Publishing the true stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan, Canada.
We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by
Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also assist authors in self-publishing their work. Visit our website and buy our books at driverworks.ca.


Monday, September 25, 2017

GRIEF AND LOVE ARE INTERTWINED


July 4, 2017 - A couple hours from now will mark 18 months since my wonderful husband, Al, left this earth to join the rest of the angels. (I can see some of you snickering right now because there were pieces of Al's personality that weren't exactly angelic ... and he would roll his eyes at that first sentence, I'm sure ... but none of us are perfect either and I believe his hug-filled, loving spirit is in a beautiful place right now, doing God's work.)

Anyway ... as I was saying...

Like the rose I planted in Al's memory, I and our children (and our closest family and friends) have had ups and downs these past 18 months. We've had moments of blossoming and beauty, and moments of wilting and falling apart. We are continuing to live our lives though, one moment at a time, one day at a time, one season at a time, and we thank you for standing by us and nurturing us, especially when we needed it most.

​We are healing. Grieving still, but healing a bit more every day. 

Our children and I have honoured Al in our own ways - with words both written and spoken, with plants and other memorials, with donations to charities he would love, and in trying to be the best people we can be. We will continue to keep his name on our lips and in our hearts as we move forward in our lives without him.

I've learned that grief is more about love than it is about loss. Yes, we miss the one who died, but we wouldn't grieve them if we didn't love them.

We grieve because we loved. They are intertwined and will always be so.

" 'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all," wrote Lord Alfred Tennyson. I agree.

I and many of you won't forget Al or our story together. I wouldn't have it any other way. He was a big, bold, rambunctious blessing to me and to so many others, including many of you who are reading this. Thank you for helping me, our children, and our closest family and friends get through these 18 months.

​We will be fine. He wouldn't want it any other way.

Let's carry on.
In full bloom, the Winnipeg Parks rose bush purchased and planted in our yard in memory of Al.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

GROWING AND BLOSSOMING FROM A GRIEF RETREAT

This post was written on July 23, 2017. 

Yesterday was a good day. There were many moments of sadness, tears, and sorrow, but there were also moments of healing, laughter, and grace. It was good.

I am grateful for any "good" part of any day that has come my way since my husband died in January 2016. Anyone who knew my fun-loving, hug-giving Al knows that my life isn't nearly as "good" or as funny now as it has been for the last 40 years with him by my side. But I am trying, and yesterday was a big step towards more healing, learning, and peace as I was one of about 60 people who participated in the first-ever, full-day Heart 2 Heart Family Grief Retreat hosted by Palliative Care Services of the Regina and Qu’Appelle Health Region. It was fabulous.

We spent most of the day in group sessions that were specific to our type of loss and age group.


The session in which we shared our individual stories of losing our spouse was one of the hardest parts of the day. It was an important exercise that led to more healing, but many of us found it extremely painful to talk again about our losses – all involving palliative care circumstances – and to listen to the stories of the others in the room. However, telling the story is an important part of the process of grieving.

This sharing forged a strong, almost instant bond among us. We built on that as we attended workshops, yoga, meditation, made pebble art, exchanged information and fun stories about our loved ones, ate snacks and meals, discussed coping strategies, and so much more.

I was exhausted emotionally and physically at the end of the day, but the memories and the toolkit of tips and reminders that I carried home were priceless.

I was reminded that I am not alone on this grief journey. Others are also hurting, but there is help available if we are brave enough to seek it. Talking to other widows and widowers can be painful but helpful as they have also experienced the excruciating loss of a life partner. They do not judge; they listen and support. These are difficult skills to learn and put into action. I’m still working on them myself.

We received a wonderful handout with information from Victoria Hospice.​ I will read this handout many times over the coming days and months, and check other resources online and with a counsellor to continue with the process of grieving and healing.

I was reminded about the tips in my own blog post, “What I’ve Learned About Grief”, that I wrote just one month after Al died. I decided it would be important to share that information again because it could help someone. (Here’s the link.) I was reminded to reread my own blog post and to try to live those words, being gentle with myself – especially in my sadder, lonelier moments.

I learned about the power of self-compassion meditation from a Regina meditation instructor who also told us of the meditations of Tara Brach, available online. The instructor led us in an exercise where we placed our hands, one on top of the other, over our hearts and tuned into our breathing and feelings. The theory is that you let your thoughts float gently through your mind without judgment and you concentrate on your breath, just being in the moment for a few precious minutes of your busy day.

We talked later about how, when we lose our spouse, intimacy in the form of a daily hug or touch of a hand on the shoulder or arm is gone. We need to learn to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. We learned that touching our own hand, stroking our own cheek, or holding our hands over our heart can calm us and give us comfort. This 15-minute exercise helped many of us and gave a name to something I had found myself doing often when I felt anxious or sad. I learned this hands-over-heart idea a few months ago from my dear friend Susan. I did not know it had a name or a specific, science-based purpose until now. I was grateful for this meditation session.


On my way back to the retreat sessions from the park where we meditated, I noticed an abundance of beautiful flowers on the edge of the community garden nearby. I had sat by the other side of this large garden earlier in the day during a moment of grief after I saw all the photos of deceased loved ones, including a photo of my Al, on a memorial table. My mind quickly said, “He doesn’t belong there,” but I’m sure every other person at that retreat thought the same about their loved one. Still, the sight of Al's photo on a table with about 40 other photos hit me in an unexpected moment and I went outside and cried, stared at the garden, collected myself, then went back inside.

I had not noticed the flowers at the edge of the garden until then.


​I stopped to not only smell the roses but to take some photos.




Flowers make me smile and, at that moment, this garden was the fitting end to the meditation session. Flowers are colourful and full of life. They give me pause and hope for the future.​

We ended the day with a memorial service for our loved ones. We wrote their name or a note or a wish to them on a small paper “ornament” and hung it on a tree as we entered the chapel. We listened to inspirational words, in prose and poetry, sang a song with piano and guitar accompaniment, stared at our lit candles, and sat in silence. 



“Grieving is hard work,” a friend and pastor reminds me regularly. So yesterday was a good day of hard work.

​​I left the retreat grateful for the counsellors, leaders and volunteers who did so much to make it a good day; for the other participants who shared their stories and wisdom so freely; and for my family, who supported me with a debriefing and constant love as I made my way one more step along this road that we did not choose.

This summer when I was visiting my oldest daughter and her family, I bought a garden stone that sums up this story.

Gardening brings me peace. ​Gardening is good.

We are never sure of what tomorrow may bring, but we can carry on and live in hope, with the help of others. 




Monday, September 11, 2017

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, SIZE DOESN’T MATTER


It is one of the smallest plants in my garden, slightly bigger than my cellphone, but it is mighty.
 
This beautiful mini rose was a gift from a dear friend, in memory of a granddaughter that we lost at birth years ago. This little rose is an indoor plant. It was not meant to handle the harsh weather and severe winters of Western Canada. But it has survived and thrived in my garden for eight years, and I have loved it dearly.

Most years, it has been bountiful, producing a multitude of gorgeous flowers all summer long, filling that part of my garden with precious yellow petals. This year, I thought the rose bush was gone forever. There was no sign of it in June, July or the first two weeks of August. Suddenly, in mid-August, it appeared out of nowhere, shooting its tiny self out of the ground and up toward the sky.
 
A few leaves began to show and then a tiny bud came, followed soon by another bud. I was elated.
 
This little plant, you see, is a symbol of life to me. Although it marks the passing of a dear one, it also brings a sign of hope for the future. Its beauty shines into every new day and lifts me up with hope for happier times ahead.

​Sometimes life throws nasty curveballs at us. We can duck out of the way sometimes, but there are times when we are hit and badly bruised. Sometimes we are smacked right in the forehead and temporarily knocked out. But it’s important that we try hard to get back up - to regain our consciousness and shake off the cobwebs. Then we must stand up as tall as we can and keep on going. It’s not easy, but we have to try.

My granddaughter’s rose and other plants are a reminder of that for me. When the going gets tough, we need to find a safe place where we can carry on, do our best, and bring hope to others. 

​It's what we were made to do.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

PRAIRIE FARM STORIES OF SELLING CREAM TEACH US WHILE CELEBRATING THE PAST

In 2015, I wrote this "Read My Book" piece for Regina and Saskatoon newspapers to introduce readers to the fascinating anthology Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People. The book has been popular, due to its sharing of Prairie history and memories of the old days on the farm:

We can learn much from the people around us. Whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or people we have just met, there are stories to be told and lessons to be learned. This concept has been a driving force in my work as a freelance journalist for more than 30 years and has followed me into the field of book writing, editing and publishing.

In 2011, when I began working with the Saskatoon German Days Committee to help them create their book Egg Money: A Tribute to Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, I commented that they could also publish a book called Cream Money, since cream money was another important income source for farm women in days gone by. Of course, their Egg Money book is based on a statue of that name in downtown Saskatoon, so “Cream Money” did not make sense as a project for them.

So in 2014, my husband and publishing partner Al Driver and I decided to invite writers to send us their stories of selling cream and other interesting tales from past decades of farming on the Prairies. We collected 29 short stories and two poems from 30 Prairie writers, including myself.

My mother, Sabinka Staszewski, came to Canada from Poland in August 1929. She was two years old and made the 12-day voyage by ship with her mother, father and three siblings (ages eight years, six years, and six weeks - see photo below). After arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they headed west by train to what would become their new home in Athabasca, Alberta, 95 miles north of Edmonton.


The family spent their first two winters living in a hole in the ground. Literally.

During the First World War, my grandfather had seen houses that were dug into the hills of Romania. There were no hills on the Alberta farmland he’d purchased, so he adapted this idea and created the first dugout house anyone had seen in that region. Their dugout house was four feet deep, eight feet wide, and 14 feet long. A small wood-burning cook stove and oven was used for cooking and warmth. Their large trunk was their only other piece of furniture until my grandfather constructed a long bench.


One of the first items my grandparents purchased in town to add to their meagre possessions was a young Holstein cow named Jenny, to supply the family with milk. Cow’s milk was an essential item on every farm in those days, especially for a growing family. 

Other parts of my family’s story include the fact that my father, also an immigrant, and his siblings were punished for speaking Ukrainian in school. Until they could afford their own cow, my grandmother helped milk a neighbour’s cows so she could bring a quart of milk home for her own family each day.

These are lessons that we can learn from and stories which need to be told to preserve not only our history but to teach the next generation. Other stories within the pages of Cream Money tell of hard work, of children and mice falling into milk cans, of saving cream money for essential items such as teeth repair, of sending the cream cans to town by train, and relishing the rich desserts made with farm-fresh cream.

On days when I am tempted to feel gloomy, I remember the story of the dugout house. Life in Canada is good. Let’s keep sharing those stories.

Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People is available from www.driverworks.ca, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Chapters, Indigo, Coles, and other select retailers. 

Here's a link to my blog about the fun book launch we had for the book!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

LIVING MY LIFE AFTER MY HUSBAND’S DEATH – CHERISHING MY “BIG A”

(Months ago, my bereavement counsellor suggested that I write about this particular time in my grief journey. "It will help others," she said. I am now ready to share this story.)

Nine months was when it happened. When most people, aside from my family, lost interest in me talking about my pain and sadness over my husband’s death.

Some of my closest friends and supporters even struggled to feign interest and patience as I cried or poured out my broken soul to them. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had only been mildly affected by the death of this outgoing, fun-loving, witty, gentle giant of a man, while my life had been utterly broken. After all, I spent almost 42 years with this man as a major part of my daily life. They did not. And after almost nine months of caring for me, they had already said and done pretty much everything they could think of to try to help me through my grief. No, I couldn’t blame them.

To backtrack a bit, we learned In December 2015 that my husband, Al, was not going to survive the Stage IV colon cancer that hit him out of nowhere in August 2015. He died on January 4, 2016, a little more than two weeks after we were told his cancer could not be cured. His death was unexpected, shocking, and devastating for those of us who loved him.


His last wishes were that we, the people he loved, go on and live the best lives that we can. We are trying.

When it comes right down to it, no one can help you through ALL of the pieces of grieving the death of your spouse, the most important person in your life. Not your family. Not your friends. Not your pastor. Not your bereavement counsellor.

No one but you.

You have to do a big part of the work yourself. You have to figure out your new life without your beloved in it. And you have to try not to be offended or upset when people try to help you or, conversely, walk away or avoid you because they - and you - know they can't help.

At the end of September 2016, I realized that I had almost made it through nine months since my husband died. I was still sad, still broken. Although some people were trying hard not to suggest that I should “move on” or be more chipper, I saw that it was becoming more and more difficult for many people to visit with me and be dragged down into my puddle of grief.

So I decided to try to hold it in. To keep quieter. To talk less about him. To journal more and keep more of my pain, my thoughts, my sadness, and my loneliness to myself.

I had not been inside my own head so much in my life as I had been in those nine months. With no one to talk to every day, unless I picked up the phone or went away from my home-based business (which I used to share with my husband), my thoughts overwhelmed me, and I struggled to stay upright sometimes.

After he died, I had to rethink everything. Everything.

I soon chose not to come to many conclusions about my new life. I learned early that the best strategy when grieving such an excruciating loss is to take it easy. Take a deep breath. Take another breath. Keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Get through this moment. Get through another moment. Don’t worry about the thoughts or advice or expectations of others. Do what you need to do in that moment. Rest. Cry. Yell. Grieve. But, most importantly, be gentle with yourself. (I wrote about this shortly after he passed away - What I've Learned About Grief) 

I still struggle at times to live out these helpful words.

What became very clear to me was that I had to work hard at staying positive. I needed to keep taking steps forward, as Al wanted for me and I wanted for myself.

I had moved my wedding rings to my middle finger a few months after Al died, but they were starting to look and feel wrong. I realized that they were making me sad, reminding me every day of what I had lost. Even if I was having a good moment or a good day, my wedding rings moved me toward sadness. It was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life.​

I tested a new look one weekend in September 2016 by not wearing my wedding rings. A few days later, on September 28, I took them off and did not put them back on.

In mid-September, I had heard a radio commercial for a local jewellery store that was closing at the end of the month because the owners were retiring. I had taken my wedding rings to that store for resizing a few years earlier, on the recommendation of Dionne Warner, the inspiring seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about in the Never Leave Your Wingman book. The owners knew Dionne and her amazing story, and the woman jeweller remembered and recognized me when I walked into the jewellery store two days before she and her husband retired from their business. I was impressed. 

I told her why I was there. “My husband passed away from cancer and I don't want to wear my wedding rings anymore,” I said. “I want something to remind me of him and our time together, but I don’t know what.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she replied. And she began to cry.

I was moved by her caring. We stood for a second, then wiped our tears and carried on. I asked about necklaces and she showed me options for melting down wedding bands and placing the diamond in the centre of the blob of gold. I laughed, and I imagined Al's laughter at that concept too.

“You wouldn’t be able to see the diamond from my ring if you did that!” I told her.


You see, Al and I became engaged in Calgary when we were impoverished students finishing up two years of journalism classes at SAIT. We went downtown one day in May 1975 to look for an engagement ring so we could get engaged before I left Alberta and moved to his home province of Saskatchewan to marry him and live happily ever after.


We found a ring that we liked and could afford. Since Al wasn’t getting paid from his part-time job as a pizza delivery guy for another few days, I wrote a cheque for the $30 down payment on my own engagement ring.​ That might seem silly to some, but it was reflective of our relationship – make the decision together, do what needs to be done, and move on.

Al paid me back after he got paid. No big deal.

So in September 2016, at the jewellery store in Regina, I decided that a blob of gold with my diamond set in a necklace was not for me. I also wanted to continue wearing other necklaces I own and I did not want to feel compelled to wear only one, so I decided to look to see what else was available.

The jeweller showed me some rings - starting at a very high price, of course, and then working down to a cost that was more to my liking. I asked to try on only two of the rings she suggested, but they were too bulky and ostentatious for me.

She then asked if I preferred gold or white gold. “My wedding rings are white gold, so that would be nice,” I told her.

She pulled out another ring from the display case and I knew this was my ring. It was beautiful. Perfect, in fact.

This new ring is a combination of white gold and gold, and I immediately loved the design. Very unique and very personal. It fit my story exactly.

I bought the ring and asked for suggestions on where to take it for resizing since they were closing within 48 hours and could not do that work themselves. I wished the woman good luck in her retirement, then walked out of the store, pleased with myself and especially pleased with my purchase.

I wanted to show this ring to all three of our adult children in person over the next few days, so I kept the undersized ring inside its jewellery box and I carried it with me. That evening, I talked with our youngest daughter, Dani, after our yoga class. I told her about my decisions to stop wearing my wedding rings and to buy another ring in memory of her dad but also in recognition of my new life without him.

Dani was thrilled. “It’s an arrow pointing to your future!” she said of the design. She was proud of me, doing something just for myself (since I am not a me-oriented person) and moving forward with my life.

Her reaction surprised me. I had not seen an arrow in the design.

​The next night, I shared the story with our eldest child - our son Dave - and his wife, Kelli. Dave was shocked and speechless for a couple of hours, but that was my fault. I carelessly started the conversation by holding up my bare left hand and saying, “Look! No rings!” While I was excited by this, knowing the happy ending to my little story, imagine the grief that our son had to process in those seconds of recognizing that the band symbolizing his parents’ 40-year-marriage was now gone. I quickly apologized to Dave. I did not realize how that would look to him.

After I told Dave and Kelli the whole story and showed them my new ring, they were pleased for me. Kelli saw the design as a linking of two things. Dave told me later, “I really like it, Mom. It’s really cool and I hope it brings you some comfort.”

That weekend, I visited our oldest daughter, Lisa, and her family. Lisa was very excited by my purchase and loved the ring. “It’s two souls coming together!” she exclaimed about the ring’s design.

Friends who saw my new ring also thought the same – they saw the design as two lives joining or a clasp holding two people together.
​But that’s not what I saw in my ring.

​When the jeweller first held it up to me, I immediately saw an “A”. ​For “Al”. My Al.

That’s why I bought the ring.

Weeks later, I laughed out loud when I remembered that my mom used to call my husband “Big A” – because he was almost a foot taller than everyone in my family and he was a lot larger than most of us too. His big personality matched his size as well. "Big A."

In my diary entry on September 30, 2016, the night that Dave told me he hoped the ring brings me comfort, I wrote:  “I know that it will. It already has and I’m not even wearing it yet. Al did not choose to get sick and die, but I have to choose to live and to live well. When I bought that ring, it was a big physical reminder of my decision to carry on without him here, but cherishing his memory and our love everyday when I look at my hand. He will always be with me, and now I will wear it on my finger as a visible symbol of our never-ending love.”

I cherish the many years I had with Al. I wish that everyone in the world would be blessed with such a great love. I miss him dearly every single moment of every single day, but I am so grateful that he was with me, that we were together.

I have been wearing my new "A" ring for eleven months now. For eleven months, I have felt love when I look at my left hand. Love instead of sadness.

​The never-ending love between me and my Big A.








Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Angel Sign at Church - A Message from Beyond or a Coincidence?

I am a “liberal” Christian woman who believes in God, in Jesus Christ, and in angels and other out-of-this-world spiritual guides and helpers.

There. I said it. I believe in angels.

Oh. Were you stuck on the “I believe in God and in Jesus Christ” thing? Then this is not the blog post for you.  You may want to move on to reading something else.

Here I am, in 2017, believing in God and in angels … and in angel signs.

​I didn’t use to believe in angels much, aside from the whole “your guardian angel will protect you” thing that I was taught growing up in the Catholic faith. The thought of angels being around us all the time is a relatively new awareness for me. And it’s one I am just fine talking about now.

In 2012, when my oldest daughter, Lisa Driver,
 discovered her gift of talking to angels/departed loved ones – yes, like Long Island MediumLisa occasionally talks to dead people – I was curious. (I’m a trained journalist. Curiosity is essential.) The more Lisa researched, trained, and honed her gift, the more she wanted to help others, which led to her writing her first book, Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels, I, being a good mom and a book publisher, volunteered to help her publish that book, and I’m proud that I did so because the book has won an award (Winner, Spiritual category, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival) and has helped hundreds of people already.​

Lisa Driver, author of Opening Up
I knew that publishing this book would mean that I, as Lisa’s publisher and mom, would be asked questions about what I believe regarding angels, mediums, after-life etc. So I came to terms with my own changing beliefs.

I am a practising, faithful member of the United Church of Canada. Lisa was raised in this denomination too. As she explains in her book, “I was filled with peace when I heard the minister speak of a loving God who wanted the best for us and for us to love each other. The ministers, youth leaders, and families that attended were so welcoming, open, caring, and full of love. For me, church was (and still is) a place where I could go and feel accepted, faults and all.”

This is my experience with the United Church of Canada as well. Mostly. There have been times when things haven’t been all rosy – we are humans after all – but in general, my denomination and my local church congregation, worship services and committee work fill me with love, peace, and hope. Through pastoral care, prayer, and our work in the world, we help people serve others, embrace and celebrate life, heal, grieve, and be the best people that we can be. We are a caring community. I find my participation in my chosen religion is a fulfilling, wonderful way to live my life.

After reading Lisa’s Opening Up book, I accepted the concept that angels and angel signs are connected to God, or whatever you choose to call the Divine Love that guides us all. Many of my church friends also embrace this concept of angels and angel signs as other parts of their spirituality that they’d wondered about but couldn’t discuss before since it didn’t fall under traditional “church” concepts. It is marvellous for me, as a mother and a constantly evolving human being, to see the growth in myself and others because of these new concepts of connecting with our angels, shown to me by my daughter.

In Lisa’s Opening Up book, she notes that feathers and coins are two of the most common physical signs that people receive from their angels. “While finding a nickel on the street is common, if you find coins in mysterious places or when you are feeling down, know it is your angels getting your attention and trying to put a smile on your face. I had a client who found dimes everywhere – on her bathroom counter, on top of her microwave, even on her bed! She knew these dimes were a sign from her grandma that she was still with my client, watching over her and sending her strength and support. Feathers are a very common sign because of the wings we envision on angels.”

Which brings me to this amazing story…

One Sunday morning in late February 2017 was a very emotional day for me. It was not only my birthday – a day I did not want to celebrate since the recent death of my husband, Al – but it was an important day in our church year too. We held our annual meeting after our worship service, and a motion was made to remove my late husband’s name as a trustee for our church. This is church policy and an important step that I knew had to happen. I wasn’t ready for it emotionally though. Al died in January 2016 after a short battle with colon cancer. He was diagnosed as being terminal only two and a half weeks before he passed away, so I and our family and closest friends were still, in large part, reeling from this sudden death. (Lisa wrote about Al’s illness and death, among other things, in a wonderfully helpful way in her second book, Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear, And Grief & Choose The Path Of Joy, which was awarded Runner-up, Spiritual, 2017 Great Northwest Book Festival, by the way.)


At our church meeting, a friend made the motion, on behalf of his committee, to remove Al’s name as a trustee. This friend fought back tears as he spoke and we all became quiet and emotional, watching this open display of affection and loss.

A few minutes later, a dear friend of mine, Nadine, stood on behalf of the Nominations Committee and put forward my name to be accepted as a trustee. I had volunteered to put my name forward for that position. I wanted to honour Al’s memory and I knew it was a job that was usually not too taxing time-wise and was something I could do, amid my grief, having been an active member of our congregation for more than 30 years. The nomination was accepted and everyone became sombre again after that vote. It touched me deeply.

About 15 minutes later, the meeting ended. Nadine came running up to me and said, “Deana! Look at me!” She grabbed my arms and turned me towards her.

I was confused. Nadine is quiet, rarely gets excited in public, and never yells.

“Look at me!” she strongly repeated.

So I looked at her face. “Look down,” she instructed.


Which I did. And there, on the front of the skirt of her beautiful red dress was a perfectly placed, small white feather.

“Wow,” I said.

“I know!” she said. “I swear, Deana, I stood up to offer your name as the nomination for trustee, and I wasn’t near anything, and I sat down and there on my dress was this feather. It’s like he approves of the nomination.”

I took a photo of this feather. I knew that Lisa would be thrilled by this amazing angel sign, and I wanted to remember it as well.


​Nadine was talking about my late husband, Al, of course, when she said “he”.

We have seen enough nickels and quarters dimes and feathers on our walks and at restaurants and various other places in this last year to know that he is with us, sharing in our daily lives, and that we should not question where they came from. They are signs from Al, my departed loved one, our departed loved one. Still, we are human and we want to figure out where and why.

As another dear friend, Susan, came up to us to visit, I asked Nadine to tell Susan what happened. As Nadine finished her story, she started trying to explain that she had no idea where the feather came from. Susan, being much more understanding of angels for much longer than I have been, interrupted, “Don’t try to explain it. Just accept it for the marvellous miracle that it is.”

So we did that. We smiled, knowing that this was a message for us and that we should accept it gracefully and gratefully.

As I left the church and walked out to my vehicle, I saw a nickel on the ground by the driver’s side door. Another message from my angels. “God is with you. You are not alone.”

It is easy sometimes to pooh-pooh concepts that are different from what you have been taught. In my journalism career, I learned not to dismiss the perspectives of other people, especially if those ideas and approaches were not harmful to others.

My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer a few years before Al died. My father and father-in-law had also passed, and a few months after Al died last year, my mother-in-law passed away. We have lost many dear friends and other family members in recent years. I miss them all and would do anything to have them back in my daily life, but that is not to be. Connecting with angels, with my dear departed loved ones and other loving spirits connected to God, brings me courage and hope to get through my days and, especially, difficult moments. These little angel signs bring a smile to my face and a light to my heart. Sometimes they make me laugh out loud at the oddball timing and placement of the signs. They help me get through the darkest hours. They are a gift from God and I accept them gratefully.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Busing it to Medicine Hat to sell books and carry on while grieving

I travelled by bus to Medicine Hat, Alberta from my home in Regina, Saskatchewan on the weekend – to do some work, including a signing at the Coles bookstore in the Medicine Hat Mall. I also enjoyed a visit with my eldest daughter, Lisa (who is also an award-winning author), my son-in-law Kyle, and their five-month-old baby girl. It was the first time in decades that I had travelled on a Greyhound bus and it was quite the experience.

I chose to take the bus because road conditions on the Canadian Prairies can change quickly, especially in winter months. I didn't want the stress of having to drive for almost five hours during a snowstorm if the weather turned bad. I thought an experienced bus driver could do that for me and I could figure out how to close my eyes and pretend everything was alright if the weather changed for the worse. Which it did, of course.

The drive there was fine. 





There was very little snow along the drive on Thursday morning. It was surprising to be able to see the fields. I did some people-watching on the packed bus – which stopped at many different communities along the way, offering plenty of opportunities for new characters to board and attract my attention.

I saw travellers who had either little income or no desire to care for themselves clothing-wise or hygiene-wise. These were people of all ages. There were younger males who explained to others that they were travelling across the country because of the downturn in the economy. (It is close to impossible to not overhear others while waiting at a bus terminal, especially boisterous young males.) Some travellers were older and by themselves. I gravitated toward older women, as they seemed closest to my age and life story.

During our lunch stop in Swift Current on the way there, I sat at a table with an older woman who also turned out to be a widow. We had a lovely visit and discussed our grief and how it takes years to process it and learn to live with it. We also talked about how others who are not as affected by our loved one’s death have carried on with their lives within days or weeks. It is hard being a widow. It is hard being alone. Our conversation offered some healing moments for each of us and we were glad we’d found each other on this journey, among this bus full of strangers.

On the buses there and back, there were a handful of riders who had obvious mental health problems. One talked loudly and explained his illness to anyone in his path. He was obviously a nice guy, but definitely sick. I wondered about him and felt sad that his drug use caused more problems for his mental health and daily interactions with others. One young man had visible twitches and made many trips to the bathroom on the bus ride home. Another yelled out in his sleep. It was enough to make me uncomfortable and I thought about the bus drivers who meet these people daily and take them onto their buses, hoping everything goes well – which it did on my buses.

On arrival in The Hat, I was met by my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, and this terrific sign:


It was the start to a great weekend.

As always, Lisa and I spent many hours talking about our books, marketing ideas, book awards contests, future book sales and signings, and other strategies for our respective companies - her Above 540 and my DriverWorks Ink.

It began snowing on Friday night and continued for the rest of the weekend. We visited and worked, drove through the snow, and visited and worked some more. (And I got in plenty of Grandma cuddles!)


Oh ... and we got our toenails painted! Thanks, Lisa, for the early birthday gift!

On Saturday, we had a signing event at the Coles bookstore in the mall.  Lisa signed her award-winning spiritual book Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels and her new book Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear And Grief & Choose The Path Of Joy. I signed two non-fiction books that I have compiled, Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People and Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life.


My granddaughter is the cutest co-signer I've ever had!

At the signing, we held each other up emotionally and spiritually when people asked about Lisa's new book, Leap! In it, she shares details of her own story and how she felt when she heard the news in August 2015 that her dad (my husband, Al) had colon cancer. She shares what that diagnosis meant in her life and how she coped with that situation at what should have been the happiest time of her life – a time of expecting her first baby.

Our entire family lived with hope from the minute that Al got sick. He chose to fight with all he had and we chose to be there beside him, doing whatever we could to keep all our spirits up and LIVE in every moment we had together. Unfortunately, in December 2015, the doctors surprised us with news that they could do no more. Al passed away two weeks later, on January 4, 2016.

In her Leap book, Lisa talks about overcoming feelings of doubt and fear as well, but mostly her story is one of carrying on through grief. She shares meditations and exercises and strategies to help readers overcome these obstacles and events in their lives.


It was tough for me to read her story, hearing my own child's pain. It was emotional for me to edit it and publish it. But she did it and I did it.

The story is difficult but important.

We know it has already helped others. 

"I am reading your new book and cannot put it down! It is filling me with the inspiration and affirmations I require. Your opening of your soul so openly in this book has me examining every inch of my own soul and filling it with love and appreciation for the journey I too am on."

We know Lisa's new book will continue to help others. And we are confident that Leap, like her first book, Opening Up, will win a book award too. It’s very well written.

So every time Lisa and I get together  as happens with my other two children and their partners  we talk, we listen, we care for each other. We miss our dad, dad-in-law and husband. We talk about him. We love him and each other. We grieve. We cry. We laugh. We hug each other. And we carry on.


Al and Deana Driver, 2013
The little one's fingers on the window were a precious sight as she looked out at the snow.

The bus leaves Medicine Hat going east only once a day. At 3:15 a.m. 

As the bus depot's answering machine's voice message says, “You heard that right; 3:15 in the morning.” You cannot buy a ticket “at this ungodly hour” – a comment that made me laugh out loud – but if you buy your ticket ahead of time, as I did, you can get on a bus driven by an experienced driver who will head out onto the highway even though it’s been snowing for three days and is still snowing, and there are warnings to stay off the highway.



It's quiet on the streets of pretty much any Canadian town or city at 2:30 in the morning. Medicine Hat is no exception.



I tried really hard to sleep while the bus driver did his job. The one kind-of-open lane of highway caused me some stress.


And it got a little worse partway home.


I did not take photos during the worst parts. I closed my eyes and said a lot of prayers.

But we made it! And I wanted to express my appreciation to the driver.

As he handed me my suitcase, which he had just pulled out from the storage compartment under the bus, I handed him a $20 bill. "I haven't taken a bus for years and I wanted to thank you for getting us here safely."

He just looked at me, so I asked him to please take it. He lifted his arm up and out a bit and asked me to "put it there", under his armpit. Ummm... okay.

As I turned and started walking away, he followed and stopped me. "Do you know that this is only the second time in 26 years that this has happened?"

"That someone gave you a tip?" I asked.

"Yes." 

"Well, you deserve it." And I left. Perplexed. I understand that people who ride the bus may not have much money but ... really? Not even a dollar? Sad.

My daughter-in-law Kelli and my youngest grandson picked me up from the bus depot and drove me home. I cherished the hugs and the "Welcome Home" sign made by my four-year-old grandson.


As I shovelled snow, I thought about the weekend and all its experiences and interactions. 

I saw this mug in Lisa's and Kyle's cupboard and I used it all weekend.


Profound and appropriate. Exactly.