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.

 

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Everyone Has A Story To Tell

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It is the tagline we use in the marketing for our LifeStories product: “Everyone Has a Story to Tell.” And because of what I do, I am in the unique and privileged position to hear many of them. I found myself reflecting upon some of the people I’ve met and the tales they have told since I opened my studio.

There was the WWII fighter pilot who told me about the dogfight he had with a Japanese Zero during the great Marianas “Turkey Shoot.” At one point the Zero, who was out of ammunition, tried to ram him in mid air, passing so close over his head he could actually count the rivets in the fuselage.

There was the mom of a world champion waterskier who would fill me in on what it was like in the early days of competitive waterskiing with story after story of her daughter’s journey.

There was the ex-musician who was working as a laborer here in Central Florida who had just learned that an album he made some twenty years ago had become very popular in South America and was getting a lot of radio play. He was on his way down there to make a personal appearance.

There was the documentary filmmaker who was finishing up a project on powerlifters and had some bizarre encounters with some of the colorful characters who hang around the periphery of that sport.

There was the combat veteran who was involved in the Battle of Midway. He watched the entire conflict from his perch on a 30 foot searchlight tower armed only with a rifle. Mere days earlier he was sharing a bunkhouse with Hollywood director John Ford who would regale him and his other bunkmates with stories of his movies and the celebrities who starred in them.

And recently I sat with a woman whose parents bought a three masted schooner in 1948 and beached it by a NJ boardwalk in order to convert it to a unique gift shop/tourist attraction. It became the signature landmark of the entire community.

What’s your story? And how can I help you not only to tell it but preserve it so it can be retold to future generations? Call us to get started.

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.

Dating Advice… For What It’s Worth…

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How do you know when you have met The One? It’s a tough question to answer. The easy response is that you’ll just know. But that doesn’t help much when you’ve yet to meet that someone special. I recently responded to another blogger’s post who was opining on how hard it is in today’s society to find a potential life partner. I can relate. I was 36 years old before I met my wife. So I am in a relatively good position to be able to offer some words of advice.

We almost never find the things we’re looking for when we expend all our focused energy looking for them. My glasses seem to know how to hide from me when I’m frantically searching the house for them. The minute I stop looking and just go about normal activities, that’s when they appear. They may be in the refrigerator but if I hadn’t started cooking dinner, instead of turning seat cushions upside down, I never would have found them.

It is the same with relationships. The people we meet when we are so focused on trying to meet someone special will generally turn out to be disappointments. It’s the people we meet when we are pursuing the interests that motivate us… the interests that drive us to be our best selves… they are the ones that have the greatest possibility of being part of something deeper and more substantial.

My wife was older and divorced with two kids (10 and 13) when I met her. According to a Cosmo article she read, the odds they gave for her finding a new partner was somewhere between slim and none. She chose to ignore the magazine’s skewed insight and instead trusted in her faith. She stopped trying to meet someone and just pursued those things that enriched her spirit. Lo and behold, those same things interested me too. And so we met while pursuing joint interests, we clicked, we dated, we married. And here we are some 26 years later still enjoying life together.

My advice to that blogger was not to search for a partner. Search instead for that which fulfills your spirit. Among the people you meet when you do will be that someone special with whom you can build a shared life.

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.

 

A Real American Hero

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It is not everyday that you meet a genuine American hero. Yesterday was obviously not like everyday.

I was in my studio when a 97 year old man walks in carrying an armful of photos. As I was discussing his order with him, I couldn’t help but notice the US Marine Corps cap on his head and the Battle of Midway shirt he was wearing. Turns out he was there.

As a Pfc., he was stationed aloft in a 30 ft tall searchlight control tower during the Japanese attack, armed with a .30-caliber bolt action rifle. From his position, he had a birds-eye view of the decisive WWII battle.

Earlier that year, famed Hollywood director John Ford (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley) bunked with him and others for a couple of weeks in the atoll’s power plant. Ford was there in his capacity as the head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services. The footage Ford shot while there was edited into the 18 minute long Academy Award winning documentary, The Battle of Midway which contains the first actual combat footage ever filmed in color. The picture above shows Ford in the center flanked by the younger American soldiers, including my client who is seated to Ford’s left.

Ford is quoted as saying, “The Marines with me – I took one look at them and I said, “Well this war was won.” They were kids, oh, I would say from 18 to 22, none of them were older. They were the calmest people I have ever seen. I mean the thing [a Japanese bomb] would drop through, they would laugh and say “My God that one was close.” I figured then, “Well, if these kids are American kids, I mean this war is practically won.”

My client ended up making the Marines his career choice and retired as a colonel. Still married to his wife of 72 years, he chuckled as he took his leave and told me that his goal was to make it to 100.  Judging from what I saw, he’s setting that bar too low. 

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

Anniversary Memories

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Happy anniversary to me. 26 years. That is no small feat. We’re having a nice ride, the two of us, and speaking for myself, we’re enjoying each step along the way.

Invariably, on such an occasion, one’s mind takes you back to the beginning. I married my wife on April 3, 1992. She, through a previous marriage, already had two sons, aged 11 and 13. She also had a huge support system around her in Orlando where we were married. She had lived there since she was a child. As a recent northern transplant, I did not have the same. I had no groomsmen, no best man… I was pretty much on my own on my wedding day.

I heard what happened as my wife arrived at our wedding venue. Even though we were keeping things low key, as soon as she arrived, a number of her lady friends whisked her off to attend to her every need. Me, I arrived unannounced and unattended. I sat in a corner waiting to be beckoned. And it didn’t seem to me like anyone had any intention of beckoning.

To my surprise, as I sat alone along a lonely wall of windows, Kate’s youngest son walked over and pulled a chair alongside me. He was 11. He didn’t say a word. He just noticed I was by myself so he decided to sit with me as I waited for the minister to tell me it was time to stand up and get married.

I had a lot of thoughts and emotions swirling about my mind and heart that day but I will never forget the simple loving gesture of a young boy whose unvoiced actions let me know that I was being accepted into his world. I would love to think I had a hand in developing the character of this child who would grow into an incredible husband, father, and man… but the truth is, his character was already present and would teach me more about giving than I could ever teach him.

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

This do ye, in remembrance of me.

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Trying to remember key events or special moments is nothing new. Regardless of one’s faith, we can all agree that the Bible, which in one form or another, has been around for millennia, always taught that we ought to remember what is important.

In the days of Moses, fathers were exhorted to teach their children the things of God, “speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” In other words, keep on teaching them… always. Why? So their children would learn and, most importantly, remember them.

Jesus took great pains to instruct his followers to use the practice we now know as communion in order to remember his sacrifice and what was accomplished through it. It is a practice that has continued uninterrupted in Christian religions for the last 2,000 years.

Why is it that cultures will build monuments or statues of influential leaders? It is done so future generations might recognize and respect the life and accomplishments of the one being honored. It is done so that others will remember.

Your memories are worthy of remembrance as well. Maybe you didn’t change the world but I can guarantee that the impact of your life reaches well beyond you. And therefore, your memories matter… to someone. They deserve to live on after you are gone.

We can help you with that. Give us a call or pay us a visit. Learn what is available and how you can leave your loved ones with a treasured legacy of your life.

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

 

The Best Compliment Ever

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I received a compliment yesterday. I actually receive them most days but I don’t often mention them. I am basically a modest and reserved person (although you may find people who think they know me who will disagree with that assessment. Go figure.) Regardless, I am generally not inclined to bring undue attention to myself.

But yesterday’s compliment struck home with me. It spoke to what is probably the one attribute that I strive hardest at maintaining. I received a call from an out of state individual who has been following me for months on Facebook. He spends part of his year in my area (winters generally) and the rest of the year he spends in northern climates.

He called me to let me know that he has chosen to bring his videotapes to Florida next time he comes down for one reason only. He trusts me to transfer his precious family memories to a digital form in the best possible manner. Through following me on Facebook and by reading my blogs, he said he could tell that I was a person of integrity. That hit my heart big. Because it is true.

I may not always be the smartest guy in the room. I may not always be the most talented guy in the room. But I hope I can always be the truest guy in the room. Ask me a question. I’ll tell you what I can do and what I can’t do. I’ll tell you what I think would be the best solution to your problem and I’ll advise you whether it makes financial sense to chose one way over the other.

Why? Because that is what I want service providers to do for me. Service providers can always make money just by providing the services they do. They don’t need to pad their coffers giving people services or products they don’t want or need. I vow never to be that guy. I want to be the guy people trust to do right by them. My integrity is everything. I’m just glad someone noticed.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of older media like film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. 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.

What’s Your Grandparent Name?

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This lovely gift arrived in the mail for us today. Our daughter-in-law included a note saying she couldn’t resist buying them for us. What makes it special is that these are the grandparent names that her children call us.

Kate, my wife, came by her grandparent name as kind of a fallback position. In her family, the eldest woman has traditionally been known as “NanNan” by the younger generations. However, Kate’s mother is still with us and is still called “NanNan” by her kids, grandkids, and now great-grandkids. There can obviously be only one “NanNan” to a family so it was decided that when Kate became a grandmother she would be granted the oh-so-subtly different “Nana.”

My name took a bit more doing. A lot of different options were tossed around. Gramps, Grandpa, Grampy… none of them seemed to stick. Finally my daughter-in-law asked me if I had any nicknames growing up. “Only one,” I replied, “And it didn’t last long.”  When my sisters and I were born, my parents picked a cute baby name to coo at us. My sister Allison was called Ally-Oop after the comic strip character. My sister Bobbi was called Baba Looey after the cartoon character. And since there was apparently no animated character that inspired my parents where I was concerned, they decided to make one up. I was called, very briefly, Mickel the Pickle.

I should have never mentioned that to my daughter-in-law. The next time the grandkids visited I was greeted warmly with the shout “Papa Pickle!” As they got older, they must have reasoned that the Pickle part was pretty silly so they truncated my name to the much more appealing Papa. Papa is a name I can get used to… in fact, my heart melts every time I hear them say it.

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

23 and Grok

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Michael Ondrasik is attending the annual Home Video Studio Advanced Training sessions. The studio will be closed until Mar 5th. However he is posting his daily blogs from the field.

While I await the arrival of other Home Video Studio owners from across the country, something unexpected also arrived. I received my results from the 23 and Me DNA testing kit.

Yes, my wife gifted me with the DNA service last Christmas. I dutifully spit into the tube, sent it to the lab and we have been waiting to hear back. And today I did.

My wife will be pleased to know that I am 100% European. I am a combination of Northwestern European (British/Irish) and Eastern European (Poland/Hungary/Czech), with a smattering of Southern European (Iberian/Balkan peninsulas) thrown into the mix.

She’ll also be happy to know that I did not test positive for any of the variants associated with some of the scarier diseases facing mankind. (Offering up a prayer of thanks to my ancestors for their contributions to this element of my DNA).

I’m not sure however how she’s going to react to this next piece of rather surprising news. I have been informed that my DNA contains 288 variants belonging to Neanderthals. That is a number higher than 67% of the 23 and me customer base.

What does that mean, you may ask? Don’t ask me, I’m part Neanderthal.  How would I know? Fortunately, I have evolved enough to learn how to Google. Here are 10 possible Neanderthal traits I may have “inherited.”

  1. Elongated skull.
  2. Space behind the wisdom teeth.
  3. Broad, projecting nose (thanks a lot!)
  4. Little or no protruding chin. (again, thanks!)
  5. Rosy cheeks
  6. Wide fingers and thumbs
  7. Straight, thick hair
  8. Insulating skin
  9. Fair skin and freckles
  10. Red hair.

And according to my 23 and Me report, at least one of the 288 Neanderthal variants found in my DNA is associated with height. I’m 6’ 3”.

So what does all this mean?  Well, for one thing, when my wife tries to scold me for leaving a dirty dish in the sink by saying, “We’re not animals!” I can smile back and think to myself, “Maybe you aren’t…”

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.