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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Depression, God and Staying Alive...

I've thought about suicide everyday since Robin Williams took his own life. The pain he must have felt at that moment must have been all consuming. I've been battling depression in the worst kind of way. I'm not sure how I got here but after Sophie passed I seemed to have gone over the edge. I talk about my grief and the onset of my depression in Drowning I and II. I saw myself slipping more and more into this darkness and tried to pull my way out with a plan that just went straight to hell in a hand basket one minute at a time. 

After Robin Williams death my mind started racing and I started to panic. I even asked my therapist about suicide and she said that most people don't give a lot of thought to it before they take their life. It's an impulsive act. The person becomes all consumed at the moment in time and it seems the only way out. In truth it scared me. Right now my life seems to be on some kind of autopilot run by someone other than me. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to do any of the things that I set out to do. It's like this, I say I'm going to go one way and I actually go another. Shit, most days I don't go at all, I just am. 

I came to the conclusion that I'm tired.... I'm tired of thinking.... I'm tired of taking medication... I'm tired of trying to make life happen... I'm tired of being this super famous black woman with AIDS... I'm tired of doing it on my own.. I'm tired of trying to save those that I'm suppose to be saving...  I'm tired of trying to make life work... I'm  FUCKING tired of AIDS... I'm tired of deciding if I should buy groceries or pay my cell phone bill with the little money I do manage to get. I'm tired, tired, tired. I'm even tired of being tired, so I just am.

Most days I don't have the energy to wash my tail. No joke, I can go 2-3 days without bathing. I say to myself, "Rae you stink" but most days I feel like I have a ball and chain around my neck and making it to the shower requires too much of me. So I do nothing. I marvel at the few times I've recently had commitments that were unavoidable and I was forced to make myself look like a woman with the world at my feet. When it's all said and done, I come home and with the stroke of a cloth I wipe the facade off my face, inch by inch by inch, and then I just am.

Some days I make it to the kitchen to cook at least the meat but cannot muster up the energy to make a vegetable. It's easier to eat cookies for breakfast and cheetoes for lunch. It requires only that I open the bag. Eating chocolate is even easier than washing fruit. I can't remember to take my medication and that's with my alarm set. I hit the button and I know what I'm suppose to do but doing it requires something of me. Quite frankly I'm tired of expectations, even those that will save my life.

I have never felt this level of hopelessness ever in my life. Even when mama was beating the living shit out of me I knew that she would eventually stop and I could go back to being a "normal" little girl just like my friends. Even when I was raped at 17 coming home from church, I knew deep down that when he finished his "business" he would roll off my body like water and I could go home and wash him out of my spirit. Even when my T-Cell count was 8 and I was on my third bout of PCP  (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) I had faith that God still had a plan. In all of my life there was faith in what I could not see. 

Right now, I'm even tired of faith. I'm tired of hoping and praying for better tomorrows in my right now pain. I want God to intervene in my right now, but right now he seems to be silent and His silence has exhausted me. I'm tired.... 

Be clear though, based on my history with God and my deep understanding of how God operates, I know that God has a plan for the rest of my life. Frankly, it is only that knowing of God that keeps me alive when I'm tired of living. I'm a tad curious on how this thing will play itself out. I'm probably just plain nosey, but for sure, curiosity and hope are two very different things 

Yet at the same time, any hope in God's plan for my tomorrow are overshadowed by my desolate right now. It feels like God has taken a freaking vacation on my life and just maybe some of my depression is connected to my faith; And honestly, church folk don't help God out one bit. The fact that I haven't been to church since the first day of Lent and the only thing any member of my church can tell you about me is what they read on Facebook is just... I'll leave that one alone for now.  I'm unpacking all of this in therapy. 

For sure, I understand that all consuming feeling and it has exhausted me into a place of just being.  Maybe the thing that helps to keep me alive besides my curiosity with God plan for my life, is that I'm just to tired to do anything other than just be. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Sacred Journey: A Wonderful Story of Caregiving

I attended a screening of the documentary A Sacred Journey  sponsored by Clorox CareConcepts. It was a heart wrenching and heart filled story of one film maker, Ernesto Quintero brother's journey with ALS and his families role as caregivers.

This was perfect timing in the back drop of the recent ice bucket challenge among celebrities to support ALS. For me I was able to learn more about this devastating disease, but equally important is the conversation about caregiving.  After the screening there was a very thoughtful and honest dialogue about caregiving with a panel of experts, including the film director Ernesto.

The documentary begins when Ernesto's brother  Juan is diagnosed with ALS.  This film touched the very core of me. It is one man's courage to fight against the odds. The film highlighted Juan's desire to give something back to the community.  He decided that he wanted to leave a legacy by painting a mural for his former elementary school. Juan rallied his close knit family and they all rose to the occasion to make his dream come true.

I was overwhelmed by this story of courage and perseverance. As ALS ravaged his body, Juan held onto his spirit. It made me think about my own 31 year journey of living with HIV and AIDS for 22. Right now, I'm at a junction in my life where I'm incredibility tired. Tired of medications, tried of sickness, tired of trying to make it happen, just simply tired. 

This documentary helped me to put things into perspective.  ALS is an horrible degenerative  disease. As I watched the documentary I  could do nothing but think, at least I can walk and use my limbs. Now be clear, I never compare illnesses because I believe each persons journey should stand on its on merit. Pain is pain and should never be measured. What one person can withstand, my devastate another and vice-versa. But this film made me at least acknowledge that even living with AIDS, I am blessed on so many levels.

I was struck by the strong family support and solidarity surrounding Juan. The father knocked me off my feet when he said, "God is the doctor of all doctors." This is one strong family in the face of one tough illness.

The family have risen to the occasion of caring for Juan. Caregiving is not easy. I remember those days when I took care of my mother during her battle with cancer of the mouth. It was a long 2 1/2 years. The commuting her back and fourth to the hospital for chemotherapy. The midnight calls and runs to the hospital. Even preparing her to come home from the hospital was not easy. Just trying to decide how I should clean her apartment and what to use that was safe for the both of us took work.

This documentary definitely stuck a cord.  I know first hard that there are very little resources for caregiving. I was impressed with this family as they provide around the clock care for Juan.

I was also impressed with Clorox's innovative project Care Concepts When Care Comes Homes. Clorox has created a full line of cleaning and personal products for caregivers.  As a person living with a chronic illness, these products will be helpful for me and truly, any basic personal care needs for a family.

The most impressive part is that Clorox took this concept a step beyond making products. When Care Comes Home is an important on-line resource guide for caregivers.  There is a caregivers guide from day to day caregiving with steps along the way. It is especially refreshing to see the partnership with the council of experts on the various topics of caregiving.

There are 66 millions Caregivers in the United States and very little conversation. Caregiving and Caregivers are important but yet forgotten. I think Clorox's When Care Comes Home is a great project. Parenting with Ernesto to create dialogue around caregiving is wonderful.  Overall it was a great evening combining the arts and healthcare eduction. Oh yeah and lots of popcorn.

There will be two more screening of this documentary with a panel discussion that will also include Ernesto. One in Los Angeles on Oct 1, at the CineFamily Silent Theater where Juan and his family lives and another on November 13, 2014 in Washington, D. C. at the West End Cinema.  You should consider attending.

Of course, the evening was not complete until Ernesto did the ice bucket challenge for his brother Juan.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ferguson in Photos....

 Olson Images
The images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri are nothing short of AMAZING. Yet there have been clear violations of the First Amendment with arrest of journalist. The ACLU have filed a law suit on behalf of journalist  and freedom of the press. Some of the most incredible photos have come from photo journalist Scott Olson of Gettys Images. I would not be surprised if he won a Pulitzer Prize for his images. Scott was also arrested last week.
Scott Olson Being Arrested

Two of Olson's photos appear on the cover of national magazines this week Time and Bloomberg Businessweek. For those of us on Twitter we have seen this protest through photos, not just those taken by the media but also those taken by citizens with their telephones. Times have really changed. If you are not on Twitter  all you have to relay on to capture this movement are news outlets. I thought that I would share some of these amazing photos with you. ( I give photo credit to those I know for sure)

Scott Olson Image
They also marched in the day...
This man stayed on the picket line.

These men were stopping looters /Olson Image

She was passing out water and snacks to the protesters

Jack the co-owner of Twitter Jack passes out Roses

The Roses Caught On!
Owners of the Barbeque Joint came back before the week was up.
Trying to get tear gas out of her eyes...
The Nation arrived to protest at night and to help keep peace

Rev. Jesse Jackson 
And then they marched....
Michael Brown Lying in the Streets.
Praying for Chief Johnson who was given the duty of Ferguson Security. 
Black Love on the Front Line... Joe Raedle/Getty Image

The New Black Panther Party worked the streets at night helping to control looting and violence

St. Louis Councilman Antonio French has been there from day one!
Monks Came From Tibet
Chief Johnson
Olson Image

This was called an Amazing moment between Chief Johnson and a Protester.

Roses down the street Mike Brown was killed

Other Ferguson Post:
Michael Brown and The Politics of Respectability
The Case of Mike Brown

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Michael Brown and The Politics of Respectability #Ferguson

If we are honest, many African- Americans waited with baited breath hoping that Mike Brown was not killed while committing a crime. For many of us it's our worst nightmare. That is, giving white America the fuel to say that our senseless death is justified. The Politics of Respectability has long been an issue for Black America. We have had to prove over and again that we are American too, in so many ways and so many times, that calling the role would be endless.

There has also been a duality in regards to the issues of respectability in the black community. While respectability has been used against us, it has also been one of the things we have believed would make America accept us. At the end of slavery, we sat out to prove that we could be American by how we dressed, our education, how hard we worked, how we worshipped and especially through moral dignity, i. e. what came out of our mouths, fowl language was frowned upon, as was drinking. Many of the Black baptist women were strong supporters of the prohibitionist movement.

By the late 1800's, uplift of the black community through morality was deeply rooted within the black community. I highlight this in my book The Politics of Respectability.  Respectability influenced our daily living and how we did politics. All of our organizations that were formed during this period were rooted in respectability and many of those social/service organizations remain today.

Yet by 1896 equality in American was dealt a harsh blow with the Supreme Court  ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that declared separate but equal legal. That ruling would last until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Plessy sent a strong message that black people in American had no rights that a white person had to respect. Even the dissent in Plessy first argued that Black people were unequal humanly to whites, but that we should be given rights because the disenfranchisement of one group of people, even humanly unequal people, can create a slippery slope for the disenfranchisement of other segments of society.

We have seen this fundamental belief of human inequality play its self out in the legal system and in the media over and again through the ream of  respectability. Respectability has been the litmus test rather then justice for blacks in American over and again. There is an assumption that he must be flawed in someway and that is what caused his death rather than injustice.

Most recently, we can look to the Trayvon Martin's case.  The underlined assessment of White America was that he must have been a criminal or going to engage in criminal activity because he was wearing a hoodie! George Zimmerman's argument was that Trayvon, "looked suspicious" because of how he was dressed. A child on his way home from a grocery store carrying juice and a bag of candy was killed because of how he was dressed and his murderer acquitted because reasonable doubt was given based on the character of that child.

Time and time again we have watched the criminalization of  the victim at the hands of the actual criminal, the legal system and the media. In the case of Michael Brown after a week of silence from the Ferguson police we were told that minutes before his death, that Michael had been involved in a "stronghold robbery." Mind you, this was a press conference to release the name of the police officer that killed Michael, but instead became an assassination on his character.  Blindsided, many in Black America retreated. How do you argue for this child in the face of his behavior became one school of thought. I believe that this is  driving the  lack of voice among celebrities and public figures around this case.  The video released was embarrassing, but within an hour Black Twitter had taken up Michael's defense. Murder is murder. No matter how you spin it, Michael was unarmed and shot multiple times. Ferguson residence increased their in protest and have stayed in the streets.

Tweets came hard and heavy dissecting Chief James Thompson statement.  By the afternoon the police chief held another press conference and admitted that police officer Darren Wilson  did not know that Michael was involved in any crime when he stopped him.  The robbery had nothing to do with the incident, Michael was stopped simply because he was jay walking.

The Department of Justice asked the Ferguson police department not to release the tape because it was inflammatory and would create more tension in Ferguson, which it did. Attorney Crump, the attorney for the Brown family didn't know that the tape existed and Chief Ron Johnson of the State Trooper, who was brought in to handle security after the first night of riots said he had no idea that Brown was involved in a crime prior to his death. The Ferguson police had never mentioned that fact to one of their team members. He also condemned the release of the tape.

Later that day, the police chief was cornered by Don Lemon from CNN and said that he released the information about the robbery because it was requested in the freedom of information act from the press. Chief Thompson seems to be standing on shaky ground. At the end of the day,  how can the media request something they never knew happened? Even the owner of the store admitted to CNN  that they never filed a police report, never even called 911. 

We saw media outlets run with the story like a pack of wild dogs. Even after the chief's second press conference clarifying that Michael was NOT a suspect when he was stopped, the media  still continued to call Michael a robbery suspect. Why is it that African-Americans always have to prove that we deserve justice in the face of injustice? Many in Black America believe without a doubt if Michael Brown had been a white child the media's angle would have been different from day one. There is a twitter campaign called #iftheygunnedmedown which suggest unfairness in the media with black victims. With a display of side by side pictures of a person being a "good citizen" and the other "joking around and being mischievous" the question is, if they gunned me down what picture would the media use? The media should be embarrassed that a segment of society have no faith in being portrayed in any sort of positive light, or with fairness. There have been mass protest at CNN headquarters in Atlanta on the Ferguson coverage. 

We are now faced with a eye witness testimony that says they witnessed Michael Brown in some sort of scuffle with the police officer. Also the coroner's office leaked that Michael had marijuana in his system, but still have yet to produce an autopsy. Just two more things that murky the water in the face of justice. The assassination of Michael's character is in full force and Darren Wilson is on paid leave hiding. As they head to the Grand Jury we have media outlets like the New York Times pointing out that there are different eyewitness accounts but nothing about the police chief changing his story.  Yet witness Dorian Johnson has never changed his story and all the witness agree that Darren Wilson shot unarmed Michael Brown down in the middle of the street. 

As we try to make sense of the autopsy, ballistics  and eyewitness accounts, I challenge Black America to stand on the moral ground that this unarmed young man was murdered and not wavier in the face of respectability. I challenge White America to see black people as human deserving protection under the law without some type of litmus test of our moral fiber.

I would rather stand on the moral ground of what's right any day over and above denying justice in the face of wrong because a person doesn't live by your standards. 

Protest at CNN of Ferguson Coverage
I believe we can help set the tone on this issue of respectability, by not making this  case an issue about mortality,, but about justice. There are no perfect people but there is a standard of justice. We must demand justice for Michael Brown. No matter how you spin it, this young man had no gun or any form of weapon. He was shot at least 6 times and laid in his own blood for four hours in the middle of the street.  The police are given a duty to protect it's citizens. Darren Wilson not only fell to protect Michael Brown, he violated his Civil Rights.

Injustice in a Civil Society should be the litmus test by which we stand not respectability. If respectability was the standard, every American would have fallen short at least once in their life-time. 

FootnoteThe term Politics of Respectability was first coin by Evelyn Higginbotham a scholar at Harvard who researched Black Baptists Women's and their engagement in  politics during the late 1800's. She coin this term in  her book "Righteous Discontent" The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880--1920. 

Also see Plessy v. Ferguson, A Brief History with Documents ed. Brook Thomas

Other Ferguson Post!
 The Case of Mike Brown
Ferguson in Photo's

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