Take Sound On The Go With Ultimate Ears Boom Speaker

Ultimate Ears Speakers

FTC Disclosure

I grew up in the era of the boom box. If you don’t know what that is, it’s that giant portable stereo John Cusack held up in the movie Say Anything. If you’ve never seen Say Anything, you really should. Not just for the boom box scene, but it’s a really great movie.

Anyway, teens and young adults in the 80s rarely went anywhere without their boom box. Then the Sony Walkman came along and made listening to your own music portable. I still have two Sony Walkman players. I don’t use them, but they are filled with so many memories.

Today, with smartphones it’s easy to carry our music with us.  The problem with that has been the lack of shareability. Sure you can crank up the volume and put your phone in an empty bowl to act as an amplifier, but who carries a bowl around with them? And while it works to some degree, the lame factor is quite high. And if you’re a parent of a tween who wants to be cool with her friends, a phone in a bowl is not going to do it.

As a Verizon Insider, I was sent the new Ultimate Ears Boom 360º Sound portable wireless speaker to take for a techdrive. Perfect timing for many reasons. Out of the box, the speaker was ready to go in under 5-minutes. I like to work in quiet, but CycleGuy always has something on in his office so we set it up there and he was listening to podcasts and music in no time. As he was heading out of town, he tossed the speaker in his bag because he hates the quiet of hotel rooms, and it’s also a speakerphone so he can use it for phone calls using the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or his Kyocera Brigadier.

Ultimate Ears Boom 360

With Spring in bloom, we’re spending more time outside. In the past we’ve relied on the house speakers, but then we’re kind of stuck having to be near where they’re mounted. Problem is I rearranged our outdoor seating and the sound doesn’t reach the new area very well. The Ultimate Ears Boom speaker was exactly what I needed. It’s designed for any lifestyle, which makes it great for me and my family.

UE Boom Speaker

One of the coolest features, though, is the Alarm. It’s a newer feature that was an update to the app and I’m pretty sure I’m never getting the speaker back from CycleGuy. With all the traveling he does, this new Alarm feature may be his new favorite reason for taking the speaker with him. I know that it’s coming with us to Israel this summer!

So whether it’s for the office, out by the pool, at the beach, or pretty much anywhere you want great sound, the Ultimate Ears Boom is a must-have accessory. I have the Blue Steel color, but it comes in nearly 20 different colors and patterns. Priced at $199 and available from Verizon Wireless or from the Ultimate Ears website it’s a good value for the versatility it brings. These would make a great gift for someone heading off to college or even a recent college grad. Great for work AND play!


Must Have Tech For 2015

Must Have Tech Gadgets

VZW Disclosure

As 2014 comes to an end and the gift giving events make way for talk about the big game or getting fit for summer, there’s still gift cards to spend and deals to be made. Regardless of whether you unwrapped one or a pile, chance are you may not have received some things you really wanted. Or maybe you got gift cards because you’re “hard to buy for” or “it’s easier to send you money”. So now you’re faced with how to spend that loot and what better way than to make sure you have the must have tech gear to make the most of your smartphone or tablet. You may have some ideas of what you want but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tech gadgets to jump start 2015.

bluetooth headphones1. A good pair of headphones. Whether you like the over-ear, in-ear, or on-ear models, there are so many options. Quality headphones are a must these days, but which one you choose will depend a lot on your lifestyle and how you use them. For active lifestyles you might like the Plantronics Backbeat Fit bluetooth in-ear headphones. The Jawbone ERA is a great low-profile bluetooth headset, especially if you want something a little more discreet and professional-looking. The ERA is the one CycleGuy uses mostly for business. For gaming or watching movies, there are great options from Beats by Dre and Sol Republic. I have different headphones for different uses, so it’s not uncommon to have several pairs of headphones.

portable mini speaker2. A wireless portable speaker. As a child of the 80s, portable speakers have been a very important part of my life. Now, though, they’re not the size of a small TV. Gone are the “boombox” days of lugging around 20-pound stereo systems. We’ve got an entire music library in our purse or pocket. The problem is that sometimes you want to share it and your only options are putting your device in a bowl and cranking up the volume with the hopes it will broadcast. With tiny portable speakers that easily fit in a purse, backpack, carry-on luggage, or in the glove box of a car the mobile DJ in you can come out wherever you are. The Mini Jambox from Jawbone (I really do love their products!) comes in a variety of fun colors and can be used in both casual and professional settings. I’ve heard of them being used at business events and parties when people need big sound in a compact space.

3. Apps to improve your productivity. And by productivity I don’t mean just business-type stuff. With apps to help stimulate your brain and wellness apps, or even must-have apps that aren’t on every “top apps” list you have the ability to customize each device so that you’re getting the most out of it when you’re on it. Sometimes the best productivity app is Spotify or Pandora because you just need some good music to help you get motivated. Other times, maybe you need a great list app or top news and media apps. There are tens of thousands of apps out there in iOS, Android, and Windows that you’re likely to find just the right apps to help you get more out of your smartphone or tablet so you can be more productive.

4. A fitness tracker. I was able to check out the Microsoft Band the day it came out and it was quite impressive with its many features that integrated into smartphones. CycleGuy has the JawboneUP 24 and likes how it integrates with his cycling and food-tracking apps. I have a JawboneUP and even though it’s very basic it gives me a lot of helpful information. Even though it would be cool to have one of the high-end models, there are quality fitness trackers for every budget.

Mophie portable charger5. A portable charger. This should probably be #1 on the list of must have tech gear. I carry the Mophie Powerstation with me. It’s compact and lightweight so it doesn’t add bulk to my purse. And since I have both iOS and Android devices I usually keep cables for several different devices in the car so if I’m out and a friend is running low on power I can lend them my charger. When my daughter went on an out-of-town school field trip, I sent my New Trent Power Pack and iSound Power Max so the chaperones would have power on the 10+ hour drive should there be an emergency. We’re on our phones so much, especially on long trips where you don’t always have access to a plug, that draining our devices is not just a possibility. We’ve all be out and had our phone die with no real options to power it up. Now, you carry the power with you! And for under $100 it’s a great way to be prepared when the power goes out.

If you have these, then you’re good to go! If you have friend or family that don’t have these, then consider them as gifts because they’d probably be happy to get these. I know that many of the apps are free, but consider buying the paid version of an app you love and if you need to give someone a gift they’d probably love the “pro” version too.

What are your “go to” or “must have” tech items that you can’t live without?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Lifestyle Influencer team and share information about technology. This post was not required or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Kids, Smartphones, and Emergency Preparedness

Kids Smartphones Emergency Preparedness

VZW Disclosure

September is National Emergency Preparedness month. I didn’t know there was a month dedicated to this. And because I didn’t know and I consider myself to be well-informed I figured you may not know either.

As part of the Verizon Influencers group I participate in the weekly #vzwbuzz chat on Twitter (Friday at 3pm ET if you want to join in!). As part of the recent chat about using smartphones in emergency preparedness planning I mentioned a few tips for parents of tweens and teens. Based on the conversation and shares, I realized this is an area where we, as parents, really need to step up and help our kids.

As adults we’re not always prepared for an emergency. We take the jumper cables out of the car and forget to put them back. We can’t find the flashlights and never got around to downloading one on the phone. We don’t know the names and phone numbers of our kids’ friends.

And if we don’t have it all together we can’t expect our kids to have it together either. Especially when it comes to having many of the tools at the ready on their smartphone. Talking to our kids about this isn’t easy. These “just in case” type scenarios are often met with blank stares. That is if they’re even willing to take their eyes off the device and stare at you.

But we need to have the conversation and talk about what to do in case of an emergency. And not just leave it nebulous and broad, but talk about different scenarios. It has to be an easier conversation than the ones about sexting and bullying, right?

So I’ve come up with 6 things that MUST be on your kid’s phone in case of emergency.

1. Parent’s Name – none of this “mom” or “dad” only stuff on the phone. Even if the main name is Mom, in the notes put mom’s full name. Anyone with a title (mom, dad, grandma, etc.) or nickname should have the full name somewhere in the contact file. This is mainly for first responders who may need to contact you. Adding photos with the entry will be great help for emergency personnel, too.

2. ICE Entry – ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and every person with a smartphone should have a contact with this name. In here you put the main number to call, but also add in any other pertinent information. Include alternative phone numbers, allergy information, key medical information that doctors or emergency service personnel would need to know. Even things like, “wears contact lenses”, “broke right wrist in July 2012”, or “picks up sister from XYZ Elementary school” are important.

3. Flashlight app – kids will download a zillion different apps, but may not think of a flashlight app. There are many different types for Android, iOS, and WindowsPhone. A flashlight could come in handy in a power outage, be used to signal for help, or even just help you be found in the dark.

4. Programmed Emergency Numbers – maybe 911 isn’t who needs to be called and they can’t reach you. They may not remember the grandparent’s or close friend’s phone number. Having access to an alternative safe adult is key to ensuring kids have someone to call if they can’t reach you. If you child does babysitting (or pet sitting) make sure they’ve included the parent’s information in their phone in a clear and understandable manner. We’re so good at shorthand, but emergency personnel don’t have time to figure out what we were thinking.

5. Family GPS App – There are apps that help keep families in communication with each other without being overly complicated or intrusive. By downloading an app like Life360 you not only are able to communicate discreetly with your child, but there is a GPS functionality that will show you where the phone is located. Rather than being used to spy on the kids, a GPS app can be a safety measure and give a child peace of mind knowing that you’ll be able to find them in an emergency.

6. First Aid App – While younger kids may not use this, older kids may find the Red Cross First Aid app helpful in a variety of situations. While it’s always advisable to call 911 in case of an emergency, not everything requires a call to 911. Instead of having to search the internet, it’s helpful to have one app that will give them reliable and accurate information. While an app is never a substitute for taking a first aid or CPR class, having something that can guide you through a situation can be very helpful. Again, if your kids are responsible for another child (whether because they babysit or watch a younger sibling) have them take a babysitting class so they’re not solely relying on an app.

Now that the easy part is done on the smartphone, it’s time to talk to the kids and actually prepare them. In emergencies we aren’t calm and perfectly aware. We can’t expect our kids to be either. Especially younger kids. And while it might be easier to do all this yourself once they’ve gone to bed, let the kids be involved. It shouldn’t be scary for the kids. And they should know why you’re putting all this stuff on their phone. While we don’t expect emergencies, it’s like going on a plane trip – you have to know a few safety rules before you go.

What other “must haves” do you think should be on this list to help kids stay safe in an emergency using their smartphone?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and share information about technology. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Donate Mobile Phone To Help Domestic Violence Survivors

Hopeline From Verizon

VZW Disclosure

We tend to hear about domestic violence in the news when there are celebrities involved or when something so heinous occurs the news outlets know it will get viewers or readers. When celebrities are involved, there are often people who defend the behavior or try to give justifications for how we, the public, are misinterpreting their behavior.

But it doesn’t matter who you are, domestic violence is not exclusively for certain types. And while a majority of the victims are women, domestic violence is not blind to gender. Domestic violence also claim many children, most of whom are not only physically abused but also emotionally abused. Sadly, nearly every person knows someone who has been involved in a domestic violence situation.

Some very sobering statistics from Safe Horizon illustrate that domestic violence (or, as they refer to it, intimate partner violence) does not discriminate by age, gender, income, race, or education. The good thing is that we can ALL help. One easy and convenient way is to donate your used mobile phone to the Verizon HopeLine program.

  • 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
  • Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
  • Domestic violence is most likely to occur between 6 pm and 6 am.

Did you also know that incidents of domestic violence spike during major sports games? Studies show that sports team losses can lead to increases in domestic violence. Regardless of whether it’s college or professional, violence after sporting loses is well documented. And while it’s not the job of pro sports to tell their fans to behave themselves, many leagues have created awareness programs to help those who may turn to violence when their team loses.

Nearly 20 years ago, the HopeLine stared because a telecommunications company (Bell Atlantic Mobile, which is now Verizon) wanted to make a positive difference in the area of domestic violence awareness and advocacy. As a leader in the telecommunications industry, HopeLine offered voicemail boxes to women living in shelters. Since many victims of domestic violence tend to be cut off from their family and friends, having a secure way to communicate is an important step to ending the cycle and getting out.

By donating your used mobile phone, battery, or accessories, HopeLine from Verizon is able to fund programs and provide phones. Donating your used devices is also a smart way to dispose of technology responsibly and keep it out of landfills. Best part is how easy it is to donate.

How to Donate To HopeLine

In Store – go to any Verizon Wireless and drop off your used mobile phones, batteries, and accessories. Doesn’t matter what carrier your device was using.

By Mail – follow the easy directions, use a pre-paid HopeLine mailing label, and drop your package off at your local post office.

Host A Phone Drive – with help from Verizon, you can host a phone drive at your work, school, or place of worship. It’s easy to coordinate and creates awareness for a great cause while ensuring proper disposal of used devices.

Since 2001, more than 10.8 million phones have been collected by HopeLine.

Since 2001, more than 543 million minutes of wireless service have been donated to domestic violence victims and survivors.

Since 2001, more than $21 million in cash grants have been provided by the HopeLine program to domestic violence organizations nationwide.

Good things happen when we donate our unused mobile phones. Women and children wanting to escape a live of domestic violence rely on our generosity so they can obtain these lifelines. Imagine how disconnected you feel when you accidentally leave your phone at home. Now, imagine the hope you can give.

Hopeline Branded AccessoriesIf you don’t have items to donate, you can still make a difference. Show your support for ending domestic violence with the Power of Purple. Verizon will donate $3 from each Hopeline-branded accessory.

There is also a HopeLine App for both iOS and Android devices. Download them today to gain access to resources and learn more about Hopeline.

Download the App for Android

Download the App for Apple

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and often receive devices for review. This post is part of my personal social good advocacy, although related to my relationship with Verizon. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


How To Use IFTTT To Protect Your Kids Online

IFTTT Recipes To Protect Kids Online

VZW Disclosure

Kids and tech. Like every other aspect of parenting, talking about kids and tech brings about some very strong opinions. More specifically, bring up kids and cell phone or kids and texting and everyone has something to say or horror stories to share.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a few online friends about back to school and how tech is used for bullying among tweens and teens. Bullying is something that scares most parents. The stories we’ve all read and heard on the news are heartbreaking. Even those that parents have been able to get involved with early are stressful and scary.

I shared with them an application that I’ve used for awhile for personal notifications, but in that conversation realized it would be great tool for parents to keep track of their kids. I know there are some who will disagree with me, but I think there are positive uses for keeping track of how kids are using their mobile devices.

The app I was talking about was If This Then That, or IFTTT. IFTTT is an application with thousands of recipes to help automate many of the things we rely on our tech to do. IFTTT has both a desktop version as well as mobile app for iOS and Android.

In talking with my friends about bullying, one of the problems that kept coming up was the deleting of texts, photos, or social media posts. Evidently, kids will post comments or updates on social media and leave it up for awhile, just long enough to get the attention of their target, then they’ll take it down if they believe an adult will see it. Taking screen captures are also a concern, but they’ll risk that to post an update for a short while.

As a parent, going to police without evidence is just a waste of time. But how to you get the evidence you need if it’s deleted by time you find out about it when you child comes home from school, a sleepover, or party? That’s where IFTTT comes in.

Like I said, I use if for a variety of purposes to automate a few things. I’ve often wondered why some of the recipes (the formulas you set up are called recipes) are used. I’m sure sending all posts on Instagram to Dropbox is a great way to archive photos. And I know saving tweets in a spreadsheet comes in handy for social media consultants needing to track a hashtag or client handle. But, I started to realize many of these recipes would be great for parents who need to keep up with what their kids are doing on tech.

I get that some will bring up privacy issues and respecting independence. But the truth is, there’s a big difference between spying on your kid and being informed. Trust is important, but sometimes our kids make mistakes. And sometimes things are happening with our kids but they don’t want to tell us. So I’m sharing with you 7 helpful IFTTT recipes parents can use to track or record what our tweens and teens are doing with their mobile devices.

7 IFTTT Recipes To Protect Your Kids Online

1. Save Instagram photos from a specified user to Dropbox. This is a good way to keep a record of what’s being posted. This can be used along with the recipe that will send a text when your Dropbox is updated. You may end up getting a lot of text messages because kids can be quite prolific. But if you’re trying to get evidence of something specific you’re probably not so worried about getting text messages with this information.

2. Save Instagram photos tagged with a specified username to Dropbox. As mentioned, sometimes kids will tag other kids as a way to taunt or bully them.

3. Save Snapchat screenshots to Dropbox. Snapchat has a very negative reputation among parents, but many kids like to use it. I know a few people who use it for totally legit communication. But, for the most part, there are reasons to be concerned about kids using Snapchat.

4. Save sent or received SMS text to Google Drive. Texts are very easy to delete before mom or dad sees them. Whether it’s bullying, sexting, making plans for something they shouldn’t being able to see the texts and act and do those tough parenting things this recipe could be very helpful.

5. Upload Android or iOS screenshot to Dropbox. This is a good way to get a backup incase photos are erased from the device. While you’ll need the device to set up this recipe, you don’t really need to give too much info to your child if you don’t want.

6. Receive an SMS if username tagged on Instagram. I use this one. I want to know when I’m mentioned so I can reply appropriately. But even though that’s more of a business use, the ability to get a text message (although there is a delay, so don’t expect it in real-time) if your child is tagged is really important if your child is being taunted or bullied on IG. What’s also great about this is that it goes to your device so you don’t even have to tell your child you’re keeping tabs.

7. Receive a text when an Instagram user makes a post. Even though kids may change out their IG usernames frequently if they’re using their account to bully someone, again this is another way to keep tabs on what’s going on. I use this to get a text when several of my friends post to Instagram, because I don’t want to miss their posts. But as a parent, this could be a way to get information about what’s going on with your kids.

What’s great about most of these is you can set them up without having to install anything on your child’s device. You will need to have access to it for a short time to set up some of the recipes. And while most of the notifications and saves are not in real-time but are delayed a few minutes, they’re a great way to keep tabs on what’s going on. Again, this isn’t about spying on the kids. It’s about knowing what’s going on so if something does go wrong you can know about it sooner than later.

Do you use IFTTT? If you do, what other recipe suggestions do you have? If you’re new to IFTTT, I hope you give it a try.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and received a device to facilitate my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


3 Stargazing Apps For Every Smartphone

VZW DisclosureStargazing App

Summer is a time to relax and put the schedule aside. It doesn’t always work that way, though. And at the end of the day your mind goes over the 872 things you did that day and the odometer on the car that seems to spin like you’re looking for the $1.00 space at The Price Is Right showcase. And then night falls. And the quiet settles in and you’re thinking of heading outside to just sit and look at the stars.

Here in Phoenix, being out during the day is the last thing we want to do in the summer. We all do our best to manage it, but it’s just the reality here. Come nightfall though, we’re ready to go. Even though it doesn’t get dark until well after many kids’ bed time, sometimes you just need to stay up late and look up at the sky. With days upon days of cloudless skies and no school the next day, why not see what’s going on up in the dark sky?

Having spent time with professional stargazers and their expensive equipment, it spoils you. But we all can’t run out and buy a $10,000 telescope. What we can do, though, is download a few apps, look up at the stars and see what people have been look at for thousands of years.

1. Star Chart

What’s better than point and go when it comes to looking at stars that look like a bunch of little white dots in the sky? This augmented reality app is a top educational resource and will wow kids and adults alike. You can look at the sky visible to you or anywhere in the world as you turn your phone.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

2. Sky Map

Another “point and look” app, Sky Map has over 11,000 star points and can pinpoint your location using GPS. While this app has the same name on all three mobile platforms, each is made by a different developer. Nonetheless, it’s a top app that works anywhere in the world day or night.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

3. ISS Locator

Have you ever seen the International Space Station zip by? During an astronomy lesson I chaperoned for my daughter’s class we not only got to see the ISS fly by, but it was releasing a cargo pack and we should see that trailing behind as well. No fancy equipment was needed to see these. If you knew what you were looking for. Luckily, there are apps for all mobile platforms that will help you spot it no matter where you are in the world. Depending on where you live you may be able to see the ISS several times a week!

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone | Web

So, get your phone, download these apps, and head outside after the sun goes down and re-live those times at camp when you’d stare up at the sky and wonder if the man in the moon really existed. Doesn’t matter if you have kids, if you’re a kid at heart, or just love checking out what’s up there in the dark of night these apps will surely make you popular at home or even at those summer evening garden parties.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


30 Ways Smartphones and Mobile Devices Have Changed the Way We Live


30 Ways Smartphones

VZW Disclosure

According to the Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, 90% of American adults have a cell phone. Of that 58% of American adults have a smartphone. Add in tablet ownership and we’ve got a lot of people using mobile devices in the US. And when it comes to the ways these devices can help us be better global stewards, it seems like the options are endless.

Just 5 years ago most of us were tossing yellow page books into the recycling bin without even bringing them in the house. Now, we don’t even get phone books because internet access is making them obsolete. With mobile devices, we can get that same information even if we’re not home. Think about all the trees saved with this change in how we access this information.

30 Ways Smartphones and Mobile Devices Have Changed the Way We Live

  1. Many of us no longer use paper for our lists because we’re using apps like Wunderlist or Evernote.
  2. We take fewer trips to the store because we can take a photo of what we need or want someone else to get.
  3. We photograph EVERYTHING yet rarely print anything.
  4. We (usually) don’t get lost when driving.
  5. Checking a map is less embarrassing than it used to be just a few years ago.
  6. There are apps to remind us to exercise. And drink water.
  7. Carpooling or car sharing is easier than ever with apps like CarpoolSchool, ZimRide, and KarPooler.
  8. We can downsize more easily by recycling or find new things by upcycling.
  9. Need help finding a recycling center for anything, there’s an app for that too. Actually, there are two great recycling apps.
  10. Our phones double as a flashlight, level, compass, and calculator.
  11. Music doesn’t need a separate device (sigh, Say Anything, sigh).
  12. Be prepared for medical emergencies with a First Aid app.
  13. Order food from virtually anywhere.
  14. Stay in constant contact with people even when you’re not with them.
  15. Share your travel photos with the world.
  16. We can read books, magazines, newspapers, journal articles, user manuals, and so much more without holding a piece of paper.
  17. Documenting history is no longer just for journalists.
  18. Kids can do homework or parents help kids with homework from anywhere.
  19. Asking questions of experts is a few taps away. And so is being an expert and answering a question someone else has.
  20. We watch TV differently than we did when we were growing up.
  21. And we document our lives in ways our parents never imagined.
  22. But it’s not all roses, because now we can’t just say “I wasn’t home”.
  23. Sometimes we’re more engaged with the conversation on our device than the one in front of us.
  24. We’re more likely document abuse and violence rather than just walk away not wanting to get involved.
  25. We shop differently, and those storied of “hanging out at the mall” no longer resonate with kids.
  26. Many of us don’t wear watches or own separate alarm clocks.
  27. Writing checks and mailing our bills is, for many, a thing of the past.
  28. We’re more informed consumers.
  29. We can wait less because of apps that help manage time at various events or attractions.
  30. Saving money has never been easier than with the plethora of apps and websites to help us.

I can go on to list more things, but these are a good start. We can do more with less and in many ways decrease our impact on the environment. Yes, these devices bring with them special considerations when they are discarded. But with all mobile carriers offering recycling programs it’s not difficult to dispose of them properly. And, I know there are drawback of having mobile devices connected to us 24/7. The point I’m trying to make is that mobile devices have changed the way we live and doing so in ways that can improve our lives, the lives of others, and the world.

How is your phone helping you reduce your carbon footprint?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


New Year 2014 Says Goodbye to 2013

New Year 2014 New Year 2014

As the year closes, we tend to look back on the year and reflect. It’s normal. We grow up hearing about new year resolutions, listening to adult talk about how things didn’t turn out as planned, and what they’ll do differently in the coming year. It’s a lot of pressure for a kid, or even a young adult.

We’re expected to make each year better than the one before. But how is that possible? It’s only possible if you look back at the prior twelve months and see them as needing to be changed. We’re conditioned to focus on the negative and change it instead of looking at the positive and perpetuate it. The conversation turns, in an instant, from “the joy of the season” to 101 reasons we need to change ourselves, our lives, our circumstances.

Although trite, we can’t change the past. We can, however, reframe it and see it for what it is. A moment in time. Sometimes we just need a little perspective. My aunt relayed a story to me about the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Many years ago she and my uncle were invited to be among the special guests at the United States Holocaust Museum before it opened to the public. They were two of about 100 people, most of whom were Holocaust survivors. It was cold and rainy and dreary as they all sat under a tent listening to various speakers, including the President. My aunt looked at me squarely and said “It was cold, but we didn’t complain. How could we? We were among people who survived the Holocaust, surely we could bear a little rain and cold.”

Perspective. It’s easy to head down a rabbit hole of negativity, “what if”, or “why me”. Our minds can pull us away from the light and positive thoughts if we allow it. We can judge ourselves harshly if we read social media or look at all the photos posted and question why our lives aren’t as fabulous, interesting, or filled with new and sparkly things.

We’ve allowed technology to give us a glimpse into a world that used to be private. We’ve used technology to put our lives out there for others to see, and judge. We love our tech. I write about it here.

But I also hope that I encourage you to look ahead and plan for a life you really want. Use technology to amplify and beautify your life. Put away the technology and look inside yourself and see what others see. Find a way to make 2014 more about you sharing YOU with yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you have a basic flip phone or a smartphone, use it to connect with others. No camera phone? Doesn’t matter, you can still document your life. And share it. No money to buy apps? Grab the free ones and us them to your advantage. Whether it’s to be more fit, get daily affirmations, or play games to pass time waiting at places you’d rather not be, use technology to your advantage.

We look around and see what others have and think we’re missing out. We compare ourselves and what we have. Or don’t have. We get stuck looking in the past and lamenting what wasn’t. We look forward and hope and wish. Yet we don’t breathe in and enjoy the present.

We all have 24 hours each day yet we choose to spend many moments staring down at a screen or looking through a lens. Technology can’t give us more time, but it can help us better use our time. We can carry all those great books with us, easily. We can listen to brilliant people share information. We can speak to people we miss dearly.

The beginning of 2014 isn’t about looking back at 2013 and lamenting how it wasn’t the year we hoped for. It’s also not a time to look ahead and hope for things to happen. If we resolve to take each day as it comes and make it the best day possible, we won’t have to look back or look forward to find times for joy and happiness.

Look back at all the photos you took in 2013. Do they represent the people, places, things, and experiences that brought you the most joy. We’re quick to click, post, and share so others now see how cool we are. In life, though, it’s not about the photos. They’ll fade (or, in our case, more likely become inaccessible as technology advances), we’ll forget the names. We’ll be overwhelmed by the thousands of photos that we’ve saved to document how wonderful our life is.

In the end, though, it’s the pictures in our mind that stay with us. The stories we can share over and over again. The people who will listen and laugh and cry. Some for the first time, and others who were there the first time.

Don’t look back. Don’t look forward. Look around and appreciate right now.

Disclosure: This post is part of a series on lifestyle technology I write as a Verizon Insider. No compensation was provided, but I do have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and am periodically provided products to sample.



LG G2, The Device For Everyday Superheroes

Hermione Halloween

Low light photo of Hermione taken with LG G2, unedited

Just as I felt I’d finally mastered my Samsung Galaxy S4, Verizon Wireless asked me to “tech drive” the new LG G2. Who says no to being one of the first to use this cutting-edge device? Not this Verizon Insider! Besides, CycleGuy’s been eyeing my S4 for awhile. So, with the LG G2 in hand I quickly discovered this isn’t like other phones. In a good way!

I’ll leave the tech specs to the experts. You don’t come here for that anyway, do you? The LG G2 has a nice big screen and the lack of buttons on the front really gives it a clean look. The toggles on the back are really easy to use, especially if you have smaller hands. People like the Incredible Hulk, Tron, or Iron Man really shouldn’t get this phone. Besides being hard on their tech, I really think this is more for the Wonder Woman or even Katniss types. A device for smart women who are busy trying to save their world from all kinds of craziness.

If you’re looking for a mobile device that calls people, texts, checks email, and gets online this LG G2 can do that. It’s typical of Android phones in that regard. Where it stands out as unique among Android devices is the camera and several key features.

With a 13MP camera with Optical Image Stabilization, the LG G2 rivals most decent point-and-shoot cameras. I actually like it better than my stand-alone camera because of the image stabilization and several other camera features. You may wonder when you’d use it, but I’m here to tell you that audio zoom makes this camera unique. Audio Zoom allows you to zoom in on the audio you want to hear. You know, like when you kid is in the play or talking outside and others are around. I used it at a robotics tournament to pick up the kids from my team when they were talking to judges in an auditorium filled with other teams. It was much more clear, making the video usable. I also used it at a youth symphony concert to get better sound.

And speaking of my daughter, do your kids want to use your phone in the car or while waiting? BabyGirl has her own tablet but it’s a wi-fi only device. So when we’re out doing errands and she wants to look something up she’ll use my phone. Only problem is that I don’t want her being distracted by all of my apps. Enter Guest Mode. While I’d never hand over my phone to just anyone, knowing that I can set up a profile just for my daughter and limit her access to a few apps while she’s on my phone makes it easier to allow her to use my phone. And the phone size is perfect for her smaller hands and I don’t worry about her dropping it.

This phone may be the one to make me give up my iPhone for good!

Disclosure: As stated above, Verizon Wireless provided me with an LG G2. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I do, however, have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and thus I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.



5 Apps Everyone Should Have That Aren’t The Same 5 Everyone Suggests

 Best Apps for Android

Being on the go doesn’t mean being stuck with nothing to do. Whether it’s waiting in the school pick-up line or finding a way to be productive while waiting at karate our mobile devices are a portal into amazing content. And while BabyGirl loves to read and there’s always an assortment of books in the car (or mobile library as I’ve often referred to it), sometimes she wants to do something different. Few parents hear the constant “Are we there yet?”. Instead, it’s more like “We’re here already?”.

Because I have both iOS and Android devices I’m always looking for apps that I can have on both types of devices. And while I have pages of apps, I like to make sure I have a variety of apps. Some of these I’ve been using for awhile, while others are newer to me since they’re available only for Android. Regardless, these are …

5 Apps Everyone Should Have

Google Sky Map

Google sky app






Image source: Google

It’s a shame Google Sky Map is only available for Android because this is a super cool app. That it’s available in over a dozen languages is pretty amazing, too. The app uses several of your phone’s built-in features to show you what’s in the sky. It doesn’t have to be dark either! My daughter loves using this app while we’re driving to see how the sky changes as we move. It’s a great teaching tool for everyone. Most of us wonder what’s up there but never had the chance to really learn about the galaxy. Now we can! Just be aware that Google Sky Map is different from Google Sky.

Cost: Free
Devices: Android Only

TED Talks

TED Talks app







Image source: TED.com

If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, this may be your first time on the internet and I thank you for coming to my site. TED Talks are one of the greatest free resources on the internet. Experts in their field have been recorded talking about things they’re passionate about, and we get to be there! With thousands of talks, this app will help you pass time and feed your brain at the same time. No more being tethered to a computer, the TED app brings these brilliant minds to anyone with an iOS or Android mobile device. When I’m doing chores around the house, I’ll load up a TEDTalk to help pass the time. One of my favorite things about TED Talks is that they’re often no longer than 20 minutes. So while I often watch one or two before I go to bed, having the app allows me to listen or watch no matter where I am.

Cost: Free
Devices: iOS and Android









Image source: NASA

There are people living up in space! And we get to learn from them. This is a fun app for kids (and adults) who are interested in what’s going on at the International Space Station (ISS). View live streaming data from the ISS as well as check out 3D virtual tours of Mission Control Center (MCC). An interactive educational experience, it’s a great way to learn about science, technology, and math and how they come together with space exploration.

Cost: Free
Devices: iOS and Android







Image source: Google

One of my favorite photo editing apps, Snapseed was acquired by Google in September 2012. I’ve had this app on my iPhone since 2011 when I paid $4.99 for it.  It’s now FREE, but at $5 it was totally worth it. It allows professional-type photo editing on-the-go. It’s really easy to use, so easy that when she was 7 BabyGirl figured out how to use it to improve her photos.

Cost: FREE
Devices: iOS and Android


Email Scheduling App







Image source: Baydin

It was probably some time in 2009 when I downloaded the Gmail add-on that was then known as Boomerang It. The idea of scheduling an email for delivery later may not be for everyone. But if you need to reply to someone but you know they won’t be checking email and yours will likely be one of many, being able to send it at a more appropriate time is a cool option. There are many reasons for not sending an email at the time you write it, so why not download Boomerang for your desktop as well as the app. It’s really easy to use and you’ll find you use it more than you thought.

Cost: Free (although if you need more than 10 messages per month there is a fee)
Devices: Android Only

Hope you try these out, if you haven’t already. I avoided suggesting apps that most people would already have. I use these apps almost every day to be more productive or to pass time and feed my brain.

What cool apps would you add?

Disclosure: Verizon Wireless provided me with my Samsung Galaxy S4. This is not a sponsored post and no compensation was provided for this post. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I do, however, have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and thus I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.