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.

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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.

 

The New Normal Isn’t Normal At All

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I attended our local Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting yesterday. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo above but the guest speaker was the Sheriff of Lake County who introduced us to a leading expert on active killer situations. He spoke to us on our country’s long history regarding mass attacks and school massacres. Surprisingly, it is nothing new.  It just feels like it is. That doesn’t make me feel any better. 

My generation never practiced for terrorist attacks or school shootings.  It simply wasn’t on our radar. We were an in-between generation. Too late for the Cold War and too early for domestic terrorism. In my day, the only defense training we received was a twice a year fire drill which hardly any of us took seriously. We got up, marched down the hallways in a straight single-file line until we were outside and then our nature took over and we became kids at recess.

The generation before me wasn’t as lucky. They were taught the duck and cover maneuver to “protect” themselves during nuclear attacks. 

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Speaking frankly, that always seemed a little silly to me. My school desk was unable to protect me from the spitballs lobbed from David Cook seated a row behind me… I somehow think it would not have been an effective deterrent to an H-bomb lobbed from a Russian sub.

These days, whole classrooms are being taught the Run, Hide, Fight response. Instead of teaching our children to be victims (aka Duck and Cover), they are being taught how to take action to try to avoid being victims. It is great training but in my opinion, it is something that we, as a society, should be ashamed by the fact that it even has to be part of the curriculum. Not that it isn’t needed… it is. And that is why we should be ashamed.

Our culture is what it is and there are so many moving parts to it that it is difficult to effect overall change except in gradual steps. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the attempt. It took a while for us to get to the sad and unfortunate place that we are… and it will take a while to move us back to where we should be. But every step we take in that direction will be worth the effort. There is nothing normal about this “new normal” in which we find ourselves. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

It Is Funny The Things You Remember…

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We always enjoy talking to the customers that come into the studio… getting to know them… hearing their stories… It never ceases to amaze me the many connections I can make between their memories and mine. Today, we were helping a woman with a video tape that she needed converted to a digital form. In speaking with her, she informed us that she owned a roller skating rink. The memories came flooding back.

Our youngest son could skate like an Olympian. There was a grace he possessed on the ice (with blades) or on the wood (with wheels) that defied explanation. He was a natural. But he was also a guy’s guy. And he discovered hockey. First roller hockey but he eventually graduated to the ice.

I wish I could tell you the fond memories of watching him compete and perform intricate movements that seemed impossible to me… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I wish I could tell you of the exciting games I was privileged to watch as a spectator, cheering my son on from the bleachers and celebrating their wins… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I can, however, tell you about the ride home. You see, in order to get the ice time, we had to join a league about 90 minutes from the house. And after the game, where he gave his all on the ice, my son took off his uniform, dressed in his street clothes, and stuffed his gear: jersey, pads, and everything else into his gigantic hockey bag which I then hefted into the back of our car. To say it was aromatic would be an insult to noses everywhere. I have never in my life before or since experienced a stench like the one that came from that hockey bag. And I’m the son of a gym teacher. I grew up around locker rooms.

The week in between games were spent trying to neutralize the locker room scent from the bag. And we tried everything. Nothing really worked. We sprinkled it with lemon freshener. It just made it smell like lemon sweat. We tried airing it out in our backyard which I think is why we didn’t see many birds come to our feeder during hockey season. I contemplated chucking everything into our pool and using super-chlorinator tablets to see if that would do anything but chickened out… not because I might have to replace his gear but because I thought I would somehow ruin the pool.

Still, a little acrid exposure was a small sacrifice to make in order to watch your children engaged and enjoying one of their passions. And I truly did enjoy watching him skate. Still do.

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.

Have I Got A Girl For You!

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So I released the images taken at our corporate photo shoot today. What you see above was one of the pictures that made the final cut. Thanks to all who left positive comments. We agree… we think they turned out fairly well. Thank you to Stephen Flint Photography who worked with us throughout the process.

Seeing the picture, I couldn’t help but reflect on the passage of time. This past April, my wife and I celebrated our 26th year of marriage. Here’s what we looked like in our “infancy.”

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Personally, I think we look better today than we did back then. But then again, photo retouching has come a long way since those days.

Still, digging out this old wedding photo reminded me that it almost didn’t happen. I think I blogged about how I met my future wife while doing a play in Orlando. We were cast opposite each other. She caught my eye immediately. What I didn’t know at the time was that I also caught hers… just not in the way I would have wanted. She shared with me much later that she tried to set me up with a girlfriend of hers. Apparently I was good enough for a friend… but I didn’t quite exceed past that bar. At least not at the start.

Fortunately I was too obtuse to pick up on the hints that she wanted to introduce me to someone. Sometimes being unaware works out for you. What did Forrest Gump say? “Stupid is as stupid does.” I’ll take that kind of stupid every day because sometime during the long rehearsal period I must have grown on her. She eventually stopped dropping the hints about getting together with some “friends” and just decided to spend time with me.

Personally, I think she made a good decision but I can’t speak for her.  (Well, I could but I’ve learned not to – stupid is as stupid does, remember?)

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.

 

The Music Machine

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If I have said it once, I’ve said it countless times… memories make the best gifts ever. I was reminded today that I have actually been gifting memories longer than I’ve been in the memory business.

Way back, when my son first got married and entered into the Coast Guard… while he was going through his initial training at Cape May NJ, our daughter-in-law, who was carrying our first granddaughter to be, stayed with us. While she was there, probably thinking about the things she wanted to share with her expected child, she mentioned that there was a children’s record that she listened to all the time when she was growing up but she didn’t know what had happened to it.

It was called The Music Machine. After a little online research, I was able to find the CD of it (both vol.1 and vol. 2) and purchased them for her. To be honest, I had never heard of it before but hearing her talk about it let me know what an important part of her childhood it was to her.  Seeing her reaction as she opened the package made me a solid believer that gifting a memory, when you can pull it off, is the best gift you can ever give.

Those CDs became staples in her audio collection and she played them repeatedly on road trips she spent with her daughters. 

Here’s a little about Music Machine:

Recorded and released in 1977, Music Machine (AKA The Music Machine: The Fruit of the Spirit or Music Machine: A Musical Adventure Teaching the Fruit of the Spirit to All Ages) (1977) is a Christian children’s album by Candle. It is set in Agapeland, and teaches children about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It features the characters Stevie and Nancy. It spawned a series of spin-off Music Machine albums, books, a video game and Music Machine movies too.

If you, like me, had never heard of it before, here’s a sample of the kind of songs that were featured on the album:

 

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