Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting on September 11 in photos from NYC, thoughts from Minnesota September 11, 2020

My son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11. He was a third grader in a Christian school and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. The date is forever seared into our memories as the day terrorists targeted the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a jetliner flying over Pennsylvania. When those planes crashed. When those towers fell. When fires raged. When thousands died, we grieved. Individually. And collectively as a nation.

 

On the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, a plaque honors an alumni, Ann Nelson. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2019.

 

Yet, as a Minnesotan nearly 1,200 miles removed from New York City and D.C. and Pennsylvania, I did not experience the same depth of fear and grief as others much nearer to the target sites or with loved ones lost.

 

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Sure, I remember where I was—at home with my kindergarten age son and another boy in my care. I remember how the boys stacked wooden toy blocks and then crashed toy airplanes into the two towers, copying the scenes played and replayed on television because I could not bring myself to shut off the TV.

I recall, too, the eeriness, the feelings of uncertainty and worry and disbelief.

 

The Faribault firefighters pay special tribute to the fallen New York firefighters on their memorial sign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But none of this, none of this second-hand experience, compares to those who lived it and saw it. Like NYC photographer Keith Goldstein, a gifted creative whose work I follow on his blog, Far Earth Below. Keith excels in portrait photography. On the street, not the studio. Real. Everyday life. Raw and emotional and difficult sometimes to view. But honest in every way.

Keith was there on 9/11. He saw the devastation, destruction, death as he headed from his East Village home toward the towers. He found himself unable to photograph the horror unfolding before him. But several years later, as construction began on the Freedom Tower, he lifted his camera to undertake a project, “Looking On, Watching the Building of the Freedom Tower.”

The photos of people watching construction of the tower are signature Keith Goldstein. Honest. Emotional. Real. Every time I view Keith’s work, I wonder how he does it. How does he manage these focused, powerful images without his subjects noticing his presence? It’s a gift, a talent honed from years of experience.

That talent was recognized by Olympus Passion, which published a portion of his “Looking On” project in November 2018. Keith shared that publication on his blog today and I invite you to study his images and read the story he wrote about his 9/11 experiences. I expect you will be as impressed as I am by his work and the insights his photos provide.

I invite you also to continue following Keith’s photo blog. I appreciate how his images show me a world far removed from my Minnesota home. A world much different. Yet, a world I need to see because, even though my life and world are much different than his, we still live in this place called America.

Keith is as kind and decent and caring as they come. We’ve communicated occasionally via email, so I know this to be true. Several years ago he gifted me with a colorful print on aluminum of an immigrant vending t-shirts. My choice of photos. Choosing an image proved challenging. But I wanted a portrait. Signature Keith.

As different as we are, we are connected by our love of photography. And by our desire to share the world we view through our cameras.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How faith families are adapting, connecting, reaching out… March 22, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ON A TYPICAL SUNDAY MORNING, I would be awake by 6:45 am, showering, grabbing breakfast, preparing to leave for 8 am church services.

This morning I awoke a half hour later, followed the regular Sunday morning routine, then sat down at my computer to watch live-streaming of the Trinity Lutheran, Faribault, church service. I expect many of you did the same—utilizing technology for worship.

 

The original microphone used in 1948 for Trinity’s radio broadcasts on KDHL radio, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Trinity has had a video ministry for years. And a radio ministry for more than seventy. I am thankful those outreach ministries were already in place, making it much easier to connect with people during this global pandemic.

Difficult times call for us to be creative and to adapt. Our family ministry leader also brought Sunday School to our kids in a YouTube video. Click here to view that.

 

From the Trinity, Faribault, Facebook page.

 

During the past week, I’ve worked, from my home, with a team that’s expanding Trinity’s ministry via social media. Daily uplifting and encouraging scripture has been added to our Facebook page. And our pastor is penning daily devotionals, which I am editing and proofing. I’m happy to use my talents to help.

At Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company where I am the paid blog coordinator and a blogger, we’ve launched a weekly series, “Scriptures of Hope,” to encourage and uplift people during this COVID-19 crisis. I encourage you to check out that first post by clicking here. Members of our Warner Press family selected bible verses that carry them through difficult times, sometimes adding their personal insights. We are committed to doing our part, through our blogging ministry, to bring hope.

I’d like to hear from you. How are your faith families connecting and continuing their ministries? Together we can learn from and support each other. Now, more than ever, we need to share our ideas and to connect.

FYI: Click here to reach the Trinity Radio and Video website to view today’s worship service and the Sunday School video (click on YouTube).

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Learning to listen January 21, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:27 PM
Tags: , , , ,

I took this photo at an outdoor concert in Faribault several years ago. To me, it illustrates the art of genuine listening. The smile on the woman’s face, the tilt of her head, tell me she is actively listening. Edited Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2016.

 

YESTERDAY IN MY POST honoring the work of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., I emphasized the importance of listening.

Today, in a blog post published on Warner Press, I also emphasize listening. I wrote this post weeks ago, long before I penned the MLK piece. I encourage you to click here and read “Learning to Listen.” I can’t stress enough the importance of this skill in building and improving relationships, in making this world a better place.

Thank you for listening.

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work as blog coordinator and blogger for Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publishing company.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From writing verses to blogging at Warner Press August 6, 2018

The blog home page, with one of my posts on the left.

 

FOR MANY YEARS NOW, I’ve written greeting card verses for Warner Press, an Indiana-based Christian publisher. I’m not on staff but am among freelancers submitting work for consideration. Lest you think penning verses is easy, it’s not. Originality counts. Quick, try to think of a (Christian) message that hasn’t been written before when wishing someone a happy birthday.

That all aside, I blogged earlier this year about writing greeting card verses and emailed a link to my editor at Warner Press. She asked to share the post, which eventually landed on the not-for-profit’s blog. I looked at the blog and noted a need for fresh content. Then I pitched my blogging skills, soon landing a spot among a team of bloggers.

 

Another post I penned.

 

Now, months into this freelance work, all is going well. Sometimes I generate ideas. Sometimes I get assignments. My experience as a book reviewer has aided me in writing product features for new releases. But mostly, my life experiences have woven into the blogging I do for Warner. I share my stories, adding a personal depth and warmth that connects to readers. My writing comes from a faith-based perspective. Truly this is an ideal fit for me, my writing skills and my values.

 

Both are my posts.

 

Please check out the posts I’ve written—from book features to posts about tech-free summer activities for kids to Father’s Day and more—by clicking here. There’s lots of great and informative content from other writers, too. Also check out the church supplies, kids’ books, ministry resources, boxed greeting cards and more by clicking here. I’m blessed and grateful to freelance for a company like Warner Press.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

About this blog & commenting here August 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

That’s my post, labeled “Barn Memories,” published on November 30, 2013, on Freshly Pressed, a feature of WordPress, my blogging platform.  My work has been highlighted on FreshlyPressed thrice. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’M NOT A PARTICULARLY opinionated person, at least not publicly. I mostly steer from conflict, discord and disagreement. I’m more the mediator type, the “let’s work things out” and treat others with kindness and respect. That includes the topics I generally cover here on this blog. My blog.

In recent weeks, several particularly mean-spirited comments filtered into this site. They were inflammatory and accusatory and just plain awful, with some directed at me personally. I chose not to publish them. I refuse to allow this blog, my blog, to become a platform for hatred, false accusations and unproven allegations.

Yes, I’m aware some may term this as censorship or a denial of free speech. I have worked as a newspaper reporter and value freedom of the press. Suppression of the media rankles me. In recent months the media have been under intense attack unlike anything I recall. This scares me. Freedom of the press is essential in a democracy. I hope the general public understands that.

We may not like what the media report. But we also need to stop blaming the messengers for the news they deliver. They are just doing their jobs.

That brings me back to Minnesota Prairie Roots. This blog is not mainstream media. No one pays me to write here. I earn some income from photos that people/businesses/organizations find here and buy from me and also from writing jobs tracing to this blog. But I am not on anyone’s payroll nor do I have an agenda other than to share my images and words with you. Writing and photography are my passions.

If you choose to submit hateful, accusatory and inflammatory comments, I won’t publish them. This is my blog. It’s as simple as that. I won’t bend my values, morals and beliefs.

To the many faithful readers and commenters who write with respect, thank you. I appreciate you and value your thoughts.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots needs your “best of” vote August 5, 2015

TYPICALLY, I AM NOT ONE to promote myself. That is why, perhaps, I am not some famous worldwide blogger.

I have, though, made a name for myself in Southern Minnesota. Not because that’s highest on my priority list. Rather, I am passionate about writing and photography and my work seems to resonate with readers, Minnesotans or not. Minnesota Public Radio has noticed as has MinnPost.

Best of Southern MN 2015 logo

That all said, I am once again among nominees for the “Best Local Blog/Blogger.” The regional arts and entertainment magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene, is sponsoring a competition to choose the “best ofs” in Southern Minnesota. And I happen to fall in to the miscellaneous category.

Now, if you think my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog worthy of this honor, please vote for me in the miscellaneous section of the ballot. There are lots of other categories to vote in, too, such as art, music, theater, restaurants and more.

You can vote once a day per email address.

I am competing against four other blogs/bloggers. So your vote is important. Please share this on social media, if you wish.

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots was voted the “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota in 2014.

Thank you for your support as I defend my title of “Best Local Blog/Blogger” in Southern Minnesota.

FYI: Click here to vote.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots named “best local blog” in southern Minnesota October 17, 2014

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

WE DID IT.

Yes, readers, I use the plural “we” because, without you, I never would have garnered the award of Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota for 2014.

I was notified several weeks ago of the honor bestowed upon me by the regional arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine, Southern Minnesota Scene. Editor Rich Larson phoned with the news and then interviewed me. You can read his story by clicking here. Reverse roles for me since I’m typically the one asking questions or gathering information. I prefer holding the pen and notebook.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene's November issue featuring the 150-plus "best of" winners.

The cover of Southern Minnesota Scene’s November issue featuring the 150-plus “best of” winners.

Larson requested that I not share the news online until the magazine published. Fair enough. Look for a hard copy of Southern Minnesota Scene so you can read about all 150-plus winners in the “Best of SoMINN 2014.” Or go to the publication’s website by clicking here.

The process of being named best local blogger started late this summer with online nominations. Thank you to all who nominated me. Once ballots were tallied, the top three then entered the online voting process to choose the winner.

I was competing against Kevin Krein, who blogs at Anhedonic Headphones and also writes for Southern Minnesota Scene. Fiction writer Dennis Vogen, a Faribault native who has published three books and is working on his fourth and fifth, was the other nominee. He blogs, too, but has published only eight posts. Too busy, I suspect, working on those books. As Vogen suggested, maybe a category for “best writer” should be added.

I questioned editor Larson about the number of ballots cast in the blogging category. But he declined to release stats, indicating only that the voting was close. He reveals in print, however, that more than 25,000 individual votes were cast in the entire competition and that Owatonna produced the most winners. Last year it was Northfield.

While recognition of my hard work at Minnesota Prairie Roots is welcome, I can’t take sole credit for my success as a blogger. Without you, my devoted readers, this blog would not exist. Thank you for your ongoing support of my writing and photography, for continuing to read and appreciate the stories and photos I share.

You own this award, too.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Keep voting for Minnesota Prairie Roots as best blog in southern Minnesota August 16, 2014

southern minnesota scene best of logoVOTING CONTINUES now through Labor Day for the Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota. “The Best of SOMINN 2014” is sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine, SouthernMINN Scene.

And just to remind you all, Minnesota Prairie Roots is one of three blogs vying for this honor.

I’d appreciate your vote. I’m in the “miscellaneous” category. Yeah, I know…

Unlike other elections, you can vote once daily per email address. Yes. Hey, I don’t make the rules. So, please, exercise your democratic right and stuff my ballot box.

Thank you for your support.

I make this campaign promise: I will continue to blog about people, places, events and more with a passion. I love writing. I love photography. And I love this place called Minnesota.

And I appreciate all of you faithful readers, especially the nearly 1,000 of you currently subscribing to Minnesota Prairie Roots.

Click here to vote.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Update: Vote for MN Prairie Roots daily for best blog August 5, 2014

southern minnesota scene best of logoABOUT MINNESOTA PRAIRIE ROOTS‘ nomination for Best Local Blog/Blogger in southern Minnesota…

Turns out you can vote for my blog/me more than once, as in once a day per email address, until voting closes on September 1. I just learned that today.

If you’re so inclined, continue voting for me every single day by clicking here (I’m in the miscellaneous category near the bottom of the page).

I know it’s a hassle. But I didn’t make the rules for this contest sponsored by the regional arts and entertainment magazine Southern Minnesota Scene.

To those of you who’ve already endorsed my writing and photography by voting for Minnesota Prairie Roots, thank you.

A big thanks also to all who have spread the word via social media. I am grateful.

Most of all, I am grateful for all of you, my loyal readers.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots blog post 1,000 April 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:33 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

The prairie just outside of Walnut Grove in southwestern Minnesota, the first photo I published on my blog.

TODAY MARKS a memorable occasion for Minnesota Prairie Roots.

This very story—the one you’re reading right now—marks my 1,000th post.

On July 15, 2009, I published my first piece here on WordPress, introducing a new audience of readers to my blogging which began 18 months earlier at a Minnesota magazine.

The publisher/editor of that magazine decided he couldn’t keep up with my daily blogging. So he cut the blog. While at the time I was upset and disappointed, I see in hindsight that it’s the best thing that could have happened to me as a blogger. My blog has reached new readership levels that I never could have attained within the confines of blogging for the periodical. I was freed to write whenever, and about whatever, I chose.

Let’s look at the statistics to see how my readership has grown. In 2010, my first full year of writing here at Minnesota Prairie Roots, I averaged 201 views per day. A year later, that number reached 442. And this year I’m averaging 697 daily views. In March, I reached a new monthly readership high of 24,484 views. I have no idea how that compares to the stats of other bloggers, but I’m pleased.

Sometimes even I am amazed that so many people are drawn to my stories. They hail from all over the world, to places I haven’t even heard of such as Qatar and Mauritius.

I am grateful for every reader and especially for those who take the time to comment. An exchange of ideas and expressions of thought are integral components in any blog.

Through the nearly three years of blogging at Minnesota Prairie Roots, I have never once struggled with writer’s bloc. Often times I have more material, in words and photos, to share than I have time to post. I write here nearly every day. Not because I “have to,” but because I “need to.”

Rachel Scott, the inspiration for Rachel's Challenge. Photo courtesy of Rachel's Challenge.

What interests readers? Consistently, my top post remains “Rachel’s Challenge: Start a chain reaction of kindness.” I wrote the story in November 2009 after Rachel’s Challenge, a national non-profit that travels the country promoting kindness, presented a program at Faribault High School. The organization is named after Rachel Scott, 17, the first person killed in the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. The presentation made a powerful impact on me and I wrote an equally powerful post that has now been read by thousands.

I am proud of that piece as I am of a series of posts I wrote about the flash flooding in Zumbro Falls in October of 2010. The stories were unplanned, but happened after my husband and I drove into the flood-ravaged community on a Sunday afternoon. Our intentions to view the autumn colors along Minnesota Highway 60 that day vanished when we saw the devastation. I pulled out my camera and notebook and recorded the stories of several women,all flood survivors, both in Zumbro Falls and neighboring Hammond. They showed incredible strength and determination. I still keep in touch with Katie Shones of Hammond, whose home was spared but whose community was nearly destroyed.

When I met Tracy Yennie in downtown Zumbro Falls, the 31-year-old mother of four young boys was living in a shed on her property along the Zumbro River. Her home was flooded during the late September 2010 flash flood. I often wonder what happened to Tracy, who called herself "a redneck," and her family.

To share those stories, to give those women a voice, to publicly recognize their fortitude moved me deeply. There is power in words and images shared with honesty and passion.

Writing is my passion. It is the reason I blog.

I savor sharing my discoveries with you in words and photos. My blog has been termed “probably the best ‘place’ blog in the state,” by respected Iron Range blogger Aaron Brown at Minnesota Brown. He nails it with that “place” tag. My writing has always been rooted in the land. I consider myself an unpretentious, down-to-earth, honest writer.

My blogs have been featured online at Minnesota Public Radio in the News Cut column crafted by Bob Collins. At MinnPost, you’ll find my work often in Minnesota Blog Cabin, which daily features the best work by bloggers from around Minnesota. I’m honored to be part of these respected publications, to offer a glimpse of life outside the metro area.

Beyond that, I have connected with other bloggers and non-bloggers. This world, despite all the negativity, is still brimming with good people. Finding individuals who, like me, possess a passion for writing has been a bonus of blogging.

With that, I want to thank each of you for reading Minnesota Prairie Roots. It is my hope that, through my words and images, I will take you to places you’ve never been or offer you insights you’ve never considered or cause you to pause and savor the simple things in everyday life.

I’ve always appreciated the basics of life and landscape: the fiery glow of a prairie sunset, the scent of freshly-mown alfalfa, a row of just-laundered clothes snapped onto a clothesline, the weathered wood of a once-majestic red barn, the handmade sign marking a Main Street business, the tight clasp of a tulip bud, the unexpected hug of my teenage son, the surprises along a back gravel road…

My writing and photography remain firmly rooted in my rural upbringing on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, the place that inspired my blog name and the place that still holds my heart.

CLICK HERE TO READ my first post on Minnesota Prairie Roots, published 1,000 posts ago.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling