24
Oct

Michael Unit To Holliday Unit To Polunsky Unit. Travels Of A TDCJ Officiant…

Sharing the day with Cindy and I was an investigative journalist, Ella. She was in for a wild ride of running from one prison to the next with the Texas Twins. 

A day in my life is never boring. If you want to ride with me, you buckle up for adventure, laughs and a few surprises. 

Late Sunday, Ella and I coordinated my itinerary and her arrival. Due to Ella’s arrival time Monday at DFW, I had advised her to meet us on site at the Omni since there was no time to go to her hotel after landing at 2:30 and be on site in Dallas at 4PM. She had asked about the distance from DFW to her hotel and then to the Omni. Catching a Lyft from DFW to the Omni, Ella rolled her luggage right into the hotel lobby to meet my team. 

Learning that she had taken a Lyft rather than renting a car, I invited her to ride back with us but wondered where I would find room for her luggage? We worked it out lol. It was a tight fit but Ella was game to squeeze into my suv full of family and inventory like a pro. I liked her right off the bat. 

Ella was tiny and petite. She also probably had no real idea of what to expect. Most people google me and quickly realize I’m blunt and to the point. I don’t have time to be anything else. I get shit done and juggle clients and family with the fluidity of a seasoned tap dancer. I’m also ALWAYS on a tight timeline. My days are scheduled to the millisecond and leisurely lunches don’t fit into my lifestyle. I’m driven and difficult to keep up with. I’m also OCD. A list maker who always has a full plate and I like it that way.  Cindy is my sassy sidekick and partner. We do everything together. 

Ella quickly realized walking into the Omni that “structure with 5 children on site and an interview with me while chasing Leantrinette’s children” was out of the question and jumped right in to help my team. From handing inventory to rustling kids, Ella was quick to adapt to a really chaotic scene at the Omni. 

Normally, based on my schedule, Bridal or Groom Photos (complimentary and at no cost to clients) are scheduled before or after a Prison wedding.  I knew I wouldn’t have time between Holliday and Polunsky to do Leantrinette’s bridal photos so I shifted her to Monday instead. 

I should note that complimentary photography is reserved solely for clients marrying an inmate. Why? Because there is no cake, there is no music and prison photos are almost always disappointing. 

Out of focus, blurry prison photos are the only photos of my couple together so regardless of the quality, I purchase 3 Unit photos for $3 each in quarters for my clients. 

To solve the issues of “not having all of the things my traditional clients enjoy or take for granted,” I created an opportunity for my clients to celebrate their wedding day by bringing the party AKA my extensive inventory with me in my suv. 

Clients love their photo shoots with me and often tell me “my  photo shoot was the best part of my wedding day.” 

Finding unique spots for photos is challenging but I love a challenge! From veils to jewelry to hats, clothing, furs and more, clients excitedly open my trunk to find what’s in store. 

I had assumed that giving Ella a “heads up” about riding with me was in order. Why? I smoke, I cuss and my phone never stops ringing and I listen to 70’s music. Spending 15-17 hours in the car with me requires a heads up on what to expect. My salty language surprises a few people but I can’t change who I am to fit into a mold of what others expect. I’m a workaholic. A problem solver. Bold, transparent and unfiltered. Cindy is as well. Together we make a helluva team but we love 70’s hits and Marlboro Smooth 100’s and we are accustomed to spending all day in an suv together. Ella was ready for a jam packed 48 hours with the Texas Twins. 

Ella squeezes into my suv with my son, my daughter in law, her cousin, my twin and and with Ella’s suitcase, 17 bouquets, 15 tiaras, 12 bouteniers, numerous signs and 10 fascinators. We were loaded into my trusty suv like sardines in a can. 

Cindy and I were familiar with Leantrinette as she had requested that we do birthday photos of her mom for a surprise party in Dallas several months ago at Pappasitos. 

We rarely meet clients in person prior to wedding day but had met Leantrinette and her family. 

Photo shoots with children are tricky. Someone is always looking the other way. Someone is usually cranky or bored. We roll with photo shoots involving children because shooting for perfection is a hit and miss and because I’m always on a timeline. Leaving the Omni, I drove my crew and Ella to dinner. Ella had been introduced to the Texas Twins Events Team under a literal trial by fire of kids running everywhere, chaos and one toddler running into my pregnant daughter in law’s stomach. 

Bombarding the Omni as if we owned the place, Cindy was worried we would be asked to leave with all the craziness going on. 

To give you a clue about how crazy it was to attempt to orchestrate photos, here’s a video link- Texas Twins Events, Kids, Chaos & Clients chasing children on location? Yep. Welcome to my world. 

Occasionally, I do have children who love to have their picture taken as I did at Wallace Unit but it is a rare occurrence. The girls and little boy at Wallace loved playing dress up and enjoyed having their pictures taken. My trunk was a toy chest. Tuesday morning, while preparing to leave, Ella sent a text needing black socks. Due to the hour, there wasn’t anywhere to buy socks so I brought a pair of my own. 

Loaded up and leaving Fort Worth, our nearly twenty hour day would take us to many places.

Arriving in Tennessee Colony, I finally met Tonya. We had become fast friends during her prison planning process due to a number of hurdles. Getting Tonya married took months. There was a hold up at Michael Unit that concerned me due to my timeline. As Cindy and Ella waited in my suv, Tonya and I waited an hour and a half. Increasingly alarmed, I asked why we were still waiting and explained to the guard my need to be hours away at Holliday Unit at 2:30PM. The hold up was another Officiant running late AND under dressed with her client. We were waiting on the warden to bring a cafeteria smock to this “other Officiant.” Ugh. It’s a prison folks dress appropriately ESPECIALLY if you are an Officiant. You are expected to know policy and procedure and above all… the dress code. That dress was so short that the 3 inch above the knee guideline had been stretched to 3 feet! What the? Come on. I was as irritated as my client that this “other Officiant” had held us up by under dressing. 

Because of this unexpected delay, I asked to do my Ceremony first and explained why due to my schedule. Thankfully, the guard knew me and my bride and I walked outside for her ceremony while waiting for the camera. Realizing this could easily take 20-30 minutes that I didn’t have, I handed my quarters to Tonya at 12:17PM to run through the Unit back out to my suv. Thank God we did Tonya’s wedding photos before heading to Michael Unit. Cindy and Ella were panicking in my suv that we would be late for Leantrinette at Holliday Unit. I literally hauled ass on backroads with no time to stop for food or the bathroom.

Arriving with 5 minutes to spare at Holliday, Leantrinette was on site and ready to go. Leantrinette was thrilled to finally marry the father of her children twelve years later. We had a minor set back screening in due to Leantrinette’s top. Thankfully, she had a tank under it that I pulled up in the front and down in the back to cover cleavage and the need for a cafeteria smock. 

Running from Holliday to Polunsky, there was no time for a restaurant but during a gas stop, we used the restroom and grabbed snacks to drive on.

Arriving at Polunsky, Lastacia was right behind us at the guard gate. She loved the corsage and necklace set I had brought with me and wore them into the Unit. Leaving the Unit, we followed our TDCJ media relations escort to our photo area. Thank you Mr Durst! Lastacia loved the bouquet I had created for her photo shoot and Cindy’s coordinating fascinator.

Back on the road by 7PM, our four hour drive home was long but our day was productive giving our clients a wedding day as special as they are…