I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finding Solace...

I woke up pretty sick this morning but at least I've washed my tail, put on clean PJ's and made it to the living room. For sure I'm healing pretty quickly, but this round of IV medication is getting the best of me. The side-effects have been more aggressive than usual.  I guess that's the trade-off.

 Please keep me lifted in prayer. When the body is attacked, the hardest part is keeping my wits around me. Somewhere, I have to find hope in the midst of despair.  I do find solace in the fact that I woke up in a warm home, with a loving dog and yesssss I washed my tail! Yep, I'm working hard on operating in my blessing.

While I'm not focused enough to write a blog I wanted to share this interview series that I did with Kellie Terrell and TheBody.com. The Body is one of the largest online resources for HIV/AIDS with over few million views weekly. Kellie sat down with me in a three hour interview last winter  and they have divided the interview into six parts.  I'm also honored that my Diva Living With AIDS Blog is syndicated on theBody Blogs. There are other great HIV/AIDS related blogs there as well. You can find theBody on Twitter HERE.

I find solace in the fact that God continues to use my life to help enrich the lives of others. For sure, I will  continue to give my life, my story as a living sacrifice until the day that I die.

Part One... PLEASE Be Patience.... The Video takes a few to download...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Video Blog: Trying To Stay Out of My Head....

Today's Video Blog... 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Reflection: Change Your Location

I love when I get an Aha Moment about something at the least expected time. That's what happens when you are open to the unexpected. Yesterday, my Pastor  L. Bernard Jakes was preaching from a familiar scripture; Habakkuk 2:1-3. I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch what he will say unto me. Pastor J wasn't preaching about God's answer to Habakkuk's prayer about the condition of his people, but about what Habakkuk did in the waiting process.

Key to Pastor J's point was location and posture and that thang hit me hard. Often times we want something for our lives, but we don't create the best environment to receive that thing. Pastor J said that the spiritual and the physical must line up with God when you are seeking from God.

Me and Luke on my B-Day Vacation!
But the same thing applies in our daily living from dating to careers. Let's take careers first. I remember when my BFF Luke was working at MTV as a production coordinator. He kept saying that he wanted to move into producing and hard news, which was actually the center of his college education.  Everyone in news knows it's a hard field to crack. Moving into hard news was especially difficult because he had spent the last 7 years at MTV doing production, he was paid well and it became comfortable.

The older he got, the more he talked about making that change, but he stayed stuck and did nothing to advance his future. He would start complaining and I would ask, "But Boo, when you gonna start looking?" and he would say, "Yeah, well, you're right," and with that dismissal he stayed in the same place with the same complaint. That is until Viacom had to crunch their numbers and laid off hundreds of people a few years back; Luke was apart of the layoff.

BET News Team with First Lady Obama Luke, Angela, James, and Lola
That was a difficult period for Luke, but being laid off from MTV was the best thing that could have happened to him. That moment when he was forced to change his location, he began to change how he saw his future.  He finally completed his news reel after 3 years of complaining. It took a year for his dream to come true, but with hard work he did it. He is now the News Manager for BET.

In this last year, with a wonderful new team in the news department, they are changing the face of news for BET. With the special on Whitney Houston, and especially the news coverage around the Republican and Democratic Conventions we can see BET News creating a new era. Luke is a part of that team. In fact, James Blue the executive producer and David Scott the New VP are all apart of this team. The change of location for them all helped to create a new vision. I can't wait to see what they will do on Election Night Coverage.  Side Bar:  For you who continue to complain about BET, why not watch the good stuff they are doing and help the ratings so they can do even more relevant programing, instead of watching reality TV in other places and talking crap. Just change the channel and be a part of the solution... #JustSayin That's what Luke did. From the start he told be that he wanted to go to BET and help the news department be the best it could be. Even in those long conversations while at MTV he had that vision, but that vision could not manifest, stuck in another location.

For growth, you have to be willing to change your location. You can't here from God, bumping and grinding in a club. You can't see the end of the tunnel if you don't keep walking toward the light. You must be willing to move. You can't lose weight talking about how much you need to lose, but you can if you move. Even if it's one step at a time, 15 minutes at a time. You must start somewhere. Growth can only come when you change your location.

I know that moving is hard. Yes, moving means that you will have to leave some people behind, but you can always say hello to them on Facebook. For Real. You can't expect life to change for you, if you are not willing to make some changes in your life first. The Bible says, "Knock and the door will open." (Matthew 7:7) You have to be willing to do something to get something.

But typically people are not willing to take chances. We tend to cling to what's comfortable. We keep waiting on the right conditions, when in fact, sometimes we have to create the right conditions. We have to be a part of the solution. This is the 21st century and Manna is not going to fall out of the freaking sky people, You reap what you sow, but for sure, God can bless your crop. But you must first be willing to plant in order to grow. That's what Habakkuk did; he planted his seed in prayer and changed his location to hear best from the Lord.

Some of us want deliverance but we stay in the very same sex pool, we praying to be set free from. Some of us want a different life but  are not willing to put in the work to get it. When I first started speaking, I quit my well paying job in politics, with no speaking engagements set up, no brochure, no direction on how to go about getting another speaking engagement beyond my one free gig I had 3 weeks earlier and I was two paychecks from homelessness because I use to over spend.  But God planted that seed in my spirit and I knew the only way that it would grow was to shift my location, both physically and mentally.

A year later, I became the first Black Woman to tell my story of living with AIDS on the cover of a magazine. But be clear, it was hard and that very same month I couldn't afford to pay my rent.  I got paid nothing for being on the cover of Essence, but I was walking in the vision that God had purposed for my life. Change is not easy, but it will place you on a path of wholeness.

Yes, sometimes we have to change our physical location, but also sometimes, we have to change our thinking. The change of mind will change your behavior. That's a fact! The Bible says, "As a Man thinketh so is he." (Proverbs 23:7)

But ummm for you carnal thinkers out there, like my first love use to say, "Free your mind and your ass will follow!"

 You can't think clearly about your situation, when the people in that situation has more space in your head, then you do. They say in AA  and A-Al-anon, "Don't let people take up rent in your head, evict they ass!" My Al-anon sponsor said to me once, "The one you think most about is your God." That thang hit me hard. I was so busy trying to keep my ex clean from drugs, that I had stop living for me. Instead, I was living for his sobriety.

Changing my thinking was hardddddd, mainly because if I changed my thinking, I knew eventually I would have to change my location and I couldn't image life without that man.  But I had to change my thinking, because I had become sicker than the addict. I had to accept that his sobriety was his issue not mine and in that shift I began to live for and in my purpose again. For sure, I had stop doing me because I was doing him.

What am I saying? My bottom line is this, You must be willing to make the changes in your life to get to that next level. Just like Habakkuk, you must be willing to change your location and your posture. You cannot continue to live in the sameness and expect newness. Albert Einstein put it this way, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Stop living in insanity and change your location both physically and mentally.

Post Script: Part Two Coming Tomorrow.... Yes I'm going their, dating and relationships....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Surrendering To Self-Care!

Today I'm surrendering to Self-Care. I'm learning that there is a time for everything. A time to mount up and a time to heal. This round of IV medication, I'm  trying to balance work and self-care; and at the same time, not feel guilty about the fact that I'm taking time away to renew.

Even Jesus took time to renew. Self-Care does not mean that you are weak, it just means that you are trying to be the best that you can be. Take the time that you need to be your best! I give you permission.

Today's Video Blog

Post Script! Don't forget that RLT Collection is having a End of Season Sale. Markdowns are 50-60 off plus a extra 10% off final sale. Coupon code Diva... Shop RLT Collection Here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Facing Betrayal... Even Jesus, Why Not Us?

Betrayal is an absolute Motherfucker! I have nothing pretty or respectable to say about it. I don't care where or who the betrayal comes from, when it comes, it shatters a person's spirit. These last few weeks I've had to deal with betrayal in my own life and I can tell you for a fact, that shit has knocked me straight down to my health and wellness. I have been trying to make sense out of the senseless and that is madness at it's best. Now be clear, I try my best to exit from madness as quickly as I can, so that it doesn't control me longer than the lie and betrayal has controlled me.

Ironically, yesterday I received a message from a woman who is going through some betrayal of her own. Some real shit when you lay in a bed with a man every night to learn you don't even know who they are. It's some real shit, when you learn that the truth is a lie and everything is blurred, it's madness at it's best. Emailing with her, I had to move beyond my own bias. I had to get out of myself to minister to someone else about the very thing that I'm facing, lies and betrayal. Boy, God has a sense of humor. For Real.. For Real...

 It's some serious shit when you learn that the person you thought you knew best, turns out to be someone that you don't know at all. One thing can question everything that you ever thought you knew about them. It changes the relationship immediately and that can never be recovered. You cannot go back, only forward. The thing is, a person has the right to make a bad decision for their life that effects you negatively.

Speaking of their sister, someone said in my Al-Anon Group the other day, "A person has a right to be crazy!" That was truth at it's best! At the same time, you have the right to make the best decision for yourself in the face of what others do. These are both facts! But trying to determine the best decision for you is a hard thing because you still have the memory of who that person was before you learned the lie. While there is some goodness in that person, you also have to remember that the goodness was also in the backdrop of the lie. No matter how hard you try, the lie lingers like a fowl smell.

As I connected to my IV drip this morning, I was thinking, "I wonder how Jesus felt about His own betrayal?" The Bible doesn't give us any hint at His emotion around the betrayal from both Peter and Judas, only how He felt about His imminent death. (Matthew 26:20-56) He does however, give us a hint about betrayal, Jesus say's "Woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man." (Matthew 26:24b)  One Bible commentary suggest that "Woe, introduces a prophetic oracle, of lament or condemnation." So while Jesus tells us that betrayal is wrong, we have no glimpse of how or what Jesus feels about betrayal from the ones closet to Him.

As I reflect on the betrayal of Jesus, there are lessons for us. At first glance, the goodness is that the truth was revealed to both Jesus and the disciples.  God wouldn't have it so that you would live in ignorance. Operating in clarity is the best of life; clarity of self and of others.

The problem with clarity for many of us is the unwillingness to accept the truths in the face of the lie. We lend toward the half truths in the lie rather than taking the wrong of lying at face value. A lie is a lie, no matter how many truths it's colored with. Even when God reveals that thing we don't take heed. Often times we dismiss it out of some need to be loved. When someone shows you who they are, BELIVE them! Don't explain it away and don't make excuses. Operate in the truth!

Other times, we even try to play God and save them from themselves. You must remember, you can forgive a person, but you don't have to play baby Jesus. Let them do the work that they must on themselves.  You couldn't stop the betrayal or the lie, what makes you think you can change the person who did the lying? The fact of the matter, you can't heal holding open the wound. You must move on so you can live your best life.

This leads to another valuable lesson, Jesus didn't allow the information of His betrayal deter Him from His purpose. He just kept right on moving. Jesus was clear, the betrayal was not greater then what He was called to do. Sometimes, we give people who hurt us to much power over us. We spend more time lamenting the hurt that we can't heal. We stay stuck allowing that person to continue to effect us negatively.  You can't spend all your time trying to figure out why they are jacked up. Nor can you make there sickness about you. Now be clear, yes you must process and mourn this, but you cannot allow it to control your life the way the lie controlled your life. You can't control what they did, but you can control what you do next.

Now, trying to determine where that person fits into your life is the hard part. Yes, I believe in redemption. But Redemption does not necessary mean that you continue a relationship. That must be determined on it's own merits; one day at a time. Only you can asses the damage that has been done and the repairs if any that can be made. While nothing is beyond forgiveness in my opinion, some things cannot be repaired. Each of us must work through this for ourselves. At the very core is the hard question, "Can I ever trust this person again?" If so, with what parts of my life can I trust them?" Just because you can trust them with a hello, don't mean you can trust them with, sit for a while and sit a while, doesn't always mean, spend a night. All of this will take time, but for sure, you must make the best decision for the best of your well being.

The hardest part, is the love that you have for that person. How do you make the best decision for yourself, in spite of the fact, it may not be what they want. At the end of the day, you cannot be bound by there desires only your well-being. They in turn must accept the consequences of the choices that they made which altered the relationship. They must be honest, not just with you, but with everyone involved. I'm not gonna make this about what the other person should do. I cannot play God with someone else's life. I can only control me and how I proceed. You must remember this as you process the betrayal.

As cold as it may sound, you must keep your well-being in the forefront. Let them work out their own shit; that's between them, God and the therapist. The biggest thing I have learned in Al-Anon is that you cannot control someone else's life. Each of us have the right to make decisions for ourselves; good, bad and ugly.  FYI: The lie that you were living in with that person was a form of control. They altered your reality, without your permission. They took away your choice. NO person should ever have that must power over you.

For sure betrayal is a a part of life. It was even a part of the life of Jesus. The question you must ask is,  "How do I move forward in the face of betrayal?" I don't have the easy answer, shoot, I don't have any answers for you.

But what I know for sure is this---just like they had the right to make a decision about their live that ultimately impacted you negatively, you have the right to make the best decision for your life, even if it's not the outcome they want. I also know that you must find a way to heal. As long as you stay stuck, they continue to control your spirit.  Don't you think that they have already had more control over you then they deserve?

Black WeBlog Awards! *throws confetti*

Here I go again asking you to VOTE for me, but hey, if you don't ask you don't receive. My Blog is 2 1/2 years old. In 2011  I won CBS Most Valuable Blogger Award in Health, Wealth and Fitness.

Now I've been nominated in two categories for the prestigious Black WeBlog Awards. The categories are Best Health and Wellness Blog and Best Personal Blog.

This is how it works... The first rounds are the Semi-Finals. If I win in the Semi-Finals I advance to the Finals. You get ONE Vote per computer. The voting ends for the semi-finals October 1, 2012. Click Here to VOTE! Help me advance to the finals and then win!

At the voting site, just look for the categories - Health and Wellness it is about 17 categories down  and it will say Rae Lewis-Thornton: Diva Living With AIDS and then scroll down to Best Personal Blog it is about 26 categories down, when you get there, my blog is Diva Living With AIDS. Vote for both at the same time. You will not be able to go back.  Thanks Lovely's #IcannotdoitAone

Sophie at the Walk Last Year!
Also... I have a team agin this year for the Chicago AIDS Walk. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to walk  becasue of my health; but I'm going to press my way IV and all. The walk is September 30th. You can still join my team or you can donate to me to walk. The funds go to AIDS Service orginaztions in the city of Chicago and I use many of them. It's a great way to support people actually living with HIV/AIDS.... Click here to donate or join my team.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Reflection: Operate In Your Blessing

As I was putting on my make up yesterday, getting myself ready for church, I started to think about the fact that I never gave up. I mean think about that thing. I've known my HIV status for 26 of the 29 years I've been infected.

I've had to manage what has at times seemed unmanageable. For sure, when I was told my HIV status, it was a death sentence; bottom line! And make no mistakes, I saw death staring me in my face. Finding hope sometimes seemed impossible with a T-Cell count of 8 at one point and mediocre healthcare at best. The medical community was working hard, but that first half of the pandemic was a living nightmare. It just wasn't what it is today.

Think about this, I've had to think about this thing for over half of my life. Just thinking about HIV is overwhelming. What I could have done differently. What people think of me. Will anyone love or date me? When am I going to get sick next? How am I going to get sick; will it be an infection that's treatable or something that will take me out of here? Just thinking about death when I should have been thinking about living was a chore in and of itself.

Thinking about this thing was some hard and real shit. How HIV changed my life, how my goals changed, shit just straight up, how HIV/AIDS reshaped my life and my body without my fucking permission.

I mean, it's a wonder that thinking about HIV these last 26 years of knowing, I didn't lose my freaking mind. I understand now when the old folks use to say in church, "I thank God for waking me up in my right mind." I am never going to take my right mind for granted, because Living with HIV/AIDS is some dark shit, For real... For real....

Yes, there were days when I lamented to God, ummm Ima be honest, I just flat out cursed God. Yes, there were days when I straight went there, but whenever I began to have my own personal pity party, I would think about my history with God. See, no matter how bad it is on today, I think about how God kept me on yesterday and thinking about yesterday, gives me hope for tomorrow.

I got an email from a woman recently who has just been diagnosed with HIV and there are days when she has no hope. Days when all she can think about is how freaking dark this disease is and that has left her hopeless and suicidal. But if you think on the goodness for just five minutes, it will give you five minutes of hope. Try it people, in your despair, think about what God has already done in your life. Let the victories of yesterday give you hope for tomorrow. Operate in your blessings, not in your despair.

Let me pause to say, it's crazy in the 21st century, 32 years into the AIDS pandemic a newly diagnosed person is filled with such hopelessness because of the attitudes around HIV.  HIV/AIDS is the one medical condition that leaves a person with shame of self because of the shaming from others. It's bad enough having to deal with a long term chronic illness, but to have to deal with all the gossip and nasty opinions that come with this disease is enough to make you go mad.

I'm so glad, that I don't give a fuck what people think of me anymore. God set me free from that madness. I don't even care that you just grasped at the fact that I just used fuck and God in the same sentence. Your small mind don't interfere with how God gives me an aha moment to give to others, nor does it change my methodology. It's my gift and I'm not going to stop operating in my gifts because you box God's capacity to use people into your small mind.

That was a side bar, but back to the point. Living with this disease is madness at its best. For sure,  God has given me the ability to operate in madness with a sane mind.

Me and Lesa having Tea at the Peninsula
Yes, God has been a keeper, but God keeps people all day long that still live in hopelessness. Yep, Grandmama use to say, God takes care of fools and babies. Not only that, some people just complain and cry all day long about shit they can control. You keep talking about how you hate your job, but you ain't even tried to look for a new job or a new career.

I don't want to hear your excuses! Shit stinks no matter where it comes from. I know you can make it happen, if you operate in your blessings. My girlfriend Lesa is interviewing for  medical school, with Lupus. She's over 35 years of age and she just lost her mother. SO STOP IT! Stop sitting back waiting on God to change  things when God has given you all that you need to change things. You are just too busy complaining and or boxing God into the terms and conditions you want instead of operating in the blessing that is before you.

We do it in relationships too. You don't like how that man makes you feel, how he treats you, but you stay. You stay and take the 50% because that's better than being alone. Bullshit ain't nothing, I'm never going to stay in a relationship with a man that doesn't understand my value, and doesn't treat me at my optimum worth. God didn't give me value for another person to depreciate my worth. Yep, people will treat you however you allow them to.  Some of you are praying for God to make him do right, when you need to pray for the strength to pack your freaking bags. Some things you are waiting on God to change, when you have the power to change yourself. That's what so great about free will. You can choose. Freewill is a blessing!

Tracyce Madre before and after. 
You don't like all that extra weight, but you don't push yourself from the table. You have one more cookie because you like how the cookie makes you feel and you explain it to yourself by saying you had a rough day. You don't work out and you explain that away by saying you're too tired or too busy. Yep, you give the madness a place to live and thrive in your spirit, me included. I've been complaining about these extra 20 pounds I got last year from being sick on IV most of the year and a year later I'm still complaining *smh* but ummm, I just got my breakthrough POW! My hair weaver/stylist Trayce Madre' lost over 90 pounds; one meal and one work out at a time. God gives us the tools, but we don't use them.

For sure, living with HIV/AIDS has become a permanent fixture in my life. I can't change that fact, but I can determine how I operate in this madness.

Yes, I could have surrendered to the madness of AIDS a long time ago, but I chose life over death; and I live in the blessing of my life no matter what I'm facing. You can't let the disappointment, the ugly and the challenges of life stop you.

You must make the best out of what's before you. You have got to operate in the blessings of right now.

If you can't quite see your right now, I'll lend you some of my right now. Think about the fact that I not only want to put on make-up, I do. Think about the fact that I keep it moving no matter how slow the pace. Find hope in someone else, until you can find hope in your own story.

But find hope in your own story you must! Try this, write down one blessing a day and use that as a tool for remembrance when things are so dark you can't see in front of you. Pull that piece of paper out and use it as a roadmap for your future.

At the end of the day you have got to ask yourself, what are you doing with what God has given you? Are you squandering your gift of life? Are you allowing the madness to dictate to you, rather than you to it?

God can keep you all day long, but God needs you to operate in the blessings that He has given to you. This is your optimum! And the moment you start operating in your blessings, you will move in the direction of the life that God has designed just for you. Operate in Your Blessing!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

You Live To Learn.. You Die To Forget...

Picc line last time I was on IV Meds.
I started this blog post at 3:30 this morning at home, worked on it at the hospital and now I'm back home from the hospital from getting my picc line placed. Yes, I'm going on IV this evening. For those of you who need to get caught up to speed. I have drug resistant herpes. Which means, none of the oral medication will treat my strain and only sometimes do the topical work.

I contracted herpes in college before HIV, but now years later my immune system is so shot to hell, it can't fight off the herpes. The herpes also attacks my nervous system and cause me to have pain in my legs, feet and back. It feels like someone is sticking pins in them all day long. This genital herpes I have is mostly on my vulva. One sore this time that feels like someone is pouring alcohol in a open wound all the time. This drug resistant herpes I have began about 4 years ago. The doctor's only conclusion, is that there is a part of my immune system that won't repair itself nor will it fight this particular strain of the herpes virus off.

Remember all AIDS really is...is having no immune system. You get sick basically because your immune system can't fight whatever attacks it.

A Week of IV Meds.
The fact of the matter, while I have genital herpes as a separate infection, it would be much more controllable if I didn't have AIDS. Also, there is a large chance that herpes could still attack my body without having contracting genital herpes. No, I wouldn't have the genital herpes, you have to be exposed to that specifically, but herpes zoster i.e. shingles, and the forum of nerve pain I have is probable. Also CMV which causes people with AIDS to go blind.

For many people with AIDS, herpes is what we consider an opportunistic infection. For many people with HIV and genital herpes it can become a nasty combination for our health.

So here I go again. I will be on a 2 1/2 hour drip 2 times a day until the sore on my vulva totally disappears. The last time I was on IV medication, it took 34 days. Remember, the stress around my Delta membership being rescinded affected my healing. The side-effects are nausea, diarrhea and extreme fatigue, but I'm going to keep pressin as much as I can.

In many ways I'm grateful because it's been 5 months since the herpes has come back. But two weeks ago this herpes outbreak was triggered by a chain of events that I had no control over. I learned a person who was very close to me wasn't the person I thought they were. I discovered a year and half of lies that sent my stress level to its max and stress is the number one enemy of herpes.

So here I am trying to put my million little pieces together. I feel like Oprah talking to James Frey, going through his book saying, "Is this true?" That day as I watched, I felt so sorry for James Frey sitting their being grilled by Oprah. For years I was mad at Ms. O. "How could she kick his ass so hard on national TV?" I thought. But I get it, the avid book reader she is, she had believed every single lie in his book. She him cheered him on and cried for and with him. Shit so had I, then to learn later that he had lied about his life. We all had bought the lie hook line and sinker.

Lies are dangerous for the person who tell them and the person that believes them. Its a distortion of reality and when the truth is finally revealed its a hard thing to process and honestly you don't know who or what to trust.

When people lie they alter your reality and force you to live in a lie. I'm just grateful that God has always got my back. For sure no lie can live forever! I think that  God has a funny sense of humor sometimes. His methodology is WOW. He fixed that thing for my benefit and I didn't even see it coming, but you better believe I'm listening. Isn't it wonderful how God can do for you sometimes what you can't do for yourself? Now that God has set me free, I don't intend to go back into that prison.

So here I am, putting me back together again. All I can do is move forward. First step for me was believing the truth over and above the lies and manipulation. Then I had to take my control back! Take my reality back!

Now, that I've accepted it for what it is, I must accept my own culpability!  Ownership is a mother. My BFF Luke and I reflected on this earlier today. We both wanted so much to have more support for me. Support that I could depend on. Yep, I participated in the lie. I know right off, I'm always looking for family. So I brought the lie hook line and sinker. Even in those early days when I had doubts, the person in me wanted to believe in the goodness of human nature, not taking into account emotional instability.

They provided what I needed very well, but the person that I thought had become my family was a lie. When I really think about it, I have no idea who they are. NONE!

But now that I know the lie, I cannot under any circumstance allow myself to live that lie. My entire life is about being authentic, it's God's gift to me, to give to you.

So here I am putting my pieces back together and trying to manage my stress level so I can heal quickly. This is not what I wanted for my life, but it is what it is. I hate most when other people's behavior alters your life. But all you can do is learn the lesson and never forget. Pastor Jakes said to me when I sought him out for counsel over this matter, "You live to learn, you die to forget." I count it another lesson learned!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Horror of HIV/AIDS: The Murder of Cicely

HIV/AIDS is one scary ass illness. In contemporary times, for sure it's one illness that has made people think irrationally, including me. But how could we not, with those early images of ghostly looking white men who lined the walls of hospitals around the country. This mysterious "Gay Disease" as doctors called it, scared reason out of everyone, from doctors to nurses to mothers to fathers to ministers, even the undertaker was scared to bury the dead.

I remember in 1984 during the Democratic primary, just two years into the pandemic Rev. Jesse Jackson would visit these AIDS hospices where mostly gay men were sent to die. He would even spend the night at one hospice as a way to show compassion for the throw-away of society. Ronald Reagan was President and he hadn't even mentioned AIDS out of his mouth and the death toll was raising beyond anything we understood.

People were in panic mode for sure. There were news reports that people had burned a house down of a person known to have AIDS. In a small town in Indiana, they kicked little Ryan White out of school. Doctors and nurses refused to touch people with this mysteries disease that the medical journals coined GRID (Gay Related Infectious Disease).

The early images and information on AIDS in the 80's spilled over into the 90's and it stuck to us like gorilla glue.

By the time Magic Johnson went public with his HIV status I had known mine for five years. In that five years I had held my infection close to my heart. The burden of living with my infection in secret I felt, was better than being a outcast in society. My career as a political organizer was growing. I was in graduate school working on my masters in Political Science, with my eyes on a PhD and I couldn't afford to let little minds stop me from my goals, so I choose carefully who I told. I even stayed in a unhealthy relationship for 4 years with a man 25 years my senior for fear of being alone. He had accepted my HIV status and I figured that I might as well leave well enough alone.

While Magic was being ostracized by his fellow NBA teammates, my upward mobile friends where cracking jokes about HIV and I sat in silence and suffered. Treatment was mediocre at best and AIDS was a death sentence for sure.

The first 10-15 years of this disease was ugly and so was society. But now we are 32 years into the AIDS pandemic and the medical advances have been nothing short of a miracle. Times have changed and so has HIV/AIDS, so why haven't we changed? I woke the other morning with a news report of a woman being murdered after she disclosed her HIV status to her partner.

I can image what went through Cicely Bolden's mind, I know because I've been there. You meet a guy and you like him. You really like him. You want to tell him that you have HIV but you are afraid of rejection. I mean no one wants to be alone. You have those butterflies in your tummy all the time, so it seems. You know you should tell him, but you just can't bring yourself to do it. I remember once in my early days, I was "this" close to having sex. We started out kissing and cuddling and I could feel his penis raise. OMG, I liked this guy, he was rich and successful and had been working on me for months. He was in town visiting and as we lay on that plush bed, in that plush five star hotel I was in absolute turmoil.

I played every scenario in my head. if I tell him now with his hard dick pressed against my body how would he react? I was old enough to know that you don't play dick and pussy with a man.

If you don't want to fuck, then you shouldn't do the things with him that leads to fucking. Yes, no should be no, but by the same token, a woman must take ownership of who she lets feel between her legs. LADIES, feeling between your legs and on your breast sends the single you want to fuck. That's the bottom fuckin line. Stop playing dick and pussy, its very dangerous.

But back to the topic at hand. I mean, I had wanted to tell him before it got that far, but the words just wouldn't come out of my mouth. He got harder and harder and I started to panic. I felt it was morally wrong to not disclose my status, but we had gone so far how do I stop?

 But had we really gone to far? We were both still clothed and I knew that I had to act fast. I just knew it. I also knew that this was not the time to tell. You don't have a serious conversation when the dick is hard and the pussy is wet. Boundaries should be established before he ever touch your breast. Touching should only occur when you've had an adult conversation, like do you have a sexually transmitted disease?  Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease? How do you feel about condom use? This conversation must take place very early in every relationship. And if you are not mature enough to have it, then you are not mature enough to have sex.

So I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. He laid on top of me, grinding his hard dick against my body and I lay their in chaos. I knew I had to bite the bullet. I just knew it. I whispered,
"I can't. I can't do this."
"I can't, I'm not ready." I mumbled.
"Ain't you on the pill?" He asked.
At that moment I knew there was a God. This was my way out. "No I whispered." There was a deep sigh and he rolled off my body.

That was the last time I saw him. Not because he didn't try, but because I preferred to walk away rather than being outright rejected. He would later learn my HIV status like many others, when I told my story on the cover of Essence magazine.

I understand what must have gone through Cicely's head. It had probably gone to the point of no return and she just didn't know how to say it. Then after the sex, she started to feel remorse. She needed to be honorable. And honestly it's never to late to do right a wrong. So she told. She told. She told. She told; And telling caused her life.

He said, "She killed me, so I killed her." My most fundamental question is how did we get to this place 32 years into the AIDS pandemic that a lack of education and fear of rejection would cause a life? Read More Here

Yes it was morally wrong for Cicely to not disclose up front, but it should not have caused her life.

The Facts Stand For Themselves

1. It's 20 to 1 that a woman will infect a man. The fact of the matter about 15% of the men in the United States are infected because they had a sex with a woman. Men infect woman, woman rarely infect men. Most men in this country are infected from having sex with another man or through the sharing of needles with someone who has HIV.

2. The latest research is clear. If a person is infected with HIV and their viral load is non- detectable it's about a 2-3% chance that they would infect their partner, even if they use NO condom.

3. If a person knows that they have been exposed to HIV and seek a prophylaxis treatment with 72 hours it will reverse the HIV.  They can take a HIV medication cocktail for 30 days and it will destroy the HIV in their body.

So you see, the chances that he is actually infected are slim to none. And they could have acted fast and put him in a preventable treatment just on GP. That's why HIV education is important for both the infected and the uninfected.

And it must be said, AIDS is no longer the death sentence it use to be. With EARLY diagnoses ( thats why testing is important) proper treatment, care and COMPLIANCE a newly infected person can live with HIV for years. These are all facts!

So how did we get to this point? Like For real... For real? Like don't everyone know what I know about HIV? It's not just about lack of education but about the stigma and shame that still overshadows all common sense around HIV.

We have got to move beyond the stigma and ugliness around HIV/AIDS. We must do it as a nation and as a people. African-Americans we must get a grip. I say this because African-Americans are 52% of all HIV cases in the United States and we are 12-14% of the population.

  1. Families must stop talking about those in their families infected with HIV and start talking to them.
  2. We have to create an environment where people are willing to disclose their HIV Status from our families, home to our churches.
  3. In fact, we must create an environment where it's even ok to know your HIV status.
  4.  Pastors must stop preaching condemnation from the pulpit and begin to preach the love of Jesus. Pastor Jakes said last Sunday that we show we are a Christian, when we love our neighbor as ourselves.
  5. Testing must take places in our churches, organizations and in our homes. Make it a family affair, make it a sorority and fraternity affair. Everyone of the age of consensual sex should be tested. The more we make it ok to know our status, the more people will feel free to tell their status. 
  6. Pastor's must talk about HIV/AIDS from the pulpit about HIV as a health issue and also make sure that their members have all the practical information about sex, not just the biblical information. For some, it's takes a minute or two for salvation to catch up with their living. 
  7. Education for people will HIV must become a part of the equation. 
  8. Traditional AIDS organizations must step up to the plate like they did in the early days of the pandemic when white men were being buried everyday
  9. We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. We must examine our own lives and communities and ask the most basic question of what must I do to help bring about change, to end, stigma and shame. We must all help to create an environment where HIV is viewed as a health issue and not modern day leprosy.

I have so much more that I could say. This is Real Talk people.... We are killing ourselves and each other. When are we going to take the horror out of HIV? I am sad beyond belief that Cicely's life was taken for no good reason. This is madness at it's best.  Rest In Peace Cicely...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Reflection: He Told Me Everything I Ever Did...

I met a man who told me everything I ever did, is a well known scripture. (John 4:39) It's a Bible verse set in the backdrop of a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well in Samaria. They have this conversation and Jesus then ask her to go get her husband. She replies, "I have no husband." Jesus then replies, "You are right when you say you have no husband. You have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband." (John16-18)

Rev. Bernard Jakes preached from this text on yesterday and gave us many wonderful insights on conversion and one's ongoing relationship with God.

However, after I got home, I was simply stuck on that one verse, "I met a man who told me everything that I ever did." Wouldn't it be great if when you first meet someone, you knew everything about them? I mean everything, even the things that they never say. It would be cool if you could touch them just like Spot on Star Trek and know everything they are thinking in matter of minutes?

Wouldn't it save us all a lot of pain if we could even determine if what they do say to us is the truth; If we could unmask them and cover our hearths in the process.

The fact of the matter, we cannot! And to do so would put us in the realm of supernatural and we are far from that. So us humans have to go through the motions of life and learn by trail and error. Time becomes our best educator.

This is not just true when it comes to dating relationships but also with girlfriends and buddies that we hang with like gorilla glue.

We meet people and we really don't know who they are. We only really know what they tell us and what we see.

But in the age of Social Media, the access people have to our lives is massive. This has been true for me on so many levels. My life is an open book on Twitter and this blog. I share things that most people would never share, even with their closest friends. But that's the core of who I am, it's the epicenter of my gift; sharing my life in such a way that it enriches the lives of others. So I've opened my life up and that has left me vulnerable.

Last week my world shattered as I knew it and I learned what I thought I knew about a person was not true. In fact, I had to accept the fact that I didn't really know them at all. Then I was faced with the dilemma of do I run and hide or do I continue to stand tall in my gifts of transparency.

This scared the living shit out of me and I considered shutting down my Social Media life. But it's the core of my work. It's my place to minister and educate, so I have to rest in the fact that God is all knowing and that in the knowing their lies my protection.

People lie and when they lie, they alter your reality and make you live in their lie. I can't explain why people lie. I can't explain what causes a person to live in their head and not in reality. Typically it's some trauma in their past or some chemical imbalance or both.

I wish I had the answers, just like I want to know why there is evil in the world or why bad things happened to good people. I just don't have the answers to these complex questions. But what I know for sure, is that lying is dangerous for you and for them.

Today, as I put my million little pieces back together again, I also know that we can't stop loving and living out of fear of the possibility of hurt. We cannot let fear paralyze us. What would be the point if you can't live and thrive in your life?

So I rest today in the song, "I don't believe He brought me this far to leave me." I rest in this idea that there is one who knows all and will cover me daily.

But I also rest in years of wisdom, that when a person shows you who they are, believe them... Don't explain it away. Don't make excuses believe it!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Please VOTE For Me... #IcannotdoitAlone

*Throws Confetti* I'm toooooo excited... GMC Our Town, Our Heroes accepted a nomination for me and the race is on!!!

Yes, if you love me and the work that I do then help me win Our Town, Our Heroes. VOTE Here!

Above all things, it will be such an honor to have this recognition. I do the work that I do and I never ask for anything in return. I just do!

I do because God has given me a gift; the ability to use my life as a living testimony to resilience and perseverance. The Bible says, "To whom much is given much is required." And for sure, God had given me much. The spirit to live and thrive in spite of pain and adversity. My fortitude is a GIFT from God and I try my best to share this gift with you every single day. My life is my ministry. My life belongs to God and as long as God gives me breath in my body, I will continue to do the work that I have been called to do. Ministry always comes first in my life. Without it, I am not a thing.

So Please VOTE for me. You can vote once a day until September 18th at 5:00 p.m. cst... It would be sooooo cool to win. Ok, so the winner gets the use of a GMC/Chevy/Cadillac vehicle for one week and $500.00 in gift cards. I'm not sure what type of gift cards, but I've had my eye on this Elsa Peretti Rose Gold Cross from Tiffany's so I will use whatever I get toward the cross.

It's on my short Christmas List, but it just hit me, it would be so cool to get it this way and I can wear a part of each of you who love and support me every day. I will have to add to the cost but that's cool, a joint venture with you. Lawddd just like a Diva, I done spent the money and I ain't even got it and I don't even know exactly what I will get.. LOL

Anyhoo, Please Vote for me once EVERYDAY... I have two weeks to win and #IcannotdoitAlone VOTE HERE!!!  and please post it on your
Facebook page once you vote so your friends can vote for me... Thanks!!!!

Follow @DrivingMidwest for updates on the contest and the general hashtag is #OTOH

Post Script: You can read my blog on GMC and the Our Town, Our Heroes Program HERE. As you know, they were a sponsor of my Tweet-Up and Book Signing a week ago... I'm honored to be recognized by a program that I also believe in.
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