23
Dec

“You CANNOT Lead The CONGREGATION Without Turning YOUR Back On The CHOIR.”

Focusing on what’s in front of you isn’t always easy but, in my line of work and with a virtual melting pot of clients, it’s necessary. 

Occasionally, the constant disruptions of a few family members are similar to a choir chirping behind me and demanding my attention. Because of this, I must turn my back and focus on what’s in front of me rather than what’s behind me. 

Conference calls from my family are a regular occurrence. If my son or one of my nieces aren’t getting along, Cindy and I are the “fixers.” If my daughter in law and nieces aren’t getting along, it’s a real hurdle to plan a “friendly holiday get together.”

Every year, when my son or nieces are working at getting along, someone will somehow start an argument. I call this “Christmas Chaos.” Trying to force squabbling adults to get along isn’t easy. 

This morning, my twin sister, Cindy Daniel and I were finishing wrapping gifts to run off to a client meeting while making lists of items needed for Stephaney. For over a year now, my focus has been consistently disrupted due to my niece. There is no predictably whatsoever with Stephaney. 

“Psych Ward friendly clothing” is expensive since each time we buy new items, Stephaney loses them the moment she’s released again. 

Visits to the Psych Ward depress Cindy and I both. Seriously. It’s emotionally debilitating. We go together because it’s easier to go “through the motions” as a team. 

My son had come over to get my help making a rice casserole for one of his “house hopping adventures.” Since his father and I are divorced and his wife’s parents are also divorced, my son and his wife bounce from one house to the next every holiday. 

I helped my daughter in law with loaned jewelry and gave her the Christmas boots I had bought early this year in order to “pull her outfit together.” 

I’m surprised my tree is still standing since Foxy Wortham keeps snooping around the gifts searching for food.Foxy loves the holidays because all three of my grandnieces feed him constantly. His Christmas belly is getting bigger by the day.Robert and Stephanie Hafele found one hour of time this Christmas to open gifts at my home AKA WorthamWorld Christmas morning. The boots really pulled Stephanie’s outfit together. Good thing I bought black. 

I doubt my son could have pulled off this complicated casserole without my help regardless of what his tee shirt says lol. Robbie complained after cutting his finger that “I only had cartoon Band Aids.” 

Wearing his Wonder Woman Band Aid had me laughing. I don’t have Superman because my youngest grandniece, 

Maddy chooses her “stickers” carefully. The other option in my medicine cabinet was Little Mermaid.Trying to orchestrate blocks of time for everyone to be here and open gifts is difficult since my son and my niece, Leigh Ann married. Alex, Leigh Ann’s husband is working on base and alone this Christmas which saddens me. 

I’m hoping this year isn’t as chaotic as last year was with my daughter in law. 

My daughter in law, Stephanie and my other niece, Stephaney occasionally make a few too many visits to my bar. With my niece, Stephaney Mahaney spending Christmas in the psych ward, the drama will be far less chaotic year. No drunken outbursts help to keep the “holiday bright.”

Last July, my niece, Stephaney and my dad were both in separate Psych Wards. Dad was at Wellbridge while Stephaney was at Sundance. If you had told me this would ever happen in my lifetime, I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Even now, it’s hard to believe where Cindy and I have been this past year.  Our busiest year ever with bookings had us both “saddling up” between gigs for “Psych Ward visits to dad or Stephaney.” Of course we were upset but, as our other family members held dinner at home, our dinner hours were spent traveling from dad at Wellbridge to Stephaney at Sundance. 

The crazy phone calls from one dad or Stephaney made answering my phone a dreaded event. I still have 7 different psych Wards saved to my phone from Stephaney’s numerous “stints.” 

Cindy is apprehensive answering calls too because when Steph goes missing, we have no idea where she will show up. 

Stephaney was constantly losing her cell phone and calling from a strange number or telling me she was being chased by the CIA. 

Dad’s calls were just as disturbing. “People are living in my attic. I can hear them up there. They are trying to chase me out of my house.” Running to dad’s house became one dreaded visit after the next. My dad was angry we didn’t believe him but, after months of trying to find a way for anyone to entrer his attic, trying to go along with him was eventually just too much. 

If I didn’t take a call from either of them, they both would call Cindy. Admittedly, letting those calls go to voice mail spared me from dealing with the insanity while I was attempting to focus on work, my clients or my husband. 

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for someone to disrupt your day by simply calling you? They don’t have to show up. They simple need to pick up a phone. 

The non stop calls to Cindy or I often resulted in either of us texting one another regarding the latest crazy phone call. Dad and Stephaney weren’t calling other family members. No, that would be too easy. They chose to call Cindy or I instead. 

Many of our family members thought we were crazy until both dad and Stephaney were involuntarily committed. Then, they believed us. Better late than never? 

Dad kept insisting invisible people were living in his attic. I could go on and on here. Between the two of them, it’s a wonder Cindy and I aren’t insane. 

Driven to the point of no return by two relatives hellbent on self destruction? I had never even considered that insanity is “liberating” before this past year. Crazy people don’t care about what they are doing to their family. 

People in psych wards wander around in pajamas. They don’t cook or clean or face reality. They go to counseling. They relax. They are pampered and as their family member, your phone rings constantly because “they need you to bring this or do that.” They count the hours until your next visit. They call to make sure you are coming. 

Your dad gets upset that you and Cindy miss ONE DAY of visiting because you are in Houston working an event. Never mind all the other days you dropped everything to visit because that one day will be held against you for eternity. Your dad cannot understand why anything could be more important than visiting him for an hour while all out crazy surrounds you from other patients. 

Your dad is also nicer at Wellbridge to you than he ever has been in your life. He even tells your sister and you leaving that he loves you? We were equally shocked. Having a normal relationship with our dad was never a part of our lives. 

In fact it wasn’t until he met Gretta 13 years ago that dad actually began taking an interest in our families. 

There weren’t any “family get togethers” prior to Gretta who didn’t understand why our children, grandchildren or Cindy and I “didn’t visit our dad.” Gretta tried hard to put our family together again. Sadly, by the time Gretta entered the picture, Cindy and I were in our 40’s and our children were grown. 

My twin grandnieces had slumber Parties with dad and Gretta but it was Gretta alone who started the tradition. By the time Gretta died 7 years ago, the twins had began calling her “Big Momma.” Gretta was and always will be the only person my dad ever had in his life that tried to mend the fence of separation that the years of discord with our father had built. 

My dad was a different person when he was committed. Completely different. He was also most likely for the first time in his life that Cindy and I were the only people visiting him. 

I’ve decided that sitting back and acting crazy must be easier for Stephaney than dealing with real life is for my niece. Dad? I don’t know what caused his year of paranoia. I may never know. 

Truthfully, I no longer care. I spent a year trying to snap dad and Stephaney out of it and it’s a year that I will never get back. It’s high time that dad and Stephaney snap out of it on their own. 

Visiting a family member at a mental institution and putting on happy or positive face knowing you are leaving to go to yet another mental institute to visit another family member is a heavy burden. 

My sister and I spent a solid month bouncing from dad at Wellbridge to Stephaney at Sundance. Buying cigarettes and bringing Psych Ward Friendly clothes, how I kept from screaming all the way from one daily visit to the next I have no idea. Thanks Xanax. 

For the family members expecting you to drop everything everyday to visit them in a mental ward, it never occurs to them that you have a life and a schedule outside of these visits and phone calls asking you to bring this or that but, you do. 

When you aren’t visiting they are calling you. Your life revolves around them. The only time you catch a break is when you leave your cell phone in the car because you are working. 

Convincing your niece or your father that you have numerous other obligations is a difficult conversation. They only worry about themselves and/or their needs. They don’t understand that you are juggling clients and homeschooling the twins. 

They cannot fathom that your husband’s might want a little attention here or there and they find it funny that you took your sister to ER because she thought she was having a heart attack when in fact it was an anxiety attack due to the stress they’ve brought into your life. 

Try reasoning with a patient in a mental institute. It’s a difficult conversation. They don’t want to hear your problems because they are too focused on “getting out” of the mental ward. How the heck the other visitors pull off a normal conversation I have no idea. 

Cindy and I both work together seven days a week. Cindy is also the guardian of her twin granddaughters, Maryssa and Makenna who are Stephaney’s daughters. Both of the twins are homeschooled. We are busy 24/7 but, apparently, we never do enough for dad or Stephaney. 

Leaving our client meeting today, Cindy’s other daughter, Leigh Ann had sent a text about picking up a robot toy for her daughter, Maddy at Target on our way to drop off clothing to Stephaney. 

Our phones never stop ringing with an equal mix of clients and family. Someone always needs something. Sadly, finding time for ourselves is becoming harder and harder. 

Cindy and I were both dreading visiting Stephaney again at LCA where the chairs are weighted with sand and water and where the smell of urine is so bad that we carry Febreeze to get it off us after leaving. 

Many folks tell us that “Stephaney needs to bottom out.” What they fail to realize is that only two weeks ago, my niece was living in a box and homeless. If that isn’t “bottoming out” then I don’t know what is. 

If we hadn’t obtained a mental warrant and found Stephaney a few weeks ago, I feel strongly that she would have froze to death in the dropping Texas temperatures. It wasn’t an easy choice. Obtaining a mental warrant leaves you with guilt. Only use this option if it’s the only one you have. It was for us. Stephaney planned to die in the streets. 

A little over a week ago, John Petersmith (JPS) released my niece to the Presbyterian Night Shelter. While this might sound like a “step up” to the box, it apparently wasn’t for my niece. 

Cindy and I took the call about Stephaney being kicked out onto the street from the Psych Ward minutes before jumping on a scheduled Skype call with a production company. 

Once again, we needed our happy faces and high energy. “Show us your big personalities.” I’m going to admit that the stress of trying to act normal knowing we would sign off of Skype only to go looking for Stephaney on the streets once again actually prevented me from portraying the usual anticipated “rainbows and unicorns.” 

Explaining to others who cannot understand how my concept worked in the first place isn’t easy. The truth is that finding a solution for clients and compensation for my team took time, setbacks and disappointment before finding a resolution. Event requests aren’t always black and white. Sure, we could have given up years ago but, didn’t. Nothing in my life has ever come easy. If it had, I wouldn’t be resilient. If I wasn’t a twin, I wouldn’t have a partner willing to jump in and help me find direction or insight.

“Desire Without Drive Leaves You With Envy.”

Wendy Wortham

For the first time in my life on that Skype call, I was raw. Unfiltered. Completely honest and, looking back, horrified. I should have rescheduled that Skype call. I’m mostly somewhat private regarding the anger of dealing with my dad or Stephaney unless of course, I’m asked. Trying to separate family with work in my life is impossible. I write about it but I don’t talk about it. 

Cindy watched in stunned silence as I honestly explained why I prefer Prison Weddings to traditional events. Shocking stuff but, true. It’s the only area of my life where there are rarely any surprises. 

Leaving my home after the Skype call to go look for my niece, I had assumed that we would never hear from THEM AGAIN. 

But, we did on our way to TDCJ Allred Unit. I couldn’t believe it and neither could Cindy. Didn’t they want the happy twins? The twins with no problems? The problem free redheads with lots of personality and not a care in the world? The “scripted set of twins?” 

The truth is that had Cindy and I not come from a broken childhood with parents who didn’t really want us, we most likely would have never started Texas Twins Events. We most likely would never have been aware of how difficult it is to pay for a Life Event. We most likely would never have become infamous for our LBGT Client base. We most likely would have never started bartering to accommodate people with no money. We most likely would have never expanded to include Texas Prison Weddings. We are survivors. We had no one to help us with our weddings and because of it, decided to start a people over profit based business in order to spend more time together and because Cindy was raising her twin granddaughters and could no longer work due to the expense of day care. I took an idea and concept that wasn’t based on getting rich. We were open minded while other vendors weren’t. What made us different also made us unique. What people don’t know surprises them but, we are resilient, open minded and the people we have never met. Finding ways to help others wasn’t easy but, it was essential to our growth and expansions. 

Nobody was more surprised than Cindy and I. “You were fascinating. Honest. Emotional. Real. We loved talking to you.” What the? They had caught us off guard and for once, we didn’t pretend to “dance from one happy day right into the next.” 

Cindy and I were both agitated about having to run off and interview homeless people trying to find Stephaney when we sat down in my home office to jump on that Skype call. 

I had told my twin to “put dad and Stephaney in a box. Don’t open it. Focus on talking about work.” With dad missing again for over a month and Stephaney taking a cab to who knows where on the wrong side of town, putting those two out of our minds wasn’t easy.

The Skype call kept dropping. This may have agitated me as I double checked my watch knowing that the longer it took to find Stephaney the harder it would be. The production company kept trying to call me back when I wasn’t trying to call them back. 

I was trying to rush through the interview because we still had to find Stephaney, check dad’s house to see if he had returned, meet a client and finish Christmas shopping. I had too much on my plate quite frankly,  Cindy did too. 

We should have pushed the Skype interview off but, as usual we were trying to be reliable, professional, dependable and honor our commitments. 

For once, we didn’t pretend that every client was a joy. For once, we admitted that we’ve had a few pretty lousy divas and drunks over the years and, we were sick of hot checks too. There’s a reason I enjoy prison weddings and the reason is structure. There are very few surprises. 

Discussing the fact that our family works with us and don’t always get along surprises people but, it’s true. My son can be agitated with his wife on location. My daughter in law can be complaining about Stephaney. My husband can be calling because he’s seen my niece acting crazy near our home while Cindy and I are at a venue or driving to meet a client at a prison. 

My phone rings all the time. Family and business go together hand in hand. Often, I wish they didn’t but they do. Trying to get my entire family to get along on location isn’t easy. Cindy and I both work at it. 

For once we flat out said to this production company that if people want us to help them with a service, that we require clients to “show us the money.” We barter because we hear sad luck stories all the time. We needed an option and the option became bartering. Give to get. Put some skin in the game. Without sacrifice there are no rewards. 

For once, Cindy and I actually told it like it was instead of having a 20 year old production assistant whisper “don’t let them know that you ever run into any problems. Everything is perfect in your life and your work. That’s what they want to hear.” I laugh about this. I’ve heard it for nearly six years from someone who has no idea what we really do. Has no clue about the Wild array of clients we service. Doesn’t understand that we help rich or poor. 

Rich people are difficult and demanding. They also will do anything to keep from paying their bill. From hot checks to broken promises, we have seen it all. Poor people are proud. They want to give you something in return which is how The Pawning Planners was actually created. There are no limits with us. No limits on services and no limits on our clientele. 

Anyone who has worked in the event industry knows that “flawless execution” would be easy if only there weren’t ANY OTHER people involved in the process. 

The truth is that working with the general public is UNPREDICTABLE. 

Production companies contact me frequently. Cindy and I are tired of “the scripts.” The concepts. The ideas. None of them come close to wild array of clients or family members we have in our lives. 

Previous production companies have never even touched on the fact that four generations of my family work with me. To those unaware, it would appear that Cindy and I dance from one day into the next filled with hilarious adventure. That we handle all of our clients ourselves. We don’t. We can’t. We have far too many obligations. New bookings are bumped to existing family members with opening on their schedules. 

My family and my businesses are effectively “merged” although the reality is that my family and my businesses can be an occasional mix of oil and water now and then too. We don’t “always get along.” No family business does. Someone is stirring the chili whether it’s my family or Clients themselves. 

Even Cindy and I occasionally disagree. Sure, it’s rare but, it has happened. I feel sorry for everyone. Cindy will pass a hat around to get paid. Seriously. She’s done it before and, she will do it again. 

This trying to get paid was such a problem at a few events that Cindy had taken it upon herself to be the collection agent. I dislike trying to get paid so much that I no longer allow same day compensation. 

“Sad stories don’t pay the bills. Throw that book in the trash. Are they bartering or paying?”

Cindy Daniel

Cindy and I have decided to stop acting like “everything’s grand” when in fact it isn’t for us and probably not everyday for others either. 

“Ambition is the desire to achieve a goal that requires work, focus, and determination.”

Wendy Wortham

We are tired of being fabricated into something we aren’t. Cindy and I are different because being different is how we’ve survived. 

Being open minded is how we continue to grow. But, most of the people contacting us have a concept of what they want us to be rather than accepting who we are. 

Many production companies frown on our client base. They want us to be what they think we should be. We aren’t. The reason they found us in the first place was because we were so different that we grabbed their attention.

There isn’t anyone like us because we started a people over profit based business. We don’t ONLY barter. We don’t ONLY ANYTHING. We are open minded and that’s what makes us special. WE DON’T ONLY do weddings. 

Our clients are diverse. None of us fit into a box or a concept. Not my family. Not my Clients. There isn’t a big red bow to tie it all together. 

What there is however is a group of family members who work to make Dream Events a reality. Some clients have no money so they barter. Other clients are marrying an inmate. Other clients are interfaith, interracial or LBGT. 

Our clients are unique. They are diverse. They are entertaining. They all have a story. Many of their stories are fascinating. But, don’t hand Cindy a check on the day of your event- she wants cash. Checks bounce. 

Driving around to find my niece after disconnecting Skype. I told Cindy that the stress was just too much. I had lost my composure and blown it. I wished I had rescheduled. We did eventually find Stephaney wandering around on East Lancaster after that Skype call. She had spent only one night in the Presbyterian Night Shelter and had decided never to go back again. 

Two days later, Stephaney was (once again) picked up by Fort Worth PD after dancing in the streets with a pair of scissors claiming to be looking for short ribs? 

Naturally, she was transferred back to the Psych Ward. Stephaney is always taken to JPS. She “pops up” as a mental patient due to the number of times police has transported her to the Tenth Floor. 

The revolving door of visiting Stephaney in yet another mental institute is emotionally debilitating. Trying to remain positive is becoming impossible. 

My son told me last week “you should write a book about these adventures with Stephaney and grandpa. After all, you and aunt Cindy can prove it and it’s a story that’s pretty hard to believe.” 

Robbie had a point. But, my blogs are a diary of work and family and I have no idea how the Stephaney Saga will end. In fact, I have no idea about dad either. I wish I did but, I don’t. 

Running from a Psych Ward to a Prison Wedding, baptism, Vow Renewal or funeral or even birthday party for a client requires Cindy and I to “shake off” where we have been to address where we are going. We call this “putting on our happy face.” 

Very few clients even realize that we have to dig deep for our happy faces because we are great actresses. 

Putting the disturbing reality of the other patients at a Psych Ward out of our mind along with our helplessness or the worry and fear about what will happen to dad or Stephaney isn’t easy. 

It’s actually a storm cloud with dad and Stephaney. I think of the tornado that surprises everyone in Texas. I think of the destruction. It reminds me of my niece and dad. There’s a line of lightening running through the black gaping hole of strong winds and the danger of being sucked into their “tornado of trouble” often lurks in the background. 

Visualizing the impending disaster of dad or Stephaney and another shocking surprise comes naturally now. In fact, every time my phone rings, I’m relieved it’s a Client rather than someone calling about my dad or Stephaney. Occasionally, it’s someone else asking about dad or Stephaney. 

After over a year of dad and Stephaney consistently sucker punching us, Cindy and I are on guard all the time now. 

An unknown number is cause for alarm. Is Stephaney in jail again? What now? We answer every call because we have no idea what to expect. 

Most of the time it’s another sales call. “Get more clients. Get on top of Google. Bla Bla.” I always hang up. We don’t need more clients. 

Thanks for scaring me with your unknown number. I know you are just trying to work but wonder if you manage to hook anyone in with the first two sentences. 

Phone soliciting just must be a high stress job with low results. I don’t advertise. I haven’t in years. I don’t need to.  

Our dad left his home a little over a month ago. He hasn’t come back. We aren’t sure where he is but we’re told by my aunt and brother that “he’s happy now. That house made him miserable. He was certain people were in the attic or it was haunted.” I find these theories odd at best and disturbing at worst. 

In fact, my father was involuntarily committed BECAUSE he decided to shoot up the ceiling and the invisible intruders. 

My dad has never acted crazy before this last year but, I believe this entire “haunted house debacle” with dad is due to Vascular Dementia although convincing my dad of this was an escapade in futility. 

My dad suddenly deciding to move away without even discussing it with Cindy or I is “par for the course.” I no longer try to reason or attempt to convince my father that no one is living in the attic or that the house isn’t haunted. I no longer have to try to be reasonable with my dad and, I’m relieved about it. 

I’m relieved that bouncing from events and client meetings to visit my dad or my niece on the same day at a Psych Ward is no longer part of my life or schedule. My twin sister is relieved too. 

One Psych Ward visit a day is enough for anyone. Addressing the needs of the family member aka “patient” with new needs on a daily basis is trying at best. “I need new socks. Mine were lost.” All of these items mudt be purchased and then dropped off and screened. 

Stephaney adds to our lists of where we need to be or when we can find time to run by JPS again. 

While Stephaney was in Wichita Falls at North Texas State Hospital, one counselor actually asked us “has Stephaney always been this demanding?” YES. Surprising but, true. Stephaney is pretty demanding and my dad is too. 

Cindy’s phone rings and actually says “Psych Ward Stephaney Calling.” My phone doesn’t announce who is calling although the screen tells me if it’s my husband, my son or someone in my contact list but, Cindy’s phone announces the call at often inappropriate times while other shoppers look on confused. 

If our dad has found happiness outside his home, we celebrate the break of craziness we’ve been forced to deal with the past year and hope he’s fine. He’s an adult and can make his own decisions. 

Not having to worry about dad or what’s he’s up to anymore is a real gift this holiday season. My dad has never bought presents for our children or grandchildren. His relationship with them is and always has been strained. He might call my son when he needed something or even Stephaney but, trying to have a normal relationship is something that will never happen. 

Cindy and I go through the motions. We have taken dad to lunch or the doctor. To the movies and tried to keep him entertained. We have tried to act as if our family wasn’t torn but, it’s an act. Our childhood is the reason we can never be lovey dovey. Our dad never was. As a senior, maybe he forgot that? We can’t. 

My dads house is only a few blocks from me and running over there to check the attic over and over again was a real pain. 

I’d be in my home office with a client or walking my dog and dad would call yelling “get over here! They are pumping poison gas again. I can hear them up there. Why can’t you find them? They are trying to kill me here.” 

It became so disturbing to my life that I often let the call roll to voice mail. I couldn’t take it anymore.  

Although everyone continued to ask about our dad, admitting we don’t know where he is and we are okay about it confuses them. We couldn’t save dad. No one else could either. 

Dad’s sister, our aunt and our brother aren’t concerned about dad so why should Cindy and I be? 

Stephaney is another story altogether. Unlike dad, his one involuntary Commitment turned into 11 more for Stephaney. It’s a revolving door of commitments for my niece. My dad somehow escaped going back into the Psych Ward. 

The depressing reality of not knowing if or when Stephaney will actually get it together rolls on. 

At JPS, I fielded two new client calls for Coffield Unit and Michael Units. My January is booking up faster than I can find available dates for. Walking in with Cindy, we both read the note on the lobby window regarding “Holiday Visitation.” 

My sister reminded me to “focus on what’s in front of us. This is miserable and depressing but, we sit and wait. We get screened. We have the items we’ve brought screened and we remember July where we bounced from one asylum to the next. We get through this first then move on. We get through this “screening” like we do everything else in our lives and, we do it together.” 

The nurse puts on plastic gloves as if the clothing we’ve brought is contaminated. I don’t understand this. It’s actually offensive to me that she needs gloves to rifle through carefully folded items. 

We sit there in the depressing lobby reading signs about family support groups. We both watch the nurse turn everything inside out. We wait. 

Everything (including us) is screened at a Psych Ward. Remarkably similar to a Prison but, no bars. What they are worried about us bringing in we have no idea of. 

We don’t want Stephaney to escape. There aren’t any files or shovels cunningly hidden among clothing and toiletries. 

I ask why my sister hasn’t posted to Twitter or Linkedin? We both ignore the nurse looking for who knows what. 

Cindy goes over her latest holiday #Cindyism Quotes featured on Say Quotable as we sit alone in the darkened lobby. She’s actually trying to cheer me up and I know it. 

Cindy is as tired as I am of family problems with dad or Stephaney. Why is normal so hard to find? Abnormal is becoming our normal. 

While others are holiday shopping and meeting friends for lunch, we are clock watching to get to our next event and sitting in a dingy waiting area with a police car out front as if the patients are planning to make a run for it out of the mental institute. 

The police officer and the nurse are the gatekeepers. The officer isn’t letting anyone out while the nurse is deciding what she will let in. Warily, we wait. 

Waiting is a necessity at Psych Wards. You learn this early on. Sign in. What’s the patient code? Who are you to the patient? Why are you dropping this or that off? Did they expect a stranger to drop by and provide clothing or toiletries to Stephaney? 

Cindy and I both have been heartbroken over Stephaney’s choices. We’ve had moments of hope. In April, Stephaney had a great job. By mid June, she was aimlessly walking around the city. Last month, she was transferred to a Group Home from JPS. 

We thought Stephaney would find work and get structured. We thought she would get it together but, another devastating setback awaited us. 

Cindy and I have had so many ups and downs with Stephaney the past eighteen years that I no longer enjoy roller coasters. I’ve been riding Stephaney’s for too many years now. She’s up. She’s down. She’s employed. She’s homeless. You get it.

Dad going nuts the past year was a shocker for sure but, “going off the reservation” at the same time Stephaney did was a virtual double whammy. 

When Cindy and I weren’t dealing with one family member, we were dealing with the other. Crazy phone calls from dad or Stephaney became “our new normal.” 

For over a year, paranoid and delusional phone calls from dad and Stephaney occurred all day long. We turned off our phones when we were with clients in order to look normal. 

Having your crazy relative screaming about invisible people on your cell isn’t exactly professional. We had to limit these disruptive phone calls and, we did. 

Cindy uses laughter to control stress. Cindy also has something to say about everything or “a Cindyism Quote to fit the situation.” My sister is my best friend. She’s my partner. We are buddies. We weather every storm together. We have also been the silent rugs for years now. We are no longer silent. 

I liked the “turning your back to the Choir” quote because we actually do turn our backs on a regular basis. We have to. 

We have Clients counting on us. We have grandkids wanting their happy grannies back. We have husband’s trying to make us smile. We have friends who would love a visit.  As an Officiant or celebrant, event planner or jack of all trades, it’s necessary to focus on the client and not the Inlaws or Outlaws or others attempting to “run the show.” 

In our family, everyone else tries to run the show. Cindy and I are Ringleaders. You can’t let the monkeys run the zoo. Reigning in the clowns is a necessity. 

The “clowns” being those family members who think you aren’t doing enough while they sit on their asses. The folks enjoying life and most likely, laughing about one surprising and saddening event after the next with Stephaney. 

They probably gossip about it at dinner. “Did you hear the latest about Stephaney? Can you imagine Wendy and Cindy interviewing homeless people trying to find her? How do they manage to go to work everyday?” The same folks or “clowns” with loads of advice that never once went to visit dad OR Stephaney. 

I must focus on what’s in front of me as Cindy does too. We must accept the challenges we face while trying to find resolution. 

We must hope and pray that Stephaney decides to straighten up and fly right. 

Acting normal and shaking off our latest visit to a mental institute, we pull it together. 

We plan the holiday with our other children and grandchildren. We try to remain positive. It’s not easy.  While juggling clients and buying new Psych friendly clothes for my niece along with the robot dog for Maddy, Cindy and I watch other frazzled shoppers trying to find the perfect gift. Trying to plan the perfect holiday. 

We wish finding the “perfect gift” was the only problem we had on our plates but, it isn’t. Dad and Stephaney both loom behind Cindy and I like a tricky poltergeist waiting to scare the heck out of us by dropping the next bomb. Jumping out and yelling “boo” from behind a door. 

More surprises and shocks await us but, as usual we have no idea from which corner the next blow is going to come. Will it be dad or Stephaney? Another late night call? Being unable to locate either of them again or at all? We have no real idea. 

I find myself wishing I could foresee the future. I always feel as if I must be in control at all times. I need structure and control in my life to such an extent that actually “giving up control” at the doctor or dentist is very difficult for me. 

Knowing that I have no control whatsoever with my dad or my niece, I fight to fix things. I plan to make it right and, I fail. My success is in business. My personal life regarding my family is unpredictable. While my husband and dog wait for me to return home after a visit to Stephaney, my husband warily accepts that my crazy family is part of the “package.” He has no parents they are both dead. His daughter died a few months ago. Ann was also Bipolar and in or out of Psych Wards. He’s older. He’s seen it all and he knows it’s up to Stephaney and not us to get it together. He’s had experience. Years of it with Ann. But, he doesn’t interfere. He doesn’t give me advice. 

Cindy always asks me “what’s going to happen?” Sadly, I don’t have the answers. I like structure and predictability. 

But, for over a year, thanks to dad and Stephaney, my personal life has had so little structure that even going through the motions and doing normal things like drifting off to sleep now elude me. 

I’m so busy trying to address clients and family this holiday season that I actually have to mail gifts to my friend, Tammi who only lives 20 minutes away because I don’t have time to go for a visit and drop off a gift. 

Every moment of everyday is now filled to the brim like an overflowing glass of water. 

I also mailed gifts to my aunt and cousins because my schedule won’t allow “a trip to the farm” to be squeezed in. 

I don’t mind being busy. Work occupies my mind. Work is structured. I know what to do. Cindy and I enjoy spending time together. We enjoy traveling and listening to classic rock or finding new secondhand shops in our travels. We talk about anything and everything. There are no boundaries between us. 

The level of comfort and familiarity I share with my twin could never be matched by my husband. Matthew knows this and accepts it. 

Like Cindy’s husband, Matthew grew up with identical twins and understands that trying to come between them will backfire. 

My team of family members know what to do. Everyone arrives on site at locations early. Everyone knows to check in with Cindy or I if they have problems or issues on location. 

Everyone knows that Wendy and Cindy have encountered darn near anything unexpected and, found a solution. 

With age comes wisdom but, with experience comes knowledge. We don’t have a magic button. Cindy and I do have each other though. 

Usually, we also know what to expect and what’s expected of us. Rarely, do we encounter problems with work these days. 

We’ve been working together for years and have a balance. Our adult children call from location events frequently for our advice. Cindy and I both love driving away from family problems and chaos on our next road trip to a Texas Prison. Our family problems are in the rear view mirror. We are escaping the uncertainty for several hours. We are unavailable. We are working. 
Road trips and thrift shopping are relaxing for the Texas Twins. We literally “get away from it all” by saddling up and riding right out of town. 

A few of my TDCJ Clients have been asking about applying to Love After Lock Up, casting has been extended through July 2019 so please use the email address soon to be considered. There is a timeline regarding release.

As Cindy and I waited an eternity for the nurse who spoke very little English to return and go over “what couldn’t be left for the patient,” we notice she has two pieces of red construction paper. 

Stephaney had written out holiday greetings to each of her twin daughters from the confines of the mental ward. The simplicity of her drawings affected me greatly. 

I remember Stephaney as a child bringing drawings home that we proudly displayed on the refrigerator. I think of this and the years of raising both of Cindy’s daughters and my son together. I remember the open house nights at school. Seeing Stephaney run into the building excited about learning. 

I think of all of these things as I look at her handwritten Christmas wish for the twins. Her daughters who are now as tall as Cindy and I. Who are now opinionated and eloquent. Educated and sassy. 

Maryssa and Makenna are angry at Stephaney although at Thanksgiving, Maryssa had hope. The “box” changed all of that. 

The “box” was “it” for Maryssa who could never understand how mental illness affected her mother to such an extent that she suddenly decided to be homeless. Children can only handle so much stress. 

For some reason, this small act of realizing that it’s Christmas makes my sister and I even sadder. Sitting in the dismal lobby area, we both nearly cry examining the hand made Christmas cards with black magic marker and snowflakes adorning each of the twins first and middle names. 

Holding the construction paper in my hands, I’m eternally sad about the beautifully written script of “Merry Christmas.” I recall teaching Stephaney handwriting. My heart hurts. Cindy and I are helpless and, we are in a helpless situation. 

I think of Stephaney coming home with Leigh Ann and my son and bringing homemade Mother’s Day gifts or Christmas cards. I think of how we treasured everything the kids brought home. How proudly we displayed their accomplishments and realize where we are now. 

I have no idea how we got here. We are going through the motions and continuing to try and act normal when in fact any degree of normality aside from work is harder to come by. 

Stephaney’s daughters are angry about the choices she’s made that forced Cindy to kick her daughter out. We all are. But, anger won’t change things. Counseling and rehab might and if they don’t, incarceration is the only option left. We’ve tried everything else. 

Cindy and I both know that at 14, Stephaney’s twins and the window to reestablish her relationship them is getting smaller and smaller. 

We walk back to Cindy’s SUV slump shouldered and in a way grateful that all but one of the items we’ve brought in a Hefty kitchen bag were accepted by the nurse who spoke very little English. She couldn’t understand us and we barely understood her. 

We wonder what Christmas in a mental institute must be like? We wonder if a mental institute is similar to Prison without the bars? Patients can’t leave. Mental institutes have locked doors. 

Patients cannot wear the same colors as staff. Do they assume someone will mistake a staff member for a mental patient? Cindy and I consider the possibility and, we don’t bring any clothing in black or red. No lace. No strings. No hoods. The “no” list is lengthy. 

We wonder if this latest involuntary commitment will make a dent in Stephaney? If spending Christmas locked up although not in jail will break through to her. If not seeing her children open their gifts will have any effect on her? 

“The SWEETEST grapes in the VINEYARD, were GROWN from UGLIEST vines” (don’t judge folks by their family).

I take a sip of my non fat chai latte and reinforce to my sister that “Stephaney isn’t in a box. She isn’t homeless and she took the time to make her own Christmas cards. Maybe, just maybe, she’s realizing everything she’s lost and focusing on trying to get it back together again?” 

Cindy shakes her head and turns to me while starting the car, “sister. You are trying to find the cup half full rather than half empty but, this cup has been tipped over so much that there ain’t much left in it except maybe backwash.” 

My sister is so sad and I want so badly to fix it that we both miserably look back over our shoulders at the bleak building and ever present police car that we’ve come to know the last 6 visits. I’m as tired of mental institutes as Cindy. 

It’s so difficult to be “up” that we leave clothing without visiting today because the visitation hours were changed and also because we have to be at Mercado Event Center in less than an hour. 

We need to dig out those “happy faces back out” moments after spraying ourselves with Febreeze again. I like the pine scent. It doesn’t bother me that I smell like a Yankee Candle either. It’s crisp, clean and refreshing. 

Cindy and I are equally saddened about this latest “dive for Steph” although since she’s a patient now, and not homeless anymore, I don’t think it’s a dive into the street. 

I consider this latest involuntary commitment a “step up on the curb.” Of course, Convincing Cindy of this won’t be easy. Our sadness has been profound for over a year regarding dad and Stephaney. 

The “bright spot” in our lives is our clients and Cindy’s three granddaughters. Clients are thankful for our help and Maryssa, Makenna and Madyson keep us laughing.

I’ve had numerous questions regarding Military Discounts and if they apply to Texas Prison Weddings? The answer is yes, if the person on the outside or inside served previously in the armed forces or is currently serving, I honor both active or retired Military Members as well as first responders, teachers, fire and police. 

A large portion of Texas Twins Events clients are active or retired military.Whether your event is on a C130 off the tarmac, a Prison, park or venue, honoring those serving in the armed forces of fire and rescue or even teachers is an important part of us giving back to those who give so much.

Back at my home, Cindy was doing better as she headed home to meet her husband, Steve a truck driver for Ryder who travelled through strong wind gusts in Wyoming and snow to make it home in time for Christmas. 

But, an hour later when I called Cindy to check on putting Maddy’s Barbie house together, my sister was crying in the parking lot of Petro. 

I asked “what’s wrong buddy? I thought you were doing okay?” Setting aside my green bean casserole and sweet potatoes, I sat down in my festively decorated home wishing I was as cheerful as my home appeared to be. 

Cindy told me “it’s just that I’m so tired of all of this with dad and Stephaney. Last year at Christmas, Stephaney had a job and a car. She was erratic but at least she was holding down a job. Dad was in his house thinking he “heard people” but, he went to the movies with us at least. This year, dad’s missing and Stephaney is back in an insane asylum. I’m looking at semi tractors with Christmas wreaths on them and thinking about how desperate Steve is to get home and watch the “little ones” open their gifts and thinking why is this happening to us with Stephaney? Why did dad just run off before Thanksgiving? Why was Steph okay on Thanksgiving and living in a box homeless less than a week later? I wonder if we can EVER have a normal family like other people? I find myself thinking of everything we have given up to give the twins the stability we’ve never had and why their mother doesn’t realize what she’s done to our family? I think of my husband in the Good Friday roadside attack. The camp bombed and watching his friends die in Iraq. I think of all the sorrow and tragedy we’ve seen and wonder if Stephaney will ever get it together? My heart hurts sister it hurts so much. All I want is a normal holiday like other people.” 

Cindy’s right about love being sacrifice. My husband and her husband are far older than us. They’ve both been through lay offs and hard times after the twins were born and all four of us have put the twins needs first. All four of us have put Maddy, Maryssa and Makenna first. Cindy and I try not to cry in front of them. We try to mask our frustration about dad and Stephaney.   

Not knowing what Stephaney will do next affected me on a phone call with the BBC a week ago. They had called to discuss a documentary about prison marriage and the timing couldn’t have been worse for me as I was trying to find Stephaney after losing her yet again. I didn’t disclose this of course. 

Listening to Bluetooth and answering questions while I looked at every homeless person walking searching for my niece, I think to myself “wow, your composure is on point today Pal.” If only they knew that I was multitasking. But, I don’t deter from the reason they’ve contacted me. 

The miles Cindy and I have driven trying to find Stephaney over and over again have aged us both. The frustration and anger have left us hopeless and helpless but, we are great at pulling it together when necessary for our clients and for our other family members. 

Cindy and I started Christmas shopping months ago trying to prepare for the holidays ahead of time. Our schedules were booked out months ago which was why we got a “jump start” on shopping. I.E. We had to be organized sailing into Christmas. 

Unable to sleep most nights, I also bought far more gifts than necessary while worrying about Stephaney. 

Between Cindy and I, we had so many gifts that we sponsored families who couldn’t afford to buy gifts. We dropped off food to needy families too. We gave back because we could. Our families are finally no longer struggling to “save the farms.” 

My Prison wedding bookings take up a huge percentage of clients. I enjoy the structure. I love not having to worry about drunk guests other vendors or a heckler. Prisons are predictable. I have none of these issues inside a jail or a prison. No guests. No vendors. No Inlaws. 

No one on location telling me how to do my job “because I helped plan my own wedding. I know what I’m doing.” Really? Why aren’t you in the Events business? Everyone thinks they are an expert in the event business. They aren’t. If they were, they’d have a successful business. Hmm. 

There are NO Inlaws or Outlaws. There isn’t anyone snapping their fingers. There are no Divas. There is rarely if ever any drama at a Prison. What a blessing. What a relief. 

Everyone asks why I enjoy prison weddings without recognizing that my clients are kind to me and I enjoy the work. 

For eight years, traditional bookings were one chaotic dance after the next. Bridal parties getting into drunken brawls and arrested or one of the Inlaws acting like an Outlaw. 

Divas, Drama and Dipshits were an every weekend occurrence for me. Prison weddings changed all of that. Finally, my schedule had structure and predictability. Finally, I no longer worried about someone throwing up on my shoes during the ceremony. 

Thankfully, I no longer take on every client because I no longer have to. I work because I enjoy the work. I work because I love making “Dream Events a reality one family one client or barter at a time from Fort Worth, Texas” with my twin sister, niece, son, daughter in law, or grandnieces on location with me. 

I’ve found a happy balance of booking clients that also allows me to spend time with my twin sister. Time that I never had for twenty plus years of “working for the man.” 

I no longer work for the man. I work for myself. I also created a window for my other family members including my son, Robbie and niece, Leigh Ann to earn their own living by working as photographers or Officiants. I’ve read many comments about pregnant brides or prison wives. A few even address the fact that a large portion of my clients are also LBGT. 

I operate a rainbow business of various backgrounds and situations but, for those judging a pregnant bride who “waited a bit too long” to marry, it should be noted that her husband was away serving in the Military. 

Maybe because as a child with a chronic stutter and homemade clothes, I never actually “fit in,” Cindy and I took it on the chin and became far more open minded? Who knows but, I know this, we weren’t trying to be like everyone else. We never have been. Twins in the 60’s were rare. Today, twins are everywhere. Ironic right? 

Working for myself has changed me. It’s actually still changing me. I have become more tolerant and more skeptical, stronger and less fearful, yet more thoughtful and forgiving. 

I’ve learned that there isn’t anything frightening about walking into a prison. Being claustrophobic, this was a big step for me. I don’t hyperventilate about being “locked in.” It’s safe there. It’s quiet. I enjoy the solitude. 

Dealing with certain members of my family will always be my greatest challenge. I accept this. The fluidity of my work and family combine like a stiff drink. Certain members of my family are like Bourbon. I don’t like the taste or the smell. I would never drink Bourbon but, I enjoy an occasional Coke. 

Too much liquor spoils a good drink. Too much of certain family members spoils the joy in life. 

I can be having a great day with events going perfectly and the moment I glance at my cell phone, my joy is shot with another call from either Stephaney or someone else about Stephaney. 

Their opinions often are less than kind. But, they’ve never dealt head on with the obstacles Cindy and I have. They aren’t raising their grandchildren. They aren’t sacrificing their free time and yet, they always have advice regarding a situation that they actually know nothing about. 

I’m confused by the number of people telling Cindy or I to “forget Stephaney.” As if she had never been Cindy’s child. I wonder if they could? I wonder if their ideas were turned around on them how they would react? 

Occasionally, I snap back at Negative Nancy’s. My patience wears thin with “well meaning” friends or family members. I can be having a good day and a call from one of these “well wishers” blows it. I wish they would stop trying to “helpful.” But, they don’t. 

Snapping back “if it was your child, you would react differently” I warily recognize that ignorance speaks without forethought. Well wishers think they are always right.

Passion for me came from poverty. There were no silver spoons. Cindy and I survived a difficult childhood and learned compassion the hard way. We felt sorry for others because no one felt sorry for us. We are successful because we’ve had to be. We’ve never quit a job without having another lined up. The reason we are resourceful is based entirely on leaving home at 15 with nothing but the clothes on our backs. We are survivors. 

My sister and I are also partners. We are each other’s hitching post. We support one another wholeheartedly. We’ve relied on each other our entire lives. We must be resilient and bounce back from dad and Stephaney. We work hard to look happy for the holidays knowing the gifts for Stephaney under my tree won’t be opened in the next 2 days. Maybe even the next few months. It’s a tragic reality. 

My niece, Leigh Ann did her first “stacked” day of events last weekend and now knows how stressful it can be to bounce from event 1 to event 2 and for Cindy and I, occasionally event 3 and 4. 

It’s a delicate balance to “stack” your schedule. Timing is critical. Because of this and Tardy Parties, late fees and overtime fees are addressed to photography clients as well as traditional bookings. We cannot be late to our next event because you arrive late to yours. Please be considerate of our timelines and deadlines addressed in your contract. 

There are solid reasons for every aspect of our detailed contracts and the reasons are often based on experience. Cindy, Leigh Ann and I are booked through mid January but look forward to meeting new friends at our coming events and hoping to find resolution with dad and Stephaney. 

We are also praying that next Christmas won’t be as chaos filled as this one was but, Cindy and I have learned that we are far more capable of juggling than we ever thought possible.

Cindy’s Quotes about family are wildly popular because they are true and when it comes to our families, the months of planning the perfect Christmas will be over in a matter of moments when the kids start opening their presents or wandering into the kitchen for a bite to eat. 

If we can get somehow get through this Christmas without any adult children squabbling over gifts, I’m going to call it a win and look forward to a calmer Christmas next year…