabadell through AirBnB and had my cell phone set up for “World Calling” with Metro PCS at an additional cost of $10/month … When I got off of the plane in Barcelona, I had no coverage on my cell phone!  You get what you pay for!  But that’s all I could afford … I heard about “unlocking” your cell phone and buying a “SIM” card in wherever I was going to be in Europe, but that was a little more expensive and complicated than what I wanted.  A guy at the “Oficina de Tourismo” in the airport got my cell connected to a free WiFi network there in the airport and I was able to read my e-mails, still no calls, but I could see and send texts with my “World Calling” plan … I saw a text from AirBnB saying that they had cancelled my booking in Sabadell.  I also had a text from Vicky Lao, where I ended up staying for a little over two weeks, saying that there was a problem with my AirBnB reservation … Not only am I sweating bullets, I was in a city I did not know and had no idea of what to do.  Finally, after a back and forth of texting with Vicky, she agreed to send me the address and directions to her place!  Divine intervention, indeed!

I got lost on the trains due to jet lag, a new language, Catala … which is written and spoken differently from standard Spanish, and ended up in a place called “Badalona”!  It had a beautiful beach, which became my place of refuge later during my stay in Sabadell, and I had gotten off of the train to catch a taxi.  I stopped a taxi after walking up and down a few streets in Badalona with my over-sized rolling duffel bag, a suit bag, my laptop over my shoulder and another gym bag that I was carrying with the same hand that my suit bag was thrown over my arm!  I began sweating bullets again.  I gave him Vicky’s address, and he said, “That will cost you E50 (Euro) …”  I had it on me since I had exchanged like $400.00 into Euros, but that is a lot of money for a taxi ride!!  Vicky was texting me reprimanding me for getting lost and this guy was trying to get 50 Euro for what eventually cost me 3.50 Euro on the train!  Frustrated, I told him to take me back to the train station, started asking more questions in my Castilian Spanish and finally got onto the right train.  When I did, there was a most beautiful gorgeous young lady on the  same car of the train … and I stopped and stared for at least 5 minutes.  My frustration had left me … and … I had all these bags, my Princeton 40th Reunion Beer jacket on and matching Princeton cap.  Our eyes finally met … I walked over to her to tell her that her hair was beautiful and asked her if she spoke English or Spanish.  She said English … I told her that I was lost but just looking at her for 5 minutes calmed me down so I could figure my way to my destination!  I thanked her … she smiled, fanned herself elegantly with her own hand … and at the next stop, turned to say good bye and got off of the train!!  It’s the little things that add up, you dig!

I got to Vicky’s place in Sabadell, she called AirBnB and they went back and forth. AirBnB called me on my cell phone … it worked … and they asked me to upload my driver’s license from Florida again … and again … and again.  They had taken the money from my account and said that they couldn’t read my license and was going to return my money.  Vicky agreed to let me pay her directly, AirBnB returned my money after 5 business days, I paid her and we had a great 16 days together, including her dog, “Steppy” and another guest from Argentina, Christian Eber.  I switched to Booking.com for my trip to Valencia, where I am now at a college dormitory!  It is huge, well furnished, a/c and a lovely campus which I haven’t visited yet since I love and need the beach more and am still learning my way around the neighborhood for food and stuff.  Besides, college is out for summer and there are many guests using the dormitory for lodging.  I had another episode with lodging which I am finalizing now, with a booking I made with a hostel in Amsterdam for early September, but I’ll fill you in later!  I need some breakfast …

Have a great day … remember the little things add up, too!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

 

 

“Count It All Joy!”

Happy Friday, Y’all!

Yes, yes, y’all!  And as is a tradition around here with me and EE, T.G.I.F.!  I am in awe at My Creator on days like this!!

My parents, Mary and Ike, brought me up in the church, Bethel Baptist to be exact!  Shucks, I got baptised there, went to Sunday School and church there … man, I even got married there!  That’s what a church family provided for me.  I had “God” in my heart from early on.  So here I sit in Sabadell, Catalunya, Spain for my last Friday in a while, probably.  I am counting my blessings, noting my trials and tribulations, and counting it ALL JOY, as I learned in many a scripture while attending Bethel Baptist Church.  Oh yeah, I forgot to tell y’all … I even sang in the Youth Choir there!  Whaaaat?!?  I was surrounded with love, surrounded with spirituality, all due to both of my parents and their encouragement … peace be still …

Sometime near the end of May 2017, the urologist told me that I had traces of cancer in my prostate …  Afterwards, I sat in the car at the office of the urologist, which was maybe a hundred feet near the location of Florida Memorial Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale where my mother passed away in hospice over ten years ago … and cried all by myself.  I didn’t want to talk to nobody … I didn’t know what to do … So, I just experienced it … with Mom and Dad … my two Earthly Angels who had guided me with all of their love, heart and soul for many years, through many changes in my life … And they stuck by me … the baby boy of the family!  My dad had hopes and dreams for me, my mother had so much love for me that sometimes I could feel it oozing from her body onto and into me … in my most difficult moments!  My dad died from the suffering and pain of bone marrow cancer.  They were there with me when I got the “news” … I felt them there!  Shucks when I finally had manipulated my “Obamacare” insurance plan enough to get the CT scan and bone scan, they were both with me when I went in and out of that chamber where the scans were taken.  I felt them there … BOTH of ’em, you dig (I’m pushing back tears right now … tears of JOY!)  No traces of cancer found in my tissue nor my bones.  I am so grateful to them that I feel I owe them my life!  So this ones for youse twos … “All the way up!”

There is a book that I’ve been reading, “The Cancer Report”, a gift from Susie Q Wood, that I have finished reading while here in Sabadell.  I am at the end where there is a workbook section placed so that a patient can choose her/his support group to establish a “winning team” to combat this dis-ease.  I have learned so much, have inculcated so much from the book, as it strongly suggests that when one finds out that one has cancer, it is a turning point in their life … for the better.  One has a fantastic reason to live on, change the lifestyle that allowed this illness, which often comes from mental stress and circumstances including diet and life style, to find root in the form of tumors in our bodies … our temple.  This trip to Spain and Europe has become part of my therapy and treatment as I am including more fruits and vegetables in my diet, I am meditating and continuing to practice yoga, visiting as many beaches as I can … which I love!  I am looking to embrace the holistic approach, as I have found many friends, and associates and friends of friends who have shared similar circumstances, which they too have overcome in a holistic fashion.  (In some parts of the book, they spell holistic like this, “wholisitc”, since the approach encompasses treating the mental, psychological, spiritual and physical “self” of the participants!)

So, let me go here … I am back to my journey … and counting it all joy, y’all!  Traveling to Valencia, Spain on Sunday … more sun drenched beaches and new experiences.  I’ll keep you all posted.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Educational Excellence

Progress is Not Promised

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Yeah, y’all … I am grateful today!  Do you know what I am saying?!  How many of you have gratitude in your attitude … just to make it to the other side of the street?!  I don’t mean because you are aging and wobbly sometimes like me … but that you make it and don’t get hit by a passing car driven by someone who is “having a bad day”?!  I know, I know … we all say, “That wouldn’t happen to me …until it does!”  Be grateful while you can … Progress is not promised.

We all are working on something, if not just to make sense of and enjoy this life we’ve been gifted.  Many of you know that I have made some errors along the way.  Many of you also know that I don’t take stuff lying down and crying like a baby!  Some of you know I have a gift of blending humility with pride, hard work with relaxation and self preservation.  There are a few who think they know me way too well … Peace be with you.  I wasn’t born with a “silver spoon” in my mouth and I don’t have one to give to anyone else.  Still, each day is a work in progress.  Again, I thank my friends and associates … those of you who saw me falling, heard my cry for help … and gave it to me … unconditionally.  I love you guys . . .

When our current president got elected, I didn’t feel so well about America anymore.  Now it is not a “race” thing as some of us like to accuse “others” of … because it is precisely “their” thing … It is a thing of honor, decorum, leadership and being a role model.  America elected a lying bully to the highest office of the land.  This says a lot about the character of those Americans who respect and accept “disrespect, dishonesty and lack of discipline”.  It says even more about the character of Americans who continue to make excuse, after excuse upon excuse for this person’s lack of leadership of America.  I had to get a way … When you walk the streets of America, you can feel some people in positions of authority adopting the “bully” attitude and approach to things.  You can see some people in positions of authority spouting forth pure lies in your face … clearly disrespecting “you”.  My Dad never graduated from high school, but he taught us well that there is nothing to honor in a liar … NOTHING!  Yet some of us continue to honor a bold faced liar . . .  I’m done here . .

I have embarked upon a journey at this stage of my life that I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish, though I had the “pieces of the puzzle” in my hand.  I adopted the right attitude, so to speak of humility and seeking help, which I have absolutely no problem with.  Many of you reading came through like “stealth jets” guiding me to my next destination.  Hey, do you know how that makes me feel?  Grateful!!!  Others took “pot shots” that never reached me and I watched them fall short of the mark.  Institutions took aim at my head … and I moved instinctively to the “right”.  Some even directed their hatred and hostility at my heart, which I protect with every ounce of strength in my body.  Not only did I have my “body” covered in armor, I took cover until it was safe to come out again.

I am approaching the second leg of my trip preparing to go to Valencia, Spain on Sunday.  I have even delved into planning the third leg which will be to Germany, Amsterdam and maybe even France.  I am playing it by ear … No wife at home awaiting my arrival, no children who are babies depending on me to bring food home to them.  Just me … just as I am … living out the next years of my life … one day at a time … that I have been gifted with.  Trust me, I know that progress is not promised!

Thanks for putting up with me.

Peace … and Love, y’all!

John I. Cook, Director

Spiritual Flow

 

Happy Friday, All!

As is customary “up in here” with me and EE, T.G.I.F.!  “The Creator has a master plan!”

This trip has been so intriguing for me as I learn more about myself, human behaviour and our perceptions of the world we live in.  Needless to say, many of us focus on the material things.  That’s what we have been trained to do in order to keep the “social organization” well structured, so to speak, and our economies vibrant.  Some national economies have become stagnant, have failed and even been corrupted to a point where they no longer function for the “good of all”.  In come the avaricious oligarchs, if you will, who pounce on failing systems to claim for themselves what naturally belongs to all on the planet Earth.  I am sure at this point, I am getting way too philosophical … even spiritual .. for some of “us”.  I know, looking out for everyone is not something that many of us think that us humans should do.  Do you consider us “the human family”?  Or are we a bunch of bacteria, spiraling out of control in an effort to defeat each other in some realm or another?!?  In an effort to control resources so only our closest allies can benefit from the fruits of our Earth?!?  Who do we share with?  Who deserves our “attention”?  Our help? Our healthcare? … Our love?!?  Many of our human efforts focus on our “outsides”, control “over” resources, leaving some of us with none . . .

One aspect of myself that I have been focusing on during my “birthday” trip is improving my health, improving my relationship with myself … loving myself to healthy spiritual and physical existence.  Many of you know that I have some relatively small battles, as I have learned while reading a book called “The Cancer Report”, as I deal with traces of prostate cancer (aka – old man’s prostate cancer, since many of us get it at one point in our “old age” or another).  Our society teaches us to “control” things outside of ourselves rather than seeking a balance between the two.  In fact, in my reading, I have found that many of us seek to control “outward” things so much that we neglect our inner things …  our health, our spirituality … our love, even of ourselves and others that we claim are so dear to us … our human family.  Meanwhile we are dying inside, neglecting our health … the “flow of things” to the point where they become rebellious tumors, like cancer and diseases, mental and physical imbalances causing humanity to become more and more “sick”, in the truest since of the word.  I don’t need to elaborate on the many many occurrences that express this “sickness” in our society.  There is a “new age” that we MUST embrace if we are going to save “ourselves” that involves a “spiritual flow” rather than a hardened competition over our plethora of resources … and “unhealthy”competition with each other.

In the midst of my travels here … my journey, to be exact … I have had AirBnB cancel my account and travel arrangements to “other places” due to what they are calling some “public records” and have had to shift to using Booking.com … with a little help from a good friend, “Johnny Ace”, I am in the midst of making that transition.  I embrace the “spiritual flow” inside and outside of my body and soul … more and more each day.  Join me … if you dare!

Have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend.  Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and ideas with each of you!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Keeping it Real … “100”!!

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Yes, I am up about 6 hours earlier than the USA as a fact of being in Western Europe, Sabadell, Spain, to be exact!  I wasn’t going to do an e-mail today, but then I remembered that I am a writer … perhaps a self proclaimed one … yet indeed a writer of sorts!

I have been in Catalunya now almost a week, come tomorrow it will be a week, and I have had the most intriguing moments in my life up ’til now.  No, no movie producers found me or anything, but I have been able to find pieces of myself!  As many of you know, I have put a “hold” on all of the “prostate” drama to take “my birthday present to myself” vacation here in Spain … hopefully I will make it to a few other places as I have France and Germany in my radar for the next two months.  I have been both a tourist and a “self healer” as I am seeking to slowly change my diet to encompass more fruit and plant based diet cuisines even while here in the land of “meats”, as I call it after seeing so many shops with meats hanging in the windows.  Most of the restaurants are the same though I have found a few “plant based” and “vegetarian”shoppes/restaurants on one of my journeys in Las Ramblas downtown Barcelona with a profound vegan advocate!  Which takes me to a most intriguing episode that I experienced here . . .

Most of you know, those who care, that I started talking about coming here about two or three months ago to celebrate my birthday.  Not only was I a bit disappointed in the outcome of the election, though I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, I just began to see the lies that so many Americans were willing to tell themselves and believe, not to mention the onslaught of “killings” of African American men … and women … in the streets of “the land of the free, home of the brave …”  (Please don’t ask me to complete this sentence!)  I could’ve been one of those people in the streets of America … or in the commercials for Southwest Airlines, “So, you wanna get away?!”  I had chatted by phone, back then, with a former student of mine at White Plains High School, “Nora”, who now lives in Brookfield, CT with her husband and two daughters.  Her mother has a house in a town not too far from Valencia and she informed me that she was going to visit in July or so.  We exchanged niceties and I told her that I was planning a trip for my birthday, which was July 13th, to Barcelona somewhere around that time … probably after the 13th when my pension comes in to my bank account.  Funny and fortunate thing happened is that a friend of mine from White Plains, Jacquie Young, has a daughter who works for Delta and they were able to get me a flight …  literally … at the last minute on the 19th of July at half price using the BUDY Pass … round trip to and from Barcelona with a 3 month window which can be moved forward or back a bit up to a year!  The energy of the universe began to move in my favor, and, as those of you who read my e-mails and blog know, there were some demonic entities trying to thwart my efforts, the positive energy was able to win out!  Nora and I, with her two daughters, Julia and Sofia, had lunch together on the 24th in Barcelona near La Plaza Catalunya!  How cool is that!?!!!

I take advice from others while I keep my plans and adjust them as necessary.  I know there were people who thought that I wouldn’t be here.  I mean even on the day that I was waiting for my pension to be deposited, the freaking IRS took $180.00 from my pension, which I had planned on having each month until I die, for back taxes! Wf@!!  Still, I was able to “finagle” and compromise, downsize my expenses even, get to the airport and take the flight that I was able to pay for with my own funds and a small loan, which I pay back in a few days when my funds from another retirement source (NYSUT) come into my account.  The power of positivity and the utilization of humility … and faith.  I tell my stories in case you want to or might need to hear them.  If you prefer not, you know what to do … Let me know!

The journey continues … I’ll keep you posted while I enjoy another week or so in Sabadell/Barcelona at a local gym which I haven’t visited yet, the beach and the Plaza Catalunya!  Just keeping it real … or “100” as is the saying today!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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