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, September 17, 2012

Monday Reflection: Operate In Your Blessing

As I was putting on my make up yesterday, getting myself ready for church, I started to think about the fact that I never gave up. I mean think about that thing. I've known my HIV status for 26 of the 29 years I've been infected.

I've had to manage what has at times seemed unmanageable. For sure, when I was told my HIV status, it was a death sentence; bottom line! And make no mistakes, I saw death staring me in my face. Finding hope sometimes seemed impossible with a T-Cell count of 8 at one point and mediocre healthcare at best. The medical community was working hard, but that first half of the pandemic was a living nightmare. It just wasn't what it is today.

Think about this, I've had to think about this thing for over half of my life. Just thinking about HIV is overwhelming. What I could have done differently. What people think of me. Will anyone love or date me? When am I going to get sick next? How am I going to get sick; will it be an infection that's treatable or something that will take me out of here? Just thinking about death when I should have been thinking about living was a chore in and of itself.

Thinking about this thing was some hard and real shit. How HIV changed my life, how my goals changed, shit just straight up, how HIV/AIDS reshaped my life and my body without my fucking permission.

I mean, it's a wonder that thinking about HIV these last 26 years of knowing, I didn't lose my freaking mind. I understand now when the old folks use to say in church, "I thank God for waking me up in my right mind." I am never going to take my right mind for granted, because Living with HIV/AIDS is some dark shit, For real... For real....

Yes, there were days when I lamented to God, ummm Ima be honest, I just flat out cursed God. Yes, there were days when I straight went there, but whenever I began to have my own personal pity party, I would think about my history with God. See, no matter how bad it is on today, I think about how God kept me on yesterday and thinking about yesterday, gives me hope for tomorrow.

I got an email from a woman recently who has just been diagnosed with HIV and there are days when she has no hope. Days when all she can think about is how freaking dark this disease is and that has left her hopeless and suicidal. But if you think on the goodness for just five minutes, it will give you five minutes of hope. Try it people, in your despair, think about what God has already done in your life. Let the victories of yesterday give you hope for tomorrow. Operate in your blessings, not in your despair.

Let me pause to say, it's crazy in the 21st century, 32 years into the AIDS pandemic a newly diagnosed person is filled with such hopelessness because of the attitudes around HIV.  HIV/AIDS is the one medical condition that leaves a person with shame of self because of the shaming from others. It's bad enough having to deal with a long term chronic illness, but to have to deal with all the gossip and nasty opinions that come with this disease is enough to make you go mad.

I'm so glad, that I don't give a fuck what people think of me anymore. God set me free from that madness. I don't even care that you just grasped at the fact that I just used fuck and God in the same sentence. Your small mind don't interfere with how God gives me an aha moment to give to others, nor does it change my methodology. It's my gift and I'm not going to stop operating in my gifts because you box God's capacity to use people into your small mind.

That was a side bar, but back to the point. Living with this disease is madness at its best. For sure,  God has given me the ability to operate in madness with a sane mind.

Me and Lesa having Tea at the Peninsula
Yes, God has been a keeper, but God keeps people all day long that still live in hopelessness. Yep, Grandmama use to say, God takes care of fools and babies. Not only that, some people just complain and cry all day long about shit they can control. You keep talking about how you hate your job, but you ain't even tried to look for a new job or a new career.

I don't want to hear your excuses! Shit stinks no matter where it comes from. I know you can make it happen, if you operate in your blessings. My girlfriend Lesa is interviewing for  medical school, with Lupus. She's over 35 years of age and she just lost her mother. SO STOP IT! Stop sitting back waiting on God to change  things when God has given you all that you need to change things. You are just too busy complaining and or boxing God into the terms and conditions you want instead of operating in the blessing that is before you.

We do it in relationships too. You don't like how that man makes you feel, how he treats you, but you stay. You stay and take the 50% because that's better than being alone. Bullshit ain't nothing, I'm never going to stay in a relationship with a man that doesn't understand my value, and doesn't treat me at my optimum worth. God didn't give me value for another person to depreciate my worth. Yep, people will treat you however you allow them to.  Some of you are praying for God to make him do right, when you need to pray for the strength to pack your freaking bags. Some things you are waiting on God to change, when you have the power to change yourself. That's what so great about free will. You can choose. Freewill is a blessing!

Tracyce Madre before and after. 
You don't like all that extra weight, but you don't push yourself from the table. You have one more cookie because you like how the cookie makes you feel and you explain it to yourself by saying you had a rough day. You don't work out and you explain that away by saying you're too tired or too busy. Yep, you give the madness a place to live and thrive in your spirit, me included. I've been complaining about these extra 20 pounds I got last year from being sick on IV most of the year and a year later I'm still complaining *smh* but ummm, I just got my breakthrough POW! My hair weaver/stylist Trayce Madre' lost over 90 pounds; one meal and one work out at a time. God gives us the tools, but we don't use them.

For sure, living with HIV/AIDS has become a permanent fixture in my life. I can't change that fact, but I can determine how I operate in this madness.

Yes, I could have surrendered to the madness of AIDS a long time ago, but I chose life over death; and I live in the blessing of my life no matter what I'm facing. You can't let the disappointment, the ugly and the challenges of life stop you.

You must make the best out of what's before you. You have got to operate in the blessings of right now.

If you can't quite see your right now, I'll lend you some of my right now. Think about the fact that I not only want to put on make-up, I do. Think about the fact that I keep it moving no matter how slow the pace. Find hope in someone else, until you can find hope in your own story.

But find hope in your own story you must! Try this, write down one blessing a day and use that as a tool for remembrance when things are so dark you can't see in front of you. Pull that piece of paper out and use it as a roadmap for your future.

At the end of the day you have got to ask yourself, what are you doing with what God has given you? Are you squandering your gift of life? Are you allowing the madness to dictate to you, rather than you to it?

God can keep you all day long, but God needs you to operate in the blessings that He has given to you. This is your optimum! And the moment you start operating in your blessings, you will move in the direction of the life that God has designed just for you. Operate in Your Blessing!

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