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Blessings and Cheer; A Fond Farewell

Dear Readers,

It all began on a ferry waiting for the 10:20, I believe.  Would I write a column addressing some issues with the school district? It was 2004. Yes, I would. I would call it “Positively Speaking” because the one thing that was lacking on the Island was the ability to talk about negative things. The Island had to be Never Never Land, Coney Island, Disneyland, Capital of Pretend.  You couldn’t say things like, “We have a serious adult alcoholism problem” or “Our kids are killing themselves because they can’t speak their pain.” or “ We’re kinda promoting upper middle class ‘appearances not substance’.”

I wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to tell the truth and STILL love the Island; that we could have dimension and texture and vision. I wanted to someday see us written up in a magazine about the little community that had lots of social ills and decided to face them and was able to completely recreate themselves as healthy and whole.
But that week, we had yet another substance abuse related death of a young person. My first column was about our collective sorrow. There was a story behind that story.

My youngest daughter had hit a young boy hard when she was in preschool. Now, if you follow Island ways, you grow a tale of my daughter’s aggression. But in fact, I had taught her, as a means of self protection, that if anyone ever tried to take her underwear off, she could hit them. I was explaining hitting and protection from sexual violence.

So, two three year old boys made the mistake of chanting the ancient poem, “Trick or Treat, smell my feet” Yes...the last line says if you don’t give them a treat, they will pull down your underwear. Two days later I got a very angry call from a very angry mother. I apologized profusely and set about asking my daughter what had happened. She replied, “You told me to.” I asked for further information anad she easily told me of their plans and then how she had defended herself. I called the mother back, who still felt my daughter was a little heavy handed ( pardon the pun). We disagreed and I wouldn’t apologize for her. I was sorry it had happened, but relieved a bit she felt entitled.  It set a negative between the two of us, contentiousness.  

What it has to do with this story, is that the boy who died, was the one she punched. That day, and in days hence, that mother came to be someone I admired and respected beyond measure.  I had the opportunity to tell her as well.
Over the years I’ve tried to do the impossible. I’ve tried to get Islanders to talk about negative things in positive ways. I’ve tried to encourage people who were lying to cover up their fears and anxieties and illegal operations, to tell the truth and find that people respect someone who tells the truth. I haven’t been successful. I’ve tried to help people tell the truth about their lives and stop trying to impress each other.

But, although mission was not accomplished, a funny thing happened on the way to ‘abort’. Thanks to Troy and Marie, and a growing gathering of readers, the column became very popular. Weekly, someone comes up to me and says, “I really liked your latest column”. To those of you , for whom I may have seemed a bit dazed and glazed over at first, know that what I was trying to remember was the topic of my latest. See, we’re always in a bit of a time warp here at the Loop. The call goes out for the new column while the latest one still has a week to go, and I am in the middle of choosing topics.

Years into it I learned to just ask, ‘What touched you? What resonated”

As the years progressed, and other writing opportunities arrived, and other, more advanced writers told me to write more and affirmed my skills and abilities, and I grew to love discussing readers’ experiences with my words, I thought, this is it! I love this. I have so many words inside of me. Why not?!

Since I have never put my picture on the column I enjoyed relative anonymity, but two things happened to make me appreciate the opportunity to go bigger with my words, into a more vast ocean of readers.

First, a man pulled out his wallet and showed me a folded up column of mine on ending alcohol and substance abuse on the Island. Knowing someone was carrying around my words was had an astounding impact on me.

Secondly, I got a call from my adopted son. Years before, with an ache and loss in my heart I cannot describe, I made the decision to acquiesce to his decision to be returned to his birthmother. She seemed to have gotten clean and had a better living circumstances than I , or so it appeared, and she missed him very much. Both my adoptions were open adoptions, and I was pretty liberal about relationships. I had even arranged for my daughter and her birthmother to meet for lunch when she was a tweener.

So, my son is chatting along telling me of his victories and asking about his childhood memories. “I had this really rotten childhood and these really good memories” I explained to him how hard I worked to give him a his sister an idyllic childhood to try to overcome the pain and suffering their birth families had infused. I told him, the trauma with which he arrived at our house at five, had denied him the ability to register goodness. But he was revealing things he shouldn’t have known about my life. Finally, I stopped him. “How do you know all this?” “Oh”, he replied cheerfully. “I’ve been reading your column for years. My favorite thing you wrote is ‘I hate what I’ve been through. I love what I’ve learned’.

And that was when I learned about the power of healing that can come from the written word. That is when I decided I needed to yield to all the encouragement from others to write more than just the column. Five years later and I have seven different writing projects on the front burner and no time to write the column anymore. So it is farewell.
My heart is full of gratitude. Thank you Troy and Marie, and Ed Swan, and lastly, Steven Allen. Your indulgence in me missing deadlines and earning the reward for worst self editor ever is so appreciated.

You have supported me with diligent patience and incredible respect. OK... I’m sitting here with tears at the typewriter. Writers just don’t get that. It’s a gift. The format of the Loop, and these editors, has allowed me to find myself as a writer, to find my voice, in an almost completely uncritical atmosphere.

I can now go out in the world and face harsh and severe and judgmental because there is so much ‘not that’ poured into my experience. Thank you all.

I’m going way over my 800- 1,000 words to tell you two more things:
First I will be blogging more at my three blogs.  
If you are a parent it can be found at
If  you are looking for personal growth
If you are struggling with faith issues
Sometime in the not too distant future, I will compile my favorite of these columns into a book called, “Love,Deborah”. I’ll let you know via the web when that is available. First I have to go through about 250 columns.
Second. Someone recently said to me, “If you go, who will speak?”   My answer? It’s Vashon. Someone will come along with a new masthead and new ideas. So as I pack the sign that says ‘Positively Speaking’ into my suitcase, I say thanks for twelve terrific years. It’s been a privilege and an honor.

Love, forever and always,