Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Gratitude for Mother’s Day photos & the love of a rural Minnesota care center staff May 11, 2020

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I printed this message inside a handmade Mother’s Day card for my mom back in elementary school. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

SUNDAY PROVED A MOTHER’S DAY unlike any other due to COVID-19. A day of mixed emotions—of laughter and of sadness. Of smiles. Of missing those I love with an unexplainable pain that comes from separation and of wanting nothing more than to hold and hug those I love most. My mom, who is on hospice. My daughters and son and two grandchildren. Hugs for the sons-in-law, too.

I began the day with no expectations. There would be no seeing family in person, only in a video chat late in the afternoon. Randy tried his best to make my day special. And I am grateful for his effort. For the brunch he cooked, the delicious pork he smoked and grilled. And for the afternoon drive in the country, which proved joyful and therapeutic.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009. Used for illustration only.

 

But two things stand out from Sunday above all. Mid-morning, my eldest sent a photo of her with my sweet grandchildren—Isabelle, 4, and Isaac, 16 months. Izzy beamed a wide smile with Amber in the background holding an open box of specialty doughnuts. While the girls looked at the camera, Isaac did not. His eyes fixed on those doughnuts. I laughed, oh, how I laughed. The image couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

My sweet mom, featured on the Parkview Facebook page.

 

Then hours later, after that delicious supper of smoked pork, grilled veggies and s’mores, Amber texted a photo of my mom posted on the Parkview Senior Living Center Facebook page. It was the most lovely photo of Mom, with oxygen tubes momentarily removed, a slight smile curving her lips and a corsage pinned to her plum fleece jacket. I broke down. Crying. Tears of gratitude. Tears of happiness mixed with sadness. But mostly, above all, thankfulness for this Mother’s Day gift.

To the staff at Parkview, who took the time to pamper the resident mothers and then photograph them, I am especially grateful. I’ve always known them to be a caring and compassionate family in small town southwestern Minnesota. But these images reaffirm that. I am thankful for the extra love given to these moms, and indirectly to us, their families, on Mother’s Day. What a gift. What a blessing.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photo from Parkview Senior Living Center Facebook page

 

With gratitude for community newspapers April 15, 2020

Published in the Faribault Daily News in August 2017 as part of a “Whiteout” campaign by Minnesota newspapers during Minnesota Newspaper Week. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

NOW, MORE THAN EVER, our community newspapers need our support. They, like so many businesses, have been negatively affected by COVID-19.

Ad revenue has plummeted due to business closures. One only need page through a local newspaper to notice the drop. Advertising, and subscriptions, pay expenses from printing to payroll.

 

The Faribault Daily News on my front steps, when it was still delivered by carrier. Today the paper lands in my mailbox, delivered by the post office. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Already in Minnesota, several newspaper—The Hastings Star-Gazette and the Bulletin, serving Woodbury and Cottage Grove and owned by River Town Multimedia—will cease publication in early May. In Fargo/Moorhead, The Forum is no longer publishing a print paper on Mondays and Fridays.

In my community and throughout the region, Adams Publishing Group employees’ hours have been cut. And more. I’ve lost work as a freelancer and columnist for an APG arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine that has temporarily suspended publication.

I view this issue from an insider perspective, having earned a degree in journalism and with experience as a small town newspaper reporter and photographer, albeit decades ago. I understand the importance of community journalism. I understand how hard these reporters and editors work to bring you local news. I understand the long and odd hours and the low pay. I’ve been there. Now, more than ever, newspapers are an essential business in keeping communities informed.

 

Published as part of the “Whiteout” campaign in 2017. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

Journalists commit to bringing you the stories that matter in your community. Think about that for a moment. Stories that matter in your community. The feel-good stories. The watchdog stories about public meetings. The hard news. Only in a local paper will you see those stories and photos targeted specifically for your community or region.

 

The front page of the Faribault Daily News following a devastating tornado in September 2018. Local news found only in community newspapers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

I am grateful to the reporters, editors, page designers, ad reps and more at my local paper, the Faribault Daily News, who continue to invest their time and energy in community journalism. All too often, people criticize their work. Complain. Please, don’t kill the messenger who delivers bad news, along with the good. The reporter is just doing his/her job.

Rather, we should be grateful. We should thank these hard-working men and women for all they do. And today that means making sense of COVID-19 on a local level—writing about locals sewing face masks, hospital staff cuts and, yes, even the difficult stories about people infected with the virus. You won’t necessarily hear or read those stories in other media outlets. Our community newspapers are just that, all about community. Your community.

Please support community journalism by subscribing to your local newspaper, by purchasing ads (if your budget and situation allow), by saying “thank you.”

 

What if your community lost its newspaper? This is the front page of the Faribault Daily News during the 2017 “Whiteout” campaign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

FYI: I invite you to read my August 2017 post about a “Whiteout” campaign by 200 Minnesota newspapers reminding people about the importance of local newspapers in their communities. It’s worth a read. Click here. And remember that a free press is a vital part of our democracy. We need reporters asking tough questions, gathering information and presenting the facts.

JOIN ME in expressing your gratitude for community newspapers in the comments section below. Tell me what you appreciate about your local newspaper and those who work there. Thank you.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thankful Tuesday: Here’s to you, blue collar workers April 7, 2020

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015, northbound on Interstate 35 with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance. We depend on mechanics and automotive machinists to keep our vehicles running.

 

MONDAY MORNING I PULLED a whiteboard from the closet. And then I started a list. Of everyone and everything I need to pray for daily. The list numbers nine categories already and I expect will continue to grow. Typically I wouldn’t need a written list as I have a good memory. But I find myself needing a recall prompt. And, in some sense, physically grabbing a black marker and writing on a whiteboard helps me.

Last evening I added three more names to the prayers for friends and family category after a sister-in-law asked me to pray for a friend’s son, who is infected with COVID-19, and his young family.

On that prayer list I’ve written thankfulness as a reminder to thank God for the many people—especially in healthcare, emergency response, law enforcement and military—who are on “the frontline” serving others.

 

Randy at work in the automotive machine shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Today, though, I want to focus on thanking essential blue collar workers, those men and women who don’t have the option of working from home. That includes my husband, Randy, an automotive machinist. His employer has taken steps to protect customers and employees. Customers (mostly) are no longer allowed inside the store or inside the shop with doors to both locked. Rather, they must stay outside, call and then await curbside service.

 

The door to the automotive machine shop is now locked and signs posted on social distancing, business hours and new customer services practices.

 

But for Randy, it’s not that easy. He sometimes needs to help customers carry heavy auto parts into the shop so he can perform tasks like turn brake rotors, resurface heads and much more. That means close contact then and as they discuss the needed repair work. I don’t like it. But he reports customers are getting better at social distancing. Still…

Randy is not alone. All across Minnesota and across this nation, automotive machinists and mechanics are working hard to keep vehicles—from tractors to cars to trucks, including semis—running. There’s concern in those garages and shops where employees must drive customers’ vehicles into bays. Imagine stepping into a semi cab driven by an over-the-road trucker who’s traveled who knows where. There’s real fear, with extra precautions needed to clean those cabs and protect the mechanics repairing them. Yesterday I talked to someone with a family semi truck repair business. She’s worried about exposure to COVID-19 and understandably so.

Yet, these hardworking men and women—just like those in grocery stores—continue to work. (And, yes, I’m grateful Randy still has a job.) They work to deliver products, goods and services to us. Thank you, truckers and delivery drivers. Thank you, grocery store employees. Thank you, mechanics, automotive machinists and those working the counters in parts stores. Thank you, all blue collar workers. We need you, and that is evident now, more than ever.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflecting on a Monday morning in Minnesota January 6, 2020

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So many winter days lately here in Minnesota have been dominated by cloud-filled grey skies, this scene along Interstate 90 in far southeastern Minnesota.

 

SUNSHINE RADIATES WARMTH, splashing light into my office on this Monday morning. Such a blessing after too many days of grey skies. Winter in Minnesota can challenge the spirit with endless cold and dreariness. But this morning hope rises in the light.

That all sounds so optimistic and poetic. And I wish I fully believed those words, although I am trying to be more positive. Yet, it’s difficult when the current global situation prompts concern about the stability and safety of our world, our country, our state, our communities.

My thoughts are all over the place today. Negative. Positive.

 

Another winter scene along Interstate 90 in rural southeastern Minnesota. I noticed a thin break in the pressing cloud line.

 

This morning, after finishing my devotions, I picked up the gratitude journal gifted to me several days ago by a friend. I reread what I’d written. Gratefulness for a lengthy hand-penned letter from a loving friend who also gifted Randy and me with a gift certificate to a favorite Faribault restaurant. Gratitude for Randy receiving a gift certificate for a pie from the Trinity Pie Makers after entering a “name that Christmas hymn” contest at our church. Gratitude for our grandson turning one. Gratitude for the annual holiday dinner out at a new Northfield restaurant compliments of Randy’s employer.

Those are all really good things and I am grateful for each.

They balance the ongoing challenges of life. My mom in the process of dying. Other family members dealing with major health issues complicated by limited and costly health insurance that includes unaffordable premiums and high deductibles and insurers thinking they can dictate what care/prescriptions an insured should get. I’ve written previously about our own financial struggles with health insurance and I’m hearing more and more about just how bad the situation is for a lot of people.

Yesterday, as I started reading the stack of magazines and books I picked up from the local library (I am so grateful for libraries), I came across two articles mentioning health insurance in the December 2019 issue of The Writer magazine. In both stories, the freelance writers mentioned the high cost of health insurance and how fortunate they are to have coverage through their spouses. Two stories out of 11 referencing health insurance seems significant in a 48-page magazine.

 

Blue sky breaks through the bank of clouds along a rural county road between Faribault and Morristown last week.

 

Something needs to change. But change seems slow in coming. First there needs to be a recognition among politicians that a real problem exists with the current health insurance system.

I could write lots more on the topic. But, as I look outside my office window at the sunshine, as I press keyboard letters that write words upon a screen, I feel grateful that I can create. I have that freedom. I live in a wonderful community, which though imperfect, is a pretty darned sweet place to live. Today, sunshine breaks through the clouds.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

With Christmas gratitude December 23, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

MY DEAREST SECRET ANGEL,

Your identity is unknown to me. The single clue inside the legal-sized envelope with no return address shows me you are from the Faribault area. I suspect (hope) you read this blog.

Thank you for the cash gift which arrived in my mailbox today. I wasn’t expecting anything for Christmas.

You clearly possess a kind, caring and loving heart. I am grateful for your generosity, compassion and recognition that I really needed this gift. Not solely in the monetary sense, but to uplift me.

It’s been a difficult year with challenges that stretched my endurance. Many remain. But, with the love and support of others and my strong faith, I’ve managed. Hope prevails.

You, dear angel, have shown me the true spirit of Christmas. Thank you. And Merry Christmas!

Blessings,
Audrey

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Post Thanksgiving gratitude December 2, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:13 AM
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HOW WAS YOUR THANKSGIVING?

The question has been repeated to me many times in past days. My response? It was wonderful. Wonderful to have all three of my adult children here for the first Thanksgiving in probably 10 years. My mama’s heart overflowed with joy.

Simply being together made me happy. We talked and laughed as we gathered around a table enjoying an abundant and delicious meal. I especially appreciate that my girls prepare and bring foods, thus easing the workload of hosting.

 

The scene in historic downtown Faribault on Thanksgiving weekend. A pre-Thanksgiving storm dropped about eight inches of snow here.

 

After dinner, everyone (except me and almost 11-month-old Isaac) bundled into winter gear and headed up the street to slide down the hill at Wapacuta Park. It’s the same place my kids went sledding while growing up. I’m happy to see the winter tradition continue now with the next generation. If you’re going to live in Minnesota, you may as well get outside and enjoy the snow. (Remind me in a month or two that I wrote this.) Family reported back that my 3 ½-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle, loved sliding—her first time out.

 

I set out an assortment of colorful chalk.

 

With that tradition continuing, I also attempted to start a new one, with minimal success. I pulled a vintage chalkboard from a closet and asked everyone to add things for which they were thankful. Not everyone did. I initiated the list and took a bit of ribbing for writing texting. I explained that, because texting is the primary way we communicate when apart, I am grateful for this technology.

 

The gratitude list…

 

I loved my granddaughter’s additions, vocalized to my eldest daughter, who chalked them onto the board. My dolly, Grandma and Grandpa, Mommy, Ms. C…

But it was my second daughter who later came up with the singular word that made me laugh aloud. CHEESE. What can I say? She lives in Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thanksgiving reflections November 26, 2019

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I created this Thanksgiving centerpiece using a vintage tray, vintage candles, pinecones from friends, shells from Detroit Lake and letters from my 1970s Scrabble game. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

THANKSGIVING. That singular word sparks strong visuals of family gathered around a table laden with a platter of sliced turkey, bowls heaping with potatoes and stuffing, steaming brown gravy, a small bowl of cranberries, salad, and, for dessert, pumpkin pie. I’ve missed a few foods. But I’ve covered the essentials.

 

Frazee, MInnesota’s claim to fame. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

That image is the traditional view of this day. Yet, it is not necessarily accurate. Not for everyone. Too many families, because of distance or other reasons, can’t be together on this holiday that focuses so much on family. I’ve been in that spot many times.

 

Randy shuffles meals and bags around as we prepare to deliver them during a previous Thanksgiving. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But I’ve learned through the years that I can feel sad about the absence of loved ones or I can choose to be thankful and celebrate the day in ways that remind me of gratitude. In recent years Randy and I celebrated by delivering meals for Faribault’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner. We experienced such joy in bringing turkey and the trimmings to those unable to otherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Their genuine gratitude blessed us. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A message on a bulletin board at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This year, though, we will celebrate Thanksgiving at our house with family surrounding a food-laden table. All three of our adult children will be home, for the first time in years. I cannot wait. A son-in-law (one can’t be here) and two grandchildren, ages 3 ½ and almost 11 months, will add to the fun. I am a happy mama. I don’t ever take the presence of my family for granted because I’ve experienced many holidays minus the “kids.” I admit to feeling a bit melancholy through the years when I’ve heard friends talk about their Thanksgiving plans that often include multiple family gatherings. A lot of those friends grew up here and their kids live either in town or nearby as do a large contingent of extended family. But that is not me.

So this Thanksgiving I am especially grateful for the presence of those I love. I wish for you also a full table and a gathering of family or friends to bless your day.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Spread a little sunshine with words of gratitude July 26, 2019

 

GRATITUDE. How do you define that word, express it, show it?

 

 

I express my thankfulness mostly in words, written and spoken.

 

 

For that reason I was especially drawn to a tree on a hillside outside the Northfield Public Library. Upon the branches dangle colorful tags. And on those paper pieces, people penned their responses to this prompt: What are you grateful for?

 

 

 

 

I filtered through some of those answers last Saturday when heavy rains ended and the sky broke to partially cloudy. To read those responses brought more sunshine into my day, I expect exactly as The Spread Sunshine Gang intends. The Gratitude Tree is a project of the group, “a non-profit with the mission to share goodness, kindness and generosity to the Twin Cities metro area and beyond,” according to the Sunshine website.

 

 

 

 

 

That mission makes me smile as do these additional thoughts from the website:

The Spread Sunshine Gang believes the world needs more love, happiness, forgiveness and kindness. We are a motley crew of hard-working people who make time to spread a little sunshine. Through random acts of kindness and dedication to paying it forward we create events for others to do the same.

 

 

 

 

I love this, absolutely love the purpose behind projects like The Gratitude Tree. In a world where selfishness and meanness and anger seem sometimes all too prevalent, we need to pause and ponder gratitude. And then we need to act on that word and shine our thankfulness and love.

 

 

TELL ME: What are you grateful for? Have you seen a Gratitude Tree or something similar? I’d love to hear.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thanksgiving thoughts November 22, 2018

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I recently picked up this honeycomb paper turkey at a thrift store for a dime.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, dear readers!

I hope today finds you gathered with family or friends around a table laden with all the traditional foods of this holiday. Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, a side vegetable (maybe green bean casserole), pumpkin pie… No grape salad, though. Unless you are DeLores from Belview, Minnesota.

 

Another recent thrift store purchase: this sweet little handmade wooden turkey.

 

We are eating a traditional meal at our house, although the husband is grilling the turkey on our Weber charcoal grill and not in the oven. My oldest daughter, her husband and our granddaughter are joining us and I am grateful for their presence. Several years have passed since any of our three adult children have been back home for Thanksgiving. But we made the best of those years, volunteering to deliver turkey dinners as part of Faribault’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner. While I’ll miss that opportunity this year, I am beyond happy to have our daughter and her family here.

I realize Thanksgiving can be difficult for those of you without family to celebrate. Or for those of you who have recently lost loved ones. I am sorry. But I do hope you can find some joy in your day and many reasons to be thankful.

 

Stems of wheat on a candle symbolize the harvest and gratitude for that harvest.

 

While life holds many sorrows, many challenges, many struggles—none of us are without them—it also holds much that is good, joyful, lovely. I really believe that.

Today may you experience that which is good. May you feel joy. And may you see that which is lovely.

 

Words of thanks in the Psalms.

 

May gratitude fill your heart.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thanksgiving gratitude November 21, 2018

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I created this Thanksgiving centerpiece using a vintage tray, vintage candles, pinecones from friends, shells from Detroit Lake and letters from my 1970s Scrabble game.

 

FOR WHAT ARE YOU thankful?

The standard answers are often family, health, house…

But what if you think deeper than that to the specifics. I decided to do that. Here’s a partial, quick list of that for which I am thankful in the first 11 months of 2018:

  • A new baby on the way with our second grandchild (a boy) due in less than two months.
  • Skilled medical professionals who cared for me, encouraged me and helped me recover after surgery on a broken wrist.
  • A husband who exuded absolute calm even when I semi screamed at him to drive faster to the hospital emergency room.
  • A son and his girlfriend who baked and mailed chocolate chunk cookies from Boston as I recovered from wrist surgery and again in celebration of my birthday.
  • Minimal damage on and to our property following severe storms and tornadoes that swept across Minnesota on September 20. I am especially grateful for significant advance warning.
  • An extended family that still gathers in my hometown each July for an annual reunion that includes aunts, uncles, cousins and their families.
  • The opportunity to blog regularly for Warner Press, a Christian publishing company in Anderson, Indiana.
  • Friends who support, pray for and encourage me, as well as make me laugh and wrap me in their love.
  • My 2 ½-year-old granddaughter. No other words needed.
  • Art.
  • Several days away at a northwestern Minnesota lakeside condo, thanks to the generosity of friends who couldn’t use their entire timeshare week. This was a first for Randy and me and exactly what we needed.

Sometimes all I really need, though, is to pause for a moment and consider my blessings. Of which there are many.

TELL ME: What are you especially thankful for this Thanksgiving?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling