finding your way · freelancing · inspiration · kids · life lessons · mom · parenting

The bear and the baby


I am not exactly a fan of cartoons. But I have learned to embrace them.

I run a freelance business and a lot of my work gets done while my 6 year old is at home with me. When the projects I work on have tight and overlapping deadlines, I find myself stopping right before I go pick my little one up from school and then I continue working after dinner until hitting late hours depending on the project, how (not) tired I am and if I took a midday nap. Working on the weekends is always a possibility and that is when I wish I had my mom or mother-in-law around. But I do not dwell on that thought too long because it is just self harming.

Now that my 6-year-old is attending first grade at the elementary school, more juggling is required due to the homework that needs to get done. On the other hand, a more disciplined routine is in place to accommodate this new phase.

Our TV is in the kitchen, which is where I work and where my little one watches cartoons. Basically, we spend most of our time together in the kitchen. Working and listening to cartoons has become something like a second nature for me. Or you may say, it is my “working background”. We all got to start from somewhere.

That is how I became familiar with Masha, a cheeky, mischievous, exasperating little girl, and the Bear, a retired Circus entertainer desperately seeking for peace and quiet. I love that show. It’s so real about what many parents go through. Sit down, get up, go save baby, run like mad, wash, give instructions, feel worried, tired, infuriated. Or happy. Yeap. The happiness is indescribable actually as compared to the juggling required.

For those you haven’t watched this Russian cartoon (it’s pretty famous in Italy where I am writing from) please visit the site here.

I feel sorry for the old Bear. And I always say to my 6 year-old “hey, don’t you dare act like Masha, she’s naughty and a lot younger than you are”.

The Bear and Masha story is actually rather educating for adults, if you see it from another perspective.

The Bear doesn’t have a strong voice. He is not firm enough. He is too good with no particular patterns that would help him cope with that heavy-duty little exasperating girl.

As a parent, you need a voice that gets heard. You can’t let your children be the captains. You are the captain. You manage this ship. You need a clear plan and follow it with determination.

If you are looking for better ways to communicate, it would be wise to work on developing a clear and firm parenting style. If you are investing time into your children’s education, you can definitely invest time in getting the message through.

For example, my little one since some time ago would not let me speak on the phone. When it was friends who called me, they would understand why we got interrupted but not being able to talk is annoying and, above all, unacceptable, especially if the person who calls is a potential or existing client. That said, I am not much of a phone person so this would only apply for incoming calls. If I need to say something, I send an email or send a message via WhatsApp. For friends I try to use the phone more. On another note, I have realised that my direct-approach by phone (and in person) phobia is rather unfortunate for getting direct translation clients because writing emails can never be as powerful as talking to a potential client. At least this is what my experience has taught me. Maybe I need to write more effective emails. Perhaps I need to find the right people to email. Actually, I think I should stop thinking about all that. I have great clients. End of parenthesis.

The Bear, to me, represents those tired and overly nice parents some of us are, not realising that we can do something to change our Mashas.

And before changing your Masha, you need to work on the Bear. On how you perceive your role as a parent. If you are too nice, you are only going to be feeling wretched when your children get older as their demands will be a lot higher. Since I didn’t want to see myself any near to that situation, some time ago, I knew I had to get myself a firm voice and a clear plan. The results have been positive. My little one is listening.

With a specific training approach, tailored to your needs and those of your child’s and your family’s (never forget that every situation is different and there is no rule that fits all!), children are more likely to understand and respect boundaries You will feel better. Less anxious. I am not saying it’s easy because I know what it took me to work on this “Bear”. And it is still a work in progress. I don’t want to give out the impression “I know this inside out” but I think it’s good to start doing something about it as soon as you realise that your voice is not heard. This leads to baby steps in effective communication.

Talking of baby steps, I wanted to let you know I wrote a piece for the Bulletin of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting back in January this year on the topic of specialising in the pregnancy and parenting market. To write this article I used some of my translation experience in this field, my personal experience as a parent and, last but not least, my fearless observation skills and sociological “radar”.


finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · inspiration · life lessons

10. It’s normal to be afraid



Lessons in freelance translation, n.10

I don’t know why but I sometimes go through occasional phases of fear of failure, of not having enough work. I guess it’s rather unavoidable when you freelance.

Nothing major happened. In fact, good things are kind of unraveling themselves as I proceed translating. But those big dreams are still playing hide and seek with me. Which translates… to feeling afraid that they will remain dreams.

So what do you do? I mean, besides doing the obvious of pursuing your dreams, doing your job and all the bits and pieces everyday life requires? Nobody has the answer but you. It is you who needs to accept that fear will knock your door. Occasionally. For no real reason maybe.

Letting fear take a hold of you is like allowing people who do not know you to make the rules for your life.

Think about it. Fears are a part of the setting but they don’t make the rules.

Tomorrow is a new day. If it’s getting better, why be afraid?

That’s what I say to myself.


bohemian · fashion · finding your way · freelancing · life lessons · translation · writing

The many faces of Tilda Swinton (on freelancer’s versatility)

Tilda Swinton from the film “Only lovers left alive.”

“Tilda Swinton is 55 years old”. This is the title of the article I was reading last night. As I was scrolling the incredibly diverse pictures from movies with the Scottish actress, famous for her role as Orlando, I realised I had something to write about. I had no idea what but Tilda’s “many faces” are bound to give me ideas.

I remember reading a stunning article on The Guardian a few years ago, before becoming a translator. It was about the talented, intriguing and unusual Tilda Swinton, actress, model, icon of noble descent with looks and gaze of a solemn, aristocratic yet familiar character, both a woman of next door and a lady to respect. What sets her apart is that singular chameleontic appearance, a self which seems to float between characters, a person of many layers and faces, yet as authentic as one can be.

Life is bound to throw circumstances at you which you might not expect. You might need to shift your focus. Learn your lesson. Read a new book. Finish the one you started. Not to mention continue writing the one you started. Which translates to… an overwhelming loose ends to take care of.

Keeping up appearances is old school. And it is boring. I’d go for a change of direction even if it is on terms of how I perceive life’s events and challenges. I still wear the same outfit. But I wear it with a new conscience. State of mind. I elaborate what happens to me and I don’t want to convince anyone about the changes. I change. The many faces I have are basically one face reflecting an acknowledged and essential versatility.

Many faces means many resources for better life management.

As freelancers, we ought to be as flexible as we can possibly be. This applies not just to how we communicate and work but to how we perceive things and what we learn from life. The learning process requires flexibility. You need to “bend” your convictions if you want to move forward.

Flexibility requires you to act and be someone else so you can be yourself. You are the administrator, the translator, the proofreader, the business owner, the cook, the parent. It is a process.

Happy birthday Tilda Swinton!

freelancing · life lessons · money

Freelance translation is about TIME

Dear colleagues,

There are so many things I wish I knew before getting into freelance translating or before deciding to do certain things, take certain decisions, not take certain decisions…. Which translates to….  an endless list you don’t want to know about.

But people, let’s try amend things. Let’s help others avoid the mistakes we made.

This is what this really quick blog update is for.

If you are new to freelance translation, I highly recommend you watch this video presented by Igor Vesler during yesterdays’ conference on Proz for International Translation Day.

Here’s the link to the video. It should work if you are a user.

finding your way · life lessons · writing

Remembering Socrates

Socrates Malamas, a talented Greek songwriter with a deep voice that sends chills down your spine.


A few days before leaving the land that gave birth to the world’s most humble philosopher, Socrates, to move to England, I went to a concert where Socrates Malamas sang. The concert was something completely casual and it took place at Zappeion as part of a book fair that was taking place.

I bought a strange book there. “The Book of Monelle” by Marcel Schwob. That book, that day and that night, marked my departure from Athens.

Which translates to a blog post exploring that memory.

Little did I know that throughout the years that followed that event, I would find myself wanting to write a book, or to say more accurately, wanting to write and of course little did I know that I would eventually work as a freelance translator. If there were any sings about where and what I would be today, I didn’t see them.

But your destiny is sometimes a well-concealed theatre play that’s about to unfold and you don’t buy the ticket. You don’t want to watch. You’d rather go through it from backstage. And you stay backstage for as long as you are safe there. You don’t even care about wearing make-up. Or learning the words.

When I was sixteen, I used to read Socrates and about Socrates, the philosopher. One may say I was really into him. I was intrigued by his maieutic method (μαιευτική μέθοδος) which is focused on asking the right questions through which you reach a state of awareness but I never practiced it.

Until now.

Where are you now and why. Where do you want to be. What do you want to do with translation. What do you want to do with writing. Why do you write. Etc.

I have often found myself answering questions that others posed to me but I hardly asked others to talk to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. I just didn’t want to intrude. What’s more important is that I don’t recall asking the right questions to myself. To some extent, yes but I could have done better considering I was a fan of Socrates….

A little bit of curiosity is good. It sparks brainstorming, feedback, ideas. You need a trusted friend to talk to. Or a good book to see yourself in there.

Don’t do things too spontaneously without giving it some thought. Ask questions.

Listen to the music. Don’t just dance to it. People are talking about things you should know about through songs because that’s one of the ways to guide you through.

Don’t convince yourself you know it all if you don’t listen and if you don’t ask.

Use the Socrates method. I have just described two of those “Socrates” methods. Through words and through music.

It might save you the money to buy tickets to a country that rains. But then again, rainy countries are good for us because they show us the sun we once lost.

And one day you will return. In fact, you always return. Every single day. You are just in another place safeguarding and pampering memories and names.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t find the “Book of Monelle” anymore.

balance · fashion · finding your way · life lessons · money

What a coveted high heeled pair of green shoes can teach you about balance

{Why say no to lovely shoes
you can afford?}


It’s funny how a pair of shoes – yes, shoes – can bring back to mind a whole chapter of your life and urge you to write on a topic that has nothing to do with shoes or fashion.

Things occur for a reason. Some of these things can change our lives.

Think of all the decisions you have made that brought you where you are today.

That’s because you acted upon certain events and circumstances.

But what about all those things you did nothing about? You might not have any regrets (and that’s healthy) but what if those things could have been your route to more happiness and better balance.

The reasons for not acting are plenty such as lack of self-esteem or will power, fear of the unknown, being too busy, being too in love with the wrong person etc.

I’ll get to the “shoes” in a moment…

Knock. Knock.

Sometimes happiness knocks on our door. If we are lucky enough, happiness will come back and knock for a second time. If we are that lucky.

But for some reason, we don’t act upon that feeling of immense happiness and we therefore send people away or we take them for granted (until they eventually forget we exist) or we don’t pursue something (hobby, job, travel etc) that we desire wholeheartedly. We continue working and living on a busy schedule or a mediocre relationship or keeping up appearances because we are afraid to call the shots, take risks, ride the panther, make a phone call, book a trip to Florence and so forth.

You had your chance.

But you left the door shut.

Happens to everybody…


Before I went freelance, I was working in an office in an area somewhere in Milan. During lunch, I used to go to a Centro Commerciale (Mall) to buy food, try clothes on, sometimes buy clothes and so forth. One of my favourite shops was Zara.

One day there they were. A pair of spectacular green shoes that I fell in love with. You can see why if you look at the picture above.

I didn’t touch them at first.

Even though I knew that the moment I find shoes available in size 41, I would need to grab them, all I did was leave them there.

I went back the next day and saw the shoes. Still there. Instead of trying the shoes on, I went to try on some clothes I didn’t need.

Next day, same thing. I went back to admire the shoes and I tried them on. Perfect! Sexy!

But I put them back.

And naturally, next time I went into the shop, the shoes – size 41 – were no longer there. Another girl took them. Gone into some other girl’s closet.

How could I be so stupid? I had a good salary. I wasn’t freelancing. Those green shoes could have been IN MY CLOSET now.

Maybe I didn’t really want them?


So no green shoes for me. Just black shoes. And a few brown ones.  Black goes with everything. They give security.

It’s okay to want to obtain things in life that give you some sort of security. A job, a home, a steady income. But when it comes to the not-so-essential things, to the ephemeral, to things that can turn a gloomy day into a bright one, why refuse life’s invitation?

Why not a yellow skirt? Combine it with black!

Why not a bag with a fabric you hand painted yourself?

Why not talking to that lonely girl who’s sitting across the table at the coffee shop?

Why not calling that guy you really like and are so afraid to let him know?

Why stick to black?


If you don’t try new things, you will never know. You are going to be stuck in boredom. No excitement potential for you if you keep closing doors and refusing to be courageous.

Sometimes you need to take a risk. Not a huge risk. I’m not saying you should give up your boring job (it’s your call), invest in hedge funds or that you shouldn’t be desiring to own your own home. These things are natural.

All I’m saying is that when opportunity knocks, do not do not ignore what your instinct is telling you.

Listen to your inner voice. If it’s right there in front of you go for it. If something so beautiful has come your way, you should be grateful for the opportunity and you should say yes.

If you encounter “green shoes” don’t just stand there with that fearful gaze. If the shoes fit you and if they look gorgeous and you can “afford” them, proceed. Take the green shoes. Wear the green shoes. Be the queen of nature. (Yes, even while you walk your kids to school).


You need the green shoes because life has so many twists and turns and ups and downs that along the way (and as you grow older) you will become more appreciative of the little details. And you will be going back in the past to dig out the things you didn’t do.

Be good to yourself which translates to doing little, tiny, exciting things now.

What about you? Is there something you wish you would have bought or done that was easy and straightforward as a pair of gorgeous shoes?

A presto, Magda

***Note: I never bought the green shoes from Zara but the other day I found better ones at Bata. Provided I can afford them, I will certainly buy them. Opportunity knocks twice!