Tuesday, December 3, 2013

One Year Later

It's hard to believe that it has already been a year since we did the Four Whittle Trees at the Festival of Trees. What a crazy-busy time it was, a culmination of an entire year of planning and preparing and decorating. We had at least one Christmas tree up in our front room as early as the end of July that year - and two by the middle of October.

This year, we waited to put up our Christmas tree until around Thanksgiving-time. Just like everyone else.

Tonight was auction night again at the Festival of Trees and it was weird being there this year. I almost missed not having done a tree. Almost. Thinking about it, I'm not sure I would even want to do it again - at least not the same way we did it last year.

Doing the Four Trees was a very special time for me. It was a time for healing. It was a time to remember and honor an entire family whose lives were cut way too short. It was a time to count my blessings. It was a time for selfless acts of kindness. It was a time for close friends. It was a time for family.

It was the first time that my entire surviving immediate family was able to come together since the funerals and do something together. Sure it was stressful and sure there were times when I wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew. But everyone pulled together and the results were amazing.

But this year was different. This year we were just at the Festival of Trees as spectators not participants. We walked down the row where our trees were last year. Some else's trees were there. It just wasn't the same. It was emotional.

Wait - I forgot. Not all of us were just spectators.

Mom made 40 hats to donate to the Festival of Trees for them to sell in their little Craft/Gift Store. Vicki had made similar hats to donate to children in need and Mom wanted to continue the tradition. Each hat is unique and was made with love. She is an amazing woman - always looking out for others instead of herself. She is a great example to me and my family.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Auction Night

Auction Night at the Festival of Trees.

It was awesome.

It was actually fun to see people crowding around trying to bid on our trees. It was neat to stand back and listen to people as they commented back and forth over our efforts. Some people thought the trees were simply beautiful. One person commented that the trees were not tall enough for their front room. Several people liked the tree with the spinning airplanes. All of the trees, except one, received multiple bids. One of them was the focus of a bidding war that made us all drop our jaws at the final tally.

But by the end of the evening each one had found a new home. And that was the ultimate goal of all this.

Through all of the planning and execution, my biggest fear was - what if the trees don't sell. Are they good enough that complete strangers would want to buy them for hundreds, or even thousands of dollars?

Well, tonight proved to us once and for all that the trees were good enough.

And now the trees will be able to stand together for the next few days and thousands of people will get the chance to come and see them up close and see for themselves. They will be able to see for themselves how cool Vicki, Randy, Brittany and MacLean were - how they still are. And that's what this is all about.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Decorating Day

We made it! After almost a year of preparation, we finally made it to decorating day.

We got up before the sun, loaded up then headed out bright and early to the South Town Expo Center. We had already loaded up the trees in the back of the truck the Saturday before. When I got there just after seven, the truck had already arrived and Evan's dad was in the process of unloading. By the time we got the trees unloaded, everyone else was arriving.

We had an army of help. My brother Glen and his family flew in from Jefferson City, Missouri to help out. My sister Misti was here from South Carolina. We were so glad to have her here.

They joined my sister Wendi and her husband, Evan Frederickson who were in charge of Brittany's and Randy's trees; along with their children and one of Evan's nieces, as well as Mom and our neighbors the Jensen's who all worked their magic to make today as successful as it was.

I want to thank all of my friends at FOX 13 News, including Bob Evans, Hope Woodside and Renai Bodley, and especially Scott McKane and Doug Eldredge who came down to help us tell our story.

To see the story please visit the FOX 13 News website.


The trees turned out fantastic. Much nicer than I hoped they would be. In the coming days we will highlight each of the trees a little bit more.

Tomorrow night is the opening night and auction. It will be the first time I have been able to go. It will be neat to see how much the trees will go for. Of course, it will be tempting to bid on one of them, but if I did that, I would have to bid on all four of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Day Before

It's a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and while many of you are putting up your Christmas trees, we just took ours down.

The front room seems empty now. We've had a Christmas tree up since the end of July. We've had two up since probably September. We've decorated it and re-decorated it at least a dozen times - trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. Now, on the day before Decorating Day for the Festival of Trees, we think we are ready.

Yesterday we took all four Whittle trees over to a warehouse in Salt Lake City to reinforce them according to the Festival rules.

We put piece of PVC pipe in the base of the each tree and clamped a six and a half foot piece of rebar
to each of them. Normally, this step is done at the South Towne Expo Center on Decorating Day, but since we had four trees to deal with, we wanted to get it done early so that we could focus on the decorating part on Monday.

We also used self-tapping screws to secure each section of the tree to each other.

This is actually the first time all four trees have been up in the same room at the same time.

After they were ready, we loaded them up into the back of a truck for transport.

Then Mom took the whole family out to eat at Buca Di Beppo's where we ordered more food than we could possibly eat.

So, that's it. We are almost ready to do this.

Almost a year of preparation and it has all come down to this.

We will be at the South Towne Expo Center tomorrow morning as close to 7am as we can be.

Let's do this.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Weeks To Go

We are down to two weeks until decorating day for the Festival of Trees.

Lucinda spent most of the evening tonight putting the final touches on Vicki's Tree. It looks awesome, better than I had hoped it would be. We are close on MacLean's Tree also. From what I've seen from Wendi's place, Randy's and Brittany's Trees will be just as spectacular.

Now we need to take it all down and pack it up so we can put it back together at the Festival.

Randy's birthday was November 9th. He is exactly one month older than me.

It's weird to think all that has happened this past 15 months. Our lives changed that Sunday afternoon in August.

I'll never forget it.

I was in the backyard when I heard Lucinda call out to me. I could tell in her voice that something was very wrong. She had picked up the phone when it rang. On the other end of the line was the West Jordan Police Department. Something had gone wrong with the plane. It crashed. No one survived.

My first thought was my mom. We had to get to her. She was only a few blocks away. A quick phone call to a friend was made so that they could watch our children, and then Lucinda and I were off.

The next five hours were full of phone calls and lots of hugs and a lot of disbelief. It was so unreal. We lost them - all four of them.

Now it's November of 2012.

The holidays are coming back around. It's still weird. Every couple of years Vicki and Randy would make a point to come and visit us for the holidays. In a way, they are coming home to visit us this year.

They may not be with us physically this Christmas Season, but we will be able to feel of their spirit. Just working on these Four Trees all year long has allowed us to grow closer to them - grow closer as a family.

In two weeks - Glen and his family and Misti will be here to join Wendi's family and my family along with Mom and some choice friends of ours - to honor Vicki and Randy, Brittany and MacLean with a way to give something back. It's a chance to make of their tragedy something positive and good.

It all comes together in just two weeks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fill This Space

This is the size of the space we need to fill - per tree

This weekend, Lucinda cleared out part of the front room and taped off a 9 feet by 7 feet area in the carpet. According to the Festival of Trees website, this is the size of the area we have to fill for each of the four trees we are doing. If you think about it, it can be kind of intimidating - that's a pretty big space. As you can see, the tree takes up only a smart part of it. So what on earth are we going to put in the rest of the space?

OK, calm down, Dow. We do have a few ideas.

And it's not like we have to fill every single square inch.

We can, and we probably will - eventually. That will be the fun part.

One of the things we are going to use to fill the space reserved for Vicki's tree is this beautiful brown afghan that Mom Webb made. When we first came up with the idea to do the trees for the Whittle Family, Mom right away decided that she wanted to do something special - something that she could add that was uniquely hers. It took her weeks to finish it but I know that she loved every stitch. We would come over to visit her at her house or she would come and visit us and she would always have it with her. She would proudly bring it out to show us her progress. First it was the size of a small wash cloth, then about the size of a scarf. By the time it was as big as a bath towel she had to carry it in a tote bag. Now it's big enough to fit on a queen sized bed. It's a labor of love that's almost too good to give away.

Trees are up at the Frederickson home
 And just to show that we aren't the only ones crazy enough to have Christmas trees up in the middle of October - let me show you this photo from my sister, Wendi's Facebook page. They are trying out ideas for Randy and Brittany's trees and I can't wait to see what they've got.

And speaking of Brittany - today would have been her 15th birthday. We miss her so much that it hurts. It's days like this - little milestones along the way - when we realize how much we have been blessed to have them be a part of our lives, and how much it still hurts to know that they are no longer with us.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Merry HallowThanksMas!

Visitiors to our house are really confused.

Not only do we have two Christmas trees in our front room - one traditional green, the other flocked - but we also put up some Halloween decorations this evening. Not to mention, tonight we had turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing for dinner.

It's like we've managed to shove three totally unrelated holidays into one fun-filled evening.

Yesterday, Lucinda and I went with Wendi and Evan and Mom over to Primary Children's Hospital for the Festival of Trees Decorator's Workshop. http://www.festivaloftreesutah.org/

We got to meet Francis Morgan, the chair over the large trees. We have been able to talk to her over the phone and by e-mail but this was our first face to face meeting. We also attended a power point presentation that offered some tips on how to decorate and strengthen the trees so that they don't break when they are delivered.

They told us that we have to secure a piece of rebar along the trunk of the trees as well as a long piece of PVC pipe inside the trunk to help prevent the trees from snapping in half. Now before they said this, having a tree snap in half has never been a concern of mine - now it has become my worst nightmare.

But instead of dwelling over the horrors of what could happen, we went shopping for decorations for the trees. I think Mom had a good time. It was the first time I had the chance to go shopping with her and with Wendi and Evan. It sounds like everyone is getting into it and there are some good ideas out there. Now we just need to put it all together.

In the meantime, we are getting our costumes ready for Halloween, while going through boxes of Christmas decorations. By the way, is there any white meat left?