Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An unexpected gift from Bernie December 2, 2011

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I’VE NEVER MET Bernie, never even spoken to her. She lives in Billings, Montana, with her husband Roy and their cats.

She’s the modern-day version of a pen pal who has become a friend.

It all started when Bernie discovered my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog and began commenting on my posts. Naturally, I had to check out her One Mixed Bag blog.

There I found a former Minnesotan who writes with honesty and humor in a voice that keeps drawing me back. This woman is laugh-out-loud funny. She makes me smile. She makes me giggle. She makes me think. And sometimes she even makes me cry. More on that later.

At some point, and again I don’t recall specifics, our friendship extended beyond blog comments to the occasional e-mail.

After reading an especially touching post penned by Bernie, I suggested she submit it to Minnesota Moments magazine.  This woman can write. The story will publish in our winter issue.

Then, when I created a “Snapshots of Love” contest, with results publishing in Minnesota Moments’ winter edition, I thought of Bernie and the handcrafted vintage style greeting cards she creates and sells through her online shop Budugalee. Even the name makes me laugh. I asked Bernie if she would contribute perhaps a half dozen greeting cards to our prize package.

Well, this artist wanted to give more—a card a month, plus. Bernie’s that kind of person. The type who’s giving and caring and kind and generous all rolled into one.

That brings us to this week and to the unexpected package that arrived Thursday morning from Bernie. I figured she was sending me some of her handcrafted cards. She did. One. It’s a beauty.

The card Bernie handcrafted for me, celebrating my mother's gift of birthday cakes. That's me in the photo, on my second birthday.

She remembered how, several times in blog posts, I wrote about the birthday cakes my mom created for me and my siblings when we were growing up. My parents didn’t have money for gifts; the cake was the gift, I wrote.

Those stories of birthdays without presents and the loving gift of a cake touched something in Bernie. She made it her mission to find a copy of the 1959 General Foods Corporation’s Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-up Cake booklet that my siblings and I thumbed through each birthday to choose the cake our mother would create.

Thursday morning I unwrapped the slim package from Bernie, expecting a packet of her cards. Instead, she gifted me with memories of birthdays past in that cake booklet she found on eBay.

The birthday cake booklet from my childhood that Bernie found on eBay.

I couldn’t help myself. I started crying in what my friend would surely term “big, blubbering, snot-bubble kind of sobs.”

Bernie could not have possibly known this, but her gift came at a time when I needed uplifting and something to make me smile. When I told Bernie this in an e-mail, she shared that, despite her husband’s suggestion to mail the cake booklet shortly before Christmas, she insisted, “No, I really need to send it out this week.”

She’s had the booklet for several weeks.

Bernie was right. This was the week I needed to receive her gift. Somehow she knew…

That we should all have a friend like Bernie…

TELL ME. When has a friend touched your life with an unexpected, just-right gift given at precisely the right moment?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Enter this vintage photo contest October 21, 2011

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. As part of the prize package, Nina is offering a $25 gift certificate to Camp Honeybelle.

TODAY WE’RE GOING to talk photos.

First, I’d like you to dig out your old photo albums or shoeboxes full of vintage black-and-white images. I am looking for a candid photo (not a formal portrait) that portrays love.

Easy, right? Perhaps you have an old snapshot of your parents or grandparents together. How about a mother-daughter picture? Cousins? Siblings? A person with a favorite pet?

Anything that depicts love will do as long as the photo is vintage, black-and-white and candid.

OK, once you’ve found that single image, I want you to enter it in the Minnesota Moments magazine “Snapshots of Love” contest. You’ll find complete information about this competition by clicking onto the website, minnesotamoments.com, here.

You’ll need to do a teeny, tiny bit of writing to complete your entry. Simply state in a paragraph of 75 words or less what your photo tells you about love. Easy.

If your entry is selected as the winner—and, yes, I’m one of the judges—you will win a prize package valued at $150.

Here’s the prize list:

You do not need to subscribe to this magazine to enter the contest, although we’d certainly love to have you as a subscriber.

The first contestant sent a sweet image of her and her sister riding their shared tricycle on their Otter Tail County farm in 1948. I’m not sharing her story with you, but suffice to say her words moved me to tears.

Entries must be received by November 15.

OK, NOW THAT I have convinced you to enter “Snapshots of Love,” I want to assure you that, yes, indeed, it is possible to win a contest.

Here’s proof. Last year I entered an image in the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans 2011 calendar photo contest. My photo of the cross-topped cemetery fence at Urland Lutheran Church near Cannon Falls was selected from among more than 300 entries to grace the October page of the calendar. Judges were seeking “unique and inspiring images,” according to a letter I received from Thrivent.

My winning image of the Urland church cemetery fence.

The really interesting thing here is that when I took this photo, I didn’t know about the contest. I shot the image when my husband and I stopped at the country church and cemetery while on a Sunday afternoon drive. Months later, when I learned of the “Connecting with the Cross” themed calendar photo competition, I knew I had the perfect entry.

Urland Lutheran Church, rural Cannon Falls

So if you have one of those Thrivent calendars hanging on your wall, that’s my photo you’re looking at during October. You can click here to learn more about the image.

This is not the first time I’ve won a calendar photo contest. My close-up of autumn leaves in the woods made the November page of River Bend Nature Center’s 2007 “Sights and Seasons” calendar.

Prior to that, I won first place, and $100, in a national photo contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit for a close-up image of a butterfly in my daisy patch.

So there, enter. You could win, too.

TELL ME, RIGHT NOW, in a comment to this blog post, that you will enter the “Snapshots of Love” contest. That would make me happy. If you have questions, ask away. Be sure also to check out the sponsor websites. That would make me happy, too.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Autumn in words and photos, plus a contest October 8, 2011

I shot this cover image of pumpkins at Twiehoff Gardens & Nursery in Faribault.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER autumn, what comes to mind?

Pumpkins. Colorful leaves. Crisp nights. Harvest. Those top my list.

Because I’m a magazine writer, I pay attention to seasonal details probably more than your average person. If I want to submit a seasonal story and/or photos, I need to plan a year in advance of publication.

And so I did with the current issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Inside the just-published fall issue, you’ll find 20 of my photos, all taken last fall.

I’m particularly proud of my 11-image, 5-page photo essay titled “Oh, fleeting days of autumn in Minnesota.” Not only will you find fall scenes from rural Minnesota, but you’ll read copy that is more poetic than straight-forward writing. For example, in the opening paragraph of that photo essay piece, I write:

Autumn slips into Minnesota on wisps of wind whirling wayward leaves onto sun-washed grass. And so summer fades and a new season begins.

You’ll also read my poem, “Preparing for winter, circa 1960,” based on embellished memories of my mother canning and freezing garden produce for the winter ahead.

I enjoy writing poetry that connects to my rural roots. And I’ve been fairly successful in getting published with seven poems printed in five anthologies, one on Roadside Poetry billboards and another recently published in a debut literary magazine. I really ought to write more poetry.

But, I have those magazine articles to work on and blogging and… I’m already pursuing stories for the winter issue of Minnesota Moments.

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. We are seeking these types of vintage black-and-white candid photos.

THEN I HAD THIS FABULOUS contest idea, “Snapshots of Love,” for our winter edition. And you know how that goes, when you have the idea you follow through and make it happen.

To summarize, we are seeking vintage black-and-white candid photos on the theme of love. Contest submission also requires a bit of writing—a maximum 75-word paragraph answering this question: “What story does this photo tell me about the theme of love?”

The winner, selected by me and other magazine staffers, wins a $150 prize package comprised of handcrafted greeting cards from Bernie (a former Duluth resident) at Budugalee, a $25 gift certificate from Camp Honeybelle (an etsy shop operated by Nina Hedin of Glencoe), a letter press, vintage graphics fine art print from Bruno Press and a one-year subscription to the magazine.

For “Snapshots of Love” contest details, click here.

For info about Minnesota Moments, with the current cover photo, 23 inside photos, and four stories and book reviews by me, click here.

To check out the ArtsyNina blog, click here. And to shop at Camp Honeybelle, click here.

To read Bernie’s One Mixed Bag blog, click here. To view her card collection at Budugalee, click here.

For more information about Bruno Press, click here. You’ll find a feature story about owner Mary Bruno in the fall issue of Minnesota Moments.

Enjoy! And get your contest entries in to “Snapshots of Love.” Entry deadline is November 15, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling