Thursday, December 27, 2018

Is it really the end of another year?

Another year has gone by. It's hard to believe that it is December again. Here is a bit of a synopsis for this year and some of my hopes/dreams/plans for the future.

Do I have any plans for 2019?  It's  hard to plan anything, but I have hopes and dreams. Hopefully I will see things sorted out in Libya (although I'm not holding my breath!). The problems in Libya have not only divided the country, they have divided my family. I'm here in  Florida with four of my children while my husband is in Libya with our other two children. They are mostly grown up now! I dream of a time that we can all be together in one place again. 

Meanwhile, I am here in Florida working a few jobs to keep myself afloat and doing some volunteer work when I can fit it in my schedule. I'm teaching English and doing an occasional workshop for the literacy tutors at the library. Additionally, I do some private tutoring, mostly IELTS preparation. Also, I'm doing a bit of writing and editing. This year I had a few trips for my inspection's work; a trip to Mexico City, I went twice to California, a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, two trips to Ft. Lauderdale and a trip to Miami. I've also been doing some work with the exam center at the local college. 

I'm still volunteering with my city's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), but not as much as I would like -  too often the times conflict with my work schedule, and of course, work comes first. One fun thing that is happening currently is that I was asked if I would display my pin and brooch collection at my local library. I spent a morning setting up the display which will be there until February. 

Another thing that I did this year was participate in an interview for a blog that is written by a Canadian/Swiss woman who is married to a Libyan. She is living with her family in Canada now, but lived in Tripoli in the past. The interview is on the blog, Dear Sister: Where diversity meets solidarity - Khadija. Don't just stop at my interview - the blog is full of interesting stories of women's lives and the experiences of the blog's writer.

More writing - both personal and work related. I am considering expanding my editing business, adding more services and doing more local work. More work related plans are to attend some literacy and teaching conferences and workshops this year. 

Personal plans for the next year: I'm going to focus on my health - eat better and find ways to reduce stress.  Most importantly, I pray that my family will be all together in one place. 

I'm counting my blessings. Even though it has been a stressful year, there are many many positive things that have happened. 

Wishing all my readers a  year full of blessings. 
Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Nearly a year has gone by

It's been almost a year since my mother passed away (Oct 24th). A lot has happened this year - most of it was stressful. There have been so many details to take care of and my mother's estate is still being sorted out. 

My mother had been secretive about what her assets were and she wasn't very organized either. My sister and I had to dig through tons of papers trying to find out exactly what was there. After we would think he had found it all something else would pop up. Recently, nearly a year after my mother's death, a check came in the mail from a stock we had never found any documentation for at all... so back to trying to figure that out. 

My mom's house was also a big issue. According to the will it was to be shared by my sisters and myself. It was decided that we'd sell it. We had an appraisal done, but the amount given was ridiculously over the market value. I knew that we would never get the amount quoted because the house needed so many repairs. The house is over 40 years old and had almost no updating done. When I suggested to my sisters that the amount quoted was inflated they scoffed and said that we'd get that and maybe more. I'd been watching the market in the area for quite some time and knew that they were dreaming. 

Adding to the task of deciding how to go about selling the house was the fact that my son wanted to buy it, but one of my sisters also was interested. We needed to come up with a fair price for the house. My son's interest was sentimental while my sister's interest was to flip the house and make a profit.

After some discussion it was decided that my sister would supply the names of two realtors and my son would get two more so that we could get an idea about the houses' value. This sounds easy and straightforward, but it required having to make the arrangements to be at the house when the realtors could come - that sounds simple, but I was living in the house with two of my children. Having strangers walking though every room of your house makes you feel vulnerable and your privacy is invaded. I found it extremely stressful.

It was suggested that the buyer should have the house inspected so my son decided to take the recommendations from one of the realtors my sister provided. This way she couldn't complain that my son was being unfair. On one day, I had two realtors in looking at the house at the same time a team of five house inspectors were poking through every nook and cranny and a termite inspector came too. Phew! What a day! 

The inspectors found some issues with a part of the roof and the downstairs plumbing. There are issues with a lot of things in the house, but those two made the difference on how the house would have to be sold. Unless we repaired the roof and the plumbing the house would have to be a cash sale. My sisters and I weren't interested in putting any money into the house. 

The sister that was interested in buying didn't have enough cash. My son had cash and made an offer that my sisters hemmed and hawed over. It was decided that we'd have more realtors and property investors look at the house and see what they would offer. Back to me having a parade of strangers waltzing through. I tried to google names to get an idea of just who I was letting come in. One name came up with a guy with a rap sheet of a variety of crimes a mile long - if the person who came was the same person in the mugshot I was going to say (through the window) that the house was not available. It turned out to be a different guy. After I showed him the house I mentioned that he should start building a better online profile -  I explained what I had found when I googled his name. He said he had never thought about it before and would definitely get right on it!

After what seemed like an endless parade of people in to look at the property, my son's offer was the one we  settled on. He took a big gulp and sunk his life's savings into the purchase. I'm really proud of him. He has a lot of work to do to update the house and he's planning to do one room at a time. Meanwhile I'm here doing what I can to help out while I decide what's next. 

I had moved downstairs to my mother's room after she died. I didn't want to stay in my mom's room, but her dog wanted to be in that room and the poor thing was having serious issues with anxiety. He was gnawing at his leg and side until he had open wounds. Moving downstairs helped him - we were all mourning in our own ways. I left the room as it was, but finally decided it was time to move out my mom's furniture and get something more up to date. A little at I time, over a few months, I added more of 'me' in the room. I hung some pictures on the walls and changed the desk, got rid of mom's old TV. The last thing I did was to take down mom's old window blinds and put up some curtains, then I sat on the edge of the bed and had a good cry.  

It's been a hard year for me. There are still things to settle with my mother's estate and the mourning process continues. I'm dealing with things one step at a time. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The Plight of Libyan Medical Care in 2018

In the past I had my own scary Libyan hospital story, but things are getting worse as each day passes. This was reported on Twitter recently. A night at a hospital in Sebha Medical Center:

No one deserves this... no one...  Thank you @imanlibya for posting this very revealing tweet thread.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Step Forward in Libya

I have always been a firm believer that the way forward for Libya is to include more females in government, business and leadership roles. One organization that has helped Libyan women to attain economic empowerment is MEDA LIBYA which began in Libya in 2013. Over the past five years they have continued their efforts to train and support Libyan women throughout the country. Their efforts help not only women, but the community and country as a whole. 

Congratulations to the girls and women who participated in this year's Step Forward competition. You are all winners in my eyes!

Previously I posted about MEDA here: One Step at a Time

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Libyan Antiquities: Silently Watching for Over a Millennium

photo taken at Leptis Magna, Libya

Silently watching over Libya since the 2nd century AD ....
It's face is battered, but it's eyes are hopeful. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

No Peace for Libya?

In my last post, Peace in Libya? Reconciliation? I had added a padlet and asked readers to contribute their thoughts and ideas of how Libyans could reach reconciliation. Very few people added anything which leads me to believe that Libyans really aren't interested in achieving any kind of peaceful agreement with one another. That's depressing.

This week Tripoli is finding itself back to booming and banging as various militias (and whoever) fight to achieve power. No end is in sight  as they don't seem interested in peace. Is there any hope?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Peace in Libya? Reconciliation?

Libya has been in a continual state of unrest for over 7 years. How can Libyans find peace? How can Libya move forward? What are some ways that Libyans can reconcile with one another?

I've been playing around with different online ideas for my students and came across Padlet, which is a kind of online idea board that people can work on together to collaborate ideas and information. Collaborators do not have to register to read or add to a page. I decided to see if Padlet would work as a forum for people to post their thoughts and ideas about the current situation in Libya. There is a lot of discussion about Libya on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to see if I could get as many ideas all in one place - and with Padlet's platform the posts would be anonymous. Even the creator of the Padlet page cannot see the identity of the people who post. I thought this was important because it's not about whose idea it is, but about the idea itself. 

Padlet is easy to use. If you want to contribute you just click on the (+) in the lower right corner, double click anywhere on the page, or drag and drop to the page. If you click on the three dots  in the corner of a post ... you'll find a menu that lets you post in a variety of ways: by comment, uploading files, adding links, searching Google, taking or adding photos, videos, voice recording, drawing, adding a map or linking to other Padlets.

 Thoughts and ideas can be linked together with a line and arrow connecting the posts. 

Padlets can be shared and embedded in blog posts and websites (like below). You can contribute to the discussion below, or go to the link directly: 

How can Libyans reach reconciliation?
Read what others have posted. Post your own thoughts and ideas. 
Remember to be constructive and respectful.

Made with Padlet

Sunday, July 01, 2018

I Can't Stop Blogging

(C) Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano @ langwitches

I've had this blog for almost 14 years. The past few years, posts have been sporadic, but I still manage to post from time to time. As of today there have been 646,178 page views. I've noticed that I seem to have about 4,500 visitors to my blog on an average month. If I post something controversial or intriguing the numbers will shoot up. The most read post is A Very Important Guest Post, closely followed by a post I wrote in 2008 titled Old Wive's Tales.  

The popularity of blogging seems to have dropped as people find themselves absorbed by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but from time to time there is a resurgence. I'm always so pleased when I find new blogs by Libyans. Last week I had an email from a young Libyan girl named Mariya who wrote to say she was 12 years old and was starting her own website. She also said that she was the daughter of one of my students. When her father read her website he suggested that she read my blog. She wrote to tell me that she found my blog inspiring and that by reading it she had learned a lot of new vocabulary. She asked me if I could give her some tips she could use to help attract readers to her site. 

To be honest, I was really thrilled to receive an email from her, and I was especially happy to know she was the daughter of one of my former students. It's kind of nice to know that my teaching lives on in the next generation. I emailed her back and gave her some tips. Then I decided to post the tips here on my blog. Here is the advice I gave her:
  • Don't write posts that are too long - people like to read something that won't take much time. 
  • Post often. It will keep people coming back for more. (I need to heed my own advice!)
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Add pictures to create interest.
  • Encourage comments... ask your readers a question or what their opinion is (but don't expect them to have the same opinion that you have)
  • Share your links on social media - create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for your blog
  • Link to other things in your blog, but make sure the settings opens the link in a new tab so your page wont close.
  • Have a guest post something on your blog (my most popular post is a guest post)
  • Write about things that interest you and share your link with people who share the same interests
  • Blogger has a feature that allows you to look at your site statistics. You can also add other stat counters. I like
  • Check to make sure your grammar and spelling are correct. 
  • Use to help you find just the right word.

Have you found any Libyan blogs or Libyan related blogs that aren't on my Link List? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Kindness... blessings...

Last night we went to one of our usual spots to hang out in the evening, a fast food place by the beach that has tables so that you can sit next to the water. There's a boat dock where the water taxi stops to let people on and off. We enjoy going there because it's quiet and peaceful. We go there often; it was a place that my mother used to like so we have fond memories of times spent there. Sometimes you see dolphins playing in the water, we watch the boats go in and out. Many boaters park at the dock to pick up something to eat or to shop at the nearby supermarket. We like to go after dinner to get a coffee, ice-cream or a smoothie. We relax, chat and enjoy the evening. It's a safe place.

We enjoyed our evening, as we always do. Just as we got in the car, ready to go home, a man ran up. He was waving for me to stop. I recognized him as being one of the boaters that docks there to go shopping. He probably lives on his boat. I thought maybe something was wrong with my car, so I rolled down the window to ask him what was wrong. He said "I'm so glad that you didn't leave before I finished my shopping. I'm so glad you are still here. I don't usually say much, but I wanted to tell you that I am with you people, I support you people" and with that he reached into his shopping bag and pulled out a large bag of Hershey's chocolate kisses. "I want you to have this. I support you!" He handed it to me through the window. I was so surprised. "Bless you! Thank you! Bless you!" I told him. He had a grin from ear to ear - actually, I think we both did.

Despite the current divisive political climate in America there are still people who care. It's so easy to focus on what is presented to us in the news and think that this is the reality - but it's not. My America is the one where people respect and accept one another.. and care for one another. This is my America... this is the America that I know and love. 

I hope that I meet up with that kind soul again in the future and we have a chance to sit down and talk. I'd like to hear his opinion of things and to thank him again for his kindness.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Ramadan 2018

Today I was thinking about all of my past Ramadans. It seems so long since my first Ramadan back in 1981, thirty-seven years ago. So much has changed in my life since then. 

This year, right before the beginning of Ramadan, I took my kids shopping at a local Asian market. We had a great time, happily checking out all the interesting things and deciding what to buy to try during Ramadan. When we finished shopping and walked out to the parking lot, there in the middle of the lot was a crowd of people gathered around the scene of a car accident... and the car at the center of everyone's attention was my car! 

What a shock! It turned out that the man who hit my car had been driving recklessly and decided, for some reason I will never understand, to back into the parking space in front of my car at high speed. He smashed into the front of my car so hard that it pushed it clear out of the space and across to the cars parked on the other side, narrowly missing a parked Jaguar. There were two girls that came over immediately and said they had witnessed the event and would wait for the police to give a report. The police had already been called and were on their way.

The man that hit my car was a newly arrived immigrant from Vietnam. He'd only recently gotten his drivers licence and this was already his second accident (he was driving his friend's car both times - poor friend!). The police arrived and charged him with reckless driving and revoked his licence on the spot. 

My daughter Nora took lots of pictures for the insurance company while I stood by in shock and disbelief. My car had only 24,000 miles on it and not even a single scratch.... now what? Everyone was so kind to me; the policeman, the insurance agent, the witnesses, the tow truck driver. I was thankful that no one had been in the car, no one had gotten hurt, it could have been much, much worse. I was too shocked to cry. My heart ached and I wondered if I should ask to be taken to the hospital. We went home and I went straight to bed and stayed there. In the evening we went to the beach and sat quietly watching the sun set.

Initially, the insurance company said the car was repairable. The body shop told me that there was over $6,000 worth of damage. After they started taking it apart a few days later, they said the damage was much more extensive and decided to total it. The insurance company and I discussed how much they'd give me for the car - quite a bit less than I wanted. I argued with them that it was in pristine condition and still under manufacturer's warranty. In the end we came to a compromise. I started car shopping and picked up the check. It didn't take long to find a car that my mechanic approved of and fit my budget. I am back on the road once more.

Later, when I went to the auto body shop to take the licence plate off my car and remove the things I had left inside. I stood and looked at the car and cried. I said to the woman from the body shop 'Maybe I should take one last picture' but she said 'Oh no don't do that. It's bad karma.... just leave it behind you and walk away. You are meant for something else". I took her advice, dried my tears and walked away. 

All of this excitement happened at the beginning of Ramadan and added to that I had a three-day trip to San Francisco for some work right in the middle of these chaotic days. While in California I met up with my cousin and an old friend from Libya. It was a whirlwind trip, but I managed to also see Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz (from afar) and the Golden Gate Bridge, which was on my bucket list. So much to be thankful for. 

After the accident one of my colleagues sent me a message: "I'm sorry God is using this time to strengthen your patience. Practicing patience sucks." I pondered on the events and reflected on my beliefs. I know that no matter what sort of adversity a person experiences, God will create a path or a way out for those who are steadfast in their patience.  God revealed in the Quran: For truly with hardship comes ease; truly with hardship comes ease. (Surat al-Inshirah: 5-6) and ... Whoever has fear of God - He will give him a way out and provide for him from where he does not expect. Whoever puts his trust in God - He will be enough for him... (Surat at-Talaq: 2-3). 

There are three more weeks left of Ramadan. I will continue to practice patience!

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's been a while

I haven't posted in ages. I could list a lot of reasons (excuses), but that really isn't getting me anywhere. Actually, not much has changed or is going on. I've been busy with work, family and trying to get a grip on some health issues. Here are some things I've been thinking about lately:

I've been considering adding a page to my blog with an ongoing list of books/publications/movies about Libya that I have come across. Add some reviews and let others add their thoughts in the comments. So far it's just a thought...

One of the blogs on my Link List has been recently revived after being dormant for a some time. What was once called Caterpillar Cafe has been renamed Dear Sister. It's listed in my Link List under the category Married to Libyans. You can find the blog here: Dear Sister

Ramadan will begin in two weeks. Are you ready? I've been stocking up on food and trying to organize my life so that I can focus more on family and the spiritual aspect of the holy month. Last year I had to travel for work during Ramadan, I'm still not sure what my schedule will be this year, but I am cutting back on some of my work - I don't think I will pass up any chances to travel though since I enjoy it so much! We'll see what the month brings.

My Link List