Following and Breaking the Rules

I tend to be a rule follower.

Since having children I have started to find my own voice, mostly when advocating for their healthcare and education, but this “rule breaking” has been a slow progressionquestioning authority and bucking societal “norms” is still not something I’m comfortable doing.

And don’t even get me started on the little, quirky stuff…

When I get to the front of the grocery store, and my cart has 16 items instead of 15, I opt for the regular lane over the Express Lane.

When Collin drives through the middle of the parking lot and not down the lanes, LIKE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO, I nearly have a heart attack.

Rules, for me, provide comfort and safety. And while breaking them can feel exhilarating and carefree like you have the world at your fingertipswhen I come down from that high, I often find myself fretting that I made the wrong decision. It’s the worrier and perfectionist in meand the deep need to not fail  and please others—that keeps me living by the rules.

But, in the fall of 2003, I broke a rule.

I did something that was wild and crazy, something that was against all the norms, something that was completely unlike me.

Let me tell you the story…

On Wednesday, September 10, 2003, I went to work like I always do.  I spent my day analyzing cash flows and verifying collateral values. That night my roommate and I drove home, changed clothes, and went to the ball diamond—I was playing on a co-ed softball team and our game was at 7 p.m.  Like most teams in Milwaukee, we were sponsored by a bar on the north side of town, and after the game, we all headed over there for a drink.  I was standing on the far side of the bar, talking with my friends, when a group of three guys walked in.  One of them was wearing a blue Billabong shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals. After a few rounds of quarters and some nudging from our friends, I talked to that boy with the blue shirt and khaki shorts, and before I left the bar that night, I had given him my number.

On Friday, September 19, 2003, ten days after we initially met, and after another post-game meetup and a few phone conversations, I went on an official first date with the boy in the blue shirt and khaki shorts.

This all sounds pretty normal, right? It was.  It was completely normal.  It followed all the “rules.”

Until Friday, October 24, 2003….

On that day— five weeks after our first date and six and a half weeks after we first met—I accepted the marriage proposal of that boy in the blue Billabong shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals.

I (we) broke all the rules.

Two days later, two days after we got engaged, I drove that boy down to Illinois to meet my parents for the first time. We walked in the back door of my parents’ two-story brown house, and my mom was there…waiting and wondering.  We hadn’t even stepped foot into the kitchen when she blurted out: “Are you guys sure about this?!”

That boy in the blue Billabong shirt, khaki shorts, and sandals smiled at her and said: “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”

breaking rules 2

Last Wednesday was the 11 year anniversary of our meeting, and when the day passed, I found myself reflecting on our story. I had to laugh—our family and friends were so supportive of us and our engagement, but I can only imagine many of them wondered just how long this would really last.  And honestly, I can’t say I blame them.

Getting engaged after six weeks of knowing someone is not. following. the. rules.

But rules be damned! This past August we celebrated our 9 year wedding anniversary.  Our life together has been filled to the brim—with joy and love and happiness, but also with struggles and pain and sadness. It hasn’t always been easy, these past nine (eleven) years, but there is one thing that has never, ever changed: We’ve still never been more sure about anything in our lives.


As I was thinking back and chuckling on that story from 2003, it made me start to think of all the societal “rules” governing our life right nowrules about our jobs, our life, and our familyand it made me wonder: What blessings may be waiting to burst forth, if only we could find the courage to break them?

Written by Kate

Wife. Mother of four. I crunch numbers by day and build towers and race cars by night. I love dark chocolate and red wine.


  1. CaS says:

    I love It that you broke the rule!! At the time, of course when Collin called me in the middle of the night I had to ask WHO he got engaged to since I had yet meet you yet. When I met you the next morning, I was thrilled and felt so confident that you two were meant to be!! When you know, you know!!

  2. Mary Bender says:

    I’ll never forget that first meeting as well, and I must say, Collin spoke from the heart, and I knew he was a good man instantly. We love you both so much!

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