Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Last night I attended a reception with Deputy Premier the Hon Mark Brantley from Nevis, West Indies. I was impressed with him and what he had to say about his Island. He has charisma to the tenth power!  Check him out on Facebook Here!

An Oxford University trained attorney, he is the Minster of Tourism and the Minster of Health. He had me hooked the moment he walked into the reception all dapper and wearing Prada glasses no less. You know I love a well dressed man. LOL Most importantly, he was charismatic, warm, approachable, funny, and had lots to say.  He had our full attention the moment he stepped up to the podium.

When I was invited to this reception last week, I will admit that I had only heard about Nevis in passing. I took to the internet and of course the first thing I wanted to know was what this country is doing about HIV/AIDS. I was impressed.

Not only does it's leadership understand that HIV/AIDS is a health crisis that must be addressed, with all the right elements, testing, early treatment and prevention, they have also worked toward eliminating stigma around this disease. We all know that stigma is the barrier to early diagnoses, treatment and care. When a country decides that it will make every effort to create an environment where people can live whole and healthy with HIV they have won me over.

This was an event courting bloggers and the media to help them spread the word on this wonderful vacation destination. This is what I learned in a nut shell, Nevis is divine!! The pictures that I have seen makes me think that it's a little bit of heaven on earth.

Nevis is a destination get away for the person that wants to kick back, relax and rejuvenate. 

They have one flag ship hotel, the Four Seasons. I guess if you only have one hotel, it might as well be the best. Many of the plantations in Nevis have been turned into smaller hotels with fine dinning. Most of the plantations are in the mountains but there is one on the waterfront. Now that sounds extra divine for a person who appreciates history. 

This is not the place for power shopping top designer names but for all things art. As an art collector I wanted to jump for joy when Deputy Premier Brantley explained that Nevis is home to many famous artist. I imagined myself bringing an extra suitcase just for art, that's exactly what I did when I visited Cape Town, South Africa a few years ago.

Nor is it the place for "typical" tourism. Nevis is a beautiful laid back Island where a person can come relax and enjoy the beauty. Now don't get me wrong, there is something to do other than lay on the beach and water sports. They also have beautiful mountains where you can take a hike through wonderland. Here's a list of 101 things to do in Nevis HERE!

I had a lot of conversation with Greg Phillips who is the Chief Executive Officer for the Nevis Tourism Authority. The history lover that I am had to ask about colonization.

Nevis was colonized  by Great Britain and is highly influence by British culture. It is the birth place of  Alexander Hamilton one of our founding fathers. I was intrigued by the slave history of Nevis.

 In 1824, James Cottle a sugar cane plantation owner built the first church for slaves to worship where he worshiped along side his slaves. This Anglican church was never consecrated because it was against the law for slaves to worship. However, James Cottle has been credited as being a big influence on the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire.  In 1834 slavery was abolished in the British empire and the over 8,000 slaves, working mostly small sugar cane plantations were freed. Wouldn't it be great to tour some of this wonderful history?

For sure Nevis is a beautiful place with a rich history. If you are planning a vacation check them out!  Aren't you tired of the same old Island trips?  Nevis also seems like a wonderful place to have a designation weeding, it's certainly beautiful. I really want to go! 

You all know that I've been on a tight budget these last few years with this freaking bad economy, but for sure I'm going to work toward a planned trip to Nevis for myself.  

With this non-stop life, 15  pills a day, blogging, tweeting, speaking, designing bracelets and building my brand, Nevis sounds like the place for me to go and replenish. They can count me in! Now I just have to count up my dollars.

Greg Philip and Hon Mark Brantley

 I woke up to the most amazing announcement. I'm so honored to have been named one of the top 10 Social HealthMakers by Sharecare, the online health and wellness engagement platform created by Dr. Mehmet Oz and WebMDfounder Jeff Arnold. Read More HERE.

This prestigious recognition will go right along side my other two blogging Awards; CBS Most Valuable Blogger in Health and Wellness and WeBlog Award in Health and Wellness.

When I started blogging I didn't know where this would lead or if I was doing the right thing.  Speaking engagements had died up with the economy and I knew that I had still had something to say. Most importantly, I knew that God still had work for me to do. There were many critics, from I can't believe that you would want to do such a thing as blog to, you are way to transparent.

Now, 4 years and one month later, 3 awards, over a million views and two syndications, I know that this is the path I was suppose to take. Blogging is where I give voice to the voiceless living with HIV and AIDS. Blogging is where I help people live whole and healthy. Blogging is my gift from God to you. Thank you for keep coming back.

It's 3:30 in the morning and I've been up since 2:30. I woke soak and wet yet again. I changed my night clothes and shifted to the other side of the bed, but sleep don't seem to 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 wet 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 yeast 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 test 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!

Aging With HIV

| 1 Comment

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 in my flash. 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.

It took me years to understand the worth of my vagina. When I was a young adult, I saw it as a tool to find and keep love.

I mean a bitch with some good pussy was a bad bitch who could name her future. I mean, what man wouldn't surrender to some good lovin' too, so  I thought.

As I aged, I saw my vagina as a brand of honor. In my twisted thinking, the fact that men would want to get it, disease and all, gave me a sense of worth. I had to be a bad bitch if men would risk their lives to get what was between my legs, especially in those early days when the risk of infection was greater than it is today, or so I thought.

Now at 51, living with HIV for 30 years, AIDS for 21 years and herpes for 31 years, all which came via my vagina, I've been forced to rethink the value of my vagina. Who would have thought that what I did with my vagina at 19 and 20 would alter my entire life, for the rest of my life?

When we are knee deep in the sex, typically we can't think past how good that shit feels. OMG, there's nothing like some good lovin'. I mean the kind that makes you drunk; Intoxicated by the 'feel-good' of the moment.

But even back then, if I'm really honest, I can remember those days, after I washed the wetness from between my legs, and I was left alone to face my self, there was something missing and sad.

It didn't matter how long we fucked, how intense the fuckin' was, when it was all said and done, I was still missing something.

It was an early clue that I was void of self-respect that I totally missed. I was using it, meaning my vagina, as a commodity, a marketable item to satisfy wants of others with the hope and a prayer that it was, in the end, would make me whole.

Growing up, my vagina was not my own. It belonged to those who took it for their own pleasure, brother, uncle, step-father, and I didn't even know that it was wrong. Then my mama only saw my vagina  as her enemy and she did everything she could to destroy me and "it" as a way to keep "it" from her husband, when she should have been trying to keep her husband away from "it."

My vagina has lived a life time. It's a wonder that it don't just pack up and walk the fuck away.

It never occurred to me that I didn't respect my vagina. Nor did I know, as a child, that "it" needed to be protected; so I grew up with this distorted idea that placed a value on my vagina that rendered no good outcomes. 

If I had known that I would lose a part of me each time I spread my legs. If I had known that the aftermath of the 'feel-good' was an emptiness that would chip away at my spirit, but I knew neither.

If I had known that love had nothing to do with lovin' what was between my legs. If had known that a man could love my vagina and hate me. If I had known that my vagina was connected to my soul and spirit and not a commodity in exchange for love. If I had only known, my life would not have been altered for the rest of my life

It occurred to me that sometimes I make dating with HIV look easy, but it's not by any stretch of the imagination. I started thinking about this after I received an email last night from a woman with herpes who is afraid to date.

When I was first diagnosed with herpes, I was afraid. I remember trying to get an ex-boyfriend to have sex with me and he flat out turned me down. That was a blow.

Months later, I slowly started to venture out and found that while it was some hard shit disclosing, men actually respected me even more. I lucked up and met a guy that I dated for over a year. But low and behold he had herpes too.

After that relationship was over, disclosing became easier, mainly because I rarely had an herpes outbreak. For a long time I would only have an outbreak once every three years or so. Then came HIV, then came AIDS, then came fame and they were all game changers.

HIV positive people have the fear of rejection but also the burden of the disease.  When I first learned my status I was scared beyond belief. "Who the hell was gonna want me," was all I could think about. I was young, pretty and upwardly mobile - all the things that would make me perfect in the eyes of a man, so I thought, but then came HIV.

I remember right after I was diagnosed with HIV,  I was a hot freaking mess. A guy that I use to talk to moved to Washington where I was staying at the same month. I avoided him like the plague. Then I gave in and had dinner with him one night. I write about this in my memoir, the guilt that swarmed over me having sex with him, and not disclosing my HIV status. But it was so new for me and I was so afraid. The good thing, he was always a condom guy, so I didn't have to convince him to use them, but the guilt I felt was insurmountable, even with "safe sex." After that night I totally shut down and stayed clear of men and dating. 

Then I met this guy that I really liked. I put on my big girl panties and told. Now, how do you tell a person that you have an STD? For sure at the kitchen table with your clothes on. Sexing and disclosing at the same time is dangerous.

Disclosing your status,  there is always the fear of rejection and judgment, "what will he think of me?" But I couldn't see myself making a judgement for another person's body. While I could have rationalized that I'm keeping him "safe" by using condoms, as the saying goes, "shit happens" what if ? ... and I never wanted that burden, so I always disclose.

I fundamentally think that you take away a persons choice when you don't disclose and you have no right to make that decision for another person's body. It just might mean that causal sex gets thrown out the window. Simply because no one really wants to disclose to someone that they are not planning to be serious with, but the fact remains serious or not, that person is baring some risk each time they lay down with you. No one has the right to decide for another person's body. So, hell or high water, I disclose.

And sexing without disclosure in these times that can be dangerous. Remember the young lady Cicely that I blogged about, who was murdered after she disclosed her HIV status but after she had sex with a guy? Read HERE! I don't know what he was thinking when she disclosed, but she for sure took away his choice. He was not infected, but just the thought that you put me at risk without my permission is a hard one to stomach. So now she is dead and he is in jail.

For sure, over time dating with HIV became easier, but disclosing was never easy. Even today, while most men that approach me know that I have HIV, I still have to disclose the herpes. For a long time, I didn't talk about herpes publicly, unless in a gig if someone asked if I ever had another STD. I think I didn't talk about it because I was not affected by it up until 7 years ago when out of nowhere I developed this drug resistant herpes. I'm not gonna to rehash my herpes drama you can read HERE.

Now take the guy I'm talking to now, Mr. Handsome, when he approached me he knew that I had HIV, but I remember about a week in I said to him, "I need to let you know that I have herpes" when I tell you the 5 seconds it took for him to return a response I felt like I was going to suffocate. His response, "I know, I read it in one of your blogs," and he didn't miss a beat, "that's what condoms are for," and we went on to the next topic.

In the twenty-nine years that I have known my HIV status disclosing has never gotten easy. You always think, "What will he think of me. Will he still want me?"

This is what I found. A relationship was easier while I was living in secret with my status. Since my divorce fifteen years ago, dating the public me has been difficult. I have had some relationships but they have been far and few. The fact is, I've had more sex than relationships.

While men still want to have sex with me, my hardest hurdle is the fact that I'm such a public person. Who wants to date a woman when everyone knows she has HIV and herpes.

Just recently one of my mentee's told me that she was talking to a guy and things were going great until some of his boys met and recognized her. They said, "Man you know she use to date, Tom and she gave him HIV and he's dead now."  I'm going to deal with this kind of branding in another blog for sure, but the fact is, the guy backed all the way up once it was clear that others speculated that she was infected.

Not only do I have the burden of being this public person, I blog about my freaking life. So any man that dates me, run the risk that I will blog about where our lives intersect. For sure Mr. Handsome recognizes my gift and supports my work, but the relationship is very young, so there's a part of me that wants to keep him shielded from raw public scrutiny until we get pass this "super new stage". He told me case in point, "I don't give a fuck what a person thinks about me being with you", now that's a man, who is his own man.

For sure dating with a sexually transmitted disease is hard. I don't want you to think I'm bushing over that fact. But honestly up front is always your best bet. Since I've started blogging about my herpes, I've had some people to reach out and say that they are starting to be more comfortable in their skin since I've been blogging about my own herpes drama. I'm glad that my transparency is helping others.

 The bottom line, you will never know if a person is willing to be with you unless you make the attempt. This is what I want you to get, the rejection isn't of you, it's of the disease; the fear of the disease, the lack of education and understanding of the disease but mostly the stigma of the disease.

Now I blogged about dating sites for positive people with STD a while back. I signed up but nothing came of it. In like 2 weeks I had over 500 views of my profile but no conversations that lasted beyond a wink. Then it hit me, I said in my profile that, "I'm a very public person with my status and people will know that you are dating a women with AIDS" DEAD! LOL!

I just went ahead and deleted my profile and honestly, I was already talking to Mr. Handsome and good lawd, he had all of my attention. I don't double dip even in early stages. I want to give him all of my attention so we can bond without other barriers.

But one of my avid readers who is HIV positive reached out to me about Positive Singles for my private opinion.  I told her that she had nothing to lose. The most recent report is that she is actually talking to someone she met on Positive Singles and they were planning to meet soon. So dating sites are an easy place to meet someone positive. At least formalities are out of the way. You both come to he table on equal footing and thats a good thing. Remember, meeting a person does not always mean that you are compatible. You can checkout my blog post on dating positive HERE Part One! Part Two HERE!

As we are all thinking about Valentines Day and the possibility of being alone. I want to encourage all my positive readers: Don't give up on yourself! You deserve the best! The fact is, God woke you up this morning and that means there is still an earthly plan for your life. I believe that there is someone for everyone. Continue to live in your truths and your worth.

Don't let people horde space that don't deserve your worth. There is no need to sacrifice yourself respect for companionship. There is no need to let stigma keep you in a faux of fear. Be clear, your worth is not rooted in your status, but rather in that fact that you were created in God's image, wonderfully made.

I know, I know,  you're  saying,  it's easy for me to say, when I will be spending Valentine's Day with a wonderful man who respects me and likes the fuck out of me. I understand your fear and loneliness.  It's been at least 3 years since I've been on a date and 4 1/2 years since I've had sex. I'm a living witness that if you continue to be your best you, you create a positive energy that will come back to you. Don't give up on yourself because God as not given up on you.

When you first start talking to a guy you are always thinking about what's too soon and what's too much. You know, stuff like: How soon should I have sex with him? How often should we talk? If he doesn't call on one day, does that mean he's not thinking about me? If I call or text him first or often will he think I'm needy?

When it's new we are always in a state of what next, what's too soon and how should I behave as a woman. I know that this still runs true for me, even at 51. I've actually been "talking" to a wonderful man for the last couple of months and you take an A-type personality like me, I over think everything. And then growing up where the only thing that was normal was an abnormal life, I have had to feel my way in this world around relationships. I've been very open about my crazy dating life. At some point, I want to get it right. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. I'm on the path of getting it right.

The one thing that Mr. Handsome, as I like to call him, is teaching me, is patience. Often times we meet a guy and the chemistry is right and, good lawd, we want it all right then and now. But the fact of the matter, the best relationships are the ones that grow organically. With mutual respect, you take it each day as it goes. If you take your time, you will actually find it exciting to see what's next. Organic growth has no time-frame, it just grows naturally, and you both feel it deep within.

I know with Mr. Handsome, it feels like I've known him a whole lot longer than what I have and he has indicated the same thing to me. That can sometimes confuse the fact that it is still new. You both feel the connection and that can be scary and exhilarating all at the same time.

Mr. Handsome and I have the extra burden of distance. It's not like you can have a date-night when you want.  So trying to make sense out of what's right when it feels right it not always easy, and miles just complicate it even more. Men tend to be more practical, they  think, "What am I getting myself into? This woman lives miles away from me? If I keep going how will we work the distance out?"  Honestly, you don't always know what the fuck you are doing or where it's going, you just know that you are growing and you go with the flow of the growth, now that's organic.

Over all, this is what I think about new relationships. You have to respect the man that he is. For example, Mr. Handsome is not into any of this Social Media stuff, which is a great balance to me. Nor is he a big texter or phone talker. Welllllll, y'all know I sleep with my Ipad, lol so somewhere, he and I have to meet in the middle. If I respect the man that he is and he respects me, which he does, we work at it mutually. We talk, but I don't try to make him talk to me all night. I do reach out to him everyday, but I wasn't calling him on Sunday's interrupting his football time. Like, for real ladies, will those few hours he's enjoying sports or a cigar with the guys, be a game changer? Let him enjoy life. The fact is, each of you come to the table with your own lives and they should be respected.

I try not to over think any of it. When I wake up, if he is heavy on my mind I reach out and it's the same in the evening. If I have work to do that's pressing then I reach out later. His day starts long before mine. If I haven't reached out by late morning, he typically reaches out to me, "Good Morning Gorgeous," comes across my phone. *giggles* But if we don't connect until later in the day, it shouldn't change a thing. It just means you respect his/her day and time. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

We can't always talk throughout the day, but for sure, if a man wants to hear your voice and feel your spirit, he will find you no matter how busy the both of you are.

So what about sex? Well, I've never been one to play dick and pussy games. I'm a grown ass woman and have been for a very long time. I  don't withhold sex as a measure of how much he likes and respects me. I remember back in my 20's this guy had been wooing the heck out of me, flowers, calls even telegrams for months. It was a distance relationship, and I had an opportunity to have sex with him a few times when we were in the same town, but opted not to. I was holding back so that he didn't think that I was a whore, but he eventually moved to Chicago to work.

So when he got here, it was on! I mean it was on! Then toward the end of the second week, he dropped the bomb, his girlfriend was coming to town. WTH??????? My lesson learned. An asshole is an asshole no matter when you have sex.

What should matter is the connection that you have for each other. What should matter is the mutual respect that you have for each other. Respect that begins with a discussion about the role of sex in your relationship. If you have not talked about condom use and HIV testing then you definitely are not ready for sex. For sure, giving a man your innermost self is a big move. You should be comfortable with him and comfortable in your own skin when with him.

As for me and Mr. Handsome, welllllll, we are taking it one day at a time. He has said, "This distance shit is new for me." I must respect this fact.  The only thing I've asked of him, is to not shut down on his emotions.  So if he continues to allow us to grow, even with distance, and if I allow us to grow at a natural pace, we are for sure on an organic path. For sure he makes me feel like a lady and I like how that feels.

I don't have all the answers, but I'm learning to take my time.  Sometimes time can be your best friend. When the relationship is new, allow it to be new, stop trying to be in love, when you are still learning to like each other.

It's Valentine's Day week and everyone is thinking about being, "Booed up." You are either thinking about what you are going to do, what you are going to get, and how good the sex will be.

Or you're thinking, "Why am I alone this Valentine's Day?" This week we are all thinking red and I don't mean for AIDS Awareness, but for our hearts, including me.

It's been years since I've had an actual "date" on Valentine's Day. Shit, if I'm really honest, it's even been years since I've laid in a man's arms. Now, don't be confused, I can get sex, but I decided well over 10 years ago that a man who didn't appreciate my worth was not worth my innermost self. And if I really want to be transparent, this decision has left me lonely a many of nights, including well over a decade of Valentine's days.

Now,  I've actually been more O. K. with being alone on Valentine's Day more so, than being alone on those nights after a long day when I've poured my soul out at a gig. Or like on this past Friday where I spent 13 hours answering questions on Social Media for National Black AIDS day. It would have been great to process that day with a man who supports my ministry and then can provide a safe place for me to let go and let my guard down.

Now don't get me wrong, it would also be nice on Valentine's Day to have a great dinner and flirt across the table all night. I mean, don't get it twisted, every woman wants to feel special. But years ago Valentine's Day stopped being about what he does for me or with me, over and above how he treats me 365 days a year.

Now, this hasn't always been the case. I use to run out and buy him the best gift no matter how young the relationship was. My thinking was so twisted. I just knew if I got him those Tiffany cuff links that he would love me forever. WRONG! Then as I waited on his gift my world would shatter when he didn't have at least a card in tote.

I learned over the years, that men think differently from women. They tend to be a tad less thoughtful of this "love" day especially if the relationship is young. Men don't get that a card says, "I like you and I like where this is going." I remember one year I tugged balloons in a Chicago snow storm to get nothing from the guy I was actually in a relationship with. It was a sad case of familiarly breading contempt.

My thinking is a man should be thinking that Valentine's Day is important to women and that should make him want to make her feel special, but then again, he should be making her feel special all year long. He should tell her to put on her lipstick and heels and be ready for a night on the town, just because she is special to him. Date nights are important all year long.

For a long time I developed thick skin around the insensitivity of a man, then after much work on myself, I got enough balls to stand up for myself, If I'm not worth a card and dinner then you are most certainly not worth my innermost self," not just on Valentine's Day but throughout the  year. Give a card sometimes just because.

Now don't get this twisted either, dinner isn't an exchange for my body, it's just an act of kindness that says I appreciate you in my life, no matter what stage the relationship may be. It took me years to stop accepting him between my legs late at night after spending an evening alone, but when I look back, Valentine's Day was really no different from the other days of the year.

If I accept him between my legs without standards throughout the year, why should I expect him to do anything different about me on that one day out of the year. If he didn't do anything about me the other 364 days there isn't much that will make him do it on Valentine's Day. Women, we set the standard for how men treat us. Men will typically accept your standard if they understand your value. Men who really respect you, will want the best for you and they will give you their best all year long.

All of these topics are important to women: dinner, cards, gifts and respect, but the lack thereof isn't the main thing that shifted my thinking on how much weight I put into Valentine's Day. Nope! It was a young pregnant girl in the AIDS Clinic. When I arrived to the clinic that day I spotted a young very pretty African-American girl who looked to be very pregnant. The moment I saw her my heart dropped and I couldn't stop staring.

Finally, I waltzed over and spoke. I learned in the course of our conversation that she was 19 years old and 7 months pregnant. She had only known her HIV status for 2 weeks. We were talking and passing the time away as we waited to be called. Then out of the blue she said, "I know who you are Ms. Thornton." I was shaken for a second, "Huh" was all I could get out.

"Yes, I heard you speak my freshman year of high school," then she added, "you were sooooo good." It felt like she had kicked me in the gut. I was standing talking to a young woman who heard everything I said, but didn't listen enough to apply my lesson to her own life.

You know I had to go there. After I regained myself, I asked, "Baby you heard me speak, how did you end up here?" She looked at her feet and said, "I trusted him." Silence swept over both of us, and she added, "Yeah, I will never forget it, I found out I had HIV on Valentine's Day," all I could say was, "neither will I, neither will I." And I never have.

That was the day Valentine's Day became less about what he does for me ,over and above the value he places on my body, mind and spirit 365 days a year.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of my cover story in Essence magazine! I'm very proud of being a part of history. Together Essence and I gave black women a new face of what a person with AIDS looked like.

When I look back, all I can do is think about the boldness that it took for me to tell my story in a national publication. Putting your life center stage for the world to scrutinized is a brave thing, to say the least. I'm still amazed of the impact that the Essence article had on African-American women. Twenty years later women reach out to me on Social Media to tell me how that article changed their life. Women even bring me the article in mint condition for an autograph as I travel.

Today in honor of and in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Essence article, I'm launching the 20 Collection. I am designing 20 AIDS Awareness bracelets and 20 AIDS Awareness necklaces for RLT Collection. The first of the bracelet designs are launched today in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Over the course of the next 10 months, I will add to the collection, thru World AIDS Day, Dec 1, 2014, which will mark the 20th anniversary of when that magazine actually hit the news stands. These designs are very limited in quaintly and once a design is gone there are no more. Today I'm launching 8 bracelet designs primarily designed with red Coral gemstones and a beautiful red faceted Czech glass.

Red Coral and Rhinestone and Sterling Awareness Charm! SHOP  HERE

Red Coral and Sterling Awareness Charm! SHOP HERE!

Red Coral and Sterling Awareness Charm! SHOP HERE

Red Coral and Sterling Awareness Charm! SHOP HERE!

The 23 Bracelet! SHOP HERE!

AIDS Awareness Charm! SHOP HERE!

Disc Glam! As Seen on Sheryl Lee Ralph! SHOP HERE!

Sheryl Lee Ralph wearing Disc Glam!

Vintage Glam! SHOP HERE!

On yesterday, I spoke at Walgreens for Black History Month at their corporate office. African-American 365 Health was a program focusing on health issues for African-Americans.

The program was a panel discussion.  The distinguished panel included, Dr. La Mar Hasbrouck, Director of Illinois Department of Health, Dr. Courtney Hollowell, Chairman of Urology, Cook Country Hospitals and Health System, Andrea Zopp, President and CEO, Chicago Urban League, and Sherrise Trotz, Executive Pharmacy Director, Midwest Operations Walgreens.

 I was honored to have been asked to participate in this event. Walgreens employees made up the audience. They also live steamed the program to their hundred's of employees at their desk. It was a great discussion on the critical health issues for African-Americans.

Here are most of my remarks.

Part  One!

Part Two!

Part Three!

Part  Four!



My Favorite Links

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Comments

  • Lisa: "Phytoestrogenic food and herbs help your body avoid dramatic crashes read more
  • Joshua Henderson: This story was very inspirational. I am currently in a read more
  • babygirl: Thanks for sharing...... read more
  • maybel lean: Right on sis! you should be be a preacher! read more
  • Gary Fowler: Thanks for sharing!! I know everything you described. I'm on read more
  • Tona: THANK YOU, I've lived with Hiv for seventeen years. it read more
  • Nikki: I know the feeling all too well. I'm a young read more
  • JohnDewayneSeymour: I'll admit It's very hard finding someone to be with read more
  • JohnDewayneSeymour: I'll admit It's very hard finding someone to be with read more
  • Anjie Keyes in Kansas City Mo. Positivley Rare : OMG Your topic is right on I am 55 and read more

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Rae on the Web

Rae on Twitter

Rae In Bookstores Now


The opinions expressed by the bloggers and by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong and/or its employees.

Smart + Strong is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information contained in the blogs or within any comments posted to the blogs.

© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy