parachuting into a new future

by rebecca on February 4, 2010

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       To go from a 6 figure salary and a plush home in an elegant Denver suburb to sleeping on the floor of your in-laws garage in an out of the way town that wouldn’t support a Costco is not the transition every wife dreams of making. But Crystal Morris not only tolerated her husband’s exit from corporate America, she encouraged it.

       Mike Morris quit his job as Sr. Director with Qwest not knowing what was next. He gave up a wrap around deck for the ability to pick his kids up from school.

       “We talk about everything,” says Mike, “Plan and back-up plan. So we didn’t have to get onto the same page, we were already there.” Both Crystal and Mike credit the success of their partnership to good communication.

       “Why wait until we retire to have our dreams?” says Crystal, who could see that Mike was unhappy in his job and regularly talked about moving when he retired. But it’s one thing to talk, and another thing to quit your job when you’ve got 3 year-old twins on the hope and prayer that going into business for yourself will work out.

       “I used to think,” says Mike “That money makes you happy. Bull. Love and marriage makes you happy.”

       Crystal believes the financial struggles that came during the transition away from the corporate salary were actually a positive thing for their marriage. “Money can be a stressor,” says Crystal, “But it has also made us stronger in communicating.” Owning a business forced them to communicate clearly and frequently even when the news was not good.

       Mike compared the leap to parachuting. It was terrifying, but something in that terror commanded that they lean on each other, on God and trust the chute above them. They found a link to one another in that open space of fear that linked them one to another. Love slips in at the edges when people take a parachute ride on a dream.

       The communication support they extend to one another goes beyond their professional lives. Recently, Crystal asked Mike for more help in the kitchen. When he loaded the dishwasher, she interrupted him telling him the glasses belonged on the top and the bowls on the sides. Mike walked away.

       The next day, however, Crystal came to him and apologized, “You were trying to do exactly what I asked and you helped me by loading the dishwasher. Then I criticized you. I’m sorry. I really do want your help. I won’t tell you how to do it.”

       “She extended a lot of Grace to me with that,” said Mike who takes it personally when a person he deeply respects cuts him down. He felt her apology was on target and sincere. “When she’s willing to look at herself that hard, I’m certainly willing to start over.”

       Crystal says, “I realized that if I want help I can’t be critical of how that help arrives.” They both know that self discovery is a lifetime lesson, but one that they’re committed to learning. They have felt the sting as many marriages around them died. They don’t want theirs to fail.

       Mike and Crystal have opposing styles and approaches to life. They’ve had to learn to blend their abilities. Referring to business accounting, “Crystal can give me a number and I can tell her, ‘That’s not right.’” He may not know why, but he has a knack for knowing if her numbers are off and when she has an error or hasn’t accounted for something.

       Crystal jumps in, “Which is good because that helps me not get lost in the details.” Yet it was her eye for those details that allowed them to put together a business plan that got mortgage approval within 36 hours: an unheard of turnaround.

       “I don’t want to do what she does,” says Mike.

       “We play off each other’s strengths,” says Crystal.

       When choosing what business to start Mike’s only criteria was that the business be fun. He wanted to enjoy going to work each day. Crystal laughs at this summation of the search process, “That sounds like something he’d say.” Her recollection of the business choice had more to do with numbers and viability. Mike calls his wife the banker of their pair. She keeps them accomplishing the goals he can envision.

       Their life now is simpler than the one they left in Denver. They run a used video game store called Gamerz Planet. Several evenings a month, they volunteer their time by opening up the store to youth groups who want a place for teenagers to play games and scarf down pizza.

       They are thrilled with the bright starlight that fills the sky overhead in their new backyard. Once, when Mike was out of town, Crystal called him squealing with delight, “I can see the space station.” In Denver, so much was lit up around them they were unable to see the sky above.

       Last year Mike Morris accrued a tally that equaled a month’s salary at his old job, “But if you take the dollar signs out and ask me if I’m happy? It’s not even close,” says the man who many think gave up the dream life, “I’m ten times as rich.”

If you know someone with a unique relationship story to tell, please let me know here or at rbcamullen at hotmail dot com (funny formatting keeps spammers away).

You can visit Mike’s store here to see what all the fun is about. 

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