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

I designed the Sophie Collection in memory of my Poodle Sophie who lost her battle with Liver Cancer July 1, 2014. Sophie was full of life and made a imprint on the hearts of everyone she encountered.

Sophie Baby Bracelet!

Sophie being diagnosed with cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. Her taking a turn for the worst within 5 days of diagnoses was earth shattering. Making this collection was the first thing that I was able to do when I finally crawled out of bed four days after she passed. Making this collection for my bracelet line RLT Collection helped me to get back to work and press through the pain of my lost.

Green is the color for Liver Cancer. The Sophie Baby Bracelet is the main focus of the collection with additional bracelets in the color green for that perfect stack. Shop HERE for Sophie Collection!

Beautiful Green Agate Bracelet!

Unisex Jasper Bracelet!

Tiger Eye Bracelet! 


| No Comments

I'm drowning in the chaos of my life. It started back in February when I started this emotional eating and Cheetos was always in my right hand, going straight into my month. Now, in full disclosure, I took a moment a couple of months ago to examine what had gotten me so off  track and all roads led to a man that I wanted, but who didn't want a relationship. So I walked as hard and as fast as I could to a place where I could hold onto my dignity. For me it's simple. No matter how much I want a man, I never want to keep him at the cost of me. 

Even with HIV/AIDS I would much prefer to be alone then to be with a man who is half in/half out. My tail is to old to "kick it," unless I'm kicking a ball in CrossFit. 

Not only am I not going to waste my pretty, I'm never going to let a man suck the life out of me. That is, him getting what he wants, while I'm just hanging and hoping that I will get all of him as my reward. Women are good for that, sticking around with the hope and a prayer that staying on his terms will render us victoriously. Let me tell you, it will never happen. When a man tells you that he does not want a relationship he means it and it does not matter how wonderful you are or if you make his toes curl in bed. Furthermore, staying will not only suck the life out of you, but it will kill your spirit and topple your self-esteem.  

While I know that walking was the best thing for me, it sent me on a down spiral of emotional eating. I mean who wants to be alone? Especially after you have started to bond and was hopeful for a future. I got sick after him with one back to back illness that sent me overboard. You do remember those sleepless nights caused by uncontrollable hot flashes that lead to mood swings and sleep deprivation, while the doctors tried to figure out the best combination of Hormone Replacement Therapy and HIV medication. After that, the health issues just kept coming. I had a bad case of HIV Peripheral Neuropathy in my feet and legs. Then I had a cold that turned into bronchitis and after that I pulled a muscle in my back and even breathing hurt. Then to pour salt in my wounds, I had a herpes outbreak that landed me back on IV medication. I was sinking, but fighting to hold my head above the water. 

With the death of Sophie I lost all control and started to  drown. I couldn't seem to keep my head above water no mater how hard I tried. Nothing seemed to be going in my favor and I took an emotional tumble. I was drowning and no matter how hard I fought, the depression kept coming and coming and coming. Eating became my enemy disguised as my best friend. I went from Cheetos to Flamin Hots mixed with Doritos and a Snickers on the side, and of course a cupcake or two. The three weeks following Sophie's death, all my healthy living died right along with her. 

When I made it to BlogHer last week I got off the plane in San Jose on the hunt for food - good comfort food. I had onion rings and beef brisket and burgers and fried chicken and hand cut french fires and milk shakes. I ate the danishes at the conference each morning instead of the fruit.  For real, my plate was filled with bacon and sweet rolls every morning with tea on the side.  I knew that I was drowning, but I couldn't seem to gather the strength to save myself. 

Now the best, and worst of it all, was this little bakery I found in the San Jose's Public Market, Chocatoo.  Chocoatoo has the best freaking cookies that I have ever eaten in life. I'm not sure which was my favorite. There was the chocolate S'mores rich with graham crackers, marshmallows and big dark chocolate chips. 

Then there was the basic chocolate chip with dark and milk chocolate but my God, that Reese's Peanut Butter with large chunks of Reese's and milk chocolate made my taste buds do a dance. I had 3 of these large cookies  a day, yes I said 3, 1-2-3. It was over the top, but it sure seemed to ease the pain. I knew that I was out of control but I couldn't seem to stop myself. I kept trying to come up for air but the waves kept pulling me back in. 

By Friday, I had been to Chocotoo twice  for a total of 6 cookies. That should have been my limit but when my girlfriend Dwana arrived to San Jose,  I had to introduce her to the best cookies ever. That day I got 2 Reees's and 1 S'mores. I should have stopped there, but following Dwana's lead, I got the homemade marshmallow S'mores. This delight was 4 inches of homemade marshmallow between two graham crackers dipped in dark chocolate, with caramelized bacon on top. 

I had eaten a cookie by the time we arrived back to the hotel. Once we arrived,  I got me a fresh cup of hot tea and dived into the homemade S'mores.  It was divine!! 

That left me with two cookies and I was straight out of control. It's crazy when you can see yourself in deep water but can't seem to pull yourself to the top.  After the MultiCulti party 

that night I came back to my room, made another cup of tea and had my last two cookies ... well all but a ΒΌ of the Reese's.  It was then time for sleep. 

I need to pause and say my food for that entire day consisted of; bacon and sweet rolls for breakfast, roast beef sandwich and salad for lunch with a fruit tart for dessert. Then Dwana and I had a meal at local restaurant a local couple hours after lunch, where I had homemade onion rings and beef brisket. That was a lot of food, then we must add the 2 and 3/4 large cookies and a 4 inch high S'mores.

Missing Sophie, I curled into a tight ball hugging the pillow to let sleep take me away from my misery. I closed my eyes and nausea swept over me.  It jolted me out of my semi-sleep. The nausea consumed my body and right to my very core, my soul. It was as if the universe was saying, "that's enough Rae that's enough." Tears started to flow. I knew that I had to make a change. Sophie is not coming back, that man is long gone and my health hangs in the balance by what I do and don't do. 

"Oh God, "I cried out. "Help me! God Help me!"

to be continued ....

Today I'm headed to the BlogHer 2014 conference in San Jose, California. I'm so honored to have been asked for the second time in a row to speak at this prestigious bloggers conference. Last year I was the closing keynote speaker for the Healthminder Day. This year I was asked to be a Path Leader for Pathfinder. Pathfinder day is an all day intensive, the day before the conference officially opens on Friday.

Bloggers who attend Pathfinder day are interested in taking there blogging to the next level. This is an intensive day with five different paths of learning. The paths are, media company, change agent, businesses owner, published author and visual artist.

BlogHer has partnered me with Dannielle Owens-Reid co-founder of Everyone is Gay an award -winning LGBTQ youth organization to co-lead the path as Change Agent. Our goal is to help bloggers refine and focus their blogging for social change.  Dannielle and I have planned an awesome day for our Pathfinders; from understanding the importance of ones story, to monetizing ones blog and blogging for  purpose even if the money never comes.

I am excited about Pathfinder day and helping bloggers but I'm also excited about the other workshops and sharing  and comparing  notes with other bloggers for 3 days. This year I am planning to attend quite a few workshops myself. With over a million views to my blog, not counting all the people who read my blog through one of the 4 syndications, I am ready to take Diva Living With AIDS to the next level in every way possible.

Blogging has changed the way that I educate around HIV/AIDS. I took a leap of faith and people listened to my heart in every single stoke of the key board.  I understand that no one has to come to Diva Living With AIDS, but you do. I'm taking your support with a  heart of gratitude  and I'm using it as a force of light to make this blog even better than it's best. Expect to see me blogging more often than not.

Over all, I am extra excited about BlogHer 2014 and all that it brings. I'm especially excited to hear the keynote speakers Kerry Washington and Arianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post and other heavy hitters.

In the backdrop of all the health problems I've had of late and the death of Sophie, getting away will be a time of renewal and recommitment. Of course I will share the most important and interesting with you in the days to follow... Wish me safe travels.

Tackling Grief...

| No Comments

Grief is a monster! I'm learning that it also sticks to you like Gorilla glue. Honestly, these last three weeks dealing with the lost of Sophie has been new territory for me. I've never felt this level of sorrow for anything even when I lost my first two dogs. When Imani died I was sad and I cried a lot, but it didn't effect my bottom line. She had lived 12 years and while I was very sad, I was not overwhelmed. I had also done everything possible for her lung disease and was at peace with that fact. Of course I still had Nambi, who was Imani's baby and she was my constant companion. I had Nambi for 16 years. She and Sophie overlapped for almost four years. When I put Nambi down, I felt like she had lived a long and good life. I blogged about Nambi when I first started. You can read it here.

Imani and Nambi

When I put Nambi down there was Sophie, who was full of life and demanding.  She was not having it; not too many sad moments in my house. Sophie even knew the difference from when I was actually sick, verses those days filled with depression. On those days, she insisted that we get out of bed. Her mission in life seemed to make sure that I lived in my life. She accomplished her mission. There was never a dull moment in my house with Sophie.

Sophie Demanding Attention!

Maybe that's why losing her has taken me for a loop. She was the life of the party each and every day. I'm sure loosing her unexpectedly and at a mid age has also impacted my grief level. The average  Poodle lives 12-15 years. Maybe my grief is also impacted by the fact this is the first time that I have been without a dog in 21 years.

What I know for sure is that my grief is all consuming. Even with the lost of my mothers, both of them, I didn't feel this kind of sadness. I remember my friend, recording artist, Teresa Griffin telling me that she cried more over  the death of  her little Pomeranian Poppy, then her father and she loved her father dearly.

I know some people want me to move on, but its not so simple. While there's no easy way to deal with grief, I'm learning to tackle it head on.

For sure avoiding it or pretending that you are not hurting will only send you into a deeper depression. Right now my depression is what my doctor calls "situational depression," but if I don't deal with it in a healthy manner, it could become long term.

It's no secret that I have dealt with depression living with HIV/AIDS. However prior to Sophie, I was doing well. In fact, a few months ago my doctor and I decided for me to take a  break from anti-depressants, to give my body a break. For sure less drugs are always better. But that first week I lost Sophie, I  was popping valium just to sleep. I knew that had to stop, so I switched to an antidepressant that would help me sleep with the advice of my doctor

I'm also an emotional eater and the last two weeks I have eaten more comfort food then I had in the last 6 months. The end result has been weight gain, but I had to decide which battle I could fight effectivity, so I'm going with the flow.

 It was way to much pressure forcing myself to eat "clean" and deal with the grief at the same time. I took the pressure off before it sent me into self- loathing and a deeper depression. I'm finding that with the pressure off, I tend to have a tad more balance. I'm living in the now. I don't punish myself if I don't have the balance, I just start with each new meal or snack and accept that which is. In time, I'm sure that healthy choices will become my norm again. The thing about me is that I never seem to let one thing control my life forever. I tend to regain control in time. Going with the flow is the theme of the hour, even with activities.  If I feel like it, I do it, if I don't, then I don't. Nothing is forced. I wait until my heart is in it before I do it. Added pressure leads to added depression. I want to get through this, not stay in it, so I'm using the methods that work best for me. There is no one way to tackle grief I think we all have to do what feels right.

Working out is also helping my mood swings. I find that the days  I do Crossfit, I tend to be less sad. I know working out does increase your serotonin. After the BlogHer Conference this week, I'm hoping to get back to five days a week.

One of the most cathartic things I've done is to turn Sophie's Instagram account into a memorial page. I go there and post  pictures and while there is an element of sadness to it, it also reminds me how special she was and how much joy she brought to my life and that always makes me smile. Equally importantly, it keeps me grounded, looking at her pictures and remembering in this way, reminds me that it is for sure better to have had her, then to not have had her at all.  It also reminds me that she was such a happy dog and to have her suffer would have been worst than her death for both of us.

I'm not sure how long it's going to take me to get to a better place and I'm not putting pressure on nor am I allowing others to put pressure on me.  If someone is tired of me talking about her then don't talk to me. Tried of me posting about her and my feeling about losing her on Social Media then unfollow me. Don't make me hide my emotions because you don't understand, care, or its depressing. Wonder how I feel to be the one experiencing the lost.

It is what it is. I miss Sophie terribly so and I'm giving myself the time. This grief that I'm feeling will go away in time. I will always miss her but the hurt I'm sure will soften in time. For sure, I'm not totally stuck anymore. I can see improvement from that first week I put her down when I didn't even wash my body or a dish. Three weeks in, I am back to work, blogging, working on RLT Collection trying to get my site up to date and preparing for BlogHer 2014, I think that is progress. The one thing that I don't intend to do is fill my life up with activity as a well to avoid the pain. I'm allowing my grief to go through a natural process on it's own terms so that I can emerge a better person to have experience this lost. They say what does not kill you, makes you stronger.

Losing Sophie

| 1 Comment

Two weeks ago today I stopped living after I put my baby girl Sophie down. Like for real, for real. Honest to God, I have never felt grief on this magnitude. While I still had breath in my body, my life stood still. Sophie was a special dog that left a foot print on everyone she encountered. For a moment I didn't think that I could go on. The grief was all consuming but like with most things in my life,  I kept going in spite of the pain. So here I am, still missing my baby girl and adjusting to life without her. 

The last time I blogged was to tell you that Sophie had Liver Cancer. I thought that I had a week to find a solution but Sophie took a turn for the worst that night within hours of posting that blog. She didn't want to eat or walk and her breathing became erratic. I felt so helpless as the night progressed. The only thing I knew to do was to be as close to her as I could. She didn't want to sleep in the bed, so I made a pallet on the hardwood floor next to the big chair in my living room that she laid under. It was one of the longest nights of my life. She was restless and breathless. Every time she moved, I moved. When she got water I watched her until she was back under the chair resting. A few times she laid under my arms and then on the pallet, but mostly under the chair was her comfort zone. 

By day break with almost no sleep Sophie was struggling just to breath. My baby girl was slipping before my eyes and I didn't know how to save her. It's still hard to believe that less than a week before this day, she was barking for bacon. Determined to make the plan Dr. Gill and I agreed on work, Tiara held Sophie in her lap as I gave her each medication. She looked up with sad eyes, "No mommie I don't want it," but it was all I could think to do. 

In the two hours waiting on the animal clinic to open I prayed for a miracle as Sophie precious eyes cried, "help me Mommie, help me." I was asking for God's help and she was asking for my help.  When I finally reached Dr. Gill and filled her in on the night, I was still hoping for a solution; a way to help my baby girl. After I finished, Dr. Gill said, "You know there are only two choices and I'm not sure that she can make it through surgery.  "I know, I know" I said defeated and filled with anogny, with my baby girl next to me looking up at me, "Help me Mommie, help me." There was a pause, "Are you ready?" Dr Gill asked. Through my tears came, "yes."

Tiara and I rode in silence to the clinic while baby girl laid in my arms trying her best to catch her breath. "I'm sorry baby girl, Mommie loves you," I whispered to her. Once we arrived, Tiara and I took pictures with Sophie before I handed her to Dr. Gill to place the catheter. 

She was in so much distress, Dr. Gill looked at her, "That baby can't get her breath," she said to Sophie. Tiara stood in the corner tears flowing.  I stood over sophie lying on the table still trying to get her breath. I was so overwhelmed with grief. "Thank you Sophie for eight wonderful years," I whispered to her, "Mommie will always love you." 

Watching my baby girl die was one of the hardest things I've had to do, but yet at the same time I knew it was the best thing, most human thing. It was the last good thing that I could do for her. 

Sophie Barking For Bacon 5 Days before I put her to rest.. Her BFF Kennedy was just hanging in the cut waiting... LOL... She barked for bacon ever morning I cooked... She barked for a treat each time I had a meal, it was our routine. She was so full of life the entire 8 years she was with me. I'm  glad that her suffering was not long, but I'm sad she had to go. I miss her dearly...

It felt like the life had been sucked out of me when a specialist/radiologist told me that my dog Sophie has a tumor the size of an egg on her liver. But I felt like I had been sucker punched today when I learned from the new veterinarian that I switched her to, that the tumor was actually the size of a grapefruit, maybe close to two and not an egg. I know it to be true because I saw the tumor on the xray myself.

I'm not sure how the radiologist missed a tumor this large when he performed the ultrasound on Wednesday. To add insult to injury, I  actually took Sophie to the Vet back in December for her back and they x-rayed and saw that her liver was enlarged and never mentioned it.

 I learned in April that her liver enzymes where very high and they suggested an ultrasound. I had been trying to pull the money together to get the ultrasound, then I got sick and was shut down a few weeks that's why I haven't been blogging.  But last week I decided that I needed to make the ultrasound happened because Sophie was just restless. It was  then I started selling my handbags and jewelry on Facebook. (BTW) thanks to everyone who purchased something from me; I've spent over $1200 since last week. For sure without your purchases I would not have been able to get Sophie the care that was  needed.

Dr Gill with Sophie!

So here we are. A missed tumor in December and a misdiagnosed tumor just lest week. But I knew in my spirit that I need a new veterinarian on Thursday after I got off the phone with her current Vet about the ultrasound report. He just didn't seem proactive.

Thank God I followed my first mind. If I hadn't switched to Dr. Gill at Bronzeville Animal Clinic, I would have never known how advanced the cancer really is.

After speaking with me on Thursday,  Dr. Gill was on top of it, looking for solutions to shrink a tumor, at that time so we thought, the size of an egg. (based on the radiologist report on Wednesday)

When Dr. Gill saw Sophie on Saturday she was really concerned. She thought then that this tumor was really bad and put some extra medicines on board. On Monday she decided that Sophie was in way to much distress and took an xray herself to discover that the tumor is so large it has shifted all of Sophie's organs. 

Did you understand all of that? Cause it was a mouthful for sure. The bottom line, my baby girl has liver cancer and it's not good. For the last 3 days it seems to have gotten worst. She don't want to walk, she barley eats and she whines all day.

But then who would want to walk if all your organs had shifted and you have a tumor covering your entire tummy. She can't get comfortable. She's just an unhappy baby.

I've cried until I can't cry anymore. Well that's a lie, I get overwhelmed about every few hours and have a moment.  I can't wrap my brain around this. I feel like God got jokes. Like really God? 

Dr. Gill and I thought we had a plan on Saturday, but now it has been shot to hell by the size of the tumor.  Chemotherapy and radiation does not work for this type of cancer, so basically, the tumor has to come out; A surgery she probably would not survive.  

The plan today is to see if any of these medicines we got on board will give her some relief. Maybe prednisone will shrink the tumor, at least that'[s our hope.  Next week If we have not seen any improvement in the quality of her life, I will  have to make one of the most important and hardest decisions of my life; Operate or just put her under. 

There is no such thing as a perfect life, but I've come to understand that there are perfect moments of joy. Yet, we can miss the perfect moments stuck in the un-perfect parts of our life.

On a deeper level, we miss the perfect moments when the un-perfect moments becomes our life. We miss the goodness of life for the pain in life. It's like this, Saturday I went to the Crossfit North Regional games to cheer on the team from RiverNorth Crossfit where I workout.

When I woke up it was great day by my estimation. My bronchitis seemed to be getting better, the cough had tapered to where I didn't think my chest and head was going to explode. Overall, my health is getting back to a good place. The Neuropathy has taped off,  as well as the night sweats. I am actually getting some sleep. There was nothing  that could interfere with me attending the games.

The Crossfit competition was amazing and I was having a great time. I had watched the women's competition and was in the middle of mens competition when I felt that surge from my tummy to my behind. Without hesitation I made my way to the bathroom. I could feel the poop starting to come, as I made way to the end of the very long line. 

Without any shame, I made my way up the line, "Excuse me," I said,  "I'm about to use the bathroom on myself." The women looked up at me without any response. As the poop starting to come more rapidly, I thought it best to throw decorum out the women. "Ummm excuse me, but I'm  pooping on myself can I butt?" I didn't really wait for a response, I just my way to the front of the long line into a stall. There was a big sigh of relief as I sat on the toilet, I had made it with only a minor accident. 

I sat there long after I was finished to make sure that whatever this was had passed. As I sat there I couldn't quite figure what brought this on. It's been well over eight months since I've had any gastrointestinal drama. I shrugged it off happy that I hadn't had a bigger accident. When I was sure that  my tummy was good, I washed my panties in the toilet, wrap them in a paper towel and headed for the front door. 

I didn't know what was going on with my body and I knew that Navy Pier was not place figure it out. I had made it to the first level and was asking security for directions to the door when I started to feel that surge again. "Wheres the bathroom. I'm about to go on myself?" I asked.

As I made my way to the second toilet the poop started to surge out my behind and down my leg. "This is not going to be good," I mumbled, as the pooped surged like fire hydrant on a hot day in the inner city. When I made it to the toilet I knew this was a disaster. I rolled down my pants and sat on the toilet. Poop was dropping out of my pants onto the bathroom floor. "Oh lawd," I cried,  "how am I going to get out of this?'

When I was sure that I had finished, I took my pants off to start the cleaning process. I was not prepared for the mess that I saw. From top to bottom, my entire back of my pants were  wet and saturated in a brown substance.

"Well, at least the front was in tack," was all I could think. I started  my regular process, of trying to clean my pants with damp toilet paper, but the poop was embedded into the legs of the pants. I knew that I had to dip them carefully in the toilet to clean them. Carefully, because I couldn't get the front wet. I still needed to get home by way of taxi.  But dipping the pants in toilet was not doing the trick. This poop was grainy and not moving. So I dipped some more and all that did was make them wet and more wet and the poop was still barley moving.

Eventually I decided that I need to move on. It was clear to me that I was not going be able to clean the pants. The stench was so bad that women where entering the bathroom saying, "OMG what's that smell?" Now that bothered me, it shamed me in some way. I couldn't put my finger on it but it made me feel a certain kind of way.  Then I thought how sad, we really do want a perfect world don't we? We even want to be able to go into the bathroom that is designed to consume human waste and not be able to smell the waste. 

I cleaned the floor, balled my slacks up and took the shrug that I was wearing and wrapped it around my waist. "Thank God for this shrug," I mumbled.  When I made my way out of the stall, I apologized to the women for the smell.  I'm sorry, "I pooped on myself."

I washed my hands and started the process of trying to figure out how I was going to get home with as little of my body showing as I could. The problem was, shrugs are short in the front. I couldn't tie it, or you would have seen my vagina. 

I didn't have time to be overwhelmed I was just on a mission. I set on the floor holding the shrug closed. As women came into the bathroom I asked them for a safety pin, explaining my desperate situation. 

I was happy when the cleaning lady came, because I could  get a bag for my pants that was smelling up the bathroom as I explained my situation, so she could also sanitize my stall.

I asked everyone who came into the bathroom to no avail. Then one girl, a Crossfitter with a big backpack came into the bathroom. I just knew she had one in that big bag, but she didn't.  However,  she started brainstorming with me on how to secure the shrug. After we went around a few times with ideas,  it finally hit me, I could take one of the headbands that I had purchased in the exhibit and pull it over the top of the shrug. It wasn't the best solution but it would get me out of the bathroom and on my way home.

After I had fixed myself up, I sat back on the floor, making sure that the tummy drama had passed. A few minutes had slipped by when the Crossfitter came back with some shorts. "Will these help?" she asked handing them to me. Tears rolled down my face. I was overwhelmed and grateful for that act of kindness. I love Crossfitters because we have a spirit that says, I want you to succeed. "Are you sure I asked?" through tears. She said to me "Don't cry, just take these."

I put the shorts on, sat on the floor and called Tiara. As we were talking I started to cry again.  Tiara's sweet compassionate voice, came through, "Don't cry auntie, don't cry." In that moment it hit me that I was clinging onto the pain of my tummy drama and that opened the door for the pain of living with AIDS, which is all consuming. I then became at the moment all the pain of this disease. The pain took center stage, it became me.

In my conversation with Tiara I started watching me, I became aware of myself. I noticed that my cry wasn't one of the  joy that I had felt when the Crossfitter gave me the shorts, instead it was a cry of pain, the one that I felt when it was clear that I couldn't wash my pants in that toilet. The one that I felt years ago when my T-Cell Count was 8 and I had PCP. I almost missed the perfect moment of joy consumed by the dark moment of pain. 

Add caption

I  stopped the tears in a instant and watched  the pain passed through me. Once I did that, I was able to get off that floor and leave the bathroom.  I am coming to a place of understanding that I am not the darkness of AIDS. I am the person who is watching the darkness of AIDS in me for the last 31 years.

Michael Singer argus that your sense of self is determined by where you are focusing your consciousness. The force of consciousness ends up holding the object stable simply by concentrating on it. .... 

I wonder how many of us become the pain of our journey just by simply holding onto it rather than letting it pass through us?  How many of us give the pain energy by holding it stable through our consciousness? 

Instead of holding onto the the tummy drama,  I looked it straight in the eye and saw it to be yet another experience that has helped me to grow. For sure it helped me to see the practical side of my spiritual journey. I know that while I have lots of work to do on this journey,  I am on the right path. This experience was confirmation.  I've been reading and reading, but this was the first time where the words in those books became alive in me. 

I am not the darkness of AIDS, I am the person who is watching the darkness of AIDS and by understanding that simple point I am able to watch dark moments pass through me, rather than become me. 

Today marks three years that my membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. as an honorary member was rescinded. I'm not going to rehash any of those gory details you can read all about it here and here and here. The pain that I felt  three years ago seemed insurmountable. Even last year I was still hurting far more than I would have wanted to admit.

I look back over my removable from Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority and think it a blessing that I can now fully embrace. For sure, I'm wiser, stronger but most importantly it sent me on a journey of self understanding that had been waiting in the wings to happen.

Three years ago this was a crisis that consumed my life, every part of my being, my body, heart and soul. Yet reflecting today, it also presented me with a opportunity. Sue Monk Kidd in her book When the Heart Waits would have seen this crisis as a "separation of opportunity." The greek word crisis derives from the Greek word Krisis and Krino which means "a separating."

This separation made me reexaime myself. The woman I had become and the woman that I'm seeking. 

At the end of this road, through all the hurtful tweets, facebook discussions, comments on my youtube and my blog, from women who once called me sister and praised my advocacy in HIV/AIDS , who stood at official meetings when I enter the room, I learned, in spite of what was said about me,  I like me! 

I mean, I really really like me. That would translate into loving yourself. When you can say you like who you are, what you do, how you do it, what you wear or don't wear, how you live your life, without limitations on what others think of you, you have reached that place of self-love.

Delta helped me to be even more  unapologetic about who I am. My authentic self has grown by leaps and bounds. It recently gave me the strength to walk away from my leadership positions at church without defending my right to do and live as I please, in spite of what people may deem "proper" for an ordained minister. It has made me live out loud without regard to the issues of "respectability" that I highlight in my book, The Politics of Respectability. My life is uniquely mine and to live your life for the validation of others would be to deny who God created you to be.

Delta, even created space for me to move through this profound spiritual journey that I just began with 

confidence that my "seeking" does not conflict with my Christian beliefs but enhances them. Sue Monk Kidd would say "In order to follow the inner journey, we need to leave behind those things that are deadening the loyalties that no longer have life for us," When I read that I said yesssss, my separation from Delta released me of loyalties that hindered my authentic self.

When I look back over the sacrifices and loyalties I kept to "belong" all the money I spent on red St. John Knits to "fit in" with the upper crust of leadership. All the times I spoke for Delta events for a potion of my speakers fee, so that I could be the "liked" honorary member and show that MY sorority was doing something on HIV/AIDS. Even coming to one convention {because I was told repeatedly that honorry members "never show up"} instead of staying with my mother who was in the last weeks of her life, I know that I am released from loyalties that hindered my authentic self.

This has been a long three year journey, but I can look back and say, that Delta did for me what I was unable to do for myself. In Delta I was still the "little Rae" seeking approval half/in and half/out of my authentic self. 

Those tweets that day was my authentic self, but the rejection that I felt over being my authentic self was "little Rae."

As I reflect, I had to examine what was it in me to cause me to be so wounded by Delta's rejection? But the larger question and most importantly, why would I want to below to any organization that could not validate and support my authentic self.  Why would I want to belong to  women who one day called me sister and the next called me demon?  I had to take a long look at myself, not at Delta Sigma Theta for those answers. 

This separation from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, was a Separation of Opportunity for it sent me on a journey of reexamination. It helped to heal the "little Rae" always seeking approval, always half/in and  half/out of my authentic self. 

Today, What I know for sure, I'm the authentic version of me, living out loud in the spirit that God create me to be. 

Yesterday Oprah and Teavana launched a new tea; Oprah Chai! I love tea, Teavana and Oprah and I think they are a match made in heaven.

I wasn't feeling well but I couldn't allow AIDS to interfere with sampling this tea on the day that it was launched;  By 3:30 I put my big girl panties on and headed to Teavana. 

I figured the walked to Teavana and the sip of this new tea would make it all better. Well, it didn't change my current health situation, LOL but it did put a smile on my face.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this new Chai Tea collaboration between Oprah and Teavana. I have to be honest, Chai tea has not on my list of top favorite teas, well it is now.

Howard Schultz CEO Starbucks and Oprah

At Teavana I went straight to the sample. I stood their half in the door and put it straight to the test. One swag and I lit up like a light bulb. It was a winner!

When the sales person opened the tin, the rich flavors hit my nose like a whirlwind. If you have never experience the Teavana smell test you have no idea what you are missing.

After I smelled a few other teas, with my goodies in tote I came home to see if the  Oprah Chai would render me the same result at home that it had in the store. I added a few drops of the rock  sugar, I also pick up at Teavana. Within an hour I had drank two cups.

Ok, lets talk specifics. Chai tea is Oprah's favorite. So it stood to reason that she choose Chai in this partnership. She  worked with the chemist over at Teavana to render a prefect Chai tea that she could share her name.

  Oprah Chia Tea is a perfect blend of cinnamon, ginger carob pieces, black pepper, chicory root, cloves, cardamom black tea and roobis tea. The rolled peppercorn gives it the perfect bite, the carob adds a chocolate flavor  but I think its the blend of black and roobis tea that makes the big difference. It's the perfect balance between that traditional spicy chai black tea taste and  a smooth sweetness.

Rooibos tea comes for the Red Bush in South African and it is known for it's natural sweetness. Black tea adds a rich malty flavor that helps to balance the sweetness of the Rooibos.

 Did I say it was a perfect blend? Oh I did, LOL. Honestly I'm not a chemist, but what I can say for sure, is that this Chai Tea is a winner and one of the best Chai teas that I have ever tasted.

I even had Oprah Chai this morning and found it to be a great alternative to my staple, English Breakfast. It gives me that  traditional black tea I must have in the morning but the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and peppercorn speaks loud and clear, "Its a new day!"

You can purchase the loose tea both at Teavana and at Starbucks. Also at Starbucks you can have an Oprah Chai Latte. The tea purest that I am, I'm not big on latte's so I passed, but for those who are latte drinkers why not give it a try? You can also order the loose leaf at Teavana online.

Soon to come, you will be able to purchase more of the Teavana tea selections as a beverage at Starbucks. Now that's a tea lover's dream. For those who don't know, Starbucks owns Teavana.

Even better is tea with a purpose. A portion of all Chai Tea sales go to Oprah's Leadership Academy Foundation. This is the breakdown: For every beverage purchased either at Starbucks or Teavana, the donation is .25; For every 2 oz's, of tea sold and every Oprah Chai Tin $100, and yes you have to buy the tin. Storing your loose leaf tea for freshness is important. Lastly, for every gift set sold  Teavana donates $4.00.

My bottom line, the Oprah/Teavana Chai Tea Collaboration is a winner!!

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



My Favorite Links

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Comments

  • Carla: Rae, Although we have never met, I knew you were read more
  • Liam12: I commend you on your courage to write of your read more
  • Leandrea Williams: This was a beautiful article. Rae you are a phenomenal read more
  • Liz Nkongi: Rae dear, I love you so much for your frankness! read more
  • andrew: God Bless you! Father forgive them, for they know not read more
  • Kim: Wow, I can really relate to your story. For the read more
  • Reggie Dunbar II: Your advocacy and compassion is highlighted in your commity and read more
  • 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

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