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, March 30, 2016

Here's to Doctor's Keeping the Care in Health Care!

Today on National Doctor's Day and I started thinking about my own doctors. Honestly, in those early days of HIV I didn't even tell a doctor. When I finally told my gynecologist at the HMO in the middle of the exam, he said to me, as he was looking up my vagina, "You are to pretty and to smart to end up with HIV. What did you do?" I felt so small in that moment, and that caused me to shield my HIV status for another year. Then I only told my internist at the same HMO because the doctor who was in charge of the HIV study that I was in at the National Institute of Health wanted me to take AZT. It was a big mess and I was just praying to stay alive.

The doctor patient relationship is so very important.  Having had doctors on both end of the spectrum, I know this to be true. After my first year with Dr. Cohen, I realized that all doctors were not equal and most importantly, you have to advocate for  yourself.  When a doctor does not feel right, then find someone who does. 

Years ago when I had just starting to speak a woman told me that her daughter had just been diagnosed with HIV and the doctor told her she only had two years to live. This mother wanted to know what advice I had for she and her daughter. My response was matter of fact, "Get a new doctor." When your doctor only sees your illness and not the person with the illness the relationship is already at a disadvantage. 

I fundamentally believe the relationship that you have with your doctor can either add value to you're healing or add to your demise. At the top of the list for me is mutual respect. If your doctor does not respect you, they cannot hear you and if they cannot hear you then that cannot truly heal you. Shit, if you don't hear me, then you are not treating me. #Fact!

I remember a girl told me that her sister who was HIV positive kept complaining about low abdominal pain. After the usual "female" round of test the doctor dismissed the problem. Over and over she kept complaining and over and over the doctor kept dismissing her eventually suggesting that she was exaggerating. The woman finally found a new doctor who heard her loud and clear. When it was all said and done she had CMV of the uterus and death followed. They missed this diagnosis because CMV an AIDS related infection typically occurs in the eyes with people living with AIDS.

Stereotypes and or the doctors opinion of the patient is important in the treatment of the patient. Human should be any doctors starting point, not who they are or what they do for a living. I have a friend, a doctor who landed in the prestigious hospital where she practices. She was near death and it took three days for a doctor, in fact an intern to say, "Maybe what we are looking at is HIV/AIDS." They all looked at him like he was crazy, certainly not one of their doctors would have HIV. As the story was told to me he said, "Well did anyone test her?" Her t-cell count was 6. 

Feeling empowered around your health care choices allows you to take ownership of your well being. If your doctor takes that away from you, then you will always struggle to stay on top of the game.

No for me,  I didn't really start getting quality care until I transitioned to AIDS. I landed at County Hospital with no health insurance with Dr. Mardge Cohen the founder of the Women and Children HIV Clinic. I've talked about her on my blog before. Even when my t-cell count was 8, I was a size 0 and HIV medication was mediocre she never told me that I was dying. I've said often that she fought for me when I couldn't fight for myself. When she retired I was lost, but only in my mind LOL because she made sure that I landed with a doctor who's values and knowledge was equal to hers. Dr. Audrey French has fought for me just as hard as Dr. Cohen in these last 9 years.

In the 24 years since I've transitioned to AIDS I've had doctors who care and practice medicine because they care and that has made the difference in my life. They have fought for me and it's made me want to fight for me.

 In October I had the pleasure and honor to be with Dr. Cohen as she was awarded the Humanism Award in medicine from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for her work in HIV. Not only was she the founder of the Women's and Children Clinic at Stroger Hospital (Cook County) she has an HIV/AIDS clinic in Rwanda.

Since retirement from county, she continues to run the Rwanda Clinic and practices a couple of days a week at the Boston Health Care For the Homeless.

She and Dr. French are also the lead investigators in the Women's Interagency HIV Study, the largest and longest running study looking at Women with HIV. Most of our understanding on Women and HIV has come from the WIHS study and I'm proud of both of them and proud to be a part of their legacy.

At the end of the day, your health depends on not only a good doctor but one who sees the human first and the illness follows. One who hears you and works on your behalf. This is your body and you have a right to have a voice. Any doctor that makes you feel less then, well I say they don't deserve to treat you. And don't tell me that it's easy for me to say being famous with HIV. I go to the Core Center in Chicago, which is where most people in the area are treated for HIV with no health insurance. In fact you couldn't get me to leave, well unless Dr. French retries then I'm lost again. So find you a doctor that is willing to be your partner in the treatment of your illness, whether it's HIV or a stomach ace.

Thank you to all the doctors who work to keep care in healthcare. And a special thanks to my doctors, Dr. Mardge Cohen and Dr. Audrey French who have been my primary care doctors.  I must not forget my  gynecologist who specializes in women with HIV, Dr. Helen Cejtin. She is also one of the investigator in the WIHS study. By the way, when my lower abdominal pain continued, she continued to search for the answer until she found it. For sure,  I was blessed at the right time in my HIV infection with the best doctors and this has made the difference between life and death...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tap Into Your Own Power!

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and my message is unwavering. We have to tap into our own power. We have to make the decision to put ourselves first, love ourselves first and absolutely love ourselves more than wanting and needing a man in our life.  

Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with dating and love and all that good stuff. There's even nothing wrong with sex. Studies show that people who have sex are happier beings. 

It's just, the decision that you make about your life and body should be rooted in self-love, not the love or desire for love that you have or want from another. If I've learn one thing from other women in the twenty-two years that I've been educating about HIV/AIDS, it's this, the only person that will keep you safe in the end is you.  If I had a dollar for all the stories women have told me about what they thought about their relationship that was not true, I could get me a cute designer bag. 

We make decisions everyday about our lives, based on what someone has told us that we believe, what we assumed and even what we hope for our future. When we should be making decisions on what we know to be true, for sure. We plan our future down to the last "T" but when it comes to dating and love we sometimes get so caught up, that we start making decisions that leave us vulnerable. 

Let me use this example, if your employer told you that your job was going to end. They don't know the date, but for sure, it was not going to last.  You would start looking for another job in spite of the fact that you continue to go to work  everyday. You wouldn't keep hoping that the job wasn't going to end, you would prepare yourself. In fact, even if six months had passed the stress along of waiting for the ball to drop would make you get the hell out of that place.

But if a man tells you that he does not want a relationship, yet he keeps calling, texting, soaking up your space and diving into your goodness, you would rationalize that he eventually will come around. "He must like me," you say to yourself, "but maybe he's afraid of commitment." His behavior makes you  think that one day he's going to say, "I want you as my woman for real" *blank stare* But the man done told you that he does not want a relationship and he meant that shit. That's why he has never introduced you as his women, in spite of how he treats you in private . You keep holding on waiting and wanting and losing a part of yourself with each passing day. Ladies, I'm a witness that the idea of a healthy relationship does not make it true. Just like when the boss say that they are closing the doors, coming to work everyday does not change that fact.

I keep asking why we make these decisions for ourselves that our unhealthy in search of what we think will make us whole. When in fact the only thing that will make us whole is living from our soul.  We live from our soul when we make decisions that lift us up in every single way, mind, body and spirit. Oprah says all the time, that we are responsible for ourselves and that is a truth I will bank on. Yet we surrender ourselves in the name of love.  It really is up to us to take control over our lives and our bodies. Our body belongs to us, our life is our own and some of us treat our designer handbag better than we treat ourselves. 

My suggestions to take control over your life and body.

1) Insist on Condom Use. Every time you have sex without a condom you put your life against that sexual experience and for sure there is no sex worth your life. I promise, if you tell him, no condom no sex  and mean it, he will adjust. If he doesn't want to adjust, you have to not only ask yourself but also give an honest answer, is sex without a condom a risk I'm willing to take? Am I prepared for the consequences of what I don't know?

The reality is this, it's 2 to 1 that a man will infect a woman with HIV and 20 to 1 that a woman will infect a man. Furthermore, over half of the cases of women infected with HIV are through heterosexual sex. We continue to have unprotected sex a decision that is made on what we think we know or we do it in the heat of the moment. Passion will not save your life, neither will your assumptions about your partner. For sure, If the penis ain't in your pocket you have no idea what it's doing when it ain't with you. I say often, "I hope what you think you know about your partner is true."

2) Everyone who has ever had sex needs to be tested for HIV. When people say they don't want to know, I say that's some stupid shit. Why wouldn't you want to know about a medical condition that can be treated and with an early  diagnosis and virus suppression you could live a long life.

It's 2016 and every 10 minutes a person still becomes infected with HIV in the United States. Furthermore 38% of newly diagnosed HIV cases are of people that were infected by someone who did not know that they had HIV. Testing along can reduce the cases of new infections.

I have HIV and I insist that my partner have an HIV test. First off, I don't want to live in that kind of ignorance for him or myself. Most importantly, I am not trying to get re-infected with a different stain of HIV. What I have is more than enough.  By the way, a man can't tell me he got tested a year ago and let it ride. I have no idea what you have done with your penis in the 12 months prior to me. 

Testing for HIV is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Staying in that ignorance could mean  how long you live or how soon you die. If you test positive  the better off you are in terms of life expectancy. The earlier they suppress the virus the healthier you will be. I know you think you know, but honesty, you don't know until you  take an HIV test. Living in what you think you know rather then what you know for sure is not a healthy lifestyle. I bet you know how much that handbag is that you want so you can get your money in order. *Blank Stare* But you don't know your HIV Status?

3) Have a talk with your partner. I find it so strange that when we talk about sex, we leave out some of the most important things. We know what position he likes best and that is important, and what you like it is equally important. But have you sat down and talked about HIV testing, condom use and other sexually transmitted disease. Have you even opened the door for the conversation? So many people are living with herpes and HVP, not in secret, not just HIV. You must to be willing to have an adult conversation about sex and how it happens with your partner. It makes for a healthy start to any relationship.  

So how to you talk about sex? At the kitchen table with all your clothes on. You cannot talk about sex, condom use in the moment of passion.

4) If you are infected with HIV. Get into treatment and care and STAY in treatment and care. I know it seems like an overwhelming burden. You send me messages about your struggle. But if I can do it for 33 years so can you. Think about this, when I was diagnosed there was no treatment, then came AZT, then can DDI then came more and more and more. I kept doing what my doctors asked of me and it saved my life. I want you to live a good life and the earlier the virus is suppressed the better off you will be.

a) Take your medication as prescribed
b) Talk to your doctor, ask questions, Co-partner with your care.
c) Get a support system. YOU CANNOT DO THIS ALONE
d) Get into some kind of therapy. Depression is very common with HIV and you don't need anything working against you
e) Find you a spiritual outlet
f) Find a community for yourself via social media. There are many people who follow me on my different social media sites who are positive and my post inspire them to keep going. Community is very important. YOU CANNOT DO THIS AlONE!

At the end of the day, I want women to  know that we have so much unspoken and untapped power! My challenge to you today, whether  you are infected or affected is to tap into the power within you, for a better you! Namaste

In honor of Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day the Office of Women's Health is sponsoring a blog hop. Please check out  the blog post of my partners for today.

Rae Lewis-Thornton Diva Living With AIDS Blog (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
Charreah Jackson,  Essence (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
Karyn Lee,  Red Pump Project (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
Dr. Hazel Dean, Black Doctor  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)
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