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In Defense Of Discreet Parenting

Donnie and I are inherently yellers as parents. I have yelled so angrily at my kids that I am worried they’ll be scarred forever. Why do I worry? Because – while he was a great father in most ways – my Dad was a yeller and I am scarred from it. I was never proud of my yelling, I always felt Young Zoot’s disappointment that I became the parent she feared. But it didn’t happen often. We both used yelling, but sparingly. For awhile…

Then Wesley turned 3 and his behavior was bad and the only way we knew to express our anger was to yell at him. And because he was always getting in trouble, we were always yelling. And because he was always escalating things, we had to yell louder. And meaner. And angrier. I look back on some of his meltdowns before we really knew what we were doing and I see my own behavior and I just shake my head.

If you had taken Donnie and I during those red-faced screaming days and shown us as parents now? I would have thought you were a liar. There’s no way we could change that much. None. Nope. Those people are fake.

The first and easiest lesson to learn was, “If you are trying to teach a child to manage his anger, you need to manage yours.”

I mean, once we realized that’s what we were really seeing – anger issues – we knew we needed to come up with different ways to express our own anger. So yelling? Gone. We have only yelled a handful of times in the last few years. Of course, we still very calmly raise our voices and because kids don’t have very good long term memory they sometimes call that “yelling” – but we are NOTHING compared to what we used to be.

It’s not easy. I’ve never had to deal with substance abuse, but the difficulty in fighting the urge to yell causes me so much pain sometimes, I wonder if that’s a similar feeling. I JUST WANT TO YELL, DAMMIT. I WOULD FEEL SO MUCH BETTER IF I COULD YELL. BUT I CAN NOT. I HAVE TO STAY CALM.

But it’s not just the yelling that fell to the wayside. We also stopped with timeouts completely. We had to also learn that when a child is lacking in the “Emotional Intelligence” department (that’s a thing I had never heard of before Wesley); then sending them to be alone while dealing with those emotions is not productive. I have taken him to is room in before, but I sit in there with him. Several times I sit there and watch a meltdown ramp up and then down again. In the past I’ve watched him rip bedding off his bed and thrown pillows and toys. But it’s all while I’m there with him trying to be a calming voice in his chaotic head. Sometimes I have to physically restrain him if he starts trying to do more damage than to stuff, but I do it calmly.

When tantrums pass…THEN we talk about how we could have done things differently.

Donnie and I try to get under then anger and the tantrum now. We try not to react to the tantrum but to what caused it. More often than not it’s shame-induced anxiety. We calmly try to discuss what caused the anger and then discuss how to deal with the anger itself. With a kid like Wesley, feelings like shame or anxiety trigger “fight” (anger) instead of “flight” (tears). Once I recognized (with the help of his pediatrician) that the trigger was something I experience too, we just handle it differently, it became much easier to address.

I tell you all of this because I had a recent revelation that to the casual observer – maybe people who see Wesley at his worse – it looks like we are terrible parents. It looks like we’re letting our kid get away with murder without punishment. It looks like we’re coddling him. I know that because we’ve been told that and it hit me: If you don’t parent a child like Wesley…maybe you don’t know.

I wouldn’t have known with E or Nikki. If I had seen us not yelling or putting Wesley in timeout or spanking him (I don’t spank, but a lot of people around here do) then I would have thought we were some dumb hippie parents raising dumb kids unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions. I would have hated us. I would have blamed us for all of the problems with kids these days.

Well. I wouldn’t have been that harsh because we all know I’m too empathetic to ever judge anyone that much, but I would have definitely said something about how that kid’s behavior would improve if they would do something about it.

What these people who see us and think we’re not parenting don’t know is: It takes a lot more energy and patience and diligence to parent Wesley than it did Nikki or E. With those to you just put them in timeout. Yell at them. They feel bad. They learn a lesson. We all move on.

But with Wesley it’s not like that. Parenting and discipline is a 24-hour job. We have to constantly be on guard for triggers and guide him to how he handles them. He’s gotten so much better lately. He’s learning to recognize and describe things he’s feeling which makes them much easier to handle. He’s got a quicker recovery time. He said something mean out of anger the other night and I just calmly addressed how/why it hurt and then I let it sit there. (Old Kim would have yelled and sent him to Time Out.) It didn’t take long before he came to me with a very sincere apology and we discussed why that wasn’t acceptable. On the outside? It looked like I let him dish out a terrible and hurtful verbal tantrum and didn’t address it. But in our lives? That was a big moment. He came to ME with the apology on his own. He let the flame of anger die out and then cleaned up the mess.

And maybe parents with kids like Wesley can stick to the Loud and Obvious parenting and have results. We did not. None at all. The louder and the meaner we got, the worse the behavior got.

So, if you’ve never parented a child like Wesley but you see one out in public and the parent looks like they’re barely reacting or acknowledging it…please know you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There is a giant block of ice under the water that you can’t see. There’s patience and diligence and perseverance and trust…trust is the hardest part. You are trusting that going against your instinct to yell and send a kid to timeout is the right thing to do. All of that is under the surface and you can’t see it.

I mean – sure – there are parents who just don’t give two craps and are ignoring the behavior because they don’t care. But there are also those of us parenting in ways you don’t see. Please don’t judge us. We’re having a hard enough time sticking to the method and the plan without the rest of the world assuming we’re cluelessly ignorant of our child’s behavior.

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Stuck In The Roundhouse. Off The Track.

We’ve had some weird issues lately as it relates to Wesley and the challenges of raising a child who struggles with processing some emotions. While I’m no longer comfortable sharing his story online, I find myself daily wishing I had friends who I could call who really understood these challenges. Just last night I was thinking, No one. I know no one in real life I can call right now to seek counsel. There needs to be support groups, the problem is it’s not an easily compartmentalized or categorized struggle. It’s not autism. It’s not ADD. There’s no physical ailment. My kid struggles with processing shame and anxiety and resorts to anger. There’s no cute logo to put on my license plate to find other parents struggling. The best I can do is hang out at Target and find the kid pitching the tantrum and the Mom doing everything she can to remain calm (because – due to various counseling from therapists and doctors and books and TED talks – remaining calm is always a must) and just walk up to her, slip her a bottle of wine with my phone number on it and whisper in her ear: Call me.

I think she would find that creepy though. Right?

I don’t know. I’m also feeling a little anxious because this entry has gotten shared a few more times than my usual stuff in a few more different platforms and I’m keeping an eye on it. I’m happy people relate to it, VERY happy, as I think it’s important for all of us to recognize our privilege, but THE INTERNET IS FULL OF CRAZY PEOPLE. But when my stats spike for ANY reason I start to panic a little. Once I wrote an entry about how we should quit hating on people who shop on Thanksgiving and quit forgetting that some people need that double-wage day to help with Christmas and HOLY SHIT. That thing got shared like 20K times and I got all of the crazies in all of the land. I had to finally close down comments because I was deleting mean ones (MY BLOG, MY RULES) left and right. And I’m like, If an entry defending shopping on Thanksgiving brings out this much rage, then one about white privilege is going to get really hairy.

I also had to attend a social event last night where there was a lot of people in a small space and you all know my anxieties develop exponentially in those situations. The more people in the smaller space the worse my anxiety. People think anxiety attacks are hyperventilating and freaking out but for me? My anxiety attacks manifest in a few different ways, but the most common way is my whole brain starts to shut down. I try to become part of the furniture or wall or floor and just freeze in some sort of catatonic state. I’m terrible. People kept thinking there was something wrong with me and I’m like, “Oh – don’t mind me. Just faulty chemistry in my brain and this much stimulation and socializing causes all of my neurons to misfire making me unable to relax or enjoy myself! I’m dying on the inside! Merry Christmas!”

UGG. Seriously. I hate myself some days.

And let’s don’t even start on how my running has stopped completely. I came away from my last crazy race weekend with some crazy shin splints and a lot of apathy and the two combined have not done anything to motivate me. Then send my husband away on business for a week and me having no family to turn to for help (see first paragraph) and I just sat on my butt all week.

Ugg. Some days, you know? It’s just like your brain is trying to handle several different conflicts at once and you just cant seem to get on track going in any direction? My train has been derailed inside a roundhouse. Not only am I off track, but there are 14 options in front of me and I can’t even decide which track to finally head down when I get back on which makes me lose all motivation to right myself. I’ll just lay here upside down in my engine car hoping there’s snacks somewhere.

Tomorrow will be better, I’m sure. The rain is supposed to clear which will be nice as I haven’t seen the sun in several days.

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The Grief Period Is Over.

Tomorrow is officially four weeks post-election. Since then I’ve attended a 4 gatherings set up solely to discuss political action. That’s four more than I’ve ever attended in my entire life. I’ve set up a political digest with a calendar where we are accumulating all local events that either support communities who could be negatively impacted by the new administration, or events that support the political advancement of more progressive candidates in North Alabama. That’s a lot to have done in four weeks. Right?

I say this because the mourning period is over. I have to come out of my echo chamber. I said for years that echo chambers were dangerous, and that I was only creating one for temporarily self care, and now it’s time to let go of it.

I found a great document last week – “Opportunities for White People In The Fight For Racial Justice” and it was SO CHOCKED FULL of information that I wanted to just memorize it all. It has sinse been moved to an actual website and I encourage everyone to take time to read every word. There’s great links/resources and great plans of attack. I love this thing and plan on making it my bible.

One of my key takaways in the your white communities section is:

Reach out to other White people in your life (family members, old friends, distant social media connections) to engage them in conversations about racism, Whiteness, etc. Bonus points for seeking out and engaging (White) Trump voters in your personal networks.

Um. Yeah. I don’t do that. Not at all. It was a struggle to coach myself on how to engage when I feel like someone has said something racist…BUT ACTUALLY REACHING OUT TO START THE CONVERSATION BEFORE IT GETS THERE? That’s a level I haven’t reached yet.

But I need to.

It’s not like I’m letting people who drop the N-word go about their lives like that’s okay. Not at all. But I know I’ve had my hackles raised at hearing comments that I’ve not addressed. And I’ve worked really hard to coach myself to deal with that in a proper way. But to actually initiate conversations? I just can’t see how that works. But you know what I can see? How important it is. I actually have been thinking about that – about how to start these conversations. And maybe it makes me The Person No One Ever Wants To Talk To Anymore, but I can feel how important it is.

But one thing I know I can do is stop ignoring shit on Facebook. I had convinced myself that to engage on someone else’s wall is a social intrusion. Bring white privilege to my wall and you’ll get called out, but I’m not going to go to YOUR wall and call YOU out on YOUR status.

Partly because I’m a chicken.

And partly because I’ve now unfollowed everyone who says that type of stuff.

And as of tomorrow? The vacation is over. I’m going back in and (trying) to remember all of the people I’ve unfollowed in the last four weeks and follow them back. I can’t live in my echo chamber anymore. Not if I want to make a real difference in my real communities.

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No. Seriously. Let’s Empty Out That Knapsack. It’s Been Sitting On The Floor Of Our Bedroom For Far Too Long.

(Can I start with a sidenote just to point out that my rage towards clickbait is so strong that I think I’m choosing titles for posts now that might be the OPPOSITE of clickbait? I mean…look at that title! Who in the hell will ever click that title? WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? This is just one of the many ways that my self-righteousness will be my own downfall. Just like how I’m pretty sure I’m destined to get run over by a recycling truck with how militant I’ve become about waste management.

ANYWAY.)

As I slowly began to wake systemic racism, I stumbled upon White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – by Peggy McIntosh. I love this paper so much that I uploaded it to my server just in case any of my bookmarked links fail in the future. I want to ALWAYS be able to reference that document. I also printed a copy to put in my bullet journal. I reference it often and read it regularly.

Basically, it breaks down systemic racism into small, relatable moments.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

This is one of the many things I had never thought about. NEVER. Where to get my haircut? I always go to the place close to Target. You know the place. Because there’s one close to EVERY Target. And it doesn’t matter who works there because the majority of the people who walk through the doors are white women so the people cutting hair there know how to cut white lady hair. It’s not something I’ve ever stressed about. I do, however, breathe easier if the person has curly hair. “They know what’s up.” But really – my hair is not that special. If you set up a camera in that shop I’m certain there’s a decent percentage of white curly-haired ladies that walk in every day so the odds are still good that they’ll know how to cut my hair.

Do you watch This is Us? I don’t love it. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. It feels manipulative at times. BUT WHATEVER. There was a GREAT scene where Mandy Moore (who has adopted a black son in the 70s) gets approached by a black mother who says something like, “You need to take your son to a black barber who knows how to cut black hair. That’s why he has a rash on his neck.” Obviously something Mandy Moore had NEVER thought about. It was a great moment like I had when I first considered how lucky I was to just walk into the place next to where I buy my groceries and get a trim…NO TROUBLE.

Let’s move to a deeper level, and why I woke up at 3:30am, desperate to write this morning as my brain tried to sort out some pushback I have seen lately to the concept of institutional racism. Here’s two that fit the mold of the type of statements that I see getting that pushback.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments lately from my Cisgender Straight Trump-voting Conservative Christian White friends/family about how they don’t feel welcome in our society anymore. They feel like their religion is being persecuted because everyone is forcing the checkout people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They feel like they’re being looked at as racist because they admit to voting for Trump. They feel like they’re being judged for being successful because everyone thinks they’re only successful because they’re white. Every news source and news channel is bashing the man they elected so they feel very outnumbered.

And I get it. I have seen some online communities gang up on these people in a way that becomes very ugly, very quickly. The internet tends to rally in force, and not always in good ways.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I have to do that sometimes, spend time ruminating on something before I can write about it.

First of all – this really could be an enlightening moment if you are someone who pushes back with your own stories of isolation in any of those ways. Because if you look at it in it’s purest form, you might be getting a taste of what it feels like to be a person of color in our country. That isolation, that desperate desire to find someone around you who is like you, that loneliness when you feel like the world is against you? If you can put aside the “Why?” for a moment and just look at that feeling of solitude even though you’re surrounded by bodies and voices? That loneliness in a crowd? That feeling is the same that your neighbors of color feel every single day. Every time they walk into Zoe’s Kitchen (which I love and eat there once a week, but I jokingly call it the Rich White People Sandwich Shop). If you would really just sit with that feeling of desolation amidst the masses, being the lone conservative in a liberal conversation maybe, you could truly be awakened to that glimpse of life as a minority.

But here’s the difference: You can fake it.

I once found myself in a conversation about church and religion with a bunch of people I really like. I felt kinda left out so I just started talking about my aunt the Nun. She’s my Go To religious person of reference because I adore her (she’s in the hospital currently, if you’d like to offer her prayers she’d appreciate it) and because everyone always feels impressed that I’m related to a Nun. She gives me credibility to talk about religion even as an atheist.

Or if I’m in a new group, people won’t just assume I’m an atheist if they start talking about religion. I might feel a little awkward and out of place, but they don’t know that I’m an atheist as I don’t wear a sign on my head saying such things. I can choose to reveal the thing that makes me different, or I can choose not to. Either way, it is MY choice. I do not fit in, in that moment, but I can hide that if I feel like it will work out better for me in that situation.

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Imagine if I couldn’t hide the thing that made me different.

What if you had to wear a tattoo on your head that said, “Voted for Trump.” Or maybe, “Atheist.” Or maybe, “Hates Hamilton.” Think of that one thing that often makes you feel isolated in a crowd. What is that one characteristic, that one belief, that sometimes makes you feel judged? What if you had NO WAY of hiding that? What if everywhere you went, everyone knew that one thing?

That’s having brown skin.

Or wearing a hijab.

Or speaking English as a second language.

Or being disabled.

Or…sometimes to a lesser extent…being part of the LGBTQ community. Depending on how your live your life, your ability to “pass” could be somewhere on a spectrum. Some can’t pass at all, some shock the crap out of people when their truth is revealed.

Imagine if that one thing that the MAJORITY of people around you didn’t match up with – what if that ONE THING was obvious from every angle? There was no hiding it.

White privilege isn’t about saying all white people are the same and we never feel isolated or alone or judged. I sometimes decide to wear long sleeves to cover my tattoos so I won’t be judged. I talk about my aunt the Nun so I won’t be judged. I reference my college degrees so I won’t be judged. We all get judged for things and we avoid that when we can. White privilege is the fact that – as a governing majority – we enjoy some privileges that people of color do not. The moments we might get judged by our skin color are few and far between.

Part of the pushback I see sometimes is the declaration that white skin color is a disadvantage because of Affirmative Action. (To which I direct them to this older article about the myths of Affirmative Action or this more recent one about how it seems to help white women most of all.) This is always a strange conversation to me. I would ask you to sit in your own discomfort and really really sit with that belief that maybe you missed out on a job because of the color of your skin. (Often times there’s debate if that’s true, but let’s just allow you to really believe it.) If you sit with that for a moment you could SO EASILY follow the train of thought…Hmmm…Imagine if I felt like this at every job. At every academic and professional opportunity. At every social event. That must be what it feels like to be a person of color in this country.

I mean, you might still hate Affirmative Action, but in that moment? You might could at least recognize the problem it’s trying to solve as you feel the sting of being judged, not by your qualifications, but by your skin color.

The truth is – to the person who refuses to acknowledge their own privilege – it’s always easy to find examples counter to the one in this knapsack Peggy McIntosh writes about. Hell, I still catch myself doing it every time. The resistant white privilege still runs very deep into my blood.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

My children have parents that are open atheists, and therefore so are they. Their parents are also open liberals, so any parents-of-friends who know us through social media know that about us. They have had many negative encounters at school because of their denial of God and of their support of the LGBTQ community. So I read #14 and my privileged brain thinks, I can’t! We’re liberal atheists in the heart of conservative bible country!

But I remind myself…AGAIN…we can fake it. My kids can choose to make their beliefs an issue. They kinda like to make it an issue because they like the attention it gives them, honestly. But if they’re really trying to get a teacher to like them or really want to be accepted into a key peer group, they can refrain from discussing anything controversial.

I am constantly having to check my own privilege.
I can hold hands with my husband in public and not worry someone is going to attack us.
I can walk into a restaurant and not wonder if I’m going to be the only white person in there.
I can submit a resume to a job and not worry my ethnic-sounding name could cause it to be put in the “no” pile.

I think Peggy McIntosh’s paper is simply a must-read for every white person. But not just to read, but to really sit and think about it. And every time you think of a defensive response/example, I think you should ask yourself the following questions:

How rare was your incident of judgement or isolation? If you can concretely point out ALL of the examples in which YOU also experience this judgement or isolation mentioned? Then you are privileged. Ask any person of color to list the times they’ve experienced the judgement or isolation and they’d laugh at you. Too many to even bother remembering.

Did you choose to make your unique characteristic that called for judgement or isolation known? Could you have hidden the fact that you were the Trump Supporter in the crowd of Liberals? Could you have hidden the fact that you’re an Auburn fan when your friends were talking football? Maybe not in that one moment, but at other times? Is that thing that made you feel judged or left out something that you could hide if needed? Ask a disabled person or a person of color or a Muslim woman in a hijab if they wish they could – in a moment’s notice – hide the thing that people judge them for.

Is this thing you were judged for…is it deeply rooted in a tragic history of violence and hatred? This is often where the crux of the difference lies. Being judged for being an atheist sucks. Especially when the person seems to think I lack a moral compass because of it. But my family does not have a dark history of abuse for being atheist. The history books I learned from in class didn’t contain stories of lynching atheists. Those history books also did not gloss over some of the darkest parts of how atheists were treated. My family doesn’t have stories of being enslaved because they didn’t believe in God. So, even if I’m judged in a moment for something I don’t really have control over, that thing is not rooted in a history of injustice and violence.

In my opinion..that’s really…deep down…what people who fight over the concept of privilege have not yet been able to come to terms with yet. If you think you didn’t get that job because of Affirmative Action…if you feel like you’re a minority in this country because you’re a Trump-supporting Christian and the media makes you feel like you’re an anomaly…none of these feelings of persecution or judgement or isolation are even remotely backed in a history of violence passed down through your blood.

Every time a person of color feels that their skin is the cause for a negative experience, that moment is backed with images of slavery and abuse and lynchings and segregation and violence. If you are white and feel judged or ridiculed or isolated because of your political beliefs, or religious beliefs, or economic status, or even your skin color…none of that is backed by a traumatic history that haunted generations before you.

The debate stops there, in my opinion. The familial history and the cultural history that backs every racist experience that a person of color has in our country…that is the line where a white person’s experience can not cross. We have no idea what that burden is like. And that, in itself, is the root of our privilege.

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“At least I hair good!” – The title of my forthcoming memoirs.

It’s weird that yesterday morning I wrote about leaning into the whole Imposter Syndrome thing and then later I experienced a moment where I received several pieces of criticism (from more than one person) about something I thought I was really good at.

So…um…am I the person I was complaining about yesterday? Did I somehow achieve overconfidence as the least confident person the planet? Is that…like…a magic trick?

Look at Kim! She of terrible body image and low self-esteem! Watch her develop too much confidence for once in her life! How did she do it? Was it slight of hand? Was it invisible wires? Is she just…MAGIC?

To say it hit me kinda hard is an understatement. I’m not confident about many things. I found myself thinking yesterday, This must be how those bad singers on American Idol felt. They walk in convinced they’re going to win and then BAM! Simon Cowell shuts them down.

Is Simon Cowell still on that show? Am I dating myself?

Anyway. I’m trying to get past it. My first method was to eat ice cream and since I’m like 95% vegan you can IMAGINE how well that went over in my tummy. NOT WELL AT ALL. It looks like I had too much confidence in my digestive system too. FOILED AGAIN.

Some of the criticism I was able to kinda talk myself through in the sense of just a misunderstanding on my part. Like two people see things the same way, but I’m thinking that way is expected and the other person is not. And I’m pretty sure it’s something I can rectify if I just take more time to complete the task to begin with. So it sucks, but not anything that makes me doubt my confidence.

But some of it was basically, “This thing Kim does is really bad!” and meanwhile I’m taking the same thing home and bragging about it to my husband.

And that basically kept me tossing and turning all night and now analyzing everything I ever do that I think I do well.

Do I suck at introducing new runners to trail running?
Do I suck at amplifying voices of importance from marginalized communities?
Do I suck at empathy?
Do I suck at talking about boob sweat?

I mean, it’s one thing to find out people think you’re good at that thing you think you’re terrible at…but the other way around? THE DAY YOU WROTE ABOUT IMPOSTER SYNDROME? That’s embarrassing. I mean – REALLY embarrassing. How long has this been going on? Me thinking I’m great and others thinking I’m terrible? I NEED MY EMBARRASSMENT PILLOW TO COVER MY FACE TO MY OWN MEMORIES.

(If you’re new here, the embarrassment pillow is the thing I cover my face with if something embarrassing happens to someone on TV.)

Luckily, I’ve been in a decent headspace the last couple of months so this isn’t sending me down the spiral of self-loathing and depression that I’ve been known to stumble into after a “bad day.” I’m trying to be practical about this in coming up with resolutions (I wish I could write it off as just one person’s perception, but it was echoed in a few ways by others) that will help me do better and maybe look at my work differently. Obviously the ice cream was a cry for help, but for the most part I’m trying to be practical and solve the problem.

I mean – I didn’t cry which is HUGE for me. I wanted to…I WANTED TO SO BAD…but I kept my shit together and spent a lot of time last night really thinking about how to be better.

It just sucks. I never really looked at myself as being overconfident about anything. So not only does it suck to know that I am, but it sucks to know that I didn’t even realize it so now I’m questioning my judgement about a lot of things.

Anyway – this post had no point. Other than to remind everyone the importance of paying compliments to people when you think them. Last night a friend told me my hair was looking really good lately and I almost cried. I NEEDED THAT TODAY! AT LEAST I HAIR GOOD!