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

Monday, August 4, 2014

Drowning Part Two! Tackling Depression Head On!

Drowning Part One!
Nausea and exhaustion merged and sleep took over. I woke the next morning in my hotel room curled up in the middle of the bed hugging the pillow. Something had come over me last night and it had been cathartic. I knew I needed to do better. "Sophie is not coming back," I told myself. "The good thing is the joy she brought you for eight years," I mumbled.  I remind myself of this daily. I remember when Oprah lost one of her white Labs, Gracie after one year. She watched her die from swallowing a small toy. I had just gotten Sophie and could not  even image the pain she felt. I shuddered to think about it. I had Sophie for eight wonderful years.

As I made my morning tea I started to remember that Sophie had come to BlogHer last year with me. She was the bell of the lobby at the Sheraton Hotel and the official greeter at the MultiCulti party. I reflected on how happy she was going from arm to arm that night. I like the fact that BlogHer is dog friendly and Sophie fit right in! She was definitely Ms. Personality.

When I arrived back to Chicago I knew changes of some sort had to be made, but the moment I put my key in that door and there was no Sophie barking like crazy, dread swap over me. The worst part of being on earth without her is walking into silence each time I come home and waking in the morning without her being by my side. Adjusting to this this new life is hard, very hard. I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to be at a better place.

My grief is real and so is my depression. I feel them in the debt of my Soul, yet there is a  part of me that is fighting, that wants to fight. I want to find a balance. I don't intend to avoid the grief but at the same time, I don't want the grief to control me. I didn't like how I felt in that hotel room in San Jose. I never want to be that self absorbed/consumed by one thing. I never want any one thing to have all of me. It's bad enough that HIV/AIDS has dictated a good portion of my life for most of my life. I want to control what I can. 

I understand that my depression is what the experts called "situational depression," which typically occurs after some sort of trauma and or traumatic changes  in your life. In my case, the sudden lost of Sophie. I'm having difficulties adjusting to the changes brought on by Sophie's passing and I just fucking miss her.

Situational depression is different for everyone as is major depression. For me, there hasn't been a day that has gone by that my heart hasn't ached for my baby girl. I've cried at least 32 of the 35 days she's been gone. 

Sleep is a far away thing that I believe will come back to me one day, but right now I haven't slept through the night if I slept at all. It takes everything and I mean EVERYTHING I got to do anything other than read and knit. And of course, I've been eating my way to hell and back.

It's been a week since BlogHer and that night in my hotel room  I consumed Reese's Peanut Butter cookies and S'mores with bacon on top. I'm proud to say that I have made some changes. No, I'm not better, I just made some changes for the better. I live in the real world and I know that it is not going to get better over night, but I have at least stopped myself from total destruction. This is my plan!!

1) Working Out! Exercise is important for me. Not only does it make me feel better overall, it actually increases endorphins. The experts say that 1 hour of exercise will work as well as anti-depressants for mild depression. Speaking of anti-depressants, the week Sophie passed I started Trazodone because it has a sleep add. I stopped last week because I don't like being groggy in the morning and still sleep deprived because sometimes  the medication helps and other times it does not. 

 BTW I got 3 days of Crossfit in last week. That's a start! If I don't make it to the gym, I make it up with the amount of walking I do. For example, I often walk home from therapy,which is about 3 miles. Or I try to take a walk on the lakefront.

2) Eating! I'm an emotional eater for sure and I have grain 10 pounds since Sophie passed.  My goal is to eat as clean as possible, which is where I was before my life changed. 

For me eating cleans means that I'm following either the Paleo Diet or Low-Fodmap diet set by my Gastroenterologist, usually, I'm somewhere in between.  Following these diets are important because they help my Irritable Bowl Syndrome. Since my eating has been whack, my body has been out of whack. I've become constipated again. This is not good!! I have no desire to be back on laxatives again. Remember the fiasco? The benefit of eating clean is weight control.

3) Not Setting Myself up for Failure! Because I'm such an emotional eater, what I bring into my house is important. On top of that, life is to short to deprive myself of sugar. *shrugs* I like dessert after a meal, always have, always will. To be sure, I don't want to over indulge. I make sure that I have fruit in the house at all times. I also buy popcorn in small bags like Skinny Pop or Trader Joe's Lite Kettle Corn.

I get cookies that go far in portion size verses calories.  For example, Trader Joe's Ginger Snaps, are 130 calories  for 6 cookies. By the time I reach the fifth cookie that impulse to eat has passed and the damage is minimum. BTW, they have them in tons of different flavors. Now, with those big ass cookies I was eating in San Jose, I had to be taking in close to 500-800 calories a cookie.

4) Therapy! I missed a lot of my therapy appointments prior to Sophie passing because of my health. Remember I was at home shut down on IV medication, then the liposuction procedure? Then our July routine was thrown off by scheduling for both me and my therapist.  I'm back at it, no missed appointments. This is an important part of my life. Therapy is a neutral place to process my pain without any judgments or expectations. It always leads me to a good place.

5) Be Kind to Myself! If I don't follow through on any of the above. I forgive myself at night and wake to a new day with fresh possibilities.

6) I'm getting another dog! I know that I cannot replace Sophie, nor would I ever try. In fact, all of my dogs have had there own personality and brought something different and wonderful to my life. But I've learned something new about myself in the last 35 days since Sophie's death. I need whatever it is a dog brings to my life and whatever it is that I bring to theirs. This is the first time in 21 years that I've been without a poodle and I'm not going to deprive myself because I cannot have Sophie. Stay Tuned!

Coping with lost of any sort is hard. Each of us must figure out the best path that will lead to the best outcomes. The darkness will pass if we don't fight against the darkness, like going against the gain. The darkness will pass if you don't plant yourself in the darkness, holding onto it for the life of you. It will pass, for nothing stays the same. Remember, no experience is ever wasted, not even moments of  darkness. As for me, I'm sure when the light starts to trickle through the darkness, I will look back and say, Aha, I see what was learned in these moments of darkness.

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