Jewelry cures symptoms of Menopause!

I had every intention of going through menopause naturally. I envisioned myself cheerfully attending yoga classes while carrying a beautiful Japanese fan to breeze away my hot flashes. I would meditate and express gratitude to my Eastern Medicine Practitioner and Herbalist as she guided me through the “change of my sacred body”. This was the plan until I actually hit menopause. After a few weeks of sweating and plotting the disappearance of my family I threw the effing fan in the trash along with my bottle of Blue Cohosh and called a Western Doctor with a prescription pad. Even though I am not officially in menopause yet I am getting pretty close and I am proud to say that except for an estrogen patch, progesterone cream, Zoloft and Wellbutrin I have dealt with menopause completely naturally as planned! Fine, I caved, but it was a choice between taking hormones and anti depressants or behaving in a way that would become the lead story on The Nancy Grace Show and then having someone option my sordid tale and make it into a Lifetime movie. So there you have it. I am completely medicated but on the other hand I have not murdered anyone.

I do occasionally have insomnia. I am told this is quite normal for a woman “of a certain age” yet it makes things difficult when you are “of a certain age” and you still have to get your stupid kids to school on time.   I have tried everything from lavender to hot baths and nothing really helps. Believe it or not I do draw the line at sleeping pills like Lunesta or Ambien. First of all I am highly sensitive to those kinds of drugs and probably wouldn’t wake up for days. Mostly, I won’t take them for fear of getting up and eating in the middle of the night. People do that! I’d much rather be tired than fat. I have spoken to my entire staff of medical providers and drug dealers about this and it was suggested by a doctor that when I was having trouble sleeping I should watch the Weather Channel on TV. I do not recommend this at all. Due to Climate Change (and yes it exists) the once calming Weather Channel is now a horrifically stressful recounting of storms, floods, droughts, fires and death. I, for one, do not find this conducive to a good nights rest. One night a couple of weeks ago I was searching for something a little less frightening to watch than the weather and stumbled across the Gem Network. Filling the screen was a turntable full of fabulous jewelry in all it’s well lit for television glittering glory. Upon seeing this my pupils began to dilate, my breathing became shallow, and I dropped the remote. It is the best thing I have ever seen on television-ever. You can call in and ask to see a piece from the turntable of wonder and a model will put it on and show it to you close up as the host gives you “A price so low they are probably going to fire me!” Then they either sell it quickly or move on to another piece so it moves very fast and you get to see a lot of items unlike QVC that shows the same stuff forever. I can’t tell you how much I love this network and some nights even when I am sleepy I force myself out of bed so I can watch. It is my dirty little secret and kind of like fine jewelry pornography. I find myself thinking things like, “Oh my God show me that one! That’s right baby slip that ring on your finger so I can see the size. Now move it for me so I can really see it, slower… slower. There you go! Jesus! I can take it anymore! Those are so big! Are those real? Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I am not proud of this but it makes me happy, eventually bored and sleepy (like real porn) and luckily I don’t buy anything. I’m more of a voyeur or what the host would call a jewelry tease. I understand if you judge me so before you do I challenge you to turn on The Gem Network and try to look away. Especially after they get to the rock hard bottom prices.  Pretty soon you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll be feeling all tingly and you’ll be screaming my name. Don’t be afraid, that’s right, I know you want it.

Ghosts of a Chance

I had this big plan that while I was making my triumphant return to the stage in Ghosts of Versailles at the LA Opera I would blog once a week to give you the low down of how it was going. Turns out it is difficult to be an international opera star and a Mom so that didn’t happen. So here is the wrap up – it was amazing. I was scared to death before the first rehearsal but once I had my dance bag over my shoulder and I walked through the Artist Entrance at The Dorothy Chandler it was like I was home. By the time I got to the rehearsal room my feet turned out, my back straightened and I was a a full four inches taller. It was so fun to hang around dancers and singers again. It’s like returning to a foreign country you used to live in – even if you haven’t visited in awhile you remember the language.

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette and Me

Patricia Racette, who is a big time opera star, was Marie Antoinette. I was her decapitated body in all white including white mesh covering my skin to give me the ghostly pallor that I actually almost have in real life and the piece de resistance- a black bag on my head. For the most part my job was to stand ramrod straight wearing a corset and about 500 pounds of dress until it was time to throw myself to the ground and then stand back up without using my hands. Patricia (Ms. Racette to you) was wonderful to work with. She embraced the entire concept and even had great ideas for me to do with her. My job would have gone very badly if she was a big old Diva who didn’t want me to do anything but she was lovely and made me feel like I was an important extension of her. It also worked because I’m not stupid and I know when to hold the fuck still and stay the hell out of her way.

Let me remind you I have not set foot on a stage in fourteen years. I was working with a couple of my old friends but the rest of the dancers are major younger ballerinas who are still working. So, of course, it was only logical that I was the soloist. What? Please! Everyone on that stage could dance rings around me. (Ironically I danced in a ring- see photo above). But, because Patricia Racette and I are almost exactly the same size I was Marie Antoinette. Take that you skinny little dancers! Besides, my arms still look graceful because it seems in ballet the arms are the last to go and the big hoop skirt covered a multitude of sins. It was the largest role I have ever done at the LA Opera in their biggest most expensive opera to date. It should not have happened but it did. Not only that, I worked with Darko Tresnjak the current Tony Award winner for Director of a Musical and my own Peggy Hickey who choreographed said Tony Award winning musical. Again, what? I know- crazy. And for a kicker Patty Lupone was also in it and I sat three feet away from her on stage during her number. Eva Peron right in front of me! It was a Master Class in acting every night. The entire experience from rehearsals to performances was a gift and I cherished every moment.

Speaking of moments, during one of the dress rehearsals Peggy came running up to me, grabbed me and dragged me off

stage. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to be so publicly fired. Turns out Laura, one of the dancers, had passed out because of the black bag on her head and they needed an EMT.

Company Manager- We need to call an EMT!

Peggy- DeAnne’s an EMT but she is on stage!

Company Manager- Go get her!

When I got to Laura I ripped off my mesh death gloves so I could take her pulse. I was a bit nervous because in EMT school I could never find anyones pulse and I pronounced them all dead. But Bam! Right to it ! It helped that her pulse was racing but I found it! Then I got to do all my EMT observation and stuff and watch her color come back and her pulse return to normal. It was all very exciting. Now I don’t like to use the word hero but you can go ahead. I basically saved Laura’s life. No need for thanks- it’s what I do.

Actually, doing this opera kind of saved my life, or at least the part of me that was dying from neglect. I was reminded of who I used to be and I am reassured that I am who I want to be now. I need to remember that just because I am no longer doing it for a living doesn’t mean I am not a dancer anymore. I thought I had to put that part away like it never happened but I don’t. I will always be a dancer- even if it’s just in my living room or in my soul – it’s what I do.

Perfectly Scary

Every year I try to do something that scares me or challenges me.  One year it was the Avon Walk, two years ago I went back to school and became an EMT. I didn’t really do anything last year so with just days to spare I decided I would zip line through the Mayan Jungle while on vacation with my family.  Not sure which was scarier the zip line or spending the day with my family but either way it counts.  This year I am getting it out of the way immediately.  In just over a week I, DeAnne Spicer Todd, will heed the call of my many fans and return to the stage at the Los Angeles Opera.  I will be Marie Antoinette’s body to Patricia Racette’s Marie Antoinette head and voice in The Ghosts of Versailles. My friend Peggy is the choreographer and she presented the idea to me and two other old dancer best friends last year. She told us she had a gig to put together all the old gang for one last time at the opera and it was perfect for us because we had to wear bags over our heads.  I wasn’t even offended. Now before you say to yourself, “Well that makes sense now that you tell me you have a bag over your head but what about the fact that you haven’t danced in years and you no longer have a dancer’s body?”  The answer to that is I am wearing a big dress, it is more movement and “emoting” and I got the job because I was a perfect match for the singer.

Even when you are at the top of your game and in incredibly great shape, costume fittings are horrible – at least they were for me.  When I went in to the LA Opera costume shop for measurements last June I was fairly certain it would be the most humiliating moment of my life.  However,  I completely forgot at the opera you are treated like you matter, like you are an important artist.  To let the costume shop know I was there they announced over a loud speaker, “Miss Spicer is here for her fitting.”  I yelled, “Find the biggest measuring tape you have and meet me in Room One!”  During the fitting, I was told over and over I was perfect.  I was told so many times I was perfect I almost believed it.  It was kind of nice considering I never even feel close to perfect in my current job as wife and mother.  I was feeling so good about it didn’t even bother me when they were asking me questions to update my old information.

Opera- Is your bra size still 34B?

Me- No, it’s 36D.

Opera-Well, that is different.  Do you still weigh 115 pounds?

Me- I didn’t weigh 115 pound when I told you that 14 years ago

I have had two costume fittings since then and I have to say having the current Tony Award winning costume designer along with nine of her minions stare at you approvingly in a room with a spotlight on you is pretty damn cool.  Even with a bag over your head.

Now for the scary part.  Rehearsals start next week and I haven’t done this in a long time.  What if my hormonal memory problems make it so I can’t remember my choreography?  What if the other dancers make fun of me because I am so fat?  What if when I walk in the room the staff says, “Oh my God what happened to her? Quick put the bag over her head!”  What if the director fires me because he thinks I suck?  What if Patricia Racette hates me because she also thinks I suck and make her look bad? What if I am not perfect?

The saying is you can’t go back again or you can’t go back home again or something like that. Whatever the saying is I am facing my fears and doing it anyway.  How often are you offered a chance to step back into a world you loved not because of how you were then but because you are perfect right now?  I don’t really think I will suck and it will be fun to be with my friends creating art once more.  I will get to be  a dancer again for just a little while and then I will go back to my real life. Perfect.

DeAnne Todd
Read past posts at http://www.deannespicertodd.com

Michael Brown

I came across an article on Facebook about “all the police officers killed in the line of duty that no one makes a big deal about”.  I am assuming this is in response to the protests in Ferguson over the shooting death of Michael Brown and the “big deal” people are making about an officer killing of an unarmed man.   I also assume, perhaps erroniously, the poster of the article does not have a full grasp of the situation and is in fact insensative to the sometimes fatal racism people of color face in our country every day or they wouldn’t feel the need to bring that up right now.

First of all, yes people do talk about police killed in the line of duty, as they should.  It is tragic and horrifying when it happens and generally does make headline news.  My father was a police officer and he told me if you got the call, “officer down”  you dropped everything and went to the scene.  Everytime my father put on his uniform and stepped out our front door he put himself in harms way but he did so by choice.  There is assumed risk to being a police officer.  He knew it and he did it anyway.  That is one of the reasons police officers are heroic and that is also the reason any comparrison to Michael Brown’s shooting is irrelevant. My Mother worried every day my father might not come home but she never worried her children wouldn’t come home because of the color of their skin, their size, or the fact they were wearing a hoodie and someone thought they looked shifty while eating Skittles. It’s different.  For every Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin there are thousands of young black men and women killed either by gang violence or the police no one is making a “big deal” about. And sorry to break it to you dear poster and Fox news pundits it is about race.  I don’t have any answers as to how to solve the problems with racism our country faces but I do know we can’t even begin to fix it if we don’t admit it exists.

I hurt for Michael Brown’s mother and at the same time I think, “Thank God my son is white.” I don’t want to be in her shoes and the fact that I am white means I probably won’t be.  How is this not about race?

I am sorry this post isn’t full of my usual clever and hilarious turn of phrase but there is nothing funny about this. Perhaps my next post will deal with important issues like my weight and how those darn rats are eating my tomatoes but today I am saying a prayer for peace and tolerance and that is no joke.




Last But Never Least

Did I mention I went to Portland?  Well if I didn’t then I will tell you now I was in Portland last week.  It was great.  I just love that city.  Books, coffee, movies, yoga, coffee, books, and coffee.  The people are great and there is no sales tax so the more you spend the more you save!  Don says there is something not quite right with that logic, but I see it as losing money if you don’t shop in Portland.
While I was there I went to see the Oregon Ballet Theater do Midsummer Nights Dream and a piece by some Spanish choreographer named Nacho (the choreographer not the piece).  It was fantastic and apparently this man is a very famous choreographer at present but I am so far out of the loop I have never heard of him.  As I sat in the audience reading the program I started to do some math (never a good idea) and realized it has been thirteen years since I was last on a stage.  My view in a theater is now from the front looking at the action instead of being on the stage looking past the lights out into the dark.  It’s is a beautiful vantage point I was so lucky to experience.  Sometimes from the stage you can see the faces of the people in the front rows but mostly it’s a sea of anonymous bodies outlined by a little light.   When there are empty seats, and you can always see those gaping holes, it messes with the symmetry and if an entire section is empty it looks so deserted and lonely.  The last job I had was Faust at the LA Opera.  It was hard dancing and I was almost thirty-nine years old.  It was the last time I was in the kind of shape it takes to be a dancer and it was the last time I had the view from the stage.  I knew it was probably my last trip to the rodeo and I tried to enjoy every moment.  I did not beat myself up after a performance if it wasn’t perfect because by then I had realized there was no perfect.  I did my best and that was good enough.  It’s nice to know when something is ending. If even nicer when you are ready for it to end.
First job 1978. Disneyland Christmas Parade
No fancy Instagram filter because it was really 1978.
Last job 2000.  Faust with Karen Christenberry Stimming.
I was really fortunate to have known it was the “last time” for my dance career.  There are so many “last times” and I don’t know when they happened.  When was the last time I carried Sofie?  When did Addie call me Mommy for the last time before switching to calling me Mom?  When was the last time I spoke to my father?  When was the last day I was the most important woman in Andrew’s life until it became Lauren?  Thank Goddess we don’t know when it is the last time for things or it would make life unbearable.   It is so intensely bittersweet.  We continue to grow, change and live our lives differently not even aware of the things we don’t do or have anymore because all the lasts are being replaced by new firsts.  That’s why we are not paralyzed by sorrow.  The firsts slip in sometimes as quietly as the lasts slip away and keep us in balance.  The lasts make us who we are and the firsts make us who we will become

That was a lot of thinking so I was really happy when the ballet started because my brain was starting to hurt. The dancers were beautiful, young, and strong and we were in our right places.  They were on the stage and I was watching .  It was a truly beautiful thing.
Doing make up for the last time.  (Yes, I documented it.)

Stumped No More

The unexamined life is not worth living.  Socrates said that but I don’t think he was planning on quite so many self help books.  If it is true an unexamined life is not worth living than my life must be worth a fortune.  Too much examination and unfortunately, for you, I have made you examine right along with me.  What else am I supposed to do?  I can’t drink or take drugs anymore so my outlet seems to be writing all this self discovery down.  Turns out it was a good idea to write it down because after fifty I sometimes forget what it is I discovered. It’s nice to have a record. Now, just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean you shouldn’t so go ahead and fix yourself a nice cocktail before you read the rest.  I’ll wait.

Welcome back!  I wanted to elaborate on yesterdays post about living out of the country.  Besides the obvious, no responsibility,  there was more to it.  Of course it is easier to live by yourself but I am making living with other people harder than it has to be.  I feel so put upon like I should be doing more all the time.  The truth is no one is asking me to do more for them.  It is all coming from me.  Discovery!

We are going to quit talking about me (only for a second).  The other night Sofie babysat Addie while Don and I went to dinner with some friends.  Around the time we were finishing up my phone rang:

Sofie:  Mom you have got to come home right now.  Addie is insane.

Me:  What happened.

Sofie:  Everything was fine and then I told her it was time for bed and she went nuts. I tried to catch her and then I had to sit on her to keep her from running away again.  She bit me and was screaming so loud I think the neighbors are going to call the cops.

Me:  Where is she now?

Sofie: She locked herself in your bedroom.

Me:  Go out to the sliding glass door.  It is probably unlocked and you can get in that way.  We are on our way home.

Sofie went to the sliding glass door but Addie had already locked that as well.  Sofie was none too pleased.

Sofie, age 16: (picking up a rock, hysterical)  Addie open this door or I will break the glass!

Addie, age 8:  (calm and collected) If you do you are going to have pay for that with your own money.  It will probably cost $1,000.

At this point Sofie decided to throw herself on the grass as if she had passed out.

Addie (calmly calling my cellphone) Mom? Hi it’s me.  Sofie is outside your door pretending she is dead.

Me: How do you know she isn’t really dead?

Addie:  She keeps gasping and rolling around.

Sofie:  AHHHHH!!

Don got on the phone and like a hostage negotiator talked Addie down and into opening up the door to let Sofie in our bedroom.  He also let Addie know that he had told Sofie where to find the little tool thingy to unlock the door.

Addie: Where is it?

Don:  There are two of them and I am not telling you.

He didn’t have to tell her.  By the time we got home she had looked for and found both of the tool thingys.  She won’t tell us where they are.

I’m going to wrap this up now by getting back to the important subject- examining me.  Here is what I have discovered here in Portland: It is easier to maintain a sense of self when you are not surrounded by crazy demanding people. Duh.  However, they are my crazy demanding people and I want to be where they are so I’m going to have to figure out how.  Maybe less examining and more enjoying.  Sounds like a plan.

Addie, beautiful yet deadly like a Bond girl.
Sofie and Elouise

Return to The Valley of The Dolls

Here is what happened.  I tried to go off anti-depressants and it didn’t work.  I did a long slow taper and in retrospect saw a long slow decline into insanity.  Well, not really insanity, but close.  Now, I am back on “the stuff” and I am just starting to feel really good again.  Here is my new thought: I love drugs. 
Somehow through all the depressed haze I managed to become a certified EMT.  It felt like I was slogging through muck but I did it.  I even did pretty well.  I won’t tell you my final grade in the super difficult UCLA course with people less than half my age because I am not the type to laud my accomplishments and I don’t need the praise.  Let’s just say I received somewhere between 95-97% and leave it at that.
Yours Truly on my Ambulance Ride Along
Now what?  I do not know.  Addie starts school tomorrow and Sofie has been back for three weeks already.  Sofie has a car so I don’t drive her to school anymore.  All the other Mother’s of sixteen-year-olds are sad they can’t take them to school any longer and I’m like, “Woo Hoo!!”  Only eight more years until Addie can drive and I can’t wait.  When we were at the DMV getting Sofie’s permit she told me the new driving age was eighteen.  I fell to the floor in a heap screaming, “Why, why?  I have a plan, an out!  Now I have to drive Addie another two years! Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Ten minutes later she told me that was a mistake and Addie can still drive at sixteen.  Oh.  Never mind.
I’m not sure what I will do with my days now. I might work as an EMT, start a class for women, write a play, or watch The Today Show (Matt Lauer!).  I am blissfully aware I have the luxury of choice and I am happy I feel well enough to enjoy it.  Did I just write that I was happy?  Yikes!  Let’s not get carried away.

Four Kittens and An EMT

Four Kittens and an EMT

If I ever write a porno film that is what I am going to title it.  My wild foster MaMa cat had FOUR kittens. I thought there were only three but there are three normal size ones and a little tiny one.  The other day I was running around the house all excited about my cats and because everyone on Facebook was talking about gay marriage:

Don- You have eight cats, a blog, and you are studying to be an EMT.  You are one missed hair appointment away from being a lesbian.

Me- You have no idea.

Like I would ever miss a hair appointment.  I may be close to becoming a lesbian but I am not close to having roots- please.

I have been going off antidepressants.  I have been taking them in one form or another for over eleven years and slowly tapering off since January.  I am going to try life unmedicated because I feel pretty good these days and I seem to have developed some alternative skills.  One of the unknown to me perks of Bikram yoga is it is a fantastic mood stabilizer and elevator.  My mood might be elevated because I am always so happy to have survived the class, but whatever- I’ll take it.  I wasn’t aware how difficult it is to get off these drugs.  Doctors tell you that you can’t get addicted just dependent. What they don’t tell you is dependent just means you don’t crave it but you still just can’t stop taking it.  I have heard horror stories but so far I have only had mild versions of the withdrawal symptoms. I think it is because I am tapering so slowly and I am really determined.  Also, I refuse to stay on a drug just because it is uncomfortable to get off it.  I certainly have no problem with antidepressants and they really helped me but I wish I had known upfront this was no easy task.  It was easier to quit drinking and using xanax.  Just saying.  So, I’ll keep you posted.

I start EMT training at UCLA next week.  I don’t really want to be an EMT (although I would look just darling in the uniform with a walkie talkie!) but I really want the skills.  I have been thinking
about it for years and I was actually becoming wistful when I heard a siren.  I am really excited.  I’m pretty sure the class will be packed with fifty-two year old women.  If anyone calls me Mom they are going to get punched.  I just hope I don’t pass out or throw up. Oh!  Maybe Bobby Sherman will be my teacher!  Did you know he became on EMT?  Can you imagine being in an accident and waking up to see Bobby Sherman hovering over you?  I would think I had died and gone to 60’s pop star heaven.  Of course, I would be the only one in the class old enough to know who he is.   Oh well. it’s all groovy.  I think it’s far out that Don’s Old Lady is going to blow her mind learning how to heal. Out of sight man!!!  Peace and Love!

Juno the MaMa Cat

It’s a beautiful spring day.  Flowers are blooming in our yard and new life abounds. We have been fostering a semi-feral pregnant cat in our playhouse for the last week. I named her Juno because she is a pregnant teen-ager.  I just went out to check on her and clean the litter box and guess what?  Three kittens!  No kittens at breakfast, three kitchens at lunch!  She even gave birth in the fancy cardboard birthing box with beach towels I made for her.  I never see her when I go in to feed her because she hides but she stays right with them now.  How brave of her.  She is scared to death but stays with her babies.  She has them all cleaned up and everything. I wish people had the same parenting instincts as cats.  It is life affirming to witness this and I am so excited and relieved it all went well. Anyone want a kitten?
Juno the Cat with her new babies.