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.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Good F-words

From my latest e-newsletter:

You know, there are some days – any day during a global pandemic, for example – when you just feel like muttering an “F-word” or two. Believe me, I’ve done it. And will likely do so again. And again.

But just for a change of pace, let me direct your attention to some “good F-words” –

Yes, these are the topics of new books I plan to publish in 2021. Okay, so the Fun and Farm words go together for one book and, yes, Flower, Feather, Fruit, Frosting, and French Fries are also good F-words, but you get my point.

Now let’s get back to today’s topic, shall we?

As mentioned in a previous e-newsletter, I wondered if any of you might have some interesting stories to share for successive volumes in the Fun On The Farm humour series and the Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation series of books previously published by my company, DriverWorks Ink. And I also inquired whether there is interest in a new book about the adventures of Volunteer Firefighters in Canada.

I’ve received enough positive feedback – and thank you to those who responded – to forge ahead and ask for submissions to these anthologies. Yep, I'm thinking positively and ignoring the huge constraints this global pandemic has placed on the business of creating and selling books. So please send me your short stories of Fun on the Farm, Flight, and Volunteer Firefighting as per the following guidelines.

Please write your story or invite someone you know to share their story/stories.

Fun On The Farm, Vol. 3: DriverWorks Ink is pleased to invite you to share more of your true short stories (or poems) about funny things that have happened on Prairie farms for Volume 3 of the Fun On the Farm series. Tell us about events, interactions, people, or pranks that have happened to you or someone you know related to life on a Prairie farm. We want to make readers giggle, shake their heads in wonder, or downright belly-laugh when reading this book, just as they did with Volumes 1 and 2. Note that I've said "Prairie" farms since most of the stories in the first two volumes happened on the Prairies, but I will entertain stories that occurred on other farms in other Canadian provinces and territories.

Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Vol. 3: If you or someone you know has a great story of Canadian aviation to contribute to the next volume of Flight, please send your submission by email or mail. Submissions must be true short stories (no poems please) about events that occurred to Canadian pilots or other aviation personnel. We want true stories of danger, heroism, helping, joy, adventure, silliness, misfortune, achievement, etc.

Fighting Fires Volunteer-style: Many smaller communities across Canada have a group of volunteers who are called on to help their community when a fire breaks out. Share your true stories of adventure, assistance, humour, struggle, success, and more. Confidentiality may be a concern in sharing these stories, but I will work with you - if your story is chosen for publication - to find a way to tell the story without divulging those identifying details.

Submission guidelines for all three books:

  • They must be true stories.
  • Stories should be 750 to 2,500 words.
  • Please provide details including your name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as the names, dates, location, and other details of the people and places in your story. Be sure to get permission to share the stories of others.
  • All submissions will be accepted, but not all will be published.
  • Photos may be submitted upon acceptance of your story.
  • Those whose stories are published will receive two complimentary copies for each story published in that volume of the book and can purchase more copies at a 40% discount to sell at venues not already supplied by DriverWorks Ink.
Please send your submission ideas before Dec. 31, 2020 to me at DriverWorks Ink. You don’t have to have your entire story or stories written, but I do need to know what will be coming in so I can plan for the new year.

Please contact me if you have a story to share but you do not wish to write it yourself. I will be happy to consider writing the story to share it in that way.

Thank you in advance. Happy "F-ing" writing!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Second book in the Flight series is taking off!

Alright, that's a corny title for a blog post about the newest book in this series of short stories about aviation, but what can I say? This Flight book series is such a fun project with lots of interesting anecdotes about some great people – and readers are loving it!

Flight book, Vol. 2 by Deana J. Driver and Contributors

Let me introduce you to a few of the folks you’ll read about in Volume 2 of Flight...

Rt. Rev. Rodney Andrews - Flight Vol. 2 book - photo courtesy Country Guide
Anglican Bishop of Saskatoon Rt. Rev. Rodney Andrews worked in both ministry and aviation for most of his career across Canada. His list of flying experiences includes working as a part-time instructor with the Lethbridge Flying Club while ministering with the Blood First Nations in southern Alberta, then working with Time Air and Air Canada. He then moved to Quebec for a few years, combining parish work with hospital chaplaincy east of Montreal. From 1988 to 1991, he was in Ottawa working as a part-time chaplain with HMCS Carleton Navy reserve while on a staff with three other clergy at a church in Nepean and working as a full-time Transport Canada inspector. Rod’s had many unique experiences worthy of reporting in a book such as this, including fun connections through his friends in Flying Farmers of Alberta.

Northern Saskatchewan pilot Doug Chisholm sent me this photo of himself (above right) with his pilot friend Harold Fast in February, while I was putting together the stories for Volume 2. It turns out that Doug and Harold both brought the same book with them to read on their January 2020 trip to Mexico – Volume 1 of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, by Deana J. Driver (that's me) and Contributors. How great is that? Doug told me that he and Harold left Saskatoon on a Wednesday and arrived in Loreto, Mexico on a Sunday in Harold’s Cessna 182RG, “a great cross-country aircraft. Quite a spectacular flight in many ways; we saw lots of interesting terrain. I certainly enjoyed your book, which I received from Will Chabun (a retired journalist who has also contributed to the Flight series) when I spoke at the Regina Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society,” Doug wrote. Doug has owned his Cessna 180 floatplane for 40 years and has recorded aerial photographs of 4,000 lakes and other geographic features that the province of Saskatchewan has named in memory of servicemen who lost their lives during the Second World War. On behalf of families, Doug has placed bronze memorial plaques on the shores of 300 Saskatchewan lakes honouring the servicemen for whom those sites were named, and he has spent thousands of hours uncovering more information and recording it for archival purposes. The story of Doug's memorial efforts is a must-read in Volume 2.

Gary M Williams - CAHS president - Flight book Vol 2 - Deana J Driver

Speaking of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, I met Gary M. Williams, who is the president of the Regina branch and also the Society's national president, when I spoke to the Regina group in December 2019. In Volume 2 of Flight, you'll read about how Gary travelled to Sweden in 2014 to meet the Swedish woman who saved his bomber-pilot father after his plane crashed in 1942 during the Second World War. I’m sure you’ll enjoy “Shot Down in Sweden” and “The Girl Who Saved My Father”.

Gerd Wengler at CFS Alert - Flight book Vol 2 - Deana J Driver

Another one of the 14 stories I wrote for Volume 2 of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation is about civilian pilot Gerd Wengler, who made a record-breaking flight from Canada’s southernmost point of Pelee Island, Ontario to its northernmost point at CFS Alert. “The year 2009 was the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Canada – Alexander Graham Bell flew the Silver Dart in Nova Scotia in February 1909,” said Gerd. “The Royal Canadian Air Force had all kinds of programs and special things happening in 2009 to celebrate 100 years of powered flight in Canada, so I found this general in Ottawa and I told him my idea as part of the Air Force celebration to fly across Canada from Pelee Island in Lake Erie to Alert. That interested him and I got permission two years later. The DND told us they had never given anyone a permit. That’s why I believe nobody else had done it. The only condition was that I was not allowed to tell anyone until after the flight.”

And then there are stories about Manitoba bush pilot Keith Olson, who dealt with falling aircraft parts, and aircraft mechanic Don Currie, who told of struggling to get French President Mitterrand’s Concorde off the ground in Regina in 1987. You’ll also read about Regina-born pilot Ralph Tweten, who had dozens of adventures while flying in northern Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, the Arctic, and Iran.

Then there are 23 more stories written by 12 other Canadian writers: Will Chabun, a retired newspaperman and aviation historian mentioned above (who wrote stories about newspaperman Foster Barnsley, aviation inspector Howard Ingram, and Air Canada passenger agents Brian Zawacki and Dave Scott); Peter Foster, an aviation enthusiast; Paul W. Greening, an aviation insurance investigator; Alvin Irlbeck, a retired farmer and pilot; Don Macpherson, a flying instructor and retired teacher; Malcolm McLeod, a balloon pilot and former journalist; Harry Meeds, a Saskatchewan pioneer of flight; Vincent Murphy-Dodds, a writer and humorist; Ron Sather, a former pilot; Ron Stansfield, an aviation enthusiast and retired Canadian diplomat; Walter D. Williams, an unofficial air ambulance pilot; and Bill Wunsch, a private pilot.

Volume 2 of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation shares loads of fascinating true stories of early flight schools, northern rescues, animal obstacles, hijackings, errant passengers, landings on unique landscapes, humorous military surprises, and more.

The two volumes of the Flight series are available from, Saskatchewan Aviation Museum gift shop in Saskatoon SK, McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon SK, Penny University Bookstore in Regina SK, Audrey’s Books in Edmonton AB, Canadian Aviator Magazine, Chapters, Indigo, Coles, SaskBooks, Amazon, and as e-books.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Author finds hope in the Questions and Answers of kids

Ed Olfert is a master at sharing hopeful stories. He grew up in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan and found his bride, Holly, near there. They raised their family on their farm while Ed busied himself in a multitude of vocations including mining, working as a welder, driving trucks, doing mechanical work, serving as houseparent in a Christian high school, ministering a Mennonite church, and operating heavy equipment.

 In 2015, Ed came to DriverWorks Ink with a collection of hope-filled stories he had written for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. We were honoured to help him publish his inspirational columns, which reflect on his lifelong search for glimpses of God and glimpses of good in everyday life and the people around him. Rather than being preachy, Ed's stories are about family, neighbours, and friends, and include lives that we might not naturally connect to God, to awe and mystery.


In this time of pandemic, isolation and fear, we need to have hope. We proudly offer one of Ed Olfert’s short stories from his book And It Was Very Good – Everyday Moments of Awe.

This story by Ed Olfert is titled “Hard Questions and Answers”.

    "We are in a P.A. carwash when the call comes from our daughter-in-law. Holly’s hand waves suddenly in the window I have just begun to rinse. “We have to go now!”

    The rinse will have to wait.

    As we head out of town, Holly explains what she was able to understand from the frantic phone call. Our daughter-in-law, her two little boys and her sister, were on their way into town for soccer. On the Muskody Bridge, a motorist appeared to be having problems, and as our daughter-in-law got out to offer assistance, that person plunged over the edge. Our daughter-in-law was part of the attempted rescue effort. Now, she must stay to report in more detail to police. Can we pick up the boys?

    When we arrive, the bridge deck is crawling with emergency folks and vehicles. We find our family wedged between two police cars. Our daughter-in-law gets out when she sees us. Hugs are exchanged, tears are shed. Holly opens the back door. Six-year-old Jordan and three-year-old Josh look up at us. Holly asks if they want to come with us. Jordan, who is shaking uncontrollably, whose eyes are huge, simply nods. Josh announces, “I need to bring my toolkit!”

    Josh gets out, lugging his tools. He follows me around to the driver’s side of our truck. Holly scoops up Jordan, deposits him in the back seat, takes off her coat and covers him.

    The fifteen-minute ride to their house is mostly done in silence, except for Josh’s periodic wondering, “Will the firemen be able to find her?” Jordan’s eyes remain wide. I reach back, put my hand on his knee.

    At the boys’ home, Jordan climbs onto the couch. Holly finds a blanket to cover him. His eyes are dark, troubled, confused. Josh, meanwhile, has a need to play aggressively for a time. A dinosaur toy is produced; it is switched on, and as it wobbles noisily across the floor, Josh knocks it over, sets it up, knocks it over again. When he runs off to find another toy to crash, Holly picks up the dinosaur, which is still writhing noisily on the floor. She asks Jordan, “How do I turn this thing off?” A six-year-old’s smirk appears on his face, “You have to push the button on the poop!”

    The boys need to talk, not a lot, but need to talk about the bridge experience. Josh repeats several times, “I’m scared, I’m scared of what happened!” He is obviously struggling to find words to express feelings of confusion. Jordan, meanwhile, has less to say – he will internalize this – but he says, quietly, “This has been a horrible day.” He alternates between youthful teasing and giggling and struggling with weighty stuff. “Maybe she was on drugs.” When Josh again wonders, “Do you think the firemen could find her?”

    Jordan says in a low voice, “Brother, she’s dead.” Silly moments are interspersed with serious observations and questions.

    We sit with the boys for several hours. It feels like Holy time, a time to create a space for these two boys to express, to wonder, to grieve, to struggle to find words to approach this new reality. When you are three or six, it is almost impossible to use language to make sense of this, to touch despair, hopelessness. That is true for parents and grandparents as well, and we sit together in this space where these hard topics might be approached ever so tentatively. Trust seems an important starting point. In this sense, the boys have been     well prepared. This is not a time for answers, beyond the undergirding assurance of safety, continuity, love.

    That night, the boys sleep well.

    As I pondered and prayed through this experience in the past days, I realized that the paths of the young boys’ struggle to sort out deep spiritual complications in life are closely connected to my own. Truly hard issues are not resolved, in my experience, by someone approaching with a truckload of answers. Rather, it is in the identifying of the questions and in the permission to sit with those questions, to live in that tension, to hold that tension loosely. At some point, the deepest questions will change, probably without clearly defined answers, and hints of growth, understanding, wisdom will be left in palms that are held open.

    It is an honour to be present, to be invited into that struggle, particularly so when it is written on the clean, innocent slates of young children, struggling to understand, struggling to live with integrity."

And It Was Very Good: Everyday Moments of Awe by Ed Olfert was awarded Honorable Mention, Spiritual, in the 2016 Hollywood Book Festival, Hollywood, CA and was awarded Runner-Up, Spiritual, in the 2016 Great Midwest Book Festival, Chicago, IL.

Buy the book from the author. Contact DriverWorks Ink to make that arrangement.

Read a review of the book.

Please contact DriverWorks Ink for permission to reprint any of this article.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Not just a walk in the park - Protests, suicide awareness, grief, and hope

Over the last couple of weeks, I have taken several walks or bicycle rides in or near Wascana Park, the largest park in my city of Regina, Saskatchewan. The park usually provides me with comfort and a sense of awe over its beauty and tranquility, but the scenes on one day produced many other emotions including frustration, sadness, surprise, confusion, grief, and peacefulness.

I saw a teepee set up to protest the high rates of suicide in Saskatchewan, a group of anti-maskers holding placards, a garden of flowers, a memorial to a man who drowned in the lake, and the colourful signs of autumn.   

I visited the site where a teepee had been set up across from the provincial legislative building to protest government inaction on high suicide rates among Indigenous persons. I was in awe of the actions of 24-year-old Métis fiddler Tristen Durocher and a supporter, Chris Merasty, who walked 635 kilometres from Air Ronge to Regina to protest the Saskatchewan Party government's decision to vote down a suicide prevention bill put forward by an NDP MLA representing northern Saskatchewan. They began their Walking With Our Angels journey on July 2 and arrived in Regina July 31, where Durocher began a hunger strike and vowed to continue it until meaningful legislation was passed.

More than 40 photos were placed around the teepee when Durocher started his ceremonial fasting - closeups of individuals who had died by suicide. He had invited others to bring photos of their loved ones lost to suicide. There were almost 90 photos surrounding the teepee on September 12th. It was impossible to not be moved by the spectacle of the faces. So much unnecessary loss and pain. I looked at the faces from a distance and paid my respects silently, with a sad and frustrated heart, hoping for change soon.

On September 11, a judge had dismissed the provincial government's bid to remove Durocher from the park and allowed him to complete his ceremonial fast and vigil. That judge later visited Durocher at the site, as did numerous individuals from many walks of life, including some politicians and religious leaders. Many discussions were held.

The teepee is gone now, but Tristen's presence on the legislature grounds and his message reached many in this city, this province, and beyond. An online search of his name shows many, many stories of his protest and message. A recent tripartite letter of commitment is a hopeful sign.

As I made my way from the teepee area onto the sidewalk leading to the garden in front of the legislative building, I was taken aback to see a group of people holding signs against mandatory face masking. I was further surprised when one of the woman shouted at me, "We love you!" as I rode by with my face mask on.

I usually wear a mask when I leave my home now - because of my asthma and my desire to keep others safer from any virus or other germs I might unknowingly carry. For a split second, I thought about going back to the protesters to find out what they were thinking, but I decided against it. I was still overwhelmed in thinking about suicide and unnecessary loss of life. I doubted if anything I had to say would change the minds of these anti-maskers. I kept moving - to the garden to enjoy the flowers.

I began my bike ride around the lake and saw, on an area of grass across from the legislative building, a makeshift memorial to another young man who had died by suicide. Twenty-year-old Samwel Uko had drowned in the lake in May. Uko had sought care for mental health issues at a local hospital and had been turned away twice during this pandemic. 

The health authority later apologized for its actions. No one had been allowed to go into the hospital to support him or explain the need for his admission. This part of the sad story had hit me especially hard. As one who has made many trips to hospital either with loved ones or to seek treatment myself, I know the crucial role of loved ones as advocates and supports for the patient in health care settings. We have to do better than this.

The rest of my bike ride around and near the lake was thankfully uneventful, punctuated with stops to admire the lake and the changing colours of fall.

Autumn is a time for change on the Prairies. As we prepare for another winter, I hope and pray that we will be kinder, more compassionate and caring of our fellow humans.

Take care. Stay safe. Love one another.

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 at 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 is "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 from DriverWorks Ink. 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.

The book is no longer in print, but author Sharon Gray is still writing. She 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.