Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 27

March 27, 2017

Dear Mom,

Friday, March 24th, marked your one year of passing. Respectfully in your honor, Sierra, Keller and I drove to Dallas to have dinner with Hope and Dad at your favorite restaurant, The Outback, of course. It was such a blessing to be with Dad, Hope, Sierra, and Keller and reminisce with smiles on our faces and laughter in our hearts. What a difference a year makes. After dinner, the girls and Keller (what a trooper of a kid!) had a slumber party with matching jammies. We had so much fun together. You would be so happy to see how much closer we are this year than we were last; that’s all you ever wanted. Thank you for giving me two beautiful baby sisters to love, nurture and guide. They are my everything.

Saturday Hope got a new puppy; it’s super cute. Later in the afternoon your three girls got together and spread your ashes in a river near Hope’s house. I hope you heard the loving things we said about you – thanking you for giving us life, each other, a sense of humor, and teaching us to love. You were definitely there to give us one last laugh. As Hope went first to spread some of your ashes into the water, an unexpected gust of wind came and swirled your ashes around me and in my mouth, as if the ashes were forming the figure of a body coming in for one last hug. Mom, I ate you! Everyone was shocked yet laughing as they looked at me and saw their sister drenched from head to toe in your ashes, struggling to dust herself off while simultaneously coughing your ashes out. Hate to break it to you, but you tasted terrible. Keller cracked up the whole way home repeating, “I can’t believe you ate your Mom! I’m telling everyone!!! Aunt Cookie ate her Moooom, Aunt Cookie ate her Moooom,” he kept singing. That one goes down on the books as the strangest thing to ever happen to me. Thanks for that, um, final goodbye hug.

Mom, you were a very special woman and were so loved by your family and will forever live in our hearts. I’m sorry you felt lost in this world for so long. I want you to know that seeing your heavy struggle has given me the fight to find the light in myself and never lose it, live with purpose, be strong, be kind to myself (mind, body & spirit) and others, and be a selfless servant to people, living with my eyes open, feet grounded, ears listening and hands out, giving and receiving all that is. While this past year was a year of mourning, grieving the loss of both you and Randy’s father whom I dearly loved, it’s also been the most eye-opening year, a year of awakening. Sadness has been greater, but so too has joy. I live closer to my heart. I look at my reflection in the mirror and am different; I see more of you in me now than ever. I never thought I would say that. Do we all become our Mothers? What I previously despised in myself, as I fought to be nothing like you, I now graciously accept in myself and ask, “What good can I use this for? What would my Mother have looked like if she utilized this gift?” I want to blossom in any similarity, a rose on a thorny vine, to grow that part of You I always believed in inside myself so that I can share the gift; therefore, I am choosing to cherish our reflective similarities, love on them, and not hate them, not hate myself. In tragedy, there are always gifts, and I am forever thankful for the gifts you left behind, for the reflections of you that are now in me. May you rest in peace, Mom.  I love you.


Trina Tina

Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 18

March 18, 2017

Dear Mom,

Shabbat Shalom! I’m so in love! With LIFE!! Saturday I typically rest, however, today was especially productive. Cleaned our condo downtown for guests, went to Bikram yoga, washed my car, got a mani-pedi, grocery shopped, then hosted dinner for a few friends and fam in our new kitchen. In my imagination, you are at the table sharing in the contagious laughter and stories, passing mashed potatoes and gravy to your left. Your hair is red and slightly long, and you look super stylish (don’t worry). It makes me smile to imagine you there, imagine how things might have been. I’ve always been a visionary, and now my vision has come to life in creating the family I always wanted.

As people went around the dinner table sharing stories, as we all connected, as we all bantered and shared in laughter, I took a moment to look around at each person at the dinner and thank them in my heart for being there, savoring their presence. I’m happiest hosting small intimate dinner parties; the entertainer, entertaining! Only it’s not about me, it’s about everyone there in that moment. I picture the earthy dirt and rock our house stands on smiling at our enjoyment. There’s nothing more that I love than having family and friends at our lake home, sharing a home-cooked meal, and celebrating our lives with a beautiful cabernet. Sierra usually prepares everything I shop for; she’s an amazing artist of a chef! I make the Ceasar, and I’m honored she loves the recipe I made up.

Mom, my dinner party story may not rev your fire; you may be thinking, “It’s only good food, good wine, and good people, what’s the big deal?” Because I don’t think you ever had dinner parties. For me, people are everything, and getting them together to connect and enjoy life is what life’s all about. In my book, nothing connects people more than food, wine, and stories. That’s what I love about Judaism, actually; it has a similar philosophy and love for the human spirit. In those moments of connection, there’s electricity, something very alive; I call that God. Yep, God, right there in the middle of my dinner party sharing with us, saying, “Yes! Yes! You get it. Connect. Love. Laugh. Smile. Be Merry. Be Free. Be.”

I’m so happy I’ve been writing you because I feel like I’m able to share with you who I am for the first time through these letters, and I feel seen by you. I never felt seen or heard by you when you were alive, but now I finally do, and it feels invigorating. I also see you, smiling, at peace; I have new visions of you in my mind. Thank you for sending them from the beautiful place you now are.


Tina Tina

Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 17

March 17, 2017

Dear Mom,

A poem, “Your hands are now in my hands”:

There was more I wanted to say

More I wanted to do

More I wanted to see from you

I never let go of hoping to see you bloom

I never cried more than when I had to let go of that hope for you

Tragic to see you fall into a life of despair and gloom

Caught in a web of darkness, stuck to its muck, you couldn’t shake the crud

To get unstuck, you have to nip and tuck

Let go and burst through pain with acceptance, self-care and a burning desire for more

Work work work

Is what it takes to bloom

What kind of flower would you have been?

Mom, that’s what I can promise to you:

hard work to live a better and healthier life than you

I mean that in the most loving way, in a way to honor you, life and future generations

I am doing the unfinished work of your hands, your hands are now in my hands

I will pick up where you left off, sowing everything until it grows

I will make choices that cause me to flourish, thrive and fulfill my purpose:

To serve others, love and be loved, spread radical joy, to be a sister in sparkle

Use my voice for good, be a beacon of truth

This is the harder path, because it’s an incomparable amount of work to fight the good fight

it’s easy to be sad

It’s easy to quit, it’s easy to be mad, it’s easy to be mean, and it’s easy to fall apart

A constant resistance within, refinement is the goal, dignity, self-respect & confidence

You must be intact before you can truly serve others

To be better than where you came from, and stay focused on the goal

Mom, I am part of you, I know I share some similar struggles, let me learn from you,

And choose wisely

I’m glad for the life I experienced with you, even though it was terrible to see

Because it made me, Me

A hard worker-bee, giving my honey away to those in need, for free

Please pray for me, stay an angel near me, help me live free, so I can serve all my days on earth


Tina Tina

Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 16

March 16, 2017

Dear Mom,

Today has been great. My kitchen remodel is finally finished!!! I had two professional organizers come and help me put the whole kitchen back together; that is the way to go! Three of us literally put our entire kitchen back together (even lined all the drawers and cabinets) in five hours. Then I cooked an easy meal in my sparkly new kitchen for my sweetheart, and then my good friend from college Becca and her husband, Cade, and their little boy came over to visit. It was so lovely seeing her beautiful spirit and catching up, playing with her little boy, seeing her and Cade so happy. What a blessing! While playing with their son, Parker, I realized what my favorite thing to do with you was: make you laugh.

I had so much fun making their son laugh with silly faces, chasing him around the house, tickling him. Kids really are a blast, especially when you get to send them back. Then everything quiets back down and the peaceful music of the lake breeze is all you hear. I’m so grateful for my home and Randy and his children. My favorite thing to do is to try and make them smile and giggle. Same with acting. I love when I’m in a scene and people laugh. A roaring crowd is my favorite sound. I remember you laughing at me quite a bit. I loved seeing your beautiful smile; you could light up a room with that. When I picture you, I will forever remember that smile. It’s not that I’m living in a delusion and sugar-coating things; it’s that every time I think of you, I want it to be at your best moments.

As I’ve dug deep in search of happy memories with you, I’ve felt blocked, pushing myself to find the answer to the question, “What did I love doing with my mom?” Instead, I found the answer to what I loved doing for my mom: make her laugh.

Thank you, Mom, for always laughing at my silly jokes, funny faces, and dramatic falls. You totally got my sense of humor. Part of that I got from you. You cracked me up with your hair stories, crazy white-girl dancing, and random goofy acts that attached themselves to you. I’m so happy we got to share those moments of sunshine together.

I love you,

Tina Tina

Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 14

March 14,  2017

Dear Mom,

I hate starting off with apologies, but I owe you one. I have failed to keep posting daily letters to you. I had a great intention but failed execution. So I compared the difference between the first successful week of letters to you and the second failed week. Long story short, last week was the yang to the prior week’s perfect yin scenario.

In the Yin week, my better half was out of town all week and I had no kids and no planned events. Score! I had the down time. I also wrote and posted your letters after I finished up with work for the day, so after 5pm.

Last week’s Yang week was hectic; trying to wrap up a kitchen remodel, catering to my S.O., had kids Wednesday – Friday, worked out four days, and had SXSW events. Needless to say, I did not create any downtime to write the letters. I’d write about half of the letter on my phone each day in a spare moment but didn’t know how to post it on my site from my phone.

Long story short, I’m sorry. I did come up with a plan to finish out strong, though. In life, we all fail. If we acknowledge our failure and choose to learn from it and not give up, choose to stay committed and come up with a plan to finish out in success, is it really a failure?

Mom, sometimes I feel you constantly thinking you were a failure got the best of you. Was there a way you could have turned it around by changing your thinking? Can the mentally ill strengthen their mind’s muscle with exercise? We all feel we fail at certain points. I want to learn from you, though. So if we can see past our failure to the other side, maybe we can turn things around and build ourselves up, instead of continual beating ourselves up.

My plan is to write letters to you and another first thing in the morning before I do anything else. That way it is out of the way, I’m not thinking about it all day, and I’m not beating myself up for failing to write you. I have hope this will work.

I love you, Momma.

Yours truly,


Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 5

March 5, 2017

Dear Mom,

Do you go to church on Sunday’s in heaven? Lol. Like in heaven, isn’t your permanent residence Church? Just curious.

This morning Randy and I got up and went fishing with the dogs. You loved fishing. You scaled the fish and everything. I like catching more than fishing. I like being outside more than anything.

I remember we used to go camping as kids. That was the best. I miss camping. I’ve been meaning to check out Marfa and Big Bend area. It’s all the rage right now. You can glamp in Marfa. There’s also supposed to be a random Prada store out there. I don’t own any Prada’s, but I would like to drive out to the middle of BFE Texas and try on a pair of Prada’s. Sounds ridiculously glorious, doesn’t it?

I definitely got my ridiculousness from you. My quirky off the wall silliness. I love it. It makes people smile, to be so lavishly goofy in public or wherever. The unexpected usually is a delightful surprise given the circumstance. Because of you, I always look to deliver the unexpected. Now I channel it through performance art. Actually, after you passed I started acting more again and taking classes. You always loved when I acted in anything. I’m going to keep going in that direction and am praying for some assistance. 😉

Have a lovely, I mean heavenly, Sunday.

I love you,



March 4, 2017

Dear Mom,

In my household, Saturday’s are for relaxing, reflecting and sharing life with loved ones. Shabbat is every Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath and falls on Saturday instead of Sunday. I don’t want to go too far into religion, except that I am glad you never pushed any religion on us, even though you were Christian. While it has been confusing at times which direction to go, I’ve never stopped searching for God.

Today I reflect on purpose. I wonder, what was your purpose? Did you know? I ask myself similar questions. At what age do people start asking themselves about their purpose and destiny? Funny, we never discussed that, and I wish we had. It makes me want to have those conversations with Randy, his children, my sisters, and friends now that I think about it. In case you were curious, I started wondering my purpose at eight years old.

It was right before Sierra and I came to live with you and Joe (Dad); I was nearly nine. Sierra was seven. You were pregnant wth Hope. I remember praying to God, telling Him I wanted to be a good woman in the world, and that I also needed His help.

There was one particular evening when we lived with my biological Dad, Larry, and he had come home stupid drunk and who knows what else. Sierra and I had been waiting outside on the porch for him, because our step-mom Paula said we had to wait outside until our Dad came home. She was mad at him, and just always mad in general. When he drove up to the house in the driveway to the left and stepped out of the maroon 1993 Buick sedan and saw Sierra and me outside, rage came over him. I don’t know if it was because he was drunk, or if it was because he saw his two little girls being tortured by his wife to wait outside like dogs.

He took one look at us and his demeanor changed; the devil entered his eyes, and he tornadoed into the house. “Paula!!!” he screamed as he intentionally knocked a lamp off the table as he entered, glass shattering.

I immediately knew trouble was ahead, again.

Once he found her, he found satisfaction between his fists and Paula’s face, one hand gripping her hair to hold her head back, and his other hand swinging punches to her face. All of us five kids were crying and imploring him to stop; he wouldn’t or couldn’t. By the time he was done, her face was dripping blood and her left eye already bulging and swollen shut, a few minutes shy of death had the beating continued. I ran to the phone in the house and tried to call the police; he saw me and ran over to me and yanked the phone and chord out of the wall, glaring at me intensely. Terrified I ran away. I grabbed Sierra’s hand and pulled her into a closet. That’s where I began praying as I held my sister, “Lord, I want to be a good woman in the world. I promise I will be if you help us get out of this.”

God answered my prayer that night, because next thing I know Larry is driving us towards Dallas, where he left us at a gas station like stray animals. I think part of him bringing us back to you was because I was raising such a stink, and it was becoming unbearable for him to keep us. I was telling everyone he was abusing my step-mom and us, that other people were abusing us; I even told the school counselors that we were in desperate need of rescue (I got in trouble for that one).

I’ll never know why you left us so much. Why you were always in and out of our lives. Why everything always seemed so chaotic. I know you nearly sent us to Foster care, had Joe not said, “We can do this.” I always wanted to share this story with you. About how happy I am we ended up with you and Dad, that I’m grateful how things ended up. Who knows what would have become of us had we stayed in that abusive situation.

I’m so glad ya’ll kept us. Thank you. Honestly I thought you and Dad were perfect for each other; I wish ya’ll could have worked it out.

It’s interesting to imagine what our lives would have been with a slightly different turn in the path. How’s that for Saturday reflections?



Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 3

Dear Mom,

I hope there’s one crazy party in heaven on Friday’s, and you have to get dressed up and everything to attend the celebration. I imagine you wearing red lipstick in heaven, and your hair is ligthened and you have a glow around you. It’s wierd because I never once saw you wear red lipstick.

Because it’s Friday I’ll keep things lighter. I’m simply going to list all the things I loved about you, enjoy!

  •  Your smile
  • Your “I love Lucy” moments – like that one time when you sucked your hair up in the vaccumm trying to vacuum under the couch, lol!
  • Your concern for manners; you taught us yes ma’am, thank you, please, no sir, and to always clean our friend’s houses – “Give them a reason to invite ya back.”
  • The way you danced like no one was watching
  • Your laugh, it was contagious! I hope to always be able to remember it…
  • You always laughing at your children, you were so fun!
  • Your pride in your work; everyone knew you were the best damn barber
  • Your love for your children
  • How you loved a clean house (and tried to get me as a teen to clean; you got lucky with Sierra! Hope’s clean now, too!)
  • How much you adored Hope; she gave you so much joy when she was born
  • Your love for Dad
  • Your kind heart deep down
  • Your beautiful eyes
  • You always gave us your truth
  • Your belief in God and Jesus
  • Your desire for better (I believe you really did want to be better Momma)
  • Your determination to make sure your girls were close
  • Your made-from-scratch cornicopias on Thanksgiving
  • Your love of all holidays
  • Your acceptance of me and unconditional love (Lord, I gave ya hell!)
  • Your love of make-up; you taught us girls how to do make up and braid hair
  • Your chicken-fried steak, made just like Granny’s!!! Mmmmm, and that GRAVY!

Those are just a few. Have a rockin’ Friday in Heaven. I love you!

Love your eldest,


Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 2

March 2, 2017

Dear Mom,

The only way to overcome difficult situations is to face them. The hardest thing I’ve ever faced was identifying your body in Longview, Texas only hours after hearing the news. I know you don’t want a lecture right now; you always got annoyed at my lectures to you. 😉 There is no escaping the trauma from that visual; all you can do is keep breathing. Something overcame me, though, before I drove out to see you. “I will face this; my mother deserves the decency and my sisters deserve the strength,” I told myself with sheer grit. Thank God I had Sierra to do it with me.

I also faced it with chutzpah because I wanted to set an example for Randy’s children on what to do when greeted with difficulty: look it in the eye and meet it head on. Hell, even give it a wink and a smile. You would have done that. You always were a good jokester, goofy as heck. I’m glad I got that from you. After dealing with that and handling your funeral arrangements, which your parents so graciously covered (they really did love you, Mom), I now know I can handle anything life throws my way. Thanks for initiating that discovery.

I’m happy I got to see you one last time and honor you by coming to your “bedside.” I was there until the very end for you Momma, which brings me great peace. As traumatic as it was to see you in a coffin so young and unexpectedly, you never looked more peaceful.  That’s when I knew we could all move on. I’m so happy I got to see you at peace at least once in my lifetime, what a gift, an unburied treasure. For that I will always be grateful.

Oh! And seriously since you’ve passed, I see ladybugs greet me everywhere. It’s the wackiest thing. Even Keller is like, “Aunt Cookie, you always have lady bugs on you.” Lady bugs are a symbol of joy, and every time I see one, I know it’s you.

I love you Mom,


Passion Project: Letters to my Mother Day 1

Dear Mom,

March marks the month you passed last year. Knowing you are at peace now eases the sadness of grief that quietly gripped my heart when I first thought about how you left this world and the loss of you. First, know I’ve kept my promise to look after my sisters and nephew. Second, know I accept and appreciate all that has come and gone. The only way to move past pity is to connect with gratitude and silver-linings. With all great fires that turn to ash, new blooms arise, seasons change, and time continues.

I never knew how to honor you when you were alive, so I am honoring you this month with a Passion Project called, “Letters to my Mother.” Each day for thirty-one days I will write you a letter and share it. I am sharing it because I want people to know they never have to be alone in this world and to bring awareness to mental illness; I’m sorry you died alone, Mom. That breaks my heart.

Additionally, I will also write a letter to someone who is alive and send it to them. More than anything, Life matters most and should be celebrated, and letter writing is a great way to connect and share life with each other, and who doesn’t love getting a good old-fashioned letter in the mail?

At the end of March, I will have written sixty-two letters total; thirty-one to you, and thirty-one to different people I hold dear to my heart. Let’s begin the journey.

Mom, I miss you. Possibly one of the greatest and most complicated relationships is that between a mother and her children, and more so between a mother and her daughters. Our relationship wasn’t the easiest, and I always wished it were better, instead of accepting the way it was. We did the best we could, though, so let’s not beat ourselves up. Ok?

Your passing woke me up and helped me understand how precious, delicate and finite our lives are, and that there’s no time to waste. You were only forty-nine, so young. Your passing surprisingly softened my heart. Well, I chose to soften. You can love greater when your heart is soft, vulnerable. As we age, we either soften or harden: the choice is ours. I realized I had a lot to let go of, Mom. Did you ever feel that way? I was so angry and mad at you for so many reasons. All I wanted was a connection with you, a relationship, to hear you and be heard, to have mommy-daughter-dates. I also wanted to see you happy and at peace.  I didn’t understand why you couldn’t just be…a normal mom…

I wish I understood your mental illnesses more. I know you suffered a great deal to the extent that you wanted out of this life. I can’t pretend to imagine how that must feel; I only get a knot in my heart thinking about what you must have gone through. I know you were diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia and that you became an alcoholic. Mom, it’s ok. I didn’t love you any less. I did back away from you quite a bit, though; it became too difficult for me to handle…

I’m sorry you suffered extensively. I’m sorry I backed away. I wish I understood more…please forgive me. I forgive all that I was mad at you for. I forgive myself for being mad. I’m not angry anymore. I had to let this all go because I want the memories of you to bless me the rest of my life, so I had to let go to find the good, chisel away the rock to find the diamond. Thank you, Mom, for opening my eyes to love, forgiveness and seeking the Good. Thank you for bringing me into this world. I love you. Talk to you tomorrow!

Love Your Eldest,