When Something Is So Shocking It Reminds You Of A Lifetime Movie…

Last night Cindy called me and Leigh Ann after opening a life insurance policy in Maryssa’s name with the beneficiary being her boyfriend of less than 2 months. The policy amount was half a million dollars. We were immediately on Red Alert about this shocking development.

Maryssa’s mom, Stephaney has battled addiction for 18 years but 4.5 months ago finally came to my patio to seek help. She’s been sober 4 months. My twin sister (her mother) and I put her in detox then moved her to Volunteers of America (an organization I cannot say enough good things about) for 90 days before transitioning to an Oxford House at the tip of Westover Hills near my home.

Cindy and I helped Stephaney get a car due to the expense of Uber or Lyft. Steph had found a 2007 Mitsubishi Eclipse for $3500 but it’s had a few issues. The guy who sold it to Steph has fixed 3 things so far and not charged her anything to do so. Cindy and I were pretty sure “this guy likes Steph.” We were right because he finally asked her to dinner this past week.

Steph is struggling because one of the twins, Makenna still isn’t speaking to Stephaney after her entire lifetime of 18 years waiting for Stephaney to get it together. Makenna had hope for years but five years ago, Stephaney was still on paper (probation) in Cotton County, Oklahoma and sober due to mandatory drug testing. It would be the first time in the twins lives their mother was sober for 3.5 years. The day after mandatory testing was removed, Stephaney was back on drugs and Makenna was so devastated by this decision that she took all of her anxiety meds while Cindy was with me and clients at TDCJ Robertson Unit then sent a group text to Cindy and I. We barely saved Makenna she was hospitalized for 3 months then moved to Mesa Springs for suicidal ideation. Makenna may never trust Stephaney again to be a part of her life and it’s something neither Cindy, I or Stephaney can control.

Many of our social media connections and a few of my clients are recovering addicts who have families that “practiced” tough love. They still have no connection to their own families even though they are sober. Cindy and I have fought for 18 years to get Stephaney stable. 18 years of “looking normal” in front of our clients and the rest of our families. It’s taken a toll on both of us financially and emotionally. 24 rehabs at great financial expense since Stephaney after having the twins at 16 years old has never had health insurance and 31 involuntary commitments due to meth induced psychosis. It’s raw Hell loving an addict. Unless you’ve been through it you will never understand. Only someone who has loved an addict would. Steph has overdosed 4 times. Cindy and I have “gotten the call” 4 times.

I once had a production assistant tell me “Wendy we can’t let the networks know you have any problems.” I laughed at this ludicrous statement since 1. My blogs are diaries of my life and businesses and 2. Everyone has problems and 3. No one doesn’t have any problems. She was young and dumb in her 20’s assuming everyone lived a problem free life. What a fantasy.

My life has never been “problem free.” Cindys hasn’t either. There’s a reason we a “different.” The reason is where we came from. Our mother was a heroin addict who eventually sold all 4 of her children for $50 each. But it would be years prior to this sale of Sharon Hill neglecting Wendy, Cindy, Tammy & Jerry due to her addiction of losing or forgetting us in parks, padlocked closets and locked car trunks before she finally sold us to our grandfather, a Pedophile. “Bought and paid for” is a term he used to refer to my sisters and I until Tammy was saved by adoption from our mothers mother as she was a stepsister and not a child of our father at 10 years old. Cindy and I were 6. Jerry was 2. Our grandfather recorded this “sale.” Cindy found the tape when we were liquidating a storage unit she had been paying for at our fathers request after his death. The tape was in the storage Unit dated May 1971 with only Wendy, Cindy & Tammy’s name on it. The reason? We were the only ones forced to listen to the tape. We were the victims of a predator who reminded all 3 of us that we were barely worth $50 by playing that tape throughout our childhoods. Problem free? What an idiotic statement and belief. My life has never been problem free nor has Cindys or Jerry’s. We were the children no one wanted or cared about.

My contempt for family members who wouldn’t help us became rage so all consuming I stopped speaking for many years. No one would listen. Cindy spoke for me. A number of things led up to my decision not to speak so I will elaborate. First Tammy disappeared. Asking where she was resulted in a beating. Secondly since Tammy was our primary caretaker, Miss Dorothy was hired. A woman we were initially terrified of because she looked like a witch. Wild and long jet black hair so dark it was shocking. Equally long red fingernails. Sunken cheeks with cheekbones so strong her face was dramatically enhanced. Odd clothing we hadn’t seen before with flowing and layered skirts similar to Stevie Nicks. Ironically it would be Miss Dorothy who became the only positive influence in our young lives. She was loving, dedicated and cared about us. In fact, she cared so much that she was going to tell what was going on and told our dad which was why she was immediately fired and we never saw her again. Our father moved in one of his cousins, an angry drunk, Vern. We knew to be wary of his angry outbursts and stay away from him but I would earlier than Jerry and Cindy one morning in the kitchen. I was ironing my fathers clothes. We were maids at a very young age. Vern had hollered “get off your ass and make me some coffee.” I did and not knowing it would burn the counter, set the coffee pot on the Formica counter accidentally burning a circle on the counter. Vern punched me with such force that I was knocked into the wall which brought my father into the kitchen asking “what did that dumb ass do this time?” Vern pointed at the counter. Our father regularly beat us with a razor strap, his fists or whatever was handy. Our grandmother used a purple hairbrush. Now Vern like everyone else could do whatever he wanted too. We had no escape from the Hell we were locked into as children.

School was no better. Cindy and I walked miles to and from school. We were regularly beaten up on our travels by a group of hoodlums. It would be 5th grade when the decision to “fight back” occurred to Cindy. She explained why to me. “We are beaten up and assaulted by everyone around us at home. If we don’t defend ourselves at school we will never get away from this. We are worth defending.” She was right and her reasoning would be how we finally stopped getting beat up. In 6th grade since we were immediately separated upon entering school it wouldn’t be Cindy but instead Wendy on my way to Special Ed since I still refused to speak who was cornered. “You’re so ugly your own mother left you.” I picked her up and threw her into a brick wall not knowing how much rage I actually had in me. I was suspended but didn’t care. The rock throwing that resulted in a scar under my right eye after one student put broken glass in the dirt clog stopped. Everyday Cindy and I ran from bullies either beating us or throwing rocks. Throwing Vickie stopped all of that.

It would be at the end of 6th grade our father up and moved us to Oklahoma City. Our mothers mother was trying to get custody of Cindy, Jerry & I. We wouldn’t know this for many many years. Our aunt Mildred & uncle Bob lived in Oklahoma. The only meals we had there were free lunches ar school. I found the first teacher in my life who helped me overcome my traumatic stutter and finally speak again too. This same teacher would also save me when at school I began my menstrual cycle early not knowing what was wrong with me but believing God was punishing me due to the years of abuse at the hands of our grandfather while no one did anything to stop it. Not other relatives. Not neighbors. Not teachers. No one except Miss Dorothy had ever tried to intervene.

For a year in an Oklahoma trailer park our miserable lives became more miserable. Aunt Mildred didn’t like children. Uncle Bob saw “free labor.” We swept his chemical plant. We cleaned their house. We were helpless pawns. Our dad went out drinking and came home angry most nights. We had learned to hide as much as we could and stay out of the way. He worked for uncle Bob. There were 2 brothers that spit on me and Cindy or pushed us waiting on the bus in Oklahoma. We had never rode a bus and thought it would be fun. It wasn’t. One day one of them went after our baby brother, Jerry. It would never happen again. Cindy and I beat the daylight out of the two trailer park thugs that had terrorized everyone else forced to ride the bus. We were learning that fighting back was the only option we had.

Melissa went to school with us and rode the bus. One day in 7th grade she came to our trailer. We weren’t ever allowed to have friends in our home or go to other peoples homes either. She wanted a match but our father measured and marked everything and would beat the daylights out of us if he found we had consumed or used anything without asking. We couldn’t give her a pack of matches out of fear. She left and within minutes shot herself beside her trailer. I’ve always blamed myself for not giving her those matches. We never knew why she did it. I ran to her trailer and saw the carnage ahead of Cindy. We both stopped Jerry to keep him from it. The entire school was given the day off. It was the first funeral of someone we had ever attended. If not for Cindy and Jerry I might’ve been Melissa. I might’ve chosen an easy way out of our hellish lives but I had Cindy and Jerry to think about I had siblings to protect the same way Tammy had protected us before grandma Tinney adopted her at 10. Without realizing it back then I became the fixer. The protector. The kid who whatever happened lied and said “I did it” or “it was my fault” to spare my siblings a beating. I also hated my father. This rate would grow over the years to come only more fierce and consuming throughout the rest of my life. But I never considered following Melissa’s lead I had Cindy and Jerry to think about leaving alone and defenseless.

Grandma and grandpa showed up in Oklahoma to move us to Texas. We had been quite nearly starved after a summer of no school and no food. Nothing had changed after a year away from grandpa he immediately cornered Cindy and I loading our meager belongings and said “did you miss me?” We were miserable malnutritioned and helpless. No one would help us. No one would ever help us. Only surviving and escaping our family we would but we were still to young to pull it off.

Cindy and I stopped asking about Tammy in Oklahoma. We had suffered many beatings by asking or even mentioning her name. It was while being moved from OK to TX I decided to one day find my sister and our mother to confront her. This would take years to accomplish but I was hellbent to do it.

Texas was equally miserable. Back in school at Castleberry I was beaten up on our first day. I only had one pair of pants as did Cindy. We both cut up a flag to add length by whipstitching the flag onto the hem of our pants. Debbie cornered me in the bathroom. Cindy was by far more adept to these encounters than I was so I did the same thing I did at home. Nothing. I had taken many beatings over Vickie back in Lompoc. I didn’t want another beating when I got home from defending myself. Debbie and her sidekicks regularly cornered me coming out of Special Ed. It was miserable I knew I would get beaten up everyday and dreaded it. One day my father noticed a black eye and told me “if you keep coming home getting your ass whipped at school I’m gonna whip it again.” The next day I beat the living shit out of Debbie with my books. She never bothered me again. Survival was difficult and arduous. It was hell. Monthly I was beaten for having a period and “posing a financial hardship on our family.” Cindy wouldn’t start until years after me. I’m guessing I had precocious puberty but it was never diagnosed. We never went to a regular doctor or dentist. We were too poor for medical care. Maryssa was diagnosed with precocious puberty at 5 years old.

Cindy and I ran away from home at 15. We had called 911. My dad was beating me because I was pregnant. No one in our family wanted me to have that baby. No one. We couldn’t take Jerry with us. We had nowhere to run and no one to run to. The next years of our lives would be survival and without the “family” who had never cared about us or protected us. My greatest regret is and will always be having to leave Jerry behind. In that Hellish House.

It was imperative for Cindy and I to become the mothers we never had. The people we never met. We made a pact at 16 living in a shelter together. We’ve kept that pact. We must now protect Maryssa who trusts a boyfriend who has taken out a policy on her life. She’s quite literally worth more dead to him than alive. Monday we call the insurance company…

Why I Don’t Respond To Shade That Comes From Trees That Don’t Bear Fruit…

We live in an opinionated society but do the opinions of others really have a direct bearing on your life or mine? Probably not. You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

I choose to ignore “Negative Nancy’s” on a regular basis because their opinions have no impact on my life or my clients. A handful of these haters are my own family members. Don’t be shocked. I’m not. After years of defending my client base at family gatherings I finally decided to cut these toxic people from my life and I’m happier for it.

The holidays are right around the corner. Do I care that I won’t be visiting family members who bring me stress and anxiety? Nope. I’m going to save money this Christmas.

I’m also going to focus on people who matter in my family which gives me a far smaller circle.

Years ago, my aunt started an argument with me regarding officiating LBGT weddings at a holiday get together. Being attacked in front of other family members regarding my belief that love is love angered me. Who was she to “butt in” on my business or my clients? What possessed her to use an opportunity where stress is at an all time high to “tell me what she thinks?”

Good Lord, after all of the money I’ve spent on gifts year after year on my family members without so much as a thank you, I’m out on asking my brother or his wife “if they received my gifts or the money I sent through PayPal?” Is it really that hard to acknowledge someone who went out of their way to send you something every year when you’ve never sent even a birthday card or much less a thank you card?

The truth is that my clients have replaced my ungrateful and opinionated family members.

Yesterday, my twin sister, Cindy told me that while talking to our sister in law, Michelle suggested sending her son to live with Cindy. What the? How convenient to assume that my sister who has been raising her twin granddaughters for 16 years would want another responsibility under her roof? Our brothers son has never had any degree of a relationship with us. He’s an adult and nearly 30 years old. Trying to push her son onto Cindy didn’t play out the way Michelle thought it would.

Years ago, our father and his sister “dumped” their mother onto my twin sister by shirking their responsibility and moving grandma into Cindy’s house for eighteen years. Eighteen years of grandma taking two rooms of Cindy’s home. Not paying any rent. Taking control of the television. Complaining if Cindy went somewhere with me. Manipulative and controlling grandma made Cindy’s life a living hell for 18 years until Cindy finally kicked her out. FINALLY.

Our dad and our aunt were angry for years that Cindy gave grandma the boot. Neither of them were angry enough to open THEIR home for their mother though. They both “had their own lives.” Even after Cindy found an apartment for grandma near her house and for the five years grandma lived after being moved from Cindy’s house my sister was still expected to drive grandma to doctor appointments 2-3 days a week, grocery shop for her and go over to visit while dragging them twins along. Cindy became a prisoner of responsibility that wasn’t hers while raising her twin granddaughters. Our dad didn’t care. Our aunt didn’t care.

After my grandmother died, our father tried to move into Cindy’s house. She had learned to say no by then and did. He then tried to move in with me. I let him have a piece of my mind. “We were homeless at 15. We were eating out of trash cans when the police found us and took us to a shelter. Our first apartment we couldn’t even afford electricity. No one in our entire lives has done anything to help us. Ever. I don’t owe you anything. Cindy doesn’t owe you anything. Our children have had no relationship with you or aunt Shirley. Our grandchildren have had no relationship with you or aunt Shirley. We have raised our children and grandchildren without any involvement from you or our mother. Never a birthday card for us or our children or grandchildren. Never a Christmas gift for us or our children or our grandchildren. The only time we hear from you people is when someone wants something from us. My brother never calls or even bothers to thank us for money and gifts we send to him. We are literally invisible to this family unless someone wants or needs something. This family took advantage of Cindy by dumping grandma on her. She didn’t owe grandma anything. Like the rest of you, grandma never helped us. Never acknowledged our birthday or Christmas either. For our entire lives we have been doing things for this family while this family never once stepped up to help us while raising our children between divorces alone with only each other to depend on. Don’t even try to tell me I owe you. I don’t owe you anything.” I meant it. My dad would NEVER live with Cindy or me. EVER.

Our dad wound up living with our brother and now our brothers wife wants to dump her problem son on my sister? I was outraged that she even suggested this idea. Cindy had heart surgery last November. Cindy is raising her granddaughters. Cindy has her hands full already.

It’s not our fault that our father is living with our brother. You don’t owe parents caring for them in their old age when they never took care of you. Period. Cut Em loose.

Our mother was a heroin addict. She never sent a birthday card or a Christmas card either. We never had birthday parties other than the one disastrous birthday party when Cindy and I were 6 years old. Left alone with our grandfather, we were both sexually assaulted. Our grandmother was angry when she came to pick us up that we were crying. So angry that she told us “you are ungrateful and you will never have another birthday party.” We didn’t. For the next 9 years the abuse continued. No one in our family stopped it. Not our father. Not our aunt. Not our grandmother. No one. We ran away from home at 15 and never looked back.

The fact that Cindy had to take care of a grandmother who never took care of us for 18 years is and always will be so preposterous that my anger as well as hers is still with us today.

My son and his wife moved in with me when their house caught on fire several years ago. This lasted 3 months. At the end of those three months, I told him it was time to leave. A few years later, between homes again, my son wanted to move in with my husband and I a second time. I declined. Why? My son had moved his wife’s cousin and his wife’s cousins son in with them as well as four dogs. I wasn’t about to move four people and four dogs into my home indefinitely. They moved in with my daughter in laws father instead while their house was being built. Was my son angry about this? Most likely but, I work 7 days a week as does my husband and our home is our sanctuary. You don’t owe anyone the luxury of moving into your home at your expense.

Cindy and I have a friend, Britney. Britney threatened to divorce Eddie when Eddie’s mother became too old to care for herself. Eddie was an only child. Eddie put his mother in a nursing home where she died several months later. Eddie went to see her on weekends. Britney was given her suv to take her to doctor appointments and visit. Britney never did. She took the car and neglected to go visit or run Eddie’s mother to doctor appointments. Eddie’s mother died waiting for a visit with her grandchildren and Britney.

You need to choose your battles. There will always be someone somewhere “throwing shade.” To hell with them. If they bring nothing to your life other than misery, they don’t belong in your life. Cut them out of your life and keep them out of your head.

The holidays are a stressful time and while federal facilities have reinstated visitation, TDCJ has yet to reinstate visitation. Abbott says he’s going to reopen Texas but when? As we continue to wait for visitation, the anxiety, stress and depression of not being able to visit loved one’s continues.

Last week I was back at Walls Unit marrying clients I couldn’t marry while the inmate was in TDCJ. I will continue to meet any client who is paroling and get you married. Keep me updated on your loved ones status and if they are chained to another facility let me know so I can update our records.

Focus on the people that really matter. If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic it’s what’s really important to us and what isn’t.

I hope to see all of you very soon and please don’t worry about me going to Fort Worth FMC. Every precaution is being taken to ensure that Cindy and I are healthy and ready to meet you at your prison weddings…

“Is The Nightmare Really Black Or Are The Windows Painted?” Elton John

For two months now I’ve waited and hoped for good news while praying that this virus would leave as quickly as it came. I’m not alone. The news is so depressing these days.

From anxiety to depression Covid-19 has set the world on edge. For inmates the fear of dying is valid. For loved ones of inmates worry and concern go hand in hand.

There isn’t any good news these days. Gloom and Doom fill the internet, news and media.

Finding hope amidst hopelessness is no easy task. In fact it’s similar to searching for a needle in a haystack.

My hometown of Lompoc, California is saturated with Covid cases. The COVID-19 time bomb ticking inside the Lompoc prison complex since late March detonated in dramatic fashion this week as the federal facility confirmed 912 open cases among inmates and 25 cases among staff. The outbreak remains the largest in any federal prison in the United States.

The rest of Santa Barbara County has reported 475 total positive cases.

My sister, Tammy called me alarmed, worried and concerned about filing for unemployment. It’s something neither I or my sisters have ever done before.

Tammy has worked at an upscale restaurant in Buelton since she was 19 years old. Everyone in our family learned the value of working at a very young age. We didn’t have anyone to “fall back on.” Instead we had each other and strong work ethics.

There are three things that I remember most about Lompoc every time I roll into town, the prison, the base and the flowers. Lompoc is known as the valley of the flowers. Tammy never left Lompoc.

Many of our relatives stayed in Lompoc but Cindy and I had no real choice about leaving. Our mothers mother adopted Tammy.

Our father loaded up Cindy, Jerry and I and left our hometown and everything familiar to us behind.

I thrive on structure and predictability. My reasons are based entirely on my childhood. Nothing was predictable. Bounced from relative to relative my siblings and I were often unaware of where we would be from one day to the next.

Cindy has stayed in the same house for nearly twenty five years so her daughters and granddaughters could attend the same schools. Structure is important to her too.

My son attended private school so moving wouldn’t change his structure. I drove him thirty minutes to an hour away until he was able and old enough to drive himself.

I wanted my son to go to school with the same friends. Predictability and structure during his school years were very important to me. Being the mother I didn’t have was never easy or inexpensive but worth my effort and attention.

I wanted predictability for my child I had never had for myself. Cindy and I both shared the same importance of stability for our children that we had never had as children ourselves.

Cindy and I broke the chains of our broken childhood. We changed the outcome for our own children and grandchildren. We gave them the childhood we would have wanted for ourselves. It was entirely a joint decision.

Cindy and I have both raised our children and grandchildren together.

Mothers Day is always a hardship for me. It’s a day of gloom and doom even in the best of times. I can never understand why our mother made the decisions she did.

Further I cannot under any circumstances send a sappy card about what a wonderful mother she was. None of my mothers children can. We struggle through every Mother’s Day fighting to remain positive. Pretending we have a normal family. Knowing we don’t. We never have. We never will.

Our mother broke our family. She exposed all three of her daughters to predators. Addicts and “friends” of hers who took advantage of her children often right in front of her. We had no one to protect us. We had no one who cared enough to step up or step in.

My depression each and every Mother’s Day occasionally takes me several days to put away.

Posts from happy families celebrating their mother. Internet “tips” for making this Mother’s Day perfect for your mother. The best way to treat your mother to a wonderful holiday based entirely on the sacrifices she made for her children. Ugh.

Cindy and I switched up this Mother’s Day ooh la la stuff when our children were old enough to realize we prefer to treat it like any other day and treat our kids to lunch and a movie or a trip to the casino. Our older kids are in their 30’s.

Cindy’s twin grand daughters often buy gifts for her and I while shopping with my husband or their Papa. They don’t understand why Mother’s Day is a dark day for us.

The twins don’t know why their MiMi’s dread the yearly phone call to our mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day while secretly wondering why we continue to keep up this “faux celebration” of a day that reminds us over and over again that we never had a real mother. We never will.

Monday while scrolling FB and waiting on the police to report my fathers truck stolen, I saw a post from Naquitia about Mother’s Day that grabbed my attention. She was hurt that her children hadn’t bothered to do anything for Mother’s Day. I was relieved my son hadn’t. Why rub it in? The day of the year that kicks off my yearly reminder of having absent parents is Mother’s Day.

Don’t even get me started on Father’s Day. Ugh from the frying pan straight over to the fire. Tit for tat. “You wouldn’t be where you are without me.” Really? I’m where I am because I learned that in order to keep from starving I would need to work my ass off. I don’t “owe” anybody. I’m well off and live comfortably. I don’t have to work. No one gave me financial security. I earned it.

By the time I slap myself together enough to put Mother’s Day behind me it’s Father’s Day. You get the point.

Anyway, I’ve been driving by my dads house for two years. What am I looking for? Broken windows. Signs of an intruder. The usual. I had driven past when I noticed his truck was missing. Ugh. Now I had to have a conversation with my dad BEFORE Father’s Day to “update him that the truck was missing.”

My father and I have a very strained relationship. My father never forgave me for hiring an investigator to locate my mother in my 20’s.

In fact most of my fathers side of the family and even my brother were angered about it.

I wanted answers. I really wanted an apology. I got neither. The same day my mother met me in exchange for $1500 she was in a debilitating car accident that she would never recover from.

I was so shocked by my meeting with her that I lost the opportunity to tell her what a shit she was. Why couldn’t she lie and say she was sorry or that she wondered what had happened to us? Why couldn’t I express my anger? I was dumb struck at her cold responses while she counted my money.

I would never have the opportunity to “say what I really think” to my mother. She has no memory of what she put her four children through. I believe she knows more than she lets on but challenging this fact would upset my sisters and our already fragile faux normal family. I zip it instead.

My sisters and I pretend normality around our mother. It’s strained, awkward and always emotionally debilitating.

My friend and prison bride, Naquitia had written on her FB wall “my kids don’t even know what day this is.”

I was immediately struck by her post for a few reasons. First, her kids should know what day it is the older ones at least and second I was busy trying to forget Mother’s Day.

I commented on the post and advised her that Cindy and I try to forget Mother’s Day every year.

Her response touched me though. “If I had a husband at home, he would be taking these kids to buy me gifts and teaching them to celebrate me.”

It’s something I had never really put much thought into but she was right. My prison clients in numerous states are often alone on Mother’s Day. Those who aren’t are often forgotten by their children.

Another prison bride sent me a message on FB that read “my son isn’t talking to me it’s been six months. What can I do? My heart is broken.” Karen like many mothers would like to mend this rift but her son doesn’t approve of her plans to marry an inmate. I suggested sending her son a card or letter expressing her love for him while acknowledging that she must make her own decisions when it comes to choosing a life partner.

I have no idea how this will turn out for Karen but I firmly believe in the power of communicating your feelings unless of course you are me and my sisters. We communicate our feelings to each other and skip our parents.

When Cindy’s husband was home and Leigh Ann and Stephaney we’re younger, Steve took them shopping for Cindy to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When my son was still living at home, Matthew not only took him to shop for a Mother’s Day gift but even got a card from my dog, Foxy lord rest his soul. I’ve missed Foxy so much during this pandemic. He would have loved having me home.

I decided to send Naquitia some fabric. She’s an excellent seamstress and I knew she would enjoy some of our LV fabric to make masks. She did. She also sent me a photo wearing the mask she had used my material to create.

Naquitia is a good friend. All of my clients are. They are amazing, resilient and sadly, alone. Separated from their loved ones by prison walls. Sending the fabric to Naquitia, I decided to send a few of our custom masks to a few of my prison clients who had messaged me regarding being miserable on Mother’s Day themselves. Better late than never. If their kids wouldn’t celebrate them I would.

The inability to visit their loved ones along with the worry that their loved ones will become sick with Covid spreading through the prison system keeps fear and hopelessness at an all time high.

My clients have resilience, strength, patience and perseverance. They have also taught me to focus on other mothers on Mother’s Day rather than my own. It’s taken me 55 years to get past hating Mother’s Day but my clients have.

The police finally arrived at my dads house to take the stolen truck report and logged off FB to begin going over the details.

Google images showed that the truck had been parked exactly where I had last seen it and tread marks appear to have been from a trailer hauling it off.

The truck had sat there for five years. Flat tires and all. Who would steal it?

Someone was unaware that I regularly drive by and would notice it was missing.

Three months ago my sister and I hired a tow truck to move my dads other car a Mitsubishi Galant to her home until we could find an international carrier to move it to our brothers home in Monroe, North Carolina. It’s expensive to move vehicles ya all.

The policeman needed my dads date of birth. Ugh. I have no idea of my dads date of birth. I called my sister in law, Michelle who knew it.

I have no idea what my mothers birthday is either. I know my parents were both 21 when Cindy and I were born. We’ve never celebrated our parents birthdays. They’ve never celebrated ours.

I’ve never had a birthday gift from anyone in my family in my entire life. Cindy hasn’t either. For many years after locating my mother that fateful day in California and wishing I hadn’t, the benefit of meeting my mothers mother who never forgot my birthday or Christmas and even my sons birthday was the sheer delight of finding a greeting card in my mailbox.

When the cards stopped coming I knew that grandma Tinney had passed on. No birthday card in November no Christmas card in December. I called Lompoc and confirmed that grandma Tinney was gone.

The only person in my entire life who bothered to send a birthday and Christmas card every year to not only me but also my sister Cindy and her daughters. You remember things that you never had. You are thankful for them too.

Father’s Day is right around the corner. There are 3 days I intentionally overlook every year. My birthday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’ve decided to start focusing on others instead. It’s a good place to start.

My clients are the family I never had but was gifted with instead. They bring me joy. They call to check on me during this pandemic. They are amazing.

While I continue to hope and pray this virus finally leaves the prison system and the former structure of my life can be restored, I’m hopeful that Father’s Day this year will be different for me. My son is a new father. I’m a new grandmother. I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I will focus on moving beyond my anxiety of going down the card aisle with others buying sappy cards for their parents and buy a sappy card for my son and his wife or my clients.

I will work on accepting that not having parents in my life made me a better person. A kinder person. A compassionate person. The things in my life I didn’t have never defined me. I became the person I wanted to meet. The mother I never had. The father my son needed. I was capable of far more.

You don’t need parents in your life to be a good parent. You need patience, love and understanding…

Baylor NICU To Garza East, Allred & Roach Units. Driving To My Clients And Away From My Family Isn’t Always Easy…

Last Saturday my first grandson was born three weeks early. Our unexpected joy would become worry within 24 hours though.

Baby Oliver Glenn was having oxygen saturation issues within 24 hours of birth as well as low blood sugar and was subsequently moved to NICU.

Of course my son and his wife were devastated to learn Ollie had breathing and blood sugar issues but, my son and his wife were anxious regarding moving Oliver to NICU and away from Stephanie’s hospital room.

Cindy and I jumped right in to voice all of the reasons why NICU was the best place for Ollie.

How do we know so much about NICU? Cindy’s twin granddaughters Maryssa and Makenna spent months in NICU.

Cindy and my niece Leigh Ann also took turns sleeping in their cars in the parking garage. They both literally “lived at Cook’s NICU.”

For months during that window, I delivered food and clean clothing to Leigh Ann and Cindy before and after going to work everyday.

Having a child or twins in NICU is stressful to parents and guardians. You walk around in a daze. You are sleep deprived. You are worried. You feel helpless.

My daughter in law Stephanie was discharged from Baylor Monday night.

Leaving Ollie behind at Baylor was beyond heartbreaking.

My son felt helpless to calm his wife or fix his son. Robbie was caught in the middle.

Stephanie had decided they would sleep in their cars too. I was concerned about this idea. She had just had a baby. Leaving a hospital bed to sleep in your car isn’t a healthy option. I was strongly opposed to this idea.

To solve the issue of being near NICU, I located the same hotel that Ella a reporter who interviewed and traveled with Cindy and I had stayed near my home in August. I then booked a room for my son and his wife within 9 minutes from the NICU.

I was awake and returning calls at 6AM Tuesday. Driving 5.5 hours to Beeville to meet my bride on Tuesday morning, I had assumed that everything “back home” had calmed down. Why? Robbie and Steph would have a place to sleep far more comfortable than her Jeep and still be close enough to run to NICU every three hours to breastfeed. Cindy and the twins were doing well and had finished painting Maryssa’s room. Cindy is always remodeling. ALWAYS. Leigh Ann and Maddy were looking forward to flying to Texas in two weeks and my only worry was baby Ollie becoming strong enough to breathe and eat at the same time. But… I had more to worry about coming my way. Things I couldn’t foresee. Things no one saw coming.

Arriving at the Beeville Clerks Office I waited for my bride and the grooms mom to arrive. As they rolled into the parking area beside me, I got off a call with a client flying in from Washington. My phone never stops ringing.

Viewing the courthouse area, I had a few areas that I wanted to use for bridal photos and we had at least 30 minutes before we were due on site at Garza East.

I began unloading furs, an umbrella, tiaras and several bouquets before finding the right areas and lighting for photos.

I always bring at least 8 bouquets, 4 furs, numerous signs and 10 tiaras as well as fascinators and fun items for photo shoots.

Leaving the courthouse, my bride and the grooms mother follow me to the Unit while I quickly check in with my son and his wife as well as Cindy.

The Garza East wedding is at 4:30PM. I will be driving home in the rain and the dark 5.5 hours.

It was a long day but beautiful wedding with a cute couple thrilled to finally be marrying.

The grooms mother cried when she saw my bride and I walking out of the Unit after the wedding towards the razor wire decorated gates by the guard shack.

The grooms mother was happy looking through the Unit wedding photos that I had bought. So happy that she cried and hugged her new daughter in law.

I always buy 3 Unit photos if they are offered as a courtesy to my clients.

Driving back to Fort Worth and knowing I had another long day Wednesday, my back is stiff from the drive in pouring rain. I’m relieved to get home by 11PM. Matthew has waited up for me and I’m immediately ready for bed. No dinner. No snacks just sleep. I’ve had so little sleep this week running to and from the hospital when not driving, meeting clients, helping Cindy remodel and filing licenses that I’m literally on auto pilot.

Wednesday morning while in my bathroom throwing on my makeup and preparing to head to meet my first client in Wichita Falls, my phone rang. It was Maryssa. She was hysterical. Her twin sister had taken a handful of Xanax that she had I found in Cindy’s purse “because she can’t keep up with her AP classes and if she can’t make 100’s she doesn’t deserve to live.”

Horrified and knowing I couldn’t be there to support my twin sister or my twin grandnieces, I have Maryssa call 911 and get an ambulance.

My sister nearly needed an ambulance herself. Cindy has heart problems. She had heart surgery just a few months ago. The shock, the anger and the fear another attempted suicide with Makenna brought to her home yesterday quite nearly caused another heart attack for my sister.

I was sick about Makenna and her inability to tell us to change her classes. I was saddened that once again my beautiful niece had become so upset about school that she believed her only way out was to swallow pills.

I’m fearful. Agitated. Confused. Angry. I don’t know why anything like this could happen in our family twice in the past year. Why? Why? Why?

Makenna is under medical supervision at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. Baby Oliver is five minutes away.

My families hospital Merry Go Round continues in Fort Worth.

Meanwhile I’m loading up to head to meet two brides at two Units two hours apart. I have a tight day. Two hours to Allred then two hours to Roach. Four hours from home and my family members.

I’m crying driving from 30 to 35 headed to Wichita Falls. I’m crying because we haven’t fixed Makenna with counseling or medication.

I’m crying because I feel helpless. I’m crying because my twin sister and her weak heart are breaking.

I’m crying because for the second time in 8.5 months, Makenna has attempted suicide and twice Maryssa has found her twin sister incoherent and called 911 and literally saved her life.

I’m crying because I am driving away from everyone who needs me to keep them calm being left on their own.

I have no choice. I have responsibilities that require me to be elsewhere.

Arriving in Wichita Falls, I call my bride. She is still at her hotel. Her shower wasn’t working properly. I meet her there and attempt to curl her hair. I’m all business now watching the clock.

I know exactly what time I’m due at Allred and what time I must leave. My bride is running late. We were due at Allred at 11:30 to check in. It’s going to be 12. I know it and yet there’s nothing I can do to change it. It’s her wedding day. I want her to feel beautiful. I want her happy.

I call the Chaplain and advise him of our delay. At 11:36AM, my bride and her family load up to follow me to Allred.

My usual spot for photos is taken by a man selling yard art. I make a left rather than turn right towards the Unit and pull into a gas station.

My bride and her family follow me. I see a wall that will work as a backdrop and begin quickly unloading inventory for the photo shoot.

A quick ten minute photo shoot behind a gas station and I’m loading up to drive to the Unit with my new friends behind me.

Cindy’s sending a text “they pumped her stomach she should be okay. What can we do? I don’t want to go through this again. We need a new psychiatrist. He just changed her prescriptions last week. I think those medications are causing suicidal thoughts.” Cindy is horrified. Terrified. Guilt ridden of being unaware that Makenna was so unhappy that she was searching for a way to end her life AGAIN.

My voice text reply as I roll onto the lot at Allred was “ask them to ask her if these suicidal ideation thoughts started after changing her medication last week. It’s critical we find out how and why this has happened twice. Make a list. Ask questions I can’t be there to ask for you ask for me.”

I’m crying again. I take a minute to compose myself. I’m due at Roach Unit at 2PM 106 miles from Allred. My client and I are 30 minutes later than I had planned.

Getting out of my suv in the Allred parking lot, I take a deep breath and “I’m on.”

My husband calls this my showgirl face. Business. All business. Leaving my many “cares behind,” I walk towards my bride and we enter together.

Screening in, I advise the duty guard that Chaplain Redwine is expecting us for a wedding.

We wait as we redress. I put my belt and shoes back on. I check my watch. 12:06PM.

I worry about Cindy, Ollie, Makenna, Maryssa, my son and his wife. No one sees my fear, my worry, my anxiety about my family.

I am a great actress. I hide my pain, my fear and my anxiety from others. My clients count on me to be organized and articulate and I am.

I also compartmentalize what I cannot deal with when I cannot deal with it and I’m really good at it. Throughout my entire life, I’ve had to turn my back to the choir and focus on the congregation. From family to business I wear many hats.

Years ago, a psychiatrist who studied me asked me how I was able to “put away” things I couldn’t deal with. The truth is that I learned this technique at a very young age. Cindy and I as well as our sister were victims of sexual assault for years. The predator was a family member. I learned to act normal because I had to. I was 6 years old. I also stopped speaking for many years. Cindy spoke for me. I developed a stutter after that first assault that would haunt me many years.

For the people who “don’t believe inmates should have the right to marry” that consistently contact me to voice their opinions, I want to point out that the person who hurt me and my sisters as well as others was never prosecuted. That’s right I said never. So while you have opinions regarding my clients understand this… there are people walking around who should be in prison that aren’t. There are also people in prison who shouldn’t be that are. I never ask why anyone I’m marrying is in prison. It’s none of my business or yours either.

It will be very late before I’m back in Fort Worth from TDCJ Roach Unit. I have another long day and a head full of concerns about baby Oliver and fears regarding Makenna. We cannot allow her to have a car right now. We can’t trust her not to try this again. We must know why this is happening. We must fight to find the truth. Makenna is quiet unlike her twin. She isn’t a “talker.” She internalizes. She keeps to herself.

At 12:14PM Chaplain Redwine walks in to escort us. The walk through the garden area to the next building is always a moment where I breathe in deeply and realize that giving my best ceremony regardless of what’s going on in my life is incredibly important to my clients.

My clients have waited months for this moment. I need their moment to be as magical and memorable as humanly possible. I need to be “on.” Attentive. I always am.

The visitation area has a number of trainees inside. This is a problem. We will need to wait for them to clear the room and a guard to escort the inmate into the visitation room.

At 12:19PM, we are ready to begin. I’ve counted quarters for three Unit photos. I’ve got my script prepared and I’ve set out the marriage license. I take off my watch and put it back on upside down to keep from looking at it. I do this when time is something I can’t control. My watch faces out from under my wrist rather than on top of it.

Going over what’s allowed and what isn’t with my clients, I ask if the inmate has brought vows. He hasn’t. We begin.

The ceremony hits laughs as well as precious and meaningful moments. I’m articulate. I want the importance of commitment with the joy of love and the journey of a life together covered.

I sign the license as my couple pose for the photos I’ve purchased. I advise my bride that I must be running to Roach.

It’s 12:39PM. I’m at least one hour and 45 minutes from Roach Unit. The Chaplain escorts me to the entry gate. We discuss the number of people listing my name but not hiring me at Allred and come to a solution. The Unit will verify my clients through my office.

I run by my clients truck and let them know she will be out shortly. I put Roach Unit in my navigation and drive 80-85MPH to Childress.

I answer texts by talking to Cindy and take calls from clients and Units. My husband checks in on me. My doctor calls in a refill on my Lorazapam. My life swirls around me as I focus on getting to my next Unit and client.

At 1:57PM, my bride sends a text that she’s on site. I describe my filthy Jeep that I haven’t had time to wash since I bought it three weeks ago and we walk in together at exactly 2:07 after finding each other in the parking lot.

The crows nest guard hollers down “Wendy Wortham?” I answer “yes sir.” Everyone in my life is sir or ma’am. I don’t care who you are or what you do or where you work. Sir and ma’am are the most frequent words out of my mouth.

Ms Shoffner walks out to escort us into the visitation area. We wait on the inmate to arrive. It’s a bilingual ceremony and the librarian has volunteered to interpret. We go through the ceremony and because rings are not allowed to be exchanged with inmates due to Section K of the Administrative Directive, my bride hands her rings to the inmate to place on her fingers. I count coins for the weddings photos. I borrow a pen to sign the license. I go over what to do when the license is returned to my client. Ms Shoffner walks us out together. I’ve got a 4 hour drive back to Cook’s Childrens Hospital and Baylor NICU and I have a worried husband wondering how I’m handling a day I had expected to be filled with love and joy that was dampened by the unexpected incident at Cindys house with Makenna and the possibility of jaundice as well as oxygen saturation for Oliver. I worry how I’m going to teach my grandniece her self worth and to set limitations with school classes. Her overwhelming schedule is driving her to feel like a failure. I plan, I worry and I realize my clients are following me to the bridal shoot and hit my brakes near a lake.

Unloading items my bride and her sister find a few fun items.

I’m now driving back to Fort Worth. The rain doesn’t hit until beyond Wichita Falls. I’m fielding calls and talk texting replies. I’m wondering what I’m walking into at Cook’s first with Makenna, Maryssa and Cindy before heading to NICU to see my son and his wife with Oliver. I’m mentally preparing myself. I’ve just left two joyous celebrations. I’ve just driven over 8 hours the day after driving 12. I’m mentally tired. I’m scared. I’m worried. My family will see none of this. I am the Matriarch. I am the leader. I fix problems. I correct chaos. In last nights situations, I soothed the fear of my family. We will bound together. We will circle the wagons. We will recover and by God’s Grace my niece will learn to communicate her fears and concerns. She will learn to come to us and she will learn that she can. There isn’t anything anyone in my family can say or do that will rattle me at two hospitals. I will remain calm. I’m the calm one.

At Cook’s, Cindy is crumpled on an uncomfortable sofa. I suggest coming home with me and getting some rest. I visit with Makenna. I was right about the new meds. We discuss her curriculum. I discuss changing it. I discuss why and how attempted suicide effect the entire family. I discuss a new psychologist. I make a list of what she needs from home. I explain why I wasn’t there all day and why Cindy couldn’t ride in the ambulance as she was being screened by a second ambulance for a heart attack. I’m calm. I’ve already called Mesa Springs for outpatient when she’s medically cleared. I leave to visit my son and his wife. It’s 9:00PM.

At Baylor with Maryssa who wasn’t allowed to spend the night with Makenna, I find my son crying in the hall. We sit in uncomfortable chairs. I ask him to stay calm. Premie babies aren’t ready yet. I explain that I stayed up late researching the oxygen saturation issues being present predominantly with premature babies. We discuss the possibility of Ollie staying in NICU until his due date March 7th. My son admits he’s feeling helpless and would like to leave with the baby. I remind him the baby is safer at NICU. He asks about Makenna. Maryssa and he sit together as I walk back to find my daughter in law trying to bundle Oliver. I pick him up. He doesn’t cry. He never cries when I hold him. He’s tiny. I ask about jaundice after detecting yellow around his cheeks. Stephanie tells me “they are watching that. We just want him healthy. Robbie is upset we can’t bring him home.” I again reiterate why keeping him in the hospital is in his best interest. It’s not an easy conversation.

My daughter in law “doesn’t want to leave the hospital.” She’s exhausted. My son is exhausted. They’ve been in NICU every 2-3 hours for days and they are walking zombies. I remind her to please go to the hotel and sleep a few hours. I worry about the baby sending their fear. I remind them to sing or read and remain positive in NICU or when around Oliver. They leave with Maryssa and I headed to the hotel I’ve rented. They are so tired that I call to make sure they made it safely.

This morning at 6:45AM Cindy knocked on my door. “I can’t sleep there the chair is terrible the sofa is worse. My whole body hurts. I’m so scared why does she keep doing this? Is Maryssa up? We have to get her to school. What do you have today? I have to file three licenses and print edited photos, go to the post office, swing by Parker County Jail, email my credentials to Johnson County Jail, go to the cleaners, go to the school and change Makennas class’s, answer over 100 emails, call 17 Units for March scheduling and visit Makenna then go see Robbie and Steph.”

We made it through the day and brought Makenna clothing while telling her she was out of the genius classes that were stressing her. We give her books and stencils and snacks. We give her love and show her hope. We are masking the fear that gnaws on is hiding in dark corners. The worry of leaving her home alone and the panic of her having a car and being out of our sight. Learning to trust Makenna to talk to us will take time.

Back over at Baylor, my daughter in law is crying “I just want to go home. Why can’t he get better?” The long talk of doing what’s best for Oliver begins again. Stephanie’s hormonal. She’s just had a baby and is trying to adjust to breastfeeding. It’s a difficult time for a first time mother. She wants to stay with the baby but NICU will not allow parents to stay or sleep with the babies. You are effectively booted out every three hours you are allowed back. It’s hard.

Tomorrow I’m at Green Bay, Mercado, North Tower and back at Cook’s and Baylor. Tomorrow I will hide my fear about Makenna believing she had no other options. Tomorrow I will continue to teach my son and his wife the merits of patience. The importance of putting your children first and why NICU is keeping Oliver on the road to recovery.

Talking to my clients is always easier than talking to my family but, by the faith I have in prayer and my own patience, I hope that Makenna’s treatment and changes in her school workload as well as a re evaluation of her medication will prevent another suicidal ideation scenario. I will try to keep my son and his wife aware that Ollie is improving everyday and that when it comes to children that worrying is part of the role…

“SOME people WANT to TIE you DOWN, and EXPECT you, to PAY for the ROPE”

For over a year now, I’ve had surprise emails, texts and phone calls regarding “a date at a Unit for a wedding” with people who are trying to tie me down and expecting me to provide the rope. For “anyone out there” shocked about the blatant honesty of the “rope statement,” it should be noted that this isn’t my first rodeo. 

“WE don’t have a date if you didn’t bother to check my schedule before argreeing to a date offered to you by the Unit Chaplain.” 

Scheduling of Texas Prison Weddings generally occurs 10-14 days prior to the event. Nearly ALL Texas Units use Tuesday and Thursday as their primary dates. Whether it’s the first and fourth Thursday or second and third Tuesday, you should realize that over 100 Units in Texas use the same or similar dates. 

Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are prime time booking dates. PLEASE contact me to validate availability before emailing or texting me “WE have a date.” 

You were given a date and you assumed my availability. There is a difference. There is also a possibility that I’m already scheduled  hours away at ANOTHER UNIT ON THE SAME DAY. Communication is key and subsequently essential to my schedule.

When Cindy and I started Texas Twins Events, our goal was to give others the Dream Event that Cindy and I had never had. We wanted to create affordable options and we have. 

We have NEVER ADVERTISED. EVER. Our businesses were built on dedication and referrals from happy clients. 

Texas Twins Events was the FIRST people over profit based endeavor in the events industry. My idea to help the people no one else in this industry wanted to help have a Dream Event was based entirely on personal experience. How so? Neither Cindy or I could afford the flowers, cakes, vendors and other “fun stuff” for our own weddings years ago. My Officiant charged $450 for the wedding ceremony alone. Fees for Officiants should be affordable. 

Cindy and I both knew that affordable options were non existent. We also set out to change that. Not everyone has parents to foot the bill and we didn’t either. We became the people we had never met in an industry where prior to Texas Twins Events, the “Average Joe” had previously been forced to marry at the JP due entirely to lack of finances. 

After starting Texas Twins Events, the Average Joe called the Texas Twins instead. 

We helped anyone. We welcomed anyone and we did it at prices people could afford. There’s a reason for our success in the event business and the reason is that NOT EVERYONE has tens of thousands of dollars to throw at a Life Event. 

The majority of consumers live paycheck to paycheck. Many don’t even own a credit card. A few folks coming to us had no money at all. How could we help anyone? Even folks with no money? The Texas Twins yet again found a solution. 

Six years ago, Cindy and I merged Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to CREATE a barter option, The Pawning Planners. AGAIN, this was a FIRST.

Cindy and I are PIONEERS in the events industry. “We had effectively created a window than no one else in this industry realized existed. Cindy and I came from poverty. We knew we weren’t alone. We recognized that others had limited incomes. We fought to find a solution for them that we never found for ourselves when planning our own weddings years ago. We pitched our tents and welcomed anyone from any background.” 

I will never forget a production company executive in LA telling me “you girls are great! You have huge personalities and I love the Prison wedding angle BUT no one is really interested in helping poor people and prison weddings are controversial.” 

Hmm. Controversial. He called us. He then told us that our journey, our clients and our story weren’t “jazzy enough.” Save the fabricated storylines and frankenbiting. We don’t NEED a show. Production companies contact us frequently and have for years. The problem? Their idea and our reality are completely different. Also, unless it’s a docureality format, we have no interest. Controversial? To who? Scripted “reality TV” is controversial and it’s also not real. A group of writers sitting around a table came up with characters and personalities and then found people willing to fit their mold. I can assure you that Cindy and I are not going to fit into anyone’s mold or fabricated concept. My twin is loud, unfiltered and hilarious. She is a comedian. I’m not. I’m quiet, reflective, and organized. We are Compensating Personality Twins. Two halves literally make a whole. 

I’ve worked as a commercial and print actress but if you want me to act don’t expect me to read a script regarding my businesses or my life. There isn’t a script for a day in the life of the Texas Twins. People are unpredictable. We’ve met thousands of people over the years and can assure you that scripting their story would be impossible. 

It is tough to surprise me anymore and yet it continues to happen from production companies. “Wendy I’m casting a prison based show and need to find the talent.” Wait. What? You want me to do your job for you?! “Wendy you and Cindy would be great for TV. We need you to do over the top events though.” Really? No thanks. 

Did we realize that there were so many others out there seeking affordable options? No. But, we knew there had to be at least a few people. In fact, there were thousands. We are now national regarding inmate weddings.

Nearly three years ago, we AGAIN rebranded and expanded to offer Prison wedding services. No one including my husband or even my twin sister or even I could have guessed that inmate Officiant services would become our primary booking source? 

Prison weddings NOW compromise 85-90% of all Texas Twins Events bookings in numerous states. Upon release, previous Prison wedding clients rebook Vow Renewal Ceremonies. Repeat bookings Wendy? Absolutely! 

“Traditional” Event bookings literally became the minority rather than the majority of our bookings. We prefer real people. We prefer amazing love stories. We don’t need fluff or “over the top drama driven Divas.” THEY BELONG ON TV. Going nuts over minor details? Check. From bouncing checks to bawdy demands, if we never booked another “big event” Cindy and I wouldn’t miss it one bit. We have been there and done that for years with “affluent folks” who want it all but never want to pay for it. I turn down “traditional bookings and inquiries” on a regular basis. Daily, weekly, monthly. I no longer work as a planner for an Officiants pay either. Rich folks often “thought my entire staff came at the price of an Officiant fee.” Give me an Average Joe any day of the week! At least they are reasonable AND pay their fees. I’ve never had so much trouble getting paid as I have with “over the top” bookings. EVER. These clients are the most difficult people I’ve ever encountered. How so? I could go on and on here. After all, for years prior to prison weddings, someone would book for an Officiant then add on two photographers, set up and tear down and then balk when I issued a new contract AND a new bid. One “client” even handed my twin sister and apron to serve food? I can’t make this shit up. You don’t hire a singer and get a band. I turned my back to the choir of people contacting me and CHOSE to focus on the congregation of people who were worthy of working with instead. WHAT A RELIEF. Clients don’t interview Cindy and I anymore. We interview THEM. 

Prison Wedding Scheduling has become incredibly complicated due to a number of people putting either my name, Leigh Ann’s name or Cindy’s name on Texas I60 Request for Inmate Marriage Forms WITHOUT  retaining our services. This is a very real issue. 

UNLESS you have followed our booking process YOU are NOT a client. I refuse to advertise in order to limit bookings because we are already juggling too many booked clients and addressing new inquiries on a daily basis. 

I limit and cut off new bookings mid month every month to keep flexibility in Texas. Why? Because each Unit has only 2 days per month for a wedding ceremony available. 

Last night while walking to my gate with Cindy to return to Texas from New York, a text from Gary regarding being scheduled on September 24th came through. I was already scheduled at Ellis on the same day.

I emailed Ellis Unit to move the date and accommodate Crain Unit and Gary at 2PM. 

This morning, Gary sent another text that read “they’ve moved us up to September 10th @2PM.” What the? 

 ALARMED– I sent a text back that read “I am at 3 Units in Tennessee Colony on September 10th and confirmed these weddings with the Unit! I CANNOT MOVE CONFIRMED DATES. Tennessee Colony is three hours from Gatesville. I cannot be in Tennessee Colony and Gatesville at the same time. 

Gary sent a text that read “well that’s the date the Chaplain gave.” I called Crain. The inmate had moved the date NOT the Chaplain. I advised the Chaplain that I was already scheduled at Tennessee Colony Units and had been for weeks. Therefore, I could not and would not be at Crain when I was on schedule at Beto and Michael. 

Attention TDCJ Clients… The I60 leaves the law library to inmate records. It then leaves inmate records to Huntsville. It then leaves Huntsville to the Unit Warden. It then leaves the Warden to the Chaplain to schedule. You MUST contact me to check availability on the dates. No exceptions!

I then called Gary again to advise him that the inmate and not the Chaplain had moved the date AND I’m going to use this example with Gary to educate anyone else assuming they know my schedule that they don’t. 

Without a TDCJ Approved Officiant on site- I can assure you that your wedding WILL NOT take place. 

If an inmate isn’t having my client contact me FIRST to check my SCHEDULE you have CHOICES. First, I will refund you and wish you well if you want or expect me to cancel an EXISTING and confirmed date in order to accommodate your own. 

Secondly, if you have not paid your deposit, your date will not be confirmed. If I am unavailable because you assumed that you “knew my schedule better than I do,”  you will need to file a new I60 with Cindy as your Officiant. I cannot be in two places AT THE SAME time.

Texas Department Of Criminal Justice Clients PLEASE CONTACT ME PRIOR to choosing a date. I cannot stress this enough. Get THREE POSSIBLE DATES then call me to check availability. 

I’m juggling up to 20 Texas clients each and every month. Texas unlike my other states only has 2 available days for each unit each month. Many of these dates are the same dates as other units. 

Whether it’s every other Tuesday or Thursday which are primary booking dates or another day of the week, I can assure you that I will not move a confirmed date at ANY UNIT to accommodate you because you failed to check your day with me first. 

If Cindy and I are BOTH BOOKED at existing Units in Texas and unavailable, Leigh Ann can  fly to Texas for your TDCJ wedding but be advised that booking with Leigh Ann will incur additional travel fees. 

STOP CONTACTING me saying “we have a date” without validating the date with me first. I hate surprises. 

If you fail to contact me and check availability of or if you listed my name on an I60 without bothering to follow booking procedures, I will be forced to contact the Unit myself and cancel the date if you haven’t followed my REQUIREMENT for booking procedures and paid your deposit. 

If you are a booked client and HAVE followed my REQUIRED booking procedures, the date that “you assumed that I had available in Texas on my books” MAY or MAY NOT be available on my calendar. ASK before agreeing to a date. If you don’t run a date by me first, you are running the risk of a forced reschedule. You are doing so at your own risk. Call me. Text me. Email me. Whatever you do communicate with me.

We can easily alleviate scheduling conflicts by CONTACTING ME FIRST. GET MORE THAN ONE DATE OPTION and if you aren’t a booked client, STOP using my name and credentials to obtain a date behind my back and assume I will show up. I won’t. 

What I will do though  is contact the Unit and explain why and how you were Approved by pulling my name off the internet. Nearly ALL TDCJ Units NOW REQUIRE verification from me due to the consistent misuse of my credentials from strangers who are NOT clients pulling my name off the internet. 

“We are different. We are passionate. We are dedicated. People forget words and remember actions. We are versatile. We are open minded. We are also remembered for our dedication.”

Today’s blog will outline why I insist on my booking policies being followed. I live on timelines and deadlines. Cindy does too? A free day? We haven’t had one in years.

I assume a great deal of risk each and every time I leave my location. I could be in a car accident, my windshield could be broken, my car could break down in the middle of nowhere. If I’m taking on all of the responsibilities of getting to your Unit, you must be taking on the responsibility of booking me first. 

Who goes to Walmart and leaves with bags without paying? You don’t fill up your tank without paying for gas. No one in the Prison wedding industry drives 10-18 hours a day to provide a service without compensation. If there is an Approved, Certified or Accredited “volunteer” Prison Officiant out there, I’m wholly and entirely unaware of them. 

The Unit Chaplain cannot and will not conduct a ceremony in Texas or many other states. Obtaining an Officiant is a requirement for your Prison wedding. 

Last week, I reviewed yet another email that ludicrously stated “I just need you to conduct my ceremony. It won’t take more than 30 minutes.” Let’s review this. The Unit is hours from my location. HOURS. I cannot snap my fingers and arrive on site. I spend $1000 every 9 months on tires alone. 

I don’t risk a flat or blow out on the road. My vehicle is an investment. Without it, I obviously cannot be where I need to be. I don’t skimp on necessary components of my job description. 

The time “inside a Unit” is entirely up in the air. We don’t rush the Unit. We wait. We could wait up to 3 hours at ONE UNIT and I have. “Thirty minutes” minimizes what is required of me to such great lengths that  each and every time I see this statement, I am shocked that anyone assumes that what I do “only requires thirty minutes.” 

From having my vehicle serviced to loading my car to getting my affairs at home in order or consulting with other clients, time is the only thing in my entire life that I have far too little of. I can’t buy time. I must use my time wisely. 

Certain people must stop confusing ignorance with righteousness. Let’s review righteousness for people unaware of the term. I’m honest, I’m dedicated, I’m reliable. In this industry, experience, reliability, honesty and integrity don’t come free. If I’m dropping everything in my life to accommodate your needs, I expect you to put some skin in the game. I.E. Pay your deposit. Sign your contract. 

Run possible dates by me PRIOR to agreeing to a DATE with a Unit Chaplain. 

Certain individuals are shaking my tree without being willing to eat the fruit that falls. Arrogance speaks without forethought. 

If you are assuming that you are more important than my other clients who have adhered to my booking requirements, without retaining my services, you aren’t my first priority. 

My booked clients are and always will be my first priority. Don’t assume that I have free time on my schedule. I don’t. 

Character becomes questionable when certain individuals expect others to accommodate their needs rather than those who were already standing in line when they happened to stroll up or contact me. 

Cindy, my twin sister creates iconic quotes for Pawning Planners Apparel on a daily basis. These quotes are based on real life situations. 

Here are a few truthful insights. “Without common sense, your wealth today can become your poverty tomorrow.” There aren’t any rest areas on the road to success. I don’t take short cuts. 

“Don’t expect to cherry pick a withered branch from a barren tree. People’s generosity eventually runs out. Gratitude is the difference between appreciation and a sense of entitlement.”

Now, let’s address production companies….if you are contacting me or my twin sister for casting, “we don’t hand over our paychecks to people who didn’t earn the income.” Don’t expect us to do your job for you. 

Also, investigative journalists and casting producers wishing to disrupt my day and address your needs, your sense of urgency is YOUR luggage and not OUR trip. We are busy addressing OUR CLIENTS NEEDS. “Even baggage handlers expect a tip.” 

I am paid consultant with GLG. From marketing to consumer merchandise to luxury cars and even warranties, I get paid to share my knowledge with industry leaders.

People constantly ask me “how did you come up with this idea and make it work without ever advertising? Tell me how I can do what you did.” Hmm, hey buddy, why would create competition that doesn’t exist? Answer? I won’t and don’t. 

BUY OUR book. It’s going to be chock full of surprises, twists, drama, real life people, stories and adventures. No one could fabricate a journey like ours in a million years. 

“We had an idea. A concept to create a business to help people no one else would. Others thought we were crazy. No one cared enough to help low to middle income families have a Life Event. What we wanted and strived be to do for others had never been done before. Effectively, we took coal and squeezed into a diamond. We became the people we had never met. Along the way, we met amazing families. We had inspiring adventures and the time to spend together that our former careers had taken from us. Our success is literally an amazing story.”

Truth beats the shit out of scripted “faux reality” any day of the week. Our story is genuine, riveting and real. But no one told us how to succeed. Most people laughed. We do the laughing now. 

If you aren’t passionate, driven and determined I can assure you that you don’t have the stamina to be me. Cindy and I make a helluva team. We are scrappy and resourceful but most of all– we HAVE NEVER BEEN LAZY. Lazy people might get lucky now and then but luck doesn’t last. Perseverance does.

I am also an expert in the wedding industry and the most knowledgeable Prison wedding Officiant you will ever encounter. I know Prison policy and procedure within each and every state I conduct ceremonies within. No, I didn’t “wake up one” day with this knowledge. Instead, I educated myself and continue to educate myself at my own expense. If you need something from me, get your checkbook out. My time isn’t free. I get paid to talk and people listen. I don’t get paid to listen to people pitching me. Networks do. Go pitch them. Schedule a meeting. 

“We just need to talk to you about an idea or concept.” We are BUSY. Email and schedule your Skype or conference call at OUR CONVENIENCE. “Don’t EXPECT me to EDUCATE you, WITH my EXPERTISE, without PAYING the TUITION.” 

“If you want the honey from the hive, don’t complain about the stings that come with it. Getting what you want is painful. WITHOUT RISK, DEDICATION AND PASSION, you will never begin and without perseverance you will never finish.”

Cindy Daniel

 

Twelve Hours On The Road And The Expenses Of Being A Prison Wedding Officiant. Risk, Reward & Reality…

When people come to me seeking an Officiant many of them say the same thing. What is it? “I just need someone to walk in and officiate my wedding.” The problem? Your prison wedding location is 5 hours or 6 or more from my location ONE WAY. “Just walk in?” You are “simplifying the process of getting there” far too much my friend. 

Travel is expensive. When you drive as much as I do, it doesn’t take your accountant to point out the facts. Driving 2k-3k miles a WEEK is a hefty investment of my time to walk into a prison and officiate your wedding ceremony. Leading up to wedding day, I’ve talked to you numerous times. I’ve answered your emails. I’ve addressed your concerns and I’ve committed myself to simplifying a very confusing process. I’ve overcome any and all issues to assist you in getting your marriage license by sending you to another county clerk or refiling an I60 that had previously been denied. Education and experience are key elements to a Prison wedding Officiant. If you don’t know what you are doing, this isn’t the business for you. 

You aren’t “just hiring someone to officiate your wedding.” You are hiring someone to plan it and someone to drive hours to get to it too. 

You aren’t just hiring an Officiant. You are hiring a driver. A planner. You are hiring someone who will take your calls for weeks or months. Someone knowledgeable about the rules pertaining to inmate marriage is DIFFICULT to find but you found me. I didn’t advertise because I didn’t need to either. My reputation is built on my dedication to making your Prison wedding as close to perfect as it can be.,

“My MORALS, are LIKE a GOOD set of TIRES, everything I HAVE is RIDING on THEM, and you can TRUST me to perform the task I’ve been retained to perform.” 

My brother in law, Steve is a truck driver. For fifty plus years now he’s been paid to drive someone else’s truck. He’s paid by the hour to roll across highways nationwide while dealing with muscle aches from doing so. Steve doesn’t pay for gas, repairs or insurance. He’s paid to drive. A traveling prison Officiant is also paid to drive. In fact, I drive up to 3k miles a week. 

What you REALLY need is to know is that whoever you hire to officiate your inmate wedding will show up. That your officiant will be on time, realiable and have adequate transportation. That your officiant will take your emails and phone calls while answering and addressing your questions and concerns. That your officiant will walk you through an often confusing process. That if you encounter a denial to your inmate marriage that your officiant can educate you as to how to have the inmate refile the I60 or correct the issues of the denial. The last part of your Prison wedding process is knowing that your officiant will show up on time and ready to go to work. 

My role is far more than just showing up to officiate your wedding. I’ve spent weeks and months talking to you, calling the Unit and guiding you through the process before gassing up my vehicle and risking another broken windshield. The cost? $350 plus for the windshield alone. Tires? Michelin Defenders at $995 a set. Mounted and balanced? $1127. Synthetic oil changes? $69 plus $19.99 for the filter. Gasoline? $35-40 a tank. I don’t “cheap out” when it comes to “getting there.”

Hours on the road? Both ways? Easily a minimum of 5-12 hours A DAY. Miles on my vehicle? Tens of thousands. When I worked as a brand marketing consultant, I was paid forty nine cents a mile. See where I’m going with this? 

By the way, I’m on my third SUV in two and a half years for those wondering just how much time I spend driving. In fact, in 25k more miles to Texas Prisons, I’m getting another SUV. I don’t keep SUVs beyond 100k miles to ensure I don’t have mechanical issues or problems. It isn’t inexpensive and much less easy to be me. I read each and every Administrative Directive update specifically to read educated to protocol within ANY state I conduct inmate marriages within. For those who assume my role is easy or fluid, a wake up call is in order here. My role is by far more involved than anyone realizes. 

For anyone thinking “I can do that” you will need the education to overcome unexpected issues during the prison wedding planning process. You need to know the rules and policies. You need to have the clients. You need to have income set aside for unexpected expenses and you need to be able to support yourself getting into this business. It looks easy to others because they have no real idea what my role entails. 

I’m sought after for solid reasons and I earned my reputation. This isn’t a job for the meek, the halfhearted or folks who plan to get rich quick at a single income families expense. 

Being a Prison wedding Officiant is a job for someone dedicated, financially sound and honorable. This is a job for someone who has the answers to questions. This is a job for someone willing to take calls and address concerns at any hour of the day. This job takes planning. Preparation. Patience. Your are the clients best friend. Their advisor. Their go to. Their strongest advocate. You are bold, brave, resilient, educated and responsible OR you won’t last long in this industry. These are facts that anyone following me and assuming that Cindy and I run from one fun filled day into the next need to understand and more importantly comprehend. I know policy and procedure within any state I officiate prison weddings. I have to in order to overcome a hurdle a wrench in the prison wedding process solely in order to overcome such issues. My clients encounter hurdles on a regular basis. From chaining out to catching a charge to being listed as CLM to the law library refusing to notarize an Absentee Affidavit to the county clerk refusing to issue a marriage license to the Warden denying to request to marry, I’ve seen it all and I’ve solved it all. I know how. This isn’t a “flying by the seat of your pants” endeavor. This job isn’t for anyone planning to “wing it.” Your clients count on you to know the answers and address their concerns. You need to be well versed on marriage laws as well as policy and procedure. You need to take calls from clients devastated about a denial and find solutions. You are in it for the long haul. A Prison wedding can take weeks, months and in my Torres Clients case even a year to plan and execute. Patience and perseverance are only a part of what I do and whom I do it for. Dedication is a requirement. 

Are you willing to put your clients needs above your own? Are you righteous? In the heart of a Public Servant there must a regard for others whom you serve as being more important than yourself (cf. Phil. 2:3 ff.). God requires that leaders whom He appoints to govern a country, His ordained Institution of the State (cf. Rom. 13:1) be a blessing to the people it serves — benefactors to the world in which they live. Ecclesiastes 8:9 specifically speaks to the selflessness a leader must possess in his job: A man has exercised authority over another to his own hurt. This is a powerful way of putting it: a leader is to be so selfless that it hurts him or her. 

Being a Prison wedding planner and Officiant REQUIRES putting your own needs last. Your other clients and even your own family can take a back seat when a crying phone call comes in that requires your immediate attention. I’ve answered crying phone calls from clients at all hours of the day or night. My clients know they can count on me to solve problems. My clients call me first because they realize they can trust me and that I will drop everything to find the answers they need. 

Let’s take my Ellis Unit client, Amanda. The Unit wouldn’t notarize an Absentee Affidavit. The Absentee Affidavit is a requirement to purchase a marriage license in Texas. An Unsworn Declaration will not and cannot be accepted in place of the Absentee Affidavit. 

TDCJ Administrative Directive
IV….

Notary Public Services
Documents: Under both federal law (28 U.S.C. § 1746) and state law (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 132.001), offenders incarcerated in Texas may use an unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury in place of a written declaration, verification, certification, oath, or affidavit sworn before a notary public. 

A. Documents for which notarization is requested by an attorney, documents specifically exempted from the laws on unsworn declarations, and documents destined for another state or country requiring notary public service shall continue to require notary public service.

B. Scheduling: Offenders may request notary public service by submitting an I-60 to the unit ATC supervisor. Offenders requesting notary public service shall explain why an unsworn declaration will not be legally sufficient. Requests shall be acted upon, either denied or provided, within 72 hours of the receipt of the request.

In order to obtain the notary seal on an Absentee Affidavit, the inmate must provide reasons why an Unsworn Declaration is insufficient. If you cannot buy a marriage license, you aren’t going to be getting married. After overcoming the Units refusal to notarize the Absentee Affidavit, Amanda encountered not one but two county clerks unwilling to issue her marriage license. I instructed her to go to Walker County where she was finally issued a marriage license. A Prison wedding planner and Officiant needs to know what to do and how to do it. 

See where I’m going with this? Many of the “I can do what she does” folks have no real idea of what I can do. What I’m aware of or the length of time spent reviewing and understanding policy and procedure. 

What you are paying for is hiring someone reliable who you know will be there. Someone who hands over the responsibility of walking their dog to their husband or having their husband eat dinner alone while I’m on the road. 

My home life and my other clients booking traditional events on the weekend are all part of my life. In any given month, I’m literally juggling 10-15 prison Units and clients. Each and every client is important. I treat all of them with the attention they deserve. I never decline calls. If I’m on duty, Cindy answers texts, emails and phone calls for me. 

 “CHARACTER can be DESCRIBED in THREE words, ATTITUDE, HONESTY and ACTIONS” God bless us all.

Cindy Daniel

What you are also paying for is someone who doesn’t drive ten to twelve hours across Texas alone. My twin sister, Cindy accompanies me and has her household run by others while she’s away with me. My husband isn’t comfortable having his wife driving across Texas alone for 8-15 hours in a day. 

My sister is not only my copilot and navigator as she is also my secretary on the road. “We’ve got Goree Unit asking about the law library filing the I60.” My response? “Call her and I will walk her through checking the status with inmate records.” A text comes in. Cindy reads it “Buster Cole needs to reschedule because the Unit is requiring a letter from her P.O. And she can’t get it before the wedding.” My answer? “Call Buster Cole so I can reschedule.” After rescheduling, I call the client to tell her exactly what I need her letter to say on the rescheduled day of her Unit Wedding. My Gib Lewis client calls and I answer on Bluetooth. “We have been denied.” I must find out why in order to better understand what needs to be done. I ask questions. An I60 is a very specific document. It doesn’t simply read Approved or Denied. I call Gib Lewis while driving then call the client then call the Courts in Huntsville. Twenty four hours later, the I60 is Approved and I schedule the wedding. 

Anyone riding in my SUV would be surprised at the number of times my cell rings or a text comes in. It’s shocking. From family to clients to Units to venues to inquiries, my phone literally never stops ringing. A joyous call from my Michael Unit client to schedule her Vow Renewal? You bet. I’m the first person any client calls when the inmate makes parole. Why? Because I have a strong bond with my clients and also because they want a real wedding and want me to officiate. They want their friends and family. They want to wear a wedding dress that doesn’t cover their shoulders. They want more than two peck kisses and hugs at their ceremony. They want it all and for previous clients who married at a Unit, they get it all. These Vow Renewals ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE a true celebration to the testament of love enduring all things while overcoming all things. 

The amount of time I spend driving to a Unit is surprising since my clients and I only have 25 minutes “inside” for the ceremony. Getting approved and getting there are only part of my day with a client. 

Upon leaving the Unit, Cindy and I find great areas for bridal or groom photos and unload my loaded SUV full of bouquets, bouteniers, tiaras, furs and more. We love our photo shoots with clients and our clients love them even more. I’m always asked “why do you provide free photos and why did you go to the expense to create an inventory for your clients to use at photo shoots?” The answer is that Unit photos are disappointing to my clients. They are also $3 each. I buy 3 Unit photos on wedding day and give them to my clients. 

Having anyone be “thrilled” with their Unit photos on wedding day has never occurred yet. A few of my clients have even cried about the often disappointing quality of wedding day photos at Prisons. 

To overcome the problem, I decided to do my own photo shoots for clients and gift them bridal or groom photos as a courtesy. Cindy is often the photographer while I grab a new bouquet or change my clients tiara or go find a fur stole I think would coordinate with the bouquet. We work as a team on location. 

My husband likes to have me home regardless of what hour it might be. I never rent a hotel in Texas although I always do in our other states. Why? To keep my TDCJ Clients costs lower that’s why. Outside of Texas clients incur lodging expenses. 

My brother in law drives 8-10 hours a day. It’s not uncommon for me to drive 8-12 hours a day. Steve is regulated on driving hours. If he goes over his hours, his company pays for a hotel as well as an hourly rate for Steve to sit and wait to drive again. 

What you are paying for is dependability. You might have hired me AFTER hiring someone else that let you down on all counts but… you chose to take that risk. You gambled on someone else giving you the same quality of care that I do. You also lost your money by placing that bet to the “other Officiant.” Get it back. Demand a refund. THEN CONTACT ME. 

For over two years now, brides and grooms planning a prison wedding have come to me AFTER INITIALLY hiring the “WRONG OFFICIANT” in Texas. This “other officiant” who didn’t bother show up also took your money. 

The “other officiant” you have already paid who should have been doing all of the above I’ve described is also guilty of theft of services. These “other Officiants” ALSO owe you a refund. Get it and THEN call me. 

By the time a few of you have come to me, you have almost always “lost money to that other officiant.” Get your money back. I cannot stress this enough. Verify your Officiants credentials and track history while you are at it too. Educate yourselves. Quality, Consistency, Reliability and Loyalty are what make Texas Twins Events, The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Treasures and TDCJ Officiant DIFFERENT. WE KEEP OUR PROMISES! 

“Don’t EXPECT a BLUE chip EXPERIENCE, from a BOTTOM of the BARREL business. RELIABILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY and EXPERIENCE matter.” 

When you hire myself OR my staff, you can rest assured that unlike these “other Officiants,” you will never have to worry about us returning your phone calls, addressing your concerns or much less and Heaven Forbid– showing up on wedding day. You can count on us which is far more than I can say for these “other Officiants.” 

Cindy and I are stopped all the time by others reading banners on our SUVs for Texas Twins Events and TDCJ Officiant. When we tell these folks that we perform prison weddings, they are at first shocked then intrigued then interested in how we can teach them to do what we do. True story. 

Cindy and I have been interviewed by production companies, radio stations and news media about how we made this work and how we got into this business. We give people the weddings we didn’t have. The flowers, the photos, the attention to details. 

One interviewer actually asked me “can you elaborate and tell others how they can get into this business?” My answer? “No. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist?” I meant it. 

While others including a few of my own family members laughed years ago about “my plan to create affordable options for event services,” Cindy and I didn’t. 

Perseverance pays off. Merging Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create a barter option? More laughs but, the people NO ONE ELSE wanted to help came to us. 

From rich to poor, we literally covered every base. From LBGT clients to others wanting to marry an inmate, we have never limited creative requests. Quite the contrary. Instead, we’ve rebranded and expanded to address any and all creative requests. We’ve also earned a stellar reputation in an industry of no show Officiants AND Planners who take no pride in their OWN performance. 

Today’s blog will outline why making the mistake of hiring someone else isn’t my luggage and it isn’t my trip. Quality and reliability aren’t inexpensive. You get what you pay for. If you’ve paid the wrong person, get your money back and then contact me or my staff. I cannot stress this point enough. 

The expenses of being a traveling prison officiant are expensive. The vehicle, the repairs, the maintenance, the hours on the road and the role of an inmate Officiant are many. You have questions I have answers. Experience matters. Experience isn’t inexpensive either. 

Reliability and consistency aren’t inexpensive and I can no longer take on everyone else’s previous client at a discount because they hired the wrong person to begin with making your burden and subsequent mistake my expense. 

Before you hire someone to take on the role of your prison wedding Officiant, understand that this is a serious job that requires a hefty investment of my time, product knowledge of marriage laws as well as policy and procedure at Units within each state I officiate as well as my vehicle and my pocketbook. I prepare for these trips by ensuring I have no mechanical issues that would impede my ability to be there on time and ready to work. 

Leaving home in the dark and arriving home in the dark are very long days. Unexpected broken windshields are an expense to anyone driving across back roads to Prisons. Tires, gasoline, and even the possibility of an accident and more are part of the expenses of being a prison Officiant. 

When a traditional client books me to officiate their wedding within the DFW area, I ask “is there a rehearsal?” Why? Because there is an additional fee for a rehearsal. Do you know why? Because I’m driving to the same location twice. A rehearsal is a separate ceremony. 

There’s a reason that I also ask “what is the location?” Because there is an additional fee for travel. Time spent driving is time that could be spent doing something else like spending time with my family. 

My time is valuable. My time on your wedding day is spent making your Dream Event a reality. 

The fee for a JP to officiate your ceremony in Texas is $100. The Judge isn’t leaving his job to travel to you. Instead, you travel to them. 

These days everyone wants or thinks they can be a prison Officiant. The MANY WHO THINK MY ROLE IS SIMPLY TO SHOW UP are mistaken about my job being easy. It isn’t. It’s complicated. It’s knowing where to send you to get that marriage license. It’s knowing marriage law. It’s understanding the Administrative Directive to find solutions to YOUR PROBLEMS. It’s answering crying and hysterical phone calls 24/7 from someone who encountered a problem either with a CLM Status or a Denial on an I60 Request For Inmate Marriage. 

There are many “who think they can do this job” but there is only one of me. While I have others on my staff who are authorized to officiate your prison wedding in many states, it is I who have the answers to unexpected problems. When someone on my Team encounters something unexpected, they call me. I know what to do. I didn’t “suddenly wake up educated to finding solutions” either. I educated myself spending hours pouring over policy and procedures in numerous states as well as Texas. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours reading and retaining knowledge to overcome the unexpected. Corrective Affidavits? Yes. A Warden unaware that a CLM couple are entitled to a legal wedding? Hang on while I fix this and contact the Courts to call the Unit. Visitation revoked, let me tell you how to file an Appeal. Yes, I know what to do. 

These “other Officiants” BELIEVE THEIR ONLY RESPONSIBILITY AND REQUIREMENTS are to show up on wedding day. These “other Officiants” are often guilty of failing to even do that! I’ve had a FEW FOLKS contact me after making the mistake of hiring someone else. If you want someone to get the job done, you hire me or my staff FIRST. We don’t have mistakes or excuses. We know what to do and how to do it. We exceed client expectations and give you a beautiful day with beautiful photos as a courtesy. 

WE DO YOUR EVENT DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE WE CARE WHEN THESE “OTHER OFFICIANTS” DON’T. 

I can’t tell you how many clients have told me “I want to do what you do.” But, these folks have no real idea of what’s involved or the expenses of what I do and more importantly who I do it for. They don’t realize that knowing what to do or how to do it are based on education and experience. They fail to realize that it takes money to make money. Operating a business or even several is a hefty expense. I do not and will not advertise. Why? Because this expense would result in raising my fees and I don’t market new clients. My role is to focus on existing clients first. In fact, I limit new bookings specifically to keep from spreading myself too thin for existing clients. 

It’s impossible to work another job and officiate inmate weddings. Why? Because you must be available that’s why. You must have reliable transportation and you must have knowledge of the Administrative Directive when problems arise. It’s also your job to be the fixer. It’s your job to overcome a snarky county clerk refusing to issue a license to your client. It’s your job to hold someone’s hand unfamiliar it’s the process and the timeline involved. It’s your job to mail that license, maintain your vehicle, juggle your home life and family and make it all work. 

It’s your job to exceed expectations and earn a stellar reputation in an industry that these days has everyone jumping on the bandwagon to become a prison Officiant with little or no clue as to what is actually involved. Unlike these others, I’m well versed. I’m educated. Knowledgeable. Reliable. Consistent. 

I don’t find my clients. They find me. Many find me AFTER they’ve hired and paid someone else. I can no longer make exceptions and or discount YOUR fee because YOU hired the wrong person to officiate your prison wedding. 

My soft heart has cost me money again and again. How so? Because I’ve made exceptions based on your story. I will no longer “make exceptions” because you’ve hired the wrong officiant. You chose to make an expensive mistake. Experience is a great teacher. You’ve learned but your mistake cannot and will not be my burden. 

Frankly, it’s unfair to my other clients as well as myself and staff to do so as well as a financial burden to me because you’ve trusted someone else who let you down. GET YOUR MONEY BACK FROM THE “OTHER OFFICIANTS!”

Get your money back but don’t expect me or my staff to make special exceptions because you’ve trusted the wrong person. We operate a business. This business has Expenses. This business also has a web designer, accountant and other factors as well as time, insurance, vehicle repairs, gasoline, tires and windshields or EVEN the possibility of having an accident while driving to your prison wedding. 

Today’s blog is an update to changes for people coming to me who paid someone else then expected me to discount my fee because they had done so. 

TDCJ Weddings- Work, Travel, Clients, Kids & Chaos…

Yesterday while in Palo Pinto County, a comment was posted on one of my Instagram posts. What was it about? The post and photo were updates regarding our upcoming wedding ceremonies at the LA County Jail and California Prisons this August.

Who was this hater? Someone with 2 followers (go figure) and a private account (as usual) who was attempting to redirect traffic to themselves. My first thought? “Get off my timeline!” 

This private account also featured a stock photo (how original) while spewing their arrogance while assuming that his or her (who knows since they didn’t even use their own photo in their previous file) opinions regarding inmate marriage mattered to me OR my clients. They didn’t. 

My clients, my family and I are ALL very happy. Look at the photos kids. My clients AND my family are having non stop fun. We love what we do and who we do it for. We are also having a great time enjoying our new friends while celebrating love, resilience and joy on wedding day. 

Haters are going to hate. In fact, narrow minded idiots unhappy with their own lives will almost always find a way to voice their opinions on others. 

Truthfully though, others don’t care about your opinions. “Prisoners shouldn’t be allowed to marry” among other things in the comment by the person who not only wouldn’t use their real name or photo included the suggestion that “I should get my $hit together and get a life?” Let’s examine this stupid statement and go over the cowardly idiot who posted it ONLY to remove it AFTER reading this blog. 

That’s right, I saw you closed your account after deleting your comment you screwball. First off, inmates like anyone else have the right to marry. Get over yourself. Secondly, I have a very busy life that revolves around my clients and my family as well as my volunteer efforts. You see, unlike you “troller behind a stock photo with a private account,” I give back to my community. 

I also strongly and wholly support the belief that Love Is Love. Get off your computer or phone and stop hiding behind that mask you wear and you might not be so hateful. Get some sun. Get out more often. Get a life. Don’t tell people WITH a life to get one. Get your OWN. Stop spying on everyone else’s attempting to put your negativity on them. You ARE not that important I can assure you. 

At the time this notification came through, I was planning to leave my client in Palo Pinto County and go to lunch with Cindy, Makenna, Stephaney and my son in Weatherford. 

Reading the comment, I had stopped to consider whether or not to be infuriated by a stranger who knew their idiot comment WOULD upset me and finally decided that they weren’t worth it.

Sitting in the county jail parking lot, I also reconsider deleting the comment or responding? This “scenario” has happened a handful of times on Instagram the past few years to my account on instagram. Twitter too although most bullies use email or the phone to give me their opinions. 

The illogical nature of numskulls “reaching out to a stranger” while even thinking or believing that anyone else and especially me cares about “their opinion” continues to confuse me. 

Some folks will do anything to get the attention they can’t based on their own lives. The internet is full of them. Stalkers, trollers, mean spirited and ugly hearted people who would never consider walking up to me to say the things they feel safe saying on the internet. 

News flash for the haters, no one cares what you think. Your opinion to myself or my clients means nothing to us. You are a fly in the soup. A rude diner. You are living a miserable life and want to bring everyone else down with you BUT you can’t. Do you know why? Because you aren’t THAT important. You WISH you were but you aren’t. Bullies never are important. Grow up. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but take heed, trying to run a stranger down might upset your other unknowing victims who don’t check notifications but… I’m not your victim or anyone else’s phony account loudmouth. 

Why would ANYONE out there who isn’t a client or even a family member THINK that THEIR opinion or THEIR beliefs matter to me I have no idea but, these haters have far too much time on their hands. Go volunteer. Adopt a pet. Find something more constructive to occupy your time Pal. Also, unless you are bound to me by blood or business, bug off. 

How do these haters even find my accounts? They search hashtags pertaining to inmate marriage. I.E. they are looking for something to complain about and more importantly someone to target. 

Trolls. People so miserable in their own lives that they want to find someone happy and attempt to ruin their day too. Big surprise trollers, you didn’t ruin mine. I met wonderful clients all week long and even had a great day with family and clients yesterday instead. 

Your opinion is the wind to me. Whispers of animosity spoken by those who have no voice in my life, my businesses or my direction. 

Let’s review something I hear regularly by others who (ironically) “had Religious issues” with my client bases years ago, you know who you are. You troll ALL of my social media. You subscribe to all of my blogs and you can’t believe I’m successful. “NOW you reach out to me to teach you how to do what I do?” You have got to be kidding me. Why would I create competition that doesn’t exist and why would people intent on seeing me fail who instead watched me succeed have the audacity to even ask? Trollers. God love em because no one else does. 

Since our inmate wedding business now spans several states. I’m going to address Arkansas and Oklahoma bookings first. There is a process and the process is lengthy. While Texas clients generally wait 1-2 months for wedding day, Arkansas and Oklahoma as well as New Hampshire and a handful of other states wait 6 months to a year to marry. Shocking isn’t it? But, each state is different and each state follows its own set of rules. The process to marry an inmate is lengthy and complicated. Hire someone who knows how to walk you through it. I cannot stress this enough. 

Over the past year I’ve had three clients call me regarding their visitation being revoked. This too is a process to overcome. There are guidelines and procedures censured in place that MUST be followed. You cannot marry an inmate if you cannot visit them. Contact me, we will work through it and get your appeal filed. Everything regarding marrying an inmate is a process. It’s not a process we can control. It is a process we will follow.

Since Cindy and I are traveling to California several times the next few months as well as California, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, it should be noted that traveling with teenage twins isn’t for the faint hearted. Do you leave them home with other adults and wait on phone calls regarding chaos at home or take them with you and listen to them tell you they are  bored? 

I’m on the fence about California as it’s a working trip. Other states are generally day trips. Having Maryssa and Makenna out of school for the summer and trying to be entertaining while working requires the skills of a magician. 

Children are cute and hilarious until they become teens. If you are unaware of this, as a parent, you will find out soon enough. “I don’t want to eat there. I don’t like this hotel. I don’t want to sit by her. She’s using the charger and I need it.” 

I could go on and on here but, for our parents spending the summer with their teen children, I realize that I don’t need to. You get it. 

Cindy and I have raised two generations of children. The twins are 14 going on 40 and the youngest, Madyson keeps us laughing with her personality and energy. Maddy’s mom has no idea of how hard her move will be when she leaves her village of babysitters behind to move to California. Maddy has had Cindy and Wendy as well as Maryssa and Makenna to help take care of her. Maddy has had a village. I worry about it.

I’m on site at several venues this weekend and looking forward to meeting new clients at your prison or county jail wedding soon.

For all of our clients working through the summer and trying to be entertaining to their teen children, hang in there, we’ve got a few months of summer left. Ya all can do this… 

I’ve Got A DANCE That AIN’T Got No STEPS…Work, Family, Clients & Reality…

This morning at 5AM, I was as usual up and at it. My day would have me driving across Texas meeting clients and someone who had contacted me regarding giving up her unborn child to Burt and Deanna who lost their baby girl to Trisomy a year ago. 

Getting my husband breakfast while he watched the weather (as usual) hoping rain would miss his Saginaw development, we had a few minutes to catch up with each other since the past five days have been spent tagging in and out to visit my grandniece at Cook’s Children’s Hospital. 

My husband has been a builder and developer for 50 years. Nothing sets back a development like rain. Saturday’s downpour was yet another setback to Matthew. He’s bracing for yet another one late today. Bless his heart. 

After walking Foxy Wortham, I ran to bathe and chose a Donna Karan suit to wear today while fielding texts, phone calls and emails. Last night while following the ambulance from Cook’s to Mesa Springs with Cindy riding shotgun, I took a call from my Coffield Unit client who was having trouble getting a certified copy of her marriage license from Tarrant County. 

This morning, I drove to the Tarrant County Clerks Office and picked it up for her while leaving Fort Worth. For those unaware of why you need a certified copy of your marriage license or what it is, I will elaborate. A certified copy doesn’t look like your original license. It’s a copy used for legal purposes. Once your license is signed and returned to the clerk, it’s recorded. After being recorded, its returned to you or if you’ve chosen to pick it up, waits for you. Most Units REQUIRE a certified copy be sent to inmate records to update an inmates status. The certified copy is relatively inexpensive from $4-12 based on the county. You will send it to inmate records with the inmates name and number. Please include this information because it you don’t, inmate records can have difficulty if the name of the inmate happens to be common such as John Smith, Michael Moore, Etc. 

Driving through Waxahachie, I was planning to stop for gas on my way to meet the pregnant lady who had contacted me in Corsicana at the Collin Street Bakery while on my way to meet Elizabeth at Beto Unit before dropping off the certified marriage license from Tarrant County to Coffield Unit before heading to Hodge Unit to meet Jenny before going back to Dallas County North Tower to meet two clients and then rushing back to Fort Worth for visitation at Mesa Springs. As usual, my day was busy. Staying busy occupies my mind. 

Arriving in Corsicana, I sent a text to Barbara to make sure she was at the bakery. She was. I rolled into the parking lot to find her wearing a heavy cable knit sweater that covered her wrists. I checked my car for the temperature. Eighty nine degrees. This wasn’t looking good. She was frail. Her eyes were dialated. I knew she was using. This will shock my readers so, I will elaborate. My mother was an intravenous heroin user. At five years old, I found her in the bathroom overdosing with the needle still sticking out from between her toes. To this day, the sight of blood makes me nauseous. 

Leaving my SUV. I ask Barbara to lift her sleeves. She becomes defensive. “Roll up your sleeves. Take off your shoes and open your mouth.” Barbara has dirty hair and clothing that doesn’t fit along with an attitude. I don’t care. Burt and Deanna are good people. I will not let their loss of baby DeLilah be taken advantage of by an addict. Addiction makes me angry. A pregnant addict is even worse. Barbara needs to get help. I plan to discuss this. There’s a program in Tarrant County at JPS that will help her. Convincing her to get help will be difficult and most likely, confrontational. I jump in anyway and decide that if I don’t use this opportunity, I will regret it. I’m tired. My bones hurt. This past week has left me heartsick. Barbara being an addict only compounds my sadness. 

There are old track marks on Barbara’s arms and new ones between her toes. She’s pregnant enough to be showing. Her mouth is full of rotten teeth most likely from meth use. Barbara underestimated me. “You tell them I want $10k for my baby.” When I posted that Burt and Deanna were willing to take on the expense of raising a child, paying for one had never been mentioned. Where did Barbara come up with this idea? 

I look at her deeply sadenned that the child she carries has no say in her lifestyle. Any idiot can get pregnant. My mom did four times. My mom also put a price tag on all four of her children’s heads. How much? Fifty dollars each. I will never get over the amount. None of her children will. The “sale” was recorded by my grandfather. He wrote the check. He also spent our entire childhood reminding us that “no one wants you not even your own mother.” Yes, there was a reason he recorded my mother getting $200 to go get high. The reason was to hurt us over and over again about it. Cindy found the tape years ago and played it until it broke. I listened to it once. It was enough for me. Enough to find her in my 20’s and ask her why myself. The answer would haunt me. The amount still does. 

“Barbara, Burt and Deanna are looking for a child that needs a loving family. They aren’t planning to buy a baby. I’m protective of them. I’m here today to screen you. I’m here today to protect them from being disappointed. I’m sorry but you need to get your head on and put your child’s needs before your desires. I won’t give you money but I will feed you. I will also help you get help when you are ready to find it. Here’s my card. Call me when you decide to change your life.” I took her inside and bought her food she didn’t eat. Addicts rarely do. I packed it up for her and drove away wondering if she would call me? 

Back on the road passing Russell Stover, I thought of the many times Cindy and I had stopped in for a caramel apple. Happy times after meeting happy clients at Tennessee Colony Units for their wedding. I will have to call Deanna and advise her of Barbara and the issues that I had hoped weren’t what I feared. It would be a let down to someone who will never get over losing DeLilah. Reality would be another thorn in Deanna’s heart. The world is often an unhappy place. Many people lose their faith because their path is so painful. I’ve been one of those people. Cindy has too. It’s difficult to understand why God gave us such a hard life now and then. Incomprehensible at times even but, God will find a way to help a mother while gifting Deanna and Burt with a child to love. I have faith. My faith was restored years ago. I lost it in my childhood and again in my first marriage. It’s difficult to “pin down” the many times I’ve wondered why life must be so hard? I’m certain others feel the same way. Barbara came from a good home. She had even gone to college and yet, she chose to become an addict. I don’t get it. Even as a child, I questioned why drugs were so important to my mother. 

My former Beto Bride Client is facing 20-25 years for bank fraud. She has a one year old son and no family. She’s also a good person who has no history of drug abuse. She contacted me two weeks ago fearful for her son’s future in foster care. She also is doing the right thing by giving up the son she loves so much to a family that will love him equally. While Burt and Deanna were more than willing to take on two children, the child carried by Barbara is a drug baby who will almost certainly have health issues do to the abuse of Barbara during her pregnancy. I offered to leave a bus ticket for Barbara on Will Call in Corsicana. I doubt she will use it. But maybe she will put her child’s needs first? I can only plant a seed. I can’t force Barbara to change. No one can. I’m certain her family gave up years ago and fear she may be prostituting herself in exchange for drugs. I had asked. Her face answered. 

I don’t “look like someone” aware of the underworld of drugs. I had to learn it from my mother who was a prostitute in exchange for heroin. I wish I didn’t know the seedy underworld of drug abuse or crack houses but, my niece was also a meth addict. The things people don’t know about me are that I never expected to live this long. Because of this, I’m also unafraid. 

I’ve been in places that would shock you. I’ve marched into dangerous areas to drag my niece out. My sister has too. Our anger prevented us from being afraid. We were determined to “straighten Stephaney up” and the people “pulling her back in” didn’t scare either of us. Instead, they infuriated us both. Twins marching in to crack houses to save Stephaney surprised the dealers but, when you are trying to save a family member, your own safety is set aside in your mission. Ours was. 

Luckily, our anger at my niece’s consistent relapses is (most likely) why we were never shot, stabbed or robbed. A Fort Worth Police officer once told me “she chooses to be here. You are going to get yourselves killed and I’m going to have to write up the paperwork. Get out of this area.” I told him “we know this area because we’ve been coming here for YEARS to save my niece and the dealers are far more afraid of us than we are of them. If we die trying to get her help, we died trying to do everything within our power to prevent my niece from becoming my mom.” He drove off. 

Heading to Tennessee Colony, I returned calls to Luther, Wynn, Hodge and Allred Units. I also cried about people like my mom and Barbara. I don’t understand it. I can’t. I check in with Cindy and Leigh Ann on Makenna. I make a note to pick up shampoo and conditioner for Makenna to take to visitation at Mesa Springs. It’s a very expensive facility. We don’t care. Mesa Springs is also the best facility in Fort Worth. Treatment for mentally ill patients AND addicts is expensive. 

For sixteen and nearly seventeen years, Cindy and I took turns paying for Stephaney’s treatment for drug abuse. Tens of thousands of dollars later, telling her “we were out. We were cutting her loose and we would never help her again” was actually what worked. Cindy and I were enablers. FOR YEARS. We were also, unaware of being enablers. 

I “line up my family for visits everyday” for Makenna while juggling client calls after calling Deanna about Barbara. I also take a call from New York regarding a “show idea.” I end the call by saying “call back after wedding season.” I mean it. I’m overwhelmed. I’m on auto pilot. Frankly, I’m like a horse with blinders the past week. I focus solely on getting everything I need to do done. I’m driven. But, I cannot take on anything outside clients and family right now. I know my limitations. A few months ago while trying to get Stephaney into a “luxury rehab facility in Valdosta,” a producer would waste over a week of my time in his efforts to obtain my clients contact information. He would lie. He would blow smoke and he would also have no idea what was going on in my life and why his “song and dance of empty promises infuriated the shit out of Cindy and I.” From a fake contract to wanting us to secure talent FOR him at our expense, Chris had no idea of what our work and personal lives actually entail. He also had no idea that I would expose his tactics. Don’t call me blowing smoke. I don’t have the time or the energy for bullshit. 

On that “luxury rehab” situation, it was an abandoned trailer with no running water, electricity or food. Cindy and I wouldn’t know this UNTIL we had sent Stephaney there. UNTIL we had send money and until Stephaney told us what was going on. I involved the DA, Attorney General, County Sheriff and more to “get Stephaney back” while saving three children also starving in that abandoned trailer WHILE dealing with clients and the dipshit producer who wanted me to screen my clients FOR HIM. Now you know why I was so pissed off. If you are a producer or casting agent, know your job description and don’t call me to do your job for you. Don’t lie to me to get me to do your job for you either. I have a very low tolerance for liars. 

Driving to Corsicana, I practice deep breaths and being on today. I practice putting my sorrow away to celebrate joy with my clients. I prepare to dance without music. I’m good at it. I always have been. I no longer fabricate the family to others that I didn’t have in order to protect THEM. I stopped doing this at fifty years old. Why lie to PROTECT the people who FAILED to PROTECT my siblings and I? I’m raw. I’m real. I’m honest. This shocks others but, I’m also a survivor. A survivor of a violent childhood and sexual abuse that began at 6 years old and didn’t end until my twin sister and I ran away. We were 15. 

On my fiftieth birthday, I decided to stop pretending I came from a wonderful family. I also decided to stop wishing I had one. This was joint decision by Cindy and I. When we had our children we vowed to treat them the same way we had hoped to have been treated as children ourselves. We kept our promises. 

Maybe a few people found us to be overprotective but neither our children or our grandchildren have ever been beaten or sexually abused because Cindy and I were cautious and extremely careful about who they were allowed to have over to our homes and sleepovers at friends houses were so rare that we can count on one hand the number of times we allowed our children AND grandchildren to stay over at a friends house in 35 years. 

My niece, Stephaney has been in near death situations by her choices over the years. We couldn’t change this. We tried. Over and over and over again. Stephaney’s choices weren’t due to a violent childhood. She had two mothers. Both Cindy and I raised all of our children and grandchildren together but, addiction runs in our family. Cindy and I hate addiction. HATE IT. We pray Stephaney never relapses again. I’m not sure we could handle another setback with Stephaney. We’ve had far too many. 

Elizabeth calls me an hour prior to her scheduled ceremony at Beto Unit. Elizabeth has also asked that I don’t post photos. I agree not to. Client privacy is a courtesy to all of our clients. She looks beautiful in a royal blue dress with her hair down and the Unit photos of her and her husband are the best I’ve ever seen in Texas. Elizabeth is thrilled with her photos. 

We had passed a barbecue place on the way to a Unit and I decided to use it for her bridal photos. I liked the “country backdrop” and it was on my way back to Tennessee Colony to head on towards Hodge Unit. I enjoyed finally meeting Elizabeth and look forward to editing her photos. 

I’m back on the highway and in a hurry to get to Hodge then back to Fort Worth. Due to the delay at Beto, I’m moving my Dallas North Tower Unit to after visitation at Mesa Springs tonight. My clients understand. They are completely unlike traditional clients. Many have asked why I prefer county and prison services? The answer? The people. They are real. They care about my family they have the compassion that many folks lack. They know sorrow and hardship. They too are survivors….