...the Life and Times of Karolyn Lewis.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Trip to the Mailbox

Last week, I wrote about the absolute joy of receiving a letter in the mail.   I realized that I could step it up a notch in the "sending mail" department. 

As I tend to be obsessive and extreme, this week I mailed six -- count 'em SIX-- cards.  Unfortunately, they all had dogs on the front.  They were cute dogs, but dogs, nonetheless.  Upon opening my secret stationary drawer, I realized the drawer was no secret to my four year old; who enjoys stringing random letters together and drawing people who resemble potatoes.  Thus, dog cards.  

Henry and I each had a welcome home present waiting for us when we returned from Ethiopia, so our first two cards this week were "thank you" cards.  Both gifts truly warmed my heart.  There's nothing like being loved!

Two more were also thank you cards, and another was a "you did a great job!" note.  

The last card was from Liliana to another little boy her age.  He'll like the dogs on the front, no doubt. Liliana signed her name and decorated it with tiny animal stickers.  She was careful that every animal had a friend and I wondered if she was learning about Noah's Ark in school.  As any good friend would, we included a few un-stuck stickers for little T to stick at leisure. 

Liliana and the letters.  (Yes, we have a very long driveway.  Veeeerrrryyy long.  If you'd like to pave it for us, it would make me smile.)  

Liliana picking up said letters after she dropped them.

Liliana putting the letters in the mailbox.

Yes, this trip turned out to be all about Liliana.  The only thing she'd let Henry do was hold her hand.  And that made all her selfishness melt away in my eyes.  I love it when she loves him.

As far as what was IN the mailbox this week: a few bills, some junk mail,  a newsletter, and this...

...a card from a bosom friend in North Carolina.  If you've read Anne of Green Gables, you totally get the bosom friend, thing.  Anyway,  this card made me smile for about 30  minutes straight, even while doing the dishes!  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Ethiopian Adventure... Part 2

Thanks for coming back for more of My Ethiopian Adventure.  If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.  These pictures are in no particular order and many were taken while speeding down dusty roads.   We had an amazing trip in January of 2011 and then again in March.  

Two little boys walking to school.  There was nothing around for miles, but they were headed somewhere with purpose.   On our 4 hour drive into the country, there was never a time when people weren't present.  Sometimes they were barely visible, working in the fields, but if you looked hard enough, someone was always near.  

The local Jo-Ann's.  I seriously can't believe I didn't buy any fabric.  Guess I'll have to go back. 

This is the local lumber store.  If Gulf Coast Lumber decides to take advantage of the Ethiopian market, Lee and I will definitely request a transfer.  Well, we'll definitely think about requesting a transfer.   

We went to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant with a group of friends.  The six of us shared this plate of food.  And we ate with our hands.  The platter is similar to a pizza pan covered with injera, a spongy type of thin fermented bread.  The injera "sops" all the flavors and is used to pick up the food.  Injera is also rolled up on the platter.  I'm not sure what the difference is between the dark and the light, but it's all good.

Believe it or not, Ethiopian cuisine is extremely tasty!  No complaints from our table.  

If I had to have an all-time favorite blurry picture, this might just be it.  I like the little goat in the background, who seems to have wandered away.  He looks a bit downhearted if you ask me.  

These girls are carrying water jugs.  Many people have to walk for hours to get clean water, and most, like these girls, settle for it dirty.  

Lake Hawassa: home to many large birds.  How large, you may ask...

Pretty darn large.  Although I tried to get Lee to inch a wee bit closer, this is as far as he'd venture. 

A beautiful young girl returning home from getting water.  She's in the background of a previous picture.  The water came from the bird-filled banks of Lake Hawassa.

Boats like this one were docked on the bank to take tourists out to see the hippos.  Lake Hawassa is home to over 20 families of hippos.  Each family has five to eight members.  For $40 we spent an hour on a huge lake surrounded by mountains.  Mountains and hippos.  

We were much happier to see them than they were to see us.  The bull above is trying to scare us away. 

This young man had no worries about the hippos.  

I love this shot... people just enjoying the day.  It was Wednesday.

Another shot of Lake Hawassa.  

When we traveled to Southern Ethiopia, we stayed here.  We were humbled to find they renamed the hotel in our honor.  We did't let on that they forgot the "s."   

Order a glass of juice and this is what you get (no alcohol, cross my heart).  It tasted SOOO amazing that I had two in one day.  Felt really good going down.  Not so great coming up.  I threw up ALL night long.  I was seriously afraid I was going to have to go to a hospital.  I had seen a hospital on a corner a few days earlier, and it was no Tallahassee Memorial, trust me.   Death to dehydration may have been preferable.  

Wild monkey...  how cool is that?

Wild monkey jumping in the car when I'm in the car... not so cool.   Words of wisdom:  when around wild monkeys, always keep the windows in the UP position.  

A mama and her baby...   Although they reminded me of cats, I believe monkeys are a lot like rabbits.  There were baby monkeys EVERYWHERE!

Me sneaking up to get a picture of the mama and her baby.

I'll have to figure out what this monument was all about.  Lee actually took this picture and said it was HUGE.

These little blue taxis were everywhere down south.  Yes, I did ride in one, and I smiled the entire time.  

Another lil' taxi.  

We were able to go behind the scenes at the Ethiopian Timkat celebration.  Ethiopians from all over come to Addis Ababa to celebrate Epiphany.  It is a most holy day and everything is closed down.  Only Orthodox Christians participate. 

Decked out priests. 

My mom, Lee and me at Timkat.  The badges we're wearing are VIP, back stage passes to the celebration.  

I hope you've enjoyed taking another peek inside Ethiopia.  More to come for all who are interested... 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Three Little Birds

Lee rushed me away from a project a few days ago and pulled me onto our shower porch.  I just knew something was wrong.  Relief set in when he whispered for me to be quiet and motioned me to follow.  We leaned over the railing and gently held back a few branches on a tea-olive tree.  Hidden away, were three freshly hatched baby birds.  Why seeing those little birds brought me such joy, I don't really know.  After all, we live in the country and could find a half-dozen nests on any given spring day...

Like any practical mama my mind went straight to the dangers of having baby birds close; and those dangers pretty much start and stop with snakes.  Call me a hater, but I haven't an ounce of love in my heart for the slithering serpents.  I pretty much abhor them, and if birds had bigger brains, they would, too.

Just as those baby birds have an enemy, so do we.  Our enemy is real.  He's alert, alive, and aware; and he can take us down if we're not careful. 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us to "be self-controlled and alert.  Our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Alone, I have no defense.  I am just as weak and helpless as these newborn birds.

But then the cross...

The cross makes all the difference.  Call me naive, closed minded, brainwashed, foolish- whatever you want, but I believe.  I believe Jesus died a painful death on the cross.  I believe He conquered death and came to life again on that first Easter Sunday morning.  I believe when my eyes are steadfastly on Him that Satan has no power over me and I am no longer defenseless.  I believe that my future death is not the end, but rather the beginning.  I believe that I will spend eternity with Him in a real place, called Heaven.  I believe.

Today is Easter.

Today I celebrate!

"Oh Death, where is your victory?  Oh Death, where is your sting?"
1 Corinthians 15:55

Saturday, April 23, 2011



Zebby, Zebbaroo, Zebberiffic, Zebco, Zebmiester.  Zeb.

Though I've told a few people it's short for Zebra, Zeb's name is just Zeb.  Plain, old Zeb.  Straight up and down.  We like it that way, but you would never know it because we always add an ending of some sort.

So why all the Zebbarama?  Well, today is a very special day for our family.  Today we celebrate Zeb's 10th Gotcha Day!  A Gotcha Day (the day we "got" him) is the same as an Adoption Day.  We celebrate this day faithfully; and, truthfully, it's more important than his birthday.  We're all about family, you know?

Instead of trying to make a case that Zeb is the greatest 10 year old on the planet and that I won the golden ticket when he was placed in my arms, I'll just share a few pictures and memories that I hold dear.
... and since nooooobody likes a bragger, I'll try to control myself.

Captured here is the happiest day of our entire lives.  Falling in love was delightful, getting married was exciting, learning to live together in harmony was an adventure, but this...  WOW!  Words can't even explain.

All of my kids are special, but Zeb holds a unique place in my heart.  He made me a mama.  Before him, I was a wanna-be mama.  On April 23, 2001, I became the real deal.  The promise of Psalm 113:9 was fulfilled in my life, and things have never been the same.

I love this picture because it reminds me of a prayer answered and a broken heart made whole.  

*******NUDITY ALERT*******

This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of the Zeb when he and Michal were young.  They had been playing outside in the mud and were too dirty to even bathe inside.  I stripped them down, lathered them up, and sprayed them with the garden hose.  Just look at those cheeks...  


Has there ever been a kid who didn't rock a shampoo-hawk at least once?

One of Lee and Zeb's favorite places... on the water.  I think those are snapper.

Zeb at 8 years old.  He was an Indian for the Ha-ha-ha-lelujah Festival at church.  The kids actually call it the Ha-ha-ha-le-LEWIS Festival.  We do appreciate the hundreds of people that love our family enough to attend.

Last year, Zeb won a prize with this "two word" poem.  I can only assume that the rest of the poems were really, really pitiful, but it did warm my heart.  Although he was on the money with the caring, worrying, and loving lines, he's a wee bit off on the running information.  The entire family knows he prefers Lee over me, so I cherish the moment I was center stage.  He probably just couldn't whittle all that Daddy-love into only two words.

Dear Karla Nelson Photography,
I'm sure something about this is illegal.  Please forgive me.

Above is Zeb's 8 year portrait.  Lisa H. says he looks like Mogli from The Jungle Book, and I kind of agree.  We've also heard he looks like Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Keanu Reeves.  Any of the three is fine with me, 'cause he used to look like Curious George.

A very proud moment came for Zeb this last spring when he shot his first fish in the Keys.  He used my brother's spear gun, took a deep breath, and swam maybe 20 feet down before stoning this barracuda on his first try.  Lee says that "stoning" a fish doesn't happen that often.

Think I'll close with a little known (and potentially embarrassing) fact about Zeb.  He is a superb Hula-hooper.   I told him he could probably be a hula-hooping professional when he grows up, but he said he'd rather stick to baseball and fishing.  And for that, I am thankful.

(Eh, uhm)  Ladies and Gentlemen, for his debut performance, hooping to his all-time favorite song, Mr. Zebbbbbbb Lewissss...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh Yes, Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman...

Email is great.  Facebook is a good friend.  Texting is soooo worth the money.  All three are remarkable.  Absolutely remarkable.  They make life easier... sort of.

I like getting messages, I really do; but I LOVE getting snail mail.  Love it! Love it!  Love it!  Wanna make me happy?  Send me something in the mail.  I'll even front you the 44¢.

Yes, messaging is convenient, but it's not the same as a handwritten note.  It's fast, easy, instant, and pretty much free (which probably makes it the best invention ever), but it's not involved.   You want to talk involvement? Go to the store, buy some stationary, sit down, write a letter, mess up, rewrite the letter, re-read it, add a post-script, fold it, stuff it into an envelope, write an address, lick the sealant, stick the stamp, go to your mailbox, and send it off.  Now that, my friend, is involvement.  And anyone who does all that just for me is someone very special in my book.

So why the fuss?  Well, today, for the second time this week, I got mail!  Real, involved, mail.  Not talking bills or coupons here.  Twice in one week-- and it's not even my birthday.  Realistically speaking, the rest of the week is bound to be a postal disappointment.

Taking a gander at the "man in the mirror," I'll admit that I could be better about dropping notes to others the old fashioned way.  I think I'll set aside 10-15 minutes a week to send a note to someone who makes me smile or someone who's made a difference in my life or maybe just someone who's having a rough time.  Think of the difference that could make in the lives of others.  Anyone up for the challenge?

Feel free to check back weekly to see if I'm living this out.

P.S.  If you'd like to send me a lil' somethin' somethin' in the mail, message me and I'll give you my address (wink*wink).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Ethiopian Adventure... Part 1

The highlight of the decade came earlier this year when Lee and I crossed the Atlantic for the very first time and visited Africa.  We had such a good time, we went again about a month later.  Yeppers... I've been to Africa twice, and I will brag about that every chance I get.

I've wanted to dig my toes into the African sand ever since I took African American Folklore at Florida State University.  I had no clue as to how or why or when I would make it there, but I knew I wanted to go; and finally, after many years, I did! Although I kept my feet firmly in my shoes, I was not disappointed with my experience.  It was absolutely amazing.  Unbelievably amazing!

Since a picture says a thousand words, I think I'll share a few from my trip.  While most save the best for last, I'll start with my most favorite image (in case you don't make it to the end...  and there will be subsequent parts to this adventure so the end is in the distant future).

Something about this lady absolutely captivated me.  I met her at one of the stops we made while in the country.  If I could sit down with anyone in the world and have a cup of coffee, it would be her.  I would ask her to start at the very beginning and tell me everything about her life, her family, her culture, and her country.  I would try to remember every word, as I know it would be a tale worth telling. One day, I hope to have a portrait painted from this picture.  I'll hang it proudly on my wall.  For some reason, I think she deserves such honor.

Moving right along, here are some random shots, many of which were taken while driving over 90 miles an hour down a road (seriously... I had brief moments where I thought we were going to die).

If I had a nickel for every cow and goat I saw, I'd be rich.  They were everywhere.  EVERYWHERE!!

We were able to visit an Evangelical Christian church service.  It was quite the celebration.  Notice the women up front with the giant drums.

We were super happy in this picture because we had just been cleared at the Embassy.  Our adoption was declared full and final by the US government.  We are in front of the transition home owned by our agency where kids stay between court and embassy.  We stayed here on our second trip.

I just love this picture.  The flag was mounted on a boat we used on Lake Hawassa.  It reminds me of Waving Flag by K'Naan. Wait, I think I hear it in my head right now...

 When I get older 
I will be stronger, 
they'll call me freedom, 
just like a wavin' flag.  

Sing along... don't be scared.

I've heard studs called sticks before, but these studs really were sticks. 

These huts were actually very large.  We peeked into one and we were blown away by the size.  It's told that most times, huts double as shelter for families and livestock.

Check this out... a mud hut and a power line.  I'm not smart enough to photoshop this all together so I hope that you believe me when I say this is fur-real (shout out to my friend Mylene who I know will get a kick outta that one!).  Don't forget to notice the pole/tree.

A view from the guest house on our first trip.  It was not uncommon to see really nice places and really dumpy places side by side.  Covenants and Restrictions aren't much of a reality there.  

Take a gander at these children. I like the older kid in the blue and white shirt with the red pants.  He looks to be a pro at having his picture taken.  

Ok, so I've never been more in love with my husband than I was at this moment.  On his knees and surrounded by dirty little kids, is a man whose heart is bent towards good.  And he's all mine. 

A lady and her baby... 'nough said. 

A view from the Horizon House terrace (the nice place in the Embassy pose earlier).  Don't miss the satellites in the upper left corner.  Also on every tin roof were rocks, tires, or anything heavy enough to keep the roof from flying away.

Two strapping young men I snuck a snap of on the streets of Addis Ababa.  

This little town reminded me of the wild, wild west.  

We saw tons of pack mules.  Oh, to know what they were packin'...


I do love a good tree!

Another view from the terrace at Horizon House.  It was Timkat ( Epiphany;  aka: the biggest Ethiopian celebration of the year) and the streets were packed.  More Timkat pictures to come.  

To wrap up this segment of My Ethiopian Adventure, here's our first ever family picture (minus the rest of the family).  Our little guy doesn't look very happy.  He's not.  Trust me.  It took a few days, but his heart-capturing smile made an appearance.  Thankfully, it's still there.

More to come in Part 2...