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

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prima Donna No More: Facing HIV Discrimination

It felt like he had just slapped me in the face. His words hit harder than my Mama’s worst beating. I stood there frozen with this blank stare on my face. Awkward silence filled the air. He spoke again and it snapped me back to the reality of it all. “Uh, let me go double check with the tattoo artist,” he said nervously. “OK,” slowly came out of my mouth.

 As he walked away, I began reading the consent form that he had set in front of me. When I reached number three on the form, my eyes were glued to that spot. I read it over and over and over. It did say what I thought it said: “I agree that I do not have HIV.” “But I do have HIV,” I whispered to myself. 

The guy behind the counter who was waiting on me returned and snapped me out of it yet again. “Yes miss, the tattoo artist said NO. We don’t tattoo people with HIV.” He gave me back my driver’s license, picked up the consent form and gave me this silly “I’m sorry,” he said, "I’ll shred this.” Clearly this guy had no idea who I was and frankly at that moment the rule was the rule. We DON'T tattoo people with HIV.  Rae Lewis-Thornton and all I have HIV so a name meant nothing to him at that moment. 

I turned to my friends Deidre and Jason looking like I had been crushed. I could see by the expression on their faces that they had overheard the conversation. Shame swept over me, but I whispered to them anyway, “He told me that I couldn't get the tattoo because I have HIV.”

We walked out in silence and Deidre gave me a tight hug and whispered, “I’m sorry.” Jason and I got in the car and I drove in silence. After about 5 minutes I said “J, that’s weird. I went into the tattoo parlor on 12th Street and they told me that they do tattoo people with HIV all the time.” Jason felt helpless he could see my pain, but he just didn't know and he said so. 

My mind starting racing and silence filled the air yet again. In that five minutes of silence,  Shame, Confusion, Disappointment, and then Anger built up inside of me; but Anger pushed the others to the side.

“J,” I broke the silence again, “I think they just discriminated against me.” He said hesitantly, “You’d know better than me.” Then he suggested, “Let’s call some other places and see if you can get it somewhere else. "To hell with them!" He added. That was a good idea, so we both started calling other tattoo places and asked, If a person has HIV could they get a tattoo? After calling three tattoo parlors we received the same answer, “Yes, come on in.”

Driving down Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, I became a MAD BLACK WOMAN. All of my political fight came over me. I had not lived this long with HIV to get kicked in the gut. And to think I picked this African-American owned Tattoo Polar just to patronize them. Deidre had been talking about the good work that had done on a piecing for her, so I decided to give them a try.

I felt this uneasiness inside of me and I needed to know the truth. Had they broken the law or where they just some discriminating ass-wholes? 

I called information and got the telephone number to the AIDS Legal Counsel. I told the receptionist what happened. I was then connected to a lawyer. After I described the incident, she confirmed that I had indeed been discriminated against. They had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, Chicago Human Rights Ordinances, as well as the State of Illinois Human Rights Act.

She then asked my name. “Rae Lewis-Thornton,” I mumbled. “Excuse me?" She hollered with excitement.  "Rae Lewis-Thornton the AIDS activist?” “Yes, that would be me,” I mumbled.

“WOW!” Ann Hilton Fisher exclaimed, “You have got to file a complaint! We need you on this one.” “Are you kidding me?” I thought. She had just hit me with a curve ball that I was not ready for. She could sense my hesitation. Ann started talking again, “You know Rae, you have been a prima donna with AIDS. Everyone likes you because you are on TV and the cover of magazines. Welcome to the real world.”

This was the real world. The new discrimination is covert, small things that people take for granted every day. Like getting a tattoo or having a massage. I understood what she was saying, but it was a lot to think about. Getting that tattoo was something very personal. I didn't really want anyone to know, now I was being asked to go public. I went home and curled up on the sofa and cried until I couldn't cry anymore. It was all too overwhelming.

By 11:00 that night my head was pounding from crying and my spirit had taken a beating. I had to Man Up and face a realization that day. Being on the cover of a magazine and having an Emmy Award couldn't change the fact that I have been discriminated against, just like many other people living with HIV/AIDS.

This is still a reality in the 21st century. It was my reality just a few years ago. But somewhere between mourning the prima donna, and wallowing in self pity, super woman kicked in. I picked up the phone and called Jason, “Hey, let’s go to Jade Dragon.” “Tonight?” he asked? “Yes, tonight! I am not going to let them win. We made our we to the other tattoo parlor and Jason held my hand. Midway, the pain was so great I wanted to quit, but now I needed to prove a point.

The next morning me and my sore backside made it to AIDS Legal Council and began the process of filling a complain. They had messed with the wrong person. I was mad as hell!   When I walked out of the law office that afternoon I was so proud of myself and I wanted to tell all my friends. As the day went on, my bubble started to burst. So it seemed that many of my friends thought I was in the wrong to file the complain. "Well Rae, blood is present when you get a tattoo," was all  that I heard, all day long.

I started to feel isolated....

To Be Continued :)

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