I’m not sure why Christmas always brings a phone call from one of my former couples stating “they can’t take it anymore” but it does. Perhaps the expectations of the holiday season verses the reality are one of the reasons why people throw in the towel but I’ve come to believe that the joy of Christmas and being thrown into family visits can and does “push the envelope” sometimes to a virtual breaking point. 

Last year while returning from TDCJ Stiles Unit after marrying my client, my sisters friend, Britney who had joined us on an all day adventure with her baby stated “I want a divorce.” I found this statement to be rather shocking and out of the blue as did Cindy. Britney doesn’t work and has three children. How would she support herself? Pulling out the “D card” opens a can of worms and creates doubt in a marriage whether you plan to follow through or not. You just put that card on the table and you can’t ever really take it back. It’s out there. Your partner now wonders if they are on a short leash or perhaps they are thinking they are better off without you too. 

Explaining these facts to Britney and advising her of the expense of childcare while the reality of having to find a job, I asked her “if she was aware of the financial hardships single parents face?” Britney not only doesn’t work but she also doesn’t cook or clean. Her older children ride the bus to and from school. Britney has very few responsibilities. Her husband was hospitalized last year with heart trouble and Britney rarely visited him. I asked why. “He’s older. He’s going to die and I don’t want to be forced to take care of him if he doesn’t. What if he can’t work? How will I get by? The hospital depresses me.” Britney is young and selfish. 

Eddie pulled the “D card” himself from his hospital bed last year. But, Britney had pulled it first after riding to Stiles Unit with Cindy and I. Did the stress of Eddie facing a second divorce drive him to a heart attack weeks later? Who knows. I’m pretty sure that Eddie finding himself alone in a hospital bed without the support of his wife and questioning his own health was questioning if his marriage was right for him? Who could blame him? If your spouse isn’t supportive when you need them to be then you pretty much know where you stand when the chips are down. 

Britney had asked about a Vow Renewal just two years ago and somehow over this window divorce is now closer than ever. Eddie wants to move his mother into their home. Britney is against this plan so greatly that she’s consulted an attorney. Eddies mother is a widow who is facing eviction. Britney doesn’t care. 

Yesterday, Eddies mother went to the house while Britney was home to “view the guest room.” Britney told Eddies mother “you aren’t living here. You and Eddie can find your own place. This house is paid for. Eddie will owe me alimony and child support.” 

Britney then called Cindy to “go over the details of her mother in law’s visit and her plan.” I warily listened after returning to my suv from filing marriage licenses in Parker County. 

Britney is immature. Eddie is 20 years older. Why Eddie can’t put his foot down when he’s paying all of the bills I have no idea. Eddie needs to force Britney to pitch in and pull the load. What housewife doesn’t cook or clean or even take her kids to school? It’s unheard of. All of their meals are take out. I cannot understand what Britney does all day? Their home is community property. Since I was dealing with a sinus infection and headache, I decided not to advise Britney who has no idea what a single mother raising three children alone faces. I didn’t have the patience to once again revisit her solution to Eddies mother needing a place to live. Britney needs to find another solution for Eddies mother if “her home isn’t going to be the solution.” Obviously Eddie isn’t going to leave his mother on the streets. 

Cindy is very opinionated about “moving relatives into your home.” Her strong opinions have a rich history. Our grandmother lived with Cindy 18 years. It was hell. Cindy finally moved her into an apartment. I refused to move her into my home at all. Why? Because Cindy and I left home at 15. We didn’t owe our grandmother a place to live or anyone else for that matter. Our grandmothers children should have been taking care of their mother not Cindy who was already raising her own children. 

The deal breaker? Cindy’s daughter being pregnant with twins. Cindy chose to raise her grand twins while our grandmother suggested giving them up for adoption. Why this outrageous idea even came up will not only surprise you but also enlighten you as to how selfish our grandmother actually was. “How can you take care of me if you are going to be taking care of them?” Short answer? Cindy moved grandma out. I would have never moved her in. But that’s me. 

Cindy once was a soft touch for a sad story. Grandma and 18 years under Cindy’s roof changed Cindy’s attitude about responsibilities. Our grandma had a son and daughter who were unwilling to move her into their homes and conveniently pushed Cindy to her limit. Driving grandma to doctor appointments? Cindy did it. Giving up two rooms of her home for one person? Cindy did it. Giving up the master bedroom for years to avoid conflict in her own home? Cindy did it. Cindy sucked it up for 18 years while supporting and housing and transporting grandma wherever she needed to go. Subsequently, Cindy is against moving relatives into your home. They never move out. By the way, if your parents or grandparents didn’t raise you, you aren’t obligated to take care of them by moving them in with you. This topic comes up frequently with couples who are old enough to realize that one day, moving their parents in might be a critical factor to the longevity of their marriage. 

The reason Cindy got suckered into grandma living with her was that she didn’t want conflict. She didn’t want to argue with our father about his mother. She should have stood up sooner but experience is a great teacher. I can assure you that Cindy won’t allow anyone else to move their family members into her home. That ship has sailed. Eighteen years. 

I have no idea how my sister put up with the stress of working, raising her daughters and finally her granddaughters “while putting in 18 years of raising grandma.” There was no compensation for Cindy’s efforts or investment with grandma. She left everything to her children of course. You know the folks that didn’t have to deal with their mother because they had effectively and mercilessly dumped her on Cindy. “Don’t ask for an apple and expect a pie.” Cindy will with sass and sweetness tell you to move on. She’s learned that a sleeping rug gets walked on.

Last year, Terry and Lisa divorced. I had married them at great expense although the unaired television pilot, Pawning Planners told a different story. Why? Creative editing. 

The production company decided to make it look like the barter deal came out in our favor which couldn’t have been further from the truth. Why? “Nobody is interested in watching you lose money to pull off an event. All of the flipping shows come out on top with the stars of the shows walking away with money. Everyone likes a winner.” 

A winner? The majority of those flipping shows are fabricated and staged. Why did helping people no one else wanted to help at our own expense aside from the dresser and bike we actually did take in trade from Lisa and Terry make us losers if we didn’t walk away with a profit? 

The truth is that anyone who barters or flips items is going to “take a hit” now and then. It’s a fact. 

Cindy and I have been flipping items for thirty years. My husband has been a developer for fifty years and will tell you that flipping houses is risky because he tried it himself. He now develops and builds custom homes and has for many years. His flipping days are long gone. He knows where the money is and that real estate is risky. He’s too old to take risks and the reason that I can. I don’t have to work. I enjoy working. 

Cindy’s husband loves watching flipping houses shows. Steve unlike my own husband has no real idea of what building and construction cost or the things that can go wrong. My husband does. He builds 70-80 houses a year. 

Cindy and I didn’t understand why the production company chose to “embellish the facts” about Lisa and Terry because our goal was to make Dream Events a reality for anyone AND the sole reason I merged Texas Twins Events and Texas Twins Treasures to create the barter option of The Pawning Planners for people who had or claimed to have no money. 

Bartering gave anyone REGARDLESS of their income an opportunity for an event they otherwise could never afford. “No money? No problem. We take trades!” 

Only a very small percentage of our clients actually use the barter option. How few? Less than 3% of our bookings. 

The only reason Cindy and I agreed to help Lisa and Terry was because her grandfather was dying and his dying wish was to walk her down the aisle. I cared enough about this wish to commit long before a greenlight for a tv pilot came along. Terry had been discussing a wedding  and opportunity for Lisa’s grandfather to walk her down the aisle with Cindy for several weeks before Cindy and I  knew there would be a film crew headed to Fort Worth. 

Cindy was familiar with  Lisa and Terry because their daughters went to school with her twin granddaughters, Maryssa and Makenna. 

Like most people at the Twins school who read the banners on the back of our SUVs when picking up or dropping off the twins, Lisa and Terry knew that we owned  a wedding and events business, Texas Twins Events and that we had recently rebranded and expanded to bartering Services. 

Because Lisa and Terry needed help but couldn’t afford to book services traditionally by paying for them, Lisa and Terry saw an opportunity to make Lisa’s grandfathers dying wish a reality. Did they know it would be filmed? No. None of us did. That would come long after Cindy and I had already committed to help them. 

Frankly, I didn’t expect any of my clients on the roster the month of filming to want their event filmed. Incredibly, all eight of my clients booked that month wanted to be filmed and even auditioned via Skype with the production company. 

I should also point out though that while Wendy cares about your story, Cindy primarily cares about the bottom line. “What have you got to flip?” Cindy is is interested in quick flips. What are quick flips? Items that need little or no investment to sell. Jewelry and smaller items are what she is looking for on location. Cindy has walked out of an appraisal appointment on more than one occasion and uploaded a photo to Texas Twins Treasures that sold in minutes. 

Large furniture items that I take in trade require far more time and money to flip. I am more interested in larger investment furniture pieces because my investment pays off. I’m not afraid to spend a few hundred or even thousand dollars to refurbish antique furniture with “good bones.” Why? Because my investment pays off. My furniture designs sell worldwide. I don’t skimp on foam, fill or fabric. Quality is an investment. If I love a piece enough to take it on the trade then I love it enough to bring it back to life. 

Cindy’s blog “Mansions, Moochers And Morons” outlines one of the many occasions over the years that I “volunteered my staff” to help wealthy people who had claimed to be poor when contacting us.

These stories from folks down on their luck always touch my heart but Cindy consistently reminds me to “throw that book in the trash. Stories don’t pay the bills around here.” I am a sucker for a good story and let me tell you brother that over the years, I’ve heard plenty from people wanting the moon and the stars ending their wish list with “but I don’t have any money.” 

We NOW REQUIRE APPRAISAL APPOINTMENTS for people wanting services claiming they can’t pay for. We dig through your trash and look for treasure. If you want our help, we want to what KNOW and WALK what you have to flip. We estimate the items on site. Walking a trade is essential to knowing the value. While many Pawning Planners upload a photo, we will not send a contract until walking the trade on site. Why? Hidden damage and other factors affect the value. The client doesn’t set the price either. We do. Why? Because we can. If no one else is willing to help you and there is no market for your item, it has no value to us. I can’t flip moonshine. Yes, we’ve had fairly unique items offered in trade but, they can’t all be winners folks and they aren’t.

Inventory from our Texas Twins Treasures warehouse was moved to Lisa and Terry’s house and effectively “planted” by the production company to make it appear (on film) that the trade proposition was lucrative to Cindy and I and the sole reason we “struck a deal.” The real reason was a dying man’s wish and doing what we felt was right. We had an opportunity to help that man and we did.

While juggling Lisa and Terry, I was also juggling 8 other clients since Lisa and Terry chose the height of wedding season in Texas. It’s not uncommon for any of my clients to assume that they are my only client. I juggle 10-20 clients per month. Whether these bookings are for prison inmate Officiant services, traditional bookings, barter bookings or a venue that I am on staff at, the variety and variation of these clients creates a diversified business.

Lisa and Terry were the only clients booking and effectively bartering through The Pawning Planners during this “wedding season window” while filming. Because of this, a large portion of my time and the attention of my staff would be spent on location with existing bookings when I wasn’t creating floral designs for Lisa and Terry or working with Cindy on other aspects of their event. 

Finding a free location that everyone could agree on took a location scouting adventure with two executives from our production company. There had to be electricity. It had to be conveniently located to limit travel time for the production company. 

Over the course of planning this event, the list grew and grew. Lisa had champagne taste on a beer budget. Warily, I continued to pull out my checkbook. Cindy and I went further and further in the hole with each new request. 

A 50’s themed wedding with nothing in our warehouses to pull existing inventory from. The colors were red, black and white which aren’t floral colors I keep in stock. I would have to buy flowers to create the bridal bouquet, the maid of honor bouquet, the toss bouquet, the bridesmaids bouquets, the bouteniers and the centerpieces. Buying silk flowers I don’t have in stock is expensive. I keep a warehouse of floral designs and pieces in stock to “rework” bouquets by adding or removing colors but Lisa and Terry’s event and their theme REQUIRED starting fresh and starting over. Red and black are not “traditional” wedding colors. There would also be poodle skirts to buy for the flower girls, a bride and groom cake, tables and chairs, and a BAND? Obviously since Lisa and Terry ONLY had an old bike and dresser, the expenses of their Dream Event BY FAR OUTWEIGHED what they wanted. LUCKILY, we had a friend, Rudy Smedley who convinced his Double Eagle Band to VOLUNTEER. Surprised? Don’t be. I wasn’t about to write a check for a band Lisa and Terry wanted and couldn’t afford. 

Cindy created fascinators for the flower girls. I found and bought striped tops to coordinate with the poodle skirts I bought earlier.The location like most Pawning Planners event locations would be free. We chose a park. Rain ruined the plan. 

Outdoor locations are tricky. I cannot control the weather. Finding a building? Creativity.

Cindy and I borrowed Rudy Smedleys Karate Studio and his band. How did we know him? Cindy’s twin granddaughters were students. 

Trying to change location on the day of an event and transform a karate studio into a wedding venue while being filmed for a week and having a production team take over your house? STRESSFUL! 

My husband and my dog made a run for it. Electric cords and people everywhere made our family pet, Foxy nervous. I’ve learned to say no after Lisa and Terry’s wedding. What people want and what they have to barter or can afford dictate the budget now.

I’ve learned that bartering is a business and to look at my bottom line. I no longer take on events that put my staff and I in the hole. Texas Twins Events clients and Texas Twins Treasures sales funded Lisa and Terry’s Dream Event. 

Lisa’s grandfather finally walking her down that aisle was worth the sweat, tears and expense for me though. He died shortly after that wedding. Lisa and Terry’s marriage died with him. 

After everything we went through with Lisa and Terry, it’s tough to accept that they weren’t meant to be together forever. I recall the joy they shared. I remember the pride of that grandfather walking towards me. Another couple and friends of Lisa, Kat and Tiffany had contacted shortly after Lisa and Terry’s wedding. Lisa had told them that we were LBGT friendly. The ruling had just passed legalizing same sex marriage. Clerks in Texas were refusing to issue licenses. Getting that marriage license issued to “the first same sex couple in Parker County” was challenging. I married them at Trinity park. My team provided the flowers and photography. I would face months of clerks refusing to issue licenses to my clients. During that window I learned just how intimidating clerks could be. 

A few months ago, Kat & Tiffany separated. Another joyous event forgotten. Marriage is a merger. It’s a commitment and if you aren’t fully committed, marriage may not be right for you. Divorce leaves scars and broken hearts. If you aren’t fully committed, you aren’t ready. Everyone has limits.

There are Deal Breakers out there. Violence, infidelity, hidden debts that become community debt also known as sexually transmitted debt. Aging parents moving in with you. Boomerang kids moving home. All of these reasons and even unexpected illness of your partner can and will test the strength of your marriage. 

Remember though that your vows were a commitment. Did you commit to moving in your spouses mother? No. Did you commit to having your spouses adult children move into your home indefinitely? No. 

My husbands ex wife moved both of her children and all of their grandchildren into their home. My husband left his marriage based in part on the conflict these boomerang daughters and their children brought into the marriage. He was overrun in his own home. 

Moving relatives into your home is risky. Can your marriage handle it? Can you? 

My ex husband had a mistress and tax debt that subsequently pushed me to divorce him. Cindy’s ex husband had an entire other family. There are reasons for moving on. Make sure your reasons are reasons you can live with…