Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Focusing on gratitude from family to creativity November 23, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A reason to feel grateful, hung on a Gratitude Tree outside the Northfield Public Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2019)

EVEN IN A DECIDEDLY DIFFICULT YEAR, as 2022 has been for me, many reasons exist to feel grateful. I fully realized that upon putting pen to paper to compile a gratitude list during this, Thanksgiving week.

Me with my mom. Oh, how I miss her. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2020 by Randy Helbling)

The year started with the death of my mom on January 13, during the height of Omicron. It was, undeniably, a challenging time to lose her, not that any time is easy. But COVID compounded the situation, affecting my grief process. Memories from her funeral will always be really hard for me. Ten months later, my focus is one of thankfulness for my mom. She instilled in me care, compassion, kindness…and left a legacy of faith. What a gift. I will also forever feel grateful to the staff at Parkview, who so lovingly cared for Mom for many years like she was family. I am thankful, too, to the many friends who sent comforting sympathy cards and memorials and to my friend Kathleen, who created a memory book honoring my mom.

Wedding guests toss rice at Randy and me as we exit St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta following our May 15, 1982, wedding. (Photo credit: Williams Studio in Redwood Falls)

May brought a milestone wedding anniversary for Randy and me. Forty years. I don’t recall how we celebrated, but nothing splashy. I feel thankfulness every day for this man who loves me unconditionally, supports me and still makes me laugh.

Randy and our grandchildren, Isabelle and Isaac, follow the pine-edged driveway at the lake cabin in one of my all-time favorite family images. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2020)

My immediate family means everything to me. That my two young grandchildren live only 35 minutes away is not something I ever take for granted. From celebrating birthdays and holidays to picking strawberries and apples together to overnights at our house to being there in a crisis, this grandma is grateful for the geographic nearness. There’s nothing like the joy I hold in being a grandmother. The hugs. The snuggles. Reading books. Baking together. Getting down on the floor to play. Scooping the almost four-year-old off the floor and into my arms, little lips pressing a moist kiss upon my cheek.

Twice this year I also embraced dear uncles and an aunt whom I haven’t seen in awhile. I hosted Aunt Rachel and Uncle Bob, visiting from Missouri, for lunch. And I met Uncle John and his son Justin and family for lunch in Northfield. Oh, goodness, the happiness I felt in those hugs from extended family I love dearly.

Flying into Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2015)

Soon my son, who lives in Indiana, will be back for a short Christmas stay. I cannot wait. I haven’t seen Caleb in a year and I miss him so much at times that it almost hurts. But before then, my second daughter and her husband arrive from Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate Thanksgiving in Minnesota. You bet I feel grateful for the time we will have together. I miss my girl.

Randy and Isabelle on the dock at the lake cabin. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

As I write this thanksgiving list, I realize that most gratitude centers on family. That includes time together at a lake cabin owned by a sister-in-law and brother-in-law who open their guest cabin to extended family. Their sharing of this blessing shows such love and generosity of spirit and I feel forever grateful for this place to escape, to enjoy nature, to rest and relax, to rejuvenate, to make memories.

Following a gravel road in Rice County, near Dundas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo autumn 2022)

I am thankful also for (in no particular order), country drives with Randy; gathering around a bonfire with friends; writers and journalists and poets and artists; vaccines; medical professionals who provided emergency and extended care this year for those dearest to me; democracy…

My two poems, far left, and center, in an exhibit at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2022)

Lastly, I am grateful for my creative abilities. To write and photograph bring me incredible joy, and some side income. I appreciate that my creative work is valued, published. My creativity came full circle this autumn when I traveled back to my native southwestern Minnesota to view an exhibit, “Making Lyon County Home,” at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum in Marshall. Two of my poems, “Ode to My Farm Wife Mother” and “Hope of a Farmer,” are posted in the exhibit along with a four-generation family photo and my mom’s high school graduation portrait. After touring that exhibit, I visited Mom’s grave site in my hometown. I stood there atop the hillside cemetery surrounded by corn and soybean fields under a spacious prairie sky feeling overwhelmed by sadness, yet grateful for the love we shared.

TELL ME: What are you especially grateful for this Thanksgiving? I welcome specifics, especially.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Focusing on gratitude from family to creativity”

  1. beth Says:

    even though it has been an incredibly challenging year for you, you have managed to find the gratitude in what really matters to you. all of the important things are clearly in place. as a reader and viewer of your work, I have to say that I’m thankful that you have been able to continue expressing yourself creatively and sharing it with others. personally, I am so grateful to have my 3 daughters, their husbands, and my grandchildren all living close to me, at various points in life, this has not been the case. I also feel grateful to have the honor of working with young children in a pursuit that never feels like work even on the hardest day. I am grateful for living in a city that feels like home, near the woods, the water, and the town full of creative and diverse people. I feel grateful to have had love in my life, and while I’m not involved with anyone at this time, I’m grateful to know I will have another chance when the time is right.

    • What a wonderful list of reasons to feel grateful. It’s evident from this comment and your blog posts that you also have the most important things clearly in place. Happy Thanksgiving, dear Beth, to you and those you love! And thank you for the gift of your writing.

  2. What a lovely list, Audrey. This is a good thing to do, to really be in the present, to deliberately think of the things in life we’re thankful for. I don’t think that most of us do this enough.
    More than anything, I am grateful for my loved ones, for those connected to me by blood and those that are not. ❤ ❤

  3. I am grateful for my family most of all, my adventure partner, friends, health, having a home, great job, etc. We recently seen family that we have not seen since the pandemic. I did the math in my head recently and scattered in 7 States within the U.S. as well as family in Canada and Germany. BroCraves is hopefully coming for a visit for the Christmas Holiday – he needs to be with us after losing his wife. Oh So Grateful & Thankful – Blessed Beyond Measure!!! Happy Thanksgiving – Happy Family Time My Friend – Enjoy 🙂

  4. That my oldest son and daughter-in-law finally have their first home! That I have an understanding and supportive Hubby. For a visit from my best friend from Northern Minnesota to my home here in the Netherlands this past year for a much too short visit. For my health, even though I have several issues it can always (and sometimes has been) worse. For all my blog friends who bring me joy and entertainment through their blogs!❤️😊

  5. Valerie Says:

    Lovely Post Audrey. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I am always thankful for the close proximity of my family, I too will never take that for granted. Like you and Randy…Rick and I celebrated our 40th anniversary, and like you Audrey I lost a parent, my dad. We have a lot in common, I appreciate our “Cyber connection” through blogging, emails and instant messaging. I am thankful for you my friend.

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