Between the Sheets: His Time Alone

April 4, 2012

One of the questions most frequently asked by women is, “Why does my boyfriend/husband still masturbate when we have such a good sex life?” Most men, especially younger testosterone-ridden men, find adding masturbation to what may be an otherwise satisfying sex life to be perfectly normal. It’s relatively easy, involves little fuss or muss, and satisfies an immediate urge. It’s only an issue of concern if that’s all he does in the relationship and avoids connecting to you physically. But if the sex is still good, no harm no foul, right?

Masturbation is a natural way for men (and women) to learn about their bodies. Often, and to the shock of parents, male babies frequently find their penises infinitely fascinating. As boys mature and their hormones remain raunchy, whether or not they are in a relationship most men simply find masturbation fun. When you’re in a relationship, it can be easy for a woman to feel neglected or inadequate to learn that her male partner is flying solo behind her back. However, as long as you, as a couple, are on the same wavelength and can communicate your feelings, you are probably going to be okay. Many couples bring mutual masturbation into the bedroom as an extra way of having fun and being intimate. Try it!

Self-pleasure for both men and women is also a way of teaching one’s self about what you enjoy. The more a person understands what turns them on, the easier it is to show your partner that thrills and chills you or what smoothes and soothes you. Most people make love the way they want to be made love to. Unless their partner tells them or shows them what they prefer, it’s akin to two engines full of steam who may miss being on the same track.

Healthy masturbation—self-pleasure inclusive of a sexual relationship with your partner, not totally lacking mutual connection—can actually be beneficial. It causes your heart to race, increases the flow of blood throughout the body, releases endorphins in the brain, and flushes toxins from the body. Furthermore, some research has revealed that people who masturbate tend to have more and more satisfying sex!

Ladies, if you’re away for a while, do you really want your guy to be celibate, become a porn addict or seek release elsewhere? Relax, some single-handed sex is just fine, just ask him to wash his own shirts, towels, socks, etc., as you may not want to be his hand maiden in this area.

Remember when we used to joke about “blue balls”? Jokes aside, they do exist. The scrotum will actually turn a shade of blue when the blood flows into the penis and surrounding areas without the opportunity to flow out via orgasm. It leaves men with the need to “drain their veins,” and any guy will tell you that it can be a painful experience. So, guys learn an easy way to avoid pain. If it doesn’t prevent him from having sex with you, then is there really a problem?

For the most part, it’s safe to assume that most men masturbate (religious prohibition and sense of shame aside). What we, as women, need to come to terms with is that just because your man masturbates, if you are having great and frequent sex, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t interested in you or that you’re not interested in fulfilling your sexual desires. I’ve never heard a man say, “Sorry, sweetie, I’ve already had sex with myself four times today, I’m beat!”

But why does your man masturbate? He’s known his penis longer than you. It’s familiar, comfortable, stress relieving, and it just plain feels good.

Dr. Dorree Lynn, PhD, is a psychologist and life coach in Georgetown and author of ‘Sex for Grownups.’

Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsMarch 22, 2012

March 22, 2012

*** **Dear Stacy:
The [D.C. Public School] lottery just happened, and the charter school parade continues through the next month or so. Our little girl is in a pre-school program that serves our needs just fine so far. It may or may not be a long-term solution, but we didn?t get into anything else. We may just have to sit tight another year. I?m disappointed, but hopeful. I wish I could say the same for my friend, ?Cassandra.? We got to know each other through our kids? class room this year, and it has been nice to make a new friend. She was very much hoping to get into a different kindergarten program for her daughter but was shut out of the lottery. Ever since, it?s been like she?s mourning a death in the family. I have seen her teary-eyed at morning drop off. I listened to her ranting on the phone a few afternoons while at work and received a 2 a.m. email plotting ?our? strategy for getting the most out of our current school if ?we are both stuck here for another year.? She wants us to meet with the principal together to list our demands, such as which teacher our daughters both must have next year and how much weekly emailing ?we will expect? from that teacher. I don?t really know Cassandra that well. It has been good to have a new friendship with someone in a similar boat, but I have NO interest in putting my name on her list of demands. How can I distance myself from this craziness? ?-Looking for a Chill Pill in Upper Northwest** ***

Dear Chill Pill:
I think you labeled Cassandra?s behavior exactly right ? not when you called it ?craziness,? but when you called it ?mourning.? She is in mourning. She had her hopes set high, yes, maybe too high. Regardless, she is grieving the death of her heart-felt expectations. The thing about grief is that it follows no one?s calendar. It?s about as nonlinear and crafty an emotion as you can find. Her process is not predictable. But that doesn?t mean you have to be her one-woman support group, either.
The lottery was just a short time ago, and Cassandra is right in the middle of her sadness. But you don?t have to be right there with her ? particularly in that you also had a horse in this race. Firm boundaries are needed. You can decide what that looks like for you (For me? No more calls at work is a start). There is nothing wrong with being honest about why you are distancing yourself: ?Cassandra, I also was disappointed, but talking about this all the time is making it worse for me.? If you do not want to sign onto her ransom note to your principal, you may have to be very specific about your reasons. It sounds like she is very much identifying the two of you as feeling the same about all these things. You may need to explicitly name why that?s not true for you.
But give her a little time first. I?d lay odds that her grief will subside with a little more distance herself from the initial shock of not hitting the lottery this time.

*** **Dear Stacy:
My husband of 16 years has put on some weight in the five years or so. He made a New Year?s resolution to get back into exercising, and unlike the rest of us, he has kept to it. Great! The tough part is that he insists on exercising every single day of the week. He?s an all-or-nothing kind of guy. This has turned our household upside down because has been unable to participate in several family activities due to his selfish regimen. We have stopped sharing the to-ing and from-ing at our kids? schools. He spends Saturday mornings doing ?long runs? with a group, and so is not helping with the dance class/sports game juggernaut. He assumes that as long as I am taking the kids with me to the grocery store, he?s cleared to take a quick trip to the gym. I am exhausted and, of course, not feeling super attractive around him and his newfound obsession with BMI [body mass index]. I have never felt further away from him and am not sure how to explain myself without sounding unsupportive of his efforts to get healthy. -Another Gym Widow** ***

Dear Gym Widow:
You say you have ?never felt further away? from Husband than you do right now. This is the place to start when you have your conversation. (You knew I was going to recommend a conversation, right?) I?m going to urge you to explain this from your point of view and try to avoid phrases like ?your obsession? and ?selfish regimen.? I?d assume that you and your perspective on his weight gain had a lot to do with his interest in getting healthy in the first place. A simple check-in about how you are experiencing his resolution may be very helpful here.
At the same time, we need to be clear that while exercise is a great thing, overexercising actually is an addictive behavior. Brain research shows us that exercise triggers the same endorphins and other pleasure chemicals that create dependence in lab rats. With a seven-day-a-week training schedule, it sounds like Husband might be overvaluing exercise compared to the other parts of his life. Start talking about how his new priorities are impacting your family, and how you are open to helping him find some balance. Again, avoid phrases like ?Stacy says you?re an exercise addict.? As with any addiction, addicts never go into treatment or recovery just because someone else told them to do it. They have to come to the conclusion on their own, but you can help get the conversation going by gently explaining your side.

***Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is []( and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to***

In Between the sheetsMarch 7, 2012

March 7, 2012

Sometimes it seems like there?s nothing better than taking a trip with that special someone, spending the day seeing the sights, and finishing the night with some nice, no holds barred hotel sex. Often, our daily lives
get the best of us. We give our all at the office and then we give out by the time we get home. Sometimes we have to remove ourselves from the mundane day-to-day, get out of town for a bit, and just spend some quality time with someone we care about.

The benefits of hotel sex are numerous. Something about being in a new place, away from home and all the drudges of every day life, can have a positive impact on attitude, mental and physical health, and can improve the bond between partners. Taking a trip together also gives you an opportunity to work together? deciding on a destination, figuring out how to get there, coming to an agreement on what to do once you?re there and finally celebrating your love in a room that isn?t filled with piled up laundry and photos of your family watching
your every move.

Hotel sex also gives you an opportunity to switch your sexual style. It?s not every day that you can have sex on a hotel balcony overlooking the ocean, find a four poster hotel bed that you might consider being tied to or a fancy standup shower that allows you to fulfill a steamy fantasy, or simply a room in which you can be as loud as you want and not have to worry about facing the neighbors the next morning!

But sex isn?t the only reason to go on a short vacation. Don?t get me wrong, it?s a great reason?but not the only reason. The simple act of getting away together should be the purposeof your trip. For example, my husband and I both lead very busy professional lives. Even though our offices are next to one another, we
still often find it difficult to spend romantic time together. When work starts with 9 a.m. meetings and ends with 8 p.m. dinner functions, our ?us time? is few and far between. So we try to take a short trip at least twice a month?if not to have unadulterated intimacy than to just get out of town, see something new, and focus on one another without any distraction or interference. It reminds us why we love one another.

Day trips don?t have to be expensive. Hotels often have weekend and holiday specials. Also, check to see if your credit cards give you points that you can redeem for free hotel or airline tickets. There?s also the option of houseswapping with a friend, or simply staying at a friend?s house who might be out of town. You can even go camping. Ultimately, it?s the newness and the change of atmosphere that makes the difference!

*Dr. Dorree Lynn, PhD, is a psychologist and life coach in Georgetown and author of ?Sex for Grownups.? [](*

Conservatives Pack Powerful Political Schooling for This D.C. Intern

February 23, 2012

When I woke up on the first morning of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 9, I didn’t know what to expect.

I got ready, remembered to pack my student ID, put on my blue sweater, and ran out the door. When walking into the site of the convention, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, I quickly realized I had grabbed the wrong colored clothing item.

Everyone was wearing red.

It was like this throughout the entire weekend. I spotted red skirts, dresses, ties, fingernails, and shoes. Each day, supporters sported buttons of their favorite conservative leaders. They held signs for who they believe should win the 2012 election. They passed out pamphlets and brochures, asked people to sign petitions and promised to give away free sunglasses and chapsticks if anyone stopped to talk to them for just a brief moment about their far-right political views.

Bloggers, reporters and conservatives flooded the hotel lobby. Booths upon booths displayed water bottles, stickers and pens in support of the right to bear arms, pro-life campaigns and the end of Obamacare.

I walked in to the hotel each day ready to be approached by ideas and views which I wasn’t sure if I was for or against. Do I agree with how Republicans want to help our economy? Do I like the way they want to deal with Social Security and Medicare in the future?

I walked into the hotel feeling bombarded by the strong conservative beliefs of others. There were men in fat-suit costumes that represented big government, there were men dressed in Colonial garb, ranting about our Founding Fathers. There were also the political leaders themselves demanding that the right side was the best side.

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called liberals stupid people in his speech.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Conservatives are more fun because we’re always right.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said, “Obama’s miscalculations are changing history.”

Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, called birth control pills a direct violation of our first amendment.

Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate, predicted that Obama’s health care plan “will crush economic freedom.”

At times, these ideas and thoughts from our leaders were so harsh, negative and opinionated that I never once stopped tweeting, constantly hashtagging CPAC. I never once stopped snapping photos, capturing smiles, glares, standing ovations and OccupyDC protesters outside. I never once stopped recording the speeches of guest speakers. I never once stopped thinking about what the Democrats would say in response to these Republicans.

I never once stopped trying to figure out where I stood.

Each day that I walked out of the conference and out of the hotel feeling more and more educated about our country’s political divide, I questioned which side of the line I belonged — and if it would ever be okay just to stand right in the middle. [gallery ids="100498,118107" nav="thumbs"]

Virginia Spirits: Distilleries, Ciders and Wines for Winter

February 8, 2012

Just as a horse trots steadily across an open field in the Shenandoah countryside, the reputation of East Coast wines and spirits is gaining momentum in the rhythm of national beverage communities. Granted, there is a lot of ground to cover.

Many drinkers have yet to acclimate to the regional texture and character of East Coast libations. Our terroir—the flavor of our land, if you will—is still new to the cultural palette, as opposed to wines from France, Spain or California, whose tastes, textures and subtleties are engrained somewhere deep within us. The bodies and flavors of wines up and down the East Coast are quiet and subtle, more comparable to offerings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley than to the bright and peppery fullness of France or the dense richness of Napa Valley. But anyone with a passion to develop a taste for our regional beverages will find a beautiful, personal relationship with our fruit, our land and our distinct character, like close friendship born out of long, thoughtful conversations deep into the night.

Unlike many regions around the world, whose techniques have been honed over centuries and are well established, East Coast regions offer us the opportunity to grow with the very drinks we sip. As the idiosyncrasies of climate and soil composition are still being worked out by area distillers, cidermakers and winemakers, the flavors of the drinks are developing and maturing noticeably with each harvest. And, in Virginia, there is no better combination of beautiful countryside, dynamic beverage offerings and knowledgeable professionals to make a distillery or vineyard visit an unforgettable winter getaway. And if you don’t feel like leaving town, you can always just pick up a bottle of the good stuff at your local wine shop.

Castle Hill Cider

Hard cider from Charlottesville might seem a strange place to start a discussion on Virginia libations. With almost 200 operating vineyards in the state, and more than 20 within a stone’s throw of Castle Hill’s neighboring Monticello Wine Trail, this cidery stands almost on its own as a representative for the fermenting potential of apples. But when you see what cidermaker Stuart Madany is up to, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the quirk, history and flavors of traditional cider from Virginia’s heartland.

Originally built in 1764, Castle Hill was the home of Colonel Thomas Walker, guardian and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. The estate and its great barn, recently and beautifully restored, now stand as a cidery, tasting room and premiere venue for weddings and special events, bringing the character of the past together with the hospitality and luxury of today. Located on a 600-acre plot of rolling, endless hills, the land is still entrenched in the natural beauty of Virginia, and a young apple orchard budding eagerly before the Southwest Mountains looks as natural and inevitable as Jefferson’s rise to the presidency.

“We’re held to the same standards as farm wineries, and so we have to grow 51 percent of our apples for cidermaking on our own land,” says Madany. “Because our trees aren’t bearing fruit yet, we have leasing agreements with other orchards, more than 75 percent of which are Virginia orchards.”

Two years ago, Madany planted 660 trees on 4.5 acres of the Castle Hill estate. Comprising 28 species of heritage cider apples, their predominant variety is the Albermarle Pippin. “This apple got here by the hands of George Washington,” Madany says. “It was originally from New York, and Washington gave a cutting to Colonel Walker, who planted it on this very property.”

The cider is, frankly, outstanding. Most hard ciders that I’ve previously experienced taste watered down and homogenized — it tastes metallic and “apple flavored,” but not like an actual, distinct fruit with subtle, leafy undertones and its own characteristics. Castle Hill Cider is different. You taste the specific acidity and crispness of each glass, the earthy finishes and astringencies, as distinctly as you can tell a Gala apple from a Granny Smith.

The Levity, the flagship cider of Castle Hill, is made with 100 percent Pippin. It is aged and fermented in clay amphorae from the Caucasus Mountains, called kvevri, which are lined with beeswax and buried in the ground. This technique is one of the oldest fermenting techniques in history. Rested for four months on full lees — residual yeast and other sediment that collects at the bottom of the kvevri and imparts complex and layered flavors — this cider expresses a surprising depth with robust body and a refreshing minerality.
“The process has been amazing,” says Madany. “Cidermaking is still a learning process for me. When you already know something really well, you can tune into the nuances of it, which is what we’re working toward and have on many levels already achieved. But on the flip side, there’s something fascinating about the raw experience of taking something in right now from what it’s supposed to be. You’re freed from the preconception of having an ideal. Instead you’re just experiencing it.”

For more information, visit

Keswick Vineyards

It’s no coincidence that vineyards have been clustering around the Monticello and Charlottesville region. Jefferson envisioned this part of the country as a Viticultural Area (AVA) that stood with the great wines of the Old World. Today, Virginia is the fifth largest producer of wine in the U.S., and more than half of its 2,000 vineyard acres grow within the Monticello AVA.

If you’ve made the trip down to Monticello, Keswick Vineyards is a perfect stop to plan in conjunction with your visit to Castle Hill Cider. Just across the street from Castle Hill, its cozy tasting room, full-access winery and breathtaking views of the surrounding country paint the scene, and in the autumn you can observe the harvest activity firsthand. In the winter, it’s their selection of silky, bold red wines that will hold your attention.
Keswick Vineyards uses a minimalist approach in making their wines and have focused the bulk of their attentions on the vineyards to produce the best possible fruit to work with. Established in 2000, 43 acres are currently “under vine,” with the main grape planted being Viognier. Most of their wines are fermented using natural or native yeast, and all of their current red wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, giving it a maturation period of five to 10 years. But don’t worry — there’s still a lot of good flavor if you drink them young. Try the Chambourcin. Its earthy aroma is intoxicating, and its rustic, hearty flavor with waves of dark fruit is the perfect winter drinking wine, whether served with beef stew or cheese, crackers and a roaring fire.

For more information, visit

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Founded in 2009 as the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company is a certified organic distillery in the heart of the Loudoun Valley. Often called the District’s wine country, Loudoun County now has a distillery to throw into the mix.

Catoctin’s grain and fruit, free of pesticides and chemical additives, are sourced locally when possible, and its quality is being recognized on a national level. Its whiskies have a laundry list of silver and gold medals from a number of different competitions, from Whiskey Advocate Magazine to the American Distilling Institute. A tour of its facilities, only an hour’s drive from the District, is worth the trip. Their Organic Mosby’s Spirit, a clear grain rye “white whiskey,” is incredibly versatile as a mixer, giving a new grainy sweetness to traditional vodka or rum cocktails. Their Organic Roundstone Rye, one of the only organic whiskeys in the nation, took home a silver medal at last year’s American Distilling Institute Whiskey Competition.

For more information, visit

Virginia Distillery Company

A small-batch, artisan distiller, Virginia Distillery Company (VDC) in Nelson County, just 25 minutes south of Charlottesville, has brought notoriety to the region with its award-winning selection of double malt whiskies. Its Eades Double Malt, finished in fine wine casks, demonstrate that two malts can create an experience that actually heightens and refines each region’s flavor profile. But as with all whiskeys, wines and spirits, the process does not finish overnight. And what is happening at VDC right now is a great way to be a part of a burgeoning culture as it is being forged. The company is working on a Virginia Single Malt whiskey, which will be available within the next three to four years.

Unlike blended double malts, a single malt whiskey is a pure expression of the land from which it comes. And so while VDC’s single malt is being traditionally produced, its taste promises to be unlike any whiskey to come before it. Whiskey production welcomes Virginia’s damp, sticky summers and cold, dry winters (which can be tough on the winemaking community). As whiskey ages inside the cask, the dramatic seasonal fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause the wood storing the whiskey to expand and contract. These dynamic forces will draw the whiskey into and out of the wood of the cask much faster than in a typical Scottish warehouse, where single malts are most commonly produced.

The first batch of their authentic, double-distilled single malt whiskey is now aging, and will hibernate and mature for a minimum of three years, turning from the clear spirit to the subtly aged amber whiskey we all know and love, but with the distinct characteristics of Virginia. In the meantime, keep yourself warm with VDC’s sweet, tangy Eades Double Malt.

For more information, visit [gallery ids="100458,115474,115467" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsJanuary 25, 2012

January 25, 2012

*Dear Stacy:*
*I am a 27-year-old, professional, single woman living in D.C. I also have a medical condition ? bipolar disorder ? which is well under control (meds and counseling). My diagnosis has had an impact on my relationships in the past, especially before I got a handle on it in college. I have had a few serious boyfriends since then, but it seems that once I reveal my situation, things start to go downhill. One guy began blaming all of our problems on my being bipolar, even though my highly trusted therapist and I truly believe this had no bearing on our relationship (e.g., I had no episodes during our time together). Another got angry that I hadn?t told him sooner and soon began to back away from me. My question is this: Do I have to tell potential love interests that I have this condition? If so, when is the best time to come clean? I am sick of worrying about this. I only want to find someone who accepts me through and through.*
*?Gun-Shy in Northeast*

Dear Gun-Shy:
First, congratulations on finding the right combination of therapy and medications to feel like you are in control of your diagnosis ? this is not a small feat, definitely something to celebrate. Next, please be gentle with yourself for not necessarily knowing when and where to offer this information to others. With so much misinformation about mood disorders in the zeitgeist, the term ?bipolar? has become a go-to adjective to describe the stereotypically unstable character on cop shows galore. The truth is that many people with bipolar disorder can have very few episodes throughout their lives. The diagnosis is something sufferers are able to manage with certain regular interventions, much like diabetes or panic attacks.

But the question of disclosure is not limited to those with bipolar disorder. When is the best time to tell a New Love that you have been treated for an STD in the past, that you have a degenerative neurological disorder or that schizophrenia runs in your family? Unfortunately, there?s no definitive answer. Some would say: You name it ASAP, and let the chips fall where they may, preventing yourself from getting in too deep with someone only to lose them due to something beyond your control. Others would say: Give yourself a chance to get to know the person first, let him know you and see if the makings of a strong foundation are already there before tremor-testing it.

The truth is that all relationships have disclosure moments (You aren?t a virgin? Your family pastime is passive-aggression? Your dream retirement involves an RV?), and these moments are what we use to size up the chemistry between us. You have a ready-made reliability test to see if you?ve found a good match. Eventually, you can recommend a good book about your diagnosis, e.g., ?An Unquiet Mind? by Kay Jamison). But first let?s reclaim this information as part of what makes you, you. As such, the right match will be with someone who finds it somewhat mundane, but mostly evidence of your strength and resilience.

*Dear Stacy:*
*It?s January, and I am trying my best to focus on new starts and fresh goals. I am struggling because my ex got back in touch with me over the holidays, and I just can?t keep her off my mind. We?ve been texting and she refriended me on Facebook. My heart flips when I see her name on my callerID, but we haven?t seen each other yet. Things ended two years ago because we didn?t want the same things (yes, she wanted to get married and I did not). Now, it seems she?s comfortable with keeping it casual, and I have to admit that I am really enjoying the flirting we?ve got going on. Is there something about the holidays that gets people to revisit failed relationships? Valentine?s Day is coming up, and I keep fantasizing about some amazing reunion between us. Am I being unrealistic?*
*-Mooning Over Her*

Dear Mooning:
You are absolutely right, it does seem that the holidays cause old flames to reignite ? maybe it?s the cold weather that puts some of us on the lookout for revivable embers. It is exciting to reconnect with an old love. With the variety of social media options available, it isn?t hard to imagine why a text from her offers you a charge when compared to watching your Facebook friends change their profile pictures to photos of their kids on Santa?s lap.

Nevertheless, you ask the more important question last: ?Am I being unrealistic?? The conundrum actually has nothing to do with the time of year. You are asking if it?s realistic to think that someone who wanted to marry you two years ago is now happy to keep things casual. Not likely. But then again, you haven?t actually asked Ex, have you? The thing about reconnecting with old flames is that the timespan of the romantic phase of the relationship is vastly reduced. You already had that experience several years ago, and so this time around the honeymoon phase is going to be abbreviated. Once the initial experience of seeing her again, touching her again, being with her again, is over, it?s likely that you will return to the power struggle phase that broke you up two years ago.

But my advice is not to cut off all contact ? not when you have been given this incredible opportunity for growth and self-understanding (sorry, that?s probably not what you were hoping for). Meet Ex for coffee. Check in with yourself about how it feels to sit across from her. Ask some questions about what her life has been like in the last two years. Her answers might give you some insight as to whether she?s really in a more casual space or if you might like to return to where you both left off.

*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is [](, and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

Between the SheetsJanuary 12, 2012

January 12, 2012

Greetings and welcome to 2012! I hope you have had a wonderful holiday and celebrated the New Year in your own unique savvy style. This is the 70th time I have ushered in a new year, though admittedly I can?t recall the earliest ones, and I can?t speak of the most fun ones.
At the start of this 2012, I have many wishes for all: the usual health, joy, fulfillment, prosperity and whatever your special family values might be. But this year, following on a year of so much upheaval and for many in economic pain, I especially wish for positive attitudes. As the saying goes, ?Don?t sweat the small stuff!? And, of course, reach out and remember to love. With or without sex, good relationships are best. Put effort into reaching out. We all need more connection.

Connections come in so many forms and can often be pleasantly unexpected. A young friend of mine attended a long-running holiday party in Florida hosted by two community icons … two artist-musician-hippy community icons. My friend related that he had finally discovered the secret to life. This excerpt is from an email he sent me the following day:

***The host was a musician who played several instruments, and his living room was set up to form a band stage. There were people seated along the wall and a makeshift VIP section on the upstairs walkway that looked down over the band. Six men, all pushing 60 or more, jammed out on guitars, drums, bass and piano, while one woman beat a set of conga drums. When the host, on electric guitar, broke into Stevie Ray Vaughan?s ?Pride and Joy? and started to sing the lyrics, ?Yeah, I love my baby … Heart and soul … Love like ours won?t never grow old … She?s my sweet little thang … She?s my pride and joy …? I looked up to see the hostess dancing her heart out, quickly followed by several other couples.***

***Dr. Dorree, I grew up with these people. I went to school with their daughter, and we?ve been friends all our lives. But when we were younger, we were convinced that our parents were crazy and that we, as a result of being raised by this village of hippy musicians and artists, were destined to be just as nuts. But there were three generations of people at that party, many of whom had been coming since the 1980?s, and every year it?s the elders who play the loudest, dance the hardest, and party the longest … there?s something uniquely amazing in their attitude toward life. Nothing slows them down. Here we thought they were crazy, but all along they?ve had the secret to true happiness.***

If my young friend can start to see a continuity of joy as evidenced by his elders, then we should all be able to learn a similar lesson. And he?s absolutely right: attitude is everything. Especially in a world where there are so many negative people and bad things happening every day, all around us, we can easily find ourselves miserable and unhappy. But attitude is something that requires a conscious, active effort — and, no, there is not an ?app? for that.

So I challenge all of my colleagues, friends, family and fans to just try. Think positively and remain open to new lessons in 2012. Maybe, just maybe, if we can learn to appreciate how others live, we can step out of our own judgments and just possibly make some small steps to understanding our rapidly changing world.

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsDecember 14, 2011

December 14, 2011

**Dear Stacy:**

**I am a working mom in her 30s. My marriage is strong. My family ties are good. I get an enormous amount of joy being a mother to twin 6-year-olds. But I?m also realizing that I am very lonely when it comes to female friends. I have a few close ones in this area who are just as busy as I am, and we have trouble keeping up with each other. More and more, I?m realizing that I am missing my ?girlfriendships? of the past ? women who know what?s going on in my life, who call or email regularly, whom I can count on in a crisis and so on. Making new friends at this stage in my life seems really difficult. I was hoping to meet some through the various ?mommy and me? groups I joined when my kids were little, but those relationships stuck pretty close to the kids and their development, not moving into personal lives or going much deeper. I am a supervisor at work: that makes it hard for me to bridge those relationships into anything more. I have tried to connect with some of my husband?s friends? wives, but we also have little in common. I miss the days when the world was structured to help me make friends: school, sorority rush, happy hours in my 20s. How do you make new, real friends as an adult?**

**- Needs a Ladies Night**

Dear Ladies Night:

I completely empathize with your situation. The post-mommy period is rife with opportunities to feel marginalized. Our culture?s new pastime of criticizing other moms? life choices (See the SAHM vs. working mom debate online? On second thought, don?t.) makes new friendships even harder to trust. Not all of us got pregnant at the same time, in the same town, and with the same post-partum work schedules that allow us to be in the same life stage as our best friends from high school. Sad but true.

The isolation, judgment, anxiety and frustration you are feeling right now is actually quite similar to that found in other life stages. You could apply the same adjectives to describe a new freshman in college, a 40-year-old transplant to a new town, the newly retired, the recently widowed ? in other words, you really are describing the human condition here. My point is not to ?Just deal because we?re all feeling it,? it?s to realize, ?Wow, we?re all feeling it, so maybe I can risk a little bit and put it out there that I am looking to make some closer friends.?

Committing to having coffee, lunch or drinks with at least one female friend ? new, old or marginal ? each week can do wonders to increase your confidence about connecting and give you the chance to feel like someone else knows what you?re going through. It wouldn?t be a ?Murphy?s Love? column if I didn?t put in at least one plug about therapy ? so perhaps a support group for moms (not one masked as a playdate) would be a good place to explore your feelings about friendship in this stage. Therapy groups are not places to make friends, mind you, but one might help you get clear about why this particular developmental stage is so difficult right now. Email me for some specific suggestions in your area.

**Dear Stacy:**

My wife and I have been married for 20 years. We have two high school-aged kids and have enjoyed the experience of being parents, watching them grow and change, and basically structuring our lives around their care and wellbeing.

At the same time, we both are really looking forward to sending them off to college so that we can start traveling and spending more time following our own personal pursuits. My concern is this ? we have been a ?low-sex? couple for the last 10 years or so. For us, this means that we have sex about once every two months. I would like to have sex more often, but my wife has not been interested for a long time. I am starting to realize that my visions of us being together in our empty nest include a lot more sex. I am just now recognizing that this has been part of my fantasy about this stage of our lives and am starting to worry that she may be caught off guard by my high expectations.

I know you?re going to suggest therapy, and I think it?s a good idea. We had some several years ago when we were dealing with one of our kids? learning disabilities. I just don?t know how she will react when she is the named patient, and we?re there to address her lack of sexual desire. How should I approach this topic?

**- Counting the Days in D.C.**

Dear Counting:

Yes, we both agree that counseling is a good idea, but let me elaborate on that point.

The purpose of inviting a third party (Read: the therapist) into this conversation is to set some ground rules about how the communication is going to go. If we were all capable of speaking to our spouse in that calm, safe and connected manner already, this problem already would be solved. Most of us don?t have these skills right out of the box (or even after 20 years). So, instead, we use other methods to try and get what we want. We argue. We badger. We ignore. We use passive aggression. We manipulate. These are the unconscious tools we use to get our way. Yes, they are ubiquitous, but they rarely work without costing a price of some kind: long-term resentment, emotional isolation or foggy denial ? take your pick.

A good couples counselor can help you feel comfortable enough to say what you need to say and help Wife be comfortable enough to hear it. Plus, employing an entirely new conversational paradigm might mirror the entirely new life paradigm you?re about to enter: Empty Nesting. I applaud the effort to be proactive as you start this very new chapter.

I do have one caveat. My guess is that you already employ some of the unconscious methods of getting what you want or convincing yourself that you don?t need it. Otherwise, you wouldn?t be 20 years into a ?low-sex marriage? that you admit is dissatisfying. Before you bring Wife into the counseling room to talk about her low libido, consider your own side to this story. How is it that you have fantasies about having more sex after the kids are grown, yet she doesn?t know about it already? How have you been hiding this from her? I guarantee this kind of conversation will be part of any couples therapy. So, in the interest of you not finding yourself blindsided, try a little more introspection about why you?ve maintained a dissatisfying sex life for so long, whether your frequent-sex fantasies do include Wife, and what your real goals are. When you?re clear about that, please approach her by saying, ?I think counseling would help me with XYZ, will you come with me?? Avoid naming her as the ?patient.? In other words, the phrase, ?Let?s deal with your low-sex problem,? should never be a part of your script.

*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. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsNovember 30, 2011

November 30, 2011

Dear Stacy,

My younger sister just announced that she is pregnant, following a short relationship with a guy she is no longer dating. She lives across the country, while the rest of our family is in the D.C. area. My parents and I were shocked by this turn of events but are starting to get excited about the idea. I know it will be hard for her to raise a baby alone so far away from us, but she has not said she wants to move home yet. I?m getting a lot of questions from our extended family like ?What is she thinking?? and ?Why aren?t you making her move back?? While I see their point and definitely agree that it could be easier on her if she lived near us, that?s not my decision to make. I don?t know how to respond when people ask me so many questions. I know they wouldn?t dream of being so blunt with her directly. What to do?

**-Auntie to Be in D.C.**

Dear Auntie,

Congratulations! Not just on your soon-to-be aunt status, but also on your restraint about telling Sister what she ?should do? next. It can be hard to keep your mouth shut when you see someone making choices you wouldn?t have made ? just look at all those dear extended family members who can?t seem to exercise the same self-control.

You are right, it will be hard for her to raise a baby alone, and she might decide to move close for some extra support and babysitters. But she won?t make that decision any faster if she?s pressured to do so. In fact, your extended family knows this as well, which is why they aren?t pressuring her to move, they?re pressuring you to get her to move. When some of us are faced with a ?crisis? (whatever the definition may be) we move into fix-it mode in order to manage our own anxiety about the situation, usually without being asked. It sounds like the extended family is trying to fix it for Sister, hoping that you will be the messenger. That?s a particularly challenging position ? you might feel like Sister?s mouthpiece, Grandma?s confidant, and Uncle?s sounding board all at the same time. It?s a narrow space: On one side you are the press secretary, on the other you are at risk of being pulled into the sticky business of family gossip.

If you can tolerate the extended family?s good intentions (there are good intentions under there, I promise) and hold the anxiety, keeping it away from Sister, fantastic. If you can?t, or don?t want to, or notice that the price is too much to bear (hair falling out, nail biting, road rage, the usual signs), set your own limits with those good intentions. For example, ?Thanks for your input, but I?m not talking about this anymore,? or the like, is a short, to-the-point way of saying, ?Keep me out of this.? Even if she never knows about it, Sister will benefit from your boundaries. And she?s going to need you on her side.

**Dear Stacy,**

**My wife routinely falls asleep in our 5-year-old daughter?s bed. When this happens ? about five nights a week ? she usually crawls into our bed sometime in the night and we wake up together. It frustrates me that she thinks this is okay. How can I get her to understand that this is not okay behavior?**

**-Sleeping in a King Bed Alone**

Dear Sleeping King,

Well, I don?t have a lot to go on here, but let?s summarize. You want help in getting her to understand that falling asleep in your daughter?s room is not okay. But see, it might actually be okay.

It might be okay if there is a compelling reason for your daughter to need mom in her room at night (e.g., a medical condition). It might be okay if you and Wife are able to have alone time, intimacy, and connection, elsewhere. It might be okay if everything is going well in your relationship already. It might be okay for this behavior to continue if these conditions are met. But from what you?ve said, and more so what you haven?t said, I?m going to surmise that you are unconvinced by her reasons, and that you might be feeling neglected yourself. As one with two small kids at home, I know from personal experience that the blessed time between their bedtime and ours is precious, fleeting and crucial to a happy partnership.

Does she know how you feel? What I mean by ?feel? is how you feel, not how you judge her behavior, or what you believe about her decision-making. How you feel might be abandoned, lonely, sad, embarrassed or worried about what this means for your relationship. When we start the conversation by naming how someone?s actions make us feel in this way, it often makes it easier for the other person to really hear our concerns, and not get caught up in defending her behavior. If she knows that you are missing the connected feeling of being next to her when you fall asleep, she might realize that she is missing that as well, and make more of an effort to resume your bedtime routine.

*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 it should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

In With the Old

November 21, 2011

The notion of “antiquing” in quaint outskirt towns might seem like a bit of a cliché. It does tend to conjure up images of a Sunday afternoon spent rummaging around bins of old photographs, trying on estate jewelry and looking for that perfect mid-century hallway bench. Some might say such activity is best left to the ladies in fanny packs.

Yet antiques have taken on a whole new place in our culture. Now partnered with the green movement of recycling goods and appreciating local markets, having a piece of the past adorning one’s home or office has become a requirement for stylish decor. A modern kitchen without reclaimed tins and crates for storage? Unheard of. And where would the new metal bed from CB2 be without the oil portrait circa 1932 hanging above it?

So it’s not exactly a unique notion to spend weekends choosing from history’s glorious remains. What breathes whole new life into the activity, however, is throwing antiquing into the frenetic culture of the fast approaching Black Friday.

Black Friday. Those two little words strike fear and dizziness into the hearts of holiday shoppers everywhere. Just watching those department store commercials surrounding Thanksgiving is cause for high blood pressure. Three floors of anxiety-ridden super-shoppers with armfuls of swag and hearts full of vengeance are enough to make the most focused and determined of us assume the fetal position. When did a loving, thoughtful tradition become grouped into the category of dreaded annual events like dentist appointments and tax season?

It happened right around the time large corporate chain stores decided to turn the process of shopping – at its best a slow, thoughtful, even cathartic process with lunch scheduled somewhere in the middle – into competition. Mark-ups then mark-downs are planned to reel in rowdy crowds for that terrifying annual Friday. But do the gifts really mean anything? Do your in-laws really need another set of matching pajamas from Sears? It’s simply not worth it.

This year, forget about it. Antique shopping is the new Black Friday.

Antique shopping requires a more heartfelt approach than clearing off a shelf of scented candles at Bed Bath & Beyond. There’s a sense of quiet victory in finding a tea set for your favorite aunt. And perhaps, if you strike antique gold, she’ll turn the saucer upside down to discover it was made the same year she got married.

With the perfect gift-giving accomplished, it’s okay to be a little self-serving while scooting delicately through the aisles of fragile relics. For those hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead and look for that perfect mid-century hallway bench. Who cares if it’s going to be covered with coats and hats for most of the weekend? You’ll be using the Victorian pie server you found as an excuse to show off your new estate ring.

Must-Browse Antique Districts


1) East Washington and Madison Streets
Middleburg, Virginia
With the Middleburg Antique Emporium, Hastening Antiques, Ltd., JML French Antiques and the like, downtown Middleburg is a worthy hour-long drive on 50 West for some quality relic-hunting.

2) King and Market Streets
Leesburg, Virginia
Historic downtown Leesburg has an impressive collection of collectibles stores tucked into its main cross streets. Its proximity to the old (and still in-use) courthouse gives shoppers a taste for Federal-style finds.

3) East Main Street/North Massanutten Street
Front Royal, Virginia
This town has two main neighborhoods for vintage goods. East Main Street hosts treasures like Vintage Swank and Helen’s while North Massannutten is home to Strasborg Emporium, Bull Run Relics and Heirloom. Make time for both stops.

4) Caroline Street
Fredericksburg, Virginia
No need to wander if antiques are the mission in Fredericksburg. Every storefront waits right on Caroline Street so it’s a straight shot to places like Beck’s Antiques and Books, Market Square Antiques and Picket Post.


1) South Carroll and East Patrick Streets
Frederick, Maryland
Downtown Frederick is easy to find from route 270…and so are the stores. The highest concentration of old goods is found at the intersection of South Carroll and East Patrick Streets, where mainstays like Cannon Hill and Old Glory await.

2) Main Street
Ellicott City, Maryland
This old suburb of Baltimore is like-minded to Fredericksburg in that they keep their antiques together on display. The row of vintage retailers goes in a straight line up Main Street, starting with Retropolitan, Ltd. to the west and ending with Vintage Girls to the east.

3) West Howard Avenue
Kensington, Maryland
The West Howard Antiques district has become something of a legend since its establishment 40 years ago. As a large tourist attraction for the town of Kensington, the area doesn’t disappoint with its tiny maze of stores. Finding each address takes a little exploring, so don’t ignore the alleyways and staircases.

4) Dorchester Avenue
Cambridge, Maryland
The Packing House, a giant warehouse situated on the Eastern shore, is a mega-mall of antique dealers – more than 100, to be exact, in the 60,000-square-foot facility.

[gallery ids="100380,111048,111044,111037,111041" nav="thumbs"]