Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Marking the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination & reflecting on a Presidential quote November 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas, 12:30 P.M. November 22, 1963: The President has been shot!

American flag edited

TODAY, ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we’ll be swamped with news coverage and memories recalled. Where were you when you heard the news?

I was inside a classroom at Vesta Elementary School in rural southwestern Minnesota. That’s it. I don’t remember my reaction or that of my teacher or my parents. But I had only recently turned seven, old enough to understand, but young enough that details did not imprint upon my memory.

My husband, though, remembers the phone ringing in the one-room country school he attended in North Dakota and the teacher’s announcement that the President had been shot.

On the day of Kennedy’s funeral, the Helbling family relocated to central Minnesota. I expect that for a 7-year-old, moving hundreds of miles away from extended family and friends was more emotionally gripping than the death of the President.

So, if I don’t have better memories than that to share, why am I writing anything at all today? Well, listening to the radio this morning, I heard this famous Kennedy quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

That got me thinking.

And then I read Bob Collins’ online NewsCut column over at Minnesota Public Radio (you really ought to read this daily if you don’t already). Collins also featured that quote in his morning 5×8 list.

That got me thinking even more.

It seems to me that today we expect our country to do too much for us. I don’t want to get into a heated political discussion here. But just consider how government, more and more, is intruding into our lives on so many levels with this law and that law, this government program and that government program. Frankly, it scares me.

Given the erosion of self-sufficiency in our society, it might do all of us some good to reflect today on Kennedy’s words and ask: What can I do for my country (or my community, church, neighbor, a stranger)?

I suppose that seems contrary to self-sufficiency. Allow me to clarify. I’m not anti-government or anti helping others. We need government assistance programs and laws that protect the vulnerable and those in need. We need nonprofits and charities and individuals to assist others.

But there seems to be a pervasive attitude, even expectation, among many Americans that government should solve all of our problems. And that just does not sit right with me.


© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The great reveal or the demise of the cardboard curtain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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But I am delighted to announce that the cardboard “curtains” in the master bedroom were replaced this week by Bali room darkening pleated shades. Yes. Hallelujah.

For only two years, I’ve routinely covered the windows with cardboard rectangles each evening and then removed the coverings in the morning. No more. Hello, permanent shades drawn open and closed with cords.

New window installation in progress and the cardboard curtain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

New window installation in progress and the cardboard curtain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

Why did it take so long to purchase window treatments for the new windows installed in 2011? The answer would be cost and window size. The two windows are wide, but short. Although I’m not crazy about their shape, the design was really the best option for the master bedroom considering its street-side location along a street and sidewalk heavy with traffic.

Because of the light pollution that pours into the bedroom from a corner street light and from vehicle headlights and flashing lights of emergency vehicles, room darkening window treatments were a must.

Room darkening plus odd size necessitated special order window treatments, pushing the cost beyond budget.

Many times my husband and I have searched for workable options.

Once I even chatted with my quilter friend Doreen, who gave me great step-by-step instructions on how to create window coverings. I never followed up; I didn’t feel confident enough.

So it’s not like I’ve been sitting idle, content with cardboard.

Finally, I think my husband had had enough and so had I, frankly. The joke between us was that soon we’d need new cardboard curtains. Once or twice the cardboard rectangles even fell on my head in the middle of the night.

Yes, definitely time for a change.

On a recent stop at a Big Box retailer, we once again checked out the shades, settling on lovely bamboo Roman shades in our price range. But they needed to be custom ordered to size, plus room darkening liners and fabric edging added. With the extras, the cost for two shades edged over $500. Not gonna happen. I refuse to spend that absurd amount for two bedroom windows.

The new pleated shade in an oh-not-so-exciting photo.

The new pleated shade in an oh-not-so-exciting photo.

Back to square one. With the help of the in-store consultant, we eventually found room darkening pleated shades to custom-order for $142. That’s total cost for two, including all that tax. Sold.

Little kids are temporarily banned from our house while this cardboard wall is in place in my dining room. Lean against this wall, and you will tumble into the basement.

The cardboard wall in my dining room which covers the space where we removed a brick chimney three years ago. What should I so with this space? It’s not quite as wide as it appears because additional ductwork was installed in the opening.

Now on to the next project—filling the hole and replacing the cardboard wall in my dining room where, three years ago, we removed a brick chimney. But this project will be way more challenging and costly as I need a complete kitchen/dining room redo with new countertops, backsplash, cupboards, sink and flooring.

If only I could win a kitchen make-over. Yes, that’s it.

I welcome any and all ideas on how to fill the chimney space and how to redo my kitchen/dining area in an economical way. I could show you more photos…

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling