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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Reflection: Embrace Your Season

For everyone there is a season: A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time to live and a time to die. A time to root-up and a time to plant. A time to keep and a time to throw away. I need not go on, you all know this Bible scripture. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, it's one of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible.

At 49 years old I have come to understand that the truths in this text will surely come to pass and acceptance is half the ball game. Not only that, with acceptance comes so much more joy. And when we fight what should come to pass, we create chaos and problems for ourselves. Like yesterday, my friend and confidant, Markeeda and I had plans to hit the Mag Mile and check out the shops. Of course we did. Any good hostess would take her out of town guest to Chicago's premiere shopping area and any Diva would want to go.

But as the morning progressed into the afternoon and the afternoon into the evening and the evening into the night it became clear to us that what was planned was not supposed to come to pass.

I mean every time we looked out the window and believed the rain was going to pass and our plans would be put into action it started to pour like the sky was mad at the earth. I mean really! There wasn't a sprinkle to be found just a constant pour. And when it finally stopped raining and the sun came out there wasn't a store open if our life depended on it.

As we surrendered into the calm of our day something magical happened. A friendship blossomed into something beautiful. And that would have never happened if we had forced the plans that we had for ourselves rather than accept the season that God placed before us.

Think about it, we probably would have spent most of our time complaining about the rain, frustrated that when we were ready to leave one store we were stuck. And for sure, one of those unexpected, nowhere pours would have caught us.

At the end of the day we would have found ourselves wet and our spirits dampened. Yep, if we had fought it, we would have missed those special moments of laughter, those beautiful moments of silence, those profound discussions and those expressions of love that came in the form of a meal, a cup of tea and a cupcake. And equally as important, we would have missed out on a day of peace and tranquility that was needed for both of us.

But I think it's like this in all areas of our lives. Our failure to embrace the season that we are in leaves us unfulfilled and even broken in some cases. We spend so much time fighting the right now, we not only miss what God has for us next, we miss the goodness in the right now. We are so blinded by our own desires, we miss the blessing that God has crafted especially for us out of the current situation. We want the season to change before it's time. But it's true, April showers bring May flowers. Without the rain, there would be a drought and we would wither. There is goodness in every season that God created.

This is true from dating to our jobs. We stay in relationships far longer than we should. We try to make relationships work that died long ago. I mean we kill it over and over again trying to keep it alive. And in the process we kill a part of our spirit that cannot be regained. And we miss the blessing stuck in the madness.

On the one hand, we don't give our seasons a chance and on the other, we try to hang on to the summer when it is clearly winter. Like with jobs, instead of putting the time in looking for what's next, we stay until our ass is kicked and our spirit is broken and we find ourselves fighting to hold on until we can find what's next. Sometimes it's so bad coming to work makes you sick, you want to kick someone's ass every day and you are over it long before the clock strikes lunch.

But it could have been avoided when God spoke to your spirit and said it's time to move to what's next, or God is talking to you in so many ways, you need to stay still. We reject the season before us for the season we want.

For me, I'm learning to accept the seasons of my life. To embrace the beauty and blessing that lies within. For there is something wonderful in every single season. Even in friendships there are seasons and God knows what you need. Joy and even peace will come when you can truly become content in whatever season you find yourself in.

Like the Apostle Paul: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  (Phi 4-11-12)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Trusting Could Be Deadly...

I didn't think anyone could shock my ass. I mean I'm the shock queen. But the other day, I was like are you kidding me? But now that I think about it, I should have remembered everything that I always knew to be true. But I have to admit that I had even bought into the madness. Looking back, I wonder why? Was it wishful thinking on my part? Was I just willing to give someone a chance, the benefit of the doubt?

Well, whatever the case, I was crudely reminded that the only person in the 21st century you can give the benefit of the doubt is yourself. I mean with sexually transmitted diseases lurking every doggone where, giving someone a chance is risk taking at its best. And in the end, could be a deadly. Putting your faith in man, rather than what you know to be true is a grave mistake, and could cost more than you are willing to pay.

So let me tell you what happened, I was having a conversation with a girl friend and every now and then I would mention her Sweetie. For some reason his name had escaped me, but every time I said your Sweetie she responded. And this guy was a Sweetie. I mean everything a woman could ask for. Tall, dark and handsome with a heart of gold. He was the perfect gentleman all the time. And did I say the man was educated and very gainfully employed?

I was so happy for her, she could not have done any better. I mean didn't everyone deserve a man like this? He has this beautiful smile and this swag that was part GQ and Afro-centric all wrapped into one. As she and I were talking, I finally asked, "So how is the commuting working out?" He had moved out of town about a year ago and they had started commuting their already 3 year relationship.

She paused and then said, "Girl you talking about Tyrone?" She added, "Girl we haven't been together in a year." I stopped in my tracks. HUH? FOR REAL? WOW! But they were a great duo, like Oreo Cookies and a nice glass of ice cold milk.

I stood in shock. She began talking again. "Girl he's engaged to be married. He got engaged a few months after he moved." I started doing the math in my head. Had he been dating this woman all along? Huh? Did he move there to be with her? I had to sit down on this one.

I was in complete and utter shock. Come to find out the woman he was engaged to is the same woman he was having an affair with when he was married. HUH? I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. My mouth dropped open. She went on, "Girl that ain't the half of it." And she told me more and more about other women coming out of the woodwork.

My head was spinning. I was speechless for a long time, just listening. I finally mumbled, "You were using condoms?" She hesitated, "Yeah, ummm some of the times." And then she added, "Well, in the end I was all the time because something seemed off."

I wanted to say so much more, but I just couldn't. Can't undo what's been done. So I ended the conversation with, "So how do you feel about all of this, I mean not using a condom, trusting him?" She said, "Well, I'm not having sex now. I'm ok being alone."

She hadn't really answered my question. I dropped it. No need pouring salt into an open wound. I was sad that this had happened to her. I have known her since forever and she is like a little sister to me. But we all have to make our own decisions about our own life and the consequences are no joking matter.

Trusting could be deadly. This situation speaks to everything I have been saying since forever: I hope that what you think you know about your partner is true.

But I see this all the time. Women insist on condoms in the beginning. But once the relationship has some time behind it and it seems to be progressing, we let our guard down. Maybe we believe we are building a relationship on trust.

And then you ask, well how much time is enough time before you let your guard down? I mean, we say to ourselves, we have been dating for a year or two and in her case three.

My answer to this is a matter of fact, if you are dating a man for 2 to 3 years and marriage is not on the table, then you are wasting your pretty. You are giving him the best of you with very little in return. And don't insult me by saying you're not ready for marriage. Bullshit! No one wants to date for the rest of their life. And if you ain't talking seriously about marriage, then it's not serious enough to have sex without a condom.

The bottom line is this... Condoms until you get married!! Bottom freaking line! And I promise to write a blog soon about marriage and condoms. I have something to say there too.

We spend a lot of time living in a whole lot of arrogance, denial and false sense of security. For Real! What do I have to do or say to get you to see if the penis ain't in your pocket you have NO idea what it's doing when it ain't with you.

STOP!!! STOP!! Putting your life at risk for a dick!! There is NO penis worth your life. If a man respects and values you, he will agree to use a condom upon your request.

And if a man doesn't respect your decision, your choice about your body and life to use a condom, then why would you even give your body to such a man?

And btw.. This friend has been around me since forever, she has seen me so sick that I cannot hold my body up. What is this? We think it can't happen to us... until it happens to us... That's some crazy ass risktaking. Why is the need to have a man more important than loving yourself!

Damn... When you set a standard and live by it, God will send you someone who will love you and the values you bring. It begins with self-love and trickles down... What I know for sure is... The only thing you can trust for sure is God and you. Otherwise... Trusting Could Be Deadly!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Was Worshiping The Wrong God!

One of God's Commandments is, "Thy Shall Have No Other God Before Me." It's a powerful commandment and for a long period in my life I was out of sync. For Real. No, I didn't do it deliberately, I was so messed up in my thinking, I didn't even realize it.

You see it started a long time ago when I was a little girl. Mama, cussed and fussed and beat and I never really felt loved. But when I was in about the 5th grade, Mama started bringing me bags of clothes home on payday Fridays. I could always expect a new outfit, sometimes even 2 or 3. In 7th grade when my friends were wearing jeans and t-shirts to school, I was wearing pantsuits with long maxi coats. (It was the 70's might I add.) That's why I'm not a big fan of jeans today; they were not a big part of my childhood.

No matter how much I asked, Mama always came through. I realized that this was the one way I could have my way with Mama. So I asked and asked and she gave and gave. I remember when leather maxi coats were popular. I was a freshman in high school, Mama came through. I was the only one in my group with one and I was some kinda proud.

It was a very unhealthy relationship. Like she took me shopping for my 8th grade graduation and got me everything I asked for, but she didn't come to see me walk across that stage. So I began to equate clothes with love. I measured my mothers love by the amount of clothes I had in my closet. And I carried that sickness into adulthood.

The more money I made, the more things I bought. I had been wearing St. John since way before it was the craze, but by the time it was the SHIT I had more St. John Knits than any one person who is not independently wealthy should have. I mean I had every kinda St. John you could imagine. In my heyday, if my memory serves me, I had well over 80 SJK jackets, not even counting slacks, skirts and camisoles. Then, of course, I had to have shoes and handbags to match everything. I mean it was sick.

For Real! Some people buy to dress up the outside to hide the hurt and ugly on the inside. But no matter how cute you are on the outside, it will take more than clothes to change the ugly on the inside.

But for me, I thought the sharper I dressed the more people would love me. Shoot, maybe there was a part of me that believed the clothes would love me too. The clothes became my validation and I began to love them more than myself. Clothes became my God.

But then I started to notice that once I was home away from the limelights there was an emptiness, a void. And nothing in my closest could fill that hole in my heart. So the lonelier I was, the more I shopped. I would stay out of the empty house, shopping. I shopped not just for me but I shopped for all the people in my life, thinking they would love me forever because I was the best gift giver on the planet. And the sickness grew like a cancerous tumor.

8 years old St. John Jacket I wore 3 weeks ago
Then I started working with a new therapist about 7 years ago. And he made me face my reality. Clothes couldn't love me back, nor would it make not one damn somebody love me. It was a hard journey. Knowing better and doing better are two totally different things. I remember the day he told me to find one handbag from my closet that I would be willing to part with. I grabbed the smallest Gucci I could find. It was hard!!

OMG! It was hard. But then life began to make it simple. The bottom dropped out of my finances. Speaking engagements dried up, I lost my book deal with Hyperion, and there were days I found myself with no food in my refrigerator.

So out of just plain old necessity I started selling my fancy clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry. Before I moved from my fancy 3 bedroom apartment I had turned my house into a store. I eventually sold all of my furniture and moved into a studio. When it was close to the move date I gave over 50 garbage bags of clothes away.

St. John Sale My House!
It needed to be done and I thought that downsizing had solved my financial problem. But it hadn't, my finances went from bad to worse and I found myself for almost the last 3 years living, umm I really don't know how I lived other than the grace of God.

But I can tell you, what I thought about my clothes meant nothing in the face of homelessness. So I sold and sold and sold some more. When my laptop died last summer I sold 3 Chanel handbags for $500 each to get my Mac Book. These handbags were $1500-$2000 each. But it had to be done! The first half of this year I was at an all time record low. I hadn't been this broke since I was 17 and first put out on my own.

But now, things are sort of picking up. My speaking engagements are starting to book more and my bracelet business is doing good. If I get a couple sales a week that helps to keep food on the table. But even as things start to turn around for me, I will never return to that place of yesteryear.

Now I'm at a place where I'm even letting more and more go. Right now there are three garbage bags of clothes waiting to go to Dress for Success in my hall. And a young woman I've been sowing onto since she was 10 left my house today with about 12 pairs of new shoes, Gucci, and on and on, and 2 garbage bags of clothes. And thanks be to God, she wrote me a check. She says there is no place on the planet, other than my closet, where she can get what she got for the price of two pairs of shoes in that bag. She sees this as one way of helping me because I've been giving her clothes since she was 10. And it is. Some people just take and take and never give back.

Wearing 7 year old SJK a month ago
What I know for sure is that I will never return to that place when my value was misplaced. No, I will never stop looking Fab... Nor will my taste in clothes change, that's just a part of who I am. But I will never return to that place.

Nothing comes into my space without something going out. If I see some new earrings I want, I find something in my jewelry box that I never wear and I trade them in or sell them first.

And you know what? In the end, I discovered that I look just as fab in the old St. John Knits in my closet as I do with all the new St. John I just had to have years ago. And all that gift giving, well it stopped because I couldn't keep it up and in the end, I learned who was true and who was just hanging around for a wonderful gift.

But I believe the most important thing in this journey was learning to love myself. And loving me put me in a place to receive real love in my life. People who will love me whether I'm naked or clothed. When you know what love is, you can receive love and give love.

And Mama, I realize now, this was all she knew how to do. It was her brand of love and it was all I knew... And I thought because I knew it, it was right. But it was faulty thinking. Thank God I learned what love is in my lifetime. And now that I've evicted clothes from my heart, it all belongs to God.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah and Me: A Retrospective!

I remember when I first started to speak, people kept asking me, "Girl when you gonna be on the Oprah Show?" It seemed like Oprah was the end all to end all. I mean people would say to me, "Girl, when you do the Oprah Show you've arrived." And for a moment, I had a lapse in judgement and started to buy into the madness.

By the time the Oprah Show called, I had already been on the cover of three magazines and had received the coveted Emmy Award and Nightline had done a Friday night special on me entitled "Rae's Story." So it wasn't as if God hadn't opened doors for me. That was evident. But because of the greatness and popularity of Oprah, my accomplishments in the eyes of others didn't seem to match up to being on the Oprah Show.

I remember that day the Oprah Show called as if it was yesterday. I spoke with a producer who asked if I would I do a show called "Scared Straight Out of Having Sex." The title threw me for a loop and I got real quite as she explained that they wanted me to allow some teenagers, who were having "unprotected sex," spend the day with me and I was supposed to scare them straight out of not having sex. Huh? That didn't feel right, it felt tabloid-like and I don't do tabloid. If this had been any other show, I would have turned them down five minutes into the conversation. But this was Oprah... The big time!

The producer sensed my hesitation, so in a series of conversations over the course of the day, she pitched and pitched and pitched. Finally I gave in. Maybe I could do some good, I started to believe. But it still didn't feel right. These girls were to spend the day with me and that was supposed to scare them straight.. Hummm.. But I looked great and had a breakneck schedule, not bedridden. And my life didn't meet any of the stereotypes of people living with AIDS at the time. So I was even doubtful that they could even achieve such a thing with me. But I agreed, because this was the Oprah Show.

But about 9 pm that evening, a junior producer from the show called and asked me to pull some pictures of myself when I was a teenager having unprotected sex. That was a big RED flag. And I called her on it and she couldn't spin it well. I went to sleep with a heavy heart and a prayer for the Lord to give me clarity. That morning I woke and called the senior producer and she spent about an hour stepping out of the pile of shit the junior producer had made.

I agreed again, but was way uneasy. So I had a neutral person, a friend of mine in the business call on my behalf. I said to Phil, "This is what I'm hearing, tell me what you are hearing." When he called back an hour later he said me, "Rae, this show is actually what you think it is, borderline tabloid." He went on to say, "I've heard you say over and over that the most important thing to you is ministry. Now you must decide, ministry or Oprah."

It was one of the hardest decisions that I ever made in my career, but an hour before Oprah's people were to meet me at the clinic to shoot footage, I cancelled. Lawd! Lawd! I had cancelled the Oprah Show, For Real, and they were some kinda hot with me. But I felt that this particular show didn't give me space to do ministry.

And I was told by people in the industry that I would probably not get asked again. Then a few months later they came calling yet again. And I told the producer to give me her best pitch in writing. I needed some distance because the producers are good at what they do, getting you to say yes.

And for the second time I had turned the Oprah Show down. I was sure that I wouldn't get asked again. But I felt as if I could live with that. Because for me, my ministry is more important then fame. And looking back today, Oprah confirmed everything I believe! She said on the show today, "It's not about fame, but about service." Those first shows that were presented to me gave me the opportunity for fame, but not for service.

I've got to be honest, I've had a bumpy road with Oprah Winfrey and her organizations. The magazine feature on me is a whole other topic for another day.

But I must also admit that I am so very honored today. Out of all the clips that The Oprah Show could have used in this final show they choose a clip of me from the show that I actually agreed to.

Yep, a year later they called again. And this producer, Lisa Minor, had a totally different approach. An African-American woman herself, she had been following my ministry and she understood what is was that I do. So I agreed to appear on this show, talking about long term survivors living with AIDS.

Oprah is a giant there is no doubt. And at the beginning of this year, people kept saying to me, "Boy wouldn't it be great for Oprah to have you on her show this last season." And it would have been nice I thought. I mean the show that I did was about long term survivors with AIDS, of which I was at the time. And now I've lived 14 years longer than that show.

That's not the kind of person that I am and I just couldn't. But the producer at Oprah never returned my calls or emails. But I was confident that I had done the right thing. How you treat people is important and I treat people how I want to be treated. There was no way I could tell this Sista Lolly Bowean that your interview with me is not as important as Oprah.

And you know what? God honored that because what was just a feature story became a cover story for the Chicago Tribune. And the Tribune being syndicated, that story was reprinted across the US and even in Canada and it boosted my Social Media by leaps and bounds and helped to make me a serious contender in the social media world.

But you see... It's truly not about you or about fame, but about ministry, service and how you enrich the lives of others. You never have to worry about being in magazines, or on TV. If you are faithful to God's purpose for life, God will make room for your gift and open every door you are supposed to go through. That was confirmed today, I made the season finale of The Oprah Show after all.

Today, I salute Oprah for following God's purpose for her life... May she continue to work in that purpose with clarity! Because that's exactly what I will do until the day I die!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Reflection: It Ain't Over Yet....

I try so hard not to miss Monday Reflections. But today was one of those days when you are over it way before it gets started good. I mean, I was real happy to see another day, but ummm. Really? Sometimes the plate is so full you don't even know where to begin. It was one thing after another. Today, one fire or the other needed to be put out, so I spent my day dealing with everything but what I had planned. And honestly, if I had sat down earlier today, this blog would have been a bitching session. For Real... For Real...

But as I was laying in bed trying to clear my mind from the chaos of the day and drift into a deep Vicodin sleep, it occurred to me that it ain't over yet. Nope there are two more hours left in this day and that is enough time to write today's Monday Reflection.

Yep and that's how I feel about everything in life, especially life. We spend a whole lot of time bitching about this and that, and some of it is rightly so. I mean we do have to process the stuff... the shit... the chaos...

Thank God that I have some people in my life that seem to make it so much better. Like this evening, Markeeda listened to one mess after another and in between each new topic she said just the right thing and even made me laugh. So go ahead... Bitch... But it's better when you have someone you can trust to be honest, sincere and loving with their ear and ummm without a lot of stupid ass conversation and questions... just a whole lot of compassion.

But when all is said and done, it's not the end all to end all. Somehow we survive it. Don't we? And weeks, months and years later that thing that created all that chaos, that had all our attention, seems to be a distance memory. Somehow we made it through what seemed hopeless in that moment.

That's even how I feel about living. I mean after celebrating my 49th birthday yesterday, I clearly know it ain't over yet. God has blessed me with more years then the medical community said I should have. And I remember back then, I spent a whole lot of time thinking about death, which today seems so unimportant to my life... to my living. I learned death don't need any attention... when it's time comes there will be nothing to think about... So why give it energy in the living?

It's even like that for that man you thought you couldn't live without. Remember? When the relationship was over everything made you think about him. And you couldn't see how you were going to get through another day, or even how the hell you gave him so many of your days... but then a day turns into a week, then a month, then a year or two and before you know it, he becomes a distant memory. So go ahead and process the right now, so you can live in tomorrow.

It's amazing the miracles that God grants us each day. But don't get stuck in the shit... the stuff... the chaos... or even the right now of it all so that you can't step into the newness of what's next. It ain't over yet!

Post Script: Thanks to every Birthday Tweet, Facebook, Message and Gift! The outpouring of love was overwhelming. I tried my best to answer everybody... but umm, I'm so loved... Superwoman got tired...

I spent the day doing what I was supposed to, ministering. The rest of the day, I rested my tired sick body...

Keep me in your prayers. The doctor is trying desperately to keep me off IV medication, but it's not looking good. My Twitter, Facebook and Blog Family you are the bomb.com with a bag of chips and a mystic... I love you all!! Much Love!! #IcannotdoitAlone

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Rejected Stone Became The Corner Stone...

Today I turn 49 years old!! I've lived more years with HIV than not. I've lived over half of my life in public service and for sure I know that my life has been shaped by both. It's not particularly the life that I would have chosen for myself, but it is the life I have accepted gracefully and boldly. And today, I wouldn't take nothing for this journey nor where God has placed me in history.

I am acutely aware that my life is not my own. That it was shaped for God's purpose. I had no plans for HIV, abuse, or rape of my own, other than to fight for my life as hard as I could, but thanks be to God, He can create a plan out of what seems worthless and even unworthy.

Some  people live a lifetime and never know their purpose. While some run from their purpose and others shape their purpose for acceptance and validation. But I have not only embraced God's purpose for my life, but do so with only the validation of God as my only concern. For I know that if I am faithful to God, He will make room for my gifts.

As I move into the next half century of my life, I can see God taking me to the next level and I'm not only excited, I'm committed! To some my ministry is powerful, cutting edge and provocative and to others my truths are ugly, vile and some say ungodly. But my ministry was shaped out of the ugly vile and ungodly.

Once while hospitalized, I became impacted. I was in severe pain and the only solution was for the nurse to put her hand in my ass and pull the shit out. She did this over and over until it was all gone and my pain was relieved.

It was uncomfortable for both of us, but to give help and get help sometimes you must pull shit out at it's source. You must be willing to dig deep in places and spaces. You cannot help the hurt, wounded and broken if you're not willing to meet them where they are at, rather than where you want them to be. Nor can you help to save lives with lies, half-truths, misinformation and sugar coated shit. And by the way, shit stinks no matter how much perfume you put on it...

My ministry was shaped for me. It's mine!! And the gift of my life against all the odds of an AIDS death is under girded in my acceptance of God's earthly plan for my life. I'm going on record today--- I don't apologize for one thing.. Not one tweet, Facebook, blog or what I say in any speech. If it is too much for your sensibilities then maybe it wasn't for you, *shrugs* you figure it out or not. But I'm not gonna spend any time trying to make you see... Nor will I allow you to interfere with someone else's blessing cause you can't see past what you know and think you know about how God works, and who God works through and what God works through.

At 49... I'm spending this year committed to and guided by God's plan and purpose for my life. I'm walking boldly into the next half century of my life knowing my living is not in vain... God's plan for my life trumps everything and everybody! What an awesome covering to have in one's life!!!

Thank you Lord for keeping me against every earthly odd... Thank you for taking my shit and shaping, molding and making it something worthy... It's so true... With God... the rejected stone became the corner stone..

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Am Not A Whore!

I am not a whore! But it's true, I've been having sex almost as long as I've lived. I broke my virginity when I was 13, which was a decision I made based on what I thought I knew was the best decision for me. It was a totally wrong decision based on faulty information.

I am not a whore! But at 6 years of age I was raped repeatedly... And my rapists names changed over the years, but the rape remained the same... And by the time I was 9 years old it was common for me to wipe blood and semen off my 9 year old vagina.

I am not a whore! But by the time I was 18, I knew that I knew I could please a man in bed and I took some misguided pleasure out of that fact.

I am not a whore! My decision to break my virginity at 13 was connected to my rapes from ages 6-9. You see, I was taught by actions and deeds from the men in my family that this is what you do for love. This is what you do when you love someone and when you have a "special" relationship.

I am not a whore! Simply because my mother called me one to justify why she remained in a relationship with a man who was grabbing my breast. Her low self-esteem fueled my low self-esteem.

I am not a whore! As a woman I was taught by society that I  must find the right man to love and protect me... No matter how successful you are, your life is not complete without that man!

I am not a whore! I used to believe that the love of a man was the best thing since sliced bread. But then I learned that bread molds... And in the end self-love was the best love.

I am not a whore! I used to believe if I choose wisely, i.e., rich, accomplished, fine, educated, Christian, it would keep me safe. In the end, I learned that the only thing that can keep you safe is you...

I am not a whore! But I used to think sex was love.

I am not a whore! But I used to think that chemistry with a man was friendship.

I am not a whore! This was faulty thinking... based on information I convinced myself was true to justify what was untrue.

I am not a whore! I was actually 29 years old when I first understood that what I thought was "normal" behavior was not. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I said to my therapist, "I've always been this sexual person. I've been having sex since I was 6 years old." And she said, "Rae, how does a 6 year old have sex with a 20 year old?" I cried for two weeks for me... The woman who had no idea that all these years she had been raped and not just having sex.

I am not a whore! It took almost another 15 years to cry for the little girl who never knew what it was to be a little girl.

I am not a whore! But it took even more years to actually learn what healthy behavior was.

I am not a whore! But it took even more years after I learned what healthy behavior was to actually practice healthy behavior.

I am not a whore! It took a desire, years of prayer, therapy and practice to actually be healthy.

I am not a whore as I move into this second phase of my life! At 49 years of age as of this Sunday... Getting ready for my next half century, I know for sure, that I am bigger than any label society can ever give me.

I know for sure that I not only know better, I can actually do better... And I do!!

I know for sure that my life and self-worth is greater than any man. And, I prefer to be alone then to give up my self-worth ever again. For years it was taken. And then for years I gave it away... But I have it back now and no one will ever run away with my stuff again.

I am not a whore! But a wonderful child of God! Shaped in God's perfect image...

Post Script: I hope and pray that what you think you know is truth... Otherwise, faulty information will leave you wounded and broken... Don't explain it away... Don't make excuses.. Face it on it's face value... The Bible says, "The truth will set you free!" This I also know for sure...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Accept the Miracles As They Come!

Let me tell you a story... This is my reality and my truth... A month ago, when I finished up my IV treatment for my herpes infection, things were great! That Tuesday I was beat down from the treatment but other than that, things were wonderful. There was no herpes to be found.

All cleared up, I was one happy camper! I went on the road to speak at Indiana University, then to Indianapolis to spend a day of R & R with my good friend Pastor Mike. But when I woke that Friday morning I was in pain and discomfort. Are You Kidding Me?!?!? Was my first thought.

I called the doctor and she said the same thing but took it a step further. She said that it's very unlikely that I would be having a new herpes infection again so soon. In fact, she said, the IV medication cidofovir is still in your system, "No way! It must be some kind of irritation." So Mike and I had a blast and I put it out of my mind.

But sure enough, on Monday, I had an open raw sore that grew, it seemed, over night. So we, me and my doctor, made a plan. The following week I would have yet another biopsy on my clit... I couldn't do it that week because I was on the road both Tuesday and Wednesday, which are our clinic days. I went on the road and the herpes lesion grew and grew. And to make matters worse, I didn't take any pain medication because I wanted to be on top of my game speaking and traveling by myself. And I forgot the oral and topical medications to give me a tad of relief. But I kept it moving. I spoke in St. Louis, visited a wonderful tea shop to blog about and fellowshipped with a fellow blogger in pain beyond explanation. 

I arrived home late Thursday evening. That Good Friday, I could barely walk. The herpes virus was wreaking havoc on my nervous system... That's what it does and there is no pain worse than nerve pain. That shit wears you OUT! I stayed on the sofa all day and by 7:00 p.m. I was already in bed. As I tweeted throughout the day and really that week, my followers kept me lifted in prayer. But I knew that I knew that I would be back on IV that Tuesday, just a week after I had ended the four week treatment.

But then I saw a miracle before my eyes. Saturday morning it started to clear up and when I got to the doctor's on Tuesday for the biopsy, she said that it looked like healed herpes and there was no need to biopsy or go back on IV... WOW!! It was my Easter miracle and I was grateful. All I could say was that prayer changes things.

But then a week later I had another tiny sore in a new place on my vulva. I went to the doctor last Wednesday and she took three very painful cultures. But to the naked eye, it was clearly herpes. 

My doctor sat there puzzled. There is no way... No way... No way I should be having another aggressive infection just two weeks off of the IV medication. And to make the confusion worse, my T-cell count and viral load are wonderful. Why I continue to have this particular opportunistic infection is beyond anything they understand. But so is the miracle of my life. I should have died fifteen years ago with a T-cell count of 8 and three rounds of PCP, the number one infection that kills people with AIDS, but I didn't.

As I work through what's next, of course I feel like I'm at the end of the road. For Real... I'm tired... I'm tired of being in pain all the time... I'm tired of being reminded by AIDS that I made choices that have left me jacked up... I'm tired of IV treatments and creams and drops and doctors looking, cutting and poking on my vulva. I'm tired. And I wonder if any man will look past my physical and see any worth in me. No one wants to be alone for the rest of their life. 

But like I told the graduates at Northeastern Illinois University on Saturday, there are consequences for every choice you make in life. All I can do is be a woman and except the choices I made about my life and body. Even though my critics have said I was "vile" for telling them that! Deep...

But anyway... Being tired does not mean I want to quit. Quite the contrary, I want all the miracles I can get in my life. I know, that I know, that God is moving in my life so I just hold on with as much Grace and dignity as I can. Even if a man never sees value in me, I'm so grateful that God can.

But at the end of the day, with a pain wreaked body, I accept the miracles as they come with gratitude. If this week it seems like my world is about to crumble, I will hold on to the miracle of  last week... It will keep me grounded and remind me that God can!

Post Script: Right now we are trying other medication with a prayer that they work. But mostly, I think my doctor is buying time because she doesn't want to put me on IV again just four weeks out. In the meantime, she is reaching out to other doctors across the country to see if anyone else has the any answers for me. Please keep me in your prayers. BTW... If I did not have HIV, I would NOT have aggressive herpes like this. AIDS is no joke... Keep yourself safe...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tea With Rae: Divinely Earl Grey!

I've always been a fan of Earl Grey Tea. Typically it's my after dinner tea because the sweet fragrance is a wonderful ending to a perfect meal. It goes well with a dessert or it can be the dessert, just depends on how decadent you want to be. The bergamot flavor is simply divine. This flower radiates a beautiful fragrance even long after the leaves are dried.

There are a few versions of how Earl Grey tea came to be, and they all originate with the British Prime Minister (1830-1834) Earl Grey. It is said that while on a mission in China the bergamot was given to Prime Minister Grey as a gift for his valor, but then there are three versions of that and no record of the Chinese ever using bergamot. So we have no real information on how Earl Grey tea actually originated but, for sure, it is a staple in British households and mine!

There are many versions of Earl Grey. I told you about the French version of adding lavender to their blend to make a rich, smooth bundle of fragrance, which by far is still my favorite. But I have to admit, I am really enjoying the California Tea House Vanilla Creme Earl Grey. Their Earl Grey is a combination of Assam, Ceylon and Nirgi black teas and the bergamot oil.

But what makes this blend extra special is that it has an extra boost that makes it taste like you added milk or cream to your tea. As many of you know, I just recently started drinking half and half in my Earl Grey because I discovered it enhances the flavor. But even without milk this Vanilla Creme blend has that delightful creamy smoothness. The California Tea House added vanilla bean and cornflower petals to achieve this taste! And achieve it they do!

Post Script: Don't forget to enter the California Tea House Tea Cup Photo Raffle. The prize is a $300 gift certificate for tea!! Here's the LINK! Good Luck!! I'm just tickled pink that they asked me to be a judge... *batts lashes.*

Tea With Rae: The Best Raffle Ever!!

Don't miss out on this wonderful raffle sponsored by the California Tea House. Ummm... It's too good to be true, but it is! I kinda wish I wasn't a judge so that I can enter, for real!

One of my Tea Partners, California Tea House, asked me to be a judge in their tea cup photo contest and I said yes. I think it's the best ever!! You could win $300 in tea gift certificates. Yep! You heard me. And it's easy to enter!! Just take out your camera and get to shooting and don't forget to submit!

Here are the 3 tea cup photo categories:
1)  Most Original Tea Cup
2)  Most Unique Use of Tea Cup
3)  Most Original Tea Cup Setting

And the picture with the most public votes in each category will also win a $100 tea gift certificate! That's a lot of wonderful tea being given away... OK Tea Lovers... Check out California Tea House and enter this wonderful raffle. And while you're at it... Check out their teas!!!

Your image will be reviewed before being published, so once you submit it to the forum, it will take up to 24 hours before your photo entry appears on the forum. Image submittals will be accepted until midnight PST on June 15, 2011. The winners will be announced within 2 weeks of the final submittal. Good luck and have fun! 

Here's the link for the raffle!!! Good Luck!!!

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