The other day, Ray made a pot roast in the slow cooker. When I got home with the smell permeating the house, I bounced around like the happy puppy I knew I was. Is it just me or does anyone else love the way the house smells when dinner is cooking?

I’m not a good cook but I’m a great eater.

It’s kinda like moaning during sex. There are certain audio signals you give your partner to let he or she know they should keep on doing whatever it is they’re doing. If you’re a good cook and I have the privilege to sample what’s on your table, you’ll know that you’re, in my culinary world, bringing sexy back. (Think Meg Ryan in When Harry met Sally — “I’ll have what she’s having.”)

As a young adult, I was tall and rather slight. When I got older and started to “fill out”, I came to the realization that what I ate was important. I also concluded that exercise was equally important to maintaining not only a trim physique but a comfortable quality of life as well.

I eat very well. I have to give credit to Ray for that. He’s an exceptional cook. We both shy away from processed foods and things that require a flavor pak.  I run and I workout too. Nothing gets me more pissed off when people say, “Must be nice to be so thin.” I smile real big and tell them, “Thanks! It’s fucking awesome!”

Some people address my physique as if it’s this self-maintaining thing that I was blessed with. It isn’t. First of all, if I do carry extra weight, it’s in my neck and my belly. Nothing is worse than a poor distribution of fat. Some people can carry a few extra pounds and no one notices. Not me. 10 pounds and my head looks like Jabba the Hut. 10 more pounds and I’m a toothpick with an olive in the middle.

So I run, workout and limit my alcohol intake. (Now that’s hard!) I don’t eat dessert, shy away from French fries, hardly ever touch soda and avoid partially hydrogenated anything, MSG and high fructose corn syrup.

It isn’t easy. I want a third martini! I want a bacon cheeseburger (swiss) with extra mayo for my fries! I want to LIVE at Taco Bell!! I want to polish off a bag of Doritos and chase it down with a Big Gulp Dr. Pepper (unleashing Satan’s belch from hell afterward) and don’t give me any of this diet crap. Tastes like shit! Give me the real deal.

Can I just say that there is nothing, nothing I love more than dipping steak fries into a large blob of mayonnaise?

Maintaining a healthy diet is hard. There are so many overweight people in this country. When we were traveling through Europe last September, twice, other European travelers mentioned (in a rather shocked tone) that we seemed so thin for Americans.

I used to turn my nose up at all the overweight people in the US. I used to think that these paunchy peeps were just too lazy to maintain a healthy diet. Then something eye-opening happened.

There is a theory that it’s best to shop mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where the produce, bakery, meats and dairy sections are. Ray and I hardly ever buy something pre-made or in a can.  All that stuff tends to be in the center aisles.

One day, we were at Safeway. Ray was making the rounds and, out of curiosity, I started roaming the center aisles. I picked up a jar of McCormick® Tartar Sauce and read the ingredients. It contained high-fructose corn syrup! I started inspecting the items on the shelves. Most everything either had partially hydrogenated oil, MSG and/or high fructose corn syrup!

When did MSG come back into fashion?

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website,

“Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. These reactions — known as MSG symptom complex — include:

  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Facial pressure or tightness
  • Numbness, tingling or burning in face, neck and other areas
  • Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

However, researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms.”

WTF?? Hi, I’m Cobban and I’m going to be your definitive evidence for the evening. MSG makes my head throb and my face turn red. It’s nasty shit and I’m floored that it’s back in our food.

In the book, “The Slow Poisoning Of America” authors T Michelle Erb and John E Erb claim, “there currently may actually be a chemical responsible for America’s obesity and diabetic epidemic, and that chemical might just be MSG….”

Now, before I continue, I want to make something very clear. I’m not saying just because someone wrote a book about about how bad MSG is makes it a valid fact. I had a hard time finding evidence online against MSG however, I had no problem finding tons of info on how it’s “harmless” and “researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and MSG symptom complex.” In this case, I do have one valid fact on MSG — I can’t eat it, makes me sick.

My point is this: MSG is made from an industrial fermentation process. Partially hydrogenated oils are oils infused with hydrogen. High-fructose corn syrup is…yikes, it’s too complicated to explain in a single sentence. It’s this. (Recent studies have shown that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation.) Stay away from the things that have been produced in a lab.

I remember when Splenda (sucralose) hit the shelves and its manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals marketed it as, “made from sugar”. Yeah, it’s made from sugar by moving some atoms around on the sucrose (sugar) molecule to make sucralose. The sucralose molecule is not absorbed into the body, so there are no calories.

Do you want to eat sugar or a molecule that’s been modified in a lab that your body wont absorb?

Remember Olestra? It had the same taste and feel as fat, but passed through the gastrointestinal tract undigested without calories or nutritive value to the diet — and gave people the shits.

I now have a whole different viewpoint on the obesity factor in our country. Foods that are labeled healthy and nutritious are full of modified organic components. We shouldn’t be eating things our bodies can’t absorb. We shouldn’t ingest modified molecules, oils infused with hydrogen and salt substitutes that produce headaches and heart palpitations.

Here’s the hard part where I now realize that I’ve kinda been an asshole. Ray and I are just Ray and I. It’s easy for us to eat well. We — thank GOD — don’t have children. It’s hard to feed a family in today’s face-paced world.

My mom raised six kids. Did we have fresh, home-cooked meals growing up? Hell no. Everything we ate came from a bag or a box. When I think of mom’s biscuits, I don’t have memories of her with an apron, mixing bowl and a cutter, I think of her whacking a cardboard tube against the counter top.

I’m trying to be more tolerant and non judgmental when it comes to our obesity problem. Some things in the American diet are just out of our control. I also have to accept the fact that most of the “natural” stuff I eat has probably been genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides or (in the case of poultry) pumped full of antibiotics and hormones (and fish) filled with crude oil or mercury. The key thing is to try and eat the best food that I can.

I woke up to the sound of Ray breathing heavy. Earlier, in the middle of the night, he was fussing around in the bathroom. After realizing he had gotten up a few times, I asked if he was feeling OK. He asked me for a bucket.

Naturally, I felt compelled to spend the rest of the night in the guest room. Since I was up, I figured I’d go check out the meteor shower.

Shooting stars filled the sky! I went back for my camera but the battery was dead. Pissed off, I grabbed my coat and parked myself on a lounge chair in the backyard. At least I could watch the show.

I just can’t stare into space without feeling humbled — especially during a meteor shower. We’re so tiny! The thought of a teeny piece of debris flying through space for years and years suddenly intersecting with planet Earth in the vastness of outer space boggles my mind. It’s like hitting a rock with a grain of sand in mid-air. That lone piece of debris (about the size of a pebble) flying along, minding its own business burns up in the Earths’ atmosphere in a sudden and quite spectacular display of light and motion. Its little space-rock life snuffed out in a fraction of a second.

What a way to go!

As I lay there watching the sky, off in the distance, a pack of coyotes found some sort of tasty morsel. When you live in rural Arizona, you become quite familiar with the sound of the coyotes when they find food. In this case, with me laying there alone under a moonless sky, a shiver went up my spine. I waited for one more streak across the sky before returning to the warm, cozy guest room.

It was about 3:30 in the morning. The whole thing with Ray, meteors and coyotes had me fully awake. When I find myself in this position, where my mind is thinking of everything at once while trying to sleep, I meditate on the words “Thank You”.

Thank you for Ray. Thank you for a safe home. Thank you for my health. Thank you for my kitty cat. Thank you for my family. Thank you for their well-being. Thank you for my friends and their well-being. Thank you for the meteor shower. Thank you for that killer parking space in front of the post office. Thank you for this warm cozy bed. Thank you for the food that I eat. Thank you for my job. Thank you for my life. Thank you for laughter. Thank you for…zzzzzzz, and then I’m asleep.

If I was not agnostic, I would probably direct my Thank Yous to God. My feelings of God are kind of similar to looking up into space. My feeble brain cannot possibly comprehend the world we live in — let alone the power and force that created it. I have a hard time believing the collective brainpower of the citizens of our teeny-tiny planet can really understand what God is. I also think it’s presumptuous to examine the boundless, unlimited expanse that surrounds our planet and think, “Yep, it’s just us.” That being said, the existence of God is not the subject of this blog post.

I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore. I grew up in a mildly Christian household and went to parochial school for a few years. When I was a teenager, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour (all those caps!) and, much to the dismay of my younger brother, tossed all my secular music in the trash — a fact he still likes to bring up on occasion. As I got older and realized that my private little fixation on men was actually developing into full-blown homosexuality, Christianity started to get ugly.

There was a couple at our church. Rick and Leah. They were a very nice couple and, from what I remember, quite involved with the church. One day, Rick mustered up the courage to tell the church that he was homosexual. Here was a man in need of fellowship and counseling from his peers. Someone turning to his church for help and guidance — because that’s what churches do, they help people. That’s not what our church did. They turned their back on Rick and he left in shame. I was only fourteen but I remember thinking their behavior was the most non Christ-like way to handle such a situation and once I realized they’d do the same to me, I stopped saying “Maranatha brother” and left. I refuse to associate with an organization that sees me as an abomination.

I’m not an abomination. I’m a fucking bad-ass karaoke rockstar.

So when December rolls around and the dark days and cooler temps of winter start bringing me down, I like to put up a tree and decorate it with lights and shiny objects to remind myself that, come December 21st, the days will start to get longer, lighter and warmer. I have a strong feeling that the origins of bringing a tree into your home right around the Winter solstice was more Pagan than Christian. (Actually, it’s more than a strong feeling but I’m not a historian and in doing some research, it seems everyone has their own theory.)

So, go ahead and put the Christ back in Christmas. I’m not against Christmas, I just want the tree back…

The only thing about the procedure that was painful was the fact that they couldn’t get a good vein for the IV. A nurse and the anesthesiologist poked me four times before they got the drip going. Gotta love teamwork. Naturally, when it comes to anything regarding medical procedures, needles are at the bottom of my list but this time, I handled it. Why? Because I wanted it. I paid these people to poke me. I also paid them to slit my throat.

I had a neck lift/platysmaplasty.

I’ve never had much of a jawline. If you look carefully at the B&W  your host photo on the right, it appears that I have a rather pronounced chin. I don’t. I took the picture (at an angle, pressing my tongue to the roof of my mouth to tighten my neck).

When I was young and skinny, it wasn’t that noticeable. Over time, as I got older, it really started to bother me. In my mid thirties, there was a short period where I gained a lot of weight discovering the first place fat accumulates on my person is right under my chin (accentuating my already blobby neck). Even though I lost the weight, my jawline stayed the same.

One of my predominant “Nordic” features is a long face and a rather large head. (My motorcycle helmet is XXL. I look like The Great Gazoo when I wear it.) Imagine the combo of a long, large head with a chin that just slides down into your chest. Now imagine being a neurotic, mildly insecure, recovering actor. Welcome to my world.

Now, this is the part where most people say, “Oh it’s not that bad.” or “So what? You should love yourself the way you are.” I tried all that bullshit and it doesn’t work. My blobby neck was a glaring imperfection that revealed itself every time someone snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook.

Oh sure, we all have our imperfections — try wearing yours on your face. Try having love handles on your face or misshapen boobs — or even moobs! On. Your. Face.

I lost weight. I ran and lifted weights. I did those exercises where you make funny faces and go EE EE EE OH OH OH AH AH AH. I tried really, really hard to ignore it. For years…I ignored it.

A couple of months ago, a fifty-year-old female colleague of mine told me she was going to get breast implants. She’s pretty and has a great body. (She does that P90X® WORKOUT). She said with all the work she had done on her body, she was tired of the way her breasts looked and decided at her age it was not too late to do something about it.

That got me thinking. Last December, my dad passed away. He worked very hard in life and left his estate to his children. Was it a lot? No, but it was enough. My birthday was right around the corner and I had some inheritance funds left over so…why not give the gift that keeps on giving?

Here is my before and after photo. The latter was taken three days post surgery. Tomorrow makes it three weeks. I told my surgeon I wanted “The Hollywood” and she gave it to me (and no, I did not have a chin implant).

I have a defined chin and an actual neck! They meet in the middle all tucked up tight! No more 45 degree skin slope turkey gobble blobby neck! So how do you think I feel?

I feel like shit.

For now at least. I was unprepared for the psychological component of this experience.

I had my throat cut! Part of my neck muscle was cut out, leaving the remaining parts stretched together and sewn shut. Same with my skin. Part of my skin was removed, pulled tight and sewn back together. All the fat under my skin and under the muscle was violently sucked out. I spent the next two weeks wondering what I had done to myself. Why would I want to hurt myself like that? Such vanity! I became depressed and kinda angry. The person looking back from the mirror wasn’t me anymore. It took a few weeks to get used to it.

Then there was the whole physical component.

I didn’t even consider what recovery would be like. Oh sure, I knew my neck would be sore and puffy for a few weeks. I knew that I would have limited mobility for about a month. What I didn’t know was that my entire body would react to the trauma from my neck. Oh my GOD! All that cutting and pulling and sucking and sewing has sent my back, spine, arms and legs into a tizzy. My whole system is out of whack but that’s OK because, A) It is actually healing just fine. It will get better, and B) Didja see the after photo?? Holy shit! I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Why did I wait so long? Sure I’m not quite 100% but it’s only been three weeks.

So…I’m glad I did it. Call me crazy, vain, weird, stupid — I don’t care. Besides, it’s done. I can’t change it back. Three days after the procedure, I turned forty-five. I celebrated the day by purchasing a turtleneck — something I could never wear. By the end of the month, I can start working out and running again. I’m very motivated to reach my training goals now. The funny thing is the fact that no one noticed. They noticed once they saw the before and after photo. I didn’t expect anything big but I did expect people to say, “Something looks different. I can’t quite figure it out.”

Not one person.

The key thing is that I notice. I did this for myself and now that little thing that used to bug the shit out of me will never ever bug me again. I’ll post photos when it heals a little more.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. As evidenced by my minimal blog posts through this period, I kinda checked out. Well, the year is over, it’s time to move on. I have a new look (as well as a new outlook) and a new year ahead. Cheers to the act of moving on. I promise to attend to my blog again with more frequency.

The coffee grinder started whirring away in the kitchen triggering a Pavlovian reaction to kick off the covers and get my ass out of bed. It was clearly going to be a beautiful day but for some reason, I just didn’t feel like being a part of it. Something was bothering me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Ray was sitting there checking his email when I shuffled into the office. He kissed me as I sat down at my computer. I felt numb and mildly cranky. As my eyes scanned over a couple of emails, Ray started to exercise. I could hear him huffing and puffing behind me. It was annoying — like a secondary alarm clock reminding me that I not only had to regain consciousness, now I had to start exerting a lot of energy.

After taking a healthy swig of my coffee, I mustered up every amount of energy I had to dismiss Mr. Fuck it (that’s the voice in my head that says, “Fuck it, you don’t have to <insert important activity> today.”) I got on the floor and started doing my push-ups.

Mr Fuck it got in my head and would not shut up.

“Why do you even bother working out? You don’t bulk up. You’ll always pretty much look the same.”
“Oh ha ha, now you’re doing curls. Your arms will always look skinny. It’s not going to happen.”
“Squats?? You’re a joke — a flabby-assed joke. You. Have. No. Butt.”
“Perfect Push-ups? Ha! Perfect loser. Face it, your never going to look any different — never.”

I continued my workout while trying my best to ignore Mr. Fuck it. Not an easy task for a man who has struggled with lifelong self esteem issues. My thoughts wandered off and before I knew it, Ray and I were in the car heading to work.

“I’m feeling really discouraged today,” I said. “Why do I do all this working out and running when I don’t see any real results?”

Ray was sympathetic and reminded me that he sees the results and that I just need to not think about it — kind of like waiting for a pot of water to boil. I needed to stop examining myself under a microscope and let the results happen.

I got into work and fired up my computer. I had this longing for someone to talk to. Someone like a guru or a spirit guide. Someone who knew me inside and out and could understand me…like a father. I looked at my calendar. It was July 15th, my dad’s birthday. He would have been 80.

Mr. Fuck it started laughing. It all made sense now. I was depressed.

I was never close to my father. We got to know each other in the last few months of his life. He passed away in December of last year. Turns out he was quite a great guy. Too bad I didn’t find out until he was dying.

I was adopted when I was four months old. I grew up in a loving family and had wonderful caring parents but for most of my life, I have wondered about the biological side of my existence. Where did I come from?

When I was 29, I found my birth mother and was surprised to find that I had siblings. It was interesting to meet her but I still felt as if an important piece of the puzzle was missing — my biological father.  Who contributed to the male side of me? My bio mom said that I look and sound just like my father and that he was a great guy but…who was he?

I fear that I will never be able to solve that piece of the puzzle. Today, being reminded of the death of my father by the date of his birth also galvanized the fact that I will probably never know my birth father (who, by the way, was described in my adoption records as having a muscular build — perhaps he could have given me training tips).

My birth father was 32 when I was born 44 years ago. If he was still alive, he’d be 76. My birth mother claims his name was Charles Long. When she told me that, it didn’t sound too convincing. He was married with children. She might not want me to find him. I can understand why…I guess. They met at Probst Tool and Die in Burbank, California. He was a machinist and she was a punch-press operator. Her name at the time was Kathy Dix. It was 1965. I was put up for adoption the following year.

Did I just give out too much personal information? I don’t know… perhaps I was just hoping that maybe, just maybe, if I put it out there, someone might be looking for me…

Well the bunnies are growing quickly. According to, the “white blaze” on their foreheads is an indicator that the bunny is old enough to leave the nest.

This photo was taken yesterday afternoon. The bunnies were gone this morning.

There were three of them in the little nest. I assume we’ll see them around from time to time as long as the don’t become dinner for some bigger animal. The courtyard is a safe place for them to hide from coyotes.

I love living in the country with the bunnies. I even like the snakes and lizards too. I can do without the insects though.

This photo is an example of how tiny the bunnies are…

So teeny!

On a side note, we celebrated Ray’s birthday yesterday. It was nice to be able to have cocktail hour in the pool again!

Last week, Ray noticed a hole had been dug into the island/planter we put in the driveway last summer. Usually, at this time of year, such a hole is a good indication of an expectant momma rabbit.

Now, Ray and I tend to have a very live-and-let-live attitude about the wildlife on our property but a hole in the middle of our landscaping project was kind of an eyesore. We have plenty of land with soft dirt. Can’t  momma bunny have her babies somewhere else?

Ray covered the hole back up. Sorry momma, this is where we draw the line. That being said; never underestimate the tenacity of a momma bunny. Just days later the hole was back.  This time there was a little surprise in it.

Isn’t baby bunny too cute for words? There are actually three bunnies in there! Ray is so funny. He’s like the protective father now. Checking to make sure they’re OK. Worrying that they are in a vulnerable place.  (I should have included a wider shot to illustrate how “open” this spot is.)

Anyway, the bunnies are fine for now. I’ll keep my camera ready for updates. They are so cute!! Who doesn’t love a baby bunny?