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.

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Thankful to be Thankful

November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we are reminded to give thanks for the wonderful things in our lives and for all of our blessings. With so many varying cultures, at every age and stage in life, what we value to give thanks for will naturally differ from person to person. Turning 70 this year has given me a new perspective on thankfulness: it’s one thing to be thankful for something or for someone, but I would have not the chance if I were not here to be thankful in the first place!

One gift of living longer is appreciating the ability to be alive in new ways. With age comes the loss of so many near and dear. Thus, it’s only in recent years that I understand and appreciate what I heard from elders when I was young, “As long as you have your health…” Therefore, I’m most thankful to be thankful to still be alive and healthy.

As a child, I was thankful for other happenings and things: parents who tried their best to give me opportunities. In my twenties and thirties, I was thankful for education, marriage, and ultimately freedom to adventure beyond my wildest dreams and to travel the world; trains, planes and automobiles, and yes, boats too were all fabulous experiences. So was the opportunity to meet with spiritual leaders, seek my own way, and become a licensed pilot. Bumps, bruises, excitement, challenges—I was thankful to be alive to experience it and thankful to have survived the adventure!

After many losses and some challenging times, ultimately I was thankful to have a family of my own and to succeed at a profession that I loved. The next decades brought new creativity as I began to write, speak and appear on national media programs. I learned that I was an educator at heart and that in between would be illnesses and losses that would knock me down time and time again. Through it all, I was thankful to have just gotten through, to have laughed, loved and lived.

Now, at 70, I’ve decided I’m just thankful to be thankful. I’m not dead, I’m not sick, I’m not bound to a wheelchair and I still have my wits. Just to be alive, to live another day of opportunity, to share more hours with my daughters and grandsons…I’m thankful to be thankful. Oh! And to have the energy to continue learning and adventuring—if it’s true that comfort and stagnation tends to kill, I’m bound to be around for another hundred years!

In “these tough economic times” it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. Millions of Americans are suffering with bank accounts that cannot support the weight of the upcoming holiday season. Many Americans cannot support the weight of tomorrow. These are the times to be most generous and grateful.

If we have enough to eat and are still in our homes and can manage a wry attitude change, some may even manage to ultimately be thankful for the recession because it has taught us what not to take for granted and allowed us the ability to appreciate what we have when we have it.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or Muslim or black or white or African or Chinese, atheist or Roman Catholic, be thankful for the opportunity to interact, to share, to grow together, to learn from one another and to affect positive change in our world. And be thankful for the challenges we endure that educate us about ourselves and the world we live in, because these are our lessons to learn in order to teach those who follow us.

The White Elephant

November 3, 2011

Every trip to the town of Middleburg, VA, warrants a visit to a special place: The White Elephant. Since my church always had an annual white elephant sale, I immediately understood the significance of the name.

It was 22 years ago that two sisters and their mother began what has become a must-visit, must-purchase-something store. Sisters Leslie and Cynthia Broockman, with their late mother Gloria, began in 1988 with what they considered a brief indoor garage sale. It was winter and too cold to sell on the sidewalk some of the furniture and other excess items they no longer needed after moving up from Florida. So, as fate would have it, they were offered an empty room, which happened to be an unused storefront in Middleburg, to conduct a sale. It was only meant to last two days. Instead, the idea of “consignments” flew into the picture and the “sale” continues to this day.

“Follow your dreams,” their mother advised her daughters. The dream became a reality as chance encounters led to the creation of what are now two consignment shops, one in Middleburg and one in nearby Warrenton. Cynthia says, “If you have the courage to dream and wait patiently with complete faith, they’ll come true.” Despite all the odds, and there were many, the story behind this family not only creating a consignment business (quite by accident) but allowing the venture to help others serves as an inspiration to anyone wishing to follow their dream.

On a recent visit to Middleburg, I walked into The White Elephant and, not needing anything in particular, but always curious, headed down the aisle of antiquities. There are two sides to the store plus a basement divided into two sides. On the left, you will find a collection of apparel and accessories. Many of these are new. None are over two years old. Everything from jeans to evening gowns, jewelry to shoes.

On the right are “decorative accents and furniture.” All incoming consignments are carefully screened for quality. You will not have to search through “junk” to find valuable items. This particular day, I observed a man looking closely at certain items, making notes, and walking on to carefully study another object. I had to ask, “Are you an antique collector?” Yes, he was. Not only a collector but, I believe, although he would not tell me as much, he had a business selling antiques. I was not surprised.

In our home are signs of The White Elephant everywhere. I won’t tell. Okay, maybe I will, just to entice you. But you must keep our secret!

One day, we brought home an art nouveau side table for the living room. On another occasion,
we came home with a three piece entertainment console for downstairs. And a few years ago, we could not resist a beautiful Oriental rug. Many items at The White Elephant are one of a kind, including paintings, jewelry, and china. The choices change constantly, so you must make a habit of snooping.

Reasonably priced, many items are one of a kind and many are collectable. Their collections, which change almost daily (since the inventory and sales are continuous, seven days a week), are incredible. For wedding gifts, graduation gifts, birthdays, and for your personal collections, it is hard to resist a purchase at the White Elephant. There are always lovely, helpful ladies working at the shop should you have any questions. Plus I always meet fascinating people many of whom, like me, make it a priority to poke around the hidden treasures and rarely leave empty-handed.

Visit The White Elephant at 103 West Federal Street in Middleburg or
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Eating Right


-While it’s not always advised to supplement with individual vitamins, it is important to eat a diet rich in quality whole, unprocessed foods. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure you are getting an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Here’s a quick glance at vitamins:

Vitamin A:
Promotes vision and eye health, healthy maintenance of cells in the body’s inter-surface linings (intestinal tract, respiratory linings, etc.) and skin. It also functions in both cellular and embryonic development and reproduction, immune function and bone growth. Note: there are two sources of vitamin A, the active source that comes from animals, and the inactive source, known as beta-carotene, which comes from plants.

Best sources (Active): liver, milk, eggs
(Inactive): look for colorful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and spinach

Vitamin Bs:
The B vitamins are what we call coenzymes. They function as catalysts activating chemical reactions. They consist of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, biotin and vitamin B12.

B vitamins work in every cell and have many different functions to make chemical processes occur. They have major roles in energy metabolism (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin work with carbohydrates, fats and proteins to release energy). Folate and vitamin B12 are necessary for new cell production and working with cellular DNA. Vitamin B6 is essential for protein production.
Best sources:
Thiamin: seeds and legumes (especially sunflower seeds, black beans and peas), tuna, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach
Riboflavin: calf’s liver, mushrooms, venison, mushrooms, spinach
Niacin: mushrooms, tuna, chicken breast, asparagus, salmon
Vitamin B6: bell peppers, spinach, bananas, tuna
Folate: dark leafy vegetables (especially romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens), asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and lentils
Pantothenic Acid: mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli
Biotin: found in a wide range of foods, and produced intestinally, greatest sources can be found in swiss chard and egg yolks (supplementation not recommended and deficiency is rare).
Vitamin B12: animal products, specifically calf’s liver, snapper, venison, shrimp, eggs, milk, poultry

Vitamin C:
Helps to protect against cellular damage, formation and maintenance of tissue protein (collagen), supports immune system function.
Best sources: Papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries and oranges

Vitamin K:
Fuctions to promote blood clotting and bone health
Best sources: green leafy vegetables especially spinach, kale collards, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus

From Stables to Strawberries

A Spectacular Stable Tour

Just after midnight on March 30, 1970, a large chestnut colt was foaled on a horse farm in Caroline County, VA. Three years later, this colt would become nothing short of a celebrity, electrifying the horse racing world and becoming the ninth horse to win the coveted Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. His name was, of course, the legendary Secretariat. While many often think of Kentucky as the epicenter of thoroughbred racing, it’s important to remember that many racing champions began their careers and were trained right here in the Commonwealth. There’s no doubt that future champions will also trace their beginnings back to some of Virginia’s most impressive farms and training facilities.

On the weekend of May 29, a handful of Virginia’s top farm owners invite you down their cozy drives and into their stables and training facilities as the Hunt Country Stable Tour celebrates its 51st year. Presented by the Trinity Episcopal Church in Upperville, this self-guided tour is a once-a-year opportunity to visit some of the most remarkable hunter and show jumper barns, breeding farms and polo facilities.

Tickets may be purchased at any of the venues, with the exception of the Stone Bridge over Goose Creek. Be sure to visit the Trinity Episcopal Church and browse the wares of the many vendors at the country fair on the church lawn. Next, follow the map provided with your ticket and make your way through the Middleburg and Upperville area to the various venues on the tour.

One stop on the tour you won’t want to miss is the Middleburg training track, but you’ll have to get there early on Saturday to catch all the action. Bring your camera and grab a rail-side spot as you watch young thoroughbreds rounding the 7/8-mile track during their training sessions. Several champions, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid, began their training here. Come early, as the horses run before 9 a.m. — and only on Saturday.

Not far from the training track is the Northern Virginia Animal Swim Center and Stables. We all know how beneficial water and swim therapy can be when recovering from surgery or an injury. The same holds true for our equine and canine friends, and what a unique facility they have for just that purpose. The swim center will be open Saturday only, with equine demonstrations throughout the day.

In addition to these training facilities, be sure to make your way to the many beautiful private stables on the tour, including Willow Bend Farm, Windsor Farm, Rock Hill Farm, and Rokeby, just to name a few.

For more information and a complete listing of all venues on the tour, check out

A Delicious Festival

Strawberries: sweet and delicious, they’re one of the first treats of summer and a definite reason for celebration. This delectable snack derived its name from the berries that are “strewn” about on the foliage of the plants. “Strewn berry” eventually became “strawberry,” and the rest is history. In fact, strawberries actually date to medieval times where they symbolized prosperity, peace, and perfection. Today, it’s tradition for spectators to enjoy strawberries and cream between tennis matches at Wimbledon.

This year, beautiful Sky Meadow State Park is once again host to the Delaplane Strawberry Festival on May 29 and 30. Celebrating its 17th year and presented by the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Delaplane, this festival has something fun for everyone. Catch a hayride through the park, then grab a bite to eat from one of the many food vendors and have a seat on a hay bale as you enjoy some great musical entertainment. Car enthusiasts will enjoy looking at the beautifully presented antique cars from the Bull Run Antique Car Club of America. And of course, there will be strawberries. Buy some to enjoy at the festival, and be sure to pick up some extra to take home. There’s no shortage of fun for the young ones either. Pony rides, a 4-H petting zoo, puppet shows, jugglers, clowns and children’s games are just some of the activities on tap to make this a special day for the kids.

For additional information about the festival, visit

In Good Company

When we were little, our friends and social network influenced our choices, thoughts and behaviors. If Dave played basketball then so did Colin. If Marie wore her hair in pigtails, Andrea thought it was cool. When we grow up, we look at our friends and those who construct our social network much differently. We are led to believe who you know can lead you to opportunity and success. The number of names and phone numbers in our Blackberries are supposed to grow, especially in our nation’s capital, where building one’s social network is not only an event, pastime or lecture topic, but a way of life. We’ve all been told that “who you know” can get you in the door to a job, inside information or get you into a sold-out event. But studies say who you know and how well you know them can make a much more remarkable impact on one’s life than having an “in” with backstage security.

In recent years, sociologists, psychologists, scientists and physicians alike have shifted their attention and broadened their focus of study subjects by examining the relationships and characteristics of those closely connected to them. While an individual’s social networks have not unveiled connections resulting in lucrative jobs or insider information, they have instead revealed a profound influence and vital effect over many facets of one’s health and wellness. The characteristics of those who run in a person’s social circle and how closely connected they are to that person have proven to play a factoring role in matters diverse as belt size to coping ability.

So just how much are we influenced by our relationships? Let’s start with behaviors. It may sound rudimentary to assume that if the people you associate with are drinkers, you’ll likely follow suit. After assessing the social networks of 12,000 people from 1971 to 2003 — the subjects of the famous Framingham Heart Study — researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego concluded in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month that not only do those in your social network affect your alcohol consumption, so do those in your social network’s network — this relationship held through three degrees of separation. If the people you surround yourself are heavy drinkers, it is 50 percent more likely that you will also drink heavily. If a friend of a friend is a heavy drinker, you would be 36 percent as likely to be one as well. And if that friend’s friend — the third degree of separation — is a heavy drinker, your chances of drinking heavily increases 15 percent.

It may be easy to enjoy another cocktail among your friends or share ideas of social acceptance when it comes to alcohol consumption, but what about body size? Could obesity spread from one to another just like the tendency to drink within a social circle? Take the people in your life, your friends, significant other, colleagues and family. Look at your body size in comparison to theirs, taking extra note of your closest friends. Do you find any parallels? Researchers from the Harvard/UCSD study found that it may not just be about diet and exercise, but that obesity is spread through relationships. The most statistically significant (and shocking) relationship influences were with close friendships of the same sex. A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if he or she had a close friend who became obese throughout the study. In pairs of people who each named one another as a close friend, the likeliness that both would gain weight if one became obese jumped to 171 percent. It didn’t matter how near or far the friends were from one another geographically, as long as the person being named was a close friend. This correlation has proved to be stronger than genetics and marriage. Between adult siblings, the likeliness that one would become obese after their brother or sister had increased by 40 percent; for spouses they found a 37 percent increased risk.

Don’t get upset just yet, not all relationships increase negative outcome. But if you are unhappy, perhaps you should find a new group of happy friends, hopefully ones with their own happy friends. Analyzing over 50,000 social ties of nearly 5,000 Framingham participants from 1983-2003, researchers concluded a key determinant of a person’s happiness lies in the happiness with whom they are connected. The degree of closeness to one’s friends and family also ascertained the likeliness of happiness in the future. In the study, happiness was found to be dependent on a person’s social connections extending (again) to three degrees of separation. What this means is that your close friends, siblings, spouse and neighbors all can impact your happiness, and if they are happy (and their friends, and their friends’ friends), there is a greater probability that you will also be happy. Luckily, happiness seems to spread much more consistently through a social web then does unhappiness. By mapping out a network of social connections, it was found that happy people are found in clusters, and the more central one is in the network of relationships, the more likely they are to be happy and stay happy in the future.

Need more reasons to embrace friendships? Want to live longer? Keep your friends, make new ones and continue your relationships in your old age. While having a spouse had little impact on survival, a study of 3,000 nurses with breast cancer published in the Journal of Oncology found that women without close friendships were four times as likely to die then women with 10 or more friends. Another study, this time focused on longevity, found that when people aged 70 and above maintained close friendships and social ties, they had a 22 percent higher survival time. Australian researchers in this study also found no correlation between relationships with their children and relatives, just the friendships the subjects maintained.

Maybe it is all about who you know in life that makes a difference when it comes to attaining health and happiness. It’s not just a mind and body connection we need to be aware of. There is a third component, a person’s social ties, which can play a major role in one’s wellness, thus unveiling the mind-body-social network connection. It turns out, in one way or another, we are all influencing one another, spreading cheer or weight gain, and not only is it important to choose friends wisely and rekindle old friendships, it’s never too late to make new friends. It’s also important to remember you are part of larger phenomenon, influencing and leaving your mark in others’ lives.

The Upperville Colt & Horse Show

I look forward to the first full week of June every year. My colleagues automatically know I will be out of the office that week — on vacation, but not out of town. I’ll be where many horse lovers and enthusiasts will be: in beautiful Upperville, VA, just an hour outside of Washington, at the one and only Upperville Colt and Horse Show. For me, this event is nothing short of a full blown therapy session — but without all the psychobabble. The sights and sounds of the hustle and bustle around the show grounds renew my spirits and senses like nothing else can — the smell of the fresh horse stall bedding, the sound of the farrier’s hammer carefully shaping a horse shoe, and the gentle non-verbal conversation between horse and rider as they make their way through the course. It is truly magical and makes me anxiously anticipate my arrival at the barn every evening to tend to my own horses.

Celebrating its 157th year, the oldest horse show in the United States is set to run June 7 through 13. Attracting competitors from all over the United States and abroad, Upperville boasts seven full days of exciting hunter, jumper and breeder competitions.

Hunters and Jumpers
The term “hunters” refers to horses that participate in the sport of fox hunting, including their manners, ability to jump and how well they maintain a steady pace as they encounter each jump or “fence.” The criteria they are judged upon in the various hunter competitions or “classes” relates to the traits they must demonstrate to be successful in the hunt field. With hunters, it’s all about their style and stride. Some hunter classes also judge the horse’s body structure, which is referred to as its “conformation.”

Speed, stamina, and the ability to clear the course obstacles are what count in the various jumper classes. This is no easy feat, considering many of the jumps are three feet six inches to five or more feet tall, with spreads of up to six feet. Unlike the hunter classes, style, pace, and manners are not important, and are not judged. What matters is that horse and rider complete the course in as little time as possible without knocking down any of the obstacles.

A Week Under the Oaks
This year, the competition begins Monday, June 7 on what many refer to as “locals’ day” at the show, with the majority of hunter classes offered that day restricted to horses owned by residents of counties within a 60-mile radius of Upperville. Compared to the rest of show week, it’s a somewhat quieter day, perfect for kicking back in the newly renovated grandstand and taking it all in as the horses and riders leap through the hunter course under the beautiful and majestic hundred-year-old oaks of Grafton Farm. It’s also a great time for shopping. While some vendors are in the process of setting up their displays for the week, there are many that are already up and running and ready for business. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up that one-of-a-kind item before it’s scooped up by other shoppers later in the week.

A full schedule of hunter classes are on tap for Tuesday, and the action kicks into high gear as the jumper classes begin across the street amid the rolling green terrain of Salem Farm. In the afternoon, the Founder’s Cup, restricted to horses bred and foaled in Virginia, honors the memory of Colonel Richard Henry Dulany — an avid horseman and the driving force behind the establishment of the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. One of the many highlights on Wednesday’s schedule of events is the “Paul and Eve Go as You Please Handy Hunter” class, held in memory of Paul and Eve Fout, two of Virginia’s most prominent and accomplished equestrians. On Thursday, the ponies come out to strut their stuff. Unbelievably adorable and the dream of many little girls, you won’t want to miss these pint-sized equines with over-the-top personalities. Don’t worry if you miss the ponies on Thursday — you’ll have the opportunity to catch them on Friday and Saturday too.

The weekend, of course, tends to draw the largest crowds, so plan to come early and spend the day. There’s plenty to see and do, and once you get there, you won’t want to leave soon anyway. Saturday morning features the Cleveland Bay breeder classes, and the ever-so-elegant ladies’ side saddle classes. Come see Upperville’s youngest riders (ages one to six years) make their appearance in the leadline competition on Saturday afternoon. With an adult handler keeping the pony in check, you won’t be able to stop smiling as you watch these young riders — dressed in proper attire, of course — make their way around the ring. On Sunday morning, additional breeder classes are scheduled, including those featuring the Irish Draught breed. The classic sport of carriage driving also takes center stage on Sunday with the Carriage Driving Grand Prix and the Concours d’Elegance.

The week-long event culminates Sunday afternoon with the Budweiser Upperville Jumper Classic. Not to be missed, this challenge features many of the top riders in the world. Bring a picnic of your own, or pick up something to eat from the food vendors at the show. Then grab a spot on the lawn overlooking the course and get ready for an exciting, hold-your-breath type of contest amid a colorful and extremely challenging course. It’s the perfect way to end an extraordinary week of competition. The only downside? Well, the show is held only once a year. But, like me, I’m willing to bet you’ll be looking forward to next year’s show before you leave your parking space.

For a complete schedule of events and information, check out their Web site at

Upcoming Events
The summer season in hunt country is kicking into full gear. Here’s just a few of the many upcoming events you may want to consider adding to your calendar.

Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
June 5 and 6, 2010
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bull Run Regional Park Special Events Center
Centreville, VA

Magnolias at the Mill Beer Festival
June 17, 2010
Magnolias at the Mill
Purcellville, VA

Twilight Polo at Great Meadow
Every Saturday through September 18, 2010
6:30 p.m.
The Plains, VA

Fourth of July at Great Meadow
July 4, 2010
The Plains, VA
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Slimming Down? Books for Dieters

Getting reliable nutrition or diet information is a challenge in today’s information super-highway. Out of the thousands of diet books out there, I have found maybe a handful which merit recommending. My specifications?

• The content is based on verifiable facts and good science
• The recommendations, if followed short or long term, will improve your health, rather than damage it
• It advocates a variety of foods, and doesn’t cut out important, nutritious food groups
• It promotes a positive attitude toward food and eating
• It’s practical and doesn’t require special drugs, diet foods, packaged foods or supplements which would be impossible to maintain
• It doesn’t advocate a way of eating with unacceptable side-effects
• It advocates a well-balanced existence, including physical activity, which is known to be essential to good health
• The reading is interesting, while the recommendations are simple and easy to follow.

My choices for some of the best diet books out there, authored by academic researchers and dietitians:

“The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan,” Barbara Rolls
Hands-down, “Volumetrics” is my favorite diet book. Barbara Rolls is a respected Penn State University nutrition researcher and the first to recognize the importance of high volume foods for weight loss and weight maintenance. Her philosophy is “Don’t deprive yourself — lose weight while eating more!” and it works. I live by this rule and have taught countless clients to do the same. I feel so positive about this approach I’ve adopted the “Volumetrics” concepts, among others, for my own book, “Diet Simple.” “Volumetrics” is full of practical ideas which work, and are proven by science and my own experience. The author treats the reader with respect by explaining the science behind the theories. It essentially includes 60 recipes, which my clients have found to be excellent.

“Thin for Life,” Anne M. Fletcher
Anne Fletcher is another author who knows her stuff. “Thin for Life” is based on highly respected research which has followed and studied people who have lost weight and kept it off for many years — the real pros. The chapters are divided into ten “keys to success.” “Thin for Life” refutes the oft-quoted claim that it’s impossible to lose weight and to keep it off. One of my favorite “keys” to success in the book, which I try to drill into my own clients, is “nip it in the bud.” Research has found that everyone experiences the same number of “slips” and stressors in their lives. The difference is the weight-relapsers let the slips turn into prolonged relapses and re-gain their weight. Successful weight loss maintainers view the “slip” as natural, as something to learn from, and get right back on track.

“Mindless Eating,” Brian Wansink
“Mindless Eating” is written by Cornell researcher Brian Wansink, an eating “behaviorist” who specializes in the passive ways people eat too much and how to change them. He’s discovered that we’re basically clueless about how much to eat (and if it’s in front of us, we’ll eat it!). If you’ve ever wondered why you ate all the popcorn at the movies or the whole serving of nachos for dinner — and have felt terrible — this book is for you. Wansink does ingenious experiments where he rigs bowls of soup to keep re-filling (with an apparatus under the table the subject knows nothing about) and finds the person keeps eating, and eating, and eating. He has found if food is less convenient, we are 10 times less likely to eat it. If the label announces “fat free,” we’ll eat more! If our food is on a smaller plate, we’ll eat less without realizing it. You get the idea. I use his research every day to improve my own eating habits and those of my clients.

“Weight Loss Confidential,” Anne M. Fletcher
This is a great book for teens (and their parents) that proves teenagers have the resources, with the proper support, to eat healthy, achieve appropriate weights and enjoy it.

“How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much” and “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense,” Ellyn Satter
A registered dietitian and clinical social worker, Ellyn Satter has written the best books to teach you how to raise your children to love healthy food and live healthy lives, without adverse side-effects of eating disorders or weight problems. Some of her topics include: “Is Your Toddler Jerking You Around at the Table?” “The Individualistic Teenager,” “How Much Should Your Child Eat?” “What is Normal Eating?” and “Nutritional Tactic for Preventing Food Fights.”

“Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right,” Joanna Dolgoff
This is a great book with simple techniques for teaching children healthy eating and how to lose weight healthfully. I recently heard the author, Joanna Dolgoff, give a presentation about her book and found her very practical and insightful — she advocates strategies I’ve used and know they work. Her philosophy: no food is off-limits, but she divides foods into three categories to make it easier for children to make decisions without being hung up on calories. Green light foods mean: Go! (unlimited, first choice foods), yellow light foods mean: Slow! (caution, eat in moderation), and red light foods mean: Uh oh! (an occasional treat).

Katherine’s favorite healthy cookbooks:
1) “The French Culinary Institute’s Salute to Healthy Cooking,” Jacques Pepin, et al.
2) “Mediterranean Light,” Martha Rose Shulman
3) “The New American Plate,” American Institute for Cancer Research
4) “Provencal Light,” Martha Rose Shulman

Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. will customize an easy, enjoyable nutrition, weight loss, athletic or medical nutrition therapy program for you, your family or your company. She is the author of “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations,” and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Contact her at or 202-833-0353. [gallery ids="99128,102659,102700,102691,102682,102675,102668" nav="thumbs"]