Say Something Nice!

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

Yes, it is the middle of the week and the last day of May!!  How has it all been treating each of you?!?  How have you all been treating EACH OTHER?!?

The common phrase today, especially when something horrific happens, is “Life Goes On!”  Is it really that easy to pass off something that is not so good?  Have you lost a loved one lately?  Maybe a job … How about your home?  It is kind of hard to say, “Life goes on!” when one is homeless … no food … no clean clothing … no shelter … no income … or don’t you agree?!?  You don’t have to, of course.

I have just recently been embracing my retirement, challenges included, as I am still preparing to take an European trip to Barcelona for my birthday, saving every penny and budgeting like a “miser” … needless to say … and getting help from multiple unanticipated sources!  I like to travel … so, I embraced all of life’s challenges, still went to the gym and practiced yoga, working through my physical challenges of “bone on bone” discomfort in my hips as well as the issues with my prostate … so I can at LEAST treat myself to a trip to Barcelona!!  I want to visit a few more countries over a 2 to 3 month period of time and then figure out where I want to retire permanently.  I have even considered Ecuador, since I have been there before and am fluent in Spanish.  At the same time, I have a dear friend in Germany who will meet me in Barcelona once I arrive, if plans go well, around the 19th or 20th of July!  I still have that adventurous spirit although I am getting up in age.

Of course, there are folks who think, probably, that I am not going to achieve my goal(s), which is common in today’s world.  We call them “haters” or “naysayers”.  Yet, if I had ever played into their hands in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today … retired and receiving a modest pension, still able to teach English internationally and willing to take a chance, a risk to try something different!  Still, none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for dear friends and associates who have said and DONE so many kind things for me as they see me moving towards my goals in my early retirement.  One good friend’s daughter is even arranging an opportunity for me to procure round trip tickets to Barcelona at an incredible price!  I have good friends who are encouraging me to “follow my dreams”, saying nice things to me and even paving the way for me!  What is the lesson for me .. maybe even you, should you decide to accept it?  It is to be nice, say something nice and do something nice for others.

See what you can do with it!  Thanks for reading, too!  And, thanks for your continued support!


John I. Cook, Director

Take Care of Yourselves and Happy Memorial Day Weekend


Happy Friday, All!

I still do it … every chance I get … T.G.I.F.!  Thank God for everyday!!

Have you ever noticed how quickly things change?  We take our lives for granted … our health … our body parts … and each other!  Now, I have been guilty of these things in my life, and, as I get older, I find more things that I may have neglected with my health.  For example, I am having issues with hip discomfort and walking is a challenge sometimes.  I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory combined with a pain reliever.  My primary doctor gave me a referral to see an orthopedic surgeon who took x-rays and informed me that I had “bone on bone” in both hips!!  I was joking with a college friend on social media telling him that I had so much fun playing kickball, running track, playing football and basketball.  Yet, now, I am experiencing repercussions for all of that fun!  Diagnosis was: both hips need to be replaced!  Geesh!

Well, it is Memorial Day Weekend here in the good ole USA.  I have many many friends who served in the armed forces, both male and female, from all walks of life and of all ethnic groups!  This is one of the beauties of America … land of the free, home of the brave.  In spite of so much division that goes on in our society, biases and prejudices, shucks … even injustices, I want to take a moment on behalf of Educational Excellence to wish members of our armed forces a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.  I also want to thank them, both living and deceased, for making America a place where I could grow up in relative safety, peace and democracy.  Yes, I know that we have our shortcomings as a nation, some shortcomings are more serious than others.  Yet, I am grateful for those who served and are serving in our armed forces to keep us safe and able to enjoy the freedoms that we have like cook outs and barbecues, beaches and amusement parks … even safe roads to travel on each day!  The roads will be full this Memorial Day Weekend.  So, stay cool, look out for each other and enjoy another opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge our armed forces.  A special shout out to my former coach, and current friend who has shared many stories of his time serving this country during World War II, Mr. Maurice Blake!  thank you, Sir!


John I. Cook, Director

The Brotherhood, Friends and Stuff . . .


Happy Hump Day, All!

So much to be grateful for …

Well, I am taking some time out from the political drama to focus on myself … and my health!!  Last Friday, I had to do a bunch of things in preparation for my most recent move to a local hostel near the airport in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood. I had to rent a car, then went to see the results of a couple of friends efforts, Marie Achille of H.E.R.O. and Desmond Hannibal, Program Director at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center who hosted a job fair at the AARLCC.  I had done a book signing for my first book there back when my mother was alive and have remained a friend of the Library and Desmond.  Marie and I worked together with A.C.O.R.N. back in my community organizing days in Nashville and Orlando … and have remained friends and business associates. Then, I went to get the results of a biopsy done by my urologist on my prostate …  I had no time to do a post or blog … So, I waited until today.

Well, the urologist said that according to the biopsy, there are traces of cancer in my prostate …  Now, I didn’t want to hear this.  I do have a friend who kind of walked me through the process as he had just taken a few tests that I had to take, and, had had the biopsy, too!  I was kind of ready … but not that ready.  When I got the biopsy done, I was wide awake … Many folks told me that they wouldn’t have done such a procedure without being knocked out completely with anesthesia!!  The staff at the urologist’s office was very nice so I didn’t think that I had to be worried.  It  wouldn’t have helped anyway because they caught me completely off guard!!  Needless to say, I felt “violated” … yet grateful that the prostate cancer was identified early enough to allow me to treat it and hopefully, alleviate it.  One of my life’s toughest moments was witnessing my father, Isaac H. Cook aka “Big Ike”, expire in my arms from his bought with bone marrow cancer, prostate cancer as well as various tumors that had developed in his shoulders.  My dad … “Big Ike” … had refused treatment.  I am his son in more ways than one ….. I am NOT a big fan of doctors and hospitals, procedures nor surgeries either!  Yet, when informed that my “PSA” (a score measuring prostate health) test score was rather high, I decided that it would be best to get it checked out.  I did … Later, I sobbed, once alone … I didn’t want to hear what the urologist told me.  The next step is to get a bone scan and then a CAT scan to see if it has spread to my bones, as it did with my dad, or other tissue in my body.  Those of you who know me, also know by now that I share some rather intimate events in my life … in hopes that someone gets inspiration, motivation … maybe even direction in their own lives!

After posting on Facebook the fact that the biopsy came back positive, I received overwhelming feedback, uplifting messages of hope, even some private messages from folks who have had the same issue to one degree or another!  One guy whom I know from Princeton sent me a personal message elaborating on the fact that I called him “brother” in response to one of his replies.  He is not an African American, and, after a few “inbox” messages back and forth, we both agreed that we are part of a “brotherhood”!  Those of you who know me know that I like to include EVERYONE that expresses some positiveness, uplifting messages of hope and overcoming as well as a sense of comradery!  Thus, the title of this e-mail/blog post – “The Brotherhood, Friends and Stuff”.  I felt the concern, the care, the love and the encouragement from so many people, women included, even some folks who never really expressed any interest in me or my life … and it was cool!  In other words, it felt good.  Many of those folks are receiving this e-mail as we are also friends on Facebook … so … Thank You … and I love youse!  My daughter was the first to know by text, my sister was the second … and a good long time friend, Gordon Derouseau in Tarrytown, NY was the third.  Then I sat back in the parking lot of the hospice at Florida Medical Center where my mother passed away … and quietly sobbed …  I had to let it out!

Well, it is “Hump Day” and the middle of the week as well as Memorial Day Weekend is upon us!  The weather is really “summery” here in SoFlo and I have a class to teach tonight.  So, may we begin our journeys and enjoy our day … and the weekend!

Thanks for reading!


John I. Cook, Director

Not Sure What to Say … Maybe Nothing?!


Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

Yeah … I can find some things to be “happy” about today, especially since I have been up for a couple of hours already!  Good morning, even!!

Just wanted to take a minute to thank each of you for reading.  I don’t take hostages, if you remember, so … if you would like to be removed, simply send me a text or e-mail saying so!  I can do that.  For those of you who find something, anything, if only a little entertainment amidst my serious comments, spiritual suggestions and simplistic sense of humor, I am glad that your time is not wasted.  Just being me …

Has anyone noticed the drama in the White House lately?!?  I am almost out of words to say … If you asked me if I had anything to say, I would utter one word … impeachment.  Just last week, all of the “journalists” were commenting on the use of the term “special prosecutor” versus “special investigator” to look further into the claims of Flynn’s involvement with financial and political “ties” to Russia during the last presidential election.  Now, with the “firing” of Comey and a purported memo of his indicating that Trump asked him to “let Flynn go” and end the investigation into these purported ties, the scenario is definitely becoming more and more like a reality show.  Maybe we could call it “Scrumputin”!!  I know that it is not funny, but I am tired of waiting for America to wake up to the fact that we have some very serious problems in our White House.  So I am making jokes about it … for now.  Maybe the politicians can stop “playing politics” long enough to realize that somebody needs to get out of the White House.  He was supposed to be “draining the swamp”, but it looks like he brought his own “gators” to the swamp, and, in fact … has become the biggest serpentine swamp-like creature in the White House!!  Woe is US … aka … United States!!

There are claims that this is a “Watergate” type of incident and that there indeed is a need for a special prosecutor, especially if the purported “obstruction of justice” allegations insinuated by Comey are true!  I personally have no more to say … I am hoping that all of these so-called “educated politicians” can stop playing the denial game with themselves and wrap their heads around the simple fact that a reality tv show star has “duped” nearly half of the Americans into believing that someone with NO experience in governing and a plethora of “shady dealings” has the ability to be president of a once great country …  I use that term loosely, too!

I am done here … hoping I haven’t offended anyone.  As a student of American History, and occasionally a teacher of it, I am heartbroken to see this chapter being written in our history books!  “Wake Up, America!”


John I. Cook, Director



Happy Mother’s Day Weekend


It’s Friday, Y’all!

I am feeling pretty good today, considering that my Mother won’t be here “in the flesh” for Mother’s Day Weekend!  Yet, those who know me know that she lives in  my heart.  So, at this time, if you are reading this, and, if you are a Mother, Happy Mother’s Day!!  If you are reading this, and your Mother is alive, wish her a hearty Happy Mother’s Day.  I could tell you why, but I won’t!  You can figure this one out!

Mothers are the soul of our world … human civilization … no matter where you find it.  Simply said, without mothers, we don’t have a vehicle to continue humanity!  I am very grateful to have been raised by a wonderful mother and father, and remember them both fondly … May they rest in peace!  I went to church with the two of them and learned what I consider spiritual values.  I am more of a spiritual person today because of them.  One of my mother’s favorite songs was “How Great Thou Art”.  She taught me to recite the 23rd Psalm in times of trouble and to recite “The Lords Prayer” when times were good … or challenging.  I still find comfort in the two of them to this very day.

So as you celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend, try not to focus only on the material things.  Be grateful that you have a mother to adore!


John I. Cook, Director

Is This How Government is Run?!? “You’re Fired!”


Happy Hump Day, y’all!

I am just about ready to enjoy the day, my friends, in rare form!  I am still tutoring a group of three students for a couple more weeks at High Score Academy in Pembroke Pines.  Yes, as well, I am still pulling the pieces of the puzzle together so I can travel abroad in July.  It is exciting … and it is challenging.  Many of you probably know the spiritual axiom that, “When you are trying to do something good, the forces of evil are surrounding you!”  Over the years of my life, including challenges and successes, I have learned to trust more in my Creator than in anyone or anything else.  Yet, there are some bright spots, if you will, like the owner of High Score Academy who has given me an opportunity to earn some much needed cash!  Thank you, Jiwon … and My Creator!

Are you all “enjoying the show”?  I am in awe at how things have been “going down” … emphasis on “down” … in our current government.  Is this for real?!?  Each day, it looks more and more like a reality show mocking the American government and its institutions.  It seems that this is a scripted performance by the president to boost his ratings as … well, uhh … not sure … but I will let each of you finish the statement as you wish.

So, as we all have seen, the head of the FBI, Mr. Comey, has been fired by the president!!  The reasoning spins and spins as the insults are hurled back and forth like on a television program!!  Can anyone else see it … or is it just me?!?  The statement given by the president was something to the effect that “Comey had to be fired in order to restore public confidence in the FBI” …  Did he do something wrong?!?  That is usually the reason that people are fired, right?!?  Comey conducted an investigation into the e-mails and activities associated with Hillary Clinton last year and found no “legally punishable behavior”.  Now, Comey was beginning an investigation into the possible ties of the Trump administration with the Russians during the election, and as evidenced by Mike Flynn’s firing, any illegal ties either financially or politically, of the Trump administration to Vladimir Putin and his cohorts before the election.  I don’t know about you, but I think the hiring of an independent special prosecutor/investigator into the aforementioned allegations would be a better idea other than letting Rudy Guiliani or Chris Christy conduct anything … not even a high school orchestra!!  Most people are speculating that the “new” head of the FBI will be someone affiliated with or aligned with the Trump administration.  It appears that we have lost control of “our” government … and this reality show is proving that we are no longer a nation of “…. we the people ….”, and this is a first for a so-called Western democracy.

Shall we sit back and enjoy the show … or … like so many are doing with organized protests … should we challenge this budding tyranny of a near dictatorship?!?  Choose wisely, please …


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


It’s Friday, All!

Man (and woman) alive … and a T.G.I.F. to each of you reading this!

There is so much drama in our government, I think we all need a vacation from it.  More than 24 million people stand to lose health insurance under the “repeal and replace the ACA” campaign and bill, commonly called “Obamacare” by the current administration to make sure that the racists hear that “deplorable” foreign, Muslim name.  It is so disappointing to see so many people still rallying around a man who has shown repeatedly that he does NOT even know American History!  What makes “these” people think he knows how to run a country whose history he doesn’t know?!?  The direction of the administration is not one that the majority of the people want, especially because he did NOT win the popular vote, and has lost supporters of the Republican Party’s more educated and sophisticated representatives.

Okay, so, I have a doctor’s appointment for a biopsy today to check for prostate cancer.  Not so excited but glad that I have insurance right now under the Affordable Care Act.  Grateful that I can be checked for this and praying that I don’t have it.  I am in a weird mood as it is raining here in SoFlo and I will be “bussing” it to the doctor’s office.  It is right off of the main bus route so I will be fine.  Just yesterday, I was at Publix Supermarket and it started to rain like crazy!!  I caught an Uber home … and after I got home, it stopped!

I have been doing some side work … tutoring SAT students and some administrative stuff for a friend who runs a non-profit.  They are having a job fair next weekend at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Ft. Lauderdale with a great friend, Desmond Hannibal, Director of Special Events.  Meanwhile, back in SoFlo this weekend, it is “Cinco de Mayo”.  Funny how it is such a festive cultural event here regarding the independence of a country whose border is just South of the USA, Mexico to be exact, and the current administration wants to build a wall on the border between the two countries!!  Kind of like St. Patrick’s Day being celebrated all over the USA and that, too, is a holiday borrowed from Irish immigrants.  I guess we are a nation of immigrants … peace be still!

In the meantime, stay close to your loved ones by cyberspace or physical travel.  Life is short and tomorrow is not promised.  So, have a great Friday and an even greater weekend!


John I. Cook, Director

“Yea Though I Walk Through the Valley in the Shadow of Darkness … I Shall Fear No Evil …”


It’s Hump Day …

Not feeling like “jokes” nor catchy phrases today … so … “Mike …” you’ve got to wait for another day … this is serious.

So, we all know that life … and death … is pretty much unpredictable.  Many of us have witnessed untimely deaths of loved ones while others of us have witnessed miracles.  I can think back to a couple of times when I … could have died.  I won’t go into that now as there is a subject of more importance that I wish to address.  How does it feel when that happens … you unexpectedly lose a loved one?!?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a biological family member though those “untimely departures” are often quite challenging to handle as well.  Our extended families and friends are integral parts of our lives quite often …

Most of you know that I taught social studies for 10 years at White Plains High School and also coached boys basketball as head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach.  I can only tell you that this was a tremendous experience for both me and the students I was blessed to come into contact with.  Many remain amongst my best friends and supporters today.  I was very close with many of them as I was in my early twenties when I got my first position teaching social studies at White Plains High School, not to mention the comradery that was developed between me and the basketball players I was privileged to coach!  We won some games that we weren’t supposed to win and the bonds created then were based on mutual respect and appreciation.  Would you believe that some of those students … have passed away?!?  More intense for me, some of my fellow teachers … one who taught and coached me social studies and track – RIP Ed Zemmel – have passed away, too!  We taught together and hung out while at White Plains High School.  Most recently, a long time associate and teacher though we became closer via social media since she and I left White Plains as we had many many students in common, passed away … unexpectedly … like a day ago!!  Her father, whom I didn’t know … nor that he had passed last week, had in fact passed first, and, as she prepared to have his body flown from Las Vegas to White Plains for “home going services”, she suffered from a heart attack.  I am speechless, so to speak.  Sandra Boyd worked as a special education teacher in White Plains public elementary schools, served passionately as a youth counselor at Grace Church and became a mentor for many of the youth in the City of White Plains.  Her younger brother was a student at the High School and also played lacrosse when I taught there.  Many students and friends of their family, many a lot closer to the two of them than I … some even knew her father who passed last week … mourned the loss of Ms. Boyd who had moved to Las Vegas, Nevada after retiring from teaching.  I am still in disbelief … We are around the same age … Peace be still …

At this point in my life, I am embracing my retirement and working feverishly to get airline tickets to visit … maybe even relocate … to Europe … first stop – Barcelona, Spain.  I mean, we can “go” at anytime for any reason … and oh so unexpectedly.  I encourage those of us who hold grudges against people for childhood offenses or those “conflicts” over 20 years ago to rethink your reasoning.  All of the people of our past have helped each of us become who we are today … whether the interaction was positive or if the interaction was not so pleasant.  We each grew from our experiences and owe it to those people of our past life who perhaps had us rethink our approach to life.  Hopefully, you understand where I am coming from ….

“Yeah though I walk through the valley in the shadows of darkness, I shall fear no evil … for thou art with me … thy rod, thy staff … they comfort me!”

Have a great day … and forgive those who trespass against us.


John I. Cook, Director

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