ISN’T THAT FABULOUS? by Jenna Jolovitz

Isn't that Fabulous Jenna Jolovitz

A story about daring to go topless in France, and the unexpected happens . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT JENNA JOLOVITZ

Jenna is a writer and an alum of Second City in Chicago, where she wrote and performed shows alongside Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and others. She has been on the writing staff of such shows as MADtv, and Steve Martin’s The Downer Channel as well as a guest writer on Saturday Night Live

WHAT I NEVER EXPECTED by Molly Caro May

A story about new motherhood and her path through unexpected physical difficulties  . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT MOLLY CARO MAY

Molly Caro May is a writer whose work explores body, place and the foreign. She leads writing workshops across the country and her work has appeared in Orion Magazine, Salon, and Fourth Genre, among others. Her memoir, The Map of Enough: One Woman’s Search For Place (Counterpoint Press) was published in 2014. She lives with her husband and daughter in Bozeman, Montana where she is co-founder of the Thunderhead Writers’ Collective. Her next book explores emotional inheritance through the matrilineal lineage.

MOIST: A JOURNEY OUT OF CHAPSTICK ADDICTION by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

Moist, a journey out of chapstick addiction

A story about how lip balm addiction led to a bigger perspective on real “needs” . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT ELISABETH SHARP MCKETTA

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta is the author of She Never Told Me about the Ocean and eight previous books. “Moist” also appears in her first essay collection, Awake with Asashoryu, published by Paul Dry Books in 2022. Elisabeth teaches writing for Harvard and Oxford, and she lives with her sea-swimmer husband and two young children.

MOVING PAST THE FEAR TO EMPOWERMENT by Sharon MacFarland Burrus

I got excited about women’s health in my early teens. My father was a major influence on me. He was devoted to healthy nutrition, supplementation, and natural remedies and became interested in natural progesterone in the mid-’70s. His company, Emerita, developed a product called Pro-Gest, which it still sells today. I helped with the business starting at 16 years of age. When I read reports from women who used Pro-Gest with amazing benefits, I was convinced it was a winner. This is what started my career in women’s health and advocacy.

When I was 23 years old, I passionately took over what my father started. I felt like part of a relay race, carrying the baton on the second leg. It was a long leg, but worth every step. I’m passionate about women having optimal health and vitality, because it supports them in having the confidence and energy to create their best lives. When they don’t have that health or vitality, it’s harder for them to reach full potential and satisfaction.

Doing this work for women’s health and wellness is the wind in my sails and gets me excited every day. I’ve dedicated my life to it. It’s been a long journey, and I have to say, there’s been a lot of daring to be fabulous, because it’s been in the face of a lot of resistance from the medical establishment. There have been a lot of tall walls to scale. Natural products and alternatives to prescription medication weren’t really talked about 40 years ago. We still encounter ongoing battles with the mainstream medical world, despite the fact that we have research to back up our statements; we have positive evidence that bio-identical progesterone, topically applied in physiological amounts, is safe and therapeutic. Since 1978, Pro-Gest has helped millions of women to feel better. I’m very proud of this.

My most poignant experience at Emerita was putting together a team of scientists, hormone researchers, and medical professionals to guide me in doing the necessary research to support the health benefits and potential of Pro-Gest. I was able to blast through my own fears and insecurities about not being a medical professional and create a world-class team to help me in starting some research studies. Conducting scientific research was not part of my business degree, so creating pilot research studies was quite an education and a hurdle for me to overcome. Not to mention, I was a non-scientist working with some renowned researchers.

Initially, as a woman surrounded by men, I couldn’t help but sense that they might be looking at me and thinking, “who are you, little girl?” I was not adept at speaking their scientific language or using the appropriate terminology. Working to gain their respect and support alone was an achievement. Standing up to open that first board meeting in the company of these top-notch researchers was the pinnacle for me.

Our research team conducted four clinical research studies which led to research posters at prominent science conferences. The studies proved that topical progesterone cream was beneficial in several areas, including cardiovascular health, hot flash reduction, and protection to the endometrial lining with use of estrogen, which was a major question from physicians. Still, the medical establishment balked, saying there weren’t enough people in the studies to prove anything significant. Also, even though the science posters won awards, no science journal would publish the results. Did I meet my goal? No, but the results of the studies were still revolutionary and I’m very proud of having accomplished that.

Oprah Winfrey ran a couple of shows about bio-identical hormones in 2009, with experts and patients discussing them. Dr. Christiane Northrup, who was one of our very early customers, was one of the experts on the show, advocating for the benefits of natural progesterone. She explained how it has been used in Europe for decades and the amazing results she saw with her own patients. The program also featured cutaways to actual patients, talking about how they tried the usually prescribed hormone replacement drugs with no success and a lot of side effects, only to find exactly what they needed when they turned to bio-identical hormonal creams. At the end of those two shows, Oprah directed viewers to talk to their doctors about bio-identical hormones. As a result, my company received inquiries from women asking, “How do we find bio-identical doctors?”

This leads to another project that I am very proud to have co-founded, It’s a national non-profit called Women in Balance, created to provide information for women, so they can educate themselves and make different health choices during mid-life. I completed this important project and I feel very DTBF about it! The website also has information for women on how to talk to their providers and ask the right questions, as well as a significant research library on natural hormone studies.

Women owning their bodies. What a concept. We are so disconnected from our bodies and most of us just let the traditional medical complex tell us what to do, i.e. “Here, take this pill.” Many of us don’t feel good taking those pills! For me, it’s about women taking their bodies back and saying, “I’ve got to tune in to me,” instead of turning to the medical establishment and saying, “fix me.” It’s about becoming empowered and taking our bodies back. Part of that tuning in is to realign with our natural collaborative nature as women. It provides us with a way of healing. We need more of that.

Another part of my own empowerment program is challenging myself to be adventurous. I have my motorcycle. I learned how to scuba dive. I learned to fly a small plane. These were all stretches for me – big stretches, because I tend to think I’m really afraid of these kinds of things. Ultimately, it’s about moving past the fear and taking charge of your own empowerment.

Sharon MacFarland Burrus is a pioneer in the natural products industry, as the former founder, owner, and  CEO of Emerita, a leading brand of natural wellness products, including natural menopause solutions, for women. She also helped to found Women in Balance, a national association for women’s health that promotes research and education on midlife health options for women.

LOVE MADE VISIBLE by Jo-Anne McArthur

Jo-Anne McArthur Sea Shepherd

A story about one year in the life of an animal photojournalist . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT JO-ANNE MCARTHUR

Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning animal photojournalist, author, educator, and the founder of We Animals Media, a photo agency which explores our uses, abuses, and sharing of spaces with the animals of this planet. She is the protagonist in the award-winning documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013) and has authored three books, We Animals (2013), Captive (2017) and HIDDEN: Animals in the Anthropocene (2020). We Animals Media makes thousands of images and video available for free to anyone advocating for animals.

VIEW FROM THE TOP by Nalini Nadkarni

Photo by Michael and Patricia Fogden for National Geographic

I have a great job; I climb trees to study the rainforest canopy. My journey to understand trees started early in my life, when I climbed the eight sturdy sugar maples in the front yard of my home in suburban Maryland. Most afternoons, I would drop my school books inside the front door, grab a snack and a book, and scramble up one of those trees, each with its own vertical pathway to a comfortable nest aloft. Those perches were refuges from the world of homework, parental directives, and the ground-bound humdrum of the everyday. I could look out across my home territory, check on the progress of squirrel nest constructions, and feel the strong limbs of those trees holding me up for as long as I wished. It was in those afternoons of arboreal repose that my sense of kinship to trees germinated.

Trees were not my only focus in those formative years. My parents provided me with modern dance lessons from Erika Thimey, a German-born dance teacher who offered the gift of creativity to her students. I learned the expressive ways the body can move and acquire the discipline that is needed to hone my muscles. From Miss Erika, as we called her, I learned that with mindfulness, the simple act of walking across a wooden floor or noting the graceful fall of a leaf can be an aesthetic action. It opened up a whole different way of seeing that has kept me aware of the multiple ways that one must look at nature to understand it fully, an approach I now bring to my scientific work.

In college, I first discovered the world of forest ecology through the lectures of an ecologist, Dr. Jon Waage. When he wasn’t teaching undergraduates, he carried out research on damselfly behavior. I was amazed to learn that he could make a living by sitting at stream edges to record the movements of these aquatic insects. From him, I learned about the world of academic science. He posed seemingly narrow questions that later turned out to relate to much broader issues about life and death, competition and mutualism, and the evolution of life on Earth. Wrestling through the labyrinth of the scientific literature, I learned to trace citations to their sources and recognize the key players in a scientific discussion. Science seemed the right approach to really understand the world.

But what of dance? With my deepening passion for science, I soon fund myself in something of a love triangle, having to choose between very different professions. Parallel with my enthusiastic forays in science, I delighted in the sparks of creativity that flew from each composition in the dance studio, the sense of feeling my body move with others, the messages about life and emotions conveyable on stage, which no scientific paper could communicate. Right after graduation from college, I decided to test out which would be the better profession for me – field biology, manifested in the scholarly persona of Dr. Waage, or modern dance, exemplified by the graceful spirit of Miss Erika.

I first tried on the life of a field biologist. By writing letters to 70 field stations all over the world, and offering my services as a volunteer field assistant, I found a temporary position to help a septuagenarian entomologist (insect biologist). He studied the taxonomy of tropical leaf-feeding beetles and directed a tiny field station in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, in the South Pacific. I accepted with joy. In January of 1978, I arrived at the entrance of the Wau Ecology Institute, in the foothills of the Morobe Province. The field station consisted of a few shabby wooden buildings, a small herbarium and insect collection, and a central table occupied by a chipped coffee pot around which staff gathered each morning to discuss progress on their research projects. I spent the next twelve months on expeditions around the country, thrilled by the stunning diversity of the rainforest. In that rainforest cloister, I felt at home with the people and work I encountered.

After the year in Papua New Guinea was over, it was time to investigate dance. I traveled to Paris, and made contact with a modern dance company, Danse Paris. I first took classes, and was then invited to practice with their troupe. The opportunity to dance for hours at a time and hang out with professional dancers was perfect to test out my potential future profession. After a year in the rainforest, it was a delight to gulp in the cultural offerings that only Paris provides. The art museums, city parks, urban architecture, and evening concerts filled my non-dancing times.

After six months, I had to make a choice. I knew that I could not do both professional science and professional dance. The former demanded years of academic preparation and wildland settings; the latter required years of physical and aesthetic training and an urban homespot. On a sunny morning in April, I sat down with my journals from both locales at a neighborhood café. Over numerous cups of tea, I read through them all and then sat back to decide which was to be my choice. The forest or the stage? As much as I loved the world of dance, the time I spent in the tropical rainforests seemed truer to my own spirit. I felt closer to my biologist colleagues, and more at peace in the forest environment.

I returned to the USA and entered graduate school in forest ecology at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources. I spent a summer in Costa Rica on a field biology program, surrounded by fledgling graduate students and experienced faculty who opened the world of tropical ecology with enthusiasm and expertise. Each had his or her own specialty: hummingbird physiology; beetle distribution; songbird migration. Early on during that course, my eyes looked up to the complex world of the forest canopy – the plants and animals that lived their lives high above the forest floor and were among the most poorly known in the world.

I had the good fortune to encounter another graduate student who was studying canopy interactions. Don Perry had developed modified mountain climbing techniques, and he agreed to ‘show me the ropes’ in exchange for help with his field study. After a month, I was ready to climb on my own and to pursue my own set of canopy questions – activities that would enliven my life for the next three decades.

My canopy research colleagues, students and I have enumerated the rare and often unknown species that dwell on branches and twigs that never appear in ground surveys. I discovered that some trees put out “canopy roots” from their own branches and trunks, which gain access to the arboreal soil that accumulates beneath mats of canopy-dwelling (“epiphytes”). We learned that treetop versions of traditionally terrestrial insects and even earthworms – are found in this canopy-level soil, living out their entire life cycle high above the forest floor. We have measured the amounts of nutrients that the epiphytes intercept and retain from rain, mist, and dust, which can be considerable.

Over the last 30 years, new techniques of canopy access have evolved to include hot-air balloons, treetop walkways, hanging platforms, and 30-story construction cranes. The answers that canopy researchers report in scientific meetings confirm that trees are a critical part of ecosystems, landscapes, and the biosphere. Canopy researchers now quantify the amount of oxygen tree canopies produce, the amount of carbon dioxide they store, the volumes of soil they protect, the amount of water they retain, and the scores of wildlife species they support. Urban foresters have documented the “ecosystem services” provided by trees in urban settings: reduction in noise, temperature, and pollutants. Thus, the growing body of treetop research documents that loss of canopy diversity and function is a loss to the forest as a whole and to the landscapes beyond them.

Over the years, aware of the importance of the forest canopy and forest ecosystems in general to the health of the Earth, I have made deep forays into doing outreach and communication of what I have learned. I am especially interested in reaching “non-traditional” audiences, those who don’t automatically pick up a Natural History magazine, or watch a nature documentary film. Each of these projects involves connecting with other partners. One of my programs involves gathering scientist, urban youth, and scientists to spend time in the field and create rap songs about trees and insects. Another program brings science research projects involving endangered plants and animals into prisons so that incarcerated men and women can contribute to solving environmental problems, even though they are behind bars.

Another set of my partners to help communicate scientific messages are artists. One of my favorites is a wonderful collaboration with a modern dancer and choreographer. On an afternoon last year, I got a telephone call from Jodi Lomask, the Director of the San Francisco-based modern dance troupe. She wanted to make a modern dance about tropical rainforests, but wanted it to be based in science – could she come to my rainforest study sites with me to learn about them? Indeed she could, and did, and this year, we are performing the dance she choreographed while climbing my rainforest study trees to public audiences in Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. I feel happy that the two seemingly divergent forces in my life – studying trees and making modern dances – has come together for the sake of protecting rainforests.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is a Professor of Biology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a leader in the scientific field of rainforest canopy research. Nalini created a unique method for rappelling to the top of the canopy using mountaineering equipment and has become known as “The Queen of the Forest Canopy.” She is featured in the Emmy award-winning National Geographic documentary “Heroes of the High Frontier.” She is also the author of three books and numerous scientific research articles. 

A BODY OF WORK by Kelly Dobbins

Kelly Dobbins photo by Juan Carlos Lopez

I was raised in a small farm town in Oregon in a very athletic family. My brother was a professional fighter and a Gold Medal Champion, traveling around the world to places like Romania and Russia. He started boxing when he was six years old, and he would quite literally train all day long, so I pretty much grew up around a gym. Despite this exposure, I didn’t feel personally drawn to it.

I went to college and majored in business, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in terms of a career. After graduation, I got a job at a construction company doing their accounting. I also started working out at a local gym. One day, the gym owner approached me and said, “You should get into bodybuilding.” I didn’t know anything about it, so he explained what it entailed. He added that he would be willing to train me for free, reasoning that it would be good publicity for his gym. He also told me that there was a show coming up in Portland, which was 60 miles from my hometown. I was naive at that time, not knowing what I was really getting into, so I said, “Cool, let’s do it!”

In the middle of my training, and before the Portland show, I found myself having to make a sudden move to California, which was a bummer. I was getting into bodybuilding and I didn’t want to stop. As soon as I got there, I immediately joined the local Gold’s Gym and became consumed with training — the bug had bitten me. I loved it so much that I even took a job there working at the front desk. I was 21 years old and I knew what I wanted to do.

Bodybuilding in California was big stuff compared to where I came from in Oregon. There were lots of competitors and bodybuilders around me. The support was strong and my body got even stronger. When I finally did my first amateur show, I won! And from there it went. I just kept going and learning more about the sport. I just loved it. My major goal was to “do the Sacramento,” because it was a big National qualifying show. To qualify for the Nationals, you have to place in the top three, so it’s not easy. I trained and competed and guess what? I won. I qualified for the Nationals!

After “the Sacramento,” I took a couple of years off from competing to train, because I was really small and the girls competing in the Nationals were relatively big. I just couldn’t compete with them at my size. I started training hard and was always at the gym. That’s when I met my husband, Rick. He was also at Gold’s Gym, working out. You might say he was dedicated; he totally set his sights on winning me over. Rick would sit on the steps and wait for me and wouldn’t leave. What can I say? It worked. He stole me away.

Rick became my personal trainer and that’s when I really took off. He became my trainer, my nutritionist, and my choreographer, which could make our relationship rough during pre-contest time. I’ve gotta say, it was not very much fun. Sometimes, I was just exhausted and I wanted him to focus on being my husband, not my trainer.

To train for a contest, we start 16 weeks prior to the event. The diet is a huge part of it. At that 16-week mark, I cut out dairy and fruit. The fructose in fruit is the main source of carbohydrates from sugar, and it goes straight to your liver, so if your liver is already full with glycogen, the sugar turns into fat. I also start limiting alcohol. Believe me, I like my daily glass of wine, but I start cutting down to maybe four days a week, or three. At the 12-week mark, it gets tough; I start weighing and measuring everything down to the ounce. There are limited amounts of things I can eat: small amounts of protein, broccoli, yams, and brown rice. At 10 and 8 weeks out, I carb-deplete a lot so I can go into ketosis. Fortunately, Rick monitors me on a daily basis.

A typical day during pre-contest means that I get up at 4:00AM. and do an hour of cardio. Then, I do some weight training. Then, I head to work and train my own clients. At mid-day, I do another hour of cardio and more training. And finally, I do one more hour in the evening. The last week before the contest, I don’t train at all. That’s because the cuts won’t be there. You want your muscles to relax so your cuts will be visible when you pose.

Every contest is a challenge. When I get four to six weeks out, I think to myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” When you can’t eat and you’re carb-depleted, you’re weak-minded. Everyone around you is eating, but you need to stay strong. It’s different when you’re one week out, because you’re almost there.

My goal to compete at the National level happened at the 2007 USA Championship in Las Vegas. I took third, which is huge, because there are so many women competing at that level. Most women do those shows to turn pro, which is not a goal of mine. Honestly, if I turn pro, I’m toast. They’re huge women.

I work harder than most of the women in the amateur contests, because there’s no test for performance-enhancing substances, and many of the bodybuilders take advantage of that. I see what using them will do and I have no interest in doing that to my body. I have a life ahead of me, you know? Fortunately, they now want us to compete at smaller sizes, so that’s to my advantage. I came in 6th in a recent championship, because they thought I was too hard, too shredded. The rumor was that they wanted us to come in 20 percent softer. It’s difficult, because you never really know what the judges are looking for.

For national competitions, you weigh in on Thursday night. On Saturday, they do the pre-judging. There’s a pump-up room in the back and there are bodybuilders there that oil you up. Then, you go up to the stage and do quarter turns and a 60-second routine without music. They want you to look simple for the pre-judging. Nothing fancy. Your hair is usually up. When you come back and do your one-and-a-half-minute routine to the music, you get dolled up. Rick stands to one side of the stage, coaching me as I pose. People in the audience cheer. Friends come from all over. It’s quite exciting.

There is so much discipline involved. Everyone asks me why I love it and I can never give a definite answer. I love taking my body to the limit, but I also love to compete. I love the actual training and I love to see my body progress.

I should see a psychiatrist, because I work my ass off, but I’m uncomfortable going out in public! I’m kind of a freak in public. I joke about this, but it’s true. I stay covered up. I’m getting a little more comfortable, but even when it’s hot, I’ll probably cover up. If I’m with a guy or with my husband, I’ll go sleeveless, but otherwise, I won’t.

I’ve been competing for over 20 years and I can’t think of any negative things that would happen by showing my body in public. I get positive reactions, but I’m just uncomfortable with the attention. People always stare, even if I’m not in pre-contest shape. I had my own personal training gym for a long time, and whenever I was out with clients, they would comment on the way people stared at me. I don’t like that, even though I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Go figure, right?

Fortunately, my mother and father are super supportive and proud of me. They love it. My mom actually got pissed off when she didn’t get any pictures from my last contest. I laughed and said, “Mom, I didn’t get any pictures.” I also have two girls of my own and they’ve always been proud of me. They’ve seen me train and compete since they were very little.

I’m proud of myself for being so disciplined. Doing this isn’t easy. I don’t know if I’ll continue. I’m not sure if I’m up for the intense dieting. We’ll see. I started dieting a little this week . . . just in case.

Kelly DobbinsKelly Dobbins has been competing in amateur bodybuilding championships for over 30 years. She resides in Oakland, California, and owned her own personal training facility appropriately named Kelly’s Gym. 

PLAYING THE CANCER CARD by Simon Chaitowitz

Simon Chaitowitz

A story about living with cancer and allowing herself to play the cancer card . . .

Read her personal story in a new book.
Released on August 4, 2022
Paperback & Kindle now available! 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT SIMON CHAITOWITZ

Simon Chaitowitz was a writer and two-time cancer survivor living and working in Washington, D.C. As much as she disliked the word “survivor,” she admitted it could be useful.  Simon passed away in 2009, less than one year after contributing her story to Dare to be Fabulous. She died from a blood disorder caused by the treatment she underwent for breast cancer.