From Italy to Homeschooling in a Little Green House
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A Haines Home Companion
Learning Home in a Far-away Place

I'm doing it. 

I'm writing my first newsletter, and I must say that it makes me feel pretty fancy. Let's be clear that even though I'm about to show you some photos of Tuscany, my fancy runs out quickly. For the most part, all I do is holler out my 1960s sliding glass door, "Boys? Don't you dare pick that snake up! I said, 'Put that snake down and wash your hands. You're going to get mites and bacteria and rabies and worms and some terrible staph infection!'" â€¨â€¨
I haven't yet figured out how to handle evil creatures without using fear tactics. It doesn't matter anyway. Isaac can stare me in eyes without blinking and reach down and grab a snake by the cheeks without even looking to see what kind it is. Last week, a bird had the gumption to perch on his arm. Today, he was swimming with his eyes open in a lake, no doubt full of e coli, and he saw a critter with four legs and grabbed for it. He had hoped it was a beaver, but instead it was a turtle the size of a dinner plate. The turtle had a hook in its mouth. Isaac found an Australian plumber who had some pliers, and they saved the turtle together. He is a miniature Saint Frances.

Back when I was a mother of two, I taught him Bible verses, and he was a toddler when he would quote, "Go into all the world and spread the gospel to every creature." He has taken loving every creature very seriously.
This week our new green anole (fancy for special lizard) went bonkers in his cage and lost a little lizard toe. It kept trying to climb up the glass but needed that toe and couldn’t do it. Watching the sorrow in Isaac over that dern lizard toe was worse than watching that Sarah McLachlan Silent Night commercial at Christmas time.

On to Tuscany, shall we? 

The long and short of it is this: Jesus made Tuscany so that humans might believe that life, in fact, is not dumb at all. 

That being said, it actually took me a few days to see it. The bustle of the big renaissance city of Florence was spectacular, but something in me strangely longed for Haiti. I couldn't get settled with any of it, though the statue of David and the church history through art got my wheels turning hard.
We were there with my friend and agent Jenni Burke, and she had created this trip to inspire writers to creativity. She wanted to refresh our souls. When I got the invitation, I cried at the way she described it, because I had let myself forget that the world is a place of such beauty. It had been a while since I had cried because a thing was so beautiful, and this was her mere description of what she hoped for the trip.

We were all still in the quieter get-to-know-you part, when we piled into a van and drove through the Tuscan countryside. As we unloaded, something came over us: the ancient, settled things, the walls and the gate, the red geraniums in pots along the windows, how meticulously the roads had been swept. We were speechless word people. Jasmine and lavender had so sugared the air that it was sweet on the tongue. I never got used to the smell.
And then we all cried. We walked through the tiny villa whose walls stood since the twelve hundreds and then into our house. Every house in a villa is a part of the structure that is the town. The floors in the house were as old as the gate, and the decor was for dreamers, and obviously none of us had ever even dreamed of being somewhere like that. We were a mess, maybe because receiving beautiful things can be hard to do. The view from the back yard was of miles and miles of olive groves and vineyards.

I spent the first three days feeling guilty, and we'll save that post for later, but as the week went on, I had to learn how to receive.

I had never met half our group before, but they were such a part of the gift.

There were only ten of us, and none were glory hounds. Somehow we all mirrored similar desires. They were seers and translators of heart, great conversationalists. There was a gentleness to us. However, in this photo, Brooke and I are eating something so delicious that if it had tasted any better, we would have punched each other in the face. 

We spent most of the week sitting around tables. We ate cheeses made by the hands of the woman standing right in front of us. We drank the wine of Luciano, the old man who had a keen eye for beautiful women, but touched his grapes so tenderly as if they were the faces of most innocent children. We saw small living and community, kids who knew their grandparents well, big boys who hopped off bicycles to admire the beautiful flower, "il bel fiore." We met people again and again who absolutely loved what they did for a living. We met people who loved their lives.

I have decided to love my life, and I have come to know what I want for my life. It is not to move to Italy, though I wouldn't argue if it happened. 

It is a simple thing, something I would have told you before our trip. I want to know Jesus as my friend. I want to love my husband and be with my children while they are small. I want to live small, make choices that acknowledge community, and I want to love what I do. Though I had these same desires before Italy, now I feel them in my bones. They are not things to ponder. They are things to do. 

These two months later, I have moved into a tiny house that I love, and I have kept the boys home this year for school and for my arms.

Last night the neighbor came to his fence. He must be in his 80s, around the same age as Luciano. He was holding the fattest Jack Rusell Terrior. He asked if he could cut down a bunch of brush and turn over my garden with his beloved tractor. He'll be here today to do it.

Thank you for reading this through. It takes a mighty good soul to stick with somebody like this. 

So much love to you,

Come visit TheRunaMuck soon. I haven't even shown you my kitchen, and we'll be getting into book talk.
The above photos, excluding Tsh's, were taken by my amazing Seth.

Copyright © 2014 Amber C Haines, All rights reserved.

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