01
Oct

“Take time to make time. Make time to be there.” Little River Band

Juggling my schedule to accommodate clients who have been waiting for Federal prisons to reopen, I had a call Monday from someone wanting to marry “as soon as possible.” Her reason was that her fiancée would be shipping out today to Anderson AFB in Guam.

I took a moment to double check my schedule and suggested meeting me at the Salvation Army in Fort Worth. The location may surprise you so I will explain. Wednesday’s are half off days at the Salvation Army and whenever I have time, I shop for items that women and children at the shelter might need or furniture for those in need.

My niece is moving from Lompoc to Fort Worth next month so I’ve been on the look out for end tables, a love seat and bedroom furniture.

My sister, Tammy is coming with Kori and Fernando who have already rented a house in Saginaw, Texas near my son and his wife.

A bride I had married at Beto Unit a few years ago sent me an email asking if I could reprint and send her wedding photos? After searching Instagram and FB and copying the photos to my phone, I picked up my niece, Stephaney from the group home she’s living at and headed to Walgreens to print the photos while Stephaney waited on me.

My son had called to ask about my schedule and if I would have time to meet him and “look at Oliver’s diaper rash?” I dropped Steph off at work and went back to Walgreens to pick up my brides photos and headed to the post office where I called my son to tell him I was due at Salvation Army at 11 but could meet him later. It was 10:15AM.

At about 10:30 while waiting in line at the post office and getting concerned about the distance from the post office up the Salvation Army, I had a text from my bride asking if we could move our 11 o’clock meeting to 12 so her mother and the grooms mother could attend the wedding. I said “sure, see you then.”

I called my son back to let him know I now had time to meet him earlier as opposed to later. My son asked me to meet him in Lake Worth at 10:45 to take a look at his son, Oliver’s rash so I headed there first.

Oliver had what appears to be a yeast infection so I suggested my son go ahead and take him to the pediatrician. It’s not uncommon for my niece, Leigh Ann or my son to send me photos or FaceTime videos to look at Maddie or Oliver.

Often Maddie has a bump from running into something. She’s a precarious little daredevil that jumps off furniture on a regular basis. Oliver is now eating prepared organic foods and this may be why his little body is reacting to the foods my son and his wife are trying out on him for the first time.

After filling up my sons truck, he headed to the pediatrician.

I rolled out of the QT in Lake Worth and headed to the Salvation Army. I had loaded my suv with furs, fascinators, hats and an assortment of bouquets and bouteniers as well as tiaras for the wedding photos of my couple.

I pulled into Salvation Army and sent a text that I was on site and ran in to look through the store quickly.

At exactly 12PM, three cars pulled in beside me. My couple and both of their moms and I met for the first time in person. I opened my trunk and showed them the treasures I had packed for our short notice wedding ceremony. We couldn’t come up with anywhere we liked in the area so I decided that the Fort Worth courthouse would work well and we caravanned our way from the Salvation Army to the courthouse.

I had typed up a wedding ceremony script for the couple and passed out LV and Chanel face masks from my inventory as my bride wanted one “Covid photo” for a keepsake.

The mothers were so much fun and although it was warm, my bride wore two of my fur stoles for her photo shoot after the ceremony. We had a great time.

I’ve had several calls and emails regarding inmate weddings. Currently, State, ICE and County have not announced when visitation might be reinstated. Federal is leading the way by reinstating non contact visitation no later than October 3, 2020. Please understand that I will be addressing Texas clients first then Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisianna. I’m not going to be addressing California and my other service area states until next year. I expect TDCJ to reinstate visitation within a few months and since I have 57 TDCJ clients who were cancelled in March and April, TDCJ clients will take priority when visitation is reinstated.

My longtime secretary, Virginia is and has been blind in her left eye due to a surgery to correct a cataract. Her cornea slipped and a subsequent year long infection left her permanently blind in her left eye. Her right eye was operated on several months ago and she’s been having problems with that as well so between juggling work and family, I’ve been taking Virginia to specialists in the hopes of getting her “good eye” repaired. Virginia has been with me thirty years and we both appreciate your prayers for healing.

Saturday I’m on site in Mineral Wells at a wedding with a bride who has decided to have her dog give her away. I love pets in weddings as many of you are aware and while this may sound odd to a few people, the brides dog is her best friend.

Last week I was trying to locate 60 chairs and 8 tables for this event since the original vendor cancelled. We have now found tables and chairs for the October 3rd wedding. Thanks so much for all of the vendor suggestions.

One of my TDCJ clients, Vickie tagged me in a Palo Pinto post for a mom trying to find another Officiant after their original Officiant became ill but due to my schedule in Mineral Wells then at Belltower Chapel this Saturday, its impossible for me to squeeze in Palo Pinto so I sent a message to Vickie thanking her for thinking of me but my schedule is so crazy and unpredictable that it’s rare to squeeze in a short notice booking. Wednesday worked because I was scheduled to file marriage licenses in Tarrant County and after the wedding Wednesday, I had my newly married couples jump in my Sahara so we could file their license immediately and get two certified copies. One for the military and the other for my bride to change her name.

This morning while preparing to drive to Parker County from my East Fort Worth Appraisal Appointment, I was overjoyed to find that the test results for my former bride, Deanna (who located a surrogate several months ago after a failed a IVF attempt) had exciting news that the baby is Trisomy negative which is something she has been worried about. It’s a blessing. Deanna lost DeLilah to Trisomy two years ago. I baptized DeLilah immediately after birth as we had a very short window. Two days later, I conducted the memorial for baby DeLilah.

My son called me. “Mom, you remember helping Angel get her grandson from Crain Unit whole Lexi was in prison?”

How could I forget? There are many babies born in prison. Families of the inmates take on the role and responsibility of raising these children.

My mind went back to the updates of Angel expecting the release of Lexi from prison after 6 months. Angel has been raising her grandson as her own child. He’s a happy baby.

My son asked “mom are you still there?” I skipped a beat anticipating less than happy news from the toms of his voice. ”

Yes. What’s wrong? I saw where Lexi was released last month.”

This wasn’t going to be good news. I could hear it in his voice. “Mom, Lexi was only home for 6 days with Angel and the baby. She’s in Houston now and she’s back on drugs. She’s posting videos on FB. I saw them. Bad videos. Angel is afraid she will come back and try to take the baby from her. Asher is 6 months old. Angel can’t afford an attorney. What can you do to help her?”

Because Angel has had possession of the baby for 6 months, she’s in a position to request custody. Family court in Texas rarely allows pro se litigants though so trying to help Angel locate an attorney to help will be challenging. Like my twin sister, Angel gave up her job to raise her grandson. My sister gave up her job to raise her twin granddaughters 16 years ago.

I was getting dressed to meet a client bartering in East Fort Worth at an Appraisal Appointment through my sister site, The Pawning Planners and Cindy was tied up on Parker County meeting another client at Willow Lake Event Center. I sat my coffee down. Ugh. I thought prison had changed Lexi. I thought the birth of her child and support of her family would force her to straighten up and fly right. I felt a pang in my heart for her mother and her child.

I decided to go grab my Texas Family Law book and review grandparents rights. I was sitting in my office when Angel answered my message to call me. “Asher has his 6 month check up and I’ve got a dentist appointment after that for my youngest daughter. Can I call you.” Me “absolutely. I will do what I can to get you help in obtaining information to protect your grandson from your oldest daughters choices. I’m so sorry she’s back on the streets. Sick really over it. Heartbroken and saddened.”

Angel had called me three years ago. “Can you help me? My daughter is in the streets and I have no idea where she is. I know you are familiar with searching the streets because I follow your updates about your niece. I know you’ve found your niece several times. I’m afraid my daughter is dead.” Angel had sent me recent photos of Lexi. I examined them and printed 2 to keep in my suv.

Amazingly a few days later, I did find Lexi. I found her off Calmont and Camp Bowie. She had dyed her hair. Her clothing was dirty. She had been talking to a group of other people who didn’t respond well to a stranger walking up to the group. I was the stranger.

Lexi didn’t recognize me. I rolled up and said “Lexi, it’s Wendy Wortham. Robert’s mom. Your mom worked with my son years ago. You know me. I’ve met you before. Your mom is worried about you. Can I take you to get something to eat and have you call your mom?”

Reluctantly, Lexi got into my suv. A few of her friends wanted to join her. I’m not stupid and declined having strangers sitting behind me in my suv. “Sorry folks I’m only interested in taking Lexi. Maybe next time.”

She was just obviously on something. “What are you doing in this area? You don’t fit in. You could get hurt. My friends wanted to come with me. “Your friends aren’t my friends and I don’t want strangers in my car. I have a family depending on me. I have clients depending on me and quite frankly I have a husband expecting me to come home tonight so putting your friends in my suv wasn’t ever going to happen.”

I thought about the nearly 16 years my twin sister and I had spent back then trying to find her daughter, Stephaney. It was Hell. We’ve been in dangerous places to drag Steph out and put her back in treatment. We both had late night calls from jails with Steph screaming at us.

We’ve both aged trying to save Steph. No one and I mean absolutely no one understands where we’ve been or what we’ve been through UNLESS they have a loved one with mental illness and addiction issues. Don’t judge people who do whatever they can to try and save a loved one. We don’t need your negativity. We need your understanding.

Normality is the one thing every parent of an addict lacks and desperately wants.

I had driven Lexi to a restaurant. I handed her my phone to call her mom on FB messenger. She didn’t know the phone number to reach her mother. I had offered to take her to women’s haven. I had offered to help her get off the streets. Lexi wanted none of my suggestions. I had tried. God knows I tried to help Lexi. She wanted me to take her back to where I had found her. She wanted cigarettes. I bought them. I feared then Lexi would die in the streets. I recall seeing her wave goodbye in my rear view mirror happily walking back to her group. Lexi had made a decision. She wouldn’t return home to her mother. She wouldn’t accept my offer to get her off the streets either.

Leaving the apartment complex I dropped her off at, I was pulled over. “What are you doing in this area?” It’s true I didn’t fit in.

“My niece, Stephaney is missing. I filed a report. Here’s the number. I’m her aunt. I’ve been trying to find her and another mother reached out and asked if I could look for her daughter, Lexi. I found her but she won’t let me take her to the women’s haven.”

Both officers look at the missing persons report on their computer. One of them walks back to my suv. “This is a dangerous area. You don’t belong here. People who are here want to be here. Go back to the suburbs. Get out of here before you get car jacked or robbed or killed.”

I’ve heard it before. For years. In desperation to find my niece, I’ve heard similar things many times from officers. My sister has too. We just couldn’t give up on Steph. We would find her. Put her in treatment. She would get out again and we would lose her again. I’m crying as I admit how hellish it’s been. How painful. How tragic. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life to save Steph. It was even harder on Cindy. She gave up her life at 40 to raise the twins. She tried over and over to fix Steph but she couldn’t. We couldn’t. My niece has done so many things to hurt our family that my husband won’t allow her in our house. The twins won’t speak to Steph. I recall driving her back from treatment in Oklahoma 6 years ago and flat out telling her “if you don’t straighten up one day your children won’t have anything to do with you. Get your life together.” She didn’t believe me. But I knew that at some point the twins would give up on their mom and I was right.

Two years after finding Lexi, she was arrested and a year later sentenced. Her rap sheet is a mile long.

Lexi was pregnant at her sentencing. During those years of Lexi lost to the streets my niece was in and out of psych wards and treatment centers when she wasn’t back on the streets again. I wouldn’t give up hope for Steph even when Cindy did. I couldn’t. I believed I could save Steph. No one could convince me otherwise not my husband, not my twin. No one. When I wasn’t working I was driving into dangerous areas trying to find Steph. Cindy would call me and say “don’t you go look for her alone.” I would tell my twin, my best friend, my other half “I’m not don’t worry I won’t go look alone.” I would then go look alone driving through the areas I knew homeless people often congregated.

Six months ago, while Steph was still in rehab in Grove, Oklahoma, Angel contacted me again. “Lexi is going to have my grandson while on prison. What can I do to get my grandchild?” Angel picked up Asher exactly 6 months ago. She hoped prison would change Lexi but it didn’t. Angel chose to save her grandchild.

Sixteen years ago, my twin sister saved her twin granddaughters. We both hired an attorney and sought custody of Maryssa and Makenna. If we hadn’t at any time my niece could have stormed in and demanded the twins.

Lexi is in the wind. Angel needs to get legal custody of her grandson. She’s had him in her care for 6 months. Helping Angel to protect her grandson from having Lexi show up and try to take him won’t be easy but it’s necessary.

My niece is now stable. She’s working. She’s living in a group home. She’s focusing on finally getting it together. She was 15 when she became pregnant with twins. I was 15 when Cindy and I ran away from home. I was also pregnant. Unlike Steph or Lexi, Cindy and I lived at the women’s haven. We got our lives together. We escaped the streets, homelessness and poverty. We came from nothing. A heroin addict for a mother and a family who didn’t care about us. We survived. Work became our passion. We had each other.

Cindy and I have raised our children and grandchildren as a team. We have dedicated our lives to being the parents we never had. I believe Angel has done the same thing. Saving her grandson from Lexi’s choices has been difficult financially and emotionally. Angel prays for her daughter to straighten up and fly right while she cares for her grandson.

Like many grandparents, Angel is about to do whatever is necessary to give her grandson the stability he deserves…