How Are you? Really.

Raindrops and people: together we become an ocean

Last summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing three wonderful months living in England, and,  I adored every day and every minute experience with Britain’s friendly people. But there was one minor interaction that puzzled me. The question: You alright? (often followed with dear) insert favorite British accent here.

My first instinct was to check myself? Do I look ill? Is there something on my face? Am I covered in blood? But it turns out it is just their quaint phrasing of, How are you?

After doing some light reading on the origin of How are you, I confirmed my suspicions. Dating to the 16th century, the phrase questioned a person’s health, social standing, and general way of being. This, I assumed, is what the greeting implied. It isn’t a philosophical debate, a political or satirical statement. 

Nor, is it any longer reciprocal, because I’ve really noticed lately that no one cares to hear the answer.


To me, How are you represents a gateway, an excellent opening for a conversation with anyone, and if played well, it can lead to meaningful dialog and even rewarding friendships.

A conversation is a two-way street; at times, congested with unwanted traffic; at other times, a lonely place to seek shelter. 

Is it that answers often become a one-sided commentary? It seems we have all become so consumed by our ‘own’ well-being or consumptive misery; we no longer remember or care about the well being of others.

If you think that is a harsh or generalized statement, I encourage you to eavesdrop. Not so much on others, but to your ‘own’ reply and the conversations you hold with others. The answer to your truth will lead you to an eyeopening endeavor. 

Of course, no one cares to listen to a person who rambles on about their misery, whether that is health, or financial woes, the hardships endured as children, etc. But to change the dialog, ask a person meaningful questions and remember we are all shaped by our experiences and the genetic material in our DNA. Small comments about someone’s garden, their children, their dogs, or their hobbies can bring meaning to a person’s life. And even if you suspect that their answer is as annoying as ‘all hell,’ remember, it isn’t always about you. 

The art of conversation is a skill best practiced among friends and family before trying it on the stage of life. Communication is so much more than well-strung words in a dialog. Some of us are eloquent speakers who can mesmerize a crowd with their storytelling; others still can have people in stitches with their natural ability to tell a joke. But conversation is as much about developing listening skills as it is about talking. The quiet observer in the corner undoubtedly learns more about the members in their social circle than the class clown who draws the attention on himself. 

Of all things, avoid being a conversational narcissist. Yes, there is such a thing. A CN is an individual who seeks to turn attention toward them. They may not be aware that it is a habit they developed, but their audience surely does.

A great way to becoming a great conversationalist is to do homework. If you are going into a situation, whether in a career or social environment, arm yourself with small tidbits of information. Social media is a mecca of such trivial details, at the same time, the person engaged in conversation with you will notice when you inquire about them. I must caution here; there is a difference between engaging in a tête-à-tête using personal details and stalking. Always use discretion when choosing the topic. 

And it is also true: avoid topics like sex, politic, race, and religion. While those subjects can bond a relationship, they can lead to a rocky beginning. 

In a social situation, it is vital to contribute as well. Take a turn, mention something as simple as how beautiful you think the sky looks, that the building you are in is architecturally impressive, lead the conversation without overstepping. This is also where thinking before speaking is skill. Don’t insert an inappropriate comment about the weather when someone is retelling a harrowing story of giving birth. 

Instead of interrupting a speaker, learn to turn the conversation gently away if the topic becomes one-sided and (boring) for others. And, it’s a great skill to build up some mystery about yourself. The whole world doesn’t need to know everything there is to know about you in one sitting.

In summary, be kind, remember that the world doesn’t spin on your axis, it takes a collective to build a community.

While I’m at it, I’m gonna practice what I preach here, “How are you, really?”

Reach out! Matheus Viana on


Let’s talk about the food thing

Photo by Skitterphoto on

Let’s Talk About That Food Thing

Frankly, it’s surprising. Since the beginning of time, some version of ‘people’ has been roaming this extraordinary planet. Estimate for human existence is at roughly 3.2 million years old, subject for an everchanging debate, yet, the question of what to eat, when to eat, or how to eat is still on the table—untouched. Is the answer lost in the fact that people have been roaming for so long that they misplaced the original instruction manual and became complacent? While eating is a complex issue, it doesn’t have to be.

What is fascinating is that as people, passion for food literally consumes them. They want to prepare it, share it, ‘you must eat something,’ and it ties them socially into a fabric; each culture weaves their own pattern. It’s the one common thread they can agree to, even if the question of what sort of culinary delight tangles the weaver.

For this article’s intent, let’s glimpse our North American and European eating habits. Many cultures exist which still consume a diet closely related to their ancestral roots. This is not about vegetarianism, veganism, keto, paleo, Atkins, or the many other so-called best diet regimes. This is speaking in terms of culture and ancestry. It’s no secret that people have conflicting theories on this continent about diet, exercising in correlation to health. If people ate what was suggested, …well, it explains the state of their health reflected in their bodies. Confusion is rampant. What should they put into their mouths? 

The answer not that complicated. But it involves battling an industry (or several) who are at work to keep the populace fat, unhealthy and wholly fooled about their well being. As a recurring theme, it comes down to that paper or plastic currency in people’s wallet that they, those industries, want access to.

Just for the fun of it, to support this article’s credence, and that those conglomerates don’t have the best intentions, here are a few interesting stats. The US weight loss market is worth approximately 72 billion dollars. So why are people still fat, unhealthy, and unhappy with how they look and feel? To combat the weight issue, greedy conglomerates simply adjusted the scale and the numbers on clothing to fool people into feeling better about their body image. It’s a temporary fix, a bandage on a flesh wound.

In the US, fitness-member numbers come in at a staggering 32 billion dollars. The USA wins gold, globally outpacing the rest of the market. So why are Americans still fat, unhealthy, and possibly depressed by how they look and feel? People strive to be better, yet they can’t overcome the obstacles set in their way to reach their potential goal. (Goalpost move.)

Sports apparel in the US is another mindblowing figure. As of 2018, that number has reached 167 billion dollars and is growing. Thanks to celeb endorsements, people are buying brands by the truckload. (Or shipping container loads.) However, Americans rank number 12 on the global obesity scale, Canadians at number 26, not a statistic to be proud of. Yoga pants are outpacing the denim market, and yet, people are still fat and unhealthy. Or so they are told each time they switch on the television or internet connection.

For this fundamental exercise and diet program, no one has to purchase the latest craze in fitness machines. Or buy the next fad gadget that will end up in the basement or garage gathering dust, and undoubtedly omit an alien frequency that releases feelings of guilt, shame, and failure each time they catch a glimpse of the offending instrument in their periphery. (People, that is part of the plan.) For this exercise, there’s no need to join any club or program, but, instead, drown out all that nonsense and listen for a few minutes. It’s possible to do this while sitting down, but what is required is an open mind. 

Picture a caveperson. Yes, the furry, bad teeth, (actually they had great teeth) stooped over, club-wielding grunting human that once roamed the planet. Let’s call her Lucy, in honor of the oldest skeleton discovered in 1974. Lucy is roughly 3.2 million years old (date subject to change without notice). Every junior archeologist will debate that sapiens (our current version of people) are much younger and only 200,000 years old. The point is: people have been around for much longer than any brand, gadget, fad, or next greatest thing.

From an interesting article that details actual findings of what our earliest ancestors ate, we should take a cue: nuts and seeds, greens, fruit, and the occasional bite of meat. (Meat: this will conflict with Inuit diets.),human%20mouths%2C%20according%20to%20NPR.

Once our species started farming, our teeth’ health declined, and it suggests that our digestive system re-engineered itself to fit the effect on our body. And this point also substantiates what I’m trying to convey.

So, back to Lucy, we’re more similar to Lucy than we care to admit, wakes in her cave-dwelling, yawns, and stretches, (call it yoga). She didn’t stoke the fire. Archeologists are still debating that number, anywhere from 300-400,000 to a million years ago. Lucy saw the early sunlight filter in, and since Lucy loved being warm, she ventured outside. Of course, before she left the safety of her berth, she looked both ways—Pareidolia ( was already ingrained in her psyche to keep her safe. Under the first tree, she found some nuts, cracked them on a rock and ate them. Farther afield, she found an olive, a date, a fig, or pomegranate. Whatever your fantasy dictates on what part of the planet your version of Lucy lives on, she had access to peaches, mango, strawberry, avocado, pineapple, and papaya. Since it was easy pickings, all the while looking for dangerous predators (as Lucy was on someone’s menu), she had a healthy breakfast. While she was swinging from a palm tree, she saw a crop of lentils, sesame, possible the early version of maize and gathered some into the fury pocket of her fur coat (no one doused her with paint or called her names for wearing fur). She kept those seeds to eat later as their expiry date wasn’t as close as those perishables she was consuming. Lucy knew that lean months were coming when no fruit or vegetables would be part of her daily diet. Produce doesn’t grow in winter. She had to be smart about it to survive, but she also knew she wasn’t going to die if she didn’t have her daily allotment of each food group. The human body is the most amazing fuel-efficient machine on the planet; you get out what you put in, and it even starts on empty.

While gathering her seeds, her fingers digging in the soil, she discovered an odd-shaped root, since she couldn’t speak well, she grunted, taro, and brought it home. First, to use it as a club against unwanted attacks, but as she banged it around, it became mushy, and the pulp got into her mouth and tasted good. (Pure speculation.) Her cousin, another Lucy, was busy smashing yuca into a pulp and feeding it to her baby. They lived happily on another continent. 

As Lucy wandered within a short radius of her home, she came across a bird that fell from the sky — dead. She’d seen a chimp pluck a bird’s feathers and then ate the raw meat. (Lucy didn’t understand the difference between raw and cooked.) Since she was still hungry, she did the same and enjoyed the taste of meat. She’d also seen apes use sticks to feast on termites, so she repeated the process and ate termites as part of her seven-course meal. But ultimately, she preferred the taste of meat over insects, and it was more fruitful to hunt for wild meat, more bang for the buck.

An interesting fact. Our digestive system is remarkably similar to that of apes and monkies. To simplify our intricated digestive system, our gut works like this. The digestive process starts in the mouth as chewing and saliva production prepares the food for the stomach. Vital proteins are digested, and enzymes kill off bacteria. In the small intestines, tiny little miners harvest the simple sugars contained in simple carbohydrate foods. In the large intestine, the harder to break down carbs are brought under the hammer. Think of cabbage, cauliflower, figs, any cellulose or plant food is worked and reshaped into something useable here. Nutrients are extracted, sent down the assembly line, and provide the body with energy. It’s a complicated process; it’s also what oils this miraculous machine called the body. And while most of us have the same essential functions, through evolution, bodies have adapted to their environment and survived. That is to say, some of us survived. The strongest survived without the assistance of medical intervention.

Science, biology, archeology suggest that ‘today’s people’ and the size of their brain is due to our prehuman ancestors eating meat and cooked food for a million or so years. The change didn’t happen overnight. What will be interesting for future scientists and archeologists, let’s say in a few million years from now, on our short evolutionary ladder, what the fall out will be from the food choices we make today. Visualize some head-scratching.

No one is suggesting people should go forage in the woods and return to a hunter, raw meat eating, seed gathering human. But then again, I am suggesting the more modern version of that. But isn’t it strange that modern people, with all their expertise on every topic, can’t figure out what to eat? Do elephants, or wolves, or chipmunks have this issue? Does superior intelligence separate people from knowing intrinsically what to consume?

The answer to the riddle is surprisingly simple. Stop eating junk! Stop following some weird recommended scheme of daily recommended intake. Humans have an imprint in their genetics that instinctively knows better; use common sense. If eating prepared food makes sense, sure, go for it. There is nothing in this article that can rectify that thought process.

When Lucy foraged, she essentially did what people are doing the world over today—choosing the most accessible food source at their fingertips. Lucy didn’t gather the seeds and nuts and fruit because she had a diet plan. She picked what was available. She ate the food she discovered on her path, like a nightly stroll to the pantry or the fridge. Lucy didn’t have access to take-out options and delivery. Chances are she had to put effort into feeding herself and family. The most natural remedy for fixing a bad-food-choice diet is not to bring it into the home.

Instead, pick something grown on a tree, something orange, green, or red. If it comes in a box in its natural state, then it isn’t nor never will be healthy, even if it is marketed as such. 

Lucy, however, spent a considerable amount of time moving her body. She walked, climbed, stretched to reach the highest, sweetest fruit on the tree. The act of gathering food consumed her time. If she hadn’t, people would have died out as a species.

Today, most people are confused about what and what not to eat, or they simply don’t care what they put into their bodies. The sad truth, many people struggle and have given up or in. People want instant gratification and are inundated with false and misinformation. Everyone can substantiate their opinion and find an ‘expert’ to support that theory.

Here is a theory: eat a diet rich in natural sources, be that plant, nut, fruit, quality meat.

To validate, read the above article on The Inuit Paradox. It supports the theory that through evolution, people’s systems have adapted to their environment.

A traditional Inuit diet consists of 50% fat. Let us clutch our hearts, fall over and die. Their essential nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, (Inuit don’t get scurvy) Vitamin D (the far north does not have much sunshine) come from mostly uncooked coldwater fish, seal, caribou, polar bear, ducks, other fowl, etc. As the article explains, this is the original and healthy version of the Atkins diet. An Inuit diet is high in protein and fat, low in carbohydrates. Their bones aren’t breaking from lack of calcium from milk (as a matter of fact their system doesn’t tolerate dairy very well). During their short summer, they feast on plants, wild blueberries, crowberries, salmonberries whiche they whip with fat into a favorite treat. 

This point closes the lid on what we are told to eat and not to eat. According to the article, a clear point is that there are no essential foods, even if the package says so, there are only essential nutrients.

To be healthy and fit requires effort. That is a point worth considering. And to make one good choice often leads to another, but no one needs to be perfect to survive. Forgive yourself, Lucy made many mistakes, yet she matured into an adult. What caused her death? The jury is still out to lunch.

Hey, today, unwrap a banana, peel an orange, shell some nuts instead of food wrapped in foil or plastic.

While the image above is clearly not ‘Lucy’, according to the attached BBC article, we started life as a fish.

The Sky is Falling

Clasping his grandson’s small hand, Pierre led the way around the soft bend in the lane, around the outcropping of trees rustling in the breeze, and away from the Sunday church crowd, gathered on a picturesque Normandy landscape.

“There,” he pointed.

He watched his grandson strain on his tippy-toes to find the marker in the green field that had been embedded not in the soil, but Pierre’s memory. Pierre’s eyes glistened, as always, he had just stepped backward in time to July 13, 1944, a day tattooed with the ink of blood in his mind. He lifted the child in his arms, held him close, and inconspicuously wiped his tears. The boy didn’t need to see that. 

“I was standing right about here,” Pierre spun them around, “when the airplane fell from the sky. A plume of black smoke spiraled across the sky. We’d been listening to the dogfight among the clouds. It was hot that day, and I hoped that any second the pilot would bring the nose up and land safely in the field.” 

On that fateful morning, Pierre, his family, and neighbors, watched in fear as the trapeze act of violent aircraft battles unfolded, showering them below with smoldering remnants of shell casings and bullets. With his ears tuned in, Pierre distinguished the sounds of allied Spitfires and enemy Messerschmitts battle it out on a terrain made of air.

“How did the plane catch fire?” The blue-eyed boy asked as he visualized a plane in the vast sky. He imitated the sound of airplanes flying, shoom-shoom. He coveted a collection of plastic and balsa wood model planes in his room—a passion he inherited from his grandfather.

“It was shot down.” Pierre didn’t say by Germans. His sweet daughter-in-law was German; it would only confuse the boy. “It was during the war.”

Pierre set the boy down, took his hand again, and walked over the field planted with this year’s crop, then paused. “He crashed here. If he hadn’t maneuvered the plane, he would have crashed right into your grandmother’s house.” Pierre left off the inconceivable,’ we would have all perished, we wouldn’t be standing here.’ 

The boy stooped down and picked up a black clod of fertile soil and held it in his palm. “Was it a big airplane?” The boy asked, turning to look up at the man casting a long shadow across the field.

“No. It was a Spitfire. Like the one I keep on the mantle by the fireplace.” 

“Did the pilot get hurt?”

Pierre turned away. No matter how many years passed, tears still started in his nose, glistened in his eyes, all for a man he never knew. Memories of that oppressively hot day in July, when he watched the black plume of smoke, the ratatat of machine-gun fire, the pop of explosions, that acrid smell of death, often triggered unexpectedly. Pierre never intended to lie to the boy.

“Yes. His plane was shot down by an angry hive of five Messerschmitts.” His grandson knew all about the agile enemy planes that they often played with on the wooden floor. Grandpa always had to play the bad guy. “Then his parachute got caught in the tail of the plane. He crashed right here.”

The sight of the broken but still warm man wrapped around the fencepost stabbed Pierre in the heart, as it always did. He swallowed the harsh memory of the limp body and the unforgettable and open eyes of a pilot, who, even in death, searched the sky for the enemy.

“Oh. Is it the man whose Zippo lighter you keep in the china cabinet?”

“Yes. That’s the man we had the memorial for. You remember?”

“Why do we have war, Grandpa?” Pierre brushed the dirt from the boy’s hand, hoisted him up, and held him. “That’s enough for now, your mom will be worried. It’s almost lunchtime.” 

Pierre knew his grandson would ask that same question again, only he didn’t know the answer. Pierre was roughly the same age as his grandson when the war arrived on their doorstep and made victims of them all. Only he had been one of the lucky ones to survive, and the war ended in 1945 before he could be drafted. Instead, for fifty-some years, Pierre Behier dedicated his life to searching for the man who lived on in his memory. The man from Canada with a brass Zippo lighter engraved, Roseland. A name that changed the lives within their small community and also the name of the iconic sky fighter: the Roseland Spitfire.

Based on a true story. As a writer, I’m often moved by the small things in life. Moments that drift in and out of life. Discovering the thread of this story in Okotoks, on their Veteran’s Memorial wall, inspired me to salute those who gave their all.

In honor and memory of Flight Lieutenant Arnold Walter Roseland of the 442 Squadron, who flew more than 65 sorties on Spitfires. A man who made a difference to the 22 French villagers (their families and future) whose lives were spared by Roseland’s evasive flight maneuver. 

The feelings of Pierre Behier, of Saint-Martin-de-Mailloc in Normandy, in this version of events, are based on creative speculation. What is true is that Pierre searched for Roseland for 50 some years based on a Zippo lighter and a Canada emblem torn off a uniform. Both men deserve to be honored. 

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For more articles about Arnold Walter Roseland and other war heroes visit

The Lucky Man–An Act of Malice Storyboard

Jack Spencer made a fatal mistake. One that landed him in the Pacific, literally without a paddle. As he struggles to survive the elements that the perilous blue throws at him, Jack comes to terms with the truth. He’s guilty. The most prevalent mistake: an affair with the woman about to marry his best friend. But does the punishment of being set adrift on the ocean warrant the crime? Only he can answer, only one person can save him.

As soon as Myra Spencer reaches Hawaii, her senses shift into overdrive. Her son, Jack, is missing. But everyone downplays his vanishing act and evades the truth. Hints suggest too much of a good thing as rumors of a mysterious beauty surface followed by copious amounts of booze before a wedding that will never take place. But as his mother, Myra knows better. Jack’s in trouble. Only she has no way to prove it—other than the suspicions her heart dictates.

Dumbfounded, Kai Hale holds the paddle belonging to his missing canoe in hand. The canoe is his lifeline to make amends with mounting debt. Slowly Kai’s life collides with the Spencers, and the reality of Jack’s disappearance is tied to his canoe.

But why? That is the question everyone is desperate to answer.

What Jack can’t know is that he’s on course with destiny. A path that leads him to an island and people who await his arrival. An island not charted on anyone’s map. The truth changes everything.

 ( What Jack can’t know is that someone close to him is out for revenge.)

Central Station: All Aboard!

wing of an angel
The wing of an angel, photo courtesy Monika R. Martyn and the glorious Sky

      We heard the train a long way off in the distance. A throaty rumble tunneling toward us, sooty plumes of smoke spoiling the blue skyline. Our eyes wide open, we stood in the shadows of our ignorance. Hindsight deftly made fools of us, and in the bliss of our ignorance, we believed this—this happens to other people. 

Sadly, based on the idleness of this flawed theory, we were sold a first-class ticket. Entry to a sport gambling on the unsuspecting. We believed we were mere spectators on the sideline. 

When Fate handed us the ticket, Stage 4, we knew instantly that she had mistaken us … for someone else. For days, we stood in a winding throng begging for a refund. But as we neared the ticket counter, we heard the hush of whispers, “closed for renovations.” 

The crush of the crowd shuffled us like a deck of cards onward, pushing us past the window clearly marked: Radiation Therapy. To our dismay, they sold out long in advance, and in exchange, we were handed another invitation: Welcome to the Chemotherapy Department. 

Chemo wasn’t a choice, but intrepid, we forged on. With our breath locked in the dungeon of our lungs, we knocked only to have the door slammed in our face, “access denied.”

Swaddled in our complacency, believing that a system would take care of us, we veered in the wrong direction and missed an opportunity that never materialized. Dumbfounded, we wandered and lost our way when time eventually unblocked the long stairway leading us to the platform designated for surgery. Only to discover it had left the station ahead of schedule.

Among the hustle of the domed station, like pigeons bobbing their heads to see clearly, we clung desperately to our only option. A carriage clearly marked Hope awaited. The train conductor blew his whistle, “all aboard.” The upside, with Hope, there’s always another way.

We took to our preassigned seats, no map in hand, no GPS to guide us on the journey. Blind faith chugging along, riding next to us like Zenyatta on a trot. Numbed and in pain, we were only able to stare out the window, eyes blankly seeing the scenery rushing past; glimpses of our comfortable lives vanishing in a blink. 

Regardless of circumstance, it wasn’t the sort of day trip anyone survived unscathed. There were, however, many vacant seats to choose from. We slipped the ticket stamped Cancer—Terminal into the pockets of our wishful thinking. Or more accurately, desperately clinging. Our fingers incessantly toyed with the soft fringes of … why us? 

Seated, slouching over our trembling knees, it occurred to us that we had been summoned on this ride based on mistaken identity. An idea we couldn’t shirk. We weren’t the sort of people who deserved this crippling invasion. Cancer happened to other people, and any minute now, someone would unchain us from this misery. Joke’s up!

The carriage of Hope turned out to be a ticket to nowhere. Like a merry-go-round, we rode the nauseating ride, dizzy and hungry for a morsel of truth which we didn’t dare face. But Hope generously gave us an extension. Time superimposed a new expiry date to an ending we knew was hurtling toward us at a breakneck speed. 

When we arrived at the final destination after endlessly drifting, they took our mother onboard another vessel. No one bothered to ask if we wanted to come along for the ride. Cancer has the audacity to bring entire families down. One word— such debilitating power. Our only option was to ensure our mother’s seat was cushioned. We tucked our love tightly around her and showered her with goodbye kisses. It was hard to smile without tasting the salt in our tears. While running alongside the train that picked up speed, we watched the track disappear into the tunnel of light. We had passed all the stations of burdens to bear and waved farewell. 

The image of our mother, a final glimpse of her sweet face, leaning out the window of life, tattooed our souls. Her frail and ravaged body rose above everything she had endured. How she mustered the strength; only a mother can know for sure. 

Weak as she was, she embraced us with her eyes and heart, she asked just one thing of us, “help me die in peace.” We granted her dying wish and allowed her to slip beyond the curtain, a quick-change act was certain. We whispered a thousand I love yous, like a rosary chant to take with her. When the light in her eyes finally extinguished, her pain lifted and floated toward the ceiling, settling on us with the weight and discomfort of chain mail. 

For the first ten years afterward, we journeyed to the platform with a regularity to set a clock by. Willingly, we handed the porter the luggage marked grief, welcoming him to rifle through the vestiges of every predetermined emotion. We no longer packed the hard edges of our anger, and like the train, it came and departed on schedule. 

And with each visit to the station, we brought the satchel infused with the memories of a lifetime. We remain as the gullible children beliving in the Disney moment of our beloved Mama’s return, however impossible. With our ears to the track, we listen for the gentle chug of a train we know is en route. Afraid it’s coming for us too.

Even now, we hear the stillness in our hearts softly pounding and realize it is but the footsteps of our beloved mother. She may be gone, but she remains, forever, next to us. An imprint of love and reincarnation.

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The Train, The Ultimate Way to Travel

Take a virtual tour of the train ride through scenic Western Canada

Roberson Davis, An Author of Distinction

If you enjoy intelligent, humorous literature, experience Roberston Davies

Small Town Appeal

Nanton Grain Elevators as preserved in Nanton, Alberta

Natural Splendor on the East Coast

East Coast, words defy the meaning of beauty and hospitality

Decadent M&M’s and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Seriously one of teh best cookies ever!

Visiting Banff, Canada’s Crown Jewel

A Three-Part Article

The Hills are alive!

Breathe Fire! Revisiting the Fort McMurray Fire

A Devastating Fire–An Amazing Community

For those who have question about Canada, feel free to reach out.

A Dog’s Life

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The biggest problem with puppies and dogs is that they are just too cute. Those rolling amber eyes, those soft tongues and endless kisses, those tails that signal and say, you are my world, they make victims of us. 

As it is, the world over, there are 900 million dogs, according to Most of us bring these adorable critters into our den and pass on our human qualities to them. We dress them up, we primp and polish them, we’ve put them on the pedestal. And rightly so, they are our most loyal friend and have been for 5000 years.

But it’s not always a dog’s life. At a glance, we look at the following countries and their dog population. Perspective on dog care is somewhat conflicting.

4.1 million dogs overrun Romania. The source of this problem is rooted in the historical systematization. This communist strategy forced the rural population to abandon their homes and settle in urban developments during the 70s and 80s. Many of these people were already struggling, bringing the farm dog wasn’t an option. 

If left to their natural devices, dogs form packs and multiply. An element to understanding dog behavior is recognizing that a dog is still 99.9% gray wolf, a fact proven by comparing wolf and dog mitochondrial DNA in 1993.

The Romanian government saw mass slaughter as a means of reducing the population. And only at the behest of a vocal outcry and severe criticism from various organizations were these cruel plans halted. However, an incident incited severe hatred toward the roaming and menacing pack when a pack killed a young boy. This surge allowed the government an opportunity to slaughter the dogs en masse. Eventually, and because of outside pressure, the government passed animal welfare laws in 2008. Sadly, stray dogs still face the hatred of the population and government. However, some dog lovers have difficulty in accepting the word dog and culling in one sentence and keep on fighting for their lives.

In France, dogs enjoy a well-loved reputation, and roughly 40% of the 7.4 million dogs are in loving homes and well pampered. The ratio of dogs to humans is 17 dogs for every 100 people, and the country supports a healthy grooming and pet accessory market. In France, dogs do not require licensing. Instead, it is mandatory to either tattoo or microchip dogs with identifying numbers. Each year, a total of 100,000 dogs are abandoned, leaving no choice but to euthanize many. Another startling figure is the number of stolen dogs. Each year thieves steal 60,000 dogs, preferential to the registered variety.

Photo by Chevanon Photography on

As the population of Argentina thrives economically, so rises the increase in the dog population, reaching the 9.2 million mark. The pet care market is making huge strides in the Argentinian market, and having a coddled dog is often a status symbol. While poodles, labradors, and German shepherds are the most popular choice, about 16% of dog owners adopted a stray as their family pet. As a leader supporting a healthy dog population, the Argentinian government promotes vaccination, spay, and neuter programs. But mind your step, dogs, or irresponsible owners, leave 77,000 pounds of dog poop deposited on sidewalks.

As with many animals in India, 10.2 million dogs have a special place in their society. While being a street dog is tough in any country, in India, they are often thriving and enjoying the generosity of Indian hospitality. People frown upon the government choosing to cull or harm these strays. Indians widely support programs like spaying/neutering, anti-rabies campaigns, and vaccinations and consider these methods the most humane way to keep the population under control. And in this continual development, significant strides are made to ensure the health and safety of dogs and people.

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In the Philippines, 11.6 million dogs are considered a menace and are responsible for many human deaths due to rabies. Sadly, the government of the Philippines has resorted to mass culling, using inhumane methods. Only through the efforts of many animal welfare organizations have educating, spaying/neutering, and vaccination programs ensured a lessening of these mass cullings.

In Japan, the number of pet dogs outnumbers children. A busy career-orientated lifestyle makes the Japanese population guardians of approximately 12 million dogs, spoiled and doted on by their human parents. Japan also enjoys a 10+billion dollar pet market.

Leave it to the Russians to send dogs on a space mission. Belka and Strelka were the first earthlings in space. As ambassadors on Sputnik 5, the duo made a day trip in August of 1960 around the orbit. A happy ending, as these two doganauts went on to enjoy comfortable lives. President Nikita Khrushchev gifted President John F. Kennedy, a puppy from Strelka’s litter named Pushinka. See photos. Warning these two cuties will melt your heart.

A mixture of about 15 million pet and stray dogs are roaming in Russia. Bizarre uses of dogs, such as in fur hats and, sadly, scientific experiments are some of the practices. A pack of famous strays, who are encouraged by metro staff and passengers, are the “Metro dogs” who have learned to ride escalators and know the train schedule. 

It doesn’t warrant saying, but the dog population in China is significant. Measured at 27.4 million, both stray and pet dogs are part of this astronomical figure. In China, the pet population growth is still outpacing the human growth population chart. During the 1980s, it was illegal to have a pet dog. Considered a western privilege, it was a finable offense. Since the implementation of relaxed rules, China has become the third-largest pet market globally, and kind individuals and organizations care for many of the unwanted dogs. 

The Brazillian pet market is enviable by any standards and continues to experience healthy market growth in its 15.2+ billion markets. As the second-largest dog market with a population close to 36 million, dogs are a household fixture. As the middle class expands, they are happy to nurture a pet as a family member.

The winner in the dog market, however, is the United States of America. With numbers reaching close to 90 million dogs. Many American cities created dog parks to keep this four-legged population happy. The pet food market boasts numbers bordering on 30 billion dollars, another 30 billion is spent on veterinary care, and 7 billion dollars worth of treats spoil these critters. And another 11 billion dollars is spent on pet services. “Who loves their pets?” dogs say, “Americans do.” It takes many animal welfare laws to achieve a healthy dog vs. human balance. To the outrage of many advocates, this includes the restriction and or banning of certain dog breeds. 

But this article isn’t solely about those fortunate dogs sprawling on our beds and sofas, or those dogs parading as champions and winning blue ribbons. This article is to get to the heart of the underdog.

When I lived in Canada, I chose to be a proud doggie mama. Four gorgeous, loyal, and loving Doberman Pinschers brought joy into my life. Cooper, Fraser, Raven, and Bounder were the substitute children I rushed home to each night. I still miss them, one day we’ll meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.

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In 2010, I moved to Panama and bought a house that came complete with a dog—aptly named Petunia. It’s ‘almost’ the custom that a home includes the resident dog. If not, within a few weeks, a street mongrel will worm its way into your heart. What is surprising about Panamanian dogs is, despite all the neglect they endure, they are good looking animals. Most being mutts that breed with this and that as spaying and neutering wasn’t common practice. 

Enter Expats. Expats have contributed so much to promote the humane treatment of dogs. Many Expats offer assistance, such as monetary benefits, or volunteerism, and many adopt unwanted dogs. They also organize spay and neuter clinics and canvas for shelters for dogs at risk. 

Sadly, dog neglect is a repeat throughout the world. Many dogs are dying from neglect, and no country is one hundred percent immune from people committing dog cruelty. 

Our relationship with the dog began with the wolf. Wolves, like dogs, are very social animals. In the beginning, the partnership started on simple terms. Humans fed the wolf; the wolf protected the people. In some sense, it still works on the same principle today.

Now that we understand why dogs have been man’s best friend for 5000 years (according to WHO sources), humanity still has many avenues to explore to ensure the health of dogs and people. Many dog diseases, especially in developing countries, are entirely avoidable and, if not, treatable. The scourge of these issues traces its link back to lack of education and not surprisingly low-income levels.

Venereal Disease

This disease always makes people shake their heads. Yes, VD in dogs. According to the University of Cambridge, CTVT or canine transmissible venereal tumor, Sticker’s sarcoma, is the passing of living cancer cells through mating. Often these tumors are prevalent on both the male and female genitalia of dogs. In free-roaming environments, like Panama, or Mexico, and many underdeveloped countries, this cancer persists. Dogs also transmit this illness through biting, licking, sniffing, and giving birth through parturition. The enforcement of dog control laws has helped eradicate this disease in many countries, but many are still vulnerable. Asking a dog to stop licking, biting, breeding isn’t a viable option. Through DNA analysis, this earliest form of cancer stems from 11,000 years ago. Although through much research and finally, treatment, CTVT is treatable with costly chemotherapy. But since this is not an option for many, it reinforces the many reasons that spaying and neutering programs offer crucial procedures. This preventive measure halts the spread of these living cancer cells that are painful and uncomfortable for the affected dogs.


All mammals (even man) can be affected by rabies, which is a dangerous viral disease. A wise man knows that rabies is 100 percent fatal but 100 percent preventable. Only a vaccination program is effective in extinguishing rabies. For thousands of years, and like CTVT, rabies has affected humanity and mammals. The disease is untreatable but preventable. In developing nations, human rabies is the result, most often, from dog bites, according to the World Health Organization. Rabies is a horrific disease, as the symptoms are horrendous to witness and experience. Humans and dogs die an agonizing death. Rabies affects the brain and spinal cord. The virus is prevalent in the saliva and is therefore easily spread through biting, or even spreading to open wounds. One of the early symptoms may be a behavioral change in the dog, anything from restlessness, apprehension, to aggression. Or the extreme reverse of normal behavior. A dog may start to lick or bite an area incessantly; a fever may accompany these early stages. As the disease progresses, the dog may become more sensitive, and even light and sound may become bothersome. Their appetite may lack completely, or they will consume unusual things. Paralysis follows, and foaming of the mouth is typical. Death is imminent.

Tick Fever or Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is another preventable and treatable illness. Caused by a type of bacteria that uses other cells as hosts, it invades a dog quickly. This organism is present worldwide, but the group that causes tick fever or RMSF is only present in areas of North, South, and Central America. Transmitted through an infected tick, dog tick or wood tick, or the brown dog tick, makes dogs highly susceptible. Dogs may exhibit a dangerous fever of up to 105F, their appetite will decrease and fail, an enlargement of lymph nodes is common, and the dog will experience inflammation of several joints. Also, coughing and breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, are signs of tick fever. A veterinarian will also look for swelling of the face and body, round, purplish, perfectly formed spots in the lining of the eyelid. Untreated, 1-10% perish from the disease. Since many of the symptoms require familiarity or examination of the animal, stray dogs seldom benefit from a diagnosis.


In many underdeveloped nations, hunger isn’t only a problem for dogs. When food is scarce, the dog is the lowest member of the pack. And even scraps become viable food sources for the human members. In these countries, the cost of dog food is astronomical, and many strays won’t eat kibble even when they are starving. But it doesn’t require an expert to confirm that a dog shouldn’t have its skeleton showing. Although some breeds are very slim, an undernourished dog is a sad thing to witness. Emaciated dogs show many physical symptoms, and those are often the first signs of malnutrition. To assess the physical appearance, a trained professional will use a body scoring chart to determine the damage and severity.

Lack of body fat exposes several or all ribs, the spine, and lack of muscle mass. The dog’s coat or fur will be lackluster or scruffy; they may have dry lesions and dandruff. Malnourished dogs often display a lack of energy. Eventually, they will no longer be able to eat. To treat a starving dog, the first instinct to overfeed may cause more damage than good. Small portions, served 3- 4 times per day, of high-quality protein, mineral, and vitamin-rich food, should be given first consideration. Some dogs may need some coaxing. Consider feeding a premium puppy feed even for mature dogs until they have regained some or all of their lost weight. But do not overfeed. 


Although most don’t think of fleas as a threat to our pets’ health, they are. One of the prominent issues is flea bite dermatitis, an allergy to flea saliva, which will lead to intense scratching. After prolonged scratching, the skin will break open and become infected. The afflicted dog is never comfortable under these circumstances.

A more severe issue related to fleas are internal infections. As the dog licks and bites the itch, the chances of the dog ingesting fleas increase—fleas host tapeworms inside their bodies. Once the tapeworms take hold, they can be anywhere from ½ inch to 12 inches long and look like maggots. Having worms will make the dog’s anus itch and cause weight loss. Treatment is simple, and the veterinary can prescribe medication, in many situations, a yearly application of medicine is required.

Flea infestation also leads to anemia in puppies (and kittens), depleting their red blood cell count. Anemic pets need the intervention of a veterinarian to reverse the effects as it can be fatal.

Other risk factors for dogs are vehicular accidents. In many developing countries, vehicles are still a relatively new means of transport—many dogs limp after being hit. Veterinary professionals seldom treat them. Physical abuse and neglect are also still prevalent. Many dogs are raised by the foot or broom method. While in North America, several agencies control stray dogs, and either return them to their owners or shelter them. Such agencies are few and far between. Sadly even in the USA, over 670,000 dogs are euthanized yearly.

Our Petunia in Panama was a small dog with an immense capacity to love. Everyone who met her fell a little in love with her charm. She was easy to care for; she followed the rules, and although protective of her territory, she allowed one stray dog to shelter in our yard. When Angel arrived on our property, my heart splintered. Angel was an absolutely gorgeous, sheltie-cross, with ears the size of wings. Dainty in stature, mighty in determination, she ran out of energy when she landed in our garden’s haven. Sheltered among the heliconias, hoyas, and ficus trees, Angel was utterly exhausted; she vomited the remnants of raw chicken and pleaded with her enormous eyes. Can I rest here for a minute?

After examining Angel, it quickly became apparent that the last flea treatment was unsuccessful. A working population of fleas infested her tri-colored coat. The conventional treatment (sort of like an old wive’s tale) had done more damage than good. Whoever had applied the treatment, scalding hot water, had ‘literally’ burned the skin around her neck, right off her. And when she was finally coaxed to stand, another injury became apparent.

We rushed her to the veterinary, who x-rayed her hip, and discovered that her hip socket was fractured. Not the sort of break repairable with a cast, surgery was possible only if Angel regained her strength.

My immediate concern was to bring her home, confine her, and build up her immune system. 

As it turned out, Angel didn’t comprehend any English commands. She possessed zero manners and walked on the furniture, stole food out of hand, and tried to overrule Petunia. But with gentle and assertive commands, I managed to contain Angel in the sunroom so that her recovery had a good start. She wasn’t thrilled with learning new rules, I wasn’t always thrilled with her bad manners, but those eyes of hers had the power to melt ice. 

Angel recovered her strength. Flea treatments began to take hold, and with gentle cleaning and first aid salve her burn healed. After three weeks of confinement, our veterinarian was amazed that her hip healed to the point it didn’t require surgery. He asked me repeatedly how I managed that miracle. Angel would always be marred by a slight limp, but that never slowed her progress. It wasn’t long before Angel found a forever home on a tomato farm. She loved nothing more than to torment her new brother, Jose, dig holes, and steal hearts with her antics and that face, those ears, that made her stand out like an angel.

Dispel The Myth of Becoming a Successful Writer

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Hi, there! And welcome to the intriguing topic of becoming a successful writer. My object is to dispel and dismantle this myth for you and, more importantly, mentor you on this long journey.

Simple, once and for all. 

My name is Monika R. Martyn. You’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of me, especially this coming spring of 2021. My debut novel, The Lucky Man—An Act of Malice, is scheduled for publication and I can’t wait for it to meet the long lineup for the bestseller list. 

So what brought you here? Is it frustration, inspiration, guidance, curiosity, or is there another underlying current that shifted you to my blog?