Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating a moment in life in Cannon Falls September 17, 2018

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THE NUANCES OF RURAL MINNESOTA delight me.

On a recent Saturday afternoon stop in Cannon Falls, population around 4,000, I spotted a John Deere tractor driving through the heart of downtown, wagon in tow. A bride and groom sat on straw bales as the tractor paraded past First Farmers Merchant Bank, Brewsters Bar, antique shops, the side street leading to a winery and brewery, and on down the road.

I love moments like this when I can pause to take in a joyful scene, to smile, to celebrate the happiness of another, to appreciate the rural character of southeastern Minnesota. This is why I live where I live, why I document people and places and events and life in general. It isn’t always the big things that define life, that mean the most. It is the moments of unexpected delight that bring me joy. And if I have my camera in hand, I delight in sharing these snapshots with you. In today’s world, we need more of this—more reasons to pause, to just stand there, to take it all in, to feel moments of joy.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bea’s Thanksgiving Day blessings November 26, 2017

Kids create festive placements like this one for the Faribault Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

 

Go to the back door and walk in, the slip noted. Despite the instructions, I felt uncomfortable simply walking into a stranger’s home without first knocking. So I knocked, eased open the door and entered the galley kitchen. There Bea (not her real name) shoved her walker toward me, smile bright with greeting on this Thanksgiving morning.

Randy and I carried Styrofoam containers—one holding in the heat of a traditional turkey dinner, the other a slice of pumpkin pie.

Bea’s face flashed joy in seeing us. She directed me to place the containers on the seat of her walker. But I set them on the counter instead, advising her I would carry them to the dining room table. First, though, Bea peeked at the pie, which drew her praise.

“Would you like to see the dinner?” I asked. I lifted the lid to reveal shreds of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, a dab of cranberries and a dinner roll. Bea’s smile widened wider.

The petite senior pulled silverware from a drawer and I followed her to the table with the dinner and the dessert, depositing both onto her directed spot. And then I bent close, spontaneously wrapping this dear woman in a hug. She held on and cooed and I nearly cried for the joy of the moment, of holding Bea close in a prayer of thanksgiving.

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Note: This is the second year Randy and I have delivered meals for the Faribault Community Thanksgiving dinner. We donated about two hours of our time to wait in line, pick up 10 meals and take them to five homes in Faribault. It continues to be a humbling, joyful and meaningful experience.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Time for a positive focus August 18, 2017

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MY THOUGHTS WEIGHED heavy earlier this week. So today I focus on the positive.

It is important in the midst of chaos, unrest and discontent to reconnect with whatever brings you joy, peace and purpose.

 

Four generations: Great Grandma Arlene, Grandma Audrey, Mother Amber and baby Isabelle, all together for the first time in July 2016. This photo represents the love of family to me. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

I find my joy in my family,

 

A snippet of Jesus’ face in a stained glass window at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

peace in my faith,

 

Photography and writing are my passions. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

and purpose in my passions.

 

This image of a boy feeding ducks in Morehouse Park, Owatonna, Minnesota, exudes pure and simple joy to me. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo November 2016.

 

May you find your place of contentment, your sense of peace, your happiness in life. You are worth it.

TELL ME: Where do you find yours?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The joys of grandparenting continued May 4, 2017

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Isabelle, my granddaughter.

 

WHEN I BECAME A GRANDMA just over a year ago, my definition of love broadened.

I discovered a new love so profound, so deep, so undeniably wonderful that it nearly defies explanation. Those of you who are grandparents understand.

 

At bedtime, Izzy did not want me to stop reading books. Her mom (pictured here) warned me she would do this. This baby girl loves books. When she awakened, Izzy pointed toward her closet and her stash of books.

 

I am re-experiencing the simple joys of life through my granddaughter. A squirrel scampering across the yard never looked so intriguing. A children’s picture book never appeared more interesting. A first step never seemed more applause worthy. A small body curved against mine never felt more comforting.

It’s not like any of this is new to me. I birthed and raised two daughters and a son and cared for many children in between. Endless memorable and loving moments imprinted upon my heart. But there’s a difference. I was a mother, not yet a grandmother.

 

Isabelle claims her grandpa’s heart and hand.

 

Grandparenting stretches love in a wider way, across and connecting generations. I find incredible joy in watching my eldest daughter with her baby girl. I find incredible joy in seeing how deeply my granddaughter loves her mama (and daddy). I delight in observing my husband as a grandfather, his grease stained fingers clutched by those of his one-year-old granddaughter.

 

On the last two visits to our home, Izzy has been drawn to the stairway. For her safety, we blocked access with a gate. But then Randy decided it was time to teach Izzy how to navigate the stairs. Once the gate was removed, she lost interest and abandoned the stairway.

 

I’m at the age when I am cognizant of time, wondering how the years of raising children—feeling sometimes overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood—slipped by, zip, just like that. Now I have an opportunity to reclaim that period of my life. If my granddaughter wants to page through the same book repeatedly, I will oblige her. If she stretches out her arm, pointing toward whatever she wants with fingers clenching and unclenching, I will “listen.” I will parcel Cheerios onto her high chair tray. I will carry her to the window to watch the neighbor’s dog. I will do what grandparents do best—I will love her with a love that is deep and tender, consuming and wonderful.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The joys of grandparenting August 10, 2016

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The MY GRANDMA LOVES ME onesie I gave to my granddaughter at her birth four months ago now fits her.

Isabelle, dressed in the “My Grandma LOVES me!” onesie I gave her at birth, swings a favorite toy.

I’VE BEEN A GRANDMA for four months now. And I have loved every single minute. It’s as if I can’t get enough of sweet baby Isabelle.

By my own admittance, I’ve never been a baby person, deferring holding a newborn until several months after birth. I’m talking other newborns, not my own three babies. And certainly not my darling granddaughter.

Every time I see Izzy, I do a photo shoot. Here's my favorite, shot in the golden hour of evening light on a screened porch.

Every time I see Izzy, I do a photo shoot. Here’s my favorite, shot in the golden hour of evening light on a screened porch.

This past weekend my husband and I had time alone with our sweet baby girl while her parents went on a date. They live an hour away, so we stayed overnight.

Grandpa pushes his little girl during an evening walk.

Grandpa pushes his little girl during an evening walk.

Sunday morning I swooped Izzy up before her mommy or daddy realized she was awake. I carried her to the living room and settled onto the sofa, cradling her in my arms. To my left, Grandpa greeted his granddaughter and coaxed her in to smiling. I love watching my husband interact with Isabelle with such tenderness and love. He is smitten. The day prior, on a stroller walk through the neighborhood to a road construction site, Randy humored us. “Look, Izzy,” he said, “a big sandbox.” I laughed. And although Isabelle couldn’t comprehend, I hope she develops a sense of humor like her grandpa.

Isabelle rolled onto her side once during our stay.

Isabelle rolled onto her side once during our stay.

As the three of us bonded on Sunday morning, I considered the blessing of this baby girl who has brought us such joy. Every little developmental accomplishment calls for celebration. Smiling. Cooing. Rolling over. Standing (with support) on two strong chubby legs. Batting at toys. As the parents of three, Randy and I have witnessed all of this in our own children. But there’s something endearing and remarkable when it’s your grandchild.

And then there’s the joy in seeing your own child as a parent. When Amber walked into the living room Sunday morning to greet her daughter, she sang a short made-up song about sunshine and birds and morning. Isabelle smiled at her mommy. And we all smiled back.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Simple country joys November 12, 2013

IT’S 10:30 ON A SUNDAY MORNING and I am savoring a slice of yellow cake topped with vanilla pudding and a dollop of whipped cream.

Trinity's basement, set up before the annual October fall dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Trinity’s basement, set up before the annual October fall dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

I really shouldn’t be eating cake; I don’t need it. But my husband and I have been personally invited by Jean into the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown, for the fellowship hour after worship services. We are visitors.

Beautiful Trinity Lutheran Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Trinity Lutheran Church, a small country church west of Faribault in North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

I’m not about to pass on this opportunity to mingle with folks in this rural Rice County church. They are a friendly bunch. These congregants know us as we’ve attended church dinners and the annual North Morristown Fourth of July celebration many times.

I feel comfortable here, chit chatting with Jean about her granddaughter who attends college in South Dakota and is working as a waitress for $2.50/hour. Our discussion centers on whether such a wage is even legal. “How can it be?” we ask one another, incredulous.

But before we can resolve the pay issue, one of the pastor’s sons bolts into the basement clutching something in his hand. He unfurls his fingers to reveal an egg.

“Our first egg!” he exclaims as his older brother peers across the table at the precious brown egg and Dad enthuses about the first egg laid by the flock of 25 chickens. I learn then that the pastor’s boys sold futures on eggs—30 dozen at $6/dozen—during a recent fundraising auction for Cannon Valley Lutheran High School. Now that the hens are starting to lay, it will soon be time to deliver on those purchases.

As I witness this enthusiasm over an egg, I am reminded that sometimes it is the simplest things which give us the most joy. A brown egg in a boy’s hand in a country church basement on a Sunday morning. You can’t make this stuff up.

On bald eagle in this shot, or any I took, but simple joys in viewing this rural scene along Rice County Road 12 on the way to church in North Morristown.

No bald eagle in this shot, or any I took, but simple joy in viewing this rural scene along Rice County Road 12 on the way to church in North Morristown. There’s something about the big sky and the red barn…

Then, after we’ve left the church basement and the boy and his egg and wonder whether he might smash it between his fingers in his excitement, we are equally as excited to spot a bald eagle winging above farm fields. Simple joys. Like cradling a brown egg in your hand in a country church basement.

Horses in the pasture drew my camera, not a deer dangling from a tree.

Horses in the pasture, not a deer hung from a tree, drew my camera on the way home from church.

And then I glimpse a dead deer dangling from a tree, half-skinned, hunters clustered around the body. I am not overjoyed at the sight. But I expect these men are excited. Like cradling a brown egg in your hand in a country church basement.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling