Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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


Words matter January 20, 2013

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IT’S THAT KIND of afternoon here in Faribault, you know, the type where you just want to curl up on the couch under an afghan with a good book or, like my husband, nap in the recliner with the television blaring football in the background.

After church, followed by a trip to the grocery store this morning, I have no desire to step outside into the frigid nine-degree cold.

When I complained about that cold upon entering church this morning, my friend Kathi responded that at least I didn’t have to shovel snow.

Her comment set the tone for the day, reminding me that life sometimes can be exactly how you choose to perceive it.

Today I choose to see the beauty of white in daisies, one of my favorite flowers.

Today I choose to see the beauty of white in daisies, one of my favorite flowers.

Then, even before I pulled off my coat, my friend Joy handed me a packaged date-filled cookie from Saudi Arabia because, she said, “You gave me those date cookies at Christmas and I figured you liked dates.” How thoughtful was that?

Upon entering the fellowship hall, I spotted two cookbooks lying on a table with a “free” sign on them. I grabbed them for my daughters and bee-lined for the kitchen to thank Joy. I knew, just knew, the cookbooks had come from her.

Outside the fellowship hall, I greeted Bob, who lost both his parents within six months of each other last year. I asked how he was doing and he told me how he and several family members had been sorting through his parents’ possessions yesterday and came across greeting cards and notes they’d saved. Among those notes were some I’d sent to the couple, who always showed such kindness and generosity to my family. Bob shared an observation by one of his sisters: “That Audrey, she sure has a way with words.”

That Bob’s mom would choose to save all those notes from family and friends surely emphasizes the importance of care and gratitude expressed in handwritten words.

The UPS delivery man dropped a dozen multi-colored roses and a box of chocolates off at my house late Thursday morning.

Remembering the beautiful roses my daughter Miranda sent me for Mother’s Day 2012.

That reminds me of the two hand-printed poems I received on Saturday from Hannah, a sweet 11-year-old whom I’m mentoring in poetry. My friends’ daughter also jotted a note with this P.S.: You are the coolest poet I have ever known!

You can bet Hannah and Bob both made me feel good with the kind words they shared.

Words matter.

Poppies have long been associated with honoring and remembering veterans. I photographed this poppy in my neighbor, Cheri's, yard this past summer.

The vivid color of poppies just makes me happy.

Saturday evening, words made me laugh, a lot, during an improv comedy show by southern Minnesota based Spontaneous Productions at The Paradise Center for the Arts in downtown Faribault. For nearly two hours, this high-energy group of guys entertained with family-friendly, audience-interactive improv.

If you’re like me and want to avoid potty-mouth comedy, then Spontaneous Productions would be the group to entertain you. Even when the name “Chuck” was chosen by the audience during a rhyming improv scene, we were assured by the host that we wouldn’t hear any bad words. I was especially smitten by one performer’s stellar imitation of Bob Dylan during the group’s “Sweet Home Minnesota” version of “Sweet Home Alabama.” The comedians had the audience belting out the chorus of “Sweet home Minnesota, where the lakes are blue…”

The unassuming beauty of the southwestern Minnesota prairie in the winter of 2012.

The unassuming beauty of the southwestern Minnesota prairie in the winter of 2012.

While lakes may appeal to most Minnesotans, my friend Kathleen understands my deep love for the southwestern Minnesota prairie. So last week this former Faribault children’s librarian living in Washington state, mailed me a hard-cover copy of If you’re not from the prairie… written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Henry Ripplinger. Kathleen knew, when down-sizing her children’s book collection, that I would appreciate the book. I do. But I also value her thoughtfulness.

On a serious note, my blogger friend Nina Hedin, whose husband Tom was seriously injured in a snowmobile crash two weeks ago, posted these words on Tom’s Caring Bridge website today:

I can honestly say this has been the longest two weeks ever. So much has passed, life changing moments, hugs, tears, family and friends pulling together… so much to be thankful for.

First, that Tom survived not only one, but two impacts; the first when he hit the embankment, and the next when he flew off the sled and landed some thirty feet away. It’s amazing that he didn’t have any internal damage or paralysis.

Second, that we have all of you. Our prayer warriors. Our friends and family and strangers that care.

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."-- Forrest Gump. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”– Forrest Gump.

Although Nina could choose to focus on the difficulties, on Tom’s long road to recovery as he has transitioned out of Hennepin County Medical Center into sub-acute rehab back in the couple’s community of Glencoe, she remains overwhelmingly positive. The family has faced plenty of challenges. But this 30-something mother of two young children chooses to see the humor, the goodness and the progress that will bring her husband home, their family back together.

If you are able to help this family financially, please consider making a gift to the GiveForward “Help for Tom Hedin” fund to cover medical and other expenses by clicking here. Already family, friends and strangers have given nearly $4,000 toward the $40,000 goal. If you are unable to give, offer an encouraging word and/or prayer.

Words matter.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note: All photos were pulled from my files.


How a circle of bloggers are using their voices to help a Minnesota family January 12, 2013

NEVER HAVE I FELT more connected to and appreciative of the caring community of bloggers than I have this week.

In just a matter of a few days a circle of bloggers have, together, shared the story of Tom and Nina Hedin of Glencoe. (Read my initial post by clicking here.) And in turn, their readers, family and friends have passed the story along via social media. Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio even picked up the story in the 5×8 section of his Friday morning News Cut column. (Click here to read that; scroll down to number 4.)

We are spreading the word about the Hedins’ great need for prayer, encouragement and financial assistance after Tom was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident one week ago this afternoon. He remained, as of Friday, in intensive care at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. For updates on Tom’s condition, visit his Caring Bridge website by clicking here.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack, 3, and June, seven months. Photo courtesy of Nina Hedin.

As you can imagine, this couple with two young children cannot manage their mounting medical bills and other expenses alone. Already, Nina received the first bill on Wednesday: $20,793 for her husband’s 50-mile air-link helicopter ride.

If you can assist the family financially, please consider doing so by contributing via the “Help for Tom Hedin” GiveForward account. You will find details by clicking here.

Now, I know some of you out there would prefer to give directly by writing out a check to the family. I am not yet aware of a way in which you can do this. So, if you know me well enough to have my personal email or snail mail address and wish to give in this way, I would be more than happy to pass along your contribution to the family.

You can also contribute via commenting on It’s Just Life, a blog written by Beth Ann Chiles of Iowa. For every comment on her blog during January and February, Beth Ann is giving 50 cents to the Hedins. Click here to link to It’s Just Life. Beth Ann has the most giving heart, each month selecting a beneficiary for her “Comments for a Cause” project.

That leads me right into Beth Ann’s blog post for today. You just have to read it because she spins a story into her post that gave me goosebumps when I first read it in an email from her a few days ago. You just cannot make up something like this. Click here to read this powerful and touching story as it relates to Nina Hedin. Be sure to leave a comment.

Like my friend Beth Ann, each of us has the power to make a difference. And this week a circle of bloggers have used their words to do just that. I have never been prouder to be a part of this blogging community.

I have a box of greeting cards in my office, one of them inscribed with this quote by the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Words are the voice of the heart.”


© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


“Life can change in an instant”: A Minnesota family in need January 10, 2013

IT IS THE MOMENT we all fear—the late night phone call, the unexpected knock on the door.

For Nina Hedin, a young mother from Glencoe whom I highlighted in a magazine feature about 10 Minnesota bloggers, fear became reality on Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Tom, was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident.

Photo of Nina Hedin published in Minnesota Moments, winter 2012 issue.

I got to know Nina about a year ago, when she was among 10 Minnesota bloggers highlighted in a feature I wrote for Minnesota Moments magazine. This photo of Nina published in that winter 2012 story.

Here then, in Nina’s words, is the beginning of her family’s new reality:

I’ve told this story so many times over the last two days that the words are flying out of my fingers and onto this computer faster than I am thinking them.

Saturday, January 5, Tom left after lunch to ride snowmobile a little bit; he was going to visit a friend just outside of town. Around 3 pm he had still not returned and he had not sent any messages or called. This was VERY unusual for Tom and I was worried. Normally he’ll be out for 30-45 minutes and always, ALWAYS sends me random text messages.

I called friends that Tom sometimes rides with to ask if he had been by.

I hopped online to see if he used our check card anywhere; maybe he stopped for something to eat or there would be another clue.

At 4:30 pm there was a loud knock at the door. My stomach dropped. I knew it would not be good. I knew it. The county sheriff told me that Tom was in an accident and was to be airlifted to HCMC.

Fear, panic, adrenaline…

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

This, dear readers, breaks my heart. Even though I’ve never met Nina or her family, I remained connected to Nina after writing that initial magazine feature (which you can read by clicking here). I continued reading her The Adventures of Artsy Nina blog and we exchanged occasional emails. She is a vivacious, creative (she also runs two Etsy shops, Camp Honeybelle and Nina Baran Upcycled Vintage Jewelry)  and caring individual with a delightful sense of humor.

So when the call went out to Nina’s circle of blogging friends to share the Hedins’ story, I didn’t even have to consider. Helping someone in need, especially a friend, is the right thing to do. And the family needs assistance, both financially and in prayer.

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote:  "We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night."

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote: “We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night.”

Here again, in Nina’s words, are the injuries her beloved Tom suffered:

Injuries listed from top to bottom; brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital (eye) socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, left knee cap broken with severed tendon and puncture wound, right knee ligament injury.

He faces a long, hard road to recovery. As of yet we are unsure of the extent of damage to the brain, and the recovery time/therapy needed for his limbs and back will take months.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

You can only imagine the insurmountable medical bills this couple in their early 30s, with two children, Jack, 3, and seven-month-old June, will face. An online “Help for Tom Hedin” account has been set up at GiveForward to assist the family with mounting medical and day-to-day expenses. The goal is to raise $100,000 by March 9.

Please consider offering your financial support by clicking here. Together we can make a difference and ease some of this family’s financial worries. Perhaps your friends, church group, family, co-workers, card club, coffee group, etc., can join efforts to collect monies for the Hedins. Every dollar, whether ten or 500, helps.

Because Tom has been with his current employer for only six months, he does not qualify for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has been his family’s main source of financial support.

Please also pray for the Hedin family and their medical team. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

In closing, let’s listen to Nina one last time with this excerpt from her January 8 blog post, “Life Can Change in an Instant”:

It’s a cliche. You hear it all the time, think it some of the time, but you don’t really get it until something happens to you and yours.

Life as you know it can change in an instant.

Hug your kids, your husband, your mom, your dad, your neighbor, your friend. You never, ever know what that next moment might bring.

TO OFFER WORDS of encouragement and support and/or to read the latest updates on Tom’s condition, visit his CaringBridge website by clicking here.

NINA’S BLOGGER CIRCLE of friends is already posting her family’s story. Click here to read a post by Montana resident and former Minnesotan Bernie at One Mixed Bag.

Then click here to read a post by Beth Ann from Iowa at It’s Just Life. For every comment posted to her blog during January and February, Beth Ann is donating 50 cents to the Hedin family for medical expenses. This is part of Beth Ann’s ongoing “Comments for a Cause” campaign. So simply by commenting on any of Beth Ann’s posts during the next two months, you will be helping Tom, Nina, Jack and June.

© Text and photos copyright of Audrey Kletscher Helbling and Nina Hedin
Photos courtesy of Nina Hedin