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, February 12, 2014

Valentine Series: The Dilemma of Dating Postive!

It occurred to me that sometimes I make dating with HIV look easy, but it's not by any stretch of the imagination. I started thinking about this after I received an email last night from a woman with herpes who is afraid to date.

When I was first diagnosed with herpes, I was afraid. I remember trying to get an ex-boyfriend to have sex with me and he flat out turned me down. That was a blow.

Months later, I slowly started to venture out and found that while it was some hard shit disclosing, men actually respected me even more. I lucked up and met a guy that I dated for over a year. But low and behold he had herpes too.

After that relationship was over, disclosing became easier, mainly because I rarely had an herpes outbreak. For a long time I would only have an outbreak once every three years or so. Then came HIV, then came AIDS, then came fame and they were all game changers.

HIV positive people have the fear of rejection but also the burden of the disease.  When I first learned my status I was scared beyond belief. "Who the hell was gonna want me," was all I could think about. I was young, pretty and upwardly mobile - all the things that would make me perfect in the eyes of a man, so I thought, but then came HIV.

I remember right after I was diagnosed with HIV,  I was a hot freaking mess. A guy that I use to talk to moved to Washington where I was staying at the same month. I avoided him like the plague. Then I gave in and had dinner with him one night. I write about this in my memoir, the guilt that swarmed over me having sex with him, and not disclosing my HIV status. But it was so new for me and I was so afraid. The good thing, he was always a condom guy, so I didn't have to convince him to use them, but the guilt I felt was insurmountable, even with "safe sex." After that night I totally shut down and stayed clear of men and dating. 

Then I met this guy that I really liked. I put on my big girl panties and told. Now, how do you tell a person that you have an STD? For sure at the kitchen table with your clothes on. Sexing and disclosing at the same time is dangerous.

Disclosing your status,  there is always the fear of rejection and judgment, "what will he think of me?" But I couldn't see myself making a judgement for another person's body. While I could have rationalized that I'm keeping him "safe" by using condoms, as the saying goes, "shit happens" what if ? ... and I never wanted that burden, so I always disclose.

I fundamentally think that you take away a persons choice when you don't disclose and you have no right to make that decision for another person's body. It just might mean that causal sex gets thrown out the window. Simply because no one really wants to disclose to someone that they are not planning to be serious with, but the fact remains serious or not, that person is baring some risk each time they lay down with you. No one has the right to decide for another person's body. So, hell or high water, I disclose.

And sexing without disclosure in these times that can be dangerous. Remember the young lady Cicely that I blogged about, who was murdered after she disclosed her HIV status but after she had sex with a guy? Read HERE! I don't know what he was thinking when she disclosed, but she for sure took away his choice. He was not infected, but just the thought that you put me at risk without my permission is a hard one to stomach. So now she is dead and he is in jail.

For sure, over time dating with HIV became easier, but disclosing was never easy. Even today, while most men that approach me know that I have HIV, I still have to disclose the herpes. For a long time, I didn't talk about herpes publicly, unless in a gig if someone asked if I ever had another STD. I think I didn't talk about it because I was not affected by it up until 7 years ago when out of nowhere I developed this drug resistant herpes. I'm not gonna to rehash my herpes drama you can read HERE.

Now take the guy I'm talking to now, Mr. Handsome, when he approached me he knew that I had HIV, but I remember about a week in I said to him, "I need to let you know that I have herpes" when I tell you the 5 seconds it took for him to return a response I felt like I was going to suffocate. His response, "I know, I read it in one of your blogs," and he didn't miss a beat, "that's what condoms are for," and we went on to the next topic.

In the twenty-nine years that I have known my HIV status disclosing has never gotten easy. You always think, "What will he think of me. Will he still want me?"

This is what I found. A relationship was easier while I was living in secret with my status. Since my divorce fifteen years ago, dating the public me has been difficult. I have had some relationships but they have been far and few. The fact is, I've had more sex than relationships.

While men still want to have sex with me, my hardest hurdle is the fact that I'm such a public person. Who wants to date a woman when everyone knows she has HIV and herpes.

Just recently one of my mentee's told me that she was talking to a guy and things were going great until some of his boys met and recognized her. They said, "Man you know she use to date, Tom and she gave him HIV and he's dead now."  I'm going to deal with this kind of branding in another blog for sure, but the fact is, the guy backed all the way up once it was clear that others speculated that she was infected.

Not only do I have the burden of being this public person, I blog about my freaking life. So any man that dates me, run the risk that I will blog about where our lives intersect. For sure Mr. Handsome recognizes my gift and supports my work, but the relationship is very young, so there's a part of me that wants to keep him shielded from raw public scrutiny until we get pass this "super new stage". He told me case in point, "I don't give a fuck what a person thinks about me being with you", now that's a man, who is his own man.

For sure dating with a sexually transmitted disease is hard. I don't want you to think I'm bushing over that fact. But honestly up front is always your best bet. Since I've started blogging about my herpes, I've had some people to reach out and say that they are starting to be more comfortable in their skin since I've been blogging about my own herpes drama. I'm glad that my transparency is helping others.

 The bottom line, you will never know if a person is willing to be with you unless you make the attempt. This is what I want you to get, the rejection isn't of you, it's of the disease; the fear of the disease, the lack of education and understanding of the disease but mostly the stigma of the disease.

Now I blogged about dating sites for positive people with STD a while back. I signed up but nothing came of it. In like 2 weeks I had over 500 views of my profile but no conversations that lasted beyond a wink. Then it hit me, I said in my profile that, "I'm a very public person with my status and people will know that you are dating a women with AIDS" DEAD! LOL!

I just went ahead and deleted my profile and honestly, I was already talking to Mr. Handsome and good lawd, he had all of my attention. I don't double dip even in early stages. I want to give him all of my attention so we can bond without other barriers.

But one of my avid readers who is HIV positive reached out to me about Positive Singles for my private opinion.  I told her that she had nothing to lose. The most recent report is that she is actually talking to someone she met on Positive Singles and they were planning to meet soon. So dating sites are an easy place to meet someone positive. At least formalities are out of the way. You both come to he table on equal footing and thats a good thing. Remember, meeting a person does not always mean that you are compatible. You can checkout my blog post on dating positive HERE Part One! Part Two HERE!

As we are all thinking about Valentines Day and the possibility of being alone. I want to encourage all my positive readers: Don't give up on yourself! You deserve the best! The fact is, God woke you up this morning and that means there is still an earthly plan for your life. I believe that there is someone for everyone. Continue to live in your truths and your worth.

Don't let people horde space that don't deserve your worth. There is no need to sacrifice yourself respect for companionship. There is no need to let stigma keep you in a faux of fear. Be clear, your worth is not rooted in your status, but rather in that fact that you were created in God's image, wonderfully made.

I know, I know,  you're  saying,  it's easy for me to say, when I will be spending Valentine's Day with a wonderful man who respects me and likes the fuck out of me. I understand your fear and loneliness.  It's been at least 3 years since I've been on a date and 4 1/2 years since I've had sex. I'm a living witness that if you continue to be your best you, you create a positive energy that will come back to you. Don't give up on yourself because God as not given up on you.

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