Hook, Line and Sinker!

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well. It seems, the more I live, and, the more mature I get, the more I must employ acceptance. For example, this weekend past was one in which we were to see the return of the “Air and Sea Show” here in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In the past, it had been sponsored by McDonald’s. After 5 years had gone by, and, several other sponsors were located and stepped up to the plate, so to speak, it was rescheduled.

What always made the show here so special was the location and ambiance of the famed Fort Lauderdale Beach. A lot of people prefer the more congested Miami Beach and even beaches further north including Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach both in Florida. Yet, I’ve grown accustomed to the beaches here which are right on the water with hotels, restaurants and shops, not to mention Beach Place, which has several floors of establishments like Hooter’s, Fat Tuesday’s and most recently even Sonic’s fast food restaurant! In addtion, the beaches are much closer to the actual street of A-1-A.

Well, Saturday came and it was rainy. I had had an appointment scheduled anyway for Saturday afternoon and was planning to go to the Show early, hit my appointment and then go back to the Beach to see the latter part of the Show. It didn’t happen for ME as a result of the overnight rain, early morning rain, and finally the swollen traffic on all the roads connecting to the Beach. The most I saw was five planes flying in formation about 10 blocks from the Beach for about a minute and a half, maybe.

Sunday’s Show was cancelled because it rained all night and most of the morning. Vendors had shut down on the Beach after the announcement was made to cancel Sunday’s performances due to the weather. It was anticipated that a million people would be viewing the long awaited event. So, I had to be cool and embrace alternatives to the show’s cancellation, as did many many other people. It was promised that the event would return next year, and, those who had tickets for various VIP locations, would still be honored and accepted. I watched the NBA playoffs both Saturday and Sunday, and, made some adjustments. Sometimes, it is important not to count on things or people, places and events to the point that it stifles your ability to respond properly. I remember episodes in my life where my reactions had caused some unanticipated and unnecessary challenges. Don’t be taken “hook, line and sinker” by anything in life that may make you react, rather than take the appropriate action.

“A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action not reaction.” – Rita Mae Brown

Today, I will pause to notice the choices I have in the moment between someone’s action and my reaction. (TOUCHSTONES April 30th)

Have a great week . . . and I’ll try to stay dry! Still rainin’ . . . still rainin’!


John I. Cook, Director

It Wasn’t The First Time

Happy Friday, Mates!

Once again we have arrived, thankfully, at the end of another week! Thusly, it is only appropriate for me to T.G.I.F.!!! Yayy!! Here in Fort Lauderdale, FL, we are in the midst of “Fleet Week” when the “water forces”, including submarine women and men, marines and navy, dock in town to strut their stuff. It has been a while, 2007, since these festivities were held here and, everywhere the uniformed women and men are welcomed in the FTL, treated special and even thanked for their service to our country. May they experience a fine time.

In addition, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, the beach in the FTL will host the Air Show which will feature “The Thunder Birds” as well as other aerial experts flying proudly over the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean here in South Florida. Oftentimes, and I suspect it will be the same this “Air and Sea Show”, the waters will be well populated with boats, both military and personal vessels. Of course, I pray that all goes well.

Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, more incidents have been uncovered regarding the US Secret Service. It seemed that only hours after Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that the scandal regarding strippers and call girls in Cartagena, Colombia was an isolated incident, it was revealed that similar activities preceded the President and the First Family before they arrived in El Salvador recently! I am not sure, but for me, not only was I NOT surprised that “it wasn’t the first time”, I wonder why they waited until President Obama was in office to expose such events. I mean, it is only logical, not attempting to minimize this type of behavior nor ignore it, that when special forces and groups like the Secret Service “visit” other countries, they, too, are treated like “Rock Stars”. May we get over this and move beyond this to take care of other important issues facing this Great Nation.

Enjoy your weekends and share some quality time with your “official” loved ones!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
PS – Hats off to the military participants here in SoFlo for Fleet Week and the Air and Sea Show! Be safe!

The Essence of Things

Happy Hump Day, All!

It seems that this year is cruising by a bit as we approach the end of April and the beginning of May. So much to do and so little time to do it in, it seems. Just last night, I was chatting with a friend about being able to work on projects into the morning hours, if you will, like I used to do when in college. While I know I’ve a lot more on my plate now, and, I consume a lot more brain power in my daily tasks, I have always taken pride in my time management skills. Yet, there is a lot more to life than time management, though it too is very useful . . .

The first few opportunities I got a glimpse of the fact that there is something more spiritual to life than just the physical that we are conditioned and trained to focus on, it was a wee bit eerie, if you know what I mean. I had had friendships or relationships and circumstances that were no good for me. Yet, I clung to them as if they were important parts of my life. Then . . . poof!!! . . . they were gone. I went through my grieving and mourning period, which I thought would never end, then . . . poof!!! . . . something else more beneficial and growth producing came my way.

When my father’s mother, Mattie Yhuman Cook, passed away many many years ago at 104, I was just a kid. While she always said I was her favorite grandson, I never paid much attention to it but knew it made me feel good. Family rumor had it that she was a half-breed Native American, and, to this day, I admire and love their culture. Nevertheless, my father’s father, Robert Cook, was rumored to have been just a child on a plantation somewhere between Florida and Georgia when the slaves were finally freed and he supposedly took the former slave owner’s last name as did his father, before he “married” my grandmother, Mattie Yhuman.

Here of late, I have become tuned in to the spiritual realm as I mature and grow along this journey. I learn to listen to waves in the ocean and the silence, and even feel things beyond what is physically tangible . . . and it brings me peace.

“The natural world is a spiritual house . . . . Man/Woman walks there through forests of physical things that are also spiritual things, that watch him/her with affectionate looks.”
– Charles Baudelaire

The generosity of God (The Creator) is expressed in all kinds of physical things. I will remember that the spiritual is affectionate toward me. (TOUCHSTONES April 25th)

Have a blessed and peace-filled day!


John I. Cook, Director

Birthdays . . .

Happy Monday, All!

Last week and the week before, we all witnessed wicked weather in the form of tornadoes and tumultuous rains … in different locations across the United States … from “Sea to shining sea!” Here in South Florida where brush fires are common once the weather gets warmer, we had several days of rain. While staying in contact with friends from North Carolina and Georgia, there were weather reports of rain for four or five days. Now I am not a physical scientist so I remain tongue in check while it is clear that some attribute our weather patterns to “the greenhouse effect” and “global warming” . . . Peace be still

These past few weeks found me saying Happy Birthday to quite a few friends and even a family member, my daughter Ayanna. Birthdays are reminders that we may be maturing mentally and spiritually but definitely growing older physically. “Life is just a moment . . . so you better enjoy it”, as the song title goes from fusion jazz artist Roy Ayers from back in my early college days.

Yet, not only shoud we enjoy it, but we should appreciate it and all the friends and fine relationships we are able to make along this sweet yet brief journey called “life”. Saturday night, a new friend I met had a birthday and I stopped by to say hello and happy birthday to her. Her words were very cool, “I appreciate your coming by my job on my birthday, John!” Last night, after a Sunday which started with streaming a service from Calvary Chapel in which Pastor Bob Coy focused on “gracefully growing older”, I had the pleasure of joining the Zachary family, including his two sisters, their kids, his mother, his wife and his two kids. I was the ONLY chocolate chip in the cookie at upscale Villagio’s Italian Restaurant in the birthday group. We had a huge table, had appetizers, shared stories of friendship and challenges, had our main course and were able to wish Peter happy birthday in style! The staff brought out a delicious piece of cake with candles, led us in singing happy birthday and Peter opened some cards he was given. It was a great time . . . and I have known this lad since we were 10 years old in the City of White Plains, NY.

“Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Enjoy your friends as one would enjoy oneself, and, Happy Birthday Peter Zachary! Love you, Man!


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence
Ps – congratulations to Tia Frosland and her group’s success with “Independence on the Runway” this past Saturday in Miami, FL, as well.

Seeing the Difference

Happy Friday, All!

And I would like to say T.G.I.F.!

With all of the fuss going on in the news, many of us have lost faith in hopes of tomorrow. Even the “President’s Men” aka The Secret Service have admitted that they let the boss down with all of the shenanigans that went on in Cartagena, Colombia, South America.

Well, I had the pleasure of witnessing the induction ceremony for Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leader’s at Plantation High School last night! Sometimes, we may need to take a closer look at our youth, unlike some people who took all sorts of “pot shots” at Trayvon Martin and his family blaming his untimely death on them. I recall a sociological theory that I had studied at Princeton called, “blaming the victim”.

With grants acquired by Program Director, Ms. Patricia Lesesne, and her staff of Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders, select students have pledged to improve their academic performance as well as their social skills. This program consists of academic coaches, mentors and mentees and a well designed and organized program at Boyd H. Anderson High School and Plantation High School here in Broward County, FL. It is a program supported by Broward County Public Schools.

Watching the youth walk across the stage in their polo shirts, long sleeve white shirts, vest sweaters and even blazers with the emblem of the program on the apparel was truly a testimony to the fact that there are youth who want to take charge of tomorrow’s world. Even the principals of each school gave words of support, charging the young people from all ethnic groups – including several white youth that attend both schools, to live up to their creed to develop into tomorrow’s leaders! Kudos to everyone who had a part in creating and maintaining this program!

“I wasn’t exactly brought up in one of those Norman Rockwell paintings you used to see on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.” – Reggie Jackson

The difficulties and confusion I feel may just be part of real life. Serenity comes when I accept the mixture that real life is. (TOUCHSTONES April 20th)

Have a great weekend . . . and keep the faith!


John I. Cook, Director

Where Did You Get That Thought “From”?

Happy Hump Day, All!

Once again, we have arrived at mid-week. How is your week looking? I hope there are some bright spots and moments of tranquility amidst the confusion and turmoil in our world today. I manage to take a little time each day just to contemplate the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees and the many parts of the human family . . .

Yet, when you hear a Fire Captain talking about how he thinks an unarmed teen was chased, thrown to the ground, then shot and killed being the result of sh_t bag parents and a hoodie, I have a difficult time coming to grips where he might’ve gotten that thought! I mean, it is almost like the halogram of Tupac Shakur that was shown in the midst of a West Coast rap concert . . . am I really seeing this? The difference is simple, however. Tupac’s halogram does not ride around a city populated with many African Americans whom Beckmann and his cronies say are on welfare while his salary comes from the very same tax paying population. Beckmann says he has the right to say whatever he wants . . . dangerous words included, even lies, if you will . . . because he is a private citizen. His unbridled rant is EXACTLY the attitude of “racial profiling” that probably caused Trayvon Martin to be chased, attacked and shot. It is the same attitude that fuels the racial profiling that is omnipresent in The United States of America today amongst law enforcement personnel, both official and fabricated.

Now, the worst part is, he even goes on to talk about black “parents” and compares them to “sh_tbags”! I feel like Trayvon’s uncle does – he should not be allowed to come to my home in a city paid vehicle and his salary coming from the same city to put out not even a camp fire! While some Miami politicians of color feel he should be reprimanded, I would suggest he be transferred to a village where only non-African American’s live so he doesn’t endanger their lives any further . . . or simply FIRED. I mean, Captain Beckmann, “Where did you get that thought from?”

“Free man is by necessity insecure; thinking man by necessity uncertain.” – Eric Fromm

May I have the serenity to accept the process and the courage to be true to my part. Outcomes I will leave for the future. (TOUCHSTONES April 18th)

Peace, all!

John I. Cook, Director

Enough Stuff To Do . . .

It’s Monday ….

Did you have a good weekend? I don’t know about you but mine started as soon as I left work on Friday. Glad to have a good job in today’s economy! I mention, from time to time, how some of my friends in retirement are playing golf or traveling here and there. Yet, I, and gratefully so, continue working and lining up projects here and there when I can to keep my contributions coming, small as they may be, as it makes me feel useful. Besides, somebody’s got to pay my bills, you think?!

I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old “prep school” associate who has a place in Naples, FL. Gary Hodder is a hockey fan, perhaps, as I am a basketball fan. So we met up as he and a fellow lawyer from his firm in Toronto, Canada had gotten tickets to see the Florida Panthers play. Bahama Breeze was a nice setting to catch up on 40 years! Another friend had stopped by Saturday evening after he and his girlfriend had come down from Orlando to celebrate her completing a nursing program and getting her LPN degree. So Stokely and Diana enjoyed a full day in South Beach and came by exhausted to say hi. That’s always nice, too.

So, now, the President’s Men, so to speak, fell prey to the temptations of beautiful women in Cartagena, Colombia, and now he’s got more on his plate to deal with in the form of an investigation following suspensions and removal of secret service staff from Colombia. I have visited Cartagena, as well as Santa Marta and San Andres, which are gorgeous places full of history, poverty and accessibility to just about anything ones heart desires! They are also amongst the top vacation places in Colombia. Good luck, Mr. President.

How about you? Do you have enough to do?! It’s just a rhetorical question. While I am still staring down taxes and working on a couple of other things, I had to make time yesterday to kick back and enjoy some food, music and basketball …. all at home! Have a great week, all!


John I. Cook, Director

“Do Your Thing!”

Happy Friday, All!

It is imperative that I remind myself, at least …. T.G.I.F.!

In fact, just yesterday, a friend on a social network, Facebook, had a quote from the ancient Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, alluding to the fact that it is a privilege to awaken each morning, so, each day should be utilized accordingly. Make the most of it, and be the best that you can be.

Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back?! Haven’t we all!? On the other hand, have you ever said something that was taken out of context and it was later “slapped” in your face at an unexpected moment?! That seems to be the trend nowadays, and the media literally thrives off of it. First, there was the “new” Marlin’s manager who tried to “get deep” in Spanish as he uttered words of admiration for dictator Fidel Castro. Then, it was Trayvon Martin’s mother who uttered words to the effect that “it was an accident” . . . what happened between her son and his assailant, George Zimmerman. She has issued a statement but not had to apologize like Ozzie Guillen did in front of an annoyed Little Havana community in Miami. Now, the Democratic National Committee strategist, I believe she is called, pundit and activist for a variety of causes here in the USA, Hilary Rosen, has had to eat her words aimed at Romney, in particular pointing out how she feels that Ann Romney, Mitt’s wife, is out of touch with the average American woman since she “has never worked a day in her life”. While her point was clear, her words were poorly chosen and she has issued an apology after she was quoted in an appearance on Anderson Cooper’s show, “360”, on April 11, 2012.

Early this morning, a friend and former student at WPHS, dropped by and headed out already to the airport en route to Haiti to visit a friend and work with a component of Calvary Chapel that is doing some work there. It was nice to see Michael Jon Baptiste again, as he was part of our crew that met up with Steve Morgan and Kenny Chiarito last month in an impromptu reunion of sorts. This evening, I may have the pleasure of seeing an “old Paulie”, Mr. Gary Hodder, who lives in Canada but has a summer home in Naples, FL, and, as a big hockey fan from St. Paul’s, has tickets for the play off game tonight as the Flyers meet the Penguins in Sunrise, FL. I know the game starts at 7 or 7:30PM and I don’t finish work until five, so we will see.

So little time and so much to do . . . so as Isaac Hayes sang on his “Shaft” album from back in the day, justĀ “Do Your Thing”! Have a great weekend and enjoy this Friday the 13th!

Peace always,

John I. Cook, Director

“Just Answer The Question, Please!?”

Hey, y’all! Happy Hump Day!

Have you ever heard the expression that, when asked a question, usually the first thing that comes to your mind is the correct answer? Did you ever wonder why? Once we start to think about what answer “would, could or should” be correct … or given … in any given situation, then we begin to tailor our answer to fit the occasion or person asking the question! Does that make our answer a lie … or just a deviation of the truth?

Often times, I’ve had to ask myself the same question over and over, sometimes staring at my own face in a mirror and searching for the reasons of my own behaviour. One thing I truly do, though I am still human and not perfect, is try to tell the truth. My father used to get highly perturbed whenever I lied to him and, in the midst of scolding me, he would say: “The reason I don’t want you to lie to me is because the only thing I have to go on when you talk to me are the words that come out of your mouth!” To this very day, I meditate on such simple treasures. Over recent years, I have truly tried to keep my life simple so that I could manage it pretty much myself. I thank God and good friends for helping me when things got complicated.

My friend and daughter, Ayanna Lynne, celebrates a birthday April 12th though I’ve seen it listed as the 11th. So, I would like to send out a warm birthday wish to her whenever and however she decides to celebrate it. I’ve another dear friend from Czech Republic, Ms. Andrea Mochtakova, whose birthday I believe is today. I hope her son gets to meet “Uncle John” soon! So may the cosmos and all those good things, especially the spirit of their Creator, be with them both these coming days.

It seems that the prosecutor in Sanford, FL is planning to reveal something that perhaps we all … well most of us … have been waiting to hear. Once stating that there is no need for a grand jury to assist her office in further investigating the Trayvon Martin “murder”, as I see it, her office has promised to give a statement in the next 72 hours . . . and counting. In addition, George Zimmerman’s counselors have withdrawn from his case, since he has disappeared and not replied to their communications, and, as well, has contacted a news station and even the prosecutor’s office himself without obtaining legal advice from his attorneys.

“I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it.” – Oscar Wilde

Today, I will take care to make choices that match my values. (TOUCHSTONES April 11th)

Have a wonderful day!

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

The REAL Life!

Happy Monday, All!

Still, so many things rocking the international news including the fact that the North Koreans plan to launch a 91 ton missile even though it is against the international community’s wishes as well as the fact that the “Euro” appears to be having some challenges on the horizons due to Greece’s unstable and floundering economic situation. It is also the 100-year Anniversary of the fate-filled voyage of “The Titanic”, which is being commemorated by a new voyage from England to New York with many of the kin, if you will, of the original Titanic of years ago on board, re-creating the environment of the early 1900’s on board the ship. We also lost another “60 Minutes” broadcast journalist and co-founder, 93 year old Mike Wallace. Even here in SoFlo’s “Little Havana”, people are calling for the resignation of the newest Marlin’s manager due to statements he made in an interview in Time Magazine where he mentioned the words “love” and “respect” in conjunction with the fact that Fidel Castro is still alive! Oh what a blunder he made ….

Well, for me this Easter weekend was special. Not only did we experience the full moon, we also had some awesome weather. I had the pleasure of attending the Easter Service sponsored by Calvary Chapel here in FTL Sunday and it was attended by the neighboring CC’s from Hollywood, Plantation, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, FL. It was held in the Florida Atlantic University Stadium located off Glades Road in Boca Raton. The topic was “The REAL Life”, and, Pastor Bob began once the choir ministry had led us in some splendid resurrection songs including my mother’s favorites, “How Great Thou Art” and “The Old Rugged Cross”. Bob showed us two apples – one fake one and one real one. He asked us to consider what each one represents. For example, the fake one was hollow and empty, had no taste or smell, and, while it looked real, had no chance for growth nor nourishment. On the other hand, the “real” apple had substance, provides nourishment, has a real taste and texture and potential for growth.

We all enjoyed the service which included waves and chants of “Happy Empty Tomb” and many many people decided to come forward at the end to accept “the only begotten Son” as their lord, mentor and savior. While we had some challenges locating the proper buses and getting back to our vehicles which were parked in the multiple parking lots there on FAU’s Campus, it was all worthwhile, including meeting many many new friends. I even saw Daniel, one of the gentleman I met while participating in a “jail ministry” last year here at the Main Broward County Jail!

May we continue to seek the “real life” and grow and nourish each other as we continue along this journey.

Peace be with you always!

John I. Cook, Director

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