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, January 31, 2012

The God of Small Things...

Often times we go to God with the big things. We even tend to celebrate the big things that happen to us in life, in a big way. But I'm wondering how much energy do we give the small things? The little things that touch our lives and honestly, help to keep us going.

I know I know, everyone is always looking for that big payday, hoping, praying and wishing that God will come through. But the God of Big things is also the God of little things and the blessings of little things is still a blessing.  I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

I'm not sure why, but maybe because the big things that I'm hoping and praying for just aren't happening. In fact, it seems like God just shut down on my prayers. I mean, like He had a conversation with Satan, just like in the book of Job and I'm being put to the test on how much I can take.

I think when we feel that God has deserted us, even if our desert moment may be real, we just need to take a step back and give an honest assessment of our lives.

 Now that's a big thing for me to say because I HATE when I'm hurting and someone says to me, " Well you're still alive." While it may be true, it makes me feel like my hurt isn't important. What I really hear them saying is, "Get Over Yourself." Ha, easy for them to say, they aren't living my drama. And no I'm not trying to quantitate pain.

No, I'm not saying your hurt isn't important and the thing that you are praying for isn't important, at least to you. What you feel is what you feel and what is happening is real.

What I am saying is that the small things get missed sometimes in the despair and even the joy of the big things. Now, I don't know what your small things may be, but I know you have them, because I have them too.

Knitting is one of my small things. I only learned to knit about 7 years ago and if God had told me that morning, that I was going to learn how to knit, I would have laughed. For Real! I left the house to go shopping and when I went into Bravco, a beauty supply store on the Gold Cost, the girl behind the counter was knitting. I said to her, "I always wanted to learn how to knit." She responded, "Go down the street they will teach you." I dismissed it immediately, I don't have time for a class." "No," She said,"They will teach you right now." "How much?" I asked. It's free," she said.

My curiosity got the best of me and I made my way to We'll Keep You In Stitches on Oak Street. I walked into this tiny knit shop and all eyes turned to me. There were these little old ladies sitting at a table knitting. I froze, ummm, "They told me down the street that you would teach me how to knit." Oh Sure," Betty said and Ronnie chimed in, "have a sit." The rest is history as they say.

They have definitely kept me in stitches.  Knitting has been a God sent to me. It's one of those places I go and it's just for me, reading, drinking tea and designing bracelets are too. There is no pain, no despair, nor misery in knitting needles, just delight. That little spot became a safe place for me one year. Knitting and those old ladies helped me through a severe depression.

What I'm talking about isn't really about knitting per se, but about how God can bless your life and we never really take notice. Some of us aren't even open to the small blessings God have for us because we are so focused on the big stuff and then bitterness consumes us when it doesn't happen our way that we can't see the forest for the trees.

That day on Oak Street, I was open to the little God voice that said, this feels right. I had no idea that learning to knit or those two ladies would be a blessing to me. It's been no secret that life has been very hard for me in the last 3-4 years, but as I muddled through the darkness, I'm taking note of the small things that blesses me even in the darkness and brings hope for an even better tomorrow. Yes, God is also the God of Small Things. Don't miss it waiting and watching for the big things!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tea Series: Tea At The End Of The Day!

At the end of the day there's nothing like winding down with a wonderful cup of tea, but choosing your tea wisely is important. Chamomile has been the go to tea for relaxation, but there are so many more wonderful teas.

I'm on a mission to expand your tea choices. This series will introduce you to wonderful selection of teas that are designed to help you relax whether its bedtime or just winding down from a long day with a book.

First up is a tea that I just LOVE! Citrus Lavender Sage Tea from Teavana is divine. This is a new tea from Teavana that I decided to try just for the heck of it. When they opened the tin the aroma of citrus and lavender grabs your nose.

This herbal tea is just the right blend of zesty sea buckthorn, pineapple and orange with lavender and sage.

Now, this tea will not put you to sleep. That's why I love it so much. This is an herbal tea with no caffeine. The combined flavors  of sage and citrus is just enough to give you a pick me up to read that book or watch your favorite evening TV show after dinner.  The citrus, fruity flavor also makes it a great after dinner desert tea. The Lavender is the ingredient that helps you to relax. It's the perfect blend with just enough pick me up and relaxation all in one. Citrus Lavender Sage is a winner and one of my favorite teas.

Post Script! RLT Collection has wonderful hand made Tea Balls! Check them out Here!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finding The Missing You!

I know... I know, I've been missing in action, but really it seems like I've been missing a part of me. Like my spirit just walked right out of my body and left a 160 pound shell. Yes, I said a 160 pound shell, but that's another topic altogether.

Let me be honest here, this herpes is giving me the freaking blues. For Real! I'm so sick of being on IV medication I can't think straight. No forget that, I can't even think. When I started this round 36 days ago I was optimistic. It had been three months since my last round and that break was a God sent. Then, when this infection appeared, the doctor and I thought we had caught the infection early and I would only be on IV for maybe 10-15 days; But before I could get the picc line in my arm, the infection got worst and the rest has been history.

The thing about this herpes is this. It's aggressive. Yes, I had herpes before I had HIV, but for the most part herpes was a non issue for about 13 years. Then I made a transition to AIDS and my compromised immune system couldn't fight it off. Now with years of taking oral medication to keep it under control, I have developed a resistance to all treatment except IV medication. The doctors have concluded that those early days of AIDS destroyed a part of my immune system that cannot fight herpes off. You can read about my herpes history here.

Any who,  I'm coming to the realization that this problem seems to be here to stay. There's nothing the doctors can do to prevent it, so I'm stuck with IV treatment.  And this realization sent me to a place of nothingness.  I've been missing me: My spirt, My mind, My dreams, My ministry, My hope,  and even My feelings. Like the best part of me just freaking left.

Accepting that life has changed without my permission and there is nothing I can do is a bitch. It's been over three years now. Hoping that this issue with herpes will just go away is wishful thinking in the face of my reality. It's been even harder to accept because my T-Cell count and Viral Load is very good. On the surface, this should not be happening, but it is. The reality is, I've lived with HIV for 29 years and AIDS for 20. That's almost all the entire epidemic, so truly the doctors have no idea what it should look like for someone like me. I'm living history and the doctors are making sense out of  what AIDS looks like as I live.

With all of this to consider, on top of the side-effects from the IV medication, extreme fatigue and nausea, on top of the side-effects of my regular HIV medications and let's not forget my financial issue, I can't seem to get ahead to save my life,  I found myself slipping into a depression. Before I realized it, the me that I know just up and left me. I couldn't write to save my life. My ability to think seemed to be gone and my desire to do anything withered to nothing.

So  here I am, trying to find me. Trying to reclaim that part of me that I can own, that I can control. I think acceptance is part of the ball game, the other part is saying it out loud. Moving beyond the shame, denial and secret of it all will help me get to a better place. I cannot change the fact that I contracted herpes in college or that I contracted HIV years later and now the combination  of the two has deeply affected my life in the most unexpected way.

The on and off  again IV  treatment seems to be a way of life for me now, just like taking my 15 pills a day.  This is what my AIDS looks like, even with a non detectable viral load. I get it! Now I'm taking baby steps to peacefully co-exist with it all. In part writing this blog today is a major step.

 Reclaiming parts of me that I can. So in this attempt to find me, I'm gonna blog everyday, even if I don't have anything deep and profound to say. Saying something is better than sitting on the sofa doing nothing.

Finding you in the face of trauma sometimes requires baby steps. The expectations for yourself should be that you do. Doing something will give you fuel to do more. Rome wasn't built in a day and working your way out of a dark place will not happen in a day. But to do nothing is allowing that trauma, that thing to control the parts of you that should be in your control.

Now, let me be clear, depression is also physical, just as it's emotional. So, there's no one thing that will help, but many. Yes, I'm on antidepressants, have been for a while now, but that's clearly not enough. So  in addition to the baby steps in life style changes, and medication, I'm hitting the treadmill, exercise will help.

There is also some benefit in white tea in helping depression, I'll drink more and I think I'll keep a journal. Not of what's in my head, for some that's good. Writing down what's in your head, helps you let it go. But I'm not in my head, it feels like there's nothing in my head. For Real! So I will instead keep a journal of my daily routine,  from the littlest things like washing my tail and putting on fresh PJ; Lately, there have been days where that didn't happen.

I'm going to journal my day just to have a better perceptive of me.  I will start with a list of goals for each day. Then I will journal at the end of the day. I will even keep track of what I wanted to do and why it didn't happen. What efforts I've made to reclaim me through out the day will give me clarity on how far I've come and how much farer I need to go. Depression has a way of taking time away from you, that time is your life.

I think if I can see some movement in my life it will no longer seem lost. Finding Your Lost Self Requires Work! I value me and believe that I'm worth the work. So here I go reclaiming that part of me that I lost to that dark place in AIDS.  I know that I know that I cannot let AIDS have all of me! I'm taking me back!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

RLT Collection Sale!

RLT Collection has added permanent markdowns to the collection. If you had your eye on the Holiday Collection, well now is the time. Many of those are one of a kinds, so they probably won't hang around. Also, some bracelets in the Unisex Collection and Imani Collection have been marked down. Check them out in their regular section. All other bracelets Check out the Sale HERE

Additionally, I've extended the Pick of the Week for another week. It will be 30% off through next week.  Check it out HERE!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

RLT Collection: Pick of The Week!

I simply Love My Bracelet Pick of The Week! It's perfect for stacking, but I think it's one of the most overlooked in my entire Cruise 2012 Collection. It's designed with aluminum beads that have just enough pop and great weight. It blends perfectly with other stackable bracelets or with sterling silver jewelry.

I added the one freshwater pearl in the design to give it a touch of class that makes this bracelet go easily from day to night just that quick. It is made on stretch like all my stackable bracelets making it easy to stack!

I love how Brooke stacked this bracelet with other RLT Stackable Bracelets. This bracelet retails at $45.00 but as my pick of the week it has been reduced by 30%, which makes it $31.50. This Special Ends January 10th. Shop HERE http://www.rltcollection.com

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Reflection: Be The Best You Can Be In 2012! I am!

There were moments this year when I thought I wouldn't make it. No, not physically, but emotionally. The physical wasn't going to kill me, but it made my life a living hell. It was the emotional that I thought was going to take me out of here. The Bible says as a person thinketh so shall he/she be; And my thinking had a hold on me because the physical was doing the most.

Herpes ran havoc on my entire body, from my vagina to my nervous system and I had to be stronger than anything herpes could do to my body. In those moments of despair you wonder how long will it take for things to change for the better;If you will be able to handle just one more day of the misery.

At brief moments in time I just wanted to stop. At those moments when I thought I couldn't take anymore, the little girl who fought for her life as a child, would whisper to my spirit, "You've come too far baby girl," and that reminder was just enough to push me to fight just one more day.

Each new day became a day filled with possibilities and I latched onto it like gorilla glue and held on for dear life. I had to remember my history with God. The one that brought me through physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child and sustained me 28 years with HIV and 19 years with AIDS.

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For me, I had to reprogram my way of thinking to see the new days as a blessing, rather than a day filled with pain. And now just two months free of herpes those days seems like years gone by. It's interesting how resilient we are, more than we thought we could ever be.

Now, as I move into the new year I'm excited with whats before me! Not one day, but 365 days, 12 months, 52 weeks, 8,760 hours and 525,600 minutes filled with possibilities.

 I'm excited about 2012! I will be 50 years old this year. That's a milestone I thought that I would never see. AIDS hasn't taken me out of here and I'm not going to squander one gift or moment of my life. I'm moving full speed ahead and using AIDS and all my pain and misery in life as fuel to do something greater than myself.

Yes, I plan to continue blogging, don't worry this Diva has more to say. I promise to continue to be authentic and cutting edge, but I also promise to grow. More blogs each week. My site is being redesigned more reader friendly. And I PROMISE to get to your emails sooner.

This year had me by the balls and that part of my work was an epic fail. You will always be able to find me on Twitter @raelt telling it like it is! Facebook will always have updates and I plan to continue to be a voice for people living with HIV/AIDS.

I know what it's like to live in shame and secret I did it for seven years, so I will continue to do my part every chance I get. Just like the emotional baggage of this disease will kill you, so will the secret. So I will continue to be a voice. I hope that my voice will be a beacon of light until you can find your voice.

What I'm most excited about this year is my new venture. I am taking all of my seminary and life training and opening RLT Life Coaching!

My gift is to help people get past their pain and live a healthy balanced life. For the last 19 years I've done just that through my speaking and press interviews, tv, radio and print; And in recent times my blog. Now I am expanding that work by giving people a opportunity to have my expertise, one on one through life coaching.

The areas of Life Coaching I'm offering are in 1) Confidence, which translates into self-esteem, self-worth and self-love;  At one's core self-worth guides everything you do for yourself and to others. I will work with clients to achieve the self-love that will radiate to all areas of one's life creating a happier you.

2) Balance in all areas of ones life. To pay your bills on time but not take your medication on time is lacking balance and vice-versa. I hope to help people get to that perfect Feng Shui; Channeling their energies of life to find the perfect balance of health, good fortune and positive living.

3) And lastly, every area of Relationships from dating to divorce. It does not matter what type of relationship, whether mother and daughter, friends, dating or marriage they should have balance and value.

My practice is not exclusive to people living with HIV, but I certainly hope that many will take advantage of my expertise. I've lived well and balance in the 29 years I've been infected with HIV.

As we live, we should grow. Having HIV/AIDS should not change our desire to both know better and do better; It should make us hungry for living in our life, not just being alive.

It is such a blessing to wake each morning but to wake with a chronic illness is a major gift. I remember the days when my t-cell was 8 and I was staring death in the face. I appreciate life on life terms and I'm living in it with everything I have.

As I go into 2012, I'm more committed and determined to touch lives and do all the goodness that I possibly can. I challenge you to live your best life in 2012; And if at this moment you can find nothing of your own to celebrate and live for, celebrate my 50 years of life with me and bask in my joy! And I will celebrate your life, another 525,600 minutes in God's earthly plan!

Note: This was originally written for thebody.com 2012 Series.
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