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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

EndGame: Part One Game....

Last night I watched and live Tweeted the Frontline Special EndGame the PBS documentary on HIV/AIDS in the Black Community and it left me with an overwhelming sadness.  If Black America was a developing country in and of it self, we would be 16 in AIDS. Do you get this?!? If you take ALL the Black Folks in AMERICA and made us a country we would be 16th in HIV/AIDS in the WORLD. I have known this bit of fact for a while, Phi Wilson the founder of the Black AIDS Institute has been shouting it from the top of his lungs, but it continues to go on deaf ears. Hearing it again, only served to remind me how BAD it really is.

I had to make some tea and settle my nerves. I even went looking for some comfort food in my kitchen and settled on graham crackers because I'm really trying to lose weight. No point in making me sadder #ForReal

This morning I'm still messed up. I'm Sad for the Black community, Sad for me and Sad for every person living with HIV. I don't even know where to begin.  It was one of the most balanced documentaries on AIDS in the Black Community I have seen to date, with one exception. People continue to say that Black Civil Rights Leaders were slow to speak up on AIDS. That is NOT totally true.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was the first Presidential Candidate to have an AIDS Policy in 1984 and 1988. He slept in AIDS Hospice to show support and solidarity with those dying from AIDS. We as a political family had already been impacted. We lost Keith Barrow the R and B singer and son of Rev. Willie Taplian Barrow to this disease in 1984. So there were some who got it early and were a voice. Rainbow/PUSH has continually worked on this issue. I know this to be true because Rev. Jackson asked me to organize ministers to be tested at the Saturday morning forum. We had well over 80 ministers publicly testing for HIV to challenge fear and stigma, long before ministers started testing in the pulpit. This is just one example. I mention these things because I will not allow that fact to be written out of history. But for the most part, Julian Bond was truthful. Black leaders didn't see this as an issue for them. Coming clean on that fact was POWERFUL!

 Black Leadership must, must, must take a stand. Mr. Bond named it, our hate and silence is helping to foster an environment where the infection is growing. The fact that a Black Pastor said on national television that God is a God of judgment and so it's ok to throw away black gay men, who are our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, pastors and friend is mind boggling. It does nothing to show the God of Love. That's the one I serve, I don't know who he is serving and preaching about on Sunday morning. I was so glad that the other pastor said, "If God is a God of judgment, then let God do the judging." In Jesus' earthly ministry, His commandment was clear, love thy neighbor as thyself. What we are doing  in 2012 has nothing to do with love. NOTHING!

This hate that we are shouting from the pulpit about homosexuality fosters an environment of shame, stigma and misinformation. This leads to silence on the one hand, and ignorance on the other. Continually connecting HIV to sin does not help us conquer this disease. The Bible says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. ALL  means from the Pulpit to the Pew. We need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

When did the Black community stop being a village? When did the Black Church stop being a place of nurture? When did we stop being a safe place to come when we hurt? When did we stop being a voice for our people when they hurt? When did the Gospel of Jesus become what we can get from God over and above what we can give to God's people? Julian Bond is right, we are ALL culpable in the spread of this disease.

The stigma around this disease is CRAZY! Just CRAZY! To think 32 years into the epidemic someone will throw a refrigerator out after a person has died from AIDS, rather than use it, blows my mind. This creates an environment of shame, for people living with HIV which forces us underground. Watch this, if you feel this way about me in death, how do you feel about the living me? Who would I tell? Silence and the secret becomes my best friend. That creates depression which will affect how I take care of myself. They said compliance is 100% of the ball game for longevity with HIV. When people are depressed getting through the day is an effort and taking medication is a journey and a reminder of the burden you carry daily.

Then who wants to go get tested and discover that they have HIV in a climate of hate? When we don't go get tested we infect others. Equally important, we don't discover that we are infected until we are already sick and progressed to AIDS, which means we don't benefit from treatment and care as we could. Stigma effects this cycle and if we are going to tackle this disease head on, it must begin with stigma.

I smile through my pain every single day. I keep it moving and I continue to be a voice for the voiceless because I know no other way to live. But the burden of living with HIV/AIDS is heavy. I can't even begin to explain and do it justice.

There is so much to talk about as it relates to AIDS in the Black Community. I will continue every week to share my thoughts from the documentary.

But at my baseline, the issue of stigma that fosters hate must change. For a woman to live in secret with her HIV status because she's afraid if she discloses to a man in her community, that she would be shot is crazy.  But for some women this is a reality and it all goes back to how people see HIV/AIDS.

 It hurt my Heart that this middle age woman started dating after her divorce, met a wonderful man at church, dated and married him to discover  by accident that her husband was infected with HIV and when she asked him about it, he said that he was afraid of rejection. So rather than a possible rejection, he kept silent and infected her.

At the core, is how we see people with HIV. We hear the jokes and the hate that is dished out everyday from our beauty and barber shops, at our family gatherings and our churches and now through Social Media. This hate fosters silence.

It hurt my hurt that the young lady with HIV couldn't show her face. It just ripped at the very core of me.

I understand that shame. I kept my infection a secret for 7 years other than the men I dated. I get the fear, the shame, the judgments. I've been called a whore; I've been told that God is punishing me; I've been denied a tattoo at a Black owned Tattoo Parlor; I've sat in the clinic waiting for someone to draw my blood and being passed over for other patients without HIV that walked in after me. Even today, people still say some crazy shit to me. You gotta be way strong to hang in this mean world we live in today.

I think the beginning of the EndGame have to start with the fight against Stigma and Shame. Does your family member or friend living with HIV/AIDS know that they are not alone? I mean really know. Do you know more about my life with HIV then theirs?

 At our baseline we have to start where we are hit the closest, in our own life. The isolation that people with HIV feel is insurmountable. I even feel it. People think I don't need anything because I'm a trooper... Ha, being a trooper doesn't take away the pain or make the living easy. Your love will help make the living easier.

Eradicating Shame and Stigma Around HIV/AIDS is the beginning of the EndGame for the Black Community....

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