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

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

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

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

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

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

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday Reflection: The Hardest Path- The Clearest Way..

I was reading in The Book of Awakening, that salmon make their way up stream by bumping repeatedly into blocked pathways until they find where the current is strongest. The rush of water for them means that there is no obstacle. For them, through the hardest going, the way is clear.

It made me think about us humans and all the things that we avoid because avoidance requires less work. For me, though, even when I have no gigs and I'm not sure how I'm going to manage the month's bills, I know that this is the path I am suppose to take.

My blog makes me no money, but yet, last month, I had 54,000 views. Doing the work that I do is the clearest way, but it's the hardest way and that's how it has gone for the last 21 years as an AIDS Activist. I was telling my BFF Luke the other day, the month that I was on the cover of Essence Magazine, the AIDS Housing assistance program paid my rent. I was just that broke, but yet that cover was the most talked about in Black America.

Also, for years after, in the area of love relationships, I wouldn't rock the boat because I didn't want to be alone. For sure that was connected to a deeper issue of self worth. Even claiming my worth was a hard road of therapy, self-reflection and eventually application. 

Knowing better and doing better are two different things and it has been one of the hardest part of my growth. Walking away from men or saying no to men that do not appreciate my value, over and above being alone is still hard. For me, it's the clearest path. Yet, on the other side of the coin, there are some who would prefer loneliness over the risk-taking that it requires in building something solid.  

I believe that all good things require work. Oprah says that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. There is no such thing in life as a free ride, not in career paths or love relationships. You must ask yourself if you want to spend the rest of your life downstream, being content with being content.

I know that my BFF is going through this now. Luke is an incredible, gifted producer. Almost a year ago, he left a well paying salary job to freelance. Freelancing has been the hardest path but it has been the clearest way. 

He has worked on some awesome projects in less than a year, the most successful season of Real Housewives of Atlanta, the BET Nelson Mandela coverage, he interviewed Spike Lee for BET's Oscar special and he was a part of the team that interviewed Lupita Nyongo for that same special. 

He has opened his own production company and is working on an awesome project for me, details later. He has been talking about doing this with me for years and I must remind him, if he was a staff producer at a network, he would not have had the time to work on this project. Producing is his passion, his gift and while its the hardest path, it's the clearest way. We always expect the pie to fall out of the sky, when it reality all things in life require work.

Doubt comes when you are in between your next gig. Doubt comes when you can't see clearly how it will all work out. Doubt comes when the checking account is low and you are deemed broke. Doubt comes when their are no new gigs. Doubt comes when you have your first bump in the road.  Doubt comes when you are missing him.  

 I dare venture to say, when seeking the hardest path, you may be broke financially speaking, yet rich in purpose. While you may be lonely, you love you for demanding respect of you. I believe its better to live with purpose and self worth than to have all the riches of the world.

Yet at the end of the day, I think that we should all be more like salmon and face life head on, and move our whole being through the hardest path to  the clearest way. 

  • Take a moment and center yourself 
  • Ask yourself what are you avoiding in your life?
  •  Identify the resistance what part is coming from you and what part from others?
  • Look for your truth and let that guide you through the hardest path to the clearest way.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SHUT UP! RLT Collection and Real Housewives of Atlanta!

RHOA Mexico Trip!
SHUT UP!!! I'm so excited! Phaedra Parks from Real Housewives wore bracelets from my line RLT Collection on last night's show, the Mexico Trip! I told you about my meeting with her back in January. Read Here But at that time, they had finished taping for the season and I had no idea that my bracelets would actually make the show. She never indicated that they had.

I had one picture with her wearing them, but I am so excited that they actually made this season's show. Check out more on Phaedra and this season HERE.

Bravo's Homepage

Well, I was delighted that my bracelets not only made the show, but made the  Bravo's homepage last night !! I'm all smiles and tinkle pink this morning!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ms. Chanel Part Two

 I pushed my Chanel handbag to the side and my toilet bath began. I tore off a good size piece of toilet paper and dipped it into the ice-cold toilet water. Then, I began to wash my body. I wiped off as much as I could from my behind, and then flushed the toilet paper. I pulled off another piece of toilet paper, dipped it in the ice-cold toilet water and repeated the procedure. Dip, wipe, flush, dip, over and over. After I’d gotten every single ounce of poop from one part of my body, I proceeded to the next until every trace was gone.

 As I sat on the toilet, wiping down the inside of my pants leg, I began to talk to God again. This time I asked, “Why? Why this? Why now?” I knew if I asked Him, sooner or later, He’d reveal his purpose. Maybe He wanted to remind me that a St. John suit is not my security blanket. Security is only in His arms and His love, no matter what the circumstances. Maybe it was to give me an incident, a situation that one day, at a future time I could use to inspire and encourage others. But this was not that day. After I finished cleaning myself, I dressed and washed my $150.00 LePerla panties in the toilet. I took some toilet paper, wrapped them neatly and placed them in the container next to the toilet.

I stepped out of that stall, walked to the sink and washed my hands. I took a long good look in the mirror, took a deep breath, reached into my Chanel and grabbed my make-up bag. I freshened my make-up. "Looking good," I thought. There were no outward signs of the assault that I had just gone through. I reached the bathroom door, turned the knob and walked out into the dining area.

With my head held high, I sashayed back to the table, still looking too cute in my black and white pinstriped St. John suit. My smile was sincere, because AIDS didn’t win. The diarrhea was a complete and vicious ambush. A total surprise, but it did not win. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt. It always hurts. But even though there were battle scars on my heart, and bruises on my ego, there was not one piece of poop on my St. John pantsuit or my beautiful black Chanel pumps. As I sat down in my booth and waited on my Five Nut Chocolate Brownie, a sense of joy swiped over me because I had not surrendered to the ugliness.

There have been many days in my life where I have had to hold my head high in the face of adversity. Yes, there were days that I was bloody, but over the years I learned to never bow. For me, it’s about how one maintains their dignity when their back is against the wall..... How you hold your head up, against the odds. Holding my head high was all I had that day. Beyond that, I couldn’t see any goodness in it. But God always has a way of using your pain for the goodness of others.

Post Script!

A year or so later, I told this story at a speaking engagement. That day, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, also a speaker at the event, was inspired by my story. After the conference, she returned to Los Angeles and searched for other women who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Sheryl placed these women’s voices center stage in a one woman show that she performs across the country. I am proud to be the anchor character, Ms. Chanel, in her one woman show, Sometimes I Cry, The Loves, Lives and Losses of Women Affected and Infected by HIV/AIDS.  Sheryl has literally touched the lives of thousands of people with her one woman show, while at the same time giving voice to women around the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Over these years Sheryl and I have forged a lasting friendship and partnership in our individual work around HIV/AIDS. I am proud to call her friend, and sister in this fight. Yes, this incident was a reminder that God always has a plan for our pain: God can turn your mess into a message. Our role is to stand tall in the midst of it all.  

I am also honored to be working on my own one woman show, The Politics of Respectability  based on my book. I'm honored  Sheryl Lee Ralph will produce me in this one woman show. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ms. Chanel Part One!

As I strolled down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, I was feeling too good and looking too cute to do anything other than take full advantage of the great weather. Chicago’s premiere shopping area was bustling with shoppers and sightseers, and I was one of them. Looking like a diva, from head to toe in my black and white pinstripe St. John’s pantsuit.
My black Chanel pumps and matching Chanel shoulder bag set my ensemble off just right. My jewelry was perfect. The sun’s reflection beamed out from the Pave diamonds in my ears. My three-carat diamond cross necklace, which was a gift from my sorority sister and friend, Allison Payne, draped perfectly around my neck. Catching a glimpse of myself in a store window, I was one poised woman. I felt alive. I felt totally in control. I was a power shopper in my element, and having a ball.

After hours of shopping, I glanced at my watch. It was really close to dinner time and skipping meals was a luxury I could not afford. I tore myself away and continued on to Houston’s, my favorite restaurant. On the inside, Houston’s was dark and cool, compared to the bright and sunny outdoors. The Maitre-d showed me to a booth, and as I sank down into its security, I gave God a silent “thank you” for the beautiful day. I thanked Him for the wonderful respite from this monstrous disease called AIDS, which was occupying my body. I hated all the ways AIDS tried to control and destroy me like an abusive lover, whose grasp I was not able to escape.

“Stop pondering negative stuff,” I told myself. I felt so good that I decided not to spend another minute thinking about AIDS or medications or side effects or anything but having a great time eating at my favorite restaurant. Any thoughts of HIV/AIDS would just have to wait for another time. I got down to real business. I ordered the Houston Hawaiian steak, a loaded baked potato, a Caesar salad and a glass of lemonade. Of course, dinner is never complete without dessert. So I ordered the Five Nut Chocolate Brownie Ala Mode in a Champagne sauce in advance. Before I knew it, the waiter was back with my meal. I hadn’t realized how hungry I actually was. I said a blessing over the food and then dug right in.

The steak was tender and juicy, cooked just right and the loaded potato was scrumptious. Somewhere between a forkful of steak and a bite of bread, I began to feel a somewhat familiar sensation. Something warm and liquid seemed to be easing its way out of my body. My first reaction was, “Oh no, this cannot be happening! Not here! Not now!” But as reality set in I realized that yes, it could be happening and probably was.

Still determined not to let anything ruin this day, I tried to gain control by flexing my anal muscles. I was bent on stopping it, but it was just as bent on continuing its course, right into my LaPerla panties. Slowly and cautiously, I stood up. It was then that I began to feel it drip down the leg of my St. John pants. That was the ultimate insult!

I started to the bathroom, determined not to panic. Diva Rule kicked in: “Beautiful people in beautiful clothes do not poop on themselves in public, and if they do, they remain in complete control of the situation.”

As I pulled down my panties and sat on the toilet, I kept telling myself, “It’s not as bad as you think it is.” Even in my distress, I reminded myself that the diarrhea was tapering off as of a couple of weeks ago, so how terrible could it be now? I got the answer to that question when I finished using the toilet.

Sitting there, I proceeded to take my pants off. In no way was I prepared for what I saw. My pretty lace panties were completely saturated in shit that covered the entire center of my butt. My left leg was covered with it, from the top of my thigh right down into my beautiful black Chanel shoe. Needless to say, it had painted the entire inside of my St. John pants leg.

At that moment it became abundantly clear to me that AIDS does not care about designer clothes or respect the solitude found in a favorite eatery. Neither St. John nor Chanel could do a damn thing to protect me. Not even my diamond cross was able to ward off that sudden onslaught of diarrhea. The ugly truth was that AIDS had a complete and utter disregard for everyone, everything and every body. Finding myself unprotected once again, I sat there, and faced up to the fact that there was no protection in clothes, no matter how big the designer names, no matter how huge the price tags.

AIDS had ambushed me, literally from behind, my behind, and all I had to fight it with was a roll of toilet paper. I pulled some off and began to wipe myself. I wiped and I wiped, and the more I wiped, the more I spread the poop around without actually cleaning it off.

I realized that nothing less than water was going to get rid of this mess and that posed a real dilemma. This was a public bathroom with multiple stalls, and the only privacy I had was in a tiny stall with a toilet. The sink was on the other side of the room. I knew I couldn’t walk out of that stall, leg covered in shit, wearing neither pants nor panties. And what was clearest of all was that this was one huge mess!

I sat for a moment trying to regain myself. I had to think this thing through. Looking to heaven, I whispered, “God, I know you’re up there.” And really, I did know He was up there, looking down on me. But just for a brief moment, maybe a split second, I felt abandoned. I felt unprotected.

I was almost ready to engage in a total pity party, but when I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes started to water, I put my foot down. I refused to let that tear emerge from my eye. Crying was not an option. This was my day. Maybe AIDS had ambushed me and tried to ruin my clothes, but I refused to let it ruin my day or my disposition. “Sorry, AIDS,” I thought, “this is one battle you’re not going to win.”

It was the only solution possible under the circumstances, a toilet bath? Never heard of it? Neither had I.

Part Two! Click Here... 

Post Script:
This Blog Post was taken from my current book, The Politics of Respectability. For more of my best blogs  get your copy HERE.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nawwww I'm Not Tired of Men... Are You?

Lynette's Comment
I'm always amazed at how women respond to my blog post both good and bad. I use to internalize this stuff until I realized that the response really isn't so much about me, but about them. I find this to be true no matter the comment, good or bad.

Sometimes though, people think they are being super smart and the motives are really not nice. So I started treating comments on my blog, like I do at my speaking engagements when somebody comes for me.

First, I step back and ask ,why are they coming for me? Typically I'm able to hit it on the nail, and then I try to use it as a teaching moment. So last week when I was knee deep in my hot flash drama, Lynette who I don't know, made this comment on my blog post, Live by the Golden Rule! Treat People the Way You Want to be Treated! You can read it here. This is her comment, "Your entire life and the problems within are the direct result of dealing with men. Aren't you tired boo?"

My first impulse was, woman why are you coming for me? But after that hot flash passed, I said, You know Lynette is so correct. My life has been impacted by men both good and bad. For sure men have caused me pain. I was molested as a young girl by the men (yes plural) who were suppose to protect me. That then lead me on a path of early sexual activity in my preteens, which lead me on a path of in and out of relationships and POW HIV by age 20. These things are undisputed facts about my life and it is no secret. I have blogged about my it, talked about it in news interviews and spoken about it.

With this truth in tote, I wondered what was Lynette's real point and what she wanted me to do.
 1) Was she just really coming for me or was it my imagination  2) Does she want me to become a lesbian 3) Does she want me just give up dating altogether or 4) Does she want me to try and get it right. Which of course is what I'm trying to do, that was the point of the blog post.

Furthermore, anyone that have been a avid reader of my blogs or have read my book, knows that I've done worked on myself to the 10th power. So then that lead me to be even more confused about Lynette's comment. Cause yeah Boo I'm tired and yes Boo I've done something about it! Took me years to get here but I done arrived

Now I'm never going to give up men cause frankly, I think life should be spent in companionship. And good lawd, there's nothing like being in a mans arms. But just because I'm trying to get it right, don't mean it's gonna be right. It does mean however, that I love me enough to say to a man you cannot treat me in this manner. It also means that if we can't see eye to eye, then I love me enough to keep it moving, no matter how much I want him in my life.

The fact of the matter, men will treat you based on what they think is right  and how they have treated women in the past. Another woman may accept what you want.

Their right may not be right for you and you gotta have enough balls to say this don't feel good. And hope he wants to be with you enough to admit the wrong and make it better.

Oprah said in her, What I know for Sure. April Issue, that she had a disagreement with Stedman that really hurt her years ago. His response was "I'm sorry. This isn't the man I want to be. I can do better." That was so profound. Oprah said, "Whoa, that registered big-time on my respect meter" POW!

Why can't men say that I hurt you. I'm sorry, let me work on making it right, rather then shutting down on you, running because they were confronted with a wrong and making you less than what you really are because that don't want to deal with the truth, or their emotions, which only pours more salt into the wound.

I liked Yansa's comment, for sure she is a avid reader of my blog and her comment made a light bulb ding in my head. It was the best self love advice anyone could have given me and it brought me back to my senses unlike Lynette's comments that made me want to say Boo why you read my blog?

Now I'm not irrational when it comes to meeting a man somewhere in between. I know for sure that no single man and woman will ever see eye to eye on a topic. We are the coming together as two. No man or woman should want a pasty. But rather, someone who respects and values you for who you are. Respect is key for me. But what I will not do is allow a man to be half/in half/out but still get what they need from me emotionally and leave me empty. I love myself to much for that. We should both benefit from a relationship, thats what makes it a healthy relationship. There should be mutual caring alone with mutual respect. While mutual caring will grow over time,  mutual respect is some basic shit that we should give to everyone.

So you are right Lynette Boo, I am tired and I will not accept less than what I deserve. Will I ever give up on men? Nawwww. I want companionship, but I also want a man who understands my value and treats  me there within, with mutual respect, consistency, stability and loyalty.

Most importantly, I'm never going to give up on this life and all that comes with it. I have no idea what God has for me so I dare not stop. I plan to go and see what the end is going to be.

Shoot just a month ago I drank cognac for the first time in my life. That was an experience that I would have never had, if I had given up on men and not met Mr. Handsome. I had cognac with him not out of pressure, but because I felt safe with him. I was actually having tea and reached over a took a sip and then another. It was an awesome intimate moment we where having on that day. Stopping means that you are  giving up on life's next experiences and there is so much to be explored

And on a side note, No matter how many times a person comes for me. I'm never going to stop sharing my journey because I never know who just might get a breakthrough from of my willingness to be vulnerable.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pushing Through The Inferno

Last week I felt like I was stuck in Dante's Inferno. It felt like I was going through 9 levels of hell here on earth and the inferno of hot flashes was an allegory of my life.

I was so overwhelmed by these hot flashes that my life spiraled downward as the week progressed. I can't even began to explain how stressed I was.

It's like when we say in Social Media "My current situation," for me is was burning from the inside out with no relief in site..

Nothing was accomplished, I didn't workout, work on bracelets, even the two blogs that I did post were written on last Sunday and scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Last week I couldn't think beyond my right now. After 4 weeks of literally operating on less than 4 hours of sleep a night, I knew that a change had to come. I was back and fourth to the doctors the last two weeks trying to be cleared medically to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

This perimenopause I'm going through has been no joke. The hot flushes were so bad I started to have heart palpations. Every time I tried to dose off, I would get this overwhelming feeling of anxiety. I thought that I was loosing my freaking mind. You talking about scared and feeling helpless, that's exactly how I felt. My super woman cape was in the trash bin looking up at me helplessly. I didn't know how to deal with this lack of control that I was feeling and that added more stress.

I felt abandon, alone and crazy but I know that I wasn't. First off, God has got me in any situation that I face. I know this in my heart of hearts. God will never forsaken me, even if in that moment I feel alone. All I got to do is hold on until my change comes. No pun intended. The fact is, I didn't lose my mind last week because of God's covering.

Then those who care about me were at least checking in regularly. Tiara kept in close contact while vacationing in Vegas for  spring break. She kept my mind occupied by sending me text's of her shopping spree and other interesting sites in Vegas. The same for Luke. He was on his birthday holiday in Miami, but he reached out daily, always hoping for a better day. And my friend forever, Keith called helpless and all, but he was at least there with an supportive ear. No one knew really what to say, or how to make it better, except to say, hang in there, it will get better, we are here for you. That went a long way in not feeling so isolated.

By Wednesday, which was week 4 of  this madness, I was so sleep deprived and hot flashed out of my freaking mind I knew I needed more help.

It took everything in me to ask, but I knew that I was not going to sleep on my own. Then this anxiety I'm experiencing is scary, so my doctor prescribed me something in the Valium family to calm me down and help me rest. I also started a high dose of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) on Wednesday. I slept off and on Thursday and  on Friday, back from Spring Break Fun,  Tiara came to stay with me.

But the hot flashes are not letting up. Me and Tiara were in the cold to the store at 11:00 on Friday night getting me some frozen fruit bars.  For Real... She is such a trooper. Side bar: I'm so glad that I spoke at her school last year and our paths crossed. She is such a blessing to me.

I'm flashing day and night. I'm trying everything I can to adapt to this current situation. After only a few days of HRT, I'm still waking up in the middle of the night from the flashes, but the Valium is helping me to go right back to sleep.

Yesterday morning when I got up, I took to the internet to read as much as I could about
perimenopause. I had already read some on perimenopause in HIV infected women. We tend to have more serve hot flashes and other symptoms, but I need solutions!! You can read last weeks Blog Here where I talk more about HIV and menopause.

Right now I'm operating on the reserve in my empty gas tank but I'm on a mission. This is a new week, with new possibles!! I'm freaking tried of feeling helpless and out of control. Between the hot flashes, the night sweats, anxiety, mood swings, sleep deprivation, lack of productivity, simple decision making hard, exhaustion, sleeping nude, sleeping with no heat, sleeping with the window open on a Chicago winter night, taking my temperature because I think I have a fever, parched lips, eating popsicles, I'm over it!!

Now that I am medicated, I'm hoping to play catch up with life. I'm off to the gym this morning to see if I'm able to keep up. But most importantly now that I'm at least starting to be in my right mind with some sleep from the Valium, I'm on a war path with this menopause. I need to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to get me through this journey. I ordered some books and can't wait to dive into it.

By weeks end I'm hoping to be off this valium. The tricky part is that I'm on the road this week speaking. I hate to be this stressed and medicated on the road, but I got do what I gotta do. This program at the University of Arkansas has been scheduled for months, so I'll keep it moving

I'm hoping that Hormone Replacement Therapy  (HRT) is working by then. The only possible snag is that HIV antiviral medications reduces the strength of HRT, so I may have to increase the already high dose that I'm on, but the doctor wants to give this dose at least a couple of weeks.    And thanks to everyone that has suggested some of the herbal treatments. I can not take natural herbal supplements because they interfere with HIV medications.

I am on a mission, seeking out the things that I can do to reduce some of theses symptoms. I'm not at a good place right now. I'm in the middle of my own private hell, but you better believe that I'm going to do everything possible to push my way out of Dante inferno. My Super Woman Cape is waiting on me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Live By The Golden Rule! Treat People How You Want To Be Treated!

It's common for women to go along to get along because no one wants to be along. I will admit that over the years I have tolerated some shit so that I wouldn't rock the boat.

It's like this, men have a way of flipping the script and making you seem crazy cause you called them on their shit. For many many years I would allow stuff just to keep him and the peace. Men are quick to throw in your face your crazy, your drama and that becomes the issue. Then you find yourself defending you, and not addressing the real issue.

As I've grown to understand my worth and apply that worth to my life, I tend to be less tolerable of some things that leave an uneasy feeling within me. Now in full disclosure, I'm human and my first impulse is to KEEP THAT MAN! I said in my blog last week that I needed to work on me in some areas. While I don't always like how I react, and how that then manifest itself to the other person, it doesn't negate how that person made me feel.

As time passes, reality sits in and it hits you, fowl is fowl no matter how you slice or dice it. What makes fowl even fowler is when a man sees no wrong in his behavior, just the wrong in your reaction to his behavior.

I live by the golden rule, to treat people how you want to be treated! I speak and I expect to be spoken back to, bottom line. Like I knew it was time for my ex-husband to go when he would come into the house and fix him a plate of dinner that I had prepared without mumbling a word to me.

He traveled on the road with me back in the day and somedays he would stand in the back, with his arms folded in a Donna Karen suit, money from my gigs had purchased and hadn't said more than two words to me that day. It was ugly, but I knew that I had to let him go and face the fall out; and I did it and never looked back.

Respect is respect 24 hours a day. It's like this,  If I text someone 3 times in one day with no response, and then text them the next day and finally get a short and dry response 3 hours later, that's some rude shit.

First off, it was rude that it took 14 hours for them to respond from the first of 4 texts, especially with someone that you are building some kind of realtionship with.

It's a total disregard of the person. Actions at that moment says either you are not important to me, or what I am doing is more important and cannot share the same space with you.

Let me take it a step further, a person doesn't respond for two reasons in my opinion, bottom line. 1) They are ignoring you  or 2) They are so emotionally engaged somewhere else, that they are emotionally disengaged from the person that is reaching out to them.

Now let me be clear, this does not mean necessarily that the person is out their fucking. Nor does it mean malice intent. i.e. they didn't sat out to hurt you, they just did. If this has never happened in the past, bullshit ain't nothing, it's clear that the person has disconnected from you for whatever reasons they thought valid, and it is what it is.

The extra bothersome part for me is when people don't take ownership and make you the bad guy. Now in truth, whether a relationship makes it or not, treating people with the same respect that they have treated you and with the respect that you deserve to be treated should be the golden rule.

Truth be told, because you've behaved in a certain way in the past, does not make it right. It's bothersome when a man says to you, what I did to you was a small thing, I've done worst, so get over it. Like how does one proudly say that they disregarded someone's feeling that they cared about  as some band of honor?

It would be great if men could have more self examination rather than incrimination. Wouldn't it be great for a man to say, I made her feel less then, what can I do to change it, to make the relationship better, rather than seeing her feelings as a red flag to stop movement in the relationship?

I've always been such an honorable person that I don't know how to handle lack there of. I treat people how I want to be treated and if I don't, I take ownership and use that moment to be a better me for me and for them.

What I do know for sure, no matter how much I like a man, I have standards and I expect any man in my life to want the best for me, no matter how young or old the relationship may be, whether its day 2 or day 2002.

 I said in my blog When Women Don't Listen To Menat the end of the day, you can't make someone love you or want you or want more with you. No matter how much you bond. No matter how good the chemistry is in bed or out of bed for that matter. No matter how much you like him. But whatever barriers a person have that prevents them from taking a risk with you, should not alter your worth.

The same is true, when a man is half-in/ half-out emotionally. The question for you then is how long will you wait, or what will you tolerate as he journey's through his emotions?

My golden rule of self-love, well ummm, when I'm through blogging and the lights are off, how and what I feel about me will determine what I do next.

I never really know what I will do when, I'm not that premeditated. I'm also learning patience in my old age LOL ... But what I do know for sure, I don't spend a lot of nights not liking me for accepting less then what I deserve.

Friday, March 7, 2014

RLT Collection Flash Sale!

Hey Lovely's!! If you had your eye on a bracelet, I'm having a weekend Flash Sale  March 7-9  for RLT Collection, 20% off coupon code flashsale2014  SHOP HERE!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Aging With HIV Part Two!

It's 3:30 in the morning and I've been up since 2:30. I woke soaked and wet yet again. I changed my night clothes and shifted to the other side of the bed, but sleep wouldn't be coming. I decided to go ahead and get today's blog done.

Yesterday, I went to my gynecologist to find some solutions to my perimenopause issues. When I came home I was beat emotionally and physically. First off, she removed my IUD, which I've had for 5 years to help regulate my issues from endometriosis. That left me bleeding heavy and cramping. All I wanted to do was take pain medication and crawl into bed.

Speaking of cramping along with heavy periods, that was the norm for more than 10 years because of endometriosis. Now actually, menopause corrects endometriosis and we were hoping that I was moving in the right direction. But then last Sunday, after 7 months, I got a period out the freaking blue. As of today, I've been bleeding for 10 days. So, this Thursday, I'm having a vaginal ultrasound to see what's going on. From those test results, she will determine if I will need to have an endometriosis biopsy next week to explore a little deeper. So keep me in your prayers because that is one biopsy that is some kind of painful. I have had three and all I was good to do afterwards is go straight to bed.

We dived into solutions to some of my perimenopausal issues. First off, she confirmed some of the information that I've been reading on my own, that women with HIV have a more difficult perimenopause than women who are not infected with HIV.

With that out of the way, I learned some new stuff. So I'm waking up wet in the middle of the night as I explained in Monday's Blog. Actually, I was blown away to learn that I am actually having hot flashes in my sleep and that's what's making me sweat and then the dampness wakes me out of my sleep. She did say that the mood swings are basically common for perimenopausal women from sleep deprivation that's caused by the hot flashes. Shut UP! What a crazy cycle! Keep living and you will learn something new everyday. Hot Flashes in your sleep. WOW!

So we have a couple of options. There is an antidepressant that has shown to help perimenopausal women's hot flashes. Or we could do Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Which I did a couple years back briefly, when I first started to have hot flashes. This is the route we are gong to take, HRT. But first I need to have a mammogram in addition to the ultra sound before I start and that's scheduled for next week. A mammogram is necessary because a woman can develop breast cancer after 5 years on HRT. We need a baseline before I  start! Also, before I start HRT, she wants to make sure that there's nothing really serious going on with this bleeding I'm having.

Also with HRT, it appears that women with HIV on antiviral medication, need to take a higher dose of HRT medication because HIV antiviral's actually interact with HRT. I know a lot of women take natural alternatives, instead of HRT, but those also interfere with HIV medication, like St. John's Wart for example so I can't go that route.

Anyhoo, at least I'm on the road to getting things back to normal. It will be at least two weeks before I'm able to start HRT. I'm praying that all things are good with my test and I'm counting down to relief. In the meantime, I do what I do, keep pressin' and do my best. I'll keep you posted after all my tests are back.

We also revisited the topic of Osteoporosis. She wants me to be diligent and take calcium everyday and to do 30 minutes of weight barring exercise 5 days a week! Doctors orders!

I said it in Monday's blog and I'll say it again. I try to convey everyday that HIV is a hard disease to live with. It really is more complicated than one pill a day. If you do not have HIV, keep it that way. Who knew that I would have to face another set of issues as I age with this disease? Prevention is our best course of action!

Aging With HIV Part One Click HERE!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Growing Pains...

At 51 I'm not ashamed to say that I'm still a work in progress!! I learned something new about myself everyday that I don't like! Discovery, then acceptance is the first two steps. But the real question is what are you going to do about it, that is, the thing you learned about yourself? You see it's not enough to know better, but at some point you have to replace the old with the new! The Bible says that you cannot put new wine in old bottles. At the end of the day, it's the action behind the discovery that makes us great .

So this is the deal, over the weekend I had a clash with two men that are special to me, my Pastor and Mr. Handsome. It was two totally different topics but it had the same result; it made them irritated with me.

I could on the one hand, right it all off as my freaking hormones all over the place and partly that could be true. The doctor confirmed that for me; the lack of sleep from my night sweats, thats cause by hot flashes in my sleep is what's causing my mood swings.

But that would be the easy way out, and we all know that I'm hard on myself. So another truth is that I tend to see things in black and white and that makes me overreact. The truth is, one truth don't negate another truth. Honestly, this black and white thing I got going on, is a trait of many Adult Children of Alcoholics, that I share. I remember in my early 20's Mrs. Jackson would say to me after an argument with Jesse, Jr. (We were always feuding about something or another) Mrs. Jackson would say just as calmly, "Rae it doesn't pay to be so damnn right."

For sure she had a point, because sometimes you win the battle and lose the people in the fight and for sure that's not always your intended outcome!

Now this thing about being right is relative because everyone's right has some validity. Sometimes it's a matter of respecting that everyone has a way of doing things and unless it's a total volition of you, and even if it is, it's there right. I learned that in Al- Anon, that a person has a right to make choices for their life even if you don't like the intended outcome for your life. You always have the option to move on.

The reality is that the most people don't always live with you in mind and that's not a bad thing per say. We each have to live our own lives, where we intersect then great!

Another person's way of doing and saying things isn't always meant to be mean or hurt you. A person's way of expression is just that. If you know a persons heart then that should be enough to get you pass that moment of what you are feeling.

With this said, I was reminded in both of these situations that I really need to work on some areas of my life. I keep saying that I really want to be my best me. I'm using these moments as  teaching moments and a catalyst to be a better me.

Someone who's opinion that I value said to me today, that Mr. Handsome is a shock to my system in a good way.  He is shaking things up over here. For sure he  has made me take a critical look through the lenses of which I view life; and when a person helps you to grow that's always a good thing. Pastor, well in a small but significant way, showed me that whatever I was tripping about had no validity.

Both of these men I certainly respect and are happy to have them in my life, that is without a doubt. I'm glad they have crossed my path. Even in an narrow way, I'm happy for my craziness, because it reminded me that I still have work to do on myself. At the end of the day, all we can really account for is ourselves and you must love the skin that you are in, or do something about it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Aging With HIV/AIDS

I've said it before, I never thought that I would live to see perimenopause, but I did. While I'm glad to be alive, I've got to admit, menopause or pre-menopausal  which is what I'm gong through, is more than a notion. Now, menopause is when your menstrual cycle has ended, no more, done. Perimenopausal is basically, everything a woman experiences leading to menopause and you still have a cycle.

While every woman will have to go down this path, studies show that women with HIV have more severe perimenopausal issues. We tend to begin menopause earlier at 48-49 years of age.  This is true for me. I started having hot flashes at 48. Women with HIV tend to have more severe hot flashes, depressed moods, irritability, sleep problems and all of this could lead to issues around adherence to HIV medication and ones overall well-being. As well as, a greater risk of heart disease.

It's interesting, older women don't really talk about menopause much other than hot flashes. When I was younger, I laughed off the topic with a shrug like most young women.

We go through most of our younger years not really seeking any information on menopause and then before we know it, the months have turned into years and 25 into 50 and we find ourselves knee deep in it and don't have a clue. As a woman living with HIV/AIDS, I'm learning that there is a heavier burden for me as I go through perimenopause.

This is at least true for me and I'm finding it difficult as I muddle through. For the longest, I've suffered through hot flashes. A hot flash is heat consuming your body like an inferno on the inside coming out. For a good two years, hot flashes were a thorn. Then they went away, then they came back, then they tapered off. Which is where I'm at now; a hot flash every now and then.  But when I have one, it stops me in my tracks.

Now perimenopause is far more then hot flashes. First off, this thing with the menstrual cycle, it just won't go away and when I'm this close to being done, then BAM! That's what happened last week. I hadn't had a cycle in 7 freaking months, then BAM! For me, having a menstrual cycle is not a breeze. I also have endometriosis, so my cycles tend to be heavy in the cramping; like someone has their hand up my vagina up to my uterus yanking down.

Yep, that was last week. Then these night sweats. Now night sweats are scary to me. Let me explain. Back in the day, night sweats were common for people living with AIDS and it often meant some kind of infection. So when my night sweats started back a few months ago, I went to my HIV doctor in a panic. She tested me for everything HIV related and all my test came back normal.  So the night sweats that I'm experiencing are clearly caused by my perimenopausal status.

For the last 3 months or so, I wake in the middle of the night soaked. The weekend was the pits. Friday night I had to change my gown about 4:00 AM. But Saturday night was the pits. I woke up wet, wet, and wet, my gown, my sheets, my pillows, even my blanket was so wet that I  had to remove everything. This happens at least 3- 4 times a week, where I at least have to change my night clothes and shift to the other side of the bed, and sometimes it happens a couple times in one night.

All of this means my sleep is deprived and I have to then get up and start the day tried on top of the HIV fatigue that I have a few times a week. I'm not sure how I've been making it these last few months and keeping up with my projects. Somedays I press through it, never really complaining.

Saturday night was the worst in terms of the level of my wetness so far. Needless to say, I woke up sacred. I thought that I had peed on myself . The first thing I did was smell my gown and sheets. Finally it hit, there would be no way for urine to make it to my pillows. Relieved somewhat,  I got up and changed my gown and sheets. I eventually fell back to sleep and when I woke for the day, I was wet again.  It was one rough night.

For sure, waking up in the middle of the night 3-4 times a week is interfering with sleep. We know that sleep is important for everyone, it is especially important for people who's immune system is compromise. Lack of sleep in and of itself does a number on the immune system, people living with HIV/AIDS don't need anything extra to effect the immune system negatively.

Then on top of the night sweets, which are depriving me of sleep. Some nights I have a hard time falling to sleep. The doctor prescribed medication back in the fall and for sure, if I don't take it, I'm still awake come 2:00 AM. I've learned my lesson so I take it, but it makes me a tad groggy in the morning. This means a few mornings out of the week I'm groggy from the medication and tired from waking in the middle of the night from the night sweats. It has been a vicious cycle.

Additionally, perimenopause has caused me to  have what's call atrophic vaginitis, which is inflammation of the vagina due to the thinning of the lining. Now some women actually have a very dry vagina. For me, I have thinning in the uterus, which makes it raw and sore. I also have this rawness on my vulva area at times. It is quite uncomfortable to say the least.

Bone Scan
While most perimenopausal women are at risk for Osteoporosis women with HIV are at an increased risk. HIV actually causes bone deterioration for both men and women living with HIV. A year ago I had a bone scan to get my base line and we discovered that I have already started to lose bone.

This is one reason I  keep trying to convey to people who are not infected. You do not want this infection. We can treat you and you will live a long time, but there will be problems the longer you live with HIV, no matter how good you feel today. HIV does damage to the body, bottom line.

Lastly, these freaking mood swings. One day I'm happy go lucky and the next day I'm not in the mood for bullshit. In the scheme of things, I'm happy. I feel good about life and what's happening in my life so I shouldn't be this emotional.

The biggest issue for me is that the mood swings have effected my productivity. Somedays I have to make myself push through, especially when I'm sleep deprived.

There is also an impulse to emotional eat. I gained 5 pounds back over these last two months from not working out and emotional eating. I'm trying to eat back on track but it's a challenge. I've decided that I can not bring certain foods into my house. I just can't.

Needless to say, I'm headed to my gynecologist Tuesday! I'm fed up right about now and need a solution to this madness. I know that diet and exercise can help some of these perimenopause symptoms and I'm trying to get back on track. For sure,  I need some extra help and I'm going to seek it out.  I always want to live my best life and so I do the things that will render the best outcome.

This weekend was really really rough for me all the way around. Oh, by the way, it's 5:00 A. M. Monday morning and I'm up writing this blog. I woke up at 4:00 A. M. to change my night clothes and I couldn't go back to sleep. Yes, I'm glad to be alive. Yes I'm tough beyond understanding. Yes, I will work through it all. I always do, that's what makes me me. But, being super woman does not take away the super hard and that is a fact.

For sure living with HIV/AIDS long term has presented tons of challenges. Now as I age, I'm having to consider the issues that effect every aging woman at an even more complicated level. HIV is the gift that just keep right on giving; that is for real and it ain't never pretty and some days I wish that I could just give it back.

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