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An Oatmeal-Smooth Shave

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Dad Central Consulting for AVEENO. I received product samples and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

There's not much to primp about when you're a dad, or at least it's highly unlikely that there's much time to do so with all that is on our plates. Much of this by our families. But most of us all have that one thing we don't skimp on. For me, this one thing is shaving.

From being a prepubescent kid with no hair, to a teen with peach fuzz, to a young man with razor bumps to the man that I am today I tie my manhood into my shaving routine. It is the ritual I looked forward to and worked many years to perfect. I've shopped for shave creams and pre-shave oils as far away as the United Kingdom and spent on shaving brushes what some might spend on groceries for the weekend. There's nothing like working up a real lather with a shave brush and making it and everything beneath it disappear with a diamond sharpened safety razor --- my razor of preference, or your garden variety mega-quadruple-action razor blade available at your local store. You come through the bathroom door smelling a natural, spicy lavender, lemon or jasmine. Your skin looks young and fresh, if you couldn't grow a sprig of peach fuzz if you tried. And it's noon.

The Problem

Herein lies the problem with the perfect shaving routine ---- it is a labor of love. Unless you shave the night before, which in my case schedules my five o'clock shadow to come forth around two-thirty, there is entirely too much to do in the morning to spend ten to fifteen minutes getting your face ready for the day, longer if you have a bald head.

The Question

So when I don't have the time, all week long, I opt for something a lot more affordable, a little quicker and more functional and durable. Something I can take in the shower with me and not run the risk of washing $35 down the drain. But here's the problem, how do you do this without sacrificing your face using low-cost shaving creams and face washes filled with menthol and alcohol to trick you into think your tingling skin is manly?

The Answer

You don't sacrifice your face.

I wasn't surprised when I began using AVEENO® Mens Products because I've used their lotions and face soaps (teen acne days) for many years. I'm familiar with how their ACTIVE NATURALS® Oat ingredient works to cleanse, moisturize and soothe skin. When my daughter was teeny tiny we gave her baths with an AVEENO brand product to soothe her baby eczema flare-ups.

Get The Right Shave Right Now

After spending two weeks using the Men's Face Wash, Shave Gel and After Shave Lotion I can say I'm getting the same smooth shaves as I do from using higher-end men's grooming products. They make good on the promise that it's designed specifically for the needs of men's skin. My face is evenly soft to the touch despite being dry in some spots and oily in others. If feels healthily moisturized from sun up to sundown without crossing over into oily-land. When I pop the cap on the Shave Gel in the morning I'm always greeted with a subtly cool fresh scent that gets me ready to face the day.

If you're looking for an affordable alternative to high-end shaving products or a quality alternative to the shaving products you've been using for too long, allow me to recommend AVEENO Mens Products.

What makes or breaks your facial shaving routine? Do you shave in the morning or at night?

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Mondays With Michelle: Summertime Gelato Goodness

Happy Monday Foodie Friends!
I had to go back in time and dig out one of my favorite summertime posts, the Summertime=Ice Cream time post of course! Enjoy... it's delicious!

With summer officially upon us, now is the perfect time to share my favorite Italian Ice cream spot with you... Paolo's Gelato Italiano in the Virginia Highlands. It is the best ice cream in Atlanta. If you live in Atlanta, like I do and you haven't been, get there asap. If you plan on visiting, include this as a stop on your itinerary. It reminds me of the delish authentic Italian ice cream shops from my home town in Germany, and it doesn't get much better than that!

Paolo's servers over 62 fresh homemade flavors that change weekly (check out the list of flavors here). The even have a “Gelato Alert” that you can sign up for to get an email with the list of flavors that they will be serving for the upcoming  week. They have just about any flavor you can think of... Flower flavors like, Orange Blossom and Rose; Vegetable flavors like Avocado and Basil; and of course all the traditional cream and fruit based flavors like Chocolate, Banana and Strawberry (and many, many more). My absolute favorite thus far is their Pistachio ice cream. It is like heaven in your mouth. I’m not a huge fan of regular ol’ store bought pistachio, but this ice cream...you have to taste it to believe it.   

Yummy Ice Cream line up for the day at Paolo's
Yummy Pistachio!
They have kid friendly sizes and they are also open late, so it's a great place for a treat day or night. One thing I should mention though, is that they accept cash only... so make sure you hit the ATM machine on your way over there. I can't tell you how many times I've had to scavenge in my car and the bottom of purse for loose change to collect enough money for a small scoop of deliciousness. By the way, I don't work for Paolo's or anything, I just love it so much I think everyone should have a chance to indulge! Enjoy!

What is your favorite Summertime ice cream flavor? Post your comments below.
Don't forget to visit my Foodie blog for more recipes, food tips and other foodie fun.

Thanks for reading!

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How To Restore Yourself in 2013: 7 Principles of Self-Restoration

No New Year's resolutions here. At the very end of 2012 I very quietly proclaimed, "I will be restored."

Today is exactly five months and twenty-four days since I uttered this statement.

How To Inspire The Dad In Your Life To Be His Best All Year Long

Today is also almost a year ago to the day (June 22, 2012 to be exact) I was laid off from what I thought was my dream job. And don't get me wrong, layoffs happen all the time. But it was the how it happened, rather than the why it happened. I was legitimately heartbroken as I scrambled and failed for several months to get new work. My ego suffered, my lifestyle suffered (didn't have one to begin with at the time) and my marriage was accelerating toward disaster. I stopped eating, but gained weight, and then started losing weight and my appetite stayed away. I prayed and prayed but began to lose hope, --- something I've had for as long as I can remember. Then in the fall things began to look up. Work came and I began the slow climb out of debt, began to budget and began doing my best to repair home. On New Year's Eve I forgave myself for everything, especially since I was blaming myself for everything, and told God in 2013 I'd make triple what had been taken from me in 2012. I knew I wasn't blaspheming when I financially able to slip in a trip to Disney World not soon after this. And this past Wednesday, 3 days shy of June 22, 2012, I began a new gig where I was recruited --- making double what I made in 2012. In a masterstroke of bringing things full circle, I was able to assist getting a former colleague from that old "dream" job hired into the position I just left. I'm too awestruck and thankful to question it. I'm still committed to making triple by the end of the year and with freelance stuff and blog stuff I may actually hit that mark. But that's neither here nor there right now. What is true is that I've almost unknowingly doubled what was taken from me in 12 months flat. Believe me there have been hiccups and plenty of self-doubt along the way. But don't tell me I did this "out of my own hard work" - no matter how hard I worked others who work just as hard or harder and for longer still haven't seen their circumstances change. I won't take credit for the blessings, but I will accept them thankfully and know that the Most High is driving. But what I did do and continue to do is remain steadfast to these 7 principles of self-restoration:

  1. Know your value - know what you add to this life, your friends, your family, your community, your job and refuse to be undervalued by those who WILL try to convince you that you aren't special.
  2. Trust and use your power - when opportunity strikes, don't spend a single second doubting your ability to rise to the occasion. Stand up, speak up and use all that you have to step into what is yours. If you don't, rest assured someone else will. Don't be on the sidelines knowing you could've done better what you should've been doing in the first place.
  3. Love a little more - patience, forgiveness, reassurance...speak words that bear fruit and don't tear down, refuse to stoop to lower levels when you feel yourself being pulled down, resist temptation when you know you and/or someone around you will be hurt, resist the desire to defend and fight, instead seek concessions, be the peacemaker, see the other point of view - even if it is wrong and speak truth, calmly and assertively.
  4. Surround yourself with people who make you better - this may require you to seek out folks who are better than you. [UPDATE: and separate yourself from others]. I hope your ego will allow for this to happen. 
  5. Talk less, listen more - this shouldn't need any explanation, but revisit "Love a little more" for a refresher.
  6. Play - if you have any children in your life, watch them for pointers. Set your imagination free, find hobbies that allow your mind to soar: cooking, reading, working, traveling, chasing down that passion on the side (Note to men: if you have a family the bills MUST be paid first and the food MUST be on the table before you begin chasing dreams).
  7. Write down your goals - how do you expect to succeed if you don't have a plan? You don't have to physically write them down if that's not what you do but there's no way you're going to stay on task if you don't have any. And an unorganized mind makes for a disorganized life. 
  8. *The bonus point - if you count yourself as a believer, pray and praise with all your heart mind and soul. Pray when things are bad and pray when things are good. Invite God into your life and do this FIRST. And all else will follow.

So enough about me. How is your 2013 going for you?

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#TheSoulMan Twitter Viewing Party 6/19 10:30PM EST

You read the interview with Cedric and Niecy Nash, now sign up and join in on the fun of a Twitter party hosted by BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com. If you're on social media, Twitter parties are great ways to interact and connect with new folks with similar interests and ideas.

[Click To Tweet]
Join me & @blackandmarried for #TheSoulMan Twitter Viewing Party on Wed. 6/19 10:30-11:30PM EST Details: http://bmwk.me/16dLMgG 

From BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com: 
Join us as we tweet along with some of our favorite online friends before and during the show. Our Twitter Viewing Party kicks off at 10:30PM EST and runs until the episode ends at 11:30PM EST and if you’ve ever participated in one of our Twitter events then you know we always have a good time! 
How To Join Us: 
1) You’ll need to have a Twitter account. If you don’t have one you can sign up at www.twitter.com. 
2) It’s a good idea to follow our Twitter accounts for info on upcoming chats (@blackandmarried, @lamartyler, @ronnietyler). 
3) Beginners can follow along during the viewing party here (Tweet Chat): http://tweetchat.com/room/thesoulman 
Party Details: 
Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Time: 10:30PM – 11:30PM EST
Hashtag: #TheSoulManSponsor: @TVLandHost: @BlackandMarriedJoining Us: @mybrownbaby @kiamorgansmith @epaynethedad @stephanspeaks @iluvblackwomen and more!
About The Soul Man

From the creators of Hot in Cleveland, The Soul Man revolves around Cedric “The Entertainer’s” character, Reverend Boyce The Voice Ballentine, an R&B superstar-turned-minister who takes over as preacher of his father’s church. Niecy Nash (“Reno 911″) stars as the reverends wife, Lolli. The pilot also features John Beasley (Everwood) as his father, and Wesley Jonathan (What I Like About You) as his younger brother. The character of Reverend Boyce originated on a second season episode of Hot in Cleveland in which Cedric guest-starred. Season 2 Premieres June 19 11/10C on TV Land!

*This is part of a compensated campaign with TV Land. All opinions are my own. 

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Talking 'Domestic Sexy' and The Soul Man Season 2 with Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash

I had the opportunity to talk with Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash about the new season of The Soul Man, which begins this Wednesday (6/19) at 11pm ET on TV Land.

This is a guest post by Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.  Jackie writes a Family Leadership blog at jackiebledsoe.com, which helps men grow in their most important roles.  The roles as husband and father.  He is the creator of the series, "March DADness: Preparing Dads to Make a Championship Run in Fatherhood," and the author of the soon to be released eBook, "Lovers and Fighters: How to Love and Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage."  Read more articles like this on his blog.  You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter (@jbledsoejr).

In The Soul Man, Cedric and Niecy play a husband (Reverend Boyce) and wife (Lolli), who recently moved from living the high life that comes with being a R&B superstar in Las Vegas, to living the family life that comes with being a minister in St. Louis.

Yes, Cedric goes from a Vegas R&B star to a St. Louis minister.  You already know comedy is going to follow!

Laughter and family is what you get

As with everything Cedric and Niecy touch it is sure to make you laugh.  During the interview, it was hard to keep from laughing.  Although you'll be laughing while watching the show, you will also appreciate the fact that they are representing a couple that truly loves each other.

Many husband and wife TV shows have spouses who are constantly going at one another, and taking cheap shots.  The Soul Man represents a positive image of marriage and family.

Below is a trailer of the new season.  In the video, Lolli (Niecy Nash) talks about what it does to her (and her lady parts) when Boyce (Cedric the Entertainer) helps out around the house.  This scene prompted me to ask them if the same happens in their real life marriages.

Cedric, Niecy, and the domestic sexy husband

Through my question, I introduced Cedric to a term I've written about before, "domestic sexy."   Domestic sexy is what you call a husband who helps his wife around the house.  He is being domestic, and that makes him sexy to his wife.  Watch the clip and see what Cedric and Niecy have to say below.

If their responses are any indicator of how the new season of The Soul Man will be, then you are in for a great season.  A season with the perfect mix of comedy in the midst of a positive relationship.

If you are unable to view the video, you can watch the video here..

Conversation with Cedric and Niecy

MMWH:  I have written about a term called "domestic sexy."  Cedric, have you heard the term?  Do you notice anything different when you are domestic sexy at your house?

Cedric:  I'm not the handiest person.  I like to get outside, water the grass, and wash the car with my son.  For no reason at all, just to play in the water and have fun with the kids.  I do know it has my wife in a good mood.  She is a lot more playful.

I was trying to fix a chair at the house the other day, and she was like "whatchu doin?"  Next thing you know, that chair stayed broke, if you know what I'm sayin'.  (laughter)  Ain't nobody got time for that chair no more...there's a situation goin on up in here!  (laughter)

I never heard the term, but I like it though.  Domestic sexy, that's alright.

MMWH: Niecy, does it have that affect on you (like in the video clip)?

Niecy:  That line ended up being an ad lib.  That was something I threw in there and Cedric was like, "yes, we should keep it!"  It is literally how I feel!  It is how I feel without a doubt.

I just wrote a book on relationships, and I do talk about it (in the book).  It is something about when you see a dude...even when my husband helps me with my side of the bed.  I'm like, "oh you just gonna help me clean up?"  He's like "I'm just making up the bed."

There is something extremely sexy about being helped out in that way.

Get more of that every Wednesday evening

Fellas, did you hear that?  Helping around the house may be the solution to some things in your marriage!

The New Season of The Soul Man is here!  Make sure you tune in to TV Land on Wednesdays, starting June 19th, at 11pm (ET).

Question:  Is there some 'domestic sexy' happening in your house?  If so, is it true what Ced and Niecy say, a 'domestic sexy' man does something to a lady?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below. You just read Talking 'Domestic Sexy' and The Soul Man Season 2 with Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash.  You can read more articles by Jackie on his blog.


Father's Day is for FATHERS: A Public Service Announcement

Father's Day Is For FATHERS: A Public Service Announcement from E.Payne on Vimeo.

When it comes to fathers and Father's Day we always hear about what men need to do to be better fathers, etc. You never hear this conversation in advance of Mother's Day. Father's Day is all about celebrating the fathers that DO in the lives of their children, not the men that DON'T in the lives of their kids. There's no argument that we shouldn't aggressively address the issue of fatherless, especially since it fosters so many societal ills. However on Father's Day lets set this day aside to actually celebrate fathers --- the men who assume the role and responsibilities that come with rearing and loving their children.

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A Father's Smile: #powerofdad

My most prominent memories from my childhood include my father in some way. He was singularly the most impactful force on my life. I remember how focused he was and how at times, he was mature to a fault, or his extreme mature was to my personal detriment. He was seemingly unmoved by many of the things that make kids kids. My dad was and continues to be an exceptionally serious man. His dealings with me oftentimes were not unlike those of a boss who deals with an average employee, mildly satisfied with the workers productivity. Always expecting more. I'll never forget the time I got a B in one of my high school classes and he acted as if I had received an F. I was furious, not in a I can't satisfy this guy kind of way but rather a what the hell is wrong with this guy?

Our relationship, at least from my viewpoint, was testy at best during my teen years. Then one day my mother shared a picture with me from my past. There I was, a big-headed, slobbering baby boy laying across my father's chest and the smile on my father's face was stretched from his left ear to his right. It was the biggest smile I had ever seen. I distinctly remember blurting out, "Dad smiles?!" The next picture (pictured here) was a little bit later on. I was bigger, wearing footie pajamas and my father's smile was still there. In retrospect on the occasions when my father did smile it was when I was in the midst of accomplishing something: running, but not winning in a track meet or posing with me at the conclusion of the many science fairs I won. That's right, science fairs. I was a god of model rockets and measuring drag coefficients.

Tweet: Your favorite Dad moments on Twitter at #powerofdad

I was stunned as I watched the Oral B (yup, the makers of the Oral B power toothbrushes) Power of Dad video. It was put together to honor dads this Father's Day for all the great moments and smiles we have brought to the lives of our families. It captures so many precious, priceless, intimate but fleeting moments between fathers and their kids. I can relate to all of them as a father of a 17 and a 7 year-old. I smiled thinking back on the times when my dad, unbeknownst to me, was grooming me to be the man I am today.

Visit: The Power of Dad and share your favorite memories of your Dad

Now that my daughter is coming into her own she looks to me for approval for the things she's involved in. There's one thing she relies on to let her know that all is right with her and the world: my smile. A father's smile makes all the difference in the world. And when my daughter sees my smile, hers gets even brighter.

I don't ever plan for this to change.

I'm inclined to believe I'm not the only one who has some valuable, wonderful memories of their father. Share your favorite memories via a short testimonial of your father or even your favorite moments as a father here in my comment section, over at The Power of Dad and on Twitter using the #powerofdad hashtag.

Disclaimer: This was a conversation sponsored by Oral-B. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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[Father's Day Gift Guide] 3 Reasons Why A Sonos Play:3 Is Better Than A Tie

I was very excited last week when I opened the package sent to me containing the Sonos Play:3 HiFi System and Bridge for review. The last time I was this excited about a speaker was when I opened the box to the original Bose Sound Dock for my iPod (I never purchased any more after that). The time before then was right after I graduated high school and purchased a Kenwood receiver and a set of JBL speakers with money I received in gifts.

Initially, I wasn't on the Sonos bandwagon. Firstly, when Sonos made it's debut I don't think I totally understood what being able to stream music wirelessly even meant. I was an apartment dweller and had forgotten the audio needs that come with being an audiophile and living in a house. Secondly, I didn't trust the sound when I listened to it at stores like Target and Best Buy because, well, everything sounds loud there if you turn it up loud enough.

But eventually I began to come around after an in depth review by tech evangelist, BrothaTech. And by the time of his review not only did I have a full understanding of streaming music wirelessly, I once again became a home dweller and entered a state of reluctant acceptance of the flat and inadequate sounds coming stylish sound docks.

For the purposes of my review I'm not going to go super-tech on you, but rather I'm going to speak to the experience of living with a Sonos Play:3 HiFi System.

It's a Speaker

The Sonos Play:3 isn't a sound dock designed to look nice (or not so nice) in conjunction with the rest of the visible stuff in your living space. No, it's a speaker. Weighty, solid, clearly packed with magnets with the emphasis on style being placed on it's minimalist wedge shape. To me it seems as if it was designed to hide in plain sight or not be seen at all either in a corner or under a chair. There is nothing like a solid state piece of equipment. It doesn't do anything more than what it's intended to do, but it does well what it has been designed to do. The manufacturer describes it as "compact, all-in-one Sonos player with 3 integrated speakers and 3 digital amps for big HiFi sound. Horizontal or vertical. Black or white." A tie isn't capable of accomplishing any of this.

Fill Your House With Music

Once I went through the simple process of setting up the device, especially simple if you're one of the initiated: a sad soul who had to set up a wireless router before your cable provider began doing it for you. I downloaded the Sonos app for my iPhone and loaded it on my desktop so I could stream music from either device. The beauty of the Sonos software is that it although it suggests you set up playlists on Sonos, it gives you the option to connect with all the music sources you normally interact with daily. So if you're on Pandora all you have to do is simply select it from the Music menu, log on inside the Sonos app and boom! You can play all your favorites and play it with all the appropriate bass, midrange sounds and highs. You'll be able to hear how wonderful the sounds you normally pack into earbuds and headphones sound when free to bounce off your walls, floors and ceilings. A tie can't fill your house with music.

With two kids, the televisions are on a lot. My daughter with her pre-teen shows and my son with all his sports. A curious thing has begun to take place since my test Sonos system moved in. The more the music is on, the more the television is off. We're spending more time communally in the living room, singing along or moving with the beats, while talking, eating together, reading and just lazing around (a la white noise). It reminds that home is a place meant to be enjoyed and lounged in, not simply force-fed information from led screens.


The Sonos App is the merely the end of the functionality of the Sonos system. In my opinion, the strength of this wireless speaker system lies in a little product called the Sonos Bridge, a little white box that again, can hide easily enough in plain sight beside your wireless router (see the two Vines above). And again the Bridge does exactly what it's name suggests. First, it allows you to set your Play:3 in any room (where there's an outlet) without it being connected directly to your router (this will need to happen without the Bridge) and wait for it: it acts a router for multiple Sonos components. If you want you can have a speaker in every room, eliminating the need to take your speaker from room to room. You can even put two speakers together to create left and right stereo channels. You can also set each speaker's equalization settings to work in the rooms where they are situated and you can play different music in each room or have them all play the same thing --- which is great for entertaining a houseful of people. A tie can't entertain a houseful of people.

Want to Buy A Sonos Wireless HiFi System?

Target, Best Buy and Amazon.com are now hosting a limited-time promotion for the Sonos Wireless HiFi System. You can bring home the Sonos Test Pack for $299, which includes a PLAY:3, BRIDGE and three month subscription of Rhapsody Premier.
This deal will run for a limited time only (5/26 – 6/23). Visit www.sonos.com/promo for more details.

Disclosure: I received a Sonos Play:3 unit and Bridge to test out in my home for a short-term trial period. I was not compensated for this post in any way. The opinions expressed here are my own.  

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3 Reasons Why Daughters Need Their Dads

I recently had the opportunity to meet Jackie Brewton at a college prep workshop she was hosting for recent high school graduates. To my surprise, she called out to me before I was able to introduce myself thanks to her "knowing me" via this blog, my writings elsewhere and my appearance in Men Ain't Boys. After connecting on several topics, most importantly our kids entering adulthood, I told myself I'd pay her blog a visit. When I saw a post entitled, "Why Daughter's Need Their Dads," I couldn't help but share. Especially with this being the week of Father's Day. Please, continue reading:

...What happens when a girl’s father is not actively engaged in her life?
Often times she makes poor relationship choices, becomes sexually active at a young age and spends the rest of her life questioning why her father did not love her enough to want to be a part of her life.
 A teen girl tells us why:
We were discussing the “father issue” in class one day and a young lady gave the following explanation as to why many young ladies make poor relationship decisions and do not always demand to be treated with respect or recognize their value:
A father sets the bar on how girls expect to be treated. Girls know their fathers are supposed to protect, love and cherish them. When fathers aren’t there for them in that way, some girls tend not to expect that from the guys they date. They figure if their own fathers don’t protect, love and cherish them maybe it’s because they don’t deserve it.
.  .  .

 How fathers help keep their teen daughters from becoming sexually active:

  1. Fathers provide the love and validation every girl longs for so she does not have to seek love and validation from another male.
  2. The teenage girl who has a good relationship with her father AND knows that her father disapproves of her being sexually active is more likely to refrain from sex to avoid disappointing her father.
  3. Engaged fathers “school” their daughters about what the average teenage guy is thinking. They also educate their daughters on the manipulative things some guys will do just to get what they want.
What can parents do?
To find out read the rest of this article, which includes more real-life comments from teen daughters over at Jackie's blog.

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To Own And Love A Dog

I know people love their dogs. I've read countless stories of heroic actions taken by canines in the face of danger and/or destruction. I married into a family of animal lovers. By association, I have evolved from my avoidance of them due to my allergies to being an "animal appreciator."

My feelings on the matter were drastically altered around 4pm on Sunday, June 2, 2013.

It was a hot and humid afternoon and we were dog sitting a toy poodle (and a former stray) owned by one of my wife's friends. It was a little thing. Quite wiry, more scared than friendly and definitely feeling like the little guy compared to my seventy-pound Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog - Aussie Shepherd mix. I had them tethered to one of my weights in the garage while I vacuumed out my car until it began to rain. I took them inside but my dog walked back out into the garage. The poodle followed. I called mine back in and he came. The poodle looked at me trotted out of the garage and took off down the street. The house doors were open my car doors were open. Thinking I could catch him I took off in a full sprint and did nothing to secure my home, car or dog. As little as he is, he's still a dog and was now running full speed on all four of his legs while I was a two-legged man wearing boots and tired from a run first thing in the morning. A car slowed down but eventually kept going. It was raining and I began to panic. All I could think was this dog is gonna die because apparently running down the middle of the street came quite naturally to him. And my next thought was what am I going to tell his owner when she comes to pick him up? I'm three blocks from my house at this point and I begin to worry about my own dog, my open garage and home and my own open and unattended vehicle. If we hit the four way stop another block away, I wasn't sure I'd be able to continue pursuing, screaming the whole way. Just then something caused me to turn around. My dog Leo, short for Leonidas (yes, King Leonidas of Sparta), was sprinting full speed down the middle of the street directly toward me. My heart sank. Now I had two dogs to keep up with. Only I didn't know that Leo was coming to my rescue. He came right up to me. Doubled over and out of breath I huffed, "You gotta help me, baby boy. Go get him. Go!" And just like that Leo took off, blistering down the street in all his instinctual herding canine glory, chasing down the poodle, who is now a good block away from me, in a matter of seconds. The poodle stopped, Leo circled him a bit and then casually trotted back down the street to where I stood. By then we had an audience of passerbyers  comprised of stopped cars. Especially since all of this was happing in the middle of the street. A woman jumped out of her husband's truck and scooped the disoriented poodle off the ground and brought him to me. She asked me if I was okay and I blabbered out my best explanation of what just happened. She said, "you poor thing," and offered to walk back to my house with me and my two dogs who had no leashes. I told her I'd be fine. And I wasn't simply being polite. I knew Leo got the seriousness of what was going on and wasn't going anywhere. I thanked her and her husband for stopping while other cars begin to pull around them. They waved goodbye and I walked quickly back home holding the toy poodle tightly in my right hand while talking to and reassuring Leo, who I've trained to walk to the left of me. He jumped around a bit and hopped along but he never left my left side the whole way home. He isn't even two years old yet.

I made it home to find my home and car untouched. A couple neighbors were putting a soft top on their Jeep and never noticed I was gone or saw me go screaming down the street. Leo walked inside and turned to me. I hugged him and almost broke down momentarily. I gave him half a bag of pepperoni slices and brought myself to give the poodle one. Ultimately it isn't his fault his nature as a stray kicked in while he was at a place unfamiliar to him.

The sun came back out and I went back to washing my car. This time I left both dogs in the house. I couldn't believe my dog got what was going on. It's not that I didn't know he had it in him, but I had no reason to consider it either. I didn't know his instincts, the magical things I read about in all these stores about heroic dogs, would kick in so that he'd know exactly what to do. My dog growls but almost never barks. He's very playful outdoors but spends most of his time inside asleep. Why did he come to me? Why didn't he just leave the neighborhood? What made him decide to come when he did? Why did he come back to me after stopping the poodle without having to be commanded to do so? I literally thanked God for my dog. And I never imagined I'd thank God for any animal other than appreciating His creativity in making so many of them. My dog helped me in a time of need and for that I am eternally grateful. Now I get the stories about the heroic dogs. But what I get even more is the dog behind the heroics.

Has your dog ever done something amazing that left you speechless and gave you a different appreciation for dogs?


3 Necessary Steps To Get Your Car Summer-Ready

I recently took my car into my local mechanic to fix a very worrisome problem. Every time I used the brakes my car would shake. On the streets it was somewhat noticeable. On the highways and at high speeds it was furious. I knew it was time to take the car in when my daughter asked, "Daddy, what's wrong with the car?"

Turns out the problem was very fixable. My front rotors, the silver discs that the brake calipers clamp down on when you place your foot on the brake pedal, were warped from heat and normal usage. They needed to be resurfaced. A couple hours later and $135 lighter I drove off my mechanic's lot with what felt like a brand new car. What's more I felt safe. I was reminded of a time long ago, when I was much younger and was getting my first brake job on my first car in Queens, New York. My mechanic at the time told me, "I spend top dollar on brakes because what you're riding on will protect you and what you're riding in." He had kids and spoke of his "precious investments." Now that I've got kids, I understand exactly what he meant.

Summertime is for having fun and being spontaneous. The stuff of memories is the weekend excursion with the wife, or the road trip with the kids. It's not a good feeling to be on the road and not feel safe with the people you value most. Renting a car isn't always an option. Sometimes it's nice to take the vehicle you own out on the road. But before doing so make sure your vehicle is "road trip ready" by following these three steps:

1 - Maintain Your Tires

Unless your vehicle is a complete hazard to the road, oftentimes what you're riding on is more important than what you're riding in. As I explained to my daughter last week, tires lose air and ultimately pressure over time and use of your vehicle. But the beautiful thing about this is that it is a free to inexpensive fix. Most vehicles built since the year 2005 have tire pressure monitors built right into the dashboard, so your car will let you know when it's time to re-inflate them (be sure to check the writing on the side of your tire or just inside the door jamb of the driver's side for the correct amount of pressure --- PSI - pounds per square inch - your tires should have). If you don't have a tire pressure monitoring system and even if you do, make sure you have a tire pressure gauge in your glove compartment so you can do spot inspections and see, with your own eyes, your tires' current air pressure. Not to insult anyone, but if you don't know, you can refill the air in your tires at gas stations either for free or at a cost of $1.50 - $1.75 in quarters.

I could go into great detail about how to check for tire tread wear, especially since my own tires are getting a little on the "bald" side. But this guy does it better then me and he using a tire to demonstrate:

There's nothing between you and the road, but the tires you're sitting on. Given weather, changing road conditions and other drivers, you simply cannot put yourself, your passengers or your vehicle at risk with inadequate tires. Should you need new tires, Hankook's new Ventus S1 Noble2 line has an option for every vehicle.

2- Check Your Brakes

If you missed my intro for this post, please read it again. An even better solution is not to wait for a problem to arise. At winter's end or the beginning of spring take your car in to your trusted mechanic and have them give you an honest evaluation of your brakes. The questions you'll need to ask are:

  1. How much time do I have before the brakes need to be replaced?
  2. How worn down are they?
  3. When do you recommend replacing them (if not, now)?
  4. Do the rotors need to be resurfaced?
A mechanic worth his salt will answer your questions and rather than immediately pushing you to replace your brakes. Should you need to replace your brakes, don't skimp. There are plenty of things you can save money on when having repairs made to your car, the parts that stop your vehicle from moving should not be among them. That trusted mechanic I mentioned will have more than one option available. Ask him or her for the best one for your vehicle and don't hesitate making that purchase.

3- Check Those Wipers

You may need more than the newest "streak-free" windshield wiper fluid to get your windshield clean. There is nothing worse than driving on a bright, sun-shiny day and being blinded by dirt, smudges and streaks left by your windshield wipers. The short video below shows you how to maintain or replace, if necessary, your blades.

There are plenty of other checks and fixes you can make to your vehicle such as cleaning out the cargo bay or trunk of non-essential items, making your sure your fluids are topped off and all your light bulbs are working, but the above are my top three based on my own personal experiences. The reality is that car maintenance isn't cheap. But you can't skimp on yourself or the precious cargo you need to haul around from day to day and for the fun stuff. If you happen to be in the market for a new set of tires like me tire maker, Hankook, is offering a significant rebate on qualifying tires via their 2013 ‘Great Catch’ Mail-in Rebate offer.

Where do you like to go on road trips during the summer? What is your number one suggestion for getting your car summer-ready to hit the road?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Hankook Tires. The opinions and text are all mine.