Don’t eat your feelings if you feel bad

Breakfast of Champions.

52 Days of Paleo, Day 24

I never realized how many of the negative traits I'm trying to break in myself were borne purely of habit, or how much those habits were triggered by discomfort, or anxious or fearful thinking until I started to take control of what I ate.

I towed my motorcycle on a trailer behind the RV for our road-trip/vacation last week. I’m a competent motorcycle rider. A motorcycle was one of my first vehicles when I was a teenager and only switched to cars full time when I met and married Keli. I most recently came back to motorcycling five or so years ago. I’ve ridden hundreds of times, including one two-thousand-mile, week-long adventure up the California coast and a trip to the Isle of Mann in the UK (famous site of intense, high-speed motorcycle racing). I say all this qualify what comes next.

We stayed overnight in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Because driving an RV around a town to take in the sights is inconvenient, I unloaded the bike. We went downtown. We ate at an interesting restaurant. Then after, not yet wanting to go back to the RV park and call it a night, I found a state park on the map just a couple of miles out of town and we went for a cruise.

The road was perfect for the motorcycle; it wove back and forth, gained elevation, and removed us from the city in minutes. With Keli on the back and the pleasant sweep of the bike through turns, I was In The Moment, absorbing the scenery, enjoying the open air, feeling the temperature drop, following the long shadows cast by the fading sun.

I spotted a deer off to the side of the road. For a moment, I thought about turning around, but the road called so I kept going. I slowed at the entrance to the state park trailhead, but again the road called (I knew that if I stayed on the road, we could go seven more miles to a ski lodge) so I kept going.

Then, in a flash, I spotted deer again. Not a solo traveler this time, but a family of five or more. They stood just off the road to our right as we passed. Heads turned as we cruised by.

This time, I didn’t hesitate. My thought process: Ease off the throttle. Pull in the clutch. Gently apply the brake. Shift down into second gear. Slowly engage the clutch and feather the throttle to keep the bike moving forward as I gently roll into a turn across the road.

I set my feet and juiced the throttle. I pulled the bars into the turn. But we were on an incline in the road. Maybe I misjudged the turn. Or maybe Keli and I shifted our weight in different ways at exactly the wrong moment. Or maybe my inside foot, the one I used to guide my balance, being further away than I expected because it was on the downhill side, slipped. Because the bike leaned. And grew heavy. I fought it for balance but momentum took over. Then the center of gravity shifted too quickly for my straining muscles and I tumbled off the bike and to the ground. I heard the bike crunch as it hit the asphalt. I felt Keli’s weight as she fell down onto me.


Unfortunately, there are a lot more scratches than this one ;-(

We landed safely away from the bike (it’s a Yamaha FJR1300, quite heavy, but with hard-sided touring panniers that gave Keli leg space to escape from getting pinned underneath when it hit the ground).

We were on our feet only after I took ten seconds to swear at myself). We took inventory of ourselves. Keli had banged her knee. Hard. She immediately knew it was going to hurt. Otherwise, thankfully, she was unharmed. I had a tender ankle and sensed stress and pressure in my wrists and shoulders from my strained attempt to keep the stupid think on its wheels.

The bike discarded its windscreen across the road like a can being shot off a fencepost. And there were (are) scratches all along the left side of the bike. But, with a little help from a passerby, I got the bike up and on its side stand and it started and ran just fine. The oil that leaked was from the fact that it had landed on its side (oil leaked from the cap, not from a crack in anything important). I was able to ride us back to the RV park. I then loaded the bike up on the trailer, where it would sit the rest of the trip.

Rather than physical pain, I felt emotional pain about the accident. It was a dumb mistake. I rushed the turn trying to catch the deer. I didn't wait until I was sure-footed. And even though I always wear a helmet, long pants and a long-sleeve denim shirt (at a minimum), and Keli always wears full protective gear and a full-faced helmet when she’s my passenger, you can’t put safety gear on pride and ego.

I walked to the nearest grocery store to buy an ice pack and a compression bandage to treat Keli’s ankle. On the way back, I stopped into Krispy Kreme Donuts and bought two of her favorite (glazed) and two of mine (Boston creme). We ate them while watching a movie on my laptop. I went straight to my two bad-habit safe spaces (junk food and the thoughtless overconsumption of video content) without even thinking about it. I was stressed and feeling bad and habit did the rest.

Intellectually, I’ve always understood that (for me) there was a connection between emotional discomfort and eating junk nutrition and consuming video content mindlessly. They are knee-jerk distractions from facing whatever makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to live that way. I would rather feel discomfort directly, and challenge myself to face it (and grow from it).

My 52-Day Paleo journey has caused me to look closely at the food I eat and take responsibility for it (and in turn, responsibility for the way I feel). I didn’t expect to see any impact outside my health and fitness, but the Paleo challenge is also opening me up to look closely at every aspect of my life where I live in a way that is not in alignment with my intentions, as this connection to the comfort I get from junk food and junk video.

Breakfast: Black coffee with raw honey, bacon, eggs, sweet potato, and bell peppers.

Lunch: A banana and some Boston Baked beans candy.

Dinner: Broccoli slaw with a boiled egg, half an avocado, and a sliced pear.

Snacks: Half a Base Culture Cashew Butter Blondie.

Exercise: Still not back on the exercise bandwagon. By the end of the week, I will start riding bikes again.


Where are all the Paleo Restaurants?

Pork with bacon and mushrooms at Radish and Rye in Santa Fe, NM

52 Days of Paleo, Day 21

We made it to Santa Fe, New Mexico today. I ate light Paleo on the road (snacks of bananas, boiled egg, veggie chips) and saved my appetite for a big dinner. We spotted a restaurant called Radish and Rye that seemed to promise Paleo options and I had pork steak with sauteed mushrooms for dinner. It was pretty good.

Although I’m able to leave off the non-Paleo items at most restaurants and get myself a Paleo meal (like not eating the polenta that came with the Pork Steak), there doesn’t seem to be a full Paleo eating out option; a Paleo restaurant or a Paleo menu within a restaurant. You can find Vegan options in a lot of places. Why not Paleo? Am I just not seeing it? Or do they really not exist?

They should.

Driving across Oklahoma and North into Kansas yesterday gave me plenty of time to think back on my wife’s family history (that we found in the Wagner County History book in the Coweta public library). There’s a lot to unpack about her heritage. First, the text of that article lays credence to a family myth that no-one had documentation to substantiate; that Keli’s family had Native American heritage. Her great-great-grandfather was full-blooded Choctaw Indian.

Some history: Choctaw Indian Nation traces its ancestry to Mississippi and some sections of Alabama. Legends tell that the Choctaw people originated from "Nanih Waya", a sacred hill near what is now known as Noxapter, Mississippi. "Nanih Waiya" means "Productive Mound" and is often referred to as "The Mother Mound".

Culturally, the Choctaws have always honored their women as the head of every family household. They were, and still are today, considered the caretakers of our children, our elders, and the home.

The Choctaws were the first of the five great southern tribes of the United States to be moved to Oklahoma by the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830. Over 20,000 Choctaws moved on this long journey, with many of the Choctaw people not surviving this removal on what has come to be called "THE TRAIL OF TEARS".

The Choctaws adjusted quickly to their new homeland. Missionaries were sent to Oklahoma Territory representing several denominations, including the Southern Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians. These missionaries established a good rapport with the Choctaws and early impressed upon the Choctaws the importance and need for formal education if they were to co-exist with the white man.

So who was Gabe Hall, the full-blooded Choctaw Indian and my wife’s Great-great-grandfather? How did he meet and marry a white woman? Was he an educated man, integrated into the emerging cultural west? What was the journey his family went through from before white settlers arrived to disrupt their way of life to his matriculation into a white family? And ultimately beginning the lineage of a black family through his son Sam? Can we find out?

The family article also reflects a story Keli’s father had about her great-grandfather (Sam Hall) having red hair. Which leads to the insight that Keli has Irish heritage.

If you track these lineages, the people moved (by choice or, in the case of Lewis McGinty, not by choice at all). This was the world in the 1800’s; we were just starting to transport goods globally, and mass emigration to the States meant all of us who have a multi-generational heritage in the US can eventually trace yourself back to an immigrant. That immigrant would have been from a place that his ancestors originated in. Meaning, if you can trace a line of your personal history to an Irish national who immigrated to America in the 1700’s or 1800s, chances are every ancestor beyond that was Irish. And likely lived in the same community as the generations before them.

So, we think it would be an incredibly fun experience to see how close my Irish ancestors were to her Irish ancestors. Do we intersect in Ireland? Are we from the same county? The same town? Can we find and prove anything that puts two of our direct ancestors in a place likely to have known each other? Or, are we by chance descended from common ancestors at some point. It would go a long way to demonstrating how small of a world this really is, and how interconnected we all are!

Breakfast: Black coffee with raw honey. One banana.

Lunch: Boiled egg, banana, pasture-raised cheese slices, vegetable chips.

Dinner: Pork chop with mushrooms and polenta.

Snacks: Vegetable chips.

Exercise: None.


52 Days of Paleo, Day 20

A simple steak and veggies. The apples were an inspired addition.

Get The Hell Out Of Dodge

Before leaving Dodge City, (or in the spirit of the old-time radio program Gunsmoke, before we ‘got the hell out of Dodge,’) we found a decent grocery store. And I’m learning that success with Paleo is all about planning a few meals ahead and hitting a decent grocer every few days.

Within the grocer, two departments are key; the produce and the meat department. I stocked up on ingredients that will enable me to stick to Paleo the rest of the week, I didn’t even follow Kenzie Swanhart’s Paleo in 28 week-two meal plan. I didn’t need to. I know what my meals are going to be; a lean protein, some veggies, maybe sweet potato, seasoned right and made fresh in our little RV kitchen. Mix in some Fruit, dark chocolate, and vegetable chips for snacks and I’m set for the next couple of days.

We left Dodge and headed for Trinidad, Colorado. There’s a campground just south, on the hilly shores of Lake Trinidad. The drive, on the two-lane highway 160, was just stunning. I never would have guessed that Western Kansas would be so beautiful. I always thought the high plains and prairies were was miles of flat nothing. But that nothing (field after field of wheat and lush, swaying prairie grasslands brushed with wildflowers, communities clustered around giant grain silos every ten miles or so) was simply breathtaking in every direction. And it served us up one of the random and unusual experience we so cherish.

There were long stretches of straight, golden-silver asphalt where we didn’t see any other cars for minutes at a time. On one section, I spotted movement on the road off in the distance. “Is something on the road up there,” I asked Keli.

“Deer,” she said as we got a little closer. I slowed the RV. We got close enough to see that they weren't deer. Instead, they were three cornfield-yellow Western Kansas Antelope. They stood in the road and watched us. I was prepared to roll to a complete stop and just marvel in their beauty and presence but a touring motorcycle overtook us and they loped off into the nearest field. They stopped a hundred feet away and watched us again.

That eye-to-eye connection with another creature is something special. I don't know what it is that passed between us, but I felt acknowledgment. They were aware of our presence. They regarded us. We occupied space in their minds. If they were reading our energy, they were feeling our admiration for them as well.

It was a beautiful and random moment and exactly the reason we travel the way we do (wander, discover, feel our way along).

We parked up at Lake Trinidad by 5 pm, walked along the ridgeline overlooking the lake, and marveled at the swallows floating and diving on the air like spitfires in world war two dogfights. We also saw a primadonna of a red-tailed hawk, floating along above everyone without a care in the work, big-dicking the whole lake.

I made steak with a sauteed veggie mix of broccoli, onions and bell peppers. I had a zucchini squash ready to go into the mix as well, but at the last moment cubed an apple and threw it in. It lifted the taste of everything on the plate. That’s what I love about Paleo; so long as you stick to the ingredients list, you can’t really go wrong mashing up any combination of veggies and protein. The recipes in Swanhart’s book are great, but the old standby of protein and veggies is so easy, you don’t have to think much (perfect for me).

Breakfast: Coffee sweetened with raw honey.

Lunch: None. Just snacking along the way.

Dinner: Chuck steak, vegetable mix with broccoli, bell peppers, onions, and apple.

Snacks: Banana, Gala apple, some Terra vegetable chips (taro, sweep potato, batata, parsnip, yucca, ruby-dipped vegetables). Oh, and some Licorice-flavored hard candies I bought in Dodge City.


Red Bird; one of Oklahoma’s original all-black towns

52 Days of Paleo, Day 18

I had a pretty good Paleo day (see below for details), but the mission today was to see, in person, the mythical (in our family) town of Red Bird and connect Keli to some of her family’s history.

We’re practical enough to know that connecting with one branch down one line of one of our family trees is not a definitive exploration of what it means to be who we are, but I enjoyed what I was able to contribute to the exercise.

We started at the nearest library, in a town called Coweta. I hoped to learn a little more about the town’s history, if possible. The librarian wasn’t sure what she had available when we asked for anything that might tell us about Red Bird, but she pulled a memoir written by a local rancher, a listing of all the cemeteries in the region, and a book called the Wagner County History.

A thick reference guide, the book was produced in 1980. It was full of short articles about local social groups, county and city governments, churches, schools, and the like. Each listing was comprised of at least a paragraph. Some were pages long. I assume these articles were supplied or produced by the guides’ staff. They represent a snapshot of the country at the time, and a record of the highlights of history to that point as the people who wrote it saw it.

Also included in the book were sections about towns, including several columns of text on Red Bird. The town, it turns out, was formed by black men with a vision, and a business plan.

Constructed on a section of land owned by a Creek Indian native named Fus Chata, which means Red Bird, the land was first settled at the end of the 1800s by two families; the Barbers and the Ruffins. More families joined them and a community formed. E.L. Barber founded a church and became Justice of the Peace and eventually Mayor, coalescing the community. The railroad came through the land, a post office was opened, and a development company formed (spearheaded by Barber) promoting investment in what would be one of thirty all-black towns in Oklahoma. This was all before Oklahoma became a state (the town was officially in Indian Territory).

The Red Bird Investment company promised land and opportunity to free blacks escaping the deeply-racist south. It’s sales agents, who traveled the South promoting the town, drew 600 people from sixteen different states to the grand opening (August 10, 1907).

Over its history, the town has prospered, faltered, then stabilized. Today, Red Bird is home to something like 200 people. Over the course of its history, Red Bird built and ran its own small schools and properly incorporated in 1963 to get loans to add services the town needed. There are many descendants of the towns founding (or early settler families) still living in Red Bird today.

The town as we found it is a checkerboard of disintegrating white/gray roads lined with dense forest. The streets are made up with one part sweet, small and well-maintained homes, one part abandoned and overgrown buildings, and one part mobile homes on debris-strewn lots.

We walked the local cemetery, looking for familiar family names. We spotted those of a line of my wife’s cousins, but none from her direct ancestors.

At the center of town are a couple of cinder block buildings that make up the town's infrastructure. One building is city hall, a one-room, two-window structure with steel mesh grates over the windows. The other is half post-box cluster (the post office was decommissioned some time ago and mail service is now dropped to the old post office building but delivered to individual mailboxes), and part utility office. That’s where we met Ms. Wilma Mosley. I guess her age somewhere between 75 and 90. When my wife mentioned her family history, Ms. Mosley knew of it. And had stories of Keli’s Grandmother and Keli’s Grandmother’s sisters. She even had a story about a character Keli met when she visited Red Bird a few times as a child; a precocious adult that courted her grandmother and who drank and made enough of a fool of his harmless self that two women a generation apart both had stories that connected them.

There is a metal sign mounted just in front of what I assume is an abandoned court of jailhouse (it has two rooms, one with thick concrete walls and a steel door). It told us more about the history of the town. It speaks of how freed black men came together in farming communities when fertile land became available in the Indian Territories. Towns formed around these communities. The movement for all-black towns developed as a way for these communities to self-govern, but Jim Crow laws suppressed the rights of African-Americans to vote and stifled these communities’ ability to flourish. Many, as did Red Bird, stagnated. The communities and towns formed during this era still exist, and signs like the one in Red Bird are the last reminders of this amazing history.

What I found next made the trip worthwhile.

Breakfast: Turkey slices, apple, banana, coffee sweetened with raw honey.

Lunch: Meatloaf, twice-baked potatoes, corn and a sliced muffin at a diner.

Dinner: Gluten-free cauliflower flatbread with ground beef, sweet pickle, and cheese. French fries. A homemade snicker-doodle cookie.

Snacks: None.

Exercise: None.


Cave Creek Regional Park

We escaped for a short weekend, from after Friday's last conference call to check-out time on Sunday. Keli saw a rattlesnake. We both saw a giant owl and a scuffle between three Quail in a mating triangle. We watched an almost-full moon rise over a mountaintop like it was the second sun, welcomed by the hoot and howl of Coyotes across the valley. We wrote, read, drew, and painted. We ate. We slept. We played cards together. We watched Brooklyn nine-nine. It was a great getaway.

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