Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Marking an anniversary you don’t want to remember

The last few weeks have been getting to me. Set aside the pandemic concerns about family and friends going back to school, the lack of sales and in-person promotion options for my books and publishing business, and the loss of ability to safely go out into the world and interact with others. Those are all real concerns for me, but the past few weeks have grated on me for another reason.

It’s been five years since my late husband, Al, became suddenly ill with Stage IV colon cancer. I have purposely chosen to not remember the date of his emergency surgery or what day he came home from the hospital. I have not kept track of which days he was readmitted with complications or what day it was that he went back in for the last time. I wrote those details down long ago, mostly for his healthcare providers, but the dates aren’t in my head and I prefer it that way. The timeframe lives in my body though.

Even before a Facebook “memory” popped up with a photo I took when he came home from the hospital after surgery, I was very aware of this time of year. As the five-year anniversaries of these important events come and go, I feel my soul start to hurt again.

The soul, I’ve been told, remembers. The body – made mostly of water – remembers. There’s nothing I can do to stop that pain from flowing through my being and shaking me to my deepest core.

The memories of those moments and events have not come in a visual way, except for that one Facebook photo, which I subsequently hid and will someday delete when I have the emotional energy needed to look at all those photos again. The memories have arrived as more of a feeling that silently crept up on me. A tingling sensation on my nerve endings. A trepidation in my heart. An unexplained unsettled feeling.

Such is the ebb and flow of grief. Even when you are doing well in your life and having mostly good moments and good days, the body remembers and reminds you of the past. You feel in your soul the time of year when a certain event changed your life forever.

It took me a few days to come to terms with these deep-seated feelings.

“Five years,” I kept hearing in my brain. “Five years.”

I tried to ignore it. It would not be quashed.

It rose up like an anniversary that could not pass without some recognition of its significance. So here I am, acknowledging it.

I have survived five years since Al’s emergency surgery. I survived the unexpected worsening of his condition. I survived the unreal, frightening, sad, and peaceful moments of being with him in the hospice. I survived losing him.

For some reason or reasons, I’m still here. He is not, but I am.

It’s surreal and strange. There are times when I can’t believe it, yet I know it’s true.

Five years.

I look around and I’m alone. How did this happen?

But then again, there are many things I’ve done in my life that I can’t believe happened – most of them good and some not as wonderful. This too shall pass. Not the awareness of the finality of it, but the moment of grief. The sadness of recognizing he is gone will go away, but it will come back. Such is grief over the death of one you loved so much.

My head has always known that he is gone. As time goes on, my heart is doing a better job of getting on the same page as my head.

It’s been almost five years since cancer sucked much of the laughter and joy out of my life. That joy was wrapped in the form of a tall, strong, jovial man who is no longer with us. It’s been a heart-wrenching, horrible, complicated, lonely journey for the most part, but I know I've made it through the worst of it.


I knew I’d figure out how to be okay. I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I am grateful to family, friends, and bereavement counselling sessions for helping me make it this far. I have read book after book. I’ve journalled and cried and exercised and napped. I have talked and talked and talked with anyone who would listen, even after many of them stopped wanting to hear it. I have stared at the television for hours on end, looking for a respite from my agony, from the thoughts in my head, the hole in my heart, and the fears and emotions bubbling to the surface.

Taking one step at a time, with my own inner demons and thoughts, I’ve made it this far. And I plan to keep going.

Losing him became my measurement for today. What's happening in this moment and how does it compare to that loss? So far, nothing has come close to that devastation, for which I am grateful.

When Al became ill, he chose to fight. We had been together for four decades. There was no question that we would fight his cancer together. We followed doctors’ orders and lived in the moment as much as we could. We chose to not live in fear. It was the best way to live. It is the best way to live.

We dealt with what was in front of us – the things we could control – and we let go of the rest. It is easier to do that when a life-changing situation hits you in the face and you have to set aside much of your daily routine to focus on the moment. "Living in the moment" doesn’t have the same immediacy when things are going along smoothly, but it is important. Crucial, really.

We laughed, we loved. We hugged and enjoyed each other’s presence. Al told stories and teased us all until the illness robbed him of energy and life. I recorded some of his best stories and the conversations he had with visitors at the hospital so I could look back at those videos someday and smile. That someday is not here yet.

Five years is too soon for me to watch videos of what I've lost. I've managed to listen to a voice recording from 2012 during which I rolled my eyes at his strange sense of humour. When I hear that recording now, it makes me laugh. Sometimes when it pops up in my music feed on my phone, though, it hurts and the tears come. My loss is still profound, affecting most of the moments of every day, but I am okay.

I have carried on and added to my life after loss with some new friends, new social activities, a foray into the dating world (the jury is still out on that front), and a better grasp on what I am willing to accept and dismiss in this precious life of mine.

It’s one of the many lessons I learned from Al’s death. I not only need to set better boundaries for my own well-being, I need to be okay with the disappointment of others when I stick to my boundaries. I need to look after my own physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health. I need to seek out the things that make me happy and spend my time with the people who bring joy to my life – from a safe physical distance or in other ways that I can manage during a moment.

It’s been five years, but sometimes it still feels like yesterday.

The bigger anniversary – five years since his death – is coming yet. But I think I’ll be okay with it.

I’ve learned that the anticipation leading up to a birthday, anniversary or other major event connected to a deceased loved one is often worse than the actual day of the event itself. By talking about this anniversary, even in its loosest form without specific dates, I have taken away some of its power over my body. Maybe my soul can release more of that pain and bring forth more of the happy memories. For there are a boatload of them, as Al would say. A big, happy boatload of memories and stories. It's my job to keep those alive in my soul.



Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Books and beauty in Medicine Hat

In July, I travelled to the beautiful city of Medicine Hat, Alberta to visit family. It had been six months since I'd seen my oldest daughter, Lisa, and her family in person. The only other time Lisa and I were apart this long was when she was travelling in Europe after completing university in Calgary. Both of those time periods felt like an eternity.

The past six months of not seeing her face-to-face, hugging her, and making in-person plans for our next book projects as authors and co-publishers was especially long with the added stress of COVID-19. I missed her and her husband, Kyle, and their two daughters, especially as the youngest was learning to talk. So when one of my closest friends invited me into her pandemic bubble to go along for a drive to Alberta, I gladly accepted. We'd both been careful about self-isolating, sanitizing, and wearing face masks when we occasionally went out in public in our city of Regina, and we continued with precautions on our journey west.

Medicine Hat is a lovely city, with the South Saskatchewan River, the hills and coulee/ravine adding to its beauty. Deer can be seen wandering through the neighbourhoods and the people who live there are typical, friendly Canadian Prairie folk who help each other out and care for their community.





The efforts to revitalize the downtown area of Medicine Hat include numerous wall murals that Lisa and I enjoyed during a morning work break.




We also talked about our newest book ventures - my two volumes of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation and the newest spiritual guidebook that Lisa is writing to add to her other three great guidebooks. This is exciting stuff! 




Watch the video we shot in The Hat for details, including the title of Lisa's upcoming book!

All in all, it was a soul-filling visit with much opportunity to work and play with some of my favourite people.



P.S. You can purchase your copies of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation here on the DriverWorks Ink Shop page. The books are also available as e-books from your favourite e-book vendors.

Special thanks to Creative Saskatchewan for its Book Publishing Production Grants support for the Flight series.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Pookie the Bunny brings some creature comfort during COVID-19


Meet Pookie – the bunny that has decided to relax or just munch on grass and weeds in my backyard when he’s not hopping around elsewhere.

Yes, Pookie.


Pookie came to visit me a few weeks ago and has since decided to make my yard a regular stop on his tour of the neighbourhood. Pookie was much smaller when he first arrived, so I knew he was a bunny and not a full-fledged rabbit yet. I wondered if I’d someday find a whole litter of bunnies out by the back fence or chewing the tops off my daylilies and generally being a nuisance. So far so good.

I watched Pookie chew on what I hoped were thistles and dandelions in my lawn one day. I started to warm up to him a little more from that moment on.

For a few days, when I had to do some serious weed control, I covered up a couple spots where I knew he was crawling under the fence to come in and out of my yard. I thought maybe I would be better off without a wascally wabbit on my property after all. Then there he was one day, just resting by my garden boxes, looking at me with one of his dark eyes, ears down as if he wasn’t the least bit concerned that I was walking on his land. It turns out I hadn’t closed off all the spots where he could sneak in and out of my yard. Now what should I do?

A friend who is a proponent of the “live and let live” philosophy suggested that the bunny may have come to keep me company during the pandemic. I had wondered about this myself, being a person who believes in angels and spiritual signs from departed loved ones. I’ve seen a lot of robins this year – almost every time I think of my late husband, in fact. And a bluebird came and sang loudly in my front yard a couple times when I was working on landscaping and thinking of my departed mother. Why not a bunny bringing messages of love and support?

I have not seen a rabbit in my yard - front or back - in the 12 years since we moved to this busy street. And now, in the 13th year (13 was my late husband's favourite number), a bunny has appeared and a larger rabbit sometimes shows up in the front yard too.

Pookie has certainly lifted my spirits some days. I found that I actually missed him on the days when he was gone.

So be it. Live and let live.

He has not yet figured out how to get up into my garden boxes to eat the peas and carrots, so as long as he sticks to the grass and weeds, he can stay.

Pookie comes and goes as he pleases, of course, and I am pleased and intrigued to see him when he’s here. He has scared the bejeebers out of a me a couple times and I’ve scared him – rabbits are quiet beings and I didn’t see him hiding in the front shrub that time or on the back lawn yesterday while I was watering plants but, for the most part, we coexist quite nicely.

Friends have told me they named the rabbit that visits their yards, so I thought my bunny’s name would be Velvet, after one of my husband’s favourite children’s storybooks, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It’s a story about how a stuffed bunny wants to become real through the love of his owner. I thought I had Al's childhood copy of The Velveteen Rabbit somewhere, so when I went looking for it I was surprised to find that I was wrong. This was not the book I have been holding onto for decades.

Published in 1959 and addressed to my husband from a neighbours’ two children, Pookie’s Big Day by Ivy L. Wallace tells the tale of a bunny with wings who lives with his person, Belinda, in a little cottage in Bluebell Wood.  Belinda is celebrating her birthday and Pookie has woken early to gather violets and elderberries for his friend. Pookie has such a great day celebrating with Belinda and all the woodland friends that he wishes every day could be this much fun, but he soon learns that this wish would not be such a good idea.

 







It’s a lovely little story so, in honour of both this hardcover, string-bound book from decades ago and my husband Al, I’ve named my rabbit visitor Pookie.

In thinking a bit more about the origin of this bunny's name, I now know that this creature definitely has to be connected to my late husband. Al could not possibly allow my little rabbit to have a classy name like Velvet. Oh no. Not my mischievous Al. I can see him smirking away as he teasingly calls the rabbit, "Heeere, Pookie... Come on, boy! Pookie, Pookie, Pookie!"

Oh my. Al still makes me smile and occasionally laugh out loud.

Little Pookie doesn’t know his name, of course. And I’m not sure I will ever get that friendly with him to call him by name yet. I grew up on a farm and I know that I could be asking for trouble by allowing him to stay. We’ll see.

For the time being, I’ll allow him to seek refuge in my yard and I’ll try not to scare him if he promises not to scare me.

Pookie is a reluctant photo subject but he is sometimes patient enough to sit still or at least mostly within the camera frame while I attempt to take a half-decent photo or video from a safe distance. 

So here you go – enjoy another glimpse of Pookie, my furry little friend.




Maybe he’ll give you a little smile and a mental break from the stress and strangeness that is 2020.

Have a Hoppy Day, everyone!


Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Cat’s View of COVID-19


In 2011, I published Letters to Jennifer from Maudie & Oliver, a wonderful book of humorous letters for children and adult readers. It was written by Winnipeg author Sharon Gray, aka LIP (Live-In Person), from the point of view of her two precocious Siamese cats Maudie, the prima donna, and her brother Oliver, who doesn't get enough love because he lives with the prima donna.

Letters to Jennifer from Maudie & Oliver by Sharon Gray,
published by DriverWorks Ink
The cats share their day-to-day adventures, however maudlin or amusing, with their dear Auntie Jennifer – to lift her spirits while she battles cancer. Whether they are watching friends in the garden, jostling for space on their favourite wingback chair, or vying for the attention of humans, the compassion and silliness of Maudie and Oliver make for some terrific, light reading. And we all need more of that in our lives.

Letters to Jennifer from Maudie & Oliver is available only as an e-book from various e-book retailers including Chapters Indigo and Amazon

Author Sharon Gray recently wrote a new letter from the cats to a friend who has survived two years of breast cancer treatments which, thankfully, led to remission but caused some serious, painful side-effects. Sharon graciously allowed me to share her letter with you. She hopes it will lift everyone's spirits as we all go through COVID-19 together.  






Saturday, May 2, 2020

Only you can make yourself happy

You have to make your own happiness.

This is a lesson that is reinforced daily after you lose a life partner. You learn it early in your grief journey - if you didn't learn it before then - and it hits you in the face often as you work at carrying on in your new life alone.

Isolation heightens the awareness that while there are others who influence your activities, actions or thoughts, you are still the only one in your body. You are responsible for the way you think, feel, and act. You are responsible for creating your own happiness.

I interviewed a fascinating man many years ago who spoke about living in a refugee camp. The physical conditions at the camp were best described as squalor. Still, he had been happy there ...  because he chose to work at being happy every single day.

I am working at that too.



This was a beautiful day in my neighborhood. Since physical activity boosts emotional wellness, I planned on taking a bike ride to distance-chat with a widow friend and compare notes on how we are each doing. She is struggling with this pandemic isolation on top of her grief at losing her husband - a concept that had struck me more times than I care to count during these past seven weeks - so we chatted and sent love by text messaging instead and agreed to connect again in a few days.

I then contacted another friend and rode my bicycle over for a distanced visit with her. I needed that connection, with a few laughs thrown in, to keep me saner and happier.

During my ride, I enjoyed the sunshine, the clouds, the scenery, and the moments of face-masked smiling and saying hello to passersby from a distance. (Here's another positive about wearing a face mask outside, aside from it keeping me safer - I won't have to wear as much sunscreen this summer!)

After I parked my bike at home, I set up a "Gravity Chair" I had purchased at the end of last summer and had not had the opportunity to use yet. I spent the next half hour sitting in that chair and staring at the fluffy clouds while listening to chirping birds. It was the most relaxed I'd felt in weeks. (Guess what I'll be doing a lot more of in the weeks to come!)


I then peered into my garden beds and was thrilled to see green shoots of Springtime!



I smiled. A lot.

When I finally went back inside my house, I saw a small, yet big surprise sitting on the kitchen counter.

A feather. 

A sign of love from my angels - my departed husband came to mind, of course.


This amazingly small yet perfect white feather was sitting on the counter in a house where there are no down-filled jackets or anything else containing feathers.

How did it get there?

Maybe it attached itself to my clothing during the bike ride or in my backyard and flew off my clothing as I turned the corner to enter the kitchen, landing perfectly still on the corner of the counter, where I could see it.

Or maybe not. The "how" doesn't really matter to me.

Because I am responsible for my own happiness, and I gratefully accept any help I can get from wherever I can get it.

And that feather is going to stay right where it is until it decides to go somewhere else to bring a moment of "happy" there.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

9-time Cancer Survivor Gets Good News


In 2011, I wrote (and published) the book Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope. Dionne is one of the most remarkable, inspiring, fun-loving, hope-filled people I know.

Author/publisher Deana J. Driver with Dionne and Graham Warner, June 2011 

When I met Dionne in June 2010 to begin interviewing her and Graham for the book, Dionne was battling Stage IV liver, lung, and bone cancers - her fifth, sixth and seventh cancer diagnoses. She'd already beat breast cancer, brain cancer, and two bouts of liver cancer. With these latest cancers, she had been dressing in different costumes each week and dancing into her chemotherapy treatments, with her wingman (her husband Graham) similarly attired and dancing beside her. They brought hope and laughter - and occasional looks of confusion - to everyone they met during the 77 treatments and themes that occurred by the time the book was published in June 2011.

Some of the "themes" Dionne created for her chemotherapy treatments in 2009 to 2011

Dionne's story has inspired and helped thousands of people around the world and it has been my honour to write and publish book to share our mutual goal of spreading that hope.

And her story continues.

A few months after the book was published, Dionne went into remission. No more Stage IV cancer in any part of her body. To say that everyone was astounded and thrilled is an understatement.

How could this be, you might wonder. For starters, Dionne has a remarkably positive attitude - before, during and after cancer. She lives her life to the fullest in every moment of every day and encourages all of us to do the same - whether we are ill or not. Dionne also has a body that responds well to therapy treatments. She jokes that Heaven is not ready for her yet, but when it is her time, she will be bringing her own radiation-lit, disco-ball body with her! Dionne also received some unique treatment therapies in a hospital in Tijuana in 2010 and she changed her diet as part of that treatment too. (You'll have to read the book for more details.)

Unfortunately, in April 2012, cancer returned to Dionne's liver and she began treatment again. 

A few years later, Graham was diagnosed with cancer in his abdominal area. He successfully underwent surgery to remove the tumour and was cancer-free at his one-year checkup. As Dionne would say, "Woo Hoo!'

Still, how much more can a couple take? Well, these are the Warners ... so the answer - even though no one wants it to be this way - is "a lot".

Dionne had been taking various treatments since her Spring 2012 liver cancer diagnosis, but about two years ago, tumours appeared in her hips and other parts of her body. She has since had several different treatment regimens for these tumours, with differing amounts of success. Hundreds and hundreds of people - whom she calls her Earth Angels - continue to send best wishes, prayers and love to help her fight this evil disease.

And now for the latest news of her cancer journey...

Earlier this week, Dionne received a phone call from her oncologist to come in to his office to hear the results of the latest CT scan. She had not expected a call so soon after the test, so she was nervous. Not to mention having to take her immune-compromised body to the hospital again during these COVID-19 times.

"My oncologist wanted to share the news he had for me sooner rather than later," Dionne reported. "He shared with me that all of my tumours have shrunk.   I had him repeat it more than once as I was in complete and utter shock. Not just one tumour but all and trust me, ,there are a lot. The new chemo regime along with your love, support and continued prayers, Earth Angels, are working. Woo Hoo! "


When I asked Dionne if I could share her amazing, fantastic news, she replied in the affirmative.

"Let's continue to give others H💜PE, I say."

Absolutely, Dionne. And Woo Hoo a thousand times over!

Dionne and Graham Warner in April 2020. Bottom left, she's wearing a handmade mask to go to the hospital to hear from her oncologist.

And just in case you need another dose of happiness and laughter during these uncertain times, here's a video I took in 2011 of their amazing "flappers" theme. Enjoy.



** You can purchase the Never Leave Your Wingman book from SaskBooks and pay no shipping in April 2020. All sales from this bookstore of our provincial publishing group organization will go directly to the publisher members - in this case, my DriverWorks Ink publishing company.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Five COVID-19 Lessons Learned from the Paralympics - Lessons #4 & #5


Ten years ago, in March 2010, I was privileged to be a spectator at various cross-country skiing events in Whistler, B.C. during the 2010 Paralympic Games. 


I was also at the Games to support author and friend Mary Harelkin Bishop as she launched her book Moving Forward: The Journey of Paralympian Colette Bourgonje, which I helped her publish through my company DriverWorks Ink

Deana Driver and Mary Harelkin Bishop (top left and right) with Paralympian Colette Bourgonje's family (bottom left) and Mary's family (bottom right) at the 2010 Paralympic Games

What I saw and felt at the 2010 Paralympic Games reminded me of the ways we need to think and act during this time of self-isolation against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the last few days, I've written about:



These are the final two lessons I learned from my experiences at the 2010 Paralympic Games that I see as important when thinking about "Flattening the Curve" of COVID-19.

Lesson #4 – Cheer For Everyone Until We All Get To The Finish Line.

The most incredible moments for me at the 2010 Paralympic Games came while I was in the bleachers with Mary and her family, watching the cross-country skiing events. Within a few metres of us were spectators and/or coaches from Germany, Poland, Russia, Belarus, South Korea, Japan, United States, and many other countries.




As athletes crossed the finish line in the various races, every person in the crowd stood and clapped and cheered.

Every person in the bleachers remained standing and cheering until every single athlete had come across the finish for their events.

Every. Single. Athlete.

We watched standing cross-country skiers who were blind come across the finish line behind their able-bodied guide. We witnessed blind Canadian skier Brian McKeever out-ski his guide at the end of a race in which he won a gold medal. It brought tears of wonder, joy, and Canadian pride to our eyes.
Canadian Paralympian Brian McKeever and his guide at the presentation of a gold medal 

We saw Paralympians skiing with only one leg or one arm or no arms. Some skiers finished their races several minutes behind the gold medalist, but they finished.

And the crowd waited for each and every one of them and cheered as they crossed the finish line. It was one of the best moments of humanity I had ever witnessed.

We need to be like this.

Each and every day. Do our part in stopping this pandemic from spreading. Cheer on every single person who is doing their part, especially all those who are providing essential services during this difficult time. Let’s cheer on every single person who is running this race. Cheer them on from the safety of our homes.

It has been an honour to share in telling Colette’s story to inspire others. Colette herself chose the title of Mary’s book. Moving Forward. She sees no way but forward in her life, no matter the obstacles. Let’s all do that too.
Colette Bourgonje and Mary Harelkin Bishop sign Moving Forward books at the Saskatchewan Pavilion, 2010 Paralympic Games

Lesson #5 – Pursue Excellence.

At the closing ceremony for the 2010 Vancouver Games in Whistler, Colette Bourgonje of Saskatchewan received a gold medal. It was in the form of the prestigious Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who conquer adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sport.

Let’s be like Colette.

During this pandemic, let’s decide to do our best to flatten the curve of this virus. Let’s stay safe, keep away from others, disinfect, keep connected socially but not in person, and let’s all conquer this adversity. Our lives and our world are depending on us. We can do it.


Colette Bourgonje received a gold medal to add to her bronze and silver medals (above) at the 2010 Paralympic Games

Paralympian Colette Bourgonje happily handed her 2010 Games bronze and silver medals to me and Mary, then hammed it up for the camera, pretending that she didn't know why we had them.


Note:  Mary Harelkin Bishop also wrote the children's picture book Gina's Wheels, about a child who met Colette Bourgonje and wondered what it would be like to be in a wheelchair. Order both books from DriverWorks Ink.