For a few months now I’ve been pushing off a press release for an award I was presented. Why? I don’t have time to sit down for a one to two hour interview. My work takes precedence over anything else in my life with family running a close second.
I’m frequently asked how I became so successful by others who readily realize that I have never advertised or needed to. The answer is by exceeding my clients expectations. If everyone else in the sales industry would put forth the effort with each and every client they too would see amazing results but, sadly we live in a world where sales are similar to taking a number. Once the number is taken, it’s thrown in the trash.
Relationships outlast the initial sale. I don’t treat clients like sales. I treat them as individuals and make their needs my priority. I’m different because I actually care about my clients.
My Beto client last week touched my heart. Her journey hasn’t been easy. Both of her parents were sentenced to prison when she was only one year old. She had also just given up her apartment and had her car towed a week prior to her scheduled wedding at Beto. Hearing this news days before the wedding and knowing she had a two year old son touched my heart. How could I find her help for a very stressful situation? I quickly went to my contacts at Womens Haven and Union Gospel Mission as well as deeply discounting my fee and even offering to drive her to Beto myself.
At her photo shoot, I asked her “what her plans were for her and her son?” My bride had family in East Texas but, her son attended school in Forest Hill and my client didn’t want to pull him out of the school she had fought to get him into. Her son’s school took precedence over any decision she would make to find a new home and job to support herself and her young son.
It’s not well known but, my twin sister and I were residents at Women’s Haven ourselves at fifteen years old. Homeless and alone, Cindy and I both lived at the center until we could get on our feet again. During my divorce, I worked 2-3 jobs to support myself and my son while paying his Ad Lidem attorney and my own attorney. Without my twin sister helping me by taking care of my son, I have no idea how I would’ve afforded childcare back then.
I’m driven and determined because I’ve always had to be. I’m compassionate because I’ve learned that caring about others journey is rare but, I care far more than anyone realizes.
Yesterday as I was driving back from Dallas North Tower and the county clerk, my Beto bride called me regarding filing the license. An issue she faced was that she no longer lived at the address she had given when purchasing her marriage license. If I filed the license for her, it would be mailed to the old address. I spent some time going over a few alternatives with my client that included going to the post office to put a hold on her mail at her old address as well as getting a P.O. Box or filing the license in person.
If I file a wedding license, it’s mailed directly to the address given by the couple. If a client files the license in person, the license is recorded and handed back. I suggested this option to ensure the license wasn’t lost in the mail and put gas money in the envelope containing her wedding photos to be sure she wouldn’t run out of gas getting to Dallas. I hadn’t heard from her prior to running to Dallas myself yesterday morning and assumed she had filed the license herself last Friday. Otherwise, I would have driven her to Dallas myself to spare her the trip and the expense of gasoline.
This morning as I prepare for a call from Kate, a journalist on my way to Tarrant County Detention Center, I wonder if my bride has been by my office to pick up her wedding photos and gas money? I wonder if she has found a place to stay or a job and I wonder how the burden of expenses involved to be a Prison wife will affect her life? I worry constantly about my clients. I can’t help myself.
There’s a stack of mail in my office awaiting my attention. There’s also a five page questionnaire for Power Woman Of 2019 awaiting my attention. I have 172 emails to answer and I have a text from Cindy. My day is off to a “roaring start.”
Cindy now has both of her adult daughters and all three of her grandchildren living with her. I’ve talked to Adult Protection Services in Valdosta and Texas. The “Stephaney Situation” is finally blowing over although I may need to testify in Valdosta, Georgia regarding how my niece wound up there and how I realized that there was a problem while at Wynn Unit with my client in Huntsville, Texas. It’s a long story.
Cindy is overwhelmed at “trying to make everyone else happy in my home other than myself.” Cindy does it all and without my help, Cindy would be doing it alone. Maryssa and Makenna argue incessantly and Leigh Ann has a chip on her shoulder regarding her sister, Stephaney moving back home. “Five females fighting” is an ongoing rerun at Cindy’s house. Arguing over the bathrooms, arguing over the chores, arguing about each other. I could go on and on here. Cindy lives at Camp Chaos. Don’t let the happy smile you see Cindy wearing fool you. Cindy spent seventeen years caring for our selfish grandmother. My sister finally snapped over our grandmother and kicked her out after nearly eighteen years. I would have never moved her in. I’m far less tolerant of moochers and morons than Cindy. My twin has the soft heart regarding our family that I possess regarding our clients. It’s a fact.
Cindy has spent her entire adult life caring for her children and grandchildren and Cindy needs a vacation. Cindy loves leaving her fighting family behind to jump in my SUV and head off to meet clients. Who could blame her? At home, chaos and more chores await my overworked twin sister.
After listening to Cindy nearly crying while I sat in my SUV at the Tarrant County Clerks Office preparing to file licenses before walking across the street to the county jail, I butt in and suggested “laying down the law. It’s your house. Your adult children are guests. I’m highly concerned about Leigh Ann’s husband, Alex coming to stay from July to August and bringing more chaos. You need to establish rules and guidelines. If you don’t, I will.” Cindy knows I will and it will be far less confrontational if she would snap and start putting her own needs first. If she can’t though, I certainly can.
My Beto bride sends a text asking “are you home?” I’m twenty minutes from home but at least an hour from attending to filing licenses and meeting my Tarrant County client. I suggest meeting me for lunch at the 7th street Starbucks in an hour after she picks up her wedding photos and gas money. I’m highly concerned about her and her child and have a list of suggestions for her to get back on her feet. I have plenty of time to get to Jack County Jail and Parker County Jail to meet my afternon clients before heading to Willow Lake Event Center with Cindy at 4PM. Leigh Ann will pick up Maryssa and Makenna at 3:30PM and after their incessant arguing this morning on the way to school, Cindy could use a break from the twins and Leigh Ann quite frankly.
Yesterday, Cindy and I were with our clients at Taylor’s rental looking at bar height tables and chairs for a June graduation party when Leigh Ann sent a group text to Cindy and I regarding Stephaney. I was instantly lit because when my family know we are with clients, the last thing I need are to be blasted with family bickering but, Leigh Ann consistently and repeatedly makes her problems a priority to her mother and I. “Maddy had milk on her mouth and I asked where that milk came from? I went into the living room and Stephaney was eating cereal and had been sharing it with Maddy. I’m so furious about this that my hands are shaking!”
I walked out of Taylor’s to call Leigh Ann. While she attempted to interrupt me, I interrupted her. “Listen, we are on location with clients. We don’t care about your problems and if Maddy wasn’t hungry she wouldn’t be asking Stephaney to feed her. You need to go feed your daughter and stop disrupting us with stupidity while we are working. We don’t care how mad you are. Now we are mad you bothered to dump your problem on us. Grow up.” I then hung up and practiced smiling in the parking lot before walking back to my clients and sister.
I abhor disruptions to my carefully orchestrated agenda from family members and everyone realizes it. And yet, the consistent disruptions from my family are a regular and consistent occurrence in not only my life but my twin sisters too. Dash it all.
What Leigh Ann should have been doing was feeding Maddy first and finishing the Sunday rehearsal photos second. But, explaining prioritizing to my niece is an escapade in futility.
Meanwhile, my Bridgeport bride had sent me a message on FB that would have to wait until choosing tables and linens and my Allred client wanted to know about the Absentee Affidavit while my Torres client was concerned “about the glass” and my Eastham client wanted to know “how much longer the I60 would take?” My phone never stops ringing and bleeping alerts.
Preparing myself to text back and answer emails from the Taylors parking lot after happily waving goodbye to my June clients, I turn to Cindy and say “about the California back and forth situation, I’ve come to a decision. We aren’t telling any of our adult children when we are leaving or arriving in California. We need a few days of fun without being drug into drama in San Diego with Leigh Ann, the twins and Alex. We won’t check in on FB. We will pretend we are still in Texas. Wink. Wink.”
Cindy is shocked by my “plan.” I’m not. I need a break from my family and whether Cindy knows it or not, she does too. My sister is thinking. I jump in before she can respond (as usual) “listen, we are exhausted and overwhelmed. We have a podcast with Karen and then the Twyce Twins, a press release for Power Woman Of The Year, a follow up interview with Kate, and we are juggling 29 clients with new clients each and everyday. We need a vacation and I’m booking us into The Beverly Hills Bungalow for three days of spa, shopping and fun before we hit the bricks on that August wedding in two cities. It’s going to be an ass whipping and if we don’t catch our breath, I’m afraid we will be in the hospital from pure exhaustion. We are bouncing from Louisiana to Arkansas to Oklahoma to California seven times between August and October. It’s time to put our needs in the “front pocket” in order to be camera ready and refreshed for our clients. Our families and their chaos are killing us with stress Pal. Unlike our clients, they dont appreciate our sacrifice today, tomorrow or ever. With them it’s me, me, me, I, I, I. We must hopefully before our 55th birthday in November, learn to put our demanding kids and chaos on the back burner.”
Warily, and probably feeling guilty (as usual) my twin sister agreed. Traveling gives us the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company but, thanks to cell phones, our family is always a text or phone call away from screwing up the day. It’s a fact.
My son and his wife have been traveling together as an Officiant and photography team the past 4 years. When my son and his wife get into an argument, everyone in my family hears about it. My daughter in law “I can’t drive with him in the car. Nothing I do is right and he makes me nervous.” My son “Stephanie doesn’t pay attention. She’s either driving too slow or driving too fast.” Me “you two are married and work together. Try to stop bickering and work together on learning patience.” Cindy “Robert and Stephanie Hafele are arguing again.” Me “I cannot stop what’s coming. Those two think they are communicating when in fact they are arguing.”
When I’m on location with Leigh Ann as I was last weekend at one of my rehearsals, I’m called “The Boss.” I instruct Leigh Ann on locations for photos and how to pose the wedding party. I wonder how Leigh Ann will handle addressing clients in California when I’m not there telling her what to do? It’s a valid point. I recognize that more flights to California to “save the day” await the Texas Twins. Our adult children are needy and often demanding. Heavy sigh.
For two years now, I’ve been bouncing between states for inmate weddings. It was essential due to my burgeoning client base to add Leigh Ann as a TDCJ Officiant and to bump county Jail Weddings as well as traditional requests for an Officiant/photographer to Robert and Stephanie.
Cindy and I are both stretched to the limits. My traditional bookings are now three years out. Weekends and evenings that include holidays are taken up by traditional clients.
Trying to find a day off is impossible during wedding season. As usual, my anniversary will be bumped into my birthday this year when things slow down. My husband accepts my overwhelming schedule. He knew when he married me that I was an overachiever and accepts it. He’s also fifteen years older than me and turns off his phone from 6PM to 8AM Monday through Friday and altogether on weekends.
Matthew is “off work when he is off the clock.” We have very different views regarding client needs. I never turn my phone off which may be why my husband is “tuned in” on client needs and family chaos. He hears it all.
My husband doesn’t have any family to burden him with their problems. I cannot imagine what a worry free blessing that would be to not have adult children or grandchildren and their problems dumped in your lap like my husband doesn’t. Seriously. My husband as well as Cindy’s husband don’t have children which is a remarkable comparison to Cindy and I with our “carnival of chaos kids and grandchildren.” Opposites do attract. Our marriages are proof of that.
I’m going to go over the certified marriage license to address questions about the process of changing an inmate status from single to married. While we are inside a unit, often there will be a copy of the marriage license filed with inmate records. This is not a certified copy.
What constitutes a certified copy being available has a few caviats. First, the license must be signed by the Officiant AND then filed at the clerks office either in person by the client or via certified mail from me to the clerks office BEFORE a certified copy of the license is available for purchase.
The certified copy bears a seal deeming it as certified to be true and correct. While the original marriage license (after being signed and filed) can be used for the DMV and SS Office, it CANNOT be used for a change of status to inmate records.
Only a certified copy of the marriage license can accomplish this task. You will purchase and then mail the certified copy to inmate records at the Unit your spouse is incarcerated at.
You have 30 days from the date I married you at the Unit to provide a certified copy. You will then need to change your name (if you intend to do so) on your state issued ID for visits to the Unit.
The reason that Units NOW REQUIRE a certified license is to prove the marriage license was filed and is legally binding.
Apparently, several people were “going through the motions to get married” but, by not filing the license, were effectively not legally married. Due to this issue, certified marriage licenses are now a requirement at many if not all Units.
Reading a text from one of my Coffield Unit brides was truly good news today. The inmate has made parole and will finally be coming home. I cannot wait to Officiate their Vow Renewal with family and friends present to celebrate their new journey of freedom and promise together. God Bless my amazing couple and their resilience. What a blessing.
My Beto bride and sit down together to “go over her plans for her son and their new direction to move to East Texas.” Visiting for a little over an hour before running off to Jack County, I also prayed that this trip would bring my client a new job and positive direction although removing her son from school was somewhat troubling to her. At two years old, her son is resilient enough to change schools now as opposed to being older. I will order her certified license as the Officiant and forward it to her to send to the Unit.
The cost in Dallas is $10. The cost may vary by county. Tarrant county charges $21. Unlike Dallas county, there is no form online in Tarrant county. Here’s the link– Tarrant County Certified Marriage License Request.
Juggling incoming emails and text messages while sitting in the parking lot of Jack County Jail, my husband sends me a text telling me he loves me. It’s the little things but the stinky skunk development problem is finally over and Matthew is relieved! Thank goodness. We’ve had a month of brain storming to solve the skunk issue and, it’s a month too long.
I miss my happy go lucky husband. Matthew is actually hilarious when he isn’t stressed out. Cindy and I are looking forward to road tripping to Stiles, San Saba, Crain and Huntsville Units before heading back to Louisiana in May. We love getting away for a day or two and hitting the junk shops together.
My husband prefers long walks with my feisty Beagle, Foxy Wortham along with the Golf Channel or NASCAR and a dry martini.
Cindy’s husband left for Canada today so she has 5-6 days before Steve Daniel is back home for a 1-3 day “staycation” at Camp Chaos AKA Cindy and Steve’s house.
With five females fighting over the bathroom, I’m guessing Steve was “ready to roll.” Fighting for a bathroom isn’t fun at Cindy’s house. I drink a lot of water and coffee and it’s not uncommon for me to stop at Petro on my way to her house to effectively “stand in line.”
Things will get worse when Alex comes to stay for a month before leaving for San Diego with Leigh Ann, Maddy and the twins. A summer in San Diego will do them all good and an empty house will be a Godsend to Cindy as we bounce all over the place to client bookings.
In fact, I’m looking forward to Cindy staying at my house for our slumber parties and spook movie nights.
My Saturday clients are so much fun that Leigh Ann and I can’t wait to see them again. I love it when clients at outgoing and spirited at photo shoots.We love our LBGT clients and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the rehearsal photos for Brokk and Ruben.
Since I’ve been asked, I do stop and start blogs between bookings. I just leave my WordPress app open and pick up where I’ve left off. All of my blogs are typed with one finger on my iPhone. Often, while waiting on a client at a Unit or venue. I spend a lot of time waiting as I’m always early.
I reviewed another email regarding someone else blogging on one of my sites and will once again go over why I have no interest in “guest writers.” First, my content is entirely my own and based on my experiences with clients and my family since they are both combined.
Secondly, I have no interest in sharing my platform with others.
Thirdly, I do not allow back links on any of my sites. Sorry, but, I’m not now nor will I ever be interested in having a guest blogger.
I’m off to the Parker County Courthouse and looking forward to meeting all of my new clients in the coming weeks…