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

Friday, August 30, 2013

And Here Comes The Shit... Part Three

I had a sleepless night, running back and forth to the bathroom. Sunday my stomach seemed to have settled down and I took advantage of that reprieve. Bright and early Monday morning I called the GI doctor. She was totally booked for that week and I went into begging mode. When the doctors PA called me back, I did more pleading and got fitted into a slot in their office 45 minutes from my house. "Oh well, I'll take it," I said! I was in desperate mode. Someone needed to figure out why I couldn't use the bathroom. Laxatives were not the answer.

As we talked more about my problem, she hit me with the bomb shell. "Your bowels are probably still full," she said.  My mind started to scatter all over the place. "How did I get here," I wondered? This is a mess and I wasn't sure how all of this was going to be corrected.

"You're not going to suggest I continue taking Magnesium Citrate are you?" I asked meekly. But inside  I was screaming, "I CAN'T!  "No, I don't want you to take any more of that."

Then she recommended a milder stool softer/laxative called Miralax. "You should take it everyday," she said with emphasis. "Every day," I repeated, letting it sink. "Yes," she said, "everyday until your visit." "Huh, that's a full week of laxatives," I complained. She explained again, just like both the ER doctor and my HIV doctor, when your bowels are that full it takes time to clean.

I was not happy, but as the week progressed, I adjusted.  If I had to be out of the house for any length of time I brought extra bottoms. But for the most part I stayed put. Accidents in the house was all I could handle after the Walgreens/Starbucks ordeal.  Click Here for details

The week was manageable. I had a few near misses but for the most part I got through it with a breeze. By the end of that week, I could even tell when my tummy was sending me a message, "Get the hell up and head to the bath room!"

The weekend was mild and then it occurred to me Sunday night that I hadn't gone to the bathroom all day. "Oh well," I shrugged it off, "maybe my body is tried." I knew that I was and I dozed off to sleep. By mid-afternoon on Monday I still had not pooped. By now I started to think that the Miralax was no longer working. One day not using the bathroom was one thing, but two days, was another.

 This was becoming way to much and a tad overwhelming. One moment I can't poop and the next moment I'm pooping all over the place. Fear started to raise in my spirit. I know the long term use of laxatives can be dangerous and addictive. I couldn't wait to see the doctor in the morning.

My old GI doctor had moved into a sub-specialty around GI and I was given a new doctor. Dr. Lee I loved. First off, it was much easier talking to a woman about all of this. But she is young, bright and attentive.

She patiently listened to my drama over the past two weeks. "I need a break," I explained. After she completed the rectal exam and there was nothing blocking me, she decided that I needed a colonoscopy. She wanted to do it on that Thursday, but since I hadn't used the bathroom in two days, she didn't think that the traditional colonoscopy prep would be enough to prepare me, i. e. clean me out. 

For those who are not familiar with a colonoscopy, your bowels must be totally clean of stool so that the doctor can see.  The colonoscopy was important because people with HIV are prone to cancers. We needed to make sure that there was nothing going on that needed additional attention and might be inhabiting my ability to poop.

First off, she wanted be to start taking a fiber like Metamucil everyday. Then pure dread came over me when she told me to take Magnesium Citrate everyday until it was time for the colonoscopy prep. I heard her clearly, but I was stuck somewhere between stupid and you have got to be kidding me. 

"So ummmmm you want me to drink a bottle everyday?" I asked. " Her head went up and down as she typed away at the computer sending my prescription directly to the drug store. But that's a lot Dr Lee," I complained. "Yes, but a weeks worth won't harm you and we have to get you clean."

I walked into the waiting room shaking my head to Tiara who was waiting on me. I started complaining right away, "I can't believe this, she wants me back on Magnesium Citrate for the rest of the week." Tiara just shook her head," here you go again."

And boy was she right. Each day became harder than the next. Each morning I would take Sophie for her walk then start my day. If I had to do anything that required me to be out of the house, I drank the Magnesium Citrate once I retuned and I carried extra bottoms. But again, I wasn't taking many chances because it was very unpredictable. 

By Thursday, my sprint had dropped to an all time low. No matter how I tried to prepare myself, it was a mess. It didn't matter what I was wearing because by the time I made it to the bathroom, it was coming down my leg and once I pulled down my bottoms it would gosh out like a sprinkler, everywhere, on the toilet, wall, shower curtain, rug, my clothes. I have never experienced anything like this in my life. 

Be clear, I'm use to diarrhea. I've taken medications in these last 25 years that caused it for sure, but I have never had an experience like this before. Not even when I did the prep for my last two colonoscopies. It seemed like the poop that was coming out of me was endless and angry. 

I was depressed. I was really depressed. I started just throwing my soil clothes in the tub and washing down after each poop. I was just trying to make it from one poop to the next without loosing my mind. Tiara, had gone back to school, but she was giving me pep talks everyday. That was so refreshing! A young woman, who believed in me and continued to give me the push I needed. Thursday night, after one of her pep text's,  I made myself wash the clothes and bleach down the tub. I took a long bath and tried to prepare myself emotionally for 3 more days. 

Friday and Saturday was more of the same. Sunday night when I started the official prep for the colonoscopy I thought for sure I would be almost clean. "My God," I said to myself, "as much as I've shitted this week, my prep should be a breeze." But it wasn't and still Monday morning at 3:00 A.M. when I finished drinking the balance of the prep, my bowels was not totally clean. Finally, the last poop before Tiara's grandmother picked me up  at 6:00 a. M. to take me to the hospital I saw clear instead of brown. That meant I was totally clean and really for the colonoscopy. "Thank God," was ll I could say. 

After the colonoscopy I crashed, physically and emotionally. 

To Be Continued...

Monday, August 26, 2013

And Here Comes The Shit! Part Two!

Part One Here!

I set there frozen, unable to think, unable to act. The only part of my body that seemed to be working was my behind. I took a long deep breath and fought back the tears. "You will not cry over this shit. It is what it is," I mumbled to myself.

I don't know how long I had been in that bathroom, but I knew I had to pull myself together and get out of there. I flushed the toilet and pulled my shorts from over my ankles. The first thing was to wash my behind. I pulled and pulled toilet paper off the roll and dipped it in the toilet and started this familiar process of washing my behind in toilet water.

Pull, Dip, Wipe, Flush over and over again. I did that until the toilet paper came back clean. Then I wiped my legs down and cleaned my flip flops that had been splashed with a little shit. Now that I was clean, I went to cleaning the toilet. A little soap on the toilet paper and I cleaned off the shit residue from the toilet and the droplets on the floor.

 I stood there looking down at my nasty shorts. This was a dilemma. If I dumped them in the toilet, then they would be totally soaked. I didn't really want to walk home in totally wet shorts. Solutions were not coming to me as I stood there looking down at that mess. I knew that I couldn't put them back on shitty and walk home. That was not an option. My choices were limited, so I went to the sink and tried to clean only the sit of my shorts with the most amount of stool, but the was futile because it only made poop go to different spots. 

I was frustrated and finally I gave into the fact that I couldn't totally clean them in this sink in Starbucks, it wasn't fair to them or me. So I resolved to put them back on, part wet, part soiled and part dry.

As soon as I went to put them back on, I could feel my stomach at war and rushed back to the toilet just in time. "I need a break God," I whispered, "Will you help a sista out?" I asked.

I sat on the toilet, with the wet, soiled shorts in my lap and shit running out of me like a water faucet. I was so over it!! Over it! Over it! "I'm calling the GI doctor first thing Monday morning because this ER solution is a freaking mess," I said to the floor. I drifted into thought, "What is wrong with me?" I asked myself. This was becoming a bit overwhelming.

 I was lost in thoughts when I heard a knock on the door.  Shame swap over me, I was not going to let that man know that a woman was in here, but they started pulling the handle and I lamely hollered, "Someone's in here."

I couldn't rush things along so he would just have to wait. Finally my stomach settled,  I got off the toilet and put my part wet, part soiled, part dry shorts back on. The cold parts of the shorts sent a chill up my spin, a horrible reminder of the madness I had just experience. I took a deep breath, went back to the sink and with soapy paper towels cleaned it as best as I could. I double checked the toilet and floor, all was good.

Raw shame, hit me as I opened the door and saw that man leaning against the wall waiting for his turn. More shame swiped through me as I thought about the smell. "It is what is it Rae," I mumbled and made a B-line for the door.  As I approached Walgreens I thought about all the stuff I dropped on the counter, probably sitting there waiting on me. "What the hell, I might as well," I mumbled. As I walked into Walgreens, my stomach had seemed to settle. 

I went straight for the counter and thanked God no one was in line. As I walked home I was grateful for the floppy shirt I had on with the long tail in the back. At least people couldn't see the biggest soiled water spot. As soon as I made it in the house my stomach was at it again. "Thank God for home,"  I sighed as I sat on the toilet. "I'm calling the GI doctor," I reiterated out loud. 

When I thought that it was safe to get off the toilet, I stripped and showered. The warm water and the crisp smell of the pomegranate and mango shower gel cleansed me of the ugly and reminded me that even in chaos, God small miracles are alive. I was grateful for the water and the renewing of my senses. 

I made me a cup of peppermint tea to settle my tummy and curled up with Sophie and a book in the big chair in my bedroom. I thanked God for my, "Safe-place," (a cup of tea, a book and Sophie) as the calm settled over my spirit. 

Little did I know, that my body and spirit would be put to a major test the next two weeks. Yep, someone, the universe, the devil, karma, some crazy ass with a voodoo doll,  and even God whatever, whoever was testing my resolve, of that I became convinced. 

To Be Continued! 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And Here Comes The Shit..

I didn't panic as the shit began to seep out of my behind in line at Walgreens. I mean, I am the queen of shitting on myself. Like for real, for real. In fact, I've shitted on myself so much over the years with AIDS and have told those stories so many times, that one of my most famous mishaps is the muse for the lead character in actress Sheryl Lee Ralph's one woman show, "Sometimes I Cry: The Lives of Women Infected and Affected by HIV!" Yep, "Ms. Chanel," that's me, shitted on myself in a restaurant, dressed to the nines, in St. John and Chanel, had a melt down, clean my butt with toilet paper and toilet water and waltz out of that bathroom like the Diva I am and finished my dinner.

Shitting on myself is no big deal, I've been there, done that! I thought that I was emotionally immune to a shitty behind and clothes. So as the poop seeped out of my butt in Walgreens last Sunday, I told myself, "You can do this girly!" So I gently laid the items that I was holding on the counter, whispered to the cashier, "I'll be right back," and I walked out of that Walgreens and headed across the street to Starbucks where I knew a bathroom would be guaranteed. "I got this," I whispered to myself again. But right in the middle of the street between Walgreens and Starbucks, my ass exploded and poop splashed out of my ass like a water hydrant on a hot summer day in the hood. I flexed my ass muscles inward but that was futile, the poop kept coming and coming and coming. I could feel it trickle down my thigh and I knew that the light tan shorts that I was wearing would not be my savior. 

I walked briskly into Starbucks as the poop kept coming and went straight to the ladies bathroom. The door was locked, I moaned, "You have got to be kidding." As panic crossed my face I reached for the handle on the men's room right next door. "Lord please let it be empty," I mumbled as poop and panic sucked the life out of me.

 "Thank God,"I cried as I pulled my shorts down and sat on the toilet. As poop flowed out of my behind like water in a faucet, I looked down at my shorts around my ankle full of shit and sighed deeply. 

"Bitch you can't have nothing easy, can you?" I asked myself. Like for real, I feel like I'm on a perpetual "Job Test," or something. Let's see how resilient she really is, that's what I think is someone's plan for me; yep how can "We," whoever we are, the devil, the universe, the Karma from my last life time, God, some crazy ass with a voodoo doll is putting me to the freakin test, to see how much I can really withstand.

YES, they are scheming against me, I can hear them now, "She thinks she's immune to shit, well, lets show her. She thinks she's a tough cookie, well what's she gonna do with this shit?" Yep, that seems to be my test. My doctor even said yesterday,"Like why can't you get something easy like strep throat." All we could both do was chuckle.

But there was no chuckle in me sitting on the toilet in Starbucks. This was not going to be an easy one. My shorts were so soil, I knew I could not leave the bathroom the way that I had came. I just didn't have it in me to put those shitty shorts back on and walk out that door. I sat defeated! After three days of taking laxatives  and shitting this was becoming all to much for me, just way to much. My ass had diaper rash and now shit was everywhere, my ass, the toilet sit, the floor and bathed in my tan shorts.

"I'm tired Lord ,"I mumbled, "tireddddddd." After the BlogHer conference I came home and hit the sack. I was beat to no end. The IV medication was still in my system when the conference started, so my struggles during the conference, I believed to be a residual from the IV medication. The pain in my side and back just wouldn't go away, but I had checked on my kidneys, which is the biggest danger while on cidofovir and they were fine, so I kept it moving.

But after 3 days in bed after the conference, I knew something else had to be wrong with me. By that Wednesday night, I crawled out  of bed and made my way to the ER. After fourteen hours, the doctor had the answer. My bowels were totally full. "Excuse me," I said. "Yes," the attending that had taken over my case said, "The exray shows that your bowels are totally full from one end, to the other." I looked at him long and hard, "He had got to be kidding me," I thought to myself, while trying to make sense of what he was saying. 

"But I've had bowel movements everyday." I said. "Well," he explained, "Sometimes, loose stool can escape constipation and slip out the side.  Hummmmm, for once in my life I was speechless. I sat puzzled. He continued to explain that he was prescribing Magnesium Citrate to help clean out my bowels.

 I arrived back home at 4:00 A. M. tired and beat down. The next morning I began the process of cleaning me out. I touched based with HIV doctor, who manages my primary care and she suggested an additional laxative and concurred with the ER doctor that it may take a couple of rounds. We knew what the problem was, but had no answers to why I had the problem. The first step was to clean out all those freakin toxins from my body. 

Thursday I spent the entire day in the bathroom and it was not pretty. Friday morning when I woke up, I was so red and raw I couldn't go another round. I needed a freaking break. I had small bowels movements throughout the day but I was not in any condition to drink another bottle of Magnesium Citrate. When I woke up Saturday morning my pain level hadn't decreased one bit and I pulled myself emotionally together for another day of laxatives. After breakfast, I drink that nasty bottle right on down and waited, and waited, and waited and waited and nothing came. My stomach was on fire, but still nothing came.

 After about 6 hours of waiting it was clear to me, that particular laxative was no longer working for me and I headed to Walgreens to pick up the other one my doctor recommended.

YES! I was standing in line with a laxative in my hand when the poop started to sip out of my behind. "Really Lord, like for real for real God,"I mumbled. I've been sitting at home all day and now the shit decides to come. Usually I'm able to laugh at the madness, but sitting on that toilet in starbucks, looking down at my shitty shorts 3 blocks from my house, I was numb.

"What the fuck am I going to do?" I asked myself over and over and over. I just sat, looking down at my shitty legs and shorts, unable to put together any kind of action plan. Super Woman had left the room.

To Be Continued... 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Reflection: Keeping Perspective!

Enough is enough already! I mean really enough! That first week going into the  BlogHer conference I was on a roll with this blogging thing, at least I think I was. Then I tried to get right back in the groove after BlogHer and my health took yet another dive. I had only been off that last round of IV medication for a week.

One freaking week and then my health took a freaking dive. Well, actually it never really got better. Yes, the herpes from hell healed, but I was still having other heath problems, even during BlogHer. I looked Fab and I was tweeting all day, but I was struggling throughout the day. I was even taking pain medicine and laying down for an hour in between events. I'll get into those details on my health later this week.

So I was sitting in bed last night thinking that my health has been all consuming. All fucking consuming! To the point that it has interfered with my life in it's entirely, from sending out bracelet orders to writing my blog.

I was thinking, that I'm not liking how this is feeling, not one bit. I'm not liking the fact that it feels like I have lost control over my freaking life. This feeling can lead to depression, so when I become this overwhelmed I have to step away from that one thing that is causing the most chaos. Right now, that thing is my health. In reality I can't really walk away from my health, but I can sit it at the bottom of that list floating through my head. Its like this, if you put that one thing at the bottom, then you can see the rest of your life. The other stuff moves up.

When I become this desperate, I get out of myself and start to tally up, the truth that is! In reality I haven't lost control, it just feels that way because Super Woman had to take a back seat! Yes, some bracelet orders were sent out far later than they should have been, but I did eventually get them all out last week. That was a major accomplishment for real, for real. Then my intern, Tiara and I organized my beads.

When I tell you I had beads from one end of my living room to the next, I am not lying. It took us a few days, but we managed to get it done just in time for the cleaning service to come and get my house clean. I've been so sick I haven't been able to clean and my BFF paid for a service to get my house together. Now, Sophie and I can sit in the living room and people watch from our big picture window and not be embarrassed to have the curtains all the way open. 

No, I haven't answered one e-mail. No, I haven't followed up on anything to do with BlogHer. Yes, there are some product reviews, all around good information and a few giveaways that are coming. I have at least three books that I have finished reading that needs to be reviewed, as well as some great new teas to tell you about.  

 No, I haven't finished my fall bracelet collection. Now that's the one that makes me real nervous. When people come to a store they want to see new product. That is a bottom line. No new product, no sales, no sales, well that cuts into Sophie's Dingo treats and my overall livelihood. BUT keeping perspective, all is not lost.  Today, I was able to get closer to the finish line and I'm about 80% done with the fall bracelets and I competed all the new bracelet orders and they are going out in the mail tomorrow. Finally, tonight, I am getting this blog completed that I started earlier. 

This is my list, the true tally. I had to go down the list to keep it all in perspective. The overachiever started to feel like she had failed at everything. That feeling of failure can paralyze you and truth be told, I don't need another thing to slow down my progress. Perspective is everything! 

I must also remind myself that I am sick. I know,  I know, I don't look sick to most people and for the most part, people typically see me on Social Media and "assume" I'm good. The fact is, Social Media is work for me. It's where I minster and educate so when you see me there I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing. Yep, I'm actually keeping it moving in spite of how I feel. In reality, I've only missed a few days from Social Media and that was when I came home from ER last week. I needed to wrap my head around the new health information that I was getting. That's one more thing I can put in my plus side, I've been keeping up with my Social Media.

Yep, perspective is always good!! Once I started to list in my head, what I had accomplished in the last two weeks, after BlogHer, I didn't feel so hopeless and overwhelmed.

I try to always measure my life based on the totality of my life. The fact of the matter , I do have AIDS. It does affect my life. It is one unpredictable illness that is for sure. It cannot  be denied and I promise you it will not be ignore. If you ignored AIDS, it will take your tail right out of here and I'm trying to live as long as I can. I mean, I still have that Herems Birkin Bag to get!

The bottom line is this. When we are faced with challenges we must measure our life with honestly. No matter how consuming one thing may be, you cannot allow it total control.

That serenity prayer is a powerful, on point prayer... It is a prayer that should give you the strength to keep perspective! With perspective, the monster is not as big and bad as it may seem. With perspective you create room to celebrate the goodness and the good things in your journey. With perspective you can tackle the chaos one issue and one step at a time. Perspective allows you to get from A to B while headed for C. Perspective is God's' wisdom to keep you on the journey one day at a time.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. 
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