Over and Over … Until …

Happy Friday, Y’all!

Give it up for our Creator!!  TGIF, then!

It’s been another week of international drama, so, how are you all holding up?  Pretty well, I’m hoping.  So, the USA is once again “toying” with the debt ceiling and all of the well-off Congressional representatives get to decide what “we .. the people” deserve in some of the most challenging times the world has ever witnessed!  Do “we” really want to see or hear “Mushmouth” Mitch McConnell offer some alternatives for “the people” to consider as the deadline for raising the debt ceiling approaches?!?

Some of you may remember how I challenge people to consider racism as a mental illness … self-induced, at that.  I know some folks think that people should stop complaining about racism and its negative influences on human beings.  I think NOT …  Maybe “people” should cut that insane crap out.  Can anyone believe that a contractor can wake up every morning and go to a job where racial slurs are written on the restroom stalls and walls, where hideous drawings of black children are scrawled in plain sight!?  What is the reason for this type of behavior … IN the workplace, not to mention outside?  Perhaps then in the next breath, the culprit may utter a common stereotype that “… they are ALL lazy and don’t want to work anyway …”!?!  Are you crazy?!?  Not only did it take 4 years for Mr. Owen Diaz and his relentless attorney to close the case in which a jury awarded him $137 million for nearly a year in hell at Tesla’s work environment in California, but the word on the street is that MORE suits are being filed for the EXACT SAME REASON!!  The Tesla employees who engage(d) in this type of behavior are crazy if they think this crap is cool!!

As I watched some programs highlighting the slow down in the commercial supply chain showing the many containers in ports as well as the cue of cargo/freight ships streaming from international ports out into the planet’s seas and oceans, I felt pretty helpless.  Maybe we need to change the way “we” do things on the planet.  With additional earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, what do we think will happen next?!?  Or, can we think that far in advance?  Maybe a few more oil spills to cover more wildlife and contaminate the planet’s oceans might catch our attention.  Or maybe as some of the world’s most corrupt leaders say, “There’s nothing to see here!”

Keep in mind. please, we each can make up our minds, should there be such a thing anymore.  Are we going to be held accountable and responsible for our actions?  Or will we continue to demonstrate only greed and disrespect as we claw our way to the imaginary top?!  What about Mark Zuckerburg and Big Tech’s responsibility to the mental health of their customers  … or do we allow the greed to overshadow their responsibility?  Try telling that to parents of teens suffering from anorexia or those parents whose children committed suicide due to cyberbullying!  Trust me I know there’s a tough world out there, but if we help to remedy these ills, our grandchildren may inhabit a better planet …

Okay, so now that I’ve attempted to clarify how for me, racism is a mental illness employed by greedy, selfish, irresponsible low self-esteemed people let’s take a look at the position that the Pope is in regarding centuries of child abuse by some of the Church’s leadership and affiliates!!  Oh no … that’s a whole ‘nother topic in itself!!  Yet, let’s not forget what Asian Americans, not to mention Native Americans, have experienced at the relentless claws of racism.  I think the young people get it, but the outgoing generation has problems releasing the world leadership to them!!  It’s almost like the outgoing crew doesn’t want to let go of their imaginary power!!  Let’s hope that they do still care!!  Young people, ask your parents and grandparents what kind of planet they want to leave for you.  Hold them accountable … NOW!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Roll With It . . . Sometimes!

Happy Friday, TGIF, it’s Friday and … “all that is good on Friday”!  Especially us!!

Okay, so … I know I talk a lot about a lot of stuff … yeah … “that’s what I do” … I try to write down the thoughts in my head as I’m traveling.  I try to record what I see and feel into words.  If I want to comment, I usually try to make it positive.  If not and I point out something in myself and/or “the world” we live in … something maybe not so nice, I also try to offer up a bit of motivation – take it or not – to make us healthier spiritually, perhaps.  Maybe even suggest some options.  Now, I see in today’s politics worldwide, so-called leaders point their bloody fingers at each other.  They simultaneously gorge themselves on their drug of choice – power – and seek to hurt anyone or thing that gets in the way of their acquisition of this drug for them.  They forget that they are supposed to be working for the good of humanity as these same leaders juggle different political systems to their advantage! 

I can’t sit and watch.  So I dig a trench somewhere safe and peaceful nowadays and offer tidbits of strength, hope, and love.  Is that bad?!  It helps me remain enlightened and positive. Maybe unnecessary for some.  The choice is each individual’s option, I respect and cherish that for myself, too!  Maybe you can find something good in it because I am NOT trying to demoralize anyone!  Please don’t forget that.  I’ve been hurt before like most “unentitled” individuals, disrespected, taken advantage of for various reasons (including being stupid or ignorant, if you will), and talked about by people worse than me.  I admit the errors of my ways, offer apologies when necessary, stand tall in my beliefs and get on to the next part of my journey!

This is one of those “That’s what I do!” messages a la Kevin Hart.  I don’t belong to a gang or anything, I don’t capitalize from low-level/energy activities … I worked ALL MY LIFE for a living!  In other words, I was raised by two morally sound people who worked every day for themselves, our family, the community and city they lived in … and also to the world with their positive energy and humble hearts.  Now, I am not looking for any handouts … Yet, I don’t plan to be thwarted or “eff-ed with” while I carry on with my life’s goals and dreams and balanced ambitions.  I come from a work-based background and seek to live that way helping others when I can!  So while I roll with some things, I don’t tolerate ANY disrespect nor “bs”.  A person should know where I am coming from if they find themselves with me at any point in their interactions.  Of course, I know that comes with familiarity with each other.

I am sure we have ALL had moments when we had been pushing so hard to achieve a goal, and, no matter what we tried could not make much if any progress.  It’s at points like these when we may need to re-evaluate our goals and determine if it (the goal) is something important and integral to our lives!  I don’t have the answers for anyone.  Yet, I do believe that if we EACH employ a very humble task of getting to know ourselves aka “Know Thyself”, we will find our own answers.  So as a humanitarian with an educational background in social science as well as an acute interest in making our world and existence a better place to be, I come to you!

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

ps. Get the books, please! You might enjoy them or know someone who will! (From the Projects to Princeton, Three Strikes, You’re Out! and Cooking With Life; Cookbooks I, II & III, respectively!)

The Re-Rise of Racism

Happy Friday, y’all

Don’t fret much since we made it through another week!  So, let’s TGIF, if you will!

Yeah, trust me I know that this is a tough topic that few people want to have an honest, mature, maybe even intellectual conversation about.  The effects of racism can be observed in both the victim and the instigator.  The instigator, who is more often white complexion, uses racism to secure her/his comfort zone in a given situation.  The instigator creates a situation (ex: walking in front of someone waiting in a line) and does so to demoralize, bully, or intimidate the victim.  As I’ve stated before, for me racism is a mental illness found mostly in people with low self-esteem.  An unconscionable difference like skin color can become the determinant of how the instigator wants to interact with the victim.  Personal qualities not readily available to assess the situation are cast aside as the racist seeks to portray her/his dominance … until checked.  Can you imagine how many times I’ve had to “check” a person?!?  It gets tiring sometimes … but I got this!!

Why do people “hate” on others?  It’s an easy position to take but a tough one to defend!!  Why not use shoe size or buttock shape to indicate and determine a “superior human” being?!  Ridiculous, right!?  So is skin color …  I’ve seen the duality (dichotomy) of greed vs. responsibility in a paradigm to illustrate how an individual may shape her/his own position.  On one hand, the basic human fear of losing something … anything … elicits greed.  On the other hand, a balanced healthy self-esteemed person might choose to be responsible … and do the right thing!  In an environment filled with stereotypes, misinformation, and fear, toxicity flows easily.  Some people have little self-control and insight to admit the truth … even to THEMSELVES.  One of the main reasons for meditation is to separate myself from toxic fears and influences and seek a higher plane or level of existence.  In that realm of options, one can be sure to choose a positive vibration!!   One can return self-confident.

Whether we look at the horseback drama (now suspended) that took place recently on the Mexican-US border or, at European futbol matches, we find the re-rise of racism.  While many of us get to watch and judge these images on tv, imagine what it’d be like to experience what some of the Haitian immigrants did!?!  I doubt many of us would be able to walk across parts of South America to the Mexican border with family and belongings in hand and bags.  How would one like to change places with them?  Chelsea’s futbol star, Romelu Lukaku, has experienced the ignorant hatefulness of racist chants during futbol games.  He like many other stars on social media feel that the Big Tech companies need to stop the online abuse.  He says, “Some people harm themselves because of social media abuse.”  Who is responsible for these types of things?!?

What is it that the haters are missing?  In other words, what makes it so easy for them to attack another human being who has not done anything to them personally?!?  Maybe they are missing something to belong to … like the universe … not the Ku Klux Klan!!  One shouldn’t allow themselves to get suckered into the victim rabbit hole and then spun like a dreidel until the evil spirit gets its prize, including lunatic loyalty.  

Remember, racism as a mental illness feeds on fear … any fear … pick one!  Have that conversation with someone.  Make that conversation intellectual without slinging blame, names, and other things!  No need to “touch” another person either.  It is here where enlightenment may take place.  Until we learn to accept each other as equals as the “Great American Experiment” suggests, we can expect to see the re-rise of racism. 

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Make A Plan

Happy Fridaaaaaay Yayyy!  I’m feeling chipper so join me in a TGIF!  (Use “Thank God I’m Friendly”!) TGIF, then!  Gracias!!

Since returning from my trip to the lodge at volcano “Arenal”, I have been contemplating another trip maybe!  But in the meantime, I have decided to work out with yoga stretches and asanas, push-ups and sit-ups, all poolside here if it is not raining. I plan on doing this 3 times a week while working on a healthier diet. While the pool is small, I am usually the only one doing yoga poolside.  I often take a quick dip and then sit poolside listening to my favorite music!!  That’s my plan for the next month or so …

Thinking back to courses I taught at City College in Ft. Lauderdale, FL I had a favorite – Personal Development.  I was an English/reading specialist for our international students and also served as the International Student Advisor for 2 years.  Other than my 10 years at White Plains High School in my hometown in New York, City College Ft. Lauderdale provided me with opportunities for tremendous professional growth and leadership.  Shucks, I even worked for a couple of years as an advisor to “The Ambassadors Club”, which was a group of upper-class students (sophomore, at least) who served as mentors for incoming students.  I had so many plans, I had to keep them in my Franklin Planner.  When I worked as a learning manager for American Express in Sunrise, FL for three years, they paid for managers to take a course in using the planner as well as a year of replacement pages. It was here where I improved my business Spanish skills since I had worked in “the Spanish gate” at AMEX taking escalated calls until being promoted to “learning manager”.

So, I share this essay with folks who may think there is something wrong with you … or your goal(s).  Don’t fall prey to self-doubt – change and modify the plan … not your goal.  Make it fun, carry a pad or notebook (old school stuff!) and keep your goals alive and well.  I have seen these palm pilots but haven’t found a need to learn how to use them … yet!!  A goal without a plan is just a wish …

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook. Director

Being Alone …

Yep, Y’all!

It’s not as if we didn’t know that Friday was coming, right?!  Or, if we’d be here … so … TGIF with me!  Done!

You’ve heard the expression “No (one) man is an island!”  How far do we take that axiom?  We don’t ask just “anyone” to help us because it’s important to be selective in our interactions … safe even … and get the proper help!  When we’re spending time alone and feeling like we need “somebody” there with us, what are our options?!?  I am sure they vary as each of us does!  Sometimes, I enjoy positive memories when I’m alone.  That’s why I often seek to have wonderful experiences in my life and in interactions with people.  I do this thing where I mix prayer and meditation – talking to my higher power and then listening to It!  I have found that when I am alone, I can focus better on those positive memories, maybe through a song or poem.  I like lyric-less jazz (improv) music so I can entertain my OWN thoughts while listening.  THINK POSITIVELY as often as possible as your thoughts spin “your” reality.  Does someone think you are a jerk or not worth fine treatment?  Vacate the premises, my liege!

I used to always want to “right a wrong” or “defend myself” when being spiritually (or physically) attacked.  Now, I realize that “I am better than that” … than to sit idly while an underling has its way with me or act out of character!!  We see this in less enlightened individuals who seek confusion rather than harmony in their interactions with others.  This confusion is often a smokescreen in their attempts to manipulate someone and take advantage of them.  When I see a person saying one thing and doing another, I usually vacate the premises to avoid the negative vibrations!  You can ONLY help someone as much as they want to be helped, you dig?!?  Don’t waste and deplete your positive energy.  Be a positive role model instead and demonstrate how it should be done.  That’s how I keep my head to the sky!  Now, don’t get me wrong because I do a lot of self-checking and often do a personal self-inventory several times a day.  That’s how I spend my time alone if not listening to music and enjoying nature’s finest!!

It’s okay to be alone and not suck up to others who need attention.  I like to be seen out on the town, feeling and looking good, too!  So, don’t get me wrong ’cause I have learned how to mix and mingle with some of the finest people … and I thank them for that.  Time alone can be used for self analysis (awareness).  Just don’t be too hard on yourself because there are a lot of people we will meet with many different issues.  Be kind … be yourself!

Peace,

John I. Cook. Director

“And Just Like That – Arenal Volcano!”

Happy Friday, now!  I can’t explain things sometimes, but just like that … Wham!!  It happens!  So, I’m going to start us off … TGIF, join me if you’re feeling it today!

When I was less thoughtful, less mindful of what I was doing at times, those “Whams!” were wake-up calls.  Usually, they were disguised as a “problem”.  Nowadays, since I “know myself” and behave accordingly, the “Whams!” are wonderfully surprising great gifts disguised as the present!  I know, I know, I’m just saying how things unfold sometimes.

This morning, I am slated to travel to La Fortuna in Costa Rica where there is a volcano.  So, since I have not gotten a chance to sit in a jacuzzi over four years ago at an LA Fitness in Ft. Lauderdale … Cypress Creek facility … I will be staying at the Volcano Lodge, Hotel & Thermal Experience this weekend.  Rumor has it that the lodge is located so close to the Arenal Volcano that you can not only see it looming in front but can experience the hot thermal water resulting from the volcano’s lava base.  I should be leaving soon on a shuttle bus for 4 or 5 hours.  Like I said, “Wham!”  The idea came and I investigated the trip so … it’s on!  I am excited because it is the first real “tourist” type of activity that I will be doing since I have been here in Costa Rica!!  Seriously … yes, I am retired but I still work a bit.  I mean, that’s how I finished the third manuscript … in my free time!  At first, I didn’t want to take the adventure alone …  But after briefly contemplating it and paying attention to the universe, I will enjoy myself with breakfast included each morning!

Needless to say, my hats go off to the survivors of the Hurricane Ida saga that threw floodwaters from Louisiana to Massachusetts!  Water was coming out of the subway system in New York City after going inside of it at different points and stages of the storm!  I really couldn’t believe my eyes!  So, I’ll close with a bit of gratitude for another opportunity to enjoy myself in my retirement … Pura Vida style!

Have a great weekend!  “Know Thyself!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

What in the WORD?!?

Happy Friday, y’all … I’m just wondering about Kabul, Afghanistan … scary stuff!!  I am grateful to be HERE this Friday … So, TGIF if we might.

In case you’re wondering about the title, no … I didn’t misspell “world”.  I meant to write “word”!  It’s very important how we use words to describe ourselves and our environs.  I think back to a course that I facilitated at a community college in Ft. Lauderdale called personal development.  The goal of the course was to help students learn how to set life goals as well as the plans to achieve those goals.  One part of the course focused on concepts like visualization and affirmations.  My job was to demonstrate with the input of the students how the words we use shape our perceptions of the world we live in as well as the perceptions of ourselves.  So, even I learned the importance of selecting words to describe things, events, or feelings that we may have that literally lift us up.  There is power in the words we choose to use.

As I listened to the current leader of the USA speak yesterday while he described the core problem of nation-building in Afghanistan, my thoughts came together.  He described the problem as a “long history of tribes” inhabiting a common land and have NEVER gotten along!  There must be something in the words that are used to keep humans fighting each other for centuries!  As he spoke, he highlighted examples of “nations” like Germany or France that had the core ingredient of nation-building in their history:  they shared a common language and wanted to “get along” while protecting their inhabitants.

There was a business commercial I saw that highlighted the words of the CEO of Whole Foods.  He said that our language today is purely adversarial, that we use words that dictate a conflict, often fatal, amongst humans.  We use words to incite violence, separation, and hostilities rather than words that also focus on helping and including ALL people and solutions to save our world!  His point was that while “business” involves competition, we should never forget that business dealings MUST be based on integrity and foster the health and continuation of human civilization … or NOT!!  Choose wisely!  Choose the words you use wisely, too!

So keep in mind as we communicate with each other daily that the words we use affect our interactions and ultimately humanity.  Are we humans really as smart as we claim to be?!  As I look at that hell-like drama unfolding near Kabul and Afghanistan, my heart aches for the children … as well as the females …   Unfortunately, I saw remnants of what occurred at the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021.  Peace be still …

Have a great weekend!  Share and spread “the love” worldwide.

Sincerely,

John I. Cook, Director

The Bottom Line Is . . .

It’s another fine Friday if you’re marking time!  I’ve got a “TGIF”, I’d like to share!  So T.G.I.F. then, Y’all.  Keep ’em comin’ ’cause we got this!!

So, in retrospect, I’d like to mention my boarding school basketball coach, Maurice “Bud” Blake, who had his 97th birthday on August 6th.  This Guy has a history of his own.  He has shared stories and episodes of “The Red Tails”, the famous all black air squadron of World War II.  According to his accounts, as well as those accounts that I’ve read, the US Military benefited tremendously from the efforts of this air squadron whom many historians suggest changed the tide of World War II.  He’s still quite a grand guy at 97!!  Blessings, Sir!

My message from last week was inaccurate in regards to the name of the Covid 19 test needed to leave Costa Rican airports.  It is the antigen test.  One of my college classmates, “Doc” Kevin Hepler, broke it down for me in a personal e-mail.  Thanks “Doc”!  And so you readers know, you can reply to the blog post by going to: http://www.excelwitheducationalexcellence.wordpress.com. Feel free to reply by e-mail or on the blog of Educational Excellence.

Now, it’s time for a plug on the third cookbook, “Cookin’ With Life!”.  It is truly an adventure in self-publishing.  While I didn’t master the software for spacing between chapters, I was able to pull off a novice effort!  It even looks good in paperback considering the other small concerns!  Here is a huge thank you to those who purchased copies both in e-book and paperback.  Remember, it’s the message that I’m promoting more so than myself!!  You may come in to contact with someone like the main character! It’s worth the read.

Cooking With Life!: Cookbook III

amazon.com

The bottom line is that I care about humanity, my family and yours, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there!!  Spreading love and connecting the dots is my mission!  What’s yours?!?

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

In Retrospect … Decompress

Happy Friday again, Y’all!  And as if we know the drill, let’s do a “TGIF” together!!  Done deal!

So, it’s a bit more than a week since I’ve been back here looking at the experiences I had over the past month.  Traveling is a lot more complicated, especially if you are traveling internationally.  There is the requirement to leave Costa Rica which is to successfully pass a Covid19 exam.  Another option is to produce the results of an antigen exam … or something like that.  I not only got two Pfizer vaccinations before leaving Puerto Viejo to travel to Ft. Lauderdale, but I got one in Broward County at a CVS Pharmacy.  It was made by Moderna.  It’s quite a quagmire when you see people who will eat anything … I mean ANYTHING like a chicken mcnugget … and not question its content.  But when you are given the option to take a vaccination that may reduce the level of illness even avoid death, you suddenly become “holier than thou” with the “this is my body” routine or the “I have the right to …”! battle cry!  “Selective Ignorance” strikes again!!

Well at this stage of my life, I don’t listen to “ignoramuses” let alone the folks who just look for something to disagree with me about.  It seems that they may feel stronger, though appearing stupider while fending off science and statistics!  Ask Gov. Ron DeSantis … he plays that “selective ignorance” role well!  I wanted to see my little extended family in Connecticut and I did!!  It was worth it and I still feel great!!  We made memories together – Ayanna, Caleb, and me … and we even shared a few tears together … Peace be still!  Isaac and Mary were “there” with us in spirit as we sat near their graves and cleaned them off a bit!  Shucks, my memory was jogged when I laid eyes upon the head plate of my grandmother, Mattie Cook.  My Dad had moved her from the sticks in North Florida to a rooming house right across the street from #135 South Lexington Ave. apartment 5A in White Plains, NY!  It was then when I realized where I got this “love for my mother” thing!!  I got it from my Dad – Isaac Henry Cook!!  I mean, who moves their Mother from Florida to New York so “he can keep an eye on her”?!

Well through the years and the tears, I got my chance to pass on the heritage of my purported “half breed” grandmother (I never met Grandpa Robert Cook); my Mother and Father (Mary and Ike); as well as a chance for a “shout out” to my oldest sister, Barbara Ann (RIP).  So, now these guys have been passed on this branch of the Family Tree!  “We Are One” human Family!!

Peace,

John I. Cook

“Great Times!”

Good Day, All!

And yes indeed, it’s Friday again.  It’s time for a gratitude check!  Keep it simple … sweethearts!  A genuine “TGIF” will suffice!  Okay, thank you kindly!

Have you experienced that joy you get back when you give (or do) things unconditionally?  Maybe the outcome wasn’t what you expected but you gave it your best effort anyway?  Things … good things … even great times roll in kind of unexpectedly if you’re doing the gratitude thing right!

So, when I got to Ft. Lauderdale on July 12th, I had a particular itinerary thought out.  I had asked a few friends, starting with a long-time “brother” from another mother, if it would be possible to meet up … rendezvous even … and sleep on his couch like old times.  I was hoping to see my daughter and her son on this trip to the States.  I hadn’t visited my mailbox for me and EE located in Ft. Lauderdale’s main post office in 18 months.  It’s the same mailbox that I had when I first decided to make the FTL the home of Educational Excellence.  I could ship and receive books and information easily and that address hasn’t changed for me in more than 10 years.  I think many of you reading this may also be friends on Facebook where I post pictures of my journey and provide a connecting link to the blog.  But when I got to Ft. Lauderdale, between Johnny Ace and his longtime girlfriend Candy, I didn’t miss a beat!  Another good friend who is close with the two aforementioned friends, CeCe, had come to the airport to pick me up amidst the turmoil of Spirit Airlines and all of the travelers returning to the skies for vacations and business.  It was like red carpet treatment for one of the coolest, nomad/gypsies I know … Me!

Before I knew it I was treated to a birthday dinner of various kinds of seafood including oysters and lobster by Candy and Ace!  As if magically, since I soon realized that I would have to go to Connecticut in order to see Ayanna and Caleb, I found a few decent-priced flights to an airport in Hartford.  I had enough cash to book the flights.  Since I always flop down on the couch at Ace’s and didn’t have to pay for an overpriced hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale, I felt “safe” enough financially to pull off a New England trip with an opportunity to visit the family’s burial site in Valhalla, NY.  Once getting to Bradley Airport near Hartford, CT I was picked up by Ayanna!  I started thinking a la “Biggie Smalls” the lyrics ” … It was all a dream …”!  Man, I was so happy even though I had to speed up just a bit being back Stateside, I could hardly believe that everything worked out including getting an opportunity to visit the family plot there at Kensico Cemetery.

Ayanna cooked some incredible gourmet-style meals and we listened to music, played a game of “Scrabble Junior” with Caleb after dinner, took pictures, and made more memories!  We even had some family time at the pool … all three of us!  I was feeling fully loved and taken care of by the friends and family the universe had put together for me this trip!  As another good friend “Robbie Rob” commented, “J, you look like you’re in a dream … You’re shining!”  Everything was so humbly perfect if you understand what I’m trying to say!  When I got back to Ft. Lauderdale, the paperback copies of the books I ordered from Amazon had arrived and I picked those up from the post office with a little help from my friend!

Soon, I had a flight back to San Jose, Costa Rica amidst the horrors of flying with Spirit Airlines who had canceled around 1700 flights since last weekend.  I was able to get on a flight back here and survived another visit through Customs in San Jose with all of the Covid/Health-related requirements now in place.  I still have to go to San Jose and clear up some confusion with my entry this time as a tourist for 34 days!!!  Yet, here I am as another witness of the praises and the glory due to the universe for making it possible for me to have had such a trip and return to my current place of retirement … Cocles, near Puerto Viejo … Costa Rica!

Pura Vida … and Peace!

John I. Cook, Director

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