FAMILIES ARE VETERANS, TOO

l to r: Dad, Aunt Mary (visiting), Mom, me, and my sister. Honolulu, Hawaii, 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually drunk, or trying hard to be, Saturday nights we’d pile into somebody’s car and drive over to the MATS terminal on the military base where many of my friends and I lived.  The flight line wasn’t our reason for driving there; as I recall the snack bar had really good fries.

It was 1966, in Hawaii, and the Military Air Transport terminal on Hickam Air Force Base was a stop on the hop from California for soldiers going to Vietnam.  Like us, most of them were teenagers.

Most of my friends were kids of military families like mine.  Ever since Pearl Harbor the military presence on Oahu’s been pretty beefy so being a military kid –  Air Force, Army, Marines, and especially Navy – wasn’t unusual.  My life was about protocol and acting appropriately; I remember having to answer the phone “Sergeant Palermo’s quarters”.

Adolescence is a time for challenging authority; it’s part of what young people have to do in order to find out, and be, who they are.  While I tried to be part of my peer group, which group had my loyalty was unclear.   Was I a hawk like my military-industrial-complex’s warmongering father? or was I a flower child, a peacenik, a dove like the rest of my generation?

For a military brat like me, being sixteen in the sixties was complicated.  My answer was to dress like a hippie and keep my military heritage to myself.

Even so, those years in Hawaii were mostly spent among other kids who were themselves veterans of military life.  Even when I began college at the University of Hawaii, there were no demonstrations that I remember maybe because the bulk of the island’s inhabitants were part of very traditional Oriental cultures.  For lots of reasons, I wouldn’t have joined a protest rally anyway.

I had pen pals in Southeast Asia, guys I didn’t know but who were like all the guys I did.  Some classmates joined up out of high school, some got drafted, and some were friends out of the University’s ROTC program.  I still keep the letters from one of them.

It was later, back on the mainland, that I felt out of place and isolated – a military brat at a small New England college the year Jimi Hendrix (formerly in the Air Force himself) electrified the national anthem at Woodstock.

Being a childhood veteran is a singular experience; one that’s both good and bad.  I went where my father went and, with hardly any choice, he went where he was told to go.  So me and my family, veterans all, piled into the family Ford or onto a transport plane, and set off across country – again.

They also serve who sit in the back seat.

I never thought to complain that the only consistency in my life was change: leaving friends and having to make new ones; the anxiety of changing schools to one whose different curriculum inevitably guaranteed my failure; trading lush landscapes for harsh winters.  And always, always aware and reminded that my actions could literally affect my father’s career.

Lots of my behaviors result from those years; how can they not?  While I’m flexible enough to move about without trauma (I think) I  don’t have a hometown.  Quick at making friends, I don’t hang onto them.  Love is usually lost, marriage notwithstanding.  A poised pretender, I’m self-critical and self-conscious.  Honest and honorable, I’m surprised and stung when those around me aren’t.

Today’s military families are no less veterans than we were.  Like it or not, and many don’t, military affiliation sets you apart.

There’s nothing quite like the sense of ease I’ve felt around military people; nothing like the belonging I feel around things military.  No time I’ve felt more at home than with others who know what it felt like to be a veteran of growing up military.

Maybe that’s why I love a man who’s a military brat, too.  Whose father and mine were stationed in the same place two different times in our young lives.  Whose mother and mine were bowling buddies across our country.  A family reencountered years later on one of those re-assignment journeys in our family’s Ford.

Thomas John Palermo, Kathe’s father, was a veteran of the Army Air Corps who served in China during World War II and for almost 30 years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Chief Master Sergeant.  He played a significant military role during the Cuban Missile Crisis, about which he never spoke.  Her mother, Elizabeth Korobeckhine Palermo, was herself a veteran of World War II.  Working as a Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado Springs, a high-profile military town, his daughter, Kathe (Palermo) Skinner, often works with veterans of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and their families as well as with those who currently serve.  She is married to David Skinner, son of George and Kay Skinner, military friends of her parents for almost 50 years. 
© Being Heard, LLC, 2017

BO KNOWS FOOTBALL, PARENTING

Father And Son In Park With American Football

Created for the 50th Super Bowl, Toyota has tapped the touchy-feely market by pairing pro football players with their children in a series of commercials about being a father.

Numerous studies show the relationship between early childhood trauma, attachment, abuse, as well as in utero treatment of the unborn fetus and the mental and physical health of adults.

There’s no question that how a child is parented makes an enormous difference in child development.

Debated are the effects of divorce, step-parenting, blended families, and single parenting on children.  In my view, the emotional health of the family unit casts more influence on the growing child than what the family looks like.

How a child turns out is affected by biopsychosocial factors:

  • Biological each child’s hard wiring and physical health (affected pre- and post-natally);
  • Psychological to include attachment, presence of abuse or indulgence, boundaries, rules, roles, exposure to trauma, etc., and;
  • Social factors found not only in the child’s experiences with the wider community and culture — religion, education, social environment, access to goods and services, technology — but also to support networks including family, extended family and peers.

More children can turn out well-adjusted and happy when dads (and moms) provide positive parenting — even if they haven’t been parented well, or at all, themselves.

No argument is being made that all children can turn out wonderfully; there is too little control over the multitude and combination of factors that inspire dysfunction. It’s not foregone that those of us who experienced a less-than-healthy family environment will be less-than-healthy ourselves.  There’s truth to the saying, “I’m like this because my parents stayed together, so you just never know.”

Worrisome is the unawareness or reluctance many people bring to recognizing and creating a healthier family environment than they themselves had.  Parents don’t have to be robotic models of their own parents, though too many are.

Just as bad are parents who ride the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum, thereby encouraging lack of self-discipline and responsibility, materialism, boredom, entitlement, low frustration tolerance, and self-centeredness.  And there’s no proof that socioeconomic status predicts a positive parenting or family outcome.  Nasty custody battles seem to follow the money.

Summarized by a client who honestly believed that marriage meant there weren’t supposed to be any problems (and was angry and confused when there were) parenting is much the same.  Love does mean having to say you’re sorry:  a recognition you’ve erred, selecting out learned behaviors from reactive ones to conscious ones, along with changed behavior, are quantifiable and observable equivalents to saying “sorry”.

Despite all the self-help books, hugs, and positive modeling, parenting will never be a walk in the park.  But hugs, encouragement, and consistent positive modeling can ensure that moms and dads don’t have to walk in the dark.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice where she specializes in couples work, especially with relationships affected by disability.  She and husband David attempt to parent their two children, hooligan kitties Petey and Lucy.  Kathe and David present Couples Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs.  Read about it and register at www.BeingHeardNow.com.  

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copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC

NEVER TRUST A DAISY WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE.

“I love him but I’m not in love with him.”

“I don’t feel that way about her anymore.”

Chamomile Flower Flying Petals Isolated On White Background

What does that mean?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been married more than half my life and there’ve been times when I’d have sold David to the highest bidder.  Shit, any bidder.

Relationship is still the best comic fodder out there. Sometimes, though, relationship stuff isn’t so funny.

How could such a high point in our lives, one that defined who we came to think of ourselves as being, become so abysmal?

Time for a reality check:

We didn’t know what we were getting into.  Did you get the birds and bees talk from your parents?  And if you were fortunate enough to get the facts about sex, I’ll wager no one told you about love and relationship.   While sex is loaded with misunderstanding, innuendo, assumption, and expectation, relationship is many times more complicated than that one component alone.  Don’t even get me started on how we learned to be in a marriage from watching our parents’.

You’re in good company.  Couples are surprised when I tell them how many other couples experience the same things — sleepless nights in separate rooms, thoughts of divorce, planning how to leave, worries about the kids or their families or what their friends will think.  Most every couple experiences relationship burn out, often many times in the same marriage.

Without much more than an admonition to “wait until you’re married” it’s no wonder most people equate sex with love.

Love is transitory.  Think about who you were in high school. Or, if you’re old enough, remember what defined you in your thirties. Dollars to donuts much is different.  What you weigh is different. What you drive (and why you drive it) might change from a small car to a mini-van.  Or, if you’re like me, the color of your hair might be different, too.  And much as some of us would like to have the poundage of a 16 something, change happens all around and to each of us.  Pay attention to Life; marriage mirrors it.  Always moving, shaking . . . changing.  Put another way, love never stays the same.

“Love” doesn’t remain the googly-eyed, altered state it was.  Good thing: who wants to be married to a cross-eyed idiot?

A daisy won’t tell you the truth about love.  If love answers were revealed by plucking petals, there’d be a whole lot less agony around relationship.  In beginning-love, uncertainty can be delicious; all-encompassing, interrupting eating, sleeping, and thinking.  The only way to keep from dying as a sleep-deprived anorexic without a job is to stop being consumed with expectations and assumptions about who loves you and who doesn’t.

Lots of people have it wrong.  Being “in love” comes after “love”.  Being in love is the long-haul, mostly up but sometimes down, day-to-day boring stuff that binds us.  Being in love can’t happen right away.  Being in love packs together the stuff of life and in the process teaches us how to traverse it by ourselves and ultimately with someone else.

DSC_4482-K&DKathe Skinner is a Colorado Springs Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes helping couples get their relationships where they want them to be.  She and husband David are celebrating (really) 30 years of marriage.  Find out more about Kathe and how therapy really can work at http://www.coupleswhotalk.com, where you can also leave a message or set up an appointment.

copyright, 2016 Being Heard, LLC

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN WHO DON’T HAVE SEX FANTASIES

man asleep on computerThe other day I was talking with a friend whose two children were going through predictable stuff – the yuckiness of the opposite sex, trouble with Social Studies, and the usual overload of growing up in today’s world.

Theirs was a constant motion of soccer, electronics, friends, and school.  My colleague was in constant motion, too:  monitoring sleep overs, checking in with other parents, and attending school and athletic events whenever possible.

“Getting enough” wasn’t about sex; it was about sleep.

The importance of a healthy family came through when my friend talked about making brownies for PTA, teaching bike riding skills, kissing boo-boo’s, pacing the ER, laughing at dumb jokes — and mostly being in awe that growing up happened so quickly.

My friend sounded guilty saying that much as the children were loved, parenting sometimes got tough.  There was guilt in wanting what had nothing to do with children — private, grown-up things.  There was resentment that evenings melted into helping with homework and enduring the logistics of bedtime when there was laundry to do and lunches to pack.

To be sure, there was disappointment, anger, and frustration that personal time was lost among responsibilities to work, the kids, and home.

I’d never met those kids but I knew how they felt as surely as if we’d had a conversation:  one look at the myriad photos on my colleague’s phone said it all.  So when I was out shopping last week for Mother’s Day cards, I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I couldn’t find a card that expressed my special admiration.

And I wondered: what kind of Mother’s Day card do his kids get for him?

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach specializing in couples work, especially with those relationships impacted by invisible disability.  She has a firm belief that the quality of a couple’s relationship has significant impact on a family’s health.  With experiences as a 7th grade teacher and as a therapist working with adolescents Kathe considers herself “mom” to hundreds of kids.  She and her husband David live in Colorado where they teach Couple Communication Workshops and are both mom to kitties Petey and Lucy.  Discover more about Kathe Skinner at http://www.CouplesWhoTalk.com where you can sign up for a free, curated, weekly e-newsletter. 

©2016, Being Heard, LLC

 

 

I’M SICK OF RELATIONSHIP ADVICE.

Being in the business of providing relationship counsel, you’d think I’d be saying the opposite.  But even I’m up to here with reading about communication and sex Finding Love Book Shows Relationship Adviceand date nights.

Aren’t you?

People who read relationship advice are unhappy in the relationship they have.  Duh.  They stay that way, too, because if all that advice worked the problem would be solved and no one would need to write all those how to’s.

Here’s the thing:  I don’t think relationship pain is dislodged by advice.

Saving a relationship is about more than a cartful of communication, sex, and date nights.  All those things are necessary, to be sure, but too often the true reason for distress is rooted deep in each partner.  And it’s portable, too.  People arrive at a new marriage – and the next marriage and the next one after that — with all their luggage packed up and trailing behind.

Each of us is responsible for self-fumigation:  get rid of the dead bugs, black mold, and outdated newspapers that are part of what trails behind us.  The clutter comes from way, way back and is responsible for putting thoughts in our heads.  Whether taught or told, exploring what we came to believe about ourselves, each other, and the world of relationships is not only an interesting exercise, but a necessary one.

You may decide that those spoon-fed automatic thoughts no longer fit.   Be warned:  challenging automatic thinking is lifelong work.

For example, when I see crumbs on the kitchen floor the automatic thought is David’s the one who’s been sloppy.   And I’m the one who has to clean up the mess.  Again.  Children’s beliefs about themselves arise from what they’re taught by caregivers — parents, usually. The you-as-a-child won’t, can’t, challenge that thinking but you-as-an-adult can.

In the example of crumbs on the kitchen floor, the early message to me was that I was responsible for cleaning up a mess, whether I’d caused it or not.  I grew up critical of myself and others – they made a mess I had to clean up – thereby maintaining the emotionally-reasoned automatic thought that the actions of others came down on me especially since I never ever make a mess.

Always being right is lonely.  Thinking of myself as a “victim” created and perpetuated continual anger, disappointment, defensiveness, and resentment while bringing about the disregard I most dreaded.

And that’s just my baggage.  Relationship advice is about the two of you only because each of you carries baggage into it – guaranteeing you stub your toe not once, but twice.  I know, I sometimes still do.

No amount of relationship advice will budge that luggage until you unpack and put away your own stuff.

Kathe Skinner has been a Marriage & Family Therapist for over 20 years.  Her private practice focuses on working with the baggage people bring to their lives.  She and her husband-of-the-crumbs have been married for 30 years and share their Colorado Springs’ home with hooligan cats Petey and Lucy.  You can read more about what’s behind Kathe’s work at www.coupleswhotalk.com where you can sign up for a free weekly curated newsletter.

copyright, 2016, Being Heard, LLC

 

HOW THE HELL CAN A PERSON HAVE NOTHIN’ TO SAY?

Couple Watching Football

How John Prine, a very interesting singer/songwriter, knows myhusband is beyond me.  I mean, they’ve never met and the closest David’s gotten to John is liking his music and sometimes singing and playing it.  Oh, and seeing him once in concert.

So it’s a wonderment Prine described my husband, and probably yours, too, with a lyric from Angel From Montgomery.

I thought this year’s April Fool’s Day prank was inspired:  I didn’t have to construct a complicated plan David would see through like he usually does.  And I didn’t have to keep a straight face, something I seldom do.  Instead, my tom-foolery came by way of a popular movie rental box’s email advertisement for KIOSK AMBASSADORS!   People who:

• Like movies and games

• Love sitting in one place for 8+ hours

• Enjoy a very, very small workspace

• Must be able to think “inside the box”

• Not afraid of the dark

• Skilled at stacking discs

• Yoga experience recommended

The last requirement put me off a bit and I admit the photo gave me pause but it wasn’t until I I scrolled to the tag line APRIL FOOL! that I got that it wasn’t really a job for Kiosk Ambassadors.

Chuckling silently  – his office is next to mine – I forwarded the “ad” to him along with a message about how perfect the job of Kiosk Ambassador was for me.  Then I leaned back in my office chair, full of self-congratulations for reeling him in this year.  Instead, it went like this:

Him:  I knew it was a joke.

Me:    You did?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:    How?

Him:   I know how movie discs are replaced.

Me:    You do?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:     Geez, I fell for their joke.  Now I feel really stupid.

Him:    You shouldn’t.

Me:    Why didn’t you tell me?

Him:   I forgot.

Me:    So when did this Andy Rooney-worthy event happen?

Him:   Uh, the other day.

Me:    And you were where?

Him:   Someplace there was a kiosk.

Me:    It’s not like I got too close to some CIA secret you’re sworn to protect.  It’s chatting, for God’s sake!

John Prine asks the musical question “How the hell can a person get up in the mornin’/come home in the evenin’ and have nothing to say?”

Most women I know can relate to pulling information from their partners like it was a permanent tooth and scolding like a mommy when partners don’t share.  It’s not as if information is being purposely withheld but even if it was I’d be no less in the dark than if he was sneaking off to have wild sex in the storeroom at KwikWay.

I guess real men don’t chat.

Guys, while much of your infuriating behavior is kind of cute, even unintentionally withholding from your partner isn’t.  Deeming things “not very important” sends messages you put yourself above chit-chat, can’t be bothered, or find your partner not important (or smart) enough to share your day.  Take it from a wife: Being disregarded is excluding and lonely.

The small things, like how movie rental kiosks are refilled, is the glue that binds us together.  Sharing with your partner is like having dinner as a family – it’s a way of connecting and knowing each other better.

What couple can’t use that?

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado Springs where she’s been in private practice for over 20 years. For a short time after reading this blog, David made an attempt to keep her informed; a week later they are back to normal.  For out more about Kathe’s practice at http://www.CouplesWhoTalk.com where you can also sign up to receive a free, weekly, curated newsletter about men, women and their relationships as well as articles about parenting, health, travel, and more, 

copyright, 2016   Being Heard LLC

PARTNER EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED ELSEWHERE?

You'd better hope your inamorate's attached to more than just you.

Dry your eyes: Your partner’s attachment to more than you is one of the strongest ways to make love last.

You already know part of being human is the capacity for experiencing many emotions.  Turns out that ability isn’t limited to homo sapiens.   Anyone who’s ever had a companion animal knows the depth of the bond that develops, not just because we need their regard, but because they regard us right back.  It’s obvious these creatures are as selective as humans when it comes to feeling affection.

Powerful experiences create emotions like sadness, happiness, love, fear, and anger in many mammals.  It’s heartbreaking to watch an animal grieve at the loss of a companion, one who isn’t necessarily human.  On the other hand, the internet antics of a variety of interspecies’ friendships has its own very popular niche; there’s no doubting the “awww” effect of such interactions.

So it is when office mates celebrate the completion of a long, stressful project with high fives all around.  Intense battlefield experiences account for fellow-soldiers’ often unspoken bonds to each other.  Members of winning teams embrace each other, jump on each other, or cry with each other while their fans do the same thing, even though they’re strangers.

Turns out that trust, touch, desire for social connection, bonding, affection, calmness, fear reduction, protectiveness, a desire for social connection – and, yes, perhaps love – seem to be experienced in varying degrees among sloths and humans as well as between them, a result of the release of oxytocin which is common to all mammals.

Dry your eyes if you assume your partner doesn’t care for you because he cares about others (non-sexually) as well.  Be glad your partner’s in touch with others — pets, co-workers, buddies, family.  Self-expressing, sharing emotional experiences with others, and being empathetic all enable your partner to be part of your healthy relationship.

Isn’t that what you wanted in the first place?

A Marriage & Family Therapist for over 20 years, Kathe Skinner specializes in couples work in her Colorado Springs’ practice.  She has been married for over 30 years to David and has had many inter-species relationships, currently with kitties Petey and Lucy.  Read more about Kathe and her approach to therapy at www.coupleswhotalk.com where you can sign up to receive her FREE curated newsletter.

copyright, 2016 Being Heard, LLC