Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

If anyone mentions cheese pizza I may just have to take up violence

Oh, Florida.

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Yesterday morning life hit us like a searing laser of Utah sun at 4:30 AM when Coco began howling wildly to be let out of her crate. We were still high from the smell of salt and sea, our bellies still full of fried everything, our minds still as calm as the line of the horizon over the ocean, so it was a bit of a jolt. An unwelcome jolt. A knife to the eye. A kick in the shin. And before I retrieved that dog from her crate I said aloud something Leta had cried out as I put her to bed the night before: “Why can’t every day be Florida?”

Turns out there was nothing wrong with Coco, and she didn’t even have to empty her bladder. In fact, I think she was expecting some sort of celebration to be waiting for her on the outside of her crate. Her bat mitzvah, perhaps. Where were the balloons? The finger food? The Journey cover band? On and off the bed she jumped, her wet snout in and out of our ears. I let her outside to release her energy, but she stood outside and barked at the door. This went on for two hours. And just as she was about to settle down Leta woke up. OF COURSE LETA WOKE UP. You saw that coming before I even said it, didn’t you? It is a special rule of logic that only applies to parents: if a) you have a child then b) that kid will wake up just as you are falling back to sleep unless c) they are staying with Grandmommy. And if c) is true then you will have stuffed that kid with coffee and chocolate right up until you said, “Be good! See you tomorrow!” Because d) it’s the only way to get back at your mother for introducing your kid to Barney.

This morning Coco slept in until 6:00 AM, except when Jon let her out of her crate she was covered in diarrhea. He could smell it, but because Jon cannot see without the aid of an astro telescope, he did not notice her tracking it through our bedroom, down the hallway where we discovered poo all over the wall, and out the back door. I followed her outside where she hunched over, grimaced, and puked for over 20 minutes. I then spent the next hour bathing her while Jon cleaned up the crate and the fragrant, candied path through our bedroom. When Leta woke up and saw the handful of wet spots where Jon had scrubbed the floor with Nature’s Miracle, she put both arms on her hips, glared disappointedly down the hallway and asked, “Did that dog pee a lot of times?”

I said, no, that’s not pee, but she ignored me, counted each wet spot and informed me, “Eleven. She peed eleven times.” Thank, you, Leta for gathering such detailed data, although I’m not going to be impressed until you’ve shown me some charts.

Jon is currently in bed with a sinus infection (yes, I know, neti pot, he uses one routinely, we think there is a bigger problem), and it’s taken me a few days to catch up with everything that needs to be done when a family returns from a long vacation. Things like having to walk around the pile of laundry, all the energy burned from having to step over the suitcase that still needs to be unpacked. My friend, Cami, took care of our house, fed Lou, and watered all of my plants while we were away, and she said yesterday that the first time she walked into our house it looked like a bulldozer had dumped a landfill in our living room. And I was all, Cami, we were lucky to make it out of the house without killing each other, and even then we almost missed our plane. So if you’re surprised that I would leave my house in such a condition then you can’t be upset when I tell you to suck it.

Yesterday was also the first day of a 21-day diet cleanse that I’ve decided to do that prohibits me from eating any sugar, gluten, caffeine, alcohol, or animal products. It’s the same cleanse that Oprah did, and when I read about how it was making her feel I became intrigued, bought the book that inspired it, Quantum Wellness, and decided immediately it was exactly what I needed in my life. I’ve been meaning to make some major changes in my life, especially since the recent chaos is only going to get more chaotic, and this book outlines some ideas as to how to take charge of the change I want to make.

I’m posting about it here because I think I’ll have more motivation to stick to the cleanse if I post about it publicly, and I plan to say a few words about how I’m feeling every day just to help anyone else who wants to eventually try it. I was certain that giving up caffeine would be the hardest part about this change, but the only thing I craved yesterday was cheese and a bite of Leta’s Cocoa Krispies. And even this morning the espresso machine did not tempt me. I’m also thinking that after the 21-day period is over that I may continue to abstain from meat, for many reasons, the main one being that I can no longer justify the barbaric treatment of those animals just so that I can have a hamburger. It’s as if I’ve finally been hit over the head hard enough, and I’m ready to change my life, from what I eat to how I react to Coco being covered in poop to breathing through the fact that yet again we’ve been jolted awake to a mess.

I want to be a better wife, a more conscious and present mother, a more loyal friend, and a better listener. I’d like to handle my anxiety better. I also want to be more organized because I’m tired and fed up with not being able to find anything. Many times that anything is my head. And starting yesterday I feel like I’m on my way to making every day Florida.

Here goes.

  • Shannon

    My mom would be so proud of me for throwing this out there because since she was diagnosed with celiac disease (intolerance to gluten) she has been trying to diagnose the world. Frequent sinus infections are a symptom of celiac disease. Maybe John should try the cleanse diet too if he isn’t. Good luck with everything Heather. You’re amazing and an inspiration. Also, I hope Coco feels better soon!

  • Hey Heather,
    Good luck with the meat thing…I went vegetarian last year for both personal health and animal rights reasons. A lovely side effect was that I stopped having such horrible cramps during ‘that time of the month’. I am now convinced that the cramps were due to all those hormones in the meat I was eating.

    I think the most difficult problem I have now with not eating meat is when my husband cooks bacon. Other than that, I don’t really miss it. Oh, but that smell of bacon KILLS me every time!!

  • If you want another reason to abstain from meat, check out Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I just finished re-reading it last night. The treatment of people by the meat packing industry is worse than the animals – especially ranchers and slaughterhouse workers.

    Good luck on your cleanse!

    April

  • Erika

    I was trying to give up meat for nine days but I only made it to day three. I plan to give it another try. I will keep track of your progress. And if you find anything that tastes just like fried chicken, but isn’t, please let us know!

  • I’ve had a rough week (ok, life), but your words never fail me.

    Don’t ever stop being Dooce. Or Heather Armstrong.

  • carla

    The “cleanse” thing is a good start, but why not go a bit further and educate yourself about food and nutrition? You can incorporate good meat (organic, free range, etc) into your diet, and people don’t need a ton of meat (most people eat a lot more meat than they need) to be really healthy, but a bit really helps keep your body fed. The key is understanding what you really truly need and incorporating it into your daily life.

    Learning about your food is like learning about your money. So worth it. I did it and it changed everything. I haven’t purchased a low fat or non fat item in 3 years, and have a much better sense of portion and timing. I don’t worry about periodic fried food festivals, because I know that the rest of my eating makes up for it.

    Nutritionists are as valuable as any other heathcare professional.

  • Mary Ann

    I’m so absolutely enchanted with the sea photograph that illustrates this entry, that I can hardly get through a paragraph before I go back to it again. I live on the northern west coast (Washington State)and haven’t seen a sea photograph this inspiring for some time. So, so affecting. Is there any chance you may be able to offer prints for sale? Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Welcome home! Why can’t every day be Florida, indeed. (Well, if it was like that stunning photo above, and had nothing to do with humidity, bugs or old people.)

    LOVED the guest columnists – thanks to them for the content!

    I *think* I want to hear your take on the cleanse. I think.

  • Jen

    Good luck! I wish you much success on your journey.

  • Krysta

    Good luck with the cleanse! I recently went meat free and feel great.

  • Good luck with that, Heather. I’d be an animal rights activist but for the love of god and all things holy, I just can’t give up my meat. I fight for dogs, cats, rabbits, dolphins, and even rats. But if you say cow, I say get in my belly.

  • Ulla Lauridsen

    Take it easy, now, and be good to yourself 🙂 Maybe your life isn’t that easy, and maybe you’re doing the best you can.
    And please remember, you do need proteine, however you’ll get it.

  • good luck. i’d like to find the things that live in my house as well. by the time i’m done at work and done at the studio, i have no energy left for the house. sadly it looks just like that. i hate being there as result.

  • Kim

    Yowza. Nothin’ left but leaves to eat. Good luck.

  • Best of luck with the cleanse. Sounds interesting.

  • I lived in Florida for two years and It did not have that effect on me.

    Does the cleanse include No drinking of Alcohol? Good luck

  • Jennifer

    I’d kill for a Journey cover band to play a theme song as I live everyday life.

    So I totally stole your line about Florida being America’s Stretch Mark and referenced it while on a packed flight to San Francisco, wherein the guy next to me overheard my conversation, burst out laughing and proceeded to apologize for listening in on my conversation (not a problem, I was three sheets to the wind, thanks to the Airport Bar and a strong martini) and told me he would use it when talking to an associate from Florida.
    Yeah.

    P.S. Longest, Sentence, EVER.

  • Clairy

    I think your cleanse is a wonderful idea and maybe complimenting it with some yoga (if you have time!) would be an excellent way to become grounded?

    Best wishes & I’m excited to read about your experiences!

  • mtnd

    Good Luck to You. But why do people listen to Oprah?

  • Laura

    I rarely get in here before the comments reach epic numbers, so this is a treat for me.

    I’ll be following your cleanse with interest. There’s no way in hell I’d be able to function without cheese and bread and pretzels and coffee. . .especially not the coffee. . .but I admire you for giving it a try.

    Also, kudos to you for wanting to make positive changes in your life. It’s so much harder to be earnest and honest in such a public forum than it is to be sarcastic (not that I don’t enjoy the sarcasm immensely). If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a sign of maturity.

  • Hey Heather, I’m RIGHT THERE with you on changing how I think about eating meat. After seeing the slaughterhouse scene in the “Fast Food Nation” movie and reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” I decided not to buy beef, pork or poultry from conventional grocery stores, due precisely to the barbarism you mention. My feelings were further cemented upon reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, which is a stunning, shocking, and revelatory read if you care about the food you put in your body.

    However, I’m not giving up meat entirely. I can, with a clean conscience, purchase grass-fed and finished beef and pork, and truly free-range poultry from my local farmer’s market. Local farms raising livestock this way are usually refreshingly transparent to their customers, and they believe in respecting the animal, giving it a biologically natural (and, quite possibly, happy) life and a quick and merciful death when the time comes. It’s more expensive, but is quite morally defensible compared to CAFO meat, is packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids (yeah, the cure-everything stuff usually found in salmon) and tastes about a gazillion times better, too.

  • Mark Bittman has a great article on strategies for intentionally eating less meat. We’ve employed several techniques with the goal being that the only meat we DO eat is humanely raised/slaughtered and processed cleanly.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/11/dining/11mini.html

    Good luck with the cleanse!

  • Maybe a cleanse would help my preggo heartburn. I am seeking solutions…

    I so empathize with all the things that hit you in the face after vacationing. Painful, really. Our homecomings always come with a line of ants.

    I’m advocating meditation–maybe an accompaniment to the cleanse. My buddhist/baptist father says it changes his whole day…and like you, Dooce, if I proclaim it, maybe I’ll do it!

    A bit random–the order of those thoughts, but that’s how I think these days…

  • Heather – I feel the same way – I’m sick of being unorganized, tired, anxious, and stressed. And I’m sick of meat, period. When I actually think about it, it makes me sick. But far be it from me to actually think about it while I’m eating a big juicy New York Strip.

    Hmm. Yeah. So I’ll be interested to see how it goes for you, because I’m ordering the book today. And I keep tripping over suitcases (from a vacation two weeks ago), laundry baskets full of clean clothes, dog hair tumbleweeds, and crumbs.

    I just wanted to say, I feel ya.

  • good luck with the cleanse Heather – I know you can do it 🙂

    I’m doing my best to make small changes to improve my cholesterol. I’m WAY too young to have high cholesterol. Dang genetics…

    Here’s to cleansing and to making small changes daily that can improve our lives for a LONG time!

  • beauxbeaux

    I think the cleanse is a great idea! Challenging, yes, but a good way to focus mind and body.

    I agree with Kat about free-range organic meats. Some farmers are very conscientious about caring for their livestock and it really shows in the quality of the product. Everyone wins: you get better quality meats, an independent farmer gets to make a living, and the animals have a pretty decent life. Worth the extra $$.

  • Daniel

    Good for you! You’ll find it’s very easy to give up animal products. If you’re going to give up meat for ethical reasons then you should also give up dairy and eggs. There is more suffering in a glass of milk than a pound of meat. Where do you think veal comes from?

  • Would cleansing make you lose your burping prowess? Maybe that is something to consider.

  • Joy

    Wow, I have got to get me to Florida….

  • Good luck on the cleanse. All positivity heading your way.

  • Remember what Erma Bombeck said….

    “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”

    and

    “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”

    “Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop offs at tedium and counter productivity.”

    and finally,

    “On vacations: We hit the sunny beaches where we occupy ourselves keeping the sun off our skin, the saltwater off our bodies and the sand out of our belongings.”

    Good luck with the cleanse.

  • I’ve done a 14-day “cleanse” before. It’s hard but it’s SO WORTH IT! If you want to get fancy, there are lots of soy-based, vegan items like cheeses and whatnot that are pretty good once you figure out how to cook them. And lots of gluten-free/wheat-free breads too, although I think you’re supposed to limit those. I think I’m a dork but I love going to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods and searching for all the foods that I could eat.

    After a couple of days, I stopped craving meat and sugar and caffeine. I think our bodies get addicted to preservatives and junk food and that’s why we crave them. Once you get the crap out of your system, you don’t really care much about not eating it.

    Anyway, long story short, I hope it goes well and helps you out. It definitely helps me out whenever I need to get my act together.

  • I would like to try the diet sometime, but I know that PMS would likely strike during those 21 days and that would be the real test. Hormones drive me to gummy bears, Dove ice cream bars, and Cokes.

    I have been a vegetarian for almost a year now and I am surprised how much I do not miss meat. Sometimes I miss having a variety of choices; the freedom of not caring so much.

    As previous comments mention, the book Skinny Bitch is quite persuasive!

  • Hey Heather,
    Yay you. I have been a vegetarian for 15 years and was a cynical meat eater beforehand, however, it has worked for me for all the reasons you gave. Oh, and I’m a Floridan 🙂
    One thing…probably you already thought of this but my girlfriend finds she is extremely sensitive to medications because she lives THAT cleanly..no smoke, no caffiene, etc…so I thought I’d say be very aware because your body is used to you lifestyle 🙂 Thats all, loving concern 🙂

  • I feel like I need to make some changes, too, but I haven’t been able to find a good way to approach it. I hope the “cleanse” is helpful for you, and I look forward to reading about your experience. Maybe it’ll kick me into gear.

  • The State of Florida should buy that phrase from Leta and use it to promote tourism.

  • May

    Incredible post. Way to take charge. Looking forward to following your progress.

  • You know, when I was a kid, I used to think there were two Floridas. (“Grandma lives in Florida” x 2 Grandmas = 2 Floridas. Logical, no?) Further proof that childhood is the happiest of times.

    Glad you’re back (no really, you have NO IDEA) and good luck with the cleanse. I hope it helps you achieve the feeling you’re looking for!

  • Susan

    Yup, that’s why I went vegetarian. I hear little piggies squeal in pain everytime I try to pick up a pack of bacon. So now I’m off it. And bonus, as soon as I went off meat (red in particular), my stomach felt better- I have chronic IBS and anxiety and both were dramatically reduced. (vegetarian-yoga combo)

    Good luck with your cleansing and readjusting to Utah. I can’t say I have sympathy- I live in the middle of Colorado and we just had another freak June snowstorm. I’d rather drink bleach than see one more f***ing snowflake.

  • Very encouraging stuff.. I’ve been thinking about doing a cleanse/switching to a vegetarian diet as well. I’m looking forward to your daily insights.

  • Liz

    Well, you’re a better woman than I am. With a baby and a 3 yr old and working, it’s all I can do to keep functioning day to day, much less try to attain a higher consciousness. But I’ll be following your journey with interest. And it occurs to me I might have better luck trying to “take away” rather than “add to” – i.e., try to simplify life a little. At least for starters.

    Like the author says, baby steps.

  • Recently, for the first time, I’ve been considering going vegetarian. My husband is a vegetarian and for years this was a constant source of annoyance (No French restaurants or BBQ ribs? Boy, life sucks). And now, after almost eleven years together, I am breaking down.

    We’ve always kept a strictly vegetarian house. I used to cook a lot of meals I enjoyed using meat substitutes (TVP and other vegetable protein foods) so that my husband could try the food I liked and came to discover that my recipes were better. My turning point was going to a cow farm and my husband saying, “Aw, isn’t she cute? Why would you want to eat her?”

  • I wonder if your diet is all that different from The Fat Flush Plan? No wheat, no caffeine, no aspertame, no alcohol, no sugar. Lots of green veggies and protein, lots of diluted, unsweetened cranberry juice.

    Except, on my diet, you can eat meat. What happened to Meat Is Tasty, Tasty Murder, girl?

  • OMG, I’ve been feeling the same way, and have been looking at doing a cleanse to start things off. Thank you for posting your experience here as I know it will inspire me to do something similar.

    I don’t know if I can give up my In-N-Out burger (I only get it a few times a year, but when I crave it, I must have it!)… but maybe the cleanse will cure me.

  • I’ve been doing this cleanse for 17 days now and today is the first day where I do not have a headache, unmentionable issues going on in my bottom system or the constant desire for the sweet relief of death to overcome me.

    The weirdest thing for me is that the cravings I have had were not for the things I thought I would want the most. Honestly, all I really want is a grilled cheese sandwich.

  • Wow–this sounds like a fantastic plan. (Much luck!) I need to work on “being present” as well. And the clense sounds promising, but I would have to adjust. How could I cope without cheese?

  • Anonymous

    That is such a stunning photograph.

  • “I want to be a better wife, a more conscious and present mother, a more loyal friend, and a better listener. I’d like to handle my anxiety better. I also want to be more organized because I’m tired and fed up with not being able to find anything.”

    Oh? Is that all?

    Seriously, though, that’s a lot to put on a single diet, or even an overall plan. What you’re talking about is a marathon, and part of the marathon is to pace yourself. As someone who has given up and gotten discouraged 100 meters in more than once, be careful how many goals you list — especially goals like those. You might find yourself deeply disappointed if you can’t manage them all at once — you know, like all other humans. It’s not something to approach from a valedictorian standpoint.

    Thank being said, I wish you the greatest of luck on your improvement journey. I hope it works for you.

  • Anonymous

    Are you seriously going to give up BACON?!!

  • I’m glad to hear you’re going vegan, Heather, even if it’s only for a few days. But the no alcohol thing, man, that’s extreme! Good luck and maybe I can toss some good recipes your way.