The Most Important Person to Love

I can remember being in high school seeing girls getting flowers and stuffed animals at school on Valentine’s Day. In college, more of the same. My friends often got gifts and went on dates, but I didn’t.

Sometimes it bothered me, but most Valentine’s Day it didn’t. I was a single mom and often didn’t have a babysitter so going out would be a challenge anyway, but I did think it would be nice to be shown given some attention at least on that day.

Then, after basically all of my life not getting Valentine’s Day gifts, I got the ultimate gift. The one that so many women want. I got a ring. A marriage proposal. And a bunch of other gifts, and I felt loved. Adored even.

Although I wasn’t ready to marry him because had only dated a few months, I did. And ended up divorced. IMG_1279

I hurt for a long time during and after process, but one blessing I got from the pain and the feel of loneliness was that I learned how to TRULY love myself. Because of the circumstances, I questioned everything about myself.

Why wasn’t I good enough?

Why wasn’t I pretty enough? Was I too fat?

Did I not cook enough?

Did I talk too much? Love too hard?

Then I reflected on my life and the fact that I had been single most of it. Only one Valentine’s Day where a man made me feel loved. Although I was smiling on the outside, I was dying on the inside and no one seemed to notice or care…at least not how I felt I needed it.

That’s when I learned how to LOVE MYSELF. Valentine’s Day was sad the first year of my marriage and the few years after my divorce. But that’s it. I went back to seeing it as a time to celebrate those in your life who do love you rather than focusing on what’s missing. And most importantly, it’s a time to check your self-love.

As I began to love myself with all my flaws and shortcomings, I began to clearly see the need for increased self-love in others.

How we feel about ourselves determines ever choice and every outcome in our lives.

Every speech I give, workshop I lead, and in all of my workbooks, self-awareness and self-love are at the core or the first topic mentioned. Through the nonprofit I started, the S.O. What! Foundation, I came up with an idea for a fundraiser around Valentine’s Day to help people stop stressing about the love someone else is or is not giving. The Love Yourself Event started in my home, and three years and three venues later the event has funded our STEP OUT program for challenged youth. And just as important, has helped thousands of people take the time to focus on loving themselves.

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Don’t Rush the Ring

It’s Valentine’s Day! The day specifically designated for love. Store shelves are full of, maybe nearly empty now, flowers, chocolates, cards, jewelry, you name it. And people, mostly men, are running out to get gifts for their significant others and hopefully, their mothers and daughters too. I usually get small gifts for my son. Some people think the holiday is too commercialized and unnecessary. Some people think it’s sweet and the actions on this day are true indicators of love.

But there are lots of people, like me, who are pretty indifferent. Regardless of our opinions about the holiday. There are a few facts.

  1. The are lots of people, like me, who are single this (and many) Valentine’s Day.
  2. There are also lots of women in relationships expecting or at least hoping for a ring today. And even some men anxious to put a ring on it when maybe she’s not ready.

As a single woman, I would like to make a suggestion. As someone who got engaged on Valentine’s Day and is no longer married (which means he isn’t either), I’d like to offer the same suggestion.

Don’t Rush The Ring.

engagement ring


I had been a single mother for eleven years and had had only a few relationships that didn’t last. I wanted to love and be loved, and I wanted a father figure for my son. Then I met, him. He pursued me for a few months then I decided I would give him a chance. I gave him my heart. After less than a year of knowing him, he presented me with a ring and asked me to be his wife.

I loved him, but I KNEW I wasn’t ready to marry him. I was still enjoying dating him and getting to know him, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and say no. I felt like he was the man I would marry one day so I said yes and insisted that we have a long engagement.

Big mistake.

Engaged is completely different from dating when you aren’t ready. That ring changed everything. No matter how much I wanted to keep “dating”, we were doing more towards planning the wedding. No matter how much I tried to plan for the marriage, it just didn’t happen. When I was unsure about whether or not to go through with the wedding, I thought about all the people who I would have to tell that the engagement was off. Then we started spending money on the wedding and the money we’d lose on deposits became a factor. A deciding factor even.

So after a year and a half of being engaged, we got married with the hope that things would get better. When we should have been dating for that year and a half to see if we really should even be getting married. A year and a lot of heartache, weight loss, sleepless nights (and more drama I won’t mention) later, I was out of the house and another year (and more heartache, weight loss, sleepless nights, and more drama)  later it was over. But not the consequences. Many of those still exist nearly ten years later.

Now that’s my situation, and yours may be similar or completely different.

So maybe you’re single and feel you’re ready to be married. Or maybe you’re in a relationship, and feel you’re ready for the ring. Or ready to give a ring. Only you know your situation, but marriage is a serious commitment that is much bigger than a holiday or a ring.

A ring is just a symbol of what can be a very beautiful union when it’s done right. But when it’s done wrong, or done in a rush or under pressure, it can be a very ugly and painful situation with long-lasting consequences.

Before you offer someone a ring or accept one, take time, as much as you need, to get to know them and feel confident that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Not just flaunt a pretty ring or brag that you put a ring on the hand of a pretty girl. And before you even do that, make sure you know yourself and truly love yourself. Then you’ll know that a ring or even a relationship does not define you, and you’ll only accept one that enhances you.

Need help or ideas? I’d love to be your life coach!

summer owens lye


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7 Steps to Help You Stop Sleeping on Your Dreams

As we prepare to head into 2018, people all over the world will be making New Years resolutions. You know, the things we probably wanted to happen this year and vow we’ll make happen next year. And hopefully we all will.

When I scroll through social media or just observe and listen to people around me, I see and hear the things people say they want. The dreams they have for their lives. Then I see posts like, “I’m bored,” or posts with other activities that seem contrary to that dream. I see people, in my opinion, wasting time or making excuses. And often I see people going to sleep- literally and figuratively- instead of working to make their dreams come true.

The one question I get asked the most is, “How did you do it?” (see my full answer in the video below). The short answer is I don’t sleep on my dreams. Because, first of all, I believe in myself and that dreams can come true, I allow my dreams drive me. I want others to be driven by their dreams too and make them come true in 2018.

Here are 7 steps to help you to stop sleeping on your dreams and start to make them reality:

1. Wake up. Whether you’re someone who sleeps in late or takes long naps in the middle of the day, if you’re not working late at night or all day, taking night classes, or maybe taking care of small children (or all of these at the same time), then why are you in the bed? If you’re resting from working or studying and pushing towards something meaningful to you, that’s one thing. But if you’re resting from working a couple of hours, then get up and get to work on your dreams or just admit you want your dreams to stay just that- dreams.

2. Evaluate your dreams. Are your dreams something you really want or just something that would be cool to have. This is important to ask yourself because the value you place on your dream will determine the value of the dream and your motivation to actually make it happen. If you don’t REALLY want it, you aren’t REALLY going to make it happen. Consider starting with the dream that is most important to you.

3. Turn your dream into a SMART goal. Dreams are simply goals, usually our really big goals. Write down your goal, and make it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound). Don’t just say, for example, “I’m going to get my degree.” Where? When? How? What kind? And even Why?

4. Create a plan. Next you’ll want to sit down and write down a plan to make the dream come true. Think about every step you’ll need to take and what you’ll need. Do you need to figure out how you’ll get or manage certain things to achieve the goal or a step in the plan? Maybe it’s Time, Money, Connections, Education or Training that you need. The more detailed you make this, the more likely it will be to accomplish the goal.

5. Identify your resources. Now that you’ve created a plan and identified what you need, think about everything and everyone you know who can help you or help you figure out or connect to who else can help you achieve the goal. Before you even ask others to help you though, help yourself. Do some research on your own and show the person you’re asking for help that you are serious, you know what you’re talking about, and won’t waste their time if they help you.

6. Get to work. You’ve laid out the plan and identified resources who may have helped you adjust the plan. Now take the first step. Stop wasting time. Do something. Even if it’s a small start, just start and keep going.

7. Now go to sleep. We all get tired sometimes when we’re working, but be tired because you’re working towards your dreams. After you’ve laid out the plan put in the work, then get some rest. Go to sleep then get back up and get back to work.

What will you do differently in 2018 to make your dreams come true?

Be sure to follow my blog and catch my next post, “How to Turn Your New Years Resolutions into SMART Goals.”

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2 Weeks Left and 2 Tips to Make the Most of Them

November was probably the saddest month of my life but also the most motivating.
My last post was about all of the sudden deaths too close to me. Then yesterday another close acquaintance passed away suddenly. Heart attack, and he was in his early 40’s. A day before his annual birthday party which is a fundraiser for different charities.
For the last two weeks, I have been suffering from a sinus infection that has made me down, but every time I start to feel sorry for myself I think about the growing list of people who I’ve lost. Even with me feeling bad, I feel motivated to get stuff done. Meet my goals. Because I’M STILL HERE.
Which means I still have time. So do you.
But one thing that I have been reminded of in these last two month is that we have no idea how much time we have. So that means we don’t have any time to waste.
With two weeks left in 2017, we can still check things off our lists. Even if I don’t accomplish everything I set out to do this year, it won’t be because I didn’t try or give it my all even in the last two weeks.


2 Quick Tips to Make the Most of these Last 2 WEEKS
  1. Revisit the goals you set for 2017. Think back to January 1st when you said you were going to lose 20 pounds, go back to school, buy a house, or whatever you said or even just thought you wanted to accomplish.  You’ve maybe been living month to month just doing what you need to do to get by. Take this opportunity to think about what you really wanted to get done this year then….
  2. Focus on 1 of those goals. Which goal was the most important goal? Which one have you made some progress on? Which one constantly hurts you because you haven’t accomplished it, or which one could have the biggest impact on your life? Choose that one and get to work making it happen. Sit down and write out a plan to get as far as you possibly can on that goal before the year is up. Then get back on it on January 1st! But make some progress…now.

You still have time! Your 2018 self will thank you!

And if you need help finding the confidence to make it happen, check out my online Confidence Class which has helped others meet their goals. 2018 is the year to Conquer Your Fears. Follow Your Dreams. Get What You Deserve.

I’d love to help you!

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5 Things to Do or Not Do When Someone You Love Loses a Loved One

The title of my first book is Life After Birth. The course I created for the University of Memphis is Life Skills. The curriculum I created for secondary schools teaches Life Skills. I am a Life coach. I live life, love life and teach life and how to live your best life.

So why was the last month of my life been so full of death?

Earlier this year, I shared that I have lost three young friends in the last three years. One just this past Easter. A close friend lost her 18-year-old daughter last year, and a couple months ago a couple I lost a friend and treasure to our city.        Marnesha


These sudden deaths were hard and were hitting so close to home. Then in November it got unbelievably hard and did hit home.

For my mother’s 60th birthday, I went with her to Los Angeles to visit my sister and one of my mother’s first cousins who has been trying to get her to LA for most of her life. We had a great nearly two weeks there with one of our last nights spent with my cousin’s friend. My cousin is an LA police officer, and so is his long-time friend. His friend talked about excited he was about retiring and talked even more excitedly about his sons. Before dinner, he scrolled through his phone showing us pictures of his two twenty-something year old sons, my cousin’s Godsons, who both played basketball professionally. He was so proud of his boys.

The next day we left LA and arrived back in Memphis at about 2am on a Saturday morning. My mom, sister, and I slept in then I took them to pick up a rental car and they headed to our hometown of Jackson. After leaving them I met up with my cousin who is more like my sister, and she and another cousin spent the night with me watching movies. My son stopped by, and we all had a chance to talk to him about his life and his choices that need some work. We hugged him, and he left late that night.

The next morning we woke up and were about to leave to go to the Waffle House for breakfast. Before we could leave, my cousin’s daughter called and said two sheriffs were at their house and needed her to come home. The three of us rushed over wondering what her son had gotten into or what else could be wrong.



Then we got the news no parent ever wants to hear. Her 20-year-old son had died in a car accident; the passenger in a car with his friend who died too.  We knew the friend too. He was my cousin’s ex-husband’s son. Once her stepson. They were both only 20 years old. My heart was broken but especially for my sweet cousin who had lost her baby, the youngest of her three children and her only son.


KB and sons

When we were able to compose ourselves, we called family including our cousin in LA. That’s when we learned that the two, young basketball players had died in a car accident the same day. Our family was even more devastated.






A few days later, more tragedy. Another cousin. My grandmother’s nephew was driving a motorized wheelchair was hit by a truck. Family from Chicago scrambled to plan a funeral in Tennessee just as we had just finished doing.

We were all hurting on all types of levels yet all comforting each other as best we could.



In the midst of this, my friend lost her father. This friend lost her mother in college and began calling me mama after I became her camp counselor her freshman year. 20 years later, I’m still “Mama” to a woman a year younger than I am. Then she lost her father who cherished her, and everyone knew it. And she cherished him.

I’ve never experienced so much death so close to me at one time. And I’ve never been a part of planning a funeral. This time it was for my cousin who was more like my nephew helping my cousin who was more like my sister. However, the eulogy that was delivered brought nine of my cousin’s friends to Christ, and began a huge mending process in several key relationships in our family. We lost our baby, but there was purpose that we have to see and believe in. And created purpose in through the Curtis Owens Memorial Scholarship.

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I was simply supporting someone doing the hardest thing I think a person could ever have to do. What we’ve been through in the past few weeks is something that I hope no one else will have to experience, but I know people inevitably will.

The support our family got from people has been amazing and unbelievable (both good and bad). I know that often people don’t know what to say or do in situations like this, but here are a few things I observed that I think are worth consideration because we all will one day be in the place of comforting someone in the time of loss.

  1. Show up. No, not everyone needs to pop up at the house or necessarily come to the service. However, examine what your relationship is to the person or people suffering. You might be a little uncomfortable but maybe your hug or just your presence can bring comfort to your friend when it is needed most. Your presence simply says, “I am here for you” whether your mouth ever does. And if you don’t feel you were close enough or that you should be there, you can still show up through calls, cards, donations, food…and now I see why food is so important. I used to think it was just for the repast, but the food people brought was a blessing as worked day in and day out on all the stressful details of taking care of our baby. In your own way, in your own time; but let them know you are there.
  2. Avoid the cliches. It’s so hard to know what to say. We all tend to go to, “He’s in a better place,” or “Everything happens for reason,” or, “God knows best.” I even saw saying, “Let me know what I can do,” defeating it’s helpful purpose because at that time the one thing that’s wanted no one can do. If you struggle for words, don’t use them. Presence speaks volumes.
  3. Be present but know when to give space. It’s unbelievably stressful doing or helping someone to the hardest thing they will probably ever have to do…BUT have to hurry up and do it. It can be overwhelming to have people around or calling, but at the same time is needed and welcomed. You have to, again, examine your relationship with the person and act according to what you feel is best. Be there, give space, but not too much or too little. It’s not easy, but you can tell what’s needed.
  4. Allow people to mourn in their own way.  Sometimes people expect people to react a certain way and question their love for the one they loss if they act differently.  Maybe they are not crying enough or too much or too hard. Maybe they aren’t talking about it enough or too much or you just don’t like what they are saying. One cousin laughed a lot at what some would consider awkward times, but I recognized it as nervous laughs. Even laughing to keep from crying. Some people want to go out and some people want to stay in. Practice patience and discernment to avoid judgment at a time that it is needed least.
  5. Don’t criticize the decision-maker for their choices. Maybe you didn’t agree with location for the service or someone being on the program. There are a ton of very difficult decisions that have to be made by the people who are grieving the hardest, and again, the decisions have to be made quickly. Once any of the decisions are made, it only brings more grief to hear complaints and disagreement.

So as I think about death, I am reminded that death is a part of life. At a time of loss, we naturally think about our own mortality. When people we love die, we are left to live until it is our turn. The question is what will you with your life?

How can we make the most of our lives so that when it’s our turn, we won’t have any regrets. Will we have done or at least tried to do what we dreamed of doing? Will we invest in life insurance so that finances aren’t added burden to the grief our families will feel.

If you’re reading this, then that means you still have life and you still have time. The question is just how much and what will you do with it?

So…what’s your answer? None of knows how much time we have, but what will you do to make sure you live your life on purpose and with purpose?



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38. Feeling Great. It’s Okay to Celebrate!

Earlier this year, I celebrated my 38th birthday.

To some people that’s no big deal, but to me it is. After getting pregnant on my 15th birthday by someone I didn’t know, I didn’t get excited about my birthday for years. It was a reminder of a night that hurt me. Scared me. And impacted my life forever.

But I loved my son, and when I was finally emotionally,  mentally, and spiritually mature enough, I got over what happened. And decided to celebrate the day that I was born. The day the biggest blessing of my life became a part of me. Celebrate the blessing of another year of life.

Most years, I try to take a trip. Even leave the country if I can. This year was a little different, but equally fulfilling.

Because the events and consequences of my 15th birthday are the reason for my businesses, S.O. What! LLC and The S.O. What! Foundation, I kicked off my birthday with a FUN fundraiser for the nonprofit.

It was an old school house party at my home with a deejay, good food, and lots of friends. Kid ‘N Play were in a city nearby, and I REALLY wanted them to come to the party. No luck with that, but we partied hard and with a purpose raising money for the kids in our STEP OUT program and helping to make our first summer camp possible.

On my actual birthday, my cousin/friend and I took a quick road trip to Nashville to visit cousins and to get away even if just down the street.




Nashville crew


When we got back to Memphis, the celebration continued at the Omega Psi Phi fraternity’s Sundresses and Linen party.

my girls


As the years go by, I sometimes find myself getting down about things I thought that would be different in my life. Like celebrating my birthday with my husband or at least a great boyfriend. However, until then (and after) I will look forward to birthdays and getting older, wiser, and better. And I will celebrate with my girls who will be getting older, wiser, and better right along with me! And I will love on my unexpected 15th birthday present until the day I die.

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20 Years Later. So much more than I ever expected.

When I entered my senior year of high school in 1996, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Not because I didn’t like school or people there because my school, Jackson Central-Merry, was amazing.

We were award-winners and record-setters both academically and athletically.  From CNN Contributor Van Jones to NFL players Al Wilson and Artis Hicks (who graduated with me) to so many other names that may be lesser known but no less successful and significant, JC-M was THE school.

The childish bullying I had once endured was over, and everyone had gotten over the shock and had stopped the (blatant) judgment of me “already succeeding” (having a baby) as one student said when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed.

I was just ready to go because I, like nearly every teenager who ever lived, was just ready to be grown and on my own.

PicsArt_10-16-11.20.37 (1)

Summer Owens  1997 and 2017

To the surprise of many people, since I had become a mother at 15, I graduated #8 in my class, earned a full scholarship to the University of Memphis, and moved away from my hometown of Jackson, TN. That first year of college, I went home nearly every weekend with my two friends who had left Jackson for Memphis too.

As time went by, we visited less and less but still made the short drive to see our families who were still there. We soon started making the drive home even without each other.

Then I looked up, and 10 years had passed. Then 15.  Some awesome classmates took the initiative and planned awesome reunions, and I made sure I was there each time.


I was even married at the ten year reunion and took my husband and stepson along with my son who was 12 by then.  Time was definitely going by fast.


Check out my son with the yearbook (I was the editor of the yearbook staff my senior year).

In my memoir, I talk about walking across the crosswalk from one campus to the other as a pregnant sophomore. The crosswalk connected the “East Campus” which was the former Merry High School (the black school) and the “West Campus” which was the former Jackson High School (the white school). In 1970, nine years before I was born, Jackson Central-Merry  became the first integrated high school in Jackson.

In 2003 when I was just getting into my career and visiting home even less, the West Campus, formerly the white school, became Madison Academic Magnet School. Jackson Central-Merry was limited to just the East Campus, and students would no longer have the college-like experience of walking on the crosswalk. No more greeting friends and hanging out and rushing between classes.

DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we returned to Jackson for our 10 year class reunion, the decline and eventual demise of our once powerhouse school was evident. The beautiful integration our class remembered wasn’t reflected in the stands or on the field. The football team, cheerleaders, band, and color guard (which I was a part of) were less than a quarter of the size they once were.

We were in shock. But then we went on with our lives.

Then I blinked and nearly 20 years had passed. It was almost time for our 20 year reunion. But a year before we would celebrate 20 years of being “grown”, our beloved school was closed.

There were lots of reasons given. Low attendance, maybe poor academic performance. Definitely not the school I had attended. Race, class, and educational inequality were issues once again. I don’t know that those issues ever went away, but our class (in my opinion) didn’t experience it.

There was a fight to keep the school open. Dedicated alumni consistently attended school board meetings speaking out and pleading for our school. A few alumni even created a huge JC-M all class reunion/homecoming which brought together alumni from every year since JC-M was integrated as one school. Before the game, we marched onto the field representing all the awesome years. It was a powerful showing of the love for our school.

But the school board still voted to close it.

As a consolation prize I think, the vocational building which was in between the East and West campuses, was turned into an early college high school. They named it Jackson Central-Merry Early College High School and gave it our school colors and mascot. The team who fought to keep the school opened embraced the new school and worked to support it right away. 20150320_101014

I had only been back to visit my school a few times since I graduated. I had spoken to the large number of teen mothers there the two years prior. Ironically, I was booked to speak on the day my granddaughter was born and her birthday the next year. The year I became a teen mother, there were only two or three others in the whole school of maybe 1500 students. That had changed too. Although the school was less than half that size, the number of teen parents was much higher.  However, I was honored to be able to share my story and encourage young mothers in the place where I started my fight to overcome some of the obstacles they were facing.

So I cried when my school closed. I took it personally. The closing impacted some old classmates who were on staff there. It impacted family who were or would have been students there, and it impacted the entire community.

But our 20 year class reunion brought back all the wonderful memories of our time at JC-M.  Like the previous reunions, it was planned by whomever stepped up to make it happen. This time two classmates, one in New York and the other in Colorado, led the charge and made it happen with the support of a couple of people still in Jackson and a few others.

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This is us plus a few others who showed up after the group picture.  As each person walked in, it was if we were all best friends in high school.

Some us were friends. Some of us were in clubs or on teams together. Some were the “popular” students and some were barely known.  Some us had never even spoken to each other. Some I had followed on Facebook and knew things about their lives, and many I had not seen or honestly even thought about since I was 18 years old.

But that weekend none of that mattered. All I could think about was-

 You sometimes don’t realize how much you miss people until you see them.

I missed these people. And I wanted to see every one of these people, people who shared some of my most precious memories, as much as I could see them all weekend.



We partied and sang, and we enjoyed catching up and sharing memories. Our kids who had never even seen each played together and loved on each other. Even my “kid”, the first baby of our class, now 22, came to the family picnic.



Original signage located on the East Campus

On the last day those of us who were still in town went to brunch and had the great idea to visit the place that had connected us more than 20 years ago.



West Campus (Now Madison Academic Magnet School)

We took the walk none of us had taken in 20 years along the crosswalk. We posed with the Aspiration sculpture that we passed daily as we went from one campus to the other. On the East Campus, we looked in the windows and were saddened to see boxes and abandoned desks and obvious neglect of our school. We even tried to get inside but decided against in when we saw the police. Just kidding…


At the end of our tour of what was left of our school, we stood and talked. We reflected on our collective and individual experiences. The great times we’d had, and the trouble we had gotten into. The things we got away with and the times we were caught.

It was truly bittersweet.

20171015_133417Bitter to see the place that was really once our second home now one campus lifeless and unused and the other not even claiming us. But it was sweet to be reconnected with the awesome people I was blessed to share that home with.



In 20 years, we had gotten married and divorced. Had kids and even lost kids. Stayed in Jackson and moved far away. Built careers and started companies. Survived diseases and lost some classmates to diseases as well as accidents and violence. Like in school, we had laughed and cried a lot, and now we were all grown up.

And with all the racial tension in our country, it was refreshing to see and to know that for the people who gathered that weekend, still the only colors that really mattered were green and gold.

And I had no idea how much I missed them…until I saw them.


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