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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AIDS: No Joking Matter

Two days after the #RLTEvent I was chatting in the hall with a guy in my building who I thought knew that I had AIDS, but he didn’t. When I mentioned it in passing he paused and slowly said, “Oh, I didn't know you had AIDS.” I took a deep breath waiting. I had no idea where he would go next. Then he said all lively, “But it don’t bother me none.” I exhaled, “What a relief,” I thought. I was way too tired to go there with him. But then he looked me dead in the face and added, “Just don’t spit in my eyes.”

My heart sank right to the floor of my hallway, I couldn't even get mad. I felt empathy for this very uneducated man. “Really, in this day in age, you still think a person can get HIV through saliva,” is what I wanted to say. But that would have been futile because I knew that he was being sincere and he believed himself to have demonstrated his acceptance of my HIV status. I just simply explained how his information was incorrect and he listened attentively. When I finished, he simply said, “WOW, I had no idea.” Grandmama used to say, “You can get more with sugar than with shit.” I believe that to have been the case here. But it didn't make me feel any better. And this feeling in the pit of my stomach only got worse.

About 30 minutes later, one of my best friends called and finished telling me what he was trying to tell me a few weeks prior but I was too busy working on #RTLEvent to pay attention. He had seen a tweet about Michael Jackson and since he loves Janet, he followed the trail, it being the one year anniversary of her brother’s death. The tweet led him to a blog that gave 10 reasons why you should love Michael Jackson. They were cute, no doubt, but on a closer read, scrolled across Michael's picture, there was something of a different sort, and his point of contention. Knowing the blogger, without even hearing it, I loosely defined her by saying, “Her blog is meant to be funny and full of satire.” But he failed to see the humor and when he told me, and neither did I. It said:

(Michael) Eats KFC fried chicken buckets with Magic Johnson and remains AIDS free.”

My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe it, but that is exactly what it said. I played it over and over in my head trying to understand it’s intent. But I failed to see the humor in it all. Even though I was outraged, saddened and even hurt, I was also paralyzed, unable to respond in any fashion. I have been holding this blog in the pit of my stomach for a couple of weeks. I didn't want to have to defend what I was feeling nor did I want to be attacked. I’ve never really backed down from a fight, but this was more then a fight, this was personal and it reached deep in my heart. I had to believe that no malice was intended.

But, it reminded me of when Ted Danson wore a minstrel face to roast Whoppie Goldberg at the Fliers Club. African-Americans didn’t see the humor in it one bit, even though they were dating. No matter how hard Whoopie defended his intent, the act in and of itself rendered a bitter taste. Although I had that same bitter taste about this, I held onto to it until I saw another tweet last night.

International AIDS Activist Hydeia Broadbent, a woman living with AIDS her entire life, tweeted:

Watch the jokes about HIV/AIDS you never know one of your friends might be living with and not telling anyone for fear of judgment!”  

She had struck a cord with me and given me my power back. Thank you, Hydeia.

Yes, I tried to make sense out of it all. I know that this blogger knows that you cannot get HIV from eating with someone. On one level, saying that it didn't happen was implying that it could happen. On the other, saying that it didn't happen could also say it couldn't happen. I get it. But I wonder how people will view this glass, half full or half empty. I would argue that it depends on the knowledge you already have. My neighbor would have said, “Boy, was he lucky.”

But, the implications are far greater than how one interprets it. The bottom line for me: There are some things that should not be laughed at and HIV/AIDS is one of them. I cannot see the goodness in such a statement wrapped in vulgarity as a positive. No matter how hard I tried. The shame of living with AIDS is still real in this country. Stereotypes and myths surrounding this disease are a reality. Discrimination is ForReal... And that’s no laughing matter and all the satire in the world will never change that fact. My neighbor is a case in point. He honestly didn't know what he didn’t know. And he was confident in what he thought he knew.

Discrimination has been real in my own life. It was only a few years back that I was denied a tattoo in an African-American owned tattoo parlor because of my HIV status. And the owner was just like my neighbor, he thought his discrimination of my rights was justified, rooted in what he thought he knew. Despite the standard protocol all tattoo parlors are required by law to follow. Then last week, I spoke at the Danny Clark Foundation and when I said that I had AIDS, a young man in the second row pulled his seat all the way back away from me. I was sad that he didn’t know he couldn't get HIV from me just by being close, but I also was sad for myself, that a person would reject me simply because of my HIV status. I wonder what would this young man have said had he read the comment about Magic.

This is the reality that people with AIDS live with everyday. Not only from strangers, but they live in fear of rejection from their own family members. I've even been to a funeral in recent times where a mother held on to the secret of her child's HIV status because of the shame and stigma of AIDS. Her child’s HIV/AIDS status was buried right along with the body.

And let's not forget Magic Johnson, no matter what people may think of him. He is living with HIV every single day, and that is no joking matter. I wonder about the isolation and rejection he must have felt after disclosing his HIV status. The discrimination was so pervasive that he was forced to retire because teammates and fellow NBAers didn't want to play on the same court with him. He watched his career go down the drain because of ignorance. This is Magic’s reality and all the money in the world will never change that fact. It is also my reality and the reality of many others living with this disease and I fail to see the humor in it all.
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