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 8, 2011

Magic, HIV and Me: A Retrospective!

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of  Magic Johnson's announcement that he was HIV infected. The world was buzzing, even in my home. At the time I was sharing a house with Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his brother Jonathan, and we were all friends with Magic's Godfather, who was a long time supporter of their father, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

But as the world was buzzing all around me, I was dying from shame, stigma and the secret of my own HIV status. By then I had known my HIV status for 6 years, but had been infected for 8 years.

I was taking AZT but it was failing miserably. Around the same time as Magic's announcement, I received a letter from the National institute of Health, (NIH) where I was in a HIV study, to inform me that my T-cell count had dropped to 124 and I should consider going on new medication.

What the HELL? New medication. What new medication? I had been out of health care for almost two years and couldn't get new insurance if my life depended on it. Every insurance company said I had a, "Pre-existing Condition," and that disqualified me for health insurance. Ironically, I was gainfully employed as the National Field Director for Physicians For A National Health Program. I was organizing doctors around the country on the idea of Universal Health Insurance, what we now call, "Single Payer."

Any who,  I was living in shame and to afraid to disclose, even to seek the help I needed. Jesse Jr. and Jonathan didn't even know that I was HIV positive. To date I had only told 5 people and I was keeping the list as short as possible. I even took the labels off my medication and flushed them down the toilet before I threw the used bottle away.  I did any and everything too keep my secret. I didn't know about any new treatments for HIV because I was to afraid to read literature for fear that someone would see me reading it and assume that I had HIV.

So as Magic had disclosed to the world, I was living in the shame of my disease and it was killing me quicker than the disease.  My secret had taken on a life of it's on.

 Magic was all the talk, everywhere, but especially in the African-American community.  The television tried to keep it politically correct; And people who were interviewed definitely showed compassion for Magic, but the whispers that took place in homes, barber shops  and beauty shops was no joke.

"How did he really get it," was the main question?  Often times, they didn't even say what "it" was, as if they did, "it" would get them too. Yep, and the biggest question was, "Is Magic Gay?"  People said it, and actually explained the question, "I mean it had taken him 7 years to marry Cookie,"

Prior to then, people just said he was a "dog" and Cookie was a fool for hanging on to him, wasting her pretty. They were sure he would never marry her. I'm just being honest. This is what was really said during this period.  Now people were saying  that  Cookie was just a front. It went something like this, "Don't no man just up and marry a woman after 7 years for no good reason. She must be in on it. I wonder how much he paid her." For Real! This was the Real Talk!

So while we talked a good game in the watchful, public sphere, in the private sphere, Magic was getting his ass kicked.

While we give Magic credit for giving a new face and a new "type of man," heterosexual, non-IV drug user, who just had too many women and too much pussy in his life time, and that got him HIV, the truth of the matter, the real talk was mean and provided no hope for me as a woman living in secret.

It was the real talk that scared the hell out of me.  If they would say the things they said about Magic, a well loved athlete, what would they say about me?  Yep, the real talk hit the very core of my being and the stigma of HIV begin to fester in my heart like an open sore that wouldn't heal.

Then one day, about a month or so after Magic announced his HIV status,  I got an unexpected telephone call from the doctor at NIH in charge of the study. She called to inform me that my T-cell  count had dropped some more and that I really needed to get into treatment and get some new IV medication on board right away.

I sat on the side of my bed and listened, my heart beating like an African drum calling for freedom. I was staring death in the face and I had to do something or die. She didn't mix her words, "If you don't get into treatment, it will have grave consequences Rae."

I sat there for hours, thinking it through. I needed help, but I wasn't sure who to tell or who I could trust. I wanted to go to Mrs. Jackson, who had become like a mother to me,  I knew she had access to resources, but I couldn't risk the disappointment that I thought she would have in me. That was to great of a risk. I would discover later that I was just being foolish, she loved me no matter what; But at the time, it was not a risk I was willing to take.

By the time I went to bed that night I had decided to speak to the doctor's I worked for. They were both  die hard liberal and both were practicing physicians. I decided to tell the youngest one, Dr. Ron Sable. While he and Quentin Young  were both super liberal I figured, Ron was young and openly gay, he should be real cool about it. And Honestly, Dr. Young was well into his 70's and I didn't want him to be disappointed in me. He was like a grandfather, nor did I want him to have a heart attack on me. For Real!

That next morning I waited for Ron to drop by the office. I didn't give him much chance to settle in. I pulled him to the side, "Ron I need to speak with you."

I remember it like yesterday. I stood there in front of him, my palms sweating, my heart beating fast. "What you need Rae?" He asked in his G-Q calm manner.  I got right to it, "I have HIV."

 My heart dropped, just having to say it. "I HAVE HIV." I hadn't told soul in over 2 years, now I had to say it, "I HAVE HIV!"

 Then typical of me, I started to ramble. "I'm in a study at NIH and they said I need new medication and we've been trying to buy me insurance and no one will insure me, I need help where can I go. I'm scared."

Ron stood there frozen....

To Be Continued.....

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