Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Stay committed” With HIV Activist Susan Lee Mintz
Stay committed. My marriage was, to say the least, insanely chaotic yet also rewarding. The word love for me had always meant commitment, unconditional acceptance, and facing every problem with a solution even if I didn’t know what it would be or if it was the right one. As I share my story, I hope others commit to their marriage vows before God, first, and then commit to their marriage. #CommittedToLove
I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Lee Mintz, a.k.a. Mrs. Boner from Boca Raton, Florida. Mrs. Boner was the brainchild of Susan created in 1990 to share with the world a naughty, sexy, and fun cookbook: Safe Sex Never Tasted So Good. Susan’s self-published cookbook sold 30,000 copies, without any paid promotion or distribution, just two years prior to her husband’s AIDS-related death in 1994. At 72-years-old, she continues to personify Mrs. Boner as an HIV advocate and author of her autobiography, Committed to Love: A Woman’s Journey through Love and Loss. Susan overcame many adversities and tragic situations by making healthy choices every day. She remains positive and hopeful that there will, one day, be a cure for HIV.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?
The year was 1981 and the first time I learned about AIDS when a news broadcast was airing a segment about it. I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that AIDS was somehow going to intersect with my life. And, it did.
Over the years, writing has provided both a calming and healing impact on my life. I’m best known for my healthy and sexy cookbook, Safe Sex Never Tasted So Good. Donning the alter ego “Mrs. Boner,” I provided a hilarious treatment of nutritious, easy, and fun recipes for adults. I sold my first book on June 19, 1990, and my husband was diagnosed with AIDS exactly two years later on June 19, 1992.
I documented during his ordeal because writing allowed me to escape and actually saved me throughout this tragic situation. I recorded every detail during this period of time and it filled 15 journals. My emotions were rampant: Rage, denial, hate, resentment, love, sadness, and chaos. Tragically, my beloved husband, Dr. Jeffrey A. Mintz, died two years after his diagnosis on August 17, 1994.
While it was an extremely challenging time following the loss of Jeffrey, I continued writing and published my autobiography, Committed to Love: A Woman’s Journey through Love and Loss, which challenges readers to love someone unconditionally despite their faults.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
To say that my 25-year marriage to a bisexual man who had contracted HIV was difficult is an understatement. Dr. Jeffrey A. Mintz was my best friend for 37 years (and husband for 25) who died as a result of AIDS-related pneumonia on August 17, 1994. During those 25 years, I was able to develop my foundation; discover my strength; find my faith; believe in hope; and accept that I was chosen to love Jeffrey. I watched him change and became a stranger in my bed as the virus wreaked horrific devastation on his body. My world was crumbling slowly before my eyes. I wanted to die with him, but I couldn’t. I had to live and stay strong and healthy because I was his support — life support through his eventual death.
As I held him in my arms so many times nightly, he would convulse from 105-degree temperatures that accompanied the illnesses associated with AIDS. I changed the sheets at 3:00 a.m. because his night sweats left him in a pool of water and drenched clothing. It was as though my life had become a movie. Yet, this movie was from hell. However challenging this situation proved to be, I chose to stay committed to my marriage.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My positive outlook and my faith have been my foundation. I’ve always had a positive outlook on everything. You can turn negative situations in life into positive ones just by changing your thoughts. Situations are meant for a purpose. You have to decide whether or not to accept them as such. Also, you have to realize there’s a higher calling on your life. I knew early on as a child that I was different and wanted to do something great with my life. I had to make choices along the way: To be persistent and take any negative situation I encountered and turn it into purpose.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Only allow the public see you cry if they’re paying for it! Seriously, I simply never accepted defeat or failure. I’ve always had a diligent, focused, and determined spirit. I don’t take “no” for an answer. When I hear “no” it means “not now,” or “not yet.” While I’ve made some bad choices along the way, I never viewed them as mistakes. Rather, they were stepping stones to achieve my next victory.
So, how are things going today? :-)
Today is the best day of my life! I woke up this morning and my mind is still working overtime. I asked myself I can do to make the day great. I’ve been working with local organizations to promote pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the once-daily pill that helps prevent HIV, and to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. To me, being an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, especially medical-marijuana, is an HIV-related cause. People are suffering with diverse ailments and chronic pain. If I can assist in alleviating some of that suffering, I’m going to continue to help any way that I am able. Every day, do something good for yourself and someone else.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- You have many chapters in your book. Never stop in the middle because you don’t know what glory is at the end. At 72-years-old, I still believe there is so much more ahead of me waiting to be accomplished. The best is always yet to come. Today is just the beginning of my next chapter.
- You need to have a faith foundation. To believe that God, or a higher power, has you called for a purpose. I’m fighting an uphill battle against the stigma of HIV, but because I know that I was born for such a time as this, I’ll never quit. I know it’s my destiny. To fight this fight against HIV/AIDS and bring hope to the world.
- Never accept defeat. You are going to be victorious. Triumph over tragedy always wins. Take the worst time in your life and make it something great.
- Stay committed. My marriage was, to say the least, insanely chaotic yet also rewarding. The word love for me had always meant commitment, unconditional acceptance, and facing every problem with a solution even if I didn’t know what it would be or if it was the right one. As I share my story, I hope others commit to their marriage vows before God, first, and then commit to their marriage. #CommittedToLove
- Learn to use the power of the word “no” to your advantage. While “no” sounds negative it can be positive because it means you have a choice. “No” only means “not now,” it doesn’t mean “never.” “No” is the opportunity. “No” saved my life, but never stopped my love. “No” was abstinence in my marriage, but didn’t mean that I didn’t love my husband with all my heart.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
My late husband, Jeffrey, always pushed me toward success. No matter what I did, he said I was great at it. His fervent belief in me inspired me to achieve all that I’ve ever done. His enduring love and support became the foundation for how I held myself together as his caregiver, and how I pursued my writing and my zeal for living each day to the fullest every day since.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At the other end of your words are people’s lives. Over the past 72 years, I’ve been deliberate with my words and actions to encourage, empower, and share with people a reason to maintain hope because no matter what happens, something good can come from it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My big project now is advocating for the legalization of marijuana. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana) and is an essential component of medical marijuana. There are vital health benefits that can be found in it for people.
I’m still active in my support for HIV because it has not gone away. Until it’s completely eradicated, I will continue to help. We must continue to push treatment as prevention, ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to life-saving medications and are living with a suppressed viral load.
In addition, I want my story to be developed into a major motion picture. A movie would keep public HIV conversation at the forefront as active and relevant. During a time where it seems as though when the going gets tough, people just quit, my story of commitment in the face of agonizing circumstances must be used to both bring awareness that HIV is still a major issue and to share that there’s nothing you can’t handle if you stay committed.
Then, I’d like to see And I Held Their Hands with a Hospice Heart produced into a series for Netflix. This collection of 24 stories focuses on hope, faith, love, and loss, which are all topics the world needs. It would provide valuable information about hospice to a larger audience and the integral work they do for patients and their families.
Finally, to sell my publishing company, Boner Publications, which includes Safe Sex Never Tasted So Good and two other books still waiting to be published: Naughty Minds and Healthy Bodies and Make No Brittle Boners About It. These books promote healthy cooking recipes that will satisfy your taste buds while tickling your funny bone.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Be involved with them. Listen to them. You can hear something, but that doesn’t mean you’re listening. Spend one-on-one time with your associates; no matter the size of your company — small, medium, or large. Make it your business to know their needs. Keep open lines of communication. Develop your team. Promote from within.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Seriously, at 72, my passion has been and always will be as an advocate for HIV. I want to be involved in eradicating the stigma surrounding this disease. Mrs. Boner still has work to do to deliver safer sex messages and to help eradicate HIV infections, AIDS-related discrimination and deaths. When I wrote my Safe Sex Never Tasted So Good cookbook, it was about having fun and spreading joy and laughter. While my work is serious in nature, if Mrs. Boner is going to inspire and change this world, she would say to have fun with the work you do. Laugher is contagious!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The best is yet to come! It’s how I’ve lived my life, daily, always believing and knowing that what happens next will be bigger, better, more impactful and important to the world. I go to bed pondering that quote and waking up the next day living it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.