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, June 25, 2010

Fashion Friday: The Ultimate In Girl Power!!

I'm just coming to realize the power in my newest bracelet collection. I hadn't really given a lot of thought to the design concept. I had only one goal in mind for my design and that was to capture my sister friend and confident Alicia as best as I could. She is in the middle of her fight with breast cancer and kicking it in the behind! So, I wanted a fitting tribute to her.

The choice of Rose Quartz gemstones seemed to be a win-win all the way around. Pink is Alicia's favorite color and it is also the color of breast cancer awareness. Alicia is the ultimate girly girl and I wanted to make sure that the collection was consistent with her personality. I knew that I had achieved that goal when Alicia's mother said to us, "WOW, these are really feminine!" All I could do was smile. Mission accomplished!

But yesterday, one of my biggest customers, and the first to purchase from the collection, tweeted me that she was wearing her Alicia Bracelet. And then she tweeted, "It's the Ultimate in Girl Power!"  I agree...

Then we had a conversation about her 9 year old daughter who loves pink and was trying to maneuver the bracelet for herself. When Willie explained to her daughter the significance of the bracelet, her reply to her mother was, "You better sleep with it on." Willie and I exchanged a few more tweets about this young activist in the making. But the bottom line is that Willie had already begun the important discussion in a small way with her daughter about breast cancer.

I hear time and time again that women are afraid to touch their breasts and give themselves an exam, but doing so could mean early detection and early detection can save your life. We must begin educating our daughters as early as possible on issues related to being a woman, from self-love to self-exam. And yes, we lead by example. So something as simple as wearing a bracelet for breast cancer and HIV/AIDS awareness will let your daughters and nieces know that you are concerned about these issues. There is a lot of power women wield in almost every society. The saying is true, "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world." As women, we have to use our power to enrich our lives and the lives of others.

The wrap bracelet in this collection was designed with a peace sign because Alicia loves peace signs. She has them in every shape, size and possible use, from earrings to t-shirts. More bracelet designs will be coming to this collection with a peace sign.

Post Script: Alicia has just completed chemotherapy successfully and is moving on to the next phase of treatment. She is handling this with grace and dignity. Oh, and the little girl in the picture above is Alicia's 15 month old granddaughter Jazmyn. She's in a contest at WGN beginning June 28th.  Do us a favor and vote for this Diva in the making...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Giving It The Best That I Got...

I'm feeling real guilty over here. Yes, the overachiever in me is pulling at my heart strings. I've been on IV medication for the last 29 days and it has taken a toll. My energy is zapped!! I'm fatigued beyond explanation and sick with nausea every day, all day. Without a doubt, this most recent bout has taken a toll, both physically and emotionally. Kind of ironic that something making me better on one hand, is making me feel bad on the other.

Most days just washing my behind is an effort. And yet I've tried as best as I could to carry out my daily routine with about as much grace and dignity as I possibility can. But it has not been enough in the eyes of this Type A personality/overachiever. I'm feeling guilty and insecure all at the same time. Guilty because my blog schedule has been off and I have not been able to give you the best of what's inside of me.

Yet I know that I haven't neglected my readers altogether. But people are so demanding and expecting, I wonder will I lose you if I'm not as exciting and creative and on schedule all the time?

It's been a fine balancing act over here: an IV drip 2 times a day for 2 hours, writing the blog, planning my Tweet-up/Meet-up on July 15th at Encore Liquid Lounge and doing the other things that are necessary to keep food on my table and my ministry and work around HIV relevant.

All I can ask is that you don't give up on me. That you continue to support me and my ministry in the low moments of my life, when my best is simply holding it all together with grace...

For so long, I have been a one woman show, but I know that I cannot do this alone. As I often say on Twitter, #icannotdoitalone. Your continued support of my blog, your prayers, and even your presence at my first Event is a concrete way that you support me and stand against stigma and shame wrapped around HIV/AIDS.

I know that I am not at my best, but, I am giving it the best that I've got!!

Post Script: And yes, each day I do get up, bathe, comb my hair and put on my earrings (Diva Rule)... And yes, some days, therein lies the victory!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beauty Tuesday: The Best Anti-Aging Secret

I've heard black women say proudly, "Black don't crack." And I've got to admit, African-American women do age well. But I've often wondered what that meant for me being neither black nor white.

Right, my mother is white and my father is African-American. Yes, that makes me a good old fashion mulatto. And honestly, I seemed to be uniquely blended with both of their genes. So I wonder about my skin, if it will hold up. I've seen it both ways with biracial women. Take a woman like Halle Barry, she seems to never age. But then there's Jasmine Guy, who hasn't aged as gracefully.

While I believe that some of it is genetics, there is still something every woman can do to help slow down the aging process. Yes, some of it is diet, exercise and skin care regiment. But scientists have repeatedly shouted from the rooftops, "It does not matter your race, sunscreen is the God of skin care and the secret to slowing down the aging process."

Beauty Guru Iman's "most important" tip for the skin is "sun protection!"  She argues no matter your complexion you have to protect your skin from the sun's rays and free radicals. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that for the longest time, then I surrendered to the experts. Finding the right sunscreen was difficult at first. They tend to be oily, heavy and interfere with my make-up.

But I started following the reports on sunscreen and experimenting. My choice is Clarins UV Plus with a sun protection factor of 45.

I love it because it is light and not greasy. Yes, like with most sunscreens you have a tad of a shine, but once you apply your foundation or face power the shine disappears. It does not run when you sweat or interfere with your make-up regime at all. It's concentrated so you only need to apply a small amount. It's a little pricey so I only use it for my face.

My second more economical choice is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock. Like with Clarins, they both continually make In Style Magazine's best beauty list. It's half the price of Clarins, but with some of the same benefits. It's light and non-greasy. Aveeno also comes highly recommended and I plan to give it a try soon. I apply my moisturizer first and then my sunscreen. I wait 10 minutes to allow the sunscreen to absorb then I apply my make-up.

Post Script: I'm not sure if the sunscreen is working or not. Well, I have nothing to gauge it with. I could not use sunscreen and wait to see if my skin will age quicker or have more damage. But really, I have more to lose in the scheme of it all. So at 48 I'm working hard to maintain what I have.

This picture is me at 46 with no make-up two days out of the hospital, gray hair and all, well, that is until I decided to color it and it started to fall out in the sink... But that's another beauty blog... For Real...

I think I'm aging well... Other than a little fat loss in my cheeks due to the side effects of medication, I'm hanging in there. So this is the bottom line for me: I've lived a lot longer then I ever dreamed I would. While I'm living I'm taking advantage of every possible thing that can help me live longer and healthier. Anything else, I believe, is a lazy excuse. Always be the best that you can be. You owe it to yourself!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fashion Friday: Seatbelt Handbags & Alicia Bracelet Collection

I simply Love Love Love this handbag. I am amazed that it's made with seatbelts. Yes, the seat belts that are actually in cars. For Real... I know, right? How did they come up with that? Take something as ugly as a seatbelt and create this wonderful handbag. I was wondering the same thing.

When I saw this handbag in the back seat of Alicia's car, I grabbed it to get a closer look. "WOW! This is fab!" I told her. In her easygoing manner she explained that it was made from seatbelts. "Unbelievable!" was my response. I wanted to know all the details. She frequents Harvey's Boutique in Los Angeles, where she lives. And she almost never misses a first Friday sale.

She explained to me how she acquired this particular handbag. I couldn't believe that she had been holding out on me, but she is a very modest woman. Alicia has breast cancer and is in the middle of her treatment. She has been doing incredibly well. Her strength is remarkable. For the most part, she has not missed a beat. But typically the week of chemotherapy her energy is not the best. Well, on Harvey's last first Friday, she explained to the manager through Facebook that she wouldn't make this one because the chemotherapy treatment had taken all the energy she had that week. Another Facebook fan of Harvey's saw the Facebook post and purchased this handbag for Alicia. That was a "wonderful act of kindness," Alicia concluded, and I concurred. I was so moved by it all!

I was still having a difficult time believing that these bags are made from seatbelts. How did they ever come up with such an idea? Well, in 1997, husband and wife team, Dana and Melanie Harvey were installing seatbelts in their 1950 Buick when they came up with the idea to make Melanie a matching handbag, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I explored their website and I am in love. The Lola Ruffle bag is my favorite. It is classic, feminine and modern. This handbag comes in four colors black, espresso, rose and peony. The espresso pictured here is my choice!! I am counting my pennies. For Real... For Real...

They also have sales and that is great news to this Diva's ears. This red handbag is my pick on the sale items and it is a wonderful price.

Post Script: I am proud to announce the Alicia Collection of bracelets. I designed this collection for the RLT Collection when Alicia was diagnosed with breast cancer. I recognized that African-American women are disproportionately impacted by this illness just like with HIV. This collection is dedicated to all breast cancer survivors. In honor of my friend, confidant and sister friend, Alicia Harrell.

Alicia makes me proud to be called Woman... This collection is primarily designed with rose quartz gemstones. I chose the soft feminine pink stone because pink is the color of breast cancer awareness. And also because pink is Alicia's favorite color. 

The collection is available for purchase. There will be more designs in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Are you Kidding Me? More Questions: HIV, Sex and Dating

Here we go again. Remember the friend of a friend who felt that I was not being forthright about my dating life before I discovered that I was HIV positive? Remember she says, “My point is there are still major gaps in what she chooses to disclose and reflect on.” I told her to bring on the questions and I’d answer them as best as I can. While I felt some of the questions were none of her business, I also felt as if I had to do this. I choose to make my life public and I see this as a teaching moment. Some of the questions have already been addressed publicly, but she has never heard me speak and I realize that there may be more of my readers in her shoes. So here ya go... More questions and answers...

How did she determined who infected her? When I learned that I was HIV positive, I was shocked. We didn't know much about HIV back then and I was referred to the National Institutes of Health for a study on HIV. Based upon everything they knew back then, the doctors had a list of standard questions to help you determine the source of your infection. They were: 1) Have you ever used intravenous drugs? No, in fact, I have been both drug and alcohol free my entire life... For Real; 2) Have you ever had a blood transfusion or used blood products? No; 3) Have you ever been tattooed? No; 4) Have you traveled to Africa in the last six months to a year? No; 5) Have you had sex with a man who was gay or bisexual? No, not to my knowledge; 6) Have you had sex with someone who currently lives in Africa or has traveled to Africa? Yes, was the answer to that question. I had been intimate with an incredible man from Guinea Bissau. We met abroad and spent time together whenever he visited the United States. After monthly letters for years, we had lost contact. So for a while, I believed him to be the source of my infection. I started to believe that maybe he had stopped writing because maybe he was very ill or dead.

Then a few years after my diagnosis I had a partner die from complications related to AIDS. A light went off in my head. I was devastated to learn this fact. The time line seemed right. WOW! I had learned by chance the source of my infection. And believe me when I tell you, he was not on my short list of possibilities. (As I indicated earlier in this series, I will disclose his name only in my memoir). As of today, I have not had another partner die from complications related to AIDS. The African brother, in doing research for my memoir, I discovered was alive and doing well. In fact Guinea Bissau has a low HIV infection rate compared to some other African countries.  

How many people had she been with between being infected and finding out---Did she have to contact anyone after the fact? I was blown away by this freaking question. I mean damn why does she want to know how many men I have had sex with? What's the fucking point? To determine whether or not I was a hoe?
A legitimate question could have been: Do you think you infected anyone between the time you were actually infected to the time you learned you were infected? Why is the number so important to her? I have asked myself over and over. It seems to me, if you've been following the series, the questions that she asks are loaded.  She seems to think that I am hiding something. Or that I’m not the person I claim to be. Well, I am who I am. A strong black woman who has tackled HIV/AIDS head on! There is no trick to it. I made a choice to have sex and it left me with HIV. I've taken ownership of my culpability in my HIV infection. I wake to that demon every single morning!

But I will tackle this: I believe that I was infected in 1983, I donated blood in the spring of 1986, that donation determined my HIV status. So there was a three year window from the time I was infected to the time that I discovered my infection. When I first learned of my HIV status, I actually called ex-boyfriends. But generally speaking, I couldn't imagine anyone that I had been intimate with being HIV infected. Most everybody believed at that time that this disease was limited to white, gay men and IV drug users. I dated what I believed to be the cream of the crop. Nowhere in my wildest imagination would I think that someone I would be intimate with could have HIV. But I called most everyone I could locate. No one admitted that they were infected with HIV. That is a fact that still remains to this day. I have had only one partner that I know of to have HIV and he died years ago. This means I have pinpointed the source of my HIV infection and it confirms that I have not infected any one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beauty Tuesday: Air Brush Legs

I'm going to be way honest here. I didn't believe the hype; Airbrush Legs that look like you are wearing panty hose. Impossible I thought! My foregone conclusion wasn't based on any fact, just what I thought I knew to be true. I assumed that the outcome would be just like any old other bronzer. Something that would give you a color that really didn't match your skin tone and fade out before the end of the night.

Well, let me tell ya, I have been made a believer! A couple of weeks ago, I had an important meeting with the team over at Hotel Allegro to discuss the details of their beautiful Encore Liquid Lounge hosting my Tweet-Up-Meet-Up around HIV/AIDS.

It was a hot, humid day. I wanted to look professional but I didn't want to be uncomfortable. I decided to dress simple but classic; a black skirt, a power blue dress shirt (a must in every woman's wardrobe) and I completed  my look with a black cardigan and four inch peep-toe patent pumps.

I didn't want to wear stockings. In fact, I hate stockings!! I feel like I'm suffocating when I'm wearing them so I almost never do. But, I thought not wearing them to a business meeting would be a risky move. I didn't want to seem unprofessional. Then I remembered celebrity stylist Mary Alice Stepenson, at the More Reinvention Convention named Sally Hansen Salon Airbrush Legs a must! So I made my way over to the store and the experiment began.

I read their claims that the product wouldn't change your mani/pedicure but I didn't want to take the chance. I was on a tight schedule that day. So I wore gloves to apply the solution. You should have seen the expression on my face at first glance. It was as if I had won the lottery. Instantly my legs changed.

It is the most remarkable beauty product I have used in a very long time. The imperfections in my skin  disappeared right before my very eyes. That nasty scar down the front of my leg that I got from shaving when I was sixteen was as if it never existed. Not only were my imperfections gone but my skin appeared to be even toned and smooth. It actually appeared as if I were wearing nude panty hose. The next day I applied the product without gloves. I had to give the whole shebang a try. It washed right off my hands without staining the polish on my nails. By the end of the day my legs still looked like perfection.

Sally Hansen met their claims. This vitamin K enriched product fades freckles, veins and imperfections. It is long lasting and transfer resistant. I highly recommend this product. Whether you are going casual, chic, after-five or business, Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs will give you a polished look. I have added air brushed legs to my Diva Rules because the object is to always look polished...

PostScript: I was also nervous about matching the color to my skin tone. They have four options, I chose medium glow. All I have to say is what do you have to loose? I think in the scheme of things, not much. I have learned a valuable lesson in all this... Stop drawing conclusions based on what you think you know. This product could have been in my life years ago if I hadn't dismissed it without ever trying. I like Sally Hansen so much, I have added it to my Amazon, favorite things store. Check it out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Reflection: Friendship and Love...

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love and friendship and where people fit into our lives. It seems to me that we fall in and out of love and in and out of friendship at the drop of the hat. And I wonder if the quickness of our dissolution means that what you had was just a resemblance of friendship and love rather than real friendship or real love. Or maybe, as the saying goes, “People are in our lives for a reason and a season.”

I remember when I first went public with my HIV status, I had been living in secret for almost seven years and many friends were shocked that I had weathered the storm by myself for so long. There was a commitment from many in my political world that they would stick by me no matter what, but very few did. With the exception of  Dr. Keith Jennings, he never wavered a day. He works abroad mostly and he never fails me. To this day, I get international calls from him in some faraway place. Sometimes he’ll purchase his ticket back to the US on a Chicago route so he can, “See for himself,” as he put it, that I'm "doing ok.”  When he's out of the country, without me ever asking, he’d have his brother drop a check in the mail, just to help me keep things afloat. I’d ask, “What’s this for?” He’d respond, “Just a little something to help you out until your speaking gigs pick up.”

Barry Saunders was like that also, right up to the very last day he lost his battle with lung cancer. He would fly to Chicago just to spend the day with me. He had my back and best interest, good, bad or indifferent. If it made me happy, he would come along for the ride and be there to celebrate the victory at the end of the race or nurture me back to health at the end of the crash. He was a hell of a friend, For Real... And for the record, years later, I still miss him so much. Sometimes I find myself saying, “I’ve got to tell Barry this.” And then I remember he’s watching over me. No need to tell him what he already knows. What’s interesting, year after year, season after season, Keith's and Barry’s friendships never altered one bit. They never disappeared!

I believe that God filled my void of Barry with Luther. I don’t know why but my friendships with men tend to be pressure free and long lasting. That is until I met Alicia, she is the most non-judgmental, easy going female friend I have ever had up close in my life. She is constant like the stars in the sky. Sometimes she burns bright and sometimes her light is dim, but it is always there and always unconditional. And like with Barry she is always there for the ride...

This much I know for sure. At the height of my popularity, I had more friends than I can count. I remember during that time I had a birthday party and my home was overflowing. Over time I came to the conclusion that some were in my life, riding the coattails of my fame. What an odd thing to latch on to at that time, a woman dying of AIDS. In this same way, I think some were hanging tough so that I wouldn't have to die alone. That was admirable, but I didn’t die. But their purpose in my life died.

And yes there are those who  have dropped out of my life because of their life circumstance and then at just the right time, they drop back in. Sometimes it's a day in a year and other times it may be for years. In those times, I’ve learned to meet people where they are at rather than where I want them to be. I value what they do and don’t get stuck or foster resentment on what they don’t do. Yes, we want people to love and support us like we love and support them. But I’ve come to learn over the years that some people just don’t know how to. Your situation does not change who they are.

Then there’s love. I don’t have much to say except, I’ve never understood how a person can just stop loving a person. I hear it all the time, "Yeah, I used to love him." But maybe your love is just a strong like. A preference or a pleasure that can change on a whim.   Or maybe there were conditions on how you felt, and once those conditions were no longer met, then you no longer felt that way. Maybe you confused caring with loving... There may be many explanations people give for no longer loving a person.

But what I know for sure, in my own life, to be in love with someone touches the inner most part of the self. It becomes a part of you just like the beat of your heart. Maybe you will never fully understand that falling out of love is impossible until you have actually fallen in love. When you fall in love it is without conditions. Unconditional love is constant; it knows no time, distance or circumstance. Sometimes we get in the way of God’s plan for our life, and what should have been gets frozen in time. But with true love it can be thawed in an instant...

Recently, my girlfriend Josephine told me that her parents went their separate ways after she was born because of circumstance and now after 50 years of separation, they are finally getting married. Case in point... Now that is love... I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this. But other than making my Tweet-Up around HIV/AIDS a success, love and friendship have been the two most pressing things on my mind and heart. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts. When I really think about it all, I'm grateful to have lived long enough to have had these profound experiences of love and friendship. I know that all of these things have made my life complete.

Post Script: Do I have friends that were not mentioned in this blog, of course I do... As with all my blogs, I write where my heart and spirit leads me. This just happens to be where I am at this place in time...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fashion Friday: Jewelry Thats Says Love...

Have you ever loved someone so much that you wanted to immortalize that love in some special kind of way? You know, find that special something that will remind you of the love you share with that special someone. Something that shouts my love is forever and ever more.

Well, I've got to be honest. I was never really one of those people. I'm too much of a skeptic. "What if it doesn't work?" I always asked. Then you're stuck with that darn thing for the rest of your life. It then becomes wasted money in the back of your jewelry box. At least that's what I always thought. I have always been way too much of a pragmatist to waste my money if it wasn't a sure thing.

Then I came to realize that unconditional love is constant no matter time, distance or circumstance. If the love is true then that special thing becomes symbolic of the love you share. It does not matter if you no longer share the same space, the love is the thing the binds you to that person. It's simple: Unconditional love stands still in time....

Finding that special thing can be as easy as one, two, three. The most trendy and contemporary jewelry is the Tiffany heart bracelet. I chose for myself the extra large heart for that over the top Diva look. It didn't bother me that this bracelet is common. What makes the bracelet special and uniquely yours is the message you engrave on the back.

Once you engrave that message the bracelet then becomes a symbol of your love. I suggest hand engraving because it lasts longer than machine engraving. Yes, mine is engraved, but if you are that close to see the initials then you should be paying my rent... LOL... But for real. The message belongs to you. Cherish it, not flaunt it.

There are other ways you can express your love, I saw it first with my girlfriend Alicia and I thought that it was a wonderful idea. Tiffany has wonderful charms that are priced incredibly well. They are circles with engraved initials in the center from A to Z. They have them in both sterling silver and gold. I chose sterling silver because I wear more white gold and it's easy to blend.

Instead of putting the emphasis on him, you can place the emphasis on the two of you. Then you add a third thing that binds the symbol of your love together. I chose the Tiffany heart key, sterling with the blue enamel because the color pops and I didn't want it to get lost in all of the sterling silver. Another reason you should consider adding a third charm is rooted in a design concept: The eye is always attracted to odd numbers.

Lastly, you all know that I design bracelets, so it was fitting for me to create a design that is borne out of my creativity. I didn't set out to do it, but when I ran across this beautiful Cameo I knew immediately I had to have it. The passion that the Cameo exudes is undeniable. It spoke volumes to what was in my heart and spirit.

When I brought it home, I sat it on my table for a couple of weeks. Allowing the simple center piece to guide me in the design, I concluded that while the center was symbolic of the passion, I needed to create a design that was also symbolic of the love. Whatever you choose, it should be uniquely designed to fit the uniqueness of your love.

For me, love is cultivated just like a pearl inside of an oyster. The longer it is cultivated the more beautiful the pearl. The more time and energy spent cultivating the relationship-- mind, body and spirit, the more your love will glow, just like the luster on a pearl.

Good, bad or indifferent, people will not be able to deny the glow. The beauty will speak for itself. And like the pearl, love cultivates sometimes in the most unlikely places even in the dark spaces in the depth of the sea.... It's an unlikely beauty, a pearl growing inside of an oyster, wrapped in slime, but growing nonetheless in its own time and space...

Post Script: Pearls are also my favorite stones. I think that there is something beautiful and feminine about a woman wearing pearls. It says I am a Woman. The bracelet is designed with six strands of 3mm pearls. It has a sterling silver heart and rhinestone charm dangle with a tiny pearl dangle down the front of the clasp.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Taking Risk...

I have taken a lot of risks in my life, for real. Risk with my heart: If I love you, will you love me back? Risks on men, you know: Will he be the man that he promised he would be? Yep, I’ve taken some risks in my lifetime. I’ve taken risks on simple things like haircuts, fingernail polish, outfits, restaurants; the list goes on and on.

In my professional world, I took a huge risk telling my story on the cover of Essence magazine. It’s one thing to tell your friends and family that you have HIV. It’s an entirely different thing when you announce it to the world. And everybody has an opinion about what you should have done or should be doing about your life.

Each time I stand before an audience and tell my story or interview with a reporter, I take a risk. Will people reject who I am or what I have to say? But I’ve never been fazed by it. I have always been a risk taker. I took a real risk launching my blog. Will people like it? Will they come back? Can I really generate a large readership? And let’s not forget my bracelet collection. Each time I launch a new collection I run the risk of it being a failure. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. I’ve done it all and I’ve never been afraid of doing it. Just like Whitney Houston's song, “Tell me no and I’ll show you I can.” That’s been me!

But over the years there is something that I have never done: I have never hosted an event of my own. NEVER! Yes, I have spoken at many events. I have allowed people to use my name and my brand to promote their work around HIV. At some point, I felt that I was being taken advantage of. You know, people would ask me to speak at a fundraiser for an AIDS organization but never offer to raise money for me to speak at a school or to keep things afloat. I’m a one woman show with no big name pharmaceutical backing my work. And that’s real... It’s hard out here for a pimp. For real…

I have a friend who saw my interview on the Garrard McClendon show recently ask, “Didn’t they pay you?” Huh? I froze. In what world did I ever get paid for an interview? TV, radio, magazines and newspaper articles are done for free. I got a big fat thank you letter for being on the cover of Essence magazine. That is all. Yes, I get paid for most speaking engagements, but speaking engagements are few and far between these days. HIV is not the sexy topic it used to be. Sadly people have moved on at a time when HIV has only increased in the United States. There are 30,000 new cases annually and over half of those are African-Americans. I do what I do in spite of the compensation. In fact, I shall never forget, the month that I was on the cover of Essence magazine I could not afford to pay my rent. Honestly. But I have always believed that God will make a way if I am obedient to this call on my life.

Anyway, in spite of the fact that I struggle with keeping it all afloat, I still didn't want to step out there on my own. I’m not sure what paralyzed me. Every time a friend mentioned that I should have an event, I shot it down. Maybe I thought people would see me differently, in a negative way, if I sponsored an event on my own. Maybe I was a afraid of people saying, “Who does she think she is?” I don’t know what had me so stuck. But I was stuck. That is until now. I’m not even sure what got me to this place, but I’m there and proud of it.

On July 15th at Encore Liquid Lounge, I’m hosting my very first event, An Evening With Rae: Meet, Greet & Tweet: A Social Media Event for A Socially Conscious Cause. Yes I’m a little nervous, but I cannot allow my fear of failure to stop my potential growth. I almost allowed my health to stop me. In the middle of planning this event I developed an AIDS related infection that needs to be treated with intravenous medication. I’ve been here before and it’s a rough regiment that in the past has shut me down. So I considered long and hard dropping the idea. I concluded that I couldn’t continue to allow this treatment to altar my life in any way. So I continued to press forward even on an IV drip, twice a day for two hours.

My event is free with a suggested donation so I was depending on sponsors. But even after I got no after no, I continued to press forward. Then finally a gold mine! Hotel Allegro offered to host my Tweet-Up at their beautiful Encore Liquid Lounge. I knew that I had hit the jackpot. I didn't have any big dollars but I had a place to host my event and that‘s half the ball game. I am so grateful that they thought my work around HIV/AIDS was worth the risk.

I am very proud of this event. While Tweet-Ups and Facebook Meet-Ups are very popular, I’ve decided to add a meaningful theme behind the concept. Yes, let’s get together, hang out and socialize, but let’s do it for a cause. And what better cause than HIV/AIDS prevention and education.

Starting today I will be tweeting my fingers off talking about the need to take personal responsibility for your life and body. Challenging people to keep themselves #Protected. We will convene on July 15th at Encore Liquid Lounge where the #RLTEvent will be in full swing. There will be hors d’oeuvres provided by #EncoreAllegro, cash bar, swag bags, great raffle prizes and twitter fun. NO! This event is not just for tweeters. I would like very much for my Facebook supporters to come hang out with me for the night. I promise to hang until the last person walks out of the door. Come join me as I officially launch my Diva Living With AIDS blog and the Protected Project™.

I am hopeful that you will come out and support my work around HIV/AIDS. See you at #RLTEvent #EncoreAllegro, the first of many. I already have a date in mind for the second round... I’m on a roll now and there is no turning back. #ForReal #ForReal
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