Hello, Paul DiMeo here. Yeah, the
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
designer with the dark glasses who cries a lot. Just call me the carpenter who cares -- in fact, I care so much about the families we help that I'm actually writing a blog!
Isn't a blog some kinda online diary? Ok, here we go:
Dear blog, I'm so happy today! I arrived in Alaska, which means that I've visited all 50 states! (Big smile showing teeth.)
OK -- it's not about me, it's about the family. And we went to North Pole, Alaska, to be the Santa Claus to single mom Betsy and her family of 13. Yes, we met Santa Claus while we were there.
Life at the top of the world hasn't been easy for Betsy. Thirteen people cohabitating in her 900-square foot home without insulation -- not a good situation when the weather can hit 60 below. And it definitely hurts brother Rob, who Betsy took in, along with his three kids, when he was diagnosed with kidney failure.
This truly was an "extreme build." I thought that we'd face blizzards and polar bears, instead we got 22 hours of sunlight. You should try getting shut-eye when it's only dark out for 10 percent of the day. The upside: we could work 24/7! We actually moved the bus at 8 pm (even though it looked like mid-afternoon).
Thank god for Landmark. Homebuilder Dave Miller, his wife, kids and the Landmark team knew exactly what they were doing -- in fact, thousands in the neighborhood pitched in, in
tradition. We had the neighbors, the builders and the crew working nonstop. People do like Betsy, who touched so many hearts that we got 300 letters nominating her family.
My big projects for the week were working on the football field, doing the Alaska room with Preston for the three littlest kids, and helping the crew mud and tape the drywall. That's right, for those of you who think we are designers in name only, I was drafted by the crew (who could obviously tell I was an expert) to get my hands dirty in the mud. Later in the week, Preston Sharp and I were sent off to a local stream to pan for gold, something everyone must do if you find yourself in Alaska. It started out harmless enough, when I noticed a gleam in Preston's eye... accompanied by a gleam in his pan! It was on: We had caught gold fever. I can see why people got shot in the old days: It got competitive, to say the least.
We both walked away with a little gold dust, but no claim to stake.
After all that hard work, my pal Preston (you know, the guy who is the Encyclopedia of Architecture) and I blew off some steam by taking a road trip 'round God's country, a far cry from the "concrete of L.A.," as Preston calls it. Preston and I met while filming the pilot of
and have been friends ever since. Not only do we share a love of craftsmanship and building, but we also bonded during our many jam sessions.
On this trip, we went fly-fishing (Preston has been trying to teach me for a while) and believe it or not, I actually schooled the old boy by netting the biggest Arctic char. I guess that was
present from Santa Claus.
For more from the North Pole, don't forget to tune in to the season premiere of
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
, this Sunday, Sept. 24, at 8 pm/ET on ABC.