TOPIC  35 HOPE A BIT ABOUT ME AND MY HOPES   Still no new topic or not one that I have seen.  If you have, let me know. I am working on improving my blog and one thing I was old to do, was an About me page.  So here is what I have posted on that page, mostly about Cranky Old Lady and the development of Emotional Fitness Training, Inc.

Crankiness has always been part of my life.  I faced the need to learn how to get and stay emotionally fit.  Staying strong is a life long process, some times easy, other times almost impossible, but always necessary.

Cranky Old Lady

Getting strong for me started when I was young and mainly because I was the youngest of three.  Big brothers can be protective, but also are known to torture.  Moreover, my mother was known to have major cranks monthly.

After having one, she often spoke of having   “Fallen off the roof.”  If you know that meant getting her period, you knew what I did not know for the first thirteen years of my life.  Bodily functions particularly related to sex were just not discussed in our house or most houses during that time.  As do must children I blamed my mother’ monthly verbal abuse and anger attacks on myself.

Mom was also a critic and a crank–never felt I could please her, but as compensation knew I was my father’s Curly Headed Cow Girl and could do no wrong in his eyes.  Just for your information I was bald until three;  thereafter, I had stick-straight hair, but that didn’t matter to him or me.  So his love was unconditional. Something everyone needs from someone and contrary to the pop psychology myth it need not be a parent, but is better when it is.

Mom was not all problems and she gave me several wonderful gifts.  One was a love of nature and particularly of animals.   We had to move because my parent’s dreams of buying a home died with my grandfather–who had promised to sign over a house he owned and my parents remodeled. He died, supposedly with the papers on his desk waiting to be signed.  Anyway, we moved from that house to a home in the country which Mom and Dad then tried to buy a house.  They couldn’t get a mortgage,  and we had to move.  Thereafter, both gave up the dream of ever buying a house.

As a seven-year old,  the second move meant changing schools and being one of the first new kids to enter the second grade in my new school.  All creatures, human and otherwise, have a cast system, a hierarchy.  Newcomers have to prove their way and I was shy and did not make friends easily.  Smart mother got me a dog and for many years, she was my best and only friend.

In addition to my dog, our house was often filled with various wounded or baby animals needing rescuing.  My favorite was a baby hoot owl that we returned  the wild, but stayed around the trees near our home for many years.  Then my mother saw that I learned to ride horseback and as a teen that set me free.  We had no money, but I had “good hands” and was allowed to ride and help train some polo ponies at a near-by rich man’s estate.

A second gift of my mother’s relates directly to some of the Emotional Fitness Exercises I have developed.  Something I called sloganeering. Four stand out.

  1. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  2. But for the grace of God  (Neither she nor my father were religious by the way.)
  3.  O, wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!  (By the Poet, Bobbie Burns and Mom would always quote it with a perfect Scottish accent. )
  4. Maybe, tomorrow.  ( Mom loved sunsets and many evenings would take us outside to see if there was a beautiful one.  When it was gray and rainy, she always said, “Maybe, tomorrow” and that was long before Anne sang “Sun come out tomorrow.”
These were wonderful ideas to plant in any child’s mind and have sustained me through many struggles and dark times.
School was  a blessing and a curse.  I have two  learning disabilities .  One is dysgraphia.  That means bad hand writing, difficulty spelling, erratic punctuation, reversing letters, and not always writing what I intend.  The other is dyscalculia.  That means problems with math–not remembering  formula’s.  I simply cannot remember my multiplication table.  Geometry? Ha.  Oddly enough an A+ in algebra.  Think that is because algebra is like an ever-changing puzzle so being able to think matters more than remembering formulas.  And let me brag–I can think.
Not being able to do math was a major source of early shame and low self-esteem.  My cheeks still redden when I think about staying in after recess and trying with all my might to correctly solve the problems my teacher wrote on the board.  When numbers change places or jump all the way off the paper of board, getting the answers the teachers want is impossible.
Lucky me there were no standardized tests or labels.  Also lucky me, I had caring teachers who saw I  very smart.  But the problems remained and created lots of mixed messages.  My high school English teacher kept telling me I would not pass Freshman English if I went to college.  He also made me editor of the year book.  A very mixed message.  My college English teachers either pushed my grade down a notch for mis-spelled words, or averaged it out.  All encouraged me to major in English, which I finally did. Several wanted me to stay in college and get my doctorate in English.
Also lucky me,  I did not have dyslexia and from an early age was a reader.  Another lucky plus for me.   By the time I was ten my mother forced the librarians to let me check out adult books.  Mom had a temper, but that also meant she fought for her children’s rights.  She was also a bit laissez-faire as a mother and by the time I was ten,  I was free to wander as long as I was home for dinner and after dinner home when the street lights came on.  No Hover Mother mine, nor was she pushy about school and grades.  I am grateful.  Of course, for a while, I thought she was a witch because she always seemed to know when I had done something wrong.  Now I know living in a small town where “Everyone knows your face,” meant the phone at home rang if I was going astray.
Another stroke of luck was landing in a small–then small college–and rooming all four years with the same  group of women.  We have stayed friends and friends are an important part of staying emotionally strong.
I never planned to be a therapist, thought I would get married much sooner than I did.  When I left college-a semester early, I couldn’t find a job as an English Major with dysgraphia.   For all my teen years, I had rejected my father’s desire that I become a social worker.  One of the women he knew from his work was the director of the county child welfare agency.  He admired her tremendously and when I couldn’t get a job, sent me to her.  I never looked for another career.  Father did know best.
Training to be a social worker, and  then personal therapy started me on the path to Emotional Fitness Training.  However, most of my work was with those suffering from major mental illnesses.  Emotional Fitness Training came to be when my husband and I became foster parents.  Talk about turning up the crank level in our lives.
Well, first came marriage–in my thirties and quickly, thereafter parenthood.  Almost half of all marriage’s fail and a good many of them when children enter the picture.  Cranky Old Man and I lived together for almost two years before marrying.  I thought we all the issues had been fought through. Ha.  Now, let it be known like many in the world, I married my man, because he filled in a gap for me.  ”Telling it like it is.”  Except for my mother’s monthly explosions the rule at our family was “If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Cranky Old Man’s rule is “Tell it like it is.” And I loved that.  Still do, but also wish he didn’t have to tell all like it is.  Particularly when we are on the way out the door and he suddenly decides he doesn’t like what I am wearing.  Anyway, back to being foster parents.
For almost fourteen years our home was home to an ever-changing group of kids, mostly teens.   We were one of the first so-called “therapeutic” foster parents, in the nation.  We offered non-secure detention to kids deemed Juvenile Delinquents or those then called status offenders–kids who would not obey parents.
When we began, six kids at a time were placed in our care.  In time we cared only for four.  Of the first six, all three of the girls placed with us and the boy we thought was doing the best were removed and sent back to lock-up.  The girls rioted, threatened to kill us.  The boy later called us Nazi’s and said if not taken from our home he would kill someone.
Shortly thereafter,  and before any other kids could be placed with us, we were visited by a psychiatrist who said we caused the riot because we didn’t treat our foster kids the same way we treated our eight-teen month old son.  For example, we made the foster kids drink skim milk.
Cranky Foster Father asked if that meant we should put the teenagers in diapers and to bed at seven o’clock.  Cranky Foster Mother was angry, because the bit about the skimmed milk was a lie.  Cranky Foster Father was the one who drank skimmed milk.  Still use the memory to get me cranked up for target practice.

Taking crankiness out safely.

I was also angry because the psychiatrist didn’t know what he was talking about.  He described me as a mother depriving her children of the rich golden Mother’s milk they craved and needed.  Show what he knew.  Mother’s milk is thin and pale and slightly blue.

Anyway,  that psychiatrist, besides helping me with target practice,  turned me completely against my profession for a while or at least from those trained in the way of Dr. Freud and blaming parents.  I found a better understanding of why the first four failed with the cognitive therapists and slowly became proud to be a therapist once again.

I went on to write two books based on our experience as foster parents: When Good Kids Do Bad Things and Parents Are People Too.  The books were only possible, given my learning disability, because of computers and their word processing abilities. I was an early adopter.   I also drove two editors bonkers.
The second book formalized my Emotional Fitness Program.  At the time, I was also directing a crisis program for families and children in the Bronx.  Most hated seeing therapists, but didn’t mind the idea of improving their Emotional Fitness.
Labels are over used, not always helpful.  I believe the problem lies more in the stigma attached to the labels than the labels themselves.  Labels are just ways of trying to describe something. Theyhelpful or not, but should not create feelings of sha                                          me.
I developed it Emotional Fitness Training, Inc.  to combat stigma.  It can stand alone, as do physical fitness programs or be used as  support for those needing more.  When you are physically healthy, you take vitamins and you keep taking them when you are ill.
Other things you might be interested in knowing about me.
  1. Sometimes known as Sweet Old Lady as the picture shows.

    Sweet Old Lady

  2. I am also know as Professor Levine.  I taught  Columbia University School of Social Work for seven years as full-time faculty.  I failed to get tenure–I spent the summers at the beach, married and had children instead of getting my doctorate or publishing professional stuff.  I eventually became adjunct faculty.  That means being paid a junk salary with no benefits,  because you loved teaching  and are capable of over-working.  I am glad I did.  Teaching is a way to keep learning and it started me on the track of sharing my knowledge.
  3. I am retired now.  At the request of one of our sons when we retired, we moved to from the Big Apple to the big bad west.  That is where I learned to shoot a gun.  The request came so we could help raise our grandsons, and that keeps us very emotionally strong and feeling young and useful.
  4. My retirement has also meant trying to finish off at least two items on my bucket list:
    1.  Item one finish and publish a novel I started years ago. Am publishing that on my 75th birthday.  Will set up a blog page just for that. Watch for it.
    2. Second item is to turn Emotional Fitness Training into a money-making business.  The business motto is “Make Money Doing Good and it has never been in the red.  This year maybe.  and mainly developing EFTI as an online source of support and a business.  Watch for the opening of my EFTI store.
Finally, life is hard and relationships often painful and difficult.  Emotional fitness cannot change that.  What I promise is that I can make some times less painful so you can enjoy what you have been given.
STAYING STRONG  TIP  A bit of shameless promotion.  Do follow my blog, I will publish at lease one staying strong tip a day.

FUEL MY HOPES:  Be kind to  me,  get kindness badges for you, and help others get and stay strong.  Kindness is an Emotional Fitness Exercise.  Click here for all 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Training Exercises.

IMAGE BY: Cartoon by  stock‑photo‑grandma‑confused‑46657861.jpg by shutterstock.com, pictures of me by my Cranky Old Man


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