Tag Archives: family

What Does it Mean to be Southern?

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First of all, by “Southern”, I mean those who are either from the Southern states of the USA, or they have relatives there.  I found this quote to explain…

“More than any other part of America, the South stands apart. Thousands of Northerners and foreigners have migrated to it … but Southerners they will not become. For this is still a place where you must have either been born or have ‘people’ there, to feel it is your native ground. “Natives will tell you this. They are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Virginians, South Carolinians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians and Texans. But they are conscious of another loyalty too, one that transcends the usual ties of national patriotism and state pride. It is a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long. If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations.”

— Tim Jacobson, Heritage of the South
That’s a great quote, but I’m a little upset that Mr. Jacobson didn’t include Alabama in that list.  Nevertheless, the concept remains.
Many people look at the South and think racism, marrying relatives, or uneducated.  Well, let me just say that those are ignorant stereotypes, and in the South, you can find many of the most kind hearted, friendly and down to Earth people that you’d ever want to meet.  Of course, there’s the occasional radical that stirs things up and commits atrocities, but isn’t that the case everywhere you go?
I’ve lived in the Middle East for more than 20 years, but part of my heart will always be in the South, and here’s why…
Being from the old South and raised in proper Southern ways means that you still believe in a genteel way, a way that communicates your appreciation for beauty, generosity, being a good neighbor, and a devotion to God and the land that you’re standing on.  It means smiling at a stranger and saying, “Hi”, or holding the door open for someone, helping a stranger with heavy bags or telling a joke to make everyone feel relaxed.
It also means dressing up no matter where you go, even if it’s just to the supermarket.  My Southern “lady” grandma taught me that.  She said that the very day that I decide to go in my sweat pants to the supermarket is the day that the Mayor will be there, or TV crews will be doing a story about the high prices.  She taught me to look my best all the time.  Sometimes I look around today and wonder if anyone else got that memo.
She taught me how to eat with my mouth closed and walk like a lady.  She said that a lady or a gentleman should eat and walk with no sound at all.  Until now, I hate the sound of dragging or sliding feet.
Most of all, she taught me devotion to family, and that family sticks together no matter what.  I’ve passed on a great deal of my “Southernness” to my kids, and I’m proud of that.  I may wear a hijab now and I live in a place that I have to miss the sight of open land and clear blue skies, but the best of the South is within me, and that’s been passed on. So, on that note, Y’all have a great day, and come back and see us soon, Ya hear? 🙂
Oh, and don’t forget that you can enjoy my book, Desert Magnolia in both print and as an Ebook via many online stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, via http://www.bluejinnimedia.com

NEW SCREENING of LEMONADE! Book tickets NOW! :)

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Hey there! Good afternoon and Happy Friday to everyone. I have a VERY important announcement to make. I have the details for our screening of Lemonade, and guess what? When you book a ticket on the link that I shall now provide, you can come to ALL of the events at the WOW festival! Since we are presenting a film that promotes awareness of special needs, we may also avail of the special needs discount option, so go ahead and book your ticket. Don’t forget that the money all goes to support the Al Jalila Foundation, so by coming to my event and any of the other events at the festival, you’re supporting children in need. 🙂 Here’s the details: SCREENING TIME: 8PM
DATE: MARCH 6th, 2017
Location: A4 AL SERKAL CINEMA

and HERE’s the link to purchase your WOW Festival membership so that you can get into all events for the festival.

https://www.wastatickets.com/events/world-of-women-wow-women’s-day-program-membership

 

How Being Raised as a Steel Magnolia Helped Me Cope with Having an Autistic Child in the Arab World

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Being raised in the South gave me the coping methods I needed to get through it all.

Written by Dedra L. Stevenson, author of Desert Magnolia, http://www.bluejinnimedia.com

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.

 

The Arabic Granny and the Southern Granny…

dreamstime_s_30221865 The Southern granny has long been known in the media as being a sweet little “Paula Dean” type of character, humming a little tune to herself as she cooks fried chicken with a side of deep fried pickle slices whilst sporting a little apron with images of chickens or a funny little slogan on the front. When you walk into her kitchen, you can smell the cornbread being baked and with a big welcoming smile, she’ll offer you a big glass of sweet iced tea before you’ve had a chance to sit down.

Once you’ve finished eating, she won’t let you get up without a slice of one of her pies that she has undoubtedly prepared ahead of time for your arrival. Overall, you’ll feel very well taken care of, and she won’t let you wash a dish or do a thing. She’ll take care of all of it for you.

I had a granny like that back in Alabama, and my dear God, how I miss her everyday.  In fact, Christmas time is a very sad time for me because not only was her birthday Xmas, she died around this time of the year as well, so it always leaves me with a hole in my heart where someone used to be.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting one or being cared for by one, consider yourself very very lucky indeed.

dreamstime_s_10249187  As unique as my grandmother was, I did have the pleasure of being cared for by another, although, as I was her daughter in law, she expected me to help.

The Arabic granny greets her grandchildren in much the same way as a Southern grandma would.  She also has a big meal prepared, but the chicken will be part of a dish known as Byriani, so it’s cooked in a pot with rice, onions and fried carrots. Just like the Southern granny, the Arabic granny has a lot of sweet treats and home made bread for her family as well.  She even hums, but it’s not a bouncy little tune like the Southern granny, but a more somber tune.  dreamstime_xs_59217333

Everything for the Arabic granny is a bit on the dramatic side, although you should NEVER say this to her out loud, as it may get you a serious reprimand by the entire family, much in the same way a Southern family would react if their granny was questioned in any way.

Disrespecting her or refusing her food is not allowed by anyone who considers himself or herself to be a lady or a gentleman, and if you dare to cross the line, the men of the family will undoubtedly rise up to defend her, as she is sacred to them.

For a great story with a LOT more to tell you about the high position of the family matriarch in both cultures, why not pick up a copy of Desert Magnolia on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com today?

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The Arab Family/The Southern Family

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Writing Desert Magnolia brought up a lot of interesting ideas that had been spinning in my head for a long time.  We have so many family stories that only serve to demonstrate how alike we really are.

It’s incredibly strange that each and every time I mention this to a person from either culture, they look at me like I’m nuts! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again though.  The deep South has a LOT in common with an Arab family.  There’s a reason that I feel so at home here. 🙂

First of all, hospitality is critical here. Hospitality and generosity. When someone comes to see you, you MUST take care of them in every way. They must have comfortable accommodations, someone to guide them around, and a generous supply of the best cuisine you can offer.   It’s your duty as a lady or a gentleman.  A stingy or selfish person is shunned and avoided. Now, I ask you…am I referring to an Arab family or a Southern family?  Impossible to tell? I rest my case. 🙂

Let’s try another one, shall we? The family is everything, and if someone from your own family is threatened in any way, as a lady or a gentleman, you must defend their honor. Ok, am I referring to a Southern family or an Arab family?

I love many things about the families here, and again, they remind me so much of how families in my home state operate.  People are just plain kind to each other, and they have the best manners ever in most cases. Respect for one’s elders is the most remarkable of these characteristics.  Both Southern folks and Arabs feel that it’s almost unforgivably rude to curse or even raise your voice at your parents, your Aunts/Uncles, etc.

However, there’s always a down side, but interestingly enough, the downside is also similar in both cultures….Gossip, yes that’s what I’m referring to. Gossip and comparing oneself to the “Jones” home next door.  If your neighbor has a Mercedes, often times, many families feel completely empty until they get one as well. Of course, I’m certainly not referring to everyone.  Generally speaking, fake folks like that are not considered part of the “real” culture, but they do exist. The general consensus is that if you’re fake and shallow, you’re not liked very much.

So, if they have so much in common, why all the tension? On my next blog post, I will share some of the funniest tales of the dinner table from both regions for you. In the meantime, why not try Desert Magnolia, my crime drama, on http://www.bluejinnimedia.com?  It’s available as both an Ebook and a Paperback.

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