The beautiful Chaos that is Christmas in a Portuguese household

The beautiful Chaos that is Christmas in a Portuguese household

The countdown has begun…


Tis the season to be jolly tralala lala la… its ok you can go ahead and hum that carol along with me, with only 6 days left until Christmas.  The stores are all decked out with Christmas décor – it is official!

Like with any major festive event you have those individuals who get super excited to celebrate the season and have already done or prepped for their Christmas Shopping, have their Christmas décor out and are ready to immaculately decorate their home, they have carols playing in their cars and home and are utterly joyful leading up to the festive season.  Then you get those individuals that are less phased by the twinkling lights and festivities and end up quickly putting up a small Christmas tree a couple of days before Christmas as a result of some peer pressure. Irrespective of which side of the spectrum you’re on, one can’t help but admit that Christmas is a special time.  Christmas for me and my family has always been special not so much because of the ideas of getting gifts and going on holiday but because of the traditions that have been passed down, from a cultural and family perspective.

Going back to my Childhood

For many Portuguese families, Christmas eve is the Highlight of Christmas. Many of us being Catholic going to church for Midnight mass is almost an unspoken rule. I personally have had bittersweet feelings about this tradition. I have had moments where I highly disliked this tradition especially in the moments when I was struggling to stay awake during the long Portuguese celebrated masses that just went onnnnn and onnnn in my young adult life. But this tradition has also been the cornerstone of some of my fondest childhood memories.

Because my parents both work such long hours in the shop, early Christmas eve would be when our Christmas tree would come out, my mom would get home and start making a hearty chicken soup for us to eat before we left for church while my dad and older brother would sit with me and help decorate the Christmas tree, then we would bath and put our Sunday’s finest on, have supper as a family which was often not possible and rush off to church because in-between that someone had fallen asleep and we ended up running late. The Church would have this beautiful nativity made up that would have a baby Jesus displayed only from the start of mass that always fascinated me – an external representation of the true spiritual meaning of Christmas. After mass family friends would gather and exchange greetings and we would end up going to someone’s house to have us kids open our presents and play until early hours of the morning.

A few hours later we would gather at someone’s house for a chaotic lunch and the moms would be cooking up a storm of a meal they have been prepping for weeks and exchanging stories, the dads would be playing cards, getting into heated debates about who actually won and telling their jokes and stories from Madeira while munching on Portuguese delicacies they had driven to Rio Douro (which is a madhouse over Christmas) to go buy  and us kids would be playing and being carefree, enjoying the sweet smell of the cakes mom had made that morning lingering in the air – just joy all round, set in motion by Christmas Midnight Mass.

Christmas 2019

Over the years it’s been hard to keep some of these traditions, life changes, people through different life phases, families can’t always be together due to distance or obligations with new family members, etc. This year, I felt a strong need to bring back some of those traditions since it will be my first Christmas as a mom. I want my son to start experiencing the special, beautiful chaos that is a Portuguese Christmas, so I have said to our family members the gift we want this year is the gift of their time – the greatest gift you can really give and so Christmas Lunch will be at our house this year.

I am so excited to go to Midnight Mass and start the Christmas celebrations with a age old religious tradition that means so much me, to cook up a storm for my family, although I have handed over the baking duties to the talented ladies around me (I would not want to punish anyone with my baking – that would defeat the purpose.)  to having mom and mom in law spoil my son with attention and have my sister in law help in the Kitchen, to have hubby run around pouring drinks for everyone and asking me for stuff while my mom loudly tells my dad to go help him and to have my little niece want to play with Coco (our dog) causing her to run all over the house in loud excitement,while my brother tries to catch her, to sending my brother in law to the shops to get something I forgot for a dish, in a mix of Portuguese and English all while wondering aloud where is Jose – he is late!  And finally, to have everyone come together over a meal and share memories, stories and laughter. Sjoe that was a mouthful, but that is the beautiful chaos of Christmas in our Portuguese Household.

A carefully planned road trip can lead to success

A carefully planned road trip can lead to success

A carefully planned road trip can lead to success

 

My journey as a Virtual Assistant has not been an uneventful road-trip without any potholes or road blocks.

When I started my journey as a Virtual Assistant, it was a means to an end.  A way of making money after having my job of 24 years pulled out from under me. It was a case of sitting in my vehicle and starting the engine and driving, occasionally stopping for fuel and then continuing my journey.  I have to say I was a cautious driver, never wanting to turn left onto the dirt road.

As with many a carefully thought out road-trip, one cannot take your eyes off the road. If you do, there are bound to be challenges and I have had my fair share on my journey.  There have been times when I have hit a major roadblock.  When my journey has come to a complete standstill and I have had to get out of my vehicle pop the hood and look inside to see what needs to be addressed.  In some instances, it has been a case of topping up on my knowledge and my vehicle roars into life again, and off I go.

There have been other times when I have not been so lucky and the road side assistance have questioned me, and made me take a long hard look at myself, this had led to lengthy delays while my vehicle has been up on blocks, until the engine is repaired and I am once again able to turn the key and start driving again.

You will know I am sure, that on any road-trip one stops on-route to have a break and recharge the batteries, whilst reflecting on your journey.  I have found that these breaks lead to a refreshed view on things.  It has been during these picnic breaks that I have taken decisions to drive along the dirt roads less travelled.  The dirt roads came with challenges for the cautious driver.  I had to negotiate twists and turns of acquiring new skills and working in unchartered working territories.  I do have to say though, that at the beginning of the left hand turn onto the dirt road, it took a while to enjoy this new found route of travel.  I have looked at the new scenery with a smile full of confidence and self-belief that anything is possible.

This journey has taught me to become a helpful traveller.  A few years ago I would have kept to myself and not shared my experience and knowledge with any other Virtual Assistants.  This has changed, thanks to my VA Connect mechanics.  They have always been at the road side to assist, whether it was a flat tyre, major overhaul service or just a picnic break.

My petrol gauge is on full and my vehicle is ready.  I wake up every-day looking forward to my journey, wondering what I will learn and how I will grow!

Thank you!

 

7 Reasons why it is good for a women to be her own boss

7 Reasons why it is good for a women to be her own boss

 

Internationally and in South Africa, every year we celebrate the amazing achievements of women and the progress we have made towards gender equality.  Women everywhere are recognised for their leadership, particularly in business.  Of course not everyone can be “Woman of the Year” but every women who is her own boss is a leader.

This year, the  United Nations encourages women to innovate, think equal and build smart.  Here is what the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, aims for:

“Let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone (https://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/)”.

With encouragement like this, women are finding the freedom to be their own boss all over the world and embrace these ideals.   They empower themselves and are am example to other women and girls and free themselves to achieve.

But it’s easy to overlook this freedom if you only focus on the bottom line when running a business.

 

Free to choose!

Whether you are single, a wife or a mother, you can choose how your time is spent for a balanced life.  It doesn’t matter when, how long, or where you are working as long as you deliver.   You  are in control  You choose how to meet the challenges of running your business because the responsibility begins and ends with you.

 

Free to grow as a person!

As your own boss, you go from strength to strength by not relying on the approval of a boss.  You measure your success by what you achieve.    When things go right no one else takes the credit, you are the one who becomes more and more confident by being the boss.

 

Free to learn!

You learn every day that you manage your life, whether you realise this or not.  You can devote that little bit of extra time to learn how to improve whatever aspect of your life and work, whether it is related to running a business or not.

 

Free to earn!

There is no ceiling on your earning capacity nor that of your employees.  Unlike being employed at a set salary, when you have your own business there is no waiting and hoping for a tiny increase in your salary.

 

Free to create!

You don’t have to be the creative type to find better ways to do business, or how to make everyone’s work fun and rewarding.  As an entrepreneur you must and will innovate to solve problems, use new technologies, improve your service and create new products.

 

Free to give back!

When you hire staff you help fulfill their own hopes and dreams.  This is a perfect opportunity to create an amazing job and work environment for yourself and for others.  You are giving back to others as well as growing the economy.

 

Free to celebrate!

This year Women’s Day in South Africa focuses on focuses on celebrating the strength, beauty and love of all South African women.  As your own boss you are free to love what you do, and do the work you love.

You can be very, very proud of yourself and everything you do and celebrate your strength and entrepreneurial spirit, not only on women’s day but every day of the year.

3 Tips to kick the mid year slump’s butt!

3 Tips to kick the mid year slump’s butt!

3 Tips to kick the mid-year slump’s butt!

 

 

It’s mid year and you’re looking back at what you’ve accomplished so far… Disappointed? Don’t fret you still have another few months to get it right! Yeah mid year slump is such a real thing for me.  You hoped that you would be a little bit further along the line by now but hey, sometimes things don’t always go as planned so stop beating yourself up about it!

Luckily I’m bringing you a couple of tips to pick yourself back up and keep pushing, maybe you’ll be able to accomplish that goal after all 😉

 

Re-align your goals

We are prone to make a ton of goals at the beginning of a year but sometimes you need to step back and ask yourself if those goals really still resonate with where you’re going in life/career/relationships etc. If you’ve written down your goals a couple of months ago, sit down and ask yourself if you really need to have accomplished them by the end of the year. What’s happened from then until now, what have you achieved?  Re-structure so your goals align with the vision you have for yourself as we’re coming into the last part of this year.

 

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Let’s face it, life happens… I didn’t know I’ll be moving this year, it just crept up on me and bam! I still haven’t launched a course I was creating because I had to take some spare time to pack up and move my life. Sometimes unexpected things in life throws you off course, don’t worry you are awesome enough to pick yourself back up and climb back on the right path.

 

Planning…

I’m a sucker for planning, although I never seem to plan a time to plan… Hmmm hope that makes sense? What went wrong in the first half of this year that prevented you from being where you wanted to be mid year?  How can you improve/change your circumstances so the same thing doesn’t happen with your newly planned goals?  You can only improve if you admit where you could’ve done better.  Being healthier is always a big one for me.  So instead of just winging it with the knowledge you thought you had, maybe plan a couple of meals ahead so you’re sure you’re making the right choices.

 

Most people do not reach their goals in the time span they planned to reach it.  Have you ever wondered why?  Because life happens. It’s sad but true.  The best you can do is pick up and keep on keeping on. Being sad about your situation won’t help you one bit.  But if you realize what went wrong and how to counter it, you’re well on your way.

If you have reached the goals you set for mid-year then CONGRATS! The gratification of reaching a milestone that you’ve set for yourself is unmatched.  Keep doing what you’re doing and this year will turn out to be one of your most successful yet.  If you haven’t, just remember when life gives you LEMONS make LEMONADE!

Using New Year’s Resolutions to embrace 2019 and become the best you!

Using New Year’s Resolutions to embrace 2019 and become the best you!

Can you believe 2019 if finally here? It’s been a long and exciting 2018, but as all good things, this too has come to an end. It’s time to reflect on things that helped shape us and brought us were we are today but it’s also time for new things so you can make 2019 just as memorable, and more importantly a huge success.

I don’t have a long list of new year’s resolutions. I don’t trust myself to keep with them and hate disappointment. So three things tops my list this year and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up.

My 2019 strategy

Resolution #1

In 2019 I will be working harder towards my health. My health journey started in August 2018, took a plunge in December and I’m picking it up again in Jan. I’m not only talking about physical health but mental health as well. Healthy body, healthy mind. Looking after your mental health is vital as it affects every aspect of your life, social, family and career. I plan on working on my focus and my planning abilities. I’m not quite sure how to go about it yet but I guess that’s part of the journey. I’ve already started getting some tools together like my shiny new 2019 diary, I’ve used the Headspace app before for meditation and realized that I don’t even have 5 minutes of peace and quite in my house… I’ll try and pick that up again. I’m also reading Getting Things Done by David Allan. I’ve only heard great things about him and this book so hopefully I’ll be able to implement his strategies into my own work-life balance.

Resolution #2

The second resolution is to be a better human being. Upskilling yourself is so easy, all you need is the will power and the drive (the time as well but if you have enough drive, you will make the time). I’ve planned out 12 courses I want to take this year to help me broaden my skillset. They range from digital marketing to nutrition (bonus because it helps with resolution number one). I’ve had the same resolution last year and only managed to complete one. It feels as though I stumbled into and through 2018 but with some help I’m sure I’ll be able to master the goal this year.

Resolution #3

Finally, yet importantly, the easiest resolution… To make a bucket list and start ticking of some stuff I’ve always wanted to do but have never gotten to. The idea is to get out in the world and make yourself heard. I’m sure that finally visiting that networking event or contacting that client will boost my career in the right direction.

The New Year is usually a time to reflect but also a time for new things, a fresh start, a blank slate. Why not take it with both hands and embrace this gift you get to open each year and become the best you that you can possibly be!