Bum Rap

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Throughout my adult life I’ve carried with me an air of what I thought was self-confidence… self-reliance… self-assurance…  All of which I believed to be positive and desirable qualities. I come to find out that what I thought was self-confidence, others perceived as arrogance.

Go figure.

The realization came over a dinner conversation I had with my 90 year old mother-in-law, God bless her. We were talking about how difficult it can be to trust people that you don’t really know and I made the tongue-in-cheek remark of: “Yeah, you didn’t really like me at first, did you?” And to my great surprise, she agreed.

My wife was aghast. “What do you mean, you didn’t like him?  What was wrong with him?” She deadpanned, “He was arrogant.” And then she turned to me, stone-faced. I immediately went defensive.

“I have heard that before,” I admitted, “but it isn’t true…” I’m just comfortable with who I am. I don’t find that I have to put on a polite facade when I meet people.”

“Like I said,” she quickly replied, “Arrogant.”

I had no response. And my wife was too busy laughing to come to my defense.

It’s hard to be arrogant when you are bested by a 90 year old in a battle of wits.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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New Is Not Always Better

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My wife and I like antiques and have pretty much furnished our home with them. Perhaps 80% of the furniture we use is over 50 years old if not older. One thing we quickly realized is that certain concessions have to be made when you choose to populate your living space with old things.  Like not expecting them to always work as they should.

We have a 100 year old storage cabinet with drawers that always stick… to the point where I don’t remember what we’ve stored in two of the drawers because it’s been so long since I’ve been able to open them. But the cabinet itself looks great and fits the space. And so far I haven’t missed whatever might be in those two drawers so I really don’t feel the need to replace it.

However, our dining room table which was bought from a Sears catalog in 1905 was admittedly beginning to show its age. The table itself still looked in good shape but whenever we inserted its leaves to accommodate visitors, my wife was so embarrassed by their condition she needed to use a tablecloth to cover the flaws.  (Which kind of gives me a clue as to how she’ll be dressing me in years to come.)

Anyway, we started pricing out replacement dining room sets and the costs to get something of quality were exorbitant. So we just kept the old Sears set until we could figure something out. One day, at an antique auction, I spotted an old dining room set that was being put up for sale. Nice carvings, chairs looked great. And it was a drawer-leaf table – meaning it went from a 4 top to a 8 top by pulling out its built-in leaves. And they were in great shape… original to the table which means no tablecloth would be needed.

I looked at my wife who shrugged and said, “I don’t think so.”  By this time, we’d been looking for over a year without finding even a potential candidate. I was excited by this find but my wife was not so I played it cool.  I sat down and watched the auction.

The table came up late in the sale. Still looked good to me. My wife sat stone faced. The auctioneer opened the bidding. Crickets. No one wanted it. He dropped the opening bid price. Sounds of silence from the crowd. He looked at one of his partners and said, “Looks like I’m buying this one. $100 to…”

I thrust my paddle in the air so quickly, I broke the sound barrier. Based on the expression my wife gave me, she must have heard it. But I bought the dining room set: One expandable table, six chairs, in near perfect condition, for $100.00. It now sits proudly in our home as a table no one sits at… right near the cabinet that doesn’t open and the clock that doesn’t chime.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Am Grout

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I’d like to meet the twisted mind that invented grout… or at least the consumer application of it. It’s difficult to apply; impossible to keep clean; and a major pain to remove. Really, what’s to like?

Guess what I spent the weekend doing? Why my wife puts handyman items on my weekend todo list I will never know. After so many years of marriage, you’d think she’d pick up on the fact that, while I have many long suits, being handy is not among them.

But the state of the grout in our shower stall has been skeezing her out for a while now so as I approached my Sunday chore list I saw written (in capital letters) REGROUT THE SHOWER TILES!  First step: I immediately went to get a six pack of beer to use as a celebration once the job was done. It is important to self-motivate.

Turns out, I got lucky. It wasn’t the grout that needed replacing. The silicone sealer had become stained over time – probably because it was poorly installed the last time it was done. (Not one of my finest efforts.)

So out with the old, in with the new. To be honest, it wasn’t that tough a job… at least it wouldn’t have been for a guy under 5 feet tall. But at 6’3”, and something something years old, my body doesn’t bend and maneuver in a small square space all that well. It did get a little looser after I self-lubricated by cracking the celebration beverages a bit early.

So mission accomplished. Our stall has been re-silicone sealed. Can’t wait to see what is on the list for next Sunday.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

They’re Having A Bowl!

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A few years back I was asked to sponsor a neighboring community’s bowling league to help it get launched. Why not I figured? I always like to help out my fellow Floridians.

The league was launched in Oxford Fl, just outside of The Villages, the nation’s premiere retirement community and was open to all residents of The Carriage House, which is an independent living facility and the current home of my own mother.

I paid a visit to see how the fledgling league was getting on and to my surprise, it has grown and flourished. Multiple teams, two lanes (plus a practice lane on another floor), some teams even have cheerleaders rooting them on.  Scores and stats are diligently kept. Granted, we’re talking Wii Bowling but these octogenarians are eating it up. And they’ve gotten pretty darn good. And, a little prideful boast… last season, my mom’s team came in first. They call her team the Studio Stars… thanks for the plug, mom.

It actually does good to see our older citizens enjoying an activity together, having fun despite the aches, pains and other difficulties that seem to increase with every year that passes. Really, isn’t that what we should all wish for? To enjoy as much of this life as we can, spend time with people we like or love, and not let the frailties that may come with the passing of time steal all the pleasures we can derive from this life.

So bowl away seniors. Don’t you let a pin remain standing. We’re all rooting you on.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Talk To The Trees

 

Sometimes, I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield… I get no respect.  After I shopped for, prepared and cooked a scrumptious dinner – (Indian Curry with Chicken and Peas – here’s the recipe), we sat around the dinner table to enjoy good food and pleasant conversation.

We talked about our day which, for all of us, seemed to be very busy.  My wife had a full day planned and didn’t get to any of it as chore after chore  prevented her from carrying out her schedule.

I brought my laptop home to catch up on some video editing in between handling some finances and repairing a curtain rod that needed fixing. I worked all day long.

I then turned to my 90 year old mother-in-law who had thus far been silent and said, “What about you Laura? What do you have to complain about?”

“I don’t complain,” she replied, “Nobody listens to me anyway.”

I jokingly broke into song. #I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me. I talk to the stars but they never hear me. The breeze hasn’t time…#  I stopped as I saw both my wife and mother-in-law staring at me with confused expressions.

“What?” I said, “That’s from Paint Your Wagon. It’s a famous song. Clint Eastwood sang it in the movie.”

Without missing a beat, my mother-in-law turned to my wife and deadpanned, “I hope he sang it better than that.”

No respect.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

A Forgotten Memory Restored

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It never ceases to amaze me how much our individual and unique memories are often shared by others we have never met. I was transferring some footage from a client of mine today and suddenly the unknown home movie footage I was monitoring shifted to a memory that was all too familiar to my past.

There was a tourist attraction near my childhood home called Enchanted Forest. Its concept was to build exhibits centered around the fairy tale stories familiar to children. I haven’t thought about it in years but the footage from my client brought those memories back to life.

I remember the Old Woman’s Shoe (you remember… she had so many children she didn’t know what to do?) In the Enchanted Forest version it was a two story shoe that encased a slide. Kids would walk into the shoe, climb the stairs to the upper level and then slide down to the ground.  It probably should have been called the Old Woman’s Boot but why quibble?

There was a cartoon whale named Willie, a gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, and a storybook castle with a dragon among other similar themed “rides.”

Admittedly, Enchanted Forest was a poor man’s version of Disneyland but if you couldn’t afford to go to the house of the mouse, perhaps Enchanted Forest provided a decent alternative at a more affordable price. It was a one man brainchild the likes of which we may never see again. There was nothing showy about it. Most of the attractions were simple structures that kids could play on or in, letting their imagination take them where it would. It was a simple pleasure for a simpler time.

Nothing wrong with that… in fact there’s a whole lot of good in that. Although it closed in 1995, after nearly a decade of neglect, there was a movement to save many of the pieces in the Enchanted Forest from further disrepair. Piece by piece, surviving items including the ones mentioned above were transported to a local farm, restored and put in place where they continue to be enjoyed by passers by.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora special in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

How To Plan a Successful Family Reunion

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It is that time of year… a lot of families are planning events or joint vacations in order to touch base with their relatives. I have heard many heartwarming stories about events like these but I have also heard some heart wrenching ones.

If you have been saddled with the weighty responsibility of organizing a get-together for your relatives, here are 10 tips on how to plan a successful family reunion from familytreemagazine.com:

  1. Make a plan.  Start by picking a date and location.
  2. Recruit and delegate. No one person can manage all aspects of a family reunion. Surround yourself with capable and enthusiastic committee members.
  3. Create a command center. Keep your records organized. You’ll refer to them often.
  4. Build a budget. Keep your costs down or try to give the family plenty of lead time to budget. Give an idea of the price in the first mailing.
  5. Prepare a back up plan. If it is organized as an outdoor event, know what you will do in case of inclement weather.
  6. Get the word out. Flyers, emails, websites or all of the above. Try to build engagement and a sense of enthusiasm.
  7. Offer something for everyone. Offer a range of activities to meet varied ages and interests.
  8. Start with a bang. Getting everyone involved as they arrive is essential to setting the right    tone.
  9. Share your family’s story. Use the opportunity to make a family photo album (everyone brings pictures and create a page), a book of family stories, a video of reunion footage, or a family recipe book.
  10. Maintain the momentum. After the reunion, plan to keep in touch until the next one.

This blog post idea stemmed from a client who needed me to convert video footage of her family’s home movies so they could be played at their semi-annual family reunion. They have found that their “movie night” is the most popular segment of their time together.  There are now up to 40 family members who attend their reunions regularly and they have home movies that date back 50 or 60 years. Watching them as a group experience brings a certain hilarity that cannot be found anywhere else.

My client plans to purchase paper popcorn sleeves and make a grand time of it. I envy her. Nothing, absolutely nothing, brings a family closer together than the memories they share.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Please Czech This Out

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Sometimes we just wait too long and then it is too late.

I spoke today with someone serving as caretaker for an elderly person. It is hard, especially when you’re caring for someone you care about. But the reality is that none of us are going to be around forever. We would be wise to take the opportunity while it exists to ask the questions and get information that will otherwise be lost for all time.

We offer a service that we call LifeStories. It’s where we sit an individual in front of a camera and ask them questions about their life: what their childhood was like; what events stood out for them during their lifetimes; what their fondest memories were. Their answers are recorded and preserved in a video format that can then be passed onto the family members, and preserved for generations to come.

Not doing something like this results in a hard lesson to learn. Inevitably, gaps in our understanding will come to light and we’ll wish we knew more about our ancestors and our family history.

Case in point: The above picture was found in a box filled with other photos belonging to my family.  I don’t know the people pictured. I don’t recognize the setting. I have no idea what the occasion was that prompted the picture to be taken. But it was apparently noteworthy enough to be included in a collection of our family memorabilia.

There is a clue. On the back side of the photo are non-English words scrawled in pen. I don’t speak the language. I’m thinking it is Czech, the nationality of my father’s side of the family. I post it here in case anyone can translate it for me.  It may be nothing. It could mean everything.  No way for me to know.

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I plugged it into a Siri driven translator and it came back with the following: “This is a shoe shooter Terom – the son of a bathtub slips the torch eo mu pomrala heraz feathers.”  Perhaps it is just me but somehow I think Siri’s translation may be a bit faulty.

If only I had taken the time and effort to learn more about my father’s parents and their past while they were here to answer those questions. #MemoriesMatter.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Killing The Black Dress

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I will apologize in advance if this post comes off a bit sexist. It is certainly not my intent. But political correctness doesn’t change the fact that men do some things differently than women. Case in point: Shopping.

Men are hunters. We typically will shop only when we have to and we have to know what it is we’re after. Browsing is not allowed on a hunt. Hunting is specific, targeted, controlled. And you don’t quit until you bring home the game.

My wife will go shopping for an item, spend 5 hours in the mall, only visit three stores and come home disappointed that she didn’t find it. But she will manage to buy three other things she wasn’t looking for.

I vowed to teach her the man’s way. And I had the opportunity. We attend a formal affair once a year. I wear the same tux every year. My wife insists on wearing a new outfit. So I told her that we were going to shop for her dress together. I was going to teach her how to kill the black dress.

We went to the Millennia Mall in Orlando. Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, Ann Taylor, Black and White, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s… A target rich environment.

Before we went into the first store, I gathered the intelligence. We needed a formal gown (men, that means it has to be long). My wife gets cold easily so she wanted it to have sleeves. She doesn’t like frills and ruffles so nothing too flowery. Simple, elegant lines. 

First store, straight to the sale rack. Found three possibilities. She turned them all down. No problem… I was ready to move on. She was looking at cocktail dresses. Nipped that in the bud.

Next store, straight to the sale rack. Not much there but found one that might work. She tried it on. Nixed it. Not discouraged. We have just begun and we’re in the zone. Nice energy flow working.

Next store. Jackpot. Multiple dresses. Each one matching all her specifications. I loaded her up and sent her to the dressing room. I waited, confident that the black dress was cornered and we’d be taking it home.

Thirty minutes later she comes out wearing a dress I didn’t give her. Sleeveless, strapless, with ruffles (I later learned that it was called ruching, not ruffles.) Despite the fact that she went off the reservation with her choice, it was still a record breaking shopping expedition for her. We were making progress.

The formal event arrived. In our hotel room, she spent her requisite time getting ready, waiting until the last minute to put the dress on lest it get wrinkled. Her anguished cry alerted me that the black dress might not have been killed after all. Turns out that a sleeveless, strapless gown requires a specific kind of bra to wear underneath. One that we did not pack.

It was ten minutes until we were to walk the red carpet. Out comes the smartphone. I found a Victoria’s Secret less than a mile from the venue. I used to get embarrassed when I would find myself in certain situations.  Marriage has driven that right out of my system.  I ran the mile in my tux, burst into Victoria’s Secret sweating and panting and cried at the top of my depleted lungs, “Quick, I need a bra!” You can imagine the attention I received. But I killed the bra, delivered it to my wife, and was every bit the mighty hunter providing for his mate.

Next year, we’re shopping online.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

My Favorite Fathers’ Day Song

I came across this song when I was looking to pay tribute to my own dad. Here’s the short video I posted online last year.

The song, My Dad, was sung by Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts.

The song was written by Barry Mann after the death of his own father. Mann and his wife, Cynthia Weil were among the most prolific songwriters of their day having penned such hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Somewhere Out There,” and my personal favorite “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp?)

A few years later, the song was covered by none other than Davy Jones of The Monkees. Now I’m a big Monkees fan but the only rendition of this particular song that I want to hear is Petersen’s. Maybe it is because when it was first broadcast on his TV sitcom, with his character singing this song to his TV dad played by Carl Betz, it was such an emotionally powerful and personal statement that the song just seems to belong to them.

If you’ve never seen it, I’ve posted it below.

To all the dads out there… thank you. You know why.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.