Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Pop goes the love May 16, 2017

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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



Especially grateful this Mother’s Day May 12, 2017

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Me with my mom in her assisted living room in 2014. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo by Randy Helbling.


THERE WAS A THURSDAY about two months ago when fear gripped my heart. Our mother, my middle brother texted, was being rushed via ambulance to the hospital and might not survive.

I exited his message, scrolled to my favorites in my contacts and pressed the green phone icon that would link me to my husband. “You need to come home now,” I ordered as I fought to suppress my emotions. He needed to finish a job and then would be on his way.

As I threw clothing into a suitcase—uncertain whether we would be staying overnight—I worried that we might not reach the hospital in time. We had a two-hour drive to Redwood Falls.


I printed this message inside a handmade Mother’s Day card in elementary school.


We arrived to find Mom settling into a room after her transfer from the ER. That afternoon I said my goodbyes to a mother in such obvious physical discomfort and distress that she wanted to die. And I was OK with that. I couldn’t bear to watch her struggling to breathe.


The only photo I have of my mom holding me. My dad is holding my brother Doug.


Many hours later, I hugged Mom for what I thought would be the last time and left her room in tears. In the hallway, I attempted to compose myself before reconnecting with family in the downstairs waiting room. As we left, the next family members rotated in.

Once I’d expelled that initial grief, I didn’t cry. I managed, an hour later, to stand before an audience in a Mankato art gallery and read my prize-winning poem about detasseling corn. I find more and more in difficult situations that I am able to establish an emotional roadblock. Perhaps that’s inner strength. Or denial. Or self-preservation.

I fully expected that we would be heading back west in a few days with black mourning clothes packed. But once again, as she has multiple times in her nearly 85 years, my mom surprised us all by recovering from a major health crisis. Her condition improved overnight and days later she was released back home to a care center.

I am grateful this Mother’s Day to still have my mother on this earth. I am grateful, too, to be the mother of three and the grandmother of one.


My mom saved everything, including this Mother’s Day card I made for her in elementary school. I cut a flower from a seed catalog to create the front of this card.


If your mother is still living, express your love to her via a visit, a phone call and/or a card. If your mother has passed, I hope, rather than grieve, you will remember her with love.

And someone, please remind my son that Sunday is Mother’s Day.


TELL ME: How do you honor the women in your life who are mothers on Mother’s Day?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


My thoughts on motherhood after 30 years as a mom May 8, 2016

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My mother, Arlene, and me.

My mother, Arlene, and me.

IN THIS SEASON OF MY LIFE, in the year I reach a milestone decade, I have watched my eldest daughter become a mother to sweet Isabelle. This has proven a contemplative time for me as I think of my own aging mother, of my aging self, of my daughter now a mother.

Daughter to daughter to daughter to daughter, we are linked as family. Eighty-four years separate youngest and oldest.

I cannot help but feel a certain sadness in this passage of time. Wasn’t it just yesterday that my preschool daughter hovered over tulips in our front yard, observing that “the flowers are opening their mouths?”

Why do I remember that? And why do I remember my mom once so fed up with her six squabbling children that she threatened to run away?

There are certain moments in motherhood that stand out: My second daughter sticking a red hot up her nose when we were decorating Christmas cookies. My son struck by a car 10 years ago, the day before Mother’s Day. The first time my eldest went on a mission trip to Texas and I struggled with this long-distance separation. The call from my second daughter that she’d been mugged while traveling in Argentina.

I joke sometimes that I should have locked my kids in the basement in an attempt to keep them safe. While that may have spared me a lot of worry and heartache, it would have been wrong. Mothers instinctively want to protect their children. But we also instinctively guide them out the door into the world.

If only I’d known then what I know now. How true that adage. To every young mom who struggles with a night owl infant, a tantrum throwing two-year-old, a defiant middle-schooler, I want to advise her that these moments are nothing. Nothing. These are manageable situations.

We never know what life will bring to our families. Joys. Challenges beyond anything we ever could have imagined. But one thing remains constant for me as a mother. I love my children today as much as the day they were born.

To all of you mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


How I spent my Mother’s Day May 10, 2015

Heading here:

Airport, sign



Airport, terminal 1 sign


Waiting here (for an hour):


Airport, plane 1



Airport, plane 2



Airport, drivers waiting at airport



Airport, plane 3



Airport, plane 5



For this:

Airport, Delta plane landed



For these loved ones:

Marc and Amber eiffel tower



Who brought me (and my husband) this gift of Belgium chocolates:


Belguim chocolate



I hope your Mother’s Day was as great as mine with my eldest daughter, Amber, and her husband, Marc, safely back home from Europe and phone conversations with my other daughter, Miranda, my son, Caleb, and my mom, Arlene. There’s nothing more I wanted for Mother’s Day than to be with, or speak with, those I love. I am blessed.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Thoughts on motherhood May 9, 2014

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I love this crazy, loving photo of my three kids, taken in February 2003.

I love this crazy, fun-loving photo of my three kids, taken in February 2003.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE a mother’s love?

Endless, unconditional, unshakable, fierce, enduring? I would choose all.

Yes, I’m repeating myself with some of these adjectives. But so what.

I am a mother of three now grown children, all in their twenties. I always find “adult children” to be an oxymoron. Yet, no matter the age of our offspring, they remain always our children. Once a mother, always a mother. You never stop caring and worrying and, for me, praying.

Have my kids frustrated and maddened me? Sure they have. But I expect I’ve done the same. None of us—parent or child—is perfect. Far from it.

As a mother, I try to do the best I can. I’ve praised when deserved. I listen. I offer advice when necessary. After all I do have a few decades more of experience and wisdom. I support my children. Not always their actions and decisions, but them. There’s a difference.

I cherish my kids. I love them enough to let them go. And we’re not talking geographical distance, although two of my trio live 1,300 and 300 miles away. I’m referencing that proverbial cutting of the apron strings, that realization that this has been my goal, to raise and then let go.

There are days when I’d like to turn back the clock, to swoop my three back into our home,

Busted in October of 1988 sneaking cookies and "hiding" in the corner of the kitchen to eat them.

My daughters, busted in October of 1988 sneaking cookies and “hiding” in the corner of the kitchen to eat them.

to admonish preschoolers for sneaking cookies from the cookie jar before lunch (all the while stifling laughter),

My Tufts University computer science and mathematics majors son played with LEGOs constantly while growing up. This photo was taken in June 2003.

My current Tufts University computer science and mathematics majors son played with LEGOs constantly while growing up. This photo, taken in June 2003, shows the zoo he created using his imagination. No LEGO kit involved here.

to step upon an errant LEGO,

My eldest stars as a flower in the May 1992 school play, "Leo the Late Bloomer."

My eldest (standing) stars as a flower in the May 1992 Trinity Lutheran School play, “Leo the Late Bloomer.”

to sit through one more end of the school year musical in a stuffy gymnasium.

The son, left, the eldest, the son-in-law and the second eldest daughter.

The son, left, the eldest, the son-in-law and the second daughter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, December 2013, the last time my kids were together.

But time has passed. Snap. Just like that my kids are grown up, two working, one married, another still in college (and working this summer).

I am nearing sixty.

My own mother recently entered a nursing home.

Life changes.

But a mother’s love endures. Forever.


HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of you moms out there!

And to my three children and my son-in-law, I love each of you now and forever.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


For my mother May 12, 2013

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My parents with my brother and me in a photo dated January 1957, but likely taken a few months earlier.

My parents with my brother and me in a photo dated January 1957, but likely taken a few months earlier at my maternal grandpa’s house.

I WONDER SOMETIMES what my mother’s life would have been like had she not chosen motherhood over career.

Not that long-term employment was truly an option for a young woman of the 1950s, unless you chose teaching or nursing, neither of which fit my mother’s professional talents or interests.

After graduating from Wabasso High School in 1951, as valedictorian no less, she attended Mankato Business College then landed a job with the state employment office in Marshall.

By September of 1954, she had quit her job and married. In July 1955 she gave birth to her first son. Within a dozen years, my mother and father would have six children.

Raising a family in rural southwestern Minnesota, in a cramped and drafty three bedroom house with no bathroom, could not have been easy.

I retain memories of my mother striking farmer matches to light the oil burning stove centered in the living room, heating a house wrapped in brown paper, straw bales snugged to the foundation.

I see her dumping buckets of hot water into the galvanized bathtub positioned before the kitchen stove on Saturday nights.

I feel her hands lacing through my stick-straight hair as I lie face-up on the kitchen counter, head draped over the sink, as she works shampoo onto my scalp.

I watch her dump cups of flour and sugar into the white bowl of her Hamilton Beach mixer, stirring up batches of bars too quickly consumed by six hungry kids. I remember, too, the treat of a few chocolate chips dropped into hands.

I smell the yeasty scent of her homemade bread pulled from the oven, remember the snippets of dough she parceled out for me and my sisters to shape miniature buns.

I hear the hiss of hot iron against cotton cloth she’s sprinkled with water.

I watch her grasp the iron ring on the kitchen floor trap door as she sends me down the creaky stairs to the dirt-floored cellar for a jar of golden peaches. Memories of summer days, of wooden crates lugged home from the local grocer, of peaches wrapped in pink tissue, of fruit slipped into boiling water, linger.

I can feel her strength as she stirs the clothes in her Maytag wringer washer with a grey stick propped always against a wall in the porch where smelly chore clothes hung.

She traded a career for all of this.

Was she happy? Did she regret giving up a well-paying and stable job for six kids and poverty?

I’ve never asked.

But I’d like to think she was happy raising a family, instilling in each of her children a strong faith in God and an appreciation and love of family, and of life.

The old farmhouse to the left, where I grew up with the "new house," built in the late 1960s.

The old farmhouse to the left, where I lived until about age 12, with the “new house” in the background. That’s my sister, Lanae, standing on the front steps leading into the porch. Was the house really that small? Apparently so.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


My mother’s hands May 13, 2012

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My mother, Arlene, and me.

IT IS THE EARLIEST SNAPSHOT of me and my mom, dated January 1957.

Photos with her are rare; the next comes four years later. Yet, it matters not that my childhood photos fill only a few pages in an album. They are enough to see my mother’s love.

I see it in her hands, always the hands—clasping a baby or holding a toddler or encircling a child.

Hers are the hands that wrapped six babies in blankets, including me, her eldest daughter.

Hers are the hands that guided soiled cloth diapers and my dad’s grimy barn clothes into a Maytag wringer washer.

Hers are the hands that dumped buckets of water into the old tin bath tub on Saturday nights.

Hers are the hands that held books and rocked babies and swiped mecuricome onto skinned knees.

Hers are the hands that seeded seasons of gardens and hoed weeds and preserved the bounty of the earth.

Hers are the hands that peeled potatoes and stirred gravy and fried hamburger into blackened hockey pucks.

Hers are the hands that pressed coins into tiny hands for Sunday School offerings.

Hers are the hands that folded in prayer–for children and husband and her own healing.

Hers are the hands that reached out in love, always, to soothe, to calm, to protect. For nearly 57 years she has been a mother. It has been her life, her calling, and I have been blessed to be her daughter.

These are the hands of my mother, the mother I love always and forever.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling