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

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Reflection: I CAN'T with Nasty Ass UGLY!

I CAN'T! I just CAN'T with these people! Be CLEAR, I moved beyond the shame of having HIV when I appeared on the cover of Essence magazine!  The NASTY ASS UGLY that comes to me on this blog, is sickening! It only shows me how fucking far we have got to go. When I woke up this morning at 5:30 this comment was waiting for me. I glanced at my e-mails and I couldn't go back to sleep.

Here's the Comment...
my husband and i were sitting here laughing at your story bout how you want a man, seriously doe...and he said that you need to seal that nasty pussy off for good! for real doe, nobody will take you seriously, and only a crazy man would accept that funky thang girl! thats fo real, but keep on postin yo biz if it makes u feel better an dont be mad when i post back. feel sorry for u honey your life seems to sux

So it's 5:51 and I'm going to try to write this blog before I explode. I'm not going to reduce this response to my pussy, all I'm going to say about that is, tell me that shit or any man that I have dated, face to face. Be CLEAR, I am not responding for me, I'm responding for EVERY Person who is living with HIV/AIDS in the world. I have a lot of international people who read my blog with HIV and I will NOT allow you to make them feel little or deter them from coming back.

 I am not ashamed of one part of me, not my face, or my vagina. Are we still living in the dark ages? I know some of you will say, it's just her, the one that made the comment. I should ignore her.  She's small; yes she and her husband are small. They seem like a perfect match.  #ForReal. But at the end of the day, all it takes is for one small person to sling hate to make it OK and  if we stay silent in the face of hate before you know it, Hitler is ruling. If I weren't so mad I would cry.

This comment speaks volumes to why people with HIV do not disclose their HIV status, even to their family until they are on their death bed. I'm not talking about with their sexual partners; statics show that the majority of people with HIV will tell and do tell their partners. It's a mutual secret that they both live with. I know that to be true in my own life. I did that the first seven years that I knew my HIV status. I told men that I dated, but in 7 years I only told 7 friends that I had HIV, and no family, as little family as I had at the time.

The shame we feel is insurmountable. To know that you have this infection inside of you, this health condition that people despise and you can't get rid of is a heavy load to carry daily. The fear of rejection and judgments is like a cast iron skillet lying on your heart.

 Ok, let me be honest, I just stopped writing and cried. I cried for the every person living with HIV in secret; for every person living with HIV alone. I cried for the 63 year old woman who has written me, but has told NO one that she has HIV. I cried for the 43 year old woman whose mother takes her to the clinic, but won't go in. I cried for my Soror, who is living in secret and feels isolated.  I cried for the man from Uganda who wrote me to say, my blog helps him not feel so alone.

 I cried for my girlfriend Wunadra, a doctor herself, who was too ashamed to allow her colleagues to see her take her medication. Who never told her pastor, although she and her husband who is negative, were leaders in the church. The shame killed her. Inconsistency in her treatment because of fear of being found out, made her HIV resistant and aggressive and that killed her.

I cried for my best friend from high school Tory who was too ashamed to disclose his HIV status, he would wear baggy clothes in public and pee in a jar at night so his roommate wouldn't see how thin he had become. AIDS ravaged his body and the shame kept him so isolated that he didn't seek help.  When they took him to the hospital there were jars of urine under the bed. We all learned his HIV status when he was hospitalized and he died a week later. I promised him on his death bed that I would give him voice through my story until the day I die.

I was working on this blog yesterday morning, but I had to step away from it and get my spirit and attitude right. I don't want what I say to be about the attack on me and my right or ability to date. Honestly, my feelings were really hurt and my BFF Markeeda said that people have said worst things to me on this blog and they have.

This comment took me back to everything I thought those first years that I learned that I had HIV. No one would want me. No one should want me! Who would hire me? What would people think of me? Will they see me as a whore? Will all my RESPECTABILITY go out the window with HIV?  I knew if  Mama learned that I had HIV it would serve as more fuel for her denial. Instead of addressing the fact that her husband was  a sick pervert, I would continue to be the whore in her mind. All of these things made me guard my health condition with my life and all the energy I could muster up. I spent more energy guarding my secret, rather than learning about HIV and what was happening to me. I wouldn't dare read an article on HIV for fear that someone would think I had HIV from just reading about it.

HIV is the modern day leprosy, we just wear our shame on the inside and it is sealed in our hearts. The shame is a heavy burden. This has got to CHANGE! People are living with HIV in 2012, thirty-two years into the pandemic in shame, in secret and alone.

This is the attitude that isolates people with HIV. It also undergirds misinformation and misunderstanding about HIV. Men in Africa who think they can "Cleanse" themselves if they rape a virgin baby girl. In the US things are not that much different. In the South were the numbers have surged, there is still so much misunderstanding. People are isolated in their own families, churches and community.

If you think I don't have the right to date that's one thing, but to tell me I'm nasty is another thing. To say only a crazy man would date me, is to suggest because I have HIV no one should love me or want to be with me; and by the way, with advancements in  treatment for HIV/AIDS, it's about a 2% chance that a person will become infected if their partner is on HIV medication and their Viral Load is non-detectable. It's those people who don't know their status that drive the  infection rate higher.

To tell me that my life sucks, gives me no hope to live. This attitude forces people with HIV underground. It speaks to the core of how people feel about this disease and places a ball and chain on our ankles.

This is also one reason people don't go get tested for HIV. Who would want to know their HIV status when people feel this way about people with HIV?  Its like a life of doom in people's minds. Having to deal with the day-to-day of the illness, then turn around and deal with the attitudes of people while trying to care for yourself at the same time is over load.

The fact that people don't go get tested, only drives the infection rate up.  Be clear, this is a problem in the African-American community. We are 53% of all HIV cases in the United States and only 13% of the population. About 38% of  all newly diagnosed cases of HIV, are people infected by people that don't  know their HIV status.

Also, most African-Americans discover their status when they are already sick and transitioned to AIDS. Which means they have been living with HIV somewhere between 7-10 years? As a result, we don't benefit from the treatment and care like our white counter parts. The earlier you know your HIV status, the longer you live, but who wants to know in a world of this?  The sad thing is this woman and her husband are not the only ones that think this way, she was just bold enough to say it, at least in writing. She would probably never say it to my face.

When are we going to stop this madness? When are we going to be a beacon of light in this world? My friend Robert, a minister himself, said after I read this comment to him, that he bet she is in someone's church this morning and I wouldn't doubt it.

The kind of judgments and the way they are presented on this blog to me are mind blowing and often it's from someone who is setting me straight in the name of Jesus. Jesus was all about love, LOVE! Jesus never turned anyone away. NOT ONE! The woman caught in adultery, the woman that anointed His feet with oil, the thief dying on the cross, Jesus extended himself without judgments. He didn't tell the thief you gotta promise you ain't gonna sin no more, he simply said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise." That's so powerful, POWERFUL! And it's our example, even in dying He left us an example on how to treat people.

When are we going to GET IT? My father in ministry Rev. Clay Evans use to say, "Don't be so heavenly bound you are no earthly good." When are we going to get it? We are our brother/sisters keeper? When did the African-American community become so cold and selfish? When did the Black Church become about how much we can get from God, rather than how much we can give to God's people?

Jesus only gave two commandments in His earthy ministry. The leaders of  CHURCH got together to challenge the ministry of Jesus. The Bible said that after the Sadducees had attempted to challenge Jesus and failed the  Pharisees, "Gathered their focus for an attack." One of them an expert in the law, tested him with this question, "Teacher which it the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Faced with the Law in front of him, Jesus gave TWO commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with your mind.  The Message translation says, "With all your passion and prayer and intelligence."

This is the first of the greatest commandant. And the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Message translation says, "Love thy neighbor as well as yourself." (Matthew 23:34-39)

When are we really gonna start living the Word over and above getting people straight on the Word? When are we going to become that village again that we once were? Does your family member live with HIV in isolation? Is your family and home an environment that permits them to talk about their status? Do you know their T-Cell count and Viral Load? Why haven't you asked?  Do you know how many pills they take? I bet if they had any other medication condition you would inquire and be as supportive as you can.  We either get silence on the one hand, or ugly on the other. This isolation is a death sentence, not AIDS.

What is your church doing? With the rate of HIV/AIDS in the black community you cannot tell me it's not in out churches and family. This disease is killing us, make no mistakes, and the ugly and the silence is fuel that speeds up  and spreads this disease.

I've had enough of the ugly and I will no longer brush it off. I will tackle it head own. The Hitler's of this world must be STOPPED! When are we going to be the CHANGE? #IcanntdoitAlone Together WE can be the Change! It starts in our hearts and flows to our family, home, churches and organizations...

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