Yesterday while driving from Mercado Event Center to Belltower Chapel, an email from my November client planning a backyard wedding came through that confused me. “Brenda’s having car trouble but I will be available to keep our appointment.” This confused me because I was wondering why my client didn’t go pick Brenda up but, I had two hours before our meeting so I sent a text back that read “I’m on the West side and if you need to change the appointment, please let me know as my schedule is rather tight this weekend from Fort Worth to Shreveport to Winstar Casino and I’m not sure I can reschedule anything this weekend.” I didn’t hear anything back so I went ahead to my next appointment while running to pick up photos for my Wallace Unit, stopping by the post office, going to the cleaners, running into Mercado Event Center to meet my clients for a rehearsal then leaving to fill up my suv and running through a car wash before checking in with my Belltower clients to confirm our evening appointment and running to my clients home.
What you are about to read will surprise you just as much as it did me. I thought this couple had everything going for them. They had just bought a new home together or so I thought and I had even driven them to the clerks office to get their marriage license. They were both excited about planning their wedding. The bride of course had several things important to her from a photo of the cake to the color of the linen and the groom wanted to be sure that whatever she wanted stayed within the budget. Nothing gave me any indication of any conflict. I saw two happy older people beginning a new life together but looks can be deceiving.
Driving to my destination, I mentally went over my week. As usual, it’s jam packed. The only issue I’ve had to concern myself with regarding this event was the weather. Why? It was outdoors. Texas weather is tricky.
Arriving on site, I unloaded the champagne toasting glasses, gift card box, guest book and other items I had purchased for this event along with my tape measure. My client greeted me at the door and we went through everything and I asked for a photo to be provided by the client. We also discussed my decorative ladder with garland blocking the front door and directing guests to the gate instead. We then went outside to check the direction of the sun and discuss where the guest tables, food tables and chairs would be for the reception and ceremony. None of this was unusual. In fact, it was an ordinary day of discussing details two weeks prior to the event.
Once my client and I were on track regarding the slope in the yard and where everything would go as well as the timelines, we went back into the house to finish business. My cell phone dinged. I didn’t answer. I never take calls or respond when I’m with a client. My cell phone then rang right after my clients cell phone did. Buckle up for one surprise after the next kids…
The fiancé of my client was calling and texting because she thought our meeting had been canceled. I was confused about this. My client watched me talk to his fiancé warily. I advised her of everything we had discussed and explained that I could not reschedule due to my schedule and apologized.
Hanging up, my client advised me “Brenda didn’t really have car trouble. Her car was repossessed. This is the second time it’s happened. I’m concerned.” I WAS NOW CONCERNED TOO. Having your car repossessed is alarming. Having financial problems was why my client was getting cold feet too.
Two weeks prior to wedding day? An inkling and unsettling premonition of the dreaded “Sexually Transmitted Debt Due To Marriage?!” What else could be going on? I advised my client of very real possibility of debt lawsuits, tax liens and the fact that marriage merges debt. I also began asking more questions.
They met online a year ago. My client spent twenty years in Texas Prisons. My client had just bought a new custom home. My client had rebuilt his life and my client had FAR MORE to lose. I brought up the need for a Prenup. It’s a touchy subject but a necessary discussion. My role is to protect and advise my client of the need to protect his assets and I did.
“My role and my experience when it comes to protecting my clients is varied. In certain situations, I’ve advised my client not to marry. In other situations I’ve advised clients of the need for a Prenup. Each client is different. Each set of circumstances is also unique. I have one set of clients marrying inmates, another set so fixed on income that they are bartering services and yet another set with enough income to have whatever they want. As a premarital counselor with an education of debt lawsuits and those affected by them, I spent years in courtrooms understanding how marriage merges debt. To prevent the result of marriage incurring sexually transmitted debts, advising clients to consider Prenuptial Agreements is alarming to other vendors. However, my candor, experience, honesty and integrity are why I’m sought after. I don’t HAVE to work which gives me freedom. I’ve never advertised and I put my clients first. What they don’t know they learn from me. EXPERIENCE MATTERS.”
Should aging and the fear of being lonely lead you to jump into marriage? No. Does the glamour of wedding planning and the glitter of the gaiety blindside couples to problems that need to be addressed prior to marriage? Absolutely. This couple have gone through not one but two premarital courses together.
Why wasn’t finances discussed in either class? The number one cause of divorce is money or infidelity. Whoever was teaching those courses certainly should have touched on finances and budgets. I would have. Brenda called me last week minutes before pulling into Wallace Unit to “add on” a wedding arch. My contracts are very specific. There wasn’t anything in our contract for a decorated wedding arch. I also needed to get into the Unit with my client. I advised Brenda that I would have to get bids and revise her contract and that I was on site.
I juggle 18-29 clients a month. I do not take calls or texts when I’m with another client either. Brenda is blinded by the glitter. Everyone is on Pinterest but no one is researching cost or delivery. I don’t have an inventory fairy. I do have an agreed upon budget. “Add Ons” require a new contract.
“Love believes all things” or does it? I asked more questions. Two repossessions in one year? Where was her money going? I’ve already paid deposits and made purchases for a wedding that may not happen. My client needs to protect his finances and future. After all, he’s already lost many years of his life to prison. Mrs Right or Mrs Right Now? It was a very important turning point for my client who prior to my discussion with him was wholly and entirely unaware that debt is similar to poison ivy. It spreads to your partner.
This morning between bookings, I went to visit my niece who is currently in a six month treatment program at a church with other women in the same program. My heart was heavy. Will this program work? Will my family ever get Stephaney back? I wiped tears of fear entering the church. I had no idea what to expect. I wondered again why meth had taken nearly 17 years of my niece’s life? Why God had allowed me and my family to be drug through the destruction addiction brings to loved ones? My anxiety was high.
For a person that regularly plans and marries people, I wondered if my niece would ever find a life partner too? Will Stephaney one day get her life in order and have a husband and her own home? What will happen when I’m dead and gone to my niece? I’m running out of time to get Stephaney on track. Cindy and I will be 55 next month. Stephaney is 34 years old. The twins are 15. I need my niece to realize that none of us can keep getting on the merry go round of “Stephaney being clean then she’s not clean anymore” because we can’t. Drugs destroy families. My mother’s addiction destroyed my childhood. My nieces addiction is destroying my adulthood. I hate addiction. I hate drugs. I don’t understand why weak people allow drugs to affect their decisions? Choose life. It’s not that difficult. Choose your family. You have a choice.
The church was full. I had no idea where to find Stephaney. I took a seat in the back. I realized directly in front of me stood my niece praising God unaware of me behind her and started crying. I didn’t want her to see my emotion of all the years spent praying for her. I chose to compose myself before touching her back to let her know I was there. Stephaney was wearing clothes that I didn’t recognize. I had taken clothes to the facility as well as shoes and toiletries but didn’t buy the dress she was wearing.
I knew that seeing me alone wouldn’t be as celebratory as seeing me with Cindy and the twins. Steph had wanted her mom (my twin) and her twin daughters to join me but they had declined. I’ve always been the fixer. Re establishing trust between my family and my niece won’t be easy. It will be painfully challenging.
I’ve lost my faith in God over and over again throughout my life. My path has never been easy. A family member sexually abused my twin sister and I for years until we ran away. We didn’t have a mother to protect us or anyone who cared. Why has my life always been a struggle? Where was God when I needed hope? My struggle and my faith have been tested time and time again. Hardship didn’t define me or my twin. Instead hardship empowered us both. We are warriors.
My mother was a heroin addict until debilitating accident occurred in 1989 that destroyed 60% of her brain that resulted in her forgetting her lifelong heroin addiction. I would never be able to confront her over her choices at tore our family apart. Hours prior to the accident, I had met my mother for the first time in 20 plus years. Why the separation? Our mother sold all four of her children for $50 each to go buy heroin. Hours prior to her accident, I paid her to meet me and answer my questions. The answers weren’t what I had expected. She could have lied and spared my heart but chose not to. That “rent money” she wanted to meet me? It was used to buy drugs that resulted in “the accident.”
At our meeting, I was too shocked to express my anger. Fifty dollars? I was paying her $1500 to meet me and answer four questions. Cindy refused to go with me to this meeting. I went alone. The fantasy of her worrying or wondering what happened to us was shattered. The truth hurt. In fact it hurt so much that even today the scar remains. Guilt over money I paid her to meet me that resulted in a life altering accident also plagued me for years. Her answers to my questions haunt me. Why didn’t I react? Why didn’t I tell her that because she was such an awful and thoughtless mother that Cindy and I left home and chose homelessness over a broken home?
Why didn’t I tell her I blamed her? Because my “dreaded dark stranger” a chronic stutter that has haunted me since our mother abandoned us at 6 years old had (as usual) grabbed my tongue. I was speechless. I couldn’t respond. I didn’t cry. I paid her the money with my head hung ashamed that Cindy had been right.
Indignant that my mother hadn’t bothered to bathe or bother putting any degree of pride into her appearance while having ten full days notice of meeting me. I walked away. My entire childhood was spent fantasizing that my mother cared. That she wondered. That she had tried to find us. That she worried. She hadn’t given us a second thought. “I didn’t want kids and I certainly didn’t want twins.” I couldn’t believe those were her parting words. Driving back to San Clemente from Solvang, I hated my mother. I also hated myself for stupidly convincing myself she had spent years searching for us. I was an idiot. A sap. An easy Mark.
“The accident” occurred in Santa Maria while I was driving to San Clemente. My mother’s mother called my home to let me know “your mother has been in an accident. She isn’t expected to live. This is your last chance to say goodbye.” I played it over and over again. I then drove to Santa Maria. This time with my sister and my nieces. I wasn’t alone but I felt alone. I didn’t want to talk about my meeting. I drove in silence.
I could have never anticipated that she would be missing an eye and half of her brain when I saw her again the same night. I was devoid of any emotion after “the accident.” I was empty. Unable to feel pity for someone who had only hours earlier had no remorse whatsoever for her own choices or her actions that had affected an entire family.
My niece became pregnant at 15 with twins. Maryssa and Makenna would never have the childhood Cindy and I did. We became the mothers we had never had. We took our own childhood and threw that book the trash. Deliberately and with forethought, we became the role models we had never known for the twins and our children. When Stephaney fell, we were there to pick her up. Over and over an over again. Cindy’s arms are weary. My heart is heavy.
“An addict will find any reason to celebrate even if it’s the grand opening of a pack of cigarettes.”
I understand my nieces twin daughters anger. I understand my twin sisters anger. I also know that unless I can convince my niece to never use drugs again that she will lose her family forever. I’m the only one still standing. Still praying. Still holding out hope. I’m standing alone. But today at a church filled with people singing the praises of God, I wasn’t alone. I was holding my nieces hand. I was listening to the sermon and I was regaining my faith that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I’m giving up my despair to God. I have to as my heart pertaining to my niece and my mother are heavy. Will Stephaney choose her family? I pray she does…
Perception isn’t reality. People tell me I’m lucky all the time. It’s untrue. I have never been lucky but I have always been resilient, passionate and perseverant…
Will my client overcome unexpected financial secrets? Will my niece choose her family? Will my family trust my niece again? I have no idea but I do have faith.