Publishing the true stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

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

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)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Seeing this "Little Coat" inspired a country singer to write an award-winning book

Canadian soldier Bob Elliott and his crew asked a Dutch seamstress to make this child's coat from a Canadian Army blanket. The buttons came from the soldiers' tunics. The soldiers gave the coat to their "good-luck charm", 10-year-old Sussie Cretier, on Christmas Day 1944.
Alan J. Buick was a full-time carpentry instructor and a part-time country singer when he noticed the unique child's coat in a case on display in Olds, Alberta. Here is  what the first glimpse of that little coat meant to him:

Seeing the “little coat” for the first time - at the Royal Canadian Legion in Olds, Alberta in September 2004 - filled me with bewilderment more than passion. I asked a friend, who had come to hear my wife Carol and I play music that night, why this coat with Canadian Army buttons was displayed with all the wartime memorabilia; it was far too small for a soldier to have worn. My friend proceeded to relate some of the story behind its creation – it was a Christmas gift in 1944 from Canadian soldiers to a 10-year-old Dutch girl who had become a good-luck charm for them; she later brought the coat to Canada.

It was then that my passion for this tale began.

The most powerful moment was when I learned that the little Dutch girl who wore the coat and the soldier who gave it to her were not only still alive in 2004, but married to each other! I knew I had an epic by the tail! I had to find out more.

I contacted Bob and Sue Elliott - the Canadian soldier and the Dutch girl - who were at that time living in the Netherlands. The email address I'd been given for them failed, so snail mail was the only other choice. They replied to my letter and the journey to turn their story into a book began.

These were Sue's words: "I have no problem telling you what it was like growing up under Nazi rule, but good luck when you get to Bob!”

She was right. Bob, like many veterans, preferred not to talk about the horrors of war; the recollections opened old wounds long forgotten.

Bob and Sue and I met face-to-face at the Royal Canadian Legion hall in Olds, Alberta in October 2005 to discuss the procedure for writing this book. It was a truly amazing day. Just talking to these two wonderful people who had endured so much was an awe-inspiring experience for me.

Bob and Sue (Sussie) Elliott in 2005 with Sue's little coat on display at the Royal Canadian Legion in Olds, Alberta, Canada.

I knew I had not collected all the information I needed that day. The journey I had chosen was both humbling and difficult. I was dealing with 65-year-old memories! A good example of this was the day before my publisher, Deana Driver, was to send the manuscript off to print, Sue told me of the German soldier who visited with her family frequently. This information had to be included in the book as it showed how not all German people were evil.

At the close of our 2005 meeting, Sue asked me what she should do with her little coat. I said it should be in a museum, where it would inform future generations of the compassion and generosity Canadian soldiers had for the emaciated and spiritually worn-down peoples of the Netherlands. They contacted the Canadian War Museum, which promptly sent two representatives to the Olds Legion to carefully prepare this ancient garment for the long flight to Ottawa.

Alan J. Buick, author of the award-winning, Canadian best-selling book The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, available from
Prior to the official book launch, scheduled to take place at the Olds Legion on November 11, 2009, a pre-launch gathering was held at the Armoury Officers' Mess in Regina. As strange as it may sound and with fate in our corner, one of the officials from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands happened to be present that night, Hans Moor. We gave him a copy of my book, The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, and he read it on his flight back to Ottawa.

A few weeks later, I was invited by him to attend a function at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to honour the Canadian soldiers of World War II who repatriated the Netherlands. This was an amazing evening. There was I, a New Zealand farmboy, rubbing shoulders and chatting with Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts and General Charles Belzile, retired commander of the Canadian Forces! A truly humbling and memorable experience.

My most touching moment on that trip was seeing "the child's coat" in its restored state and mounted in a beautiful glass case, complete with a bronze plaque briefly explaining what it was and what it represented. It literally brought me to tears. The War Museum staff had done an excellent job of presenting this wonderful artifact.

Alan J. Buick seeing the child's coat at the Canadian War Museum.
(Photo courtesy of Hans Moor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ottawa, ON) 

It is difficult to pinpoint any incident I told in The Little Coat book as being more significant than another but, if I were to pick just one, it would be when Sussie's (Sue's) family escaped on foot for two kilometres to the safety of the Canadian lines while her family was under fire from German soldiers.

The Little Coat is a perennial story, a story of love and compassion, of terror and human relationships – a perfect gift for men, women, and children ages 10 and up, or even just because. Once you read it, you'll understand the gratitude the Dutch still have for Canadians today and forever. This book captures the true compassion of the Canadian soldiers for the Dutch people in their darkest hour.

Editor's note: The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story was awarded Honourable Mention, 2010 Hollywood Book Festival. $4,500 from sales of The Little Coat has been donated to the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund. $1 from every book sold from 2013 on is donated to the Canadian War Museum, the new home of the 'child's coat' in this inspiring war story turned love story.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A haircut and a hug from Poland

On a particularly emotional day a few months ago, I decided to get a haircut. I had been missing my departed loved ones – my husband, my parents, and my parents-in-laws – more than usual. I needed to do something to boost my spirits.

Instead of going to my usual salon, I went to a new place.

I am the kind of person who doesn't really enjoy chatting the whole time that my hair is being cut - partly because I can't see without my glasses on and partly because I am not comfortable chatting or sharing details of my personal life with a room full of strangers.

But this day was different.

The woman who cut my hair had an accent. My curious journalist-self kicked in and I asked her where she was from.

"Poland," she said.

Interesting, I thought.

"My mother was born in Poland, and my dad was born in a part of Ukraine that was Poland at one time," I told her.

This led to a conversation about whether I speak the Polish language (I don't); how long she's been in Canada (two years; she and her husband came for better work opportunities); how I and my husband wanted to go to Poland when we were in Europe in 2013 but we ran out of time, however my youngest sister went to Ukraine that year and saw the area where our dad was born. 

The hairdresser asked whether I make any Polish food.

"I don't but my mom made perogies and cabbages rolls. What kinds of food do you make?" I asked her.

She told me she likes perogies, but she puts all kinds of different things in them - "white cheese, broccoli, garlic  - delicious!" 

Just then, I glanced up as she was trimming on one side of my head and I saw her name tag.

I was dumbfounded. "Oh my gosh! That's my mother's name!" I exclaimed. "Agnes."

"Yes," she replied. "It is hard for people to say here."

I miss my mother very much. She was a strong, faithful Christian woman with a zany sense of humour and a passion for bright-coloured blouses.

I sat in awe of this circumstance – a Polish hairdresser who shared the same name as my mom.

I will not call it is a coincidence. In my daughter Lisa Driver’s first award-winning book, Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition and WorkWith Your Angels, she notes that what we often think of as “coincidences” are actually signs that the universe is sending us a message. Our angels want to let us know they are with us. I have had too many “coincidence” experiences in my life to just set these aside as accidental. The probabilities of me going to that shop on that day at that time when that particular hairdresser was available to cut my hair are too big to comprehend. Everything aligned for that to happen.

I sat and enjoyed the rest of the cut – which is difficult to do when you’re almost blind without your glasses on!

When the haircut was done, I put my glasses back on and noticed a keychain that was hanging on the drawer handle in front of the salon chair.

"I love Poland," it said.

I smiled.

I asked if I could take a photo of it.

 “Yes,” Agnesiewska replied. “This is better, " she added as she turned the ornament around to show me the other side of it.

"I Love Polska."

Much better.

I felt a huge grin forming on my face. A message of love from my angel mom. A reminder of my Polish heritage.

As I was paying for the trim, Agnesiewska asked me, "Your mother - she lives?" 

"No,” I replied. “She passed away in 2011.”

"Oh... I sorry." 

This precious Polish woman paused just long enough for me to let her response sink in.

Then she sighed and added, "Ah... Life!"

Life indeed.

Monday, September 25, 2017


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

Anyway ... as I was saying...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017


This post was written on July 23, 2017. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gardening brings me peace. ​Gardening is good.

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