Divorce. 10 Years Later. 5 Lessons Learned From One of My Biggest S.O. What!’s

June 9, 2007,  I walked down the aisle and my last name changed. So did everything about my life.

And my son’s.

I had been a single mother for 12 years, and I was pretty proud of how I managed to provide a good life for myself and my son on my own. If you read my book, then you know how my my soon-to-be husband came into my life. Unexpectedly and for me, unwillingly, but my heart changed, and I said yes to changing my consistent relationship status of single.

A little over two years later, my name would be back to Owens, but it would take a long time (if ever) for my life, and my son’s, to go back.

My next book will explain what happened and all the lessons learned. But for my 10 year anniversary, I wanted to share a few things I learned from an experience I never thought I would have- Divorce.

  1. Less is more. We had an extravagant wedding with over 300 guests. Although we paid for nearly everything ourselves, we went all out. The ballroom beautifully decorated for the reception was full. But during our first dance, I felt empty. He did too. The same was true of our house. Nearly 5,000 square feet of a beautiful home, but I longed for a shack to bring us back close. Do what you like on your wedding day, but even if my marriage had lasted I think I would feel the same way.
  2. Remember it’s about you and him- But mainly you. No, I’m not suggesting being selfish, but I am saying do what you feel in your heart is best for you. I moved forward with my wedding even when I had major doubts because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, let other people down, or throw away the money that been deposited on all the wedding stuff that ultimately did not matter. When it’s good, you’re the one gets to enjoy it. When it’s bad (or over) you’re the one who has to deal with it. I wrote a post about this that A LOT of people could relate to.
  3. Who cares how pretty you are if you don’t feel loved. Over and over I was told how beautiful of a bride I was. Sure, it was the appropriate thing to say to me on my wedding day. Maybe there was some truth to it. I had gotten up early to get my hair done, and the make-up artist beat the faces of the 13 women in my bridal party (told you less is more…I learned). They had all spent the night with me in our huge house I moved into a week earlier. After selling my house faster than expected, I had lived with my friend and wedding planner near my son’s school until school was out. At the church she made me feel gorgeous. I spent nearly $1,000 on my wedding dress (the second one), and I laughed and smiled nervously in it. The nerves weren’t about the wedding. They were from my uncertainty about his love for me. I would have felt beautiful in a $5 dress as long as I saw love in his eyes for me.

     

  4. Don’t beat yourself up. I held on to my marriage when I was the only one communicating. The only one fighting for it. I already had the negative labels of teen mom and single mom. I didn’t want to add divorcee to my list. I didn’t want to fail. Although many things in my life had not gone as planned, I succeeded at whatever I set out to achieve. This marriage would be no exception. Except it was. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. And I became someone I really was not doing things that were not me. When I finally let go, I felt guilt for a number of reasons. First, because of some things I had said or done that maybe contributed to my husband shutting down (I fully accept my role in our issues). Second, because of the impact both the marriage  and the divorce had on my son. Then and now. The guilt consumed me for a long time, and it stifled my growth and ability to heal. But just like the marriage I struggled to save, I let that guilt go. When you have honestly done all that can do, forgive yourself and live your life.
  5. Love yourself, and don’t give up on love. Before I got married, I was very reluctant to allow someone into my life and especially my son’s life. After I did and it ended badly, my initial thought was to not let anyone else in. I would not allow anyone else to hurt me or my son. So for five years, I did not have any type of serious relationship with anyone. And I certainly did not introduce anyone interested in me romantically to my son. I devoted that time to getting to know myself and trying to get to know my son and trying to repair the damage the divorce had done. After he turned 18, I decided to open my heart to consider allowing someone to try to break down my now brick wall. When asked if I would ever get married again, unlike some other divorcees I’ve met, I said, “I truly hope so.” The bitterness and even hatred that I felt towards my ex, really more my situation, was replaced with love for myself. I opened my heart to receiving love. However, with a better understanding of myself, I make better decisions about who deserves to be in my life.

So Happy Anniversary to me!  June 9, 2007 was a big day for me. June 9, 2017 is even bigger because I know me, and I love me. I’m not bitter. Just better and better and better!

 

 

 

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4 Years Down as an Entrepreneur, and I’m Still Up

More than celebrating the day I started my businesses by officially obtaining LLC and 501c3 statuses, I celebrate the day I made one of the scariest moves of my life.

The day I left my financially secure and even fun and rewarding job in Corporate America. June 5, 2013.

Last year I wrote a post detailing why I had almost given up on entrepreneurship but did not. One year after writing that have things changed drastically?

Nope. However, I am still in the game and moving forward. I have some new wins and some new losses and lots of new lessons.

I am more clear on my vision for my business and exactly how I want it to run and what I want to do. I have new relationships, new ideas, new contracts, and new revenue streams.

So today I celebrate 4 years as a full-time entrepreneur. The road has not been easy, but the key has been not giving up and always learning. I did it, and so can you if that is what your heart desires. I love sharing what I learn in business and in life so maybe I can help you too.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!

 

What maybe has made you want to give up on your dreams? What kept you motivated to stay the course?

 

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20 Years Later. 4 Lessons Learned as a Teen Mom High School Graduate.

May 23, 1997 marked the end of my high school career and the beginning of my adult life. I was armed with a high school diploma…and a two-year old son.

I had no idea that what had been the hardest part of my life up to that point would define me as a woman, establish my profession, define my calling, and give purpose to my life.

The day before on my birthday, was Senior Awards Day.  In my book, I talk about my disappointment that day when I was skipped over for announcement of my full leadership scholarship to the University of Memphis. jcm grad

I had worked so hard to earn that scholarship and just wanted my moment to show everyone in the audience that the teen mom had achieved that. I had graduated number 8 in my class of over 300 students and gotten a full leadership scholarship.

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But I didn’t get that chance. My guidance counselor later apologized and said, “What matters is that you got the scholarship.” That did not console me in that moment because announcing my accomplishment to all the people who I assumed had doubted me and counted me out was like me sticking out my tongue at them. Or maybe even flipping them off. The stubborn, teenage me needed that moment.

But I learned from that experience and so many others. I have achieved so much and been acknowledged many times. Overlooked several too. But I learned early how to say, “S.O. What!”.

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Below are the Lessons Learned that I include at the end of the chapter of Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother where I graduated from high school that helped me deal with that situation and helped me as I made my transition to college.

 

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t do it for other people or acknowledgments. The recognition may never come. Do it for yourself. Do it for your child.
  • Find a way. Make a way. I knew going to college was my ticket to a better life for me and my son, but my parents did not have the money to pay for my college education. I, not my mother or anyone else, sought and applied for several scholarships. I did the research and filled out the paperwork to apply for financial aid. My diligence paid off, and I ended up going to college for free.
  • Make a decision to succeed, and stop making excuses. I could have easily decided that it was too hard to attend school and to be a mother and given up, but I knew that giving up then would mean giving up on my future and my son.
  • I can do anything I set my mind to. Potty training a little boy was hard for me as woman. I did not have the same anatomy as him, but I showed him how to use what he had to do what he needed to do. I took that lesson and applied it to my own life. I did not have what everyone else had, and I did have something a lot of others did not­–a baby. I learned how to do what I needed to do with what I had.

I still use these lessons and many of the other lessons in the book to guide my decisions and keep me encouraged.

 

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The Hardest Job I Never Applied For

When I was 15, I got a new job. The summer before I had worked at a summer camp cleaning bathrooms and kitchenettes on a college campus for a summer program. I think the kids participating were my age. I wasn’t really old enough to work, but they hired us at 14 to do something I hated even doing at home. I really hated that job, but I did it.

The next summer when I was in a bedroom at my aunt’s house with my cousin’s friend, I had no idea I was about to take on a new job. The hardest job I would ever have in my life. A job that I didn’t apply for and would have for the rest of my life.

On February 4, 1995,  I officially joined the profession of being a mother. I was 15, and I was scared for lots of reasons.

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But I didn’t think that I was clueless, and I was determined to excel at this new job. I was the oldest of my mother’s five children and had changed diapers and babysat my siblings. However, as each year went by, especially during the teenage years, I did feel clueless at times. Changing diapers was the easiest task I had as a mother.

Although I faced many challenges, becoming a mother showed me a love I never knew I could have and give.

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Since that campus cleaning job, I’ve had several other jobs. Arby’s and Waffle House in high school. An internship at Hilton Hotels in college. The Memphis Grizzlies, ServiceMaster, and FedEx after college. And now entrepreneurship.

Each job had challenges. At times I was frustrated, confused, even sad and feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job. There were times that I wanted to quit because the jobs were hard and I felt that my work wasn’t appreciated. There were tears too sometimes, but there were so many more good times. There were laughs and conversations that let me know I was doing okay. I learned and grew and figured out who I was and figured out what my actual job was while I was doing it. Being a mother has been all of that times 100.

“Nothing is harder than trying to help someone figure out their identity while trying to maintain your own.” -Anonymous

And in my case, I was still trying to figure out my identity.

I wouldn’t trade my journey for the world. I thank God every day for the blessing to be a mother. And specifically to my super special, amazing son. And also a grandmother, known as Sunshine, to my wonderful granddaughter.

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Becoming a mother changed my life in every way. And it gave me a different appreciation for my own mother. She had five children with distinct personalities and different challenges. As kids and as adults. But she somehow managed to raise us well while embracing our individuality. Sacrificing so much of herself, as mothers so often do.

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I got a lot of my mother’s traits. She’s kind and compassionate, artistic and creative, witty and kind-hearted. And in a lot of ways we are completely different. She is way more reserved and patient than I am.

I love her for being the best mom she knows how to be. Just like I have done.

 

 

 

 

And I’m so blessed because I still have both of my grandmothers. One turned 92 last month, Grandma Ocie, and the other, Grandma (Agnes),  turned 95 two months ago.

These two mothers have close to 100 descendants between them. Combined they have almost two centuries of wisdom, challenges, and experiences. They are both mothers and women I aspire to be like. Strong, patient, kind, forgiving, loving. And they both are so funny. They have both experienced extreme highs and extreme lows as wives and mothers and endured.  So has my mother. And so many other mothers.

So to every mother who reads this whether you carried the child in your womb or only in your heart, whether you stay at home with your children or go to work every day. Happy Mother’s Day to you.  You are beautifully blessed and equipped to have the tough job of shaping the lives of your children. You never fully get the appreciation you deserve and certainly not the pay, but even in the trials the value of the reward (and sometimes the pain) of seeing your heart outside of your body cannot be measured or explained.

I salute you on Mother’s Day and every day.

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5 Lessons Learned from Losing Two Friends Under 40

At this moment, I am 19 days from my 38th birthday, and a little more than two years from my 40th birthday. I pray that I will be blessed to see it on May 22nd because two of my friends did not.

Last weekend I had the sad occasion of attending the funeral of my sweet 38 year old friend, Sylvia. My soror and line sister.

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Sylvia and I on my visit to Chicago

 

Two years ago, my college suite mate and beautiful friend, Melanie, died six days after her 35th birthday.

 

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My roommate and friends with Melanie (4th from left) in our college dorm

They were two of the sweetest, funniest spirits I know, and I was blessed to meet them both my freshman year of college at the University of Memphis. Soon after us meeting, they both began battles that many people didn’t know about (including me to a large extent). They were selfless and caring and didn’t want other people to worry about them, and it feels so unfair that they would have to leave us so soon.

As always is the case when someone dies, you question your own mortality. But I also examine my existence. They were both my age when they passed away, but I’m still here. They can no longer physically do anything, but I can. So I ask myself, “What am supposed to do with the time that I have?”.

In life and in death, both Sylvia and Melanie taught me and many others so much. These are a few of the lessons I learned from losing two friends under 40.

  1. Live, Laugh, Love. When I think of both Melanie and Sylvia, I immediately smile because that’s what both of them did– all the time. Well, more accurately, they were laughing–all the time. They had fun and they enjoyed life and lived life in spite of anything they were going through. And they both were the epitome of love. They loved everyone and everyone loved them.
  2. Stay connected to your friends. When we lost Melanie, it hurt especially bad because I had not talked to her or seen her in several years. I knew she had been sick, but I had not seen her. Losing Melanie, brought me closer to my other suite mate and Melanie’s best friend, Erania, who celebrated her 38th birthday the weekend we celebrated Sylvia’s life.raniAlthough I had seen Sylvia because I spent a week in Chicago with her, it had been nearly two years, and I had only talked to her a couple of times since. I normally keep in touch with people well, but I let my busy life keep me from talking to them as much as I thought about them. Losing Sylvia brought my entire line closer, Spring 98 Epsilon Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. We were preparing to celebrate our 19 year anniversary on May 7th, but losing Sylvia brought us together sooner and tighter than we ever could have imagined.20170429_141935_001[1]It also reconnected us with other lines from our chapter especially those who came immediately before and after us.20170429_141325[1]AND so many other Greeks and non-Greek alumni of the University of Memphis who loved Sylvia.

  3. Focus on what matters. Knowing your friend who has lived the same number of (few) years as you have is fighting for her life then watching her no longer have that life is heartbreaking. The things you complain about become so trivial and you gain a greater appreciation for life. And for me, a greater conviction to do more with it.
  4. Be grateful. The illnesses my friends dealt with ultimately took their young lives. But they could have easily been my issues. I have many issues and conditions I have complained about, but these experiences have made me grateful for my life and the minor challenges I have had. I have also become more grateful for the friends in my life and our ability to support each other in fun times and hard ones.
  5. Give people good things to say at your funeral. As I sat at Sylvia’s funeral just a few days ago and at Melanie’s a few years ago, I listened as each speaker shared memories of them. Of course the people on the program giving remarks would have good things to say, but as I sat there and looked around I seriously doubted that anyone, in the churches or outside of them, would have anything bad to say about either one of my friends.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. None of us are given the same conditions for living nor the same number of days. What we do have in common, if you are reading this, is that we are still living and can still use our lives to have an impact on the lives of others.

 

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Collaborating. Not Competing. Women Celebrating Women.

I am woman, hear me roar. Women are strong when we want to be weak. We laugh when we want to cry. Sometimes we cry (or even laugh) when we want to run away. We are mothers, wives, sisters, and friends. We are caregivers to our children, our parents, and our spouses. We are employees, and we are bosses.

 

March was Women’s History Month and a prime opportunity to celebrate historical women who have impacted our lives as well as women who are making history. Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to honor and being honored with some truly inspiring women.

The Women of Achievement Awards honors seven women whose stories move us and are moving our city and nation forward. In 2012, I was honored to receive the Heroism award, and last year I was asked to co-host the program, and this year I had the honor of co-chairing the selections committee.

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Each year that I am blessed to participate in the program, I am humbled that the organization saw fit to add me to the list of women doing such great things and changing the world. This year’s class was no exception to the tradition of inspiring others through touching stories of overcoming obstacles and creating change.

Women of Achievement honorees 2017

If you read my book then you might remember when my guidance counselor forgot to announce my scholarship at Awards Day. I felt like she robbed me of my moment to shine when so many people thought this teen mom wouldn’t make it, but that situation taught me a valuable lesson. Although I didn’t like it when she said it, I realized the truth of her statement later.

“I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you, but what’s important is that you got the scholarship.”

Once I embraced that, I never focused on getting recognized for doing what was important, right, or necessary. Because of that, anytime I receive recognition it means so much more to me.

Fresh Touch Publicity held its second annual #HERoine Legacy brunch honoring women with various background who have impacted the community. I am grateful to the event founder, Tee Jay, for sharing my story in the #HERoineLegacy Magazine. I enjoyed meeting the other ladies and reading their amazing stories, and I am truly honored to she chose to include mine.

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In a society where women are more competitive than collaborative, it is refreshing to uplift and encourage another woman.

What are some things that you are doing to uplift and celebrate women?

How can you support and celebrate women in your life?

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My Crazy Journey to Entrepreneurship

Some people dream of owning their own businesses. Being their own boss. Not me.

I loved my corporate job and was ready to be there or some other awesome company until I retired, but God had another plan.

I call myself the Accidental Entrepreneur. 

The life an entrepreneur is not one I would have chosen, but I have learned a lot and would not trade my experiences for anything. Anyone considering entrepreneurship may get some nuggets from this podcast with my journey from being a marketing executive to becoming an author, speaker, college professor, founder of an LLC and a 501(c)(3) using my story to impact lives all over the world. It has been a roller coaster ride, and I am grateful for the journey.

Thank you to my former co-worker turned fellow entrepreneur, Darnell Reid, for the opportunity to share my story on his podcast.

Memphis Success podcast with Darnell Reid

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