“To Be Or Not To Be? . . .

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

I am sure some of you noticed by now, but I left you in “peace” on Memorial Day this past Monday.  I kind of slept in as well and got an early start on that day to prepare to go out to the beach for some “sun and fun”!  I even got tickets to see the Heat vs. the Celtics for the play off opener here thanks to my good friend, Armond Hill, assistant coach with Doc Rivers!  It was a nice day to spend with friends, family and loved ones.  May our Armed Forces never be forgotten.

Needless to say, there is a plethora of news stories that have taken place including the so-called drug induced “Zombie Attack” on a causeway there in Miami where a naked man literally ripped pieces of a homeless man’s face with his teeth and growled at a police officer who told him to stop.  So, he was shot three times to his death.  Now, the other extreme if you will, is Mitt Romney’s clenching of the GOP’s candidate to run against Democratic Party and still President of the USA, Barack Obama.  It may turn out to be a “zombie” attack, too, unless Romney can start to talk about his solutions for our nation rather than what he thinks Obama was unable to accomplish.  Of course, the “zombie – like” attack by Romney occurs when he intentionally ignores the accomplishments of our President and seeks to build momentum by inculcating his “blind followers” with rhetoric of where President Obama may have met a challenge or fallen short of his goals.  I hope the “Zombie” does not win . . . Peace be still!

Over the past two weeks, things for me personally have taken a turn for the better after my Night Hawk’s starter system continues to challenge me and my mechanic friends.  So, through the grace of My Creator, and a wonderful friend, I was able to get a 2009 Jeep Compass to help me through the rainy season as well as hopefully allow me to take on more business responsibility with Educational Excellence.  Many of you have been kind upon receiving my e-mails, some of you responding when the feeling hit you, others just reading them – which is fine.  On Monday, I got a call from a long time friend, “Zach”, who not only asked me what my plans were for the day but why I hadn’t sent the e-mail by 9AM!!!  We both chuckled a bit as I explained that we at “EE” were also on vacation!  Silly … ain’t I.

Keep in mind, that these e-mails are “me just being me”!  So again, if you’ve any discomfort either technically because the e-mails I send clutter your inbox, or because my subjects or topics may not be to your liking, just let me know.  Each of you in this e-mail family were carefully chosen based on the parameters of our individual relationships, which vary one to another.  Yet, keep in mind, “I take no hostages” so feel free to send me a reply if you wish to be removed.  In the meantime . . .  “Be yourself, because you are YOU!”   – John Isaac Cook

Peace always,

John I. CookRed rose, Director

In Memorial Of . . .

Happy Friday, All!

It is like breathing for me … for without it, I would not breathe!  T.G.I.F.!

This weekend, we here in the United States of America, are honoring those women and men who fought for, and continue to fight for, our “freedom”.  The word freedom comes from the word free, which, according to Webster’s Standard Dictionary, means: (adj) not busy or in use; independent; unrestrained: unencumbered: without debt or obligation; without cost;(vt) to release or make available.  Yes, of course, after the American Revolution, these United States were freed from the tyranny of England and their practice of “taxation without representation”.  My, my, my . . . we have come a long way since then . . . or have we?

Needless to say, my take on the freedom theme may vary, depending on what type of freedom we are talking about.  But, Memorial Day commemorates those who served our country in defense of hostile forces that may challenge our way of life.  “Let freedom ring!!!”

As a history teacher, American History in particular, I recall the “Bill of Rights” and teaching the “Declaration of Independence”, as well as the events leading up to the establishment of “The Constitution of the United States of America”.  We, as a people, had the right and responsibility to make amendments to it as time and circumstances dictated.  The structure of this “Grand Land” was based on those documents including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms . . . Again, my, my, my . . . we have come a long way since then.  Yet, we must remember the men who first shed their blood for our freedom, and nowadays, the women and men who serve in our Armed Forces to preserve and help keep our way of life . . . free!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!



John I. CookRed rose, Director

“All Around The Mulberry Bush . . .”

Happy Hump Day, All!

Yes, here in South Florida, we have the rainy season.  Yet, when I talk to friends in different places along the East coast, many of them say the weather is rainy there, too!  Remember the old folklore saying, “April showers bring May flowers”?  Well, April is over already, right?!  Yet, I appreciate the season of Spring with Summer closely on its heels!

So, there is a kid … a Miami Dade College student … who is facing five years in prison, if found guilty, for threatening (and posting for help on Facebook) to kill President Obama on his visit to a South Florida university.  Now, I am not sure what his parents think, but “junior” has delusional problems.  Is his ability to “hate” so deeply imbedded or is he just one of those people that likes to talk a lot of “smack”, so to speak?  Well, he’s paying for it now, and will be for the rest of his life.

Haven’t heard much about George Zimmerman lately, but still a bit more slander of the dead boy, Trayvon Martin.  A fire chief in Miami Dade has been demoted for his stereotypical racist statements aimed at African Americans in the Dade County area, and I am glad to see that action is being taken against people who think that because we have freedom of speech, that they can abuse that right with near anarchist bantering about people like the president as well as an ethnic group in general.  Often, unfortunately, ignorance is bliss …. until they are awakened by the reality that they individually MUST respect others rights.

One diversion, if you will, for me has been the intense competition of the NBA Playoffs.  Now, while the Knicks got crushed by the Heat here in Miami, and, the Lakers got schooled by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Celtics keep their stamina up and seek to keep their historical dynasty respectable.  I haven’t forgotten those San Antonio Spurs either.  So, if the Heat close out the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, the next level of playoffs will be before us …. and Memorial Day Weekend awaits our arrival!  Can’t we all just get along?!

Sometimes, I am just content being somewhat youthful . . . and enjoying life . . . playing “all around the mulberry bush”!  Have a great Hump Day!



John I. CookRed rose, Director

“Blow That Horn . . .”

Happy Monday, All!

Well, here’s to hoping your weekends went well.  Life is just a moment . . . you better enjoy it, right?!

This past weekend was a fun one for me, with mixed emotions, mixed activities, yet . . . with a peaceful outcome.  Of course, there were a few people who tried to “ruffle my feathers”, so to speak, but I’ve gotten pretty good at NOT letting anyone under my skin anymore.  Life is too short . . .

After having practiced on Friday and Saturday nights for over a month with the kids from the AAU Basketball Team (Amateur Athletic Union), we had our first game in the first tournament Friday night.  The other team was very well organized and they ran a set offense.  They beat us without a problem.  I am the assistant coach to the gent who, with his wife, organized the team’s entry into several tournaments.  There is one other younger guy, we call him “Step”, who apparently has played in high school.

Saturday morning, we had our second game, which was to be followed by the third game in the afternoon maybe two hours after we finished the second one.  One thing I learned in my coaching experience is that youngsters need a structure, a set offense, and the other two coaches did not agree with me on that particular part of our team’s strategy.  In one of our practices, the head coach made a statement that I not only disagreed with, but it wasn’t true.  He told the kids that the “wheel offense”, which I played and used for a total of 8 years, could not be run against a zone defense.  Basketball, like many activities, is a lot like life.  It is a team sport and you have to keep moving!

We lost both games, though one of our players, Tim, got approached by an interested party who was reporting on the games after he did a left handed dunk on the other team.  Yet, we lost both games mainly because the youngsters were playing “free lance” offense and did not use any set plays, including the wheel, which I taught them.  So, that third game, I had to grin and bear it as the other two coaches took over and literally led the kids into slaughter.  Peace … was still …

Sunday was very cool, as I got up fairly early, made my French toast, bacon and scrambled egg breakfast for me and a friend who wanted to visit Calvary Chapel with me, and we took her son to the kid’s church.  Afterwards, we went to the beach and I enjoyed some time alone out in the ocean and even relaxed in my beach chair close to the vibrant A-1-A!  God is good . . . and it was my mother’s birthday!

“My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn . . .”   – Louie Satchamo Armstrong.

Have a wonderful day, y’all . . .  and blow that horn!


John I. CookRed rose, Director


Smell The Flowers Along The Way . . . Spiritual Foods

Happy Friday, All!

Once again, I am grateful for another day and another weekend, so, T.G.I.F.!

So much in life is taken for granted while there are many many people still suffering. The other day when I had sent out an e-mail embracing spirituality, one of my young friends, Francois Luis, sent me a quote from philosopher and activist extraordinaire – Mahatma Gandhi. It essentially analyzed and compared the connectedness of the body and the soul to the physical and spiritual realms that we all live in . . . believe it or not!

As another weekend approaches, I must pay homage to my mother – Marietta Dolores – who indeed, shared her message of being the best that you can be as well as smelling the flowers along the way. Though she is no longer physically with me, her spirit maintains its life with me as an active ingredient. Now there were moments when she could be a “bull in a China cabinet”; yet, her peaceful demeanor and desire to help others was similar to Mother Theresa. While she rests in her gravesite there with my father, his mother, and my sister, I still have some unfinished business on her behalf before I ” … lay me down to sleep”. Peace be still. So Sunday, May 20th, on her birthday, I will spend some extra time alone honoring her memory.

“One should learn to enjoy the neighbor’s garden, however small; the roses straggling over the fence, the scent of lilacs drifting across the road.” – Henry Van Dyke

Today, I will take some quiet moments to notice the good things coming my way. I will be grateful for them. (TOUCHSTONES May 18th)

Have a wonderful weekend, and . . . enjoy the journey!


John I. CookRed rose, Director


The Light of My Life . . .

Happy Hump Day, All!

This weekend coming up is my mother’s birthday – May 20th, 1917.  It is just seven days after Mother’s Day, so, for me, it is like a double-whammy.  Yet, as I mature into the acceptance of her passing, life becomes more palatable in times like these.  Now, I share this with you because many times, people never realize how attachments like these can be terminated so abruptly and unexpectedly.  As a result, they may take the relationships with loved ones for granted, as I did, never expecting that person to expire … but they will … as we each will …

In addition, I have come to realize how much she influenced me in my behavior and my foundation in life.  Those of you who know me, as well as those who are coming to understand what Educational Excellence and me are doing as well as what we stand for, you know my life here in South Florida has not been ” … a box of chocolates …”  though I remain quite chocolate! (smiles are okay!)  In fact, just last night, I was invited to an Awards Ceremony for Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leader’s with Ms. Patricia Lesesne, who manages the program, and her staff.  Last week, I had accepted the invitation, as the e-mail she sent to me suggested that I would be honored, amongst others who had worked in and with the program and the youth, and was so excited that I forgot I have a weekly commitment on Tuesday nights to the Haitian adults at H.E.R.O. to work with them on refining their English skills to make them more employable and functional in America.  So, I humbly sent Ms. Lesesne an e-mail Monday informing her that I would NOT be able to attend.  I hope she understood.

I learned volunteering and working with people from my mother.  She worked with the White Plains Child Day Care Centers, The Flower Club at Bethel Baptist Church, The Student Aid Society of White Plains and was even a girl scout leader for a group of young ladies from the Winbrook Projects in White Plains, NY.  In fact, she was one of the first African Americans in White Plains to support a progressive local Republican Party “back in the day” and had many drives to register the voters there in the Winbrook and the other “projects” in White Plains.  I was often at her side, since I was the baby boy and everybody else was busy.  “Mamma’s Boy” lives on … if only for today!

“The work will teach you how to do it.”  – Estonian Proverb

Today, I will take the risk of learning by living the spiritual life.  (TOUCHSTONES May 16th)

Have a wonderful Hump Day, and, a tranquil rest of the week.


John I. CookRed rose

Mind, Body and Spirit

Happy Monday, All!

How was your weekends?  In particular, how were those of you who are “mothers” weekends?  I hope all was well.  This time on Mother’s Day, I didn’t have those fitful pangs of “I miss you, Momma!” as I had often had in the past few years since she had her “homecoming”.  I actually was around people, an extended family of sorts, and their kids and a few of their friends including me.  It was nice for me, and, I hope it was as comfortable as it could be for them, since I have only known them for a short time.

Yet, there were moments when I found myself breathing deeply – as we do in yoga class – inhaling the beach air and enjoying the ambiance of Hollywood Beach which is here in South Florida, too.  There were groups of families, groups of friends, one woman who appeared to be alone even walked up and started  talking to us about a new treatment for cholesterol, showing me an article on her iPhone where a doctor was ultimately confessing he had diagnosed and treated previous patients incorrectly.  The doctor had prescribed medicines that really were not curing his patients, in fact, giving them additional side effects!  This is not a new story, right!?

What I did notice, however, is a peace-filled calm come over me each time I listened to the kids chattering and their parents and siblings around them encouraging them to have fun and behave, of course!  The surf was very high and some of the children there on Hollywood Beach, which is more family oriented than my usual haunt of Fort Lauderdale Beach, were out a bit far using their boogie boards to catch those healthy waves.  At one point, the life guard, who was very attentive, motioned to several kids after repeatedly blowing her whistle, to come closer to the shore line as they rode the waves.  It appears that a good time was had by all.

“Often the wisdom of the body clarifies the despair of the spirit.”   – Marion Woodman

Today, (and everyday nowadays for me), I am learning to listen to the wisdom of my own body.  (TOUCHSTONES  May 14th)

Have a wonderful day ….


John I. CookRed rose, Director

There Is Nothing Like It . . .

Happy Friday, All!

Yes, of course, I will T.G.I.F.!!

Most of you who know me by now, recognize that I talk … or … write a lot about family. This didn’t just start for me. It’s a long story. If you ever want to know the core of it, refer to my first book, From the Projects to Princeton. It is more a love story, about me and my family, than anything else. Probably less known to most of you is that I wrote my senior thesis at Princeton University on the family: A Critique of Studies on The Black Family, circa 1976. My first book was dedicated to my father, and, the second one, Three Strikes, You’re Out!, is dedicated to my mother. Both parents are deceased.

Just about a week or so ago, as happens from time to time, I wanted to talk with my mother. We all know how difficult moments like those can be when a loved one has expired, especially a mother. Now that’s not to take anything away from others like my dad, or my sisters or my brother, even my daughter. But there is something very unique about a person’s mother. In her last days and times, she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, and struggled through the cloaks that the illness placed upon her memory. I can not begin to tell you how much I love that woman . . . yes . . . peace be still, please . . .

So if you’ve your mother nearby on Mother’s Day this coming Sunday, absorb and appreciate the moments you may be gifted to spend with her . . . for there is nothing like it . . .

Have a great weekend, and, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are, who were and are yet to be!

Peace and Love, y’all!

John I. Cook, Director

Solitude . . .

Happy Hump Day, All!

Just looking around the corner, so to speak, and we are coming upon the halfway mark of 2012!  Aren’t we surprised how quickly time moves?  Interesting thing is that whether we “make progress” or just keep doing the same mundane things, time continues to flow.  Which brings me to the highlight of this e-mail: solitude.

In my earlier years, I had always busied myself, seldom wanted to be alone and often wanted to be in the company of others . . . anybody . . . it didn’t matter…  Family life was different then.  My father would ALWAYS have us sit down for breakfast, though I ate lunch at school with the other kids, and we ALWAYS had sit down “together” dinner.  I think most people today cannot even imagine such an occurrence, especially at EVERY meal, as I said, except lunch.  Of course, my mother had no problem with this either since she supported my father 100% in this decision.  We even had Family Sundays!  We would have breakfast together, us kids would go to Sunday school and occasionally, I would join my parents for church.  It, however, was not mandatory.  In the afternoon, we had Sunday dinner – all six of us – sometimes with guests.  On certain Sundays, my mother would bake cakes and pies and even indulge in creating a tasty “home-made” ice cream!  Imagine that . . .

Doing homework was a regular ritual, and my sister Edna was usually responsible for making sure I got it done.  And . . . in the evenings before bed, we had quiet time.  Often, I would witness my parents – both of them – on their knees at the side of their beds – in prayer before going to sleep.  Sometimes, I would read . . . other times, I would just lay in bed and think about things . . . in solitude . . . until I fell asleep.  I still enjoy moments like this, and I am sure I share this behavior with others, in order to separate myself from the “drama” of the world.

“I learned from them that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”   – Brenda Ueland

I will remember today that spiritual progress comes only when I make room for it in my life.  (TOUCHSTONES  May 9th)

Have a wonderful Wednesday, and, enjoy the rest of your week!


John I. CookRed rose, Director

What Did You Say?

Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well, as in most places that I know of, there was great weather! The Cinco de Mayo festivities were celebrated in this area with style and vigor, especially since the weather was befitting!

For the most part, everything went smoothly for me as once I left work on Friday, I went to work with the boys and their head coach in the AAU Basketball League for 17 year olds. Funny thing was that I had seen an article and viewed a few quick videos on the effects of the full moon. While there has been no constant pattern in crime or craziness, the video did mention the fact that the word “lunacy” comes from the Latin term for moon which is something like “luna”. In our practice, several people seemed to suffer a bit from outbreaks of high emotions and two boys even threatened to quit! After the coach himself had one of his moments, he apologized, his son apologized to the other kids and I and the kid who was going to quit, who is also in training for high school football and track, decided to hang around until practice was over! We still have our moments of challenges of what to say, when to say it and how to say it! In addition, the “Super Moon” was gorgeous!

Saturday was a day I just slept in and relaxed until getting up to run some errands. Later, we had another practice at 6PM and things went a little smoother. Professional sports ranging from car and horse racing, baseball, hockey and NBA Playoffs continued to keep the sports fanatics busy and guessing and cheering for their favorite team. Sunday was pretty restful after streaming a service on line and hanging out a bit at the beach again in the late afternoon.

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.” – Edward R. Murrow

Today, I will be aware of communication clearly, specifically, and directly. (TOUCHSTONES May 7th)

Have a great week, think about what you say, or do, reflect on the consequences . . . and be at peace!


John I. Cook, Director

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