Do All Those Direct Sale Products Actually Work?

I, like most of you, have a lot of friends who are presently working with some direct sales organization or another selling some product or another. I think it's great that these friends, most of whom are women, are trying to find a way to add income to their families' budgets by selling a product they believe in.  More power to them. Truly. I mean that. Go for it. Do what makes you happy.

That said, sometimes I really do wonder if the things they are selling ACTUALLY WORK at all or if people are just buying the idea of a better, stronger, cleaner, smoother, slimmer, healthier body?

This year, I have decided to do my own personal testing of sorts. Think of me as your own personal consumer report. Throughout the year, I will be testing and reporting on the efficacy of four different products.  I am not making any money from these companies. However, all of the companies involved have agreed to supply me with the product for 90 days, with the understanding that I will post my results, with 100% honesty, whether the product works for me or not.

There are a good number of products that I have decided not to test as I think they are just nonsense at best or dangerous at worst. But the products I have agreed to test are products I think have the ability to actually change my life for the better (if the claims they make are true!).

So here goes!

The very first product I am testing is called L'Dara. As a fifty-three year old mom of six year olds, I am concerned about three things; my health first, my fitness habits, and my looks. Yes, I said it. I'm a girl, and I think about my looks!  I'm not obsessed about having a perfect body, can't see myself going the plastic surgery, botox route (not judging those who do, just saying it's not for me) but I do know that I will be in my mid-sixties when my girls graduate from high school and well . . . to be honest . . . I don't want to look like a grandma (even though I'm hoping by my mid-sixties I WILL BE ONE!) ha!

In researching my options for skin care, I came across this video and was very intrigued. So I went to their website and was pretty much blown away by their results page. I have a friend who sells L'Dara, so I contacted her and she agreed to allow me to test the product and post the results here on my blog.

So, starting today, I am testing L'Dara Anti-Aging Serum (I like to say anti-aging . . . it sounds so dramatic).  I will post my starting pictures next week along with my week one progress pictures. While you are waiting, go watch the video and check out the results page. OH MMMM GEEE.

All that to say, this should be interesting folks. Stay tuned!

Finding Strength in the Strangest Place

Psalm 46: 1-5  
God is our refuge and strength, 

a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, 
though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip
into the heart of the sea;  
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake 
at its swelling pride.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her,
she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

I love this Psalm.  It paints in my mind's eye a very vivid picture of God's strength in the midst of chaos.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

His presence is familiar.  It's always there.  It's very present.  When I feel like the world is spinning out of control (out of my control, if I'm honest) I look for Him, and He's always there.

Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

Think about this picture.  A mountain slipping down into the sea. I can picture the turmoil, the swell, the white foamy water.  It is not a peaceful picture.  It feels overwhelming and frightening.

It says, "Therefore we will not fear . . . " no matter what things look like around us.  No matter what is being destroyed or falling apart or changing.  We will not fear.  I will not fear.

And then there is the next beautiful line of this Psalm.  And every time I read this line . . .


it makes me catch my breath in awe.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God

I am not a theologian, and I don't know exactly what this means, but this is what it says to my heart. 

In the midst of destruction and chaos and uncertainty, there is a river, the depth of which cannot be imagined.   It is unfathomable.  It provides life.  It provides protection.  It has a determined course. It is a force to be reckoned with.  It is the Lord.

And I'm pretty sure THAT is why the thought of it takes my breath away.

When I read this one line, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God," I feel instantly at peace.  And oddly enough, I feel bolstered.  I want to raise my fist and shout, "YEAH, That's right!  A RIVER!"

The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

All that to say, there is a river, a foaming, raging river, yet it is there I will find strength, and comfort and peace. There is a river, and I am wading out into the deep of it.

Setting an Example

I am a hand talker. This fact is most evident when I am angry. Or when I am driving. Or worst yet, when I am angry AND driving. (I couldn't decide whether to say worse yet, or worst yet, so I went with "worst yet" as it felt to have the greatest amount of emotion, so don't correct me if it's wrong. I took literary license.)

Anyway. I'm a hand talker. I make gestures (not those kind of gestures!) when I talk.

Also, when I don't know someone's name, I make a name for them that describes what I know about them.

For example, years ago, my kids and I always ran into the same guy on Friday's at the donut shop (don't judge me. YES, I fed my kids donuts faithfully every Friday for many years, and it didn't stunt their growth; though I once had a three year old tell me that he couldn't have a donut because, and I quote, "donuts make you flabby and weak." Wow.)

Back to my story. I have blog ADD today.

So, we saw this guy every Friday. And the thing that was the most notable about him was that he bounced when he walked. So we called him "bouncy man."

Really, my whole family does this naming thing. We have named all the chef's at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. They have names like "rock star guy" or "sweaty man" (sweaty man is one of the best there).

When I broke my leg several years ago and the paramedic tried to PULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL the skate off my broken foot, Zack named him "Captain First Day On the Job."

I have many other stories about names I have given people whose real names I don't know.

The most common place I "name" people is in my car, while driving. People get names like "Mr. Oh-That's What That Lever Is For On My Steering Wheel. It's a Turn Signal!" (Most of the names aren't that long.)

I digress.

So the other day I was at a four-way stop and there was a dad there with two kids on bikes (with training wheels).

Brave Dad. (that's not the name I gave him)

He had his hand on one set of his kids' handlebars and was waiting on the other kid to catch up (at said four-way stop).

So, "Mr. Safety Dad Man" was waiving on the cars at the stop sign he was standing next to, FORGETTING the fact that there were 3 other stop signs at this FOUR-WAY-STOP.

He almost got us killed.

So I said, "Hey, Mr. Safety Dad Man, how about letting the TRAFFIC SIGNS do their job? Okay? Cool with you?" (Of course I didn't say it TO him, more "at" him, in the privacy of my own car. I HAVE mentioned my road rage issues, right?)

Then, all the sudden, I realized I had the twinderellas in my backseat. And they were listening to me. So I switched into "Mrs. See What a Good Mom I Am" and said, "Look at that nice daddy helping his kids on their bikes. That's so sweet."


All that to say, I am going to have to work on remembering that I am setting an example.  I guess technically I have been setting one for a while. Hopefully a few of my better qualities have shown through as well.  Time will tell, that's for sure. Those Twinderellas. They keep me humble.

You're Looking Pretty Good Carol Jones

I don't know why, maybe because I knew I had to leave my house today, or maybe because it's my birthday and that warranted a little bit of extra time looking in the mirror; but no matter the reason, I stood in my bathroom this morning, staring at the woman looking back at me.

photo credit: Tim Barosh
My attention initially fell to the curves I seem to have acquired as I have aged, but I wasn't put off by those curves as I often am.


Today I looked at myself and said, "You know, Carol Jones, you don't look too bad for a woman of 53 years. You've got a few wrinkles and some junk in the trunk, and let's get real, a boob job wouldn't hurt you, but generally speaking, you're one hot mama."

(yep, my actual conversation with myself)

I don't know, something about staring at myself in the mirror and talking to myself out loud made me giggle.

Hearing the noise in the background of our home, the girls laughing, iTunes playing,  I smiled, thinking how different my life *is* versus how I imagined it *would be* at this point.

I think somehow I pictured that I'd be in Paris or on some remote sandy beach sipping fruity drinks adorned with pink paper umbrellas. Trust me when I tell you, in no way did I ever imagine I'd be starting all. over. again.

Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom.  In fact, I think it's been my very best work.  I just didn't see myself here, at this stage again, at this point in my life.

But in the best and most fulfilling of ways, I'm glad I'm here.

And I'm thankful for every single thing God has allowed in my life, because each of those things, from the greatest of joys to the deepest of sorrows, has shaped and molded me into the woman I have become - every curve, wrinkle and flaw included.

All that to say, "Happy Birthday Carol Jones. You're looking pretty good, girl."

Less of Me

This morning at church Mike and I were standing close together, singing (or something we call singing) and soaking in those moments together when I felt this incredibly deep sadness come over me.

It's difficult to explain, so I won't try, but I just reached around him and whispered in his ear, "Will you pray for me?"

Without hesitation he wrapped his arms around me, placing one hand behind my head and pulling it next to his so he could pray into my ear, over the sound of the song we had just been singing. Of course, he had no idea why I needed him to pray, and honestly, he didn't ask. In reality, *I* had no idea why I needed him to pray, but that didn't deter him. He just prayed, trusting the Holy Spirit to supply the words.

The music shifted and the congregation around us began to sing these words,

Set a fire down in my soul
That I can't contain and I can't control
I want more of you God
I want more of you God

I want more
I want more
I want more of you God

Oddly, I could not bring myself to sing the words.

As I stood there in silence, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me, so gently, but so firmly, as he so often does.

He said, "Carol, you don't need more of God. You need less of yourself."

Such truth in so few words. But in that truth, I found such comfort.

All that to say, perhaps these words are just for me today. But perhaps they are for you as well.

He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.  John 3:30 NLT

I Survived Dance Recital Pictures

I would like to begin this post by saying I raised two sons, boys, non-females. I raised them from infancy to adulthood, successfully.

I navigated the roads of parenting, surviving everything from the terrible twos and potty training, bad grades and bullies, teenage attitudes, driving, dating, drinking, and broken hearts (and not necessarily in that order).

So you would think that with that much experience under my belt, a little thing like dance recital picture day would be no big deal.

Well you would be wrong, if you thought that.

First off, I'm not a girly girl. I can't do fancy hair, I don't accessorize well, I didn't do ballet or tap or jazz or any such thing as a little girl, nor did I attend school dances that required extravagant formal gowns. So I am immediately at a disadvantage.

Secondly, when your daughter has dance recital pictures, it's serious business. You have to go to a meeting where they tell you what to wear, and how to wear it.  You gotta know how to fix the hair, where to put the bow, what color stockings you need, the fancy socks . . .


the list goes on and on.

But you know what? I rallied.

I figured out how to put my daughter's braided and beaded hair into a bun, expertly crafting a black sock around all that hair in such a way that it looked exactly like a black bun on the top of her cute little head.

Read that again. (Go ahead, I'll wait. . .)

Did you catch that? I used a


and made it look like a bun.


AND I expertly fashioned the other daughter's giant fro into a tight-ish bun on the top of her head.

I somehow managed to get my twinderellas in car seats amidst giant glittery tutus and exclamations of grand protest.

And we somehow arrived without anyone falling down and tearing their TWELVE DOLLAR stockings or SIXTY-FIVE DOLLAR costumes (for the love).

When we got out of the car, I must confess. I was nervous.  So nervous in fact, that I gave myself a little pep talk.

"Come on Carol. You can do this.  You've raised kids to adulthood. It's a dance recital picture.  Just get in there. Be confident. You've got this!"  (I wish I was kidding. But I'm not. It was very stressful.)

The second we walked into the room, I knew I was totally out of my element.  All around me were little girls with glittery hair and rosy cheeks and thick, dark mascara-laden eyelashes.

I pretended not to notice, but in my head all I could think was, "No one said anything about make-up in that meeting! I didn't know about make-up! They are FIVE! Why do they need make-up?"

One mom walked up to me and said, "It's kind of crazy, right?" (Clearly the fear was evident on my face.)

My response was, "Let's just say soccer pictures were way easier than all this!"

She patted my back in that reassuring, "Oh-honey-you'll-get-it" sort of way and walked over to the other group of more confident-looking moms.

As we waited, moms and daughters took selfies. They posed in groups, the moms equally as done up as their cute little girls.  I have no idea how they got themselves AND their daughters that put together.  We barely survived getting out the door, and I was a mess.  Sweaty, hair disheveled . . . seriously, a hot mess. (But in my defense, I had to get TWO girls ready, just saying.)

Finally it was time for pictures. The photographer placed the tall glittery girls on the pinnacle of the stage, and then dragged out these two "s-shaped" props.  As the photographer took each of my girls by the hand and led them to those props, I smiled a little smile.  I knew she was going to try to get my girls to sit on those props.

Nikki . . .
Sitting, on a prop . . .
A curvy prop . . .
With ten more girls waiting to be positioned in the photo.

Let's just say by the end of that decision, the photographer looked as sweaty and disheveled as I did.  It was my tiny little bit of revenge for the hell I had endured to get my girls there.

All that to say, I survived dance recital picture day. And when the actual recital day comes, I'll be ready, armed with a video camera, because knowing my two girls, I very well could have a $10,000 winning t.v. appearance in my future.

(Oh, and also, I have NO PICTURE to go with this post. That's how nervous I was! I'll come back later, when I get the pictures back, and post some pics!  But until then, I'm giving you this cute movie of the girls dancing. Turn up your volume!)


The Twinderellas Meet Their Cinderella

I have a long story to tell you today.  There's no deep theological meaning in this post. No grand philosophical point to make.  Just a timeline of events, if you will, but one with a pretty cool ending.
(Now don't go skipping to the end, or you'll miss all the really awesome details in this story!)

Wayyyyyy back in early February, I received a message from the Director of Love Fosters Hope, Cindy Mericle, telling me that this year's grand fundraising prize was going to be a trip to Disney World.  (I coach a Couch to 5K running group that runs in the Run for Hope as its Completion Race, so she knew I'd be running and likely fundraising as well.) The Run for Hope raises funds for Love Fosters Hope to send kids in the foster care system to camp.  She said, "I think it would be so cool if a family who adopted a child from the foster care system won the trip to Disney!"

Get Busy Winning

I posted this status update on Facebook immediately upon learning the news (because, well, you know the power of social media to make things happen, and I wanted to get busy winning!)

Which was immediately followed by this post on my son, Jacob's, Facebook wall:

A Very Unexpected Gift

Not too many days had passed when a young woman by the name of Jessica Fraser reached out to me, via Facebook.  Jessica knew of our family because she had taken an AP class with Jacob in High School, had seen his post, and was writing to explain to me that she really wanted our family to go to Disney World. She had already made a donation to my fundraising efforts, but wanted to find a way to make sure we got to go.

Ultimately, Jessica, her family, Mona Lane (Disney Planner) and a large group of her Jessica's friends and coworkers made the decision to send Mike and I and the Twinderellas on an all expense paid trip to Disney World.

The decision to send our family to Disney World was based on the Fraser family's desire to do something more in this world, to leave a heartprint instead of a footprint by doing something incredibly generous for someone else in the world.  As part of their "heartprint project" her two sons, Jimmy and Jackson (ages 3 and 4) gave up their birthday parties and presents to be able to help send us to Disney. (Please take the time to click the link and read their story).

Disney had been an incredibly healing experience for the Frasers after their family suffered a significant loss, and she wanted our family to experience that same "Disney magic."  Here's what she wrote in her note to me:

"My boys told me after I had to explain our loss that they "wanted to go to Disney to be happy." So we went. And we laughed so hard we cried. And we felt true joy again. And it was absolutely beautiful. It's something about Disney. It brings out the joy that sometimes we hide away. I want this for you and your girls so very much it hurts."

My one hesitation in their generous gift was that I didn't want it to hurt the fundraising for the Run for Hope. So we (the Joneses and the Frasers) made the decision not to tell anyone about the trip and to continue working to raise money for Love Fosters Hope (the organization that sponsors the Run for Hope).

Privately, the Fraser Family and their coworkers held a Disney Reveal for the girls. They showered them (and us) with plane tickets, Magic Bands, Disney Gift Cards, spending money and so much more. It was overwhelming, to say the least.  Here are a few pictures from that day.

The girls with Jimmy and Jackson and Jessica (See the Frozen pillowcases?)

A few of the people who made our trip possible!

The girls in their Minnie shirts from Aunt Cathy.
At this point they only knew they were going to get
a surprise. When asked what they thought the
surprise was, Shannay said, "a rice cake?"

More to the Story

Fast forward 2 months, and I got an email from my good friend, Courtney Templeton, who had this great idea to raise A LOT of money for the Run for Hope so we could win the trip to Disney.  Keep in mind, very few people knew we already had a trip in the works, and the WHOLE REASON very few people knew was because we didn't want to hurt the fundraising for the Run for Hope.  So I couldn't tell her we were already going to Disney!

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would raise almost $4000 in ONE DAY from her brilliant idea, but we did! We were so thrilled that so many foster children would be going to camp from that incredible day of fundraising (and we hadn't mentioned Disney World one time in the day of fundraising!)

Never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine we'd end up with TWO trips to Disney, but that is exactly what happened.  Not only were we going to Disney because of the generosity of the Frasers, we were also going at the generosity of so many who gave to the fundraising for the Run for Hope.


In a crazy twist of events, at the 11th hour, another fundraising family passed us in the fundraising competition, but their last donation came in past the 9:00 p.m. fundraising deadline. We were declared the winners and given the prize.

Paying it Forward

The thing is, that other family was also a foster family, and what were we going to do with TWO trips to Disney? So we did the only thing we could do; we paid it forward, and gave them the trip.

All that to say, the Twinderellas are going to meet their Cinderella.  And so is another special family.

It is, after all, a fairy tale ending. :)