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, March 10, 2015

Death Pussy!

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! I'm honored to have been asked to be an ambassador for this day with other incredible AIDS Activist by Women's Health. Since I don't have a speaking engagement today, I'll I'll be taking questions from 11:00-5:00 on both my Twitter and Instagram accounts. You know the rules, nothing is to personal. you can find me on both accounts @RaeLT the Hashtag for the day is #NWAGHAAD

Also, I thought that I would repost a blog that was reprinted in my book, The Politics of Respectability. There is still so much stigma attached to HIV and that must change. This blog post speaks to the core of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. But it also speaks to how we as women see ourselves. I believe when we love ourselves first, we live our best lives. Get Tested! Use Condoms but first talk to your partner before he touches one breast *wink* See ya on Social Media later today

Death Pussy!

Last year I wrote well over 200 blogs, but Death Pussy was one of my most read... I thought that I would share it just one more time. I hope for those who didn't get a chance to read it last year, this recap will be enlightening... For those who did read it,  you will either get a new aha moment or be reminded of the old one!

I've never had anyone call my vagina "death pussy," at least not to my face. But I have had someone call it "diseased pussy." I've even been called "that AIDS Bitch." Each time I wanted to be mad, but I couldn't. I had to stand like the strong black woman that I am and take that hit like a champ. The fact of the matter is that my vagina is infected with HIV and I do have AIDS. The fact is HIV has taken up camp right between my legs and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. But, I've learned over the years not to put a lot of energy into what I cannot change, and my HIV status is one of them.

But Sunday when I was reading the RLT Reads Book Club first book, What Look Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, I was stopped in my tracks. In one part, a young man refers to Ava, the HIV positive woman in the book, as "death pussy." I was so stuck that I had to put the book down and go bead to clear my head. I thought about it long and hard. I was really shaken. The very core of me was sadden by this description of a woman infected with HIV. I understood the writer's goal of showing the ugliness that people with HIV must face, but it ripped at the very core of me. And y'all know that I have very thick skin, but I was genuinely hurt. It was as if I had been transcended into that very scene in the book. I felt like that young punk was talking to me and every woman in the world with HIV. Suddenly, HIV became an incredibly heavy load, a burden to bear.

It made me wonder if that's what people thought about me. And honestly, more so, if men thought of my vagina in the very same way. It seemed to speak to the core of my self-worth. I started to wonder, had men reduced my self-worth right down to my vagina? Forget that I'm intelligent, smart, educated, articulate, compassionate, driven, cute as a button, and the list goes on and on. Has this been the problem with my dating life in recent years? Was I that much of a liability? Death is a heavy load to carry between your legs. But when I really reflected, what disturbed me the most was in that moment, I had bought into the madness also. Just by thinking such a thing, I had thrown all my self-worth out the window and reduced my value right down to my vagina?

But, that's the way of the world. Our self-worth has very much been connected to our vaginas for centuries, all around the world. A woman's worth has been placed between her legs by man since the beginning of time. Even with Eve, our punishment became the blood that flows each month from between our legs. And in ancient times, a woman had to be isolated during menstruation and then "purified" before entering back into society.

The value of our vaginas has risen and dropped like the stock market at the whim of men. STOP IT! Before I go any further, this is not about male bashing. Why does everything have to be about them? Why can't we women talk freely about us, and let it be about us? Why is the discussion about us, co-opted by them? Why can't our truths, where they intersect with men, be articulated without being perceived as criticism about them. And the fact that I'm even qualifying myself speaks to the very core of the problem.

Yes, our vaginas have been used like a commodity, with no value to us. It's only worth has been where it intersects with the agenda of men. Our vaginas have been mutilated so we can have no pleasure of our own. This horror has been even forced on baby girls, implanting a memory of pain and terror to our vaginas, making us hate it before we really know what it is.

They have been using our vagina's baby making machine to help drive a labor force to build this country. Slave owners made it clear, our vaginas belonged to them, for their pleasure and for their business.

In modern times, our vaginas have been used for human trafficking for the pleasure of men; enslaving our mind, body and spirit. Our vagina's have been raped, beaten, and used as a tool to advance political agendas.  Our virginity has been taken from us in a misguided belief that our untouched vaginas will cure them of their diseases.

Make no mistake, we have many subliminal messages drilling into us over and over again that the value of our vaginas are connected to something greater than who we are. Even what appears to be innocent advertising sends a message. Honestly, take a good long look at the Dolce and Gabbana ad, then take a good look at the picture of the soldiers and the woman. The similarities outweigh the differences.
So when I heard the term, "death pussy," I had a heavy heart. It forced me to sit down and take a long hard look at the history of women. But it also made me look at  my own history. What got me to this destination called HIV. But most important, why would I consider at any level, that such a term as "death pussy" would define me. Had I reduced my entire self-worth right down to my vagina? Was this leftover residue from my childhood, being violated by the men in my family who should have protected me? Being taught that any love that I get from a man may begin with popping popcorn and watching tv, but ends between my legs?

I had to gather myself. Remind myself that God created me in His image, all that I am, mind, body and spirit. I cannot let anyone determine the value of my vagina anymore. I made myself a cup of tea and became still in the moment. Instead of focusing on the darkness of my life, I shifted to the goodness of my life.

l had worked too hard and too long in therapy to be thrown right back into the self-loathing that got me there in the first place. I cannot believe the hype! I will not believe the hype! I am a wonderful Black Woman and any man would be lucky to have me. If a man can't see that I am living in my life, that there is nothing that says death about me, then he does not see my true value. And I believe that a man who does not see my value is not worthy of me. It's like putting pearls on swine, they have no place together. And I will never again give the best of me to have just a part of him.

But most important, how I see myself will dictate how I treat myself. This is not just about a man but about what I do with my life and how I live that life. Your self-worth must begin with you, about you, for the greater  you, to be used in the larger society. But you can never fulfill your purpose in life if you do not see yourself as God sees you and intended for you to be.

There is much truth to the Bible verse that says, "As a person thinkth so is he." But I submit, it's the easiest thing in the world to tell someone, "Change your mind and your ass will follow." The truth of the matter is that change takes time and work. You cannot will the darkness away, you've got to dig yourself to the light. And once you get there, you gotta constantly remind yourself that the light is where God intended for you to be.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Reflection: Let Go Of The Rice...

Have you ever had a stupid ass conversation in your head that led you to do something stupid that then lead you to justify your stupid shit? I know I have, a thousand times over. 

Like being mad at a man because of whatever it was that he did you didn't like or maybe what he didn't do that you thought he should have done. You play it over and over in your head and by the time you approach him, you have written a play with 3 Acts and before you know it's something you never intended for it to be and now you gotta hold your guns whereby creating more of a mess and still have to justify that shit.

 I've come to learn in my old age, that sometimes when people don't measure up to what we want at that very moment, it may not even be about us, but about them. Sometimes we need to get out of our head and just be still. Let it all play out in real time, not imagined time. The ego can do a job on you, for real, for real. 

Like, have you ever purchased something that you really didn't have the money to do but you justified why you should buy it? I know I have twenty thousand times over. 

You tell yourself, it's on sale or, it might not be here when my next paycheck comes around, or I need to look fabulous for that event. And let me add, the last of these might be the only truth, you do want to look fabulous for the event and the people there of, and none of it has to do with you. But your ego has convinced you that this outfit will make you the belle of the ball. And then at the end the ball, as you remove all the glam, you realize that the same people who liked you before the ball still do and those that didn't well, still don't. 

But now the damage has been done in the short time of what 2-3 hours because of what you thought would happen, but didn't. 

At the end of the day you see how insignificant your new outfit was in the scheme of things. But you allowed your ego to talk you into spending what you really didn't have to spend and now you're stretching your dollars just to get to your next paycheck. Which means you're stressed more than ever and now you talking about, "Lord when will things change for me?" But the real question is when will you change for yourself? 

When things get hard we give God credit for stuff that ain't got nothing to do with Him. Free-will is a monster of a beast to manage. I know in my own life, I've allowed others to abuse me and I've abused myself in so many different ways willing my free-will like at a roulette table, taking a chance with each spin. And with each defeat, I lost a part of myself that could never be regained. Sometimes you even spin the wheel and your life is changed forever. 

Have you ever been mad at someone for something that they did to you in real time? But then long after it's been said or done you are still holding on to the mad? And then the mad takes on a life of its on. Oprah said that once she was so mad at a person, for well over 10 years, and then she saw that person walking down Michigan Ave laughing and going on with her life, while Oprah was holding onto the mad. We allow our ego to hold us hostage for something that cannot be undone. All you can really do is move on because holding on will imprison your spirit. 

Our ego spends a lot of time convincing us of this and that in some narrow context that we make ourselves believe. When in real time ,we need to step back and watch the ego jump the hurdles in our head and after it has finished, say "oh ok" and keep it moving. You are not your ego and you don't have to do everything it suggest to you. But you do have to become centered so that you can operate in the best of you. 

You can't allow your ego on one end and your low self worth on the other, which is still ego in reality, run your life. You have got to be willing to walk away from some stuff and let that be ok. You don't like how a man treats you, then stop participating. There are so many men in this world  that you don't have to stay stuck with the one that does not value your worth. 

You don't like being broke every pay period, then stop spending what you don't have. Figure out a way to make what you have work. Look, in these recent years I've changed up my outfits over and over with just a new blouse, or shoes or handbag rather than a new suit, blouse, shoes and handbag.

You don't like the hold others actions have on you, let it go. I recently had some craziness with my biological family, meaning the white side of my family, who I don't have a relationship with. I'm not going into details here, I'm saving it for the memoir. I was so fucking hurt by there actions. But I had to decide, I could let them make me bitter or I can keep going. The first thing I thought to myself, "I've worked so fucking hard to get through this depression, I will not let them send me back." I said it everyday out loud for two weeks and I said it to my closet friends, so that they could give me positive support. Sometimes friends can help to keep you in the chaos just by the direction of the conversation.  To not have a set-back, I knew that I had move to closure. So I signed their fucking document and kept it moving. Then I thought about it, they have done absolutely nothing for me in 52 years, why would I expect something now? People are who they are and you better believe that shit or you will allow them to hurt you over and again.

Sometimes the victory is just letting go of people, places and things. I've learned in these last years with my financial struggle that I didn't need all the things that I thought I needed. Life has a way of making you take notice. After I had sold almost all my designer handbags and most of my St. John Knits, I learned that I still had enough to look great every single day. I always make it work. 

I heard a story about how they capture monkeys that gave me an 'aha moment'. They put rice into a trap and when the monkey smells the rice he reaches in and grabs the rice. The rice becomes the prison of his own making. But the monkey has a choice, he can let go of the rice and be free or hold on and be imprisoned. Over the years I've held onto a lot of people and things and they have been the prison of my own making. I stayed way too long in unhealthy relationships. I've bought more things that I ever should have and the biggest prison of all has been my family. I became an overachiever for my Mama who raised me, rather than myself. I thought that she would shower me with love as I excelled, but she never did, not even as she was dying. She died how she lived, most people do. 

All these prisons that I made for myself year after year. Allowing my ego to convince me that my thoughts were my reality, when in fact my reality was my right now. If a man treated me bad, it didn't matter how well I sucked his dick, once I was done, he was the man he was before I began. It didn't matter how many clothes I had from the best designers, those who would love me, would love me in Walmart clothes and most of all, dressing myself  up on the outside did not change what I was on the inside. That took work, of which no amount of money could buy. 

Only when I let go of the rice, did I start to live my best life. These day's I practice watching my ego jump hurdles in my head and then say, "Oh Ok"  Sometimes, I win and sometimes I lose, but the more I practice, the better the person I am. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Living With Intent...

We make a lot of decisions about our lives, from what to eat, to who we should have sex with. What I know for sure, is that every action has a reaction, some for the good and others for bad, some that are permanent and others that last for just a moment in time. Since I've been editing my memoir Unprotected,  I've had to give my life a lot of thought. The good, the bad and oh God even the ugly. The good we tend to celebrate but the ugly all I can say is thank God I'm not, "that girl" anymore. For sure looking back over my life has made me think about the rest of my life. 

For sure I never imagined to be at this place. An AIDS Activist, a minister, a blogger, a jewelry designer and at the end of the day, Alive. What kept me alive through all the chaos from childhood to AIDS was that I never gave up. I sent energy into the universe that said, I am more than what my Mama said I was. I am more than what people say about people with HIV. I'm even more than living with AIDS. And what I believe is the energy that you send out, is what you get back. Paulo Coelho writes in his book, The Alchemist, "When a person really desires something all the universe comprises to help that person realize his dream."

Sometimes we get where we are suppose to be because our intent is clear. I'm not talking about just professionally either, but also in our personal lives and even our inner most self. Like loving oneself and honoring who you are with the best that life has to offer and we never deter.

Honestly,  I was not "that girl." I had some valleys to dig through and even some mountains to climb. Life was stacked against me at birth. I was abused and I then self abused. How do you love yourself, when you are told that you are told that you are, "never going to be nothing." I had to learn to love myself, but first I had to learn what love is. 

And everything I did had an impact on my journey, every action gets a reaction.  But there was something inside of me fighting for a better me, a more loving me. I kept sending energy into the universe that I am better than this, I am not "that girl." I am more than what people say I am and I am more than what I'm capable of in my right now. I am more than how to live in this right now. I was always clear that God had a plan for my life and once I got through each messy mess, the compass pointed me in the right direction and I was on course yet again.

Staying on course even in the darkest times of my life was important to me. Even the most self-abused times of my life. I knew that God had a plan and I sought it out before I even learned to love myself. 

I believe with all my heart that our life purpose has many layers and there are many chapters. I thought that I only wanted a life in politics when I was nineteen. But after that first time I spoke at a high school about living with AIDS, I knew that this was what I was suppose to do right now. I took the first step toward that mission and the universe lined up on my behalf. Six months after I started actively speaking at high schools in Chicago, I met Susan Taylor and then came the cover of Essence Magazine and now it's been 21 years of doing this work.

But this is also true for my chapter in politics. After I organized seven bus loads of college students on my college campus to work on election day for  mayoral candidate Harold Washington, I knew that was what I was suppose to do. I took the first step and the universe lined up on my behalf. And two months later I was an intern at Operation PUSH and three months after that I was moving to Washington, D. C to be the Deputy National Youth Director for Rev. Jesse Jackson's 84 presidential campaign. I found myself traveling across the country organizing students to vote. The universe paved the way for the path I was suppose to take. My life in politics was for twelve wonderful years and many historical political campaigns under my belt. 

And now as I age with HIV, I've started to think about what's next. My doctor said that I probably won't live as long as a person without HIV or someone who hasn't had all the health related issues around HIV/AIDS that I have had, but she sees me here for a while. As speaking engagements are drying up more and more for me and the world want younger activist to keep HIV a sexy topic over and above experience, I know for sure that Its time to write the next chapter of my life.

 I'll always work around HIV/AIDS and I'll always speak, but what I'm no longer going to do is sit here and cry about the lack of speaking engagements and how freaking broke I am when God has gifted me with so many talents. I don't  willow in misery, I'm not "that girl." Never was and never will be. I believe that academia is my next chapter. I mean, I got all this education for a reason. I've started putting energy out into the universe and as it lines up for my good I'll do the work to help it along. I believe like Oprah, that we must live with intent. You can't say you want to go to school and you never complete an application. You can't get a man who will appreciate the best of you when you are dating men that only brings out the worst in you. #Imjustsayin

I know that my memoir is the very last of what I must do in this chapter. It's time to tell the whole story of how I ended in this place and how I made the best out of a fucked up life. It's the Amen to my first two chapters of life as I transition to what's next. 

 I will end his blog how I began, what I know for sure is that every action has a reaction. And everything you do matters. What kind of energy are you sending into the universe? Are you really living with intent; From who you have sex with, to what you eat, to loving yourself, to living your purpose not just talking about it. 

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