Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: My up close and personal experience!!

So, the long awaited post (well mainly Denise is probably the only one waiting for it! hehe!) is finally here! Hold on to your hats, this is going to be a long one.

For those of you who don't know, I was given an awesome chance of a lifetime. I have a wonderful friend, Cherie. Her father's name is Joe Hurston. He was chosen by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to receive a brand new home!! Joe is part of an awesome group called Air Mobile Ministries. His main goal is to bring clean, fresh water to places of the world who don't have access to it. He created a water purification system called the "Voyager" that he manufactures and brings all over the world. He and his team are always one of the first responders to natural disasters. He is heavily involved in anything having to do with Haiti and played a big part in helping out after the earthquake over a year ago.

A while ago, his house had a huge plumbing issue that eventually forced him and his 3 kids still living at home (he has 8 kids total) to a tiny mobile home. They didn't have any money to put into fixing their home so they were at an impasse. Cherie helped them submit a video to EMHE and after an 8-month application and interview process, they were chosen!!! It was such a thrill for them and for our community to be able to be a part of such an incredible experience. When I heard about the house, I wanted to help and be involved right away, but I had no idea how that would happen when there aren't enough hours in the day to get my normal day-to-day responsibilities taken care of. Well, with a lot of HELP (thank you Dad, Mom, in-laws and awesome neighbors for watching the kids so much!), I actually became quite involved.
Original house being demolished

So, it all started with me mentioning to Matt that I wanted to volunteer somehow and he said he wanted me to try to figure out if I could get our young-adult church, the Mezzanine, involved as a group. I signed us up on-line, but never received an answer, but fortunately I had the inside track and so I placed a call to Cherie to see if she could get us involved. Cherie is one of those people who can make a rock give her water in the desert. She is the most go-getting, get things done, amazing person I know. She never takes no for an answer and really truly loves people so it makes it the perfect blend of a person. I just love her. She got in touch with the producer right away and said she'd get back to me.

Lo and behold she gets back to me and tells me that they want us to help with Joe's plane. He has a little Cessna plane that he uses to transport the Voyagers to Haiti and other locations around the world. His plane is not in the best of shape and needed some major updating. The show ended up putting over $130,000 into Joe's plane alone. They got him a state-of-the-art navigation system and are adding more fuel tanks so he can have enough fuel to make some longer trips in the future. They also wanted to give the exterior a facelift which is what we were involved in. More on that later in the post.

I was asked to get 40+ volunteers and coordinate all of them into 10 per 4-hour slot in a 24-hour time period. Easier said than done. We made the announcement Sunday night at our service and we had 50 people sign up! Everyone was very excited to be a part of such a wonderful project. Now, you would think that a show like EMHE would be SUPER organized and have all the logistics worked out down to the second, but NO. Some of the processes were incredibly unorganized and SO last minute that it made it really difficult to get an accurate timeline out of anyone on what they needed from me. This was Sunday and Monday.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Cherie called me up and asked if I wanted to come check out the building site with her and her VIP guest pass. Are you kidding me? Of course I did! She mentioned that Paige (one of the designers) was craving some homemade brownies and the production team wanted to try some authentic fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice. So, I picked up some OJ from Harvey's Groves (at $7.95 a gallon-it better be good) and whipped up some brownies. I made one batch homemade (never have I made them before so I was pretty nervous) and I made a batch a la Betty Crocker too (just in case my homemade ones were nasty!!) To make me even more nervous, I was in the middle of a sugar fast and couldn't even TRY the brownies I made. I had Cherie try them right before we handed them over though and she said they were good. :)

We arrived at the site and handed over the goods to the director who put them in Paige's trailer because she was offsite doing interviews. Then Cherie gave me a tour of everything. You just can't even imagine what all goes into making this show a success. They have trailer upon trailer and all the stuff it takes to make it happen spread over an entire block radius...which means that they have to get approval from all of the neighbors to use their property. Apparently, right off the bat, they offer to re-sod anyone's lawn that they use, but some of the neighbors held out for more and one of them got a brand new fence (and possibly some cash in hand) out of the deal.
 Cherie being interviewed by the FL Today. Me in the background

View from inside the VIP tent

We walked around and saw the the huge food tents, the designer's trailers where they get ready, the production area and then stumbled onto a scene being shot with one of the designers, Michael. They let us stay and watch and wow, were my eyes opened. I must say I have the book smarts, but I sure can be gullible. Matt has always tried to tell me that reality shows are not reality. Yeah, I get it now! I always thought, laugh if you must, that the designers actually did a lot of work on the rooms they were designing. Uh, no. The scene we watched them shoot involved Michael "helping" to carry a piece of furniture to a group of volunteers and he was directing them on what to do with it. They shot the scene three times and he had LINES to say! I was just shocked. Oh, and he totally was pretending to carry the furniture. LOL! I saw it with my own eyes. Matt is happy I will finally believe him. :) After they shot the scene, I got a picture with Michael and he said my shirt was pretty. haha.

On our way back to the car, we stopped at the massage tables. Yes, a massage business came and set up their tables under the trees for anyone there to stop by and get a quick massage. Cherie and I took advantage of that for 10 minutes and then headed out.

That night, Cherie invited us back out to the site (Matt's first visit) for dinner! They had been going out there for every meal to eat because there was just so much food that was donated. So, we said, absolutely! This was the house at that point (Tues evening).

Back to coordinating the plane volunteers, when I finally received the information I needed, I had less than 12 hours to get people set for the first shift. I made more phone calls and sent more texts back and forth than I have ever in all my life combined. I got most of the slots filled starting at 8 AM and going through 8 AM the following day. At 11:19 PM, I received a text saying there was a change of plans and the plane would not be available for us to work on until NOON! Had to contact my 8 AM shift and make sure they didn't end up at the airport with no plane to work on and that was just the beginning...

Arrived at the airport at noon on Wednesday, which was now the first shift, and discovered another way that reality TV is just not reality. Like I said before, they wanted to give the exterior a facelift, but there wasn't time to properly paint the plane and have it ready for the reveal which was the very next day (Thursday) so the decision was made to wrap the plane. When I told people we were wrapping the plane, I received the following reactions: "You're wrapping it like with a bow and paper?" and "You're rapping about the plane? How is that going to help the exterior?" (they thought it was like a rap music video!) No, in fact, wrapping is actually done by graphics companies usually for advertising for vehicles, boats, etc. They use a vinyl paper with adhesive backing and in the end, it actually looks like the product has been painted! Now, get how ridiculous this is. It cost $5000 and lots of free labor in 19 straight hours to wrap the plane to make it LOOK like it was painted. The very next day, I was asked to recruit volunteers to tear all of the wrap OFF so that they could actually paint it. Crazy, right?

So, all in all I spent many hours there at the airport getting everyone to sign the appropriate waivers, giving directions and making sure everything ran smoothly. I left at about 10:15 PM that night and I asked the head guy on the project whether he wanted me to go ahead and have my 4 AM to 8 AM shift still come or whether he thought they'd be done. He said, oh, we will for sure be done by 4 AM so just call them off. I questioned the decision, but obviously, I am not the professional wrapper (yo, yo, yo), so I called them off. Thankfully my phone was on silent when I received a text message at 2:38 AM asking me to call the 4 AM shift back on. Not happening. Apparently, they didn't finish the plane until 7:30 AM and some of my awesome 12 AM-4 AM crew stayed on to the bitter end. The results of the wrap were amazing. It truly does look like the plane had a beautiful new coat of paint on it.

The next day, Thursday, was the plane reveal to the Hurston family. They knew they were getting a new house, but had no idea about the upgrades that were being done on the plane so everyone who had helped on the plane were invited back to the reveal which would be on camera. We were told to be there no later than 2:30 PM so we got there at 2 and waited and waited...and waited some more. Supposedly, the FAA was flipping out about there being too many cars and visitors in restricted areas so we had to wait for clearance before we could go in the gate

Move that plane, Cherie!

We were finally let in the gate and instructed to all hurry up and wait some more! The family would be there "any minute." They shot a couple play acting scenes where we were pretending to see the family drive up in the limo and we were screaming and cheering. Then they told us to look one direction and act like we were listening intently. Then the other direction. Then more fake cheering and screaming. At one point, the director asked for 5 volunteers to get in the limo so they could stage where Paige was going to stand and so she could practice her lines (yes, again with the lines!!). I am telling you-I was so cold that he mentioned the word volunteer and I was in that limo before he finished his sentence. Hysterically enough, Matt and Cherie were right there with me. I hadn't even looked around to see who else had volunteered so we cracked up when we all ended up in the limo.
Play acting
 So, we did the play acting with Paige. She gave us all hugs and I took that opportunity to tell her that I was the one who made the brownies for her. She gave me another big hug and said, oh those made me so happy! Whew-so glad to hear that. Now, I needed to figure out a way to get my pans back. More on that later.
 Oh yeah, they got the car too! A new 2011 Ford Explorer!!

In total, we were at the plane reveal in the bitter cold for over 4 hours. It was so stinking cold. 40 degrees, so windy, so not dressed appropriately. It took a good 15 minutes for my fingers to work properly when I got back in the car and I literally still felt cold to my core the next morning when I woke up!! Matt said the same thing so I promise I am not being dramatic. Joe and his family were very surprised to see the plane all spruced up and was so thrilled at the new navigation system above all else!

That night after we thawed out a bit, we went out to dinner with Cherie and her husband at Longhorn and then headed back out to the building site. Cherie was going to attempt to get us on a tour of the inside of the nearly completed house! This was what I wanted all along and I was thrilled at the prospect of it happening. Now, remember what I said about Cherie. She makes things happen so I had no doubt that we were getting in that house no matter what. At this point, they had a cop planted outside the house so when we walked up with our hard hats and blue volunteer shirts, we were still questioned as to what we were doing there. Cherie simply said, I am Joe's daughter, and we were in!

The house is just gorgeous. I don't have accurate words to describe it. It is a dream. Tune in on February 13th, ABC at 7 PM...or maybe it's 8 PM to see it for yourself. We walked into the kitchen and there was the Executive Producer himself, Brady. He is the top dog, the guy who has the final say in what family is chosen for the show. At first, I was like, oh man, this guy is going to kick us out. But, he was soooo nice. He knew Cherie already and saw that we were with her and didn't care at all. In fact, when he shook my hand, he said, you were at the plane reveal today, weren't you? I was confused because I knew he wasn't there, but apparently he had been watching the cameras back at the production trailer at the house to ensure that the cameramen got the right shots. Then he met Matt and said, you were there too, right? You two looked excellent on camera! I just about burst out laughing when he said that, because, like I said, it was so cold and windy that when I got in the car and looked in the mirror, I was horrified. My nose was so red (think Rudolph) and my hair was a windblown rat's nest. I knew they had put the camera right in my face when I was fake cheering so I was like, oh great!!! To hear the exec producer say we looked OK was awesome and hilarious all at the same time.

We headed home that night recounting the fun of it all and saying as amazing as it was, we sure were glad our part was over. Or so we thought.
A picture Cherie took before they "moved that bus"

After being involved in the plane reveal and getting to see the house in its finished state, I really had no desire to go to the "move that bus" portion on Friday. I knew it would be lots of standing around and waiting again in the cold and I felt fulfilled with the experience I had had thus far. Plus, I missed seeing my kids!! So, we spent a relaxing day together on Friday at home. At about 2 PM, I texted Cherie to see how it was going and she said they were still waiting, but asked me to call her. She then invited us to a private party at the house that night. How could I resist that? Our wonderful neighbors offered to watch the boys for us until my dad came home and took over so we went!

We arrived and were told to go wait in the food tent until we were called. Forget that. I learned a lot from Cherie in the past week and so we snuck our way out of the food tent and back around the darkness of the production trailers to find Cherie and everyone else. On our way, one of the producers saw us and asked us if we were busy (which we were busy-sneaking around). We said, no we weren't busy and so he threw some blue shirts at us and told us to go inside the house because they needed some people to be in a few last scenes they were taping. Exhilarated, we looked at each other and broke into huge grins! We rushed in the house, pulling the shirts over our clothes as we walked- which by the way, I had a dress on and so I look like a real doofus with the shirt over my dress-and walked in the house and they started taping. First we did a scene with Michael putting the final touches on the house and hanging the last picture (of course it was all fake and we shot it 4 times).

Thursday night

Then I asked if they needed any more help and I was asked to go do a scene in the kitchen. Did that and figured we might as well wait around to be available if needed and all of a sudden, Ty Pennington walked in and sat right next to where I was standing. I had been hoping to see him at some point because my dad wanted me to tell him something. As nervous as I was, I took the chance when he said something to me first. He said, you sure are patient waiting around here. I just replied with, it's fun! What else is there to do? Then I said, I have to tell you something. My dad is a missionary in Kenya...he is home in Florida right now and is actually watching my kids...and he only gets one or two channels. Of the shows they get, one of them is your show (EMHE)! He was very kind and said, wow, it must be really weird for people in Kenya to watch these Americans getting such big, beautiful houses. I agreed and then he started asking how many kids I had and how old they were, etc. It was cool.

I was then told to go upstairs and do some more scenes with Eduardo, another designer. They didn't need any male volunteers anymore so Matt went to find Cherie. We shot some more finishing touches, last minute scenes that they needed. I pretended to dust something, then pretended to straighten the bed and screw on a cymbal to the drum set that was in the son's room. Again, all staged, but very fun too. After that, they were all set and so I went outside to try to find Matt and Cherie and hopefully the party with the food! Neither of us had eaten because we figured the party would have some food. We were so wrong. The "party" was actually the taping of the last scene where Ty says "Welcome home Hurston Family, Welcome Home" so we were pretty hungry, but decided this was again another chance we couldn't pass up. A whole lot more waiting and film shooting went on and we were on our way at about 9:30 PM. Matt and I decided that if we are not on camera somewhere in the show at least once, then we don't know HOW to get on camera. :) In fact, the editors are probably going to say, why are these people in so many scenes and then cut us all out. They better not. Or else I'll sic Cherie on them. LOL

Oh, oh. On the way back to our car I realized I really wanted my brownie pans back. So, we are again sneaking around all the trailers and we run into Eduardo and his assistant. We explained what we were looking for and they told us what trailer to look in. Success! Got my pans back. :) Paige so can afford to buy her own. We thanked Eduardo and I asked him to take a picture with me. Another success. He is like 6'6" by the way. it's kind of blurry. Oh well.

All in all, it was a fabulous experience that I am so thankful for, but do you wanna know the truth? As glamourous as I thought it all was, I really love my life. I love being a stay-at-home mom to my two precious boys. I love homeschooling my boys. I love not having to work outside of my home and miss out on my kids' day-to-day life. I love having time with my husband. I really got a taste of how life would be if I had to be gone every single day of the week and I realized how blessed and grateful I truly am for the life that I have. It was really fun though and since it was once in a lifetime-I can handle that. :)

These little guys are my reality and I love it!!


denise said...

love love love!!! You crack me up that you thought the designers actually did all that work :) Thanks for posting, I can't wait to see it!!!

jesshoward said...

Yo Yo Yo! Thanks for posting :) I enjoyed reading it all!

Heather said...

this was really neat to read about! thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

hey jess,

how fun! i'm kind of between you and matt - i know it's reality tv and the designers don't do near as much as it looks like, but i would have thought they would be more involved than it sounds like they were. but that does answer my question as to how paige can paint a room and look like she's ready to go out for the evening, because when i paint, i end up looking like i fell in the bucket. :D the thing that gets me is the wrapping of the plane. really?? gosh - how much money they must spend on show after show doing things like that.

it will be fun to watch the show with all the behind-the-scenes info!


Jillian Rose said...

I loved reading this! It was so funny and entertaining. I liked reading all your different perspectives. I'm so glad you had this experience. Fun!