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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What I Do: Part One

I'm on the road today, speaking at Florida A and M University this evening. Traveling is hard on my body, but I do it because it's what I'm supposed to do. God has given me a gift and I dare not squander it. For the Last 20 years I've been clear, I have work to do and whatever doors God open, I will go through.

I love the young people at FAMU. In the last few years they have made it a point to include me in their student programming. They really value my work and that makes me feel great; Like I've reached somebody. The Woman's Program is having a week long event's and this one of many.

I'm honored to be featured in honest discussion, Things My Mama Never Told Me, with Dr. Julia Hare. It should be a powerful evening for the young people in attendance. If you are in the area, it's free and open to the public, please join us.

Lawd knows that I'm excited about having a speaking engagement. As I've shared before, the speakers circuit died up for me a few years ago and the chance to speak is far and few in between.  He hardest part about no speaking engagements is struggling to live. It's hard putting food on the table, when the money is far and few in between. But God always seems to work it out. It seems like when I'm at my lowest, I'll get a bracelet sale or a donation to the blog. I don't always have extra, but I never go hungry.

Me in Emerge Magazine
I say that making ends meet is the hardest, because, while I'm not speaking as much, I still do the very important work that God has called me to do. Yes, I say God called me to do. I see my work as ministry and that's my bottom line!

As many of you know, I use Social Media heavily. I turned there as away to continue the work, when the gigs slowed down. I had a message and Social Media was an open audience.

 I'm on Twitter from the time I wake, until the time I go to sleep each day, educating and challenging stereotypes and stigma around HIV/AIDS. Also, through blogging and Facebook I'm able to keep  alive HIV/AIDS and all the issues I address, such as, self-love, self-esteem, self-worth, love, family and so on.

But there are other ways I do the work. I also allow the media into my life, both print and camera. I'm an open book because I want people to get it. Get that you have choices and how you make them will impact your life. Get that you can live in spite of what you face. Get, that self-love should always be the first love.

I thought that it would be neat to feature some of the very open interviews that I've had in recent years. So I will begin with a two-part, one on one interview with seasoned political reporter, George Curry. George came to Chicago two years ago and spent the day with me.

George Curry
I've know George since I was 19 years old, working on the Jackson for President Campaign and he a reporter assigned to cover Jackson. Later, when he was Editor and Chief of Emerge Magazine, he featured me in a cover story. George has always had his pulse on important issues facing African-American's and he has made sure that the topic of HIV/AIDS sits center stage.

The interview took well over 6 hours and this is what he pulled together from the day long interview in my home; Facing AIDS!!

Facing AIDS! Part One!

Facing AIDS! Part Two!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Reflection: Just Take A Deep Breath....

Can we talk? I mean some real talk! I got a lot of freakin stuff to complain about! A lot to be mad about and a lot to fuckin give up on! That's real talk living with HIV/AIDS. Just walk ONE day in my shoes and see for yourself.

 Living with this disease is a nightmare wrapped into a pretty package, setting you up. You see, the longer you live, the harder the living. It's a gift and a curse all wrapped into one. A gift because life is always worth living, but the cost sometimes is a tad overwhelming.

I know, I know, yes I'm still here! I'm alive and doing my best each and every day. But do not be confused, ain't nothing cute about living with this freakin disease. Now, I know, I know, we want people who become infected to have hope. And I try to give it to them and some for myself, but I'm not going to lie and let my lie set anyone up for failure, thinking this is a cake walk, cause it ain't.

Yep, we should have hope for longevity and a life full with possibilities; And yes that's possible with proper treatment and care. And as I said, life is worth the living For Real.. For Real...

But as sure as my name is Rae Clara, some days I just want to list my shit and get it off my chest. Let it all hang out! Well, I sort of do that in a roundabout way in my blogs and when I speak, but truly, I've never just listed all the madness that I face living with AIDS. Yep, I could list it and the list would be long as hell, but then listing it won't change not a darn thing! Not one thing on my list will alter. It is what it is!

So instead of giving into the madness and writing this long ass list about how much I hate living with AIDS and why, I'll just take a deep breath, have a wonderful cup of tea and Keep It Moving!

Why? Because no matter what I'm facing, I have to continue to believe that life is worth living. When God wakes me up in the morning I know that I am still a part of God's earthly plan, so why not embrace what's before me no matter how jacked up it is sometimes.

 Now this is where my faith comes in. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future. I don't know how many good days I will have versus bad days, but my faith tells me to believe that thing I cannot see, will be.

In the end if I see value in living, then I will make the best out of the life I'm facing. You see, I had the chance to change the course of my history 29 years ago. I made decisions based on everything I thought I knew about life, but in the end, it proved to be wrong.

All to do now, is take a freakin deep breath and keep on living!

FYI: RLT Collection is having the best sale EVER! 50-65% markdowns... Click Here!  the website is... www.rltcollection.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Facing Shame...

Yesterday I was sitting on the bench waiting on the train and a young lady sat next to me. She had a 4 year old daughter and a 2 month old son in tote. From the moment she sat down it became awkward for me. When I looked into her face I saw what appeared to be two black eyes. My heart started to ache and I became ashamed; Ashamed for me and for her. My shame was rooted in her shame. To see a young girl facing this level of hurt made me ashamed and for once in my life I was at a lost, paralyzed by shame.

I wanted to know everything and I mean everything, how, why, what the hell? I wanted to take this young girl who I believed was between 19-23 and save her from the madness.

But instead, I let shame paralyze me. I was just lost. I wanted to say something to her, but what? I didn't want her to think I was judging her, I just wanted to know, so I could help her find a way out of whoever it was that thought it was ok to do this level of damage to a young girl.

 As I sat there I was trying to figure out how to get started. How could I develop a relationship with this young woman in such a public place in such a short time? I didn't know what to do and I was ashamed that I was taking no action. Her little girl kept looking up at me as mom mostly kept her head turned the other way.

So I started a conversation with her little girl.  I got the basics, age, name and yes she goes to school and promised me that she would go to college. Like at 4 she knows what that is. But like most young people her age, she was willing to please.

Mom would occasionally look at us and when I looked back, she would quickly turn her head. Each time I saw that eye, my heart just ached. I knew she wanted some distance because she grabbed her baby girl's hand and made her way to the front of the train car as the doors opened.

The young man standing next to me when I got off the bench and approached the train said to me, " If she was my daughter I would catch a case." I asked, "Those are black eyes aren't they?"  He said yes, and we both sighed heavily and got on the train.

Now I don't know if some man hit her or the circumstance that caused her to have two black eyes, but none of it really matters. There is no judgment, just sadness.

I wanted to do something. Something bold, but instead, I just walked to the door by the end of train car where she was sitting and I pressed my card into her hand. "Call me if you think I can ever do anything for you," I said.

She looked at me, looked at the card and said thank you. I said, "That's me on the card," so the face of the Essence cover  on my card could connect with the face looking back at her on the train. I said, "Go to my blog and my e-mail address is there too, feel free to e-mail me," and I left.

Now I really don't know the circumstances, I made a lot of assumptions in my head. I don't know if it's domestic violence or not, but I wanted her to know that she is not alone. That we both must overcome the shame so we can act.  I know many people who would  have looked at that young woman and just shook their head and kept it moving, saying, "I don't want to get involved."  But we can't expect change if we are not willing to be an agent for change. It's the right thing to do, the Christian thing to do and the village thing to do. It takes all of us to raise a village. At some point we have got to stop complaining and offer help, one girl at a time. 

I don't know if she will e-mail me. I don't know if she will come to my blog, but if she does I hope she finds hope here. I hope that she is not horrified even my this blog post, I left her little girls name out on purpose. I hope and pray that she will understand as I laid my head down last night that I felt an uneasiness in my spirit. I couldn't shake it... I just can't!

God led me to write this blog, not just for her but for all of our young girls.

She is one of many, but we must start somewhere. Now, I understand that you can't save people who don't want to be saved. But some people don't understand there is a difference. Don't know there is a different way to live; And there are some who just see no way out.

I remember growing up, my mama was a working drunk. She went to work every day and just like she went to work she started her day with Christian Brothers.

I always believed in my heart that I was better than what mama said I was, but it wasn't until we moved to the suburbs that I saw that there was a world other than my mother's.

With my new examples I set out to be better than what mama said I would be. That move opened doors for me that I would have never gotten in the city. And we only moved to Evanston because mama was a maid at the Evanston Inn and she wanted to be closer to her job and oh yeah, a man.

Growing up I felt that hitting was not normal, a right way to treat the people you love. Mama beat my ass when the sun shinned and beat my ass when the sun didn't shine. It didn't matter why she beat me or what she beat me with, mama and her brand of love hurt me to my very core.

There were days when I didn't know which hurt worst, her hits with the thing in her hand at the time or the words that came out of her mouth. But I knew in my heart this was not right; This was not the way it should be. I knew hitting was not right!!! So when I got hit the first time by a man, I knew at my core it wasn't love. It took me a minute to leave his ass, but that one slap was one too many and eventually I left before he got that second chance.

Same with my ex-husband; A push here or there. A tussle every now and then, but when he dug the car keys into my hand in an attempt to get the keys and he drew blood, I knew it was time. By the end of the week he was escorted out by two sheriffs and four police officers.

 I felt shame as I stood in domestic violence court trying to explain to the judge why I needed an order of protection, from my husband no less.

But I knew in my heart that AIDS hadn't killed me, Kenny wasn't going to kill me either. So I swallowed my pride and fought for my life.

So here I am, still thinking about this young girl and wondering if she knows there is something better for her. No, life won't be easy, but at least she won't have to feel the shame  and hurt she felt today facing a stranger.

Yep, we look at situations and we talk about them, but rarely do we extend ourselves. We are always talking about what it means to be a Christian but when faced with the chance we turn the other check.

We are always talking about our young black girls, but what do we do to really help enrich their lives? Do we exert any energy to lift them up or rather spend our time tearing them down with our words? It's easier fighting bully's that we don't know, who kill our boys, like in the case of Trayvon Martin, but we are slow to act with the violence in our own homes, in our community.

Now be clear, we have got to take a stand for Trayvon, but at the same time, we cannot have a double standard on justice. No matter how shameful it may seem to deal with violence in our own back yard. Violence is violence, whether its mother, father, husband, boyfriend, the kids down the street or a stranger like Zimmerman, shooting an innocent child.  The bottom line, in all these cases, change will only come about if we become an agent for change.

I don't know if the young lady will reach out and I'm not sure what I will do if she does, but I know I will do my best to help her be her best.

I'm gonna pray about this. I have so much to give to young girls. I need to see about developing some kind of program even if it's a once a year start.

We have got to be a part of the change. We have got to be a part of the solution. Someone has got to care enough to help make changes for the best. To help get our young people to a place where they can see themselves as God intended them to be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Reflection: Hallelujah Anyhow-Revisited!

Lately, I've been getting a lot of e-mail and Tweets about God healing me of AIDS. I know they don't really mean any harm, but it drives me freaking crazy.

Well, cause, its like they look right pass the miracle of my life. Right, like the blessing that God has given me isn't enough. I know, I know they just want the best for me, but gee, how does one over look the big fat pink elephant in the room? I have lived with HIV, as of 2012 for 29 of the 31 years HIV/AIDS has been around and 20 years with AIDS.

I think my living with AIDS is a miracle! If someone can't see that, then they are so confused about God being an actor in ones life. But typically, we want what we want from God, when we want it, and that's not how it is all the time.  We make decisions about our lives, and some of those decisions stick to us for the rest of our life. This is my case with HIV/AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and God has not healed me in 29 years, so it is what it is.  It's clear to me however, that God has helped me to pick up the pieces and cope as best as I can, given what I'm facing daily. God has kept me against the odds!! That's an undeniable fact!

The Bible says, "In this world there will be tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." I relish this truth. I understand that do matter what I face, God will keep me. Even in the midst of the storm. So today, I thought I would re-post a blog I wrote when I first started blogging, so you can be clear on where I stand as it relates to healing and my life living with HIV/AIDS.

I don't hate much but its safe to say I HATE it when people start their conversation with me, "The Lord told me to tell you." Call it what you want: arrogance, Christian elitism, whatever! But this strong feeling of dislike became worse after I went public with AIDS. Everybody had the solution to my problem. Often they’d start the sentence with, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS."

Many times they'd come rushing up to me after I finished speaking with their revelation. I’d stand there graciously, but what I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs.

I know, I know. I sound like one ungrateful woman. I do understand that they are only trying to help ease my pain. But curing me? Gee, thanks. Don't judge me first, just try living in my shoes and see how YOU WOULD FEEL. In the early days of my ministry, I became really frustrated with people telling me what God could do for me, like they knew this for sure. I read the same Bible. And now, having gone to seminary and earned a Master of Divinity Degree, I detest it even more. I mean, why do you think that I don’t already know about faith? My life is an example of faith, don't you think?
But in those earlier days of my popularity, so many people approached me about being healed that I started to wonder, “Had I missed something in my Christian walk?” Just the thought of it bothered me. With all the experts I had encountered on my miracle, I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong. So like with most things, I took my concern straight to the source. I started to have long conversations with God about it all. It went something like this:

“Hello God, these people say that you can heal me of AIDS. So, what do I have to do to get this particular miracle? I mean, they keep quoting the scripture, “Ask and you shall receive.” (Mat 7:7) I asked, but I still have AIDS. Do I need pray a certain way, or at a certain time, maybe like Hannah at the altar?” (1 Sam 1-20) No joke, sometimes you just have to lay it out to God, and I did.

It is all so maddening. I know that there are miracles in the Bible of both the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. And that made matters worse. With my all Biblical knowledge and people pushing their faith onto me, I was frustrated. One day a person even told me, “You should stop taking your HIV medication so when the Lord heals you, people will really believe that the miracle was of God.” I stood there with a blank look on my face. “I don’t think so buddy!!!!  Is what I wanted to scream at him. So, I kept talking to God, waiting on the answer. I even changed my prayer. “Lord, just give me something to say to these people about my healing.” 
Then people started to cure me in my mail. I received 25 copies of this little booklet, "By His Strips We Are Healed". I screamed, "Pleeeease GOD tell me what I’m missing." That wasn’t the half of it, I received long letters with Scripture I was instructed to repeat every day, tapes, oil and prayer clothes. People were determined to heal me anyway they could.

Then one day after what seemed like an eternity, God gave me the answer I had been seeking. I was in Washington, DC speaking at a church. That particular night, there was a lot of press covering me.

No sooner than I laid the mic down, a woman rushed up to me, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS." I got that look on my face, “Here we go again.” I stood as she rambled and rambled on. "And it would be an awesome thing. With all these TV cameras and the press you get, you could go around the world and tell people how wonderful God is because He healed you of AIDS!" In an instant God spoke to my spirit, "I am a wonderful God, even if I never heal you of AIDS!" The testimony is: Hallelujah anyhow!

WOW! I was so overwhelmed tears starting streaming down my face. Of course the woman thought that her prophecy had moved me to tears. But it was nothing short of God sitting center stage in my spirit giving me with the answers that I had longed for. The easiest testimony on the planet is when God has done the thing you most wanted in your life. But can you love God in the midst of your pain? Can you love and praise Him when you are bearing your cross? I understood that day that my love for God was not predicated on my healing from AIDS. God is wonderful and sovereign without the extra that He gives to us.

See How Skinny I was in 1996
Back to the healing, I had missed it all along. The miracle wasn’t the thing that people had been trying to force on me, but something even greater. In some ways, healing me of AIDS was an EASY testimony, almost expected of God. But living with AIDS was an INCREDIBLE testimony. God gave me the greatest gift of all: the ability to live and thrive with an illness that should’ve taken me out of here many a day. And believe me when I say I should’ve died 16 years ago.

I had 3 bouts of PCP, the number one infection, at the time, that killed people with AIDS. You cannot tell me that I am not a walking miracle. I get it! I also get that we spend so much time expecting God to do what we want, we miss the wonderful things that He has done. I’m content with the miracle of my life. So what if it’s a hard life, He continues to give me all the tools I need to maneuver through the wilderness.

PostScript: By the way, God didn’t heal everyone. The Apostle Paul is one clear example. Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He asked God to heal him three times and each time God said, “No!” Christians are quick to quote from this text that the Lord told Paul, “My Grace is sufficient.” But God also told Paul,”My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” I know from this that when I am at my lowest point, God will do His best work. (2 Cor 7-10) My life is an example of God's Grace and Miracle working power.

I graciously accept the blessings that I do receive, rather than begrudged what I don't. A person can become bitter waiting on that one thing from God. And honestly, that one thing may not be the thing that you get. Don't let that one thing blind you of the wonderful way God is an actor in your life. God's ways are not our ways but I am grateful that God has given me peace and understanding. I can rejoice! Hallelujah Anyhow!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trying To Out Run AIDS...

I have a big ass problem. It may seem like a small thing to some people, but its major to me; My inability to rest. I don't rest. Yes, I sleep, but I just don't rest. Now that my health is better, I see myself falling back into the same pattern. Keeping a break neck schedule.

No, I'm not on the road speaking, my gigs are still far and few in between these days, but all the other work that I do. My Social Media work, i.e., Tweeting about my life as a way to educate as well as, answering the tons of e-mails and Facebook messages I get, designing and making bracelets trying to keep RLT Collection current  and food on my table and let's now forget trying to get my house back into shape, it went to the dogs in these months. I have so much filing to do its crazy. The list goes on and on.

Since speaking engagements dried up in the last few years, I'm at home, finding new ways to educate, inspire and up lift and at the same time, keep food for me and my baby girl Sophie. Working for yourself is a non-stop job, I gotta make it happen or I'm not going to eat. Working from the house, doesn't make it any better because there is no proper division of work and rest.

I was talking about it on Twitter yesterday and my friend and fashion Blogger Kim suggested some set hours. I thought about it and agreed. Well, I adjusted what she had suggested by an additional hour and half and added some work hours on Saturday, but in the end I thought it was a good idea.

Now I've always been this break neck work alcoholic, overachiever trying to prove Mama wrong. Yep, I was gonna work my ass off and prove to her that I was better than, she declared that I was. The problem is, Mama is dead and gone and I'm still pushing myself to the limits. BTW, Mama never said that she was proud of me, not even before she died.

Well, this morning when I woke Kim sent me a daily devotions and it was so on point!

Thought about you when I read this:

For all who have entered into God's rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

Hebrews 4:10-11 NLT
Are you well rested? We can enter marathons of work, projects and even emotional hardships. You may feel invincible at times and take on more than your body can handle. But remember that God made us in His image and we should rest just like He did. Firmly set aside a day or two after any intense period of work to replenish yourself.

After I let it sit in my spirit for a second, it hit me like a ton of bricks. God spoke to my spirit loud and clear, "Daughter, it's ok to rest, stop trying to out run AIDS."

WOW.... That hit me right in my gut. STOP trying to out run AIDS! The fact is, no matter how hard I work, AIDS is going nowhere and as sure as I'm typing at this very moment, I will get sick again and I will shut down yet again. There is nothing I can do to change that fact. This is my life with AIDS. It is what it is and I cannot change this fact. Acceptance is half of the ball game.

Somewhere in my head I have this crazy idea that if I work like a mad woman until I get shut down again then it balances out the time that AIDS shuts me down. This is some mad thinking.

I tell people all the time, there is no glory in being some self imposed martyr. Ain't NO glory in that madness,  just MADNESS! The Bible says, "The race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong.... But time and chance happen to them all." (Ecc 9:11) I have to let life play itself out. I cannot change the course of events in my life, there are some things that cannot be undone. HIV/AIDS is one of them. No matter how long or hard I work, HIV/AIDS is not changing.

I talk to my life coaching clients all the time about balance. The best person you can be is the most balanced person you can be. You have to take everything in your life into consideration and live your best life facing it all.

There is no victory in this break neck schedule I keep. Just fatigue and exhaustion both mentally and physically and that does more damage to my health and gives AIDS fuel to attack my body. HIV fatigue and my broke down immune system don't need any help from me by adding fuel to the fire and herpes is just waiting to attack my stressed out body.

So I'm going on record TODAY! I'm creating balance in my schedule. Time to work and time to renew. I know at first it may be difficult, but I'm keeping to the work schedule even if I have to leave the house to do it; Go to the gym or take a walk with Sophie.

YES! I'm giving myself permission to rest. I thank God for my discussion with Kim. Certainly she was a vessel for me to get at the root cause of some of this madness.

 Glad I tweeted my need to rest, glad she was their on the other end and allowed it to resonate in her spirit.  The devotion that she sent me this morning was so on point; Even God took time to rest. 

 It reinforced in me that I'm made in God's wonderful image, even with AIDS.  There is no need for me to prove that I'm Greater Than AIDS, God proved that when I was created! All good and perfect things comes from God and when God made Woman and Man, God said, "It is good."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Reflection: Gettin My Groove Back!

If you had seen me walking down the street yesterday pushing my grocery cart, you would have thought I had won the lotto or something.  For Real... For Real... But that was nothing of the sort, I was just happy to be able to go grocery shopping. It hit me as I was walking up and down the aisles yesterday that it's been months since I've been able to do this simple chore.

Yes, I would go to the store every now and then, but the task was physically just too much for me and I've had to get most of my groceries delivered by Pea Pod. That's a great service, but it's limited. Plus, there's nothing like being able to walk those aisles and get what you really want, but more importantly, just the ability to do it, is a blessing.

Week Of IV Medication

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not confused that some people don't have money for groceries and I'm grateful for the money to buy. I don't want you to think I'm minimizing that fact. It's just  that I'm also grateful for the ability to perform this simple task. Walking has been an issue for me in the months past.

First, there was the herpes that was painful between my legs, then the neuropathy that was painful to my feet. It feels like someone is sticking pins in the bottom of my feet. While the pain has not totally subsided, I thank God the pain is reduced greatly.

Doing simple things just wasn't happening. Oh yeah, let's not forget the just flat out fatigue from the IV medication that zapped the freaking life out of me. There were days when I didn't want to wash my ass, more less, go get groceries.

But I'm gettin my groove back!  Yes, I am! After I ended the 49 days of IV medication, I turned around and had a biopsy in the opening of my vagina and that shut me down yet another week.  It was all a bit much.

But ain't I glad trouble don't last always. Yep, I'm gettin my groove back. The herpes is all gone, the IV medication is out of my system and I'm all healed down bottom!

Yep! I'm gettin my groove back. We never think about the simple things that a person cannot do when they are sick, but I face it every single time I get shut down. Its like my entire life stops.

Yes, I try to keep up as best as I can. There's a part of me that cannot let AIDS take everything I got, but certainly, I'm not able to do half of what I'm able to when all things are equal. Now be clear, there are still limitations with my, "Normal" like HIV related fatigue, mild neuropathy, medication side-effects, mainly head-aches, Functional Bowel Syndrome, which creates, diarrhea, daily nausea and food sensitivity; Sometimes, just the taste of food makes me sick.  It's a lot to deal with on a daily basis, but over the years, I'm able to manage it, figure it out, fight it. The bottom line, I'm able to keep it moving in spite of it all, but lately, keeping it moving was at a very, very, very slow pace.

So yesterday, I was grinning ear to ear pushing my shopping cart down the street home. There was a level of gratitude in my heart for just this simple task. I came home, unpacked my groceries and made dinner; collard greens, short ribs and buttermilk corn beard. In the last few months, I was so tired of carry out and frozen meals that I thought I was gonna lose my mind. I even washed four loads of clothes last night. Yep, I'm gettin my groove back!

Now that I'm back to my, "Normal," the most difficult thing for me is going to be creating balance. I'm so behind in all my tasks, I want to do it all in one flash. The overachiever in me wants all of my life back as soon as possible; But I decided last night, that I'm going to pace myself. I'm just too happy to be able to do the simplest things right now.

When you're going through something it feels like things are never going to change. The longer it takes to see some positive change, the heavier your heart becomes. I've learned over the years, no matter how dark it is in the right now, just keep holding on. Do what you must to make it through another day. Even if you have to tie a knot at the end of that rope, just do it!

Hang on for dear life because as sure as I'm typing this right now, a change will come. Yep, that's exactly what I did. I kept holding on. I kept doing what I needed to do for my health to get better. I took the hits one bunch at a time. Now today here I am,  I Got my Groove Back!

RLT Collection Amazing Sale!

Right now is the BIGGEST sale RLT Collection has ever had! I know some of you have had your eye on the Fall Collection, well now is the time. The entire Fall Collection is 50-65% off. Also, there's the regular Sale Section and selected bracelets have been marked down in the Cruise Collection.

You may want to snatch some of these goodies before they are gone. Remember, once a Collection is gone, there are no more; I'm onto designing the new Collection!

 You may also want to take a peek at the Freshwater Pearl Collection, there are some wonderful sets marked down.

Happy Shopping!! Thanks for your support. I'm honored that you would grace your wrist with my designs. I put all my love and energy into designing and making each bracelet. When you wear them, you also wear a little bit of me!

Friday, March 9, 2012

I Remember The Lovin...

Good Lawd I remember Lovin that man! By Lovin I mean having mind blowing sex that kept his tail coming back for more and more. Now don't get Love and Lovin confused because they are two totally different things, that may or may not have anything to do with each other, depending on who you are talking to.

Truth be told, you don't have to love a man to give and get some good Lovin and you can be in Love and the Lovin is well just ok, so you thank God for the Love to keep you going.  But when the Lovin is as good as the Love, OMG you have struck gold.

Yep, I remember Ummm every single one of them. Lovin them that is. Now I'm not going to pretend that I'm a virgin; Noooooo, that would be a bald face lie. I'm not even going to pretend that I've only had sex with ummm one, two or three of them. That would be a bald face lie too. I mean, I am a product of the eighties. Good Lawd, I remember the eighties! All I had to worry about was getting pregnant and embarrassing my mama, or so I thought.

Now I wasn't a hoe. Well, what's a hoe anyway? By the standards of the eighties, it was a girl who had one night stands, sex on the first date, and had sex with more than one man in one week, shit, we even extended that to more than one in a month. Funny how a woman who have more than one sexual partner in a month is a hoe and a man is a player, player, but that's another topic

Yep, I remember every one of them. Looking back, I also remember that I thought the sex I was having was love and the better I was in sexin him the more he would Love me.  Good Lawd, I thought if I could suck a man's dick until he plead mercy, he was mine forever.  STOP! I can't believe I said that, but it's the God living truth.

 Let me pause and say, after I typed that last sentence, I almost went back and took it out for fear of being judged. But shoot, it's the truth and it don't really matter, because people gonna find one thing or the other to judge you on. So I'm not going to be silent because you can't handle the truth.

Anyway, Yes I was one messed up, confused, looking for someone to love me forever black woman.  It took years for me to learn that a fuck is a fuck, is a fuck, is a fuck! No matter how you try to make it look or sound pretty, it's still a fuck. And just because a man can make your body talk don't mean that he Loves you, nor does your fancy tricks guarantee that he will Love you back.  Shoot, it don't even mean he will treat you with respect.

Now, it would be a wonderful thing if I could say I only had sex with men I Loved, but truth is, I had sex with men that I Loved and I had sex with men that I wanted to Love me. Yep, if we are honest about it, sex comes long before the Love. Yep the sex typically starts at the deep like stage and the, I want him to like me more stage. Some times you think the sex will bring you closer, make the relationship deep.  Wrong! If you can't get close without fuckin, you can't get close fuckin.

Yep, I remember the men I had sex with thinking that the relationship was getting serious to discover he was the biggest asshole on the planet. Yep, I remember the men I had sex with that I wanted to Love me to later discover that his brand of Love hurt. I remember the one twice my age that I thought would marry me, but instead wasted my pretty, as I waited for him to pop the question. I remember the young buck, good Lawd do I remember him. Hoping that he would Love me as much as he Loved the Lovin between my legs, but he never did. I remember the one that I prayed would leave his wife for me, but after he did, he went back. Yep, I remember, I remember, I remember, I remember.

I remember the Lovin, but I can't remember Loving me more than Loving the Lovin.  Nor can I recall the difference between the two. Somehow, the Lovin seemed to make life all better, well at least for that moment in time; But in the end, after the dust settled, I would  simply have a wet pussy and an emptiness deep within.

 If truth be told, if I Loved me instead of the Lovin, I would have passed on anything that didn't lift me, renew me and celebrate me. But sadly, I was way too damaged by the time I reached 16 to even know what love was and it took almost a half century to learn. Then, it took equally as much time to learn the difference between Love and Lovin.

It took more years  than I want to admit of Mr. Wrong's, to stop looking for Mr. Right to love me. But good Lawd, when I stopped looking for love in places outside of myself, it freed me up to look for the love from within.  It put me in a position to lift, renew and celebrate the woman God created me to be.

Love of self has placed me in a position to say no to anything a man has to offer that isn't the best for me. Now don't get me wrong, I will never stop Lovin the Lovin, it's just now, I Love me more than I Love the Lovin.

Looking back, the most difficult part is accepting the part of me that was hurt, mistreated, abused  and lost by the lack of self-love.  You can never undo the damage, only move forward. Case in point; A couple of weeks ago,  I went to the doctor for a biopsy in the opening of my vagina.

When the doctor stuck that needle in my vagina to numb it up, all the Lovin flashed across my face and sunk right down to my heart.  Later that evening, as I crawled into my bed and stayed for a couple of days, I thought about what I knew then and how it shaped my right now.  If I knew then, what I know now, my life would be different today. But if I could'a, would'a, should'a means nothing in the real world.  The fact is, I didn't know any better, nor did I have one person to tell me differently.  I knew what I knew and I believed it to be true. In time, years of mistakes undergirded by self-abuse, I learned a different way and then it took even more years to do the better that I knew.

I say self-abuse, because, I made choices about my life. I chose to have sex, I chose to love him, I chose, I chose, I chose, I chose.  Context does not matter, at the end of the day, I made decisions based on what I knew and understood to be true.

The bottom line is, we make decisions about our life and body every single day, taking ownership for the good and the bad will help one grow to be a better you. When you take ownership, undergirded by an honest understanding about the path you have taken you can be a better you. And even if you choose not to be a better you, you will at least know the difference.

Yep, I remember the Lovin and the impact it has had on my life. I remember looking for someone to Love me forever and learning their Love or lack of Love for me had nothing to do with the Lovin.

I remember that a good fuck got me HIV and Herpes and long after the Lovin was gone, I was left fighting for my life, for the rest of my life.

It didn't matter that I never had a one night stand. It didn't matter that I didn't have sex on the first date. It didn't matter that I had sex with men I Loved and men I thought would Love me, but in the end didn't. It don't even matter that I never had sex with more than one man in one month.  I can't undo what's been done.  I can only move forward being the best that I can with the information that I now know.

I thank God as I approach 50 years of age, that I have learned to Love me more than the Lovin. Nor am I looking for someone to Love me any longer.  I understand that Self-Love is the beginning of all things wonderful.  I understand that validation comes from within and there is NO Lovin on the planet worth the Love of self.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Diva is Celebrating Two Years!

Well, it's been two years today! Yep! I leaped out here in the blogging world two years ago today and it's been one heck of a journey. I never thought that my ministry would shape up like this. No, I thought I would be speaking/preaching and teaching women about self-love all over the country.

Welp.... Here I am preaching and teaching women about self love all over the world and I never have to leave my house. It's funny how you plan and then God plans. When speaking engagements dried up, I kept praying that God would open doors for me to keep ministering and honestly, I prayed for some $ ching change. Not speaking meant two things, I wasn't ministering and that's a shame cause God has given me so much to give to you, but not speaking also meant that I was one broke ass black woman! For Real... For Real...

Well, my funds have only gotten a tad better, here and there. Thank GOD for bracelet sales from my RLT Collection, cause ummm, some days I haven't had grocery money and then I get a sale or someone donates to my blog. It's funny how God works, just when I  think there is no light at the end of the tunnel, just when my bank account hits $10.00, something comes along.

No, it's not how I would have planned it for myself. Nope! But I've never gone hungry and the lights have never been turned off. In the scheme of things, God has been a keeper! What I've learned in these last few years of financial struggle, I didn't need as much as I thought I needed. That's why my e-bay store is always up. The more I get rid of, the more I want to get rid of. It's been so liberating so much so, I've decided to get rid of almost all my St. John Knits... For Real!!

But most importantly, God continues to make room for my gift. Cause truly, this survivor is never gonna be homeless, if I gotta take my tail to McDonads and get a job. If I have to sale all of my clothes, I will make a way to keep a roof over my head. So back to the ministry. Blogging and tweeting  is clearly an unorthodox way to minister, but it's a wonderful, available and a free tool!

At first I didn't think I could do it. Yes, I knew there was a ton of stuff inside of me waiting to get out, but I didn't know if I could write it down in a way that you would get it. Thank God I didn't let that fear paralyze me. You know, sometimes we have stuff we know we should be doing, but we let fear stop us. Fear of failure, fear of what people will say, just fear, fear, fear. Don't let fear run your life into the ground! God has so much for you, and you're stuck on the what if's and the perfect plan. There is no perfect human plan, just a perfect God plan and the sooner you open yourself up to what God wants for your life, the better off you will be.

Now I've had a few rough patches this year. My health has been doing the most. Some day's I was too sick to blog and other days I was so sick of being sick that I couldn't think about anything else but being sick.  Depression sat in some days after long bouts of illness that I didn't want to wash my ass more less write a blog. I'll tell you that the IV medication I take to treat herpes, takes the freaking life out of me; Thank God for resilience! Here I am better and getting back into the swing of things.

We survived another year together. Thank you! Thank you for reading my blog! Thank you! Thank you for sharing my blog with others. Thank you! I couldn't have done it without you!  Thank you for voting for my blog, and helping me to win, CBS Chicago, Most Valuable Blogger in Health for 2011. Thank you! Thank you for every donation! Thank you for every bracelet sale! Thank you! Thank you for every prayer. Thank you!

So here we go into a new year and I'm committed even more than ever!! Sometimes I get frustrated because my blog has no sponsors. I'm like what the heck do I have to do to get a sponsor? But I have to let that shit go. Just let it go!

Just like God has made room for my gift, God will provide for me. Maybe not having a sponsor keeps me focused on what God will have me to do, rather than what a sponsor would have for me to do. I''m sure in time the right sponsor with the right fit will come along. Someone who will value my work, uncut, uncensored. Until then, I will continue to do the work.

I need you to continue to read my blog. The more you read my blog the more valuable you make it. I need you to share my blog with your friends. I need you to Facebook and Tweet my Blog Post if you really like them. The more readers I get, the more valuable my blog becomes. We've done good in the scheme of things. I get about 23,000-25,000 readers a month, but I think we can double my readership.

I will make a commitment to keep pushing through whatever is going on in my life and write, write, write. I need you to make the commitment to read, read, read... share, share and share.

Thank you for another year! You Rock!!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Celebration of Life!

I never thought that I would live to see 50 years old, but by the grace of God, in just under 3 months I will celebrate my 50th birthday. I know it's hard for many of you to believe that I was dying, but I was. I remember when my T-Cell count was 8 and my Viral Load was 400,000 and I was on my 3rd bout of PCP, an AIDS related pneumonia that was the number one infection that killed people with AIDS.

When I looked in the mirror, I could see death staring back at my size 0. It was clear that I was wasting away. HIV medications were mediocre at best and the average life expectancy for a person with AIDS was 3 years. But God kept me here long enough to benefit from the new class of HIV medication that changed everything about living with AIDS. I did what I needed to do for my health, for my survival. I stuck my treatment out no matter how horrible it was or made me feel. I decided that I wanted to live and I did what I had to. With AIDS, there's no middle ground, you decide how long you want to live, or how soon you want to die. I chose life and whatever came with living with AIDS.

Be clear, it has been no picnic in the park. I remember those days of lying on the bathroom floor, shitting on myself, too sick to get up and reach the toilet, yet again, so I made the cold tile floor my bed for hours. When I really stop and think about it, it's a wonder that I made it, AIDS was taking people out of here by the hour, back in those early days.  It really is a wonder that I made it. I mean, it's a wonder that Mama didn't take me out long before I got to HIV/AIDS. I came out of my mother's womb at 3 pounds and drug addicted, at a time when drug babies where unheard of, it's a wonder that I made it from day one.

I stayed in an incubator for 3 months, so I've been told. My childhood was plagued with abuse; physical, emotional and sexual. I mean when I think about it, it's a wonder that I didn't lose hope somewhere along the way and take myself out of here; I mean For Real, For Real... But I knew somewhere in my heart, that God had a purpose for my life, and that I was more than what Mama had written me off to be. The songwriter says, He saw the Best in Me.. Clearly God saw the best in and intuitively I clunged to that inner knowing with dear life. 

I never gave in to the darkness that filled my childhood days. God and church became my refuge. I depended on my love of God, and God's love of me to keep me. Pretty profound I think for a young girl to know deep within that  if I just depended on God's love for me that I would make it.

I made it through those darkest days of being beat with a Polaroid camera, or whatever Mama's hand could reach; But then I turned around at 23 and was told that I had HIV. There was no hope back then, NONE! There wasn't even one medication to treat HIV, when I was told of my status.

So yet again, I had to lean on the love of God. I had to remember my history with God. Keep a clear head and understand, that if God could bring me out of one thing, God could bring me out of another thing. I had to remember that God's love was the only constant in my life. And even on that cold tile floor that day, I laid there and talked to God.

So here I am having survived the worst of worst any child should ever have to face. Having lived with HIV for 29 years and AIDS for 20, here I am! I'm excited about this next stage of my life. I have no idea what God has planned for me, I'll just take the days as they come, the good, the bad, the wonderful and the ugly; And in that, I will continue to depend on God's Love for me, and my love for God.  People keep asking me how I'm going to celebrate, and I'm not quite sure. I know that I am planning to give myself 50 wonderful things throughout the course of this year. In the scheme of things, I'm just glad to still be here! Not just alive, but actually living in my life!

I  also wanted to do something special with RLT Collection to commemorate and celebrate my life and work. So I came up with a simple but yet wonderful new bracelet. Pearls are my absolute favorite gemstones and I think EVERY woman should own real pearls. With this in mind, I designed this Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet with 8-10 mm Freshwater Pearls and these pearls are a nice size. I paired it with a beautiful pave' AIDS Awareness Charm. The crystals are bright red and encrusted in sterling silver.  The RLT Diva AIDS Awareness bracelet will celebrate my life and work. It's $50.00, one dollar for each year God has blessed me in His earthly plan.

There's no huge mark-up on this bracelet. With the price of Sterling, the ribbon alone was a healthy price, but I took the leap. I wanted something special. Typically I design a few Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelets a year, however, this will be the only one from now until May 22, 2013, birth year to birth year.

I hope that you will celebrate my life with me, by sowing into my life and ministry, by wearing and buying my new bracelet. I am taking pre-orders now, the bracelet will be available for shipment no later than, May 1st.  Those who purchase on the front end, will take some of the burden of the cost of material off my back. LAWD... LAWD... So I'm hopeful, that I will have many pre-sales. Pre-Order Here!

I'm excited!! Just excited. I don't know what God has in store for me but I can't wait to see. What I know for sure... That God's plan for my life is far greater than anything I can plan for myself. I'm just going to open my heart and mind to these next years of my life. I will continue depend on God's love for me and my Love for God!

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