“Running a farm is a constant cycle of financial ups and downs – fertilizer, equipment and better bulls are very expensive – everything depends on weather and markets. Overlay that with my parents’ natural emotional mood swings and you can understand how I never knew, when I woke up in the morning as a child, if it was going to be a good day or a bad day. It all culminated when my father and brother died within four months of each other bracketing my 21st birthday. That sent my mother into inpatient care. My boyfriend and I left college, moved into the family home and had to take over much of the responsibility for the farm.”
“That boyfriend – now my husband – had been through a similarly disruptive childhood. His parents divorced when he was only 5. He was the oldest of five kids and really bore the brunt of keeping them together and focused. They’d spend summers with his dad wherever his dad happened to be (he moved a lot) and the rest of the year in the mid-West with his mom. It was less than desirable for instilling a sense of predictability and calm in his life.”
“So I suppose we ended up dating and spending time together because we were both seeking some kind of stability. When my husband went off to one college and I went to another, both of our lives were even more chaotic. After my mother got out of the hospital, I finally transferred to his school and life calmed down considerably. A year after that we were married – but we didn’t tell our families because we just didn’t want the uproar that would ensue.”
Sally is the definition of calm nestled between two dogs on the couch. You might think she has nothing more to do than sit and chat about her psychological past, but this is not a topic that comes easily to her. In the 30 years I’ve known her, I still know so little. She looks behind her, past the turn-of-the 20th-century original wood floors toward the magnificent hand-carved oak staircase that leads to the sturdily built kids’ rooms upstairs.
“I hope that is what we’ve been able to give to the children. A sense that we are there for them and that life is now – and in the future still can be – predictable and safe and good. We can’t do that if we don’t feel that in our own lives. So we work hard to be different people than we were raised to be. It is better for the kids and it is better for us as well.”
“I had to start my own consulting company. I was tired of the roller coaster of politics and lay offs. I knew I had a skill that was very important, but until I ran my own company, my job was dependent on someone else being able to sell my skills to clients. Now I do that myself and the income flow is more consistent and predictable – partly because I know what is going on. I feel like I’m in control.”
“And when I feel like I have some control in my life, the kids, my husband and people around me are probably happier – because I’m happier.”