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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Magic, HIV and Me: A Retrospective! Part Two

Ron stood frozen as I rambled on. He was a gentle man with a big heart and a solid commitment to what was right and fair in the world. That was one of the reasons I had chosen to tell him my HIV status. I knew in my heart that there would be no judgment. Part One Click Here

But I started to get nervous as he stood there with this poker face that I could not read, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. I finally said, "Can you help me?" and took a deep breath and waited.  Ron said to me, "I'm so sorry Rae, but we will take care of you." I exhaled. I didn't know what that meant but the compassion in his eyes said that it would be ok. He said, "I want you to call Mardge Cohen, she's Gordy Schiff's wife. You know Gordy, just get there number off the list." I did know Gordy, he was a member of the board Physician For A National Health Program and another good man with a commitment to what was right and fought for it.

I needed to get my courage up again so I took a moment before I made that call. I remember it like yesterday. The fear of having to say that I had HIV yet again was overwhelming. I couldn't image how Magic had stood on national television and disclosed his HIV status. "He must be crazy," I thought,  I started to sweat under my clothes as the phone rang. "Hello, Hello," I could hear the voice on the other end, "Hello may I speak to Mardge Cohen," I said. "This is she." "Hi My name is Rae Lewis and I'm the Field Director of PNHP and Ron Sable said I should call." She said, "Un huh," I continued, "I have HIV and the doctors at NIH said I should get on new medications."

She wasted no time and interrupted me before I went any further. "Come see me on Wednesday at the Women and Children HIV Clinic at County, Ok?, "ok," I said. "I'll see you Wednesday," and before I knew it she was gone.

So here Magic was telling the world he had HIV and I was hoarding my infection like it was my last dime.  Just the thought of having to tell one more person was too much for me. And going to an AIDS clinic scared the hell out of me. I was afraid that someone may recognize me and then my secret would really be out. But what I failed to realize was that every single woman in the clinic was also infected.  But that didn't matter to me in those early days.

I went to the clinic on my lunch hour  that day and after I registered I stood in the corner so no one would talk to me. My infection was none of your business. I couldn't image why Magic told the world. "That's his shit," I said to myself, "I will not become the talk of anyone's town or beauty shop."

That day Mardge told me that I had AIDS. She is always so matter of fact. "You have AIDS, and you need to start treatment." And then she said to me,  "You are depressed and I'm gonna get you on an antidepressant." I looked at this woman like she had lost her mind.  The balls that she had for such a little woman. She was so freaking bossy and matter of fact. Who the hell does she think she is all I thought, as she talked to me.

I left that clinic and sat in the pharmacy for 5 hours to get my medication filled. I was in such shock the wait  didn't even matter.  Plus, this was free medication, beggars can't complain about a darn thing. That day I went from 3 pills a day to 23 pills a day. Not only was I given new HIV medication, but medication to prevent me from getting opportunist infections.

After I got my medication, I went home and went to bed and I stayed there until Monday morning. Yes, I didn't go to work the rest of that week. I didn't answer my telephone and I didn't leave the house.

I have AIDS... was all I could think about. I thought I was never going to get AIDS. I wondered what was Magic's T-Cell count? Did he have AIDS to or was he just HIV infected?  That day I was forced  to live in a new reality.

Having HIV is one thing, but having AIDS was another ball game. Once you have HIV you always have HIV because it never leaves the body, but AIDS was the death sentence back then. The life expectancy was 3 years for a person living with AIDS. So a part of me wanted to know if Magic was dying, just like me. I wondered if Magic had a magic pill because he was rich that I couldn't get because I was just a serious working woman.

So for me, Magic's HIV status  started to have more questions than marvel. I wasn't impressed with everyone's new understanding that HIV was a non-discriminatory disease. Shit, I had been living  proof of that now for 8 years. I wanted to know what would keep me alive. I wanted to know if his infection was in anyway different from my infection. If his medications were different from mine and if I could possibly get my hands on what he had.

But all that I wanted to know  became a well-kept secret and honestly I resented him for that. How dare he become so public with his HIV status yet remaine so private. I felt betrayed. While he had brought attention to HIV and the need for prevention on one hand, on the other hand,  as a person living with HIV, he left so many unanswered questions.

In time, his need and right to privacy would also raise not only doubt and confusion for  me but also a lot people. I'm just being honest. As I rose to fame as  an AIDS Activist two years later, I would have to answer the hard questions that people had about Magic's HIV status in my speaking engagements. I jokingly say, he should pay me for cleaning up his mess.

It went something like this....

To Be Continued.. Part Three Next Week...
Part One Click Here

Post Script: Mardge Cohn is the founder of the Women and Children HIV Clinic at Cook County Hospital. She remained my doctor for 19 years until she and Gordy retired from County and moved out of state. To read a blog about our special relationship click here Part One Turning Point... Part Two Turning Point

Ron Sable was one of the founders of the AIDS Clinic and AIDS Ward at County Hospital and the first openly Gay person to run for Alderman in the City of Chicago. What I didn't know that day, was Ron was also living with AIDS. He died a couple years later. His work and commitment to social justice will never be forgotten.

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