Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating God’s Creation at Trinity Lutheran in Faribault February 8, 2016

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Worship opened with the hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King," shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

Worship opened with the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

GOD’S CREATION FOCUSED every aspect of worship at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, this weekend.

Quilted snowflake art by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed art display,

A snippet of snowflake art quilted by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed worship service.

The theme seemed ideally suited for a February weekend when a blizzard was forecast for portions of the state.

A painting of sunflowers jolted color

A sunflower painting jolts color into an art display.

Come this time of year, Minnesotans are beginning to long for green grass, sunshine and warmth.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children's object lesson.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children’s object lesson.

Singing about, hearing about and viewing depictions of God’s creation lifted my spirits. The words of my favorite hymn, Beautiful Savior; a scripture reading from Genesis; and a display of artwork brought in by worshipers highlighted Creation.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

God's creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

God’s creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

After worship—after the singing and preaching and listening—congregants perused art displayed within the sanctuary. Creation worked into fabric and photos, yarn and paintings, wood and paper, and more. So much talent crafted by the hands God created.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

And then there was the-feet-in-the-hammock photo that flashed onto the big screen during the pastor’s sermon. He used the image to illustrate that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God's Creation.

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God’s Creation.

Slight laughter rippled across the pews of the Lutheran church. Yet, the point was made. God rested. And so should we. But do we?

BONUS PHOTOS:

More artistic examples of God's Creation.

More artistic examples of God’s Creation.

Autumn leaves in fabric...more of God's Creation.

Looking up at autumn leaves in fabric…more of God’s Creation.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photo on the big screen.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photos on the big screen.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On Interstate 35: The closest I ever want to come to a high speed chase February 7, 2016

Traffic backs up in the southbound lane of Interstate 35 around 10:30 a.m. Saturday following the end of a high speed chase.

Traffic backs up in the southbound lane of Interstate 35 south of Lakeville around 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

IF YOU WERE TRAVELING Interstate 35 to or from the Twin Cities metro mid-morning Saturday, you may have encountered a massive police presence south of Lakeville. And if you initially thought a serious accident had occurred, like my husband and I, you would have been wrong.

Lakeville police joined numerous Minnesota State Highway Patrol officers on the scene.

Lakeville police joined numerous Minnesota State Highway Patrol officers on the scene.

Rather, we happened upon the aftermath of a high speed chase which started in Bloomington and continued through Burnsville, Lakeville and into Scott County. Traffic backed up to a standstill in the southbound lane of I-35 as about a dozen police vehicles converged on the area.

Law enforcement were checking near mile marker 78 for something tossed out the window.

Law enforcement were checking near mile marker 78 for something (possibly a weapon) tossed out the window.

We were tipped off to the nature of the incident when we failed to notice crashed vehicles but rather spotted law enforcement officers walking along the shoulder of the Interstate. They appeared to be searching for something. And they were. According to a nearly 12-minute audio on mnpoliceclips.com, they were scanning the area around mile marker 78 for a possible weapon tossed out the passenger side window of a U-Haul pick-up truck.

The driver of this U-Haul pick-up led police on a high speed chase Saturday morning in the southern Twin Cities metro.

The driver of this U-Haul pick-up led police on a high speed chase Saturday morning in the southern Twin Cities metro.

It was that vehicle which led police on a chase along Highway 13, County Road 5 and Interstate 35 at speeds topping more than 90 mph. The pick-up, at one point driving on a rim with a blown right front tire, sped southbound in the northbound lane of CR 5, nearly hitting a car head-on.

Here are some snippets from the audio:

hit a car on Parkway

a dangerous pursuit here, be careful

on the shoulder and all over the road

Rice County monitoring

reaching into glovebox and tossing stuff out the window

one in custody

two weapons laying on the freeway

What’s the full story here? I wish I could tell you. But I don’t know. I do know, however, that I am thankful no one was injured or killed. Pursuits like this can quickly turn tragic—for both the general public and for law enforcement—when someone, for whatever reason, chooses to disregard the lives of others. For this suspect, the high speed chase meant what, 12 additional minutes of freedom?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sometimes I see humor in the oddest places February 5, 2016

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Motorhome in Owatonna in January

 

WHEN I NOTICED THIS SCENE in a residential neighborhood along a busy street in Owatonna, I laughed. I can’t pinpoint the precise reason. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of winter (the snow-covered yard) and summer (the motorhome and thoughts of camping).

Or perhaps I laughed because the camper covering reminds me of a Paul Bunyan-sized sleeping bag.

When laughter erupts unexpectedly, I accept it. Laughter is a gift.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The impressive Owatonna Power Plant building February 4, 2016

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

NO MATTER HOW OFTEN I TRAVEL through downtown Owatonna, I remain impressed by the massive and historic Owatonna Power Plant building hunkered along the banks of the Straight River.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

Constructed of brick and with three silver smokestacks rising behind OWATONNA POWER PLANT signature red lettering, this place stands as a local landmark.

It’s a landmark Owatonna chose to renovate following a devastating 2010 flood that filled the plant’s lower level with 12 feet of water.

Under the direction of architect LEO A DALY, the building has been renovated and repurposed as headquarters for Owatonna Public Utilities. Locals recognized the value of this iconic structure. That seems to be a trend more and more, and one I hope continues.

Please share any examples/stories you have about aged buildings that have been saved and renovated/repurposed rather than destroyed.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Groundhog Day snowstorm socks Minnesota February 3, 2016

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A City of Faribault truck plows snow on the street past my house Tuesday afternoon.

A City of Faribault truck plows snow on the street past my house Tuesday afternoon.

MINNESOTA HUNKERED DOWN on Groundhog Day during the first major winter storm of the season.

In the southwestern corner, nearer the Iowa and South Dakota borders, Interstate 90 closed as did all state highways south of U.S. Highway 14 due to white-out conditions. I grew up in that prairie area and fully appreciate the power and dangers of a blizzard.

In my county of Rice, we received about eight inches of snow—according to the husband’s snow-clearing estimates—by early evening. Randy reported icy, snow-compacted lanes and drifting snow on Minnesota State Highway 3, his route home from work in Northfield.

For Minnesota kids, Tuesday was a day off from classes. Many schools announced closings already Monday evening in anticipation of the storm.

Some businesses closed early. Activities were canceled. There was no bingo at the Eagles in Faribault, no euchre at the Morristown Legion, no LeSueur County Cattlemen’s annual meeting.

This morning we resume the task of clearing away snow.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Insights into domestic violence & a Minnesota father’s mission after his daughter’s murder February 2, 2016

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Local clergy, representatives from crisis centers and many others gathered to hear Dan Kasper's powerful message on domestic violence.

Local clergy, representatives from crisis centers and many others gathered to hear Dan Kasper’s powerful message on domestic violence.

IN A NEARLY TWO-HOUR presentation Sunday afternoon to a crowd of around 50 gathered at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Dan Kasper of Northfield spoke from the heart—of losing a daughter to domestic violence.

In April 2013, Becky Kasper, a 19-year-old marketing major at Arizona State University, was murdered by her former boyfriend, Luis Soltero. He is currently serving 25 years in an Arizona prison for second-degree murder, plus an additional five for kidnapping, followed by a lifetime of probation with mental health terms.

Dan Kasper delivered a powerful message that personalizes domestic violence. With a portrait of Becky to his left, Dan remembered his daughter—with the beautiful brown eyes of her mother, Sheryl—as determined, a go-getter, a leader, a problem solver. Friends described her as strong, bold, brave, independent and a loyal friend.

“Becky did everything right in life,” her father said, dispelling preconceived notions about victims of domestic violence. “No one could see this coming. Doing everything right got her killed.”

He explained: Becky was trying to help Luis deal with drug and alcohol abuse. But his daughter, he said, “didn’t know what she was up against.” Luis was dealing with mental health issues and had previously attempted suicide, as recently as six weeks before Becky’s murder. “Trying to help puts you in a vulnerable spot…we are losing a lot of young women.”

On April 9, Becky and Luis ended their relationship. On Saturday, April 20, within the two-week time frame that is most dangerous for any domestic abuse victim leaving a relationship, Luis killed Becky with a 10-pound dumbbell. The following Tuesday Luis turned himself into police, after using Becky’s bank card, going to a movie within hours of her murder and attempting suicide. His plan was murder-suicide.

We need to get rid of the “he snapped” notion, Dan said, accepting that a process leads an abuser, like Luis, to domestic violence.

Dan Kasper spoke with passion and purpose.

Dan Kasper speaks with passion and purpose.

The Kaspers’ mission and the warning signs

Dan and Sheryl Kasper are on a mission now to honor their daughter. Specifically, Dan encourages parents to educate their children about and mentor healthy relationships. He emphasizes the need to increase communication and to maintain that communication, especially if a daughter is in an abusive relationship. It is up to parents, he said, to fight the battle against domestic violence because they have the most to lose.

For the Kaspers, living 1,600 miles away from Becky, there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss in Becky and Luis’ relationship. The pair spent a Christmas with the Kaspers in Minnesota and Dan drove back with the couple to Arizona in a car he’d purchased for Becky. All seemed well between them. Dan would next see Luis 1 ½ years later in an Arizona courtroom.

In hindsight, the Kaspers now recognize Becky’s calls for help. Literal calls. In one phone conversation, Becky told her mother about bruises on her arm, explaining that she’d bruised herself while pulling pans from the oven in the coffee shop where she worked. On another occasion, she told them about two black eyes caused by an air bag deploying when a friend’s car, in which she was a passenger, crashed.

“Why would we think she was lying?” Dan asked. “She was always truthful before.”

The Kaspers would learn later that, in Arizona, “people were seeing these warning signs.” They learned that “Becky was roughed up,” that people “heard screaming and stuff flying around” and even the foreboding scream, “Stop it, I can’t breathe!”

“No one told us,” Dan said. “We never had the chance to help.”

Becky Kasper's portrait.

Becky Kasper’s portrait.

Honoring their daughter

But now, despite his frustrations with “the system,” despite this tragedy that has left him existing rather than living, despite no longer feeling emotions but only thinking logically in survival mode, Dan is determined to make a difference. He quoted the words inscribed on a plaque in Becky’s honor at Arizona State University: This is not where it ends.

Sunday marked his first public speaking engagement to educate, to begin to effect changes in laws and in policies on college campuses, to fight the battle against evil. “Domestic violence is under the umbrella of evil,” Dan said, encouraging audience members to be persistent, relentless, never changing the course in being good people. “By being good people, we are fighting domestic violence.” He likened that to putting “a little grain of sand in the devil’s shoe.”

As the murder case worked through the judicial system—which Dan says is all about the abuser—the Kaspers begin to ask themselves, “What will best reflect and honor Becky’s life?” Their top priority, they determined, was assuring Luis gets the mental health help he needs and to also protect the public. That was accomplished with the 30-year prison sentence and lifetime probation with mental health terms.

Dan Kasper next to a portrait of Becky.

Dan Kasper listens to audience questions.

Meeting the murderer in prison

In November 2014, Dan met face-to-face with his daughter’s killer. Luis walked into the prison visiting room unshackled with a bounce in his step, a smile and as happy as could be, like they were old buddies, Dan said. This father didn’t get the answer to his question, “Where is the mental illness I didn’t see?” Nor did he get an apology. Nor an explanation other than Luis “got in his head that Becky needed to die.”

Luis accepted responsibility for the crime, not blaming it on mental illness. He also talked about dedicating his life to Christ and repentance and said he some day wants to speak about domestic violence.

During that prison conversation, when Dan revealed that he would have helped Luis had he known of his problems, Luis shared that he would have called him.

“The abuser is a victim, too…he has a family,” Dan told audience members on Sunday. His wife, he noted, “would rather be Becky’s mother than Luis’ mother.”

In the final hours before her death, Becky and Luis’ mother were texting each other about Luis. In her last text late in the afternoon of April 20, 2013, Becky wrote, “He seems relatively OK.”

That day, Luis murdered Becky.

#

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. You are so worth it. Contact a local crisis resource center or women’s shelter for help and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time; have a plan to leave safely. Additional information is available, for abuse victims, family, friends and survivors by clicking on any of these links:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
NO MORE

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Minnesota: A welcome weekend weather break from winter February 1, 2016

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Just outside of Faribault driving south on Interstate 35 toward Owatonna early Sunday afternoon.

Just outside of Faribault driving south on Interstate 35 toward Owatonna early Sunday afternoon.

WINTER EXITED MINNESOTA this weekend, ushering in a glimpse of spring. And it was glorious—this temporary respite from cold and snow.

 

Interstate 35, 6 driving south toward Owatonna

 

Temps rose above forty degrees. The sun shone. Cardinals shrilled. Snow melted into slushy puddles. And I walked across parking lots in a sweater rather than winter coat.

 

Interstate 35, 7 driving south toward Owatonna

 

I needed a weekend like this drenched mostly in sunshine, blue streaking through clouds, patches of blue sky pushing away clouds.

 

To the west of Interstate 35, clouds billow above snow-washed fields.

To the west of Interstate 35, clouds billow above snow-washed fields.

As my husband and I drove south toward Owatonna early Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t get enough of the sky.

 

Interstate 35, 11 driving south toward Owatonna

 

I’m holding onto those images now that the weather is about to change with a strong winter storm predicted for Tuesday. My county of Rice is under a Winter Storm Watch while counties to the south and west are under a Blizzard Watch.

 

Large swatches of blue sky prevailed to the west of the Interstate.

Large swatches of blue sky prevailed to the west of the Interstate.

I knew this weekend’s spring-like weather wouldn’t last.

Blue skies accentuate fighter jets at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport along the Interstate.

Blue skies accentuate fighter jets at Owatonna Degner Regional Airport along the Interstate.

It never does here in Minnesota in January.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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