Purpose.

Purpose

Noun 1. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something existsa person’s sense of resolve or determination

I have thought a lot about this word lately in trying to search for answers to questions no one will ever be able to answer for me. I honestly think it is our human nature to have answers, to know things, so we can fix them or at least understand them and when we don’t it leaves us searching…

Vicki Lynne 1984

The searching that started in September of 1984. The day my sissy rode her bike through our neighborhood to mail a birthday card to my aunt, to the days, weeks and months that followed that we searched desperately to bring her home. The day we laid her to rest. The day that the man responsible for taking her life was sentenced to death. And the weeks, months, years and decades we have been fighting him.

Who would have ever thought we would be here now? In May of 1987, when the sentencing was handed down and the process was started that has lead us to now, I bet, if you asked anyone then, they would never guessed we would still be battling legalities in court now…still waiting for answers, justice for a little girl without a voice.

Purpose. What is the bigger purpose?

Today we were notified that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hold an Oral Argument in our case on June 7th at 9:00 am at the William K. Nakamura Courthouse in Seattle, Washington. The hearing will be in front of a panel of three judges, names who will be released when they take the bench. The hearing is slated for an hour, giving 30 minutes to each side to answer the questions the judges bring to court that day.

This hearing will be streamed live on the courts website, which you will be able to find the link to here under Audio & Video. http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/calendar/

It is unclear how long the panel of judges will take to issue a ruling in this regard, and I feel as though this hearing is not only a win in our case, but it also gives us forward motion again. I remain faithful that the court will find in our favor, issue a ruling that will send our case on to the United States Supreme Court who have ruled in our favor twice previously. Once the US Supreme Court rules in our favor, a Writ of Execution can be issued. The end of the road for this case, justice for my sissy.

We may never know the bigger purpose, but it’s there. And we may never know the answers or why this has traveled the road it has, but the end is coming. And we will never know the lives one little girl impacted, but I know her spirit lives on in the hearts of so many and that gives me faith in the unknown purpose.

What will you write?

Well, it’s time to dust off this ol’ blog of mine and get back to writing. It’s been far to long since I have shared or published anything. Why do we put things aside that fuels our heart? If you know the answer to that question, please please please let me know.

I love this Brad Paisley Quote: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

What will you write? What would you like to achieve, accomplish or change this year? What about in the next 9, 6 or 3 months? What about in the next 30 days?

I woke up with a fire in my heart this morning, and… I did need some fire because it was COLD outside! But, all kidding aside, it is the first day in #operationblackstatus. You will see this Hash Tag a lot from me in the 364 days to follow, including my “WHY” and what this all exactly means.

Today, I just had to start. And “to start” meant writing again, sharing my heart, and documenting the journey of 2017 with all those who will walk it with me. I can honestly say that regardless of what happened yesterday, last year, or the last 10, 20, 30 or 40+ years of my life, it has shaped me to who I am today. And I am proud of the imperfect, gracious, stubborn, driven, giving, passionate and strong person I am.

I believe that this year will be UH-MAZING, I know it holds so many opportunities for us all.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you, but still wonder, what will you write?

All my love,

Steph

The Tree

It’s page 18 of 365 in 2016. One of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” How true is that?

It’s been a busy 3 months since the last update to my blog, but really there has been no forward motion from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in our case since September. Frustrating? Yep. I’ve learned that a 30 year old case with a guilty defendant and miles of boxes full of documents just seems to bog down a very broken system with nothing we can do but keep looking to the horizon…

To be honest, I’ve struggled to write this blog for more than a week. I’m not sure why, when it comes to writing or conversation, I’m not usually a loss for words… those who truly know me can insert your comments and laughs here…

Looking back on all that has happened, both wonderful & amazing and heartbreaking & trying, and I feel I’ve really needed to stop and listen more … Who has truly had “ahhhh haaa” moments? I’ve had quite a few lately…

Vicki Lynne's Tree planted at Homer Davis Elementary School Arbor Day, 1985

Vicki Lynne’s Tree planted at Homer Davis Elementary School Arbor Day, 1985

See in February of 1985, we planted a tree in the courtyard of Homer Davis Elementary School where Vicki & I attended school to bring hope that she would be found alive. When Vicki’s remains were recovered in April of 1985, that tree continued to grow and bloom for 30 years. Last October (2015) it was uprooted and blown over in a storm… it was as if a piece of what we watched grow through our journey was gone and we were absolutely devastated. And, I feel we started to mourn again.

Our initial reaction was to replant a tree to replace it… and in time we realized we could never do that, it would never be the same. Honestly, I know with all my heart Vicki blew the tree over for a reason, and we may not be able to understand it right now, but in time, we will.

We were able to recover a substantial amount of the wood from the fallen tree and have plans as a family to have something made with it and rededicate it to Homer Davis at a later date. We will take the fallen pieces and make them beautiful again… just as we have done with our lives.

I want to make a very public thank you on behalf of myself and my family to Flowing Wells School District. From Dr. Baker, Mr. Miller, Governing Board, and the entire staff with a big SHOUT OUT to the Grounds Crew, each and every person has been so protective, caring and sensitive to us as we have moved through this process. The love that continues to shine in our community is extraordinary and comforting.

I will continue to keep my blog updated as we begin forward motion in the appellate part of this story, and as each day of 2016 unfolds, we will continue to look ahead and embrace our past as it is the seeds that continue to grow our future.

#dontforgetvickilynne #loveneverforgets

Why are some years so hard?

In my last blog, I asked “Why are some years so hard?”

This anniversary was probably one of the hardest I have faced in many years, and as the days march forward each one gets easier. Some wounds will just never heal, it’s as if you are carrying a box of puzzle pieces and they drop on the floor, scattered all over for you to pick back up and put back together again, unfortunately, when my life was shattered on the 17th of September 1984, no one provided a “How to” book for surviving the murder of sister. You just pick up the pieces and look to the horizon…

Vicki Lynne, Age 4

Vicki Lynne, Age 4

In the last week and a half, I have spent much of my time answering the hundreds of calls, texts, messages & emails that I have received. I continue to be so humbled by the outpouring of support from people who knew and loved Vicki, to people who have just been touched by her story. Until this war is over, there is a huge army still so willing to fight.

Very much to my surprise, the defense counsel filed their Reply Brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, September 25, 2015. Honestly, I think I can count the number of times a defense team hasn’t asked for a delay in court over the course of this 31 year battle with one finger.

A few points I want to make sure everyone who reads this blog knows:

  1. Atwood’s innocence is NOT in question. He admitted to the crime in detail down to the last words she spoke as he took her life and his guilt has been upheld in court.
  2. This case has been to the United States Supreme Court twice. First on the automatic appeal, the second time on the Post Conviction Release. Both have been denied.
  3. The Writ of Habeas Corpus (this appeal) was started in March of 1998, 17 years ago. All claims in the initial habeas filing have been denied but these last claims of ineffective counsel & the famed claim that “he” suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I promise, I will expand more on the points above in the future, I just want to make sure that you, as the reader, are clear where we stand in this relentless fight. I will continue to keep the entire process that looms

before us updated here as the wheels of justice continue to turn… 

Tonight, as I look into the beautiful pink and blue sunset in the horizon, I hope, for my parents, my family,

friends and our army of supporters that things turn faster than they have the last 31 years.

Don’t forget Vicki Lynne… 

September 17, 2015

September. The start of fall, absolutely my favorite season, yet a time that holds my heart completely hostage. This year I would equate my emotions to that of a “soup sandwich”. I’ve wore my feelings on my sleeve and the battle in my mind has gotten the best of me more days than not. It’s a relentless war that started 31 years ago and still wages on as we continue our legal fight to bring justice for my sissy.

In reality, the middle of August is when I started to feel the spiral of emotions happen and in one conversation with Mackenzie, it’s as if the dam broke… 

I had kept telling myself my emotions were crazy because summer was coming to an end. (Is it possible to have a “summer hangover”?) We had a hectic but great time with family & friends, memories made and lots of miles traveled, with school starting it would come to an end. And then the reality of my talk with Mackenzie made me realize that what happened to me 5 years ago when our oldest, Madison, started 3rd grade was happening again. 

Why are some years so hard? 

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

Accepting things you can’t change or control and rationally asking your heart to work through them can be the single most difficult thing a person will ever do. I had to face the fact that my 8 year old daughter would be starting the 3rd grade, she’s the same age and grade as Vicki was when she was taken from us. Coupled with the fact that Mackenzie resembles Vicki not only in looks but personality, has stopped me in my tracks a thousands times, sometimes taking my breathe away. There isn’t a moment that I look at Mackenzie and don’t think about or see Vicki, from her freckled face and gapped tooth smile to her witty personality.

Can you imagine a fear that some days is almost paralyzing? Flashes of feelings from my childhood while telling my 42 year old mind everything will be ok is the toughest thing I have ever done. I feel as though I am telling myself every 5 minutes I can work through it because I have a two beautiful girls who are walking this world and I will do everything I can everyday to keep them safe. 

When Mady started 3rd grade, I did my best to keep it together. I cried every day for weeks as I left her at school, some days sobbing so uncontrollably in the school parking lot I couldn’t even drive. I still think Mady’s teacher is a saint, she was so patient and gracious when dealing with me, the ultimate crazy mom.

And to be completely honest, I truly thought this year, would be easier than what I experienced with Mady. Things are supposed to be smoother with your second child, right? It’s true for many things, not this… I’ve been prickly most days, and feel so blessed that my family, friends and co-workers have loved me without truly understanding the battle in my heart and mind. Mackenzie’s teacher has embraced her with a special heart that I’m not sure I could ever properly thank her for, and she is patient with me, the ultimate crazy mom. Fourteen days into the school year and I’ve cried every one, but am so thankful that I am in a position that I can grab a hug & kiss from Mackenzie anytime during the day. 

As far as the conversation I had with Mackenzie the middle of August, I will share that some day, but the dam it broke is meant to help heal emotions that I need to make peace with. Each day is a new beginning, and I will be stronger tomorrow.  “After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

Our legal battle continues on, the defense has until September 25, to file their Reply Brief to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I will assume they will ask for an extension, and expect another delay, because one thing Atwood’s counsel has shown us is they are really good at delaying everything they can as many times as they can, buying a child murderer more time on our tax paying dime. Once the defense files their brief, we will wait to see if the 9th Circuit will hold a hearing in the matter, and that date. And the time continues to tick by as the fate of the man who took Vicki from us still fights the system while dragging us through hell.

31 years later, September 17th, the battle continues but we will win the war. 

Today, I hope that everyone who was touched by her life takes a moment to share a memory. This day will always be one to reflect on and honor the life of a very special freckled faced, blue eyed angel, my sissy. Don’t forget Vicki Lynne.

All “new” things Younique!

Younique just stepped up their game with eight amazing new products on September 1st!

Our Addiction Eye Shadow Palette’s! I’m obsessed with #1 & #2…

Addiction Eye Shadow Palette's

Moodstuck Opulence Lipstick’s in 15 colors! Fortunate is my FAV!!!!

Moodstuck Opulence Lipstick

Our new Precision Brow Liner & Gel! Two of the most sought after products I’ve had!

Brow Liner

Brow Gel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our new Touch Mineral Foundation & Concealer…

I never thought I would go back to a liquid foundation until now… honestly!

Touch Liquid Concealer

Touch Liquid Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our very own Tweezers & Angle Shadow/Sponge Brush.

TweezersAngle Shadow Brush

www.stephbrandt.com

#somuchmorethanmascara

Younique… #somuchmorethanmascara

Wow… what a MONTH it has been!!!!

I honestly am 110% in LOVE with our new 3D+ Fiber Lash Mascara. It is 100% better than our original formula and I would have NEVER thought that that would have been possible to improve on. I’ve been blasting my FB with funny one eyed selfies lately just showing off how much better it really is! Super curious if YOU will love this new enhanced mascara as much as me???? Go to www.stephbrandt.com and click on Eyes, 3D+, add to cart and check out… your “magic” mascara will be in your hot little hands in just a few days!!!Steph 3D+

August is a new month and in true Younique fashion they have continued to raise the bar with their Kudos! Each month they come up with a fun bundle of products & roll it out in a special offer and this month they brought something to our line that I am HEAD OVER HEEEEEEEELS in love with…. LIPSTICK!!! Who would have ever dreamed lipstick would make someone so happy… well, it has!!! Our Three for Me Bundle has your choice of Bronzer, one of our UH-Mazing liners, and Stuck Up lipstick!! You can snatch yours up on my site by clicking www.stephbrandt.com and going to Kudos!! It’s shipped right to your door in a few days!!!!August Kudos

But… what I really want to share is something that is empowering and inspiring to me… RIGHT NOW. TODAY. And will be a drive for me to support as I continue my build my dream with Younique. See, I had no idea that I would be a part of this when I joined last November, it was just about the mascara for me. Then it become more about ALL the products I was falling in love with and grew daily with the amazing friendships I was making with women all over the country. Then I learned that our founders had a dream to start a foundation and that THAT dream had become a reality far faster than they ever imagined… The Younique Foundation.

What is The Younique Foundation? It’s a foundation set up to help support and educate women who have been victim’s of sexual abuse or violence as a child or adult. It’s a retreat where women can come together to get the resources they need to start to heal.

When I learned that MY business & company was supporting The Younique Foundation, I sat back and cried…  I AM helping women who have survived the unthinkable. Just like me and my journey with the lose of my sissy to the unthinkable. Women I can inspire to heal and support others too… I AM doing something amazing with this journey that started just because of mascara…

Tonight, I am so very proud to be a part of Younique. I WILL Uplift. Validate. Empower. women in my life, I WILL share the dream, I WILL support this foundation and encourage every woman I know to do the same!

Want to help me do that?? Let’s talk about all the ways you can! #somuchmorethanmascara

 

3D+ Mascara and more!!!!

July 1, Younique made some UH-MAZING announcements!!! It was so exciting we actually broke the internet for some time… ok, well, maybe not the whole internet but it took about an hour for the video conference to take place because there were SO MANY excited ladies waiting to hear the Epic announcement, we broke something!!! HAHA!

Honestly, I LOVE our 3D Fiber Lash Mascara!!! I have wanted fake lashes for a long time but just couldn’t justify the time and expense, then I found the 3D Fiber Lash Mascara… and I signed up to sell it and the rest is history! Sooooo, on the 1st when Younique’s co-founder, Melanie Huscroft, announced they were rolling out an enhanced 3D+ I about fell out of my seat!!! How could they begin to improve on this amazing product????? Well… they have, and I’m stalking my post lady like crazy waiting for her to bring me my first one!! (I will probably need to do something nice for her… maybe she likes mascara too… )

new 3d plusThe new enhanced 3D+ will be available to the public July 15th BUT it you sign as a Presenter right now! Today! Ok, and maybe tomorrow too… well, probably for a few weeks you get not ONE BUT TWO 3D+ Mascaras in your presenters kit!!!! I swear I was jumping up and down screaming at my computer as Melanie was announcing it on our webinar!!!! Serious!!! Oh, and I will add that for a limited time with the TWO 3D+ Mascaras, they are offering FREE shipping on this purchase!!! Your own little mascara empire for $99!!! This may sound crazy, but MY mascara empire is taking Scott & I on an all expense paid cruise to Jamaica in October!!!!

There are so many things that I want to say about this company and my journey, (I promise you will hear more in blogs to come) but this company has been one of the most amazing leaps of faith I have ever ever taken. It has brought a fire and joy to my heart that I never knew was there… I brag that Younique’s missions statement is to UPLIFT, EMPOWER & VALIDATE women and this journey is far more than amazing mascara, all natural skin care products or incredible cosmetics, it’s also about sisterhood and success!!!

I promise to share my own pictures as soon as my sweet, awesome, mail lady brings me my very first 3D+ mascara!!! Until next time… here’s a quick little video on our “fiber lash effect” .. Younique Movement

 

2nd Annual Vicki Lynne Memorial Scholarship

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

Last Thursday, May 7th, another scholarship at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, AZ was given to a graduating senior in memory of my sister, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson.

It’s the second one we would give in her honor. Last years recipient, Anisa Jimenez, is such an amazing young woman, and I am so blessed that our families have grown very close over the last year. I have so much to share about her and will do so in a blog to come soon!

This year’s recipient was a young man. He is an aspiring engineer student and will attend the University of Arizona in the fall. His academic accomplishments, awards, leadership roles and community service spoke greatly about his drive and spirit. When my brother, Brian, saw that he played baseball it struck a sentimental place in his heart. My sister, Carie, loved his aspiration to become an engineer, it’s what my nephew would like to do do as well. So to say this candidate was chosen on his academic accomplishments alone would be untrue.

I called him the other day to ask permission to share about him on my blog. I was curious to talk to him, and honestly less than a minute into the conversation, it took a lot to hold back the tears. He started out by telling me that he and his sister went to Homer Davis Elementary, and that his mom taught 3rd grade there for a lot of years before going back into Special Education at another school within the Flowing Wells District. He said she had actually come to Homer Davis not long after Vicki had died. And, although, we have not made any requirements that a student attend FWSD from elementary school through high school to be awarded the scholarship in memory of Vicki, it blew me away that again this year we would unknowingly pick a recipient that had. He said that he had spoken to his mom about Vicki and shared his appreciation that we would believe in him to award him this scholarship in her memory.

My mom flew down to present the award to this years winner, Nathan Syers. We are honored to help such an amazing young individual again this year. We look forward to following you as you make your dreams come true!!

Here is a video of the presentation of the 2nd Annual Vicki Lynne Memorial Scholarship!

Thank you to all you who have helped our family this possible! I wish I could explain how deeply touched my heart is to honor Vicki in such a positive way and to help Nathan & Anisa make their dreams become their reality!

The last chapter…

An Opening Brief was filed by the defense in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit yesterday. 

The original file date was June 12, 2014 delayed to November 21, 2014, delayed again to March 12, 2015 and finally filed on May 11, 2015.  

It took almost 11 months to produce 99 pages arguing technicalities and reasons why Frank Atwood should not be put to death. Imagine the money the tax payers have spent in 333 days just for this brief? 

I am so relieved to have some sort of forward motion again…  for my parents, for my siblings, for my children, for my family, our friends… for our community.

But, I have to be completely honest here… I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that people actually get paid to defend a monster like Atwood. I know this may sound silly, but I can not imagine the time and man power it took to put together 99 pages of this crap!

And now… how many hours it will take the State of Arizona to rebut this…

On September 17,1984, Atwood hit my sissy with his car while she was riding her bike home from her best friends house. He drove with her in his car to the desert not far from our home and I can not fathom the fear she experienced on that ride. He sexually assaulted her. And, he didn’t kill her the first time, I know Vicki’s last words still haunt and puzzle him today… He would eventually bury her in a shallow grave in the desert… 207 days later only parts of her precious little body were found… placed in a small box and given to my parents to lay to rest. 

And more than 30 years later we are fighting him on technicalities. Nothing will change the fact that he brutally murdered this little girl in 1984. And I am confident that this brief will be the start of the last chapter in this book that has had no ending or justice for this beautiful little girl. 

Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, 4

Don’t forget Vicki Lynne.