Sex Over Fifty

July 7, 2011

Sex Shop Shy?

I completely understand that some people just can’t bring themselves to visit sex shops. They can at times seem dirty, intimidating and confusing, even though they house some of the greatest resources and tools available for increasing sexual pleasure. Fortunately for all of us there are alternatives to the neighborhood sex-tool-shed.

Art Galleries and Museums
Typically we tend to think we’ve only recently become a mainstream sex-minded society, but take one stroll through some select classic Asian and Indian art exhibits and you’ll find that the real “free sex” revolution happened thousands of years ago. Thanks to talented painters and sculptors we have the opportunity of experiencing their sexual proclivities through the eyes of intelligent art connoisseurs. My all-time favorite is of course the Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian Hindu text that is an artistically illustrated handbook for great, pleasurable sex.

Pet Shops
Do you fancy the idea of a collar and leash for you or your partner? Why spend oodles of money on studded collars and other goodies at the sex shop when you can peruse the aisles of the local pet store? A secret-mission trip through the neighborhood pet store, either alone or with a partner, can be exhilarating and fun! There are tons of toys, restraints, and other goodies and the best part is that nobody will know who you’re really shopping for!

The Internet
Don’t be afraid to use the Internet to search for online sex tips and toys. Naturally, be weary of clicking on ads or pop-ups that might give you a virus (even safe-online sex is important!). If you’re concerned about privacy, most browsers have a “private” or “safe” browsing option that doesn’t save information on your computer. And when it comes to paying by credit card you’ll find convenient pre-paid credit cards on those in-store gift card walls at your local pharmacies and grocery stores.

Do It Yourself
If you want to get creative and do a few things at home, here are some great ideas for those that like to DIY or need a quick idea:
• Cut open an old pillow for some flirty feathers (turn off the ceiling fan first!)
• Skip fruit-flavored lotions and opt for some pureed fresh fruit instead (non-acidic only!)
• Whipped cream never fails (unless your partner is lactose intolerant)
• Ice cubes can make it hot (while keeping it cool)
• Old belts and scarves make great restraints (and whips)
• Even if you can’t wear 4 inch heels anymore, keep a pair for a bed fantasy…they can’t hurt you when you’re lying down!

Dr. Dorree Lynn, PhD, is a psychologist and life coach in Georgetown and author of Sex for Grownups: Dr. Dorree Reveals the Truths, Lies, and Must-Tries for Great Sex After 50. She is AARP’s Media “Sexpert” and has been featured on ABC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and VH1. Visit her website:

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

June 28, 2011

Dear Stacy:

I am a mother of two kids – 6 months and 2.5 years old. I stay home with the kids, always have wanted to be a SAHM, and for the most part, it’s very good all around. But I keep feeling jealous of my husband’s “freedom” when he goes to work, particularly when he’s sent off on a work-related trip. He says he misses us all, but I can’t believe he’s not at least a little bit happy to have a full-night’s sleep, getting to wake up when he wants to, seeing a new place, and planning his day around whatever he wants to do. I am happy to be home with my kids, but I miss the freedom of getting to take a trip or see a movie when I want to. He offers to take the kids some weekend afternoons, but when I return home I find complete chaos and it takes a good day or two for things to get back to normal. I’m snapping at him, doubting his sincerity when he tells me how much he misses us – I’m just reluctant to believe he’s not secretly happy with his end of the bargain.
–Feeling unequal in Northwest

Dear Unequal:

So what if he is “secretly happy with his end of the bargain?” Would that information actually change anything? From the tone of your letter, I can surmise that Husband might feel guilty about that particular perk of being the sole breadwinner. Can you ask yourself why he wouldn’t want to admit that part to you? Maybe because you might use it against him while ignoring what’s really going on here: the fact that your arrangement might not be 100 percent working for you right now.

We’ve all heard the adage that marriage isn’t fair all the time – neither is parenting, making a living or life in general. If this period of dissatisfaction is just a blip on the radar screen of an otherwise happy life, I urge you to let this go. If, on the other hand, you are struggling with some long-term challenges of balancing his work with yours, let’s take a closer look at that part.

It sounds like you might be feeling like a prisoner to your daily routine. That’s the unfortunate part of being a Good Mother – you know that a regularly-scheduled day makes for happier, healthier, and, blessedly, sleepier kiddos. Just because this cycle is good for them, doesn’t mean you won’t feel chafed from time to time – particularly when Husband is texting you from the latest Tony Award-winning corporate-sponsored Broadway musical. Or Austin’s Restaurant Week. Or (Lord help him if he does this) the beach.

I sympathize that there may be chaos when you return from an afternoon out, but am wondering what yardstick you’re using? Is Husband really letting them set up the sprinkler inside and shred the drapes, or is he just choosing to do things differently than you would? If it’s the latter, let’s take a deep breath and remember what you’re getting in return. The opportunity to be child-free for a few hours just might come at this cost. But if Husband truly lets the kids go wild, perhaps you need to talk about how this makes you feel when you get home. This is a person who keeps telling you how much he misses being part of the family when he’s away – maybe he’d been open to hearing what being a part of the family actually looks like to you.

Dear Stacy:

I am the mother of a 4-year-old. My husband and I are in negotiations about having a second child, but we’re both torn. We had the typical life-explosion that happens when DINKs [double income/no kids] decide to become parents, and have just recently hit our stride in terms of taking care of ourselves, our relationship, and being good parents to our adorable little one. I always thought I’d have more kids, but on some level it seems totally impractical. I’m just now feeling better about my career decisions, and another maternity leave feels like it might be devastating. Then again, when I see friends with new babies, I feel this aching inside. Do you make a life-changing decision based on aching inside? My husband seems to be just as on the fence as I am, so I guess we’re lucky that no one is feeling pressured either way. We just need some advice.
-Going for Two? in Glover Park

Dear Going for Two:

Ah, you’ve emerged from the Terrible (Terrifying? Troublesome? Treacherous?) Toddler Years and are now enjoying predictable sleep, fewer temper tantrums, and the typically wide-eyed wonder of the 4-year-old. Why on earth would you want to go back to measuring your life in 2 hour feeding increments? Why would you want to deal with more diapers?

Well, because you always thought you would have more children. And because you love babies. And because you know so much more now and think you might be able to actually enjoy the infant period this time around. I’ve heard these arguments numerous times in my office…and in my own home…so I completely understand. Many of us wrestled for years with the initial question, “when is it time to have a baby?” only to be caught off guard by the logical follow-up: “Should I have another?”

It’s great that you and Husband are both on the same, albeit confused, page. I’d recommend that you look back to your decision to have Baby #1. What was that experience like? Were there lightning bolts and sirens urging you onward (unusual)? Were you feeling unsure, even as you were trying to get pregnant (normal)? Did you have “yes” days and “no” days? I’ve encouraged clients to take some of the pressure off by taking their daily temperature: “Do I want to have another baby today? Yes or No.” Mark your calendar with the results and then set the discussion aside. Give yourself a few months and then take a look at the data. If you have more Ns or Ys and you still feel disappointed, your gut in that moment might reveal what you really want. There are many other ways to come to a conclusion about this, but as in all big choices, overthinking rarely gets us where we want to be.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to

Granny Gets Her Groove On

June 2, 2011

Last weekend my husband and I were sitting on the beach on the east coast of Florida, when I noticed him staring at a group of gorgeous, bikini-clad women walking along the shore. I’m talking about drop-dead gorgeous bodies. You can imagine his shock, and then my hysteric laughter, when they got close enough for me to realize that they were all in their 70s and were wearing knee-length white t-shirts with hot bodies airbrushed on the front and back.

My point is that growing up should be fun. It should be exciting to get old, if for no other reason than it gives us an opportunity to cut loose with nothing to lose. There’s no reason why we can’t look sexy, even if we’re faking it. We still feel sexy. We still think about sex. We still enjoy having sex! There is no rule that says you have to be old just because you’ve gotten older!

Sex After 50? Does it Really Exist?
The quick answer is “Yes!” Look at it this way: You spent your teen years thinking about sex and then spent the rest of your life having it (or trying to find someone to have it with). Either way, what reason would one ever have to stop having it, or even stop wanting to have it? If most of us are going to live to be 70, 80 or even older, I’d like to think that we wouldn’t have to spend the last twenty or thirty years of our lives not doing the one thing that we’ve spent our entire lives loving.

Slow & Steady Wins the Race!
Let’s face it: we’re not the acrobats we might have once been. And while we’ve all seen the videos of college kids going wild on spring break, don’t forget that we were the generation that started the free sex movement and created some of the more unique sexual positions and techniques. But if, at our age, we tried half of the antics we did 30 years ago, we would have to hope that there was an ambulance nearby and an ER team on alert. Sex at our age is about the intimacy, the connection, the touching and the kissing. Sex should be just as much about the journey as it is about the “destination.”

It really doesn’t matter how you look. It’s all about how you feel, and you’ve still got a younger, sexy spirit somewhere inside you. So c’mon, Granny—and you too, Grampa. It’s time you reconnected with that younger, inner person and get to grooving!

Dr. Dorree Lynn, PhD, is a psychologist and life coach committed to helping people have better relationships & fulfilling sex lives. Dr. Lynn is AARP’s media “sexpert” has appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, CNN, PBS and is the author of “Sex for Grownups.”
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Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

May 31, 2011

Dear Stacy,
Read your column last issue about the woman whose husband was addicted to video games [May 4], and as a former WoW (World of Warcraft) widow I wanted to chime in. Many people play not specifically because they are addicted, but because they are depressed. My husband played when he was the most in the dumps because in these games you get to accomplish things, be big and strong and feel in control. All things he didn’t get to feel in real life. I know that many recovering gamers admit they did it because they were depressed.
-No Longer WoWed

Dear Stacy
[In reference to the May 4 article] I won’t call it cheating so much, but more of a giant failure or breakdown in communication. He may use games as an escape to avoid the potential confrontation of dealing with the breakdown of communication with his wife. Sometimes guys don’t want to share every detail of their day. To some, if work is stressful or they’ve had a bad day, just saying “I’m stressed” is enough. He is not looking for a fix. When communication in a marriage breaks down, it can be easy for one partner to avoid the breakdown by saying the other one is grumpy or distracted. Meanwhile, the other uses video games to avoid the pre-sleep chitchat. To me, no one is guilty of cheating, but both are guilty of avoiding the real issue: a breakdown of communication. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing healthy about playing video games all night, but this appears to be more of an issue of avoidance than addiction.

I received a few letters about last month’s column, in which a wife described her husband’s daily practice of playing video games into the early morning hours. I labeled this behavior an addiction and took a hard line with the wife who had made excuses and accommodations for his habit that sounded codependent in nature.

Understandably, my assessment was controversial. Video gaming and Internet use are both incredibly common in our culture and easy to criticize. Many people enjoy gaming as a hobby and are still productive members of society. For some, gaming is a stress-relieving activity just like golf, reading or cooking. For others, particularly those who neglect other responsibilities in order to maintain a habit, gaming is an addiction.

The “depression as a source” question is very important. I agree that it’s likely that the husband suffers from depression, and that the depression invited the WoW coping mechanism. I also think it would be interesting to know more about the couple’s communication style in general: What’s been going on in the marriage that allowed this pattern of extreme screen time to take hold? Still, when a member of a couple is actively engaged in an addictive behavior, there is no chance of improving depression or communication while the addiction is still functioning. In Imago therapy we call that an exit from the relationship. All exits must be closed for true understanding and safe connection to authentically take place. End of story.

I did not name depression or communications issues as part of my response because I felt it was a disservice to provide the wife with another list of “Possible Reasons for His Behavior.” Codependency thrives on such lists. My response and concerns were for the wife, the letter-writer who was seeking advice.

Dear Stacy, “I’ve been married to my husband for seven years and we have two wonderful children, five & two. I’m a stay-at-home mom and love all the challenges and benefits my job provides. My husband, the sole breadwinner, has been laid off from his job. He is actively looking for new employment, but the stress of what the future might bring is starting to take its toll. He can have a short fuse and alternatively, I can be too sensitive. If he gruffs or has a mean look because the stress is getting to him, I take it too personally. Some days are better than others, and I try to be as supportive as I can, but I get frustrated and scared. The “what ifs” keep creeping into my head, and sometimes into conversation. He is very confident that he can and will find a job, but again, what if…? I am absolutely not worried about our marriage; I feel that we have a strong relationship and will no doubt survive this. But, I’d like us to get through this with as much love and respect as we can. Are there any tools or hints you can give us to help during this time of transition?
Sincerely, What-Iffing in Washington”

Dear What-Iffing,
I think your letter reflects a very common scenario across the country, and I thank you for opening the door to some conversation about what helps and what doesn’t when it comes to supporting a spouse during a very difficult time. It really sounds like you have a strong relationship – Husband certainly has a strong ally in this struggle – so much that you are able to look for new ideas to make it even better. So let’s talk about that.

While the short fuse/oversensitivity loop is incredibly common to couples, it packs a lot of power during times of extreme stress. Marriage expert John Gottman names criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling the “Four Horsemen” of a relationship’s apocalypse. In other words, any of those four communication patterns can decimate a relationship. I am not hearing any of these patterns in what you’ve written. I only bring them up as something to watch out for on your “Don’t” list.

For Gottman, criticism is more than just critiquing an idea your partner has put forth. It’s criticizing who the person is, rather than just what he’s said or done. Contempt is an attitude of utter disrespect, which makes the recipient feel worthless, and it has no place in a marriage. Defensiveness, although a very common reaction to conflict, can reflect an inability to take responsibility for how one’s actions impact others. Stonewalling is a way of avoiding issues entirely and can look like one partner completely tuning out the other.

This period of uncertainty is not the time to dig up old relationship wounds and reformat your family communications – save the deep conversations about how you’ve never really liked your father-in-law for another year. But a brief talk about how you both are coping could also include a No Tolerance Policy regarding Gottman’s four don’ts. Beyond that, making sure you have lots of patience (deep breaths), good outlets for your own emotions (girlfriends, exercise), and an attitude of openness (more deep breaths), all may help reduced stress. Be gentle with yourselves – you got into this knowing you were in it for better or for worse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a negative reaction to the “worse” part. It’s completely natural and stretching your grace-under-pressure muscles could even make your marriage better in the long run. For sure, it will help your kids create a template for their future relationships that is stronger than the average blueprint.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

May 11, 2011

Dear Stacy:

My wife and I have separated after 12 years of marriage. We have done the whole couples counseling thing and it’s just time for us both to move on. We have a son who is 10 and I am really worried about his adjustment right now. We will have joint custody and are trying to work out an arrangement to keep his life consistent, etc. I know she’s likely to start dating soon – she already may be seeing someone – and I want to find a way to ensure that our son is not exposed to that. Is there a way to tactfully suggest that we agree not to have boyfriends staying over at the house when our son is present? We are working with a divorce mediation service, trying to save money on the legal fees, so I’m not sure how to make this happen legally. You always say to start with a rational conversation, so I’d just like some help on making that happen.

-Starting the Single Life

Dear Starting:

I appreciate your interest in protecting the 10-year-old. I’m going to take it at face value – you aren’t interested in controlling Ex-wife’s social life, you want to make sure that Son’s life is not complicated by finding random paramours making pancakes in the kitchen each weekend. That makes sense and you certainly can find an attorney who will provide the legal language for your custody agreement.

If you think that Wife is open to having this conversation without making it part of a legal document, I’d always suggest starting with what you are willing to do yourself: “I know that there is a chance I will start dating again and I would like to make the commitment to not have any overnight guests when Son is present.” It’s never a good idea to open a conversation with an accusatory tone about what you think she might be planning to do. From a brain chemistry standpoint, fingerpointing only invites our reactive, reptilian brains to the debate, making no room for our rational, frontal lobe to get involved. You sound reasonable in your concern for Son’s welfare – please make sure that Ex-wife can see you are operating from that place, and that you are not trying to police her social life.

Whether or not Son is showing visible signs of stress about the separation, his life has changed dramatically and it’s likely that he is feeling it on the inside. Setting him up with a family counselor when things are relatively quiet is a good way to make sure he has someone to talk to when more of the reality sets in. Also, please consider finding a support group for him (and for yourself) that brings together kids who are facing family changes. Sometimes healing is found simply in knowing that others are dealing with the same problems we have at home.

Dear Stacy:

My husband is not cheating on me, but I think I know a little bit about how that might feel because he spends the majority of his downtime playing video games–World of Warcraft to be exact. He plays every single night of the week, until early the next morning. We have two small children under the age of five and he helps put them to bed when I ask him to, but you can tell he’s distracted. What’s more I think they can tell he’s distracted, too. Then he goes right back to playing video games. He crawls into bed at 1am or 2am. He leaves for work always in a bad mood, and then we repeat the whole thing the next night. Weekends are a little better in that he doesn’t play during the day, but the nights are exactly the same. He tells me that he has a very stressful job (true) and that this is the only way for him to unwind and enjoy himself. I have tried to be patient and accepting, but I miss him and am so frustrated.

-Single parent by default

Dear Single:

The truth is that Husband is cheating – cheating you out of a partner in your marriage and cheating your kids out of having a father.

I imagine you’ve made some great promises to yourself about how much you will take before making a Big Deal out of this, and that line keeps moving every time Husband explains why he “needs” or “deserves” his excessive screen time. Let me be clear, anyone spending that amount of time playing video games is an addict. And anyone who allows this to happen in her household is codependent. It’s just as risky as the gambler who spends the family’s savings while the other partner makes excuses. It’s just as dangerous as the drinker who is still allowed to babysit for the children. I’m not saying you made this happen to your life, but I am saying you have a role in perpetuating this cycle.

The hard part is that we cannot force someone to break an addiction; the person has to be ready on his own. Husband may not be ready to face his music, but it sounds like you are ready to face yours. You are ready to halt this pattern of codependence and you must act on your instincts to protect your kids. They may be young, but they are aware enough to see a family system that overburdens Mom and lets Dad be absent even when he’s physically in the home – and this is a template that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. You owe it to them (and their future spouses) to replace that template with one that demonstrates how an adult takes good care of herself. Find a support system – therapy, clergy, family, friends. And then get yourself to a Codependents Anonymous meeting ( where you can learn more about how you got here and how you can make positive changes. Then talk to Husband about your goals and expectations. If he’s not willing to change, he needs to know that you already have.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to

The Raw Food Revolution: Green Yourself

May 4, 2011

Elizabeth Petty was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2009. Determined to overcome the disease, she underwent radiation and chemotherapy, but ventured further out into alternative healing methods. Choosing an integrative approach to medicine, Petty immersed herself into the extraordinary lives of those who healed themselves naturally through diet and exercise. She began eating a raw food diet. Now cancer free, she has merged her career with her lifestyle, creating a platform to raise awareness of this remarkable, beneficial approach to health. Her restaurant and catering service, Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, is a celebration of organic, fresh ingredients, which brings the bright and ebullient flavors of nature, as well as its unparalleled health benefits, to Washington. She spoke to us about her journey, the benefits of raw and vegan diets, and shared recipes and secrets of integrating this health approach into a regular lifestyle.

Georgetowner: So…a raw food diet seems fairly daunting. But is it worth the effort?

Elizabeth Petty: Eating a raw and vegan diet is absolutely worth the effort on many levels— spiritually and emotionally as well as physiologically. A plant-based diet offers an abundance of protein. It is rejuvenating, it offers mental clarity, and it provides a rich source of enzymes which act as catalyst in the cells and assist in oxygenating your body by separating red blood cells. Oxygen can then move freely through the blood stream, allowing the white blood cells to fight disease.

A raw and vegan diet helps prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes, too. It is especially important to eat organic and locally grown raw fruits and vegetables free of pesticides, which further increases your sense of wellbeing. From an emotional perspective, a diet free of preservatives, meat, dairy, caffeine, alcohol and processed sugar helps calm your central nervous system, creating a balance of energy and emotional stability. With this stability comes the opportunity to pursue spiritual awareness and personal harmony with greater focus.

GT: Many worry about the gastronomic monotony and restrictions of a diet as stringent as this. Does your palate ever get bored? How does the food taste?

EP: I don’t find it at all boring or monotonous. It requires thoughtful effort put into the preparation of food using a wide variety of ingredients, including all vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds and sea vegetables.

A dinner at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw can include: hemp and flax cracker topped with olive tapenade, shaved fennel slaw and chive oil; baby arugula with Royal Trumpet Mushrooms and truffle vinaigrette; cantaloupe-basil sorbet; and thinly sliced sheets of zucchini layered with pine nut ricotta, pesto and pear tomatoes with parsley salad

GT: Is it a difficult diet to maintain?

EP: It is difficult to maintain at first because you have to change the way you think about food. You also have to find the right sources for organic foods, which requires a bit of research. When I started drinking green juice three times a day, my initial feeling was one of concern in fear that I would not be able to keep up the pace of juicing so frequently. Now, almost two years later, I find that I crave raw vegetables and will plan my day around finding the opportunity to juice. I just recently traveled overseas for ten days and took my juicer with me. I was welcomed in every hotel kitchen and shared with the staff daily shots of wheatgrass and green juice. It is healing to share with others such nutritious, healthful foods that promote wellbeing. It is a small way to give back to the universe.

What we choose to put into our bodies becomes a reflection of how we choose to live with respect to our planet. Eating becomes a philosophy of life, a ritual by which food nourishes and heals our bodies. It is less about consumption and more about fulfillment and awareness. Raw, living cuisine heightens the senses. It is sexy, alive and clean!

GT: What propelled you into the culinary subculture of raw foods?

EP: My breast cancer diagnosis allowed me the opportunity to choose a different lifestyle. There is so much information available about natural healing in regards to cancer. I am most grateful to Kris Carr who wrote “Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips” and to Dr. Brian Clement, the director of Hippocrates Health Institute, both of whom had a profound influence on the choices I have made in regards to treatment. Although I chose to have surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation, my raw diet in conjunction with treatment gave me the strength to endure such a rigorous medical schedule.

GT: Had you any real experience with raw foods before your breast cancer diagnosis?

EP: Quite honestly, I had read an article in Atlantic Monthly about ten years ago about a raw diet, at which point I thought sounded a bit odd and not at all appealing. Life is wonderfully circular that way.

GT: Do you remember your first culinary experience with the cuisine of a raw food diet?

EP: My first experience with beautifully prepare raw cuisine was at Hippocrates Health Institute, which I attended for three weeks after I completed my chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Every cell in my body responded positively to the nutritious food I was given to eat, and by the end of the stay I felt as though I had been reborn. I felt encouraged about eating raw and recognized that my path had been chosen. During this period or recuperation and healing, it became clear to me that I wanted to offer to DC an alternative cuisine, raw, living and organic high end cuisine.

GT: Are you cancer free now?

EP: I am presumably cancer free. More importantly, though, I feel grateful to have had cancer. I can honestly say that I feel more fulfilled now in life than prior to my diagnosis.

Life is full of challenges. Enlightenment comes from the way in which we choose to deal with disparity. I have truly been blessed and intend to share with others these alternative ways of healing.

GT: Why did you choose to steer your newfound lifestyle into a career?

EP: My life and my career have always been intertwined. It is so important to me to educate people about the health benefits and wonderful taste of raw cuisine. It is yet another form of art in the culinary world, one with compassion and thoughtfulness.

GT: Who is in charge of creating your menu?

EP: The raw cuisine at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw is prepared by my executive chef Tom Berry and my pastry chef Calvin Lee, both of whom have taken on the challenge with much enthusiasm. Because I am still in the early stages of healing, I eat very simply prepared salads with plenty of sprouts, avocados, sea vegetables, lemon and organic virgin olive oil. I will occasionally eat a cooked yam or quinoa and when dining out, and I opt for anything vegan on the menu as long as it is a grain.

If you’re not familiar with raw cuisine, I would recommend dining at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw before you start preparing or eating raw. It will hopefully dispel any myths you have heard about raw food and encourage you to embrace the lifestyle so that the rewards are profound. Our spicy kale chips have been getting quite a bit of press and are easy to prepare.

Krispy Kale Chips

These chips are not only a wonderful healthy alternative to traditional snack chips, they are fun to make! This is recipe allows for a lot of experimentation, feel free to try spicier chips or chips with more lemon. There are many ways to make your unique kale chip.

Equipment: Food Processor, Dehydrator


3 heads kale
5 red peppers
1 pound cashews
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups water
2 tablespooons sea salt
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 jalapeno
1/2 tablespoon cayenne

Soak the cashews at least two hours. De-stem the kale, dice the red peppers and jalapeno and juice the lemon. Combine all ingredients, except for the kale, in a food processor and mix until desired creamy consistency. Massage the mixture into the kale. Flatten the kale pieces and place into dehydrator at 115 degrees overnight or until desired crispiness is achieved. [gallery ids="99656,105341,105338" nav="thumbs"]

Acupuncture: A Tradition of Wellbeing

April 25, 2011

“You might bend down to pick up a pen and hurt your back, but that’s not why you hurt your back,” says Sung Up Hong. “There is a history and a reason behind that problem with deeper roots than what you see and feel on the outside.”

That is the goal of acupuncture, says Hong, a third-generation licensed acupuncturist, who practices at Hela Spa in Chevy Chase: to find the root cause of the problem and treat the patient holistically.

At the spa, trying to nap with a few dozen needles stuck into various regions your body may not seem like the most effective means of fortifying your health and spirits. But as anyone who has received acupuncture will tell you, there are few more refreshing steps toward repose and well-being.

Acupuncture, a 2,000-year-old oriental medical practice, has its origins in China and Korea and has long been acknowledged as a versatile and beneficial alternative medicine technique to supplement treatment of a wide range of illnesses, pain and bodily stress. When incorporated with traditional herbal remedies, each with their own unique actions and health benefits, acupuncture is well worth exploring as a therapeutic health treatment.

A great deal of over-the-counter medicine available today is designed as a quick-fix treatment. Headaches, digestive problems, respiratory issues and congestion, as well as a wide range of recurring bodily problems are too often treated with temporary solutions. Advil, for instance, numbs the problem when you have a headache, but it does not get rid of the habit of headaches or a chronic headache.

Acupuncture is effectively performed to increase flow and release pressure along the body’s network of blood circulation, its Acupuncture Meridian, according to standards of oriental medicine. There are 12 major meridian lines that run vertically on both sides of your body. “Acupuncture along the meridian lines helps our body’s energy to circulate,” Hong says.

Pain—be it cramps in your shoulders, waist, headaches and so on—is a result of bad circulation, he says. “Something is blocking the flow of energy and blood circulation, which we unblock with acupuncture and herbal supplements.”

Acupuncture is diverse and multifaceted. It can help treat arthritis, allergies, congestion, insomnia, headaches, menstruation problems, digestion problems, pain-related systems (shoulders, back, knees, etc.) and more, with overall focus on strengthening the immune system and internal energy.

This internal energy and blood circulation, called Chi, is what Hong refers to as life force energy. “It is what makes us move,” he says with a poetic lilt. “It circulates our blood, makes our organs function properly. It keeps our bodies balanced and strengthens our immune system.”

Hong has a certain intuitive way of speaking about acupuncture and a harmonious body in the manner a 17th-century sailor talked about the stars and the sea. His entire life has intimately involved Hong with oriental medicines — his family has practiced acupuncture for over 100 years — and beyond his professional training, the practice and application of it is noticeably engrained within him. “I was raised with oriental medicine,” he says, “and I learned how effective it is from a personal standpoint.”

His understanding of health and well-being is very much of his own time and place. Far from being dated, Hong encourages acupuncture medical research in the here-and-now. His goal is to conduct research and studies to prove scientific benefits of acupuncture and blood flow. He holds a master’s degree of science from Samra University of Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles and has learned to appreciate both traditional and integrative medicine to enhance treatment effects in patients. He has treated sports injuries and worked on spine rehabilitation as well as pain control and infertility issues.

As for the Washington area, “All my patients are stress-related,” Hong says.

“Everyone comes here for being stressed out,” he says. That’s no surprise, given the competitive nature of politics and the cut-throat pace of this mile-a-minute city.

Of course, there are always skeptics when it comes to alternative medicine. Most people I have spoken with have admitted skepticism toward the efficacy of acupuncture.

It is necessary to point out that one should only go to a well-trained practitioner with proper accreditation to receive acupuncture, but I highly suggest going in for a consultation. After measuring my pulse and examining the color of my tongue, Hong was able to ascertain accurate and specific idiosyncrasies of my own health that no doctor had ever diagnosed. Like someone reading secrets buried deep in my mind, he could tell the general scope of my diet and pinpoint factors of my own bodily stress, which he then treated with acupuncture, explaining to me where he had decided to place the needles via a model of the Acupuncture Meridian.

And while I haven’t been floating on daffodils or singing to bluebirds on my shoulder, I really have felt remarkably refreshed in the week following my acupuncture appointment.

But, as Hong explains, the result of acupuncture is not to walk out after your first appointment cured of all ailments and maladies. The nature of acupuncture is similar to that of exercise or a healthy diet: Your body benefits over time with recurrence and conditioning, supplemented with a healthy lifestyle.

In conjunction with acupuncture, there are also plenty of little changes you can make in your day-to-day life to improve your well-being, Hong says. Sometimes we don’t even know that what we are doing is bad for us until we make a change.

Consider Hong’s tips for a better tomorrow:


Everyone is looking down, slouched at computers. Even using iPhones, we look down. As we look down, the weight of our head goes to the muscles of our necks and they tighten up. People also cross their legs a lot, which twists the pelvis and throws the back off balance, which is often the beginning of back issues. So always do your best to correct your posture: Open up your shoulders and try your best to sit up straight, and look straight at your computer screen.

Move Around

Make sure to get up every 30 minutes at least and really move. Take a stretch, walk around the office, maybe down the block. Make sure to get your blood circulating and breath deep.

Drink less soda, more water. Water filters your liver, reducing the risk of cramps and refreshing your system.

Eat more slowly, chew longer and control the amount of your eating. We sometimes eat so quickly that we have eaten too much before our brain realizes we are full. So, chew 20 or 30 times before swallowing. It also helps with digestion and the processing of foods, as it is more thoroughly broken down once it enters our digestive system. [gallery ids="99649,105304,105308" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

April 5, 2011

Dear Stacy,
I find myself in an awkward situation. My stepbrother (my stepmom’s son) is getting married to a wonderful woman and my husband and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The problem? She is turning into a bit of a bridezilla. She asked my stepmother to help throw her a shower, demanding that every person on the guest list be invited (100 people) and insisting that the party be over three hours long, along with other such details, all the while stating: “I don’t want to plan this.” Throw in the fact that my brother hasn’t shared their wedding budget (my parents offered to help cover costs) but are now afraid of the cost since they are on a fixed income and have no idea what bill they will be handed. My brother has also shared with my husband his fear of his fiancée’s overspending for this event.

How do I talk to my brother without stepping on too many toes? Although we are not blood-related, we are very close, and I am close with my stepmother. My dad is pretty clueless about this stuff, so what do I do?
-Treading Lightly in Friendship Heights?

Dear Treading,
Yikes, it does sound like you have a bridezilla situation on your hands – 100 guests at a shower? But it’s not exactly on your hands unless you decide to get involved.

I know you have the very best intentions. You want to protect your parents. You love the couple and are vicariously smarting at the upcoming wedding tab’s sticker shock. But your opinion has not been requested – that is, unless Stepmom and Dad have asked you to intervene. I don’t mean that they have hinted that you should intervene. I mean: have they specifically asked?

Sure, Brother told Husband that he’s worried about the spending, but you ought not take that as a direct request for assistance. If passive-aggressive cues are they way it’s done in your family, let’s work on making that practice end with you. Widespread familial harmony is not your responsibility. Stepmom and Dad offered to help with the budget, and they’re grownups who can ask for the bottom line if they really want to hear it. If they prefer to pretend like it’s not a big deal, that’s their own ostrich-like decision. Again, you are not responsible for their financial decisions (unless you are because of a legal agreement you haven’t mentioned).

I don’t imagine my suggestions will completely override your natural instinct to protect your family, and so I’ll assume that you still plan to confront Brother. If so, please take your own advice and tread lightly. It’s likely that a gentle reminder about your parents’ fixed income and general tendency to ignore problems until they get unmanageable could be all that’s really needed.

?Dear Stacy,
A good friend of mine has been dating a new guy since last summer. They get along quite well and have already moved in together. He’s really very nice, but I can’t help feeling that they are moving way too quickly. We’re all around 30 and more and more of us are pairing off lately. He’s currently ring shopping and she has already asked me to be a bridesmaid in a wedding she’s planning in her own head for next spring. Every time I think of this, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Her grandmother passed away last fall, and she took it very hard. I think that she is just rushing to do this now because he was so good to her during that tough time – but that’s not enough to base a relationship on. How do I prevent her from making a huge mistake?
-Not a Nervous Nelly

Dear Nelly,
I can tell from your message that you do mean well. You don’t want a good friend to make a big decision colored by a grief episode. Still, even from the bare bones you’ve supplied, it sounds like the couple has a good basis for making this decision. When you’re “around 30” you don’t date as long as some do in their early 20s before making a lifetime-type decision. If they are already living together while he is actively planning a proposal, that signals less of a fairy-tale fantasy, and more of a decision based in reality. Further, walking through a difficult period together (after she lost her grandmother) and coming out on the other end more deeply connected is a very common experience, not to mention a great indicator that they are compatible in good times and bad.

In other words, I’m not at all worried about this match. I am a little worried about you, however. I’m not going to feed into the stereotypes about Washington women backstabbing one another when it comes to long-term relationships – especially those “around 30” – and I also won’t suggest that you are motivated by jealousy, because you didn’t admit that in your letter. What you did admit is that you have a mental timeline before two people should make such a commitment. There are incredible stories of lifelong love built on flimsier foundations than facing family obligations over three seasons of dating. I wonder why the timeline is so important? It’s either the way you did it, and you are holding them to your own subjective standard, or it’s the way you expect to do it someday, and you are holding them to your own subjective daydreams. Unless you have first-hand knowledge of his illicit badness (e.g. you saw him kiss the stripper yourself) or she asks you directly for your help, it’s not your place to keep her from making this kind of decision.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships

March 8, 2011

Hi Stacy,
I was in a very intense relationship on and off for nearly eight years with a woman who I cared for very deeply. We had a child when we were very young and obviously that made it seem like staying together was more of a necessity than a choice. During the last couple years together, we had periods of “opening” the relationship and seeing other people. It became apparent that her other interest was something more serious than perhaps either of us were prepared to admit initially. On a couple occasions, I became physically abusive, which was frightening for everyone and unprecedented. One thing led to another, and they now live together in a house with our son, and I live in a community house with roommates.

Now, I’ve suddenly become very lonely, and while I appreciate many things about my new life (no fights or drama, no crippling feelings of obligation), I realized that my relationship with my son has been destroyed. I am definitely running from the pain of being replaced, the idea that this other man can come along and succeed in all the places where I failed miserably. This makes me want to avoid the whole situation, not to mention the fact that I am scared of my own anger and never know when it might flare up. My counselor definitely thinks I should stay away from my ex, and so far I have.

So what’s appropriate? To stay away from this new family completely and let them live their life? Or to try to be a part of my son’s life in a more substantial way than just through the pocketbook?
-Lonely and Confused

Dear L&C:
I can only imagine how painful this letter was to write – your concern for your son and grief over the loss of that relationship is clearly heartfelt, and your frustration about only serving as a financier in his life is truly relatable. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to give you son the “gift” of your distance after making an honest self-assessment about your anger. Further, your willingness to see a counselor and consider your feelings about this – rather than simply ignoring them for years on end – is evidence of the hope you have for the future, even if it’s currently buried under some other fiery emotions.

I do respect your counselor’s recommendation of staying away from the family for now. It sounds like you are tackling some big-ticket issues in therapy, like anger management and grief work, and those things take time. Perhaps the end result may be finding yourself in family therapy or relational counseling with your ex, simply for the purpose of working on your relationship with your son. If and when you feel comfortable, and your ex is willing, the guidance of a neutral third party (I would not recommend that you and your ex see your counselor; she is your support system and should not be compromised) could help you both find the non-combative communication skills to make it possible for you to be in your son’s life again.

Dear Stacy:
How do you know when a relationship is worth saving? I’m just so tired of the fighting. The spastic moves between the highs and lows in our relationship are giving me whiplash.
-Back-and-Forth in Burleith

Dear Back-and-Forth:
You didn’t give me much to go on here, but the short and sweet answer is no, unfortunately, there is no universal standard for determining whether a relationship is “worth saving.” It often comes down to measuring the couple’s emotional input versus output.

Are you putting in more than you are getting out? Is that something you can adjust? It sounds like maybe you have tried so much – fought so much – you just don’t have the fuel to keep going. Are you facing a particularly rocky road due to external factors right now, or does this relationship seem drawn to the rough terrain? I will quit with the driving metaphors, but not before suggesting that you consider some roadside assistance in the form of therapy, a couples retreat, pastoral counseling with a clergyperson, etc. An impartial third-party perspective (NOT your friends and family) might help you both figure out why your relationship has taken this turn.

But first, please reflect on your gut reaction to my proposal that you get help. In my work with couples I’ve seen a pattern in which the two people are so accustomed to the whiplash between good days and bad, that they no longer believe a happy medium is even possible. As such, they don’t do the things that can support that middle space. You were drawn to one another for a reason. In my experience, that reason is often to help one another heal something from your past relationships. We have to break the addiction to harming ourselves just so we can feel connected when the good days come around. Outside help can provide that calm space for healing and if you are resisting the idea out of hand, perhaps you might take the time to question whether the idea of true healing feels threatening and why.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to

Revolutionary Eating

February 10, 2011

We have all heard the cautions to avoid processed foods—those grocery items with long, incomprehensible ingredient lists. However, the industrial processing of otherwise healthy foods can be just as harmful; for instance, when sugar is added to bread, or when whole wheat flour is refined to white flour and loses most of its fiber, calcium, and more.

Even if we have not read the nutritional tales of Michael Pollan or John Robbins, we intuitively sense that most real food can be found in the peripheral aisles of our grocery store: the produce, seafood, dairy and meat sections. We further know (especially if we HAVE read Pollan and Robbins) to stay alert even when we shop these outside aisles.

What we don’t really understand is how much of our “food” is not really food at all.

Unfortunately, many of the food-like substances and chemical additives approved by the FDA are only meant to be consumed in VERY limited quantities. But we consume them rampantly. Many Americans take in more calories than are healthy, and a significant percentage of them are in processed foods. Each of these additives now appear in thousands of products!

As the Center for Science in the Public Interest puts it: “Shopping was easy when food came from farms. Now, factory-made foods have made chemical additives a significant part of our diet.” Those inside aisles are fairly new in the history of man. They present a dizzying array of choices. But if you take the time to read the label of an item before you put it in your cart, you’ll see that many of the choices are not our choice.

All along the inside aisles, our food now contains a number of FDA-approved emulsifiers, deemed “necessary” to prevent our industrial food from separating: ingredients like soy lecithin, mono-glycerides, polysorbates, and sorbitan monostearates.

We have a choice of pH-controlling agents (lactic acid, citric acid, ammonium hydroxide, or sodium carbonate), leavening agents (monocalcium phosphate or calcium carbonate), and anti-caking agents (calcium silicate or silicon dioxide) in our food. Likewise, the market provides us with over a dozen preservatives (including BHA and BHT), a dozen sweeteners (among them, the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup), ten fat replacers (e.g., olestra), and a handful of firming agents and humectants.

We are fed flavor enhancers (monosodium glutamate, hydrolized soy protein, disodium guanylate) and stabilizers (gelatin, pectin, guar gum, carrageenan and zanthan gum) to give us that familiar “mouth-feel” and remind us that we are eating food.

And last but not least are the color additives, including lovely Blue No. 2. As the FDA’s own website says: “Color additives are now recognized as an important part of practically all processed foods we eat…without color additives, colas wouldn’t be brown.” Sound good?

Even if we spend all of our time in the outside aisles, we should be paying close attention. The World Cancer Study, the Nurses’ Study and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future all caution that animal-based diets are high in saturated fat and are correlated with chronic degenerative diseases including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers. Conversely, vegetarian diets are associated with reduced risks for these diseases.

Now, I’m not preaching that we should all put away the steak knives and chew on lettuce for the rest of our lives. But we will live longer, healthier and more vital lives if we eat more vegetables, fruits and plants.

When we do visit the meat section, we can slash our saturated fats by 85% by selecting free-range, grass-fed, or organic beef and poultry. Conventional animals eat corn and soy (look out for deceiving descriptions like “vegetarian fed” and “100% angus” and “100% natural chicken”).

Even though there is a legion of books and articles exhorting us to eat our vegetables, and to eat more plants, Americans take only around 5% of their caloric intake in the form of fruits and vegetables. We should all spend more time in the produce aisle. Know, however, that produce that is not certified organic can contain one or more of hundreds of pesticides that have been approved for use by the EPA.

In order to ensure that the produce you buy does not contain pesticides, you should purchase certified organic produce from your grocer, from a farmer in your area, or at a CSA pick-up near you. Or you can buy uncertified produce from a farmer you know whose production methods you trust.

Cleo braver is the owner and operator of Cottingham Farm in Easton, Maryland, a certified organic grower of heirloom vegetables and herbs. In a former life she practiced envimronmental law, and she is now devoted to highlighting the nexus between protection of the land, the Chesapeake Bay, human health, and economic resources.