“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey”
This week kicked off with a bang. Monday I was at Parker County and then on to Dallas County meeting my clients and trying to orchestrate my Team’s schedule. Splitting everyone up last weekend was essential to being in the same place at the same time for the “dueling birthday disaster” celebration for my son and nieces birthday party.
Planning events for my family is consistently disasterous. But, Cindy went into that dual birthday celebration with her usual saucy attitude while Wendy went in thinking “this time it will be perfect.” Ugh.
When it comes to events for my own family, flawless execution is and may always be a reckless endeavor of effort and hilarity. With two sets of twins the laughs never end around here.
Maryssa and Makenna have a birthday coming up and Makenna asked me not to invite our entire family because she doesn’t want any drama. Obviously I can’t uninvite my son or his wife who always bring their friends to family events. My daughter in law’s cousin, Jordan and his son, Malaki live with my son and his wife which has made family events awkward for three years now. My son and his wife consider Jordan and his son to be “their family” and subsequently, invite them to all family events. Maryssa and Makenna feel obligated to entertain Malaki who is only eight. Good thing this next birthday party isn’t until September. Trying to plan around this “don’t invite so and so” situation is tricky.
With Leigh Ann leaving for California and being “nervous about taking over the majority of California inmate weddings” and feeling panicky “without Aunt Wendy telling her what to do,” her husband, Alex has his hands full attempting to pack up Leigh Ann and Maddy for the move to California.
Alex has one room in Cindy’s house to pack and hasn’t even attempted to get started with less than a week before departure time. When I tell you my family is unorganized, I’m not kidding. I’m forced to join Cindy and pack the SUV for Alex and Leigh Ann as we did when they moved to Seattle.
Leigh Ann cannot properly pack a vehicle and Alex? He’s busy listening to Leigh Ann. Wendy and Cindy run the show around here and get things done because without our help, Leigh Ann and Alex will never get the car packed. These moving excursions remind me of “who is on first?” The circus of chaos is an all day affair when packing for a trip but packing for a move is another thing altogether.
Luckily, the Navy is moving everything in storage from Seattle and Lemoore for them to Point Mugu. Why do I say “luckily?” Because in Seattle Leigh Ann never unpacked that’s why. Leigh Ann will wait for Cindy and I to fly out and set up her household.
Leigh Ann has never been away from Cindy’s house longer than six months. Leigh Ann is the only adult child who literally clings to Cindy and I. Her sister and my son think we are “meddling mothers” while Leigh Ann cannot stand to be away from us. Ironic isn’t it?
Leigh Ann is the oldest of our three adult children. While in Seattle, Leigh Ann called, facetimed and skyped Cindy and I all day long. She was lonely. Leaving Cindy’s house with Maryssa and Makenna was hard for her. Alex is going to be away on duty and at least she has Maddy and clients to occupy her time but, Leigh Ann is far more comfortable at home with Cindy. I’m the backup mom and MiMi for Leigh Ann’s daughter, Maddy. Cindy and I have taken Maddy, Maryssa and Makenna with us on location to events since we started Texas Twins Events. Our clients love meeting our family and my grandnieces are true hams in their wedding photos. “Taking your kids and grandnieces to work with you?” Absolutely. We always have. It’s a package deal with the Texas Twins. Cindy and I are almost always together. In fact, if we could be together 24/7 we would. But, we have two homes and two families and each have husband’s so we aren’t literally together 24/7.
When Cindy made the decision to give up her career to take on the responsibility of raising her twin granddaughters nearly 15 years ago, finding a way to get her out of the house with twins was only one of the reasons that I created Texas Twins Events.
Cindy and I already had Texas Twins Treasures keeping us busy but getting Cindy out and about with Maryssa and Makenna helping others with a Dream Event while having fun together was literally a win win for the Texas Twins. Two sets of twins that is. Many clients hired the twins as flower girls, ring bearers and ushers at our events. The novelty of having twins in their wedding and the twins loving the attention was surprisingly a great fit.
At nearly 15 years old, the twins now book as princess characters at birthday parties and consider themselves to be too old for flower girls although they still love to help direct smaller children at our events when they join us on location.
When your work and your family are in the same boat, finding “me time” isn’t easy. My phone never stops ringing. Even if I have carefully executed a day off, clients or my family squeeze into my “off time” making taking a day off more work for me than it’s worth. Sneaking off to a movie with Cindy for two hours a few weeks ago, both of our phones kept ringing. When anyone in our family calls me and I don’t answer, they always call Cindy. True story. From husband’s to adult kids to grandkids. They all do this. I always say “you’re next” when I see I’ve missed a call from one of them and, I’m right.
My son and his wife had a doctor appointment to check up on the twins Stephanie is carrying Friday. My daughter in law only weighs 97lbs and has always been quite petite and frail. I’m concerned about this pregnancy. Unbeknownst to Cindy and I, my son and his wife have been trying to conceive for five years and gave up late last year. Of course over the years, we’ve asked them about children but, I had no idea they were trying. No one in our families did. This pregnancy is a surprise.
Although my son wanted Cindy and I to go with them we couldn’t because our week would be spent on the run and having fun with amazing clients.
Tuesday morning at 6AM, Cindy and I rolled onto the highway heading to Garza East to meet Elizabeth. Beeville is a long 5 hour drive from Fort Worth but Cindy and I regularly make the journey. McConnell, Garza East and Garza West Units are all within close proximity of each other.
With a luck now and then, I can book Connally then McConnell and Garza Units on the same day. I call this “stacking.” I’m constantly looking at distance and proximity from one Unit to the next. I also stack with traditional venues when we need a full staff on site at one event and I’m officiating 2-4 events on the same day.
I’m OCD and believe it or not, my OCD tendencies are why and how we make everything work. Everyone else in my family is often flying by the seat of their pants. I schedule everything. I’m the boss lady, the captain, the leader and the fixer rolled into one. Cindy is my back up.
While something unexpected can rattle my cage, Cindy laughs and moves on. She knows how desperately I want perfection but, she goes in knowing perfection isn’t easy or even normal in the events industry. There are far too many Inlaws and Outlaws shaking the tree.
While midway to Beeville, a semi truck hurled a large rock right into my windshield. Thank God it didn’t go through the windshield into my passenger side and Cindy. Driving to Prisons has broken now seven windshields. Back roads and country streets are loaded with semis carrying water, rocks and dirt. As usual, the driver drove on.
Due to my overburdened schedule and the consistency of getting broken windshields during my weekday drives to Prisons while others drive to the office, I have decided to wait until yet another rock, boot or buzzard hit my windshield again to replace my latest windshield. I had just replaced this windshield three weeks ago.
Driving to Prisons has put me in the path of herds of deer and even elk. While driving to Luther Unit, a herd of goats came running at my SUV. I need a tank ya all. I’m thrilled to be officiating my Luther Units Vow Renewal this February in San Antonio with my Team. Like me, my bride had laughed about wild goats running around. The things Cindy and I see during the hours spent driving to Prisons during the week would surprise you.
Elizabeth had hired “another Officiant” prior to finding me who had been misleading with her. This happens more than anyone realizes. I’m frequently the second Officiant someone seeking an inmate Officiant hires and on a few occasions, even the third. Why? Because these “other Officiants” lose their clients to me based on their unethical business practices.
I was determined to give Elizabeth a great day as I am with each and every one of my clients. We make Life Events special. Cindy and I arrived early and chose the courthouse in Beeville for bridal photos with Elizabeth. As I began unloading numerous items to meet our new friend, the sweltering Texas sun beat down on us all.
My grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna as well as my niece, Stephaney had joined us on our five hour trip to Beeville and helped with unloading my items and photography. Leaving the photo shoot, Cindy and I decided to take our crew to a nearby Mexican restaurant for lunch before driving to Garza Unit. I’m so glad we had a few hours to visit with Elizabeth and find out more about her. She’s an amazing lady and we plan to see her again on our trip to Connally Unit in August. We laughed and we shared our lives and journeys as well as why Cindy and I decided to start a People Over Profit based Events business. The reason surprises people. We had no one to help us with our own weddings. There weren’t flowers or photos. There weren’t people committed to making our Dream Event a reality. We became the people we had never met instead.
Leaving the restaurant, we dashed over to Garza. Walking in to screen into the Unit, Elizabeth was a little nervous as most of my prison brides and grooms are. It’s expected because no one ever really “planned to marry in a prison.”
The fact that I marry inmates during the week and traditional couples on the weekends surprises people. When they “dig deeper,” they are also equally surprised that Cindy and I also barter event services for clients who have no money. Our client bases are a literal melting pot of rich to poor and more. I was determined to help anyone and together, my twin and I found a way to do just that.
As Elizabeth and I were led into the Unit by a guard, we stopped to say hello to a young lady wearing a beautiful white dress. We both realized her Officiant was a no show. This is the tragedy that Elizabeth herself faced a few months earlier with that “other officiant” I mentioned earlier. Can you imagine how devastating it would be to dress up and show up on wedding day after driving hours to the Unit only to be sent home because your Officiant didn’t bother to show up? I can’t either.
I wish I could have married the other woman but due to the timeline of the paperwork required to grant permission and the “other Officiants” name being on it, I couldn’t. This bothered Elizabeth and I both. With her head bowed, the bride was escorted to the parking lot where my twin sister, twin grandnieces and niece watched her cry. How anyone can ruin a Life Event I have no idea but, no show Officiants are becoming a regular occurrence for folks who trust the “wrong Officiant.” Get a contract. Get a receipt too. Protect yourself.
Walking into the visitation area, Elizabeth and I went to meet her beau who gave me a hug and was as excited as Elizabeth to be getting married. They had both written their own vows. The Unit photos at Garza were beautiful. You won’t hear me say “that’s a great photo” often regarding Prison Unit Photos. In fact, usually, Unit photos are terrible but, Garza did a great job.
Saying goodbye to our new friend and looking forward to seeing her again soon, we had a wonderful day with Elizabeth.
Wednesday morning since I had to reschedule my Roach Unit Client due to an Absentee Affidavit issue we encountered at the clerks office last Friday, I decided to take my youngest grandniece, Maddie with Cindy and I to Fossil Rim with Makenna to meet my November clients marrying there and go over the reception plans while enjoying a drive through the park while feeding the animals.
Maddy is moving to California with my niece and her husband July 28th. Cindy and I are crushed about saying goodbye but, we will have destination events as well as inmate weddings in California frequently so at least we can visit.
Cindy’s home WILL feel empty without the joy that Maddy has brought to it these past nearly four years though. It’s difficult to say goodbye for now to our rambunctious little Maddy. Leigh Ann will be taking over the majority of our California bookings. Alex and Leigh Ann will be stationed at Point Mugu after a two month training course for Alex in San Diego. Maddy is a “MiMi’s Girl” who prefers Cindy and I to her own parents so I’m concerned about the transition for her. Alex will also be taking on Sea Duty so I’m certain Leigh Ann and Maddy won’t be away too long. Leigh Ann returns home often. While stationed in Seattle, Leigh Ann “”lasted six months” before coming home again.
Of course Maddy and Makenna both loved their visit to Fossil Rim. This is a really unique wedding venue but it is also a really memorable one. Giraffes and zebras in your wedding photos? You bet. Check them out– Fossil Rim Weddings.
Thursday morning, I met Aimee and her daughter at the Tarrant County Clerks office. Aimee had taken the Twogether In Texas Course offered online to waive the 3 day waiting period.
Thankfully, I was with her as the clerk had marked the incorrect box that states 72 Hour Waiting Period. I “caught this error” and had the clerk reissue a new marriage license. Please review the front and the back of your marriage license.
I drove Aimee and her daughter to meet Leigh Ann and Alex at the old courthouse for their photo shoot.I had packed numerous items for the photo shoot and we spent about an hour on location before I drove Aimee and her daughter back to their car to follow us to Ole South Pancake House for breakfast. I decided to leave Aimee’s car at Ole South and drive her to Hutchins Unit myself. Her daughter would wait with Leigh and Alex watching Sponge Bob in their vehicle while we were inside the Unit.
For a few of you surprised that my staff and I also babysit clients children, this is a rare occurrence but, it can and does occur as children are not allowed inside Units on wedding day. In fact, no visitors are allowed at most Units on wedding day with the exception being Sanders Estes Unit.
Aimee was excited and we decided to do the ceremony outside. Sadly the Unit photos were disappointing at Hutchins as is often the case because the state issued cameras at Units can often produce blurry and out of focus photos which is why I offer complimentary photos for all clients marrying inmates as a courtesy. Everyone deserves to have beautiful photos of their day with my staff and I. We make sure they do with our caravan of SUVs loaded with furs, bouquets, tiaras and more. I’ve spent thousands to create rolling photo booths specifically for our clients to have everything they need without having to buy it or bring it on wedding day. Our trunks are treasure chests of fun.
Leigh Ann and Alex drove on to the base to update their military ID’s while I drove Aimee and Danica back to Ole South. On route, my phone rang with several client calls one of which was my Michael Unit Client who was crying.
A call from any client crying who has retained me to officiate a prison wedding is often for one of two reasons. First, the clerk is giving them a hard time. Second, the inmate is listed as Common Law Married to someone other than my client which prevents them from obtaining Approval.
After my client calmed down, I told her that I would priority mail a Corrective Affidavit to her in a few hours. This Affidavit voids the Affidavit on file at TDCJ and takes a few weeks to rectify. I’m looking forward to getting Tonya married at Michael soon.
My job as a planner and Officiant is far more than simply showing up. While it may appear that Cindy and I fly from one fun filled day into the next, it should be noted that planning a prison wedding is an involved process. A few clients wait weeks or months while others wait nearly a year. Patience is part of the prison wedding planning process.
Friday morning, Cindy and I hit the highway at 6AM again. This time we were headed to Buster Cole Unit in Bonham, Texas. My client, Roxanne had started her prison wedding planning process in January. She had flown in from Seattle with her mother in the hospital on Wednesday and her soon to be mother in law just being released from the hospital. Roxanne picked up her mother in law and mother and checked them into her hotel with her in Bonham.
I had sent her a text that we would be early and met her at the hotel. Roxanne was beautiful in a white wedding dress with ornate sash. I loved that she was wearing a wedding dress. It’s rare that my clients do for their prison wedding actually.
I drove Roxanne to Buster Cole with Cindy and walked in with her to be screened. Roxanne was also nervous. She was finally going to get married. It’s always an exciting and thrilling moment for my clients.
The Unit photos were terrible. The only Unit photos we had all week that were stellar were at Garza where the printer wasn’t working. Ugh. Heavy sigh. Getting great photos at a Unit is always a bit of a hurdle. It can happen but it doesn’t happen often.
Roxanne and her new husband were thrilled to finally get married and asked me to renew their Vows this April in another ceremony with family and friends. I perform Vow Renewals for 85% of my inmate clients within a year of release. Others wait 2-5 years to plan their renewal but, they always rehire us. We have a bond. We’ve been through a journey together.
I drove Roxanne to file her license in Bonham with the same clerk who had told her on Wednesday “both parties need to be present to use the Twogether In Texas certificate.” Roxanne called me and I talked to the clerk regarding this misinformation. Roxanne was subsequently issued her marriage license. When my clients encounter a problem, they always call me. I’ve instructed them to do so. I’m the fixer. Experience Matters!
I try to send clients to large cities in order to remove the often “frustrating encounters with smaller towns and country clerks who are unfamiliar with the use of Absentee Affidavits for inmate marriage.” Being unfamiliar with the TwogetherIn Texas Course Certificate was a new at a clerks office one but, when my clients encounter problems, rather than having a meltdown, they know I’m a phone call away. My role is all encompassing.
Cindy and I met our clients at Mercado Event Center today for a wedding tomorrow scheduled two hours after the Belltower Chapel wedding. Monday we are at LeBlanc Unit and looking forward to finally meeting our beautiful client. I mailed out photos from this weeks weddings this morning so all of our clients should have them soon.
It’s another busy week for the Texas Twins but I hope to find time to spend with Maddy before the “big move.” I’m excited about my son and his wife bringing me grandchildren but concerned about my daughter in law carrying twins. My niece, Stephaney had a difficult pregnancy with the twins herself but, hopefully my daughter in law won’t be hospitalized as my niece was.
Hoping all of our clients, friends, connections and twins are staying cool this July and looking forward to meeting all of you soon at your traditional or inmate wedding…