Waking up to Reality

I have been in management since I was 18. Ill never forget telling the owner of Kenyon’s Variety that I could manage their store. I was going to college at the time and working two full time jobs and I just knew that I could take care of everything. I always just think I can take care of everything. “What an Attitude”! I had so much spunk and determination; I was on fire.

I think that job lasted about three years when I got my first adult job doing accounts receivable for a local car dealership and this job didn’t last more than two years as I decided at that time to start my family. The idea of staying home being a full time Mom was so enchanting at first. Taking care of our first born was such a pleasure for me and he was the joy of my life. I learned quickly that baby’s take money and my husband was a blue collar worker who was very controlling and had the idea that He was the provider(he thought we could live without buying things) and this became a huge reason why I needed to ‘take care of things’. I put an ad in the local newspaper to offer services as a babysitter. I will say that I had a personal mindset that said that I could save more money than it took to make money and that is exactly how we lived for many years. I loved babysitting and I loved being a Mom.

We continued to have children and things did not get easier. Having two children and finding out that my husband was falling in love with another woman was when I decided that I needed to wake up! I also found out at this time that I was pregnant with our third son(we have six grown children today). I truthfully believe that at this point my eyes were opened to the world and I no longer was able to model my goals after my grandparents. I had to wake up from my dream life. I wanted my family to survive. I told my husband that I forgave him and even when I was seven months pregnant and he came home wearing a belt buckle that this woman had given him, I still made things work and blinded myself to the pain of allowing this in my life. I wanted things to be good so badly that I buried myself and thought of the big picture and how the future might look if I had ended my marriage. I’m not sure how long this relationship had gone on between my husband and this woman and all I could think about was how could I have let myself get into this position. I was in such a weak place. Vowing to never be in this weak position again and making an oath to myself to forgive this once but to never forget was the beginning of how I overcame this tragedy.

Becoming a victim is a horrible and unforgivable action that you should never permit yourself to be. A victim has injury and lives with pain every single day of their life. A victim will smile and laugh and make others smile and laugh while they have parts of themselves that can’t go on. Inside my head I held many tears and had a secret mistrust of my Husband and even a the same mistrust for my Father. Mistrust and victimhood go hand in hand and yet we moved on in life.

Deciding to overcome any tragedy takes courage. Running to God and to Church was how I thought I would be able to mold my life and take control. Praying and fasting and taking action. I made goals and took control to take away temptation from my husband. We would become full time dairy farmers. Of course this was my husbands dream(he actually didn’t fully know that this was his dream at the time) but I made him believe we could do this and he was a hard worker and loved cows. We had a small farm at the time and this gave him goals and those goals I hoped would make him love me and focus on our family. Our whole family bought into the lifestyle. I even bought into my own fantasy.

The best part of this is that I know that I am good. There are days that I look back and think that things were ruined, but things today are good. God did not protect me from this. I did not protect myself from being a victim. No one could protect me. I personally had to be fine with this and rise above. It has taken close to 30 years to rise above and even writing this today can be a bit heartbreaking to me, however I can definitely say that I am not a victim anymore. I am Good!

Please come back to learn how our lives have grown healthy and how we became First Generation Dairy Farmers.

Lynette Swendsen

Dream

Do you ever start out thinking one way and then over time you realize that you need to think completely different?

There was a time in my life where I saw my world through my Grandparents eyes. Yes, my Grandparents. Both of my Grandparents were third generation Germans and lived their lives like they had personally arrived here with the hope of an American Dream. I can just imagine how my Grandmother had felt as my Grandfather had shipped out for England in 1943, with a new daughter(my Mother) so bravely waving goodbye. She stayed with my Grandfathers Grandparents who had a small poultry farm in Cincinnati Ohio and remembers being so hungry that she personally chopped off a chicken’s head to cook for supper. She hated farming from that moment on.

I loved listening to my Grandmother talk. She always weaved her beliefs and advice into our conversations. She would say; “Those that don’t listen learn to feel” and “You get what you have coming to you”! My Grandmother prided herself on being German and could make a German Potato Salad that would melt in your mouth saying- “It’s cheating to use flour to thicken your sauce”. If you could imagine a tall, thin woman with perfectly groomed hair and nails(with a cigarette butt an inch long) standing over a skillet- stirring a simmering dish of the best smelling vinegar mix, then you can know my Grandmother.

My Grandfather came home from WWII and went straight to work for DCSW where he worked until he retired. He was a Man’s Man. I don’t think I have ever met a person more structured and set in his ways. Not one single tool was ever put away dirty and his rosebushes never had one aphid.

Fred Shaefer was opinionated about how Men should be and how Women should be. Things like doing dishes did not apply to his opinion of work. My Grandmother would cook and they both would clean up(usually one would wash and one would dry), but always they would clean up together. Every single night would be the same. Once supper was done, they would watch the news and either play games at home or in later years they would head to Bingo together. Always at 10:30pm they would pour a beer, watch the news and turn in for the night.

Personally, I looked at their life as the model I should work for and mold my thinking to. I’m sure that their hardship of having three miscarriages and one baby being born a blue baby(living just two days) had influenced their parenting of how my own Mother and their only surviving child had a lifelong dependence of them. Very protective is a mild descriptive of how my Grandparents loved and cared for my Mother. Our lives proved to be so short when one at a time my Grandparents left us to go home.

A deep impression of love is what they left me with. A picture where I thought of how I envisioned my marriage and my home. That vision made me feel right and safe and it gave me structure that was sound. How heartbroken I was as this vision fell apart over the many years.

My parents divorced. My Father was so scattered. He was one of the most fun loving people you could ever meet( he just spread his love with women other than my Mother). My Mother was so unknowing and totally surprised when one December 18, 1981 my Father asked my Mother for a divorce. Of course my Mother moved back to Ohio to be close to her parents and promptly my Father re-married on March 22, 1982. A highschool sweetheart and he had connected somehow and had re-kindled an old flame. Nothing really to forgive as I was sixteen years old by now and had many jobs already- so of course I figured things out and life went on. Originally I thought that moving to Ohio with my Mother would be fun, however my life was in NY and I just could not allow myself to be uprooted. I had people who depended on me and I needed to focus on how I could provide for myself. I needed to finish high school. I honestly thought that I would be fine if I could just finish school and move on somehow.

The fall of my senior year I decided to get an apartment with my older sister and move out of my father’s home(I was 17 and she 19). Things were crazy in that house and I was very independent by now. I met with my guidance counselor and decided to go to College in my senior year. I also decided to take a year of cosmetology at Boces. Graduating High School with a Regents diploma in 1984 and earning college credit was not easy to do while working two jobs, but I was determined to succeed.

Pouring rain is most of what I remember. Rain that drenches you and rain that kept us from leaving my boyfriend’s truck is how on June 16, 1984(my graduation day), my now husband proposed marriage. I am speechless, my dreams are now coming true. My life is now going to be sound again and my life is now on track for success. We would marry that fall and would live happily ever after. The end…..

No…

We did Marry and this was the beginning of how I learned that dreams are for the individual and each of us must learn to write our own story.

Eleanor and Fred Shaefer had a wonderful life and were amazing people. They taught me many things that have shaped how I think. I believe that my strong will and passion for a creative existence was planted not by accident but by two very passionate and loving people and I could not be more grateful to them.

My Grandparents.

Being First

I was not born first in my family and therefore my perspective on life is not from a standpoint of entitlement(at least not from the birth order). I am however of the mindset that I don’t mind being the first. I love to get hard situations over with; so I’ll go first when I’m asked to speak in front of a group. I’ll go first when no one else wants to be first and I’ll be first when no one else is around.

Deciding to be a first generation farmer is something that I need to share with you as the story cannot be imagined and can only experienced.

The need for attention or money might have been my motive when at around twelve years old I jumped at the chance when offered a job feeding calves at a dairy farm not far from my home in Wilson, NY- I think it was around 1978. Are you kidding me I thought- this was a dream. For $3.50 and hour a city girl was actually trusted to take care of a baby cow(more like seven or more), I was in love. Taking care of calves was only the beginning, I learned to help wash up after milking and then my ninety pound body was asked to help with bringing in the hay and straw. Anyone that knows about hay and straw bales from that period will understand that those bales were heavy and they were bound with wire. I always worked side by side with the farmer and always worked at the top of the hay mow. My arms were always scratched and hands always had blisters(even though I wore gloves).

That farmer was around thirty six years old and married with no children at this point. He and his wife lived in a little one bedroom apartment above the milkhouse in the dairy barn. He had graduated from college with a degree in agriculture and operated their farm in textbook form. One thing that I loved was that the farmers name was Lyn and mine is Lynette, so I thought that fate had worked this whole arrangement in my favor. Lyn and MaryEllen Barnum were third generation farmers and were trying to make a living on the land that Lyn’s Dad owned with 150 cows. Lyn was my mentor.

Lyn treated me like I was family. He taught me to drive a tractor and let me drive his truck at twelve years old. No one on that farm saw anyone as Man or Woman or as anything other than help. I was looked at as someone who was small and could reach my tiny arm into a fresh cows uterus to help clean her after calving. I was also thought of as someone who could finish up milking when they needed to get to a field or work on equipment. feeling like I had purpose and feeling like I made a difference was something that made me think I should choose farming as a career.

I used to show up at that farm at 6am and walk straight into Lyn and MaryEllen’s bedroom to wake them up for milking. Many years later, and owning our own farm I apologized to Lyn.

Working at something so hard and devoting your whole being to something until it becomes your identity is how to be a first generation farmer.

Lynette Swendsen

Leadership starts with a Decision

Several years ago, I realized that I am a leader.

Well, I actually found out that I’m a leader when I was very young. My older sister was a bit timid and the boys in the neighborhood decided to pick on her(we were about six and eight years old)her being older.

Somehow she had taunted the older neighborhood boys and they chased her with a chain from a bicycle. I honestly did not even think about the consequences. I sprang into action and chased those boys and took the bicycle chain from them. I walked my sister home and consoled her the whole way.

We had lived in the Suburbs of Columbus, Ohio at that time and things were very different from the Western NY Countryside where I spent most of my adolescent years.

My father, being in the military had moved our family to NY just after the Blizzard of 77. July 7th. 1977

We actually lived in our camper for about six months prior to moving into the house my parents bought. I’ll never forget swimming in Lake Ontario. The night air would be chilly and of course at eleven years old, we had to wait until our father had come home before we could go swimming. That water sure felt warm to me. The water was always calm at night and never very deep where we swam.

Daisy Barn Camp Ground was situated on the beach of Lake Ontario just past Roosevelt Beach on Rt. 18 in a town called Wilson, NY. There I learned about poverty and how people actually lived in houses with dirt fl oors. I learned that all people didn’t have the same kind of upbringing that I had and that even at eleven years old I would know that I would stand up for right and wrong and I would draw the line. There was a girl there who’s Step father would drink and beat up her mother. He was not a very kind person and he didn’t live long. The girl would run to a neighbors house for safety and she became my lifelong friend. Eventually that girl would marry my husbands cousin and she would be the only person I would allow to babysit my children. I could trust her to keep them safe.

I knew from then on that I would not only help people but that I would be a decision maker in life.

To be a leader, you must be able to draw a line between right and wrong and you must be able to make a decision. You might not know all of the consequences, but you must be willing to take action for right over wrong and a leader always, always is a helper!

Lynette Swendsen