Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

More than just a riddle February 20, 2019

DO KIDS STILL appreciate riddles?

When I was a kid, I loved them. Some riddles were stupid. Others silly. Many challenged me. Whichever, riddles usually made me laugh.

 

 

So when I saw one of my favorite childhood riddles posted in a newspaper stand outside the Faribault post office, I laughed, exited the van and walked across icy surfaces to photograph the posting.

Q: What’s black, white and read all over?
A: A newspaper.

I heard that riddle countless times when growing up. I liked it then, like it still, although the riddle no longer rings reality. Newspaper aren’t read all over. And that saddens me, a former journalist. Too many people no longer value newspapers. Rather, they get their news from other sources, not necessarily the most reliable sources either.

Newspapers and journalists are too often the targets of criticism, much of it unjustified. I’m not talking about the publications that call themselves newspapers, but truly are not in any sense of the word. I’m talking about legitimate “news papers” staffed by hardworking, unbiased journalists.

 

 

I value newspapers, especially community newspapers. I value the stories reporters write, yes, even the hard news. I value that newspapers keep me informed, expose me to differing viewpoints on the editorial page, alert me to happenings and issues in my community and elsewhere.

I recognize that my feelings about newspapers and journalists stand much stronger than those of most people. In my days working as a news reporter, I was attacked by individuals who disliked me quoting them or writing on an issue they’d rather not see in print. But their disdain didn’t stop me from doing my job.

We need a free press, a strong press, a press that does not cave to political or societal pressure. Our democracy depends on freedom of the press.

Q: What happens in a country without a free press?

A:

 

TELL ME: Share your thoughts or share a riddle. Please be respectful in your comments.

 

Here’s an example of a riddle my second daughter shared with the public many years ago at a roller rink:

A: How do you make a Kleenex dance?

Q: Put a little boogie in it.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Bring on the snow February 19, 2019

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Wind sculpts snow into drifts in rural Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

YOU KNOW THE MINNESOTA WINTER is getting too long when your husband says…

Maybe they canceled the snow.

(He made that comment Sunday morning upon looking out the bedroom window to, once again, see snow falling, as predicted.)

 

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, the constant plowing in of sidewalks and driveways (after Randy has already cleared them) increases his snow removal workload and is especially frustrating. This is the plowed in end of our sidewalk during a previous winter. But this photo could be from this winter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

They plowed the snow and blew it onto the sidewalk.

(He made that comment Monday morning upon looking out the bedroom window to see snow and chunks of snow/ice thrown onto the walk. He then suited up in his coveralls and boots to, once again, clear snow before leaving for work.

 

Randy begins the process of clearing snow from our driveway following past winter snowfall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I got the old Minnesota work-out this morning.

(He made that comment Monday morning upon completing snow removal duty.)

 

A huge, hard-as-rock snowdrift blocks our farm driveway in this March 1965 photo taken in rural Vesta, Minnesota. I’m standing with my mom and four of my siblings. I remember the winters of my childhood being particularly snowy.

 

This is, it seems, the long winter, the endless winter, the forever winter. More snow is forecast for Wednesday and Saturday. Minnesota will likely break the record for snowiest February ever dating back to 1962 when 26.5 inches fell in the Twin Cities during the month. The current month metro snowfall total of 22.6 inches ranks this February as the fourth snowiest ever. I foresee no difficulty breaking that. So bring it on. If we’re going to get snow, we may as well have something to brag about.

(In Faribault I’m pretty certain we’ve exceeded that record-breaking 26.5 inches as we’ve gotten more snow than the Twin Cities. I just don’t know where to find the data to back that up.)

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter photo poetry February 18, 2019

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A WINTER LANDSCAPE IN RURAL Minnesota can, at first glance, seem visually unappealing. White upon white upon white.

But then a moment happens. A curtain opens in the mind to reveal a scene that holds spectacular beauty.

Stubble pokes through snowy fields. A farm site stands isolated, yet strong, in all that winter vastness. And then, a layer of golden light slips between land and clouds.

The light. The textures. The immensity of the scene. All collide before my eyes, to create a winter photo poem. Beautiful in its complexity. Beautiful in its simplicity. Winter.

 

I photographed this scene along Interstate 35 somewhere north of Faribault around sunset Saturday.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Managing an especially cold & snowy Minnesota winter February 15, 2019

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My neighbor across the street moved and put his house on the market several months ago, but has yet to sell it. Now he’s clearing snow from two properties. If you’re looking for a house to buy in Faribault and want to be my neighbor…

 

THE SNOW KEEPS PILING up here in Minnesota in storm after storm after storm. And when snow isn’t falling, brutal cold settles in. This weather is taking its toll, physically and mentally.

 

The snow piles continue to grow in Faribault, here at a gas station along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street.

 

We long for warmth and sunshine and a day without snow removal. As snow mountains obscure vision at the ends of driveways, sidewalks and street corners, clearing the snow becomes more taxing.

 

Special snow removal equipment works on the Cedar Avenue bridge over the Minnesota River on Wednesday afternoon.

 

This snow-filled truck and snow blowing tractor creep along Interstate 35 in Burnsville Wednesday afternoon.

 

During lulls between storms, snow removal crews work to widen roadways, clear snow from bridges and shoulders.

 

Ice dams and icicles on our house.

 

And then there are those ice dams forming along rooflines. I’ve never seen anything like it, the length of some icicles extending to the ground. Randy has yet to tackle the task of shoveling snow from our house and garage roofs. He can barely keep up with clearing snow from our place and that of a neighbor after a long day of work.

 

Passersby stopped to help push my elderly neighbor’s car up her snowy driveway during a recent storm. Randy warned her of the ice underneath, but…

 

A recent commute home from Northfield took him nearly an hour rather than the usual 22 minutes due to treacherous roads in a snowstorm. As an automotive machinist, he doesn’t have the option of working from home. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.

Schools across the state closed an unprecedented number of times in past weeks.

 

On a day when highways were clear, Randy and I came upon a five-vehicle crash on Interstate 35 in Burnsville. Vehicles in ditches and endless crashes have marked this winter.

 

Any plans are tentative, based on weather and road conditions. Travel during bad winter weather and you risk going in the ditch, getting in an accident, becoming stuck in metro gridlock or stranded in a rural area. No, thanks. I’ll stay home and read a book.

 

Snow blows from the top of a semi tractor trailer Wednesday afternoon along Interstate 35 north of Faribault.

 

All of these challenges make winter sometimes difficult to navigate. But then I read something that causes me to pull my head out of the snowbank and smile. Like the story in the Faribault Daily News about local high school teacher Dave Wieber whose physics students video recorded kindergartners sledding. With the video data collected, they determine how fast the average student slides down the hill. How fun is that? I love when teachers get creative, make learning fun and exciting.

 

The scene exiting Interstate 35 into Faribault onto Minnesota State Highway 21 from the north.

 

And I love when a community celebrates winter with an event like last weekend’s Faribault Flannel Formal. Although I didn’t attend, I’ve seen enough photos to know this is exactly the type of event Minnesotans need in February. Flannel attire, music, drinks, contests, conversation. And hotdish.

 

A neighborhood near my home, along Fourth Avenue.

 

When I think about it, fun and creativity help many of us manage winter. New York state songwriter Linda Bonney Olin, in her song Praise God From Whom All Blizzards Flow, is a great example. She uses humor to write her “doxology for those blessed with wintry weather and a sense of humor.” It’s well worth your read. Click here and be thankful for shovels, gloves and plows. And the ability to still smile in this longest of winters.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day thoughts February 14, 2019

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VINTAGE VALENTINES. They can be cheesy, unconventional, interesting, stereotypical of an era. But I still like them. There’s just something about the feel of the heavy paper, the art, the words, the messages that endear me to these pieces of yesteryear.

A few years back, when my siblings and I were cleaning out my mom’s house in anticipation of her move into assisted living, I sorted through a box of cards Mom saved. The sister grabbed the collection first, so I got the left-overs. No fancy tissue pop-up valentines remaining for me. Still, I found cards that delighted me, that I pull out each February to display.

The older I get, the more treasured are memories and bits of the past. These valentines are more than pretty cards exchanged between friends and family many decades ago. These valentines represent moments in time when everyone paused for a single day to celebrate each other.

We need more days like that, when we think beyond our selfish selves and consider others. We need to remember how our words and actions affect others. Understanding, compassion and care connect and heal. Shutting others out via words and actions hurts, damages, even destroys, relationships. We need to expand our vision beyond tunnel vision to see the wider picture. It is often in our closest relationships that we fail, that we hurt, and are hurt, most deeply.

But we each hold the capacity to love, to make the right choices, to embrace each other. To do the right thing. Those are my thoughts on this Valentine’s Day 2019.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day: Beyond chocolate & roses February 13, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY. What an opportunity to show love. Beyond the romantic, this day encompasses love within families, love among friends, love within communities.

 

Red roses, a traditional Valentine’s Day expression of love. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Love. We need more of it, exhibited in kindness and compassion and care. Acts and words of love remind each of us that we are valued, that our voices are heard, our feelings matter.

 

Valentine’s Day wood cut-outs. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But how do we show that love on February 14?

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The timeless traditions of flowers, chocolates and/or dinner out always exude love. So do valentine cards. Some of my sweetest Valentine’s Day memories involve paste, paper hearts and shoe boxes with glittery hand-punched valentines slipped through slits into those boxes.

 

I have several vintage valentines from my mom’s collection and have displayed them for Valentine’s Day. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Nostalgia only lasts so long, though. It’s important to live in today, to show those we love that we genuinely care for them. Today. Now.

Last week I wrote about Valentine’s Day for Warner Press, a Christian publishing company in Indiana. I’m a blogger with Warner and recently also became blog content and strategy development coordinator. Basically, I plan, assign, write, edit and proof blog posts. I love this job, which fits my skills, talents and my faith. I love the team at Warner Press. They are incredible people who are caring, kind, appreciative, supportive and more.

I invite you to read my post, “Reflecting God’s Love as We Celebrate Valentine’s Day,” by clicking here. In my post you will find ideas that spread the love, whether you are a person of faith or not.

I welcome Valentine’s Day as a day of opportunity, a day to extend love. In words. Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. May you experience an abundance of love on February 14. And may you also share that love with others.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Baby & big sister time February 12, 2019

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My newborn grandson snuggles against his mama.

 

I NEEDED TO SEE HIM again. The newborn grandson. I’d seen him briefly at the hospital on the day of his January 6 birth and for awhile on the afternoon he arrived home.

But that minimal time wasn’t enough for Grandma. I had yet to see Isaac with his eyes open. And I needed some cuddling time with him and time, too, with his big sister, Izzy.

The solution: Offer to babysit so his sleep-deprived, exhausted parents could take a break from caring for a new baby and an active nearly three-year-old. My daughter snapped up the offer.

 

 

So on a recent Saturday Grandpa and I headed the hour north to get our grandparenting fix, uh, I mean give Amber and Marc time for a lunch date. We arrived later than we wanted because of a 5-inch snowfall the previous evening. A failed snowblower required shoveling our sidewalk and driveway and that of an elderly neighbor before we left town.

Eventually we arrived at our destination and I asked for details on diaper changing supplies and feeding if Isaac got hungry before his mama returned. Then off the parents went.

We lunched in the sun-drenched dining room while Isaac slept nearby. Everything was going great until I said how much I liked the bright sunshine. Big mistake. Izzy said she didn’t like the sun, eased off her chair and yanked at the patio curtains. “But we like the sun,” I protested. She gave me a defiant look. Don’t challenge an assertive preschooler. The curtains remained closed. You have to choose your battles and this wasn’t important enough to pursue.

 

 

Eventually Isaac awakened and I had my Grandma cuddling time and a diaper changing opportunity, for which I should have been prepared but wasn’t. I called for Grandpa back-up. Hey, I haven’t changed a newborn’s diaper in nearly three years.

Izzy also got plenty of my attention with the two of us playing on the floor with Daniel Tiger figurines and then snuggling on my lap as I read a pile of books. She and Grandpa also rolled and shaped Play Doh while I held Isaac. Oh, and between everything, I pulled out my Canon DSLR to shoot some photos. I wish I could show you all those sweet images, but they are reserved for family.

By late afternoon, Grandpa and I were driving back home with memories of the day imprinted upon our hearts. There’s nothing like time with the grandkids…

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling