When our MetroFamily staff first read the nomination for Contessa Bass in our annual Awesome Mom contest, we knew we’d stumbled upon an inspiring story. Contessa’s 12-year-old son, Tobias, gushed about his “crazy awesome” mom.
“My mom teaches special ed all day then goes to school at night to finish her master’s, but that’s not the crazy part,” he said in his nomination form. “My brother has cerebral palsy, is all the way deaf and has no stomach. My mom’s biggest lesson is, ‘life is not all about me.’ She was by my side when I decided to start running my brother in 5Ks and we are training for the Ironman. My mom is by herself but she never stops serving other people with challenges. She taught me love. She taught me caring. We found a man in our neighborhood who is special and she taught me how to love and serve him. I bring him pizza and soda with the money I make, because he only has a three-wheeled bike. My mom even works at church on Wednesday, even after her 15-hour days she still comes home and serves longer for my brother. I do not know how my mom can do all she does and still do so much for others but I will grow up to be just like her because it’s not all about me, but about what I can do to make someone else’s life better.”
Contessa was nominated along with dozens of other inspiring mothers. Although we wish we could highlight them all, our staff narrowed the list of nominations down to three moms with incredible stories we knew would inspire our readers. The public voted Contessa as the winner of our Awesome Mom contest.
Winner: Contessa Bass
Contessa Bass has a sparkle in her eyes and an infectious smile that radiates the warmth in her heart. Chosen as MetroFamily Magazine’s Awesome Mom Contest winner, Contessa demurs, “You can’t pick the world’s most awesome mom. That’s like picking the world’s most beautiful baby; there’s no such thing because all babies are beautiful. All moms are awesome.”
Contessa, age 50, is a single mother of five sons, Terrence (24), Thomas (23), Tony (21), Titus (13) and Tobias (12). She also has a 3-year-old granddaughter who she cares for regularly. Originally from California, Contessa moved to Oklahoma more than 16 years ago and now calls Edmond home.
This amazing mother and grandmother has focused her life on helping children, and holds a special place in her heart for children with special needs. Her 13-year-old son, Titus, has cerebral palsy, severe visual and intellectual impairments and no stomach.
“Titus has no lack of self-determination,” Contessa said. “He was born at 24 weeks gestation, weighing just one pound. He died numerous times in the hospital, but he just kept popping back. Titus is the blessing that pulled us all together and made us all who we are.”
On weekdays, Contessa works as a special education teacher with students in grades 7 through 12 at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City. She claims her students are the happiest, most sincere, hardest-working students.
“I’m blessed enough to come here and they give me a paycheck,” she said. “Can you imagine doing what you love and still getting paid for it?”
On most weeknights, Contessa attends graduate school at the University of Oklahoma, where she is finishing course work this semester for her master’s degree in special education in secondary transition. Contessa is on a full scholarship to attend this unique program run by Dr. Jim Martin, a pioneer and leader in the field. Secondary transition is a unique area within the domains of special education.
“Transition is planning somebody’s life after high school, where they are going to live, where they are going to work, where they are going to play,” she said. “Those are very important aspects of life.”
Contessa anticipates receiving her degree next December or May.
“I’m very proud to have been given the opportunity to further my education in an area that I am really passionate about,” Contessa said. “I don’t want anybody to sit still if they don’t want to, and I don’t want anyone, disabled or not, to not have a future.”
Like Tobias mentioned in his nomination, Contessa is also very involved in volunteering at church. She volunteers at LifeChurch on Wednesday nights.
“LifeChurch helped me raise my kids,” she said. “I have to give credit to my church.”
Through life’s ups and downs, facing good times and bad, Contessa remains faithful, joyful and thankful.
“With children, you’re there to mold them, number one. For every mistake I’ve made, I can thank God that I’ve learned from it,” she said. “You’re truly there to mold, create, foster, help, support, and put values of love and God into a child that is going to someday go out into the world and make a difference.”
Finalist: Stephanie Price
It’s a good thing Stephanie Price loves kids because she has 46 of them. Well, technically she has six children who are biologically hers. The Del City mom is the owner of Dynasty Care Services, a full-service day care for young adults with special needs. There, she has 40 clients she thinks of as her own children.
She opened Dynasty in 2012, but before that Stephanie was running a day care for young children out of her home.
“I’ve just always loved kids,” she said. “I have a real passion for people and I’m a real nurturer. Dynasty was just kind of me merging hospice and child care. I wanted to give people a quality of life, help them with things we usually take for granted.”
Most disabled and special needs youth are left without many services beyond high school, Stephanie said. Dynasty’s eight-person staff works to give their clients care in addition to giving them opportunities to be productive and fulfilled after high school. Dynasty Care Services provides adult day care services that stretch beyond simply supervising clients. Stephanie is passionate about making sure the clients have opportunities to go on field trips, pursue their interests and receive therapy.
In addition to being her livelihood and passion, Dynasty offers a chance for her own kids to be exposed to different people and to see great examples of caring for others. Victor (15), Nicholas (13), Aria (10), Boogie (8), Daniel (5) and Alivia (4), are Stephanie’s pride and joy.
She was surprised to be nominated, she said, because she’s always finding inspiration from other mothers. She thinks she was probably nominated because everyone calls her the “Energizer Bunny.”
“People are always asking me how I do it all,” she said. “I just do.”
Working at Dynasty, she interacts daily with parents of young adults with special needs and disabilities.
“They don’t let the bad days, the setbacks, the tribulations stop them,” she said of the parents of her clients. “The moms at Dynasty, they didn’t get to see their kids turn 18 and go to college and they probably never imagined they’d be taking care of their kids as adults. But they overcome obstacles and they enjoy life. I’m just happy to be a part of that.”
Her biggest advice to other mothers is to never be afraid to ask for help.
“Women are prideful,” she said. “Put away the pride and lead by example because you are a role model. If you don’t like something your kids are doing then take a look at yourself because they probably got it from you.”
Leading by example doesn’t mean you have to always be perfect, Stephanie said, but it does mean being able to admit when you’re wrong.
“Your story is not yours,” she said. “You need to be sharing it with other people so they can get something from it and be inspired by it. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a soon-to-be mom, whatever, someone else is dealing with the same things you’re dealing with.”
Finalist: Jenny Monroe
Walking into Jenny Monroe’s office in the Edmond Police Department headquarters, it’s easy to see her kids are pretty crazy about her. She beams showing off the sticky notes written by her kids that litter her desk. “I’m blessed to have you” and “You’re the best mom I have ever had” are just a couple of the messages stuck on the edges her computer screen.
Jenny, the department’s public information specialist, says her family story is “a little hard to follow.” That’s an understatement. Jenny is raising four kids, only one of them biologically hers. The oldest is her stepson, 19-year-old Wesley. Next is two adopted children: 17-year-old Devin and 14-year-old Hannah. Her biological daughter, Mackenzie, is 8.
When her stepson was 4 years old, he came to live with Jenny and her then-husband (they divorced in 2011) because his mother was having some substance abuse and mental health issues.
“My stepson had two half-siblings (Devin and Hannah), they all had the same mom,” she explained. “So eventually those two half-siblings went into state custody so my husband and I took them in as foster kids.”
When her husband began dealing with substance abuse issues of his own, Jenny made the difficult decision to divorce. When she divorced, she had to make the decision whether she would keep the foster kids and adopt them or send them back into state custody. After some soul-searching, prayer and support from her large family, she decided to keep the foster kids and adopt them. The adoption was made final in October 2013.
“My main deciding factor in taking this on was that I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of this is cyclical,” she said. “They don’t know any different if they’ve grown up around certain behaviors. I wanted to expose them to the love and the kind of family I grew up in. I wanted to expose them to a different way of looking at life and reacting to life.”
She has hard days, she admitted, where she asks herself why she took so much on alone. But looking at those sweet notes from her kids and seeing them flourish and grow, she knows she made the right decision.
Like our Awesome Mom winner and other finalist, Jenny doesn’t necessarily believe she’s any more special than any other mom. She’s inspired by other moms around her and draws encouragement from the rest of her family. She works with many police officers who have foster kids themselves and relies on them to help her get through difficult times. Her advice to other moms is to never be afraid to ask for help and remember to make time for yourself.
While many would agree Jenny deserves an “Awesome Mom” title, no one actually even calls Jenny “mom.” Her stepson and his half-siblings have called her “Jenny” or “Jen” since they came to live with her. Her daughter, the youngest of the bunch, just followed suit.
“It is very heartwarming when they’re talking about me to other people and they refer to me as ‘mom,’” she said. “When they talk about their mom to their friends, they’re talking about me. That means a lot.”