The comments section to a blog post or an online article can be a mean place, but just as often they can be a place where I realize things about myself that I had never given voice to. On Monday when we announced this week’s RTT theme – breaking the rules – a couple comments spoke to me. One was Meredith’s:

 By nature, I’m a rule-follower…

Then Holli chimed in:

I’m a rule follower as well (and a rule enforcer in a not so long ago life-another story for another time).

It took these two ladies casually admitting their natural inclination to follow protocol for me to finally realize that I am pretty much the same way. I have always found a lot of safety in rules and guidelines, and it has only taken me 31 years to realize that. Yay for intense self-reflection?

child-stealing-195x300Rules give me welcome structure in my life, and I find it easier to follow them than to buck the norm and act out just for the sake of misbehavior. When I was a kid, I never understood the mentality of classmates who arbitrarily gave the teacher a hard time or who stole a carton of chocolate milk from the big refrigerator in the cafeteria even though they had enough change in their pockets to cover the cost. That wasn’t where I found my thrill or vented my frustrations. The idea of committing an intentional foul against the rhythm of the day left me feeling stressed out, and I knew that any punishment I’d receive for my act of defiance – however slight –  just wasn’t worth it.

But I think that no matter how much we identify with the goody-two-shoes persona, we like to commit small acts that don’t exactly fit within the rubric of model behavior. It’s like telling a secret to the still and silent corners of the Earth and daring the Earth to keep it. You drop your prized possession into the ocean, knowing full well that it’s still yours, but hoping that no one will ever find it. The desire to get caught is there, but all the better if that never happens.

When I was in third grade, I remember telling the world a secret.

Super Munchers

I mean, seriously, what the heck is this thing?

I was staying after school for a computer club meeting. These meetings were mostly comprised of playing Oregon Trail and Super Munchers for an hour, and while the joy of guiding an ambiguously froglike creature to eat multiples of two while evading purple monsters was certainly an end in itself, the reason I really liked this after school activity was because the entire school was nearly empty. I liked the feel of the building when the only people there were the people who wanted to be there. The stillness of the halls was something special, and it relaxed me.

It relaxed me so much that one day after school I found that I actually had to go to the bathroom. I was one of those kids who never used the toilet at school because I found it to be really invasive of my eight-year-old privacy. Even now, I dislike using public bathrooms because the idea of someone hearing my pee hit the water is like inviting them along to my annual pap smear. However, when the school was empty and I knew I’d have the girl’s bathroom all to myself, I left the windowless computer lab to use the bathroom.

As I walked to the girls room down the second grade hallway, I heard nothing but my own footsteps. The absence of voices was beckoning, and I remember looking at a picture of a watercolor green fish that was hanging on the wall.

The next thing I knew, I was doing cartwheels. All the way down the hall, I turned over and over and over. I felt like all the secrets in the world were spoken into existence as my little hands made contact with the yellow linoleum. My own imagination had created this rule that one must never do cartwheels down the second grade hall, and I was flagrantly defying it.

I think that’s how I still am with rules. I break the ones I devise myself, and dare the world to tell on me when I admit my own guilt to it.

And I do cartwheels in inappropriate places because, really, that’s the secret to happiness.

Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. ;D

Link up with us! Here’s how to do it:

1. Write your post. Remember, it can be ANYTHING about breaking the rules. Just try to stick with the whole “back in the day” vibe ;D

2. Grab the badge and place it at the bottom of your post.

RTT new

3. Add your link below and come back to see all the other great posts your blogging pals have written! Comment on them and tweet and share your favorites using the hashtag #RTTbloghop. The link-up closes at midnight EST on Sunday, so get your link in before then.


  1. What an absolutely sweet story.

    1. Thanks, Fish! It’s great to see your face ;D Miss your blog a lot.

      1. Thanks! It’s great to see your face too!

  2. I am a firm believer of following the rules. I get annoyed when it seems that others are getting ahead by breaking the rules, when I am clearly doing as I should be.

    And I well remember Oregon Trail, but what was Super Munchers?

    1. It was this weird educational game where you were supposed to eat all the things that fit into a specific category (like for nouns, you’d eat the word “boat” and “pillow” but avoid “running”) and if you didn’t you died. And I loved it, because I was a super cool kid.

  3. judithsmarkworld · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Judithsmarkworld and commented:
    I like this idea! I will be back.

  4. You should do your cartwheels more often, whenever possible.

    Rules are generally guides only for me. Not because I’m better than them, just because so many of them are bad.

    1. That’s true. A lot of the rulemakers only institute their mandates because they want to control people rather than give them a better set of circumstances to work within.

  5. This might be one of the most charming stories you have ever told. Just the image of little Emily doing cartwheels down the hall is a big warm and fuzzy :) It’s like something that would happen in an American Girl Doll movie.

    1. Hahaha! That’s true! But the odds are that the AG doll’s clothes were more expensive than mine ;D

      1. Well. that’s just a given.

  6. It is a great story. My kids are rule followers. I just wrote a post along those lines. What I didn’t include was the fact that a few years ago my son would see this kid act out all day long at school and he would sit there and behave. He came home and told me about it. Then later he’d start acting out just like this kid, breaking all the rules. I guess he wanted to try it in a “safe” place where he thought he wouldn’t get in as much trouble. I wasn’t amused.

    1. I wouldn’t be amused either! C is just getting to the age where she is starting to copy kids she sees who intentionally act out. Not coincidentally, I am getting to the age as a parent where I want to move to the woods with her where the only thing she can copy are squirrels.

  7. We are all different – but I will say that not every rule breaker is the kid that steals the chocolate milk. I like knowing my boundaries so that I can move out of them, around them and all over the place.

    1. Very true. I was thinking of adding a paragraph to this post pointing out that a lot of kids who act out don’t do it just because it’s fun or whatever, but because there’s something else going on in their lives that they feel like they can’t control.

      1. Or they’re just rule benders like myself :)

  8. I’m angry….you sucked us all in and told us, (made us), write stories about breaking the law just so you could write about ‘cartwheels in the hall’ and then turn us all in to the police….leaving the entire blogging world to Emily…..sad, sad, sad…..I hope you’re happy as now we’re all going to have to read this stuff……from prison! My next blog title “They Don’t Allow Cartwheels in Prison!”

    1. You are onto me! I am a sneaky Pete ;D Also, I am fairly certain that “They Don’t Allow Cartwheels in Prison” was a b-side to “Folsom Prison Blues.”

      1. Ah….and if you ever look at my tweets, you would have recently seen a reference to that prison – check out my pics, it’s the beautiful pic from my bike ride this past Saturday. :)

  9. Oh Emily, dear–your writing talent deepens as you simply plug away at your craft. This artistic post brought a picture to my mind that finally cracked several days worth of a huge mental block. Phew. We really all are in this together. Thank you for staying true and committed, even on the difficult days!

    1. Thank you Willow! I am with you on the block. I finally started edging out this week of the longest writing rut I’ve ever been in. It’s a great feeling, and I’m glad you liked this post! It’s one of the first ones in awhile that I have liked too.

  10. I’m very impressed that you could cartwheel down an entire hallway with a full bladder. I basically follow the rules but I am a subscriber to the theory that they were made to be broken.

    1. Bladders of Steel. Let’s see what celebrity we can get to endorse it.

  11. Hey, Emily, can you tell me how to put the button at the bottom of my post? I’ve tried but must not know how this magic is done. :)

  12. Never mind. I figured it out. *chagrin* Oh, and I hope this is okay, but I’m writing about a time when I did NOT break the rules but everyone thought I did. Is that acceptable?

    1. That is totally fine! We love it when people interpret the prompts in different ways. Can’t wait to read it!

  13. I don’t just like this post; I love it! Never did any cartwheels, but I did go in the boys’ bathroom. Not even on a dare. I just wanted to see what the big deal was that they had to have their own space. That’s when I learned about urinals! Hm…maybe I’ll write about urinals. I have three remembrances (the boys bathroom, discovering they put ice in urinals, and taking my son to the zoo just so he could use the mini-urinal) of urinals and three is my magic number!

    1. I never knew that people put ice in urinals until we lived in Korea, where restaurant single-user bathrooms (is that a thing?) are often unisex. And I thought. It still kind of grosses me out.

      DEFINITELY write a urinal post. They are so exotic and strange to me too.

      1. Your wish is my command. I’ve been coming up dry in the idea pool lately. I think it would be kind of fun to pee on ice, though. And in the snow.

  14. Girl, you would’ve been my elementary school BFF. I couldn’t do cartwheels (never figured that one out), but I was REALLY good at using safety scissors and blowing bubbles with my gum.

    1. Me too! Bubble blowing remains one of my favorite things to do to this day! I am also a chronic gum-snapper, a habit that pretty much my entire family hates.

  15. You’re so rebellious! I envy you.

    1. Bad to the bone. B-b-b-b-b-b-b bad.

  16. I adore this. THANK YOU for telling us!

    When I am really, really happy and just feeling grateful to the universe, I *have* to do three big Julie Andrews in Sound of Music style spins, all in a row. At work, I hide in my office to do it… but I’ve been doing it since I was 8, and good things keep happening!

    1. OK, so I have to tell you: one of my absolute favorite things in the whole entire world is when Maria spins around with her guitar case in one hand and her suitcase in the other and wraps them around herself during “Confidence.” I feel like that is one of the best, most happy moments evaaaaaaar. And her life turned out OK, so I think we all should take a moment to spin. Thanks, Jennie! ;D

  17. OH my gosh. This was so adorable and made me think too. :) So, I make you think, you make me think. Blogging is amazing that way. I liked the idea of rules that aren’t really rules that we impose on ourselves. I do that A LOT. So, that gave me something else to think about for this challenge. Can’t wait to participate.

    1. It’s an avalanche of learning and thinking and zomg this is why I love it too! ;D

  18. I love that you thought of cartwheeling as forbidden, such a cute story! Plus… I love Oregon Trail, I stayed in at recess to play it haha

    1. It was the best. My favorite was when I hunted too much bison and all the meat spoiled within two minutes.

      1. Haha don’t you hate when that happens? I would always die fording the river.

  19. I love that story and I am glad you lived to tell! Can you imagine if you had taken out one of the stall doors or caught some unknown disease off the tile flooring? Phew, close call :) Truly though, there is nothing better than a cartwheel to express yourself. PS-thanks for the shout out…

    1. That would have been my worst nightmare! Fairly sure that the Apocalypse will begin when someone touches the bathroom floor unintentionally.

  20. This is adorable! I remember so little about my elementary school years, but this jogged just the right amount of nostalgia – loved it :)

    1. Thank you! Everyday the space between me and elementary school gets bigger and bigger, so I’m trying to write these things down before I forget them entirely.

  21. What happened to kids between you cartwheeling and Columbine?

    How many do you think you could do today?

    1. Very literally, the Spice Girls happened.

      I think I could do about three in a row, but my body would punish me the next day.

  22. A mysterious, thin metal rod under our box spring broke recently. I am secretly convinced my husband, who is home during the day, was jumping on the bed after our last child began school this fall.

    Everybody needs cartwheels of their own, in their own space and time. This is the crux of positive mental health.

    1. AMEN. This is why I have a lot to learn from Wee Cee. Her entire life is a series of cartwheels.

  23. I have been known to do some crazy dancing when I’m all alone in the world. It’s the best thing in the world. That’s the un-athletic equivalent to your doing cartwheels :-)

    1. Alone dancing is the BEST. A close second is car singing. Amazingly, I sound just like Eddie Vedder when I’m in the car.

      1. You know what I also like? Car dancing! Commonly referred to as butt dancing. It’s kinda the dancing version of the mullet. All business up top ( so others can’t see you) and all party down below!

  24. I identify with this, although I was never able to do an honest cartwheel.
    Breaking the rules gives me anxiety, but every so often, with the help of accomplices, we’d do something sneaky and fun like TP a friend’s house at 1am.

    1. See you behind the old K-Mart at midnight? I’ll bring the eggs if you bring the TP.

  25. Reblogged this on tessasschoolblog and commented:
    I love chopping, and you??

  26. I love the idea of you breaking your own made up rules! What a rebel!!! Also, I always avoided the bathrooms at school too. Freshman year living in a dorm was a little tricky in that respect!

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