Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Posts tagged “homeless

Life as a CSU Student

The last few weeks have been very intense. I’ve been attending CSU for two weeks and prior to that were many student orientation activities designed to make us feel more a part of the college. It’s been a lot of fun, but also an incredible amount of stress returning full time to classes.

Calculus was a bit of a surprise and I found myself quickly swamped. My instructor is a graduate student and this is his first time teaching. He’s nice and tries hard, but that doesn’t really take the place of experience. When comparing the learning experience of myself to that of Blue Jess who’s taking calculus at the community college, I feel she’s getting a much deeper teaching of the subject. It’s taking a lot of extra study time for me to make up for what isn’t being taught in class, but I’m getting there and feel as though I’m doing well.

Speaking of being taught in class – I found it rather odd that in every one of my classes, the first two times we met were mostly fluff. Nothing was being taught, it was all about the syllabus and how to be a student. I understand these are typically freshmen level courses, but as an experienced student ready to learn it was a little frustrating. Especially as the homework kept coming in, but no instruction was given on how to handle the problems.

Chemistry was my favorite class. The instructor was humorous and had a dynamic teaching style. Unfortunately, by not coming to it fresh from Intro to Chemistry, the homework load was enormous. A few days ago I decided to drop chemistry for this semester and try it again closer to when I’ll be needing it.

Intro to Astronomy has been ok enough so far, I think it will start picking up soon though. We have been covering the ancient Greeks and Romans and their contributions to modern astronomy.

I’ve had to pick up a one credit odd course since dropping chemistry in order to keep my financial aid, therefor I shall also be taking a class in West African contexts and perspectives. It begins in late October and will hopefully be very interesting as I hear the instructor is pretty great.

It’s been a bit of a frustrating thing to drop chemistry. I don’t like feeling as though I could have done more, done better. Truth is, there is an enormous amount of stuff going on right now in my personal life and this heavily contributed to my choice in dropping chemistry. There is only so much of me to go around and still actually feel like I’m not neglecting something important. Still… while the reasons are sound, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done chemistry had my personal life been less chaotic right now.

I have had a good time meeting some new people last week in various clubs. I’ve even volunteered to be a student council representative for SHPE – “Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers” and pronounced as “ship.” I’m curious as to where my involvement with them will go as they are a friendly group of people and I can see being with the club the next several years of my education.

Last April I began going to a CrossFit gym to do a dramatic boost to my fitness level. I’ve been pretty consistently going three times a week ever since. I love working out there, such an amazing group of people. My hope at the time had been to see my endurance raised enough to handle a full day of school and homework when I began at CSU. At one point last week, I was climbing 4 flights of stairs with a heavy backpack on my back full of textbooks and easily keeping up with everyone else. The thought struck me around the third floor that this was exactly why I’d been working out so hard all summer – I’d achieved my goal.

Even though I had to drop chemistry and feel a bit of failure in doing so, the reality is that I have achieved so much more that its time to focus on all the success. I have moved here, applied and been accepted into CSU, received residency so I could afford to attend, gotten my math skills up to the level they needed to be so I could succeed at calculus this fall, gotten my physicality up to the point where being bedbound only three years ago seems like it happened in a different lifetime, and am healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally than I have ever been before in my life.

That is a heck of a lot of success to culminate in these last few weeks. No wonder I feel so tired, it’s been a very long road to get here and now I see that this road has only just begun. Life is an adventure and I’m incredibly happy to be on this one, even when I’m feeling tired and drained by the road I’ve been walking to get here.

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Goodbye to Lisa

I’ve been delaying posting this until things were in the process of becoming legal – Jeremy and I are fully changing both of our names! Not a post I thought I’d be writing when I started this blog nearly 5 years ago… wait, 5 years? Wow!

I’ve shared so much of my life here. The struggles we had living in the tent and trying to get well, but only getting sicker. The fantastic journey to Hawaii where everything changed and healing became part of our lives once more. Then now, this journey leading me back to college and a future that is opening more for me every day.

Changing our names is a pretty big thing for us. Those of you who have read through this blog know things were rarely easy while we struggled to find healing in that tent. Though this blog starts in 2009, that struggle actually began in 2001. It’s been a very long and hard road to get to the point we are at now.

Along the way, I found it interesting that the only time in my life I ever began identifying with the name “Lisa” was in the deepest and darkest part of my life story. Somehow, through all the pretty lousy stuff in my childhood (of which I’ve rarely said much, but trust me, it was not good) the name “Lisa” came to mean pain, unhappiness, sickness, and life being upside down with no easy way to right it.

As one might imagine, while my healing has been progressing these last couple of years, I’ve felt rather distanced from the name of “Lisa.” I’m just not that girl anymore for whom normal is sadness and believing that life beats up on you, never feeling like I can succeed because that only allows in more pain when you fail.

I’m on my way to being happy, truly happy and being able to feel it. Starting to believe that life isn’t only ever going to tear me down, but that instead I can trust in the foundation I’m building on to hold me secure while I build to greater heights.

It’s scary, very scary. Everything is new and different – I’m new and different.

Hence, the new name. Something that is more the me who I’m becoming and want to be in life, rather than a name that is connected to so much pain in the past. As for Jeremy changing his name too? We’ll, that’s his story to tell, but it’s much the same – just as our last names are changing to be the same too.

Who will I be? It was a hard choice, I mean – how often do you really stop to think about what name suits you best? After settling on something I liked very much, then came the trial period where I had to try on the name, much like a new set of clothes, and see how it fit. My first try at a name fit me very well – too well. I found it highly uncomfortable when people would mispronounce it or worse yet they’d make fun of it. Since the name was so close to my heart I had no armor to protect me from their words. A new name had to be found, but I already had a nickname I liked and wanted to keep.

I’ve decided to go with Catrin, but you can all call me Cat. Yesterday, someone didn’t hear me right when I said my name was Catrin and understandably they thought I’d said Cathrine. I found that I didn’t mind it so much and easy enough to tell them to just keep on calling me Cat. It also seems to help that Cat is so easy to see where it comes from with the name Catrin.

What happened to the first name I liked so much? Well, I’ve decided to keep that one too – but I’m putting it in the middle where it can be a bit more protected from the world and the evils of telemarketers who find your phone number.

Jeremy has been a different story. He simply asked me one night for interesting names starting with “Z” and when I mentioned Zain, he knew that was for him. Same with his middle name, I just tossed something out and he loved it so much he’s kept it.

We’ve filed with the county courts and are in the middle of making everything legal. Within a few weeks we should legally be Catrin and Zain and can start the task of changing our names everywhere – and I do mean everywhere. It’s a little daunting, but also exciting and fun. Think for a moment of everyone and everyplace you interact with at least once a year and that will be the list we use to change over our life to new names. Phew, it’s a big list!

Our dog Falkor, well he’ll be staying Falkor. So I guess not everything’s changing around here!


Nude Beach

Have you ever been to a nude beach? I went to my first one today!

Little Beach, Maui – Hawaii

Little Beach is part of the Makena State Park and known for being clothing optional, as well as it’s Sunday night drum parties. It’s a very nice little cove at the end of a quarter mile hike. The snorkeling wasn’t spectacular, however we saw some fish we’ve never seen before – including a small school of fish probably each the size of a large dog. As well, several sea turtles made the whole trip very worthwhile.

Yet, we didn’t go to Little Beach for the snorkeling – we went for the whales. Humpback whales migrate here each winter from December through April. According to my research, Little Beach would be just about the best place from shore to watch them passing by. Shortly after we arrived we were greeted with an amazing site. Two adult humpback whales only a few hundred feet off the shore, swimming along and doing their own thing. Though we didn’t see much more than their back spines each time they came to the surface, it was a fantastic site that brought tears to my eyes.

I mean, how fantastic is it to have seen something like that so close in the wild?

I wasn’t on a boat with dozens of other tourists or some other modern means to be out on the water with them. No, I was just standing on the shore of a beach I’d hiked out to and seeing them as I am, a human on land, and as they are, majestic beauty in the ocean. Absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen whales, not even here on Maui – just something about them being so close I felt like I could nearly touch them… wonderful.

Have you ever wondered what whale songs are like in the wild?

Sometimes when you snorkel here during the winter you can hear them signing to each other underwater. This is the second time I’ve been lucky to hear them. Today they were loud enough to be easily heard, even over the white noise of the choppy waves we were snorkeling in. It was very magical, especially the times when we’d find a turtle to swim with. Whales whistling and calling to one another, following a sea turtle as it wandered the reef, scores of brightly colored fish swimming below us – I’ll always remember this.

I found myself at one point being struck by how diametrically different my life is now compared to March in Washington while living in a tent. Almost every year the last snow of the season would be sometime in the next two weeks. We’d be completely and totally exhausted from surviving another freezing and snowy winter only to look forward to a ridiculous amount of rain for the next two months, praying this summer would be warm and sunny. Often times it would be a wet summer too with nary a good, hot day to burn off winter’s chill before turning into Autumn and starting the cycle all over.

Instead, here I was snorkeling nude in the ocean, warm sunshine on my backside, while swimming with whales and turtles!

If life can change so dramatically for me in such a short period of time, just think of what else I can do. I am getting healthy again, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes like today I can really feel just how possible it is to change my situation for the better. It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and tenacity, but just look at where I am now!

I used to feel like I could inspire others to follow their dreams, grow as individuals, and reach places they thought were too distant – but sadly, I couldn’t do that for myself. Now I look at how life has changed me…I can be my own inspiration and reach my own dreams.

If I were to be able to speak to the illness that has stolen so many years of my life, I would have to quote one of my favorite movies – “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the (life) that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me.”


Metamorphosis

I feel as though life is currently lived in a haze of passing moments. It is difficult at times to capture what is going on around me as I’m still trying to adjust to their speed. Living in the woods for nearly 10 years was a different world than the one I life in now.

I rose when the sun was up and the animals made enough racket to wake me. Life followed the seasons and weather, Each winter I rested while dreaming of warmer days. I would initially welcome spring bringing new life back into the forest around me, then curse it for the alder tree pollens that nearly crippled me with allergies each year. Summer would come as a blaze of warmth and sunshine, drowsy hours spent resting in the sun and locking away the memory to be cherished next snow storm. The autumn would bring a welcome crispness to the air and spur me to finish all my winter preparations.

Life was much simpler as each season had its own pace and little to hurry me before the next season began to make itself known.

Over the years I would often dream of once again living indoors. Things would be easier, I would feeling safer – being warm. One thing I always forgot to add into the details was the flow life takes when you have places to be and things to do.

I feel as though time stood still while I lived in a tent, events moving around me to change the world I live in, but ultimately not touching me. I saw a war, a new president, our economy plummet, avian flu bugs, cellphone use explode to a way of life, gas prices sky rocket, the internet become a culture – all of this and more as though looking on through a one way mirror.

Now life feels considerably different. Trying to reintegrate with a world that has flown by me, it can be … tricky. Things others take for granted after years of living in the American culture of the 21st century, I am coming into having read about it, but not personally experiencing it. It’s like reading a guidebook before you get to your destination – things are familiar, but you still have to learn your way around.

While the last 10 years of illness are hazy in my memory (its surprising how quickly the tent is fading away), the previous healthy years of life as a college student and bookstore clerk are surprisingly clear and sharp. This has caused an odd juxtaposition of lives to needing to be merge: The one knows how to live in a fast paced world, but approached it as a healthy and vigorous 24 year old; verses the one who knows how to live with chronic illness and in sync with the seasons of life.

Trying to merge these two dynamic halves into a whole has been both invigorating and stressful.

Last summer I awoke in a new world and a new place, considerably changed from when I fell asleep 10 years ago. As I move through my new surroundings, I am letting fall behind the shackles that bound me, and stepping forth into the rainbow of possibility before me to discover who I have become.


A Doctor and a Friend

I just finished writing a postcard to send to Dr. Buscher, the physician we have been seeing these last 7 years. It was a surprisingly emotional experience.

He is a man who stood by us when many a doctor would have walked away. We were never made to feel like we were the reason our health was failing, but instead he understood that we did everything we possibly could to become well again. Considering the months it would take for us to go from him handing us lab work papers and the tests actually being run, months again between visits, and a severe lack of money complicating things further – he never gave up on us.

And when times became darkest last year, I couldn’t find my way out of the nightmare my health was plunging into – Dr. Buscher was there to light the way and guide me back.

Without his help over the years, it is unlikely we would have made it to see this wonderful island of Maui and find joy in living again.

Thank you Dr. Buscher for everything you’ve done and my only regret in moving to Hawaii is that I couldn’t take you with me!


First Week in Maui

I have been here in my new apartment in Maui for a week now. After 9 years, 6 six months, and 1 day in a tent we are finally indoors.

Maui is a beautiful place and it already feels like home. There was about two days of culture shock in which I had to adjust to wild chickens and many close neighbors, though I am more accustomed to it now. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will learn to sleep through roosters at 6 am and neighbor noises through the walls.

I have many pictures, but have not located the cable to download them from my camera. Most things have arrived in the mail unharmed, though my pc was not one of them. For now we are back to being a one computer family and I find it to be rather pleasant. It encourages us to interact together instead of being less than a foot apart physically yet miles away mentally.

I find myself feeling no worse than I would have mere weeks ago and often I feel noticeably better. This is very promising of future things to come for healing. Our apartment is steadily airing out and has promise to be an MCS safe haven despite having semi-toxic neighbors.

The rigors of a month to pack and relocate thousands of miles away have left me easily fatigued the last couple days. Next post I’ll hopefully be able to share some pictures!


Take a Deep Breath, Now LEAP!

Today is my last morning with a computer before it too is packed away in a cardboard box and sent ahead of me towards my new home. Over the past four weeks, I have evaluated each aspect of life I collected around me – weighed and determined if it was valuable enough to warrant shipping or if I would finally part ways with it to lighten my load.

It is surprising how little I chose to keep.

I have always been a packrat by nature. This enthusiasm to keep things that might one day be ‘useful’ has still persisted even living in a tent year around, but what is useful here is not always the same as what is useful indoors in Hawaii. Certainly the sharp axe used to split small logs will be left behind, while our amazingly comfortable camp chairs have passed inspection and are already at our new apartment.

I find as our camp dwindles in clutter, a great deal of contentment begins to infuse my being. It is as though I am washing away a decade of grief and pain caused by a dramatic loss of health, family, and nearly everything I once was.

The woman who sits here today is a very different person to the one who walked into this exact camp site 7 years ago. Before now, I had never lived in a single place longer than a few years. How odd that I finally found the stability in housing I always longed for by living in a tent.

Am I scared of these new changes to come? You bet I am. It is all unknown – this will be the first time Jeremy and I will live outside of a tent on our own while ill.

But I am also hugely excited. Despite the fear, I will be stepping out of darkness and into the bright world beckoning me the last several years. I will walk with my head held high, the strength and courage I found in these dark years supporting me when my knees are weak with fear.

And so this is my last post from a tent – as always I am full of hope and determination to see myself and Jeremy walking forward into our future instead of looking back at our past.

Good bye tent. Hello Maui!