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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our 40th Wedding Anniversary - From A Hospice Bed

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. Strangely, we are celebrating that today for the first time in 40 years.

You see, Al and I were married twice - to each other both times. December 29th is the date of our first, legal marriage ceremony. January 17th is the date of our second, church ceremony.

We've never celebrated on December 29th before, but this year is different. This year, my husband is dying from cancer and it is important that we take every moment possible to celebrate whatever we can in whatever time we have left together. Even though he is lying in a hospice bed, getting weaker every day, we celebrate that we've been married – happily – for 40 years. That is a big accomplishment these days and we’re proud of ourselves.

Al and I met in college in Calgary, Alberta in the fall of 1973 and we became best friends before we began dating in January 1974. Al went home to Regina, Saskatchewan to work at the Regina Leader-Post newspaper for the summer of ’74 and I stayed in Calgary to work at summer jobs. Those were excruciatingly lonely months without him, but he phoned me often, in the middle of the night, using the Regina Leader-Post's long-distance phone plan. (Thank you, former sports editor Bob Hughes for being so kind as to allow these calls between two lovesick youngsters.)

The first thing Al said to me when he returned to Calgary in August 1974, for our second year of journalism school, was, "Will you marry me?"

I eagerly said, “Yes.” I couldn’t imagine a life without him.

We didn't officially get engaged until the following spring, at the top of the Calgary Tower, a few days before our two-year journalism course ended. Al had a job waiting for him in Regina and I only had him, so we agreed that I would move to Saskatchewan. It was an excellent decision on my part.

Our first wedding was a legal ceremony performed by a justice of the peace at the Regina Court House on December 29, 1975. We did it for the money.

One of Al's dad's friends informed us that if we got married before the end of the calendar year, Canadian income tax rules (in those days) would allow Al to claim me as a dependant for the entire year. This meant a significant tax benefit for a young couple who had nothing.

I was working as an invoice typist for a company that sold paper. I lied to my boss and said I had a doctor’s appointment that morning. (I had to lie - I needed them to still give me time off for our "real" wedding a few weeks later.) I left work at 11 a.m. to meet Al, his parents, his sister Linda, and one of our male friends, Terry, at the Regina court house. I didn't have any friends in Regina yet and Al's sister was still underage, so Al's mom signed the marriage documents as my witness. Our friend Terry signed for Al. (Strangely, Terry was an usher at our church wedding and not one of our best men. Our best men were likely both working that day and we must have decided not to bother them with this trivial event since Terry was available during time off from his job.)

The marriage ceremony lasted less than 15 minutes. Al took my wedding ring out of a box and put it on my finger at the appropriate time, as I did with his; we signed the papers; put the rings back in the boxes; took a couple photos; then went for lunch at a nearby pizza restaurant. I couldn't even eat much lunch because it took a long time coming and I would have been too late going back to work.

December 29, 1975.

Al's mom is wearing red. Al's dad is in the background.

Linda, Al, me, Terry.

Al continued to live at his parents' house while I lived in an apartment that became our first home as husband and wife after our "real" wedding weeks later.

On January 17, 1976, we had our church wedding in my hometown of Athabasca, Alberta. We made our vows in front of God, our families, friends, and many people we didn’t even know who were invited by my parents. That’s what good Ukrainian weddings were like in the 1970s.

January 17, 1976.

We have always considered January 17th to be our wedding anniversary. December 29th was quickly forgotten.

Until now.

It’s unlikely that my beloved Al will be alive on our January 17th, 40th wedding anniversary. His colon cancer has spread to his bowels and he has been unable to eat for most of the last few weeks. It is sad, maddening, distressing, and heartbreaking to watch, but we have had many precious moments these past 12 days since we heard the news of the failed surgery attempt to remove his bowel blockage.

We have said all that we need to say to each other. I have read him dozens of tributes about him written by family, friends, co-workers, school chums, and more. We have seen many wonderful glimpses of his life and his impact on others through their eyes, and it has been good. Very good.

Al is strong mentally, when the painkillers wear off a bit, and he has surprised us many times over these past few days: waking to watch the world junior hockey games (hockey is his favourite sport); asking us to bring him an Orange Crush and then absolutely savouring the taste of it; providing a suggestion on how to further streamline our accounting processes for our book publishing business; telling our children, children-in-law and grandchildren that he loves them; and, as usual, correcting my verbal errors when I say the wrong name as I tell a story, and, I am sure, mentally rolling his eyes when I say dumb things. He has opened his eyes and wished me Happy Anniversary twice today, including after I read him what I intended to post on this blog. He is a good man.

And we have laughed. A lot.

Al watching world junior hockey with our
son-in-law Kyle, son Dave, and daughter Lisa.

Enjoying Orange Crush, with our
daughter Dani.

Al has been at peace with the notion that he is dying. Everyone dies. It is apparently his time. 

He wanted to make it to Christmas, which he did.
Al was able to come home for a few hours on December 22, to
celebrate an early Christmas with our beautiful family

He wanted to make it to our anniversary, which he did. 

He has lived a good life and, as he told me a few months ago before we knew how mean this cancer would become, “We’ve had a good run.”

Yes, we have, my love. Forty great years. Happy Anniversary.

Monday, December 21, 2015

About Cancer, Hope, and Love

Hello, dear friends and supporters of our family and DriverWorks Ink publishing.

I am sorry to say I have some sad news to share with you.

My beloved husband and publishing partner, Al Driver, went into surgery around 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 17th. The purpose of the surgery was to get rid of the blockage in his bowel that has been causing him pain and preventing him from eating since he went to the hospital on Monday, December 7th. Around midnight on Thursday, he went into the recovery room after the surgery.

On Friday, December 18th, the surgeon (who also did Al's first surgery on August 20th and found the Stage IV colon cancer with a spot on his liver) told us that this bowel blockage was caused by multiple tiny tumours that have adhered to Al's bowel and are too small to show up on a CT scan. She could not remove the tumours because they are too attached to Al's bowel and she would have to cut the tumour or his bowel, which are not good options.

The tumours are on the site where the cancer was removed in August. There are also tumours on the lining of his abdomen. There was nothing the surgeon could do from a surgical perspective so, after three hours of exploring and trying to come up with a way to solve the problem, she closed Al up again because nothing more could be done.

The surgeon then spoke to Al's oncologist, and the oncologist said that neither chemotherapy nor radiation therapy are options. So there is nothing more that can be done. Al described it as “our last hope was severed.” Blunt but true.

Since Friday afternoon, our family has been reeling from this news but we are quickly gathering our strength (remembering Dionne Warner's 24-hour rule) to make Al’s last days on this earth as comfortable as possible. He has moved from surgery and oncology into palliative care, which focuses more on the comfort of the patient and quality of life rather than healing and curing.

He is in discomfort physically at times and last night, we were told he only has days left on this earth. 

Our hearts are breaking, but we know he will always be with us. God just needs another angel to spread love and hope in the world. Our Al will do that in his fine, deeply compassionate, humour-filled fashion.

Mentally, he is at peace with the situation. Unfortunately, he has had a lot of time to think about this possibility during these past four months of illness. He is hoping to be strong enough to be released from the hospital in the next few days so he is able to spend Christmas at home with our family. We will do everything we can to help him fulfill that goal and any others he has set. He is a strong, brave, wonderful man. We will cherish the moments we have left with him.

It occurred to me this past weekend that Al and I are "story people" so, without Al's knowledge but with the blessing of our children, I invited people to share a favourite story or memory they have of Al and/or what he has meant to them ... so that Al can enjoy these special memories and sentiments while he is alive. 

I called this a “submission request,” just as we have done with some of our anthologies. Ha ha! We plan to later compile these memories for our children, grandchildren, and family members yet to come. Everyone is welcome to share a story about Al. You can send your "Submission About Al" to me via the email address on our web page. Thank you in advance. 

As has been our desire all along, you are welcome to share this information about Al's health with others so they too can keep Al and our family and friends in their prayers.

We cherish all of you who have supported us, our family, and our publishing business. Thank you.

At the hospital with our son Dave and
our daughters Dani (left) and Lisa. 
My Al is a flawed human being, just like the rest of us, but his human frailties are far outweighed by the good he has done and the wisdom, love, caring, and compassion he has extended to others - especially me. That's what has come across loud and clear by all who have responded with a submission so far. It has been very special to read these stories and tributes to Al, enabling him to once more inject his quick wit and to verbally edit the remarks to make the facts fit the situation - as he remembers it! These memories have brought many smiles to him and us, and we have laughed and laughed and laughed these past two days!

Despite these being among the darkest days of our lives, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season. 

We plan to enjoy these next few hours, days or whatever time we have with Al. Cancer may take his life,  but there is so much that it cannot do.

What Cancer Cannot Do
Author: Unknown

Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

Take care.

In love and peace,
Deana and family

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Living with Cancer and Gratitude

It has been more than two months since I last posted on this blog. August 13th to be exact. The reason for that is very simple. And completely overwhelming.

On August 20, my husband/soulmate/publishing partner, Al Driver, was admitted to hospital with a severe abdominal pain that turned out to be Stage IV colon cancer which had spread to a spot on his liver and was in 16 of the 38 lymph nodes the surgeon removed as part of the emergency surgery she performed that night. Al now has an ileostomy, and the last couple months have been spent in and out of the hospital as we figure out the right "recipe" of medications to keep him hydrated and strong so he can fight his cancer with chemotherapy, which starts next week and will continue for four to six months.
Al and I enjoyed a visit on Thanksgiving Sunday with five of our favourite people. Al's mom is beside me. Our three children are from right to left - Dave, Lisa, and Dani - and Dani's husband, Stephen, is on the far left. Our daughter-in-law, Kelli, and other son-in-law, Kyle, are not pictured.

Al is following the inspiring role modeling of our friend, eight-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner, whose story I told in our award-winning, bestselling book Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope. Dionne is an amazing woman who recently celebrated her 50th birthday – 20 years after receiving her first cancer diagnosis! When faced with each of her eight cancer diagnoses, Dionne Warner gives herself 24 hours to say “Why me?” and then she turns it around to “Why not me and what am I going to do about it?” Al immediately adopted that attitude and he is ready to fight, going into his first chemotherapy treatment next week. The latest CT scan shows two small spots on his bowel and one on his liver. His oncologist is hopeful, telling us that if chemo doesn’t take care of them, she will ask a surgeon to take the spots out. We share her optimism and we are thankful to family and friends, and many of our authors and readers who have supported us along the way so far.

We cancelled many of our craft and trade show booths this fall to be together at this time. Much of this information has been posted on our DriverWorks Ink Facebook page. That is where I will occasionally post updates as we walk this path, following Dionne Warner’s optimistic, hope-filled outlook. We have a long road ahead and we thank you all for staying with us and supporting us on this journey.

So it's not likely that I will be posting much on this blog for the next while. It has been a challenge for me to keep up with juggling work commitments and the appointments and other details in our changing personal lives.

Still, we have accomplished a fair bit in this past couple of months and I would like to share some of this excitement with you.

We released one new book - And It Was Very Good: Everyday Moments of Awe by Ed Olfert - in October. Ed Olfert has been a farmer, trucker, welder, and Mennonite pastor. He believes that glimpses of God surround us every day in every moment, and he has written about some of these glimpses, which require a new way of looking that leaves space for awe and mystery. Ed’s short stories – his own uplifting version of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” – have been published in the Prince Albert Daily Herald and are about neighbours and friends, and lives that we might not naturally connect to God, to awe and mystery. Ed's stories will make you think, make you wonder, and make you appreciate the people and the places around you.

We also have another new book coming out in November. Running the Riders: My Decade as CEO of Canada's Team is written by Jim Hopson with Darrell Davis. In 2004, Jim Hopson was hopeful that the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club in the Canadian Football League would hire him as the team's first full-time president and CEO. He believed that the team, with its incredible fan base, could become a successful business that consistently posted strong annual profits while playing in and winning multiple Grey Cups. And it happened. After a decade under Hopson’s leadership (2005 to 2015), the Roughriders became the CFL's strongest franchise, appearing in four Grey Cup games (winning twice) and selling more team merchandise than the other eight CFL franchises combined. They obliterated their debt and posted a record-setting profit of $10.4 million after winning a hometown Grey Cup in 2013, which has been described as the biggest moment in the 105-year-old team’s history. Hopson’s book, with the assistance of Darrell Davis (an author and long-time sports writer and Roughriders beat writer at the Regina Leader-Post), describes Hopson’s business plans, the resistance to change within the organization, the interplay with the fans of Rider Nation, difficult decisions made, and the euphoria of winning two league championships.
An emotional man with a firm disposition, Jim Hopson describes the highs and lows that went along with the job and the path he took, professionally and personally, to the biggest office with the franchise known as "Canada’s Team."

We participated in a few trade and craft shows in October and I was again pleased by the number of people who purchased our new books, including our new nonfiction book of short stories (Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People, compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver) plus our two new fiction books (Pure Baseball: The Carl Jaxsom Legend by Ryan Thaddeus and Catherine of Cannington Manor by Shirley Harris) and our adult coloring book (The Zenimaginarium Garden: A Coloring Book by Saskatchewan artist Jeanne Burbage). This coloring book - the first one published in Canada by a Canadian artist - is so popular that we've already reprinted it and it is being featured in the online Holiday Gift Guide by Canadian Living magazine this fall!


Please continue to enjoy the work of our many Saskatchewan and Prairie authors. I will be working on some new manuscripts of some other authors as time permits. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

I'll return to this blog as time and energy permit.

Take care, everyone.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Back To Calgary & SAIT

In September 1973, I took my first class at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Alberta. It was a two-year Journalism Administration course offered at SAIT, which prepared this naive Alberta farm girl for a fascinating, fulfilling future as a department store advertising manager, a radio station advertising copywriter, a freelance entertainment journalist, a full-time newspaper journalist, an independent freelance journalist for 30+ years, and then an author, editor, and book publisher.

The most life-changing event of those two years in Calgary was making the acquaintance of a young man from Regina, Saskatchewan, who had already worked at a newspaper for several years and had more newspaper experience than any other of the 96 students in our first-year class. Al Driver and I met in the fall of 1973 through a mutual friend and quickly became friends ourselves. We went on our first date in January 1974 and were married two years later. We have lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, since graduation, and have three grown children - a son and two daughters - all of whom have married excellent people in their own right. We are also blessed with three young grandsons, so we count ourselves lucky on many fronts.

Earlier this month, after attending our eldest daughter's wedding in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Al and I drove to Calgary to visit the Military Museums to see the treasured artifact that is on the cover of our award-winning book The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick. See my blog about that museum visit.

We also took some time to visit a few of the places that were important to us during our two years at SAIT. Join us on our trip down Memory Lane:

Currie Barracks, across the street from the Military Museums, reminded me of my summer job there between first and second year at SAIT. I was receptionist for a military doctor. Maybe that is what helped me in my years of reporting for The Medical Post, Or maybe not.

Calgary is a beautiful city, but too big for this small-town girl.

From what we can remember, I lived in the basement of this house (or one on this lot) for a few very enjoyable months in 1974-1975.

Al and I both worked at Zodiac Pizza, which may have been where this strip mall is now. Al made big tips as a delivery guy. I made meagre tips as a waitress. Woe is me.

Al lived in a basement suite of a small house that was on this lot, now home to this huge complex.

The Shell gas station is still here, though. Al recalls the manager kindly allowing him to plug in his car on their lot during the winter months.

A view of downtown Calgary while crossing the Bow River. Pretty.

A random chicken that I thought was funny.

Al and I had our first date at the North Hill Shopping Centre. He took me bowling. I'd never bowled before but beat Al quite handily. Poor guy. He still stuck around, though.

Coming up to our alma mater, SAIT.

The bank, newspaper office, yearbook office, students' union, and other offices were all in this building in our day.


As Journalism students, we worked on the school newspaper, the Emery Weal.
No paper today. It's summer holidays!

We had most of our classes in this building.

This was the SAIT residence where we lived for our first year at SAIT. Al lived in a four-room unit on the fourth floor. I am pointing to the seventh-floor room that I shared with a roommate.

These are two new student residences on campus.

We shared a hamburger and fries several times at what used to be a Fullers Restaurant across the street from the residence.

Al worked at this A & W during his first year at SAIT.

An interesting piece of art I saw on 16th Avenue NW.

The Calgary Tower, now dwarfed by the buildings around it, was the tallest building in the area in our day. Al and I got engaged at the top of the Tower!

The best place to eat burgers in Calgary, or anywhere for that matter. There is always a huge lineup at Peter's Drive-In, for good reason.

The food is delicious!

Even their garbage cans are awesome.

Goodbye, Calgary.

Ah, that's better. The flat plains of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Home sweet home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Viewing The Little Coat at the Military Museums, Calgary, Alberta

In the fall of 2008, I was contacted by a Saskatchewan man, Alan J. Buick. He heard me being interviewed on a local radio station about our then-new book Prairie Pilot: Lady Luck Was On My Side; Stories of Walter D. Williams and he called the radio station to ask how he could contact me.

Alan had been working on a manuscript for a nonfiction book and he asked me to consider publishing it. I had just started DriverWorks Ink that January. I fell in love with the story and decided to take a chance on publishing the book, which came to be called The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliot StoryAlan will tell you that after our initial meeting, I sent him home with three months of work to do in rewriting and tightening up the manuscript. We are both glad that he did that extra work because the book has gone on to become a national bestseller, sold to customers in many parts of the world. The Little Coat is also an award-winning book, receiving an Honorable Mention in teh Biography category at the 2010 Hollywood Book Festival, honoring books that would make a great film or movie). Here is a video of Alan Buick talking about his book.
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Other great things have happened because of Alan's book:

  • The little coat, given by a Canadian soldier to a little Dutch girl in Holland on December 25, 1944, was donated by Bob and Sue Elliott to the Canadian War Museum. In their discussions with Alan Buick, Bob and Sue recognized that their little coat could be a worthy Canadian artifact.
  • Bev Tosh, a Calgary artist, was inspired by Bob and Sue's story in The Little Coat book and painted Sue's wedding photo in her exhibit honoring Dutch War Brides.
  • DriverWorks Ink has donated more than $4,000 to the Royal Canadian Legion's Dominion Command Poppy Trust from sales of this book. A further $1 per book sold since 2013 is being donated to the Canadian War Museum.
  • In 2013, Al and I were privileged to meet Sue Elliott in person while we were enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Europe. Read my blog about that great visit.
  • Earlier this month, Al and I were pleased to make a special trip to Calgary, Alberta, to see the little coat itself on display at the Military Museums. The coat was on loan from the Canadian War Museum, to accompany Bev Tosh's Dutch War Brides exhibit.

Here are some photos of the museum and the coat, plus a video I shot of us seeing the coat for the first time:

This Mural of Honour mosaic in the foyer of the Military Museums has 240 panels representing Canada's military history from 1812 to present day.


 In these displays at the front entrance area, I imagined a young Bob Elliott, the Canadian tank commander, and his crew making their way through Europe during the Second World War.

This was the reason we visited the Military Museums - The Little Coat:
         Here's the video of us seeing the coat for the first time:

And here is the coat at the Military Museums, Calgary - on display there until August 16, 2015:

I was in awe of this beautiful coat.

The buttons on this coat, made from a wool Canadian Army blanket, came from the tunics of the Canadian soldiers.

This is the description for the artifact.

Copies of our book, The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick, sit on a table with other items related to Bev Tosh's exhibit, below.

 Outside, on the grounds of the Military Museums, were other interesting exhibits.

This piece of metal came from one of the World Trade Towers destroyed on September 11, 2011 in New York.


Al stood by this collection of tanks to show their actual size. Al is 6'3" tall.

We were glad we had the opportunity to visit this fascinating museum and to see, first-hand, this special little coat. 

Thank you to all who take the time and care for these artifacts that remind us of our history which, in some cases, we never want to see repeated.