Jonathan and I have been itching to get away for a couple of days, so we decided to head out on a roadtrip Tuesday. We pretty much packed the car the night before so that Tuesday morning, all we had to do was get ourselves ready and drop our pups off at their grandma & grandpa's house for a couple of days. Thank goodness Jonathan's parents were willing to watch their grand-dogs! We hardly ever get to go on a trip together, because one of us usually stays home with the pups since we don't trust just anybody with them.
(Our dogs don't even know they are dogs, I'm convinced they think they're human, and since we can't have babies at the moment, our girls are our World....and they're very spoiled.) After saying a tearful goodbye to our two lovebugs, Jonathan & I hit the road!

- First stop: McDonalds.
(Afterall, who wants to be in the car with a hungry driver?)

- Second stop: Dennis Bradford's grave.
I found out the location of Bradford's funeral and burial site from one of his previous co-workers who posted a nice comment on my guestbook back in May, and said I should go to the funeral for closure. I wasn't prepared to attend his funeral, and didn't want to show up and put his family through anymore grief than they were already experiencing, so I just waited and contacted the funeral home about a week or so later, and they were kind enough to tell me exactly where he was laid to rest. My reasoning for contacting the funeral home and asking where he was buried is because I knew that come August 10th, I'd want to sit at his gravesite and read my victim impact statement, since I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do so in a courtroom like I'd always hoped for. As we drove towards the town where Bradford is buried, we came to a red light. There was an old homeless man walking along the side of the road in the grass. I looked at the temperature, and I believe it said 104 degrees. Jonathan told me to roll down my window and give the man one of our cold sodas we had, so I did, and it broke my heart as I watched him touch his heart over and over as if saying "thank you" and then chug the orange soda down like he hadn't had anything cold to drink in days. I rolled my window down again and gave him my last two $1 bills, and told him to go get something to eat. In a raspy and seemingly painful voice, he attempted to say "thank you" and touch his heart again. It felt great to do a good deed that day, and I still can't stop thinking about that old man. I often wonder how a person can have no family that cares, nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat or drink, only the clothes on their back, and how stressful it must be to live every day not knowing when your next meal will be or where you'll be sleeping. Soon after, we were pulling into the cemetery where Dennis Bradford is buried, and my heart started to beat so hard, it felt as though it was going to rip through my chest. Finally, the moment I'd been waiting for was here, and this was my chance to say everything I'd wanted to say for 20 long years. As I walked to the gravesite, I got a painful, stabbing feeling in my heel, then my toe, and then, my leg. I looked down to see an ant was biting me, and 2 sticker-burrs were stuck in my foot. Of course, reading my statement wouldn't come easy...what was I thinking. I killed the ant, hobbled back to the car, jumped in with one leg, got tweezers out of my make-up bag, and worked on pulling the sticker-burrs out of my heel and rest of my foot (they were in deep), and then said to myself "let's try this again." I hopped out, walked down the gravel road and then up to the grave, sat down on the dried grass, and took a deep breath. I started to cry as I read his name out loud. DENNIS BRADFORD. Whew, I had waited to hear that name for a long time. The hardest thing about my journey was the unknown...not knowing who had done this to me. I now had a name, and I was now sitting with this person...if that makes sense. Not the environment or way I wanted, but this was my chance. I could feel Jonathan standing to the left side of me as I read on for about ten more minutes, and he helped me up when I was finished. We stood there, together, staring at Bradford's grave, and then Jonathan said, "Do you have anything else to say?" I said, "No, that was it." And he said, "Well, this time, he had no choice but to listen to you." I smiled, he grabbed my hand, and then we got back into the car and continued on our roadtrip.

Feeling a little spontaneous, we then decided to drive to Wimberley and stop at Blue Hole for some swimming. My aunt told me about this place a couple of years ago, and being it was on the way to San Antonio, we thought we'd check it out. I had previously watched a short video about Blue Hole on the internet, but many times things aren't what they seem, so I didn't really know what to expect. We pulled off onto Blue Hole road... which quickly turned into a gravel parking lot, and we got out. There were two teenage guys sitting in lawn chairs, and they insisted on us not paying full price to get in because they'd only be open another hour and a half. We weren't going to argue! We handed them ten bucks, and walked in. The dusty gravel quickly turned into thick, green grass surrounded by lush trees and chirping wildlife. Adults and children were swinging off of a metal ring and falling into the water, and some were jumping off of a higher part of a tree. A woman near us was sprawled out on her beach towel reading and soaking up the sun. This looked like a neat place, until I saw the fish in the water, and started to question jumping in. (Apparently, I watched one too many episodes of "Shark Week" last week.) I started to back away, while telling Jonathan there was NO WAY I'd be getting in there. Now, of course I knew there weren't any sharks, but I started to think about alligators and then something grabbing my foot, and how freaked out I'd be. After alot of convincing, I inched my way into the cool water of Blue Hole...and it was great, until the strings of the lifejacket I stole off of a tree (to float with) brushed up against my leg. I started swimming fast to get the hell out of there and back onto land..and then Jonathan reminded me the strings of the life jacket were hanging down and that nothing was really after me in the water. I could breathe again. If you ask me, Jonathan was a little too excited to be in this water. Anyone who knows him, knows he's an overgrown child, and soon he was forcing me to stay in the water alone and watch him jump off of a tree. I watched as he excitedly stood in line with all of the CHILDREN (ha ha) and then climbed up the side of a tree and did a back-flip off of it...he's such a show- off sometimes. ;) Blue Hole ended up being a really neat place, fish and all, and I'd definitely like to go back again someday...preferrably more prepared with a float so my feet aren't dangling freely in the water for something to eat me.
As we drove to our final destination of San Antonio, we stopped off at my bff's house (smelly, and hair still wet from the water of Blue Hole) for a short-but-sweet visit and to also see my godson and sweet new goddaughter. I'm always excited to catch up with my bff and visit with her little family when the opportunity arises, and this was one of those opportunities, so I didn't care that I looked (and smelled) like I'd been swimming with fish...and I knew she wouldn't care, either. When we left there, we ate at a drive-thru Taqueria, and then went to the hotel to hit the hay and get ready to conquer the Market the next day. I have so many wonderful memories I cherish of going to San Antonio as a child with my grandparents, and I am in love with that place. I swear I'll move there someday...the culture amazes me, and the environment is relaxing.

Day two of our trip began mid-morning, and being in San Antonio, I was hungry for Mexican food yet again, so we ate at a restaurant in The Market, and then spent hours shopping! I'm re-decorating our kitchen and dining areas, and was on a mission to find ristras of jalapenos, garlic, onions, etc., and I hit the jackpot! Jonathan, however, was not worried about finding ceramic jalapenos, and paper-mache avocados...he was busy trying to figure out which "day of the dead" Michael Jackson doll he wanted to buy. What can I say...I love him! A riverwalk boat-ride, dinner at Fogo de Chao, a few Mexican pastries, alot of pictures, and a pecan pancake breakfast later, it was time to say a very-dreaded goodbye to SA, and head home to Houston.

On a happier note, this trip allowed me to accomplish yet another one of my goals. Eventhough Bradford wasn't physically sitting infront of me, I KNOW he heard everything I had to say (I was talking pretty loud) - it's just a feeling I had, and you know...God works in mysterious ways. :)

It's A Celebration!

August 10, 2010.

Twenty years ago, this day could have very well been my last one on Earth; however, a little bit of strength, a lot of prayers, and a children's game of hide-and-go-seek twelve to fourteen hours later, I was found and survived what continues to be the most traumatic and horrible experience of my life.

There are some who don't understand why I find it so important to spread my message, and who have expressed what happened to me was so long ago that I should just move on with life and leave the the past. But, thankfully, there are also those who know my passion and see my drive in continuing to share my story, and know that my heart hasn't fully allowed me to move on from this experience...and truthfully, never will. After being so blessed to have lived through an abduction, rape and attempted murder, I feel that I have a responsibility to encourage other victims to use their voices, and it's something I'll continue to do, loudly and proudly, all the rest of the days of my life. No one can ever persuade me to do otherwise, as I'm following my heart, and doing what I know is not only the right thing to do, but what I'm destined to do. THIS IS MY PURPOSE!

Every year on this day, I have tried to do something special in celebrating my life, and have tried to make it a joyous occasion, but every day of the last nineteen years, I've also had one lingering question that has "eaten" at me, and that was simply "who?" Who could have committed these awful acts toward me? Now, twenty years later, to the day, I've got a smile on my face, and my heart is beaming a bright I have no need to question any longer. This year, I am not ONLY celebrating life, but also, a victory!

To my two heroes, Detective Tim Cromie, and SA Richard Rennison:

I know I've said it at least a hundred times, and I'll say it a hundred more, THANK YOU! If it weren't for you two, using your knowledge and experience in doing what you both felt was appropriate for my case and me, this would have been another anniversary where I'd be sitting here wondering who did this, who else had been a victim at the hands of this person, and when the time would come for me to get answers. Thankfully, this year, I've got all of the answers, and together, we've potentially saved the lives of others and together we've been able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims all around the World...I cannot express to you enough how much you both mean to me, and the pride I feel just knowing you two. I hope that others involved in law enforcement will learn from your mannerisms and work, because you are both the perfect example of what those in law enforcement should be. You both work not only because they are your jobs, but because you really and truly care, and want to make a difference. Thank you over and over, not only for giving me answers, but for putting your hearts into my case, and changing my life forever. This gift of peace you've both given me, has been the greatest gift I've ever received.

Peace this August 10th. No longer do I go to bed at night wondering who, or worrying about this person attacking others, as now we all know Dennis Earl Bradford was arrested October 13, 2009. On that day, nineteen years of prayers were answered. I would like to also take a moment to tell everyone, incase I've never said it, that I am still brought to tears at the many self-less acts of those who prayed and continue to keep me in their prayers, those who helped search for me and distribute fliers when I went missing, the cards and flowers I received in the hospital in 1990, and last year on the day of the arrest, the fundraisers that members of the community put together for medical expenses all of those years ago, the work of the officers that responded to the scene back in 1990 and everyone involved; including the officers and investigators at Dickinson PD, Galveston Co. Sheriff's OFfice, FBI, and the Texas Rangers. And, a special thank you to those at the North Little Rock PD who helped prepare with Cromie and Rennison and aided in the arrest of Bradford. Also, thank you to those supportive family members, friends, and my Jonathan, who have all guided me along at different points throughout the last twenty years...thank you for listening to me talk endlessly and openly about my experience, thank you for having open hearts and minds, and thank you for allowing me to smile, cry, and at times, yell if needed...all without judging me, and knowing how important this was to me to keep seeking an answer until an arrest was made.

I say that my heart will not ever allow me to fully move on, because there are countless victims out there, afraid to come forward, so I will forever use my experience as motivation to do what I am incredibly passionate about, and that is sharing my story and fighting to make a difference in this sometimes-cruel World we all live in. I have seen the need to share my story even more in the last year, as I've received many e-mails and phone calls from different organizations and advocacy centers, locally and out-of-state, asking me to share my story with their communities and help them in getting support, because there are still those that do not like hearing about or changing the horrible things going on within their community. I've received e-mails from victims in different countries, telling me either that they don't know how to go about telling someone what's happened to them, or asking if it's too late to speak out, or about their unfortunate and unfair experiences with law enforcement when trying to report the crime.

Rape is REAL! It's happening, unfortunately, all over the World. Every hour, of every day. It's something that no one should ever have to experience, but sadly, many experience it repeatedly. It is never too late to speak out! I will do whatever I can to help save others from having this happen to them, and encourage those it has happened to in using their voices to speak out against it.

Today, while I should be preparing myself for going to trial this Fall, and Bradford being sentenced, I will instead be sitting at Dennis Bradford's grave, reading my victim impact statement. Eventhough he is no longer here, I have to do this, it's something I've wanted to do for twenty years now, although I didn't plan to do it in this manner. If you are a victim of a crime, or know someone who is, please let my story be a reminder that we are all really not victims, but victorious! Please continue to use your voices to speak out, you never know the difference you may make in the life of someone who may just need to hear your story.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your support!!

Now, off to celebrate: life, love, happiness, peace, and above all, VICTORY!

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