Death couldn’t separate us, neither will life

On the 23rd of August this year  my husband went into cardiac arrest. We had fallen asleep tired and content after a long day filled with activities, a Parkrun in the morning for my husband while I watched the kids and did the laundry, a nice meal in Colchester with my eldest son , some handiwork and repairs in his house, a weekly food shopping at the supermarket, some gardening for my husband and some ironing for me, and last but not least, the preparations for the next day Skyride, a family cycle event.

I was awoken around 2.30am by a rasp breathing which I first attributed to my spouse having a nightmare. I gently shook his arm with some comforting words , but this time it didn’t do the trick. I realised that the breathing was louder than usual – and my instinct took over. I turned on the light. My spouse had his eyes open and was laying on his side, motionless. It was clear that he was not seeing me. I didn’t know if he was having a stroke or a heart attack but I just knew that something was very very wrong.

I asked him if he could see me, no answer. I asked him if he could hear me, he groaned. I don’t remember the next questions I asked while I was jumping out of bed and reaching for the phone, dialling 999 with shaking hands, but I remember the last one, ” Do you want me to call an ambulance?”. He groaned. That would be the last time he would signal he was with me.

The operator on the phone was seemingly painfully slow. She was asking all the standard questions, name, address, age, what seemed to be the problem. I was delivering the information quickly, as calmly as I could, knowing that each second was counting, noticing that each of my husband’s breath was getting scarcer. I told her that and I was requested to say “Now!” each time he would inhale. I did as I was told. The frustrated operator, thinking that I had misunderstood her instructions, shouted at me for not doing it. I replied sharply that I had warned her- my husband was not breathing. By the way, now. “Again!”, she exhorted me. But he was not breathing anymore. Just like that. Silence.

And me. Fear. Blind, sheer panic. Thoughts that I couldn’t control, don’t leave me, tell me I am having a nightmare, I will wake up in a minute, this can’t be real. Then it struck me, I couldn’t let him go. I had to get a hold on myself, so I asked: “What should I do?”. “You will have to do CPR”, replied the operator.

I had to run and wake up my third son. My spouse is 6’4″ (196cm) and weighted almost a hundred kilos. I won’t tell you how much I weigh, but it is close to half that and I measure 5’4. I needed help. So I opened my son’s bedroom door, shouted something like “I need your help, now!” and we proceeded to put my man on the floor. Then I started to open the curtains. “Couldn’t you do that in the morning?” wondered my son matter-of-factly. “Do it yourself then, and look out for the ambulance” I ordered while I dropped on my knees, searching with the palm of my hand the little depression on the thorax where I had to apply pressure. And I started pumping.

One of the questions I heard the most since then is:”How did you know what to do?” (or it’s corollary, “I would never been able to do that in a million year”). Like you, I saw it in the movies. Maybe unlike you, I had seen the British Heart Foundation with Vinnie Jones, showing what to do. I also had done years ago a course which in Switzerland is compulsory when you want to pass your driving license, called the Good Samaritan course, which teaches you how to save a life. I started singing ‘Staying alive, staying alive, oh oh oh oh, staying alive…’ while the operator, now on loudspeaker, was trying to give me the rythm with ‘1,2,3,4…’.

All the while I kept thinking. I was two people, maybe three, maybe four, all throughout. I was the person pumping this unresponsive heart, praying she was doing the right thing. I was the instructor telling my son to open the door to the paramedics he saw coming through the window. I was the wife begging her husband not to do this, not to give up, demanding he’d stay with her, that he’d wake up. I stopped to take his pulse, on his wrist, on his neck, on his groin. Nothing. I started pumping again.

What if he had been without oxygen and I’d ‘wake ‘ him up, and he’d be alive but  brain-damaged? What if I’d stopped pumping but somehow he’d breathe again, but would remain brain damaged because I hadn’t fought hard enough? What if it was all for nothing? I never stopped pumping.

My husband took a deep breath, opened his eyes. His whole body raised while he was inhaling, as if he had been drowning and was now back to the surface. Then his eyes closed again and he went back into this deep sleep, this strange absence from consciousness. I kept pumping. “I know you can hear me, don’t let me down, wake up for me, wake up for the children, wake up for your girls”.

A paramedic entered the room, followed by my son. My eldest daughter had just barged in, sobbing. “Am I doing this right?” I asked. “You’re doing this better than I would” said the paramedic. But after a few minutes, I was faltering. He had already open the defibrillator so he dropped next to me and started measuring vital signs. I was asked to open his bag, extract and unpack the ventilator. I had my back turned when the defibrillator was used. The noise was like in the movies but the furniture on the floor seemed to jump in the air. By then my daughter was screaming. I told my son to take her in another room and stay with her. And suddenly the bedroom filled up with paramedics, men, women, and I got out of the way, answering questions while getting dressed, fetching medications my spouse had been taking, trying to help, feeling helpless, useless, abjectly redundant.

I don’t remember if the ventilator was making any noise, but it was working. The stretcher was built, the furniture was pushed, material was gathered. I was asked if I were able to come to the hospital. Would I be driving? Should I call someone? I was answering calmly, I was looking in control, I was melting inside, falling into pieces. My head was completely divorced from my heart, one formulating answers, planning ahead, getting my handbag, putting the sheets in the washing machine, checking on my youngest daughter still blissfully asleep and unaware that her world had changed forever, handing instructions for the next hours to my son, even finally getting change for the hospital parking before getting behind the wheel and driving away.

It was by then almost 4am I think. The night was dark, the temperature warm, the streets looked like decors on a stage. Could I drive? I forced myself to stay within the speed limit. My thoughts were erratic. What would I find at the hospital? Where would he be? Still among the livings or would he have crossed to the land of our unbelievable sorrow? If he had gone, what would I tell the kids? What would I do without him? What sense did all this have? I was trying to breathe, I was trying not to cry. One step at a time, you don’t know anything yet, keep your head, you’ll fall into pieces later, he needs you.

I will spare you the next hours and the next days of a very long parenthesis in our life. My husband was sedated and placed in the critical care unit of our local hospital. The team was sympathetic and I spent many many hours crying and trying to persuade them that this man was worth saving. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on us, I assured them, we were soulmates. This man was the kindest, cleverest, most worthy human being on earth. He was the most helpful,intelligent, useful, charming soul one would ever encounter. I wanted all of them to love him as much as I did. I was warned multiple times that his chances of survival were less than slim, even non-existent. They would try to stabilize him but they didn’t know how long he had remained without oxygen, and they didn’t know what had had caused his cardiac arrest. Everybody was friendly, comforting but not reassuring. Every words spoken was wrapped in caution, almost ambiguity, slowly and carefully delivered.

I had to call and contact family and friends. Deliver the meager news I had. How do you announce to a father and a mother that their son has died in the night, and has been brought back from the dead but you don’t know if he will stay put? How do you tell your kids that their father is in no man’s land? What do you do with yourself, with your thoughts, with your emotions when they are too scary to consider, too big for your courage, too painful to keep breathing?

It took me a few hours before I came to realise that my husband seemed to be reacting to my voice. I would order him to breathe before the ventilator would kick in and when his heart rate was too low. I would beg him to keep his arms down in order not to break the needles when he would start moving. I would hold his hands when he was shivering under his ice vest. I would kiss his face and his hands when I had no more words to speak.

Then it took me a few more hours to convince the nurses and the doctors that somehow my voice was making it to my husband’s mind. But he suddenly woke up, looking straight at me. I asked him: “Do you see me?” and he nodded once. I said: “Do you know who I am?” and he tapped his chest, giving me our signal for ‘I love you’. The nurse grabbed a torch and shoved it in his eyes as he was already laying back. He started calling him by name, lifting his eyelid, and my husband’s pupil started fighting the light.
Half a day later he was awake and smiling. Like a child he was repeating over and over the same questions: Where was he? What had happened? Was is a dream, it looked like a dream…Keeping him down, trying to stop him ripping his tubes out (he had oh so many), talking him out of running away was a hard job. But I was so happy, so happy despite the disquietude of the never ending repetitive questions, despite the disconcerting reactions( “What happened?” -“You had a cardiac arrest” -“Cooool…”).

Then came the hard part. Because if you think that the worst was behind us, you can think again.

The diagnostic was simple. There was none. My husband, who was very fit and healthy, had had a cardiac arrest for no apparent reason, at the tender age of 38. As we didn’t have a cause, this meant that it could happen again anytime. So a defibrillator had to be installed in his chest. The wait lasted only a bit more than a week, but the back-and-forth visits to the ward seemed to last months. The staff on the new ward was less friendly, schedules were more strict. Our kids were reacting in different manners, some pretending to be fine, some telling me they were not, some being downright aggressive and traumatized. We were trying to talk it over and I was doing my best to keep a semblance of family life and routine. Then the operation took place; an ICD (Implantable cardioverter defibrillator) was fitted in another hospital (Papworth, 70 miles away). And finally, after two weeks of travelling, hospital visits, errands (my spouse hated hospital food) and diverse occupations generated by housework, everyday life took over.
Except that it didn’t.

We had had many friends, family and acquaintances helping and visiting at first. I kept our time private as long as my husband was in hospital, diverting helpers and visitors to him while I was doing my best to reorganize my home and get the kids ready for the school new term start – one of my sons was actually moving out and had very poor organisational skills- while juggling with the most unpredictable discussions about life, health issues and whatever it was we were going through. We had tears, mood swings but also laughs. We watched a lot of movies (hospital visits ended at 7pm) and I knitted a lot of socks. Cuddles at bedtime became a long ritual for the youngest.
As long as my husband had been in hospital nurses and doctors spoke to me and involved me in processes and discussions. I was very happy with that until I came to understand that I was supposed to become my husband carer. I was expected to stay with him non-stop until his life would resume to a semblance of normality, but also I was now responsible for his wellbeing, for the strict following of doctors orders, and also in charge for the rest of our household as it was becoming more and more obvious that he couldn’t be expected to participate in any housechores or driving in the near future. I didn’t know what to think about this but it didn’t take me long to figure out that from now on, I would feel inadequate.

My husband’s needs and demands were of course a priority. Helping him to wash, get dressed, were little things meant to pass quickly. I did those tasks with almost pleasure because it was so good to feel his skin under my fingers, to breathe his smell every morning. He was back- that was all that mattered. However my life became  sketchy and erratic. His short-term memory was still unreliable. We would end up with guests I didn’t know were coming, events taking place without forewarning. He would forget what doctors and nurses had said and would become upset at the idea of his own limitations. He was angry and frustrated that he was not allowed to go running (while he could barely stand up and walk a mile without going to sleep for the rest of the afternoon). I had to plan every event, weekly shopping, school runs, making sure someone could come and stay with him while I’d be out. I became annoyed with the stewardship and had to ask him to manage his own activities and visitors as I was already overwhelmed with the maintenance of the house and the organisation of my son’s move out , the packing of boxes, and the trips to Ikea to refurbish his new place. I stubbornly refused to postpone some of the plans we had had before his cardiac arrest. I repainted the guests room with the help of friends and family, then redecorated entirely the new vacant room in the house. I was advised to postpone all that and wait for calmer times. But I knew better, there wouldn’t be calmer times anytime soon.

My husband’s first alert was a blood clot in his arm. He complained about it for a while, not listening to my recommendation to call a doctor. We ended up with an ambulance at the door and new paramedics to meet. When they took him away, I cried uncontrollably for an hour. I was so scared that things would kick in, so frightened by the way it happens so quickly, without much, or any, warning. My spouse kept joking all throughout, and it slowly downed on me that something unexpected was occurring.

So far my husband has been, since I met him 14 years ago, my everything. We have shared our lives with as little absences as we could, and we talk about our inner thoughts, from the innocuous and banal to the crazy, funny and ugly, without hesitation. The word ‘soulmate’ seemed insufficient to describe our relationship: we were one. Most of the time I knew what he thought, and more often than not he could have said the same about me. We shared most of our values, and despite very different tastes in music, films and hobbies, our desire to involve the other into our personal world never faded.

But now came the irony. I felt cheated. My husband’s cardiac arrest involved both of us, but it actually divided us. One of us had remained sitting on the fence, and we were not sure who it was. He had no recollection of what had happened. For all it was worth, he had gone to bed one night and woken up three days later. He was feeling punished for something he felt had happened to someone else. And he was growing more and more frustrated and angry to suffer the consequences, feeling weak, exhausted, vulnerable. To be honest, he had always been active, curious, energetic and enthusiastic. Now he spent most of his time sleeping, and when he was awake, tired. Patience is not his primary virtue. As for me, and my children, the story was different. We had seen him, to put it bluntly like his GP did, dead in front of us. The violence and the suddenness of the event, the roller coaster of our emotions the following days, the soldiering on and the incertitude that had led our lives since then was just a huge trauma that none of us had yet overcome. Seeing my husband complain about his physical inability to run for the moment looked to me like a very cheap price to pay . His progress in a month had been nothing short of miraculous. Doctors and statistics had been clear: his chances of survival had been less than 1%. Better still, he had regained all his faculties, or not far from it. I felt cheated. We were still reeling from the shock, and he was complaining he couldn’t run. It felt like we were in two parallel universes. It was still me, it was still him and the love was still there. But somehow we didn’t understood each other. We had been in the same place, at the same time. But how we had lived this had been on the most opposite scale of different.

It is very difficult to see a loved one struggle, and not to be able to help him, not because you don’t understand, but because your perspective is very dissimilar. Truth is, I died before, a long time ago, on an operating table. I woke up with a broken rib cage, a doctor who was insulting me because I had died on him (his words) and anomic aphasia (for which I had to do years of speech therapy). But I clearly remember the bemused and puzzled feelings I had confronted to the reaction of people around me. I had no clue about their sentiments, no grasp of the potential hell I had put them in. It all sounded like a dream, a joke or a fantasy. But it took years before I could live normally, and curiously I felt down and sorry for myself for several months afterwards as if I had lost some sense of purpose. Death can happen to you, just like that, without you even realising that it is mowing you down. What is it all about then?

Luckily my husband is a positive man. He not only went back to work within two weeks of having his ICD fitted but he started helping to organise a charity run for the British Heart Foundation. He began to cook from time to time and is now able to walk up to 4 miles a day. His tests have shown so far that his fitness levels are above what is expected of him, and it is probable he will run again soon, although maybe not to his previous extent.

I live every day one by one. I am not sure I am ready for all the surprises that will come my way, but I intend to go forward. I still don’t sleep much at nights, and I don’t expect that I will in the near future. All I hope is that either things will improve or that I will get used to it. Being suspended in time is a strange feeling because it seems to take all control out of your life. But time, as they say, is of the essence, because you never know how much of it you have.

What I’ve learned in my Work Based Learning course…

In the Spring I took a compulsory course for my degree in Finance that was centered on Work Based Learning.

For the ones who don’t know the concept, it is fairly simple. You take an area of your work that needs improvement, you review in detail what you have done, you reflect on the problem, pool and research potential resources and voila, you try something else or deepen your training.

The good side of it is that you can tailor the research to your needs and eventually to the ones of your organisation. It meant that during the course I could choose what I wanted to tackle. It was compulsory to do some time management as it is a common problem. I soon discovered that my time management has a serious downside: I didn’t have enough hours during the day to cover my schedule.  Most – if not all- of the other students had problems such as procrastinating, delaying or being put under pressure by their company. In my case, it turned out that my work was not my main problem. Not that I am so good that this particular area doesn’t require attention, but because I am constantly monitoring my efforts, progress and learnings anyway. Not having a boss, a colleague or a client, I was avoiding almost all of the pitfalls of the course. Even better, I like my job. I discovered I was a rarity.

But what is meant by work is not just your paid job. It is any kind of work you actually accomplish, such as the housechores ( up to 5 h a day in my case), studying ( 2 hours a day), doing the school runs ( 2h daily) and whatever hobby you take. To cut a long story short I was working up to 17h a day.

I was told I should tackle my Work Life Balance. It meant I either had to start being a slob or delegate tasks. I decided to delegate.

I went through the process. I made a mind map of all the activities I had to do and the ones I wanted to do. Read numerous books on the subject, including the ones of David Allen. That was interesting. In my to do list I had things such as :

-working, studying, doing the schoolrun, cleaning, washing, cooking, shopping, ironing, dusting, vacuum cleaning, gardening…

In my ” wants” list, I had this:

-writing kids books, learning to draw, dancing, knitting, doing embroidery, writing, reading, travelling, learning how to sew clothes, painting, sculpting, exercising, going to see movies.

I clearly didn’t have the time. But I was decided to apply my learning. ( It was also part of all the assessments I had to do and the final exam). So I organised a meeting with my family, exposed my problem ( they were shocked), asked for help, set up rules ( such as getting committed to the tasks, having regular meetings to evaluate process, progress, problems and performance, possibility of withdrawing at any time etc). My first surprise was that my whole family decided to do some jobs. We made a list of all the jobs, of a schedule and who was going to do which task. I expected boredom, procrastination, recriminations and other enjoyable challenges.

But my assumptions were wrong. First lesson learned: it is not because you know the folks around you that you know what they think and what they are capable of. I didn’t have any complaints. It doesn’t mean that everybody was happy. But nobody was unhappy.

Second lesson: I didn’t have to set up tasks or ask or beg. In the morning at breakfast the kids would get their directions and then that was it. I never had to ask. I never had to show them how to do anything. It turned out that they had seen me doing it for all these years- so they knew.

Third lesson: We learned from each other. They learned that I had needs too, and wants, and they thought I had the same rights as they did. I learned that I had no reason for feeling guilty of sitting down with a book and a cup of tea. I watched them work then play- and there were no particular value put in these different activities. You do what you have to do or what you want to do.

Fourth lesson: The kids started to reflect too. I talked about my work, my studies, my interests.  They listened. Then they started to help each other, swop jobs, do them even when it wasn’t their turn and showed respect for other people’s work. Now that they were doing the jobs, they didn’t like seeing them messed up. So they paid attention, to their work, to the others’.

I had a few week of peace and the effects on my job was amazing. I could sleep more, I had some free time to do my courses, I became faster and better. I earned more money during that Summer than I had done in the last 2 years.

I then looked at my list of wants and realised that it was not realistic. But I am a woman with a plan. So I started with one project- learn sewing. I kept knitting too and got some time to keep reading more regularly.

I finally went on holiday for a week in Paris- and I felt just better.

If I had made the assumption that this rosy state of affair would falter, I would have been right and wrong. My sons kept the habits they took during the summer. But as they are back to school now, I still have a lot of work on my hand- again. But I was prepared. I went part-time trading and decided I’d only do one course at the time for the year to come. My sewing lessons are a regular occurence and I am now able to do dresses. Learning to do trousers now.

So I’ve learned something. Isn’t what courses are made for?

I’m back

Due to demand I’ve come back.

Been busy these last months. I’m still doing my degree at University, but have now decided that it would be better to do 2 degrees instead of one. The reason being that doing Economics is very interesting but it doesn’t cover all the questions I have about the markets and how things work. I realised that you have models in Economics, models in Finance, models in Accounting- and I thought : ” What the heck, let’s try to get the full picture here”. So here I am. Doing 2 degrees.

The exhaustion is at point break right now. I’m finishing one course – a technical one about how to do research using search engines, academic journals and info online. It’s interesting and boring at the same time. Interesting because I’m suddenly plunged into some hidden faces of the Web I was not aware of. If I knew about blogs, the dangers of Wikipedia and how to use Google or Bing ( Bing being now incorporated to Yahoo), I didn’t know anything about,  academic resources or RefWorks.

So I’m learning, but as always with computers, unexpected things happen. Links disappear, computer fails, bookmarks get mysteriously erased and it can be pretty tedious to explore what looks like an maze for a neophyte like me. Persevering though as the more information I gather, the better armed I am.

I have already booked 3 courses for the year to come so I expect to be even more challenged in the future. I find difficult to run out of time and I trust my house looks like a tip right now. But on the other side I am gaining a growing sense of satisfaction while stepping forward into the unknown. My self-confidence is definitely developping, especially after doing a 100% at a maths course; who would have told I could get into maths? Not me. But my fears are not as strong as my hunger for knowledge and the worst that can happen is that I have to give up- and come back later, hopefully.

So work it is.

Back to life, back to reality…

Sorry folks, my life has been taking a very fast curve during these last months and I am afraid I went a bit off road.

First by the end of January I had a health scare. That’s when I learned that cancer is just a bad word, not a sentence. Went through one of these operations that are supposed to last 45 min and leave you with a nifty scar on your belly button but ended up most day in theatre and woke up with three scars that are definitely stopping me from wearing a bikini in public for the rest of my life. It took me some time to recover and half a stone.

The scars of course are not only physical. When you’re being told that there is a nice tumour exploding your ovary and that’s just the beginning of it, one will be – I hope- excused from walking down the street in a cold January afternoon wondering what is going to happen next and just wanting to hold her kids and husband in her arms. I wasn’t inshock, I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t numb but I felt so awfully sorry for my family, with an intense feeling of guilt because my body was letting us all down.

The harsh part is breaking the news and getting organized. The children were sent to school, friends and family in order for me to recover quietly at home. Hubby was at work- in a new place- and the heating had to be changed just then. It took me three months to warm up again. I was taking things as they came, reading my University course – by then I had started my third course and getting ready for my exams on the two first ones-, catching up with petty tasks that I could undertake from my bed and watching enough dvds to my heart content. But most of all, I slept.

Once up and running again- not too much time to think it all over- I went straight into my exams. Six stressful weeks followed by the end of which I had to withdraw from my third course as I had the feeling I was totally missing the point. ( Not the opinion of my tutor or the University administration as I was one the best students of my class). But I came to realise that in order to study economics, I had to understand maths and models and I couldn’t accept just being ” good enough”. So I enrolled straight away on a compulsory course for a degree in finance about developing effective performance at work and another about maths. Of course I thought I would collapse, especially as we were having our windows replaced at the same time- lots of dust, of mess and a house tthat is upside down and noisy.

But you know what- I’m still standing. The house is in the process of being springcleaned, I am back to work and I am at the top of my class with my first assessment. It is a challenging time but it forces me out of my comfort zone. I trust I’m not the only one who has to take a leap of faith towards what the future will bring- so I am ready for all the first steps I will have to take.

In and out of YouTube

I wanted to help my best friend practice some English. So I had this wonderful idea to set up an account on YouTube videos and do every day- or as often as I could- a little video where I would pick up a subject for the day. It had to be simple, clear, concise in order for my friend to understand what I was talking about ( she says her English skills are a bit limited).

So I did a little video on the economical situation we are in. Fairly basic: I was just explaining the different root causes of our present recession. The reasons given were: bankers lending money to the wrong people; governements encouraging people to spend; central banks that kept interests low; housing market seen as a pension investment; developping countries expanding- and so on. Then I said that I would come to the eventual solutions in another video.

The feedback was instant. Some guy told me that although I was cute, I had no idea what I was talking about; we are in a depression he said and I should listen to Peter Schiff to learn my economics theories. I had “obviously no idea about the causes link”.  The rant was a tad longer than this, but if I was mildly amused by the reaction, I was definitely shocked by the violence of the retort and the inexactitude of the comments.

You see, I am a woman. In my video I tried to stay neutral and not give away what my thoughts were on the current situation. Although I believe we are seriously on the way to a depression- and a big one- I cannot bring myself to say so for two reasons: one is that a depression is officially a ” prolonged” recession, and a recession has to last on average 13 months. As the US have officially announced that this recession had started in december 2007, I don’t feel authorized to revoke their expertise to decide that we are now in a depression. And  two, actually I will not even say so in February- after the 13 months deadline- as it would simply mean that this recession is a tad longer than average, but not prolonged as yet. For that I would probably wait for a 16 months deadline- the length of the last long recession we had. Keep in mind please that the Great depression ( 1929-1933) lasted officially 4 years.

It doesn’t mean in any way that I believe we are not entering full blast in a depression. I actually do. But I can’t say we are in one yet- because the term would be incorrect.

Funnily enough Peter Schiff says the same…My commentator must have been asleep when Mr Schiff says the word ” recession” in his interviews. Or he’s throwing tomatoes at his tv/computer screen every time he says it, I don’t know. And I have to add that if I agree with Mr Schiff on a lot of his analysis, some of his views are changing quite fast and if you carefully listen to some comments made in the past, some of his views turned out to be wrong  ( the fall of the $ is still expected). It doesn’t mean he’s incompetent, but it is very difficult to predict the future and to be right ALL OF THE TIME. Look at Nouriel Roubini. As Mr Schiff, he did spot the credit crunch crisis way before a lot of people. But now his views are seen as wrong ( he’s in favour of the bailouts and thinks it’s the way to go). Gurus usually last as long as their analysis are seen as right. Then another one takes the throne.

As for the causes, remember, I was trying to be basic and concise. Of course I can go into deep details, such as the reasons why banks started lending to people who couldn’t afford a mortgage in the first place. Think Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, threats to the banks that wanted to refuse to play the game- and we can start digging from there. In my comments I was explaining how we were all to blame in the end as I believe it is time for everyone to take responsability. Blaming others is not going to change the future now but if we all take responsability, collectively, we can see a bigger picture appearing and try to decide where we stand and what we are going to do about it.

So…I realise how Youtube can be a fantastic tool for publicity and marketing – which I suspected already- but also what kind of double-edged sword it can be. It seems that most people watch/ listen to it distractively and the result is that they post comments that are inaccurate or stupid. My own experience was not too bad, but I wanted to see by myself how it worked. So I picked up a lot of videos about economics that I watched carefully- and then I read the comments. Most of them were insulting and started with: you don’t know what you’re talking about…, go and watch..( put a guru’s name here) and learn real economics. It was pathetic. The good comments- the ones that had a point and made sense- were usually explaining simply why they disagreed. They didn’t have the word ” moron” in them. But these were not the majority.

I took my video down. I had a few reasons to do so, but at the bottom of them was lingering feeling that  don’t want to be the butt of comments that were so depreciative. You see, telling me that I am cute when I’m talking work, that really killed me.

“Madagascar Escape 2 Africa”

I was not keen on the first Madagascar, which I saw with my kids and thankfully never had to watch again. So I went to this one dragging my feet- just a little bit. My beloved husband fell asleep after 10 min but we were all to mesmerized to notice. We didn’t even noticed when he woke up.

The music of the fim is energetic and enthusiastic – as the movie is, really. THe plot still fails to please me and there was some reminiscence of the Lion King that I found a tad insulting- we could have seen better than a remake of that. But…The penguins are extraordinarily funny ( the guy(s) who write their part must be high on something but it is sooo good) and the rest of the cast have their funny moments. All in all it was enjoyable.

Luckily I won’t have to watch it again, but if I have to, it will be alright. But just once.

“The tale of Despereaux”

Kids movie. A mouse saves the day in a kingdom where soup was popular. A rat deviates the course of things and humans, rats and mice end up being unhappy. Of course it takes a David to put things right and show his world that you should never underestimates someone smaller than you.

My girls ( aged now 6 and soon 5) loved it. It had enough action and events to keep me awake. As it wasn’t a Disney movie the graphics were refreshing and quite elegant. The story is good enough.

For small children though.

“Yes man” with Jim Carrey

I never was a fan of Jim Carrey at his beginnings. Ace Ventura was boring me to death. But when Carrey started playing things such as ” Truman show” or “The number 23”, I became interested. Because the guy has talent- a lot of it- if given the chance. “Yes man” was a film I really was longing to go and see for the plot and for the main actor.

Amazingly I was happy throughout the movie. Carrey’s performance was great and believable. Getting older suits him wonderfully. The guy is becoming seriously sexy. George Clooney- you’re not my type. The plot was good. A guy who’s trying to stay on the safe side ( aka turning into a zombie) ends up in a seminar where he’s being questioned about his beliefs and challenged to seize opportunities. Being on the superstitious side, he follows the plan- with hilarious consequences. But there is something more skin deep than that. The opportunities – although a bit stretched on the reality side- prove that every challenge can be worth taking in life.  Carrey discovers that life is worth living and good things ensue.

That is truly an optmistic movie. It doesn’t make you feel stupid and it shows that you can have a life outside the box. The money issue that we are spammed with at the moment is put back in its right perspective.

Carrey, you made my day. All my family liked it. I will buy the dvd and plague friends and family to go and see it.

It is not a masterpiece. But it is the very best movie  have seen this year.

The learning mature student experience

…is tough, guys. I have to structure my reports. My tutor has explained to me that my style is conversational- which is lovely but doesn’t appear professional. I get the point and I’m working on it. But it is doing my head in sometimes.

My main problem to be honest is that the matter ( introduction to business studies) doesn’t interest me that much. Learning how a business functions and is structured could always be useful I guess, but subjects such as HRM ( Human resource management) sort of anaesthetises my brain. Don’t get me wrong- I dig the concepts. Job design, development and training methods, Theory X and Theory Y…I get the points. But when I have to draw a report about this kind of subjects I go brain dead ( The anaesthetic didn’t work too well I’m afraid).

So I am suddenly struggling with words. What is important here? What isn’t?

My favourite subject – which is economics- doesn’t give me this type of problems whatsoever. I enjoy the whole proccess- reading, learning, doing exercises, reflecting, even applying on a daily basis. Ok let’s be honest again- I bloody love the subject. And tryin go from the theory to reality just makes do leaps and bonds. It’s fascinating to see how economics apply to about anything. But businesses…forget it.

My fellow students seem as passionate as I am. I’ve been trying to organize a reunion to explore ideas and exchange knowledge but to no avail. On 27 people two seemed vaguely interested. None have asked me for a date. I gave up.

What I found though curious is how much people keep using their own experience at every level on any subject. Whatever we study the same topic comes back to haunt the forum: it’s me time and what I’ve been through- good or bad. I try to relate and occasionally post my own two pence of experience in the workfield- but what I see really is that ” the big picture” is almost always lost. Amazon, Tesco and other big companies play the role of the baddies. Their policies are close to slavery procedures. People talk about their rights a lot. one of them talk about their duties, and even less what the economical requirements of our time do to the business world in general. I may be out of subject here, but I am amazed to see that no one put themselves in a big company shoes. HRM is the holy Grail of working pleasure. Really? Does this reflect reality? Or does it only for a small part of the world population?

But this kind of blindness or blissful ignorance is socially acceptable it seems. I was talking to a banker last week- in Switzerland- and I was underlining that the world population that lives in famine has now reached the billion. That’s not exactly good news, is it, to know that one sixth of the population of earth is dying of hunger? Is anybody thinking about a war here? I was told that this was not new. After all, inequalities had always and will always exist. Let’s move on to another subject.

But I don’t take it as lightly as that. Add the statistics. Population without food on the increase. Fertilizers prices rising. Small farmers ( 80% of the farming world) not planting as much food as they used to. More people without their basic needs being fulfill. What is going to happen?

It is a far far away problem. It almost seems that it is actually taking place on the moon- or even further. Right now what our Wester world is concern about is that instead of buying 10 gifts for each kids in a household, their parents will only buy one or two. Aw, how sweet. That hurts indeed.

We live now in a world where it is time to set our priorities right. Governements are bailing out companies that creating their own misery, rewarding them for their greediness and stupidity. The ones who didn’t commit those offences are being punished by watching dishonest/ unproductive concurrents getting their beggars money when themselves have to just keep going in the current environment- with no support whatsoever. People who can’t repay their loans are encouraged to take another one. If they can’t pay the first one, how can any governement imagine they could pay the last one? Money is being thrown out of the windows- but the results seem only to be delayed. How many individuals debts could have been erased if that money had simply ben given to them? The last time I heard a number, I was told that half of the world individual debts could have been erased. I don’t know how to check these numbers at the moment- but even if it were a quarter only, wouldn’t it have been a better solution?

I’m afraid I’m getting carried away again. That’s why I went back to University- to learn to structure my thoughts, to expand my knowledge and ultimately, hopefully, to do something about this chaotic mess. What I’ve learned so far is that I still have a lot to learn a lot to explore and that overcoming smaller minds issues will be challenging.

Merry Xmas to you all.

Back to life, back to reality….

I was away. In a sense. It dawned on me, a few months ago, that I love my job. I am becoming more and more consistent and my knowledge now is giving me this ” intuition” feeling that keeps me away from bad trades. Now let’s get this straight before I go any further: intuition here is of course sarcastic. It is based on the amount of experience I have been accumulating through the years. I now know how to read my charts like an open book- and when I don’t, I simply stay out. Yes, it is that simple.

And it has become rather boring. There is so much money you can make when you respect your plan and I can’t take more than 3 trades a day on average as I have a tendency to damage my eyes if I stay behind a computer for too long. But the truth is that I love to learn. I love the challenge. And staying behind my computer watching the mini-sized Dow was not enough anymore.

I wanted to do commodities. And maybe have a look at my old Nemesis- the FX market ( to be clear, I have never traded it much. But I still don’t get it). So I started studying the intermarket relationship. And then it hit me. It hit me hard because I was trying hard to figure out how all this work out and the more I studied, the less it made sense. Take gold for example. I saw some people swear that Gold would reach $2000 an ounce by mid 2009. Other say thatGold will go down the drain in a deflationary move like the rest of all commodities. I’ve heard of margin calls, deleveraging, governement selling and hedge funds panicking; I’ve listened to investors swear that they want to protect their assets and buy more; I’ve read articles about the fact that gold will explode once the selling by the biggies is done and overdone and the people’s action will actually sink in. But what I’ve learned most of all is that nobody knows what is happening. On a daily basis you have your reading. But in 3 months time, better ,in one or two years, what I see is guessing.

So I decided that there was a lot I didn’t know. In order to have a clue, I needed some fondations. Reading books as they come my way was not enough anymore. I wanted a structure. Something solid, to which I could go back and build my own vision. I didn’t want other people ‘s opinion, I wanted mine- not as a reaction to something I learn or I hear, based on some knowledge.

I went back to University. I registered for business studies before realising that I could make it simpler and go to Economics. Now the Uk system is a tad strange. If you want to register with the best Universities you have to go through a process of interviews, exams and a few other requirements and from my first contacts, it turned out that I was too old, not sponsored by any big companies or name and in short not interesting enough. Oh oh. On one phone call basis I was not straight away turned down but warned to look elsewhere. Although I am usually a fighter I decided that the wiser route was to prove myself and show that I was committed. So I registered with the very open minded Open University. And I enrolled straight away for two level one courses. I was told it was easy. Well…It was half true. One course is easy, one is not.

The easy one is all about money. It’s about income, taxes, insurance and the Uk system of finance. I love it. That’s probably why I find it easy. The other course is an introduction to business studies. It is a nightmare. It has more concepts per page than I have socks and knickers in my drawers. Most of them seem so complicated that I even dream about them. I have to reread every sentence three times before I even figure out what it meant. And I feel constantly stupid and slow because I have no idea about this stuff. It is not that i don’t understand it- it is that the way it is said and explained look so complicated. It looks to me as if someone tried hard to look clever and made it as complicated as they could. Then you read something like ” Outliers: The story of Success ” by Malcom Gladwell and you find half of one book explained and you go : ” Aaaahhh…why couldn’t they tell it like that?”.

But guess what, I’m not quitter. Although the matter doesn’t interest me one bit, I hold on. It looks like a real challenge. I have to be concise, to study hard and to respond to other people’s views. So I do it.

University is a whole new world. You find people who are keen on studying and people who make excuses for their lack of organisation. One thing you learn in trading is that ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. At University is becomes even truer. I end up spending most of my weekends studying and it took me two weeks to do my first 2 assignments as unfortunately it turned out that my two course each gave me an assignment for the same date. Anyway I did them the best I could- rewrote them about a dozen times and ended up praying that I had understood what I had been supposed to do. But I handed them one day early as I thought that what I wanted most now was some feedback- that would allow me to do better next time. I hope.

So now I’m working part time, studying the other part time and doing what i used to do anyway. It is extremely tiring but I am happy anyway. It is one of the first time I’m doing something entirely for myself. My family seems to accept this with a generosity without limits. The house looks alright although now they all have to participate and do tasks for me. Nobody’s complaining so far. I’m truly amazed- and blessed.

So here you go. I struggle of course- nothing’s ever easy. Otherwise everybody would do it. And the trade offs are to been seen. But I trust that I made the right choice and I’m looking forward to the future. I probably need the courage as this is just the beginning. I have my doubts about my abilities but the truth is- if I don’t try, I’ll never know. The sky’s the limit, the world is my oyster…All that sort of things.

So far I love it.