About Me, About Being Different

When I was a teenager, I was one of those not-worth-a-second-glance kids. I lived on the fringes of the crowd. I was neither popular nor cool. With my long red hair parted into two pigtails, my very freckled face, my bony knees, and sensible clothes, I was positively ordinary.

One day at school I was grabbed by the arm. “Come with me!” a girl ordered, as she dragged me across the playground. Her group of trendy followers tagged along behind. “There! What did I tell you?” she cried in triumph, as she lined me up alongside another girl. “Don’t they look the same? They could be twins.”

I looked at my ‘twin’. Did I really look that ordinary? Apparently I did.

I was ordinary, not only in looks, but in every way.  I was intelligent but not brilliant. I did what was expected. I never made waves. I didn’t feel special at all. I had this inner urge to break free, to be different, to be noticed, to be ‘someone’. My opportunity arrived when I left school. 

Would I be different if I changed my appearance? I cut my hair. Then I grew it again.  I permed my straight red locks into frizz. Then I cut my hair again. I cut it short, and even shorter into spikes. I wore tight jeans. I wore short skirts. I wobbled on heels. I bought some golden ankle boots. I tried out this fashion and that one. But while I was busy being different, I stayed safely within certain boundaries. I wasn’t really a rebel at heart.

I still had conventional dreams. I wanted to get married and have 3 or maybe 4 children, and live happily and conventionally ever after. But I was going to live that life on my terms and no one else’s.

I did get married. I found someone who didn’t think I was so ordinary after all. In fact, he thought (and still thinks) I am very beautiful. We settled into what I imagined was going to be a typical, happy marriage, but things didn’t work out the way I expected.

“I’ll never be a Catholic,” I told Andy, when he asked me to marry him. (He is a cradle Catholic.) I wasn’t going to be told what to do by a religious institution. I wanted to be free to believe what I wanted. I wasn’t going to be constrained by rules and regulations. I remembered my school days. I didn’t want to conform. I still wanted, to some extent, to be different. Regardless of my declaration, Andy married me anyway.

But a few years into our marriage, I was contemplating a step I had adamantly denied I’d ever take. I became a Catholic. Not only that, I forgot about only ever wanting 3 or 4 children. I had a whole tribe of them. Things certainly turned out very differently to what I’d planned. 

A typical happy marriage? Well, our marriage has been very happy, joyful beyond anything I imagined. But typical?

A few years ago, Sophie had to have an operation to have her adenoids removed. Booking her into the hospital involved filling in forms and answering lots of questions.

“Are you the child’s mother?” I was asked.


“Are you married to her father?”


Thinking it would make the whole process much shorter, I added, “We’re married to each other, and have never been married to anyone else.  All our children are both ours. We’re just an ordinary family.”

“Ordinary?” The receptionist raised her eyebrows. “You’re certainly not ordinary in this day and age. “We get all kinds of families coming through here. Traditional families aren’t ordinary at all.”

And Catholic families aren’t ordinary either. In a time when everyone is choosing to go his own way, we find ourselves unconventional as we accept the Church’s teachings and practices . You know, that makes me smile. It amuses me a little. It feels just a little bit rebellious. We are doing the unexpected. We are different.

I am Sue. I seem rather ordinary. No more golden ankle boots and wobbly high heels: I wear conventional clothes. No more perms or spikes: I have had a classic haircut for years. I have a husband. We’ve been married for over 30 years. I am a traditional Catholic. Every Sunday you’ll find me at Mass.

Rather ordinary? No, I am me. Without even trying, I am different. So are my children. You are too. And that’s the way it should be because that’s how God created us.

Being who we are meant to be… Don’t you think that’s what unschooling is all about?

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  1. Reply

    So you have found the secret behind being a different family too 😀
    I read an article in the paper some days ago about children from divorced/patchwork families feeling different. My first thought was hat it was families like ours with several children that was the threatened model. I always get an incredulous look and the question "With the same man?" when I tell that I'm a mother of 6. And when I add "… and we're still married", their eyes start popping. In my children's' school patchwork families are the norm, we're the exception. We need to get together and network with families like ours in order not to feel abnormal. It's so not divorced children that are different. We are! And it feels so good! We recently celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary, so we're a couple of years behind you. .

    1. Reply


      We also get together with families like ours. I guess that's what we also do when we connect online with people. I don't mind being different but it's good to have friends who understand our values. I have found that my kids don't mind being different either. They recognise the blessings they have, and are happy about who they are. They don't wish to be someone else. I am so grateful for that.

      Congratulations on your recent wedding anniversary! A big one next year. I sometimes wonder how I can be so young but have been married so long….it's a mystery!

  2. Reply

    This is a beautiful post. It made me smile. Although I am a cradle Catholic, have two children and have "only" been married 18 years, I can relate to so much of what you said. Thank you.

    1. Reply


      I am so glad you can relate to my post. I often write things and wonder if anyone will understand what I'm trying to say!

      The number of children we have is a tricky subject. I have written about this many times on my other blog. I really feel we are blessed to have ANY children let alone a whole tribe of them. I guess when I became a Catholic, I let go of my own ideas and tried to accept what God had planned for me instead. I hope you understood that despite my poor words! '

      Only 18 years? Oh my! It was only yesterday we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Where does time go?

      Thank you so much for stopping and commenting!

    • Hwee
    • March 25, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. Beauty often lies in that which seems the most ordinary and simple. I am grateful everyday for the stability of my marriage and family life.

    1. Reply


      Oh you have summed up everything so well in only a few words. Thank you! There is nothing I value more than my 'ordinary' life of being a wife and mother.

    • amy
    • March 25, 2014

    love this sue!

    1. Reply

      Thank you, Amy. I love sharing stories with you!

  3. Reply

    This is great. When people hear that we have 11 children, I always inevitably get the following questions- Are they all yours? Did they all come out of you? Do they all have the same Father? Yes to all these questions. It does make me proud to be different by society's standards.

    1. Reply


      People's questions can be very intrusive and rude. Maybe some people though are just fascinated and curious. I'm sure your beautiful big family gives everyone something to think about. Perhaps others will have the courage to trust and love like you, and be more open to life, after seeing your example. When we are doing what is right, it doesn't matter if we are end up different. We just do it! And the blessings are beyond imagining. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  4. Reply

    Oh my goodness…i love this, Sue. Just love when you relay your past experiences whatever point you're making! Excellent!

    1. Reply


      Who would ever have predicted the stories of my ordinary life might interest readers? You are so beautiful for making me feel I have something worth saying. Love sharing with you, Chris! Thank you so much for taking the time to 'click over' to comment!

  5. Reply

    Golden ankle boots … just when I thought I couldn't love you more!

    1. Reply


      If I didn't love you I wouldn't have told you about the ankle boots. We only reveal the stupid things we've done when we are in the presence of friends! I wish I had a photo of those boots. I used to wear them with a short white and gold dress with a gold belt. Can you imagine? On second thoughts, I am glad I don't have a photo!

  6. Reply

    Love this post and I totally agree that we should be who God intended us to be 🙂

    1. Reply

      Thank you, Kelly!

  7. Reply

    Sue, I really enjoyed this post! It truly made me smile. I think its funny because what was traditional and "normal" years ago is no longer. Today drinking, cussing, going to jail, being divorced multiple times and having various children from various parents is "normal"….but being a Christian, having a certain set of values and morals, and having a 'traditional' family is bizarre. The Bible does talk about this in Isaiah 5:20: good will be called evil and evil called good. We can take heart in knowing that we place our trust in the Truth, the Way and the Life, Jesus Christ! God Bless you Sue. I have been so inspired by reading your posts (on the 'unschooling' front). You have been helping me just let go of what I thought school "should" be and look at how it can happen naturally!

    1. Reply

      It's lovely to meet you and know we are kindred spirits! In a way it is very sad we are different when the life we are leading should be normal for everyone. But yes, I do smile sometimes when I realise my ambition to be different was fulfilled by deciding to live what most people would describe as a conservative life.

      Thank you for your kind words, and thank you so much for stopping by. May God bless you too!

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