To Be Or Not To Be MTV

So, I thought I’d write a little bit about our MTV experience last fall.

I’d actually never seen the show (CRIBS) when Michael Schultz the producer first approached me about filming it. I knew they brought cameras into your home and, quite frankly, a few weeks after becoming a mother for the second time – nursing eight times a day, feeling lumpy, sleep deprived and fairly much a basket case (like all new moms) – my reaction was, “You’re kidding right?”

The second time he approached me, I was marginally more open to the idea (albeit still a reluctant participant), and after several attempts to work around our goofy schedule, I think they assumed I was being a difficult Diva about the whole thing and passed on coming to Vancouver.

The third time Schultz emailed I was a bit shocked, as I thought they’d given up on me. MTV would be in town to film a couple of other ‘famous’ types, and would I please consider letting them come by. Our property looks a bit like Siberia in November, but I said OK anyway. I was feeling a bit guilty.

Later that night, over a glass of Chardonnay and a few nacho chips, I actually saw an episode of CRIBS … featuring Chad Kroeger’s (Nickleback) palatial pad. Suddenly, I felt queasy about the whole idea.

Firstly, I have no cool hockey stuff or impressive driveway full of shiny road toys. I have no granite soaker tub. I do have a mini-van in desperate need of a wash, an aging smelly black lab and our son’s convertible Tonka ride on/rear loader that’s mighty impressive if you’re ten months old. It makes a ‘vroom, vroom’ sound. Oh yeah, I also have a cool toaster.

Panicking, I phoned my artist friend, and begged her to loan me a few paintings to hang about to make the place look bright and stately. I hate phoniness, but I’m all for subterfuge as long as the motive is genuine. After all, my friend would get her paintings on MTV…

It also occurred to me that I would have to clean up. Aghh…

The following 3 weeks, were close to the worst 3 weeks of my life – comparable only to the last 3 weeks of pregnancy with our daughter, when I could no longer see my feet or fit into any of my shoes. It became a spiritual exposé into my paper thin shallow side, which I discovered – surprisingly – runs dark and deep. How obsessive and self conscious can one actually be? Well apparently, quite, when under pressure. I became a psycho.

Suddenly everything we owned looked outmoded and crappy. There were tiny fingerprints everywhere. Chipped paint on every wall corner. I noticed dog hair in baseboard cracks. Spider webs in the shower. Spit up on the carpet and Froot Loops in the sofa. Dust gorillas. God forbid, would I need to clean up the closet? Worse, the fridge? I felt totally overwhelmed. Convinced our house needed an extreme gay guy overhaul, my husband started to get pissed off at me. Eventually, I compromised for a copy of Elle Décor and a visit from Amazing Grace cleaners. I needed cleaning grace, and a little extra Ativan…

Beloved, by Deb Thielmann
Beloved, by Deb Thielmann

Our friend – the artist Deb Thielmann – dropped off a couple of her paintings the following week. ‘Angel of Mercy’ we hung above our bed and ‘Beloved’ in the library. They looked amazing. I was feeling a bit better about the whole invasive ordeal.

While industrialization freed the common housewife from arduous tasks like hand-washing and knitting – and believe me, I am grateful, because I have no hand/eye coordination – consumerism and the advertising industry were the greedy children born from this. The mogul-manipulated media convincing us what we need to possess to be happy, and lapping up mammoth profits accordingly. Coveting in its finest hour. I have a problem with that. In particular, Martha Stewart. She sets the bar for domestic perfection so high that 95% of us fail miserably. She overuses the color pink. She has bad hair.

How dare she give me advice on accent centerpieces?

Still, I caved and made a fruit bowl for the dining room table.

I felt like I’d hit rock bottom and needed a 12-step group for hypocrisy.

Two days later, I was forced to relinquish my mission to create a Zen-like abode when during dinner, our daughter shoved a pea so far up her nose I thought I was going to have to call 911. She panicked, I panicked (while outwardly projecting a phony sense of motherly calm). Then, in a moment of desperation, I shoved the pea even further up her nose with a pair of tweezers.

Reality check: life is messy, and mine was no exception.

By a stroke of divine intervention, the night before MTV were scheduled to show up, we were hit by the worst windstorm in 100 years and the power went out. For 24 hours. No kidding. I was reading Curious George by candle-light and trying to figure out how to keep the ice cream from melting. I called Schultz and told him he could show up at the house with his crew but they’d have nothing to plug into. Tee-hee. Giddy with relief, I was thinking I was off the hook. In a cavalier moment, I ate the ice cream.

Gracious and accommodating as they were, MTV extended their trip until Monday. At least I had a couple more days to get it together, I thought.

Except, I never really got it together. Does anyone ever really get it together?

The fridge never got cleaned, and I regretted eating 900 calories worth of Breyer’s French Vanilla. Our babysitter couldn’t do Monday. The morning of, I realized I’d forgotten to pick out something fantastic to wear. I threw on some jeans and hid the laundry on the closet floor. My jeans felt tight.

Who are these people who go out and stock their fridges top to bottom with liquor? Just to look cool? Or have children and white furniture. Please…

It always seems like things can be chugging along, just organized and swimmingly for a while, and then, when you are least prepared for it, your train de-rails.

When I turned 23 my mother threw a lovely backyard birthday party for me. A surprise party. She lured me over to the house on the pretense that she was having a sewing machine emergency. Hello? A sewing emergency that needed my immediate expertise. No laughing, please… Yes, my family is weird enough that I actually fell for it. We love drama, and I thought, by her tone, that maybe once again, she’d accidentally sewn over her finger.

For the party, my brother-in-law – a master chef – was engaged to do some gourmet BBQ-ing. Sweet. Some lovely New York strip loins for the guests, and for the guest of honor – moi – he would be whipping up some Chateaubriand filet. I was ecstatic. And starving.

We chatted, caroused, and I opened gifts while all the other guests were served their juicy, oversize portions of red meat. My master chef was saving his best for last, his special culinary delight. I was flattered, but still starving. I ate an extra corn on the cob while waiting.

Finally, after an hour or so of being patient and salivating over everyone else’s dinner, my number was up. The wine, the spices, the special pan appeared on the grill. I felt like Cleopatra.

Then, just before my gourmet delight was quite cooked, huge winds swept over the suburbs. A giant black cloud rolled over the house like a bad omen, the patio umbrella turned inside out and empty paper plates and napkins were swept away in a whirlish flurry. The frying pan flew off the grill in an almost poltergeist-ish way, tossing my savory birthday meal halfway across the yard. Then, like vultures, my parents’ two spoiled little dogs bolted to the scene and devoured the half-cooked meat in approximately 20 seconds flat. The thunder boomed, the lightning cracked followed by massive droplets of stinging rain. We fled into the house, grabbing what we could, like aliens were about to invade Archdekin Drive.

My mother handed me a towel and some leftovers – a hotdog and some cold potato salad.

My Cleopatra moment was glorious and fleeting. Kind of like being famous…

If it had been a landmark birthday, say 30, I might have been more bummed. Or at least have been tipped off and eaten a snack on the way

In the end, our segment on MTV – which took 8 hours to film – was edited down into six brief minutes. My friend’s paintings ended up on the cutting room floor, along with my waxing on about art and culture. Thankfully, our toaster got a cameo. Geez, and all that stress about appearing cool…

I felt better after seeing “Lil Jon’s” space, which was also filmed for the same show. Did he mean to leave a roll of toilet paper on his end table? Maybe it’s a ‘down’ rapper guy thing I’m not hip to. Or maybe MTV needs to budget for a continuity guy who keeps track of the T.P.

My friend Helen, who is a grandma, lives down the road from us a bit, on an acre property much like ours. Her place is not glamorous or fancy in the least. In fact, she’s from Holland, and for us fashionistas, it’s filled with lots of challenging things like Hummel figurines, copper pots and wooden shoes. And a room filled with old toys that have survived a few generations of enjoyment. Our daughter can occupy herself for hours just in the toy room.

Nothing much fazes Helen, she is observant and humble. Also, she lived through the Holocaust (her family harbored a Jewish family during the war), the death of her only daughter, and, I suspect a few things she chooses not to share.

This Thanksgiving Helen opened up her home and cooked a huge dinner for folks from a local recovery house. She even fired up the heat in her back yard pool so they could all go swimming. Many of these folks had nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving, having burned out most of their friends and family with their addictions and bad behavior. Helen told me that she felt God had directed her to do this for them, as many of the recovery people were coming to her church now and they needed friends. Hmmmm…

Now that’s cool…

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