Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A message about domestic violence in the unlikeliest of places September 17, 2015

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THE POSTER CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. As much for its powerful message as its location.

I had just closed the door on a stall in the women’s bathroom at a toy store in rural southeastern Minnesota when I saw the sign:


Domestic violence, rural campaign view 1


My reaction was one of thankfulness. To Praxis International, a nonprofit corporation which created this rural public awareness campaign about domestic violence. And to Lark Toys for posting this message in a bathroom stall. Brilliant.

I want you to read and reread the words. Read them until you understand. Read them until they are imprinted upon your mind. Read them until you realize that, by failing to speak up or by looking the other way or by not trusting your gut, you are likely enabling an abuser.


Refuse to remain silent.

Understand, though, that you cannot “rescue” someone who is being verbally, mentally, emotionally and/or physically abused, controlled and manipulated. But you can educate yourself and perhaps subsequently help. You can connect with those who can offer professional advice.


Domestic violence, rural campaign view 2


On the poster posted in the Lark Toys bathroom in Kellogg, readers are directed to Rochester-based Women’s Shelter, Inc. That organization provides outreach, advocacy and housing to battered women and their children. The shelter has satellite offices in four rural counties outside of Rochester, home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic.

In the “Who We Serve” portion of the shelter’s website is this statement:

We have served families from around the world, due to our close proximity to the Mayo Clinic. Domestic Violence can happen to anyone regardless of their educational background, financial status, race, or country of origin.

That was demonstrated in Minnesota just last week when a company CEO murdered his wife and three teenage children in their $2 million home in an upscale west metro neighborhood.

This violence must stop. With the Short family’s murder, the number of those killed as a result of domestic homicide in Minnesota this year stood at twenty. That’s 20 too many. 

Domestic violence can happen anywhere. In a farmhouse. In a mansion. In an apartment. In your home. Next door. Down the street. To anyone. Anywhere.


Refuse to remain silent.

Help your neighbor. Or a loved one, friend or stranger. Help yourself.

FYI: Click here to learn more about domestic violence.

If you are in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or a local shelter/crisis line in your community.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Click here to read a story posted yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio about domestic violence.

You can order educational materials, including the rural-themed poster I saw on the toy store bathroom door, by clicking here.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


It’s a toilet, not a trash can November 14, 2014

THIS AD APPEARED in the November 6 issue of The Gaylord Hub:


City of Gaylord


Now, will someone please tell me how you manage to flush a diaper, rag or mophead down the toilet?

Apparently it’s possible.

You best listen up, Gaylord, Minnesota, residents. There’s no point in purposely flushing tax dollars down the toilet.

Gaylord officials are not alone in their concern about what goes down the toilet. Just google “don’t flush down the toilet” and you’ll discover many other communities and agencies, like Portland, Oregon, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and the Portland (Maine) Water District Office, educating the public about flushing.

“Save your pipes: Don’t flush baby wipes!”, the creative campaign of the Maine agency, specifically targets baby wipes as a prime pipe plugging problem. The website mixes humor–be sure to watch the game show “What the FLUSH?!?”–with facts to deliver the message on what to flush and what not. You can even take a pledge to save your pipes.

Bottom line: You can flush human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. That’s it. Pretty simple to remember, huh?




Join the “Thanksgiving The Real Deal” movement November 21, 2013

TYPICALLY, I’M NOT ONE to jump on the bandwagon of a cause. If I have a strong opinion on a topic, I will express my viewpoint in a one-on-one conversation. That’s just me. But, occasionally, I will publicly voice my opinion here on a social issue.

This time that issue is retail stores opening on Thanksgiving Day and a new online grassroots effort to encourage people not to shop on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving the real deal logo

I wholeheartedly support my friend Beth Ann Chiles of Mason City, Iowa, and her co-organizer, Katybeth Jensen of Chicago, in their Facebook campaign, “Thanksgiving The Real Deal,” aimed at consumers, not retailers. Their premise is simple. If people don’t shop on Thanksgiving, retailers won’t feel pressured to be open.

Kind of the supply and demand premise. If there are no shoppers on Thanksgiving, there is no need for retail stores to begin Black Friday sales on Thursday.

Here’s a snippet of their thoughts:

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, being grateful, and feeling content. It’s about timing dinner around football games, not store openings. It’s about arguing with family members over politics, not with strangers over a toaster. It’s about eating too much, not spending too much. It’s about dreading kissing Uncle Albert or Aunt Mabel, not dreading long check-out lines. It’s about acing someone out of the last piece of pie, not a parking spot. It’s about arguing with kids over dishes, not a trip to the mall. It’s about putting away left-overs, not shopping bags….

…Thanksgiving is the best deal in town; it’s priceless. Let’s work together to keep it that way by protecting it from retail fear and the bait of a bargain!

My brother and sister-in-law brought a stack of newspaper ads for us to peruse after dinner.

This photo shows Black Friday ads from a few years ago in a Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. This image is not indicative of businesses open on Thanksgiving Day and is used here for illustration purposes only. On the “Thanksgiving The Real Deal” Facebook page, you will find a listing of retailers NOT open on Thanksgiving.

Now, choosing to endorse the “Thanksgiving The Real Deal” campaign was a no-brainer for me. I’ve never even shopped on Black Friday. I’ve heard, read and viewed the negative news stories about shoppers in pursuit of bargains. No, thank you. I’m not so driven to score a bargain that I would fight crowds or even arise early to shop on Black Friday.

Thanksgiving Day dinner at my house with family.

Thanksgiving Day dinner at my house with family. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And now that hysteria has edged into Thanksgiving Day, a holiday when we should be celebrating with family around the dining room table. I am very much a family-oriented person. I can’t imagine placing shopping before family or anyone wanting to work retail rather than gather with family or friends on Thanksgiving.

Some folks, like those with jobs in law enforcement, the medical field, firefighting and such, need to work, holiday or not. My second daughter, in fact, is on call on Thanksgiving Day as a Spanish medical interpreter. I won’t see her; she lives 300 miles away.

But if you are employed in retail, you shouldn’t have to work on Thanksgiving. These stores do not need to be open.

Like the organizers of “Thanksgiving The Real Deal,” I ask you to choose family instead of shopping. Show your public support for this cause on the campaign’s Facebook page (click here) and follow the suggestions to spread the word about this movement.

Focus, too, on giving thanks on Thanksgiving.

Stand strong against the societal pressures of consumerism. Choose not to shop on Thanksgiving.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling