Passion Is The Plow- Belltower, Garza Unit, Cole Unit, Roach Unit, Hutchins Unit, To Stiles Unit Travels Of A TDCJ Officiant…
Last Saturday my day began at Belltower Chapel with beautiful bride Stephanie and her amazing fiancée, Jeremy.
I’ve been on staff as an officiant at Belltower Chapel for many years and always look forward to officiating ceremonies at this unique venue that literally “gives back.”
Belltower Chapel is wholly owned by ACH Child and Family Services.
If you are shopping for a venue in Fort Worth, be sure to check them out.
Here’s the link- Belltower Chapel & Gardens from the beautiful Chapel area to the intimate patio and reception area to the time honored tradition of couples ringing the bell, this is a great location for your upcoming event.
Leaving Belltower, I drove to Mercado to meet my next clients then on to Mesa Springs to pick up Makenna with Cindy.
Thankfully, Makenna was ready to come home and excited about the changes we had made to her class schedule at the 9th grade center.
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating… bullies leave scars.
Makenna had someone bullying her at school and rather than telling Cindy or I about it, endured months of torment from a class mate.
Communicating with a teen can be difficult but I assure you that it’s essential to finding out what is going on in their lives.
Monday I was driving to three clerks offices in Tarrant, Dallas and Parker Counties in the morning then on to a federal facility that afternoon.
I was concerned about Makenna and her curriculum transition but she was thrilled with her new classes which was a relief.
Makenna is an honor student and very driven academically.
Her twin sister, Maryssa isn’t. They are mirror image twins.
While Makenna is focused on college, Maryssa is focused on the latest cosmetics and nail trends. Heavy sigh.
Many people visiting this site for “traditional services” are confused by the TDCJ Wedding link. My roles are many.
If you are seeking inmate officiant services specifically, you can go straight to Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham and contact me through my other site.
Tuesday, I had a very long drive to Garza East. I had just been there two weeks ago but my brides paperwork processed too late to stack her wedding with my previous clients. This happens frequently.
The paperwork process can easily take 6-8 weeks. Garza Units are 5.5 hours one way from my location so it can be a long day of driving. I had my beautiful bride meet me at the Beeville Courthouse for her bridal photo shoot.
Liliana was excited and nervous. Most of my clients are. After all, no one dreams of marrying in a State, Federal, County or ICE Facility.
While unloading my inventory for Liliana, I was approached by a woman asking “what are you doing? I’ve seen you here several times unloading bouquets, furs, hats and other items and I work across the street at the library so I thought I would ask what’s going on?”
Hmm, I’m at a public building and I’m not about to tell this lady that my client is marrying an inmate and open a window of chaos.
After all, she took it upon herself to cross the street and intrude to ask invasive questions. My bride was nervous. I wasn’t. Who did this lady think she was just busting into our business?
I’m accustomed to “Nosy Nellie’s” that think they are entitled to asking invasive questions.
Setting my box of feathered fascinators on the ground, I turned to her and said “she’s getting married today. We are doing bridal photos. This is a public space so I’m not sure what or why you were prompted you to drop by and interview us but, we happen to be on a timeline so please excuse us while we go about our business.”
I then turned away from her. BUT she wasn’t ready to leave. Liliana and I were again disrupted by her. This time she was asking for my name.
I’m not sure why on earth this woman felt “I owed sharing my name with her” but I gave it to her anyway. She then asked me to spell it.
I’m certain she asked me to spell my name so she could run back across the street and Google me. Good riddance. The next time she disrupts me on location I will be far less friendly.
Liliana and I then used the courthouse area before crossing the street to use an old building for a backdrop. We shook off old Nosy Nellie. We were on a timeline and had about 30 minutes to get fun photos before reporting to the Unit to check in with the duty guard.
Leaving the courthouse with Liliana behind me I put the address for Garza East into my navigation. The city of Beeville always gets me turned around.
TDCJ McConnell and Garza Units are located within close proximity of one another.
Connally Unit is closer to Fort Worth but I’m usually at Garza Units in Beeville.
McConnell and Connally have far fewer weddings than Garza Units or McConnell. I have no idea why.
Arriving at Garza East, I grab my bag of quarters. I always buy my clients 3-4 Unit photos as a courtesy.
Leaving my suv, I tuck my state issued ID into the baggie with the quarters and my black folder with my customized wedding ceremony in it and together my client and I walk to the tower to announce our arrival for a wedding.
We will walk into the clearing area and take off our shoes, belts and jackets before going through two gates into the building.
The “clear in process” is remarkably expedient at Garza East. Ten to fifteen minutes later we are standing in the visitation area. There are Units I’ve waited with my client up to 2 hours in the clearing area at TDCJ Units.
Units and personnel are generally prepared and process us through quickly. Setbacks are lost paperwork or locating the inmate.
At Hutchins, the setbacks are who knows what?
At Garza, within a twenty minute window, I’m conducting my ceremony, signing the license and posing for one Unit photo before giving them pointers on poses.
There are other Units that don’t allow posed photos and snap photos during the ceremony but Garza isn’t one of them.
Wednesday it’s raining. Ugh, my bridal photos for Karen in Bonham will be in the rain. I will need to be creative.
I leave at 5AM to arrive at Cole Unit by 7:30AM to meet Karen and drive her off the Unit for photos. I’ve packed a white ruffle umbrella to keep her dry.
At 7:22AM, the Chaplain from Cole calls. I’m a few minutes from the Unit. Karen is already in the lot. I had planned to pick her up at 7:30 do her bridal photos and walk in at 8:30. This phone call could be a setback on my timeline to Roach.
Chaplain Hill has “a sick baby and wants to know if we can move our 9AM to 9:30 or 10 so he can run the baby to the doctor?”
Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but because I’m scheduled at Roach at 2PM, it is.
So… I suggest calling the chaplain from Choice-Moore Unit that covered Cole while Chaplain Hill was on paternity leave. My idea works. The other chaplain will stand in. I had already planned to walk into the Unit at 8:30AM to “hopefully” get started early.
Because I don’t have time to do bridal photos AFTER Karen’s ceremony due to a four hour drive to Roach Unit immediately following her wedding, at 7:30, I have her jump into my Jeep Sahara and drive off in search of a great location. In Bonham this isn’t easy. In the rain it’s even more challenging.
First, I find a car wash and and hand her a fur and bouquet. Then we drive to a nursing home and use a brick wall. I hand her an umbrella. I’ve also borrowed hotel lobbies.
I’m creative and resilient. I’m also determined to get Karen great bridal photos even in less than ideal weather and a location that doesn’t offer beautiful backdrops.
We drive back to Cole Unit. We walk in together at exactly 8:30AM. The chaplain from Choice Unit is on site and ready to go. We exchange pleasantries. I’ve met him several times before at Cole Unit for weddings while chaplain Hill was on holiday. He’s a nice guy. I like him as well as chaplain Hill.
Inside the visitation area at Cole Unit, I perform a bilingual ceremony as Karen’s English is limited.
I’ve also performed hearing impaired ceremonies. I’m versatile. Following the signing of the license and asking whether I’m filing it or Karen is, I leave Cole for my four hour drive to Roach Unit.
I will pass Allred Unit on my way to Roach. There are several “Wednesday Units.” Cole, Roach, Goree, Ferguson, Allred and Hodge schedule inmate weddings on Wednesday’s.
I’ve moved from Cole to Allred or from Allred to Roach or from Hodge to Goree or from Ferguson to Goree on the same day but limit stacking two Units based on distance and drive time.
Since I’m often asked about this I will explain… Allred to Roach is 2 hours. Cole to Allred is 2.5 hours. I can’t “do Allred, Roach and Cole on the same day.” My reasons for this are time inside the Unit as well as drive time. It’s impossible to do these three on the same day. It’s also impossible to do Ferguson and Allred or Hodge and Allred on the same day. Why? Distance.
I map out Units and regularly “hit” several Tennessee Colony or Huntsville Units on the same day and even Polunsky. The reason I can do this are the number of Units using the same day and the fact that Tennessee Colony Units Michael and Coffield schedule early morning.
Palestine Units don’t which can cause a problem for travel since the time designated at a Huntsville Unit is often 1PM or 2PM. Obviously I can’t be at Beto Unit at 1PM and in Huntsville at Holliday Unit at 2PM.
Scheduling is tricky. I need to know the exact distance and factor how many clients I have at one Unit into my schedule.
Each TDCJ client has 20 minutes. But, if the inmate can’t be located or we are waiting to be cleared in or the chaplain is running behind, the time “inside the Unit” can vary wildly. Because of this and the unknown, I always “estimate” one hour in the Unit with one client or 1.5 hours with two clients and so on and so forth.
Polunsky schedules after 5PM. Because of this “late hour,” I’m able to leave Huntsville Units by 3-3:30PM and easily arrive in Livingston in plenty of time to meet a Polunsky client early for bridal photos then head to the Unit. Polunsky is a Supermax Unit. You will not “simply roll onto the lot.” Your name will be on the list.
Inside Polunsky is the same as any other Unit when it comes to a wedding ceremony. These ceremonies take place in the visitation area.
Polunsky doesn’t have mural painted walls as most facilities do. Because of this, I use the green doors for Unit photos. Why? To move away from non contact cubicles and phones.
I try to keep obvious “signs” of being in a prison out of Unit photos intentionally.
Arriving at Roach Unit Wednesday, I send Diana a text to ask if she’s on site. She isn’t. She’s running later than expected. I decide to check in with the tower officer and advise him my client isn’t yet on site.
Diana arrives and we both follow Ms Shoffner into the visitation area. We don’t shakedown at Roach. I have no idea why. I count quarters for Unit photos and go over whether I’m filing the license or Diana is.
I go over conduct with her fiancée. I do this with EVERY inmate at a contact wedding. Why? Because guidelines exist and I don’t want my client OR the inmate to overstep the bounds of touch or contact. Roach takes photos during the ceremony. There isn’t an opportunity to “pose for wedding photos.” Diana wishes there was as do I but, we don’t control the flow of Unit Weddings.
Walking out of the Unit with Diana, we weren’t thrilled with the Unit photos BUT I was going to find a great location that another Roach Unit client had mentioned and get some GREAT bridal photos.
We decided to have lunch first. I love learning about my clients and whenever I have time I enjoy buying their lunch.
Diana refused to let me pick up the tab. My clients are THAT amazing. They are the most giving people I’ve ever met. We leave and get lost following each other trying to find this park. We laugh calling each other and asking gas station attendants for directions AND we finally locate the bridge at the park in Childress. It’s perfect. We both love it.
I open my Jeep and let Diana choose photo props. We are old friends by now. Laughing and trying different things, I suggest she takes off her shoes. We both love the photos.
It’s past 10PM by the time I make it home. I’ve had another fantastic day with two amazing ladies and get a text from Diana asking if “her ID is in my suv?” Ugh oh. I go grab a flashlight and search. I see it. It’s wedged between the console and the carpet in a location I can’t reach.
I then go into my house and get a hangar to try and capture the license. I have to bend it several times to successfully retrieve it.
I send a text Diana that I will mail it priority to her Thursday morning after filing Karen’s license in person at Tarrant County.
Thursday morning I’m driving to the clerks office when Cindy calls me. She is doing remodeling at her home (as usual) and my son and his friend Naro are redoing her floors.
My son was working in Oklahoma Wednesday and planned to be back at Cindy’s Thursday to finish the breakfast room floor. My son had been trying to reach Naro since Wednesday.
My sons friend, Naro who has a daughter 3 days older than my grandson, Ollie was found but he was found too late. He was dead.
My son is devastated and I’m shocked. I pull over. I have questions. I cannot believe that this has happened. My son is driving and crying at the same time. I ask him to pull over, breathe through his nose and calm down. I instruct him that we must accept things we cannot change. I was forced to accept this myself years ago.
What a tragic end to such a young life. A new father. I had just seen Naro at Cindy’s house last week. I have seen him over and over for ten years now. At Oliver’s baby shower. At the gender reveal for my son and daughter in law.
Naro was 28 years old. My son was his “sober coach.” My son was blaming himself for being out of the state working and I was (once again) reiterating the fact that only an addict can choose to change. We can’t change them. I wish to Hell we could. I wish to Hell there was a magic button.
I wish to Hell that my niece Stephaney hadn’t been an addict for 18 years. I wish to Hell that I could un live the 18 years I spent trying to Save Stephaney. Cindy does too.
Our entire family has suffered due to Stephaney’s addiction.
My niece, Stephaney is (yet again) in treatment. She has no insurance. She has never had insurance.
Cindy and I have been raising Stephaney’s twin daughters, Maryssa and Makenna without child support from either parent for 15 years now. While paying cash for Stephaney’s rehab stints because she doesn’t have insurance? YES. Cindy and I have spent so much money to “fix Stephaney” it’s shocking.
Our husbands have no idea how much money we’ve run through for this treatment center or that one.
Cindy and I know how devastating it is to have an addict in your family. We know addiction destroys families and lives.
We know because my mother was a heroin addict. We know because my niece is an addict. We know because Cindy and I have both spent good money after bad to “Save Stephaney.”
Cindy and I know because we have risked our own lives by walking into crack houses to pull Stephaney out. Driving into dangerous places to find her. Paying for expensive rehab. Buying “psych friendly clothing.”
Begging, praying, screaming and crying for her to stop using. I’ve tried it all. Cindy has too.
I pray to God that THIS TIME in treatment my niece chooses sobriety. We cannot choose it for her.
Explaining to my son that his friend of ten years had made a choice was a painful conversation. My son can not fathom why Naro relapsed. Loved ones of addicts never do understand why an addict loves drugs more than they love them. Why? Why? Why?
Naro had been sober two months. We may never understand the choices of others. But, we cannot monitor someone 24/7. No one can.
My son was working in Oklahoma the day Naro went missing. I was at Cole then Roach. Naro chose to relapse. He may not have realized his choice would be fatal but most addicts don’t. They also fail to realize that their choices hurt people who love them.
I believe that addicts are the most narcissistic people there are. They never consider the effects that leave loved ones devastated over and over and over again.
Naro’s wife and newborn child as well as their toddler are left alone. His mother is left without her son. His best friend is left wondering if he could have or should have taken Naro to Oklahoma to keep an eye on him?
I finally get my son to stop crying while sitting in a McDonalds parking lot on my way to the clerks office but Naro is the 9th friend my son has lost to a drug overdose.
My son has lost so many friends due to their bad choices that at 29 years old he wears the scars of profound sadness.
As a new parent, my son has already decided to homeschool Oliver. Why? Because public and private schools are riddled with drugs. Eight of his friends died in high school while attending a private school.
I sent my son to private school to keep him away from drugs. As a parent who was determined to keep my son safe, I assumed private school would be drug free and I was wrong but because my son witnessed the choices of his cousin Stephaney, my son knew to stay away from recreational drugs. His friends didn’t.
I hate drugs. I hate that lives are destroyed from bad choices. I hate the fact that addicts never know or realize how much they hurt the ones they love. I can’t understand it. I wish I could change it.
Like my son, I had hoped that a new child and a fresh start would change Naro. We were both wrong. The funeral is Sunday.
Walking into the clerks office where “I know everybody working there,” my usual clerk at window one greets me with a cheerful hello. I file Karen’s license and request a certified copy to mail to her. My clerk friend asks me “aren’t you concerned about the Coronavirus walking into prisons? Touching people to baptize them? Hugging mourning families at a funeral? Your role requires intimacy and exposure in places where germs and disease can spread like wildfire.” I consider her question. She isn’t the first to ask me about whether I’m fearful about walking into prisons. I’m asked frequently. I’m also not afraid. I’m in one of the safest places in the world.
Inserting my credit card to pay for the certified copy, I answer “media has created an all out panic about this virus. You’re right about touching people and I believe in the power of human contact so much that I refuse to live in fear or have fear affect the way I live or the way I act. Are you afraid? You deal with the public as much as I do.” She laughed and said “yes and I use plenty of hand sanitizer and this year started getting a flu shot lol. See you in a few days.” I’m at Tarrant County Clerks Office at least once a week.
I won’t file in person in Dallas. It’s the Beetlejuice waiting room. You park blocks away. You ride an elevator and there are people agitatedly waiting on their number. The clerks are rude too. I file Dallas licenses via certified priority mail.
It’s worth $14 to send my marriage licenses to Dallas. It costs me $6 to park in Tarrant County but at least I meet pleasant people and it’s by far more convenient!
Leaving Tarrant County I head to the post office to mail Karen’s certified copy and Diana’s drivers license. I’m due at Hutchins Unit in two hours and worried about my son. I’m also deeply saddened about Naro’s family.
Life is so fragile. I think of the amazing gift of life. A baby is a miracle. I think of the clients I’ve had who lost a baby they had so desperately wanted. Burt and Deanna lost their baby last year as did my other couple. The tragedy of their loss will forever leave scars. I think of my son. My only child and his tears at Oliver being moved to NICU. Helpless and scared my son had called my niece, Leigh Ann. I was unaware of this until Leigh Ann told me.
My son and Leigh Ann have never been incredibly close.
Leigh Ann is somewhat of a “loner.” She is closest to her mother and I and very depressed about moving to California and away from us.
My son having a child gave them something in common to share. From parenting tips to just listening, Leigh Ann and my son both grew closer because of baby Ollie.
Oliver is doing very well and has gained one pound. My daughter in law is breast feeding and Leigh Ann is sending baby outfits left and right.
Leigh Ann will be “home again” next week. She is a germaphobic though and so fearful of flying that she’s renting a car to drive to Texas. She and Maddie will be staying with Cindy for a few months.
My niece, Stephaney will be released from treatment in May so Leigh Ann will leave prior to May 20th to avoid seeing her sister.
This “rift” is due entirely to Stephaney’s addiction. It’s a gap that may never be filled. While Cindy and I as well as my son and twin grandnieces pray Stephaney never relapses, Leigh Ann fully expects her to. I wish she didn’t but she does.
Frankly, the number of times I’ve tried to convince Leigh Ann that Stephaney would never relapse haven’t helped. Cindy and I pray for the best while Stephaney chooses to do the worst.
Cindy and I spent nearly 3 years looking for Stephaney after she relapsed the last time after 3.5 years of sobriety.
Cindy and I had thought that finally we would never have to deal with Stephaney off the rails again during that 3.5 year window.
We had thought our family would live happily ever after. But, Stephaney and her choices drug us through Hell yet again.
My sisters heartache and stress would lead to a heart attack just a few months ago. Then heart surgery.
Years of looking for Stephaney again took a toll on Cindy and I both. When I wasn’t looking, Cindy was. The pain and agony of asking homeless people if they had seen my niece or driving down skid row trying to find her are so traumatizing to revisit that I cannot even put into words the pain my nieces addiction has put on our family.
No one who hasn’t dealt with trying to save an addict from themselves would or could ever understand. It is sheer raw Hell. It is stressful, painful, horrifying. Waiting for the police to call or the next psych ward.
Fearful of the phone ringing because you have no idea where your loved one is but you know they will eventually turn up and fear that like Naro that phone call will be the final curtain call.
The number of times I’ve trusted my niece, Stephaney to “straighten up” are shocking. The number of times I’ve visited her in a jail or psych ward are equally shocking. I was always glad she was there. Relieved to not be driving around looking for her.
Hopeful that THIS TIME she would “snap out of it.”
Like Cindy, the dissatisfying results of expensive in patient treatment for Stephaney and the expense involved are a hefty price to pay for loving an addict WHILE raising their twin daughters.
Trying not to cry in front of the twins after yet another phone call from Stephaney screaming at us until we hung up hasn’t been easy. She will never realize how many times she’s hurt us while hurting our entire family. Addicts never do.
You learn to act normal in an abnormal world. You learn to hide your sorrow.
Having an addict in your family is shameful. It is also embarrassing. You can’t understand it. You question how it happened to you.
You work hard to hide the great lengths you’ve gone to in order to “fix or save” your loved one.
At some point, I stopped pretending to have a perfect family. I stopped lying about my mother and her addiction to myself and others.
It’s so painful to be transparent. It’s also liberating.
Naro’s family has fought his addiction for years. They too have had hope for the future. Hope for structure and predictable behavior. No more surprises. No more late night calls. No more arrests. No more involuntary commitments for drug induced psychosis.
It’s over for Naro’s family. The unpredictable behavior and surprises and setbacks for their family are over. The pain will remain. The loss will be a cross to bear. Explaining to his children why they have no father will not be easy.
Driving into Hutchins Unit, the duty officer greets me and tells me “your client is on site. She arrived about ten minutes ago.”
I park and text her that I’m in a lime green Jeep Sahara. Coincidentally, I park right next to her.
Sheketress is excited and ready. We walk in together. Hutchins Unit has added a machine but there isn’t anyone on site. I walk into the wardens office. I ask for a female officer to screen my client and I. We wait. This takes awhile at Hutchins Unit.
Organization isn’t a strong suit at this Unit. For those of you offended by this statement, I will elaborate. I’ve been at Hutchins numerous times and every time I have a ceremony at this Unit I’m on site at least two hours for one client.
The wait at Hutchins is so unpredictable that I refuse to schedule another Unit ON THE SAME DAY as Hutchins. Experience matters. I know what to expect and schedule accordingly.
My couple have written their vows. The female officer screening is in “won’t allow” Sheketress to bring her vows in on a slip of paper and has her return them to her car and screen in again. This is frustrating for her. I wish she had handed them to me to carry in.
If you have handwritten vows, PLEASE hand them to me PRIOR to screening in.
Thankfully, the officer assigned to the ceremony (unlike the officer screening Sheketress and I) was both friendly and cordial. In general, 99.9% of personnel at Units ARE friendly.
The groom walks in. He’s nervous. This is common. I go over what he can or can’t do. This is a contact wedding. No open mouth kisses. No hands on hips or near the bust area. I ask them to face each other and we begin the ceremony. Following the ceremony, I sign the license and pose for one photo before giving tips for poses to my client.
While waiting on Unit photos to print, I hear the groom ask about his twin. He is a twin? I then recall a producer who had contacted me to ask “if I had or knew of any twins that were incarcerated?”
The phone call with the producer was returned on the day I had picked up my 14 year old Beagle, Foxy’s ashes.
She had left me a message. I should have waited to respond. Why? I was emotional that day. I had been dreading going back to the vet and leaving without Foxy running to the door and knowing I would be carrying him back out in an ornate box.
I had picked up my cell phone to call my husband and spare him the trip and saw that I had a message. I spoke with her for about ten minutes. Crying about my loss of our family pet one minute and trying to keep my friend, Angela from “butting in” and answering for me on BlueTooth from the passenger seat.
I had my hands holding that box, I was trying to keep it together and Angela was trying to be helpful but no one can really describe my clients or my business other than I.
What I do and who I do it for are complicated to explain to someone unaware of my numerous roles and responsibilities.
I need to know a lot of information. I need to know policy and procedure. I need to be a problem solver. A hand holder. An advocate. It’s not uncommon for me to advise a client not to marry based on conversations with them about their relationship.
It’s not uncommon for me to assist others in information they cannot find and have no idea how to find.
I’m consistently called on by media and production companies. I’m not under contract and refuse to be pushed into a contract that effectively would tie me down with rope I would be paying for. What? A contract limiting my ability to do what I want? A production company trying to change who I am? I know all about creative editing. Cindy and I filmed a pilot five years ago that anyone watching would assume that we were who we weren’t. I’m not interested in faux reality.
I’m selective. I’m smart. I’m discreet. I never post the inmates name or my clients last name. I protect them from media and opinions.
Protecting my clients and advising them of why and how media can portray them in a negative light is an ongoing conversation.
There isn’t anyone like me. There isn’t anyone in this industry as successful and sought after as me. I know my worth.
I enjoy my work and I’m not interested in people who think sending me a talent agreement to lock me down by “securing the talent.”
It should be noted that I’m leaning with the BBC who don’t edit, frankenbite or fabricate people or their story though because American production companies do.
Docureality or faux reality? The lines have become so misconstrued these days that my focus is on my clients not media.
My role is to portray my clients in a positive light. They are resilient. They are warriors.
I answer the same questions over and over on occasion. “Are inmates marrying inmates?” No. Inmates cannot marry inmates in Texas.
My “client” IS NOT the inmate. I don’t have any inmates for clients. My clients are on the outside looking in. The inmate is on the inside looking out.
I was thinking back about that phone call from VCA waiting on the photos from Hutchins to print. She wanted to find an incarcerated twin. Ironically, I had found a twin and asked my client if she would be interested in speaking to this producer? She was. We walked out of Hutchins together.
In the parking lot, I call the producer seeking an incarcerated twin and hand the phone to Sheketress. I then text Sheketresses contact information.
It is hard to believe that a month after someone calling me for research that “the odds of finding an incarcerated twin are slim.”
I was wrong about my assumption. But, I keep my promises and had told this producer that “if I ran across a twin in prison who might be interested in speaking to you that I would save your number. Not all inmates wish to speak to media so be aware of the limited nature of first finding a multiple and secondly finding one who wants to talk to media. You are seeking a needle in a haystack.”
Leaving Hutchins Unit, Sheketress follows me to an area for her bridal photos. I have a wide array of props and we use the railroad track as a backdrop. She’s funny and entertaining. I like her and have time for lunch. I invite her to join me after her photo shoot.
Sheketress follows me to Cheddars. We talk about her relationship and her family. We laugh and share work jokes about our worst jobs. I’ve had plenty just so you know. Cindy has too.
As divorced single parents, Cindy and I worked a number of years at two jobs to make ends meet. I share my sorrow about my sons phone call and his belief that “if he had been in Texas, Naro would still be here.” Guilt for all the wrong reasons.
My son works for not only me but also Cindy, my husband and his father. His work ethics come from me. I’ve always been an over achiever who firmly believes in giving people more than they expected.
The I insist on ordering cake to go for Sheketress that she can enjoy with her toddler back in Huntsville. She has a three hour drive. I know the drive well. I’m in Huntsville on a regular basis.
Leaving Cheddars, I call my Waco County Jail client you advise her I will meet her in 2.5 hours.
I drive to Waco and as usual take numerous phone calls. I have a conference call with my niece, my son and my twin. This also is a regular occurrence.
Stephaney calls from Grove Oklahoma where she has been in treatment several months.
Leigh Ann calls me back concerned about a hotel driving from California as she now needs a blue light. “Hotels have bed bugs I’m worried about it.”
What the? My niece is not only a germophobe but also a hypochondriac.
Leigh Ann goes to the doctor more often than most people go to the bathroom.
I pull over and buy a blue light on Amazon. I have driven from TX to CA without stopping for thirty years but, Leigh Ann needs two hotels? Okay. I will rent two 3-5 star hotels that I can assure you won’t have a bed bug problem but, Cindy and I accept Leigh Ann and her concerns as valid.
Cindy and I are hand holders who roll our eyes on occasion at the lengths Leigh Ann regularly takes everything to. She changes doctors often.
Leigh Ann’s last doctor suggested therapy. Leigh Ann’s answer? “I’m away from my family and I’m depressed. This weather is making me sick. I’m an at home mom to a three year old tornado toddler and why on earth do you think talking about my problems to a stranger is going to somehow help me? Save that referral buddy!”
Leigh Ann’s latest Doctor couldn’t get her an appointment next week before she leaves for Texas. She’s found a new one. Leigh Ann and doctors in California go round and round. “You don’t need anxiety medication.” Leigh Ann is the most anxious person I’ve ever met!
Friday morning at 3:45AM, I’m up and at it answering emails, ordering flowers for Naro, packing snacks for a five hour drive to Stiles Unit.
Tyronda is meeting me at the Unit. Stiles is located in Beaumont, Texas. There is a beautiful botanic garden I use for photos of all my Beaumont unit clients.
At 10:20AM, I text Tyronda that I’m on site and then put the address to the Beaumont Gardens in my navigation so I’m ready to go when rolling out of Stiles Unit.
I call Cindy then my husband then my son then my niece, Leigh Ann.
I send a heart emoji to Makenna who loves her new classes and asks if I’ve “ordered the entire Harry Potter collection yet?” I send her the tracking information and get a “thanks buddy love you” text back.
The clearing officer at Stiles Unit says “they are mwaiting on you and Mrs Wortham, please go by the Wardens Office.”
Tyronda and I walk into the building and I ask her to sit in the lobby area and wait on me. There are two chaplains. This is odd.
I’m greeted and introduced to both but only one escorts Tyronda and I to the visitation area. We wait a few minutes and her groom walks in with his escort. The groom makes jewelry. He has made a ring for Tyronda.
Due to Section K of the Administrative Directive, I ask for the officer to call the Warden. Why? Exchanging of property with an inmate on wedding day is expressly prohibited. Visitation exchanges are permitted.
The Warden agrees to the exchange of property but only AFTER the wedding and not during. We are now ready to prepare the ceremony. I’m a rule follower and inside a prison, my clients are rule followers too.
We must always adhere to policy and procedure and stay within the guidelines set forth. Only a warden can approve or deny a request. Please be aware of this.
Following the ceremony, Tyronda opens the box and loves her ring. It’s beautiful. Hand made by her husband in the craft shop as is the necklace she is wearing. Her husband is talented! We visit with the officers as I sign the license then go outside for Unit photos.
Leaving the Unit, Tyronda follows me to the gardens. We have fun with a number of bouquets, tiaras and hats I’ve packed as well as fun signs for her bridal photos.
I’ve had another great day with another amazing lady. She’s visiting her new husband today then driving to stay with his family a few days. I love it when my clients have the support of an inmates family. Support is so important to them. They are doing it all and often they are doing it all alone.
Driving back to Fort Worth, I call people texting me because my talk text is always not what I’m saying.
Siri has issues understanding me for reasons I don’t understand. I’ve got a call for Garza West. Another for Gib Lewis. Someone wanting to book for Oklahoma then Arkansas.
A client in California asks “when I will be back?”
One of my Roach Unit clients sends a photo text of an Absentee Affidavit with the date crossed out.
Another client calls crying because Anderson County wouldn’t issue the license. I send her to another county. My phone never stops ringing.
I’m in Louisiana by nightfall. Meeting clients and following the rehearsal having dinner with them.
I left for Oklahoma this afternoon for a wedding at 8PM tonight.
Tomorrow I’m in Arkansas. A baptism and wedding combined.
Monday I’m back at Tarrant, Parker and Palo Pinto counties and shipping a blue light to Leigh Ann. Cindy is editing and mailing all of my client photos from this week to clients.
My husband is setting up a new printer and computer at my office.
My brother in law is on the road in Toronto.
Makenna and Maryssa have friends over this weekend.
My son and his wife as well as Naro’s family are preparing for visitation this weekend followed by a funeral for a young man who was a talented chef, a loving father and like many others including my mom and my niece, another victim of addiction…