All about the conversations

Joe and I are just returning from a trip to Germany and France. We went with 125 people from the US and Canada. It was organized by Claas, which is a company that sells machines to farmers (kinda like John Deere). My apologies for the explanation to all Claas employees who just read that and cringed.

Joe enjoyed the factory tours and Agritechnica, which is a trade show that had over 25 buildings full of machines and such. We both saw some really neat things, including Paris! Yet, as we drive home tonight, we are mostly struck by the conversations we had.

It’s bound to be a crazy mix of people when you throw that many farmers and machinery company reps into 3 tour buses. And here’s the wonderful thing: because you know it is highly unlikely you will ever see these people again in your life, the conversations you have are at a whole different level. Way deeper.

Guys talk about tips and tricks and frustrations with their machines and employees. Wives share their stories (their really real ones!) about coping through harvest without a father figure in the home for months on end. People talk business strategy and family struggles.

Nobody talks about the weather. Nobody talks about just boring “scratch the surface” type things. I definitely want to focus on more of this within my friendships when I get home.

The whole experience was so fantastic I just have to make a top 10 Random Things from our trip.

10. I found a farmer wearing a one-piece sweatshirt sweatpants thing at Agritechnica. Then I turned around to track him down for a photo. And I found him leaning. I smiled for at least an hour.

9. I bought Vince a pocket knife at the gift shop in LeMans, France, following a tractor factory tour. The security guards at the Eiffel Tower were not impressed when it showed up on their screens at security. People started yelling in French and I was so flustered it took me 5 minutes to find the thing. It is now in a glass box at the checkpoint with other random knives and scissors. I hope Vince is okay with an empty knife box as a souvenir.

8. The couple eating next to Joe and I in Paris ate clams, oysters, and bore marrow still inside this huge bone. A complete meal.

7. The Louvre has the ickiest lavs ever. Ever.

6. The Mona Lisa is really pretty small.

5. Our new long-haired hippie-looking friend from Oregon had a super bad head cold and sinus infection. He paid 25 Euro to have a walk-in clinic visit and 35 Euro for a slew of prescription medicine. He felt better in no time. One of the things was powdered amoxicillin.

4. Our whole group dined at a German beer house that bears my maiden name, Albrecht. Our new friend from Oregon (his name was honestly Forrest) took it upon himself to steal a stein for me. If you look closely at the bottom of the photo, you can see Albrecht.

3. Joe missed the big group photo. He had gotten distracted looking at machinery and I couldn’t find him in time.

2. The premier of Nova Scotia took the photo below. Joe and I came upon this beautiful street so I told Joe that I would take his picture. We had just passed the Canadian embassy. This guy walking by asks if he could take one, so I could be in it too. I said “no”, 2 seconds later Joe said “yes”. While posing, four people behind him told us who he was. We googled it and it’s for real! We should have taken a selfie with him.

1. I’m pretty sure we found Joe’s third cousin at the trade show. The guy’s co-worker pointed out the similarity between our last name of Vander Kooi and his name of Kooi. Their company was based out of Holland. He said it was the region of Groningen, which Joe and I visited 13 years ago to check out his roots. I asked if it was close to Leeuwarden, which is a pretty small town. The guy said, “Um, yeah, I live there.” Can you see the resemblance??!?

All in all, we had so much fun. Many of us agreed last night on how you can tell you had a great vacation. It’s this: feel smarter, refreshed and most importantly, 100% ready to go home. That’s us for sure.

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Finding a Needle

Yesterday, I found a needle in a haystack. Literally. I was vaccinating some of our heifers against a type of disease that is incredibly tough to treat, but simple to try to prevent. I was switching needles and my fingers were cold. Also, of course, I was in a hurry.

It is much easier to find in this photo than it was in real life. I couldn’t have a heifer eat it, and I didn’t want to throw out a pile of feed that had a needle in it. I used my flashlight on my phone and stood patiently looking at this pile of feed until I could make it out. My co-worker gave up after a few minutes because he has poor vision and didn’t think there was any way he could find it. I took my time, was patient, and I found it.

And it was just what I needed yesterday. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the tough disadvantages that Ava has. Poor vision, poor hearing, poor muscle tone in and around her mouth, and only one functional hand. Seems like a lot to bear for one little girl. In a few hours, I had to meet at school for parent-teacher conferences and the next day, a special extra speech therapist because her current one is stuck with how to help her. Joe and I are leaving for a trip to Agritechnica next week and I wasn’t sure if I lined up enough people with enough sessions to help her. Would her kindergarten teacher recommend needing to seek out additional helpers for Ava?

Enter in the needle in the haystack. As I picked it up, I immediately thought that it was a sign from God. Wow, if little old me can somehow find a needle in a haystack, God (our all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful God) can certainly care for our children and our farm while we are gone for a week. Ava will be fine and we will start looking for small victories when we return refreshed.

Parent teacher conferences went fine. I gleaned a few tips from Vince and Liv’s teachers, and was told by Ava’s teacher that we should stay the course. We celebrated our successes and now today is a new day. Make it a great one and watch for small signs from God.