Go With The Flow . . .

go with the flowHappy Monday, All!

Were your weekends up to your expectations? I hope that you were each able to find time and safe ways to enjoy yourselves … I did! Sometimes, we each get used to having our own way and become selfish and unconcerned with “others”. Perhaps, this is one of the major pitfalls of the “I-generation” or attitude, if you will. Being a history teacher by trade, I can honestly say that the youth of today’s generation, or even mine with the hippies and “peace and love” coupled with “make love not war” slogans everywhere, are NOT the first to appear to be selfish. Take a look yourself and you may notice that selfishness was actually tied to this nation’s Civil War where one group of folks felt it was okay to “own” another human being and have her or him work for free, being tied and whipped mercilessly for not acting as if they were brainless and spineless …. Peace be still … Case in point, the southern planter, the likes of that we saw in both “Roots” and “Django:Unchained”.

While the weather was absolutely scrumptious, and I was out as much as possible, I had planned to watch a little NBA Play-off Basketball at home. Now, a few weeks ago, my sports channels, including ESPN and Sun Sports, disappeared from my accessible television stations through Comcast Cable. So, I called and asked a customer service agent why this had happened. She said it was not included in my plan. I explained ever so gently that I had been able to see those stations for the past 6 months. She replied, “I don’t know why because you have the basic package plan.” So I asked her to provide me with the plan that had those stations included so I could watch the play-offs from my flat. She set an appointment for a week or so later which came on Saturday of this past weekend. The technician came closer to the end of the “5-7pm window”, asked for water, asked for my password for Comcast and apparently had no clue what he was doing. He asked me what I was supposed to be receiving and I told him to look at the work order while I explained what channels I was missing.

The techie changed the modem and told me I would get the channels when the Comcast office “switched it on” … and he left after washing his hands and leaving dirty water all over my bathroom sink. I called Comcast and they gave me an hour or so of professional “run around” until I asked to speak with a supervisor. He put in another work order to have the channels included for May 5th … yes, another week. So, while having limited stations was okay, plus higher speed internet, I calmed down to go with the flow. Suddenly, my screens went dark and I had NO channels. Upon calling, I was told that the work order “REQUIRED” the interruption of my cable service until the technician comes out Sunday coming … “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can … and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I remember when I was growing up and my father had “ordered” me to stay away from certain kids in the Projects as well as forbade me to have specific kids come to our apartment to play. He was clearly telling me NOT to go with the flow of what all the other kids seemed to be doing. I had to be in at 7pm and that was AFTER doing my homework with my sister Edna standing guard sometimes. I became cautious of this “flow-thing” as heroin and crack cocaine found its way into our humble neighborhood. This flow was NOT good, and, I occasionally “got wet”, so to speak … Nowadays, as I continue to embrace my own spiritual education and share what I can with others, I have once again learned to embrace the timeless philosophy of “go with the flow”, and, as Bruce Lee is accredited with coining the phrase of, “Be like water, my friend, be like water ….”.

Have a peace-filled day!


John I. Cook, Director

Moderation, My Friend!

ModerationHappy Friday, All!

It is customary, not only here, ” … but there, and everywhere!” to T.G.I.F.! Just Wednesday, after yoga, I was chatting with one of my classmates who said that she was from Colombia … Medellin, to be exact! She was so excited when I told her that I had lived in Cali for five years, and, that my mother had come to visit me one year while there during “Semana Santa”, the USA equivalent of Easter. After we had talked about the food, the music, and yes … the ladies, we got to talking about Fridays in Colombia. Cali is like the party capitol there, though there are other cities who claim that same fame. Fridays are called, “Viernes Cultural”, translation: Cultural Friday! So, therefore, one may deduce that one would enjoy all the cultural things there – singing, dancing, going to “fincas” or farms for the weekend, soccer (futbol) games, horseback riding and boating or swimming. So, “Feliz Viernes Cultural, mi gente!”

Sometimes, like last night and the night before, I like to “wind down”, so to speak. In the past, I remember the full moons had me acting like a “lunatic” and I often couldn’t find my way home!! Now, I am not proud of those days and nights, but they are recorded in my personal history and I have drawn multiple lessons from them. One of those is “moderation, my friend”! As I watched the news last night, they had a story about the water levels rising in certain areas in Miami … due to the somewhat high tide and the full moon! Believe it … or not! What I am trying to say is that it has been documented that the fullness of the moon historically has caused changes in the environment, as a testimony to the force or power of the moon at this stage and the effects on planet Earth. So, Wednesday, after a great yoga class, I came home and cooked … enough for my dinner and lunch the next day. Last night after walking outside of my flat and viewing the beauty of this natural phenomenon, I came inside again, checked out the basketball game, cooked and chilled. Moderation, my friend.

Fridays and Saturdays are always my fun days … again … in moderation my friend! After all, it is the weekend … but I want to see another weekend, again and again … if I can!

“I drink not from mere joy in wine nor to scoff at faith – no, only to forget myself for a moment, that only do I want of intoxication, that alone.” – Omar Khayyam

Nowadays, I have learned to choose healthier forms of “intoxication”, if you will, like writing, yoga and meditation … and just being at peace with myself and others.

Have a great weekend … in moderation, my friends!


John I. CookEmoji, Director

One Step At A Time . . .

anotha hump dayHappy Hump Day, All!

So far, this week has been a lot “quieter” than last week, right?! I mean, no explosions nor catastrophes that reached international notoriety like the earthquake in China last week or the destruction outside of Waco, TX. Now, all eyes have been on the 19 year old kid in Boston whose life seemed to be a complete mystery to all who “knew” him … perhaps, even to himself. As we say here at EE, “Know Thyself!”, a simple Socratic tidbit to let us each know where our lives begin … and … hopefully end! Yesterday was also the birthday of my friend, the late Peter Zachary, RIP, maybe a month or so after his passing.

We often live our lives trying to live up to others expectations …. or acquire the possessions of others, and oftentimes leave ourselves “spiritually undernourished”! I mean, everybody can’t be the king nor can everyone have all of the things that others have. Now, “have” all those things, if you will. Just remember that I, nor others, am not one of the things that you can have, you dig?! Setting ones own course in life, changing that course if necessary, and striving to achieve those “good goals”, if you will, in and of itself is quite an accomplishment for a lifetime. Often, I try to make sure that “the outside matches the inside”, and, vice versa. For me, that is the most important balance that one can have in ones own life.

Here in Miami, the community leaders and politicians have, once again, dedicated themselves to “Stopping the Violence”. So many young lives, in particular, African American, have been being “snuffed out” through acts of violence, some random while others were quite calculated. If you’ve never been a victim of violence, count your blessings. If you have, don’t just wallow in self pity but share your story with someone, share you pain … again with someone, and move ahead again. The Superintendent of Schools in Miami has also vowed to do his part in ending the plethora of violence that has also entered the schools in Miami Dade County. Just remembering the fact that most things are accomplished “one step at a time” is sometimes disconcerting and may cause one to remain “frozen” or paralyzed into doing nothing … Not good, if you can avoid this. Whatever your goals are, however you choose to achieve them (and I’ll pray that they are good goals), may you go forth with vigor and energy, faith and hope, and take it one step at a time.

Have a great day, and, have a wonderful rest of the week!


John I. Cook, Director

Celebrate Earth Day – 2013

Earth Day 2013Happy Monday, All!

Whether your weekends went well or not … which I hope they did … and you are reading this, Celebrate Earth Day with me and Educational Excellence! As a matter of fact, that’s where we ALL reside right now … believe it, or not! This weekend was rather smooth for me, celebrating a birthday with a good friend Friday night was stellar. Everyone had a great time and there were no problems … not even one! While it appears that there was an earthquake in China that caused a lot of damage, injuries and nearly 200 deaths, the folks in Texas were still digging out after the explosion at the fertilizer factory. It was clear that they had multiple safety violations at the facility and had way too much sulfur and other combustible ingredients stored there in that location. The explosions were inevitable.

Yesterday, The London Marathon went off and finished without any serious problems. The younger brother of the two Boston Marathon attackers/terrorists surrendered from a boat in the backyard of a resident in Watertown, MA after another horrific shootout with all sorts of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, had taken place early Friday evening. I am amazed that he was still alive after seeing the footage of several news agencies. And yes, the “media” has been called on the carpet again for some of its apparent inconsistencies in reporting events there in and outside of Boston.

Saturday was fairly nice at the Air Show on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. The event itself was scaled down a bit though it was still very cool to see aircrafts from nearly every area of aeronautics flying overhead in the calm of the South Florida skies! Saturday was also “4/20”, which acknowledges the desire of folks to legalize marijuana. I enjoyed the day and hung out a bit Saturday night as well. Finally, Sunday found still more aficionados of air shows at the beach in Fort Lauderdale for the second and final day of the Air Show for 2013. Have you thought about our Earth lately? Most of us are so consumed in the day to day affairs and finances that we rarely take time to consider the “State of the Earth” today. Well, take a moment, if you haven’t already done so, to learn more about taking care of this planet …. I mean, as far as I know, this is the place we ALL need to be concerned about … Mother Earth!

Have a great week!


John I. Cook, Director

Try To Make The Best of It . . .

make the best of itHappy Friday, All!

And I mustn’t forget, and, if you will indulge me … T.G.I.F.! I mean, we’ve had our own little “Hell Week” if you will, looking at sink holes appearing in Chicago; the fertilizer plant explosion just outside of Waco, TX; and the week started off with the apparent “terrorist” attack at the historical Boston Marathon. For some, like Mrs. Gifford and the parents of the kids of the Sandy Hook incident, the icing on the cake was ultimately losing Congressional support for extending background checks to buyers at gun shows and those sales done more or less privately. Now, I have never lost a child to gun violence though my older brother did take his own life … with a gun. It must leave like a void or something inexplicable to lose a child since it was quite an ordeal for me to fathom my own brother taking his own life … RIP Henry Charles Cook.

I am sure that some people may not have felt anything with these events taking place all around us. For me, it is like a human travesty, as the violence of human against human continues … and … perhaps, gets closer to each one of us. I get feelings of frustration, not so much fear, but also a kind of disorientation from my hopes and dreams. So I push myself with certain activities, feeling the discomfort and despair, but still seeking to be the best that I can be.

Again, I remind those of you who may feel that you’ve outgrown the e-mails I send out, or whatever, that you may feel confident, free and secure to ask me to remove you from this “family” which serves as the audience for Educational Excellence and me. As I continue to grow this entity, I will be looking for support and encouragement, as I also attempt to garner in these communications and writings. I thank those of you who continue to read and “pass me on” as well as those of you who contacted me last week when I was trying a new “group” approach to these e-mails, and inadvertently omitted you. I don’t expect everybody to want to receive these so, please let me know by simply replying “STOP”, and I will remove your name from these e-mailings.

In the meantime, as I continue to look for the good stuff, I will also try to make the best of it, as so many before me have, and they charge us to continue in their footsteps until we can’t anymore! This weekend is the “Air and Sea Show” here in Fort Lauderdale both Saturday and Sunday. I plan to attend as we’ve not seen it here in several years. In closing, I would like to wish a good friend, Anja Malis, and another newer good friend, Joel Valencia, Happy Birthday! “Let’s get this party started!”


John I. Cook, Director

Extraordinarily Ordinary

ordinary peopleCan I say Happy Hump Day today? I mean, my head is still swirling from how high my taxes are and the disaster that occurred at the Boston Marathon on Monday! Anybody feel the same way? How about regarding just the latter notion I mentioned? Already, the media and press in many areas are calling it “The Boston Marathon Massacre”. I’ve a friend in England who will probably be working security at the London Marathon scheduled in the next few days and she mentioned that she thought their security will be heightened substantially after this event’s tragedy.

How do things like this make you feel? Perhaps a bit insecure? Renowned sociologist Erich Fromm said: “Free man is by necessity insecure; thinking man by necessity uncertain.” Any thoughts on this anecdote? Well, being honest, just last night I was inclined to think that the idea of the conspiracy theory of all these catastrophic events that have been termed “Hell Week” in April, since we’ve experienced several events over the past 10 or more years during the same week in April, might have more claws, if you will. In other words, I have been feeling a bit more insecure since some of these things have happened … if only for a moment … then the reality sets in as Mr. Fromm noted. Then, like now, the Serenity Prayer takes hold of me as I had learned to embrace when struggling against some of my other demons … “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

How many ordinary people were in that marathon on Monday? Did you notice any of the extraordinary acts of kindness displayed amongst them? Several stories caught my attention from the “mob” that entered a candy store seeking protection and the owner said that people took yarn and wrapped the bleeding wounds caused by the shrapnel emitted from the pressure cooker bombs that exploded near the legs and lower parts of most people’s bodies. Others carried folks, like the football player who was highlighted in the news broadcasts I saw here. Still, others wheeled seniors and children, men and women to the make-shift triage areas originally designated for the marathon runners who may have been in need of medical attention due to the long run.

Needless to say, history was made again on Monday … peace be still! May the 8 year old little boy who was said to be waiting at the finish line for his father to complete the run, that lost his life as a result of the first blast … R I P … What lessons can we learn as a “civilization”? …. perhaps there are lessons this country could use … not to mention our individual lessons which remain upon us? In any case, I wish you a pleasant and peaceful Hump Day!


John I. Cook, Director

remember whenHappy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well, for sure! It seems that folks wait for the weekend, even some who don’t have to work each day, and it rockets by so quickly!! I usually try to make different plans each weekend, though my plans usually revolve around similar places. This weekend was special because two childhood friends, though one I was closer to in age than the other, were here in town and I was able to get together with one Friday evening after work, and the other Saturday from lunchtime until he departed in the evening.

Those of you who know me know how much I acknowledge those of us who grew up in the Projects in White Plains. Now, I have had people comment to me on different occasions things like: 1) “I didn’t know there were “projects” in a suburban city like White Plains!”, and, 2) “Those weren’t really projects because they were not as big or as ghetto-like like the typical projects in bigger cities like Brooklyn and the Bronx”! It was like it was something exceptional to have projects in a progressive “model” city like White Plains, NY. Well, we did! They were pretty clean in comparison but there were “Five Units” or buildings with maybe a hundred families living in each building of 9 floors and approximately 10 families on each floor. I mean, sometimes people urinated on the elevators, or threw trash on the stairways in spite of the efforts of progressive families like my own who “kept an eye” on the kids … ALL of the kids … whether they were their sons or daughters or not!!! Do you remember when that sense of community existed in neighborhoods like mine? We all felt a certain bond and the concept of a “common village”, so to speak, was alive and well!

So, one of the guys from one of the other “Units” in the Winbrook, Mr. Al “Chip” Ephraim who does engineering work on bridges to alleviate the build up of water on the bridges was in town this past week. The company that contracts him sends he and a crew to different locations to do maintenance and upkeep on bridges in different cities across the USA, so he gets to travel. He and I hung out on Friday night at my favorite club, “Capone’s”, in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We had a blast! I got him back to his hotel in time for him to get some rest to report to work Saturday morning, during which he said they had a short day! I had to be up early to take care of some errands, take a yoga class and then get back home by lunchtime to meet another childhood friend from White Plains, “Bobby” Schulman, and, an energy saver technician to put a device in my flat to keep my utility bill at a standard level, especially with the summer months coming so quickly here in SoFlo.

As I was finished with yoga by noon, I checked my cell phone and, sure enough, Bobby aka Robert Andrew Schulman, had left me a text saying he was waiting across the street from the apartment complex where my flat is located! I hustled over, since the gym is five minutes away, and he was there waiting when I arrived. We hadn’t seen each other in many many years formally since 6th grade at Ridgeway Elementary school where some of the kids from the Winbrook Projects were bused to the upper income neighborhood’s elementary school to end somewhat segregated schools in White Plains. Rochambeau school where I attended from first through fourth grades was closed down and we were bused to different predominantly white elementary schools in neighborhoods NOT so close to our beloved Projects. I remember mornings getting on the buses to go to maybe three different elementary schools, including Rosedale and Ridgeway Elementary Schools, and playing bongos and singing all the way to these well to do suburban neighborhoods to integrate with the white kids whose schools had seen few, if any, African American kids like me.

Bobby went to a private school for 7th through 12th grades, Hackley as it was called, and we hadn’t seen each other since then except for a brief lunch after we had both graduated from our perspective colleges, he from Carnegie Mellon and me from Princeton University. So, this reunion was beyond typical, since he, too had come to visit me at “The Projects” as he reached outside of his comfort zone to get to know the other kids from The Projects, and, even our parents in some cases. He knew and loved my mother, Marietta Dolores, so very very much … in fact … he still says she holds a special place in his heart. Can you remember when stuff like that may have happened in your childhood? So, the time we spent together included hanging out at my flat for a few hours reconnecting, then we headed to Hooter’s at the touristy Beach Place on the Fort Lauderdale “Strip”! We walked around a bit after enjoying salads and chicken wings and then I asked him if he wanted to visit the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel/Resort in Hollywood, FL … and we did that one, too! We had a great time, and, hopefully, as we have planned, these reconnections will continue!

In closing today, I would like to remind each of us that this month is Autism Awareness Month and many people, including myself, have been sporting something in the color of blue in our attire this month. Be well … and try to remember those “whens” in your life … reconnect, if you can! Those are empowering reconnections which may rejuvenate a fine friendship with wonderful memories and even future plans!


John I. Cook, Director

Look For The Good Stuff!

good stuffHappy Friday, All!

There is no other option for me today except to say … and mean … T.G.I.F.! Hip hip, hooray! It is Friday!

Most humans find bad stuff really easy. In fact, the ones who are really skilled at finding bad stuff can take something good … and turn it bad!! Do you know anyone like that . . . This past election, for example, for the POTUS found some of the most serious, nasty, mud-slinging that I have seen in my half century on this Earth! Why don’t we like to look for the “good stuff” in people or in situations and circumstances? Are we really “hell bent” on finding the worse that we can in human nature? Why … that ain’t hard, is it?

Today is my only child, my daughter, Ayanna Lynne’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Kiddo … as I often like to call her nowadays. When she was just a “pup”, so to speak, I called her “Squeezy” because she and I used to share some of the best hugs and squeezes I ever knew! Just sayin’! So to her, I send hugs, kisses and squeezes!

While it is clear that the business tycoon, “Jay Z” aka Mr. Carter, had visited Cuba against a lot of people’s wishes, it was a legal trip … thus far! There were those who ranted and raved that he and Beyonce, his wife, were supporting a communist country and enemy of the USA. So, he put together a rap song called “Open Letter” in response to all of the comments and criticisms. Yet, there were a few people who felt that if it was done correctly and, through the US Department of the Treasury (which we have been told it was!), then it was okay. Yet others took a jab at his “Open Letter” response rap to those who continued to … “look for the bad” in what he and his wife decided to do that happened to fall on their wedding anniversary.

I am not sure if it is true or not but it has been suggested that one who fills their time with negative thoughts and energy usually find themselves feeling … well … bad! Those with terminal diseases who fill their lives with positive thoughts and energy have even been known to recover. Now, I don’t know about you, and what you believe but I would just like to lend my support to a life of “looking for the good stuff” in others and circumstances!

Have a great weekend!

Namaste, y’all … namaste!

John I. Cook, Director

“What’s YOUR Handle?!”

whats your handleHappy Hump Day, All!

Another opportunity to reach mid-week has arrived! How do you feel about that? “Breaker … 1-2-3 … What’s your handle?” That’s an old CB radio expression where one radio operator asked another for his “information”, be it his CB radio name and/or location. Do any of you remember those days, before cell phones existed, and truckers (and others even in cars!) on the nation’s interstates not only passed the time away while traveling long distances but exchanged important information regarding road conditions and the highway “authorities”? It had become a hobby for some and a way of life for others.

Well, some guy gets loose on another college campus to attack and injure “innocent” students at a college network in Texas! The difference this time is … he used a knife! I am inclined to say, “What the hell!?”, but the ONLY good thing that I’ve noticed so far is that it wasn’t an automatic weapon or gun that was used … it was ONLY a knife! What do you think this guy’s handle is?! While there were many injuries, in the vicinity of 17 people or so, there were no deaths reported as of yet. All of them, including the assailant, were students there.

Cuba has been in the international news again for two major events over the past week or so. First, businessman and music producer/mogul, Jay Z and his wife Beyonce were spotted there in Havana on their anniversary, purportedly on a cultural trip, since Americans have been forbidden to go there on vacation. Just last week, a female social media activist from Cuba, Yoani, spoke in Miami about her experiences and observations of this “New Cuba”, so to speak, and how she wanted to give hope to Cuban Americans of their abilities to help forge a better Cuba, if you will. Questions have arisen by Florida law-makers as to why the federal government’s treasury department provided Jay Z and his wife with a visa to travel there, even though it appears legal.

How about the story of the criminal, drug trafficking, gun toting father who kidnapped his two sons from their grandmother’s home and took them, with his wife, by boat to Cuba?! Nevertheless, it has been reported that the Cuban authorities are “sending” them back to the USA! Very interesting, to say the least! By the way, the parents are BOTH in jail in Tampa, FL and the boys are safe again with grandma!

What’s your handle on life today? I have been a bit overwhelmed with “stuff” but have promised myself to maintain my cool and go with the flow, so to speak, in the Bruce Lee form of the expression: “Be like water, my friend … be like water!”


John I. Cook, Director
Educational Excellence

Do You Remember?

remember meHappy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well … and that you and your loved ones are also well. “Life” really is just a moment … We often run around, rush around, especially us “workaholics”, from one event to the next situation … from ones life to another’s death … until it hits very close to home … Peace be still. As I dozed off to sleep last night while watching the news, I heard the newscaster state that 6 more Americans were killed, including one civilian on assignment there in Afghanistan, as they attempted to deliver books to a school. It was apparently another infamous car-bombing and one more young member, female, of the State Department Foreign Service also lost her life. There were two separate incidents. I have never been a big fan of war since my days of missing the draft to serve in the Vietnam War! I was too young at the time … only seventeen when the mandatory draft was imposed.

This past weekend was decent for me. I got to see my great nephew turn 13 as we had a cook-out near the basketball courts on Fort Lauderdale Beach. A few of my sister’s friends and several kids showed up in addition to Trent’s mom – my niece – Tiphani, and we had a mini-spread there on the picnic tables there on the beach! It was great to be present. Yesterday, Sunday, my sister and one of her friend’s with whom I have also been a friend for over 20 years, Sandy Noble, and I met at the Sun Trust Bank Sunday Jazz Brunch! While the tropical moisture moved in off and on in the form of sprinkles and light rain, the “Jazz Brunchers” didn’t budge, especially since many had already set up tents to watch the festivities, and, others had umbrellas! I also ran in to a good friend, Ray Campbell, his wife, Pearl and their own little teenaged sleeping beauty, Rashida!

Tomorrow is another “new” friend’s birthday, and, I have a friend in Germany whose birthday is April 19th … but the most important one for me to remember is that of my only child, my daughter – Ayanna Lynne, whose birthday is April 12th. She will be 30 years old and has planned a trip for herself to “sunny” Puerto Rico … San Juan, to be exact! Dale!

Do you remember those who are close to you, and, their birthdays? It kind of offsets the losses of life we each experience from our loved ones, and others as well. Have a great week!


John I. Cook, Director

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