Pumpkin Pie-ish!!

Gluten free, sugar free,  almost free dairy Thanksgiving was delicious this year. We had turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole, boiled onions and the best for last….Pumpkin pie-ish.

I made the crust from nuts, pecan crackers and 3 apple pie Lara bars. I ground them up separately in the food processor and patted the mixture into the pie pan. I baked the crust- like substance (winky face here) for 15 minutes at 350 and then added my Libby’s pumpkin from the can, mixed with 1/2 cup apple cider and 1 half cup ½ and ½, 4 eggs beaten and 24 Sweet and Low. I added some pumpkin pie spice and baked it for 1 hour, covering the edges with my long unused pie edge cover at 30 minutes in.

I always keep a sense of humor and lightness when I bake gluten and sugar free. Some of the results have been less than yummy. This pumpkin pie, however, is a keeper. I have not had pumpkin pie for 12 years since I stopped eating sugar.

Juli and the pie.

I served this pie with Sugar and Dairy Free Cool Whip and everyone liked it, even the sugar and gluten eaters in the group. One comment from a Facebook freind was that my pie was better than a regular pumpkin pie that she had later that day. That is a fine compliment. I can’t wait for Christmas so I can make it again.

Darkness descending

burn burning candle candlelight
Photo by Hakan Erenler on Pexels.com

This time of year I can feel the darkness in my soul. Ron lights candles for the front windows so I can see the flickering light when I drive up the road after work. This year we put up a holiday tree. It sparkles gaily in the last window. Just writing that makes me smile and shores up the hope in my heart.

When I look out the windows at work at 4: 15 PM the blackness is descending. The street lights get long in the snow flakes and tears form in my eyes. I walk back into the light of the office and finish up my day’s work reminding myself of the candles, the tree and Ron waiting at home for me.

advent blur branch bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Each day is a new day. I share this because I know I am not alone. The darkness feels lonely, isolating and heavy: all an illusion. I have tools to cope. The light always comes back. Long summer days will return and the warm sun will shine again.

Does Aikido work?

There seems to be need to defend aikido. As in :”Why do you train in Aikido. It doesn’t ‘work”?”

It depends on how we define “work”.

The benefits I have received from my training include:

* Spacial awareness
* Safety consciousness
* Enhanced spirituality
* Increased flexibility
* Enhanced physicality (ability to move freely at 60 years of age)
* Awareness of what it mine and what is yours regarding what to change
* Enhanced ability to see my own side of the street
* Enhanced ability to see the good and not so good in others and accept them as they are
* Not to mention, I am more patient, and much less likely to blame others for my responses.

We all train in our own ways and get our own results.


I would say Aikido “works” for me. Does it “work” for you and how does it “work”?


I asked him to take it back but he didn’t.

Ki in daily life is the writing prompt Ron gave me a few days ago. I asked him to take it back but he didn’t.

I am feeling blah around it but I am practicing new behaviors so here we go.

I have noticed lately that I am feeling low. I am not excited to get out of bed. I am having a lot of negative thoughts like:

“I have worked my whole life and this is where I have ended up.”  I need to make more money or have more recognition.” Now the more money would be nice but I don’t need someone telling every second that I am doing a good job.

As I have said before I am turning sixty in a few days. I think the pall that I feel is because something in the back of my mind says 60 is the big one: the one where we really are all done. No more fun…just grown up hard stuff.

That being said…and I am going to keep telling about it until it passes because I know that it is a lie and if I keep telling it will diminish like all untruths…only the truth lasts and I want to live in the truth.

That being said…I feel great. Last night Ron and I went for a bike ride after work. We had a nice healthy dinner and then cleaned up the kitchen.

We played mitts and sticks and then an exciting game of “Ticket to Ride” where we had some healthy fun feuding.  He gets to wear the imaginary engineer hat and scarf because he won yet again.


Work felt long yesterday and I felt lonely for a bit and sad because I think I don’t get to see my family enough.

I noticed all this because I pay attention to my feelings and notice when they arise and how long they last and if they are true or a deliberate manufacturing of self-pity.

Ron and I have a lovely life together. Yet I can wander away from it to torture myself with “what ifs”…”what if we lose the house?, what if I die first?…what if I die last? What if I get dementia?  What if I am a street lady?”

I can let myself get filled with self-centered fear like a helium balloon that breaks the string and flies off to balloon heaven (or hell).


I practice ki in daily life by coming back to what is real. And what is real in each moment is that I am ok. I am so ok.

Then I can see if I am ok in this moment maybe I will be ok in all the moments. One moment at a time.

I come back to now by doing something physical…it may be going for a walk, hopping on my bike for a spin, doing some ki exercises, juggling for a few moments,  vacuuming the floor, sweeping the cobwebs off the lights and my mind. Sometimes I go out to the dojo and do rolls just to remind myself that I can.


I might write down what is bothering me, or I might write a gratitude list and share it with my gratitude group. I might write an email to my sponsor or tell Ron what is going on. I might write my blog. Sometimes I just get on my knees and pray for help. I have many tools to bring me back to the moment where all is well.

I think the challenge of getting older is to stay in the now as much as possible and to appreciate all the gifts that abound around me.

I do not have to give up and sit in my chair like my mother did. I want to grab the rest of this life and live it. I love to be alive and I am happy for the chance to see what my sixties look like on me.



Saviors or abusers.


kim and mir

I used to think that all men were saviors. Then I thought all men were abusers.

When I was a little girl I thought men kept us safe and protected us from the world. After I started training I thought all men hurt women and there was no hope.

Now I know the truth is complicated. Good men exist. Good men do bad things sometimes. Bad men do bad things and maybe good things sometimes.

No man is coming to save me. That is my job. I can learn from all situations. Every single moment can teach me more about survival and thriving.

I spent many years looking for my knight is shining armor. Trust me…he is not sitting on a bar stool.


I starting training in Aikido and found a good man: but better than that I found a good woman who no longer was willing to be saved or be abused.

In aikido I found my own power. It started subtly as I trained with men who were rough around the edges but had good hearts. Men who encouraged me to roll and to wear my white gi pants to fit in; that didn’t care if I looked pretty or got sweaty.

There were men in that dojo that were self-absorbed and sexist …just like there is all over the world.  There were men who did not want to be taught by a woman and who told me that women can’t get strong enough to protect themselves.

I just kept training and teaching. People that did not like our way at our dojo went away. We find that good people stay. We found that men are good and strong and respectful just as women are good and strong and respectful.

As we change, the people that we surround ourselves with change too.  I am responsible for the choices I make. As men and women train together they can receive and give the best from each other.



you were my first.

Hey Grampy:

You were my first. My first death. What a shock it was when I realized you were gone and never coming back. I was fourteen and you were 79. I love you so… still, writing this brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. Who will sit on the hillside and count train cars with me? Who will trek up the hill in the woods by the tracks and get Gramma’s greens for her Christmas window boxes? Who will sit in our chair together and read the same stories over and over? Who will love me even when I am not speaking to them because they read the wrong words just to tease me?Who will hold my hand and walk around the farm with me ?




Who will I sit and watch wrestling with? No one can yell at Big Moose Sherlock like you did. Who will sing the soft Irish songs or chuckle at my school troubles and make them better with a joke or a poem?

No one can fill my Grampy hole. You were it for me. After you it was a mess. Thank god you still look out for me. I know you helped me through drunken scrapes when I was lost. I still feel you and know that your love is real. Thanks, Grampy for teaching me about love. I do believe in it and feel it in the world today because of your love for me.

Love Mary Catherine

faced head on, fear slips away.


sweatshirt 2

I was 34. My Mom was 70 and she was dying. I walked down the long white hospital corridor to visit her.  I smelled antiseptic, fresh paint and sickness. I was repulsed. As a single mother of 2 young girls I was in pre nursing at the local community college. I had a moment of clarity. I am impatient with sick people. I could never be a nurse. Pushed by my financial insecurity and my family’s ideas that I should be a nurse and make “good money” I had signed up for nursing.  My moment of clarity came when I was really honest with myself. I wanted to be an Aikido teacher.  This dream was so dear to my heart that I could tell no one. I had only been training for 2 years and was only a brown belt but I knew that this was a physical language that I could speak and teach. I was in heaven when I was on the mat. Teaching aikido wasn’t a good money maker and I knew that this idea wouldn’t make sense to anyone so I decided secretly in my soul that I would quit pre nursing school, work at any job I could find and train as much as I could in aikido.

At the time, this seemed even to me, a foolhardy decision. I was living in a family subsidized house paying only $107.00 month rent in 1987.  And I was had a hard time paying that. I was driving a diaper van part time making $8.00 an hour with no benefits. My ex-husband was pretty sketchy about paying child support and I was attempting to raise my 7 year old and 4 year old daughters on my own. We were on food stamps and my daughters were getting health insurance from the state. I knew telling anyone that I was going to be an Aikido teacher when I grow up was a big mistake. Yet I knew in my heart it was the right choice for me.

I started training because a women’s basketball league that I played in was canceled. I stopped by the mat and watched as several men moved in what seemed like circles around each other and then fell and made a huge slapping noise on the mat. I was fascinated but unsure of what they were doing. The teacher Ron, (now my husband) came over to me and invited me to join class. I demurred. He demonstrated Unbendable Arm to me, which is a simple exercise where you extend your arm out as if you are shooting water out a hose in your imagination through your fingers. He then tried to bend my arm as I visualized the water jetting out my fingers. He could not bend my arm. I was fascinated. He invited me to come class the next night and I did. I was hooked.

The first year was so confusing and painful. I had no idea of what was going on. Ron would demonstrate a technique and then me and 10 guys would stand up, pick partners and attempt to do what Ron just demonstrated.  I did not know how to fall or roll and I did not like anyone touching me. So every moment was uncomfortable and very challenging. I kept coming back anyway. I wanted to be able to move in circles and fly over the mat like I saw that first night. And I didn’t know it yet but I wanted to heal from years of abuse that I was not even aware of yet.

I continued to train 3 or 4 times a week. Luckily the mat was at a community center and my daughters could do their homework, take swim and dance lessons while I was in class.


I started playing basketball and baseball really early. I had 5 older brothers….it was our culture….we ran, we hid, we threw balls and caught them or got hit in the face. One of the first things I remember my father telling me was “keep your eye on the ball” as he pitched a baseball.  I would shoot at the hoop on my brother Dickie’s, 6 foot 4 shoulders when I was just a peanut. Movement is my spiritual practice.

So aikido was a natural for me. Not that I knew it when I started. I just thought Ron was a “fine looking fella”, to quote my mother.


For the 1st year I stumbled about not having a clue. Not one clue. I did not understand the whole concept of being uke. Why would anyone want to fall down?  I could not roll…not at all. It was very scary and pitiful. I used to hide at the end of the line but the guys would push me up and encourage me even though every roll and every fall hurt like hell. I cried after class a lot. Once after a particularly terrifying class I vowed never to come back. Ron saw me scurrying out and he called me over to explain it was only noise when the guys yelled as they attacked me. He said noise can’t hurt you and the guys would never hurt me anyway. I didn’t totally believe him but I really appreciated him taking the time to explain that to me. When I was a kid my father would yell at me and then hit me. I never knew there was a separation.  I really needed aikido training badly.


Before Aikido, there was fear, constant fear, unrecognized fear, paralyzing fear, and unconscious fear. Fear manifested itself in buildings not entered, encounters avoided, and many drinks taken way past the point of where drinking was helpful. Fear prohibited conversation, stifled movement and restricted involvement.

After aikido, fear got different. Fear was noticed, acknowledged, breathed through, talked about and released though training and sometimes through tears.  On the aikido mat fear was met again and again in a safe, supported and controlled environment.

Faced head on, fear slips away.


I starting teaching at anyplace that would have me. I taught kids and more kids. I taught a seminar at an old folks home where the old ladies heckled me, telling me to throw the old guys around. I taught corporate classes, classes for a motorcycle club, seminars at high schools, after school programs, special needs schools and for home schoolers. I taught at women’s shelters and summer camps. Anywhere I could throw down a mat and throw some people around, I would.

Now I am 59. I have been training and teaching for 29 years. I taught Aikido at that same Community College I dropped out of and at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. I have a beautiful dojo right at my house. So I kept training 3 times a week. And here I am waiting for classes to start up again in September….every few days I do some rolls so I know I still remember how. At 59 years old I can fly through the air and land in a nice round roll. I love that and I love the me that aikido has helped me find.


I believe in her dying days my mother helped me see what was really important. Work is one thing and a life’s calling is another. I work a job so I can help support my dojo. My husband and I met on the mat and we have built a life of honest communication and support together. Aikido gives us a language and community.