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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

TeaWithRae: Urbana Tea Lounge and Spa!

When I walked into the Urbana Tea Lounge and Spa, I was in awe, and it takes a lot to impress me. I have traveled throughout the United States and have visited many establishments, but this spot is simply fabulous! It's warm and cozy atmosphere invites you to relax, have a cup of tea, and stay a while. And that's exactly what I did.

Tucked away in Charlotte, North Carolina, Urbana Tea Lounge is a gold mine! The owner, Nancy Urbana, is the mastermind behind this jewel. This spa/tea lounge is a one-of-a-kind in the United States and if I had some money I would open one up in a heartbeat.

Spa/Lounge? Yes, let me explain. The front end of Urbana is a warm cozy lounge and bar with an impeccable selection of loose leaf teas. There you have two areas to sit and enjoy tea. There are cozy lounge chairs (top  photo) or you can sit at the bar. It has the atmosphere of a private lounge of sorts, but here you cannot find an ounce of alcohol. Instead, you can enjoy a cup of tea, and the list of premium loose leaf teas is staggering.

It's the perfect after work place or lunch spot to meet a friend, relax, have a great conversation and enjoy a wonderful cup of tea. I personally think, if I lived in Charlotte, it would be my spot to get renewed and forget the craziness of life. If only for a little while. But what was so wonderful here is that you can also have a specialty massage. Yes, I said massage. The spa area is wonderful. And each massage begins and ends with relaxing tea service. And yes, I had a massage and I promise you, it was just what I needed!

We began our tea adventure with the two teas of the day, Blueberry and Dream. And if that wasn't enough, they brewed us up a pot of Peach tea. The service matched the atmosphere and the quality of the tea, wonderful!

They paired our tea with chocolates and cookies. And later with hummus and bread that was paired perfectly. The Southern hospitality was on point, we had to say no to sandwiches and soup, but make no mistake that they were determined to share all their delights with us.

My hosts, Kyara and Melissa from Johnson C. Smith University, and I had an absolute ball! Great tea, great atmosphere, and great treats. They also have the cutest little teapots and tea specialty items. In fact, the blue one in my RLT Collection pictures came from there. It was a nice addition to my teapot collection. And if I can pull my coins together, I'm gonna order this little copper cast iron jewel, Peace, but Serenity is cute too. Shoot, the bottom line, their teapots are too cute! I was in heaven educating Kyara and Melissa on tea and exploring the selection of tea and tea specialty items.

Let me tell you, you can always tell the freshness of a tea if the aroma hits you in the face when you open the tin and it jumps up your nostrils. I think I smelled almost every tea in Urbana and I was not disappointed one time.

I brought a ton of teas home with me and I am in love! I already have some favorites. In fact, I'm out of one of the teas and am ready to put in my first order. That Chamomile/Lavender is the bomb! I've drank it before bed almost every night since I came home. I have one cup left. *sigh*

In the coming weeks I will be reviewing them for you. I know you're saying, but ummm Rae, they are in Charlotte. Don't fret, one of the most exciting things about Urbana is that everyone can enjoy their teas even if you don't live in Charlotte. They have an online store for their entire tea selection. Not only are the teas fresh, but I think they have some of the best prices around for premium loose teas. And I love the fact that Urbana Tea is owned by a woman entrepreneur who was willing to take a chance on such a wonderful concept! 

You cannot go wrong with Urbana Tea! Stay tuned as I review their teas!!

Post Script: But in the meantime, Urbana and I are giving you a chance to win one of their most popular teas, Almond Cookies. Yep! This green tea blend smells and tastes just like Almond Cookies. I am pairing a RLT Collection Tea Bracelet with an 8 oz. package of this particular tea. Just a little something to say thank you for being on this tea journey with me.

To Enter the Raffle You Must:
1. Like Urbana Facebook Page;
2. Follow Urbana on Twitter;
3. And make a comment about this blog.

BTW: I know you know that you should be following me on Twitter and Facebook. Good Luck! The winner will be announced on April 12th.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Is For Me!

Me after Speaking - Picture in Washington Post Newspaper
I have never really asked for much. I have been a one woman show in these 19 years  that I've been speaking. No big pharmaceutical contracts, no sponsors, just me on the grind.

Honestly, I never ask because my pride for the most part always gets in the way. Some days I think, who the hell do I think I am asking people for anything. Even after I watched Les Brown one evening explain why people needed to have each of his books and then watched people stand in line to buy it, I couldn't get my nerve up to ask. Some speakers even ask for things like first class tickets and double my speakers fee, but I could never ask for such an expense. I want the message to be heard, but yet I do have to live.

Cover Story Emerge Magazine
But more than my pride, I have always underestimated my ministry and impact on the lives of others. My ex-husband used to taunt me when he was angry and tell me that I was "married to my ministry, not him." I would just shrug him off because I understood that was his shit, his insecurity. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't let him influence my work ethic or my purpose. I just Kept It Moving no matter how his passive/aggressive personality tried to derail my work.

My good friend Luke tells me all the time that I just don't understand how life changing my work is. There's a part of me that is happy that I don't. Grateful that I have been able to remain humble on this journey. And don't get my Type A personality confused. It's the thing that fuels my work, but not my purpose. Shoot, you gotta have a Type A personality to talk about half the stuff I talk about, otherwise you would get crushed. For Real... For Real...

Speaking at Rainbow/PUSH National Headquarters
But I must admit, it's starting to sorta sink in. The emails and private messages I get on Twitter and Facebook speak volumes and are a testament to my work. I'm always so overwhelmed when people reach out to me and share the impact of something I have either written or said that inspire them to be better and do better. I'm humbled that God took my mess and made it a ministry.

But most important, I am living in my purpose! Many people live a lifetime and never even know their purpose. And others who know their purpose are paralyzed by failure and fear. My boldness to walk in my purpose is a legacy I am proud to leave.

With all of this said... this one is for me! My next Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet is for me! To honor my life and my work around HIV/AIDS. I have lived with HIV for 28 years and AIDS for 19. I have lived over half of my life with HIV. I have been speaking for 18 years; And in these years I have created a rich legacy. The first Black woman to tell my story of living with AIDS on a cover of a national magazine - Essence, December 1994.

I received an Emmy Award in Outstanding Feature Series in Hard News for my first-person news reports on my life, Living With AIDS. I have crisscrossed this country telling my story with the prayer that it will help to change a life. Challenging stereotypes and myths around HIV/AIDS. To be a voice for the voiceless. And in the last year, I have done some groundbreaking work, using social media as a vehicle to educate around HIV/AIDS.

So here's to me and my work! Last year I honored Hydeia Broadbent with the Hydeia Bracelet for RLT Collection. I underwrote the cost and shipping of the bracelet and still gave her half of the actual price of the bracelet. I did it from my heart. Thanks to everyone who purchased the Hydeia Bracelet.

teamRae Bracelet!
This new Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet for RLT Collection is a special fundraiser for me. I am making 100 teamRae Bracelets. On May 22nd I will be 49 years old. My life is a miracle. By medical standards, I should have died 16 years ago. And make no mistake, at one point I was sick enough that I should have died. But God's plan was bigger then AIDS could ever be!!

The teamRae Bracelet is a celebration of my life and my work around HIV/AIDS. The cost is $49.00, one dollar for each year of life that God has blessed me with.

I am asking 100 people to purchase the teamRae Bracelet to support me and my work in a practical way. My goal is to sell all 100 teamRae Bracelets by my birthday on May 22nd. It's a lofty goal, but I believe that there are 100 people who will sow into my life and work in the next 54 days.

I am even asking my personal friends to buy this bracelet and proudly wear it to show their support for the work that I do! And wear this bracelet to challenge stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS. Yes, this is a fundraiser. And yes, there are many people who support me in many different ways. This bracelet, however, is a public expression of your support for me and my work and at the same time a practical way to support my work.

I am planning to make a collage of everyone wearing the #teamRae Bracelet. The collage will then be turn into my 2011 Christmas Card. Im excited!!  I can't wait for you to post your picture wearing the teamRae Bracelet on my Facebook page or Tweet it to me so I can Retweet. Thanks Lovely's for all your support, #IcannotdoitAlone. I hope to see your picture in the collage! *smiling*

Post Script:  Everyone knows that I love blackThe #teamRae Bracelet is designed with 8 mm black onyx round smooth gemstones and a 12 mm round onyx center stone with rhinestones down the middle. The back of the bracelet has an 8 mm red rhinestone bead for AIDS awareness. This is the perfect bracelet. It has just enough bling. And it can be dressed up or down and worn with other RLT Collection stackable bracelets. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Reflection: Be The Change!

It is a fact, change comes by action! A desire for change is only the beginning, at some point you have to be the change you want to see. You have to either get off the pot or piss! There is no other way.

I've learned this in my own life. No matter how hard the struggle, you have to press to the new, or the old will dominate your life, for the rest of your life. But I also know that change is not easy.

It's no secret that I have demons galore. I have blogged and talked about them very openly in my speaking engagements. Low self-esteem rooted in childhood sexual, emotional and physical abuse, left me trying to figure out what was normal and healthy. As a result, I maneuvered through life doing damage to my body, mind and spirit. I had to learn that what I thought was a normal way of life, was abnormal. But once I learned, translating that into new behaviors was not an easy task. In fact, it is easiest doing what is familiar to you. While the familiar is the safest thing to do, it is also the most destructive thing to do.

Once I figured out that some of my problems were of my own doing, it became a battle between the old and the new. Yes, it took years of therapy and prayer, but it also required action on my part.

The saying "If you take one step, God will take two," is true. But if you don't move, you give God no room to work in your life. That's the thing about free will. God gives us the option to make both bad and good decisions for our lives. What you do, with what you know, is your choice, your right.

So once I understood what healthy was, how did I actually get to this place in my life of living healthy? The saying, "When you know better, you do better," is not as easy as it seems.

It took a lot of freaking work!! It took taking chances. It took denying myself of things that I enjoyed. It took leaving some people behind. It took a profound internalization that accepting a new way of life was better than the old way, even if the old felt safe. Even if there were levels of comfort in the old.

I had to accept that the old rendered me nothing but the old. And in the old, I was destroying the person God intended for me to be. I had to stop the madness or destroy the wonderful woman that God made me to be!  

Remember the definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome." Well, that's what happens when we keep talking about wanting a different life but continue to live in the life you have, the same way you have, over and over again.

Now let me be clear, making changes in our life is not easy. It's hard as hell!!! I'm going to give you a practical example and call it a day.

Example: Last week an ex-lover texted to tell me that he missed me and wanted to get together. You can read the blog HERE to fill in the details. I asked him did he still have a wife? He said yes, and I then said, I can't go there. And that ended the texting.

Now this is the reality. My last relationship ended about a year ago. I promised him that I wouldn't talk about him publicly because he has the right to work through his demons his own way. I love and miss him and I know he feels the same way, but we CANNOT be together. It is what it is! So I'm very lonely. I miss him, but I also miss companionship and honestly, I miss being touched. (Not fucked, touched!)

Now an ex-lover, who I was with for about 5 years texted to say he wanted to be with me, if I was willing. Now, he is familiar, the chemistry is great. Like we are good together. And I know it would be a well kept secret.

Him texting me stirred up emotions at that moment. He made me remember how good we were together, it made me feel desirable. Here I am with AIDS and going through IV treatment for herpes, pretty much at a low emotional point in my life, and a man who has a wife and is "happily married" texts me to say, I want you.

Damn!! Girl you got it like that, went through my head. My ego was on 10! And then I started to think about him and in that second, how he made my toes curl. And I was honest with him--"I miss you, but I can't do it." And I wonder if I really missed him, or actually just missed being with someone. Or maybe it seemed like the next best thing at that moment because I can't be with who I want to be with. Who knows, maybe all the above.

Now, I had a few options. I could have filled some void in my life by fucking him but that would have put me right back where I was a few years ago. In those few texts I had to be HONEST with myself.

For a 30 minute fuck, I would destroy all this hard work on myself. I had to weigh the fuck verses the damage the fuck would do to me.

After the fuck, he would go back home to his wife and all I would have is a wet pussy, still be lonely and a broken spirit.

And that may lead me back to a cycle of unhealthy behavior, yet again, because I would be seeking something to fill that void. It might lead me down Michigan Ave. spending money I don't have to spend, literally bill money. Or make me break Lent and go get a dozen More Cupcakes. Or make myself vulnerable to continue to see him.

I also had to remember his history in this equation. He will fuck as often as I allow him to fuck and that is all he is willing to offer, a hard dick. It was hard. Think about it. I had to do all of this thinking lonely, vulnerable and within minutes. But I did it!!

I did that right thing for me in the long run. I didn't put myself in a situation to go back to unhealthy behavior. I won't break Lent and there is a blessing in keeping Lent. I won't spend my bill money, keeping me focused on trying to get my finances in order and out of this dreadful debt I'm in. And I didn't commit adultery, making my life and ministry a lie. Only so many times we can look to David's messed up, sinful crap as an excuse for ours.

And because of my faithfulness I put myself in a better place to be used more and more by God. But honestly, I know that God will love me in spite of me. I also know that gifts and calling comes without repentance. (It's in the word.) So at the end of the day, the most important thing is that I can look myself in the mirror and feel good about what I see. Yes, I am still lonely and at an emotional low point in my life. But at least I like myself.

Now, someone made a smart ass comment on the blog post about be being HONEST in my text about "missing him." And she said I was wrong, that I might as well go ahead and fuck him. HUH?

You CANNOT be healthy living a lie either in actions, head or heart. I had to accept my desire at that moment in order to conquer that desire. If an addict does not face that they want to "use" at that moment and take their ass to an AA meeting or call their sponsor, they will surely end up in a crack house. You cannot face your demons in a lie.

It is true, "He who conceals his disease cannot except to be cured." If you don't face ALL the truths in a situation you cannot make the best decisions for your life. I'm just grateful that God allowed me to be honest with you about what I was feeling. You cannot save lives with half-truths and misinformation. I wanta say more, but I think other people addressed her appropriately. Thank you, Lovely's!! #teamRae.

I wanted to work through this scenario for you. I wanted you to see how it plays out in real life. At any given moment we are faced with choices. What you do with your choices is up to you. God has given you the gift of free will. You can use it to be the person God intended for you to be or you can use it to destroy the gift that you are.

At some point in your life you have got to make the hard decisions about what's good, right and perfect, and what kind of life you truly want to live.

Yes, it will be hard work and no, you will never be a perfect being. Only God is perfect. But in the end, you will not only love the person that you are, you will actually like the person that you are. But one thing is for sure, if you continue to do the same thing over and over again, change will NEVER happen! Be the Change you want to see in your life!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fat Meat Is Greasy!

I've said it more than once: If the penis ain't in your pocket, you have no idea what it's doing when it ain't with you. But many of you don't believe that Fat Meat is Greasy. Nope, you're so sure that your man/woman would NEVER step outside your relationship that you think condoms are an insult to the love that you share.

I tweet every Monday: I know that some of you had unprotected sex over the weekend and I hope and pray that what you thought you knew about your partner is true. Otherwise, literally, you were a fuckin fool.

And I know that some of you just shrug me off, "There she goes again." I know some of you love and support me and think my ministry is awesome, but still it has not translated into a change of behavior. Some of you think I'm helping the "other people" on Twitter /Facebook etc... and you see yourself as my support team. I know it because I understand human nature and because discernment is a gift I've had since I was a little girl. I'm connected to everything that intersects with me.

I keep preaching the same shit over and over again but you really don't think Fat Meat is Greasy. You really think that there is something about your love and relationship that exempts you, but in truth, the only love that will keep you safe is self-love. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that some of you don't have wonderful relationships, but at the end of the day, you don't really know if yours is the good one. You hope and pray, but only time will tell you the real truth. My prayer and hope for you is that time is not missed with tragedy.

I'm not gonna beat a dead horse this Fuckin Friday. I'm just gonna share with you some text messages I got yesterday from a former lover. I'm gonna give you some details, but I am not going to disclose his identity, that's not fair. I just want to paint the picture. This guy is younger than me, between 8-10 years, extremely successful, six-figure income, very well dressed, Gucci shoes and wonderful Italian suits, fine as hell, a leader in his community and married with a young child.

He was one of those "private" relationships that I had. (I've blogged about it over and over.) Being younger than me, he was always looking for his wife. He found her at the time we were seeing each other and for a while, we were in a triangle. But months before he asked her to marry him, I walked away cold. I had to do it for all of us because he never was going do it.

Over the years he has reached out, but I have stood my ground. Yesterday he texted me yet again.

Him: You forget about me?

Me: No, I didn't forget.

Him: Miss seeing you.

Me: Awww do you?

Him: You forget how much chemistry we had?

Me: I could never forget that.

****Some business texting in the middle****

Him: Now what about the other stuff :) ?

Me: You still gotta wife?

Him: Yes nigga.

Me: Well at this junction in my life, I'm practicing what I preach. Can't be talking to women about living healthy and I'm fuckin you. Believe me I do miss you!!

Him: Ha :) You were talking that before. We never had our one for the road.

Me: I guess I've grown... But I do miss you.

Him: Okay Babe. Fair, I hope you are well.

Fat Meat is Fuckin Greasy! I have HIV and herpes, he knows... He is "happily married" and he still wanta fuck! I crawled out of my sick bed today to tell you to --- Use a Fuckin Condom! Stop fuckin like your pussy and dick is made of gold and it's all that he/she will ever want! Self-Love is the Only Love that Will Keep You Safe!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

There Is Hope In Tomorrow!

Yesterday when I left the clinic after getting my IV medication, I was so freaking beat down. I sat in that taxi on my way home and all I really wanted to do is cry. When I arrived at the clinic that morning at 9:00 a.m., I already had a low grade fever, and by the time I finished at 4:00 p.m., I was nauseous, dizzy, fatigued and so weak that walking was an effort. Not to mention, I'm still in pain from the actual infection. Read here about the infection. My spirit was at an all time low. When your spirit is this low, there is a hopelessness that comes over you.

I want to say that I was able to draw on my Monday's Reflection, "Remember," but I didn't have the energy to muster up an ounce of memory. All I could say was, "I know You up there." And I do know He's up there, but when you're in the midst of it, there is a loneliness that overtakes you. I'm not going to pretend that coping with hardship is easy, it's not. It's hard as hell! Some days it take everything I got to keep it together. But I'm determined to not allow AIDS to take me out of here, emotionally. I can't always control the physical, but the emotional, well that's in my domain. So for me, at different times, I muster up all that I can in different ways so that the darkness does not swallow me up. You should never just have one strategy for life's journey.

I arrived home and there my solitude began. My Sophie met me at the door, wagging that tail a mile a minute, jumping and barking to be picked up to give me all the love she can muster up. Then there is the comfort of my home. A refuge that I have created that speaks peace to my very soul. My art collection is the epicenter of my home and everything stems from there. I started collecting right at the point when I made a transition from HIV to AIDS, and each new piece has been chosen carefully over these 20 years to speak life into me. Your home should be a place of peace, it should speak life into you, not take it away.

I warmed up dinner. Thank God my girlfriend Melanie cooked dinner on Sunday and dropped it off, if she hadn't I would not have eaten. I was too beat and actually warming it up took an effort. I ate, got a cup of tea, and me and Sophie retired to the bedroom.

I gave Sophie a rawhide to keep her busy and I laid back with my pillows propped up with some beautiful agate gemstones on my lap and spent hours designing some fabulous bracelets. With each new bracelet design I started to feel alive again. For me, beading takes me away from the dark place. It reminds me that there are some good things in my life and it helps to bring me back to the light.

Beading reminds me that I'm a gifted, creative woman that has a lot to share with the world and a lot more living. I begin to imagine someone wearing one of my new designs. And that for me means that there is a tomorrow and that there is hope in tomorrow, even if today has been drowned in sorrow.

@MsKeeda Wearing RLT Collection

My bracelet designs remind me that there is a life beyond the right now. And when someone wears my bracelets, I feel as if I have given them a part of me that AIDS can NEVER take away.

So when I'm low like yesterday, I bead. And what's so incredible, I seem to do my best work when at my lowest. I've been beading a lot lately and by the way the designs are simply fabulous! Coming to the website soon. #ForReal.

I'm not saying that the pain goes away when I bead, I'm just saying that I'm reminded that there is a life worth living even in the pain. I'm saying that the beading takes me out of that dark place towards the light. We tend to be hopeless and irrational in the dark, but in the light we see more clearly and that provides perspective for the pain. And with perspective for today's pain, there is hope in tomorrow!

Postscript: Many people seek destructive ways to help ease the pain: drugs, alcohol, sex, overeating and overshopping. Those are temporary fixes to complicated problems. I remember the day when shopping was my answer for everything. With therapy and a desire to live healthy and a lot of HARD work, I have come to a good place in my life where I find solitude in a way that is healthy. I stopped shopping and God replaced the void with beading and knitting... Reading has been a place of solitude since I was a pre-teen. Find yourself a place of solitude... In solitude, there is hope in tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tea With Rae: Perfect Tea Glass!

This Tea Glass is perfect for a woman on the go like me! It allows me to have premium loose tea on the run! I took it on my last speaking engagement to Johnson C. Smith University and it was perfect. At the time, I was recovering from pneumonia, but I was still very much congested. I wanted to take along the mint tea that I had been sipping on all week to help with my cough and congestion. The Libre Tea Glass was perfect.

Then last week, it was a Godsend, or at least I thought so. As you all know I started IV medication last week. It's once a week for 6-8 hours. I typically pick me up a tea from Starbucks on the way to the clinic but somewhere around 2:00 p.m., I am dying for tea. And no, at my clinic there is no place to pick up any tea, let alone some fancy premium tea.

In the past, I just had to suffer though it. LOL. But last week I came prepared! I had my first cup of the day from Starbucks and my Libre Tea Glass with fresh mint tea for my stomach, because nausea is one of the side effects from my medication and peppermint provides some relief.

I fell in love with this wonderful creation all over again. This Libre Tea Glass has a health-conscious glass interior for fresh taste and a durable polycarbonate exterior for ‘on the go’ durability. The stainless steel tea filter is surrounded by BPA free polypropylene as is the lid's interior. Honesty, I just used all their fancy words. This is what I'm saying, it is high impact-resistant so it can take hot water. It is scratch-resistant with a hard coating applied to polycarbonate to make it even more durable. The stainless steel tea filter is surrounded by BPA free polypropylene as is the lid's interior.
So this is how it works. Just place your loose tea in the top of the strainer, put the water in the glass, turn it upside down, and let it brew; or just put your herbal tea in the glass and let it brew. Either way the leaves will be on the bottom or on the top.
I'm in love with the Libre Tea Glass. It is the perfect way to have premium loose tea on the go. And for home, it's perfect for the blooming flower teas, you can sit back and watch your tea bloom and brew at the same time. And honestly, on days like I've had as of late, when I'm weak and pain medication has me a tad off balance, I find that the tea glass is easier to control over a regular tea cup. They also have it in a mug, ummm that would be even easier for me to handle. Need to check into it.
I'm going to be honest about this tea journey I'm on. It has been some kinda fun. Each new day I am introduced to wonderful teas and products to make the life of tea be the best it can be. And best of all, it's not so much about AIDS, but in spite of AIDS. I'm still living and learning about something that brings me joy.
I'm glad that I have companies on board like Libre Tea who are willing to be on this journey with me. At the top of my list is the Libre Tea Glass! It's a wonderful invention for tea lovers! You can take it to work and never be without your loose tea!

Postscript: Libre Tea has an affiliate program that I am planning to join. If you purchase through me I will get a percentage of the sale. Working on it this week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Reflection: Remember!

Sometimes it feels like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I know you can relate. The hits just keep coming and coming, and you wonder if there is even a God up there.

Stop being all righteous! You know I'm telling the truth. Let me be clear, deep down you don't really question if there is a God, but you do wonder if His plan for your life is gonna get any better.

You know what I'm saying, we ask ourselves, "Am I ever gonna get a breakthrough?" Some of us are even bold enough to ask God, like me, "Hey Home Boy, I know you up there," is what I say, "But Lord, it sure don't feel like it right now."

Sometimes the pain is so heavy you can't help but to wonder, if joy does comes in the morning, like the Bible says, how many more mornings before that joy shows up with the sunlight? A couple of weeks ago I blogged about trying to make sense out of suffering. How we misquote the Bible as a way to find meaning and provide hope. How those sayings sometimes become our God. It's what people throw at us when they don't know what to say or can't make sense out of the suffering. But they only provide superficial comfort in the midst of a crisis. Here's the link.

The hurt is the hurt and telling me to think I'm better don't take away the hurt nor does it instantly make the pain go away. At the moment, what you are going through is concrete! Like right now, I have an opportunistic infection related to having AIDS. I have drug resistant herpes. You can read about it HERE.

My vulva is raw and red as if someone took pliers and pulled back my skin. And this week the infection started bleeding. My pain level is at a 10 all day and walking is so painful I don't even want to get out of bed. I started IV medication to treat it last week and the side effects of the IV medication and the medication that I have to take to protect my kidneys from the IV medication is kicking my tail. Nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and so on. This, of course, on the back of just getting over pneumonia and having to make the hard decision to sell some of my jewelry, handbags and designer shoes to keep food on my table. It's like, Damn! Can it get any worse, huh? Sometimes I want to give God a "side eye." But in the end, I keep it moving through it all.

I get asked often, how I do it. How do I take hit after hit and seem to keep it moving in spite of it all? How do I get out of bed when literally, the pain is almost unbearable. And let's not even talk about the emotional baggage around it all, knowing that years ago I could have made different choices that would have rendered me different outcomes for today.

So how do I get out of bed with the weight of the world on me and the pain is squeezing the joy out of me? Yes, I pray and I read the Bible for comfort, don't get me wrong there. My faith is the center of my strength.

The substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. We quote it often, I know, I know. But, it's hard when you don't seem to have a tangible. And just telling me joy comes in the morning don't make it so.

I Remember! I Remember my history with God. Just like the Children of Israel, I draw from my own experiences with God. We rarely think of ourselves in terms of having history with God, but just like Israel was living history, so are we. But typically we rely on the Bible stories to guide us, rather than our own history with God. But even in that sometimes it seems a little far fetched to take the stories we read in the Bible and translate it into a RIGHT NOW blessing. It's not that we don't believe, but gee, I know you wanta say, "Ain't nothing ever seem to happen that quickly for me."

So, in the reality of all of this, how do I keep it altogether? I Remember! Yes, remember my history with God. I Remember what He has done for me to keep me grounded. He's capable, whether He does it or not. Each morning when my body is in pain and my spirit is hanging in the balance, I get out of bed because I Remember. I Remember that a year ago I prayed every day that God would bless me with a one bedroom apartment. Having downsized from a three bedroom three years ago, the studio I was living in was closing in on me.

My prayer was simple: Lord, I don't want to wake up in the morning and have to look at my bed for another year. Please bless me with a one bedroom so I can get up in the morning and go into my living room and have tea. I can't take looking at my bed another year. This is crushing my spirit. I need a change. It don't have to be in a fancy highrise, just clean, decent and affordable. 

In September, I moved into my one bedroom apartment. Nothing fancy, but I have made it my home! So when my spirit is crushing down, I Remember that God answered my prayer. So I crawl out of my bed and open my living room curtains, let the sun shine in and turn the tea kettle on. I dare not squander this gift, because I'm waiting on another gift!

I Remember! That God has brought me through time and time again. No, it's not always the way I expect it to be, but it was deliverance nonetheless. I Remember! Like when someone I have never met donates money to my Pay Pal or I get a check in the mail from a stranger when all I had in the bank was $10.00. No, it wasn't tons of dollars were I could go shopping and buy "shit" I didn't need anyway, but I could go to the grocery store.

I Remember! That He always makes a way!

As a side note, I remember the day when I would've gotten that money and made some stupid rationalization about how to spend it. "Well, it was a gift," I would say, "so I should get something special for me." Right, with no food in the fridge and bills still unpaid, and you still waiting on your breakthrough. Sorry to say, God blessed you, but umm, you squandered that gift. You could have been one step closer to deliverance if you had used that money for it's purpose. That's a demon that I had to WORK hard to destroy. 

But back to the point. I Remember, that He didn't cause my situation. We are quick to blame God for our own shit. I made choices that I must painfully live with. And the unfortunate part about consequences is that they sometimes remain a lifetime. Can't undo what's been done. So I have to suffer through this painful drug resistant herpes. It is what it is. I Remember! This situation I'm in is about choices I made!

I Remember! I made it through the last infection and the last treatment in one piece. Yes, it was painful, but I was stronger than the pain. I Remember my resilience!

In my chaos, I also Remember He creates clarity and purpose. I Remember! No, Remembering does not take away the pain in the right now. Some pain is what you have to experience. There is no life without pain; even Jesus hurt.

But Remembering provides clarity in dealing with the pain. I Remember that life is a precious gift from God and when I wake in the morning I'm still a part of God's earthly plan. And with this knowledge I dare not squander this gift. I keep working on the tangible things in my life. My Ministry! My Purpose! My Gifts and Talents that God has blessed me with, even when I hurt, even in the pain.

In this Lenten season, Remember that while on the Cross, even Jesus had clarity and purpose in the midst of His pain. Yes, He Hurt! He even lamented... My God, my God, why have they forsaken me?

But in the pain, He dared not squander the living for the dying. I'm still blown away when I think about how much goodness He did while on the cross dying. Some of us would have been so mad at both the world and God. Stuck in our misery. We wouldn't have given a damn about anyone else but what we felt at that moment.

Think about it. He conducted His ministry from the cross; He forgave the thief; He comforted Mary and John; He even forgave those who prosecuted Him; all while he had nails in His hands, nails in His feet, nails in His sides and a crown of thorns on His head, all while fulfilling His ultimate purpose. Now that's Keeping it Moving. #ForReal #ForReal.

And this is how I keep going. I Remember my own history with God in this world. I Remember that there is clarity and purpose for my life even in the chaos and pain. I find my strength in Remembering that God has been constant and ever present in my life whether it was expected or unexpected. And I dare not squander His presence in my life! I dare not squander my gifts and talents because of my pain. I dare not halt my ministry because life is hard and facing my demons even harder.

I Remember that life without fulfilled purpose is no life at all and I dare not fulfill my purpose because of the pain...

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Agree: We Are Not A Fuckin Scorpion!

Maria Mejia
The other day, I saw a tweet from Sassy Maria, as I call her. She's another woman living with HIV and doing her part in this fight. I clicked the link because the title of her blog post caught my attention. "I am not a scorpion." Damn straight she ain't! I mumbled, "She's a cuttie pie." I wanted to know what the hell she was talking about. Wanted to know who I had to fight on her behalf. On Twitter we have created a little family and we all stick together. #teamHIVAIDS.

When I saw the reason of her distress I was in disbelief. I sat there trying to process what I was seeing. I read her blog post and I liked what she had to say so I asked if I could share it with my readers. Click here to read her blog. I'm sharing her views because I am not alone in this. There is a community of women living with AIDS, doing our part, and fighting to maintain our dignity in the face of stigma.

I had to give this AIDS awareness campaign in France a lot of thought. Like Maria, I understood the point. But I wondered if it did more harm than good. I started to think about all the implications in these ads. Then I Googled the other picture she had mentioned. People with AIDS being compared to Hitler? HUH? The scorpion was one thing, but Hitler? Damn!

They going hard. For Real... And don't get me wrong, I understand going hard. Remember I posted this picture with the man in a suit and his penis hanging out.

And yes, I'm the person who created #FuckinFriday on Twitter and I tweet about people fucking on Fridays without thinking. So while people are making there plans to have sex on Fridays, I remind them to take there fuckin ass to the drug store and get some fuckin condoms so they don't become a fuckin fool. Yep, I actually tweet about that all day on Fridays. So I understand about getting people's attention. I understand hitting as hard as you can with the hope that you have an impact. And I've never been one to sugarcoat a thing.

But there was something about this ad campaign that didn't sit well with me. It left a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It seemed to overstep a boundary. The difference is in my methodology, i.e., how I approach my activism and this campaign; they name call and provoke fear and hatred.

I mean, come on! When you see a scorpion you immediately think of death. And maybe that was their point. But the fact of the matter, like Maria, I'm not a fucking scorpion. I'm a loving, fabulous woman that God made in His image. Yes, having unprotected sex with a person with HIV will probably get you HIV. But that is one side of the coin, on the other side, having protected sex, i.e., sex with a latex condom, will protect you from HIV.

The most disturbing part of this ad is that they compared people living with HIV with an image that is repulsive, that everyone connects with death. But just so you know there are 1752 species of scorpions and only 25 have venom that will kill you. So even this ad is rooted in misinformation on one level.

But then you take the Hitler picture. Make no mistake, there is no good quality that I can muster up on his behalf. So I take great offense to being compared to a man who deliberately set out to kill a few races of people, as well as cultures. It is especially disturbing to suggest that I am a murderer when statistics show that the majority of people who have HIV go to great lengths to protect their partner. To suggest that I am a killing machine is way over the line and it feeds into the stigma that already clouds the real issues around HIV/AIDS.

Yes, in 2011, 30 years into the AIDS pandemic, there is still a cloud of stigma that feeds into fear of people with HIV/AIDS and creates a fear of disclosure and shame by people living with HIV.

Case in point, the woman who emailed me that her mother will not go into the HIV clinic with her. The young man who's afraid to tell his family he has HIV and has been living in secret now for three months. And, the host of people on Twitter #teamHIVAIDS, who live in secret with their status for fear of judgment and rejection. Yes, even I lived with this fear for almost 8 years. I understand it well. And remember my most recent blog post on herpes, where I talk about the shame of having both HIV and herpes.

It is campaigns such as these that not only make us feel bad about ourselves, but they also continue to feed into an unjust hysteria about the type of people who actually have HIV. This ad is not just calling HIV ugly, it's making the inference that people with HIV are like the images in these pictures.

So how can you, society, ever like me when I'm compared to Hilter? How will you ever get to know me if you have already pre-judged me? Will I ever make it to your home if you already think a certain way about me and other people living with HIV? If everything you've been told about me directly or indirectly is heartless, nasty and mean, how will you ever really come to know and most importantly, support me? This campaign isolates people with HIV/AIDS.

I remember the days when family members wouldn't let HIV infected family members eat out of their plates or use there glasses. And still today, I get whispers of stories just like this. I think ads like these continue to perpetuate the "ugliness" that has been the root of HIV hysteria and hate.

I overheard a conversation with a woman and a doctor at the clinic on Tuesday. She hadn't been to the clinic in two years, mostly out of shame. And she does have an OB/GYN doctor at another clinic, but she is too ashamed to tell her that she has HIV. So shame has prevented her from getting the proper treatment and care to prolong her life. And ads like this only reinforce shame around our HIV status.

And then let's take it a step further. I can just imagine someone looking at these images and saying, "I would never have sex with someone like that." Yes, I'm saying that these pictures reinforce the idea that the only "certain types" of people actually have HIV. And at the end of the day, most people will think that they could never in a thousand years have sex with a person like "that."

Yes, I submit that images like this continue to reinforce that people with HIV are "ugly." The fact is, HIV is ugly, not the people with HIV! Another fact, you may not be able to spot that "ugly" in a crowd, which gives you a false sense of security because with images like this you actually think somewhere in the back of your mind that you will know if a person is infected with HIV. Big mistake!

The fact of the matter is, HIV has no particular face. It's all of us. Me, Maria, and you. And the last time I checked, Maria and I both believe that we are fabulous women! Nothing ugly about us on the inside or out. And I certainly hope that you feel the same way about yourself.

This campaign might have been well intended, but for me, it only created more stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS. I know if it had been in the United States, AIDS activists would have forced that campaign down. #ForReal. There is a part of me that wonders how Europeans with HIV feel about being compared to Hilter and who on God's earth would think it was ok? What the HELL were they thinking?

The other major point is this, yes, HIV is a dangerous disease that will alter your life forever, and yes, it could even kill you. But it's everywhere and only a change in behavior can protect you, not some misguided judgement about what type of person would have HIV.

 HIV is not a "boogie man" that's gonna get you. HIV is all of us and when you buy into the stereotypes of who would have HIV, you put yourself at risk. So I will say it again, wrap it up! You cannot look at a person and tell.

I mean come on! When you look at the pictures of Maria and me, don't you say "Damn! They fine!" Stop lying, you know you do, whether we are your "type" or not we got a little something going on. And that's the point. You may not know who is infected. In fact, 38% of all newly infected people with HIV are infected by people who didn't even know their HIV status.

So I say it yet again, when you fuck without a condom you are a fuckin fool. There is no sex worth your life. Stop fuckin without thinking. And equally as important, stop buying into the stereotypes about people with HIV/AIDS. All it does is help to create more stigma and shame for people living with HIV, and at the same time gives you a false sense of security.

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