Thursday, May 24, 2007

a plea for spatial awareness

I have to admit, before I started writing this, I didn't even know how to spell "spatial" but I definitely knew what it meant. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term (and believe me, you're not alone), here's something I found on a figure skating training website...

    “Spatial awareness is knowing where you are in relationship to other objects in your surroundings and how that relationship will change in the near future as you and other objects around you change positions. Having a keen sense of spatial awareness allows you to manipulate or modify your movement to exploit the limitations of your current space. For example, if a skater has an excellent sense of spatial awareness and an excellent sense of body awareness of his jumps then he can successfully execute difficult triple/quadruple jumps even on very small patches of ice."

What keeps Michelle Kwan from accidently whacking Tara Lipinski in the head during a practice session while executing a triple lutz? Spatial Awareness. What prevents Brian Boitano from slamming into the wall while "shaking his groove thang"? Spatial Awareness. Apparently we all have this ability. Read this from another site...
    “Spatial awareness is, very simply, an organized awareness of the objects in the space around us, and also an awareness of our body’s position in space. Without this awareness, we would not be able to pick food up from our plates and put it in our mouths. We would have trouble reading, because we could not see the letters in their correct relation to each other and to the page.”

So, as Americans, we MUST have this ability. I mean, we're gaining weight at an alarming rate (present company included) so the food is getting from the plates to our mouths. But, I don't know if it's the effects of global warming, a depleted ozone layer, the war in Iraq, or reality TV...SOMETHING is causing a decay in our Spatial Awareness and I can no longer sit idly by.

The following is my offering you you. My experiences and tips, from every day life, for reclaiming your awareness of the space around you.

Your Car is Not an Island
Last summer Leslie, Courtney and I were driving to a movie theater for the opening day of Pirates of the Carribean II (or is it aye aye?). We came to a stoplight and sat there for about a minute, casually talking about our week when suddenly…WHAM!!!! We hear this loud noise, my seat breaks, Courtney’s glasses fly to the back of our SUV, and w’re now sitting in the middle of the intersection with cars criss-crossing around us from the opposite turning lanes!

When the police arrived, they gathered information and this was the quote from the driver that hit us. “I don’t know what happened. I was just driving along and then all of a sudden I heard a loud noise!”

Spatial Awareness Tips:

1. Um, yeah…about that noise? That’s the sound of your car totaling another car. If that noise keeps happening, you might want to seriously consider public transportation.

2. You are NOT the only one on the road. If you look around you’ll see other automobiles. They might be different shapes or colors, but they are still cars and they have other people in them. Sometimes they’re in front of you…Try not to hit them. Sometimes behind you…Try not to suddenly stop in front of them.

3. It’s okay to let someone go before you. In fact, it can actually feel quite good. You may feel uneasy at first with the fact that they will get to the next intersection five seconds before you, but if you’re lucky, they’ll get stopped at a stoplight and you can catch up with them. Be careful though. Don’t run into them!

4. Your blinker is not a deflector shield. It is not a license to maim. It simply means “I would like to change lanes now, if you would be so kind as to allow me.”

5. If you’d like to carpool with the person in front of you, just ask them. Don’t pull up so close to them that you can read their bumper sticker, read their odometer, and take a sip of their mocha frappacino.

6. If you’re the front car in a long line of cars in the left lane on the highway, don’t assume it’s your responsibility to police the speed limit. While it’s commendable to try and right the wrongs of the world, you might think of another area. Trust me, it’s much more enjoyable seeing the smiles and waves of needy children you’ve helped feed than the waves you get from enraged drivers.

Shopping is not a Sobriety Test
When I was a kid, we used to play this game at school between classes. When it was time to pass to the next class, we’d try to walk in a straight line down the hall without veering to the left or to the right. After a while, I learned a few things. If you try to look tough, and just bull your way through, you end up approaching someone who really IS tough and you face severe consequences. I learned the most effective way to be successful at this game was to appear oblivious and distracted…to look like a complete idiot that had no clue where he was going or where he came from.

If you can’t visualize what this would look like, just take a quick trip to Costco. There you’ll find a large number of the spatially challenged, wandering aimlessly down the aisles. Those in their path are forced to dodge and dive, hoping to evade their lethal shopping cart leaving in its wake a path of destruction.

Spatial Awareness Tips

1. When walking, some have found it helpful to use the open eye approach. Just a thought.

2. Your shopping cart doesn’t have eyes. It can’t see around the corner and tell you, “Hey, you’re about to jam me into this guys shin! Stop!”

3. Remember, when you’re pushing a cart, you can’t walk as close to someone in front of you as you could if you didn’t have a cart. If you happen to impale someone in the ankles with your cart, don’t treat it like a speed bump. Stop and apologize.

4. I know you REALLY want to get a little food sample at the grocery store, but not everyone does. Make sure to leave room for people to get around you. I promise not to steal your little cup full of tater tots on the way by.

Your Cell Phone is Not on a Party Line
Yesterday, I took Courtney to the doctor’s office. While we were sitting there waiting for her name to be called, a cell phone rang. No big deal, it happens all the time. (Mine even went off in church one time when I forgot to silence it. How embarrassing!) The man answered his phone and proceeded to scream his conversation at the top of his lungs. While the rest of us made new doctor’s appointments for the sudden epidemic of bleeding ears, he shared with us his whole schedule for the week, his gossip about someone at his office, and his reason for his appointment. DUDE! I did NOT need to know that!!! It’s bad enough that people aren’t aware enough to keep their voices down below the decibel level of a jet engine, now with hands free technology, they can look like they're talking to themselves with their little Lieutenant Ohura communication device hanging from their ear.

Spatial Awareness Tips

1. As much as your Aunt Beulah’s goiter is interesting to you and whoever your talking to on the phone, I don’t really want to hear about it while I’m eating in a restaurant.

2. Mobile phones have become commonplace enough now that you don’t have to tell people where you are. “I’m in the store! I SAID I’m IN the STORE! I’m in the…YEAH! THE STORE! With my CELL PHONE. No, I’m not selling my phone! It’s my…”

3. If you wonder if your phone call is annoying those around you…it is.

4. A call on your phone is not an excuse to stop driving, wander aimlessly, hold up lines, or other random acts of Spatial ineptitude. If you’re like me, and you can’t do two things at once, pull over, step aside, go outside, or call them back later.

My brain is racing with more examples that I run into each day (literally), but that will have to wait for another time. I need to take this call… “Hello? I’m on my laptop. LAPtop! Yeah, I’m sitting in traffic….SITTING at a STOPLIGHT! I’m…I’m…what?”

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.