Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How would you feel if your neighborhood was repeatedly picked for post prison placement of predatory offenders? January 30, 2013

SERIOUSLY, NOT AGAIN, I thought to myself upon hearing that a Level 3 sex offender is moving into my neighborhood.

This marks the fourth, perhaps fifth, time in recent years (I’ve lost track) that I’ve had to worry about a predatory offender settling within blocks of my Faribault home.

I am not happy. Not happy at all. Who would be?

A city of Faribault snow plow spreading salt and sand onto the street past my house on Monday.

This shows a portion of my Willow Street neighborhood, but not the block in which the offender will be living. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, January 2012.

I wondered why these particular criminals, those most likely to re-offend, keep choosing my neighborhood. So I posed that question to Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen in an e-mail. Captain Neal Pederson of the FPD responded on Bohlen’s behalf:

As to why they often locate on Willow – when offenders are released from prison they work with their supervision agents to find housing. Some owners have fewer qualms about who they rent to than others.

Alright then. Let me ask this to the supervising agents and the accommodating property owners: Would you want to live next door to, or within two blocks of (like me), a man who has served time for criminal sexual contact with male and female victims between the ages of two and 15?

I would be surprised if you answered “yes.”

I know. The man has done his time. But…put yourself in my position and that of my neighbors, many with children in this offender’s target age group. I can count 15 children living within eyesight of my front yard.

Put yourselves in the shoes of the children who will walk past this predator’s home on the way to their Willow Street bus stop (practically within a stone’s throw of the offender’s doorstep) or to the public library or community center just blocks away. How would you feel if you were their parents?

Put yourselves in my neighborhood, in this defined section of Willow Street, which repeatedly has been chosen to house predatory offenders. How would you feel? I bet you’d feel as frustrated and upset as me and my neighbors that your neighborhood is continually singled out for post prison placement of predatory offenders.

I realize my neighbors and I can’t do anything to keep this offender from moving onto our street upon his February 7 release from prison. But we can voice our opinions and concerns and gather information at a community notification meeting slated for 6 p.m. Thursday, January 31, at the Faribault Police Department.

Police department spokesman Pederson assured me that local media, schools and the nearby community center have been notified of the offender’s pending release. The FPD has posted information on its website.

On Monday I received a community alert phone call advising me of the situation and community notification meeting. My neighbor directly across the street did not. I hope my other neighbors got the message. Somehow. I’ll be knocking on a few doors. We as a neighborhood and others in Faribault, including representatives of the bus company, need to attend that meeting with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and local police. We need to become informed.

That is seemingly all we have right now—the power to arm ourselves with information to protect ourselves and our children.

FOR DETAILED INFORMATION on the predatory offender moving into the 300 block of Willow Street in Faribault on February 7, click here to the Minnesota Department of Corrections website.

TO READ A POST about a community notification meeting I attended just two years ago, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The art of healing at a Minnesota hospital January 28, 2013

TWO YEARS AGO this month, my then 92-year-old artist friend, Rhody Yule, opened his first-ever gallery exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

Six months later, he died.

But Rhody, and his art, live on, this time in a Paradise Center Healing Arts Program Exhibit at District One Hospital in Faribault. The arts center and hospital are partnering on the program.

Thursday evening I attended a reception for that show which features 70 pieces of art created by eight outstanding artists, each of them definitively different: Faribault artists Jody Hanscom, Jorge Ponticas, Pearl Tait and Rhody Yule; Marcus Moller of Morristown; Faribault native Tom Fakler, now living in Basel, Switzerland; Jane Strauss of Minneapolis; and Cynthia Ali of St. Paul.

As Healing Arts Coordinator Elizabeth Jacobs led my husband and me through the maze of hallways and centers that comprise the hospital complex, I thought how Rhody would have felt honored to be part of an exhibit designed to comfort patients and make their hospital experiences more pleasant.

The art selected by a committee of hospital staff fits the program’s criteria as “healing art,” meaning it must be calming, happy and a positive piece of work, Jacobs says.

Three of Jody Hanscom's horse portraits.

Three of Jody Hanscom’s horse portraits.

And you’ll see that, almost experience that positivity, from the minute you walk in the front doors of the hospital to view Jody Hanscom’s sizable horse portraits in the lobby waiting areas. Jody’s oil paintings capture both the gentleness and free spirit of horses, a combination that simultaneously calms and uplifts.

Tucked into a corner by the elevators, the fourth of Hanscom's horse oil paintings.

Tucked into a corner by the elevators, the fourth of Hanscom’s horses.

Just down the hallway, five oil paintings by Jorge Ponticas brighten the walls with vivid scenes from his native Chile and elsewhere. His art evokes happy thoughts. What can I say? I can’t resist the sweet face of a llama.

Pearl Tait's "Aubergine Drift I."

Pearl Tait’s “Aubergine Drift I.”

Moving along to the emergency room lobby, I find Pearl Tait’s moody mixed medium art the ideal choice for a setting often filled with emotion and uncertainty. Her work, which features textures like sand and tape incorporated into a painting, reflects, in my opinion, the intense layers of feelings that come with any visit to the ER.

A photo in a cozy private waiting room fronts Tom Fakler's Swiss Alps photos.

A sofa in a cozy private waiting room fronts Tom Fakler’s trio of Swiss Alps photos.

Around the corner inside a cozy ER room where families are taken to hear bad news (so says Jacobs), the mood totally changes with the soothing photography of Tom Fakler. His black-and-white canvas prints of the Swiss Alps offer a natural world escape during a particularly difficult time for patients’ families.

Likewise, the photography of Jane Strauss in the surgery center reflects that same sort of escapism, especially in panoramic landscape scenes. Jacobs notes that Strauss is autistic, meaning her approach to photography focuses on qualities like texture and detail, aspects others might not consider in photographing a scene.

Faribault native Cynthia Ali's floral pastels are not for sale. Ali, of St. Paul, is primarily a jewelry artist.

Faribault native Cynthia Ali’s floral pastels are not for sale. Ali, of St. Paul, is primarily a jewelry artist.

Also in the surgery center, Cynthia Ali infuses a soft natural beauty with her floral pastels. You can almost smell the heady perfume of her beautiful roses.

Marcus Moller's "Madison Lake Bait Shop" in watercolor.

Marcus Moller’s “Madison Lake Bait Shop” in watercolor. Moller’s art (mostly pastels) hangs in the surgery center waiting area, a place frequented by children. Thus his art is hung quite high, which made photographing it difficult.

Marcus Moller works in pastels, too, and watercolors, covering a variety of subjects from autumn landscapes to a bold rooster to my favorite, “Madison Lake Bait Shop.” Those of you who’ve traveled Minnesota Highway 60 will recognize the kitschy red building backed by the Madison Lake water tower. I cannot even begin to count how many times I’ve considered photographing that building. Moller’s bait shop painting is nudging me to actually stop and take that photo.

Twenty-five of Rhody Yule's oils grace the hall and patient rooms in the cancer center.

Twenty-five of Rhody Yule’s oils grace the hall and patient rooms in the cancer center.

Finally, my open house tour ended in a hallway outside the District One Cancer Center with the oil paintings of my friend, Rhody Yule. I’d seen nearly every one of Rhody’s hundreds of paintings when I worked with his family and friends on the 2011 Paradise exhibit. But, still, it was as if I was viewing his pieces for the first time, appreciating the landscapes, many of them winter scenes in this show, and the other art he created through decades of painting. Rhody was a kind, gentle man with a heart full of goodness, and I remembered that, too.

Examples of Rhody Yules art close-up.

Examples of Rhody Yule’s art close-up.

Most of the artwork in the Healing Arts Exhibit, but not all, is available for sale. (Artwork not featured in photos here is because I did not have permission to photograph it.)  A portion of any proceeds from the sale of Yule’s work will go to the local hospice, per the family’s request.

If you wish to tour the winter installment of the Healing Arts Exhibit, check in at the main desk, 200 State Avenue, during hospital business hours. All areas of the exhibit may not be accessible for viewing at all times. The current show runs through February 28.

If you are an artist interested in being featured in a Healing Arts Exhibit, contact Jacobs at the Paradise Center for the Arts. You will find details and contact information by clicking here.

The Healing Arts program is sponsored by the District One Hospital Auxiliary, which initially proposed the concept.

To view information on the artists with an online presence, click on their highlighted names.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on art as a “healing” tool? Have you seen similar exhibits? Please share.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Honoring Minnesota Civil War soldiers via history lessons & a puzzle January 25, 2013

Attendees, including Linda Karkhoff (whom you read about below) chat at a recent Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting in Faribault.

Attendees, including Linda Karkhoff (whom you will read about below) chat at a recent Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting in Faribault. And, yes, the guy on the right is wearing a Union cap. The display shows Karkhoff’s Civil War puzzle package.

MEMBERS OF THE CANNON VALLEY Civil War Roundtable, I’ve discovered, really know their history. They rattle off battlefields and battles, dates and names and other facts with convincing authority.

To be honest, I’m a bit intimidated by their knowledge. And I’ve told them so, even called them fanatics in a joking, but not unkind, way. That didn’t stop the club president from encouraging me to return to their monthly meetings. I’ve attended thrice during the past several years—when guest speakers’ topics especially interested me.

An 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, like the pistol used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

An 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, like the pistol used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, belongs to an area collector of Lincoln memorabilia.

First-time around, I listened to an area collector talk about some of the pieces in his collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. That was in 2009 and I posted about it here. He asked for anonymity given the value of his collection. I thought it wise to honor his request.

Dean Urdahl has written the trilogy of Uprising, Retribution and Pursuit.

Dean Urdahl has written the trilogy of Uprising, Retribution and Pursuit.

This past May, I heard Minnesota State Representative Dean Urdahl, a retired American history teacher, writer and co-chair of the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, speak about the U.S. Dakota-War of 1862 and his trilogy of historical fiction novels. (Click here to read a post from that event.)

And just recently, educational consultant Quintin Pettigrew read excerpts from A Personal Narrative of Indian Massacres 1862, the diary of Lake Shetek Massacre survivor Lavina Eastlick. I’ve since acquired a copy of that survivor’s diary and will post about it at a later date.

Before Pettigrew took the floor at the recent Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting, Owatonna resident Linda Karkhoff spoke briefly about a Civil War related project she’s undertaken. She’s created a 550-piece limited edition (1,000) commemorative jigsaw puzzle honoring the 2nd Regiment, Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.

A close-up of the 2nd Minnesota Civil War puzzle, made to commemorate Wasioja Civil War Days.

The photo shows the design of the puzzle Linda Karkhoff created as a commemorative piece for Wasioja Civil War Days. The puzzle honors the 2nd Minnesota Regiment, comprised of soldiers from southeastern Minnsota. Just note that lighting conditions were not good and I could not avoid glare reflected on the framed piece.

The 18 x 24-inch puzzle features, along with a U.S. map tracking the movement of the 2nd Minnesota, an imprint of a flag given to the regiment by the Loyal Ladies of the Louisville Soldiers Association.

Intrigued, I found an online copy of a letter presented to the Minnesotans along with that flag. Nanette B. Smith, president of the Loyal Ladies wrote:

Louisville Ky Feb 17th 1862

To Col Van Cleve 2nd Minnesota Regt

Sir I transmit to you a Flag to be presented in the name of the Loyal Ladies of the Louisville Soldiers Association, to your Regiment, designed to commemorate the battle of Mill Spring 19th January, and as a testimonial of our appreciation of the participation of yourself and those under your command in the glorious victory of that day.

Each Regiment is equally entitled to like honor; but the gallant conduct of those who come from a distant State to unite in subduing our rebel invaders excite the warmest emotions of our hearts.

I offer to you our congratulations and my individual acknowledgements of the important service rendered to our State by your command.

Very Respectfully Nannette B. Smith Prest L.S.R.A.

Now puzzle designer Karkhoff, who is a carpenter by trade, did not read that letter to attendees at the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting. But she did summarize that the Loyal Ladies’ flag was a thank you to the soldiers for pushing the Confederates out of Kentucky, thus saving Kentucky as a Union state.

She also shared that members of the 2nd Minnesota, comprised of soldiers from southeastern Minnesota, marched 6,000 miles—that’s walking—in four years. The unit’s drummer boy, she said, kept a diary, and survived the war. Such survival, she explained, was unheard of given drummer boys figurativley marched with targets on their backs.

This cloth bag holds the puzzle pieces and informational sheets.

This cloth bag holds the puzzle pieces and informational sheets.

You’ll find more information about the 2nd Minnesota, life as a Civil War soldier and the puzzle itself on informational sheets tucked inside the cloth bag holding Karkhoff’s puzzle. Even the bag is significant, similar to what a Civil War soldier would have carried for his tobacco and writing utensils, Karkhoff said.

A history buff, Karkhoff came up with the puzzle idea after she and several traveling friends discovered a lack of commemorative puzzles specific to an area or site they visited. She eventually formed Puzzled@ LLC and designed the 2nd Regiment puzzle.

The puzzle, she said, teaches history and geography and encourages teamwork, making it both educational and fun.

Now I’m one of those people who doesn’t care for puzzles. I’m too easily frustrated, don’t have the patience and, well, would rather read or write than puzzle over a jigsaw.

But for those of you who enjoy puzzles and/or are Civil War fanatics, and I mean that in a kind way, check out Puzzled@ by clicking here.

Puzzles may be purchased directly from Karkhoff (contact info is on her website; tell her I sent you); at Little Professor Book Center or the Steele County History Center in Owatonna; or at the Rice County Historical Society or Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

BONUS: An exhibit, “Minnesota and the Civil War,” opens March 2 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Click here to learn more about this.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Jolts of color: OK or not? January 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:52 AM
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AS A 1970s ERA TEEN, I painted my basement bedroom a vivid lime green.

That vivid house in Lansing.

That vivid house in Lansing. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Would I paint my house that psychedelic hue? No. But someone in Lansing, north of Austin, did as seen in this photograph I shot several years ago. Would you dare brush this green onto your abode?

In 2009, the owner of Los 3 Reyes Bakery painted his rented building in a vivid green shade that some neighboring business owners deemed unsuitable for historic downtown Faribault. The objectors approached Mariano Perez and asked him to repaint his bakery exterior. When he told them he couldn’t afford to repaint a building he’d just painted, they pooled their money to buy paint.

Now you might think that was a kind gesture. I don’t see it that way. To this day I wonder why Perez was shoehorned (or whatever word you want to use) into changing his building color to a softer gray-green. At the time, I interviewed Perez and he told me the bright green represented a “happy color” common in his native Mexico and his culture. Click here to read my interview with Perez, who no longer owns the bakery.

That bakery story came rushing back today as I sorted through photo files searching for bright-colored buildings I’ve photographed through the years. I intended to publish a post that would add a jolt of color to a wintry January day in Minnesota.

But then I started thinking about that bakery and about why buildings are painted the colors they are and if we have any right to tell a property owner what color he/she can/can’t paint a building.

Perhaps a color is chosen based on personal preferences. Remember that lime green bedroom of mine? I doubt my mom really liked the color, but she didn’t demand I paint the walls pink.

The NAPA store in Fergus Falls.

The NAPA store in Fergus Falls. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Perhaps a color connects to the identity of a business as in NAPA Auto Parts’ signature blue and gold. My husband works for NAPA and he will tell you just how much I dislike that strong, strong blue. Dislike is a toned-down version of my actual opinion. You can bet that you won’t miss a NAPA store in Any Town, USA. And that’s exactly as the company intends.

Perhaps a color relates to culture as in the case of the Mexican bakery.

Whatever the reasons, I view paint color as mostly a matter of personal choice.

However, I will agree that, in certain contexts, color guidelines are necessary to retain the character of a historic district. That was the argument in the bakery situation and for months the subject of debate among locals and the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission. I can’t even honestly tell you what they finally decided. Bakery owner Perez was not, at the time, violating any type of guidelines.

What are your thoughts on building colors?

Just to get the conversation going, here are several more examples of colorful buildings I’ve photographed in recent years.

Dad's Good Stuff in New Richland

Dad’s Good Stuff in New Richland. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I grew up on a dairy farm and the color of the Calf Fiend in Redwood Falls reminds me of calves, but not in a positive way.

I grew up on a dairy farm and the color of the Calf Fiend in Redwood Falls reminds me of calves, but not in a positive way. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

It's the trim on this building in Kenyon that caught my eye.

It’s the trim on this building in Kenyon that caught my eye. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The City Limits in Sleepy Eye

The City Limits in Sleepy Eye. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream for my Minnesota community January 21, 2013

I HAVE A DREAM for my community of Faribault, Minnesota.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

Skin color matters not during this pinata breaking at the International Festival Faribault held in August 2012.

And that dream is for those who live here to see beyond differences in skin color, language, culture and religion.

That same little boy who was so intently focused on the musician.

One of my favorite portraits from the 2012 International Festival Faribault.

I dream that someday my neighbors, and I use that term in the general sense of the word, will recognize that we are, no matter our differences, each human beings who deserve respect.

The scramble for candy once one of three pinatas is broken.

No barriers here as Faribault kids scramble for candy at the 2012 International Festival Faribault,

I dream that someday prejudice will vanish.

The ever-changing/growing diversity of Faribault High School as seen in this post commencement gathering outside the school.

The ever-growing diversity of Faribault High School as seen in this post 2012 commencement gathering outside the school.

I dream that long-time residents will begin to understand the difficulties local minorities—Somalis, Sudanese, Latinos and others—face in assimilating into a new culture, a new community, a new way of life.

International flag ribbons were tied to trees in Central Park during the 2011 International Festival..

International flag ribbons were tied to trees in Central Park during the 2011 International Festival..

I dream the descendants of immigrants will remember that their forefathers were once newcomers to this land.

Friends, Nimo Abdi, a sophomore at Faribault High School, left, and Nasteho Farah, a senior.

Friends and Faribault residents, Nimo Abdi and Nasteho Farah, photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

I dream that someday I will speak with a young Somali high school student and the words she shares will not be words of heartbreaking prejudice.

In this file photo, a Somali family waits to cross a downtown Faribault street.

In this file photo, a Somali family waits to cross a downtown Faribault street.

I dream that locals will stop fearing the Somali men who gather on downtown street corners, the street-level front porches of their Central Avenue apartments.

A group of young Somali dancers perform on the band shell stage during the festival.

A group of young Somali dancers perform on the band shell stage during the 2012 International Festival Faribault.

I dream that the minority population will no longer be lumped together into the category of those who commit the most crimes within my community.

Conversation and connecting..., no other words necessary.

Conversation and connecting…, no other words necessary.

I dream that all of us, no matter our color, can begin to connect on a personal level. For when that happens, the barriers begin to fall, the differences slip away, and the prejudices vanish.

#

I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE you with the impression that Faribault residents are a bunch of racists. We are not. But to claim that we are all accepting of one another, to deny that bigotry exists, would be inaccurate. I’ve heard all too many negative stories and comments, even from friends and acquaintances, about our minority population.

Faribault is an ever-changing community of diversity. One need only drive or walk about town to see that.  While 75 percent of our population is white, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hispanics or Latinos comprise 13 percent and black or African Americans seven percent of our residents.

We can form all sorts of committees, outreach and other groups to ease newcomers into Faribault, to advocate understanding and acceptance. These are necessary and commendable efforts. Yet, if we as individuals do not open our hearts, and that applies both to long-time residents and immigrants, nothing truly changes. We need to connect on a personal basis. For in shaking a hand, greeting one another by name, engaging in conversation, we begin to view each other as individuals, then as friends.

I am not so naive as to believe any of this will come easily or quickly. Change begins with something as simple as a smile, holding a door open, a kind word, an unwillingness to hear a prejudicial comment and then let it slide…

Downtown Faribault businesses include Banadir Restaurant, a Somali restaurant.

Downtown Faribault businesses include Banadir Restaurant, a Somali restaurant.

We can choose to support the ethnic businesses which are making our community a more diverse and interesting place to shop and dine. I’d like to see minorities actively and visibly involved/represented in the Chamber of Commerce and Faribault Main Street program. How about a campaign to showcase ethnic businesses to locals and visitors?

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful wood crafts from Kenya and Somalia.

Lul Abdi shows off beautiful art from Kenya and Somalia at the 2012 International Festival Faribault.

Perhaps our local arts center could connect with minority groups, integrating them into the arts scene via gallery showings, classes, diverse cultural events and the sale of their art in the arts center gift shop.

Ethnic musicians could be featured during the weekly Faribault Parks and Recreation Department summer band concerts in Central Park.

The Faribault Farmers’ Market could invite minorities to vend their ethnic art, crafts and food. The relaxed atmosphere of the Farmers’ Market offers an especially neighborly environment in which to connect people and cultures on a personal level.

My ideas are nothing novel. Perhaps some have already been tried, are in the works or are on the table…

#

CERTAINLY EFFORTS ARE being made to reach out to our newest residents, although one of the most valuable assets, The Welcome Center, closed several years ago due to lack of funding. Somali Community Services reaches the Somali population, at least.

A newly-formed group, Faribault’s Task Force on Cultural Diversity, has brought community leaders (including clergy, business representatives, healthcare and law enforcement professionals and others) together to address diversity-related concerns. I contacted Mayor John Jasinski, who is spearheading this committee, for an update, but have not yet received a response.

A woman, without my prompting, took this mask from the table manned by Bashir Omar and Asher Ali and asked me to photograph her.

Without prompting, this woman took this mask from a table manned by Bashir Omar and Asher Ali and asked me to photograph her during the 2012 International Festival Faribault.

The nonprofit International Festival Faribault organizes an annual outdoor fest aiming “to promote understanding between diverse cultures within Faribault, uniting the community with music, dance, ethnic foods and merchandise.”

HealthFinders Collaborative, which began with a healthcare clinic for the underinsured and uninsured in rural Dundas, recently opened an additional center in downtown Faribault.

St. Vincent de Paul Center offers financial assistance, food, clothing and other basic necessities to those in need.

Ten Faribault churches have joined to create the Community Cathedral Cafe, serving a free meal from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.

Divine Mercy Catholic Church has a Hispanic Ministry Program that includes, among many other aspects, annual summer masses at two Faribault trailer parks.

Within Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Nile Our Savior’s, a Sudanese congregation, holds Sunday afternoon worship services at 1 p.m in the Nuer language.

Buckham Memorial Library offers a free online language program (Mango Languages) with 40 foreign languages and 12 English as a Second Language courses.

This list certainly is not all-encompassing. Our schools are reaching out, too, through nonprofits like Children’s Dental Services. I expect many individuals, whether via one-on-one tutoring, donations or other gifts are also assisting Faribault’s minority population.

Yet, more can be done. And it starts with each of us, in our hearts, on a personal level.

*NOTE: Some of the organizations listed above are not geared specifically toward assisting local minorities, but rather toward anyone in need, no matter their ethnicity.

#

Historic buildings along Central Avenue.

Historic buildings along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

IN CELEBRATION of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and his “I have a dream” speech, I’d like to hear:  What is your dream for your community?

And what are your thoughts on anything I’ve presented in this post.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My in-house handyman rocks & so does Faribault Ace Hardware January 11, 2013

OH, MY DARLING, knock three times on the ceiling if you want me, twice on the pipes if the answer is no…

If you were a teen of the 70s, like me, you may remember that popular song by Tony Orlando and Dawn. I always connect “Knock Three Times” to a slumber party in the basement of my friend Marla’s house. Don’t ask because I really don’t remember details. I assume we were pounding the ceiling and/or pipes as that tune rocked out on the radio.

The other night it was my husband knocking thrice on the ceiling or pipes as he signaled for me to head to the basement with my camera. He had just finished vacuuming around the non-operating water heater and was ready for me to photograph him in handyman action. His idea, not mine.

So my Canon and I rocked our way down the basement stairs while I belted out the only line I remember from “Knock Three Times.”

Tools and light are in place to replace the thermo couple control on the water heater.

Tools and light are in place to replace the thermocouple on the water heater.

Once inside the cramped utility room, I wondered how the heck I was going to photograph anything except Randy’s behind as he crouched low to the floor to replace the thermocouple on our just shy of six years old water heater. As you can see, I didn’t manage to snap much in the deep dark depths.

But what I gained was hot water again and the reassurance that my spouse is capable of repairing nearly anything in our house.

I hate this brown sink. But, hey, at least I have hot water again flowing from my leaky faucet.

I hate this brown sink. But, hey, at least I have hot water again flowing from my leaky faucet.

Say, about that hole in the dining room wall and the leaky kitchen faucet and the…

Oops, I nearly forgot to tell you this, and it’s an important part of the story. We bought our water heater in March 2007 at our local Faribault Ace Hardware. When Randy stopped by after work  to inquire about the warranty replacement part, the helpful Ace guy found the right piece and then told Randy to bring in the defective part and he’d get his money back. He didn’t even ask for a proof of purchase from six years ago. How’s that for great customer service?

We agreed that we likely would not have experienced the same ease in acquiring a replacement part under warranty had we purchased our water heater at an out-of-town Big Box retailer. Excellent customer service is the main reason we shop local as much as possible.

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED similar outstanding customer service at a family-owned business? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflections on 2012 from Minnesota Prairie Roots December 31, 2012

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS present a time to reflect. So on this, the final day of 2012, I’ve considered the past year, what’s been most significant in my personal life and for me as a blogger.

My 18-year-old son, shortly before my husband and I left him in his dorm room on the campus of North Dakota State University four weeks ago.

Our 18-year-old son, shortly before my husband and I left him in his dorm room on the campus of North Dakota State University in mid-August.

This year marked a time of transition for my husband and me from the full-time job of parenting, a position we’ve held for 26 consecutive years, to becoming empty-nesters. The youngest of our three children, our son, started college in August. The past 4 ½ months have been a period of adapting for all of us. But it’s gone well. Although I miss our boy, the letting go process has been easier than I thought. And for our son, even though he would not admit it, I think he’s missed us a tad more than he imagined.

Audrey and Randy, May 15, 1982

My husband, Randy, and me on our wedding day, May 15, 1982.

Prior to that, in May, Randy and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. I cannot even fathom how three decades have soared past, snap, like that. But I am thankful to have lived them with the man I cherish and love. That reminds me of this little story from yesterday, when we were shopping for window treatments. The associate assisting us complimented us on how well we were getting along, noting that disagreements between some couples often get so intense he simply needs to step away. Not that Randy and I don’t disagree—we do. But we always manage to work things out.

I love this sweet image of Amber and Marc taken after my son's high school commencement.

I love this sweet image of Amber and Marc taken after my son’s high school commencement.

This year also brought love into the life of our oldest daughter, Amber, who met Marc, now the love of her life. I never realized, until this happened, how happy I would feel as a mother to see my girl so happy.

Some of the guest gathered in the Vesta Community Hall for my mom's 80th birthday party.

Some of the guests gathered in the Vesta Community Hall for my mom’s 80th birthday party open house.

The celebration of my mother’s 80th birthday in April, several weeks before her actual birth date, was also defined by love. My mom is the most kind-hearted person I know. And to see the community hall in my hometown filled with family and friends who came to show her their love filled my heart to overflowing with gratitude. This open house party was the best gift we, her family, could ever have given her, even if the party ended early due to a tornado warning. You can read two posts about the party by clicking here and then clicking here.

During 2012, I continue to be gifted with a faithful and growing readership here at Minnesota Prairie Roots. My blog has been viewed this past year 290,000 times by readers from 186 countries. Such support humbles me. I also am honored, even surprised, that I continue to find success in writing poetry. This has been a good year for me in poetry.

Friends, Nimo Abdi, a sophomore at Faribault High School, left, and Nasteho Farah, a senior.

Friends, Nimo Abdi, a sophomore at Faribault High School, left, and Nasteho Farah, a senior.

Within the realm of writing, specifically here on this blog, I had no difficulty choosing my favorite post of 2012: Yearning for respect & equality, “no matter what color you are.” In that post, I featured photos from the International Festival Faribault and interviews with several teenaged Somali immigrants. It was an especially powerful piece, both in portraits and in the honest and troubling words spoken by these young people who face discrimination in my community. To this day, it hurts my heart to read this post. I’d encourage every single one of you to read or reread that story by clicking here.

The south side of the house roof, reshingled.

The south side of our house roof, reshingled.

The post which drew the most comments, and the most heated comments, this year, Why I am not getting a kitchen redo, totally surprised me. I never expected to hear from so many readers who empathized with our experience related to defective shingles. If you haven’t read that post, click here. However, if you prefer to keep your blood pressure low, skip this story.

Creative freedom of speech

Creative freedom of speech along Interstate 94 in west central Minnesota.

A political post, Driving home a political point along a Minnesota interstate, produced the most views, 3,288 in a single day. Typically I avoid politics. But, when I spotted a limo driven front end first into the ground along Interstate 94 near Alexandria in a statement about the direction in which President Obama is driving this country, I had to post photos. The post was picked up by reddit.com, which generated the high viewership. (Click here to read this post.)

This concludes my review of 2012. It’s been a good year, filled with love, change, constancy and, most definitely, many blessings.

WHAT DEFINED YOUR YEAR?

© Copyright 2012

 

CHRISTmas blessings December 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:05 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
This Nativity scene has graced the lawn of Buckham Memorial Library and the Faribault Community Center for all the years I have lived in my southeastern Minnesota community, which would be 30.

This Nativity scene has graced the lawn of Buckham Memorial Library and the Faribault Community Center for all the years I have lived in my southeastern Minnesota community, which would be 30.

FROM MY FAMILY to yours, I wish you a most blessed CHRISTmas. And, yes, I capitalize that first syllable because the Saviour centers my Christmas celebration and I hope it does yours also.

This Nativity set, donated, I believe, by the Knights of Columbus, is a rich part of my community's history and a work of art. If anyone knows the history of this Nativity set, please submit a comment with details.

This Nativity set, donated, I believe, by the local Knights of Columbus, is a rich part of my community’s history and a work of art. If anyone knows the history of this Nativity, please submit a comment with details.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

One side of the scene shows the shepherds in the stable.

One side of the scene shows the shepherds in the stable.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ The Lord.”

Although the wise men did not arrive at the birth of Christ, they are typically depicted in nativities. I added the "star" with an editing tool to enhance the image.

Although the wise men did not arrive at the birth of Christ,  but much later, they are typically depicted in nativity scenes. I added the “star” with an editing tool to enhance the image.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Can you imagine the reverent joy the wise men felt in seeing their Saviour?

Can you imagine the reverent joy the wise men felt in worshiping their Saviour?

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Click here to learn more about the wise men and when they visited the Christ Child.)

© Photos copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Text credit goes to gospel writers Matthew and Luke.

 

Appreciating the beautiful craftsmanship of a Minnesota church December 23, 2012

A snippet of the pews and beautiful stained glass window.

A snippet of the pews and beautiful stained glass windows.

THE PEWS ARC in graceful curves in this holy house where the muted grey gloom of a December afternoon filters through the western wall of stained glass windows.

Just another interior view, looking toward the balcony.

Just another interior view, looking toward the balcony.

Dark wood fills this place. If not for the glorious side windows and the stained glass dome, darkness would prevail.

Focusing on the altar area and the eastern stained glass window.

Focusing on the altar area and the eastern stained glass windows.

Like so many churches in my southeastern Minnesota community, Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault is steeped in history, bathed in beauty. One need only stand within this sanctuary, dedicated in December 1915, to feel the overpowering influence of the past in fine craftsmanship.

The obvious Greek influence in the church architecture.

The obvious Greek influence in the church architecture.

It is humbling to consider the hours devoted with hands-on manual labor to create such a reverent place resembling a Greek temple, particularly noticeable in the exterior stately Tuscan style columns.

I don’t pretend to know much about architecture.

But I do recognize beauty.

Looking up at a Christmas star suspended from the center stained glass dome.

Looking up at a Christmas star suspended from the center stained glass dome.

Three sets of heavy wooden doors lead into the sanctuary. To read about the Community Christmas Dinner, check my December 17 post.

Three sets of heavy wooden doors lead into the sanctuary. To read about the Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church annual Community Christmas Dinner, check my December 17 post.

Another view of the sanctuary.

Another view of the sanctuary.

Editing tools were applied to this photo of Mary and Joseph, lending a dreamy quality to the image.

Editing tools were applied to this photo of Mary and Joseph, lending a dreamy quality to the image.

I noticed this message posted in a church hallway.

I noticed this message posted in a church hallway.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Instead of following the star in the east… December 21, 2012

WHO ARE THESE

Wise woman 2

three

Wise woman 1

mysterious

Wise woman 3

women?

The holiday window display at The Crafty Maven, 212 Central Avenue, Faribault.

The holiday window display at The Crafty Maven, 212 Central Avenue, in historic downtown Faribault.

They are “The Three Wise Women,” you know, the women who could have altered the biblical account of the three wise men traveling to Bethlehem to see the Christ Child.

Sometimes it’s fun to ponder what may have been.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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