Weddings & Travel- The Queen Mary To Dana Point To Solvang California…

Loading up my niece, twin sister, twin grandnieces and myself to travel to DFW on a 6:15AM flight out of DFW to LAX Monday morning, the rain was unwelcome for our drive to the airport but, everyone was excited for a work/vacation.

In the back of my mind, concerns about my father still believing people are living in his attic and my niece, Stephaney who has been off the rails for a full year now lurked in my mind. 

After all, dad and Steph now live together and between the two of them, Cindy and I have dealt with a full year of unexpected surprises. 

A phone call or text from my dad or Stephaney instantly raise my blood pressure.

From the past year of involuntary commitments for both dad AND Stephaney to their texts and phone calls, the two of them have given my twin sister and I a literal “run for the money” the past twelve months. 

Leaving our family and THEIR ISSUES behind in Fort Worth as we headed to Cali, Cindy and I were both relieved “to get away from it all.”

I was hoping while away that Cindy or I wouldn’t get yet another phone call about dad OR Stephaney while in California. But, it was wishful thinking on my part.

When you are dealing with not one but two out of control family members, drama and chaos are never too far from your subconscious. 

I had asked Cindy not to answer her phone while we were away to limit the continuing disruptions her daughter, Stephaney and my father continue to bring to our family. Clients call my phone directly and always go through me. If I’m unavailable, Leigh Ann or Cindy answer my phone for me. 

Even Cindy’s husband, Steve calls my phone when he can’t reach Cindy. Why? We are always together. 

Finally aboard the plane, my twin grandnieces were already making plans for our free time. 

Many of my clients are already well aware that I’ve been dealing with visits to Psych Wards while juggling my schedule due to my dad and my niece. How? Someone is usually calling when I’m walking in or out of yet another Mental Institute visiting a family member.

I cannot begin to describe how the last year of dealing with my dad or niece, Stephaney has “sucked the joy” from Cindy and I because it’s too difficult to put into words.

Both my father and my niece, Stephaney are still convinced that the “invisible people” are living in my dad’s attic or other crazy things. How crazy? They can hear the invisible people talking and think that invisible poison is being pumped into the air vents? Yes. I am sick and tired of these crazy phone calls AND texts. It’s exhausting to have one crazy family member but, it’s debilitating to have TWO. 

My Monday would be spent meeting clients aboard the Queen Mary and making last minute runs to Long Beach and taking my family to Santa Monica after getting caught up with my clients. 

As a child, visits to this majestic ship were a real treat. I’ve loved this ship all of my life and was honored to be chosen to Officiate and Coordinate this Destination Event. An Event on the Queen Mary and a trip to Cali? Count me IN. 

My niece, Leigh Ann handled the photography and I can’t wait to show you the amazing photos. Mine are from my iPhone. 

On our way to check in to the Queen Mary, I decided to drive to Santa Monica for some fun at the pier. Young Madyson loves the ocean as much as the twins.

My youngest grandniece, Madyson loved running around on the ship and this resort is one of the very few where I felt safe for the twins at fourteen years old to run around on their own. Young Maddy is three and not going anywhere unattended. With very little sleep, by Tuesday and our itinerary for Knott’s Berry Farm, waking the twins and Maddy up to get going to the Promenade Deck for breakfast was an escapade in futility. 

Cindy and I are up at 5:30AM everyday in Cali but, getting everyone else up requires coaching and occasionally, cold water. Spilling my coffee on the way off the ship, Cindy and Leigh Ann thought my otherwise well organized departure was hilarious. 

Truthfully, my family thinks anything unexpected happening to me when I plan every aspect of my day, my life, and even my schedule only to have something unexpected put a kink into a well orchestrated agenda going wrong is funny. 

Since I’m the Coordinator, Driver, Travel Agent and Jack Of All Trades for Destination Events. Orchestrating my family on a schedule is far more trying than giving direction or insight to Clients. 

Due to the amount of luggage, I upgraded our Toyota minivan to a Suburban. By the time we finally managed to leave the Queen Mary parking lot, I was already planning for a long day at Knott’s Berry Farm. 

The park is actually far smaller than Disneyland but, there is a lot of ground to cover. The lines are remarkably smaller too. Rolling into the lot I had last been to some forty years ago, the farm had really expanded. Back in the “old days,” there wasn’t a fee at the park. Knott’s charged by the ride instead. 

These days though, a ticket can run up to $95 a person unless you have a discount. Be prepared to pay $19 and up to park at Knott’s Berry Farm as well as your fee to enter the park. 

The donkey ride was gone but, many of the things I remembered were still in tact. The candy apples were amazing too. The log ride was a must do. In fact, we rode it three times. Cindy was determined to get on the train. 

Leigh Ann still remembers a trip we took her on to Knott’s in 1989 while Cindy and her daughters were living with me in San Clemente. The part she remembers the most? Being “robbed” on the train at Knott’s. 

Cindy and I remember our first Knott’s train ride too and how much we loved our “faux train robbery.” We weren’t scared because we loved it. 

Maddy loved the stagecoach ride which is rare at any amusement park. Knott’s Berry Farm was the very first amusement park my twin and I had visited as children and we both have fond memories of this unique attraction. 

The music and the vibe is different from any other amusement park that I have ever been to at Knott’s. 

Our “gunslinger” on the train thrilled Cindy.  As kids, it was one of the most exciting elements of the park. 

Our new Cowboy friend that had “held up” the train had said “they don’t have this at Disneyland.” He was absolutely right which is why I love Knott’s! 

Now that Disney is scripting the gun fights though, things will change at Knott’s. It’s too bad that something so special gas now become scripted. Reality isn’t scripted because it’s spontaneous. 

Cindy had broke her foot at our Fort Worth Event so, we rented a jazzy. The twins and Maddy loved it.

Back at the Queen Mary, our beautiful couple loved the deck location for photos. This ship is a unique and elegant location for all types of events although weddings are the most popular booking. We had a great two days at the Queen Mary and can’t wait to get back to our favorite Destination Location.

Packing up to head to Dana Point, our luggage had somehow “expanded.” Teaching my family the virtues of packing light isn’t an easy conversation ya all. 

Although we are still in the middle of our trip, I’ve booked five more TDCJ Events and, I am now completely booked through December. New bookings will be scheduled in mid December or January.

Today is whale watching today and as usual, getting my family “up and at it” won’t be easy as we head to Newport Beach. 

I’ve been so concerned about getting seasick on this day trip that I packed not one but, three different varieties of motion sickness meds.Davey’s Locker was an amazing adventure. The ship was clean and the staff was friendly. 

Amazingly, I didn’t have any issues about seasickness. My biggest hurdle throughout the trip was getting everyone up and out of our hotels on time. 

Cindy loved our dolphin watching excursion as much as I did although my husband continued to “check in” concerned about my motion sickness ruining the day.  Cindy and Leigh Ann enjoyed the trip in Newport Beach just as much as I did with Maddy but, the twins didn’t fare as well across the rocky ocean waves. 

Makenna was fine leaving the harbor for about the first hour but, going in to the second leg of our dolphin watching tour, joined her twin inside the ship laying down.Back on the pier, Maryssa and Makenna were thrilled to be back on land again. 

Newport Beach had numerous activities for the kids including a bicycle for four and arcade games as well as a ferris wheel and shops. 

We decided to enjoy them all before heading to Dana Point, San Clemente, Oceanside and San Diego before backtracking to Lompoc. By the time we headed to Lompoc, my family was getting a little cranky about being in the SUV. My three year old grandniece is a literal “handful.” 

Madyson hates her car seat. This kid is so animated that Cindy often uses Maddie’s photos for her memes on Cindyism quotes.

Thursday was my grandniece, Madyson’s birthday and I was excited about seeing our sister, Tammy again. The drive from San Diego to Lompoc was a bit of a hike though. 

We stopped for gas in Calabasas after finally locating a station. In Texas, exits for gas are well marked on freeways. In California, finding a gas station isn’t as easy as you might think. 

Also, if you aren’t buying something, don’t expect to find a public restroom. Every restroom is locked and requires a key or token unless of course, it’s a rest area.

Arriving in Lompoc, my niece, Leigh Ann had the perfect birthday outfit and after going to see my sister, Tammy for lunch, we headed to Ocean Park for photos. 

That “perfect outfit” didn’t last long though because Maddy quickly headed for the beach. 

Leigh Ann is usually pretty OCD about Maddy looking “picture perfect” but, at Tammy’s house, Maddy had been crawling in and out of the dog door so she was already a little dirty.My twin grandnieces, Maryssa and Makenna loved having the beach all to themselves. 

Leigh Ann has now lost 100 lbs from her weight loss surgery and wanted to get photos for her Instagram followers.

The winds took one of her balloons quickly away and her perfectly planned photo shoot didn’t go as planned.Perfect execution at photo shoots is nearly impossible outdoors and Leigh Ann’s expensive camera was acting goofy after falling out of my overloaded SUV. So, we winged it. 

My son called to tell my sister that her daughter, Stephaney was on Camp Bowie outside El Fenix acting crazy again. As usual, this phone call upset both Cindy and I but, my son refused to call and report and unstable person to have her picked up and transported to JPS. 

I’m so sick of everyone in our family calling to tell me or my twin that my niece is acting crazy again that I can’t even put my feelings into words. What are we supposed to do about Stephaney when we are at work or in another state? People can call you at their convenience and effectively ruin your day. 

Headed to Solvang and Split Pea Andersons for dinner, our SUV was covered in sand and clothing discarded from the luggage.  Knowing that cleaning this SUV out would be another escapade in futility, I’ve decided to wait until just before returning it.

For some reason, my sunglasses were covered in barbecue sauce to give you a better idea how traveling with three kids, my sister and my niece can mess up a rental. 

While trying to organize the SUV, I accidentally found myself and Cindy locked out of the hotel and as usual, no one would answer their phone from the rooms. 

You know, the rooms that Cindy and I were paying for. Trying to organize my family at Events AND while traveling isn’t easy. 

Cindy and I “walk of shamed” our way through the hotel lobby. 

We finally made it back to our rooms to change and pack our luggage. My hair was standing straight up and Cindy shot this photo to tag Leigh Ann, Maryssa and Makenna on FB to let us back into the room. Marching my now “weary travelers” to the SUV to organize everything they had left in the vehicle, my niece, Leigh Ann admitted that she thought her luggage “felt light.” 

Of course it did because clothes and personal items were stuck under the seats and everywhere BUT the luggage. Thirty minutes later, my SUV pulled out of the hotel. 

Meeting my mother again this year went far better than I could have expected. She didn’t ask who we were as she always has or why we were there at our breakfast with her. 

Since 1988, visits to my mother often have my sister and I crying. Why? She never recognizes us. 

It isn’t easy to predict how my mother will react or behave and I’ve had a few pretty upsetting visits so, Cindy and I mentally prepared for the worst. 

This visit was the first time in my life or my sisters that actually went well. Far better than I could have ever imagined.

Having our sister, Tammy and her husband there helped ease the stress of wondering how our yearly visit to our mother would go buy, Tammy’s husband, Rob kept everything light and fun. Rob is hilarious.The murals across Lompoc are a history of the Chumash Indians. It’s not well known that Cindy and I are more than half Indian, Irish, Scotch and Dutch. Our sister, Tammy has a different father and fairer skin. Our brother is also very light skinned. 

Our grandfather, was full blood Indian. As a child, it wasn’t unusual to visit a store where all the employees were Indian. I’m posting the link regarding the Murals Of Lompoc and the Chumash Indians– Lompoc Museum Chumash Indians. 

Cindy and I were both born in Lompoc. Returning every year for a visit, we both wonder what would have happened if our parents hadn’t divorced and our dad hadn’t moved to Oklahoma? Our sister Tammy and our mother never left Lompoc. 

Tammy doesn’t like driving in traffic and rarely drives beyond Santa Barbara. Cindy and I find this odd since we drive all over Texas and have driven from Texas to California hundreds of times the past thirty years. 

Leaving Lompoc, I stopped at one of the oldest murals for a photo with my niece, Leigh Ann and grandniece, Makenna.Getting from Lompoc to LAX required our usual “pit stop” in Gaviota. You know about twenty minutes from the restaurant we had just left. 

Trying to get my family to use the restroom before getting in the SUV is an ongoing conversation. 

The warning sign about rattlesnakes was new to me. I’ve been stopping at this rest area since I can remember but, I’ve never noticed a rattlesnake warning before. 

As children, this rest area was always our favorite pit stop. Driving back through Santa Barbara was traffic free and quick. Getting back last Calabasas? Not so easy.

We had to get to the Walk Of Fame and meet a client en route to returning the rental car and my niece, Leigh Ann wanted a tee shirt she should have bought when we were there a few days ago which killed my timeline.

My beautiful client is going to love her photos. Here’s one from my iphone. The area was really crowded. Finding a parking space and waiting on Leigh Ann to locate the tee shirt she just “had to have,” I checked my watch and was becoming pretty alarmed by the time she finally found us and hopped back into the SUV. 

Getting everyone out of the Walk Of Fame area in Saturday traffic was stressful to say the least!I had to fill up the SUV and find a station, return it and get my family into the airport. Makenna said “coming and finding the car is stressful Meme but, bringing the car back and getting into LAX is REALLY stressful!”By the time I finally got all five of my family members on the bus to the airport, I was exhausted and had to go to the bathroom.

What Makenna didn’t know was that if we missed our flight, it would be even more stressful. Trying to get everyone through security at LAX with Maddy refusing to get in her stroller? Priceless. 

My son called again while we were waiting on our flight to DFW at the WRONG GATE to tell us that Stephaney was acting crazy again. I found myself wishing we weren’t coming home to Texas and problems that dad and Stephaney have brought to our family but, thankfully, I’m at Beto Unit Tuesday, Michael Unit Thursday and Allred Unit Friday which will keep Cindy and I pretty busy as we roll into the weekend with a Baptism, Birthday Party and wedding at Bell Tower Chapel. 

Thank God we have clients and work to occupy our minds and our time that give us a break from the reality that dealing with my niece and father have brought to our lives. 

It’s my hope that Stephaney gets mandatory treatment and my dad snaps out of it but, these are things that even I can’t control. 

I’m looking forward to getting home and taking a break from all of this running but, the next two weeks will be spent doing even more driving to Texas Prisons for wedding ceremonies and other events.

My niece, Stephaney was still missing by Sunday night. My son was the last person to see her at El Fenix on Camp Bowie. We are praying she is back at JPS but, have no way to verify this. 

Dad has been calling and texting Cindy that the invisible intruders are spraying something in his air vents. He continues to sleep in his car wearing goggles which is difficult to accept but, it’s our reality. 

Monday will be spent running errands, going by my dads house and trying to go along with him while wondering where Stephaney is since she lost the other phone Cindy bought before we left. 

For seventeen years, Cindy has provided a cell phone for Stephaney. Why? So we can locate her. For seventeen years my niece has “gone off her meds.” These out of control escapades have sent Cindy and I to file a missing persons report over and over again. Four years ago, yet another missing persons report was filed and how we located her in Cotton County Jail. I wish Stephaney would straighten up but, it’s something that even I can’t control. 

Hopefully, we hear from Stephaney and get our dad stable again but, I have no idea if we can. The past year has been spent juggling dad, Stephaney and my client base. While I’ve successfully exceeded my clients expectations- continued failures regarding dad and Stephaney haunt me. Visits to see them at Psych Wards upset me and trying to act normal exhausts me. 

The irony of my mom behaving normally with my dad and niece not isn’t lost on me. How can the one person that I expected to act crazy be sane after all these years? I have no idea but, my mom was completely normal. Stephaney has never really been stable. Sure, she’s held a job but, she’s always been one step away from going off the rails again. 

My dad? He was stable his entire life until losing Gretta to breast cancer. Complicated Grief Syndrome may be the basis of his instability but, his refusal to seek counseling prevents me from finding an accurate diagnosis. 

Not knowing whether Stephaney has been involuntarily committed again is stressful but, I have to put her at the back of my mind and focus on a busy week back home in Texas. My dad will continue to hear voices that aren’t there and believe that invisible people are pumping poison gas through his air vents because nothing I can do will convince him otherwise. 

Working Vacations are great but, they can be exhausting and I’ve had very little sleep sharing suites with five other people who somehow manage to throw everything everywhere…