Leslie's Website!

Contact Me

(360) 499-2101  (Google Voice number; somewhat flakey, so try again if you don't hear back or have trouble getting through.)

leslie *at* SafeSpotCottages.com

The following is a bare-bones biography of sorts.  I've hidden it here at the bottom of the "Contact Me" page, because the intent is not to inform, but rather to list all the places I've lived/worked/schooled on one web page (that also contains my full name) to make it easier for people from my past who might be looking for me to find me in a Google search.


I (Leslie Anne Lawrence) was born in Missouri in the early 1960's.

My Dad was in the service, and we lived in Germany from 1964-1967, returning to the States just in time for me to start kindergarten at Richard Round Tree Elementary and him to go off to the war in Viet Nam.

When I was seven, we moved to Laurel, Maryland for a couple of years and then to Columbia, Maryland, where I attended Stevens Forest Elementary School, Oakland Mills Middle School, and Oakland Mills High School (from which I graduated in 1980).  My passions in high school were cross country, track and music (saxophone, piano, and voice); wearing odd clothes, and hanging out with my eclectic group of friends.

I attended the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC) while in high school, and for one semester afterwards.  Then I took some time off from school to save some money and travel in Europe.  Came back and moved to New York City, where I lived first at FDR Drive and Grand Street on the Lower East Side, and then at Broadway and 13th, in the building in which Andy Warhol was shot.

In the summer of 1982, I went to Boulder, Colorado to live with some friends who had recently moved there from East Wind Community.  Through them, I got involved with the fine folks at Fred's Fine Fast Food--a 24-hour, profit-sharing porkchop-and-pancake stand that springs up like a mushroom every summer at the Illinois State Fair, just west of the Swine Pavilion.  I worked at Fred's for five or six summers before and during college.  (Fred's became kind of a family affair; my little brother, John, worked there for a couple of summers, and my Dad once spent two weeks of his vacation time from a GS-15 position as a cryptographer at the NSA to sling pancakes with the rest of us.  Fun!) 

I left Boulder to attend Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in the Fall of 1982.  At Oberlin, I lived in the irrepressible Harkness Co-op, took lots of my classes in the Conservatory, and declared a dizzying array of majors (Biology, English, Music History, and Religion), on the way to finally graduating with a B.A. in Geology in 1988.  During college, I spent a couple of summers waitressing in Northfield, MN; another summer as a field assistant in Newfoundland; and a semester away at Smith College in Northampton, Mass (Fall of 1987).

After college, I worked for a bit as a bicycle courier in Washington, D.C., going by the radio handle "Lightning Legs."  Then worked part-time at the College Park REI store while training in an outdoor leadership program run by the Outward Bound-wannabe company, InnerQuest, also in the D.C. area.  It was around this time that I started rock climbing (and kayaking--and all sorts of other stuff, but it was the rock climbing that stuck; in fact, I would pretty much structure my life around climbing for the next decade).

In 1989, I got a gig as a Foreign Fisheries Observer on a Japanese vessel fishing the U.S. Economic Zone in the Bering Sea.  The training for this job had been at the NOAA campus  on Lake Washington in Seattle.  I was enchanted with both NOAA and Seattle; shortly after the conclusion of the seven-week stint in the Bering, I talked my way into a job at PMEL at NOAA (on the multi-disciplinary project, FOCI) and settled into Seattle for the next 8 years, living near Ravenna Park.  In was during this period that I got really obsessed with rock climbing, and that I got my wonderful dog, Pete.

The climbing bug bit me so hard that I eventually felt it necessary to leave the rain (and my job) and move to Arizona in search of dry rocks.  I picked Flagstaff out of a rock-climbing atlas, and lived there from 1996 to 2000, climbing as much as I could, until I got shut down by back pain in the summer of 1999.  Flagstaff is one helluva hard place to find professional work; while there, I worked as a stone mason's apprentice (I'd always wanted to know how to do stone masonry, and really enjoyed it; building with stone made a wonderful contrast to pushing electrons around for a living) and as the climbing buyer at Babbitt's Backcountry.  Also while based in Flag, I did some contract oceanography work (in an effort to earn some actual money while still living in the outdoor athlete's Mecca) for Scipps Institute of Oceanography out of La Jolla, California, sailing to New Zealand as part of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). Once I found myself largely unable to climb, I lost interest in living in the economically impossible city of Flagstaff, and I moved back to the fecund Northwest--first to Breitenbush Hotsprings, where I worked as a technical writer for several months (hoping the magic waters and putative stress-free existence would save me from back surgery) and then to Portland, Oregon.

Decided to pursue a decades-long interest in health care (it was the topic of my undergrad application essay a couple of decades earlier), got accepted at an accelerated nursing program (BSN in one year), and moved to Baltimore, Maryland to attend Johns Hopkins Nursing School in the Fall of 2001; soon had to take medical leave due to worsening need for lumbar fusion.  I moved from Baltimore back to Portland, because I'd been offered an an good part-time research job at the nursing school at OHSU that came with top notch medical insurance.  (I didn't want to go through the lumbar fusion with crummy student insurance--not even at Johns Hopkins--nor did I didn't have any support network at all in the Baltimore area.)

Was unable to find a neurosurgeon in Portland in whom I felt adequately confident (I have rather high standards for who I'll let take a scalpel to my spine), so took the great insurance (via COBRA) and went back to Flagstaff in the Fall of 2002 to have the surgery done by Steven Ritland, the incredibly talented surgeon who had first diagnosed my spondylolithesis three years earlier. It was a lot of work, relocating to Flagstaff, but ultimately proved well worth it.  The guy is seriously a cut above.  (Arghhh.)  I had a miraculous recovery.  I went from using a walker in the months leading up to the surgery, to being able to ski, dance, climb and bike today.

After about a year of recovery and follow-up care in Flagstaff (there were some complications), I returned to Portland, but was becoming chemically sensitive in the wake of the (otherwise overwhelmingly succesful) surgery, and had great difficulty with the moldy environment of western Oregon.  Also found that I could return to neither my job at OHSU or the program at Hopkins due to the severity of the MCS  symptoms provoked by the chemical-laden hospital environment.  So, ended up moving to Bend, which is in the much drier climate of central Oregon, because I had a dear friend here (you know who you are, JB) who offered me a chemically tolerable guest room in which to regroup while I figured out how to construct a life that would allow me to live as well as possible with MCS.  (See My MCS/EI Story for more on this.)

I've been in Bend for five years now.  At first, I pieced together work writing for Volunteers in Medicine, guiding at Smith Rock for First Ascent, and playing piano at the Spiritual Awareness Community.  (All these attempts at earning a living were short-lived, in that they involved too much exposure to fragrances, but they allowed me to eek out a foggy-headed exsitence for a little while.)  Over the last few years,  I've found solid work I can do from my (fragrance-free) home, a great partner to be at home with, and am building...a fantastic home!  ("Home" becomes a pretty key concept when you're living with MCS!)  All in all, Bend has been berry, berry good to me.
Update: Decided to try fecundity and mold again (with mixed results, so far), and bought a place on Whidbey Island, WA.  For more on that, see www.SafeSpotCottages.com.