Monthly Archives: May, 2012

From Theory to Reality – a Short Round Trip.

It all seems so simple. It’s important to pursue one’s passion. To pursue happiness, essentially. Anything else will make you – to say the least – unhappy at the end of the day. That’s in theory.

I hate theory land. Whenever I stop by for a visit, I end up feeling like a big, big (we’re talking giant-size) fool. Because in theory land, things are always so clear: you shouldn’t like a person that doesn’t seem to care because you will only get hurt; you shouldn’t jump off a swing at that moment when you’re so high you feel like you could touch the sky because the fall gets you down to earth faster than you could ever imagine; you shouldn’t have that second (third, fourth…) candy bar because you will be very, very sick after. Theory land should be wiped off the map – I think, I will personally draw it on a map (roughly somewhere north, north, north of Alaska possibly) just so I can wipe it off again. At least, I will leave theory land for now.

Let’s take a look at reality land instead. In reality land, things look a bit different. They are more complicated. In reality land, thing’s aren’t either black or white; they come in all different (often very odd) shades of gray: you like a person that doesn’t seem to care because maybe things might eventually change; you jump off a swing at that moment when you’re so high because maybe you’ll be able to just fly away; you have that – insert respective number here – candy bar because there’s too much deliciousness happening to simply stop. Also, in reality land, there are little things hiding in the the thicket; things besides just this one passion – like paying rent and buying groceries, for example. And they make a point of being equally important and responsible for your/my/everyone’s happiness. They’re the little reasons that keep a lot of people from pursuing their passion.

In a nutshell: a regular income has its appeal too. I’m certainly a fan. I applaud it. If there was any, I would even buy the official merchandise for it – because my lovely little income allows me to do so.

That’s why right now, I feel uncomfortably torn apart. In front of me, there are “Two roads diverg[ing] into a yellow wood” as Mr. Frost would say, and yes, I’m really sorry that it seems I cannot travel both.

that’s exactly how i remember the poem to look like in my English textbook in school

I have to make a decision – one I already should have made some time ago, probably; one I have avoided, always trying to find some middle ground, always trying to keep the balance; always being neither here nor there. This is not a state anyone should or is even able to be in for too long. It’s exhausting, and, it’s, of course, just a matter of time until you fall, or at least, stumble. Stumble I did. I certainly don’t want to fall. I know what I’m passionate about. I just wonder if this is the place and time to let my passion lead the way. Maybe I’m too impatient. Maybe I should be sensible (but what does that even mean?) — all of these maybes, pros and cons, again the search for a middle ground, balance.

Mr. Frost, Robert, Rob – am I allowed to say that? Yeah, sure, why not. Rob it is – what made you decide? Your inner voice? A dream? A friend’s advice perhaps? Oh, I see. Well, that works, I suppose. So, you flipped a coin. Maybe that’s what I’ll do then.

Sick daze…

Me? I’m fine, thanks…


I’ve been sick for the last couple of days. I hate being sick. I don’t get around to do half the things I want to do on a regular basis – so lying in bed all day doesn’t really improve things. Thankfully, I’m slowly starting to feel better. I’m not lying in bed anymore, I sit on an actual chair as I’m typing this which feels pretty grand. I feel relatively grand in general – compared to my general state of being over the last week.

Essentially, I spent the last days angry. I’m not an angry person. I try to think my glass is half-full unless there’s some gross substance in it – then, of course, I prefer to think it’s half-empty. Somehow, though, I just couldn’t help it. I felt frustrated and angry. Half-angry at the world because it made me turn sick in the first place (and that really wasn’t necessary now, was it?) and half-angry at myself because my reluctance to go see a doctor made me stay sick – way longer than necessary. On top of that, I was also angry with the world because I didn’t feel taken care of very well. In fact, I didn’t feel taken care of at all.

Here’s why: I usually spend a fair amount of time listening to friends’ problems and I do so quite happily. Yet. Sometimes, of course, I’d like them to listen to me in return. We all carry around our own little package that we need to unload every once in a while. Now, often, my friends don’t realize when I need to unload some weight. Not because they’re tiny evil creatures (I don’t befriend Gremlins or the like – to my knowledge). It’s really not their fault.

The real problem: I simply don’t know how to switch from listening-mode to talking-mode. So I just sit there – nodding, smiling, mhm-ing, understanding – while feeling mildly (or awfully) miserable. And then in the end, I end up feeling angry with myself and that doesn’t really help to boost my spirits either.

Bottom line: I wasn’t at the top of my game. Not even near the middle of it; I was located more at the bottom of things (needless to say, my grumpy mood didn’t make my sickness go away any quicker either).

Now, I have a tendency to wallow in memories and I have no objections to wallow in mud occasionally (hey, it’s supposed to be good for the skin) but I really don’t like to wallow in self-pity. So I did two things: One, I went to the doctor after all and – magically – he found out what was wrong with me and also told me what to do about it. Two, I went to visit a friend. A very good friend that I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like to. I had planned to visit her anyways because, as I said, I hardly get to see her (she studies almost on the opposite side of the country) and I had been feeling like I needed to see her for a while. But now, I really needed to see her. And I also really needed to get away from all the things that were bothering me at home.

Once the decision was made, somehow, things fell into place quite nicely. I spent a couple of days with my friend – I did some listening, but I also talked. A lot. She told me she’s often noticed how I’m very good when it comes to letting others talk, yet not so much when it comes to speaking up myself. I like to be a good listener, still. I want my friends to feel like they can come to me. However, it’s important to keep some sort of balance. It’s no use trying to shoulder other people’s weight when you don’t even know how to carry your own. It’s no use listening to a friend when you’re being frustrated and angry yourself. Because you don’t really listen. You can’t.

So she made me talk. She let me unload. All of a sudden, I wasn’t all that angry anymore. I felt like I should kiss and make up with the world. My glass is half-full again. And I like to think it’s not just because I’m on antibiotics right now.

As Olin & the Moon say, I’m a friend of feeling good right now…

Burnt (dinner).

This morning I woke up to the lovely smell of – no, not coffee – burnt food. Last night’s dinner to be precise. I haven’t burnt food in approximately ten years. I’m a quite alright cook, I think. So far, I’ve fed a lot of people with my cooking and no one has ever died or complained (at least not to my knowledge).

So last night, I invited a friend for dinner and we had just started preparing the food when another friend of mine dropped by to show me her new — puppy!!! (Excitement!) Needless to say: I got distracted. Very. We went outside to play with little Millie (little distracting furry lovable puppy girl’s name) and when we came back we had to fumble our way from entrance to kitchen through a thick curtain of smoke. The good news: Now I know for sure that my smoke detector works just fine. Comforting knowledge, I think.

After clearing out as much of the smoke (and smell) as possible, we tried to rescue dinner the best we could. In the end, we didn’t starve. All was (fairly) well in Whoville. Yet, I felt a bit foolish the entire night. In fact, I still am. It’s one of these I-should-have-known-better-moments. Also, I feel mildly haunted because of the smell. Lesson learnt: Don’t play with fire – or better: Don’t play with dogs while you’re cooking with fire.

I’ve been having a couple of these I-should-have-known-better-moments lately. Usually it’s not that I burn food – I burn myself. Mostly, because I tend to underestimate things. Such as the amount of time rice takes to cook — and burn. Or the stubborn will of feelings – paired with their reluctance to negotiate on a reasonable level. Unfortunately, the latter can’t be fixed simply by airing.

I’m never sure if something’s worth holding on to, but when in doubt, I usually do. I hold on and hope. Until the number of burn blisters seems too much to take, even for me. It’s probably because to me what’s even worse than these annoying I-should-have-known-better-moments are the what-ifs. I’d rather spend some time cleaning up a bit of mess than wondering whether I should have kept fighting. Knowing that at least I tried always helps me deal with whatever it is that I can’t change. Message hidden between the lines: Sometimes getting burnt isn’t the worst thing in the world. What doesn’t kill you, as they say.

Last words: I’d have really preferred to wake up to this (a little bit of 80ies in the morning: caffeine for the tired ear):

Piece by Piece.

As I spent some time looking through the pages of my notebook this morning, I found an unfinished poem that’s probably about a year old. And, as it sometimes happens with writing, it felt oddly appropriate at this very moment in my life – maybe even more so than back when I first started writing it. So I decided to finish it today. And that’s what I did – here it is:

Piece by Piece.

Words, words, words —

so stuck in my mouth

and then all of a sudden they fall out:

tiny milk teeth, white and edged

I must have touched you

one too many times

lost my fingerprints

all over your skin

they ran out of my hands

like sand out of shoes

it’s the curse old women

have always warned me about

I lost myself –

but does that make me free, liberated?

Now I’m no one

(to you?)

Take my hand, would you?

Or my eyes, my legs, strands of hair –

you can have a piece of me

if you don’t want it all

these are merely moving pictures

and it’s hard to hold on to something

that’s always on the move,

in motion, motion, motion

sometimes it strikes me:

we’re nothing but cold light

we’re already dead

but too busy to notice

My heart is flip book —

I —




Elephants and Butterflies…

It’s sitting in the corner, gray and plump and it’s not likely to go away – the elephant in the room: “What’s so different?”

Once I’ve told people I’ve recently been in the Netherlands with one of my education classes in order to take a closer look at their system of public education, it’s – inevitably – the question everyone asks.

The answer, however, is not nearly as intuitive.

Yet, there is one word that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. It jumped at me when I first set foot in one of the schools there and it’s stuck with me ever since: Openness.


First, openness in the most literal sense of the word. The classroom doors: open. The classroom walls: open (i. e. glass). The principal’s office: (mostly) open! The area around the school: open (no fence, no nothing).

Second, openness in a more metaphorical way: A (for me) surprising as well as pleasant candor. It seemed people were neither afraid to open their mouths nor to open their ears – for questions, answers, even (potential) criticism.

In very broad terms, I also noticed their openness for: cooperation (instead of the dog-eat-dog mentality that you will find frighteningly often among the teaching staff at German schools), color (arts & crafts style, but also multiculturalism; pluralism in a lot of ways – in thinking, teaching, learning), creativity (self-explanatory), and also unity (in the sense of support; yet, also in the sense of collectivity – which can be a good thing…yet, I think, it’s also the one thing that goes on my personal list of bad things I’ve noticed about their system).

Unity (one method).

An interesting idea: the method. No wait, this needs more emphasis: it’s the method. Because there’s just one – one method per school. For the teacher this basically means two things. One, less work (hooray!). Two, less latitude (womp womp…).

Here’s how it works: Each school decides on one method – i. e. one style of teaching (possibly focusing on Montessori pedagogy or Helen Parkhurst’s Dalton Plan concept). This also includes a range of textbooks for all different subjects as well as computer programs to go with their whiteboards. Everything’s well-matched – at least it should be.

It seems to be an entirely holistic approach (which ties in with most Dutch school’s aim: learning with head, heart and hand), and that is a very good thing. It doesn’t leave teachers on their own, trying to pick the few cherries out of a huge pile of teaching material and objectives, and that is most certainly a good thing.

Yet, it also seems very close-meshed. It definitely leaves less room to design a curriculum that matches your own as well as your students’ preferences. It’s like wearing another person’s outfit, trying not to feel silly.

Of course it’s possible that I simply missed the point. Still. This approach, to me, doesn’t include the openness I’ve encountered elsewhere.


That’s, of course, not an in-depth analysis, but more of my own, unfiltered gut-feeling spilled out. In general, looking at the schools in the Netherlands left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling – possibly, even with butterflies in my stomach, or as they say: lentekriebels. Maybe just because it’s Spring. However I think, it’s probably more than a short-lived fling…


The Dutch approach to education simply gives me butterflies…

Papillionis liest


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I'm Michelle. This is my blog. I write about women and fatness, expound upon semi-coherent thoughts I have in the middle of the night, and offer tough love to those in whom I am disappointed; they are legion.