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

Believe . . . In Each Other

Happy Friday, Y’all!  We pulled another week off in spite of the negativity out here, so … TGIF!!

Yeah, so … I was writing from my daughter’s living room this past Wednesday morning because I will be in Ft. Lauderdale Friday morning organizing my trip back to Costa Rica … Puerto Viejo to be exact .. at my good friend  “Ace’s” place!  As I look back on my own personal story, I can clearly see … and acknowledge my mistakes.  That’s what I want to say right now.  I’ve made my own mistakes.  I see others around me (and world-wide, too!) who are still making their own mistakes that affect many other people.  Yet, it seems that “we” don’t want to acknowledge that our selfishness, greed, and actual stupidity is affecting the entire planet!  

Our “leaders” don’t want to acknowledge that global warming and climate change are actually occurring and they make “more money” while simultaneously destroying the Earth!  So, are they – the leaders – actually leading us into a gloom and doom type of mass destruction while ignoring the entire climate crisis?!?  I mean, the million- and billionaires have made more money than ever during the “pandemic” which many humans don’t even believe is actually happening!  Really?!?  It’s like …  those pieces of paper that get thrown around the planet are more important than the actual planet and the people who inhabit it!  If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would speculate that the “leaders” are in cahoots with the billionaires – if not actually are one and the same – to keep humans frightened into a state of compliance with whatever they tell us?!  Don’t make me say it ’cause that’s what it looks like to me!!!

Okay, so I’ll climb down off of my soapbox just long enough to confess, though if you know me, that I’ve had truckloads of trouble in my life.  If you don’t believe me, check out any of the three books that I have put together which show the many challenges that I’ve experienced (some even self inflicted while I tried to cope with other challenges like poverty, discrimination, and racism, not to mention health issues), in particular in the latest book “Cooking With Life! Cook Book III”:https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FCooking-Life-Cookbook-John-Cook-ebook%2Fdp%2FB08Z7FRKCX%2Fref%3Dsr_1_6%3Fdchild%3D1%26keywords%3Dcooking%2520with%2520life%2520cook%2520book%2520iii%26qid%3D1621607433%26sr%3D8-6%26fbclid%3DIwAR15rAEh59naiHkEveua7fzSYt58zLK32vU4njXthKGcza8MgwC9sfvcHmY&h=AT2VY8HrK1GWq_BIFxAEuO1AYWC3b8tkqVcRPWeWZzUZRkLbGEiGakuXBoAhN11Q5x9HTQ3Xc3zJdNlQDlyMfLRmUqHn3nn1jwx-W71dKwKDsR67HmyL_kRLL-uLvNtOXBnyerTSyNXqeTIWrOM  I’m just trying to explain how an increased awareness of spirituality got me through some tough times.  As I was able to visit my only child and her son this past week, with A LOT of help from my friends … whom I believe in, but more importantly those who believe in me … I am convinced that  it is due to that mutual belief in each other and a power greater than ALL of us that made good things happen.  I mean, I hadn’t even planned to fly up there to Connecticut … yet it happened … like a miracle!  Try it … you just might like believing in yourself and others.

In the meantime, have a great weekend, and believe!!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Give It Your Best Shot!

Good day and a wonderful Friday y’all!  So, regardless of what is happening, give us your best TGIF!!  I know I may ask a lot of you, but I do the same with myself!!  So, here we go!! TGIF!!

One of the best character traits that an individual can have and develop is “discipline”.  Many people call it different things … like egotistical or “self-love”; but I’d like to bump it up a few notches and call it “self-preservation” directed by the goal of transformation.  If one wants to make a difference in themselves or the world, it requires a commitment.  With a continued constant effort to achieve the desired outcome, one can make that transformation into a better person, if you will, or at least achieve a current goal.  What powers this transformation from one type of person to another?  It is that desire to “be the best that you can be” … not just settling for less or mediocrity.  So, I can transform myself into a person that can achieve my goals.  So can you … if you set some goals or establish some projects.  In completing my third book, I employed that discipline.  No matter what other people said or thought about me and my efforts, I continued until I achieved MY goal.  I mean, I met people who tried to discourage me from writing a book dedicated to MY mother.  You know, some folks just showed disinterest while others tried to make a “joke” out of my desire to complete the book!  In fact, you may remember the episode with a former “property manager” who did as much as he could to deter my efforts.  “Go kick rocks … but get out of my way, please!”

Over the years, I have learned to not only read books … but read PEOPLE!  I watch them or an individual and determine what may make them tick based on their interactions with me.  I discovered that since “they” may not have anything going for themselves, or they may feel intimidated by my interests and projects, not to mention skills, their attitude toward me was like “what are you trying to prove” or “who do you think you are”?  Both thoughts have no place in my life because I have my own goals and I want to give them my best shot!!  After reorganizing my trip to Stateside where I had planned to meet my daughter and grandson in Ft. Lauderdale, I didn’t give up!  I mean, I haven’t seen them in five years!  I am a responsible person … the father and the grandfather … who wants to share my “strength, hope and experience” with my little extended family!  Why not … write a book illustrating this strength and hope in my life … and dedicate it to my Mother!?  Should I ask what’s wrong with that?!?  No, I’ve got other things to accomplish in my life rather than convincing a hater that my projects are worth my time, commitment, and discipline!

This morning, I am flying to Hartford, CT, and staying there for a week with my only child and her son!  I haven’t seen them in five years and my grandson is 5 years old now!  There have been many “ups and downs” in our relationship but I decided a while back not to focus on the negative things if I am to transform myself through discipline into the “best person that I can be”!  Fortunately, throughout my experiences, I have learned to enjoy the feeling of “success” and character building!  That’s the teacher in me!  Needless to say, I wouldn’t have been able to do much in Ft. Lauderdale without the help of good friends.  We ate at nice places, hung out at my favorite club a few times and I got many things done with my book purchases and visiting my mailbox.  Shucks, I even got a booster shot at CVS, this time it was the Moderna brand!

Okay, so right about now as I sit in the living room of my daughter’s place, I am finishing my message after arriving at the airport and being picked up by Ayanna!  We are both here working on some important things after reuniting, hugging, sharing stories and updates!  My grandson will be home later after we pick him up from summer camp!  This opportunity to reunite with them is one that I couldn’t pass up.  Changes came and changes went.  As I sit here finishing this post which I started last night in my buddy Johnny Ace’s place, I am feeling somewhat successful for achieving this long awaited goal!  So, I am going to cut to the chase and suggest that you always … ALWAYS … give it your best efforts!  There’s no shame in being the best that you can be!

Carry on!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Take The Bitter With The Sweetness!

Happy Fridaaay, Y’all!

How are we holding up?!?  Can we show some gratitude in our attitude with a TGIF?  Then, hit it!  TGIF!  Thanks!!

This past week has been quite a “wonderful world wind” for the most part.  The plans I had made to come back Stateside have been going well … almost better than I expected!  The airport entrance activity was a bit awkward in San Jose since when I got on line with Spirit, a staff person immediately asked me if I had my Covid 19 test results.  I told her that I had heard that the test could be taken at the airport a few hours before my flight.  So, I asked where and was instructed that “all would be taken care of” before my flight!  It was true.  I took a short bus ride at the airport to a “mobile clinic” type set up where a sample was taken after I had paid $65.00 using my bank card.  By the time I had gotten back to the airport in San Jose 45 minutes later, the test results had arrived in my e-mail.  It was negative!!  I got on line for Spirit and the rest was typical airport stuff.  You know, the departure gate got moved twice and finally, the plane was two hours late.  “Welcome to Spirit Airlines, Ladies and Gentlemen!”

One of the reasons I was excited to come back for a few weeks was to purchase paperback copies of my book which I need to complete this morning.  My good friend, Johnny Ace, is willing to take me to the bank first to clarify the functions of my new debit card which hasn’t allowed me to purchase my OWN BOOKS!  I’m like: “Whaaaat?”  It worked at Walmart … so … I decided to read the reasons for the declined payments.  It said: “If you continue to have problems with your purchase, you need to go to your bank as we cannot disclose the reasons.”  I am looking forward to getting THIS taken care of first.  Then, we had planned to go to my mailbox at the Main Post Office in Ft. Lauderdale where I have had a box for more than 10 years.  So, hopefully one can see the importance of solid friendships.

In all, I am still learning to take ALL things into consideration when reviewing my life and the genuine friendships coupled with everpresent challenges of misunderstandings and mind games, if you will!  Try not to let life get you “down” because some people “don’t treat you right”!  I try not to worry much because the only person(s) one can change is ones self.  Believe it or not!!

As I continue this somewhat “divine” trip, I look forward to keeping my goals front and center as well as being grateful for the many things that come my way.  I won’t waste much time on who doesn’t like me or who doesn’t understand me.  Besides, I will never forget my accomplishments and the wonderful people who made those things possible!  Enjoy your day and the weekend … wherever you are!!  Know thyself …

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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