Light in the Midst of Darkness

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Most of my blogs center on my memories and the oftentimes humorous situations in which I have found myself. I certainly don’t mean to suggest all memories are happy and funny. They aren’t. But that isn’t to say all memories don’t have value.

My wife works at Orlando Health. Its downtown Orlando hospital, ORMC, is located a few blocks from the Pulse nightclub. On June 12, 2016 ORMC unexpectedly received multiple gunshot victims following a horrific terrorist attack. As Corporate Director of Internal Communications, my wife was called into their Incident Command center that morning. I didn’t see her for another 24 hours as she and her team worked through the day and night to manage their part in an inconceivable and heartrending situation.

I will not attempt to describe the details of their contributions or the experiences of any who were involved in this incident by trying to blog specifics about it. I wasn’t there. The sole purpose of including this as part of Memories Matter is because memories do matter. And the more we share them, the more we are enriched.

Orlando Health has recently released a series of first hand observations of what people saw, how they felt, and how they managed to cope during this difficult crisis. I am so proud that my wife was able to tell her story as a part of this process but I am equally proud of all the other stories that stand with hers in this compilation. Orlando, as a community, should be thankful for the healthcare professionals that stand ready to assist them… even in the worst of situations.

I offer this link for any who would like to know more about how these healthcare professionals were able to handle a nightmarish situation. These first hand experiences about what transpired in those terrible moments help to explain how human spirit was able to rise above the darkness. God bless Orlando Health and all who give of their time, energy, spirit, and expertise to provide care for our community.

To read these first hand accounts, follow this link:

https://www.orlandohealth.com/campaigns/g6iv8jkzop719

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

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Our Neighborhood Cement Pond

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I have many fond memories of growing up. And even though it has been decades since I revisited my childhood haunting grounds, I still vividly remember them as being important to me. Which is why it hurts when I learn that some of them no longer exist.

My home away from home every summer was our community pool, Aspen Hill Swim Club. It was within walking distance from my home. It is where we kids went every summer day when school was not in session; it was where we made long lasting friendships; it was where we connected with people before the Internet was invented. And I just found out that it no longer exists. It was sold to a development company almost 20 years ago. They used the land to build more houses. In my opinion, the community lost a valuable asset. It is a pity.

I remember the community pool playing an important part in my social development. I met my first girlfriend at the pool. My closest friends growing up were members of the community pool. I felt a sense of belonging and I so enjoyed the experience that I extended it through college. I became certified as a lifeguard, swimming instructor, and pool manager and every summer until I graduated from college, I could be found at a community pool working with young kids and fostering a sense of community that is sadly missing in today’s culture. It was my first job and in many ways remains my favorite job.

I recently found out that I lost a high school classmate the other day. She was an incredibly popular, attractive, and friendly person. Cheerleader co-captain. She and I worked together one summer at a local pool. We may have travelled in different circles at school and didn’t have much opportunity to connect there, but high school cliques did not exist at the community pool level. We were a melting pot. And so, for one brief summer, I was able to get to know her like I never did at school. And she lived up to all the hype. She was a special individual. I’m sorry we did not stay in touch Annie. May you rest in peace.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audiotapes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www. homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Ten Minutes

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“Ten minutes. That’s all I need.”

Those were the words my newest client spoke to me when he came to visit me yesterday. Ten minutes.

He handed me an 8mm videotape. “It’s cued up. All I need is ten minutes from where it is. Can you put it on a DVD for me?”

I can’t always satisfy immediate requests but he caught me on a good day. I had an 8mm tape player that was currently unoccupied, so I said “Of course.”

As I set up the equipment and began to capture his footage, he told me the story behind the video. What he captured was a moment during a fashion show of a beautiful young girl who, along with her brother, sang an original song to their mother thanking her for raising them.

Sadly, that brother died not too long after the video was taken and as far as my client knows, no one else recorded this special moment between the two of them. He came across the tape recently (it was in his camera that hadn’t been used in a decade or two) and he decided that the family would like to see it.  You think?

Ten minutes of a captured piece of personal history that was once thought lost or unrecorded is of immeasurable wealth. It is very thoughtful for my client to gift this to the family and I was happy to be able to provide the service that made it happen.

What’s on your video? Maybe you have some footage of a neighbor or friend that they’ve never seen or that they’ve forgotten even existed. It happens far more frequently than you may think.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories via the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio tapes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Our Memories Become History

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I had a client come in yesterday with a request. He recently came back from a trip to the holy land and was meeting that evening with other people – some who were on the trip with him and others who wanted to see what they missed.

His request was simple. Take the photos that were taken during the trip and put them into a Powerpoint presentation that could be displayed during his speech. And as we were going through the photos to choose which ones to include in his presentation, the emotional impact the trip had on him shone through. He is a local minister and during his trip he had the opportunity to stand on the same temple steps where Jesus Christ once stood and deliver the same sermon that Jesus once gave to the people who followed him. It was an experience that will now be etched into his memory forever.

And it did not escape me that a main reason the experience had that impact on him is because the memory of what Jesus did was recorded and preserved for over two thousand centuries.

History is nothing more than memories that have been preserved. We know the acts of Jesus because his words and actions were written down. Since then, languages may have changed but, as they did, the original texts were translated into the new languages. The memories themselves did not die. They were preserved for future generations and future cultures.

We have the ability to do the same. We have been able to record the memories of our lives only to find that technology changed while we were living it. That doesn’t mean our memories are suddenly lost. We can convert our older recorded memories to today’s newer technologies. Our memories can still become tomorrow’s history. We just need to take the steps to ensure they will be preserved.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com.mtd.

Weather or Not?

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Yesterday’s big storm – the one that caused me to close the studio early – turned out to be a big non-event… at least for us. We were well north of the most severe sections of the weather hazards. But it never hurts to be cautious.  Wednesday will be a normal day of operation for us again.

It did make me reflect on some of the storms that I have lived through.  In 2004, I was living in Orlando when four hurricanes hit Florida (almost like it was targeting the state) in the space of six weeks.  We had barely cleaned up after one when another one began following in its wake.

In 1983, I was living and working in Reston Virginia during the media-named Megalopolitan Storm which dumped 16 inches of snow onto the DC area and brought the city and its suburbs to a screeching halt. I remember walking a mile to work through snowdrifts as the streets had not yet been plowed to find I was only one of four people to make it in. The company employed 125.

I can still remember the time when a big storm was not a pain but rather a cause for delight. When I was about nine or ten and a huge snowfall occurred, schools closed down; snowplows pushed mounds of snow up against the curbs and left them there… just waiting for a youngster like me to climb up and down them. And since all the kids were out of school together, snowball fights, building snow forts, sledding, making snow angels and snow men… there was always something to do and always someone to do it with.

Eventually, that sense of play subsides. I actually moved to Florida in order to escape the winter and its snow. It just didn’t seem as much fun as a grown up. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

What’s Your Earliest Memory?

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There’s a very good reason why I call this blog “Memories Matter.” It is because they do.

I was trying to think of my earliest memory today. I have one but I’m not sure if it is accurate. I am on a dock, being held by an adult, waving good-bye to someone on a boat. That’s it. That’s the memory. I couldn’t have been more than two or three years old. And I do have my doubts that the memory is accurate.

For the first four years of my life I lived in Bainbridge Maryland.  It is located a short distance away from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. But do I really remember a time when I was four or younger (young enough to be held aloft by an adult)? I don’t remember who I was waving goodbye to or who was holding me. But I still have the vague recollection of the event.

The very fact that I am now questioning this memory proves how fragile memory is. Without documented evidence to back up our mind’s recollection, there’s no telling if it is real or imagined. In my case, I have no photos, film, or written correspondence that would lead me to think that the event occurred. But I can still see the image in my mind’s eye.

This is why I encourage families to update their family histories (photos, slides, videos, film, audio recordings, etc.) into a digital form. Once digitalized, those memories become more than fleeting images that pass through the mind. They become documented pieces of personal history that can be revisited and remembered as factual events. More importantly, they can be handed down to the next generation as a family legacy. Our lives matter to those who love us. For that reason alone, our memories matter as they will tell the story of our lives to those who follow us.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Half Full or Half Empty?

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So much of what we get out of life is what we put into it. I recently helped a woman who had called me because she was ready to rid her house of the equipment her late husband used for his side business. He offered many of the services I offer so she thought I could use the video equipment she no longer wanted in her house now that he was gone.

I met with her because I could sense that she was ready to part with that part of her life. It had been 18 months since her husband died. I really didn’t need the equipment, nor did I necessarily want it. But from our conversation, I could tell she really wanted it out of her house so I paid her a visit one evening and took some pieces with me. Whether they work or not, I still don’t know. And it is really besides the point. She was frustrated because she found that she couldn’t even give this equipment away. So, in compassion, I took it off her hands. I most likely will not be able to use it for my transfer work due to its age and condition.

What surprised me was her statement that her late husband confessed to her — he often would get depressed watching the home movies he was transferring. He said it was because it reminded him of the brevity of our lives.

I have never, ever, felt that. I feel nothing but joy when transferring tapes or film of home movies. Images cross my screen that speak of love, family ties, and the bonds of friendship. Through watching your lives pass in front of my eyes, I have recognized that, while each life is unique and different, there is more that unites us than divides us. We record the same events. We treasure the same memories. Our experiences are shared.

Memories are not to be mourned. They are to be treasured for the precious commodities they are… reminders of the happiness we experienced in years past. At Home Video Studio, we are honored to covert your memories to a format you can access and enjoy today. A format that you can bring into the future and leave as a legacy to your children’s children.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

A Ship By Any Other Name

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A bit of history walked through the doors of Home Video Studio yesterday. But before we get into that, some facts:

The first USS Ticonderoga was an 18-gun schooner that was in service from 1814-1825.

The second USS Ticonderoga was a screw sloop-of-war in commission from 1863-1881.

The third USS Ticonderoga was a former German cargo ship that served in the Naval Overseas Transportation Service during World War I.

The fourth USS Ticonderoga was a long hull Essex-class aircraft carrier that served during WWII and beyond; from 1944 -1973.

The fifth USS Ticonderoga was a guided-missile cruiser that served from 1981-2004.

The Ticonderoga name has served our country well in all its forms. But it was her fourth reincarnation (the aircraft carrier) that brought her to our attention. Yesterday, I was presented with reel to reel audio tapes containing the actual mission control recordings for the Apollo 16 and 17 moon missions and the Skylab recovery mission.

Back in the day, before the space shuttle and the Space-X automated re-entry boosters, space capsules returning to earth splashed down in the ocean. It was up to assigned US military vessels to be on hand to retrieve them. The Ticonderoga ( the aircraft carrier) was assigned to recover the capsules during the aforementioned space expeditions. The tapes from mission control were given to the historical society that is tasked with maintaining the official archives for the Ticonderoga. They, in turn, passed the tapes to me for digitalization and preservation.

It is an honor to be a part of this history. Just as it is an honor to be a part of yours.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

A Shih-tzu Miracle

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I was at an after business event today sponsored by a local funeral parlor. I mentioned once before that I have provided a number of memorial videos for funeral parlors around town. While there, I tried to remember a specific service that stood out above the rest. Oddly, what came to my mind was a service that didn’t happen. It was for my son’s teenaged Shih-tzu, Mini.

The poor thing was suffering in her later years and when I took it to the vet (my son was out of town, serving in the military), I was informed that she had developed kidney stones and surgery would be required. The quoted cost, to me, was astronomical and given her age, an unacceptable expense. I made the difficult decision to have the doctor put her down and take her out of her misery.

Call it cowardly, but I couldn’t remain to watch it happen. I said my goodbyes and got in my car to drive home. I let my wife know what happened and as the emotions got the better of me, I pulled to the side of the road and started framing in my mind how I was going to tell my son the news.

Suddenly, the phone rang. It was the vet. “You can come and pick up your dog now.”

I was aghast. And speechless. Finally I stammered, “No. I don’t want to do that. Don’t you take care of disposal?”

“You don’t understand. After you left I figured there was nothing to lose so I tried to massage the stones loose. It worked. She’s a little groggy but she’ll be fine.”

I made a U-turn to head back to the vet’s office. There, I was presented with a sore and sleepy dog who greeted me with a wag of a tail and a half hearted attempt to get up. I was also presented with a bill for $2,000.00. Well, shih-tzu. What was I supposed to do now? Tell him to put the stones back in? I paid it and put Mini in the car. If you thought I was emotional before, you should have seen me 2 grand later.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Jus Sanguinis

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We watched an I Dream of Italy episode last night where the host of the show visited her ancestor’s Italian village in hopes to get information that would pave the way for her to apply for dual citizenship. I’ve been down that route.

About 7 years ago, I spent countless hours tracking down all the documents that would have been necessary to prove my wife’s claim to Italian citizenship via jus sanguinis. I got birth certificates from her father and mother; also from her grandfather and grandmother… no small feat as I had to hire a foreign genealogy specialist to visit my wife’s grandfather’s birth city (Palo de Colle, Puglia Italy) to obtain his birth records.

In the end, I came up short. In a heartbreaking discovery I found that my wife’s great grandfather, Francesco, became a naturalized American citizen on the eve of her grandfather’s 18th birthday… while my wife’s grandfather was still a minor. According to Italian law, this meant that her claim to Italian citizenship would have been disavowed as the citizenship “chain” had been broken. If only he had just waited one more day, my wife would likely have had citizenship privileges.

It was a bitter pill to swallow after investing so much time into gathering all the needed papers. Fortunately, bitter pills go down a lot easier with a glass of Italian wine… and you don’t need to be a citizen to know that.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.