Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Not your typical Valentine’s Day story February 14, 2020

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

That memorable quote from the movie Forrest Gump rings so true in life. To a point. With a box of chocolates, you can choose. You can use the cheat sheet to find your preferred flavor. Let’s call that planning. Or you can take a risk and just grab a chocolate, any chocolate.

And then you bite into the sweet morsel and it’s either exactly what you expected, a disappointment or a sweet surprise.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Life is like that. Some days all goes exactly as we plan. Other days not so much. And then there are those days when you simply want to take the entire box of chocolates and toss them out because the “you never know what you’re gonna get” part is just too much to handle.

Yeah, this seems rather heavy to write about on Valentine’s Day. But there’s a reason. The other evening, while donating blood, I struck up a conversation with the young woman drawing my blood. I noticed a tattoo on her arm and inquired about the poetic sentence inked thereon. I can’t recall the exact wording, but it was beautiful and honored the loved one who penned it. Her brother. Today marks exactly six months since his unexpected death.

I told her how sorry I was for her loss. And then she asked if I wanted to hear the story behind her tattoo and that’s when the phlebotomist told me about her brother and how they’d always wanted to get the same tattoo and now it was too late. And then, while paging through her brother’s journals, she found the quote that now graces her arm.

He was a writer. And a veteran. I looked up his obit online. He struggled, after two deployments, to readjust to life.

As I sat on the table, blood flowing from my vein into a bag that would bring life-saving blood to someone, I considered this young woman, her brother and the loss of his life. She wasn’t bitter. She wasn’t angry. Sad, yes. Yet, she had no choice but to go on with life, she said. I admired her positive attitude in the newness of her grief.

She talked, too, about how writing helps her deal with her loss. Like me, she holds a degree in communications, is a published writer and loves writing. It was reaffirming, even in the darkness of the topic which prompted our conversation, to talk shop with someone who loves the craft as much as I do. I encouraged her to keep writing. She smiled. And I felt that in some way perhaps I’d helped her. And myself. We agreed that writing is therapeutic and that we can’t allow life to get in the way of our writing. No more excuses.

And then, four minutes and 17 seconds after blood began flowing, the collection bag was full and we wrapped up our conversation while she filled tubes and wrapped my arm in tape. I thanked her. And it wasn’t just for her work with the Red Cross.

There’s more.

As I sat at the snack and recovery table, I commented on a patriotic tattoo covering nearly the entire right arm of a blood donor. It honors those who serve, he said. And then the young man directly across the table—the father of three young children who came with his wife to donate—shared that he’s a veteran. His wife, too. She was by this time already giving blood. We thanked him for his service, which includes several deployments. I couldn’t help but think of the other vet, the brother gone.

This felt like one of those moments meant to be. Here a small group of people came together on a bitterly cold Minnesota winter evening to donate blood at the local Eagles Club. And by the time we all left, we felt a connection, bonding over tattoos and stories and a genuine care and appreciation for one another.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. But on this evening we got the choicest of chocolates. Without a cheat sheet. Without any planning or effort on our parts. Because sometimes life brings sweet surprises when we most need them.

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FYI: I welcome any chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! Make today the day you will reach out to someone, ask a question, listen to a story, offer support, show compassion and love.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day thoughts February 14, 2019

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VINTAGE VALENTINES. They can be cheesy, unconventional, interesting, stereotypical of an era. But I still like them. There’s just something about the feel of the heavy paper, the art, the words, the messages that endear me to these pieces of yesteryear.

A few years back, when my siblings and I were cleaning out my mom’s house in anticipation of her move into assisted living, I sorted through a box of cards Mom saved. The sister grabbed the collection first, so I got the left-overs. No fancy tissue pop-up valentines remaining for me. Still, I found cards that delighted me, that I pull out each February to display.

The older I get, the more treasured are memories and bits of the past. These valentines are more than pretty cards exchanged between friends and family many decades ago. These valentines represent moments in time when everyone paused for a single day to celebrate each other.

We need more days like that, when we think beyond our selfish selves and consider others. We need to remember how our words and actions affect others. Understanding, compassion and care connect and heal. Shutting others out via words and actions hurts, damages, even destroys, relationships. We need to expand our vision beyond tunnel vision to see the wider picture. It is often in our closest relationships that we fail, that we hurt, and are hurt, most deeply.

But we each hold the capacity to love, to make the right choices, to embrace each other. To do the right thing. Those are my thoughts on this Valentine’s Day 2019.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day: Beyond chocolate & roses February 13, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY. What an opportunity to show love. Beyond the romantic, this day encompasses love within families, love among friends, love within communities.

 

Red roses, a traditional Valentine’s Day expression of love. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Love. We need more of it, exhibited in kindness and compassion and care. Acts and words of love remind each of us that we are valued, that our voices are heard, our feelings matter.

 

Valentine’s Day wood cut-outs. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But how do we show that love on February 14?

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The timeless traditions of flowers, chocolates and/or dinner out always exude love. So do valentine cards. Some of my sweetest Valentine’s Day memories involve paste, paper hearts and shoe boxes with glittery hand-punched valentines slipped through slits into those boxes.

 

I have several vintage valentines from my mom’s collection and have displayed them for Valentine’s Day. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Nostalgia only lasts so long, though. It’s important to live in today, to show those we love that we genuinely care for them. Today. Now.

Last week I wrote about Valentine’s Day for Warner Press, a Christian publishing company in Indiana. I’m a blogger with Warner and recently also became blog content and strategy development coordinator. Basically, I plan, assign, write, edit and proof blog posts. I love this job, which fits my skills, talents and my faith. I love the team at Warner Press. They are incredible people who are caring, kind, appreciative, supportive and more.

I invite you to read my post, “Reflecting God’s Love as We Celebrate Valentine’s Day,” by clicking here. In my post you will find ideas that spread the love, whether you are a person of faith or not.

I welcome Valentine’s Day as a day of opportunity, a day to extend love. In words. Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. May you experience an abundance of love on February 14. And may you also share that love with others.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Heartfelt February 11, 2019

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IT’S A SIMPLE FABRIC HEART. Puffed with stuffing. Hand-stitched with red thread. The words I Love You printed with red paint.

I could have trashed the heart years after the son crafted it for me in elementary school. But there are some things you keep. Things that remind you of the sweet love of a child, of a heartfelt gift lovingly made for a mother.

This heart reminds me that love threads through our lives—in memories, in moments, in the art of living.

Remember that on Valentine’s Day and always. You are loved.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Love in a box of candy February 17, 2018

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SHORTLY BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY, I roamed the aisles of a Faribault antique shop and paused to admire a collection of artfully grouped heart-shaped candy boxes.

 

 

Years have passed since I received a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I’ve gotten bags of chocolate like M & Ms. But not fancy candies in a heart. There’s just something romantic and special about candy presented that way. And, yes, I realize it’s a marketing ploy that tugs on emotions.

 

 

When Randy presented me with a heart-shaped box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day, my mouth actually dropped open. It’s not all that often he can surprise me.

 

 

His was a sweet gift for that element of the unexpected. But mostly, it was a sweet gift for the thoughtfulness and love therein. After nearly 36 years of marriage, I still appreciate the sweetness of his love.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Love defined on Valentine’s Day February 14, 2018

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This fabric heart, crafted by one of my children in elementary school, hangs on my back door.

 

AS A TEEN, I clipped Love is… cartoons from the newspaper and tacked them onto my bright yellow smiley face bulletin board in my lime green and partially paneled basement bedroom with the candy stripe carpet. I found the cutesy cartoon created by Kim Casali dreamy in the context of a dreamy teen.

 

I have several vintage valentines from my mom’s collection and have displayed them for Valentine’s Day.

 

Above my twin bed, I also taped a black-and-white poster photo of Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, stars in the 1970 movie, Love Story. Oh, how I loved that movie of love and tragedy and a rather feisty Jennifer Cavelleri who used shocking words like bulls**t.

Back then I believed the famous Love Story line: Love means never having to say you’re sorry. That, my friends, is BS.

 

I created a love vignette on a chest of drawers in my dining room. Included are this wood cut-out, wedding photos and vintage and homemade valentines.

 

After 36 years of marriage, I’ve learned the importance of apologizing. And I’ve learned that love deepens and widens and grows with each shared experience. Good and bad. Love bends. Love changes. Love listens, understands, forgives, encourages, supports, serves.

 

Friends who moved from Faribault to near Fargo crafted and mailed this cute owl valentine to us.

 

That definition extends to all who love each other, whether as partners, friends, family.

Love is care and compassion and kindness. It is being there through the joys and the challenges. It is also exercising self-control—clamping your lips, stopping your fingers from sending a hurtful text or email… It is about calling a friend or family member who needs support. It’s about asking, “How are you?” and really meaning it.

 

A snippet of the valentine my 22-month-old granddaughter, with the help of her mama, crafted for me and her grandpa. I love it.

 

This Valentine’s Day, I hope we can all be a little kinder to one another. I hope we can show love in ways that extend beyond chocolate and flowers and dinner out. I hope we can truly be there for one another in ways that surpass some Hollywood version of love. I hope we can listen and believe and care. I hope we can love how we were meant to love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. I value and appreciate you.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day every day February 14, 2017

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You can't go wrong with chocolate, like this box from my daughter Miranda on Mother's Day.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

VALENTINE’S DAY BRINGS expectations of love expressed in some perhaps grand way. It’s a great day for florists and chocolate shops and restaurants. And that’s alright. Both flowers and candy are visual reminders of love. Dining out allows time to connect and celebrate. I have a half-dozen red roses on my dining room table. And I appreciate them.

But even more important are the everyday moments of love. You know, those little things you take for granted in your life. Or the surprises that cause your heart to surge joy.

What does that look like for you?

 

homemade-valentine

 

For me, love has shown itself recently in these ways:

  •  a handcrafted valentine from friends
  •  the giggle of my granddaughter
  •  a bag of macadamia nuts, a gift from my eldest and her husband who recently vacationed in Hawaii, a place I will never visit.
  •  my husband washing the dinner dishes every Sunday so I can phone my mom at 6:30 p.m.
  •  a friend buying valentine books for my 10-month-old granddaughter whom she’s never met.
  •  an unexpected call from my second daughter
A view of the 300 block on North Broadway, including signage for the Fargo Theatre, built in 1926 as a cinema and vaudeville theatre. The theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a venue for independent and foreign films, concerts, plays and more.

Downtown Fargo, North Dakota, the real Fargo, not as depicted in the movie or TV series. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

  •  my husband binge-watching Fargo (the TV show) with me on DVD
  •  skyping with my son in Boston
  •  seeing my great nephew Landon with his face pressed to the patio door watching and waiting for my husband (Papa Two) and me to arrive
  •  texts from a friend asking, “How are you?”

Today, please express your care and appreciation for your friends, your family, and, yes, even for those outside your closest circle. Try to make that a practice every day.

Birthday roses from my husband, Randy.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! I appreciate you.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day love at Sunday School February 14, 2016

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SS Valentine's Day, 48 stack of valentines

 

HOW WAS YOUR Valentine’s Day?

Except for the hour I spent photographing Sunday School students and their families, mine would have been just another Sunday. Early to church, followed by bible study. Then brunch at home prepared by my husband.

But because I’ve recently become the go-to person to document happenings at my church, Trinity Lutheran, I pulled photography duty this morning. And I’m fine with that because I enjoy photography. Now if I was asked to give a minute-man speech (which I’ve been asked to do) or count money or serve on a board (which I’ve been asked to do), I wouldn’t do it. My talents and interests don’t lie in those areas.

Ask me to bring my camera, however, and I will likely be there.

In the one hour I covered the Sunday School’s Valentine’s Day event, I shot some 200 photos.  But, because these images are for church use, I can only share a few generic photos with you.

 

SS Valentine's Day, 16 close-up hands making valentine

 

I can tell you, though, what I witnessed. And that was kids and parents, and, yes, even some grandparents, celebrating the gift of love. Kids made valentines, stacked candy hearts and unwrapped Hershey’s kisses with mittened hands. But the most memorable moment came when parents applied sticker dots to their children’s faces—each dot representing a quality they love about their children. I heard words like beautiful, smart, kind, my first-born…

 

SS Valentine's Day, 138 I love God because dots

 

After those professions of love, the kids stuck the dots to portraits of Jesus with the children, expressing their love for Jesus.

 

Valentine's Day Trinity SS 039 - Copy

 

I left feeling like I’d gotten the perfect Valentine’s Day gift—a reminder that I am—we are—loved.

TELL ME, what made your Valentine’s Day special/memorable?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Planning a Valentine’s Day heart attack February 12, 2016

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WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING for Valentine’s Day?

Birthday roses from my husband, Randy.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Roses?

You can't go wrong with chocolate, like this box from my daughter Miranda on Mother's Day.

You can’t go wrong with a box of chocolates. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Chocolates?

Some creative mind (not mine) came up with the "You've been heart attacked" idea.

Some creative mind (not mine) came up with the “You’ve been heart attacked” idea. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

How about a heart attack? No, not the medical emergency that threatens your life. But rather a staged attack that plants paper hearts in your yard.

Image three times-plus this number of hearts placed in our friends' yards.

Imagine three times-plus this number of hearts placed in our friends’ yards. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Two years ago, my husband and I crept into the front yards of two friends on the evening of February 13. There we stuck colorful paper hearts into snowbanks with the message, Happy Valentine’s Day! You’ve been heart attacked! Then we fled into the darkness of a cold Minnesota night, hoping to elude barking dogs and porch lights. We succeeded.

The two young families awoke the next morning to find dozens of hearts scattered across the snow. It didn’t take them long to determine who’d done this. And then, because they have such giving hearts, these families plucked up the hearts and heart attacked two more families.

My husband and I got as much joy out of giving this Valentine’s Day gift to families we treasure as they did out of receiving.

Piling up the hearts in anticipation of Operation Heart Attack.

Piling up the hearts in anticipation of Operation Heart Attack. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

There’s still time to plan a heart attack. Click here for details.

If you carry out a heart attack, please report back here in the comments section. I’d love to hear about your experience.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day love in a poem February 14, 2015

WHEN IS THE LAST TIME you received a handcrafted valentine?

Mine arrived this week via 13-year-old Hannah’s dad handing her homemade valentine to my husband at a church meeting. Randy in turn delivered a yellow construction paper envelope to me.

What a sweet surprise to receive a valentine greeting from this creative teen.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She's quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry.

A photo I snapped of Hannah several years ago as she painted a block on a basement wall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Hannah, the daughter of dear friends, and I share a special connection. We are creative types. Specifically, we write poetry, the reason Hannah addressed the envelope to “My Poet Pal.” Ah. Melted my heart right then and there.

Hannah's poem, "Snow."

Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” posted in Sibley Park in Mankato.

Several years ago I began mentoring Hannah in poetry. She loves words and rhythm as much as I do. And, like me, she had a poem selected last spring for inclusion in the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. You can read all about that by clicking here.

When I lifted the flap on the yellow envelope where Hannah had glittered my name in silver, I was not surprised to find she had penned a valentine poem:

Hannah's poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.

Hannah’s poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.

Ah…

But wait, there’s more. My valentine is green, not red. Hannah knows that green is my favorite color.

Ah…

If you’ve ever mentored a young person, you know that this nurturing and encouraging and caring blesses you as much as the recipient. To connect, to share a passion—whether in poetry, gardening, crafting, photography—is a gift. A gift.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

This Valentine’s Day, I received more than a handcrafted valentine from Hannah. I received a heart full of love.

IF YOU’VE MENTORED a young person, I’d like to hear about it. Or if you’ve received a handcrafted valentine, I’d like to hear about that, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Poem is copyrighted by Hannah.