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Jillian Leslie is the vibrant webmaster of Everyday Warriors. I first met Jillian when she was a columnist at One Woman's Writing Retreat. A sufferer of chronic illness herself Everyday Warriors is a tribute to the stamina and courage of this woman. She quite literally dances with chronic illness and has gone on to build an invaluable resource.

In The Company of Trees
Writes of Passage - Turning Fifty

Introducing Jillian Leslie

Well, hello there! What are you doing reading this page, when instead you should be practicing one of Heather's creative exercises, or reading one of the provocative, thoughtful essays or poems at Soul Food Cafe? Since you are kind enough to stop by, it would be a privilege to shake your hand and meet you. Unfortunately, all I can do is tell you about myself on this page. I already know about myself. I'd like to know about you: Heather's loyal visitors. So, perhaps after reading this, if you haven't done so already, you'll introduce yourself, too.

At first, I thought I'd write a straight bio and tell you where I went to school, where I worked, all the usual dry stuff. I'll intersperse bits of that here and there but you know what? I don't think our lives should be summed up like an obituary. We're alive! We're vibrant people! Spewing raw autobiographical data doesn't tell you a thing, does it?

I think who we are in this world has nothing to do with our level of education, our trophies on the shelf, the number of children we have or don't have, or the number of cars in our garage. I think that the essence of a person is what we love and what we hate. That is our make-up. That's who we are.

I thought of telling you about all the things that make me angry in this world. The usual suspects: bigotry, intolerance, apathy...probably all the things you hate, too. I don't want to fill the air with negative vibes. The positive is much more pleasant. These are some of the things I love in this world, things that make me, well, me:

At the top of the list is my husband, Paul. He and I will be married 28 years this June. This loving man has put up with this irascible woman for almost three decades, never once complaining about her weird antics. He helped me through cancer surgery, when cancer struck after we were married for a little over a handful of months, and he has weathered my deteriorating health with strength and humor. And oh, this man makes me laugh! His humor ranges from silly dances and silly walks, to droll one-liners. I have been most fortunate.

I love my dogs Feed Me! (sheltie) and I Love Trouble (border collie) and my cockatiel, Featherhead. (All names have been changed to protect the innocent.) I was not allowed to have animals as a child, so having them as an adult has made my life joyous. As we all know, our pets love us unconditionally and they don't care if we have bad breath or have yet to take our morning shower. They are a constant. They are adored.

Years ago, I ran the humane education department for the largest non-for-profit animal shelter in the Midwest (U.S.), and like everyone else who walked through the animal shelter, I wanted to take all the animals home with me. But, how do you take home 2,500 animals that come through the shelter's doors every month? Heartbreaking, isn't it? My own animals, poor souls, get smothered with hugs and kisses hourly.

I love the outdoors, but prefer sleeping indoors. My idea of roughing it is taking a day-long hike in the mountains (something I am no longer healthy enough to do) and then sleeping in a four-star bed and breakfast on the ocean. A camper I'm not, though I like many aspects of camping.

I love Oregon! The fir trees that kiss the clouds, the majestic Columbia River Gorge, the waterfalls, the diverse, stunning coastline, the fields of Indian paintbrush blanketing the mountains, the deep gulches, the crystal clear lakes, and Portland, a haven for artists of all sorts.

I love plants and flowers and gardens, especially walking through Portland's Japanese Garden, a respite decked in quiet greens, flowing Japanese maples and koi filled ponds. Once, when we visited, high on a hill, a young man played a mellow improvised tune on a flute. Sheer joy! And, oh, how fabulous to walk through row-upon-row of roses, boasting every fragrance and color, in Portland's Rose Garden. And did I tell you about the array of azaleas and Rhododendrons that blanket Oregon in the spring?

I love to cook, to take spices and fresh herbs and concoct something fragrant and tasty. I'm not into the fancy-schmancy fois gras type of cooking, but prefer instead home cooking; something more to the tune of fresh pasta with diced Roma tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, fresh parmesan and lots of garlic. Love that garlic! ( Don't crinkle your nose! You can't smell it through your monitor, and hey, I brush my teeth afterwards and suck mints!)

My two grand passions since childhood have been reading and writing. Ah, reading, I have books in every room of the house. My biggest thrill is visiting Powell's City of books. This Portland store is one of the largest bookstores in the world and for this book nut, well, even a yearly visit fulfills my bibliophilic fantasy. I have loved and been influenced by dozens of authors. Here are just a few favorites (a mixture of old and new, fiction and nonfiction): Steinbeck, Pat Conroy, Studs Terkel, Daphne du Maurier, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jean Auel, Nien Cheng, Amy Tan, Theodore Dreiser, Shirley Jackson, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Stephen King, Anne Tyler, Miguel Ruiz, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Dr. Richard Carlson, Albert Camus, Richard Bach, E.B. White, Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Dickens and William Styron. An eclectic batch, but all are loved!.

And, oh yes, I love film and music (I'd rollover for Beethoven any day). Also, I love plays, museums and art galleries. I love holidays and picnics but also prize solitude. I love to hear children giggle. I love the smell of puppies and kittens. I love the silky hairs on infants' heads and the smell of powder and lotion, right after they've been bathed. (I have never been lucky enough to have babies of my own, but I have had a niece and nephews.) I love the sound of crickets and frogs after sunset. I love drinking morning coffee on the deck, listening to the birds and watching the sun rise. I love watching the activity at our bird feeders and jotting down the species that visit each month. (Oh, no! This list sounds like a tune out of The Sound of Music! "Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens..." Somebody shoot me before I get swathed in my own sap.)

As for writing, that brings me to the last part of our chat. I've always written, but when my health plummeted, I started writing for publication in 1991. I can't stop writing! I love it! I've learned, though, that publication feels great, but it's the journey that holds true meaning, not the byline. It's people and community that matter. Because of that, I have just started my own community online, a site called Everyday Warriors, for people battling chronic illness or physical challenges. I'm having fun building the site!

When I came on the Net a decade ago, I had no idea that writers were so generous and giving. I learned this lesson when I happily stumbled on a site that changed my life and my view of writers and writing: Cathy Atherton's stellar writing site: One Woman's Writing Retreat. Cathy's site taught me that real writers share hopes, dreams and goals and root for each other's success. Cathy assembled a small band of talented writers and the most recent member to join was Heather. It's through Heather, her magical site, which explodes with creative thought, that I learned that coloring outside the lines not only is okay, but mandatory, in order to express who you really are in this world. Being a part of these women, part of a team of loving, caring writers and friends, is now a large part of who I am and how I see myself as the years unfold.