Guest Blogger: Jennifer Bertrand, Winner of Design Star Season Three!

Hi there!  Very exciting goings-on here at my blog today.  I have my first ever guest blogger and it is none other than the awesome, amazing, super-talented and super-sweet Jennifer Bertrand!  Jen's new show, Paint-Over
is airing all this week on HGTV and she has graciously decided to stop
by here and fill us in on her life since winning Design Star!  Take it
away, Jen!

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Hi Jenean’s readers!!!!
I have to start by saying how much I adore Jenean’s style!  The painting I have of hers, that hangs in Winston’s nursery, makes me smile every day!!!!  And anyone who dreams in color and pattern like she does is right up my alley!!!

Now, where do I even begin????  For most of you, I won Season 3 of Design Star and I seemed to drop off the face of the planet.  You could say that, but the reason is none other than parenthood and on top of that, our son Winston was born with a couple of rare malformations.  So I joined the club of being a Mom of a special needs child.  Winston, like his Mom, doesn’t like to take the easy road----why have one rare malformation when you can have two!!!  :)  This will probably explain the waterworks you see me display when talking about medical issues on my new show “Paint Over”.  It’s one of those things that if people only knew the half of it………………………….. 

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In a nutshell, our last year went as follows:

 

Tried out for Design Star, made it on Design Star, won Design Star and found out I was pregnant two days before I won……………..hence the “deer in headlights” look on my face when I won.  Not only was it not cool to gloat in front of Matt who had just lost his dream but our whole world turned upside down in moments.  I was in utter shock.  I never thought I would be lucky enough to win the show and I definitely had not planned on becoming pregnant……………..I joke that that’s what happens when you can’t see or talk to your husband for six weeks when filming!!!  But I did have sheer joy at the thought of getting to share my passion of teaching design to others.


At four months pregnant, I went to film a one hour special and some webisodes for HGTV and at five months I filmed HGTV’s “Showdown”.  It was after coming home from filming that our world would be forever changed.  The story is a very, very long one (even though young Winston is now only six months old) but the fast version is:


At five months we had a sonogram and found out it was a boy, moments later we found out there was a mass on his neck.  We went to a series of specialists and he was misdiagnosed with having a cervical teratoma (found out otherwise later).  He was born with an EXIT surgery--30 people to work on him while he was still attached to me and witness the fact that I forgot to shave my legs!  Upon birth, the diagnosis changed to a lymphatic malformation.  Winston was in the NICU for seven weeks, has a trach, a mic-key button (feeding tube) and we have 16 hours of nursing care a day at home ……that’s a whole other blog!  Soon I will be sharing how to design a room for a special needs child and how to survive having strangers in your house and taking care of your child on top of everything else you’re facing!  

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And as if that wasn’t enough, right when we thought we were getting into a routine……….Winston stopped breathing one day, turned blue and life-less and my husband and the nurse had to do CPR while I watched in horror on the phone with 911.  Winston ended up okay but that led to three ambulance rides and two hospital stays in the PICU.  And four days after he was discharged, I left to go film “Paint Over”.  That’s the half I some times wish people knew.

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When I was in Colorado filming five episodes on a show about people facing life’s big moments, I honestly could relate from the bottom of my heart……hence me looking crazy and crying all of the time during the first episode.  My life was a mess…….and yet I had this amazing opportunity in front of me to help others.  “Paint Over” really was my chance to bring design back to the basics.  And the core of designing to me is that design really is all about how your environment influences the way you feel.  And for these families, it meant shedding the past and beginning a new future.  I almost feel like I get to be a bit of a Mary Poppins.  And in a society that at times feels very shallow, I want to be the warm, fuzzy that tries to remind people what it’s all about.  Why not find yourself smiling and laughing through a show!!!  You may not like my personal style but it may inspire you to take a risk in design that you might not have otherwise. 

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“Paint Over” airs this one week Monday through Friday at 3 Central/4 Eastern.  If people like it, I will make more.  I am not your typical, size 2, perfectly eloquent host and I more than likely never will be.  When you’ve faced real issues like medical problems, that’s the last thing on your mind.  I like to think that “Paint Over” is like the great indie movie that people start watching and realize it’s something nice and spread the word.  If you think “Paint Over” would be something you would like to see more of please write in to HGTV.  If there are things you don’t like, please write me and I am very, very open to constructive criticism.  I want to learn from everything I put out there in tv land!  Plus, I’ve survived reading the blogs so you can’t hurt my feelings!! :)

So what does the future hold for Chris, Winston and I you ask? 
One of our good friends in Boulder, Colorado, is going to run for 24 hours to raise money for Winston’s treatments.  He’s doing that in honor of the 24 hours of care a day that little Winston needs.  If you would like to read more about it or find out how you can help, the site is:   http://24forwinston.blogspot.com/

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Winston’s diagnosis is one that can never be cured, only managed.  But we are not ones to dwell on that!  We will be flying to NYC every 6 weeks for an aggressive first year of treatments and in time (a few years) hope for him to lose his trach and his mic-key button (feeding tube).  Since life is not all about what us Bertrands are going through, I am working on a website that puts together all of the stuff that us parents of special needs kids have learned the hard way.  What better thing than to spare someone else from going through what you went through………and it is a whole new world when you find yourself in that situation.  If you know of anyone who would want to share what they’ve learned through their own experiences (any illness, syndrome, malformation, loss, etc.) please pass them on my email address, I have a form of questions to fill out.  Subject it “Jen’s Website” to jen(underscore)bertrand[at]hotmail{dot}com.  And as if that’s not enough, I’m also working on designing some fabulous clothes for special needs kids and working with a brilliant program called “Shadow Buddies” (dolls for special needs kids supported by Tony Gonzalez and David Cook).  I’m a one-man-show so it will all happen in time but these are ways for me to pay it forward for all of the kindness our family has received.  Big hugs to everyone for caring to read our story, watching my show, and getting this far in reading!!!!  

And I almost forgot, what do I think of this season’s show of Design Star?  I will always be PC, it’s not my style not to be!!!  I have to admit I have only gotten to see a couple of episodes.  My body aches when watching it!  (It was a full month before I could walk down the stairs in my house without pain.)  I’ve met Lonni online and she seems lovely!  I appreciate all of the finalists for what they bring to the table.  The nice thing is that viewers will win no matter which way it ends up!

Jen  :)