Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My story: Insights learned from whooping cough April 16, 2020

 

The gravestone of Deloris Edna Emilie Bode, my aunt who died of highly-contagious whooping cough at age nine months. A great aunt, Ida, also died of pertussis at the same age. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FROM THE BLOG ARCHIVES

In the summer of 2005, when I was 48, I came down with what I initially thought was a bad cold. Turns out the horrific sore throat, followed by the equally horrific cough, was actually whooping cough. After three doctor’s visits and a misdiagnosis of bronchitis, I was correctly diagnosed with pertussis, the first case my physician had ever seen in his longtime career.

When he informed me that pertussis is also known as the 100-day cough, he was not joking. I was racked by uncontrollable fits of coughing from around July Fourth until well after Labor Day.

For me, the summer of 2005 was spent languishing on the couch, feeling like absolute crap, exhausted from lack of sleep (ever try sleeping when you are constantly coughing), utterly worn down, unable to barely function.

The worst, and I mean absolute worst, moment came when I awoke one night gasping for air, my windpipe narrowed. In retrospect, that asthmatic type attack warranted a 911 call and I now consider myself fortunate to have survived. Yes, it was that bad and necessitated another visit to the doctor for a regiment of the inflammation reducing steroid prednisone and an inhaler.

I don’t know why I experienced a particularly bad case of whooping cough. Typically the young and elderly are most harshly affected. Unvaccinated infants can even die.

Nor do I know how I got a disease I thought had vanished decades ago and which claimed the life of my Aunt Deloris in 1935 at nine months old. My doctor speculated that I could have been exposed waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store. I’ll never know.

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2020

Why do I share this experience, which I first blogged about in 2010? I reblog this because it’s a very real example of how easily I became infected with a highly-contagious bacterial disease simply by being out and about in public. To this day, I have no idea where I picked up whooping cough and then passed it along to two family members. Since then, I’ve learned that the vaccine for pertussis, a serious respiratory tract infection, wears off and re-vaccination is needed.

When I consider how ill I became from whooping cough at age 48, I can only guess how the much more serious COVID-19 might affect me 15 years later at age 63. I recognize the two differ—one is bacterial, the other viral, for example, with many other differences. But some similarities.

Having contracted pertussis via community spread illustrates and underscores the importance of social distancing, of staying at home, of recognizing how quickly and easily the highly-contagious and potentially deadly COVID-19 virus can spread.

 

WHAT I’M SEEING

I shop at the grocery store weekly because, you know, I eat. I’ve seen too many people who don’t seem to care about social distancing. I can tell right away. They hog the aisle, don’t move over, come too close. In all fairness, many people are being safe, careful and respectful and I appreciate that.

While en route to the grocery store or to a park (about the only places I go now days), I’ve observed groups of obviously unrelated people chatting, even leaning into car windows. No social distancing. I’ve seen landscapers clustered around the back of a pick-up truck.

I recognize that we live in a free country and that people will make choices that are unwise, unsafe and not in the best interests of their health. But when those decisions affect the health of the general public, it’s different. We are all aware that COVID-19 is highly-contagious, even deadly. Every single one of us ought to care because our lives, and the lives of those we love, of our friends, our neighbors and, yes, even the woman in the grocery store, depend on us caring. Whether we live in New York or Minnesota, this virus does not distinguish between rural and urban. No one is immune.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Believe me, you do not want to contract whooping cough December 5, 2012

ABOUT A YEAR AGO my second daughter, who works as a Spanish medical interpreter in northeastern Wisconsin, reported warning signs about whooping cough posted at local clinics.

I figured it wouldn’t be long before the disease, also known as pertussis, spread to Minnesota.

According to the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin and Minnesota currently are experiencing the highest year-to-date incidents of pertussis in the nation with 93.4 incidents per 100,000 people in Wisconsin and 78.1 per 100,000 in Minnesota. The national average is 11.6.

That translates into 4,174 confirmed, probable and suspect cases in Minnesota (as of November 29), according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

In Wisconsin, 5,163 cases were reported through October 31 by the Department of Health Services.

As of November 16, the CDC has received reports of 35,000 cases across the country, including 16 deaths.

Statistics are one thing, something most of us approach with the attitude of “that doesn’t affect me.”

Reality, getting the disease, is quite another.

I speak from experience.

In the summer of 2005, when I was 48, I came down with what I initially thought was a bad cold. Turns out the horrific sore throat, followed by the equally horrific cough, was actually whooping cough. After three doctor’s visits and a misdiagnosis of bronchitis, I was correctly diagnosed with pertussis, the first case my physician had ever seen in his longtime career.

When he informed me that pertussis is also known as the 100-day cough, he was not joking. I was racked by uncontrollable fits of coughing from around July Fourth until well after Labor Day.

For me, the summer of 2005 was spent languishing on the couch, feeling like absolute crap, exhausted from lack of sleep (ever try sleeping when you are constantly coughing), utterly worn down, unable to barely function.

The worst, and I mean absolute worst, moment came when I awoke one night gasping for air, my windpipe narrowed. In retrospect, that asthmatic type attack warranted a 911 call and I now consider myself fortunate to have survived. Yes, it was that bad and necessitated another visit to the doctor for a regiment of the inflammation reducing steroid prednisone and an inhaler.

I don’t know why I experienced a particularly bad case of whooping cough. Typically the young and elderly are most harshly affected. Unvaccinated infants can even die.

The gravestone of Deloris Edna Emilie Bode in Immanuel Lutheran Church, rural Courtland.

The gravestone of Deloris Edna Emilie Bode in the Immanuel Lutheran Church cemetery, rural Courtland.

Nor do I know how I got a disease I thought had vanished decades ago and which claimed the life of my Aunt Deloris in 1935 at nine months old. My doctor speculated that I could have been exposed waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store. I’ll never know.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, here’s how pertussis is spread:

The bacteria is found in fluids from the mouth and nose of someone with pertussis. The bacteria is spread when fluid containing the bacteria gets in your nose or mouth. This can happen when a person with pertussis coughs or sneezes on you, or by touching the fluid and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. In general, a person is at greater risk of getting pertussis if they are within three feet of someone with pertussis for at least 10 hours a week, this is considered close contact.

My physician immediately put me and my entire family on antibiotics, which can reduce the severity of whooping cough. My husband and one daughter also eventually contracted minor cases of pertussis.

I learned a lot during my summer as a whooping crane. (One has to find humor in an experience like this.) I learned that the vaccine most of us get as babies wears off about the time we reach middle school age. Ironically, in the same year I was ill, new pertussis vaccines were approved for adolescents and adults.

If you’re not up-to-date on your pertussis vaccine, I’d suggest you get vaccinated.

There. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

FYI: The Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Monday released this report on whooping cough.

Click here to learn all about pertussis from the CDC.

If you live in Minnesota, click here to a link showing a map of year-to-date pertussis cases in Minnesota, including 10 right here in my county of Rice.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

PS to my whooping cough post November 7, 2010

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DELORIS EDNA EMILIE BODE died on May 10, 1935, from pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia and a gangrene-type infection of the mouth.

The second-born daughter of Lawrence and Josephine Bode, she was only nine months and nine days old.

She was my aunt.

The gravestone of Deloris Edna Emilie Bode in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, rural Courtland.

Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

An update on whooping cough in Minnesota November 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:29 AM
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WHENEVER I HEAR the words “whooping cough,” I listen. Last night a Twin Cities television station reported on the increased number of pertussis cases in Minnesota. Most recent statistics on the Minnesota Department of Health website show 1,000 reported cases as of October 21.

When I last checked those state stats in mid-August, and wrote about whooping cough on this blog, that number stood at 395, as of July 16.

The surge in this highly-contagious disease during the past several months is likely related to the start of school. A statement by the MDH seems to support that: “Minnesota is experiencing a peak period of pertussis that started back in the fall of 2008. Pertussis disease normally peaks every three to five years. Clusters continue to occur in the elementary school setting.”

I take a personal interest in whooping cough because I contracted the disease in the summer of 2005. If you don’t take pertussis seriously, you ought to. It’s called the 100-day cough, and it’s not misnamed, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, you can die from the disease. Infants and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable.

Yes, vaccines exist to prevent whooping cough. But don’t mistakenly think you are protected because you were vaccinated as a child. Pre-teens need boosters. Adults can get a vaccine targeted especially for them.

If you want to know how many whooping cough cases have been reported to the MDH this year or in previous years in any Minnesota county, click here. As you would expect, the more densely-populated counties have reported more cases.

In Rice County, where I live, nine cases have been reported so far this year, holding steady with the previous two years of seven and nine cases.

But neighboring Steele County has seen a significant increase with cases rising from one and two the past two years to 37 thus far in 2010.

Similarly Mille Lacs County has shown a notable increase in numbers, from none in 2008, to six in 2009 and 29 this year.

I don’t know the reason for the rising numbers in those counties. But I do know that the disease spreads quickly and easily. My husband and one of my daughters caught whooping cough from me although their cases were not nearly as severe. Antibiotics administered in the early stage of the illness can reduce the severity.

I’ll leave you with this final note. When I asked my doctor five years ago where I could possibly have contracted pertussis, he told me, “You could have gotten it standing in the check-out line at the grocery store.”

That, my friends, is food for thought.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A closer look at whooping cough, including my story August 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:19 AM
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FIVE YEARS AGO, I earned the distinction of becoming my physician’s first adult whooping cough patient in his 30-plus year career.

I still remember that day when I perched on the examining table, so exhausted from my coughing fits and a subsequent lack of sleep that I could barely function. Five weeks earlier my doctor had diagnosed bronchitis. When I wasn’t getting any better, I returned and he gave me the same diagnosis. But now, on this third visit with my condition steadily deteriorating, I wanted answers.

Then I coughed.

For my doctor, that was a profound moment. He didn’t even hesitate. “I think you have whooping cough,” he blurted, then soon left the room to consult with another physician.

I don’t recall exactly how I responded, but I remember thinking that whooping cough couldn’t possibly exist in 2005.

How very wrong I was about that assumption. Today, five years after I struggled with this debilitating illness that invaded my lungs and throat, causing persistent coughing fits, a severe sore throat, asthmatic type attacks and a resulting inability to sleep, the disease continues to infect, and even kill.

California, if trends continue, is expecting more pertussis (whooping cough) cases in 2010 than it’s seen in 50-plus years, according to the California Department of Public Health. As of August 10, those numbers stood at 2,774 reported cases, including seven deaths among infants. The cases represent a seven-fold increase from the 395 reported during the same period in 2009.

Naturally, I wondered how Minnesota compares. According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health, as of July 16, there had been 395 cases reported. The report notes that the state is near the end of an outbreak that began in 2008.

In my home county, Rice, three cases of the disease have been recorded in 2010. The majority of infections are, as I would expect, in the more heavily-populated counties of Hennepin (75 cases), Wright (60), Dakota (52) and Ramsey (40).

But statistics really don’t matter if you’re the one with whooping cough. I remember the follow-up phone call from my physician who delivered the news that pertussis is known as “the 100-day cough.” He wasn’t kidding.

And he wasn’t kidding that he really couldn’t do anything for me. The disease would have to run its course—for me from early July until after Labor Day—and my body would need to heal on its own. Antibiotics help only early on in either preventing whooping cough or diminishing the severity of a case. The pertussis bacteria die off naturally after three weeks of coughing.

My entire family received a regiment of antibiotics with my husband and my second daughter both developing whooping cough, albeit much milder than mine.

Whooping cough, I can undeniably tell you, should be taken seriously. If you are an adult, or a teen, and haven’t been vaccinated since childhood, listen up. By age 10 or 12, you are no longer protected by that childhood vaccine. I was 48 years old when I developed pertussis. I’ll never know how I contracted the disease, but it’s highly-contagious. Infants are especially vulnerable.

Ironically, in the same year I became ill, new vaccines for adolescents and adults were approved. With widespread immunization, pertussis can become an illness of the past.

Within my own family, whooping cough claimed the life of my Aunt Deloris. On May 10, 1935, Deloris Edna Emilie Bode, second-born daughter of Lawrence and Josephine, died of pertussis, pneumonia and a gangrene-type infection of the mouth at the age of nine months and nine days.

Whenever I think of Deloris, I nearly weep at the thought of that beautiful baby girl wracked with uncontrollable coughing fits, struggling to breathe, fighting to live. I will feel forever linked to her by whooping cough, the 100-day cough, and today a preventable disease.

(The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated August as National Immunization Awareness Month.)

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A COVID-19 update & thoughts from Rice County, Minnesota January 22, 2021

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from Valley Grove Cemetery, used for illustration only.

SLIGHTLY OVER A MONTH has passed since I wrote about COVID-19 in my southeastern Minnesota county. And in those 34 days, 22 more individuals in Rice County have died due to the virus, bringing our total deaths to 69. Since the pandemic began, the number of people infected with COVID (January 21 county stats) stands at 6,139.

My heart breaks when I consider the death data, because behind every number is a person. Someone who loved and was loved. The virus claimed individuals ranging in age from 24 – 104. Most (42) lived in long term care centers.

I scrolled through area obituaries to find a few of those individuals who died due to COVID. I appreciate when families publicly share that cause of death as I think it’s a personally powerful way to make a statement to the community that, This virus is deadly.

READ THEIR NAMES

In my brief search, I found these names: Craig, 71; Ted, 77; Harvey, 75; Chuck, 89; Norma, 92; and Dave, 87. Dave, part of my faith family, was a long-time funeral home director prior to retiring and passing along the business to his son. Craig was a Faribault pastor, the first in my county to die of COVID-19 in April.

While my immediate family has thus far remained healthy, many extended family members have gotten and recovered from the virus. Friends have also been ill, including one hospitalized for two weeks. I indirectly know others who’ve been hospitalized and/or died. They are individuals I’ve sometimes prayed for for weeks as they’ve battled the virus and struggled to recover.

My niece will tell you the story of a friend who has suffered serious, severe and long-lasting complications from COVID-19. That’s the thing about this virus. We never know if we will experience only a mild case or something much more serious. Even deadly. Age is not a given protection.

MASK WEARING REMAINS AN ISSUE

Wearing a multi-layered, tight-fitting mask (and, no, a plastic face shield alone doesn’t count as CDC-approved protection); socially distancing; washing/sanitizing hands often; avoiding time with those outside our household, especially in enclosed spaces; and staying home when sick or with COVID symptoms remain as important as ever to help stop the spread of the virus. I can’t stress those health and safety protocols enough.

I continue to see people in public without masks or wearing them below their noses and sometimes even below their mouths. That frustrates me to no end—this inability to wear a mask or to wear it correctly by covering both the mouth AND the nose. It’s not that difficult. Even my 2-year-old grandson wears his mask properly. Why is it so hard for adults (like the cashiers at a local dollar store, some grocery store customers, etc.) to do so? Most troubling was the half-masker sporting a jacket for an area small town volunteer fire and rescue department. I want to scream at these people and confront them. (I don’t. I avoid them.) And, yes, that may sound judgy. But at this point in the pandemic, when a new variant is increasing spread, masks are even more important. People ought to care about protecting others. They ought to care that their neighbors are getting really sick and/or dying.

HOPEFUL AS VACCINES ROLL OUT

As of yesterday, 2,039 people in Rice County, or 3.1 percent, have started the vaccination process targeted first to those living in long term care settings and working in healthcare. It’s a start in a county with a population of 65,765. Some vaccines have also been set aside for childcare workers, educators and those age 65 and over. That said, the supply cannot meet demand. Yet, I am thankful for vaccination beginning and hopeful that will amp up under the Biden administration.

Randy and I are some eight months shy of the age 65 cut-off. I’m not worried about myself as much as my husband. He faces possible COVID exposure in the workplace. (And, yes, there have been cases.) As a highly-skilled and in high demand automotive machinist, working from home is not an option. So I ask him to mask and distance himself from co-workers and customers, especially those non-maskers and half-maskers.

If Randy gets COVID, I likely will, too. And I’d rather not test how my body will react. A severe case of whooping cough at age 50, which left me incredibly sick for three months, gasping for air, using an inhaler and taking a steroid, shows me just how awful an illness that affects the lungs and impedes breathing. I expect COVID would be worse. Much worse.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting with comfort via greeting card verses April 17, 2018

Each of these boxed card collections from Warner Press includes a greeting card verse that I wrote. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS, I’ve walked into a Minnesota church basement or fellowship hall and noticed boxed greeting cards from Warner Press for sale. I write greeting card verses for that Indiana based Christian company and have done so for many years.

Typically, a half dozen or fewer of my submitted verses are selected for publication annually. It’s not a lot, but still an opportunity to challenge myself. Writing greeting card verses is difficult because you need to come up with something creative and new, something that hasn’t been published a million times already in a card. And you need to deliver those words in a succinct message.

 

My verses are published in these four recently-released cards, included in the Warner Press boxed card collections. Two are in the “Get Well, Comfort in God’s Care” collection, one in the “All Occasion, Peaceful Pastures” and the fourth in “Confirmed in Christ.” Because the verses are copyrighted, I can’t show you what I wrote.

 

I’ve found that I am most gifted at penning verses which encourage people, whether they are facing health issues, the loss of a loved one and/or other challenges.

I expect that ability to offer hope is rooted in my own experiences. When you’ve dealt with health issues—for me debilitating osteoarthritis followed by total hip replacement at a fairly young (50) age, three months of battling whooping cough, healing from a broken shoulder and more—you can empathize. And empathy translates into words of comfort and hope.

Likewise, I’ve lost enough loved ones and friends to pull sympathetic thoughts from the grief of my heart to offer comfort and hope.

 

One of the things I most appreciate about Warner Press is the company’s recognition of the writer and designer with their names listed on the back of each greeting card.

 

Comfort and hope. Those are powerful words. I hold the ability to offer healing to others through the ministry of greeting cards. More than ever today, we are a nation, a people, in need of healing. We each have the power within us to show empathy and care to others whether through our actions, written words, spoken words, prayer and, yes, even silence. Sometimes it’s better to remain quiet and to just listen, love and support.

In this day and age of instant communication, printed greeting cards still hold value. They connect us on a level that a screen can’t. When you give a card, you take the time to pause, to pick up a pen, to sign your name and perhaps add a personal note. For the person on the receiving end, that’s a gift—tangible evidence that you care. And that can make all the difference to someone in need of comfort and hope.

 

TELL ME: Do you see value in printed greeting cards? Do you still give and receive them?

Disclaimer: I am paid for the greeting card verses I write for Warner Press.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On target with my recovery, go gentle on the hugs & other thoughts June 23, 2017

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I’m not good at taking selfies. So I turned the camera on my mirrored image. I took this image a week ago, about 3 1/2 weeks into my recovery.

 

A MONTH AND FOUR DAYS (yes, I’m counting days) into recovery from a broken right shoulder, I am healing on schedule. That’s according to my orthopedic doctor who was all smiles when he saw me Wednesday afternoon.

I was relieved by the good report given I’ve experienced recent shifting and incidences of severe pain in the break area. That’s normal, he said, explaining that I’m feeling muscle and nerve pain related to the injury. Whew. I thought perhaps the crack in my bone had widened.

I’m continuing with two home exercises—elbow flexing and the pendulum swing—with professional physical therapy likely starting the week of July Fourth. And bonus, when I’m in a secure environment at home, I can remove my body hugging arm sling. But I still basically need to keep my arm tight to my side. No reaching to my right.

Mentally, I keep reminding myself that this disability is only temporary and that others deal with far worse injuries. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who helps me with basic caregiving needs and who also is keeping everything up (mostly) on the homefront.

 

This is a photo of an x-ray of my broken shoulder from several weeks ago. To the untrained non medical professional, it’s difficult to see the fracture. It’s there in the humerus.

 

I’m not a particularly patient person, but I’m learning. There is always something to be learned in whatever situations we face in life. Good health is not something any of us should assume will always be ours. I never expected to miss a step, fall and end up with a broken shoulder. Just like I never expected to get osteoarthritis and undergo total hip replacement some 10 years ago. And I never expected to spend an entire summer battling whooping cough.

From all of these health issues, I’ve learned empathy, deeper compassion and an appreciation for others. As a woman of faith, I’ve also drawn closer to God. I’ve never asked, “Why me?” I’m not going to tell you it’s always been easy; it hasn’t. I get frustrated and just want to be able to do everyday tasks. Professionally, I’ve had to limit computer usage (thus writing time) due to pain and I can’t take photos with my Canon DSLR. This is prime season for photography.

 

A month after my fall, I continue to receive get well cards. This ongoing support for someone with a lengthy recovery is so appreciated.

 

I’ve appreciated the ongoing encouragement via conversations/emails/texts and in cards sent. Do not underestimate the value of a get well card. My personal experiences are useful now as I pen greeting card verses for Warner Press with an end of July deadline.

There are two things, though, that people should note related to my injury. Do not ask, in jest, if Randy pushed me. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, funny about domestic violence. I have written tirelessly on the subject here and have zero tolerance for domestic abuse and violence. I fell; my husband did not abuse me and to suggest such in humor diminishes the crime of domestic violence.

Also, be gentle on the hugs. I am extremely protective of my right side. I’ve had to stop about a half dozen people as they reached out to touch me on my right arm. There is a reason I am wearing a sling.

Last week I simplified one aspect of my life by getting my hair cut super short. I am grateful to the stylist at Sunset Salon who understood my needs. I love my new style which requires only my fingers and mousse to shape it. Randy is appreciative, too.

I am grateful to all of you also for your continuing encouragement and readership of this blog.

Please take what you’ve read here today and do something positive. Reach out with kindness to a stranger or to a friend/family member. Send a card/text/email. Make a phone call. Visit someone in recovery. Prepare a meal. Offer a ride. Hold a door. Offer praise and empathy and support. In these days when we witness so much violence and hatred in the world, it is more important than ever to express compassion and care. We need each other. We really do.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Three phrases I’d like to ban June 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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ARE THERE CERTAIN WORDS or phrases that bother you? I mean big time irritate you to the point that you want to shout, DO NOT SAY (WRITE) THOSE WORDS TO ME!

Here are the top phrases/words I would like to ban:

 

Words buck up

 

My husband once advised me to “Buck up!” when I was gasping for air while in the middle of a major asthmatic type attack. I was ill at the time, severely ill, with whooping cough. Rather than suggesting I “Buck up!”, he probably should have been dialing 911. (In his defense, neither of us fully realized the seriousness of the situation.)

Why do I dislike those two words? In my particular instance, no amount of bucking up would solve my medical emergency. This was out of my control. Telling someone to “Buck up!” minimizes their situation/issue/problem. Rather than suggest someone toughen up, how about offering help and/or a solution? Or simply listen.

 

Words awesome

 

How can everything in life be awesome? It is the most overused trendy word. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Really?

Rather than apply the worn-out word awesome, which has lost all meaning because of its repetitive use, tell me precisely why something is awesome. Is something awesome because it’s an incredible accomplishment? Is something awesome because it pleases you and solves a problem? Is something awesome because it’s uniquely creative? Use specific words that hold meaning.

 

Words it is what it is

 

I’ve heard these five words spoken in trying situations. These are not words anyone facing or managing a crisis or challenge needs to hear. Why? This dismissive phrase only makes a person feel worse.

Instead, validate an individual’s feelings and then offer support, comfort, encouragement and/or assistance. No one needs to be reminded that a situation is bad; that’s already a known.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what words/phrases bug you. Or, if you wish, defend usage of the words/phrases I dislike.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thirty years together May 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:09 AM
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Audrey and Randy, May 15, 1982. We were so young then, only 25 1/2.

THUMBING THROUGH THE PAGES of our wedding album, I can barely believe that 30 years have passed since my husband and I exchanged vows on May 15, 1982.

Where did the past three decades go?

And who are those kids in over-sized glasses with more hair (him) and shorter hair (me) and both pounds lighter?

Could that possibly be us, newlyweds on the cusp of married life, grinning with the exuberance of young love?

That is, indeed, us.

Together then.

Together now.

Friends asked me Saturday night for tips to a lasting marriage. The question caught me by surprise and I simply told them they didn’t need my advice because they are doing well on their own.

Later, though, I considered how we’ve kept our marriage going strong for 30 years. For Randy and me, the fact that we were just friends before we even began dating set the tone for our relationship.

Friendship and trust. Shared values and a shared faith in God. All have been integral in our marriage.

Many times I think, too, that the similarities in our childhoods—both from farm families with little money—have curbed disagreements over finances. We live a simple, basic life and are content with what we have.

Yet, the differences between us have also benefited our marriage. Randy possesses a quirky sense of humor. He makes me laugh, lightens the moment, causes me to smile when I’d rather not. Without him, life would simply be less fun.

I am the serious one. I can organize and focus and keep everyone on task.

But I can’t handle medical situations. Our three kids have always known that they should go to Dad, not Mom, with any health issues. Need a sliver pulled? Take the tweezers to Dad. Wonder if that cut needs stitches? Consult Dad.

And when I faced health issues—a severe, three-month case of whooping cough in 2005, surgery four years ago to replace my arthritic right hip and most recently the sudden loss of hearing in my right ear—my husband was right there. I could not have managed without him. He took seriously those vows, “in sickness and in health.”

He’s also good with numbers and excels as an automotive machinist. (Get in line if you want him to work on your car or truck or van or tractor or…) This man of mine is a hard worker and has always kept his family sheltered, clothed and fed. For that I am grateful.

I’m also grateful for his strong support of my writing and photography.

For 30 years we’ve had this balance, this give and take, this relying on each other (and God) and tapping into our strengths to make our marriage work.

And, yes, most assuredly that love quotient remains, as strong, if not stronger, than 30 years ago.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling