Pt. 3: Passion, Love, And Sacrifice

I have experienced deep passion and love. During those times I have had an overwhelming desire to sacrifice all for those feelings.

Experience 3:

I was dedicated to my religion and wanted to get on with the program of life.

After returning from my two year mission in Argentina, I was ready to finish my education, get into the Church Educational System of the LDS Church, and get married.

The criteria I set up for a marriage partner were simple: she had to be Mormon, cute, successful in her high school social life, and above all else posses a pleasant demeanor. (Shallow, but a 21 year old is shallow). I definitely wasn’t interested in a high maintenance partner. In high school and college I dated heavily, so I knew pretty much what I thought would work for me.

Whenever I pursued a relationship with a girl, it was a crap shoot. At times it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But if the girl showed initial interest without me first pursuing, it was a pleasant experience dating them.

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This happened with my wife. Our dating experience was an exceptionally enjoyable time. (This confirms a theory I have: from an evolutionary point of view, it is the female who determines who gets together and mates.) I cannot remember having an argument when we were dating. She was a very relaxed and low key person. Just the opposite with me. While on my mission, for example, the companions assigned to me were either wrestlers or football players or both. They had cool heads, but even with that I ended up competing and fighting with all of them. What’s worse, I would lose most of the time and didn’t care. I was INTENSE.

It was critical that my wife have the talent to manage through my complex personality. She did and more.

In our first year of marriage, when I would go off on an emotional tirade, she would ignore it and go on with what needed to be done. I recognized this, and started cutting down on the drama.

My mother died during our first eighteen months of marriage. I was close to my mother. I trusted her. My mother liked my wife, and because of that I transferred my trust to my wife.

In 1969, we transferred to Magna Utah to teach religion. All we had was one another. For two years it was like this. Going home to Southern California for holidays had changed for me without my mother. I was ready to create my own family with my wife.

My wife on the other hand had her own independent nature. When I met her, she was 20 years old, owned her car (no debt), considerable cash ($3k- inflation adjusted) in the bank, a job, and was attending college. She had changed her religion, and her name. She went from Cheryl to Cheri.

Her parents were people who had left their homes by the time they were sixteen years old. They came from two states that were hardest hit by the Great Depression – Kentucky and Missouri. Their families were proud and hard working, but suffered from a level of poverty that caused them to look for better conditions. They went west to Utah and Southern California. My wife’s father worked in a CCC camp in Utah for three years. There he learned about engines and motors. From there he enlisted in the Navy before the outbreak of WW2 and became a chief petty officer. During the Korean War (1950-52) he was required to re-enter the war as a reservist at the rank of army sergeant. He was a drill instructor (DI) at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. There, with his wife and child (my wife), they lived for one year. Afterwards, they returned to Southern California, purchased a home and set about raising a family. In all they had four girls. The girls were particularly successful in student government, being elected student body president and secretary several times. All the girls graduated from college, and entered the professions of medicine, education, and business. As my wife’s parents raised their children, they made sure they traveled a great deal throughout the country. As a result my wife grew up being familiar with how the country had recovered from economic deprivation and war. She was well traveled, resourceful, and independent by the time she met me. Her parents’ imprint had been firmly established in her personality.

After living in Magna, Utah, we returned to Southern California, and settled down raising a family of five children.

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I began to notice that my wife was unusually calm and patient raising our children. More and more I wanted to be protective of that approach. Gradually, that quality started taking root in me. It became hard for me to lose my temper, although having five robust children gave me a run for my money, and at times won out.

When I left the Church Educational System and went into business, my wife became my partner. She set up an office in our home and managed all the finances of the business. We were some of the first home business operators in the country. It paid off handsomely. Besides paying the bills and collecting the checks, she invested and watched over our savings and retirement. I simply could not do without her. She became an irreplaceable business partner. I trusted no one else. Over the years she has never relinquished the management of our business and personal budgets. On the other hand she asked me to take over the management of our investment decisions. It has worked well for us. I have more of a risk tolerance for investing in new businesses. She on the other hand has a much higher risk tolerance for investing in our private real estate. We have had good success financially, but we’ve also made mistakes along the way. Our best moments are during the mistakes. I can’t remember either one of us flying off the handle at the other during those times. We buckle down. She is an excellent problem solver, who manages crisis exceptionally well on a day to day basis. I tend to go out and create more income. I am one who wants to create systems that can organize our work. She likes to dissect systems to find problems. This has created an environment of compromise, because each approach causes tension in the other’s comfort zone. We have learned to negotiate. She is a strict disciplinarian on spending. She cannot buy a retail product unless it is inexpensive and discounted. I have a taste for quality products and leisure. As a result, each has learned that we have to present the best of our spending habits to the other. We have to win each other over. All this adds up to a lot of give and take. I would describe it as working intensely at team work. I don’t know what I have grown to love more, the person who is my teammate or the process we go through to make the team work. Does it really matter? It takes sacrifice, and you love what you sacrifice for.

I am driven by energy, ambition, and idealism. She is driven by honesty, practicality, and balance. We are both driven by work. She is a horizontal worker, I am a vertical worker. From dawn to dusk, my wife is busy with the work of life. She has many projects going at the same time. She’s on the move. On the other hand, I do one, at the most two activities, and concentrate solely on those.

One day that difference in work styles came to a head. She decided she was going to landscape our property that was hilly and close to half an acre. It was humongous. She bought and brought home four little plants to start the endeavor. She got her little shovel, dug a small shallow hole and placed one little plant in it. As she did that, I lost it. “Cheri, at this rate it will take us five years to finish, if we ever do. I can’t handle this.”

She looked up at me with a surprised expression on her face, but did not say a word, and dug the second hole. The choices before me were clear. Either, I walk away and not participate. Or, I step over the divide, and work horizontally. I did the latter, and true to form, it’s now at least five years later and at last count, we are up to fifteen hundred plants in the ground, 20 trees of varying sizes, etc. It is a gorgeous place. It looks natural. The plants and bushes shimmer and bend with the wind. Even one of our severest critics of our slow pace has asked my wife to redo his landscaping. He’s our neighbor to the east.

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My wife keeps working little by little until things fit well. And in the process, she could care less if she is criticized or prodded. This is a powerful quality. That’s the stuff successful living comes from. It’s your life, not someone’s outside opinion that matters. It takes courage to live a life of your own choosing and ordering. I admire that quality. I admire it to the point of loving it.

For years, you keep waking up each morning and looking over at your partner. You briefly reflect on how much you have experienced together. How much investment each has put into the other? The working out of differences of opinion. The raising of children through stages of development that seemed so serious at the moment, but end up being a blink of the eye (maybe two blinks). The work, the travel, the achievements, the failures, the laughs, the tears, the intimacies. You look up and say this is the most important thing I have ever experienced, or ever will experience. The more you wake up and are able to feel this way, the deeper that way feels. The passion builds as you contemplate all this. It doesn’t stop growing, even when you think it can grow no more.

My wife has humanized me. When one of our five children was born, I was studying for my doctoral exams. We were in one of the rooms across from the delivery room. She was going into the initial stages of labor. While that was going on, she helped me with my exam preparation by reading case studies to me that I was required to memorize. Then it happened. The baby was coming. She was rolled into the delivery room. The doctor asked me if I had taken the classes to qualify to be in the delivery room. I said I hadn’t. Never mind he said, “Wash up, put a gown on and join us.”

There we were, and there the baby came. I was struck by how really real that moment was. That was a defining moment for me. I would remain loyal to that feeling and never compromise it. I never wanted to be very far from my wife after that. (But these little tricks of life play themselves out, for as time went by, work required me to travel to ever further distances from home.) After the baby was born I was embarrassed that my wife was subjected to helping me study for my graduate exams. It was so nothing up against this really real experience.

My wife went through the death of my mother with me. She bore our five children, causing me to experience the depth of loyalty you feel for children tied to you by blood. And their children are a gift that keeps on giving. The reason I’m on Facebook everyday is to see new photos of them. It’s a riot. My wife has been my business partner in every business we have started. My wife is ground zero for me. If she leaves before I do, I shall surely leave shortly thereafter. If I leave before she does, I have worked to make sure she has a bounteous future. (Oh, that’s not completely true, because she controls the finances, and will do well on her own.) I do not want our life together to end. That’s what has turned me to believing in the power of the moment; nothing else need exist except for the moment that exists right now.

Over the past decade, we have developed different outlooks on political issues. We have strong debates over our differences. My wife is no longer the shy bride. (She was elected President of the Utah Federation of Republican Women. Before that, she ran for National Committeewoman for the Republican Party of Utah.) She has developed a sharp mind for political and religious exchanges. This makes me trust the relationship. If we were alike in our beliefs, I would question our integrity. Unity of thought and belief is corrupting. Unity for the sake of unity is dishonest. There must be a strong check and balance if a relationship between two people is to grow. You become weak if all you are exposed to is a constant reinforcement of your own peculiar opinions. In a marriage, love is one of the key byproducts of respect. Respect is fostered by an ever improving relationship based on a robust exchange of new and different ideas. (At least, that is what has worked for us.) I enjoy the debates. We can discuss for hours when we are traveling together. At home, and about with friends and family, the free exchanges are what I look forward to the most.