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, December 30, 2011

Guest Blogger Luke Burke- My Best Friend!

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor staring at the cover of the December 1994 issue of Essence Magazine. The beautiful woman on the cover was staring at me and it was hard for me to understand how she could have this disease called AIDS. I was 14 years old and I had a hard time comprehending what the disease was all about. I just knew it was bad and you didn’t want it. I stared back at the magazine into the eyes of Rae Lewis-Thornton as if staring at the her would answer some of my questions. Although her article taught me more about AIDS than I previously knew I still had a lot of questions. I was intrigued by her.

Four years later as a senior in High School I would meet Rae in person. I was the President of my hometowns teen chapter of Jack and Jill and it was common for me to be asked to introduce speakers in that rold. So on the way to the speaking engagement I wrote Rae’s bio on note cards and practiced her introduction out loud in the car. I didn’t put two and two together that Rae Lewis-Thornton was THE Rae Lewis-Thornton on the cover of Essence Magazine that I was so intrigued with at 14 until we arrived and I heard her speak.

I tell Rae all the time that hearing her speak about her life and living with AIDS changed MY life. I was not yet sexually active and thanks to Rae I wouldn’t be for MANY years later. To be completely honest, she scared the shit out of me! But most importantly she taught me to ALWAYS protect myself – and I have.

Her candidness and transparency was effective. She was young, successful, beautiful and ended up with AIDS. Taking birth control only protected her from getting pregnant….not from getting AIDS. It made me realize that ANYONE could contract HIV and that AIDS doesn’t care who you are, what you have accomplished, or what you look like.

On the way home my mother, sister, and I couldn’t stop talking about how inspiring Rae’s spirit was. I couldn’t wait to get home and look for the Essence magazine I safely stored with all my Janet Jackson magazines I kept in a chest for safe keeping (I am a huge Janet fan). After some digging I found the Essence magazine. I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor staring at Rae’s just as I did four years prior. I reflected on her speech and I had so many questions… still. I began asking God why did AIDS have to hurt such a beautiful spirit. I prayed for her and I asked God to protect her. I felt a special connection to Rae so I prayed for God to bring her back in my life. And he did…

I remember sitting in my college infirmary with a bad cold. My throat was killing me and I had a number of symptoms that mirrored the flu. I remember seeing a few people in the waiting room who alluded to being “embarrassed” to be seen there. I was very naive and had no idea what they were talking about. Was it a bad thing to be sick? I quickly realized what they meant when I saw the doctor.

Every question he asked me was alluding to the fact that I may have contracted an STD. I was offended because I knew all I had was a cold and expected him to give me something to get me well and that would be the end of it. Lucky for me I was correct that I only had a cold but I realized a lot of my classmates may not be so lucky.

I started looking around the room and noticed pamphlets and posters with STD statistics all around the room. I looked at the doctor just a blunt as he had looked at me when he accused me of all sorts of sexual acts. I asked him “Do a lot of people on campus come here with STD’s? “ The doctor looked at me just as naive as I must have sounded and informed me our campus had a major STD problem. I was shocked. I guess I shouldn’t have been because we all know what happens on every college campus across the country but I realized how fortunate I was at that moment. I heard Rae speak and many of my peers hadn’t. I knew the importance of safe sex at ALL times. Many of my friends may not. My mind started to race. I knew of classmates who had become pregnant so of course people were having unprotected sex. Something needed to be done so I began to brainstorm.

I began reaching out to as many people as possible who could assist in bringing Rae to campus. I spoke to members of my fraternity and the ladies on campus of Rae’ sorority. I contacted the women’s center, the health center, and the speech and communications departments. Money was donated and professors agreed to offer extra credit to students who attended Rae’s speech – We were all set!

I reached out to Rae through her website and her schedule was free for the date we chose but we were set with an obstacle...Rae was in the hospital. I spoke to Rae each day leading up to the chosen date and she assured me she would do her best to get out of the hospital so she could meet the speaking engagement – and she did. I have learned over the years of knowing Rae that unless she is physically not capable of meeting an obligation she pushes through no matter what. She says it best that her “word is (her) bond”. When I picked up Rae at the airport I realized just how sick she was….

When I picked up Rae at the airport I realized just how sick she was. She had just been released from the hospital a day prior and was being pushed from her gate in a wheel chair. This was a stark image from the woman on the cover of Essence or the woman I met as a senior in high school, standing boldly sharing her heart and soul with a room full of strangers.

Even after reading about her sickness in the magazine at 14, and hearing her speak about her daily struggles at 18 I was yet once again very naive. I had been speaking to Rae frequently on the phone with the planning of the speaking engagement while she lay in a hospital I still didn’t get that she was “sick”. Rae exemplifies strength at all times so to see her “weak” was a reality check for me. A pretty face, St. John suits, Loubiton pumps, and a diva-tude definitely make AIDS look weak. But when Rae was being pushed in that wheel chair it was a clear reminder that she truly is living with hell of a disease.

In the car on the way to the airport Rae and I had small talk. We instantly connected. She was funny and down to earth. I was so thankful to have some personal time with her. I began to reflect on my prayers and realized God had actually her back in my life just as I had asked. I was excited to know my peers at my University would be blessed by her ministry just as I had been. Rae was very weak so I took her straight to the hotel so she could take a nap before she spoke later that evening.

When I went to pick her up she looked like a million bucks. I specifically remember her fish net stockings and Chanel handbag. Rae’s attention to detail with accessories is something I have picked up in my own wardrobe as I have matured.

Rae may have looked like a million bucks but she quietly informed me before we walked into the auditorium that she was still very sick but she was pushing through so that the students would get her at the best she could effort. I admired her tenacity to give 100% despite her circumstance.

True to her word, she stood in four inch heels throughout the entire speaking engagement until she couldn’t take it anymore. At the time Rae was experiencing severe nerve pain and when she got to the question and answer portion of her speech she asked for a stool. I was amazed she was able to make everyone in the room laugh, cry, and think all the while she was in unbearable pain.

In the car, after she spoke she asked to be taken back to the hotel. She wanted to order room service, take her medicine and go to bed. Her energy had changed drastically from the woman who stood before an auditorium at full capacity of attentive students. That strong woman who commanded the room now spoke so softly I could barely hear her as she sat next to me.

She lay her head gently on the window. My fraternity and her sorority had arranged to take her to dinner and I informed her everyone was waiting for her at the restaurant. I could see in her eyes that she really didn’t feel up to it but she agreed as she didn’t want to let anyone down. I felt horrible but saw her resilience take center stage once again. Throughout our friendship I would see this level of commitment and strength surface in all areas of her life…(To be continued)

Part Two! Click Here! 

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