Alabama, Stedman Graham, Taking Care of Myself

Two weeks ago I was speaking in Washington for the YWCA. Here is the article from that event.  Then there was a follow up article on the success of the event.

Friday morning I got up early for an 8am flight to Atlanta and then onto Alabama where I was speaking at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for the National Children’s Advocacy Center. The NCAC was the first ever CAC to open in 1985 the year I was born. Today they’re over 900 CAC’s in America. As most know from my books and speaking it was my local CAC that began my healing process. Helped plant the seeds in my soul to grow and heal. Learned to let go of the guilt, blame, and realize I was not alone. They supported my family as both my parents went through a support group with other parents and my sister was in a support group of young girls her age. When my sister and I left the Children’s Advocacy Center we were told to pick out any stuffed animal that lined the floors and shelves of the CAC. My sister picked out a bunny I picked out a teddy bear. I decided for the first time at a speech Friday night to bring that teddy bear on my travels with me and use it as a talking piece to get people to join hands for justice and healing of children. Chris Newlin the NCAC director who I met in Texas at a speaking engagement 5 years ago picked me up at the airport and we went to lunch. We had a great talk over lunch about Erin’s Law and where I see myself down the road. Chris is a wonderful guy with so much insight and dedication to protecting children. He was gracious enough to give me a complete tour of the Children’s Advocacy Center. The place was incredible. Take a look for yourself. The beginning of this video may disturb you but it is happening right now to children in your town and possibly your street and it needs to be addressed.

Since it was a fundraiser I wanted people to see the importance of what CAC’s do and that they would not exist without the support of the community. There was a silent auction and a live auction. After I gave my speech and the live auction began I was called back up on stage to emphasis the importance of supporting the CAC. I had everyone grab the traced out hand on their table as a reminder of the children who walk through the doors of the CAC and lets join together to continue to help children heal. Then began the part of the event where guests were asked to donate therapy services. First someone donated $5,000 towards therapy for children, another stood up and donated $2,000. Then another person donated $2,000, then several stood up and donated $500.00, and many more donating $100.00. Each time someone wanted to donate a staff member ran to them with a teddy bear to hold onto until we got their bid number. I stood on stage holding the teddy bear from my day at the CAC.

I had several men come up to me after I spoke while sitting at my book signing table. Some got emotional and holding back tears, others hugged me saying it hurts to hear what you endured as a child, I am so sorry you had to suffer that way, it breaks my heart. one man approached me and said, “Last year my wife came home from Washington D.C. and went on and on about how moved she was by this young woman and that she wished I could have heard her.” Well that person she heard speak was me and her husband a year later got to hear me speak in their town of Huntsville, Alabama. He told me how much courage I have to get up there and tell what I endured and do it so authentic. I heard the word authentic over and over throughout the night being told you get up there and speak so authentic with such courage.  I think I have heard that word used more then any other word in my years of speaking.  After he left a woman approached me and said, “I heard you speak in D.C. last year.” I smiled and said, “I just had a great talk with your husband he told me all about how you talked about me when you got home from D.C.” She went on to tell me that she speaks at CAC’s across the country and said, “I wish you could see my copy of your second book, Living For Today. It is highlighted and has tabs all over it that I reference to others in the field of CAC’s to describe your experience so they understand the importance of their work.” That was wonderful news to hear. At the very end of the night I had a woman who worked at the venue taking care of dinner approach me. She gave me a hug and was crying. She shared that she was a survivor and thanked me for speaking out for people like her that don’t have that kind of courage. “Your giving those of us that don’t have the courage or strength to speak out a voice when you talk.” It was very moving to hear her say that. This is the second time an employee at the event the place is held has approached me at the very end like that. It happened in Hershey, Pennsylvania last April. I am also giving voice to the girl I once was that didn’t have a voice.

I spent the next day getting lunch with the director of development of the NCAC and an olympic swimmer who is also a survivor. I had a great time with them both and really enjoyed what I saw of Hunstville, Alabama. On my flight home I had a layover in Atlanta again. I had an hour and half before my flight back to Chicago. I have this thing about collecting coffee mugs from the places I travel. So I decided to go  and get an Atlanta coffee mug. On my way to one of the shops in the airport I suddenly crossed paths with Stedman Graham, Oprah’s partner. He was turning into a restaurant and took a seat in the back. I debated on approaching him. I didn’t want to bother him, didn’t want him to think I am some crazy stranger coming up to him. So I sat down at a table and ordered a beer to think about if I should introduce myself or not. What I didn’t realize when I ordered a draft beer is she brought me a stein and it was huge. I rarely drink.  So now I am drinking my beer and finally decided on how I would start the conversation with Stedman. I walked over with my beer in hand and said, “Hi Stedman I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Erin I am a national speaker who is represented by someone that also represents you Michael Rosenberg, and I appeared on Oprah last year during her final season talking about a law I got passed in Illinois.” He smiled and went on to ask me about the law. I told him my experience on Oprah and my mission to take Erin’s law national. He came across as being a poised, polite, grounded, and graceful person with a sense of humor. He looked at me as we were talking and said, “That beer is bigger then you.” I started laughing and said, “I knew you were going to say something about how large this beer was I debated walking over here with it.” Now we were both laughing!
After ten minutes I said, “I just wanted to introduce myself and it was great meeting you.”

After sitting back down I thought to myself  great first impression I gave Stedman I should of went with an ice tea. Ha! Ha!  I wondered if he was then texting Oprah, “Who is this crazy woman approaching me at Atlanta airport that you had on your show last year who was drinking a beer bigger then her.” I finished my drink and went to my gate which was right next to the restaurant. Then I saw Stedman sitting at my gate and realized he is on the same flight as me back to Chicago. So I sat down two seats from him and said, “Well I guess we are both headed home.” We got started up talking again. I told him my determination to get Erin’s law national and how I won’t quit until it happens. I shared with him how a House of Reps. in Illinois voting on my law that has always said, “no” to unfunded mandates voted “yes” and broke down in front of other House of Representatives when voting on my law and told them all she was a survivor of incest. She also disclosed to the Daily Herald newspaper. I shared with Stedman that this is what I want to see happen. No shame behind being a survivor. There is so much stigma behind it. It is the best kept secret in America. He was agreeing with me. I then asked him about his motivational speaking that he does.  Before ending the conversation I told Stedman about my third book I am working on. The book that is a secret very few know about it. I knew there was nothing to worry about telling Stedman it wasn’t like he was going to get on the phone and tell Oprah. When they called first class Stedman got up and before leaving he looked at me and said, “It was great meeting you and good luck.” Coming away from that experience one it made for my best airport traveling experience every but second it made me want to attend one of his speeches and pick up his books. He is a very intelligent man who tries to live a very private life while having his partner be Oprah. I am just curious what he told Oprah when he got home that night. It probably started off something like, “So this young girl with a beer in her hand that looked way to young to drink approached me at Atlanta airport today……….”

I have no regrets approaching him but once up in the air I realized I never got my Atlanta coffee mug. Stedman was a distraction…but well worth it.

Finally I want to end my blog on this note. Many people have been emailing, calling, or asking me in person if I am taking care of myself and it is all coming to me at once. First it began on Friday at the airport when I got an email from another advocate in the field of child abuse prevention who I met at another conference back in the spring.

Hi Erin, not sure why but I woke up this morning wanting to make sure I checked on
you today. I hope you’re having a great day!! If not, smile big, look at the sun and laugh!

I quickly responded to him as I got this just before I was being told to turn off my phone for take off telling him everything is great and where I was on my way to speak. He sent me a follow up email tonight saying.

Well I’m glad you were ok, false alarm on my end however; that’s what friends are for!!

Then when I arrived in Alabama  Chris Newlin the executive director of the NCAC picked me up and in the car asked me if I am taking care of myself and making time for “me”.  I thought to myself hmm this is strange why do I have two men in the same day asking if I am okay and if I am taking care of myself/making time for myself.

Then today I had several phone calls I made including a New York Senator who is going to draft the bill for “Erin’s Law” in New York. He is looking to have me come next month and speak at a press conference. He totally supports it. I am beyond thrilled right now about this new development. I emailed him last month about Erin’s law. I emailed all state reps. in almost every state. I am on a mission and my mission will end with mission accomplished! One of my phone calls happened to be from a social worker in Florida who has a great organization on teaching kids sexual abuse curriculum in the schools. I have been in contact with them for nearly a year now and have had several phone calls. During our conversation today she says, “Erin the social worker in me has to ask, are you taking time for yourself? I follow all that you are doing and you are doing a lot and I just want to make sure you are taking care of yourself too. I just don’t want you to get pulled in so many directions and get burnt out.” I laughed on the phone with her and said, “No need to worry I am taking care of me. I have my therapy cat Bailey sitting right here that keeps me sane.” She laughed! She has seen the many photos of Bailey on facebook.

So no need to worry while I may be flying all over the place from Oregon, Washington,  Alabama, and now Texas early Wednesday morning and doing plenty work on this law taking it national I am finding time for me and making sure to get the rest I need. If I am not 100% I cannot give my 100% to fight this cause and accomplish my mission. The one thing I will admit I am noticing is I continue to push my deadline of this third book back. So much time being dedicated to this law. If you only knew how many hours I have put into it and the people around this world I have spoken to about it who want me to look at their programs, lawmakers looking into it, writing letters to support it, getting people to donate to continue my mission of taking this national through the foundation I am working with.

Time to wrap this up. Photos and articles from events to come soon.

FYI if you message me on facebook don’t expect a response. Sorry! I am behind and will continue to be behind for awhile in responding. I am a busy lady. I do read them when I can like in airports but now I am going to keep an eye out as I travel through airports. Never know who you will run into. I’ll just stick to ice tea from now on. 🙂


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