Bear With Me

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There is something about holding a stuffed animal that has a calming effect on a person.

Hospital workers, paramedics, and police officers have long recognized the comfort that a teddy bear can bring to children who find themselves in a stressful situation. So, when the residents of Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford Florida heard about a teddy bear drive that local first responders had put together, they decided to get involved. And get involved in a big way.

The word was put out and circulated throughout the communal building. And the bears started trickling in. Different sizes, different colors, different shapes. The menagerie continued to grow. Soon plush dogs and fuzzy rabbits began to join the teddy bears. They outgrew the original donation box; they had to be moved out of the manager’s office for lack of space. They finally took over the staircase in the central lobby where they are temporarily watching over the same people who so lovingly provided them to help children in need. Local officials will be by early next week to collect this cuddly zoo and put them into service.

Well done seniors. It would appear there’s no age limit on acts of kindness.

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 352-735-850 or visit our website.

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The Bells Are Ringing

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Church bells ring for all sorts of reasons: Call to worship; special celebrations; or alarms to alert citizens of impending storms or attacks. Church bells have been rung both to commemorate a marital union as well as to ward off devilish attacks. The first record of a church bell used in such fashion took place in AD 400 (some 1620 years ago) and it has grown in popularity ever since.

Suffice it to say that residents of any small town with a church possessing a bell tower have become accustomed to hearing the regular chime of its tones. So whenever a small town’s bells become silent, people take notice.

When the First Congregational Church in Mount Dora (which is the oldest structure in our downtown area, having been built in 1883) discovered its bell tower was in such a state of disrepair that it required the discontinuation of its ringing, the church leaders immediately put out a call to action. Setting up a GoFundMe site, it requested the help of the community it served to try to raise the funds needed to repair the bell tower.

Our small town community responded in spades. Aided by a matching grant from our local Community Trust, we were able to quickly raise the funds needed to effect the repairs and get our bell ringing again.

There are small stories and there are big stories. But small stories can often make a big impact. The chiming of a neighborhood church bell is no small matter. We sometimes don’t realize how important it is until we no longer hear it. Because it can  and does serve as a unifying force. It reminds us that we are all part of the same community. This may sound corny but it is a message we would all do well to heed. We need to keep the bells ringing… not only in Mount Dora… but also in our own hearts.

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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.

Dancing Queen

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We do a lot of tape transfers. In addition to our work with film, photos, audio, and editing, we will typically have two or three videotapes playing in the background of our studio as we convert them to a digital form. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to realize we don’t have a lot of time to sit and watch every moment of every tape as it is being transferred. So, when we do, you know that it has to be something really special to capture our attention.

One of my clients is a videographer who travels the country to capture footage from the many ballroom dance competitions and events that are held throughout the year. He’ll then send me the footage to convert to the specific media format requested by the dancers.

Recently, I received some footage he took at the Michigan Dance Challenge and as it began to play, I found myself riveted to the screen watching the performance from beginning to end. It was mesmerizing.

In 1983, as a teenager, Cheryl Angelelli was practicing with her YMCA swim team when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She would eventually become a para-Olympic champion, competing in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 games. When she retired from swimming, her passion turned to the world of ballroom dancing and she has been turning heads ever since.

The grace, fluidity, and seeming effortlessness that she and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirov, bring to the dance floor is both beautiful and inspirational. While watching her dance, one forgets that she is confined to the chair. As she has said, “I don’t dance with my legs – I dance with my heart.”

Their performance in Michigan (seen below) was awarded first place in the Best of the Best Bronze Show Dance which means they will be moving on to compete in the Best of the Best grand finale at the prestigious Ohio Star Ball. We wish them all the best. Keep on dancing.

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 Just Don’t Write (or Think) Like This Anymore…

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We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

—————–

“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.

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

What’s Important

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It is sad to say but sometimes it takes a tragedy to get us to recognize the true value of things.  We often take things for granted until faced with the real possibility that we just might lose them.

I’m working with a woman whose parents own two homes just outside of Paradise, CA which has been devastated by the wildfires that are ravaging that part of the country. Thankfully, their parents heeded the evacuation orders and they are safe but they have not been able to return to check on their properties. They are preparing themselves for the possibility that everything they own may have been lost to the fire.

The one saving grace is that a few years ago, the parents shipped to my client a box filled with Betamax tapes. They are old, unlabeled and nobody seemed to know what’s on them or what to do with them. My client has just been storing the box for her parents all this time. Suddenly, due to the recent events, she has realized exactly what she had been sitting on. That box potentially contains the only evidence that exists of the long life her family has shared together. It has gone from just one more piece of clutter under foot to the most precious possession in her house.

I feel privileged to unlock the memories that may be stored on these tapes and deliver them back to the family. I hope it provides some solace or comfort for the family as they prepare to face whatever they find awaits them.

Here’s a link to a site that describes how people can best help victims of the California wildfires.

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 Bells of Mount Dora

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When you live in a small town, like I do, you are often challenged to change perspectives. After all, by now most of us are “plugged in.” We co-exist amid a tangled web of online communities forever pushing us into having global awareness. We have mass media feeding us nonstop information about the world and the multitude of problems facing every corner of our globe. Being thus inundated, we sometimes overlook the mundane, everyday challenges that can exist in our own backyard. In fact, they can seem downright minuscule when compared to the world and the mess to be found there.

Case in point:

Mount Dora’s First Congregational Church, which has faithfully served our local community for 135 years, has a bell tower badly in need of repair. They are trying to raise the funds to make the needed repairs so the bell can continue to ring out – calling its parishioners to worship or signifying to the community a special occasion or event.

Maybe it is because my family has been binge watching The Waltons (we’re up to season 3) but I find that there’s something refreshingly wholesome about a small town banding together to restore a historical landmark that serves as a spiritual center. Call me John-Boy but this is a cause I can rally around. I’m not a member of the congregation. I’m not affiliated with the church. But I am a resident of Mount Dora and I’d love to hear those church bells chime again.

I hope you will consider making a small contribution to the effort. The church leaders have started a gofundme page and have gotten a commitment from the Community Trust to match whatever funds are able to be raised, The link is listed below.

https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-1887-bell-tower

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.

Memory Town

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It turns out that reflecting on memories can have a therapeutic effect on a person. It’s something that I think we all recognize intuitively at some level.  I was fascinated to read the attached article about the development of “Memory Towns” that cater specifically to dementia or Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Quoting from the article by Amanda Kolson Hurley, “Studies have shown that reminiscence therapy has positive effects on the mood, cognition, and communication level of dementia patients.” Borrowing from an experiment that took place in the Netherlands, the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center designed and built a fake city they call Town Square. Built to resemble a typical small town circa 1953-1960, it is fashioned to evoke the memories that tend to be the strongest within us.

Built inside a 9,000 square foot industrial warehouse, the first Town Square opened in San Diego, California and a second is scheduled to open in White Marsh, Maryland near Baltimore. Organizers are optimistic that more and more locations will be rolling out in the near future.

It’s what I have always said… “Memories Matter.” Take the step to preserve yours today.

For the full article about Memory Town, click here.

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