Empress Tea just had its one year anniversary! So to celebrate, we’ve compiled another fabulous group post with the theme, Firsts. There are nine bite-sized stories – perfect for reading on the go, or while you’re snuggled under the covers in bed. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. —Bridget
Bridget is the reason I blog. She forced me, and now I like it. I even force other people to do it, too. We started Empress Tea about a year ago, in fact, we had been in conversations about it since just after January 1st, and we were going to have a regular Skype date on the Friday the big earthquake happened probably to talk about the blog and other things. Bridget sent me a message on Twitter or email or something “Hi~ I’m waiting for you on Skype.” Well, I didn’t want to talk to anybody that day, but Bridget didn’t give up. She really kept me from wallowing in fear and if I got freaked out about something she just said “Let’s look it up online, get the facts, Kim.” Somehow starting this blog (which is something I would never do on my own) changed my attitude about things I would “never” do. We can’t ever go back, but maybe I wouldn’t have come this far without Bridget, Jen, and their vision for this project. I love being part of this network and am amazed at how it’s grown to truly span the globe. Thanks, Miss B. You brought a lot of good things to me this year.
Starting at age eleven or twelve, I consumed books. I spent cool northern summers indoors reading Nancy Drew upon Babysitters Club. Thank goodness for book series. I didn’t venture far from these series because, I think, deep down I was, ahem, rather frugal. I didn’t want to risk purchasing a book that wasn’t entertaining. Reading any sort of classic never occurred to me either.
The first book I ever loved that fell outside of Nancy Drew and Babysitters Club and all the books they make you read in school was White Oleander by Janet Finch. I read it and re-read it and even…cracked…the…spine. There is nothing all that similar between Astrid and myself but I loved absorbing her journey, her growth and her need to change herself in order to adapt to each new situation and, above all, her surviving spirit.
After reading White Oleander, I got excited. I took more literary risks and threw my money at any book with an interesting back cover. I don’t ever remember being disappointed. For me, books never disappoint. So thanks, White Oleander – my first bookish love.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Fringe, Feathers, Falsies and Other Firsts
Nothing beats serendipitous firsts. Just yesterday morning, a casual Twitter exchange with Kim turned into this—a first blog entry on firsts, in the company of women whose voices resonate oh so strongly. I am honored to be among you.
This month, I’m also celebrating my first year as a student dançarina with my samba group. A friend had wanted to try samba no pé, we did, and I was hooked…in love! In the past few months, I had been in a handful of public performances, and though the initial white-knuckled stage fright has since given way to a mild-to-medium case of butterflies, that terrifying First Public Appearance—fueled by nothing more than adrenalin, muscle memory, and the miraculous Samson-like strength derived from donning false eyelashes—that will remain with me forever.
Nowadays, staying “in character” has become less self-conscious, the show smile has somewhat relaxed, no longer inducing cheek cramp and parched mouth. Now there is suddenly, astonishingly, pleasure in being wholly present, in body and in spirit, before an audience; an awareness of letting thoughts cease and inhibitions wither until there’s nothing but movement, energy, rhythm, heartbeat.
From what was, into what can be…making every first foray a rebirth, each one a birthday. When we choose to cross that threshold for the first time, be it in sorrow or in joy, in darkness or in light, we’re someone else—someone other than who we were—when we emerge on the other side. We reincarnate ourselves. We give ourselves life.
Happy Birthday, Empress Tea, may this second year abound with ever more (re)births.
Wendy is our most recent addition to Empress Tea. Welcome Wendy!!!
Dear four year old self,
It is very much ok to play. To draw outside the circle. To paint on walls, on glass, on the ceiling. To experiment. To make mistakes. To be curious about everything. Don’t let anyone tell you that elephants aren’t circular and orange. Because in your mind, they can come in every shape and colour you can imagine. Inhibitions and doubt come too soon as part of growing up, smothering creative impulses with their countless “what if”s and “can’t”s. When it comes to art, stay childish. Don’t be afraid of ruining a canvas – even the great masters painted over their pictures a dozen times. Seek inspiration. Marvel at everything. Admire other artists. Learn. Imitate. Share. Transform. Every painting, every drawing, every sketch is a document of your progress – a picture history of your heart, each one a little first masterpiece of its own.
Best regards, In 26 years.
Lem von Brünken
The First Forever
There is an importance attached to the first anything. It brings with it new beginnings. Our first step, our first kiss. Magic is created and the moment is stored in the memory to be shared in the days and years to come. We look forward and hold onto the first, forgetting that the truth is more often found in the moments that come after it. The 87th kiss can be more telling than the first and the 10,054th step could be the start of a brand new adventure. There is beauty in watching your firsts grow into forevers.
Life is full of firsts, so I’ll admit that I’m having trouble narrowing down just one thing to write about. There’s my first apartment… my first apartment of my very own… first boyfriend, first lover, first breakup… the ever famous first kiss. My first apartment, I thought, was a cool downtown loft. It was more like a flop house. With dogs. But for eight whole months I loved it and thought I was incredibly hip and urban. My first apartment of my very own… well, that romance quickly ended as some of you may have read in my previous posts. Firsts of the relationship variety are best left untouched in this particular post.
I think one first that is sticking with me is a strange and very ordinary moment that stands out in my mind. I remember one day making dinner for myself… opening a bag of frozen peas and corn, a corn kernel made a bid for freedom. It rolled across the floor and under the table. For a moment I ignored it, before having the following thought:
“Hey, stupid. If you don’t clean that up, nobody’s going to do it for you. You don’t live with your mother anymore.”
And that was it. The first moment I realized that I was a grown-up. That from this moment on I am responsible for myself. Every decision I make is mine to make. Every mistake, every failure, every success, every step… all mine. My responsibility and my privilege. One tiny corn kernel, and for the first time I realized, my life was in my own hands. For better or worse I was a grown-up.
My First Foray with Photography
This particular first came as a result of saying goodbye. After several tumultuous years living in Denmark, I threw all caution to the wind and decided to make a move from the pølser loving, Nordic shores of Copenhagen to the ever-green and rolling hills of Kigali in the heart of Africa. Anyone who knows me knows why I never had any serious love for Denmark, but what surprised them (and myself for that matter) was how I made peace with that stubbornly proud Viking nation and came to have an amicable fondness for it in the end. This was thanks, in part, to a hobby I acquired during my last 10 months of Danish living. Being a latecomer to many things, I picked up my first DSLR in late 2007. The minute my hands gripped that bulky device I entered a whole new (digital) world. It was a virginal and riotous experience. The first few “photo essays” were a mess: poorly composed shots that were blurred, burned and/or riddled with a cacophony of unintentional tilts. Yet despite all the clumsiness, confusion and trepidation faced when losing oneself in something for the first time, I trudged along anyhow. Why? Because it was fun and challenging. It still is actually (and for the record I continue to burn shots and can’t rid myself of that unintentional tilt to save my life). I mean, why give a damn of all the missteps and botched attempts when it was – and remains – so enjoyable, interesting and freeing? Not only did it help me dig deep and find some love for Denmark, but I also gained a fantastic creative outlet in the end that’s opened more doors than I ever could have imagined. Total awesomeness.
First Bike-Riding Adventures
When I think of firsts, I always think of childhood, since it’s such an obvious time for learning. One of the big “firsts” for just about everyone I grew up with was learning to ride a bicycle. Summertime in the suburbs wasn’t complete without your bike, a trading card pegged to the back wheel spokes, tracing lazy circles down the end of your street while you finished off the last of the fast-melting lemonade icy pole you’d just gone and bought from the shops.
I think the images of my first bike-riding adventures will stay with me for a long time, but that might also be an effect of them taking place so late in life. That’s because I’m learning to ride a bicycle for the first time this year.
An overly-cautious, anxious child without the requisite older relative to put me on a bike and push me down a hill, I spent my earliest years loudly proclaiming I didn’t want to learn, then, when I was older, pretending I could but just didn’t feel like it. Finally, now at an age where I care less about how inevitably dorky I am, I’ve procured myself a second-hand purple bicycle and a helmet that will inevitable give me the most spectacular hat-hair.
You can find me, this Australian winter, rattling awkwardly around the grass slopes of the park near my house, letting out the occasional squawk when I fall off. Feel free to stop by and suggest a name for my bike.
Come summertime, I will be ready to make some memories.
My First Airplane Ride; thanks Nanny
I’ll never forget the first time I rode an airplane. I was in my tween years and my Nanny (my mom’s mother), randomly invited me on a summer vacation out West with her. I couldn’t be more delighted! I’m still not sure what spurred my grandma to take me on a trip with her, I’ll never know, but I’m so glad she did. We flew to Calgary, I even remember liking the plane food (mind you I think it used to be far better back then), and then we did a bus tour to Jasper & Banff. Canada has such a wealth of beautiful countryside, lakes, wild animals, and gem-like glaciers and we saw the best of it on that western trip.
Sure, I had some typical tween moments of being embarrassed of my Nanny’s bad memory, or wishing that there were some younger people to hang out with, but what I got out of that trip was an insight into my grandmother as a real person. She told me stories about the war in England, how she met my grandfather at a dance/social, and how they lived with his family after they were married. She even hinted at the fact that it was difficult to really ‘be together’ because there were only sheets covering the doorways and her in-laws in the next room. My grandmother was well educated, strong-willed, a bit of a socialite, and apparently she even had sneaky sex!
I miss my Nanny, who would have been 102 this month. She lived until the ripe old age of 97. In my older years, I hope I can be as agile & peppy as her. Thank goodness she invited me on that trip with her so many years ago. My first plane ride, but more importantly, a loving bond and precious memories of a woman I’ll forever hold dear to my heart.
HONG KONG SAR, China
We all have so many firsts throughout our lives. Do you have a favourite? Feel free to share yours below…