• Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, Part 2

    image of hands showing fingers affected by the ulnar nerve

    image from OrthoBullets 

    Follow-up to my blog of Oct 24, 2017, "What the Hell is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome"

    Some days it is better, some days not so much. Overall, there seems to be improvement, but it is not ‘all better’. In response to the question, “At the end of all this will I be able to go back to doing things the way I used to?” the short answer might be, “No”. I will need to adopt some accommodating behavior as a life style change, or have surgery. Since this involves my right hand and arm, it is pretty important. Surgery requires about 6 weeks of recovery time, and that recovery time is CRITICAL to 100% back-to-normal. I am seriously thinking about it, but not until after a one person show I  am having in January. I have also pushed back my expect-to-be-all-better deadline to Dec 31, because all my accommodations seem to be working, just very slowing. Many days my left arm feels perfectly fine (it had only begun to have the slightest of symptoms when I saw the doctor), and the numbness in my right arm is definitely less pronounced (although it fluctuates as my activity during the day changes).  

    Since I have no pain (well, sometimes after an activity), I don’t get reminded that I shouldn’t be carrying/pushing/pulling/twisting/typing-too-long/lifting until there is an increase in numbness, mostly felt in the tip of my little finger, and occasional pain that is short-lived.

    My plan of action:

    1) keep my arms in a straightened position for longer periods of time
    2) continue sleeping with arms straight at my sides
    3) get a collapsible dolly for moving my artwork
    4) use shoulder strapped bags for carrying smaller items
    5) get a SMALL drill for putting together paintings into frames, or don’t frame certain work

    And keep my blogs short...
    6) don’t use my phone so much, unless on speaker phone (I keep FORGETTING!)
    7) ask for assistance (just shoot me now)

  • What the Hell is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

    elbow pads and gel packsMy elbow pads (cut so they won't press on the nerve at night), and my gel packs

    The last few weeks have been part of the year I have called “The Year of New Normals”. 

    To make a long story short, numbness I have been feeling in my little finger and the side of my ring finger in my right hand for over a month was diagnosed as cubital tunnel syndrome. This means that the nerve going through my elbow in the area we call the funnybone has been irritated; it's similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, except that this involves the ulnar nerve, rather than the median nerve (which controls the rest of the fingers). With cubital tunnel syndrome the ulnar nerve is irritated; untreated (for years) it can actually lead to muscle weakness and nerve death. That got my attention. (This is not the case with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)

    There was an official diagnosis made after tests, and then physical therapy prescribed to try to avoid surgery. It is a fairly simple surgery, but that is something I always want to avoid if I can. Fortunately (I know, I define ‘fortune’ differently from others), I started having similar symptoms in my left hand before I met with the hand specialist, so we were able to do all tests for both arms at the same time, and do all therapy for both. The tests go all the way to the neck, since problems in the hands can start there. 

    What does this mean for me? 

    My Therapy

    I have a stretching exercise for my arms that I do 4 times a day. Ideally, I should not bend my elbows more than 60 degrees most of the time. I should not carry heavy items, lift heavy items, or grip hard with my hands. The most important thing is to keep my arms stretched out at night instead of bent. While there are rigid splints for this, right now I am using elbow pads with the pads on the INSIDE of my elbows to remind me not to bend my arms (but they can still bend). That seems to be working, because I will wake and adjust my arms if they are bent. I am also sleeping 100% of the time on my back, which is not working so much, but it is getting easier. A new normal.

    Ice on the elbows is good, and I have gel packs that I keep in the freezer so when I am typing (like now), I can rest my elbows on them. I am also to keep padding under my forearms when stretched out on the table (like now), so there is no undue pressure on the nerve along the arm. When working on the computer, or painting, I must try to keep my elbows more open than closed, as much as possible, take frequent breaks, and should not carry things in the crook of my arms (how is that even possible? Shoulder bags, I guess). I am supposed to work 20 minutes, then rest 30. Who even does that? That is the worst; it almost completely prevents me from getting ‘in the zone’. 

    The good news is, this gives me a great excuse not to do housework. Indeed, I wonder if vacuuming is not partially responsible for my problem. I choose to think it is.  

    Taking vitamin B-6 is also good, which means the entire B complex of vitamins, since they work best together. 

    Using the speaker on my cell phone to reduce the time I hold it to my ear is helpful. Not in public (someone did that in restaurant last weekend and I was appalled). 

    Reducing/breaking up time on the computer/tablet/phone.

    Standing with my arms at my sides, sitting with my arms in my lap, and NOT LEANING MY ELBOWS ON THE TABLE. Turns out, our mothers were right.

    Basically, unlearning habits of many years, and replacing them with new, healthier habits. 

    This may or may not prevent the need for surgery, but I will never know if I don’t try. I avoided surgery on my vocal cords THREE TIMES during my teaching career by not talking at all for two weeks (each time). 

    I got this. 

    The reason I am sharing this with you is that numbness ANYWHERE should not be ignored. Even though I have what has been designated as a ‘mild’ case, it must still be treated. This early on, therapy is still an option. Within the next stage it might not be. Some things can be left alone, others cannot.

    I am experimenting with some voice recognition programs, like Dragon Dictation. It works, but dictating thoughts is not ANYTHING like writing/typing your thoughts. NOT at all. I don’t know how my father used a dictaphone for his business letters. Well, it was a different type of writing. 

    Interestingly enough, for some time before this happened I had been thinking about experimenting with a voice-to-text program, just because I am getting older and things happen. Now I can appreciate what a challenge that will be. Not for text messages or business correspondence, but writing like this. 

    As for painting, I had done some (a demo last week, which was more than 20 minutes, but I did stop off and on). I have finished up some work, and just cut back for now. Fortunately, I have quite a bit of  work in reserve for the small shows that are coming up. Whew!

    What has been the MOST difficult is asking for assistance, even when offered. I am fortunate to work in an art gallery where others can do the heavier work for now, and with my studio move coming up the building staff is helping me move things around (bless them!). Still, it just doesn’t feel quite right…

    Well, nothing this year has. 

    The good news is that I BELIEVE the therapy is helping. I have had to think carefully about how I do things, and that is all to the good. AND, this may force me to branch out into a new style, or at least experiment. That is ALWAYS good.

    Just so you know, I did start this blog with Dragon Dictation on my iPad, but finished most of it on my computer—with cold packs under my elbows, a sweater on because they make me cold, my computer farther away from me so I can stretch out my arms, and using 14 pt type so I can read the text from that distance. All trying to still up straight.

    Now, where did I put those elbow pads….


    I went to the therapist for my last visit yesterday afternoon. I have been ‘angsting’ over every little twinge, tingle, and prickling sensation. Bottom line, I just need to relax and continue with the changes I have made. When I wake up in the morning it feels better, as I go through the day sensations fluctuate, and I just need to stop thinking about it EVERY STUPID MINUTE. Rather, take stock every week or so, and in 5 weeks decide if it is better, or if I need to go back to the doctor. I can do that. 


    Yes, I am resting on my elbow pads.

  • Mud is My Nemesis

    images of Fine Creek and the end of a street in Venice









    Adventures in Mud

    There are mud baths, mud facials, mud cloth, and mud pies.All good, desirable things. ‘Here’s mud in your eye’, a great saying. We go out of our way and pay lots of money for hot mud baths, in situ.

    However, I cannot say I have enjoyed any of that. Mud is my nemesis. It has taken quite some time for that to sink in, because it looks so innocent, just sitting there. It’s in my way, why not walk across? Why not step into it? Why not ignore it?

    Because mud is out to get me, and I have finally realized that.

    My first encounters with mud were innocuous enough; I made mud pies. Actually they were attempts at mud pottery, and at the tender age of 5 I learned that mud is. not. clay. Assuming I could get it to stick together in a form long enough to put it out in the sun, the results were still not satisfactory. Pies were never on my radar—my mother made pies, and the ones she made certainly did not taste like the ones I made. Just to clarify, hers were much better.

    My artistic forays with mud mirror my painter’s attempts at coal dust painting. If you’ve ever tried to mix coal dust with water to make paint, you understand. To sum up: not enough stirring in the world will cause that oily dust to transform into paint. Or ink. Just sayin’.

    In my adult life my confrontations with mud have also been art related, mostly because it was standing between me and what I wanted to do.  

    At Fine Creek:

    It looks so innocent.  A few years ago I was plein air painting at Fine Creek. A lovely place, and a lovely day. A beautiful June day, birds chirping, water babbling, all is right with the world. I was with a group of painters who get together to paint outdoors, the Virginia Plein Air Painters. 

    Me painting beside Fine Creek


    We were all spread out, and I wanted to get as close to the water as possible. It was an easy walk, after a short set of stone steps, to the rock-lined edge of the creek. I got a great start, but after a while I wanted to see what the other artists were doing, and I could see some a bit further down the water, so I decided to walk along the stones rather than all the way up the steps and around. It was a straight shot, just a few flat boulders and some wet spots. 

    Water, rocks, and mud


    Just wet spots. No mud. Really. And I did not listen to that little voice that asked, “Do you really want to do that?” Because yes. Yes I did.

    So, I put down my palette knife, wiped my hands, and started down the creek, stay well away from the water, so I would fall in. Stepping ever so carefully. 

    But not carefully enough that I didn’t slip on a wet spot, that turned out to have mud underneath. Such a little spot, and such a big bruise. Fortunately, I was able to get up, brush off my bottom and my ego, and go on, not much worse for wear.

    And then I had to go back. 

    And of course I was going to go back the way I came, because this time I knew where the mud was. In that spot. And I didn’t even hear that little voice say, “Do you really want to do that?”

    This time I carefully and thoughtfully skirted the spot of doom, giving it wide berth, hugging the stone retaining wall… 

    the retaining wall beside Fine Creek


    Which had mud at the bottom edge. 

    This time as I fell I was able to slow my fall a bit because I fell INTO the foliage at the top of the wall (which was about arm height). I congratulated myself on my good fortune as I picked myself up again. At least I didn’t get hurt.

    As I was approaching my easel one of the other painters, Eleanor Cox, said, “Linda, you better go wash your hands, that’s poison ivy.” Whhaat? No, couldn’t be, she must mistaken. She warned me again, but I shrugged it off, and continued painting, wiping my neck with my scarf, because now it was getting warm. 

    But, because her warning haunted me, I did go the restroom shortly thereafter and wash my hands carefully.

    To bad I didn’t do that BEFORE I used my scarf to wipe my neck and chin.

    The itching on my neck, behind my ear and under my chin started that evening, which I took to be mosquito bites (because I am the Queen of Denial). Exactly the spots I had wiped with my scarf. It was 3 days before the small blisters announced that Ellie was correct. 

    In Venice:

    Two years later, I met my nemesis again, This time on the steps of Venice. Again, it stood between me and what I wanted , which in this case was an awesome and unusual view of the canal at the end of the street on a quiet morning at 7 am.. You can read my blog about that at 



    steps with slime on the canal in Venice

    I stepped ever so gingerly down the first step, because I saw that green slime, and figured it was slippery. And then I stepped, carefully down to the second step, so I could lean out just a LITTLE bit further...

    Well, I did get my photo…. 

    blurry photo of a corner of the wall as I was falling


    I also saw stars, and for a minute could not feel anything below my neck. Suffice it to say, I no longer think of mud as just an annoyance. I also now listen very closely to that little voice that says, “Do you really want to do that?”

    More and more I have learned to listen to that little voice. Most of the time.

    And I have learned to wear boots. I learned that in Holland, on the beach. But even boots won't help you in a tidal pool, as my good friend Annie Brash Kelvin can testify (but I will not show you a photo of that).

    FYI, you may notice I no longer have the option for a reader to make a comment. That is because I was targetted with comments on optimizing SEO, porn, Viagra, Russian ads for porn and Viagra, and some other stuff in Russian I could not make heads or tails out of. If you have a comment or question, email me, or message me. I am now seeing this a lot (ads for making money at home working for Facebook, which are scams) in the comment feeds on Facebook. 

  • The Lesser Known

    Spine of the book, "Janson's History of Art"

    The Lesser Known (#5womenartists)


    March is/was Women’s History Month, and the first thing that greeted me on my Twitter Feed on March 1 was a post by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It read:

    “Can you name five women artists?”

    And of course, I could. And I did. And THEN I thought, ‘well, I could do more than THIS. What if I could name five women EVERY day of the month, without looking any up, just based on what know or remember? And what if I included images of work done by each of the artists? And how about not matching the images to the names, but asking readers to test their knowledge.

    So I did! 

    It was not as easy as I thought. 

    The premise was sound, and doable. I could remember a lot, and I did give myself permission to check on spelling, or even names if I could remember the image but not the names (I love it when I negotiate with myself—I always win). For example: Louise Nevelson. I could not for the LIFE of me remember her name, until someone else mentioned her. I could see her work in m y mind clear as day, but the name was in a locked room (using the imagery of your memory as rooms in your brain). 

    Doable, but time consuming. I had to decide which names to post, find images, download them, add them to my website page—that I had to create—and make sure it all looked okay on mobile devices. 

    THEN, I decided I needed to post each day’s addition on Facebook. And on Twitter and Instagram (sometimes). And use hashtags. And add links to their websites for contemporaries. AND mention which ones would have work in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (because this is how I know many of them) and/or the National Museum of Women in the Arts (because, well, it was their idea).

    From the beginning, I decided to include not only those who have stood the test of time, but also women who were my contemporaries, some well-known on the local scene, some on the national radar, and a few internationally known artists.

    By the first Friday I decided I would rest on the weekends. 

    By the end of the month I was both grateful it was drawing to a close, and sorry I would not be naming more women. I had finally gotten things down to a rhythm, and I had more names, but it was time to stop, at least for the moment.

    I learned quite a few things. 

    1) I am a glutton for punishment.

    2) I enjoy a challenge.

    3) If there is a way to make things more complicated, I will. This may not be bad, but it will be.

    4) I know a lot of women artists. 

    The other thing I have been mindful of for some time is that I am fortunate enough to know a number of women (and men) who are on the national radar, or soon will be. I am in the midst of an incredible company of contemporary artists, and I believe a number of them will be written about in years to come. What an extraordinary position to be in!

    This is a a FAR cry from my college days. In my art history book (H. W. Janson’s History of Art, of course), I could not find ONE WOMAN indexed in the book, not even those EVERYONE knows, like Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, or Grandma Moses. I also looked through pages in sections that could have had some mention of these women, or others. Nada. Niente. Zip. Zilch. Zifr. 

    We’ve come a long way, baby. And we’ve got a long way to go. (By the way, if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know. This would refer to the 1968 edition.) 

    MY POINT IS, the only reason I knew so many women artists is because when I taught elementary art, I had a weekly program that ALL students, K-5, were exposed to, called ‘Artist-of-the-Week’. For the sake of brevity (who said that?), I will just say that I thought it important to include not only Old Masters, but also American, Women, Alive, and non-European artists (because, more than once, a student would look at our wall of artists, note the dates, and ask if we were ever going to study any LIVE artists. Thank goodness they were paying attention). So I started looking for names to add to the list. 

    And because I can NOT let it alone, in the next few weeks I will be organizing the names and images so you can see who does what! 

    Hmmm….wouldn’t it be great if I could set it up as a questionnaire, and then at the end you see how many you get right? 

    What app would I use for that? (please email me if you know—lchollett@verizon.net)

    SEE? I cannot help myself. It there is more to add, I will do so. It is not so much an affliction as a shot of adrenaline. 

    I did very little painting in March. The one large on on my home page, and a medium-sized one for Artful Healing. I also wrote no blogs. Now you know why.

    I need a secretary, and a team. 

    To see all the women I named, check it out! The sad thing is, I just saw a post about women artists of the Bauhaus, and I did not know ANY of them. Sigh.  That link, and one about 11 female abstract impressionists is also on the #5womenartist page on my website.  


    Were you able to participate in the #5womenartists challenge?

    image of #5 women artists graphic







    Next blog: back to Russia

  • What Do You Mean My Luggage is in New York?

    banner with belgium francs and scarvesTravelling in the Soviet Union, Part 1:

    “What Do You MEAN, My Luggage is in New York?”

    In December of 1986, I had the rare opportunity to travel with a group of educators to the Soviet Union. It meant I would be spending Christmas in the Soviet Union. And New Year’s Eve. 

    This was because of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of Glasnost which began in 1985. 

    I talked it over with my principal, and we decided this was a great trip for me! I would leave the day Christmas break started, and would return the day before school started back. A two-week trip with NO DAYS missed. It was a sign. 

    I signed up, mailed in my money, and bought my ticket to New York (where I would meet up with the rest of the people going). I bought new luggage (with wheels), bought my dress for New Year’s Eve, winter boots, and gifts from the U.S. for the people I would run into (including candy canes I planned to put out on Christmas morning for all the participants). I took photos of the the Christmas lights around Richmond to share. I packed my watercolors (because I knew I would have time to paint), and my sketch pad. AND, I packed the things I could not do without in my carry-on: make-up and toiletries, toothbrush/toothpaste, pjs and underwear. The essentials. At the last minute I put my sketchbook into the carry-on. We had an overnight stay in Brussels, and this way, I would not need to even open my suitcase. That was the plan. Here's my carry-on. Pretty small by today's standards.

    My carry-on









    The day came. My family drove me to DC for a grand send-off (I was going to the SOVIET UNION,  for Pete's Sake), I checked my bag, I flew to NY, I met up with the group, and I…didn’t have my luggage. 

    I think I told the DC people I was checking the luggage to New York. I was SUPPOSED to tell them to check the luggage to Brussels (where we changed from Sabrina Airlines to Aeroflot). Who knew? By the time the person in charge of the group (Peter) realized what I had done, we had to board the plane. With my checked luggage still in New York. 

    On the up side, I looked really nice in my black wool skirt and heels on the plane. 

    During the trip to Brussels, Peter told me I had better buy boots once we landed, because I would certainly need them and he was not sure how long it would take me to find a pair, if I could, once in Moscow. 

    So, once we landed in Brussels, while the rest of group went to see the sights, I went a few blocks down the street to buy boots appropriate for the cold snowy days ahead. I found a big department store, found a great pair of boots (flat, fur-lined, and suede on the outside). MUCH better that the ones with heels in my suitcase in New York. 

    Now, I did not speak Dutch or French (although I understand a bit), but I had been able to make my needs known through signals. I got my American Express travel Cheques out, and….found out the store could not accept them, because they were in American dollars, and I was not in the tourist area, they were not in a position to exchange money. My only chance was to get back to the hotel, hope the exchange bank in the hotel was open, get some Belgium francs, get back to the store, all before the store closed at 6 pm. It was about 4. 

    I walked back to the hotel, the bank was open, got the cash, headed back to the store, and…slipped on the sidewalk, because it had started to snow. And I was in my heels. By this time it was rush hour, with everyone trying to get home. Not only did no one stop to help me up, they pretty much stepped right over me without breaking stride. So much for the Christmas spirit. 

    I picked myself up, got to the store before it closed, changed my shoes right there in the store, and was still able to join the group for dinner. Sans heels.

    my boots from Brussels









    The next morning we left for about a week in Moscow and a few days each in Tallin (Estonia) and St. Petersburg. 

    When we got to our hotel in Moscow, I realized we were on Red Square, with a view of St. Basil’s Cathedral, with the snow falling down, light EXACTLY like a photograph I had from National Geographic. I was so excited, I didn’t even notice I lost my hat. But I was getting some great photographs. 

    For the rest of the trip I wore my wool skirt, my new boots, by wool coat, my cotton knit long-sleeved shirt, a sweater someone loaned me, a hat someone else gave me, and my blue scarf and gloves (which matched the hat I lost, and also a cobalt blue sweater that was still in my suitcase in New York). For the rest of the trip I did not have to make decisions about what to wear. For the rest of the trip it took me about HALF the time to dress it usually did. 

    My blue scarf


    And for New Year’s Eve I tucked the neckline of my t-shirt and draped a beautiful Russian scarf around my neck. I felt gorgeous.

    my Russian scarf









    I discovered that not only did I not mind NOT having a choice of clothing, I actually enjoyed not having to think about it. It was the most freeing experience in the world, and it changed my entire way of thinking about clothes.

    So when I take a casual ‘la-de-dah’ attitude towards multiple changes of clothes, this is why.

    Eventually I did some paintings from my trip:  See the paintings


    What did I learn?

    • Carry WHAT YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT  in your purse and in your carry-on. It is precious little.

    • Wear your essentials if possible (boots).

    • You will always need to depend on the kindness of strangers (my travel mates). 

    • You can do with a lot less than you thought, and it is very freeing to do so.

    NOTE: I almost titled this blog, “These Boots Were Made for Walking”.       p.s. The banner for this blog shows a 50 Belgian francs note. Now they use euros.


    Next blog:   Why I went, and what would it take to change your mind?

  • How I Came to Sketch with a Pen

    banner_photograph of water with rough waves


    How I Came to Sketch with a Pen

    I have done sketching all my life; give me a pencil, eraser, and a sheet of paper, and I know what to do. Give me several kinds of pencils, and you better STAND BACK! 

    However, until I began to do plein air painting, my sketches were really more finished drawings, renderings. I saw drawing as an art form unto itself, and did thumbnails if I was painting, but not really even sketches.

    That all changed on October 5, 2010. 

    That was the painting trip Brenda and I took, to Nags Head. We had painted around Jockey’s Ridge, and later did several paintings from Nags Head Pier.

    After painting at Jockey’s Ridge that morning we had lunch, and then retired to the deck on the restaurant to sketch. I got out my small sketch book, with my pencil. Brenda was to my right, with her pens and watercolors. I was sketching the side of the pier, she was sketching the water, the waves. At some point I found that I needed an eraser, and I did not have one. I turned to Brenda to ask if she had one, and I was BLOWN AWAY by her painting. She had perfectly captured, in watercolor, the choppiness, the short, crisp waves, and all the colors. Oh, those colors! It was one on the best paintings I had ever seen. It took my breath away. I exclaimed over the piece, and at the same time, asked Brenda if she had an eraser.

    pencil sketch of Nags Head pier













    (this has been in my sketchbook for a long time)


    The next few seconds unfolded in slow moootttiiiiiioooonnnnn…

    As Brenda turned to her right to look in her bag for an eraser, I continued to admire the painting. I must have blinked, because all of a sudden, it was gone. It was there, and then…It wasn’t there.

    I don’t think I breathed for a few seconds, and then Brenda turned back to me, and she noticed the painting wasn't there. 

    “Where’s my painting?”

    “I don’t know! It was there, and now, it’s not!”

    “Well, where did it go?”

    You can see, we were both in a state of denial as the truth dawned on us—the wind had picked it up and blown it away. Not in a gentle, pick up and float away breeze, but a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t gust. It was there, and then it wasn’t. It was something you simple could not wrap your brain around.

    We looked over the rail. Nothing. We looked to the beach to the left and right. Nothing. We scanned over the ocean. Nothing. We did it all again. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. We sighting further out, looking out for anything white floating on the water. Nothing. I even walked down off the pier and went underneath to see if it had been somehow ‘sucked’ underneath, like a wind undertow (fingers crossed). Nothing. 

    photo from under the pier











    I had to go back up the pier and tell Brenda I couldn’t find it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because it was TOTALLY my fault. 

    Of course, Brenda was gracious, saying she could always make another one, no problem, please don’t worry about it. Because that’s what Brenda did. She made life easier for others. 

    But I never forgave myself, or forgot. Because there was never any way you could EVER recreate a painting like that, with that life, that energy, and that movement (not to mention color). 

    I had a pen with me. I got it out of my bag, and started drawing with it. And I never used a pencil again (except in museums, because some, like the VMFA only allow sketching with a pencil. No pens allowed. If they only knew how I hate it…). 

    My first three pen sketches:

    first pen drawing--of the pier
















                 second drawing of pier










    choppy waves











    I liked my sketches much better after that, and I liked SKETCHING much better, after that. You had to be bold, and assertive, and no apologies. You couldn’t fuss, and you had to forgive (yourself).

    And Brenda? About six years later, she casually mentioned that painting, and the day it was lost forever. So it did matter to her after all, at least a little bit. 

    They are all our children. 



    Read about Brenda and I sketching her back yard view (scroll down to the bottom of the page)