A Tribute To Greatness! Maya Angelou!!!

Maya Honor

Happy Friday, All!

Yes, don’t worry … you can say it if you feel it … T.G.I.F.!

Seems change is all around me … it’s about to “get” me, too! Over the past two or three weeks, I have had to handle making some needed changes in my life, professionally and personally. And I am good with that. There are more lessons for me to learn and the changes that loom ahead are there for a reason. A couple of days ago when I got home from working a full day and then tutoring a student in Weston and finally getting home around 10pm, I realized how tired I was and fell fast asleep in a short time. Now, trust me, I look around as I go through this place and I see people who work harder than me and seem to keep on going … on and on and on and on. Yet, I know that they, too, have their moments when they have to slow down, rest, recharge even! I am not blowing my own horn, I am just sharing it with you all … that’s what I do! Thanks for putting up with me … I keep such words in my heart … “Still … I rise!” from Maya Angelou’s poem.

Just yesterday, I had multiple occasions to say the Serenity Prayer and the 23rd Psalm just to calm myself down. I had started a position at a new office and had to give up my volunteer work at the non-profit during the day as my unemployment compensation ran out! Cool. I am good with that! I am always looking for work. I had to adjust one client’s schedule that I tutor and the family was flexible with me, especially since they will be moving to South Carolina in July or August because the father’s job is relocating him and his family. After the class I tutored Wednesday night in Miramar, I came out and my vehicle didn’t turn over … didn’t start … didn’t even click!!! The lights worked well, the horn blew loud and even the radio worked … but it wouldn’t turn over. I had to call GEICO with whom I have a great roadside/tow plan that costs nothing if taken to an affiliate of the insurance company, try to get jumped – that failed; had to call a tow truck who also tried to jump the vehicle and finally towed it to the other side of Broward County where I live … to a Firestone in Lauderhill. A good friend, Burke, met me there as the tow truck driver (whom I found out grew up in Dobbs Ferry, NY) dropped me and the car off. Firestone did not have the equipment to diagnose the problem so I had the vehicle towed to a Hungarian mechanic I met through Burke. Some cool “new” co-workers picked me up Thursday morning and another dropped me off home after taking me to Publix Supermarket! “Still … I rise!” I had nearly teared up when my client in Miramar had mentioned to me that Maya had passed away … expired.

The whole time I had to walk alone while waiting for the two different companies that GEICO had sent out to help me, I thought of Maya, her poems, her life, her contributions to humanity! What a beautiful person who went everywhere and did everything and was honored by everybody … from the youngest school child to the POTUS!!! I enjoy Maya’s life because I am always hearing or reading about something else she did, someplace “new” that she went, how she appeared at still another location … but made it home in time there in Winston-Salem, NC to go and meet her “Maker”! In many of her pictures, it seemed that she was tired … she had a very “mixed emotion” face when the POTUS gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 … “Oh Happy Day”! Her life encompassed generations (she and my mother are contemporaries, though on different levels, if you will …) and her interests took her way beyond many a human being … from the likes of the greatest athlete or rap mogul to the wealthiest of billionaires on the face of the Earth … and she “knew why the caged bird sings ….”.

I’ve done my best … I tried to keep it simple … This is a true tribute to greatness … the life and times of Maya Angelou!! Thank you, Maya …


John I. Cook

” . . . and Another Slips Through The Cracks!”

elliot rogers

It’s Hump Day again, y’all!

How’s it going for “youse”!? Hopefully, you all don’t mind if and when I get a little silly … ’cause there is something heavy on my heart. And … NO … I am not in love again!

For me, it is amazing how people forget things … things that they themselves did to someone in the past! Then, they forget what the terms were of an agreement simply because they may have had ulterior motives in “lending a hand”. Finally, “they” just show out … trying to get all the attention and apparent self-worth that they missed understanding in the first place, as well as all the attention they are craving! What causes this syndrome? Is it society’s fault that some individuals find their self worth in the suffering of others?! Is that NOT abnormal?! How many people thought that Memorial Day was all about them … where they went, what they wore, how far they went and who they saw?! If you took a survey, there were many people who got wrapped up in themselves on Memorial Day and forgot about the women and men who help to keep this “way of life” safe and secure – The Armed Forces. Now, of course, this is a “free” society based on the concept of “freedoms”. But do we take these “freedoms” too far sometimes, wearing what we want, saying what we feel like without thinking, hurting others so one feels better about themselves?

Elliot Rogers had no reason to kill people … his peers … at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He had everything … THINGS!!! But he had no spirit, no conscience … few values, if any, left in his mind to entertain. He said he was hurt, rejected, made fun of, joked about, ignored … and still a virgin!!!! Is THIS what this deadly massacre was all about?!? Not getting or having sex?!? In looking at Elliot’s photos, I noticed a handsome young man with a nice BMW and some cool shades … and a father who is a very successful movie producer!! That, right there, is enough of a “chic magnet” to get girls to come around him. But, there must have been something missing inside – self esteem, perhaps … self respect … self love even! Where did Elliot lose sight of his future? Was it when … complaining through out the video … he witnessed a couple kissing on a park bench near the Pacific Ocean … that he claims “interrupted his beautiful scenic view” of the ocean?!?

Not only was this young man troubled as evidenced by his posting of various videos on YouTube in which he threatened to ” … kill every sorority girl, spoiled and stuck up sluts … ” that he could find in that house. And his mother called the authorities once again upon receiving his over 100 paged “manifesto”. I mean, the mother had called “them” before … and “they” let the ball drop after deciding that his behavior was NOT enough to worry about him committing any violence though he clearly stated it in the videos. So “they” allowed all of this to happen, while his divorced parents got together again to try to save the troubled youth’s life!!! How do you think they felt? How do you think his MOTHER felt, knowing that she had tried to warn them over and over as he sought professional help for 10 years!!! Why didn’t “they” admit him to a psychiatric hospital? Was it because of his father’s image in society as a successful film maker?! … or WHAT?! Elliot almost carried out his “sick” dream, though the girls were taking proper precautions and did not open their door at the sorority house. Still, one innocent young man’s life was claimed in front of a delicatessen where people ran and huddled, hiding in the aisles as gunfire erupted over and over outside! The young man’s father sought to blame “the government” for his son’s death … not those other “folks” that I referred to as “they” earlier …. you know, the ones whom Elliot’s mother contacted when threats of violence seemed to escalate from her son. The “child” was crying out for help … peace be still!

Hard to have a Happy Hump Day on this note, but me and Educational Excellence seek to continue to profess in a loud yet peaceful voice … “STOP the Violence” … please!


John I. Cook

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!!!

urban beach

Happy Friday, All! I am not going to hesitate to T.G.I.F.!!! I have my reasons! What about you?!

Big Big Weekend coming up across these “United States of America”! Wow!!! When I take a few steps back and look at what’s going on in so many areas, I am in awe at how people choose to live! Clearly, the adventure spirit captures my attention … skydivers or paratroopers … science and holistic living … these kind of things keep me interested nowadays. I embrace spirituality … the acknowledgement of it and my personal efforts to develop my own … and seek to explore as much as possible and share … for me! “Know Thyself!” is an important motto of Educational Excellence. Now I know some of you read these e-mails often and others send a response from time to time. I appreciate this. It is the “little things” today that show me what to value in my life! A balanced humility and love of life is also a requirement for me. I feel more comfortable when these elements exist in my life as I meet and mix with others.

Okay, okay … enough philosophy … or my attempt at it! This weekend is going to be a serious “Beach Bash” in Miami Beach. I mean, if I am not mistaken, it is “Urban Weekend” as well as Memorial Day Weekend so … I think it is going to be a big party … a lot of parties … more celebrations … and lots of festivities honoring this nation’s military – both past and present … perhaps even the future. I mean, I know we are “going nuts” on each other in the country … honestly we are! But there is still remaining perhaps remnants of the security of celebratory events, national events like this weekend, but it seems that we as a nation take many precautions nowadays. I asked one of my students that I tutor to research how many death threats were received by President Obama since he has been in office! He was astounded by the large number! I heard of a story of an actor … honestly his name escapes me … a “brother” who has been rather successful appearing on sitcoms and movies … gosh! What is his name??? Anyway, he (ah! got it now!) … Michael Jace … was purportedly arguing with his wife regarding finances when he shot her in their LA home!!! I mean if a “quasi-high roller” like this guy get’s so bummed out over having filed for bankruptcy a few years ago and was still working in the acting field, why would he shoot and kill his wife?!

One thing I have noticed is that Miami has lessened the use of the term “Urban Beach Weekend” and begun to use “Miami Beach Bash” more, me thinks, to eliminate (or reduce!) the aura of this being “just a black or urban thang” so we don’t forget the true meaning behind Memorial Day. As for me, I will be around town, it is one of the best places that I know of, and hang at the beach when I can find parking in Fort Lauderdale, and … dance a little when I can this weekend at the clubs here, too. Yet, may we not forget the reason that we in the USA still have a “land” where we can celebrate because of the protection that our military forces continue to provide … “Let freedom ring!”


John I. Cook
Educational Excellence

“Footprints . . . .”

I carried you

Happy Hump Day, All!

At least, it is Wednesday …. What day is it?! It’s Hump Daaay! That GEICO commercial with the talking camel surely did it for a lot of us!!

Well, yesterday was my mother’s birthday … It is usually a tough day for me due to the fact that I miss having her counsel, warm thoughts and feelings toward me, and just knowing that she is “here”! She was always a special person … not only to me and our family … but to many other people. She was a Girl Scout Troop Leader, she worked with White Plains Child Day Care, she worked with Bethel Baptist Church’s (our family’s home church) Flower Club, she was a wife and mother, and … she still cleaned houses and served dinner parties for an established group of clients in Hartsdale, Scarsdale and White Plains, New York. These were just some of the things Marietta Dolores was involved in during her lifetime. One thing I grew up around, between her and my Dad’s example, was hard work … unselfish work, even.

So, I am going through another rough patch here … Feeling somewhat alone though I know there are many of us struggling with the employment – bills syndrome. I am reaching out, still putting one foot in front of the other, and oftentimes, feeling the sense of being carried by a “higher power”. So, after a day like yesterday, where I did some things from home … and … trying to stay focused on the good things in life, today, I get another notice in the mail about an outstanding ticket!!! Things have been tight, so … the ability to pay tickets has not been tangible!! I’ve got to figure this one out, too, and soon! It is one of those patches when I look for signs, clues, even messages in nearly everything I encounter in a day. I am hoping and praying, meditating … just saying … that things can be resolved in a timely fashion. Our society’s time waits for no one!!!

If you are feeling like you need a helping hand, a kind word or two, maybe just some peace, remember … as I must now … that during the toughest times, it was my Creator (coupled with It’s Angels) that carries me. Peace be with you.


John I. Cook, Director

Staying Focused!

Life never stops

Monday, Monday … you’ve come to greet us again!

Here’s to hoping each of you had a pleasant weekend. As Saturday was also Haitian Flag Day, and I have been working with a good Haitian friend who is a community organizer, I wanted to remind those of us who may have forgotten that tidbit of historical trivia, if you will. I also heard that May is “National Physical Fitness and Sports” Month as well as National Mental Health Awareness Month, National Stroke Awareness Month and finally, National Bike Month! So … pick one … any one … or perhaps a combination of them.

Mental health is such an important issue in our society today that seems to be controlled and regulated, if you will, by pharmaceutical drugs. Now don’t get me wrong here, for I am not qualified nor prepared to have a discussion regarding mental health; yet, I can comment on my own mental health and awareness. Along the journey, I have learned to be positive about my life and other’s lives as well, when possible. Trust me on this one, I have been with the best of the best, and, probably some of the poorest conditioned folks, too. I recall when working on my first book that the alternate title was going to be “The Best of Both Worlds”. But, I think that this idea is well captured in the title, “From the Projects to Princeton”. Yet, what I do want to witness and testify to, if you will, is the power of positive thinking!

Some days, I find myself staying focused on not giving up … it is not an option. Other days, I find myself staying focused on looking for options. As well, I find myself nearly every day staying focused on what I have going on now … in the present! There are opportunities for multiple distractions, and some of those, I utilize as often as possible. For example, most of the yoga classes I attend are populated with people whom I have developed a semblance of a spiritual relationship, since we practice together weekly. Now there are some “yogis” who are not exactly focusing on spirituality as they practice yoga but there are those looking for the physical healing that yoga offers as well.

“Change” is happening again, it is the only constant, and I’ve got to “go with the flow,” like water. I am indeed looking forward to a positive week. Right now, let’s just start with Monday! Stay focused. Are you with me!?


John I. Cook
Educational Excellence

“911 Memorial” Dedication

911 Obama

Happy Friday, y’all!

I can’t do anything else today except T.G.I.F.!!! What about you? What a week!!

Thursday, yesterday, the moment that many of us, especially New Yorkers, have been waiting for arrived. It was the dedication ceremony for the “911 Memorial and Museum” in New York City in the exact same spot that the Twin Towers once stood. It also demonstrates that terrorism doesn’t ruin the spirit of Americans to regroup and rebuild … and remember. I believe one of the most solemn moments must have been when the woman, a “911 widow”, sang amazing grace.

It was uplifting to see people from all walks of life come together in memory of the thousands of innocent victims who lost their lives as well as the first responders, fire persons and police officers many of whom lost their lives trying to save those who were trapped in the two buildings there. It was also very good to see our president, Barack Obama, present for the ceremony.

Memories swirled in my head, it was my 25th Anniversary of graduation from Princeton University when me and my Romanian mate traveled to New York to rent a car and drive to Princeton. She had never seen New York City before and I had promised her that we would take some time before the Anniversary Celebrations of Class of ’76 were to begin on the campus to drive around the City with the Chrysler 300M we had rented at LaGuardia Airport. We went up near Bear Mountain and then headed South into NYC’s SoHo, Greenwich Village after visiting Park Ave and 42nd Street. Of course, she wanted to see the United Nations and The World Trade Center, and … we did! It was in June, four months before the devastation of the historic world landmark was to be staged by terrorists who had actually stayed, had eaten and “partied” in Hollywood, FL before boarding their plane to New York City at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. They had also previously attended a pilot training school here in Florida and had gotten some valuable experience and training to carry out their dastardly deeds. The memory stays alive for me as I have a photograph taken with a cross between the two Towers taken by a photographer who wanted to capture that particular image.

Condolences to the family members of those killed as well as who survived … and suffered with lung disorders and other physical ailments that have impaired their lives. May we all be grateful … and try to learn to live in peace!


John I. Cook, Director

“Are You Finished Talking Yet?!”

Stop Talking

Happy Hump Day, All!

“Can’t we all just get along?!?” Tall order for us intellectually superior humans, right? Or are we? Yes, all the other “animals” on the planet have a pecking order, a hierarchy, and some are very territorial species! Yes, but “those guys” don’t claim to be the most civilized creatures on the planet … we do! We can make rockets fly, can make cell phones into computers, manipulate the stock market … but some of us can’t seem to control the words that come out of our mouths!! We want to blame someone else.

This past Sunday, I was browsing sermons on television as I had a day “to my lonesome”, as my mother used to call it when she needed a break from us kids and the clients whose homes she used to clean. I saw a woman from a local church delivering a “Mother’s Day” sermon and her focus was “Instagram” society! She mentioned how terribly technical we have become to the point where our emotions are often controlled by external forces … like Instagram! Everybody wants answers and solutions instantly. We all seem to be clamouring for instant or immediate gratification. After all, wasn’t it the Instagram photo of “Magic” Johnson and Sterling’s purported “mistress”, which she denies, that caused the uncontrollable flowing of negativity from Sterling’s own mouth?! And when confronted by Anderson Cooper for a second interview says, “What has he done for the youth?! Yeah, well … I’ll say it … he’s great. But he has AIDS!” Then, he goes on further in his defense, “I don’t talk about people, I talk about ideas!” Something sounds confusing here because “Magic” Johnson is a person … not an idea. And Sterling has been talking about him more than why he said what he said and why he claims to have a mistress at 80 years of age while still married to a woman who “owns” 50% of the Los Angeles Clippers!

Magic said what I probably would have said on a “great day”: “Well, you know, I’ll pray for the man!” LeBron James and others are talking about boycotting games next year if the NBA can’t get this team, which contains “black people”, away from a man who asked his girlfriend, “Why do you have to make it a public issue that you associate with blacks? … Don’t bring them to my games!” Yet, on a day like today, after muttering a few other things about this character (and others like him!), I would be more inclined to say: “Are you finished talking yet?!”

Have a great day, All!


John I. Cook

The Real “MVP”!


Yes, yes, y’all … it’s Monday again! What a blessing, heh? I know so many folks from my home town that didn’t make it to see another Mother’s Day . . . Peace be still … So . . . just be grateful, you dig?!

Certain days of the year have a greater impact on me, for whatever reasons, than others. One such day is “Mother’s Day”! I don’t know if it is because without “motherhood”, the planet’s population would ultimately decline and cease. There seems to be a unique spiritual relationship between The Creator and mothers, though I don’t know of anyone who has elaborated on it yet. For me, its importance lies in the close relationship that I had with my mother. She was like the family moderator who quietly and in her own way, resolved family issues peacefully. A lot of her rubbed off on me, though I went through a “not so peaceful” stage in my life upon realizing certain inequalities and unfairness in our society’s institutions. In fact, I got angry for a while. Yet, my mother was always there in those critical moments when I suppose I needed her support more than anything else in the world. She was there . . .

For me, a top story that caught many people’s hearts was the one of Kevin Durant, professional basketball player for the Oklahoma Thunder. Upon receiving the cherished and hard fought for MVP Award for the NBA in 2014, he delivered a speech honoring no one else other than his mother. It was so beautifully spoken, sincerely said, and eloquently delivered by a “boy to his Momma” that the whole world may have taken notice of it. He mentioned how she, a single mother, raised him and his siblings with near to nothing to eat some days and nights, no furniture in their apartment on some occasions, and continued to support him in his quest to become a very valuable National Basketball Association player!! I recall stories of mornings when he said that she would wake him up at 6am as he had requested so that he could go to the neighborhood court and practice shooting and dribbling. It seemed that he was destined for basketball greatness. The speech was impeccable!

When LeBron James weighed in on the NBA’s decision to name Kevin Durant as the Most Valuable Player for the NBA’s 2014 season, he was more than supportive. Besides, LeBron also comes from a female headed single parent family as well!!! So, he knows the deal. For me, to see a grown man shed tears and deliver a heart-felt speech upon his receiving the MVP title and to say that, “Mom, for all the work you did to get me here, you are the real MVP!”, is myth shattering. Then, for the same man to come out on Mother’s Day and play a spectacular game, banging and slamming into other men to get that orange ball into a small hoop, is also eye-opening! So proud of Kevin, his mother, LeBron … and all of the men who were bright enough to use the NBA to take care of their families, improve their own lives, and give so generously back to their own communities!

Have a great Monday and please … count those blessings and use them to your advantage … and the world’s advantage.


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Mother’s Day, Ladies!

HMD 2014

It’s Friday, y’all!

So … T.G.I.F.! I’ve just got to say it today. What a week, heh?! Several people weighed in on the “Donald Sterling” caper including friend, baseball’s famed coach, Tommy La Sorda, and even a comment came in from Michael Jordan, one of basketball’s finest players ever. LaSorda simply stated that he felt that Sterling was wrong, was involved in some bad things and said too much in trying to handle his relationship with his assistant. He also added, “And the girl, I don’t wish anything bad on anyone but I hope she gets hit by a car!” Michael Jordan’s comment coming from a very successful African American man may be a bit more candid …. understandable even. He said: “I was a racist, too. Growing up in North Carolina, I didn’t like white people. It wasn’t until I got older that I stopped being racist.”

Well, it is Mother’s Day Weekend 2014! It is a wonderful time of year, though mothers are mothers everyday of the year! Perhaps, some might even say, “Every day should be Mother’s Day!” I have fond memories of my mother, the kind that bring tears to a grown man’s eyes … I still have her powder blue blanket that she kept on HER bed until she expired. I have her walking cane that was handmade in China sitting in one corner of my bedroom. Above the cane sits a lithographed framed piece of work of the Dead Sea, which she acquired on her trip to Israel. On my night stand sits a picture of my mother, my father and my daughter, Ayanna, when she was just a tot! Then, on the other side of the bed where I have a long slender table with a sound system and candle on it, there is a photograph of my mother, Marietta Dolores, in front of an antique Ford which had been reconditioned by the father of close family friends – the Hipps. She was alone and appearing rather serene in that photograph.

Memories of Mom go on and on … I intentionally saved things like candy bowls, a glass poodle that she used to have, even a crystal swan that she used to put pistachio nuts in when we had guests over to visit our humble home there in the Winbrook Projects. There are so many life saving memories of her for me that I have to sit back, teary eyed often, just giving thanks and saying the “Serenity Prayer” and the 23rd Psalm, which she taught me to say in quieting my own soul and spirit. Just last weekend, a former student of mine, Andre Hunter, had posted some pictures of he and his mother at her first New York Yankee’s baseball game as she was wheeled out on a comfy stretcher, brought to the stadium and wheeled in just behind home plate! What a kind, memorable and honorable way to acknowledge ones love for their mother.

Whatever you do, do something special for your mother while she is here. Of my many friends who are mothers, including Angela Monsaive and Kathleen Harris, Chrissie Poulakis (former co-worker’s baby’s momma of twins – Madison and Makela) I want to wish each and every mother a very “Happy Mother’s Day”! A special shout out to those men who have played and continue to play the “mother role” with their offspring, as well as Robert “Bobby” Schulman for getting a plaque placed on my mother’s grave last year. Kudos, gentlemen!

Peace be with you,

John I. Cook, Director

Easy Does It!

Easy Does It

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

It seems it was just yesterday when I last said this … Or, maybe it was Happy Friday from last week! How’s your week going? I hope yours is well. I had a tough week last week after an incredible interview with an international company to work in educational sales. Well, it seemed that they were very interested in me, did not ask permission to do a background check, but rescinded the offer the very next day! When I asked why they didn’t want to hire me, I was told by a recruiter, “You don’t have enough sales background.” That was my clue that they had actually done a background check and found some skeletons from several years back … over 10 years, in fact. I have worked in sales for the past 5 years! One kind of gets tired of being reminded and reduced to something of ones past … distant past even … and that behaviour no longer is present in ones life!!

I had to return to my “program” lessons, which I use and apply most days anyway. “Easy does it!” … Keep it simple, stupid! (KISS) … “Let go and let God” … and The Serenity Prayer are amongst my favorites. For me, it is nearly therapeutic to share my life’s experiences with you all. Some of the readers seem to look forward to these messages, and others even reply. Yet, with my occasional typographic errors and all, you guys continue to support me in my efforts to spread good feelings. I could’ve used a few last week but managed to make it without any self destructive thoughts or actions, better yet. Between the wonderful yoga classes and class mates, thoughts of “What Would Mom Do?”, chatting with some good friends, swimming in the ocean and “keeping it simple,” the situation was handled with care!

So much going on in the world today, in our country … with acrobats escaping near death in Providence at the Ringling Brothers Circus, … and abroad with hundreds of women … girls from a school … kidnapped in Nigeria by purported Al Queda linked groups. What more can go wrong?! Oooops! I’d better not ask. Well, whenever something hits you hard, and it hurts a bit, be aware of your spiritual tools … and use them. Thanks for reading.

Peace and Love,

John I. Cook, Director

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