Category Archives: give back

2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring: A Driver’s Dream?

I like to drive. You might have deduced this from the number of car reviews you find here on The Nuggets or the years that I contributed to automotive publications. Every once in a while a car comes along that makes that love deepen. The 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring might just be The One. 

Through my continued collaboration with the folks at DriveShop, I was able to spend a week with the 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring AWD. I would like to thank Mazda USA for also allowing us to give back to the Assateague Island Alliance.

The alliance is a charity we support that helps preserve the wild horse population of Assateague Island as well as its unique environment. Part of our extended test drive included a visit to the island that you can see in the video below.


 

Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front… I love this car. Typically any car review I write comes with a robust list of pros and cons because really all cars have their faults. Or rather I feel that were I designing them I could have done a much better job, duh!  So, I prepare you in advance that is review will have a very small list of cons. 

5 Things Reasons to Love the 2017 Mazda CX9 Grand Touring (AWD) 

Handling – Crossovers aren’t as clunky as mini-vans when it comes to handling but it’s a close second in most cases. While this car doesn’t quite reach the performance levels of the limited edition Corvette I zoomed around South Florida in a few years back, it still handles like a sports car. Acceleration is seamless, steering smooth and breaking a breeze. 

Tech – From audio app integration (hello, Pandora!) to both iOS and Android carplay compatibility, this car is a techie dream. MAZDA CONNECT – their proprietary the infotainment system – lets you own the road and still be connected. Really if you’re at all the road tripping type this is the ultimate. 

Safety – Advanced blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and smart break support are just the little things in the safety package. Mazda steps up their game with the addition of smart break support just for city driving (we break more in traffic), lane assist (stay in your own lane, bud!), distance recognition support (no riding tails anymore), roll stability and even automatic emergency notification. Top all that off with a camera system that essentially gives you a 360 view and even lousy parallel parkers like me are safe and sound.  

Room (SO. MUCH. ROOM) – Most cars with third-row seating either come with only enough leg room for passengers born with disproportionally short legs or just enough cargo space for a sack of potatoes. With the CX9 Grand Touring Mazda has cracked the code and given you both. 

Easy one-handed controls allow you to configure seating with ease giving extra cargo space when needed and a comfortable amount of space when using all seating options.

Style – This car is sexy! The driver’s side feels like a cockpit. Leather wrapped steering wheel, dual lighting for the vanity mirrors, a center console that feels like a lounge, all contribute to a sense of style that is echoed in the lines of the body. 

This car is packed with pros but it has a few cons too, starting with the navigation. While I love all the tech offered, and especially the heads up display that projects speed and directions onto the windshield,  the navigation system is not intuitive. We spent a week with this car and failed to fully figure it out.  

The fuel efficiency is great on the highway but could be better in the city. It isn’t bad though by any stretch. Price point is a bit of sticker-shock. The average cost for the base model of the grand touring awd comes in around $40,500. I will say though that after our drive was over and I went back to our car, I quickly resigned that I’d be more than willing to pay that be driving the Mazda again. 

Beyond the use of the vehicle and a gift card for the charity, I haven’t been compensated for this post. Like all my reviews of cars (or anything) all opinions are my own. 

Dog Wisdom

This past weekend was a cold and dreary one along the Chesapeake bay. The weather brought with it a bit of unease and melancholia. Self-medicating seemed in order.

I spent part of the day in Downtown Annapolis, just me and the pup. The kids had slept late and Marc didn’t feel like going out in the rain. While feeding the ducks a man approached. He asked if he could pet Gordon. Gordy loves that, little attention junkie that he is.

While we talked about the dog and the dog did all his cute moves to get more pets the man shared how much he loved being around dogs. He said, “dogs never think twice about being nice. They seem to know if they are good to you you’ll be nice back. Sad that doesn’t always work out for them.” He thanked me, rubbed Gordy’s head and walked away only to turn around and head back.

He then said he hated to ask but he was homeless and hungry and wondered if I had some change to spare. Without thinking twice I handed him a $20. I tend to be very wary of panhandlers having seen more than one head off for a fix. He could have been intending to do the same thing but I realized in that moment it wasn’t my place to judge. I could do a nice thing because it was nice and leave it at that.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. ~ John Grogan

Heading back to the car I heard someone call, “Hey, Gordon’s mom!” I looked across the street and it was the same guy with a big bag full of sandwiches from Jimmy Johns. He smiled and said, “thanks for understanding.”

Sometimes dogs teach us how to be better humans.

random acts of kindness apps

random acts of kindness there's an app for thatKindness is the the best investment. Think about it, how good do you feel right after you’ve done something – big or small-– for someone else? See, just thinking about it paid dividends in you feel good all over again. Right? Investing in kindness is even easier thanks to tech. Check out these ways random acts of kindness apps, websites and tech tools. 

Walk The Dog

I love this one because it has so many layers. Walking your dog is good for you and them. With Walk for a Dog, Woof Trax is making it your walk good for dogs living in shelters too.

Whether it’s a walk around the block or that epic hike you’ve been gearing up for, every walk counts. Download their app, and use it every time you grab for the leash, and Woof Trax donates to one of 6,000 shelters across the country!

Get Those Steps In

Sure, hitting your daily steps goal is great but it can do good for others too. Charity Miles partners with corporate sponsors to make those steps add up to cold hard cash for charity.  Just download the app, fill out your profile and get moving. Bikers earn up to 10¢ per mile; walkers and runners earn up to 25¢ per mile, and it all goes to the cause of your choosing from a long list of participating organizations.

So what charities can you help by getting in your daily workout? Organizations like; Habitat for Humanity, (red), Autism Speaks, Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project, and lots more! 

Share the Moments in REAL Time

One of my favorite features of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus I’m test-driving as a part of the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew, is the live stream video ability. Most of my family lives on the west coast, I’m on the east. We miss out on sharing so many of the milestones and moments of life just because of geography.

This feature allows me to text a link to my parents and have them join in LIVE at the kiddo’s violin recital, in the kitchen while I’m trying to make one of my mom’s signature recipes, at the big game. Unlike Periscope, this is a private stream only shared with those that have the invite. I can also download the video to my private YouTube channel and keep it like a video scrapbook.

Share A Meal

A meal has always been my favorite way to connect with others. Somehow feeding the belly, can also feed the soul. Though the Meal Sharing isn’t an app or charity, it does bring people together.

Go to the website, sign up and then search for meals being prepared by gifted home cooks. Find one that appeal to you, pay on the site and then show up to eat. Maybe bring along gift for the host or ask if you can donate to a food bank in their area. 

Giving Tuesday

The UN Foundation has put kindness and giving back into the holiday season with their Giving Tuesday campaign. In a time where Cyber Monday and Black Friday dominate the season,

#GivingTuesday, is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea and a powerful thing to do. Gather your family, community, coworkers and come together to give something more.  It can be something as simple as donating to your local homeless shelter or as big as hosting a day of community service where you get everyone involved. Tech plays a big role in Giving Tuesday, by connecting people, sharing plans, and getting others involved.

A rising tide floats all boats.

Text It

Remember when you were a kid and something unexpected came in the mail for you? That thrill was a powerful thing. In the busy lives we lead it may not be practical to sit down and write a note, find a stamp, and hit the post office. BUT  a random text out of the blue? That we can do!

Try it this week. Pick two new people a day to send a text to. Make it fun, happy, appreciative, silly, whatever fits your relationship with that person. I’d wager by the end of the week you’ll be smiling and so will a bunch of people you care about. 

How about that for the power of kindness when it meets tech?

Verizon gives some great ideas on how you can use tech to do random acts of kindness any day, for any reason. Join in using technology for good this month and spread the word using the hashtag #VZWBuzz, let’s make kindness a thing! Okay, an even bigger thing.

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

The Hidden Heroes of Veteran’s Day

Hidden Heroes of Veterans DayTrue heroism is a quiet thing. It does not seek the spotlight nor is it dependent upon the recognition of others. It comes from a place of selflessness where doing the right thing is the only option. And yet no hero stands alone. Behind each is a hidden hero, a quiet corps of support and caring there in times of peace and struggle.

This Veteran’s Day, as I pay homage to those who came before me, served alongside me, and currently serve, I choose to also honor the silent heroism of the military caregiver. Having been both an active duty servicemember and a military spouse, now a Marine mom, I know firsthand that service is not a solitary undertaking. And yet I have little grasp on what it means to be the caregiver for a wounded warrior in a post-9/11 world.

Hidden Heroes of Veteran’s Day: The Post-9/11 Caregiver

In the United States there are an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers. Of these, 1.1 million (nearly 20%) are caring for post-9/11 veterans.

These caregivers tend to be younger than those of other eras. They are caring for a younger veteran often with debilitating injury, mental health or substance use condition.

Most are employed, and not connected to a support network. Many are caring for other non-military family members as well – such as children.

Many of these people experience care and/or stress related health issues, report strain in family relationships, and incur workplace difficulties.   

Imagine the strength of character and spirit this takes to be this person, then try to not use the word hero in describing that.

Ever so slowly, more people are starting to see that these caregivers deserve to be honored for their service as well. That recognition can be as simple as lending a hand with daily tasks to take some of the burden from their shoulders. Better yet are those out there fully embracing these heroes, supporting them, and lifting them up through programs designed to help care for the caregiver.

Vail Veterans Program - Healing on the Slopes

The Vail Veterans Program, founded by Cheryl Jensen -a thankful American with no military ties– in 2004, began as an adaptive winter ski program. That first season there were just seven wounded warriors finding strength and healing on the slopes. Over a decade later the program has welcomed into the fold 500 severely injured veterans and over 1,000 family members and caregivers.

This unique program, founded by one person with a passion for honoring those who serve, has promoted physical and emotional healing for so many. This year Cheryl and her team have launched a program focused entirely on the Caregiver Hero.

Over the course of three days in a world-class resort, these heroes lay down the mantles they carry and allow themselves to be cared for, lifted up and renewed. Here they will partake in self-awareness programs, yoga, meditation, outdoor recreation, and spa treatments. This is not pampering, it is rejuvenation to strengthen them in their mission.

Hidden Heroes of Veterans Day

One of the things I remember most about my days of service was the way a meal {usually lousy, ugh Galley food} shared helped to wind down a day’s work. At the time it just seemed like everyday stuff, but looking back I understand what was happening, we were bonding and drawing strength from each other. Hearing that group meals were part of this caregiver program made me understand that Cheryl and her team have an understanding of the importance of bonding through shared experience even over something as simple as a meal.

I was moved to find out that all services provided by the Vail Veterans program are 100% free. Not one dime is paid by these heroes. In Cheryl’s words, “They’ve given enough.”

If you’d like to join me in honoring these hidden heroes this Veteran’s Day {or any day, seriously a random Tuesday out of the blue is perfect for taking time out to be thankful, one day just isn’t enough in my opinion} here is a list of organizations that help military caregivers and how you can help through donating funds, time, dedication.

Vail Veterans Program - Helping Hero Families

Vail Veterans

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation

TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

Women of Valor

The Fisher House Foundation

Love & Compassion For Nepal

nepal
With each refresh on my laptop the tragedy in Nepal grows by unfathomable proportions. Waiting for word from friends in Kathmandu is nothing short of heartbreaking. The Khata I’ve kept in a small box in the antique steamer trunk in our sitting room, now sits out on the table.
 
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”~ Dalai Lama
My hope is that prayers are heard – no matter our spiritual affiliations.  Yet prayer seems to fall short when faced with so much detestation and grief.  Perhaps compassion will go further?

To that end, I’ve done some research on organizations both on the ground in Nepal and those providing aid remotely. My hope is that gathering together the compassion, building the swell of kindness and care, a difference can be made. Even if it is only to relieve the suffering of one. 
 
UNICEF – providing supplies, including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, tarpaulins and nutrition supplies, and is working with government and other partners to meet children’s immediate needs in the areas of water and sanitation, child protection, health and nutrition.
 
World Food Program – providing food to those effected. Be sure to check their matching programs, there are many companies that will match the donations of employees. 
 
Crowdrise: Celebrating Dan – Google Exec Dan Fredinberg was among the climbers killed on Mt. Everest in the aftermath of the quake. He was climbing in-part to support a charity he was passionate about. 100% of all donations to the Crowdrise campaign set up by he his freinds go directly to relief efforts and the children effected by the disaster.   Learn more about OrphanGift.
 
International Urban Search and Rescue Task Force – The Task Force began its humanitarian response relationship with the US Agency for International Development – Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID-OFDA) in 1986 following a tragic 1985 seismic event in Mexico City.  They are our elite team when it comes to earthquake search and rescue. Though they are a funded organization, there is a support network for their families who are often left with little to no communication with the team while activated.