28
Jun

Marriage, Menopause, Multitasking & TDCJ Michael Unit…

My itinerary is normally jam packed but for this week in particular, it was even more of chaotic juggling act due to my dog, Foxy Wortham needing dental surgery and two tumors removed from his abdomen. Working vet visits into my schedule worked because I had clients at Parker County Jail that were kind enough to reschedule their appointments with me into Foxys surgery dates. 

My grandniece, Makenna has also been seeing several urologists this week and Cindy as well as I and Leigh Ann have been working her medical procedures into our existing schedules too. When I’m at Tarrant County or Green Bay or filing licenses at the clerks offices, I take Makenna to appts at Cooks. When Leigh Ann takes her daughter, Maddy to speech therapy, she takes Makenna. 

Between work and family, I live on a schedule. My twin is my partner at all times but, Cindy took a fall last week at her home with two staircases and subsequently has been down for over a week making scheduling far more “tricky.” 

Cindy and I are the village. Often, we are the Chiefs in a village with too many Indians. What do I mean? Well, when it comes to advice from others who aren’t part of the solution, their advice or opinions become part of the problem. 

Who are these chili stirrers? Our own family members that think they are experts when it comes to our children and grandchildren. Family members that Cindy I decided to cut loose this past year. 

This may surprise a few people but, I’m a realist. Cindy and I will be 55 years old in November. We’ve also dedicated our entire lives to “being there” for family members who have never “been there” for us. 

Many of our family members are effectively dead weight that we don’t need in our lives. I will elaborate on the background pertaining to this statement to better enlighten you. At 15 years old, Cindy and I left home. We had no one to help us within “our family.” We also lived in a homeless shelter until we could obtain GED certificates and find work as waitresses in order to keep from starving. Never once in our entire lives has “our family” helped us. In fact, Cindy and I are entirely self sufficient. We’ve raised our children and grandchildren as a twin team. We also created Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Treasures. Texas Twins TV and TDCJ Officiant as a team. Our husbands, children, grandchildren and our clients ARE OUR FAMILY.

Our new family of clients are a gift. Our clients are the family we’ve never had. Amazing, inspiring, resilient and loving people who care about us and who are lifelong friends of the Texas Twins. 

I’m far closer to my inmate wedding planning clients than my “traditional clients.” Why? Because we share a journey together. There aren’t any entitled and demanding bridezillas planning a prison wedding and if there are, I’ve never met them. 

For a few weeks now, one of my “second time around” traditional clients has been having second thoughts about her wedding in Santa Barbara this August. Continued phone calls and emails between us have given me insight as to “part of the problem.” 

You see, she’s in early menopause in her 40’s while her groom is nearly 60. This isn’t unusual for a second marriage but her disdain for the necessity for her fiancée to take Viagra has dramatically affected her self esteem and because she happens to be menopausal herself, the intimacy issues they are having would strongly benefit from premarital counseling although neither of them wish to discuss this matter with a third party. Instead, the bride had chosen to discuss the issue with me. 

I have continued to bring up qualified counselors in Santa Barbara since I know several but, occasionally my clients are far more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects with me other than someone else. 

For women everywhere including myself, when marrying an older partner you will one day encounter this situation yourself if you haven’t already. I remember all too well “finding out” my husband took Cialis. I was not only hurt about this but also offended. Was I too fat? Less attractive? Boring? Was it me? Why wasn’t I enough? 

Due to several precancerous surgeries over a five year window that included 3 partial hysterectomies and a breast lump removal as well as a full thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer, I was far less of the woman my husband had married and my own issues with self esteem and reconstructive surgeries might have been the reason that a little pill became the adversary however, I never sought counseling for my years of surgery after surgery. I never discussed why I hated what lifesaving surgery had done to my body. I never told my husband how I hated my breast reconstruction. 

Instead, I chose not to look at myself leaving the shower. Instead, I hid in my dressing closet each morning. Instead, I preferred dressing in the dark. I never discussed my feelings with my husband. The scars. The permanent marks of my war to live. 

Meanwhile, my husband who is 15 years older than me was facing losing his own virility. He was also concerned he would lose his wife due to aging and erectile dysfunction. Between you, me and the fence post, I wasn’t even interested in being intimate. His fears were unfounded. Apparently, mine were too. I discussed my own experiences with my bride in detail. I’m blatantly honest. She finally understood that “it wasn’t her.” For every woman out there who thinks their husband doesn’t find them attractive anymore, I’m encouraging you to discuss your fears. Only then can you get past these issues of aging that affect all marriages at some point. I wish more older and even younger women realized this too. But, society keeps a lid on what married couples and especially midlife or senior couples deal with when merging their lives. It’s an important discussion. 

Communication with my husband would have alleviated most of my concerns but, my battered body made me feel like far less of the woman he had married. It took years for me to finally address the “elephant in the room.” When I did, my husband expressed his own concerns. His fear of me leaving him because he was aging. Fears that were unfounded but, for him anyway, very real. He felt inadequate while I felt the same way. Ironic isn’t it? 

Occasionally, talking to your partner about important aspects of sharing your life together will enhance your relationship far more than hurting it. 

My Santa Barbara bride is back on track. They sought marriage counseling and it has helped both parties realize that aging isn’t a deal breaker for either of them. 

I’ve had several emails and phone calls this week from clients waiting on the I60 as well as LeBlanc Unit denying an I60 because the couple were ALREADY listed as CLW/CLM on TDCJ records. Knowing the policy and procedure of TDCJ pertaining to inmate weddings is critical. 

If you think the ONLY REQUIREMENT of hiring an Officiant is for them to show up, you can’t be further from the truth. An experienced and seasoned Officiant is also educated enough to overcome obstacles. I AM. 

While there are many Officiants “out there” flying by the seat of their pants, if you encounter a problem during your prison wedding planning process, you NEED SOMEONE on your side who knows what’s going on. EXPERIENCE MATTERS. Be cautious about assuming the ONLY ROLE an Officiant plays is showing up. It isn’t. 

To help overcome this CLM/CLW classification issue of the couple being ALREADY listed as married and therefore (according to the Unit) not being authorized to marry due to the registration of an Informal Marriage through inmate records, I contacted the Courts in Huntsville myself to call LeBlanc and explain the changes to the Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate marriage that now authorizes marriage although the inmate has been previously listed as being common law married to the same partner. I can’t wait to finally meet this couple in person. Hopefully in July. 

My Darrington client sent me a text that was great news on my way to Michael and Coffield Units this past Tuesday. Her husband is finally being released in September and they are planning their Vow Renewal. I’m as excited as they are. Vow Renewals give me the opportunity to meet friends and families of my clients long after Lock Up. 

These celebrations are especially emotional due to the journey it’s taken to finally walk down the aisle rather than stand in the visitation area. There will be no guards. There will be flowers. There will be food and drinks. There will be cameras and cell phone video. There will be wedding dresses and suits. There will be memories of where we’ve been and what we’ve been through together. 

My Telford Unit bride encountered a CLM/CLW issue with her fiancée that has held us up for a few months getting her wedding scheduled. Luckily, a corrective Affidavit voiding the union with someone other than her being listed as Common Law Married is now no longer and issue and I look forward to meeting her and her fiancée soon at Telford Unit. 

My Buster Cole Unit bride called me excited that we are finally “a go” to marry and will be flying in from Seattle for the wedding she’s waited since February to finally have. I’m stacking several clients at Units in the coming months including Buster Cole so please remember to arrive at least 15 minutes early so we are all cleared and ready for ceremonies on site. 

I’m at McConnell Unit with two best friends who are marrying on the same day and really looking forward to sharing their bridal photo shoot together. I love the idea of best friends marrying on the same day and sharing their anniversary! 

Green Bay Unit brides and grooms have all finally purchased their marriage licenses as well as our Collin County clients. Leigh Ann and my son Robbie will be taking over county jail weddings in the next year due to Cindy and I spreading Prison Wedding Officiant services to Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas although our main focus will remain in Texas. 

California Prison Weddings will be predominantly handled by my niece, Leigh Ann and my stepsister, Tammy after September although Cindy and I will continue to “stack” clients only wanting myself or Cindy to officiate every three months. 

Traveling from CA to TX requires a bit of flexibility on our CA clients due to our Destination Event Services through Texas Twins Events as well as Inmate Officiant Services within states we can “day trip” to by car. 

Last week, I had a bit of a surprise when calling Coffield Unit regarding an issue with my July client. The wardens secretary advised me “you have a client here Tuesday morning before you are scheduled at Michael.” I hate surprises so I asked who the client was. If I cannot identify your name or recollect speaking to you, you aren’t a client. I keep detailed records of phone calls, emails and all correspondence. I know who is waiting on dates and where my clients are in the process. This “line jumping” by using my credentials must stop. Everyone else has gone through the process. Everyone else on my books has waited their turn. They’ve followed the steps with the Unit as well as with either myself or my staff. 

They’ve also put some skin in the game. What does that mean? It means that if you have scheduled a prison wedding without going through the process of obtaining our services FIRST, it’s far easier for you NOT TO SHOW UP BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. 

If I drive to a Unit based on your promise to meet me there with contract and fee in hand and call you to hear “I’ve changed my mind and decided not to get married today,” you are effectively flagged on all of my records as a NO SHOW and when you DO DECIDE to get married, I can assure you that it won’t be with either myself or my staff. 

This “listing me as an Officiant WITHOUT hiring me” situation has occurred over and over again and because of flaky people who don’t care that I’m accommodating THEIR NEEDS at my own expense based on verbal commitments, I will no longer “make arrangements” unless I’m at the same Unit with other clients. Why? Because I’m not on a bum run hoping you bother to show up when you didn’t bother doing anything else throughout your prison wedding planning process. You know, like buying your license and paying your Officiant! 

If you HAVE NOT signed a contract with me, you ARE NOT a client. The continued misuse of listing my name and my credentials on your I60 to obtain a wedding date isn’t going to guarantee that I’m driving to a Unit solely because I’m on the schedule. 

If you ARE NOT a client, I CAN and WILL contact the Unit to reschedule your wedding until you can satisfy the REQUIREMENTS of being a client. If I have made arrangements with you, it’s in your best interest to keep me informed as to whether you are going to show up on wedding day. If you fail to, I cannot help you when you do decide to make the commitment. NO SHOWS ARE TIME CONSUMING and affect the scheduling of everyone else on my books. I’m intolerant of people who have no idea that driving hours to a Unit based on a promise from someone who hasn’t put any skin in the game is not only aggravating but also a deal breaker for myself and my staff. 

Twogether In Texas offers an online course. Consistently, I’ve heard that “other Officiants” are saying that it’s a requirement. It isn’t. However, if you have waited to buy your marriage license, Texas has a 3 day waiting period and the only way you can easily waive it is by taking this course. This course is NOT something you pass or fail. If you TAKE the class, you PASS the class. 

This course only requires that you pay the fee of $29.97, take the course, print the certificate and take it with you to purchase the marriage license. 

Not only does this course waive the waiting period but it also discounts the marriage license by $60. Here’s the link– Twogether In Texas Premarital Course.

Monday morning while driving to the clerks office to file licenses from my weekend of traditional clients, I sent a text to Coffield to confirm she had taken the course and purchased her license at 10AM. I didn’t hear back from her and hours later, contacted Coffield myself to learn that she had cancelled her wedding due to not having the marriage license. It would have been nice if she had bothered to advise me of canceling her wedding BUT she didn’t. There is a reason I contact and confirm with clients before driving hours to a location. The reason is so that I don’t waste my time. 

COMMUNICATION IS VITALLY IMPORTANT to my schedule and my itinerary. Existing clients come first. They’ve followed procedure. They’ve also notified me of dates and they’ve kept me informed. If you have followed none of my procedures, you aren’t a client. Please be aware of this as the continued misuse of my credentials and subsequent “surprises” are not something either I or the Units look forward to or enjoy. 

Prison marriages are a process. I contacted the “Coffield client” again and advised her “she would need to send my contract and the deposit back and after doing so, I would add her to dates coinicide with my existing Tennessee Colony Units next month.” I’ve yet to hear back but, booked clients ARE MY PRIORITY. If you aren’t on my books, you ARE NOT A BOOKED CLIENT. 

Arriving at Michael Unit with Leigh Ann to handle bridal photography and my grandniece, Madyson, I sent a text to Carmelita. She was excited and nervous. She’s also in treatment for ovarian cancer. 

Carmelita and her groom share a 19 year old son. Carmelita told me that she is now living for herself. She no longer cares what others think or feel and I agree entirely. 

After all, I have family members who disagree with inmate weddings and purple unions. However, the opinions of others including my own family members HAVE NO IMPACT ON MYSELF, MY STAFF or MY CLIENTS. 

After screening in, we were escorted to the visitation area at Michael. Carmelita had written her own vows. I love it when clients do this because it makes their ceremony far more creative, emotional and personal. 

Carmelita and her groom are an adorable couple. Their joy was evident in Unit photos. They have a love story with a happy ending. 

Hopefully, the groom makes parole in January and they will finally share a home together. As always, I was honored to have shared their Life Event with them. My Estes bride, Priscilla and seven other brides are on my 2020 schedule for Vow Renewals. 

Leaving the Unit, we caravan to Tennessee Colony Church for bridal photos. I’ve created a teal and mint bling bouquet in her cancer color and purchased tiaras to coordinate. 

My rolling photo booth of items includes an SUV full of fun items to make bridal and groom photos special. 

Today I’m mailing edited photos to Carmelita along with her handwritten vows I had saved at the Unit as a surprise.

My clients love our photo shoots and my youngest grandniece, Maddy loves jumping in front of the camera with clients.

Carmelita loved my veil and I’ve purchased several more including a floor length sequined veil in ivory. The white floor length is back ordered but should be here just in time for my July clients. 

I’m at several Units in July and August before Cindy and I fly to CA for Unit weddings there as well as two Destination Weddings and a family reunion. We are looking forward to meeting you all very soon. 

Can’t wait to meet my Holliday Unit bride next week. Tanya was at a traditional wedding that I officiated years ago for her ex husband and it will be exciting to see her again. 

I’m also at Ellis and Ferguson as well as Goree and Polunsky, Crain, Woodman, Hutchins, Eastham, and Buster Cole. 

Cindy is looking forward to another wedding at our favorite floating hotel, the Queen Mary. We have loved this ship since we were children. 

If you happen to stay there though, be sure to get a harbor view room and don’t miss the buffet as it is well worth the price. We love the Queen Mary.

Due to the number of inquiries from production companies, I’ve decided to tell you what types of projects that Cindy and I ARE INTERESTED in doing since we’ve yet to sign a contract. My family and I compromise a Team of four generations committed to making Dream Events a Reality. We are committed and passionate. Our client bases are diverse. Whether they are bartering or have other unique circumstances including marrying an inmate, it’s incredibly important to my family and I that our clients are portrayed in a positive light. Our clients are warriors. They are resilient. They are determined and they all have a story to tell. 

Cindy and I aren’t interested in “scripted reality” or “creative character writing or editing” because slanting the details of how and why I decided to rebrand and expand our services to include inmate weddings as well as the people we help IS THE STORY. 

If you can’t grasp this fact, we have no interest in portraying our clients or my family AKA my Texas Twins Events Team in anything less than a positive light. 

These unique individuals are far more than clients. They are friends of the Texas Twins. They are the family we might not have been born with but were blessed to become a part of our lives just the same. We love what we do and who we do it for. Our relationship with former clients never really ends. When an inmate is released, we perform their Vow Renewal. When a baby is born, we perform the baptism. 

Our journey might be different but, it’s a journey we’ve been blessed with. An opportunity for our adult children to join us on by performing inmate as well as traditional ceremonies. 

A journey of our grandchildren hopping into our SUVs and jumping into client photos with brides and even grooms hugging our children and grandchildren on location and welcoming them as family…