Leon Vellinga – The uncle I almost didn’t get to know

 

Here is the story of how I learned of Leon (my Uncle) and his family. Some parts I am sure that I have messed up on timelines and things but I did the best I could remember.

A couple years ago, my mom, who passed away last May, had told me that she was contacted by either by Leon or his wife Kathy. I believe she had said by email. In the email it was said that looking over Leon’s birth certificate that his birth mother was listed with my grandmothers name. I don’t think a father was named. After some sleuthing, Kathy/Leon found my moms contact information. Kathy/Leon were reaching out to see if there were siblings of his and if there were, were they still alive, and if so, would they have any interest in getting to know him as he definitely had an interest in finding anything out abut his birth family.

When mom told me of this I was leery. I immediately thought of some sort of scam whereby a person gets some personal information by pretending to be my moms long lost brother and then plays on her sympathies to get money out of her. That was my first thought and I counseled mom not to give too much information and certainly no money. (Yes – overprotective son – sue me!)

Over the next several months they continued to talk and struck up a long distance friendship over the phone. As it became apparent that Leon seemed to be the genuine article and that he had nothing but the best intentions, they had struck up a friendship that eventually led to Leon making the trip to Portland to meet mom in person. After that, they spoke on the phone regularly.

Before the summer of 2014, knowing my wife’s band (The Power Pep Band) was set to play in the Tillamook Dairy Festival, I contacted Leon and spoke with him on the phone for the very first time. At the conclusion of the conversation, it was decided we would stop over at Leon’s home and meet him and his family, which included his wife Kathy, daughters Shelly and Kerry and their husbands and some grandchildren.

All too soon we were in Tillamook, the parade was over and the band was back at the parade staging area preparing to make our way to Leon’s home. GPS told us we were surprisingly close to Leon’s home (less than 2 miles I think). Soon we were pulling into the driveway of Leon’s home. As we drove up I got to see Leon for the very first time. He was neither big nor small, thin nor fat, he simply was regular looking man. I am not sure what I expecting to see. What I was greeting with pleased me very much. He looked like a man that had spent his life working. He had laugh lines and was thinning a bit but altogether looked like a person that had experienced life.

As we got out of the car and we all introduced ourselves and handshakes were made he showed us into his home and introduced us to his wife Kathy. While we were visiting, Leon showed us around the farm, told of his growing up all his life in Tillamook (after being adopted at 1) and eventually met with and talked business with a friend who had come over to talk about buying an aluminum boat ramp to replace his wooden one that had seen better days. Afterwards we took a short drive out the the fishing hole where his boat was moored and his friends boat ramp was clearly visible from Leon’s. It was not looking too good.

After the fishing hole was left, we took a short trip[ around where he showed me a bit of this and that. He had some story to tell about most things around. Clearly this was his home. After our trip concluded, we headed back to Leon’s house and had some vittles and talked with one another, waiting for Shelly and her husband to arrive. Time flew with the pleasant company and soon enough we were saying goodbye with the promise of stopping by again soon. We never did make it back.

Afterwards I spoke with Leon, Kathy and Kerry via email but we never really made plans to specifically meet up again. I guess life just works that way sometimes.

Mom passed on May 17th 2015. I called and broke the news to Leon. Later, when I called again with the date and time of the service we spoke for a while and he opened up and told me after the previous call, he cried. I never really understood how a person could bond so quickly with someone they never really knew and be moved to tears after their passing. He also said that he wasn’t going to be able to make mom’s service (which at the time I found strange and a little insulting if I am being honest) because his grandsons last drag-race was on the same day. I was confused but let it pass.

Late last year I received an email from Kerry, saying that Leon was in the hospital (St. Vincent’s) in Portland and that the prognosis was not good. Leon had had health issues for a long while and they were catching up with him. This might be the last time to see him. I made my way to see him in the hospital and think I startled both he and his wife Kathy when I poked my head in his room. I sat and we spoke for a brief period of time. His fighting spirit beat back whatever it was that had him laid up and he was soon back at home.

A month ago I received the sad news that Leon had gone back into the hospital and after some time had slipped into a coma and peacefully passed away.  I was stunned. Details were given about the service and three weeks later (two weekends ago) my wife and I found ourselves at the service for the uncle I had only met once.

The service was a remembrance of the life Leon had made for himself in Tillamook. How he had been a track star in high-school, had life-long friends, how he married and had kids and grand-kids. One after another, family and friends shared their stories of and about Leon. I shared mine too but I had not planned on speaking so my saying he was my uncle threw people when I didn’t fully explain how that was. I was so moved by the shear volume of people that came forward to speak, not just his fishing buddies but by people that he had inspired, one of which became a large animal veterinarian, but the volume of high-school kids that came up to speak about how he was like an adopted grandfather of theirs.

It took the stories and remembrances of all these people to make sense of why Leon wouldn’t make the service of my mom. Leon was all about family, and although mom was his sister, it was only for a very brief period of time and he had been a grandfather all of his grandsons life. I think the choice was easy for him make. Some of us wouldn’t make the same choice or even understand why Leon made it the way he did but knowing Leon a little better now, ironically after he passed away, I think I do understand. He was a family man. He was put up for adoption at the age of 1 and was raised by people that really wanted him. That ideal was instilled in him and when he decided to have a family of his own he devoted himself to his family 100%. I can respect that.

I think I will try to live a little bit more like I believed Leon did. Love your family and your neighbors. Talk a little trash when it comes to sports and greet people with a ready smile. Wait a minute, I think I do most of those already. Maybe the bond of family we had was closer than I originally thought.

I loving memory

Leon Kent Vellinga

June 22nd, 1947 – January 15th 2016

Peace to you all!

More to come…

Posted in Important Stuff, Reading Material | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Doing the thing you ought when time allows

Tonight, as my wife and I were watching Americas Next Top Model (yes I watch the show with my wife – what of it?) when an episode came up that dealt with the last four contestant’s mothers coming on the show and taking a part in their child’s photo-shoot. This got me thinking about when each of the models got so emotional when getting the chance to see their parents, let alone work with them. I admit I got a little misty eyed. I am actually a sensitive guy, just ask me.

One of the things I regret, and not that I am going to lament too much on it, is not having my mom listen to any of the audio-books that I had completed while she was still with us. As the voice over (VO) talent on any book I work on through ACX (these books are posted to Audible for sale) I get 25 free download links I can give out to people. This is usually to help promote the audio-book in the way of having your friends write nice reviews of the good work you have done. I never did send my mom a link to have her listen to any of the books I finished. I do regret that now. I guess a part of me was embarrassed to have her here what I was doing and not like it. Can anyone relate to that?

So, in breaking with my old habits, I will be giving out a bunch of free download links to those people that want (or think they can endure) to listen to me for nine or more hours tell a story. This will be an offer with (almost) no strings attached. I would appreciate it if you go to Audible and leave a review (good or bad) expressing your thoughts on the story and the VO work I did. This is something I am not altogether comfortable with doing but if this is really the career path I have chosen to take to make a living at, I need to be able to have people leave critiques for me so that I can get better.

I suppose I will simply leave a link – James Nutt narrated books on Audible – to my Audible page where you can listen to a five-minute segment of any of the six books I have competed. You can then send me a message asking for a link to any book that I have completed and I will hook-you-up! Again, I would appreciate some honest feedback either to me directly or if you think this would be beneficial to my positive sales growth and people should hear these stories, then by all means, write an awesome review for me on Audible and maybe other people will read your review and decide to spend some shiny rocks on my book. I will therefor  get some of those shiny rocks also.

I guess the long and the short of this message is, to do what you can when you can since you may not get the opportunity to do so later. As a people we should tell the people that we care about that we love them more often, be nicer to those less fortunate then ourselves and be supportive of those around us.

To all of my friends and those that read this blog let me say this – “I love you all”, including those I have not met. Your signing up to follow my blog has really had a big impact on my life. My ability to connect with people and express myself have matured since I started writing this blog as well as given me an opportunity to share my thoughts with people that I might not otherwise get to see or talk with in person all that often. I also have a greater sense of self-sureness that I don’t think I had before this blog.

Also, I would like to thank each of the authors of these books (Ty Schwamberger, Christopher Gray, Matthew Burris, Mark Whiteway and David R. Beshears), for without them, I would have not had this great opportunity to pursue my dream. I am deeply honored.

With that, I will close this post.

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

 

 

Posted in Career, Everyday Buzz, Voice Over Acting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Axl Remembered

Axl

Axl

Last week was tough for my wife and me; we had to say goodbye to our cat Axl. He started showing signs of renal failure a couple weeks ago. As it reached a point that he was no longer ambulatory, we made the decision to have him euthanized.

As all pet owners know, death is a certainty that will have to be faced one day. We always hope that it is a long way off and when it does come you hope that it is quick and painless. Those elements don’t always go together but we hope they do. The longer a pet lives, the closer our bonds become with them, the more they become a part of the family, and all the more painful when we lose them.

I am ready to work - Are you?

I am ready to work – Are you?

As I enter my office to write this post, I am reminded just how much I will miss Axl, not because of his super-cool-awesome-catness, but because he did try his utmost to not let me get any work accomplished. Honestly, after Manu passed 28 months ago, Axl really bonded with me. Like I was a replacement Manu. Manu for the record was his litter-mate and they had been together always (approx. 15 years). sharing everything.

Can you see me?

Can you see me?

There was no such thing as too little a space. Just squeeze a little.

I remember the times at night, like clockwork, Manu would chase Axl through the hallways between the hours of 11 and 11:30. It was the funniest thing to listen to as we have wood floors and no carpets, the cats would try their hardest to gain traction and move forward but they would do the car equivalent of burning rubber when their hind legs would move but they didn’t really didn’t get anywhere at first. Also, when they finally did get to running they would often collide with the door to the t.v. room because they couldn’t make tight turns as they might if they were on carpet.

 

Axl patiently waiting for soft cat food

Axl patiently waiting for soft cat food

I will miss Axl’s early morning scratching on our door signifying he wanted soft cat food (I would sprinkle it with glucosamine and chondroitin powder to help with his old cat joints). I will also miss his meow when he greeted me when I did finally manage to get out of bed for said feeding, although it was really to take a shower, he made sure it was all about him.

Where did my head go?

Where did my head go?

 

 

I will miss his playful antics and obsession with what I can only imagine was string on the underside of our big purple chair for he would get his head fully underneath to chew on said offending string only to have it look like he he had no head.

I will miss his regal self-importance. I will miss his bizarre need to get into the bathtub to drink water.

Now what's in here do you suppose?

Now what’s in here do you suppose?

I will always remember how he could relax ANY and EVERY where he saw fit. His totally relaxing while I rubbed his belly, or any time really and they way he really looked at me like we understood each other. I guess in a way we did. We had our routines and I will miss him terribly. You are my favorite orange kitty!

Lord Axl presiding!

Lord Axl presiding!

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

Posted in Important Stuff | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My experience(s) with being bullied

It seems like I can’t escape how often I read about some poor young person (mostly) that is being bullied and has decided to take their own life rather than taking the online cyber bullying, in person verbal and sometimes physical abuses. Why is that? I mean, why do people feel the need to belittle and demote, denigrate and tear a person down so far? Is it to make themselves feel better, is it they are young and have no real sense of the impact of their words or actions?

I recently came across an article about a young girl named Isis. Of course, because of her name, she was bullied. She actually posted a video (probably on Facebook) taking aim at all of the shamers, mean spirited and ignorant folks that continued to make her life miserable. This was her way of being able to confront those people in a safe environment and express herself in a very mature way. For this I must applaud her. Hers is an ongoing story and I am sure that Isis still struggles with ignorance all around her. But she fights on.

The main reason I felt the need to write this post was to lend my words and support to those people like the young girl Isis and any others that are bullied, and share my own experience with bullying and how it has effected me. This is my story of being bullied.

When I was much younger than I am now, say 40 years ago, my family lived on small street in Portland Oregon. I went to school initially with my sisters or friends or by myself. School was about 5 blocks away, not all that far and times were different then. People were more self reliant, harder, if you will.

It started when I was in 1st grade I believe. I was on my way home after school. I was walking across the railroad tracks about a block and a half away from my house. Kind of an industrial part of town. Not very populated with houses and not many people around.

A kid a couple years older than me approached while I was in this no-mans-land area and although I forget his exact words, I remember his actions. He made me find a stick for him and then had me stand with my back to him, leaning against one of the supports to the foot bridge that went over the tracks. Then he would beat me over the back with the stick. He was older, bigger, stronger and faster than me. I couldn’t outrun him and I knew no other way to and from school. I had to take this route. Remember, I was 6 years old at the time.

This went on for some time. I tried my best to partner up with other kids or be very watchful for this person, but inevitably he would find me alone and the process would start over again. I would try to find sticks that were small, thin or looked to break easily. I also cried much more than it actually hurt so he would finish sooner and let me go home.

As you could imagine, my mom eventually found out. And when she did, she was furious. She marched me into the school principals office, lifted up my shirt and told them what happened and by whom. They told her that without proof that this kid had actually beat me, that they, the school, could do nothing because it a) did not take place on school grounds and b) we could not prove that this kid had actually beat me. Done…case closed. My mom fumed for days. I was not allowed to go to or back from school alone ever again, until the bully finally moved away.

After this kid moved away and things went back to being normal(ish), I felt like things would be okay…but I experienced more bullying in middle-school. This was verbal abuse and I am sad to report I simply took it. I do remember one time it making me cry and running off the gym floor after an especially mean-spirited attack.

The impact from all the earlier stuff plus the ongoing barrage made me hypersensitive to criticisms. I remember another kid that I had gone to elementary school with and now was going to middle school with, had said “I don’t know what happened to him, he used to be smart!” This probably hurt more than any of the other stuff because it wasn’t said in anger or to be mean, just a statement of fact. You see, I had started to be less responsive and withdrawn in middle school, unlike elementary school where I enjoyed being there, learning and excelling. My not answering questions in class was mistaken for not being smart.

I can tell you all of this has impacted me in a number of ways, some I can relate to you now and others I haven’t even begun to uncover. When I feel threatened and fight, flight or freeze (lizard brain) kicks in, I want to fight! I detest bullies and am liable to step up or confront people that are doing so to others. This has its pro’s and cons. Pro because maybe I get to help someone. Con because maybe someone gets hurt or worse in the process. Myself included.

I also get that feeling when having a heated discussion or debate. All perfectly harmless but I still feel like I am being attacked. This has also led to me being less communicative (Freeze) in some instances, less able to relate my thoughts or feelings. Feelings…argh, who needs them right? Truth is, we all do. Whether they get hurt or not, feelings are there for a reason (sometimes I cannot fully understand them) but I am pretty sure we make use of them.

I also struggle with self esteem. I can’t necessarily claim with any degree of certainty that this all stems from exposure to some pretty messed-up stuff as a child but deep down I think it has had an effect.

As I was walking my dog today I also thought about the impact this has had on my working relationships. I get into the fight-or-flight mode at times when I feel like I am being criticized or scrutinized, like during annual review time at work. Whenever these evaluations made the rounds and regardless of how I felt or knew how things were going on, often less than desirable evaluations were given. This even after I purposely set up a by-monthly meetings with my manager so that we could discuss areas where he thought I needed work so that those areas could be addressed throughout the year and no big surprises would show up on my review. Low and behold, he made one, maybe two meetings. The rest were moved and never got to or cancelled and rescheduled. This for a whole year. My inner voice told me is was because I wasn’t worth it.

I truly believe that this had some impact on my desire to work alone. I don’t have to give annual reviews of myself, have someone else say how good I am doing, and I don’t need someone telling me how to do my job. I gave up a decent paying job with financial security and good benefits to work in the voice over industry. Now, the only thing I hear…is silence. In this industry, if you don’t land the job, you don’t hear back from the client. That can be tough but maybe it’s worth not being marginalized at work.

My personal relationships have suffered as a result too. If get into a heated discussion about something with my wife, I struggle with my feelings of fight, flight or freeze. Letting a disagreement be a disagreement has been a challenge. She wouldn’t have agreed to be my wife and still be with me if she didn’t love, care and want to be with me. Having disagreements in a relationship is natural and should be dealt with honestly and maturely. I struggle with keeping that in mind. I also struggle with being in control of my emotions as if I might fly off the handle if something strikes that fight, flight or freeze response in me. Really? Seriously? It has been 40 fucking years! I would like some peace of mind, thank you very much!

Can I attribute all this back to being bullied? Of course not. But I think that some of what I feel and how I react in those high-stress confrontational moments, is related to these early experiences I had in my formative years.

Meditation has helped somewhat. I try to be in the moment. Deal with what is on my plate at any given time. I try not to expend energy thinking about what-ifs and if this or that would or could have been different then blah blah blah. I try to make a plan and stick to it as best I can. If things change along the way, I try to be flexible enough to manage the issue and move forward. This has helped relieve quite a bit of stress for me, which is a good thing.

For anyone out there who has ever been bullied, please don’t give up! Encourage others to speak up and be strong. I can’t say things will get better, but they can’t if you have given up. Things may always be challenging for you if you have experienced some of the things I endured, maybe you went through or are going through worse, far worse. Even with the challenges I have had to face and continue to face, life is still worth living. It is my greatest desire that you continue to move forward with your life and be the best you, you can be. There is SO MUCH good out there. There are SO MANY good people in the world. Don’t allow the bullies to win. Please fight the good fight. Seek out people you trust and confide in them. Talking about my experience has helped lift some of the burden. Maybe it will for you too.

I am totally receptive to hearing or talking with anyone who wants to share…anything.

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

 

Posted in Important Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Blast from the Past

I was going through some pics today for a project I am putting together and I ran across this photo. It isn’t part of the project I am working on, but I thought I would share all the same.

Who is staring who down?

Who is staring who down?

It is no secret I have a fear of sharks or more specifically getting attacked by one while snorkeling. Yes, I know the likelihood is rare that that would ever happen, but…

This pic was taken at the Sydney Aquarium, where my wife and I took our honeymoon (not that we honeymooned at the aquarium). I’m the menacing one with the big snout. Err…something like that.

Does anyone have any similar pics or stories they care to share?

Peace be with you!

More to come…

Posted in Australia, Everyday Buzz, Trips, Weird and Odd Stuff | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ever get a gift from a friend that knows you really well?

Over the holidays, I have a friend that likes to make dessert plates filled with all manner of sweet confections that he hands out. This year my friend added a little something special. A little extra if you will.

Now that's one BIG die!

Now that’s one BIG die!

Yes, you are seeing correctly, that is a giant chocolate 20-sides die. Not a hollow Easter Bunny wanna-be, but a giant-size monster d20. I have placed 2 other dice next to it for a size comparison. The smaller of the two dice is Ugly Betty, (yes I name my dice – some of them anyway) and stands maybe an inch tall, and the larger is just the largest die I had on hand (another gift from a friend that knew I was a gamer) and stands maybe 3 inches tall.

If you’re wondering, yes, my wife and I already ate most of the other sweet, delicious treats. We didn’t just get a plate with a single rice crispy treat, a piece of divinity and the largest solid chocolate die you have ever seen.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I wish all of you the very best for 2016.

 

Peace be with you!

More to come…

 

Posted in D&D, Everyday Buzz | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to do when PDX gets its 1st snow of the year and closes everything down?

You make home-made chicken noodle soup of course. Duh!

Just about ready to eat!

Just about ready to eat!

Over the holiday, my wife found herself with a new Pressure Cooker. I know it is a little self serving to get your spouse something to cook with, especially when you like to eat like I do, but hey, what’s a guy supposed to do. My wife loves to cook…and I love to eat. It works out well that way.

A couple nights prior to this picture being taken, we cooked a whole chicken in the new appliance. Needless to say it was delicious. Going into that meal we knew we were going to be making stock with all the left over chicken-bits, like you do when you have a just cooked a whole chicken and denuded it.

So with the left over chicken and newly made broth, we broke out the flour and eggs and made the noodles. This was out first attempt and as you can see, the noodles are a little long and a little fat. This was our first attempt and honestly, aesthetics take a back seat to taste. And believe me when I tell you this – this meal was fantastic!

So we roll the noodles a little thinner next time and we cut them shorter for ease of placing them neatly in our maws. But overall – this was a fantastic idea. It allowed my wife and I to make something from scratch together from ingredients we already had lying around the house. Aside from the fun we had making them together, we also got to determine what went into this meal. This was about it:

Broth was made with the following:

  • chicken carcass
  • water
  • celery
  • onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Better than Bullion chicken stock (I think)

Strain everything out and have pure flavor.

Noodles were made with the following:

  • flour
  • eggs
  • salt (maybe – I forget)

Roll dough out and cut into strips (we will make them thinner and shorter next time)

Soup was made with the following:

  • Bring broth to a light boil or simmer and add chicken, carrots, celery and parsley (we used curly as we couldn’t find Italian)
  • Add noodles one at a time so they don’t stick to one another. We stirred the broth as we did this so the noodles were fully immersed and were cooked on all sides.
  • Once all ingredients were together we let the whole thing cook another 5-10 minutes (maybe) until the noodles were fully cooked. Smaller noodles will take less time to cook.

The whole dish was constructed by adding the left-over chicken (cut into bite-size chunks) from the chicken we pressure cooked a few days earlier to the broth (that was simmering) we had made followed up by the noodles we also just made. The all-in time was probably less than an hour.

It doesn't get much better than this!

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Peace be with you!

More to come…

Posted in Home cooked Meals! | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments