Gettin’ Down(ton) at the Abbey

Gettin’ Down(ton) at the Abbey.


Here a Hive, There a Hive…

hive on hand

Can you see that? It’s a hive in the middle of the palm of my hand! I mean, really?

Really. WTF?

Fellow sufferers, you know what I mean, right? Here I am, sitting in my living room watching the dregs of summer tv and perusing the ‘net, when I start to itch. First it’s on my thigh, high on the inside, and it comes out in two huge hives. Does that happen to you? The itch before the hive? That’s how it goes with me. Then, the palm.

I start the investigation: what did I eat today to cause these hives? The question of why they pop up where they do is one I might never be able to answer; I mean, really, two inner thigh hives and one palm? How does that make ANY sense at all?

Anyway, I go through my day: eggs and a cinnamon roll this morning, yeah, cinnamon is high on the salicylate list, but I don’t think three hives would pop out all of a sudden nine hours later, right?

Then, since I don’t eat lunch (b’fast is kinda late for me), I had a lovely lentil/chicken/carrot concoction I made last night for dinner. It’s so healthy and I think those are all safe, tho maybe not…but again, I didn’t break out right after I ate that.

I did, however, break out about half an hour after having a Root Beer Float.

rbYep, it’s the RB. Damn. Even tho EVERYONE says not to “drink your calories,” it’s what I do. I’d rather drink them than eat them. True story.

Anyway Salicylate Sensitives…this is just one of many mistakes I’ve made recently that have had me pretty hived up all summer!

And the worst part is I don’t cheat eating the healthy stuff (tho I do sometimes, have blue- and strawberries, which I suffer for); for the most part, tho, I’m cheating with wine and soda and hot dogs even. I only have myself to blame.

Ah…now the back of my right shoulder is going…I feel the itch, I feel the big bump under the itch. When–and WHERE–will it end? It’s anyone’s guess.

I look it up: lentils and chicken, negligible. But carrots are moderate.

Root Beer: okay, not on the list, although I know most sodas are. I’m looking it up on and you can, too. It’s tough, at first, to keep it all straight but it gets easier.

Eventually, you’ll learn that almost everything healthy is bad for you and lots of other stuff is, too. If you’re an SS, let me know what’s up with you…I wanna hear what you do, what you don’t do, and how you keep it all together.

Because I am also allergic to aspirin, I live in fear of pain. I’ve been getting headaches and take Tylenol Sinus and Congestion, or something like that, and it works. But Tylenol itself doesn’t work for pain. Have you found something that does?

Let’s work together here…and I’m hoping to hear from Patricia in Ireland. Tell me what you’ve done so far, Patricia, and how you’re faring!! Cheers!

New Jersey Renaissance Faire

New Jersey Renaissance Faire.

To Medical Alert…Or Not

Hello fellow allergy sufferers!

I have been remiss with this blog as I have been concentrating on my other blog, A Broad Abroad (, but I have been thinking lately about my journey with salicylate sensitivity and wondering how everyone else is doing.

I now wear a “medical alert” bracelet that doesn’t look too medical but has the words “aspirin allergy” etched into it. I got it when I was headed over to Ireland, in case I had a heart attack or something and someone tried to put an aspirin under my tongue and kill me inadvertently.

This image is like my bracelet: I like it because it doesn’t LOOK like a medical alert bracelet and so doesn’t make me feel a hundred years old! I got it online at, a site where artisans sell their wares, and have been very happy with it. If you’re thinking of getting one, don’t go to a pharmacist; look here and pick one that fits your style.


I do worry though, about stopping an EMT, say, from saving me from a heart attack; maybe I wouldn’t react too badly to the aspirin. Maybe it would save my life. Maybe the heart attack could be curtailed. Maybe I’ll die someday because of this friggin’ bracelet…

Or not. Maybe I’d have survived the heart attack without the killer aspirin, but would have died from anaphylactic shock. Who knows? Luckily, it didn’t happen…but it could, someday, and I just can’t figure if this bracelet will save me or kill me.

A friend of mine in the healthcare industry says that EMTs are trained to look for these bracelets, but may not recognize mine as one because it’s not standard. Also, it’s almost always flipped the wrong way, the important part laying flat against the inside of my wrist, so they really might not even see it.

Whatever. I’ll just let fate decide: if they see it and save me anyway, yay! If they see it, don’t give me the life-saving aspirin and I die, oh well; if they don’t see it, give me the aspirin and I survive, well that’s the way it was supposed to be. And if they don’t see it, give me the aspirin and my face blows up like a blowfish (it’s happened before), then maybe they’ll recognize what’s happening, shoot me up with Benadryl, and I’ll live. It’s a three out of four chance of survival. I’ll take it.


So, having survived so far–being diagnosed nearly a year ago–I can say I feel much better than I did. I was definitely on overload back then, eating almost nothing but organic fruits and veggies, drinking lots of wine, having tea, using spices, drinking caffeine…and my body was a mess! Healthy eating makes me sick–another sufferer has even written a book by that title! Salicylate Sensitivity is a weird, strange, frustrating ailment, but I’m here to tell you that it can be managed. Once I started eating differently and avoiding all the “wrong” foods, I started to feel better, the hives went away, the joint pain went away, the facial swelling stopped. I believe now that my liver was “toxic” as my Ayervedic doctor said, because it was overwhelmed with allergens. I envision it saying “Look, I am trying to tell you something, now I’m just gonna break you out in huge hives because you’re not listening!”

I’m listening now. Someone described the problem like this: it’s a bucket. Once you start filling it up–by eating salicylate-laden foods–it’ll react. But the reaction “limit” is different for everyone, so you just have to work it out for yourself. I can eat a few things on my no-no list before I react: others are not so lucky. Some people have huge reactions to anything that has even the tiniest bit of salicylate and suffer from migraines, stomach problems, etc. I think I’m one of the lucky ones in that I break out in hives or just itch before I have bigger problems; it’s like a warning: okay, you’ve had a handful of strawberries and a glass of wine, so stop now before I really cause you trouble!!

Sometimes I react and am not sure what to: the blueberry muffin yesterday, the beer from the other night, or some hidden spices in a restaurant soup? Detective work is a big part of figuring out what we can and cannot eat, but I have discovered that the bucket idea is right on the money, and so I pick and choose what “bad” foods I will eat by the day.


Going to a party? I’ll skip a morning OJ, skip the turkey sandwich (all luncheon meats have salicylates), drink only decaf; then, I can have a few beers and not have to worry. If, however, I haven’t been too good during the day, one beer may put me right over the edge. It’s all a game…but there is no winning.

If we SSers want to stay feeling well and able, then we must avoid so many of the foods that others enjoy willy-nilly. When we have our Hell With It moments, we suffer. It’s as simple as that. So, we learn to drink vodka, but we miss our Pinot Grigio. We forego the luscious fruit salads and stick with the potato chips, which only sounds awesome: I can eat all the crap I want, but that’s not really good. This “healthy diet” for us isn’t healthy at all.


What to do…what to do. Fuck it. As the oft-misquoted Marie Antoinette said:

Let Them Eat Cake….but have them read the ingredients list first because they may or may not be allergic to something in the mix.




The One and Only Me

A fellow writer–I’ll call him GLENN WALKER–reportedly described me as “unique” today while we were attending a group meeting at a local coffee house.

On the way home, I pondered his meaning. After all, I’m just a normal woman: a mother; a daughter; a sister; an aunt; and, like many of my friends, a somewhat financially-challenged ex-wife. So far, completely ordinary, right? So what did he mean? I looked to a dictionary for help:

1: being the only one : sole <his unique concern was his own comfort> <I can’t walk away with a unique copy. Suppose I lost it? — Kingsley Amis> <the unique factorization of a number into prime factors>
Believe me, I am NOT the only one of me; there are more than 500 Patti O’Briens on Facebook alone! God only knows how many of us there are in Ireland!
2: being without a like or equal : unequaled <could stare at the flames, each one new, violent, unique — Robert Coover>

Hmmm. IS there anyone else as tired as I am? As self-doubting? As confused about life and all that it means? As obsessed with correct grammar and punctuation? Yes, I believe there are many of us out there; perhaps Glenn just doesn’t know the others. That could be the problem.

3: distinctively characteristic : peculiar 1 <this is not a condition unique to California — Ronald Reagan>

If he means I’m peculiar, then he’s in trouble! If anything, I am very, very cool and he knows that. I mean, seriously. I’ve been honing my coolness since eighth grade. My son’s TCNJ housemates voted me the coolest of all the moms, no lie. If Glenn Walker thinks I’m a weirdo, well, then, he’s a weirdo. Bazinga.
4: unusual <a very unique ball-point pen> <we were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn’t one good mixer in the bunch — J. D. Salinger>
Now, if he’s lumping me in with Salinger, I’m okay with that. He’s the best writer that’s ever been, in my massively un-unique opinion. But here, even his use of the word seems weird: how can sixty people be unique? I think a better word would have been sad: seriously, sixty people in one room who can’t do chit chat?
That must’ve been one boring party.
So, I am left with questions, as I did not think myself to be truly unique in any way. I have to confess to being described by similar adjectives before: quirky pops up pretty often, as does different (in a cool way) and awesome, which is way cool. Now that I think of it, I’d rather be these things than dull, uninteresting, tedious, bland. Being unique, I can get away with all kinds of stuff as people are likely to say “Oh, that’s just Patti.” I am a writer, so certainly being unique gives me quite an advantage; who wants to read the same been-there-done-that story? A unique take on life–which clearly must come from a left-of-center person–makes for interesting prose, methinks.
I do not know how he meant it, and he may never actually tell me, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. I am my own person, that’s for sure. I believe what I think and say what I believe. I am completely authentic in thought, word and deed, which makes many “ordinary” people uncomfortable; as Jack Nicholson might say, they just can’t handle the truth! Some days, I think I am as awesome as my son says I am; others, I admit to being a highly flawed human who sometimes finds the daily navigation through life to be difficult and would just as soon stay home and watch reruns of “Friends.”
We are all unique, say the books, the teachers, the counselors. Every one of us has unique gifts, challenges, thoughts. Put seven people in one room and try to get a consensus on something, anything. Six people, maybe. But seven or more? Fugetaboudit. No two people think alike, which makes the idea of a world filled with peace and understanding seem impossible. We, as a nation (see: the recent election), as a world, do not agree on much. We are, each of us, uniquely qualified only to know ourselves better than anyone else, which makes understanding your mate, say, so frustrating. I cannot read your mind, my Ex was fond of saying. Pa-lease. Read my face then, sweetie, because Mama ain’t happy.
But I digress, which is also not a unique trait for writers–or women.
Being unique is, in the end, fairly common. Like the snowflakes that Bing Crosby dreamed of, we are all different, unique in our own wonderful, wacky and yes, weird ways. And anything that is connected to the great and wonderful Bing is fine with me.
Call me unique then, Glenn Walker, and I will say that you, Sir, are unique as well. And when you really think about it, don’t we all strive to stand out, just a little bit, from the crowd?

Two Divas, A Dawg and A Dude

The premiere of the new season of “American Idol” (in mid-January 2013) may well be the most watched episode they’ve seen in years, and sadly, it won’t be due to the quality of the singers. The vocalizing on the first episodes is usually pretty dismal.

Nope, this year the singers will be secondary to what most viewers will be tuning in to see: the judges.

The feuds between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are already infamous. I don’t actually know what they’ve been fighting about but it doesn’t matter; two pop divas are at odds, presumably over which is the top diva, Minaj already playing the age card and Mariah, well, playing the Mariah card. Who’s to say which will actually be able to accurately judge new talent? Sure, Mariah’s the top selling female pop artist of all time, but can she offer valuable advice to the hopefuls who’ll sing for her? Other than “show a lot of boob, all the time, every single time you appear anywhere” of course.

Minaj is a performance artist with a loyal following, but can she mentor a contestant who needs serious vocal guidance? Only time will tell, and that’s what we viewers–who may have wanted to swear off the show when the new judges were announced–will tune in for: what will they do, what will they say, what will they wear?

The other new judge, Keith Urban, is possibly known more for being Nicole’s husband than for his music. Oh, and he’s cute, so that’ll draw in some female viewers. Of course, country music fans – those same fans who voted for Scotty McCreery – may also tune in to a show that’s historically been thin in this area.

And how about Randy? He of the ‘dawg’ and ‘dude’ and ‘I’m just not feelin’ it?’ Randy spends most of his time name dropping; his favorite thing is to name the original artist and maybe an obscure session musician who played on the first release of the tune the vocalist has just ‘made his own.’ Other than drool over all warblers who share his heritage, I think Randy’s shown us all the tricks in his bag, but it’ll be nice to at least have one judge who knows how this thing works.

With all the changes the show’s gone through, it leaves me to ask myself which judge I think has been the best and which the worst. Let’s start with the worst, because that’s easy – Ellen. Please. The woman is so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, she did nothing but praise or apologize: I’m sorry, it just wasn’t very good. But you’re so nice and pretty and wonderful and you’re a really good singer but for me, well, I’m sorry but I just didn’t love it. It was good, but I’m sorry.

We get it, Ellen, you’re nice. But nice doesn’t butter the whole wheat toast on a rainy day in June, as my favorite judge might say. Yes, Steven Tyler, you were all that and a bag of crazy, but I loved you. You’d just as soon run up on stage and show ’em how it’s done than sit there and listen, but you did offer opinions that were honest and usually on target, even if no one quite understood everything you said. You brought a certain panache to the show that the producers now need two crazies to bring.

And Simon? Well, you were harsh, obnoxious, full of yourself, and wear nothing but undershirts. I mean, really, even plumbers wear shirts, Simon. Buy a button-up for the sake of all mankind, and learn to wear it with the buttons actually buttoned. You were mean and ornery, but you did make some good points.

Paula was sheer entertainment but on the few occasions when she was called on first, she could not put together a sentient sentence without first hearing what Randy or Simon had to say, then repeating it. But she, like J-Lo, looked pretty and was nice to the contestants; not as nice as Ellen, mind you, because Ellen’s kind of nice was gross. Sorry Ellen, I really am, but you sucked as a judge and you know it. Again, really sorry ‘bout that.

Someday, I’d like to see Ryan Seacrest in a judge’s chair. He’s heard everyone, knows the contestants better than the judges do, and must have a million opinions that nobody’s ever asked him to state. Well, I’m asking, Ryan: what the hell have you been thinking all these years? Maybe you should write a book; I’ll even ghostwrite it for you. We’ll call it “Dim the Lights,” and in it, you can tell us all the backstage gossip we crave.

So, when Idol debuts next year, I, for one, will be among the many who tune in to see how the new judges do. I don’t think I’ll like them too much, but I doubt they’ll be the worst. That spot’s already taken. If you want to listen to some good ‘judges’ though, tune into “The Voice,” featuring Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. The format is different so they don’t judge, they fight over the singers they want for their teams, so it’s much more civil. And almost every one of the vocalists on that show is good, which makes the show already so much more watchable than “Idol.”

Also, I am now in love with Adam Levine, or as I call him, Mr. Devine. But that’s another story.


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