This Blog Post Is Brought To You By The Letter R

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The good old days may have indeed been old but they weren’t always 100% good.  I certainly had my share of trials and tribulations. Like anytime I was asked to speak.

I had trouble with the letter R as a young boy. Don’t know why. I just couldn’t form certain sounds with my mouth. And all those sounds somehow involved an R. To this day, I can’t be friends with anyone named Rory unless I give him a nickname.  Spike would be a good choice. I can say Spike.

I distinctly remember the summer before I started “real” school. Kindergarten was for kids. But I was graduating to the numbered grades. I was proud and ready to go. Until… All summer long, my parents would bring their friends over to the house and inevitably get them to ask me one question: “What grade will you be in this year?” I was taught to always answer an adult’s question. So I would dutifully respond, “Fust… I’m going to fust grade.” And that response was always rewarded with a gale of laughter.

I became a voracious reader of the thesaurus – finding words I could use to communicate while trying to avoid the “er” sound. Fust grade was awful… made tolerable only because I had a young pretty teacher, Miss Muella (actually Mueller but well, you now know my problem).  But I stuck it out and aced fust grade. And I graduated into, God be praised, second grade! I could say that all day long.  I couldn’t wait for my parent’s friends to ask me now what grade I’ll be in.

That summer, I had my opportunity… my parents had some house party and we were trotted out to pay our respects. And the question was asked… “What grade will you be in this year?” Without hesitation, I stood tall and proclaimed with perfect elocution, “Second! I will be in second grade.” I wasn’t expecting a follow up question.  “And what grade will you be in next year?” “Thud,” I blurted out without thinking. And my heart sank as the laughter rose around me.

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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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.

Cooties!

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Just the other day I was editing a client’s photo keepsake order which was largely made up of shots from birthday parties and Christmas mornings. I couldn’t help but notice that many of the kid’s games they received I, in my youth, also received… or I wanted to. Like the air hockey game they got one Christmas. I never got that. I had to go to the arcade to play it. What was the deal with that?

Anyway, one of the box games that was proudly displayed under the tree was the Milton Bradley game, Cootie. I remember that game. It was designed primarily for pre-schoolers to teach youngsters about taking turns and winning or losing with grace.

The premise was simple. You had all the parts to build a bug. You rolled a dice to determine which part you could add. The first one to complete his or her “cootie” won.

Cooties had a different connotation when I was growing up. I don’t know if it still does. But when I was in elementary school, it was a well known fact among us boys that all girls carried cooties. We didn’t know what they were but just hearing about them made us know we didn’t want to catch them.

I remember when I was in third grade, I was surprised kissed by a girl (her name was Vicki) before class started. She said she wanted to tell me a secret and when I bent in closer to hear… smooch! Cooties! I didn’t know what to do so I chased her around the room with the intent to hit her. Thankfully, I didn’t (or chose not to) catch her. You see, deep down in my third grade soul, I knew… that surprise kiss was kinda nice.

Personally, although I have no supporting evidence to back me up, I think the idea of cooties was foolishly concocted by girls in order to delay the interest boys would eventually have in them. Believe me, by the time elementary school was over, when I was thinking about girls, cooties were the last thing on my mind. And until today, I don’t think I ever thought about them again.

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

Pomp and Circumstance

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It is that time of year to prepare to say congratulations to the young men and women who are on the cusp of one of life’s great achievements – high school graduation. Putting together a photo/video keepsake to recognize and honor their journey is a great idea and I’ve done a number of them over the years. The importance of choosing the appropriate song to accompany pictures of your graduate in various stages of his or her life cannot be emphasized enough and there are a number of great songs to choose from.  Here are some client favorites along with some key lyrics that help explain why they are popular:

The Climb – Miley Cyrus 2009. “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

My Wish – Rascal Flatts 2006. “My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to…”

I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack 2000. “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance.  Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’…”

Graduation (Friends Forever) – Vitamin C 1999. “And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives. Where we’re gonna be when we turn twenty five. I keep thinking times will never change. Keep on thinking things will always be the same.”

Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield 2004. “Staring at the blank page before you. Open up the dirty window. Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find. Reaching for something in the distance. So close you can almost taste it. Release your inhibitions”

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson 2004. “I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly. I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky. And I’ll make a wish, Take a chance, Make a change, And breakaway.”

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day 1997. “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why, It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time, It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”

These are just a few of the songs clients have used to tell the story of their graduate’s life. There are many others and I’m sure there’s one that would be perfect for the graduate in your family.

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.

What’s For Dinner…Again?

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I hit a home run with dinner tonight.  I made an Instant Pot recipe that was, if I happen to say so myself, delicious.  Here’s the recipe (https://lifemadesweeter.com/instant-pot-lemon-garlic-chicken/)

I received accolades and rave reviews from my dinner companions and had to chuckle to myself because I remember the road I travelled to get here.  I’ve even blogged a little about it in the past. But here’s a specific that came to mind as I accepted the culinary compliments.

When I was in college and on a tight budget, I had to figure out a way to feed myself with limited funds. My solution was to invent a meal that I could stretch to last me an entire week.  To my deepest embarrassment, here’s what I made.  Mind you, this recipe was entirely my doing. And I ate it more times that I can count.

Take a pound of ground beef (or ground chuck, whichever is cheaper) , brown it in a skillet with salt, pepper and a diced onion. Set aside.

Make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Add the ground chuck mixture to it.

Open a can of Campbell Cream of Mushroom soup. Do not add water.  Just dump the contents into the pot.

By now the concoction will have begun to take on the consistency of spackle. Add a can of corn.  Just because. All balanced meals have vegetables, right?

If you have followed the directions, the mixture will be nearly impossible to stir. I’ve broken many a wooden spoon trying to.  Here’s the secret. Pour a cup or three of red wine into the mess. That will loosen things up so you can stir and serve.  If wine is not available, a can of beer works just as well.

Trust me, you can improvise on this recipe nine ways till Sunday – nothing is going to “ruin” it.  And believe me, it did the job.  I made this on a Monday and by Friday, I was still eating it. Spreading the cost over the span of a week, I figured I was eating on about 70 cents a day. Got me through my senior year in college.  Haven’t dared make it since. I’m afraid to subject my colon to it in my advanced years.

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.

What I Learned in School… From A Substitute Teacher

 

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Substitute teachers have to have one of the hardest jobs I can think of. I only ever had one that I liked and learned from – although the lesson was not part of the regular curriculum. This young teacher, perhaps trying to relate to us kids, decided one day to teach us how to pass time in class while looking like we were working on something.

He had us write down on a piece of paper the letters of the alphabet in one column:

Then he had us choose a section from whatever book we had handy and write a random sentence down a second column.

The instruction then was to see how many famous names you could match to the pair of initials on your page. From a teacher’s perspective, it looked like we were studiously working on a difficult assignment.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I played this little memory game in class when I was bored which was, as I recall, often. I don’t know what happened to that substitute or what career he finally settled upon but I owe him a major debt of gratitude. His little trick got me through calculus.

Here’s an example.  See how many celebrities you can plug in to the following list of initials:

AN – Anthony Newley

BO – Bobby Orr

CW – Carl Withers

DI – Daniel Inouye

ES – Edward Snowden

FT – Forrest Tucker

GH – George Hamilton

HE – Hector Elizando

IW – Irving Wallace

JI – Jeremy Irons

KN – Kevin Nealon

LT – Lawrence Taylor

ME – Mamie Eisenhower

NR – Nancy Reagan

OO – Ozzy Osbourne

PF – Peter Frampton

QO – ????????

RU – ?????????

SR – Sally Ride

TD – Tommy Dorsey

UI – ????????????

VS – Vin Scully

WC – Walter Cronkite

XO –     ??????????

YN – ??????????

ZT – Zachary Taylor

I came up with 20 out of 26. Not a bad score. You can see my answers by dragging your cursor over the space next to the initials. How many could you think of?

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.

Him Not Tarzan

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I was watching a show previously recorded on my DVR and when it was over, the system automatically switched to whatever was playing on the last accessed channel. In my case, it was the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel and what came on was what I thought to be the strangest Tarzan movie ever. He was racing through the jungle in shorts and a tee-shirt. No bare-chested, loin-clothed king of the jungle here.

Turns out it wasn’t Tarzan at all but a Jungle Jim movie. I know, right? Who the heck was Jungle Jim? The only jungle gym I knew was a metal monstrosity on our playground that we also called the monkey bars. Believe me, I climbed many of those in my days and managed somehow to avoid hospitalization.

A bit of research informs me that Jungle Jim was a legitimate action hero born of the comic books in the 30s and ably translated to the movies during the 40s and 50s. I can be forgiven for the Tarzan confusion because Johnny Weissmuller, probably best known for his Tarzan features, also played the title role in a series of Jungle Jim films, including the one I stumbled upon which was called The Lost Tribe. Looks like he may have packed on a few pounds since his Tarzan days, which perhaps explains the tee-shirt costuming. As a odd trivia side note, when the studio lost the rights to the Jungle Jim name but had Weissmuller under contract for three more films, they decided to shoot the Jungle Jim scripts anyway. They simply changed the name of Weissmuller’s character to… what else?… Johnny Weissmuller.

Anytime I think of Tarzan, I confess to having a bit of shame. I was tasked in junior high school with writing a essay on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic novel. The problem was… I never took the time to read the book. Instead, I watched the movie and spoke in general terms about the character in my dissertation. I did my best to stay away from any plot specifics because I had no way of knowing if the movie was anything close to the novel. This of course was before the Internet which admittedly makes cheating so much easier.

Whatever I wrote was enough to allow me to pass the class although I can’t help thinking that it probably would have been easier just to read the book and write the essay based on what I read. Oh well… maybe next time.

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.

Frozen In Our Tracks

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Now that spring has arrived, I don’t mind telling you that this has been one heck of a winter. Not that I experienced it first hand mind you… I am in Florida after all. But I do have television and access to the Internet so I know what you Northerners have been going through.

I am no stranger to the cold. I grew up in Maryland, just outside of the DC area, and I have seen my share of winter storms. I think the coldest I have ever been in my life was during a father son trip through Pennsylvania and Ohio. I was a junior in high school and needed to narrow down my college choices. My dad and I decided that during my spring break, we would do a road trip and visit nine of the campuses I had picked out as the leading contenders.

To save money, we were determined to camp along the way. We packed the family tent along with some clothes and looked forward to a great bonding time between us.  In retrospect, we probably should have checked the weather forecast.

Somewhere outside of Lewisburg PA where I visited Bucknell University, we decided to make camp. We set up the tent poles, erected the tent, rolled out our sleeping bags and promptly fell asleep. The next morning we awoke, freezing where we lay. The temperature must have dropped some 40 degrees overnight.

There was frost everywhere. In order to get on the road again and back into the warm confines of our Ford Fairlaine station wagon which was our sole means of transport, we had to break camp… which meant collapsing the tent and it’s metal tent poles.

The problem was that, overnight, the metal poles became solidly encased in ice and, due to our lack of foresight, gloves, heavy coats, and a chisel were not among our provisions. We took turns tag-teaming on the poles and then sitting in our car which was running with the heater on.  I must admit, I spent more time in the car than outside of it. Sorry about that Dad.

We finally got the poles collapsed and threw them into the back of the wagon. The next night, after visiting the campuses scheduled for that day, my dad nosed the Fairlaine into the parking lot of a Motel 6. No words were spoken between us. We both just knew… our camping days were over.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, los and slides. For more information call 352-735-8559 or visit our website.

 

Dodge This!

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It is rather sad when one peaks in the 5th grade. I mean, so much of life still lies ahead but the glory days remain back in grade school. You see, I was a bit of a prodigy in elementary school. I have already recounted my feats of speed in an earlier blog but apparently I was quite the agile little dickens as well. I was unbeatable in a sport I’m told is rarely played in schools these days. Of course, I’m talking about dodgeball.

Because I grew up in the 60s, we’re not talking about the sanctioned sport of Dodgeball with complex rules and uniformed teams as showcased in the Vince Vaughn movie. The way we played it on the blacktop, one kid stood in the center of a circle around which the entire class was standing. And the sole object was to throw a red rubber kickball, a little larger than a basketball, at that kid until he was hit. Who ever threw the ball that hit the kid became the next one to stand in the middle as the target.

Once I made the center, it was game over. I was like ridiculously hard to hit. I may have lost the limberness I once had but back in the day I was a cross between a circus contortionist and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (he was the one who could stretch himself like rubber.) On more than one occasion, the recess monitor had to come to break up our game because it was time to resume class. With me in the center, the game would never end.

My superior skill at dodging a ball soon became the stuff of classroom legend. My peers, who once were my friends, became determined to bring me down. They started sneaking extra balls to the lineup thinking I could be blindsided.  They changed the rules by eliminating the circle and just lining me up against the brick wall of the school building. It was like facing a firing squad of rubber balls.

I graduated from elementary school undefeated in dodgeball. I was certain my future was bright. But my career came to a sudden and unexpected end. No one ever told me they didn’t play dodgeball in junior high.

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.

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.