29 May 2010

In Flanders Field

I love poppies. My mother grew them in our yard in Michigan while I was growing up. My artist sister recently gifted me with a gorgeous painting of an orange poppy in full bloom. But my most vivid memory of poppies as a child was this:

My father, a WWII veteran, came home from town and he had a red paper poppy pinned to his lapel, which he removed and set on his dresser. I wanted to see it. When I asked him what it was he got a little upset. First he said someone running for political office handed them out (I did see a name on a white label attached to the flower.) Persistent child that I was, I asked "why?" My father took a deep breath and told me – "It is to remind us of Flanders Field." "What was Flanders Field?" Another deep breath. "There's a famous poem about that, what happened during WW I" (my father's favorite uncle served as a medic in that war). "What does that have to do with poppies?" Finally he blurted out – it reminds us of all the blood that was spilled to keep us free, to remember all those young men who died.

For all those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom, let us remember them to our Creator and give thanks for their sacrifices for us.

24 May 2010

Camy Tang’s Street Team

Look through the majority of writer's blogs or websites to see their links to favorite blogs/sites and you will see one person's sites listed repeatedly – Camy Tang's. There is a reason for that! Her Story Sensei ( and Camy's Loft ( sites are among the top Christian Fiction sites on the web. They are my favorites, too. Camy's first three books are described as Asian chick lit or something silly like that, contemporary women's fiction if being more generic, but truly should be considered some of the best character-driven contemporaries out there. BTW, Camy Tang is a very humble person and may be mortified by what I wrote so if you are Camy Tang, STOP READING THIS! When I first read a sample of her writing on the Genesis (a contest) site through American C hristian Fiction Writers, I was floored by her characterization and writing ability. I thought if her writing is an example of what they were looking for then why am I bothering? I have persevered, however. Ms. Tang not only writes books, and blogs about the writing life, serves as coordinator of the Genesis contest, offers phone consultations, and also teaches some awesome classes (you can register via her websites).

Camy recently started a "Street Team" who are supporters, to distribute her lovely bookmarks. There is a contest, too, for the group. If you are one of those persons who utilizes her websites and have not read her books – you need to! Also, consider signing up for her street team, through the following link. See you on the street!

13 May 2010

Fragile + Toxic =

One outcome of that equation is disaster, possibly death. The statistics show that disabled children are much more likely to be abused by caretakers. It has been my observation in therapy with mood disordered children and their families that the abuse and neglect that occurs is more emotional than physical (but that is likely because these are people actually seeking help). The best outcome for a fragile person is to have an extremely loving and supportive parent/caregiver/partner. The perfect pairing would be with someone who is committed to and is actually walking with Christ each day, every hour. In those cases, the fragile person may bloom or at the least be able to function in a fairly normal appearing manner. Paired with a toxic person, symptoms worsen, meds increase, functioning decreases and the behavior associated with the disorder escalates to the point where there is danger to self and/or others. This is not to say that someone with a disorder that is not well-managed could not have this same outcome in a loving stable relationship with someone. It is more like having a low fire going, one that is managed but still glowing, and someone deliberately pours gasoline on it. In some cases, the toxic person may find themselves getting injured.

Have you noticed that toxic people often pick out a fragile person to attach themselves to? Sometimes this is subtle, such as a sexually abuse survivor who has someone in a position of authority over them who is just inappropriate enough to make them uncomfortable, e.g., mildly suggestive comments that no one else overhears. Sometimes it is much more tragic – such as in abusive marriages where a partner kills the other.

Do you make snide remarks, laugh at the foibles of others, take glee when someone you dislike gets their comeuppance, feel justified in ranting at people who don't do exactly what you want, and in general are a demanding intolerant person? Watch yourself – you are going down the slippery slope to the toxic pit. God can pull you out, but you will find a lot of company down there in that pit who will find you quite hilarious and justified. Please don't believe them. You cannot walk in peace and love and behave in that manner. But then, maybe you are a fragile person who has become toxic and need your own help (watch for a future posting).


06 May 2010

Toxic People

Toxic usually means something that can severely sicken you or kill you. Toxic people usually have no clue that they have a problem – YOU have the problem, other people are the issue, surely not them. They tend to be heavily "defended" and have little to no insight into their own issues. When they do get an idea about their own weaknesses, they quickly cover them up, gloss them over, or run from them.

Yesterday I had another glass object break and it reminded me of toxic people and situations. I chose the glass because it was quite heavy; substantial I thought. It did not seem fragile, despite being made of glass. The tumbler was a lovely dark cobalt blue and the bottom was weighted. I am not sure if the outside of the glass became slick and wet from "sweating", as it was hot here, or if my hands were damp, or both. I went to move it and it slipped, with a large shard cutting my finger. Pieces of glass had flown everywhere. My husband bandaged my hand and helped clean up the remains of the once-beautiful glass.

Toxic people are often deceptively competent on the surface. They certainly will not admit to their own defects, so others will assume that this must be someone who really knows what they are doing. The toxic person uses a lot of double talk so that the listener may stop and say, "I can't believe she just said that!" The sly comments and insults are built into the conversation to have whatever effect the toxic person wants – to embarrass, to show their own knowledge, etc.

The toxic person may have rages which seem out of the blue but to them there is something quite specific that you have attacked, in some way. Like the glass slipping and the resulting cut I had, you might never see the explosion coming but if you really understood the inner world of the person, you might have been able to anticipate it. Living with them is often like walking on glass (vs. the bipolar person whose swings are uncontrolled - it is like walking on eggshells).

If you have no choice but to live with a toxic person (or more than one, heaven forbid!) you now live in a toxic environment. Unfortunately, it would normally be the weakest persons who would be stuck in such a place. Sickness/death of various aspects of self will ensue, short of a miracle from God.


Next post: Fragile + Toxic = Disaster


04 May 2010


The next thing we think of is – handle with care. But do we? I had wanted to post about fragile mental health this week and I got a reminder. This morning I broke a lovely unusual vase that my daughter bought for me at an art show. It wasn't on purpose, but it still shattered into a million pieces on the hardwood floor. Often that is what happens with our treatment of loved ones who have what is clinically described as having "fragile mental health", which can include a number of conditions that are severe and barely under control.

Examples include:

Severe depression that has only recently responded to medications and therapies and which requires both ongoing treatment and a very supportive home/work situation (if the person is able to work).

Bipolar disorder (same as depression) but with the additional caveat of controlling the triggers for manic episodes.

Schizophrenia or other psychotic conditions, while more controllable with the newer medications, can have break-through episodes or be more intractable or not as responsive to even the most effective drugs.

    Persons with Autism spectrum disorder can be considered more fragile if they have rages or tantrums or if their ASD behaviors, e.g., self-stimulating noises, hand flapping, etc., have increased and cannot be managed with behavioral intervention and certain medications that can be helpful.

Drugs and therapy alone are not sufficient to maintain balance for a person with fragile mental health. The people in their lives need to be mindful of their condition and to do what they can to support the person. That also means taking care of their own needs so that they can handle the additional stresses the loved one brings to the relationship.

I wasn't careful this morning and the consequence was the loss of a beautiful gift. Aren't our family members and friends with special issues a gift, too? They challenge us to be the best people we can be, with God's help.


Next post: Toxic people, toxic environments

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