Author Archives: Britney King

When spy games are put to good use…

“You should always be taking pictures, if not with a camera then with your mind. Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.” ― Isaac MarionWarm Bodies

Last week I wrote about using spy games I read about in a novel to teach my children about being aware of their surroundings…

This week, I had the unfortunate opportunity of finding myself putting these lessons to good use… and also learning about how life sometimes imitates art. 

I’m on my run when all of a sudden something feels very off. I feel the urge to remove my headphones and in my peripheral vision I see a car turn, pull over, and stop on the side street just behind me. A man gets out. As I look back, he’s frantically waving trying to get my attention. My mind slows. Everything slows. Something in his demeanor isn’t quite right. Also, he’s closer than I thought. He’s dressed like a realtor and I know they frequently stop here to put signs out. Let’s see if he’s that. He comes around from behind his car door. Nope. He’s not selling houses. A car is coming, so I can’t cross the street. I look forward and then backward. There are two runners a ways behind me down the street. Thankfully, they’re headed in my direction.

I remove an ear bud… He’s still waving his arms like he’s lost at sea and I’m his only hope.

His eyes flicker from side to side. And I don’t like what I see.

While running away seems like a good idea—turning my back to the man does not.

My guess is that he’s going to ask for directions. My guess was wrong. 

“I’m not trying to hit on you, I promise,” He calls out stepping forward.

That’s not my first concern and we don’t know one another well enough to be making promises, I think. 

He closes the gap between us. I back up and widen it. “Do you live in this neighborhood?”

I tilt my head slightly and offer up a blank stare. More distance. 

He pauses and holds his hands out. “I need help…” He looks at this car and back at me. “I need someone who lives in this neighborhood to come with me to the community center.”

I tell him I can’t help him. I put more distance between us. But I still don’t turn my back to him. He seems manic. I consider the distance between him and I, his car, and the runners down the road.

“I’m trying to rent the community center—but they say you have to be a resident here. So, I need someone to come with me.” He says hurriedly as he speaks as though what he’s asking is anything but atypical.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” I say, although, I’m not sorry at all.

He puts his hands up and takes another step forward. “Look, I’m just trying to do something nice for my wife.” I notice he’s still trying to close the gap. Also, he pulled the emotion card. 

I’m not sympathetic. The other runners are getting closer now. I eye them, and he does too. I am lucky, I think.

I could be mistaken… but I think he thinks this, too.

“Well, I guess I’ll just keep pulling people over and until I find someone who will,” he smirks.

I team up with the other runners. He doesn’t leave right away, but he doesn’t ask for their help either.

Unfortunately, his car is parked at an angle and from where I stood (combined with my unwillingness to travel backward in his direction) it didn’t allow me to get a look at his plates…

Later, I call the sheriffs office. Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first to report the situation. The officer tells me I gave a good description. Better than what they’d had.

Which isn’t all that reassuring. But I guess better than other alternatives.

Also, I’m in need of a running partner. :(

Monday’s Lie.

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” ― Douglas PagelsThese Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You: A Sourcebook of Joy and Encouragement

Instead of my traditionally long posts, over the summer, I’ll be offering up brief snippets instead…

This week, my fifth novel released and early reviews look promising.

In an attempt to keep this short and sweet(?)….

I also learned the following:

  1. There’s almost nothing really food and a nap can’t fix. ;) A repeat lesson. I’d like to think I’ve got it now. :)
  2. Attempting to plan a trip for my large, multi-age, family is less easy than scheduling surgery for some of the busiest people on the planet. (I know, I did this in a former life.) This recent experience made me long for the days when life felt simpler (though I’m sure it probably wasn’t)—before my kids were grown up with lives and jobs and things that made being together in one place for an extended length of time rather difficult. But, like most things, not impossible…
  3. A method to teach my (younger) children some of greatest gifts I’ve ever learned: How to listen, stay present, and how to gauge people and situations effectively. The answer to this question came by way of a novel I’m reading titled, Monday’s Lie. Growing up the protagonist’s mother was a covert special ops agent who often played “spy games” with her children to teach them life lessons and more importantly, memory tricks. I’ve often pondered how to best to impart these lessons upon my kids— particularly in the day and age they’re growing up in— one that’s full of distraction and endless quick fixes. Who knew that playing spy games (with a point system!;) might be the answer? Another answer, of course, would be to lead by example.

And, so, for now, that’s all she wrote.

Hard truths & How to be happier. 

  

I’ve been considering the best way to write about this topic for a while now without sounding like an insensitive asshole…

And while one of those terms may very well be appropriate… the other is not. :)

One of the VERY best lessons I’ve learned in my life—that I’ve ever put into practice was to choose my friends and those I spend my time with VERY carefully. I’ve found that much of my happiness comes down to this one thing. People either fill you up or they drain you—and rarely is there middle ground. 

I’ll share a story… I have a friend whom I simply adore. This friend and I run in similar circles—but for the most part each have our own friendships outside of one another— and these usually do not cross. Over the past year I’ve noticed my friend growing increasingly unhappy. Moody, grumpy, withdrawn, down, low energy, [ insert adjective of choice.]  

As far as I am aware this change is not due any major life event. I am however aware that even though I adore this person, our “energies” don’t mesh well any longer. For a period of time I went into “fix it mode” which is almost always the wrong approach to take. :) 
One day we were at a party and I’m pretty sure I saw the light when I met some of this friend’s, friends. On not one but three separate occasions I figured out why my friend might be so unhappy. This persons friends were also miserablely unhappy.

And I don’t mean people who’ve had shitty luck or bad things happen to them. I’m also not suggesting that everyone be happy all the time. I’m certainly not. In fact, after I read my last few posts (while they were meant to be tongue in cheek) I thought, ‘girl, you need to get yourself to yoga.’ So I did. 

Anyway, when I say they were miserable…I taking about people who within five minutes of meeting them have pretty much told you the entirety of their crappy life situations. And unless you happen to be their therapist— I don’t know a world in which this is ok.
Being open is one thing. Being a drag and exhausting everyone who comes in contact with you is another. 

I also know people who get sick (literally ,physically, SICK) every time the holiday’s roll around and they have to spend time with certain family members. 

I know… because at one time, I used to be such a person. And here’s what I want to say about that: you may not be able to change who you’re related to— but you can change where and how you spend your time. 

These days, when I spend time in their presence they wait until I leave the room to behave in their normal fashion. Sure— it can be awkward but it’s amazing! And also not an energy drain. 

Because here’s the truth… I do not want to hear about the same things someone was complaining about five years ago. Things I might add that they have taken zero steps to change. 

People like this believe they are victims—when instead they are martyrs. 

Nor do I want to be a bad friend or a bad family member. I don’t want to be insensitive —but I also don’t want to play their game. 

And if you’re looking to be happier… you probably shouldn’t either. :) 

You Take The Bad With The Good…

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” ― Aristotle

 

Once upon a time, I wrote that I’d discuss criticism. How I handle it is probably one of the questions I’m asked most frequently when asked about the writing process.

And likely the best answer is, I try not to. ;)

But it wasn’t always this way…

That said, I do read all of my reviews, both the bad, and the good. As for why I pay attention to the negative… I look to see if there is anything that I can take from them that will improve my work. Sometimes, there is.

Besides, I’m my own worst critic anyway and I will probably always look at my work with an eye for what could have been done better—versus what was done right. I’d like to change this… but that’s me. Oh and for what it’s worth, negative reviews do actually sell books. Just ask E.L. James and a few others…

Speaking of negative reviews, it helps to keep in mind that there are many films, books, and people who I don’t particularly care for— and I say to each their own.

Mostly though, I’m just really grateful that anyone took the time to read and review my work. I figure receiving a negative review is better than none at all— as at least someone is paying attention. :)

Also, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was, “At least twenty percent of people aren’t going to like you right off the bat. Focus on the other eighty percent. Don’t waste your time trying to convert.”

So, that’s the goal with writing as well. My target audience is not the folks who sit behind the comfort of their computer screen and trash others and their work. As for this type of critic (they’re a special breed), I’ve found that if you ignore them, they tend to go away. Trying to convert that segment of the population (or make them happy) is a losing game. And ain’t nobody got time for that. :)

Lastly, since I have a book coming out next week and I’m shameless about self-promotion allow me to share a few of my most recent favorite reviews, both the good, and the “bad.”

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As for the best “negative” review EVER: 

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A Brief Portrait of Summer.

“Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare.”— Ed Asner


Day One:

5:00 AM Even though there is no where to be and zero reason at all… I am up. Because old habits die hard. 

10:32 AM We take a trip to Home Depot. 1/4th of my waking hours seem to be spent here lately. This is not ok.

11:48 AM We are in the checkout line. Finally. Of course, there are two open for every one hundredth customer. I’m pretty sure I have aged twenty years in an hour and six minutes. I ponder how one store can house so many things. There are gadgets for gadgets. This place is like Toys R Us for grown men. They are in heaven.  It’s astonishing.

11:49 AM An older gentleman taps my husband on the shoulder. He tells him he has made a wrong turn somewhere. When my husband looks confused he points to me and says that I look like I belong in a department store— not this place. He asks how he got me in here. My husband smiles and tells the gentleman he is lucky.

11:50 AM I have made a new friend. His wife died recently. He wants to know what we are working on, I tell him. He says to enjoy it because life is short. It goes by fast. I tell him I know. The last hour and six minutes have practically been an eternity.

12:07 PM We are in the car. My husband tells me he liked the man. He thinks he would make a decent stand in grandfather for our kids. I agree. He says he thought of asking him if he’d like to see “this pretty lady” more often. I explain that sounds like a proposition. An indecent one. And that any illusions I’ve held of an indecent proposal do not occur in Home Depot…

The remainder of the day is so amazing I can’t even remember the rest of it. :)

Day Two:

Today we are lazy. We read. They draw. There’s a fair amount of chess playing. Bickering is minimal.

Is this how summer is going to go?

Surely, this can’t be how summer is going to go.

I should probably plan something for tomorrow…

Day Three:

8:31 AM Phone call number one: What are you doing?

Me: Working.

I thought you were taking time off…

Me: Oh, I am. I’m not working that much…just a bit here and there.

8:34 AM Text number one: What are you doing?

Me: Working.

I thought you were taking time off.

Me. I am.

Do you want to get together?

Me: Yes. In a little bit. I just have to finish this one thing. 

1:52 PM Five hours, twelve texts, and three phone calls later I realize that maybe my definition of taking time off differs from everyone else’s. Whoops.

8:15 PM We take in a film san kids. Which turns out to be terrible. My husband tells me it’s ok that I picked something so bad. He says he was just glad to be with me. I think the two Reposado milkshakes he consumed probably helped. But I don’t say this. We get home after midnight. On a Monday. This is a life I could live.

Day Four:

5:14 AM Pray my children sleep in. Obviously, I am not. 

8:01 AM Notice prayers work. Determine that I’m going to have to wake them. Force myself to do it. It is hard. Very.

10:00 AM Decide I can’t do the whole nothing thing again. Take the kids swimming. It takes 27 minutes to load everyone into the car and drive two minutes to the pool. Come to the conclusion that this time must be beat by at least 22 minutes—otherwise I may not make it through the remainder of summer.

10:35 AM Arrive at the pool, get settled, to discover that only 2 out of 3 kids have functional goggles. You do the math. The world as we know it appears to be ending…

10:36 AM Threaten to pack up and leave. Look around. Similar conversations are abound. Because solidarity.

10:38 AM Threats appear to have worked. After thirty-eight minutes we are finally in the pool and everyone is happy. This had better last. 

10:45 I snap this photo and post it to Facebook to show how amazing it all is. Look! It says, I have it all under control. :) Because that’s just what you do, no? ;) 

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The rest of the day is mostly uneventful. Until…

7:15 PM Something happens and suddenly everyone is pissed off. Someone said something to someone and whatever that something was— it was the wrong something, to the wrong someone. Everything has all gone to shit and the worst part is… I can’t even be sure what the catalyst was.

7:18 PM The kids have been “quarantined” upstairs. Meanwhile, I hide in the pantry with homemade peach cobbler and ice-cream. Just in case.

7:19 PM I text a friend. Wait a minute…I have to do this all over again tomorrow? 

7:20 PM I am assured that I probably do.

7:21 PM It’s not too late for summer camp, I reply.

7:22 PM But then they would all be right, I am warned.

7:23 PM Realize that THIS CANNOT HAPPEN. I will do better… tomorrow.

7:24 PM Panic.

7:28 PM Decide to implement a camp of my own. I shall call it: Project Bootcamp. Stay tuned…

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried…

“I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” ― Woody Allen

Yesterday we were standing in a line and a man behind us struck up a conversation with my husband about aviation which of course went on FOREVER and then somehow turned personal when he looked at me and my kids and remarked “Oh you guys have three too.”

I smile and nod because I know there this is going and I’m not in the mood.

My husband who clearly does not share my sentiment grins and says “Oh. No. we have more than that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, we have five.”

I wait for it…

Are you catholic? Nope.

Wow. You must have been young when you started. Yep.

Did you plan to have *that* many kids? Not really.

But he says none of that. He simply nods, looks at me, and adds, “We stopped at three because I got too old. But good for you. And anyway…you know apparently it isn’t until you have nineteen —that it gets to be a problem.”
And just like that—we became friends. 😏

In All Seriousness.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that life has been much too serious lately. I wake up each day and I realize that there are simply too many decisions to be made. Not all good. Not all bad. But, you know, kind of serious.

And in all seriousness, nothing is less fun to me than being serious. All of the seriously, serious time. ;)

Also, quite frankly, I am (seriously;) tired of making decisions. They tell me that this is what being an adult is actually like—but I’m not buying it.

Somewhere around January or February I decided that I wanted to have a “real” summer this year and that I wouldn’t be putting my kids in summer school or summer camps for the first time since they were very little—which also meant that I wouldn’t be working a whole lot.

Because I figure who needs school when there’s LIFE?  ;) And in any case we are going to learn. We’re going to learn about each other—when there’s nowhere we have to go and no one we have to be.

That will be the lesson. And I suppose we will all take turns being the teacher. :)

In addition, I decided that the most important and serious decision I plan to make each day will be something along the lines of where we are headed to swim and where we might find the best food in the vicinity.

I even started counting the days. Because that’s how you know I’m really serious about something. ;) Until, at a recent business event I was hosting the topic of summer came up I spoke of my plans and was met with: “Seriously? You’re doing what?”

“I’m releasing a book on June 23rd and then I’m taking the summer off…”

There were looks of confusion and responses that went exactly like this: “Wow—if I weren’t working…if I weren’t creating…I would feel like I was wasting my life!”

They told me I will go crazy. They said I will get bored.

Perhaps they are right…

Still, I left wondering how I could’ve been so misunderstood. :)

Because I actually hadn’t planned on wasting my life at all.

I planned to be a kid again.

For at least the better part of three months.

And seriously…what could possibly be better than that?!? ;)

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