Tag Archives: south

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

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.