I didn’t know anything about him, only that his first name was Mitchell. Within a few weeks I learned that his last name was Smith. The next 51 days raced yet crawled by all at the same time.

I worked on the floor bringing customers non-alcoholic drinks, emptying trash bins, and dumping ashtrays for about a week. I loved being near the MOD’s as they communicated with the other MOD’s via hand held radios. I would smile inwardly when I would hear Mitchell respond to his peers with a “10-4 good buddy” or “Okie dokie artichokie ” it was music to my ears! My third week I was moved to the concession stand as a cashier.

I remember the first time Mitchell spoke to me ‘outside of a simple hello’ he walked to the end of the counter and said, “Can you make me a coffee?” I replied, “Sure.” He said, “Half water and half coffee.” The 30 seconds I spent making that Styrofoam cup of coffee, I must have said silently “Coffee, water.” fifteen or more times. I turned around to hand him the cup and time stood still. He said, “Thank you.” I looked up into his piercing blue eyes and I saw so much farther then I can adequately describe; you see… I saw into his soul.

Without seeming obvious, I studied him. His dirty blonde hair was firm with hairspray, neatly combed back, and he had deep dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. He was wearing black slacks, a white long sleeved button up shirt, a dark colored tie, and black dress shoes. I inhaled. He smelled amazing, inviting even. I quickly exhaled and said, “You’re welcome”. He walked away. That was the moment my mind and heart decided it would anticipate seeing him and smelling his cologne every minute of every day.

I was completely captivated. I would wish away my days off. I could not get enough. He was intoxicating. I couldn’t wait to work with him. While working the concession stand I had my own hand held radio, I would hear his voice regularly. Those brief moments he would key up to speak to his peers became my heaven. He began stopping and asking for coffee more frequently. The brief moments he stood in my area, I could not concentrate and my hands refused to cooperate! I spilled an entire bucket of ice on the floor, and nacho cheese all over the counter. I would overfill Styrofoam cups with coffee or cappuccinos burning my hands.

One night I remember clearly, I was preparing mop water when the faucet in the mop sink stopped working. I grabbed the hand held and asked for a manager to assist me. Mitchell walked up and went into the mop supply closet. He began turning the knobs on the sink when all at once there was a loud POP! Water was spraying ALL over the closet and Mitchell stood there fighting it as though it were an 8 ft bear. He was drenched, his undershirt visible underneath his white button up shirt, hair dripping with water. He looked at me laughing and said, “I normally take my showers at home before work”. A serious look washed across his face as he said, “You really should let me take you out after what I’ve put myself through tonight.”. I couldn’t speak immediately. I thought to myself, “Take me out… like a date? I don’t know HOW to date?!?” I responded, “I can’t… my mom is expecting me home after work.”

Over the course of the next week, occasionally while walking down the hidden hallway to the break room I would smell his cologne. I remember thinking, “Mitchell has been here.”. We never had breaks at the same time.  One evening after requesting his usual cup of watered down coffee he sat down on the left side of a rectangle shaped, wooden table in a metal chair.  An ashtray was upside down in the center of the table, his coffee directly in front of him, steam drifting from the top.  Mitchell looked straight at me and said “So when are you going to let me take you out?”. I was once again breathless, and without words.  I bumped a cupful of disposable knives with my arm that were sitting on the counter top.  The cup fell toward the table where he sat.  “You’re throwing knives at me now?” He chuckled. He stood and began picking up the knives. My cheeks were rosy, and warm. I was embarrassed.  I walked around the counter, and knelt down to help pick up the knives. I looked him dead in the eye and quietly said “Sorry”.  We gathered all of the knives and discarded them.  I walked behind the counter and he stood in front of me, the counter between us.  As a female coworker walked up behind him, he looked at me. He asked “How old do you think I am anyways?”. Behind him, Kendall held up three fingers on her right hand and five on her left.  I responded “I don’t think, I know…  You are 35.”. On my own I would’ve guessed him in his mid to late twenties.  He walked away.

I thought to myself “15 years older, he’s way out of my league, I graduated high school six months ago, I have very little life experience, I am 19 there’s no way he would be interested in someone like me”.  I didn’t care that it may never go anywhere; I didn’t know where it was going.  All I knew was his smile was as bright as the sun, his laugh contagious, he was the most beautiful soul I’d ever laid eyes on, and I could not be in his presence enough.

November 30, 2004 the air was crisp and it was cold, I wore a jacket over my white collared shirt into work that evening.

At 2000 hours, Mitchell came to concession and said “You have a phone message, your mom wants you to rent her a room next door or something like that.” About 15 minutes later, during my next break I called my mom. She said “You get half price rooms at the hotel next door to the casino right?” I said “Yes.” Then she said “Stormi, the roads are icing over.  I really don’t want you trying to drive home, would you please use some of your tips and stay in a room there tonight?” I said “OK” and hung up the phone.  I returned to the concession. Mitchell walked up and without thinking I said “You were wrong, my mom didn’t want a room for her, she wanted me to stay because of the roads.” He said “Oh, I have a room over there tonight too.  I’m sorry I couldn’t hear her very well.” I said “Okay.” Then he swiped his key fob, opened the heavy wooden door leading to the break room hallway and exited the concession area.  I continued with my duties in the concession.  I remember thinking “I don’t believe that is the end of THAT.  What have I got myself into?” approximately 2215 HRS I heard the beep unlocking the wooden door to the hallway, I looked up to see Kendall and Mitchell standing at the end of the counter side by side.  Kendall’s eyes appeared to be glowing, they were a radiant green, her eye shadow sparkled. She smiled “Me, Chuck and Mitchell are going out after work.  You should come too.” I said “Where?” She replied “Silk’s”. I didn’t know what “Silk’s” was.  I said “I don’t have anything to wear.”. Mitchell piped up “I wear my work clothes every time I go out.” I said “OK, I’ll go.”. After they walked away, the next 40 minutes were torturous.  The following is the dialogue that took place inside of my nervous brain.  “Stormi, what have you got yourself into?  What excuse can you come up with?  None.  No excuses, you’ve exhausted them all.  You already said you would go.  Go.  Enjoy it, you never have to go again.  Wait.  What is “Silk’s ”?  A restaurant, a bar?  What if it is a bar?  I’ve never been to a bar.  Ready or not.  No backing out now.  Shift is over.  Time is up.”

Mitchell walked up to the concession counter and handed me a bank bag.  I gathered all of the bills and coins from the register and tucked them safely away in the bag.  My relief appeared with a bank bag, a manager beside her and began putting the money in the register to prepare for her shift.  I smiled, and said “Have a good night.”. I walked around the counter, with the bag clutched tightly in my hands.  Mitchell was on my left side and a security guard was on my right; we walked all the way to the vault.  I counted all of the money from my register, it was perfect, not a single penny short or long.

Kendall, Mitchell, and I walked north in the wide hallway that conjoined the hotel to the casino.  I approached the clerk at the counter.  I handed her my gaming license, $15.00 and told her I needed a room for the night.  The clerk handed me a card style room key and said “All the way to the third floor.” The three of us entered the elevator; Kendall reached over and pressed the button with the number three displayed.  The elevator dinged, the door slid open.  The three of us walked to find the numbered door to the room I had been assigned. I mentally noted that my room and Mitchell’s room were only separated by a single room in between.  He pushed his card into the slot above the handle of the door to his room, it beeped, the lights flickered green, he turned the handle and pushed the door open.  Kendall and I followed behind him.  Once inside the room Kendall said she was going to the restroom to clean up before Chuck arrived.

The next moments Mitchell and I shared were so pivotal.  Mitchell sat down in a chair leaving about five feet between him and a desk.  I stood leaning against the desk facing him.  His eyes met mine, and locked.  No verbal words were spoken in that moment.  I am unsure what was being said but, our hearts, our souls were communicating.  The eye contact between the two of us never broke.  He took both of my hands in his and gently pulled me to him.

Next he slid his hands up where one rested on either side of my face.  He pulled my face to his where our lips collided. Then he kissed me.  He didn’t just kiss my lips.  He kissed my soul, my heart, and my brain.  Every part of my being that could be kissed, was kissed without his lips ever abandoning mine.  This kiss was passionate, earth shattering, and soul awakening.  The kiss felt like it lasted hours, in reality the moment only lasted 60-120 seconds.  He and I withdrew at the same time, or gaze still unbroken.  He smiled, I smiled.

The moment that followed is where I had the clearest realization I had experienced in my entire life.  I realized I had inevitably, irrevocably, undoubtedly, 100% fallen completely in love with him.  I surrendered into whatever it was inside of me that kept me running, and making excuses.  I was his, and though he didn’t say it I knew he was mine.

He laughed, then referencing the tongue ring in my mouth said “You know you’re going to have to take that out, it is not allowed at work and now that I’m aware of it I would be required to write you up.” I looked at him and said “Okay.”

Just then there was a knock at the door.  Kendall walked out of the bathroom, and opened the door for Chuck.  The four of us were standing.  Mitchell spoke “Let’s go!” I followed Mitchell to his truck, a black 1985 Chevrolet S10.  We split at the bed of the truck, he walked around to the driver side, and I walked to the passenger side.  I opened the door and sat down inside.  As we drove eastbound on highway 7, I inquired “What is Silk’s?” he responded “It’s just a little beer bar.”. My mind began racing (a bar?  I’ve never been to a bar!  What is a bar like?  Keep calm Stormi, it is going to be okay.)

He turned the truck south bound onto highway 77, I cannot remember what we talked about as he drove, I only remember there was no awkward silence.  We arrived at a small white building on the east side of the road.  We parked behind the building in the dirt parking lot to the north of a large tree.  Mitchell enveloped my left hand in his right. As we walked I could hear the loud music resonating from the building.  I looked up at the building and noted that it looked like it was built out of cinder blocks.  We walked through the door.  Juanita the bar owner approached me within 60 seconds.  She wasn’t too much taller than I, her hair almost white pulled into a pony tail, her teeth were symmetrical and white.  She smiled “How old are you honey?” (“Oh no” I thought to myself, am I not supposed to be here?”) I looked at her and said “I am 19.” she responded “Okay, let me see your hand.” She pulled the cap off of a black sharpie marker and drew large black X on the back of my hand.

I remember the music being so loud that you had to yell very loud to be heard.  Cigarette smoke permeated the room.  Dark brown tall, slender glass bottles sat on the tables.  The back left corner of the room housed two green felt covered pool tables.  Directly to the south of the pool tables stood a solitary, silver pole bolted to the ceiling and the floor.  A tall, slender blonde lady wearing a brightly colored spaghetti strapped shirt, faded blue jeans, and a thong styled bright colored panty peeking out of the top of her jeans caressed, spun around, and danced with the pole.

Kendall, Chuck, Mitchell, and I walked over to a small table with two chairs on the north wall of the building.  I sat down in the chair on the west side of the table.  Mitchell drifted to the bar on the south wall of the room.  He returned with a can of Dr. Pepper in one hand and a brown glass bottle in the other.  He handed me the red can of Dr. Pepper, he took a drink out of the bottle then sat it down on the table in front of me.  Mitchell pulled quarters from his pocket; he stacked four of them on the side of the pool table closest to where I sat.  He walked back toward me, picked up a pack of cigarettes, pulled one from the pack and lit it.  He took another drink from his beer, and then a man who had been playing pool looked at him and said “You’re up.” Mitchell placed the quarters in a metal device on one side of the table; he pushed forcefully then pulled it back toward him.  He walked to the west end of the pool table, pulled a plastic triangle out and laid it on the table.  He arranged the cold, solid balls inside of the triangle.  Then used his fingers to push them all together tightly, lifted the triangle and returned it to the slot at the end of the table then stepped back.

As he shot pool, I visited with Kendall.  I can’t remember what we talked about.  I’m not sure I even made eye contact with her as we spoke.  I observed that Mitchell was shooting pool left handed (I am left handed).  I was mesmerized, I could not take my eyes off of him, and I must have traced his body from his hair to his shoes with my eyes hundreds of times.  The single thought my brain presented over and over was “He’s beautiful.”

While Mitchell’s opponent was taking his turn, Mitchell came and sat on my legs temporarily.  My stomach was in knots, I could smell his aroma stronger than I ever had before; I couldn’t breathe but, I was breathing.  Around 0155 hours we decided we were ready to leave.  We got in his truck the same way we had hours earlier.

We arrived at the hotel.  I don’t believe either of us wanted that night to end.  Mitchell asked me to hang out in his room for a while, I did.  I believe we were awake till 6:00 or 7:00 AM.  We communicated all night with and without words.  Somehow the topic of children came up in our conversation.  He looked at me, sadness in his eyes and said “I had a son 15 years ago that the mother murdered before his first birthday, and I just had a son last month.  When I arrived last month for his birth, his mother had me escorted out by security because she didn’t want me there.  I am not having any more children.” I glanced at him, then down of my hands.  I said “I may be the wrong person for you to be with.  I don’t have any children.  I was sexually abused at the age of two and I am unsure if I can have children.  I’ve always dreamt of being a mom.  Having children is probably one of the most important things to me, it’s my greatest dream.” I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t letting me go.  He looked at me and said “You will be a mom.”

I don’t remember every single conversation we had that night.  Something that Mitchell said to me just before we fell asleep side by side has always been burned in my memory.  He nonchalantly said “I hope you’re ready to be a mom in about nine months.” I don’t believe I responded to his statement, but I remember the thoughts that cascaded inside of me.  I thought “That was a bold statement, what the hell?  Did he really just say that?  Maybe he’s crazy and has no idea what he’s saying.”.

We awoke around 1400 hours; I got ready for work, removed the jewelry from my mouth, gave Mitchell a quick kiss and went to work.  He went home; I didn’t know where home was for him.  I remember going to the break room where our personal lockers were before beginning my shift.  A female coworker was sitting in the break room.  She said “What happened to you?” I responded “Nothing” while my brain silently opposed my answer.  I thought “Mitchell did.” I wondered what made her think something happened to me.  Did I look different?  Did my eyes say something?  Did I smile differently?  I’ll never know.

By mid-December, I had been moved from the concession area to a cashier’s cage.  The cages were where customers collected their winnings, got change, and jackpots were paid out.  I assumed I was reassigned to the cage because the higher ups believed I was responsible enough with excessive amounts of money that I could be trusted.

Outside of work, Mitchell and I were nearly inseparable.  He was my paradise.  I still lived at home with my mom. I drove my mom’s car, a 1990 gray four door Geo metro.

One night Mitchell and I decided to stay in a room at the adjoining hotel after our shift ended.  We were watching TV when an infomercial came on.  I can’t remember what the product was but Mitchell had to have it.  He called his sister that he lived with to get the address.  I only heard his side of the call “Hey shitface!  Can you give me our address?” my face must have said it all, after hanging up the phone, he said “It’s just a nickname; I’ve called her that since we were kids.  You’ll call her Sharon.” He told me she wouldn’t take shit from anyone, she’s a mean bitch, and she makes the best steak tacos.  A few days later, very late at night Mitchell decided he had some things at home he wanted to show me.  We pulled into the dirt driveway; a single wide gray mobile home was in front of us without a single light on inside.  We got out of the truck, walked up to the door and he unlocked the door.

The house was pitch black inside, I could see nothing.  Mitchell grabbed my hand; he led me to the right down what I believed to be a hallway, then almost immediately to the left through a doorway.  Once the door closed, he turned on light.  I noticed a twin size bed against the wall in the left corner of the room; a metal coffee can had change inside to the right of the bed, a closet on the wall to the right, and a television against the wall at the foot of the bed.  I fell asleep with him in that twin size bed that night.

I woke the next morning, and the sun was shining brightly through the window next to the bed.  I felt so uncomfortable.  I was in a house full of strangers.  I needed to use the bathroom, but I was afraid to leave the bedroom.  My mind painted a picture of a monster when Mitchell told me his sister was mean.  I waited until my bladder felt like it may burst; the pressure was so great that it hurt.  I finally asked Mitchell where the bathroom was.  I opened his bedroom door, and went.  I finished in the bathroom then walked toward Mitchell’s room.  Before I opened the bedroom door, I looked up and there she stood.  She was adorned with morning hair, wearing a gray T shirt, and facing the kitchen counter making coffee.  She looked at me and I said “Hi”. Her facial expression was not one of excitement, she grumpily said “Hi”.

I walked into the bedroom.  I looked at Mitchell and said “She’s awake; I think she’s angry that I am here.” He laughed and said “She probably doesn’t care that you’re here she just takes some time to wake up in the morning.” He took me into the living room.  She was sitting with a cup of coffee on the table in front of her with a cigarette in her hand.  He introduced us “Shitface, this is Stormi.  Stormi this is my sister Sharon.” She smiled and said “I have already kind of met her.” She shifted her eyes toward me “It’s nice to meet you, I’m sorry I just have to get awake.” I said “Nice to meet you.”

I asked Mitchell if I could take a shower, he said “Yeah.” I went to the bathroom and showered, I was probably in there for 30 minutes.  We both got ready for work, and then headed that way.  We didn’t walk in together; our coworkers couldn’t know we were seeing one another.  I didn’t know if it was against the rules to date your boss, but we were concerned about others thinking he was showing favoritism towards me in the work environment because of our relationship.

Mitchell turned 35 on December 19.  Around Christmas day, as I was getting ready for work my mom said out of the blue “Maybe you should take a pregnancy test.” I didn’t acknowledge her.  On one of my days off a few days later I had taken my mom’s car to Wal-Mart for an oil change.  While I waited for the car I walked around the store and looked.  I walked down the pharmacy aisle. I stopped where the pregnancy tests were on the shelf.  I picked up a box that said “Clear blue digital” I went to the register and bought it.  I didn’t feel like I was pregnant, I only bought the test to show my mom I wasn’t pregnant.  I proceeded to the automotive area of the store.  I paid for the oil change and picked up my keys.  I drove westbound on highway 19 toward Maysville, I didn’t feel nervous at all.  My mom was at her god mother’s house alone.  I called her godmother “Grandma” and her granddaughters, my cousins.  I walked in and showed my mom the box.  She told me how to use it.  I walked into the bathroom.  I opened the foil pack, pulled the white plastic device from inside the box, and removed the blue cap from the absorbent end.  As I emptied my bladder I held the pregnancy test in my stream of urine and counted to 30 slowly.  I recapped the test and laid it flat of the bathroom counter.  I washed my hands. Before I left the bathroom I glanced down at the test and saw a flashing hourglass.

I walked into the kitchen, my mom said “Well?” I said “It had a flashing hourglass, I don’t know.” She stood up and walked in the direction of the bathroom.  Only a few seconds passed when I heard her squealing.

She returned to the doorway of the kitchen, handed me the test and the sat down across from me.  I looked down.  The word “Pregnant” was displayed on the screen of the test.  I said nothing.  I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it.  My mom said “You should probably call Mitchell.” That is when I felt uncertain, I felt sad, and afraid.  He just told me three weeks ago that he didn’t want any more children.  I swallowed hard, and then dialed his number.  The phone rang two or three times, Sharon answered.  I asked if Mitchell was home.  She told me he was asleep.  I told her it was important and asked her to wake him up.  He sleepily said “Hello”.  I nervously said “Mitchell… I’m pregnant.” He confidently said “I know.  Let me get awake and I’ll see you at work in just a little while.” We both said goodbye and hung up.

In the few hours I had before work; I calculated our babies due date. He or she was due September 3, 2005.  Thoughts swirled in my head.  I had an overwhelming feeling that our baby was a girl.  I even had names I really liked that I decided I would suggest to him when I was further along.  I liked Chase Mitchell for a boy and Alexandria Hope for a girl.  When I arrived at work, everything was the same.  Mitchell and I didn’t act any differently toward each other; he was still my boss after all.

Three or four hours into our shift I was sitting on a barstool in the cashier’s cage.  Business was pretty slow when Mitchell walked up.  He bent down, clutched his hands together in the open area on the counter underneath the metal bars.  He put his face as close as he could.  He looked at me, with tears in his eyes and then said quietly “Everything is going to be okay, we’re going to make it through this.” Knowing I had to keep myself together, I only said “Okay”.

The days ahead were bliss.  I was still in shock, feeling mostly numb.  Mitchell’s excitement, excited me.  He told me he wanted to be with me every day of my pregnancy. I wanted to be with him every day too.

We talked to Sharon and her husband Crawford.  We asked them if I could stay there with him until we could find an apartment.  They said it was fine.  We were happy.  I remember riding in his truck one afternoon, it was sunny. We were southbound on I 35 headed to a store in Ardmore.  Mitchell switched the song on the CD player; he looked at me intently and began to sing along with the music “Save all your love” by Great White.  My breath escaped me.  I trusted that he meant every word as he sang it to me.  I turned 20 on December 31.

January 2, 2005 I hadn’t been at work very long when I went to the bathroom and discovered that I was bleeding heavily.  I called my mom and asked if it was normal.  She told me I needed to take off work and rest.  I called Mitchell next, I told him that I was bleeding and asked him to please come pick me up.  He told me he was on his way.  I returned to work and requested a manager.  A male manager walked up. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home.  He told me that they really needed me there, and they couldn’t afford to let me leave.  I looked him in the eye and said “Look Dave, I think I may be having a miscarriage please let me go home.” He said OK.  I left.  Mitchell was waiting outside in his truck behind the building for me.

I called my mom to let her know I left work and was going home.  She told me that grandma was taking my cousin to the OBGYN in the morning.  She was going to stop by and I could go with them.

I laid around a lot that evening. Outside of going to the bathroom, Mitchell did everything for me.

The next day came.  Grandma arrived to pick me up at 900 hours the next morning as promised.  We drove to Ardmore.  Once at the doctor’s office we didn’t wait in the waiting room long.  The doctor came in and examined my cousin.  My grandma told her what was going on with me and asked if she would go ahead and see me also.  She examined me.  She said that I was definitely bleeding and my cervix was open.  The doctor sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound.  I remember laying on the bed in the dark room watching the computer screen.  I felt hopeful when I saw flickers of red and blue coloring.  I asked the tech what she found and if she saw the baby.  She told me she couldn’t tell me anything.  The tech said my doctor would review the results and call me.

Late that afternoon, I received a call from a nurse at the doctor’s office.  She told me it appeared I had an early miscarriage.  There was no baby seen on the ultrasound.  I felt sad, but the shock of being pregnant hadn’t worn off yet.  It was almost like I couldn’t process what happened.  My inner thoughts raged.  Why?  Was there something I did wrong?  What if this was the only chance I had to have a child with Mitchell?  Maybe I really couldn’t have children?  I told Mitchell the same things the nurse told me.  He hugged me.  I could tell he was devastated but he only asked “Why?”. I said “I don’t know.”. I think we both wanted to wake up and find out that it was a bad dream.  This was our reality.  We lost a child just one month after our first date.  We carried on each day as we had the previous month.  We laughed, we talked, and our connection was just as intense as it was the first time our eyes met.

Life was beautiful.

I cannot remember the date, one morning Mitchell left the bedroom.  I assumed he went to get coffee from the kitchen.  Sharon was playing music loudly in her bedroom.  Mitchell was gone for what felt like forever.  About 20 or 30 minutes later he opened the door, looked at me and said “Come here.”. I followed him to Sharon and Crawford’s bedroom.  Sharon was sitting on the left side of the bed.  She picked up a remote, then “Can’t fight this feeling” by REO Speedwagon began to play.  Within the first count of eight, Mitchell said “This is your song”.  He sat down on the right side of the bed next to Sharon.  I sat down in front of him.  His eyes were misty when he took both of my hands in his.  The words that fell from his lips next gave me butterflies.  He looked at me intensely and said “Stormi I am so in love with you.” I responded “I love you too.” As the song played it felt like he and I were the only two people in the world.  He must have mouthed the words “I love you” 20 or more times as the song played through.  When the song ended, Sharon looked at me with a smile and said “What do you think?” I said “I am happy.”

Later in our bedroom, Mitchell and I were sitting side by side on the bed when he said “I am going to love you for the rest of my life, I’m going to marry you.” I said “Okay let’s plan on it.”

One night at work, Mitchell walked inside of my cage to do a jackpot payout.  I reached for the handle to open the door, he laughed as he pressed his foot against the bottom of the door.  I tugged on the handle and he moved his foot while I was still pulling on the door.  The door opened so fast it hit him right in the head.  He whispered “I have to write you up for that.” 1 hour later Mitchell and another MOD came inside my cage.  Mitchell said “I need you to come with me.” I followed him to a hallway just outside of the vault.  There was a small table, two chairs and a piece of paper laying on the table top.  Mitchell sat down in one chair, I sat in the other.  He said “This is a write up for horseplay, I need you look it over and then sign it.” I found myself lost in his eyes.  I said “I don’t even care about this write up, are you OK?” He responded “I’m fine.” I smiled and looked into his eyes and said “Since you pulled me away for my cage, you could at least keep me back here and make it worth my while.” His eyes widened, he slid the paper toward me and muttered “Stormi, sign it.” I signed it.

Around the end of January we rented an apartment on sixth street in Davis, Oklahoma.  The apartment was two bedrooms and had a tiny kitchen.  We only had a bed and no other furniture when we first moved in.  The next couple months we paid on cheap indoor/outdoor wicker furniture for the living room.  We bought a tall dining table with a bar stools from a coworker and got crib for the spare bedroom.  We intended the second bedroom to belong to his four month old son when he came to visit.  Our house was slowly becoming a home.  Mitchell was in the midst of a court battle with his child’s mother.  Times were hard but, we had everything in each other.

Mitchell chose our wedding date.  Monday, July 4, 2005.  We had four months to plan.  I began looking for another job.  Mitchell and I didn’t want to be secretive about our relationship anymore.  We wanted to invite our coworkers, that we’d become friends with to our wedding.

On April 5, 2005 making 50¢ more an hour I started as a dispatcher at Davis police department.

Days were busy, I worked 0000 – 0800 hours, and I slept most of the day away most days.  Mitchell worked evenings at the casino.

During my downtime I would work on things for our upcoming wedding.  I made the boutonnieres and bouquets myself with deep pink and white roses.  I folded 50 invitations, addressed the envelopes, stuffed and sealed each one, then mailed them all.

I watched American idol from the beginning to the end the season.  Carrie Underwood won American idol that year.  One evening Mitchell was off work and watched the show with me.  That night Rascal Flatts performed “Bless the broken road”.  At the completion of the song Mitchell said “That’s it. It’s perfect; I want that to be our wedding song.” I agreed with a smile “It is perfect, we will use it.”

We were stressed with all of the tasks to be completed, but excited as the day grew near.

On Thursday, June 30, 2005 we applied for and received our marriage license in Murray County.  They allowed us to choose the color of the foil seal for the license, we chose blue.

We did not spend the night before our wedding day apart.  When we woke the morning of 7/4/05, it was raining outside.  I prayed the rain would stop as we had an outdoor wedding planned.  I was marrying Mitchell that evening rain or shine.  After eating lunch, Mitchell went to his sister’s house to get ready.  My Aunt Deedee took me to Moore, Oklahoma where I had an appointment to have my hair fixed.  The hairdresser, a longtime friend of my family wasn’t at the shop.  The door was locked.  Deedee called the lady who said she had forgotten and would be on her way.  I was flustered, the minutes felt like hours.  The hairdresser arrived, she fixed my hair beautifully.  My aunt and I headed back to my apartment.  She and I got dressed and she did both of our makeup.  My grandfather arrived at about 1700 hours to pick us up.  On the way to Sulphur he noticed the dodge truck needed gasoline.  We stopped at a gas station on the south side of the road and filled up.

Wedding Day

Monday, July 4, 2005, 1730 hours.  Chickasaw national recreation area, Pavilion springs in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

The weather was gorgeous, very hot, muggy, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue with very few clouds in the sky.

The covered pavilion was constructed out of brick and wood, a few concrete steps led down to the floor of the pavilion.  There was a natural spring in the middle of the pavilion, cold water flowed constantly.  Metal folding chairs were sat in rows on both sides of the spring.

Many of our family and friends sat in the chairs.  Some were standing.

I pinned my grandfather’s boutonniere on the left side of his shirt just over his heart.  “Inside your heaven” by Carrie Underwood began to play.  Mitchell and Chuck stood to the left of the Reverend. My Aunt Deedee walked slowly down the steps, then immediately left and stood to the right of the pastor.  When the song finished, I walked to the left side of my papa, and locked my arm with his.  A family friend stood behind me straightening the train of my dress.  The wedding march played as my grandfather and I walked gracefully in sync. My eyes met Mitchell’s, they were misty.  He smiled bigger and brighter than I’d ever seen before.  As we stood in front of the preacher, my grandfather placed my hand in Mitchell’s and gave me away.  I stood there, my eyes glued to his.  We promised to love each other until death that day.

The wedding was short and sweet.  We chose a hay ride as our exit.  Crawford and Sharon drove a black Chevrolet truck.  Two square bales of hay sat against the cab of the truck in the bed.  The words “Just married” were written in red bold, large letters on the back window.  As we rode through the town of Sulphur cars honked and people waved as they drove past.  My veil blew in the wind as the truck traveled along the two lane highway toward Davis.

Our wedding reception was at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  A table set along the north wall of their living room.  On the left end of the table, our small wedding cake sat on a pedestal with a lighted fountain underneath.  My grandfather baked and decorated our wedding cake.  It was two tier, heart shaped, with white icing and pink and white roses around the edge of both layers.  On the right end of the table, was a large chocolate on chocolate sheet cake.  Friends and family stood around the open kitchen, and lined the furniture.

Our song “Bless the broken road” played.  He had his arms wrapped around my waist; my arms were loosely draped around his neck.  We held each other close, and danced in the middle of the living room until the song ended.

After our first dance, I changed into jean shorts and a white shirt.  He wore jeans and a T shirt.  We sat the front yard with our friends and family for the majority of the night.  Some set off fireworks; others just sat around and visited.  We didn’t plan a honeymoon; instead we stayed in a hotel room in Paul’s Valley.  We were both so exhausted that we fell asleep almost immediately.  I looked at him just before my eyes closed, smiled and said “We’re married.” He said “Good night my beautiful wife.”

The next months were pretty close to perfect.  We just lived.  We worked, cleaned house, went to the laundromat, paid bills, and cooked.  We would disagree occasionally; we always made up pretty quickly.

In August Mitchell tried to teach me to drive his truck, it was a standard.  I grew frustrated because he thought it was hilarious when the truck would roll backward or die at stop signs.  I finally told him I would drop him off at his sister’s and teach myself to drive a standard.  We spent many days at Sharon and Crawford’s house.  We would smoke cigarettes, laugh, and play video games.  I loved his family.

I am a single mom

I had Hope’s ears pierced on January 5th. Mitchell called me a week later. He was staying with a family member in California. The situation felt hopeless for me. There was no change of us working our marriage out and being the family I had always dreamed of. Circumstances prevented that although it was truly our desire. A lady contacted me several weeks later. She was a longtime friend of Sharon’s. She was sincere and felt very guilty. She told me that in May 2006, she was at Sharon’s home. Mitchell and Sharon told her he and I had split up and he had filed for divorce. She slept with him. I was crushed, infidelity on top of everything else within our marriage. By that time he had moved back to Oklahoma and was staying with Sharon and Crawford. I called to confront him; I had his mistress on the line as well. She remained quiet as I asked him about it. He denied that anything ever happened between the two of them. He began saying she was a lying bitch. She spoke up and said “Oh I’m a lying bitch, huh?” He gave the phone to his brother in law Crawford to avoid the confrontation. Crawford cussed me out and called me a whore, a bitch and he called the other lady a homewrecker. I asked if Mitchell couldn’t be an adult and handle these situations himself. Crawford hung up the phone. I didn’t talk to Mitchell for months after that phone call.

I was furious, hurt, and lonely. I was alone. I was a single mom. My sole responsibility was to make sure Hope was taken care of. I never wanted to be a single mom. I wanted Hope to have her father in her life. That was out of my control. I couldn’t force him to be the daddy to her I believed he could be. I must have listened to Rascal Flatts “Stand” hundreds of times in the weeks that followed. That was my anthem; I had to be mad and strong for Hope. I had my aunt’s support. Hope continued to have appointment after appointment. My aunt was always there beside me. My aunt and I took Hope to another orthopedic surgeon. The doctor recommended amputation for her leg. My aunt held Hope down for x-rays. The x-ray showed severe hip dysplasia. The cup and ball of her right hip hadn’t formed correctly. Hope was able to free herself from the sling used for babies with hip dysplasia because of the shape of her leg. She ended up in a hard cast made especially for her. We could unvelcro it to bathe her and change her diaper. The doctor called her cast the “Hope Brace”.

Before Mitchell and I split he had me convinced that Hope’s medical problems were my fault. He’d tell me “Everything that’s wrong with her must be your fault; I had two perfect boys before her.” I took her to a geneticist one month after he left. I had to know if I somehow caused her medical problems. I was scared. I told myself that if it was my fault I wouldn’t have any more children. I would be Hope’s mommy and no one else’s. The doctor told me he initially considered a diagnosis of vaters syndrome for her. He said she didn’t have all of the components that went along with vaters syndrome. He couldn’t diagnose her with vaters syndrome. I had very little medical history for Mitchell and his immediate family. Based on my own and my family’s medical history alone the doctor determined all of Hope’s medical issues were sporadic. He stated the chances of me having another baby with the same issues were .05%. I felt somewhat relieved.

My aunt and I continued to try and find a way to prevent Hope’s ureterostomy from leaking urine onto her clothes. We found that Huggies supreme diapers and a tri-folded Viva Kleenex paper towel around Hope’s waist inside of her diaper worked best. Some days Deedee, Hope, & I would spend 8+ hours in the car. Two of Hope’s specialists were in Denver, 4 hours away one way. We made that trip often.

I began working at a portrait studio in April 2007. I worked six days a week. My aunt took care of and saw Hope more hours a week than I did. She’d scramble eggs for Hope every morning when I dropped her off. My aunt had colorful cartoons recorded on her TV for Hope. My heart still skips a beat and my eyes still find tears when I think of how Deedee used to dance around, spinning in circles with Hope in her arms in her living room. She must have danced with Hope at least one time daily while “You save me.” By Kenny Chesney played.

I was stupid. I was desperate. I wanted so badly for Hope to have a dad. I reconnected with a man I had been friends with for years. Charles was in Oklahoma. I loaded up Hope and we went to Oklahoma to visit him. We spent a weekend with him. He was kind to me. He was attentive and kind to Hope. I loved him because he was good to my daughter.

Hope and I returned home. I continued working 6 days a week. Hope said her first word “Mama” on May 7th. I missed it. My aunt called me at work to tell me. She began saying “dadada” a week later. Near the end of May my aunt took Hope and her boys to Oklahoma. My uncle and I stayed behind to work. The plan was for my aunt to pick up two of my cousins, Jamie and Katie. Then my grandparents follow her back in their vehicle. They were coming to spend a couple of weeks visiting with us. I continued talking to Charles on the phone regularly. He told me he was ready and willing to move and become a family with Hope and I. He didn’t have a vehicle; I asked if my aunt would allow him to ride back with her. She said he could. I put money in my aunt’s bank account to cover the expense of getting Charles to Colorado. They all arrived at our house 4-5 days later. Charles kept my car while I worked so he had a way around. He was taking care of Hope and taking my cousins to the lake. Charles, Hope, and I got an apartment about a week after he arrived. He wasn’t working. I paid for all of it. My cousins spent several nights at our house. I was working so much that I was always exhausted. I would go to bed shortly after getting Hope to sleep. Charles and my cousins would stay up late in the living room playing video games and watching movies. Jamie was twelve years old, and Katie was 15 years old.

Jamie and Katie went home at the end of June. Charles and I began arguing more often. He would spend hours with his guy friends in the evening. He obtained a job working daytime hours at a vehicle maintenance shop. The first week of July I was driving in my car running errands. I missed a phone call. Jamie’s older sixteen year old sister left a voicemail. She sounded urgent “Stormi you need to call me ASAP! It’s about Jamie and Charles.” I called her back within a few minutes. She said “There are photos of Charles’ dick in Jamie’s phone. They’ve been texting each other and telling each other “I love you.”” She told me they had given the phone to the police. I told her I was driving straight to his job, and then we hung up. My uncle called me while I was driving. He was angry at Charles. He told me he could handle the situation in a couple of phone calls. I told him I was handling it myself. I hung up the phone with him just before I pulled into the parking lot of Charles’ job. Charles was outside parking a customer’s vehicle. I motioned for him to come to the window of my car. He finished what he was doing, and then walked over to my car. He stood at the driver’s side window. I looked at him and said “You are busted motherfucker!” He knew. His eyes widened. He said “Can we talk about this later?” I said “Oh we are going to talk about it for sure!” I headed home. Within a couple of hours an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation called my phone. He asked to talk to Charles. I gave him Charles’ cell phone number. He asked if I was aware of what was going on. I told him Kaitlynn called me a few hours earlier and told me about their findings in Jamie’s cell phone. Later when Charles came home, he told me that the agent called him and no charges were being filed because there was no physical contact. Charles told me he and his coworkers sent her text messages as a joke and there were no photos. I was hurt, but I believed him. My aunt and uncle begged me not to continue my relationship with him. I didn’t listen. I did what I wanted to. I was so desperate for Hope to have a father. I was willing to accept almost anything, stupid me. A couple weeks later he, Hope, & I headed to Oklahoma. We planned for Hope and I to spend the weekend with my grandparents. Charles was going to go spend time with his family in Texas. We drove all night, sometimes exceeding speeds of 100mph. July 26, 2007 0600hrs. We pulled into my grandparent’s driveway. My grandma and Katie came out to meet us. I stepped out of the car while Charles was bent down unbuckling Hope from her car seat. I spotted a police car driving recklessly through their yard toward my car. I looked at my grandma and asked “why is my papa driving his unit like that?” she responded “That’s not your papa.” I looked over to see my grandfather’s police car sitting in the driveway, not started. The police car that had torn through the yard came to a screeching halt just a few feet from my car. A police officer exited the unit with his gun drawn. He yelled “Get your hands up!!” Charles handed Hope to Katie. She took her inside the house. Charles and I stood there with our hands up. My mind raced. I wondered if we had been followed all night. Did we somehow outrun an officer in Kansas doing 100mph? The officer looked at me “Ma’am you can put your hands down.” While handcuffing Charles the officer told him he was under arrest for indecent proposals to a child under the age of sixteen. The officer asked Charles if he was wearing his army wristband. He was. I asked to have the money out of his wallet because it was the only money we had. I also asked for his cell phone so I could call his family to let them know he had been arrested and wouldn’t be arriving. With Charles’ permission the officer gave me the money from his wallet. The officer asked the name of the family member that I needed a phone number for. I told him. As he scrolled through the phone’s contacts he told me the phone was considered evidence. I asked my grandma for a cigarette. My nerves were shot. I stood there smoking as Charles was hauled away in the back of a police car. A man walked through the yard towards me. As he approached he introduced himself as an agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. He asked if he could talk to me privately. I crammed the cigarette in the sand between his feet and said “okay, let’s go.” I followed him out to the road where his vehicle was parked. He asked what I knew about the case and how long I had known. He asked personal questions concerning Charles’ and I’s physical sexual relationship. I answered his questions to the best of my ability. I called Charles’ mother and let her know what was going on. I went inside my grandparent’s house. Charles’ face was all over the news. I lay on the couch. I was so exhausted but, couldn’t sleep. I was furious my daughter witnessed an officer with his gun drawn. I never wanted her to be afraid of police officers. I was humiliated. I was afraid. I was alone. Hope was without a dad again. I called to check Charles’ bail amount. They told me his bail was $25000.00. There was no way I could afford that. My grandad called from work. Several media outlets were at the courthouse wanting to come out and interview me. I said no. My grandma told my papa to tell them no and if anyone showed up at their home they would be escorted off of the property. I felt so lost, so confused. Hope and I headed back to Colorado a week later. I went back to working 6 days a week immediately. My aunt took care of Hope while I work. I was done with Charles. Charles called my cell collect one night. I was reluctant to take the call but, I did. He told me how sorry he was, that he loved and wanted to marry me. He said he Hope and wanted to be her dad. I was sucked right back in. I believed his sweet lies. I would spend the next nine months waiting for him. I would spend hundreds, thousands on writing materials and 15 minutes.

Mitchell contacted me several times over the next couple of weeks. He first told me he wanted me to send Hope to him in California. I told him he could pay airfare and lodging for Hope and I and I would come to California and allow him to see her. He was not satisfied with that, he was angry. He told me she was as much his child as she was mine. He said he didn’t need me there and he was capable of taking care of her without me around. I felt like he was a stranger to her. She was 9 months old. There was no way I would put her on a plane alone. I told him no.

The next time he called me he told me I needed to hurry up and file the divorce. He said he was seeing a lady named Johnnie. He had moved in with her and wanted to marry her. I told him I was seeing someone else and wanted to get married too. I explained I couldn’t afford to file for divorce. I was working 6 days a week and could barely afford to live. He had no concern for mine or Hope’s wellbeing. I was crushed.

He called me again a few days later in the evening time. He sounded intoxicated. We were talking civilly. Out of the blue he said “I am still in love with you, I’ll never stop loving you.” I was pissed. How could he be with Johnnie wanting to marry her and saying these things to me? Why was I raising our child alone? I said “Are you fucking drunk? How many beers have you drank tonight? Don’t EVER say that to me again!” He told me he hadn’t drank anything. I didn’t believe him. I told him I had to go. We said goodbye and I hung up the phone.

A couple of days later I called the phone number Mitchell had given me. Johnnie answered the phone and told me he wasn’t home. I was kind to her yet, vindictive. I asked to leave a message for him. She said sure. I said “Please ask him to call his wife.” She said “okay.” He called me several hours later, he was fuming. “Why did you tell her you’re my wife?” he asked in a hateful tone. I laughed “Is it not true? If you don’t want her to know that I’m your wife you should get a divorce and quit relying on me to do it.” He hung up on me.

Hope started crawling in late August. I missed the first time she crawled because I was working. I felt so proud! I didn’t know if she would ever crawl because of the shape of her leg. Hope and I spent a lot of time in the car when I wasn’t at work. The area we lived in was surrounded by three very different looking landmarks. Colorado was beautiful! I would just drive and drive allowing myself time to take in all of the beauty.

My aunt and I took Hope to a different orthopedic surgeon that fall. I desperately wanted someone to tell me that amputation wouldn’t be necessary. Although Hope’s leg didn’t look normal to others, she was a part of me. I saw her as perfect. The doctor concurred with the previous three surgeons. He explained that we could try reconstructive surgery but, the prognosis was very poor. Hope would have to have multiple surgeries every year until she quit growing. I knew we could not go the reconstructive route. I wasn’t willing to put Hope through all that would entail. I told myself I would get the ball rolling and would take her to the Shriners hospital soon.

Hope turned 1 in October. My aunt baked her birthday cakes. She and her boys decorated their living room, dining room, and Hope’s high chair for her party. She had a great time and got tons of gifts. She even received a couple of gifts from Mitchell and Johnnie. I hadn’t heard from Mitchell in over two months, the gifts were a shock for me.

Appointments and blood draws continued. Her appointments were less frequent but, still often. There were times I had to work and my aunt would take Hope to appointments. Deedee was truly more of a parent than a great aunt to Hope. The orthopedic surgeon recommended we discontinue the cast for her hips. X-rays showed no improvement at all.

In November 2007 my uncle lost his job. My aunt told me they would be moving back to Texas just before Christmas. My aunt lined up a babysitter, someone that she trusted to keep Hope once they moved. Hope and I were going to be alone in Colorado with no family near us. I knew we couldn’t stay in Colorado much longer after our family moved away.

Deedee and I took Hope to see her urologist in Denver. He said she was ready to have her ureterostomy reversed. The earliest he could schedule the surgery was the day after Christmas. I knew I was going to have to be alone waiting for surgery to be completed for the first time ever. I was devastated and scared. I knew I had to be strong and do what was best for Hope. Quitting was never an option in my mind.


Hope and I went to the Shriner’s hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana in February 2008. Deedee drove from her home in Texas and met us there. The day was long, full of x rays and exams. The doctor explained amputation would be required and said he would try to repair her hip while she was under for the amputation. The nurse said the earliest they could schedule surgery would be during the summer. She left the room to go check the schedule. Deedee and I discussed how doing it in the summer would allow us time to plan and prepare. The nurse walked back into the room carrying a cabbage patch doll. She said “I’ve got her down for April 10th” Deedee and I looked at each other shocked. The nurse showed us the doll she carried in. The doll had both legs wrapped in a hard cast from the hip to the ankle. A wooden bar was attached near the middle of the calves to keep the legs from moving. I thought of how long it took Hope to learn how to crawl.  How much she enjoyed crawling.  The nurse explained if the doctor was successful with repairing the hip, Hope would be in a cast like the dolls for 6 to 12 weeks.  I was a wreck.  I didn’t want Hope not able to use her legs.  How was I supposed to bathe her?  What can she wear?  The thoughts and had are things I sometimes still think today.  I wondered what if she someday resents me for having choosing to have her leg amputated?  What if she would have preferred to make a choice for herself when she was older?  I told myself she didn’t want to be wheelchair bound.  She would want to learn to walk and run like other children her age.  My heart was breaking.  I really agreed to have a part of my baby’s body removed.  I felt crushed but, I knew I was making the right choice for her.

Hope and I went home to El Reno.  Things were pretty good.  My friend and I worked at a nursing home together.  Her grandmother baby set our girls.  On our days off we would do fun activities with our girls in her boyfriend’s two sons.  One afternoon her boyfriend came into the living room smoking a pipe.  I told my friend that I didn’t want marijuana around Hope.  A few days later her boyfriend said I had been acting differently.  Something wasn’t right.  I told him I was upset.  He got angry.  He said he would just move out.  I didn’t want to be the cause of my friend’s relationship failing.  I gathered Hope and I’s belongings.  We went to my grandparents to stay.  I found a house to rent April 1 in Shawnee.  I moved a few things in.  I decided to wait until after Hope’s surgery to move in completely.

Hope and I went to state Deedee’s house in Texas 3 to 4 days before her surgery.  Two days before surgery we printed her feet.  My 15 year old cousin made himself a T shirt with Hope’s footprints on it.  He left the room briefly.  He returned holding the shirt for us to see.  He had written in sharpie “Habi’s feet together one last time”.  Deedee and I cried.  Hope really wouldn’t have 2 feet ever again in just a couple of days.  Early in the morning April 9 Deedee Hope and I loaded up and headed port Shreveport.  We arrived at the hospital at noon.  Hope was admitted in preparation for her surgery.  She shared a room with a five or six year old little girl.  Every time Hope saw the little girl she would smile.  The little girl spent a lot of time in Hope’s area of the room.  Deedee and I spent a lot of time chatting with the girl’s mom.  Hope was allowed nothing to eat or drink after midnight.  Deedee slept in the patient breakroom; I slept at Hope’s bedside.  The next morning Hope was fussy.  She couldn’t eat or drink anything.  Deedee and I were anxious and emotional.  We cried a lot that morning.  We took turns holding Hope. A nurse brought Hope a portable DVD player, DVD’s, and medication to relax her.  Within 10 minutes the medicine kicked in.  Hope began behaving like she was drunk.  She wasn’t crying anymore.  She was falling all over the crib.  She acted like her head weighed 50 pounds.  Every direction she turned, her head slowly fell over.  She kept reaching to the screen of the DVD player.  She would pinch two fingers together every time she touched the screen.  She was trying to pick up the characters out of the show she was watching.  Deedee and I laughed so hard we cried.  Hope’s funny behavior really broke the tension for us.  Finally the doctor came in.  He reminded us exactly what was going to be done.  Then he told us the surgery would take an hour and ½ or less.  The nurse wheeled her out of the room.  Another nurse showed us where we could wait.  Deedee and I sat there waiting.  The Dr. walked into the room about 45 minutes later.  He told us the surgery went well.  He explained that he was unable to make any repairs to her hip.  He said between the ages of four and five she would need a complete hip replacement.  I was somewhat relieved she wouldn’t be in the cast we were shown two months earlier.  This meant she would be in the same cast when she was older.  That made me sad.

Deedee and I went back to Hope’s room to wait for her.  The nurses brought Hope in.  She was sleeping and had an oxygen mask on her face.  She started to wake.  She began grabbing and pulling at the mask.  We took it off.  She crawled around the bed and was happy.  Deedee and I noticed on the monitor the Hope’s O2 stats had dropped 1 to 2 points.  Deedee grabbed oxygen mask and put it on Hope.  Hope started screaming and crying.  She was jerking her head back and forth.  She was trying to grab the mask off of her face.  Deedee’s held the mask on her face tightly.  Hope oxygen levels dropped into the seventies.  I ran down to the nurse’s station.  I told the nurse what was happening.  She told me to put the oxygen mask on Hope.  I was irritated.  I asked what she thought we were doing.  Then I said “please come help!”  I ran back to Hope’s room.  The nurse walked in right behind me.  She immediately turned the gauges up on the wall for the oxygen.  The nurse had Hope’s stats back in the nineties in no time at all.  As she watched the monitor, she slowly turned the oxygen down.  Once the mask was removed, Hope was crawling again.  The nurse told Deedee and I we really needed to try and keep her off her stump.  She continued crawling in crawling despite our efforts to hold her or make are lay down.  The next morning the Dr. came in.  We asked him how he expected us to keep her off of her stump.  He said “if it hurts too bad, she’ll” stop.  She never stopped.  We were discharged from the hospital on April 11.  Hope and I stayed it Deedee’s for week.  Hope crawled the whole time just as fast as she always had.  Hope and I headed home.  The same family member I caught stealing my mother’s medication that day she died asked me if they could have the liquid Lortab that had been prescribed to Hope, which was so hurtful to me. I moved all of our things into the house I rented before I left.  Times were very hard.  I wasn’t working.  There were many times Hope and I had noodles to eat.  I was grateful we had something to eat.  Charles got out of jail at the end of April.  He went to work trimming trees for minimum wage.  I was insecure, I couldn’t trust him.  I stayed with him because he was good to Hope.  I was willing to do whatever would be best for her.  Even if that meant I was unhappy.  I pulled photo albums out often.  I would show hope photos often.  I pointed to the man in the pictures and would say “this is Mitchell”.  I knew someday she would want to know about him.  In early June, I started the process of getting Hope physical therapy in our home.  I met with my attorney to start the divorce.  Hope had an appointment to be casted for her first prosthetic leg.  When we came home, I met Hope’s physical therapist for the first time.  She told me when Hope got her prosthetic leg; she would start working with her 1 to 2 times a week.  I met with my attorney that week.  She told me she would get my divorce papers drawn up and we could file them after Hope’s appointments were taken care of.  Hope and I rode to the Shriner’s van to Shreveport.  Deedee’s met us there.  We stay the night in a hotel, and then we went to the hospital in the morning.  That prosthetist brought her tiny leg into the room and put it on her.  Deedee and I bawled.  I cannot adequately describe exactly what it felt like seeing my child stand on two legs for the first time in her life.  She was three days shy of 20 months.  Hope hated the leg.  We stayed at the hospital for nearly a week.  Every day was packed with hours of physical therapy.  Hope cried more often then she smiled.  My aunt, Hope and I were walking down a hallway.  We walked past a couple with the baby in the stroller.  Both of his legs looked like Hope’s leg before surgery.  My aunt asked them if it was Tibial hemimelia they said it was and they were they are preparing for his double amputation.  We introduced ourselves and we told them Hope just had her surgery 10 weeks ago.  They introduce themselves Diane, in her husband Jason, and their nine month old son Talon.  I felt instantly connected with their family.  Finally parents who knew exactly how I felt.  We spent some time in their patient room.  Deedee and I talked a lot with Diane and Jason.  Talon and Hope smiled and laughed as they played.  My grandfather called me and told me he had divorce papers to serve me when I got home.  I felt relieved.  Hope and I went home the next day.  My papa gave me the divorce papers.  As I looked through the divorce papers there was an attached notarized letter.  This letter crushed me.  Mitchell stated he wanted child support waived, parental rights terminated, and no visitation.  He didn’t want to be notified of any adoption proceedings concerning her.  I wondered how I would be able to tell her he didn’t want her when she was older.  I worried about the deep rejection she would feel.  I told myself that maybe Mitchell didn’t really mean it.  I took the divorce papers to my attorney.  She looked through the papers.  When she reached the letter, she looked at me with tears in her eyes. “How could someone quit on their child like this?”  She asked.  I told her I can’t answer that question.  I could not fathom spending my life without Hope.  I called Mitchell to tell him he forgot to include the vehicle we owned jointly in the papers.  He cussed me out.  He told me he had already spent more than he wanted on our divorce.  He chose not to correct it.

Hope started physical therapy at home.  She hated wearing her prosthetic.  She hated trying to walk.  Her physical therapist and I used care bear DVD’s to bribe her.

Our fate was sealed, stepping forward

Mitchell and I’s divorce was final August 5, 2008.  A piece of me died that day.  My desire to be married, once and forever was dissolved.  Hope and I would never have the life with him I once dreamed of.

My attorney drew up documents to determine paternity, custody, child support and visitation.  We filed those documents in September.  I requested supervised visitation and no child support.  The case is very drawn now.  We tried to serve Mitchell at home and work five or six times.  We finally satisfied the courts with service by publication.  Our case go to court for nine months.

Hope turned two that year.  I invited Mitchell’s sister and her family to Hope’s birthday party.  I explained to Sharon that I wanted them in Hope’s life.  I knew Mitchell’s choices had nothing to do with them.  They didn’t come to Hope’s party.  They didn’t send a card, call or e-mail.  I’ve never heard from them.  Hope didn’t receive anything from Mitchell either.  My heart hurt for her even though she didn’t realize she missed anything.  Eight birthdays and eight Christmases have been experienced in her lifetime at this point.  Mitchell has acknowledged one birthday, nothing more.

I saw on social media Mitchell married Johnnie, one day shy of it being three months from the day of our divorce being finalized.  I disliked Johnnie.  She had never done anything to me.  I was bitter and felt like she aided in shattering my dreams.  I felt insulted.  I couldn’t imagine Hope ever having a step mom.

I started dispatching again in mid-November.  I worked for a 911 center in my area.  My trainer was hateful.  She wouldn’t allow me to learn the easiest way for me.  I wanted to assault her physically in the worst way.  I wanted to quit that job multiple nights after dealing with her.  I ended up being put on a permanent shift with her as my partner.  We sat in silence for 24 hours’ worth of shifts.  She hated me just as much as I hated her.  One day we started talking.  We connected on a soul level.  We’d always look forward to working together.  Today Beth is my very best friend.  She’s walked through fire with Hope and I.  I couldn’t; I wouldn’t ever want to know what life would be like without Beth.

We moved to a bigger, nicer house.  We made the immediate friends with our neighbors.  They have babysat Hope, offered parenting advice, and have a daughter close to Hope’s age.  Their daughter has been Hope’s best friend since they were two and four years old.

In June 2009, my attorney and I went before the judge.  The judge looked over the documents I filed.  He told me Mitchell asked that no visitation be awarded for him.  He explained that in cases where the child had state medical (she did) child support had to be ordered.  He ordered no visitation and child support to be paid the first of each month.

Charles and I split in November of that year.  We weren’t getting along.  I found out he had a relationship with a man while in jail.  He had also been bringing another woman to our home and having sex with her while I worked. I was angry.  I was hurt.  He told me he never loved me.  I still so desperately wanted Hope to have a dad.  I told him he could have her any time on weekends he wanted.  He took her for one weekend in December.  She came home with a bunch of new toys.  I’ve always believed that was his way of telling her goodbye.  He never asked to see her again.  He never called to check on her.  He wouldn’t answer or return my phone calls.  He quit on her too.  Jamie and I talked after Charles and I split.  She told me that while in Colorado, one night while I was sleeping.  He fondled her breasts and asked her to have sex with him.  She was scared, she was 12.  She laid down with Katie to get away from him.  I didn’t realize it at the time but, I’d truly dodged a bullet with him.

One day in January while getting Hope dressed for the day, I told her she wouldn’t be able to go to school if she didn’t start using the potty and walking by herself.  I finish dressing her and put her leg on.  I stood her up in the floor.  She took off walking with no support.  She has never stopped.  She also daytime potty trained within a week.  She really wanted to go to school!

My story is Hope’s story.  She lived through all of it.  I am so ashamed of what I am sharing next.

The last name Smith was painful for me.  The name was a constant reminder of a man I loved with all of my heart.  I was also reminded constantly of how he quit on Hope.  My name was used a lot at work.  I felt I had to get rid of it!  He in February 2010 high married a friend I had known since middle school. Marrying that friend was a convenient way to get my name changed.  We divorced in June.

Hope started head start in August.  Her teachers came to our home a couple weeks before hand.  One teacher worked with me setting goals and signing paperwork.  The other teacher interacted with Hope.  Hope showed her where she slept and where she kept all of her toys.  The first day of school was emotional for me.  Hope walked in the classroom.  She was so excited.  She said “that bye mom” she didn’t even hug me or anything.  I realized that day that my baby was growing up.  She didn’t need me as much.  I took college classes while she was a school.  I worked 12 hour days on the weekends.  Hope stayed with my grandparents.  I volunteered a lot of time in Hope’s classroom that fall.  One day while I was volunteering, the class bully walked up and slapped her across the face.  I told the teachers I would step out while they handled it.  I really wanted to jerk the boy up and spank him.  One day when I picked Hope but from school her teachers told me I needed to talk to Hope.  They were in the bathroom when another child asked Hope what happened to her leg.  Hope said “my mommy just cut it off with scissors!”  I got Hope out to the car and buckled in.  I adjusted my rearview mirror to where I could see her.  I asked what happened to her leg.  She said “oh the doctor put me to sleep, I didn’t even feel it”.  I asked why she told her friend that I cut it off.  She laughed hysterically and said “because”.  I reminded her that it is better to be honest when others ask.  I said “tell them that’s the way god made you”.

October 17, 2010 my boss fired at me from my job.  I hadn’t had any write ups.  He told me the employment was “at will” he didn’t have to give me a reason to fire me.  I’ll always believe he fired me because he knew that I knew about him relentlessly sexually harassing an employee who quit six months earlier.  I was completely devastated.  I didn’t know how I was going to take care of myself or hope.  I filed for unemployment.  The 911 center disputed my claim.  They were able to slow down the process.  In the end, I was awarded the unemployment.  They could not show proof of misconduct.

A new dawn

I continued volunteering at Hope’s school and I worked harder on college assignments. I filled out job applications daily. Hope and I attended church near our home. Near the beginning of November our church had a dinner. Hope and I went. During dinner a man sat down across from me. “So you go to Rose state?” He said referencing to my T shirt. I was annoyed by him. He didn’t even introduce himself. I was kind, and talked to him anyway.

Hope and I started attending a life group later that month. We would go over to the home of other young people from the church. We would eat, play games, and have a bible study. The man from the dinner was there too. His name was Kevin. I looked forward to seeing him each month. I had no intentions of dating him. I didn’t want to date anyone. I was done with men forever. I also felt even if I did want to date, I wasn’t good enough for him. He seemed innocence and pure. He was magnetic though, I’d look forward to seeing him at church and during our life group. I couldn’t wait to say “hi” to him every month. I work hard and focused on my college courses. Christmas break came. Hope kept telling me she did want to go back to school. She said “Joey” the classroom bully would hit her. I listened to her talk about this child every day for a week. I believe two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m never the first to say violence is a solution. My child was not going to be bullied. She was not going to fear school. I finally told her “the next time Joey hits you; you are to hit him back as hard as you can”. I heard her later in her bedroom singing “I’m going to beat his ass!” I asked what she said. She told me she didn’t say anything. I told her not to say bad words. She returned to school at the beginning of January. I stayed in her classroom after signing her in. She walked up to Joey. She said “the next time you hit me, I will hit you back HARD!” both teachers looked at me surprised. I said “the day she does it, please let me know, she’ll be going for ice cream that day.” Joey never put his hands on her again.

In February she had breakfast with dad school. My grandfather went and ate with her in full uniform. That evening at home she caught me off guard. She said “my friends have dads, I don’t. Mom are you trying to find me a daddy?” I said “Jesus is your daddy”.

During March, a group of children ran up to me in a church. A little girl asked “how did a coyote get Hope’s leg?!?” The children were terrified. Hope that it was hilarious. I reminded her she should be honest with others. I told her scaring her friends was not nice.

On Easter Sunday 2011 I was invited to go play board games with three women from church. Hope and I had a great time with them, laughing and playing games. Hope and I got home late. Right after I got Hope to bed for the night my phone alerted me of a text message. The text was from Stephanie. One of the ladies I played board games with.

Stephanie: what do you think of my cousin Kevin from life groups?

Stormi: what do you mean?

Stephanie: I was thinking y’all could be friends and see where it goes?

Stormi: why? Is he interested?

Stephanie: yeah, he wants to be your friend.

Stormi: okay.

Stephanie asked if I would go to dinner with her, her husband, Kevin, and another couple a few days later. I really didn’t want to. I was so turned off to the idea of. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go. Stephanie had a solution for every excuse. I couldn’t get out of it. On April 25, 2011, we went to Fratelli’s in Shawnee, Oklahoma for dinner. Kevin showed up an hour late. He sat down in the chair across from me. I made the comment that I would like to get Hope into Bethel school district in the future. Kevin said “oh yeah? I went there K through 12?” I told him I went there for one year in the fifth grade. He asked what year I graduated. We graduated the same year. He said he wondered if I was in his fifth grade yearbook. We went to a movie after dinner. I cannot for the life of me remember what movie we saw. Kevin and I didn’t even watch the movie. Instead, we talked the entire time. When I arrived home, I realized I didn’t give Kevin my phone number. I texted Stephanie and told her she could give him my phone number if he wanted it. Half an hour later Kevin texted me. He texted a photo of us in his fifth grade yearbook. Two days later, Stephanie suggested we all go have frozen yogurt after church. The four of us (Kevin, Stephanie, Hope, and I) sat there so long. The employees were cleaning tables, mopping floors, and stacking chairs. They were literally closing around us. We all went out and sat in my car. Stephanie and Hope sat in the back seat. I decided right then, I was going to run Kevin off. I didn’t want to date anyone. I did want to risk getting attached to him and him leaving us like others had. I lit a cigarette. Then I started to speak. I listed off the things that would disqualify me as if it were a job interview.

-I smoke

-I’m not a virgin- obviously

-I have a tattoo

-I’m 26 and I have been married twice

-If I ever get serious with someone they are expected to be permanent for Hope too. Surely this would run him off! Stephanie sat in the back seat wishing I would stop.

Four days later Kevin asked if I wanted to come to lunch with him and a mutual friend. I met Kevin at a restaurant. Our mutual friend said something came up and she couldn’t come after we were already there. Kevin and I sat and talked for 3 hours in the restaurant.

Kevin began coming over to my house once or twice a week, 6 to 7 HRS in the evening. We sat on opposite couches and talked for three weeks.

May 23, 2011-I was standing at my stove cooking dinner with Kevin arrived. He spoke “Stephanie says if I want you to be my girlfriend and I have to ask you… So will you be my girlfriend?” I responded “of course”. I already knew I loved him.

Our days were always good. About a month after we began dating, officially; Kevin, Hope, and I were on my front porch. Out of nowhere, Hope said “hey Kevin, how about I call you daddy?” I held my breath. I knew that instant that his response would determine if our relationship was over or I would someday in marry him. Kevin smiled “of course you can.” Hope chose him. Kevin had never been married before and didn’t have any children. God equipped him to be my baby girl’s daddy. He was a natural. He’d get down in the floor and had tickle fights with her. He also guided and corrected her with love. He started coming over to our house every day. Hope deserved to have him there every day. I loved spending as much time with him as I could. Midnight was dreaded every night. Hope and I met Kevin’s family pretty early. We fit with every part of his family, like we were the missing puzzle piece. His family became ours. My grandma told me for years that I didn’t need a man. Anytime I mentioned a man, she would remind me of the garbage I was in the past. She would tell me that they wanted to use and abuse Hope and I. She was right! I picked the kind of men that needed saving somehow. They didn’t have a vehicle, they were jobless, and had outstanding debt I could pay. I took Kevin to meet my grandparents. They interacted with him very well. The conversation seemed to flow naturally without any restraint. My grandma called me the next day when she knew Kevin wouldn’t be around. She said “if you let that one go, I will kill you myself.” My man hating grandma became Kevin’s biggest fan. My family loved him. That made me love him more. Next paragraph hope participated in her first UCO endeavor games in June 2011. I only registered her for one short race. Hope doesn’t like loud noises. They used a cap gun to signal it was time for a race to begin. Hope was no longer excited for her race. Finally it was time for Hope to race. She stood at the start line with her hands over her ears. She was anticipating the sound of the cap gun. Kevin and I along with our family’s encouraged and tried to excite her. We cheered “you can do it Habi!”, “Hope, it’s about time the race!” “It’s gonna be okay.” “You’re gonna do good!”, “that’s our girl!”, “you got this Hope.” The gun went off. Hope that move, she was crying. The cap gun operator walked on to the track. Once in front of Hope she held both of Hope’s hands and helped her cross the start line. Hope walked slowly down the track upset. Midway down the track it happened… The other racers had already crossed the finish line minutes earlier. Hope took off! She ran! The crowd of hundreds of people exploded. The whistles, claps, and the yells were so loud! Kevin and I were a blubbering, snotty mask. Our faces were drenched in tears as she crossed the finish line. A fellow parent told us she remembered how emotional her daughter’s first race was for her and that it was perfectly normal, and OK to feel the way we did. We were so proud of Hope. She did it! She was the youngest and only participant within her classification. It did not matter she was the last to cross the finish line; she got her first gold medal for that race. With her heart and her determination, she earned it!

Hope’s first race

Miracles in the making

August 2011, I had dragged my feet long enough.  The time had arrived for me to get the process started for Hope’s hip replacement.  She would be five in two months.  I took her to a surgeon in Oklahoma City.  I dreaded each moment leading up to that appointment.  My mind kept replaying the sight of that doll in the cast.  I hated it.  The thought of Hope being immobilized broke my heart.  The doctor took his own x-rays.  I sat in the patient room with Hope nervously.  I anticipated the surgery, when it would be scheduled, and how long she would be in the cast.  I prayed that when it was time she would heal faster than normal.  The doctor walked in the room and shut the door behind him.  He said “I don’t know why you are here.” A chill shot through my body.  He continued “her hips are perfect!  Her right hip is a tiny bit smaller than the left but, it’s there formed correctly.  The other doctors must have been wrong.” I choked back tears as I spoke “three doctors into different states were not wrong.  My aunt and I were there holding her down for x-rays.  We saw the x-rays.  They were right, it hadn’t formed correctly.  I want to see your x-rays.” He said “okay” and exited the room.  He returned shortly with xray films in hand.  He clipped the x-ray to the x-ray illuminator and flipped the light on.  I stood there looking at the x-ray, I was astonished.  Hope’s hips were there perfectly formed.  The doctor said “no surgery is necessary, I can’t explain this” I said “I can!” He looked at me confused.  I felt a tear roll down my cheek, “I don’t know about the god you serve but, the god I serve is still in the miracle working business.” He nodded and told us to have a good day.  When I got to my car, I called my Aunt Deedee immediately she was just as excited as I was.

October 2011, Mitchell called. Child support services began garnishing his check two months earlier, he was angry.  He told me that he was coming to Oklahoma in five days I was going to see his daughter.  I tried to explain that she did not know him, and that I didn’t feel like it was in her best interest.  I felt like it would be traumatic and confusing for her.  He kept saying that he could see her since he paid child support.  I finally said “you do remember there’s a no visitation order in place?  You asked that no visitation be ordered for you.” He called me every derogatory name he could have.  He said he was taking me and his son’s mother to court.  He wanted a paternity test because he didn’t believe Hope was his.  He believed I cheated on him around the time Hope was conceived.  He said he didn’t want any more children and he was tricked into having her.  I kept asking if it was all about his money.  He told me he was pissed about the child support.  He asked if I had someone who would adopt her.  I told him I did but, it wasn’t moving something we could do right away because of finances.  Near the end of a phone call he had calmed down some.  I told him that I knew he had my address because he had my phone number.  I told him he was not welcome on my property and would be arrested for trespassing if he came to my home.  He asked for photos of Hope.  I emailed him some.  He never responded.  I filed a police report and spoke with an attorney the next day.

We didn’t have to discuss it.  Kevin and I just knew we would be married someday.  We started looking for land for sale in the school district we wanted to be in.  We found the perfect land.  The land had a well and septic.  Dozer work had already been done on part of the property.  We met with the seller at the end of November.  We set a closing date.  In December we began turning the thirty year old home Kevin’s parents had given him.  We replaced floors and dry walled the home.  We closed on the land December 30. Life was good.

On February 18, 2012 Kevin and I went on a date.  We went to a Mexican restaurant, then headed to the myriad gardens in Oklahoma City.  We went inside the Crystal Bridge and took our time looking at the plants and flowers from all over the world.  At the north end of the building we walked up steps that were lined with plants and flowers.  At the top of the steps we walked around inside of a dome containing aquariums that were home to rodents from many countries.  As we exited the dome, we found ourselves standing side by side on a bridge overlooking the entire greenhouse.  Kevin spoke “You know I’ve been a lot of places…  I’ve been to Colorado, Yellowstone..I’ve been from the mountains to the ocean, seen a lot of very beautiful places and still, you trump them all.” My breath was taken away.  I grabbed ahold of him to hug him.  I uttered “That was so sweet.” He was wiggling to free himself from my hug.  I remember wondering what his problem was.  He pulled a royal blue box from his pocket.  He kneeled in front of me “Stormi, will you marry me?” Time stopped.  I was shocked.  I said “what?  You have a ring?  When did you get ring?  Where?  How?  What?  What?  What?” Kevin said “So is that a yes?” I responded “Of course, it’s a yes!”

We arrived at Kevin’s parents’ home.  I showed Hope the ring on my finger.  She was disappointed at first.  She asked to see Kevin’s ring too.  She thought we got married without her.  Kevin showed her he didn’t have a ring.  We explained to her we made a promise to marry each other, and that we were not married yet.  I told her we had a wedding to plan, and asked if she would be my flower girl she asked “Could I wear flowers in my hair?” I told her she could.

At the end of Hope’s pre-kindergarten year, the school celebrated with inflatables.  That day after school I asked hope if she had fun.  She dropped her head and said “I didn’t get to jump in the inflatables the PE teacher said I couldn’t because my leg would pop it.” I was angry.  For the first time in Hope’s life she was told she couldn’t do something.  My family and I had spent her whole life telling her she could do anything anyone else could.  Hope cried “I didn’t want to be born this way.  I wanted god to give me two legs.” I cried with her.  I reminded her how beautiful, how loved she was and that we love her just the way she is. The next day I ripped the principal a new one.  I also contacted the superintendent and our state superintendent.

Hope did not go to the same school the next year, and never will attend that school again. I feel they failed her that day.

The next six months were spent wedding planning, and late nights remodeling our home.  Hope was so excited that soon daddy wouldn’t have to leave at night to go home.  I couldn’t wait till I could fall sleep and wake up next to him every day.

We were married on August 25, 2012.  The day was perfect!  Kevin took vows with Hope, eliminating every dry eye in attendance.

Kevin’s promise to Hope:

Hope, today I promise to love, cherish, and honor your mother as my wife.  I love you too, and I pledge to take care of you as my child.  We will be a happy family together and we will share many fun times.

About a month after Kevin and I were married Hope and I were in the car.  From the back seat, Hope said “We got married, and now your last name is Boland, when will we change mine?” I told her we would work on it but, I didn’t know how long it would take.  Kevin and I talked to an attorney about Kevin adopting Hope.  The process would be relatively easy and cost about $3000 if Mitchell tried to contest it.  We were willing to pay that amount.  We had bigger issues that made it not in Hope’s best interest for Kevin to adopt her.  If Hope were to be adopted she would need to be carried on his Medical Insurance.  That presents a roadblock for us.  The Medical Insurance Company could refuse completely to cover her due to preexisting conditions or if they agreed to cover her we may not be able to afford the out of pocket expenses.

In January 2013, Mitchell called my mother in law stating he needed to talk to me about HIS daughter.  I called him back.  He demanded that I have his daughter call him every day because he was paying child support.  I explained that she was six years old, and that she did not know him.  He argued that he had 12 grandchildren, and knew how to talk to kids.  I told him we would not be disruptive to her life in this way.  He shouted repeatedly “I AM HER DADDY!” I got irritated.  I finally said “You are not her daddy!  Her daddy is the man who plays with her, prays with her, reads to her, provides for her, bandages her scrapes, picks her up when she falls, and is here for her every day.  That is not you!  That is Kevin!” He was pissed, and started calling me bad names.  I finally said “That’s enough” and I hung up the phone.

Hope spent months telling me I needed to go to the doctor.  She told me I needed to pay for a baby, pick one out, and bring it home.  She wanted a sister or a brother.  She even told me if I didn’t I would go to jail because I was selfish.  She said if I didn’t get a baby, she would.

Kevin and I learned I was pregnant in May 2013.  We didn’t tell anyone until July because of the complications I had with my previous pregnancies.  We took photos of Hope in a T shirt. On the front of the shirt is said “shhh, I have a secret…” on the back it said “I’m going to be a big sister!” she couldn’t see the back of her shirt to read it.

Kevin and I bought two books for her, “Best ever big sister” and “God gave us two”.  We made a photo book that contained chronological photos of Kevin and I as babies, dating, engagement, wedding, and finally photos of our new baby and Hope in her shirt.  In July we met my Aunt Deedee and my uncle in Dallas.  We chose to eat at a Schlotzsky’s.  We handed Hope a gift bag with her shirt and books inside.  I handed Deedee the photo book.  She and Guy looked through it together, they bawled.  Hope went back and forth between wanting a brother or a sister.  We spent the next two days going to families’ homes and sharing our book.  Everyone was excited!

Hope became a big sister to Isaac in January 2014.  The nurse let hope help give the Isaac his first bath at the hospital.  Hope is a very caring and helpful sister.  We found out I was pregnant again in July 2014.

In November to 2014, I started the process of applying for a grant for a running leg through the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  I asked Hope’s second grade teacher to write a letter of recommendation for the grant application.  The letter still makes me cry when I read it.  Her teacher didn’t just write a letter, she shared her heart.



Dear Challenged Athletes Foundation,

 I am writing this recommendation in regard to Hope Smith. Hope is second grader at (omitted) School and I’m honored to be her teacher. I have known Hope for three years. I first met her as an independent and remarkable Kindergarten student and it has been such a pleasure to watch her grow and learn.

 First of all, let me talk about Hope’s academics. Hope is a very intelligent girl. She is reading two or more grade levels ahead of her second grade level. She is on the Superintendent’s Honor Roll which is the highest level of achievement of all A’s. Hope not only excels in the classroom, but can be a very eager and helpful student and friend to others. She is always the first one to help a student that falls or hug a friend that has gotten their feelings hurt by another. She strives to do her best and achieve in all areas, but her physical achievements are the most remarkable of all.

 Hope can lead her class across the campus at full speed, although her prosthetic leg can be awkward and difficult her inner spirit and strength shines through. As she leads her peers, Hope swings her leg, hops or skips in order to pump her leg to empower her leg to go faster. Whether she is chasing boys at recess or running from boys at recess, she doesn’t let anything ever slow her down. Did I mention that she is beautiful? She fully participates in all activities during Physical Education class, recess and all the brain breaks and activities of a very engaged and active classroom. She climbs to the top of our tallest playground equipment, the Flippo Hippo and climbs or slides down while I hold my breath. She doesn’t accept any limitations at all! When she would become too sweaty at the beginning of the school year, she would have to go to the bathroom to dry and readjust her prosthetic. I went with her to help her and I was once again amazed by her ability to take care of herself and get the job done.

 In all my years of knowing her, I have never heard Hope say, I can’t. I think that this spirited, confident and determined girl will grow to be an independent leader and role model for thousands. I appreciate you for considering her for a running foot. It is my desire to give you a glimpse into this remarkable girl named Hope. I cannot adequately describe the difference it would make in her life. If you asked Hope about her greatest accomplishment, she would show you her UCO Endeavor Games Medals. Her very first show and tell in my class was her medal and leg. She stole my heart that day and I know she would steal yours too.

                                                                                                            Regina Flatt

                                                                                                            Second Grade Teacher

Questions and learning the truth

In the winter of 2015 after finding and reading her baby book, Hope asked “So my father grew up in California?” I told her yes but, we would talk about it another time.  I didn’t learn about or meet my father until I was 12.  I remembered the rejection I felt.  I also remember how I felt when I learned at 18 that I had an older brother I knew nothing about.  She had an older brother she knew nothing about too.  I was sad, I was scared and I questioned how I could explain that Mitchell chose not to be a dad and that it was not her fault.

I contacted Hope’s brother’s mom via social media.  I asked if her son had asked any questions about Mitchell and how she handled them.  She told me that her son had not asked any questions about Mitchell and doesn’t even know he exists.  She said she plans to keep it that way.

Hope’s youngest brother Eric was born in March 2015.

One day I went to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions.  I told the pharmacist I needed to pick up for Kevin Boland and Hope Smith.  From the back seat, Hope said angrily “My last name is NOT Smith!” I explained as I had in the past that we have to use Smith at the pharmacy and doctors’ appointments.  She told me she hated it.  She said all her family is Boland except her and it makes her Feel left out and not a part of the family.

I waited for a day she was a school and called an attorney.  The lawyer told me that default judgments were not allowed in Oklahoma for minor name changes.  Mitchell would have to agree & sign the papers.

Two weeks after Hope started counseling, Kevin and I took her to a theater production and to a restaurant she chose.  Her brothers stayed with their grandparents.  I brought Hope’s baby book and a photo album.  While at the table I handed her baby book to her.  She read Mitchell’s information; his birthday, full name, and where he grew up.  I asked if she knew anyone named Mitchell.  She said “I don’t know anyone named Mitchell.” I pulled three photos from the photo album and laid them on the table in front of her.  One was a photo of him holding her, another was a photo of he and I, and the third was a photo of the three of us.  I explained I was married to Mitchell before she was born.  I told her he is her biological father. I told her he chose not to be a dad and left when she was a tiny baby like Eric.  She asked why he didn’t want to be a dad.  I told her he was the only one who can answer that question and that I would try to get a phone number for him if she wanted to talk to him.  She said she wasn’t ready to talk to him.  I told her I would try to have a phone number when and if she became ready.  Kevin said “You are my daughter no matter what your last name is!  I love you and I wanted to be a dad and I’m not leaving you ever!” Hope told him she loved him too.  She looked across the table and said “You should’ve met daddy before you met Mitchell.” I told her that sometimes I wished I did too.  I explained if I had her with anyone instead of Mitchell she would be completely different.  She wouldn’t look, talk, act or like the same things.  I told her there is a whole awful lot of people that love her and would never want her to be any different than who she is.  I told her that we would have to have Mitchell’s permission to change her last name and she could ask him if she ever chose to talk to him.  She asked if I would ask him.  I told her it would be better if she did because he wasn’t kind to me last time I talked to him.  She asked what he called me.  Kevin told her they were bad words that didn’t need to be repeated.  She turned the page of her baby book.  She read through the names written on her family tree.  Then she said “I have another brother?” I told her she did and laid two photos of him, his mother and older sister in front of her.  I pointed out her brother and said “This is (omitted name).” she told us she wanted to meet him.  I explained that Mitchell left him as a baby too.  I told her he lives in Oklahoma also, but his mom doesn’t want him to know about Mitchell yet.  I told her when she turned 16, he would be 18 and she could try to find him and get to know him then.

I first contacted Mitchell’s nephew try to get contact information for him.  He told me his mother said Mitchell didn’t have a phone and she didn’t know his address.  Next I called child support services.  The lady I talked to was rude.  She told me she couldn’t give me any information.  I asked if she could make my information available to him.  She told me absolutely not.  I did web search after web search for Mitchell Smith.  I finally found child support modification papers from a year earlier, his address was on them.  I googled the address, the result was an adult DVD and toy company.  I called the phone number listed.  No one answered.  I left a message.

Mitchell called me the next day.  I quickly told him Hope knew about him and that I was saving his number when and if she wanted to call.  I texted him immediately after and asked if he texted and could receive photos.  He said he could.  I sent him a couple recent photos of her.  He said she was so beautiful.  Later he started sending hateful text messages.  He accused me of taking her away from him.  I kept my composure.  I told him that wasn’t true and I never wanted him out of her life.  I always believed we could have co-parented her effectively even being divorced if he wanted to be in her life.  I told him I’d had the same permanent address for over 20 years.  The same address he used for our divorce.  I reminded him that Hope had not received a single card, letter, photo, or gift from him in over 8 years.  He asked if I had any photos of him with Hope.  I texted every photo I had of him and his family members with her, even the ones I was in.  He went on and on about how beautiful she was.

A few days later I was taking Hope to counseling.  She asked what kind of grocery stores Mitchell and I went to when he was around.  Then she said “Mom, I wish you move and Mitchell would be nice to each other.” I knew right then and there what I had to do.  He and I needed to have a phone conversation.  It was time to take responsibility for each of our parts of our mass.  We needed to genuinely make peace so we could get along for Hope.  I told him that we needed to talk; he made excuses for a week.

Kevin and I talked.  I told him what Hope had said in the car and that I needed to talk to Mitchell where she couldn’t hear.  We scheduled for Kevin to take Hope to the zoo.  Mitchell and I ended up on the phone for several hours that day.  I began the conversation telling him that Hope wanted us to be nice to one another.  We all wanted what is best for Hope.  I explained to him that what is important to Hope should be important to us too.  He said he agreed.  His voice began to crack as he told me he loved me, and that he had never fallen out of love with me.  Let’s face it, you can’t just have a child with someone and not care about them.  He helped me make my mother’s death wish a reality and he cared for her to last month of her life.  I told him I loved him too.  I continued.  I told him I wanted to get to know Johnnie and be her friend.  He interrupted saying they had been split up and hadn’t lived together in nearly a year.  I said fine, I want to know and be friends with anyone that you get serious with in the future.  He asked if he could have our family back.  I told him I am married and I’m not going anywhere.  I spent a lot of that conversation crying, so did he.  For the first time in eight years he was allowing me to share specific quotes and situations that hurt me.  He was acknowledging and apologizing for each situation.  He was gentle, patient, and sensitive with me.  He denied any infidelity within our marriage.  I don’t know if he was being honest about that.  He thought I cheated on him when I went to the class for my job.  He asked if I would allow a DNA test.  I said “I was always faithful to you!  I have been faithful to every man I’ve ever been with.  If you want a DNA test, let’s go!  When she comes back yours you will pay for it, if she comes back not yours I will pay for it.  Better get your money together.” He dropped it and said he believes that she is his.  He told me he was wrong, he quit on her once and never will again.  He went on to say if something ever happened to me, he would have her.  He explained that he wasn’t trying to be hateful; he just wanted me to know she would be taken care of and he would take responsibility in the event that something happened to me.  I don’t plan to die anytime soon but, no one knows the day before they die.  The thought of Hope being taken away from everything and everyone she has ever known, shredded my heart.  I told Mitchell that.  He told me he wouldn’t want to take her away from everything she’s ever known, but wouldn’t have a choice of he was established in California.  He explained he was currently renting a room, making very little money and barely making ends meet.  I asked why he didn’t come back to Oklahoma where his sister and kids were.  He said he would love to; it was his home for over 20 years.  While he and I were on the phone Johnnie sent me a long text message telling me “Fuck you and the ground you walk on.” I told him about the text and that I wasn’t going to respond to her. I didn’t understand why she was being so ugly to me; I had never done anything to her.  Mitchell told me she still helped with his vehicle payment and laundry.  He said it would cause all kinds of problems if I responded and he couldn’t make it without her help.  He said she even didn’t care when he lived in his vehicle for week.  She sounded like a real bitch.  He told me she was only mad because she felt threatened by me.  I was 23 years younger than her, I had him first, I had a child with him, and he told her the entire eight years they were together that he still loved me.  Those were the reasons he gave as to why she didn’t like me.  He reminisced a lot during our conversation.  He reminded me of the details of our wedding and other good memories we shared.  It made me feel good knowing we were getting along, talking like adults, and laughing.  The man I was talking to was the man I met at the casino almost 11 years ago, the same man that first stole my heart.  I was happy to have my friend back.  He became inappropriate near the end of our phone conversation.  He asked me to send naked photos of myself to his phone.  I told him no.  He then said he was going to text naked photos of himself to me.  I told him I didn’t want naked photos of him and not to send them to me.  I told him I would send a photo of myself fully clothed since he hadn’t seen me in eight years.  I told him goodbye and we hung up.  I texted Mitchell a recent photo of Beth and I.  I went over to Beth’s house to tell her about the conversation and visit with her.  While I was there Mitchell called my phone.  I answered with him on speakerphone.  He went on and on about how beautiful I am and how special I am.  I thanked him.  He then stated his dying wish was to have another child and that it had to be with me.  He wanted Hope to have a sibling with the same two parents like my sons have.  I told him that was not happening ever!  I asked Mitchell to tell his sister Sharon that I loved and missed her.  He told me she hated me.

Later I told hope that I talked to him and we were kind to each other and we were friends again.  She said she wanted to call him.  I allowed her.  He was kind to her and only said positive things about Kevin and I.

I thought about Johnnie a lot.  After all the things Mitchell said to me, I tried to put myself in her shoes.  I imagined how hurt I would feel if my husband said those things to another woman.  I couldn’t be with a man who felt so passionately about another woman.  I felt bad for Johnnie.

Kevin and I talked a lot.  We agreed that we only wanted what is best for Hope overall.  Hope was telling us she wanted to see Mitchell.  Mitchell was telling us he wanted to know and be a part of Hope’s life.  He told me he was getting older and was afraid he may die one day without ever getting to hug her.  Kevin, Mitchell, and I talked.  As much as my family would oppose it, we decided he was coming back to Oklahoma.  Without Mitchell, Hope would not exist.  My family hates him terribly because of the way he done Hope and I.  On one hand I am grateful they love us so much, on the other hand Kevin and I felt that everyone deserves a second chance, even Mitchell.  He’s the only other person in this world Hope is half of.  Having been rejected and left by my own father, I believed if Mitchell and Hope wanted to know each other they should be allowed.  Kevin and I decided not to tell Hope in case things changed.  We didn’t think to ask Mitchell not to tell her.  Sure enough Mitchell told hope during the next phone call.  Hope was excited!

A few days later Mitchell texted and asked me to call without Hope around.  I called him.  He told me that when he told Johnnie he was going back to Oklahoma that she said she wanted to work their marriage out.  His choices were to stay where he was already established, with a job he loved and make his marriage work or be near his children he hadn’t seen in 8 and 10 years.  He was choosing to stay.  I told him he could tell Hope himself, and that she wouldn’t understand.  I also told him I would never choose a man over my children.  He told Hope.  She was sad and disappointed.  I was angry at Mitchell and Johnnie.  For the first time in Hope’s life I couldn’t protect her from the hurt he caused her.  I strongly disliked Johnnie.  The timing seemed very convenient of her ultimatum.  She had no regard for my child.  I told Mitchell, Beth, and Kevin that Johnnie had an ass whooping coming the first time I saw her without Hope around.  I didn’t care if she and Mitchell work together or not.  I was willing to go to jail.  You do not mess with my child’s feelings.  That woman had no idea the mama bear she had awakened.  You do not touch my cub that I have poured out blood, sweat and tears for, her entire life.  Not an intelligent idea.  Mitchell and Hope continued with phone calls.  Mitchell told Hope that he and Johnnie would come visit her soon.  Hope asked me when soon was. I told her that Mitchell was the only one who could answer that question.  She asked if she could texted him.  I texted him and said that hope asked to text him and I am giving her the phone.  She texted him asking when soon is.  He said he did have a timeframe for that.  She said “is it going to be weeks, days, months or years!” he didn’t ask Hope to give the phone to me before he sent the next text.  The text was directed towards me.  Hope read it out loud.  He stated she was too young to have these types of adult conversations, and it was my responsibility to explain his situation to her.  I texted him back.  I told him Hope and her feelings were my priority and that he could explain his situation to her himself.  Phone calls continued between Mitchell and Hope.  Mitchell’s wife sent me an e-mail a week later.  She accused me of being inappropriate with Mitchell through text messages dripping with lust.  She said she was concerned for my children and Kevin.  She and Mitchell split because he threatened to kill her and her family.  She also said my actions were hurtful to her.  All of the references she made to my character and things I had done couldn’t be further from the truth.  I texted her at the same number she texted me from weeks earlier.  I told her that just as there are two sides to her story with Mitchell, there are two sides to mine and I believe it was time for us to have a phone conversation.  She called me and we talked for hours.  She wasn’t the monster I believe she was.  I wasn’t the monster she believed I was.  Mitchell had lied to her their entire relationship and marriage.  She was just another victim of his hurtful words and games.  She and I can relate to each other in a way no one else can.  I love her.  She has become one of my closest friends.  She never wanted to work the marriage out with Mitchell.  He simply would not leave her alone.  I couldn’t pick up better stepmom for Hope if I tried.  Mitchell did an amazing job picking her.  She is always thought about and cared for Hope and her brother.  Mitchell spent a lot of energy making myself and his son’s mom out to be terrible women.  Johnnie and I will be friends for life.  Mitchell says Johnnie and I are drama.  He doesn’t want us talking.  Hope has asked him if he would allow a last name change.  He told her no.  He said her name would change when she got married.  She was very upset that he would not allow a name change.  She began acting out and being violent with her brothers.  She told me one day she wanted to call and tell Mitchell how she felt.  She tried to call his phone number four or five times.  The call wouldn’t go through.  I texted him, telling can she had called four or five times in the call wouldn’t go through.  I asked him to call her at his convenience.  He called within 3 minutes.  Hope told him she felt mad and sad.  He asked to speak to me.  Well I had him on speakerphone, she told me I needed to stop putting things in her head and the reason she couldn’t call was because he had my number blocked.  Hope heard everything he said to me.  She felt hurt that he didn’t believe her feelings and she was upset because he told her she could call anytime and he had the number blocked. He and Hope talk, and I pray that she will someday see the beautiful person that lives deep inside of Mitchell. He hides that person so well.  Only time will tell.