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Jottings contributor Nancy Dunis shares insights into the value of laughter and friends who bring joy.

SUBMITTED PHOTO  - Earlier in her career Leslie Akin was a professional clown. She has recently released her book, 'A Fool's Guide to Clowning.'

Frank Sinatra sang about "Nancy with the laughing face" but in my world I would have had him sing about Leslie with the laughing face. That's Leslie for Leslie Akin, one of the most fun and funniest people I know.

I met Leslie, the owner of Lake Oswego Graphics, about a year and a half ago when I attended a Chicks Connect meeting at her office across from the downtown Lake Oswego post office. I had read an article in The Review about Chicks Connect and was curious. Leslie was head chick for the Lake Oswego area. When I arrived at the meeting, I remember announcing to the group that I thought it was a grief support group as opposed to a networking group. Leslie chortled loudly "we'll give you grief all right." She did and she does; but it's always out of fondness and affection.

We really hit it off at that first Chicks meeting. She was the reason I kept going back. I never knew what the meeting would entail or what kind of nonsense Leslie would hand out. Whatever it was, I batted it right back. One week she was razzing me about the socks I had on, which carried the slogan "this meeting is BS." Another time she teased me about my embroidered jeans saying, "I see you're wearing your mariachi pants." I roared with laughter because they do have that sort of Mexican feel to them.

Leslie is a tease and a special friend. She has your back; she's supportive and won't let you do things that aren't in your best interest. One thing I most appreciate about Leslie is the mantra she lives by: "If it doesn't bring you joy, why do it?" I love her for constantly reminding me of this. We both have spent time the past few months weeding out the non-joy in our lives.

Our sense of integrity about doing the right thing plus a huge element of trust are values that seem to connect us. If she tells me something I may not want to hear, it's because she cares. I appreciate that I can talk candidly with Leslie, aka The Brand Boss, graphic designer and branding specialist. If I'm not crazy about one of her graphic ideas, I can say so without fear of those chocolates on her desk being laced with arsenic. Not only does Leslie know her graphic stuff but she also knows how to portray each business's heart and soul, telling who they are and what they do graphically.

If I had to describe Leslie with a phrase it would be "always laughing and cracking jokes ... clowning around." Truth be known, in a previous life Leslie actually was a professional clown for 15 years. She grew up in Maryland and took college courses in clowning taught by a Shriner. Twice she performed at the White House under presidents Carter and Reagan. Ironically, she met "The Chairman of the Board, ole blue eyes himself." "His eyes really were that blue," she said.

Although she no longer performs as a clown, Leslie is still involved with the clown community sharing her knowledge and skills via Facebook and her recently published book "A Fool's Guide to Clowning."

She may not be performing any more, but Leslie still has a hankering for magic tricks. She invited me to go with her one weekend to a magic show. The magic show wasn't quite what we expected but we laughed ourselves silly anyway, especially when I got skunked by an imitation skunk that jumped out of a box and landed on my arm. I shrieked so loud you could have heard the sound from one end of the mall to the other.

We couldn't take the rambunctious, hyperactive children that were bouncing off the furniture. One kid really cracked us up though. The magician asked for volunteers from the audience. This kid was practically on stage before the magician even picked him. Once there he kept grabbing the props, playing with them and telling the magician what to do.

Here's to you, Leslie Ann Akin for getting your book written and keeping joy in your life and in mine. See you at Burgerville for a cup of Joe, a chocolate chip cookie, and an ice cream sundae.

Nancy Dunis is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake

Oswego Adult Community Center.

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