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, April 30, 2014

Tea With Rae: All Love For Oprah Chai Tea!!

Yesterday Oprah and Teavana launched a new tea; Oprah Chai! I love tea, Teavana and Oprah and I think they are a match made in heaven.

I wasn't feeling well but I couldn't allow AIDS to interfere with sampling this tea on the day that it was launched;  By 3:30 I put my big girl panties on and headed to Teavana. 

I figured the walk to Teavana and the sip of this new tea would make it all better. Well, it didn't change my current health situation, LOL, but it did put a smile on my face.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this new Chai Tea collaboration between Oprah and Teavana. I have to be honest, Chai tea has not on my list of top favorite teas, well it is now.

Howard Schultz CEO Starbucks and Oprah
At Teavana I went straight to the sample. I stood their half in the door and put it straight to the test. One swag and I lit up like a light bulb. It was a winner!

When the sales person opened the tin, the rich flavors hit my nose like a whirlwind. If you have never experience the Teavana smell test you have no idea what you are missing.

After I smelled a few other teas, with my goodies in tote I came home to see if the  Oprah Chai would render me the same result at home that it had in the store. I added a few drops of the rock  sugar, I also pick up at Teavana. Within an hour I had drank two cups.

Ok, lets talk specifics. Chai tea is Oprah's favorite. So it stood to reason that she choose Chai in this partnership. She  worked with the chemist over at Teavana to render a prefect Chai tea that she could share her name.

  Oprah Chia Tea is a perfect blend of cinnamon, ginger carob pieces, black pepper, chicory root, cloves, cardamom black tea and roobis tea. The rolled peppercorn gives it the perfect bite, the carob adds a chocolate flavor  but I think its the blend of black and roobis tea that makes the big difference. It's the perfect balance between that traditional spicy chai black tea taste and  a smooth sweetness.

Rooibos tea comes for the Red Bush in South African and it is known for it's natural sweetness. Black tea adds a rich malty flavor that helps to balance the sweetness of the Rooibos.

 Did I say it was a perfect blend? Oh I did, LOL. Honestly I'm not a chemist, but what I can say for sure, is that this Chai Tea is a winner and one of the best Chai teas that I have ever tasted.

I even had Oprah Chai this morning and found it to be a great alternative to my staple, English Breakfast. It gives me that  traditional black tea I must have in the morning but the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and peppercorn speaks loud and clear, "Its a new day!"

You can purchase the loose tea both at Teavana and at Starbucks. Also at Starbucks you can have an Oprah Chai Latte. The tea purest that I am, I'm not big on latte's so I passed, but for those who are latte drinkers why not give it a try? You can also order the loose leaf at Teavana online.

Soon to come, you will be able to purchase more of the Teavana tea selections as a beverage at Starbucks. Now that's a tea lover's dream. For those who don't know, Starbucks owns Teavana.

Even better is tea with a purpose. A portion of all Chai Tea sales go to Oprah's Leadership Academy Foundation. This is the breakdown: For every beverage purchased either at Starbucks or Teavana, the donation is .25; For every 2 oz's, of tea sold and every Oprah Chai Tin $100, and yes you have to buy the tin. Storing your loose leaf tea for freshness is important. Lastly, for every gift set sold  Teavana donates $4.00.

My bottom line, the Oprah/Teavana Chai Tea Collaboration is a winner!!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Living in My Right Now: A LIfe Update!

Speaking at FAMU
Where the heck have I been? I'm glad you asked! I've been using all of my energy to take care of me. Self-care should always be at the top of one's list. Between these menopause issues, hot flashes, sleep deprivation and now HIV Neuropathy and adjusting to medication it's taken all of my energy.

I haven't been blogging but I've done some work. I  spoke at FAMU two weeks ago. I love those student leaders. They always find a way to keep HIV/AIDS in front of their classmates. It was a great program and great dialogue. Yet traveling under these health conditions always add extra stress and require more time to bounce back. I came home and shut it down for a few days. Then last week I spoke at a south suburban high school in Chicago, TF North and keynoted the Upward Bound Leadership Conference at Chicago State University.

Human AIDS Ribbon /TFNorth
Mostly, I've been dealing with me. You know this menopause stuff seems to have no end. I have had 3 different dose adjustments of the Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Then  I started having nerve pain in my face, hands and feet. So what does that feel like? I'm glad you asked, at one end of the spectrum a burning sensation and at the other end, like someone is sticking pins in my feet, hands and face all the time.  I haven't had Neuropathy this bad in a few years.

I always had Neuropathy, but over the years the intensity of the pain became mild and I learned to manage. I told a student once in a speaking engagement that their is never a time when I don't feel something in my feet, whether its the numbness, burning or tingling, but three weeks ago the pain became obtrusive and I found myself saying, "I'm hurting" which is rare for me to complain about pain.

I typically take my pain in stride. However, I knew this time that I needed to get back on medication to get some control.  All the medications to treat Neuropathy are very difficult to take. They are mostly anticonvulsants medications and first generation antidepressants, which have some mean side effects. One just feels lifeless, that the best explanation I can come up with. 

After spending last Wednesday in bed basically I decided that I was over it. I think  that I would prefer to hurt then to be non-functional. Luke said to me, "I'm sorry that you have to choose. "But I felt like I had to. My tolerance for pain is high but not being able to function because of mediation is worst. In the couple of weeks that I was on the medication, there was some improvement, but shoot I had gotten to a place where I couldn't get out of bed because of the side effects.  I'm going to see my doctor this week to see if we can fine some place in between.

I am seriously thinking about alternative non traditional neuropathy avenues that I can take to get some of this health stuff under control. The thing about me is that I never give up or in to the madness.

What I no longer do,  is try to keep up to meet people's approval. If I can't get it done, or do something then I accept it and more on.

 I'm devoting my energy to self-care and that's my bottom line. For sure, at soon to be 52 years of age, I want to live my best life and be my best me so that I can be my best for Gods earthly plan for my life.  
 I've been trying to maintain the self-care component in my life like working out: Doctors orders! Then on last Monday I started Yoga! I love, love love love it. Not only does it work on your core but it's a calming centering excise that takes you away from the madness of the day.

I've been making some major changes in my life. Well, Mr. Handsome decided that he didn't want to work toward a relationship. He actually like being single and didn't want to put in the work and on that note, I heard him loud and clear. I have no desire to be with a man and be half in/half out; those days are long gone!!
Yep, some major changes. I resigned from the leadership positions at my church. I was not capable at this junction to meet the expectations and I'm grown enough to be able to walk away from what's not working in my life. I'm also coming to terms that my ministry, call and gifts are public. And while organized religion has a place in my life, it is not my call.

As I was facing this dilemma I pulled out my old application for seminary to revisit my understanding of ministry as I saw it for me. It reminded me that I was always clear that my ministry was one of public. But once I was ordained, I lost my path trying to meet people's expectation of an ordained minister.

I'm feeling really proud of my own growth. The fact that I was able to walk away without thinking about the judgements of what people think I should be doing as a minister was major for me. As long as God and  I know what I'm suppose to be doing, I'm straight.

Honestly, while I've had to work through organize religion and it's role in my life. I have also been on this Spiritual journey. I've been reading these recommend books by Oprah on spiritually and personal growth. I will admit, a person has to be ready to receive these concepts. I think these books are powerful, but if you are not ready, you will miss the lessons that lays within.
Also new for me, I've been mediating with Oprah and Deepak. I know shut up! But for sure it has  keep me centered and grounded in ways I had no idea. 

If you are not content with where you are in life, then do something about it. If you want to grow, then do something about it. If you want to be your best you, then do it.

It's been an amazing journey for me, meditating, yoga but most importantly, becoming still. I'm always so busy and my mind is always on over load. I'm learning to tune out the noise in my head, the noise of others and of what you think is in other peoples head. Don't you know, we can have an entire conversation in our head based of assumptions.

It's been amazing in these last two months as I've watched the conversations in my head and not participated. I just simply let them pass through me and keep it all flowing. I'm leaning that from some of these Spiritual books I'm reading. I haven't mastered this passing through, but I'm working on it for sure. Half of life's drama stem from the conversations in our head.  We have convinced ourselves of some shit and then we act on it. I know this has been true for me.

My journey with HIV/AIDS has been a world wind to say the least. Shoot my life has been a world wind. The gratitude in my heart for the life that God has blessed me with is beyond measure: The growth that I have experience; The demons that I have buried; Learning to forgive and then forgiving, others and myself; The learning to like me, then love me and then act on that love has all been life changing.

Even with all the health challenges I'm currently facing, I'm learning to live in my right now and make the best decisions to be my best me.

At the end of the day, God has granted me the gift  of life, I want to live at my full potential. Don't you? Well then, Let's Go! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nevis: A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth!!

Last night I attended a reception with Deputy Premier the Hon Mark Brantley from Nevis, West Indies. I was impressed with him and what he had to say about his Island. He has charisma to the tenth power!  Check him out on Facebook Here!

An Oxford University trained attorney, he is the Minster of Tourism and the Minster of Health. He had me hooked the moment he walked into the reception all dapper and wearing Prada glasses no less. You know I love a well dressed man. LOL Most importantly, he was charismatic, warm, approachable, funny, and had lots to say.  He had our full attention the moment he stepped up to the podium.

When I was invited to this reception last week, I will admit that I had only heard about Nevis in passing. I took to the internet and of course the first thing I wanted to know was what this country is doing about HIV/AIDS. I was impressed.

Not only does it's leadership understand that HIV/AIDS is a health crisis that must be addressed, with all the right elements, testing, early treatment and prevention, they have also worked toward eliminating stigma around this disease. We all know that stigma is the barrier to early diagnoses, treatment and care. When a country decides that it will make every effort to create an environment where people can live whole and healthy with HIV they have won me over.

This was an event courting bloggers and the media to help them spread the word on this wonderful vacation destination. This is what I learned in a nut shell, Nevis is divine!! The pictures that I have seen makes me think that it's a little bit of heaven on earth.

Nevis is a destination get away for the person that wants to kick back, relax and rejuvenate. 

They have one flag ship hotel, the Four Seasons. I guess if you only have one hotel, it might as well be the best. Many of the plantations in Nevis have been turned into smaller hotels with fine dinning. Most of the plantations are in the mountains but there is one on the waterfront. Now that sounds extra divine for a person who appreciates history. 

This is not the place for power shopping top designer names but for all things art. As an art collector I wanted to jump for joy when Deputy Premier Brantley explained that Nevis is home to many famous artist. I imagined myself bringing an extra suitcase just for art, that's exactly what I did when I visited Cape Town, South Africa a few years ago.

Nor is it the place for "typical" tourism. Nevis is a beautiful laid back Island where a person can come relax and enjoy the beauty. Now don't get me wrong, there is something to do other than lay on the beach and water sports. They also have beautiful mountains where you can take a hike through wonderland. Here's a list of 101 things to do in Nevis HERE!

I had a lot of conversation with Greg Phillips who is the Chief Executive Officer for the Nevis Tourism Authority. The history lover that I am had to ask about colonization.

Nevis was colonized  by Great Britain and is highly influence by British culture. It is the birth place of  Alexander Hamilton one of our founding fathers. I was intrigued by the slave history of Nevis.

 In 1824, James Cottle a sugar cane plantation owner built the first church for slaves to worship where he worshiped along side his slaves. This Anglican church was never consecrated because it was against the law for slaves to worship. However, James Cottle has been credited as being a big influence on the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire.  In 1834 slavery was abolished in the British empire and the over 8,000 slaves, working mostly small sugar cane plantations were freed. Wouldn't it be great to tour some of this wonderful history?

For sure Nevis is a beautiful place with a rich history. If you are planning a vacation check them out!  Aren't you tired of the same old Island trips?  Nevis also seems like a wonderful place to have a designation weeding, it's certainly beautiful. I really want to go! 

You all know that I've been on a tight budget these last few years with this freaking bad economy, but for sure I'm going to work toward a planned trip to Nevis for myself.  

With this non-stop life, 15  pills a day, blogging, tweeting, speaking, designing bracelets and building my brand, Nevis sounds like the place for me to go and replenish. They can count me in! Now I just have to count up my dollars.

Greg Philip and Hon Mark Brantley

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

POW!! Named 10 Social HealthMakers on HIV and AIDS!!

 I woke up to the most amazing announcement. I'm so honored to have been named one of the top 10 Social HealthMakers on HIV and AIDS by Sharecare, the online health and wellness engagement platform created by Dr. Mehmet Oz and WebMDfounder Jeff Arnold. Read More HERE.

This prestigious recognition will go right along-side my other two blogging Awards; CBS Most Valuable Blogger in Health and Wellness and WeBlog Award in Health and Wellness.

When I started blogging I didn't know where this would lead or if I was doing the right thing. Speaking engagements had dried up with the economy and I knew that I had still had something to say. Most importantly, I knew that God still had work for me to do. There were many critics, from I can't believe that you would want to do such a thing as blog, you are way to transparent.

Now, 4 years and one month later, 3 awards, over a million views and two syndications, I know that this is the path I was suppose to take. Blogging is where I give voice to the voiceless living with HIV and AIDS. Blogging is where I help people live whole and healthy. Blogging is where I help people find their worth. Blogging is my gift from God to you. Thank you for keep coming back.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Journey Toward Discipline: Crossfit Girl!!

Counting today I will be 52 years old in 52 days. For sure I'm already celebrating in my heart and spirit. God has brought me a very long way and I stop and take notice every single day. While taking notice of the miracles of your life is important, it is also important to be your best you and to live your best life.

I know that working on oneself is hard. It requires, work! Yesterday I blogged about people taking the easiest path in many areas of their life for so many different reasons, from fear, nostalgist, comfort zone and the list goes on and on. 

I speak out of my own experience. Lord knows I have so many demons that were created from my crazy childhood, but somewhere along this journey I got tired of doing the same thing over and again and getting the same results. 

I went on a serious and painful journey in therapy to understand my crazy way of life and once I understood the root of the madness, I knew that I needed to make changes. 

It has been hard, I had to deconstruct everything that I knew about my life that was mad, angry and ugly, in order to reconstruct something whole and healthy. The Bible says, that you cannot put old wine in new bottles. I had to be willing to shed the old for the new.

In the last months I've been working on me in different areas. I'm ready to go to the next level in this journey as a way to be my best me, so that my best me can help others in their journey to be their best. I'm doing a lot of reading, all things spiritual. My life coaching business  is waiting on me and this time next year I want my own development to be ready to help others to grow.

Change is hard I've told you all that over and again. While I've worked through the main demons their are some other areas that  I struggle and lack discipline. For sure discipline is a transferable skill. If I can take 15 pills a day, their are other area of my life I can apply this same discipline. 

In my life coaching business I take clients who have issues in many different walks of life. But at the end of the day,  how can someone take me serious and yet I'm bitching about the same stuff in my own life? How can I help someone when I have lacked the discipline to help myself?

I'm working on my body image as a major issue for me to tackle. So many people with HIV suffer from HIV lipodystrophy. I got a phone call just last week from a medical provider asking me what I was doing about my body fat redistribution because they had a client that was having some real emotional issues around their own lipodystrophy. Back Ground of my HIV Lipodystrophy HERE.

It's no secret that I had liposuction under my chin. I was used as a case study to show other medical dermatologist that treat HIV infected people that they can provide this service for their patients.  Read Here

It should not just be reserved for expensive plastic surgeons. It was so successful that he has scheduled others at the clinic. He's also going back under my chin in about 6 weeks to remove some more fat and then adding some more college injections in my cheeks.

Now taking the fat out of my chin was one thing, but they are not even trying to tackle all this body fat. That is left up to me. For many of you who follow me on Social Media you know that I started CrossFit back in October. 

I lost 17 pounds and over all inches in a matter of 7 weeks. I went from almost a size 14 at the top part of my body to a size 10. I also changed my diet to Paleo, basically, meat vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. I fell off the wagon on both of these somewhere around the Holiday and have been struggling to get back up. 

Today, I'm recommitting myself !! I'm challenging myself to workout 26 of the 30 days in the month of April. My goal is to wear a size 8 comfortably by my birthday May 22. 

Mr. Handsome has told me over and over again that consistency is key and I know that to be true. Those first 7 weeks I was all in. Lately, I've just had a hard time making it happen. I am examining those barriers on a much deeper level, so I can conquer them.

 I will admit, on the days that I'm not feeling well it's a lot easier giving myself over to how I'm feeling, rather than staying committed to being my best me. The fact is, when I push myself I'm actually able to come home and have a productive work day. Exercise gives me the boost that I need to jump start my day.

I'm on a mission to show other people living with HIV Lipodystrophy that their body shape can change with a change of diet and a commitment to exercise. My HIV doctor had been telling me for years to work out and she's elated right now. She said to me in my last visit,  "I continue to tell my other patients all they need to do is workout and all they do is just continue to bitch about the fat redistribution. I'm glad you are showing that it can be done."

CrossFit for sure has changed my life. I'm doing things that I never thought that I could do. Jumping on boxes is some dope shit. Every time I land, I say to myself, girl that's  you on top of this box. I love my CrossFit box, River North CrossFit. Everyone is rooting for everyone! The coaches are wonderful  and hard and I hate and love them all at the same time. 

For sure CrossFit has made me stronger and expanded my capacity. When I started I couldn't  squat to the ground, now my challenge is to squat to the ground with a weight baring bar. Every time I do a thing that I couldn't do the last time I feel accomplished. 

CrossFit is about capacity. The more you do it the better you will get and the harder it will get and the better you will get. It's a workout that mandates growth. For sure it's not for the faint at heart. 

My bottom line as I approach 52 is this, I'm  working on me to be my best me so that I can help others to be their best.

 I have lived with HIV for 31 years and AIDS for 22,  My life and purpose is the gift God has given to me.  I understand that my life and the growth therein helps others to grow, have faith and work on being their best.

CrossFit truly challenges me to be my best me. For sure I have become a Crossfit Girl. I just don't see myself going back to a traditional gym.  This time next year I will have made a major dent in all that body fat! This is my journey toward discipline watch me transform. *flips hair*

Post Script: BTW, I weighed in yesterday and I'm 140.5 pounds but the owner of River North CrossFit  Katie, said to me one day, it's about how you feel about yourself and how your cloths fit. When I reach my goal,  I will certainly weight more simply because muscle weights more than fat and btw muscle burns fat and fat burns nothing but your self esteem!!

You can follow my progress on Instagram hash tag #rltgetfit @Raelt

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