Today, an episode of The Jeff Probst Show is airing in which balloons come down while our family is being "ambushed" by incredible gifts and goodwill.
I have butterflies in my stomach.
The truth is, our family doesn't deserve this treatment any more than all the families we know who are going through struggles and hard times due to this ongoing economic slump. The only difference is, I write about it in public forums like the Huffington Post. I started with chronicling our decision to sell our family car -- our only vehicle -- in order to pay the rent. That led to further essays, in which I wrote about making it as a suburban family of five while relying on bikes and buses for transportation, bartering for goods and services, gleaning fruit and vegetable harvests, keeping chickens and following your dreams after you've "lost it all."
At no time, however, did we want anyone to think we were suffering, or that we had a bead on frugal living, or self-denial, or any sort of morally superior path. We still make mistakes -- maybe more than ever. The only thing we've done is found some creative solutions to what the recession wrought on our family. And then I wrote about it, for thousands and thousands of people to read.
And that's how the show's producers found us. About a month ago, after publishing a piece on the Huffington Post, I got a "Friend Request" on Facebook from someone whose job description was "Producer, The Jeff Probst Show." I had a feeling she'd be writing to me in a few minutes; I was correct. She said she'd seen my latest piece and read more on my website, and that the show really liked my family's story. Would we be interested in appearing on an episode? My eyes widened. Have you ever been hit with a very hard "oh, I have MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT THIS," sensation? Absolutely equal parts thrill and apprehension?
We were so scared to do it. My husband was in a state. I didn't even know who Jeff Probst was. What I did know is that I felt fiercely defensive of my family, and grilled the show's producers over and over about whether they planned some sort of "gotcha moment," and if my children were going to suffer because of my own bad decisions and desire for publicity. It's not new to them, really- - I've been a "confessional blogger" for several years now, writing about things that embarrass or indict us, at times -- but this would put them on display in a way that left them vulnerable.
We talked about it. My husband and I, us with the kids, with friends, with the show's producers. We reviewed pros and cons. We decided, at one point, that if the interview started to take a humiliating or exploitative turn, we would all make armpit farting noises and let loose a barrage of salty language. If we were going down, we were going down in style, and taking the show with us.
We arrived in LA and sat for hours in the "green room," awaiting our turn, signing off on paperwork that warned us of the possibility of emotional surprises or even an animal on stage(!) The kids ate granola bars and drank sodas from the mini 'fridge, and we nervously awaited our turn on the couch with Jeff.
And in honor of the show, I'll leave it at that, and ask you to watch to see what happened next. Here's a hint: I'm still hoarse from the screaming.