Friday, September 30, 2011

Renewed Passion

We all have something we are passionate about, some more than others. But it is something we all have in common, we all have a passion. Your passion can be your job, your family or spouse, some more personal like art, helping others, movies whatever we have something in us that ignites the flame when presented. Every passion requires a rekindling of the flame if you will, to keep it burning brighter and longer. If you are a teacher you might have a student approach you and express their appreciation ergo your passion and confirmation of being a teacher is renewed. You and your spouse can get so caught up in the family, especially when kids are involved, and that passion seems to fade. However after a weekend away with each other without distraction, that passion is renewed and that flame burns brighter.

Tonight I saw one of my most favorite artist ever, not just in Christian music, perform. Steven Curtis Chapman has been my music icon for as long as I can remember. I've blogged about him in previous blogs of mine such as A Family to Mirrorr - The Chapman's and Christmas is All in the Heart  . As a 14 year old boy I listened to his Great Adventure CD for the first time and I was hooked. God used his music to speak and inspire me to pick up the guitar and sing and play for Him. Ever since I gave these talents over to God I have tried to use them to further His kingdom ever since. However like most passions it became stale and I would back off awhile. I have been back at these past couple of years going strong but when I'm not performing as much as I would like I get frustrated in my craft and sometimes wonder if its still worth it. Well tonight my passion was renewed.

I have recently honed in on my passion of music and performing to more so adult contemporary. I have never been "hip". In fact even when I was a teenager, college student, and young adult I never felt that my style of playing fit what my peers were listening to. Yes I would try to Jars of Clay my songs in worship or Audio Adrenalin my way through a service but it was never me or my style. Currently I lead music for our Young Adult Ministry (YAM) at my church and even then I do not feel that I relate to the style of music they are accustom to listening to. However I love singing for adults and songs that they relate to. This is the genre of Steven Curtis Chapman, Christian Adult Contemporary. I can relate to this group, and for some reason I have always related to this group even when I was younger. I find this to be strange even in my professional life as well. Put me in a conversation with someone older than me and we can talk for hours. Put me in a conversation with someone who is a peer or younger and I can be at a loss for words.

Nevertheless my passion was restored tonight and my direction is clearer. Focus on the what I know and what God reveals in my life. I relate more to adults. Then minister to that group. I love to tell stories. Then write songs about stories. This is my renewed focus for my passion.

I want to challenge you to pinpoint that passion of yours. You know what it is. When was the last time you visited it? When was the last time you did something with it? Spend some quality time with your passion(s) and get to know it all over again. You'd be surprised what you can learn about yourself when that passion is renewed.


My Weight Loss Godsent, ViSalus

Let me first start out saying that I am so burnt out on the whole fad weight loss, P90X commitment, up at 5:00am killing myself and not being able to stick to it programs out there. I have never been "fit". I've always needed to lose some kind of weight. The slimmest I've ever gotten was prior to my wedding and I got down to about 175lbs. I needed to show my new bride-to-be what a catch I really was you know :) Ever since I've tried everything from the videos, Gazelle machines, joined & unjoined gyms, and even recently the P90X program. All I'm sure have proven great results for others, but I'm not gonna lie, I'm just lazy!

Ok now that I got that little declaimer out of the way I did stumble across this product that has been working for a buddy of mine. I looked into it and the more I read and studied the more I was intrigued by it. Not only did it make sense to me but it was the perfect fit for my lifestyle. On top of that I can save money. What? I did the math and I was no doubt able to save money! So let me divulge into this little product called ViSalus. I started ViSalus on Friday September 23, 2011 and in one weeks time I lost 7 lbs eating what I want, not working out, and doing everything on my time. This is a continual process and I am doing a 90 Day Challange at which time I would have hope to had lost 30 lbs. So I am no doubt on my way!!!

Basically ViSalus is a meal replacement shake that is packed with all sorts of vitamins and nutrients that meet your required meal needs, but also supplies you with the energy and fulfillment that past fad meal replacement shakes never gave you. With all of the protein, nutrients, and vitamins that are packed into this shake one would think it would have the worst taste in the world but its just the opposite. This stuff mixed with fat free milk taste like cake batter or icing without the ultimate sweetness. In a nut shell it is really really good. Plus you can add as much fruits, and other shake ingredients to it as you want to make it your own, but even by itself is delicious. I have two reasons why I LOVE this program:

Its Simple
My biggest set backs on all of these other weight loss products I've done is none of them ever fit with my constantly changing life. Most of the diet plans such as South Beach, Atkins and others have the right idea on altering your diet and cutting out carbs. Well that's great but this "health food" is not cheap. My grocery bill increased by about 20% every time because I was buying fresh produce, meats, and all other protein foods. That's just in food. When children entered our little world so did the expensive cost of diapers, formula and wipes. The grocery bills stack up fast. All of that produce, and meats have to be stored and consumed in a certain time frame or they all go bad. I was throwing out more food than what I was bringing in. In my line of work I am required to have several lunch appointments through out my week. Trying to maintain these diets on this kind of schedule was ridiculous and when I did bring my lunch it came in a grocery bag full of ingredients to make my "low carb" meal.

In regards to working out, time and consistency is everything. Shannon and I have been in and out of so many gym memberships that we almost need a temporary pass. The idea of joining a gym is great, but dedicating a consistent time to get there, workout, and then carry on with our day was daunting and hard to do given my family's busy schedule. Who's gonna watch the kids? I'll watch them while you go and then we'll trade off? I have a meeting so I can't make it till later. I'll go in the morning before everyone wakes (which never worked for me). It all just got to be such a hassle. Then enter P90X. Do it all at home, Great! They're at least and hour a workout, and again the consistency factor comes in play.

ViSalus shakes are so easy. I have a shake for breakfast that I mix in a blender. I put two scoops of mix in a little baggy and take it to work. If I have a lunch, fine I'll go eat a sensible lunch wherever and whatever it is. I'll make a shake before I go home and boom theres my dinner. If I want to enjoy a sensible dinner with my family then boom I'll have a shake for lunch. No gym, no working out no stressing over counting calories. EASY!!! 

Financially Smart
I've mentioned in other post about how we as a family budget. One of our biggest expenses is a line item named "Household". These are all the purchases we need in a months time for everyday things for the house, toiletries, and yes groceries. Well here is the no brainier. These are "Meal Replacement Shakes". This obviously means that you are replacing what you buy at the grocery store in a months time for breakfast and/or lunches. Now we still buy dinner items but only for the nights we are truly at home. After you add up the cost over a months time on what these two meals a day will cost you, you can see the savings. Especially if you are like me and every restaurant around your work has $10 and above lunch options, this really adds up to the savings. You can see this on my website but there are several options when choosing ViSalus and its different for each person. For instance Shannon is doing the Balance Plan which yes helps in weight loss but also gives her the daily amount of nutrients needed to kick start her day. This option is only $49 a month. I however need to lose about 30 lbs and do the slightly more aggressive plan which replaces two meals a day with shakes. This plan is only $99 a month. So its affordable! For my route it comes out to $25 a week to replace 14 meals!

Another way ViSalus is financially smart is it could be a great part time business if you so choose to take advantage of it. Now I'll be honest with you, this has always been a turn off to me because I always felt I had to buy into a product, attend some Zig Zigler style meeting, sing Kum By Ya and drink the Koolade. However after reading into this further, again it was a no brainier. Yes I'm always looking to raise extra long term income outside of my full-time job. By becoming a distributor you become a walking billboard. People will obviously see the change and ask you about it. From there you give them your card or take them to your website. If they decide they want to do this, why wouldn't they if they see the change in you, then they will order from your website get the product for themselves, and you benefit financially as well. Now I am walking into this area myself very carefully and with caution simply because I've never done this. But its like anything else. If you find something you are passionate about you naturally want to tell the world. Especially if their coming up to you and asking what the change is all about.

So I want to challenge you to stop and take a look at Visalus for yourself and see if it fits in your lifestyle. Go to my website watch the videos, and read the testimonials. Look at the benefits and money saving opportunities. If for anything try it a month and see what you think. If you're still not satisfied at the very least you saved some money on your grocery bill for that month and got some pretty awesome shakes out of it.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Memo to my Employees

I wanted to share with you a struggle that I've had earlier in my career that you might be going through now. Its that feeling of being stuck, not having any ambition, and basically not knowing what you want to do with your life. I would always beat myself up over these thoughts because as a person it always felt that I was a failure in life because I feel so bad about my current status. I saw friends of mine take the leap into their own businesses and succeed. I saw my peers get breaks in life that I wish I had and it always felt that life was leaving me behind. These feelings would always lead me to look for new opportunities in other fields but then again finding more disappointments at every turn. So the question was, how do I correct this feeling, and how do I do my current job and feel good at the end of the day? For me I prayed, read my bible, and consulted with very close friends but at the end of the day this is what I determined about myself.

  • My Job does not define me. Yes I am a banker, but I am so much more than that. I am a son, husband, father, friend, musician...and the list goes on and on about what attributes I have in this life that truly define who I really am.
  • I am in a respectable career: If you think about it, banking is a respectable career, it always has been. whether you are a teller or a president you are a banker and that is a good job to have. I dare say people admire you for being a banker and will seek your advice when needed.
  • I offer a nessessary service: At the end of the day I help people. Practically everyone has a bank and depend on us to manage their financial picture whatever that picture may look like. Yes sales, deadlines, and other "corporate pressures" like this can interfere but I'll be honest with you Trustmark is a breath of fresh air in this area compared to other banks I've worked for.
  • I matter. Yes, employed wise I can be replaced but I still matter. I matter to my family, I matter to my friends, I matter to my church, I matter in this life.
  • Finally the reoccurring assurance that my peers, friends, and mentors remind me of, we are all still young! Who says we have to be at the top of our game at this stage in our life? We are simply on a journey. Do we settle on our current state? You can if you want to, but I dare say we all have ambition to do more. Whether if its as a banker at Trustmark Bank or in a field that more closely fits our dreams. We have the time to accomplish this. Lets not be so tunnel visioned on getting to the prize where we miss out on the journey there.
Since I realized these facts my outlook on getting up every morning to go to my job, and getting over the mundane day to day duties has decreased if not completely gone away. I still have "those" days but I am quickly reminded of these facts I just mentioned. The reason why I shared this with you, is I remember being there, I remember the feeling, and since no one was there to remind me that I wasn't the only one going through this, I thought I'd let you know. I appreciate each and everyone of you for your diligence to give excellent service, and maintain a professional outlook on life. I close all of my personal correspondence with a phrase that I try to live by daily, Out Live your Life, so...
Out Live Your Life,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Considering Running for Office?

Well I have, numerous times. First and foremost I am for termed positions in local, state, and federal elected positions. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. When you have the same elected officials in office, churning their same old ideas and rhetoric, and playing the same old political games, this government will never change. I am for putting fresh people, average Joe's like you and me into office with ground roots ideas, who know more of the hardships on Main street than on Wall street. Also the main fact that the average Joe's will not be corrupted in politics and we'll have their terms served before they can truly become corrupted in politics, therefore the best interest of the people are truly at the top of mind when decisions are made.

So what does it take for a person to run for an elected position? What keeps the majority of people who want to make this leap from doing so? I've asked these same questions and pondered for quite sometime where to get started, what qualifies you as a candidate, and I think the number one reason that detours people from running, how do you make a living doing it? Throughout this post I will be referring to the State of Tennessee, its laws/qualifications because Tennessee is all I know and obviously where I call home. For those of you reading this in the other 49 check your state's qualifications, but at the end of the day the same principles apply.

What qualifies a person to be an elected official? You have to be called to this position. I'm not saying that God is going to knock you off your ride with a blinding light on the road to Damascus, but you have to truly have a heart of concern for your cause. Your cause being local, state, or federal you need to pinpoint where you can best serve and make a difference. For me it is hands down on a state level. My personal convictions lye with representing the people of West Tennessee in Nashville and making a change here in our very own state. Making a difference in the state ergo making a difference on a federal level.

You need to get to the heart of your core beliefs. We don't need a carbon copy of an already elected official we need YOU, YOUR ideas, and YOUR beliefs. YOU matter as well as what you have to say. You probably already know what "party" you best fall into but stand firm in those beliefs. There will never be another YOU to voice these opinions. I am no doubt a God fearing Republican.

You need to have the drive to become an elected official, not just the idea of it, but the execution of becoming one. I like the idea of loosing 20 lbs but having the drive to do so is a different story. We each have different personalities and God has gifted each of us in a different way. To be a public leader you have to possess the natural ability of public speaking, leadership, listening/relateing, the ability to make controversial decisions, and live your life knowing your every move is being watched and judged. My wife is the complete opposite of me and does not like an ounce of attention drawn to her. On the other hand I'm one to walk into a room and strike up a conversation with a lamp. I love people, I love being involved, and I love voicing my opinions.

You must qualify according to your state's laws. Lets look at a Tennessee House of Representative position. According to TN state law a candidate must be at least 21 years of age, a US citizen, a citizen of TN for 3 years, a resident in the represented county for at least 1 year, and a qualified registered voter in the legislative district. Sounds good so far moving must obtain a nomination petition from the county election commission office and do so 90 days before the deadline. One must obtain at least 25 local registered voter signatures nominating you as a candidate. From there the one will file their nomination and what party they will run under to their local county district. Seems easy, but lets talk about the biggest set back in my opinion and why people like myself have not made this leap.

Money....Yes this little necessity we all need to survive on. Not money to enter a nomination, this whole process is actually free. In most cases not money to run the campaign. These funds will come from various sources who decide to back you as a candidate. I'm talking about your annual salary. If elected and even during the election your primary job is representing your district. Going back to a TN House Rep they do get a salary for their elected position. A whopping $19,009 a year plus $185 a day per diem per legislative day. Keeping to the notion of your average middle class Joe running for office who would have an average salary of maybe $45,000 a year can not sacrifice a $26,000 pay cut to pursue this cause. Therefore when its all said and done the only people who could really afford this position are those whose jobs allow flexibility. A TN House of Representative will spend at the minimum 90 days in session over a two year period. So that's 45 days a year. What company will allow you 45 days off a year? At the most if you cashed your vacation days you could only use 10 (two weeks) but kiss your family vacations good bye because you've used up those days in session. Now given you get $185 per day per diem. That's an additional $8325 a year plus the $19009 salary you're now earning $27,334 a year. Still a major cut from the average Joe's $45,000 salary. Jobs that do allow you to miss these days are those that are already paying you a nice hefty salary and the money the state gives you to represent them is merely pocket change. These flexible jobs are ones such as Lawyers, Insurance Agents, Small Business Owners, Retired individuals etc. Someone like me who works a 40 hour week and punches the clock can not have this flexibility. There are those rare occasions when ones employer would work with you but most fall under the idea "when done for one it must be done for all."

So this begs the question, how does the average Joe compete? I'd really like to know. How does someone like myself who wants to make a difference and have their voice heard compete against the issue of loss of badly needed income to simply survive on? Am I penalized from this arena because of the profession I have chosen? This particular blog post is being sent to multiple TN House Reps and TN State Senators, because I would love to hear their feedback. The issue of compensating ones current salary to hold a seat in their states representing positions is the biggest set back I have found that keeps average Joe's from running on their party's ticket. This post is now open for discussion so lets hear your feedback!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking down my AT&T bill?

This is a different post for me because I am actually trying to educate myself on keeping a more stringent family budget. Yes the Childresses budget. I believe keeping a family budget is vital in the finance management portion of your life. Too often we might make more money and therefore we spend more money. We get used to a certain salary or time of year when commissions arrive and that comes to a halt. Then what? You have to completely alter your lifestyle or get in serious debt. Now we budget for our necessities and that's a given. These are items like daycare, gas, household needs (food, clothes, medical etc.), insurance, mortgage, utilities, and the most important tithe. These are staples in a budget, must haves that we require to get through our month. My question, and what I am seeking feedback on and looking to figure out are the luxuries. What I'm going to focus on is our AT&T & Directv plans. I'm going to let you look at what we spend on this and see where cuts can be made. If its a great deal of savings then adjustments might need to be made, if its not then we'll let the math speak for itself. Regardless this is an interactive post and I would really like your feedback on this matter and what works/doesn't work for your family.

Now at one time Shannon and I had an AT&T land line home phones, DSL Internet, Cell phone plans, and Directv. Being the frugal spender I am when it comes to bills we ended up dropping our land line phones, and bundling all of our AT&T products as well as rolling in our Directv bill into our AT&T bill allowing us to save an additional $5 there. $5, I told you I was tight. My AT&T bill is still outrageous in my opinion and I can't help but think what else can we be doing with this money? So lets break down my August 2011 bill shall we?

DSL Internet Service: $37.95
AT&T Wireless Service: $200.73
Directv Service: $93.37
AT&T Total Bill : $332.05

We have Bell south Fast Access which is now AT&T DSL Fast Access. We recently upgraded this DSL service to Direct Ultra because we were expereiencing some serious internet drag. The difference between the standard DSL and DSL Ultra is about $10 a month. Now AT&T's pushing their U-Verse product which I really don't know that much about but might be worth looking into. Regardless there is not a great deal of savings on Internet.

The biggie, and the one I need the most convincing about, AT&T Wireless Service. Shannon and I are currently set up on the iPhone Family data plan. We have 700 minutes to use, unlimited texting (this is a must if you know Shannon Childress), my phone is on the 4GB plan and Shannon's is on the 200MG plan.
Instead of breaking down everything in taxes, fees, etc, $200 a month is pretty standard for our cell phone bill. Now the big scary question, can we live without our iPhone and data plans AAHHHHH!!!!
Lets first look at what we use our iPhone's for and see if it justifies $200 a month. Calls, Email, tether my 4GB to my iPad, Facebook/Twitter, iPod Music, Internet Radio, News updates, and other productive apps. Now we recently got the wonderful iPad 2 which does all of this stuff and more which begs the questions, do we really need the iPhones?

Lets explore a simple AT&T cell phone plan with simple cell phones. Keeping to the 700 minute family plan AT&T's option would be $69.99 + $30 unlimited family texting so roughly $100 a month in savings. Now this does not include any kind of Internet that I know of.

Last lets look at Directv. I've noticed that we watch less and less TV now that we have kids, agendas, and basically our lives are go go go. There are a few TV must haves though. One being local channels, two being Nick Jr & Disney, and three being ESPN. We are currently on the CHOICE plan which runs us $60.99 a month. Throw in DVR for $7.00, HD service for $10.00 and Ins for $6.00. We're already up to $84.00. Throw in taxes and the occasional PPV movie then we end up with $93.37 in service.
The cheapest package they offer is the Family Package for $29.99 a month. Out of the must haves I only lose ESPN but I can always watch these on the iPad. If I were to switch my new savings would be $48.00 giving me a $45 savings.

So in conclusion if I were to downgrade everything my new monthly AT&T bill would be roughly $175 a month compared to $332 a month giving me a $157 savings.

So I leave you with this question, Is there a better way of making these savings or did I just get it as skinny as possible? I would really like your feedback here!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

What I got out of the 2011 GOP debate.

Now I'm by no means a political writer but I do like to be in the know. I do believe that as an American citizen I still have a voice and can make a difference with this voice. I am also a Republican so obviously am very interested to see who will be fighting for my rights in the upcoming election, what there views are, and where their beliefs lye with my own beliefs.

I'll be honest with you this is the first time I have really paid close attention to what each candidate brings to the table. The obvious front runner is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and it's quite clear to see why. Perry is a "to the point", confident, firm in his belief, will not be wavered Texan. He is, what I feel this country needs, a cowboy figure to swing in and rescue this country that is in distress. He has a great track record with Texas, his economic beliefs are right on, and he takes a bold step in his Christian faith. When you are criticized for standing for Christ you are doing something right.
The second runner up, and why the party paired them together is Mitt Romeny. Mitt does not seem to have the confidence Perry has but I will give that he didn't have much to work with taking on a failing Massachusetts. He has good ideas and is second in the polls but I really do not see him lasting that long in this campaign. He doesn't have the fight in him that I see in the other candidates.
Now people that I like and caused me to raise and eyebrow or even applaud out loud at times. One being Herman Cain. Love this guy. Will he be the party's pick, I doubt it, but I hope he is picked up as a running VP choice. He is right on with his remarks and uses his Baptist preacher skills to debate. The question was posed about federal taxes in which Cain said he proposes his "9-9-9%" tax plan. He made the comment that if God can use our 10% then we the people can work off 9%. great remark.

Another candidate I've always had much respect for is good ole Newt Gingrich. Although he has a plan and place of action he was the only candidate that vocally criticized the media for trying to get the GOP candidates to fight each other. I applaud him for this because Yes there needs to be a winner but let the people decide this and the party as a whole concentrate on beating the current administration in office.
Overall it was a great debate. There was a lot of the same rhetoric and not wanting to greatly offend the other candidate, but it's still early. There will be plenty of time for that. As for now, my wagon is hitched to Gov Rick Perry. For the most part I believe and am for everything he stands for. I need to investigate a little further on his Social Security views as well health reform, but as of now he is my man. I want to leave you with some encouragement to really seek out what you want in our next leader. What are you most passionate about and match those views to the candidate that best fits your beliefs. God knows we need change, let's make sure we put the right kind of change in office.

- Steve

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

George Bailey kinda Day

I think I can speak for most guys when I say I'm having a George Bailey kind of day. These are the days when we feel like the world is passing us by, and we are missing out on so much from this life. We know that God has blessed us with much, but again as a guy it typically comes when we see our friends or peers take an extra leap forward in life and our lives all of the sudden seem like it's stuck.

In 2002 my wife and I bought our first house. It was a true starter home that was about 1500 sqft 3 bedroom 2 bath house. It was a perfect set up for a newlywed couple. Fast forward nine years, two kids and a dog later this comfy 1500 square footer is bursting at the seams with stuff. It's not just junky stuff but it's necessary stuff. We have become the poster child family for Target's organization bends and bookcases. Due to this fabulous economy we can not sell our house. Our neighborhood is full of For Sale signs and even worse Rent signs making it very difficult to sell what we have.

The George Bailey mood sets in when our friends are all selling their starter homes and moving into their dream/adult homes. These are homes that my wife and I have always dreamed about but never made the jump. I personally feel like George Bailey when his friends have moved on from Bedford Falls and George is stuck in his dead end family savings and loan. Or when Sam Wainwright surprises George at his car invites him on a little trip but George being held back by his current responsibilities declines. A frustrated George Bailey takes a quick glimpse of his life and kicks the door of his old ragged car.

It's not just real estate but it's practically anything we see other people have that we have always thought we'd have for ourselves at this stage in life. These things could be money, success, toys, and some a little more humble, kids and a family. So why do we put ourselves through this circus of coveting our neighbor? How come we are never satisfied with what we have? It's because we are human. It's not a crutch but a fact. I believe God has designed us to be needy. If we weren't always needy then we would never need God or turn to Him for answers.

My George Bailey days are almost always countered with a reminder of what I have, where I've been, and how God has always had His hand on my life. I see my beautiful and healthy family and I am thankful. I receive that paycheck every two weeks and I am thankful because that hasn't always been so. And I think of all of the many blessings God has given me so far in this life.

If you haven't noticed I am a sucker for old classic movies. One of my favorite scenes is from White Christmas when Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sing a little song "Count Your Blessings". The simple words of this song is the perfect reminder of what God has given you now, where God has brought you from, and His promises for you tomorrow.

- Steve