Before officially starting the new year, I'd like to acknowledge the changes and growth that took place over the past year. It was a whirlwind of changes, sometimes so dizzying that I wondered what I was doing and occasionally questioned whether, or not, I was making mistakes with my life. I followed my intuition, however, and it served me well. I'm here today, remembering the past year and ready to announce plans for this new year that has just begun. It's a beautiful life, isn't it Even when things seem dark and like there is a lot of pain, there is a tremendous amount of potential for new growth and a brighter life than ever imagined.

I ended 2008, perched on a summit and ready to take flight. Before I fly, however, I'm standing still for a bit and enjoying the view. I feel like the entire past year consisted of climbing to higher and higher plateaus of an enormous mountain. While climbing to each new plateau I stumbled, held on for dear life, saw amazing things, and became stronger.When reaching each new plateau, I'd spread my wings and leap, circling the mountain's circumference. But, I wasn't strong enough to fly straight to the peak. It was a year of gradual growth and change -- and I found myself becoming stronger and stronger as I reached the summit.I'm certainly not the same person who started this climb. I have transformed into a more genuine version of myself, a younger and stronger woman emerging from a lifetime of guilt and fear. As I stand on this summit, I feel youthful and invigorated. What lies ahead may be unknown to me, but I know it's within my ability to fly to the highest heights of ANY mountain, to see and do and experience ALL that I desire. It's going to be an incredible future and I look forward to sharing it with all of you!

In recognizing all of the accomplishments of 2008, I think it's important to admit that it wasn't one steady climb to the point I'm at today.The few years prior to 2008 were almost like my training in mountain climbing. Last year there were a lot of tears shed, along with a releasing of physical and emotional baggage that was still clinging to me. I openly shared what I was going through, however, after learning that keeping things inside was slowly killing my spirit. I think if I had to sum up 2008 in just one sentence it would be: In finally releasing everything, I woke up as my true self.

In this special five-part series, Joanna Steven uncovers where some top vegetarian athletes get their protein. Here's part three, focusing on Robert Cheeke's take on this issue.

YELLOW PEA POWDER

In the spring of 2005 this natural body builder became a champion bodybuilder - all on a strict? vegan diet. Robert Cheeke, an activist/athlete raised on an Oregon farm, went vegan when he was 15 years old and transitioned to full on vegan only two months later. Winning titles in Portland, OR and competing at the Natural Bodybuilding World Championships held in California, Robert maintains his intense mass building workout regime on a 100% animal-free diet.

Jim here... Recently, a commenter on this blog, Lannette, mentioned being a cardiac rehab nurse. For some reason, reading this set my wheels spinning in various directions, among them onto the topic of meat consumption in the world. To begin, I'd like to recap something I'd said in response to her:

... it *astounds* me how people joke about heart health where I work. People around here routinely return from medical exams and actually adopt rather mischievous grins when they reveal how high their bad cholesterol levels are. It's like they're saying, "I know meat and dairy are bad for me, but I'm going to keep on eating it anyway. Isn't that funny ??!!!" Ummm, no. It's sad. They laugh it off as though there could be no possible future reckoning for them. It's reminiscent, IMHO, of Dr. Viktor Frankl's book "Man's Search for Meaning," in which he describes a psychological phenomenon he termed the "delusion of reprieve." For anyone unfamiliar w/ that, the term describes the phenomenon via which those faced with certain death (or near certain death) mentally construct some way out of it. They are deluded into believing that they'll have a reprieve from the inevitable. So, it's exactly the same to me -- these people see the heart attacks coming. They simply refuse to do anything about it, refuse to change their habits, deny what their blood work says to them. Why? Because they think "I'll be okay. Sure, this leads to heart disease in most people, but not in *me* because I'm a strong guy, I'm macho, I'm not as fat as some other person here, etc." Mostly, it's the meat, I think. It's got a powerful hold on our society...

So, today I wanted to write a little bit on the topic of meat consumption. This is an enormous issue, in my opinion. If you're reading this, it likely means you're already at least a vegetarian, so I do not need to quote you any saddening statistics on the horrors of the meat industry. In fact, before writing this, I decided to visit the PETA web site quickly in order to glean a few slaughterhouse facts. But, in no time, I became markedly depressed, so I'll largely avoid focusing on specific negative imagery here.

Hey everyone!? I hope you're doing well. We started out the week with a great video from Joe, Tracey, and Heather. I thought I'd stay with the video blog format for a while, as I've been capturing some outstanding stuff here in Chicago. (We're here until Thursday.)? Well, a few of the vids are "okay," but the bulk of them are absolutely amazing, so be sure to check in every day for these great Chicago vids. (BTW, I'll dub this series, "The Chicago Raw Food Scene," although partially misleadingly so, as the videos are not always *about* Chicago, per se. Rather, we shot all of the videos *in* Chicago. So, pardon the slightly misleading banner graphic.)

Let's continue this video cavalcade with a very quickly made video basically peeking inside Karyn's Raw in Chicago. I didn't really have an opportunity to spend a good deal of leisurely time there, as I did with two other Chicago area restaurants, so this video is *very* basic, and not at all thorough in terms of what is offered there. But, if you're not from Chicago and have no other way to see it, perhaps its interesting to take a quick (just 3+ min) look. Here's the video:

Yesterday we talked about attending raw food meetups / potlucks. Today we'll focus on...

*Hosting* Raw Foods Meetups

There are two main ways to host a raw foods meetup. The first would be through the meetup.com web site. If there is no raw foods meetup in your area, you're going to need to launch one. (See the Meetup web site for details.) If there is a group, you'll need to sign up and get to know the moderator, as you'll need to announce your meetup through that person.

It's nice to meet new people, isn't it? For today's Take the Time Tuesday, I'd love for you to meet someone who's really helping to make a difference in the raw food world in an exciting way.

Take the time to meet...

Jim here... Here's an interesting way to finish out the week: Today just happens to be my one-year "rawniversary." That's right, for the past full year, I've existed as a 100% raw food vegan.

Sure, I'd been "high-raw" for a couple of years prior to September 18, 2008 -- and it was during those high-raw years when the bulk of my weight came off and when I kissed prescription meds goodbye (I'd been on powerful beta-blockers for my heart and blood pressure).

Aren't these videos wonderful? Today we have yet another special Raw Spirit interview for you -- the mega-talented Markus Rothkranz. What can I say about Markus? He's a true inspiration, a man who truly lives by his heart and inspires thousands of others on a daily basis. He's actually very tough to interview because he's so interesting and self-actualized, you really just want to hang and chat with him (but then you remember that you're on film and you should probably get back to asking questions that people will appreciate).

After making a 'batch' of green smoothies, what is generally considered an appropriate serving size?

Thanks for the question, Gary!? I don't think I can give an across-the-board answer to fit everyone, since we're all so wonderfully different. The answer would have to take into consideration various factors, such as:

 

Sixteen years ago today, our beautiful KDcat (now called Bailey) was born!! Happy, happy birthday to Bailey. We hope ALL your wishes come true and you continue to shine your bright light and express your creative talents for the rest of us to enjoy!