Book Review: The Scotties Learn About Respect

by hollycombs

The Scotties Learn About RespectA little known fact about me — I love children’s books.

I am slightly obsessed with good illustrations, and I collect children’s books for myself. Above all, though, I love reading to the little ones that I care about — especially my 10 (yes 10!) nephews and nieces.

When I received the opportunity to review The Scotties Learn About Respect, I jumped on it. I have to say, I really liked this charming tale. The illustrations are hand-drawn and, of course, feature some rambunctious pups.

Archie, Flea, and Bonnie — Scottish Terriers — sometimes forget to be good dogs as they romp and play. After Mom puts new tomato plants in the ground, she makes sure all three know they aren’t allowed to play in the garden. But Archie soon finds out that sometimes his imagination gets the best of him, and forgetting to be respectful can hurt others.

Most importantly, I really love the simple, but spot on, explanation of respect portrayed in this book.

“Respect,” says Flea, “means that you honor Mom. You agree to do as she asks… Respect is a form of caring. Don’t you care for Mom?”

With children, we often talk about obedience, and we talk about love. But respect is a harder concept to grasp and more difficult to convey. A big kudos to Stephanie Robinson and Wendy Hope (both fellow Virginians) on a job well done.

Beyond that, the book revolves around animals (an obvious favorite subject of mine) and growing tomato plants (a love of Husband’s). So in all, this book is definitely a win!

I received a complimentary copy of The Scotties Learn About Respect from Ambassador International, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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An enduring loss

by hollycombs

I went to a funeral recently. It was hard, harder than I first thought it would be. Charlie was a dear friend of Husband’s family for many years, but his declining health meant that his passing was not unexpected.

But at the graveside service, it was so painfully evident that loss is enduring, long-lasting, never truly ending. You see, Charlie is buried next to Michael.

So we stood there, between the same two live oak trees that we had stood between in October of 2012. It was sunny and birds were chirping, though. An utterly different feel than the chilly wet weather surrounding Michael’s passing when Hurricane Sandy swept through. There was joy and smiles and prayers as we remembered Charlie. It didn’t feel that way when we buried Michael. It was a searing loss, a part of ourselves torn away forever.

I took a moment after the service to give Carol, Charlie’s wife, a hug. She took me in her grasp and looked me right in the eye. I want to tell you, she said. I’m proud of you. I saw how you handled everything a year ago. A young wife, so young in your marriage for such a hard lesson. But I saw how you handled everything, and I’m proud of you.

I can’t express what her words meant to me; I am recording them here so that I will never forget.

These past 18 months since Michael passed have been the hardest of my life. I pray that I live through them with grace and compassion. I pray that my marriage is strengthened by the hardship, not torn. I pray for healing and faith that goes beyond what any of us could imagine. And I pray for peace that passes all understanding.

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From there to here

by hollycombs

It wasn’t that long ago that our house looked like this:

House in process

So I am more than happy that today, it looks more like this:

master-in-progress

Obviously, it isn’t entirely finished yet, so more photos to come!

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Book Review: A Little Irish Love Story

by hollycombs

a little irish love storyWhen I received the opportunity to read and review A Little Irish Love Story, I thought the description sounded charming. Set in post-WWII era Ireland and retelling one of my favorite Bible stories, that of Ruth, I was intrigued. I looked forward to insights into some of my favorite Bible characters and a new understanding of the era and place in which the story is set.

The book also promised some intrigue and romance. Anna and her elderly mother-in-law return to Ireland in hopes that a distant relative of Sarah’s will help them get back on their feet. Amid mystery and suspense, Anna finds truth, healing and a love she could never anticipate.

Although I entered the novel with anticipation, my struggle with it began early on. To me, the novel seemed over-written, and obvious errors were hard to skim over. I don’t know if Amy Fleming is a relatively new fiction author or not, although much of what I read makes me think so. If that is the case, than I am glad she took the chance to take a story from her head and heart and put it onto paper for others to read. However, I hope as she moves forward in her writing career that her prose will mature and simplify.

My interest had been piqued because of the Ruth tie-in, but I struggled to find some of my favorite elements of that story in A Little Irish Love Story. For instance, I love the kind of man Boaz is, especially considering he is Rahab’s son. In the beginning of the book, the hero is not a Godly man of integrity, although he does become that person by the end of the book. I did love the way true love is portrayed not as lighthearted romance, but as the deep, gritty, and self-sacrificing thing that it truly is.

I think my biggest hesitation is that the major plot twist is rather incredible. At that point I had a hard time offering my “willing suspension of disbelief,” to the author and struggled to continue reading. I have no desire to give it away for those interested in reading the book, but I rather lost interest in the book because the books simply became implausible.

That said, I have to also note that the inspiration for the book is incredibly sweet and a thoughtful memory of Fleming’s grandparents. If you choose to read A Little Irish Love Story, definitely also read her short behind-the-scenes explanation.

I received a complimentary copy of A Little Irish Love Story from Ambassador International, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

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Hygge

by hollycombs

“Hyooguh”

It’s an odd word. Danish. But perfect.

It’s my vision for our new home.

It doesn’t translate well. Sort of like a deep, intrinsic coziness.

It’s candles and blankets and warm fires. It’s family and friends and conversation. It’s ease and coze and hospitality. It’s good food and laughter and being. Deep being.

That is my desire for my home.

Hygge.

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Progress

by hollycombs

Progress feels good.

It’s small. Incremental. But it’s there.

The pear trees are planted. The daffodils are in. The front bed is weeded. Two rows of fence rails are hung. The hot tub is moved off the deck. The linen and coat closets are painted. Progress.

I have to remind myself sometimes, or this whole thing could easily get overwhelming. But step-by-step, one tiny project at a time, we will get this house in order.

As I sat sprawled out on the floor of the master closet painting the trim I reminded myself — this, this is what I have been waiting for. Not the finished product. Not the perfect home. The process.

And I don’t want to rush it. (Although I would like to unpack some of our clothes, because right now our bedroom looks like this…)

House in process

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Spring

by hollycombs

It’s the first day of Spring after a long winter. We’re nearly overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the house while still maintaining our regular lives and responsibilities, like you know, work.

But with Spring comes new things. And right now we have a yard just waiting to be worked. It will be tilled, fortified, hoed, planted, watered and good things will come of it. We’ll start small this year, or at least smaller. A few raised beds near the front yard made with scrap lumber we pulled from a friend’s yard. A few long beds in the back, maybe someday they will be raised as well. We’ll add a little mulch to the landscaping around the house, take out a few dead shrubs, plant a few trees that have been patiently waiting in their pots.

We’ll finish the fencing, add a few gates and move Chappy into her new home. We’ll add a fresh coat of red paint to the barn and white to the fencing and it will be lovely.

Just like the inside of the house, the outside is a blank slate. We can do whatever strikes us. And we are dreaming, planning, hoping for a wondering Spring.

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Hot water is overrated

by hollycombs

Moving is a funny thing, and I just have to learn to go with it sometimes.

The water heater broke about 2 days into our home ownership. The warranty has been called upon, the plumbers will come. But not until next week. Meanwhile, I’m heating water on the stove and washing my hair in the sink. And that water? We can’t drink it. Or wash dishes with it. Because we haven’t been nearby during office hours to pick up a test kit from the water treatment plant to find out if it’s even safe. Ah, well. Next week. Meanwhile, the dishes can just pile up in the sink (it’s not like we’re really doing any cooking anyway).

The toilets are another matter…they both run, and leak. The master one is off because it’s the worst. The other we can use intermittently if we turn on the water source each time. No biggie.

The overhead light/fan in the master appears to require some sort of remote to work. We don’t have the remote. So either we have light, and a full blast fan, or nothing at all. We choose nothing.

We’re still working out what all the light switches are for. And a bunch of the lights need bulbs. We have some. Packed. Somewhere. Maybe next week I’ll find them. Or the week after.

My lunches this week have consisted of an entire jar of queso and a big bag of chips. Dinners have mostly been chicken strips from Hardee’s. Yeah. That’s what happens when you don’t have a kitchen. Or working oven. Or water for that matter.

It’s all relative though. I’m ecstatic to have a home. A real home. A forever home. And we had the chimney cleaned and checked out. Really, what more does a girl need than a fireplace? Hot water is overrated.

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A new era

by hollycombs

Home. It means so many things in so many different ways. I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and all the varying homes she had and loved — in the Big Woods, along the prairie, the sod home etc. I think of Anne coming to Green Gables. I think of myself, roaming far and wide for the past decade, home an ever-evolving concept.

But now, I have a home. We have a home. We have a place to land. A place to put down roots. A place to connect to, invest in, and grow with us.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything, but during that hiatus we bought our very first house.

We have been actively searching for a home of our own for about two years now. Six months ago, we had to move into yet another temporary home. But we knew the Lord would bring the right place to us at the right time. We just had to watch and wait. And He did.

home

The house is exactly what we want, it just needs a bit of updating. And we are more than happy to give all the TLC it needs.

Two things contend for “best” or “favorite” with this place: The adorably small one-stall barn for Chappy and the giant brick fireplace right in the middle of the living room/dining room. I have great plans for both of these features.

For now, we consider the house a blank slate. We are working on updates to the kitchen that won’t cost much, but will provide an entirely new appeal to the smallest space in the house. New paint will refresh the entire interior. And a fence will make it possible to bring my baby to our own space.

Our space. I like that.

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{Moments of Inspiration}

by hollycombs

“Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them;
for those experiences have left an indelible impression,
and we are ever and anon reminded of them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Glass jar

For more than a decade I’ve been saving all my coins (and a few $1 bills) in this giant, dusty, old glass jar I picked up at a flea market. While it doesn’t look terribly full, it had gotten so heavy it’s difficult to move. This was my “savings account” intended for my horse ranch someday. I’m not exactly living in Montana like I thought I would be, but we are in the process of buying a house (which just so happens to be a ranch and will house my horse). So for the first time, all this money was poured out and will soon be counted…

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