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, January 28, 2013

Monday Reflection: What To Do When The Miracle Feels Like A Lie!

"I just want to wake up in the morning and feel ok," I said with tears in my eyes.
"I know, I know," my doctor said
"It's just, I want to feel better."
My doctor's big round eyes full of empathy and compassion looked straight at me as I complained
"I'm just tired," I said with tears in my eyes.
"You've had it really hard lately," Dr French interjected,
"Yes and I need a break," I put my hands to my face and rubbed them across my face and over my head, fighting back the tears.
"Like I don't understand," I lamented, looking at my doctors face hard. I was searching for answers.
"It's just," she began
It's just people rarely live this long after they have been as sick as you once were."
I sat with tears in my eyes as she explained
"As sick as you were years back, it's just rare that a person would live this long after being so sick." She paused
"That's not just with AIDS, but with any illness, heart disease, cancer." She took a deep breath
"People just don't live this long."
I sat in silence digesting what she was saying
"Damn I'm a miracle," I said to myself. "Man up black woman you're a miracle"
She continued,
"Your immune system was really low at one time."
"My T-Cell count was 8," I said confirming this fact.
She continued,
"It just the damage that was done, can't be reversed and we haven't really had as many people live this long after being so sick with HIV, we just don't know." she concluded.
And with this finality there wasn't much else to be said.

I have one of the best infectious disease doctors I could ask for, so I know that I know that she is doing everything possible to keep me alive as did my doctor of 20 years prior to her. They are both women who care and advocate for the health of women with HIV. She and I had that conversation two weeks ago and it stuck in my spirit like Gorilla Glue.

She told me that I was a miracle and beyond that there's not much else to be done other than keep me alive. The quality of my life is not good. Not good one bit and that is just as much true, as is the miracle of my life.

I've lived with HIV for 30 years and AIDS for 21. But over 15 years ago I was so sick that I was on the AIDS timeline for death. It didn't seem like that to people because I was out there hitting the pavement doing what I could to educate and challenge stigma around HIV. Speaking engagements galore, TV interviews, I was going down having done what I could for the cause before it took me out of here.

Make no mistake, I was one sick black woman and my life was hanging in the balance. With that last bout of PCP my T-Cell count was 8 and the HIV medication available was like taking a placebo. They made you think you were getting better because taking them was better than not, but they were mediocre in there ability to change things at best and they made you so sick with side-effects that you couldn't think starlight.

Yes, I was on the timeline of a hard horrible AIDS death, But God had the last say and now I'm here trying to figure out what to do with the miracle of my life.

I'm a miracle for sure, but lately I don't feel like one. Lately, I feel like my world is falling apart and my health is hanging by a tread. The glass is half full and half empty. This is not just how I look at it; it's my reality. I'm a walking breathing dichotomy and my miracle is hanging in the balance.

By the time I made it home that day I had a resolved that it was time to think outside the box. I asked myself, "What am I going to do with this miracle?" Am I going to complain about it and sink deeper into the depression that I'm currently in, or am I going to make it work for me to the best of my ability?

Now be clear, for all practical purposes my HIV in under control. My T-Cell count is 555 and my viral load has been undetectable for the last 7 years. This a miracle in and of it's self. Prior to 7 years ago we couldn't keep my viral load below 5000 and it typically lingered around 15,000 and at it's height it was 397,000. That's what make my current state of health hard to digest. Hypocritically I should not be sick.

This aggressive drug resistant herpes should not be a fact. The neuropathy in my hands, feet, back and sometimes my head and face, should not be my constant, the fatigue, the waking up hurting every freaking day should not be my reality, but it is. My nerve pain is ugly, just fucking ugly and it has infected my spirit and made it ugly and clinical depression is sitting over my being like fog in the we hours of London.

On top of that, I'm having a lot of female related issues. The doctor is trying to work it out. It's important to dot the i's and get to the root because women with HIV have more gynecological issues then most. So we are trying to figure out if it's my endometriosis that I was diagnosed with about 8 years ago flaring up, or is it the on-set of menopausal issues or what. I had yet another endometriosis biopsy two weeks ago; and when she cut up in there I thought I saw blue, green and Jesus the pain was that bad.

Over all my pelvic pain is so bad it makes me want to cut it all out and sit it on the curve. And when I say cut it all out I mean that shit from my ovaries, to my vagina, which is always raw and red and feels like it's on fire. For real y'all, for real, for real.

These are the constants that I wake to every morning. Between the nerve pain and the pelvic pain and my vagina on fire, I don't want to get out of bed and my attitude will make me curse you to hell and back for real. I'm just being honest about my truths. I'm an emotional basket case right now and I'm not liking this. I don't want a damn thing to have more control over me than me; not a man, not a thing, and certainly not AIDS. But right about now, I'm having meltdowns over stupid shit. I need a change!  I can't even enjoy my miracle; it feels like a lie.

 I need a change for sure and that was very clear to me two weeks ago when I started this journey of back to back doctor appointments seeking solutions. I can pray all I want, but some things you have to do for yourself. God has given me wisdom and the know how to make my life the best it can be. The way things are going, I can't even enjoy my miracle and that is no way to live.

I help my life coaching clients to get unstuck. I push them to step outside the box so that they can be their best and I decided when I left my doctors office that day that I was going to take my own advice. If you keep complaining about your circumstance and do nothing to change it, then your complains are worthless chatter. Somethings God wants us to do for ourselves. The answers are before us, but complaining is easier. Change is scary, sacrifice is scary and change requires sacrifice. My Pastor preached about this yesterday. 2 Kings 7:3- The men with leprosy could have stayed by the road and remind hungry or they could start walking and see where it leads. If they had never moved, they would have never been blessed. Sometimes the blessing is waiting for us, but we stay stuck in our right now.

 If you want to move beyond that man, then unfriend his ass on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to lose weight then take your ass to the gym. If you want to go to school, then fill out the darn application. If you want a newer, better job then start looking. If you want some new friends, then stop spending time with the ones that are sucking the life out of you. If you have health issues that require a life style change, then start at the the beginning.

You have to choose! You can't say that you want a change and then do nothing to make that change. For sure life is a blessing in and of itself. For sure life is so worth the living. But the miracle of life becomes a waste if we don't use the many tools  that God has given us to live our best life. It's not enough to say you want better, you have to do something to get you to better.

You have to start somewhere and thats what I did the very next day. I had a consultation with a homeopathic doctor and chiropractor. Traditional medicine is keeping me alive, but the quality of my life is no life at all. My doctor said to me, "Well it can't hurt." then she added, Chiropractors know a lot more about pain then I do. NO, I'm NOT going to stop taking my HIV medication. I ani't stupid! Traditional treatment for HIV is a medical breakthrough and I will challenge anyone who says anything other.

So what am I doing? I'm seeking a better quality of life! I'm searching for solutions that might change my current circumstance and improve the quality of my life. I start with Dr. Rosen at the West Loop Chiropractor on next week. He is both a board certified Chiropractor and a Homeopathy doctor, who came on the recommendation of my good friend Dwana.  She's so happy right now and lawd she will shout if I should ever stop eating refined sugar. But I told her that there is no life at all if I can't have a cupcake :)

I've already begun a supplement on his recommendation that does not interfere with my HIV medication. So I will be blogging about this journey. Now Dr. Rosen believes that he can help me and I will give more details as I go, but he was clear this will take time. I'm willing to put the time in because that's better then doing nothing at all. Oh and he's into Social Media, so you know I love him already. He's on Twitter @WestLoopChiro He's in the process of putting together a comprehensive plan for me.

I'm working on a holistic approach to a better life. To live whole you have to consider all areas of your life; mental and emotional health included. I mentioned earlier that depression has become real for me. I start therapy again this week and we will be making an assessment on whether I need to alter my current anti-depressant. Yes, I take anti-depressants. HIV causes depression and that's a fact. Menopause also causes depression. I have two cards stacked against me and when you add my crazy ass life on top of the pile it's a mess.

I want to live my best life and I can be honest with myself. Denial will destroy you. I'm having meltdowns over stupid shit. All I want to do is read and I'm having a lot of sleepless nights. I can try to call it something other than depression, but I would be lying and y'all know that I don't lie.

Also, I will be dragging my tail out of the house on Wednesday's to Bible Study and church on Sundays.   Not only is the fellowship good for my spirit but Pastor Jakes message is always a source of encouragement to keep going. I need everything I can get right about now.

 I will be pulling together an regular exercise routine after I have two more test on today. Exercise is an overall health benefit whether you want to acknowledge it or not. It is great for your overall well being from metal health, to your physical health.  I'm going to also incorporate some message therapy to help reduce my stress and work on better eating habits because to much sugar for example, will zap the life out of you in the long run. NO, Im not giving up cupcakes, just not eating as many.

 My doctors are doing their part and I'm doing mine! Pastor L Bernard Jakes' sermon was on point yesterday, "I'm Not Dying Here!" Yes, we all have to die one day that's a fact, but there is also another fact, that you don't have to die in the current condition that you are in; and sometimes that condition will kill us quicker than the disease.

Pastor said, if you are always complaining about your circumstance and doing nothing to change it, then you are stuck in the quicksand of your own life! So I'm moving in the direction of better. I know that one session of therapy or three visits to Dr. Rosen is not going to have microwaveable results. Some of this stuff will take time. I'm willing to put in the time, because I want to be my best me.

You must declare to yourself, I'm not Dying Here! I'm not stopping Here! I'm not giving up Here! God has given you the power to jump start your own liberation and that's exactly what I'm doing and now, what about you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

RLT Reads Review: James Patterson's Very First Novel!

I'm a really BIG Fan of James Patterson's Alex Cross series, as is my Godmother Judy. I have read every single one of them! As I mentioned in my last book review on Walter Mosley's Black Betty, Judy and I talk about Alex Cross like he is real. We also try to figure out how James Patterson, who is very white has so much insight into the life of African-Americans. It's an on-going theme to our Patterson book discussions. I would love to have lunch with him one day and get some up close insight.

Well, Judy kept trying to get me to read Patterson's frist book, The Thomas Berryman Number, written in 1976. I finally picked it up last week and loved, loved, loved it! If you are a fan of Patterson's Cross series this is a must read. Again, Judy and I had the same discussion about Patterson when we talked about this book. Is he really a black man, passing for White?" We asked jokingly. Was the love of his life a black woman and so on and so on. You should hear us; we are H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!

The Thomas Berryman Number is a clear indication that Patterson was a mystery writer in the making. It also foreshadows his Alex Cross Series.  Not the character, but certainly the African-American themes that flows throughout the series. I find The Thomas Berryman Number interesting because the Cross series didn't emerge until 1993, 17 years after this book and many other books prior to The Cross Series.

In a nut shell, the book was great. It starts off slow, but it certainly picks up. There's tons of suspense and you will want to keep reading until the very end. The mayor of Nashville is a black man and he is assassinated. Thomas Berryman is the assassin and the story is told thought the lenses of a reporter writing a book about the murder. It was a little complicated those frist 15-20 pages but I soon figured out what was going on.

The story line is a good one, and for sure the book picks up. The real beauty of this book, however is  that we can see  where Patterson's  began and for his avid readers, where he ended up.

The book is over 20 years old, but i got my copy from used books off Amazon...  Happy Reading until next week! Don't forget to check out todays Tea Review!

Tea With Rae! Wake Up English Style!

Never thought that I would say this, but there is a another tea that I enjoy in the morning right along side of English Breakfast.

Well it goes like this. For years English Breakfast and sometimes an Irish Breakfast, which is even more robust than English, has been the star of my mornings! I'm not sure what I like most, but I think it's the rich, full-bodied, malty flavor that says yes I'm alive!

English Breakfast Tea is often drank by the British and sometimes I think that I was a Brit in my pass life time. My morning is not complete without my am Breakfast Tea. Nor is my evening complete without a sip of Earl Grey. One of the most divine black teas you will ever drink.

Well, I'm pretty stuck in my ways for sure, but I always want to try new teas. I ventured off about a month ago and I haven't had anything in the morning since.

English Westminster  by Tea Gschwender is wonderful! Tea Gschwender is a German based Tea Company that does tea very well. They were one of the first loose leaf teas I ever tried outside of a restaurant.

I like them because their teas are fresh, large in variety and priced economically. They were also a sponsor in my very first HIV/AIDS Tweet-Up.

So about a month ago, I dropped into Tea Gschwender to pick up some English Breakfast and asked if there was another tea similar that they would recommend. I fell in love.

This tea  is a blend of Assam, Java and Ceylon teas. Assam and Ceylon both come from the same plant  Camellia sinensis just different regions of India. FYI, the four traditional tea groups, black, oolong, green and white all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant.

However, Java Tea comes from Orthosiphon stamineus plant and is widely grown in South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand) and tropical Australia. Like most herbals, this one is often dried and brewed just like traditional teas. It is believed to have health benefits, anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, anti-hypertensive and diuretic to name some.

English Westminster has a similar full-bodied flavor as traditional breakfast tea and it's a bit stronger. The thing that makes this tea special is the flavor. The full-bodied flavor is lanced with a sweetness that I can't put my finger on.

This is a blend of perfection! Two traditional black teas with an herbal, to make this memorable drink. Tea Gschwender is located in Chicago and they give free samples when you make a purchase. That's how I ended up with English Westminster. You can also purchased them on line Click Here!

Happy Cuppa!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

People Always Trying To Tell Me That God Can Heal Me of AIDS

People are always asking me do I think that God can heal me of AIDS... Here's my answer

I don't hate much but it's safe to say I HATE it when people start their conversation with me, "The Lord told me to tell you." Call it what you want: arrogance, Christian elitism, whatever! But this strong feeling of dislike became worse after I went public with AIDS. Everybody had the solution to my problem. Often they’d start the sentence with, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS."

Many times they'd come rushing up to me after I finished speaking with their revelation. I’d stand there graciously, but what I really wanted to do was scream at the top of my lungs.

I know, I know. I sound like one ungrateful woman. I do understand that they are only trying to help ease my pain. But curing me? Gee, thanks. Don't judge me first, just try living in my shoes and see how YOU WOULD FEEL. In the early days of my ministry, I became really frustrated with people telling me what God could do for me, like they knew this for sure. I read the same Bible. And now, having gone to seminary and earned a Master of Divinity Degree, I detest it even more. I mean, why do you think that I don’t already know about faith? My life is an example of faith, don't you think?
But in those earlier days of my popularity, so many people approached me about being healed that I started to wonder, “Had I missed something in my Christian walk?” Just the thought of it bothered me. With all the experts I had encountered on my miracle, I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong. So like with most things, I took my concern straight to the source. I started to have long conversations with God about it all. It went something like this:

“Hello God, these people say that you can heal me of AIDS. So, what do I have to do to get this particular miracle? I mean, they keep quoting the scripture, “Ask and you shall receive.” (Mat 7:7) I asked, but I still have AIDS. Do I need pray a certain way, or at a certain time, maybe like Hannah at the altar?” (1 Sam 1-20) No joke, sometimes you just have to lay it out to God, and I did.

It was all so maddening. I know that there are miracles in the Bible of both the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament. And that made matters worse. With my all Biblical knowledge and people pushing their faith onto me, I was frustrated. One day a person even told me, “You should stop taking your HIV medication so when the Lord heals you, people will really believe that the miracle was of God.” I stood there with a blank look on my face. “I don’t think so buddy!!!!” is what I wanted to scream at him. So, I kept talking to God, waiting on the answer. I even changed my prayer. “Lord, just give me something to say to these people about my healing.” 
Then people started to cure me in my mail. I received 25 copies of this little booklet, "By His Strips We Are Healed". I screamed, "Pleeeease GOD tell me what I’m missing." And that wasn’t the half of it. I received long letters with Scripture I was instructed to repeat every day, tapes, oil and prayer clothes. People were determined to heal me anyway they could.

Then one day after what seemed like an eternity, God gave me the answer I had been seeking. I was in Washington, DC speaking at a church. That particular night, there was a lot of press covering me.

No sooner than I laid the mic down, a woman rushed up to me, "You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS." I got that look on my face, “Here we go again.” I stood as she rambled and rambled on. "And it would be an awesome thing. With all these TV cameras and the press you get, you could go around the world and tell people how wonderful God is because He healed you of AIDS!" In an instant God spoke to my spirit, "I am a wonderful God, even if I never heal you of AIDS!" The testimony is: Hallelujah anyhow!

WOW! I was so overwhelmed tears starting streaming down my face. Of course the woman thought that her prophecy had moved me to tears. But it was nothing short of God sitting center stage in my spirit giving me with the answers that I had longed for. The easiest testimony on the planet is when God has done the thing you most wanted in your life. But can you love God in the midst of your pain? Can you love and praise Him when you are bearing your cross? I understood that day that my love for God was not predicated on my healing from AIDS. God is wonderful and sovereign without the extra that He gives to us.

Back to the healing, I had missed it all along. The miracle wasn’t the thing that people had been trying to force on me, but something even greater. In some ways, healing me of AIDS was an EASY testimony, almost expected of God. But living with AIDS was an INCREDIBLE testimony. God gave me the greatest gift of all: the ability to live and thrive with an illness that should’ve taken me out of here many a day. And believe me when I say I should’ve died 16 years ago.

When I made a transition to AIDS 19 years ago, the life expectancy was 3 years. And before advancement in treatment, I was staring death in the face. My t-cell count was 8, my viral load was 397,000, I was a size 0. You could see how frail I was in every picture that was taken of me back then. There is no doubt, my health was failing.

I had 3 bouts of PCP, the number one infection, at the time, that killed people with AIDS. You cannot tell me that I am not a walking miracle. I get it! I also get that we spend so much time expecting God to do what we want, we miss the wonderful things that He has done. I’m content with the miracle of my life. So what if it’s a hard life, He continues to give me all the tools I need to maneuver through the wilderness.

PostScript: By the way, God didn’t heal everyone. The Apostle Paul is one clear example. Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He asked God to heal him three times and each time God said, “No!” Christians are quick to quote from this text that the Lord told Paul, “My Grace is sufficient.” But God also told Paul,”My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” I know from this that when I am at my lowest point, God will do His best work. (2 Cor 7-10)

2013 Post Script: Repost... One of the Firs Blogs I wrote.... As of 2013 I've lived with HIV for 30 years and AIDS for 21.... I know that I know that I am a walking miracle...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

RLT Reads! Pretty Betty by Walter Mosley A Review

Well, it seems that RLT Reads Book Club has gone straight to hell in a hand basket. I know some of it was my fought. Over the last two years my health has been a handful and I have been off my reading game and not able to keep up. Trying to balance my health and all of RLT Brands is two full time jobs wrapped  up into one. But I made an executive decision over this past holiday; to take some time for me. Life is to short to not do some of what you enjoy. So I'm back to my favorite pass time on the planet, other than shopping, drinking tea, and knitting, it is reading! I can easily read a book or two a week.

Until we get RLT Reads book club rolling again, I thought that I would at least give you some weekly reviews on the books that I'm currently reading. Over time, if you show some interest, we can see if the on-line book club can get back on its feet. Shoot me an email if you are interested in getting the book club back on it's feet RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com

My first weekly review! Here goes! I'm too excited about sharing my reads with you. I am an absolute fan of crime mystery books. My adopted God Mother, Judy down in Nashville is also an avid reader. You should hear our conversations about books that we have both read. We talk about characters like they are for real... Shoot, we think Alex Cross, the leading man in James Patterson Cross series is our future husband.

She and I both love mystery and she has been trying her best to get me to read Walter Mosley Easy Rawlins series. Because she kept pushing, I purchased a few and they just sat on my book shelf.

Then recently I started to slowly read them. Then over the holiday, I picked one up and now I can't seem to stop. To date I've read, six of the ten in this series, in no particular order. I have even read the last one he wrote in 2009, which killed off the series, Blonde Faith.

I've also read the most famous, of course, the Denzel Washington movie, Devil in a Blue Dress. I have also read, Little Scarlet, White Butterfly and Cinnamon Kiss. So far so good. They were all page turners that I didn't want to put down. I read 3 over the holiday alone. I was on a roll.

But the one I want to review for you today is Black Betty. I just finished reading it and OMG! This was one complex story line that captured the period. The thing I love most about Mosley's Easy Rawlins series is that he does an awesome job of situating his story line in the period and plays it through like a fine violin.

Black Betty is one of the most complex of all the Rawlins series so far. All of the books are situated in Southern California between the 40-60's. It's an interesting period and Rawlins gives us insight on segregation, racism and migration during this time span.

Many African-Americans escaped the degradation of the south. We often read about those from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Rawlins characters are all from parts of Louisiana and Texas. Which had it's own particular culture and Black folks bring it to Los Angles during it's time of growth.

Rawlins is a private investigator operating in Los Angles who begins his career by default. Well liked and well connected in the Black community Rawlins is asked to help locate people. The police use him from time to time on complex cases in the black community because it's easier for Rawlins to move among black folks then it is for white police officers. Over time, Rawlins is eventuality given his license to practice. Rawlins loves, sex, woman and alcohol, but alcohol doesn't love him. He's a man's man, with a good heart that shines bright in all of the Easy Rawlins books. Oh yeah, his side kick Mouse is a hoot, but mostly a cold-blooded killer.

Now on to Pretty Betty. This story takes place in 1961 at the height of overt segregation in the South and covert segregation and open racism in swanky L.A. Betty is a woman from Rawlins home town, who's sensuality shines bright with every step she takes. She captivates Rawlins as a young boy and years later they meet again in the midst of a complex trail of murder and mayhem.

There are clear and not so clear villains. Betty is a live-in maid for a wealthy Southern California Plantation owner. Yes, I said planation. Mosley gives us a brief insight into migrant slave labor in Pretty Betty. That's the thing about Mosley, all of his Rawlins books give us a history lesson in race relations and what it's like to be mostly black and poor during this period.

I can't tell you the story or you won't have a need to pick it up. Lets just say, there is sexual coercion power relationships and children born of mixed race at it's best. When the patriarch of the family dies, who is also Betty boss, she disappears and the hunt begins.

Murder follows Betty's trail right along with Rawlins. This complex story line of who done it and why and yes who inherits the 50 million dollars will keep you turing pages until the very end.  It is worth the read!

Each Tuesday I will be reviewing two of my favorite things, tea and books #SmallPleasures  Stay tuned for next week and in the meantime don't forget to read my tea Review, Passion in a Cup... Click Here! For more on Walter Mosley, go to his website, Click Here!

Tea With Rae! Passion In a Cup

I have reviewed mostly loose leaf tea. Not because tea already in a bag is not equally good as loose tea. Quite frankly, there are some not so great loose teas in the world of teas. So my bias has been without any particular reason, other than the tea brands and flavors that I drink the most of, tend to be loose.

Now for sure, there are some great teas in a bag and I thought that I would share one with you today. I love Tazo Tea! It's the tea that is served exclusively at Starbucks and I've sent many of my Twitter followers there to pick up a cup of tea based on their need for that day.

 For colds, I suggest, Tazo Refresh; a hardy mint tea. For that midday pick me up, I often suggest Earl Grey! it's a black tea infused with the aroma of bergamot and my favorite black tea.

With Earl Grey, you get a black tea high in caffeine for that mid day boost, without the strong malty flavor of a breakfast tea. The bergamot oil infused in Earl Grey is simply divine. You can read my review on Earl Grey Tea Here.

My recommendation for  the morning is Awake Tea. It's a wonderful blend of black tea that gives you that hardy jump start in the morning. It's similar to English Breakfast type teas that I drink every morning.

All of these teas mentioned above I drink and highly recommend. Let be not forget, Joy Tea! This holiday blend of black and green tea is only available doing the Holiday Season so I make sure that I stock up! Just so you know, this is not a sponsored review. I just thought that I would share one of my favorite bag teas with you this month. For the most part, these are the only Tazo teas I have tried and maybe I'll reach out to Starbucks and see if they will join my Tea With Rae Team.

While I drink mostly loose teas while at home sometimes because of my health, I don't have the energy for the formality involved in making loose tea and for sure Starbucks is my spot when I'm on the go. The bottom line Tazo has been my go to tea in a bag.

A while back one of my Twitter followers sent me 4 tins of Tazo Tea and sadly they have been sitting. I began to feel guilty. I've been trying to mix it up lately and step outside of my regular tea list, so I tried for the first time  one of the teas, Tazo Passion!

Boy was it a tropical fruit blast in a cup! This herbal infused tea of hibiscus, papaya, mango, sweet cinnamon and passion fruit essence remained me of my trips to Jamaica and made me feel like I was on a warm tropical Island and not Chicago in December.

The truth of the matter, drinking a cup of warm tea is an experience. If you just sit back and enjoy the moment, the flavor will take you to another place.

I enjoyed this tea because the blend is rich. The tart hibiscus flower makes the taste sophisticated and not fruity tutty. Hibiscus is a favorite drink, both warm and cold on many Islands. The hibiscus flower is rich in vitamin C and minerals, which is always a plus. Tazo has taken this tart flower and made a perfect blend.

For sure I recommend Tazo Passion Tea.  I didn't know what I was missing out on, stuck drinking only my favorite Tazo Teas. Now I have to try the others sitting in my Tea Cabinet.

I like Tazo because you can buy it in most grocery stores. In the bag, Tazo has filter bags, which is how we traditionally know bag teas. They also have the silken bag of full leaf tea, which is just like drinking loose left tea. The whole leaf tea is also sold in Starbucks in tins. I discovered something while working on this blog. Tazo also has loose tea! SHUT UP! For Real!!! Click Here to see all that Tazo has to offer!

It's National Hot Tea Mouth, so have a cup of hot tea. On your lunch break pick up Passion in a cup... Sit back and image that you are on a tropical Island and not at your hectic work desk. Happy Cuppa! #TeaWithRae

Post Script: Don't forget to enter the weekly raffle! I'm giving away a loose leaf tea ball from RLT Collection in honor of National Hot Tea Month. All you have to do is make a comment on one of my tea blogs about your favorite tea or why you like hot tea.

 Last weeks winner is Yansa Toussaint. Remember Lovely's, you have to let me know how to find you. So either give me your facebook or Twitter name in your comment...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Facing Truths! Reflecting on Delta Sigma Theta at 100 and Me!

I'm not sure why people are so bothered by the truth, other people's truths that is. What's so wrong about the truth? Martin Luther King said, "The day we see truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die." While he was for sure speaking about racial injustice, I believe that this quote applies to every untruth that we face.

I spent half of my life bound up in secrets! Secrets of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Secrets of having contracted HIV at age 20 and oh so many secrets of self-abuse. The African Proverb, "He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured," is so true. I'm telling you, the secrets that I was living with had started to kill off a vital part of me, my spirit, and when the spirit dies, the body is sure to follow. For without one's spirit, there is nothing to live for.

Yet, it is undeniably true that the truth is hard for people. Maybe they don't want to hear your truth because then they are forced to deal with their own truths. Or at least to think about them. Maybe they don't want to hear the truth, because the lie unspoken is easier than the truth spoken softly. In the past, this was true for me as well. But one day, it was as if God sat in my living room for a daughter to Father chat and said to me, "Enough is Enough!"

My truths have become a gift from God that I embrace fully and unapologetically. But I have to be honest, sometimes I wonder if my truths will make me have one less friend, less Twitter followers, less people who purchase my bracelet designs RLT Collection, and the list goes on and on. This has been especially true as a business woman. As of lately, my bracelet collection helps keep food on my table. So sometimes my human self begins to wonder if the truth is too much, but then God sagely speaks to my spirit and reminds me that I am to walk boldly in my gifts and He will make a way out of what my appears to be no way.

With this said, I debated long and hard about this blog post and I had even decided last night that I wouldn't do it, but it crept back into my spirit long before I opened my eyes this morning. If things were different between me and Delta I would be reflecting, so why stop my truths today because it will make people uncomfortable?  So I'm pressin forward in my truths.

 Yesterday Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrated 100 years as an organization. As one of the largest  and oldest African-American sororities, it is truly a milestone. Yet for me, it was bittersweet. While I tried to be happy for Delta, I really did, I couldn't fake the funk.

Yep, yesterday was hard for me to say the least. Hard because I never thought that I wouldn't be in Washington, D. C. this pass weekend with the thousands of Delta women there to celebrate years of sisterhood and service. On one level, it was like being a child looking into a old fashion candy store and knowing in your heart that your parents don't have the money to buy even a nickel's worth of candy.

The day I was inducted into Delta!
The mixed emotions that wells up deep inside of you, of wanting something so bad, but knowing that you can't have it. Yep, it was a sad day, but I had to face the truth that I am no longer a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. After 12 years of being called Soror by thousands of women, that ceased to be no more as of May 1, 2012.

I'm not going into the details again. Ima save you and me from that drama. Either purchase my book, The Politics of Respectability and read the entire epic of how my life clashed with Black Women and Respectability from my mother to Delta Click Here, or watch the now infamous video where I discuss the drama  of the particular events that landed me out of Delta, Click Here

Yet on another level, I couldn't help but to think about another truth; the truth of contradictions I felt about the Sisterhood over these last 10 months. While I think that no one can EVER take away the 100 years of service to the black community that Delta has done, it is true that for me at lest, the Sisterhood took a back sit to the sister. Which at its core is suppose to be the Essence of Delta.

Cythina McIntyre Butler at the podium. Bishop Vashti McKenzie seated on the far right
I looked at this picture someone tweeted of the current National President, Cynthia McIntyre Butler looking proud and distinguish and wondered if in these months had she thought at all about our phone conversations. The one on February 16, 2011 about the day's events, i. e.  my conversation with Rose McKinney, the executive director of the national headquarters of Delta and my subsequent tweets,  as a result of the conversation with Rose.

I will never forget it as long as I live. Cythina, ended  the phone conversation, with a simple answer to my simple question, "Soror, I asked, Am I being put out of Delta over this?" I felt like a child being chastised by Motherhen in that conversation and I needed clarity. I heard a soft chuckle come through the phone. Always the Southern Bell and Human Resource Guru, "No Soror, no one is putting you out of Delta." She continued, "I just ask that you don't discuss the incident publicly or tweet about it. I just need time to smooth things over." I said yes and I was a woman of my word.

Yesterday, I wondered how Cythina felt 14 months later, after having absolutely no contact with me in the months after that first phone call on February 16. How she felt making that call to tell me that the Executive Committee had voted to rescind my honorary membership. I know how I felt, betrayed.

I wondered as I saw all the wonderful pictures on Instagram, who from the Executive Committee called me Soror for 12 years and then voted me out of the Sisterhood over my tweets without any conversation with me about the incident. Both of these thoughts sent me into a crisis and made me explain to myself, my love for this Sisterhood both on May 1st and on yesterday.

I wondered in the pictures of sea of red, if any of my sisters who use to call me Soror and stopped on May 1st were there?

If any were there that use to follow me on Twitter but stopped on May 1st.

 I wondered who from Twitter that continues to follow me, because to unfollow me would be in bad taste, but they still don't speak to me any more because they don't want to be looked at with a side eye from other Soror's, yep I wondered if any of them were in this sea of red.

I wondered if the Soror who I thought was my personal friend, who not only unfollowed me on Twitter, then blocked me so that I wouldn't see her talk about me because I quote, "I made Delta look bad in that video, " was there being the good Delta that she is and all.

I  wonder if any of the Sorors who use to check in with me from time to time to see how I was doing, but has since stopped. Not because they don't care about me, but it's such an uncomfortable mess that no one wants to honestly address; so it's easy to do nothing at all. Yep, I wondered if any of them were there.

Then I thought about all the Sorors who still tweet me, but didn't tweet me on yesterday. Because yesterday was Delta's Day and to show the sister thrown out of the Sisterhood some love on yesterday would caste a dark light on the Sisterhood. I asked myself, "How could I love something so much that hurt me so bad?"

On yesterday, I wondered what the founders of Delta Sigma Theta would have thought about me.

If they would have thought that I was an outspoken asses with zeal and determination or a liability with a big vulgar mouth.

I wondered because as the history of Delta is told, the 22 women on the campus of Howard University were originally members of Alpha Kappa Alpha  Sorority the first African American sorority in the United Sates.

Delta's history has it that these 22 women left Alpha Kappa Alpa because they felt that the problems of black people and women were much larger and deeper than just being a social club having teas. They wanted to bring about change for such a time as it was, 1913, the heart of disenfranchisement of both blacks and women.

Delta's history proudly boast that the first display of boldness of these women were  to march against the oppression of men with white woman in the Women's Suffrage march. That's a who lot of boldness. So I wonder what they would think of me and my way of doing things in the 21st century, where black woman are 72% of all new cases of HIV in the US among women and self- love takes a back sit to having love.

Me proudly taking a pic with Sorors the day I was inducted!
I thought about the collegiate chapter who reached out to me just this December to come speak at their college. In the email the President of this particular chapter expressed how much they admired me and would be honored if I would speak on their campus.

But they hadn't heard the news that my membership was rescinded. So in this very uncomfortable conversation, I had to rehash the day of May 1st. She told me she would get back with me one way or the other, but she never did.

I wondered about the leadership and what they think of me, truly think of me? I have had NO contact from Delta Sigma Theta's leadership since that call from Cythina on May 1, 2012. Not even an official letter announcing that I was voted out. I wondered if the National chaplain Bishop Vashti McKenzie, who's grandmother was a founding Member of Delta has prayed for my healing from this fallout. Someone asked me on Twitter a while back, had she reached out to me at all? No was all I could say and I let that ride.

Me and Sheryl Lee Ralph
I've only had contact from one other honorary member, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who was my friend before Delta and has remain my friend since May 1st. She is her own woman and I thank God for her wisdom and friendship in my life.

Yesterday was hard very hard, but there was a few flickers of light. I had one Soror to send me  a private message on Twitter and two on Facebook to tell me that no matter what has transpired within the organization they still honor me and my work.

And the brightest lights shinning was my Soror at church, she knows who she is, who showered me with love and kindness and of course the Soror that I met on Twitter who's love and show of Sisterhood has been unwavering from day one. Before the evening was over she tweeted to me, "I will ALWAYS love you Soror! I thought of you on THIS day. U have NOT been forgotten. Never forget that our bond is a LifeTime."

Yes, yesterday was hard for me. And don't be confuse; I accept the fact that I was voted out of Delta and accept the fact that MY tweets, MY Doing, MY Truth, And My Methodology didn't meet the standard of a Delta woman after 12 years.

I guess it's true that their are consequences for everything you do in life. So just like I'm a woman and stand by the fuck that landed me with HIV, I stand by the Tweets that landed me out of Delta.

However, just because you accept your culpability in the events of your life, doesn't take away the hurt that you feel as a result of them.

 Also be clear, I am, who I am, shaped by my journey which began when two heroin addicts hooked up to conceive me.  If I had to do either of them again, based on who I am, and what I know about me today, I'm sure if I had to do it over again, I would do the same thing in the same matter because I only know how to live in my truths.

I reckon some members of the Executive Committee feel justified in their self-righteousness. I reckon some members of Delta can sigh with relief that they don't have to call my vulgar self, sister anymore. I mean Cynthia did say, that some past national presidents, "Were livid, the vulgarity of it all."

While I guess there are others who just don't know what to do with me. I'm the pink elephant in room of red.

For sure, I have been thrown away as if I didn't ever exist, dead. So while I want to celebrate my joy for Delta's years of service, I am sucked in by the pain of what I once knew as Sisterhood..

I wonder what Past National President Lillian P. Benbow (1971-1975) would have said about my tweets? I wonder if she would have insists that the Executive Committee try to understand me or at least to give me voice in matters that affected me. I wonder if this quote hand true meaning for her? I wonder what prompted her to say it in the first beginning? I look at the truths in this quote and I see my life all day long... It speaks truth to power and it is the essences of Sisterhood;

When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you as my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if  that be is, then it is I who need you because I do not under-stand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am...

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