“WHEN You SETTLE For LESS, Don’t Expect More.” Determination And Drive Require Ambition…

It’s been a busy few weeks with many couples opting for an elopement rather than waiting on counties to change the group limit to accommodate their guests.

While running to courthouses, backyards, barns and even my own balcony, I’ve been fielding emails from prospects wishing that lockdowns to visitation will be lifted. I too would love nothing more than to be back on the road headed to your prison weddings but it’s something we can’t control. Until Governor Abbott reinstates visitation, we are at a stand still. Please wait to purchase that second marriage license until we are certain that it won’t expire due to the visitation ban.

There are a handful of Units that have reopened in Missouri and Oklahoma but both states are not entirely reopened at detention facilities whether they are State, Federal or ICE. Please be aware that a very small number of units have reopened and require preregistration for outdoor ceremonies. If you have questions, contact me.

I had someone email me from North Carolina regarding a wedding that their friend had officiated. The problem? The friend didn’t file the license. I’m going to once again go over the importance of knowing whoever is going to conduct your ceremony knows how to perform the role. Marriage licenses have a shelf life. In Texas, a marriage license is valid 90 days after issuance. The signed license is returned to be recorded by the officiant and mailed to the address the couple provided when purchasing it. Failure to file a marriage license within 30 days in Texas is also a misdemeanor crime.

Making a mistake on a marriage license will revoke the privileges of the officiant. There are so many people who think or believe that the role of an officiant is easy or that anyone can do it out there trying to do it and botching it up that I cannot stress the importance enough of finding a professional. EXPERIENCE MATTERS.

I wouldn’t ask my hairdresser to change my oil and I wouldn’t as my mechanic to cut my hair. Don’t ask your friend, uncle neighbor or coworker to officiate your wedding. You will thank me later.

A year ago today I was in New York with my niece, Leigh Ann and twin sister, Cindy to film a segment for Mel Robbins. It would be the first time my twin had chest pains. It would be a warning that literally saved her life after I bought aspirin for our return flight and instructed her to drink a full bottle of water since she refused to go to a hospital in Manhattan after filming. Cindy’s surgery for three clogged arteries was performed two weeks later.

Yesterday, after months of cancelled attempts to fly into DFW, Leigh Ann and her daughter, Maddy flew into the airport.

Normally, I would have my driver in the DFW area, Kevin with Agency Limousine pick up but Leigh Ann wanted Cindy and I to come to the airport so a week of careful organization to my schedule was in order.

Wednesday morning I picked up my other niece, Stephaney at the group home near me determined to find her a job. I drove to 13 places and because of the restrictions at restaurants, her choice of waitressing was quickly cast aside.

My niece has been a waitress for 14 years. She’s also bilingual. But jobs as servers are scarce. Sitting in a parking lot on a call with a client who wanted to marry an inmate in Texas by proxy in Kansas, I had an idea but first as Steohaney listened to the call, I needed to address “a situation” on the other end of my Bluetooth. The client had been removed from the visitation list after she posted a photo of a visit to Instagram.

The problem? She was a former TDCJ employee. TDCJ has a strict policy of former employees not being authorized visitors to a TDCJ facility for 2 years after leaving employment.

This client had been well past the two year window when (and I’m guessing here but fairly certain about the details) someone (most likely a former coworker) saw the post and reported that she was a former employee. She lost her visitation privileges and the inmate “caught a charge” for fraud.

The fraud was pertaining to visitation paperwork that requires a box be checked pertaining to former employment at TDCJ. When checked, an additional paper is required to be filled out. Because the box wasn’t checked and most likely because the inmate was unfamiliar with the post employment importance, this scenario has caused great angst for the client who had assumed that she could fly to Kansas and marry by proxy to an inmate in Texas.

Proxy marriage is allowed within TDCJ from other states where it’s legal. Proxy marriage is not allowed in Texas for an inmate and hasn’t been since 2013. House Bill 869 removed the ability for an inmate in a Texas prison to marry by proxy.

Hence, no proxy marriages from a Texas resident to a Texas inmate have been allowed or authorized since September 1, 2013.

For two years, there were no inmate weddings do to House Bill 869. In 2015, TDCJ created a new Administrative Directive pertaining to inmate weddings. This new directive allowed in person contact or no contact weddings with procedure and protocol required.

The use of an absentee affidavit in Texas allowed inmates to skip the requirement of appearing in person. There are a number of required I60’s to process as well as the critically important I60 Request For Inmate Marriage. This form requires the Approved Officiants name and moves from the law library to inmate records.

If the person planning to marry isn’t an approved visitor, the request is denied. If the inmate is listed as CLM (Common Law Married) to anyone other than the person trying to marry, the request is denied.

Overcoming a CLM status is hit and miss depending on the Unit. While some units will allow the use of my Dissolution Affidavit in conjunction with a verification letter from the state proving no marriage took place to change an inmates status to Single, other units require a divorce.

My client will now need to file an Appeal to reinstate visitation to the DRC. Visitation appeals are reviewed every 6 months in Texas.

Over the years of performing prison weddings in numerous states, a phone call from a client crying about being denied is as heartbreaking for me as it is for them but there is a timeline to file an appeal and that timeline is 14 days. Please contact me immediately.

I explained that the inmate will need to follow the appeal process and fully explain what happened and why. The client will file a visitation appeal and explain what happened to the DRC.

Hopefully, this first appeal will be upheld and we can begin processing the paperwork to get approval to marry in the future.

As Stephaney listens to my many phone calls from traditional clients, bartering clients and prison weddings clients, a call from New York regarding a Texas Twins Treasures item comes in next.

My niece sits transfixed at the incredible variety of phone calls I handle with ease. EXPERIENCE MATTERS. The New York buyer is a repeat and is wishing to schedule their freight company to pick up at the warehouse and asking if I could have coordinating Leopardo Gold throw cushions made and if so, the cost.

While answering emails I give a quote and a timeline for the throw pillows as well as an estimated UPS shipping cost.

I then turn to my niece and say “you’re probably not going to like this but restaurants are folding. You are bilingual which is and can be useful to an employer. I’m going to take you to apply at a well known restaurant that has successfully survived and thrived throughout Covid-19 to apply for a job as an assistant manager.”

My shocked niece looked at me and said “I’ve worked in restaurants but I’ve never worked in management. Who would hire me?” I said “my client knows me well and also reads my blogs. He’s a believer in second chances and your years of experience are perfect for what he’s looking for.” We drove to the restaurant and prior to Stephaney walking in wearing the clothes I had bought her, I told her “you have had a tough time. You have had setbacks. Stand up straight. You still have value. You are a hard worker. A driven employee. An asset. Walk in there with confidence.”

Thirty seven minutes later on another call with a client I had married on the Tarrant County Courthouse steps, Stephaney got back into my suv shocked. I got off the call and asked “when do you start?”

“I have an interview tomorrow at 4PM. Do you think I will get this job?” I hug my niece and say “of course I do. I have faith in you.”

I knew Leigh Ann and Maddy were flying in at 5:15PM right in the middle of rush hour.

I thought about the options of leaving the restaurant and either taking 30 to 35 to 121 to 820 to 183 OR taking 30 to 820 to 121. I could do it. I would make it work. It would’ve been easier to send Kevin but when you drive as much as I do to prisons, you factor the best route and I’m really good at it.

Friday morning Cindy met me at my home and we dropped her suv in the driveway. We headed over to pick up Stephaney and ran to several stores to buy work shoes and uniforms. Cindy wasn’t sure Steph would be hired. I was. When I set my mind to getting Steph a job, I do. This time she assures me she’s ready to stay on her medication and get stable. I believe her.

We first run to get my oil changed I haven’t had time and walk over to Braums while we wait. So many stores have closed. So many businesses have shut down. Jobs are hard to find for the first time in years. Unemployment is high but I’m not worried.

Cindy nervously nibbles at her food asking about our weekend bookings and when Terry will have the throw pillows ready? I’ve got to stop at the post office and mail 31 LV and Chanel face masks. We can’t keep them in stock. I’ve got to get over to the cleaners to pick up vestments and chasubles for weekend events and I’m working on my schedule in November when my son and his wife are working a wedding in Boulder as I’m going to be watching my grandson, Oliver Glenn.

Cindy can help me and if prisons are back open, we will take Oliver with us as we did Maddy for years.

Our clients are accustomed to me having my Grandnieces, twin sister, son or one of my nieces with me. Depending on how far the prison or prisons if it’s a stacked prison day will calculate in hours on the road, I like to have a driving buddy so I can answer emails and texts while on the road. Cindy and I will work out November. We were supposed to be flying to CA in November but Robbie and his wife will only be gone a week at the ski lodge wedding. I will work it out. I always do.

We leave and run, here there and everywhere before grabbing lunch and driving to Walgreens to pick up a hair brush for Steph and my husbands prescription as well as Maddy’s Trolls Pull Ups.

My husband is at home putting together Maddy’s car seat. I didn’t want Leigh Ann trying to keep up with Maddy, carry on luggage and a car seat through LAX. It was easier to buy a new one in TX and pick them up with it in my Sahara.

The old car seat I had for Maddy is now too small for her but will work for Oliver. It’s 3:45PM so we head back to the restaurant. Steph looks at me for strength. She has such low self esteem. Her medication has made her gain a lot of weight in treatment. I tell her “don’t worry about your weight. I will get a gym membership. You can lose it. You’re beautiful and you can do this. Stand up straight. Shoulders back. Love you.”

We call a friend to pick Steph up as we have to run by my house pick up the car seat, drop off my husbands GERD medication and hit the highway. I was right about the alternate route. We arrive early. Send a text to Steph. She got the job. It also pays well. She starts Tuesday. Our friend picked her up. We bought her a bus pass but she hasn’t had time to learn the routes yet and is nervous about it. Tomorrow one of Steph’s roommates is going to ride the bus with Steph to teach her the routes to and from her new residence and work. There are bus stops within 1/2 of a block from both. But learning a bus route isn’t easy. It takes a few go rounds. I’m glad she has someone to ride with her. I wish I had time to navigate the bus routes and help her but I don’t.

Cindy is so relieved that Steph has a job that she nearly starts crying.

We mask up and walk in to wait on Maddy and Leigh Ann. Maddy runs to me and jumps up. She’s wearing not only a mask but also a face shield. Her mother is a germaphobic. Leigh Ann has always been a little “over the top” regarding germs but Covid-19 has literally sent her to such great lengths of precaution that little Maddy can’t even give Cindy or I a kiss. That face shield is awkward.

We walk out to the Sahara where Maddy’s favorite snacks are waiting, Pirate Booty and Grandma’s mini cookies. Maddy at nearly five years old is used to me flipping SUV’s and says “I like this one.”

One year I flipped out of a Buick Enclave because it couldn’t u turn into two other suvs before going back to a Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe’s didn’t do well on ice so I switched to Sahara’s.

For five years whatever sets of suvs I buy, they’ve all been black. I lost a lost of money in 2017 swapping out of suvs 3 times and now rent whatever I think I want before writing a check.

Cindy doesn’t love the Sahara’s and thinks they are harder to drive than Outlanders. I think the Outlanders sit too low and prefer the Sahara. Due to this conflict, Cindy often still drives her Mitsubishi Outlander.

My morning started off at a venue with a client who didn’t want to invite her father. I had a conversation with the mother, the bride and the groom before having a conversation with the father. The father has a drinking problem. The event has an open bar. I often have tough conversations. This was one of them. “If you can not control your alcohol consumption, security will escort you to a car give hired at your ex wife’s expense to drive you home. Remember though, your daughter, her husband and your ex wife will remember your inability to put your daughters wedding above your own desires. I suggest you wisely stay away from the bar. I’m going to be watching you.”

The father is now going to attend the event. The daughter didn’t want it to come to this but the mother of the groom and mother of the bride are splitting expenses and don’t want any shenanigans or a scene.

I’ve had a few questions pertaining to my scheduling. Due to the accordion effect of traditional weddings being moved from 2020-2021, I’m being very selective about new bookings unless it’s a rebooking from a previous client for another service or a referral. I regularly turn down requests in order to be available for my booked clients first and foremost.

My priorities are always with current as well as previous clients and referrals. I’m sorry but I do have other officiants including my son and his wife, my niece Leigh Ann and my sister, Cindy.

I’m traveling tonight to a wedding in Louisianna tomorrow and will be back in the city Monday. I wish all of you a wonderful weekend and hope you stay safe and stay blessed.