#257. I Battled an Animal in Hand-to-Hand Combat & Lost.

My nemesis. Image is not to scale... but basically, that is how big she was. 

My nemesis. Image is not to scale... but basically, that is how big she was. 

There I was, working on my laptop at our dining room table when I froze. A wasp. A friggin wasp had the audacity to break into my house and try to make my afternoon a living hell. 

Sure, it wasn't doing anything. Not buzzing around, not noticing me, not doing anything except probably wondering why it couldn't get back outside. I, on the other hand, couldn't shake its presence from the forefront of my mind. I mean, have you ever read the best Onion article ever? Bees are scary!

Who can focus on a task when there's an insect with a tiny stinger in their presence? 

I needed to kill it.

I rolled up a magazine and silently approached the beast. My heart pounded. I inhaled deeply and WACK!  

I took a step back to see where the ol' whippersnapper had landed. Then, bzzzzzzzzz..... I missed the damn thing! Naturally, I screamed and ran outside, clutching my computer to my breast. I worked on my deck for thirty minutes before mustering the courage to go back inside. 

Wasp: 1  //  Molly: 0

Eventually, I had to pee. I quietly tip-toed inside, scanning the space with my eyes. Once I'd successfully traversed the living room, I started getting my confidence back. I am a person. I can outsmart an insect! You can do this, Molly! You can make it to the bathroom even though there is a wasp somewhere!

There it is! There it is! Good god, don't you see it?!

There it is! There it is! Good god, don't you see it?!

There it was, on the ceiling next to our eyesore of a light fixture. Armed with a broom (makes way more sense than a rolled up magazine!), I took aim. SMASH! I pushed the bugger into the ceiling with all my might.

bzzzzzzzzzzz.

SHIT!  I screamed and ran into the bathroom.

Wasp: 2  //  Molly: 0 

I took an extra long time in the bathroom, organizing the medicine cabinet, putting the toilet paper on the correct way, etc. I had to stop this nonsense. I will not let a wasp get the best of me. I stretched out my hammies, splashed a little water on my face and headed back into battle.

Will you quit trying to ruin me already wasp?!

Will you quit trying to ruin me already wasp?!

It didn't take me long to find my opponent. She perched lightly atop a stack of mail. I again opted for the magazine, except this time, I didn't curl it up. I left it flat. More surface area. I took a deep breath through my nose, slowly exhaling through my mouth. You know, like in a yoga class.

One..... two...... three..... KA-POW!

I am not too proud to admit that I missed that effer yet again. I bolted to the deck, shrieking at a window-shattering pitch. 

I spent the remainder of the afternoon working outside. I'd put that wasp through enough. Even though I weigh roughly 100000000 percent more than she, I was no match for her scrappy tactics. 

I never saw the wasp again. Maybe she got away. Maybe I delivered a fatal wound to her thorax. Maybe she's still in here somewhere. All I know is that for some stupid reason, I challenged a mere wasp to a duel and did not win.

It was a humbling day, my friends. 

P.S. This is not the first time I've freaked out over a dead (or not so dead animal). Here's a time that was funny (but gross), a time that was just disgusting (but necessary), a time that was so intense I cried and a time that broke my heart so badly, I cried for two weeks. 

Everyday Eleanor: I'm a Log Rolling World Champ

Log rolling ain't for sissies.

Log rolling ain't for sissies.

Lumberjacks are real. And no, I’m not talking about Paul Bunyan or plaid-clad, tallboy-swillin’ hipsters (not that there is anything wrong with that). I’m talking about Madison, Wisconsin-based Shana Verstegen, the four-time log rolling and two-time boom running world champion. Lumberjack athletics is quite possibly the most badass sport you never knew existed. I talk to Shana about competition, eating like a lumberjack and the scariest thing she’s ever done, on or off the log.

I’m from Stillwater, Minnesota, a town literally built by lumberjacks and yet I never knew you could still be one.

Well technically, I’m not a lumberjack, I’m a lumberjack athlete. As an athlete, we mimic what the lumberjacks did over 100 years ago. So if you actually put me in the woods with an axe or a chainsaw, I probably wouldn’t be very useful.

 How did you initially get into the sport?

There are lumberjack athlete programs all over the US and Canada. In Madison specifically, we’ve got a YMCA program. So when I was a kid taking swimming lessons at the YMCA, and I saw kids on the logs and I wanted to do it.

I was always afraid that if I got on the log, I’d “crotch” it or something.

Everyone things that log rolling is dangerous, but in fact, it’s one of the safest sports you can do. I have never seen anyone hit their head. You can sometimes bump your shin, but otherwise, if you fall off the log, you end up in the water. It’s also really low impact, because when you step on it, the log sinks into the water. We’ve had a lot of people with knee and leg injuries thrive in log rolling because it’s athletic without the impact.

You’re a four-time log rolling and two-time boom running world champion. How do you train for competition?

We train all year round. I spend most of the off-season strength training. Come spring, we start spending more time on the log… As the summer comes, I spend about an hour a day on the log, either by myself or with an opponent. I do a lot of running, hill sprints and stuff like that, but it gets more specific as we get into competition season.

Are you nervous before a competition? How do you get into the mindset?

They say there is sort of a bell curve for all sports. If you’re not nervous at all, you don’t perform well, but if you’re too nervous it’ll ruin your competition. It’s taken years to learn to manage that and I still don’t manage it all the time.

What helps you get in the zone?

If I help with the kids’ competition, which I love to do, it reminds me why I am there. It’s for fun. It’s not about winning. It’s about making friends and having fun. Doing that before I compete puts my head in the right place.

Shana doing a boom run. She makes it look easy. Also, those abs.

Shana doing a boom run. She makes it look easy. Also, those abs.

When I think about what a lumberjack might eat, visions of pancake stacks, bacon & eggs (and maybe a steak, too) populate my mind.

There’s definitely plenty of bacon and pancakes and ice cream during the off-season. But during the summer, especially for the log rolling and the boom running, you have to be light. I eat lots of lean meats, vegetables and whole grains. Right now, people are into this whole no-carb, low-carb, paleo thing, but as an athlete, you need to have those good carbohydrates in your body.

I certainly admire your physical strength, but I admire your emotional strength more. Your mother was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease when you were a kid. You had a 50-50 chance of inheriting it, but decided to forgo testing until recently. How did not knowing your fate affect how you lived your life?

I’m quite certain that I’ve lived life to the fullest. But that’s also how my parents raised me. My parents always encouraged me to do other activities, to be involved, to help out with charities, try new things. I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t in my life, if I would be the same way. I don’t know. My mom started showing symptoms when she was around 30 years old, so… there was this ticking clock in the back of my mind that would say, ‘you’ve got until 30. What can you do?’

You recently took the test to find out if you had the disease. It came back negative. Are you glad you waited to find out?

Yes. Now knowing the results, it would have been nice to know earlier… In not knowing, I always had this hope I could hold on to. That’s why I was so hesitant to be tested, because I realized that it might be the end of my hope.

Did you and your husband get married before you knew?

Yes. Peter, he’s just one amazing man. We’ve been friends since we were kids and so he’s seen my mom through various stages of the disease. He’s seen what my dad has had to go through to take care of her. The commitment and the risk that he took is unbelievable. He knew going into this that he might only have a few good years before taking on that caregiver role. We talked about it many times and I gave him any outs, but he wouldn’t have it. I was so grateful for that. He’s a pretty special human being.

What’s your advice for someone deciding to get tested for a genetic disease?

It’s a personal decision and you can’t let anyone make it for you. Believe it or not, only about 10 percent of people living at risk for Huntington’s get the test. When somebody first hears about Huntington’s, they usually say, “If there is a test, why don’t you take it?” I even had someone tell me that it was not fair to them. But it’s such a personal decision. Right now, we are living in a time where there is nothing you can do to stop the disease. I want people to know that there isn’t a right or wrong answer to what they do. It’s their lives.

* * *

Follow Shana on Twitter. You can check out my other Everyday Eleanor interviews in the archives. You know you want to.

I want to hear your Everyday Eleanor story. Email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.

107 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone.

hey eleanor free ebook

What’s your biggest fear?

You’re probably thinking heights, your nudie pictures surfacing on the Internet or spiders. But what you probably aren’t aware of are all the little things in your everyday life that you avoid because they make you uncomfortable.

Silly stuff, like cooking seafood at home, watching a movie you heard is pretty intense, or inviting your neighbors over for a barbecue (for real, not just to be polite). 

For nearly a year, I’ve committed to doing something outside my comfort zone once a day.

It sounded adventurous. Plus, it was great blog fodder. I didn’t expect the enormous impact it would have on my life. The more you live outside your comfort zone, the more that zone expands. You can actually practice being afraid, which in turn makes you less scared and more open to new experiences.

It’s awesome.  

Fear is completely subjective. What might terrify you may be old hat to me and vice versa. However, I’ve discovered that every time I lean into my fears, I unearth new possibilities and expand my comfort zone in a way I never thought possible. And truly, no task is too small. I learned a hell of a lot more not wearing makeup for a week than I did skydiving. You should give it a try. Download my free ebook to help get you thinking about new and fun ways to challenge yourself. 107 ways, to be exact. 

Send me my free eBook, por favor!

#256. I Chopped Off All My Hair & Couldn't Be Happier.

That's a lot of hair. | Short haircut - Before & After

That's a lot of hair. | Short haircut - Before & After

My friend Dusti recently reminded me of the time I asked her, "Why do women cut off all their hair after they get married?" I think I implied it was kind of lame and sooo cliche. 

And yet, there I am, less than three months after tying the knot, with 10 inches of my wavy, strawberry blonde mop piled up on the floor. 

Shapeless long mop | Short haircut - Before & After

Shapeless long mop | Short haircut - Before & After

Now I understand that post-wedding cut.

Like many brides, I grew my hair out for our wedding. Mostly, because I wanted a lot to work with on the big day. Once that had come and gone, I neglected my hair and it got too long and ratty and gross. I was so ready for a change. A fresh haircut for a new beginning! (I should write inspirational copy for, I don't know... CostCutters or something). 

The inspiration started where time goes to die: Pinterest. 

I was looking up pictures of Christina Ricci with short-ish hair, since we basically have the same face. Then, cause I'm just a basic broad, I started a Pinterest short hair board, adding a few 'dos from Katie Holmes, Kirsten Dunst and Julianne Hough. I shared the board with my hairstylist, Marissa. She got all excited and suggested we go for the shortest of the bunch (Julianne Hough/Michelle Williams). I was like YEAH! This is going to be great! I made an appointment. 

Look at those ratty ends! | Short haircut - Before & After

Look at those ratty ends! | Short haircut - Before & After

The next day, I was like, uh-oh

I started second guessing myself. Would I look like I was giving up? Too mom-ish (not that there is anything wrong with moms, but you know what I mean!)? Would my husband be attracted to me? Would I feel unpretty? Would my face look fat? I noticed every person who walked by with short hair, taking a mental inventory of what I liked or didn't like.

Her hair is cute, but she's 72-ish.

Ugh, too spiky! 

So fun and edgy.

Is that a wig?

Too Kate Plus Eight.

Oops, that's actually a man.

The more I stressed about it, the more I knew this was a great Hey Eleanor challenge. So scary, and yet again proof that the things that can't kill you are often the scariest things. It's funny how attached we get to how we look. C'mon, Molly! It's only hair! It'll grow back (in a year or so).

I arrived at the salon, sat down and said, "Let's do this." I could not wait for Marissa to make that first big cut. When she did, we couldn't turn back. This was happening. I could finally relax and I did. I even got a scalp massage. Twice.

And the Big Reveal:

Nope, it's not in a ponytail. | Short haircut - Before & After

Nope, it's not in a ponytail. | Short haircut - Before & After

I love it! The cut, the color, the everything! Before, I felt so blah about the shape of my hair. Now, I feel like I actually have a hairstyle. It's so easy to deal with and looks fine blow dried, air dried, swept to the left OR right OR combed back (as long as I use an eyebrow pencil.... if I don't, I look like this). So psyched that I had the balls to do it. It's a silly thing, but I am really proud of myself. 

Just being my own photographer. | Short haircut - Before & After

Just being my own photographer. | Short haircut - Before & After

The best part?

I never told Josh that I was getting my haircut because I didn't want him to dissuade me. When I got home, I hid behind out front door and yelled, "Don't be mad at me!" When I walked in, the first thing he said was, "You look beautiful."

Awww, I love him. 

Proof that it's not just a ponytail. PS is that an orb to my left?!  | Short haircut - Before & After

Proof that it's not just a ponytail. PS is that an orb to my left?!  | Short haircut - Before & After

A huge shout out to Marissa Rasmusson at Julia Bretey Salon in Edina, Minnesota for the great cut, color & moral support; Jackie Dela Pole for taking the leap before me (she looks fab!); and my friend Dusti who reminded me that it's just hair

* * * 

What beauty trend/change in your appearance have you been thinking about... but are too chicken s#!t to follow through with? 

#254-255. Why the Woods Freak Me Out.

Walking in the wilderness freaks me out, but not for the reason you're thinking. 

Walking in the wilderness freaks me out, but not for the reason you're thinking. 

I'm Minnesotan, which means I love the north woods. It's just a thing we're born with. 

I recently spent a weekend at my cabin with my guy and our dog, Patsy. This summer has been lots of weddings, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, showers and more weddings. Which has been fun! But also exhausting.

It was nice to have some time to just hang out, listen to records, drink wine, read, play cards. 

Josh & I also took the opportunity to "make the rounds". If you're not a cabin person, that basically means walking around, saying hi to the neighbors and maybe mooching a beer or snack. On this occasion, that meant a dusk walk to our pal Glen's place (he's 90, pours a stiff drink and cooks the best fried zucchini I've ever had), then to our friends Barry & Teri's place (I think they were in bed, so we left them alone) and then on to Barb & Larry's (Larry is the only person I know who still chain smokes in his house. I weirdly kind of like it). We stayed out until about 10:30. When we headed back, it was pitch black.

No moon. No light pollution. Nothing. And we forgot a flashlight. 

Josh found the flashlight app on his phone, which just barely illuminated the road. The walk (#254) was only about a half-mile, tops, the first part on Highway 48, a paved road with intermittent traffic. I clung tightly to Josh, trying to make light conversation and trying harder to forget the story we'd heard earlier that day about a wolf who'd recently buzzed through camp.

Gulp.

The wolf sounded scary, but not even half as scary as encountering a drunk driver. A wolf, most likely, wanted nothing to do with us. Drunk drivers, on the other hand, are totally unpredictable and, if I'm being honest, pretty commonplace around these parts. I felt more comfortable once we exited the main drag to the dirt road that leads to our cabin. We made it back in one piece. 

The next day, I ventured on a different nature walk. Solo.

Josh left early that morning to race motorcycles in Brainerd (thinking about your husband doing that is a Hey Eleanor all on its own). The dog was up and at 'em at 7 am, so I took her for a walk. 

We head a half-mile down a dirt road I've traveled dozens of times. It was quiet, not another sole out and about. I thought the road simply came to a dead end, but then noticed a FOR SALE sign. What?! Then a noticed an overgrown driveway. Huh. I decided to keep going, with my very ferocious 35-pound pup in tow.

The path was actually very beautiful, especially on a chilly September morning. Huge trees towered over us, with early morning sunlight pouring through the leaves. It was completely silent. Then, we happened upon a sign:

NO TRESPASSING. 

I am normally a rule follower. I sweat when I check out in the Express Lane with 11, not 10, items. Really. But there was nobody around and the "Keep Out" property was for sale and hey... maybe I wanted to buy it or something, so Patsy and I sauntered on (#255). 

I am a rule follower and would normally never trespass.... until today. 

I am a rule follower and would normally never trespass.... until today. 

It's pathetic to admit, but I felt a rush as we trespassed our way down the long, hilly road. A Peewee would say, I am a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

I assumed this was just someone's land, but as I rounded a corner, I stopped. In the distance I saw something. No, not a wolf (phew!). A pickup truck. I immediately power walked in the opposite direction.

Like the night before, it wasn't nature I feared, but other PEOPLE.

When I think of the kind of person who might post a NO TRESPASSING sign, I imagine a crabby old man with a shotgun or something. Or maybe a creepy psychopath. I'm in the middle of the woods, no one is around. I was so vulnerable! Easy pickins for any sort of creep, rapist, drunk or murderer. 

A lot of people feel uneasy in the city. Because crime. I'm the opposite: rural or nature-y places creep me out people they are so isolated. If you get attacked in a city, there's a high likelihood that someone will hear or see. In the middle of nowhere? Fat chance.

What sucks is I friggin love the great outdoors. I'm enamored with hiking and canoeing and fishing and all that stuff. It's just the other people that freak me out. 

So friends, here's my informal poll:

What's scarier: Nature or people in nature? And where do you feel more vulnerable, the big city of the great outdoors? Go!

We're Honeymooning in Australia & New Zealand. Suggestions, Please!

This is probably a picture of Hawaii or something, but it's how I imagine Australia looks.

This is probably a picture of Hawaii or something, but it's how I imagine Australia looks.

My hubby and I decided to wait a few months to take our honeymoon. Mainly because we wanted to go to Australia and mainly because when it's freezing cold in Minnesota, it's summer there. January on the beach sounds pretty damn good to a couple of midwesterners.

We're still ironing out the details. All we know for sure is that we want to do both Australia and New Zealand and that we only have 16 days (including travel time). So a week in each spot. Based on the fact that Australia is enormous, we're limiting ourselves to one week in Brisbane and its surrounds.

For week two, I think we're flying into Wellington or Christchurch, NZ and renting some sort of campervan, though we will not be staying in it every night. This is my honeymoon and there will be showers.

Things we for sure want to do:

  • See/snorkel/SCUBA the Great Barrier Reef (we think we can road trip to the southern tip of it from Brisbane)
  • A few days at a cool beach, relaxing and drinking things out of coconuts or something. I have it on good authority from two sources that Byron Bay is excellent. 
  • At least one great hike in New Zealand. Doesn't need to be difficult, just pretty.
  • Maybe a visit a vineyard.
  • My guy really wants to see something from Lord of the Rings 'cause he's into that. 

Any travel advice, things to avoid, stuff to do fer sher, we are ALL ears. Best advice gets to come with us!*

*no chance