20
May

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen Covey

I’m always concerned when on of my clients sends me a text or DM that reads “there’s something I need to talk to you about. Are you busy?”

I always drop everything to immediately respond to messages like this because I can feel their sense of urgency.

I’m everyone’s mom. I’m always available to my clients seven days a week from 8AM-9PM.

Other vendors who follow me are often surprised that my role by far surpasses planning and officiating a ceremony.

My role expands and extends to that of a friend, counselor, problem solver and patient listener.

Karen had been concerned about what to do after realizing her fiancée was involved with K2. This problem isn’t isolated to Karen. This problem is spreading through prisons. I listened to her concerns and waited for her to express her wide range of emotions and disappointment before responding.

First, I needed to help her understand her own needs. Second, I needed her to establish boundaries. Third, I needed her to reinforce these boundaries. It’s not easy dealing with an addict. Fourth, addicts are expert manipulators and Karen would need to stop sending money. It wouldn’t be easy for her to do this. Why? Because she’s been sending money for a long time. She’s been doing what she can to support an inmate that she plans to marry.

Setting boundaries is often difficult to do. Dealbreakers always are. You need to know what’s “too much” for you. You need to find that line and establish it. I knew the inmate would be angry regarding Karen taking a stand. But my client is my focus not the inmate. I always put my clients needs and issues as my primary concerns. They need reinforcement. They need a sounding board. An unbiased listener. They need me.

The words to an Elvis Presley song immediately came to mind regarding inmates not getting what they wanted and getting upset about it.

You know I’ll be your slave if you ask me to.
But if you don’t behave
I’ll walk right out on you. If you want my love then take my advice and treat me nice.”

We had a lengthy conversation. The following day after much grief, Karen sent me a message that she felt better about her decision although it was a difficult choice. Saying no always is. The person you are saying no to will react in a number of different ways. First, they will often use guilt. Second, they will often use anger. Hold your ground.

I’ve also had numerous clients in a number of states contacting me regarding debt collector calls. When the economy tanks, the collectors come out. Zombie debt and third party lawsuits are real. Respond to collection letters. Call me if you need help writing a verification or validation letter. Respond to a lawsuit by filing an answer. Your answer should be General Denial. Most of these lawsuits are third party debt buyers. They buy the debt then pursue the debt. The debt is often time barred from a lawsuit. To alter this, the collector establishes a new account on your credit report. This effectively re ages a previously time barred debt. I need all of you ESPECIALLY if you have ever had a defaulted debt to be diligent. Check your credit reports. Fight erroneous entries. Freeze your credit. If you don’t know how to respond to a debt lawsuit, contact me but don’t hide from a debt collector. They will find you. Erroneous debt and unscrupulous debt collectors have been around for many years. They use threats and coercion to attempt to bully you into making a payment or an agreement. These will reopen and re age the original debt. Don’t fold. Contact me.

Yet another client contacted me regarding a death row inmate and wanted to know “what’s going to happen?” First, I know you haven’t done this before. Stay calm. Nothing scary is going to happen. I will be by your side at all times inside the Unit. I will walk you through exactly what’s going to happen as well as exactly what you can or cannot do. I will prepare you. We are in this together and you will never be separated from me inside a Unit unless you need to use the restroom.

We have twenty minutes. I encourage you to write your own vows to extend our timeline. Why? My ceremony takes 11-13 minutes. Once finished we are hustled out. I encourage you to write poetry, scripture, vows and even song lyrics to “buy” an additional few minutes inside. Why? We’ve spent months getting to wedding day and I want you to savor every second.

Song lyrics can often be changed or altered easily. Badfingers Day After Day works well. “I remember finding out about you. Every day, my mind is all around you. Looking out from my lonely room, day after day. Bring it home, baby, make it soon
I give my love to you.”

Or, Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together works well too. “Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together. Loving you forever is what I need. Let me, be the one you come running to. I’ll never be untrue.”

There are so many song lyrics that perfectly fit an expression of love that can be easily incorporated into a wedding ceremony that the list is endless.

Tuesday morning I had a call regarding “music at the wedding ceremony.” We cannot have music at any wedding ceremony within a detention facility. Whether it’s state, federal, ICE or county. This request comes up rather frequently. Once client at Estes was so determined to have music that she asked me to sing. I’m not a hip hop singer but I did my best. My best brought riotous laughter from the inmate and the correctional officers but if it’s important to you I will try to accommodate your request. Remember though that I’m not Beyoncé.

Bridget sent me a message regarding finding an RV park near Palestine. I immediately thought of my other client, Larissa who manages an RV park and sent her a message to link Bridget and Larissa. Larissa also told me her grandmother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, her father had suffered a heart attack and her beloved aunt whom I had met on wedding day in Beaumont was struggling with blood sugar issues during this pandemic. I was deeply saddened and concerned. Everyone is struggling through this unprecedented and troubling virus. It’s changed the way we live. It’s robbed us of structure, predictability and peace.

Many of my clients are so anxious about this “new normal” that I’ve been asked about coping strategies. Because many of my blog followers might have missed my post on FB, I’m copying and pasting tips for dealing with stress and anxiety during this pandemic below.

From helplessness to hopelessness we are going through something entirely new and foreign to us. This adjustment is a learning curve. Everything changed for us in a short window. Things we took for granted were taken away. Finding peace in a time of crisis can be challenging.

Some individuals are being heavily impacted by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite. Stress affects everyone differently.

Others may find cognitive symptoms to be a greater stressor resulting in difficulties recalling memories, problems with concentration, inability to control negative thoughts, ruminating on the same thoughts, and having trouble seeing any positives.

These anxiety symptoms are the body and mind’s natural response to rapid adaptations in your familial, work, financial, and emotional environments. It is likely that they may get better with time as you adjust to your “new normal,” but you can immediately use the strategies below to help manage anxiety and other difficult feelings.

1. Separate out worries into productive and unproductive actions.

Worries can be turned into productive preparations and cautionary behaviors like taking vitamins, stocking up on essentials and food, refilling medications, and so on. It is equally important to prepare mentally. You can stock up on your favorite reading materials and calming scents like lavender; make time to socialize through phone, video calls, online gaming; and in your downtime engage in a hobby or interest you enjoy.

When you find yourself worrying about something you have no control over and can’t convert into a positive preparation, it is helpful to “shelve” that thought, or let it go completely.

2. Make a visual list of coping skills and keep it readily accessible.

In times like these, you might find your typical ways of coping don’t cut it, and you need even more tools and strategies to turn to. You may also find your mind is overwhelmed with information and new adjustments, so you forget the things that used to come more naturally to you.

First, make a list of the things you do already and have done to manage stress and remain calm. Here are some ideas to get you started: therapy, talking to a friend, exercise, prayer, reading, meditation, yoga, creative activities, positive self-talk, cooking, gardening, journaling, deep breathing, listening to music, household projects, spring cleaning, meditation, puzzles/games, playing with your pets and kids, and doing something nice for someone else.

3. Challenge negative thoughts.

Chronic stress is often the result of negative thought patterns. Individuals who focus on and replay negative thoughts find the experience to be unpleasant, counterproductive, and in some cases resulting in depression. Challenging irrational, negative thoughts can allow you to change them by learning how to examine the validity of the negative thoughts and learn how to interpret situations using a different perspective.

4. Limit your exposure to anxiety-producing news and information.

It is important to stay up to date with new information but it is just as important to make a deliberate choice to read or watch the news. Refreshing your social media feeds throughout the day, or keeping the news on in the background, is overwhelming your senses and your ability to pay attention to other needs for yourself and your family.

Trust that you can get what you need in a few structured and limited times when you check your news sources. It is especially important to limit/monitor the way your children are receiving news about the virus. Stick to reliable sources and perhaps block people temporarily on social media if their reactions are increasing your negativity or anxiety.

5. Practice a daily mindful activity.

The bulk of the fear attached to anxiety comes from the anticipation of a future threat. Many people will catastrophize what is coming and have trouble separating assumptions from facts. Practicing a daily mindful activity places a focus on the now and not the future. This is done by separating feelings from judgments and focusing on things that are true and are occurring now, not what might happen.

Pick one thing you do daily and let your senses attend to that one thing — like brushing your teeth or making your morning coffee. When your mind wanders off, bring it back gently to your activity. A daily meditation practice can also help you be more mindful. Tara Brach and Christopher Germer have wonderful free meditations available online.

There are also many apps to help you start or build upon an existing practice (Headspace, Insight Timer, Buddhify, Calm). Additionally, you can hear my guided meditations for free on Spotify and Google Play (Unwind: Guided Relaxation, by Amy Vigliotti).

6. Talk about it, write about it, let it out.

There is a common misconception that talking about anxiety makes it worse because it encourages people to think about what makes them anxious. The reality, however, is that people who experience anxiety experience it whether they talk about it or not. Research has found that expressing anxious thoughts can help individuals feel as if they are getting those negative thoughts “out of their system” and/or diminish the intensity of their feelings. You can express your thoughts to trusted friends/family, keep a journal, or write them on notes to then be discarded later.

7. Pay attention to positive events.

Picture yourself walking outside on a day where there is a mix of clouds and blue sky. In times of unusual stress, we all have a habit of focusing on the negative—the “clouds”—and missing the blue sky. If we ignore the blue sky, we make things even harder on ourselves.

You want to balance your consumption of “negative” news by reading and attending to positive events. There are always positive things to focus on even in times of great duress. We see fitness instructors giving online free workouts; neighbors lending a hand to elderly individuals; health care workers prioritizing the care of others in a selfless manner. And there are little things we can be grateful for as well: a hot shower, our morning coffee, a smile or text from a friend. If you want to take it a step further, you can be a positive change in your community. Doing something nice for someone else makes us feel good too.

We are all going through something we have never been through before. This pandemic and the uncertainty caused by it are stressful. Whether you are an essential worker or a parent now homeschooling and working, your life has changed to a “new normal.” This new normal is temporary but it is an adjustment. Take time to focus on yourself during this crisis.

Adjusting to and accepting change is different and often difficult for everyone. What works for one person might not work for another. Find a strategy that suits your individual needs. From a long walk to listening to music to visiting a friend to writing a letter to your loved one to buying a candle, what helps you relax is what will work best for you.

Because I haven’t been taking deposits for the past two months and effectively not formally booking new clients, I’ve made adjustments to assist new inquiries who may have had their marriage license expire trying to marry. Deduct $40 from the cost of your second marriage license to help you with expenses. I’m not taking deposits because I believe my clients need to keep their money during these uncertain times. You are single income households. Many of you are single parents. I want you to take care of yourselves as we wait out the reinstatement of visitation.

Booked clients are being mailed checks for 1/2 of the replacement cost of their marriage licenses for two months now. I want everyone to wait to buy that second license until we are sure that we can use it. Be patient as this too shall pass. I will get you married.

As always I’m going to remind everyone not to panic. If you need a friendly ear I’m always available and want you to know that you are not alone. We are all in this together…