Being raised in the South gave me the coping methods I needed to get through it all.
For the last 27 years, I’ve lived in the United Arab Emirates. I dress, speak and live as the people here, and I consider the UAE to be my country. I love this place, and I’m very happy to be a part of making it a better place by raising good kids, writing books, and hopefully, making life a little easier for my Autistic son.
There are other American women here who have opted to marry into this culture, embrace the religion, and help to contribute to the country in many amazing ways, but I am one of the few that are from the South, and the ONLY one from Alabama.
I was raised by a Steel Magnolia, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a prim and proper Southern lady that is tough as nails despite her dainty and elegant appearance. For those of you who’ve seen Gone with the Wind, you already know the prototype for the Steel Magnolia, Scarlett O’Hara.
Despite the odds against her, Scarlett managed to take care of her family, survive the war, and even manage to thrive under conditions that would have broken the average woman, and she did it all with a smile and a corset! She always looked “just so”, no matter what was going on, even an attack by the Yankees.
I was fortunate enough to be raised like this, and I’m proud to say that I too, have been through traumatic experiences that would have destroyed the average person, but managed to survive and “thrive” under the most dire of circumstances. I am very proud to be a Steel Magnolia, and now that I’m a part of a Middle Eastern culture, I’m proud to be the world’s first Desert Magnolia.
My son Ibrahim suffers from Autism, and in spite of having a limited offering of services available to us at the time, we have managed to raise a very sweet and loving young man, and now he’s all set to be the “poster child” for home schooling adults with Autism in the UAE. When my short documentary, LEMONADE, releases, Ibrahim will be the subject of a great deal of discussion, and hopefully, he will provide hope for others who are in his situation.
It’s been a rough go, and that’s a fact. I remember times that I was ready to give up, especially when his attacks first started. Getting him on the right medication was undoubtedly the biggest part of the puzzle that we had to piece together, and thanks to God Almighty, we have found assistance when we’ve needed it the most.
But getting Ibrahim to where he is now has been more than just adjusting his medication and his diet. We are emotional beings at the end of the day as well, and I truly believe that the compassion and family closeness that I was raised with helped me to make sure that Ibrahim received the devotion that he needed to thrive as well.
We have found amazing carers for him, and designed a wonderful home school program with a variety of activities that keep him engaged and fulfilled each and every day, and seeing this makes me incredibly proud. Just like Scarlett, when I see the family that I’ve built, it makes me so proud and happy. Finally, I have grown into the Matriarch that I was born to be.