Monday, June 29, 2009

Connecticut ~ Day Two

After 10 hours of driving, yes I did say 10 hours, we finally arrived home safe and sound from our little trip up north. Normally it takes us about 8 hours to drive from Hartford to Richmond but it was Sunday and once we got into Delaware we slowly crawled along for about 50 miles or so. Lots of people packed up and ready to go on vacation or coming home from a weekend at the beach which made the highway traffic congested. I cannot tell you how happy I was to turn into our driveway. I have day two of our trip to share with you today. As you can see, I love to take a lot of photos and this blog is a great journal for me to have and reflect back on in the years to come so I am going to break down each day of our trip. Before I do that, I have an unrelated topic that I need to vent about.

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. How very sad. Farrah fought a hard and dedicated battle against cancer and she inspired me and I am grateful she shared her journey. The ups, the downs, the heartache, the laughter. I never really thought much of Farrah before her documentary. I was 7 when Charlie's Angels was on TV but I remember watching it. I liked Kate Jackson the best back then but now I would now have to say that Farrah has taken a spot in my heart. She accurately portrayed what having cancer is like. It's not pretty on some days to watch the pain, the procedures and the nerve wracking waiting and praying for an MRI scan that shows the cancer has shrunk and has responded to the harsh treatment. But thankfully, she also demonstrated the switch that is flipped when you face a life threatening disease. That switch of mortality that brings life into focus so clearly. Cancer can take away so much but it can also give you some precious gifts. The gift of prayer and experiencing God on a much different level, the know how to plainly see what is important in life and the gift to say what needs to be said to those you love before it is too late. Farrah expressed all of this and for that I thank her and will mourn her passing.

Now, Michael Jackson. I grew up listening to his music. Always a fan never a fanatic. Steve and I saw Michael perform in 2001 at the United We Stand concert in DC. I was not blown away like I thought I would be but he was entertaining. I think by this time in his career so many other bizarre behaviors took away from his singing talents and it was hard to see him without all the other craziness cluttering his persona. I do believe he was a great talent and he will be one of the greatest influences in pop music for all time. I am sad though that this man basically seems to have taken his own life by self medicating. I understand the sensitive nature of his psyche and how hard it is to cope at times but what makes me mad is all of the media coverage. Farrah, should be the one we are talking endlessly about and paying tribute too. She fought for her life. She wanted to live. She put the spotlight on cancer and made a difference. Michael, on the other hand, gave it all away. The desire to live was obviously not there. Both deaths are tragic but I can not mourn for Michael Jackson. I do have empathy for him and compassion for the demons that plagued him and I respect his talent and what he means to others, but it's just difficult to look at these two icons and see them in the same light. I wish our media would focus on heroes instead of salacious gossip and bizarre behavior. I must admit that I hardly watched any news coverage over the last week but when we did have a minute to check in, I did not see any news about Farrah, it was all Michael. I do hope they both rest in peace and we can take away all the positive influences they brought forth.

Our second day in Connecticut was just as nice as our first day. We started out with a family breakfast in Waterbury at Paisanos restaurant. Steven's Aunt Carol works there and she has been such a huge supporter for Ellie and all of us. She told everyone about Ellie's journey and asked for prayers from all of her friends and patrons of the restaurant. She collected money, has held yard sales and has prayed right along with us. Her husband Joe and son Brian and daughter Kelly have been just as wonderful. Brian and his police department (Meriden CT) gave the Friends of Ellie fund a very nice donation last summer. So we were thrilled when Aunt Carol asked us to come for breakfast to meet the owners and some of the people that have prayed for our girl. We were surprised to see additional family present at breakfast. Along with Carol and her family were Steve's sister Linda and cousins Paula, Billy, Jane and Andy. We also got to see the Landry/O'Connor sisters Eleanor and Frances. All of these people mean so much to us and to see them in person and to let them see for themselves just how well Ellie is doing is such a gift. We had a fabulous breakfast and I have to tell you that Paisanos has the best hashbrown potatoes. They are really a wonderful family at that restaurant and we are so happy to have met them. Here are some photos from our breakfast.

The Paisanos staff with two new employees, Emma and Ellie
Aunt Carol is in the back row dressed in blue.

Peel those potatoes! Emma and Ellie with the cooks.

The girls pose with Frances O'Connor, a big prayer warrior for Ellie

After breakfast we took the girls down to Clinton, to the beach. The Connecticut weather has been more rainy than sunny so we were making the most out of the temporary sunny day. While Steve and Ellie made a sand castle, Emma and I took a walk along the marsh to look at the nesting osprey and warblers that were flitting about. I was so hoping to see a Summer Tanager as I have heard they are frequent visitors but sadly, I didn't catch sight of any. Next time for sure. Around 3:30 we headed to Cheshire to Aunt Linda's house. The girls were excited to spend some quality time with their crazy aunt. Linda has been affected by Ellie's journey so much. She has faithfully called and visited and is a strong presence in their lives. Steve's other sister, Denise was coming by too for dinner with the girls. Steve and I saw our golden opportunity for some alone time and decided to drop the girls off and head back down the the shore. We had a beautiful and much needed date night.

We started off in Madison (one of my favorite towns) at Lenny and Joes. Lenny and Joes is an iconic part of the Connecticut shoreline. It is a well known restaurant that is a must for anyone that loves fried seafood or lobster rolls. I personally have another reason for going. My dad's spirit is all over Lenny and Joes. He was good friends with them back in the 80s and he helped them build their two restaurants. I cannot tell you how proud I was to sit on the benches and eat at the wooden table that father built (my mom says she helped too with the staining). The food was incredible but the presence of my father was very moving. I still miss him so much but he lives on in many ways and seeing the benches and tables at Lenny and Joes was a tribute to his love of woodworking. Here is a photo of those tables that he made over 20 years ago.

My father's blood, sweat and maybe even a tear or too are in these benches and tables.

I had fried scallops and Steve had fried clams, scallops and fish and onion rings.
It was so good that I went through 2 cups of tartar sauces.
You have to click on the photo to really see how delicious it all is.

Once we stuffed ourselves we decided to walk off our dinner at Hammonassett state beach which was right around the corner. We headed to the Nature trails at Meigs Point and took a nice long walk. I was so thrilled to see Purple Martin and their houses at the start of our walk. They are a life bird for me, ones I had never seen before. They are beautiful and the way they nest, in these condos of sorts, is so interesting. We also saw many shore birds, Tree Swallows, Red Winged Blackbirds, Robins, Killdeer, Plovers, and some fast warblers that were hard to ID. Once our walk was finished we decided to walk along the shore at sunset (insert romantic music here). It was very nice to have this time to ourselves. Here is the rest of our night in photos and there are even more over at my Flickr account. Day three tomorrow. :)

I loved this scene. There are Little Egrets, White Egrets and Cormorants fishing by the shore.
If you click on the photo for a larger look, you will see the black Cormorant in the middle has a fish.

Beautiful Egrets by the shoreline.

Purple Martins sitting atop their house.

The condo style living of Purple Martins.
The houses are on a crank and come down to be cleaned.

Sunset on Long Island Sound

Steve and me at the beach, close to sunset