Emma’s Gift

Today is a new day. I’m 55. I’m done lying to myself. For the better part of the last year I have been telling myself a big lie. That lie is that I don’t have enough time.

Over the past week I’ve become keenly aware that as humans we live a large percentage of our lives wishing for “more” of so many things. If I were to ask you to fill in the blank of this sentence, what would your answer be?

I wish I had more _________ !

My guess is that at least 80% of you would give me one of these five answers:

  1. Money
  2. Time
  3. Luck
  4. Energy
  5. Love

So what’s my answer you ask?

I am surrounded by love in so many ways. I have a loving partnership with my wife, a Divine daughter, my Mom is the best friend I could have ever dreamed of, I have amazing family and friends and co-workers and so much more. I’m good in the love department.

Some people say they don’t believe in luck. I TOTALLY believe in luck AND I believe that we play a huge part in creating so much of what we call luck. Sometimes what could be called “dumb luck” or “blind luck” finds its way into our lives, but mostly I believe that the actions we take create the opportunity for “good luck” to find us. For most of my life I’ve been a pretty lucky guy.

If you know me well then you probably know that most people consider me pretty high energy. I move fast. I get a lot done. I work hard and play hard and while being a parent has given me more days of being tired than I am used to, I still have an amazing amount of energy so I’d say I’m in reasonably good shape on that front.

I’d like to have a lot more money! In fact I think that so many of us live in a space where we believe that our lives would be significantly better if we had more money, yet as of late I’ve shifted my mindset as it relates to financial abundance. Don’t get me wrong! I am more than happy to reach a level of financial abundance where I can share more with others and live in a state of confidence and peace. That being said, I think we need to ask ourselves if we are chasing wealth or status. If we are seeking wealth, then we will find that in a place where we are free from the tethers to things that bind us. Anything outside of that and we are just chasing status. We can find true wealth if we get more – OR – we can find true freedom if we live within our means no matter how much money we have. This is a new view for me so I’m learning, but I think the shoe fits nicely. I’d like to have more money, yet in so many ways I already have enough.

And the there is time….

At this point in my journey, time is the most valuable commodity. There are so many days when I reach bedtime and find myself wishing that I had a few more hours. I’d love to have more time with Emma. I wish I had more time to be alone with my wife Christiana. I wish I could get out and do more things socially. I would love to be able to talk to my friends more often or for longer periods of time. I’d love to be able to invest more time in writing and speaking and coaching. The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that my definitive answer to the fill in the blank question is:

I WISH I HAD MORE TIME!

When I woke up this morning and thought about what I would like my birthday to look like I came to a quick and easy decision. Some things were already set in stone. I was going to go to work in the morning. Christiana was going to work at night because we decided we would rather wait to celebrate my birthday until the weekend. I was going to go to the chiropractor after work while Christina’s mom watched Emma like she always does on Thursday afternoons and evenings. What I needed to decide was how I wanted to spend my “me” time in the later evening after I got home. My “me” time is rare and precious and on my birthday it would make sense that I should do something particularly special.

The interesting thing is that I didn’t even want to try to go out and do anything unusual. I didn’t want to have a fancy dinner. I didn’t find myself wishing that I could have a big celebration or party. I wasn’t even feeling the desire to settle in on the couch and watch a movie like I often do when I get a rare chance to stop the world these days . I just wanted to have some quiet alone time to write…something I havent done in ages!

I started to visualize what it would look like. I would get home after riding my bike from the chiropractor. I would visit with my mother in law for a while and then give Emma a bath. I would put her down and then grab my computer – and probably a glass of wine even though it’s a weeknight – since it’s my birthday! I would go out on the back deck and watch the sunset. I even had a pretty good idea what I might write about because I’d been thinking a lot about Emma’s first trial swim class and wanted to share more about that special day. It was all going to be so perfect. I was finally going to stop telling myself the lie that I couldn’t ever find the time to write!

And that brings us to this moment in time. This is where things started to move in a direction  that was outside of my expectations. Ah yes, that tenuous word – EXPECTATION!

So here’s when the blog within the blog starts. Up until now this has been the story of how I wound up at my computer writing in the Jim’s Whimz blog for the first time in over a year. Now begins the story within the story – it’s a little piece I like to call Emma’s gift. It’s not the blog I intended to write which would have been titled Things I learned in my Daughter’s first swim lesson, but it’s the post that God/The Universe intended on this day. And it is oh so good to be back at the keyboard!

 

 

Emma’s Gift

Our daughter Emma was born on February 4th, 2018 at approximately 2:30 pm. She came into the world strong-willed and sturdy at nearly 9 pounds after an intense 30-plus hours of labor. From the minute she got here all could see that she was going to be very independent and determined. Eighteen months later nothing has changed.

On that first night we stayed at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois under that care of our amazing midwife team. We had a comfortable room with a bed and a couch and a bassinet so by about 7 p.m. all three of us were sleeping peacefully and getting some much needed rest, despite the fact that Super Bowl LII was in progress. None of the three of us seemed to care much about the Eagles or Tom Brady or Gisele Bundchen or pretty much anything else at all at that point.

Around 8 p.m. I stirred and noticed that our 6-hour old Emma was fussing in her bassinet. I wanted nothing more than for Christiana to be able to get some more rest after a day and half of labor, so I picked Emma up out of her bassinet and brought her over to the couch where I had been dozing. I opened up my shirt and placed her on my chest skin-to-skin just like we learned in our child birthing class to see if I could calm her down and do some special father and daughter bonding with her.

For the next hour and a half Emma slept on my bare chest as we traveled around the cosmos and got to know each other in this lifetime with a deep sense of knowing that we already knew each other so well long before she chose on incarnate as our daughter in this lifetime. At one point I thought to myself, “This is so cool! I’m already teaching my daughter about energy and reiki and spirituality and God!”

And then all of a sudden it occurred to me that I wasn’t the teacher at all…. I realized that I was the student. There was nothing that I knew that Emma didn’t already know. I had thought for a fleeting instant that I was going to teach her about being close to Source, but in fact she just came from Source so how could I possibly know any more than she already knew. It was an eye opening moment in time. It was a life changing moment in time. I sat on the couch and wept with joy for what seemed to be an eternity. I had never experienced a higher level of bliss in my life before that moment…and then it was over.

Since that day, I can count on one hand the number of times Emma has slept on my chest. As I mentioned earlier, Emma is a highly independent being who has made it exceedingly clear that she doesn’t seek coddling or comforting on a regular basis. She is indeed loving and joyful, but she is not at all needy. Most nights after bath time, milk and a story or two she is squirming to get out of my arms and into her crib so she can have her own space and journey into dreamland as soon as possible.

It has only been on a few rare nights when she has been under the weather or in some other way out of her regular routine that she has dozed off on my chest before being put down in her crib. Most of me is pleased and content that we have an independent daughter who is confident and comfortable alone in the dark. Then there is the piece of me that longs to relive that first night when Emma surrendered completely and totally into oneness with her daddy’s chest for comfort.

0-33Earlier today I got up and got ready for work. I opened my cards from my mom and from Christiana. Emma had given me her card last night when I got home from work – a colored page from a Peanuts coloring book that my wife had helped her create. My plan for tonight was to put Emma down just before 8 p.m. just like I always do on our nights home alone together. I was then going to grab the baby monitor and my computer and go sit outside on the deck on a perfect summer night and write my first blog in over a year. I did exactly that and just as I started to type, I looked at the monitor and saw that Emma was standing up and screaming in her crib.

“Not tonight!” I thought to myself. “Of all nights for her to not go down easily why would this happen to me on my birthday? I DESERVED my alone time. I was so looking forward to writing my blog about our free trial swim lesson. This just isn’t fair!”

I went back inside and walked into her room. Of course I was first and foremost focused on comforting my daughter and getting her back to sleep like I have done so many times in the past 18 months, but in truth I still wanted to write. When I picked Emma up she started pointing at the nursing glider next to her crib. I assumed this meant that she wanted me to read her more stories before she went to sleep, so I sat down in the glider and just as I reached over to turn on the owl lamp on the table next to the glider, Emma laid her little head down on my chest and completely relaxed.

For the next 30 minutes we rocked back and forth together in the dark with the sound of the waves from her bedside sound machine playing in the background. I could feel her little heartbeat on my chest stronger than I had felt it since that first night on the couch at West Suburban Hospital just under a year and a half ago. For a few precious moment that world stopped spinning. I was no longer short on time or money or luck or energy. All I could feel was love in its purest form. The blog that I needed to write didn’t matter. The balance in our bank accounts didn’t matter. The amount of sleep I got this week didn’t matter. I had just received the most amazing gift I ever could have dreamed of on my 55th birthday. The gift of my daughter’s love as she slept on my chest.

Some say our biggest responsibility as parents is to teach our children well. I’d say it’s equally important to allow them to teach us well. As I enter this next stage of my life, I am so grateful to have such a talented teacher in Emma. I pray that I continue to be the student that she deserves to share the journey with…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Speeding in Reverse

“I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV. It’s clearly the same SUV that my wife and I have driven for the last five years, but somehow it doesn’t feel exactly the same. I start to feel the car backing up slowly. I look over my right shoulder and out the rear window to see that I’m backing up on Merchant Street which is where we have our summer cottage in Michigan.

It’s about midday and the sun is directly overhead, but the light isn’t penetrating down to street level due to the heavy canopy of trees that tower up to the sky. Some if not many of these trees must be well over 100 years old.

I turn my gaze back to the front windshield and see the lake in the distance at the end of Merchant Street. It’s a lovely view except for two very important things. One, the lake if I could see it through the trees, should be over my left shoulder to the north instead of straight ahead to the west. Two, the car is starting to move faster and faster backwards down Merchant Street. My neighbor’s houses begin to fly by on both sides of the car in my peripheral field of vision.

I take my right foot and press firmly on the brakes to slow down the increasingly wild sensation I’m feeling throughout my entire body and to my unfortunate surprise – nothing happens. I just keep moving faster in reverse down a street lined with a canopy of trees that seemingly never ends…”

Has it happened to you? Have you ever been stuck in a recurring dream that you hadn’t realized was recurring until you had it one time and actually woke up soon enough to remember it?

If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve had that dream at least a half dozen times in the last month but I never realized it until this morning when it came crashing into my awareness as the answer to questions that I have been asking over and over and over again in my mind. What questions you ask?

How do I let go of the things that I haven’t yet or maybe never will accomplish that are shackling to me my past failures? How do I step into that place where I truly believe with all my heart that my current need for growth does not need to be a measure of any previous inadequacy? How to I continue to re-invent my life in order to maximize the chapters that have yet to be written?

Just for fun, let’s take a deeper look at some of the key elements of the dream.

#1 – I’m at our summer cottage in Michigan not our home in Chicago

New Buffalo, Michigan is like a sanctuary to me in many ways. I deeply consider Michigan to be my home state. Even though I was born in Chicago, I lived from age 3 to age 25 on Michigan soil. When my first wife and I bought the home in New Buffalo, it was the realization of a dream I never thought I’d see: Owning a home in a resort community near the lake on my “native” Michigan soil. This part of the dream speaks to the deep tribal need to feel a sense of belongingness that we as humans all feel.

#2 – 100 year old towering trees line the street

35806488-savannah-georgia-usa-oak-tree-lined-road-at-historic-wormsloe-plantation-Aside from the fact that this part of the dream is an accurate representation of the real Merchant Street, the age and size of the trees are significant for a couple of reasons. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it would take to live a healthy active life until the age 100 or more. With a newborn daughter at age 53 it’s all too easy to feel like I may miss out on many of the important chapters in her life, but what if that fear based thinking is only one possible version of the story? In my dream I see primarily on the huge branches in the sky. Branches in dreams are often said to signify the many different paths and parts of your life; past, present and future. This part of the dream speaks to my longing to explore new paths while still staying appropriately connected to the important pieces of my history.

#3 – I’m moving backwards

Last week in our weekly email newsletter, I wrote about the concept of organic dormancy. Organic dormancy is the silence in between the breaths of life. Too often we beat ourselves up for not making the progress we feel like we should be making in life. I noted that the times we feel stagnant are designed to offer us perspective as we go through the transitions in life. The writing was well received and many people told me that they found it helpful in their own personal journeys. As it is often said, we choose to teach/speak about the things we most need to learn. Over the last couple of months I feel like I have been getting further and further away from the ultimate vision of the life I want to create for myself and our family. This part of the dream signifies that I need to accept that being stagnant and even “moving backwards” is part of the journey of life and that focusing on the present needs of our family is all that truly matters.

#4 – The brakes aren’t working

In my dream I let the car continue to move backwards until it reaches a speed where I feel unsafe or that I lack any control. The second part of that last sentence is the key – not being in control. How many of us live in the false reality that if we are “in control” that everything will be just fine? I certainly did think that way for many years and it turned me into a micro-managing control freak. In the months since our daughter Emma was born, never has it been more evident that it is not even remotely possible to be in control of every outcome. Our time lines operate differently than they used to as a family. My ability to freestyle through life being involved in anything and everything I wanted has totally ceased. This part of the dream signifies my need to continue to transition into a place of surrender where I trust that everything will turn out just as it is supposed to, even when I feel like I’m moving backwards and/or wildly out of control.

So how does the dream end?

“I’m lying in bed at about 7:30 in the morning. I’m in that half awake and half asleep state where are most lucid dreams always seem to occur. I realize in my dream that my SUV is literally speeding backwards down Merchant Street towards the main part of town, but the street seems to continue to get longer and longer in my rear view mirror even while the lake in front of me gets further and further away. Once again I look back over my shoulder to see what is behind me but instead of noticing the trees in the sky, this time I notice that my daughter Emma is in the back seat in her car seat. Now I realize that I have to stop. It’s one thing if I go crashing into town backwards willy nilly, but I can’t let that happen to little Emma. I start pressing down on the brakes with both feet as hard as I can, but still nothing will slow down the momentum of our SUV in reverse….
It’s like I expect Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock to appear at any momemt and shoot a trailer for Speed #7. I start saying loudly.

‘Emma we need to stop. Emma we need to stop. Emma please help us stop…”

And then suddenly I feel like I’m being sucked through a wormhole in space from my dreams back to my bed. I feel like like Captain Kirk being beamed up from a foreign planet back to the safety of the USS Enterprise.

As I begin to wake, I realize that my daughter Emma, who is lying next to me nuzzled up in her swaddle has gotten one her arms free and she has reached up and put her hand on my face. She’s gripping on my beard hairs as she herself is waking up from her little siesta after her morning feeding and the contact is just enough to pull me out of my dream and back into my body.

I realize that all is well. That we are both safe. That we were never really in any danger at all.

So what do I take away from all of it?

#1 – The search for belongingness usually ends where it started, right under your own nose

#2 – Old paths and new paths can easily intersect, if we let them

#3 – Sometimes stillness or even moving backwards is the necessary direction of travel

#4 – Surrendering from the need to control all outcomes is the greatest gift you can give yourself…and everyone else in your life, and

#5 – Emma is clearly in the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future….

Now about that living to 100 thing? Well you have to excuse me for a moment it’s time for me to go have a nice long chat with some tall trees and get some pointers. I’ll let you know what they have to say after my next recurring dream…

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Fatherhood at Fifty – “Describable”

My wife Christiana and I have joked at times that we should compile our list of the top ten most common things people have said to us during the time that we were pregnant with Emma. That list may or may not get written at some point, but for now let’s just say that some of those top ten things are thoughtful and inspiring, and others are….well…perhaps better left unsaid.

One of those thoughtful and inspiring things people tend to say comes from those that are already blessed with their own children. It’s the thing that gets said when someone is trying to tell you what it’s going to feel like the first time you hold your newborn child in your arms and they open their eyes and look up at you. I’d heard about that moment so many times during our pregnancy that I awaited it with great anticipation. No matter how much I thought about what that moment would feel like, there was no way that I could have imagined what it would actually BE like. To all of you who shared your own stories about the first time you held your child in your arms, I finally get it now.

When others would tell me about the moment that they first held their own child in their arms, they almost always used the word indescribable. People would routinely remark that the moment made them speechless, which they would then demonstrate for me live and in person by becoming speechless yet again as they thought about that moment all over. Many people would get choked up as they took themselves back to that moment in their own lives and they would then usually end the conversation by saying something like, “there are just no words…”

But what if there were the words? What if there was a way that we could describe that moment in time? What if that moment was in fact decidedly describable. I doubt if Shakespeare ever used the line, “there are just no words…” I’ll assume that Charles Dickens never said, “you had to be there because there’s really no way to describe that scene…”

So with all due respect to Shakespeare and Dickens and the countless parents who have inspired me by sharing their own first ever moments in their lives, I shall now attempt to describe that moment in time as it unfolded for me. I challenge my inner wordsmith to dig deep and find the words that can adequately capture a moment of rapture as exquisite as this. My first letter to my newborn daughter to tell her how I would describe the moment we met. I imagine a few kleenex breaks will be in order. Here goes…

My Dearest Emma,

unnamed-2I’ve just looked down at your priceless little face as I held you in my arms for the first time and my heart has expanded to a degree that I could previously not fathom. I had imagined what you might look like while you were inside mommy’s belly, but I never really imagined anything could be quite as beautiful as you actually were when you came out. For most of my life I thought that babies looked a little bit funny and stiff, but when they placed you in my arms you looked so gentle and so full of life.

I’ve waited so long for this day to come, much longer than most people wait. Let’s just say right now that I would have waited twice as long if I had to just to have you as my daughter, but I’m glad I didn’t have to wait even a second more! There will be times in the future when people may think that I am your grandpa and not your daddy because of my age, but that’s okay because we’ll know that our souls were always intended to be connected and that we just had to wait for me to be ready to be the daddy that you so richly deserve. I’ve finally become that person now, largely because of you. You are already my teacher in so many ways; you’ll understand that more in the future I promise.

I’ve traveled around the world in my years before you came to me. I’ve seen so many amazing things. I’ve looked across the Cote D’azur at sunset from the veranda of a private palace in the hills of Cannes, France while drinking Dom Perignon champagne. I’ve stood on the highest peak in Colorado at dawn’s opening ray of morning light, ready to be the first skier down the hill on virgin powder snow. I’ve been barefoot in the wet, lush grass in Ireland’s County Meath, overlooking the 5000 year old neolithic Newgrange passage tomb while practicing my morning martial arts forms in a silence so profound that it was actually too noisy. None of those moments in time or any other in my life equaled the moment you opened your eyes and looked at me. I love you beyond measure.

I have spent so many of my days in this lifetime trying to expand my consciousness and enhance my connection to the Divine. I’ve read and studied nearly every world religion. I’ve devoted over 30 years in training to martial arts and yoga. I’ve read countless books about the greatest spiritual masters like Christ Jesus, the Buddha, Babaji, Yogananda, Saint Germain, Kwan Yin and so many others. Every once in a while in my meditations I get to that magical place where I can feel the light from Source shining so brightly that it warms every part of my soul like I’m lying in Infinite sunshine. I love those precious glimpses when they come, but they always seem to fade away just before I can get close enough to the light to see the face of God. It’s like I’m walking slowly up to a curtain that I just can’t quite reach and I’m trying so hard to extend my arm further so I can throw the curtain back and have a clear view of all the IS. It’s never happened before. It always evades me. That first night when we where heart to heart on the couch next to mommy’s bed for about an hour, my wait ended. The curtain was finally thrown back. I saw the face of God in all its glory in your face. I felt Source energy through your heart as it pressed against mine while you slept on my chest.  In that instant I knew that all was well in the Universe and any moment of fleeting Faith that I ever had in this lifetime completely and totally disappeared.

About five years ago I asked my Angels and Guides to help me open my heart up more. That may fall under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” but we’ll discuss that more later. Some of my Angels and Guides are people like the spiritual masters I mentioned before, and some are people that I know who have moved out of their bodies;  people like your grandpa Jim (my daddy) and many others. Well anyways, let’s just say that I spent a pretty good portion of my first 50 years on this planet holding the world at an arm’s length. Your mommy was the first one in many years that put in the effort to penetrate the fortress that had become the outer walls of Jim Herbert. I’m very grateful to her for putting a crack in my outer shell because with that crack the light started to come in. I’ve learned that in order to have a life that is full of great joy, you have to be willing to allow yourself to open your heart enough to be vulnerable to great sorrow as well. Your Uncle Richard, who I suppose you met on the other side before you came here broke my heart when he left his body a few years back, but I’ve learned so much about myself from that experience. All that being said, no matter how much my heart may have already opened, it opened like three billion times more when you arrived safely after many hours of labor. Someday we’ll watch the Grinch together and you can see a funny story about growing a bigger heart.

Speaking about your arrival, can I just tell you from my perspective how amazing your mommy was when you came in. Over the years I have done a pretty good job of pushing my body to extremes. I’ve done marathons, triathlons, tested for black belts and things like that. Nothing even comes close to comparing to what your mommy did to get you safely into this lifetime. There were some scary moments when I didn’t know that we would have the strength to get to the finish line, but you never seemed to be scared. Your little heart kept beating strong for hours and hours and I think it was you that actually gave us the strength to believe in ourselves. I’ve always liked my physical activity, but for some reason since you arrived I have even more vigor. I’ve been lighter in my cardio workouts. I have a little extra push in my circuit training. I move a little more gracefully in my yoga poses. It’s like I have an infinite amount of energy even though I’m getting a bit less sleep than I’m used to. Little things don’t seem to phase me like they used to, but on the flip side the details matter even more now because of you. What an unusual and delightful coincidence. How lucky am I?

And last but certainly not least, of all the gifts you have already given me, the most valuable is certainly this….

You’ve inspired me to be in the moment, to be present and to be engaged like I’ve never been in my life before now…

At the start of the year I was moderating a webinar and I asked those in the group to pick a word of intention for the year and share it with everyone. After everyone in the group shared, I chose the word “engaged” for myself. Like I said before, I’ve done a great job of doing many, many things in this lifetime often at the same time, but sometimes at the expense of being fully engaged in any one of those things. The moment you opened your eyes and looked up at me from my arms I instantly realized that everything else I had ever done in this lifetime was just a preamble to our journey ahead. It was the only moment in human history that ever mattered to me. 

I have no idea where our journeys might take us Emma, but I know that I’m ready to fly. Don’t we all just want to fly Emma? For my entire life I’ve wanted to feel more alive. With you in my arms Emma, I tingle with joy down to the deepest part of my soul. I embrace all of my emotions, the good ones and the scary ones. After all, isn’t that the only way to truly feel alive? In your eyes Emma, I see the joy, the fear, the bliss, the sorrow, the hope and the unconditional love of all of humanity. In your eyes Emma, I see the all the possibilities of what we will BE while still fully understanding that in Truth, we already ARE…

All my Love,

Daddy

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Fatherhood at Fifty – Changing Tides

gentle-shore-waves-1154926A wonderful sense of calm has been building here over the last few weeks. It’s like a wave in slow motion that is growing in size, preparing to break out at sea at its maximum crest height, and head into shore as gentle surf. It’s beautiful and powerful and awe- inspiring and I’ve never felt more complete as a person at any point in my entire lifetime. Interesting how we always feel most at peace when we let the Divine plan unfold with minimal manipulation on our parts.

When I was younger, more eager and full of wanderlust, I never would have scripted a life where I would have had my first child in my fifties. Now I can’t imagine having scripted it any other way. Every moment of my entire life has led me to the sacred experience I am living in right now. I am SO grateful.

This past Saturday morning  I was out for my morning Jim-time where I run my errands and get in a workout or yoga class. I’ve always loved my morning alone time and not surprisingly I’ve manifested a situation in life where that has always been entirely possible. Both of the women I have been married to over the last 30 years have been all too happy to sleep in a bit later than me, giving me ample time for morning meanderings. On this particular last Saturday morning though, I became keenly aware that this ritual of mornings to myself that I treasure so deeply is in some way coming to an end. It’s not that I won’t still get to the gym. It’s not that I won’t go out and buy some groceries and then make breakfast. It’s not that I will never again get in a 6:00 am hot yoga class. It’s just that I won’t be waking up and dashing out the door without considering a few other responsibilities first. I’m pretty okay with the upcoming change in my freedom to wander. In fact I’d even say that I’m delighted!

I’ve spent so much of my life rushing from point A to point B like I’m in some sort of relay race to get the most out of life before it passes me by and leaves me feeling empty. Funny how in trying to get the most out of life we can actually wind up getting way less and feeling empty. On the surface I’ve never thought of my life as empty. In fact I truly feel like I’ve lived more than my fair share of a full life already in my just over 50 years. It’s just that in preparing for fatherhood, I’ve come to realize just how much more untapped richness there is ahead on the path for me still.

In years past I would spend most of a Saturday morning working out and then plotting how many things I could possibly get done before I would finally put my feet up at the end of the day with a glass of wine. Along with that wine there would often be a nice meal, that in most cases I would have spent a decent amount of the evening perfecting in my own kitchen. My weekend to do list would set the bar so high that there was no possible option other than me pushing myself too hard and then still not meeting my own impossible to reach standards. I would race around the city looking for the exact ingredients I desired. I would tackle multiple projects around the house at the same time. I would work hard and play hard both in Chicago and in Michigan and on some weekends in both places over the same 48 hour stretch. I’ve run more than my fair share of races over the years. The question that always remained though was, “What was I racing towards? ” 

Things have been slowing down over the last few years though. It’s not that I’m physically slowing down, but rather that I’m allowing myself to move a bit more slowly. In doing so, the pattern of the waves in my life have become more steady and less erratic – more like the gentle surf and less like the violent sea.

One of the questions that I tend to get asked fairly frequently as our pregnancy winds to its ultimate finish line sounds something like this:

“Are you totally freaking out yet?!” 

The answer to that question is an emphatic no. It’s truly an amazing answer because all the major pillars in my life are in some sort of fluctuation. In years past I would have considered that fluctuation to be an indicator of instability. Now I am more inclined to see that fluctuation as merely a transition. It’s like an energetic passage from point A to point B, minus the racing and the self-created stress that I was all too good at in my younger, wanderlust years. Mind you I specifically choose the word fluctuation over instability because I’ve come to accept that transition is an opportunity for growth not a failure to control things. It’s easier to see that perspective from a fifty year old perch.

What will this next Saturday bring? I may be holding my newborn daughter in my arms, or I may be off to the gym or to a yoga class as we wait. Whichever the answer, I’m certain that I’ll do it more fully engaged and that I’ll savor every instant. I’ve been looking for the perfect ingredient to complete my recipe for a lifetime. I think it’s about to arrive in a way I never could have dreamed of…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fatherhood at Fifty – Flip Turns

I do so love the water. I love to be in the water. I love to be near the water. I have a energetic need to live in a place that is close to water. It’s not a surprise that my zodiac sun sign is Cancer and I represent my astrological symbol totem animal in every way: I have a tendency to be crabby at times, I love to be in my shell and I’d likely perish if I drifted too far onto the mainland on a permanent basis! A couple of months back I wrote a post about my Labor Day outdoor lap swim and called it Final Lap. In the post I reflected on my last outdoor pool swim of the season and a number of other potential changes on the path in the months ahead. You can read it here if you missed it on the first pass.

My pattern for the last few years has been to swim and bike more in the summer and then switch to elliptical work inside the gym in the winter. Yoga on the other hand is a constant throughout the year, although I do get to more actual classes in during the winter when the biking season is over. I mix in my martial arts workouts here and there for variety. I even ran on the treadmill a couple of weeks back, but was reminded that running no longer serves my higher mileage body. Every once and a while in the winter I’ll visit one of the clubs in the area and get in an indoor lap swim, but the indoor pools are often crowded. And with that I’ll end Jim’s fitness summary for 2017!

I guess I’d say my overall relationship with swimming has been on again and off again through the years. Despite my love for water, there’s always been something that has prevented swimming from becoming a more permanent and regular part of my workout routine over the last 30 years. I’m a decent swimmer. I learned to swim like many kids do; by attending group swim classes in the morning in a freezing cold pool. Perhaps I have some lingering trauma from Beechview swim club that has prevented swimming from blossoming more in my adult years? Who knows?

I can swim a very good breast stroke. I can only swim about three strokes of butterfly before I sink. I never do the backstroke because I’m not really too big on not being able to see where I’m going – and that doesn’t apply to being in the pool only.

And then of course there is freestyle: the true measure of any swimmer’s skill set. This next little factoid will tell you all you need to know about my relationship with freestyle through the years:

In the 1990s I decided I wanted to do triathlons. Every single second of every training session or triathlon swim I ever did, I did by swimming breast stroke instead of freestyle.

Now there are reasons for this decision that make total sense on the surface level:

  1. I swim a really fast breast stroke. In fact I often pass some people who are swimming freestyle both in the pool and in races
  2. The amount of energy I expend swimming breaststroke is way less, thus I have more energy for the bike and run.
  3. I get into a better rhythm in that I get to come up for air on every stroke while swimming breast stroke instead of trying to figure out alternate side breathing every third stroke swimming freestyle.

There are some other reasons that sit on a deeper level that have kept me swimming breast stroke instead of freestyle over the years:

  1. Fear
  2. Insecurity
  3. Ego

I was afraid that if tried to I swim freestyle in the deeper open lake water I would tire and sink and eventually put myself at risk of drowning. I was insecure about the fact that I was getting lapped while swimming freestyle in the pool by nearly everyone including children. My ego would tell me stories like “you just don’t look right in the pool swimming freestyle with sinking legs, while gasping for air and doing touch turns instead of flip turns” (more about that later).

About four years back though I decided I start to take on those bottom three reasons and create a bit of a change in my relationship with freestyle swimming overall. I started to figure out that one of the reasons that my freestyle swimming was so weak was because I had a terrible leg kick. I began to watch other swimmers kick. I even watched some videos on line and eventually I improved my kick just enough to…….

make pretty much no difference at all in my ability to swim freestyle. My legs still felt heavy and sank while I tried to swim freestyle. I found myself exhausted from even one length of the pool. I went back to swimming only breast stroke again on the rare occasions I decided to swim.

Then one day about three years ago, I noticed a swimmer using a leg buoy between their legs while swimming. I had always seen those funny looking, infinity symbol shaped pieces of foam at the poolside: I just never knew what they were used for. I tried one out and realized that my arms got a really good workout and more importantly that my legs didn’t sink while I swam freestyle. For the next year or so, I started to alternate 10 laps of breast stroke with 10 laps of freestyle using the leg buoy. Eventually I got strong enough with my arms that I could even do a couple of lengths once and a while without the leg buoy and manage stay afloat with a simple and gentle dolphin kick.

For the last couple of years I’ve continued my swimming ritual more actively both summer and winter time. I almost always do about half my laps breast stroke and half of my laps freestyle with an increasing number of my freestyle laps done without the leg buoy. Who says that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? The one thing I still have not come to terms with though is the idea of flip turns. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of flip turns!

I mean how can I be expected to time my breathing just right that I should do a somersault at the end of each lap and not take on a nose full of water? What happens when I get too close to the wall before turning and wind up cracking my ankles on the edge of the pool while turning? And I know I must look ridiculous flailing around underwater trying to figure out which way is up and which way is down? I haven’t even tried one flip turn in over 30 years.

I may have conquered elementary freestyle, but when it comes to flip turns, my good old friends fear, insecurity and ego are still very much in the mix. That is until just this past week.

This past week on Monday I found myself all alone in the pool for a much needed zen like swim after a long and full weekend. The pool should have been crowded at 6:00 pm but for some reason it was just little old me. While I was swimming I was thinking about how much Christiana has been focusing on getting our daughter into head down position as we approach the home stretch of our pregnancy. In case you are unaware, there are websites devoted to helping get your child into optimal birthing position. We have taken classes that have included exercises we can do to encourage the baby to get head down. Sifting exercises with a Mexican blanket, inversions on an ironing boards, forearm balances off the edge of the couch. We even heard stories about how some people have tried to go to the pool and do somersaults just to get the baby to turn head down.

While most say that you don’t need to worry until week 34 or 35, our daughter has still been a bit of a traveler though. She likes to move around. She kicks a lot. She dances when the food comes. There are times where it seems like she is doing flip turns inside Christiana’s belly even as she gets bigger begins to run out of real estate to work with. That got me thinking about something this last Monday during my swim in solitude.

I thought if our little daughter can flip around in the pitch dark with joy, no fear and the trust that everything is going too be just fine, then maybe her daddy could at least give it a try too?

As I was winding down my swim on Monday night, I stopped in the middle of the pool and stood up in the four foot deep water. I squatted down so my head was just above the water line and then like I was 12 years old, I plugged my nose and did a somersault. Amazingly I survived!

Next I walked up to the wall and stopped about three feet away, right where those blue marks are at the bottom of each lane. I squatted down and repeated my somersault, this time pushing off the wall with my feet and back towards the middle of the pool as I came up. Once again I survived! With that confidence I decided to give it a shot….a full on flip turn!

I swam a nice, slow length of freestyle without the leg buoy and as I neared the wall I slowed down just enough more to get my breath timed out just right. As my right arm came over my head and dove back into the the water, I pointed my head to the bottom of the pool, flipped over into a somersault, pushed of the wall with my feet and came back up into another stroke of freestyle. I nearly hit my head on the floor and cracked my ankles on the wall, but I did it! I had just completed my first ever successful flip turn of my entire swimming career. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it!

My guess is that over the next few months I’ll mix in a few flip turns along the way with my touch and go turns. Eventually maybe I’ll get to half and half like I have with freestyle vs. breast stroke. Maybe someday I’ll even look like an old pro swimming and kicking and flipping, and if I do I’ll remember to thank my daughter for reminding me that all of our fears are created in our own minds and that the only way to move beyond them is to try something new. There’s a whole lot of new heading into the Herbert house in the months ahead. I can’t wait to see what magic our Aquarius little girl will bring to her Cancerian Daddy’s daily life. I do know this though…

Thanks to her, I’m ready to take the plunge!

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Fatherhood at Fifty – Fighting Words

It’s been a little quiet around this blog for the last month. That seems to happen pretty regularly in November. Often times that has happened in November because I tell myself the story that I’m too busy or because I’m a bit too overwhelmed or because I just can’t think of anything to write about. In fact I even wrote a tongue-in-cheek open letter to the month of November a couple of years back asking for dispensation in future years. You can link to the November 2015 archives on the right side widget of this blog if you want to read it. It’s old energy to me now so I’m not going to recap it on my own.

unnamed-18Interestingly though, none of the aforementioned things have been the cause of this year’s November writing sabbatical. Personally I’ve felt fabulous during the month of November this year. There have been so many classic fall days. I’ve refrained from sugar and alcohol for over a month. I’m eating vegetarian. I’ve lost weight. I’ve felt mentally sharp. Just yesterday though,  I came to the awareness that there has been one very simple reason why I haven’t been writing humorous and positive-minded posts about our journey towards parenthood over the last month. I just couldn’t find the heart to be writing about how great things were going for me when my wife Christiana was struggling so mightily.

On Thanksgiving night, after summoning every ounce of energy she could find to make it through the holiday festivities even though she was carrying the weight of an unbearable amount of sadness, Christiana made the decision to come forward and speak about her recent challenges. It came in the form of a Facebook post at 11:00 pm as I lie next to her sleeping on the couch. If you are not a friend on Facebook or didn’t get a chance to read her words send me an email or comment on this blog and I will send them to you. They are her words and her story and she is a far better writer than I. They should most definitely be read in the first person.

With that little back story it’s time for me to move on to the main topic of this post and explain why I titled it Fighting WordsOver the past few years I have become increasingly aware of the fact that the words we choose to use significantly impact our human experience. It’s no secret that I live in a Universe where I fully believe that our thoughts become our reality and our beliefs shape our thoughts. It’s only a small step further down the path of intention to accept the Truth that our words are a verbal representation of our internal beliefs system, therefore just as surely as thoughts become things, our words become things as well. I’d recommend we choose our words carefully and wisely!

As Christiana began to process that fact that her glucose tolerance tests did not meet the preferred standard, we were faced with the assessment that medical professionals and midwives have a label to use to describe her current situation – gestational diabetes. After some research and careful reflection we have decided that we have the power to render this an non-factor in the duration of her pregnancy and in our choice to pursue a natural childbirth.

Now let me write that sentence another way….

When Christiana failed not only her first blood test, but also the more extensive four hour test, she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This will mean substantial changes in our lifestyle as we fight this disease. We can only hope that we are lucky enough that it doesn’t get out of control forcing her to go on insulin. We don’t want to have to abandon our plan to have a non-medical delivery.

Obviously I don’t have to ask you which sentence is more empowering and which one is fear-based. Choosing fear-based words can be paralyzing. In no way do I mean to make light of any health situation that either my wife or anybody else is managing. I only point out that the words we choose and the stories we create in our own minds go a long way to create the reality that we live in. I’m so grateful and blessed to have so many mentors who have helped me find the path to a more positive mindset and word choice.

Later this weekend I was talking to my friend Emily who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for 36 years and has a fabulous, balanced life. Emily has dedicated her life to managing her wellness. She is an athlete, a speaker, an amazingly caring friend and an inspiration to all who know her. That being said, for years Emily used the words fighting and disease and those words carried an energetic weight, even with her generally positive outlook on life. That is until she shifted her mindset and her word choice and started using words like living with and current situation. In that frame of reference Emily eventually was able to come to a place where she has started speaking about how grateful she is to be managing MS, because it has made her who she is today, that fabulous, healthy and caring person. Again I will say that I do not intend to make light of anything anybody else is managing in their own lives or the words the choose to use. I only urge everybody to try to create a different dialogue and see what shifts might follow.

Of the many things that made Christiana sad over the last month, one of the most challenging things was her fear of being labeled. When someone is given a diagnosis, there is a tendency to step right up and start wearing that label like a heavy cloak. Will all my future pregnancies be labeled as GD? Will I be considered high risk now? Will my friends and family start looking at me differently if I choose to eat a donut?

Then like a gift from the Divine we attended our second natural childbirth class, just as we were processing the information of Christians’s blood glucose test not coming in at the preferred level. In that class our master teacher Tanya spoke about something we have both known and accepted for years. We just needed to be reminded. Here it is:

The only thing we have complete and total control over is our internal circumstances and our reaction to external circumstances. When we try to control external circumstances we can drive ourselves quickly down a path of frustration.

Blood glucose levels are an external circumstance. My high blood pressure is an external circumstance. We can make choices that affect those numbers and refrain from reacting with fear, but in the end it is an external circumstance that we can choose to either fight or to manage. While there may be nothing inherently wrong with choosing the word fight if it carries the energy of putting forth one’s best effort or forming a visualization of persevering in times of need, too often the word fight carries the weight of angst, fear and insurmountable odds.

Look no further than our current day news headlines to see how often the word fight is used to create division, where humanity would be far better served to choose a new dialogue and invest the needed effort to heal, unite and manage.

When our daughter is born in 11 short weeks I will be sure to help Christiana in every way possible to choose the thoughts and words needed to make the birthing process as seamless as possible, but in reality she has already done the work. She’s been studying this hero’s journey for years. She’s followed her powerful intuition to choose the right support team. She’s built the foundation of thought that will help her maintain a positive mindset. She is without a doubt the strongest and the wisest person I have ever known and even when she is working her way through a period of contrast, she already recognizes the hidden gifts within the story. And oh what a story it will be! Our Divine little blessing already speaks to us in so many ways….and her words are always absolutely perfect!

 

 

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Fatherhood at Fifty – Sympathy Weight

For the last 25 years, ever since I took up martial arts and yoga, I’ve had a mutual agreement with my body. The mutual agreement goes something like this:

My part of the deal is to workout regularly and eat pretty well most of the time…

My body’s part of the deal is to find a way to manage during the times that don’t fall under the category of “most of the time…”

The deal has worked out pretty well for the most part. Of course my fitness level has fluctuated a little bit over that 25-year period but I’ve always been someone that people would consider to be “in shape”. I used to run until I decided to be kinder to my joints. I still bike and swim. I practice yoga anywhere from a couple of times a week to everyday in extreme stretches. I even do my martial arts forms and a little Tai Chi a few times a month. Sure, with each passing five year period, my average weight number rises by a couple of pounds and I fluctuate five or so pounds within that range, but I have seldom gotten to the edge of my comfort zone. In my thirties my comfort zone was about 170. By the time I got into my early forties I almost never dipped below 175. At 50 I was a fairly fit 180 pounds.

And then we got pregnant!

Now I’ve often heard the term sympathy weight and the effects that a pregnancy can take on the father’s fitness levels and body shape, but I always thought that was an old wive’s tale or a myth or at the very least something that happened to guys who sat around and ate boxes of donuts all the time. That could never happen to Jim Herbert! Jim Herbert works out. Jim Herbert rides his bike to work 3 days a week – 25 miles round trip. Jim Herbert eats tunafish, brown rice cakes and fruit for breakfast. That could NEVER happen to Jim Herbert! Or could it?

About a month ago I saw a number I never thought I’d ever see on a scale in my entire life. The number was 198 pounds. Gulp! Goodbye comfort zone. I hadn’t just reached the edge. I had totally obliterated it!

“How did this happen?” I thought to myself.

I still get to Bikram yoga at least one day or sometimes even two days per week. I might not cycle 100 miles a week like I did last year, but I get at least one good ride in per week. Yes, I’m eating a bit heavier than normal but it’s not like I’m eating only cheeseburgers and pizza for every meal. I cook good quality homemade meals for my two best girls from real ingredients and whole foods. This all just sort of crept up on me. When Christiana needed a piece of emergency pizza to hold her over in between meals I’d join in the fun. If the donut craving hit, I’d buy a half-dozen instead of just one and wind up splitting them with her. If  she needed the car to go to prenatal yoga on Saturday morning, I’d skip my 90-minute advanced hot yoga class downtown and take the easier 60-minute class closer to home. All of this stuff is perfectly reasonable and it makes total sense that I might gain a few pounds, but pushing 200?!

Okay before I continue here I want to be perfectly clear that I am totally aware that weight is just a number and overall health of a person is measured by so many other factors. I’m also totally aware that I am far more attached to the particular number on the scale than I should be, but the scale has always been a sort of check and balance factor for me. When I got to the edge of my comfort zone I would tighten things up and get back to where I wanted to be by either upping the cardio or doing a nutritional cleanse. In fact every single time in the past when I’ve taken notice that I was on the edge of my comfort zone, I would be back to what I would deem normal within a month. The question that still stands is this:

Is that sort of roller coaster approach to physical and mental wellness normal?

My overall psyche is completely different when I see the number I want to see on the scale than when I see a number I don’t want to see. My mood can fluctuate from good to great after an intense hot yoga class because I realized I sweated out 8 pounds in the studio – yes I do know it’s all water. This is a larger topic for another day and another round of personal psychoanalysis, so for now let’s return the to topic at hand which is that number – 198 pounds!

When I realized that I was approaching 200 pounds I realized I needed to do something. I started telling people that I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my entire life so that I would begin to make a verbal contract with myself (and apparently every human in the Universe that would listen to me) that a change was just around the corner. The funny thing is that every time I mentioned it to someone they had nearly same response, “I’d have never known that. I think you look great.” Each time I would hear that I would go look in the mirror and basically agree with them. The thing is that deep down inside I didn’t FEEL great. My old school habits of self-loathing were increasing again. The amount of negative things I would say about myself and to myself were increasing again. I needed a way to break free.

Each day I would plan on starting clean and then something would get in the way. There would be chilaquiles for breakfast at work. I’d have a craving for burger at lunch. I’d have dinner plans with a friend and we’d share a bottle of wine and a giant piece of chocolate cake afterwards for dessert. For some reason this time around, despite the extremity (in my mind) of the circumstances, I just couldn’t flip the switch on starting The Cleanse.

About two weeks ago I had a day when my stomach was pretty upset. It probably had to do with the amount of food I had eaten that day and the wine I drank that night, but for just a moment I wondered if I had gotten food poisoning. I said too myself in the back of my mind, “Well at least if I have food poisoning it will be the cleanse I’ve been hoping for, even if it is forced upon me by the powers above…”  Minutes later when I checked my weight before bed and saw that number just a hair below 200 still, I thought to myself “I just wish I could find ANY way to get rolling on that cleanse I so desperately know that I need…”

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for,” I will now share with you my updated version of that phrase as it applies to us Thoughts Become Things people:

Be fully prepared for the intentions you set, because once you’ve thought about with intention, it’s going to happen, whether you like the way it happens or not…

I’ve been a little out of sorts lately. I haven’t been able to wear the bite plate that I wear at night because of the dental surgery I had a couple of months ago and that effects my sleep. I snore more when I’m heavier so I don’t get as much rest. I’ve had a lot on my mind with the pregnancy, and the book that is in progress, and the uncertainty about where we might live next year and my multitude of other side projects…so when I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s not as easy to fall back to sleep. My fitness levels are still good for a guy my age, but well below my lofty personal standards.

Tuesday night last week when I got home from work I just pretty much hit the wall. I had the chills and some body aches so I jumped in a bath and then went straight to bed. Many people at work have called in sick over the last couple of weeks so I figured I had caught the bug going around the store. Additionally I had somehow managed to do something to my knee and noticed the next day that it was a bit swollen. For the next couple of days I just didn’t have any appetite. I managed to drink tea and eat a bit of tomato soup, but anything with meat or sugar or carbs seemed totally undesirable to me.

I won’t go into all the twists and turns of the last five days because I still have a bit of follow up care to deal with, but suffice it to say that I found myself in the hospital on Friday afternoon hooked up to an IV fund drip and eventually going home with two very powerful antibiotics that will coincidentally force me to stay on a very simple diet for the next week and a half including no alcohol whatsoever.

Now if I were in different point in time in my life – or perhaps better said if I were viewing this through a different lens – I would likely be feeling sorry for myself and bemoaning my miserable lot in life. But you know what I couldn’t stop thinking about all weekend? I could help stop thinking how grateful I am that all of this happened!

If I had only gotten the 24-hour flu, I probably would have been back at the table eating and drinking like a champ all weekend. If I had only had an issue with my knee I would have hit the pool in Lincoln Square so I could swim a mile or two, which is very low impact on my legs, and then gone right over to Garcia’s for a margarita and a plate of tostadas. If I hadn’t had the concern about why my knee was swollen and red I might not have gone to the urgent care center where the PA told me to go directly to the Emergency Room. It’s like God/The Universe cared about me so much that they wanted to make sure that I didn’t ignore the message that I once again needed to slow down. I needed to prepare the way for what’s ahead. And Oh Boy (or should I say Oh Girl) there is plenty of stuff ahead. What a gift this non-optional, self-manifested period of rest has already been  – and will continue to be in the days and weeks ahead.

I’m eating a little bit more today than I was last week, but I still have no taste at all for any meat or starchy carbs or sugar. Maybe I’ll go on a little vegetarian kick again like I have many times in the past? The thought of a glass of wine actually makes me feel a bit nauseous, which is surprising since my favorite team is playing on Sunday night football tonight. Maybe I’m done with any sort of drinking for a little while? I feel like I’ve already lost at least a few pounds even though I haven’t been able to get any sort of workout in for the entire week. I’m not sure if I have lost weight or not though because I haven’t weighed myself at all. Maybe I’ll check tomorrow and then again maybe I won’t? Maybe I’ll give the old scale under the bathroom counter some time off?

What does all of this mean? As of right now, Im not entirely sure yet. I just now that feel different and it’s the kind of different that I like.

What I do know for sure is that last night when we put our daughter’s crib together it all became even a bit more real. Even though we fumbled around on the floor of our nursery-to-be, me on one leg and her with a big belly in the way in front, somehow we managed to pull off the task together. We missed all the Halloween parties. We missed the gong ceremony we wanted to go to on Friday night. We missed the jazz showcase trumpet show on Sunday with Christiana’s father. But you know what? In the end none of that mattered.

We had the most amazing weekend, just the three of us at home reading, resting and preparing the way for all the magic that lies ahead. We even managed to come up with a little Halloween costume and snap a photo for the archives. Our first ever family Halloween costume, an idea that came to us as if delivered from above after watching a wonderful animated film from director Henry Selick. If you are not familiar, Selick directed the famed Nightmare Before Christmas along with the movie we watched last night called Coraline. He also did the movie based on a famous Children’s book called James and the Giant Peach. With our little peach growing strong inside Christiana’s belly what could possibly be more appropriate?

The Herbert family rests well tonight – all three of us – with the deep sense of knowing that even when we can’t find our own way to what we know in our hearts that we need, there will always be help from Above to assist in finding THE way. Happy Halloween dear friends. I remain, James (and the giant and little peach).

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