Who Says One Can’t Change?

rachel gentileHappy Friday, Folks!

And of course, like it ain’t no thing … but … T.G.I.F. already! I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who read these pieces, either through the e-mail family of Educational Excellence, or through social networks (Facebook, WordPress, etcetera). It is an honor and a true joy to share some of my thoughts with you. I have had some ask me what am I doing, or … who do you think you are? Yet, there are others, and more of this group … way more, who send replies and simple acknowledgements indicating an appreciation for my writings. I still hope to take EE further, if you will, and I may need some help when it comes to fund raising and getting this next book published. So, thanks for now … your past support … as well as your future encouragement, support and ideas.

So much going on … NFL Player for the Boston Patriots fired after being charged with murder of a Boston man last week. Landmark cases in the Supreme Court as well as local courts. Florida man home from China after his employees held him hostage for “severence pay”. Paula Deen seeks to redeem her image while all around her “the walls are tumbling down”. It’s a hard thing apparently when one gets accustomed to wealth and notoriety on her level with cruises and cooking shows as well as her own line of cookware to handle the crumbling of an empire which started in a small country kitchen 30 years ago! How about Rachel Jeantel and her appearance in the George Zimmerman trial where he is being charged with second degree murder?! Can people really change? Even our society here in the states  has so many people scarred for life with criminal backgrounds, and more prisons are being built as I write.  This makes it hard for one to see society actually wanting “criminals” to change.

Well, hats off to an African American of Haitian descent who is actually a teen-ager in her last year of high school, it seems, who handled the grueling cross examination of the defense team of Zimmerman in an angry Mr. West aka “Knock Knock”! Many of us simply looked at her as a witness, one we expected to know the protocol and decorum of an American courtroom though she comes to us straight out of high school in one of South Florida’s “hoods”, so to speak. Her insistence on the fact that she was telling the truth regarding her final conversation with Trayvon Martin last year as well has her respect for Trayvon’s mother, to whom she withheld certain details like “creepy ass cracker” and “that niggas following me”, is commendable. How many of us have 19 year olds that we would let get “deeply involved” in such a case, television interviews and a court appearance in a murder trial? How many of us could have handled such a role when we were nineteen or if we aren’t quite there yet?! Is it one of your life dreams? Her first day of testimony, I believe, she didn’t quite understand the gravity of her consistency in stating the facts as she heard it in spite of the relentless attempts by defense attorney West to break her down and confuse her in order to destroy her credibility!

On the second day, Thursday, of her testimony, she came in like a “flash”, dressed up, calmer demeanor and repeating the word “sir” in each answer that she provided for the defense attorney. She even got a bit feisty when West suggested that Trayvon was lying about his role in the incident where Zimmerman clearly got out of his vehicle contrary to the suggestion of the “911 Operator” and followed Trayvon until finally approaching him and touching him, knocking his headset from his head in Zimmerman’s initiation of the confrontation. Her testimony stands rock solid against this “stand your ground” crap ushered in by Mr. Bush, former governor of the State of Florida, that is being used by the defense team as a reason for Zimmerman’s killing of Martin. What a difference, heh?! Who says one can’t change … for the better, at least?!

Well, have a great Friday as we approach the halfway mark of 2013 and Independence Day for this country. Be well!


John I. Cook, Director

Is That Karma Again?!

KarmaHappy Hump Day, All!

What’s going on, y’all? I don’t know about you but I’ve got a “truckload” of things to deal with … both physically and spiritually! ‘nough said?! I think so. How do you choose to handle the “not so good” things that happen to you? What is the best way to handle the “not so good” things that happen to others? Do you have “good karma”?

Last night, I fell asleep watching the “silvery moon” as it subsides from the “Super Moon” status it was given Sunday night. I had watched “Catfish: Season II Premier”, which stars an elementary schoolmate’s son, Nev. I always watch a bit of the news. Yet, after texting with my daughter, Ayanna, a bit and sharing some of my strength, hope and wisdom (which I also needed!), I simply laid across the bed contemplating the rigors of “my life”. Karma is something I have learned about over the years though we have all heard the “folklore” before: “What goes around … comes around!” Some of us don’t believe it while others of us think that we are beyond that!! One quote I liked was the following: “How you treat me is your Karma. How I [respond] to how you treat me is my karma.” I changed the word from “react” to “respond”, as I have learned from a very powerful 12-Step Lesson: Do not simply react to life’s circumstances, one should respond!” A response requires contemplation, forethought, perhaps even planning – not just pure “trigger-like” reaction which comes often without thought.

I embrace the life of Nelson Mandela. I applaud the Miami HEAT. I pray for “Justice for Trayvon”. And, that I can keep these bills I have in order! lol!! After many days of near liquid humidity, this morning found us with some thunder showers here in SoFlo. While we cannot always choose our circumstances in life – be it poverty, illiteracy, wealth or power – we each can choose how we deal with our circumstances. How you choose to handle your circumstances is indeed a big part of each of our lives. I think about the good things in life, the good people I’ve met and the good opportunities that have come my way. Needless to say, this type of thought often attracts good things … or at least … good karma … yes … and peace, which has no price tag!

Be well … namaste,

John I. Cook, Director

I’ll Take My Chances!


Happy Monday, All!

Here’s to hoping your weekends went well as well. I enjoyed mine for the most part … no problems that matter anyways! The most important thing for me nowadays is to know how I will respond in as many situations that I encounter. It is interesting how everyone has become an expert on everybody else! Are they done with their own personal growth and development? Do they have so much time on their hands and perfection in their own lives that one can judge everybody else … from Trayvon Martin to LeBron James up to and including Nelson Mandela?! I think not!!

One of the major premises of Educational Excellence is “Know Thyself”. Most people take the short cut on that one because they would find so much work to do that they would probably “give up” on knowing themselves. Besides, talking about someone else is much easier than developing areas needing improvement in ones own life. Educational Excellence focuses more on “spiritual education” than formulas, equations, symbols in chemistry or multiple languages. Of course, I am not dismissing any of the aforementioned. These are all important in terms of aiding in making improvements in our own society as a whole.

Mandela has been reported to be in critical condition with an ailment in his lungs. He is 94 years of age … he has done it all … maybe he can rest when he and his Creator are ready. Interestingly enough, even LeBron James said that what he needs now is to take the time needed to rest his body. He is a young man who has achieved some pretty awesome goals regardless of what so many in the “peanut gallery” have to say about him. Well, today also begins the trial of Zimmerman who has been accused of murdering the unarmed Trayvon Martin with his (Zimmerman) 9mm pistol which he carried as he conducted his duties as “neighborhood watch person” … self appointed I might add. I just wondered, though the judge has said that the voice specialists who listened to a “911” recording of a neighbor who witnessed the struggle from across the yard and heard someone screaming for help cannot be witnesses in the trial, why would anyone who is armed with a 9mm pistol be yelling for help anyway?!

I’ll take my chances that the all female jury with only one non-white will realize that Zimmerman did indeed murder Trayvon out of hatred and an “overkill” desire to be the “neighborhood watch captain” … self appointed. Do you know anyone like that? They are actually pretty scary people who are extremely volatile and may “blow” any minute. I’ll take my chances on meditation and prayer, yoga and peace, love and forgiveness as I continue to seek my own spiritual education along this journey!

Have a great day and a wonderful week!


John I. Cook, Director

The Controversy of “Hating”

funninHappy Friday, Everyone!

Yes, of course, we can T.G.I.F!!! I am certainly glad the weekend has arrived. How about you? Hopefully, you are, too!

It is summer time, most schools are out and the fun begins for the school kids! I remember one summer taking mini courses at Iona College in New Rochelle to complete my Master’s Degree in Education, which was required by the State of New York to keep my job as a teacher there. Now, if you are a Miami HEAT fan, you may be still excited for their second NBA Championship – “Back to Back”. If you are not a fan of that team, or LeBron James, you may not be so happy. But do you have to “hate” him or the team? Why do people “hate” others anyway? Are you … or is one … any better than someone who hates a gay or lesbian person? How about an African American or Jewish person? Do you know how to “harness your hate”? This is a critical juncture for the human being, because hate is a powerful emotion that often consumes the “hater” themselves … and can lead to catastrophic behavior if not checked!

Now, me for example, I don’t care for drug dealers … I have my reasons. I also am not too fond of “racists” … peace be still. Yet, I do not go out of my way to look for either of the two to let them know how much I “dislike” them, and I simultaneously hope that people who do “care” for such types have the ability to know why …

Would you hate LeBron James if he played for the team that you like? Would you hate him if he were YOUR SON? Answer honestly, if possible. What are the effects of “hating” on the hated? Do you think they have an easy time with such a barbaric emotion being thrust in their direction multiple times daily. Hating is something that the haters themselves MUST take a closer look at. I could go on … and on … and on! Yet, at this juncture, I would like to wish LeBron James and the rest of the HEAT team a hearty congratulations. I was born in New York and I still have a New York Knicks Jersey in my closet with my name on the back, “J. I. Cook”, and I enjoy the glances I get from time to time when I wear it to the local supermarket or to the beach here in Ft. Lauderdale. Yet, no one grabs me nor starts to yell nasty things to me. It is now 18 years that I have been living in South Florida and I do indeed support the HEAT Basketball Organization because of the simple fact that I live here, and, I like the things they do in the community.

Many less stable individuals may not respond as LeBron did when he received the MVP Award last night … especially if they had let all the “hate” get under their skin. While we are very similar to the Romans, we must try not to allow ourselves to destroy ourselves and our civilization, if you will. We don’t have to like someone … or a color … or a food … or a flower. But do we have to “hate” it? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”

Have a great day, don’t hate … especially yourselves … and try to live in peace with one another!


John I. Cook, Director

“Live In The Moment . . .”

Live in the Moment

Happy Hump Day, All!

Life is full of surprises, some we may have never anticipated, other “surprises” we simply thought we could avoid or control! Very interesting us humans are! Often, in those moments of surprise, we are forced to rethink something we had become so passionate about.

Those of you who know me also know that sports have been an important aspect of life for me. Since I was a “kid” growing up in the Winbrook Projects, I was always curious about people … people working together, people playing together and people simply helping people. It was pretty much my brother who showed me how to play basketball, RIP – Henry Charles Cook. No one taught me how to play but I did indeed learn how to play. Now I could naturally run fast, jump high and had a certain amount of agility that drove me to embrace the sport of basketball more than any other team sport. I ran track, too, the hundred yard dash (anybody remember when the distances were measured in yards?), the relays … even the infamous “220”. And yes, I was a sprinter, and, though I ran cross country for years, I was not an avid distance runner. What were your favorite sports growing up? How about today?

Most of us also enjoy the “spectator sport” … just watching a game being played by others. Some of us are even “fans” while others become “fanatics”, if you know what I mean. We of the modern day world are much like the ancient Romans were in terms of filling stadiums to watch others compete both physically and mentally, and, often to their deaths. Nowadays, we monitor sports like boxing and hockey to make sure that no one gets killed! Many athletes of different sports train and condition like nothing most of us have ever heard of nor done in our lives. They are professional athletes the same way that some of us may be professional doctors or lawyers, accountants or engineers … or teachers even. If a person has been around a sport long enough or any other profession, they know a lot more about it, and themselves, than any “spectator”. Sometimes, spectators cross the line between being a sports fan and a “fanatic”. For example, we all know that there are many teams, and that spectators generate billions of dollars by purchasing jerseys and pictures, hats and flags, even getting haircuts and having nails done or tattoos to represent their favorite team. Some people actually get crazy about this spectator sport, shouting nasty words, talking so negative to others who may live in a particular town or city where a good (or not so good) team is located. The latter, I would describe as a fanatic. And the funny thing is, many fanatics have “NO AFFILIATION” to or with the team that they “hate” or “love” … its a very Roman, nearly semi-barbaric thing that they like to engage in. Okay, I think you may catch my drift.

Have you ever been counted out of something? It is not the best feeling. Yet, over time and experience, and learning to live in the moment as if it were your very last … moments you want to remember or cherish in a very fond way … we can always be sure to count ourselves “in” on this gift of the human experience. Let no one from no where for any reason ever count you out. Conversely, be sure not to embrace counting someone else out of something that YOU never gave them in the first place! As Coach Spoelstra of the Miami HEAT stated last night when reporters asked him a barrage of questions, “just live in the moment …”

Be well!

John I. Cook, Director

That’s Just Right!

That's Just Right!Happy Monday, All!

You might ask, “What’s so happy about it?” Well, if you are not “feeling it”, roll over and go back to sleep … or whatever you might deem more appropriate, hopefully wake up tomorrow and see how things are going for you! Of course, I am being a bit sarcastic just to try to illustrate that one would be one more day “behind” in life, and, another precious day of this gift of life will be wasted on selfishness.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and, I had my own little worries going on as I had hoped for a communication from my only child, my daughter – Ayanna Lynne. We are both unique people in that we were separated at a time in her life when she may have been too young to understand the “drama” that was going on between me and her mother. Now, I don’t blame anyone for my shortcomings but I also do NOT accept the blame for someone else’s shortcomings or short-sightedness. Own your own trouble … I’ve got enough of my own, you dig?! Yet, her mother and I were “the parents” … and she was the little 4 year old girl … peace be still. The nights became endless and the years passed by with sporadic contact between us, always monitored or filtered so she would see me in a certain light! As I struggled with the heart-break, my demons began to circle closer … It was a very challenging situation. Certain songs made me cry as I tried to move on with my life with another woman. That, too, ended in a failure. Yet, she remains my only child.

So upon waking up yesterday and having visited my Post Office Box on Saturday, I decided to check my mail here at the apartment complex where I live. I had just finished streaming Calvary Chapel where “Dr. Bob” of Sheridan House in Hollywood, FL, a place for single parent women to get on the right track, was talking about “second chances” and making them count. In my mailbox was a large postal envelope with another envelope inside it, which had a beautifully worded card inside. It was the coolest, smoothest most touching card I have received in my life – it was a Father’s Day card from my little “Squeezy” aka Ayanna Lynne … I sat there for moments which turned into maybe a half hour … just looking at the card and re-reading it. I was grateful that one of my earliest relationships in my young adult life was not lost …

There were many who sent me Father’s Day wishes as well as many whom I sent them on to. It was a nice day … rather warm and humid outside … so I hunkered down inside and had a very spiritual Father’s Day alone. My sister had called me like at 8am asking me how I was, why I wasn’t up yet, and if I had heard from my daughter. I told her it was only 8am and I was still in bed and hadn’t heard from her …

Well, sometimes some things are just right …. not too cold … not too hot … but just right! Have a great week!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Father’s Day, Dudes!!!

Father's Day 2013Happy Friday, All!

And a one, a two .. a one, two, three, four …. T.G.I.F.!!! Yes, sir! We’ve got another weekend to enjoy … and it’s Father’s Day on Sunday! Hip … hip … hooray! Of course, I think of my father – Isaac H. Cook – whose stories were much like a chat with “Jesus”. Yet, like me … “he ain’t no saint!”. But he was … and is … and will always be … my Dad, RIP Dude! We’ve all got father’s stories … some of them good … others may not be so good. While being a father means a lot more than biological reproduction, for me, it has come in the form of being a “father figure” to others. Peace be still!

Now, I have quite a few friends who also brag on their husbands being good dads, and also quite a few friends themselves … who are good dads …. If I start to name them, I might leave somebody out … and we don’t want to do that! My relationship with my Dad was a bit distant. Yet, in his “few words” self, I knew he loved me. He first told me when I got a scholarship to attend St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH for my high school years … “Just go … ask questions later!” Furthermore, on “Family Day” at SPS, when I played football under my athletic “father” for three years, Coach Maurice Blake, he and my mother showed up in the stands during the game and surprised me! Then, when I wanted to drop out of Princeton to play in a band, he merely asked me: “Where are you gonna live when you drop out?” I took the hint that he wanted me to stay. Since they themselves, both mom and dad, who never finished high school, didn’t know the world I was entering, they took me to visit a guy who was the family doctor … just to talk. It worked! They both were at my graduation from Princeton University!

I was so happy that they never gave up on me … yes, yes … peace be still! As for me, I have one daughter, Ayanna Lynne, whom after a rough and rocky marriage with her mom and an ultimate divorce … kind of gave up on me … So, over the past few years, we have been able to restart our relationship, though the last fun time I remember was when she and I came to Orlando to visit Disney … and had a great time!! (I wipe back the one or two tears I have left as I write this …) So … um … to all my friends and associates, like Larry T. Woody, and, a former student who has impressed me with his love of fatherhood with his kids, Mr. P.j. O’Hanlon, even Peter A. Zachary (RIP), I wish you all a wonderful and Happy Father’s Day, Dudes! And a special shout out to those women who play the role of father in their children’s lives! Y’all ROCK “hard”!

“A father is a thousand schoolmasters.” – Louis Nizer

I will make peace with my father in my mind, and his strength and that of his father will be a well-spring in my life.
(Excerpt from “TOUCHSTONES”, June 16th)

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Feeling Full

feeling fullHappy Hump Day, All!

Yes, it is Wednesday … middle of the week … also known as “Hump Day”, similar to the hump on the camel’s back! There is a GEICO commercial that has a camel walking around an office asking everybody what day it is … on Wednesday! Not only does the camel talk … he’s got the coolest voice! So, have a great Hump Day … ya hear?!

How do you feel when you are “full”? You may already be thinking that I am talking about with food, right?! It is usually uncomfortable to over eat … or … eat until you are full. Well, I want to flip the script a little here and talk about being full of “life”, perhaps, spirituality. How might that feel? It should feel good … at least, that’s how I feel. Now, it may be different than being full of “things” like food … or money … or power … even success! In fact, that’s when we call a person “successful”! That’s cool, right?!

Well, here of late, I have been feeling full in a spiritual way. I’ve got a lot “on my plate”, so to speak, just handling “life on life’s terms”. My bank account is not full, nor is my refrigerator! My closet is full of clothes, though I haven’t purchased much lately, given my budget and responsibilities. But I feel good … inside! I know that I am doing my best, and I make fewer “mistakes” as I continue to grow spiritually. There is indeed a correlation between the two … for me. Now, life happens to each of us, make no mistake about that. And, bad things happen to good people, too! Consider the story of Jesus … and maybe some people you may know. The more I live, the more I learn that it is not so much what happens to you … or me … it is how we handle it that counts!

Feeling spiritually full for me means I am full of peace, of love … of compassion … even comradery. I want to be a positive influence in my own life … and others that I come in contact with. I want to shine my tiny light on their life and let others know that there is such a thing as being “spiritually full”. So, no matter what happens, we can handle it in a peaceful spiritual way! So be it!

Have a great day!


John I. Cook, Director

“Don’t Do That?”

Don't do thatHappy Monday, All!

Can you say, “Top o’ the mornin’!”, with me?! Just keeping things lighthearted for the introduction today. Happy Birthday to Maurice Sendak, illustrator and writer of children’s books. Thanks for leaving a wonderful legacy for us to enjoy! How were your weekends? I am hoping that “The Great Spirit” found each of us well. Saturday was a day of remembrance for my good friend, Peter Zachary (RIP), as I visited one of our regular hang outs in Ft. Lauderdale on the beach called Drunken Taco. We all, including his wife and his son, his sisters and any combination of friends, used to go there to watch whatever sporting event that was being aired. From the inside of the restaurant/bar, one has a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic Ocean, which was absolutely scrumptious on Saturday afternoon! As I said, it was a day of remembrance for me … just going by and having a ginger ale with my good friends that work there – “C.J.”, Alayna and Ryan – and chatting a bit about “Me and Petey”! It was upliftingly cool!

Well, we are entering the week of jury selection for probably one of the most heinous modern day crimes committed here in Florida, though there are many … peace be still. Trayvon Martin’s death now is a little over a year. Each time I hear about it, it leaves me a bit nauseas to think that something so simple went so far out of control. I mean, when I was a child … and someone said, “Don’t do that!”, it was clearly a strong message being sent that something I was doing was wrong and was going to cause a problem. So, how am I to consider that George Zimmerman didn’t have an ulterior motive in ignoring the “911” operator’s request for him: “Are you following him?” Zimmerman answered, “Yeah”. “Okay, we don’t need you to do that!” Why … I repeat … WHY did Zimmerman continue to follow Trayvon, who carried ONLY Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea in his hands? According to Zimmerman, when he first called “911”, he said: “I don’t know … he’s got something in his hands … I don’t know what it is … but this guy is up to something.” How often do we say what someone ELSE is “up to” or doing when it is really US who is up to something?! How many times when you were told … as a CHILD … NOT to do something, did we do it anyway? Any repercussions?

So, now, the defense is trying to say that it was Zimmerman calling … no … screaming like a wild animal … for help!? Why would a man who is carrying a concealed 9mm weapon who was TOLD not to follow someone else be screaming for help?! I mean, how much of this charade is the legal system willing to entertain on the part of this psychopathic, racial profiling, child killing cowardly liar? The Chief of Police there in Sanford, FL stepped down shortly after the situation was exposed that Zimmerman was released with NO CHARGES after Trayvon’s body was taken into custody … and Zimmerman claimed he was, “standing his ground”. American people are sending money to Zimmerman’s lawyers for legal fees after he kills an unarmed teen. Yet, some American people want to see justice done for the “Movie Massacre” assailant as well as the “Sandy Hook Massacre”.

While jury selection begins today, I hope and pray that the doors of “truth” get thrown open on this case. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if my own teen-aged child went to the store for snacks … and never came back! How about you?


John I. Cook, Director

No Shortcuts in Life!!!

shortcuts to lifeHappy Friday, All!

As is in order today, the last day of the workweek … for me anyways, T.G.I.F.! I am hoping your weeks have been productive for each of you as a person as well. Now, some of us may not be able to distinguish between our “work” selves and our “personal/spiritual” selves, if you will. It is one of those phenomena that we who live in a work-oriented, “what do you have”, very status driven society often come face to face with. A “true” and healthy life should involve one being able to balance family and friends, work and enjoyment, social and private lives … all together! You think? Sounds pretty challenging, and, in fact, it is!

Most of us spend our lives seeking “success”. How would you define success? May we not forget the many “successful” people who have wanted to take their lives, like 15 year old Paris Jackson (Michael Jackson’s “daughter”). Of course, many of us are familiar with “successful” people who have taken their lives … juxtaposed with the many “successful” people who had to work hard to get to where they are (or were) in life who have NOT tried to kill themselves! I am sure there are many! Is there a shortcut to success … or life even? Here in Florida, Zephyr Hills to be exact, an 84 year old woman recently won the lotto with a “Quick Pick” ticket that she got after another woman let her in front of her in the lotto line at a Publix Supermarket there. It is the second largest winning jackpot in the history of the Lotto Game – a little under half a billion dollars after taxes! What makes a person’s life “successful”? Is there a universal definition? I think not! Defining oneself … as well as defining ones own idea of success … and having those two be as close to each other as possible, might be a good way to handle achieving success!

As a kid growing up in a somewhat suburban/rural city of White Plains, NY, we walked to school – yes, elementary for a few years until bussed, then “junior high school” (now middle school) – and often sought “shortcuts” through someone’s yard, or a field … or a few streets to make our journey shorter. Are there any shortcuts in life? How about a shortcut to a “successful” life? Just something to think about, as I have on many occasions … sometimes daily.

“A shortcut is often the quickest way to some place you weren’t going.” – Classic Crossword Puzzles

Have a wonderful weekend, folks, and be leery of those seeming “shortcuts”!


John I. Cook, Director

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