Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Creating kind words in chaotic times November 6, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,
My vintage Scrabble game. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

GIVEN MY LOVE OF WORDS, I’ve always enjoyed playing Scrabble. But it’s been years since I pulled out my 1970s vintage game to build words on a board. Randy doesn’t like the game. So it sits in the closet, collecting dust.

But let’s imagine for a second that I pulled out that Scrabble game, turned all the letters face down and randomly selected seven to start the game. What words would I form? Could I plan ahead and make the most of my letters to score the most points? I could try. Yet, another player’s actions often change the best thought-out plans.

Much is also left to chance. There’s only so much you can control while playing Scrabble, or most games for that matter. Kind of like life.

“Protect the herd” plays off Northfield, Minnesota’s “Cows, Colleges and Contentment” slogan. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Like right now we can do everything possible to protect ourselves from COVID-19 (such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands, avoiding crowds, etc.). But we may still contract the virus. That doesn’t mean, though, that we should just give up and resign ourselves to getting COVID. We do have the power, and the responsibility, to try our best—by following health and safety guidelines, by making changes in our behavior and finding ways to improve our health—to possibly fend off the virus. And we need to recognize that our choices and actions affect others. Just like in Scrabble.

The past few days have been difficult ones, not only because of the presidential election, but also because more and more people I care about have either contracted COVID or have loved ones with the virus. COVID cases and deaths here in Minnesota are breaking records. I feel pretty stressed, as I’m certain many of you do.

Displayed at LARK Toys. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

What’s a person to do besides stay the course and seek ways to relieve the building anxiety and stress? Part of the answer rests on the Scrabble board I photographed several years ago at LARK Toys in Kellogg. Be kind.

I can be kind to myself, recognizing that my feelings are valid. And if I feel like I need a handful of dark chocolate chips to help me feel better, that’s OK.

I can also strive to work harder at kindness. I recognize I sometimes fail and miss opportunities to express kindness. I can choose to take my focus off scoring points to creating kind words. That’s my Scrabble analogy.

And just so you know, the one person who always beat me at Scrabble was my mother-in-law, Betty, gone 27 years now She proved a fierce competitor. And I loved her for that.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lean on me or let me lean on you April 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:06 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

A portrait I took of my mom during my last visit with her in early March. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2020.

 

I HIT A WALL late yesterday afternoon. Maybe you’ve reached that point. Maybe not. But, after weeks of shelter-in-place and concern for loved ones, I felt overwhelmed.

A health update on my mom, who is in hospice in a care center 120 miles distant, caused sadness to sweep over me. I long to see her, to be there for her in the final stages of her life. But I can’t. And that breaks my heart. Then, I thought, how selfish of me. She is the one without family surrounding her. Not me. She is the one who is alone. Not me. So I re-framed my thinking, feeling gratitude for the last time I visited her, the weekend prior to care centers closing to visitors. What a gift.

 

I love this message in the Second Street pocket garden in downtown Faribault. It’s a wonderful reminder to love one another. I photographed this just the other day.

 

And then I called my uncle and updated him on his sister and talked to him about my aunt, his wife, who is undergoing chemo for terminal cancer. We discussed the challenges of this situation during COVID-19. And, in that conversation, we talked also about Zoom and mashed potatoes and gravy, and phoning his cousin, a pork producer. Laughter mingled with near tears.

I thought of his hog farmer cousin and all the other farmers facing unprecedented challenges now with regional meat processing plants shutting down and no place to send animals. And I considered my friend and her family in Worthington, a community in southwestern Minnesota hard hit by COVID-19. Nobles County, with a population of some 22,000, had 399 confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, most traced to a local meatpacking plant. No place is exempt. I worry about my friend…

We are all dealing with something, right? Missing family. Job loss. Concern about loved ones living in care centers with diagnosed cases of COVID. Grieving, like friends who last week lost a sister/sister-in-law to COVID and an uncle to a farm accident. It’s a lot.

 

My prayer list, written on a whiteboard propped against the entertainment center in my living room. This photo is from a few weeks ago. I update this list nearly daily with some names/concerns removed, others added.

 

In all of this, the need to support and love one another seems more important than ever. I’ve found myself reaching out and connecting every day with friends and family dealing with situations that are difficult any time, but even more so now. Mental illness. Cancer. Unemployment. I try to listen and encourage. And I continue to pray, updating my whiteboard daily by adding new names of those in need of prayer.

We’ll all get through this. I know we will. But there are days when we will struggle, when we will feel overwhelmed, when we will grieve and even feel angry. On those days, especially those days, I reach out to others. Not for sympathy, but to be that person they can lean on.

TELL ME: Are you struggling at times? How do you handle those moments? And how are you helping others? I’d like to hear, because we can all learn from one another as we continue to deal with this global pandemic and the resulting challenges.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Finding creative ways to deal with our “new normal” March 20, 2020

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

A message on the now closed Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault reminds us that we are in unprecedented times.

 

ALTHOUGH I EXPECTED IT, the news still felt like a punch to the gut. My county of Rice now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19. I feel more unsettled. Like the bubble of protection has popped. Not that we in this region south of the Twin Cities metro ever were in a bubble. But, as the saying goes, until it hits home…

Media reports say the case is related to international travel.

 

A snippet of the cancellations, restrictions and closings published in the Faribault Daily News.

 

We’re all on a journey right now, traveling to unexpected places as each day, even hourly, we go down new roads. Schools closed. Then libraries. Next, bars and restaurants and other gathering spots. Churches, hair salons, clinics, government offices… The list grows daily. Events canceled.

 

From an obituary published in my local newspaper days ago, prior to the 10-person gathering limit.

 

Among the most difficult of those challenges is grieving the loss of loved ones without a traditional public funeral service.

So how are we coping? How are we managing this new normal? I’d like to hear from you. Your ideas. Your stories. Your creative ways of helping others, of staying connected when you can’t be together. How are you keeping it all together personally? For yourself and your family.

I’ll open the conversation. Yesterday a sister-in-law emailed the extended Helbling family (of which there are around 60 spread across multiple states) and asked for updates. Responses started coming in from my nieces, in-laws and my own immediate family. Just to hear how everyone is doing at this time, during this global pandemic, helped reassure me. I didn’t realize until that moment how much I needed to hear from those I love.

Many are now working from home. There are concerns for those employed in retail. Some, like my second daughter and her husband, are now without work. Kids are home from school and parents are scrambling to keep them busy. At my niece’s home in Apple Valley, Dad now hosts a daily story time with the neighbors. They gather outdoors, with a minimum social distancing of six feet, for 30-40 minutes of reading. They’ve started with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is in Minnesota, remember. But they’re making it work. On good weather days.

 

This sign hangs outside the NAPA, Northfield, Auto Parts Store. Photo by my wonderful husband and NAPA’s automotive machinist, Randy.

 

At my husband’s workplace, NAPA Auto Parts in Northfield, the business now offers curbside pick-up as an option to customers.

In my home office, I’ve been hard at work on a new series of blog posts scheduled to roll out Sunday on Warner Press. The weekly posts will feature selected bible verses, sometimes paired with personal insights, with the goal of offering hope, comfort, peace and encouragement.

 

From the Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Facebook page. Such uplifting Scripture is being posted daily.

 

I’m also editing and proofing devotionals posting daily on the Trinity Radio and Video website. My faith family is working hard to connect in a time when our church doors are closed.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary creativity. They call for each of us to care, to connect, to extend kindness and love. We may not like where we’re at now, limited in our abilities to live life as we knew it pre-COVID-19. But we need to make the best of it. And when we share ideas, like I’m asking you to do here, we are all the better for having pooled our creativity.

SO LET’S HEAR FROM YOU.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling