Originally appeared on The Scout Guide Alexandria
I first met Alison Teer (Editor of TSG ALEXANDRIA) about three and a half years ago; however, we both feel like we have known each other for much longer than that, because she and I share many mutual friends who were constantly assuming we, too, were friends. Every time somebody would knowingly speak of her, I would remark, “You know, I’ve actually never met Alison,” and it was always greeted with the same exuberant, “Y'all have to meet! You would love each other!” One day we finally met and discovered we each had two young kids similar in age, did indeed share many dear friends, had a similar sense of humor and a shared love of all things Alexandria. We quickly became fast friends with one huge caveat, my late husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
When we finally met, I remember Alison telling me she had seen me at the dry cleaners (Baldwin Fabricare–the best in Old Town, we think!!) one day, immediately recognized me from the Team Kennett blog I maintained at the time, and decided to leave me alone assuming I didn’t want to be known as the woman in town whose husband had tragically been diagnosed with Stage IV non-smokers lung cancer at the age of 31. Oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with our second baby and had a newly turned three year old at the time? That gift of a couple of moments of peace and normalcy at the dry cleaners that day was the first of many gifts I would come to receive from Alison over the next couple of years.
But this is far from being a “whoa is me” post, so please stick with me.
After my husband passed away last January, I decided I was ready to get dressed one day. You know, to really get dressed instead of putting on my soul-soothing uniform of stretchy, black leggings and knee boots with the cowl neck sweatshirt tunic du jour. I opened my closet doors to discover I hated everything in it. After having two babies three years a part, I had missed two seasons of buying anything non-maternity and caring for my husband and two nuggets had also left me with little time and resources to do something for myself as frivolous as shopping. I was ready to feel good again. To take care of myself again. I was ready to make the investment in my wardrobe, but I didn’t even know where to start. I had called Alison many times before with a cry for help, but this time I called for her professional help as a personal stylist and shopper at ALISON LUKES ET CIE.
I thought editing my closet was going to feel overwhelming and depressing, but no, ma'am. Alison made it fun, and the process was liberating. Did that regular blouse I had actually worn as a maternity shirt make me feel great? Nope. Out. Did that pair of skinny jeans that hadn’t zipped since before I had given birth to my son five years earlier spark joy? Nope. OUT! We then identified my wardrobe deficiencies, outlined a budget, and off she went. I must admit it felt quite indulgent and a long way away from my hometown of Marks, MS to have a personal shopper, but with everything else I was juggling with settling the estate, rewriting my will, and caring for my two littles, it also felt both luxurious and necessary.
I know this might sound like a far stretch, but looking back on it now, I feel like that “out with old/in with the new” closet revamp was the beginning of my healing process. On days I felt courageous enough to stick my big toe back in to the great, big world, I knew I had something hanging in my closet I loved and that fit properly. After many months of doggedly putting one foot in front of the other, how I was feeling on the inside was much more reflective of the polished image I was projecting on the outside. Fake it until you make it? Well, sometimes it’s your only option.
Now fast forward with me a bit to just a few weeks ago when Alison and I went shopping together for a wedding dress. MY wedding dress! I told you this was not a blog post full of doom and gloom. I’m going to be a 41 year old bride at the end of the summer! Over the course of spending the day together, we had somehow managed to discuss the fun, new, funky frames I had just gotten from EYE2EYE OPTOMETRY CORNER after my annual eye exam with Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, oohed and aahed over my new engagement ring designed by Tim Shaheen at LAWRENCE MILLER & CO., I told her of the very special TODD HEALY prints I had received for my birthday, we discussed menu options for the rehearsal/welcome dinner we are hosting at SOCIETY FAIR, and as the day went on, we both kind of laughed about how I was actually the living version of THE SCOUT GUIDE ALEXANDRIA.
Over lunch, Alison posed the question, “You like to write, you are a patron of all these places, you are always scouting out new restaurants, shops, exercise studios, you are planning a wedding in Old Town…why don’t you write about all of these things and guest blog for The Scout Guide this summer?” Hmmmm…
I first moved to Alexandria as an intern the winter of 1997 and returned the following winter to start my first “real job.” I lived in a row house on S. Lee Street with a couple of girls from Alabama, one of whom I remain great friends with today. She likes to remind me I cried when I first saw the size of my Old Town bedroom and closet, because nothing would fit in it! (That was actually my first non-liberating closet purge.) We all had starter salaries and often frequented the FISH MARKET for cheap and large schooners of beer, felt lucky to have a Nine West outlet for all our high heel needs right there on “Main” Street, and we wouldn’t have dared step foot in the Lee Street Park with those noisy kids running around all over the place.
While I sometimes long for those carefree days and roommates to ask which pair of earrings they like better, I am thrilled my bedroom, closet, and interests have expanded just a little bit. I do still live in Old Town after all–right on Prince Street just blocks away from that first little row house on S. Lee. I have stayed here, because I love this town, and I have gladly traded in my Nine West heels for Lee Street Park-friendly wedges but this time from THE SHOE HIVE. I love the history and architecture of course, but mostly, I love the people in it. Over the last 18 years, Alexandria has become my home. I have built a community here I am so proud of.
Please join me this summer as I share with you the details of planning our wedding, my favorite tried-and-true places, the people of Alexandria I have grown to love all while I continue to scout out the best of the new.
It's been another poignant and hard and beautiful day. Poignant because it's Father's Day, hard because Chip Kennett isn't here, and beautiful because Clete Johnson is.
What a blessing to have brought Joe and Crosby into the world with this great man. The love that Chip has for these two kids is infinite. He fought so hard to stay present for them, to preserve their innocence and maintain a normal childhood for them all while helping me pave a path forward for us without him being in it. His selflessness was extraordinary, and being married to him for seven and a half years was one of the greatest privileges of my life. I miss him every single day.
After Chip died, it was awe inspiring to have watched Clete immediately step in to help maintain that stability and normal childhood for his two God kids, ultimately leading to us falling in love and now officially becoming a family later this fall. For Clete to love Joe and Crosby as deeply as he does and keep Chip so present in our lives is also extraordinary. What a privilege it is to rear Joe and Crosby with him.
I could post a million pictures and write a million things about each of these two, but I won't. I will just end by saying I think Joe and Crosby are two of the luckiest nugs on this planet, and my heart remains full. Happy Father's Day, Chip and Clete!
#presentandgrateful #wevegotthis #norestfly #proofthroughthenight
I attended the funeral service of the great J. Reilly Lewis at Washington National Cathedral with my good friend and former colleague, Melvin Dubee, yesterday. Reilly had not been ill; he had actually been busy preparing to lead a sing-along performance at the cathedral on Sunday, but when he got home last Thursday night, he suffered a massive heart attack and died.
I knew Reilly as the conductor of the Washington Bach Consort whom I met in 2007 when I started working for Senator Rockefeller. The Senator, a Bach enthusiast, served on the Consort's Board of Directors for many years and hosted an annual fundraising event at his home I always assisted with coordinating.
The party swag at one of those events was a CD of one of the Consort's recent performances, so I grabbed one, tossed it in the catch-all mail bowl when I got home and never gave it another thought.--until one day I got in Chip's car and busted him listening to it. I ribbed him a bit and asked him when he had started listening to Bach.
After Chip was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31, me 35 weeks pregnant with Crosby, and Joe just a few weeks shy of his third birthday, he was, understandably so, often gripped with anger and fear. He was even angry at God which he greatly struggled with, because how do you possibly ask God for help at the same time you are so angry with him? Kristine Johnson, our dear friend, wife of Melvin and at the time, a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, began to visit with Chip and me at home and in the hospital. After hearing him out one day, she encouraged Chip to abandon his struggle with God and the church and simply move towards the things where love and light existed for him--in the kids' smiles and laughter, through music, in nature, late night walks--because in those very places, he would find that God dwelled, and he could renew that relationship. Instead of fighting Him, to move towards Him.
So, on that day, Chip told me he had started listening to that CD on his drive to work and found when he listened to Bach, he felt light. He got lost in it and would briefly forget he had cancer. Peace would abound. I was stunned and immediately shared this with the Senator and Reilly. Reilly loved it and over the next two years, would periodically send an encouraging note to Chip and me and more often that not, would include a new Consort CD for Chip.
The day after Chip died, I started to plan his funeral service and immediately knew Bach had to be included in the music selections, so I turned to Senator Rockefeller and asked him to select a few of his favorite pieces to be played. He immediately consulted Reilly. Reilly took this task most seriously, inquired about the organ at the church, wanted to know who our organist was, etc., and Reilly being Reilly, ultimately decided HE needed to be the one to play the organ at Chip's funeral, so the Prelude and Communion music were beautifully delivered by Reilly Lewis that day. I like to think the notes Reilly played brought us all a little closer to feeling that eternal light and peace Chip was already experiencing.
Reilly's funeral was the first I've attended since Chip's. It was poignant and hard and beautiful. I have spent much of the last 24 hours trying to find comfort in the discomfort of it all. I hurt for his widow, Beth, his daughter, Lauren, and I hurt for all those who mourn him. As I said at Chip's funeral, "You end up being the average of the people you spend your life with," so I felt it was important to publicly give thanks for Reilly's great life and to share the story of how his became so interwoven in ours.
As Father's Day fast approaches, please remember, "All life is Thanksgiving." All life--present and eternal--is Thanksgiving!
J. Reilly Lewis, organist, choral director and Bach authority, dies at 71 [Washington Post]
In life’s most joyful moments and in the darkest of hours and seemingly impossible circumstances, there is grace. Abundant grace always abounds if you allow yourself to see it. This I know, and these are my lessons in grace.
Read about what came before Sweetness Follows at TeamKennett.com.