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Ask Dr. Heartlander

Posted at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2009 by Dale Connelly (22 Comments)
Filed under: Ask Dr. Heartlander

Radio Heartland has tickets to give away to the Americana Showcase at the Rochester Civic Theater this Wednesday night, December 16th! It's bound to be a festive event, with Six Mile Grove and the band Trailer Trash and their "Trashy Little Christmas" show.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good Luck.

Today brings another installment of "Ask Dr. Heartlander"!


Who is Dr. Heartlander? She/He is All Of Us! Dr. Heartlander gives practical, reckless, helpful and dangerously misguided advice, sometimes all at once.

If you'd like to ask the doctor a question, send it to I'll re-write it to disguise your true identity, and then you may take advantage of the rare privilege of offering yourself advice, online.

Here's today's question:

Dear Dr. Heartlander,

I have a terrible time giving thoughtful gifts. People try to tell me about the things that make them happy, but when the topic strays from me and my interests, all I hear is a loud rushing sound. Later, when I try to recall what they said, I only remember how annoyed I was that they were boring me with so much of their own personal information.

As a result, I my gifts are lame. This is embarrassing to my friends and family, and I'm sure that behind my back they talk about how well-meaning, but clueless, I am.

Too bad, because if they would include me in that chat, we'd finally be having a conversation about something I find interesting!

Is there an easy way to get people to speak openly with me?

Enough About You

Here's what I told "Enough About You":

You are probably more aware of other people's needs and likes than you think you are. After all, you seem to be aware that they feel embarassment over your hoplessness in the thoughtful gift-giving department. But don't make it your goal to get people to "speak openly" with you. Being included in behind-your-back conversations about you is not that satisfying - they are very often about other people's problems, and not about you at all.

Try using e-mail conversations instead. Write to people about what YOU like. That should be easy enough. They'll write back about their own interests without much encouragement. Save the e-mails. You can ignore what they say (as usual) until it becomes useful to you - during gift-giving season!

I'm sure you have your own thoughts about this subject, Dr. Heartlander.
But what do you think about my advice?

Comments (22)

Dr. Heartlander: ask Dale to play "Senstive New-Age Guys" becuase this is clearly a man, if not in fact EVERYMAN. Maybe he will learn a lesson from the song, assuming he listens.

Posted by Clyde in Mankato | December 15, 2009 6:24 AM

Thanks for the suggestion, Clyde.
I'll play "Sensitive New Age Guys" between 7 and 7:30!

Posted by Dale Connelly | December 15, 2009 6:31 AM

Great request Clyde! How about adding Patty Larkin's me, me, me, I,I,I ! on the nacissitic thread.

I think your suggestion of using email to save pertinent info you really don't care about at the moment is spot on.

I'd further give the advice that EAY doesn't try too hard in the meaningful gift department. The giftcard industry was made for him and can always use more business.

Disclaimer: I use them too, so no aspersions are being cast.

Posted by catherine | December 15, 2009 6:38 AM

Dear EAY,
i'm not so sure you'd be that interested in open conversation - even about you - either. they may be saying things about you (however wrong) that are unkind.
hey, if people are going to bore you with all of the trivial details of their lives they deserve boring presents. how about this year give your friends and family each a beautiful portrait of YOU. what more could they want?? do this every year and maybe soon they'll suggest just exchanging cards instead of gifts. then you'll have the money you would have spent on them all to yourself. and you probably don't like the gifts you get from them anyway, right?

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | December 15, 2009 6:43 AM

This will stop then dead in their tracks--a sensitive one-size-fits all gift that no one dares complain about--give a donation to a charity in their name. .

Posted by Clyde in Mankato | December 15, 2009 7:06 AM

Dear EAY,
About a month ago a whole bunch of RH listeners were talking about how much better it is to hand make gifts instead of buy them. Give that a try this year. There's a guy on this blog named Jim who could give you some pointers on making semi-useful things out of scrap lumber. If you own a goat you can make everything from rich creamy soap to alpine venison. If you teach first grade, you can get your speedy bee students who always finish their work in a matter of seconds and then say, "I'm done - what can I do now?!", to make you some extra ornaments like the ones they already made for their parents, and who wouldn't LOVE a glittered spray-painted snowflake made of popcicle sticks and macaroni?

Off topic, Dr. Heartlander, but if you really want to help someone, see if you can get a hold of that poet who thought Frosty was hitting on him.

Posted by Donna | December 15, 2009 7:09 AM

Dear Enough About You,

Chances are you don't really want people to open up to you. You'd only be disappointed by what they'd have to say. Do yourself a favor, and ask for wish lists from your recipients next year. Then you'll know just enough about them to make gift giving successful.


Good morning, all!

Posted by elinor | December 15, 2009 7:12 AM

How sad that nobody among your friends meets your high standards.

Give them gift memberships to Minnesota Public Radio directed to Radio Heartland then they can all listen to the music you like. For future occasions you can request songs to be played in your :friends'" honour.

Dr H

ps Be sure to ask for more Bill Crofutt

Posted by Beth-Ann | December 15, 2009 7:20 AM

Greetings! Dear EAU: Trying to get Midwesterners -- Minnesotans in particular -- to speak openly about their wants and needs is futile. Many years ago, when I spent long hours shopping and mulling over thoughtful gifts to purchase loved ones, I usually showed my elegant taste by buying things for them I wanted myself, but never bothered purchasing. This left me in a quandary of desperately wanting what I gave to others as gifts.

Now -- I don't bother. I buy what I feel they need. For my boys, that means educational "toys", clothes, etc. A couple Christmases ago, I bought the family a fancy, expensive, multi-talented electric toothbrush that I thought was awesome. But they said it was lame! You can't win -- so this year, due to economic situation, I told them they're getting necessary items like socks, underwear, etc. The kind of practical, no-nonsense gifts my parents gave me. We're all just muddling through ...

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake, MN | December 15, 2009 7:27 AM

Dear EAY,

I assumed that you are a female because you are concerned about what people think about you. Now I think Clyde is right, you have problems that many men have.

I think we all have problems with Christmas gifts and pleasing every one. That's part of the reason that Christmas is full of stress for many of us

Dale's suggestion for using email to start a conversation might work. Of course, you do have to be careful about what you say in an email. You could get some clues about what to say in an email by reading comments on this blog, but you might have to think twice about using Donna's comments as a model for your emails.

I supose I could come up with some ideas for gifts from scrap lumber for you if you like Donna's suggestion regarding giving home made gifts.

Posted by Jim | December 15, 2009 7:50 AM

Dear EAY -

If you can't be bothered to listen to your loved ones' half of the conversation, why are you bothering with gifts? Shouldn't they feel fortunate enough to have you in the room?

If you must give a gift, flowers are always a good all-purpose bet for those over 25. Younger than that, cash works well. Younger kids almost always like things they can use to color on the walls - paints, markers, crayons...or perhaps a nice loud drum or two.

Happy gift giving.

Posted by Anna | December 15, 2009 7:50 AM

Maybe it's too late to put in a request, but I'd really love, please, to hear "I'm Still Here" from the Tom Waits Alice album. :-) One of his loveliest, in my opinion.

Posted by elinor | December 15, 2009 7:55 AM

Thanks for the Tom Waits. That one is short and sweet. :D

Posted by elinor | December 15, 2009 8:18 AM

Dale - Ken Nordine is indeed an octagenarian hipster. He is a legend in the commercial voiceover business. He is also known in jazz circles for 'word jazz.' That is spoken narration or poetry interacting with jazz music. Great examples of this are on his album "Colors." I was told that this started as an ad campaign for Pittsburgh Paints back in the '60's. Each ad featured a Ken Nordine word jazz bit anthropomorphizing the characteristics of a specific color. The album was re-released with extra tracks just a few years ago. If you've got the album, you should play a track to let people hear it. It actually is still very hip and cool.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | December 15, 2009 9:02 AM

Dear Dr. Heartlander,

The other day I was missing Cap'n Billy. The west edge of Minnesota at Lac Qui Parle has been fierce cold.

The Cap'n's voice, accompanied by the boys' and splash of cold waves always have a bracing effect. Happy was I to find him horn piping up on the blog.

Many happy returns of the day Radio Heartland... we here in the pottery studio are so glad to have great company in which to lash ourselves to our respective masts.

How does Dr, Heartlander manage to get his archetypes front and center when we most need them?

Posted by Lucy Tokheim | December 15, 2009 9:51 AM

Anyone else having trouble with getting the stream this morning? I hear the lady saying "Support for RH comes from..." and then nothing.

I've laughed out loud twice while reading. EAY - a lot of people are like Joanne in that they give gifts that they would like themselves. If these people have given YOU a gift in the past that you still have hanging around, you could wrap it nicely and give it to them this year, and everyone would be happy!

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 15, 2009 11:13 AM

Like Barb, I'm also not getting the streaming. It seems the problem might have started when the reboardcast was supose to start at 11 AM.

Okay, nbow I have it. Oops!, now I don't.

Posted by Jim | December 15, 2009 11:32 AM

OK, I had streaming for a few seconds there...

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 15, 2009 11:32 AM

I have given up on the steam for now. The tech people in this organization tell me that all such issues right now are related to the heavy traffic this time of year, especially those purchasing online, which I guess takes a lot of bandwidth because of the security issues.

Regarding gifts: be like the Hobbits, just keep passing the same gifts around. We have receive back gifts we have given.

Posted by Clyde in Mankato | December 15, 2009 11:57 AM

Now I've got it. :) Thanks...

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | December 15, 2009 12:09 PM

Be glad, Jim, that you've not seen the hundreds of comments I've sent in that Dale deleted from the get-go. BTW, do you have enough scrap lumber to build me a CD cabinet?

Posted by Donna | December 15, 2009 3:15 PM

Dear Dr. Heartland:

Could you choose an item to play in upcoming days in honor of the employees, visitors, and volunteers at "The Landing" in Shakopee (formerly called Murphy's Landing)?

For example, Do you have any 19th century brass band music suitable for the Holiday Season? That would be great.

At The Landing they are conducting their annual weekends of Folkways of the Holidays and but have a hard time when there is a rival event like a t.v. football game. These are wonderful people at a great site who deserve recognition and a mention on the radio so they can get a bigger audience.

Posted by Linda of Maplewood | December 17, 2009 6:26 AM

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