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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

SOMWA A Wonderful Cause!!!

New York! New! York! New York! Come hang out with me Sun Dec 13th! Bring a toy and wear your dancing shoes for the Somwa Foundation 7th Annual Toy Drive. All the toys go to families with HIV. 

Hydeia Broadbent and I donated our time to this wonderful cause, Mothers of Survivors With AIDS (SOMWA). 
At the age of 23 Shacazia Brown's the founder of SOMWA, mother Wanda E. Buggs died from an AIDS-related illness. Shacazia has been unrelentless in her work for those living with HIV. In addition to the toy drive every year SOMWA participates in the New York AIDS walk and goes to Kenya to work with children living with HIV and that's just some of the work Shacazia does on behalf of those living with HIV. 

She lost her mother and then picked up the cause in memory of her mother! Her mother is looking down smiling.. 

Here are the details...

Join us on Sunday, December 13, 2015, at Taj Lounge 48 west 21st Street New York, NY between 5th & 6th from 4pm - 10pm.

Kitchen will be open to purchase food
2 - 1 drinks from 4pm - 6pm (top shelf)
*early arrival is strongly suggested*
Music provided by: @djmissyb @dadjpoisonivy and @djcraignice1 

#FREE admission with a new unwrapped toy suggested $10 donation without.
21 and older

We will have two amazing hosts:
@raelt Emmy Award Winning AIDS Activist & @hydeiabroadbent International HIV/AIDS Activist & Humanitarian

ALL toys will be distributed to @gmhc @preciousdreamsfoundation PS 401 The Christopher Avenue Community School &  Children in Kenya affected by HIV/AIDS

Monday, December 7, 2015


I'm honored to have been asked to participate in the Center For Disease Control, Act Against AIDS newest HIV Testing Campaign, "Doing It." Donating your name and brand to a national campaign is no small thing. This is especially true, when you give someone else total control over how they present you to the public.

The best part of the campaign for me was the day long photo shoot working with two women that I love and respect. Charreah Jackson is the Lifestyle and Relationship editor for Essence Magazine. She also wrote the anniversary article on me for Essence, Dec 2015. Karyn Brianne Lee, is a Chicago girl and Co-Founder of Red Pump.

 I believe donating my time and name is worth it. Testing for HIV is important. What we know today is the earlier a person knows there HIV status and get in treatment, the longer you will live. In fact, early treatment for HIV could turn into decades of life. This is why testing is important.

The reality today, is about 40% of newly diagnosed cases of HIV are people infected by people who didn't know that they were infected. Testing can reduce new cases of HIV.

Join the campaign and be one of those #DoingIt Tag me on my Social Media sites after you have  tested  for HIV using the hashtag #DoingIt

 And if you see any of the billboards or adds in your city of Me, Charreah and Kayrn take a pic with it and post it on your Social Media site... Don't forget to tag me... I will repost on my Social Media Sites.

(I'm not sure which pictures of me they are using other than the tea party, even if's its only one picture, I'm wayyy excited, so be on the lookout.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

World AIDS Day!

Good Morning Lovely's!! Today is World AIDS Day! A day of remembrance for those we lost to this disease. But also a day to fight stigma that blames and shames those living with #HIV world wide! It's a time to demand treatment for all and work toward ZERO infections! Tell someone you know with #HIV that you love and support them! Text, hit them up on Social Media, Call or drop by their house but just do it! #teatime ☕️ 

Join me live on Periscope today! I will be answering questions off and on all day.. You can follow me on World AIDS Day!
Also my speech tonight at North Carolina A and T University will live stream on my Periscope http://www.periscope.com/raelt

Finally the best way to support me is to purchase a bracelet or my book! Everything is 50%off coupon code shop2015 http://www.rltcollection.com

Namaste #WAD2015 #aidsawareness #DivaLivingWithAIDS #aids

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Charlie Sheen: And This Is What I Think!!

When actor Charlie Sheen said, "I'm not living in that prison anymore" I felt that deep in my soul.  It resonated loud and clear. I kept my own HIV infection a secret for seven years. For Real! My first seven years I only told 5 people that I had HIV, other than the men I dated. And even then I was afraid that someone would take my information and sabotage my life working at the national level as a young savvy political organizer.  I can image that being blackmailed is crazy madness. So, yes I'm glad that Charlie Sheen made this decision to step outside of that madness and disclose his HIV status. I remember when I disclosed my HIV status, it felt like tons of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders...

 Now, I'm not sure what my readers and supporters want me to say about all of this, but as usual, I'm going to speak the truth as I see it and know it to be.

1) It is a SHAME that in 2015, thirty four years, yes I said 34 years after the first documented HIV cases by the Center for Disease Control that a person still lives in fear of disclosing their HIV status. When are we going to stop shaming people who are living with HIV? Huh? WHEN? Even now, everyone has a freaking opinion about what Charlie Sheen should have done with his life. HIS LIFE! I'm sadden, not just for Charlie, but for all the people who reach out to me daily via Social Media that are living with HIV and are afraid to disclose their HIV status for fear of judgement. I get it, just by watching the reaction to Charlie today.

This shamming has created a vicious cycle, especially when it comes to testing for HIV. Who even wants to know their status in this climate of judging and lack of compassion.  Testing is critical, because 38% of those newly infected with HIV are infected by someone who does not know that they have HIV. So people don't great tested because of fear of judgement and they infect others unknowingly. Learning your HIV status late also means that treatment comes late. This is sad because studies, show the earlier you know the longer you live.

Furthermore, the fact the Matt Lauer even asked Charlie how he contracted HIV is some 34 year old "Good AIDS" "Bad AIDS" crap. First off, it ain't none of your freaking business how! Does knowing how change how you feel about him?  If it does, shame on you. All it takes is one person, one time.

2. Charlie admits that he has had unprotected sex, but that his partner(s) knew that he was HIV positive and was also under his doctor's care. People seemed to be outraged by this fact, like they fucking Charlie. *Blank Stare*  The problem I see is not Charlie, but the mass majority have not caught up with the medical advancements around HIV.

a) It is true that an HIV infected person with an Undetectable Viral load CANNOT infect another person with HIV. It does not matter, how many times they have unprotected sex, you cannot transmit HIV when your Viral Load is Undetectable.

b) Charlie said that his partner was also under his doctor's medical care. So I am assuming that just maybe the person (s) he was having unprotected sex with was also taking PrEp. Which is a once a day pill that will PREVENT a person from becoming HIV infected. That's a double positive people. You cannot infect a person if your viral load is undetectable and your partner can also take PrEp. These are medical FACTS! There is no BUT!

3) Charlie admitted having sex with prostitutes and in those cases he used a condom and also disclosed his HIV status. BRAVO! Now, I know people with HIV who use a condom  100%,  but do not disclose their HIV status. They feel, if their viral load is undetectable, why should they  have to disclose.  There are now doctors who share this same opinion. Personally, I think disclosure is the best policy, especially if the relationship grows. But at the end of the day everyone has to decide how they choose to live their life with HIV. I dare not judge another. So I say BRAVO that Charlie was upfront and honest.

Now, what's really jacked up in this case, is that someone took the information given to them for there protection and used it against him. Even sadder, is the climate  around HIV that creates an opening for someone to be blackmailed. If people didn't judge those living with HIV so harshly, those living with HIV wouldn't be afraid to disclose, nor would there be any room to blackmail a person. Yep, I came full circle back to STIGMA!

4) I cannot tell you where Charlie is in disease progression.  If I had known his T-Cell Count and his Viral Load when he was first diagnosed, I could give you a good guess on how long he has actually been infected. Once you start treatment, there is no way for a lay person to figure it out. That is information he and his doctor knows. I do wonder about the night sweats, which sounds like an AIDS Related medical issue, rather than an HIV. There are no HIV symptoms.

These are the facts as told by Charlie,

He has been infected at least 4 years
He is in treatment
His viral Load is Undetectable
He is on an 4 HIV medicine Cocktail ( BTW-So Am I)

5) Charlie is an addict. Addiction is not good for people living with HIV. First off, addiction has it's own medical issues, depending on your drug of choice. Secondly, alcohol and drugs can have an adverse effect on HIV medication. Even some over the counter  and alternative medications can effect the viability of HIV medication. So lets hope he is getting the help that is needed to control addiction.

6) Charlie talked about Manic behavior. It has been long speculated that he might be BiPolar. IF this is the case he will have an up hill battle. Mental illness can be a barrier to complying with medical treatment of any kind. Also, depression is very common among people living with HIV. I have also had an up hill battle with depression that requires me to both be medicated and see regular talk therapy.

Lastly, should he have disclosed, earlier. I think a person should disclose when they are ready. He spoke another truth "HIV are three words that are hard to absorb." I get that. It took me 7 years and I still only disclosed because I thought that I was dying. Well with a T-Cell count of 8 I was, but then I had a great doctor and I did what was asked of me, no matter how difficult it was. I have also been drug and alcohol fee.

I have some compassion for Charlie Sheen. Is he my hero, no. Hydeia Broadbent is my HIV hero, born with HIV, she became an AIDS Activist at age  6 and has not stopped well into her thirties. Sheryl Lee Ralph is my HIV activist hero, an actress who is NOT infected but made a decision to do speak out for the rejected and locked out.  YOU are my hero, those of you who follow me on my social media sites, read my blog, buy my bracelets because your support keeps me going, and growing, 32 years living with HIV.

I do however, think in an era where HIV is no longer a sexy topic, Charlie Sheen can help to open space for new dialogue. Charlie Sheen can use his money and his celebrity status to help. I mean really help. Does he have to become an AIDS Activist per say, no, but he can truly help. Shoot, I would love to partner with Charlie to speak at colleges across this country.

For sure there is still work to be done. Every 10 minutes a person becomes infected with HIV in the United States. Yes there is work to be done.

My hope is that Charlie Sheen will continue to get the needed help to live and thrive living with HIV.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Reflection: Get Up From The Table When Shit Is Being Served!

Everybody got some "thing" going on in their life most of the time, if not all of the freaking time.

Some "things" cannot be helped, like an illness you didn't see coming. Like last year when my Sophie was diagnosed with cancer on Wednesday and on the following Monday I had to put her down.

 Like a job that ended unexpectedly, death in the family, someone hitting your car, without stopping and you are left with the task of getting a new one.

Like a person betrays your trust and your life is changed without your permission. Like recently I met a guy who had been in a monogamous relationship for five years, so he thought. After a few years of condom use, he let his guard down and now he is living with HIV. Just that quick, someone else made a decision to do something with their life and it changed both lives.

While some "things" are out of our control, there are "things" in our life we help create. Like that boyfriend that continues to disrespect you whether it be small or big, (by the way a lot of small adds up to big)  yet you just keep hanging on. Like the friend who treat's you like shit, but you keep sitting at the table where the shit is being served.

In both of those cases the fist time was on them, but everything after is about how you decide to deal with it. When shit is being served and you hang around, you tell that person, just by your presence that its O.K. It does not matter what comes out of your mouth. Action always speaks louder than words and your participation creates that "thing in your life, i.e. the stress and chaos.

Now, there is some "things" we can avoid altogether, like when you have just enough money to pay your bills, but you purchased that new "thing" that you convinced yourself was ok, instead of paying all of your bills  and now you're stressed cause the bills are pass due. I know how this can be, a couple of months ago I broke one of my cardinals rules "don't spend money that I don't have in my hand."

It does not matter that I'm expecting money to come in, I just don't over extend myself on the front end anymore. I learned that lesson so many times and I know better. Well, my fur needed to be repaired and put in storage. The furrier wanted upfront money that I didn't have. Because he respects what I do for a living he allowed me to pay installments.

I made a commitment  to pay something that day, which I did; Pay something the following  Monday because I was expecting a check that Friday and then to have the bill paid in full by the end of August. Needless to say, that check didn't come in for over a month and then everything that could have gone wrong did, and I lost control.

First off,  it made me look like a lair and  because my word is my honor I became stressed trying to keep the commitment that I had made.  I gave him money that should have gone to other bills, just to keep as much of my commitment as possible. You talking about stresssssssseddddd OMG!  Just waiting on money to come in became stressful.  And to make matters worst, everything I thought would happen the way I thought it would happen, didn't.  Even paper work to process a check got crazy and I got crazier.  This was a two month long drama that I had caused. I should have taken my fur back home until I had the money to pay for it.

Yep, we all got some "thing" going on in our life whether it's of our own making or not. At the end of the day though, it's not about the "thing" per say, it's about  how we deal, what we learn and what we do next. You all know that Sophie's death sent me into a serious year long depression. I was in it before I even realized it, but once I accepted that truth, I started the hard work of climbing out of that darkness.

 No, I didn't look for the light at the end of the tunnel to rescue me, I started crawling in the darkness searching for a way out of the tunnel. Sometimes you have to do the important work in the darkness.

Even in the fur situation, I had to accept the reality. I didn't have the money, I broke my word to the furrier and all that I could do was make good as soon as I could. Those last two weeks before I paid him off, I decided to buy groceries instead of giving him all that I had. Lesson had been learned, don't break that cardinal rule again for something as frivolous as getting a fur repaired.

You can't always change that "thing" in your life, but you can determine what happens at the end of that "thing." Like the guy who ended up with HIV. He said after some destructive behavior of his own, he literately uprooted and changed his environment. Today, he is living the best he can with what he has to deal with. Ex-Boyfriend gone, no more binge drinking, he accepted HIV because it ain't going anywhere. He's taking his medication, his viral load is undetectable and he has excelled at work in the last year, more than he had in the past 5 years.

I don't think life is about the "thing" that happens to us, the "thing" is just the middle, its what happens at the end of that "thing" that helps to shape who you are.  It's about finding yourself, finding your voice and even finding your purpose.

As you go through your "thing" remember it's not about that "thing" it's about how you deal with that "thing."

No matter how difficult it might be, you have to get up from the table where shit is being served, whether it's your shit or someone else's.

My depression hit me hard, but I decided it didn't have to hit me forever. I got up from the table and started working with professionals that could help me, help myself. That's how you live your best life. You take charge of those things that you can. You don't let that "thing" control your life forever. With every "thing"you have the power to empower yourself, even in the darkest of "things."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stop Blocking The Next Chapter of Your Life!

I took an unexpected vacation from blogging. No, it was not health related. My emotional and physical health is great. It's just that I've had so much work to do in other areas of my life, that blogging took a back sit. Be clear though, while on this blogging vacation, I realized that I LOVE blogging and I've missed it like I miss bread when I'm doing my Paleo diet, LOL but For Real. 

Yet, I also realize that you sometimes have to step back so that you can move forward. Sometimes you have to let go of somethings in order to grab onto that other thing hanging in the balance. If not, you risk it all tumbling down. You can only hold so much in your hands and that's an undisputed fact. And while it all may be important to you, there's nothing in the book of life that say's you cannot put it down and then come back to pick it up.

So I've  been plugging away and even at times simply muddling through with the edits on my memoir Unprotected. (Thanks for the pre-orders)  I'm still planning to release it December 1, 2015, so I suspect the next couple of months I'll be really super single focused. I'll try to get a blog or two in weekly. 

I'm in hump time and it needs to be finished. It's like one of those things you just have to do. It's like when you are at the end of a wonderful book and you're sleepy, but you can't put it down. I have that urgency in my spirit, I gotta finish! There is closure at the end of a good book no matter the outcome. You can sit back and say, "WOW, But, How-come," and to me that's the thing that makes a book good, it leaves you thinking. And the best part, once it's all done, you can pick up yet another good book. And the new book, gives you something new to think about

That's how I feel about my memoir, I need to finish this era of my life so that I can start writing the new book. Maya Angelou did just that. Most of her books where memoirs of different era's of her life. Now I'm not saying that I'm writing a new book, who knows what the future holds. I am saying metaphorically it's time to write this book, tell that story and move to the next phase of my life.

Even though I know all of this, I've still been paralyzed. I think that this paralysis is caused by the fullness of my story and the things that need closure. Like who infected me with HIV; Who molested me as a child; My dysfunctional relationship with my white biological mother and my black step grandmother, who raised me; How I dealt with homelessness at 17; My work on the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns; How my childhood lead me to HIV; that marriage of mine; and of course how God undergirded my life, despite my life. 

The fact of the matter, finishing this memoir brings a certain kind of closure to parts of my life. I get that!!! Finishing this memoir will break the chains of my past and render it powerless over my future.

And just maybe I've been stuck on the edits because of the fear of my past being so public. And that in turn  is controlling my outcome, my future. Another fact, I've been so authentic and transparent up to this point, I know that I can't let this fear block the best of my gift, that is, being able to tell my story in a way it enriches the lives of others. I can't be chicken shit now that I done told you all the other stuff.

At the end of the day, we all have things that we are  holding onto that we should have let go a long time ago. Like that man you should have unfollowed on Facebook or that "sometimey" friend who's pictures you should have stopped liking on Instagram like yesterday. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want anything to hold me back from what's next. Whether it's physically or emotionally, I'm trying to be my best me. So I'm going  to bunker down these next two months and finish my memoir. 

I understand that you have to do what's necessary to break the chains of your past. Sometimes adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse write their abusers a letter and then burn it as a way of releasing the abuser hold over them. I know they tell people in recovery to remove themselves from people and places that facilitated their addiction. Maybe moving on means, accepting a marriage proposal from a wonderful man as a way to  let go of what went wrong in your last marriage. 

I don't know what you have to do in your own life to move forward whether you have unfollow, delete, write it out, burn it out, accept something new and wonderful even if you can't predict the outcome, but I do know, as long as you continue to hold onto the past, you are placing limitations on your future. And as sure as you are reading this blog, God has a next for you. But in the end, it's up to you to embrace it. The bible says that you cannot put new wine in old bottles. Stop blocking the next chapter of your life by holding onto what was.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

God Always Has A Next!

What I know for sure is that God always has a next! I have believed this since I was a little girl being told I was never gonna be shit. Even back then after every unjust beating, I continued to have hope for something better than my right now.

In time I learned, if I just kept holding on, there was something new for me. Now, it didn't always amount to the the things I wanted most, for the abuse to stop, but there was always something to make life worth living. Like the black theatre company, Thunder and the choir, Project Advancement Gospel Ensemble in high school. Those things were a joy to my soul and gave me a place to be other than my home.

Now, for sure it wasn't just about waiting on next, but putting myself in the right places at the right time. Sometimes we wait on next like it's going to fall in our lap, when in fact you may need to get off your ass and get to next. For example, I had to at least go to the information meetings about the theatre company and choir when I was in high school. I had to act on my own behalf.

I could have allowed the pain of my home stop me from living, but I choose to keep moving, keep searching for a better life. I believed that I was better than what my mother said I was and I went searching for better. The choir and theatre company gave me not only a respite from the chaos at my home, but a place that could nurture my self-esteem.

What I'm saying is this, it's about believing, but also about doing something in your right now. Why complain about something better, when you ain't doing nothing better?

I've carried that belief into my adulthood, no matter how bad it may seem in my right now, I  kept on pushing to see what God had next for me. At my lowest moments with AIDS, I kept this belief close to my heart. When my T-Cell Count was as low as 8, I was crisscrossing this country speaking and giving voice to the voiceless.

If I had allowed the hardship of my disease control my life, rather than continue on my life journey, I would have never met my BFF. I didn't know then that the sixteen year old who introduced me at the Jack and Jill Event in Knoxville, TN would turn out to become my ride and die years later. But what I know for sure, if I had stop living my life purpose because my t-cell count was 8 and stayed home and withered away,   I would have never crossed Luke's path. God sent me someone from an unlikely situation to have my back on this journey years later. You never know what is happening in your right now that will be a part of your next. This is way you have to keep pushing through the right now. 

It's like that with every single thing. You never know what tomorrow will bring. I understand that when you are going through, it seems like it's never going to end. For those who have been following my story you know my ordeal with herpes and IV medication. It started out once a year, then every six months and then for almost two years I had to go on IV medication every three months. I was at the end of the road emotionally. 

My doctor had exhausted every medical idea possible to control the herpes to no avail over a seven years period. But I just kept on pushing through occluded veins and failed pic lines and extreme side-effects. I never stop living, there were times I took my IV medication on the road with me when I had to speak. I didn't know what my future looked like, but as long as I woke up in the morning, I believed I was still a part of God's earthly plan.

I continued to let God use me through speaking, blogging and social media.  When I think about all the emails and private messages I have received from people who have been touched by my ministry. I understand, that living in the right now, isn't always about me, but about how God will use you. Even if it's simply to bring a smile to a stranger on the street with an hello. We all have a purpose. 

 Today, it's been an year since I've had herpes and needed to go on  IV medication. The saying is true, man plans, then God laughs. My doctor had even concluded that there was nothing to be done and now we are both looking like WOW.  I'm saying look at God.  Baby, just keep on living and watch God blow your mind. 

 I know life gets hard sometimes for us all. Your issue may or may not be HIV. But I'm a living witness if you just keep on believing and keep doing, no matter how futile it may seem, God will always have a next. It may not be the next thing you want, but it's the next thing that will bless you. Let me pause and say, don't turn your nose up you what God has next for you. Our blessings come in many shapes and forms, but what I know for sure, is that God always has a next! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Living with Intent!

Now that I'm well into my 50's  there seems to be no turning back. I'm doing what I should have done in my 30's and for sure when I started to see my 40's that is, live with intent.  Well, I sort of lived with very limited intent for 20 years plus, that is, to tell my story to as many people as possible before I died. It was a lofty goal that I did very well. I mean I have spoken at literally hundreds of venues from colleges, churches, high schools and conferences. The only thing is that this goal was single focused and connected to death. Then, I didn't die. Limbo!

As crazy as this may sound, not dying honestly, left me scrambling day to day. I've done everything I had to do to get to the next day, but I rarely thought about the bigger picture and how next month or year was connected to today. As I move into the future, I know it's time for a paradigm shift. I not only need, but I want a new life construct to get me through the rest of my life. One that enriches both me and the lives of others. 

 I use to say that I was living in the midst of dying and that was my truth. For sure, as AIDS was eating away at my body, I was doing that thang. I got up every morning dressed up and participated in life, but expecting death. 

Now my vision for myself is to live until I do die. That means that I'm living life with intent that encompasses the fullness of life. This means I ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" with every single thing. From the food I put in my mouth, to buying a handbag, to every blog I write. I ask these questions, what's my intent? Does it enrich my life or the lives of others? Does it feel right? Or do I have to convince myself? By the way, when you have to convince yourself or have someone else amen your corner, it's probably an action from the head and not the soul.  

I ask myself even with each purchase, Why this handbag, today? Is it to fill some void or make me forget? Is is to show off? Why do I have that need?  Is this purchase drama free?  Drama free meaning, will it leave me broke and unable to pay the rest of my bills? Will I like how I feel tomorrow if I do this today? Why do I want this thing in my life today? 

I search my soul for clarity because the mind can convince you to do some dumb shit. Y'all know I'm telling the truth. This is how it goes,  you say to yourself; if I don't get the handbag today, it may be gone when I come back. If I use some of my bill money for this, I will make it up when I get paid next week. And the list goes on and on. 

That even goes for a man, me included. Been there, done that thang that hurt my soul and rationalized it away. I'm not even going to entertain the justification list for a man, that's a blog for another day because the list is to long.  At the end of the day we just let our mind run all over our soul. The soul always knows what to do! ALWAYS!  And it always has your best interest. 

Oprah says that she ask the intent question with everything she does. She wants to be at peace going into a situation and coming out of a situation. That is the goal for me.  I want a clear and positive focus. I want to make the best moves for my soul. Lawd, yep, I'm planning for my 60's  and 70"s in my 50's. It is NEVER to late to change course. For me, this means that I have grown by leap and bounds. I'm proud of me.

I just finished reading Kris Jenner's autobiography. And I know some of you are not Kardashian fans. I've heard the mean things people say and while y'all talking shit about them, they have not missed one beat. Their brand keeps growing and growing. I'm curious to how people live their lives and build their brand, so I picked up her memoir, Kris Jenner And All Things Kardashian.  It was a pretty good book. For sure she has worked her ass off.

 After leaving her husband Robert Kardashian, for a younger guy who was a piece of shit, and then realizing it after the fact ( see the mind can make you think a good fuck is love), she found herself with no money of her own. 

When Kris met Bruce Jenner she was in the middle of a divorce with four kids and Bruce didn't even have a business card and was living pay check to pay check. She got debilitate about their life and helped to put him back on the map.  During that time, it was about putting food on the table. I know what that feels like. What am I going to do to simply get from day to day? Food on the table was her primary motivation. 

 It wasn't until Kris was hitting 50 and the show was in it's first season that she started living with intent for the future of her family, rather than hand to mouth.  She listened to her soul. Her gut told her it felt right and with everything she did, she asked the hard questions. What's next? How do we continue to be better and do better? How do I turn 15 minutes of fame into 30 and 30 into an hour? What does it mean to live our life on stage and how does it help all of us, her family and the universe. 

You must ask yourself the hard questions and be ready for the answers, your truths. You must also be prepared to do the hard work. You can't make sugar out of shit, but you certainly can make candy out of sugar and the last time I checked sugar was less than $3 bucks for a five pound bag; But first you got to buy that bag of sugar. Every action has a reaction.

You must be willing to buy into your own dream. No one is going to hand it to you on a silver platter. You must invest in yourself to reap any benefits. Every time I think about a new handbag, I remind myself of the tea line I'm working on. I ask myself, which is more important, Tea With Rae or slinging a new handbag?

No one owes you a damn thing. You reap what you sow. If you sow handbags, five years from now you will have a lot of old bags taking up space, if you invest in your feature, you will reap the benefits, with handbags you dreamed of.

 Kris said "Passion can be as powerful as preparation" Oprah put it this way, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Kris had a vision and made a plan. She had a check list and every time a door opened she wasn't afraid to go through it.  Kris and Kim meet every six mouths to plan their next step. No matter what you think about Kim, she is one hard working woman, nor is she afraid of failure.  There is no lost in trying nor is their lost in preparation, something good going in, always means something good coming out. When are you going to STOP talking about that dream and put it into action?

Vision is everything. Your gut, your soul, whatever you want to call it is never wrong. The problem is the limitations we place on ourselves. My limitations were rooted in the life expectancy of a person living with AIDS. Back then it was three years. I was blinded by death and then I lived.

 Oprah said she had a vision that she would be teaching thousands of people and it was very different from her talk show. Her vision finally came true, but first after years of the Oprah Show she had to be willing to walk away from one thing to embrace another. Fear lays in your head, not in your soul. 

As I move forward with my life. I will pause and ask you, how are you preparing to live your best life? Intent is deliberate and deliberate means action. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tea With Rae: Living my Dream!

I'm  living my dream!! Tea With Rae: Wellness For The Mind, Body and Soul is coming! I'm in the process of developing a private label of speciality teas blended with the finest African Teas. The crafting of each tea will be closely supervised by me to bring you the best tea experience. Follow @teawithrae on Instagram and Twitter to be the first on the launch of Tea With Rae. I'm so excited!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reflecting On 53!

I turned 53 today! Honestly, I never imagined me at this age and I'm not quite sure how it should be, so I'm listening to my soul because it always knows what to do.

Of course when I was younger I thought by this age, I would be married with at least one child and a dog. I had it all planned out, so I thought. I would be this big time political organizer working on important electoral campaigns across this country. Back then, I had goals like many young women. I believed with hard work you could achieve anything you want. Yep, my goals were written in gold, so I thought. I would get a PhD in Political Science and I would be the "go to" woman for important matters on the American political scene.

Even after I was diagnosed wit HIV in March 1987 almost four years after becoming infected, I believed that my life would be unchanged by it. The following fall, at age 24, I went on the 1988 campaign trail for the Democratic primaries, by then my second presidential campaign as a senior staff person.  I traveled across the country organizing the youth and student arm for  Jesse Jackson's Presidential Campaign. I even tracked delegates and worked the floor of the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. I was doing that thing, working with some of Black Americas top political players like Alexis Herman, former Secretary of Labor, Dorothy Height, Ernie Green, Mayor Marion Barry, Donna Brazile, Ron Brown and the list goes on and on. 

Life was going as plan. But by 1992 I made a transition to AIDS and I literally saw death looking straight at me. Back then the life expectancy for a person with full-blown AIDS was 3 years and I was on that time line. By 1995 my T-Cell count had dropped to an all time low of 8 and I was on my third bout of Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). Treatment for HIV was mediocre and I had no hope for a future.

By then, my life purpose was to live each day to the best of my ability. To tell my story to as many people as I could, as many ways as I could before I died. I almost never thought about tomorrow and that meant I never turned down a gig for today. I lived in the right now in everything from spending to speaking. If I wasn't somewhere speaking or conducting an  interview I was in bed resting. The quality of my life had dwindled to nothing. My busy schedule kept dying off my mind. And doing every single thing my doctor asked of me  kept me alive.

Now be clear, you dog gone straight there was a God factor, but if I didn't have a doctor who was determine to keep me alive or if I missed one beat I would have died.

Even when I was taking 32 pills a day, or drinking 72 ounces a water a day to avoid kidney stones from the medication, or throwing up, or shitting on myself I always followed the rules. The side-effects were so vicious that there were days I couldn't hold my body up. Between the combination of my compromised immune system not being able to fight off infections and the side-effects from the HIV medications, most days I didn't know if I was going or coming. 

In the end, it all worked out. By 1998 new medications were on the horizon and my doctor never missed a beat. She dished out new medications as they came and I complied with her instructions. We were in sic every step of the way. 

I started to see concrete improvements in my health by 2000 as did most of the HIV landscape. HIV/AIDS was becoming a chronic illness, rather than a death sentence. But only if a person was diagnosed early, got in treatment and remained in treatment, they could live many more years.

So here I am, living many more years then anyone ever imagined. For sure the damage that has been done to my immune system cannot be repaired, and I find myself having more complications than the average newly diagnosed person living with HIV today.

Something as small as getting a tooth pulled, often ends up with an infection and antibiotic on one end, and on the other, it still takes me more than two weeks to heal over the average person with HIV. But these struggles are small in the scheme of my journey.

 I continue to take my medication and my doctor has said that I have many more years ahead of me.

I've been muddling through these last 5 years or so. I've adjusted to the good things about my health and I've also adjusted to the changes all of this has had on my speaking career. HIV/AIDS isn't the sexy topic that it use to be. And when organizations do bring speakers, they tend to draw from the younger activist, rather than the seasoned activist like me. It has hurt my pocket for sure. This year has been the worst of all. I made less money this past year then I did when I was 17 years old, for real, for real. But thanks be to God, I have a roof over my head and food to eat. But lack of gigs has not stopped me one bit. I  continue doing what I do wherever, whenever, and however I can. About five years ago  I added blogging, tweeting and all things Social Media as a way for me to continue to do the work.  I know that I'm alive for a  reason, a purpose and I do the best that I can with what I  have.

At 53 I embrace my journey even more than ever. I acknowledge that God has more work for me. My memoir Unprotected is on the Horizon. This story, my story, my full story needs to be told. I will spend the summer finishing up the edits.  Yep, there's still more work to be done with editing, layout, book cover and all things that make a book.  But hold tight,  World AIDS Day, December 1, 2015 is the final release date. You can pre-order HERE.

I want to help people one on one. It's time to get my Life Coaching ministry back up. I've had a few clients in the last couple of years but I've not put any energy into getting new clients. I'm changing that today. I feel that call and I've got to answer it loud and clear.  I didn't  go to seminary for nothing.

God has gifted me with the ability to help people get to next. To not use my gifts in all possible ways is to squander that gift. By the way, if you are interesting in hiring me as your Life Coach email me at raelewisthornton@gmail.com

 I'm alive! The gratitude that I have for my life and ministry are beyond words. Honestly, I wouldn't give anything for my journey. With the help of God, I have done some pretty amazing things with my adult life. I'm grateful for everyone who has supported me in all the ways you have supported me, especially your prayers! God has answered your prayers. 

It's never to late to plan, but planning without action is futile. I'm excited about this next phase of my life. After coming out of that depression  these last six months, I feel like I have been reborn. God has a way of giving you clarity even at the darkest moments of your life. 

I'm thankful for every step of my journey.  Happy Birthday to me! 

Post Script: In honor of my birthday  RLT Collection is 53% off. The coupon code at checkout: birthday. SHOP HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Death Pussy!

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! I'm honored to have been asked to be an ambassador for this day with other incredible AIDS Activist by Women's Health. Since I don't have a speaking engagement today, I'll I'll be taking questions from 11:00-5:00 on both my Twitter and Instagram accounts. You know the rules, nothing is to personal. you can find me on both accounts @RaeLT the Hashtag for the day is #NWAGHAAD

Also, I thought that I would repost a blog that was reprinted in my book, The Politics of Respectability. There is still so much stigma attached to HIV and that must change. This blog post speaks to the core of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. But it also speaks to how we as women see ourselves. I believe when we love ourselves first, we live our best lives. Get Tested! Use Condoms but first talk to your partner before he touches one breast *wink* See ya on Social Media later today

Death Pussy!

Last year I wrote well over 200 blogs, but Death Pussy was one of my most read... I thought that I would share it just one more time. I hope for those who didn't get a chance to read it last year, this recap will be enlightening... For those who did read it,  you will either get a new aha moment or be reminded of the old one!

I've never had anyone call my vagina "death pussy," at least not to my face. But I have had someone call it "diseased pussy." I've even been called "that AIDS Bitch." Each time I wanted to be mad, but I couldn't. I had to stand like the strong black woman that I am and take that hit like a champ. The fact of the matter is that my vagina is infected with HIV and I do have AIDS. The fact is HIV has taken up camp right between my legs and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. But, I've learned over the years not to put a lot of energy into what I cannot change, and my HIV status is one of them.

But Sunday when I was reading the RLT Reads Book Club first book, What Look Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, I was stopped in my tracks. In one part, a young man refers to Ava, the HIV positive woman in the book, as "death pussy." I was so stuck that I had to put the book down and go bead to clear my head. I thought about it long and hard. I was really shaken. The very core of me was sadden by this description of a woman infected with HIV. I understood the writer's goal of showing the ugliness that people with HIV must face, but it ripped at the very core of me. And y'all know that I have very thick skin, but I was genuinely hurt. It was as if I had been transcended into that very scene in the book. I felt like that young punk was talking to me and every woman in the world with HIV. Suddenly, HIV became an incredibly heavy load, a burden to bear.

It made me wonder if that's what people thought about me. And honestly, more so, if men thought of my vagina in the very same way. It seemed to speak to the core of my self-worth. I started to wonder, had men reduced my self-worth right down to my vagina? Forget that I'm intelligent, smart, educated, articulate, compassionate, driven, cute as a button, and the list goes on and on. Has this been the problem with my dating life in recent years? Was I that much of a liability? Death is a heavy load to carry between your legs. But when I really reflected, what disturbed me the most was in that moment, I had bought into the madness also. Just by thinking such a thing, I had thrown all my self-worth out the window and reduced my value right down to my vagina?

But, that's the way of the world. Our self-worth has very much been connected to our vaginas for centuries, all around the world. A woman's worth has been placed between her legs by man since the beginning of time. Even with Eve, our punishment became the blood that flows each month from between our legs. And in ancient times, a woman had to be isolated during menstruation and then "purified" before entering back into society.

The value of our vaginas has risen and dropped like the stock market at the whim of men. STOP IT! Before I go any further, this is not about male bashing. Why does everything have to be about them? Why can't we women talk freely about us, and let it be about us? Why is the discussion about us, co-opted by them? Why can't our truths, where they intersect with men, be articulated without being perceived as criticism about them. And the fact that I'm even qualifying myself speaks to the very core of the problem.

Yes, our vaginas have been used like a commodity, with no value to us. It's only worth has been where it intersects with the agenda of men. Our vaginas have been mutilated so we can have no pleasure of our own. This horror has been even forced on baby girls, implanting a memory of pain and terror to our vaginas, making us hate it before we really know what it is.

They have been using our vagina's baby making machine to help drive a labor force to build this country. Slave owners made it clear, our vaginas belonged to them, for their pleasure and for their business.

In modern times, our vaginas have been used for human trafficking for the pleasure of men; enslaving our mind, body and spirit. Our vagina's have been raped, beaten, and used as a tool to advance political agendas.  Our virginity has been taken from us in a misguided belief that our untouched vaginas will cure them of their diseases.

Make no mistake, we have many subliminal messages drilling into us over and over again that the value of our vaginas are connected to something greater than who we are. Even what appears to be innocent advertising sends a message. Honestly, take a good long look at the Dolce and Gabbana ad, then take a good look at the picture of the soldiers and the woman. The similarities outweigh the differences.
So when I heard the term, "death pussy," I had a heavy heart. It forced me to sit down and take a long hard look at the history of women. But it also made me look at  my own history. What got me to this destination called HIV. But most important, why would I consider at any level, that such a term as "death pussy" would define me. Had I reduced my entire self-worth right down to my vagina? Was this leftover residue from my childhood, being violated by the men in my family who should have protected me? Being taught that any love that I get from a man may begin with popping popcorn and watching tv, but ends between my legs?

I had to gather myself. Remind myself that God created me in His image, all that I am, mind, body and spirit. I cannot let anyone determine the value of my vagina anymore. I made myself a cup of tea and became still in the moment. Instead of focusing on the darkness of my life, I shifted to the goodness of my life.

l had worked too hard and too long in therapy to be thrown right back into the self-loathing that got me there in the first place. I cannot believe the hype! I will not believe the hype! I am a wonderful Black Woman and any man would be lucky to have me. If a man can't see that I am living in my life, that there is nothing that says death about me, then he does not see my true value. And I believe that a man who does not see my value is not worthy of me. It's like putting pearls on swine, they have no place together. And I will never again give the best of me to have just a part of him.

But most important, how I see myself will dictate how I treat myself. This is not just about a man but about what I do with my life and how I live that life. Your self-worth must begin with you, about you, for the greater  you, to be used in the larger society. But you can never fulfill your purpose in life if you do not see yourself as God sees you and intended for you to be.

There is much truth to the Bible verse that says, "As a person thinkth so is he." But I submit, it's the easiest thing in the world to tell someone, "Change your mind and your ass will follow." The truth of the matter is that change takes time and work. You cannot will the darkness away, you've got to dig yourself to the light. And once you get there, you gotta constantly remind yourself that the light is where God intended for you to be.

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