A Flawed Flower Will Still Bloom- Torres Unit To Roberts Unit To Bridgeport Unit To Cook’s Childrens Hospital…

The past week of my life has been spent bouncing from the joyous occasions of wedding ceremonies to the shock, despair and disbelief of my personal life. 

Last Thursday, a stunning revelation that would rattle my entire family. How did we get here? My grandniece, Makenna had “met a new friend at school a few weeks ago” and was spending more and more time on her phone. 

Cindy and I had no idea that this “new friend” would result in my grandniece being hospitalized after an overdose of her antidepressant medication due entirely to bullying from “her new friend.” Her new friend would literally push and keep pushing my beautiful grandniece into taking all of her Lexapro. Her new friend was doing this on the cell phone Cindy pays for. Yes, we are angry this outsider got to Makenna and yes, we are devastated about it but, our focus is on getting Makenna healthy mentally and physically. 

Looking back over the past week, I wish Cindy and I had taken time to view text messages prior to finding ourselves in the ER with Makenna reading text messages that ended with RIP from her new friend “Michael.” How could we have known what was going on? Still, we blame ourselves. Our busy schedules. Our inability to see “trouble with Makenna.” 

My highly intelligent grandniece took her entire bottle of Lexapro Thursday at approximately 4:15PM while Cindy and I along with Leigh Ann and Madyson were in Abilene, Texas with my Roberts Unit bride, her daughter, mother and grandmother. 

We could have had no idea that while Cindy’s Husband, Steve was outside mowing and Makenna’s twin sister, Maryssa was filming a makeup tutorial and the twins mother, Stephaney was making dinner that Makenna was texting Michael that she was “so depressed over their break up that she was going to take her entire bottle of Lexapro.” Michael had egged Makenna on. Teen suicide is real. If your teen is talking or texting someone you don’t know- get involved. Ask questions. 

At 4:19PM last Thursday, the last text from Michael had read “RIP.” At 4:20PM, Makenna had sent a text to Cindy and I both while in Loves Truck Stop with Leigh Ann and Madyson that read “I took my bottle of Lexapro. I’m scared. I need to go to the hospital.”

If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian, you would have been as horrified reading this text as we were. Our straight A student. Our beautiful Makenna with the heart of an Angel had just taken an entire bottle of Lexapro? We were over an hour from Cindy’s home. I called Cindy’s Husband then Maryssa while Cindy called 911 in Parker County from Abilene. 

Maryssa had found her twin sister convulsing on the bathroom floor and also called 911. Thankfully, Medstar arrived within minutes and transported Makenna to Cook’s Childrens Hospital. Steve was devastated and too shocked to compose himself and stayed behind at home with Maryssa. I drove 95-100 MPH from Abilene to Cook’s with Cindy, Leigh Ann and Maddy. 

My brother in law, Steve has only cried three times in 27 years that I’ve known him. The first time was when his mother died. The second time was while under attack at Baghdad Airport immediately following the roadside bombing on Good Friday. The third time was last Thursday. 

Makenna was incoherent when Cindy and I walked into her room. She was also on an IV and “under suicide observation.” Due to Serotonin Syndrome, Makenna was also on oxygen. 

Nothing and I mean NOTHING prepares you for a moment like this. Had Makenna NOT sent those texts to Cindy and I, we or someone else at Cindy’s house would have found Makenna dead in the bathroom Thursday. Thank God Makenna sent those texts prior to going into convulsions. 

Living in a hospital with clinical observation while wondering if Makenna’s heart would recover since Thursday has been stressful, terrifying and a literal family affair of “tagging out and tagging in by family members due to our booked clients.” From sending my son to Collin County to running to Bridgeport Unit Friday as well as Green Bay Unit and Belltower Chapel Saturday, clocking in and out of the hospital has left all of us emotional basket cases. 

Over the past two plus years, my niece (the twins mom) Stephaney has been involuntarily committed. Makenna’s twin sister, Maryssa played the choking game and was also committed. My father thought intruders were living in his attic and was also commited. To say this merry go round of Psych Ward visits has left Cindy and I with pom poms missing streamers would be an understatement. We have circled our wagons, walked into visits as cheerleaders lost, confused and hopeless. Walked into client meetings confident and with direction. Smiled when we felt like crying and juggled work and family with the fluidity of a triathlete. But, we had no choice. Our clients and our families are priorities. We had prayed for Stephaney and Maryssa to straighten up and they both finally had. We never saw an issue with Makenna coming and wonder if it’s our fault that we didn’t? 

It takes a village and thankfully, we have one. Going over the events leading up to this past week has run through my mind over and over again. What did we miss? We should have asked more questions about Michael. Instead, we found it cute that Makenna had a boyfriend although they had never went anywhere together alone and this “relationship” was mostly via her cell phone. Cindy and I didn’t see the red flags. We wish we had but, we didn’t. 

On Monday night, Cindy stayed with me to leave at 4AM for Torres Unit in Hondo, Texas. We checked in frequently with the twins and their mom from the road. Everyone seemed fine. We finished our photo shoot in Hondo, Texas and headed back to Fort Worth. Cindy and I stopped at a meat market for her husband, Steve who had frequented this meat market as a child. I took several calls driving back as I had several prison weddings last week with traditional and county jail weddings this weekend. My days and nights are filled with client questions and bookings. I rarely have a day off in season. 

On Wednesday, Cindy and I had several county jail weddings with meetings for traditional clients. I also took my secretary,  Virginia to lunch to celebrate her birthday. 

Everything seemed normal. Makenna had opted out of going to the movies with her mother and twin sister but that wasn’t unusual. Makenna was working on her 9th grade schedule for school. Makenna is and always has been a stellar student. Makenna has always been driven, dedicated and focused on school. Maryssa never has. 

Thursday, I left my home office to drive to Weatherford and pick up Leigh Ann, Cindy and Madyson. I checked on the twins before hitting the highway and asked “if they wanted to join us?” Since Steve was home after two weeks of driving for Ryder, he had a list of chores and Stephaney was washing clothes and cleaning. It was a normal day. 

On our way to meet Jennifer and her family, we stopped at The Smokestack for breakfast. Again, we checked in at Cindy’s house. I also checked in with my husband, Matthew. 

Maddy was a fireball at breakfast and kept jumping up to go sit with other diners. I.E. dining out with Maddy is always an adventure. Leaving the Smokestack, I checked in with Jennifer as we were meeting her early to do photos since we were on the schedule at Roberts Unit at 3PM. 

At 12PM, I pulled into the address Jennifer had given me to meet her at Jacobs Dream at Abilene Christian University. 

Maddy jumped out to “climb rocks.” Maddy also takes off her shoes to put her feet in the pond. Leigh Ann takes a few photos to check the lighting before Jennifer and her family arrive at 12:30PM. 

Meeting Jennifer in person and excited about our location, I begin unloading tiaras, furs, bouquets, fascinators and other props from my SUV with Cindy. 

Again, we would have no idea that Makenna is even contemplating taking her entire bottle of prescribed medication, Lexapro. I WISH WE HAD KNOWN. 

We are on location and enjoying a great day with Jennifer and her family. We believe that our family at home is fine. We are also sadly and profoundly mistaken. Maddy (as usual) jumps in on a few wedding photos. Leaving the university, our caravan heads to Walmart. Cindy checks in with Steve. We decide to buy Jennifer’s granddaughter a pair of shorts because hers and Maddy’s were both wet from the pond. 

Checking my watch, we still have an hour before we are scheduled at Roberts Unit. I decide to go to McDonalds and buy the kids happy meals before heading to the Unit. 

Our mood and vibe are relaxed and happy. Cindy and I are convinced everything is fine back home and we are enjoying our new friends.

Jennifer and I walk into the unit leaving our families parked side by side to wait on us.

Arriving in check in, the chaplain leads us to the visitation area. Jennifer is excited and nervous. This is completely normal for my clients. I’m every Clients mother. The handwritten vows are emotional and beautiful. It’s 3:00PM. 

At exactly 3.30PM, Jennifer and I will walk back to our families and our cars parked side by side. After showing our families the Unit photos, I escort Jennifer back to her car beside mine and visit for a few minutes before heading black to Fort Worth. 

At 4:11PM, we pull into Loves. Maddy wants milk. Maddy is also going nuts inside the truck stop and we spend at least five minutes longer than we planned to chasing her around. 

At 4:20PM, we are loaded back into my SUV when I first see the text. Sitting in the Loves Truck Stop parking lot, Cindy, I and Leigh Ann are NOW in an all out panic. 

By the time we arrive at Cooks, we are emotional basket cases. Cindy and I cannot stop crying. We are crushed. Devastated. Broken. 

Friday morning, Cindy and Stephaney are at the hospital with Makenna. Leigh Ann, Maddy and I are headed to Bridgeport, Texas. 

It’s difficult to put Makenna out of my mind and focus on the client but, I do. I’m an excellent actress. I’ve had 38 years of experience in front of a camera and I’m not going to ruin Michelle’s wedding day by being upset. 

Instead, I must put Makenna, my twin and Stephaney as well as my fear aside. It’s an invisible box in my mind. I put things away I can’t deal with until I can. I’ve done this since I was a child. 

Michelle had wanted a hair and makeup artist but, we couldn’t find anyone available. I decided that I would do her hair and makeup myself. 

Leigh Ann and I arrived at 9:30AM at Michelle’s hotel room. The wedding was scheduled at 11AM. No one looking at these photos could see my heartache. 

Again, I’m an excellent actress and have often had to put away or compartmentalize issues that would otherwise affect my demeanor or performance “on duty.”  While Leigh Ann chases Maddy in the hotel room and checks her equipment, I realize that I have no idea how to apply false eyelashes. Luckily, Michelle accepts this and we pack up the room to head to Bridgeport Unit.

Leigh Ann and Maddy wait in my SUV. Walking into the Unit to check in, Michelle is nervous but wearing red Air Jordan’s that go perfectly with her wedding dress.We have 20 minutes “inside the Unit.” Michelle is so nervous that I read her handwritten vows for her. 

Walking back out to my SUV, I’ve already chosen photography locations and head there with Michelle behind me.I’ve checked in with Cindy en route to downtown Bridgeport. I had packed furs and tiaras with numerous other items for fun photos. Leigh Ann is still working on the edits.

Leaving Bridgeport to Cook’s Childrens Hospital. I stop at a corner market for hospital snacks and milk for Maddy. 

I’m weary. I’m mentally exhausted and I can finally cry away from my client. Leigh Ann knows my fear. My uncertainty. My inability to know what lies next for Makenna and my family. Leigh Ann and I are both crying driving into Fort Worth. We are scared. I know everyone in my family is terrified and questioning how we were unaware of this situation? Guilt haunts us. 

Arriving at Cook’s to relieve Cindy and Stephaney to go downstairs and eat, my grandniece is still on the heart floor and under observation. Maddy runs and jumps onto Makenna’s bed. Makenna is happy to see Maddy. It’s the first time since Thursday I’ve seen Makenna smile. 

Cindy is obviously exhausted and can barely walk after trying to sleep in a straight backed chair. Cindy has 13lbs of steel fusing her spine and nueropathy from an accident that nearly killed her in our 20’s. Cindy and Stephaney refuse to leave the hospital at night. 

I’ve offered to stay overnight at Cook’s but my sister and niece won’t give up a night shift. They are weary and disheveled. My sister forgets what day it is? They are running together. Lack of sleep has affected my entire family. I forget where I park over and over. 

My sister is beyond exhausted. I read Makenna a story while Leigh Ann takes Maddy to the playroom. I then begin a rotating written schedule for my family members to tag in and out while giving everyone sufficient time for my son and his wife as well as Leigh Ann and myself to get to client events throughout the weekend. My tears run the ink on my day timer. I had no idea the energy to cry was still in me. 

I’m terrified. I’m always in control but I cannot control this situation. I’m OCD. I’m a planner but nothing prepared me for this. Cindy and I have spent two years visiting our relatives at Psych Wards. Once Makenna is released, we will continue to do so. This time at Mesa Springs. We are equally apprehensive about having the capacity to walk in happy, hopeful and positive to visit Makenna. 

We must prepare and get our act together. Deep breaths in the parking lot. Know your mark. Hide your fear. You are ON. We’ve done this at 4 different Psych Wards over the past two years. Cindy and I have been screened in as if we were entering a prison unit. Entering a Psych Ward is remarkably similar. The vending machines are a focal point to inmates as well as patients. Bring quarters. 

Cindy and I are now professional Psych Ward visitors. We’ve had plenty of practice. Cindy’s daughter, Stephaney has been involuntarily committed 16 times. 

The family members visiting Psych Wards are similar to visitors at Cooks. Everyone is uncertain. Shell shocked. Battle worn and weary. We all walk hunched over. A building of zombies. Our fear leads us through the days, nights and afternoons. Haunted eyes and grimaced faces walk the halls.

Saturday morning, I feel my blood pressure go up. I have low blood pressure but, I’m a mirror image twin. I know Cindy hasn’t taken her blood pressure pills. I can feel it. I call her. I’m right. She’s forgotten them and my key to her house is in her bathroom. The same bathroom Maryssa found Makenna in. I call Tom Thumb Pharmacy and explain why my twin doesn’t have her medication. Medication I just filled less than a week ago. I’m crying on this phone call. Explaining where Makenna is hurts me deeply. 

The pharmacist agrees to give me four pills to get Cindy through the weekend and I will call Dr Richwine to get a refill on Monday. The pharmacist tells me her son committed suicide and she will never recover. She’s crying too. 

Leaving Tom Thumb, I see an elderly lady being mugged a few blocks away. I pull over and grab my mace to scare off the attackers. I put the woman, Ginger in my SUV and give her water while calling 911. 

The police arrive. They ask “weren’t you scared getting involved?” I answer “not at all. You don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve been through.” I describe the assaulants fully and completely from their clothing to height and weight descriptions. I also fill out a witness report and I wait on an ambulance for my new friend, Ginger. I text Cindy and Leigh Ann to let them know I’ve been delayed. Ginger is elderly and fragile. She’s also homeless. I discuss where I can find her shelter after treatment and give her my business card. Medstar transports her due to the head injury she’s suffered at the hands of two thugs. 

Arriving at Cook’s, Makenna’s heart is still struggling. It’s now been 3 days since our lives were changed forever. My Pampas Unit bride calls me. I put her on my schedule. My Ellis Unit client calls me regarding being removed from visitation. She’s crying and upset. She drove to the Unit only to be turned away. I explain the appeal process and timeline to file an appeal just outside Makenna’s room. 

I will also help Naquitia file with the DRC and Courts on Monday. I’ve memorized TDCJ procedure. I know things that surprise my clients. I must. It’s my job. 

I take another call from a Belltower Chapel client and the “observers” in Makenna’s room wonder why my phone never stops ringing to each other. They talk about my family and Makenna in front of us. I view this as highly unprofessional. No one has sent a psychologist. No one has bothered to check on Makenna’s muscle spasms. I go out and call the administrator. I file a complaint about this “openly discussing Makenna in front of her.”

My clients and my family and now even Ginger are all a part of my life. My life requires multitasking. Cell phones and electronic devices are not allowed in Makenna’s room. 

Apparently, observers watching Makenna are failing to document her legs uncontrollably shaking or the fact that a clinical psychologist has never even entered her room continue to infuriate me. I continue to bring her depression and muscle spasms up to the observers. I continue to ask where the child psychologist is? I continue to ask the observers not to discuss Makenna, her story or her family in front of her. I want her moved as soon as her heart stabilizes. I continue to call Mesa Springs myself. 

My sister now has her high blood pressure medicine. I worry this stress will give her a heart attack and I fear losing Cindy. It is my greatest fear. My twin is my best friend. My twin is my partner. My twin and I have never had an easy life or path. There have been times that we have lost our faith. There have been times we’ve felt that God was testing our faith. There have also been times that we’ve realized that hardship rather than defining us instead empowered us. Ours is not an easy life. We must hold steadfast. 

Sunday morning, I check in with Leigh Ann before meeting clients at Belltower. I’m stressed but I shake it off. I’m a professional. I dig deep to find peace and remind myself that it’s my clients day. They deserve my best. All of them do. I give it to them. Show girl smile ready, I enter the Chapel, officiate the wedding, smile for photos and run back to Cook’s. I also cry in my SUV. I don’t know how much longer I can act normal. 

Sunday afternoon, the doctor comes in to talk to me. Cindy and Stephaney are home bathing and changing clothes. I’ve just “tagged my husband out.” Makenna’s heart has stabilized. It’s time to send paperwork to Mesa Springs. Makenna will be moved to a Psych Ward for depression and suicidal ideation. The “Psych Ward Visit Cycle” will begin again for the Texas Twins. 

I call Mesa Springs again and explain what happened. I then put Makenna on the list for a bed. Cindy and I will be back bouncing from a Psych Ward to work and clients while trying to act normal. We will be actresses on our marks and taking our cues. We will pray that Makenna realizes her value. We will cry alone away from clients and family. We will move forward putting our painful past behind us and we will find hope that one day we are never visiting another relative in a Psych Ward but, we will also be prepared for the possibility. We now know that life and mental illness are chaotic. Unpredictable. Unplanned. Frustrating. 

I roll into a parking space to relieve Cindy and Stephaney for dinner AKA to tag them out. A family member must be present at all times in the room. Tagging out is the only break. Beside me, I see a woman crying in her vehicle. I walk over and ask “what’s wrong? Can I help you?” I’ve realized that many parents and grandparents cry in public bathrooms at Cook’s or the parking garage. No one cries in front of their loved ones including my family. We wear a mask. We hide our pain. We shuffle about in wrinkled clothing from sleeping on chairs or roll a way beds and we are effectively prisoners of war to save our children. Everyone is the same here. The despair. The grief. The anxiety. 

The lady in the car next to me opens her door. “My daughter is here. I’m divorced. I’m afraid I will lose my job. My ex won’t come and sit with her.” I open my trunk and get her a bottle of water. She has a heavy cross to bear. 

I get in her SUV and ask “when was the last time you ate?” She can’t remember. She’s been struggling to save money for parking. I tell her “drive out and drive back in. Get a new ticket. Parking is free on weekends.” This surprises her. But, it’s something I’ve shared with others. Not refreshing their parking ticket runs into hundreds of dollars. The cafeteria is expensive and the food is nothing to write home about. My new friend, Mary joins me at Camelot Court. I buy her dinner and sit with her. I also give her my card. We will be moving to Mesa Springs and I worry about her. 

My other new friend, the victim of a mugging on Saturday, Ginger is at Harris Hospital. I’ve been feeding her feral cats since Saturday night. I call her and let her know they are okay. 

I’m bone weary but also help a man find the B elevators who is lost, uncertain and afraid. When we get to the third floor, he turns to me and says “I’m not ready. I’m afraid. I don’t know what I’m walking into.” I grab his hand and tell him “I will walk with you. You aren’t alone. Everyone here is afraid. Everyone here is tired and anxious. Everyone here has a child they are concerned about.” I walk him to the room where he “tags out” his daughter and show him where to find coffee. Tell him the hours of the cafeteria and get him a blanket and pillow. He’s going to be okay. I will check on him again and my new friend Mary tomorrow. 

Hopefully, Ginger is released from Harris tomorrow as I’m at Coffield and Beto Units in Tennessee Colony Tuesday. I’m also meeting a pregnant woman in Corsicana who contacted me about letting Burt and Deanna adopt her baby. She’s not in a position to keep her baby and heard I was trying to help my former clients find a child to love. Burt and Deanna don’t care what color the child is. They know that any child is a gift from God. They are good people. I married them four years ago. I baptized Baby DeLilah and officiated her memorial. 

The tragedy of losing a child isn’t lost on me. I’ve witnessed the pain. I’ve prayed with the families to find strength and I’ve cried silent tears alone in my SUV. I don’t understand why children are taken far too soon. I never will. 

Being a parent teaches you resilience. You will jump in front of a train to protect your child. Parenting doesn’t end at 18. In fact, it never ends. Being a parent, grandparent of guardian is the hardest job you will ever have. You will become stronger for it. You will become more resilient and you will become dedicated to forsaking your own needs in order to care for another. Trust me. 

Cindy and I are everyone’s mother. From clients to strangers, there isn’t anyone we wouldn’t try to help. Why? Because we’ve never had anyone to help us aside from each other and our husbands. 

Hardship can define you or empower you. Love is sacrifice. We pray Makenna learns to love herself. We pray that others won’t take advantage of her and we pray thanks that she sent those texts to Cindy and I. We pray for strength in the journey ahead. We pray for guidance and finally we pray we can find it in our hearts to forgive Michael for pushing Makenna into thinking her life wasn’t worth living. Over someone she knew less than two weeks? We will though pursue criminal charges against Michael to prevent this from happening to anyone else’s child. 

Teenagers are fragile. They are impressionable and they are easily hurt. Please check your children’s phones. Find out who they are talking to and more importantly, what they are talking about. 

Seventh grade was too stressful for Makenna. Her twin, Maryssa is social. Makenna isn’t. Cindy and I homeschooled Makenna in 7th and part of 8th grade. Makenna asked to return to public school a few months ago. Had she been safe at home away from bullies this wouldn’t have happened to our family but Makenna felt isolated in homeschooling. 

Tomorrow I’m up at 4AM to tag Cindy and Stephaney out. Tomorrow, I’m helping my Ellis Unit Client file an appeal with the Courts and DRC. Tomorrow I’m packing for a day back in Tennessee Colony and tomorrow I’m praying Mesa Springs has a bed for Makenna… 

TDCJ San Saba Unit To Ferguson Unit- TDCJ Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham…

Driving to meet Joel yesterday, I felt as if I had known him for years. His journey was one of resilience and faith. Joel works with veterans struggling with PTSD. A few years ago, Joel was one of those vets himself. He now also works as a DJ on Road To Hope Radio discussing topics pertaining to veterans as well as being an outreach coordinator at the PTSD Corporation of America. 

Joel is dedicated to making a difference and changing the lives of veterans struggling with PTSD. 

I could relate to Joel’s passion as my brother, Jerry was in several wars during his twenty years in the Navy and my brother in law, Steve Daniel spent eight years at Camp Anaconda as well as being one of the fuel tank drivers under attack during the Good Friday roadside bombing in Iraq. 

At the time, Steve had only been at Camp Anaconda a few short months. Delivering jet fuel in Iraq was far more dangerous than trucking groceries across America but, work for truck drivers was so slow in 2003 that Steve felt he had no choice but to take on work in Iraq with his hazardous materials truck driving credentials. I spoke with Joel about my brother, my brother in law and my niece, Leigh Ann’s husband, Alex who is currently preparing to station in Oxnard, California after a few months training in San Diego this July. 

Joel had a smile and excitement that was contagious. While driving to the Unit, rain and lightning were the furthest thought I had on Tuesday that started out beautifully in Fort Worth but within 30 minutes of San Saba the weather changed quickly and dramatically for the Texas Twins who were as usual traveling together to a Texas Prison. 

Our road trips are fun, full of adventure and always interesting. There’s nothing we enjoy more than “hitting the road.” From junk shops to out of the way cafes, Cindy and I love having the time together that 30 years in sales took from us while working for different companies.

Joel had sent me a text that read “hope you brought an umbrella.” We were seeing light drizzle and lightening miles away but completely unprepared for the sudden downpour that made it difficult to see clearly. 

I had Cindy answer Joel for me “I not only brought an umbrella for me but one for you too buddy see you soon.” I plan ahead. I’m “everyone’s mother.” If my SUV doesn’t come well stocked with whatever I need hours from home, it’s difficult to find the one thing I forgot. Because of this, I make detailed lists. I don’t forget anything because I’m OCD. 

Rolling into the visitor lot at San Saba, it was a hike in the downpour to get to the Unit but, Joel and I laughed and jumped puddles together to get there a little soaked but ready to “get the wedding going” he had waited for. Planning a prison wedding can be a time consuming process. 

Joel’s rainy day wedding was literally a “Rainbow In The Dark” on a cold and dreary day. 

Joel loved the boutenier I had created with bling and pink accents to coordinate with his shirt and jacket. 

I had a wide variety of other props but due to the rain only chose a few to keep him from getting drenched outside my SUV parked next to his. I commissioned a wooden “Mr” sign as a surprise gift to send him with his wedding photos. I love surprising and delighting my clients with unexpected gifts. Joel’s fiancée was beaming as she entered the conference room and a bit nervous as three guards watched the ceremony. She was beautiful and excited. I love my clients and making their day special. 

By the time we finally meet whether it’s at a venue for my traditional clients or a Prison, I know a lot about them and they know a lot about me. 

More often than not, my clients and I have spent weeks and occasionally even months on the phone or texting when not emailing updates to each other up to wedding day. Leaving the Unit, my happy new clients both gave me a hug. The relief at finally being married after the long and arduous prison planning process is always evident with my clients. They are finally married and finally through the process. 

Joel is looking forward to planning their vow renewal upon the release of his beautiful bride with my team as am I. 

Vow Renewals are a literal celebration of freedom, resilience and strength for my TDCJ clients as well as my other inmate marriage clients. Whenever possible, I meet my former clients on release day at the Walls Unit. It’s truly a celebration. Driving back to Fort Worth, I check in with my Ferguson bride about timelines to meet her today. I had three clients at three Units in the same day. My first was at Ferguson some three hours from my location but, my client meeting held me up this morning getting me off to a later start than I had planned. 

I was planning to arrive an hour early at Ferguson to handle bridal photos before heading to the Unit at 1PM but didn’t arrive until 12:30 at Ferguson for my 1PM wedding. No matter, we headed in together to clear and get ready to meet the Groom. 

My bride looked stunning in white slacks and heels. I wore heels years ago as a clothing, print and commercial model but these days prefer flats. 

While waiting, my bride told me she was nervous as the guard told us both “we aren’t professional photographers.” I laughed as did my client since I’m well aware that guards are doing the best they can regarding inmate photos.

The Groom couldn’t stop smiling. He was thrilled and excited. I love what I do. The happiest moments at a Prison are releases and prison weddings. 

Posing for photos was so much fun with my newly married couple! The love and the journey to finally get married are often emotional for my clients. The Groom touching his heart and reading his vows was a sweet and precious moment for the bride and I although at Ferguson Unit our “backdrop” were open cages and scattered chairs. Moving away from the cages used for non contact visits in order to “cut them” from the wedding photos, my clients nervously held hands. 

Contact is within strict guidelines. Holding hands, two closed mouth kisses, one hug. Inappropriate contact is strictly prohibited. 

I love handwritten vows and creative input from clients making their wedding as special as they are. 

Finding good lighting inside a Unit for photos is difficult but, I think our guard did an amazing job quite frankly. 

Leaving the Unit after waiting for our photos to print, my bride followed me to my SUV for a wide array of prop options. 

My rolling photo booth changes frequently and I’m constantly adding or replacing inventory. The sequin veil was an instant hit as were the tiaras and fascinators. From lanterns to signs to bouquets, flower balls, banners and more, my SUV is often a treasure trove of fun items that make photo shoots as creative as my clients imaginations are. I love an opportunity to share the joy of clients on wedding day. Jumping back into my SUV to head over to Huntsville, Texas to meet my next client, I ran over a retread that had come off a semi and luckily didn’t blow out my own tire doing so. My suvs are road warriors. 

I’ve had a few escapades on back roads to Texas Prisons and once even hitched a ride after hitting a deer with a truck driver in Tennessee Colony. Nothing and I mean nothing keeps me from showing up for my clients! Whether it’s with a buzzard sticking out of my broken windshield or the horrific smell of an errant skunk I was unable to keep from running over, my clients know they can count on me. 

Backroads are full of semi trucks throwing rocks, work boots, tires and more. Staying alert while fielding calls from my Texas Twins Events Clients as well as my TDCJ Clients usually takes a copilot but today, Cindy was working Parker County Jail. 

My son and his wife were covering Louisiana prison weddings and my niece was still editing photos from last weekend. Two weddings on Mother’s Day with family photos thrown in had her swamped and everyone else was at another booking. I don’t mind driving alone I simply don’t answer emails or texts until I’m in a parking lot and off the road. 

Leigh Ann’s family photos were as usual hilarious with our family. My husband was busy dealing with one of his developments and Cindy’s husband was on the road in New York so, as usual the lone male in our family of females on Sunday was my son. He’s a bit of a ham. 

My youngest grandniece, Madyson adores my son though and my son has decided not to have children since he “has four dogs and will have twins like everyone else.” 

The truth is that twins run on both sides of our family and my son isn’t too far off. However, his wife does want children and one day this “baby discussion” is going to come up again for my son and his wife. My niece, Stephaney is doing well and back on track again. We’ve paved a tough road with my grandnieces mother but, once again, we’ve got her back on track. 

Photos with the twins mom the last 14 years have been rare as normally Stephaney preferred to be anywhere other than with us. That’s changed now though and family time has become a priority. 

With two sets of twins, young Madyson, Leigh Ann and her younger sister, Stephaney, my son was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it but, we managed to get a few photos just the same. 

I’m off to Green Bay Unit and Palo Pinto County Jail tomorrow and as usual, back at venues all weekend with Hughes Unit, Hutchins Unit, Robertson Unit, Torres Unit, Allred Unit, Beto Unit and Stiles Unit over the next few weeks. 

My niece, Leigh Ann will handle both Texas overflow inmate clients as well as photography, notary services and predominately California inmate weddings after July 27th. 

Cindy and I will continue to handle mainly Texas based inmate weddings as well as traditional bookings and county jail requests based on our schedules. We will still take on prison weddings and destination weddings in other states but, book early as our schedules are often burdened. 

Traditional events can run up to 2 years out for my calendar and short notice bookings or requests will be bumped to my son and his wife who work as a team and handle booking in several states as well as traditional requests for an Officiant/photography team. 

My twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna are available as princess characters at birthday parties as well as flower girls and are both studying videography and photography. 

The twins work together as a team on location as do Cindy and I. Maryssa and Makenna both enjoy working with younger children on location and have been on site with my Team since they were two years old. I’ve had several model inquiries regarding Maryssa and Makenna so it should be noted that they are both currently already under contract with an agency and not interested in signing with a new company at this time. Please check back in 2020 for model or promotional inquiries for Makenna and Maryssa. 

Young Madyson is also a model for several brands and managed by her mother, Leigh Ann. For inquiries, please use the contact us link at Texas Twins Events regarding commercial or print booking information.There will as usual be more road trips, rest areas, memorable clients and great times in store for the Texas Twins. We are now handling prison weddings in several states but, our main states will continue to be California, Texas, & Louisiana although destination inmate services are still available upon special request.  

I will be offline Thursday for Iheart radio interviews with Cindy then radio interviews with Silver Linings Inspired Radio before running to Palo Printon and Parker County bookings as well as in and out of venues Friday through Sunday night. 

It’s Wedding Season and the joy of love is everywhere we go. The best job in the world? The Texas Twins would have to say “you bet!” we love what we do and do what we love for our amazing clients.

If you need to speak with me or anyone on my team about your inmate wedding, traditional event or media inquiry, please leave a detailed message or email me wendy@texastwinsevents.com we look forward to meeting ya all soon… 

Tire Trouble, Tiaras, Torres Unit & Trying To Stay Fit

This morning, my twin sister called me about gaining weight over the holidays. Sadly, she wasn’t alone. We have both put on a few pounds after working so hard to lose weight in our fifties a little over a year ago.

From Halloween to Christmas, watching our weight is an ongoing challenge.

Twinning through the Holidays includes work, working out, and laughing at my sisters saucy observations. “You can’t cherry pick a withered branch from a barren tree.” You can’t expect results without effort.

While Cindy’s daughter, Leigh Ann continues to lose weight after her Gastric Bypass, Cindy and I have fought and fought midlife weight gain since turning 50 four years ago. Leigh Ann’s weight is falling off.

I had planned to go to the gym yesterday but, instead got caught up with a previous client who wanted a Winter Wonderland Photo Shoot in December.

Somewhat confused, I reiterated that Leigh Ann is running a Christmas Mini Shoot special but, was unaware of an option regarding Winter Wonderland.

Sending Leigh Ann a text, I decided to research Winter Wonderland shoots that mostly featured snow.

Since snow is rare in Texas and certainly not “scheduled,” I replied to the text trying to get more information instead.

The client specifically “didn’t want” Christmas themed photos. Okay. It was in my court to find out what exactly she did want and decipher whether or not it was something we offered.

Several texts later, it became apparent that snow wasn’t necessary but fun winter photos were.

Communication is key with every client. If I don’t understand what they want, it’s far harder for me to decide whether a booking will work or not.

I went through winter photos the past eight years to find suitable similar pictures to text the client. From a mother/daughter photo shoot for Mothers Day with coordinating tiaras that we re shot at the wedding with the daughter a few years older to the little boy holding one of my lanterns from our Texas Twins Treasures Inventory, I came up with a few cute photo ideas and locations thinking the situation had been solved with my creative input. But, I jumped the gun.

The client wanted to know if we could photoshop a winter background onto the photos? Well, it’s something we don’t offer. We edit photos and since this client had actually won a contest with my niece that was specifically for family photos emailed to the client and free, these add on options were somewhat surprising to Leigh Ann.

No good deed goes unpunished. My saucy sister “came up with” one of her Cindyism Quotes based on a similar situation years ago. “Don’t ask me for an apple and expect me to bake you a pie.”

Limiting or reigning in what is wanted or expected regarding a free service is not only necessary but, also essential. Try calling someone else for a service or item you didn’t pay for and see how far you get.

What was the situation? I had a bride who needed a wedding dress. Since I often buy them to have on hand to loan Pawning Planners Clients, I took the wedding dress to her.

A few days later, she called me to pick it up and have it altered. I advised her that I don’t sew or alter clothing that I’m loaning to someone. Sure, I was stunned. 

But, I’m not spending money to alter an item that I PAID FOR and LOANED YOU or GIFTED YOU as a courtesy.

Last year, yet another incident had me rattled with a client who wanted to borrow my flowers BUT, wanted them in her colors.  

After explaining to “the Diva” that loaned floral inventory “is what it is,” she began texting me photos of what she wanted. 

I began texting her what it would cost and that I would require a deposit. This ended the “looking a gift horse in the mouth situation.”

I created an inventory to loan to clients at MY OWN EXPENSE. If you don’t want to borrow my inventory, GO BUY YOUR OWN. 

“if COMMON sense was COUNTED in COINS, some PEOPLE got SHORTCHANGED, without a PENNY in their POCKETS” God bless us all.

A few years ago, another bride had found that I sell christening gowns at Texas Twins Treasures and wanted to add a Baptism for her child at her wedding.

Looking back, I should’ve SOLD her the christening gown but, my generosity AGAIN bit me in the butt when I paid priority shipping and mailed her the gown at no cost.

A few days later, rather than thanking me, the bride wanted me to PAY to have a “free to her” christening gown altered. I cannot make this shit up! Seriously. I have met far too many Demanding Divas that didn’t wanted everything BUT didn’t want to pay for it. 

Enlightening and educating these Princesses became such a hassle that I now simply “cut em loose early” and let someone else deal with their drama. You can’t pay me enough to deal with an unreasonable person or client.

There have been so many times that I’ve had to let someone know that I’m not a Fairy Godmother or seamstress that it would stun you. The bride was advised to find someone who sews or pay for alterations.

If I’m GIVING you something- the last thing you should be doing is asking for more, more, more. After all, no one GAVE it to me. I bartered it or bought it. 

Throughout my life on more than one occasion, being the person I’ve never met often has others believing that I’m either stupid or a pushover. I’m neither.

I decided to “meet in the middle” regarding the December photo shoot and visit my storage room for winter props. Sending a few more photos and ideas, I also went on eBay to buy tiaras and Winter Wonderland themed items assuming that we could incorporate them into our holiday photo shoot bookings through January.

I knew my TDCJ Prison Brides would love tiaras at their photo shoots and saw the investment paying off in the long run. 

After all, every year, I add new bouquets, props and other items to my existing inventory to replace and refresh items we use in our traveling photo booth so, I felt that “bending rather than breaking” to accommodate the complimentary photo shoot would work.

I’m not a photographer but, I’ve been a commercial actress and print model as well as actress for over thirty years and know quite a bit about poses and backgrounds.

What I didn’t know about photoshop, my niece, Leigh Ann did. Apparently, it’s not only time consuming but also, rather expensive.

Let’s look at what traditional price points are for photography first and then go into why editing and/or prints incur addition fees:

How Much Do Photographers Charge?

Hobbyist: Free or (under $100).

Amateur: $25 – $75 per hour.

Student: $50-100 per hour / $25-100 per image.

Semi-Pro: $50–$150 per hour / $25-125 per image.

Professional: $75-$250 per hour / $75-$250 per image.

Top Professional: $200-$500+ per hour / $250-$1,500 per image.

Leigh Ann is a professional photographer and seasoned. The package she offered in her giveaway was for 5-7 photos emailed to the client and didn’t involve prints. It also didn’t involve photoshop or various other background options. Leigh Ann needs to be more specific on her target ads and giveaways.

Since I was already “caught in the middle,” by responding to the client, I had also suggested using the Stockyard area for photos approximately 45 minutes from Leigh Ann who had planned to use Holland Lake Park three minutes from her home.

My niece often creates Mini Session Specials. I had a talk with her about specifics after a recent booking a few months ago.

What? Why? Well, the client booked Leigh Ann at $75 for one hour. The client showed up twenty minutes late. This particular client was also pretty demanding.

The client didn’t pay $25 for a photo disc but, as a courtesy, Leigh Ann provided one anyway. The client then wanted Leigh Ann to email ALL photos to her after editing. The client was either too lazy or too cheap to go print photos from the disc.

The client was a DIVA. Showing up late to her photo shoot? Check. Asking for more than she paid for? Check. Not bothering to promote Leigh Ann for going above and beyond? Check.

I’m not going to name any names here but…if you are late, there’s a late fee in all of my contracts. The reason for this is that after years of waiting on clients and running to my next event, I decided that a contract and deposit were essential to getting paid.

For years, getting paid because I gave clients the option to “settle their balance” on the day of the event made my job far more difficult. I have changed things up. 

I now REQUIRE payment in FULL one week prior to the event date. Trying to get paid on the day of an event is a thing of the past for me.

If you are bartering through The Pawning Planners, the trade and contract take place 30 days prior to the event.

I suggested Leigh Ann prepare a contract that specifically details what clients can expect and what she expects of them. Contracts eliminate misconceptions.

I’m now preparing a contract for her to use for photography bookings from this point forward as well as giving her tips on travel fees and deposits.

March- June and September- January are our busiest months. Why? Texas weather. 

December is a very busy month for my entire staff and the client who had won the giveaway waited months after Mothers Day to book her “free session.”

I also advised Leigh Ann to put a time limit on giveaways from now on to prevent unexpected bookings during a busy window. 

I.E. If you have won a giveaway with Leigh Ann, you have two weeks to book or forfeit the session. Period. A second place winner will be drawn to replace the first place winner. 

Let’s get back to that “apple” and the tardy party client. She posted photos on FB but, failed to promote Leigh Ann after being late to her photo shoot and forcing Leigh Ann to email edited photos which took over an hour. No good deed goes unpunished. Leigh Ann was lit about this.

I advised Leigh Ann to start adding a logo to her photos if the client was demanding emailed photos in order to promote herself.

In order to limit the work and time involved that a few clients or divas don’t realize photography entails, Leigh Ann now puts a price on it.

My new additions to Texas Twins Treasures for impromptu photo shoots with clients from Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham are sure to provide some fun and memorable photos. I love the tiara idea for props!I created Texas Twins Events years ago to help people who couldn’t afford traditional vendors. My twin was my first team member. 

Did I expect four generations of my family to join us? No. But, we’ve expanded and rebranded over and over again. Why? We go above and beyond. Our clients are like family to us.

Cindy’s Quote for going above and beyond? “People are like yeast in bread- they rise to every opportunity!”

We became the people we had never met. By doing things for our clients that no other vendor would do, clients loved our hilarious personalities and props. Cindy has never met a stranger.

I’m also adding new bling bouquets, furs, and holiday decor. We are currently sold out of the emerald and ruby bling bouquets and won’t be restocking bling bouquets for sale at Texas Twins Treasures until February.

If you are interested in custom bling bouquets, please allow 6-8 weeks off season and 8-10 weeks in season for delivery. A deposit is required on any custom order.

Our traditional in stock items are either solid or multi color silk roses with brooch details.

From the grey multi to the pink multi or the sold red, purple, or other colors, it should be noted that full brooch bouquets are heavy. Be aware of this.

A full brooch bouquet can weigh 2-4 lbs while a rosette brooch bouquet weighs 1-2 lbs. 

My rear tire was flat for some reason and I never made it to the gym yesterday but, I did text my son who I haven’t heard from since the Thanksgiving ruckus over my niece, Stephaney joining us. I juggle work and family on an everyday basis.

I also scheduled the winter wonderland photo shoot for December and realized that giving Leigh Ann advice regarding clients needs, wants and the reality or cost of what they are wanting is a necessary conversation.

To resolve the photoshopping issue, I suggested the client using our photos and having them photoshopped elsewhere. This way everyone is happy and there isn’t any confusion in a few weeks regarding add-ons.

If one of my clients changes the contract- I now write a new one. My reasons for this are that add-on items aren’t free.

I offer a wide variety of complimentary items that no one else does and because of this, limit add on items for purchase but not for free.

A few years ago, I was hired to Officiate a wedding. This takes 1-2 hours on location and if there’s a rehearsal, 3. Months into the planning process, the bride added 2 photographers. I gave her the cost and added that printed photos incurred an additional fee. I never asked for a deposit because it was agreed we would be paid on the day of the event.

One week prior to the event, the mother of the bride wanted my Team on location for set up making the total amount of time at this event 8 hours. This was one of the biggest business mistakes I’ve ever made. First, I didn’t require a contract and deposit. Second, adding on additional staff and additional time on site dramatically increased the cost. My staff and I were never paid. I sued the client and won. Theft Of Services whether the original contract was in writing or oral, if you can prove you privided services and didn’t get paid, sue them. I do. 

But, I can also write up a lawsuit on a paper napkin. I’m more than a little “familiar” with court. In fact, I have handled myself Pro Se in Federal Court (suing an employer who fired me while on medical leave and then moved my original lawsuit to Federal Court). Assuming that I would never be able to amend my original petition was a mistake on their part and yes, I won for unlawful termination while under a medical absence. I don’t suffer fools lightly. This Kitty has Claws. I’m nice but I’m far from a pushover. If you steal from me, you will wish you hadn’t. 

There is a good reason I require a contract. Over and over again, I’ve trusted people to do the right thing and from bounced checks to no payment at all or broken promises, I’ve learned that as a business, you cannot pay your bills on broken promises.

Teaching my son, daughter in law, nieces and grandnieces this ahead of time will spare them the experiences that I’ve encountered.

I cannot stress the importance of a contract enough to anyone booking a vendor or the vendor themselves. If you can’t write your own contract, hire an attorney but, get a contract.

Getting my tires checked this morning while waiting at Discount Tires, it should be noted that all of my blogs are written from my iPhone in venue or prison parking lots or even when waiting on clients. Blogging is squeezed into my schedule and a diary of sorts for me.

While I’m dreading trying to get my entire family together for Christmas and hoping that this year they will attempt to get along with each other, my shopping list is being worked into my schedule as most things are.

Getting back to the gym will also be carefully scheduled in today as I leave my SUV and hop into Cindy’s SUV for a lift to Tarrant County Jail to meet my three clients this afternoon.

Jail Weddings are traditionally handled by my son or my niece as my father is currently in Waco and unavailable. 

However, my son is working for his father today and Leigh Ann is editing photos. Jail Weddings are remarkably different from Prison Weddings for a number of reasons. 

First, you are not required to be Approved by Texas Department Of Criminal Justice. 

Secondly, there are no photos available for purchase. Third, many inmates are waiting to be transported to a Texas Prison and want their status to be married going in.

State Jails ARE PRISONS. Because of this, only a TDCJ Approved Officiant (me) can Officiate the ceremony inside a Texas Prison.

My schedule at Texas Prisons is booked through January. Normally, I book only a month out at a time. However, numerous Lock Downs have moved my October and November TDCJ Clients to December and January.

Texas Prison Weddings take place Monday through Friday from 8AM-5PM. The reason for this is that most Unit Weddings take place in the visitation area which is in use on weekends.

If you are a “traditional booking,” your event is either on the weekend or evening which is how I successfully expanded my bookings to include TDCJ Weddings. The “fit” with my schedule was perfect.

Death Row Weddings do not take place in the visitation area. Please be aware of this. There is no contact at a Death Row Wedding.

Traditionally, Prison Weddings allow holding hands, appropriate kissing and hugs. Death Row Wedding Ceremonies do not allow contact.

Cindy and I look forward to meeting our prospective Pawning Planners Clients this week and appraising your items. We are also traveling to several units and mailing out Texas Twins Treasures sales items.

Pawning Planners Apparel featuring Cindy Daniel’s Cindyism Quotes are on a 7-10 day ship time. If you need another language, 14-21 days. We are thrilled with sales from Pawning Planners Apparel and appreciate your patronage. 

To choose your favorite Redneck Reality Quote, google #Cindyism or Pawning Planners Apparel. We are now out of stock on TDCJ Watch Caps and will restock in January. The caps are still available as are hoodies, light jackets and long sleeve tees.

I order these from a third party and don’t produce TDCJ items for sale in our inventory. Because of this, sizes and inventory vary.  If you have a particular size needed, please contact us and we will try to work with our suppliers to restock in plus sizes. We do not sell patches. Texas Prison Museum has a variety of patches available for purchase.
I never actually thought that TDCJ items would be best sellers. In fact, I was wearing a hat that had been given to me in Tennessee Colony when someone asked if they could buy it. Our TDCJ Inventory varies so please check back frequently for new items.

Cindy and I are looking forward to getting back on track and fit in our fifties although the gym isn’t exactly our favorite location.

Nipping this holiday weight gain in the bud early will keep us from going back to Boot Camp. Cindy and I aren’t afraid of hard work and elbow grease. We just don’t love the gym. It’s in and out for us and we clock it.

Cindy and I are also going to the photo shoot with Leigh Ann and packing our suvs with winter props to hopefully give the client what she wants while keeping the photo shoot fun.

I started the prop trend years ago because 1. I’m an experienced floral designer and 2. Pawning Planners Clients cannot afford to provide their own floral designs.

Did I expect that my inventory would grow over the years to include furniture, signs, seasonal items and more? No. But, our clients love photo booth items and we love to add new items.

Cindy and I never planned on selling brooch bouquets either but, one of our bouquets was such a hit that the orders started rolling in.

My twin and I look forward to seeing all of our new and previous clients on location in the coming months and hopefully my tire issue is minor but, it’s better to find out while in Fort Worth than in the boondocks headed to a Texas Prison…