Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Friendships forged via blogging August 3, 2013

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YOU KNOW SOMETIMES how, when you meet someone, you instantly connect and feel as if you’ve been friends forever.

Well, that’s exactly how I feel about my blogger friends Beth Ann, who writes at It’s Just Life, and Gretchen, who writes at A Fine Day for an Epiphany. They are now real life friends, as in I’ve met them.

Beth Ann has been to Faribault twice, first last December with her husband, Chris, to hear me present on and read my poetry during a program at Buckham Memorial Library. Chris always worries about his wife and her “imaginary” blogger friends and whether one of us will stuff her in the trunk of a car. “Not to worry,” I told Beth Ann when she visited me at my home several weeks ago. “I’ll stash you in my basement freezer.”

Now Chris terms me “that Audrey character.”

I don’t know that Gretchen’s husband, Colin, has assigned any such moniker to me. He seems not too concerned about my character.

Driving the state line road to Gretchen and Colin's rural southwest Minnesota home.

Driving the state line road to Gretchen and Colin’s rural southwest Minnesota home.

Last week my husband and I, while en route to Luverne in the extreme southwestern corner of Minnesota, detoured off Interstate 90 into Worthington, wound our way through construction zones and aimed south to the Minnesota/Iowa border where Gretchen and her family live on the state line. Literally. The gravel road past their rural acreage is half in Minnesota, half in Iowa. How cool is that?

I could have chosen to show you a "perfect" family photo in which everyone in Gretchen's family is standing nice and looking at my camera. But I love this one of Ian eyeballing the antics of his little sister, Lucy. Last summer, when visiting me, Colin also held Lucy upside down for a photo and Lucy wanted to do the same again this time.

I could have chosen a “perfect” family photo in which everyone in Gretchen’s family is standing nice and looking at my camera. But I love this one of Ian eyeballing the antics of his little sister, Lucy. Last summer, when visiting us, Colin also held his youngest daughter upside down for a photo and Lucy wanted to do the same pose this time. Given her sweetness, we obliged.

Randy and I were excited to visit our friends as last summer Gretchen, Colin and their three kids accepted a dinner invitation to our home when they were in Faribault for a theatrical performance. We instantly bonded.

Gretchen and me, now real-life friends. Photo by Randy Helbling.

Gretchen and me, now real-life friends. Photo by Randy Helbling.

Who says “Imaginary” blogging friends can’t become “real friends?” Not I, says this blogger.

Sweet little Lucy, who narrated on the nature walk and later read a book to me. She just finished kindergarten.

Sweet little Lucy, who narrated on the nature walk and later read a book to me. She just finished kindergarten. That’s her blanket, appropriately named “Blue.”

Upon our arrival, I refused the handshakes of Colin and Ian, embracing them instead. The girls—Gretchen and daughters Katie and Lucy—were quick with the hugs.

A creek winds through the property.

A creek winds through the acreage. That’s the neighbor’s land in the background.

Then Randy and I were off on a nature walk with the kids through the 10-acre wooded and hilly creek-side property while Gretchen and Colin prepared a delicious meal of grilled pork, lettuce and fruit salads, assorted breads and the best peach dessert ever. (Click here for the recipe.)

Ian, 14, with the family's cat,

Ian, 14, with family cat, Zephyr.

As much as I savored the food, I especially savored the time with our friends, who are warm and welcoming and kind and good and great conversationalists. Even the kids. I mean that in the best sort of way as Ian, Katie and Lucy are so well-mannered and interesting and bright and talented and funny and just the kind of children any parent would be proud to call theirs.

Standing on the state line road with Katie, left, and Lucy.

Standing on the state line road with Katie, left, and Lucy. Rural Minnesota and rural Iowa. Love it. Photo by Gretchen.

When we were about to leave, they all humored me when I insisted on standing in the middle of the state line gravel road for a photo opp, just to say I’d been simultaneously in Minnesota and Iowa, where, by the way, imaginary blogger real life friend Beth Ann lives.

The Welcome to Minnesota sign just down the road from Gretchen and Colin's place.

The “Welcome to Minnesota” sign just down the road from Gretchen and Colin’s place, photographed while driving by.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tom comes home & how you can help a young family in need February 20, 2013

There’s something about home. The creak of the porch floor as you walk to the front door, the glow of the yellow kitchen walls in the evening light, the whiz of the furnace. It’s so familiar. Comforting.

As Tom sat in the living room for the first time in six weeks, taking it all in again, he said he could feel his stress and tension begin to ease.

It’s good to be home.  — Nina Hedin’s February 15 Caring Bridge entry

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June, before Tom’s accident. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE the relief Nina Hedin, a young mother and blogger (The Adventures of Artsy Nina) from Glencoe experienced in the arrival home last week of her husband, Tom, after he was seriously injured in a January 5 snowmobile accident.

It’s been a challenging journey for Tom and Nina and their children, 4-year-old Jack and 8-month-old June.

Certainly, there have been the physical and emotional challenges involved in Tom’s recovery from a long list of injuries: brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, broken left knee cap with severed tendon and puncture wound, and a right knee ligament injury.

But the family has faced the added stresses of physical separation while Tom was hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center and later rehabbing, first in Glencoe, and then at Courage Center in Golden Valley.

Factor in lost wages and mounting medical bills and the family’s stress level has to be incredibly high. I cannot imagine. Nina, though, has managed to maintain a mostly positive attitude, at least publicly, on Tom’s Caring Bridge website.

I am especially proud of how the community of bloggers shared her family’s story and how folks have rallied—praying, providing words of encouragement and contributing to the GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin” fund to help fund his recovery. Thus far 67 donors have contributed nearly $5,000 toward the $40,000 goal. You can contribute by clicking here.

Additionally, at least one blogger, Beth Ann Chiles of Iowa, has pledged to donate 50 cents for every comment made on her “It’s Just Life” blog posts to the Hedin family for two months. During January, she and husband, Chris, gave $176 to the Hedins through her “Comments for a Cause” program.

Wouldn't you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

Wouldn’t you like to win these goodies from Beth Ann?

To encourage even more comments during February, Beth Ann is giving away a package of goodies like tea, handmade greeting cards and coasters, a Monkey Farts lotion bar (yes, you read that right) and more. You will need to click here to read the entire list. To qualify for the prize package, you must specifically comment on Beth Ann’s “Giveaway with an Ulterior Motive” post.

But, don’t stop there, comment on any of her February posts and Beth Ann will donate 50 cents per comment toward GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin.” How easy is that to donate and help a family in need?

Now, as long as I am writing about recovery, I want you to check back tomorrow for a review of Garrett Ebling’s book, Collapsed, A Survivor’s Climb from the Wreckage of the 35W Bridge. I promise, you will learn a thing or 20 about survival, courage, challenges, love, the power of prayer and more.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling