Reflections . . .

ReflectionsIt’s Monday … Yes, it is! Can you make it a happy one? I am certainly going to give it my all today!

Handling the tasks of “every day life” can wear one down a bit. There comes a time in everyone’s life in which we need to renew our efforts, re-state our goals, and evaluate our progress. After all, this is the only life, I imagine, that we have to live like this. Human kind has evolved in so many different ways. Yet, the illusions that “life” creates are often beyond our control. This is why for me, it is important to take time, each day if possible, to reflect on my life. We may be more fortunate than we think we are!

I happen to enjoy a program called “60 Minutes” each Sunday evening. I usually tune in unless there is something else more pressing, like an NBA basketball game or The Super Bowl … maybe even a good tennis match with Serena Williams or Rafa Nadal! So last night I tuned in to a segment I had written about a few weeks ago after the DC Naval Yard shooting had occurred. It focused on a psychiatrist discussing the challenges of mental health issues that many Americans face, both individually and, as a society. Clearly, we don’t hear so much about events like this happening in other places …. not because they don’t happen, but the stories have not reached international media. Yet, it seems that here within our borders, there is an epidemic of folks “slipping through the cracks”, be it in law enforcement’s hands or the psychiatric evaluation of these individuals. How do people get past problematic “background checks” to get a job, then a hand gun or assault rifle, and check into a local hotel …. nearly undetected? Last night’s segment of “60 Minutes” talked about our need as a nation to address this issue a.s.a.p.

The other tidbits of news on the program focused on America’s involvement in Iran in limiting their development of nuclear weapons and in Syria regarding eliminating the government’s purported use of chemical weapons. Next, of course, is the US Government’s potential “shut down” so that Republicans can take another cheap shot at Obamacare!!! Do you see the illusions created yet? Does it have to be like this? It is easy to take a look at “world affairs” to see where they could be improved and, forget our day to day situations that undoubtedly we all face. Can we afford to get wrapped up in the illusions created by “human kind” and neglect our own personal mental, psychological and emotional health? Where does that leave our spirituality, should you agree that there is such a thing. On this last day of September with the school years already started nearly everywhere on the Earth, may we reflect on our roles, identifying our purpose, keeping in mind our limitations as well as our desires to live a great life and not be caught up in so many of the illusions. I continue to advocate “Stop The Violence” as has also been seen as a critical element in our modern day world – with school kids and adults who run countries alike!

Be well … enjoy your day, and get a great start to a new week. Reflect along the way to see how we each may contribute to a peaceful planet.


John I. Cook, Director

What’s On Your Mind?

images (1)Happy Friday, All!!

Yes, yes, and a T.G.I.F. to each of you, too! What a week, heh?! It seems that people of today are not able to communicate the things that are dearest and nearest to their hearts. Simple things like, “I’m lonely” or, “I love you!” Perhaps, even, “I need help!” In our fast paced society and nearly the whole world today, many of us get “lost” and become just a number or a name, if we are lucky. Sometimes, we want others to “fashion our dreams” or the dreams we have seem so far fetched and challenging …. So we try something else for attention … perhaps!

Looking back at the Navy Yard shooter, Alexis, authorities are finding places where someone, perhaps several someones, dropped the ball, so to speak. Over and over it seems, he was virtually “crying out for help”. Why didn’t anyone pay attention to “the voices” he heard in his hotel room before he came to Washington, D.C.? Because THEY didn’t hear voices, he couldn’t possibly hear them, I am sure is what “they” thought! How about George Zimmerman? Now, his wife is saying that she really didn’t know the man she was married to for 7 years. She claims that George taunted she and her father, trying to get them to come closer while he had his hand in his shirt!!! Do you think he could have taunted Trayvon Martin, too? Obviously, I do not want to rehash all of this because the damage has been done. Yet, when will we learn to pay attention to each other and observe when someone might need a helping spiritual hand?!

Far too often, some of us think we are too important to help someone else or pay attention to them. We live in a “what can you do for me” world, and, if someone can’t help US, we don’t want to deal with them. Now, of course, that is not EVERYBODY’S take on life, but it seems that that is what is taught and respected … it’s the way you “get ahead”, as people say. Now, I am not the brightest bulb in the box but I think I am pretty darn observant and can tell if someone is worried about something. Not only that, I actually CARE about what is on someone else’s mind … Peace be still! Can we actually be more of a world community than what we have been? Could we pay attention to our friends, co-workers, neighbors and even “strangers”, like Dr. Oz and an observer did in NYC a few weeks back when a taxi cab “drilled” a tourist/visitor who was eating a hot dog on a City bench? She says, if they hadn’t helped her, she would have bled to death!!!

Keep an eye out for each other, folks! It makes the journey a lot more meaningful to many of us! Have a great weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

Gratitude is the Proper Attitude!

gratitudeHappy Hump Day!

Now, I am grateful today for various reasons. The first one is the simple fact that many of you are reading my posts and e-mails. I started this organization over 8 years ago in an attempt to provide support for some of the students I had worked with at an intensive English language institute as well as students at a career college where I had worked as well. I used to assist them in developing presentations and projects for their classes and careers, as well as a private tutor. Soon, it blossomed into an organization that also focuses on the spiritual components of life.

Nairobi, Kenya has been the site of a horrific terrorist attack that seemed to have lasted several days! Yet, it appears that the group that launched the attack wanted to harm non-Muslims. Hmmmm …. after The International Day of Peace was held on the 21st of September, which was this past Saturday, then some fellow humans decide it is time to take innocent lives in a mall in a large African city … supposedly because they are not Muslims!! I don’t get it … I wonder what makes that type of behavior an option. Some “Americans” were speculated to have been a part of the terrorist group, though today reports have it that 5 of them are dead and 11 are in custody. The Mall has been taken control of by the City officials and law enforcement.

Just being grateful is something that we do from time to time. When times are good, be grateful! When times and situations are more difficult than we imagined, though it may not be so easy, be grateful. Count it all joy!! Learn from our mistakes and share the knowledge we gain from challenging situations with others who may need it. I conclude, gratitude is the correct attitude!

Have a great Hump Day!


John I. Cook, Director

Autumn Breezes

autumn 2013Happy Monday, All!

Can we feel the blessings of change all around us? Have you ever wondered how creative and in tune with nature the Amerinds or Native Americans must have been to continue their culture until being “changed” by the arrival of Europeans? It was just a week or so ago that I was in my hometown of White Plains, NY waking up to the crisp chill caused by the changing of the season. Now, here in South Florida, such changes are much less obvious, though there is a change, too. Temperatures don’t drop as much but I often look forward to the evenings when I can open my windows and fall asleep comfortably. This is “Nature’s” way of reminding us that there are some things that we humans do NOT control – the changing of the seasons.

This past weekend was quite exceptional for me personally, though it didn’t “top”, so to speak, our impromptu reunion at my mother’s gravesite on the 14th of September, 2013. I am still in awe of how smoothly things went. Yet, this weekend, starting with Friday past, the Brahma Kumaris held an artist day of peace at Gallery 2014 on Harrison Street in Hollywood, FL. Our speaker was exceptional and the art work we witnessed with the theme of “peace” to highlight the acknowledgment of the International Day of Peace on Saturday, September 14th, 2013 was also quite thought provoking. Om shanti to Sister Veronica and the BK Florida as well as Gallery 2014.

Saturday evening was the Red Gala fundraising event of the Urban League of Broward County called “The Love Boat”. Everything at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center in and around the Floridian Ballroom embraced the theme of sailing on a ship! “Ahoy, me mates!” In addition to Sunshine Health, who donated somewhere in the area of 2 million dollars to the ULBC, there were many other sponsors and contributors. I had the pleasure of attending as I completed a “free lance” article for the and their efforts to include a Broward County “reporter” to cover events North of Miami. I had the pleasure of meeting Congressman Alcee Hastings who was awarded the Diversity Award by the group that had gathered there with the ULBC. Mr. Hastings is the first African American Federal Judge to hold office representing the State of Florida. In addition, two ladies of the Shirley Family whose father, Dr. Calvin Shirley – RIP, who is considered to be the first “black” doctor of Broward County who single-handedly tackled the problems facing Broward’s less affluent African American population, received the Humanitarian Award that evening! It was quite a Red Gala Event as everyone there, including Miami HEAT’S hometown “boy”, James Jones, enjoyed the ambiance, hors d’oeuvres, and a lavish sit down dinner. Tickets were $200, sponsorship began at $500 and numerous contributions and donations also came from a host of local sponsors who believe in the vision of the Urban League of Broward County, with their new location on 27th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

Are you feeling the “winds of change” in your life? May we never forget that change is indeed an integral part of the human experience, as well as the simple fact that we, too, are products of and subject to the call of Nature. Be well and embrace the change.


John I. Cook, Director

International Day of Peace

international day of peaceHappy Friday, All!

Yes, I’ve got to say it because I can . . . T.G.I.F.! Hopefully, I am not alone in my decree! One of the things I enjoyed most about being “a hippy” during my college years was that many of us talked about “peace”. Some of us practiced it, too. I can remember as far back as boarding school in New Hampshire at St. Paul’s that a friend, J.T. Howell, used to always talk to me about meditation. I wasn’t sure where he was going with it but it was my first exposure to intentionally thinking peace filled thoughts!

Over all of our lives, we encounter different movements and organizations. Sometimes, we can become enthralled in something a little off center … recalling some cult-like events and organizations like Sun Yung Moon and “Jones Town”. Still there were other groups more ethnically and socially oriented like the Black Panthers and the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army!). In my years living here in South Florida, I was exposed to a group called the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University. The person who invited me to their meetings is Marianne Weiss, who also works for the Miami Dade Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She was so kind, in fact, that she invited me to a meeting first of the Big Brothers Big Sisters administrative group. Then, I was offered an opportunity to be a part of one of their meetings at the Miami location of BK to give a talk and showcase my two books! Ever since then, I have met more and more members of the Florida Brahma Kumaris, including the director, Veronica McHugh. I am impressed with their quest for World Peace!

Saturday, September 21, 2013 has been designated as the International Day of Peace 2013. Today, Friday September 20, 2013, The Brahma Kumaris along with “Gallery 2014” in Hollywood, FL is sponsoring and presenting an opportunity for artists to display their “peace appropriate” art work for the general public to view at their location at 2014 Harrison Street, Hollywood, FL. In addition to the program format which starts at 6:30pm EST, there will be a meditation held at 7:30pm led by Sister Veronica, Florida Director of Brahma Kumaris. This is the same group that hosts meditation events every third Sunday at Hollywood’s Arts Park at Young Circle, also from 6pm to 7:30pm.

May we consider ourselves fortunate enough to be alive and relatively well today to be able to honor the International Day of Peace 2013.


John I. Cook, Director

“. . . This Above All, To Thine Own Self Be True!”

Love yourselfHappy Hump Day, All!

I’ve got to set conditions on this one today … if you are not amongst those who lost friends or family in the fatalities experienced at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC … you might have a better chance of being happy on Hump Day. I can spin things like this around in my head, but I just don’t get it!! How can so many people with mental illnesses slip through the “cracks” of security in our society and get an automatic weapon, enter a secure area and assemble the weapon and then kill multiple people?! I mean, on my job, everybody is watching somebody … just saying! The same kind of weapon was used at the movie theatre massacre out West, the same kind of weapon was used at Sandy Hook … how oh how can we be more concerned with being cruel to one another than locating these people and keep weapons out of their hands? Then, when it happens, “we” look for someone to blame!?

In many ways, Mr. Alexis was looking for help … Over and over and over, he slipped through yet another “social check-point”, so to speak, until this horrific event at the nation’s capitol! One of the ideas or self concepts I advocate here at Educational Excellence is “Know Thyself”. This also connects with the fact that as it is said in “Hamlet”, the Shakespearean play, ” … this above all, to thine own self be true!”. These are underpinnings of a “sane” person, if you will. Now, I am not negating the fact that some of us are more stably sane than others, and, some may need counseling and medication to assist in achieving and maintaining this balance. But it seems that somewhere along the line, a person like Alexis can get some help. If one of my friends told me they were hearing voices, I would make a “bee line” to get some help … and probably do all I can NOT to let him/her out of my sight!

I have been a part of a “12 Step Program” that gives medallions after each year of sobriety. It was customary to have the inscription, “To Thine Own Self Be True”, on one side of the medallion and on the other side, the number of years of sobriety was reflected. I recall this specifically on my fifth year medallion. I understand that there may be a fine line between respecting someone’s privacy and noticing bizarre behavior. I just can’t wrap my head around how yet another “troubled citizen” manages to get through so many people’s thoughts and jobs … yes and security … to inflict such damage on innocent people. Please keep in mind that a crazy person will seldom come up to someone and say, “Hey, I’m crazy!” But may we all be well aware that the people we may be closest to who exhibit boundless behavior from time to time, may need to become our focal points instead of badgering or holding in contempt others with whom we may not always agree.

Have a great Hump Day … and be aware!


John I. Cook, Director

Did I live, did I love, did I matter?

Live Love MatterHappy Monday, All!

Here’s another opportunity to get the week started, pursue some goals and make a difference. Yes, of course it’s Monday … not the end of the world … but the beginning of something NEW! In fact, it is another day in each of our lives, you dig?!

This past Saturday found me waking up early at 4am, getting a ride from my good friend Kevin Hall to the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to take a flight to White Plains, NY for an event planned by me and Robert Schulman. It was a plaque placing event though the actual passing of my mother was after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and the plaque was installed at the Kensico Cemetery some three to four weeks ago. The flight was great and upon landing, the familiar face of “Bobby” smiled warmly as I walked out of the aircraft and into the terminal.

The event was simply honoring my mother, Marietta Dolores Cook, and her life … and the many many lives she touched along her journey … and those she continues to touch! Peace be still! In my life, I have encountered many challenges, some self made, others prescribed for me by elements in our society. Through my mother’s love and support, I have managed to face ALL of the challenges and make my own mark, small as it may be, on our “world”. The “service” was held at Kensico Cemetery and amongst the guests were: Alan and Gail Landauer; Betty Landauer (95) and her granddaughter, Amy; Yvonne Burton; Joanne Spikes; Gordon Derouseau; Andrew Coggins; Ariel Schulman and his mother Claudia and his girlfriend, Haley; Edna Cook-Shine; Brandon Shine; Trent Beasley; Ayanna Belton; Robert Schulman; and, yours truly! (I really hope I didn’t forget anyone!!)  Oh yeah … Georgetta Kent was also there … she still lives in the same building I grew up in!!

We had an opportunity to remember and reflect on not only my mother’s life as she brought together people from different “walks” of life, including Ariel, Bobby’s son, who is executive producer for MTV’s new program “Catfish”, we also had an opportunity to say some “words” on how we knew “Mary” and interacted with her during her life. It was truly a blast! At the end of the festivity, I spoke on well known author, Brendon Burchard’s topic, “Did I live, did I love, did I matter?” Burchard is also the author of “The Charge” and “The Millionaire Messenger”. We each hugged one another as families and friends alike celebrated the placing of this plaque and our unity. It indeed was beautiful! Special thanks to Solveig Kirker for picking me up at the FTL/HLLYWD Airport upon my return yesterday to Ft. Lauderdale.

I was fortunate enough NOT to be alone too long as Steve Morgan who lives in St. Cloud, FL with his beautiful family visited me along with his two brothers, Dave and Paul, both from the Maryland/DC/Virginia area and we watched several football games at Drunken Taco before meandering to Beach Place of Ft. Lauderdale Beach! Thanks for visiting me guys and thanks for my salad, Paul!

Just remember to live each day of your life and charge yourself with being the best that you can be! Be well as we seek to live in peace and harmony, to love one another … and to matter to someone!


John I. Cook, Director

“Honor Thy Mother!”

Honor Thy MotherHappy Friday, All!

And if you all would oblige me in saying “T.G.I.F.! A very interesting week it has been, and, there is more to come. While the world watches our “leaders”, and I use that term loosely, we have also celebrated Rosh Hashanah, The 12th Anniversary of “9/11”, and now … on the same day of Yom Kippur, I will be in New York with some great friends and family members to honor my mother – Marietta Dolores Cook!

This event has been in the planning stages for several months ever since “Bobby” Schulman visited Fort Lauderdale and we got “caught up” on friends and family. His offer to facilitate the event, including the plaque and my air fare roundtrip, and giving me the reins to drive the event to its completion is greatly appreciated. My sister is in New York, White Plains to be exact, with my great nephew (her grandson) Trent and her son Brandon. Many other friends, including Georgetta Kent and her son Corey; Joanne and Yvonne as well as their brother Gordon Derouseau are planning to attend; and, my daughter, Ayanna Lynne will also be in attendance at the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla. Gail and Alan Landauer, who my mother used to work for, as well as their mother – Elizabeth “Betty” Landauer (one of my mother’s friends as well as client) who is 95 also plan to attend! We aren’t looking to shed tears, but share happiness!

In essence, the Kensico Cemetery has given us a tent or covering to hold a ceremony to honor the placing of the plaque for my mother. I am anticipating brief talks from my sister Edna; my friend who made this all possible, Robert Andrew Schulman aka “Bobby”; as well as a special heart-driven dedication from Mary’s “baby boy” – me!!

This Sunday, September 15th, 2013 at 6PM in Arts Park, Hollywood, FL, the Brahma Kumaris will be holding the monthly World Peace Meditation Event there in Young Circle off of Hollywood Blvd. May we all attempt to live in peace, and love … and harmony!


John I. Cook, Director

“We Will Never Forget You!”

twelfth nine elevenYes, it is “Hump Day” again …  quite a unique “Hump Day” at that. May we be grateful for our lives today!

Many of us were able to catch footage, if not witnessed the live events of the two planes that hit the Twin Towers in New York City. On September 11, 2001, a plot unfolded which many contend was master-minded by Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda, the leader of the terrorist group that seeks to attack any and everything that does not acknowledge the Jihad of Islam, if you will. So many innocent lives were lost, not only in the Twin Towers but also at the Pentagon as well as a plane crash caused because passengers foiled the attempt by jihadists on a third flight designated to hit buildings in Washington, DC. Their battle cry, “Let’s Roll”, still lives on in many of our hearts today.

Where were you? I was in the Media Center at City College of Fort Lauderdale after several students who had televisions set on the news channels that had gotten the report that two planes were heading for the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It did in fact, look like a movie! Yet, as the planes imploded the Towers there, one by one, and two other planes that extremist Muslim terrorists claiming links to Al Qaeda had hi-jacked, the entire world stood still. America had never been attacked in this fashion in our nation’s short history. Now, I do NOT want to take this message to begin the conversation on who was responsible and who knew … and why didn’t someone stop them. I would like to honor those who lost their lives in this horrific event which will be etched in American History as the “Terrorist Attack on 9/11”.

May we simply stop for a moment of silence to honor the dead … and remember them … as well as comfort for their families though it was 12 years ago …

Be well … never forget …. namaste!


John I. Cook, Director

“Beautiful People!”

Yes … it is Monday … all day, too!13194[1]

“How ya doin’?!”, as Wendy Williams, talk show host might say! As September begins it’s trek towards the official beginning of Fall, there is one big event for me … and a few others I know … celebrating a gift of a new bronze plaque for my mother’s grave. My mother, born on May 20th, 1917, Marietta Dolores Watkins, has always been a seriously bright light in my life. Now, I am sure, many of us have “mother stories” that are comparable if not more exciting than mine! You, too, should write about it.

She was born in a country farm in the area of what is now Lake City, FL. She had a brother, Jerry, and a sister, Drucilla, who were also the son and daughter of Sally Taylor. Not too much was ever mentioned of their father though family rumor has it that Sally held down their farm with the aid of my mother, her sister and brother and a few extended family members in the form of cousins, other aunts and uncles, as well. Fast forward to her meeting my father, Isaac Henry Cook, whom she dated and finally married after “Ike” had come to Harlem, NY with his brother David and his wife, my aunt Corlene …. may they ALL rest in peace.

She raised four children with my father after moving to the city of White Plains, NY sometime after the World War II. I am the youngest child of the four. Upon her passing after suffering a brain hemorrhage acquired from falling during the aftermath of lost electricity from Hurricane Wilma, we held two funerals – one in Fort Lauderdale, FL at Mount Olive Baptist Church and a week later, the other in White Plains, NY at her “home church”, Bethel Baptist Church, still located there adjacent to the Projects where I grew up. Unfortunately, a plaque for her grave had been “overlooked” and it wasn’t until two years later – 2007 – that I discovered there wasn’t anything demarcating or memorializing her gravesite there with a family plot that already housed my father’s grave, his mother’s grave, and my sister – Barbara Ann’s grave, which each have bronze plaques created in their memory.

When I mentioned the story to a friend from elementary school in White Plains (Ridgeway Elementary) where I was bussed as a result of the City of White Plains voluntarily desegregating the elementary school – Rochambeau – near the Winbrook Housing Complex aka “The Projects”, he decided to pitch in and lend a huge hand in procuring a plaque for my mother. His name is Robert Andrew Schulman. During our elementary school years, he, and another good friend who recently passed away – Peter Zachary, often visited the apartment complex that I lived in, as much as I visited their homes in the residential Ridgeway section of White Plains. What beautiful people! While many of us have our ups and downs, it is so nice when someone like “Bobby” visited our humble dwelling in the PJ’s and had gotten to know my mother.  It is particularly noteworthy when someone sees you struggling trying to do the right thing and comes to your aid! Thanks “Bobby”!

The plaque is in place and we are gathering this coming Saturday at 11am at the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY to hold a memorial service in honor of my mother and her new plaque. My daughter Ayanna, whom I haven’t seen since my mother’s funeral in New York nearly 8 years ago will be in attendance, as well as Alan and Gail Landauer – the family whom my mother worked as a “domestic engineer” for many many years as well as their mother, Betty Landauer (95 years of age!); hopefully Bobby’s two sons Nev and Ariel (producers of MTV’s “Catfish”) will be on hand to film; my sister Edna and her son Brandon, as well as her grandson (my great nephew) Trent; another long time personal and family friend, Gordon Derouseau, will also be in attendance. We welcome any additional guests!

I will be the host/emcee of the festivities, which I have planned in conjunction with “Bobby” to honor my mother, September 14, 2013, Yom Kippur on the Jewish Calendar, with a bunch of other “beautiful people”! May the Force be with us … Thank you!


John I. Cook, Director

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