PARTS OF SPEECH-Watching reality in real time leaves a lasting impression

“Ripping down someone’s house is fantastic fun!”

-Ty Pennington, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”

If a show is able to share remote time with the NFL on our television, it must be good.

“Extreme Makeover, Home Edition” has been that program for us on Sunday nights. It’s held its own with Sunday night football, which pretty much says it all.

Yes, it’s a reality show, but nothing like many of the others that are on every week. Each episode features a needy family selected from nominees from all over the country (reportedly about a thousand entries per week).

In a nutshell, the design team surprises the family with an early morning “wake-up call,” sends them on vacation, and then rebuilds their home, completing months worth of work in seven days.

The materials, furnishings, labor and sometimes extra goodies like cars and scholarships are all donated or volunteered.

There are many, many reasons to see the show, but in an effort to convince everyone to watch at least once, here are my top three.

1. Reality check.

Every episode makes us appreciate what we have and what we are not faced with every day. These aren’t typical “new coat of paint” makeovers, but these aren’t typical families either.

Some are in extreme circumstances, like a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, left blind from a gunshot in a convenience store robbery; a little girl with an allergy to sunlight, or a mom whose daughter was abducted and who now devotes her life to finding missing kids.

Others are about people whose lives were upended in an instant, like a dad left to raise three boys alone after his 28-year-old wife died within a few months of being diagnosed with leukemia; or a wife and mother of four who became a single mom of three when her husband and oldest son died in a car accident a few days before Christmas.

Most of the stories are too tragic to imagine and each one serves as a reminder to be thankful.

2. Happy endings.

The show even holds the interest of our daughter, who normally doesn’t watch anything without a cartoon sponge. She loves Paige (the designer with a pink tool belt) and seeing the kids’ rooms.

It’s all about helping someone for one reason-because they can. And even though the stories are sad, there will be a happy ending.

3. Ty Pennington.

There are plenty of reasons I like to watch the team leader, Ty. He’s hyperactive (energetic) and rambunctious (motivating) and yells through a bull-horn. Personally, I like that in a host.

Kansas got its chance to be featured last week. A family in Douglass, just outside of Wichita, lost everything in a propane explosion that leveled their house while they were on vacation.

As soon as I heard the show was going to be working this close to us, I was on a mission to see some portion of it live.

Saturday (Day 6 of the makeover) was the soonest we could get away. After being preoccupied with the show all week and keeping daily tabs on the progress, we finally took off at 7 a.m. Saturday.

It was reported that Friday wasn’t too exciting for spectators as most of the work was being done inside. But lucky for us, the landscaping work began Friday night and would carry over into Saturday.

We weren’t disappointed.

As we drove toward the property, a security guard stopped us to ask if we were volunteers or spectators. The Internet reports stated there were already enough volunteers so we didn’t expect the option.

We told him we were there to watch, but my husband Jason added that if they needed it, he would like to help. The guard told him to register at the volunteer tent while I took the car to the viewing area.

With two kids in the backseat, I was limited to being an observer, unless they needed a couple of rug rats to test some playground equipment.

As Jason signed in for his bright blue T-shirt, I headed to my post behind the fence barrier across the road. We watched as hundreds of other volunteers hauled in trees, planted flowers, and leveled dirt.

We also watched the newest volunteer-Jason-guard the front door. Apparently it was one high-dollar door because his single assignment was to make sure no one bumped into it.

Jason was able to break away long enough to dig a few tree holes and haul some things throughout the house. He also wandered into what ended up being Ty’s secret project room-complete with Ty-and snapped a picture for me.

I desperately wanted to go back Sunday to see the family’s return. Amazing as it was to watch the build for a couple of hours, being there for their reaction at the final reveal would have been a thrill.

But our own reality at home took priority, so we will have watch it on television like everyone else (rumored to be sometime in November or December), and just be glad we were able to have a small part in it all and walk away with something-Jason with his door-guarding stint, and me with my photo of half of Ty Pennington’s face.

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