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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


My S.O. What! Valentine's Day Proposal

There have only been two Valentine’s Days in my life that I have been involved with someone. Once when I was in college, and it was serious at all. I got a teddy bear from a guy that I had gone on a couple of dates with. The other Valentine’s Day was very serious. It ended with a ring and a commitment to get married.
Below is an excerpt from the end of my first book, Life After Birth- A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother. This may be a bit of a spoiler if you haven’t read the book yet, but I promise there is a very interesting story coming about what came after the awesome proposal you’re about to read. It is indeed another S.O. What! story of my life. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you read the first book, and I do believe it will make you anxious to read the one to come.
-Excerpt from Life After Birth
My day was filled with surprises starting before I even left my house for work. “Happy Valentine’s Day, baby!” he exclaimed kissing me on my cheek and handing me an assortment of body creams.
“Thanks, baby. I love them!” I responded after opening a few of the bottles and smelling the various scents.
“Now this one,” he continued grinning and handing me a big striped, pink bag full of cute, little underwear.
“Oooh, thanks, baby! But why are you giving me my gifts now? I’m not giving you yours until tonight.”
I was still waiting on the baker at the arena to finish the pan of lemon bars I’d ordered for him. Attending the Grizzlies games with me, he had fallen in love with the lemony dessert that could only be ordered in the luxury suites.
“I’ll see you then,” he waved me off to work with a mischievous smile.
At work, I received my third gift of a dozen pink and green tulips. In my mind, I could see him smiling and hear him saying, “I bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as AKA tulips?” Always a thoughtful gift-giver, he had selected flowers in my sorority colors. The beautiful distraction prevented me from working anymore that day.
At the end of the work day, he called me with a welcomed order, “Go straight home. I’m picking up Jaylan.”
With an even heavier than usual lead foot, I rushed home to see why I was instructed to come directly there. Welcomed by two of my favorite men, I entered my kitchen through the garage.
“Just take a seat. Sit back and relax on the couch,” Everett continued his instructions.
I didn’t say a word and just followed his orders. Trying to open a bottle of Moscato, Everett’s blissful mood turned to frustration when he broke the corker. “Ugh, I’ll be back.  I have to go to the store,” he agitatedly stated.
“No, it’s okay. We don’t have to have wine,” I tried to calm him down.
“Yes, we do.  I’ll be back!” he smiled, at least, then rushed out the door.
When he returned, he finished his preparation. Filling three wine glasses with wine for the two of us and grape juice for Jaylan, he moved on to the salad. Plump, juicy shrimp covered leaves of lettuce on the beautiful salads he created.
“Baby, this looks so good, but I don’t like shrimp on my salad,” I complained. He looked at me like I had stolen his best friend.
“Okay,” he replied and took the plate back.
“Wait,” I insisted feeling bad about my response, “let me try it. I’ve never had it before.”
I ate it and actually loved it, but I couldn’t understand why he was so frustrated and acting so nervous.
“I have dessert!” I was finally able to get in part of his gift.  Handing him the pan of lemon bars, his face lit up, and I knew I had done a good job.  The rest of my gifts to him didn’t even matter.
Completing the meal, it was time to say goodnight to my first and constant Valentine, Jaylan.
As we sat in my living room, my sweet and thoughtful boyfriend instructed me to relax again as he turned the television on my favorite network, HGTV. He left the room then returned with yet another gift, silky gold sheets that matched my bedroom perfectly! “I’ll be right back!” he stated and left the room again and returned with what was surely my final gift, a nice set of bath towels to replace the ones I had used since my college days.
Finally, he took my hand and led me to my bathroom where he had drawn a hot bubble bath for me in my large, Jacuzzi tub. Candles were lit, the music of Floetry played softly and red rose petals were strewn about the room and in the bathtub. Helping me into the tub, he gently washed my back as we talked about the day. He knew I had never had a special Valentine’s Day before, and he was ensuring I would never forget that one.
“Okay, I have one more,” he eagerly asserted.
“Another gift? Baby, you’re doing too much,” I responded, but I was anxious to see what the other gift could possibly be.
In the dim candlelight of the room, I could barely see the package he gave me, “Here you go. Open it.”
“My hands are wet, baby. Open it for me,” I requested.
Kneeling back down by the tub, Everett removed the shrink-wrap on the red velvet, heart-shaped box of chocolates.  He knew how much I loved chocolate and had given me thoughtful gifts all day. He struggled with the wrapper for a moment then handed me the box. Pulling the lid off the box, I extended the box towards him to offer him a chocolate before I indulged. He reached in and grabbed what looked to be my largest one!
“How you gonna take my biggest one?!” I exclaimed.
Ignoring me, he got on one knee and grabbed my left my hand fully removing the big chocolate candy I was about to complain about him taking. It was actually a black ring box. My mouth dropped, and my heart started to beat out of my chest.
Looking directly into my eyes he nervously uttered, “Summer, I knew from the moment that I met you that you would be my wife.” I laughed a little on the inside because he had actually told me that when he first met me, but I just knew that would never happen because he was not my “type” and made sure he knew it. He continued, “I’m ready to be a father to Jaylan, and I want you to be a mother to Alan. Summer, will you marry me?”
Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he released a relieved smile that said, “Whew, I got it out. I said it. Now there.”
In shock, I don’t think I even said yes, but then I realized that the lyrics of the song playing at the moment he proposed were “All You Gotta Do is Say Yes”. I sat in the tub with my mouth open as I nodded yes until he hugged me and helped me out of the tub.
Everett was excited, and so was I. However, I was more scared than excited. I love him, but am I ready for this. Lord, what if I marry him and he still leaves. How will Jaylan take this? What am I doing to my child?  Well, we’re going to be a stepfamily. This is going to be hard. I know this is what I said I wanted, but do I really? Please don’t let him change his mind now. I guess we’re doing this. Look at him, he’s so happy. But I’m so scared. Am I really ready for this?
 Still excited but unsure, we spent the next hour letting everyone know that we were going to get married. I was still in my towel when he ran into Jaylan’s room to wake him up and tell him the news. “Young Jay,” Everett started, “me and your Mama are about to get married.”
Sleepy and shocked, Jaylan didn’t know what to think, but he smiled and released a confused, “Okay.” The look on his face told me he was happy and the next night when I was talking to my new fiancé on the phone, Jaylan said, “Tell Dad goodnight.”
Still sharing the news, we called my mother. She was happy but not really surprised because he had mentioned marriage to her earlier. In fact, he talked about it to me often, but I brushed him off because we had only been dating a few months. My dad didn’t even answer the phone that night. It was late, but my new fiancé had already asked for my dad’s permission to marry me a month after we started dating when he met him for the first time at Christmas. We also called Everett’s family who already knew and had even seen the ring. I called my closest friends, but none of them answered the phone. It was Valentine’s night so I figured they were all enjoying the holiday too.
Wearing my ring to work the next day, I was eager to show it off to my friends there. I walked into my co-worker Staci’s office where Teresa sat across from her desk. Taking the seat next to them, I made casual conversation asking how the Valentine’s Day holiday had gone for them. They shared how they had spent the night before, and then it was my turn to reveal my big news.  Lifting my right hand from over my left one, I placed my left hand on Staci’s desk expecting screams of excitement. Instead, they both looked at the ring and started laughing. What? Are they making fun of my ring? Surely not. This ring is beautiful. What’s so funny? 
My confused face demanded an explanation. Summer, congratulations! We’re so happy for you, but we already knew!”
“No, you didn’t. I called both of y’all last night. No one answered their phones!”
Teresa explained, “Girl, Everett showed us all the ring at Aimee’s party. What’s so funny is how you came in here acting like you didn’t have anything big happen last night.” The week before, Everett and I attended a 30th birthday party for my friend Aimee. One by one, Everett had taken my friends outside to show them the ring and share his plans for proposing to me the following week. I couldn’t believe my friends were able to keep the secret for a whole week!
“How in the world were you able to keep the secret from me?”  I inquired. They responded in unison, “There was no way we were going to ruin that surprise.”
Happy Valentine’s to those of you who are in love, those who once were in love, and those who will be in love again. In the meantime and in between time, the most important thing is to first and always LOVE YOURSELF (be sure to read my post about the awesome Love Yourself fundraising event we had last Thursday benefiting the S.O. What! Foundation).