Tomorrow I’m marrying a couple I had planned to marry at TDCJ Ferguson Unit. Over the next three months I’m marrying several other couples who have finally made it beyond prison walls. Couples who have made their love story last.
Dana contacted me regarding February and her loved one paroling to a Fort Worth transitional home. I’m as excited as she is that after two years we are finally going to get her married.
Michelle sent me a text about finding Mr Right after I had married her to Mr Wrong at Bridgeport Unit.
Amanda is finally free of the man she thought she had married who wasn’t what she had believed her would be after paroling to her home.
Valerie’s divorce from the Ellis Unit inmate who had wooed her and Brandi in North Dakota at the same will be finalized next month. She remains hopeful of finding love. Valerie and Amanda as well as Brandi and Michelle deserved better.
Brandi has entered treatment. For a time she was suicidal over Raul. For a time she was self destructive. I stay in touch with all of my clients and when there is chaos, try to direct them to support or help. For months, Brandi continued to have setback after setback. The only thing she had of value was her truck. She had no license and had to sell it in order to start over.
It’s been a year of setbacks for many of my clients who have continued to wait on TDCJ as well as ICE and County Jails to reinstate visitation.
Meanwhile, my twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna are arguing about the amount of time Makenna spends with her boyfriend when she isn’t working while Makenna tells Maryssa she’s always on the phone with her boyfriend when she isn’t at school since Maryssa isn’t working because her job was shut down a few weeks ago.
My friend, Julie contacted me regarding locating a sliding scale or free counselor. Her marriage is on the rocks. Julie was left unable to walk after back surgery two years ago. Her anger about this caused issues with her husband. His inability to be sympathetic and supportive have done nothing to improve the situation. Tonight she called me while I was on site with clients at Chateau Forest Park. I walked outside to take the call. “I know you’re busy. You’re always busy. But, Jim isn’t interested in counseling. I don’t think he realizes how much of my happiness depends on him. He’s inattentive towards me and overly affectionate in front of me with our daughter. I feel invisible and cast aside. What should I do?”
Issues with Jim have been apparent to Cindy when Julie was watching Makenna’s hamster as we were traveling with the twins to CA, NY and LA over a three week window during the summer and Julie offered to watch Makenna’s pet hamster. I wasn’t with Cindy when she and Makenna dropped Charlie off. Cindy “her husband isn’t friendly. I felt unwelcome and weird there. He was yelling at the dog and we are paying them to watch Charlie?” Me “Julie is a mom and will take good care of Charlie. She won’t take charity and is excited to have something to do.”
I met Jim again at a photoshoot to promote a GoFundMe for Julie to get an MRI. She had no insurance. GoFundMe accounts are hit or miss. I never know what people will or won’t donate to.
A few years ago, my friend, Glenda died in Colorado. Her daughter, Tara contacted me because Glenda had no insurance and there was no way to get her back to Texas. Within days the money to bring Glenda home had been donated.
A few years ago, my clients Burt and Deanna lost baby DeLilah born with Trisomy 18. I baptized her immediately knowing we only had a few hours. Two days later, I conducted her memorial. Three months later, Deanna contacted me to do a GoFundMe for IVF. Like Julie’s campaign, there were very few donations made.
A few months ago, Deanna called me to baptize a baby that is being carried for her and Burt. I married them five years ago and have stayed in close contact as I do with all of my clients since then. Burt and Deanna have a happy ending. Julie and Jim are headed towards a slippery slope of trying to save their marriage. I’m deeply concerned. Julie can’t make Jim go to counseling or even take an interest. She qualified for SS Disability and insurance but it won’t be enough to support her and Aubrey in the event of a divorce. I suggested going to visit her brother. Julie and her mother don’t get along well. Julie, Jim and Aubrey are living with Jim’s parents. This isn’t the first time. Since the surgery, Julie has lost her job and last month, their home. Jim blames Julie and his animosity is obvious. What part of “for better or worse for richer or poorer” didn’t Jim understand?
Maryssa and Makenna aren’t used to sharing their time together with the inconvenience of work, school and boyfriends. Frankly, Cindy and I aren’t too pleased with the twins having boyfriends but we are keeping close tabs on this new development.
Amanda was married by me at Ellis Unit. My family and I had met her prior for a photo shoot with her three boys in Eastland. Because her husnand was paroling, her landlord suddenly decided to evict her causing an undue hardship on her with three children. Amanda made sacrifices but her new husband didn’t appreciate them and the fact that she had three children who were her priorities.
Marriage is a merger. Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. Other times we don’t really know a person until the chips are down. I married young. I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to be a good wife and mother. I did all the right things. But throughout my ten year marriage, my husband found reasons to be angry. Reasons to be violent. Reasons to make me fearful of hearing that garage door close wondering which version of my husband was going to walk into the house? My divorce and child custody battle took 5 years of my life. I never planned to marry again. My custody battle was a war. It left scars.
I was working when Guy walked into my building. I wore a wedding ring because I didn’t want anyone hitting on me. I pretended to be married. It made me feel safer. He found out I wasn’t married and asked me to dinner. I took Cindy with me. I was still fighting my ex for custody. I was working two jobs to pay my bloodsucking attorneys. He offered a solution “marry me. I will hire the best custody attorney and end your war.” He kept his promise. But he never promised to be faithful and he wasn’t. Fort Worth is a small town in certain circles. Laurie would be at the Fort Worth house while I was in Arkansas or traveling. I could smell her perfume. I could tell she had worn my jewelry and put it back in the wrong place. Laurie was a ghost who haunted my 6 year marriage. After receiving a circular from the Fort Worth Club with a photo and the caption “Guy and Wendy McCollum enjoying a candlelit dinner on Valentine’s Day” I filed for divorce. Laurie was in that photo not me. I was humiliated and embarrassed. I moved out with my son. For months he begged me to come back. Promised to change. Finally, I believed him. Nothing changed. Things were worse. On the 5th year of my second marriage, Guy had me sign a joint tax return. Within months a tax lien of over 300k was sent to the house in MY NAME. They split it he owed the other half. I was furious. The affair and now a tax lien? How would I rent an apartment? Buy a car? Get a job? I fought the tax lien and won. I also filed for divorce again.
Because Guy didn’t think the car I owned when I went in the marriage was good enough, he gave my car to his nephew and put me in one of his cars. I didn’t know it wasn’t paid for. When I left him, he told me to make the $558 payments on it. I balked. $558? I was paying for my son to attend a school that helped with developmental issues that cost $750 a month. How in the Hell was I going to afford that car payment? I went to Frank Kent who serviced the McCollum cars and applied for a job. I had never sold cars. But I needed a car, income and insurance and clients. Using my modeling background, I hired a photographer and ran print ads in country clubs. I targeted my clients through photo ads. I was successful and independent when my current husband bought his first car from me. As usual, I was also wearing a wedding ring. I didn’t want anyone hitting on me I was at work to make money and support my son. A year later, Matthew walked back in to trade his SRX. I tried to talk him out of it. He was upside down. “I’m getting a divorce. My wife took my suburban and I hate this car. I want an Escalade.” Ugh. I had a demo on the lot and worked a deal. While sitting in my office, he looked at the smiling photo of my husband beside me at a Betsy Price fundraiser and said “your husband must be really proud of you.” I burst put crying and walked out of my own office. I was a two time loser. Marriage wasn’t my strong suit. I tried hard. I did all of the right things but twice I had failed to make my marriages work. I had never dated. I had always worked. I walked back into my office and told the truth. All of it. Why I wore a wedding ring. Why I was selling cars. Why I kept a happy looking photo on my desk of someone who had an affair throughout our entire marriage then tried to throw me under the bus with the IRS. Weeks later, my sister, son, nieces and grandnieces went on a date with Matthew. Months later, we were married. If he could handle my family, he was worth a shot. We’ve been together 14 years. It wasn’t always easy. He lost everything within a year of marrying. Real estate crashed. He lost his business. He lost his self esteem. He didn’t know how to do anything else. He was unemployed for 3 years. I sold everything on EBay except our house. Texas Twins Treasures became my flipping site. I replaced our expensive furniture with garage sale and thrift shop finds. I reupholstered items and worked two jobs. I swam uphill. At the same time, Cindy’s husband was laid off after 25 years at Albertsons AND her 16 year old daughter, Stephaney was pregnant with twins. Like me, Cindy sold everything too. We found furniture on the fly. We either reupholstered it or flipped it. We circled our wagons and made it through the storm. We didn’t have parents to ask for help. We didn’t have family to ask for help. We had each other, our husbands, our children and grandchildren. Our circle was small. Cindy gave up her job to care for the twins.
In early 2012, Matthew and I finally sold our house. I decided to start a business to give people the wedding I didn’t have. Cindy joined me. We brought the twins to events with us. By the time the twins could walk, our clients hired them as flower girls and ring bearers. When client’s wanted affordable photos, Cindy, my son, my daughter in law or my niece took photos for them. When clients couldn’t afford bouquets or flowers, I decided to start making my own floral designs to loan clients. My goal is and always will be to make my clients day as memorable and special as humanly possible. My family is committed to the same goals.
Not all marriages work out. The tragedy is that we don’t know this ahead of time. If we did, we would spare ourselves the pain and loss of a divorce.
I continue to hope that Jim will realize his wife needs him and understand that Julie isn’t responsible for a botched surgery. You can’t blame a partner for an unexpected health crisis.
I continue to hope that Brandi sticks with her recovery and that Valerie eventually finds someone worthy of being her partner.
Life and love are messy. For those who weather the hard times though the investment of your determination, resilience and faith pays off in having a partner committed to you long after the luster of marriage wears off. Life partners are rare but they are out there.
As a reminder to Federal Clients… visits are currently non contact. Please be aware that we cannot overcome or object to Covid visitation changes. We can’t.
State, ICE and County clients, as we continue to wait for visitation, if you haven’t emailed Gov Abbott regarding how this visitation ban is affecting you and your loved one, please do so. He shut down visitation and he has reinstated nursing home visitation as well as reopened schools while completely skipping over County, TDCJ and ICE.
Certain State facilities outside of Texas have reopened visitation. These facilities are non contact similar to Federal Facilities. Please be aware that as my client, Cindy’s client or anyone on my staffs client, Wardens expect us to be able to control our clients. What this means is that outbursts, drama or unexpected behavior reflects on us. Please don’t be disruptive on site. We have worked months to get you to wedding day. If your ceremony is non contact we must accept the things we can’t change. Thank you.