I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fashion Friday: Simply Love Tory Burch!

I will never forget when I fell in love with Tory Burch designs. I was hanging out with my bestest Luke in New York and we were roaming around Bergdorf Goodman. We stopped to chat with one of his co-workers and I couldn't stop looking at those cute little flats she was wearing. So finally I broke down and asked. She explained that they were the hottest new flats around. I said, "Tory who?" But Luke and I didn't waste another second. We went straight to the shoe department and the rest is history, as the saying goes.

The other day I made my way over the Tory Burch flagship store in Chicago to see what was on sale for the end of the season and to see what was happening for the fall. Yet again I fell in love with another handbag. I'm not sure what's going on with me and handbags. Maybe it's the fact that I have not been able to purchase a high end handbag for a while and my wanting. Or maybe it's just my love of handbags. And I do love handbags. #ForReal. Whatever the case, I have put this one on my wish list also... *SMH* And I'm really counting my pennies. I need this handbag in my life. #ForReal

As you can tell by now, I love totes. The bigger, the better. This Dafina tote is classic. The shoulder straps fit perfectly over your shoulder. It also comes with a longer strap that you can attach. The Tory Burch logo embossed in the leather is extremely tasteful. The leather is as smooth as a baby's butt and the tassel is too cute. And by the way, tassels are in. The best thing about Tory Burch is her price. This handbag would easily be over a $1000.00 with most top designers. But for Tory, it's $595.00. I love it!


I also love her new flat; it is simple elegance. And her fall riding boot is hot. I don't own a riding boot but I am seriously considering this one. She is a wonderful designer that has helped to make 1960's style clothing trendy and chic for the 21st century with her tunic. Her sweaters are to die for. And so are her clothes. Shoot, I just love Tory. If you have never dropped in on a Tory Burch Boutique do so. They are usually cute little spots with friendly staff. I drop into the Walton Street store off the Mag Mile often.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Easy Solution!

I’m scared as hell! And I don’t say that often. But this is the one time AIDS has got me walking a tightrope. I’ve been sick for the last 15 days and there is no easy solution. Not a one! Two weeks ago yesterday, the doctor and I had a long discussion about my overall health. I haven't been feeling well for sometime, fatigue, headaches, mild nausea. The causes could be many, from infection to depression to medicine side effects. We developed a plan to figure it out, ruling out possibilities one by one.

Needless to say, I left the doctor’s sad. Having a hard discussion about the long term impact of having advanced AIDS was not easy. I needed a break from it all. So I went to dinner with my girlfriend and fellow blogger Dwana and we ended the day at More Cupcakes, one of my favorite spots. It was a great ending to a hard day, but the moment I stepped into my home things changed. I had major diarrhea. By 3:00 AM it was clear to me that I was sick. It was also clear that this was new. I immediately thought that I had some kind of food poisoning. I never even got a chance to enjoy my cupcakes.

By the next day it only got worse, severe nausea, diarrhea and food sensitivity. Even the smell of food made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t call the doctor because I was sure it would pass. Then one day turned into two, turned into three and then the weekend. And by Monday morning, my doctor was out of town. By the time she came back, I was 12 days deep into whatever this was. I had lost 8 pounds. I had nausea all day everyday and diarrhea to the point of pooping on myself in public. And my sensitivity to food is unbelievable. All I have to do is take one bite of some foods and it makes me sick to my stomach. My diet has consisted of chicken and rice and crackers. Cupcakes are out of the question. In fact, sugar makes me sick beyond explanation. If I didn't know any better I would have thought I was being punished for my cupcake indulgences. But I know better.

As I described the symptoms to my doctor, her sighs got deeper and deeper. I knew this could not be good. So we developed a new plan. Treat the symptoms with the hope that it will pass. But the anti-nausea medicine was an #epicfail. The side-effects only compounded my current situation.

So here I am, scared. The solution that we are headed for is risky business in the world of HIV/AIDS treatment and care. This shit reads like some soap opera or the making of a reality show. It seems that I could have very well had food poisoning from my dinner. Any number of things would have caused it from the crab cakes to the sauce. *sigh* Like with most people with AIDS, food poisoning is not that simple. Having a compromised immune system leaves you vulnerable to infections that most people fight off in just a few days.

So it seems that the food poisoning made my stomach even more sensitive. An extra sensitive stomach combined with toxic medications and the mild problems I was already having increased the sensitivity and made it more difficult for me to tolerate my regular medicine regime. So the bottom line is this, it seems that my body is on toxic overload. My stomach cannot withstand my current medicine regime, as a result of the sensitivity created by the food poisoning. Unbelievable... I know... Right? *SMH*

The solution is the scariest part: a Drug Holiday. What the Hell is a Drug Holiday? Well, I will have to stop taking all of my HIV medications for a week or maybe even two to allow the toxins to leave and my body to readjust. Currently, I have way too much going on and it’s not getting any better. And, I’m losing a pound like every two days, not healthy at all. Plus, I’m freaking miserable! No joke! I am miserable!!

But there is a serious danger in taking a Drug Holiday. I could develop a resistance to my current medicine cocktail, which means that when I try to go back on my medication, it will not work. I know what some of you are saying, there are tons of HIV medications out there. True, but not for me. The fact is, no matter how much you like me, or how good I look, or how much energy it seems that I have, I do have advanced AIDS. I have already taken everything under the sun. And even with complete compliance in my medicine regime I still already have serious drug resistance. The fact is, there are not a lot of places for me to go in terms of treatment. So I’m faced with the dilemma I have never been faced with. Stop taking my medications to get better. But the consequences could mean drug failure, which in the end limits my treatment options.

Let’s face it, I’m a walking miracle. This I truly understand. I also understand that life and death is in God’s hand. But I have also been there before. Limited treatment is no walk in the park. In fact, it is your worst nightmare with AIDS. Without effective treatment the quality of one's life could deteriorate to nothing. It is scary! I’ve been there and done that. It’s the stuff old school AIDS is made of.

In the end I know that I have to be a big girl. I must brace myself and I must pray. And I must cling to this understanding... All things work together for good to them that Love the Lord and are all according to His purpose....

Post Script: We make this decision on Friday...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Reflection: Perspective

Sophie was ready for her evening walk and I saw no reason why I couldn't perform my Mommie duties yesterday. The temperature had gone down and my diarrhea had passed. She was one happy dog as we made our way down the street. With Nambi in my arms and Sophie leading the way I didn't have a care in the world, that is until I felt my stomach turn. "Oh NO!" I said to my girlfriend Jay on the phone. "I think I'm gonna have diarrhea again." And as soon as I said it, I could feel the poop seeping out of my behind. I contracted my anal muscles trying to hold it in, but that was futile. As I made my way back home, I could feel more and more seep into my pants. The acid from the poop started to sting like someone had poured alcohol into an open wound.

This was not good. Embarrassment ran across my face wondering if people could see the watery brown stain in my light tan capris. But I made my way through my Gold Coast neighborhood as quickly as I could with two dogs. By the time I reached my bathroom my bottom was raw and poop was everywhere. All I could do was sigh.

After I had finished using the bathroom, I washed my body and then my pants. I turned off all the lights and crawled into my bed. Not to cry nor to ask God why, but to calm myself. There is no need to ask God why. I know that answer. When I was 21 years old, I made a choice about my body that has me fighting for my life for the rest of my life. And nothing will ever change that, not fancy clothes, or even being on the cover of the Chicago Tribune. My life is what it is. My peace comes with this acceptance. We give God way to much credit, blaming Him for how we use the gift of free will. But I understand that I could have made a different decision that would have rendered me a different outcome. God on the other hand gives us the tools to cope with all our jacked up decisions that are contrary to living whole and healthy.

So laying there with Sophie's head on my chest, showing me some love, I didn't ask why. I laid there centering myself. I started to reflect on what I had told the congregation at Immanuel M. B. Church earlier that morning as their Women's Day speaker. "It's easy to love God when things are going great," I said. "But can you love God when you are hurting?"

In an instant I was thankful. Thankful that I didn't have diarrhea earlier in my beautiful baby blue St. John Knit, or in the pulpit while speaking. Thankful that I was only a block from my home and that I had a home to come to.

Thankful that my doctor is back from vacation today and that I have a wonderful doctor who knows everything about treating women with HIV/AIDS. It's been twelve long days for me. Nausea, diarrhea, no appetite, and unexpected weight loss. I'll call the doctor in an hour so we can begin this journey of diagnosis on top of the other issues I am already having. Who knows what this is. I assumed it was food poisoning when it first began, but today I have no idea. And with advanced AIDS, it could be something simple like medication, or something serious like an infection. All I can do is brace myself for the answers. Even in that I'm thankful. I understand that the alternative is death. So I take life as it comes and measure my good days against my bad days in full perspective. It's better to be alive and to be a part of God's earthly plan then to have no life at all.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It Felt Right: Social Media and HIV/AIDS Education

About a year ago I started using social media around HIV/AIDS education. I wasn't sure of it myself, but my friend Luke thought that I should give it a try. Once I got the hang of Facebook, I was on a roll. Then about six months ago, I started using Twitter to spread the same prevention message. But more so on Twitter I share my ups and downs and the ins and outs of my daily battle living with AIDS. People seemed inspired by my daily struggle and my will to press on.

Then a month ago I hosted the first ever HIV/AIDS Tweet-Up/Meet-Up around HIV/AIDS. It was a huge success. Some people couldn't understand why I would put so much energy into social media. I wasn't sure either. I just knew it felt right. Speaking engagements had dried up and I also knew that I needed to find new ways of delivering my message, and I did.

I'm glad I did it. The outpouring of support that I have received has been overwhelming. I know that I am on the right track. I'm grateful that God continues to have purpose in my life...

This morning I woke to a phone call from my girlfriend Audrey telling me that I was on the front page of the Chicago Tribune in a cover story about how I use social media in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. I knew the article was coming but I had no idea that my work would take center stage. I'm feeling really blessed right now. I'm glad that I took a chance. That I stepped out on faith.

Click here to read the article...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chicago Spa Week

My closest friends and all of my followers on Twitter know that I have been sick to my stomach, literally: diarrhea, severe nausea and no appetite for a week now. Even the smell of food makes me sick. It has been one long week. I'm not sure if I have food poisoning or some kind of stomach virus. But whatever the case, it has been no joke. And even today, I'm only a tad better, but I'll take a little over nothing any day. My reality is this, my immune system is compromised and with AIDS, common things that most people get over quickly, take a lot longer for me to get over.

Needless to say, I was in need of a break. So when I received a late invitation on Monday to a bloggers Spa Event hosted by Single Edition and Chicago Spa Week at the fabulous Joseph Michael's Salon and Spa around the corner from my house, I didn't give it a second thought. Well, actually I did, the diarrhea started up again about two hours before the event, but I shrugged it off and kept it moving. Miss a free spa event kicking off Chicago Spa Week? Are you kidding me? Let AIDS take away all of my joy? I don't think so! It was a wonderful event and I'm glad that I had a chance to hang out with my blogger friends Nikia, Raijean, Kim and Patrice and also meet some new bloggers in the city.

Yesterday was Beauty Tuesday on my blog and I don't know what I was thinking about... #fail. I wrote about the Chicago AIDS Walk and likewise I failed at taking any pictures at the event. I'm glad that my blogger friends did. Feel free to check out their links. I have been off my game. But still, I didn't want my readers to miss the last two days of Chicago Spa Week. All week long, many of Chicago's premiere salons give discount services for as low as $50.00 for spa treatments from facials to massages.

I simply loved the services at Joseph Michael's. I started out with a chair message. Oh My God! When he finished I was so relaxed that I had to sit for a while to regain myself. It was a great start to a wonderful event. 

Afterward, when I regained myself, I got my nails done. The colors these days and just beautiful and I was tempted, but in the end my boring self went with what I know for sure, Essie Sugar Daddy. But Raijean is never afraid of color or glitter. Her nails were simply fabulous in the OPI Shrek Collection. Check out her review of the collection.

And Kim went with in Essie Lilacism. It was equally as pretty. I loved her nails so much that she loaned me her bottle to try the color out at home. I'll report back when I get my nerve up.

In addition to nails and messages, they offered us brow and lip waxes and make-up applications. And have no doubt, a room full of mostly fashion and beauty bloggers took full advantage of all the services.

The owner of Joseph Michael's was an absolute sweetheart. He was the the hostess with the mostest and the staff equally as friendly. And let me not forget the food. Unlimited wine, sushi, cheese and crackers, and dessert to die for. But my stomach was not having it. So I munched on crackers all night but there could have been worse things. I had a wonderful time and at least it took my mind off the fact that I was so sick if only for a few hours. And Kim even won a raffle prize. Single Edition and Chicago Spa Week clearly know how to throw a fabulous party!

I encourage you to take advantage of Chicago Spa Week September 13-18. There are two more days to  indulge in services such as massages, facials and scrubs at Chicago's premiere salons. Many of the services are $50.00. I highly recommend Joseph Michael's Salon and Spa. The Spa is eye pleasing and the staff is both skilled and delightful.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Join #teamRae

A few months ago, AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent's best friend Shana tweeted that she wanted to walk in the New York AIDS walk, but she didn't want to walk alone. I tweeted back that maybe she should walk with my best friend Luke. And so it was. Hydeia and I were proud that our bestests had connected around a cause dear to our hearts. But ummm... I was a little jealous, I wanted Luke to come to Chicago and walk with me. And he never fails me... A few weeks later he called to confirm the date of the Chicago AIDS Walk so that he could come and be on my team. It made my day, but then there was no turning back. I was committed to having a team for the Chicago AIDS Walk on October 2nd.

I'm excited. I haven't had a team in quite some time now. It seems like I was always sick or out of town speaking on the very date of the walk. But I have supported the walk from the very beginning. In fact, when the AIDS Foundation of Chicago took the walk over, I agreed to be a spokesperson for the very first walk that they sponsored.

I support this walk because the organizations that benefit from the walk do great work around HIV/AIDS in the Chicago area. And over the years, I have used some of the services that they provide for people living with HIV/AIDS, including home health care when I was really sick.

The Chicago AIDS Walk is a great cause!! We already have 10 team members. But we need more!!

Join #teamRae today. Hang out with me. It will be lots of fun for a great cause. There is a $25.00 registration fee. It's a fundraiser, people!!

Click this link to join #teamRae Then set up your page and start getting donations.

If you live out of town or you have other obligations that day, I do understand. But you can still donate!

Click this link to donate to my team for the Chicago AIDS Walk.

Thanks much!! As I say on Twitter all the time #IcannotdoitAlone.

Post Script: I'm looking for a sponsor for T-shirts. Any ideas or people of interest please let me know...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Reflection: Never Could Have Made It!!

After my granddaddy died all my protection died right along with him, so I believed. But looking back over it all I know that God was my protector all along. I know this one thing for sure, without Him, I never could have made it.

My journey of pain started early. Granddaddy took me from my parents who were both heroin addicts when I was a toddler. But Grandaddy died when I was six and his wife kept me. The lady I call Mama was my grandfather’s third wife and 25 years his junior. From day one she instilled in me that nobody wanted me. She was all I had. It was all so overwhelming and seemed hopeless for my little self.

Mama drank Christian Brothers from the pantry and ruled with her mouth and the extension cord. Sometimes her mouth hurt worse than the whelps on my face and across my back. But God sent a blessing to my home one day, Grandmama Julia, Mama’s mother. She came on a mission to save her grandbaby. She declared to her daughter, “That baby needs to be in church!” After the long argument, Mama called me into the room and I was told that I was going over Grandmama’s house for the rest of the weekend, Mama looking all defeated, “You going to church with Julia,” she mumbled.

That became my ritual every Friday night, Grandmama’s house. It was a sanctuary of sorts from Mama’s understanding of what it meant to raise a child, but most important, it was a conduit to my faith. On Saturdays I'd help Grandmama with the laundry and chores. She'd cook big juicy burgers and hand cut fries topped off with fresh squeezed lemonade. At night she'd kneel with me as I said the Lord’s prayer that she had taught me. We started every Sunday with Gospel music playing on the radio then we'd make our way to the Old Ship of Zion M. B. Church. Everybody was so nice and the music just took me to another place. Church was wonderful. There was no name calling or hitting. Rev. Otis Anderson always had open arms for me. So one day when he opened the doors of the church, I marched right up there to give him my hand.

At 7 years old I had no idea what it meant to be in the Christian family but it seemed like a much better family than what I had. Church was my one safe place. I didn’t understand at the time, but it was truly my refuge. And each Sunday I gained just enough strength to go back home to Mama and endure whatever came my way.

It was the foundation of a faith and relationship with God that would sustain me through years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. When I look back over it all, it’s amazing that I never lost my mind. Yes, today I know that I never would have made it. Even living with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19, I know that I never could have made it if I was the only actor in my life.

But sometimes living in the present you forget your history with God. So Wednesday after having a very difficult conversation with my doctor about my health, I was overwhelmed with sadness. There are some realities here that I must face. I have advanced AIDS. I do. There is absolutely no way around it. Years of a failing immune system and toxic medications has taken a toll.

As I was making my way back home, a sadness consumed me and all I could see was darkness. And then from nowhere, Marvin Sapp’s song, “Never Could Have Made It,” starting playing in my head. It has stayed with me all week long. I believe that it's God’s subtle way of reminding me that He’s got this. That we have history. And God’s history as the director of my life is proven. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with the right now of our pain, we forget that God has never faltered or failed. He is as constant as the stars in the sky. So, today I am reminded of my past as a way to understand that my future is standing on a firm foundation. It is so true, I never could have made it...

Post Script: When I was 11 years old, Mama and I moved to the suburbs and I switched churches. I hadn't seen Rev. Anderson in years. Then when I did the first person news reports for CBS News in Chicago he saw me on TV and called the station. Rev. Anderson had not seen me in over 30 years, but he never forgot me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fashion Friday: The Color Red at Harvey's Seat Belt Bags

A couple of months ago I professed my love for Harvey's Seat Belt Bags. Yes, go figure, handbags actually made from seat belts. This wonderful line of handbags are moderately priced and very well made. And most of all, they look great!

Well, Harvey's has done it again. They've added a new color to the Lola Ruffle Collection, which is my favorite of all the collections. I had to share it with you.

This red is beautiful! Now, I'm trying to decide if I want the red or the espresso. The thing is, red is an acceptable color for day. It's for the woman who is not afraid to add a touch of color to her daily routine. It's a hard decision for me, but you better believe that I am counting my pennies. A Lola is a must have. This classic satchel design is a must have for every woman. The ruffle design is clearly feminine and simply downright beautiful! This color and handbag together is a winner!

P.S. They have also launched the Rosa Collection. This funky collection is clearly for the woman who loves roses.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Reflection: I'm Over It!!

I was so over it when I woke up yesterday. Just freaking over it! At 9:00 am I wanted the day to be over already. But I knew no matter how much I willed it I had twelve more hours to go. I went straight to Twitter to vent. Twitter is the right place. There is no judgement on Twitter and for the rare times when there is, you can always count on someone from your timeline to have your back. Yep! My friend Randy sent a tweet right back. “Oh no we both can’t be Overit.com already.” All I could do was *sigh.* Well he said, “Lets just make it through this one and make it worth the stress to get to the next one.” Then my Soror Nicole co-signed, “Feeling you Soror” she tweeted. We had all agreed in a matter of seconds. We will get through the day to enjoy tomorrow.

This is the way life is. I know we all have mornings when we wish we could go back to bed and just wake up all over again with different outcomes. I know I’ve been there more than once. But then I start to feel guilty. Guilty because the alternative to waking up is death. Especially since by medical standards I should have died about 19 yeas ago. And if truth be told, once upon a time I saw death staring me in the face. But the blessing of life does not erase a bad day or even your pain. It is the thing life is made of. We live and breath and in that there will be both good and bad.

Not even being a Christian will erase your pain. The Bible says, “In this world there will be tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” That gives me hope. Hope that I will not be bound by my circumstance today or even what happens next week. That God will trump it all. So I make it through today to get to tomorrow, with the hope that it will render different outcomes. But holding on in a day full of disappointment, pain and chaos on is no easy task. I had another Twitter follower ask me, ”What do you do when you feel like you are are at end of your rope and you just don’t have the strength to go on?” I told this follower to “Keep holding! Tomorrow is another day and you have no idea when your breakthrough is coming.” This is easy to say but hard to put into practice. We must remember that all we can do it take it one day a time. We must stop getting ahead of ourselves.

Deal with today's pain on today’s terms. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibilities. Remember, the race is not won by the swift and the strong but by the one who endures to the end.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fashion Friday: Louie Baby....

For as long as I can remember I have always loved the finer things in life, from cloth napkins to handbags. And buying the finer things began for me with an Easter dress when I was 13 years old. It’s never been so much about the price tag but more about quality. I can identify the best made and the finest fabric from a mile away.

I was introduced to fine handbags when I was 20 by Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. From the first moment I saw her Louis Vuitton luggage I knew I was hooked. I remember during Rev. Jackson's first presidential campaign after I received my first pay checked, I informed Mrs. J as I call her, that I was headed to Louis Vuitton on Wisconsin Ave in one of Washington DC's upscale shopping areas “to put my bag in layaway.” She laughed. “Really now? Well, you just go right ahead,” she chuckled. I came back to the office defeated. “Ha!” I declared. “The nerve of them!” I lamented, “Everyone has layaway!” She explained that she was going to tell me that they didn't have layaway, “But you already know everything," she said shaking her head, “I decided to let you discover on your own.”

But layaway was only a minor infraction to owning my first quality handbag. I took money out of every pay check until I had saved enough to march right back up there and walk out with my first Louie. I carried that Speedy until it met its maker. In fact, out of sentimental reasons, I still own it, all beat up at the top of my closet. That was the first of many and many more. But lately I have not been buying. I've told you all the story. My finances hit rock bottom. I even explained it in the April 2010 issue of Ebony. I found myself a year or so ago selling off my fine handbags, Louie included. I kept a few, but I sold more than I kept.

I hadn't even thought about buying a new one until I saw my friend Trey with one that I simply loved. So yesterday I made a trip to the Michigan Ave. Louis Vuitton store to take a closer look. Once I arrived, I saw one that I loved even better.

It's a perfect tote! The strap is large enough to go over your shoulder even when wearing a coat. And it is spacious! It has all the space you will ever need. Everything can fit in this bag, my knitting, a bottle of water, even my mini computer. I want it!! No harm in wanting, huh? I'm putting it on my wish list. Who knows how the tide will turn. Someone even suggested I should start a Louie Fund. *SMH*

The Delightful handbag is delightful indeed. I love the zipper details in the front. It gives a modern twist to the traditional tote. It also gives me a place to put small items like my keys that I need to quickly locate. At $1100 it is moderately priced for Louis Vuitton. That's another thing I love about their handbags, they have something for everyone.

The Artsy handbag that Trey has is still a close second. I love the size and shape. But the strap on the Delightful is more user friendly. Also this bag is $1630 for the equivalent size to the Delightful, a much better deal.

Over the years I've owned some beautiful Louis Vuitton handbags. Some of my collector's items I had to sell. I figure that it was better to sell my handbags at a fraction of the cost over being homeless or living in the dark. I'm grateful that I have had the chance to experience this luxury in my lifetime. I believe every women should.  Some women choose a fake handbag just so they can sport the LV logo. But for me it's not about the logo, it's about quality. The logo represents the quality. Honestly, I'll take a good quality leather handbag over a fake any day. Fake is a waste of money. We must move beyond the "logo syndrome." Owing a Louis Vuitton should be so much more than about the show. 

Louis Vuitton has a rich heritage. He opened his doors in 1854 in Paris. No one has been able to dethrone him as the handbag king. It is a timeless bag that is known worldwide for its craftsmanship... Yeah, Louie Baby!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pretty Woman Syndrome

If the penis ain't in your pocket you have know idea what it's doing when it ain't with you. This is a fact. Yet women continue to behave as if they have a crystal ball that knows all and tells all about a relationship. Yes, in an ideal world a monogamous relationship and even a marriage should stand on it’s own. But many of us know that this is not always the case. We all have a story of some sort about a man who was with two women at the same time. Yet we live in this fairy tale world that I call the “Pretty Woman Syndrome.”

You all know the story. It is one of my favorite chick flicks. But what man picks up a woman on prostitution row and marries her at the end of the week? Highly unlikely in the real world. But yet we all cling to that hope of being swiped off our feet by the rich gent. As a result, we live in some make-believe world that puts us at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. And let's not forget the broken heart and spirit that also tags along. We are paralyzed by the “Pretty Woman Syndrome.” I’ve heard it over and over, “My relationship ain’t like that. My man isn’t like that.” You don’t know what your man is like! You think you know, but at the end of the day, you really don't know. All you know is what he tells you and what you can see.

I've been watching the Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz story unfold. And many women are blaming Alicia for wrecking a home. Of course she is the most likely villian as the story unfolds. We also saw it with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

It looked like these “bad girls” just walked in and took them a man. But that is also unlikely in the real world. In the real world, relationships look one way to the public and another in private. We have no idea what happened in either of these relationships if the truth be told. All we really know is the end result. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, that's for God to say.

What I’m talking about is women making smart choices about their life and body, regardless of what men do. Stop blaming other women for the failure of your relationship. The chances are, things were not as great as those on the outside looking in believed in the beginning. Even you saw the signs and ignored them. Yet again paralyzed by the “Pretty Woman Syndrome."

I remember talking to a woman newly diagnosed with HIV. Her long term boyfriend had a high powered job that keep him on the road and at the center of the rich and famous. I asked, “Why didn't you use a condom with him?” I mean I didn't understand. He spent more of his time away then at home. I paused and asked, “Did you think your pussy was made from gold? You had it like that?” She took a deep breath and said, “Honestly, yes.” In the beginning they used condoms but the longer they were together, the more comfortable she felt. Believing that the love and longevity of their relationship would keep her safe. Now like me and many other women, she is fighting for her life for the rest of her life.

Yes, we need to stop blaming others and take control over our bodies. A young man asked me one day, “Would you forgive the person who infected you?” I told him, it’s not about me forgiving him, it’s about me forgiving me. I had a choice to have sex or to not have sex. To have sex with a condom or without. I have to take ownership to how I treated my own body. You have all the power in the palm of your hand, why surrender it? I have a friend whose husband was in a relationship outside of their marriage. It devastated her, but she decided to stay. I respected her choice. Again, you don’t really know what's happening in someone else’s relationship. People kill me thinking they know the real deal. *SMH* So I helped my girlfriend rebuild herself, as they rebuilt their relationship. Her choice to stay was her own, but she stayed grounded in reality. I was proud. She told her husband that they both had to get tested for HIV and that he had to use condoms and regain her trust again. It took years to rebuild it again. That’s real. Only in the movies do things resolve themselves in a week. Typically, we must make behavior changes and work constantly at it.

What’s my bottom line? Stop living in the ”Pretty Woman Syndrome.” No man is going to rescue you. No man is going to love you more than you love yourself. Self love is the key to your wholeness: mind, body and spirit. AIDS is a reality. For African-Americans it has set up camp in the middle of our community and it has no intention of leaving. It is up to us to put his ass out. What am I saying? We can change this tide one woman at a time. This means that you must demand that your partner use a condom 100% of the time. If your man does not want to respect your choice about your body, then my question to you is, “Why would you be with a man who does not respect the choices you make about your body?”

Married woman: Well, you must also find the power from within just like my girlfriend. Not all married men step outside of their marriage, but for those who do, you must renegotiate the relationship on terms that put you first.

Single women: Stop talking about how long you've been with a man and how much he loves you and using that as your rationale for not using a condom. If he loved you that much then he would stop wasting your pretty and marry you. But most important, if you loved you more than you loved him, then you would stop wasting your pretty.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Reflection: God's Plan Is BIgger Than Your Plan

I've always had this sense of purpose for my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a pre-teen I came to the understanding that my suffering was not about me but about how I use it as a catalyst to enrich the lives of others. That was a huge revelation for such a young girl. Yet I had no idea how it would unfold. “How am I suppose to go about that assignment?” I asked God one day. And then over the years it unfolded. One thing led to another. Which lead to another. Which landed me in the very spot that I’m in today.

 At 48 I’ve spent over half of my life working in some sort of social justice movement: Voter Registration, Free South Africa, Stop Nuclear Testing, National Health Care Reform, elections of candidates that I believed would help bring about change if elected. They have all been altruistic assignments I believed given to me by God. Doors were opened and I walked enthusiastically through them. But they were all jobs. I felt good about my choice of career. I was helping to make a difference and getting paid all at the same time. I was climbing a ladder headed straight to the White House, as a staffer, that is.

At the prime of my life, about three-quarters up the ladder, things changed. Many of my friends and peers went to the White House with the Clinton administration and I was, well, dying from AIDS. But a funny thing happened along the way to death. My career ended and my ministry began. I’d been so blind-sided by it all. I planned, then God planned. God’s plan trumped my plan. It was bigger than anything I could have ever imaged for myself. In fact, if God had showed me this plan I would've called God a liar. “No way!” I would’ve declared.

Ministry is different from a job/career path. You don’t choose it, God chooses you. You just can't walk away. It becomes your life and flows through your blood and helps to fuel your heart. It is all that you are. Yes, having AIDS has been the catalyst for my ministry, but my ministry is so much more. It’s the thing that gets me through the door. What I do once on the inside is about lifting hearts and minds of God’s people.

I've had friends say to me rhetorically, “You still speaking about AIDS?' Like, girl when you gonna move on to the next thing? Also, underlined in that question is, “Girl, when you gonna get a real job?” And some days, believe me, I want a real job. Especially when the speaking engagements are few and far between and I’m trying to decide if I should pay my light bill or buy groceries. There are days I doubt God and have this urge to re-do my resume.

Then something happens, I get a speaking request from out of nowhere and in that moment I’m reminded that God has work for me do it. Lately, the speaking engagements have not been my big paying honorarium gigs. But the ones after they tell me they can’t really pay me, I say, “ Just sow a seed into my life because this is my only source of income.” The other day, I even asked God, “Umm how many more of these do I have to say yes to in order to get one with a real honorarium. Huh God?” I mean, come on, it would be nice to not have over half my bills over due all the time.

But then I go and speak, like yesterday, for an organization such as Dress for Success and God uses me to bless the women and then turns around and ministers to me. I told the women that their life was not their own, it belongs to God. In that moment I was reminded of my own ministry and purpose. It does not matter whether you are preaching in what feels like the wilderness just like John the Baptist, what matters is that you are preaching. Doing what you are called to do.

There are people who do AIDS work and that is what it is. They can walk away any day because it is work. Their focus is on building a brand and a name for themselves. But I understand whether I get paid or not, whether I’m in a magazine or not, that what I do flows from my blood to my heart. Even when I want to walk away, I can’t.

Now I’m coming to some acceptance about it all, it is what it is... It is what God has for me. And I must believe that God’s plan is constant in my life whether it feels like it or not. There’s certain contentment that comes which this acceptance. And like the Apostle Paul, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation... whether in plenty and in want, I can do all things through Him that gives me strength. Phil 4:12-13
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