Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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

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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

 

Heartfelt February 11, 2019

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IT’S A SIMPLE FABRIC HEART. Puffed with stuffing. Hand-stitched with red thread. The words I Love You printed with red paint.

I could have trashed the heart years after the son crafted it for me in elementary school. But there are some things you keep. Things that remind you of the sweet love of a child, of a heartfelt gift lovingly made for a mother.

This heart reminds me that love threads through our lives—in memories, in moments, in the art of living.

Remember that on Valentine’s Day and always. You are loved.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

February family birthdays February 8, 2019

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One of my all-time favorite photos of my son at age 5. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FEBRUARY 9 AND 10 HOLD importance for me. They are the dates two of my three children, now all adults, were born. The daughter arrived first, a second daughter 21 months later in November and then the son on February 9, the day before his oldest sister’s eighth birthday.

Yes, I was a busy mom. There never seemed to be time for myself or enough time in a day. Something always needed doing. Someone always needed help or attention. I’m not complaining, just telling it like it was.

I miss those days. I miss my kids. But I did my job, as best I could, raising them to be independent adults. The daughter is married, a busy mother of two, including a newborn. I love watching her with her daughter and son. She’s attentive, loving, caring and just a really good mom.

 

My eldest daughter at three months old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Sometimes when I look at my granddaughter, I glimpse Amber at the same age. There’s a certain way Izzy will act or a profile I’ll catch or a look I’ll see that makes me think for a moment that I’m watching my eldest daughter. What a gift to experience that timeless moment.

With my son, who lives way too far away from Minnesota in Boston, I remember most the moment he arrived home from school. Nearly daily Caleb asked for a hug. He didn’t need to ask. I would have given him one. But to hear his sweet request, oh, what joy that brought this mama. I miss his hugs. Whenever he’s back for a visit, I grab all the hugs I can to hold emotionally close in his absence.

There will be lots of hugs in the next few days as Caleb flies in for a short visit, totally unexpected. It will be the first time since 2012 that we’ve been together on his birthday. I’m excited.

Because of distance and/or busyness of life, I seldom celebrate my kids’ birthdays with them. It just is not possible. But that doesn’t change how I feel about their birthdays. Their births opened my heart to a love that is intuitive and deep and unconditional—a mother’s love.

Happy birthday, Amber and Caleb! I love you both always. And I look forward to celebrating with both of you this weekend. My mama’s heart is happy.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Even though stamps cost more, I’ll continue mailing cards February 7, 2019

 

IF ONLY I’D KNOWN. If only she’d informed me of the price increase when she asked whether I wanted more than one sheet of postage stamps. “Nope, just one,” I said and pulled out my debit card.

I had no idea that the cost of postage stamps was rising by 10 percent the very next day, from 50 cents per first class forever stamp to 55 cents.

I suppose it’s my fault for not being on top of things. But she, the U.S. postal clerk, could have told me when I bought stamps that Saturday morning at my local post office. Had I known, I would have purchased more than 20 stamps. I like to save money when given the opportunity.

Not that I would have bought a stack of postage stamp sheets. But, given all the birthday and Valentine’s Day cards I mail in February, I certainly would have purchased more to save more money.

Sigh. Live and learn.

The increased cost of mailing cards won’t stop me from sending them. I consider greeting cards an important way to communicate care and more. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciated the get well cards I received while recovering from two broken bones in recent years. Never underestimate the power of a greeting card to encourage and uplift others.

I like also to write personal thank you notes. We don’t do that often enough in this high tech world—put pen to paper and hand-write gratitude.

And birthday cards…I still send them even though I seldom get them anymore. It saddens me that most people are seemingly too busy to choose, sign, address and mail birthday cards. A text message or email just is not the same. To slice open an envelope, pull out a greeting card, read and re-read a hand-signed message brings me joy.

Yes, being a writer (including of greeting card verses for Warner Press) likely contributes to my fondness for cards. I’ll give you that. I understand the value of the written word.

How about you? Do you still send greeting cards? If not, why not?

Or what are your thoughts on that 10 percent increase in first class postage stamp rates?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling