King’s Shadow {The Silent Years}

Today is my first day in a while that I’ve had off work without needing to go shopping or having company over. And, although I enjoy doing both those things sometimes, it’s so nice to spend a day just relaxing at home.

I sat out in the sun reading a nonfiction book and sipping coffee, journaling a ton, and then got caught up on housework and cleaned out my fridge because I’m going to be visiting my family for about two weeks.

This afternoon I took a nap and finished reading King’s Shadow. I’m excited about this for several reasons, including the fact that after being behind with book reviews for far too long I’m finally caught up! I’m so thankful for the grace the publishing companies/review sites showed me when life didn’t go according to plan and I got behind.

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 384
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: King’s Shadow
Fiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve.

The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion.

Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In July of 2017, I received the first book in The Silent Years series for review. It’s titled Egypt’s Sister (read the review here) and totally intrigued me. I’d never read a book that took place during the Silent Years before, and I right away set about researching that time period.

Over the last couple of years, I bought books 2 (Judah’s Wife which I gave three stars) and 3 (Jerusalem’s Queen which also got three stars from me) when they were released. The crazy thing I was didn’t even really like the storyline of either of those books, but the writing, world-building, and research were so well done that I kept going with the series. When this book was released I jumped at the chance to review it.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

My admiration for the author is strong. I can’t even imagine the number of historical documents she had to shift through to write this book, nor how much notetaking she had to commit to in order to keep everything straight. Considering the sheer amounts of Herod’sAlexandra/Alexander’s, and Mariamne’s that were mentioned in this book I’m amazed by how smoothly the storyline flowed and how well I was able to understand what was going on. Seriously though, why did everyone use the same names? (Actually, not seriously, I understand why.)

As far as storylines go, I thought the author made a bold (and wise) move by having the story be from the perspective of the “bad guy” – although you never feel like that when you’re reading. Most of the story is told by Salome, the sister of Herod, a person who was very loyal to him. Therefore, as we read about the atrocities that Herod committed, it’s through the eyes of someone who’s only seeing his best and always justifying his actions. If you were reading the book just paying attention to tone instead of content, then it would seem that everything that is going on is perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s only when you stop and consider what is actually happening that you realize how terrible it really is.

This perspective was well done and made the story flow in a way that I’m not used to. Instead of focusing on emotions that you’d normally feel while reading about someone in history doing horrible things, those violent acts were just stated as facts and then you move on. For instance, when King Herod had someone he’d loved very much be executed, he then went crazy for a while. Since we’re reading from the perspective of Salome, we focus on her sadness that her brother is having a hard time, and the way she tries to help him, vs. the fact that the man is a brutal, savage madman.

Because of this lack of emotion and the way Salome merely recites facts (“And then he had 300 Jews killed in a mad fit, but hey – the guy has to protect his throne.”) it made the book a lot more bearable to read than if it had gone into how horrible everything was. If this story was merely fiction I wouldn’t have liked the approach at all, but since it’s based on true facts I appreciated being able to read and learn this way.

The other perspective is from Zara (a made-up character) who is Salome’s Jewish handmaid. Her chapters weren’t very often, but she did provide an interesting balance to Salome’s cut-throat and scheming ways. Since her perspective isn’t really prevalent in the story I felt like we didn’t get to know her well as a character, but I have nothing bad to say about her.

The book covers about a 30ish year period of time, which isn’t something I generally like, but for the sake of this story, I think it was well-done.

I’ve learned so much through this series, and I find myself being satisfied with King’s Shadow as the final book.

CONCLUSION

There’s a lot of horrible stuff that goes on in the book. So much plotting, killing, torture (not in detail) scheming, lying, and un-holy relationships.

But, nothing was written in detail (probably about as much as if you were reading the Bible), and I think the author did a really good job of making the time period come alive without saying too much. I think I would recommend this book to people fifteen and older.

RATING

I’m giving King’s Shadow 4 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful to Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy so I could review it for y’all.

Protecting Your Child from Predators

Warning: Hey folks! This review is going to be nice and vague, but it’s still not necessarily something I recommend for kids. So, proceed at your own decretion.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 240
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: Protecting Your Child from Predators
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Read the back cover blurb here. (Since it’s a sensitive topic, I’m choosing not to post the back cover blurb on my blog since I have young readers.)

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I think this subject is one that really needs to be taught today. I became fairly aware of it when I began studying the subject of children’s ministry at churches. (I taught Children’s Church for fifteen months before moving to Kentucky.) When I read the blurb for this book it sounded like the authors really knew what they were talking about so I requested the book.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Obviously it’s not a fun topic to read about, but the authors did a phenomenal job of tackling an exceedingly difficult subject with gentle grace while not compromising the message.

The book is laid out in such a way that it’s easy to skip around and read the parts that are applicable to you and your life. After the introduction where they explain the purpose of the book, the rest of the chapters are divided into three different sections, each one focusing on a certain age group and how to best prepare children of that age to be safest. This is helpful because it means the reader doesn’t have to be overwhelmed trying to read the book all the way through – instead they can read it at the same pace their children grow.

Throughout the book, one of the authors shares many stories (with appropriate changes) from her years as a counselor. Along with the examples, she explains what could have been done differently, how parents should respond in each situation, and the best way to help children move on. (With the main emphasis being on what could have been done to prevent the situation in the first place.) In each example, I was impressed by how kindly the author approached what had happened. It was clear that she loves children and parents, and even when someone obviously did the wrong thing, she doesn’t pass judgment. Instead, she lovingly helps offer solutions. With that attitude being the overall tone, I can see how this book will be a huge tool to helping parents rectify abuse and wrongs that might have unknowingly been going on in their homes.

In addition to the true-life examples, this book is also full of statistics. A lot of those stats are rather disturbing and a good reason for people to read this book. But, in the midst of all that, I didn’t feel like the book was trying to scare the readers. Instead, it was informing us, then providing good tools for how to protect children. The authors continually took us back to the Bible and showed how we’ve been prepared to fight and that we aren’t powerless. This approach was very encouraging.

Although I didn’t enjoy reading the book, I did find it very enlighting and something that I feel like will help how I am around children (especially who I don’t know well) in the future. The writing style is easy to read which is perfect since it’s such a difficult topic. I read the whole book within five hours of unboxing it.

CONCLUSION

This is a book I highly recommend. It’s disturbing, yes, but it’s written with such grace and love that they make a hard, horrible subject something that can be read and received. I do recommend that it not be read by anyone under 18, possibly even older.

RATING

I’m giving Protecting Your Child from Predators 5 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.

Ice Cream and Fire

Y’all, yesterday I switched off days with a co-worker. Because of that and another day switch, it meant yesterday was my 8th day working in a row. I’m sure there are plenty of people who can pull that off without a hitch, but for me it was a mite bit much. Except it wasn’t because I didn’t really end up working.

See, I mentioned a coworker that it was my 8th day working, and my manger overheard me. (Said manager is amazing and really cares about his employees; seriously, I thank him on a daily basis for being so thoughtful.) Well, he determined that I’d been working too hard and needed to rest, so he worked it out so I could go home after I’d worked less than half my shift. The only problem was I like my job so much that I really didn’t want to leave. So, after I clocked out I just hung out there talking and reading stuff on my phone.

Then, he finally convinced me I should head home and sit in the sun to read a book, and so that’s what I did, complete with a delicious Birthday Cake Bash Ice Cream Cone with Sprinkles. (Yes, please!) That meant that today (on my actual off-day) I have been able to catch up on a boatload of things I’ve been behind on.

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After being behind with my reviews for months, I finally submitted four reviews to different publishing and review sites, plus I read a book and wrote a fifth review. So, enjoy, folks!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 176
Publisher: Chosen Books
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Title: Fire!
Nonfiction

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ABOUT THE BOOK

The world has wandered so far from God that nothing short of revival will reignite the fires of awakening. But God is about to set the world ablaze, and the nations will burn for him once again.

In this book, filled with empowering inspiration and astonishing real-life stories, pastor and speaker James Levesque offers twelve biblical principles to help you return to the passion you felt at the beginning of your faith–and carry the torch to your community and nation. This book is an exhortation to action, to ignite the fire inside you and see your life activated for signs, wonders, and miracles. Say goodbye to powerless Christianity and become a burning brand for God.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

I regularly read books that I hope will challenge me and help me grow more into the person who God has created me to be. This book seemed like it would be perfect for the job.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

To keep things simple, we’re going to go with a list of things I did and didn’t like for this review.

What I Did Like:

-The author did a good job of speaking the truth with passion and not shying away from calling this generation of Christians out on what we’re doing wrong. I agreed with a lot of what he said about how we need to go back to being passionate about obeying and serving God. He mentioned that America is pretty much a Third World country when it comes to how spiritual (or non-spiritual) we are, and that seems like a really appropriate description.
-The books is full of enlightening, practical ways to serve God better and more fully. It doesn’t just tell us what’s wrong in the Church today, it then helps us go to the Bible to find solutions.
-It was an easy to understand book – meaning it spoke in layman terms and although it challenged my thinking, it didn’t challenge my brain to try and figure out what the author was trying to say.

What I Didn’t Like:

-I didn’t agree with a lot of what the author had to say. Yes, there were nuggets in the book that challenged me and helped me in my walk with God, but there were also things that I really don’t agree with, and therefore I won’t be recommending the book or reading more by the same author.

For Instance:
*At one point the author is talking about dreams God has given us, and he says “When God gives us a dream, we are usually nowhere near the full manifestation of that dream. But through the pits of life, God’s dream will never leave us. As a matter of fact, it is what sustains us through every trial. Your dream will make a way. (Emphasis mine.) Um, excuse me? I do agree with the basic concept of what I think the author is saying – when we’re focusing on what God has called us to do that helps us push through the hard times, etc…. But it’s God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s love (etc…) that sustains us and makes a way, not a dream He’s given me.
*The author has a section about how God will do this and that, etc… where he names multiple things that God will do in your life after you have the right attitude and belief about giving and receiving. And, while I believe that many people are not receiving God’s full blessings because of a wrong attitude or belief about God and His nature, I also didn’t agree with the dogmatic approach the author took while talking about this subject. (Yes, the promises in the Bible are true, but there are some promises who were made to certain people, and not to all generations of Christians.)

-There were a lot of other small instances throughout the book that left me shaking my head, disagreeing either with the tone, the conclusion, or the example given in the book.

CONCLUSION

I got some good things out of the book. It challenged me to seek God with more passion and reminded me that God has got to be first place in my life, no matter what. This book also helped remind me to study what I read and match it against God’s Word to see how it lines up. Because of the discrepancies I found, despite the fact that there were some really good parts of this book, I won’t be recommending it.

RATING

I’m giving Fire! 3 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.

The Most Important Stories of the Bible?

It’s Thursday and the camels next door have been calling out to each other a lot this morning. (Who would have ever thought I’d start a blog post with that line?!?)

I’m so thankful to finally be catching up with book reviews. This is the last one I’ve had sitting here waiting for me to write, and I’m thrilled to be about ready to push the publish button. It’s also kinda exciting because last time I went home I picked up three more book packages from publishing companies to open, but I told myself I wouldn’t do anything with them until I was caught up on reviews.

I’ve had some exciting things happen at work recently that I look forward to sharing with y’all soon. Among other things Monday was my three month anniversary of moving to Kentucky. My original plan was to be here for three months, but… Well, that’s a story for another day. For now, here’s my book review. Have a great day, folks!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 190
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: July 2, 2019
Title: The Most Important Stories of the Bible
Nonfiction

4

ABOUT THE BOOK

Most of us are familiar with the exciting adventures of David and Goliath, Noah, or Daniel in the lions’ den, but we don’t always understand how they fit together. We lack context, and so we sometimes miss the point.

The Most Important Stories of the Bible will give you a working knowledge of the key events in Scripture and how they flow into one big story. The book’s 75 stories are compact, easy to read, and enjoyable. Each chapter includes a brief introduction that gives historical context to help you grasp the overall narrative of the Bible, and concludes with an explanation of why that story matters in our lives.

There’s a reason most of the Bible is made up of stories. They speak to us in a deep way, helping us internalize God’s message. And in the end, understanding the stories of God’s Word will help us connect more closely to Jesus, the greatest storyteller of all.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Plain and simple: Because I was curious.

I dislike it when people refer to Biblical accounts as stories (which in todays lingo brings to mind fiction, which the Bible obviously isn’t), so I nearly didn’t request the book. But then my desire to see what “stories” (aka, accounts) from the Bible were included in the book made me request it after all.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

The book was a pleasant surprise to me. I think the title is a misnomer and not entirely true anyway, but other than that I only had a few minor disagreements with the book.

I think a better way of marketing the book would be to tout it as an overview of how the Bible works as a cohesive whole – and that’s kind of what is talked about on the back cover blurb.

The book is short, and the chapters only a couple pages long. Therefore, it was easy to sit down and take a few minutes to breeze through the book. I read it over the course of a couple of days and greatly enjoyed how one chapter flowed into the next – complete with a timeline, a paragraph about how the two accounts connected to each other, and a thought to ponder at the end of each segment. (Some of which I agreed with, some I didn’t…)

It was a bit confusing to me trying to figure out who the book was designed for – a Christian who understood the Bible? A new Christian trying to figure out what the Bible was all about? An unbeliever? There were times when I felt like the wording was a bit confusing for someone unfamiliar with the Bible, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because hopefully that would make them find an actual Bible to dig around in and get answers.

As someone who grew up reading the Bible, I really enjoyed the new perspective of how things fit together, as well as the way the authors told the accounts. They weren’t trying to quote the Bible word for word, so it was more the way that you would imagine someone sitting down and regaling you with an account in their own words. Because of that, I got to see the Bible through someone else’s perspective which was interesting.

CONCLUSION

There were a few places I disagreed with how they interpreted something from the Bible, but that’s not uncommon in books (or life). I probably won’t be re-reading the book, but I did enjoy the chance to get new perspectives on how everything flows together.

Also, obviously the title, but we already went over that.

RATING

I’m giving The Most Important Stories of the Bible 4 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.

The Cranky Mom Fix

I’m back, folks! On Saturday I drove home to Ohio after work to surprise my family and be there for the weekend. I got home around 11:00 in the evening and snuck up to my sister’s rooms and surprised them (although they weren’t actually all that surprised). Although it was late and we were all really tired we had fun catching up for a while before going to sleep.

The next morning I went downstairs and walked into the kitchen where I told my mom “Happy Anniversary” (which was the reason I went home). My mom was shocked and exceedingly happy and I was thrilled to have pulled off the surprise.

My weekend home was short, but delightful and I had a fantastic time with my family. I’m back in Kentucky now, and about to head off to work. But first, a book review. 😉

The STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 256
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Title: The Cranky Mom Fix
Nonfiction

3

ABOUT THE BOOK

If we’re honest with ourselves, almost every mom knows she can go from being kind to cranky in no time flat. When we’re tired, busy, anxious, preoccupied–okay, so anytime, really–we tend to default to snapping and barking at our kids. But life doesn’t have to be this way.

Through coaching other moms who share a desire to be a kinder, gentler parent, Becky Kopitzke has learned the keys to taming the “momster” in all of us. And in this grace-filled book, she will help you

  • assess the triggers that spark your angry responses
  • understand your children better so you can minimize frustrations
  • learn gentle, effective responses to trying situations
  • and much more
WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

What can I say? Parenting books are incredibly intriguing to me. I’ve read dozens of them and still find them to be some of the most interesting books I pick up. I find it very enlightening to see the concepts behind the why and how parents are raising their kids.

(Disclaimer: I’m not married, I’m not a mom, and I’m very aware of the fact that I don’t have the whole parenting thing figured out. I’m not one of those annoying single people who think I know how to raise kids. I just like reading about how others raise their kids and figure that my reviews of these books give an interesting perspective since I’m not the intended audience.)

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

This book isn’t a book about how to raise kids.

This book is about how to be a good mom.

There’s a big difference between the two and I was impressed as I read this book. My dad (who’s done a fantastic job raising nine kids) has told me before that he never really liked reading parenting books written by people who’s kids were still little, because how do they know that what they are teaching really works? And that makes sense. This author’s kids are still young, but her approach isn’t about what to do with the kids, it’s about how to respond as a mom.

really liked this book. It was encouraging, uplifting, honest, and so practical. The author talks about how she, as a mom, is working on learning to change her mindset, control herself, and become more Christ-like. Although this book was about how to be a better mom, it’s applicable for pretty much anyone.

It’s so easy for people to blame their reactions on other people, but this book highlighted the fact that we are responsible for how we respond to situations. The author does a fantastic job of helping the reader think through why they respond the way they do to certain things, then offers solid, Biblically-based answers for how they can change.

When I read this book I was inspired by how I can change things in my life to become more Christ-like. It also made me excited about being a mom one day if I ever have kids. From my very non-experienced viewpoint, I felt like the author did the perfect job of being inspiring, encouraging, honest, funny, and hard-hitting. She doesn’t hold back from the truth, but she delivers it in a way that’s easy(ish) to accept.

CONCLUSION

There were only a very few things in this book that I had an issue with which isn’t common. As usual, I don’t recommend or un-recommend parenting books, but I did really like this one.

RATING

I’m giving The Cranky Mom Fix 4 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful for the publisher for giving me a copy so I could review it here.

My Quota of Surprises

This weekend I not one, but two surprises.

I was supposed to have three days off, but it wasn’t going to work out for me to go home so I asked if I could just work one and a half of the days and my mangers said sure. (Cue happiness because I really like my job. I mean, obviously…) Well, Saturday afternoon I was covering a light, five-hour shift and about fifteen minutes before I was going to head home, I looked up and saw my pastor and his wife (from back home) about ten paces away.

Now, I knew there was a possibility that they’d stop in some time because they’re my really good friends and their son only lives about an hour away, but the shock was real folks. I ran out from my station and gave them big hugs, totally delighted that they could see me in my little work sphere.

God had worked it out perfectly so 1) I was at work when they stopped by and 2) I was just getting off work so we could hang out for a visit. They weren’t at the museum to tour it, they were just there to hang out with me. So I quickly went and dropped my till (which is what you call it when you take your money to the cash room), then introduced them to my manager while I signed out for the day.

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We headed over to my camper which was pretty cool because they used to travel by camper a lot, so they were able to give me some tips and tricks about how to keep my place more insulated, etc…

Having them visit me was wonderful and made me so happy. I’m thrilled to be here in Kentucky, but I also left a lot behind in Ohio, so when my two little worlds merge it’s fantastic.

Sunday I worked the last late shift of the summer, then called Mom as I headed home. Right before I walked into my camper my sister stepped out from behind a tree. I screamed, my mouth fell open, and I just stared at her. Then, realizing I had just screamed into my phone then took it away from my ear I quickly asked Mom if she knew what was going on. She did and was quite amused, so I hung up and gave my sister a big hug.

She had decided that some sister-time was far over-due and her husband had helped her work out surprising me.

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She took me to my favorite restaurant (Olive Garden) where we talked and laughed and had enough leftovers to bring home for a whole second meal. (And actually for me, a third.)

Then we came back to my camper and I had a delightful time showing her around. It was gratifying when she commented on how she was surprised that I didn’t really have any clutter. (Yo, folks, when we were kids we shared a room and I was Clutter Queen and my room was a mess. Most of my childhood was spent with my parents and oldest sister trying to teach me to keep my things in order, but instead, I just became an expert at climbing over mounds of stuff in order to reach my bed.) For the last decade, I’ve become progressively more particular with my living space, and nowadays? Well, everything has its place and I’m not able to relax until everything is in its place. That comes in hand when you have unexpected company, I mean, obviously.

My sister spent the night, and we had a lovely time talking, walking around the gardens, relaxing, and me excitedly introducing her to my friends at the museum, and of course, showing her all the stuffed animals. (Seriously, we’ve got some of the cutest ones ever.)

The sister-time we had was exactly what I needed, even though I hadn’t realized that until I was experiencing it. I’m so thankful she came. It was hard saying good-bye to her, but I just kept reminding myself that her visit was so unexpected in the first place that I can just dwell on the happiness of her having been here, rather then miss her too much.

I never liked surprises because I like anticipating happy things. But now? Well, maybe I’m changing my mindset because goodness, getting surprised twice in one weekend was amazingly wonderful.

And now I’ve got to hurry off to work, so bye for now folks!

Question: Do you like surprises? What’s one of the best surprises you’ve ever gotten?

A Life Outside of Work?

Next week the museum where I work is going back to it’s non-summer hours: Nine to Six instead of Nine to Eight. That means that I’ll be working less. Ya know, like a normal 40-hour work week. (Which has only happened once since I started working here, and that’s  because I had to take a day off work due to a family emergency.)

The problem is, I’m so used to working long hours that when I realized I was only going to be working five days a week I had a slight feeling of panic. Like, what am I supposed to be doing now? I’m fairly certain that this means I’m going to have to figure out a life outside of work here in Kentucky.

And, when I stop and think about it the possibilities seem pretty endless.

  • I could start cooking massive amounts of food to give to my co-workers (Seriously, this is a dream of mine, I just need to figure out the details since I live in a little camper)
  • I could start running again (This would be quite beneficial and will probably become a reality starting tomorrow)
  • I could try and start getting together with my co-worker friends outside of work (Or, ya know, just go hang out with them while they’re working and I’m off duty…)
  • I could finally begin writing again (Yes, yes, this needs to happen)
  • I could actually take up vlogging once more (Especially because a friend gave me a vlogging camera…)
  • I could explore the area (Maybe with a friend in tow?)
  • I could hand-wash my laundry instead of going to an expensive laundromat (This is a real possibility until it gets cold outside)

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Or, I could just go ahead and do what I dreamed about last night: Volunteer at the museum.

I went to sleep last night pondering what would happen if I went to work in my uniform on my days off. I considered the possibility of being able to wander around helping people while off the clock and realized that might not work. I mean, there are certain protocols we’re supposed to adhere to at work – like not doing any actual work until we’ve clocked in (I think this has something to do with liability?).

But! There are a lot of volunteers at the museum, which is probably why I dreamed about setting things up with my managers so they’d let me come in even on my days off and continue doing my normal tasks.

I’m not sure if this is a sign that I’m a very loyal worker, or that I need to work at being less resistant to change?

In reality, I’m pretty excited at the possibility of building more of a non-working life here in Kentucky. It is rather daunting though because I have really enjoyed my over-time working schedule.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to make a lot of friends at work. Now I just need to start inviting them to hang out with me outside of work. I’ve already invited one person over for supper next week, and I think I’ll start working on trying to plan a game night.

That’s it for today, folks!