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Saturday, May 24, 2014

How I Chose The Locations For Cedar Woman Part IV

Carsonie’s Restaurant, Westerville
Boy Ladd’s Apartment, Westerville

This ties up the “How I Wrote Cedar Woman” series of this blog.  If there is anything anyone wishes to know, please speak up.

Carsonie’s Restaurant in Westerville actually exists.  My son Christopher and I would go there on Fridays after swimming lessons and have lunch.  The owner, David, took a big shine to the then eight-year-old Christopher and requested that I take a picture of them together.  To this day, that picture and a copy of Christopher’s first book, Christopher Bullfrog Catcher hangs in the main dining room.

Boy Ladd’s Apartment, Westerville: Although the description isn’t very detailed, this space will be used in the sequel.  A good friend of mine used to live in this apartment.  It’s very small, but it’s perfect for a bachelor.  Will he remain a bachelor?  We’ll find out!

Thanks to all of you who have diligently read this series of my blog.  I appreciate each and every one of you.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How I Chose The Locations For Cedar Woman Part III

Keokuk Powwow
Lena and Michael’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio
Jo-Ann’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio
 Westerville home

Keokuk Powwow: In 2004, my son and I traveled to Keokuk, Iowa for our first powwow and for our Hunkapi and Wopila, or Making of Relatives and Thank you ceremonies.   When writing about the powwow in Cedar Woman, I drew from those memories and used them to describe Lena’s experience.

I particularly enjoyed the Broom Dance.  My son, Christopher, was the ugly man two years in a row and thoroughly enjoyed his roll this rollicking, fun filled dance.

Lena and Michael’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio:  This was the first home I bought myself.  I loved this condo and have placed Lena and Michael here.  To this day, I miss my condo.

Jo-Ann’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio:  shortly after Jo-Ann died, I wrote down my memories of that first day I came to her condo for our first night out together.  I wanted to remember that night in detail, to never lose it, and felt that it would be a good edition to the story.  I miss Jo-Ann a great deal and still mourn her.

Westerville Home: I have placed Lena in my home.  I have known great happiness here and felt that Lena belonged right here, in Westerville, in my house.  It is here that she heals, as in my own personal experiences.

Two more to go.  See you tomorrow.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How I Chose The Locations For Cedar Woman Part II

Memories are powerful, and when they can be used to create something unique, it’s exhilarating.  As I was writing Cedar Woman, I literally pulled mental pictures from my mind to help my readers see what I see:

May Hill, Ohio
Front Street Apartment, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus City Center
Vickie’s Restaurant

May Hill, Ohio:  Down a gravel road, past German Hill, is a little town called May Hill.  It’s a very small town; an intimate collection of modest homes and a lovely white church with a steeple.

Not far from the church, and across the road, was a general store. Yes, a general store, not too unlike Ike Godsey’s in The Waltons.

My grandmother would go there for flour, lard, matches, sugar, and I would come along.  The owner, a large man with a barrel chest, would give me an orange pop.  It’s a sweet memory.

And so, I wanted to include May Hill in this story.  In fact, this is where you will meet the hummingbird.

Front Street Apartment, Columbus, Ohio:  I lived in this apartment with my ex-husband.  It was a nice place – clean and in good repair.  At the tag end of German Village, I thought it the perfect place for the Catchers to move to when they moved to Columbus.

Columbus City Center:  Built in 1989, City Center was a magnificent shopping mall, full of light and wide spaces.  I remember walking there, just like Lena and Nickie.  I remember walking in just as it opened, and I saw this beautiful restaurant.  I asked if I could walk around and the manager graciously allowed me to do so.  Beautiful, elegant, serene; I fell in love with the restaurant scene that day.

Columbus City Center no longer exists, and I mourn her still.

Vickie’s Restaurant:  I lived on Thurman Avenue in the South End of Columbus.  I couldn’t afford bus fare, so I would walk the two plus miles to downtown Columbus.  On the west side of High Street, just south of Town Street, was a little diner that sold chili dogs.  My recounting of its interior is how I remember it.  I don’t remember what the shop on the north side of the diner was, but I know that it was there, and so I felt it was all right to expand Vickie’s into that space.

What an emotional journey it was to write about these places.  They are still as vivid in my mind as if I’d been there yesterday.
Tomorrow I’ll discuss the next four locations.  I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am in sharing it with you.  Please, ask questions, comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


Monday, May 19, 2014

How I Chose the Locations for Cedar Woman - Part I

Another fun part of writing a book is choosing your locations.  With the exception of the Galapagos Islands In Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, and the Rosebud Reservation in Cedar Woman, I prefer to use those which I am familiar with.

Here are some of the key locations in Cedar Woman

Cedar Woman Restaurant
The City of Westerville
Rosebud Reservation
The Countryman Farm
May Hill, Ohio
Front Street Apartment, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus City Center
Vickie’s Restaurant
Keokuk Powwow
Lena and Michael’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio
Jo-Ann’s condo, Short North, Columbus, Ohio
Westerville home
Carsonie’s Restaurant, Westerville
Boy Ladd’s Apartment, Westerville

To begin, I will share with you my choice for Cedar Woman’s restaurant, the City of Westerville, the Rosebud Reservation, and the Countryman Farm.

Cedar Woman’s Restaurant:  the history of the building is spot on.  This beautiful, old matriarch, were she a woman, would be a grande dame.  Graceful, elegant, she dominates the corner of North State and Main.

February 2006, Old Bag of Nails moved in.  Westerville, once known as “the dry capital of the world,” approved the sale of alcohol and restaurants like the Old Bag soon moved in.

I chose this building to be the location for Cedar Woman’s restaurant for two reasons: I know the building from top to bottom because I was a frequent visitor when it was the Calico Cupboard.  I’ve been on every floor and know the lay out. In addition, I wanted a room with doors facing the North and the West for reasons explained in the book.

The City of Westerville: I have been a resident for 27 years and have come to love this town deeply.  it is now my home town.  I came here as a bride, built a marriage with my husband, adopted our deeply loved son, and have received much love and care from my friends here.

To make it even better, it is a beautiful town, and one that I feel blessed to have found this oasis.

Rosebud Reservation:  I have not had the honor to visit this rez, but have seen many pictures and documentaries about it.  My sister Julie helped me with the brief, but very important part of the plot, descriptions of the bus station, roads and the type of house which, in 1955, Reva would probably live in.

The Countryman farm:  my family’s ancestral farm.  It is exactly as I described it in chapter two and other chapters of the book.  My uncle Dean resides there now, so I am still able to drive up the gravel road to one of the most beloved homes in my life.

In chapter five I describe a location on the farm – watch for it.  The flat stone where Nellie places her and Dean’s lunch is the very rock I used to sit on many years ago, to meditate and pray.  I consider it to be my rock; my special gift. Whenever I’m stressed or upset, I mediate and go back to that pasture, that stream and that rock to ease my soul.

Tomorrow I will discuss four more of the locations.  All interesting and all dear to me.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


Sunday, May 18, 2014

How I Developed My Characters in Cedar Woman - Part IV

Now, the final three of the main characters: in many ways, character construction and development is one of the most fun parts of writing a novel for me.  I think about my characters a lot, as if they really live and breathe.  I think to myself, would he really do that? Or, how would she react to this?  To me they are real, and I find myself, even after a book is completed, thinking about them as if they were friends who I haven’t seen in a while.

That said, here we go.

Boy Lad: I modeled him after a man named Ruben.  I wanted someone who is serious, deep and somewhat shy; a man who, when he speaks, you listen.  Boy Lad’s feelings run deep and true. This is a man who finds his footing and never stumbles.

Logan Singing Grass Young Bear:   sweet Logan is a composite of my son Christopher and Jules’ son Logan who, since Hunkapi, is also my son. Like my son Christopher, he is born with a special problem, and like both of the boys, he is a creative soul.  Logan brings lightness to the book, and there are instances where, I promise, you will laugh out loud. 

Grandmother Nancy is not a main character.  In fact, she is mentioned only once in chapter one.  I remember when I gave her Cedar Woman, gifting it with my left hand, the hand closest to my heart.  Her eyes welled up, she smiled that sweet smile of hers, and was so very happy that I thought to include her.

Since that time, Grandmother Nancy has made the journey.  I will miss her at powwow. I’ll miss the way she would tear up at the site of a child, of a couple in love, or of something beautiful.  She was a dear, sweet soul, who will leave and open space where her smile, her heart, once lived.  Therefore, I had to include her in this list.

Next week, I will talk about how I chose the locations used in Cedar Woman.  I hope you are enjoying this insight into Cedar Woman as much as I am enjoying sharing it with you.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


Saturday, May 17, 2014

How I Developed My Characters in Cedar Woman - Part III

You have now met eight of the main characters in Cedar Woman.  If you are just now joining us, I would suggest you read Part I and Part II before proceeding – I think you will enjoy it.

Vickie Compton, ah memories.  Vickie is based on a woman named Martha.  She and her husband owned a small carryout in the neighborhood I grew up in the South End of Columbus.  She was a kind woman, childless, and she lost her beloved T.J. much too soon.  Once I left the South End, I never returned to visit her, something I regret to this day.  I developed Vickie around Martha to honor her.

Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau is a living, breathing, witty, charismatic woman whom I am proud to call sister, or Cuwayla (chew-way-lah – younger sister).  I introduce her to you all in Chapter Nine.  When describing her regalia, I have let Julie tell her own story.  She has also been tireless in reading every word of this novel to make sure that everything written within its pages is authentic and respectful.  She also added some delicious humor, but that’s the way my cuywayla is.

Michael Young Bear: you ladies will fall in love with him.  Michael is the only character not drawn from real life.  In truth, he is my fantasy man, and has been since I was quite young.  I promise you, ladies, you will sigh with delight when you meet Michael Young Bear.

Sonny Glass: sweet Sonny Glass.  I love this character with all of my heart.  Physically, he is based on one of the members of my adopted Lakota family.  His character and philosophies, are drawn from my brother.  I needed Sonny to stay the course, and I needed for him to be loyal and loving as well as extremely charming.  You will find this in Sonny Glass.

Tomorrow you will meet the last three on my list.  These are by no means the only characters in Cedar Woman, nor is the book overloaded with a large cast.

Remember to ask any questions or make any comments you wish to.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


Friday, May 16, 2014

How I Developed My Characters in Cedar Woman - Part II

One of the advantages to writing a book is you get to pull from your own experiences, family and friends.  Cedar Woman is full of such instances.

I shared how I developed the first four main characters in Cedar Woman, and am happy to share with you the next four.

Joseph and Mary Countryman are my maternal grandparents.  Countryman is a family name which I used, not only because I find it beautiful, but to honor my ancestors as well.  My family has been in Southern Ohio since the late 1780s.

Dean and Nellie Countryman were based on my aunt and uncle, Dean being one of my mother’s siblings.  Their personalities are based on my kin, especially Nellie, who was known for her sweet nature.  They are described to a tee in Cedar Woman and when reading it, Uncle Dean, I was told, glowed with happiness.

Nickie Greene, based on my childhood friend Joan, plays a small but important part in Cedar Woman.  She will be the main character in the sequel, Woman Who Sees in Both Worlds (subtitle) Ista Numpa.  Nickie is a faithful friend who finds herself tied to the tail of a kite.  The ride is not always a pleasant one.  I needed a character who may swerve, but always returns to the path.

The Hummingbird – I love hummingbirds.  He serves a purpose that I can’t reveal here, but he is based on a true story.

Feel free to ask any questions.  I'd love to hear from you!

If anyone has an idea for Ista Numpa's title, other than the one I have mentioned, feel free to suggest one.

Tomorrow, you will meet the next four – I promise, you will not want to miss it.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


Thursday, May 15, 2014

How I Developed My Characters in Cedar Woman - Part I

     I hope everyone has enjoyed the excerpt from Cedar Woman.  I thought that it would be fun for me to tell you all why I wrote the book, and from where I got my plot, my characters, locations and so on.
     First, I’d like to say that Cedar Woman is a project I wanted to work on for several years.  Written with the help of my adopted sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau, it is a book which I have thoroughly enjoyed writing.
     I asked my sister to act as a consultant.  I did so because I didn't want to write about the sacred things which are not supposed to be written about, and I wanted to write about those which I could with utmost authenticity.  I also wanted to make sure that I represented the Lakota people with the deepest respect and honor.
     That said, I thought it would be fun to discuss how I begin the writing process, and the main characters first: how I came up with them, their names, their personalities.  I find this process in the writing of a book to be a great deal of fun.  So, here we go.
     First I develop and outline.  I consider it to be my roadmap, which ensures that I will get from point A to point B without getting lost.  I allow for some detours, but always return to my roadmap.
     Part of the process of developing an outline for Cedar Woman was finding the beautiful proverbs, sayings and poetry of our American Indian brothers and sisters which begin each chapter.  I felt that it added poignancy to my writing, while honoring those who wrote these wise and beautiful examples of American Indian literature.
     Next, I develop my main characters.  Keep in mind that I have been meditating on the story for a while; I have a document titled “notes,” where I have written down “beginner” names.  That is, possibly not the name they will end up with, and their function within the story.  Outline complete, quotes and parables chosen, I now begin the process of building my characters.  What fun!
     This is a list of the main characters in Cedar Woman.  Today, we will discuss the first four.

Lena Cedar Woman Catcher Young Bear
Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher
Reva Two Strikes Catcher
Mary One Feather Fools Bull
Joseph and Evalena Countryman
Dean and Nellie Countryman
The Hummingbird
Nickie Greene
Vickie Compton
Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau
Michael Young Bear
Sonny Glass
Boy Lad
Logan Singing Grass Young Bear
Grandmother Nancy

     Lena Cedar Woman Catcher Young Bear is based on my dear cousin, Vicki.  I needed a strong woman to base my character on and chose Vickie for these reasons.  In addition, Vicki looks like Cedar Woman….or, rather Cedar Woman looks like Vicki?
     In this story, Cedar Woman has to be a pillar of strength.  She is faced with challenges that will make her a success or failure.  Her personality is based pretty much on mine.  I have faced many of the same challenges and experiences.  I feel that, by knowing myself so well, I was able to make Cedar Woman live.
     Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher is based on Graham Greene, an American Indian actor whom I have admired and enjoyed for years.  Since I do not know Mr. Greene personally, I endowed Peter with the personality, attitudes and fortitude that I have often imagined Mr. Greene to possess.  I dearly love Peter.  To me, he embodies a person of outstanding character and perseverance.
     Reva Two Strikes Catcher carries my mother’s name.  I’ve always loved the name Reva. Reva is a composite of two women I knew in my childhood:  one, a woman from the Appalacian Mountains, the other a Franciscan nun.  I needed a woman who was no nonsense, driven by common sense, stern and practical, with the heart of a mother.  You will be surprised at some of Reva’s later experiences.
     Mary One Feather Fools Bull is modeled after the beautiful and talented American Indian actress Irene Bedard.  I don’t know Irene personally, but I know people who do, and they describe her as a woman of great strength and humility.  I needed this for Mary.  As the story unfolds, Mary’s devotion and courage become pivotal in the story line.
     Tomorrow I will share with you the next four characters.  I hope you stop by and share this with me.  Please, feel free to ask any questions.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Excerpt from "Cedar Woman"

Chapter One

Hear Me

Hear me, four quarters of the world – a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth. Give me the eyes to see, and the strength to understand that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds. Great Spirit, all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. With tenderness have these come up out of the ground. Look upon these faces of children without number, and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds, and walk the good road to the day of quiet. This is my prayer. Hear me!

Black Elk

Slowly, slowly, Grandfather Sun began his ascent. Gliding, floating, he moved above the horizon as blue and lavender and mauve filled the sky.
Birdsong married with fragrant air, as Wakan Tanka stretched His fingers across the sky, pushing back the night, heralding the dawning of a new day. (Wah-kah Than-kah – Mysterious Creator)

July 18, 2010
6:00 a.m.

Sonny Glass walked briskly along the slowly awakening street. He enjoyed the sound of the heels of his cowboy boots against the hard concrete of Uptown Westerville’s sidewalks. Soon the area would be busy, as the small but vibrant Central-Ohio city came to life.
     Home to just over 35,000 citizens and the birthplace of the Anti- Saloon League, Westerville was a charming family oriented town with several parks, the Inniswood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve, and Otterbein, the private liberal arts college founded in 1847.
     Continuing his walk along State Street, Sonny admired the warm, historical feel of the main thoroughfare of Uptown Westerville. The storefronts were comprised mostly of the original structures built since the incorporation of the city in 1858. The pride of her citizens was apparent in the spanking clean look of the 19th Century, picturesque suburb of Columbus.
     Sonny reached the corner of Main and State, and gazed across the street at the new restaurant, the grand opening of which would be celebrated this evening. Three stories tall, the large, stately building stood solid and imposing as new-morning sun kissed her ancient, red bricks.
     A red canopy shaded the entrance with its centered blue stripe and eight-sided star, each point formed by a tipi and representing the flag of the Lakota Sioux. From its frame, hanging pots of Impatiens danced in a slight breeze. Soon pedestrians, busy with their early morning errands, would walk briskly by, some going to Schneider’s bakery, others to Talbot’s Florists, some intent on visiting Heavenly Espresso, the coffee shop across the street.
     Sonny leaned against the corner lamppost and gazed in admiration at Lena Young Bear’s labor of love, Cedar Woman, the first upscale American Indian restaurant in Central, Ohio.
Studying the restaurant from across the street, Sonny tried to imagine how it would look to someone who had never seen it before. Pretending to be a new patron, Sonny contemplated the impressive building. As guests approached the large, cedar double doors leading into the small entrance foyer of the establishment, they would first notice the top of the door frame. Hanging above the striking entrance were four corncobs: one of white, one of red, one of yellow and one of blue, an ancient symbol proclaiming that all who entered the dwelling would be fed. Now where on earth did she manage to find blue corn? Sonny mused as he straightened and prepared to cross the street. I’ll bet she had Grandmother Nancy send it to her from Colorado. She would do that, seeing how sacred corn is. And of course there would be four, he continued to ponder. Lena Young Bear would use the sacred number representing the four winds, four seasons, and four directions of the earth.
     Beneath the corncobs was a simple carving. Engraved upon a cedar plank, and painted in the same deep blue of the awning stripe and star, were the words Mitakuye Oyasin, (Me-tdah-coo-yey oh-yah-seen) which translated from the Lakota Sioux language simply meant, “We Are All Related.” I cannot believe what she has accomplished, he reflected, stepping down from the curb and crossing the still silent street. 
     Sonny recalled that Lena chose the building, which was later to bear her American Indian name, partly because of the location of the doors. The main entrance faced west where lived the Thunder Beings. From here came rain and nourishment so all may live.
     The second door faced the north where the Great White Giant lives. From here came the cleansing white snows and the power of healing.
     Sonny took a deep breath. He could still smell sage. The night before the grand opening, Lena performed a smudging ceremony to cleanse herself and the new restaurant.
     Carrying a smoldering bowl filled with sacred grasses, Lena walked to the center of the first floor of the building.
     The white ceramic bowl, which she had thrown herself, its rim painted with red ochre to symbolize the blood of The People, contained cedar needles, to cleanse the area, its sweet smell attracting the good spirits. In addition, there was wild sage, for purifying the soul and the air, enhancing balance within one’s self and the spirit world. Wild sweet grass, to cleanse the mind and body and to attract good spirits and energies with its fragrance, along with tobacco, to carry her prayers to Creator was also included.
     Lena “bathed” herself with the fragrant fumes. Cupping her hand, and capturing the floating ribbons of smoke, she passed them over her head, shoulders, torso, and under each foot.
Facing the west, she extended the smoking bowl and intoned:
     “Grandfather of the West, this is Cedar Woman, I ask that you keep my feet true and on the Good Red Road. (To walk in balance, to walk with the earth and not just on it. To follow the rules of Creator.)
      I ask that you guide me on this day, and all days, so that I may continue on this path. I ask that you help in my daily life. Mitakuye oyasin, we are all related. She next turned to the north and offered the same prayer to Grandfather of the North, Grandfather of the East and then of the South. Lifting the bowl to the heavens, she repeated her prayer to Father Sky.
     Kneeling, the bowl in front of her, her hands on the floor on each side of her body, she sent her prayer to Mother Earth.
     Finally, she again raised the still smoking bowl to the sky and added a personal plea,“Creator, this is Cedar Woman. I ask that you keep my feet true and on the Good Red Road. I ask that you guide me on this day and all days so that I may continue on this path. I ask that you help in my daily life. I ask you that I may feed all people and that my venture here will be successful.” Lena placed the still smoldering bowl on a table and sat, slowly relaxing, her mind, body, and spirit in harmony.
Sonny pressed upon the heavy doors and entered the foyer. Fairly small in size, it served as a buffer between the changeable Ohio weather and the dining room within.  Five paces across the vestibule stood a single door, also made of cedar. Entering the restaurant, he let his eyes move slowly around the first floor dining room. It was on this level of the three-story building where casual Contemporary American Indian foods would be served.
     Built in 1881 in the Italianate style by M.S. Wyant, the structure had known many incarnations. From bookstore to telephone company, from grocery store to clothing emporium, from gathering place to thriving gift shop, the uptown site had been a popular landmark for Westerville’s citizens.
     In 1886, during a performance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the opera house, located on the third floor of the building, experienced a tragic fire. An actor, swinging an umbrella, accidentally hit one of the gas foot lights. Panicking, fleeing patrons ran, and the exit was blocked. Trying to find a window to throw the gas light out onto the street, the actor accidentally ran into a small hallway, discovering a woman and two children seeking refuge. None of them died immediately, but lingered through an agonizing death.
     Remembering the heartbreaking story, Sonny took a deep breath, glancing toward the stairs which led to the spacious third floor, now allocated to teachers and students for the study of pottery, dance and music. There was no sign of the little girl and boy rumored to haunt the third floor, their laughter and running feet echoing throughout the three-story building, but Sonny was nervous nonetheless. Lena assured him that she had sent the children “home” the day she smudged the restaurant, but Sonny remained skeptical.
     Sonny glanced away from the staircase. Relieved that no sounds echoed down the flight of stairs from the region above, he relaxed and allowed his mind’s eye to take a mental tour of the beautiful restaurant. Tonight would be a special night, the middle floor, the fine dining area, filled to capacity with friends and relatives eager to celebrate this special day, to celebrate the happiness of Lena Cedar Woman Young Bear.
Lena appeared in Sonny’s mind’s eye. He constantly experienced a queer shock when he first saw her, even after seventeen years. In his mind, when picturing her, she always seemed larger than life, towering above all with whom she came into contact. In reality, she was quite diminutive in stature, barely reaching 4'11" and maxing out, he would guess, at 90 pounds. It was as if Wakan Tanka, in His infinite wisdom, created her body as an afterthought, concentrating on the immenseness of her soul instead.
     But, it was her eyes that startled the most. Almond in shape and slightly tip-tilted, they sparkled as if lit from within. Her left eye was a luminous, deep brown, so dark that the pupil at times appeared to be the same color. Her right eye was the same unfathomable brown, but only on the inside half of the iris. The outside half was vivid amber.
     Wakan Tanka must have drawn the line Himself, Sonny mused. How else could her iris be so divided precisely in two, the outside half the exact same color of the eye of Wambli (Wahn-blee) the sacred golden eagle of the Lakota?

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch; Library of Congress Copyright 2014

Cedar Woman can be purchased here: 

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Slowly, gently, the quacking of ducks draws me from sleep.  I raise up, through misty mists of dreams and swaying contentment, toward the dawn of a new day with you, my sweet son.
    This is your fourth day home, and yet it seems as though you have always been here.  You have become such an integral part of my life, that I cannot imagine it without you.
    You lay contentedly upon my chest, your little heart beating against mine, tiny fists curled, silken hair caressing my chin. Bending to kiss the top of your head, I again breathe in your beautiful baby smell, your Chris smell…my baby…my son.
    Slowly, dreamily, I realize that I have fallen asleep after your last feeding.  I like to sit on the family room couch, facing the lake, during these sweet moments: our mother/son time, when I hold you, feed you, examine your little hands, feet, ears.  Sitting, curled up against a huge pillow, with you cradled in my arms in a sitting position, nursing contentedly, I admire my little boy.  Raising you to my shoulder, and pressing your downy cheek to mine, I burp you and then return you to an upright position, cuddling you in my arms.  Turning my gaze toward the dawning day, I lean back in pure bliss…savoring...savoring…and then slowly, drifting off into a sweet, contented sleep.
    The light begins to swell and fill the frame of the sliding door leading to our back deck…to our lake.  The sky begins to change color.  I can tell that today is going to be another beautiful day – Dogwood Pink and Daffodil Yellow…a glorious day…my first Mother’s Day!

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Last Farewell to a Beloved Friend

Two days ago, a place, open for over 30 years and very dear to me and my son, closed its doors for good.  We are broken hearted.  For 12 years, we have gone to this establishment, and within its four walls are memories so fine and so dear, that it is almost impossible to describe them.

I am a recovered anorexic. When told that my adopted son, born with cleft lip and palate, would probably develop oral defensiveness and become a picky eater, I thought to myself, “No.  He will not go through the hell I did.”  With that philosophy in mind, 12 years ago, when Chris was 10, I asked his pediatrician where I could take my son for sushi where I knew that the food was safe and good.  “Otani’s,” he said.  “That’s where I take my kids.”

We went the next day, and there I met Bow (as in to bow) our server for most of the years we dined there, and Honda San, the owner.

We loved the food, and when we finished, my son got up, walked up to the sushi bar, bowed and said, “Thank you for the delicious sushi.”  He was not prompted.  Thus began the friendship of my son and Honda, the owner of Otani’s.

The years passed.  We went as often as we could.  Christopher grew, attended high school, enjoyed internships at Meals on Wheels and Cap City Diner, and finally, Otani.

Upon graduation, Honda San asked Christopher to come and work for him, and he taught Christopher the exquisite art of making sushi.  Chris learned well, and an already companionable friendship matured and deepened.  Honda’s respect for Christopher was matched by Chris’ devotion to his mentor and to the Honda family. His devotion was mine, for what mother could not love someone who loves her child?

Tragedy came to Honda’s wife in the form of a devastating stroke.  His son, Rick, tried to keep the business going and fought a valiant fight, but the landlord decided that he no longer wanted a restaurant in his building and Rick was asked to vacate. Otani was no more.

We mourn the loss of our beloved friend.  We pray that Otani can reopen in another location, and we embrace the memory of the years we enjoyed the ambiance, friendship, culinary expertise and companionship of Otani.  We remember birthdays, holidays, special events, the karaoke and comedy nights; the laughter, friendships, good conversations, and of course, the delicious food.  Mostly, we miss our friend:  Otani, the place that brought us so much joy.


By By Bill Chronister
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  •  Wednesday October 10, 2007 12:17 AM
Picture associated with this article at the beginning of this blog post.

Deep bow from the sushi master -
Kazushige Honda, the man who introduced Columbus to sushi, plans to say thanks to the community this week for decades of success and fond memories.

Honda will mark the 23rd year of Otani Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar -- as well as his 63rd birthday -- Wednesday night with a celebration he calls "Arrigato, Columbus." A commemorative mug will even be issued in honor of the occasion.

Otani brought sushi to the region long before many central Ohioans had experienced Japanese cuisine, so the restaurant has been a magnet for those visitors to Columbus seeking cosmopolitan fare.

"The Beastie Boys, Police, Cheap Trick, they've all eaten here," Honda recalled. He also can recall visits from both George V. Voinovich, now a Republican senator, and Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democratic congressman and a candidate for president.

His favorite memory, though, is of a visit by the Rev. Billy Graham, who dropped by Otani on a weekend about 14 years ago when he'd brought his crusade to Cooper Stadium.

"He came in, and he didn't use any secretary, and when he left, he paid with cash from his own pocket," Honda said, admiringly. "He's a very simple guy."

Honda has become a fixture in central Ohio, but he made his way here via a circuitous route. He left his home in Wakayama, Japan, at 24, wanting "a new experience," and he took a job as chef at Benihana in New York. That was in 1969.

He's been back to Japan once or twice, but he has made his home in this country, first in New York, then Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Honda opened the first sushi bar in the Midwest, at the original Otani in Cleveland's eastern suburbs, he said. And he brought the first sushi to Columbus when he opened the Otani at 5900 Roche Dr. on the North Side on Oct. 7, 1984.

"I came to Columbus at first to cater to the governor's mansion in Bexley," Honda recalled. At the time, Gov. James A. Rhodes was working with automaker American Honda on building a vehicle assembly plant in Marysville. "I kept getting pulled down here to cater -- for Japanese politicians and others who came to Ohio."

Finally, he decided it was time to move, and with the help of the Columbus Chamber, he found the space on the first floor of a six-story office building near I-71 and Rt. 161 that had recently been vacated by the Tamarack Restaurant. He recalls getting help from the Rhodes administration, as well as people working for the next governor, Richard F. Celeste.

Since the restaurant's opening, he's changed Otani only a bit, creating more-intimate settings throughout the
180-seat space and adding a soundproof karaoke lounge. He's also brightened and modernized the space.
Gone from the menu is the old stand-by sukiyaki. In its place, and featured prominently, is "soft-smoked" fish and meat in the Japanese style.

"The sushi has never changed," Honda said.

He has married and put two children through school. His daughter, Lee-Ann, has a doctorate in nutrition, and his son, Richard, is his webmaster. He created www.otanisushi.com, which also provides daily news from Japan.

But if you ask Honda what's changed over the 38 years he's been in America, he doesn't talk about the business.

"So many nice people I have met since I came here," Honda said. "And so many nice people have died."
Honda acknowledges that business has become a bit more strained, now that sushi has become common. He said that some of his customers have been drawn away to restaurants in the Easton area and the Short North in the past eight years.

But he has no plans to move, and he certainly won't add a restaurant elsewhere in the city. "One man cannot manage two restaurants," he said.

The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner seven nights a week starting at 5 p.m. and running as late as 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

These Feelings Within My Heart

“Waste (wash-tey), lila waste! Good, very good! Wopila, thank you, for giving your life that I may live.”  Slightly stunned, I lowered my fork and turned slowly to look at you, my thirteen-year-old son.  We sat in the dining room of a Mexican restaurant where you had ordered a large burrito.  You were eating slowly, enjoying your meal, commenting on how good it was.

Never before had I heard you thank the animals and plants that had given their lives so that you may eat.  Today, however, you bent your head, closed your eyes, and offered your thanks without my telling you to do so.

Can I tell you what my heart is telling me tonight?  My heart is telling me that my son’s own heart has grown from that of a child into the heart of a man.

Waste lila waste Ciksi (chee-kshee), Son!  Waste!
Ina (mother) Wambli hupahu kici naji (Stands With Eagle Wings)

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

My Love

You have given me the job I never weary of,
The name I will never change, nor give to another.
You have made me the person by which I wish to be remembered as.
You have made me...Mother.

For you have brought more joy then I knew existed.
You have filled my heart with song.
You have brought me to the one place
Where I know I belong.

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I am your mirror.  When you look into my eyes,
you see how beautiful you are.
When you enter a room, my heart lifts up to meet you;
a smile of greeting lights me up from within.

I am your mirror.  When you look into my eyes,
you see love, as my soul embraces yours,
revealing to you just how wonderful you are:
my friend, my heart, my son.

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Courage Smells Like a Hospital

We walk into Children's Hospital holding hands.  You are terrified.  You have already endured numerous operations, but at age eight, this is the first one you have faced with some idea of what is happening.

You are trembling.

Minutes seem like hours.  They test your oxygen level, take your blood pressure, ask a million questions.  I have kept as much of this as possible from you, but you sense my distress.  I have told you that you will have an operation.  I will not lie to you, but you guess that I haven't given you the entire story.

You cling to me.

The smell is all-pervasive.  It is an antiseptic smell, an indefinable "no smell”: cleaning fluids, anesthesia, rubbing alcohol, all mixed into one.  It almost hurts to breathe it in, like too clean air invading my lungs, leaving them empty.   I know you will remember it.  In the future, something will trigger the memory of it and you will relive the terror of today.
They take us to pre-op.  Here the smell is more definable: sharp, astringent – like sandpaper as it rakes past my nostrils.
You look at me, and your eyes well with unshed tears.  You know that this is one of the "biggies."  They will take a large portion of bone from your tiny hip and replace the missing bone in your upper gum line: the alveolar ridge.  You sense that it will hurt.

You are afraid.

The smell is starting to make me ill.  Or is it fear?  Once again, I will be turning you, my baby, my little love, over to strangers.

They will cut.

The anesthesiologist arrives and takes your hand.  You look at me with glistening, tear filled eyes, and smile.  Your back straightens.  Your chin lifts and just as those big double doors swing shut, you raise your hand and sign, "I love you."

Copyright 2010 Debra Shiveley Welch
Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Love

You have given me the job I never weary of,
The name I will never change nor give to another.
You have made me the person I wish to be remembered as.
You have made me Mother.
For you have brought more joy then I knew existed.
You have filled my heart with song.
You have brought me to the one place
Where I know I belong.

From “My Love”

Copyright 20010 Debra Shiveley Welch

Library of Congress Copyright 2014 Debra Shiveley Welch

Friday, May 2, 2014

To Mother

If I could see you
Just one more time,
I would hand you a red flower.
You would tuck it behind your ear,

And you would dance.

You would lift your arms
Above your head,
And shining face raised toward the sky,
You would smile,

And I would watch you twirl.

Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
Copyright 2007 Saga Books
Library of Congress Copyright Debra Shiveley Welch 2010