Thursday, October 29, 2015

#ThrowbackThursday: In These Arms

It would almost seem futile to write about this concert now, twenty something days after the concert, if it were not for the fact that I have not stopped thinking about it since it happened and I am still as pumped as I was when I first started writing this! I guess you never get over your first. I have had flings here and there but Bon Jovi has been the longest relationship and my first musical addiction.

And it finally happened. The one thing that kept me dreaming for nights throughout my teens: Bon Jovi, in the (sexiest) flesh!

When the band came for a concert in Abu Dhabi back in 2008, I could not make it for multiple reasons and I remember it stung hard. I won't lie, I had been bitter ever since. So when they announced they were passing by Abu Dhabi once more this year, Hubby did the noble and safest thing for his welfare and sanity: he got us tickets the minute they were out for sale. And then he went the extra romantic mile and revealed they were VIP tickets. 
(Massive win for Hubby: the places turned out to be terrible - more about that later - but his intentions were so sweet, he keeps his win)

Oh my God! Oh my God!

I was expecting to be utterly ecstatic but the euphoria surpassed my wildest expectations! I was like a little kid jumping up and down, giggling and I swear I held out tears of glee on the way to the concert because, well, Hubby would have teased me for the rest of our lives and beyond (oh yes, yes, we are meeting in the afterlife, deal with it).

The concert was absolutely amazing! 

Anyone who says otherwise was probably never a BJ fan to begin with. Those who complained about Bed of Roses and Always missing from the setlist are just big nagging babies.

There, I said it.

And to get it out of your system (but above all, because it makes me so very happy):


Happy now? Can we move on to more important issues and wonder together how it is possible for a human to look so damn hot in the 1990's and still be as charming and sexy today? I mean seriously, Jon Bon Jovi literally redefines the laws of nature. And if you do not believe me, have you seen him? Because I have (and I can't stop jumping for joy!) and Oh My God, would I want to be In These Arms, Always!

Bon Jovi at their 2015 concert in Abu Dhabi

And before you start hinting at how this was a concert and not a fashion show, he rocked that stage like a hero. They all did. The whole band was truly generous and they performed their hearts out in a weather that was less than inviting. It was hot, humid and a massive pain to be out in the heat and yet not only did they do what they came to do, they did it with passion and a whole lot of fun!

They are rock legends and they deserve to be remembered as such

They played some of their best hits:

  • You Give Love a Bad Name
  • Raise Your Hands
  • Born to Be My Baby
  • We Got It Goin' On
  • We Weren't Born to Follow
  • Whole Lot of Leavin'
  • We Don't Run
  • It's My Life
  • Someday I'll Be Saturday Night
  • Wanted Dead or Alive
  • I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
  • Who Says You Can't Go Home
  • Keep the Faith
  • Bad Medicine
  • In These Arms
  • Have a Nice Day
  • Livin' on a Prayer

Bon Jovi at their 2015 concert in Abu Dhabi

See what I mean?

I really tried to be selective here but I could only leave out about couple (which were brilliantly performed too by the way) and with good reason.  I went to a rock concert and this is what I got.

So for those complaining about Jon's vocals, please. He might not be twenty anymore but he definitely has got nothing to complain about. To be able to nail those tracks is absolutely amazing!

And for those who complained about the choice of songs, you probably had too many beers before the concert and fell asleep half way through. Too bad for you. Because we got some of the best of Bon Jovi's thirty years of rocking!

Bonus: We genuinely felt we were in the presence of some of the nicest guys in the business. I mean truly kind, generous people. And I do not mean only with their music and the way they give their all on stage. Google some of their charity work and the Bon Jovi Soul Foundation and you will see for yourself.

They are rockers with a soul and it transpires on stage.

The only moaning will undeniably be about audience organization (obviously this has nothing to do with the actual concert or the talent of the band). The VIP tickets which cost way more than regular ones had no perks. We were on a higher platform yes, but we were way in the back, and the stage and screens were blocked by massive lighting structures that made the whole viewing a total nightmare. Following the concert, many people told me that this always happens with VIP tickets. The location of the platform is never favorable. I do not mean better. I mean at the very least, just good. What a disappointment. Next time, I will definitely stick to regular tickets and so should you.

Bon Jovi rocking Abu Dhabi

So in conclusion:

Both the stage and my heart ;)

THANK YOU for taking me back to a me I missed for a while and for being up to my expectations and so much more!

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

On being social

I have been accused of being a Social Media addict by the closest people in my life. I guess there is some truth to that. I mean, I do sometimes grab my phone and check Facebook unconsciously. I do not think about it. It just happens and I do not have any purpose behind the action. I guess this could be considered an addiction. 

Or rather a bad habit which I am actively trying to control now. If I am sitting with someone, I will make sure not to touch my phone unless it actually rings. I would not even check messages or WhatsApp. It is all about training one's self. And I have been successful recently. 

But when I am sitting at home,  doing nothing in particular,  and the kids are in bed or about to sleep. I will play with my phone, yes. These are my "longer stretches online". 

Hubby considers me an addict. My mom thinks I am addicted too. To be fair, when they are home, I take a step back from the kids because I know someone else I trust is around and I can afford to not be 100% invested. But to them, it projects as me being on my phone 100% of the(ir) time. I cannot blame them. Because it is true from their perspective. When they are there, I do take more phone breaks. 

What they cannot comprehend is that my life changed fundamentally in the past few years. The person I was got lost somewhere. And I look for glimpses of her on social media. 

It does not hurt that I am quite good at it too. Very fast. We could be sitting together and within seconds, I could post something and you would not even notice. In fact, I only check Facebook seconds or minutes at a time. But during this short time, I can actually leave a visible trace online. So people think I am on Facebook all the time. I really am not. But it just very easy to me to connect, click a couple of times and within seconds be done (posting a photo, checking in, leaving a short comment, etc.) 

If I gather all the small moments I am online into one stretch, I am probably on Facebook for a couple of hours. Three at most. And it is not all Facebook. During that time, I connect with people yes, but I also read news, articles, write opinions, etc.

This is what Social Media is to me and this is why it is so important to my sanity.

Here's the simple truth. Hubby and I were not inclined to have children the first five years of our marriage. Then, I decided to be a mom. It did not turn out to be an easy thing. I had two miscarriages back to back before being pregnant with Mia. This changed my perspectives. Suddenly, work, career and pretty much everything felt unimportant. Details. All I wanted was a child. So I focused on that. Which was my decision and I accept and love it. I have absolutely no regret. But it meant I let go of many parts of me which at the time were not vital. Some of these were voluntary concessions, others were forced upon me by my difficult pregnancies

Bottom line is: sometimes I miss who I was and need to reconnect with who I used to be. Social Media has helped me tremendously do that. I can talk to friends from school, college, and discuss things which are not "baby related". 

It can get overwhelming (and quite boring) when all your conversations revolve around "what formula do you use?", and "this damn weather again, the kids are sick at home!" Sometimes, I need more. I need conversations about other topics. Politics. Films. Even silly things like clothes or shoes. I do that through Facebook. 

To be honest, I have very little free time these days. Most of my outings are play dates. You cannot discuss politics with other moms. Or sensitive topics. Because these relationships are not yours. They're your child's. If things go wrong, you loose nothing. Your child is the one who looses a friend. So they remain "mommy relationships". Which are great and an amazing source of support. But they are not who I am as a whole. 

People who work, including mothers, cannot fully grasp what I mean. When you work, you interact with adults. Some are silly, some are down right stupid (I know, I started working since my first year at university and I continued full time for over a decade and I have seen, lived and know all the hardships of human work dynamics as well as non-human challenges). But they are adults. You do not negotiate with a two or a three or a four year old every minute of every hour of your day. And that is the difference. Most of these "conversations" with a child are draining. They are pointless. And they eat up so much in time and effort. Most of the time for nothing. At work, conversations, debates, even fights, are about work. Purpose. And a selfish fulfillment of our person. They are ours. Ours only. They feed our individual self.

Yes, I am at home all day. But my day is emotionally, mentally and physically so much more challenging than when I used to work. Even long hours, over time and overnight. Naturally, I always had planned to return to work, but all of that is on hold now as I need to stay 100% committed to Jad, all the time.

Writing on my blog takes days now for just one article to be completed. Here's an example of the kind of discussions (and interruptions) I deal with almost every minute. I just had a five minutes conversation with Mia who insisted there was a red spot on her foot. Of course, every time she would grab her foot, pull it up and point, there was some redness where she applied pressure. It took five minutes to convince her that her skin in all of her foot is exactly the same color as the rest of her body. That implied actually demonstrating this color similarity. Examining other body parts and comparing. And every time a part was grabbed it turned red. Do you see what I am getting at? Best of all: she left, unimpressed and not convinced still (thinking her mom is too stupid to understand or maybe blind).

Sometimes I envy my single friends. They go out at night. They go to the movies. To concerts. To the theater. They drink and enjoy other adults' company. They live like I used to not so long ago. I wouldn't trade places for the world. I absolutely love my children and our life. But sometimes, I miss those days when I did not have to count drinks because I will undeniably fall asleep and will not be able to hear the kids should they need me at night. Selfish? Maybe. But "me time" is not a myth. I miss it.

Add to that a continuous lack of sleep. Interrupted sleep. Light sleep (because your ear is always attentive to any noise or sound your child makes). This is all bad quality sleep. This is exhausting. And the reason why one glass of wine will knock me unconscious.

So instead of all of that, I reconnect with that old me on Social Media.

I know it can be annoying to others sometimes. They post articles about a certain topic and my fingers ache to comment with an opinion and hopefully strike a debate. A meaningful conversation about something other than diapers.

One time, I was in the middle of a conversation and had to leave because of a family commitment. So I dropped a line saying something along the lines of "sorry, gotta go, lunch with the family". Because in "real life" when I am in the middle of a conversation with someone, I just do not turn my back and leave without a word. So I felt the same courtesy was due on Facebook too. That arrogant idiot replied with something like "Every time they have no response, they just make up some excuse and leave, as if someone had a gun to their head and forced them to comment in the first place". Wow. Needless to say I did not reply to that rubbish.

Another time, I commented on a friend's post and this passive aggressive psychopath I had never met replied with "great post, minus the useless comments". You really do not have to read the comments, you know? Also, the fact that you felt the need to mention them instead of just ignoring is a little laughable.

Now do not get me wrong. I know sometimes I get carried away. Not everyone who posts something does so to trigger debates. And maybe sometimes, my comments might not be welcome. That is OK. It is absolutely fine to not engage.

But that does not mean I will stop. Social Media is my window to that world I no longer have access to. It helps me stay sharp and challenge myself intellectually. I love to debate about the issues I care about.

And if you were at the receiving end of unwanted debate invitations, I apologize :) But it is in fact a compliment really. I do not comment on every post that triggers my interest. I only do so when they are posted by people I know would stimulate meaningful conversations. Basically, it means I admire and respect you and your thinking.

But Social Media is not only intellectually stimulating. It also helps me unwind. Have fun. Joke. And most importantly reconnect with people I care about. People I wish were still in my life in some way. We all migrated to different countries. We all have our commitments, even if we live in the same town. It is difficult to stay close to those whose company you enjoy.

So why not enjoy their online company instead?

And then I can go back to debating whether a foot is red or not with Mia and not loose my sanity over it.

That is why I love Social Media.
That is how it helps me stay sane.

And I hope that before you pass judgement on me next time, as I know many do (some are kind enough to do it to my face while others just complain behind my back) you will at least try to look at it from my perspective.

And if you choose not to:

You too can be Gone With The Wind.

The only two persons I will allow to challenge me on these choices are my husband because he has to live with me and those choices every day, and my mother because I know no one in the world could possibly love me more than she does and every breath she takes and word she utters stems from that love for me. My dad too but my dad is more tolerant of what I do and does not fight me on those things. I think somehow I have fooled him into thinking I am perfect.

Quite honestly, I am finished justifying myself to people who have nothing better to do but to make me feel bad about myself or my person when I know I may not be perfect but I am definitely not that horrible.  

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On that piece of me that has a life of its own

The Internet is very proficient. It speaks poetry, it speaks verses, it speaks proses and it even speaks Inspirational the best. Very few of these quotes resonate with me. Very, very few. But sometimes, there will be one that stands out. No matter how corny and boring and "oh please give me a break" it sounds. Usually, if I will buy it in spite of all that, it is because it speaks of my children. I am a sucker for mommy beauty, what can I say? Guilty as charged. 


One of the many "quotes" we see now and then, plastered on some nice photo of a child and a mother is:
'Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.'
- Elizabeth Stone 

Cheesy, I know. 
Also, very, very true. 
Say what you will. Some things are just meant to be cheesy.

Anyhow, half of my heart not only walks around, runs around and monkeys around with his bigger sister. He also is extra special. Not the kind you want your children to be though. The kind people use as a label to try and understand how to go about dealing with and maybe fixing your child. Special needs they are called.

My Jad is on the Autism Spectrum. 

It is a spectrum you see. It is no longer one disorder classified in a rigid box. Which is fair, since to be honest, each autistic person is very different from the next and their individuality is what makes them so wonderful and unique.

I hate labels.


It means absolutely nothing. Just a word.

But each autistic person defines it in a personal way, in a different way, in a sometimes utterly beautiful way, sometimes in a brilliant way and sometimes in very difficult and hard ways.

But what it means mostly, is that it is not a mold. Not all autistic people fit in the same box. And that is wonderful. Because it is what it means to be human.

And that is what we need to remember first and foremost: the human side.


Like you and I, struggling to understand this world and make the best out of this life. We are all the same in that quest, right?


Jad was born in Lebanon in March of 2012. It is his birthday soon. My little love will be turning three. The light of my heart and soul. Growing every day. Becoming more and more beautiful with time. My love.

He spent the first six months of his life in Lebanon because we were a little lazy. We figured, "hey, it's March. We should be back here in a few months for summer. Why not just stick around and go back in September?" Which is exactly what we did. Back then Mia only had nursery and it was not like she was working hard on getting her PhD. We could afford the time away. It was a wonderful time too. We had family and friends around. The kids loved it. And me too.

Jad was growing and in those first months, it does look like they change by the minute! He was laughing, playing, singing (or something that he intended to be musical) and was your "normal" baby by any developmental standard out there, medical and psychological.

When I watch videos of him back then, I just cannot understand. I cannot believe. He used to be so much "with us". With his grand-parents. Especially my dad. He would even call him in a special way that sounds like the arabic word for grand-pa. By the end of these six months, he had actually learned to say "bye-bye" in context, while waving his cute, tiny hand. He could say "mama" and "jedde" (the word for grand-pa). He would imitate and repeat. He was talking funny but nothing to be concerned about. Like all babies. Baby talk.

Every time I would post a photo or a video of him on Facebook, people would tell me to stop because of "evil eyes". (Arab people are so funny)

He was always so happy, always smiling and laughing. It was contagious too! We would go out and within minutes he would have an audience and everyone would be in love with his smile and laughter. It was even a little frustrating for me because it would take so much attention away from his sister and I would hurt inside seeing her so lonely in those moments. People would literally block out everyone and everything when Jad was around. He had that magical power. That charisma. 


Finally, September came and we returned to Dubai. It was a total shock for the kids. Mia started school so she got busy and distracted which was great. But Jad ended up in an empty house, all alone with me. A very busy me. A me who had to take care of chores and left him to play by himself for hours. Which he did without complaining or nagging. His dad had to start traveling a lot and with his sister away all day, he found himself quite lonely in a quiet house. No more neighbors, no more grand-parents, no more aunties and uncles. Everyone was gone.

Within a few weeks, I started to notice he was sad. His dad and I thought he was being a little depressed and missed all the fun and crowd of Lebanon. But it got worse. He quit looking at us. He would not respond when we called out his name. He literally stopped laughing and even smiling. Nothing. Not a reaction. He would just sit there, by himself. Uninterested with us or his surroundings.

It just broke me. 

My child had been so unhappy he quit smiling. He quit making eye contact. He quit answering when we called his name. He basically had had enough with us. He quit us.

Or so I thought.

I take it back. "It broke me" does not even begin to describe how I felt.


The trigger might indeed have been the trip. But it was bound to happen anyway. There are two types of autism. The kind children are born with and which are easier to identify because they show quite quickly. And there is the other kind. Jad's kind. There was no way we could have known.

It is called regression.

The child is born and develops completely normally until some time around 15 to 18 months, all development slows down or worse, comes to an end.

When we noticed, Jad was so young no medical expert would label him. After all, many children his age are late with the same milestones. And what would be the use of labels, right? What would they achieve?

His neurologist even told me something that would stick: "What is normal, anyway?"

I absolutely love that.
It encompasses so much truth.
And hope.
But mostly truth.

He said something along the lines of everyone facing challenges in certain areas, social, intellectual, etc. It is the depth and amplitude that these challenges take that can differ and in the case of Jad, they make some of these challenges a little harder.

I mean it is true. If I am standing in line and people start to push and the people in front of me are not moving, I start to get stressed and quite frankly in some instance, I wish I could just scream at them all and push them away and just get it done with. That is why I no longer stand up when the airplane lands. I wait. And wait. And wait. For everyone to disembark. Then, when that narrow aisle is finally empty, I stand up and walk and breathe normally. Some people are claustrophobic. Others are OCD.

Each and everyone of us has something or some things. We just learn to deal with them. And that is what Jad should learn too.

With the right therapy and tools, he can.

So we agreed not to label him but we also agreed that he had autistic traits. And most importantly, we set a plan to work on these traits (in no particular order of importance):

  1. Jad's poor eye contact
  2. Jad's speech delay
  3. Jad's interaction with others
  4. Jad's (non)response when his name is called
  5. Jad's tiptoe walking
That is referred to as mild autism. Because if you compare it to what other autistic children and adults must deal with, what delays Jad or brings him stress is far less dramatic than the lists others may be burdened with. 

We got lucky, I guess.

The first step we took was speak with a friend of a friend who is now Jad's Speech Therapist. She recommended we immediately enroll him in a nursery as this time alone at home was counter productive to the work she would be doing in therapy. Jad also started Occupational Therapy to work on his sensorial and motor skills development. 

So we picked a nursery. Since our hope has always been to have both our children in the same school, and since Mia's school is French, we looked for a French speaking nursery. We got so lucky with our choice. It was pure luck but they are absolutely fantastic with Jad (and us). I have cried for month in their office while both Jad and I were trying to adjust to this new reality. 

The speculation that followed was silly and cruel to say the least. People who have no medical background whatsoever or any education or even insight on healthcare would ask "Did you have a normal delivery? Do you think the induction is what caused it? Maybe it was a vaccine, I heard vaccines can cause autism?"

Nope. None of the above were the reason.

The fact of the matter is, we do not know what the reasons are.

But I do know for certain that induced labor did not cause Jad's autism. I was induced with Mia too. My mom was induced three times and myself and my two siblings are just fine. And I am certainly not going to blame immunization! I believe firmly in herd immunity. And let me say it now, I would take Jad's current condition and all the hardships any day instead of having to watch any child suffer or even die of an eradicated disease or something as silly as chickenpox. I am not claiming that vaccines may not contain harmful chemicals. It is a probability and I am certain profitable companies will put gain before health. However, I will trust that these chemicals are still safer than the return of the plague. Or whatever could have similar consequences.


A little over a year later, I can say that Jad is now doing much, much better. We were lucky indeed. Lucky it is mild but also lucky we caught it early on.


Many people waste precious time dismissing signs thinking that other children take time or are late reaching these milestones too. This may be true. Or not. Why take the chance when time is of the essence to resolve these issues? Any sign should be taken seriously.

Other people will simply ignore the signs. Denial will only harm the child as zero effort is made by the family, surrounding environment or health experts to try and help. It is OK to say, there is something wrong with my child and I will do all that is humanly possible to help him beat this.

I am so grateful we noticed the symptoms early on and decided to act quickly. Jad is doing so well now. His eye contact is fantastic. He loves nursery and being around his friends. If he stays at home for too long, he will look for his backpack and grab my hand and walk me to the main door, in an attempt to make me understand he wants to go to school. His interaction with his peers is not there yet. He will parallel play mostly but at least, he loves being around them. When they sing and dance, he will participate and laugh wholeheartedly.

Oh thank God for the laughs!

I cannot even put into words what it means to look at our child and do all you can to have a connection and hopefully make them smile while all they do is stare in the distance, at absolutely nothing and most painfully, certainly not you and not laugh or even smile.

That is death. That is my heart dying. 

But thank God, we are passed that. Jad now cuddles, makes eye contact, and not just with me. With everyone now. And he will smile. A social smile (a reaction to something that he finds nice or funny). And he will laugh. With all of his heart and soul. And this is when all of my heart and soul come back to life. 

Of course we still have a long way to go. Jad still does not utter a word. He babbles. Mostly baby talk. But no words. Not even two-syllables. But we are actively working on that and hopefully, things will improve. We do not hope he will one day graduate from Harvard. That could happen. Why not? But that is not our goal and hope. Our only reason for all of this is his happiness. We just want a happy son. That is all. The rest? We could not care less about. 

Right now, we are also rectifying his tip-toeing. While Jad used to alternate between flat walking and tip-toeing, he reached a state of exclusive tip-toeing as a method for walking. His little toe bones are not strong enough and on the long run could be damaged and deformed. He could also end up needing surgery. So we approached a fantastic surgeon with extensive experience with children similar to Jad and he put him in a cast for 6 weeks effectively forcing him to keep his feet flat at all times. Now we have moved him to special orthopedic shoes which look like boots. They keep his feet flat too. He has a day pair which is flexible around the ankle and allows his brain to train and recognize how his foot should operate to walk. And he has a night pair which is like a cast (no movement). We hope that within 6 to 9 months, Jad will have reprogrammed his brain to walk normally.


If you ever feel like you need to speak to someone or have doubts about your child, do not hesitate. 

Trust your instincts. 

When people were telling me "Oh it's OK, he just misses Lebanon, he'll come around" or "All boys are late, don't compare him to his sister, he will talk in due time", my gut was telling me something else. 

All these people were meaning well, of course, Bless them. They were as worried as we were about Jad and were looking for hopeful answers. 

However,  and I cannot stress it enough: listen to your gut. No one knows your child more than you do. And that survival instinct you have, trust it. 

So if you ever should need them (God Forbid), here are our people, our rocks, the ones we count on:

Souad El Sett, Speech Therapist (UAE)
Contact: KIDSfirst - +97143485437 
Lamia Bourayou, Nursery Director (UAE)
Contact: Le Jardin Enchanté - +97143486788 
Nayla Merhi and Pathy Bou Rada (LEBANON)
Judy Jreige (Speech Therapist)
Reem Chamas (Occupation Therapist)
Contact: North Autism Center - +9613840440 
Dr. Saada Alame, Pediatric Neurology (LEBANON)
Dr. Joumana Alame, Pediatrics
Contact: CMC - +9611372888
Dr. Michael Vohrer, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon and Foot Surgeon (UAE) 
Contact: The Children's Medical Centre - +97143282664  

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