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, April 29, 2011

Does Anyone Date Anymore?

Does anyone date anymore? Is chivalry dead? Is there an expectation that sex is automatic in every relationship? And just because a man makes you wet between the legs does that mean that you have to go ALL the way?

And how soon is too soon for sex in a relationship? I know there has always been a double standard in our society. Women who have sex early, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month are typically called whores. And men are glorified for being able to get that "thang." And honestly, the main reason women hold out is to ensure that he is what he says he is. But holding out for months won't determine if he will be an ass in the end. Nor does it guarantee that he won't dump you once he actually "gets it." I mean some men love the chase. I've said over and over again, no one ever really knows everything about a person, not really. Even though we bask in a level of arrogance, proclaiming that you know your "Boo."

From day one we always claim that we really want to become friends first, but do we really follow through? I mean the moment they make us wet and tingly, or him hard and throbbing, all our best intentions typically go out the window.

What we do is exchange chemistry for friendship. But I'm here to tell you, just because he turns you on sexually does not mean that you two are compatible in other areas of your life. Really! I've had some wonderful sex from some assholes. For Real! Who, in the end, didn't really have my best interest at heart, and wasn't capable of an honest friendship based on mutual respect.

I started thinking about this because I had dinner the other evening with an absolute gentleman. It was a real date. I can't even remember the last time I've had "real" date. My last relationship was a whirlwind and it ended in a whirlwind that left me broken. And that was a power that I gave him over me. But... Never again. Never again. We blame everyone but ourselves and a person can only do to us what we allow them to do. Whether they have best intentions or not.

So this gentleman took me on a bona fide date. He knocked on my door, rather than calling me on my cell phone to tell me to "come on out." He took my coat at the restaurant. I sat first, he opened doors. He never assumed anything about my life and my willingness to talk about a particular topic, even though he knows that talking about my life is the epicenter of my ministry. He did not take me for granted, rather he asked.

And it was a lovely evening. We laughed and shared a meal. There's a lot of intimacy and power in sharing a meal. Really! You see, sharing a meal forces you to actually look at the person sitting across from you. It allows you to see a smile or the special way they laugh. And those can be some of the most powerful moments of intimacy. Intimacy isn't fucking. It is characterize as, essential, innermost, familiarity, comfortability, very personal. Fucking on the other hand is what it is, an act of sexual intercourse. And the sad part is, you can have fucking without intimacy. Dating allows for intimacy.

After dinner, I invited him to my home for tea. And we laughed, we talked, and in those most "intimate" of moments, like a touch on the leg, a soft brush across my face with the swipe of his hand, a hug, we both knew that we had chemistry. But chemistry does not add up to friendship.

Friendship takes time. It must grow. It must be fermented just like black tea. Black tea is the strongest, boldest tea and it goes through the most and longest processing before it is ready for a tea cup. I submit that we must give ourselves time to be the strongest and boldest that a relationship can be. What's wrong with courting the old fashioned way? We want everything to happen overnight in this microwavable society. Let a person earn the right to be with you.

No, I'm not putting any time limitations on it, but I am saying, know that there is a difference between chemistry and friendship and there is a place for both of them in a relationship. Chemistry is instant and it creates a path for friendship... It is not the path. And friendship will under-gird the longest, strongest and boldest of relationships.

And oh, the thing that impressed me the most, when we stood at my door to say goodnight, he didn't try to stick his tongue down my throat. He didn't assume that the intimate moments we shared throughout the evening gave him the right to cross that boundary. And what's the rush anyway? If the friendship grows, both of your tongues will tag along.

Does Anyone Date Anymore? Yep Me!! Just like I declared that no man could have my coochie in the dark if he was not willing to walk with me in daylight in the park... Well, no more whirlwinds for me... I'm gonna let my relationships ferment just like my favorite tea, with time...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TeaWithRae: Chai Anyone?

When chai tea became the trend I made my way to Starbucks to check it out. Yep! The tea lover that I am didn't want to be out of the loop. But honestly, it was an epic fail.

Over and over again I kept trying different brands of chai tea and finally, I just gave up. To me, chai tasted like someone simply mixed cloves, cinnamon and vanilla extract together and called it tea. It was way too spicy for me. So I decided that I was done with chai. But then many of my Twitter followers kept telling me how much they love chai tea. So for them and in the spirit of being fair in my Tea With Rae project, I decided to keep trying. I started to think that maybe I hadn't had the right blend of chai and that I needed to give it a try for the sake of the project.

You can count this blog as the first in my series on my chai tea adventure. The Persimmon Tea Tree Company sent me two of their chai teas when I told them that I didn't like chai. And honestly, it took me forever to taste them, but boy, wasn't I pleasantly surprised. Rooibos Chai and Rooibos Vanilla Chai were both winners!

Before I dive into these teas, let me tell you a little about chai. Chai tea has been a favorite beverage for centuries in the East, especially India, but recently has become a popular beverage in the West. The most trendy way to drink chai tea is "latte," half milk and half tea blended together. I haven't acquired the taste of milk in my tea just yet. But I'm working on it.

Chai typically begins with a black tea and then it's blended with a rich and complex mixture of spices. While there are different recipes for chai, the most common mixture is cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, pepper and ginger. It is typically served sweet (add sugar) to bring out the flavor of the spices.

But for me, there wasn't enough sugar in the world to make me like chai tea. Then along came two teas blended not with black tea but with rooibos tea which comes from the red bush in South Africa.

The Persimmon Tea Tree Company hit it out of the ball park with these rooibos/chai blends. I think they are perfect! The red tea adds balance to the mixture of spices. While I like both blends, I prefer the Vanilla Chai because it has an extra punch making the mixture of spice and sweet perfect. The Vanilla Chai is blended with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, cloves and orange pieces. I'm sure the orange pieces add extra sweetness to this chai blend. I have had this tea every week since I tried it a few weeks ago. And when I drink a tea more then once a week, it is definitely a winner!

Over all, I have a newfound respect for chai. It's a perfect tea for that pick me up in the middle of the day. And just like with most teas, there are a wealth of health benefits that come from both the combination of rooibos and the chai spices. Together they are loaded with antioxidants. Check out here what Persimmon Tea Tree Company has to say about the health benefits. I love that they highlight the health benefits on every page.

Now that I have conquered my fear of chai, I must explore other blends. I will keep you posted. Happy Cuppa!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It Begins At Home: The Good; The Bad; The Ugly!

I was trying as best as I could to make this a family. I was trying my best not to let my fear of him get in the way of how a family was supposed to be. It was crazy that at 13, I was trying to make a family from out of a mess. But I was a child living in chaos desperate for a "normal" life. So that day, I gave him another try. Try to be a father, that is.

I was having problems with my camera so I went to ask for help. To my surprise and delight he took the camera to figure out the problem. As he worked on the camera, I stood at a safe distance because his history had taught me that was my safest place. But this time it seemed different. "Maybe this could be a family," I thought as he fumbled and fumbled with my camera. 

Then finally he solved the problem. He said, "See, this was all that needed to be done." I moved in closer to see how he had fixed the problem I had been trying to solve all morning. WOW! "This may be ok after all," I thought to myself. A smile came over my face. I stepped in closer and within an instant he had grabbed my breast and started rubbing it. I jerked back in horror, turned and ran straight for the door. 

I ran down those three flights of stairs as fast as I could and I didn't stop until I was blocks away from the house. That summer day I stayed in the park with friends until I was sure Mama had made it home from work. I remember walking down my block looking for Mama's car like I was looking for dear life. I was tired and hungry and I wanted to go home. 

When I saw her car I knew I was safe. I turned my keys in the door, slipped into our apartment and went straight to my bedroom and closed the door. That's how it was in my house. My bedroom was the safest place for me. It was not a normal family no matter how hard I tried or wished it to be so. It was a family soiled by abuse. At times Mama wasn't even safe. She had already told me when I told her that her husband was grabbing my breast, "I'm not gonna let you fuck up my shit." 

The funny thing is, Mama was my safety in his presence. I knew that he would never touch me around her. It was ironic that out of her own selfish need to have a man, she kept me in an environment where there was no protection, but yet at the same time, her presence provided some protection.

Growing up in this chaos and trauma it's a wonder I'm not any more crazy than I already am. No child should have to live under the circumstance in which I lived. 

In our families, we need to begin naming the abuse and protecting our children. Hurt children grow up to be hurt people. In the end, we either hurt ourselves, others, or both. Half of this destruction that our young people render on society and themselves, like drugs, alcohol, sex, gangs, violence, is rooted in lack of love and protection in our families. Saving our children begins at home! All of it, the good, the bad and the ugly.

When we see violence in our homes we must tell our sister, brother, aunt, cousin, even our friends, that the violence must stop! If we are going to raise a generation of young people who love themselves, we must first love them!

Post Script: We are wearing dark blue again this Friday. Tweet, Facebook or email me a picture of you supporting the cause in your blue. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tea With Rae: Small Pleasures!

Living with AIDS, keeping the breakneck schedule that I do and working out of my home, I try to carve time out of the house just for me. At the top of the list are browsing bookstores and shopping for beads for my bracelet designs. These are the small pleasures that help to keep me sane in my crazy life.

But one day while looking around Water Tower shopping mall on Chicago's Mag Mile, I stumbled upon Teavana Tea Shop. Now at first it was a rocky road, the salesperson that day was a bit of an ass. But I gave them another try months later and it's been heaven ever since. When I explained to the new manager what had happened, she explained that he was the first to go when she took over the store. I was glad to see that she was on top of her game.

Customer Service is everything and they have it down pat at Teavana. So Saturday after putting in 9 hours of work on my latest bracelet designs I took a walk over to Teavana.

I had no intention on making a purchase, I just wanted to have a smell of their teas. Boy does it bring me pleasure when they open that tin of tea and then fan the aroma your way. The tea lover that I am, it's as if all of my senses had gone straight to heaven.

I'm getting ready to begin a series on Oolong teas and I wanted to smell all of them. I gotta admit, the staff was real patient with me as I asked to smell over and over again. I get so much joy from it, I really do!

Well like I said, I had no intention of buying any tea, I still have tea from Teavana that I have to review. I'm so honored that they are one of my Tea With Rae partners.

But when I smelled Toasted Nut Brulee, OMG! I just had to have it. I came straight home and put the tea kettle on. The taste was everything that the smell promised it to be. I'm in love! I promise, since Saturday, I have had no less than ten cups of this tea.

How do I describe this tea. It's creamy, nutty, with fruity undertones. You can even see the pieces of hazelnuts, almonds and candied fruit in the tea. I think the Rooibos tea added to the Oolong ensures that the the nutty taste is not woody. It's a perfect blend of tea! I'm going to even put it in my top five teas that I have ever had. Now that's a big one for me! Stay tuned for my series on Oolong teas, coming real soon!

Oh yeah, I also love looking at there wonderful tea pots. I think I'm addicted to them also. For Real! If any of you were wondering about the teapot I used for the RLT Men's Collection, yep, I got it from Teavana. It's the perfect little teapot for one or two. I can't wait to use it. And yes, that's another one of my small pleasures, making a cup of tea and enjoying it in a fancy teapot and cup set!

The best thing about their teapots is the price! They are affordable for good quality high end, teapots. And yes I already have my eyes on my second little teapot. It's the cutest little thing! Don't you agree? Those Cherry Blossoms are just too cute! And don't be surprised if you see this teapot featured with my bracelet collection also. By the way, the pictures of these teapots make them larger than what they truly are, little miniature teapots for two.

So there you have it. This past Saturday, at Teavana I discovered a new tea that I can't stop drinking and a teapot that I just have to have. These are the things that help to keep me sane in the chaotic world of AIDS and pushing forward with my work and ministry in spite of my health. This is just one of my small pleasures!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Reflection: That's The Way Life Is!

Each Monday I try my best to give you something to help you think, to grow, to do better, to encourage, but at 2:00 in the afternoon I still have nothing. I'm empty and find myself in need of encouragement.

It's like time after time it seems like life will not get better, then from nowhere things start to change for the good, to all of a sudden take a turn all the way into left field.

And unexpected blows hit hard. For Real. Like someone coming from behind and hitting you upside the head with a two-by-four. Yep, that's the way life is and I try my darndest to keep it moving as best as I can. I never stop, I never surrender, I never crumble, and I take all of my hits standing.

But I've been hit with a few unexpected things, nothing that can't be handled, but certainly time consuming and financially consuming. But then that's the way life is, huh? Keep on living Grandmama would say. Just keep on living.

But then, when I also get hit with AIDS at the same time as other stuff, it takes time to wrap my head and heart around it emotionally. I finished IV last Tuesday and I was one happy camper. But by Friday I suspected that I was at the beginning of another herpes infection. Huh? My doctor and I thought that was impossible. So for the last week, I've been waiting it out, praying and keeping my fingers and toes crossed. But yesterday, it was very clear I had a problem.

I've had a lot of ongoing issues that we think may be connected to my herpes that have gone on for about five months now. Primarily some odd swelling and irritation of my vulva even when I'm not in the middle of a herpes infection. So now it's time to figure it all out. Next week it's two doctor's appointments, cultures and bioscopy.

In the meantime I'm so sore and in pain yet again. I have a lot of work do to this week. I have to get my new bracelet designs for RLT Collection on the website and will also be on the road speaking. And as usual, I will keep it moving. But then that's the way life is.

Keep me in your prayers as I go through this next round of tests to determine what's going on, and also for my endurance as I manage all that must be done. I just can't let AIDS take everything I've got and that's just the way my life is living with AIDS.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tea With Rae: Tea Fit For The White House

Jacqueline Kennedy was known for her grace and style, and during her husband's presidency, the White House was in full bloom. They entertained with style and grace, but the President never forgot his roots.

He was a Bostonian through and through. So it was no real surprise to learn that the tea chosen for this White House came from the Boston Tea Company, one of the oldest tea houses in the United States, established in 1773. The word is, after the Boston Tea Party dumped tea into the Boston Harbor declaring their independence from Great Britain, the owners of the Boston Tea Company salvaged all the chests of tea they could. Now that's dedication. For Real.

The Boston Tea Company has tea for everyone. Honestly, I was even a bit overwhelmed. They have two premium tea brands, Boston Tea and Bentley's Tea, and they have 37 loose teas right along side of their fair trade teas. There was so much to indulge myself I didn't know where to begin.

But just like a Diva, I decided to start with President and First Lady Kennedy's' choices of teas. There were two teas that were popular in the White House and honestly, I put them to the test. The black tea connoisseur that I am began with a bit of skepticism.

First on board was the Mint-in-Tea. Lately, if you recall, I have been drinking a lot of mint tea for my ongoing tummy problem. And mint tea also hits it out of the ball park for congestion and scratchy throat. I almost always have a cup while I'm doing a radio interview to keep my voice clear.

But the mint tea that I typically drink is herbal, which is basically dried mint leaves. Sometimes, however, I want a little caffeine in my mint tea to the point that I have even tried blending it myself. But it was an #epicfail. I gotta tell you, this Mint-in-Tea is perfect! They took their signature Orange Pekoe tea and blended it with Kentucky mint to render an excellent cup of black tea with mint. WOW!! I feel like I have hit the jackpot with this black/mint tea blend. I can stop mixing in my kitchen. Especially since mixing tea is certainly an art that I do not know.

Next, I put Boston Tea Party's Tropic Oranges and Exotic Spices to the test. Now over the years I have had some awful blends of the traditional "Orange Pekoe" teas to the point where I always pass on them while I'm out and I certainly don't buy them. Even when this tea arrived I was a bit of a snob, I told my girlfriend Audrey that "I don't expect much." Yep, I'm coming clean. Just because a company sends me tea don't always mean that I will like it. But boy, didn't Boston Tea Company prove me wrong.

This is a perfect blend of black tea, oranges and spices. Now the spices gives it a chai undertone but the oranges add just enough sweetness to give it balance. This is great, especially for me, because I'm not a big lover of spices in my tea. I have been sipping on this tea at least every other day since it arrived.

Overall, I think the Kennedy's made some wonderful choices when it came to tea. I can now say that I also enjoy the same teas that were a favorite in the White House. I LOVED both of these teas and they are now a staple in my tea cabinet!

Both come in tea bags yet I have found them to be extremely fresh. I have also been drinking their English and Irish Breakfast every morning for the last month. I alternate, choosing the Irish Breakfast when I want a real morning pick me up. I love their black teas and you know I feature their black Ginger, Peach & Apricot tea in my How To Brew The Perfect Cup of Tea video.

Overall, I like the Boston Tea Company and what they have to offer!! Another winner that I am happy to include in my Tea With Rae project! Check them out, you will not be disappointed!

RAFFLE!! Enter to win the Boston Tea Company's Mint-in-Tea and Tropic Oranges and Exotic Spices.

To Enter The Raffle:
1. Follow the Boston Tea Company on Twitter.
2. Like them on Facebook.
3. Make a comment on this blog about this post.
4. View and make a comment on my video- How To Brew The Perfect Cup of Tea.

And you all know you must like my Facebook fan page and have to be following me on Twitter to enter in any of my raffles. Good luck... I'm naming the winner in two weeks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Reflection: Make the Damn Pie Already!

So many of us are waiting on the pie to fall right out of the sky into our living room and change our lives. Yep, I know this because millions play the lotto every year.

Now don't get me wrong, ain't nothing wrong with free money. But I know for sure that I'll probably never win. Why? Well, I don't play the lotto.

But the lotto is not my topic today, it's just my validation for my pie in the sky theory. We want our lives to be changed but we only want to do minimum work. Sadly, one dollar for a million dollars is about all we are willing to invest in our dream. But in the real world, if you only invest one dollar in your dream, you are going to yield a dollar's worth of dream. The Bible says, "What a person sows, that shall they also reap," and it's true.

God has planted so much good stuff in your spirit and many of us are just waiting on it to happen. And while we are waiting, we are complaining that it hasn't happened, but have done nothing to help make it happen.

Some of you have gifts and talents beyond belief. Others have had a vision - dream that thing God has planted in your spirit that you cant shake. What ever you want to call it, you've had it for years but yet you're just sitting around talking about that thang and waiting on it to happen.

But, umm, God woke me up at 5:30 this morning to write this blog and tell you that talk is cheap. All these sayings: God helps those, who helps themselves; You take one step, He will take two, are true to the tenth power. What I know for sure is this, nothing will happen if you do nothing. In the era of Gold Card Christianity, name it and claim it, we have become misguided. 

Lets go back to the pie that you've been waiting on to drop out of the sky. I have no idea how to bake a pie but I know that God has provided me with all the resources I need to make it happen. At the top of the pyramid, God has given me desire. In my heart is a yearning for this pie; I believe the pie is the dessert I should be having. Why? Because it stays in my spirit longer than any cake has ever stayed. And I know it's right because the pie will add value to my life and the life of others.

I pause here because some of you have desires for things that destroy the mind, body and spirit of not just your life, but those who interact with you. That is not of God. All things from God are good and perfect; that is how you will know if your yearning comes from God.

So I set out to bake my pie instead of complaining about not having it. God provides all the resources you need. There are literally hundreds of pie recipes that I can choose from. Then all the ingredients are found in hundreds of stores across this country. Today, you can even have Pea Pod deliver the ingredients to you. 

Ok... Ok... I hear you, you don't have the money. Well how about buying one ingredient a month. Start with the least expensive and the nonperishable items, most of those last for a couple of years. And then when you have almost everything you need to whip that pie up, buy the perishable ingredients.

Well, and then there's practice. I remember the first time I made a chocolate cake, umm I didn't even wait to eat it. I could have given up after I tasted that rubber, but instead, I kept trying different recipes until I got it right, and now I make one heck of a chocolate cake.

It's not Paula Deen's but it's mine. I can't get stuck on the fact that Paula's chocolate cake looks prettier than mine. If I let my jealousy lead, it may blind me and I wont be able to see the goodness in my own cake. Oprah said in her Master Class, "When you spend time looking behind at the other people in the race, it slows you down." Now that was truth to the tenth power.

Paula and her two son!
And by the way, one of the reasons I love Paula Deen so much is because when she found herself divorced with two small children and one skill, cooking, she sold bag lunches with no shame and for many years she was known as the bag lady in Savannah.

You have to start somewhere. You can't let fear of failure and what people might say interfere with your dreams. She took chances that women in her era didn't take. Now her brand has grown. Yes, God has blessed her, but she put in the work. She spent hours laboring in her first restaurant. She was turned down by banks, but she kept it moving. She did what she had to to make it happen. Her success is because of hard work. Things will fall into place if you are moving in the right direction. Success comes when opportunity meets preparation.

Oprah said, "Intention is everything." This is true, nothing will happen if you do nothing. I started taking care of myself when I was 17, October of my senior year of high school. Homeless, I have never been unemployed longer than a week. In the old days, if I lost a job one day, I was looking the next day. I remember once I put on 3 inch heels, a suit and makeup and walked Water Tower Place mall and completed applications at all the retail stores in one day. And on my last stop at the end of the day, tired, hungry and hurting feet, I was hired at Paul Harris clothing store.

You have got to be willing to put in the work. This current slant of "Favor" on religion has made us believe that success will happen because we say it will happen. This is not how the real world works nor is it how God works. Even when Jesus fed the 5000, He had a starting point. First, He sent the disciples among the people to gather all the food they could find. They worked!!! When they returned with the two fish and five loaves of bread, Jesus then divided that which He had to feed the people.

Me in May Issue of Woman's Day
Stop complaining about how hard your freaking life is. It's hard for everyone. I work 10-12 hour days with AIDS to make it happen over here. Speaking, blogging, tweeting, tweet-ups, Facebooking, interviews, radio, tv, cable, whatever comes my way.

I do it when I'm on IV medication and when I'm not. I did that photo shoot for Woman's Day magazine (May issue) with pneumonia. I had NO idea that I would lead the article. What if I had canceled. They would have used a small PR picture of me and that would have been it.

My gift is telling my story and I tell it as often as I can, to help enrich the lives of others. And I use every vehicle I can to make it happen.

Brooke from BET Harlem Heights Wearing RLT Collection
You have got to put in the time. You have got to invest in yourself if you want to grow. I've been speaking lately, and once bills are paid, instead of shopping I have reinvested my money into my bracelet line, RLT Collection.

I love designing bracelets, but this is not a hobby. Before I die, I want to be known as a bracelet designer. I want women and men to want to wear my bracelets. If I don't have product, then I cannot grow.

I spend hours at the bead board working through my designs. Then, I actually make the bracelets and take my own pictures, then I put them on the website which is very time consuming. And everything ain't gonna go your way all the time. Case in point, when I first started RLT Collection two and a half years ago, a good friend, who is a photographer, took all my pictures. But recently he said he couldn't do any more free pictures. I didn't have money to pay him so I'm taking pictures. I do what I must to grow.

You have got to be willing to take chances. I will say it again: fear of failure and what people will say should have no room in your space. But for sure, if you do nothing, nothing will happen. I still have friends who have NEVER purchased a bracelet from me. And my profit return has been slow. But I'm plugging away at it and in recent months I can see some small growth.

When Oprah began she started with no audience in the studio on a cold Chicago day with a bad Gerri Curl. When she went into syndication she decided not to get a paycheck from ABC but to own her name. Some people would have never done it. NEVER! No paycheck, are you kidding? That was risk taking at it's best. She said, "I decided to bet on myself. In the end, it was the best bet I ever made!"

Talk is cheap. You have to do the work and put in the time! Success is Opportunity Meeting Preparation! You gotta have all the ingredients before you can bake the pie. Get off your darn sofa and do what you must to make the damn pie already! God's got your back... But you must move forward first. God can't bless nothing that ain't happening.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fashion/Beauty Tuesday: Beauty With A Cause!

I love Law and Order SVU and that Mariska Hargitay brings the complex character of Olivia Benson to life. On the show, she was a child conceived in rape who grew up with an alcoholic mother trying to cope with raising that child as a result of rape. A lofty task on her mother's part. But during that period, women had no choice. They had no right to choose. A baby made out of love or rape was a baby had.

Her character went to new heights when she became a victim of rape on an undercover sting in prison. I love her character. This season she told a rapist after his capture, "You're my bitch now!" My Twitter timeline was trending SVU that night. SVU clearly helps us to understand rape and abuse in a way that we never had.

But I believe that one of Mariska's greatest roles is as founder of A Joyful Heart Foundation, a foundation committed to healing the mind, body and spirit of sexual assault victims. The great thing about this foundation is that they support survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence. I am impressed with the work that Joyful Heart does. Read their story here.

As an adult survivor of both childhood sexual assault and abuse and rape, I wish there had been a Joyful Heart Foundation when I was a child, or even when I was raped when I was a young adult.

Sexual assault is real!
  • One in three women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.

  • Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted.

  • Nearly four children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect. And up to ten million children witness domestic violence each year.
And when I saw this bath product from Philosophy that supports A Joyful Heart Foundation, I had to share it with you. 100% of the net proceeds go to the foundation. This scent is floral and feminine and I love it! But most important, it's a great cause and one way to show your support for victims of sexual assault and child abuse. It comes in both a lotion and shower gel and I plan to buy them both. Yes, both! When you layer the same shower gel and lotion you increase the longevity of the scent. Check it out here.

Purchasing Joyful Heart is one clear way to show your support for such a great cause! Another way is to join me this Friday by wearing dark blue to show your support for survivors of child abuse. The following Friday, April 15th, we'll wear teal to show support for survivors of sexual assault. Then we'll alternate Fridays wearing dark blue on April 22nd, and teal on April 29th. Tweet and/or Facebook me photos of you wearing these colors. I'm creating an album to go on my Facebook page.  


Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Reflection: Never Suffer in Silence...

One early morning Mama woke me out of my sleep. I thought I was dreaming at first, "Rae, Rae, get yo ass up and find my brush." I looked over at the clock, it was 5:00 a.m. I took a deep breath and started to crawl out of the bed. "Bitch, didn't you hear me? Get yo ass up and find my brush."

I walked into Mama's room, "Huh, Mama?" I whispered. "Find my brush. I know yo ass had it!" She demanded. Without a single word, I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and I started searching for Mama's hair brush. I knew if I couldn't find it or didn't find it fast enough this could mean a beating. The pit of my stomach tightened. I was methodical in my looking. I knew I had to find it and fast.

This was no time for emotion; I had to keep a clear head or that was my ass. I searched and searched but no brush. "Bitch, what's takin you so long?" Mama hollered. "Mama, I don't see it," I pleaded. "Maybe it's in your purse," I suggested. "Bitch! I looked in my purse! Find my motherfuckin brush!" She screamed.

I took a deep breath and made my way to the dresser where she was standing. I started looking through her top dresser drawers. Before I knew it, I could feel the cold water from her glass in my face. "Bitch, find my motherfuckin brush." My warm tears met the cold water. I knew what would be next. But I had looked everywhere. I had no idea where her brush was. I had searched every inch of the house.

She must have overlooked it in her purse, I thought. "Mama, did you look in your purse?" I mumbled. "Bitch, it ain't in there," was her response. I was truly at a loss. I had searched our apartment high and low. I knew the outcome of this was not going to be good. The only thing I could come up with was that she must have overlooked it in her purse.

So I had to go ahead and defy her and look for myself. If I didn't find it, I was gonna get a beating and if I looked in her purse I was gonna get a beating, so I had to do what I had to do. At 13 I had figured out most of Mama's moves. When I should have been playing with Barbies, instead I had become an expert at survival.

I picked up Mama's purse. "Bitch, I told you it wasn't in my purse!" I ignored her and kept looking. Slowly, I pulled the brush out of the purse. I handed it to her. She stood there with her hands on her hips. "Oh, I thought you had it." And then she turned away and finished dressing for work. I went back to bed and cried silent tears.

Fourth Presbyterian  Church-Chicago 
A couple hours later, I got up and dressed for school. That's what I did everyday. I suffered through the abuse and I kept it moving. I never seemed to miss a beat. From the outside looking in I was a well kept child in a working class family. All appeared well and right with the world.

Yes, I was well kept, but the abuse in my house outweighed any meal that I could have ever been fed. Looking back, I wonder how I did it year after year. Suffering through the silence of my abuse and I didn't lose my mind. Nor did I turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape. I just kept on going.

But the truth of the matter, in my house we were told to NEVER talk about family business. What happened in our house stayed in our house. To break the code of silence could render you the worst beating ever. And any beating that was talked about was sanctioned under the concept that "whippings" were OK. Whipping helped to maintain control. It is the sick Slave-master method of control that was carried down in Black families from slavery, year to year. But in many cases, there was a thin line between abuse and discipline and many of our families crossed that line in the name of discipline.

Other then staying out of Mama's way, where I spent hours in my bedroom reading, my escape from this abuse was church. That was my refuge. Church for me was an escape and a safe place. No one called me out of my name, and it provided me a place away from Mama. She was extremely strict, however she never interfered with church, even though she didn't go herself.

But even at church I didn't tell. I kept the secret. Many years later after I started speaking publicly about my life, my former pastor's wife asked if she had failed me. I was coming to church every Sunday, staying most days until they locked the doors and she had no idea that I was an abused child. I told her no because it was a safe place, without judgement. Even though I was super hyper, no one ever told me to sit my fast ass down or talked about me, they just provided activities that would channel my hyper-activeness productively.

In the Black family, there is some code of honor about silence, some glory in discipline. We are quick to tell our children, Ima beat yo ass. But at the end of the day, how does a child grow without being damaged and bitter. I loved my Mama, but I didn't like her until the day she died.

I grew up confused and feeling rejected and that all fostered low self-esteem. I had to learn what was healthy and normal. But by the time I had done so, it had already caused so much damage to me and led to my HIV status. I was always looking for love. Yes, choosy, looking for the best, brightest, and richest I could find, but that didn't exempt me from AIDS.

Now that I have gone public with it ALL there is no turning back for me. I get a lot of criticism for my provocative, transparent and, some would even say vulgar, honesty about life, dating and sex.

But I lived in silence for years as an abused child and that silence led to my silence around my HIV status as a secret for years. Now I will never suffer in silence again. NEVER!! I don't quite care how you feel about my approach. I don't keep family secrets that hurt! I will not lie because you cannot handle the truth. I will never suffer in silence again.

Post Script: April is both Child Abuse Awareness and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I will be giving you insight into my life. I will be talking about rape and childhood abuse in my own life. The damage childhood abuse (emotional, physical, sexual) as well as sexual assault have had on my life. I hope my transparency will give you insights on how I have coped with it all and how I have been able to see resilience on the other side of abuse.

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