Friday, August 19, 2016

Vroom: car shopping from the couch

Last week, I read an account from someone who had spent four hours at a car dealership waiting for the paperwork to be processed for the car she had chosen.

Four hours. That’s like sitting down watching two movies back to back, but without the fun or the popcorn. It’s like trying to stay awake through half a day of school classes in a large lecture hall. It’s one-sixth of an entire day.

I don’t want to do that, do you? Especially not with a 6-year-old child in tow.

If you are – like me – a Tesla fan, you may have checked out their selling process and found that the options and monthly price and financing are all available online, hassle free. You could ostensibly shop for a fancy Tesla in your not-so-fancy bathrobe.

I'm partnering with this company, Vroom, which runs a site that works in a similar fashion. It’s kind of like shopping for clothing online, but with free shipping and a warranty.

Let me give you an example: I love Maserati's GranTurismo. At the last car event I covered, they had to practically peel me from the car to leave when opening night was over. Here is a lovely 2012 V8 with paddle shifters (you know I love the paddle shifters) and less than 30,000 miles on it. The no-haggle price with taxes and no charge to ship is a little more than $63K. I found the 2016 model of this car, with 5000 miles on it on another site for over $100K. And you’d have to go to Florida to get it.

Vroom says they are changing the way people buy and sell cars. They are the biggest online car store in the world, and they're designed for anyone who appreciates no-hassle, car shopping. That means no standing out in the hot sun looking at cars, or shivering through the rain and snow. Shop, click, order, and then kick up your feet and wait for that glass truck to arrive with your car in it.

Who would not want to look out the window and see this vision winking at you?

Basically, it's as easy as placing an order on Amazon, but there's no chance a drone can drop it off for you. They include a 90-Day warranty and a full year of free 24/7 roadside assistance, which is useful. 

Currently, the site has more than 3000 cars to choose from, with high-quality photos and all the details you ever wanted.

Vroom partners with over 30 banks to give their shoppers options. Of course, buyers can also pay in full or bring their own financing.

In the market? Use this promo code to get $250 cash back: VIPAUS27

  1. Choose your car, go through the online process to choose payment type, submit a trade-in (if desired) and set up delivery. 
  2. When you receive an email or phone call from your customer representative, mention you were referred and give him or her your promo code. 
  3. You will receive a $250 cash card 2-3 weeks after your car is delivered!
This article from Autos CheatSheet sums it up very well:
"Vroom ships it to your door for free. Most cars still have their factory warranties. Nearly 10% of them have under 2,000 miles. As Gaurav Misra, Vroom’s Chief Marketing Officer points out: “We’ve effectively driven the depreciation off for you. You can get it for 25% cheaper, and it still feels like a brand new car.” The cars are also covered by Vroom’s own 90 day bumper-to-bumper warranty. If something goes wrong, you can take it to any local repair shop, and Vroom will foot the bill.

If you don’t like it, there’s a seven-day money back guarantee, and they’ll come back to pick it up, no questions asked. And despite buying the car sight unseen, CEO Allon Bloch says they only see a 1% return rate, astonishing compared to the 3% rate dealers see– and most of them don’t exactly offer a money back guarantee."
When you buy from Vroom, you get a full seven days or 250 miles to spend real quality time with your new car. If you decide it isn’t the right match, Vroom will pick up the car for free and refund your entire purchase.

Seems pretty great to me.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

BlogHer2016: it's all about the people

Back in 2011, when I started this blog, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I wanted was this little corner of the internet to share my writing with my two fans (thank you, sister and mom).

Five years later, I have gained a few more readers and have learned a lot about writing my truth. In 2014 and 2015, two of my essays were honored with BlogHer Voice of the Year recognition, and this year, I was thrilled to see a couple of my best friends (Elaine and Leigh Ann) enjoying their first VOTYs, and a new friend, Nicki Gilbert, I got to meet in person for the first time.

Even better than the VOTY, and the experience, and the fantastically fun annual BlogHer conference is the friends I have made online. Some of them I get to see only once a year and we gorge ourselves on girlfriend time, cheering when we see each other and spending hours talking over guacamole (I blame Arnebya and Jennifer for the guacamole overdose). These are women I love with all my heart, and having the opportunity to hug them brings joy that I carry when we're not all together. We shared rooms and photos and late-night dancing, and we listened and laughed.

On the left: Leigh Ann, me, SueBob photo bombing!, Elaine, Ann, Jennifer, Angela, and Erin. Clockwise from top left square: Best Buy LG refrigerator, Jennifer dressing up as me, me and Elaine post-makeover, and Elaine, Jill, and me at Staples.

The BlogHer conference was in Los Angeles, at the L.A. Live area this year. The expo hall is always a great way to kick off the event, and I was especially happy to see that Baskin-Robbins was back with a freezer full of ice cream and Polar Pizza. I lost count of how many times I visited their booth, and they were always gracious about it and didn't ice-cream shame me.

I told Baskin-Robbins more than once that while I love the taste of their ice cream, what I really like is the fact that they post all of the common allergens right on the freezer glass so I can easily see what I (nut allergic) and my son (egg allergic) can and cannot eat. It's such a great service they provide for the food allergy community, and it's much appreciated. I heart you and your myriad of flavors, Baskin-Robbins.

I ran into Luvvie Ajayi at the expo and got a copy of her new book I'm Judging You. If you don't know Luvvie, please allow me to tell you more: she is a rising star. In fact, she interviewed Oprah recently. OPRAH. Luvvie is an excellent speaker and is hilarious online and in person. I'm pretty proud to be in a photo with her.

You know I'm a car fanatic, so I didn't hesitate to accept an invitation to meet up with the people at Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader with advice on car buying for women. It made me wonder if I shouldn't open up a dealership owned by women and staffed only by women, for women. Hmm.

Staples pulled out all the stops for their special breakfast event and brought in one of my very favorite athletes, Gabrielle Reece. She is a mother of three now, and her messages to her girls are strong and powerful. I told her I had seen her last video about teaching her girls body confidence, and she was very kind.  I'm not above being starstruck!

Staples also gifted all of us at the event with some sweet school supplies like this fun burrito-shaped technology keeper. It makes me laugh every time I look at it.

I met Sabrina Soto of HGTV at the Velcro booth, which was beautifully appointed. I mean, who DOESN'T use Velcro? They're pretty much ubiquitous. And still, I fell in love with them all over again with their idiot-proof wall hanging and organizational ideas. 

Even better than that, I got to hang out with Amber Dorsey of From Carpools to Cocktails. I just met Amber in Laguna Beach in May at another conference, and I was instantly smitten. She's gorgeous and smart and funny and warm and gives excellent hugs. 

Amber, Sabrina, and me

The educational sessions and keynotes give me motivation and inspiration, and the two women who were the most impactful to me were Lucy McBath of Mothers of the Movement and actor/PhD in neuroscience Mayim Bialik. Lucy was quietly wise, powerful, and moving, urging all of us to pay attention to racial disparity and violence. She lost her son when he was 17, just a few years ago, and she moved me to tears. This quote from The Atlantic sums it up:

"I still love my country. It's the only country we have. This is the best that I've got," she said. "And I still believe that there are people here who believe in justness and fairness. And I still believe there are people here who don’t make judgments about people based on the color of skin. I am a product of that. But I am disheartened that as far as we've come it doesn't matter that we have a black president. It doesn't matter how educated we’ve become. It doesn’t matter because there still is an issue of race in this country. No, we have not really arrived. If something like this can happen, we have not arrived. And I ask myself, 'At what point are we going to get there?' And I have no answer. And I want to be able to answer."
- Lucy McBath

Lucy McBath, Mothers of the Movement
Mayim was brilliant and matter-of-fact, and it was a treat to see this woman who starred in one of my favorite tear-fests ever: Beaches.

"Life is amazing. My purpose on earth is not to just look pretty in the red carpet."
- Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik
Overall, the keynotes were outstanding. I skipped one in particular because she is not really my cup of tea, but I didn't mind. There were plenty of other things to do. Like walk down the street to Sprinkles and get Triple Cinnamon cupcakes. Or Red Velvet. Or...

The best breakout session I attended was called "What it Means to be an Ally in 2016". Jasmin Singer hosted the panel discussion, which featured Jasmine Banks, Dior Vargas, and bob McNeil. But it was too important for me to just give it a footnote - stay tuned for a longer post about what I learned from them. I'm listening, my friends.

Thank you, Melisa and Elisa and all of the BlogHer staff who worked so hard to make this a great experience for us. You rock. Thank you, sponsors. Thank you, JW Marriott for an excellent stay with my beautiful and funny and wonderful roommates: Leigh Ann Torres (hashtag NO), Arnebya Herndon, and Angela Amman.

My roommates at BlogHer 2016!



Monday, August 15, 2016

Microblog: Teaching my son about love, no matter what form it takes

A few days ago, my son and I walked into a specialty grocery store to buy some treats for our friends who are new to Texas. We headed for the registers, and I scanned to see who was open. I steered my son toward a checker with a name tag that read "Chloe" - the employee was born with male features, but wore long earrings, purple lipstick, mascara, and a studded collar. I saw it as an opportunity to show my son different kinds of people and offer kindness to someone who dressed atypically. There was one customer in line in front of us, and we waited for our turn.
I didn't think my son noticed Chloe's appearance until we got in the car, and he said to me, smiling, "Hey, mom, did you see that man wearing lipstick and stuff? Was that funny?"
I explained to him that some people who look like boys like to dress in what are typically considered girls' clothes, and vice versa. And that's all OK, because everyone is different. I reminded him that not everyone is exactly like us, and that some men marry men and women marry women and that we accept everyone as they are. He nodded, taking it all in.
Today, while back-to-school shopping, my son said to me, "Mama, there's no such thing as girl things or boy things. Because some boys like things that girls like. And some girls like some things that boys like." That's right, sweetheart, I said. Thank you for listening.
I'm trying to teach him open mindedness and diversity and kindness to all, the way my mother taught me. I hope that these lessons stick and he can share them with others, and find confidence in his own differences, embracing diversity instead of shunning it. I may not always get it right, but we're trying.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Turbo-Charged Kia Optima Trip to NASA

A friend of mine works with NASA in Houston, and when she invited me down for a tour, I said YES without hesitation, and we set the date. My six-year-old son is the perfect age to start appreciating space travel, and we were excited about it. My husband was on a fishing trip in Colorado with his dad, anyway, so my son and I hit the open highway by ourselves.

Ready for launch.
The very kind people at Kia lent me a turbo-charged 2016 Optima for our trip from Austin to Houston, and they dropped it off at my driveway the day before we left. I could get used to that kind of service; they spoil me. The car was a deep, gorgeous red that Kia calls "Remington Red" and it sparkled in the sun. It was easy to fit my son's Britax Parkway SGL booster seat in the back, and the trunk had plenty of space for our luggage for the overnight trip.

As we neared Houston around rush hour, the traffic picked up significantly, and we were stuck crawling through downtown for a while. The Optima's nav system kept me apprised of the bottlenecks, and we had a comfortable and cool ride. Heading southeast from downtown, we aimed for the Clear Lake area, where my friend Sean lives with her family. I suddenly remembered that when my sister lived in Clear Lake, I had said aloud, "I will never live in Texas. It's way too hot here." Famous last words, since I moved to Austin nine years later.

The next morning, we started our tour at 9 AM with a friend of Sean's who leads outreach for NASA, and she took us through some of the most fantastic parts of the NASA complex. We started at the Apollo Mission Control Center, where we spotted Gene Kranz, the leader of the team that contributed to saving the astronauts of Apollo 13. We got to see the inside of the current Mission Control, just as t they were getting ready for a landing. The Saturn V was another highlight - it's over 36 stories tall (it's displayed horizontally in a giant building) and is one of only three in existence. And lastly, in Building 9 we crawled up into a space capsule.

My son was completely immersed. He knew how lucky we were to get this inside tour, and both of us were awestruck.

At the NASA gift shop, we picked up a rocket ship pen for my dad, a moon vehicle building set for my son, and some freeze-dried astronaut ice cream for my nieces to try.

Apollo Mission Control, I'm on the red phone. 

When we returned home, my son opened up his book about the first astronauts to land on the moon, and we relived our experience all over again.


The Optima looks good under the Pennybacker Bridge in Austin.


- 40 mpg on the highway: it kicked my SUV's tail on gas mileage

- Body design: I would put this sedan next to just about any other and it would come out on or near the top. Its lines are smooth and clean, and the panoramic sunroof adds glamour.

- Paddle shifters: by now, you know I have a love affair with them.

- Navigation screen: colorful, fun, and easy to use

- Paint job: the red is deep and rich, unlike some of the orange-y red I have seen on other brands

- Safety: the 360-degree camera helps to navigate even the tightest spots, and the blind spot, lane departure, and forward collision warnings help keep the driver alert

- Warranty: every Kia has a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain (the engine and transmission), which I find more and more impressive with every Kia I drive


Monday, June 13, 2016

Featured on the Today Show Parents site: How to Raise a Good Man

On Friday, the Today Show Parenting team published my essay on sexual assault and what I want my son to know. One gentlemen misconstrued this as a post against men, but that is far from true. The key is that I surround myself with good men who know how to be strong in the gentlest and kindest ways. I am teaching my son to the best of my ability those skills too.

I am a survivor.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Then came the stars

Last week, a controversial blogger shared a link about a camp for transgender kids and called it "child abuse". He said that it was the parents who made the children gay or transgender.
Some of his fans chimed in "Yeah, we should send transgender kids to camp. Camps with ovens." Friends, they were making jokes about the Holocaust. I tried to reason with them with all of the kindness I could muster, to no avail. "I thought it was funny, so eat me" was one response. It made me feel physically ill.
I have always told my son that there are more good people in the world than bad, and I hold onto that when bad things happen. But sometimes, if I get online and read what some unhappy, cruel, messed-up people say, it makes me wonder if I'm right. So I went offline for three full days until I started feeling hope again.
When I came back, I had made a decision. I'm not going to let hate win. I am never, ever going to let hate win. There are good people in this world doing great things all the time.
I am holding all of the victims at Pulse in Orlando and their families and friends in my heart tonight. I'm holding ALL of us in our hearts tonight, because this affects every person who knows that dozens of our citizens were killed in an act of hate.
We cannot let hate win. We will NOT let hate win. It's going to take all of us working together to shun hate speech and people in power who use hate to mobilize their platforms, and both sides of the gun debate must come together. We have had enough hate. We cannot combat it with more. We have to find love. Find it, grab onto it, and let it spread. Somehow.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Features - and a special Mazda drive!

I can't believe school is out for the summer! We are looking forward to a friend- and family-filled funfest. In the meantime, here are a few links and information on what I have been up to.

* I was featured at the Today Show Parents site this month, with an essay about how motherhood made me stronger:

* And I had the chance to feature my dear friend and Listen To Your Mother co-producer Leigh Ann Torres at LiveMom:

* Last, but not least, I wrote a blog post about my friend Jennifer and her husband Brian, and what they do to manage their family's finances:

A huge thank you to Mazda and DriveShop for sending  me an CX-3 to drive for a week. It was fun, zippy, and had some great safety features. It's categorized as a crossover, and feels like a compact SUV but hugs the curves like a sports car. Car and Driver gave it an excellent rating in its class, and several other sites agreed.

What I loved:

* The heads-up display, especially the speed limit posting reminder that turns red if you're speeding (believe me, this is something I need)

* Mazda radar cruise control to ensure that the car is a safe distance from the one in front of it

* Fuel economy: WOW. I typically drive a gas-eating full-size, V8 SUV. The CX-3 is very economy-minded.

* At first, the dial controls on the console threw me off - but once I got used to them, I enjoyed the ability to change the channels and do everything I wanted to do without leaning over to push any buttons.

* Sport mode and paddle shifters - for a sports-car enthusiast like me, this was fun.

At around $20,000, this car is an easy choice for a young professional, student, or retiree - the back has plenty of room for legs but the car seats don't fit as snugly as some of the larger SUVs and non-hatchback sedans. Well done, Mazda.


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