Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The value of no child left inside August 21, 2018

I appreciate the message on this license plate, photographed last fall in Nisswa, Minnesota. For every National Wildlife Federation license plate purchased in Montana, $20 goes toward programming that encourages kids in that state to get outside and play.

 

GROWING UP IN RURAL SOUTHWESTERN MINNESOTA in the 1960s and 1970s, I spent most of my time outdoors. There was nothing to keep me inside. No TV for a long time. No electronic games. No anything. Except books. And the few toys we had.

 

I love this scene of two boys who dumped their bikes at the edge of a pond to look for life in the water. I photographed this scene in October 2016 at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

 

The outdoors offered so much more. A grove in which to carve paths. Trees for a treehouse. A spacious farmyard for a game of softball. Tall grass for a journey West via imaginary covered wagons. Gravel drive and gravel roads for biking. Snow mountains and drifts to sled and slide and travel across. Vast expanses of grass upon which to lie and gaze at animal-shaped clouds.

Outside of play, the outdoors presented a place to work—to pull weeds from soybean rows and tassels from seed corn, to pick rocks from fields, to haul hay and buckets of milk replacer, to wheel grain and do all those chores necessary on a farm.

The house was mostly a place to sleep and eat and, on Saturday evenings, wash away the grime in the galvanized bath tub hauled from porch to kitchen.

It all sounds so nostalgic. So wonderful. And it was in many ways. But life was also admittedly hard in the kind of way that day-in-day-out, the physical labor circled in a never-ending cycle. We had little in material possessions. I suppose you could say our family lived in poverty, although I had no recognition of that at the time.

 

Boys at the turtle pond, River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.

 

We were rich, though, in our love of the outdoors, of the land. I wanted to be outside. I am thankful for having grown up in a place and time when I could roam outdoors without fear and in free play.

 

It’s important to take time and notice nature. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.

 

Most kids today are missing that unstructured free time outdoors to just be kids, to stretch their imaginations. Sometimes I wonder if kids are even capable any more of playing on their own, without adults planning an activity, a game, a sport, for them. It’s a different world. If I was a kid today and lived as I did then, I would be considered free-range and my parents probably would be the object of concern and likely under fierce attack on social media.

 

Minnesota Praiire Roots file photo, October 2016.

 

Despite the changes in society, it’s still important for kids to get outdoors–away from electronics and scheduled activities–to simply play. To use their imaginations. To be in nature. To appreciate the warmth of the sun, the waft of the wind, the scent of flowers, the smell of earth, the feel of dirt between their fingers, the taste of a sun-ripened tomato, the birdsong of morning…

THOUGHTS?

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

https://www.nwf.org/Northern-Rockies-and-Pacific-Region/Northern-Rockies

 

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Bone break related topics on a Saturday morning August 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:14 PM
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This splint holds my healing left wrist in place. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHEN A THICK ENVELOPE arrived in the mail this morning from my insurance company, I felt angst. I expected it would contain information on a $19,431 claim for surgery to implant a plate into my broken left wrist. I was right.

Recently I received a nearly $15,000 hospital bill for that surgery with nothing covered by insurance except an allowed amount of $4,662. I reacted as nearly anyone would—with disbelief, anger and tears. I pay $1,000/month for health insurance and already paid my $3,600 deductible. So the thought of paying another $15K pushed me over the edge. One phone call later and the hospital billing department assured me I didn’t owe $15,000 and that, due to a “processing error,” the claim would be reprocessed.

The insurance paperwork I got today includes two code notations:

Based on additional information received, this service will be processed on a new claim.

We are making this adjustment to a previously processed claim.

Those codes flag most, but not all, of the claims in four pages of claims. So is this a done deal? I don’t know. I hope so. Zeroes fill every space in the amount I owe columns. I choose for now to think this ends a stressful ordeal.

Speaking of end, the question of the week to me has been: “How much longer do you have to wear that?” The questioners, at least a half dozen yesterday, are referring to the splint on my wrist. The last time my orthopedic doctor discussed this with me, he said I would be wearing the brace well into late September. I see him next week. Maybe he will shorten that time. Range of motion therapy continues to go well. Strengthening therapy comes next. I’m now more than two months out from my bone break.

 

Margie Brown Holland (formerly of Faribault) and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were murdered by Margie’s husband in 2013. This t-shirt, part of The Clothesline Project, honors the two. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This plaque at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office honors employee Barb Larson, shot to death in the tourism office by her ex-husband, a retired Faribault police officer.

 

Kim Sisto-Robinson of Duluth created (and shared) this graphic honoring her sister Kay. Kay’s husband shot and killed Kay in 2010. Kim has made it her mission to be a voice for Kay, to speak out on the topic of domestic violence. File photo, courtesy of Kim.

 

One issue still lingers, though, and it’s something I dislike as much as that incorrect $15K hospital bill. Just last evening a burly stranger joked that my husband hurt me. Not funny. Not funny at all. I don’t care who you are. To suggest that domestic violence is in any way funny rankles me. There is absolutely nothing humorous about any aspect of abuse, whether psychological, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, technological or physical. I’ve heard more times than I can count that insensitive, uninformed and supposedly funny comment that Randy must have pushed me or hit me. He didn’t. I fell on rain-slicked wooden steps. I don’t understand this attitude. Women (and sometimes men) are being assaulted and dying every single day in this country from domestic violence. I find absolutely nothing funny in that. Nothing.

THOUGHTS ON ANY of this?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shipwrecked & blessed at VBS August 13, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:52 PM
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When we feel lonely, worry, struggle, do wrong and feel powerless, Jesus rescues. That was the focus of the Vacation Bible School program, Shipwrecked, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, last week.

 

ASK A CLASSROOM of two dozen kids to sit still in silence for 60 seconds on a summer evening and the feat seems impossible. But the students did just that, much to my surprise.

It proved a rare minute of stillness in 10 hours of bible stories, crafting, playing, snacking, singing and a short video time during last week’s Vacation Bible School at my church. I volunteered as a crew leader for five kids—four boys and one girl. And, as you might rightly guess, I had a few spirited and active boys. That they all remained still for a single minute impressed me.

 

A bible verse was reinforced during each evening of VBS as part of the Shipwrecked theme.

 

It took me about 30 seconds, though, to still my mind from worry that one of them would act out and disrupt our reflection on Psalm 46:10—Be still, and know that I am God. It’s an important bible verse to remember in today’s high tech and busy world. We all—kids and adults—need to find time for quiet. Put down the phone. Get off social media. Turn off the TV. Disengage from the video game. Just be.

For five evenings, I had the joy of just being with my kids. I call them “my kids” because, by the end of the week, I felt a closeness to them that comes from togetherness. We bonded as we talked, shared, laughed, sang and more. I now know more about them and some about their families. It’s amazing what kids will tell you.

 

One of my boys thanked me for leading our Team 4 Jesus crew with a message in a bottle on the last night of VBS. How sweet was that?

 

I shared my gummy treats at snack time (because I don’t like gummies), asked my kids to sign nine thank you cards (which they did without complaint), parceled out beads for a bracelet written in Morse code… In turn, they opened and closed a drawstring bag for me, held doors for me, slid a chair across the floor for me to sit on… They were lovingly compassionate toward their leader with the broken wrist. Anyone who claims youth today are self-centered don’t know my kids. They showed me such care and love.

The interesting thing about all of this is that I wasn’t even supposed to be with these kids. Initially, I was assigned to be the VBS photographer, a job I’ve done in the past. But then I broke my wrist and had subsequent surgery. There would be no running around with a camera for 10 exhausting hours photographing all aspects of VBS.

I was exactly where I needed to be last week—shipwrecked with this great group of first graders to fourth graders. To praise God with them, to learn about Jesus with them, and, yes, even to be still with them for 60 seconds blessed me.

FYI: Click here to see the VBS program, Shipwrecked, from Group Publishing. Love this publishing company’s VBS curriculum. Next year we’re doing the Roar! program.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

About that wrist splint… July 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:37 PM
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A close-up of my thumb, held in place by a wrist splint and the underside of my swollen and scaly hand. There’s a reason I’m not smiling. Read on.

 

I’VE BEEN ABSENT FROM THIS BLOG for a stretch of days, which is atypical of me. But life, freelance work, volunteering, and my broken wrist, have interrupted my usual pace of blogging.

I saw my ortho doctor today, four weeks and one day after surgery to implant a plate. He’s happy with the healing and with my progress in occupational therapy five weeks out from my fall and subsequent bone break.

But I am not happy with the news my doctor delivered. I need to wear my restrictive brace for two more months. That’s a month longer than I expected. I could have ripped the Velcro trap off my arm and thrown it at him. But I like Dr. Armitage. He is a skilled and compassionate surgeon who truly knows me and cares that my bone heals properly.

Thus I will listen. I will continue to do my exercises, now upped to three times daily by my wonderful and compassionate occupational therapist, Annie. Yeah, more time out of that vise grip brace. I will continue to follow the rules of no lifting, no pulling, no nothing with my hand except to type and do my exercises.

The good doctor, though, picked up a small paper desk calendar and said I could lift something of that weight. I think he did that to appease me. He also praised me for excelling in breaking my wrist. When I break something, I do it well, he noted. Yes, he holds a great sense of humor. I envisioned a smiley face or an A+ on my medical records for breaking my wrist into so many pieces that 10 screws now hold it onto a metal plate.

Given the severity of the break, healing takes time. Time. I am not a patient person. I wanted to be fully healed yesterday. I hope, too, that my husband’s patience continues given the added duties of personal care assistant, chief cook and primary housekeeper. I have not convinced him to add gardening, thus the weeds grow.

Meanwhile, the medical bills continue rolling in as I pay my $3,600 deductible on a health insurance plan that costs me $1,000/month (and another $500/month for Randy) in premium. (Tell me that’s affordable? It’s not.)

I know I have nothing to complain about given many people are dealing with health, financial and other issues much more difficult. Still, this is my challenge…

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In this season of ongoing grief, I hold hope July 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of Valley Grove Cemetery.

 

THESE PAST SIX MONTHS have marked, for me, an unprecedented, extended period of grief.

Jan. Carl. Harold. Elaine. Deb. Michael. And, yesterday, news of Ruth’s death. Whether family by blood, by faith and/or by friendship, each of these individuals held a place in my heart. I grieve their deaths.

But I grieve in hope, because I am a woman of faith. I believe in heaven, in eternal life. Therein lies my comfort.

On Saturday, that hope rose in familiar hymns like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” at the celebration of life service for my friend Michael, also my (senior) pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault. He died on June 9 from complications related to cancer, diagnosed only months earlier. He died while traveling in Sweden, far from his Minnesota home.

 

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

 

At the service, Michael’s pastor friend the Rev. Mark Noren advised us all to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your paths straight.” We repeated those words aloud from Proverbs 5. Words of strength and promise in a difficult time. He urged us to love our neighbors, to be there for others in prayer, support, encouragement and companionship.

I witnessed that care throughout the service. When a Sudanese choir of six sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in an upbeat tempo of unrestrained joy, I observed one singer gently wipe away the tears of another with her open palms. Such tenderness.

I watched, too, as a friend leaned into Michael’s youngest daughter, shoulder to shoulder, compassion in the closeness of two grieving young women.

More compassion came in the caring words of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Minnesota South District President, the Rev. Dean Nadasdy, who spoke of the mutual love between pastor and congregation.

 

The Good Shepherd stained glass window at Immanuel Lutheran Church, rural Courtland. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I felt that love in a tangible way at the visitation when I grasped the handle of the shepherd’s staff Michael received last year at a celebration of his 25 years in the ministry. At that event, I was honored to read a poem Michael wrote. He held an MA in English with a focus on poetry. We both loved language and words and penned poetry. He excelled in preaching. And he excelled in humor with a dry wit that often caught me by surprise. I marveled at his quick comebacks, his ability to unleash a humorous line with seemingly no effort. It was a gift.

But he sucked at gift-wrapping. Forgive me if you find that word inappropriate to connect to a pastor. Last December I was paired with Michael as our bible study group wrapped Christmas gifts for the Angel Tree ministry at our church. My efforts to teach him how to properly fold paper and wrap a gift failed. I finally gave up and suggested he dispense and attach the tape. I think he was relieved. Oh, how we laughed as we wrapped those gifts, extending love to our neighbors in need in the community.

I shall hold dear the memories of a man I valued not only as a pastor but as a friend. Life will always bring us grief as long as we choose to love. I accept that part of loving. For I have hope. Always hope.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling.

 

The value of a greeting card July 11, 2018

 

I RECOGNIZED THE GREETING CARD as a marketing strategy. Yet, I appreciated the personal touch extended by District One Hospital, Faribault.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to care for you read the card signed with personal wishes from four of my caregivers. I remembered only two of them. Anesthesia erases memories. Like an Etch A Sketch.

Sixteen days ago I underwent surgery to repair my broken left wrist with a plate held in place by 10 screws. That would be six more screws than I expected. But my broken radius was a bit of a jumbled mess or “looked like gravel,” as my surgeon said. He assessed my overall bone health as good, which I consider good for a woman my age. When you fall as I did, you’re gonna break a bone no matter what.

Back to that gratitude card from the hospital. It’s a nice gesture. Thoughtful. And smart PR. In a time when not everyone values a local hospital, such personal connections matter. I value having a hospital right here in my community. They’ve gotten plenty of my business through the years with three children born there and other surgeries. I appreciate that I have access to good medical care locally. I want to stay in my community, where I’ve often received care from people I know. There’s something to be said for that, for the comfort of familiar faces.

The handwritten wishes of three RNs and a nurse intern impressed me. Enough to write about it here.

Thoughts?

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The not-at-all amusing topic of domestic violence June 22, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I took a photo of this photo at a domestic violence awareness event in Faribault. The word STOP and outstretched hand (exactly how I landed, palm down when I fell) hold double meaning as it relates to this post. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

PERHAPS I’M MORE SENSITIVE than many people on the subject. But I have personal reasons for my feelings about domestic abuse. Many women who are friends or family have been directly or indirectly affected by domestic abuse or violence. Some of those victims are dead. Shot. Beaten. Attacked. Dead. (Click here. Here. Here. And here.

So when someone sees my broken left forearm, laughs and suggests that my husband assaulted me, I get angry. Inside. I try to react with words that are kind, yet clearly reveal that I am not amused. There is nothing even remotely funny about domestic violence or any violence against a human being.

 

A snippet of a domestic violence poster published by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. File image.

 

I understand the medical personnel who ask me to repeat the story of my fall. It’s their job to be aware of possible domestic violence, sometimes hidden by the victim. They need to look for inconsistencies in my story, especially since I fell and broke my right shoulder just a year ago (while at the hospital to donate blood).

But I want to state here, publicly, that my husband of 36 years has never abused me. Ever. To suggest that in jest offends me. I heard the “humorous” accusations last year against Randy and now I’m hearing them again. Not funny.

 

Domestic violence cycle of abuse as photographed at a local awareness event. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

That said, if you sincerely suspect a friend or family member has been abused in any way, don’t ignore what your gut, your observations, are telling you. Seek professional advice at a women’s shelter or advocacy center so you can help. Likewise, I urge you, if you are an abuse victim, to seek help. You deserve to live a life free of any type of abuse.

There, I got that out.

 

© copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling