Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Birthday wishes and flowers from Minnesota Prairie Roots November 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:20 AM

TODAY MARKS my fourth Friday of presenting virtual flowers to those deserving of recognition, gratitude, celebration or encouragement.

All week I am considering possible names for this list. It’s been a good thing for me, focusing on others and then, through this giving of virtual Friday flowers, sharing my care, thanks or congratulations.

Try this approach in your life. Thinking about others first, before self, is good for the soul.

So…, here are the recipients of November 20 virtual Friday flowers from Minnesota Prairie Roots:

Windowbox flowers photographed at Munsinger Garden along the Mississippi River in St. Cloud are this week's featured Minnesota Prairie Roots Friday flowers.

My daughter, Miranda, who celebrated her 22nd birthday earlier this week. Miranda is a free-spirited, intelligent, kind-hearted, Spanish-speaking (English too) Christian woman who loves to dance salsa, yearns to return to Argentina (where she lived part of last year), and works hard at whatever she does. When Miranda sets her mind to do something, she will accomplish it. In addition to those admirable qualities, she’s also a gifted writer. I especially like that Miranda still allows me to call her Tib, after curly-haired Tib in Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy book series. Feliz cumpleaños, Miranda! I love you.

Virgil, a friend I deeply respect and value for his caring ways, his array of knowledge, his generosity, his strong faith and his appreciation for the world God has created. He has been a blessing to me and my family and to many, many others.

My friend, Billie Jo, whose daughter, Nevaeh (that’s “heaven” spelled backwards), turned three the same day my daughter turned 22. Billie Jo is one of those people you just love to be around because of her joyfulness. She’s funny, upbeat, friendly, kind, creative and more. Among other things, Billie Jo coordinates the monthly Family Game Night at our church. If you look in our church directory, you’ll see Billie Jo and her family photographed in seasonal headwear like bunny ears and a Santa cap. That’s so “Billie Jo” to show her creative side in a conservative Lutheran church directory.

Artificial roses photographed at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines craft show near Dundas in September.

NEXT, I want to follow up on a virtual Friday flowers bouquet that I gave to 85-year-old Bob last week. I’d only met Bob once and didn’t even know his last name. Still, the sincere appreciation he showed for the local public library made him worthy of Friday flowers. I wanted to tell Bob about the honor I bestowed upon him. So I tracked him down, at the library. I handed Bob a print-out of my November 13 Friday flowers post. He thanked me several times before carefully folding the paper and placing it inside his shirt pocket. In that brief exchange, I felt as if Bob had just given me a dozen roses.

FINALLY, CONSIDER SUBMITTING your nominations to me for virtual Friday Flowers. I’m always seeking deserving recipients. Just e-mail me or submit a name via a comment and I will consider your request. Weekly deadline is Wednesday.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


This is no 5-star rodent hotel November 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:52 AM

"The Thing" may be just the answer to my rodent problem. I photographed this trap at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engine Show in September.

EVERY TIME I WASH clothes these days, I approach the task with trepidation.

It’s not that the job has become difficult, burdensome or more time-consuming. It’s simply that I have guests who don’t like to be disturbed. Let me explain.

My laundry room lies in the basement of our old house, adjoining the hideous red-carpeted, paneled room that is supposed to be the family rec room. Rather, this vintage 70s space has become a dumping spot for just about anything—long-forgotten toys, card tables and folding chairs, a punch bowl from my mom, an old cedar chest, winter boots. Really, it’s a cluttered mess best kept behind closed doors.

No one in their right mind would recreate here.

Except rodents.

Each fall, they pack their bags and head for warmer climates. What Arizona is to snowbirds, my basement is to mice.

Two weeks ago the first of the expected guests arrived. My husband, Randy, already had laid out welcoming mats complete with complimentary snacks.

The first guest checked in the first night and was promptly evicted the next morning.

Since then we’ve sent two more snowbird mice packing to the Great Beyond.

The problem lies in the fact that I frequent the laundry room four times weekly, minimum.  These unwelcome guests seem not to care about me as they wander freely between the unpleasant, cobweb-filled laundry/furnace room (which opens to crawl spaces) and the rec/storage room.

Most days I can pretend the rodents aren’t there enjoying the amenities of their luxuriously-appointed suite. I trick myself into believing that, if I can’t see the mice, they must have checked out.

Ha. Who am I fooling?

I need only pull open the laundry room door for a reminder that these snowbirds consider our basement comparable to any five-star hotel. A welcoming mat lies only feet from the washing machine and inches from the dryer. Sometimes I’ll find a mouse lounging there.

But typically Randy discovers these immobile vacationers per my routine morning request that he check on our guests. (Actually, I ask, “Did you check the traps?”)

He does a fine job of handling these unwanted rodents and for that I am grateful.

But, I would be an even more thankful wife if Randy would do the laundry until May, when the mice check out for a few months and head up north to the cabin, or wherever they go.


(Because of past encounters with mice that included a dead mouse floating in a crockpot, a mouse rummaging through a silverware drawer and a mouse threatening me in the confines of a bathroom when I was six months pregnant, I am understandably terrified of mice. These incidents happened in separate Minnesota locations over a span of years and are only a sampling of my woeful rodent tales.)

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Singing praises at a Faribault hymn fest November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:09 AM

Organ pipes at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault.

Trinity's stained glass window depicting the Resurrection of Christ.

“Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee opening to the sun above,” we sing. Our voices unfold joyously, responding to the uplifting music of the pipe organ as the day slips away.

Inside the sanctuary of Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, sunlight softens the patches of green, brown, yellow and rose in the old stained glass window that depicts Jesus’ resurrection. As I sing, I watch the colors transform from vivid to muted shades.

And I feel my spirit soar as the music fills my soul. The words embrace, surround, comfort, stir, inspire. I am energized, overcome with emotion at the sheer power and praise in the words I am voicing.

I keep a watchful eye on the man at the organ, Dr. Jeffrey E. Burkart of Concordia University, St Paul. Burkhart plays with a passion unequaled, his whole body leaning into the music, his hand ending songs in a dramatic flair. He works the keys, the pedals, playing this organ with every bit of his being.

The congregation responds with voices raised in heavenly praise that fills this sanctuary.

Later, Burkart moves to the grand piano. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,” we sing, our voices clear and concise, matching the sharpness of the piano.

Soon he is back at the organ and we are singing my favorite hymn, Beautiful Savior. I hold my hymnbook open before me, but I don’t glance at the words I have known since childhood. “Beautiful Savior, King of creation, Son of God and Son of Man,” I sing.

I am looking now to the cross at the front of the church. And I am thinking of my wedding day 27 years ago, when my husband and I stood before the altar of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta. “Truly I’d love thee, truly I’d serve thee, light of my soul, my joy, my crown,” we sang in unison.

In this moment, on this November day, at this Festival of Hymns, I am celebrating the blessings God has bestowed upon me, expressing my thanks in joyful song.

“Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices…”

The magnificent pipe organ at Trinity Lutheran.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Let’s do some trapunto in a loge November 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:06 AM

“SCREEN, PROJECTOR, POPCORN, tickets, reel …,” we shout in rapid-fire chaos, our voices overlapping each other.

Lyda, Billie Jo, Kim and I are listing items found in a movie theater. As sand funnels quickly through a miniscule hourglass, we futilely grasp for words. “Sticky floors, pop, aisle, back-row neckers…,” we offer.

Then the sand stops flowing and our time to list 10 “things in a movie theater” expires.

Among the theatrical objects we missed—loge.


No one knows the word. So I am assigned to research loge and report back at our next Family Game Night.

Another round of the board game Outburst finds us yelling words that fit the definition of “arts and crafts.” We are confident this time. “Knitting, crocheting, calligraphy, weaving, embroidery, macramé, painting, quilting, candle-making, sewing….,” we spew at the opposing team of Randy, Tammy, Vivian and Chad.

But alas, we have missed trapunto.


I am asked to research that word too and Billie Jo suggests I also teach our group the art of trapunto. I don’t think so. Julia tentatively offers to teach trapunto, even though she has no idea what this craft might be.

Well, Julia and you other board gamers, I did my homework. Trapunto is Italian for “to embroider.” It involves sewing through several layers of fabric and batting to create a decorative, quilted piece.

As for loge, that’s French for “a box in a theater.”

Who would have thought that our monthly Family Game Night at church would include lessons in Italian and French? I thought we were there just for the food, fellowship and fun.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A pretty penny for a pie November 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:11 AM
Rhubarb pie

Homemade pies, similar to this rhubarb pie, sold for hundreds of dollars during a live auction.

IF GARRISON KEILLOR had been among the 275 or so Lutherans dining at the Faribault American Legion Sunday evening, he may have asked, “What is this world coming to?”

These conservative Lutherans loosened their purse strings and paid a pretty penny, $200 – $410 per pastry, for peach, pecan and apple pies.

Even more surprising perhaps was the lack of formal committees to push the homemade pie prices through the roof. Instead diners, eight at each table, conferred and bid during the live auction of only nine pies.

As any bible-reading Lutheran knows, it would have taken a small miracle to feed so many hungry souls with only 72 pie slices.

That scriptural and mathematical awareness perhaps prompted the sometimes frenzied bidding as the dessert-seeking Lutherans tossed conservative habits and sensibilities aside, raised their hands, nodded their heads and opened their wallets.

An offer of two half camperships to Camp Omega for the highest bidder added to the bidding wars among otherwise genteel folk. The top bidder paid $410 for a homemade apple pie.

When the auction ended, nearly $3,000 had been raised for Camp Omega, a Christian retreat facility and camp near Waterville and the designated recipient of the pie sale proceeds. See www.campomega.org.

Lutheran jokes aside, I consider this whole pie auction an ingenious way to raise monies quickly for a good cause.

And, yes, one year I enjoyed a piece of pie.

This year I opted to dine with the sit-on-your-hands-during-the-auction Lutherans.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Saturday “steals” (deals) November 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:52 PM
old stereo system

The vintage stereo system in our garage.

new stereo system

The "new" stereo system.

WHILE I AM RIFLING through a cardboard box stuffed with old muffin tins, well-worn baking sheets and dull knives, he is eyeing a stereo system.

“Why do you need that?” I ask my husband, Randy, hoping he doesn’t plan on hauling this electronic system home.

“I need a new radio for the garage,” he says.


Then he is thumbing through his wallet for a $5 bill to purchase this White Westinghouse three-CD player/cassette player/radio unit he’s found at a yard sale.

“Does it work?” I ask, stooping to the ground to scoop up a speaker.

It does, claims the man who seems all too eager to load, or unload, this into our car trunk.

Hmmmmm, I think, picturing a useless stereo sitting in the garage, next to the old record player, the radio receiver and eight-track tape player purchased in the 1980s.

“How does your new stereo work?” I ask Randy later, after he’s set it up.

“Good,” he answers, cranking up the volume as if to emphasize his point.

OK, then, I’ll admit, he got a good deal for $5.

Fast forward one week. Randy arrives home from work lugging a bulky television set.

Toshiba TV

The 1990 Magnavox TV reflects in the screen of our "new" 1993 Toshiba television.

“WHERE DID YOU GET THAT?” I am incredulous. This looks no bigger, no newer than the clunker television we already have. I was hoping when we got a new TV, it would have a larger, and flat, screen.

He got the television from a sale at Moravian Church in Northfield, right next door to his workplace. “FREE—WORKS, but NO Remote” reads the masking tape message atop the TV.

Hmmmmm, I think. No remote. And does it really work? But this did come from a church, I remind myself.

The 1993 20-inch Toshiba works. Better than the 1990 20-inch Magnavox. The picture is sharper, the sound clearer. And, Randy and our son exclaim, they can even read the football scores at the top of the screen.

So, now I’m wondering, what freebie will Randy cart home next Saturday? A “new” computer? A “new” washing machine? Maybe even the kitchen sink…

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Veterans among Minnesota Prairie Roots’ Friday flowers recipients November 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:36 AM

“YOU SURE GIVE OUT a lot of Friday flowers,” my husband told me the other day.

Well, yeah, so what?

Whether the weekly list of Minnesota Prairie Roots’ Friday flowers recipients is long or short doesn’t matter. What matters is that each individual, organization or business is truly worthy of recognition, encouragement or thanks.

All week I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for potential Friday flowers nominees. It’s really an exercise in looking for the good in life and considering how I can encourage others.

I invite you to also submit names for consideration via e-mail or a comment.

Without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Minnesota Prairie Roots’ virtual Friday flowers:


Poppies have long been associated with honoring and remembering veterans. I photographed this poppy in my neighbor Cheri's yard this past summer.

The Honor Flight Network, a national charitable organization that transports veterans, at no cost to them, on a one-day trip to visit veterans’ memorials in Washington D.C. The current focus is on getting WW II vets to D.C. Last Saturday the Twin Cities Honor Flight flew 104 vets to our nation’s Capitol. Thanks to the organizers of this flight, to those who served as guardians/chaperones and to those who supported this trip financially. But most of all, thank you to the veterans who have served our country. Minnesota Honor Flight chapters are also based in St. Cloud and Rochester. For a Nov. 11 story about the St. Cloud chapter, click here: http://digelog.typepad.com/digelogrocori/2009/11/the-story-of-honor-flight.html. Or visit the national website at www.honorflight.org.

Bob, the 85-year-old gentleman I met last Friday evening at the Faribault American Legion. I recognized Bob from the many times I have seen him at the local library and that was my basis for striking up a conversation. Here’s my favorite Bob quote: “I don’t know what I would do without a library.” Me either, Bob. Even though his eyesight allows him to read for only an hour at a time, this determined man continues to frequent the public library. He’s been going there for 75 years, he says, and enjoys reading about history, politics and current events. I appreciate someone like Bob, who values libraries and staying informed.

My daughter, Amber, who makes me proud to be her mom. This week she remained calm and level-headed when I needed her to be calm and level-headed. She’s mature, understanding, supportive and a woman of faith, just a few of the attributes that make her a wonderful daughter and person.

Maggiano’s Little Italy at Southdale Center in Edina. Last week the Holter family from Faribault gathered at the restaurant to remember their son, Curtis, on what would have been his 13th birthday. The restaurant treated this grieving family to a VIP dessert plate and then charged nothing for the meal. This compassionate act deserves to be recognized and emulated. Read more about this birthday celebration, including a touching comment from the Holters’ waitress, at www.curtisholter.org.

That concludes the Nov. 13 virtual Friday flowers recipient list. Please submit nominations for consideration next Friday and in the weeks to come. The weekly deadline is Wednesday with one request per individual per week. Look for the good in people and share your discoveries with others via Minnesota Prairie Roots’ virtual Friday flowers.

© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling