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, October 22, 2012

Monday Reflection: Living In The Right Now

I absolutely hate when I don't have something chipper to say. I feel like telling myself "Bitch get over it," or "Here we go again, damn is your life just drama?"

If I feel that way, I know others must feel that way. I know I've lost people in my life because HIV/AIDS is the illness that keeps on giving what I don't want, keeps on intruding, keeps on changing my life. For sure there's never a dull moment living with HIV/AIDS.

I know people say; How can she be sick? I just saw her, she looks great, or she was just Tweeting and Face Booking her ass off. Like how can she be struggling "that" much?

Sometimes I feel like I'm in between a rock and a hard place trying to balance it all. On one level, I don't want to make people think you can't live with this disease. I don't want to discourage those who haven't had HIV as long as I have. Looking at my honesty about my health, one could say, "If this what I have to look forward too then who needs it." Yep, my honesty could have a negative effect on what they need to do to survive.

Nor do I want people to think living with HIV is a one pill wonder. For sure this is a hard disease to live with both physically and emotionally, but LIVE is the key word.

Most importantly for me, I've learned ain't no glory in suffering in silence. I did that for years trying to meet people's approval. But I'm over it. I've decided that I don't want to be a second best anybody! I want to be the best me for me.

No point in pretending! No point in lying or giving half truths so people can like you. If people can't handle the authentic you, then you don't need them in your life.

By the same token, if the authentic you is to much for someone, they have that right to not have you in their life. And each of you have to respect the choices a person makes for their own life and well-being.

When you are living with a chronic illness you have to accept the days as they come. You also have to accept people as they come and by the same token as they go.

Not having any biological family has made this a hard journey for me. Depending on friends has proven difficult. I can count on less than one hand those who have stuck it out; the good, the bad and the ugly. For sure I had more people in my life when I was on TV every other day and the speaking engagements were rolling in.

This need to fill the void has gotten me into trouble. It's made me over look danger when it was staring me in the face. By the way, NEVER ignore that inner voice that says this doesn't feel right.

So here I am, trying to do the best that I can with what's before me. Trying to keep my head above water and a ounce of my dignity in tack, all at the same time.

Part of my secret to longevity, other than God's got a plan, is living in the right now. By the way, God can have a plan for your life and your free will can jack it all up. #ForReal #ForReal

So I try to stay connected to God's plan for my life. I do what I must to stay alive. I take my medication. I accept the changes and the hits as they come and I do it with just plain old common sense and healthy survival skills. It may mean some days, I have to be flexible and kind to myself.

Last week was an emotional bitch. I had this overwhelming darkness that just consumed me and I did what I needed to do to survive. I put all of my energy into designing my Fall/Winter  2012 RLT Collection. Beading takes me to another place and the experts believe that using your hands is helpful during depression. I became single focus so I didn't get swept up by the darkness. I know I didn't blog, but I had to switch up last week so there could be better this week.

It seemed to be working and then on Friday night I felt an physical exhaustion that I first assumed was from a full day, but by Saturday morning I was faced with a reality. HIV/AIDS is doing something to my body. The first thoughts are always, what is it? Is it something major or minor and how long will it last?

The fatigue is all consuming and the nerve pain is everywhere, from my face to my feet. The worst is feeling like someone is sticking pins in my eyes. I spent the last two days literally in bed. I'm praying its not what I think it is, some weird illness I get every few years that knocks me down.

When it happens, they think herpes is attacking my nervous system to the extreme. I'm hopeful, but not in denial. Maybe this is passing and won't be as totally debilitating. The fatigue is definitely better today. But the pins and needle feeling all over my body is not letting up. Maybe in few days or so and I will be back to my normal, sooner than later.

But just the fact that I'm always trying to out think AIDS is exhausting. For sure managing this disease is no cat walk. And you must remember, I've been living with HIV for 29 years and AIDS for 20.  Yeah, Yeah,  I know I'm alive and I know I keep it moving more than most and that I don't look or seem sick most of the time. Let me pause and say, don't let the miracle of my ability to keep moving, keep you in denial about the struggle of my life.

My body has lived through some serious trauma. At one point I was sick enough that I should have died. There has been serious damage done that cannot be repaired.  Not just from the HIV, but from the years of HIV medication. Yes the medications have helped to keep me here longer, but they cannot undo what's been done and they have done some damage on their own.

AIDS is a walking, living, breathing dichotomy. At one level we know the list of opportunist infections that one can get and we know how to prevent most of them, but its just as unpredictable.

I never know what the next day will be. Shoot I've gone to bed feeling normal and have woken to a temperature of 103 and diagnosed with PCP, AIDS related pneumonia. The medicine I was taking to prevent PCP didn't work for me.

I've woken up in the middle of the night unable to breath in a hotel room. Found an HIV doctor, had an ex-ray, told that my lungs were normal, come back home, get off the plane and be hospitalized yep, for PCP yet again.

I've been on the road. Gone to bed in a hotel room feeling normal and woken up and couldn't walk, and by afternoon I had Herpes Zoster sores from the top of my butt to the bottom of my feet.

 I've gone to my therapist office and after the session got in the car and had to take a nap before I could drive home. Then hospitalized for a week to determine that they can't determine what's wrong with me. That's when the nerve pain really began. I remember my doctor said to me, "Well we have determined that its not going to kill you, we just don't know how to make it better, only time will tell." At that point I could barley hold my body up and the fatigue was debilitating and don't be confused, this was all with a non- detectable viral load. Which hypothetically means you shouldn't have any AIDS related illness.

 Yep, HIV/AIDS is a walking breathing living dichotomy. I tell people in my life, just because I was OK last night, don't assume I'm OK today. You better check for yourself. And never assume that it's just me having a bad day, if I change my routine, something is wrong. That's why I try not to go to bed mad, cause tomorrow I may be to sick to apologize or make it right. Use my life as a lesson for understanding the people in your life with HIV and their daily struggle.

Living with a compromised immune system for as long as I have is both a miracle and a mystery. I never know what's next. But I know if I live in the right now and not in denial, I'm using my free will in the best of ways, to continue God's plan in my life. Now don't be confuse, God don't need help per say, but God gave us this free will for a reason. Sometimes we knock God's plan straight to hell in a hand basket with how we use our free will. Then God's gotta work hard to reel you back  in.

My BFF Luke said it best in a documentary on me. I never have a normal day. I don't have "normal" days like everyone else. My normal is abnormal and some days the abnormal is abnormal.

But I press my way because the alternative is death. Don't be confuse, I  do have advanced AIDS. If I should stop taking my HIV medication I will die a horrible death. Don't be confuse, if I surrender to the darkness, it will kill me quicker than the disease.  For me, surrendering and living in denial and secret are two different things with the same outcome, death.

No matter what you are facing, you must live in the right now. Living in the right now will get you to your  better tomorrows. It does not matter the dilemma you are facing; You must be willing to deal with it today to create space for a better tomorrow.

While I feel a certain kind of way about my honesty, I know it's the thing that has kept me alive. There's no way I can live with the weight of HIV/AIDS and the weight of what you think of me because I dare to share the weight of this disease.

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