It is one of the smallest plants in my garden, slightly bigger than my cellphone, but it is mighty.
This beautiful mini rose was a gift from a dear friend, in memory of a granddaughter that we lost at birth years ago. This little rose is an indoor plant. It was not meant to handle the harsh weather and severe winters of Western Canada. But it has survived and thrived in my garden for eight years, and I have loved it dearly. Read more
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. Read more
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.
Seeing The wartime "Little Coat" for the first time turned confusion into a passion to tell the story - guest blog by Alan J. Buick
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 at that moment that I had an epic by the tail!
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 and the journey 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 Olds Legion in Olds, Alberta in October 2005 to discuss the procedure for writing this book. This was a truly amazing day; just talking to these two wonderful people who had endured so much was an awe-inspiring experience for me.
I knew I didn't collect 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.
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 farm boy, rubbing shoulders and chatting with Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts and General Charles Belzille, retired commander of the Canadian Forces! A truly humbling and memorable experience.
I think 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.
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 family escaped on foot for two kilometres to the safety of the Canadian lines while 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 read, 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.
I am often asked, “What is Letters to Jennifer From Maudie and Oliver about?”
I say it is about “cats, cancer, and humour.” This always causes a thoughtful pause, followed by a stare, and then more silence.
What could possibly be funny about cancer? Well, nothing is funny about cancer. Or so you would think. I am going to tell you a true story about how humour can be found in the oddest places.
Many years ago, a new airline started operations in Western Canada. The service was “no frills”– no reservations, no seat assignment, and certainly nothing to eat.
One day, at a scheduled stop, 13 Hells Angels bikers clamoured on board. On this airplane, there was one main aisle with rows of three seats on each side. Three bikers sat in the first row on the left side. One biker sat in the aisle seat of the second row. Beside him, trapped in the centre and window seats sat an elderly couple. Three bikers occupied the row behind.
The elderly couple had never been on an airplane before. Prior to these gentlemen taking their seats, the elderly couple was in a semi-state of anxiety. Now they were in a full-blown state of terror! She clutched her handbag and he clutched her. Not only did they believe that they had descended into Hell, but they had probably progressed to one level below.
After a few moments, a tall, beautiful, blonde flight attendant came up the aisle and said to herself, “Oh my, I have to do something about this and I have one minute to do it before takeoff.” She approached the biker sitting beside the elderly couple, tapped him on the shoulder and said, sternly, “Now, you listen to me – if this couple gives you any trouble, you just let me know!”
Everyone burst into laughter. Shortly after takeoff, the elderly couple and the Hells Angels members each brought out their own photographs of grandchildren and Harley Davidsons. Everyone relaxed.
For those of us who witnessed that flight attendant’s quick-thinking, it was a wonderful lesson on breaking tension, thinking on your feet, and providing a humorous moment.
Laughter lifts us up from whatever problem, concern, and even pain we may have and gives us a moment of respite. Living with cancer can sometimes seem like walking on hard stones with our bare feet. Laughter gives us soft shoes, just for a moment, to make the next few steps easier. They may only be moments, but those moments stand on their own – outside of cancer, pain and despair.
And, if we can share the laughter, it is a good thing.
I do volunteer work at a Winnipeg hospice. Often, the first thing I hear when I walk through the front door is laughter. And it is so heartening to see a smile on the face of someone who is experiencing extreme suffering.
Cancer is a steep and treacherous journey, but humour can give us moments of feeling good, even in the battle against cancer. My friend Jennifer experienced moments of delight from the letters by Oliver and Maudie, two very precocious and spoiled Siamese cats. (I know because they live with me. I am LIP – their Live-In Person.)
It is okay to use good humour, when it is appropriate, with your loved ones suffering from cancer or any other debilitating condition. They will appreciate it, and you will too. Letters to Jennifer From Maudie and Oliver has been enjoyed by readers aged seven to adult. Excerpts are below. The cover design and illustrations are by talented Regina artist Erika Folnovic.
If you purchase the book (it's on sale for $9.95 CAN), my publisher will make a donation from each book sold to cancer research programs. So, before you go to bed, you can read a letter to Jennifer from the book (Maudie and Oliver are very funny), have a good laugh and a good night’s sleep, knowing you are also helping others.
Editor's note: Letters to Jennifer from Maudie & Oliver was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival in Chicago. Yes, it's that good!
(Lisa Driver is a certified Life Coach, Medium, Angel Therapist, Advanced Angel Tarot/Oracle card reader, Reiki Practitioner, and award-winning author of Opening Up and Leap, published by DriverWorks Ink.)
Aaah spring! Welcome to a time of renewal, rebirth, and a reminder that life goes on in cycles, creating beauty all around us if we take the time to notice it.
Desiring a life of more beauty, appreciation, and presence, I made the choice at the beginning of this month to take some time off from coaching and teaching. In a series of Divinely-guided, serendipitous events, I found myself deciding that I needed a break.
Upon reflection, I realized I haven’t taken a breather in a long time. It is in my nature to work, and to work hard. I am driven, motivated, and love to help others, so taking time off has been a difficult transition. But I am loving it (most days). With my daughter almost eight months old, she is beginning to learn new things everyday, and is on the verge of crawling and turning my world (and living room) upside down.
To watch her sense of wonder as she tries a new food, feels a new texture, or makes a new sound (her latest thing is clapping), fills me with pride, peace, and a deep sense of healing love that I need. Some days I find it difficult to see the value I add as “just” a mom, and some days I wish I could be present and engaged with my daughter and husband AND help run Above 540’s successful online business. Deep down, I know that will come, and I know my lesson right now is to understand just how important it is that I appreciate these simple moments with my family. I need to recharge, to reset, and to take care of myself.
In the last two years, my entire life has transformed and I am still reeling from all of it. Change shakes us on a deep level, and tests our sense of security, confidence, and self-awareness.
In my second book “Leap!”, I write a lot about that self-awareness, and the importance of really enjoying this present moment. When we utilize the power of now and of our own choices in this instant, we begin to create a happier, more abundant, bliss-filled future, and find it easier to navigate the challenges of our world. Yet it’s difficult to look within and ask yourself: Which choice should I make? What will make me happy? How can I best serve others and still love my life?
Personally, I was finding the answers to those questions often coming from the expectations of others, or from some zombie-type version of Lisa, who was just trying to stay above water amidst some pretty tough challenges. My heart was asking for more, and I knew I needed some time to listen to it and really honour that inner desire.
And just like that, the Divine helped everything fall into place so I can reflect, review, and recommit to me.
I have seen similar situations with many of my clients over the years, and it’s part of the reason I wrote “Opening Up” and “Leap!” – to teach people this simple, yet important lesson: we need to stop doing everything for everyone else, and start putting our own dreams first. Who are we serving by working at a job we hate? By staying in a relationship or friendship that drains us? By doing everything for our kids, our colleagues, our friends, our family, and making excuses as to why we aren’t deserving?
How is that inspiring anyone? Even those we are helping (or humouring) are only getting a small percentage of the love and inspiration we could offer if we were really shining! Often, they are getting a resentful, exhausted, drained, tired version of us that is just putting one foot in front of the other, hoping for a change but not sure if/when/how that’s even possible.
So I beg of you, if you can relate, take some time for yourself. Take a breath right now —- I’ll wait —- and feel the power in your body and mind. Now think of one thing – ONE THING – you can do this week that would feed your soul and make you a happier, shinier version of yourself. What is it? Write it down, schedule it in, and notice how even making that choice and thinking about something that makes you happy, makes you happier and lighter in the “now”! (Doesn’t it?)
We far too often get caught up in the mundane rut of our routines, or in the pain or “failure” of the past, and allow it to limit us as we move forward. Which is why taking time for yourself (even 5 minutes to breathe) can make a big difference.
As I continue to rest and balance out my mind, body, and spirit, I am excited for everything that will unfold. Every day, I remind myself to breathe, tune in, and listen to what my soul is asking of me. That time I carve out reminds me that today is NEW, full of potential, and has a unique story to tell. This day has never happened before and I have a choice to make it great … or not.
I know from recent experience just how quickly things can change, so I do my best to wake up each day, ready and willing to make the most of this gift we’ve all been given.
We all need to reset sometimes, especially when life throws us curve-balls. If you’ve been going through the motions lately or feeling a bit “blah”, consider this your Divine sign to make a choice and change something. You’ve got the power!
I believe in you.
Sending you love, strength, and renewed conviction to do whatever it is you dream of,
(All DriverWorks Ink books are available at http://www.driverworks.ca/shop.html)
In 2015, I wrote this "Read My Book" piece for Regina and Saskatoon newspapers to introduce readers to the fascinating anthology Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People:
We can learn much from the people around us. Whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or people we have just met, there are stories to be told and lessons to be learned. This concept has been a driving force in my work as a freelance journalist for more than 30 years and has followed me into the field of book writing, editing and publishing.
In 2011, when I began working with the Saskatoon German Days Committee to help them create their book Egg Money: A Tribute to Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, I commented that they could also publish a book called Cream Money, since cream money was another important income source for farm women in days gone by. Of course, their Egg Money book is based on a statue of that name in downtown Saskatoon, so “Cream Money” did not make sense as a project for them.
So in 2014, my husband and publishing partner Al Driver and I decided to invite writers to send us their stories of selling cream and other interesting tales from past decades of farming on the Prairies. We collected 29 short stories and two poems from 30 Prairie writers, including myself.
My mother, Sabinka Staszewski, came to Canada from Poland in August 1929. She was two years old and made the 12-day voyage by ship with her mother, father and three siblings (ages eight years, six years, and six weeks - see photo below). After arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they headed west by train to what would become their new home in Athabasca, Alberta, 95 miles north of Edmonton. Read more
(Months ago, my bereavement counsellor suggested that I write about this particular time in my grief journey. "It will help others," she said. I am now ready to share this story.)
Nine months was when it happened. When most people, aside from my family, lost interest in me talking about my pain and sadness over my husband’s death.
Some of my closest friends and supporters even struggled to feign interest and patience as I cried or poured out my broken soul to them. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had only been mildly affected by the death of this outgoing, fun-loving, witty, gentle giant of a man, while my life had been utterly broken. After all, I spent almost 42 years with this man as a major part of my daily life. They did not. And after almost nine months of caring for me, they had already said and done pretty much everything they could think of to try to help me through my grief. No, I couldn’t blame them. Read more
I am a “liberal” Christian woman who believes in God, in Jesus Christ, and in angels and other out-of-this-world spiritual guides and helpers.
There. I said it. I believe in angels.
Oh. Were you stuck on the “I believe in God and in Jesus Christ” thing? Then this is not the blog for you. You may want to move on to reading something else. Read more