Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finding creative ways to deal with our “new normal” March 20, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A message on the now closed Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault reminds us that we are in unprecedented times.


ALTHOUGH I EXPECTED IT, the news still felt like a punch to the gut. My county of Rice now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19. I feel more unsettled. Like the bubble of protection has popped. Not that we in this region south of the Twin Cities metro ever were in a bubble. But, as the saying goes, until it hits home…

Media reports say the case is related to international travel.


A snippet of the cancellations, restrictions and closings published in the Faribault Daily News.


We’re all on a journey right now, traveling to unexpected places as each day, even hourly, we go down new roads. Schools closed. Then libraries. Next, bars and restaurants and other gathering spots. Churches, hair salons, clinics, government offices… The list grows daily. Events canceled.


From an obituary published in my local newspaper days ago, prior to the 10-person gathering limit.


Among the most difficult of those challenges is grieving the loss of loved ones without a traditional public funeral service.

So how are we coping? How are we managing this new normal? I’d like to hear from you. Your ideas. Your stories. Your creative ways of helping others, of staying connected when you can’t be together. How are you keeping it all together personally? For yourself and your family.

I’ll open the conversation. Yesterday a sister-in-law emailed the extended Helbling family (of which there are around 60 spread across multiple states) and asked for updates. Responses started coming in from my nieces, in-laws and my own immediate family. Just to hear how everyone is doing at this time, during this global pandemic, helped reassure me. I didn’t realize until that moment how much I needed to hear from those I love.

Many are now working from home. There are concerns for those employed in retail. Some, like my second daughter and her husband, are now without work. Kids are home from school and parents are scrambling to keep them busy. At my niece’s home in Apple Valley, Dad now hosts a daily story time with the neighbors. They gather outdoors, with a minimum social distancing of six feet, for 30-40 minutes of reading. They’ve started with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is in Minnesota, remember. But they’re making it work. On good weather days.


This sign hangs outside the NAPA, Northfield, Auto Parts Store. Photo by my wonderful husband and NAPA’s automotive machinist, Randy.


At my husband’s workplace, NAPA Auto Parts in Northfield, the business now offers curbside pick-up as an option to customers.

In my home office, I’ve been hard at work on a new series of blog posts scheduled to roll out Sunday on Warner Press. The weekly posts will feature selected bible verses, sometimes paired with personal insights, with the goal of offering hope, comfort, peace and encouragement.


From the Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Facebook page. Such uplifting Scripture is being posted daily.


I’m also editing and proofing devotionals posting daily on the Trinity Radio and Video website. My faith family is working hard to connect in a time when our church doors are closed.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary creativity. They call for each of us to care, to connect, to extend kindness and love. We may not like where we’re at now, limited in our abilities to live life as we knew it pre-COVID-19. But we need to make the best of it. And when we share ideas, like I’m asking you to do here, we are all the better for having pooled our creativity.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


25 Responses to “Finding creative ways to deal with our “new normal””

  1. Brenda B Says:

    Hi Audrey! I love waking up and reading your posts about “back home!” Thank you!

    Our school district here in Connecticut was approved for remote learning right away, so we began homeschool on Tuesday, ready or not…want to or not. It’s been a tough week, mostly due to heated squabbles because I’m putting a hand into what they just want to do themselves (and would rather do with their teacher and classmates.) As soon as school is finished though, we get outside and walk nature trails and when we get back, everyone is happy, enjoying activities of choice and eating good home cooked meals.

    Last night I told the kids we need to finish the week in good fashion, which they didn’t understand was not meant literally. But they decided we will have Fancy Day today! We are all dressing up, we will make fancy foods in our fancy dishes and maybe we will even bring out a tablecloth and candles for dinner tonight! Whatever it takes to help everyone keep their spirits up! I can’t wait!

    • Brenda, it’s great to hear from you. I miss seeing your occasionally out and about.

      I absolutely love your Fancy Day idea. Thank you for sharing that with all of us. Enjoy your special day of fanciness.

    • Those walks in the morning before the start of studying will maybe help everyone adjust. Then another one half way through. It starts the creative mind into a peaceful mode of accepting the new day of tasks and routine. Love – Fancy Day!!! I want to do that with the Hubby!

  2. I, like you, needed to hear from all the family and so I have been in contact with the nieces and nephews as well as our own kids and their wives. Checking in with my mom’s nursing home has been so important. I have been checking on neighbors and trying to just stay positive and be smart. Chris and I have taken nice walks around our lake to get out of the house and I took a really great walk with my friend at our track while keeping safe distance. Our neighborhood has started a little chat on Next Door and everyone is offering to run errands, get medicine, etc. so we are so fortunate to be able to still be going. WE are not at the level of lock down that you guys are but people seem to be taking it seriously and doing the right thing. This will pass and hopefully sooner rather than later.

  3. Kevin Kreger Says:

    I watch the DNR eaglecam at: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/webcams/eaglecam/index.html
    Also enjoyed your article about Luke Simonson at: https://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_317723b4-63d7-56d1-b9fc-2bb5cf4d4017.html
    Many of us read your posts here without replying often, but rest assured that you are appreciated.

    • Kevin, thanks for passing along that eaglecam idea. Anything to divert our minds and attention, right?

      I appreciate your kind words about this blog and about my story on Luke. I originally wrote that for Southern Minn Scene magazine, April issue, out on newsstands soon and also eventually online.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    It’s wonderful to hear about thoughts and deeds of others right now. FD goes to work each day and works on helping the electrical industry deal with the virus which is not unlike so many other large service companies. I am baking for the tax office as I usually do this time of year, and I’ve been coordinating orders for eggs – trying to keep as many people with eggs as we can! I’m also baking for some of FD’s co-workers who have children and grandchildren at home. The weather has been blustery, wet, and cold again, but warm days are on the horizon and I’ll be thinking about gardening soon (I already have some seeds in). Yesterday I walked to the slough to get in a little “me” time to revel in nature and watch a few ducks and one Canadian goose. Tukker the deer came to follow me a bit, then disappeared as he’s been doing lately. The vultures have returned for their spring roundup with more than fifty gathered so far, and there will be at least that many more to join them. I move through the days praying for others and keeping positive.

    • Lori, thank you for all you are doing for friends, neighbors, FD’s co-workers and more. What a blessing you are in more ways than I can list. I join you in those daily prayers of praying for others.

      Getting out in nature as you do also calms anxious thoughts. Be well, my friend.

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I’ve been mourning all the cancellations of readings and book launches, etc., so decided to help in a small way by offering to promote new books from smaller presses by using my blog, One Minnesota Writer. I’ve been reaching out to writers on Facebook to get this idea going. And I see I’m not the only one offering my own site for the writing community, which reaffirms the generosity I already knew was there. The first post will be on March 25 at oneminnesotawriter.com. Working on that keeps me from dwelling too much on any fear that floating around in my head. I check in with my kids via text most days. I’m going to Skype with a friend whose novel draft I’ve been reading this week; we were supposed to go to breakfast, but now we’ll do it virutally and make our own damn coffee! 🙂 I’m pleased that the grocery stores around here are offering an hour when they first open for the elderly and people with underlying health issues so they can get groceries with a little less fear. A daily walk outside is a must for my own mental health. Having a dog means I’m not going to be allowed to stay inside and wallow.

    • Kathleen, thanks for sharing all the things you’re doing to help others and to keep yourself healthy.

      I’m way behind on reading blogs. Hopefully I can catch up soon. Lots of extra writing projects right now that need my attention.

  6. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Once Trinity decided,they streamed good. Your talent contributions and support will be important. None of our brains and hearts are enough to do this alone. Thanks to hymnary.org having LSB hymns, I could follow along. LCMS has a web site index which indicates that between 1941 book I was confirmed in ’57 with and now, there’s been 7 revisions. I expect to use some of this time in hymn study. I watched 5 services last weekend, multiple worship models, expect to pick up another from CO this weekend. The inspirational messages coming from all over will be key to faith life health at the end of this mess. The Berlin Symphony, our own SPCO, the Louvre and every library in the world have opened up free. Just trying to determine how much I can afford to support a lot more than I have in the past. Non-profits, free food, creative parents and teachers…we will get through this. My feeling is our summer is gone, spring for sure. Nothing magic about the 2 wks. Nice April weather,getting outside, sure couldn’t hurt. The stores and roads are getting a bit spooky. Sam’s finally had milk again, but no bread. No place to go, now we get low gas prices.Keep up the good work!

  7. Wow! What a week! Our house is like a hospital surgery pre op each day when the Hubby walks in the door. With military timing and coordination. Then we recant our crazy day of looking for food and moving logistics all over the world. In our case it is making sure family and friends are reunited before all boarders are closed. Almost 24/7 operations for the Hubby who is moving planes and personal out of 5 countries and then they were hired to repatriate thousands of Dutch out of Morocco.
    So I have been self titled the Home Front Logistics Officer. I go out once a day on the bike and hit one store each day for goods we need. Sometimes I bike to the next town or to the local farmers and get supplies that are running low in the stores. We know times will get worse, we both have seen and heard the signs and have prepared for it. When things get really bad we have all our contacts ready to help provide and teach those who are less resourceful or haven’t thought outside the box for years being tied to electronic devices. Local farmers could really benefit from your support right now. That is what we are doing here. We are thinking of all of our friends and families worldwide who are dealing with these unusual issues. I have tons of related experiences but like most of you never have seen it this bad on a global scale. Be strong, help each other, and stay safe but not afraid. Be kind and loving it will get us through this. Love and prayers from The Netherlands.

    • I want both of you on my team. You’re smart, prepared, kind, loving…

      Thank you, Paula, for taking the time to share all that is happening in your life and your love and prayers from The Netherlands.

      • Audrey- that is such a warm and kind thing to say. BTW- I think of you already as a team mate as a fellow blogger. I wish I had more time to blog but we are so busy getting things done while the weather is nice that I haven’t time. Hopefully the next few days once the hubby is back at work moving airplanes. Days consist of looking for food sources, gardening, preparation for what is next.
        Prayers are needed for my kids stuck in the states without family close by, my daughter in law works for a large hospital in St Louis. Her message this morning “Hard as Hell”.

      • You’re right, we are a team. And thank you saying that.

        Prayers for your kids (and their families) and all those families who are separated from loved ones. To your daughter-in-law in that large St. Louis hospital, I express my gratitude. Thank you.

      • Audrey- heartfelt thanks. Can you also pray for TP for my youngest son who ran out and now can’t purchase any? I think God gave him a funny solution just to make me laugh. I can’t share that with your blog audience but I think maybe he deserves at least one roll of toilet paper heaven sent. 😊❤️

      • My imagination is running with this. My daughter in Madison, Wisconsin, reports toilet paper at a grocery store there. I can’t share the business name with my blog audience, however, for fear of a stampede to that grocery store.

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