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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Getting Through the Holidays While Grieving

For the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking about writing a blog with tips on how to get through the holidays when you are grieving ... but I honestly didn't have the emotional strength to do that until now.

It takes energy to write and even though I've been a writer for the last 35 years, it's been a struggle to put words into order since my husband, Al, passed away almost three years ago. Colon cancer was the cause. Frickin' cancer.

Okay, enough about that. I am fine. Most days. I am carrying on the best that I can while missing him every day but being grateful for the life we had together.

I am fine.

But you might not be.

Grief can be heightened during special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. I learned a lot about grief in my work as a journalist and in my reading and experiences after Al died. I wrote about these lessons a month after he died, and I will repeat some of the ones that are specific to Christmas, New Year's Eve, and other special occasions.

Be kind to yourself. It may be helpful to go to some events so you don't spend all your time alone, but give yourself permission to say "no, thank you" if it feels wrong to attend something on a particular day. For example, I did not go to our church's "quiet Christmas" service this year. I was not feeling sad for a change, so why bring sadness into a good day when I had experienced so many sad moments already?

Breathe. Take long, deep breaths, especially when you feel overwhelmed by invitations or expectations. For the first few months after Al's death, I often stopped walking - just stopped - and concentrated on taking three deep breaths - one ... two ... three - to regroup. There is scientific proof that deep breathing helps our body to release anxiety and stress. Taking some deep breaths is one of the easiest ways to keep going when you think you can't go anymore.

Left foot, right foot. In the early days of my grieving, this is the only way I could function - by telling myself to breathe and to put one foot in front of the other to get through this moment, then get through the next moment. Take one step at a time, make one decision at a time, and don't let others tell you what to think or do or how to feel.

Feel your feelings. If you feel sad or angry or upset or confused, it's okay to express it. It's okay to cry - anywhere. This doesn't mean you will feel this way forever. Bottling it up will delay healing and no one wants that. Do not apologize for how you feel. Apologize if you hurt someone while you are feeling, though. If possible, choose who you are with as you feel your feelings. (See 'Be kind to yourself' above.)

Rest. We concentrate too much on achievement and not enough on self-care. When grieving, self-care is essential. Rest does not necessarily mean getting a good night's sleep. That is elusive when you are in the midst of deep grief. If you cannot slow your overthinking mind enough to have a nap, try sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down for a few minutes. Close your eyes and turn off your brain for a short break. Rest.

Pre-arrange transportation. When grieving, it is important to have some control over your ability to come and go from parties and other holiday gatherings. If you suddenly feel overwhelmed or too sad to stay, have a friend or family member drive you home. Be careful not to drive when in the depths of grief as your mind may not be fully focused on the road. Be kind to yourself and others.

A bereavement support program gave me this helpful brochure:

The brochure's tips from Kelly and Karin Baltzell are:

  • Pace yourself 
  • To say 'No' is okay 
  • Pamper yourself 
  • Tell people what you need 
  • Make new rituals 
  • Honor traditions 
  • Remember your physical needs 
  • Tell others exactly what holidays are important to you 
  • Crying is okay 
  • Make action plans 
  • Consult your family and friends 
  • Lean on your faith
To help ensure our first Christmas without Al was a little less painful and full of dread, I suggested to our children that we each make a donation to a charity that we thought he would like. On Christmas morning, we celebrated his life by telling each other the donation we made, of cash or something else, in his memory and why we chose that charity. The amount of each donation wasn't mentioned. It was not important. We had contributed to a worthy cause in our communities in memory of a great man.

We smiled and even laughed. And we cried, of course. Tears of love.

I wish that for you this holiday season - that you get through it the best way you can while remembering your loved one and taking care of yourself.

Happy holidays!

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Tale of the Shopping Cart and the Strangers - with my gratitude

I'm sending some pretty flowers out over the Internet to two people I do not know who helped to make a strange encounter at the shopping mall much more bearable.

Thank you for being so kind.

Here's my side of the story 
– because every journalist (and semi-retired journalist) knows there is always more than one side to every story.

As I approached my vehicle after coming out of a store, I watched a man in a large SUV truck drive into the spot in front of where I was parked. He came to a stop too late and knocked a shopping cart over onto the front of my vehicle.

When he got out of his Hummer, I calmly said, "Did you know you knocked a shopping cart into my vehicle?"

"No," he replied.

I was sure that it had not fallen hard enough to cause damage, so I wasn't really concerned, but I was frustrated that he had not seen it over the top of his big vehicle. "You should watch where you are driving next time and be more careful," I added.

He was not impressed. He replied that he did watch where he was driving and then said, "Did I put the shopping cart there?"

Um, what? Shouldn't you be watching for carts and other potential obstacles ... such as, maybe, children ... when you're driving?

Anyway, I replied, calmly, that he had not watched well enough and that he should be more careful.

He was obviously upset with me. He asked if I wanted him to move his vehicle. My answer went unheard because he ignored my reply that it wasn't necessary. He got back into his vehicle and backed it up a foot or more.

During this, I got into my vehicle, as did the woman who was parked beside me. She had seen, heard, and watched the whole thing. 

The fellow then got out of his vehicle, looked over at someone that I couldn't see, swore while saying whatever he said that I couldn't quite hear (which I assumed was something negative about me), and carried on into the drugstore.

The woman in her vehicle looked over at me and shrugged her shoulders. We smiled at each other. I mouthed the word, "Special." She nodded and then drove away.

I was grateful for her kindness. We shared a mutual confusion and wonder about what the man was thinking. She understood me. 

This rose is for her. 

Now here's an interesting twist in the tale...

Just before I started my vehicle to continue on my way, an elderly man walked over, using his cane, and asked me to roll down my window. He then asked if I needed a witness.

"No. Thank you. I'm sure there wasn't any damage. It's fine," I replied.

He introduced himself as "an old retired police officer" and insisted on checking my vehicle's front to make sure there was no damage. He informed me that even though there was no damage, if he had not been retired, he would have charged this man with "undue care and attention".

I was surprised. I didn't think it was that serious. Just annoying.

And I was grateful that a complete stranger had walked out of his way to offer support like that.

So this rose goes to him.

I am thankful for his kindness and offer of assistance after a strange encounter in a parking lot with a man who was having a bad day.

The driver of the Hummer was obviously unhappy before he even got out of his vehicle and was confronted by me. I could see it on his face.

I later wondered about his story. Maybe he is ill. Maybe someone in his family is ill. Maybe someone he loved has passed away. Maybe he has financial woes. Maybe he is getting laid off at work. Maybe he has employees who are relying on him in a business that is struggling. Maybe he has other issues that are causing him to be less than completely observant of his surroundings. Or maybe he's just a jerk.

In any case, I had enjoyed a lovely lunch and visit with a dear friend, so that had put me in a positive frame of mind to handle myself with dignity.

This time.

Today was a good day for me. On a lesser day, I don't know what I would have done. Maybe just stared and glared and then walked away. Maybe cried, most likely after I quietly got into my vehicle. Maybe nothing, and then been angry and stewed about it for hours. Maybe screamed, although that's not as likely since that isn't my character. I don't know. I just know that I was proud of the way I handled it and pleased with the way two strangers were there for me if I needed them.

It was a reminder also that we don't know another person's story. Even if we've talked with them about what they're thinking and feeling, we don't really know.

We haven't walked in their shoes. Or driven in their Hummers. (Winky face.)  

Since we don't know what they're feeling or what they are living with in their everyday lives, we have to try to be kind.

Some days, that is easier than others. We do the best we can.

So this pretty flower is for that guy in the Hummer who was having a bad day. 

I hope tomorrow is better for him. And for us too.

Let's keep on doing the best that we can and not beat ourselves up for the things we did wrong today.

Tomorrow's a new day. Let's try to be better at life tomorrow.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

It's Potty Time in Europe

It's potty time in Europe! Yes, it's time to check out some of the places in which one can dispose of their ... er... waste while in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

On a recent vacation in Europe, my friend and fellow author Janice Howden and I saw amazing scenery, churches, canals, castles and more. But I was also intrigued by the variety of toilets we saw on our journey - because my weird mind works that way.

Jan (right) is the author of Rescued, her puppy dog's true story of finding a forever home. Jan and I were thrilled to see tulip fields for the first time.
No, there is no toilet in this photo. It's just a photo of us during one of the best moments of our trip. We loved the tulip fields in the Netherlands.

I found it interesting that European hotel rooms often have shoe shine cloths but no wash cloths or facial tissue, like those we are accustomed to using in North America. So you can clean your shoes but not use something to wash your face or wipe your nose.

We used this new-fangled, self-cleaning public toilet in Paris. It is on a sidewalk near the Notre Dame Cathedral. You press a button to enter. The door opens and closes behind you.
After you've done your business, you wash and blow-dry your hands. You press a button inside to exit the toilet. Then the door closes and locks so the toilet can clean itself with sanitizing water/spray before it allows the next person to enter. But you have to be done in 20 minutes or the toilet door opens! And you'd better not wait until the last minute to get in line because it takes a LONG time with the toilet cleaning after each person is done. You're better off using a pay toilet or going to a restaurant and buying something to use their toilet. The toilet room staff in those places help maintain cleanliness and ensure safety.  

This toilet in our hotel room in Basel, Switzerland gained my respect for its use of gravity. The tank is the highest placement above the toilet bowl than any I've ever seen. You even have to reach up a bit to use the flushing handle. Obviously not meant to be operated by children.

This fascinating trio of public toilets sits in Basel, Switzerland, beside a walking path along the Rhine River. I didn't go inside any of these street toilets, but I was very curious about the toilet on the left with the large, peeing man on it. His hat is probably a sleep hat, but I couldn't help thinking he was a jester from the old days. Stay tuned on that one...

Jan posed in front of this collection of self-cleaning toilets in downtown Basel. These toilets had better signage inside to explain the various functions.

The interior, although wet from the last sanitizing wash, was sparse and clean.

Toilet paper, anyone? It self-dispenses when you put your hand near it.

Water to wash. Dryer to dry.
At a public park in Switzerland, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see what this toilet was like inside. Big mistake. BIG! The image on the outside was the only funny thing about this toilet.
There are doors on both sides. Just standing near the entrance to one of the open doors was enough for me. Inside was a long trough on either side - one for Number One and one for Number Two. They were not cleaned out. If there was a flushing mechanism, it had not been used. I did not see anything for hand washing. I'm hoping I just missed these essential items because I left so quickly. Ewwwww! No wonder the doors were left open on both sides.
At least in the outhouse on the farm where I grew up in Western Canada, everything was down one hole dug into the ground, out of plain view, and the open air reduced the smell, especially in winter. Yuk.

Sorry about that. Moving on...

Now this I recognize! It's a Port-a-potty - European style - at a construction site in Switzerland.

In Koblenz, Germany we saw these portable potties at a downtown market square. I couldn't resist taking a photo of them with the fountain in the foreground. Maybe the water helps some people "go".

And now, we go back to the time before Christ, when the Romans had sewage systems, indoor plumbing and heated floors. These are the remains of a Roman sewer system in Cologne. Fascinating.

The Romans had running water, treated sewage, and other services that disappeared for generations after wars destroyed their innovations. So sad is the damage caused by war.

Ah, now, this is the toilet style I am used to - a flushing toilet, a clean bathroom, a sink to wash up - except the toilet paper is considerably lower down here than you'll see in North American bathrooms. I don't understand the thinking, but this was on a river cruise ship, so maybe space was a factor. It worked, though, except in the middle of the night once, when I had to search for the roll I had accidentally knocked off its low hanger. Oops.

And that concludes my look at some potties in some parts of Europe.

As our friend, the late Bob Hughes, former sports editor and managing editor of the Regina Leader-Post used to say, "Y'er welcome.”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Just a typical day in book publishing - or not

What’s happening in the world of DriverWorks Ink publishing?

I’ve been asked on occasion what it’s like to work in the book publishing industry. This seems as good a time as any to give you a peek into my work life as a small, sole-proprietor, book publisher in Canada. Hold on, 'cause there's a lot going on!

Since I went back to work this week after enjoying three almost-uninterrupted weeks of vacationing in Europe (with Saskatoon author and friend Janice Howden), the wheels of my publishing company – mentally and physically-speaking – have been constantly turning. (By the way, the vacation was amazing. You can view some photos and videos on the DriverWorks Ink Facebook page or YouTube channel, or my Instagram.) 
Deana Driver and Janice Howden enjoying their first view of tulip fields in the Netherlands, April 2018

Within the first two days of being back at work, I mailed and/or shipped some book orders to people who ordered from our website (thank you!) and to bookstores and other purchasers (thank you!). These orders were in addition to those my daughter Dani shipped while I was away. Thank you, Dani, for taking such good care of DriverWorks Ink while I was away!

In the pile of mail waiting for me, I found a beautiful magazine from the CanadianChildren’s Book Centre. They’ve named Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, which is Saskatoon author Mary Harelkin Bishop’s latest children’s novel, as one of the 2018 Best Books for Kids and Teens, in Junior and Intermediate Fiction! Skye Bird is about a First Nations girl who is determined to make her new school a friendly, welcoming place for herself and her friends. This great kids’ story is one of only two Saskatchewan-published books included on the Best Books list – the other book is also from a small, hybrid publisher in Saskatchewan – so that’s quite an honour that we will gratefully cherish. 

To follow up on that honour, I was delighted to ship some boxes of Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather books to Chapters Indigo to be sold on a national scale. So look for it soon at a bookstore near you. Or you can always buy it from our website. (Schools and libraries should contact me directly for a discount.)

And then there is this – two new books arrived from the printer just before I went away on vacation, so that was fun! And hectic. Once a new book arrives at my door, the hard work of creating it is done and the process continues to get it out to market. That includes sending information to all the bookstores and other vendors, to media about launch and signing dates, getting the book up onto our web page and social media pages, as well as the sites we partner with, and working our tails off (I’m talking about myself and the authors) to let people know about these great new books. (That "people" includes you. I’m telling you now. 😊)
ISBN 978-1-92757043-2   $14.95

Dear Me: The Widow Letters is a compilation of letters collected by Dianne Young of Martensville. Dianne is a widow who asked other widows what they would say if they could write a letter back to their newly-widowed selves. Twenty widows, including Dianne and me, wrote letters to ourselves, which we’ve published in this book. The letters will help not only widows to see they are not alone and that they can survive their devastating losses, but the book will help others who are connected to widows but are not sure what to say or do. Personally, I learned something from every one of the letters and, sadly, I related to at least one thing that was said by each of the different widows in their individual letters. What a beautiful book.

ISBN 978-1-92757042-5   $19.95

Possessions: their role in anger, greed, envy, jealousy, and death is a fascinating new book by Saskatoon author Boris Kishchuk in which he considers why people do some of the negative things they do. Boris takes a sociological approach, using historical and modern-day examples to show how desire for possessions has led to some devastating consequences within North America and the world, including murder, corruption, and war. Religious beliefs, corporate greed, self-identity, and the desire for power are among the topics in this thought-provoking book.

Psst!  You can buy both of our new books, Dear Me: The Widow Letters and Possessions, with a specific link on our website's Shop page and save $5! Just saying.

Dear Me: The Widow Letters:
Launch - Thursday, May 31st, 7 pm (St. Martin's United Church, 2617 Clarence Ave. S., Saskatoon)
Signing - Saturday, June 2nd, 1-3 pm (McNally Robinson, 3130 - 8 St. E., Saskatoon)
Reading - Tuesday, June 5th, 7 pm (Martensville Library, 66 Main St., Martensville)
Reading - Wednesday, June 6th, 7 pm (John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, 125 - 12 St. E., Prince Albert)
Reading - Thursday, June 7th, 7 pm (Weyburn Public Library, 45 Bison Ave., Weyburn)
Regina Launch - Friday, June 8th, 7 pm (Chapters, Southland Mall, Regina)

Launch - Tuesday, May 29th at 7pm. (McNally Robinson, 3130 - 8 St. E., Saskatoon)

Dianne Young will also be interviewed by various media about Dear Me: The Widow Letters. Those details are on our News and Events page.

And, as if that isn’t enough going on, I’ve also been talking with Swift Current cowboy poet Bryce Burnett to continue working on the manuscript and images for his new book Horses, Dogs and Wives, which we’re releasing this summer. Bryce’s first book of poetry, Homegrown and other poems, won third place in the prestigious Will Rogers Medallion Awards in Texas, and we anticipate Bryce's new book will be a barn-burning (not literally) follow-up!

But wait - we’re not done talking about the new stuff yet!

One of our authors, Jim Hopson, is being inducted into the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Plaza of Honour in August. How cool is that! This well-deserved honour for Jim affects me, his publisher, in two ways. I’ve been asked to provide photos from Jim's book Running the Riders: My Decade as CEOof Canada’s Team, and I’m also working with the Riders on promotion and book sales possibilities for the book (which was co-authored by Regina sports writer Darrell Davis). 

Also in the past two days ... I contacted three authors about more promotion ideas for their books, made arrangements to be interviewed about publishing options for Saskatchewan writers, agreed to proofread and provide feedback on a manuscript, finished updating my website, picked up some office supplies, and obtained information for an e-book production company. Wowee! Welcome back from vacation! (I took breaks, of course, to eat, sleep, watch TV, visit and hug my children and grandchildren, and water and enjoy my flower garden - not necessarily in that order.)

Soon, I’ll be packing up some books for this Saturday’s booth (May 26/18) at the Cathedral Village Street Fair in Regina! My booth #235 will be on 13th Avenue, just east of Rae Street, in front of Aware House Books (which happens to also sell Lisa Driver’s three angel-reader books)!

So that is fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, and FUN!

I can’t wait to see what the rest of this week brings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Creative Saskatchewan changes to book publishing production grant leave 40 Sask publishers out in cold

DriverWorks Ink is extremely disappointed that Creative Saskatchewan (CS) has chosen to stop accepting book publishing production grant applications for any book that is published with use of author funds. Due to this change in criteria and because of our business model, DriverWorks Ink will no longer be eligible to apply for book publishing production grants from Creative Saskatchewan. As a writer, author, editor, book publisher, entrepreneur, and former journalist, I am frustrated enough to write about this appalling, unexplained turn of events.

DriverWorks Ink is a hybrid book publisher that, since 2008, has worked in partnership with authors to publish books about Prairie people written by Saskatchewan and other Prairie writers. We have been successful in obtaining funding for more than a dozen books in the last five years. This makes it especially disheartening to be told that our product is no longer good enough to even apply.

Most of our books which received grant money returned a profit (income over production costs), and many of them were profitable within the first six months to a year. Our profits come from book sales, with authors receiving royalties from those sales. Our goal is profitability. Commercial viability is the original main goal of the production grant.

Six of these nine of our CS-grant-receiving books that were published with author investment have also won awards.

With Creative Saskatchewan’s announcement on April 16, 2018, the grant’s name also changed from Creative Industries Production Grant to Book Publishing Grant. In my jaded view, this more clearly singles out book publishing and, it feels to me, takes aim at significantly reducing the number of wonderful, important books published in this province. I will not say that it will sound a death knell to our book publishing industry – we are stronger than that – but it will change the landscape significantly. Not in a good way.

The new eligibility criteria for the CS Book Publishing Grant means that only five or six of the 45 book publishers in Saskatchewan will have eligible book projects. It means that 40 of the publisher members of SaskBooks/Saskatchewan Publishers Group, including DriverWorks Ink, will no longer be eligible to apply for book publishing production grant support from Creative Saskatchewan as most, if not all, of their published books include income investment from authors. Although we may still apply for funding to assist with marketing and business capacity development, many amazing Saskatchewan-based books will not be published because of lack of funds, and there will be little point in marketing or growing a business that has no new product.

The new criteria states that books with support from the Canada Book Fund (federal funding) may be eligible for “fast-track” approval without jury adjudication. Creative Saskatchewan’s website states: Our investments propel creative entrepreneurs as they create, innovate, expand, and perform, in their pursuit of commercial success.” While I support funding from provincial granting agencies for any worthwhile book projects, I am extremely concerned that this change to Creative Saskatchewan’s book publishing fund provides potentially guaranteed funding for book projects subsidized by other agencies and not even a consideration of funding for entrepreneur models that have a good book to publish which will sell commercially and add to the province’s GDP – which are three of Creative Saskatchewan’s mandated goals.

The Book Publishing Grant’s new criteria requires that eligible applicants must have been in operation for two years and have four eligible (read “with no author funds”) titles in print essentially blocks our industry’s growth because actual entrepreneurs and those starting in the industry have no access to funding support. It goes against why Creative Saskatchewan was set up in the first place.

This province, unlike the other jurisdictions in Canada, has never made a practice of supporting trade publishing (which is the general-audience scope for most of the DriverWorks Ink books), so trade publishing had to come up with an alternative model which includes hybrid and self-publishing.* (*See Addendum below.) That model in Saskatchewan has become an accepted practice in the industry across North America, but Creative Saskatchewan’s guidelines seem to be ill-advisedly supporting only publishing projects which may already receive product investment from the public sector. Why is that? 

I am concerned for the future of our vibrant book publishing industry in Saskatchewan, in which I have worked for the past 17 years. I have watched it grow in strength and quality and I am grateful to Creative Saskatchewan for assisting with some of that growth. More than 100 books are published annually in Saskatchewan – most of them by the smaller publishing houses. I fear that the numbers will decrease significantly because of this change in the grant program, important cultural books will go unpublished and businesses will close their doors.

When I was a board member of SaskBooks, the creative industry member organization for publishers in the province, I spent dozens of hours at the board table with various representatives of Creative Saskatchewan, many of whom had come to CS from other creative industries and knew very little about book publishing. I thought we had provided education on the diverse and commercially viable business models in the publishing sector and how our member publishers collectively believe that funds coming in from one source versus another is irrelevant to the stated goals of the grant – commercial viability and growing the province’s GDP. I thought we had proven time and again the value of our member organization’s programs and processes.

I love Saskatchewan, which is built on the entrepreneurial spirit, and I am deeply concerned by this withdrawal of support for valuable books produced by entrepreneurs. I ask Creative Saskatchewan to reconsider this decision.

Creative entrepreneurs focussed on the commercial success of their published books and businesses are being excluded from the publishing grant application process. It’s time to correct this error and do it quickly. We have stories to tell and we want your help to do so, Creative Saskatchewan. 

* Added April 18, 2018Every other provinces in Canada supports the publishing of trade books through various forms of provincial funding. For example, a publisher of tourism books in Alberta and British Columbia is eligible for provincial funding. In Saskatchewan, Parkland Publishing has published numerous award-winning, best-selling tourism books about Saskatchewan but is no longer eligible to apply for a book production grant. In Manitoba, a publisher who produces non-fiction trade books similar to those of DriverWorks Ink is eligible for provincial funding to help with infrastructure and business expenses. There is no such support from the Saskatchewan government for DriverWorks Ink or other small publishers. Business models such as hybrid publishing or self-published-author publishing grew here to keep the industry active and to publish more Saskatchewan-based books for our readers.

About 30 authors per year plus numerous artists, graphic designers and printers are affected by this withdrawal of Saskatchewan funding availability. Recently, the Writers Guild of Canada opened up membership eligibility to self-published authors. The library system in Greater Vancouver launched a campaign of awareness of self-published authors because they noticed so many self-published books of quality coming into their libraries. The change is happening across Canada to recognize books based on content and quality, not on input funding methods. Self-published authors and hybrid publishers have submitted production grant applications to Creative Saskatchewan in the past only for books of quality that are marketable and will turn a profit, as required by the former criteria. It is irrelevant whether the publisher's funding comes from a federal grant, the business itself, a gift of funds, a GoFundMe page, or somewhere else.

Please share this information. Please comment on it.

Please support all Saskatchewan publishers (and our authors), including hybrid publishers and self-published authors.

Please contact Creative Saskatchewan, your local media, the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sports, and/or your local and provincial politicians to tell them you want funding continued for all Saskatchewan publishers, without discrimination against their business models or input funding methods.

A Regina Leader-Post newspaper article about the cuts is here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Five Things you can say in February in the Bahamas but not in Saskatchewan

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Nassau, Bahamas for a week of vacation with my youngest daughter, Dani.

We had a wonderful, restful time.

The differences between the weather we left at home in Saskatchewan, Canada and what we experienced in the Bahamas were striking. See for yourself.

Here's my idea of  "Five Things you can say in February in the Bahamas but not in Saskatchewan":

1. "My swimsuit is still wet, but I'll put it on anyway. It'll dry quickly."

It was 28 degrees Celsius in Nassau every day we were there, even after a little rain fell on a couple of evenings. Saskatchewan weather was unusually warm when we were away, ranging from 1 degree to minus 16 Celsius, but it was no 28!

2. "There's a turtle!"

One of our biggest hopes was to see a sea turtle in the ocean, and we had that wish come true every day as we looked out from a nearby pier. The turtle didn't come close enough for a great photo, but we'll carry those images and excitement in our hearts. The turtle on the right is a horsehair pottery souvenir purchased in Arizona years ago.

3. "Look at those pretty flowers!"

Tropical flowers versus frozen rose bushes. Sigh. We can hardly wait for summer in Saskatchewan.

4. "Oh, thank God for that wind! It would be so hot otherwise."

Even though the wind stirred up the ocean and blew my hair all over the place, I love the feeling of standing on a pier, staring at the clear blue water. The wind in Regina, Saskatchewan, on the other hand, can be downright nasty. Even after wearing my toque yesterday while going for a long walk, my ears hurt for hours. Sigh again. But Saskatchewan is home and I love it here.

Which leads nicely into the final thing
you can say in the Bahamas in February
but you can't say it in Saskatchewan...

"I'm just going to leave my shoes here and go barefoot for awhile."  

 Nope. Not even for a minute.
Underneath those cold feet on the right are flip-flops sitting in the snow. I'm not that crazy!

Have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Do they celebrate Valentine's Day in Heaven?

Today is Valentine's Day, a day we are supposed to celebrate the one person who loves us and whom we love. For many people, it's just another day. No big deal. And that is as it should be.

Why put pressure on ourselves if we happen to be single, without a partner, on February 14th?

Wait until tomorrow, buy yourself a box of chocolates on sale, and carry on.

My late husband Al and I rarely celebrated Valentine's Day. We preferred to tell each other "I love you" every day and we avoided the commercialism of Valentine's Day after our first few years of marriage.

February 14th was always special in another way, though, because it is my mom's birthday. She was a Valentine's Day baby, but she rarely celebrated it.

In our Ukrainian-Polish farm family, we didn't make a big deal about birthdays. If someone wished us a happy birthday or we received a gift of pyjamas or maybe a candy bar or - wow! - a cake, that was about it for a celebration. In fact, a celebration was unusual. As we got older, we sometimes were allowed to invite a friend to take the bus home from school and sleep over at our house. That's a celebration in itself to farm kids. 

In Al's English-Irish city family, birthdays were a HUGE deal! Your birthday day was "all about you" and you didn't even have to do dishes that day! What a shock to my system.

Poor Al. His farm-kid wife never really understood this concept. It took him most of our married life to convince me that I was worth fussing over on my birthday. My kids have since taken over that burden to make me feel special, and they're doing a fine job of it.

Today, I am alone but not alone. My beautiful daughter-in-law Kelli dropped by with a lemon loaf that she knows I like, and we shared hugs and a nice visit.

I'm going for a pedicure with my youngest daughter Dani after work. It will be the first pedicure for her and we are excited. I have also connected with our son, our oldest daughter, and the other in-laws. Everyone is fine.

And in honour of love today, I put on a new shirt covered with a dragonflies pattern - a fascinating creature that reminds me of my late mom and my dear departed husband.

I hope they are dancing together in Heaven. I'm sure Al is making sure that today is all about Mom. Do they do dishes in Heaven?

My parents, me and Al, Al's parents in the late 1990s

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Kintsugi Art and Healing From Grief

I broke some pottery the other day.

On purpose.

I hit it with a hammer.  Then I took the broken pieces of that beautiful piece of pottery and put them back together. With glue. Then I painted over the cracks with gold paint and glitter.

It was a healing exercise.

The pottery repair was one of the activities during self-care time at an all-day grief retreat hosted by Palliative Care Services, Saskatchewan Health Authority. The activity is called kintsugi, a Japanese art form meaning golden joinery, in which broken pieces are considered an essential part of the object and are embraced and highlighted instead of hidden.

At the start of the kintsugi exercise, we each chose a piece to work on. We were asked to look at the whole, complete piece of pottery before we broke it and view it as though it was ourselves before we lost our loved ones.

We put the pottery piece inside a plastic bag, then inside an old pillowcase and tapped it with a hammer. We took the broken pieces out and carefully "rejoined" them using glue, masking tape, and help from others to hold them together until the glue set.

Then we either put more glue onto the cracks and sprinkled glitter over them or we painted the cracks with gold glittery paint. I did both. There was glitter everywhere. Many hands helped me along the way. A metaphor for healing.

I attended the first Heart 2 Heart Family Grief Retreat, held in July 2017, as a participant (read my blog post). It was a wonderful, full day of talking, crying, healing, and more. Since then, I helped co-facilitate a bereavement support group and I was honoured last fall to be asked to be one of the 40 or so volunteers for this January grief retreat.

Unlike some retreats and workshops Ive attended in the past, the volunteers for Heart 2 Heart did more than lead the various groups for Loss of Child, Sibling, Parent or Spouse. They also actively participated in much of the days program, because they too had lost someone they loved a family member or a close friend.

My role at the grief retreat was to provide peer support for a Loss of Spouse group, sharing a bit of my story about my husbands death two years ago and talking about what has helped me on my grief journey. I know, from my own time as a participant and from other bereavement support I have received, that the words and actions of others have helped me. My goal was to help those who are just beginning their journey after losing their spouse.

The volunteers and participants shared their stories, insights and coping skills within the specific groups. During self-care time, the participants experienced massage, yoga or meditation, walked the outdoor labyrinth to reflect, or joined a discussion group to talk more about their loss and about strategies for moving forward. We ate meals together, allowing for more conversation, and finished the day with a memorial service complete with a choir (in which I participated) and the beautiful piano accompaniment of our leader, Bereavement and Volunteer Co-ordinator Marlene Jackson. Without her dedication and skills, this day would not have happened and I definitely would not have been there. I owe her much gratitude for helping me along my path.

There were many tears shed that day, but there was also much healing.

I came home from the grief retreat completely exhausted. Mentally, emotionally and physically.

But I met some wonderful people participants and volunteers. That made the day good.

I knew I had healed a bit more. That made the day great.

And I knew I had helped others on their journey. That made the day amazing.

I also came home with a beautiful piece of repaired pottery a physical reminder of my grief journey.

The repairs to my pottery are not perfect, but neither is my grief. The glue and glitter are bumpy and lumpy and messy in spots. So is my grief.

The cracked lines may join the pieces together but there are still holes in my pottery and there are cracks that I did not yet glue together.

Such is my grief.

Such is my life after loss.

I will always miss my late husband Al. I am still profoundly sad and there are tears shed almost every day, but I am allowing myself to feel my pain and I am working through it.

There will be a hole in my heart every day for the rest of my life because of his death, but events like this grief retreat and bereavement counselling have helped me start to heal those cracks and carry on the best I can.

My brokenness is part of me. I will hold it together as best I can and maybe, occasionally, at events like the grief retreat, I can even show it off, helping others along the way.

(Another of my blog posts you may be interested in, What I've Learned About Grief, includes tips for those who are grieving and what to say and not say to the bereaved)