Category Archives: Lessons Learned

HIV Criminalization Workshop in Tallahassee

Another LTAI member and I were fortunate enough to attend a workshop on HIV Criminalization in Tallahassee this week. I learned so much and again I was energized by the ambition and strength of these people. Many of them we had met at the Conference in Fort Walton Beach in September. These people work tirelessly toward all our goals against stigma and criminalization. We had some great speakers and I think we may have gained some more much needed support in Tallahassee. And I can not forget to mention our wonderful friends from Iowa. From SERO Sean Strub, Tami Haught, and Jordan Selha. This group of people have accomplished so much in Iowa toward de-criminalization of HIV. We’re very fortunate to have them all showing us the steps we need to take toward our own state laws in Florida.

Bringing more people together with different views and ideas including their accomplishments is extremely helpful.


Thank you Sean, Tami, and Jordan. We love you guys.  😉
I can’t wait to meet you all again.

This Journey Called Life

We all have a story to tell. Our lives are our story.  We can either use our life experiences to help others on this journey called life, or we can stay victims and be bitter and hate the world for all that we have endured.

I chose to pay it forward, to use my life’s experiences to help others- not to stay a victim, because we are all victims of our circumstances. The key is what we do with our stories. I find such a incredible sense of healing and freedom to not stay a victim to the cards I have been dealt; to pay it forward to help others not to stay stuck feels so liberating.

We do not need to share every detail of our lives, only what is truly needed to disclose, to let others see we understand, we’ve been there. This is how I choose to deal with the circumstances, whatever it may be. To turn a negative into a positive, remember even the butterfly starts in its cocoon.

When we keep ourselves healthy- mind, body and spirit, we can help others more effectively. If we are balanced in these areas we can be more productive. So ladies, let’s break out of negative patterns. I tell you once I finally started realizing that I was creating my own hell, I had a choice, I started to look at things differently.

I then realized if we change the way we look at things, the things we were looking at can change for us –that was my light bulb moment. It was not easy by a long shot, anything good takes practice and patience.

FOOD

Today, I was sitting and thinking about one of my favorite things; Food! I love to eat it, cook it, bake it; did I mention, Eat It! I came from a family where cooking was a big deal. I started to learn to cook when I was 8 years old. I don’t know if it was because I am from the South or it is just in my blood.
As I grew up, I noticed that food became a friend that I, at times, wished was not so. I became overweight and didn’t know what to do. I tried everything!  Now that I am at this stage in my life, with being Positive, I find myself reading all the websites and articles about what to eat, what not to eat and why I should do so. I decided to ask my doctor about what I should do and he told  me that as long my numbers are good and I am getting proper nutrients, my weight is not his main concern. I already do the things that am suppose to do, such as, eating proper portions, drinking plenty of water, and even exercising regularly and I only get the pleasure of losing 5 pound and then I gain it back. Not as significant as I would like. This stresses me out.
 
As I know all to well,  stress is  killer and it truly affects those of us that are Positive. Stress makes me sick. I get depressed, and I eat too much and that makes me sick. I get tired of that, so I don’t eat enough and that makes me sick.  I quit!  Worrying about food that it is. The only thing I worry about now, is what I will be cooking for dinner.
 
I have decided to fill that time that I worry about food and weight and put it to good use, and do something that I love to do and it makes me happy. I take good old-fashioned recipes, recipes that I get from t.v and others and making it my own by adding and taking away ingredients. That is what makes it fun. I do this until I like the way it tastes. The goal here is to please yourself and that in turn will make others happy by your creation!
 
Cooking and baking is not a punishment and that is the thing that we have to realize.  It is a beautiful way to express yourself. Eating the finished product doesn’t have  to be a burden and we can enjoy it in a healthy way. We all have a creative side and we all have to eat. Why not use that creativity you have inside to cook or bake something. This is how I started healing and using it to my advantage and have fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to make it that way.
 
I would like to share a recipe that I use, and it is simple, fun and yummy…oh and healthy…here we go:
                  Lemon Flavored Asparagus
                  1 bundle of asparagus
                  2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                  sea salt
                  black pepper
                  lemon juice
                  
Wash the asparagus and dry thoroughly. Cut the bottoms off (the hard square parts). Place asparagus in a foil-lined baking pan.  Evenly pour olive oil over the asparagus and place in the oven. Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes or until almost soft, but still firm. Once the asparagus has been taken out of the oven, sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over it. After plating, pour one capful of lemon juice over the hot asparagus and serve. 
 
I hope that you enjoy the recipe and remember make it your own. Have fun with it.
 
What are some of the recipes that you may use to express your creativity?

Only So Much

Sometimes as human beings, we tend to take on too much and deny that we have even done such a thing. We fail to really look at what we need as an individual and put our main focus on our family, our friends and our jobs. We tend not to step back and take that long look, until we get sick due to stress.
The care and love that we have for others is often the care and love that we neglect to give ourself. We often seem to think that if we put “me” off, then we feel sure that we  will get it from those whom we have given it to, but that does not always ring true, though.
We need to stop and realize that if we don’t start caring, loving, and putting ourselves first, then there will not be a “me” to put out there for others. In retrospect, take care of yourself and monitor how you let others make use of you and remember that “you” can only take so much.
What are some of the ways that you use to recharge yourself that make you feel better?

Just a Note

Some days ago, I was thinking about a way to help me learn about the women in my network without getting too personal.  I know that some people are particular about sharing, so in my private time as I talk to them, I ask them one simple question; “what is your favorite song?” This question does a few things: 1) it is an open-ended question, so it allows the other person to have to stop and think about themselves even if they already know, 2) it allows for a longer conversation because it brings up the story of how the song became so special, and 3) by placing this as a ringtone for each of my network friends, it allows me to think of the story and how other women’s experiences and stories, even if it is a ringtone, strengthens and empowers me. Lastly, the ringtone makes that person even more special by hearing a piece of them when they call. It is a simple way not to forget, and to remember to smile.

Let us know in what way do you find it easy to share without exposing yourself to deep?

How Ironic

Paying it forward has become a way of life for me. It is ironic that being living with HIV has opened so many doors for me, meaning I do not think I would have had the opportunity to meet all the awesome people in my life that I have.

It started with my psychologist. When I first found out I was infected with the big V, as I call it, boy, did I give her a run for the money, to say the least! So my point is I received years of psychotherapy just to deal with the fact that I was living with HIV. Being in therapy though, opened up a whole new world for me. I learned so much- from coping with the hand I was dealt to learning who I was as a person. Not by any means was all this an easy task. Therapy is hard work -I kid you not. You have to be able to look at difficult issues in your life. Had I not been infected with the big V, I probably would never have had the chance to be in counseling.

So that opened the door for me to be more open-to meet other great people in my life. I decided I wanted to leave New York. I wanted a slower pace of life, so I moved to Florida. My ID Doc at the time helped me so much. She made the phone calls for me where I was going to get my health care. That led me to a nurse who was at the health department in Gainesville. She helped me so much. Before I knew it doors were opening up everywhere for me. It was then that I started to want to pay it forward, for others who were where I started.

Since then it was like a domino effect- I felt so blessed, it made me want to continue to do more and more for other women living with HIV, because I knew first hand what they were going through. I must say the big V was my learning tool. And, it has made me the woman I am today. Ironic but true, living with the big V made me not dare to take anything for granted again in my life. It was like a whole new world was out there waiting for me. Who knew I would be still here today, so eager to make a difference in this life. This is some of what paying it forward means to me.

How have you paid it forward? Have any good suggestions? Share them with us!!

 

What Makes You Feel Powerful?

Feeling powerful and confident can sometimes be hard throughout lives twists and turns. Some of the LTAI women wanted to share with you what empowers them, and how this power and strength makes them feel invincible! Whether it be singing, helping others, or even dressing up we can all find something that gives us that extra push in life when we need it the most. Here is what a few of the women had to say about what makes them feel powerful.

“Being knowledgeable and teaching others.”

“Sharing my knowledge with others and them to totally be interested in what I have to share.”

“When I help someone with a problem it makes me feel invincible.”

For these women sharing their knowledge and skills can be very empowering. Being there for others can give us purpose and make us feel like we are truly making a difference in someone’s life. Is this something that you can relate to? We want to know what makes you feel powerful! Share your thoughts below, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Advice from a Caregiver: Part 3

In Part 3 of our “Advice from a Caregiver” series, we learn the importance of support groups and advocacy.

Support activities aren’t just for HIV positive people. They can be very helpful for family members as well. Participating in support groups and advocating can help tremendously in the fight against HIV and make you feel like you are not alone!

Are you involved in HIV support activities?

Some may think, “Oh, HIV is not going to affect me,” but it does. It’s very scary and it saddens me. That’s the motivation behind what I do and why I go to support groups — to show other HIV positive people, especially women, that there are people out there that aren’t HIV positive that are affected, do care and will fight along with them. That’s what I think is most important about being a caregiver, showing that you will support them, that they’re not in it alone.

What do you do to advocate for HIV? Where do you find support? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below!

To see PART 1 and PART 2 click here!

Overcoming

Today we continue to share some tips and strategies from our LTAI members as part of our “Overcoming” series. One of our members turns to prayer and meditation when things get tough, and it gives her the strength she needs to overcome her challenges! If you missed the last “Overcoming” post you can check it out HERE! Here is what she has to say:

“Prayer-medication. Get feedback. I tend to make mountains out of molehills and distort the reality in a millisecond. I use the feedback to make a decision toward solution. Sometimes it’s to not do anything at all. Sometimes it’s a giant leap of faith into an “uncomfort zone.” I try to be courageous no matter what. “

Look for more great tips in our upcoming blog posts and don’t forget to subscribe below!

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Advice from a Caregiver: PART 2

Today we continue with part 2 of our “Advice from a Caregiver” series. Our LTAI care giving member shares how her relationship with her sister has progressed and what she does to support and encourage her. She emphasizes the importance of knowing how to listen, something that can make a big difference in everyone’s life. Click HERE to read Part 1!

When did you become informed about HIV?

It wasn’t until now while in college that I have become more educated and interested in HIV. It takes knowledge to know that HIV can be managed and controlled. Don’t put everyone in a box. HIV affects everyone.

How has your relationship with your sister progressed?

If you find out a family member has HIV, you should not only console them and make sure that they are alright, but also ask them questions as they are getting treatment. Observe and listen. I observe if my sister is getting sick or if she isn’t feeling well, I make sure to give her extra care. I say “Ok, make sure you do this or do that.” I also run errands for her if she needs any help because stress affects your immune system, so I try to do anything I can to reduce her stress. I also listen to her. That’s another thing, being able to listen to them, which you should always do.

Do you have any listening skills and tips that you would like to share? Leave a comment below!