The road ends, but the journey continues...

Catching Up part one

Interspersed amongst my wrist issues, I managed to type out & post a few blog articles and maintain a certain level of creative lifestyle activity over the past 2+ months.

Wrist issues? you may ask, curious as to what that has to do with anything.

As an (he)artist, one needs to be vigilant in maintaining and caring for one’s tools of the trade. A good example of this would be my changing out Gracie’s & the Prisloe’s strings a while back. In the human realm, as a working musician, this care includes parts of my body. Specifically, my arms, wrists, hands and fingers.

Without getting too bogged down with procedural details, I’ll say that my search for a hand therapist quickly came up short since the ones I called, and I called quite a few, offer their services only to patients on referral from hand surgeons (at least here where I live). So, I made an appointment with the one out of only two local hand surgeons most of those hand therapists worked with, hoping for a diagnosis and then referral to a hand therapist for stretches, exercises and tips on how to baby and strengthen my hands/wrists.

Turns out, it’s a catch 22.

The surgeon, I learned after said appointment, only refers his patients to a therapist after he performs surgery on their hands. There is no middle ground (at least where I live). No intermediary non-invasive steps from the ‘problem’ to what may or may not be a needed surgery as an ‘only solution’. (FYI: I am not giving up on finding some medical professional to guide me in ways other than immediate surgery to aid in my long term hand/wrist issues).

During those 6 weeks waiting for the appointment, I did what I could to cope with the pain, hoping what I did intuitively (and also with a little help from Dr. Google) would do no harm. This included, but was not limited to, gentle stretches, use of craft gloves (yay for being a quilter!), soft arm socks as a form of gentle support and greatly reducing time at the keyboard.

In addition, I cancelled all upcoming rehearsals until after the doctor’s appointment. Say what? Rehearsals? Yep. I’d just begun a regular weekly rehearsal routine with a new musician friend (Banjo Guy).

The Canola Field by Guy Bergeron, composer & guitarist (banjo player & slide guitarist unknown)

Here is a piece I found by Guy Bergeron that beguiled us both – bringing this classically trained guitarist (me) and that bluegrass banjo player (him) together on common ground. It has become our mutually approved ‘set piece’ where we are meeting each other half-way stylistically and eager to explore a myriad of other collaborative musical possibilities. In three short sessions, we got the piece 75% down, with other music in the queue at various levels of development. Just sayin’… 😎

Banjo Guy and I met three times until the day of the fourth scheduled rehearsal. At that point, I reluctantly canceled due to fears of doing damage to my still painful wrists if I’d plowed ahead regardless of my body’s rebellious attitude. ?

When we talked that day, he suggested two things to enrich my time off the practice stool:

  1. Go to Art Fields
  2. Haul out the Hammered Dulcimer, set it up and play

I did the first, that very day!

Please click here for an outstanding interview with Jamale W. Wright, an amazing regular-guy artist of exceptional talent – who uses fiber as a main element in his pieces.

And the second I did a few days later.

On the plus side, during those 6 weeks waiting for the appointment, I didn’t do a lick of heavy cleaning around the house. You know, scrubbing bathrooms, kitchen sinks and such. Not that I’m complaining on that front! (FYI: Hubby does his share of the housework, and lovingly took on my share in the interim).

So what exactly did I do to maintain & enable a “certain level of creative lifestyle activity” (besides the two items mentioned above)?

Stayed tuned for part two, where I’ll elaborate on my Hammered Dulcimer set up and related et all.


  1. cedar51

    How rididicolous you can’t find hand therapy at least as a starting point which will show if you need more help v yes I will operate on your hands as that’s what you WILL need…and then we will do hand rehab!

    All care, from someone who knows all about wonky hands…but from a vastly different point , virtual hugs

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yep, you got right to meat of the issue for me! I’m expanding my search and am coming up with some hopeful possibilities – even if far away from where I live…
      virtual hugs back at ya, Catherine

  2. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet

    Wonderful music, Laura. Hope you are recovering. <3 All the best!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks, Cheryl.

  3. Andy

    Sorry to hear about your discomfort but enjoyed hearing that music. I hope your collaboration with Banjo Guy is fruitful and leads to something we all can share in ?

    Speaking of ‘catching up’, I’ve not been in here much for a week or so and so I’m doing just that now. Heal well.

  4. Jennie

    Healthcare can feel like a bureaucracy, and that is so wrong. Laura, I wish you well as you get your wrist issue taken care of. I probably never told you that my dream would be to play a banjo. When I met Hubby, he took me to the Fiddler’s Convention in the hills of Pennsylvania. Those old coots come out of the mountains once a year for this. Their music and banjo playing would make any other musician look like an amateur. They’re that good. Amish boys were sneaking in to hear the music, only to be caught by their father- something I will never forget.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Well, dreams can come true! So I have every confidence you’ll get your hands on a Banjo someday and toodle to your (he)art’s content!

      • Jennie

        That would be super!

  5. Wait, wait, wait. As a nurse I am not happy about this – the hand surgeon will only refer you to a hand therapist AFTER you have surgery!??! What about preventing surgery in the first place? Yikes. Sorry you had such a challenge on the hand therapy. Glad you found your own proactive solutions to ease your discomfort.
    I am impressed you were able to write this post and hope your hands/wrists get better!

    • laura bruno lilly

      I know. Crazy. Thanks for the nurse’s outrage…I needed that! 🙂
      I’ll keep you posted on (hopeful) progress on the medical search.

  6. Marty

    I loved how this ended — no heavy cleaning. You found a way to make the pain more bearable. 🙂 I’m so sorry for the wrist pain. Lately I’ve been dealing with foot issue, and the doctor I’ve been seeing also wants to operate. After an x-ray found nothing scary, I too decided to find a less invasive way to treat it. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m also against surgery for now. I look forward to Part II!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Good luck with your search…I know there are other options, it’s just a pity you and I as non-medical professionals have to figure it out on our own…Geesh!
      And you know, I’m in for the long haul with regards to the ‘heavy cleaning’ no matter what! HA!

  7. Khaya Ronkainen

    Dearest Laura, so sorry to hear your wrist issues haven’t been resolved, and that you had to cancel rehearsals. 🙁 It’s really a pity surgeons where you live can only refer you to a therapist after performing surgery. I truly hope you find some non-invasive treatment to help address your wrist pain. We need your music!

    The Canola Field and Art Fields sound like a collaboration 🙂 though they are totally different forms of art. But how beautiful is that piece by Guy Bergeron! And the idea of abstraction as where beauty and conflict meet is totally fascinating. I enjoyed reading about the artist process; I always learn a lot from behind-the-scenes. Thank you for this update; looking forward to part two.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I’m awed at your connecting the two ‘fields’ as an unconscious collaboration…it actually spurred my creative juices further…thanks!
      The narrow scope of healthcare where I live amazes me as well. I’m grateful I’ve lived in other parts of the country to know their limited viewpoint is not ‘the only way’. So I’m expanding my search to outside the state lines! More work, but I’m a WIP and am worth it!

  8. Laura

    How very discouraging to have to cancel practice and rehearsal sessions; especially when those are an avenue for doing the thing you love to do! I am happy that you are easing back into it, and it certainly is a process learning to cope with what you want to achieve creatively and how you can physically and mentally do it! Ignoring the pain is my number one go to (don’t do as I do, by the way).

    Love the music collaboration! It is beautiful sound! What a wonderful gift…to find just the right partner! 🙂

    • laura bruno lilly

      ‘No pain no gain’ is a definite no-no concept for musicians! At least in the physical sense…
      And you’re right, Banjo Guy is just the right partner for right now!

  9. LA

    I wrote about doctors and sub and sub sub specialists recently…it’s crazy. But looking forward to the next part

    • laura bruno lilly

      Oh I do remember reading that post…and thinking how no matter where we live in these United States, we all end up on the medicalmaze highway for ordinary care…and are forced to pay the toll fines along the way…and somehow always come up short of quality of care, etc etc etc.
      anyway, I knew you’d get it.
      (big sigh)

  10. Ally Bean

    I didn’t do a lick of heavy cleaning around the house. Now that’s a marvelous way to look at your wrist problem. The silver lining, so to speak. Take care, hoping for the best for you.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Ya know, Ms Bean, I think you’d come up with the same silver lining as I did, if you’re ever in a similar situation!

  11. marissthequilter

    I salute you Laura for your determination and bravery. It must be extremely difficult to stay focussed and to hold onto your creative spirit when in pain. I am distressed to read about your wrist problems. And sorry that you are being thwarted in your search for a non invasive solution.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thank you for your support, Mariss. The finding of ‘answers’ is a WIP (and reflects badly on our health care system/mindset, I’m afraid) but in the meantime, I have managed to get back into a regular practice routine again…(see my reply to L.Marie’s comment and Pete Springer).

      • marissthequilter

        Good for you. Was pleased to read about the timer!
        Have you tried sleeping with a brace on your wrist and hands — it helps for carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a specially designed, adjustable brace

        • laura bruno lilly

          Yep, I use a ‘moderate support’ one over my arm sock when I really need to pay attention to NOT moving it. In addition, it feels good, too! Like I replied to Jane, Believe it or not, everyone’s suggestions here (including yours!) are helpful, informative and very encouraging. Thanks! I’ve also received more supportive help (like the pun?) from many of my little listers…I may have to compile them all together for reference for others in a similar situation as myself. The encouragement, suggestions and helps are wonderful!
          Speaking of timer, the countdown is close, isn’t it? Picture: Huge grin!

          • marissthequilter

            So glad you are being supported ?
            PS The Festival is on, from this very morning

          • laura bruno lilly

            Go get ’em, girl!

  12. Frank @ Beach Walk Reflections

    Ouch on the issue and the Catch-22. So here’s some good news. Great music!!!! Thanks for sharing … so keep smiling!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Smiling I can do!

  13. Jane's Heartsong

    Love the musical collaboration and the colourful fabric installation. Oh, I “get” the wrists. My left thumb got very deformed quickly and x-ray showed severe the CMC joint. Bought a thumb splint and a wrist splint from a doctor that was made to my form in his office and keeping immobilized for a week or two, then hope to start strengthening exercises. For now I can’t do anything, too weak and painful to start yet. There are some good ones on YouTube but I want to be sure of the diagnosis first.

    • laura bruno lilly

      I do hope it comes together smoothly for you, Jane. All the patience it takes to stay immobilized is done with the hope of reaping a healing reward! I hear you about having to search out our own medical help via youtube exercise vids…A friend has begun referring specific ones to my needs which has helped in sorting through the huge amount of vids that are out there!

      • Jane's Heartsong

        My GP recommended the doctor I went to, and I paid out of pocket-not cheap, but I did get good splints that will last a long time. I wish you well with your recovery.

        • laura bruno lilly

          I am willing to pay out of pocket for sure…as long as I get a good lead/rec and up the odds on if it’d be worthwhile. Believe it or not, everyone’s suggestions here (including yours!) are helpful, informative and very encouraging. Thanks!

  14. Janis @

    Sorry to hear about your wrists and the infuriating Catch-22 our wonderful medical system has you in. I wonder if a sports therapist could help. We have some wonderful ones around here and, I imagine, there too. ArtFields looks exactly like my kind of place.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks for your support, Janis!
      Part of the problem is getting the initial referral from a qualified doctor…but I may research the sports therapist angle more. Interesting about Artfields, it’s a new festival only a few years old…and only 30 minutes away from where I live. So I jumped at the chance to visit this year! (We’re usually out of town when it occurs).

  15. deborahbrasket

    So sorry to hear about your wrist! I hope your catch 22 gets resolved soon so you can get back to your he(art) work.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks, flower-sister…hopefully you’re ensconced in your own (he)artwork!

  16. zippyquilts

    Sorry to hear you have “upper extremity” problems. One musician friend gave up on his banjo and fiddle, but was able to get a left-handed bass which he plays very successfully. My husband has had less luck with his hand problems, which limit his woodworking. Had several months of therapy with no real benefit, though it was with a physical therapist rather than a hand therapist. Good luck!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks, Zippy (and for your email)!

  17. petespringerauthor

    Ah, the health care system and all of of its nonsensical things. I have to imagine there is a solution somewhere out there besides surgery. I sure hope you can find something as we need to keep the things in our lives that provide us joy.

    It must be exciting and frustrating to have found a collaborator, only to have your hand issues interfere in the process. I wondered how classically trained guitarist and banjoist could play together, but after listening to that delightful Guy Bergeron piece, I get it. It’s a beautiful sound. No wonder you’re so excited to make this happen.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Crazy – that’s what it is. I’ve always worried about those who have had bad health issues, legitimate needs and hearing their doctor prescribed effective treatments but are not covered or approved by any insurances…So my wrists truly are such a small thing.
      But then, the things in our lives that provide us and others joy is a biggie, like you say!
      Yes, isn’t that piece a winner? I’ve always been a vangard for collaborations with various ensemble pairings – since way back. These days, it’s not as unusual to find others with like mind.

  18. rl2b2017

    Hi Laura! I hate the Catch-22 situation. I regret not sticking with yoga many moons ago as far as proper stretching and overall limberness. I struggle with my shoulder and the proper technique for stretching it without further annoying it. I look forward to Part II or deux as it were. {{Hugs}} ~smile~ Roseanne

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re right, ‘deux’ is in complete compliance with the whole Canola Field composer connection…
      Yes, Yoga would be a good choice, but where we live the selection of studios is limited to the number of fingers on one hand at max and geared more towards basic whole body stretching stuff…good stuff, just not enough of what I’m looking for right now.
      Great to hear from you here! hugs back

  19. L. Marie

    Laura, I’m sorry to hear about your wrist pain and having to cancel rehearsals. Also sorry that the surgeon you sought only recommended surgery without any alternative. Definitely praying for you. In the meantime, what a lovely piece you featured. I enjoyed listening to it!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Thanks for those prayers, L. Marie! I’ve been gradually easing back into a very limited practice session with my classical…in fact, today I went over my part for “The Canola Field” and am stoked! HA! Problem is, when I’m in the zone it’s easy to ignore ‘pain’ signals so I limit my time with a timer just in case!

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