International Women’s Day – Meet the Magpies

Welcome to International Women’s Day – Meet the Magpies.  As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s a pleasure to open the doors of The Opinionated Magpies. In this blog we will share a little more about our lives and what led us to launch a blog in our forties!

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The Opinionated Magpies are made up of myself and Milly although we do also feature guest writers.  We have been friends since our first day at primary school and, as with all friendships, there have been ups and downs. Happily always more ups than downs and I know that whatever life throws at us now, we will always be there for each other.  Raising a glass at each other’s successes and providing a shoulder to cry on or an avenue to vent whenever life gets too much.

International Women’s Day - Meet the Magpies

Backstory

Many of you will know a little bit about what our lives are like now. Some of you may have known us for longer will also know a little bit of our backstory. But, in this blog we want to share a little more. We will share some of the experiences we have had so far which have helped form the women we are today.  So, here goes…..

Colleene

Growing up in a small town like Gibraltar during the 1980s was a treasure trove of simple joys and unforgettable moments.

Park Fun

As I suspect is the case with most of us, I don’t have many memories of life as a really young child.  But, the routine of running home from school for a quick tea, finishing off homework and then rushing off to the park with friends on roller skates and bicycles is part of a tapestry of memories that always brings a smile to my face.  These childhood afternoons were always full of fun with the park being an area for imagination and friendship where the only limits were the boundaries of our creativity.

Brownie Life

Another activity which I still fondly remember are my days as a Brownie Guide.  I have some wonderful memories of our “camping” days when we learnt how to cook on a fire. Collecting firewood, going on nature trails and learning about the nature of the upper rock.  You might have noticed that I say “camping”.  There’s a reason for this. Unlike with my sons who are in scouts and camp in actual tents out in the open, camping as a Brownie was a far more comfortable affair.  We actually stayed in a Brownie hut in the nature reserve and slept in comfortable bunk beds.  Still, it was an amazing experience nonetheless.

It is also Brownies which makes me fondly remember some of the TV programs which we enjoyed in the 80s.  I vividly recall the excitement of running home after a Brownie meeting so as not to miss the small window of children’s TV programmes.  Mondays were a particularly good day as I remember watching some of my favorites such as Fraggle RockRaggy Dolls  and The Shoe People.  The Fraggle Rock Song and Raggy Dolls intro songs always make me smile.  Other childhood favourites were Thundercuts, Duck Tales, Transformers, He-Man and The Smurfs.  Kids TV was definitely better in the 80s don’t you agree?     

And for the benefit of our younger readers who might be wondering why the rush to get home for a TV programme – why not just watch it on catch up? Well my friends, catch up was not a thing back then and we also only had four TV channels to choose from, three of them in Spanish!  So you will appreciate the struggle to catch our favourite shows!

Closed Frontier

During the 1980s we had an additional factor influencing how we grew up in Gibraltar .  During this time the frontier with Spain was closed to pedestrians until 1982 whilst vehicular access was denied until 1987.  This meant that on the whole, we spent most of our time within the confines of a very small town.  Despite this, there were always things to do.  Weekends were often filled with picnics and rock climbing in the nature reserve which offers breathtaking views of Spain and Africa.  Time spent up the rock is always fun and there is always an adventure to be had.  Other favourite childhood activities were trips to the Alameda Gardens or the beach. This was a time when our summers seemed endless and worry free.

Childhood Home Life

There is another part of my childhood which I believe had an important bearing on the woman that I ultimately grew up to be.  I am the child of divorced parents during a time when such situations were less common than they are today.  That story is perhaps one for another day but the biggest impact in my personal development comes from being raised by another strong woman, my mum.  

My mum taught me that there are no freebies in life. That you have to work hard for everything you have.  Watching her resilience and determination instilled in me a strong work ethic from a young age. I also learnt the importance of  being independent and self-reliant.  Additionally, watching her make countless personal sacrifices taught me that women can overcome any obstacle and succeed whilst providing a nurturing and supportive environment for their children.  It is perhaps this life lesson that provided me the courage to quit a position as a partner at a large law firm to be able to spend more time with my children.  

School Life

Primary School

For me, recalling school life brings mostly happy memories. In primary school activities like hand painting and playing in the sandbox were always so much fun.  In the playground I remember playing games like Catch, British Bulldog and role playing scenes from classic films and TV programs of the 80s. Firm favourites were V a popular science fiction program and the classic Star Wars. With long thick hair there was only one character I could be… Princess Leia.  Of course I didn’t realize this at the time but wow, what an icon of a woman (more on that later!)

Upper Primary

Fun and laughter are also things I remember from life at Upper primary.  Playground games were still a thing and I also loved playing for my team colour’s netball and basketball teams.  One thing that also sticks out in my memory is how different things at school were like back then.  There seems to have been virtually no health and safety rules but what fun we had!

Back then, running was part of what playground life was all about. Yes of course we fell but guess what?  We got up, doused our scraped knees with iodine (note, this would be done by a prefect and not a teacher or nurse!) and went right back to playing!  As a prefect this is something I would do regularly.  Nowadays my boys tell me that running is not allowed at school. No wonder they are like a pressure cooker of pent up nervous energy when they get home!

Comprehensive (High School)

As you would expect, fun was not so much top of the list at high school.  During this time I was ultra focused on succeeding and studies became my top priority.  I became very self-conscious during this time. I even gave up playing netball and basketball believing that there were countless other players who were better than me.  This continued (and some would argue continues) to be a theme in many of my decisions in life.  I know that I often allow opportunities to pass me by, believing that I am not good enough or that others will be better than me. Of course many times this is not the case and I miss out on exciting opportunities or adventures as a result of my fear of not being good enough. I am working on this but it is a hard habit to erase!

High school was not all about studying and I have some fantastic memories of school trips. An adventure camp in Wales and day trip to Seville as part of an A Level Spanish class being two highlights.  The trip to Wales was the first time I had been away from home on my own.  It was such a fantastic experience giving me the opportunity to a to try out new challenges such as archery, kayaking, windsurfing, abseiling, and shooting.

I can’t remember feeling scared to travel by myself but, as I face my own son going on his first trip away without us this summer I can definitely say that I am feeling scared and anxious.  I suppose that this must have been how my mum felt at the time – funny how you don’t appreciate these things until you are facing the same challenges! 

University

Back when I was due to attend university we were not lucky enough to have a university in Gibraltar. Instead, at age 18 I left home to attend The University of Wales, Cardiff, to read Law.  Now this I definitely remember as a scary experience. 

My mum and younger brother both came over to the UK with me and and helped in settling me in.  But, saying goodbye was HARD! After mum and Wayne left I was literally alone in my halls of residence for around four or five days before other students started arriving. Thankfully though, with Gibraltar being such a close knit community, I had another childhood friend who was also reading Law at Cardiff in the dorms next to mine so we ended up spending those first few days together until we each found our feet and started meeting new people.

It was during my first week in Cardiff that I met another of my best friends, Rebecca.  Together we made sure that we got through law school and so much more.  More than 25 years later, we are still besties even though there is so much distance between us.  Life can get in the way of regular catch ups but you can bet your last dollar that if one of us needs help, the other will drop everything and be there.  And by there I don’t mean at the end of the phone.  We will jump onto a plane and be there no matter what!  Yet another thing to celebrate on International Women’s Day – women supporting women

Family Life

Fast forward a few years and I am now in my mid-forties (how on earth has that happened so quickly!). I am happily married to Dani and together we have two wonderful children.  Evan is aged 13 and Jamie aged 9.  Evan loves watching WWE (just like his dad) is a fantastic swimmer and, just like the rest of us, supports Manchester United.  Jamie is absolutely football mad.  He is a fearless goalkeeper (also like his father and great uncles) and when he’s not playing football he loves playing online with his friends.

Passions Unleashed

As for me, when I am not working I love blogging (obviously!) baking, power walking and traveling. I have been a hobby baker since my thirties and love making sweet treats for the family to enjoy.

Power walking is my way of escaping for a couple of hours and clearing my head.  I find that it is a great way to de-stress and it also helps burn off those cake calories! 

And travel. I know you will be thinking who doesn’t love to travel right?  And that is true I guess but I love the whole process.  From the planning stages to the moment my feet touch down on new soil.  I love researching different places to visit and cultures to learn about.  Watching countless YouTube videos and reading blogs to learn about hidden gems in each place we go to.  For me life without travel would be such a waste.  There is so much beauty to see . So much to learn about how other people live. As such, as soon as one holiday finishes I am already thinking about where we can go to next.  You won’t believe the number of times I have saved up for my new kitchen only to think sod it, let’s go off on another adventure!  Priorities, right?!?

Blogging

Milly and I are quite new to the blogging world.  We launched The Opinionated Magpies just over a year ago after having dreamed about doing something like this for quite a number of years.  Neither of us had the self-confidence to take the plunge until one day the stars aligned and we both just said “Why not? What have we got to lose?”  The launch of The Opinionated Magpies has become somewhat of a beacon of light. It allows me to venture beyond my comfort zone becoming a catalyst for rediscovering confidence in myself. It also provides an outlet for creativity that had long been dormant. I am loving the process of building up something from scratch which is just ours.  

Star Wars Life Lessons

To conclude, I am going to go back to Star Wars.  Earlier I refer to our role playing games of Star Wars in our primary school years.  Of course this was just a fun at the time. But, little did I realize just how many lessons Princess Leia was teaching me!

Princess Leia Organa is a beacon of strength, resilience, and independence. She sets the standard for incredible women in the Star Wars universe and beyond. Princess Leia is not just a royal figure but also the leader of the Rebel Alliance.  She fearlessly guides the fight against the oppressive Galactic Empire and her strategic brilliance, quick thinking, and ability to rally diverse forces showcase her leadership prowess.  Princess Leia faces her trials with courage, never bowing to fear and her determination to stand for what she believes in make her an embodiment of strength.

Princess Leia challenges traditional gender roles, proving that a woman can be a key player in both politics and warfare. She was a feminist icon before the term gained mainstream recognition. Her influence extended beyond gender, promoting a vision of equality and inclusivity.  What an absolutely fascinating and inspirational woman!

Milly

Childhood Years

Being born and bred in Gibraltar is one of the biggest blessings that life has bestowed on me. Growing up surrounded by a close-knit family, aunts, uncles and cousins allowed me to feel love and protection at every corner. 

When my parents got married, they were embarking on a journey of second chances. A chance at a happy and loving marriage, and a chance at creating their own family, along with those cherished family traditions they graciously wove throughout my childhood.

Pretend Play

My childhood was one of wonder and pretend play. When I wasn’t busy in my bedroom, devouring books or crafting stories of my own onto paper, you could find me playing outside with my best friend Caroline.  In essence, we were neighbours, however, because of the close proximity of our births, (three months) our parents decided for us that we would be inseparable.  Whether we liked it or not, the role of best friends would be ingrained into our very souls. Fortunately for us, it worked in our favour. Because whilst we were and still to this day are very different individuals, we forged a friendship that would undoubtedly stand the test of time.

Almost every milestone was met as a duo, there was no Milly without Caroline and vice versa. It made for a very happy childhood, complete with the occasional dispute over which Barbie was the prettiest, who could sing better, or who would play the mum when playing families (this one always makes me laugh because according to Caroline, I should always play the dad because I was taller)

Magical Summers

While we never lacked anything, my parents did not have the luxury of taking us on holidays abroad. Instead, my summers were spent in my auntie’s second home in Spain. Our whole family would come together, fitting snuggly into a three-bedroom semi-detached villa. Four or five to a bedroom, sofas became impromptu beds, the aroma of coffee early in the morning. Evenings, the highlight of our day when my father and uncle would set up the BBQ. Those barbecues would become a sacred time. An opportunity to gather around the table, eat, laugh and share stories. It was truly a magical season for me as a child, one I remember fondly and at times long for.

Memories were made during those summers by the pool, sharing a bedroom with my cousin Vanessa, eating churros every morning, and playing hide and seek with the local kids of the area.  Those summers surrounded by family were the best summers of my life.

Navigating Teenhood and Young Adult Years

Although my teenage years held some of the most memorable moments of my life, they also brought along a loss of identity. Long gone was the shy and sweet child. Instead,  I fell into the trap of seeking approval and acceptance. This led to a character trait which would ultimately haunt me for the better part of my life. I became the comic, the sarcastic and witty individual, finding solace in entertaining others, even if it meant at the expense of someone else’s misfortune.

There’s a name for that now, bully! I will be forever ashamed of my behaviour. My actions would ultimately cost me my own peace. For years now, I have worked tirelessly to heal those parts of me that once rationalized such behaviour. While I was never physically violent, the pursuit of humour did not justify my actions.  Acknowledging this has been an essential step in my journey of personal growth. 

My young adult years, shaped me into a fearful and insecure individual. Somewhere along the way, a seed of doubt and fear had been planted in the very core of my being.

For years I felt lost, with no direction, other than following the arrow which pointed to a never-ending phase of self-sabotage. There are so many things I wish I could change, but I suppose every step and every choice led me to where I am right now, and for better or for worse, now is not a bad place to be. If only the younger version of me could see me now!

My First Marriage

At the age of seventeen, I started working in an office as an administrative assistant. Soon after my then-boyfriend and I decided to buy a flat.  Life was going in the direction it was meant to go in. Or at least that’s what I used to tell myself. In hindsight, I was living the life that was expected of me. 

And so after six years of relationship, a few months short of turning twenty-two, we were ready to get married and start a family.  The fact that I was so young gives forty-five-year-old me anxiety. But, at the time it made sense.

There were always two people in my marriage, him and I. Which is why I won’t go into the details of why my relationship ended or the ins and outs. At the end of the day, it’s not just my story to tell.  Only we know how happy we were, and only we know about the moments of darkness that tore us apart. And while some may decide to move through life as victims or villains, for us the days of throwing blame around are well over. Divorce was the ultimate endgame for us, there was no avoiding it. But despite this, we share a love and respect for each other that will forever stand the test of time.

My first marriage taught me that grace, love and forgiveness walk hand in hand. That sometimes it’s healthier to walk away, to find another way forward. Nothing is forever, as much as we want to hold on to it. I discovered the true essence of strength. I realized that no matter how much self-doubt I hurled at myself, it wasn’t sufficient to silence the resilience within me. 

Motherhood

At twenty-four, I became a mother for the first time. Was I ready? Not really. Throughout most of my daughter’s childhood, I navigated life as a single mother, on and off. We forged a unique bond, resembling more of a big sister, little sister relationship. I was young and lost, essentially a kid trying to raise another kid. 

Six years later, I welcomed my son into the world. If my daughter made me a mother, my son made me a better one. Despite my marriage falling to pieces by this time, my love for my children never wavered. At every turn, I felt as though I was failing them, but regardless of my mistakes, I kept going, determined to give them the best upbringing possible. I wrapped my identity around them, first and foremost I was a mother. I had no other ambitions or goals, all I aspired to do was raise happy and healthy children.

Finding The Love Of My Life In The Most Unexpected of Places

They say don’t go looking for love, it will find you. I can vouch for that. When I wasn’t looking, exactly when I was trying to avoid a relationship, my future husband walked in through the door and turned my world upside down, in the good sense of the word. 

Long story short, David swept me off my feet. He showed me with his actions, what a healthy relationship looked like. He was always there, supporting me, cheering me on, loving my children as his own, and providing for us. When we met, I was feeling rather unloveable, but he didn’t let that stop him. Constantly showering me with love, he gave me a glimpse of what happily ever after looks like. 

Despite the challenges life has thrown our way, from miscarriages and grief to illness and financial struggles, David has remained a steadfast presence. As cliche as it may sound, my husband is my best friend, my life partner, the safe space I escape to when life seems like too much. I really can’t imagine navigating life without him by my side.

Working Towards A Lifelong Dream

Amid life’s trials, no matter what was thrown my way, reading and writing have sustained me through the challenges and uncertainties.

If nothing else, The Opinionated Magpies has been a learning curve. One that has tested my boundaries and my strength. In more ways than one, it has uplifted my spirit and my sense of self-worth. 

However, my lifelong dream is to become a published author. To write books and breathe life into the stories that have long been residing in the corners of my imagination. I dream of inspiring readers, offering them a momentary escape, a respite from the mundane. Of leaving my mark inked forever in the pages of a book. I yearn to return to the little girl I used to be. The one without the fear and self-doubt.

Just a few months ago, I took the first steps toward this little dream of mine.  I started writing the first draft of what I hope will be my debut novel. It’s challenging, it’s intimidating, and I don’t know how long it will take me, but I am still going to see it through. Why? Because I owe it to myself and my dreams.

My Now

Dare I say it? Life is good right now! Sure it’s not without its bouts of uncertainty.  And let’s be honest, perimenopause has commandeered the front-row seat of my life, turning my hormonal balance into a rollercoaster. 

But yes, life is GOOD! 

My kids are happy and healthy. Celine is living in the UK, fulfilling her lifelong dream of working as a primary teacher. My son is a thriving 15-year-old, who loves sports and strives to become an engineer. They have turned out to be good people, and that’s not just me saying it because I am their mum. Ask anyone! They are good kids and my pride knows no limits. 

My marriage is solid, not perfect, with its ups and downs, but still solid nonetheless. Plus I have my bonus family, my step-daughter Joanna and her two boys! They complete our family.

There is love in my life, and friendship, dreams and goals. There’s plenty of travel on the horizon, and the promise of adventures to be had. And health, right now I am safe and healthy, and right now is all I have.

But there is also acceptance. Acceptance that life is beyond my control, yet within my power lies the ability to shape my reactions. It’s a unique gift, the freedom to define both my present self and the future version of who I strive to be. And even if at times, fear and doubt rear their ugly heads, I hold onto the certainty that my resilience will guide me through any challenge. 

Proud Of Myself, And The Women In My Life

So as I wrap up my contribution to this blog, I can’t help but feel proud of the woman I have become. Had anyone told me two years ago that I would be writing a piece about myself for a blog post titled ‘International Women’s Day – Meet The Magpies, I would have laughed in their face, and called them crazy!

And not only am I proud of myself, but I am also immensely proud of my partner and fellow Magpie, Colleene. ‘All those walks, talking about our dreams, were totally worth it in the end’.

Final Thoughts

International Women’s Day is not just a celebration of achievements but a recognition of the unique journeys women embark on. The Opinionated Magpies is born out of resilience and passion. It is a testament to the strength and creativity that can flourish even in the midst of life’s challenges. Join us on our journey and share the experiences of two women who are just like you!

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