Friday, September 19, 2014

Health Insurance 101

I had a dear friend contact me earlier this week, upset and panicked because she received a hefty bill from a recent doctor's visit. After miscommunicating a few times via text, I called her up, ready to pepper her with questions so I could give her some solid advice.

And then she answered the phone. My questions drifted off my mind's page as I realized she was crying. She was doing the brave cry, the one where your voice pitches just a little lower, catching slightly, teetering precariously on the ledge of sadness, carefully trying to hide it, carefully trying to keep the choking sobs at bay. I imagined her standing there, wiping at her eyes, her nose, her cheeks. Dammit, I felt her say. Damn this straight to hell.

This is not the first time I've received one of these calls. Between Army medic training, my health admin degree, and my experience in medical billing, my friends and family kinda figure me for a health insurance answer lady. I don't mind and find it flattering. It's exhilarating to actually use the skills you've learned in school to help those you love and care about, ya digg?

It got me thinking....there's a great number of people out there who struggle with understanding health insurance - especially when something goes wrong. So here you go, world, here is a simplified, broken-down, Jen version of some basic health insurance facts you might need to know somewhere down the road.

***PS: I live in America and as such, speak from the perspective of an American healthcare consumer. Sorry global readers! If any of you are reading this, I'd love to hear about your country's health insurance in the comments down below! These types of things excite me.

So let's start with some basic history and my "why" behind the importance of understanding your health insurance.

Health insurance was originally created to help pay for catastrophic events. It was never intended to sustain or maintain everyday health - only those things that were considered life-threatening. Think of your other insurance you use Gieco when you need an oil change? Does State Farm come and refinish your hardwood floors so they stay in primo-box conditions? This is how health insurance originally began....major, serious conditions only.

Great Jen, but who gives a rat's pootinanny...

Well, you do. See, when health insurance began taking over all areas of health, from prevention to sickness to minor injuries, it subsequently removed the power of the consumer. Think about it - if you paid a guy $80 a year to care for your lawn, and he did so, and it looked pretty good and healthy, would you really care how he chose to care for it? Maybe a little....but enough to become involved? Enough to do it yourself?

We live in a day and age where insurance companies run the show. They say what can be done, how it can be done, who can do it, and how much it all costs. We rely on them to pay so we don't have to - we need them. Dangerous position to be in when you're not wizened in the ways of healthcare billing and insurance. But don't worry...we're gonna fix that a little.

Some basic insurance terms:

In-network: Docs and facilities your insurance company likes and has a contract with.

Out-of-network: Docs and facilities your insurance company does not like as much because they do not hold contracts with your insurance company. Insurance companies like contracts. Contracts = control.

HMO: Health Maintenance Organization. Basically this type of policy requires you to use a gatekeeper (M for Manager, Elmo!), or PCP, for all your healthcare needs. Instead of paying deductibles, you pay copays. HMOs tend to have cheaper premiums, in my experience. Read on to figure out what the heck a copay, deductible, and premium is.

PPO: Preferred Provider Organization. This type of plan allows you the freedom of choosing who you see, when you want to see 'em. Got a hangnail you just know is due to improper toe alignment? Go see a podiatrist. Have a mark you want removed, immediately? Head on over to a dermatologist or surgeon. No need for a gatekeeper here - you are free to move about the healthcare board as you see fit. Of course, you should prolly stay within network and only see those podiatrists who hold contracts with your insurance. In exchange for this freedom, you will be subject to coinsurance, deductibles, and in most cases, higher premiums. I promise I will tell you what those things are in a minute.

High-deductible plan: Your deductible is insane. Truly it is. It's almost laughable. High deductible plans act much like those old plans of our yonder years.....they will cover you in catastrophic events, for sure. But the sniffles? Pay up. Broken arm? Gimmie all yer money. Back pain? Chronic illness? You'll be paying out the yim-yam until your deductible is met. Not for prevention, of course. And as an added bonus, get do get your power back. Remember how I said our current healthcare world keeps power in the hands of the insurance companies and not the consumers? Well, with high-deductible plans, you become an educated consumer out of necessity. You regain the shop around for affordable doctors with the best overall value. You take advantage of places like Walgreens and CVS. You start to care about how much every procedure costs and what it is....because you are paying for it yourself. That is power, pure and simple. I recently transitioned from a standard HMO to a high-deductible PPO. I can feel my comparison-shopper Jen rearing her knowledgeable head high and proud already!

Contractual adjustment: People, this is what insurance is all about. Wanna know why your doctors become affiliated with BCBS and Cigna? They get patients. So here's how it works: Dr. Smith signs a contract with BCBS. She says, hey, you give me patients, I'll give all your patients a discount on my services. Instead of charging $100 for an exam, I'll charge $82. Whammo. $18 is knocked off the price, according to the contract the doctor signs with the insurance company. That $18 is considered the contractual adjustment. 

Preventative services: These are "keep me healthy" services. They normally include annual checkups, vaccinations, well-woman exams (think paps and mammos), and physicals. Obamacare mandates full coverage for these types of services....meaning you should not be paying a dime for your kid's annual exam, or your baby's well child visit, or your routine cancer screening (pap, mammo, testicular, those types of things). Wondering if a specific service is preventative? Ask!

PCP: Primary Care Provider. Do you have an HMO policy? This is the doctor your insurance company wants you to see before seeing any other medical professional. They love PCPs because one doctor means less hands to control...more managed care means less money wasted on specialist-seeking consumers who think they know what they're suffering from, but don't. I personally love PCP's because I live in this Little House on the Prairie world where my ideal healthcare situation is heading over to see Old Doc Murphey who's birthed every baby in town and knows everything about my medical history. It's nice to have a "guy" or "gal." I don't mind sacrificing my ability to see whoever I want, whenever I want if it means I can see the doctor I love and have bills paid with no problems.

Copay: A stupid amount you're required to pay upfront for any non-preventative care. These can range depending on your policy AND where you are getting treatment. My doctor's office copay, for example, is $35. My Emergency Room visit copay is $500. Yea. Copays are normally associated with HMO insurance plans...but I've seen them for people with PPO plans too.

Deductible: The amount of money your insurance company requires you to pay for non-preventative medical treatment before they will start picking up the tab. The cool thing about deductibles? You get the insurance discount we talked about before....that "contractual adjustment." The doctor's office can legally only charge you for the amount remaining after the insurance processes your claim with that discount. The only exception is when your claim is completely denied by the insurance - you won't get a discount if your insurance doesn't cover the procedure. Deductibles are normally only required for PPO policyholders.

Coinsurance: Another stupid amount you're required to pay. Remember those crazy percentages on your insurance card or policy package, where the insurance pays 80% of a service and the patient pays 20%? So if I need an MRI, my insurance will pay 80% of the MRI, but I need to pay 20%? That 20% is your coinsurance. It kinda sucks, this coinsurance, because it often hangs on even after you meet your deductible. It'll hang out there like a gross little booger until your annual out-of-pocket maximum is met. Awesome!

Premium: This is literally the amount you pay each pay period for your health coverage. So that $250 every two weeks that comes directly out of your check and goes to BCBS before you can even get your grubby lil' hardworking hands on it? That is your premium. I don't know why they don't just call this "payment." Whatever.

So now that we've bulked up on our terms, how about some industry insider tips?

3-Ways - Good stuff. Hear me out. So you get a bill. You call the doctor's office. They say it's an insurance problem. You call the insurance. They say it's the office's problem. Ask the insurance company to do a 3-way call with your doctor's office. They can and will do this. When I was in billing I would get 3-wayed all the time. True story. Eliminate your middleman self and make some magic on those telephone lines.

Financial Assistance - Any nonprofit healthcare entity is required to have a financial assistance program. Think you're too rich? Think again. Assistance is often awarded based on need, not income. Prove you need it (aka, I only have $100 left each month after paying bills) and chances are, you'll get portions of your bill written off.

Providers, Facilities, Labs, and Radiology -  Let's say, heaven forbid, you experience chest pain. You head to the ER at Hospital Peace. You're treated by Dr. TomTom. You get labwork done by Beam-Me-Up-Scotty Labs. You get an x-ray by Stars and Pins Radiology. You will, often times, get four. Completely. Separate. Bills. Pay attention to the bills you receive and understand your hospital stay will not be bundled and billed in one neat little package. This is life.

Policy Awareness - I hate to say it....but it is not your doctor's job to know your policy. Learn your policy inside and out. Thinking about getting a procedure? Ask your doc for a full description of the procedure, including the expected CPT codes, so you can check with your insurance. CPT codes are 5-digit numeric representations of medical treatments. They match what your insurance company pays for exactly and leave no room for confusion - so if you can get them, get them. Some doctors will draw up a pre-estimate with these codes on them. Ask! Asking questions will help you save money, I promise.

Note Taker - Calling your insurance? Write down the date, time, name of the rep, and ask for a reference number for the call. Calling your doctor's office? Take down the date, time, and name of the person you're speaking to. Learn the names of office managers and executive leaders. These people can be a godsend when something goes wrong...and believe me, it happens. People are not perfect, but they are capable of executing learn their names and take vigorous notes.

Well, there we have it, readers. Jen's lovely little Health Insurance 101 course. It ain't an exact science, but hopefully this can be a nice place to start. Luckily, my dear friend was able to work out her insurance issues and found out her huge bill was a clerical error. Sometimes it really is that simple.....just takes a couple questions to save you money and heartache!

Any of you have problems with your health insurance? And if I missed anything or you'd like additional details, please let me know in the comments down below. As always, thank you so very much for reading :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

So Your Baby Won't Stop Crying

Imagine, if you will, a romantic date night dinner with your special someone. You made reservations at a local restaurant, got all gussied up, and are buzzing with anticipation well before you order your drinks. As the waitress brings over your favorite beer, you catch a glimpse of your partner, lighting dancing in both your eyes, and you sigh with happiness and relaxation.

And then.....abruptly......a baby starts shrieking from two booths down. You jerk your head up, spell broken, heart skipping a couple beats. Those of you with children think of your own kids, panicked for a second, wondering if they're ok. The sexy, lazy haze starts to dissipate and out of anguish for your lost moment, you roll your eyes and quietly, coolly say,

"Really? A baby, here? Can someone please get that kid a bottle or something?"

We've all been there. I've said those things. Those are my words, my attitude showing. 

But I've also been her, the lady with the baby who won't stop crying.

My daughters were both insanely crabby infants. From the moment they were born, they were tears, they were pain, they were acid reflux, they were blue faces gasping for breath between screams. Those first few months - and by few I mean six - were the most terrible months of my life. The isolation I felt, like nobody understood, nobody listened to me, nobody could help me, was insurmountable. 

And then there was the judgement. With the second baby my husband was around to run errands and help out, but with my first, he was deployed and I lived alone. My new baby and I had to go out, whether we wanted to or not. I felt like 1,000 eyes were on me each time I went in public and my baby inevitably started wailing. I felt like everyone could smell my fear, see my hysteria, and were judging me for it, mercilessly. 

I went back to work two short weeks after my first was born. She kept me up from 9PM to 3AM every. Single. Night. I worked from 7AM to 3PM at a dental office about 40 minutes away from my home. She cried the entire way to daycare. She cried all day. She cried the entire ride home. She cried all night. I remember coming to pick her up one day and the woman I'd hired for daycare had left my baby strapped in her carseat in front of a TV, blue and screaming, because she "didn't know what else to do with her!" Weeks of this. Months of this. I brought the baby to the doctor relentlessly. Something had to be wrong. Nothing, they told me. She was perfectly healthy. Colic.

I did everything. Ran water. Held her upright while she slept. Fed on demand. Fed on a schedule. Car rides. Tummy bands. Breastmilk. Formula supplements. Special bottles. Gas drops. Rocked. Walked. Music. Swaddled. Pacifiers. 

I did everything.

It did nothing.

My baby was miserable. I was miserable and I was lost. I didn't even know who I was as I stood there, night after night, tears streaming down my face as I ran the bathroom faucet, the bathroom fan, holding my screaming red infant, trying to breastfeed her but getting nowhere, understanding with so much shame, so much guilt, so much pain, why people have shaken their babies. I was failing. That was me failing.

Or so I thought.

My girls are now 2 and 8. They are blessedly healthy, deliciously bright, and perfectly ordinary. They eat good food, sleep for 8-10 hours at a stretch, and have never seen the inside of an intensive care unit. My 8-year-old loves to read and my 2-year-old loves to sing. When they cry, they tell me why. When they are happy, I see it all over their faces. I suppose I didn't fail them, after all. I suppose I did just fine.

If I could go back and speak to myself during those insane, terrible months, what would I say? What do I say to any mom or dad asking for help with their crabbypatty infant?

1. You are an incredible parent. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Sure, exhaust yourself trying literally every option out there. It helps pass the time. But know this....time is the only true cure for colic. This, this terrible time, will not last forever. I repeat - this will not last forever. Soon you will be past this phase. It will be over soon. Do not give up on yourself. 

2. It's ok to not be ok. Don't feel guilty because you're unhappy with your healthy baby. Don't hate yourself for complaining when you know it could be so, so much worse. Stop hating on yourself, period. This is not easy. This was never intended to be easy. You don't always need to suck it up, cupcake. It's ok to be mad, it's ok to feel disappointed, it's ok to feel anything you are feeling....feelings are not right or wrong...they are feelings. Feel them and give yourself the opportunity to be a real human being.

*Side note: It's important, especially for new moms, to document your feelings the first few months after you've had your baby (or forever, if you like it). Keep a journal, write a smiley/sad face on the calender, whatever you need to do - record how you feel each day. Recognize patterns and if you see yourself going two full weeks without a single smiley face, talk to your physician. I struggled with post-partum with my first baby. You CAN feel better. Medicines are NOT permanent. They are temporary solutions to a temporary problem. Do it. You are worth it. If you've been waiting for a sign, this is it. Go get your joy again.

3. Realize your baby truly is not sick. She really isn't. The doctor said times. So did the other doctor you took her to for a 2nd opinion. Yes, it sounds like she is in terrible pain. Perhaps she truly feels uncomfortable....any pain she feels at this point in her life will be the worst pain of her entire life. I promise you, she is not dying. She is going to be ok. She will stop crying....maybe not in the next few minutes, maybe not in the next hour, maybe not tonight....but eventually, she will stop because mama, she is perfectly fine.

4. Lean on other parents. I don't mean your parents, or your significant other....I mean other moms and dads...people who've had babies in the last 2-5 years. They are up-to-date on what's going on with today's infants. They get it. They will look at you and nod, completely and totally understanding what you mean. Let them watch your impossible baby. Let them bring you dinner and let them stick around while she screams. Don't be embarrassed. They get it. 

5. The Gerber baby isn't real. Well, maybe she's real but you don't get to see the real...nobody gets to see the Gerber baby cry, or projectile vomit, or blowout her diaper. Don't try and "live up" to a marketing-genius' (literal) golden child. Don't compare yourself to Mary NaNaBooBoo two doors down. Sure she looks like she's got it together but we all know that's never the case. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is...well....yourself. Aim to be better than you were yesterday. That is all. 

...and finally....this lovely bit of wisdom, given to me by a mother of six. Her words, as I shakily asked her for advice, sleepy eyes hooded, baby screaming in my arms:

Just gotta keep 'em alive. 

Infants don't need playdates, or visitors, or toys, or church sermons, or cute clothes, or pictures with the Easter bunny. They need a caretaker, someone to feed them, touch them, keep them clean, talk to them. Don't think you're failing because she cries. You've met her needs and she is alive and healthy. You don't need to make her happy...even if you're in a restaurant and a million people are staring at you.

I've been the lady at the restaurant, rolling my eyes and feeling hateful that my night was ruined by a crying baby...but I've also been the mom who was asked to meet up with friends, friends who don't have kids and eat late, friends who I haven't seen in months, and so I go. I bring my screaming baby, and while the other Jen, the nice-dressed one, is fighting back irritation, I am fighting back tears, wondering what I'm doing wrong, hating myself and desperately trying to hide my shame, my struggle.

If this is you, the parent with the baby who won't stop crying, hear these final words from my heart, to yours:

You are not alone. You have nothing to hide. There is no shame in struggle. Struggle develops strength. This will pass, and when it does, you will see yourself as the warrior you are.

Thank you so, so much for reading.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Socially Awkward: Intervene or Let 'Em Be?

My big girl has a bit of a hard time socially. She was raised around adults and began reading/developing intellectually at a very early age. This isn't "proud Mama" speak here....this is for real. Sometimes she embarrasses me by knowing things I don't know, but prolly, "Mom, don't freak out, that type of spider is not fatal," or "Don't worry, the garbage truck dumped the recycling into the same truck, but it has a separate compartment for recyclables. You're still saving the planet, Mommy!"

The kid was reading chapter books by the time she was four and when she was five, she read the Laura Ingalls series in less than 3 weeks. Now 8, she continues to be an avid bookworm and we've started to notice the "negatives" of having an overly-intellectual problems.

She has trouble relating to other kids. She would gladly give up attending a birthday party full of 8-year-olds to spend one hour at the library with her (adult) Auntie. She prefers her own company on the playground and often tells me about how in the winter, she builds snowpeople to talk to. She's recently started carrying around a little angel and refers to it as her best friend.

I'm sure this sounds kinda sad to you, my readers, so please let me reassure you, when she tells me of these things, the snowpeople, the angel, her preference for adult-accompanied trips to the bookstore....when she tells me of these things she is glowing. There is no depression, no shame, no masked loneliness. She owns it.

I asked her once, "Do you want to make new friends?" and she told me, quietly, that of course she does....but she is fine being alone, too. Me, Daddy, and her baby sister are her friends. "But yes," she whispered. "It would be really nice to at least have one kid friend."

We thought we'd hit the jackpot with our new neighborhood - directly across the street is a house full of girls. They have four beautiful daughters, each with their own personality, and one exactly the same age as my big girl. They made friends quickly and were inseparable the first few summers we were here.

Then, inevitably, a new girl. This girl moved in late last year and threw the dynamic off a little bit. Now there's three girls playing together, and as many of us know from siblings and/or our younger years, when you get three kids together someone is almost always left out.

My kid, recently, has been that somebody.

I ran outside yesterday to call her in for dinner and this is what I witnessed:

Scene: hot, humid summer day, two neighborhood kids flying by on motorized scooters, my big girl running behind, panting through her words...

"HEY! Hey it's my turn, can I have a chance on the scooter?"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "NO way, I'm not getting off! I just got on!"

"But it is MY TURN! You've been on there forEVER! YOU NEED TO SHARE!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: *blink* *blink blink*

*goes to grab the scooter* "C'mon, give it to me!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "YOU CAN'T HAVE IT!"

Other Neighborhood Kid #2/Owner of Scooter: "You've been on there for a while - let her have a turn!"

"YEA I really want to try it and you keep telling me no!"

Neighborhood Kid #1: "Don't come near me again or I'm telling my dad!"

*hysterical tears* "I'M GOING HOME!"

I'm standing there, watching this all unfold, thinking, "Hey, gee, maybe I should do something. This isn't some crazy TV show put on for my entertainment, this is real life. C'mon Jen, swoop into action and stuff."

I reached out to embrace my sweaty kid. She had started sobbing loudly and ferociously. I watched the two scooter riders zoom away, neither one so much as glancing our way. I wanted to run down the road and tell them to never come to my house again. NEVER!

But I couldn't move. I wanted to go, my heart was telling me to go, but my body stayed right where it was, clutching El Hysterica Grande. All I could think was, "Gosh I hate this part of childhood."

I was bullied as a kiddo. I was picked on from Kindergarten up until 7th grade. People would make fun of my teeth, my hair, my family, my clothes, my glasses, my skin, my cheeks, my nose, my ears, my backpack, my lunch, my participation in ET (Extended Time), my affinity for Lisa Frank everything (yea, that is pure proof these were real losers, people), my book choices, my good grades, my tendency to cry. I remember walking to school when I was my big girl's age and talking to the trees. They were my only friends, aside from my mom and sister of course. Mr. and Mrs. Birch. Ms. Oak. Miss Maple. I pretended the rustling foliage was our own special language. Sometimes they would tell me to have a good day, sometimes they would tell me they were sad. All the way to and the trees. 

I had to turn into a thug to get the bullies off my back. Seriously thug. Tree-whisperer to gangsta. I wore JNCO jeans and wore gobs of lipliner and huge gold hoops and listened to TuPac (TuPac4Eva) and cussed every-other word and learned gang signs and talked about "jumping" people and tried to skip school and smoked at the bus stop and was obsessed with Fila and Nike and got into stupid fights and snuck out of the house at night to drink in the bushes. Let's all just take a moment and pour out a 40oz for the Gangsta Jen, who lasted only 2 years before succumbing to maturity and finally accepting herself as a weirdo, not a thug.

I obviously still carry the scars...both from the teasing and the big-barrel curling iron I would take to my gangsta bangs each morning. 

I want my kids to have a better life than I had. I want to go out there and arrange her social agenda and plan fun things for the girls to do at our house and tell them to play nice and teach them how to be inclusive and really give her the best circle of friends ever!

But where's that line? 

You see, my big kid is always going to be her. She will always be quirky, and interesting, and a bit academically ahead of others her age. She will likely struggle with her social problems for quite some time, if not her entire life.....and here's the kicker - God willing, I won't be around her entire life. At some point I'm gonna croak, and if I am the glue holding her friendships together, she's going to lose a whole lot more than a mother.

So I don't intervene. Not for scooter problems. Not for outcasting each other. Not for unfair treatment and disrespect. 

I realize I am not the say-all, end-all in parenting, however. As a matter of fact, one of the mothers of a school friend approached me once at an after-school event and started talking about our daughters. She told me they were "fighting again!" and "what are we going to do?" and I can "call her anytime to talk things over!" I was polite. At least I think I was. I nodded.......might've kinda stared with my mouth open. Thanked her for the info and explained I kinda let my kid handle her own biz, but I appreciate the heads-up. I remember thinking, "Am I supposed to care about this kinda stuff? Am I a non-involved mom? Do I need to talk to the student counselor? Do I need to talk to a counselor, period?"

Don't get me wrong, if someone is enduring physical harm or there is blatant violence either emotionally or physically I will lay down the schmack....but 8-year-old arguments? They could be arguing about whether or not a unicorn-pegasus is actually a pegasus-unicorn, for crying out loud. I'm not going to settle that argument. Take it up with Thor or Zelda or something. 

My mom didn't do this stuff, either. She was involved as much as she could be, but was a single mom who worked tirelessly and was often forced to limit her contact with my friends to a few hello-goodbye-why-are-you-in-my-house-smoking-who-is-that-teenager-outside-our-back-window-is-that-a-bong conversations. (One day I'm going to pay for all I've done to my mom, by the way. Get excited about reading my blog posts 4 years from now. It's coming. The true consequences of my horrific 2-year gangster stint....they're-a-comin'. Pre-teen years, right around the corner!)

My mother was there for me, listened to me cry, watched me break down about this friend or that friend, and always offered her advice, but she never, ever intervened. She cared enough to provide a soft place for me to land, but otherwise set me free. I was free to make my own choices about people and circumstances and how to navigate this world as a wanna-be social butterfly. I made a few awful mistakes, but eventually ended up with the greatest group of friends...we remain extraordinarily close to this day.

....stark contrast to Beverly Goldberg (anyone out there watch The Goldbergs?) 

Any time her kid gets his or her feelings hurt, Beverly fixes it. She is hilarious. I love watching her because that whole idea - manipulating situations so your kid gets his or her way - is not something I'm accustomed to. I was always held responsible for my choices and a common phrase in our house was "life is not fair!"

I wonder what Beverly would do to the scooter crew around here. I could see her buying a new scooter for her kid, or stealing someone else's scooter and repainting it. 

Me? I just kiss my scooterless kid's head and tell her to go take a shower.

What do you guys think? Were your parents more like Beverly or my mom? When you see a kid getting excluded, do you intervene? How so? I'd love to know in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!

Friday, August 29, 2014

When Life Isn't All It's Cracked up to Be

When I was younger I remember really, really wanting one of those spinning, "Skydancer" fairies that could fly. They were these crazy toys with wings that would shoot up into the air when you pulled a string real a lawnmower only with frenzied amounts of pink and purple instead of a motor. You know the ones I'm talking about?

The commercials would show them as actual "flying" fairies. All my life I'd wanted a flying fairy. It was as if my purpose on earth was all leading to that one moment....the moment when I would finally get a flying fairy.

I begged my mom for what felt like centuries. I did all my chores. I said "please" and "thank you" when I was at Gramma's house. I even tried not to fight with my sister. I was Little St. Jen, the Heavenly Fairy Obsesser. I remember pining for this toy like it was an everlasting fountain of joy and pure happiness. I ate, drank, and slept Skydancer. I just had to have one. I just had to.

And happened.....Skydancer. My sister got one too and we went absolutely ballistic. SKYDANCER, people.

We raced outside to try them out. I popped mine on her little dolphin wave pedestal, pulled the cord, and let 'er rip.

Bsssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - ZING!

So high! So fast! So beautiful! She rose and soared in the wind, shooting skyward, becoming one with the fairy winds of the North....until suddenly, she wasn't. A crazy cross-breeze stopped her momentum like a bolt of lightening and she came hurtling to the ground, headfirst, plummeting faster, faster, faster, as I looked on helplessly, mouth open, struggling to accept the fact that she was NOT a real flying, not at all. She hit the ground with a horrific *snap* and I watched as one of her precious wings broke right off.

I can still see it in my head, slow-mo style. SPLAT *pop*.... *tink....tink....tink*

I realized two things that day.

1) TV toy commercials are full of lies.
2) Building something up so, so much can sometimes set you up for disappointment.

I relished the idea of that Skydancer so much, I truly thought sparkling trails of love would follow her everywhere she went. Maybe it's the writer in me. Maybe it's the drama queen in me. Maybe it's the hopefulness in me. I build things up. I'm a huge builder-upper. I build things up so high they're bound to tumble down with reality.

So what's a chick to do when she realizes she's built something up too high? What happens when that hopefulness turns into disappointment? How do you stay positive when you realize your obsessing has actually backfired....instead of planned, purposeful, and poised, you're drowning in the unexpected and waiting for the joy to hit you....waiting, waiting, wondering where it is?

Is this it? Is this what I've been waiting for?

No. The answer is no.

Call it God, call it fate, call it life....whatever your name for it, some aspects of living cannot be controlled. A little girl's flying fairy dreams, a teenage girl's first love, a grown woman's lifestyle desires.....all fluid, each one of them. None of these things, dreams, love, or desires, are tangible, concrete steps toward a self-fulfilling, realistic destiny. These are ideals. These are manifestations of the heart.

These are the building blocks of towers I've built and watched tumble down around me, brick by disappointing brick.

I envy those who see the greater picture, who aren't concerned with the future, who know in their heart it will all work out. Maybe if I were one of those people, I wouldn't obsess so much about the things I want and would instead accept the beauty and joy I already have....because this is a tough lesson to learn, the one where you work and work to try and grab something that never truly existed, at least not the way you wanted it to.

It always comes back to perspective, for me. I am constantly realizing I need a perspective check...the kind that allows me to see things through other people's eyes, the kind that makes me want to slap myself for feeling anything but blessed.

So the fairy didn't fly. So the first love didn't love you. So the lifestyle you thought you were getting isn't really a thing.

So what. What are you going to do about it.

Well, you can sulk about it. You can stomp your feet and scream "THAT'S NOT FAIR" and you can whine to your mom on the phone and talk your bff's ear off. You're allowed to feel upset. That dang fairy was supposed to fly. This isn't what I signed up for.

But then what? What happens when the anger and disappointment becomes too much to carry...when it starts to fade and you get tired, oh so tired, of being pissed off? What's the next step?

I have a theory.

Take you hopes, the ones that got you into this situation, and shuffle them up a few steps. Go on and wiggle them up there, like a heavy moving box on apartment stairs. It ain't easy. It ain't without work. But keep pushing. Dream at a higher lever. Dream with people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa and all those other studs in Heaven.

Why do we quote these studs' words, know their names, cherish their lessons? Simple, really. They had the ability to reformulate their desires to match the reality they were given. They learned from every failure, every mistake, and every lost dream....and used that knowledge to build a completely new set of dreams, these ones aimed at a higher level of thinking.

Fairy doesn't fly...but fairy makes my sister smile, which is kind of like flying.
The first love doesn't love me...but my first love is happy, and because I love him, so am I.
This lifestyle isn't what I wanted it would be.......but I can feel it, the simple happiness, waiting just around the corner. Waiting for me. Waiting for me to drop the 'tude and realign my thinking. Waiting for me to engage and soar.

Your life, and mine, isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Sometimes we set ourselves up by building up.....a vacation.......a wedding..........the first day of school.

It's ok. The dreamer in you is coming out. This is a positive thing. Take the sting of your failed assumptions and refocus them. Raise yourself up to this challenge called life. You can take it, and so can I.

To all those who work hard to make their dreams come true, Happy Labor Day. And as always, my lovely, hard-working readers, thank you for reading. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

10 Surprising Facts about Working from Home

Here we are, exactly one week after I quit my corporate job.

Now I wanna preface by saying what follows is a list of legitimate surprises...according to me. Call me naive, call me out-of-touch, call me just plain stupid, these things completely knocked me on my ass this week. You may shake your head multiple times and think, "really, Jen?" Don't worry. I'm right there with you. We're in this together.

So here they are, dear readers, my 10 most surprising facts about working from home:

1. You don't get more time to do anything.
It's simple math. I spent two hours driving each day, and eight/nine hours at work each day, so that means I should have at least ten hours of time to fill with writing and spending time with my kids....right?

That's not happening. See, when I signed up for this stay-at-home gig, I agreed to do all the cleaning, cooking, and daytime child addition to my freelancing. Now, my freelancing isn't the problem. I control exactly how many hours I spend each day on my's the other stuff that trips me up.

I sat down Sunday night, the night before my first day as a stay-at-home woman, and I made a schedule. I scoured Pinterest for cleaning lists, dinner ideas, and basic home management schedules. After downloading 27 a few, I compiled my data, color coded each calender block (green = freelancing, pink = kids, purple = cleaning, blue = meals, bright blue = exercising, gray = social events), I set reminders at 30 and 5-minute increments, synced everything with my phone, and sat back, feeling accomplished. I had the good ol' husband look it over and tell me if I was missing anything. His eyes got a little wide, he slowly glanced over to me, and very carefully said, "looks like you've got EVERYthing covered."

He knew. He knew the whole time and wasn't about to be the one to tell me.

Those ten hours mean nothing when you're at home. Nothing. They fly by in a blink. I swear to you, I barely shower. I haven't done one craft. I haven't watched a single soap opera. I considered writing this post from the toilet. Multitasking, people. Multitasking is the only way I am alive right now.

2. Down time is pretty much guilt time.
The gaps in my calender are like little pressure-filled pockets of explosive material....if I don't use them wisely, carefully, and for the right purpose....KABLAMMO.

Should you shower? Maybe even try and shave an armpit? about finishing that pitch you started? Some promotional development for Concentrated Creativity, perhaps? No no wait, what about that clogged drain in the basement you've been pissed about for like six months? The dog sure needs his nails clipped. Oh look! The bird feeder is empty again...wait are those flowers wilting?? Is it that hot out? Maybe I should turn on the hose....but last time I did that I left it on and it woke me up and speaking of waking up....did I ever get around to changing the sheets?

People talk about "taking time for you," and "don't go overboard," but I'm telling you, that paragraph up there is a typical minute in my mind anytime I don't have something scheduled or in front of me. I'm not at the point where I can "wing it" yet and still feel like I've done a good job. So any down time I get immediately results in me thinking, "I could be doing A, B, C, or D right now...."

3. Weird stuff happens around the hood during the workday.
This place turns into the freaking Amazon jungle when everyone leaves for work. I see crazy amounts of birds and bugs swooping, swirling, smacking into my front room window. It's like nature on steroids. The only thing that tops the entertainment value of insects pepper spraying themselves at birds is catching glimpses of my fellow at-homers throughout the day.

I had no idea the dude across the street even existed. I knew a chick lived there, but a guy? With a huge round belly and an affinity for those little race cars? No clue. And the guy on the corner, he loves beer all day. Walks around with beer. All day. My other neighbor only works until maybe 1:30 or 2PM. He likes to yell, but not in the scary way. In the Italian way. His ringtone is the Godfather theme. Their dog's name is Fonzie. This is real life, dentist boy.

Twice now I've seen this old flatbed truck drive by with a gaggle of random people in the back, some old, some young, each wearing wide-brimmed hats and hanging their bare feet off like they just got done mushing grapes at Old McGowen's Farm. Yesterday I went for a walk with the little one (outside/walk time, pink, 2PM on M, W, F) and saw this chick standing in a driveway, struggling to get a cap off a Mountain Dew. I remember thinking it was weird because I'd walked past that house hundreds of times and never seen anyone in it or around it. My husband had a theory it was a vacation home. As I casually looked closer (thank gosh for sunglasses), I noticed this chick was accompanied by two other dudes, both of which were hidden in the shadows of a very crowded, junk-filled garage. They were cussing and throwing stuff and weeding through piles and piles of boxes, wrappers, garbage bags - it looked like a landfill, no joke. I just kept on staring, I didn't even care at this point, and that's when I noticed the van they somehow must've arrived in was filled with trash. When I say this late-90's, rusted teal Dodge Caravan was filled to the brim with stuff I literally mean stuff was coming out the sides and windows. They had the sliding side door open and I could make out an indentation in the pile where someone apparently sat. Totally weird.

4. Driving during the day can actually be worse than driving in rush hour traffic.
Minivans. Dear gosh in heaven the minivans. Or the Suburbans. These are the parents who never get a minute alone, who are driving to their fifth game or meet of the week, and are undoubtedly texting while driving, trying to capitalize on that multitasking I mentioned earlier. These are the drivers who brake hard because they just want to finish typing out this gosh dang sentence and leave you bumper-to-bumper, staring through the shaded rear window of their kid-mobile. You look past the gymnast silhouette with the name "Chloe" underneath it and two football helmets, one for Gabe, the other Ethan....someone is flailing around in there like they're getting bit and another small person is literally walking around, as if on a party bus. Someone's shoe smacks the back window and you almost pee your pants and before you know it, a granola bar is flying out the window, headed your way.

No where to go. No way out. You're going to have to take it, chocolate chips and all.

It's insane how many moms and dads I see texting, talking, messing with their phones with their kids in the car. It's bad enough when you're in traffic on the highway and you're surrounded with mean-muggin corporate types who want nothing more than to ram you out of the way. There are kids in there, man. Little people who have no choice but to trust their lives in the hands of their drivers. Don't even get me started on the smokers. If there's one group of people I would gladly run up to and punch right in the face, it's the parents who smoke with kids in their car.

But I digress. Daytime drivers also include construction machinery. Semis. And the worst of all worst....the landscapers. These guys are hauling lawnmowers and rakes that are haphazardly strewn across a flatbed trailer, ropes dangling, equipment clanging and mud flying off everywhere. It's a jungle out there. At least in rush hour traffic I'm expecting to drive assertively. I didn't think that would be the case for a 1PM library trip five miles down the road.

5. If you have kids they literally need to come with you for everything. 
I was all like, "Oh wow! No work schedule! I can go to any doctor's appointment, ever! Talk about open access! Regular business hours...lemmie at 'em!"

Except I forgot about one small kid. I turn around and *yep* she's still there. I have a small child I need to attend to. My dental office is an open bay of chairs. There's no babysitter. No "supervised play area." No cage.

I forgot how crazy it can be, having a toddler at doctor's appointments and needing to keep them busy while you do things like get your teeth cleaned and get your big kid's glasses fixed. Here I was thinking I was going to have all this opportunity to get my biz handled. Silly Jen.

6. Social media, social schmedia. 
When I was working I was totally into social media. I knew everything about my feeds...Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it. I was always one of the first people to "like" something or post that perfectly-captured cloud pic before everyone else could. Now I'm lucky if I can even find my phone. I don't need it as much, you see, because I'm not a personal assistant anymore. I can do things way better when I don't have my vacuum and change butts and stir tortellini. seriously I made tortellini. Where's my medal?

When I was at the office, my phone was right there. It had to be - it was my boss' primary form of commo. I was always connected. Now, not so much. I think I've been invited to participate in like 10 challenges. I'm always the last to see a pic or hear about some event I was invited to. As a matter of fact, I've gotten super pissed about not getting invited to something, just to find out I was invited, I just didn't check my stupid Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I still check it, but you would think working from home would mean more computer time and therefore, more social media. Not the case for me at all.

7. Garbage and mail people aren't up with the sun after all.
I always pictured the garbage man coming in the early morning, the hiss of his rig waking me a little, my mail waiting for me by lunchtime. I know this is, honestly, a ridiculous expectation. But in my mind, the Norman Rockwell garbage man arrives right after the milkman and paperboy and the mailman follows mid-morning tea.

I swear it was like 3:30 by the time my mailman came yesterday. And the garbage? Let's just say I went down to the end of the driveway to haul the cans back up because I thought there was no way in hell they weren't empty yet.

Think again, Jen! This world is all kinds of crazy!

8. Everybody wants something for nothing.
I'm a Girl Scout leader now! It's very exciting. I told my big girl and she giggled and laughed like an angel. She's missed her mama and I'm happy to be involved.

That being said, I can't even tell you how many volunteer opportunities I've been invited to since quitting my corporate job. Food co-op needs event planners. Library needs readers. School needs PTA members. School needs room moms. School needs artist of the month curators. School needs fundraiser helpers and book sale helpers and Market Day helpers and holiday helpers. Church needs corn pickers. Church needs childcare helpers and readers and ushers and communion givers.

Now I'm all about giving back to the community and doing nice things for others and the self-fulfillment you get in return from all that jive. But let's just call a spade a spade here, people. These groups want you to work for no money. Volunteering is hard work and is made up entirely of goodwill and time. I honestly cannot even wrap my head around how many things I could be doing for others, for no pay. I could spend 80 hours a week simply volunteering, if I wanted to. And it's not easy to choose which ones to do and which ones to decline. Right now I'm about one obligation away from a complete internal short-circuit, so I'm just gonna stick with Girl Scouts for a bit. Whew.

9. Banks still live in the 1950's.
Speaking of Girl Scouts, I went to the bank to get added on the troop account (glue sticks here I come!). The personal bank assistant lady asked me a few questions, my name, my birthdate, my social. Then she said, "Now, just because of the way our form is, I have to ask you, do you work outside of the home?" I smiled so big I thought my face was going to fall off and excitedly told her, "NOPE!"

But my smile quickly faded, because no sooner had I announced this huge accomplishment of mine, that she scribbled the word "HOMEMAKER" on the form she was filling out. On the line next to my name. The line that said, "Occupation."

I just sat there. No big deal, I thought. Who gives a shizza what this dumb bank thinks about me.

But then she said, "...and what was your employment prior to leaving the job industry?"

I remember biting back my words...oh I had so many I wanted to say.....tight-skirted secretary? Brunette bimbo with a clipboard? Coffee-bringer with a butt ready for pinchin'? No way was I going to tell this assumptive woman I was an administrative assistant. So I spoke up, told her I was still kinda working, for actual real-life dollars, as a freelance copywriter and virtual assistant. She nervously chuckled and said, "Oh, of course you are! That's so nice!" The "HOMEMAKER" remained.

I can't help but wonder....if a stay-at-home dad were to walk in there, would they write "HOMEMAKER" on his application? Vewwwwwy intewwwesting....and perhaps for another blog post. Let's move on to the last surprising fact about working from home.

10. You wait around .... a lot. 
You wait for the kids to wake up. You wait for breakfast time. You wait for your kid to get on the bus. You wait for naptime. You wait for laundry to get done. You wait for lunchtime. You wait for good weather. You wait for the garbage man...and mail man. You wait for your kid to get home from school. You wait for your partner to get home from work. It's a whole lotta waiting. I am not a huge fan of waiting. I'm a huge fan of getting it done, now, as quickly as possible. I don't hold on to my to-do lists very long. I am huge on reading all my emails right away so I don't have those stupid icons showing (11) new emails. Makes me nuts. I kinda feel like Samantha sometimes, my fellow SitC fans....when she throws sushi at Smith and screams, "I am not the kinda woman who sits home all day waiting for a man!"

Except I never actually throw the food I cook because seriously, that stuff's expensive.

So yes, I suppose I went into this situation with a pretty skewed perspective, which is interesting because I have done this before. Many years ago. Many many years ago. I feel like I found a picture of myself from school and want to go back in time and take that stupid crimper and throw it right out the window. Some things make so much sense until you're living and breathing the reality of your choices. Granted, I wouldn't change a thing because I get to stay home with my littles as they get not-so-little....but I've still had some major wake-up calls this week.

I'm really hoping it is all part of the learning curve and I'll eventually find my rhythm, but until then, I am dying to know....for any of you who work from home (work, as in, for money or for hugs) do you do it?? What are your tricks? Help a Jen out here.

And as always, thank you for reading :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Great Expectations of a New SAHM

So I quit my job today. That's right. As of today, I am no longer an assistant to a very large (ex pro-basketball player) Vice President. As of today, I am a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) with a little freelancing biz on the side. Bye bye, corporate job. Hello, freedom!

I left for work this morning a few minutes late. I'd taken extra time getting ready...picked a non-mumu outfit, actually DID my hair instead of throwing it on the top of my head like a raven's nest, and even applied some makeup. Baller status. By the time I got in the car I was at least 20 minutes behind schedule, but I didn't care. Today was my last day of work. I would never need to make the commute again. Ever.

I sang with the radio the whole way there. I'm sure my fellow 5AM commuters were disgusted with me. My face was lit up like a Christmas tree. It was glorious.

Got to work and took care of a few last-minute items....and then my fellow coworkers started arriving.

This, my dear readers, is when the party began.



The glory of all glories.

I ate, I laughed, and I cried. I felt the love so strongly I thought I might burst. It was, to say the least, incredible.

And then I came home. I practically flew out of the car, eager to show my husband all the wonderful food I brought home and hilarious, thoughtful gifts I received. I couldn't wait to grab my baby, lift her up, and say "I'm with you now, my love. Mommy's with you now." I knew my big girl would run up and give me a huge hug, my husband would kiss my nose, it was gonna be like heaven.

I opened the door and was greeted with the same pile of shoes (how long have those been there now?), the same dog freaking out and stepping on my toes, the same little one scrambling to dodge said dog, who scrambled around like a crazy beast and bumped into her seventeen times, making her head smack on the corner of the table. Chairs were randomly everywhere, the countertop covered in clutter, the husband calling to me from over a stove, and my big girl nowhere to be found.

"Where's Anya?" I asked.

"Outside playing with the neighbors."

"But I didn't see her....and the neighbor's garage is shut...." I replied, shuffling my feet and trying not to drop an immense amount of stuff on the dog/cat/kid.


After a freaking lifetime few minutes of screaming her name, Anya pops out of the backyard of some kid we don't know. My heart was still racing as I grounded her for life, explaining she needs to tell us where she is if she wants the freedom to play outside without her parents....and by "explaining to her" I mean I basically just screamed jibberish like the tasmanian devil.....RAHHAWNNNBABAHHAHAB! Earned myself a sad, mopey face from my big girl.

The little one didn't want her dinner. Pasta. It was her hair, all over the table, and because I'd just brought my new stuff in the house and didn't have room to put it on the counter, all over my stuff, too.

"NO, Annabelle!" Sad, mopey face from my little girl.

Ok, no kid love. Whatevs. I start to show the husband my stuff. He says he likes it, tells me it's so awesome and he is so glad I had a good day. Then he got up to clear the table and started talking about how he needs to mow the lawn in the back. Well that was quick, I thought. Great Jen, awesome story! Now about that lawn....

No. No, I tell myself I'm being crazy, he's not dismissing how awesome I feel right now. How about I suggest doing something fun together, move past those negative feelings!

"Let's go for a walk together, want to?" I say.

"Whatever you want," says the man.

"Uggggh I don't feel like it," says the big girl.

"Go for walk go for walk???" repeats the little one. Then she starts crying immediately because we aren't instantaneously, at that very second, on a walk.

I get her down from her high chair and sigh, loudly. Well geeze, I think. I sure am glad I left a killer party at work to come home to all this awesomeness.

My husband picks up on my shift in attitude and asks me what's wrong. I try to explain I'm a little disappointed....meaning I started speaking in tongues.

"I didn't expect a huge cake or a surprise party with strippers and champagne, but I certainly wasn't expecting a missing kid hunt when I first got home, or a spaghetti-hating demon screaming at the top of her lungs, or a husband who was more interested in talking about the lawn than my last day of work!" All while yelling, too. Jen strikes again! Sad, mopey face from husband.

A fight immediately ensued, followed by me storming out, followed by me sitting in my car at a forest preserve with no shoes on, wearing a ratty pair of too-short shorts that say "DANCE!" on the butt....which is where I still am now, typing this very post into an app on my phone. Damn you auto correct. Damn you to swell.

I realize now, as I sit and watch the super tall grass in front of me wave around and whisper, "be cool," over and over again....I set myself up for this.

I had these expectations, you see. I thought because I was having a "special day," life as I knew it would cease to exist. The clouds would part and the perfection of my workday joy would rain down on me at home, too. I didn't tell my husband I wanted to make this a special night. I assumed he would know. I assumed he would make it special if he wanted to. I assumed. I expected. I deemed myself worthy of that kind of mind-reading...that kind of perfection. And I let my family pay the price.

If I had taken two seconds to look around and stop thinking of myself, I might've seen some of the things my family did do to show me love.

The dishes were done. Kids fed. Animals fed. Laundry done. Beds made. Everyone smiled when they saw me, everyone hugged me. Even the missing kid, when she returned of course.

Everyone was safe. Everyone was alive and healthy.

Everyone except me, Jen, the New Stay at Home Mom with Great Expectations.

Who do I think I am? Yes, my coworkers rocked my life and threw me the best party in the world. Yes, I gorged myself on every food imaginable and was showered with gifts and love and hugs and all the good things ever. But when did that generosity change in my head and warp into some greedy, self-indulgent sense of expectation? Couldn't my amazing day be enough? Why did my brain demand more, more, more....from two half-people and a man who couldn't possibly of known what I wanted?

Let's hear it, many of you walk into your home and are greeted with balloons and presents, food, notes of love, and people asking you a million questions about YOU....? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I better get it together if I want to be happy doing the least-acknowledged job on the planet. I mean really, I wanted the party to continue, and because I couldn't see past myself, my party came to a screeching halt.

Sometimes you gotta lose yourself in a forest preserve to snap yourself out of....well......yourself.

So here's to being a new Stay at Home Mom. Here's to my hubby getting a kick ass job. But most importantly, here's to the people who make the mistake of thinking their own desires, beliefs, and expectations are more important than the feelings of others. It's ok. We all do it. Try, try again. The next hour of your life is what YOU make of it. I'm going to go home and apologize to my loves, shower them with kisses, and try, try again.

Welcome to an exciting, but humble, new chapter in the Flaws Forgiven story. Happy to have you guys with me. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How To Mod Podge Transfer like a Jerk

Welcome to another lovely installment of Jen's jerk-like DIY! As some of you know, I take a very honest approach to do-it-yourself projects, as showcased in previous posts like How to Paint your Trim Like a Jerk and Neglected Nightstands: A Makeover Story.

This post shall be no different. This is my flaw-filled tale of how I took two butt-ugly filing cabinets and turned them into something I kinda enjoy looking at.

The "Before" Pic
So you remember back when I wrote the trim post? The one where I explained I wanted to "lighten and brighten" up my home from beigey blandness to sweet French country bliss? I wrote that post a little over a year ago and I am delighted to tell you absolutely nothing has changed. In over 365 days, I have not put one ounce of work into my "lighten and brighten" project. Not one ounce. Procrastinators, unite!

A couple weeks ago I decided I had to do something to quiet that nagging little voice in my, much to the dismay of my husband, I decided I was going to paint some furniture.

I knew I wanted something easy, something cheap, something that used the ungodly amount of Mod Podge I've got in my basement, and something French-cottagy. I'm kinda into the whole "wildflowers and white" look.

I scoured a couple hundred blogs for this project, trying not to skip the "research" step. I honestly used a number of tips and techniques ripped right off my Pinterest wall, but because I combined about 40 different ideas and added my own jerk flavor, I can't really tell you a single source that helped me with this project. Search Pinterest for french white paint furniture transfer and read allllllll of the pins that come up. Universal credit goes to all those. And the Graphics Fairy. Everyone needs to know about the Graphics Fairy.

So. Let's get started.

Step 1 (optional, I think?): Paint your furniture like a jerk. Don't wipe it down beforehand. You want to make sure you get a ton of those teeny little cat hairs and huge black dog hairs all up in that stuff, like a real jerk would. Get paint all over? No problem. Just use your sock to wipe it up. Don't forget to accidentally dip your hair right in the paint container. That's when the real jerk glory hits ya. Wear that shizza loud and proud.

Have you heard all this crazy buzz about chalk paint? ...Not chalkboard paint, CHALK paint. As in, the finish is chalky. For about a year now I've been wondering why some rich lady named Annie Glidden or whatever has been selling chalkboard paint. Well now I know, people. It's not chalkboard paint. It's chalk paint. Different things.

I used this stuff. It was at Home Depot.

You'll notice it is NOT Annie Glidden or whatever. I don't even know where to buy that stuff. I also did not make my own because I would prolly completely mess it up and let's face it, this is jerk blog time. Jerks don't get thrifty and smart, they blow money on paint. This stuff was about $9 a container. I got 2, and the sales guy recommended grabbing the wax to go over it. So about $25 for the paint.

Step 2: Figure out what image you want on top of your terribly-painted furniture. Graphics fairy is the bomb. She has everything you need. Go to her. It will bring your jerk meter down a little, because she is truly the best thing on the internet, but it's worth it .I chose a French sign for a flower shop.....or at least I think I did....extra jerk points when you choose something in another language and don't take the time to research what it means!

Step 3: Waste a ton of paper trying to print the graphic. Try it at home first, where the printer is sure to be cheap and less reliable. Waste some ink printing on paper that's been smashed and tore up by toddler fingers and cats that enjoy laying on top of random objects. Then realize you have an ink printer, not a toner printer. Many of the non-jerk blogs say to use a toner printer, like the ones you have at work the library. Head into work the library and print a few more copies of the image using a toner printer. Lose the copies within 12 minutes of printing them. Print them again. Have them destroyed by previously-mentioned cat and children. Print them again.

Step 4: Cut around the graphic like a two-year old, making sure you're really far, far away from the outline of the image. This will ensure you spend an overwhelming amount of time peeling all the excess paper away later. Like a jerk.

Step 5: Paint gobs of Mod Podge on the furniture surface (in the general area of where you want to place the graphic) using a super-hairy, dirty paintbrush. Get disgusted with the amount of hair you've just Mod Podged on your piece of white furniture. Wipe all the Mod Podge off, using an equally-dirty towel. Get more hair on there. Sit back and cry for a minute while the Mod Podge starts to dry into a nice, hairy sheen. Remember at the last minute that water gets undried Mod Podge off. Use water. Wipe off. Wait for wet surface to dry, kinda, and re-paint the Mod Podge on there.

Step 6: Paint enormous amounts of mod Podge onto your graphic - the side with the image. Really smear the crap out of your image. Grab another copy of the graphic. Repeat Step 4 as fast as you can, before the Mod Podge you already slathered onto the furniture dries. Try to paint the graphic again. Get Mod Podge literally on every surface you can possibly reach, including your legs, feet, and face.

Step 7: Place the image face-down. Put it on all crooked-like. Try to move it. Rip the paper. Try to put it back together again. Smear the image. Repeat steps 4-6. Get it in the general vicinity of where you want it.

Step 8: Grab a flat card, like a credit card. Use it to smooth the Mod Podge out so the graphic lies flat with no air bubbles. Really press hard. Make some little tears in the paper. Reap all the benefits of overusing your Mod Podge and get the white, gluey madness into every crevice of your life. Think it's smart to Mod Podge the back of the graphic.

Remember you eventually need to rub the paper off and Mod Podge will keep that from happening. Scramble to remove the Mod Podge you put all over the back of the graphic. Realize Mod Podge is gumming up your credit card. Try to wipe it off on your pants. Fail miserably. Spend the next three days chipping Mod Podge off your credit card with scissors.

Step 9: Let it sit for 24 hours. Or 5 days.

Step 10: Spray the graphic with water. Really soak it, so the water ends up dripping down the side of your furniture and getting all over the floor. Make sure you end up slipping in water and knocking your butt on the corner of something the brick you'd recently used to hold the furniture off the floor when you painted it. Let the water soak into your graphic, floors, pants, everything.

Step 11: Rub the paper like a maniac. Ignore everything everyone said about being gentle and make sure you rub off both the paper and the graphic. Use your finger and just go to town.

Make so much friction your heat dries the water. Spray more. Watch as children and animals slip in the pools of water that are now surrounding you like a moat. Princess DIY.

Step 12: Dry off the image. Again, rub fiercely here. Why be gentle after all the time and energy you've put into this project? Nah. Jerks don't care about messing their graphics up.

Step 13: Coat the entire surface with another thick, gooey layer of Mod Podge. Let it dry, hairs, lint, and all.

Now step back and enjoy your flaw-filled creation with jerk-like pride and a haughty, evil chuckle. You did it - the jerk's Mod Podge method of transferring graphics onto painted furniture.

I gotta admit, like any good DIY jerk, I'm pleased with the results. Not as ugly as before, but not so classy I can't put a perspiring glass on it. Works for me!

Any of you transfer with Mod Podge? That stuff is like the milky sauce of heaven.

Happy jerky-DIY weekend everyone, and as always, thanks so much for reading :)