I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Charlie Sheen: And This Is What I Think!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the facts as told by Charlie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Finess Stops Bladder Leaks!

I'm always pleading the case for women to take control of their bodies and health. It's a fact that no one will take care of you the way that you take care of yourself. But over the years, women seem to be stuck, especially when it comes to our bodies.

I think this culture of misogyny has impacted how we view, and even how we treat, our bodies. Equally important, it has created degrees of shame around our bodies when we should be empowered.

And I understand why, around the world our bodies have been used as a weapon against us. Our clitoris have been cut, we have been raped as political pawns, murdered for having premarital sex, married off  too young, and in the United States, our bodies have continuously been front and center as a pawn by our elected officials. No one should have the right to regulate what I do with my body.

Let me give you an example of the kind of shame women have around "female issues". I was at an event with a group of women talking about a new product on the market called Finess, I'll get more into that in a minute, and this brilliant business woman admitted that for years she couldn't bring herself to purchase her own tampons. How does a woman grow to be bold and awesome in one area of her life, but in one of the most important areas, live in fear of what people might think of her? I'm no different, you all know I kept my HIV status a secret for seven years because I was afraid of what people would think of me. Back when I was diagnosed, only "whores, gays and drug addicts got HIV" *Blank stare* Even Cosmopolitan magazine told women that they could have unprotected sex with an HIV positive man if their vagina was "healthy" and if they had "normal" sex, they could not get HIV. *blank stare*

I think most women have been at that place of fear and shame around their bodies one time or the other. How could we not be, living in a culture where we have been taught to be ashamed of our bodies and our sexuality. So when my girlfriend, and fellow blogger Dwana, asked me if I wanted to review this new product for and about women I said absolutely.

Now in full disclosure, when I got Finess in the mail, I was like they want me to put this thing where? But I had promised Dwana and Ann-Marie from the Boombox Network that I would participate, and my word is always my honor. But in real talk, I also needed the money that I was being paid to sample this product. So I pulled out my big girl panties, and tried Finess.

Let me give you the 411 on Finess. It's a revolutionary product, first of its kind, over the counter approved by the FDA to help women stop bladder leaks. Yep, a woman places Finess over her urethra and it actually stops her bladder from leaking. The technology is different from others, in that it's an non-intrusive product, which means, nothing is inserted inside of your body.  And unlike pads that only catch your urine, Finess actually stops you from leaking altogether.  Huh? Yes I said, you put it over your pee hole and it will prevent your bladder from leaking urine.

Bladder Leaks i.e. Urinary Incontinence. huh? Well, bladder leaks are common among women who have given birth and it is especially common among women making their way to menopause like me. But there are some women, simply experiencing spontaneous bladder leaks, you laugh too hard, you sneeze,  you cough, working out you feel a drop, you gotta go to the bathroom real bad and there's no place to go and a little pee leaks out. At one time or another, we have all been there, and if not, like grandmama use to say, "you just keep on living honey." I know since I've been going through this menopause thing, I have been experiencing more and more leaks. But I hadn't yet given any thought about how to control it, other than a pad, that is until now.

After two days of sitting on the counter, I got my nerve up and tried Finess. At the end of the day, this product is for and about making the lives of women better and for that you can always count me on board.

Finess is a sponge like form about 1 1/2 inch long and at the top widest part about the same. It's super soft with a little sticky adhesive on the back and you simply place it over your urethra, i.e your pee hole. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't give a lot of thought to where my pee hole is exactly, I just know it's somewhere near my vagina. So for me, I had to lay on the bed with a mirror and find it. LOL, but for real. 

Now you all know I'm a little slow sometimes, so it was awkward for me holding the mirror and placing Finess over my uthrea all at the same time, but after two tries I was successful. When we had the fireside chat with a group of women who had also sampled Finess, other women in the group had no problem at all, they just sat on the toilet or squatted and Bam! I was envious for real, because every time I used Finess I had to do it with a mirror.

The adhesive was a little sticky at first, but for sure it is safe. After I placed the Finess sponge I was acutely aware of it for at least the first 30 minutes to an hour. But after that, I forgot I even had it on until I actually had to use the bathroom and had to take it off.  Other women in the group said that they even forgot they had it on until they peeed and it fell off. All the women had different experiences with Finess. I had no irritation from the adhesive while wearing Finess or after I took it off. It was very comfortable and I had absolutely no bladder leaks.

Over all, I would recommend Finess to any woman who experiences bladder leaks. It's a non-intrusive way for women to control urinary incontinence. I'm always elated to see new products that give women the power that need over their bodies, so my hat is off to the team over at Finess. You can learn more on thier website.

Now, Finess is not sold in stores, you have to purchase it either from Finess Website or on Amazon for a trail it will cost $4.99. Here's a coupon code for 50% off for a 36 pack at Amazon, V23DVC72. Click here to shop.

YESSSSSSS! I'm giving away a trial pack of six and shoot I'll even throw in a bracelet from RLT Collection. AlI you have to do it is make a comment on this blog post about what you think about Finess. Follow Finess on Twitter or Like them on Facebook and on October 19th, I will announce a winner on this blog. And y'all know you have to be following me. *blank stare* The hashtag is #StopBladderLeaks. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Finess. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Need Them All to Go To Counseling and Get Tested On The Way!

Yesterday the sex life of pro football player Victor Cruz of the New York Giants was all over Social Media. I'm not sure how it got there, but since it's been made public I thought that I would give my two scents. First off,  all the parties involved need to come hear me speak. This is cra cra crazyyyyy dysfunctional, did I say crazy mess!!

Apparently Victor's finance Elaina Watley sent a group text to an undisclosed group of women letting them know that she knows they are fucking her man. *blank stare*

Yep, she went on record letting the other women know that she knows who they are and she thought it important that they all knew each other. *BAM* She was basically letting the other women know they ain't special. 

I had to really think about this one, and I was gonna hold my piece but ummmmm, the woman that I am and with the work that I do, I couldn't let is pass.

First off, I certainly hope that Elaina did more than text the other women. I hope her first stop was with brother- man with an ultimatum for counseling. No need to ask Victor to stop fucking around because she admits in the text that they have had that conversation countless times, so basically they need professional help if they are going to stay together.

I mean for real, for real. There's  a whole lot of unhealthy, dysfunction behavior on everyone's part and they honestly need professional help.

If Victor is as committed to marrying Elaina as he has lead her to believe, then he needs to work out the "why"  he is publicly committed to one woman and privately fucking around, not only with one woman, but ummm, a group of women, which could mean two on the modest side or three, four or five on the high end.  He needs to work out why it's important for him to spread his penis so thin. I mean if he wants to be a "hoe pro athlete," he needs to have lunch with Magic Johnson to get some big brother advice. 

Secondly, if Elaina has decided to stay, which she probably has because not too many will walk away from the life style of a professional athlete and  most importantly, she probably loves him. And I think the text spoke volumes of desperation to keep what she think she has. If this be the case,  she needs to get some help. Like some serious help. If she thinks she can control his penis by standing her ground with a bunch of other women she is entirely misguided.

I will bet my life that they all think their vagina is better than hers.

I'm sure Elaina thought exposing him would change some shit. Girl, bye! I mean, they certainly know about her. Victor takes Elaina to tons of public appearances, so the fact that he has a "main" woman and they still fucking him, ummm,  If they were bothered by it, they wouldn't be fucking him in the first place, so they certainly ain't bothered by her text. That's some real talk.

And was this text suppose to change him? Girl, Bye! She stated in the text that she has confronted him many times and if that didn't stop the man who says he loves her and committed to marry her from fucking someone other than her, what the hell was a text gonna do? I mean for real, for real.

If Elaina was all of that to Victor, then he wouldn't be fucking around in the first place. Each time he lays down with another woman, he has disrespected her and has given the "other" women permission to do the same. He has basically sent a message to the other women loud and clear,"we can all disrespect her, I give my permission each time I poke my penis inside of you."

Thirdly, and most importantly, a women can't control a man's penis unless it's in her pocket all of the freaking time... So ummm, she needs to go back to point one and two, if she wants to work through the disrespect then they both need professional help cause if things were going to change they would have long before she sent the text.

Now, I'm not getting ready to blast one woman for messing around with him. This isn't about disrespecting Elaina per say, but about self-respect. At the end of the day you can't expect a person to respect another person, if they don't respect themselves.

I must ask, why would any woman waste her pretty on a man that is publicly engaged to another women? They need to go to counseling too, 'cause this seems like it might be a self worth issue rooted in "my pussy is better than yours and if I prove it I just might become the main woman" Girl, Bye! Pussy is Pussy.

At the end of the day, EVERY woman should want more for themselves, including Elaina. When are we as women going to live the life that demands respect of our, mind, body and spirit? 

Lastly, and most importantly this is some messy shit of who's zooming who  and that's how sexually transmitted diseases get passed from one to the other. I hope they are  using condoms, like  or real. Cause 38% of newly infected cases of HIV are people infected by people who didn't know they even had HIV.... Go Get Tested!!!!

And y'all always asking me why black women have more HIV, then any other group of women. Now you see!!!!
And then there's Herpes. Black women also bear the brunt of the herpes cases among women at 48%. *sigh* We can change this by changing our behavior!

 And speaking of herpes, y'all do know that  you can have on a condom and still transmit herpes, YEP!

Herpes is transmitted through contact to contact, so even if he has on the condom but the sore is on his balls, where his balls touch the outside of the vagina during sex, is where herpes will land. And vice versa, if she has a sore on the lower part on her vagina, or her vulva you run the risk of infection. And then there's HPV, and most women don't even know they have it. This isn't about blaming or blasting women, this is about some real talk about sexually transmit diseases and how they get spread. If we want to reduce the cases of STD's then we need to take some responsibility for our bodies when and wherever we can. 

And then there's some super bug of Gonorrhea that will take your ass out of here quicker that AIDS and Syphilis has been on the rise since forever. 

So while everyone is staking claim to one penis, I hope someone thought to put a freaking condom on it! And if not, I hope that what they think they know is true, but I gotta say, with all this fucking and lying, everything would be suspect...

At the end of the day, he could give them all something and they can pass it on to their main man, 'cause some side chicks do have a main man.

Or one of them could give him something that he gives it to all of them and no matter how you slice it we got a big ass public health mess. 

So there you have it, my 2 cents!  I just wanted to give my perspective, in case any woman saw this crazy ass shit and thought that Elaina had done some dope shit by sending that text. Actually she did some desperate shit. And for me, a man that drives me to desperation is not worth five more minutes of my life.  I would prefer to be alone without compromising my self worth then to have a millionaire sleeping in my bed, destroying my spirit every chance he gets. *in my auntie voice* I Need Them All to Go To Counseling and Get Tested On The Way!
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