SOLA PEDALING by Carter Helliwell

Sola Pedaling

A story about cycling alone through Italy and Greece at the age of 17 . . .

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 CARTER HELLIWELL

Carter Helliwell is an artist and writer who lives on an island on Western Canada’s most southerly tip. Her blog chronicles her life’s sometimes rocky, but mostly happily enlightening journeys from far and near. 

WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE by Caroline Paul

Caroline Paul

The first dog I ever rescued bit me. I held on, so he dropped two poops onto the sleeve of my fire coat. I couldn’t blame him: I was just the latest bummer in what had been a very bad doggy day. There had been flames, there had been smoke, there had been the shouts of strange people. With an axe at my side, and an air mask on my face, I was as scary as the rest. But I held him tightly and, whispering promises of dog bones and hugs, I carried him to fresh air. The owner rushed at us, arms outstretched, crying.

This was a fairly typical workday for me. I was a San Francisco firefighter, part of a crew called Rescue 2. Our job was to search for victims in fires, and sometimes those victims were dogs who pooped on our fire coats.

When my career began back in 1989 there were barely any female firefighters, in the whole wide world. In the San Francisco Fire Department, for instance, I was the fifteenth woman hired. That may sound like a lot, until you realize that there were one thousand five hundred men.

This meant that I was the only female firefighter on my shift. Sometimes I was the only female firefighter the other men had ever seen! I loved the job and I respected many of my coworkers but, let’s face it, it’s tough to be different. As the only woman, I was left out of the jokes. I was excluded from the easy camaraderie. I often didn’t understand the social rules. For the most part, the ostracization wasn’t purposeful. I was like that new kid in school with weird hair and crazy clothes who couldn’t find someone to eat with at lunch.

Firefighting was full of adventure and excitement, but it was also difficult, those first years. People had a lot of questions. Were women strong enough? Were women brave enough? I was watched very carefully. Any mistake would not just reflect on me, it would reflect on all women, and each female firefighter knew it. Some of the men were mean in ways that were so dumb and embarrassing for them it isn’t worth mentioning here. But many were decent and respectful, even if they, too, had doubts. Soon three of us women had joined the biggest station in the city, on the rig that responded to the most fires, called Rescue 2.

Art 80 - What it looks likeJoin me now at a fairly typical fire. That’s me, crawling down a hallway. I’m hauling hose, but you can’t see me because the smoke is so thick. I can’t see me, either – not my hand in front of my face, not the beam of the flashlight on my shoulder, not the floor beneath me. My partner, Victor, is behind me, and he keeps bumping into me, but that’s okay, because I keep bumping into Frank, who in turn must be bumping into Andy, who is at the front of the line and is most certainly bumping into walls. The is how it goes in what we call “a really good fire,” which to most people actually means “a really bad fire” – terrible visibility, a lot of clambering around, and air that seems made of molten lava stinging your ears.

One day, there was a small fire, confined to one room; an engine crew had already extinguished it. We jumped from the rig anyway, and walked toward the chief for instructions. I could still see smoke wafting from the window several stories up, but clearly the flames were out. Then something caught my eye. A small black object, on the ledge outside the smoking window. I squinted. Was it alive? Yes, it was.

I took the stairs two at a time. I rushed past the crew in the apartment. I asked someone to grab my coat, then I leaned as far as I could out the window. There she was, just within arm’s reach: a tiny, mewling black kitten. “Hello,” I said in my most soothing voice.

Below a crowd of gawkers milled like ants, but I didn’t allow myself to look down. I extended my arm slowly. I tried to communicate pure thoughts of animal love. I murmured nonsensical assurances. I hoped for a miracle. And the miracle happened. The kitten didn’t run, as kittens are wont to do when strangers approach. I grabbed, latching on to her tiny scruff and pulled her back into the apartment. She was shivering, so I dropped her into my coat. I held her next to my heart. “You’re okay,” I told her, “you’re okay,” and together we headed for the stairs.

Caroline PaulOnce a young scaredy-cat, Caroline Paul grew up to fly planes, raft rivers, climb mountains, and fight fires. In her book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton) Caroline shares her greatest escapades and encourages a new generation to conquer fears, face challenges, and pursue the lives they want — lives of confidence, self-reliance, friendship, and fun. 

THE WISH BEHIND MY NAME by Miho Aida

I am an environmental educator and filmmaker. I directed and produced a short film called The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak which advocates for Arctic indigenous Gwich’in women in Alaska and Canada and calls for the permanent protection of their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from potential oil development. Their way of life depends on this sacred land and through my film they are inspiring audiences around the country to take supportive action.

I have promoted this film on my bicycle over the last two summers, because I love socially and politically driven adventures. Last summer’s adventure was called “1,000 miles for 1,000 allies.” My hope was that by riding 1,000 miles on my bicycle, stopping along the way to show my film at various venues, I would create a community of 1,000 allies along the way. I even prepared myself for spontaneous screening opportunities by inventing a portable theater to show my film anywhere and anytime!

Last summer, I rode solo on my bicycle from Washington D.C. to Bar Harbor, Maine over the course of five weeks. My journey started in D.C. with a surprise invitation to an award ceremony where Sarah James, a Gwich’in elder who is in my film, was to be recognized for her lifetime commitment to protect her people’s sacred place. At the party, I had the most significant political moment of my life – I had the honor of being with Sarah in the presence of Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, as well as President Bill Clinton.

MihoAida002

Photographer: Robert Thorpe

Five weeks later, my journey ended in an epic way. I summarized  the theme of those five weeks in Haiku (Japanese poetry):

Friendly faces, kind hands
Angels whisper when in trouble
Protected always

It was July 22nd at 4:00 AM sharp. Ravens woke me up as if asking me to enjoy the last day of my tour. I packed up my stuff and rode out to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. I saw a mama deer with a fawn in the morning sun. It was a quiet, magical and peaceful morning. I rode out to a bus station and held a sign on a piece of paper. It said: “Ellsworth or Portland.” I thought it would be safe to do this in the early morning in Acadia National Park. Some people had an early start and passed by me. Rose, one of the people who came to see my film the night before, drove by. She stopped her car and said that she would take me to Ellsworth. I said, “If you don’t need to go there, no worries. I will take a bus.” She said, “I am just going for a hike today so I don’t really mind.”  I told her to enjoy her day and sent her off.

A little after 7:30 AM, the bus showed up. “We can’t take your trailer,” said the driver. I explained to him that this was how I was traveling and that I didn’t have a car. “I have to ride this bus and get as close to Ellsworth as possible, so I can make it to Bangor today to catch another bus to Portland. I have a flight early tomorrow morning from Portland.” He said, “I can’t let you take the trailer. I will get in trouble. It’s against the rules.” I insisted that he help me out. I started to take the wheels off of my trailer so it would look just like a suitcase. Meanwhile, he called his supervisor. The answer was no.

I stood there speechless. All I could think was how the system is set up to make cyclists – minorities on the road – vulnerable. There was nothing I could do. Feeling helpless, I apologized to all the passengers on the bus for the delay that I had caused. I got my bicycle off the rack and wondered what I was going to do – there were 52 miles and lots of up-and-down between here and Bangor. I wouldn’t make the last bus from Bangor to Portland with my 50-pound trailer unless I made no stops.

Right then, a car pulled up behind the bus. It was Rose again. “Did you come back for me?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “I had a feeling that you were in trouble. Here, I can give you a ride. Let’s get your stuff in my car. Everything will fit.” We rearranged her stuff and surely, everything packed in nicely – her stuff, my bicycle, the trailer and me. She took me to Ellsworth and we had a great conversation on the way.

To me, these people are like angels who give me their hands when I am in trouble. This happened constantly throughout my journey and it makes me feel hopeful. We live in a world of despair, injustice, and violence, where people are hurt every day, but when I meet people like Rose, and so many others like her, I believe that the world is a good place, where people look out for each other, even if they’re strangers. The fact is, we are all connected – we are not strangers at all. This reminds me of a plaque with Rachel Carlson’s words that I saw in Wells, Maine. It says:

” . . . all the life of the planet is interrelated, each species has its own ties to others, and . . . all are related to the Earth . . .”

Most people have never heard of the Gwich’in. On my film tour, I saw audiences connecting emotionally to the women on screen, recognizing what it’s like to lose something so important and sacred. This started driving people to want to protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Witnessing this inspired me to hop on my bicycle every morning to reach one more person and ride one more mile.

In the end, I rode over one thousand miles on my bicycle that month. I also rode on trains, buses and support vehicles, which enabled me to reach many hundreds of people. In addition, I collected over two thousand signatures on petitions to President Obama as well as Congressional representatives. Behind those numbers is all the love and support that people provided to me.

I am hopeful – even with the news that I heard as I was getting ready to catch my plane from Portland, Maine the very next day: Shell’s Arctic Ocean drilling permit had been approved. The news was a reminder that we have numerous battles to fight, miles of walls to take down and many barriers to break through. Yet there is always hope, as long as there are people who demand justice and peace.

All this was on my mind on a hot humid evening in Washington D.C. the night before I began my journey to Bar Harbor. It led me to ride my bicycle to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and to view the large stone with these engraved words: Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

In the country where I was born, I write my first name 民穂. The first character 民 (mi) means “people” and is a symbol of democracy. The second character 穂 (ho) means “rice,” which is our staple food and a symbol of our cultural and ecological heritage. My parents chose these two characters as my name with the hope that I would become a protector of people, culture and the environment.

I want to live up to my name. Even when I recognize a mountain of despair, I hope to be a person with optimism and courage who takes action to protect others. Still, on my bicycle film tour, so many people were protecting me. Perhaps that’s what my parents actually intended with my name: a secret wish that I be protected.

Maybe?

Miho Aida, originally from Tokyo, Japan, is an environmental educator, filmmaker, and outdoor adventurer in California. She is recognized for her inspirational media project called “If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Empowering Women Through Outdoor Role Models.” Her award-winning film is titled The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak

ON THE EDGE by Alison Levine

Alison Levine

A story about an attempt to scale Mount Everest after a failed (and media-covered) first try . . .

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 ALISON LEVINE

Alison Levine is a history-making polar explorer and mountaineer. She has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied to both the North and South Poles. She is the author of the NY Times bestseller, On the Edge, and is the executive producer of the documentary film, PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest.

ROLLER DERBY: THE NEW SELF-HELP SPORT by Pippy Longstalker

Pippy Longstalker Photo by Mark Nockleby

A story about joining a roller derby team and loving it  . . .

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 PIPPY LONGSTALKER

Pippy Longstalker was born in Washington state and currently lives in Northern Virginia. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in music, was a veterinary assistant, and is a military wife and mother. Since 2009, she has skated with more than a half-dozen teams on different tracks with varying rulesets, and has competed and medaled at national and international championships. 

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. 

WALKING ACROSS AMERICA IN MY 90TH YEAR by Doris “Granny D” Haddock

Doris Granny D Haddock

A story about taking bold action for an issue at the age of 89 . . .

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 DORIS “GRANNY D” HADDOCK

Doris “Granny D” Haddock received a lot of attention when she walked across the country, campaigning to raise awareness of campaign finance reform. She likely received more attention for being an 89-year-old grandmother attempting this feat, and she knew this. She continued to speak publicly and travel the country for campaign finance reform until she passed away in 2010, six weeks after her 100th birthday.