Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Birthday wishes to my daughter November 16, 2020

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Miranda. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

TODAY MARKS A SPECIAL DAY in my life, as much as it marks a special day for my second-born, Miranda. Today she celebrates her 30-something birthday.

This post celebrates a daughter who is beautiful in every essence of her being. She is strong and loving and compassionate. Those who know her well value her quiet spirit, her resilience, her kindness. She has always been deeply considerate of others, never needing to be the center of attention, a good listener.

Those qualities made Miranda really good at what she did professionally. I write that in past tense because, earlier this year, she lost her job as an independent contract Spanish medical interpreter. That happened in the spring when Madison, Wisconsin, hospitals and clinics closed their doors to elective visits and surgeries due to COVID-19. The need for her services could be handled by in-house interpreters.

Miranda poses in front of the UWL hillside letters at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, on her graduation day in 2010. She earned a degree in Spanish. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

After years of interpreting, most in the Fox Valley area of northeastern Wisconsin, Miranda found herself without the job she loved. Interpreting for Spanish-speaking patients was such a good fit for her given her love of language, her calm personality and, most of all, her compassion for helping others. When you’re interpreting for patients and their families in crisis (think automobile accidents, stabbings and other medical emergencies) or getting difficult diagnoses or even at the birth of a child, it takes a special person to remain calm and professional.

Miranda realized immediately after her job loss that she needed to find other employment because it could be months before regular healthcare resumed. Eventually, she landed a job as a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service. Today she continues to deliver mail, working six days a week, sometimes 10-plus hours a day. I admire her positive attitude about this new job despite the long hours, only one day a week off and the political attacks a few months back on the postal service. That’s a lot of negatives.

Yet, as she’s always done, Miranda has risen above the challenges. She is strong. She is hardworking. She is resilient. I love this daughter of mine, this beautiful young woman who has always been here for our family and so many other families. Loving and caring, in her own quiet way.

It is my hope that someday she can return to interpreting. But in these days when hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients and on the cusp of, if not already, shutting down elective surgeries and visits, she needs job security. For now that comes in delivering mail as an essential worker, someone who cares about getting letters and magazines and all those packages delivered.

Miranda, five days old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I remember my daughter’s early delivery, how we scrambled in the early morning hours to find someone to watch her big sister so I could get to the hospital days ahead of a scheduled C-section. Even back then, Miranda had a mind of her own. From the very beginning, she set the timetable for her life in asserting her strength and independence.

Happy birthday, dear Miranda! I love you and I miss you!

© Copyright 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

 

One mother’s remarkable love December 3, 2018

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

HER WORDS LEFT ME near tears. They are words of a mother who loves her 22-year-old daughter beyond measure.

She wishes, she told me, that she could trade places with Brittany*, that she would be the one battling ovarian cancer. Not her girl.

I saw the pain in Ellen’s* eyes, heard it during our brief exchange outside Walmart as I rang bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning. Ellen and I are acquaintances, two of our children once classmates. I haven’t seen her in years, thus greeted her with “How are you?”

When Ellen looked away and responded with a subdued OK, I picked up immediately that she was not alright. So I asked. And then she told me about the discovery of a large tumor on one of Brittany’s ovaries, the eight months getting care at a metro hospital, the seemingly successful treatment…until abnormal blood work results last week.

I reached out and hugged her.

We didn’t talk stages or treatment or about other medical details. I focused instead on how Ellen was coping, knowing how difficult this must be for her. How it would be for any mother. As moms we want to make everything better for our children, no matter their ages. Ellen didn’t disagree. But her response went beyond that. “I wish I was the one with cancer,” she said.

For the second time, I instinctively wrapped her in a hug.

Ellen spoke with the authenticity of a mother who’d thought often about her desire to trade places, to be the one fighting cancer. I admire the strength of her love for Brittany.

During the two hours I greeted folks while ringing bells, my time with Ellen proved an emotionally pivotal moment. I’d seen so much of humanity. Smiling faces. Scowling faces. Faces that exuded joy. Faces that showed nothing but despair. Mouths that spoke gratitude. Mouths that complained (about the winter storm—”It’s too early for this s**t”). I thought I’d heard it all. But I hadn’t until I heard the profound words of love from an incredible mother—”I wish I was the one with cancer.”

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

*Not their real names.

 

Celebrating my daughter on her birthday November 16, 2018

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Miranda. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

LOVE HOLDS MEMORIES. So many. And today I remember my second daughter, celebrating her birthday 265 miles distant in south central Wisconsin. I wish I could be with her, embracing her and telling her how much, how deeply, I love her.

But time passes and kids grow up and become adults and move on and celebrate birthdays without us. That is the reality of life. I wonder sometimes why some kids choose to stay in the place of their roots and some choose to leave. Mine left, although one daughter lives only an hour away, for which I am thankful.

Today, on Miranda’s birthday, I remember her entry into the world—on her timeline, not mine. She awakened me in the early morning hours of November 16, days before her scheduled delivery by C-section. She sent Randy and me scrambling to find someone to watch her 21-month-old sister so I could get to the hospital. I shall be forever grateful to my neighbor Cheri.

This launch into life set the tone for Miranda. She is her own person, not one who feels the need to follow the crowd. She has stood strong among bullies and strong through treatment for scoliosis and strong under administration fire as a co-editor of her high school newspaper many years ago. She stood strong through a mugging in Argentina. She stood strong while volunteering with Hurricane Katrina clean-up.

She’s compassionate and kind and loving. Miranda works in a profession that requires compassion. She is a Spanish medical interpreter. From birthing rooms to emergency rooms, she offers a calming presence to patients and their families. I admire her ability to handle whatever situation with professionalism and grace. I could not do what she does. But I appreciate that she is there for people both in moments of joy and in moments of crisis.

Miranda is also a woman of faith, of a gentle spirit. She is quiet, yet bold. Creative.

There’s so much I love about this girl of mine, who really is not mine in the sense of ownership. No one owns anyone. But the bonds of family connect us, hold us close in the infinite love of a mother for her daughter. Today my love overflows as I think of the sweet baby girl I welcomed all those decades ago. On her timeline, not mine.

Happy birthday, Miranda! I love you. Always.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In celebration of my daughter & son on their February birthdays February 9, 2018

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A cake made by my niece, also named Amber, for her daughter several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FEBRUARY BRINGS NOT ONLY the dreaded time of year when I must prepare information for the tax preparer. But it, thankfully, also brings joy as two of my three now grown children celebrate birthdays. Today and tomorrow.

 

Amber at six months old. File photo.

 

Eight years apart in age, Amber and Caleb are at two distinctly different points in their lives. Amber is well-settled into married life and life as a mom to Izzy, nearly two. Caleb lives with several other guys in a greater Boston apartment and is just beginning his career in technology.

With nearly 1,400 miles separating my oldest and youngest and with their sister living in between in eastern Wisconsin, we manage to gather as a family about once a year—the last time for a family reunion in August. I don’t like that such distances separate us. But it is our reality and we rely on technology to stay connected.

 

Caleb at 1 1/2 days old. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When I think back on the connection between my eldest daughter and her brother, I smile. From the day I came home from the hospital with my 10 lb., 12 oz. bruiser baby boy, Amber doted on him. She was at the perfect age to embrace a baby. Later Amber assumed the role of teacher, teaching Caleb his numbers, the alphabet and more. She read books to him, too, and simply loved on her brother.

 

Caleb and Amber. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2017.

 

That love still shines strong. When I observe the two of them together, I see the depth of love they hold for each other in the gentle teasing, the arm draped across the shoulder, the warm hugs. Amber has been there for her brother, always, whether working a puzzle with him at age four or flying across the country to Boston years later.

I see in Caleb an admiration for his sister, a genuine desire to spend time with her when he’s back in Minnesota. I note him bonding with his niece. When I see Caleb holding Isabelle and reading to her, my mama’s heart overflows with love. Love is coming full circle.

On these two February days, the ninth and the tenth, I celebrate Amber and Caleb. I have watched them grow into two loving, caring and strong individuals. I am honored to be their mom. While geographical distance separates us, love keeps us close. For that I am grateful.

 

Amber at three months. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Happy birthday, Amber!

 

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

Happy birthday, Caleb!

I love you both more than pizza. And, yes, that is an inside-the-family saying.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pop goes the love May 16, 2017

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I’M SENTIMENTAL. I appreciate receiving greeting cards and handwritten notes and letters. There’s something about pen put to paper that conveys thoughts, feelings, emotions better than a text or an email. Perhaps it’s the writer in me. Or the traditionalist.

 

 

When I opened a Mother’s Day card from my second daughter, I actually gasped in amazement. And delight. Miranda purchased a Lovepop card, a work of sculpted art.

 

 

If you are a fan of the television show Shark Tank, then you likely know about this Boston-based card company. Two young entrepreneurs started this business that creates cards described as “intricate 3D paper sculptures designed…on cutting edge software and then hand-crafted in the Asian art form of sliceform kirigami.”

Simply put, these are pop-up cards that WOW you as works of art.

 

A patch of daisies. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Miranda took care in choosing the right card design for me. Daisies are one of my favorite flowers, reflecting the simplicity of my life-style and my appreciation for nature. Perfect. My daughter knows me well.

 

My daughter Miranda and me.

 

The giving of this card was made even better by the delivery method. Miranda handed the Lovepop to me Sunday morning. I can’t recall the last time my daughter, who lives 5 1/2 hours away in eastern Wisconsin, was with me on Mother’s Day. That makes this card even more dear, for the memories now connected to it.

TELL ME: What’s one of the most memorable greeting cards you’ve received?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Happy birthday to my daughter Miranda November 16, 2016

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WORTHY OF ADMIRATION. WONDERFUL.

Look up the definition of Miranda and those are the words that define the name derived from Latin.

Miranda, five days old

Miranda, five days old

But to me the name is much more personal. Much more meaningful. Much more precious. Miranda is the name my husband and I chose for our second daughter. Today our Miranda celebrates her birthday.

She fits the definition of admirable and wonderful. And here’s why:

Our daughter is incredibly caring, kind and compassionate. Not only in the loyalty of her friendship but in her care for others. While still a high school student, she went on mission trips to help hurricane survivors. She also modeled good choices, resisting peer pressure and more through theater and outreach at her high school.

She’s well beyond those years now. Still her compassion prevails in her work as a Spanish medical interpreter, in service projects at her church and in simply caring deeply about others.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province during one of her trips to Argentina.

But there’s much more to Miranda. Beneath her external gentleness, she is incredibly strong. Rock strong. At age four, she walked with a nurse toward a hospital operating room, Big Bird in hand, neither crying or afraid. As a teen, she powered through wearing a back brace 24/7 for a year with focused determination. While traveling in Argentina, she fought off an attacker and come through stronger than ever. Not much rattles her.

As a little girl, Miranda was all girly girl, wearing only skirts and donning ribbons in her hair. She also loved horses, including her stick horse, shown here in a photo taken when she was 5 1/2.

As a little girl, Miranda was all girly girl, wearing skirts and donning ribbons in her hair. She also loved horses, including her stick horse, shown here in a photo taken when she was 5 1/2. She still has beautiful curly hair, although no longer blonde.

She has always been her own person. Independent and spirited in the way that she’s OK with following her own path. I admire that quality in her. At an amusement park, you’d find Miranda rocking the roller coaster, hands up. She’s that kind of adventurous. Seemingly unafraid.

Miranda and me. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2016.

Miranda and me. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2016.

I don’t see Miranda nearly as often as I would like; she lives 300 miles away. But I think of her daily, holding her close in my heart and my prayers. I love her with the same fierceness as the day she was born, even before she was born. The kind of love so strong it locks your heart forever to your child. The kind of love that can’t be defined by words, but rather by emotions and feelings and an overwhelming need to always be there for your child. No matter their age. To want the best for them—to be safe and happy and well.

Miranda is an adult now, has been for more than a decade. But that doesn’t change how I feel about her, how deep my motherly love.

She is beautiful in so many ways. And on this day, her day, I wish my daughter a most beautiful birthday. And I want her to know how very much I love her. Always.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memories of all the pretty little horses September 15, 2016

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Free horse and baby stuff 002 - Copy

 

WHEN MY NEIGHBOR PLACED a pile of baby equipment on the boulevard recently along with an oversized plastic toy horse, memories rushed back of my dear second daughter and her love of all things horses.

As a preschooler, Miranda obsessed over equines, wanting to check out only books about horses from the library. She drew pastel horses with Magic Markers. And she played with toy horses. Endlessly.

Now a plastic tote heaped with her childhood horses rests on a shelf in the basement, in storage. Those equines represent memories, sweet and treasured of a daughter I love beyond words.

I was tempted to dash across Willow Street and pluck that horse from the grass. But I left it there for the young girl who opened the passenger side of her mom’s SUV and scooped the critter into her arms. Perhaps some day her mom will pack that horse away in a plastic container and remember when her little girl loved horses.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

All about love & family at my daughter’s baby shower March 7, 2016

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I picked up three helium balloons for my daughter and son-in-law's baby shower for a total of $3 at Dollar Tree.

I picked up three helium balloons for my daughter and son-in-law’s baby shower for a total of $3 at Dollar Tree in Faribault.

THE PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS flew in from California. The aunt drove 300 miles from eastern Wisconsin. A great aunt traveled from western Minnesota, near the South Dakota border.

I created this baby

I created this baby banner from construction paper, shiny paper letters, animals shapes and polka dot ribbon, then strung it across my living room window.

They gathered with 13 other guests (three of whom are pregnant) and three baby girls to celebrate the anticipated arrival of my first grandchild in less than two months.

Family from across the country shipped baby gifts to my home prior to the shower. I started stacking them, along with party supplies, in my daughters' former bedroom.

Family from across the country shipped baby gifts to my home prior to the shower. I started stacking them, along with party supplies, in my daughters’ former bedroom.

I’d been planning this party, this baby shower, for months for my eldest daughter, Amber, and her husband, Marc. It was perfect. In every way.

Guests created personalized onesies using stamps, stencils, paint and permanent markers.

Guests created personalized onesies using stamps, stencils, paint and permanent markers.

From the food to the conversation, art project, games and, yes, even the weather, the day proved lovely.

I purchased these napkins at Party Plus in Owatonna.

I purchased these napkins at Party Plus in Owatonna.

Guests loved the cute mini elephant roll-out cookies I made and sprinkled with pastel sugars.

Guests loved the cute mini elephant roll-out cookies I made and sprinkled with pastel sugars. I borrowed the cookie cutter from a friend.

Beanie Babies were big when the mom-to-be and dad-to-be were growing up. So I asked guests to identify the elephant, lion and zebra. Only one guest correctly names them: Peanut, Roary and Ziggy.

Beanie Babies were big when the mom-to-be and dad-to-be were growing up. So I asked guests to identify the zebra, elephant and lion. Only one guest correctly named them: Ziggy, Peanut and Roary.

It was my honor and my joy to throw this party for my daughter and son-in-law. When I settled on a theme—zoo animals—my creativity sparked. Elephant themed napkins and dainty elephant cut-out cookies. A baby trivia game included questions about the gestational period of an African elephant (22 months), plus questions about the parents-to-be and more. The two grandpas were the lifelines.

The great nieces played while their moms and others passed opened baby gifts around my living room.

The great nieces played while their moms and others passed opened baby gifts around my living room. That’s my husband in the doorway.

Laughter and conversation flowed. Arms of aunts and grandmas and cousins held babies. Wrapping paper fell onto the living room carpet, entertaining the 10 ½-month old who’s beginning to walk.

The adorable "Santa" outfit from Great Grandma Norma.

The adorable “Santa” outfit from Great Grandma Norma for Amber and Marc’s daughter.

The parents-to-be and guests, and grandparents, too, gushed over the red velvet Santa-style dress with matching hat and red-and-white striped leggings selected by Great Grandma Norma in California. You could almost hear the Minnesota dialect reaction, “Oh, fer cute.”

My daughter holds a colorful car seat activity toy for her daughter.

My daughter holds a colorful car seat activity toy for her daughter.

This whimsical creature from Uncle Jon Eric and Aunt Stephani in California drew many admiring comments.

This whimsical creature from Uncle Jon Eric and Aunt Stephani in California drew many admiring comments.

My daughter Miranda, who lives in Wisconsin, bought this shirt for her niece.

My daughter Miranda, who lives in Wisconsin, bought this shirt for her niece. My son-in-law is showing off his daughter’s shirt.

Baby’s first doll, a colorful car seat activity toy, a pink “Someone in Wisconsin Loves Me” long-sleeved onesie. Cute. The hand-stitched burp rags, the floral headbands, the cloth diaper shells. Cute. So many gifts from those who love my daughter and son-in-law and my unborn granddaughter.

The grandparents-to-be flank the parents-to-be. From left to right, my husband, me, Amber, Marc and Marc's parents, Lynn and Eric. We are standing outside the garage door where I hung the banner. I found the banner packed in a shoebox. Next-door-neighbors hung the banner on our garage door 28 years ago when our youngest daughter, Miranda, was born.

The grandparents-to-be flank the parents-to-be. From left to right, my husband, me, Amber, Marc and Marc’s parents, Lynn and Eric. We are standing outside the garage door. I found the “it’s a girl” banner packed in a shoebox with baby cards. Next-door-neighbors hung the banner on our garage door 28 years ago when our youngest daughter, Miranda, was born.

Sure, this young couple could have gone out and purchased most of these items. But there’s something special about gathering in a home, crowding into the living room to eat, visit, play games and then watch the opening of baby gifts.

I was delighted to have my two beautiful daughters in my home, together, for several hours.

I was delighted to have my two beautiful daughters, Miranda, left, and Amber, in our home for several hours. We haven’t all three been together since June.

This is about tradition. This is about family. This is about love. This is a baby shower.

FYI: Check back tomorrow when I’ll show you more baby shower details and ideas.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A letter to my daughter on her birthday November 16, 2014

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Miranda, celebrating her birthday today.

Miranda, celebrating her birthday today. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo September 2014.

Dearest Miranda,

I never imagined, before I had children—before you or your sister or your brother were born—how deeply I could love a child.

But the day you were born, my heart opened wider, my love deepened to depths unimaginable. There was room in my heart for you and your sister and then, six years later, your brother.

Some day, when you become a mom, you will understand the fierceness with which a mother loves—how she hurts and cries and rejoices and desires nothing more than the best for her children.

I think of you every single day. Some days my heart aches at your absence. And I wish I could wrap my arms around you and hug you and feel the softness of your beautiful curls.

You are a beautiful, strong, caring and compassionate young woman with a mind of her own. Remember how, as a preschooler, you shut yourself in the toy room and played alone for hours? When I’d check on you, you’d ask me to leave. And even though I did, it wasn’t easy to walk away, to feel like you didn’t need me.

But I’d like to think we always need each other, that our love for one another runs deep through our veins, that no matter the distance between us, we remain connected.

I consider how strong you’ve been. At age four you clutched your Big Bird, took a nurse’s hand and walked toward the operating room while I dissolved into tears in your father’s arms. You never cried.

And years later, when you had to wear a back brace 23/7 for a year, you didn’t complain. I cried. But you soldiered on and did what you had to do.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province.

Miranda in Valles Calchaquies, near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province of Argentina. File photo 2013.

You’ve always seemed fearless to me, ready for any new adventure. You flew solo to Argentina to study abroad and then back twice thereafter, fighting off a mugger once. I don’t like to think about that attack even now because the thought of anyone ever remotely coming close to harming you scares me. I love you so much and want you always to be safe.

You give of yourself with selfless compassion from a faith-filled heart. Not once, but twice, you helped with clean-up after Hurricane Katrina. Even in your life’s chosen profession as a Spanish medical interpreter, you continue to give.

I am proud of you. Your name means “admirable.” That seems fitting for you, my precious daughter.

I love you now and forever. Happy birthday!

With love,
Mom