Being Real

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well. Mine was a blast in spite of the rain. Yet, I would rather have rain than the snow that fell in late October in the areas up North where I grew up and went to boarding school and college!

It brings back a memory, short as it is, when on October 22nd circa 1969 when we had a football game at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH. It must have been my first year because I only played football one season. It was like Parent’s Day or something and my mother and father had driven up from New York to see the school that I was attending since they had never been there before. Well, it snowed a lot, exactly how much I don’t remember, but we played the game anyway! A good time was had by all!

There was the boat show here this weekend – The International Boat Show – as Fort Lauderdale has earned the title of “The Venice of America”, and so many people were out. I didn’t attend although when I was with my best buddy at Blue Martini in the Galleria Mall Saturday night enjoying the costumes of the Halloweeners, a guy from Sarasota, FL came up to me and said, “I saw you at the boat show today!” I replied, “It wasn’t me because I didn’t go.” He smiled and said, “Are you sure?” I told him, “Yes, I am sure!” So we exchanged names and chatted a bit off and on for the rest of the night.

The rain came and went the whole weekend. I had errands to run Saturday nonetheless. Sunday was another day of rain though I got to and from Calvary Chapel fairly dry! I hunkered down at home afterwards cooking and cleaning and taking care of some business. In fact, last night, it started raining so hard that the sound of it on my windows caused me to wake up from a deep sleep and make sure they were all closed tight! Stay safe in this weather in all points of the world, if you will!

Today is the last day of October and it is also All Hallow’s Eve, as borrowed from the ancient Celtic folklore. Our version of it was celebrated this weekend and probably tonight as costumes and candy have become customary! Be safe in your trick or treating, if you do, and keep and eye out for All Saints Day tomorrow. Have a great day and a wonderful week.

“Superficiality is the curse of our age. the doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.” – Richard J. Foster

I will have faith that time is on my side and it will teach me valuable things. (TOUCHSTONES October 31st)

Peace All!

John I. Cook, Director

Be Brave, Be Strong

Happy Friday, All!

Once upon a time … there was Friday …. and …. T.G.I.F.!

Did anybody else have a long week? It is better to savor the flavor of this life than to complain, like most of us do, and wish things would “hurry up”! As my Dad used to say, “Where you goin’, boy?” The more mature I become, the better I understand his “saying”.

Could it be that the NBA talks between owners and players may be getting better? I hope so! I even stayed up late watching one of the most exciting World Series that I’ve seen in a while. No particular team, just good baseball playing by both the Cardinals of St. Louis and the Rangers out of Texas. One more game left!

As October closes with Halloween aka All Hallow’s Eve, followed by All Saint’s Day, we move into November towards the end of 2011. For me, this time of year is when families get together and “do things” during the cooler months and usually remain indoors together much more. It is a time of year when some of us get lonely and others feel that life just isn’t treating us right, so to speak. It is during these times that we must reach out to each other on this human journey called “life”. One of the reasons I embrace the Holy Day season is because it may cause us to be introspective as well as extroverted in giving time and comfort to others who may need it. I just want to take a moment to thank so many of you reading this for your friendships and concern, as well as your help, support and in some cases, your love! Peace be still …

This weekend is the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, so much of downtown will be congested and exciting, including all of the Halloween Festivities. Tomorrow, I will attend “The Father’s Summit” at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, which is sponsored by the Urban League of Broward County. I am always seeking to better understand some of the challenges I continue to face in that realm, even though my only child is already grown up …. In watching the news last night, one more child was recovered from the rubble in Turkey and the little baby recovered earlier is doing well.

“Often our trust is not full. We are not certain that God hears us because we consider ourselves worthless and as nothing. This is ridiculous and the very cause of our weakness. I have felt this way myself.” – Julian of Norwich (TOUCHSTONES October 28th)

Have a great weekend, all, and please be safe!


John I. Cook, Director

Spiritual Justice

Happy Hump Day, Y’All!

I woke up kind of early this morning after a return to the gym last night since I hadn’t been in a little over a week. A local bird chirped to welcome me. I had been fighting a cold, as we say, but hadn’t let it get me down too much so I just took a break from the gym for like 12 days. Monday is a yoga class that I really enjoy and Tuesday I usually lift – bench press, triceps, lat pull down and curls. So, it was a nice return to awaken the senses in my muscles again. Thank you God!

It looks like the NBA season may be cancelled because neither side – players vs. owners – wants to give in. “It is all about the Benjamins!” as the lyrics to a rap song once stated. The earthquake in Turkey was clearly devastating. Yet, one 3-month old baby was actually pulled from the rubble and is doing well. Justice …. from beyond …. perhaps. The eight-teen year old Amaro girl from Sunrise, FL who was invited back to the “X-Factor”, who sings while she does everything … that’s what they said …. everything, for the live performances did an incredible job on Whitney Houston’s song “If I Don’t Have You!” Again … justice of sorts.

A few days ago, a Haitian couple and their child were seen in a car in SoFlo in the evening and the mother and father were arguing while a 3 year old daughter sat in the back seat helplessly watching. The argument escalated and people at the service station, where the couple began arguing and the man purportedly was hitting the woman, called the police. They sped off in the car and a struggle ensued over the steering wheel, the accelerator and the brake pedal. The car entered a nearby canal once the couple lost control. Officers arrived on the scene in time to save the woman, the child . . . but the man drowned. Spiritual justice of sorts …. perhaps. They were scheduled to begin divorce proceedings.

“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” – D. Elton Trueblood

Today, I will appreciate all that comes freely to me from others, and I will give what I can to make the world a better place. (TOUCHSTONES October 26th)

Have a good day!


John I. Cook, Director

If Looks Could Kill ….

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends were wonderfully spent. I mean, considering the earthquake in Turkey, we here in the Continental USA have a lot to be grateful for. Even this morning when I woke up, I took for granted where I was as well as my condition, which is fairly good for a gent my age. I often forget to count my blessings immediately but as my eyes opened and I became aware of the breath flowing in and out of my lungs, I said: “Thank you!”, which is my favorite prayer and meditation.

Sometimes I wonder if Our Creator is sending us signs. No one really likes to acknowledge that while so many of us are comfortable and others are living lives of luxury, it seems that we are exacerbating our natural resources and destroying the planet we live on …. om shanti. One time at work, a few of us were out in the backyard area of the office in Deerfield, FL looking at a pond that had come about due to the extensive rain. We got philosophical and stuff …. One guy commented, “Something’s gotta happen to this Earth and the way Earthlings live!” While most of us know this, none of the well known orators address this issue publicly, at least that I’ve seen occupy the media about every darn thing else! Methinks we have become complacent about “progress” and have decided to ignore the inevitable.

Now, I enjoyed the weekend and spent a few hours yesterday at Bokamper’s Restaurant in Plantation, FL watching the Dolphins try to win their first game at the same time the Jets came back to defeat San Diego’s Chargers. We had a small group of guys who decided to bond over ribs and chicken wings, salad and cheeseburgers and a few beverages both beer and ginger ale, which is my favorite. There were a lot of people there and I truly felt like an ancient Roman watching the gladiatorial bouts on the multiple televisions and big screens with folks yelping and clapping for Tim Tebow and their favorite teams.

Riding home in light Sunday afternoon traffic, I got a bit mystical and meditated to the sound of the motorcycle’s engine. My mind went elsewhere …. seemingly to another frequency as I enjoyed the fresh air of Autumn in South Florida and intermittent rays of sunlight through my helmet’s visor. I thought, “If God is watching us, he must not be too happy ….”

“Become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is first to seek God’s kingdom.” – Soren Kierkegaard

God, help me today to learn the spiritual lesson contained in my frustrations and grief. (TOUCHSTONES October 24th)

Have a great week …. love youse!


John I. Cook, Director

Know Thyself!

Happy Friday, Y’all!

And if it seems too typical to say, try this one on for size: T.G.I.F.!

Usually in the mornings, I like to write these tidbits before I eat something. But this morning, I was awakened by a strong cool breeze coming in the window over my head so I suspect Mother Nature’s season of Autumn weather has arrived in South Florida, too! That’s cool! Being born and raised in New York and attending boarding school in New Hampshire has left its mark on me as well. I enjoy a strong cool breeze and even a bit of winter weather from time to time …. not ALL the time … but from time to time! But this day, I had some breakfast including a hot cup of tea to get me started! Thank you God!

Latest international report has Omar Ghadaffi dead in Libya. What a story, right?! People I know are still saying that Osama bin Laden is still alive since we haven’t seen the pictures of his corpse. Then, on a webpage last night and this morning, I saw an article about Steve Jobs blasting Obama in a meeting …. before his death obviously. I am not sure if I want to read that one but I probably will over the weekend. Obama’s got his hands full and Steve Jobs’ memory for me will remain with Apple Computers …. peace be still.

As another year is coming to a close, if you haven’t noticed already, and the season is changing with Thanksgiving and the Holy Days before we know it, I have taken some time to do a “self inventory”. So, what have you done for YOU lately? Do you know what you need from this life? Do you know what you need from your family and friends? Have you told them or do you try to do it all on your own? As my motto for Educational Excellence advocates, “KNOW THYSELF”! Whatever it takes, remember that this journey is not so much about what you can acquire and whom you can influence or control, but this journey is yours to share with those who appreciate and accept you …. for who you are and for whom you’ve chosen to be. So “Strive to be the Best” … that you can be!

“No man (person) can produce great things who is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself (oneself).” – James Russell Lowell

My strength today is based upon a sincere relationship with myself. (TOUCHSTONES October 21st)

Have a wonder-filled weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

…. A Higher Love ….

Happy Hump Day, Y’All!

Still, so much craziness going on around town, so to speak, probably in your towns, too! An attempted murderer was accidentally let out of Miami-Dade County Jail yesterday after being convicted on Monday for attempting to murder his girlfriend! Luckily, he walked into a hospital in Miami last night and the people there recognized him from the newscasts and story and he kind of turned himself in.

Simon Cowell on the “X-Factor” had let a young lady go from appearing on the “live shows” who was apparently one of the best singers in the whole line up. So, he admitted his mistake and flew to Florida and took a limousine to Sunrise, FL where the young lady and her family had no idea he was going to come and ask her to rejoin the program’s first season’s finalist! The young lady and her family were ecstatic.

Have you ever made a mistake with something or someone and KNEW that you needed to correct it? Did you? Many humans have a tendency to hold on to their pride …. or even let greed take over their senses and KEEP whatever it is that they know they do NOT deserve. I have been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt and still struggle with that syndrome from time to time.

“If I could only throw away the urge to trace my patterns in your heart I could really see you.” – David Brandon

I will release my grip on my loved ones and turn to my Higher Power for security and serenity. (TOUCHSTONES October 19th)

Have a wonderful day … and be real with YOURSELF …. first!


John I. Cook, Director

Dedication for A Dream

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well, and, that your lives are continuing according to The Master Plan!

For me, things were pretty laid back, while I have some things “cookin'” on all four burners, if you will. Keeping a healthy approach to life, I think, is the most important in these days and times. Friday couldn’t come fast enough and the weekend cruised by for me with “the simple pleasures” I enjoy most – friendship, peace, spirituality (at Calvary’s service Sunday morning) and remembering Dr. King’s Dream. I was just a young boy, so to speak, when Dr. King’s Dream was breathed into the fabric of American Society, and, through his death, The Dream was implanted into the minds and hearts of many, including our present President Barack Obama.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has taken on new dimensions world-wide as populations everywhere blame the current economic conditions on “corporate greed”. While many of the protests have been peaceful, it is clear there is tremendous unrest amongst the “workers of the world” whom a large number remain unemployed. I watched the newscast with people in tents at the protest locations here in the States while in comparison, in international cities there was less of a calm. As I completed errands on Saturday after visiting the Breast Cancer Awareness festivity at the River Walk in “FTL”, I noticed people holding signs on the major intersections referring to “No More Obama”. Interesting these same people put up with Bush for 8 years and accepted being told, “Just pull yourselves up by your bootstraps!” time and time again. Fort Lauderdale had its own rendition of “Occupy Wall Street” downtown as well. It was well attended but remained peaceful.

Most noteworthy for me was the dedication of the Monument for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, DC on Sunday, October 16th, 2011 after being postponed in August due to extreme hurricane conditions. I was able to catch glimpses of the Monument on Facebook and the internet but it must have been an incredible sight to see with so many people there present. I am happy to see that for the most part, The Dream has been kept alive. May we continue to fashion our own dreams in these difficult days and times.

Peace be with each of you!

John I. Cook, Director

Sharing ….

Happy Friday, You All!

Needless but happy to say, T.G.I.F.!

So much going on in our world today . . . even Republican presidential candidate Cain is edging out the popular Romney, so far! Most of my life, I have seen changes occur personally and internationally, spiritually and physically! Ever since the day came when I realized that there is so much more to LIFE than I could ever really fathom, I decided to share my thoughts and words, and when I have a chance, I even share the “things” that I may have available to me. Many many friends have been very kind and generous to me as well with sharing things, thoughts, love and peace with me as well. I am eternally grateful!

As we go forth this day, this weekend …. and perhaps everyday, may we continue to open ourselves to others who may or may not be in need. Sharing is just such a wonderful human experience!

“No man (person) is more cheated than the selfish man (person).” – Henry Ward Beecher

Today, I will look for ways to be generous with those I share this world with. (TOUCHSTONES October 14th)


John I. Cook, Director

Dealing With Powerlessness

Happy Hump Day, All!

Once again, the middle of the week has arrived. I awoke this morning and was able to say, “Thank you, God!” When I walked outside to toss the trash into the building’s bin, I noticed the full moon just sitting in the sky moments before the Earth’s rotation was about to give way to the sun’s arrival. How gorgeous it looks with thin clouds around and the first rays of the sun causing the sky to look a bit reddish and yellow to begin another day! This is something I had nothing to do with . . . the awe and the power of nature . . . yet, I could enjoy it, if only for a few moments.

Last night, when I arrived home, I was feeling a bit of a headache, though small. I took a Dayquil and a couple of ibuprofen tablets and waited to see if I felt better since I wanted to go to the gym. After chatting with a trainer friend of mine and few Facebook friends on line, the consensus was that I should listen to my body and take a rest! So, I did, prepared some tofu mixed with soy sauce, butter, season mix and sprinkled it over wheat pasta, which I topped with grated Parmesan cheese. On the side, I had a glass of ginger ale and a piping hot cup of black tea! After washing the dishes and tidying up a bit, I said good night to a few people and retired. It was the best option as I was pretty powerless over the sinus headache I had at that moment.

Last weekend, two teenaged boys had a shoot out in front of a Metro station in Miami. One was seriously injured. I mean, it was like a duel with a modern setting, these two kids shooting at each other as if in “the Wild Wild West”! One mother, clearly powerless over her 14 year old son’s behaviour and injuries, commented: “Why did they do this to my son?!” Obviously, she did not know her son well enough . . . Peace be still.

Americans continue to mobilize and “March on Wall Street”, as well as other big cities to make their discontent known to politicians and government officials as well as CEO’s and big businesses. These demonstrations illustrate a level of powerlessness as the police rounded up and arrested many protesters in Boston last weekend, too. What’s a person to do? Methinks, choosing a more civilized way to handle it may be our best option.

“I resolve to meet evil courageously, but when even a small temptation cometh, I am in sore straits. That which seemeth trifling sometimes giveth rise to a grievous temptation.” – Thomas a Kempis

I live with my powerlessness every day. help me admit it to myself. (TOUCHSTONES October 12th)

Have a great day …. in peace!

John I. Cook, Director

Observe, Learn and Live

Happy Monday, All!

And, if you catch my drift, Happy Columbus Day! Back in the day, I used to do a little stand up comedy: amatuer night once or twice at NYC’s famed “Catch A Rising Star” – tough crowds there. I remember starting one routine with” “Do you guys really think that the King and Queen of Spain really gave Chris The Nina, The Pinta and The Santa Maria so he could discover America, as if it were lost, or were they just trying to get rid of him and his cronies?” Nevertheless, here we are today!

Many of us have a long weekend, but I will be going in to work today. Now, I am not complaining of course because I DO have a job …. and it beats a lot of things I have done in the past 7 years or so …. so I am cool with that! In White Plains where I taught Social Studies for 10 years, Columbus Day was pretty much just another day out of school …. for the students. Still, I used to try to drill home the point that the Native Americans were already here and may not have necessarily wanted to be “discovered” by Chris and the Crew, which then led to a mass exodus of people from Western European countries seeking to “colonize” a land where people already existed and lived in their own “way of life”!

Nowadays, here in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, Americans are protesting the state of affairs in our national economy, the jobless rate, the fact that businesses and banks have been bailed out time and time again and now … folks want to occupy and protest at financial centers in major cities like Wall Street in New York City and the fervor is spreading. After all, if you look back at the basic premises of what “this country” was founded on during the American Revolution as we know it, we do have the right of freedom of assembly, free speech and …. though now it has been taken to an extreme …. the right to bear arms! Eeeeeck!

A Native American friend of mine, Kevin Gover, and his wife posted some pictures on Facebook of their visit to a village of the Qechua community high in the Andes Mountains in a Sacred Valley of the Inkas in South America. They also have pictures of the famous Peruvian site known as Machu Picchu It brought back memories of the historical regions and ruins I visited in Colombia when I lived and taught there for five years. The native inhabitants of this land – The Americas – had a somewhat archaic lifestyle, but it was naturally theirs!

May we Observe, Learn and Live ….


John I. Cook, Director

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