Getting A Grip . . . or Loosening It?!

Happy Friday, All!

What is a Friday like without saying “T.G.I.F.” . . . for me anyway! Join me, will you!?

Is the nation’s credit problems going to continue past August 1st? Can Democrats and Republicans act like “people” instead of political parties to get this thing resolved? A kid dies on a football field in Miramar, FL after a foot-skill drill from the heat. Some kids are mauled by an Alaskan bear on a “survival trip” and one runs, falls and then kicks the bear in the face to make him retreat! Some other kids are having football practice in the Overtown area of Miami, FL and two or three are hit by stray bullets from a drive by shooting …. Is this reality? I am afraid so ….

When we are faced with drama and trauma, which are part of this journey called “life”, our responses vary. More often than not, we feel we have no control over them; yet, we do . . . to some degree. We certainly have control over how we may respond! As July comes to a close, each of us mature a bit more and the year approaches the second half, may we each keep in mind that these “realities” we live in have been mostly created by human kind. So, our stress, discomfort, sads and happies are often dictated by these realities. May we have the courage to step up ourselves and seek that realm of peace and harmony that resides within our souls . . .

“You cannot get it by taking thought; You cannot seek it by not taking thought.” – Zenrin Poem

In the spiritual realms we learn things we didn’t learn anywhere else, and gradually they bring us peace. We can decide with our wills to follow a spiritual direction, to turn our lives and will over to the care of our God. We cannot control what God will do with them . . . . Now it is possible to be released from our own trying, to move beyond our own efforts by falling into the caring hand of God. (TOUCHSTONES, July 27)

May we learn to follow a spiritual path when reality conflicts with our peace . . .

Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Cops and Bad Boys!

Happy Hump Day, All!

Welcome to Miami! Bienvenidos a Miami …. NOT! Aren’t cops supposed to find criminals … not be criminals? And . . . aren’t cops supposed to be pretty safe when they go on vacation, especially considering they may be armed? Well . . . not in Miami!

Now don’t get me wrong, I think cops are people, too . . . My dad worked with the Pinkerton Detective Agency in New York, even in the Projects where I grew up! He was also an Auxiliary Police Officer for the City of White Plains, NY! So, from his side, I know cops can be crooked, too! He told me “stories and tales” . . . believe it …. or NOT!

But after 7 African American men were killed last year in Miami by police officers of the Miami Police Department, cops are once again in the limelight! Only this time, three different episodes. First, there was an officer who was partying with his uniform on at the famous “Clevelander” on South Beach! I have been there myself and it is quite festive; but this officer got drunk, took a young lady on his police issued ATV and drove with his lights off on the Beach side of Collins Avenue until he hit and seriously injured two people who were enjoying the ambiance of South Beach! Now wait . . . then he got off and ran away without offering any help to the people he had struck, who by the way, were hospitalized with very serious injuries. He faces charges now.

Then, there was a NYC decorated detective, former drug vice detective and currently in the terrorist division of the New York City Police Department who is on vacation here since last weekend. As part of what they think was an attempted robbery, he was involved in a “shoot out” in front of a hotel on Collins Ave., too!! He remains hospitalized with a serious injury to his leg, since the wound was close to an major artery or vein …

Now, here’s the good cop story … so to speak! There is a cop here from Los Angeles Police Department visiting Miami with his family, and, while they dined at the famous Versailles Restaurant, their rented SUV was broken into and everything inside, including baggage, clothes, computer … but not his gun … was stolen. After the story aired on Channel 7 news, “everybody and their mamma”, as we used to say, gave them money, free tickets for major events like Metro Zoo and Seaquarium, even upgraded their hotel to South Beach (uh ohh!), to make up for the robbery they experienced on their FIRST day in Miami ….

I dunno anymore but anyways ….


John I. Cook, Director

Who Said So?

Happy Monday, All!

The weekends go by so quickly nowadays …. summer sun and fun …. and the fact that one may have so many options to choose from makes it move that much faster, it seems.

I decided to go to hear Pastor Bob speak on Saturday night, since I had gotten into the habit while my friends were visiting … and their friends invited them on Saturday to attend the 6:00PM service at Calvary Chapel, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Now some people know the Pastor there and some don’t. He usually dresses down as he carries the Word from the pages of the Bible, into his mechanism of interpretation – his mind and soul, and then delivers it to the congregation in a most palatable way. Saturday, he had on a suit with like a deco colored shirt with a tie that matched both the suit and the shirt! Early into the service, he commented that his teen aged daughter had “dressed” him and wanted everyone to know that he was a “Fly Guy”! We all erupted into laughter as he began a very serious sermon on Nehum the Prophet, Nineveh and the concept of “Who Said So?”

We live in a world today where people can and do say just about anything that comes to their minds – Believe it … or Not! That is the question. Do you believe everything people say? Do we consider the source? Pastor Bob suggested, “What if Mom said it?” Or, “Yes, but Dad said something different!” But the police officer, the lawyer and the judge each said something completely different! Or what if God said it? Pastor then read some historical papers and published books of geographical finds of the ancient city of Nineveh (Assyria today) and things that archaeologists found that paralleled the Bible story of the destruction of the once powerful city by God due to their ignoring the Almighty’s request for them to change their decadent ways of life! Again, believe it or not . . .

This past weekend after Amy Winehouse was FOUND dead from an apparent drug overdose, (many of us saw this one coming!) there was a purported press report that Woody Harrelson, well known actor, had died, too. So I, and many many other people “Googled” his name and found that his father had passed away and Woody himself turned 50 celebrating his birthday while hanging out in Australia, which is where the story originated of his death in a car accident. It reminds me of the “Telephone Game” that I used to play with the students in my history classes at White Plains High School to show them that history, too, can be distorted, in a “word of mouth (or press today) way”!

Consider your source of information and look for proof, if possible, to see if that source is correct …. or EVER has been correct … as is the case with the Creator! Then, try to change ones ways before one expires . . . for then it is too late!


John I. Cook, Director

Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You!

Happy Friday, All!

Were you wondering if I’d suggest “T.G.I.F.”?! Well then, T.G.I.F., you all!

It seems that mud slinging has become a favorite past time of politicians as well as common folk nowadays. One black male congressional rep from Florida sends venomous e-mails to a white female congressional rep from Florida who supposedly attacked him with words after he left the floor in the House the other night … and he said that she said that he was …. Enough already! Sounds like somebody needs a political etiquette class before things get worse than what they are and somebody says or does something they can’t take back!

Now, I don’t know about any of you but I could NEVER lay a hand on my mother, not to mention even thinking of raising a hand to her for fear that my father would have killed me or God would bestow a relentless punishment on me. I mean, the Bible says, “Honor thy mother and thy father!”, so where do these young men, if we can still call them that, get the idea of murdering their mothers after all they’d done for them!? Is there something in the water here in Florida that is driving some people mad? I still get a gallon or two of water a week from Publix super market . . . so far, so good . . . no murderous desires have arisen in me! Woe is us . . .

No matter how bad I might feel, or how sad I might allow myself to be, I have NEVER EVER had the desire to kill anyone “off the rip”, so to speak, though once I was provoked by another man who had beaten me worse than my father EVER had. But I was in the wrong place at the wrong time after making multiple wrong decisions so I had actually set myself up for that “train wreck”! I look at Alonzo Mourning, former Miami HEAT star who was an orphan, just like Louis “Satchamo” Armstrong, and they made good on things without a mother! Now, not one, not two but THREE murders take place in a week or so of two mothers and a father by young men who been taken better care of by them than they could take care of themselves! Must they’ve been suffering so much that the pain drove them to this? I seriously doubt that . . . “I’ll ALWAYS love my Mamma …. she’s my favorite girl!” … as the lyrics of a monumental old school R & B song go ….

“Suffering is a journey which has an end.” – Matthew Fox (My mother used to say this to me often when I acted like it was the end of the world!)

My pain will teach me something I need to know, and it will have an end. I will pay attention to its lessons. (TOUCHSTONES, July 23rd)

Please . . . have a wonderful weekend and . . . please love your mommas and count the blessings and lessons they teach us!


John I. Cook, Director

Peace and Solitude

Happy Hump Day, Everyone ….

The news nowadays have me baffled! How a teenager can “bludgeon the hands that feed, clothe, house and raised him” to death in their own home … and then have a party while the parents are dead in the master bedroom is beyond me …. All because they told him he could NOT have a party in their home in Port St. Lucie, FL!!! None of the neighbors or the teen’s schoolmates saw this one coming. One neighbor commented, “They were such fine people …. their demeanors were always so good!” (Drive by shootings in the news are at an all time high in Miami, and elsewhere, too!)

While I have never thought about hurting my parents … even after I had gotten a “whipping” from my Dad … there were days when I thought I’d be better off running away. Then I thought, “Where will I go?” To destroy the same people that raised you requires an extreme motivation, if anything at all. Definitely NOT because I couldn’t throw a party in the home that they were paying for!

My parents used to punish me by telling me to stay in my room and not allow me to go out to play with my friends. Sometimes, my brother Hank was in the room, but most of the time, I was alone. I never understood how much value is in that “alone time” until I got a little older and was abandoned by friends … girlfriends and others. I used to write a lot – poetry and short stories – when alone; mediation, though I didn’t know what it was at the time, was another thing I used to do! Later, I chose more unhealthy things to do when alone to “scramble my thoughts”, so to speak, until those things disappeared …. ONLY until the next day when the self-medication had worn off. Now, I know the value of being alone … so I can contemplate the blessings I have in life and not dwell on the things I may not have … Peace be still!

“Without solitude, there can be no real people . . . . the measure of your solitude is the measure of your capacity for communion.” – John Eudes

Today, I will welcome solitude. When the messages from myself are painful or frightening, I will be gentle with myself. (TOUCHSTONES, July 20th)

Meditate and pray … and be at peace with one another, especially your parents.

Yours always,

John I. Cook, Director

Ambassador for Peace!

Once again, my Creator has given still yet another day to make a difference . . . if not only in my life, then perhaps I may be fortunate enough to illuminate the lives of others a bit.

This past weekend was pretty special for a variety of reasons. While Friday night was “short and sweet” where I hung out with a few friends who sought to make the evening a nice birthday gift, I spent Saturday doing house chores and organizing a bit around the flat. Sensing an urge to commune with others, I attended another Saturday eve service at Calvary with my friends who are still visiting from Germany and some of their friends, children and parents. The service was designed to remind us to “count our blessings” and try to balance our lives with ample time for spirituality and acknowledgement of this gift of the journey called “life” with which we have been bestowed.

Yesterday, I spent some quality time alone with me and some notes which I have been organizing and sat down to write a bit. Peace was still …..

Since they are spending their last few days here and returning to Germany tomorrow night, I suggested a guided tour of the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe and Casino/Hotel for my friends. They welcomed the opportunity as we embarked upon an early evening journey. Now I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the layout but there are a lot of restaurants, clothing stores, gift shops, clubs and even a “Johnny Rockets” traditional American cuisine restaurant with milk shakes, burgers and fries. They opted to dine at the Hard Rock Cafe where the food was plentiful and delicious, not to mention the ambiance of the legendary “rockers” for which the Hard Rock is known worldwide!

“How should one live? Live welcoming to all!” – Mechtild of Magdeburg

Today, I will practice a welcoming attitude toward everyone I meet! (TOUCHSTONES, July 18th)

Have a wonder-filled week ….


John I. Cook, Director

Accepting Compliments

Happy Friday, All!

Needless to say, but I’m sayin’ it anyway, T.G.I.F.! And I mean that!!!

Wednesday was so super for me that I still have goose bumps all over! So many special people reached out to me with birthday wishes, especially on Facebook, that I am so grateful and elated! It took me two days to get back to everyone, which is something I like to do not only because I am a grateful writer but it also completes the cycle of appreciation shown to me by so many many wonderful people!

After leaving work in Boca where they had me stand up and wished me a happy birthday during the morning meeting, I got home and slipped into something more comfortable … to go out to The Trina Lounge on A-1-A for the monthly networking mixer sponsored by The Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. Definitely one of my favorite places, which is part of The Atlantic Resort & Spa in a prime location on Fort Lauderdale Beach. My friends visiting from Germany came by to pick me up and brought a lovely birthday card with a cupcake and candle! It was the second card I got, since my friend from Sunday’s outing also had presented me with a touching card, too! Thank you. After a few coconut shrimp and some spring rolls and a cool birthday drink which I enjoyed while watching the ocean, I took a minute to chat with Melissa, Director of Volunteer Services for the BGCBC. Always a pleasure to speak with her.

Then, as requested by my friend’s teenaged daughter, we went to Hooters for dinner at Beach Place overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the top floor with a view right out to the full moon over the ocean and its reflection glistening right up to the shores on A-1-A! Nature rocks!

Now what was most smashing was the uncountable (is that a word?!) maybe innumerable wishes on Facebook from friends, associates, former students, college buddies and even a few very special people that I’ve met only on FB! I was overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation which prompted me to think deeply about my own family …. peace be still …

Now, coupled with the sad news of a 22-month baby found discarded and dead in the back of a Miami area daycare, and the sickening news of the man who kidnapped, killed and dismembered a child walking home from Summer camp in NYC, and the anticipated release of Casey Anthony on Sunday, who has received hundreds of dollars in her jail account … I ask us all to be grateful, spread good cheer and love …. yep and PEACE …. in hopes that it will become more contagious than this annoying decadence in our communities.

“Today, I will be open to the compliments that come my way without controlling them.” (TOUCHSTONES, July 15th)

Have a great weekend, thank you all …. and ….


John I. Cook, Director

A Very Special Day!

Happy Hump Day, All!

I’ve got to give it up to Marietta Dolores and Isaac Henry Cook, who, over a half century ago got together to make somethin’ happen – Me! lol! It must’ve been a very special time for them as they conceived the last of their off-spring . . . and I am still honored ’cause I am still tickin’. As I think back over the years, I am so proud to have had parents like them, as if I had a choice . . . peace be still!

While I awoke early this morning with flavor filled thoughts and a renewed determination of sorts, I thought about the mid-summer full moon that lulled me to sleep last night, that will come again tonight on this very special day for me. Needless to say, I thought about each of you and how you’ve each made my life much more meaningful than it would have been without you . . . so I thank you . . . in so many different and special ways. Now I know I could’ve done better myself but I am not wasting any time on the “coulda – woulda – shoulda” syndrome, so I am writing these words for you.

“If I were to begin life again, I should want it as it was. I would only open my eyes a little more.” – Jules Renard

Help me live this day with all of my awareness. (TOUCHSTONES, July 13th)

If these were to be my last words to each of you . . . I would pen them as, “I love you … and thank you!”

Peace Always,

John I. Cook, Director

Playin’ Fair

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well, peaceful and perhaps playful! Interestingly so, we all have different ways that we like to play! Over the years, I have learned that playing fair is more helpful in terms of spiritual growth. However, over the years, I have also learned that many people do NOT like to play fair . . . in other words, for them, playfulness is being witting and sometimes hurting others … either their feelings or their physical existence . . . Pray for peace!

While Friday was a bit fun for me, as I went to downtown Ft. Lauderdale and enjoyed music and friends … even a slice of pizza … I got home early in order to attend the Brahma Kumaris Retreat at Ganga’s house in Miramar. The nice thing, amongst many others, was that there were two friends that I haven’t seen in a while, one from the Miami group – Marianne, and the other from the Hollywood group – Roz. The meditation retreat’s theme was “silence”, and upon entering, I was greeted by another person whom I haven’t seen in several years since becoming familiar with the group was Kathy, who runs the “Education with Values” organization. How nice to be amongst such kind and uplifting souls – om shanti! The retreat by far was well organized, as Mirella, Marianne and Kathy each provided opportunities for introspection, identification of values for spiritual growth and education. I was at “home” . . . and we all played fair!

Saturday night was pretty special, too, as I had a chance to attend Calvary Chapel with my friend visiting from Germany and her daughter and several of their friends. Pastor Bob was in stellar form with his humor and analogies regarding God’s knowledge of our behavior, no matter how clever we may think we are! He always challenges us to “be the best that we can be”! Sunday was peaceful and fun, too, as a good friend invited me out for an early birthday outing to an amazing fish store/display with an extensive variety of colorful and exotic fish in huge aquariums and tanks! After nearly an hour or more, we then headed to Ruby Tuesday’s for a nice meal of crab cakes, Memphis rubbed ribs and a house salad . . . then back home to relax for the evening.

“In playing, and perhaps only in playing, the child or adult is free to be creative,” – D. W. Winnicott

God, help me see the possibilities for play in the moments of this day. (TOUCHSTONES, July 11)

Have a great day, a wonderful week . . . and play fair!


John I. Cook, Director

A Balance . . . Of Sorts . . .

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Once again, I would like to T.G.I.F.! Short week but action packed, right?!

Casey Anthony apparently will be released from jail on July 17th for “time served” on her four year sentence after being found “not guilty” of murder and child abuse, but “guilty” ONLY of lieing to the police during an investigation of her missing daughter. Meanwhile, across the pond at Trafalgar Square in London, England, the celebration for the opening of the last Harry Potter movie captures the interest of those “fantasy seeking” people all over the world … Isn’t that just life!

This spectacle of quasi humiliation of the United States Criminal Justice system has caused people to wish the worst on Casey, and some suggest that she leave the country. On the other hand, there are those who speculate that this high school drop out (with one credit left to graduate!) stands to make millions of dollars on movie deals, interviews and guest appearances, not to mention book deals. Are the people of today really enthralled by such a concoction of human degradation?!

Meanwhile, Harry Potter, who has sensationalized the supernatural witchcraft beyond the “Fellowship of the Rings” type literature, captures the attention of an otherwise thrill seeking population of fanfare and fantasy interwoven with themes of humankind and our struggles to overcome evil. Perhaps, it is a balance of sorts. Or perhaps, I just like to write about these things …

“The ultimate result of shielding men (and women) from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.” – Herbert Spencer

Today, I will be respectful of others by letting them walk their path while I walk mine. (TOUCHSTONES, July 9th)

Tomorrow morning, I will participate in a Raj yoga meditation retreat here in Miramar, FL with the Brahma Kumaris, and then, God willing, spend some time with my friends visiting from Germany, weather permitting. Have a great weekend!

Om shanti!

John I. Cook, Director

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