That’s A Long Way Down

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More swimming videos today so… another swim instructor memory. I remember that one of the treats I often dangled in front of my beginner class students if they met the goals we set at the beginning of the class, and ONLY IF THEY WANTED TO, is that I would take them onto the high dive and let them jump off it.

The high dive to a five year old might as well have been Mount Everest. It was at once intimidating and enticing. It was a great reward to offer as I knew that all of the kids wanted to do it and few if any would have the courage to take me up on it.

But there’s always the exception. There was this one kid I had and all he talked about for two weeks was jumping off the high dive. I knew I was going to have to honor my promise.

So on the last day of the class after congratulating all the students for how well they did, I asked, “Who wants to jump off the high dive?” No one raised their hand… except that one kid.

I tried to talk him out of it.  No dice. So, I led him to the diving board. Had him start the long climb up to the diving platform, being sure I was right behind him on the ladder. We reached the board and hand in hand began to inch our way to the end. I looked at him. He seemed eager. So I said, “Here we go… I’ll count to three and then we’ll jump. One… Two… Three…

What follows is best imagined in slow motion.  I jumped. He didn’t. Sensing something amiss, I twisted my body to face the board even as gravity began to pull at me. I saw his terrified face. Suddenly, he lunged off the board, wrapping his arms and legs around my head and neck as we plummeted toward the water.

Remember the scene in Die Hard when Alan Rickman fell off the tower at the end? I imagine that’s how I looked. I hit the water square on my back, the kid safely nestled on my chest.

As I made my way with my excited student in tow to the edge of the pool I’m pretty sure I heard a fair amount of snickering coming from the parents in attendance. And more than one guffaw.

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

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Fit For A King

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So I’ve mentioned before that I’m a pretty good cook. But I certainly didn’t start out that way. Quite frankly, it would be kind of hard to make that claim since I’m on record somewhere as saying Spaghetti-Os is my favorite Italian dish.

However, as a young boy, I did have a go-to lunch selection that, in my mind, was perfection. In fact, the combination of ingredients needed to be so precise I was the only one who could make it correctly. And I would love to share this secret recipe with you at this time:

You’ll need bread. White of course; Wonder is preferable.

Pickles. Dill, whole, kosher.

Mayonnaise. Kraft. Is there any other kind?

Braunschweiger (aka Liverwurst): comes in a yellow wrapper.

Make sure all your ingredients are on the counter. For a proper sandwich, assembly must be done quickly. This is key.

Step one: Place bread slices in toaster.

Step two: While bread toasts, thinly slice the Braunschweiger and slice one pickle lengthwise.

Step three: Open the jar of mayonnaise then hover over the toaster.

This is the important part. Next steps should come in this order and in quick succession.

As soon as the bread pops us (bread should be warm but not fully toasted), slather one slice of bread with the mayonnaise, put down a layer of the Braunschweiger slices followed by a layer of pickle slices. Braunschweiger may slightly overlap the sides of bread but not excessively. Pickles should be oriented so they lie vertically (their ends should be at the top and bottom of the bread slices.) Cut the sandwich in half widthwise. Never diagonally.

Eat immediately while bread is still warm. There’s a small window of opportunity. Be advised that eating a cold Braunschweiger sandwich is a different culinary experience. Chase with a glass of cold white milk.

It takes practice to get everything exactly right. But I promise you, if done correctly, it will be 60s kitchen counter dining at its finest. If memory serves.

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

A.R. Gurney Wrote My Pickup Lines

 

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You’ll have to indulge me… I’m having a bit of a spousal pride moment. Yesterday, I attended a party held in honor of my wife who is retiring from her position with Orlando Health after 17 years. It is always nice to hear kind words of esteem and appreciation directed towards the woman I love. It came as no surprise – she has always impressed me.

I met her in 1991. I had just moved to Orlando and didn’t really know anyone in the area. I decided to audition for a community theatre production of A.R. Gurney’s The Cocktail Hour to help pass the lonely nights. During the process I noticed an attractive actress who was auditioning for a supporting role. I was delighted when we were both cast.

If you have never worked in community theater before, the process is a bit different. In professional theater, the object is to move the production from rehearsal stage to live audiences as quickly as possible in order to begin recouping production costs. In community theatre, there is an extended rehearsal process followed usually by a short performance run.

I got to know my future wife fairly well during the six weeks we rehearsed. Well enough for me to not want the show to end. When the show opened, the time we spent together was dramatically reduced.  Concocting a reason to stay connected and continue the flirtation, I suggested we run our lines backstage before the show started. I had never done that before in any other play.

The other cast members noticed our mini-rehearsal routine and wanted in. It wasn’t long before our four person cast was doing a full backstage performance of the entire show before the show actually started. I can’t say it served the play well. I know I had more than one deja vu moment onstage where I felt like we had already done a scene before we actually did it. But the audiences didn’t seem to mind. The show was held over by popular demand and a year later that actress and I got to deliver some more rehearsed lines… our marriage vows.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides (and yes, we do have a digital copy of the show we did together as part of our memory collection.) For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Sink or Swim?

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I am currently transferring a large number of a family’s videotapes that span a decade or two. Today I went through a series of tapes where the parents lovingly worked with their children in the pool, teaching them to swim. That sparked a memory within me.

I believe I mentioned earlier that I used to be a lifeguard. I was also a swimming instructor. I typically taught beginner classes because, as I said in an earlier blog, I do enjoy working with children.

One day, I was in the lifeguard tower when I heard a high-pitched, terrified scream. I focused in on the sound and saw a young boy struggling to reach the side of the pool. He made it and a male adult, who I assumed was his father, pulled him out of the pool and threw him back into the water. The crowd was watching. I jumped down from my station and began walking toward him.

Not a good scene. Here I am, a 17 year old kid in a speedo with a whistle around my neck, approaching a grown-ass man who, in my view, was abusing his child. This could get ugly.

The child, once again, managed to get to the edge of the pool and before the adult could throw him back in, I spoke softly: “I can help you.” He looked at me. “If you want to teach your son to swim, there are better ways. I have a class starting next week. I can leave a spot open for him. No charge.”

I thought the father was going to create a scene but he backed down, perhaps sensing the crowd was not on his side. The mother, after he left, came up and thanked me and offered to pay me for the lessons. I declined.

I have never taught anyone as fearful of the water as that child was. It took the better part of a week to get him to let go of my arm when we were in the water together. Another half week to get him to trust me enough to lie still with my hand beneath his head as his body floated on the surface. On the last day of class, I removed my hand and he floated on the water all by himself.

The entire poolside of parents stood and cheered. I high-fived the young boy and then looked over to his mother and her expression of pure joy and gratitude will always stay with me. A few weeks later, I saw the boy, happy and playing in the water with other children his age. I never saw his father again. And I had no problem with that.

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

Trivial Pursuits

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Flipping around the channels last night, we settled on Genius Junior. Have you seen this show? Kids, twelve and under, face off against each other to solve memory challenges. On the surface, they demonstrate some pretty amazing feats of brain power for any age.

I always considered myself to have been a bright kid but there was nothing like Genius Junior when I was growing up so I couldn’t test myself on national tv. Instead, we had the board game Go To The Head of The Class. And I’ll have you know I crushed anyone who dared challenge me at that game… which is why other kids stopped playing it with me. I must have been an obnoxious winner.

I’ve always enjoyed trivia. It is strange, because I was never a great history student while growing up. But give me a piece of useless information and that weird factoid I would store away for the opportunity to use it at a future date. Usually that opportunity never presented itself. That is… until the home computer came along.

I remember back before the Internet was the Internet, electronic bulletin boards were the growing rage. I would sit in front of my Commodore 64 computer and use my dial up modem to access a board that ran real time trivia games. The “host” would post a question and all participants who were on the board that night would have to type the correct response before the “host” called time. Modem speeds being what they were back then, players could have anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds to form their answer, depending on what kind of equipment the host was working with.

I wasted many a night in front of that Commodore – just me and my computer where the only sound that I heard all night long was this:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.

Here Comes the Bride

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One of yesterday’s jobs consisted of a tub filled with video tapes (mainly VHS and hi-8) that contained all the family’s memories of their years together. The mom and dad brought them to me with a rush request. Their daughter is getting married soon and they need to put together a video presentation with footage of the bride as she was growing up. It is to be featured during the reception planned for after the ceremony.

Unfortunately, all those memories are trapped on the obsolete format of videotapes. The problem is how to put them into a medium that can be viewed, edited, reassembled and exported into a playable form. The solution: bring them to Home Video Studio. This happens to be our specialty. Rush jobs don’t scare us. We like the challenge.

In fact, as they were leaving, trusting me with all their tapes, I showed them an example of a quirky little service we developed to use for graduations, milestone birthdays, and yes… weddings that they might want to consider including in their presentation.

We call it Face to Face: A Video Portrait. All we need is a series of photographs of the same person in different stages of their life. Headshots work best. School pictures, if they were saved through the years, are perfect. But any clear picture of the subject that has the face in focus against a neutral or non-distracting background will do.

We do the rest. We set the pictures on a video timeline, but instead of cutting from one picture to the next, we force the picture to morph into the next one. It gives the illusion of the face actually growing from childhood to adulthood before our eyes. With the right song playing as its soundtrack, it’s a clever and unique way to commemorate a special milestone event and will certainly delight those who are there to celebrate with the happy couple.

Here’s an example of a Face to Face presentation:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.

The Replacements

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I saw an old movie on TV the other night. It was a Keanu Reeves film called The Replacements. It was inspired, though not based, on actual events that I still remember. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable football season that I, as a fan, ever lived through. Most others vehemently disagree.

The year was 1987 and the NFL players union decided to hold a strike during the regular season. Wanting a change in the free agency program, the players, after game two of the season, decided to sit out games until negotiations went their way. The owners had a different idea. They chose to field replacement teams using players they found wherever they could. Some had been cut during training camp, others were passed over by the draft, some were just invited to play because they were big and strong. They dressed these guys in the uniforms and put them on the field but they had precious little time to teach them the game and how to gel as a team. The result was a series of some pretty ugly plays disguising itself as a football game.

I was fortunate because I grew up in the DC area and was thus an enthusiastic Redskins fan. This all happened during the Joe Gibbs era and he was a master at manipulating events to his favor. I don’t know how he did it but he managed to go 3-0 during these replacement games. It may have been because of his quirky and charismatic replacement quarterback, Babe Laufenberg.

I found Babe fun to watch because every down brought what seemed to me to be a broken play that required him to somehow improvise to find a way to advance the ball. And a lot of times he did. Games were unpredictable and resembled more of the neighborhood backyard football I played as a kid. You remember the kind I mean. We huddled and the play called was always the same… “go long… I’ll throw it to you.”

After three games, the regular players came back. I guess they realized they needed the league more than the league needed them. The Redskins went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Babe Laufenberg was released by the Redskins, no longer needed or wanted. And for this one fan, the game would never be the same. 

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

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.

There’s More Than One Way to Pay for College

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One of the jobs that came into the studio today was for a sports highlight video. As high school athletes prepare for college, they sometimes find themselves fielding offers from college scouts and coaches who ask for video footage of them in action to help them decide whether or not to offer them a scholarship to their school. We provide a service that can take the best of their recorded games to create a polished, professional highlight video. One that will put the focus squarely on their skills and abilities.

In this particular case, I’ll be working for a female basketball star who has crazy mad skills. The challenge for me will be to take multiple hours of game films and whittle them down to a five minute highlight reel that can be sent off to interested colleges. The key, as it is with any editing job, is to tell a story. In this instance, it will be to tell the story of why this athlete would be a valuable asset to a collegiate sports program.

My high school athletic prowess didn’t generate any scholarship offers. Instead, I received some financial assistance via an unusual source. As a senior, I decided to enroll in an experimental child development program which gave high schoolers hands-on experience in planning and executing the curriculum of a pre-school daycare.  For part of the year, our class was responsible for a roomful of 4 year olds. I was excellent at story time.

At the end of the year, I was informed that my work was noticed by the trustees of the Fanny Metzger Living Arts Fund. I was presented with an endowment check towards my college expenses and was encouraged to continue my work with children. And all that time, I just thought I was playing with a bunch of kids.

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.

That Championship Season

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I was transferring a videotape yesterday that contained some footage of a Little League Baseball game. Boy did that take me back. I was quite the little star as I was coming through the ranks of baseball.

My father, who was a professional athlete, took great interest in my sports activities but did not want to show any kind of favoritism so he supported the league by volunteering to be a coach on the one condition that I would not allowed to be on his team. I never did understand that logic but eventually learned to appreciate the depth of his integrity that drove him to think it was important. So, for a season, I was on a team that would play against a team coached by my father.

That spurred an incredible level of competition in our household that season. I just wanted to beat his team so badly I could taste it. And our two teams were pretty evenly matched. Their team was better coached; we had the better players. We were neck and neck all year and it finally came down to the last game of the season… which my dad’s team won.

I was so disappointed. But there was a saving grace. I was chosen to be on the All-Star team which in a post-season game would play the first place team of that season… my dad’s team.

It was a rout. We won 18-2 and I drove in 12 of those runs with an incredible batting performance.

I so wanted to gloat on the ride home but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because I could see how proud my dad was of me. It was a weird season, never to be repeated. The next year I graduated to the next age level where I quickly learned I could not see, let alone hit, a fast ball. I gave up the game soon after.  But I will always have that one season and that one game to remember.  Thank you Dad. Thanks for the memory.

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