Work Ethics Are Like Cooking. Without The Right Ingredients, Nobody Gets Fed. Travels Of The Texas Twins…

Since Christmas, I’ve been struggling with a bronchial infection but, there aren’t any sick days for me. My Clients count on me to get the job done. Since freezing rain was expected yesterday, Cindy drove her SUV with AWD and we left mine at home. It’s unusual for Cindy “to do the driving.” 

It’s not unusual for a stranger to email me about my Client base. Let’s face it, I have the most diverse Client base on the planet. Although not everyone agrees with LBGT unions or prison weddings, their loss is our gain. 

We have truly amazing and unique clients who all have a story to tell. They come from all walks of life and entrust us with making their Dream Event a reality. 

We are a family owned and operated event business dedicated to making any event affordable and memorable. 

Whether clients book through The Pawning Planners, Texas Twins Events or Texas Prison Weddings, establishing a relationship is how we keep clients long after their initial booking. 

It’s not unusual for a previous client to refer my team to their friends and family. I haven’t advertised in years due to our customer loyalty. Our clients become lifelong friends of the Texas Twins. 

Generally, my husband recognizes that road trips are the only time that Cindy and I can “get away from it all” and doesn’t bother calling to disrupt our adventures but, he’s the only one. Our children, grandchildren, other clients and even new requests keep the cell phones ringing on road trips to Texas Prisons. Yesterday was no exception. 

By the time Cindy had rolled out of the Shell station off Montgomery Street, my cell phone was already ringing with a call from my son asking if we “wanted to go to a movie?” Cindy and I laughed and told Robbie “we are headed to Huntsville for a Prison wedding and will have to take a rain check.” The pouring rain made our trip treacherous but, we never encountered ice. 

Stopping near Wortham, Texas at a rest area, nobody was more surprised than I was when a rooster decided to chase Cindy and I away from the restroom. Only in Texas? Maybe but, after that escapade and trying to get around the rooster, our usual unexpected incident went on FB with our friends laughing as hard as we were. 

Driving by TDCJ Holliday Unit, I recalled the road construction that had delayed me getting to my last wedding in Huntsville. Nearly directly across the freeway was the Texas Prison Museum. 

Since I’ve never had time to visit, I had mentioned dropping by to my son who wanted a tee shirt from the museum that read “Texas Bed & Breakfast Prison Featuring Three Hots & A Cot.” Cindy and I laughed and laughed about whoever was creative enough to come up with such a saucy slogan. In fact, we decided to buy several of these tee shirts and flip them on eBay.

By the time we were about to roll into a Goodwill in Huntsville to drop Cindy off so I could  head to Goree Unit, the rain was picking up. Cindy loves shopping while I’m inside Prisons and found a pretty unique handcrafted bronze eagle statue. 

Cindy and I have been flipping items for thirty years and know a treasure when we find one. After a quick internet search, Cindy realized the artist had signed the piece. She quickly dropped in her shopping cart. Cindy also found a Neiman Marcus rain coat for me and a saucy blazer that featured beautiful silk stripes. 

While Cindy was searching for bargains, I rolled up next to my bride waiting at an unmanned guard gate about twelve miles away. Detosha looked stunning and had brought her adult son and daughter with her. Detosha had been told to be early for our 11AM wedding by arriving at 10AM. 

As we stood at the gate with her children in her SUV, the nervousness that often accompanies my TDCJ Clients wasn’t affecting Detosha. She had brought a beautiful white bolero to wear over her cami and I loved her unique jacket featuring mismatched buttons. I quickly asked where she had found it and was surprised to learn it had been Ross at Grapevine Mills Mall. Cindy and I love Ross. They might not have great customer service but they do have great bargains! 

The Chaplain was wonderful. He was warm and welcoming and made Detosha and my visit far more pleasant by being helpful, kind and gracious. 

Detosha had written her own vows which brought personalization to their ceremony. I love it when clients get creative and make wedding ceremonies their own. 

Due to the rain, my hair was a mess and my shoes were soaking wet. Unlike my Bride, I looked a mess. 

Detosha though, looked amazing and beautiful. I had brought $6 in quarters to buy two photos and Detosha had brought $3 to buy one.Detosha had driven from Fort Worth too and like me was concerned about icy roads back home. I discussed how my husband and had suggested that “whatever happens, drive the car. Never let go of the steering wheel regardless of what happens.” It helps that my husband is a far better experienced driver than I because even driving in the rain isn’t easy for me. All of my accidents have been driving in the rain. 

Cindy has no such fears. In fact, Cindy is fearless when it comes to driving in the rain. In fact, Cindy will drive in a blizzard without ever considering the possibility of an accident. Years and years ago, I had returned to Texas to pick up Cindy and both her daughters after Cindy’s deadbeat husband abandoned them. It never occurred to either of us that traveling alone with two children from Texas to California was dangerous. We didn’t change the oil of check the tires or even worry about breaking down. We were fearless without even realizing it. 

Today though, I wouldn’t just jump in a car and drive 24 hours straight through without locating a hotel and checking the vehicle but, back then thank heavens we made it. 

Leaving Goree Unit, I realized the rain wasn’t going to let up and decided to find a hotel near Goodwill. Detosha followed me to go pick up Cindy. While pulling Cindy’s SUV into the Goodwill parking lot, TDCJ Allred Chaplain Lawler had called about January 16th on my calendar. 

I’m at Ferguson Unit on the 16th and quickly googled Ferguson to Allred. It was five hours and obviously impossible since I was due at Ferguson at 11AM and Allred at 1PM. 

I called my Allred Bride and advised her that she would need to use the full name on her Texas license and we would have to take February 6th due to my existing schedule. I also called Chaplain Lawler back to give him what I had assumed was Flor’s full name. It wasn’t. I’m going to go over this again…I need the full name on your state issued ID. The unit needs your full name on your state issued ID. To alleviate any confusion, I asked Flor to text me and promised to phone Chaplain Lawler back. 

It’s occasionally possible for me to do two units on the same day but distance dictates whether this “stacking” will work. Let’s say I’m in Tennessee Colony or Huntsville where there are up to 6 units in the same city. In those situations, I can move from one unit to the next with fluidity. 

However, if a unit is hours from the next, this isn’t possible. Because of this, existing clients are booked first. Following dates and scheduling are done in the order received.

After leaving my SUV, I ran into Goodwill to find Cindy with a load of treasures. I quickly used my Around Me App to find the nearest hotel. I always check the lobby on the internet to see if it will work for photos. 

While Cindy checked out, I returned to her SUV and called Flor back to text me a copy of her license since there were variations on her name making identification difficult.

I needed to verify the legal name and spelling with the unit for a few reasons. First, if the name on TDCJ paperwork doesn’t match, the wedding won’t take place. Secondly, mistakes on TDCJ paperwork will prevent a wedding being approved by the unit. 

While driving to Holliday Inn Express with Detosha following us, I explained the problem with the name variation to Cindy. It was a problem that needed to be addressed quickly. 

Parking, Flor sent me a photo of her ID. It actually had two lines for the name which is unusual. This has never happened before so I will go over why I need your full name and the inmates full name. It’s important. Your contract specifies both names. TDCJ paperwork CANNOT be changed or amended. If there is an issue, the entire process starts over. 

I confirmed Flor’s full legal name with Allred Unit Chaplain and taking the February date available since I wasn’t available in January before walking into the hotel with a basket of props. 

Detosha looked amazing in the tiaras I had bought and I gifted her the favorite red and gold ruby tiara as a wedding gift. Cindy and I had a great time with Detosha and her kids while a hotel guest in the lobby continued to talk on his cell phone. 

After greeting Cindy and I, the lobby visitor ignored our disruption while we ignored his. Public places are perfect for photos which is why I often use hotels. 

Taking two more calls for upcoming dates while packing up, I wished Detosha safe travels and many wedding blessings. She is an amazing mother and grandmother and full of love and life. I meet amazing people in my line of work and Detosha was amazing.

Leaving Holliday Inn Express, Cindy and I headed over to Texas Prison Museum. The faux guard shack was my first observation. I see guard shacks on a regular basis but this mannequin “guard” was waving from the booth which is highly unusual. 

Cindy couldn’t wait to get inside while fielding a call from her husband Steve regarding going back out on the road. 

I checked in with my husband via text who had sent a photo of our suvs covered in ice. Cindy and I weren’t in a hurry to get back to the chaos or ice in Fort Worth. 

Let’s go over the top attractions at the Texas Prison Museum for Cindy. My sister was fascinated by the homemade shivs and Texas Prison Rodeo while I was intrigued by “The Great Imposter.” 

How anyone can pretend to be a surgeon or any of the other professions Ferdinand managed to fake, I have no idea. Hiding as an employee in a Texas Prison had caught my attention. I may have even seen the movie years ago but couldn’t recall this character. 

Sadly, Ferdinand died alone. Im guessing his ability to memorize was how he managed to “get away with” the many professions he came up with but, only someone highly intelligent can speak nine languages. I googled “The Imposter” standing in the Texas Prison Museum to find out more. Speaking nine languages was so rare to imagine that my interest was piqued. I’m adding the link for your review– Ferdinand Waldo Demara.

The other interesting historical item that intrigued me was the Prison Rodeo. As a child, my twin sister and I will never forget seeing Johnny Cash at a California Prison performing. 

A few parents will scoff that we were taken to a prison for a concert but, before you do, understand that Cindy and I have always cherished watching “the man in black” onstage regardless of where he happened to be performing. It was an experience that neither of us has ever forgotten. 

I found it sad that the Prison Rodeo no longer exists. I wished that we had attended one of those rodeos. I would have loved to see it firsthand. For more information on the Prison Rodeo, visit this link– Texas Prison Rodeo.

I’ve been to many Texas Prisons and recognized a number of the Wardens names on plaques across the museum. From Estelle to Walls to other Units, my time inside Prisons is always an adventure of sorts. 

Getting to and from Texas Prisons takes far more time for me than the amount of time spent “inside” with a client. I can drive several hours one way to meet a client and only spend 1-2 hours inside a unit. 

While I may talk to clients frequently up to their wedding day, I often never meet them in person until arriving at the unit. 

My clients and I are friends long before meeting at a Texas Prison though because the planning process is lengthy. It can take up to two months for a Prison wedding to be Approved and scheduled. Paperwork can require up to 6 signatures. 

There aren’t any elopements or courthouse steps unions. Texas Prison Weddings follow a strict protocol. No flowers. No cakes. No vendors. No drunk relatives. No drama. No chaos. 

Cindy found the Prison Museum tee shirts and couldn’t find an XL “Three Hots And A Cot” for my son. 

Apparently, large and extra large souvenier tee shirts are the most popular. Ya all might want to restock larger sizes at the Prison Museum. 

I told Cindy “they should have a my mom went to the Texas Prison Museum and all I got was this tee shirt slogan” lol. We both laughed about this. 

Leaving the Texas Prison Museum, I was surprised that my twin sister had found our  unexpected adventure there so fascinating. I was melancholy about our visit as Prisons are hardly “celebratory places.” 

In my line of work officiating Prison Weddings my visits are celebratory in a sense because regardless of the location, “Prison Weddings are Weddings” regardless of the location and a journey of hope and promise. 

I’ve had a number of questions regarding my wedding at TDCJ Hughes Unit. First, let me address that I had no idea the groom was featured on “I am a killer” a Netflix series. If my client or their fiancée is a reality star, I’m always the last to know. I don’t ask invasive questions. 

Secondly, I don’t google my clients or their fiancées. The reason I don’t is that I have no desire to form an opinion about my couples or their history from the internet. 

The internet is loaded with “false news.” Bloggers can say whatever they want and an untrained viewer might assume that the writer is either educated about what they or saying or experienced. Often, neither of these criteria fit. Be aware of this. I am. 

As a TDCJ Officiant, my role is to make clients nuptials as seamless and pleasant as possible. The truth was that the groom had no idea of the title of the show when he was initially contacted to be featured on the show. I’m fairly certain that if he had known, he most likely wouldn’t have signed up. Why? Because he didn’t actually kill anyone. Also, he spent years on death row awaiting execution. 

The groom was finally moved from death row resulting from a petition generated by viewers who had seen his story on “I am a killer.” I don’t watch tv and had never even heard of the show prior to meeting my bride at Hughes Unit. 

My gorgeous client had told me about the Netflix series while we were waiting on the groom to meet us in the visitation area for their ceremony. The groom was gracious and kind and thrilled to be marrying the love of his life.I’m going to quickly clarify that my “client” isn’t the inmate. At no time during the Prison Wedding Planning Process do I speak to an inmate. The person “on the outside” hires me to officiate their ceremony. 

The “person on the outside” is the one who texts me or calls me and stays in contact throughout the process. I don’t meet or speak to an inmate until arriving to Officiate the ceremony. 

Bridal or Groom Photography is a gift to my clients and provided at no cost to them. Unit photos aren’t professional and don’t include bouquets, bubbles, props, furs, scarves or other items. 

I have created an full inventory of everything to pull together a wedding specifically to loan clients so they can have fun at their location shoot with me. I bring a traveling photo booth specifically for these impromptu photo shoots. From bouquets to signs to even wedding dresses, I plan out what to pack based on what I have on hand that will fit the client or will work well in photos. 

It’s important to me that clients have an opportunity to celebrate their wedding and feel like a groom or bride. 

Jumping back on 45 to head home, Cindy and I crack open protein bars and bottled water while answering a call from her daughter, Leigh Ann. 

Leigh Ann had apparently had a helluva time at her doctors appointment with her toddler, Madyson. Maddy is gregarious and often Cindy and I take her with us on road trips to Texas Prisons. 

Maddy shops with Cindy while I’m at a Unit and often joins clients in their photo shoots. Maddy loves being the center of attention.Leigh Ann was upset that her toddler was growling, grabbing Leigh Ann and trying to use the button to push the exam chair up and down while Cindy and I laughed imagining the chaos going on at Dr Richwine’s office. 

I should add that our entire families go to Dr Richwine and have for over 15 years. Cindy, me, our husband’s and our kids all go to Dr Richwine. The PA’s all know our entire families and they’ve watched young Maddy grow up. 

When the twins were young, they accompanied Cindy or I to dr appointments and waited quietly. Maddy doesn’t wait quietly and if there were two of her, I have no idea how any of us could control her. Maddy is full of energy all of the time!

As Leigh Ann scolded Cindy and I for laughing about her adventure, I reminded her that Maddy could have gone with us to Huntsville. Maddy loves road trips. Leigh Ann doesn’t take criticism well when it comes to her daughter, Maddy. 

The advice of the PA to “start controlling your daughter while you still can” upset Leigh Ann to no end. “Maddy growling and vying for leigh Anns attention is becoming a bit of a problem.” 

A Physicians Assistant isn’t a doctor. In my opinion, several of Dr Richwine’s PA’s are opinionated and don’t last long. I reminded Leigh Ann of this. 

My entire family go to the same dentist, doctor, ob/gyn and even eyeglass physician. Yes, we are “that close.” We like “predictable” whenever or wherever we can find it. 

Makenna called my phone while traveling down 45. She was home with my husband and still struggling with the pain of an ovarian cyst.  

Listening to Deep Purple and rolling down the highway, Cindy and I agree to tell Makenna to take a hot bath and then call Leigh Ann who has been texting that she couldn’t find her wallet to ask where she’s been while texting Maryssa to do her homework and checking in with my husband about our dog Foxy. 

Apparently, Maddy takes things out of my niece’s purse and hides them. The wallet was later found under Cindy’s leather recliner. 

My husband had told me “no dog attacks today. It must be too cold for em” via a text message. Two days ago, my husband and dog were attacked by another dog in our neighborhood. 

We don’t live in a “wild dog area.” We live in a nice neighborhood where the median home price is $600k and up but, our neighbors let their dogs roam about unleashed. 

In 6 years now, I’ve been attacked by a dog while walking Foxy on 8 occasions. I now carry mace to protect myself and my dog as does my husband. 

Cindy had decided to flip cds to the BeeGees while discussing the Queen movie about Freddy Mercury with me. While I don’t believe that white pants alone made the Bee Gee’s famous, Cindy does. “Hell even Elvis wore white pants. You don’t see white pants today like you did back then. In my opinion, white pants on a nice body were a ticket to success.” 

I consider this while wondering how accurate the assumption is? Then I add “it might’ve been the white pants AND the unbuttoned shirts exposing hairy chests. Actually with The Bee Gees it was a twofer.” 

Cindy then backs up her theory by sticking to the white pants with “a singer hitting high notes wearing those tight pants can attribute his success to his discomfort.” Cindy often exhibits creative genius in her assumptions and theories. 

Yes, we are never bored and it was actually while discussing Freddy and the white pants that made the Bee Gee’s famous in the middle of nowhere that Cindy’s gas light came on. Cindy had me googling singers with white pants at the time. We were comparing David Lee Roth to Sammy Haggar. David is a showman and in the 80’s sexy. Sorry but Samny was neither. Cindy popped in Johnny Cash who wasn’t exactly sexy or gorgeous but, he had something sexy about him to be sure. 

The man in black was a true performer. We oughta know he was amazing to watch in person. There are singers, musicians and performers. Entertainers are elite. Freddy, Johnny, David and even Barry from The Bee Gees Were entertainers. 

Cindy was asking me to Google Shaun Cassidy and white pants when the gas light came on. I’ve got to admit that Shaun Cassidy didn’t “rock those white pants like the Bee Gee’s.” 

After showing Cindy a photo of David chained to a fence on the internet, we decided to stop discussing sexy singers and find a gas station. Focus, focus, focus. 

Trying to locate a station when visibility was awful and wondering if we would find ourselves stranded on a Texas highway, I hit my Around Me App again and located a Loves Truck Stop. 

We would be backtracking ten miles to get to it. Cindy found this hilarious while I found it alarming. Cindy isn’t “the worrying type” I am. Cindy’s car read “REFUEL NOW” with a red image of a gas pump. She laughed. I nearly cried with relief at finding a gas station within ten miles. 

Reading a text from Detosha while turning into Loves, I quickly decided to get a hot dog while at Loves after answering her. This decision would haunt me hours later. Road trip food is dicey. Cindy even opted for the raw onions. Cindy suggested I did too because I was still coughing and sick. This truck stop was BUSY. I wondered if everyone else had figured out there wasn’t another station for miles? 

I’m a fill up freak. Running out of gas in the middle of nowhere terrifies me. Cindy flies by the seat of her pants while I map out miles and stations. I should’ve asked about the gas in Huntsville but, between phone calls from family members and clients as well as Cindy discussing the key points of our visit to the museum, I forgot. 

Back in the SUV, Cindy called Steve who was headed to Canada at 10PM with Ryder. Makenna still wasn’t feeling well and Leigh Ann still hadn’t found her wallet. 

My son was thrilled about his Texas Prison Wedding tee shirt and I had fielded more bookings for Michael, Estes and Estell Unit clients. From emails to texts and phone calls, my TDCJ clients occupy a huge amount of bookings. I prefer Prison Weddings. Cindy and I love road trips and I often bump “traditional bookings” to my son, daughter in law or niece because I’m on staff at numerous venues and handle my fair share of “traditional bookings.” Years ago, half of my clients were LBGT. In fact, I became infamous for being LBGT Friendly after an interview with the Dallas Morning News. 

I enjoy working with our LBGT clients because they were loyal in our first years of our operation and because they are always friendly and kind. I’ve never had an LBGT “Diva.” If it sounds like I don’t enjoy working with Divas, it’s because I don’t. 

The Divas were always “traditional” Bookings. I’ve never had a TDCJ “Diva” either. I strongly dislike working with “Divas.” Why? They take up far too much time and energy. Divas are similar to the tire kicking Clients I had years ago that wasted your time and if you ever actually made a sale, beat you down so badly you rarely made a commission. I’ve been in sales all of my life and have learned that the people who appreciate your help are the people you want to work with. Because of this, I’m picky. I work because I enjoy the work. I don’t work because I have to. My team handle most traditional bookings now unless it’s at a venue I work with. 

I ONLY take on Coordination bookings by referral. They are time consuming. It takes months to orchestrate and coordinate one booking. In the time it takes to coordinate, I can easily Officiate up to 60 weddings, baptisms, vow renewals or funerals. Coordinating is rare for me due to the amount of time involved. 

Prison Wedding Planning is remarkably different from coordinating a large wedding. How? I know exactly what to expect. There aren’t any Inlaws or Outlaws contacting me with their opinions of advice either. The buck stops with me. I’m seasonned and experienced. If there’s a problem or hiccup, my client and I work through it together. The Prison wedding planning process can take 2-8 weeks. During this window, I work closely with clients orchestrating right up to the “big day.” 

My TDCJ clients understand that I am juggling up to 20 other TDCJ clients a month and work closely with me regarding scheduling. I cannot be everywhere at once. Because of this, timelines are critical. In the middle of each month, I begin “bumping” new bookings to the following month. 

Cindy popped in a CD I hadn’t heard in years and told me something I never knew about her last “gift” to Roy Anderson. The song “she’s acting single- I’m drinking double” filled the SUV. 

Cindy’s full of surprises. Her music tastes run a full circle. Singing along, she told me the best gift she gave Roy was an eight track of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. Roy was abusive and leaving him was necessary. Cindy never looked back. Cindy had two eight tracks at the time she was married to Roy. Three Dog Night and her melancholy country tracks. She had bought both at a yard sale for ten cents each. 

My sister and I both love music. In fact, music is how I finally overcame a chronic stutter that haunted me for years. I sang along and learned to put my stuttering behind me. 

I’m also guessing Roy never understood why Cindy left the eight track but, Cindy knew that Roy should have listened to the lyrics to better understand why he was alone. Roy wouldn’t even allow me to visit my sister during their marriage. His jealousy of Cindy and I would be his downfall. Roy wasn’t alone. Both my first and second husband’s attempted to come between Cindy and I. Both of them were also served divorce papers from me. 

We made a stop at Frost Bank to deposit my husband’s check and the Hulen Post Office to mail several Texas Twins Treasures sold items. Thankfully, it wasn’t icy in Fort Worth. Makenna was glad to see us and Cindy was looking forward to getting home and our if the SUV. We went through her Goodwill treasures together while Makenna packed up in the guest room. 

Foxy Wortham could smell my truck stop hot dog all over me so I gave him a few treats while answering emails about upcoming prison weddings. 

Today, I’m off to meet a Pawning Planners client and run errands before running to Estes Unit tomorrow to meet my clients.

I’m always asked about our latest #Cindyism Quotes featured on Pawning Planners Apparel so, I’m adding a few of my favorites. Cindy has something to say about everything.  Young Maddy may be a handful but, she has brought much joy to our lives. The kid is full of fun and unexpected surprises. 

Although Cindy and I both tried to recall whether any of our adult children or the twins were ever as wild as Maddy, we both came up short. 

Maddy is animated and hilarious. Maddy is curious and she’s a handful. My niece Stephaney called from JPS/LCA where she has been a few weeks in long term care and didn’t stay on the phone long telling her mother or I how miserable she was because we had plenty to tell her about what’s going on with our family.

While we wait and hope that Stephaney will get it together, we have no idea if she will finally accept the responsibility for her choices. We have no idea whether at 31 years old if Stephaney will finally get a decent partner and build a life but, we hold out hope.

My son and his wife are closing on their very first home this month. They are excited to be starting a new chapter in their lives. I’m worried. Owning a home is a huge responsibility. There are taxes and repairs. There are surprises along the way. My son and his wife aren’t looking at the bottom line though. They are looking at home buying as a “step up.” 

Thankfully, my son’s idea to move to Las Vegas didn’t pan out. Although I had instilled the virtue of having a close knit family nearby, my son needed to travel to Las Vegas to realize this himself. 

I’m known as a meddling mother and when I’m not meddling, my twin sister is. We do everything together including advising our adult children and grandchildren. 

The adult children have learned that they won’t always hear what they want from Cindy or I but, we are never at a loss for advice…