Dancing In Christmas – Sugar Plums, Candy Canes & Prince Charming

A few weeks ago, my amazing husband surprised me with tickets to go see the San Francisco Ballet perform The Nutcracker in December. To say that I am ecstatically thrilled would be an understatement. Now that Thanksgiving is over, I have been playing The Nutcracker’s musical score in preparation for our trip.

It’s been almost three years since my husband and I have seen a ballet – or any musical/dance production, for that matter – together. So this is a wonderful ‘excuse’ to dress up and enjoy the fine arts together.

First presented at the Mayinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, in December 1892, Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky, and mastermind choreographer, Marius Petipa, worked together to compose the infamous ballet which is based off of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”

Interestingly enough, the first production of The Nutcracker was a failure with critics and audiences alike, although Czar Alexander III was delighted with it. However, the ballet gained popularity with future productions, particularly in the United States.

The first U.S. performance of The Nutcracker was by the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1944. It is most fitting, then, that my husband and I will be enjoying this world-renowned ballet in the city that, in a way, helped popularize it to the acclaimed holiday tradition that is has become.


The Twelve Days of Birthday (Parts X-XII)

The self-appointed ‘Twelve Days of Birthday’ in which I celebrated the twelve days leading up to, and including, my husband’s twenty-second birthday.  I must say it has renewed my thankfulness for who he is, all that he does and the joy he has and continues to bring me.

The past two weeks have been full of adventure as I have surprised him with little presents, activities and treats each day.  My husband remarked to me that I was more excited about his birthday than he was and, in a sense, that was true as the planning aspect of each day had me on the edge of my seat.  In addition to celebrating the amazing life of my husband, the flurry of the past two weeks has ‘rekindled’ our love, reminding us of our college days.

Day 10 – We ate a candle-lite dinner by the fireplace of flank steak and asparagus with goat cheese while watching an episode of Psych, my  husband’s choice of show.

Day 11 – My husband and I had dinner with both sets of parents at Claim Jumper, a restaurant tradition we have had every for his birthday since we have been together.

Day 12 – Happy Birthday to my amazing, talented and loving man!  We woke up and began the day with homemade eggnog lattes and warm streusel cinnamon bread.  Additionally, he opened the remaining presents I had bought for him.  Later that evening we went out to Blue Nami to enjoy a dinner of sushi with some of our college friends who had invested in C.Jay during his time at William Jessup University.

Birthday breakfast and presents

Blue Nami sushi dinner.

Not only did I have a thrilling time planning each day’s ‘surprise’ for my husband, but my husband enjoyed receiving the love language of gifts from me.  Who knows, I just may have begun a family tradition for us!

Trauma Bonds (Continued)

(c) Courage Worldwide.  Certified Volunteer Training.  November 2012.

Continued from my post entitled “Trauma Bonds: Why a Victim Stays & “Loves” Her Pimp”.

Stockholm Syndrome and Trauma Bonds

How trauma bonds are displayed –

  • Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller (aka the abuser is “good”)
  • Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release (aka the rescuer is “bad”)
  • Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviors
  • Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
  • Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser
  • Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment

Indicators of trauma bonding –

  • Shows ongoing symptoms of trauma or PTSD
  • Intensely grateful for small kindness
  • Denies violence when violence and threats of violence are actually occurring
  • Rationalize violence or makes it into a joke
  • Denies anger at exploiter to others and to self
  • Believe they have some control over abuse
  • Self-blame for situation and abuse (at least 50% of blame is transferred onto the victim by self)

Trauma bonds strengthen when –

  • Trauma cycles are repeated
  • The victim believes in his or her uniqueness
  • The victim mistakes intensity for intimacy
  • The trauma endures over time
  • There are increasing amounts of fear
  • The fear-induce neurochemical reactions occur earlier in life and affect the organic development of the brain
  • The trauma is preceded by earlier victimization
  • The victim is surrounded by reactivity and extreme responses
  • The betrayal of power relationships is greater
  • The betrayal of trusted relationship is greater

Trauma bonds are disrupted when –

  • Healthy bonds are available
  • A group or community can debrief or re-role the victim (before making their trauma personal)
  • the victim can identify (a) cycles of abuse (b) roles of victim, victimizer and rescuer
  • the victim learns (a) how to psychologically distance from intensity (b) boundary-setting strategies
  • Metaphors (images) exist for the victim to use in the moment
  • The victim can reframe interactions of trauma
  • The victim understands the role of carried shame (aka taking on what’s not theirs)
  • The victim accepts trauma bond’s systematic nature (avoiding blame)

Trauma Bonds: Why a Victim Stays & “Loves” Her Pimp

(c) Courage Worldwide.  Certified Volunteer Training.  November 2012.

Most of society cannot fathom why an individual would stay with their pimp or sell their bodies for sex.  Yet, when a victim of sex trafficking says of his/her pimp, “I love him”, and this is the reasons why [s]he cannot fathom leaving him, [s]he is describing trauma bonds in the best way that [s]he can.  [S]he knows that [s]he has very strong feelings for him and can only attribute those feelings to love.  These victims do not have the knowledge they need to accurately describe the dynamics involved in the bonding process that occurs with abuse and trauma and therefore attribute their intense feelings the best way the can – love.

Basics of Bonding

  • Bonding is a biological and emotional process that makes people more important to each other over time.
  • Bonding is in part why it is harder to leave a relationship.
  • Experiencing extreme situations and extreme feelings together tends to bond people in a special way.
  • Growing up in an unsafe home makes later unsafe situations have more holding power.  This has a biological basis beyond any cognitive learning.

Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonds are able to form only because human beings have a biological need to form attachments with others [Bowlby, 1988].  Any attachment is better than no attachment at all, a fact that is evidenced by the reality of relationships that are otherwise incomprehensible.  In times of stress and danger, people have a greater need to be cared for and attach to others.

Felicity de Zulueta, in her description of “Traumatic Attachment” says: “Such an attachment can be understood as the internalized product of repeated experiences in which these children have felt both terrified and – paradoxically – desperately in need of their caregiver, whose protection is felt as essential for their survival.”

Trauma bonds are not formed accidentally on the side of the perpetrator.  There is extreme intentionality in creating a “need” and “bond” between themselves and their victim.  The bond occurs because the well-being of the victim is dependent upon the abuser.  The abuser gradually persuades the girl [or boy] to spend more alone time with them, isolating her from family and friends.  He creates the persona of a “provider” and wants to be in sole charge of the money so that he can get  her anything she desires.  He controls her time, where her attention goes and ultimately her behavior in the name of “love” and what “makes him happy”.  Her desire to fulfill this role and make him happy is exciting at first but as time goes on the mind and emotional control often leads to physical and sexual abuse.  Any “bucking” of the system leads to punishment and so “making him happy” is not solely for his sake anymore, but for her protection and survival as well.

Pimp-Prostitute Relationship

The pimp-prostitute relationship holds two primary parts.  Initially, a pimp fosters dependence on behalf of the victim through his actions, validating himself as someone significant in the victim’s life.  The pimp or trafficker exploits the victim’s vulnerability by appearing to be a love figure; a victim’s exploitation begins when they believe they can trust someone.  A primary way of engaging individuals, particularly females and juveniles, in prostitution is through this process of feigned friendship and love.both of which are found in a pimp. A pimp manipulates his prostitute[s] into economically providing for him by arguing that prostitution is ”a job like any other job, that she is not selling herself, that she is just selling a service”.

The second step is to understand that pimps make it their business to comprehend the psychology of their victim[s] while practicing and honing [their] tactics of manipulation. The pimpes goal is to exploit and create vulnerabilities and remove the credibility the minor holds in the eyes of their families, the public and law enforcement. The traffickeres ultimate goal is profit. Included in this model is physical and verbal abuse, isolation, and severing ties to the victimes community. The victim enters into the sex industry where [s]he experiences constant violence and severe trauma. Victims undergo a process of being recruited, groomed, abused, controlled, and being turned out by violent pimps. The result of this step is a ”trauma bond” between victim and pimp or trafficker that can be equated to Stockholm Syndrome. “Pimps crush runaways [girls] with a mix of violence and affection, degradation and then require absolute obedience to a rigid code: the prostitute cannot look the pimp in the eye, call him by name or keep any cash.” In this way a pimp dehumanizes his prostitute[s] by turning him or her into a commodity. An element of the strategy for control over prostitutes employed by pimps and other individuals involved in commercial sexual exploitation is to keep the prostitute economically dependent upon the system of prostitution itself. “Any profit is often spent as rapidly as it is obtained, reinforcing the efforts that go into prostitution.” Spokane Regional Health Needle Exchange reports that additional methods of control utilized by pimps include physical abuse, threats to family members, and withholding basic need.

It is important to note that while some individuals do make the conscious decision to enter prostitution because they either know someone who turn tricks or [they] need a fast and easy way to make money, the majority of individuals are seduced into prostitution and various other “careers” within the commercial sex industry by pimps. Doctors Janice G. Raymond and Donna Hugehst, along with Carol J. Gomez, found that 64 percent of American women reported that the individuals who recruited them were connected to the United States sex industry [Raymond, Janice G., Ph.D., Donna Hughest, Ph.D., and Project Coordinator Carol J. Gomez, B.A.]. Minors in prostitution nearly always have a pimp [Smith, Linda A., Samantha Healy Vardaman, and Melissa S. Smith]. The dominance of pimps over victims typically takes form of physical abuse but may also include coercion and psychological manipulation. One study examined how prostitutes viewed the men in their lives: many prostitutes do not believe these men are pimps even though the latter economically benefits from their work in the sex industry. In fact, many individuals who are arrested for promoting prostitution are not viewed as pimps by their prostitutes. This does not mean that pimps do not exist. “The perception among prostitutes of who is and who is not a pimp does not necessarily correspond to the legal definition of promoting prostitution” [Helfgott, Jacqueline B.].

Author’s Note: (c) Anna Rutherford Engel.  Please site if quoting any of my writing.  If you would like to know which studies or individuals I am citing in my work, please contact me and I will send you those sources.  Additionally, contact me if you would like my research as a whole.

A Time to Talk

by Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Snicker Brownies

My husband’s favorite candy bar is Snickers and in honor of his birthday today, I have decided to share a recipe for Snickers Brownies.  A mouth-watering delight of peanut nougat, caramel and chocolate candy bar topping.  Too delicious and tempting to resist!

Brownie Layer

  • 1 box of brownie mix (I prefer a Dark Chocolate mix)
  • Ingredients called for on the box
  • 1/4 cup hot fudge topping, unheated, straight from the jar
  • Nougat Layer

Nougat Layer

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 (7 oz.) jars marshmallow creme (at 1.5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1.5 cups unslated peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel Layer

  • 1 (17 oz.) jar of caramel, preferably Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel

Candy Bar Topping

  • 1.25 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter

Instructions –

Prepare brownie batter according to package directions for a 9×13-inch pan, adding 1/4 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, unheated and straight from the jar to the batter.  Make sure to follow the high altitude directions if you live at high altitude.  Cool completely.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved.  Bring to a boil.  Add in the marshmallow creme, peanut butter and vanilla stirring until smooth.  Turn off heat and fold in peanuts.  Poor evenly over cooled brownies.  Use a spatula to help spread the mixture.  Cool (brownies can be placed in the freezer for about 15 minutes).

Scoop caramel topping into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over low until caramel is soft and easy to stir.  Pour the caramel over the nougat layer.  Make sure to pour it evenly across the nougat covering as much as the surface as you can.  This makes it easier to spread the caramel with a spatula.  Let cool (about 15 minutes).  Scoop caramel topping into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over low until caramel is soft and easy to stir rather than mess with hot.

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  Pour over nougat layer and cool completely.  Enjoy!