Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mother’s Day 2020 from southern Minnesota May 8, 2020

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

Me with my mom during a January visit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020 by Randy Helbling.

 

I STOOD BEFORE THE CARD RACK at the dollar store, pink cotton print mask covering my face, eyes scanning the choices before me. I filtered through a few Mother’s Day cards before choosing one for my eldest daughter and one for my mom.

It was an emotional moment for me as I selected the card to send to my mom, who lives in a senior care center 120 miles away in southwestern Minnesota. I last saw her on March 7, the weekend before Parkview closed to visitors to protect them from COVID-19.

Mom is on hospice, which makes a difficult situation even more emotionally challenging. How do you work through the guilt of not being there for your mom when she most needs family? How? The intellectual part of me understands the closure. The “I love my mom” side does not.

So I stood there, in front of that display rack of flowery cards with sweet messages, and considered that this could be the last time I would buy a Mother’s Day card for Mom. I wanted to rip off that mask and plop down on the floor and cry away my pain in heart-wrenching sobs. Because that’s how I felt. Overcome with sadness.

But, instead, I clutched my two cards and walked to the check-out lane, strips of orange tape marking social distancing lines on the worn carpet. I waited while the cashier scanned the biggest pile of merchandise I’ve ever seen a shopper purchase at a dollar store. I tried to be patient and wait my turn while an unmasked young woman edged closer to me, closer than my comfort level. It didn’t help that I’d just heard someone coughing repeatedly minutes earlier.

I recognize my heightened awareness created by COVID-19. I recognize, too, my heightened emotions. I considered for a moment just leaving the cards and walking out of the store. But I wanted, needed, to get the card for Mom without another visit to another store and more possible virus exposure.

So I refocused, wondering about that heap of merchandise the masked woman ahead of me was buying. Teacher, I thought to myself, then asked, “You must be buying for a bunch of kids?” Her answer surprised me. She was not. The goods were rewards for potty training. I nearly laughed aloud. Not because of the concept. But because of the sheer volume of rewards purchased for a preschooler who might just be smart enough to manipulate Mom.

Humor got me through that check-out line and out the door with a card for my mom and another for my daughter. Memories will carry me through this Mother’s Day as I think of Mom. Still here on this earth, yet so far away.

To all of you who have lost your moms, I am sorry. To those of you who still have your moms, cherish them. And to those of you who are mothers, like me, Happy Mother’s Day!

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting April 18, 2020

This quarter-sized token, gifted to me some time ago by my friend Beth Ann, lies on my computer desk.

 

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, you find yourself reaching out daily to check on family and friends. Now, more than ever, it seems important to connect via mail, email, text, phone calls or video chatting. I need reassurance that people in my life are OK and know they are loved and supported. Likewise, people have done the same for me. And more.

 

Face masks crafted by my blogger friend Penny.

 

Earlier this week I received a package from a Texas blogger. I’ve never met Penny, but we’ve followed each other’s blogs for years and also exchanged emails. Inside the padded envelope I found four cloth face masks. Penny, who is an incredibly kind and loving soul, has been sewing masks for people in her community. And beyond. She also included a lovely card and note. Her gift felt like a hug from across the country.

 

Paul Schell, whom I photographed several years ago painting at the park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And yesterday I received an equally lovely note from a Faribault artist who grew up in my native Redwood County. I first met Paul several years ago while photographing artists at a summer evening concert. Paul sat far removed from everyone, quietly painting in a corner of Central Park. Since then, his skills as a watercolor artist progressed. Several years back he gifted me with a print of a destination waterfalls in Redwood Falls. And on the card I received Friday was his watercolor of Moland Lutheran Church, which I’ve written about several times on this blog. The card and accompanying note were unexpected. I must add that Paul mentioned a favorite community cafe, Stacy’s Kitchen in Wabasha, per my post the other day about small town eateries. I so appreciate the time Paul took to gift me with his art and his note.

 

The Warner Press blog page shows some of the most recent posts.

 

Cards are a great way to connect. I’ve always been big on sending cards. Last week “Connecting with Cards” was the topic of my blog post for Warner Press, a Christian publishing company based in Anderson, Indiana. I work remotely as Warner’s blog coordinator. I invite you to click here, read that post and then start your own card outreach/ministry.

 

Encouragement from Beth Ann in a mini card.

 

I have one friend in particular, Beth Ann from North Carolina (I met her when she lived in Iowa), who is especially gifted at uplifting and encouraging others. When our family was going through some really difficult times, she sent me cards and extra encouraging items. What a blessing. I felt so loved.

 

Coloring can be calming and therapeutic.

 

We can all spread the love. I think especially of those in nursing homes. Like my mom on hospice and my father-in-law. We’ve received letters from both care centers about ways these facilities are trying to keep loved ones connected via technology. That won’t work for my mom. But I can still mail cards to her. And I’ve thought of coloring a picture, like I did for my two grandchildren for Easter. Sometimes we need to color outside the lines.

And sometimes we need to go old school by picking up the phone and calling those without technology. Voice to voice so we can hear the laughter, the inflections, the worries, the joys. On Thursday I phoned two aunts—one in Missouri and the other in New Jersey. As our conversation grew to a close, my Aunt Dorothy said, “I love you, My Little Princess.” I felt overcome by emotion at those sweet words. “My Little Princess.” It’s the endearing name Dorothy has called me my entire life. She was the big city aunt who occasionally returned to southwestern Minnesota to visit family. Dorothy arrived with tubes of discarded lipstick and jewelry and arms full of love. She would wrap me in a hug and whisper those endearing words, “I love you, My Little Princess.”

Today please take the time to connect with someone who needs to hear that same message—that they are loved.

 

From the front page of the Faribault Daily News.

 

IN LOVING MEMORY

I dedicate today’s post to the Rev. Craig Breimhorst, who died on Thursday due to complications from COVID-19. A resident of my community of some 24,000, Pastor Breimhorst was the first person in Rice County, Minnesota, diagnosed with the virus. He became ill in mid-March, a day after returning from a trip to the Holy Land. He was the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Faribault for 30 years and currently served part-time as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, West Concord.

Although I didn’t know Pastor Breimhorst, I have read enough social media comments to see how deeply he was loved and valued as a person and as a pastor. Blessed be his memory.

#

Disclaimer: I am paid for my work with Warner Press.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Even though stamps cost more, I’ll continue mailing cards February 7, 2019

 

IF ONLY I’D KNOWN. If only she’d informed me of the price increase when she asked whether I wanted more than one sheet of postage stamps. “Nope, just one,” I said and pulled out my debit card.

I had no idea that the cost of postage stamps was rising by 10 percent the very next day, from 50 cents per first class forever stamp to 55 cents.

I suppose it’s my fault for not being on top of things. But she, the U.S. postal clerk, could have told me when I bought stamps that Saturday morning at my local post office. Had I known, I would have purchased more than 20 stamps. I like to save money when given the opportunity.

Not that I would have bought a stack of postage stamp sheets. But, given all the birthday and Valentine’s Day cards I mail in February, I certainly would have purchased more to save more money.

Sigh. Live and learn.

The increased cost of mailing cards won’t stop me from sending them. I consider greeting cards an important way to communicate care and more. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciated the get well cards I received while recovering from two broken bones in recent years. Never underestimate the power of a greeting card to encourage and uplift others.

I like also to write personal thank you notes. We don’t do that often enough in this high tech world—put pen to paper and hand-write gratitude.

And birthday cards…I still send them even though I seldom get them anymore. It saddens me that most people are seemingly too busy to choose, sign, address and mail birthday cards. A text message or email just is not the same. To slice open an envelope, pull out a greeting card, read and re-read a hand-signed message brings me joy.

Yes, being a writer (including of greeting card verses for Warner Press) likely contributes to my fondness for cards. I’ll give you that. I understand the value of the written word.

How about you? Do you still send greeting cards? If not, why not?

Or what are your thoughts on that 10 percent increase in first class postage stamp rates?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

To write or not to write & insights on holiday letters November 29, 2018

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

A holiday greeting sent to friends by Faribault founder Alexander Faribault. The vintage card was displayed at a 2017 holiday open house at the home of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017, photo edited.

 

DO YOU WRITE AND SNAIL MAIL a Christmas letter? Or is this mostly a Minnesota thing?

Last week I sat down at the computer to compose the annual letter I will send to 100 family members and friends. Some I haven’t seen in years. Others I see often. No matter who they are, at some point in my life, we connected and they remain important to me.

Giving and receiving letters and cards ranks as one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season. I appreciate the updates, the photos, yes, even of people I no longer recognize. We grow older, greyer, wider… But it is that advancing of age that makes me realize even more the importance of this annual correspondence. Sure, we have email and Facebook (which I’m not on) and texting and so many other ways to communicate. But there’s something to be said for a card I can hold in my hands, a photo I can stick on my refrigerator, a letter on paper that I can read and reread.

Simply put, I value the old school way of communicating with one another at Christmas. It takes time and effort to compose a letter, to wrangle a photo, to sign a card, to address an envelope. That invested time shows care. Tangible love and care. On paper.

Right about now I can hear the but Audrey protests. But Audrey, sending cards adds to the stress of an already hectic season. There’s not enough time and this is one thing I can cut out. You’re right. You can. And it’s your choice.

For me, though, the annual rite of writing a family letter continues. I’ve reduced that letter from two pages to one, recognizing shorter attention spans. I hit the highlights of 2018, although much of the bad never makes print. No one wants to read every detail of the challenges in your life. Or maybe they do. But I prefer not to share difficulties that fuel gossip and here’s what you should do reactions from those who think they have all the answers. As if all of us have ideal lives where nothing but good prevails.

These annual letters are, in many ways, carefully crafted news releases. We choose to put a primarily positive spin on the content, exercising restraint in delivery of anything negative. As long as we understand the PR perspective, we can read between the lines of those happy family vacations, those stellar accomplishments, those above average toddlers…

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pop goes the love May 16, 2017

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

 

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

 

 

An unexpected gift from Bernie December 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:15 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Bernie

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

 

The valentines of yesteryear February 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:40 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

MY MOM IS A PACKRAT, a saver, a keeper.

Many, many times I’ve bemoaned her saving of Styrofoam meat trays, shoeboxes, twisty ties, bread bags and other such trashable or recyclable stuff. Why does she keep this, I wonder, and then answer my own question. She lived during The Depression. She understands the meaning of “Waste not, want not” and “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

I’ll never change her ways, so it’s best, for the most part, simply to accept that she will save anything and everything.

And sometimes I’m glad she does because I’ve come to appreciate links to the past, like the valentines she displays each year in her living room.

Aren’t they beautiful? I can’t even begin to compare the valentines of today to the valentines of yesteryear.

A car valentine belonging to my mom.

 

Another of my mom's vintage pop-up valentines.

Roses define this valentine my mom received decades ago.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling