Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Springing Back to Early Mornings

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.
-C.S. Lewis

I love the dark in the morning as the quiet light rolls in misting the earth before the dazzling rain of light storms in. It sets my mood better for the day to have this time to think whispering thoughts before my mind thunders with all the necessities of work for the day and my own reflections are muddied or my intended path is washed away with the flood of the bright new day.

For most of my life, I have been an early riser, which means I also go to bed earlier. However, for about the last two years, I have not been. I felt like I lost a bit of myself and I felt a bit lost with God, as I explained in That Something Broken Between God and Me.

Why the change in rising times? I think it was a culmination of many things. My husband is the one to stay up later for his alone time, but he works away from home most of the time and, at that some points, it is almost all the time for many weeks. It wears on me and I tend to sleep later and shorter periods when he is away. To get my mind off of my loneliness, I began to watch some shows through Netflix online at night, real cliffhangers that make one want to series binge into the wee hours, unfortunately I am susceptible to TV addictions like that. Recently, I made a conscious decision to stop watching shows in bed on my computer and that made a huge difference.

My daughter, particularly two years ago, was having sleeping problems so she often was not ready to start her day until mid morning, which made me feel like half the day was over by the time she was ready to do any lessons. So, part of me was trying to allow her to sleep and not be angry about it, which did not work well. Then when things fell completely apart for her in November of 2015, When the Train is on the Wrong Track, I decided that her emotional health had to take priority. We set rules about no screens an hour before bedtime and gave her supplements to help her regulate her sleeping time, which took months to stabilize completely. During that time, for me, it was why bother to get up early and be angry with her every morning, so I just went along to get along, giving in to her schedule thinking that at some point we would get back to where I liked it better.

Basically, I did or allowed everything I could to make me lose myself so I would not feel depressed or angry or think too much of how I felt out of control, which did not really work because under everything was this anger that nothing in my life was going the way I hoped or planned or wanted. I even stopped reading books because I just could not enjoy them! I was just going along to get along but I was not happy. I felt like I had to be responsible for everything and I felt overwhelmed and I was not getting any help, not from my daughter, my husband, my friends, or even my God. Yeah, we all have had poor-me times like that.

I am not one that has to be in control to feel happy or secure, but I do have to be in control when my husband is away and switch gears immediately when he comes back and those gears get a bit rusty at times. When my daughter rolls out of bed later than usual now that she is on a better schedule, I just take a deep breath as I think of all the things I was required to do at her age, like get up at a particular time to get ready for school and be at a job at a particular time and clean my aunt's entire house every week and hand wash dishes every evening. I felt the only way to be marginally happy was to surrender to their schedules and then there was God, whom I was avoiding for other reasons, and so it has felt like my life was just pouring away down a drain without any lasting purpose.

I apologize for the rant. My point is simply, I really have not been the me I want to be or see myself as. In part it was circumstances and the other part was choices, but now I feel more in control of myself again.

Recently I have been going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. It is refreshing. Maybe I am inspired by the spring mornings. I enjoy hearing the birds' sunrise songs. As soon as it is light enough, I am wanting to go outside to work in the gardens or tackle an area of clutter in my house even before that...and there are plenty of areas to tackle!

I am feeling that spring back into my life and far less anger and improving relationships with all my love ones, especially my Lord.

My Lord, I am so thankful that You are a forgiving and loving God.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Piano Judging, Competition, and Recital

Don't practice until you get it right.
Practice until you can't get it wrong. -Unknown

I pushed the Princess through the early teen stage of wanting to quit piano hoping that her teacher was right in how many students, who start young, want to quit at that stage in their life, but if they continue on, they do begin to love piano again. I began to see my child enjoying it more last year when she was asked to join the youth praise band at our church, however it got off to a very rough start because the leaders were...well, they were all teens, knowing everything with little evidence to prove it. They had been practicing for months and had never played even one song for the teen service until recently. Thankfully, our new praise and worship pastor decided to take on the youth praise band and they have since performed a couple of times. My daughter is a performer, even though she would deny it at this point, but without a deadline for performing, she was not really excited about what they had been doing with the band. Nice to see that is changing.

I am always amazed and ever so thankful when I realize God has this and I really do not have to worry about everything (because I tend to worry about everything as if it is a career choice). I knew that Princess needed a bit more inspiration that she was not receiving it from either one of her parents or her piano teacher and God provided it in a way that we could not have foreseen. Last year at church camp, my daughter met a boy that I will call Guitar Guy here. Although Guitar Guy goes to a different church about 30 minutes east of us, he and the Princess have become good friends ever since, inviting each other to their youth group functions at times, and they have one thing in particular in common: both are amazing musicians. Guitar Guy excels in ear training, in which the Princess is weaker, but he lacks in music theory, which the Princess knows far more than she thinks she does. He has been very encouraging to her and I think she is beginning to view her talent and music as something worthwhile, maybe even valuable. Of course, Guitar Guy has his own band and they play music that is heavy metal Christian that neither the Princess or I like, but at least this guy has a plan for his life. He wants to go to college to get that music theory and play guitar or bass in a band. Through recordings on YouTube, his band has gained more popularity in England than here and he hopes his band will tour there next summer.

First, the Judging
I am very pleased that I have been seeing this little spark that I had not been seeing for some years in the Princess as I watched her prepare her two pieces for the annual judging. She has never been as fond of Mozart as I have been, but when they were choosing music, her teacher played a piece that she liked. I have to say that she just barely makes the octave stretch on Turkish Rondo, as she is petite with small hands, but she does it. However, it is the Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka that she really loves to play. Both songs are fast and she likes to play fast.

On March 25th she was judged and received another superior rating. This makes her seventh year in a row. The judge mentioned how she holds her hands perfectly and how crisp her triplets were on the Tarentella. This is worth noting because of what comes next.

Second, the Competition
Guitar Guy goes to a church of a large denomination: Assemblies of God. They have a competition every year called Fine Arts. He has competed in it and he encouraged the Princess to compete in it this year. It was started on the following Friday evening, March 31st and continued until Saturday early evening, April 1st. She would stay overnight at a hotel with Guitar Guy's older sister who was chaperoning as well as some other girls. My husband needed to go to Florida as that Friday also was the day that the Queen Mother was being moved into the nursing home, but he did not want to miss seeing the Princess' competition, so we decided that I would stay home, he would go and stay at a hotel one night and drive the rest of the way to Florida from there, as it was about two hours south of us and on the his way. The Princess would come back with the other kids on the church bus, which is how she went down there, and I would pick her up at the church when they got back.

The Princess was actually excited about the competition because she wanted to know how good she was compared to others, as judging alone was not competitive in her mind...probably because she had always done so well. For this competition, she could only play one piece and she chose the Tarantella. There were only six pianists in this age group and three played the Beethovan's Für Elise (which Trudy, our piano teacher, hates because she always says it is so overused, but we had not run into that before this).

The Princess did well, but the judges all criticized her triplets. One wrote they were a muddled and another wrote that her pinkie finger was weak, things along those lines that made me suspicious, since I know that the one attribute that shines with her is crispness and how her fingers are well trained to keep the notes even. She was disappointed that she got two points off from each of the three judges on performance.

When the Princess came home and I read the judges remarks myself, I asked her what had happened. Apparently, they had her class in a room with a digital piano instead of in the sanctuary with the grand piano. The digital piano had horrible key action. Some of the keys even stuck. This is the downside of being a pianist when other musicians can bring their own instruments; a pianist usually has to play the piano available and the hosting church was to provide the piano for the competition. My husband noticed that all the kids had problems and after it was over asked a man from the hosting church to play it...and he said it was "awful." One girl, who was very good and might have won, had slowed her playing in one part of her piece to compensate, but timing changes that counts heavily in the scoring. The Princess has benefited from playing at least two recitals a year in different venues on different pianos and she performs well, which might have been what made the real difference for her.

Yes, my Princess won first place in Georgia and has been invited to the national competition in Anaheim, California in August.

Guitar Guy had won first in guitar last year, but there were some technical problems and he came in third, but he did get first for bass, so he is also invited to nationals. They were the only two who won from the church group, although my daughter said that the girl from their group that sang was far better than the one who won.

Feeling bad for all the kids who had to use the sticky-key piano, I have since called the person in charge of the Fine Arts competition in Georgia so that it does not happen again. The piano should have been tested by the judges before the judging so that the problem was known or that they could have judged on a different piano. The lady was surprised and nice about it and asked me to email it so that she would have it in her folder for the next year.

Third, the Recital
April 22nd was the day of the annual spring recital. Last fall I found a formal dress in a thrift store that would be good for a recital dress and was a style that the Princess likes. She looked so good in it, but she told me that I was sending her mixed signals as this lovely black lacy dress with gold highlights had spaghetti straps, which we do not allow her to wear. (Actually, the straps had to be reattached so it looked strapless at first.) However, I knew that the recital would be around her sixteenth birthday and that we talked about appropriate dressing, as in I would not allow her to walk in the neighborhood with a tank top or a bathing suit, but if we are at a beach or pool, then it would be more appropriate (and what we wear is far more modest in comparison to the others there). This would never be a dress I would allow on a date, if she were allowed to date, that is. However, she is just beginning to appreciate that she looks very good dressed like a young lady, even though she still dresses more like a tomboy most of the time, so I wanted to encourage her to see herself that way. I assured her that if her father and I say it would be appropriate for this recital, then it would be fine.

The Princess played the same pieces as she did for the judging and she looked lovely with her long hair—that is long enough to sit on—pulled back from her face on the side of the audience. She played well and the smile she gave afterward was genuine. She never really can convince me that she does not like performing.

Afterward we went out to dinner and had some interesting conversations as we had invited a friend to the recital whom my daughter called her lost twin when they met at the Home Learning Center three years ago. Although we rarely can get together with her family, we have very much in common with them—besides that the names of our teenage daughters' are the same and, oddly, our former dog and their other daughter had the same name. The mother gave birth to that daughter at the same age I was when I had my daughter. Lots and lots of parallels, but differences as well.

When we brought the girl back, we all talked for couple of hours—I really love that family!

So, the spring piano season is done and now the Princess is setting her sights on the nationals for Fine Arts in August. We all have lots to do before we can get there.

My Lord, thank you for this gifted child and for helping her to see herself as we see her through loving eyes. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

That Something Broken Between God and Me

God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.
~Dallas Willard

Everyone has felt let down by God some time in his or her life, but the trial is not the condition that caused the feeling: the trial is what we choose to do with it. The majority of people either become embittered against God for the rest of their lives or consider it God's punishment against them. Fewer see it as we probably should: we are living in a fallen, imperfect, sin-filled world along with evil, so there are disease, destruction, decay, deterioration, degeneration, and death.

I have been struggling with an expectation I had on my Lord for several years and it was not an unreasonable expectation of the Almighty! However, it was left unfulfilled and I allowed it to cause a brokeness between us, one of my own making admittedly. Every time I have prayed for the last few years, I have this festering thought in the back of my mind. Every time I have prayed for others to be healed, I was harassed by thoughts of "why not me" or "like I should pray for someone to be healed when I am unworthy to be healed myself" and other such thoughts. Some would blame Satan for those whisperings in my mind, but these were my own doubts springing forth from their hiding places that I did not want to admit I had, not even to myself.

I have such wonderful stories of healings in my family. My aunt was developing so many floaters in her eyesight that it was predicted she would be blind by the time she was 30 and God healed her. God not only broke my uncle's addiction to smoking a pipe, but also the lingering smell on himself and their home! Things like that were just kind of accepted but without expectation in their home. However, not everything in their lives was wonderful and they never expected everything to be. My aunt eventually needed glasses and my uncle developed a small spot of cancer on his tongue decades later. That is the way of it; healing does not mean healed forever. Even in with healing victories, we still live in a sin-damaged world.

God did a very big miracle for me when I was just about the age my daughter is right now. I was camping with my aunt, uncle and cousins, as they always tried to take a camping trip for a week before school started. I had a dream that was so real that I wished so much that it was real: my teeth were straight. I woke up moving my tongue along my teeth and they felt straight...but only for that moment. Then the reality that they were not plunged my hopes into the ground and I just wept and prayed this: "God please straighten my teeth." I heard without any hesitation, "I will." Now I had experienced encounters with God before that night, but not one that struck me as a promise that He made specifically to me for something I wanted.

Even though I was just 16 years old and not long on patience, I never doubted it for even a moment that He would do it, but I reminded him of His promise for nearly a year before I found out how He was going to do it. Unknown to me, my aunt had approached our dentist, who had known me from the first time I had a baby tooth that would not come out on its own, probably because my teeth were so crooked and crowded. He knew my mouth was a mess, but I came from a very poor family, and my aunt and uncle had not much to spare after taking me in with their own four children. So, my dentist asked his orthodontic friends to look at my case, knowing we could not afford braces.

One look and I was told I had the worse case they had ever seen and they were not even sure that they could help me. They said that I had nearly everything wrong with my mouth but the opposite of it, as in you cannot have an over bite and an under bite at the same time. They took my case pro bono and my dentist did all my dental work for free as well during the time I had braces, which was a long time...I think it was nearly five years in braces and then a year in a retainer and then another year in my retainer at night. I would have kept wearing my retainer at night but my dog had gotten a hold of it and I could not get the orthodontist to replace it. How I wish I had pursued that more!

Teeth will move...I was warned....and they did, but they looked straight until sometime after I had my daughter. Slowly I again developed an overbite and then one tooth in the front dropped and then one in the back also on the top got a gum infection once. The tooth dropped due to bone loss and the back tooth, which has been loose, had far more bone loss even though my gums looked healthy. My dentist even told me that it is nothing I am doing wrong because my dental hygiene is very good, but even so I have accepted that God is not miraculously healing me and probably both of these teeth will need to be removed and have implants replace them.

So, this week I had a consultation with the same oral surgeon I had picked to remove the Princess' impacted wisdom teeth, when they are further along as he recommended and possibly four other teeth if her orthodontist decides that needs to be done, as he said she is borderline on the crowding. The oral surgeon took a look at my x-rays and asked if I had had braces, probably easily deduced because I am missing four teeth. Then he asked if they had used a palette I am impressed! How could he know that?

Well, it comes down to this. The palette speader is braced on four teeth and you are given a key to insert in the middle to give it a half turn every day so that it spreads out the palette, because my palette was too narrow. The preferred method, at least now, is to surgically do this (although many orthodontists still are using that method). Why? Because afterward the teeth tilt back in towards the mouth and that is how he could tell I had that done. So the teeth look straight on the outside, but they actually tilt inward.

Now I knew my upper teeth in particular had moved in ways that I did not like, but after seeing the my excellent hygiene care and the condition of my gums although with some periodontal pockets, he could only attribute the bone loss to problems he was seeing to my bite. So, I also need to see a periodontist but the oral surgeon said to talk to the orthodontist first and he will coordinate what needs to be done and in what order, so that everything is prepared for starting orthodontics.

Fortunately the orthodontist had an opening the very next day so I went. He asked me what my goal was and I said to save my teeth, because if my bite was the problem as I had been told by his friend the oral surgeon, then I had more problems to come with my teeth in the future if I did not correct the bite. The orthodontist said I have an open bite and that ideally upper jaw surgery would be the best corrective procedure. I was asked if the oral surgeon suggested it, which I do not think he did and we discussed the next best option. The second best option would be to work with the jaw as it is to give me the best bite possible and take the extra stress off the back teeth, which are the only teeth really making contact for chewing presently. That would put me in braces for about a year and a half. I was going with that option until I talked to my husband, who was considering the first option to be the better one.

So, I am taking a look into the the jaw surgery and may need to talk to the oral surgeon again to see if my case is borderline or would be necessary. It would solve a number of problems for me including some TMJ, but it is a pretty intense surgery and can leave numbness in the upper lip, cheeks, and nose for months. It also adds time to being in braces, because the braces have to be in place before the surgery, but thankfully there is no wiring the mouth shut, just rubber bands to hold everything in place.

Also the orthodontist was thinking that he might try to work with the tooth that had dropped down in the front. It was just slightly loose and even though teeth do not really move back up much, he thought that the two middle front teeth could move down some and it up some, and maybe it would not be completely even but still good. He was the first one to not say pull it and do an implant automatically, although the oral surgeon did not give an option saying to talk to the orthodontist first.

The orthodontist is kind of like the conductor of this whole thing. When teeth are removed, when implants can be placed, when jaw surgery should be done (if I go that route), and so forth. However, the first thing is to see a periodontist, because while my gums look healthy pink, I have a few pockets and gum loss to deal with first before anything else...well, accept for the one tooth that cannot be saved. It seems that my the oral surgeon and the periodontist both can pull the tooth and place a bone graph, so the question is who to do that which is probably next.

Considering everything I am going to have to do, the funny thing is I actually feel very relieved. I have been feeling that I had been given this wonderful gift 40 years ago and I messed it up. I did not always take care of my teeth as well as I should have, but there was this overwhelming guilt so bad that I did not want anyone to know. I felt terribly ashamed to say that I ever had braces, because my teeth sure did not look like it now. Their present condition was not a good testament of the gift God had given me. However, now I know that my former orthodontists had done the best with their knowledge at the time and open bite jaw problem as it was.

And, here is the thing that really warms my heart. A few weeks ago, I was trying to pray with that wedge of guilt about my teeth and letting God down...and feeling unloved between us because he had not healed me still. I do not remember now what I was praying about exactly but I think it was along the lines of my husband and his mother and that whole situation—whatever it was I do know it was not directly related to me or my teeth—and I heard my Lord say "I am going to bless you," as plainly and as clearly as when He said "I will" 40 years ago.

I did not really know what He meant at the time, but considering how much all this dental work is going to cost us...well, the timing is pretty good for that part. (Although who ever wants to spend money on things like this?) I feel a bit guilty about the cost, but also wildly relieved, which I find rather odd. Ever since the Princess has gotten her braces, I have been so excited for her and even a bit envious thinking I how would love to go into braces again (strange as that may seem), but I knew that it would be far more complicated and costly for me (and I did not even know the half of it). I have been weighing that with my age and its worth. However, now that it seems the bone loss will continue because of my bite, that I could lose more bone and more teeth, and all of that is not really associated with how well I am taking care of my teeth, I feel so much better. I actually teared up when I was talking to the oral surgeon, not because of the work I dreaded to have done as I thought I would when I went there, but because I was doing everything I could and he could see that and found the likely cause and this could save my other teeth.

Yeah, I am feeling rather blessed—and loved—right now. My Lord and I will be going through this together...again.

My Lord, just days ago I was weeping in my heart, feeling unloved by You. I knew that was wrong, which only made me feel worse. Today, I am weeping with joy because I now see the special gift you had been holding for me in secret until now. You are a such a good Father. Thank you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Phone Conversations Going Bad

Duty is what one expects from others. ~Oscar Wilde

My husband keeps reminding me that he is making small moves in regards to his mother because when we look at everything, it is just overwhelming. First things first and that was to find more permanent place for her to be. March 31st was her last day allowed on Medicare. My husband, under the attorney's advice, has been changing things over so that she would qualify for Medicaid and we would be managing her property, as we began to realize that it was unlikely that she would be ready for assisted living and still in need of nursing care. In part, that is because her knee, where she fell and had become infected, it is still an open wound, although smaller than it was it is also still a large wound. The other part is her difficulty with caring for herself and dressing herself below the waistline, although she has made improvements there as well and might still.

The place she was in is mostly a rehab type of nursing home, so although the facility is a licensed nursing home, they make more money with rehab and only keep a few beds for nursing home care. In other words, they wanted her out and they made that very clear to her. They legally cannot kick her out, but they can pressure her and this facility is notorious for doing just that...apparently. Now my husband and his mother both have told the case worker there that he has power of attorney and the case worker was to talked to him, but instead, because she is clear minded, the policy is that the case worker would pester her until she was having anxiety and inability to sleep at night—not really the policy, per se, but certainly what they do. Our attorney warned us about this because of their experience with that place.

On our side, we had been waiting for the final evaluation from that same facility to know whether Mom needed nursing care or could go into assisted living. Neither we or our attorney got a call or any paperwork, which is supposed to be done three weeks before the Medicare cut off. So we finally get the evaluation just nine days before they want her moved out and they were suggesting assisted living because they found her to be borderline, but being that she is clear-minded, they leaned on the lesser care. We disagreed with the suggestion based on the fact that she was at the time unable to care for herself below the waistline, she is so susceptible to serious infection, and...well, Mom rather have people waiting on her, perhaps because she tires out so easily or she just enjoys attention if she is more helpless.

We had been calling Mom nearly every day for two weeks before the deadline week but not talking to her because she did not answer her phone. It has been very frustrating but Mom has her reasons. Reason one, she cannot screen calls as she has done at home since the invention of answering machines and she likes to know who is calling before she answers because she hates telemarketing calls and, reason two, she always tells us the phone is too far for her to reach, as if she cannot ask a nurse to place it near her after she has finished a meal.

So one day around her lunch time, when I knew a nurse should be there to give her the phone since she would have just come back from therapy, I called Mom and she did answer. I began to talk about the Princess' judging for piano and how she had another competition coming up, but Mom was not at all interested and asking me about where we had her set up to be in Georgia and began to tell me how the rehab center was preparing the transportation to bring her up here.

What? Now I am upset, because my husband and I both did not want me to be the one to tell her that she would not be coming up here, not now and most likely not at all. All I did say was that she needed to talk to her son and that he had been working on finding a good place for her, which was not enough for her.

Now she gets very upset saying she had not talked to him for two weeks. At this point, my frustration vented...just a little: "Mom, your son has been calling you nearly every day since he was there two weeks ago and you have not answered your phone." To this she replied with her typical excuses about the phone being too far away, or she was in therapy (which was in the morning so we did not call her in the morning), or she was napping. "Uh-huh. Well, if you really want to talk to him, you might need to keep the phone close by at all times. He does work for a living so it would be helpful if you considered his working schedule and kept the phone near you particularly in the evening when he is not working and better able to call."

So I ended up being accused of upsetting her, which certainly added to my frustration as I was just calling to have a pleasant conversation about how well the Princess was doing with piano and generally what improvements she had made, even though I had been concerned that we had not been able to get through to her for two weeks. I reminded her that she asked me about things that she needs to discuss with her son. She began on the same topic again and I ended up apologizing and abruptly ending the call. However, that evening when my husband called, she actually answered and was calm (after having vented on me) and he explained to her that transporting her to Georgia was not in her best interest at this time as she was still needing daily nursing care for the open wound on her knee, but he and the attorney were working on placing her in another nursing home near where she was.

We did have her moved to a Christian based nursing home that is known for its great staff and gourmet food on the very day we needed to do so, March 31st. That was the same day of the Princess' competition (I will get to that later on) a couple hours south of here, so my husband was with the Princess on that day and the next to see the awards. Then he left from there to go to Florida and see that his mother was settling in well.

The morning of March 31st, before he had to leave for the competition, we have enough time to get Mom a flip phone and add it to our cellular plan, which was the cheapest option we had. This phone was senior friendly with three buttons for pre-programmed numbers and I set them up with "1" to my husband, "2" to me, and "3" to a high school friend she used to call once a week. Plus, we had it set up with her home phone number so she did not even need to contact all her friends to give them a new number. She seemed happy about it and my husband asked her to keep it with her at all times that she could in her pocket.

So, all is well, right? A few days ago, Mom called my husband. Well, sort of. It was from Mom's phone, but my husband was talking with a male nurse with Mom telling him what to say in the background, which was mostly about that they had moved her to another room, because her roommate did not like the company...and neither did Mom, but they both are not in private rooms so eventually there will be a roommate most likely.

However, I am still trying to wrap my head around why Mom could not just call and talk to her own son her own self!

My husband thinks that she just wants people to do everything for her even though it is not necessary. I mean, really! How simple could we have possibly made it for her: flip open phone, press the top left button labeled "1," and placed phone near ear. I honestly do not know if it is that or something else and she will probably have another excuse, but I find it to be incredibly rude on many levels. For 30 years that I have known my husband, I cannot think of any time that she called just to talk or ask us what we are doing...okay, there may have been a time or two, but in 30 years? She only calls when she has a problem and wants to vent or she wants us to solve it for her, usually both, like the computer not working right or something like that, even though we live 500 miles away. So, she just wanted to inform us of the room change without calling us herself, which is just pressing one button on her phone! Really?

Basically, it comes this: She will only call us if there is a problem. If we call, she will talk to us if she is in the mood to answer the phone. Then she likes to complain about how we don't talk to her for days or weeks.

This is how it has been when she lived at home and is going to be still. I just have no patience with that kind of choose-to-be helplessness and blaming others for not catering to her needs. I think I am going to start calling her the Queen Mother here on my blog. It is fitting.

My Lord, I ask that You mold my heart to be soft to people's feelings but firm against their blame on me...and my own blame against myself.