I'm so thankful this holiday season (and always) for those supportive family members & friends of mine, for my life & voice, and all of the wonderful opportunities that are coming my way to share my story and spread awareness. Let me share some of my most recent experiences with you:
TAASA - (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault) extended the invitation for me to attend a luncheon in San Antonio and share my story of survival. The luncheon was honoring The Steen's, a couple who are very big supporters of TAASA, and have raised a tremendous amount of money for the Association. Governor (of Texas) Rick Perry would be introducing me, and there would be over 300 in attendance.
So, on Monday, October 25th, I arrived in San Antonio after a 3 1/2 hour drive from Houston, and stopped at my bff's house in Live Oak to visit her and my sweet godbabies, Bryce & Braedynn. On the drive up, all I could think about honestly...was eating Thai food. It's become a ritual for Tiff and I, so once I arrived we headed over to the restaurant, and as we pulled up, we noticed it was awfully dark inside...only to find out the restaurant is CLOSED on Mondays! Most people wouldn't consider this a big deal, but I was so sad. Literally, this is the best and most authentic Thai restaurant we've found to date, and we ended up having to settle for another Thai restaurant a few miles down the road, and it was alright, but just wasn't the same. Anyway, I won't whine about that anymore, there's more important things to blog about other than my food drama. We had an enjoyable lunch together, as usual, and after filling our bellies with many cheese rolls and spicy foods, I headed over to the beautiful Westin on the Riverwalk, where I checked-in & met with my lovely lady friends from TAASA. We had dinner a couple of hours later at Casa Rio, the oldest Mexican restaurant on the Riverwalk...and then I attempted to get some much needed rest. I was restless all night long. Thai food was no longer on my mind. Instead, all I could think about was the crowd of people I'd be speaking infront of, what they'd be thinking, and hoping I wouldn't cry during the speech. And, of course I was nervous as heck because I'd be introduced by The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry.
Before I knew it, the Tuesday morning sunbeams were shining brightly through the big windows of my hotel room on the 15th floor, and I was still a nervous wreck, so I decided I might as well just get up and get moving. If I would've had boots on, at this point it would be safe to say I would've been shakin' in 'em! I went downstairs and scarfed down a muffin and some milk, and then met the ladies from TAASA, in the lobby. The 3 of us headed over to the WOAI San Antonio (Ch.4) News station, where I appeared on "San Antonio Living," a morning show where I shared an overview of my story alongside Annette from TAASA. I'm so grateful for any opportunity, long or short, to be able to speak out and encourage others. San Antonio has one of the BEST Rape Crisis Centers in the Nation, and it was a privelege to be in town and appear on the show. We headed back to the hotel parking lot to get my car after the interview, and then, it was time for the big event honoring the Steen's at the San Antonio Country Club.
The event at the SACC was beyond beautiful. There were gorgeous Fall flower arrangements on all of the tables, extremely kind-hearted people & wonderful food! I stood infront of Author Marcus Luttrell, as he signed a copy of his book, Lone Survivor, for me. I looked at him, and saw he and I, although we've been through completely different circumstances, have one main thing in common...we have taken the negative and turned it into a positive. I was happy I was able to meet him and have the opportunity to read his book. I walked into the dining room and immediately spotted David "The Admiral" Robinson, it was hard to miss him as he towered above everyone else. I weaved in and out of the crowd and across the dining room to get a picture with him. I knew it would make Jonathan jealous. :)
We were all seated, and began to eat our "San Antonio Country Club Salad" and Cromie and I chatted and were introduced to other guests at our table. We were seated with First Lady of Texas, Anita Perry, and her son, too. I was just starting to feel comfortable in my setting, and First Lady Anita Perry made her way up on stage and gave her welcome speech. I could feel my palms starting to sweat and my heart racing. Yep, the usual feelings of an oncoming anxiety attack. Call me a hypochondriac, call me what you want...but I was freaking out. I turned to Tiff and told her and Josh how nervous I was. Thank God they were there, and Detective Cromie was, too....or Lord only knows what I would've done. I probably would've puked. This was the biggest crowd I'd ever spoken infront of, and my heart was
p-o-u-n-d-i-n-g! I tried to calm myself, but it wasn't happening. Governor Perry walked on stage after being introduced by his wife, and he was so kind. He spoke such nice words, gave an overview of my attack and then introduced me to the audience. I walked on stage, and he whispered in my ear, "Knock 'em dead, girl!" That made me want to laugh, but I think my nerves had definitely gotten the best of me at this point. I wanted to squeeze his hand and pull him right back up onto that stage and force him to stand next to me as I spoke, but that would've just made me look ridiculous, so I refrained.
I looked out into the crowd (okay, more like sea) of men and women, and the room grew eerily silent. I started to weep almost immediately. Everyone waited as I gained my composure, and then I psyched myself up enough to begin to speak. It's not talking about my story that chokes me up, it's speaking infront of so many people! Anyway, I pulled myself together pretty quickly and as I spoke and cried, I saw others grab their napkins and dry their eyes or others smile back at me. It means alot to me when I can see that my story really touches others, and that I am making a difference. I finished my speech, and watched as the room rose to their feet, and gave me a standing ovation. I couldn't have had a prouder moment, and I'm truly honored that I was able to be a part of such an amazing event, honoring The Steen's and their work, supporting TAASA...and I feel so silly (now) looking back, that I let my nerves get the best of me at the beginning of my speech. This wonderful day and the selfless, kind people I met...made me proud to be a Texan.
Kalin's Center - a Texas Advocacy Center serving Houston and Trinity Counties, was hosting their 3rd Annual "Styles for Smiles" fundraiser with the help of area businesses, to raise money for the center. I was invited to be the main speaker at the event in Lovelady on October 30th. I got up early Saturday morning and drove to Lovelady, which, let me just tell you...is very tiny and seems as though it's in the middle of nowhere. I didn't really know what to expect as I arrived at "The Old Lovelady Gym", but I'll say...when I walked in the doors, I was speechless. This "gym" seemed quite the opposite. There were drapes, and lights, and beautiful table settings. And, for such a small town, the turnout was incredible! I believe there were more people in attendance at this event than the one in San Antonio, and I was beaming on the inside seeing so many had taken the time to come out and support the center and donate money to such a wonderful cause! Kalin's Center is named after a girl, now all grown up, who has an incredible story of survival. Kalin was sexually abused as a child by her step-father, while her mother watched and did nothing to stop it. When Kalin saw that her step-father was beginning to abuse her sisters, she made an outcry for help, and I applaude her for being so strong and speaking out, because in using her voice, she not only saved herself and sisters, but potentially saved countless others. Kalin's stepfather received a plea deal of 50 years, and her mother received life. The "Styles for Smiles" fashion show went very well. Men, Women, and even children volunteered to walk in the style show and wear clothing from The Pink Dot, Hearts Desire, and The Mule Barn, who all premiered their Fall Collections. There were door prizes and raffle items galore, and thousands of dollars were raised! When I went up on stage to give my speech, I was much more confident this time. I really enjoyed my day in Lovelady, and was shown much LOVE from everyone who attended. After the show, I had several people take the time to come up and share their own stories with me. These are the moments I love the most...when I know I've made a difference. One lady inparticular really touched me, as she held me tight and started to sob and said, "I know how you feel, my grandfather raped me as a child, and I have never told anyone." This woman was a grandmother now, herself. She shared with me that when she was a child, sexual abuse was something that you just weren't to speak about. It was "brushed under the rug" and you were to basically forget about it. When she told, the Sheriff in town said it was a "family matter" and did nothing. Thank the Lord times have CHANGED!
"I Survived" Television Show - reached out to me a few months back, after my interview with Jeff Rossen on NBC's Today Show, and asked if I'd share my story. I jumped on the opportunity, and had a great experience. First a pre-interview was held over the phone, for about an hour...just me openly speaking about the night of my attack. A few weeks later, a member of the team flew into Houston and came to my house where we taped an informal interview, again, of me simply just speaking openly about what happened, and answering some questions he had. Then, Jonathan and I headed to Dallas a couple of weeks later,and taped the final interview in a studio. We had a really good time. The drive to Dallas is long and boring, but Woody's Smokehouse is on the way...which makes the drive totally worth it! Half-way through our 4-5 hour roadtrip, we stocked up on beef jerky, beef sticks and sweet tea, and then got back on the road. We checked into our hotel, and went out for a steak dinner...can 't beat that! The next day, the interview was short & sweet, we hit up Woody's again, and I was about to be in tears as the ride home was beyond dreaded...and so long! My legs literally ached, and my ass hurt from sitting for so long. Home.Sweet.Home! Stay tuned...my story is tentatively airing in April on the Bio. Channel.
Thank you to all of you who continue to follow me on this journey, it's become a beautiful one. I'm beyond blessed that I'm here, and using my voice!