Life, Midlife

Guest Post: Roots…I’m Not Talking About the Gray Kind!

A guest post by writer Sheri Lesneski:

Why didn’t I ask sooner?

That is a question I keep asking myself.   I do know part of the answer ….I was in my own little world leading my own life oblivious to much else.  My ancestry roots were just something I had heard about and filed in the back of my mind, never really giving them much of a second thought.  I knew that my dad’s side had come from England and my mom’s side was from Sweden.  Cool!  I am an English-Swede!  And that was where my interest in my roots ended.  Until now!

Now I am 53 and playing detective in tracking my ancestry.  The relatives with the answers to many questions are gone. It is only my 91 year old mom and I trying to piece together enough information to add more branches to our family tree.  Right now it is one lop-sided tree!  It looks like it will topple over in a stiff breeze!

I have more information on my dad’s side than I do on my mom’s Swedish side.  That is mostly due to the fact that Mom’s parents moved to the USA from Sweden.  Tracing roots in the Swedish language is no easy feat!  I could  kick myself for not asking questions when relatives with the answers were still around.  It just did not occur to me that later in my life I would want to know more about our family story.

When Mom and I began working on our family tree, we started off with lots of enthusiasm and some success.  We excitedly filled in missing family members on the tree’s branches.  But soon enough we ran into dead ends and lots of frustration.

Thanks to, Mom and I have had some  more success with researching and adding to our tree.  But, that darn Swedish side!  Anyone who has ever tried researching family ancestry knows it is definitely not an easy job. For me it was those Swedish names –those impossible names!  If you were Carl’s son your last name was Carlson.  If you were Carl’s daughter your last name was Carlsdotter.  Sounds simple enough, but Swedes are not simple you see.  Swedes that moved to the USA often times would change the spelling or change their last name altogether!  Not only that but …many Swedes have the same name—ahhhh!

Actually, has been very helpful and provided many valuable resources.  They even have experts available to help you trace your roots.  Unfortunately, I am not able to afford that on my own, so I have to be the detective.

Oh, and have you seen the ancestry show on TV?  They trace the roots of famous stars.  In an hour’s time, that star gets handed answers to their family roots…. if it were only that easy!

My dad’s side has had some interesting facts arise.  If I follow one line, it leads to a distant relative who was an officer in the Revolutionary War.  His uncle was President Tyler. Now let’s see, how am I related to President Tyler? And if you follow one of Dad’s branches all the way back to the 600’s, we find we are related to the King of Scotland.  I always felt I should be royalty!  But is this all true—really true?  Or did I just get lead down a wrong branch in our family tree?  Who really knows?

This is just my experience.  Many people have had the forethought to keep good family records—not us!  But being related to royalty does sound impressive.

One of the most exciting parts of this adventure was learning  a few family secrets.  Secrets that were not talked about while those relatives were alive came out now with such enthusiasm and delight.  We don’t think of those secrets as bad but quite the opposite.

We have added a couple of living family members that we did not know existed!  It is very exciting and we are all having a great time getting to know each other.

My brothers have little if no interest in this whole family tree thing.  I seem to be the only one in the family who is interested besides Mom.  But in case, down the road, one of the younger members of this family starts to ask the same questions that I am asking, we might have given them a bit of a head start on this family tree process.  Hopefully, they will be better detectives than I.

Tracing our family roots has been filled with frustration, questions and wonder.  It has also been extremely fun and very exciting.  It is especially so when you do find an honest to goodness real live relative.  But my leads are growing cold now.  This may call for a research trip to Sweden!

Sheri Lesneski lives in Locust, NC with her husband and their cats.  Sheri and her mom have been working on their family tree, hoping to learn more about their family story.

Posing in the first photo are Sheri’s grandmother and great-grandmother in the  early1900’s.

The photo above shows Sheri and her mom on Easter, 1959, when Sheri was baptized:

And here is Sheri a few years ago, on a cruise through the Mediterranean.   No relatives there that she knows of!

Life, Menopause

Change, Change, Change, in the Change of Life

At some point as I was clumping my way through the Change of Life, I thought:  I really am changing.  Not only physically but in some metaphysical way that for the life of the new me, I couldn’t pinpoint.

Yet it didn’t seem to bother me. I felt a sort of calm about this feeling of change.  I mean after all, it’s not that I was so great before. Why not change some?

But if you asked me now, two years later, what those deep in the mind changes are, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Does that mean they were real changes?  Who knows!

But the feeling was sort of fun, kind of intriguing. I remember especially that it came over me as I walked down the stairs of our old house.  Maybe the Ghosts of Menopauses Past?

In honor of changes, I post this lovely leopard.  I found the painting in the School Art Exhibit of the North Carolina State Fair in October.  They say a leopard can’t change her spots, but this one has sprouted wings. Now wouldn’t that be a cool change of life?  She wouldn’t walk or slink or bound down the stairs.  She would fly.  And how about those purple spikes!

This is one of those posts the blogging experts suggest we don’t write.  I don’t have any brilliant takeaway information for you.  But if you feel yourself changing, have fun with it.

And if you start growing wings and purple spikes, have even more fun.

Love, Barbara

Photo:  The first name of this brilliant young artist is Jaylah, and she might tell us this isn’t actually a leopard.  A cheetah, perhaps, or a mythical creature?


The Beads of Our Lives and a Giveaway!

I’ve always loved beads.  I think most girls do.

The first beads I admired were my mother’s pop-it beads. Remember those?  A big 1950’s fashion item. You could pull them apart and snap them back together to wear in various lengths. Perfect for babies who like to grab onto their mother’s necklaces  No trouble with breakage; the necklace just popped open.  I wish my mom had saved hers, so I could wear them to entertain my grandson next year.

When I was six, I got into stringing beads from kits. The kits contained bright colored plastic beads shaped like ziti, and plastic string we used to call “gimp.” I made some great necklaces for myself and my dolls.

And then came hippie beads. Tiny beads that we either strung ourselves onto wire or bought as necklaces pretty cheap in funky shops. And if you’d didn’t like the long strands, you could always wear a choker.

Next for me, came fancy beads, pearls one Christmas from my great-aunt. They lay nestled in a blue velvet box, and she let me know right away they were the real McCoy.

But the necklace you see above is for one of you. Those gorgeous beads were made by Ugandan women out of recycled paper Yep, paper. Check out  the colors!

The necklace, purchased at my church’s Christmas bazaar, came with a tag that reads, in part:

Many of the beaders are HIV + mothers or war refugees, and all are suffering from extreme poverty. BeadforLife pays the beaders fair trade prices for their work. Because of their work with BeadforLife, their beads become income, food, medicine, homes, school fees, and hope.

You can learn lots more about BeadforLife, including how to host a BeadforLife party at home or with an organization, here on their website.   Watch this video to see how the women make the beads.  Many of these women, before becoming beaders, sat for hours in the hot sun and crushed rocks by hand. The quarry wages, as well as the working conditions, were miserable. 

You can shop directly for the beads at their online store.  Prices are great. Celebrate beads, colorful,joyful, hopeful beads, as you support BeadforLife!

Giveaway: For a chance to win the BeadforLife necklace above, say you’d like to win by posting a comment or shooting me an email by Sunday, April 29 at noon EST. The winner will be chosen at random using an integer generator.

Hot Flashes, Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Mood

From the Muck of Menopause

Menopause is mucky. Periods so weird they would scare a lady swamp monster.  Breasts that feel like water balloons ready to pop.   Sleep?  In a bed all night long?  Impossible!

The emotional stuff is even more mucky.  Muck . Muck.  Muck.

When I walk on the marsh boardwalk at Bald Head Island, I get really close to the muck.  The muddy swampy squishy kind of  muck.  I like to lean down and study it.

Then I look up again and see the expanse of marsh in front of me.  What beautiful grasses rise from the muck!

I’m not as lovely as the  marsh, and  I’m certainly not that fresh and green, but from the muck of menopause grows me.

And from the muck of menopause grows you.  Wiser.  Tougher.   Braver.  Smarter.  And even though my kids (or yours) might not agree, we’re cooler too in our own way, despite any hot flashes.

When my daughter Laura was in first grade, she loved a book in which the barnyard critters proclaim, “O lovely mud!”

I won’t go so far as to say, “O lovely menopausal muck,” but I take heart when I think about the green swaying grasses of the marsh.

Aging, Menopause, Skin

Guest Post: Vein Vanity!

Judy Brown writes about the art of the vein:

The mosaic of tiny capillaries and purple veins.  It is yet another sign of our womanly aging. Every time I see an ad for a vein clinic, I hesitate.  I was really bothered when a friend of mine said she was going to a clinic to have all her protruding leg veins removed. I am sure many of you have also contemplated this procedure.

It is another decision.  But it is not a hard one for me because I have a phobia of needles. I look at my 82 year old mother’s colorful legs and see my future. I have several works of art already on my upper thighs: moles, freckles, sun damage, red dots, purple veins, other discolorations and undefined splotches.  Sometimes I stare at them.  Are  they all that bad?  

Are these intricate designs on our legs not works of art, perhaps, masterpieces?

A colorful curve in the capillary run might be the time you paced for hours in the middle of the night waiting for your teenager to come home.

The large and bulging upper thigh vein might be from stomping on the ground trying to make your point during the  “big fight” with your spouse.

Or the lacework patch of pinkish blood vessels might be the daily commute to your first job in the city.

I bet one burst was from running after your toddler at the mall!

These mini paintings show the wisdom of our years.  They show active lifestyles and miles of adventure. They show hard work and fun times. They show stress and pleasure. They even come in rainbow colors. Most amazing is that they are unique to each woman. We are each our own art piece.

What is the point of being perfect?  Of having perfect legs? How have you decided to reconcile this point of vanity?

**(Not being a medical expert, I do know that some cases of vericose veins are serious and painful, so the procedure is a life saver. I am referring to cosmetic options.)

Judy Brown grew up in Rio. Here she is basking in the sun during her senior year in high school with no worries of unsightly veins.

Stocking Photo:  These funky stockings are sold by a French company.  In case you don’t have bad veins yet but want to pretend, you can purchase a pair.   Learn more about them here.

Menopause, Menopause Symptoms, Perimenopause

Puzzled: Putting the Menopausal Pegs Together

For those of you just approaching menopause, who are technically in the years known as “perimenopause,” there’s a bit of advice at the end of this post (and hopefully others will chime in with some too).  One of the most confusing aspects of the whole shebang to me was figuring out what symptoms might be menopause and what symptoms might be signals of a serious health concern.

It’s majorly weird when things are going on with your body and your mind, and you’re not sure what the deal is.

New, odd stuff would be happening to me  (bugs crawling up my arm (read it here) being the strangest).  Could this be menopause?  I’d go to one of the lists such as 34 Menopause Symptoms, and I’d usually find it it there.  Yep, it’s menopause.

Women should come with personalized instruction books.  Now there’s an idea!  If I could run the world, I would institute that plan (and give each book a funky, upbeat cover).

Menopause is a puzzle. For me it was one of the biggest puzzles of my life.  A physical puzzle.  A mental puzzle. An emotional puzzle.  I love puzzles, but not being a puzzle whiz, it took me a while to get my pegs in a row.

And so the bit of advice:  expect to be puzzled.  Expect to have some worries.  Expect to feel like, yep, you’re riding a roller coaster.  And as you work to put your pegs into your very own puzzle, be patient.

Photo:  My Puzzle-Peg game is a version of peg solitaire.  A Wiki history says peg solitaire games probably go back to the days of Louis XIV. The first artistic rendering of someone playing peg solitaire dates to 1697.  Here she is:  Anne de Rohan-Chabot, Princess of Soubise, in the engraving you see below.  I don’t know what ya’ll think, but The Princess looks menopausal and puzzled to me:

Aging, Life, Menopause

Green Peas and Changing Tastes

As a young woman, I heard often from older women, “Your tastes will change.”

As a slightly older woman, I recorded these thoughts about my taste for peas:

Dear God,

Even though they come

packaged in pods,

beautifully round

and wonderfully green,

please forgive me

for despising the taste

of your clever creation.



You know what? My palate still detests them.  Menopause has not made me want to pause for peas.

But opening a folder and stumbling on this prayer does make me wonder about my other tastes.

And you know what?  I’m not sure they’ve changed that much either in art, music, clothes, food, or decor. I do know that when Cliff and I were first married, I didn’t want to go on any vacations where I couldn’t shop. Today, shopping’s not so important. Can I count that?

Oh and I never wanted to paint any rooms blue, and we now have a very blue living room.  Who could resist paint called “Antique Map Blue.” The name stirs up images of those brave explorers charting the waters of the world so long ago.

But basically, my tastes haven’t changed, much.  Could this mean that unlike explorers, I’m bland?  Not expansive?  Set in my ways?

I’ll do more pondering, but not over a plates of peas.  In the meantime, what about you?  Has getting older changed your tastes?  In food or anything else in life?

Photo:  I found the peas above here.

Below are peas prepared by my food blogging daughter Kath. As  a baby, she refused to swallow pureed peas.  Her tastes have changed!  She loves them!  (Although she eats them whole, now.)