Goal Setting

Goal SettingHappy Friday, All!

A simple T.G.I.F. will suffice … followed by a weekend … perhaps with a day or two of good weather. While the hurricane season officially starts in the next few days, a storm or two has already been spotted in the Pacific area. Weather analysts predict that this season, over the Atlantic anyway, may be a “doozy” with more storms than in an average season. In the aftermath and continued clean up of weather related emergencies from Oklahoma to Texas right on down to Key West Florida, it might be wise to start planning for this upcoming hurricane season.

I remember when I was in elementary school, my father was always on top of me for getting my homework done …. BEFORE I went outside to play with my friends. Of course, there were no video games or cell phone games and X-boxes then, so us kids played marbles and jump rope, hung from “jungle gyms” and shot baskets in the “Big Playground”, played on swings and even had our own foot relay races there in the middle of “The Projects” where we had a big grassy field similar to a football field with trees around each end. We played football there as well … both touch and tackle! There was always a lot to do … Yet, my dad’s long term goal for me was to finish public school, maybe go to college or get a job, at least. So, goal setting was something deeply engrained in The Cook Family lifestyle … peace be still!

When I taught high school, I always had my students outline the chapter for homework so that we could have an intelligent discussion in class. I went to each student’s desk where I would check the outlines – one by one – of each of the 30 students, and, even give them a marginal grade that could bring their test averages up … or down. I made it count, so, in my own way, I was helping them set goals of getting a good grade in my class. Many students earned them while very few did not. Even nowadays, as I seek to take Educational Excellence to the next level looking to procure a “501(c)3” tax exempt status, I find myself completing multiple assignments.

A goal may just be a dream . . . until you write it down. Once written down, we now have something tangible to focus on and we may begin our step by step charting towards any given goal!

Wishing each of us a wonderful weekend, and, may your goals leave the dream state so that they may take on a life of their own, of course, with your help and guidance. Thanks for your support and interest, which is certainly one of my goals!


John I. Cook, Director

Help Those To Help Themselves . . .

Helping ThemselvesHappy Hump Day, All!

Just a thought today … “God helps those who help themselves!” Sometimes, that is difficult to grasp, let alone believe or see it happening around our world today. According to Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel, our present state of world affairs is designed to challenge our faith … perhaps, in ourselves. While I consider myself to have become more spiritual today as a result of my exposure to studying Christianity, I do believe that we each have a “higher power”. This concept is one that I learned in the 12-Step Programs that I have been exposed to for many many years.

Here in Florida, Miami to be exact, a woman was arrested for leaving her infant in her car in the intense heat while she went inside for several hours. The controversy is much like the one with little Rilyah who actually disappeared from DCF’s (Dept. of Children & Family) radar and her body was never found. The most recent event in the aftermath of the death of a little girl named Ebony who was found wrapped up in a tent-like structure starved and abused by her step father … and dead, is that of Brian Osceola who was found dead in his mother’s car. DCF worker, Ms. Bruno, has been accused of not contacting an outside agency to get help for the mother of the little boy, and, falsifying records indicating that she contacted an outside agency. She is claiming that DCF in Miami, who has been at the core of several scandals over the past few years, is using her as a scapegoat.

“We cannot approach prayer as we do everything else in our push-button, instant society. There are no prayer pills or enlightenment capsules.” – Janie Gustafson

May we continue diligently in our lives, in our work and in our communities to help those who need to learn to help themselves.

Have a great day!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Memorial Day Weekend 2013

Mem 2013Yes, it’s Friday again …

T.G.I.F.! But this one is a Memorial Day Weekend Friday … not just any old Friday, you dig?!

Waking up today, I feel extra special just to live in a country where there is so much honor for the United States Military though it is sometimes questionable what “we” do abroad in other countries. Our story as a nation is relatively short in comparison to the nations of Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. Much of what we owe our “history” to is somewhat of a gift from the Amerinds or Native Americans who inhabited this land long before the Europeans arrived in the late 1400’s. Perhaps, we have managed to do a lot in this short history, including learning to “protect” ourselves from foreign invasions. Yet, like most “empires”, much of our focus has become that of thwarting internal invasions from those un-happy folks within our borders.

Here in South Florida, Miami in particular, we have a dual celebration commonly called “Urban Beach Weekend”, which has already started. South Beach in particular becomes an area where rappers and their fans populate the beaches, the clubs, the restaurants …. yep, and the hotels! It is a time of fun and frolic, prosperity and partying. Interesting to me that it is held simultaneous to Memorial Day Weekend. Last year here in SoFlo, there was a vicious attack of a homeless man, Popov, by another South Floridian, Mr. Eugene, who had apparently attacked the former because he was purportedly under the influence of “bath salts”, a street drug that had become popular for a short while here. Eugene was shot and killed as he refused to stop taunting police as he strode naked near the body of his victim whose face and eyes he had nearly eaten …. Peace be still …

As we celebrate this nation’s military, may we not forget that this weekend is indeed a memorial to this nation’s exceptional service persons and the fact that up until now, have kept this land relatively safe for the “American way of life”. As well, may we acknowledge our nation’s president – Barack Obama – and his efforts to continue to lead our country in some positive directions. In memorial to our history, which is often controversial, may we enjoy this weekend and all the good that it may bring each one of us. May we celebrate in peace!


John I. Cook, Director

Lifting Each Other UP!

lifting upHappy Hump Day, All!

In the aftermath of the devastation that took place in Moore, OK, many people have decided to offer help. People as far as England, the Queen in particular, sent best wishes to those whose homes, vehicles and property were destroyed. A couple of country singers who grew up in that same “alley” acknowledged their familiarity with the area – the corner stores and the schools there. Toby Keith, whose name appears on a water tower there in Moore, did a very touching news interview surveying the devastation with a reporter. Carrie Underwood, whose hometown is maybe 120 miles from Moore, also sent her best regards for the folks there as she recounted her childhood days there in “Tornado Alley”.

As I visited comments on a popular social network yesterday, I came across one that seemed to be saying or suggesting that people who show love or support for the people in Moore were phonies. Their position was pretty much that most people have “0” connection with those in Moore so why show any hope or care for those that you don’t have a connection with?! This was a person whom I “know”, having grown up in the same town, even lived in the same building for a while. This was a person who purports to be a “church goer” and a worker with the youth in his area. So … I was shocked! Even more so shocking was the number of people who selected “like” to his post … many of whom I also knew from our shared hometown. Now, if that is really how someone feels, so be it. I will pray for that someone that they find a better way to express themselves. I could write a PhD dissertation of some of my thoughts on this topic but remembering a quote that I put in my yearbook when graduating from St. Paul’s School, “Be yourself because you are you!”, seems to say it best!

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo Mayo

Today, I will take risks by stating my ideas. I will stand up for myself by listening to my intuition. (TOUCHSTONES, May 22)

Have a wonderful “Hump Day” by lifting each other UP!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Birthday, Marietta Dolores … R. I. P.

Mom's BirthdayHappy Monday, All!

If you are anything like me … you at least tried to have a great weekend! I know that I certainly tried … keeping it simple still … and it all worked out. I was just thinking how much destruction the people in Texas faced due to horrific weather last week, and over the weekend, the people in Oklahoma had their hands full of tornado infested weather. Sending out some healing thoughts for them from here …

Each year around this time, and, in particular on this day, I am always honoring my mother, Marietta Dolores. She was born on May 20th, 1917, in the Tampa area near a small town called Lake City. The location changes as she got older and one can see where her mother, Grand Ma Sally, got her name. Her early childhood was spent there in Ybor City, FL, which is an area with purportedly much Cuban American/Spanish influence. Thusly, she was named Marietta Dolores Watkins. Upon her marriage to my father, Isaac H. Cook (RIP), she proudly became “Mrs. Cook” … and she emphasized that she was a “Mrs.”! That was one example of how they openly displayed their love and commitment to each other, which lasted 50 years until my father’s death over 20 years ago. She died eight years ago after falling in her mini-apartment inside my sister’s home which was in Lauderdale Lakes, FL aka Ft. Lauderdale … just a separate division of it. Due to the darkness of Hurricane Wilma, she was unable to get around as the hurricane window coverings remained down shortly after the storm had passed through and interrupted the power in homes everywhere here. She fell …. apparently, bumped her head on the floor with the fall, and, her brain began to bleed internally unbeknownst to my sister and her family.

Though they, my sister’s family, immediately attended to her since she had yelped with the fall that brought them to her side and helped her back into bed, the coumadin she was taking to thin her blood and prevent clotting or a heart attack caused the internal bleeding in her brain to go unnoticed until she was unresponsive the next day. They took her to Florida Memorial Hospital. She never regained consciousness, and, after remaining in a coma for several days, we decided to “Let Her Go Home” at the hospice facility there in that same hospital. While there, we visited her often. I, in particular, was the last one to see her before her breath expired in her hospice bed just an hour after I had departed her room to go home and prepare for work the next day. It was like 2am November 6th, 2005. The love she has shown for me still permeates my existence. Even today, my bedroom is decorated with pictures of her, her trip to Israel and some personal effects like a walking cane and a powder baby-blue blanket of hers that I keep close to me in memory of her. Within my heart, I keep a passion for my Creator, a love of people and a spiritual caring for myself … and others! Namaste, Momma …

I am my mother’s son … in many many more ways than one may know! So, I honor her birth today, as I will for the rest of my life.

Love you, Mom …

John I. CookEmoji, Director

Not On My Watch!

Not On My WatchHappy Friday, All!

Here we are facing another weekend! How grand! While it is an opportunity to hopefully do some fun things, may we also take the opportunity to keep things in order in “our own houses”, so to speak.

Okay, so … does anyone want to trade places with President Obama?! I mean, from all of the criticism he gets, it should be easy to find someone to replace him. Maybe even John Boehner and the “Boys” might want more than “for someone to go to jail” after the purported scandal that recently cast a negative shadow over the IRS and former director, Stephen T. Miller. Maybe they want the POTUS impeached!! Now, “that would learn him”, wouldn’t it!? Any candidates? Please forward your application to be the next president to your respective parties … for 2017! Wow! That’s a long way off, isn’t it?

How about the DOJ’s Mr. Holder who has been accused of tapping coat rooms and pulling phone records for various entities to “keep an eye on” unwanted activities?! As if, the Benghazi Scandal wasn’t enough for the POTUS to begin his second term in office. Of course, since he is the “POTUS”, all discipline flows from his office. He has selected a new head for the IRS after requesting Miller’s resignation upon the releasing of records indicating that certain “non-profit” Tea Party affiliated organizations were targeted by the IRS unfairly, and, perhaps, illegally! Now, there are hearings on Mr. Holder’s practices at the Department of Justice and even more “illegal” activities.

Now, “we” here at EE usually stay away from political issues as well as religious ones because each person is entitled to his or her opinion, under the constitution of the USA, freedom of speech … and I could go on and on. Yet, I choose not to at this point because it is not “our” main concern. We are a more spiritual entity that focuses on individual growth, understanding and highlighting those human ( or super human!) values that may contribute to the longevity of human civilization as a whole. Imagine having to deal with what Mr. Obama is dealing with right now … “on HIS watch”? Some would blame him … others would realize that while he is NOT responsible for others behaviour no more than I am of anyone else’s behaviour, nor anyone else’s responsibility for my behaviour … and blame the individuals themselves for their behaviour. Yet, I could only imagine what type of sleepless nights the Commander in Chief must be experiencing during this tumultuous second term!

Peace be with our President … and with each of us as we continue along this journey … together!


John I. Cook, Director

Find Your Flow

Your FlowHappy Hump Day, All!

Now, I am not sure about each of you but my spirit is feeling the ebbs and lulls of life … nothing to complain about … but I feel it. Some years back as I sat one of my major demons of the physical realm down in the corner, I had to learn how to handle that uneasy feeling one gets when seeking a solution to serious circumstances, sometimes called problems! I like to choose my words wisely today upon realizing how much impact they have on how I view my circumstances, you dig?!

Much of what I learned was to “flow”. One or two weeks ago in an article, I dealt with the concept of going with the flow … mentioned how drugs had come into The Projects where I grew up and how my father did everything in his power to keep me away from certain elements that were flowing through our community. There are times when one should NOT go with the flow and one needs to be able to recognize those situations. Yet, there is a fluidity to life … the natural order of things … being like water even! Many things in our lives, including our lives, flow. One of my favorite places is the beach because of the water. I have a small aquarium, just the right size to “fit” my flat, because I like the flow of water, as do my two Tiger Oscars who live there! I watch them often, which is one of the reasons I like fish as pets … because they are always flowing.

“Too often, we men (and women!) have lived with a single answer to every situation: win. We saw our friendships in competitive terms, so we couldn’t let our guard down. We looked at life as a challenge to be conquered rather than something to be enjoyed. Therefore, our first impulse was to fight and come out a winner.”

The previous quote is from one of my favorite books with anecdotes called “TOUCHSTONES”. It has served as one of my spiritual “bibles” and I return to it from time to time. It was one of the tools I used to get a demon out of my life and into the corner where it still sits and waits! Yet, I have chosen to embrace spirituality, flow with the vision and mission bestowed upon me by my Creator. There were times when I hit “walls”, had to turn corners, and occasionally just lie “there” for a moment and lick my wounds and regroup before getting up again. It has become a way of life for me … the flow thing … and, perhaps, one might find solace, peace, tranquility and even the love of life by embracing such a spiritual axiom, if you will.

“If you can’t fight and you can’t flee, flow.” – Robert Eliot

Don’t miss out on how it may feel to walk away from a fight … especially a fight with oneself.


John I. Cook, Director

Make It Last!

human familyHappy Monday, All!

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if everyday could be Mother’s Day? How about Father’s Day? Let’s not forget Children’s Day!! Why don’t we just make everyday “Human Day”? … and make it last?!

One of the things I took from my life experiences was to make everyday a holiday … a celebration of “Life”! I know we get caught up in scientific discoveries, which is a good thing, as well as technological progress, not to mention financial woes. Somehow … for some reason … we haven’t fully embraced human spiritual existence and advancement. Now, being an armchair philosopher from “back in the day”, I have often pondered human spiritual development and what it may hold for us … should we embrace its lessons in human history. This whole journey that “WE” are on pretty much together has not been designed by us humans, though we often try to superimpose our human wills on the natural course of world events. This is why Educational Excellence and I have become so fond of organizations like the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs and The Urban Leagues … to stay in touch with human spiritual development from a grass roots level, if you will!

Yesterday was a beautiful day as I felt my mother’s presence all day long. When I awoke, thank God, I sent as many messages carrying the “Happy Mother’s Day” ingredients as I could. This is what my mother would want me to do. Perhaps, it was just my imagination. Yet, I felt her presence with me all day … I felt her spirit telling me to go outside and mingle with friends and NOT be sad … so I did! The heaviness was lifted and I took her on a tour of my favorite Sunday spots, including The Beach here in Fort Lauderdale. Something about water that draws humans to its shores … to listen to the sound of waves … and take note of its powerfulness on the Earth … and enjoy its beauty! It was very special as I stopped at different places sharing her spirit and her love with those I know and those I met.

In hunkering down at home for the evening, I watched “60 Minutes”, which featured a couple of top notch stories including the one about an American woman who was rescued in an area of Africa that was torn by internal terrorism. Still, the most impacting story for me was the one about “The Bill Gates Foundation”. This was truly a powerful story based on one human taking his billions of dollars that he earned on his journey here on Earth … and give it away to those who suffer each day from unclean water, lack of medical treatment and basic human necessities, like toilets for example. I don’t know if any of you saw the story or know of the “Foundation”, but, I was impressed by his passion, which his father, who also appeared on the segment, shares with his son. It was another one of those “feel good” stories which also appears to have an important impact on humanity. Let’s see if we can make some of these important things last … like human civilization. Yet, we must be aware of the fact that it all depends on how us humans decide to take the knowledge we gain and implement it to enhance the true nature of this journey for human kind.

Have a great day, a wonderful week … and … make it last!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!

Mother's DayHappy Friday, All!

One has got to be grateful for ones life today, if one is able to get up, rise and bask in the light of another day, especially if it’s Friday … and the Friday of Mother’s Day Weekend! The interesting thing is that all around us, there are reasons to be grateful … cheerful even!

Mother’s Day has been pretty tough for me these past eight years since my mother’s passing. I do know of many many friends whose mothers have also passed, so I am sure that you can relate. The concept of a mother is one of a person not only who bore the burden of carrying a newborn for nine months in her own body, but also a person who unconditionally cares for her children. This last trait usually carries over into their personal lives, as one friend of our family from the Projects in White Plains – Georgetta Kent – always demonstrated upon seeing my mother by calling her “Mother Cook”! Those words in Georgetta’s greeting still echo in my head. Now, we all know that there are some mothers who don’t quite fit the bill, so to speak, of the nurturing type. Yet, perhaps they deserve some credit for bringing another human being into this world. This is a unique biological characteristic of a “mother”.

As I prepare today to send off some paper work to have a “new” bronze plaque placed on my mother’s grave at the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY, I have to mention and thank a friend from White Plains whom I met in elementary school at the Ridgeway School where many of us from the Projects were “voluntarily” bused as the City sought to end segregated schools in our fair city. Thank you Robert Andrew Schulman for your generous contribution to Educational Excellence, which allows me to be able to have her finally, officially and formally buried! With friends like these, who cares about enemies!

May you enjoy your “mothers”, be they here … or there, and always keep them in your heart. A very special shout out to ALL my “lady” friends who are alive and well … and are mothers, too! You know who you are. Love youse!

Namaste my friends!

Peace and Love,

John I. Cook, Director

Never Give Up Hope . . . Ever!

human spiritHappy Hump Day, All … especially for the three girls rescued in Cleveland, OH! Just a day or two ago, a friend had posted something on a social network about this month being “Teacher Appreciation Week” … so … Kudos to ALL those teachers who helped to make a difference in some young or more mature person’s life! Hip Hip … Hooray!

We’ve heard talk about international “white slavery rings”, haven’t we?! Most of us now know that this type of thing goes on right here in the USA … maybe Cleveland, OH even!! For me, this is one of the funniest “feel good” events that have happened in a while. I mean, the dead terrorist from the Boston Marathon Massacre can’t find a funeral home to hold a service or burial … of course, first of all because he is dead!!! But, no one wants to accommodate the family’s request for a funeral and burial here in the USA . . . Still, whilst there were many heroes still being celebrated for surviving those two blasts at the finish line of the race last month, we’ve discovered another more “home-brewed” styled hero in Cleveland … if you will. His name is Charles Ramsey. He has been on so many newscasts and beginning a talk show circuit where he tells his story over and over of how he saw a girl frantically screaming for help as he ate his McDonald’s meal next door. The girl was screaming from the neighbor’s house, Ariel Castro, and begging to be rescued. Ramsey’s story tells it all.

Yet, beneath the surface of this feel good story is the theme that also persisted in the survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombings as well as former Senator Gabriel Gifford’s story – “Never give up hope … ever!” Some of us may moan and complain about different situations in our lives, which is all well and good. But as survivors of the “Triangular Slave Trade” in this country as well as those who survived the Nazi murders of millions of humans as well already know, not to mention the tremendous spirit of Native Americans, we … I said WE … should never give up hope. Because of her survival skills, Amanda Berry is now “free” as well as two other girls who had been living essentially in a form of “white slavery” for an average of ten years! May we each utilize this event as a reminder that we, too, can overcome many obstacles … if we never give up hope … EVER!

Namaste … and peace!

John I. Cook, Director

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