The Reality of Reality TV
"Hey Julia! How's it going? Just got some pictures in from the house; looks great! Unfortunately the staging isn't going to work in the kitchen & dining. With all the unfinished walls downstairs it just isn't believable & doesn't make sense with what we have going. If you don't mind pushing it all out of the way here real quick we have cameras that are getting ready to shoot. Thanks so much! Hope you have a great day."
Tears were already welling up in my eyes as I ended the call. I turned to a corner and pretended to check my phone as I brushed away the few drops that had already escaped down my cheek. The house was filled with just under a half-dozen production members, and I didn't want to make things more awkward then they already were.
Six weeks of intense DIY efforts had proceeded this day and I knew that I was in no emotional or physical shape to fully compute what was being asked of me. I reminded myself of this probably a hundred times as I hurriedly removed all the carefully placed decor I had literally spent ALL night/morning lovingly & strategically placing to help distract from the half-done kitchen we would be showing to “open house guests" on camera later that day.
“You’re overreacting...It’s no big deal...I mean how done does a kitchen without paint and appliances look anyway?”
Over and over I told myself these things trying to make the nausea in the pit of my stomach go away.
But it didn’t.
My hands were raw, bloodied and battered from two consecutive 90hr work weeks spent in a freezing 40 degree house. Trying so desperately to get three rooms to the point of paint and finish work for the production company who was coming to film our “finished” flip and wanting at shoot at least a few “complete” rooms.
The tears wouldn’t stop.
We had given this project everything we had, and yet it still didn't seem to be "enough." We didn't have enough spaces done, and even the spaces that were "done" were without paint on the walls & trim and only had about 50% of the trim even up, not to mention a half-dozen other finishing projects that there simply wasn't time for. (Mostly because we REFUSED to sacrifice the quality of our product for some show that would only be aired for a short twenty minutes of our lives.)
To most this probably doesn't seem it should be a big deal, and in the grand scope of life I know that it really isn't; but when you are trying to launch a career in interior design and get a call from New York asking you to push the staging you put your heart and soul into aside...you might just cry a little too.
(Some of you may be completely in the dark of what is even going on at this point, so let me back up for just a minute.)
In April of this year, Jon and I received a phone call from my brother, Josh, saying that he had applied for the three of us to be cast for an episode on a house flipping reality TV show, and that the production company would be calling to interview him in a few minutes.
"Umm ok...?" I said. Not a super big fan of reality TV or being in front of a camera, I was pretty hesitant. The three of us already had full schedules to say the least, and we had just added a massive flip project to boot. The last thing we needed was another "thing" to be yanking our leash. In the end, the only way I said that I would consent to proceeding with this ridiculousness is if this whole film thing would be done on OUR timeline with OUR limitations.
And I was, of course, assured that yes and yes, it would be.
"On our own timeline" became perhaps the biggest joke of all. In early June, I received an email asking me if I thought we were still on track for our timeline to be done in October....because If we weren't, then there was a good chance our episode "wouldn't make it." To which I replied with, "Well...we are barely past demo & are just starting on the outside with a whole new roof & windows...so I highly doubt it? Should we set up a conference call to chat about what plan of action should be taken? Because there is like an extremely slim chance we'll be anywhere close to being done before mid-November..." "Oh, it's no big deal," the production company re-assured me, "we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it." And there I left it, assuming it was actually "no big deal."
That's were I was dead wrong.
In July we began to try to schedule a date for the "re-build shoot" where a team comes out and shoots rebuild projects on the flip. Timing this shoot was hard because we had to have 5 different parts of the house in various stages of completion. We were to prep for tiling the bathroom, drywalling the bedroom, installing cabinets in the kitchen, flooring in the dining and gutters on the exterior. Considering the fact that we had completely gutted the entire house and were also starting all over with electrical, plumbing & HVAC - this was no small feat. (Looking back I honestly have no idea how we even got as far as we did in the timespan that we were given--our friends & family are truly miracle workers.) The original target date for this shoot was September, but as we approached the end of August, we realized how unrealistic that date actually was.
This time pushing back our date seemed to be a bit bigger of a deal, and New York decided we needed to have a conference call. (At this point I let Jon do most of the talking because I was so emotionally exasperated by the whole situation that I didn't want to say something I would later regret.)
"So when do you realistically think you'll be ready for this re-build shoot?" New York asked.
Jon replied, "Well as things are looking now, early November perhaps?"
"Unfortunately that won't work on our end. Love to give you more time, but we really have to wrap this epsiode by the end of October," said New York.
-second more painful pause-
"Umm....what happens if we don't make that?"
"Well we have to film something...."
At that point I remember Jon saying something about "We will do our best...and that's all I can promise." Followed by the typical, "Hey thanks man, you have a great day too, ok? Yeah, We'll chat later."
"SIX WEEKS??!?" I said when Jon got off the phone. "We have six weeks to get half of this house ready...I don't think even professionals working full-time on it could do that..."
Tears welled up for about the 200th time this year as I told him that I didn't know how that was even going to come close to happening. He reassured me with, "Hey, I said we'd do our best, and that's what counts right? Our best?"
It was in this moment I knew that God was using this situation to work a huge growth spurt in our lives. I couldn't see any way we could have gotten out of this untimely predicament, and I don't think we were meant to get out. I mean, obviously I am standing on the other side and I can tell you that we didn't get out.
We went THROUGH it. But only because God brought us through it.
Weeks of pounding our literal tearing flesh against the rocky mountain of impossible construction tasks proved to grow our faith immensely. Time and time again God proved himself faithful in provision, safety, and encouragement for our withering souls. We did not get all that we wanted in terms of time and productivity, or even safety, but I believe we got to exactly where God wanted us to be.
Thats right, after pouring over my pitiful emotions for the first half of this entry, I can honestly say that despite the fact the house looked nothing like I would have liked for it to look on national TV, I am 100% content with the place we got to, because we gave our best, and God knew that, and he has a greater plan for this whole scenario than I could even imagine.
If nothing else, the raw humility of having to show a half-finished home for a staged open-house while acting like it its totally normal for people to do construction this way...and then also pretend like it is a realistic option for us to sell it in this state was a slap in the gut enough to shake any remaining pride from our bones. (We're no Chip & Jo.)
And there my castle crumbled.
Filming was officially wrapped at about 50% completion, and the story line New York decided to take was that we had just decided to sell the house in a half-finished state because we didn't want it to sit on the market over the winter months. We were told to say that "all of the hard work is done--and leaving a few spaces unfinished will allow to the buyer to choose their finishes." (none of which is actually true)
Having to look into a camera and claim the story we had been given was quite possibly one of the most painful things I have ever done. I am a perfectionist & passionate about excellence in everything that I do. So to say that we were just going to "try to sell the house as it is and let the buyer do the rest" is something that I would NEVER dream of doing. Once you start something, you finish it. And you finish it well. That's just how it is.
To have to act like we were totally fine with just getting rid of our baby in that way was totally unthinkable. But reality is was that we had signed a contract, and that was the particular hand that was dealt.
The only thing left for us to do was to trust that God had planned for this to happen. That while trying to start up a home design business, we would be put on public display as the "crazy trio who has a twisted view on project order and decides to sell a half finished house." Great rep for branding a business, right? Ha.
In the end, however, I know that our future success doesn't lie in the hands of a representation portrayed on TV or media, but that it lies in our personal fulfillment of the ultimate mission God has given us--to share Him with those whom we have been surrounded. If we are actively seeking to love others by sharing what he has done for them, then we could perceivably utterly fail in every business venture we take, live in a cardboard box, have nothing but the clothes on our backs and still be as successful as the most wealthy and famous men on earth. It's never about what we look like or what they say, but about who we are to the people God has directly placed in our lives, and how we are impacting them for him.
If we are to impact through stories of failure, then let it be.
If we are to impact through stories of success, then let it be.
The greatest thing is that we have the hope of a perfect eternity with our creator and knowledge of how temporary this earthly life really is. I honestly believe that that is why Christians should be known for being the most generous and the biggest risk takers in all of humanity. Because we know that the most important thing can never be bought with fortune or fame, but only with the blood of Jesus. We have been freed from the bondage of sin, and into the ability to do right and live for an eternity in a place with no pain, no suffering, and most importantly no sin. Bringing glory to our great God--the gift of true life, peace and joy.
If you end up watching our episode, please take note of a few key things:
1. We ARE finishing the house over coming winter months & it is not currently on the market.
2. Price points that were claimed for budget or sale are merely fictional numbers that we used to allow the "storyline" to somewhat make sense. They do not in any way reflect reality or the value of the home.
3. 75% of the drama portrayed was 100% staged and acted. In fact we spent around 20 minutes trying to get Josh to look like he was about to fall off of the roof and while I was supposed to scream and scold him. I was then asked multiple times in my interviews to comment on his "reckless & wild behavior." (....please enjoy.)
So if you particularly enjoy subpar acting and unconventional construction, please click HERE for show details.
Thank you again for all of the encouragement you have offered to us through your words, time, gifts, and food in the past year. It has never gone unnoticed and we appreciate each of you more than you will ever know!