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Let’s talk about the hard stuff….

10/30/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

It’s hard to know what to write, how things will be perceived or even if in a few months/years from now when I look back to read what I have written if I will be disgusted over what my life has or has not produced, joyful over the memories I have preserved or frustrated with the honesty/openness/ or transparency I try to show. I don’t know, but I do know that when I go weeks or months without writing I feel like something is missing, that a sense of processing, healing, growing and hopefully encouraging others in some way…just isn’t there. This is a hard one to write…I am not an expert, others have had it way worse than I….I don’t have any insights other than my own personal ones into this matter…so they are skewed a little bit. They are skewed to my mind and how I perceive things….that being said I will try to be as open and honest as I can.

One of the hardest things about emotional/mental/ or psychological abuse is how to handle it…how to explain it isn’t in your head, that it isn’t made up, and it isn’t embellished…that it isn’t a lie. The other thing about it is to those around you it kinda comes out of left field when you start the healing process…the sharing process. The thing is, when you are living in it, you want to protect those closest to you. It isn’t like its something so obvious as getting beaten, pushed down the stairs, or any other form of physical abuse. It comes in subtly…it comes like a thief in the night. The comments start harmless at first, so harmless even though they might offend…they get brushed off and you tell yourself to grow some thick skin. You convince yourself that there are already too many pansies and people that get offended by every little thing so “its no big deal and that you can toughen up a little.” It grows from there…instead of complaints of laundry being folded wrong or dishes not being put away….it goes to attacks on things you love, then from there its the people you love….people you thought the other person loved too, then it goes to attacks on behavior of you and finally it gets to the point where you are told ‘you are worthless’ or ‘you should have never been born’ or even…’how stupid can you be’, ‘you are a filthy’, and so, so, so much more. Those are just the words…the silence treatment is a whole different ball game. The thing is when you are going through it you don’t want to tell the people you love about it…for one thing you have been told so many times that ‘you are crazy’ that you actually start believing it and only a ‘crazy’ person would actually tell people about it. You also don’t want to poison those you love against your significant other because in some backwards way you still love them, you still think that ‘well, maybe I provoked it”, “maybe there was too much alcohol involved”, “they really didn’t mean what they said” or “they are just having a bad day”. You excuse the behavior yourself and you use those you love as your crutch, as your excuse for still accepting being treated the way you are because if you told those closest to you….they would want you out of that situation, they might actually stand up for you, they might actually support you and then YOU will have to make a decision. The other part is you don’t want to poison those closest to you because you know you will be doing life still with the ‘offender’ because of possible children involved and you don’t want those you love to be filled with hate, to be filled with images of frustration and disgust. It’s a slippery slope. One that when you decide to take a stand it isn’t understood, and it isn’t often accepted. Bruises you can see….what happen mentally and in ones heart you can’t so it doesn’t seem real…the struggles you might be having by taking a stand, the fear, the tears after text messages, the shaking because you just can’t breathe through it….it all seem like dramatics to those that haven’t lived it, to those that haven’t seen it or experienced it. Then there is the very real realization that you yourself HAVE made mistakes, that you HAVE hurt and betrayed the other person as well. After I left last year in December I entered into an emotional affair via texting. It wasn’t right, it was a betrayal of our marriage vows, it was a betrayal to the love I had for my husband at that time, it was inappropriate and wrong. When he found out he was understandably angry and hurt. I was ashamed and hurt for him, I literally hated myself and couldn’t believe what I did…even though it was all via text words hurt and I am someone who knew just how much words hurt. He asked me to tell his parents, his siblings and my parents…he said that there would be a base to work with if I did that and then…after I did what he requested he went and filed for divorce on our anniversary. He was able to say how ‘filthy’ I was, how “disgusting” I was and how I ruined our marriage…in part he was right, I was so emotionally beat down at that point that I couldn’t see completely how backwards things were for us.

I truly don’t say these things for anyone to hate, for anyone to wish ill-will against the person who caused my emotional/mental/ or psychological abuse. I say it because it isn’t understood. And now…even now…when things are said I still try to protect and when I am told I don’t need to protect but then the truth is called a lie, or embellished….it hurts…it needs to be talked about. I do believe people take offense over the slightest thing, that there are too many people crying out for attention over words that were taken out of context and that people get offended over things that aren’t meant offensively. However I am not talking about the occasional unkind word or typical marital disagreements….I am talking about a daily struggle to know, to process, to prepare of what might be said or what might be done if I did or did not do something. I am talking about attacks made on extended family that were vile and meant to hurt.

In the church, in the Christian faith we need to start recognizing and supporting those who have been through this. Who have experienced or are experiencing hurt like this. I think its hard no matter if you are rooted in the bible or not…but when your faith is what you hope defines you…it is even harder to take a stand against something like this. Everyone is redeemable in Christ. Everyone is a sinner and everyone deserves grace and forgiveness. When that is part of your own make-up…you don’t want people to hate, you don’t want to skew their image of a person, and you don’t want them to struggle like you struggle on a daily basis of being kind and not reactionary. You don’t know how to stand up and say…”this is/was wrong but I can’t tell you about it because you don’t need to know everything.” Because when you say that, when you don’t say everything and then you start you know you have to deal with people not believing you. You have to be strong enough to handle people telling you that you are lying, that you are trying to destroy an image…you have to deal with people looking at you with pity (which lets face it, no one wants), you have to deal with people hanging up on you and telling you that you don’t need to protect them but when you tell them the truth they can’t handle that either. As Christians, as women, we need to support, we need to pray alongside the other person and we need to build them up.

4 Comments - Categories: The Journey

There is no bad guy

04/11/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Apparently in the world of social media there are all kinds of days set aside to acknowledge or celebrate little things in our life and the world that we really have no control over…like siblings. Yes, yesterday was national sibling day…who knew? Much of my childhood memories have been reduced or enlarged…however you chose to look at it…by only the good memories, the treasures and stories that make up the vibrant pattern of the quilt being made that is the tapestry of my life. I often wonder, agonize and stress over what my kids will remember, if they will have good memories of their adolescent years or if they will be filled with me telling them to “just be quiet or I am going to go crazy”, or “really, you really think that is a smart answer”, or…my favorite…”go use your imagination and stop fighting!” I also wonder how much of the past few years will define them, if they will notice or remember the turmoil they lived in, or if what they are going through now…being in two different houses…adjusting to “dad’s” house and me not being there. I am so thankful for the relationship and memories I have with my best friends in the world..,my siblings.

Not having T.V. or rather syndicated television, (we could watch movies), growing up…our imaginations worked in overtime. Our playtime was filled with variou story lines but consistent throughout most was the theme of a “bad guy or group” and a “good guy or group”. If we were pretending to live in the great country of Australia…the bad guys were dingos, prairie fires and a rich land owner. Nationality made no difference in our minds as we often re-enacted the trail of tears or the Underground Railroad…with the proverbial “white man” as the bad guy. However then wandering westward you might never know what Indian might be waiting to scalp you. Cops and robbers…more of the likes of Jesse James and Wyatt Earp kept the law and broke it. We knew no gender or race…there was no prejudices shown EXCEPT to the idea of GOOD and BAD. Those were the days…when a “wind storm” (and a fake one at that), was the “BAD” that encompassed my days. Now…I worry that my kids definition of bad will include more than their imagination and memories of fun they had or will have.

In this situation…this new era of the journey of life…it’s easy for people to blame Matt…to think he is the “bad” guy. I’m not excusing certain behaviors…but he isn’t the “bad” guy. There is NO bad guy. There were bad choices made, bad reaponses, bad circumstances…but there is NO bad guy. For the sake of my kids, for the sake of Matt…I DO NOT want this to be misunderstood. Our kids will be fine. Kids are resilient little beings…we will be fine for our kids…but we are not fine for each other. I’m thankful for Matt. I am thankful for the life we shared…not all of it…I am thankful for the growth I experienced with him and that I will continue to experience through this, I am thankful that he loves his kids, I am thankful for his family. I am thankful that even through this divorce…the kids will be fine…that we both have our kids backs…and THAT THERE IS NO BAD GUY HERE!

2 Comments - Categories: The Journey

It feels like a death.

01/12/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Grandparents are such a special gift in every kids life. Even if they aren’t someone you see often. With parents that had migrated to Missouri from Iowa and Michigan, seeing my grandparents on either side wasn’t a weekly or even a monthly occasion. Each time they visited though or we made the trek to either side it was filled with such excitement and dreams of what we were going to do while we were together. It was especially special to see my grandpa Kent…him and I shared the same birthday and I was gifted with his first name as my middle name so naturally I thought we shared a bond superior to all the other grand-kids. Of course this was not the case but in my child mind it made complete sense. Grandma Kent had passed away when I was 8 and although I do have memories of her they are dim and vary between what I actually remember and the stories I have been told about her. When grandpa would visit though the times were filled with horse rides on his knee, the old lady who swallowed the fly song complete with the best pop in the world which only he could do on the side of his cheek, magic tricks and lots of laughter. One year we got a card from him or rather each of us got our own card, grandma had passed at this point because we were living in the house my parents are in now, the cards were all the same, a snowy scene with a cabin on the front with the reddest front door I had ever seen on a house…It was such an amazing card in my 9 year old mind. Inside of this card was a whole dollar. Each of us kids got a whole dollar and we thought it was the best thing in the world. I look at my kids now and think that there is no way they would be as excited for a dollar bill as I was in that point in my life. Does that come down to parenting, society, inflation or what? Anyway, in April of that year is when I found out grandpa was sick…he had cancer in his bones. I didn’t realize at that time what that meant for the outlook of our family or that my summer would look very different that year. After papa got done teaching in May they packed the car up and we all moved to Des Moines to help care for grandpa. When you are a kid a move like that doesn’t really phase you, you don’t understand the seriousness of it and instead it is an adventure, a chance to explore new areas. On a whole it was a pretty great summer for a kid. Grandpa’s house was right behind an old laundry mat and us kids loved climbing the rock wall to sneak in and see if we could find quarters left behind. The yellowish house was small and right in the city but it was next to an empty lot that was perfect for flying kites, running, baseball and fun with other neighborhood kids. It was the closest to city living I had ever been and I thought it was the bee’s knees. Everyday we would pray for grandpa to get better. First his meals started with us at the table, hospital visits weren’t such an ordeal and him coming outside was normal. As the summer progressed meal time was shared with him less and his sleeping increased. I would sit on a stool next to his bed and read to him. When he was feeling good he would still do his magic and taught us his songs. He would often lean over or open his eyes and say ‘Natasha, we are going to get our birthday together this year.” He would call me on the phone…the birthday’s leading up to that 10th birthday when I was in Missouri and him in Iowa and he would ask me what I wanted. I always said the same thing…”grandpa, I want a pony and a birthday with you.” He always promised that one day we would get our birthday but he wasn’t sure about the pony. The weeks went by and it was said to us kids that instead of praying for grandpa to get better we should pray for him to not feel so much pain. I went to a concert the night of July 25th…grandpa had been sleeping all day and I went in and kissed him goodbye like normal…he knew I was there but didn’t say anything. When I got home that night it was so late and we went straight to bed…I was excited to tell him all about the music I had heard on the capitol lawn and mom was quick to say that I could tell him tomorrow. That house was so small there in Des Moines Iowa but there was a screened in porch on it that was such a blessing. All my cousins had come into to town for grandpa and my birthday and we had been planning a birthday party. It was a big year between the two of us, I was turning 10 and grandpa was turning 70. That next morning, July 26th, mom and papa took me on the porch when I got up and told me that grandpa had quietly went home to be with the Lord. I don’t remember a whole lot of the next hour. I remember screaming and crying and saying that he promised we would have a birthday together. I remember being crushed. The next day, July 27th, I awoke…it was our birthday…grandpa died one day before we could spend it together. We still had a party, he gave me a dress and a card that I still have…I started crying of course when I opened it and couldn’t stop…it took one of my cousins to do something silly and my uncontrollable tears switched to uncontrollable laughter. That loss has never left me. It was the first real loss I had ever experienced…I mean I had gone through losing grandma Kent but this was different because I remembered it, I lived it, and I changed through it.

What I am going through right now feels like a death, it feels final even though I don’t always want it to feel that way.It feels like there isn’t hope and that my prayer should change from one of healing to one of easing the pain and transition. I talked to a dear friend today via text and these are the exact texts I sent her after I told her that Matt was getting a lawyer and not knowing if it was a ploy or for real. She asked how I felt about it and I said: “Like a knife just stabbed me in the gut. On one hand I am relieved and on another I am mad. Mad he doesn’t even want to work on things or see my efforts. Mad that I want to be selfish and that I deserve more but in that very sentence wish we could work it out. Mad that this all might be a ploy to get me to come home because he knows my view on marriage. I am just mad. Mad at my mom telling me that I need to stay for the sake of the family unit and comparing it to her marriage when it’s not even close to her marriage. Mad that he tells me I am ruining the boys and destroying the family by doing what I did when I keep asking him to see the boys or I have them call him. Obviously I am having some anger issues today. :)” But that is where I am right now, I think there are phases and there are different stages of grieving. Grieving for something that was full of life at one point, that was blooming and growing and now appears to be dying…withering away into nothing but anger and frustration. I feel like I did that day before I turned 10…wanting to scream, to kick and to say it isn’t true…that we promised each-other more time, that it shouldn’t be this painful and that I should be able to fix it. That is where I am at today. Not a very strong place to be but that is life and right now…in this moment…this is where I am.

The fall I was 9 I believe with grandpa Kent on the original porch this house had.

The fall I was 9 I believe with grandpa Kent on the original porch this house had.

2 Comments - Categories: The Journey

Oh the Humiliation!

01/11/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

One of the most difficult things to understand right now for me is when its okay to say enough is enough. In today’s society I think a lot of people need to put their grown-up pants on and start acting like the adults they were raised to be. No….I am not just talking about ‘millennials’ or ‘kids these days’…I know far to many adults who get offended and hurt over the smallest things. Things people haven’t even said but they are thinking in their own head. It is so confusing to me. Since when has a yes not meant; yes…and no not meant; no? Since when do we have to sugar coat every little detail in our life or in our kids lives to have a conversation. Granted I did not grow up in a typical house for my age group…so thick skin was developed…but come-on people!!

I was your typical teenager in the fact that I was as awkward as they come. The summer I turned 14 was the summer that my parents saw fit to fix my under-bite…something I am so grateful they sacrificed money for…but at that time it was about the most humiliating event I could have suffered through. Not only did I have an under-bite I also has a cross-bite. I was still growing and hadn’t hit puberty…I was such a late bloomer…that the orthodontist recommended a face mask method over surgery. There were countless hours spent at that office…getting molds of my teeth done, setting the wires and hooks, putting a plate in the top of my mouth so I could turn the dial with a pin every couple days pushing my teeth further and further apart to correct my cross-bite, and then also being fitted for the lovely face masks that they gave out in those days. The very first mask they gave me was a football helmet…no joke…with a contraption out front that my rubber-bands inside my mouth would hook on to. I think that lasted about 3 days…it just would not stay on at night and I was supposed to wear it all the time. The next device worked the same way but was smaller. By smaller I mean that it took up my entire face but it wasn’t a helmet. I had to basically wear this mask 24/7. I wore it shopping, to church, to the park, babysitting…the list goes on and on. Each time I was more mortified than the last. If I tried sneaking out without it I was reprimanded sternly and told to go back into the house and get it. It did nothing for attracting the boys…pretty sure this was a side plan all along…my drooling problem became 100x’s worse and my speech…well lets say I spit more than I talked. I also wore glasses…at that time they took up your entire face, and then there was the every painful acne. There is a family photo floating around this house somewhere of this stage in my life but I can’t find it…which I am secretly relieved about. 6-7 months later my under-bite was gone and braces commenced. At this point in my adulthood I am so thankful for the sacrifices my parents made so I could have the smile I do, which was quite the sacrifice considering there were 8 of us kids at that point being raised on a teachers salary in small town Missouri. But lets just say during that time I had to grow thick skin. Was it fun? No. Would it have been easier if no one made fun of me? probably not because I didn’t like the situation I was in anyway. Could I have blamed others for my perception? I could…but really I was in control of how I saw myself and where I let my mind go. I am not saying it is every okay to bully…but sometimes teasing is just that…teasing. It wasn’t just braces and headgear I was teased over…I had the whitest legs of anybody you have ever seen. Even to this day they have no color. I refuse to fake tan so they are just white…I can’t do anything about it. It’s how God made me and I am finally okay with it. Well, I am okay with the whiteness and arbonne’s self tanning lotion. 🙂 Anyway, because of this thick skin it got me through some tough times in my life. Times when I was pregnant at 19 and not married. Times of going to school for landscape design being the only girl in my class and 4 years older than everyone else. Times of failure when I would have to move back home because something didn’t work out. And as a young woman, living on her own, supporting a kid and working multiple jobs. I believe that my mental state would have been much different if I hadn’t been raised to have tough skin in those moments. The tough skin though is also what has made the situation I am in now so hard.

When I met Matt he was unlike anyone I ever knew. He was funny, adventurous, introduced me to knew music and places I had never been, he had dreams and goals, and he wasn’t afraid to say what he was thinking. I fell so much in love with him…I still love him as odd as that may sound…but over the years and especially the last few more than any other…the words became harsher and flat out mean. Before I continue I do not write this wanting you to judge him or think worse of him…I am simply putting my thoughts down to process myself. This is not an “let’s all hate on Matt” or “he is a scumbag” or any other thoughts that may enter your head. It takes two to get where we are now…not just one. Anyway, I put my thick skin cover on and dealt with it…thinking that it was a phase, that it would pass, or that I was just becoming wimpy, that having two kids almost 17 months apart and one 8 years older than them was draining all my impulses of being strong. He wasn’t all to blame, I allowed it and sometimes even responded with harsh words that I had promised myself I would never say to another person. I know in marriage there is going to be times where you can’t even stand to be in the same room as your partner, I know that it isn’t all roses and chocolate and hugs and kisses…but no one, and I mean NO ONE deserves to wonder about their very existence because of what another person has said to them. Who are we to be the judge and jury? I am realizing now…that it is okay to stand up and say enough is enough. That these words and things you say to me are not acceptable. That the way you treat me in front of the kids or in private isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t have to be perfect but this treatment…yeah…it isn’t going to happen. The balance though is saying it with love…not screaming it, not throwing it in his face. I do not believe…or maybe I don’t want to believe…that he knew what he was doing. That he purposely put me into a place where I was questioning my every move not knowing what was going to set him off. That is one reason this is so hard. I think when someone sees a certain behavior when they are young they naturally inherit that…they improve on it and not in a bad way…what I mean is they say “well, i didn’t like it when so and so did that so I will NEVER do that and I am promising myself to be better”, which then they become in those one or two areas…what they don’t see is that none of it is acceptable, that none of it is right or just. We can’t be perfect and in my own life I know that more than anyone but that is why I am thankful I have someone coming along side me, carrying me and saying “My child I have you in my arms. Rest in that. Learn how to lean on Me because I am helping you, not to judge you but because I love you. I want what is best for you and I want you to become calm in Me that I may show you what is right.” 200643_491237074247342_1558786513_n

No Comments - Categories: The Journey

I should have been a cowgirl…

01/10/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Today is one of those days that just send you down the winding paths of memories. It doesn’t help that I only got maybe 3-4 hours of sleep because of the boys, the fact that I am staying in the room (and have been, coming up on a month now) that my sister and I shared in our teenage years and then again housed me for the beginning months of motherhood when Boyd was a baby,  or the emotional state my mind has been in lately but sometimes the reminiscing can be extremely emotional or cathartic…I guess its how you look at it. No…today is one of those days that sends me remembering the years of my youth and I can’t shake them. We started the day off attempting a reading lesson and when the word ‘rod’ was pronounced ‘ram, rat, rag, rock…etc.’, basically everything but ‘rod’…yeah, I sent my kids outside. Maybe that makes me a bad mom but in that moment I totally would have become a worse mom if I just did not let them get some fresh air. For my sanity and their safety…school work was suspended. (I am totally joking about their safety part by the way…don’t want anyone to think I was being serious.) Anyway, this kind of day reminds me of the days my mom would probably have the same experiences with one or more of us kids and would tell us to go outside and pretend we were on the Oregon trail or in the wild west. In my adulthood I now realize more than I did then, that about 75% of the people that were on the trail died and the wild west was filled with dangers…not sure what mom was trying to say…. 🙂

We had a horse…or rather a very large pony. I believe the qualification for a horse is 14 hands…wendy was 13.5 I believe. We all loved her so much. She was the absolute best. Hours would be spent on her and even the babies would ride if an older kiddo was holding on. I can remember one day when mom packed us a lunch and we set out on the Oregon trail…all 6 of us I think from Avery all they way up to me ranging in age from 3-12. We took our wagon and shimmied something together to affix it to the saddle and we set off on our long journey. Other kids got to play the computer version while we had no idea what a computer even was…no joke. My parents only had 4 acres but we were surrounded by a parcel of land…not even sure exactly how many acres it is…that was owned by some people that live in saint Louis who came out and used the property as hunting land and let us pretty much grow up on that land as well. We affectionately grew to call them ‘the hunters’ and there was dismay in our voice every year when ‘the hunters’ would show up because that meant we lost access to our beloved woods and trails and even a couple camping spots. The fearlessness that mom had sending us all out with a horse, a red radio flyer wagon shimmied up to a saddle that I am 100% convinced would not be OSHA approved…a sack lunch, and orders not to return for a couple hours at the minimum is something I admire. I have found that as much as I don’t want to admit it, I am probably a bit of a helicopter mom. I’m getting better, but the idea that something could happen to my kids has played a part into what I allow them to do. I think its easy for us to feel like we are failing our kids at every turn and that plays into how we release them and let them experience things. I am pretty sure that day we had my little sister, Adley, contract yellow fever and die or something…I know we had one of my siblings pretend to die because we ‘buried’ them on the side of the trail…meaning we made them lay down in the tall grass, we would cover them with leaves and then we would leave. It’s a miracle my younger siblings have any love for us older kids at all. We would be gone for hours on days like this…hours. Playing in the woods, fighting off enemies, nursing the sick and dying and riding our horse. There was a back pasture we would take her in and just let her loose…it felt like she was flying. I loved riding…being on her, walking down the road…flying over the ground…I was at peace. Even in my teenage years when the pulls of right and wrong, emotions and hormones were taking over I could take Wendy out and all would be right in the world. She died my freshman year in college, that was a sad, sad day, I don’t think you often forget your first animal love. Many years later when I was at school at Linn State Technical college I would go to a place I looked at as a second home…Turkey Hill Bible ranch. That place was such a joy to be at and I would get to ride…I taught Boyd to ride there as well. He was only two. A friend and I worked with a couple feisty horses…getting them to a place where kids would ride them. Boyd was always our test…if he could ride them at two we knew they were good. A couple years later I took a trip out west to Montana with Boyd…visited a friend but then went on the explore the state myself. I fell in love. I think there has always been a pull, whether or not to feel like I was flying above the ground or an ache for wide open spaces where it was just my horse and I…that pull has been there and was started at a very young age.

Those are the memories that will I get to carry with me in this life. I watch my kids and wonder if its possible to leave them with the same quality of memories I had growing up. I am not saying all my remembering are joyful and warm and fuzzy…but in each one of them, regardless how I felt in that moment, was with people I loved and who loved me.

Me with our horse, Wendy. I Was almost 10 here.

Me with our horse, Wendy. I Was almost 10 here.

2 Comments - Categories: Family Stories and Reflection, The Journey