About Kristen

Let me tell you what I do. I strive to live in harmony with the world around me. In my opinion, choosing to live a natural lifestyle doesn’t have to start with a massive move to live as a hermit in the woods. Small steps are the key to big change! Little things like changing your household cleaners and focusing on personal wellness can make a huge difference, and you will be surprised at how much better you will start to feel when you begin peeling away the layers and getting down to the true, healthy and happy you.

April 2016, Matoskah and Loki

I also strive to introduce my family, and everyone else that I can, the importance of a natural lifestyle. We, as a species, are far too tough on our fragile planet and without a change in our impact on a global scale, our Earth won’t be able to sustain us for much longer. This change can easily seem daunting, or even impossible. Let me assure you, it is something that we can do. We can make a difference, each and every one of us. Global change starts with individual change. When enough individuals change their outlook, their perspective, and their habits, that IS a global change and, perhaps most importantly, a global chance. A chance to grow with the Earth, to once again become the guardians and keepers of our planet, instead of her destroyers.

For many years now, I have held a high respect for the planet and anything that we can do in our daily lives to lessen our impact on the environment. Reducing our environmental footprint can be done in many ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
  • Don’t overuse antibiotics (they don’t help for viral infections anyway…)
  • Lower energy consumption (do you REALLY need that bright light on in the middle of the day?)
  • Reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy (do you really need to drive or can you walk, bike or take public transportation?)
  • Use natural healing where available and appropriate

I completely believe in the power of natural healing. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. Adding to the power of that statement, a Native American named Mourning Dove said, “Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence.”

Baby Matoskah and Thor
Baby Matoskah and Thor

My mission is to provide my child with the best possible world to live in. An old Native American proverb states: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” When you really think about it, this statement couldn’t be truer!

 

You have seen the photos of my son on the page above. Let me tell you a little about us both…

I was given up at 18 months of age by my birth mother, and I never knew my birth father. I was adopted by my step-father’s parents along with my half-sister. We were very grateful to still be together but soon discovered that our step-father was sadistically sexually, mentally and emotionally abusive. We endured his abuses for many years and let me tell you, it takes a toll on a little girl. We learned to never trust anyone, to never allow anyone inside our “shells” that we built around ourselves to protect us. We learned that we were worthless, we were stupid and would never be good at anything. We learned LIES as the truth. And for years, we believed those lies. My sister and I ended up going our own separate ways pretty early in life and lost touch for many years.

We each found healing in our own ways and learned to become survivors instead of victims. That’s incredibly hard! The victim mindset and emotional state are so rattled, so blatantly beaten down that you believe that, somehow, the abuse was your own fault. You believe that, for some reason, fate hates you. You just want it to stop. You want to be normal. You want peace but most victims of this type of abuse have no idea where to even start to find peace and begin that healing process. I didn’t. My sister didn’t, either.

For me, I learned to leave it behind. I had to re-learn my own self-worth but that couldn’t begin until I learned to look forward in life instead of behind. Yeah, what happened was horrible. It shouldn’t happen to ANY kid and sure as hell shouldn’t have happened to me. BUT IT DID. So I had to accept it and move on. I know that may sound harsh or tough to some of you, but it is a bleak realization that there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the hell you experienced, to change those memories and the PTSD that comes from it all. Nothing. You can move on and live your life. You can learn how to leave it behind you. You can learn to love yourself again. You can learn that you actually are beautiful, intelligent, bright-as-the-sun and totally deserving of happiness.

My actual abuse ended when I was 16 years old. I became a survivor of abuse closer to 33. I went through many years of depression, suicide attempts and ended up in a typical situation for victims of abuse where I would subconsciously seek out abusive relationships. Now I understand that I was used to being abused. I was a strong woman and somewhere deep inside felt that someone else should control me, should “put me in my place”. This happens to a staggering number of abuse victims. The best way to stop the entire cycle is to just STOP IT. It’s in your hands, it’s up to you. Stop listening to your fear and doubt, stop believing the lies. No one can save you until you are ready to be saved.

The biggest step for me in this whole process of moving forward was feeling acceptance. Like every other human being on the planet, I needed to feel loved. I needed to feel accepted for who I really am: faults, scars and all. I needed a community that didn’t judge me just because I am different, but rather that embraced my uniqueness as a benefit, not a hindrance. It took me almost 20 years to get there. Please, if you are feeling as I once did, don’t let 20 years of life pass you by before you learn to live it again!

25 Dec 2009, Matoskah with Mommy (Kristen) and Great-Grandmother (his Father’s Father’s Mother, Ida Jane)

I met a man who lived in a multi-generational household. He is a Native American (Lumbee Tribe) and his family took me in, embraced me as if I was born there and let me work through my own issues in my own time. Granny was amazing in the way that she always knew exactly what was going on in my mind and rather than trying to get me to talk it through with her when she could tell I didn’t want to, she would tell me stories of her life, of her kids, of her husband being a POW in WWII, and let me relate to her experiences. She knew how to teach me in such a subtle way about how we are all connected, our lives are all significant in their own ways, and our experiences are what made us who we are today: learn from them and go on to tomorrow. I swear, it felt like the world wept when Granny passed on. I know I did and still do.

Eventually, I let the man inside my shell and we discovered that we really get along great! We have great respect for each other and in 2009, we had our son, Matoskah. We knew Matoskah was a unique kid right from the start. But we didn’t know just HOW unique for a while…

 

He had issues nursing, he was always gassy and spitting up. Later on, he had issues with eating. He totally freaked out at loud sounds (even music), he organized everything compulsively as soon as he could control his hands enough to do so. Color, size, type of object… you always knew he had been in his toy bin if the living room had toy cars arranged so that it looked more like a parking lot than a play area.

He didn’t talk for YEARS. He tried but got so frustrated that he would give up for months at a time. He would point and grunt, he would eventually draw pictures to get his point across. He would say a few words that he felt he mastered but there weren’t many of those. He began getting angry and sad A LOT. I knew it was because he couldn’t communicate well but felt totally helpless at finding a solution that worked for him.

He choked on his food A LOT. Eventually, I had a 3-4-year-old who was eating food prepared as if he was 12 months or so. Smaller pieces didn’t cause as much trouble and soft foods were much better than hard or crunchy foods. It turns out that he has Apraxia and he is Sensory Sensitive. He also has a lot of anxiety. As soon as he weaned from his pacifier, he started nail biting. It got so bad that he would chew his nails until they were gone, then start on his fingertips. His fingertips were always sore, bloody and at risk for infection. His doctors always told me that there was nothing to be done, and just hope he stopped. He didn’t. He started communicating better (thanks, in large part, to 8 speech therapy sessions and I continued the therapy at home when insurance stopped paying for it) but he started stuttering. No parent wants to have your child, who is finally speaking clearly to you, in the bathroom at Walmart and having a panic attack because someone turned on the hand dryer. Sensory Sensitive. Then, he is unable to tell you what’s freaked him out so much because he is so scared that he stutters so much that the words don’t make it out. Talk about frustrating! And even more frustrating were doctors not TELLING us that some kids ARE sensory sensitive. The response was always the same with every “quirk” we would bring up: “Hopefully he will grow out of it eventually.”

He didn’t. At the time of writing this, he is 3 months away from turning 9 years old. He is still sensory sensitive. He still just has to organize everything, everywhere… even in stores and at friends’ houses. He still stutters. He still has anxiety issues. He still chews.

 

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We did most of our learning about his Apraxia and Sensory Sensitivity on our own.  We had to do SOMETHING, he was feeling more and more alienated. He would often tell me he wanted to be normal and I knew how he felt. Although the reason I used to feel that way was totally different, I understood how he felt and it broke my heart! He didn’t make many friends at all… like 3 friends over about 5 years… because he was very different and kids can be very clique-ish. He totally didn’t feel like he belonged like he was just as important or special as other people.

It took a lot of love, patience and long conversations about how I feel he is actually MORE special because he is SO unique. He experiences the world differently than I do, differently from the way anyone else I have ever known and I have been trying to teach him that his unique view and experiences are part of what makes him SO SPECIAL and wonderful!

There have been a few things that made a huge difference! One was finding chewable Stem Jewelry! I make bracelets for him that he can chew on. I buy necklaces for him that have been specially designed for people who chew and chew and.. chew! I even get him silicone rings that he chews on. This has almost completely stopped his finger chewing, at least he doesn’t chew them bloody anymore. I told him that I was sorry for trying to make him stop chewing and that I hadn’t understood him as well as I do now. He chews. It’s a part of who he is and I love ALL of him, chewing included. I just hope he remembers to direct the chewing to his jewelry and away from those hands 😉

He still had the issue of feeling like he didn’t belong anywhere. I tried taking him to some get-togethers of a homeschool group that I like to meet up with. He absolutely hated it. He is a very gentle kid and he didn’t like that the boys his age were rougher, loud and boisterous. He hated it to the point that when he knew we were planning a get-together, he worried about it so much that he made himself sick. So I stopped making him go… but that also meant stopping his opportunity to socialize with kids his age. When I talked to him about it, and how I was hoping he could make friends and start making bonds with other people, he told me flat out that he didn’t want to make friends with them, he didn’t want to bond with them and he didn’t get along with kids his age. OK… he IS mature for his age, even if he is a little small kid physically. I can have a conversation with him and totally forget that he is only 8. So I can see where he just didn’t feel like he fit in with other kids. He prefers hanging out with adults, believe it or not!

But still… he had a bit of an aversion to music and an outright display of anxiety every time there was a loud sound. The longer it went on, the worse he got. We had to watch fireworks from afar. We had to be very careful and scout public bathrooms to make sure it was quiet enough for him. He freaked out when he tried earplugs so that wasn’t going to help. I was at wit’s end with this audio issue. His Daddy liked loud, surround-sound movies and Matoskah would be there with a pillow on each side of his head, trying to muffle the sound! And, the dislike of loudness spilled over to his emotional state. He felt too different. He couldn’t enjoy public events and felt alienated when we seemed to enjoy something that was too loud or flashy for him. AND he has asthma and reactive airway disease, so anxiety (along with elm trees and cats) usually triggers a massive asthma attack.

To top it off, he is Native American and had never even been to a PowWow, which is a Native American gathering and celebration. We LOVE PowWows, but the loud drums and singing, the fancy dancers in regalia… the thought of his panic attack was enough to keep us at home. Then I discovered an amazing thing: Native American Hip Hop!

Now, I’m a rock-n-roll kinda gal, always have been. I generally can’t stand rap. I really dislike hip-hop music as a personal preference. I listened to Slipknot to help me calm down! LOL! But….. let’s give this a try.

I have a smart TV, so I pulled up YouTube and got a video ready to play. It was “Prayer Loop” by Supaman. He was in full fancy dance regalia, playing native drum and flute… and rapping. I was NOT looking forward to this but was hoping he would be interested in the music and the artist (Supaman is AWESOME as an artist and a person!). He sat down with me and we watched the video. Again. And again. He clapped, he jumped with JOY, he DANCED and had about an hour of totally loving life and forgetting all about everything else! I even realized that I didn’t dislike Native American Hip-Hop… I actually like it! THANK YOU, SUPAMAN! You changed our lives! I’ve linked the video just below…. please take a moment to watch this and his other videos if you like it. He has several albums released that you can buy too!

So, when autumn rolled around I saw the paper and found out that Supaman would be at our local PowWow! WHAT?! SWEET! Matoskah wanted to go so he could meet his idol, Supaman! We did go…. he did meet Supaman and he thinks that is one of his best memories EVER! He danced in the intertribals, he shopped, he completely enjoyed living life that day. Then he told me the most amazing thing. He said that he was scared half to death because he knew it would be loud and that everything would be “different”. But when he got there, he FELT LIKE HE BELONGED. He didn’t feel different. He felt Indian and that was the only thing that mattered. He followed Supaman around like a lost puppy every time he had half a chance. Sorry, Supaman! That’s what he does when he is learning a person, he just wants to hang out with you and watch you, how you interact with the world around you. Now he proudly proclaims that “I met Supaman and I hope we are friends now!”

He told me that going to his first PowWow is one of his best memories! <3

He asked me to get him a drum. I went to Tribal Spirit Music and got him an awesome drum and they were amazingly wonderful because they even dyed the drum head orange tie-dye after I said it was his favorite color! We drum and dance almost every night these days. We honor the elements, the directions, Father Sky and Mother Earth and pray for healing. He feels a calling to be a Protector of the Earth and Water, he feels connected to EVERYTHING, he is walking the red road and I am trying to stumble along beside him. We are learning.

But, the point is, he feels that sense of belonging through his link to his ancestry. No matter how hard we tried to garner interest in his ancestry, he just didn’t “get it”. One foot in a PowWow and he suddenly “got it”. It was like the world came into sharp focus for him for the first time and he understood that while he IS different and he IS unique, EVERYONE is different and unique and it should be celebrated! His own uniqueness adds to the mosaic of life and life is sacred, which means that he is sacred and special. He has told me that if we move again, he wants to move to Lumbee Tribal territory and learn from the Elders there. He wants to interact with his Tribe.

Not only did Matoskah feel like he was accepted and belonged there, I did too! That was a significant part of my own personal healing process that I had been needing for decades! You don’t have to be a full-blooded Native American to go to a PowWow. Heck, you don’t have to be Native American at all! It doesn’t really matter because you are you and you are welcome. I tell ya, from the point of a grown adult who didn’t feel completely accepted and welcomed completely unconditionally, the point of someone who has no clear view of their ancestry after being adopted and finding out my birth mother was also adopted, I felt lost before I went to that PowWow with my kid. I didn’t know it at the time, but I felt lost… I only know I felt lost because now I don’t.

And Matt definitely wants to go to every single PowWow that he can. He might want to be a fancy dancer one day if he can get that pesky asthma under control 😉

2 thoughts on “About Kristen

  1. I am still breastfeeding my 2 year old and a co sleeper as well. Honestly, I could do with out both as they are mighty inconvenient, but I know that health and security are found in those things and I would never take them away.

    1. Matoskah finally weaned during the winter when he was four years old. He actually still wanted to nurse but I had to take medication for an abscessed tooth and had to take a break from nursing for two weeks while on the medication. I explained to him that it was just going to be for two weeks, and only because Mommy had to take medicine and that medicine would get into my milk, which would make him sick if he drank it. He accepted this, and enjoyed snuggling against my breast instead, getting that skin to skin contact. After I was done with my medicine, he just neglected to start again until about two months later! I told him that he hadn’t nursed for so long that my milk had stopped, and that I was “empty”. He wanted to check for himself so I let him check both sides, which were both dry, and he looked sad for a minute but got over it very quickly and went on to snuggling and dozed off pretty easily. He still wants his skin to skin time, but doesn’t try to nurse at all. He just enjoys his closeness with Mommy. Now if I could just wrestle that paci away….

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