Rules I Break


I needed some levity in my life the other day. It was one of those dreary, mist-ful days and I couldn’t get warm. I was thinking about my trip to Ireland a few years back and how common it is for it to mist and drizzle there. I thought about the Irish sense of humor, the way they manage to find humor even in tragic things like poverty.  I don’t think it’s because, as a people, they are insensitive.

From the little I learned of the culture and history;  the continual struggles of being invaded, then being indentured, and of course, enduring brutal poverty while living on rugged terrain that yields more rocks and very little sun, one would have to develop a good sense of humor to even survive.

It’s why my siblings and I laugh hearty out loud when we tell the story of making powdered milk during the Welfare Years.

Milk dust puffs up into your nostrils when you  dump a cupful of the powder into a container of water and you watch it slowly sink to the bottom turning the water the color of glue.

You try to stir it quickly because if you don’t, small lumps form at the bottom of the container and will not dissolve no matter how hard you stir it later.

Inevitably when you come home from school you will forget that you are poor and will pour yourself a glass of cold milk and as you down it and the taste hits the back of your tongue, you suddenly realize what you are actually drinking. You try to stop but most of the liquid is now in your mouth, along with chunks of tiny little milk globs that somehow taste like something pulled from a baby’s belly button, even though you’ve never actually tasted that sort of thing.  Somehow, you just know.

You want to be thankful that, although you may be hungry, you are not starving; you just wish your gag reflex wasn’t on speed dial.

It is this sort of thing that makes my sisters and brother laugh until our sides hurt. I wonder if deep into our laughter, we are actually relieved  that we have been brought to the other side of things, grateful.

Maybe the Irish sense of humor in the face of hardship and tragedy is their way of being grateful of having lived through it.

My levity for a misty afternoon when the details of life are piling up, the car is acting up, and the garden needs pulling up are these rules I can never seem to keep, for which I am actually grateful.


1.Eat a good breakfast every morning and be sure to include a protein.

I eat pie for breakfast.

2. Look your best before a doctor’s appointment.

I never shave my legs before visiting the doctor. I figure he’s seen a lot worse.

3. Never wear the same pants more than twice before washing.

I wear my jeans for almost a week. This is a throwback to being on welfare as a kid and I owned only one pair of jeans. Peer pressure and vanity forced me to find creative ways like ironing perfume into them to make them appear fresh and new.

4.Brush your teeth.

On a day I am not teaching, I won’t brush my teeth until lunch time. I’ve only eaten pie, so it’s not a big deal.

5.Never try a new recipe on company.

Somehow I manage to break this rule every time. No one has died. Yet.

6. Never get a new hairstyle right before a big event.

My mother said my date for the prom went white when he came to the door and saw my radical new hairstyle.  Apparently looking like Barbra Steisand in “A Star is Born” is not a good look for me, but it hasn’t kept me from breaking this rule.

7. Do a thorough cleaning of the entire house in the Spring and the Fall.

I Spring clean in August and Fall clean in November.  It’s why my wardrobe manages to be inter-changeable with the seasons,  just add or take away coats and gloves.

8. Get a haircut every six weeks and never wash your face with soap.

I do not get a haircut every six weeks because I wait for a big important event to do it.  I wash my face with whatever soap is sitting on the bathroom sink. People rarely compliment me on my hair, but I get told I have great skin. I think it’s genetics.

9. Send condolensces in a timely manner.

I wait to send condolensces long past the norm and I visit people in the hospital late. I figure people are still going to be very sad weeks later after a devastating loss and people in the hospital need a visit near the end of their stay, too.

10. Return library books every two weeks.

I do not  return library books on time.  I think 6 months is my record. I stick a five dollar bill inside the jacket of the book and call it good. My librarian has never complained.

11. Share.

I eat chocolate in front of my students and refuse to share. I am preparing them for real life.

12. Send thank you cards in a timely manner.

I do not send thank you cards in a timely manner. I do not have a good reason. I do not like this about myself.

13. Use the proper manufacturer’s required cleaner for the computer.

Sometimes I clean my computer screen with my own spit.

14. Tip people who provide you with a service.

I do not, nor will I ever, tip my mailman.

15. Do not share deoderant.

I am not above smelling like Old Spice.

16. Wear sunscreen.

I prefer sleeves and a floppy hat. Very Katharine Hepburn-esque.

17. Let others have the last bite.

Only after I’ve put some in a container for my lunch the next day in the teacher’s room. I am not proud of this kind of selfishness, but I need to eat.

18. Have only one junk drawer in the house at a time.

This is totally impossible. It’s not only impossible, it is downright un-American.

19. Return emails and phone calls in a timely manner.

I keep the email rule, usually. Phone calls? I’m sorry…did you leave a message?

20. Get eight hours of sleep a night.

I get nine.

4 thoughts on “Rules I Break

  1. Loved reading through your list of 20 things. How I remember the powdered milk, the poor years of first being married. I still wear my jeans about a week before I wash them, and still only own one or two pairs. Can relate to quite a few of those 20. So funny how in reality we are all so much alike.

  2. The powdered milk reminds me of a what defiant spirit I have (not proudly stated). No matter how poor, I could not resolve to powdered dairy…after living next door to the Howards and now, ironically, married to a dairyman. I will never forget sitting at the table staring at the glass of lukewarm and getting warmer “milk”, until bedtime. Not allowed to leave until I drank it…therefore, I did not leave, and did not drink. There are other things I welcomed without a grimace…like most of the USDA stamped cans of food, fake meat, or whatever it was. But the “milk” never made the grade. I only wish I had your sense of humor, one of your character traits I most admire, but did not really get, even though we shared the same experience. Thanks for making me laugh all these years, XO

  3. Beaking these rules is one of the things that make you so lovable. Re: the powdered milk….I thought it might not be so bad an option after the evaporated canned milk I drank as a kid….Funny thing is, I use the canned milk a lot nowadays in chowders and cream sauces…..I found out it was one of mother’s secrets for creamy corn chowder. My Dad put it in his coffee and that’s not a bad idea either. Keep writing Mitsie….There are a lot of memories in there.

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