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?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Fifth Tree

Emily scopes out the possibilities

It's October.

We've got less than 2 months to get ready for this.

We think we are off to a good start. We've got most of the materials we need for Vicki's tree and we are well on our way getting the stuff ready for MacLean's tree. Lucinda has been scouring the internet - looking at E-Bay and Amazon and several other sites to find the perfect ornaments and decorations. We've been to stores across the Salt Lake valley - Hobby Lobby, Tai-Pan, Taiwan Imports - my sister Wendi even went to Sprinkler World to look for stuff. She is working on Randy's and Brittany's trees. Lucinda and I recently went to Modern Display where we think we've found the two flocked trees we have been looking for.

It's the one in the middle (we'll need two of them)

And we think we've found the tree skirt we want for MacLean's tree.

It's silver - just perfect for the theme.

And just when we thought we were getting a handle on things, Emily says that she wants to do her own tree for Brittany.

OK, she's actually had this idea for a while. She has been having a hard time this past year - as we all have - and she still gets emotional when she thinks about missing Brittany. Lucinda and I think that by doing a little tree of her own, it will help Emily get through this. So it looks like she will get her wish. 

Yesterday she and I went on-line to register her "small tree" on the Festival of Trees website. She has a theme all picked out and knows exactly how she wants the tree to look.

So it looks like we will have a fifth tree.

I'm starting to get excited. Glen and Kay and their family is planning on coming in from Missouri to help us decorate the trees over the Thanksgiving holiday. Misti is flying in from South Carolina (or is it North?). That reminds me, we need to find a ticket for her to get out here. With Wendi, me and Mom, that means all of us will be together with our families (we're still hoping Parker can make it) to put all of this together.

Less than two weeks to go until the Decorator's Workshop put on by the Festival of Trees. Time is starting to move fast on us. It's time to get busy.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

It's September! Where's all the Christmas Stuff?

That's right. I've turned into one of those guys.

You know, the person who buys Christmas ornaments on the very day they become available at Walmart or Costco or the $1 Store down the street. The person that causes the stores stock up on their Christmas fluffery earlier and earlier each year. You know who I'm talking about. You've seen them. You know them. You loathe them.

Normal people are focused on back-to-school shopping, or maybe a last-minute summer BBQ now that Labor Day has passed. There are even some who are getting an early start on finding that perfect Halloween decoration that will have all of the neighbor kids wanting to knock on their door.

But not me.

I'm way past all of that.

I have one focus.

When will the stores start stocking their freaking Christmas stuff? Come on - it's almost half past September. Get on with it!

Oh, there are a few places that have gotten on the ball. I've been to them. Hobby Lobby had a few Christmas baubles out the second week of August. Costco has dedicated a couple of aisles to holiday wrapping paper and huge outdoor lighted reindeer. But that's not enough.

I want more.

Lucinda and I went to Tai Pan last weekend to see if their flocked trees were in yet. There was one employee, covered in flock, who had already set out a dozen sample trees - a few of them flocked - but not the one we needed. Is it too much to ask for a 7 and half foot flocked tree to be ready for me to buy by Labor Day? Is it?

You know, I wasn't always like this.

I used to be much like you - not even thinking about Christmas until the Thanksgiving turkey was just a happy memory. I mean, we've still got to get through Halloween, we've still got to get through Thanksgiving, we've still got to get through Pearl Harbor Day...

But this year it's different.

This year we've got an excuse (four excuses to be exact) to be on the look-out for Christmas decorations - and I fear that I may be carrying it a bit too far.

Remember that Christmas tree that we put up in our front room? The one that was only supposed to be up for a few days so that we could try out some of the decorations on it? It's still in my front room. If you drive by, you can still catch it all lit up right in front of the window.

Look closely, there it is.

I'll take it down. I promise.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Is Why We Are Doing This

The Whittle Family gravesite at the Oakley Cemetary, Oakley, Idaho

It's been a year since we lost them.

It was Sunday, August 14th, 2011 at about 2:35 in the afternoon. The Whittle's had just finished a visit to see family in Oakley, Idaho, and were on their way to attend BYU's Education Week in Provo, Utah. Vicki and Randy had just loaded their two children, MacLean (16) and Brittany (13) into their single engine plane at the Burley Airport, waved good-bye to Randy's parents and then proceeded to take off.

Just as the plane started to gain altitude, something went wrong. It banked hard to the left and witnesses at the scene say it looked as if the plane was attempting to return to the airport. Instead it went down - hitting  hard on the highway - leaving a deep gash in the road. It struck a nearby railroad line, bending the rail and then it crashed a few feet later, bursting into flames.

Lucinda and I got a phone call sometime around 5:30 that evening. It was from the West Jordan Police Department. They were already at Mom's apartment, giving her the bad news. I'll never forget the feeling I had the moment I found out what had happened. We immediately called some friends and asked them to watch Ben and Emily while we hurried over to be with Mom.

The next 24 hours was so busy. I was on the phone almost the whole time, calling my brother Glen in Missouri, gathering information from the Coroner's office in Idaho, talking to Randy's family - all the while trying make sense of everything. We came home late in the evening and broke the news to the kids. We all cried. It was the worst day of my life.
Visting the crash site Saturday, August 11th, 2012
We were able to go as a family to re-visit the crash site this past Saturday. It was the first time that Misti's daughter, Parker was able to see it. The burn scar is long gone, but you can still smell the oil left behind and you can still find small pieces of the plane wreckage scattered around.

This button was found at the crash site on August 15th, 2011. It was Brittany's. She had received it at a recent LDS Youth Conference. It was one of two buttons she had with her in the plane.

This was the second button that Brittany had with her. It was found at the crash site one year later.

We were also able to visit the gravesite at the Whittle Family plot in the Oakley Cemetary. We had a wreath made with a banner that read, "Forever a Family."

It's still hard, even after a year.

We all still miss each one of them very much.

Last year, while we attended the Festival of Trees, little Emily noticed that each tree at the festival was dedicated in honor of someone who had died. She asked why we hadn't made a tree for Brittany or MacLean. Since we didn't have an answer for her, we figured we needed to do something about it. It was then that the decision was made to do a tree for each of them. One tree for the whole family wouldn't work. Each person needed their own tree.

This is why we are doing this. This is why we are doing the Four Trees.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Why is Your Christmas Tree Up Already?"

The neighbors see this in our front room window and are texting Lucinda to find out what is going on.

Let me explain.

It's not that we are trying to be the first in our neighborhood to have our Christmas tree up. In fact, we have a rule in our home (well, actually it's more of a guideline) that we don't put the tree up until after Thanksgiving. So, the fact that there is a Christmas tree currently in our front room in July is highly unusual.

In fact, it's the first time ever.

Back to the explanation.

We got the four trees back last December; they were the last four trees of their kind on sale at the After Christmas Sale at Target. They were all factory sealed in the box and there was no "sample tree" on display to give us an idea of the colors or the textures of the branches or anything. So, we snapped them up anyways. Now, I'm normally pretty particular about my fake trees. You know how some of them on the market can look pretty cheap. We were hoping that because the retail price on these trees was pretty high, that they would turn out to be the better quality of fake trees. The only way to know for sure would be to open one and set it up.

So that's what we did.

I put it up late Saturday night and at first I was disappointed. I was pretty sure that we had bought the crappy, cheap looking trees. Out of the box, the tree looked like a cat that had just been though the washing machine - everything was matted down and stuck together and the needles were not at all what I was expecting. But after some careful work separating the branches and twisting here and turning there it started to look a little better.

My sister, Wendi, and her family came up from Provo this past Sunday. They just got back from a charity trip to Haiti, and we decided it would be a good time to invite them over to see the pictures from their trip. They also brought up some of the ornaments and decorations that they had planned for Brittany and Randy's trees. Lucinda and I brought out the boxes of decorations we had for Vicki and MacLean's trees and we all shared ideas.

Lucinda took the tree that we set up in our living room and tried some garland and ribbons and other ornaments on it just to see how it all looks together. One side of the tree was decked out in the theme for Vicki's tree, the other side was decked out for MacLean's.

We found that we liked the colors we had picked for Vicki's tree better than we had previously thought. There was some concern that they would not look good on the tree. We also like the colors for MacLean's tree although we may add a third color to give it some more depth.

We did have a major concern with MacLean and Brittany's trees. We may have to buy two flocked trees. Do they even make fake flocked trees? We looked on-line to see about flocking the trees we already have, and it's possible, but it may include taking off lights and I really don't want to do that. It sounds way too complicated. So we may be in the market for a couple of seven and a half foot flocked trees now.

But, in the mean time we need to take the Christmas tree out of our front room. It's still way too early to have one up.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We Got Our Spots.

Now we know where our trees are going to be.

We got an e-mail Saturday afternoon from Frances Morgan, Large Tree Chairwoman for the Festival of Trees. We got the spots we had asked for. We are on Row O - Vicki's Tree will get space O-04; Brittany's Tree is next to her on space O-6; MacLean's is next on O-8; and Randy's Tree is going to be on O-10. Here's a link to the Festival of Trees Map so you can see where they will be.


We were hoping for one of the trees to be on the end - at O-2, but I am OK with where we are at.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Submissions Are In!

The Submissions Are In!

Tonight, Mom and I went onto the Festival of Trees website and submitted the application information for all Four Trees. I hope we did it right. Just to be sure, I sent a quick e-mail to Frances Morgan - she is the Chairperson for the Large Trees this year. I had called her up earlier in the week to let her know who I was and that we were planning on donating four trees this year. She was very nice on the phone and let us know that she would help us out in any way she could.

I realize that it may be early to start thinking about Christmas - heck we are more than 5 months away from Christmas morning (and 129 days away from the Festival of Trees) but we wanted to get the applications in as soon as possible in the hopes that we could arrange to have the Four Trees placed next to each other at the Festival. Frances made it sound like it would not be a problem as long as we sent in the applications early. She told me she had room for about 300-350 trees this year and she already had about 50 submissions. I guess we aren't the only ones thinking about the holidays in July.

The picture I posted above is three of the Four Trees we will be using (the other one is on the other side of the garage). Lucinda and Mom Webb picked them up for about 50% off at the West Jordan Target store the day after last Christmas. At about the same time, my sister Wendi was off at the Orem Target (or was it Provo?) picking up all kinds of ornaments and decorations and wrapping paper. Now we need to go through all of the stuff we have and see what exactly we have.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome to the Four Trees Blog

Welcome to the Four Trees Blog

    We have never done anything like this before.
    Are we crazy?
    Probably, but we are going to do it anyways.
    We are going to donate four Christmas trees to the 2012 Festival of Trees.
    Four trees in honor of my sister, Vicki (Webb) Whittle and her husband, Randy - and their two children, MacLean and Brittany. We lost all of them last year in a plane crash in Burley, Idaho. It was a devastating blow to our family - we have literally been on a roller-coaster ride of emotions this past year as we continue to find ways to deal with it all.
    One of the things we have decided as a family is that we want to continue the legacy that they started. They were big into enjoying life together. The photo shown above is from a trip to Hawaii they were able to go on just a couple of months before the accident.
    They also were very giving. Whether it was their time or their talents or whatever they had - the Whittles were always wlling to lend a hand. It was something that was dear to Vicki's heart - she wanted her children to grow up knowing how fortunate they were, while at the same time knowing how important it was to help out others. Vicki worked with a couple of charities that we know of. She helped out a local boys ranch near her home in Clairemont, California and she helped make hats for children in Mexico undergoing surgery.  
    We as a family wanted to do something to continue the work that the Whittles had started. We have a few ideas in the works - for example Wendi is leaving on Tuesday to do some work at an orphanage in Haiti.
    So, here we go. There is so much work to do. We already have a good start. We have the trees, we have some of the decorations and we have some ideas on how everything is going to look once it's done. This year the Festival kicks off on November 27th, so that gives us just over four months to pull this all together.
    Let's do it.