By Christina Whiting
Catriona Lowe has experienced moments of exhilaration, joy and adventure. She has also experienced moments of violence and abuse. But, rather than seeing herself a victim, Lowe has actively chosen a life of self-empowerment and community involvement.
Lowe was born in Lancashire, England. Her fondest childhood memories are of times she spent at Cronkould Farm on the Isle of Man. It was here that she found refuge from her father’s temper and violence.
“Just about every truly happy memory of my childhood is from Cronkould Farm,” she said. “Those precious weeks of summer or Christmas that I spent with my cousins sustained me through the rest of the year.”
When she was 14, a friend’s brother and his two friends raped her. For many years, she didn’t tell anyone about this, believing it was her fault. Now, she shares this intensely personal and traumatic experience in the hopes that it may help someone who has experienced something similar to feel less isolated.
At a very young age, Lowe nurtured her own courage and determination, drawing strength from negative situations and determination to carve her own path.
“I quit school and started working full time when I was 17,” she said. “I was so determined to get out of my dad’s house that I bought my own place when I was 19. That stone-built, terraced house was my haven.”
In 1990, Lowe applied to be an au pair in the United States and was hired by a family in Fairfax, Va. She spent the year caring for their three children.
“This life was so exhilarating,” she said. “Dancing, museums, big-city driving, exploring the East Coast with a huge nanny-network of insta-friends…”
When her au pair job ended, Lowe moved to Bend, Ore. Wanting to buy a bike and needing money to do so, she responded to an ad looking for models willing to shave their heads.
“I bought a bike, Birkenstocks and health insurance,” she said.
In Oregon she also discovered snowboarding.
“Snowboarding changed my life,” she said. “It was the first thing I ever did for the sheer joy of doing it; something for me, not to meet the expectations, nor seek the approval of someone else.”
In 1993, Lowe traveled to Alaska seeking adventure.
She lived out of a mini van and found work as a chef on Princess Tours trains from Anchorage to Fairbanks and then as kitchen crew at the Alyeska Prince Hotel. She met Mike Lowe and the couple moved to Homer and opened Catzenjammers Coffee shop, a nickname taken from the German word Katzenjammer, meaning a headache related to a hangover. The couple managed the shop for a year and a half. During this time, they started building a house.
“I sold my bike to buy a truckload of gravel for our driveway,” she said.
After being an illegal alien for nearly five years during which time she paid taxes and purchased healthcare, Lowe received word that the Immigration Naturalization Service was trailing her, so she and Mike quickly married.
Lowe gave birth to her son Ian in 1997 and Dexter in 2000.
“I didn’t really enjoy being a mum when my boys were babies and toddlers, but I love being a mum now,” she said. “I am so amazed by these kids, and feel so fortunate that I get to be with them as they flourish and grow.”
Her marriage ended in 2002, but she, Mike and his wife Vicki, co-parent to create happy, healthy situations in which the boys thrive.
Since 2003, Lowe has worked as the Clinic Manager at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, a nonprofit organization that offers low cost reproductive healthcare and education to the community.
“I care about people,” she said. “I feel privileged that people come here, trust us and allow us to be a part of their health care.”
As part of her own self-care, Lowe has nurtured a lifelong love of commuting by bike.
“Cycling has served many roles in my life,” she said. “I always find the freedom exhilarating and I love traveling using my own power.”
In January 2011, she decided to track her bike commutes. Over the past three years, she has commuted an average of 73 percent of the time, including this past November through January when she bike commuted 100 percent of the time.
“Most drivers treat me as traffic, some give me extra room and I’ve had people offer me rides,” she said. “Others crowd me and yell me. Once, someone even threw salsa at me. I’d love for drivers to know that if I’m on the road, it’s because that’s where I need to be due to debris or potholes. I always try to be both safe and courteous.”
With passion, joy and determination, Catriona Lowe has created a life she loves.
“I love Homer,” she said. “I love my job, my friends, my family and my town.”
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