Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winterfest, Take Two December 10, 2018

Source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page

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Shattuck-St. Mary’s invites you to celebrate the holiday season December 7, 2018

An arch frames the entrance to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School Upper Campus in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHEN SHATTUCK-ST. MARY’S SCHOOL opens its doors for an annual Campus Christmas Walk each December, you can bet I am typically there to take in the festivities. It’s an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit and to tour this historic college prep school that seems more old school East Coast than Midwest.

 

The decorated entry of Shumway Hall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Set on Faribault’s east side, this school is known for its rigorous academics and its stellar hockey program. But I appreciate Shattuck also for its historic architecture. When decorated for the Christmas season, the setting is particularly stunning.

 

Skaters following a past holiday figure skating show. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Campus Christmas Walk activities, which are free, begin with a Holiday Figure Skating Show at noon on Saturday, December 8, in the J.P. Parise Arena. (Yes, that J.P. Parise, former NHL player and director of hockey/coach at Shattuck.) The skill of the young figure skaters always impresses. This year they will perform a “Chronicles of Narnia” theme.

 

Cookie decorating during a past Campus Christmas Walk. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Following that show, Walk guests can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies (decorate your own if you wish) and cookie ornament making in the Morgan Refectory from 1-3 p.m. Santa will be there at the same time in the Morgan Gallery. This is definitely a family-friendly event.

 

Shumway Hall on the Shattuck campus, decorated for the Campus Christmas Walk. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

 

Horse-drawn sleigh rides are available from 1-3 p.m. outside Shumway Hall. That’s the hall with the signature clock tower.

Additionally, the school store is open from 1-2 p.m. and Beau Chant Choral rehearses in beautiful Newhall Auditorium at 2 p.m. Go ahead and listen.

 

Ornate stairway just outside the dining hall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If you’ve never been to this event on the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Upper School Campus, I’d encourage you to attend. Every time I step onto that campus, I feel like I’m in another place, in another time. And during the holiday season, this historic campus is even more enchanting.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Let’s be there for one another December 6, 2018

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING for others this holiday season? How are you connecting, offering support, comfort and care, and bringing joy and hope to others? I’m talking outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

Today, more than ever, we need to care about one another in a world that seems increasingly self-centered, mean and hostile.

We have the power individually and collectively to make a difference, to counter the negativity, to do something good. Not for ourselves. But for others. Especially during the holiday season.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For example, each December for the past several, I’ve rung bells for the Salvation Army. It’s uncomfortable standing outside in the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. But it’s only for two hours and I can step inside Walmart to warm my hands under the bathroom hand dryer when my fingers feel numb. This is not about my comfort, though. Rather this is about greeting people with warmth and accepting donations from those wanting to help others.

And there are plenty of generous souls. This year a woman stopped, pushed coins into the kettle slot and told me she knew what it was like to go through rough times. And then there was the young mom who parceled coins into her toddler son’s hand to drop into the kettle. Except he returned each coin to her and then watched her drop the pennies, the quarters, the…into the bucket. What a valuable lesson she taught him. I especially appreciate those young parents who model giving.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Not everyone can give financially. I get that. But we can give of our time. On Sunday afternoon my bible study group gathered to wrap gifts as part of our Angel Tree Project. We’ve done this for years, ending our wrapping marathon with a soups and salads dinner together. I am always amazed at the generosity of people who pull some 75 paper angels from a Christmas tree at our church and then purchase gifts for those less fortunate. One young boy asked for a tacklebox (he’s getting it). I found that especially refreshing in a time when most kids would rather stay indoors with their tech toys. Typically I don’t like wrapping presents. But doing this with friends is fun and fosters a sense of togetherness in a shared mission.

I also helped pack boxes for our military men and women overseas and filled bags for local veterans. As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, I can only imagine how much my dad would have appreciated such a gift. Through that volunteerism I indirectly honored my dad.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

There are endless ways we can help one another. It doesn’t take much effort to find a cause that fits your interests and your talents. Or simply reach out on your own to uplift someone. Send a card. Make a phone call. Give a hug. Mentor a child. Open a door. Smile.

It’s within our power to make this world a better place, to show we really do care about others through our positive words and actions.

TELL ME: How do you help others?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Vindicated December 5, 2018

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A selfie taken this fall after going splint-free following months of recovery from a broken left wrist. Now I have even more reason to smile. Read on. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2018.

 

TYPICALLY I AM NOT SOMEONE who says, “I told you so.” I don’t rub it in when someone is wrong. Rather, I pinch my lips, lock the words inside my mouth but think them in my head. That’s a skill learned from many years of parenting and living.

But this time I need to speak up and claim vindication.

 

This is a photo snapped with a cellphone of the implant in my wrist, held in place by 10 screws. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

Let’s backtrack. When I slipped on rain-slicked wooden steps in mid-June and fractured my left wrist badly enough to require surgery and implantation of a titanium plate, I heard too many insensitive comments. Topping those was the accusation that my husband pushed me, followed by laughter. I did not hold my words inside. There is absolutely nothing humorous about domestic violence. Nothing. Ever.

 

Me, several hours after surgery on my wrist in late June. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2018.

 

The second most common comment involved the strength of my bones. “You must have weak bones,” I heard way too often with the footnote that I needed to consume more milk. As if I couldn’t possibly have broken my wrist by simply falling the way I fell, left hand outstretched to break my fall.

Now I am vindicated. By a Bone Mineral Density Test (DEXA scan). Results show I have mild thinning of my bones with a low fracture risk. Pretty good for a post-menopausal woman in her early 60s.

 

This is a photo of an x-ray of my broken right shoulder. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.

 

I’m not surprised by my good test results. I grew up on a dairy farm and have always consumed plenty of dairy products. I lift weights. And I fell in such a way that anyone—strong bones or not—would have suffered a fracture. And, yes, that includes my May 2017 fall on a hospital stairway in which I slammed shoulder first onto a concrete floor. I defy anyone not to break a bone when propelling into a surface like that. I’m thankful I didn’t hit my head, resulting in a concussion and/or broken neck.

 

A snippet of the informational sheet I received from my insurer.

 

Because of two bone breaks within a year, my ortho doctor suggested the bone density test. I didn’t object. My insurance company also sent an educational sheet about osteoporosis with the recommendation of a DEXA scan. Sure, I thought, why not? I’d already met my $3,600 deductible and am paying $1,000/month in health insurance premiums. Let the insurance company pay for the test (which is really me paying given the $15,600 paid from my pocket to the insurer and healthcare facilities in 2018).

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

So there you go. I’ll continue to take my Vitamin D and add a calcium supplement, per my primary care doctor’s instructions. He also noted that I should follow up with another bone density test in seven years. Seven years. Does that sound like a woman with weak bones?

TELL ME: Have you ever fallen? Have you ever fallen and broken a bone? Let’s hear your stories.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Surprise (not): Another increase in health insurance premiums… December 4, 2018

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A graphic illustrating options to consider. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A DAY BEFORE THE MID-TERM ELECTION, my husband came home from work with our health insurance rates for 2019. I thought perhaps those rates would hold steady, maybe even drop a bit. I’d read all about premiums decreasing here in Minnesota in the new year.

But, surprise, our rates are rising. From $1,000/month to $1,069/month. For each of us. Do the math. Times two, our new monthly premiums total $2,138. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

Randy’s employer pays half ($534) his individual premium, which helps. But still, could you afford $1,603 in monthly premiums? That’s a lot of money. Money that we can’t save for retirement. Money that we can’t put toward replacement of our aging vehicles. Money that we can’t put toward a much-needed update of our 1970s vintage kitchen. Money that we can’t use for a vacation. Money that’s not going into the general economy, but rather to one place—the health insurance company.

The unbelievably high cost of health insurance for couples like us only years from retirement is a major financial burden. We’ve done all the right things. Spent our money wisely. Lived modestly. Invested and saved for retirement. Never purchased a new vehicle. Limited vacations to day trips or several days in Minnesota and neighboring states, with the exception of a road trip to Boston two years ago to see our son graduate from college.

I never thought that at this stage of our lives, we would be in this burdensome financial position. That Randy works for a small business and that I am self-employed places us in a difficult spot. Once insured through the individual market, I can no longer afford those even higher premiums. I don’t know if our premiums are so outrageously high simply because of our age or also because we are covered through a small business group pool of perhaps a half-dozen insured.

We can’t risk going without insurance. And, yes, I am aware of faith-based health cost sharing plans. I’ll revisit that option, which would mean switching doctors and seeking medical care outside my community and agreeing to some restrictions on coverage (such as on pre-existing conditions for a designated period and more). I’m perfectly happy with the excellent care I’ve gotten locally. I’d like to stay with the medical providers I know, like and trust.

But now that we will be paying another $103/month in premiums with individual deductibles that are increasing from $3,600/month to $4,000/month, all options are on the table. After all, there’s a lot of money at stake here. To be precise, $19,239 in premiums plus $8,000 in deductibles before insurance pays. Crazy, isn’t it? That’s over $27,000. We can’t afford to use our unaffordable health insurance.

Politicians, I’m waiting on you now to fulfill all your campaigns promises of affordable health insurance and healthcare. Oh, yeah, I’ve heard that before, same old same old…

THOUGHTS?

CLICK HERE to read a related story on health insurance costs.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One mother’s remarkable love December 3, 2018

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

HER WORDS LEFT ME near tears. They are words of a mother who loves her 22-year-old daughter beyond measure.

She wishes, she told me, that she could trade places with Brittany*, that she would be the one battling ovarian cancer. Not her girl.

I saw the pain in Ellen’s* eyes, heard it during our brief exchange outside Walmart as I rang bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning. Ellen and I are acquaintances, two of our children once classmates. I haven’t seen her in years, thus greeted her with “How are you?”

When Ellen looked away and responded with a subdued OK, I picked up immediately that she was not alright. So I asked. And then she told me about the discovery of a large tumor on one of Brittany’s ovaries, the eight months getting care at a metro hospital, the seemingly successful treatment…until abnormal blood work results last week.

I reached out and hugged her.

We didn’t talk stages or treatment or about other medical details. I focused instead on how Ellen was coping, knowing how difficult this must be for her. How it would be for any mother. As moms we want to make everything better for our children, no matter their ages. Ellen didn’t disagree. But her response went beyond that. “I wish I was the one with cancer,” she said.

For the second time, I instinctively wrapped her in a hug.

Ellen spoke with the authenticity of a mother who’d thought often about her desire to trade places, to be the one fighting cancer. I admire the strength of her love for Brittany.

During the two hours I greeted folks while ringing bells, my time with Ellen proved an emotionally pivotal moment. I’d seen so much of humanity. Smiling faces. Scowling faces. Faces that exuded joy. Faces that showed nothing but despair. Mouths that spoke gratitude. Mouths that complained (about the winter storm—”It’s too early for this s**t”). I thought I’d heard it all. But I hadn’t until I heard the profound words of love from an incredible mother—”I wish I was the one with cancer.”

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

*Not their real names.

 

Winter postpones Winterfest December 1, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:18 PM
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TODAY’S WINTER STORM, which just arrived in Faribault within the past half hour, caused today’s Winterfest to be postponed. Oh, the irony. But a smart move on behalf of event organizer, Faribault Main Street.

This statement posted an hour ago on the Main Street Facebook page:

After consulting with law-enforcement and the fire department we have made the decision to postpone tonight‘s events. Most concerning is the forecast for high winds after several inches of snow. Staff and committee members will determine the best make up date on Monday and make an announcement Monday afternoon. Please be safe and thank you for supporting Winterfest effort’s! 
Sincerely, 
Nort Johnson

A Winter Storm Warning is currently in effect until noon Sunday for my county of Rice and other areas of southern Minnesota with 5-9 inches of snow and 40 mph winds forecast. That wind is wicked cold. I stood outside Walmart for two hours this morning ringing bells for the Salvation Army and felt that bitter wind. And now with snow falling at an incredibly rapid rate, conditions will deteriorate quickly. Stay safe. Stay home. And watch here for info on the rescheduled Winterfest postponed by Old Man Winter.

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling