My #FirstCarMoment and the Freedom of the Open Road

I wasn’t one of those lucky 16 year-old kids that received their first car the second they passed their driving test. In fact, I didn’t even get my license until I was 18 and already almost a year out of high school.

I had to practice driving in my best friend’s 1970-something Datsun. The kind of car that was made before the conception of power steering, so not only was I honing my driving skills, but I was getting a nice upper body workout every time I drove somewhere. When I eventually took my driver’s test my aunt lent me her car, which was quite newer than my friend’s car, and I spent the entire test afraid I was going to rip the steering wheel off every time I made a turn, due to my newly acquired massive biceps; at least that’s the way I like to remember it.

After I passed my test there was still no new car, or even used car waiting for me. We were a single income household, and a car payment was just not something we could afford. It wasn’t until I eventually joined the military that I would experience that feeling of the #FirstCarMoment.

I purchased my very first car around the age of 20; it was a green 1995 Ford Escort.

Me and my first car. A 1995 Ford Escort. Looked like a big Sprite Can going down the street. #FirstCarMoments

A post shared by Papa Does Preach (@papapreaches) on

My girlfriend at the time worked for a used car dealership and insisted on being the one to sell me my first car. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best decision I ever made, being that my girlfriend was literally a used car salesman, in every sense of the word. I paid through the nose for that car. But I didn’t care. I was a young man who lived far away from home, and finally could say I owned my first car. When the dealership placed the keys in my hand it felt something like this:

Having a car of my own meant freedom. It meant I could come and go as I pleased. It also meant I instantly became a popular person in my barracks due the fact people had to beg me for rides to places. And while the next year or two of dragging my friends around or doing whatever I wanted was awesome, it wasn’t until the morning I signed out on leave from the Army, for the last time, that I truly felt the freedom having my car provided me. That’s the morning I left my duty station of Ft. Sill, OK and hit the open road back home to San Diego,CA.

A young man of 23 years old having his first ever cross-country (well, half cross-country) road trip. Just me, my car, my music and the road. It felt like every movie I had seen where a young person hit the road to find themselves. It is one of the earliest memories I have of actually feeling like an adult, and I loved it.

I savored every moment of that trip. I took deliberate detours to stop and see the sights. I lingered in towns longer than I needed to, took my time when I stopped to eat, soaking in every moment of being free and on my own. Like in the Pixar film Cars, I wasn’t on the road to make great time, I was on the road to HAVE a great time.

One thing I wish I could change about my experience of owning my first car is that I wish I took better care of it, especially prior to making a 2000-mile journey across the country on my own. I was very lucky nothing serious happened during my summer travels, and looking back I worry about what could have happened. Growing up I knew very little about car maintenance, and it’s still not in my wheel-house of information today. I don’t think in all the time I owned my first car, I even checked my tire pressure; not even once.

This is why I’m glad to be part of the Michelin #FirstCarMoment campaign, where not only are they celebrating the awesome feeling young people get when the receive their first car, but raising awareness of all the possible safety hazards out on the roads that young people face.

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Summer is a critical time to remind drivers of the importance of tire safety. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers, based on accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council.

  • The cold, hard reality is that automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens in America. They account for a shocking five thousand deaths annually.
  • In addition, we know that 12% of the 2.2 million accidents that occur each year with inexperienced drivers are due to tire-related issues (26% are attributed to low tread depth; 32% are attributed to improper tire pressure).
  • Driving on underinflated tires or tires with low tread can lead to safety issues on the road.

The good news is that accidents due to improper tire maintenance are preventable, and simple steps can save lives, including:

  • Checking your tire pressure with a pressure gauge monthly and
  • Learning the proper way to check tread depth

These are two easy tasks that can help you correctly maintain your tires and contribute to overall vehicle safety.

As a tire manufacturer focused on road safety for over 125 years, Michelin feels they have an obligation to raise awareness about this issue, and that with their help, and proper tire care, they can play a role in reducing the roughly 264,000 crashes with inexperienced drivers that occur annually due to tire-related issues.

For more information on safety as well as Michelin products check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Michelin for this promotion.  I have received compensation for my participation, but my first car memories are my own.

myCharge Giveaway: I Went to BlogU15 and Almost Killed my Phone

Two weeks ago I attended BlogU15 in Baltimore, MD. This was the second year of BlogU and I was over-the-moon excited to be coming back. I was excited to see friends I made last year, and even more excited to see all the new faces that would be attending this year.

When going to a conference such as BlogU, there’s bound to be a staff member or other blogger who puts out a, “What Should I Bring to a Blogging Conference” post. And while I love all the information on media kits, business cards, and crafting a snazzy elevator pitch, at the end of the day there’s only one item I REALLY need to make sure I have in order to have a successful weekend – my phone.

That’s right, my good ole cell phone. My cell phone is my link to everything I need when dealing in the blogging world. Do I follow you on Facebook? Let me get out my phone and check…BOOM, I do now! What an awesome quote from this teacher, I should put it out to all my followers…BANG, tweeted! You want to hear something funny I’ve written in the past…POW, let me just pull up my blog! My phone was definitely going to be put to the test over the weekend, and so was its battery.

While at a conference like BlogU, you’re always on the move. Going from class to class, or socializing with friends, you’re obviously taking lots of pictures and video. All of this activity means you will most likely have little-to-no time to charge your phone, and a dead battery is an absolute no-go.

That’s why I knew this was the perfect opportunity to give my new All Terrain portable charger from myCharge a true test run. Its description: A military grade charger designed to withstand the toughest job sites as well as the great outdoors and features a built-in USB port. With a 2.1A output it is the perfect portable charger for smartphones or other USB devices. It delivers 22 extra hours of talk time for your phone.

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I wasn’t so concerned about the extra talk time, as all the talking I was going to be doing would be face-to-face. My main concern was ensuring that I was linked to all of my adoring fans, via all the social media apps on my phone, and staying readily accessible. Well let me tell you, the All Terrain did not let me down. Got a ton of use. I pushed that bad boy to the limit, and just when I thought it was going to pass out on me, I plugged it in and asked for some more. I ran that phone ragged, but because of my All Terrain from myCharge, it never quit.

Wow, I think I just did to my phone what my son does to me every weekend.

And the charger doesn’t just stop at phones either. On the second day of the conference I forgot to recharge my Chromebook the night before, so halfway through the day it was running on fumes, and I still had plenty of classes to attend and notes to take. I plugged my All Terrain into my laptop, which kept it functioning through the final sessions, and I didn’t miss a single note.

Overall a fantastic time was had at BlogU15 this year. But it was even more awesome knowing I had access to my phone and was able to capture all the amazing moments from the conference, all thanks to myCharge. I even took a bunch of video in the hopes that maybe I could get off my rear end and make my first ever Papa Does Preach video for all of you.

As thanks for talking about how much I love myCharge, the good people over there have even given me an extra charger to give away to one of my fans. So – if you need a military-grade phone charger that won’t break if one of your kids gets their grubby little hands on it, then leave a comment on this blog and I will pick one winner at random on Friday June 19, 2015. Hey, maybe there’s a dad in your life who could use this. Father’s Day is coming up, after all!

Now, if myCharge could get around to finding a way to hook parents of toddlers up to a charger, I would really appreciate it, because my son is wearing me out!

Disclaimer: I received free product from myCharge to review for this post

Giveaway: Firefly Star Wars Toothbrush

The film Star Wars turned thirty-eight this year. And as someone who grew up as part of the Star Wars generation, I find it pretty cool that after almost four decades the cinematic adventure, that takes place in a galaxy far far away, is not only still relevant, but booming. Of course, some of that shine wears off when I realize that I too am almost four decades old.

I was born in 1978, one year after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released into theaters. I can remember going to the theater as a kid to see Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and it was as close to life altering experience as a 6 year old can have.

And with Episode VII: The Force Awakens due out this December, I can’t wait to share the love of the Force with my son. Of course, he’s still a bit young to really appreciate it right now, but his time will come.

I grew up wishing I could be Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be a Jedi. As long as I have loved Star Wars and all it’s glory, it wasn’t until I had a child of my own that I realized how closely the story lines from my favorite childhood movies would parallel what it was like to be a parent.

The battle that’s waged between the Empire and the Rebels is not unlike the everyday struggle between parent and toddler, just on a micro level. I never wished I had Jedi powers more than I do now as a parent. I wish I could levitate objects with my mind; sure would make cleaning up after my kid much easier. But most of all I wish I had the Jedi mind trick ability, because it would prove most useful when it comes to trying to get my son to brush his teeth every night.

My son has now reached the age where brushing his teeth needs to be a daily habit, however, he would disagree. Every morning and every night before bed we have the same battle with him. So while I don’t have the ability to Jedi mind trick my into brushing his teeth at least I know I can distract him enough to make him think that oral hygiene can be fun. How’s that you’re wondering?

Introducing the Lightsaber Toothbrush from Firefly.

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The good people at Firefly® sent me some of there new Lightsaber toothbrushes to try out with my son, and I’ll tell you what, he loved them. Of course, he was more interested in the watching them light up and imitating the voices of Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi, but hey, I’ll take anything over the usual tanturms and whining. Below is information from their press release

Firefly®, the leader in children’s oral care solutions, designed the new toothbrush to look and sound just like a lightsaber from the Star Wars films. Featuring flashing lights, sound effects, and voices from popular characters, this brush will help transform brush time into playtime so parents no longer have to pull a Jedi mind trick to get kids to brush their teeth!

The new Firefly® Star Wars Lightsaber toothbrush is available in two characters – Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader – giving fans the option of choosing the light side or the dark side. The toothbrushes light up with the press of a button for 60 seconds, along with light saber sounds and character voices. This  entertains and helps guide little ones so they know just how long to brush each row of teeth as they fight to keep the dark side of cavities away.

The Firefly® Lightsaber toothbrush comes with a no-mess protective cap that covers and shields the lightsaber brush from lurking bathroom countertop debris, and also helps keep the bathroom clean.”

As an added bonus, they gave me a few extra pair to give away to my awesome readers. If your child is a fan of Star Wars, or you’re a parent struggling with your own oral hygiene battle with your kid, or heck, even if YOU really love Star Wars and want a couple of these toothbrushes for yourself, email me at papadoespreach@gmail.com with Firefly Star Wars Toothbrush in the subject. Tell me why you want to win, and I will pick 3 winners at random, and announce the winners on Tuesday June 30, 2015.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. To celebrate bringing galactic fun to kids as they develop healthy habits, Firefly® has launched a Brush Battle Sweepstakes on the brand’s Facebook page. Now through June 30, 2015, parents may enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip for four to an awesome theme park in California and check out the new Star Wars themed area.  See the Facebook page for more details.

For more information about Firefly®, including where to find the new Star Wars Lightsaber toothbrush, visit fireflytoothbrush.com.  Be sure to join the conversation with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share your #BrushBattle stories!

Disclaimer: I received free product to try before writing this post. However; all views, statements and opinions are my own.

Stouffer’s #FitKitchen Meals: My New Wingman On My Weight-Loss Journey

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I have always struggled with my weight. As a kid I was chubby for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a single-parent home with a mom who worked long hours to make sure the bills were paid and the lights stayed on meant I was on my own most nights when it came to dinner. It also means I formed a very close relationship with microwavable dinners at a very early age.

I knew they were never the healthiest of options, but when you’re young, alone, and kitchen-inept, popping a frozen meal in the microwave was the quick and easy option.

Those habits follow you as you get older. In my early 20’s when I was in the Army, I never wanted to eat in the chow hall, so like most of the guys in the barracks, if we weren’t out getting fast food, we were popping frozen dinners in the microwave. Even when I eventually returned home and moved in with friends, microwave dinners were a mainstay at mealtime. Because let’s face it, not only are they quick, but microwave dinners usually fit well into a young bachelor’s tight budget.

Now in my late 30’s and in the throes of parenthood, I find that my fairly poor diet choices from my youth have begun to catch up with me in the form of an ever-growing waistline. I’ve started to try and correct this by becoming more active. I know, I know, how can someone with a toddler BE anymore active? Over the last two years I’ve joined a gym, increased my activity and started to feel better, but I’m still finding the diet part of getting healthier to be the tricky part.

Unlike at the gym, when I’m at home I don’t have someone to work with me. To help me make proper choices. Someone to tell me I need to correct my form, or eating habits as it were. What I need is a mealtime wingman for my weight-loss journey.

Introducing new STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen meals. These are not your grandfather’s TV dinners. Nope, these new microwave meals are the perfect thing for active parents, parents on-the-go, heck, parents in general.

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Mealtime can be tricky for any parent, no matter what your activity level might be. There are going to be plenty of days where life gets in the way of preparing a healthy meal. For example, in our household, I work a conventional 8-5 schedule, but my wife’s career has unpredictable hours that sometimes force us to be like to ships passing in the night. Needless to say, when this happens, meals tend to be more grab-and-go and less like prepared sit-down dinners.

The big worry in situations like this is that your frozen meal won’t be filling and you’ll end up snacking on something extra (and usually far less healthy) in order to curb that craving. But not with STOUFFER’S® Fit Kitchen as your mealtime wingman you won’t. Each meal contains at least 25 grams of protein, which is awesome, especially for someone like me who is looking to be more active and needs to replenish my energy after a hard workout. And they come in some amazing flavor choices too:

  • STEAK FAJITA in smoked red chile sauce with a mix of red & green peppers and seasoned brown rice;
  • CILANTRO LIME CHICKEN white meat chicken with a black bean & corn mix, seasoned brown rice and a verde tomatillo sauce;
  • ROTISSERIE SEASONED TURKEY with a mix of diced red skin sweet potatoes & green beans;
  • MONTEREY CHICKEN with diced red skin & sweet potatoes, lightly buttered green beans with BBQ style sauce;
  • BOURBON STEAK with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, seasoned broccoli & red peppers; and,
  • OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN with diced red skin potatoes, seasoned broccoli and a savory wine sauce.

I tried the steak fajita #FitKitchen just last night when I was on solo-parent duty and I have to tell you, I was blown away by how full I was after finishing the meal. Not too stuffed, and certainly not still hungry. It was just right.

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As the parent of a growing toddler, I need to keep my energy up at all times. I can’t afford to be slowed down by constantly being hungry, and really can’t to allow my weight to get out of control by eating junk food or constantly snacking. That why I’m glad I found these new meals from Stouffer’s. Now I know there are healthy/filling options out there, that are also quick and and afforable, that won’t derail me from my weight-loss journey.

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Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and STOUFFER’S® for this promotion.  I have received compensation and product for my participation, but my opinions are my own.