Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A metaphor as we transition into the new year December 30, 2016

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abandoned-building-near-foley-32

 

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN to abandoned buildings. They hold a certain mystery, an unknown story, a metaphor.

When I view this recent photo taken near Foley, I become introspective. Perhaps it’s the ending of 2016 and the beginning of a new year that prompt such thoughts. Or recent events in my community. Or simply me being my creative self.

But I see more than a neglected structure with missing windows, peeling paint, a sagging roof line. I see, too, the solid concrete block construction, the strong glass block windows and that surprise red door.

There’s a metaphor here to life. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the difficulties and challenges that life throws our way. We despair, give up, wonder how we can handle one more thing. We want nothing more than to reclaim our uneventful and normal lives—to replace the broken panes, to cover the peeling paint, to fix the falling roof line.

The task seems impossible until someone steps in, offering words of support and encouragement, pointing to the solid construction.

Then thoughts begin to shift and an inner strength builds. The door to hope cracks open.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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My current favorite national marketing campaign December 29, 2016

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SEVERAL WEEKS AGO a billboard along Interstate 94 in Rogers popped out at me. Not like a jack-in-the-box or a creepy clown. But visually.

The simplicity of the graphic design and the short, powerful message of “Good choice, kid.” made this advertisement noticeable among all the roadside clutter.

This Wonderful halos billboard is part of a $30 million ad campaign focusing on kids who choose mandarins over something less desirable. So I learned while googling the slogan. To totally understand this, you have to view the television spots that are part of this campaign. Kids star in videos with storylines that present a temptation—like sleeping over in a creepy doll-filled mansion or running away to join the circus—and the obvious better choice of a mandarin.

The ads are quirky, funny and, yes, most assuredly memorable. To the creative forces behind the Wonderful Halos newest marketing endeavor, well done.

TELL ME: What ad campaigns, past or present, do you consider especially well done and memorable? Why?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: A community poised to learn from tragedy December 28, 2016

Barbara Larson is Minnesota’s 17th known victim of domestic violence homicide in 2016. We will raise the Live Free Without Violence flag in her honor on Tuesday. We send our condolences to the community of Faribault.Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

 

The obituaries of Barbara Larson and Richard Larson, published in Tuesday's Faribault Daily News.

The obituaries of Barbara Larson and Richard Larson, published in Tuesday’s Faribault Daily News.

YESTERDAY THE MCBW raised that “free without violence” flag honoring Barbara Larson, who was shot to death last Friday by her ex-husband at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism office where she worked. Richard Larson, a retired Faribault police officer, then killed himself. Several days prior, Barbara Larson was granted a harassment restraining order against her ex-husband.

This afternoon, my community celebrates Barb’s life at her funeral. We are a community grieving, even if we didn’t personally know either Barb or Dick. I didn’t. We are a community in shock over this latest tragedy, the second murder-suicide here in December. We are a community rocked by the violence and four lives lost.

Kim has made it her mission to speak out against domestic violence. She is the voice of her sister Kay, pictured here.

This photo graphic comes from the website of Kim Sisto-Robinson, a Duluth woman who has made it her mission to be the voice of her deceased sister, Kay (shown in this photo), by speaking out on domestic violence. Kay was shot to death by her estranged husband in May 2010. Kim writes at myinnerchick.com with a deeply personal and powerful voice.

And we are a community on the cusp of an opportunity to learn, to make a difference. No one wants education to come at such great cost. But we must find a way to deal with this, heal and create change. Women need to be protected via a system that does not fail them. Mental health services need to be more available in our area. It’s not acceptable that such a shortage of mental health workers exists here that individuals must wait weeks to see a provider. Or choose the ER. Or nothing. Or something unacceptable.

We as individuals need to begin to understand and openly acknowledge issues that are all too often avoided. We need open dialogue—an opportunity to vent, share ideas and formulate solutions.

Already, community leaders, led by members of the Larson family, are discussing a campaign to raise awareness on the issues of domestic violence and mental health, according to an article published yesterday in The Faribault Daily News.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna this past summer.

Faribault native Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored in The Clothesline Project in Owatonna in July 2015. Margie was murdered by her husband in March 2013. Margie’s dad once lived across the street from me.

I am beyond pleased. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I have written often about domestic violence and abuse. It’s an important topic to me because many friends and family have been affected both directly and indirectly by both.

Nothing is ever black-and-white simple. Already, anger and frustration have been expressed in comments published online on the Daily News website. That’s OK. People are talking. We all need also to make a conscious effort to listen, to educate ourselves and then do what we can to make a difference. We each have a voice. We need to stop looking the other way, pretending domestic violence and mental health issues don’t exist. They do. No matter your social, economic, educational or professional status.

Just last week four squad cars and an ambulance parked near my home early one morning while law enforcement dealt with a suicide threat in my neighborhood.

On this day, in my community, we remember Barb Larson, described as sassy and classy, upbeat and smiling—simply all-around positive.

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coaltition for Battered Women..

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coaltition for Battered Women, photographed in July 2015 in Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

It is my hope that, through Barb’s death, we as a community can come together and learn. This needs to be a concerted effort that involves all of us. I’d like to see The Clothesline Project return to Faribault. It’s a powerful visual to remember those who were murdered as a result of domestic violence or child abuse. I’d like to see increased education in the schools. I’d like to hear the stories of survivors. Who better to make a personal impact.

 

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which I got at a recent family reunion.

My HOPE stone, painted by a great niece. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

We already have a great resource with HOPE Center, which offers healing, outreach, prevention and education related to domestic violence. (Call the 24-hour safe-line at 800-607-2330.) That includes Rice County Blueprint for Safety, a collaborative inter-agency victim-centered response to domestic violence-related crimes.

 

South Central Mobile Crisis Team Info

 

We also have the South Central Mobile Crisis Team which responds on-site to help individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. I was unaware of this until the recently-published newspaper articles. I’d suggest increasing awareness via clinics, churches, schools…

Now we, individually, need also to reflect and ask, “What can I do?”

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Home for Christmas December 27, 2016

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helbling-family

 

I’M AT THAT AGE of material gifts carrying minimal importance. All I want is time with those I love most.

This Christmas I received my most desired gift—having all three of my grown children back home in Minnesota. They arrived here from greater Boston, northeastern Wisconsin and as close as an hour away.

It was our first time together since June 2015. We hugged and laughed and ate too much food and delighted in our first Christmas with nearly nine-month-old baby Isabelle. Babies bring such joy in to a family.

 

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I was a happy mama, a happy grandma. Two friends remarked after Christmas Eve worship services that I looked so happy with my sweet granddaughter in my arms. I was.

Now, two days later, the family is gone with the exception of the son who will be here for awhile yet. Last night, after I’d just snuggled under the covers, he came into my bedroom, bent over and kissed my cheek ever so gently. I could have cried at the tenderness of that kiss, at the overwhelming love I felt for my boy in that moment. For my family.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My Christmas wish for you December 24, 2016

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One of my children (probably my second daughter, Miranda) drew this baby Jesus on a card decades ago. I display that card each Christmas as a reminder of the reason I celebrate Christmas and as a reminder of how very much I love my three children.

One of my children (probably my second daughter, Miranda) drew this baby Jesus decades ago. I display this card, which also includes Mary and Joseph, each Christmas. It’s a reminder of the reason I celebrate Christmas and a reminder of how very much I love my three children. They each signed the card. It’s a treasure.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

MY DEAR READERS, I wish for you this Christmas the blessings of peace and happiness.

Wherever you are this weekend and with whomever, may you experience joy. Appreciate others. Hold close those you love most. Be thankful for them.

Realize that everything and everyone will not be perfect. So laugh instead of stressing. You’ll feel better.

Relax and delight in the moments—the hug of a son come home, the sweet scent of a baby on her first Christmas, the gathering of family at worship services and around your table.

These are the moments that matter. Merry Christmas!

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Two found dead at Faribault Chamber December 23, 2016

UPDATE, 6:55 p.m. Friday: Faribault police have identified the two individuals found shot to death as Richard “Dick” Larson, 61, and his ex-wife, Barbara Larson, 59. Richard Larson apparently shot Barbara and then himself. Richard Larson was a retired Faribault police officer. I remember him. A harassment restraining order was served on him earlier this week.

Their identity does not surprise me as I quickly connected the dots.

About a week ago, Barb Larson was interviewed by local KDHL radio station personality Gordy Kosfeld about Chamber activities. You can view that interview by clicking here.

I am deeply saddened by this act of domestic violence. A restraining order is no guarantee of protection. Something has to change.

WE ARE A COMMUNITY SHAKEN.

This afternoon, a man and a woman were found dead behind a desk at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office in an apparent murder-suicide, according to police.

I am still trying to comprehend this violent tragedy, the second such in just 12 days. On December 11, a 33-year-old man and an 8-year-old girl died of gunshot wounds in a murder-suicide in a residential neighborhood of Faribault.

At this point, just hours after the bodies were found, information is limited to early media reports and a news release from the Faribault Police Department. That release states officers found a firearm at the scene and that the public is not at risk.

Additionally, the release states that “No other Chamber employees were present or injured.” That leads me to conclude that at least one of the deceased is a Chamber employee.  With a population of around 23,000, Faribault is a small enough city that our Chamber/tourism people are highly-visible and well-known.

I listened to a police audio on mnpoliceclips.com, which suggests the possible identities of the deceased.

I am sad, just incredibly sad. I have no other words than to advise all of you to hold close those you love.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Beyond simply a Nativity scene

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AT FIRST GLANCE, this Nativity scene appears standard. You’ve got your Holy Family, the three wisemen, the shepherds and the animals all corralled inside a stable.

 

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But, if you look closer, you notice ears of corn placed before the animals on the bed of straw. I’ve never seen that before in a Nativity. Details matter. Details impress. Details make this particular Nativity, which for decades of Christmases has stood in my community of Faribault, memorable.

Why?

 

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To me, that corn symbolizes the basic human needs we each have for food, clothing and shelter. Most of us have those life necessities. Some don’t. I am grateful to the many loving and giving individuals, businesses, charities and organizations that this holiday season will gift others with food, clothing and, yes, even shelter. Thank you.

 

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Then there are needs that extend beyond the physical to emotional. We can help others by simply caring, by reaching out, by listening. I have friends who are grieving, friends who are ill, friends who have lost their jobs (including a family of seven), friends who are struggling with other difficulties. It’s tough sometimes to know what to say, how to best help. But if I remain silent, then I am doing nothing. So I encourage, ask questions, show I care simply by the time I take to show I care. Could I do more? Probably.

As hard as life is sometimes, there’s always help. There’s always hope. There’s always someone reaching inside their storehouses of grain to offer ears of corn.

 

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We are blessed. I am blessed.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling