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, February 24, 2011

TeaWithRae: Breakfast Tea For Everyone!

I am sort of set in my ways when it comes to my tea routine. I almost never drink anything in the morning other than English Breakfast tea. And on the days when I'm super tired I will reach for the strong flavor of Irish Breakfast tea. For a person who does not like coffee, I don't even like the taste of coffee, breakfast teas are the jump start I need in the morning.

Traditional Hardy English Breakfast
That's why I always say that I must have been British in another lifetime. Not only do I love tea, I love English Breakfast Tea. My only diversion is no milk. Brit's are famous for a dash of milk and sugar in their tea. But I go for just a dash of sugar.

Anyway, on this tea journey I have learned that while it's true that the British typically reach for a hearty black tea to match their hearty English breakfast in the morning, English Breakfast tea, might not have originated in England, thus shattering my hopes that maybe I was a Brit #ForReal.
It was long believed that Breakfast Tea originated in Edinburgh, Scotland by Brodie Drysdale in 1867. And it's popularity lead British tea shops to add "English" to their black tea blends. But for sure, in 1843, New York tea merchant Richard Davies, an English immigrant, created a blend of black tea with Keemun Congou, Pekoe and Pouchong that he called "English Breakfast Tea."  He sold the tea for 50 cents and it's success led to other brands and the overall success of "English Breakfast Tea."

So while the origins of English Breakfast Teas are in dispute, the variations of breakfast tea blends remained undisputed. Almost always, breakfast blends are made with teas from Assam for a warm malty smoothness, Sri Lanka for it's brisk golden quality, and Kenya for it's strength and depth of flavor and color. And many American companies, like with Davies, use China Keemun in their blend.
The breakfast tea connoisseur that I am, I love to try different breakfast blends, but when I received this Better Morning Blend from Two Leaves and a Bud, I was in doubt. Morning tea is suppose to be BLACK! I asked myself, "What have I gotten into on this tea journey?" I just have not been ready to step out of my box. So each morning I would turn on the tea kettle, determine my breakfast blend and sit to enjoy my morning tea that is BLACK! But honestly, I've had this blend for about a month now and I knew that I had to bite the bullet and sample the darn tea.
This tea blend of lemongrass and peppermint, combined with citrus, rose hip, and stinging nettle notes was indeed an eye opener. It's fresh! And it does give that morning push that we are often seeking. This herbal blend is a great alternative to a heavily caffeinated traditional morning blend. And the health benefits are screaming at us. I already blogged about peppermint, but this stinging nettle plant is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. And rose hip is rich in vitamin C and also contains some vitamin A and B, essential fatty acids and antioxidant flavonoids. Both have claims to work against arthritis. Hello, give your grandparents a cup of this tea! 

So did it pass my test? Yes, but I still love black tea as my first cup in the morning. Honestly, I will probably reach for their Original Breakfast Tea blend for my first cup and drink the Better Morning Blend as my second cup. Sometimes I still want the bang that I get from a black tea, but not the caffeine. The two together work perfectly for me. But those who want no caffeine, the Better Morning Blend is perfect! And for me, it's the perfect second cup!

Two Leaves and a Bud Original Breakfast Tea is made with organic Assam leaves, from Assam India. It's everything I look for in a black breakfast tea. Strong, smooth, malty and coppery, just the way I like it.

I've been trying Two Leaves and a Bud tea in their sachet tea bags, but most of their blends are also sold as loose teas. The bags give you the opportunity to have the whole leaf unfold and maintain it's flavor. The pyramid shape allows the tea to brew and expand in an organic way. The sachet bags are environmentally safe corn based tea bag, not giving you the chemical and dyes in some tea bags. This tea company is another winner. I will be making my way through some of their other tea blends and report back.

I am also going to join the associates program with Two Leaves and a Bud real soon. That will give you discounts and promotions and also give me a percentage of the purchase. That will give you a way to sow into my work. I will give you all the details on Tuesday. In the meantime, check out Two Leaves and a Bud.

Tea With Rae: What's In My Tea Cup!

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 are 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 and congestion related to this bout of pneumonia.

You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company mint teas. 

RLT Reads: Book Club Review and Announcement

I read Native Son when I was 18 and honestly what I remembered most about the book was that Bigger Thomas, the lead character, cut the white lady up and burned her in the furnace of her family's basement.

But opening these pages 30 years later, I was just blown away. Without a doubt this book is an indictment on race relations in the United States during this period. Wright shows how degradation and demoralization of a people can have tragic consequences for us all. He illustrates how one's validation can come from something as horrific as murder. And that even when you want to do the right thing, the social boundaries of race can make a person act out of desperation and then in a twisted way become validated by that very thing they knew was wrong.

I understand why the New York Times named this one of the 100 best books written in the 20th century. Wright illustrates how race relations in America has deeply wounded us all. I didn't know who I was angrier with most, Bigger or America. The book was laced with powerful and rich themes of class, Communism, race relations, Democracy, equal protection, I could just go on and on. If you have not read this book in years, it is worth picking up. But take your time, it is a heavy read.

The online book discussion for Native Son will be held on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Just go to the RLT Reads page on the blog and sign into the chat. Can't wait to see what you think of Native Son.

Our next book is in honor of Woman's History Month. I know Native Son was heavy and I wanted to lighten it up, but I was torn. I wanted a book written by a woman author dealing with an issue that is particular to women. So here goes, my pick for March is Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. It is a wonderful book. I first read it for the Oprah Book Club. I will re-read it with you so I can be caught up for the discussion.

I do not yet have a date for the discussion. I'm trying to see if I can get the author to participate in the online discussion with us. My goal is the last week of March. It's a short book, about 230 pages. You can buy it through my Amazon Store if you like.  Happy reading.

Note: I am postponing the book from Tina McElroy Ansa. I didn't get a chance to work out all the details because of my unexpected bout with pneumonia. It will come in a couple of months.

I am also looking for someone to help me with the administrative work for the book club. I'm still trying to enter all the information and email addresses so I can officially begin emailing you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tea With Rae: Green Ginger Tea With Power!

I've been drinking a lot of ginger tea these days because of my ongoing stomach issues. Nausea, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite, it's just been a big fat mess that seems to have no ending. And as I've indicated, ginger tea clearly has health benefits when it comes to the digestive track.

When I received my first group of tea to review from The Republic of Tea, I was happy that they had included a ginger tea. But honestly, my face fell straight to the floor when I saw that it was a green tea blend; green tea being my least favorite of all teas. But I know that many of my tea readers LOVE green tea and since we are on this tea journey together, I bit the bullet and eventually sat down with Organic Turmeric Ginger in my tea cup.
I've said before that ginger is too strong for my taste buds. I need a ginger tea that is blended in some way. This particular tea fits the category. It is a perfect mix of turmeric, cinnamon, and honey flavoring, blended with green tea, lending it a spicy Chai-like flavor. The strong spices work perfectly with the earthy taste of green tea, while at the same time, the natural sweetness that comes from ginger makes it a perfect blend of sweet and spicy.

The combination of green tea, turmeric, and ginger in this particular tea has some of the most amazing health benefits in just one tea cup. First, the power of green tea has had more visibility than any other tea. Specifically, green tea contains EECG a powerful anti-oxidant that slows down growth of cancer cells. It also lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and prevents blood clots, which is important in preventing strokes and heart attacks. EECG is twice as strong as resveratrol, a substance found in red wine that also helps to prevent heart disease. So have a cup of green tea with your dinner instead of red wine.

Additionally, the turmeric plant adds to the power of green. This plant, with a host of health benefits from lowing cholesterol to fighting cancer, is grown in South Asia and is typically used in Indian, Persian and Southeast Asian meals. The power of ginger as an anti-nausea remedy has helped to reduce the sick feeling in my stomach. When you drink ginger tea the digestive juices are secreted which relax the muscles of the intestines and also reduces the acid in the stomach. It is often used as a natural remedy to reduce nausea for pregnant woman. There are also claims that ginger is an anti-inflammatory, and ladies it can help reduce menstrual cramps. The combined health benefits render this tea with a whole lot of power. And when you pair that power with it's sweet and spicy taste, you have one outstanding tea.
The benefits of this tea are just as wonderful as the packaging. It is no secret that loose tea hands down is better than bag tea. Loose teas tend to be fresher, but they also retain their natural oil and flavors. While The Republic of Tea does have loose teas, they have created a convenient package that maintains the quality of loose tea as much as possible.
Their round tea bags are made with unbleached paper. It is free of chemicals and no chlorine-containing compounds are used in the paper. They are also free of glue, gluten-free and kosher certified. But the most important thing is that The Tea of Republic actually cuts their whole leaf teas to fit into the tea bags retaining the flavor of a loose tea. They also package their teas in an airtight tin as are most loose teas to also help retain it's freshness.
I love The Republic of Tea. On those days when I have no energy to go through the process of preparing loose teas, I can just throw a bag of their tea in a cup of hot water and enjoy the same quality of tea as if it were loose tea. I also travel with their tea. Often hotels in smaller towns and rural areas have plenty of hot water, but are short on tea choices. The tea snob that I am, I always come prepared! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Reflection: Dropping In...

Good Morning... I'm dropping in to say hello. I wanted to write a Monday Reflection but my health just wouldn't cooperate. If you saw the Day in the Life video on Friday, you know that I have pneumonia. My fever has gone down, but the congestion in my chest is extremely heavy and my energy level is zero.

And while I'm only mildly better, I will be spending the day in a photo shoot for Woman's Day Magazine. They are featuring me in an article on stigma in their May issue. Keep me in your prayers as I move through this day. While it would have been great to postpone, sometimes that is not an option. Magazines are ahead of themselves so this May issue will be out in April and time is of the essence. With a photographer flying in from New York, all I can do is Keep It Moving. Once the shoot is over, back to bed! I promise to resume my regular blog schedule as soon as I can. Happy Valentine's Day!! Keep It Safe!

Friday, February 11, 2011

It Is What It Is!

I had so much to say about Valentine's Day. I had a well thought out blog in my head. But my body has totally shut down and I've been in bed all day. Truly all I can say is that there's no fancy dinner or gift worth your life. If he can't respect you enough to use a condom then maybe you should find you someone who does. Instead of spending all your time, ladies, concerned about what he wants, spend that time thinking about what you really want in a man. I hope you have a fun but safe weekend.

In my second "Day In A Life" video I share a little of myself as I have been all day. It's not what I want for myself at this moment, but It Is What It Is!! And Please don't forget to support my video project by subscribing to my YouTube Channel.. #IcannotdoitAlone

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tea With Rae: Valentine Shop Guide

Yes, tea can say love in so many ways. I believe the best way to end the day is with a cup of relaxing tea such as chamomile or lavender and cozy up for a great conversation with your significant other. But don't worry about having another in your life. For me, single now, a cup of tea at the end day is taking care of me in the best of ways. I sip on one of these relaxing teas and snuggle between my sheets with great book. It takes me away from the stress of the day and prepares me for a necessary good night's sleep. Tea is loving the self in the best of ways. So here are my recommendations to say I love you, whether it's to yourself or someone else.
I simply love these teapots! The one on the top is great for one person. I love the matching cup, saucer and teapot combo. It's Diva Fab! The one with the hearts is just too cute. I would pair this combination teapot/infuser with solid red cups. Both of these teapots are from The NecessiTeas, and while you are there, pick up some of her Black Beauty Tea; a black tea infused with maple flavors and roses. I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds delightful. And don't forget when you make a $10.00 purchase from NecessiTeas they will send you a few of my favorite samples. Just write in #TeaWithRae in the note section.
One of my favorite teas is The Republic of Tea's Double Dark Chocolate Mate Tea. OMG! This anti-oxidant rich tea is made from South American Yerba leaves and infused with organic dark chocolate. Now, I know some people don't like dark chocolate, but don't get sidetracked by the name. It's the perfect blend with a rich chocolate flavor. Double Dark Chocolate Mate is the perfect dessert tea. I typically drink it in the evening after dinner when I'm not going to have a heavy dessert. But if you want to be decadent, I suggest that you stop by Kilwin's Chicago and pick up their chocolate covered strawberries in a chocolate martini glass. These two items are a perfect combination and a wonderful way to end your Valentine celebration at home. *smile*
I fell in LOVE with this tea cup and saucer set from Nordstrom. They speak for themselves. This glazed porcelain set of six comes in a wonderful mixture of colors. They are simply beautiful! I wanted them so bad but my funds are so tight. My blogger friend Kim also wanted them but didn't want all six so we went in together. I guess three are better than nothing.

So what do you put in these fabulous tea cups? Glad you asked. Here's a few more Valentine tea picks. This wonderful blended tea Strawberry Rose, by Esp Emporium is a mixture of floral and fruit, and it's caffeine free. (Also, Esp Emporium offers a 10% discount to my followers, the coupon code is TeaWithRae.) Another caffeine free tea that I love is Honeybush Hazelnut, a perfect blend of sweet honeybush blended with chocolate and hazelnut. Now, I love Earl Grey tea for after dinner. This bergamot flavor combined with red tea creates a unique Herbal Grey, both by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company. Last, you know how I simply LOVE black tea. For a smooth tasting premium black tea with a sweet, malty, chocolaty taste, I recommend Teavana's hand rolled Black Dragon Pearl.

And let's not forget my all time favorite treat, cupcakes. Patty, the owner and chef over at More Cupcakes, outdid herself with this Passion Passion Passion Cupcake! OMG!! The cupcake is just what it says, a passion cake, with a passion center and a passion frosting, finished with a white and dark chocolate heart.
Now if you have no time to do any or all of these, I'm gonna recommend the ultimate treat, High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel. I've done it twice and it is worth it and so much more. If you have never experienced high tea, take this time to do so!
And let's not forget my product. I design these wonderful Tea Bracelets. They are fabulous tea balls to strain your tea. Some have a dual function, they can be disconnected from the tea ball and worn as a bracelet. But mostly, they are Diva approved tea balls each one designed and handmade by me from gemstones. You can also checkout my wonderful line of bracelets, RLT Collection.
I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine's Day! And remember to keep yourself safe. There is no love or sex worth your life. Wrap it up!!! Condoms come in many colors and sizes...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tea With Rae: Get Out Of God's Way!

Almost everyone who comes to my home for any length of time must have tea. So yesterday, I grabbed the opportunity to introduce two 8th graders to my tea ritual. They were actually here to interview me for their school project. Arami had Double Dark Chocolate Matte by The Republic of Tea and Tyanna had Strawberry Rose by ESP Emporium. Amari is a regular reader of my blog so she was really excited to experience my tea ritual. But Tyanna was so excited that when her mother arrived, she told her absolutely everything I shared with them about tea, and eventually I brewed up a cup of Teavana Zingiber Ginger Coconut for mom. The girls enjoyed their tea and I enjoyed explaining to them the best ways to have tea. These young ladies were a delight and a blessing. They even hung around and edited my first video. I am proud to feature Arami and Tyanna in my first video, "Get Out Of God's Way!" I hope that you will support my video project by subscribing to my You Tube Channel, and if one is compelling, please feel free to share it on your Facebook page.

The Soul of a Leader: The Wisdom of Deepak Chopra

Last night, after listening to Deepak Chopra speak at the Soul of Leadership lecture, I was in deep thought all night about my journey, my purpose, and my pain. I asked him point blank if he had any advice for me. He said, "Keep telling your story. Keep inspiring."

His advice was simple: Keep doing you. I needed to hear that because sometimes we get lost along the way. The journey itself begins to take a toll and you start to wonder if God has left you in the wilderness all alone.

You keep doing the work but you start to wonder if you are singing an old song off key, just like karaoke, with no meaningful purpose. I have felt this way, especially during this period where speaking engagements are at an all time low and it seems like the Black media have locked me out of the press. (With the exception of Ebony/Jet which has been consistent over the years)

I talk to my best friend Luke, who works in media, about it all the time. He thinks that on one level, some of it is age discrimination. I will be 49 in May, and when "young" was in my title, I was in demand, demand, demand. And on another level, today's culture is always looking for the next best thing, looking for the next Rae Lewis-Thornton instead of utilizing all of my wisdom and knowledge of Rae Lewis-Thornton. And yet on another level, utilizing me means they will have to face the hard facts and deal with substance rather than fluff. And I'm not sure if we really want to deal with the hard reality of this disease in our community and have a honest discussion on how to change the fact that we are 13% of the population and 46% of the HIV cases in this country.

Come on, think about all that I have to offer. I was infected at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and I have lived the span of this disease up close and personal. And let me honest, I'm one of the most articulate and knowledgeable, not just woman, but persons in the United States living with HIV and AIDS for almost the entire span of this disease. Why wouldn't I be utilized? Why would Essence put me on the cover of their magazine as the first black woman to tell her story, and it was one of the highest selling December issues ever, but they have never invited me to speak at the Essence Summer Music Festival or honored my work with an Essence Award? And as far as that's concerned the NAACP can be put right there in the same category. The combined years of my political activism with my AIDS activism would surely put me in the running for an Image Award. I mean, I have an Emmy Award in "Outstanding Feature Series in Hard News" for my first-person series on living with AIDS, but no major African-American organization has recognized my work.

And since I'm calling roll, honestly, even my sorority has dropped the ball. I remember when I was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta as a honorary member on my "lifetime achievement to help improve the human condition" ten years ago, I was the best thing since sliced bread and HIV/AIDS was one of our major service issues. Now, when Black women are 72% of all new cases of women infected with HIV, and AIDS is the leading cause of death for Black women between the ages of 25 and 44, it is not even on the table! And when I ask, I'm told, "Well, we did that." It's discouraging!

And I will not let traditional AIDS organizations off the hook either. I have only been invited to speak at one national AIDS conference ever in the 17 years I have been speaking. I believe that's because I'm so damn candid. I don't pull punches about the disparities in this country with HIV/AIDS among African-Americans and the lack of resources for us to draw upon. I challenge them to address the difference in culture issues that should not be overlooked in prevention work within the Black community. The United States Conference on AIDS is in Chicago this year and I have not been asked to participate in any way. Yes, all of this, combined with the fact I have $70 in the bank makes me wonder about my purpose.

But then Deepak's words were clear, "Keep telling your story." And for sure I have never stopped. Even when the speaking engagements dried up I took my message to social media, and in just a year's time, I have done some groundbreaking work utilizing these awesome tools of Facebook, Twitter and blogging. Deepak also confirmed the power of social media as a tool. In fact, I was able to see Deepak because I won the ticket on Twitter. Deepak states, "The entangled mind is influenced by social media." And when I get a tweet from someone who was inspired to go get tested, or to use a condom, or to keep pressing on because of my tweets, then I know that I have done what I am supposed to do.

I shared all of this so you could really see what's going on in my life. There's no point in hiding in the truth. I do the work because I know that this is my purpose in life and even when traditional methods seem no longer available, I press on. Deepak said that "A leader is an agent of change by definition." So today I am even more renewed in my work. I will continue to be an agent of change even if it's one tweet at a time.

On personal growth, Deepak suggests to us all that while human beings are self-aware, we can also self-regulate, that we have to see the future with intent. If I am going to continue to make headway in this work, I must stop and take some time for self-growth. Sometimes I stay so tangled in the busyness and the panic of how I'm going to pay my bills, I can't see the road ahead of me. That has got to change if I want to maximize my potential. As my starting point, I will dive into Deepak's latest book, The Soul of Leadership. The next thing I'm going to do is add meditation into my life. It is a requirement in all of his leadership classes. Meditation will help me get my mind away from the busyness. Now I gotta be honest, I need help in that area because I can barely sit still to pee. So I will be in search of guidance, #ForReal.

I am so glad that I braved the cold on public transportation to hear Deepak Chopra. His wisdom has been sealed in my heart. The Power of Social Media!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Facing AIDS: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Many African-Americans face HIV and AIDS every single day. I've been facing AIDS for over half my life. It is a battle that many of us face head on and some even face it alone. I know what it's like to live in secret, afraid that people will not love me if they know that I have this ugly disease.

Although it took me seven years to tell more than five people, it's the best thing I could have done. But yet I still live with the stigma of having this disease. That must change. We must make it acceptable for people to go get tested for HIV, to know their HIV status. Knowing your HIV status early will prolong your life. Over 38% of new cases of HIV are people infected by people who didn't know their HIV status. That's a dangerous cycle that helps to increase the number of cases of HIV in the African-American community. In the United States African-Americans comprise 46% of all HIV cases, yet we are 12% of the population. This must change! We must make these changes in our personal lives and in our community. I will spend my day educating through social media. I will be answering questions on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. Feel free to drop in.

This evening you are welcome to join me at my Tweet-up at Kilwin's Chocolate and Ice Cream, 1405 N. Wells, Chicago from 6:00-8:30 p.m. It's free!!! Hosting this Tweet-Up with me is my friend and fellow blogger, Dwana, aka Houseonahillorg. Thanks to our sponsor, Kilwin's Chicago, we will hang out, enjoy the fudge, caramel corn, ice cream and hot chocolate, and tweet about HIV/AIDS. You can RSVP right now!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Facing AIDS Together

Monday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and African-Americans across the country will have to face AIDS whether they want to or not. HIV/AIDS programs, radio, TV and newspapers across the country will intrude on your lives. But then on Tuesday many can walk away and not give AIDS another thought, unlike me, a woman who has had to face HIV/AIDS over half of my 48 years of life. Facing this ugly disease head on, all day every day, don't seem fair in some ways, but it's the way it is.

So how does one face AIDS most of their life and not lose their freaking mind? Glad you asked, there are many factors that aid in my sanity. My faith is solid as a rock. I have a support system that lifts me up like Aaron did Moses when his arms were too tired to go it alone. I have a will, zeal, and determination sealed in God's plan for my life. And I make it count. I make sure that the choices I make about my life are not in vain.

So like many African-Americans in this country, I will be doing what I do on Monday to make my mark in spreading awareness, like I do everyday of the week. As usual, I will be using social media to spread the message of HIV prevention. But, on Monday, Chicagoans can join me at my second Tweet-Up. It will be a little more laid back than my last one at Hotel Allegro, but fun nonetheless.

We will Tweet-up at Kilwin's Chocolate and Ice Cream, 1405 N. Wells, Chicago from 6:00-8:30 p.m. It's free!!! Hosting this Tweet-Up with me is my friend and fellow blogger, Dwana, aka Houseonahillorg. Thanks to our sponsor, Kilwin's Chicago, we will hang out, enjoy the fudge, caramel corn, ice cream and hot chocolate, and tweet about HIV/AIDS. You can RSVP right now!

For those who are NOT in Chicago, you can help by being a part of the conversation. Tweet and re-tweet about HIV/AIDS using the hashtag #heart2heart4HIV. For those of you who are NOT on Twitter, don't worry, you can come to the blog and be a part of the conversation through the live feed.

Then on Tuesday, I ask that you continue to be a part of the solution: 1) Go get tested for HIV; 2) Use a condom when you have sex. There is no sex worth your life. And I promise you, if the penis ain't in your pocket, you have no idea what it's doing when it ain't with you; 3) Learn all you can about HIV/AIDS; 4) Help me use social media effectively! Tell your friends and family about my blog. You can also subscribe to my blog and come every darn day! Please... Have your friends and family follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my YouTube Channel, and Like my Facebook fan page. All of these things help me to build my social media base and make the work I'm doing even more powerful.

Ask your pastor when he/she is planning to have a HIV program at the church. Students, go to your student leaders and ask them when they are going to have a program on HIV. And you can get connected all across this country volunteering around HIV/AIDS education and prevention... I say it often but it's really true, #IcannotdoitAlone.

And last, if you have a friend or family member who is living with HIV/AIDS don't let them go it alone. In many of our families we will know someone who is infected. It's the pink elephant in the room that no one talks about. Reach out! So what it's a secret! I promise you, knowing that they are loved will overshadow the fact that the secret is exposed. The only reason it's a secret in the first place is because of the fear of rejection.

As we approach yet another National African-American HIV/AIDS Day, let's face this disease together!! Together we stand, divided we fall. #Truth.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tea With Rae: The Real Truth About High Tea!

As I was having tea with Valencia at the Peninsula Hotel last Friday, I started to think about the history of this wonderful tradition. Sitting there drinking some of the finest tea, from some of the finest china known, in one of the best hotels in the world, clearly this is not your run of the mill activity. Even Valencia, the winner of the #TeaWithRae raffle, had to plead her case of why she should be chosen to have an afternoon of tea with me at this wonderful hotel.

The tea enthusiast that I am, combined with my passion for history, led me in search of the truth. I asked some fundamental questions that became my starting point. What the heck is high tea and has it always been for the rich and privileged class? In the United States it is certainly an indulgence that the average person cannot afford on a regular basis, but I started to wonder has this always been the case?

Let me tell you it is one tangled web that gave me a headache. So I will be reading some books about this topic to fill in the voids. But, in nutshell, High Tea, which is sometimes called "Afternoon Tea" and "Meat Tea," was originally called "Low Tea," mainly because it was typically served on a low table near a sofa. And on top of that, in the British tradition, afternoon tea was in the evening. Go figure, but its true. Because dinner was served so late in Europe for both the middle and upper classes, it was a "hold you over meal" until dinnertime and typically it was served with meat, not fancy pastries.

However, the tradition of tea drinking in England didn't began until 1662 when Catherine of Braganza married King Charles II in 1662 and brought the tradition from Portugal. She was known as an avid tea drinker. A women after my own heart, LOL.

Ok, so how did we get this fancy tradition of afternoon tea that Valencia and I enjoyed at the Peninsula? Well, it goes like this. It changed to this fancy time in the 19th century with the help of Anna Maria, Duchess of Bedford. While many people still had the tradition of "low tea," Anna Maria changed it to a four o'clock social occasion. The Duchess found taking a light afternoon snack before dinner was much more enjoyable than the heavier "meat tea." Soon she began inviting her friends over for afternoon tea and that fancy social time became the norm among the middle and upper classes. In fact, Anna Maria enjoyed her daily routine so much that when she visited friends at other castles and palaces she took her silver kettle and the whole shebang with her.

Today, many four and five star hotels worldwide offer, "Afternoon Tea." For sure, The Peninsula offers one of the best I have ever experienced. They serve tea in Wedgwood China. The pastries and sandwiches are unbelievable and they have a selection of over 20 teas. But equally as important, the service is wonderful.
I would recommend that everyone experience Afternoon Tea at least once in their life. It's a wonderful treat, and a great excuse to put on your fancy clothes and enjoy great conversation in a beautiful atmosphere with a great cup of tea. Afternoon Tea typically ranges from $30-50 depending on where you go. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but nonetheless, it is an experience you will never forget.

And Valencia, well, she said that sitting with me soaking up my wisdom was what she wanted to do. The time we have on Twitter was way to short. I think we accomplished her goal. We sat for 4 hours eating and drinking tea over great conversation.

A Special Thanks to the Peninsula Hotel for Participating in the #TeaWithRae Raffle! 

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