Category Archives: Life

If you’re married and want to stay married, beware hedonic adaptation

New Love The Myths of Happiness

A month ago, I read an article in the NY Times, New Love: A Short Shelf Life by Sonja Lyubomirsky. (Her new book, The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does comes out in a month or so.)

I didn’t expect to learn anything new. I’ve been married 39 years and for the past dozen or more, Robbie and I seem to have figured out how to stay in love.

The good news… is that if couples get past that two-year slump and hang on — for another couple of decades — they may well recover the excitement of the honeymoon period 18 to 20 years later, when children are gone. Then, in the freedom of the so-called empty nest, partners are left to discover one another — and often their early bliss — once again.

That’s us. The problem? Hedonic adaptation never goes away.

… human beings are, as more than a hundred studies show, prone to hedonic adaptation, a measurable and innate capacity to become habituated or inured to most life changes.

Hedonic adaptation is most likely when positive experiences are involved. It’s cruel but true: We’re inclined — psychologically and physiologically — to take positive experiences for granted… Sexual passion and arousal are particularly prone to hedonic adaptation… Familiarity may or may not breed contempt; but research suggests that it breeds indifference.

A few years ago, we learned the importance of injecting variety into our weekly date nights. But Lyubomirsky contends that variety is not enough:

Although variety and surprise seem similar, they are in fact quite distinct. It’s easy to vary a sequence of events — like choosing a restaurant for a weekly date night — without offering a lot of surprise… Surprise is a potent force. When something novel occurs, we tend to pay attention, to appreciate the experience or circumstance, and to remember it. We are less likely to take our marriage for granted when it continues to deliver strong emotional reactions in us.

And a surprising thing about surprise:

And studies show that in long-term relationships, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex, and to lose it sooner. Why? Because women’s idea of passionate sex depends far more centrally on novelty than does men’s.

So what to do?

The realization that your marriage no longer supplies the charge it formerly did is then an invitation: eschew predictability in favor of discovery, novelty and opportunities for unpredictable pleasure.

Okay then.

The domain name,, is for sale

Real Joe

Real Joe was a blog that I published from August, 2000 to December of 2005.  Its tagline: Important stuff. Plain talk. Ordinary guys.

  1. The word ‘Joe’ in our culture is associated with the common man, a typical ‘guy’ or ‘fellow,’ the ‘average Joe,’ an ‘ordinary Joe.’  It also has taken on this ‘common man’ association with some demographics, e.g., G.I. Joe, Holy Joe, Joe College, Joe Sixpack, Joe Lunchbucket. The phrase ‘real Joe’ as in “He’s the real Joe” has come to be associated with authenticity and a lack of pretentiousness in a male.
  2. The word ‘Joe’ also refers to coffee, as in a ‘cup of Joe.’ The origin of that phrase is not clear.

If you’re interested in purchasing the domain name, contact me.

An atheist’s most difficult prayer: Help

Help Thanks WowBack in November, I saw a Thanksgiving essay in the NY Times, The Prayer of an Unconventional Family by Anne Lamott and noticed in the footnote that she had a new book  out titled Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.

I bought the Kindle version of the book when I saw this short review of the book in the Strib by my former Utne Reader colleague, Lynette Lamb:

If you seek a pithy explication of prayer, as understood by one reliably funny Christian, this is your book. But if you’re hoping for fully realized stories about Lamott’s own wrestling with religion, like those found in her previous books on faith, you’ll be disappointed. This is more self-help manual than essay collection.

I was going to blog about it several times since then but every time Northfield bookseller Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read got the book in stock, he’d sell out in a day or two. (On Friday, Jerry got a whole stack of books in.)

I was most interested in Lamott’s chapter, Help, because I’ve found that as an atheist, it’s the toughest of the three prayers. Being grateful (Thanks) and mindful (Wow) are for me, more easily practiced because they don’t activate my mind’s habitual desire to have a being/God involved.

But how do you pray/say/ask for Help without conjuring up an image of someone on the other end who might A) be listening; and B) have some inclination to act on the request? Lamott writes:

Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer. I don’t pray for God to do this or that, or for God’s sake to knock it off, or for specific outcomes. Well, okay, maybe a little.

I’ve blogged about prayer occasionally as I think it helps to distinguish between true and false prayers.  Asking for specific worldly outcomes is a false prayer.  Here’s a good example of one of Lamott’s Help prayers that combines true prayer with what she calls her ‘beggy prayers’:

A lifelong friend, a staunch agnostic, has asked me to pray for her daughter, Angie, who has young children and a diagnosis of aggressive lung cancer, the kind that continues to grow tumors in the midst of chemotherapy. I close my eyes and say in silence, “I hold this family in Your light. I pray for them to get their miracle, and to have stamina, for them to be okay today, for their love and amazing senses of humor to help them come through, although if You have a minute, I’d like to know: What on earth could You be thinking?”

That prayer and my friendship are pretty much all I’ve got to offer. I wish I had a magic wand and could tap Angie on the head with it, and the cancer would be gone and her kids would get to grow up with a mother. Even better, I wish God had a magic wand. I’ve never seen evidence of it.

Lamott correctly identifies the element of surrender as the key to asking for Help in this prayer:

Hi, God. I am just a mess. It is all hopeless. What else is new? I would be sick of me, if I were You, but miraculously You are not. I know I have no control over other people’s lives, and I hate this. Yet I believe that if I accept this and surrender, You will meet me wherever I am. Wow. Can this be true? If so, how is this afternoon— say, two-ish? Thank You in advance for Your company and blessings. You have never once let me down. Amen.


Most good, honest prayers remind me that I am not in charge, that I cannot fix anything, and that I open myself to being helped by something, some force, some friends, some something. These prayers say, “Dear Some Something, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t see where I’m going. I’m getting more lost, more afraid, more clenched. Help.” These prayers acknowledge that I am clueless; but something else isn’t. While I am not going to go limp, I am asking for the willingness to step into truth. It’s like the old riddle: What’s the difference between you and God? God never thinks he’s you.

I first came across this notion of surrender in everyday prayer in a book by Polly Berrien Berends: Coming to Life: Traveling the Spiritual Path in Everyday Life.

The primary thing that has to be given up is knowing what is good for us.

And here’s a related quote by Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and several follow-up books (some of which I like; others I hate):

There are situations where all answers and explanations fail. Life does not make sense anymore. Or someone in distress comes to you for help, and you don’t know what to say. When you fully accept that you don’t know, you give up struggling to find answers with the limited thinking mind, and that is when a greater intelligence can operate through you. And even thought can then benefit from that, since the greater intelligence can flow into it and inspire it. Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.

Once I park my ego, stop my noisy thinking, surrender, and then ask/pray correctly for help, it comes. Every time. Reliable as gravity.  Even for me, an atheist.  I just have to get better at not waiting so long till I’m suffering.

coldsassytree_cover.gifI’ve blogged about Olive Ann Burns’ novel, Cold Sassy Tree, and the passage that offers an interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said “Ask and ye shall receive.”  (If the authors of the New Testament had quoted Jesus as saying “Ask correctly and ye shall receive,” a lot of trouble over the past couple of millenia could have been avoided.)

At the time, I only provided a screenshot and audio version of the passage but I’ve now got a transcript (courtesy of the OCR feature in Microsoft OneNote).

In the passage, Grandpa (Rucker) is talking to his newlywed, Miss Love. The narrator is the young grandson.

“Something Will Tweedy’s been questionin’. He don’t unnerstand why Jesus said, ‘Ast, and it shall be given.’ He says why would Jesus say sech a thang when it ain’t always so?”

“That’s easy to explain, Rucker. Tell Will that sometimes God has to say no for our own good, or to teach us something, or show His power. Sometimes it’s just not His will to give us a certain thing. Or He wants to test our faith and see if we trust Him no matter what.”

Grandpa laughed. “Love, you sound like ever preacher I ever heard. But Jesus didn’t say God might say no when we say gimme. He said God’s go’n say yes. Anythang we ast for, we go’n git it. Well, hungry folks pray for food, but they shore don’t all git fed. And sick folks beg Him for healin’, but lots of’m die, or maybe live on in bed. Jesus had to mean something diff’rent from what folks think He meant, else to my mind He was a dang fool to go round promisin’ what God wouldn’t do. But Jesus warn’t no fool, Love. So what did He mean?”

Distressed, she sat up and said to Grandpa, “Please, Rucker. Don’t talk sacrilege.”

“Hit ain’t sacrilege. Miss Effie Belle says when she cain’t think what to have for dinner, she asts God and right off He gives her a idea. To my thinkin’, thet’s sacrilege.”

Miss Love really laughed. “There’s not a woman in the world who hasn’t prayed what to cook for dinner, Rucker.”

“Well, God give y’all cookbooks for thet. Anyhow, when I got to ponderin’ on it last night, the word ast commenced to jump at me like sheep comin’ over a fence. Ast. Ast. Ast. But ast for what? For meat and bread? For healin’ miracles? Are we s’posed to ast ‘Lord, give me the answers on the arithmetic test,’ ‘Lord gît me hired over the next feller,’ ‘Lord, give me a son’? Gosh a’mighty, how I used to ast thet’n, Love!” He looked long and tender at her, and kissed her cheek.

“And didn’t God send you Will Tweedy?”

Gosh, I hadn’t thought of that!

“Maybe He did,” said Grandpa. “Then agin maybe He sent me you so I could have another crack at it.” I could see Miss Love blush. and, out in the hall, I blushed. Grandpa didn’t. “But I don’t think He planned Will Tweedy for me. I don’t even think He sent me you. You and Will jest happened in the way of thangs. God ain’t said you won’t git nothin’ good less’n you pray for it. But I’m shore thankful for you, Love.” He touched a finger to her chin and her mouth, then rested his hand on her cheek.

His voice softened as he went on. “Another thang to think on: some folks ain’t said pea-turkey to God in years. They don’t ast Him for nothin’, don’t specially try to be good, and don’t love no body the way Jesus said to — cept their own self. But they go’n git jest bout as much or as little in the way a-earthly goods as the rest of us. They go’n have sorrows and joys, failures and good times. And when they come down sick they go’n gît well or the, one, jest same as the prayin’ folks. So don’t thet tell you something bout prayin? Ain’t the best prayin’ jest bein’ with God and talkin’ a while, like He’s a good friend, stead a-like he runs a store and you’ve come in a-hopin’ to git a bargain?”

Miss Love frowned. “Rucker, you can’t write Holy Scripture. It’s already been written.”

“Well, I shore can question what it means.” With a heavy groan, trying to shift a little to get comfortable, he put his arm across her stomach again. “And hit fIne’ly come to me in the night, what Jesus must a-meant by ast. You want to be like them folks with rock brains, or you want to hear it?”

She smiled. “I want to hear it.”

I put in my journal all the above. Also the answer that had come to Grandpa.

“When Jesus said ast and ye shall receive, I don’t think He meant us to pray ‘Lord, spare my child,’ or ‘Make it rain for the crops,’ or ‘Don’t let my bizness fail.’ I don’t even think Jesus meant us to ask for—”

“—for a house or a piano?” She put her hand on his open palm. He laughed, and lifted her hand and kissed it.

“Naw and not even for a husband or any other sech favor. The Lord’s Prayer does say, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ but thet’s the only dang Jesus ast for in the whole prayer thet you can tetch. They ain’t nothin’ in the Lord’s Prayer says ‘Make me well.’ I’m tempted to pray thet right now, hurtin’ like I am. But I don’t think Jesus meant us to think we can git healed jest by beggin’ for it.” Grandpa laughed kind of rueful. “God made us so we want to stay alive. He put healin’ power in our bodies. We don’t have to beg Him to save us. All we got to do is accept bein sick, do what Doc says, and trust thet God wants us to git well if’n we can.”

Miss Love broke in. “In the Bible, Jesus only healed the people who asked Him to — and believed He could. If Jesus could heal, can’t God? If we pray and have faith?”

“Well’m, faith ain’t no magic wand or money-back gar’ntee, either one. Hit’s jest a way a-livin’. Hit means you don’t worry th’ew the days. Hit means you go’n be holdin’ on to God in good times or bad times, and you accept whatever happens. Hit means you respect life like it is — like God made it — even when it ain’t what you’d order from the wholesale house. Faith don’t mean the Lord is go’n make lions lay down with lambs just cause you ast him to, or make fire not burn. Some folks, when they pray to git well and don’t even git better, they say God let’m down. But I say thet warn’t even what Jesus was a-talkin’ bout.

When Jesus said ast and you’ll git it, He was givin’ a gar’ntee a-spiritual healin’, not body healin’. He was sayin’ thet if’n you git beat down — die, or scairt folks won’t like you — why, all you got to do is put yore hand in God’s and He’ll lift you up. I know it for a fact, Love. I can pray, ‘Lord, hep me not be scairt,’ and I don’t know how, but it’s like a eraser wipes the fears away. And I found out a long time ago, when I look on what I got to stand as a dang hardship or a burden, it seems too heavy to carry. But when I look on the same dang thang as a challenge, why, standin’ it or acceptin’ it is like you done entered a contest. Hit even gits excitin’, waitin’ to see how everthang’s go’n turn out.”

Grandpa stopped to move a little and his face twisted with pain. But he went on. “Jesus meant for us to ast God to hep us stand the pain, not beg Him to take the pain away. We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage, and to be gracious when thangs ain’t goin’ our way, and we’ll git what we ast for. They ain’t no gar’ntee thet we ain’t go’n have no troubles and ain’t go’n die. But shore as frogs croak and cows bellow, God’ll forgive us if’n we ast Him to.”

Mike Leming, Santa Claus to kids in Northfield and Thailand

A couple weeks ago I noticed that St. Olaf sociology professor Mike Leming was featured in Felicia Crosby’s Just Curious column in the December 2012 Entertainment Guide  (I’ve extracted it here in a  PDF).

Mike Leming in Entertainment GuideBut make no mistake about it; children in various parts of the world know Northfield’s own Mike Leming as someone pretty special, and the gifts he and his wife Ann bring make a very real difference in a lot of lives, they usually like to give out zegarki jewelry to people they appreciate the most.

So here’s a little bit about Mike – his connections with his students, with a people and culture half a world away, and his thoughts about uncovering the Santa in each of us (it begins with finding your heart).

Merry Christmas, Mike, from the believers at The Entertainment Guide.

And so I made a mental note to be sure to take photos of him doing his Santa Claus thing at the First National Bank of Northfield during Winter Walk last week. Mike was also on KYMN’s Wayne Eddy Affair last week.

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

Mike Leming, Santa ClausMike Leming, Santa Claus

The Trashy Little Christmas Show returns to the Grand on Friday

Trailer Trash at the Grand 2011Jessica Paxton12.14.12 Trailer Trash by Rich Larson
Jessica Paxton, KYMN Radio host and Rich Larson, Left-Handed Entertainment have been doing the promo for Friday’s “Trashy Little Xmas Show” at the Grand.  Rich devotes his Positively Division Street column in the December 2012 Entertainment Guide to the show (I’ve extracted it here in a two-page PDF). And Jessica sent out the press release below.

See my photo album & video from last year’s A Trashy Little Xmas.

Trailer Trash 2012 xmas posterDecember 4, 2012

For immediate release

Honky-Tonk Legends Trailer Trash Bring Their “Trashy Little Xmas Show” Back to Northfield!

Northfield, Minn.—Honky-tonk legends Trailer Trash will bring their very popular “Trashy Little Xmas Show” back to Northfield’s Grand Event Center on Friday, Dec. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m. with an opening set by the Rice County All-stars. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and can be purchased at the KYMN Radio Studios (200 Division Street) and online at and at

One of Minnesota’s most popular bands, Trailer Trash has been performing their annual holiday revue for over 18 years to sold-out audiences in Minneapolis and Rochester. Last year marked the first time this popular holiday extravaganza came to Northfield and the band is pleased to continue the tradition again in 2012. “Northfield is a really fun place to play,” says Trailer Trash frontman Nate Dungan. “There are so many music fans down there that are hungry for some top quality entertainment.”

With their “Trashy Little Xmas Show,” Trailer Trash revamps the Christmas classics and mixes in some festive originals, for a holiday show that’s the perfect anecdote to this sometimes stressful time of year. “The Trashy Little Xmas Show is cheesy and sassy and will make even the grumpiest Grinch grin with glee. It’s the perfect anecdote to the holiday blues,” notes Jessica Paxton, KYMN Radio host.

“Audiences really love the show,” promises Dungan. “It’s an irreverent, fun and rockin’ take on Christmas.” Rich Larson of Left-Handed Entertainment agrees. “The show is equal parts holiday excess, honky-tonk schtick and tongue-in-cheek satire. This is a show guaranteed to make even the most stoic Norwegian Lutheran Minnesotan lose their inhibitions.”

“These guys are musical maestros – and a whole lot of fun,” says Paxton. “They consistently put on a fantastic show. I guarantee you’ll be tapping your toes and shaking your hips all night long. Combine great musicianship and a whole bunch of holiday razzle dazzle, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for celebrating the season.”

Since 1993, Trailer Trash has drawn enthusiastic crowds at the legendary Lee’s Liquor Lounge in downtown Minneapolis. Best known for playing country music, the band also swings, rocks and grooves with the many other styles from the American hit parade.

The members of Trailer Trash enjoy turning new generations on to the classic sound of American roots music, and they also know how to swing, rock and groove. Their contagious enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment onstage have earned Trailer Trash the reputation of being Minnesota’s premier honky-tonk band.

After eighteen years, Trailer Trash has achieved an important position in Minnesota musical history. They have performed at Jesse Ventura’s Inaugural Ball at the Target Center, played the opening of the new Guthrie Theater, and have entertained countless thousands at their annual Trashy Little Xmas Show. The band has provided the soundtrack to hundreds of Twin Cities courtships and wedding receptions. Somewhere during it all, the group has also racked up seven Minnesota Music Awards, appeared in two movies, and put out six albums. The band’s website can be found at

The Grand Event Center is located at 316 Washington Street in Northfield, Minn. For more information on Northfield’s own “Trashy Little Xmas Show,” visit online at or call Jessica Paxton at KYMN Radio at (507) 645-5695.

What do you think is the greatest pop song of all time? My vote: ‘Hallelujah’

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan LightJerry Bilek, Monkey See Monkey Read bookstoreRolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

A week or so ago while doing the dishes and listening to an NPR podcast on my smartphone (see, I’m hip), I heard this Weekend Edition music interview, Dozens Of Covers Later, ‘Hallelujah’ Endures about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah. The book that prompted the piece is out this week: The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” by Alan Light.

In 1994, a cover by the late Jeff Buckley helped save “Hallelujah” from musical obscurity. Buckley’s version turned one man’s lament into another artist’s ode to love. Light says the ambiguity of the song’s lyrics makes it easy for musicians to make the tune their own. “There are lyrics that are talking about sex. There are these allusions to stories from the Bible; the King David story and the Samson story,” he says. “There’s lots and lots of layers.”

After hearing that I thought, Hmmm, that actually could be at the top of my list of the greatest pop songs of all time. (Jerry Bilek at Monkey See, Monkey Read has the book in stock at his store in downtown Northfield.)

I also just learned about so I thought I’d give it a test run here on LoGro.  I’ve put five of my all-time favorite songs on the list (in no particular order) to get things started.

Your task, fellow Northfield citizens and music fans, is to:

  1. Add your all-time favorite song to the list if it’s not listed. (One source to use if you’re having trouble remembering your fave: the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time)
  2. Vote songs up or down
  3. Comment on the songs and on the comments of others. You can comment within the listing on each song or you can comment via the usual WordPress comment box attached to this blog post
  4. Share the list on your social networks
  5. Embed the list on your Northfield area blog or website ( syncs all the activity)

To participate in using the features, you’ll need to login with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+ account.

I may adjust the settings on the fly occasionally as I learn about how it works.

[listly id=”2bm” theme=”light” layout=”full” numbered=”yes” image=”yes” items=”all”]

Winter mountain biking in Minnesota: locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, events

 fat bike on a packed trail: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with little snow: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with moderate snow, not packed: difficultfat bike on a trail with deep snow, not packed: difficult

I attended Freewheel Bike‘s 2nd annual Winter Bike Expo ("the world headquarters of winter riding fanatics") on Saturday at their Midtown Bike Center.  (I blogged about the event on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog here, including my photo album).  While the event had offerings for bike commuters, the bulk of the action was aimed at mountain biking in winter, using fat bikes especially. QBP’s brands Surly and Salsa each had a big presence at the event, as both offer a number of fat bike models.  (They’re sold locally by Mike’s Bicycle Shop here in Northfield and Milltown Cycles in Faribault.)

I’m doing some consulting work on the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit & Festival coming up at the end of January in the West Yellowstone area, so I’m locked in on the trend. And the Expo gave me a picture of how much enthusiasm there is here in Minnesota for fat biking.

I don’t (yet) own a fat bike. Last winter I didn’t need one, since we had so little snow. My hardtail 29’er worked fine just about everywhere I went. But with a solid 8 inches from our weekend snowstorm, things are looking up for a decent winter.  And more and more of Minnesota’s mountain bike parks and other trails allow mountain bikes.

So let’s use the discussion thread attached to this blog post to discuss winter biking locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, and events.

Finally: snow and cold

Robbie Wigley with Laylapoodle
It’s been long time (two years?) since we’ve had significant snow here in Northfield. Today’s 8+ inches of heavy wet snow was only half the amount that some places got around the Metro area but good enough to make things spectacularly pretty, including these two, Robbie and Layla. 

The wet snow stuck to Layla’s underbelly and legs, making her look like a toy poodle, which was worrisome to me. One never knows when the Rotary might hold another Poodle Shoot fundraiser.

There are now at least three Northfield area photographers on Capture Minnesota

Griff Wigley, John WaltersSenior Open photos by Corey ButlerCapture MinnesotaGlenn Switzer

I became an artist at 4 pm on Tuesday at the Senior Open and got to meet and chat with some of my, ahem, fellow artists. Among them: St. Olaf Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, John Walters who’s into many things in his retirement, including photography.  (See Corey Butler’s photos of the event on Northfield Patch.)

John told me about Capture Minnesota, a social network for Minnesota photographers hosted by TPT. See his Capture Minnesota page of 60+ photos.

I don’t know how many other Northfielders are members but a search of the word ‘Northfield’ brought up many Northfield-area photos, including 95 by Dundas Mayor Glenn Switzer who is Glenn of Dundas on the network.

I just joined and intend to get posting my photos Real Soon Now.

Anyone else on Capture Minnesota besides me, John, and Glenn?