Mind Over Matter . . .

Happy Friday, Y’all! I’m feeling blessed today! So, help me crank out a TGIF, okay?! Much obliged to those who emit that positive energy!!

I’m sure that most of us know or have heard the expression “mind over matter”, right?!  Sure … another one of those “easier said than done” activities.  When something happens to someone who has no control over what is happening to them, it leaves a very empty feeling.  One can feel worthless, uncared for, and perhaps even misunderstood.  Yet, that person(s) has to deal with the situation as best she/he can … perhaps as an option to committing suicide.  It was evident after the Insurrection of January 6, 2021, that some of the officers who tried to protect the Capitol could not continue to “live” after experiencing the near-medieval attacks on them that day!  Everyone doesn’t have the fortitude to overcome the helpless feeling that occurs when one is being abused, physically tortured (African slaves and Native Americans), or simply killed …  Imagine uncovering graves of children that were abused and obviously left to die in the lands of the indigenous people of Canada.  The most tragic information uncovered is that this was done by members of the Catholic church who actually set up these “residential schools” for the indigenous children.  Peace be still …

One indigenous woman described how there was a “nun” at the residential school who used to slap her in the face multiple times every morning!!!  Another woman described how a male clergy member would have her sit on his lap and then would put his hands under her clothing to fondle her private part(s).  Can you say “helpless”?!? She commented, “If you want to live, you have to find a way to keep going.” Not only was it inhumane as “they” attempted to exterminate the original inhabitants of that land, but it is also morally bankrupt to treat anyone this way.  Similar mistreatment occurred with the Native Americans and later, African slaves during the colonial period of the USA.  This mistreatment often brought these two groups closer together to help each other survive during such horrific times.  As many of us know, the main reason that the Africans did NOT experience the same as the indigenous of Canada who faced genocide, the colonies of this new country needed a labor force … that was NOT paid.  Enter the practice of chattel slavery in North America.  Yet Canada represented a “safe place” for runaway slaves.  Indentured servitude had been forced upon the less fortunate colonists from Europe but that practice soon lost its ability to bolster the desperately needed workforce in the colonies to handle the tobacco and cotton plantations.  The fortitude and strength of Africans and skin color stigma made them an integral part of this labor force.

While the injustices imposed upon the indigenous of Canada were (still are) harsh, the residential school system has been ended.  The Pope finally came to Canada after multiple invitations from the indigenous leaders to apologize to the survivors of this system.  Have you ever been mistreated unjustly or unfairly?  Did the oppressor apologize?  (Not to the slaves in the USA!)  How did it make you feel when they DIDN’T?  Has anyone ever apologized to you after clearly treating you wrong?  How did that make you feel?

The ability to use your mind to overcome negative emotions or feelings caused by maltreatment is not so easy.  For me, I try to meditate whenever the spirit moves me.  It could be 3 am or 4 pm … I need to stop and take a personal inventory and determine what is most important for my survival.  Then I meditate on THAT … not the mistreatment.  Oftentimes, during my meditations, I discover the quantum field by just “letting go”.  This might be considered to be enlightenment, no pun intended.  The hurtful baggage becomes insignificant as I let my mind wander from those thoughts to options that may be more suitable.  Remember that one often has options should one let go enough to allow them to enter.  Things don’t have to matter so much as to cause one to lose one’s peace!!  No way!!  I can certainly testify to the FACT that if you truly “let go” of the hurt and pain, one can find that peace even in the midst of trauma, drama, and confusion.

While we each travel our individual journeys, it is important to realize that there are “others” on their journeys, too!  If “our” journeys intersect at some point, maintaining civility and enlightenment should follow.  Once again, I don’t claim to have the answers for everyone, but I can usually find a path forward for myself!!  Methinks “you” can, too!


John I. Cook, Director

Why Not Just Be Honest … At First?!?

Happy Friday, Y’all!  It’s that time of the week again!!  How are you holding up?  Well, I hope!!  So, spread some goodness with a confident TGIF!!  Coolness!

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a world contaminated with deceit and deception, often just plain old lies!!  Some folks never grow out of it … lying!  It has become a viable political tool as well as a true destroyer of even the best of people.  Some folks have no shame and will spin one right in your face (or cyberspace) and damn near dare you to challenge their lie(s). Wow!  What a waste of a human life!!

Each time I even THINK about what happened at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, my heart re-bleeds for the horrors of those families who lost precious cargo in that horrific massacre.  The law enforcement agencies immediately spun lies to the community, even as the demented gunman entered the school.  One opportunity after another was missed to stop the assassin.  Then, lies were spun by law enforcement as their failures were compounded and visible for all to SEE!!  What a shame!!  What a disgrace!!  And then to continue to lie about it too and through one investigation after another!!?  Why not just be honest … at first?!?  Is there some shame in being honest nowadays?!  Some folks act like it.  That’s the main reason that I try to keep my circle of friends small and close!!  It’s hard to trust people … even one’s own family members!!

Last night I took in another one of the January 6th Committee Hearings.  It is incredible to see how many lies came (and continue to come) out of the former president’s mouth.  So many phrases come to mind whenever he moves his mouth!!!  The sad thing is that now … more than ever … people embrace these lies … ANY LIE!  It’s like people want to be lied to for some reason.  These circles of “liars” are intolerable and of course, should be ashamed of themselves.  But they are not!!  This habit of lying and then trying to one-up “your neighbor” is completely classless!  Nobody knows what anybody really means and everyone’s mouth is just moving … it’s not even important to some people!  They just keep going even though it has been brought to “their” attention that it is not true!!  What can one hope to accomplish with a person who doesn’t even care if what they are saying about YOU (or another) is true?!?

Some folks swear that they know everything about everybody and the truth is that they know nothing about themselves … in particular why they lie so much!  For some, it seems like a disease!  Then, of course, we have the “know-it-alls” who haven’t done any research … not one photo nor video to support their deceit!  And then that same “Jane” turns around and repeats the same lie!  As one witness commented on the Insurrectionists: “They got out there and defaced the Capitol … all because of a lie!”

Clean up your act … then clean up your life!  Don’t ruin other people’s lives with your lies!  Keep it classy!!


John I. Cook, Director

I Guess … I Really Had It Good!!

Happy Friday … Is it safe to say that nowadays?!?  Some folks are skilled at twisting stuff and just distorting the TRUTH.  So, I’m going to state it, “TGIF”!  Well done!  Thanks!

Life is a precious gift.  As I continue to enjoy my first five years of retirement, I’ve managed to stay clear of that “hardcore” drama!  You know, that DUMB stuff that even you know deep down inside was the WRONG thing to be involved in!!  Shame on you … once or maybe twice!  But after that, one (you) is putting oneself out to maybe second or third place?!  Not me … anymore!  I’ve done it … regretfully once too many times.  As time goes on, we learn that if “it” puts one out just one place, maybe we should re-analyze “it” and determine if “it” is helping us in the long run.  It might be a trap that desperate emotions propel us toward!!  My Dad was tough and my Mom was sweet.  I had a great balance as a result.  They remained married and worked together for 50 years!  I reaped the benefits.

So far, I’ve completed two of the concrete projects that I came here to the Caribbean to complete … for now.  My third book was finished a year ago.  Mostly autobiographic and also self-published, “Cookin’ With Life!: CookBook III” was a work “in progress” even as I traveled Western Europe in search of a place to finish it.  Secondly, I had a “family” member finally come and visit me here in the Caribbean.  I had initially invited Caleb and his Mom, my daughter, to come to visit.  I had even rented a few houses with two bedrooms all furnished and prepared for the TWO of them to come for a week.  But, after being told over and over that “they” were coming (“sooner than you think”, I was once told), I realized it would never happen.  So, I sent my daughter money for a passport for Caleb and prepared to host him by himself … alone!!  He and I had a great week all things considered.  I took lots of photographs and made a few videos for memories to reflect upon from time to time!  I remember showing him how to kill a mosquito using the two-hand “clap”!  We even had a few Spanish classes right here on my yoga mat in the bungalow!!  We have a/c, color tv, WiFi, hot water, and cleaning service once or twice a week as needed.

As I am often careful to include, throughout my life I have had multiple missteps if you will.  But, I had two loving parents to use their skills and love for me to nurture (or tough love me) until I came around.  Now, I’ve been called a lot of things!  But, I KNOW myself … better than anybody else.  It’s always been my priority … to know myself.  So when some “armchair” psychiatrist attempts to “judge” or evaluate me, I find it comical!  I lost two siblings along the way and two of us remain.  I am sure things will be okay for me …  While it disappointed me to see my only Child once again “choose” to sever communications with me, I am not surprised.  I was hoping that after several years of me trying to mend our relationship, things between us would get better.  I know how difficult it may be for her to go between two parents … I had plenty of experience with preschool children as I worked with the White Plains Child Day Care Center for a few summers while I attended Princeton.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose to please one or the other parent.  That’s not cool.  Parents often split up and don’t consider what their child(ren) may experience as a result.  Other parents stay together and treat each other horribly in front of their children.  Sometimes, the kids think that their parents’ behavior is normal and carry it with them.  Imagine disrespecting your father because you saw your mother disrespect him …  toxic pathological behavior for sure.  Nobody wins …

My senior thesis to graduate from Princeton was a book entitled: “A Critique of Studies on The Black Family”.  It was close to my heart as I tried to expose the FACT that the Black Family is not dead nor has been destroyed through racist practices in the USA.  The Black Family had to morph, so to speak, to maintain the functions of child-rearing and socialization into American society.  Many studies concluded that the Black man had been marginalized so much that he was no longer effective and the family unit(s) had been destroyed, a la Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  I have chosen to “be the best that I can be” and dispel that hurtful sociological suggestion.  When I recall my youth as the youngest in the family, Big Ike remained my hero.  That will never change!

So, as we continue our lives wherever we find ourselves, represent the truth and who you really are.  As an African American male, I will ALWAYS represent!!

Thanks for reading!


John I. Cook, Director

Sometimes, I Can Make It Look Easy … It’s Not!

If you can fix your lips to at least mouth Happy Friday or TGIF, I can understand that and appreciate your positive vibrations.  So, do what you do … as for me … TGIF!

We can take a deep breath and say, “We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again!”.  But the truth of the matter is that the nation is doomed to ” … live by the gun and die by the gun…”.  That’s all that is happening now!  Again, I remind you of how the land was taken from a very noble people, Amerinds or Native Americans, by force … of course … the gun!!  What goes around comes around, my Friends.  And if one thinks that one is so “slick” and able to outwit karma and the natural law of the universe, you’ve got to be kidding me!!  A mass shooting of Americans by a misguided American on the day of this nation’s celebration of independence and freedom?!?  Imagine: We are now so free that we can kill ourselves or a fellow American … for any reason we want!!  Sickness indeed!  It’s still so hard for me to fathom living in the States again … unless I really have to!

I had the pleasure of spending a good week – three meals a day, allergy medicine, and CBD in the morning along with vitamins – with my grandson Caleb Isaac.  If I told you it was easy, I’d be lying.  It was tough at points.  He is a beautiful little guy with immensely high levels of energy and curiosity!!  At 6 years of age, it was a bit more than I had anticipated.  I was planning for a month’s stay …  I mean, how was I supposed to predict the exact day and time that I should arrange for a return ticket to the States for him?!?  I didn’t even try … I booked tickets for a month out being ready and willing to change it if necessary.  It became necessary mainly due to adult egos … not his!  But anyway, we bonded and I had a chance to SHOW him how much I cared.  I gave him the opportunity to make his own sun butter and jam sandwich as he is allergic to nuts PERIOD!  He even helped me put down the kickstand on my electric bicycle whenever we stopped.  He even unlocked the front door to the bungalow when we came back or went out.  I yelled at him a few times when he wasn’t paying attention to a glass mug of hot tea … sometimes he liked it … other times he didn’t like it when I yelled.  But he paid attention to what he was doing!  It never got physical – there was no need for spankings nor whippings like I remember I got from my Dad during my childhood!  Do you have the courage to take care of a six or seven-year-old grandchild … alone?!  I’m retired and living in a bungalow … but WE made it work!!  He had his iPad from his grandmother who lives in Connecticut that was pre-programmed with his Mom’s number, grandma’s number, his mom’s partner’s number, and his mom’s partner’s daughter’s number, too!!  At one point when they had a “group call” going on managed by Caleb, I actually had to leave my own bungalow because it had gotten so loud!!  Peace be still …  So, after a situation when I had yelled at Caleb for something he wasn’t guilty of, “the adults” began to plan for his return flight and shuttle from Puerto Viejo to the airport in San Jose.  I sat cool, calm, collected, and ready to collaborate with whatever his mother and his grandma wanted!  While it may not have been long enough for “others”, it was fine for him and me.  I reminded him that we were making memories so he could remember his grandpa after grandpa is gone …  I never met EITHER of my grandfathers, but had the pleasure of being spoiled by BOTH grandmothers!  

While it was not exactly what we had planned, I feel like it was a fantastic experience for both Caleb Isaac and me!  We sped around carefully on my electric bicycle while he wore my adjustable goggles, we ate at some of the coolest restaurants out here, and even swam in the pool here on our second day!  We both got a little cough and congestion because it was cloudy and cool the day we swam!  I nursed him back with my famous homemade ginger/lemon/honey tea and some cold tablets and syrup.  My daughter said that he was good Thursday when I messaged her.  Now, I don’t give up too easily but having my own voice level restricted as I tried to communicate several times without yelling or raising my voice was too much for me!!  Caleb and I had a fun-filled time on our 7-hour shuttle ride from the bungalow to the Best Western in San Jose where his mother was waiting after taking several flights from the States to get here!  You know, it all worked out … better than I expected.  In fact, it was perfect timing.  I had had enough of convincing him to lay down and listen to some classical music on his iPad until he fell asleep around 7-8 pm each night!  And though we had made up a game when I wanted him to stop talking so much which he liked, he became very rebellious at times when I would ask him to do something like put lotion on his own body or brush his teeth.  It often became a challenge as I offered my services that he constantly compared to what he was accustomed to doing at home with his Mom or grandma.  I felt it was unfair to him so I “gave up” and agreed to meet Ayanna in San Jose as she had requested.  We spent the 4th of July morning together and later that afternoon I shuttled back 7 hours from San Jose to Cocles.  The “universe” had spoken and I listened!  It’s much easier that way!  THAT’s how I make it look easier, “broke” financially and all!

In living my precious life along this journey, I find ways to spin good karma and positive vibrations and I refuse to get caught up in these “negativity contests” and putting each other down!!  Who does that and expects to have a good life!!?  Practice makes one better.  Be the BEST that you can be … ALL of the time … at least make an effort ALL of the time.

Thanks for reading!


John I. Cook, Director

Happy Birthday, “Big Ike” …

Happy Friday, World …  I know that it’s hard out there, but TGIF anyways!!!  Thanks again!!

Well, it is also “The 4th of July (Independence Day) Weekend” in the States!  Yet, I always acknowledge my Dad’s birthday about this time every year!!  Join me in sending a spiritual message to Mr. Isaac Henry Cook for his birthday, July 4th, 1907 … or maybe 1910.  The exact year is something that I was unable to ascertain since after Big Ike had passed, my Mother had been suffering from Alzheimer’s until she fell, bumped her head on the floor, and struggled with a brain contusion … until The End!  Isaac Henry was the third son of a manumitted slave named Robert Cook and a purported Seminole woman, Mattie Yhuman … according to some oral family history.

This guy taught me by example how to do some incredible stuff!!  The main lesson … “Believe in Yourself”.  You can imagine how proud he was to witness his baby boy, John Isaac, as he received his diploma in 1976, from Princeton University that at one time refused admission to African Americans. I had no idea that I was zooming across like three generations to rise as high as I could in American society.  Big Ike never graduated high school because there was none in the area where he grew up on the farmlands of North/Central Florida.  So for him and Mary to see their youngest child accomplish this feat was absolutely incredible … perhaps unimaginable!  Now, trust me on this one … I still had my ups and downs but I always remembered something he would say to me to encourage me to believe in myself and never doubt myself nor look (fall) backward. “Once you get it in your head, nobody can take it away from you.”

So, my only grandson from my ONLY daughter has been with me pret’ near a week now in Costa Rica since we met up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL last Friday at an AirBnB that my daughter had arranged and paid for so that we could meet and exchange the “precious cargo”.  We had been talking and planning for him to stay with me in Cocles near Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, for a month.  We’ve had our moments of tension, the most recent one on deciding to wear newer cleaner underwear or wear the same ones he had on after he showered the night before.  As we both toyed with what was “right”, he decided that he was going to follow the way things were done at his home with his Mom in Connecticut.  After a brief struggle with me as I tried to remove the underwear, I realized how important THIS was for him and decided to call his Mom.  She wasn’t too happy with me as she confirmed that he was “right”.  Caleb Isaac is only 6 so this was a challenge for him to handle, not to mention how interestingly challenging for me as I did my best to “stand my ground” while I humbly accepted the FACT that I was wrong …  After some back and forth with his Mom, her Mom, and a family friend of theirs, “he” decided that he wanted to go back to Florida.  My daughter and I agreed to let him sleep on it and see what comes next!!  I had to get up early to write my blog post and organize my thoughts … and emotions.  One lesson I learned through my journey is: “Take NO hostages!”  Again, I credit Big Ike for showing me this personality trait … “Let Go!”

Here’s another tidbit of a true story which involved the utilization of my enlightened intelligence!  Yep!  There … I said it!!  So, I was invited to listen to a friend and an acquaintance from the States who, last year or so, decided to call me “boy” as I sat with a female friend from Croatia.  She and I were having a conversation and this character approached!  I was like … “What did you call me?!?”  He quickly replied, “Okay … man!”  I grabbed a chair and offered it to him to which he replied negatively.  I tried to limit contact with this expat.  So, as I listened to this jazz improvisational duo, I heard someone faintly saying, “Hey boy!”  I wasn’t sure if the WAITER was calling me that, so I kind of ignored it, choosing to enjoy the moments of music.  A week or so later, I returned to the same restaurant to get one of their delicious croissants-to-go as the co-“owner” is French and his lovely new wife is from Italy.  They both were on their honeymoon for a few weeks.  As I entered the restaurant, I heard a familiar voice … It said, “Hey Boy!”  It was the table cleaner/waiter AGAIN.  I looked at him, clearly from some Central American country, if not … Costa Rica.  I said, “Hey Man!” which is my usual response to social ignorance.  I smiled and extended my hand and said, “My name is John!  What’s your name again?”  He said his name as he looked at me with a mild expression of contempt coupled with non-enlightenment.  I might add here that it is customary for the locals of this Jamaican influenced culture to call each other, “my boy”.  But “boy” was unacceptable!  I told him, “My father would be upset if he heard you call his son “boy”.  I followed up with a well-known quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”  He thought that was funny as did some of the local males who also worked at the establishment.  I went on to tell him that the only reason he said that to me is because I am an African American male.  I continued by suggesting that he would NEVER say that to a white male patron so why me?!?  He and a friend of his, also a local Central American male, tried to convince me that they say that to white men, too!  Realizing that I was up against “complete and total ignorance” not to mention lies, I retreated … as would “Big Ike”.  I promised not to return until the newly happily married couple returned.  When they did, and I was approached by the new wife who asked me if I wanted to talk about it, I agreed and we walked a bit closer to the ocean and away from the restaurant.  Soon after, her young husband approached us and the whirlwind began.  After all was said and done, the male had said that he didn’t like diplomats anyway and his wife had accused me of being belligerent.  They asked me if the waiter had apologized, which he didn’t (why would he if he hadn’t done anything wrong!) and I told them so.  The young gent said that the other employees had told him that this table cleaner had apologized to me.  The young man asked me if I wanted to have a drink as the employee who had called me “boy” approached the restaurant for his shift at work.  I declined … and took my talents elsewhere for the moment.  I thought, “Big Ike would be proud of me!”  What thinketh you?!?  No worries … I don’t need anyone to agree with me as I count my blessings and MY birthday rapidly approaches … July 13th!!  That’s my story and I am sticking to it!!

In closing, I just want to restate that one should believe in oneself, especially if you’ve worked so very hard on yourself as I have and will continue to do!  #HatersSuck


John I. Cook, Director

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