December 26, 2012


Yes, you are hearing the sound of crickets. This blog has been very neglected for the past several months for the obvious reason...we have moved out of Canada. Work has sent us back to the USA and after what seemed like a very long time, we have settled into a new house back in the Chicago area just days before Christmas. Moving back to the USA has come with a sense of reverse transition like we went through four years ago upon moving to Quebec. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same.

We've returned with great memories from our time in Canada. A few not-so-great memories, but most of those include petty details and the usual government obstacles we would face just about anywhere. We learned a lot in Quebec, Danielle earned a kick-ass high school education and Louis is a Special Olympics ski champion. Paul experienced working in a new culture (and got to ski a lot) and I left with many dear girlfriends I know I'll have throughout my lifetime. I also left with a new appreciation of speed limits in the USA as they really are more reasonable than Quebec.

Adding to the irony of so many things is moving into the new house right before Christmas and thankfully with decent Chicago weather. As the movers were unloading the truck and bringing in boxes I would have to check off the box number and take note of the box contents to tell them where to place the box -- or what I said most often -- "in the basement." After dozens of boxes were labeled "ornaments"I was confused because it seemed like I must have more ornaments than the White House. It was then that I realized "ornaments" to the French-speaking packers must mean "knick knacks" or what I have come to call "crap."

For the record, we found THE ornaments a couple of days before Christmas and the stockings the day after Christmas.

We are happy to be settled in our new home and Duke is trying to figure out "his" place in the new surroundings.  For those who have moved in the past, you know the packers pack anything, including garbage. While looking through yet another "ornament" box to find THE ornaments, I was unwrapping and unwrapping thinking I would find something really fragile, like an ornament, only to unwrap this...
Two of Duke's tennis balls. We are finding balls in every other box. Duke is enjoying the unpacking process even though we put these balls in some random drawer or cabinet which will likely be packed up in a future move. Or they might stay for a while, since we're hoping to stay for a while.

As for this blog. I'm not certain. While the transition has been interesting and our family is by no means boring, I'm going to evaluate after the first of the year and it may take on a new look or a new theme.

Until then, or as my Quebec friends know I love to say....à la prochaine.

August 6, 2012

Ambience is a French word after all

It's been a crazy few weeks getting ready for our move back to the US. The last week was filled with quick trips to visit friends and our kids squeezing in visits with their friends from Montreal. One day Louis had his two best Montreal buddies over for dinner, followed a few hours later by Danielle and a couple of her friends....girls like ambience...boys just care about the food. Even Duke.

Daily Duke 8.6

Yes, this dog knows someone is going for a ride. He doesn't know at this point that it's not him.

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

We had a wicked, but very cool storm roll through Montreal this afternoon for 4th of July. It's always strange being out of our country for our country's unique holiday. It's business as usual in Canada. It's also a bit odd thinking this is likely our last official US holiday in Canada.

We had a quiet day. Officially we did have some baseball (Louis had baseball camp), apple pie (thanks, Costco) and a Chevrolet (Paul's car).

June 9, 2012

Duke 6.9

Duke is a little upset because he came in from a short walk and some stranger said he looked like Queen Victoria. No doubt we are in Canada.

June 8, 2012

Duke 6.8

Imagine the looks we get while driving down the road.

June 7, 2012

Living on the edge

Some would say Danielle has always lived on the edge. This photo says it all. She will really miss Montreal as it's her high school home.

Duke 6.7

What are the odds this thing is going to make it until noon? Last time Duke had a procedure requiring a  cone, it didn't last 15 minutes and ultimately he was put on tranquilizers to make him too sleepy to lick the affected area. Kish is the one in need of tranquilizers this time. Let's not mention the fact that the car is starting to resemble a pet taxi.

June 5, 2012

Duke 6.5

Duke is taking advantage of his recovery. I wonder if I can get him qualified for "burnout" leave, which is offered in Quebec if a person is stressed out on the job (this is true...employees are eligible for three weeks PAID burnout leave if a doctor says so). All that time chasing squirrels in the back yard and he's burned out.

June 4, 2012

Duke 6.4

Another day, another bandage. And another bone. And another day of gas -- oh sweet Lord -- the gas.

Big day for the Pisani boys

The West Island Special Olympics organization held the end of the year celebration this weekend. Paul was awarded Coach of the Year and Louis received Outstanding Athlete of the Year for basketball. Louis's name will forever be on a trophy here in Quebec...and he received a small one for his collection. 

We are all extra excited because his name will appear on the trophy with fellow teammates, like his friend Curtis, who received the award two years prior.

They had a fantastic season, winning a medal  in the Provincial championships this past March. Louis loves basketball almost as much as Paul enjoys coaching it.

It was a bittersweet, as earlier in the day we said good bye (for now) to our great friends in the Eastern Townships at our Special Olympics ski team at Owl's Head. Our fellow skiers presented us with a cake and a priceless card with special notes we will treasure forever.

Danielle with her fellow instructors and peer volunteers....and good friends!
We will be forever grateful for Special Olympics's changed us all as a family and as individuals. We're taking everything we've learned from our Quebec friends and will jump into the programs in Illinois...minus the French of course. As our ski coach Art Zentner says..."one athlete, one coach." Paul and Louis will be recruiting a ski team for sure. 

The day reminded us of what we will miss about Quebec most of all...the people and friends we have made. We will be thinking of our fellow athletes, parents, volunteers and friends as we continue our journey back to the States.

The day also reminded us of how the "special" people in our lives bring new meaning to our own lives and provide us with experiences and friendships we might not have had otherwise. Without Louis and is (dis)abilities, we likely would not have been involved in Special Olympics and the wonderful programs we experienced in Quebec.

We're certain our paths will cross again.

So as we said to our friends recently....this is not a good-bye but....
à la prochain 

June 3, 2012

Duke 6.3

Duke is more than embarrassed that he has to wear a bag over his foot to go outside when it's raining or wet. He's afraid the little dogs in the neighborhood won't think he's the Dude anymore. It doesn't stop him from trying to run after them though.

And she's off....

Danielle is officially finished with high school. The system is different here in Quebec. I've written about it before....high school for Quebecers goes through grade 11. From there students go to a two year program at a community college-type program called CEGEP and then they go to university. The only way to attend university in Quebec (for example McGill) is to attend the two year pre-college program. Danielle was all set to go to this type of program last fall, but due to conflicting information from each and every government employee or attorney we spoke with unforseen immigration issues, we were forced at the last minute to enroll Danielle into a pre-university program at a school called Lower Canada College (which is also a K-11 co-ed school). Since the pre-U students enrolled in this particular program and not CEGEP, they are not eligible to attend most programs in Quebec (there are a few exceptions). So....that meant Danielle was taking herself out of the running for attending a Quebec school, which turned out to be okay as we are moving anyway.
Her class this year included 39 students from 13 different high schools. All but a few will be attending schools outside of Quebec...Australia, Scotland, England, France, prestigious schools in the U.S., including our Danielle who will be attending Saint Louis University.
The school (LCC) put on a nice graduation ceremony for the students with wonderful speakers and a nice tribute to each student and their accomplishments as they picked up their certificate. We were thrilled that the ceremony was live streamed on the web so out-of-town relatives could watch. Following the ceremony we had one of those "things we wouldn't have in the U.S." experiences when we all attended a champagne reception.
Yes, Danielle is taller than her mom...but she is wearing very high heels!
After the champagne reception the graduates went to a very nice dinner with their teachers and administrators....again another one of those unique experiences we would not necessarily have had in the U.S....certainly not the wine served at such a dinner.

The next day the majority of the graduates headed out to a classmate's country home for a weekend of fun in the sun, boating, campfires, eating...and things we don't want to know about...because...we were once that age.

We're so pleased with Danielle's high school education in Quebec and the friends she has made in the last four years. She certainly had a different experience than she would have had in Naperville...with friends who will stay in Montreal and some who will leave for places all over the world. Not that it's necessarily any better, just different. Her favorite class this year was Political Science and her teacher appreciated her American perspective in discussions. He told us that she was not afraid of a debate and added "this girl could be President of your country someday." I told him that she's been campaigning for something since she was two.

So, it's off to University next year. One element of her education she missed out on (besides drivers education as she still does not have a license) is U.S. History. She has some catching up to do this summer before heading back to the U.S. Although, she does entertain her Canadian friends with her "Nifty Fifty United States" song she learned back in elementary states. We're wondering if her U.S. classmates can name the ten provinces and three territories of Canada?

May 27, 2012

This dog....

This dog has been through a lot in the last several days. Long story short...some rapidly growing  lumps on his front paw have been aspirated for testing and a subsequent surgery was initiated this past Thursday to remove as many of the tumors as possible -- there are five in such a small space.

This dog is not a good patient. His discharge papers on Friday said "no running, jumping, chasing balls or stairs for FOUR WEEKS." He broke each of those rules within being home for 24 hours.

This dog is enjoying some dog narcotics at the moment, however they have only slowed him down slightly.

This dog has rocked our household a bit with decisions, anxiety and worry.

This dog enjoyed a trip to McDonalds and a yummy ice cream the day before his surgery -- technically it was his last meal.
You can see the growth on his paw in this photo

This dog has incredible gas thanks to all the spoiling, ice cream and treats he's had  -- and bag of bones our dear friend Cathy LaPorta brought him when he arrived home from the dog hospital. We don't mind the smell one bit.
This dog is receiving excellent vet care in Canada. While some may complain about the human health care system in Quebec, we are pleased with the genuine care he (and we) are receiving by his vet surgeon and clinic. Our bank account, not so much -- we also pay sales tax on all vet care. Ouch!

This dog dog returns to the doctor on Tuesday when the doctors believe it will be confirmed that he has cancer. Fortunately, not the type of cancer that is inclined to invade his system. Unfortunately,  it's likely a cancer that will affect his leg...which is part of his character....a big part of this dog.

This dog, this loyal, floor cleaning, happy, entertaining, sometimes annoying, active, loving, determined animal is part of the family.

This dog is forcing us to make decisions we are not prepared for.

This dog reminds us to enjoy the simple things in life.

May 23, 2012

Duke 5.23

Nothing makes this dog happier than a car ride. Simple pleasures. A lesson for us all. 

May 16, 2012

That Girl

Danielle left for school this morning for her last day of high school exams. It seems like just yesterday when she was leaving the house for kindergarten. Next stop is Saint Louis University. We couldn't be more proud!

March 30, 2012

Duke 3.30

We have had the craziest spring. While today is sunny, yesterday (this photo) it was gloomy and dreary. The weather has been changing by the hour, much like Romney's campaign. Speaking of Romney and dogs....Duke could care less about the weather and loves to take a walk in the woods.

March 14, 2012


Just when we think spring is here, large snowflakes fall from the sky. In case you wanted to know, the translation for "large flakes" is Gros Flocons. Large flakes sounds better.

February 10, 2012

Because hockey is a religion in Quebec

We have not been the most dedicated of Catholics since moving to Quebec. After spending 11 years in the same parish in Naperville, Illinois, we didn't jump right into finding a new church in Montreal. We looked at one and didn't like it so much. Adding to the confusion, Danielle was not confirmed before we arrived here as in our old parish, kids are confirmed in 10th grade. Here they are confirmed in 6th grade. Danielle was not too crazy about attending religious education classes with little kids. Yes, a bit lazy of us, I know. We will look into it when she is in college. After all, she has come this far and she might as well complete those happy sacraments.

We did attend mass one time at a beautiful French church. Surprisingly, we got a lot out of it and could understand what was going on as most Catholics are going through the motions anyway. Amen is the same in any language. It just so happened it was during March Madness when we were at church. It was also the anniversary of my dad's passing, so getting my ass to mass seemed like the right thing to do. (When we moved out of the house and off to college my dad would call his kids on Sunday to make sure we all got our ass to mass). During the homily, from what we could understand, the priest was asking everyone to write down a special petition or prayer on a piece of paper we could find in the pew. I recall writing something about my dad. I looked over at what Louis had written and it said "Marquette win" as Marquette was in the March Madness tournament. At least he cheers for the Catholic teams.

The Catholic church has been in the news a lot lately and not in a good way. So in the last couple of days when this ad campaign caught my attention, I had to laugh. Some say hockey is a religion in these parts, and this campaign makes the case. 

So, kudos to Archbishop of Montreal for having a sense of humour and appealing to the pun intended.

(the article is below)

MONTREAL—With the playoffs just two months away and the hapless Habs currently in 14th place in their conference, perhaps there’s only one thing left to do — pray.
If you were so inclined, then you might find a new ad for the Archdiocese of Montreal a tonic, knowing, perhaps, that God was on your side.
The ad, placed in Montreal’s French-language newspapers, lists the current top teams in the league’s Eastern Conference.
Then, at spot number eight — the cut-off for the playoffs — it reads: “Let us pray.”
“It was a lighthearted wink, to ally with people who love sports,” said the Catholic Church of Montreal’s communication’s director Lucie Martineau. “And to pray they (the Canadiens) are in the playoffs.”
It tells average Montrealers that “we are there, we are present,” Martineau continued. “We have the same worries as you.”
Despite the longstanding comparisons of the Montreal Canadiens to a religion, the church has only now sought to ride the NHL club’s jersey-tails.
The Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, was not available for an interview. But Martineau said he’s a Habs fan and quickly approved the idea proposed by the church’s outside ad firm, Bos.
Hugo Léger, the firm’s vice-president of creation, said Bos has searched for a long time to “link the two religions” but had to wait for the right moment.
It saw that moment in the club’s declining fortunes as the regular season clock runs out.
The reaction, Léger said, has been huge and positive. “I don’t know,” he added, “if it will make everyone fall to their knees Saturday night at the Bell Centre.”
That the church would eventually attach itself to the religiosity of the Canadiens — real or imagined — is not surprising, since Montrealers are so fervent about their team, said Olivier Bauer, a theology professor at the Université de Montréal and author of the 2011 book Hockey as a Religion: The Montreal Canadiens.
Bauer senses a change. Even in recent years, he felt the church was hesitant to make the link.
But the treatment the Habs receive from some fans, bordering on the sacred, is unmistakable. Linking the two is “logical,” Bauer said.
The team, and its jersey, are called “La sainte flanelle” (the holy flannel). Patrick Roy was called “Saint Patrick.”
“The religion of the Canadiens in Montreal takes the form of Catholicism,” he explained. He cited the example of one fan he knows who has literally created a Habs “temple” in his house, with the appearance of a Catholic church, complete with altar, the centre of which sits a replica Stanley Cup.
The ad is directed at a population that, more than elsewhere in Canada, has turned its back on organized religion. Fewer than 10 per cent of Catholics in Quebec attend mass.
In this way the ad might be an attempt to reach out to fill the pews again. “Is it a Hail Mary pass?” laughs Bauer. “I’m not sure it’s so desperate. But the idea is definitely to use something that works.”
Church spokesperson Martineau said, “We don’t think it’s something that will bring people to the church, but maybe it can lead them to reflect and think about their faith.”
It’s not the first time the church has comically commented on current events to make its presence known. Last year it placed a billboard ad at the entrance of the Champlain Bridge, whose state of disrepair has become infamous here.
“Say your prayers,” it read.
As for the Canadiens, what do they think of the newest ad?
“It’s nice to count on their support,” Was all spokesperson Donald Beauchamp would say.

January 19, 2012

Is dignity a cultural thing?

I read this post today on a Special Olympics blog. It's written by Tim Shriver. It's appalling. I have to wonder....would this happen in Canada?

Raise Your Voice for Dignity!
Posted on January 18, 2012 by Tim Shriver

Many people have shared with me in recent days the tragic news about a girl named Amelia who was refused a spot on a waiting list at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a liver transplant because she is “mentally retarded.” When I heard about this, it made my blood boil.

Some have questioned why we in Special Olympics have mounted a campaign to challenge the humiliating use of the word, “retard.” Others have sometimes suggested that Special Olympics has gone beyond its mission in mounting the world’s largest public health campaign to close the disparities and outright bigotry that still infect systems of care delivery for people with intellectual differences. Still others wonder why so many of us speak with such passion about how sport is needed to unleash the power of the human spirit and to attack the vicious discrimination that so often crushes innocent people unjustly.

I say to all of them, open your eyes to the discrimination that goes unchecked all around us and help us stop it now!

If you are a medical professional, raise your voice for dignity now!

If you are a conservative political leader, fight for the dignity of all citizens now!

If you are a liberal political leader, fight for the dignity of all citizens now!

If you are a parent, raise your voice for the dignity of Amelia just as if she were your own now!

If you are a young person, blast the social networks with your commitment to Amelia’s dignity and justice now!

If you are a Special Olympics athlete or family member or coach or volunteer, challenge the status quo and fight for Amelia’s right to play and win the game of life now!

There can be no bystanders at moments like this. Amelia is everyone’s child. If she is denied care, we are all denied our humanity.

This is life and death and that’s not just rhetoric. Please join us in stopping this tragic injustice.
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