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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tell Me No!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When Women Don't Listen to Men...

The problem with women is we don't listen to what men tell us even when we hear them. Our inability to listen then turns into heartache. Let me break it down. Now hearing is a physiological act whereas, listening is a psychological act.

You see, listening is the interpretive action taken to help understand the sound waves. Well, this should be the case, however, it can be clouded by his actions on the one hand, and our desires on the other. Both of these things interfere with our ability to interpret what we hear.

It's like this, when a man tells you up front that he does not want a relationship, it should be cut and dry. BUT the problem is, his actions and our desires. Let's take his actions, he calls you everyday and text you throughout the day. Those things are typically interpreted as getting to know each other better, right, righttttt. The question then is, why do we need to get to know each other better if we aren't headed for something?

Here lies the problem, the texting and calling leads to bonding and so we women, me included, don't really listen when he tells you over and over that he does not want a relationship. It's like we internalize his actions rather than what he has said.

Based on his actions we think, "Damn, we are really connecting. He must really like me." It's like this, we think the him liking us, will change his mind. I mean why would a man who has connected in a  wonderful way with you, not want more with you?

Then some of us women say, "I know if I lay that, sugar thang on him, he will surely want more," but we fail to realize that good sex ain't even close to love. A man can fuck your brains out and not love you, or like you, for that matter. These are the problems that occur when we hear and don't listen.

Then the hurt happens because we heard him but did not listen. I've been there more times than I would like to admit. I remember after my divorce well over 15 years ago I started "talking" to this fine chocolate brotha who was 8 years younger than me. We had some great chemistry between the sheets. Now the entire time I was seeing him, he made it clear that he wanted children and he saw HIV as a risk he was not prepared to take with a child. Risk for mother to child transmission was greater than it is today.

But I was laying that good stuff on him, so somewhere I was hoping to turn him around. He was incredibility successful for his age and I thought that we would make a great couple. But I just wasn't listening. I heard him loud and clear, but I didn't listen. We kept doing that thang and he kept right on looking for a wife.

Now I'm going to be honest right here, I continued to see him, because honestly, I was lonely and something was better than nothing, at least that's how I use to think.

This was also that era where I made myself believe that I must be all that if a man couldn't stay out of my bed and between my infected legs. I had my self-worth twisted all between my legs.

About two years into that thing, I started working on my demons in therapy. I knew that I wanted to live whole and healthy both emotionally and physically.  I started putting in the time, deconstructing my madness, so that I could reconstruct wholeness.

The whole time that I was working on me I was still laying it on brotha man and yep he was still looking for a wife.  I'm not sure when I came to that place of wholeness deep within, but I remember the day I acted on it like it was yesterday.

I was at the gym working out, and brotha man's "girlfriend," the woman he had finally chosen to be his wife, came in as I was finishing up. We spoke.  She started working out and I went to the locker room. It's a small world sometimes.

I showered and made a b-line to brotha man's apartment while she was still working out. Of course he asked did I see her there. *SMDH* at what women think they know about their man.

When I tell you the lovin was some kind of good, good lawd I mean it. When the sex was over I went to the bathroom to wash my body and her bra and other clothes were scattered around. When I tell you I felt a certain kind of way, I mean that shit. I will never forget the ugly I felt at that moment.  Washing my ass in that bathroom looking at her undergarments made me feel cheap. I dressed in silence. When we were on the elevator he sense that something was wrong.  He grabbed my hand and asked,
"Are you ok?'
 "No,"" I responded.
"Is there anything I can do," he inquired.
"No, but there is something that I can do."

I walked off that elevator and out of his life. He kept right on calling, even after he asked her to marry him and even after he married her.

But I was on a journey to wholeness by then and for sure there is no penis worth my spirit or my self worth. It was also at this time that I made a promise to myself. If you can't walk with me in the day light, you can't have no choochie in the dark and I have not broken that promise to myself.

But even today, years later as hard as I try my best to live whole, I still know how hard it is to really listen to what a man is telling you. It's hard because no one wants to be alone. It's been extra hard for me lately because I am lonely. I've mostly met two kinds of men in the recent years, men who want to fuck me, but don't want anyone to know they are fucking me, or men who like the image of dating me but are a dime late and a dollar short turning it into something meaningful. Sometimes I get a tad confused, but not for long. I will take loneliness any day over my self worth. I like me and I like what I have become. I fought hard for Rae and I just can't sacrifice her.

So how do you reconcile what you hear with a person's actions? People say that action speaks louder than words, but that's not always true. Sometimes action is more emotionally favorable, than words and cloud the truth that lays within the words.

There is a thin line between hearing and listening. Reconciling it can be hard, but at the end of the day, what should guide you, is how you feel. Noooo, not how you feel when you are between the sheets or how you feel when you are actually talking or texting, but rather how you feel in your quite space.  You see in that quite space is when God speaks to us. How you feel in that space, should guide your action outside of that space.

At the end of the day, you can't make someone love you or want you or want more with you. No matter how much you bond. No matter how good the chemistry is in bed or out of bed for that matter. No matter how much you like him.

Whatever barriers a person has that prevents them from taking a risk with you, you should not alter your worth.  Each person has to make the best decision for themselves and we should respect their choice. Remember that your worth is not altered by their choice. What does altered your worth however, is when we hear and don't listen and act not out of the truth of his words but the contradiction of his actions.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Reflection: When God Shows Up!

A woman came up to me after the MLK Prayer breakfast in Atlanta and said, "You know, Rev. Lewis-Thornton, by making yourself so vulnerable, you attract people who feel they can be vulnerable with you."

I know this to be true. My transparency either makes people love me or hate me. I remember after one blog post, were I admitted to dating a married man, a woman unfollowed me on Twitter because, as she put it, "I can't believe that you would admit to such a thing." I told her, "Don't make me lie or hide from my truths because you don't want to face yours head on." I speak truth to empower and be a tool for healing.

Outside of my review of products, which are not often, my blog posts are what God has laid in my spirit, typically rooted out of my journey from past to present. I'm just crazy enough to be obedient. Obviously, I'm so past the shame of it all. My life is a lesson learned for me, and for you and so I'm transparent, no matter what people think of me.

My transparency also makes people latch on to me. Over the years I've been a magnet for people who need something from me. I remember a friend that I met the month that I was on the cover of Essence magazine. She tracked me down and I opened my heart and ears to her story. She was a young doctor who had just finished her residency, was ready to practice medicine, had a six figure job offer and instead of making the welcome reception she was  rushed into the hospital, diagnosed thereafter with AIDS. Her world was shattered. She had given up hope, she told me, "She didn't want to live." Her husband, who was not infected, came home one day and put Essence Magazine on the table.

Then came me. After months of sowing into her she slowly started to tackle the world. Eventually, she took her medical boards and went looking for a job. I remember us having a conversation about her other friends and how they kept asking questions about how she actually knew me.  You have to remember this was at the height of my popularity. Over time, she became better and better ... and the better she became, the more she withdrew, until calls just stopped.

I have so many of these situations that I could write a book on the topic. I have helped people get to a better place and to get stronger, from  HIV/AIDS to issues of childhood sexual abuse. I remember one day a woman just sent me a direct message on Twitter and explained that she was at her desk crying. She started to explain that she was an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She told me her story in countless messages because you know Twitter only allows you 140 characters. When she had told me her story, her last message said,  "You don't have to answer me back I just knew that you were a safe place to tell my story."

Whew! There are more and more of these stories from e-mails, Twitter and Facebook to side conversations after I get through speaking.

For sure I believe my transparency has shaped my ministry, which has shaped my life over these years. And while I'm humbled that God has gifted me and I use this gift tirelessly and unselfishly, it sometimes leaves me empty.

I remember a few years back a suitor asked, "Rae you take of everybody, who takes care of you?" My answer was 'me and God'. I give unconditionally because I don't know any other way to be.

Over the weekend I had some stuff occur  that made me come  to understand more and more ... and left me with very opposing emotions. On the one hand,  I had an overwhelming sadness, one rooted in aloneness but then on the other hand,  an overwhelming peace. A peace that say's that this is your life girly, the one that God has designed just for you out of your painful journey ... and while it has been painful, it has been blessed.

How awesome is that, but then just because you know that God is doing an awesome thing does not always elevate the low points in your life, especially the aloneness I sometimes feel. Then I received this wonderful message from Rachel who frequents my blog. It was as if God was speaking to my low point right at that moment.

 I continue to tell people, all you have to do is what God has called you to do, then God will show up in the least likely way and give you peace above all understanding. So whatever I was feeling about my pouring out, was chilled by this wonderful message sent by Rachel.

I got it, God will never forsake me, no matter what human form comes or goes. No matter what goes my way or not. Just keep doing what God has called you to do and continue to be the person that you are gifted to be.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Remarks at 2014 Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast in Atlanta!

I was honored to be asked to deliver the prayer for the homeless and people living with HIV/AIDS for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast in Atlanta. I have never worked with my dear friend Keith Jennings  and was honored that he asked me to participate.

There were approximately 350 persons in attendance primary from the labor movement. There were a combination of labor leaders, workers and  minsters. The first comments was of my remembering the March in Forsyth County that was organized by the late Hosa Williams to challenge racism in that small Georgia County. It was great bringing together all of my worlds, political, HIV/AIDS Activism and my role as a minister.

Here are my remarks and my prayer at the MLK Prayer Breakfast.

FYI: RLT Collection is having a 12 hour sale 20% off entire purchase: coupon code MLK2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meeting The True Southern Belle- Phaedra Parks!

Sometimes when you walk through the door you find out that there's so much more inside than you could have ever imagined. That's what happened on my most recent trip to Atlanta. My dear friend Keith asked if I would come and deliver both context and the prayer for HIV/AIDS and the homeless at the Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast sponsored, by the African-American Human Rights Foundation.

This was not a paid gig, I was simply coming to lend my support to a friend. I was hesitant to stay two nights because I never want to leave my doggie Sophie for too long. But I did because Keith has been one of my most loyal and closest  friends from my political days. My other BFF Luke met me there and it was a two day world wind.

Let me tell you, sometimes you have to be willing to take a chance. If I tried I wouldn't have been able to plan such an exciting and productive trip. Let me say right off the bat, meeting and spending time with Phaedra Parks from The Real Housewives of Atlanta was AMAZING! Many of you know that my BFF Luke worked on the current season of RHOA as an associate producer.

He asked me to send Phaedra some bracelets  from RLT Collection, and she loved them! After that, Phadera expressed that she was impressed with my work around HIV/AIDS and looked forward to meeting me one day.

While in Atlanta, Luke reached out to her and while she and I were both on tight schedules we made it happen.

I sat in her fabulously decorated waiting area when Phaedra waltzed into her office with all the charm and grace of a true Southern Belle and looking fabulous. I wanted to steal that fur vest she was wearing and you know her black studded handbag was to die for. LOL.

"Finally we meet!" she exclaimed as we embraced! We settled in her private office and I felt like I had known Phaedra for years. In her stylish office that has a classic feel with a modern edge, we talked eye lashes, mink coats and the hard work that we both put into our projects. It felt good to be told that my work is important by such an accomplished woman. It's a wonderful thing when women life each other up. Luke sat beaming because he said he knew from the get go that Phaedra and I would hit it off.

 I really respect Phaedra Parks. She is educated, smart, fabulous and driven. Many women would have stopped after a law degree and a law practice. Not to mention the fame that comes from Real Housewives of Atlanta, but nooooo Phaedra has kept right on going and growing. She just completed her studies in Mortuary Science  and is currently preparing for her boards so she can practice as a mortician.

Wait!! She's preparing for her exams and on a tour for her new book Secrets of the Southern Belle and don't forget that she has a young child and a new baby. Now if that's not driven I don't know what is.

Watching reality TV we tend to get caught up in the drama and miss the person. Honestly, this is the first season that I have actually watched RHOA and I watched mainly because of Luke. I have gained an appreciation for the show as I watch this season. I see these women as hard working with real life ups and downs. A part of me thinks how brave are they to let people into their lives weekly. I know what its like to give people a glimpse of your life, I do it every day through blogging, speaking and Social Media, but to give millions a glimpse  you have to have some major balls. Especially in this era of bullying that I see in Social Media.

Well, Phadera and I had a blast bonding and I look forward to getting to know her even better in the future. Her next Chicago visit we are planning to spend more time bonding, talking, shopping and painting the town Diva.

I have already started reading her book Secrets of the Southern Belle and that review will be coming as soon as I'm finished. And you know, seeing her fabulous style up close I have already come up with some fab bracelet designs for her, well at least in my head and I can't wait to get to my bead board and hash out my ideas for some exclusive bracelets for this true Southern Belle.

I will have to tell you about the rest of my trip  to Atlanta on Monday because I'm dead tried, in bed resting and reading. Of course I'm reading  Secrets of the Southern Belle and counting down to Real Housewives tonight. Hope you all are tuning in with me! If you have never watched the Real Housewives of Atlanta tune into Bravo an hour early so you can play catch up!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Being Deliberate in 2014!

Yesterday, as I was making lunch, I started to think about living verses being alive. I've got to admit, some days in my past, I was just alive and not really living. That tends to happen when I get sick, like when I'm having a round of IV medication, I stop functioning at full pace - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Then, when I get better physically, I have a hard time bouncing back emotionally and mentally because I had shut them down. It's almost like having to have physical therapy on my mind and spirit after each bout of illness.

Now these last few weeks I've been struggling physically and I had given myself over to the physical, and honestly, after the doctor dug that swab in my raw vulva on Wednesday, I was at a low place. Then something happened between Wednesday night and Thursday morning ... low and behold, I found myself at the gym Thursday morning - sore vagina and all ... Then again on Friday ... and again on Monday!  Still sore vagina and all.

As I settled back home from the gym on yesterday, it hit me right in the middle of cutting up fruit - while I am grateful to be alive, I said to myself, "Girl what you are doing at this moment is being deliberate, you are, living! Then it hit me, I like how this feels!

Yes, I was being deliberate about being deliberate. I could have stayed on the sofa, and I could have just as easily had potato chips rather than fruit. Then I was thinking that one deliberate thing creates a path to another deliberate thing.

See it's like this: CrossFit made me want to eat better. Like why would I have such a great workout then turn around and X factor it out? One good thing lead to another good thing. And while I'm still healing, those two good things - CrossFit and eating healthy - have added to my feeling better more each day and added to my productivity.

Yesterday I actually completed eight bracelet designs in the new 20 Collection, for RLT Collection commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Essence cover story.

I woke up this morning happy! Happy to be alive and happy in my skin! So it's official as I go into 2014, I am being deliberate about being deliberate about my life. I'm putting action to my life in all areas of my life to be my best me for me. 2014 makes 31 years that I have lived with HIV, 28 years that I have known my status and 22 years that I have had AIDS. I have no idea how much longer I will live, but I really want to live my best life for the rest of my life. Being deliberate is putting your best foot forward...

When you are deliberate you see progress no matter what areas of your life, whether it is working out, eating healthy, taking your medication, using a condom to keep yourself safe, studying hard in school, working on projects, pursing your dreams and putting action behind your goals. BTW, a goal without action is futile. Yep, I'm being deliberate about being deliberate!

Will you join me in 2014?
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